This coming weekend Catholics in England and Wales are going to be reminded of the Christian vision of Marriage, and the call for Catholics to resist a re-definition of marriage in legislation by our government. This returns to our culture's exploration over what it means to be a human being and specifically being male and female. Of course as fewer people refer to divine revelation and more people settle with secular values such as 'equality' it becomes an opportunity for us explain clearly that our values are not born from public opinion but from God.

I am sure that as Catholics we will be asked to defend our Church's position on this as news about the Archbishop's letter hits the media. And not least amongst the acusations brought against the Catholic Church will be that of homophobia, ie hatred of homosexuals.

It is important that we remember that according to the teaching of our Church (i.e. we believe this is a divine truth) having same-sex attraction is not a sin. Of their nature those who call themselves homosexual (or 'gay') are not intrinsically more sinful than anyone else. What the church says is that sexual union only finds its rightful place in the marital union of a man and a woman. So any sort of sex outside this is regarded as sinful. I suggest we all ponder what the church teaches about this especially in the Catechism (see CCC 1601 forwards).

It is also helpful to listen to the witness of a Catholic who is gay and who accepts the Church's teaching. Here is an excerpt from such a witness, and you can find the full entry on the link that follows:
... I have heard a lot about how mean the Church is, and how bigoted, because she opposes gay marriage. How badly she misunderstands gay people, and how hostile she is towards us. My gut reaction to such things is: Are you freaking kidding me? Are we even talking about the same church?

When I go to Confession, I sometimes mention the fact that I'm gay, to give the priest some context. (And to spare him some confusion: Did you say 'locker room'? What were you doing in the women's...oh.) I've always gotten one of two responses: either compassion, encouragement, and admiration, because the celibate life is difficult and profoundly counter-cultural; or nothing at all, not even a ripple, as if I had confessed eating too much on Thanksgiving.

Of the two responses, my ego prefers the first -- who doesn't like thinking of themselves as some kind of hero? -- but the second might make more sense. Being gay doesn't mean I'm special or extraordinary. It just means that my life is not always easy. (Surprise!) And as my friend J. said when I told him recently about my homosexuality, "I guess if it wasn't that, it would have been something else." Meaning that nobody lives without a burden of one kind or another. As Rabbi Abraham Heschel said: "The man who has not suffered, what can he possibly know, anyway?"

Where are all these bigoted Catholics I keep hearing about? When I told my family a year ago, not one of them responded with anything but love and understanding. Nobody acted like I had a disease. Nobody started treating me differently or looking at me funny. The same is true of every one of the Catholic friends that I've told. They love me for who I am.

Actually, the only time I get shock or disgust or disbelief, the only time I've noticed people treating me differently after I tell them, is when I tell someone who supports the gay lifestyle. Celibacy?? You must be some kind of freak.

Hooray for tolerance of different viewpoints...

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