Recently, it has come to light that some Catholics are seeking to change the wording in the Catechism of the Catholic Church by replacing the word “disordered” with the phrase “differently ordered.” I believe that this intention is, in and of itself, disordered. Please allow me to explain.
The Root of Relativism
In every case where I have encountered people who desire this terminological shift, it’s evident that relativism has been embraced (consciously or not) in their hearts to some degree. Relativism leads people to believe that truth is ultimately anchored in one’s own experience, as opposed to there existing a God-authored truth to which we are called to align ourselves. While our experiences do matter and contribute to the truths of our circumstances, those experiences merely unfold in relationship to this God-authored truth. As a result of relativism being embraced, some people seem to perceive the word “disorder” as an affront to their mindset. I wonder if this is because it posits that one truth might be above another, and, therefore, some truths might be greater than their truth.
In the context of sexuality, some people in same-sex relationships have told me that they accept the reality that their same-sex relationships are counter to the God-authored order of creation in terms of the physiological complementarity between males and females. However, they have also told me that they do not believe that countering that God-authored order of creation is a sin. This reveals a deficiency in people’s understanding of sin. To avoid sin, we must strive to uphold the visible and invisible order of creation that God has authored. Overall, I’m grateful for the transparency in these conversations but also saddened because they reveal how much their experience (and their attachment to it) determines whether or not a sin has been committed.
Furthermore, striving to uphold the order of creation is less about managing behaviors than about examining the state of our hearts. By doing so, we can become more completely honest with ourselves about the degree to which we allow God to take precedence over our own desires. Thus, the idea that people ought to strive to uphold the order of creation is applicable to all people, regardless of the attractions they experience.
The Passions and the Conscience
Many also mistake passions, desires, and appetites to be the voice of conscience. As one woman shared with me how she “knew” God was calling her to be a female Catholic priest, she said, “The desire is so strong, it has to be from God.” She also shared how after another Catholic suggested to her that it might not be from God but from Satan, she angrily swore at him (using the “F” word). When she shared this with me, it was evident that she was still upset by what had been suggested. Although I know her to be a loving person with a very charitable heart, her response surprised me, and I wonder if some of the more prominent Catholics who lobby for the change to “differently ordered” react to criticism in a similar way. In my experience:
- It seems that they are not too interested in re-evaluating what they believe against any standard of truth greater than human experience.
- It seems that they get irritated when invited to proclaim that chastity (as understood by the Church) is a virtue for all people, regardless of the attractions/inclinations they experience.
- It seems that they don’t ask people to consider how true chastity (which is not the same as abstinence or celibacy) honors and respects the God-authored order of creation which includes the complementarity between males and females and the acceptance of one’s own God-authored maleness or femaleness (which is not the same as one’s culturally-influenced perceptions of masculinity and femininity).
It seems that since a critical mass of Catholics has embraced relativism to some degree, it is now “safer” for relativistic Catholics to spread their message more cavalierly. There are numerous examples of things being said on record that reveal their rejection of the Church as the upholder of Truth (which also implies their rejection of the Church as truth and as the Bride of Christ). In fact, the indifference to orthodoxy was revealed to me firsthand during a particular conference call with one prominent Catholic public figure who is outspoken about his opinions. During the call, someone asked him if he would identify the act of sodomy as a sin. In his response, he carefully skirted the question and, in the end, would not say that sodomy was a sin. After the recorded portion ended, with some people still on the line, that person (a priest) said to the host:
That guy who was asking me about believing [sodomy] was a sin—what does that have to do with the families you are dealing with? To hold my feet to the fire? Your ministry is not to see if I’m orthodox, it’s to minister to families.
I was shocked and saddened by his response. I cannot imagine anyone committed to the pursuit of truth actually saying this—especially in the way that he said it. At least two other people that I know of (aside from the host) heard him say this. They were also astonished. I share this as a plea for prayer, for him and for the whole Church.
Disorder and Expectations
Just as order and disorder are perceived as disconnected from the order of creation, so, too, are conversations about holiness, virtue, and sin. Instead, those topics are now judged according to the passions, desires, and appetites that exist (and which are fostered) in people’s hearts.
Despite efforts to advance language like “differently ordered,” increasing numbers of people are finding their way home to the Catholic Church because of language like “order” and “disorder.” They have come to realize that those words do not refer to who they are as persons, but to the appetites they experience. Further, they have come to divorce the appetites they experience from their embraced identity (by first recognizing that the appetites they experience are not chosen, while the embraced identities are). Of these people, many have found their way past the despair in which they used to feel trapped. They are now able to see the Catholic faith first and foremost through the lens of pursuing objective truth, instead of seeing it as something merely relational and experiential.
One Man’s Story
Though many people have spoken to me about this, one person’s story stands out. He shared with me how his expectations of himself began to change after he was exposed to the truth that God does not create people with particular sexual/romantic desires, passions, or appetites (or any kind of particular desire, passion, or appetite for that matter). This is what he said:
I now see myself in a different light. I see myself as a beloved son of God who is dealing with unwanted same-sex attraction. I always thought I was a homosexual because I suffer with SSA. I felt that St. Paul was condemning me when he said, ‘Homosexuals would not inherit the Kingdom of God.’ I believe, don’t get me wrong, that a homosexual is someone who engages in sodomy with his or her own sex. SSA doesn’t deem one as a homosexual.
This man was in his later years and had lived a life of misery under the narrative promoted by relativistic Catholics. Though not everyone views the experience of same-sex attractions as something they suffer from, this person did, and he is not alone in his perspective, and his experience cannot be dismissed. Meanwhile, it seems that those prominent relativistic Catholics have every intention to keep people like this man trapped where they are. This particular man, however, can now see beyond their relativistic mindset. It’s not that his same-sex attractions have “gone away,” but rather that he knows he is no longer confined to the overarching narrative that was pressed upon him for so many years. In turn, he is no longer confined to the expectations promoted by those who assert this narrative. Today he joyfully lives outside that narrative, giving himself permission to grow in new ways. He is discovering ways to align himself to the God-authored order of creation, just as nature restores itself as it overtakes an abandoned city. I have witnessed the profound transformation in his heart. This man’s life would not have improved had he understood his attractions to be merely “differently ordered” rather than “disordered,” because being different does not necessarily suggest a need to strive toward a higher truth.
Where We Are At
Relativistic Catholics may think they are doing the right thing. If they do, it reveals how people who might not intend to deceive can still be under the influence of the Spirit of Deception. All of us are susceptible to deception in this way, and thus we should all examine what we believe and why. While the message of some relativistic Catholics receives great social acceptance, the views of persons experiencing same-sex attractions who have found hope in the truths of the Church, aided by words like order and disorder, are largely unheard.
My hope is that people will realize that these prominent relativistic Catholics don’t encourage an uninhibited journey towards greater truth. They can’t. It would gradually bring about the end of their movement because many people would soon recognize the deceptions they promote. However, with the growing number of people who are stepping up to defend the truths taught by the Church by sharing their own stories, truth is winning out, one heart at a time.
Editor’s note: The above graphic is a screenshot of the official online edition of the Catholic Catechism.