In a Thursday op-ed, Vatican Cardinal Robert Sarah criticizes a Jesuit priest involved in pro-LGBT outreach for his failure to preach the Church’s message on the immorality of homosexual relations.
Guinean Cardinal Sarah, who heads up the Vatican’s liturgical department, writes in the Wall Street Journal that people who identify as LGBT are owed the truth that same-sex relations “are gravely sinful and harmful to the well-being of those who partake in them,” especially from clergy who speak on behalf of the church.
In his critique, the Cardinal makes explicit reference to Jesuit Father James Martin’s new book titled Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity. The book had already received criticism from other Church leaders for the glaring absence of Catholic teaching on sexual morality for those who experience same-sex attraction.
In a July article, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput chastised Father Martin for failing to summon gay Catholics to “conversion,” rather than simply asking for “affirmation.”
What Father Martin’s book “regrettably lacks,” Chaput wrote, is “an engagement with the substance of what divides faithful Christians from those who see no sin in active same-sex relationships.”
The Church is not simply about unity, Chaput added, but about unity in God’s love rooted in truth. This means that active homosexuals (or anyone in an illicit sexual relationship) “need conversion, not merely affirmation.”
In his new op-ed, Cardinal Sarah echoes Chaput’s criticism, while adding that no one should be identified by their sexual proclivities, but rather first and foremost as a human being and a child of God.
“In her teaching about homosexuality, the church guides her followers by distinguishing their identities from their attractions and actions,” Sarah notes.
While the Cardinal recognizes that same-sex attractions are not sinful in themselves if not acted upon, they “are nevertheless at odds with human nature,” he writes.
This truth is sadly missing in the book by Father James Martin, who is “one of the most outspoken critics of the church’s message with regard to sexuality” among Catholic priests, Sarah laments.
Those who speak on behalf of the church “must be faithful to the unchanging teachings of Christ, because only through living in harmony with God’s creative design do people find deep and lasting fulfillment,” he writes.
Cardinal Sarah insists that the Church’s teaching on sexual morality is part of the “Good News” of Jesus Christ, and should not be hidden away but preached in love. If out of false compassion Church representatives fail to challenge people to the virtue of chastity, they lead them down a path of sadness, not joy.
“We do not need to look far to see the sad consequences of the rejection of God’s plan for human intimacy and love,” Sarah writes. “The sexual liberation the world promotes does not deliver its promise. Rather, promiscuity is the cause of so much needless suffering, of broken hearts, of loneliness, and of treatment of others as means for sexual gratification.”
The Cardinal contrasts Father Martin’s book with another work by Daniel Mattson, “Why I Don’t Call Myself Gay: How I Reclaimed My Sexual Reality and Found Peace,” for which Sarah wrote the foreword.
In writing about his own homosexuality and struggles to live a celibate life, Mattson says that Catholics “cannot remain reluctant to speak about the beauty of the Church’s teaching on sexuality and sexual identity for fear that it will appear ‘unloving,’ ‘irrational,’ or ‘unreal.’”
People with same-sex attractions who have discovered peace and joy by living the truth of the Gospel deserve to have their stories told, Sarah notes.
“These men and women testify to the power of grace, the nobility and resilience of the human heart, and the truth of the church’s teaching on homosexuality,” he says. “Their example deserves respect and attention, because they have much to teach all of us about how to better welcome and accompany our brothers and sisters in authentic pastoral charity.”
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