By TAMI QUIGLEY
The experience of same-sex attractions and gender dysphoria, as understood in light of the teachings of the Catholic Church, was the subject of a program offered by the Diocese of Allentown Office of Adult Formation.
“Clarity and Charity: An Authentically Catholic Response to Same-Sex Attractions and Gender Dysphoria” took place Nov. 7 at the University Center of DeSales University, Center Valley.
Father Philip Bochanski, executive director of Courage International, was featured speaker of the evening event.
Courage is an international apostolate of the Catholic Church that ministers to persons with same-sex attractions. The apostolate was founded in New York City in 1980.
Everyone was invited to this free presentation, whether this was part of their lived experience or they were simply interested in learning more about this topic.
Those attending included Mary Fran Hartigan, secretary of the Diocesan Secretariat for Catholic Life and Evangelization and director of the Office of Adult Formation; and Rick Dooley, assistant director of the Office of Adult Formation.
“Working in this apostolate has transformed my life,” said Father Bochanski, who has been ordained almost 20 years and has worked with Courage nine years.
“It’s the part of my priesthood where I feel most like a spiritual father – seeing what the human heart is capable of and what human beings can do when they cooperate with God’s grace.”
“There’s joy in offering people welcome and accompaniment,” Father Bochanski said.
He cited a 2015 Pew Research Center study that showed of Catholics who attended Mass at least once a week 60 percent said same-sex couples living together in a romantic relationship was OK, yet 59 percent said engaging in homosexual behavior is a sin.
Father Bochanski said in the western world, 1.6 to 1.7 percent of the population identify as gay or lesbian, and 11 percent have had same-sex attractions – this increases in urban areas because they can find a community there.
Father Bochanski said the “allies” of LGBTQ people among non-LGBTQ people breaks down as follows: Silent Generation (born 1928-45), 39 percent; Baby Boomers (born 1946-64), 51 percent; Gen X (born 1965-80), 53 percent; and Millennials (born 1981 or later), 63 percent.
“The pinnacle of God’s creation is the human person. This makes us distinctive and unique,” Father Bochanski said. “The ability to know and love God and each other is unique to human beings. To be in the image of God is to be a person. We’re made for relationships and communion.”
“God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them,” he said, citing Genesis 1:27.
“God created you with a purpose and plan for body and soul. Our sexuality is a gift. Man and woman were made for each other – there’s complementarity between masculine and feminine.”
Father Bochanski reviewed the Characteristics of Conjugal Union as outlined by the Catechism of the Catholic Church, noting they form a unique situation with sexuality that is good. The union must have complementarity, as a man and woman are made for each other; permanence and fidelity; and procreativity.
“Marriage without contraception is God’s plan for sexuality,” he said.
Characteristics that are of disorder – not a part of God’s plan – are adultery, fornication, contraception, masturbation, pornography and homosexual acts.
Quoting the Catechism of the Catholic Church 2357, Father Bochanski said, “Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.’ They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.”
Father Bochanski discussed questions that come up in society today, beginning with, “Aren’t people born gay?”
“From a theological point of view, no. God does not create persons with homosexual orientation,” Father Bochanski said. “If he did, his plan for sexuality and marriage would only be for some people. There’s never a time when God contradicts himself or he wouldn’t be God.
“God would not give you desires that cannot be fulfilled – he doesn’t set you up for failure.”
“He is close to people living that experience, offering his grace,” Father Bochanski said.
He then addressed the question, “Does it come from nature? Is it genetic?”
The answer is no, homosexuality does not come from nature and it is not genetic.
Father Bochanski referred to a 2010 study in Sweden of several thousand research subjects. Twins, he said, share basically the same genetics. Of 77 sets of male identical twins, at least one of the twins in a set identified as gay. Only seven of the 77 sets of these twins identified as gay.\
“There is no evidence to say it’s biological or genetic, according to the American Psychological Association.”
“The Church says sexual orientation and attraction is a big part of human life, but it’s not the only thing. Their identity is to be a creature and, by grace, a child of God, an heir to eternal life,” Father Bochanski said, sharing the conclusion of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Letter to Bishops on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons published in 1986.
“If we just slap a label on someone, we miss so much about them.”
“Homosexual acts are immoral. The Church distinguishes between engaging in homosexual acts and having a homosexual inclination,” Father Bochanski said. “Feeling a feeling is never a sin, it’s when we act on it.”
The next question was “Shouldn’t people be allowed to love who they love?” For this Father Bochanski turned to “The Four Loves” by C.S. Lewis. There is affection – a surface kind of love, as for a puppy. There is charity, which is agape, as God loves us. Passion, or Eros, tends toward sexual intercourse. And the fourth love is friendship.
So a person with a homosexual inclination should redirect passion into a focus on friendship with a person of the same sex.
“A life without sex is not a life without love,” Father Bochanski said, noting he loves his family, friends and parishioners. “There are different kinds of love.”
The next question he addressed was, “Does the Church expect gay people to change?”
“The Church does not require people to change. The attraction is not a sin itself. You don’t have to go to conversion therapy according to the Catholic Church,” Father Bochanski said, adding though that some Christian denominations do advocate for conversion therapy.
The last question was, “What about people who are transgender?”
“You can’t separate body and soul. Bodies are part of who we are. Being a man or woman is a gift from God given on purpose. It’s part of God’s creation of the individual,” Father Bochanski said.
“Sexual identity of the individual is discerned at birth, not decided.”
“Males have one Y chromosome and one X chromosome, and females have two X chromosomes,” Father Bochanski said. “That genetic code exists long before you have any external genitalia. You’re created with body and soul and sexual identity.”
“God doesn’t put the wrong soul in a body. If he creates a male, then he has a male soul.”
Discussing gender dysphoria, Father Bochanski said research shows trans gendering is a psychological rather than biological matter.
“There’s no evidence supporting claims by people such as Bruce Jenner that they have biological reasons,” he said of the Olympic gold medal-winning decathlete who now at age 69 goes by Caitlyn Jenner.
Courage and EnCourage Groups
Persons with same-sex attraction have always been with us. There is now formal outreach from the Catholic Church in the way of support groups and information for such persons. The Diocese of Allentown conducts Courage group meetings monthly for those dealing with this issue.
Does a member of your family have same-sex attraction? Are you having difficulty dealing with the issue? Encourage is a ministry of the Catholic Church giving faithful witness to Catholic teaching with compassion. Group meetings are held monthly in the Diocese of Allentown.
For more information on Courage and EnCourage: 610-334-9147 or www.couragerc.org.