For clarity – Pope Francis and female deacons

deacon ordinationPope Francis’ recent suggestion that a commission should be formed to study the form and fucntion of female deacons in the early Church (with, one would think, an eye on their possible re-introduction into the life of the Church today) has led to much enthusiasm and outrage, both for all the wrong reasons.

The papal comments came as an answer to the question if the permanent diaconate could not be open to men and women alike. It being a spontaneous question-and-answer session, the Holy Father obviously did not have all the necessary information at the ready, so he chose to share what he recalled from conversations with a Syrian theologian he used to meet in Rome, well before he became Pope.

And those recollections immediately point out some of the problems in equating male and theoretical female deacons. The latter’s role was found in sensitive and private situations between women: baptism, which at that time was performed by full immersion, but also cases in which a woman would have to present the physical evidence of an abusive husband! The differences with the duties of a male deacon – who has financial and charitable responsibilities, as well as clearly-defined duties in the liturgy of the Mass – are clear.

A 2002 study by the International Theological Commission, summarised here, also states this, and further reaffirms the unity of the sacrament of Holy Orders – the grades of deacon, priest and bishop. A deacon is, at least in theory, able to be ordained as priest and bishop. The Church only has the authority to ordain men, not women (as Pope Francis has pointed out more than once), so in regard to the sacrament, female deacons are not possible.

Many of the duties of a deacon can be performed perfectly well by a woman. In fact, as Father Dwight Longenecker points out, in many parishes, women are already in charge of finances and run the charitable efforts of the community. You don’t need to be ordained for that. Pope Francis is not wrong when he started his answer with the half-joke that the female deacons of the Church are the religious sisters.

That leaves the duties for which ordination is a prerequisite: the liturgy of Holy Mass, such as, for example, reading the Gospel and giving the homily. Here, the deacon or priest does not do anything for himself: he performs the duties of proclamation and teaching of Christ. He is an alter Christus. The Church teaches that this is no act or show, but a sacramental reality, which we are asked to acknowledge in faith.

Some have chosen to see Pope Francis willingness to look into this matter as evidence that he wants female deacons, which is a ridiculous conclusion to draw. By that reasoning, Pope St. John Paul II wanted the same thing when he asked to International Theological Commission to study the matter…

Pope Francis said he wants clarification in this matter, and a conclusion along the lines of the 2002 study is no less a clarification than one that says, yes, there can be female deacons. But, it has to be said, all signs indicate that we should not expect the latter conclusion to be drawn.

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Just because everyone does it, does not make it right – Dominican provincial writes to the archbishop

Upon reading a letter from the Dutch provincial of the Dominicans, Fr. Ben Vocking, o.p., to Archbishop Eijk, about the firing of pastoral worker Tejo van der Meulen, I was once more struck by the deep divide between the way the Catholic Church works and the way some people think it works. The core question that Provincial Vocking asks this, “Do you think you must act against what so many faithful consider the most normal thing in the world/in the Church?” The clear answer to that is, of course, “If that thing is unequivocally wrong or illegal: yes, the bishop must act”.

Reading a homily and joining in the Eucharistic Prayer is something that only priests are allowed to do. We may like it or not, but this is a simple fact. If these rules are not followed, it is only logical that a bishop or superior acts to prevent it. The teachings and rules of the Church are not created in a democratic process. Christ himself did not come to say what people wanted to hear or do what they wanted Him to do. Just as we look towards Him to lead us in our lives, so to do we look to the Church to do the same for us.

Fr. Vocking also mentions the Belgian initiative denouncing celibacy, Holy Orders and a whole raft of other things. “I certainly do not hope,” he asks, “that you think that these people have left the faith behind them?” The people who signed the initiative may not have left all faith in God behind them, but they do wilfully act against His Church.They place individual preferences above God’s intentions and ignore the shepherds he has given us.

Faith is a gift. It is not a human construct, and neither are its contents. Instead of being a democratic institution, the Church is tasked with leading the faithful to God, who is above human thought and action. In that sense, we do well to cultivate an attitude of faithful obedience, with confidence in the teachings of the Church that Christ established. The Church is bigger than us individuals, and can not  be subject to our whims and preferences. This does not suggest a passive attitude, but an active participation in the mystery of the salvation that the Lord chooses to achieve through His Church.

Fr. Vocking’s are pointless. He should already know the answers.

Communication skills, or avoiding communicating the polar opposite of what we want to say.

