The other day someone asked me, “How do I even begin to address the LGBTQ+ topic in my RCIA class? There are people who are struggling with this topic and what they think the Church teaches, and I’m not sure where to start, aside from reading what the catechism says. Any ideas?”
I was very happy to receive this question. It seems like the conversation keeps rapidly transforming, so it is very hard for people to keep up. Plus, there are laws which have been recently passed that have made people hesitant to address this topic because no one wants to say the wrong thing. I understand, people don’t want to say something hurtful, or something that will be perceived as being hurtful, and people also want to uphold their Catholic faith. Suffice it to say, it is a learning curve for many people, and I hope more people choose to engage in learning about this topic so that we can have clearer teaching on it, and have that teaching come from more people.
In saying that, here is what I sent in response.
Hi there, thank you for that question. It is such an important topic that needs to be addressed, for it can seem like the whole world has taken on the perspectives of the LGBTQ+ ideological movement, even within the Church. I understand that it might seem like a mountainous task to bring people to a proper understanding of this topic through the lens of the Catholic faith, and I applaud your efforts to enter into this.
One of the biggest hurdles, in my experience, is that the concepts required to be understood in order to uncover the beauty and richness of the Catholic Church’s teachings on this topic are built upon language that most Catholics don’t use or are even familiar with. Likewise, neither are the concepts used by people in the secular world, which makes things all the more difficult because we, as Catholics, are often soaking inthe secular world! For that reason, it is very difficult to build upon those concepts, for the foundational language required simply isn’t there.
Two ways to counter this situation are as follows:
1. While approaching through an educational lens (above a pastoral lens), we can expose people to the language of the church which reveals a far greater degree of precision than what most people’s casual language could/would ever come close to doing. This would help people more clearly understand the actual teachings of the Church, which would far more likely lead to one’s sincere and authentic interior transformation – hopefully motivated by their increasing love for God. This will also help them re-configure their understanding of the world outside the of the Church, that is, if they are truly open to transformation. However, not all will be open to that, and for this reason, we must pray and fast.
2. While approaching through a pastoral lens (above an educational lens), which might be a more effective way of reaching hearts based on how people today are very attached to their emotional experiences, we can show/share testimonials of those who have found joy via pursuing a heart of chastity and who desire to share the richness of chastity with others. Identifying a person’s willingness to share about the joys of pursuing true chastity is extremely important, for there are many people who say they are striving to live a life of chastity, or who say they are striving to live a life in accordance with the Church’s teachings on sexuality, yet they (often with resentment) discourage people from pursuing an understanding of chastity as it is understood by the Church – thereby effectively rejecting the moral authority of the Church to even define such a term (and sometimes outrightly admitting to this). Those who do this often mistakenly use the word “chastity” to mean abstinence and or celibacy, which is a massive, truth-inhibiting error. Those who reflect this way of thinking often also believe the idea that “God made you this way,” and that people who experience same-sex attractions ought to “heroically” resign themselves to a life of perpetual singlehood (as though that is the best they will ever get without countering “their nature as an “LGBTQ+ person”). Since this is not anchored on striving to grow in the fullness of virtue and holiness, we know that this will not, in and of itself, contribute to the transformation of one’s heart such that it will increasingly desire to grow in virtue and holiness. This leaves people in a state of thirsting for same-sex friendships, albeit without a heart transformed by the pursuit of true chastity. Many of these people have chosen to classify their deep need for same-sex affection (which is in and of itself not a bad thing) as something of a “Side-B” friendship. People need to understand that this is a thing because it is bringing people to believe that inappropriately (unchaste) same-sex intimacy is acceptable such as long as sexual acts themselves are not committed in the flesh. People perceive that because these can be “giving relationships,” it means they are automatically charitable. However, it again reflects a rejection of the moral authority of the Church to define charity itself, which must include a consideration for the eternal destination of the soul and cannot, therefore, allow for the introduction of any sin, as in, the rejection of the virtue of chastity.
This perspective is completely removed from the idea that God could bring about holy romantic attractions to a person of the opposite sex as a result of the simple pursuit of holiness, for the pursuit of holiness begets holy relationship, and holy relationship begets the foundation through which a holy romantic interest may emerge. In short, we need to be aware of where chastity and the pursuit of growing in the fulness of virtue and holiness are promoted, not just spoken about. If they are not promoted, then I would suggest that the people who are saying they’re striving to grow in the fulness of virtue and holiness and or who are saying that they are pro-chastity are actually not. Now, this is a judgement of one’s attachments, which is fine (it is God who judges the fullness of one’s heart, which I am not doing), but in my experience, it has been helpful to distinguish between those who are striving to align themselves with the truths upheld by the Church and those who dissent from the church. That is a very important distinction.
Ultimately, it is important to break open the conversation about what chastity, holiness, virtue, and authority really mean, with the latter impacting one’s assessment of whether or not people should accept the moral teaching authority of the church as the Spotless Bride of Christ (CCC 789 and 796), even despite the evil and wicked deeds that have been done by people of the church and sometimes by various church institutions themselves.
