Because they were like sheep without a shepherd
Last night I watched an episode of Blue Bloods (a TV police drama series). It featured a crime committed against a same sex attracted male. An off-duty policy office intervened, which put him in a difficult spot as the reason he happened to be in that section of town was because of his own inclinations. The media used that as a way to attack Tom Selleck’s character, Frank Reagan of Police Commissioner of New York and practicing catholic. In the episode, Frank backs down and says publicly that church teaching is old fashioned and perhaps needs to get with the times. The cardinal talks to him about it and asks Frank to retract his statement. What the cardinal did not do though, was to shepherd Frank and correct his error.
Frank feels he can’t retract his statement because if he did he would hurt the people he serves and so he finds himself in a dilemma in his mind, one that no one want probably want to be in - the dilemma of being faithful or being loving. It is sad, of course, from my perspective, that it was handled that way. The media person was being prejudiced because he would have never attempted the question with a person of a non Christian faith, although their beliefs on same sex union would parallel that of the Christians. Often I think Catholics are in this way without a shepherd on the matter. We feel we are in an unwinnable situation and all we can do is lose from a secular point of view and therefore we might as well get our defence ready for the inevitable persecution. What good news will shepherd us through this difficulty. Cardinal Francis George of Chicago said as he lay dying, “I die in my bed. My successor will die in prison. His successor will be murdered and his successor will see things come back to order.” He wanted people to think outside of the usual categories that limit us. Despite the doom and gloom outlook you may feel around same sex inclinations, “marriage”, etc. I am not worried because I believe the Church has the good news in this and in every situation. We are the only ones who can actually love in the situation because love and truth go together.
I would like to attempt to shepherd you on this matter.
Here are some things I like to focus on. First of all, I reject the labelling of people out right and it surprises me that we are looking to label people. I don’t believe people should be defined by their inclinations. Interestingly by labelling, the so called non prejudiced media shows themselves prejudiced because in the action they are saying there is something abnormal about people with same sex attraction. We need to refuse labelling. They only thing this has served is to attack Christians as well as people of same sex or other attractions, and no good has come from this labelling. One individual in a debate said that the Church called him a disordered, intrinsically evil person and he said it wasn’t nice to say that. Of course it isn’t a nice thing to say but I would like to challenge him to find a Church document that actually says that. The Church believes that each person is created in the image and likeness of God. It never says one should be labelled or that a person is intrinsically evil. In fact, it is actually impossible for one to be intrinsically evil because we are made by God and reflect God. So stop the labelling. Once we throw out this labelling then honest dialogue can begin.
A story fits my second point: “There was a couple on a tour in Palestine. The tour guide was giving a glowing report about the shepherd/sheep relationship. The shepherd feeds the sheep, guides them, protects them and rarely drives them but rather the sheep follow because they trust. As the tour guide was relating the wonderful trusting relationship he noticed no one was paying attention to him. All were staring out the bus window at a guy chasing a ‘herd’ of sheep. He was throwing rocks at them, whacking them with sticks, and siccing the sheep dog on them. The sheep-driving man in the field had torpedoed the guide’s enchanting narrative. The tour guide was so agitated he jumped off the bus, ran into the field, and accosted the man, ‘Do you understand what you have just done to me?’ he asked. ‘I was spinning a charming story about the gentle ways of shepherds, and here you are mistreating, hazing, and assaulting these sheep. What is going on?’ For a moment, a bewildered look froze on the face of the poor sheep-chaser, then the light dawned and he blurted out, ‘Man. You’ve got me all wrong. I’m not a shepherd. I’m a butcher.’” If we are not able to lead others in a loving way to the plan of God we are more like the butcher who needs fear to lead others to the slaughter. But fear not - we can love and we have to love to win. We will suffer because love causes one to suffer. We are actually the only ones who have the tools to love someone, including ourselves, with a disordered inclination. We have to be very careful as Christians not to be defensive or offensive. We are called to love, which simply means to seek the highest good for each person. We need to ask ourselves the question: what does it look like to love someone who has a disordered inclination? Disordered means not ordered to the good, and good means physical, emotional and spiritual health as well as the common good. When we reflect, we can see that we all have unhealthy things about us, things we are inclined to do that are not good for our physical, emotional and spiritual health nor for the common good. If we cannot say positively that an inclination will be beneficial, or at least has the potential to be beneficial, in those four ways then we must approach the Father for healing and life. God loves healing His children. Rejection is not the answer to disordered inclination. Rejection is never God’s answer, so how could it be ours? Love is a changing force, positive and life giving. Fear may motivate us temporarily but it rarely, if ever, effects long term change. We must look into our own fears in these matters. If someone has this inclination and it bothers us, it is important to address our own fears and ask what is bothering me. Many parents feel like they have failed when a son or daughter has a same sex inclination. I don’t believe people choose these inclinations, I don’t see why they would want to and I doubt that they do. Though we are not responsible for having them, we are however responsible for the use of them. Withholding love from someone does not change his/her inclination, but rather it often solidifies the inclination and makes one even more desperate. We as people have often learnt and used an ungodly disciplining method, that of withholding love. “I love you when you are good and not when you are bad.” Yet God loves us period, no matter what, and we must ask for His grace to love like this and to act in love at all times and to say sorry when we don’t. We need to look at and present our own disordered inclinations to God and ask what is going on. When we allow God to heal us and guide us we can help others in love to become as great as we are called to be. We are all called to shepherd people to the green pastures.
Thirdly, we may feel that this is a terrible time for being Catholic. Frodo once said in the Lord of the Rings when he saw the difficult task ahead of him, “‘I wish it need not have happened in my time.’ 'So do I,' said Gandalf, 'and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.’” We may wonder why was I born in this age? But the truth is God has picked us for this particular age and to live in this particular time, not because He hates us but because He believes in us. He knows we can be the change and we can be the love. He is here to shepherd us. He knows we can do it and He has set us apart to bring His message of love. Archbishop Adam Exner once said when he was attacked on the issue of same sex marriage, “I as a bishop have the duty to tell people the truth and they have a right to know the truth.” Let us not be afraid as sheep to stay close to the shepherd and safe from the wolves. Let the Shepherd guide us and keep us and teach us how to love. If our Savior could love from His cross, He can certainly teach us how to love in every circumstance.