NOTRE DAME, Ind. — Notre Dame University, a popular Roman Catholic institution, will host a controversial conference entitled “Gay in Christ: Dimensions of Fidelity” this week for those who identify as homosexuals but who hold to Catholic teachings on sexuality and marriage.
According to a report released this week by the university, the two-day event is co-sponsored by Notre Dame’s Institute for Church Life and Gender Relations Center and will aim to “explore appropriate pastoral strategies for Catholic parishioners who regard themselves as non-heterosexual, but who accept Catholic Church teaching on marriage and sexuality.”
The event is stated to include much of the same discussion that took place during the recent synod of Catholic bishops in Rome. As previously reported, the summit discussed issues pertaining to relationships and families, including homosexuality, and was controversial even among those in attendance as many could not agree on the content of the relatio.
“Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community: Are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities?” the original section on homosexuality read. “Often they wish to encounter a Church that offers them a welcoming home. Are our communities capable of providing that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?”
While retaining its belief that sexual activity between those of the same gender is wrongful, many viewed the document as seeking to be more “inclusive” of those whose lifestyles run counter to Scripture.
“Without denying the moral problems associated with homosexual unions, there are instances where mutual assistance to the point of sacrifice is a valuable support in the life of these persons,” it continues. “Furthermore, the Church pays special attention to children who live with same-sex couples and stresses that the needs and rights of the little ones must always be given priority.”
The synod ultimately left the text out of its draft at the conclusion of its two week gathering as a consensus could not be reached about the matter.
“I think this is timely, given the synod on the family and its attention to such pastoral issues,” John Cavadini, director of Notre Dame’s Institute for Church Life, said of university’s upcoming conference, which will begin on Friday. “The conference is not intended to cover all issues related to identifying as gay and Catholic, but is directed, ultimately, at forming a pastoral strategy for parishes to be able to receive the gifts of self-identified gay Catholics who also adhere to the teaching of the Church on marriage and related issues.”
“Can Church teaching support an ‘exchange of gifts,’ enabling a parish community to receive the gifts that such people bring to us, and, in turn, to make the gifts of ecclesial belonging more securely and fruitfully available to these Catholics? That is the long-term goal of the rather experimental discussions we are beginning here.”
But some state that if persons are remaining abstinent and are rather seeking to overcome homosexual temptation through the power of Jesus Christ rather than embrace sin, then they should not be identifying themselves by their temptations—but rather seeing themselves as simply being in Christ.
“Sexuality is not an identity; sexuality comes from an identity,” Ryan Dobson of Focus on the Family wrote in a post earlier this year. “My identity does not come from my intimate relationship with my wife; my identity comes directly from my relationship (or lack of) with God.”
He told the story of Christopher Yuan, who turned from homosexuality when he realized his new identity as a born-again child of God.
“He says over and over again that giving his life to Christ meant simultaneously accepting his new identity as a son of a perfectly holy God,” Dobson explained. “Following Jesus Christ was a choice, the outcome of which was a new identity in the truths that God teaches. Yuan said, ‘The choice was either to walk away from God and continue with my lifestyle, or to choose Jesus Christ and follow what the Bible says.'”
“Don’t let [people] get away with defining someone based on that person’s sexual preference. Instead, hold up the same standard that God put in place for yourself and everyone else on the planet: ‘Be holy as I am holy,'” he said. “That is the beginning of your identity.”
Photo: Michael Fernandez