Sunday, October 02, 2016

How to Help Those Struggling with Same-Sex Attraction

Fr. Frank Francese

(Twenty-seventh Sunday of the Year (C): This homily was given on October 2, 2016 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani.  Read 2 Timothy 1: 6-8, 13-14.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Twenty-seventh Sunday 2016]

When I looked at today’s second reading—this text from 2 Timothy 1—in preparation for this Mass, the first person who came to mind was Fr. Frank Francese.  As many of you know, Fr. Frank grew up in St. Pius X Parish and now serves as pastor of St. Mary’s Church in Providence.  I thought of him especially when I read this line: “Bear your share of hardship for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God.”

If you’re a reader of the Providence Journal, you know what I’m referring to here.  This past Monday Fr. Frank was a part of the lead article on page 1 (which was actually more of an editorial than an article).  On the Projo web site it was entitled, “Outcry at Providence church over firing of gay music director.”  Fr. Frank, you see, relieved the music director, Michael Templeton, of his duties at St. Mary’s recently, because Mr. Templeton entered into a so-called “marriage” last year with another man. 

Please note: Mr. Templeton was not dismissed because he experiences same-sex attraction.  There’s no sin in that.  He was dismissed because he engaged in a public act that violated the teaching of Christ and caused a public scandal.  As Bishop Tobin put it, “Any person who holds a ministerial position in the Church, as an employee or a volunteer, is expected to live in a way that is fully consistent with the teachings and faith of the Church.  If an individual deliberately and knowingly enters into a relationship or engages in activity that contradicts the core teachings of the Church, that individual leaves the Church no choice but to respond.”

Fr. Frank did what he should have done.  And, knowing him as I do, I’m sure he did it in a very kind and respectful way.  He’s that type of person: loving, gentle, patient. But, of course, if you don’t know him and read the Journal article the other day you probably think he’s just the opposite: unwelcoming, uncaring, authoritarian, and not compassionate at all. 

And journalists wonder why their profession is one of the least respected in our country right now?

Those of us who have suffered because of their lies would be happy to tell them why most people feel that way about them.

The bottom line is that the editors of the Providence Journal—and those who think like they do—want the Catholic Church to change her teaching on homosexual activity and just about every other moral issue.  In other words, they want the Church to say that sin is no longer sin.

Well, it ain’t gonna happen!  The Catholic Church will never approve of homosexual activity—just like the Church will never approve of adultery, or sex before marriage that involves a “straight couple”.

The Church will never say these things are okay because the Church does not have the power to make them okay!  Listen again to what St. Paul says to Timothy in this text.  He says, “Take as your norm the sound words that you heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.  Guard this rich trust with the help of the Holy Spirit that dwells within us.”

Guard this rich trust.  The “rich trust” is the deposit of faith—the Gospel—the full Truth of Jesus Christ.  Paul was saying to Timothy (who was a young priest), “Tim, remember that you have no power to change the message.  None whatsoever!  Your job as a leader in the Church is to guard it, and live it, and teach it, and pass it on by the power of the Holy Spirit that dwells in you.”

That’s actually every Catholic’s job: to evangelize others in the true Gospel of Jesus Christ—not in their own personal version of it.

And, lest we forget, the Gospel is Good News.  It starts with a recognition of the “bad news” of sin, true enough, but it ends with the “good news” of God’s forgiveness and mercy.  And this is how we can really help those who experience same-sex attraction and then act on it: We can encourage them to seek the forgiveness and mercy of God.  We can encourage them to get rid of their sin, not cling to it.  We can encourage them, first and foremost, to make a good confession.

And if they come to me for the sacrament of Reconciliation (as many in that situation have over the years), they can be assured of the fact that I will not condemn them.  Quite oppositely, if they confess a sin that’s rooted in same-sex attraction, I will begin by commending them!  I will say, “God bless you for having the courage to bring that sin to Jesus in this sacrament.  Now you need to understand something: You need to understand that, when I give you absolution in a few moments, your sin will be taken away and will never come between you and God again.  Never!  You’ll be washed clean by the blood of Jesus Christ and make a fresh start with the Lord.  So thank God today—and praise God today—for his incredible mercy.  And never be afraid to come to the Lord in this sacrament—even if you fall into this sin again.  As Pope Francis has reminded us, God never gets tired of forgiving us, but we sometimes get tired of asking him for forgiveness.  Make sure you never get tired of asking.”

That’s the kind of thing that I would say to a homosexual person who came to me in sincere repentance in the sacrament of Reconciliation.  And you know what, my brothers and sisters?  That’s the kind of thing that ALL good priests would say in the confessional in similar circumstances—including my good friend, Fr. Frank Francese.