In a recent interview for Knack.be, Antwerp’s Bishop Johan Bonny spoke about the recent initiative from hundreds of laymen and priests in Belgium to challenge such teachings as priestly celibacy and the ordination of women.  It has triggered, as may be expected, a heated debate with some reaching the conclusion that priests signing the initiative are automatically excommunicated. While I won’t go into the reasoning for that here, I will take a look at what Bishop Bonny says about it all:

“I fully understand it. The Church can not avoid the debate about the criteria for ordination. Personally, I strongly believe in the value of the unmarried priesthood and a full availability for Christ and the Church community. But I also think that the ordination of a number of married men or deacons to the priesthood can be an enrichment for the Church. In the eastern Catholic Churches married priests are more the rule than the exception. That fact is therefore not unfamiliar for the Catholic Church. The ordination of women to priests is theologically far more difficult. In the west that concern is present in broad layers of society, but worldwide the support is extremely small. But I do think that there needs to be more discussion about the place and role of the woman in the Church. Women must be allowed to take on responsible duties in the Church, on all levels.”

The bishop’s reasoning, while necessarily simplified, makes a certain amount of sense – the celibacy debate does not concern the suitability of individual married or unmarried priests, for example – but it also raises problems. For one, the way the bishop presents his points leaves the door wide open for misunderstanding. People in the know may grasp what he tries to say – or not – but those outside the Church will not. Men and women must indeed be allowed to take on duties in the Church according to their individual competencies. But what are the ‘levels’ the bishops mentions? Are those the levels of government, pastoral care, parish council duties, or even Holy Orders? Probably not the latter, considering what Bishop Bonny said earlier about the value he attaches to the unmarried priesthood and such, but many will not see it as such.

And this is indicative of the communication problem of the Church and her bishops. Their intentions may be good, their reasoning sound, but they can still inadvertently communicate the polar opposite of what they mean. We – bishops, priests, religious and laity alike – have the duty to be open, honest, but certainly also clear about what we belief, and why. A comment like the one above will only strengthen the opinion of many that married men and women should be ordained as priests. And that is not something a bishop can and should say, even if he does so inadvertently.

Photo credit: Filip Van Roe

The mistakes of Father Peijnenburg

As the story of the elderly priest who had to choose between his girlfriend and the priesthood makes headlines far and near, and as he now plans to take the diocese to court over this, it may be interesting to take a look at the mistaken assumptions and broken promises of Father Jan Peijnenburg.

At his ordination, a priest makes certain promises. And since promises mean something, especially so before God, these are serious business. Here we find the five promises listed:

  • Promise to discharge the office of priesthood in the presbyteral rank as worthy fellow workers with the Order of Bishops.
  • Promise to exercise the ministry of the Word worthily and wisely, preaching the Gospel and teaching the Catholic faith.
  • Promise to celebrate faithfully and reverently the mysteries of Christ handed down by the Church, especially the sacrifice of the Eucharist and the sacrament of Reconciliation, for the glory of God and the sanctification of the Christian people.
  • Promise to implore God’s mercy upon the people entrusted to their care by observing the command to pray without ceasing.
  • Promise to be united more closely every day to Christ the High Priest, who offered himself for us to the Father as a pure sacrifice and to consecrate themselves to God for the salvation of all.
A Dominican friar makes his promises to Bishop Malcolm McMahon of Nottingham, UK

Then, after these five, the bishop asks the priest, “Do you promise respect and obedience to me and my successors?” The positive response to this question, which is related to the first of the five promises above, means that he can be ordained. This promise of obedience is not a matter of superiority of the bishop (although his rank in the priesthood, having the fullness of Holy Orders, is above that of the priest, or presbyter), but forms a basis of practical unity in the local Church, a unity based on fraternity and familial love.

And here we immediately see the first error of Father Jan Peijnenburg. Instead of fostering a respectful and obedient relationship with his bishop, a relationship that will always allow room for respectful disagreement, he takes the bishop to court in order to force him to change his standpoint. All while knowing full well, one would hope, that his opinions on celibacy and priesthood are in disagreement with those of the Catholic Church.

And this takes us tot he second promises, or a part of it: the promise to teach the Catholic faith. A priest is also always a teacher, not least through his behaviour. At his ordination, Fr. Peijnenburg promised to teach the Catholic faith. He does not do so now, as he acts blatantly against what the Church teaches, even against the right of the Church to teach this.

