I recently had the opportunity to hear a speaker at a youth event from Courage International. Courage is a Roman Catholic Apostolate, “whose members are men and women who experience same-sex attractions and who have made a commitment to strive for chastity. They are inspired by the Gospel call to holiness and the Catholic Church’s beautiful teachings about the goodness and inherent purpose of human sexuality.”
These are difficult times for catechists. What the Catholic Church teaches regarding sexuality is opposed to what society is forcing on our students. Teaching the beauty of authentic love (during a time when the daily news cycle demonstrates that some within the Church did not faithfully live that teaching) is difficult. Courage International teaches Catholic truth without apology. What can catechists learn from this?
Teach Truth with Love
I was impressed by the love and compassion expressed by the speaker towards those who are struggling with same-sex attraction. He emphasized that we must change this discussion from homosexuality to human sexuality; “The truth spoken without love is more dangerous than a thousand lies, but love spoken without truth is the most dangerous lie of all,” he stated.
He further explained that gender is an important part of this new discussion on sexuality. Then pointing out that we know gender is eternal when you consider the examples of Jesus’ Ascension and Mary’s Assumption ~ when their earthly bodies, male and female, entered heaven! We understand that the resurrection of the body is of the body God gave us. This body will someday be in heaven; we cannot ignore how important God’s design of the human body is. This is completely counter to what society is currently saying regarding gender fluidity (the idea that gender is not set).
It is important to reject straw-man arguments that begin, “The Church should be more welcoming to (LGBTQ) people.” The Catholic Church welcomes ALL people! It is important to meet everyone where they are, but throughout history the Church has led people to a better place, a place of holiness. Jesus always showed love to people struggling with life choices, then he encouraged them to, “go and sin no more.” Catechists must teach as Jesus did.
Teach Facts not Emotions
In a thoughtful article regarding gender fluidity and science, Margaret Wente states:
‘It seems ridiculous to have to argue this, but the science is settled. The two biological sexes (and there are only two) are broadly (though by no means perfectly) coterminous with gender. This holds for nearly every species in the animal kingdom, even us, and for all societies on Earth. Close to 100 percent of the human race is born with a set of either male or female chromosomes. A small number of people are born with chromosomal and/or reproductive abnormalities, and these people are commonly identified as “intersex.”
If a person is convinced that they are attracted to the same sex, we must emphasize that many behaviors we are drawn to may be unhealthy for us. For example, certain people are predisposed to alcoholism, but we do not encourage people to be alcoholics because it would not be best for them. That is precisely why the Catholic Church teaches that chastity is the only healthy (physical and spiritual) option for someone who is attracted to the same sex.
Provide a Safe, Truth-Filled Environment
The Courage International Speaker put forth the theory that we have become a co-dependent society, enabling a dysfunction rather than teaching truth and helping others. Any catechist/youth minister who works with young people may be able to recognize the contrast in how truth is currently defined by society. Compare how we handle a young person with anorexia to one struggling with same-sex attraction or gender confusion. We would never just say that a person with anorexia is “born that way” (although they may be biologically predisposed to that disorder) or that we should “accept their reality.” We recognize that the young person’s behavior may be damaging or dangerous for their future well-being. We speak truth and we guide those young people towards assistance in working through difficult issues.
The question is not which gender you are or what sex you are attracted to; the question is, Do you know your value and worth exactly the way God created you? He has a purpose for each of you just the way you are. How do we help our students realize the part they play in this beautiful plan?
Know the Causes of Confusion
The speaker expressed the idea that sometimes, in searching for love and companionship, young people who have an early, pleasurable physical experience can identify that with a particular sexual persuasion, just because the tactile senses were triggered in a positive way. Many sexual experiences do give us positive feelings; that alone should not be a determining factor when considering sexuality.
Catechists should encourage young people to focus on developing as human beings, rather than trying to identify themselves first as sexual beings. Many of these young people are stating a sexual preference (or preferred gender identity) before they have even reached puberty, much less completed the process of full brain development (at around age 24 years). Many studies show that (especially in the area of gender confusion) young people will eventually identify sexually with their appropriate gender by their early twenties. A recent article by the American College of Pediatricians lists the serious concerns about the dangers of gender ideology when dealing with children.
Know and Teach the Authentic Needs of Each Person
In conclusion, there are four authentic needs and opposite desires that we should consider when assisting young people in these struggles:
- Love vs. Lust (focused on self, immediate gratification, wanting what God does not want for you)
- Belonging vs. Possessing (or being possessed)
- Self-Worth vs. Ego (self-absorption)
- Freedom vs. Bondage (to sin, bad choices, or a lifestyle)
Model Positive Behavior
Many of our students have not had good role models and peer models. They may not have been exposed to healthy examples of relationships. We can live our lives as the counter-narrative to what our students are seeing on television, in school, and possibly even at home. Above all, we can pray, demonstrate chaste and appropriate love/concern, and remind ourselves that authentic love will change things.