Real Catholic teaching imparts Truth, not trends
Catholic Schools have an Apostolic role in the life of the Church: they do not merely impart knowledge in a general sense, but ought to propagate the Catholic faith and foster the Christian formation of the young. Formation at many levels—spiritual, intellectual, social—must be based on a human formation derived from authentic Christian anthropology. Before a Catholic school can assist students to encounter the world around them, it must help them to understand themselves as persons created in God’s image and likeness, and called to holiness.
Every choice that a Catholic school makes needs to be in line with this mission. Teens and young adults face many challenges, but few experiences are as profound—or as potentially confusing—as understanding one’s sexual identity, and making sense of new and powerful desires for intimacy, connection and love. In a secular culture that is often relativistic, utilitarian and hedonistic, the teaching of the Catholic Church is more important than ever, and must be spoken with consistency, clarity and charity.
It is not difficult to summarize that teaching: Human beings are created in the image and likeness of God, and called to form loving relationships. “Being man or being woman is a reality which is good and willed by God,” and “everyone, man or woman, should accept and acknowledge his or her sexual identity.” 1 The complementarity of the sexes is “not just a good thing but also beautiful,” and in the context of the permanent, exclusive relationship of husband and wife, “is a root of marriage and family.” 2 “There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family.” 3 The experience of same sex attractions is not a sin in itself, though the attractions are not good nor a gift from God, insofar as they are desires for sexual intimacy that by its nature excludes the necessary elements of complementarity and procreativity. 4
“Every person, regardless of sexual orientation, ought to be respected in his or her dignity and treated with consideration, while ‘every sign of unjust discrimination’ is to be carefully avoided, particularly any form of aggression and violence.” 5 But Catholic school teachers and administrators need to take care not to tacitly approve of same-sex unions or transgender ideology, even in the context of attempting to promote self-esteem or prevent bullying. A school cannot advocate or celebrate relationships or conduct which contradict Church teaching, without failing the very students it is called to form. This will often mean that faculty and administrators will have to propose and defend positions that are countercultural, and which may be strongly opposed by secular society and even some fellow Catholics.
The goal of every Catholic educator should be to “speak the truth in love,” as Saint Paul advises. 6 Of course this means treating every person with “respect, compassion and sensitivity,” as the Catechism insists. 7 It also means being honest about the demands of the Gospel, and accompanying each student along the path that God has marked out for human happiness and fulfillment.
1 Catechism of the Catholic Church, nn. 369, 2333.
2 Pope Francis, Address to Participants in the International Colloquium on the Complementarity Between Man and Woman (the Humanum Conference), November 17, 2014.
3 Fourteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops (2015), Relatio Finalis, no.76.
4 cf. United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination: Guidelines for Pastoral Care (2006); Catechism, nn. 2357-58.
5 Pope Francis, Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, no. 250.
6 cf. Ephesians 4:15.
7 Catechism, no. 2358.
FR. PHILIP G. BOCHANSKI is a priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, and executive director of Courage International, the Catholic apostolate that provides pastoral care to people who experience same-sex attractions and desire to live chastity.