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Final thoughts and clarifications

Jeff Cormier, More Truth

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Preface from the Chancellor

STM is a Catholic institution of learning, owned by 12 Catholic Churches in our City.   The School exists for one primary purpose – to teach, wrapped in the truths of the Catholic Faith.   I have always believed that one should never “put down” other religions. Such an approach is weak and trite. Yet, at the same time, neither should Catholics feel we have to apologize for what we believe. The Catholic Church has something beautiful to offer the world. And, in its history, has given to the world some of the greatest men and women who have ever lived. Have there been those “others”?   Of course!   But we never judge something by those who don’t live it, but by those who do.

I have asked the Religion Administrator to put together a series of articles on some of the more “debated” and “controversial” issues of our day.   It’s actually a “follow-up” to the catechetical homilies I introduced last year at the STM Masses. It is wrong for the Church to insist and expect her children to live up to her teachings without explaining “why” she teaches them.   And certainly, in a Catholic institution of learning, we are charged to do so all the more.

The series of articles that will appear in this periodical will address issues of sexual morality. Why? Because this is THE moral issue teens struggle with in our culture. The articles are not meant to judge, to condemn, or to put down.   Rather, they are meant primarily to AFFIRM what the Church teaches, to CLARIFY why she teaches them, and to help FORM our students to live the truths of the Gospel and holiness of life.   To those who may argue that such subject matter is a bit too sensitive for our ninth or tenth graders, my answer is that perhaps in years past. But today, even pre-teens are bombarded by images and messages that shout out to them another way. It is never too early to equip and to teach the holier way, the more virtuous way, the way rooted in Gospel values.

In the debate that will no doubt follow, and in the struggles we each have to live up to these truths (Administration, Faculty, Students and Chancellor), we dare to do what we are called to do as a Catholic School –to teach the truths of our Faith with charity and love.   Why? Because we believe that what we have to say to the world brings happiness and fulfillment.

With gratitude to Mr. Jeff Cormier for writing the articles, enjoy the read…and the “conversations” that will no doubt follow.

In His Love, Rev. Michael J. Russo, Chancellor

Final Thoughts and Clarifications                                  

This six-part series on sexual morality concludes here with a few summarizing points of consideration, to answer questions several students have raised while reading the previous five articles.  As stated in the first article, Catholic sexual morality is summarized in the following statement:  marriage between one man and one woman is the context for which sex was intended by God and remains the only context for its morally acceptable use.[1]

Homosexuality and Transgender?

Though this topic is indirectly covered in the first article, “Let’s Talk about Sex,” student responses to that article warrant a more thorough elaboration.  The “transgender” phenomenon is becoming ridiculous.  There are now 58 gender options on Facebook[2], and there will surely be more created in the future.  Biologically, however, our genders are predetermined – we are either male or female depending on the physiological role we have in reproduction[3].  Gender is not a psychological choice.  Even though this is obvious, it is clear that some people today struggle with gender identity.  In many ways, our cultural ideals of femininity and masculinity are shallow and skewed.  Other people experience unintended same-sex attraction.  As was stated in the first article, it is important to remember that feelings and personal desires do not determine the morality of sexual activity.  Any perverted or criminal act whatsoever could be justified if the standard was merely personal desire1.  The Catholic Church does not condemn anyone for experiencing sexual/gender identity struggles.  No one is exempt from the difficulties of the moral life in today’s world, especially in regard to sexual morality.  We all have our own crosses to bear and no one lives the moral life perfectly.  Mercifully however, for the sake of our salvation, our Church continues to proclaim the standard clearly:  marriage between one man and one woman is the context for which sex was intended by God and remains the only context for its morally acceptable use.  All sexual activity outside of this context is sinful and disordered.  This includes all types of fornication (heterosexual or homosexual), adultery, masturbation, and pornography.  Any personal desire tempting one to choose sinful activity is also to be considered disordered (though the person may not be guilty of causing that desire.  After all, you cannot help who knocks at your door, but you can decide who you let into your house!).  Having disordered desires, whether they be sexual or to vices like hatred or gluttony, does not mean a person must surrender to them and act upon them, or should be defined by them.  We all struggle with disordered desires, with choosing what is good and avoiding evil.  The theological term for this struggle and inclination to sin is called concupiscence.[4]  As God reminds us early on in salvation history: “sin lies in wait at the door: its urge is for you, yet you can rule over it” (Gen 4:7)

