Compassion, mercy and hospitality

By The Beacon | October 8, 2014 5:18pm

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The Catholic Church teaches that all people have dignity and value, regardless of sexual orientation. LGBTQ students, faculty, and staff are welcome in the UP community, Christ the Teacher Chapel, and Campus Ministry.

By Anthony Paz |

A well-read letter in last week’s Beacon brought attention to the difficulty of practicing unconditional welcome of all people at our university while upholding all the teachings of the Catholic Church, specifically on homosexuality.

So, what does the Catholic Church have to say about homosexuality? United States bishops have been outspoken on the legal and social sides of this issue, and will continue to be. Just about everyone knows what they are saying, and let me be clear, that is the teaching of the Catholic Church: Sex between persons of the same sex, just like any sexual activity outside of sacramental marriage, is considered harmful to those who engage in it.

Catholics must also acknowledge that this belief offends and hurts some people. That is not the intention, but it is the reality. This is not, however, the full picture. A very important teaching that often gets lost in this very public, very divisive discourse: What the Church teaches about how gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans and queer people should be treated.

That teaching is pretty simple: LGBTQ individuals are to be treated like everyone else. In fact, because of the historical ubiquity of the inhumane treatment of gays and lesbians, Catholic social teaching demands that we go above and beyond in our compassion, mercy and hospitality toward this part of the population.

In a very real sense, gays deserve preferential compassion and mercy from Christians because of Christ’s special concern for those who’ve been marginalized and hurt. Catholic priests, bishops and theologians all over the world are repeating this, but it seems to get drowned out alongside other aspects of the Church’s position on sexuality.

Sometimes, instead, a kind of veiled homophobia creeps into the conversation. This homophobia causes some people to reject homosexual people in the name of upholding Catholic teaching.

Confronting this type of homophobia, Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said the following earlier this year, “Anybody who doesn't show love towards gay and lesbian people is insulting God. They are not just homophobic if they do that, they are actually Godophobic because God loves every one of those people.”

Christians have valid reasons for questioning the sexual ethics that dominate media and society, which span topics from pornography to extra-marital sex, to body image and beyond.

However, it seems to me that inhospitable, homophobic, insulting, violent language and action against our gay brothers and sisters stem more from fear and ignorance than they do from desire to defend sexual ethics.

The true teaching of the Church is that all people have inherent dignity and value. Sexual orientation does nothing to change that.

Students, faculty, staff and others who are gay: You are completely welcome in the Chapel of Christ the Teacher. You are always invited to visit Campus Ministers in our offices. You are truly, totally loved by the God who made you who you are, just like everyone else here at UP. Don’t let anyone make you feel differently.

Anthony Paz is the Director of Campus Ministry. He can be reached at paz@up.edu or at his office in the  Pilot House.

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