The other promises, while equally important, have less to do with the question at hand, so I’ll leave them be, not least because I have no means of knowing if and how Fr. Peijnenburg keeps them.

Another problem, which has been confirmed by people with knowledge about canon and secular law, is Fr. Peijnenburg’s claim that the right to marry trumps the freedom of religion. No one in the Catholic Church is forced to be or remain a practicising Catholic. It is a free choice, and one’s faith is lived in full freedom. In fact, lack of freedom can be a serious obstacle! If, for example, someone is married without freely wanting to, the subsequent marriage can be declared null. That as an example. If Fr. Peijnenburg now claims that the Church can’t keep him from getting married or even having a romantic relationship, he is in the wrong. He himself, by saying ‘yes’ to his bishop and by his ordination, promised to be faithful to what the Church teaches. And that Church teaches that priests must live celibate. That is no new rule, and one that Fr. Peijnenburg was certainly aware of. He simply does not agree with it, and considers that reason enough to consider his promises regarding that empty.

A final mistake he makes is his idea of the consequences of his decision to flaunt his promises and the rules of the club he freely joined: Fr. Peijnenburg claims that his priesthood has been taken away. That is an untruth and an impossibility. Once given, a sacrament (such as Holy Orders) can’t be returned or taken back. What has happened in this case is that Fr. Peijnenburg’s priestly faculties have been removed; he is not allowed to do any pastoral work or administer the sacraments in the parish where he lives. Not that he has any inclination to follow that prohibition… Fr. Jan Peijnenburg will always be a priest because he as ordained as one. He is not allowed to work as one because he seemingly has no intention to be true to his promises as a Catholic priest in the Latin rite.

And that is the core of this nasty and unnecessary conflict. It’s not about the desirability of celibacy or the meanness of the diocese out to destroy the love between two people. It’s about obedience and broken promises.

Photo credits:
[1] Brabants Dagblad
[2] Godzdogs

The third archbishop of the Benelux

Head of an archdiocese that resides immediately under the Holy See, Archbishop Jean-Claude Hollerich became the tenth chief shepherd of Luxembourg. In the presence of Grand Duke Henri and many other representatives of the state, as well as representatives from Archbishop Hollerich’s former work area in Japan, the ordination was performed by retiring Archbishop Fernand Franck, with Joachim Cardinal Meisner, archbishop of Cologne, and  Archbishop Peter Takeo Okada of Tokyo as co-consecrators.

Emeritus Archbishop Franck gave the homily, partly in French, partly in Luxembourgish, in which he expounds on the duties of a bishop and his important stewardship of the faith, mostly taken from Lumen Gentium:

“In the Gospel of Mark, we have just heard the final instructions of the risen Jesus to his disciples. Without setting any boundaries, they open wide the scope of the world. There is no limitation to the word of God: “Go out to the whole world!”(Mark 16:15). There is no discriminating between listeners: “proclaim the Gospel to all creation” (idem). Without any prejudice regarding the freedom of all, the good news will be announced to all, regardless of their idea of God and the tradition in which they live.

motto, hollerichWith his motto, “Annuntiate” , the new archbishop sees his mission in the context of the mission of the Apostles of Christ: “Go out to the whole world, and proclaim the Gospel to all creation!” These are among the final words in the Gospel of Mark, which we have proclaimed on the feast of the great missionary of Japan, Saint Francis Xavier, and on the feast of Saint Willibrord, the Apostle of our country.

Proclaiming the Gospel, the good news, is the mission of each bishop. On the day of their ordination, they accept their main commitment of preaching the Gospel.

The motto of our new bishop shows that he has decided to fully assume that commitment. Among the various tasks of the bishop, that of preaching of Gospel is predominant. Bishops are the heralds of the faith, they lead new disciples to Christ and are authentic teachers, who proclaim to the people entrusted to them the faith in which they should believe and which should guide their and his conduct. Through the ministry of the Word as well, they communicate the power of God for salvation to those who believe in the sacraments, they sanctify the faithful: they celebrate the sacrament of baptism, they are the ministers who give confirmation. They are the stewards of the sacred orders and moderators of penitential discipline. Marked by the fullness of the sacrament of Holy Orders, the bishops are “the servants of the grace of the priesthood,” especially in the Eucharist, which they offer or cause to be offered. In addition, any legitimate celebration of the Eucharist is regulated by the bishop, because every community of the altar, under the sacred ministry of the bishop, is presented as a symbol of love and unity of the Mystical Body.

