A Personal Note--On Church Teaching

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In light of yesterday's post "Mixed Feelings," I felt it important to make certain provisional statements.

My personal credo, whether I acknowledge it or not, is "Always question authority." It turns out to have been how I have lived my life. This goes for Church teaching as well as anything else.

But my questioning of authority does not start with an automatic bias against authority. The questioning of authority is more about elucidation that it is about rebellion. "Why should that be the way things are?" is an important question to me.

As a result, I often struggle to come to terms reconciling personal experience with Church teaching in certain areas. One of these is the subject of homosexuality and homosexual expression of love. While I do not necessarily by the "genetic predisposition" argument, I also do not completely by the "matter of choice argument." It appears in the characterization of the upbringing of a great many homosexual men there are similar elements. These environmental factors appear to shape as irreconcilably as genetics. That is not to say that there is no alternative; however, it does mean that alternative paths are extremely difficult to take and people being the fallen creatures that they are, it is exceedingly easy to step off the straight and narrow. It is this fact, among others, that makes reconciling Church teaching with appropriate attitude extremely difficult. Compassion tends to overwhelm and reason tends to take a back seat. If I truly believe such conduct is a sin (and I do) then real compassion would dictate that I would confront it in the same manner as I would any sin. However, for some reason, perhaps because of past experience and wide acquaintance with the homosexual community, this is very, very difficult.

So, this is a very long-winded way of saying, please understand that I am not trying to say that the Church is wrong or that the Church should change its teaching to accommodate me. I am only saying that it will take a while for me to internalize and truly accommodate Church teaching. I will need to strike a balance between recognizing and reproving the sin and welcoming the sinner. In the meantime, I'll let the heart struggle and I will be true to the feelings of it. They may be wrong (in this case, my reason grants that they are wrong) but trying to wrestle them into line with reason never works anyway, so I'll let them be and continue to have mixed feelings even as I recognize that those feelings stem from misplaced compassion. Better misplaced compassion than misplaced anger--compassion can at least usually be persuaded to do what is really best for a person--anger is much more difficult to reason with.

So thanks to all who have responded so far. And to those who were uncertain of what I intended by the post yesterday--it was merely an expression of feeling. It was not intended to cast doubt on present or past Church teaching or to call into question the wisdom of the Church. But I do think it salutary to share the difficulties one has encountering the teaching as well as the triumphs. Most of us struggle with one point of doctrine or another somewhere along the line. It's okay to struggle so long as we always hold in mind that long-held, traditional teaching of the Church is always correct. The teaching of the ordinary and universal magisterium bears the same seal of infallibility that the teaching ex cathedra does. I know that and I am thankful for that above a great many other wonderful things the church offers. The guidance is clear on the matter. I have a lighthouse and I have the various tugboats of St. Blogs that will assure that I do not find myself wrecked in the shoals. My thanks to God for His Church, and to all of you who heed His word and help those who struggle (myself included) find their ways.

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Be assured you're not alone - I for one find that "loving the sinner, hating the sin" is oftentimes much more difficult than it sounds. Separating the sinner and his sin is where Christian love plays the part -- unfortunately we spend our lives working towards the perfection of holiness that will make it possible for that to happen. In the meantime we do the best we can. I have found that most often others lose sight of my "love for the sinner" behind their distorted view of my "hate for the sin" (augmented by my own shortcomings and failings in implementing the LOVE!). Life is difficult.

I didn't find anything against church teaching in what you wrote. I do disagree on the matter of whether we should recognize civil unions between unmarried couples. As I see it: marriage, as a legal institution, was created to encourage and accomodate men and women who want to raise families. It ought to be special, because they are bringing new human life into the world.

Civil unions can do no such thing. They're just another loophole for a tax break. You don't need the benefits of a state-sanctioned "civil union" in order to name your "partner" (or whatever) as your heir, or as a beneficiary of your insurance policy (depends on the insurer perhaps), etc.

The only reason I can see that people want "civil unions," is to take some of the legal benefits of marriage. But they have no right to these benefitsm because their union cannot on its own produce new human life. So I oppose them.

I hear your distress here. The main reason to oppose civil unions is that they are the thin wedge in the door that might (and in at least one state has) lead to the ultimate redefinition of marriage.
One thing that I have not seen any of the pundits take up is that there are so many unmarried heterosexual couples cohabiting - and that even more than the homosexual couple - had degraded the definition and practice of marriage.
Marriage ought not to be about tax breaks or tax penalties, nor should it be about inheritance or health benefits or any of those financial issues. Marriage is also not about the wedding! I have lost track of the unmarried couples in my care who claim that they aren't getting married because they "can't afford to". (and when questioned about affordability it isn't the marriage, it's the wedding. they are already living together, mingling their incomes, etc). They can afford to live together, they are having a child or children together, but they can't afford to get married?
We have allowed the debate to be redefined and I don't even think we realize how. We are told not that we "support the historical definition of marriage" but that we are "opposed to gay marriage".
Sorry - I'm rambling here. I have had to deal with a co-worker who is living in a long term homosexual relationship and wears a wedding ring from the Unitarian 'committment ceremony'. This co-worker has been very vocal about how Bush "wants to institutionalize discrimination in the Constitution" and I have been biting my tongue in an effort to be charitable - said co-worker would not even begin to recognize my effort to love the sinner and hate the sin - but would respond as if I were condemning the person.
I think I need a new job. I'm getting burned out.



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on November 5, 2004 7:46 AM.

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