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Imitating Christ’s Charity and Chastity

A Pastoral Note on Ministry to Those Who Experience Same-Sex Attraction

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Introduction from Auxiliary Bishop of Detroit Gerard Battersby:

Since the Pentecost 2017 release of Unleash the Gospel, Archbishop Vigneron has written a series of pastoral notes which expand upon various teachings in the letter. These notes provide further guidance to the faithful on topics relevant to modern culture and society. I am pleased to share with you the fifth of these pastoral notes: Imitating Christ’s Charity and Chastity – A Pastoral Note on Ministry to Those Who Experience Same-Sex Attraction.

In this new pastoral note, Archbishop Vigneron affirms Church teaching on three important points: 1) Jesus Christ died to save all people, including those who experience same-sex attraction; 2) all Christians are called to love those who experience same-sex attraction; and 3) those who experience same-sex attraction share in the mission of the entire Church to be witnesses to the fruits of a life lived in communion with Christ.

Read Full Introduction


 

Imitating Christ’s Charity and Chastity

For the love of Christ impels us, once we have come to the conviction that one died for all; therefore, all have died.

He indeed died for all, so that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

Consequently, from now on we regard no one according to the flesh; even if we once knew Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know him so no longer.

So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.

—2 Corinthians 5:14-17
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

At Synod 16 we, the People of God in the Archdiocese of Detroit, heard a clarion call for every member of this local Church to undergo a missionary conversion: to give ourselves once more, heart and soul, to Christ and to take up afresh our share in his mission. There can be no bystanders. All of us who are his disciples must receive anew his message, must repent again and be renewed in our believing in him as the way, the truth and the life (cf., Jn 14: 6). And so, we bear witness that Jesus Christ died and rose to save us.

As part of that witness, we proclaim that Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, loves and has died to save all people, including those who experience same-sex attraction.

All of us who bear the name of Christian also bear the mission to love these sisters and brothers of ours, to proclaim to them Christ crucified and risen, and to receive from them the Good News of God’s saving action in their lives.

And those among us who experience same-sex attraction share in the mission of the whole Church to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to put faith and trust in him, and to give witness to the beauty and goodness of a life lived as his new creation.

The three affirmations I have just offered, along with the text I have quoted from St. Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians, set the context for this pastoral note on the Church’s ministry to those with same-sex attraction. By beginning in this way, I want to emphasize from the outset the need we have of looking first to the Lord and, in the words of Hebrews 12:2 and my own episcopal motto, of “keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus.”

I also want to highlight the importance of the communion – the bond of charity – we share with him and with each other. And as we continue to unleash the Gospel here in the Archdiocese of Detroit, I especially want to emphasize the mission we share of proclaiming to each other and to the world the Good News of Christ’s teaching on human sexuality. This pastoral note is a consequence of my pastoral letter Unleash the Gospel, specifically Action Step 3.3 B.2, which calls for strengthening our ministry to those with same-sex attraction, so that each of these sisters and brothers of ours “will find support for growing as a human person in the virtue of Christ-like chastity.”

Our focus on Christ and on the mission he has entrusted to us is essential for many reasons. First, at a time when many have been conditioned to think about the Catholic Church in terms of what she stands against, we must insist upon the truth that the Gospel is first and fundamentally about God’s “yes” to loving and saving us, and about our call to say “yes” to him in return. It is particularly important to insist upon this truth when discussing the Church’s teaching on human sexuality, and perhaps most especially today when discussing the Church’s teaching concerning homosexuality.

Christ’s teaching, expressed in and through his Church, is often reviled and denounced as being merely a form of condemnation. But it is truly good news. It brings true freedom, healing, peace and joy, even in this life, and it brings the perfect fulfillment of these blessings in the eternal life to come.

Moreover, people who experience same-sex attraction need and deserve to know of Christ’s unfathomable, unsurpassable and invincible love for them. And their right to hear this good news signifies a corresponding duty on the part of the whole Church to proclaim it to them by word and action.

