31-January-2002 -- P |

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LEADING CATHOLIC 'GAY' ACTIVIST WATERS DOWN TEACHINGS

Schexnayder Challenged by Church Faithful at San Diego Talk By Allyson Smith

(cultureandfamily.org), SAN DIEGO, Ca. — A leading figure in the homosexual activist camp in the U.S. Catholic Church called on Catholics to “honor the complexity” and “giftedness” of homosexuals, intersexuals, bisexuals and transgenders during a January 16 lecture to a “Parents and Friends of Gay and Lesbian Persons” support group at a suburban San Diego parish.

Audience members criticized National Association of Catholic Diocesan Lesbian and Gay Ministries (NACDLGM) director Father James Schexnayder of Oakland, California, for misrepresenting and omitting key aspects of Catholic Church teaching on homosexuality during his talk on the U.S. Catholic bishops' document “Always Our Children” (AOC) at Santa Sophia parish in Spring Valley, California.

Founded by Schexnayder in 1994, NACDLGM “serves as a network for the increasing numbers of outreach programs sponsored by dioceses and parishes for lesbian and gay persons and their families,” according to its Web site. Since its inception, dozens of “gay and lesbian Catholic” ministries based on the NACDLGM model have sprung up throughout the country. However, conservative Catholics have criticized NACDLGM’s aims and annual conferences for encouraging “homogenital” behavior and “gay” activism.

Writing in the March/April 2001 issue of St. Catherine Review, a Cincinnati, Ohio-based orthodox Catholic publication, Michael Rose stated, “Speakers [at past NACDLGM conferences] have unapologetically supported 'covenantal gay friendships,' i.e., same-sex marriage, adoption of children by same-sex couples, artificial insemination for lesbian 'mothers,' special rights legislation for homosexuals, the introduction of homosexual issues into religious curriculums, and inviting gay and lesbian Catholics to be eucharistic ministers, lectors, and catechists” (from “Just What Is Bishop Moeddel Up To?” by Michael Rose).

Schexnayder is also a co-author of “Always Our Children.” The controversial document was issued on October 1, 1997, without following the bishops' normal review procedures. It was subsequently revised in June 1998 after a firestorm of criticism erupted over its theological flaws, including its advice to parents to adopt a “wait and see” approach toward adolescent children suspected of experimenting with homosexual behavior. The admonition has since been eliminated from the document, amidst other modifications made following protests by Father John Harvey, founder of Courage, a Catholic group that helps people struggling with homosexuality live chastely, and other concerned Catholics.

During his visit to Santa Sophia, Schexnayder spoke of NACDLGM as a “welcoming ministry” that “calls for safe and supportive environments where gay and lesbian Catholics can begin to tell their stories [and] where their parents and family members can begin to tell their stories…. So we want to give people the welcome as baptized members and gifted people in the community.”

“Sexuality,” said Schexnayder, “primarily has to do with who we are, not what we do, and it’s very similar to spirituality, which is about who we are as persons. Just as spirituality is more than external religious rituals, so sexuality is more than sexual behavior. It’s much broader than that. The Psalm [139] that introduced us to the evening in prayer spoke about ‘wonderfully made,’ ‘wonderful complexity,’ ‘wonderfully complex.’ Sometimes we think of complexity as a problem. It’s also a gift. It’s wonderful.” (Note: Neither the Douay-Rheims nor New American versions of the Catholic Bible mention the words “complex” or “complexity” in Psalm 139. The Psalm is a favorite of pro-lifer Christians for extolling God’s creation of humans as “fearfully and wonderfully made.”)

Referring to hermaphrodites, Schexnayder said, “Parts of this wonderful complexity, components of sexuality, are biological effects, the genetic factor being physically determined as a male or female person, although part of the reality is that a small percentage of humanity are intersexual where there’s more ambiguity or mixed genitals, incomplete, which presents a different challenge.”

“There’s also gender identity,” he continued, “which is about how we feel about being physically male or female and how we integrate that, and this presents the reality that some people don’t feel at home with their physical sexuality, and that brings up the issue of transgenders and gender roles, which are culturally learned and changeable. In other words, what male and female persons do at home, at work, and these are changeable in our society.

