The Scandal of “Gay-Friendly Parishes”

The Church, we know, cannot bless sin. It appears all right, however (even, evidently, laudatory), to have so-called Gay-Friendly Parishes (GFPs). Under that umbrella, these GFPs tolerate or encourage activities, associations, publications, shows, and similar celebrations (even Masses) that more orthodox parishes rightly spurn or condemn.

At the outset, we must be clear that James Joyce was right in Finnegans Wake when he said that the Catholic Church means “here comes everybody.” As Marty Haugen wrote: “All Are Welcome in This Place.” No one stands outside a church, clipboard in hand, checking a list of our sins as we enter any Catholic Church.  Everyone is welcome, provided that they maintain an appropriately reverent and respectful demeanor. The Catechism similarly teaches us that those with homosexual tendencies “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity” (2358).

In the Traditional Latin Mass, before the priest ascends to the altar, he and we have made public confession of our sins, begging for forgiveness and for the intercession of Our Lady and of the saints. The priest then prays that “with pure minds we may worthily enter into the holy of holies.” The Ordinary Form of the Mass usually begins, also, with the Penitential Act, by which we acknowledge our sins and seek God’s mercy. We are welcome, but we are called to repentance. 

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All this is, of course, unnecessary if we have no sin—and homosexual behavior, some say, is not sinful. Here we will not rehearse the catalogue of modernists and progressives who celebrate homosexuality. We may simply conclude that if homosexual behavior is not sinful, then GFPs may be seen as beneficent.  

If homosexual behavior is sinful, though, a “beneficent” GFP becomes, rather, an SSP—a sodomy-supporting parish. Numerous Scriptural, Traditional, and Magisterial sources teach us, plainly, that, as the CCC admonishes us: “Homosexual acts are morally wrong because they violate God’s purpose for human sexual activity” (p. 882, 2nd ed). The same CCC that properly instructs us to receive “everyone” with compassion, also teaches us that homosexual acts are “acts of grave depravity” and that “under no circumstances can they be approved” (2357). Homosexual activity, after all, is a mortal sin so evil that it cries to Heaven for vengeance (Genesis 18:20, 19:13; Romans 1:24; 1 Corinthians 6:9; Revelation 21:8; Jude 1:7, etc.). 

One does not have to look far among GFPs, though, to see homosexuality described and defended as “love.” 

When moral demagogues cry out for “love,” what they really mean is sexual libertinism or licentiousness—a kind of venereal antinomianism—which exalts carnal pleasure while denying to it any authentic transcendent or sacramental meaning, connection, design, or order. Such people are proud of what they should be ashamed of, sacred Scripture tells us (Philippians 3:19).

Fr. James Martin, S.J., however, suggests that we can’t trust the Bible, which, in his judgment, we have a regrettable tendency to take literally (as, of course, we sometimes should); we have, in effect, outgrown it, Martin avers. To justify homosexuality, Martin and others gleefully and repeatedly cite passages from an old “letter” which ignorantly mocks biblical literalism. 

One is reminded of Jude: “When the last days come, people will appear who will make fun of you, people who follow their own godless desires” (1:18; 2 Peter 3:3; cf. Galatians 6:7; 1 Peter 4:4). 

Martin, and others of his ilk, must bleach out all meaning from biblical proscriptions of unnatural acts, so he holds up to ridicule certain biblical pericopes which brand sodomy, and other social or agrarian practices, as sinful. Martin does this despite his knowing, presumably, that the ceremonial and civil laws of the Old Testament—valid and effective in their time and place (confirming often-recalcitrant Israel as God’s chosen people [Deuteronomy 7:6], and seeking to illuminate it)—were superseded by the New Covenant, but that the moral law of the Old Testament is timeless, and not a jot or tittle of it is obsolete (Matthew 5:18; Galatians 3:23-26; CCC 1961-1964; see Paul Copan, Is God a Moral Monster? and Mark Giszczak, Light on the Dark Passages of Scripture).

Martin may be an iconoclastic priest, but he is not a stupid man: he knows better than he says; he understands that homosexual physical love is contrary to Right Reason and Revealed Truth.  Those who defend homosexuality are engaging in eisegesis—a perversion of Scriptural Truth—and they do so “to their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:16; Galatians 1:7). Essentially, what these deceivers do is attempt to redefine love—to establish a love without divine order.

Parents—and parishes—teach divine love by words and by witness, not by supine surrender to a morally sewerized society. Of the pastors of SSPs, we might say, with Daniel, that “they perverted their minds and turned away their eyes from looking to Heaven or remembering righteous judgments” (13:9, RSV).  

