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Anonymous wrote:

Hello, and thank you for taking the time to read my question!

I am a 35-year-old cradle Roman Catholic mother who lives in the USA. I grew up with CCD, Catholic School, and received all of my sacraments. The Church and all of it's ritual and sanctity is home to me.

I recall having a lot of unanswered questions in my teens about the Church but my answers were never answered well by my family because over time, I got the same answer: that's just the way it's done in a lot of cases. I'm sure that there are many Catholics that do things just because and don't really understand the why. Habit, perhaps, along with forgetting the reasons behind the traditions.

I have not been to Mass — except for Christmas and Easter — since I married, almost three years ago. I feel that there is a large missing piece in my spiritual life. My husband and I are planning a family, and I want to be firm in my decision to raise them Catholic or otherwise. My husband is not Catholic but is supportive of my strong heritage and my decision, whatever it may be.

I realize, as well, my feelings may change over time. Now to the real questions:

I believe, very strongly, that a person's sexuality is not a choice and that gay people should be given the same rights as heterosexual people, Including marriage or civil union.

  • How do I rectify this with the Catholic Church's take on this issue?

I also a strong believer in a woman's right to choose to have an abortion. I think there should be government regulated limitations but I don't think it's for me or anyone else to decide what is best for another person to do in that situation.

  • How do I go to a Church that has a huge anti-abortion sign in front of it — my local parish — and feel OK about the difference in my personal belief and that of the Church?
  • I guess I want to know:
    • Can I still be a Catholic and feel this way, or
    • Would I be better off finding another church that is more liberal?

The second option makes me very sad, but I feel like I am stuck and need some objective answers.

Thank you, in advance.

Anonymous

  { Can I still be Catholic while holding pro-gay rights and pro-abortion views? }

Bob replied:

Anonymous,

Thanks for your very sincere questions and Happy Thanksgiving. The Catholic Church is the Faith home that you have inherited and you shouldn't discard it without serious reasons.

Your questions here show a willingness to look deeper and think this through. I applaud that. There is also a danger in church shopping, as you potentially alluded to, in that one who tries to find a church to match his own beliefs finds himself disappointed over and over again. So many have gone from church to church only to find the problem merely shifts from one point to another. Protestantism started this way and now over 30,000 denominations exist worldwide. That is hardly the unity Christ prayed for in John 17:11.

Let me ask you to keep an open mind and perhaps do some reading that could help you to understand the Church's position on several key issues. That being said, even prerequisite to the issues of the day, are the fundamental dogmas of the Church.

  • Who is Jesus?
  • Who/What is God?
  • What is the nature and authority of the Church?
  • How do we form our conscience with respect to moral issues?

Most people, sadly, have had insufficient education in their faith due to a poor catechetical formation in their youth, or no follow-up as an adult. I don't know your situation. If you are like the majority of Catholics, (and from the sound of your family's depth of responses), it probably didn't get to far. If you really want to grow in faith you must also equally grow your mind.

You cannot love Christ, if you do not know him and you cannot know him, if you haven't spent time in that pursuit. There are subjective and objective components to faith:

  • the subjective is your personal experience
  • the objective is what is handed on to us from our ancestors in the faith and what we hold in common

You must come to a happy marriage of the two. Your experience must be genuine but you need to recognize the strength of the reality of what came before and belongs to the Church Universal, as given to us by Christ.

Jesus Christ was no mythological figure. He did, indeed, found a Church, set out moral guidelines and made promises for eternal life. In short, he made a covenant with us, and left us with grave responsibilities. You have been given this gift of Faith; now you have a responsibility.

I would suggest you form a relationship with a priest whom you respect and start a dialogue.
Talk about these issues and ask him for information that might clarify the Church's position.
(We can also recommend some good books to read. I can also give you some more feedback directly on your points, but I feel that this groundwork is more important at the moment.)

A church is a community of people, a family, as much as it is a set of beliefs and dogmas, rules, etc. You ought to make a stronger connection in this respect to really see this through.

Make us part of your spiritual journey and we will do our best to assist you. I have to go visit family now, but let's talk more about these issues. Hopefully we can continue a little later.

Peace and God bless you,

Bob Kirby

Mary Ann replied:

Anonymous —

  • Why did you stop going to Mass when you married?
  • What happened to your unanswered questions?

No one can live long on a young teen's concept of things! I know you have matured in other areas, so I would suggest you buy a Catechism and get the mature answers to those questions. You will be inspired and amazed by the contents of the Catechism which is a sure summary of Catholic teaching. If you have particular question, don't hesitate to ask us.

You speak of changing feelings. I know, you know that all feelings change. Feelings are feelings: partly biochemical emotions that can support our intellect and will but we should never lead with them because feelings are inherently changeable responses to external situations and hence unreliable guides.

As for religion, it is not meant to be a missing piece in our self-construct. It is a relationship with the Living God who gives meaning to the universe and to our lives.

