This week, the Offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, with the specific assent of Pope Francis, issued an instruction stating that the Church cannot sanction blessings of homosexual relationships, partnerships, or other unions. Given the push in some influential Catholic circles, including from prominent German bishops, this was a most welcome statement. However, it may have come at a time when it will be viewed by much of the Catholic populace as just another irrelevant sexual proclamation.
In today’s world, emotion, rather than objective observation of nature, governs thinking. How often do we hear even Church-going Catholic youth (being 70, I consider anyone under 40 “youth”) contend, “Don’t those with homosexual attractions also have the right to be loved and to be happy?” This question is often the product of generations deprived of an education (even within Catholic high schools and universities) in renowned Western thought, which exemplified how to seek and recognize truth in the observation of nature, God’s creation, including most importantly, the essential nature of human beings.
These same youth might be perfectly willing to accept that some children are born with, or develop, physical defects, but their emotional conditioning prevents them from acknowledging that there can be such congenital or developmental defects in the sexual sphere. So instead of recognizing what is built into mankind—the sexual compatibility between man and woman that has the potential to create life—and that true sexual intercourse and the ability to generate life between same sex persons are physically impossible and inconsistent with this human nature, their answer to this question turns on the emotional response that those with homosexual inclinations should be able to intimately love each other.
This lack of education in the humanities has been compounded by the lack of intensive Catholic teaching on sexuality and marriage. At least part of the reason that the Church’s teaching on abortion has been accepted by even much of the younger generation is that the hierarchy made it a priority teaching from the pulpit, in Church-run schools, religious education programs, in the national initiatives of the USCCB, and in its pronouncements on national and state legislation. That same intensity has not been exhibited with respect to sexuality and marriage.
The Church was gifted with the thought of St. John Paul II on these subjects with his Theology of the Body series and his apostolic exhortation on “The Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World” (Familiaris Consortio). Yet, it has not been received and conveyed with the same dedication and vigor as given to the Church’s teaching on abortion. So, I suspect that most Catholics have not been provided the intellectual and spiritual preparation necessary to understand and accept this latest Vatican instruction regarding homosexual unions. The reaction to this decree will likely be, most often, to reject or ignore it.
An intensified catechesis on marriage and sexuality is needed before it can realistically be expected that a high percentage of the faithful will heartily accept this teaching. Such acceptance may also require a return to classical education, through which students learn to think, to recognize that there is knowable truth, to objectively observe created reality, and to acknowledge its compelling claim to our assent.
The current push for inculcating the gender ideology in our schools and in society at large, as the Biden Administration is now attempting, presents an opportunity to vigorously promote an extensive catechetical campaign. The Theology of the Body and Familiaris Consortio ought to be mandated studies in every Catholic High School and in religious education classes starting in seventh grade. Bishops should urge Catholic colleges and universities within their jurisdiction to have courses on these subjects. They must be the subject of homilies and parish presentations. The instructors and homilists must eagerly and fervently explain these teachings.
However, the task does not solely belong to the hierarchy and priests. It is also the responsibility of knowledgeable and prayerful laity to educate themselves on these issues and then become involved as catechists, teachers, and organizers of initiatives to educate fellow Catholics on the involved moral principles, conveying to them that adherence to such principles is in accordance with God’s creative will and, therefore, necessary for their true happiness.
Of course, such an effort must be undertaken within the broader context of the Church’s primary mission of evangelization. That mission is not, in the first instance, to develop morally good persons. Rather, it is to promote an encounter between each person and Jesus Christ so that each person imitates the Son, who, out of selfless love, always seeks to do the will of, and give glory to, God the Father in every aspect of His existence. His self-giving sacrifice on the cross was intended to extend forgiveness and restore grace to every person.
Regularly encountering Jesus at Mass and in the Sacrament of Reconciliation will naturally lead to understanding and to following the truth found in the moral principles which have been continually enunciated by the Church. It will also enable each member of the faithful, as St. Peter instructed, to “always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence.”
[Photo Credit: Vatican Media/CNA]