Vision 2020: Accompanying individuals experiencing same-sex attraction

 

By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger

Church teaching on same-sex attraction is an “important and difficult subject” to discuss, said Father Tony Herold, vicar general for the Diocese of Davenport and pastor of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Davenport. “What is the best way to accompany those who identify as LBGTQ?”

Fr. Herold posed that question during a presentation about Catholic teaching on sexuality and sexual identity at the Vision 20/20 Con­vocation held in June at St. Ambrose University in Dav­enport.

As diocesan chaplain for Encourage, a support group ministering to family members of persons experiencing same-sex attraction, he led the presentation with Father Thom Hennen, diocesan chaplain of Courage, a support group ministering to individuals experiencing same-sex attraction.

“A lot of people only know the soundbite version of what the church teaches on this (same-sex attraction),” said Fr. Hennen, who also serves as chaplain at St. Ambrose University in Davenport. “The soundbite is often ‘the church hates gay people.’ I am here to tell you that that is categorically false. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.”

Fr. Hennen explained the Catholic Church’s view on same-sex attraction and why the church takes this stance. The teaching is based on the virtue of chastity, which all baptized Catholics are called to in their state of life, whether single, married, ordained or a member of a religious community.

He said he recognizes that the teaching can be challenging to accept, as it instructs people who experience same-sex attraction to not to act on their sexual desires. Fr. Hennen explained, “How the church loves people may not be how you want the church to love people or how you think the church should love people or how you love people. But the church’s motivation is absolutely love. It’s not to be this kind of mean, old, overbearing church that needs to get with the times and (just) wants to make people’s lives difficult.”

“People see church’s rules on sexuality as a series of ‘nos’,” when inreality it is saying “yes” to God’s plan for human sexuality, “which reflects divine love in both its unitive and procreative aspects,” Fr. Hennen said.

In accompanying someone who is experiencing same-sex attraction, the first step is not to spout off church teaching but, instead, to listen, Fr. Herold said. People who experience same-sex attraction “are our brothers and sisters,” he continued. “Don’t treat them as lepers.” Their primary identity is as a child of God and they should not be defined by their struggles.

This presentation on sexuality and sexual identity is available online via podcast at https://diocese-of-davenport.simplecast.com. A video recording can be found at https://tinyurl.com/y5xjtocw. Most of the presentations from the Vision 20/20 Convocation are available for viewing and listening. Topics include: sharing faith stories; reaching out to families; evangelizing the churched; evangelizing youths and young adults; reaching out to the nones; evangelizing in an age of secularism, atheism and scientism; hospitality; immigrant voices; evangelizing in smaller parishes; and evangelizing to married couples.

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