Guidelines Without Love

In an attempt to bring clarity to issues concerning marriage and the family, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput recently released a document titled, "Pastoral Guidelines for Implementing Amoris Laetitia." After reading Archbishop Chaput's guidelines, specifically the section on LGBT couples, I have to wonder if these guidelines will end up doing more harm than good for those holding traditional views on marriage and the family.

Instead of the guideline looking inward and addressing the Catholic Church's own shortcomings, Archbishop Chaput chooses to blame society for spreading "confusion" on issues related to marriage, the family, and LGBT people. This so called confusion on these issues isn't caused by society, but rather the Church's unwillingness to take responsibility for their own mistakes.

For example, in September 2014, a gay couple in Philadelphia was brutally beaten by a group of alumni from Archbishop Wood High School in Warminster, Pennsylvania. At the time, Archbishop Chaput responded in part by stating, "Violence against anyone, simply because of who they are, is inexcusable and alien to what it means to be a Christian." Still, could the violence in Philadelphia and Orlando been avoided if Archbishop Chaput, along with other Catholic leaders, proactively sought to address and condemn not just physical, but also verbal attacks, directed towards the LGBT community?

Did Archbishop Chaput voice any opposition when Archbishop Silvano Tomasi stated at the UN in 2009 that the sexual abuse of children by priests was a homosexual problem, not a pedophilia problem? No. In fact, Archbishop Chaput subscribes to Tomasi's assertion. In March 2016, Chaput blamed most sex abuse in the Church as "Clerical homosexual leanings gone astray."

Despite these claims by Archbishop Chaput and others within the Catholic hierarchy, a study conducted at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in 2011 found a decrease in abuse cases as more gay men entered the priesthood in the 1980s. Additionally, the study reported there was no statistical evidence pointing to gay priests being more likely than straight priests to abuse minors.

I hate to break it to Archbishop Chaput, but there are likely thousands of sexually active LGBT Catholics serving in ministry positions across the world. They're consoling families, teaching children, healing the sick, feeding the poor, and are administering sacraments like the Eucharist. The Church would most certainly be poorer spiritually if all LGBT Catholics were removed from leadership positions.

In October 2014, as a form of "principled resistance" against the legalizing of same-sex marriages, Archbishop Chaput suggested clergy should stop signing civil marriage licenses. This proposed measure was actually an admission by Archbishop Chaput that civil and sacramental marriages no longer have the same, or at least similar, definition.

Even Pope Francis acknowledged this truth about civil and sacramental marriage.

While addressing bishops at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary at the Chapel of St. Martin of Tours in Philadelphia last year, Pope Francis, for the first time, acknowledged that the "similarities between the civil institution of marriage and the Christian sacrament were considerable and shared. The two were interrelated and mutually supportive. This is no longer the case." Pope Francis goes on to say that instead of casting blame or issuing condemnations about this change, he calls on Christians to live out their faith, not just preach it, stating, "A Christianity which "does" little in practice, while incessantly "explaining" its teachings, is dangerously unbalanced."

Civil marriage may not include an overtly religious aspect to it, but it still seeks to bind two people through love, peace and friendship. A core Jesuit phrase, one in which I personally subscribe to, is "Finding God in All Things." Therefore, even God can work through civil marriages.

If Archbishop Chaput can't find any semblance of God in civilly married same-sex couples and their families, he's not spending enough time with LGBT people and their families.

Catholics like Archbishop Chaput want society to respect their religious beliefs and freedoms while actively engaging in public advocacy that seeks to weaken and/or eliminate civil liberties for LGBT people. This sort of blatant contradiction does immense damage to the Catholic Church's credibility.

He may not realizes this, but the more Archbishop Chaput resists civil liberties for non-traditional families, the more likely Catholics will push for internal change within the Church on marriage and the family. This internal change will occur with or without people like Archbishop Chaput because an ever increasing number of straight Catholics like me are taking the time to learn about, live with, and unconditionally love their LGBT brothers and sisters.