A Serious Struggle Starts Today

The past three weeks of the Synod were a mere prelude to the main event, which begins as the final week opens today. Tomorrow will be particularly important: the bishops receive the first draft of the final Synod document. So the wrangling will really start, and we will see whether everything that has happened to date is relevant or has just been for show.

In its dalliances with LGBT questions, the Synod has already changed things, just as Amoris laetitia, for all its ambiguities, has gravely changed – and harmed – the understanding of marriage.

Immigration, the role of women, the formation of young people, and their active participation in the Church’s mission, digital evangelization, and various other common synodal topics could have been discussed at the diocesan level.

As we’ve known from the beginning, however, the one subject in the Synod of real significance to the universal Church is homosexuality and the radical challenge the whole LGBTQ+ ideology presents to our Christian anthropology.

“Christian anthropology” should be a term with which we are all familiar. It doesn’t mean that Christians go out into the field and study our human ancestors and compare them with the higher primates. It means understanding what an anthropos– a human being – really is.

We have God’s good guidance about this from the very beginning. In Genesis, “‘God created man in his own image . . .male and female he created them’; He blessed them and said, ‘Be fruitful and multiply’; ‘When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created.’”

Actually, I quote here the passage in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which in turn quotes Genesis. And for a particular reason. Genesis is clear. We are male and female, not  L and G, B and T, Q and many other combinations and permutations unknown to the human race until our “woke” age.

The report of Anglicus B, the small English-language circle headed by Chicago’s Cardinal Blase Cupich, released over the weekend, makes a direct reference to this passage in the Catechism: “We discussed the issue of Catholics who experience same sex attraction or gender dysphoria. We propose a separate section for this issue and that the main objective of this be the pastoral accompaniment of these people which follows the lines of the relevant section of the Catechism in the Catholic Church.” [Emphasis added.]

Cupich, of course, is quite close to both Pope Francis and Fr. James Martin S.J., and we can be rather certain that this passage reflects the line that will be used by those seeking a change in attitude – and ultimately teaching.

Because anyone who has followed the meteoric success of the “gay” movement in the secular world knows that it will not stop at mere openness and welcoming. A candid “pastoral accompaniment” – if the Bible and Catechism are the standards to be used – will affirm that there’s something wrong with gay relationships, whatever rhetorical feints people use. And that, we know, the activists will never allow to stand.

Pope Francis and Cdl. Cupich [Photo: CNS]
So why did Cardinal Cupich’s group and other individuals suggest that homosexuals be welcomed along the lines of the Catechism? The much deplored “binary thinking” of male/female in our tradition cannot be denied, but it can be finessed.

The Catechism itself displays an incomplete analysis of this matter. It speaks properly of the complementarity of man and woman, the virtue of chastity, and that homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered,” and “contrary to the natural law.” And there’s much else that is good.

But there is also this muddle, which invites trouble: “[Homosexuals] must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”

I’ve had colleagues who are homosexual Catholics who indirectly confessed their situations to me. And I felt – and told them I felt – the pain of the struggle they would have to endure.

But these were serious, practicing Catholics, who were not asking for “acceptance” or “respect” or “no discrimination” in the Church. They were engaged in the struggle and just wanted someone to talk with who was not same-sex attracted.

There’s a difference here that I have not seen clearly kept in mind at the Synod.

Unless someone goes out of his way to tell you about his sexual orientation – as my friends did with me – who would know for sure? They were free to go to Confession, Mass, Communion. and at least one, as I learned, was seriously working with Courage, the very fine and orthodox ministry to people with same-sex attraction.

Something different is being proposed by Cardinal Cupich, Fr. Martin, a whole host of Catholic bishops and activists, and maybe soon by the Synod itself: the Church’s acceptance of people with same-sex attractions as homosexuals.

Even if, for now, they speak of following the Catechism and preaching an incremental approach to the chastity all Christians must aspire to, it’s clear that this will diminish a sense of homosexual acts as sins, just as the “pastoral” approach to the divorced/remarried in Amoris laetitiahas already blurred the reality of something Jesus Himself strongly labeled adultery.

Watch the debate over this issue as it unfolds this week, especially how the Synod speaks of  “discrimination.” The Catholic Church is the only major Western institution that insists on the truth that we human beings are what God says we are. Our culture now encourages us to believe that we are anything we say we are– even male or female or some constantly evolving tertium quid.

To many people, all this just seems to be a matter of compassion towards “sexual minorities.” Christians do, of course, have to find a way to love even the difficult neighbor (which at times is you and me), without denying the difficulty. But at bottom what’s at stake is the question of what God intended us to be. The answer to that question will determine what kind of Church – and civilization – we will become.

Robert Royal

Robert Royal

Dr. Robert Royal is editor-in-chief of The Catholic Thing, and president of the Faith & Reason Institute in Washington, D.C. His most recent book is A Deeper Vision: The Catholic Intellectual Tradition in the Twentieth Century, published by Ignatius Press. The God That Did Not Fail: How Religion Built and Sustains the West, is now available in paperback from Encounter Books.

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