|The Sinner by John Collier, 1904|
The Ruth Institute is a non-profit organization dedicated to strengthening marriage and highlighting the devastating effect that broken families have on children. They are in concert with the teaching of the Catholic Church when it comes to marriage including the belief that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. For this reason, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has declared them a “hate group”. At no time has the Ruth Institute ever advocated violence against anyone. There is no evidence that any of their work has inspired violence. However, because the SPLC has labeled them a “hate group” Vanco, a credit card processing company affiliated with Wells Fargo, has severed their ties with the Ruth Institute and immediately, with no warning, stopped processing their online donations. You can read the statement from the Ruth Institute here. You can read good analyses here and here.
There are many topics that could be explored in this situation. For example, by what authority does the SPLC have the credibility to be the final arbiter on what constitutes a hate group? Why can Vanco refuse to service customers with whom it disagrees while bakers, florists, photographers, and wedding venue owners cannot?
While those are good questions, what struck me was a conversation I observed online where an individual claimed that Vanco’s actions were justified because the Ruth Institute followed the Catholic Church’s teaching that “homosexuals were intrinsically disordered”.
Stop right there! That is not what the Catholic Church teaches. The Catholic Church does not label any person as intrinsically disordered. What the Catholic Church says is that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered. The full statement from the Catechism is:
2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,141 tradition has always declared that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered."142 They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.
2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.
What the Church states is that we are each made Imago Dei, in the Image of God. No human person is ever intrinsically disordered. Actions can be disordered. People cannot. No person is beyond redemption. No person is beyond God’s mercy. This includes sinners of every stripe.
Has every Catholic approached homosexuals with mercy and compassion on every occasion? Of course not. But the failures of individuals to live up to the teaching of the Church do not redefine the teachings of the Church. Perhaps one of the best discussions of how the Church should minister to those with same-sex attractions was outlined in Cardinal Sarah’s recent editorial in the Wall Street Journal:
In her teaching about homosexuality, the church guides her followers by distinguishing their identities from their attractions and actions. First there are the people themselves, who are always good because they are children of God. Then there are same-sex attractions, which are not sinful if not willed or acted upon but are nevertheless at odds with human nature. And finally there are same-sex , which are gravely sinful and harmful to the well-being of those who partake in them. People who identify as members of the LGBT community are owed this truth in charity, especially from clergy who speak on behalf of the church about this complex and difficult topic.
It is my prayer that the world will finally heed the voices of Christians who experience same-sex attractions and who have discovered peace and joy by living the truth of the Gospel. I have been blessed by my encounters with them, and their witness moves me deeply. I wrote the foreword to one such testimony, Daniel Mattson’s book, “Why I Don’t Call Myself Gay: How I Reclaimed My Sexual Reality and Found Peace,” with the hope of making his and similar voices better heard.
We are each made by God in the Image of God. We cannot be “intrinsically disordered”.