As the world awakens again to the injustice of racism with the brutal death of George Floyd, we react in horror at the sight of this death. The abuse of power is evident. But what was that police officer Derek Chauvin thinking as he knelt upon a dying man’s neck? What were the other police officers thinking as they watched this murder take place in plain daylight? I cannot say for sure what any of these police officers were thinking. However, I can deduce from Derek Chauvin’s comment, “Don’t do drugs, kids” that Derek Chauvin truly believed he was doing something right and just. Perhaps he believed he was ridding the world of someone who used drugs and thereby doing his part to eliminate evil. In reality he became a deadly conduit of evil himself.
The “victim, perpetrator, and enabler cycle” is evident in all human relationships. Regarding this recent tragedy, the victim was George Floyd. The perpetrator was Derek Chauvin. The enablers were the other police officers. Pride is what probably caused Derek Chauvin to THINK he was rescuing the world. Christianity believes that only Jesus Christ is the Savior to the world. Anytime we believe we are here to rescue the world, we fall into the sin of pride.
If we apply this triangle of “victim, perpetrator, and enabler” to another situation that has dominated recent news reports, we can come to understand the fundamentals of spiritual abuse. Below is a June 1, 2020 article on Catholic moral teachings and the LGBTQ community. The article states, “Courage International provides pastoral support, prayer support, and fellowship for people with same-sex attraction who want to live chaste lives according to Catholic teaching.” There is nothing wrong with choosing to live a chaste life out of one’s own freewill. It is wrong to manipulate and shame people into living chaste lives.
The moral theology within the Roman Catholic tradition includes strict sexual teachings. For example, a homosexual person should confess any and all sexual acts to a priest as “disordered.” Another example, an adolescent boy is taught that masturbation is a sin and only his parish priest can help him with his lustful problem through the gift of confession. Another example, a young mother is taught that using birth control is a grave evil and the use of condoms with her newly-wed husband must be confessed to her parish priest. Another example, a celibate Catholic priest is violating his vow of celibacy and should confess any intimate emotional attraction he experiences – with anyone – to his confessor. Only the sexual act of procreation within marriage is considered sin-free in the Roman Catholic Church and therefore does not need to be confessed.
These sexual teachings within the Catholic faith would be fine if they were just guidelines for the Catholic culture. But these teachings are tied to the sacrament of reconciliation or “confession.” Going to confession is mandatory for all Catholics at least once a year before Easter. More frequent confessions are encouraged for those who want to be considered devout Catholics. By tying these moral teachings to the sacrament of confession, the Catholic Church has placed a human man in an exalted place of power, deciding if a person should live in shame, or in peace. This is spiritual abuse. Spiritual abuse is inserting a human being into the place of Christ as Savior, much like Derek Chauvin elevated himself into a savior figure. How many good, faithful Christian disciples have been turned away by Catholic priests who allowed themselves to be inserted into the sexual lives of lay people?
It is the Christian duty to be a disciple, which includes helping other people find ways to use their God-given talents and skills to make the world a better place. Discipleship is not about inserting yourself into another person’s sexual life. Adolescent children who are just learning about their sexuality do not need clergymen entangling these adolescents into dysfunctional emotional traumatic bonds with spiritual leaders. Married couples of any sexuality do not need well-meaning clergymen inserting themselves into their intimate relationships. Clergymen, like Fr. Philip Bochanski in the article below, are fooling themselves if they are thinking that with enough pastoral counseling a LGBTQ person will eventually refrain from all intimate emotional connections with other people their entire lives.
Rejecting intimate relationships is not how God designed human beings. We are designed to give and receive love which may be expressed both emotionally and physically. It is wrong for any spiritual director or clergyperson of any faith tradition to try to rescue other people from sexual perversion, just like it was wrong for Derek Chauvin to believe he was rescuing the world from drug abuse. In reality, both Chauvin and Bochanski are abusing their power. Only Jesus Christ can save the world.
