Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, has said the Church cannot back down on its teaching on chastity when dealing with the gay community.
In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, the cardinal critiques Fr James Martin’s book ‘Building a Bridge’, which calls for “dialogue” with the LGBT community while criticising Church figures for showing hypocrisy on the issue of chastity.
Cardinal Sarah describes Fr Martin as “one of the most outspoken critics of the church’s message with regard to sexuality”, and argues that while Fr Martin is right to say there should be no double standards regarding the call to chastity, members of the LGBT community must be made aware of the fullness of Church teaching.
“He repeats the common criticism that Catholics have been harshly critical of homosexuality, while neglecting the importance of sexual integrity among all of its followers,” Cardinal Sarah writes.
“Father Martin is correct to argue that there should not be any double standard with regard to the virtue of chastity, which, challenging as it may be, is part of the good news of Jesus Christ for all Christians. For the unmarried—no matter their attractions—faithful chastity requires abstention from sex.”
Cardinal Sarah says that while this may seem a high standard, especially in the modern world, it would be “contrary to the wisdom and goodness of Christ to require something that cannot be achieved.”
“As a mother, the Church seeks to protect her children from the harm of sin, as an expression of her pastoral charity,” he added.
Fr Martin responded by telling America magazine, of which he is editor-at-large, that he is not challenging Church teaching. Instead, he is calling for Catholics to ask why that teaching is so widely rejected by the LGBT community.
He also praised Cardinal Sarah for using the term “LGBT” in his op-ed, which he calls a “step forward”.
However, he said the cardinal “misses a few important points,” including “the immense suffering that LGBT Catholics have felt at the hands of their church.”
“Building a Bridge is not a book of moral theology nor a book on the sexual morality of LGBT people. It is an invitation to dialogue and to prayer, and I’m sure that Cardinal Sarah would agree on the importance of both.” Fr Martin said.
In his op-ed, the cardinal said that while experiencing attraction to people of the same sex is not in itself sinful, same-sex relations 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,” Cardinal Sarah added.
He praised the example Catholics who experience same-sex attraction but live according to Church teaching, citing Daniel Mattson and his book “Why I Don’t Call Myself Gay: How I Reclaimed My Sexual Reality and Found Peace.”
“These men and women testify to the power of grace, the nobility and resilience of the human heart, and the truth of the church’s teaching on homosexuality,” the cardinal said.