As for the crux questions, the short answer is this: You want objective answers. They are in the Catechism, well explained, if briefly. However, you are right:

  • You cannot be a Catholic and believe that homosexuality, in itself, is a morally good and natural thing, nor that there is such a thing as homosexual marriage.

  • You cannot be a Catholic and believe that a pregnant woman has the right to terminate the life of her child.

The Catechism will give you the moral arguments. Here is some elaboration. At the end of this e-mail reply, I will put all these things in the perspective of God's love for you.

Homosexuality may or may not be a choice (it is certainly deep seated), but homosexual activity is a choice. A person can have a variety of strong drives that are controlled only with difficulty (in the area of pathology, one can think of any compulsion or phobia in the same way), and the Church certainly understands that we all have very strong drives to do disordered things (and the Church teaches that homosexual attraction is a disordered attraction). That's why God has given us helps in the Church — so that we can fulfill God's Word and get help to rise again when we fall. Our inability to follow God's Word is something we all share (original sin) and it is why God gave us His own life, in Christ, through the sacraments — so that we would be empowered to live God's way of life! It takes supernatural power to live God's way.

The nature and morality of homosexuality is a completely separate issue from that of homosexual marriage or civil union. I put marriage in quotes because marriage is a natural, not a political, institution that has existed from the beginning as the original gift of God that has come down to us from before the Fall. It is also, by nature, the union of man and woman. Even biochemically, same-genders cannot unite. In men, anal union causes acute allergic reactions, (see Ethics and Medics at the National Catholic Bioethics Center), while in heterosexual couples it causes a real biochemical union, even apart from the union that happens in procreation.

Other forms of sexual activity are not union, they are simply mutual pleasuring for a sense of emotional union. God's ways are very incarnate, not just emotional! You might want to read a book by Christopher West on Theology of the Body [CD] to get a sense of the Catholic view of sex.

Anyway, if the state can declare that two men or two women can marry, then it can declare that a man and his daughter or a woman and her sister can marry. Ultimately, it can be carried across species (and there is already a movement to do this). If marriage is a legal right to be recognized as a stable couple because of emotional and erotic attachment, then we are asking the state to reward any emotional erotic attachment with the privileges it accords to traditional marriage.

Plus other unions do not provide the benefit to the state, (its creation, continuance, and the formation of its children), that real marriage does. Of course, this presumes a view of marriage that includes openness to the possibility of fertility. This itself is a view that we have lost today.

There are other objections:

  • the much higher rate of violence and abuse among homosexual couples than even among unmarried heterosexual couples, and
  • the statistical lack of stability to the union. Even stable unions are not exclusive.

Heterosexuals are largely unaware of the realities of gay life.

There is also the question of what to do about the adoption of children. No one has the right to adopt someone else's child. A child is not a commodity. Moreover, the child has the right to a mother and a father.

The second issue you raised is even more fundamental. Abortion is a question of a woman's choice only in the same way that any moral issue is a question of choice. We all have a free will to do good or evil. We can choose to steal or not, to lie or tell the truth, to be rude or not.

  • Some things are immoral but not illegal.
  • Some things are illegal and immoral.
  • Some things are legal but not moral.
  • Many immoral things cannot be regulated by the state and we have the legal choice to do them.
  • Some immoral things that are essential are regulated by the state. The state does not permit us to:
    • kill one another
    • take someone's property
    • lie in court, or
    • do a number of things.

Regardless of what the state says, (states are often wrong), it is never a morally good choice to kill an innocent human being.

Your formulation overlooks the child being killed.

It is scientifically an individual member of the human species. If we can kill this child, who is already male or female and who is self-directing in its development, then we can move that line and kill anyone. Your own right to life depends on the right to life of this little being.

You will be welcomed in any number of Christian denominations who accept homosexuality and abortion. The Episcopal church is breaking up over these things. All of the Christian churches that accept them have left Scripture and tradition behind and are letting the current fashion of opinion be their guide. They have a nice union in community around gestures, songs, political positions and even some good deeds — it is hard to kill Christianity. Perhaps you will find one that has rituals and teachings that are according to your taste. You will be comfortable, perhaps emotionally comforted, but ultimately unsatisfied because only truth, and true union, hard as it sometimes is to digest, satisfies the human heart. First, read the epistles of St. James and of
St. Peter. The same things were happening in the old world.

  • St. Paul speaks of pharmaceutical birth control and abortion.
  • The first century document, the Didache, teaches against abortion.

If you decide to believe in the rightness of homosexual acts and of abortion then you are indeed leaving all of Christian tradition behind, regardless of what modern Christianity says.

I wish you blessings as you respond to God's call in your heart. Don't let yourself be dissuaded
(by your initial objections, by worries about future emotional changes, or by social or familial concerns)
from this pursuit of God's tantalizing invitation that is just awakening in your heart. Everything will fall into place once you find the pearl of great price, once you find the treasure beside which everything appears in its true worth.

God is using the sense of something missing in your spiritual life to draw you gently to Him.
He wants you. He wants to love you and fill you with truth and joy and Himself. He is courting you.
Don't play so hard to get!

— Mary Ann

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