No bishop accomplishes this mission alone. God Himself strengthens the bishop at his consecration by sending him the Holy Spirit. He can not accomplish his mission, except in close cooperation with the priests, consecrated persons and all lay Christians committed to serving the Church in the various fields of pastoral care, at the parish level, and in the social and educational domains, with their large number of volunteers.

Brother priests, brothers and sisters in Christ, receive your new pastor as a visible sign of God’s promise to always be with you, like a father to his beloved son as a good shepherd for his flock. Greet him with all your heart in faith and offer your collaboration. He will be your guide, and in turn you are called to be with him the servants of each, according to the example set by Jesus during his life of service, especially to the poor.

hollerich

A mere hour before the prayer of ordination, the Gospel will be opened and will be held open to the future bishop during prayer. He will be ordained in the Gospel, showing thereby that it must be a reference point, his light, his strength, the reason for his ministry. Yes, ordained in the Gospel, he will be the servant of this gospel. He will, in his life and ministry, be his task to give a face to Christ, as shepherd of his people, as pastor concerned about each and every one. It was said earlier: “Take care of all the Lord’s flock, which the Holy Spirit gave you as a bishop to govern the Church of God”. It is the Lord himself who, through word of prayer and the gesture of laying on of hands, binds this man completely to his service, draws in his own priesthood. It was he who consecrates the bishops. It is he who consecrates the chosen. He is the only High Priest, who offers the one sacrifice for all of us, who gives him a share in his priesthood,  and who, in his word and his work, is present at all times.”

The rest of the homily, which can be read in full here, is in Luxembourgish, a language that I am as yet unable to fully translate. But hopefully the above will give an indication of what Archbishop Franck tried to bring across. In most ways, the new archbishop is not an archbishop for himself: he has been called by God to enter into His service for the good of the faithful.

May Archbishop Jean-Claude Hollerich be a good shepherd according to the example given by the shepherd of all, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Photo credit: Archdiocese of Luxembourg

A small analysis of the pope’s letter

An afternoon’s work results in the pope’s letter translated into Dutch. Translating a text into another language allows for a rather thorough reading, and this letter really deserve such a reading. In the media I’m already seeing reports that the it is insufficient because it doesn’t say much about measures taken against offenders and means of recompense of the victims, but that was never the purpose of a pastoral letter like this. And, in fact, the pope paradoxically goes out of his way to indeed identify specific steps he has ordered.

Pope Benedict gets really personal, in a good way. He specifically addresses certain people, and sometimes in no uncertain terms.

“With this Letter, I wish to exhort all of you, as God’s people in Ireland, to reflect on the wounds inflicted on Christ’s body, the sometimes painful remedies needed to bind and heal them, and the need for unity, charity and mutual support in the long-term process of restoration and ecclesial renewal. I now turn to you with words that come from my heart, and I wish to speak to each of you individually and to all of you as brothers and sisters in the Lord” (Letter to the Catholics of Ireland, 5).

To the victims he expresses feelings of regret and sorrow, and, very pastorally, the hope that they will find the healing they so need in Christ and His Church.

Sections 7 (to the offenders) and 11 (to the bishops) of the letter, to my eyes, are expression of the pope’s suppressed anger at the crimes committed against children. I can only imagine how those first meetings with the Irish bishops have been, but if this is any indication…

You betrayed the trust that was placed in you by innocent young people and their parents, and you must answer for it before Almighty God and before properly constituted tribunals. You have forfeited the esteem of the people of Ireland and brought shame and dishonour upon your confreres. Those of you who are priests violated the sanctity of the sacrament of Holy Orders in which Christ makes himself present in us and in our actions. Together with the immense harm done to victims, great damage has been done to the Church and to the public perception of the priesthood and religious life (Ibid., 7).

It cannot be denied that some of you and your predecessors failed, at times grievously, to apply the long-established norms of canon law to the crime of child abuse. Serious mistakes were made in responding to allegations. […] All this has seriously undermined your credibility and effectiveness (Ibid., 11).

But, in both passages, the pope again expresses, even urges, the addressed parties never to lose hope.

Sincere repentance opens the door to God’s forgiveness and the grace of true amendment. By offering prayers and penances for those you have wronged, you should seek to atone personally for your actions. Christ’s redeeming sacrifice has the power to forgive even the gravest of sins, and to bring forth good from even the most terrible evil. At the same time, God’s justice summons us to give an account of our actions and to conceal nothing. Openly acknowledge your guilt, submit yourselves to the demands of justice, but do not despair of God’s mercy (Ibid. 7).