The Catechism itself acknowledges that the number of people with same-sex attraction is not negligible.[5]  Even though the Church maintains that homosexual desires[6] are disordered (they do not correspond with our heterosexual human anatomy), the Church does not condemn anyone for having unintended homosexual desires or any other type of sexual temptation.  Borrowing a now famous phrase from Pope Francis (that has been severely taken out-of-context by the media) – who are we to judge?[7]  Only God is qualified to judge a person’s heart and true intentions.  What if two men with same-sex attraction decide to live chastely together as brothers and friends?  Who are we to judge them?  Many people find having a roommate very helpful.  I know two sisters with children of their own who are now, for various reasons, without husbands.  They have decided to move-in together to raise their children together and share the bills and burdens of life with one another.  What would be wrong with two women who are not sisters deciding to do the same thing?  What if some people are more attracted to cultural activities usually associated with the opposite gender?  As Christians, we are called to love and serve one another and assist each other through the difficulties of life.  But, and this is very important, loving all people does not mean having to accept all behaviors.  This is the shallow version of “tolerance” found in our culture today.  We cannot judge a person’s heart, but we are indeed obligated to judge the morality of one another’s actions, especially of our fellow Christians[8].  To “admonish the sinner” is the first of the spiritual works of mercy, and this service to one another strengthens us and, for Christians, keeps us accountable to the faith we publicly profess.  The role given to the Church by Jesus is, as St. Paul calls it, the ministry of reconciliation[9], to continue offering the world Jesus’ grace and mercy.  An important duty in that ministry is to clearly identify those activities which are sinful so that we may form our consciences, repent, choose what is good and avoid those enslaving, life-draining habits of sin, in order to lead us to freedom, joy, and peace of heart.

Living the virtue of chastity is difficult, and, unfortunately, today’s media is flooded with sexual images and dialogue, making sexual purity much more difficult than it should be, especially for young people.  Sex is used to advertise clothing, cologne, shampoo, and almost everything imaginable.  Yet everyone is still called to chastity.  A life of personal prayer, strengthened by the grace of the Sacraments, and a stubborn determination to serve the Lord is the only way to keep safely anchored to God and His design for sex clearly proclaimed by our Church:  marriage between one man and one woman is the context for which sex was intended by God and remains the only context for its morally acceptable use.  For a married man and woman, this means being sexually faithful to one another.  For unmarried people, it means sexual abstinence.  It’s that simple.

 

[1] See first article:  “Let’s Talk about Sex”

[2] See online article: “Here’s a List of 58 Gender Options for Facebook Users

[3] “In biology, an organism is male or female if it is structured to perform one of the respective roles in reproduction. This definition does not require any arbitrary measurable or quantifiable physical characteristics or behaviors.  These structures are permanently engrained in one’s biology. They cannot be chosen at will.  A man can mutilate his body, but he can never transform it to be organized as a female — and vice versa for the woman.” From Walt Heyer’s article: “‘Sex change’ is a myth. Those who try will always fail

[4] See Catechism #1264.  “Concupiscence” comes from the Latin verb concupere, “to intensely desire”.

[5] “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” (Catechism, #2358).

[6] What is meant by homosexual desire is not the desire for love and intimacy from members of the same sex, but the desire for genital, sexual expression with members of the same sex – these two are often confused into one.  It is very healthy for a person (especially children) to have loving, spiritually intimate relationships with members of both sexes.

[7] See online article:  “Pope Francis explains ‘who am I to judge’ in his new book

[8] See Matthew 18:15-17, and I Corinthians 5:1-13, for example.

[9] II Corinthians 5:18

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