The divine moral code is not the property of atheists, scoffers, and moral mountebanks who wish to change it out of venereal vanity.  Our Catholic duty is to conform ourselves to timeless truth (cf. Romans 12:2), not to appease and appeal to the ignoramuses or the ignes fatui of the day. 

A profound difference exists between welcoming all people and welcoming all political, moral, and religious beliefs. GFPs, in approving, condoning, or celebrating what is sinful, are cooperating with evil (see CCC 1868). They are aiding and abetting what is morally (and physically) disordered. No bishop can rightly permit GFPs (see CCC 2037, 2105). 

The Church, and all its parishes, are first and foremost about the salvation of souls—and not about “accompaniment” with and through debauched social or sexual mores.

Like the Sinatra song, those at the GFP do things “my way.” Thus do GFPs, instead of calling people to Christ and to His Teaching, relinquish, renege upon, or even repudiate the moral law, a selfish and debased choice which “rebels against divine truth” (CCC 1740, 2526). 

We have exalted our appetites and urges, and we have modernized the pre-Communion prayer: So do we now implicitly say, “Lord, Thou art not worthy to enter under my roof.” By saying, with Fr. Martin, that homosexual activity is not sinful, we are saying, pace Samuel, “Listen, Lord, for your master is speaking” (cf. 1 Samuel 3:10). At GFPs, deference to genital gratification reigns, the “rainbow flag” waves, and permissive pastors preach pusillanimously (cf. Malachi 2:7-8). 

It’s all right, though. At the GFPs, we have stopped asking, “Who am I to judge,” replacing that jejune question with its more “tolerant” version: “Who is God to judge?” The parishioners ask for the fish of truth, but they are given the snake of error: “Do whatever pleases you!” Is this what physical or presbyteral fathers tell their children? Our Lady taught us differently—to do whatever He tells you (John 2:5). 

Certain pastors, priests, and parishes—anxious to appear progressive and non-judgmental—willingly and spinelessly betray foundational Catholic moral teaching in order to be (as the term was used three decades ago) “relevant,” meaning just as ethically benighted as almost everyone else in our secular society. As the French poet Charles Péguy (1873-1914) incisively put it: “It will never be known what acts of cowardice have been committed for fear of not looking sufficiently progressive” (cf. 2 John 9, NAB).

GFPs are sign and symptom of a secular “culture” which saturates us all with the diabolical notion that our pleasure, power, or profit are, and must be, greater than the wisdom of the Church; that our immediate judgment is superior to that timeless teaching of the Church; that our social standing and prestige are more important than our eternal salvation, which, if we still believe in it at all, is heretically said to be universally assured. 

The classic definition of sin is aversio a Deo, conversio ad creaturam (aversion to God and conversion to the creature; cf. Romans 1:25). Such is the hallmark of our time and place (including too many of our parishes). We fail to grasp that “Without the Creator, the creature vanishes” (CCC 49). Get that wrong and all else goes wrong in its wake. And GFPs get that wrong.

The GFPs seek knowledge of right and wrong, of virtue and vice, and of good and evil in the norms, opinions, and expectations of the society outside their doors. They are thinking outside the box, which is something wrong, decidedly and deadly wrong—if the “box” we are discussing is, in fact, the tabernacle, with the King of the Universe therein, offering us the way, the truth, and the life, but not as the world does (2 Corinthians 4:4; 1 John 2:15; James 4:4). We are called to think Eucharistically (CCC 1327), not profanely.

The Catholic parish must be a sign of contradiction in these morally perplexed times. The GFPs, however, are signs only of accommodation and of appeasement. Their weakness in the matter of homosexuality is a harbinger of what is to come: abject moral surrender. Parishes will soon be able to display signs saying “whatever!” And each Catholic GFP will be able to brag that it is as modern, as progressive, as popular as was the “Church of What’s Happening Now,” in the comedy routine of Flip Wilson (1933-1998). 

It won’t be much longer; the “Happening Now!” church is coming soon, perhaps inexorably, to your neighborhood, and to your parish. Whatever.   

[Photo: St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Lexington, Kentucky]

  • Deacon James H. Toner

    Deacon James H. Toner, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of Leadership and Ethics at the U.S. Air War College, a former U.S. Army officer, and author of Morals Under the Gun and other books. He has also taught at Notre Dame, Norwich, Auburn, the U.S. Air Force Academy, and Holy Apostles College & Seminary. He serves in the Diocese of Charlotte.

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