By saying “yes” to Christ’s love and the call to live in his love, those with same-sex attraction in turn give witness to the goodness of God by the fidelity of their lives and by their spoken proclamation.

Secondly, our focus on Christ is critical because it is his chastity we are called to imitate, as I mentioned in Unleash the Gospel. The humanity of Jesus inspires, empowers and sets the standard for our own lives as his new creation, the beloved daughters and sons of God. This includes our living-out the virtue of chastity.

Human sexuality is a beautiful and powerful gift of God. Considering sex as a beautiful gift, we affirm its essential goodness and deny any attempt to portray the Church’s teaching as being “against sex.” Acknowledging that sex is a powerful gift, we in turn recognize that sex has the power to create life and to destroy it. Used in keeping with God’s plan, sex brings forth a new generation of the human family, and also draws husbands and wives into closer unity within the bond of marriage. When people abuse this gift of God, using it merely for pleasure or for any other purpose apart from God’s plan, the destruction of life follows. This is always true of one’s life of grace, but is often true of his or her physical life, as well.

The wisdom of the Church’s teaching on human sexuality comes from many sources: Scripture and Tradition, natural wisdom and the human sciences, and thousands of years of lived human experience. This dimension of the Good News comes to us through revelation, but it also is attainable through human reason. Jesus Christ is the truth, not merely a truth. The truth is one, and Christ is the Lord of faith and reason.

Thirdly, we focus on Christ because the situation today does not easily point to a natural solution but requires a supernatural one. Our society, in law, attitudes and in practice, has embraced opinions and ways of life that are out-of-sync with, and often antithetical to, what we know by faith and reason to be the truth concerning human sexuality.

Much has changed in our society, and those changes have come with breathtaking speed. The sexual revolution of the 1960s has upended the way of life our parents and grandparents knew. In just a couple of generations, people’s attitudes towards sex, marriage and family life have changed dramatically, and the results have been equally dramatic. Millions of abortions, the nearly ubiquitous use of contraception, rampant premarital sex and co-habitation, no-fault divorce, widespread use of morally illicit reproductive technologies, the introduction and proliferation of sexually explicit content into mainstream media, and the promotion of homosexuality as being entirely the same as heterosexuality all are consequences of the sexual revolution, following each other in rapid succession over the past sixty or so years.

These practices and the attitudes that accompany them have had mutually reinforcing effects on each other. We need the power of Christ to bring repentance, conversion and healing to a world in which sin has been given such free reign. And so, our focus rightly remains fixed on Jesus Christ and his power to save us, for we are all sinners and need his love and mercy!

In order to be saved by Christ, we need to live in communion with him and with each other. That is the meaning of our whole life in the Church. It also is the meaning of the Holy Eucharist we celebrate each Sunday. The Sacrifice of the Mass and the Sacrament of Holy Communion draw us together and bind us to Christ and one another. And the binding force of our communion is love, or charity. The Eucharist is the Sacrament of Charity, and our sharing in the Eucharist fills us with the love, life and power of Christ. We are equipped to become saints, to live all the virtues Christ exemplified in his earthly life, including the virtue of chastity.

What I have written above are some of the essential principles that shape our ministry to those with same-sex attraction here in the Archdiocese of Detroit. For a more complete treatment of this topic, I urge you to read the 2006 document of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, entitled Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination: Guidelines for Pastoral Care. My pastoral note assumes what is taught in this earlier and more comprehensive document.

This pastoral note does not only follow-up on past teaching, however, but also looks to the future. Unleash the Gospel calls us to take stock of what we are doing to serve our sisters and brothers with same-sex attraction, and to ensure that our future ministry is optimally suited to providing real help and care. Our love for these members of the Body of Christ and of the wider community must express itself in pastoral action.

