Apostolate to the Homosexual

by Ralph McInerny

All sins are forgivable and we are all sinners, but sin has to be recognized for what it is if divine mercy is to be had. So much of the talk about homosexuality is an understandable human effort to change the subject. Any reference to the wrongness of homosexuality is likely to invite the charge of homophobia, turning the accusation on the supposed accuser. But of course the moral law is not the property of anyone, and invoking it need not be an accusation. The problem is not how others react to homosexuality but the plight of the homosexual.

No doubt deviant sex is almost as old as the race. There are few innovations in moral weakness. What is new is the homosexual ideology which has made devastating inroads into the Church from the ambient culture. One is made to believe that recalling the Church's teaching is an uncharitable act and that the Christian thing to do is to act as if sodomy were as normal as marital sex. Of course it is scarcely a defense of homosexuality to point out that many people commit sexual sins. The tu quoquehere is singularly inappropriate. We began with the observation that we are all sinners. The question is, what next?

We sinners are prone to exculpate ourselves and remove the onus of responsibility and guilt. The adulterer is inclined to think that, however much adultery is generally wrong, in this case there are factors which justify it, perhaps even make it a meritorious act. It is this all too common tendency that has elevated homosexuality into an ideology and turned it into a political issue. There are no "communities" of adulterers dedicated to changing the public perception of what they do. Bank robbers have not banded together to abolish the laws against after hour withdrawals. Fornicators' rights have not become a political cause. Only homosexuals demand that society rescind the age old recognition that sexual license, be it adultery or sodomy, is not only injurious to the participants but an assault on the common good.

This is self-deception turned into a group effort. Individual acts of unnatural sex are one thing, and bad enough, but the homosexual ideology threatens the very basis of human society. The sinister, and successful, efforts to corrupt children by presenting unnatural sex as if it were natural, and in the process conveying a distorted notion of the role of sex in human life. Sex education seems to be the systematic corrupting of the young by presenting sexual activity as something they will of course be engaging in and providing instructions on how to do this with impunity. Homosexuality is part of the mix, as natural and inevitable as masturbation, children are told. The hallmark of such instruction is action without consequences.

Perhaps the most unreal aspect of most discussions of homosexuality is the silence about its devastating effects on the health of those who engage it. A society that has made the smoking of tobacco a near capital offense, and sanctioned falsehoods about 'secondary effects', is remarkably mum on the illnesses, some of them mortal, which await the homosexual. All men are mortal, of course, but sexual activity is not as such suicidal. Promiscuous sex, whether homosexual or not, has brought on a veritable plague of STDs — by which one does not mean doctors of sacred theology. The silence about these is all but deafening. Insofar as allusion is made to them, prophylactics are offered as the solution.

That promiscuous sex, especially homosexuality, is dangerous to one's health is a truth the mention of which is regarded as mean-spirited. Discussions of homosexuality, even under Catholic auspices, treat it as a harmless variation, a vehicle of true love, even permitting "stable and permanent relationships." As if settling into a life of crime were an advance over the random stick-up. Reminders of Church teaching on the morality of such activity are met with groans and grimaces. We are urged to be "inclusive." As suggested earlier, this amounts to giving a moral pass to sinful behavior. One would think that, if the moral appraisal of homosexuality begins to waffle, at least the dangers to health would come to the fore. Not at all.

If one needed any sign of the diabolical character of the homosexual ideology, it is easily found in the way in which HIV and AIDS have been turned into an advantage by homosexuals. When the AIDS epidemic first broke, one expected that declared homosexuals would be rounded up and put in quarantine. Surely the carriers of such a medical menace would lose their political clout. Exactly the opposite happened. The rage that homosexuals felt at the realization that acts do have consequences and that the sexual libertarianism they had espoused exacted its cost, was turned on the government for not finding an immediate cure so that the party could continue. It seemed almost suggested that Ronald Reagan was responsible for AIDS. Far from providing an occasion for reflection on their lives, the threat to their health became a badge of defiance. And of course the attempt was made to sever any relation of HIV to homosexuality. AIDS education made it sound as if the malady fell indifferently on the just and unjust, on homosexuals and heterosexuals alike. Soon the public was caught up in a campaign like that against cancer — or smoking. Except that smoking is condemned because of its recognized bad effects. Now an effect was condemned with no mention of its cause.

But it is not the twists and turns of secular society that is our chief concern in this issue. Homosexuality now stalks the Church. Crushing revelations about the lives of religious and priests and even bishops have stunned ordinary Catholics. Rumors about seminary education and admission to religious orders increase the sense that the smoke of Satan, in Paul VI's phrase, has indeed gotten into the Church. It has become impossible not to see a relation between the behavior of these pathetic clerics and religious, and the confusion in doctrine about homosexuality. Many unctuous religious defenses of homosexuality are apparently self-serving.

In my own experience, I have seen the way campus ministry at a Catholic university can so obscure the issue that undergraduates are enlisted in the campaign to regard unnatural sex as acceptable, something God intended, a gift and a grace. But evocations of Christian charity are merely a patina over the wholesale acceptance of secular society's view on the matter, a society John Paul II has called a Culture of Death. What is needed is an apostolate to homosexuals.

Before Father Harvey, there was Jacques Maritain. After his conversion to Catholicism, Maritain undertook many apostolates. First of all the intellectual apostolate that made him one of the chief figures in the Thomistic Revival, bringing the truths of the philosophy and theology of St. Thomas Aquinas to bear on the modern mind. And there was a cultural apostolate as well, an offspring of the first, in which reunions at the Maritain home sought to influence all aspects of French culture. It was this that brought Maritain into contact with such figures as Jean Cocteau, Andre Gide, and others who had fallen into homosexuality. Like Paul Claudel, Maritain undertook to convert Andre Gide, urging him not to publish his infamous Corydon. Unsuccessfully. He knew more success with Cocteau, but eventually the poet and dramatist backslid into his earlier ways. There were other failures. But there were successes as well, notably Julien Green.

Maritain's approach to the homosexual was spiritual. He urged a life of prayer and meditation. The heart had to change first and the rest would follow. Like everyone else, homosexuals were called to be saints, but of course this entailed the cessation of homosexual activity. By turning the homosexual's attention to the common vocation of sanctity and urging a conversion of heart, reliance on grace and the sacraments, Maritain hit upon the only Catholic way to address the homosexual. If we are, alas, a communion of sinners, we are called to become a communion of saints.

The homosexual ideology invites argument and refutation. Such arguments are easily won. The case for homosexuality is about as strong as the case for necrophilia. But winning arguments is not the answer. The homosexual, like the rest of us, has to be turned toward Christ and the sacraments. Some devils are driven out only by prayer and fasting. The spiritual combat, as St. Augustine called it, is the common calling and only in terms of it can there be a true and charitable union of homosexuals and others in the Church.

Ralph McInerny. "Apostolate to the Homosexual." Catholic Dossier 3 no. 3 (March-April, 2001).
Copyright лл 2001 Catholic Dossier
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