“So it’s complex. We need to keep in mind that just as it is for heterosexuals, it’s not just a physical attraction; it also involves one’s key emotional and affectional life. And the reality is in this complexity, that it’s not just [that] most people on the planet are heterosexual and then whatever percentage find themselves to be homosexual, and there’s nothing in the middle. The reality, as a lot of studies have indicated, is that there’s a whole spectrum there … and part of that reality is bisexuality, which is not about twice as much sex or twice [as much] of anything [audience laughter]. It’s about the fact that some people have complexities to how they feel drawn to others.”

Schexnayder also implied that the virtue of chastity for homosexuals does not preclude sexual activity by distinguishing it from celibacy. Instead, he framed chastity as an issue of “integration”: Regarding sexual behavior, “the Catholic Catechism addresses the virtue of chastity as an aspect of the life of Christian gay and lesbian people. It does not use the word ‘celibacy’ for gay and lesbian people; the word is ‘chastity.” And it defines chastity this way: Chastity means the successful integration of sexuality within the person, and thus the inner unity of the person in their bodily and spiritual being. It’s about successful integration. It doesn’t reduce it just to abstinence because it goes on to say ‘All are called to chastity,’ married people as well as celibates and single people, in different ways. So it’s about integration.“

During a question and answer session following Schexnayder’s talk, several attendees pointed out that he did not address traditional Catholic doctrines such as mortal sin, the need for Confession, and paragraph 2357 of the Catholic Catechism which states “Homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered. They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life…. Under no circumstances can they be approved.”

Donna Malley of San Diego reminded Schexnayder, “For Catholics, for unmarried people, chastity has to include celibacy. What I don’t understand, and haven’t heard mentioned yet, is how it can be a mortal sin for an unmarried heterosexual couple, but becomes not so bad when it’s a homosexual couple in a committed relationship. How does long-term commission of something that should be a sin for an unmarried couple, how can that be okay [for a homosexual couple]?”

Schexnayder answered Malley by affirming individual conscience rather than observable behavior as the primary determinant of whether or not people commit sin. “The more complex issue of ethical behavior is conscience, which is also Church teaching, is that we cannot in fact determine whether anybody commits a sin; only they can. We can talk about whether a particular objective behavior is considered by the Church or by others to be good or not good, but we cannot determine a sin, because sin by definition involves not only subjective evil but also a choice, a free choice, a knowledgeable choice. In fact, we cannot determine whether a person is committing sin or not; only they can determine that, and conscience is part of it.”

Another mother of a 23-year-old daughter told Schexnayder, “When I heard that the bishops have come out with a letter—and this was in the media, of course, so aggravating—[saying] that Catholic families are supposed to love their homosexual children, personally I was so offended because I have spent two years, three years, going to many different places in the Church, to priests asking them for their prayers [for my daughter] and for them to tell me the truth, [but] I didn’t get it. I did not get it (the truth), but I got a lot of priests patting me on the back and telling me ‘It’s okay.’”

The woman continued, “There’s no doubt in my mind that homosexual activity or any sex outside of marriage is wrong. My conscience is formed by what the Church teaches, and that’s the way I live. I went to probably 11 or 12 priests, and I was disheartened because no one would tell me ‘Yes, the behavior is wrong.’ And when the bishops came out with [”Always Our Children,“] it was like somebody punched me in the stomach. My daughter has gone back and forth in different relationships. Thank God she’s not involved in one now. I’m sure that everybody in here has gone through the same struggles that I have, and the Catechism says that this (the homosexual lifestyle) constitutes for these people a big trial. What the Holy Father says is that all are called to holiness. We’re all called to chastity, but we’re all called to holiness.

“Frankly,” she said to Schexnayder, “I’m offended that I don’t hear tonight about how we become holy. I haven’t heard anything about Confession, because there is sin. There is sin, and we have to make amends for it. We do offend God. The Church does not condone marriage between homosexual couples. And I think you should tell the truth, the whole truth, about what the Church teaches.” Schexnayer thanked her for the question and then moved on, asking for other questions.

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The Culture and Family Institute of Concerned Women for America

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