To that end, in a spirit of collaboration and consultation, I have begun and will continue to conduct a review and evaluation of our current ministerial practices here in the Archdiocese of Detroit. As your chief shepherd, I have a solemn responsibility to ensure that all the pastoral care offered in our local Church is in full harmony with the truth of the Gospel, and that it is animated by the love of Christ. The salvation and well-being of our sisters and brothers with same-sex attraction is at stake, and our salvation as ministers of the Gospel is at stake as well. We cannot afford to risk misleading people and steering them off “the road that leads to life” (Matthew 7:14), or straying from that road ourselves by infidelity to the truth and life Christ has revealed to us.

Please pray for all who will be involved in or affected by these efforts to renew our ministry in this critical area. Pray for those among us who experience same-sex attraction and strive to live Christ’s chastity, that they might have strength and joy even amid struggle. Pray also for those with same-sex attraction who do not see the truth and goodness of Christ’s call to them, that they might undergo repentance and conversion to receive healing and peace.

Pray for me and all those who strive to share the love of Christ and the saving truth of the Gospel with these sisters and brothers of ours, that we might be faithful in showing that a life of charity and chastity is truly the best life, the only life worth living.

And let us all pray for each other, that we might all “repent and believe in the Gospel” (Mark 1:15), that we might know and do God’s will in all things, and that by following Christ under the inspiration of his Holy Spirit, we might inherit the life our heavenly Father has prepared for us.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron

Archbishop of Detroit


Introduction from Auxiliary Bishop of Detroit Gerard Battersby (full text)

Since the Pentecost 2017 release of Unleash the Gospel, Archbishop Vigneron has written a series of pastoral notes which expand upon various teachings in the letter. These notes provide further guidance to the faithful on topics relevant to modern culture and society. I am pleased to share with you the fifth of these pastoral notes: Imitating Christ’s Charity and Chastity – A Pastoral Note on Ministry to Those Who Experience Same-Sex Attraction.

In this new pastoral note, Archbishop Vigneron affirms Church teaching on three important points: 1) Jesus Christ died to save all people, including those who experience same-sex attraction; 2) all Christians are called to love those who experience same-sex attraction; and 3) those who experience same-sex attraction share in the mission of the entire Church to be witnesses to the fruits of a life lived in communion with Christ.

Archbishop Vigneron is calling on our local Church to renew and strengthen its ministry to those who experience same-sex attraction, and intends for this pastoral note to aid in this renewal. While the review and evaluation will continue, I would like to share with you some existing resources which may be helpful to our brothers and sisters who experience same-sex attraction, as well as their family and friends:

  • Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination: Guidelines for Pastoral Care (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops [USCCB], 2006). Archbishop Vigneron’s new pastoral note affirms and supports teaching outlined in this clear and beautiful document.
  • A link to the USSCB’s resources on homosexuality is here.
  • Catechism of the Catholic Church (“The Vocation of Chasity” through “Chastity and Homosexuality,” 2337-2359).
  • The Archdiocese of Detroit’s website has information about support in this area of ministry, including Courage (for those who experience same-sex attraction) and EnCourage (for parents, siblings, children and other relatives and friends of those with same-sex attraction). Click here for more information.
  • This Detroit Catholic article summarizes the note and what it means for the Archdiocese’s renewed ministry in this area.

It is our sincerely held religious belief and conviction to announce the beauty of the Church’s perennial teaching on chastity and sexuality, despite some challenges from a culture now heavily influenced by secularism. As Archbishop Vigneron affirms in this note, Christ’s teaching “brings true freedom, healing, peace and joy, even in this life, and it brings the perfect fulfillment of these blessings in the eternal life to come.” The USCCB’s 2006 letter reiterates that it is the clergy’s sacred duty from the pulpit and in catechesis to share this teaching in its fullness. Recognizing this teaching often is misunderstood and met with resistance, we will be developing resources over the next several months to assist our pastors in this important role. Archbishop Vigneron’s note is a step in this direction.

Please join me in praying for all the faithful, and especially those of our brothers and sisters who experience same-sex attraction, that they might know and be encouraged by the love of Christ.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Most Reverend Gerard Battersby

Auxiliary Bishop of Detroit