Turning now to the enablers. Three police officers stood by and watched Derek Chauvin kill George Floyd. Today marks an unprecedented turn of events where the focus has been removed from the violent act, and aimed upon the enablers. The enablers are the people who fuel the fires of systemic sin in the world. There are many Catholics who vehemently defend the authority of Catholic moral teachings and enable Catholic priests to sexually abuse lay people through the sacrament of confession. The enablers know what the Catholic Church teaches. They go along with the moral sexual teachings of Catholicism and refuse to speak out against how these teaching might be violating the freewill of young Catholic children and vulnerable adults.
Jesus Christ waited for people to come to him. Christ did not manipulate people into coming to the sacrament of reconciliation by shaming their humanity. There are serious boundary violations inherent within these Catholic moral teachings. It is wrong for parents and church leaders to raise adolescent children to believe that their sexual feelings are sinful and should be confessed to a celibate clergyman on a regular basis. If these psychological boundaries are violated, and accepted as a common spiritual practice for children, then it is fair to expect that physical boundaries will be easier to violate with these people throughout their lives. Those clergymen who repeatedly hear confessions around sexuality, but have no sexual relationships of their own, are immersed in other people’s sexual lives in a voyeuristic way. This is wrong, but very few Catholics will acknowledge this is unhealthy. Instead, most Catholics will enable the abuse to continue just as the three police officers charged in the George Floyd murder allowed the abuse to escalate to murder. This is another form of systemic sin.
Too often in the recent news we have been blinded by the sensational drama of children’s sexual molestation in the confessional by Catholic priests who were suffering with pedophilia. However, the systemic sin lies with all Catholics who encourage violating the psychological boundaries of children with shaming moral theology. If real social justice is going to prevail, all institutions must wake up and boldly confront the complicit, enabling mobs which enable violent abuse in silent, secondhand ways.
Well meaning clergymen, like Fr. Bochanski, are thoughtlessly taking into their own hands the responsibility to kill what is evil in their own eyes, much like Derek Chauvin tried to eliminate the evil of drug use. Jesus Christ did not kill anyone. Jesus Christ did not terrorize or shame others. Jesus Christ loved others and sacrificed himself for others. Sacrificial love and humble service is what it means to be a follower of Christ.
May God help us address systemic sin and the abuse of power in the world around us by fostering love instead of fear.
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment” (1 John 4:18).
Courage director responds to Austrian book on same-sex Church blessings
CNA Staff, Jun 1, 2020 / 04:11 pm MT (CNA).- Blessings of homosexual couples in the Catholic Church would only obscure knowledge of what is important and good about persons with same-sex attraction, according to the director of Courage International.
“We need to have hope that some, perhaps many, of the people who propose things like these liturgical blessings for same-sex couples are motivated by good intentions. They do not want anyone to feel excluded by the Church, and so they look for ways to honor and recognize members of the parish in public ceremonies,” Fr. Philip Bochanski told CNA May 26.
Courage International provides pastoral support, prayer support, and fellowship for people with same-sex attraction who want to live chaste lives according to Catholic teaching.
“The Benediction of Same-Sex Partnerships” is a recently published, German language book which considers how homosexual couples might receive a formal, liturgical blessing of their union in the Church.
According to the book’s author, it was written in response to a request from the liturgical committee of the Austrian bishops’ conference.
Fr. Bochanski explained that pressing for blessings of same-sex couples “restricts rather than expands our understanding of what is good and important about our brothers and sisters.”
“To suggest that without a recognized sexual relationship (marriage or something like it), we are expecting people to live lonely, loveless lives, overlooks the fact that there are many kinds of love — charity, affection, friendship, to name a few — that are real, vital loves in their own right and not consolation prizes for people who aren’t married. We appreciate love less, not more, by insisting on same-sex unions.”
The Church, he said, should “speak the truth in love to them as we call them to pursue chaste friendship in its fullness rather than a sexual relationship that is missing essential elements of its meaning and purpose. It is not always an easy discussion to have, but it is an invitation to deep, authentic love, rather than an imposition that restricts someone’s freedom or fulfillment.”
Fr. Ewald Volgger, the principal author of the German language book, has said that through the blessing the Church would express “the obligation of fidelity and the exclusiveness of the relationship.”
