The blessing of a chaste life: The call to holiness of homosexual persons

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This column, which originally appeared in the May 6, 2004 issue of The Catholic Sun, is the first in a series of three. 

When the Church at Vatican II lifted high the universal call to holiness, it rightly received an enthusiastic response. For it is indeed good news for people of every time and place. How good to know that it is possible for us all to have a close, personal relationship with Jesus Christ and even to become like Him.

The Most Rev. Thomas J. Olmsted is the bishop of the Diocese of Phoenix. He was installed as the fourth bishop of Phoenix on Dec. 20, 2003, and is the spiritual leader of the diocese's 820,000 Catholics.
The Most Rev. Thomas J. Olmsted is the bishop of the Diocese of Phoenix. He was installed as the fourth bishop of Phoenix on Dec. 20, 2003, and is the spiritual leader of the diocese’s 820,000 Catholics.

God creates each person in love. He redeems each with a love even unto death on the Cross. He calls each of us to share inthis amazing love by taking up our cross each day and following in His footsteps. There is only one road to holiness, one way to a profound communion withChrist (Mark 8:34-35): “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the Gospel will save it.”

It seems especially urgent to remind every follower of Christ today, and in particular homosexual persons, that He is calling them to a close personal communion with Himself. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) speaks of this call to holiness of homosexual persons in the following way (#2359): “Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.”

The journey to holiness always requires a firm belief in the word “can.” We can be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect. We can be holy. It is not an impossible dream for anyone. Growth in holiness requires the help of God and it requires effort on our part, but we can do it. It begins with the grace of conversion, turning away from sin and turning towards the Lord. It requires obedience to God’s will, for as Jesus tells us (John 14:15), “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

In order to progress along the road to holiness, the Holy Spirit helps us to forge virtues, i.e. habits for good. Homosexual persons particularly need to focus their efforts on developing the virtue of chastity. Chastity is defined in the Catechism (#2337) as “the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being.” Every human person is called to integrate their sexuality according to their state in life. Chastity will always involve abstinence for those who are not married. Other virtues are also needed but chastity stands front and center for persons with a homosexual inclination. This is because homosexual acts are always wrong, always the opposite of holiness. However, persons who have homosexual inclinations but do not act on them are not guilty of sin. In fact, with God’s grace and good intentions, they can grow in virtue and make great progress along the path to perfection, the goal to which the Lord Jesus has called us all.

Necessary distinction

A key distinction, then, is needed when considering homosexuality, namely between the homosexual tendency on the one hand and homosexual acts on the other. Those who engage in homosexual acts commit serious sin, as both the Old Testament and New Testament teach (Cf.  Genesis 19:1-29, Romans 1:18-32, I Timothy 1:10) and as Christian Tradition has consistently affirmed (Cf. Catechism, #2357).

Those with homosexual inclinations are sometimes tempted to believe that chastity is beyond them. They may incorrectly feel that just to have a homosexual tendency makes them guilty of sin and excludes them from growing in holiness. At times, they may also encounter these kinds of confused and false attitudes in others and unjustly suffer because of them. In the face of all these difficulties, the love of Christ remains constant and His call to conversion and holiness never fails. No less than other persons, Christ calls them to take up their cross each day and follow after Him.

The Cross of Christ, in our own day just as 2000 years ago, seems like foolishness to some and nonsense to others but as St. Paul writes (I Cor 1:24), Christ crucified is “the power of God and the wisdom of God.” Those who take up the cross each day out of love for Jesus find themselves flooded with the fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:22), “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self control.” And St. Paul adds (Gal 5:24-25), “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified their flesh with its passions and desires.”

All who follow Christ can and are called to live the virtue of chastity. What a blessing when, with God’s grace, we do so. What a blessing when we freely and gladly embrace the Lord’s call to holiness.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted is a wonderful shepherd of Christ and our diocese is blessed to have him. Let me just add. In the U.S. and the Western World, the sin of ‘the homosexual act’ has a lobby. Actually all sins of promiscuity do including abortion. Now Bishop Olmsted might disagree with me on this point, and of course I’ll always stand corrected. I don’t think persons with homosexual inclinations are anymore victims than a person with the heterosexual drive. Sin is sin. It needs to be controlled. Unfortunately, the Church has fallen into the trap of treating some sins more delicately than others. Peace amigos………………..JO

  2. Hi, I’m not a catholic, I don’t believe in any religion. But I love God and jesus. I know that our bodies are the temple of the living god and his house is not made with mens hands, his church are the people and not the building and we give too much emphasis to what men have built. And I too believe we have to take up our cross and deny ourselves. I believe jesus came to show us how to live and we must use his life as an example and follow him. This is denying satan in our hearts (circumcision of the heart) and letting God in. I believe god loves us all. But we hurt him by the things we do wrong. And we all sin, the difference is some carry on where others regret it, and go to God for forgiveness and pray from their hearts. Homosexuality is wrong and is a sin and so are many more things including worshipping idols and calling ourselves father. As there is one father and thats God. And reverencing ourselves with titles. When Jesus was called “good master” he didn’t let that be. He replied “why do you call me good, there is none good but God” So all these are wrong if we are following Jesus. To follow him we must be humble of low estate love all we come across help the needy show God in our lives. Talk to the fatherless within the heart and bring God to all and take no money for doing Gods work. So yes to be Gay and follow it through is wrong as it says so clearly in the bible. So if a gay person loves God they should stop this. And the rest of us should stop doing what we do wrong to. When we have a conscience we should listen to this, as this is a good guide. I believe this is God letting you know your wrong. And satan soon comes in after tempting you saying its ok. How many times have you seen someone need something that you have. Then you think of giving them it but then we think. “I might need it myself sometime” we’ve all done it. But we should listen to the first voice and follow it through. Love The Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and strength and your neighbour as yourself. Do this and you will follow all the commandments of God.

  3. Bishop Olmsted,
    If we are time bound to scripture regarding homosexuality then why can’t I have slaves in 2013? (Lev. 25:44–46)(Exodus 21 7-11) If yes, should they be from Canada or Mexico? If my neighbor works on a Saturday, should I stone him to death or call the police to do that? (Exodus 31:12-15) If shellfish or pork are an abomination in the eyes of the Lord, should he/she be put to death? (Lev. 11:9–12) Adultery is a serious problem in the world today–do you agree that those guilty of this sin should be put to death? (Lev. 20:10)
    Perhaps you can help me understand?
    Respectfully,
    Rob

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