The Catechism says that the Sacred Heart of Jesus is “the chief sign and symbol” of Christ’s love for “the eternal Father and all human beings without exception” (CCC 478).
Along these same lines, Pope Francis makes a radical claim in Fratelli Tutti, “believers come to know that God loves every man and woman with infinite love and ‘thereby confers infinite dignity’ upon all humanity. We likewise believe that Christ shed his blood for each of us and that no one is beyond the scope of his universal love” (FT 85).
The belief that human dignity is both infinite and universal is a sign of contradiction in a world broken by sin. We live in a world where even Christians often see “the other” as an enemy, rather than as a brother or sister.
In the encyclical, Francis expresses his concern that “there are those who appear to feel encouraged or at least permitted by their faith to support… contempt, and even the mistreatment of those who are different.” This is why the pope urges “that catechesis and preaching speak more directly and clearly about the social meaning of existence, the fraternal dimension of spirituality, our conviction of the inalienable dignity of each person, and our reasons for loving and accepting all our brothers and sisters” (FT 86).
This includes loving and accepting our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters.
In March I wrote a short article explaining the CDF’s teaching that the Church cannot bless same-sex unions. I said that the document clarifies that this teaching “does not preclude the blessings given to individual persons with homosexual inclinations” because it is sexual unions outside of marriage that are intrinsically disordered—not gay persons themselves.
One of the commenters on the article took issue with that point and said, “This is true but obscures a clear teaching of the Church regarding homosexual inclinations themselves.”
“This is true but….”
Why do some Catholics always seem to insist that such statements must be qualified? Of course we can make firm and objective statements about the infinite value of LGBTQ+ persons. And we can do this without also saying “but…” Catholics absolutely can unambiguously affirm the dignity of LGBTQ+ persons, as well as their contributions to the Church and society without tacking on a disclaimer, as some seem to believe. We can do this, and I think we must, if loving and accepting our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters is our actual goal.
The Catechism says that the Church is both mother and teacher (CCC 2030). I believe that we, the Church, must embrace these roles in that order.
In Amoris Laetitia, the pope teaches that the family is the model for the Church. The Church—that is, all baptized Christians—turns to the domestic church to understand our identity and mission. The pope says, “the Church, in order fully to understand her mystery, looks to the Christian family, which manifests her in a real way” (AL 67).
I believe the pope’s words about how parents ought to form their children can help us to understand how the Church ought to minister and teach. Francis says, “A person’s affective and ethical development is ultimately grounded in a particular experience, namely, that his or her parents can be trusted. This means that parents, as educators, are responsible, by their affection and example, for instilling in their children trust and loving respect” (AL 263). In order to effectively share the Good News of Jesus with someone, we must first be someone they can trust.
Unfortunately, I think the Church—you, me, and all the baptized—have failed to welcome and respect members of the LGBTQ+ community many times, and have failed to earn that trust.
Too often Christians treat our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters as targets for conversion, ministry projects, or enemies. They become the “other,” rather than valuable and necessary members of the human community. We have failed to recognize the God-given charisms they offer to the Body of Christ.
I can’t imagine how it must feel to have to listen to other Christians repeatedly explain and decode the term “objectively disordered.” I don’t know what it feels like to have every clear and unqualified affirmation of my own human dignity scrutinized by other Christians and criticized for not also mentioning my faults. I don’t know how it feels when some Catholics regularly view me with suspicion and fear. I don’t know how any of that feels, but I can’t imagine those experiences inspire trust.
This month, I want to express my gratitude to LGBTQ+ Catholics:
The faith God has given to you that allows you to continue loving the Church—despite all of this—is a witness to me. If you don’t feel safe or loved in the Church because your brothers and sisters effectively said you weren’t wanted, valued, or loved by God—that is our fault. In those experiences we concealed, rather than revealed, the true nature of God and his Church. I hope and pray that you can know the love of Jesus in spite of the harm and the scandals we have caused.
The Catechism says that in his life and on the cross, “Jesus knew and loved us each and all…with a human heart” (CCC 478). My LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters, you are infinitely loved by Jesus and have a place of purpose and value in the Catholic Church. Christ’s Sacred Heart was pierced for you.
Image Credit: Painted Sanctuary