Fr. Bochanski noted that “life-long fidelity and total exclusivity are two of the essential characteristics of conjugal union — that is, the qualities that make marriage what it is,” along with complementarity and openness to procreativity.
If each of these four characteristics are present, “you have an intimate relationship according to God’s plan,” he said. “If one or more of them is missing, then the relationship is outside of God’s plan — it is immoral.”
“The life-long fidelity and total exclusivity that are essential elements of marriage” are directed to erotic love, he said, and they thus tend “toward sexual union.”
“To say that people of the same sex ought to…pursue a permanent, exclusive relationship based on eros and not have a sexual union is unrealistic. But to tell them that in their pursuit of a permanent, exclusive relationship they can and should have a sexual union that by its nature excludes complementarity and procreativity is immoral.”
He added that “we find our fulfillment by following God’s plan for our lives. The clear teaching of the Church is that sexual intimacy between people of the same sex is always immoral. To tell our brothers and sisters who are attracted to the same sex that the way to find happiness and fulfillment, in this world and in eternal life, is to pursue a relationship that is contrary to God’s plan is a dangerous lie.”
Rather than pushing for blessings of homosexual couples, Catholics should begin outreach with accompaniment and listening, Fr. Bochanski stated.
“Our pastoral approach to people in same-sex unions who are seeking deeper participation in the life of the Church ought to start with a real willingness to ask for and listen to their stories. Pope Francis says that ‘we ought to accompany them starting from their situation,’ and that when we welcome people with mercy and a willingness to take them where they are, ‘the Holy Spirit inspires [us] to say the right thing.’”
He said that “as we get to know the people who are coming to us, we begin to understand what they’ve been through, what they’re looking for, and whether they’re finding it.” Then a conversation about “what Christ and his Church desire for each member of the Body of Christ” can be had.
“We should invite people to talk frankly about what they understand of the Church’s moral teaching, whether they are living it, and what makes it easy or difficult for them to do so,” he said. “In this way we can enter a long-term dialogue in which we can lead them, step by step, to understand the teaching more clearly, and embrace it more fully.”
Celibates have a particular role in this, the Courage director said: “We ought to testify by our words and our lives the joy that we find in sacrificing one type of relationship — the sexually intimate relationship of marriage — and diving deep into loving relationships with friends, family and parishioners….joyful, faithful celibates can give a powerful witness and encouragement to those who are being called to embrace chastity in the form of an intentional single life.”
Fr. Bochanski also noted that the Church’s teaching on sexual morality is based on both scripture and the nature of the human person. It is found in the opening chapters of Genesis, and is reiterated by both Christ and St. Paul, and is written “not only in the human heart, but on the human body: we can look at how men and women’s bodies are different and related, and understand a great deal about God’s plan for intimate sexual union.”
“Our understanding and evaluation of same-sex intimate relationships is simply an application of these broad principles to a particular question, and it is in harmony with the teachings on sexuality and chastity that apply to every person and to every relationship,” he reflected.
“We can and should always be looking for ways to make these teachings understandable, to speak them clearly in ways that modern people can…grasp the beautiful realities that the doctrine expresses,” Fr. Bochanski advised. “We find new ways to present the age-old teachings because of where they come from. The Word of God and the nature of the human person are unchanging and unchangeable, and so the truths they teach us simply cannot change.”
He called it “extremely distressing” that some German prelates “speak as if the Church’s teaching can and ought to change. On the contrary, teaching that is part of the revealed Word of God and is consistently taught by the magisterium of the Church is held to be infallible and must be accepted with the assent of faith. This is particularly the obligation of priests, bishops and cardinals, who take an Oath of Fidelity at their ordinations in which they swear to hold these teachings firmly, teach them clearly, and shun anything contrary to them.”
The Courage director concluded, quoting from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s 1986 Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons: “Departure from the Church’s teaching, or silence about it, in an effort to provide pastoral care is neither caring nor pastoral. Only what is true can ultimately be pastoral. The neglect of the Church’s position prevents homosexual men and women from receiving the care they need and deserve.”