The letter, as the title suggests, is addressed to all the faithful in Ireland, and the pope also makes sure to speak to parents and children. All this leads up to the concrete steps he formulates in section 14. Grounding these steps in prayer and the Eucharist, as it should be, he drops this unexpected bombshell:

I intend to hold an Apostolic Visitation of certain dioceses in Ireland, as well as seminaries and religious congregations (Ibid., 14).

An Apostolic Visitation is just about the most serious investigative step the Church can take. It implies a top-to-bottom investigation of all the workings of the institutions in question. The superiors and ordinaries must be able to explain any offenses and other errors that come to light. In recent history, there have been Apostolic Visitations to the women religious in the United States to find out why numbers there have so drastically decreased, and to the Legionaries of Christ following the news of shocking details about the order’s founder’s sexual life. These never happen without very just cause.

Another measure ordered by the pope is a so-called Mission for all the clergy and religious in Ireland. That basically amounts to them going back to school.

It is my hope that, by drawing on the expertise of experienced preachers and retreat-givers from Ireland and from elsewhere, and by exploring anew the conciliar documents, the liturgical rites of ordination and profession, and recent pontifical teaching, you will come to a more profound appreciation of your respective vocations, so as to rediscover the roots of your faith in Jesus Christ (Ibid., 14).

It is a sign of the great pastoral wisdom of the Holy Father that he has succeeded in responding to serious sins like the sexual abuse of minors in a way that combines suitable counter measures with a very pastoral attitude. He recognises that penance is the very opposite of exclusion. Through honest confession and penance, anyone is able to rejoin the communion of the Church. It is encouraging to see that the emphasis of the letter is on that, without losing sight of the very serious nature of the crimes.

Some thoughts on same-sex marriage

On Facebook I joined a little group with the catchy title I bet I can find 1,000,000 people AGAINST same sex marriage! The accuracy of that claim is doubtful of course (the group has some 1,600 members as of the time of writing), but it was created in response to a group with a similar title that was in favour of same-sex marriage. A classic case of sloganeering, I would say.

Anyway, the identity of the group being what it may, I nonetheless joined it and that caused two people to ask me why I am against same-sex marriage. A valid question about a very unpopular position to take, and reason to explain a bit more in this blog. I intend to put the question in a slightly larger framework. I want to take a look at what marriage is and if that idea is in agreement with the modern concept of marriage. To find an answer I want to use my own thoughts about it, obviously, and also some Catholic resources. Yes, I am a Catholic and I support the Catholic ideas about marriage. Don’t say I didn’t warn you 😉

What is marriage?

The Code of Canon Law tells us this: “The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life and which is ordered by its nature to the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring, has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament between the baptized.” [Can. 1055 § 1]

There is a lot of information in these four lines. First of all, marriage is a covenant, a mutual agreement or contract, so to speak. It also involves a man and a woman who establish this agreement between themselves. Marriage is ordered to the good of the spouses, so they will benefit from it, and it will naturally include children and their education. Furthermore, although a human agreement, Christ has raised it to the dignity of a sacrament between the baptized. I’ll come back to marriage being a sacrament, but going over these requirement we get a pretty clear picture.

We need a man and a woman who want to be married. Marriage can not be forced. The spouses must not be opposed to having children, because that would take away one of the defining elements of marriage. The inability to conceive or carry a child to term is different, of course, but I won’t go into that here.

The natural order which is alluded to in the above quote from the Code of Canon Law can be described as an order or set of laws which are innate to nature or creation. They were not later enforced on nature, but are a part of it. Of course, like nature, natural law finds its source in God, but He did not create it separately. The natural order becomes visible in the daily tendencies of nature: animals behave in a certain way, plants develop along certain lines in certain circumstances. In humans, and when applied to marriage, we see the natural order in the sexes. Man and woman complement each other, physically but also spiritually: ” This one at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh!” [Gen. 2, 23] and “This is why a man leaves his father and mother and becomes attached to his wife, and they become one flesh” [Gen. 2, 24] (emphasis mine).