The misunderstandings about chastity often put a sour taste in peoples mouth, for many perceive it as the Church commanding people to not love who they want to love. However, people who believe this are so far removed from the idea that chastity is a proposal (not an imposition) for people to love most profoundly. People can enter into this greater love when they strive to love God above all else, which motivates them (out of love) to enter into further alignment with what God has authored into creation – and that includes the truths written into humanity pertaining to our sexuality, and that includes the physiological complimentary of males and females.
Further, since chastity has to do with the state of our heart and our desire to align our wills to what God has authored into creation, it follows that for as long as we have free will, we have the ability to accept or reject the proposal of the Church to grow in that virtue. That is, for as long as we have free will, we have the ability to choose to love God or to reject Him and what He has authored into creation. That’s on us!
That brings us to another conversation altogether which is about virtue itself. Chastity, a daughter virtue of the virtue of temperance, is only one of 64 virtues. It is one of 64 ways through which we can strive to grow in excellence and accept our imperfections while striving to love Christ more. We need to start seeing our faith through the lens of “striving to grow in the fulness of virtue” above any Catholic behavior because striving to grow in the fulness of virtue will transform one’s heart, while merely striving to emulate a particular behaviour may not necessarily transform a heart. Further, a focus on chastity can elevate the conversation of faith beyond the proverbial list of “Do’s and Don’ts” that can plague people with the false understanding that the Church is merely about following “rules.”
A virtue-first approach also points to the reality then anytime someone blames the church (as Mystical Body of Christ) for rejecting them, we know that that is an outward projection of a persons own rejection of the proposal of the church. Indeed, people do experience rejection at the hands of Catholic people, which is a tragedy. However, some people perceive rejection if someone doesn’t see things the same way as they do, to which there is no remedy other than prayer and fasting. We have to simply accept being rejected by people adhering to this mindset while we also strive to continue to hold the olive branch out to them (unless they have it made it unsafe for us to do so).
For an RCIA teacher (or any other type of teacher) to try to teach people who are skeptical, and or who are simply struggling to understand the Church’s teachings, I would recommend using a few short resources to first introduce clearer language and to share people’s experience of joy and peace (markers of the Holy Spirit) found through pursuing the virtue of chastity. Doing so will help people recognize the contrast between those who are joyfully surrendering to Jesus Christ and the moral authority of the Catholic Church, and those who are not and who are instead harbouring resentment towards the moral teaching authority of the Church.
Likewise, the point of these introductory resources does not need to be to fully educate people. Though this may seem counterintuitive, it is much more like teaching a man to fish, so to speak. That is, if we expose people to a broader set of narratives alongside more clarified language, then, on account of people’s own pursuit of greater self-honesty, they will (if they are not completely numb to truth) engage in the pursuit of trying to make sense of their newly-embraced greater awareness. They will want to dig deeper so that they will be better informed about the stories that had been, so far, hidden from them.
Ultimately, the hope is to inspire people to enter into a journey of further discovery – a journey that will last a lifetime if they become truly locked on pursuing the mystery of Christ as an overarching objective (with respect to their state in life, of course). Any testimonial resource should radiate interior peace and joy, as opposed to giving off a “vibe” that someone is merely (oft resentfully) settling for having been given a bad lot in life, or the consolation prize that they can still be loved by God even though they “can’t do what straight people can do.”
As we know, joy and hope will transform the world. What will help us less on this front is merely “telling truth at people” by reciting of the catechism without any lived example to reveal that what the Church teaches is the pathway to the greatest peace, joy, hope, love, and freedom that could ever be experienced.
To that end, I have some resources linked below. The two articles will help on the educationally- prioritized side, and the five videos will help on the pastorally-prioritized side. There are many more videos and articles that could be shared, but I would like to start with these as essential icebreakers, suitable for youth, young adults, and adults.
I hope that you will be able to use these resources to help elevate the conversation while also revealing stories of great joy to people who might otherwise not be exposed to them.
Efforts like yours help the people you encounter open their hearts to the goodness of what the Church has to offer. Of course, the most important thing again is that we pray and fast because these offerings to God will help transform the world in the ways that He sees fit, and that is ultimately what is most important – and most effective.
I hope this helps for now. Resources are below.
No, I DON’T “Call” LGBTQ+ People to Abstinence or Celibacy
Responding to Fr. James Martin Without Responding to Fr. James Martin
Sexuality, Gender, and Discovering Catholicism – Ascension Press (10 min)
Transformations – Hudson’s Story – Grandin Media, Archdiocese of Edmonton, AB (13 min)
The Catholic Teaching on Same-Sex Attraction – for Youth and Young Adults, Archdiocese of Vancouver (90 min)
Homosexuality, Gender, and Hope – Interview with Jason Evert (90 min)
Catholicism & Gay Pride w/ Hudson Byblow – Interview with Jason Evert (60 min)
Note: In addition to these resources, I recommend that people consult the website of Courage International, and begin with resources linked to their site.