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Welcoming Gays: How Do I Do That?


The buzz word in the synod on the family, and in the general discussion about homosexuals is the word "welcome."

homosexual We are to "welcome homosexuals".

The problem is, no one is really explaining what this means.

I hope those who feel strongly about this matter — who have responded with visceral compassion on the poor homosexual persons who have been the victims of bullying will not mind examining the question with an open mind.

How, exactly, does one "welcome gays" and how is the welcome we offer gays any different than the welcome we give to every other person?

Furthermore, what do we mean by "homosexual" or "gay"?

For the sake of argument I'll use "homosexual" to mean any person who experiences a predominantly same sex attraction.

I'll use "gay" to refer to those who are sexually active and committed not only to sexual relations with a person of the same sex, but also to what might be called "gay activism".  In other words, their "gayness"  is more than sexual activity.  It also involves political activism and an ideological stance.

I realize it is more complicated than that, but the distinctions are useful for the sake of discussion.

If Catholics are called to "welcome gays" then it is obvious that this is impossible except in the case that the "gay person" begins the process of repudiating their false, anti-Catholic ideology and lifestyle.  Gays would be welcome in the Catholic faith as a Communist would be welcome in the Republican party — welcome to change his mind; welcome to convert; welcome to adopt a different viewpoint, lifestyle and belief system.

The gay lifestyle is repugnant to any right thinking Catholic.  The gay ideology is anti-Catholic and the gay manifesto is manifestly un Christian.  Any attempts to meld the two and create some kind of gay Catholicism is unthinkable.  It would be a new religion which could only exist through the destruction of the old.

In saying that, there is no cause for persecution of gay people.

The Catholic Church is clear that everyone is to be treated with respect, recognizing the innate human dignity of all persons.  Catholics should therefore regard gays with the same objective compassion and concern that we have for all people.  We see gays, as we see all people, as first and foremost brothers and sisters, fellow human beings created in the image of God and therefore good and precious eternal souls.  Gays may define themselves by their sexual proclivity.  We do not.  We look beyond that to see that they are more than their sexual desires.  To accept them as fellow human beings, however, is not to condone their sexual choices or to agree to their ideology.

The welcome of homosexuals is a different matter.  The homosexual, as I defined it here for the sake of discussion, is a person who experiences same sex attraction.  They may not act on their desires and remain celibate.  They may choose to marry and defer their homosexual desires.  They may be sexually active with various partners, but regret their choices.  They may follow the path of friendship — living with a member of the same sex while not being sexually active.

If they want to be faithful Catholics, seeking to follow Jesus Christ in the path of self sacrifice, service and the pursuit of sanctity, then they are already welcome just like everyone else.

The Catholic Church already welcomes such people with the full range of pastoral care.  I therefore fail to see why there is so much discussion and pressure to "welcome homosexuals."

Of course there may be harsh attitudes towards homosexual persons in some quarters.  There are harsh attitudes to anyone who is unusual or who challenges the norms.  That's life.  Anyone who has looked into the subject, rather than simply adopting the mindless attitudes and cliches of the mass media, will know that Catholics already have a range of caring, open ended and intelligent approaches to welcome and help homosexual people.

The welcome homosexuals are given is within the context of the teaching of the Catholic Church.  With compassion and care homosexuals are welcomed as anyone else is welcomed.  If they need extra pastoral care, counseling and assistance they may receive it just as anyone else can.  If they do not wish for that assistance they don't have it forced on them.

This brings us to another core problem no one is really discussing, and that is the question, "What kind of 'welcome' exactly do homosexual people desire of the Catholic Church?"  Do they wish to be welcomed in the same way everyone else is, or do they want some sort of special treatment?  If they want to be faithful Catholics, seeking to follow Jesus Christ in the path of self sacrifice, service and the pursuit of sanctity, then they are already welcome just like everyone else.  Do they want to be assured that simply because they experience same sex attraction they will not be vilified, ostracized and excluded?  Gays may be vilified because they are perceived as the enemy, but I can't imagine homosexuals experience such exclusion.  I would have thought in most Catholic parishes, and amongst most Catholic clergy the exact opposite happens — that the homosexual person is welcomed without prejudice if he or she truly wants to be part of the family of faith.

What, therefore, is the discussion on "welcoming homosexuals" really about?

It is not about welcoming people with same sex attraction.

Let's be honest.

The only reason for this discussion is that  certain pressure groups wish for the Catholic Church to change her basic stance on homosexuality.

What the lobbyists want is for the Catholic Church to endorse same sex relationships as a viable alternative to marriage.

"You must welcome homosexuals" means "you must approve of gay sex"

If I am wrong in this assessment, then I'm happy to be corrected.  If "welcoming gays" means something else what could it possibly be?

We are called to discuss the issue and to listen.  I am doing so.



longeneckerFather Dwight Longenecker. "Welcoming Gays: How Do I Do That?" Patheos (Standing on My Head) (October 22, 2014).

Reprinted with permission from Father Dwight Longenecker. See the original article here.

Standing on my head is the blog of Father Longenecker on Patheos.  

The Author

Longenecker1Longeneckercps Father Dwight Longenecker is Pastor of Our Lady of the Rosary parish in Greenville, South Carolina. Father Longenecker studied for the Anglican ministry at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford and served for ten years in the Anglican ministry as a curate, a chaplain at Cambridge and a country parson. In 1995 he and his family were received into full communion with the Catholic Church. He is the author of books on apologetics, conversion stories and Benedictine spirituality including: Praying the Rosary for Inner Healing, Listen My Son: St. Benedict for Fathers, More Christianity, Challenging Catholics: A Catholic Evangelical Dialogue, St. Benedict and St. Therese: The Little Rule & the Little Way, Mary: A Catholic-Evangelical Debate, and The Path to Rome. Visit his website-blog here.

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