Marriage as a sacrament

 Marriage is also a sacrament. What does that mean? Wikipedia tells us that a sacrament is an “outward sign that conveys spiritual grace through Christ.” I have personally heard it defined as “a sign that achieves what it symbolises.” For example, the sacrament of Baptism uses the symbol of flowing water to indicate that we are cleansed from our sins and therefore it achieves that cleansing. In the sacrament of the Eucharist, the bread and wine are symbols of the Body and Blood of Christ and therefore they are the Body and Blood of Christ (but I won’t go into an analysis of the transubstantiation here).

The sacrament of marriage is executed by the spouses themselves (the priest serves as a witness to validate the covenant made). Through the symbols of the rings, for example, the contract is signed and that contract must then be consummated to make it binding. All very official, but that is a summary of this particular sacrament. It is clearly a true and binding contract if the requirements are all met. These requirements are indicated in Holy Scripture and communicated through Tradition. I have already some examples in the quotations above, but there are many more.

Although it is an act of free will from the spouses and they have full control over the closing of the covenant of marriage, it is a covenant made before God. He validates it through His witnesses (the priest and others). The concept of marriage is not human-made, although the execution, to a large extent, is.

Modern views of marriage

Modern society in the west obviously values marriage. Many people get married, and I read recently that an increasing number of people actually get married in churches again. So the idea of marriage as something more than a mere agreement is still present, but I am afraid it is present as a vague sense and not as a well-defined idea. In my opinion, a large number of people get married (if they get married at all) because it is expected of them, or they feel it would make for the most beautiful day of their life, or other reasons. But there is no clear sense of marriage as a covenant made before God, a concept created by Him and so outside of our decisive influence: we can’t change what marriage is, simply because we didn’t create it in the first place.

Marriage, for many people, is an agreement between two people who want to share their lives together. They love each other, they are compatible and they want to grow old together, and these are all very lofty sentiments. But the enormous increase in divorces over the past decades would seem to indicate that there is no longer a clear sense of ‘marriage is forever’. It is a covenant that can not be broken. Marriage is also no longer always by definition good for the spouses, or ordered towards having children. The idea of what marriage is has changed from the definition I outlined above.

Same-sex marriage, the sensible idea?

Taking modern society’s ideas of marriage, there is no problem for two men to get married, or two men. For them, too, it is an agreement between two people who love and each other and want to grow old together. But is that marriage? I would say no. Marriage is much more than that and, like I said, the sacrament has certain requirements that spouses need to fulfill in order for it to be a marriage.

You could argue that we then just need to change the definition of marriage, but, like I said, we can’t since we didn’t create it. It’s as impossible as changing the force of gravity or switching off the sun. Since same-sex marriage can never be marriage according to its basic definition, we shouldn’t call it such. In fact, a lot of marriages between men and women aren’t marriages anymore, for the same reasons.

I have heard people claim that the “homosexual lobby stole our sacrament!” An insensitive comment in these words, to be sure, but one with a core of truth. The old Christian concept of marriage has, over the years, been adopted and changed by an increasingly secular society. This has been a relatively gradual process and at its root lies a lack of knowledge and education for which the Church is just as much to blame as any ‘secular lobby’ you’d care to mention.

Conclusion

Why am I against same-sex marriage? Well, I think I’ve clarified it a bit: it is not marriage according to its original definition. The sacraments are means by which God communicates His grace to us. We don’t need all sacraments (some, such as marriage and Holy Orders, exclude each other), but we need the ones we do receive in their totality. We can’t choose the bits and pieces of the sacraments that we like. If two people wish to share a life together before God, they’ll get married in the fullness of that sacrament. If two people wish to share a life together just because they want and God is not included in the decision, they do not get married.

The natural order, which I mentioned above, also plays a part in this, of course. I won’t go into too much detail (this post is long enough as it is), but there is serious problem with anything that is not in agreement with this natural order. Issues like abortion, euthanasia and, indeed, homosexuality are not in agreement with the natural order and should be handled with care, so to speak.

Does that mean that I, or the Church, hate homosexuals? Not in the least. It was Gandhi who told us to love the sinner, but hate the sin. The Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it better than I can, and I’ll close this post with this (emphases mine):

2357: Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

2358: The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

2359: Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.

For continued reading: Persona Humana, declaration on certain questions concerning sexual ethics, published in 1975 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith may be interesting.

I realise this is a sensitive and emotional topic and that is why I want to stress that everyone is welcome to reply as long as they do not descend into personal attacks or impolite shouting. Debate is a good thing, but requires more than just emotion.