On April 15, 2018, at the request of Congressman Paul Ryan, Patrick Conroy, the Jesuit Chaplain to the US House of Representatives resigned from the post he has held since 2011. In a sudden reversal of his earlier decision, on May 3, 2018, Ryan agreed to keep Conroy as House chaplain. In 2015, Conroy participated in the “Owning Our Faith” video series produced by the Paulist Fathers in conjunction with their “Out at St. Paul” LGBT ministry located at St. Paul the Apostle Church in New York City. In the series of Youtube videos, several members of Out at St. Paul are profiled as they share their views on homosexuality and the teachings of the Catholic Church; here are some excerpts:
“My gender transition was immensely spiritual to me. It was a journey…I think a lot of people think of this as just a physical journey, they just look at the physical aspects of transition, but it’s an emotional one, it’s a spiritual one.”
“If we leave it, if we abandon the Church then it’s never going to change. So we have to continue living here, being an example and encouraging other people to be that example because that’s what’s going to change the Church.”
“I think what’s interesting is that the Catholic Church probably thinks that it is accepting of gay people, because its message is ‘gay people exist and we should love them and not discriminate against them. But because the Church also tells gay people essentially that they need to be celibate, what the Church is saying is ‘you cannot live fully. You can be gay but you can’t live that life.’ And so that inherently is discriminatory.”
In the past, Out at St. Paul sponsored and promoted a Mass at the site of the Stonewall Riots, “countertraditions” to Adam and Eve, and “Christian” theories in support of same-sex marriage. On May 15, 2018, Out at St. Paul will host an official social gathering at a gay bar in Hell’s Kitchen.
During his video presentation for “Owning Our Faith,” Conroy said:
The Catholic Church does not have a teaching on sinfulness about who a person is. It is not a sin to be gay or lesbian or to be straight. Its not a sin to be any race or any tribe.
According to the 1986 Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons:
Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.
According to Conroy, because the Church teaches that sexual intercourse can only take place within a marriage between one man and one woman, this problem now faces the Catholic Church:
What hope does that ever give for a gay or lesbian person who desires just as a heterosexual person desires to commit their life to someone in whom as Catholics they have found the presence of the love of Christ, the presence of the meaning of their life in that person. Where to go with that is the dead end.
Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.
Does Patrick Conroy regard “Christian perfection” as a “dead end?”
It calls for a theology in our Church that I don’t think we have. We have a theology on all this stuff and the answer is gays can never engage in this and can never be married, but that is a theology that goes back centuries…before there was any understanding of human psychology, human individuality, human sexuality, all of those kinds of understandings…of the human person that weren’t as complete prior to these kinds of advances in understanding.
Fellow Jesuit James Martin, who is also a vocal supporter of Out at St. Paul, later made the same argument when he proposed a radical reinterpretation of the Bible to fit a pro-gay narrative; concerning the passages in Scripture which have traditionally been understood as condemning homosexual activity, Martin said:
All these Bible passages that people throw at you; I think really need to be understood in their historical context. I mean Leviticus and Deuteronomy and even the stuff from the New Testament where Paul talks about it once or twice, has to be understood in their historical context…certainly in Old Testament times, they didn’t understand the phenomena of homosexuality and bisexuality as we do today.
The same 1986 “Letter” warns against just such a misinterpretation:
An essential dimension of authentic pastoral care is the identification of causes of confusion regarding the Church’s teaching. One is a new exegesis of Sacred Scripture which claims variously that Scripture has nothing to say on the subject of homosexuality, or that it somehow tacitly approves of it, or that all of its moral injunctions are so culture-bound that they are no longer applicable to contemporary life. These views are gravely erroneous…
The Church’s doctrine regarding this issue is thus based, not on isolated phrases for facile theological argument, but on the solid foundation of a constant Biblical testimony. The community of faith today, in unbroken continuity with the Jewish and Christian communities within which the ancient Scriptures were written, continues to be nourished by those same Scriptures and by the Spirit of Truth whose Word they are. It is likewise essential to recognize that the Scriptures are not properly understood when they are interpreted in a way which contradicts the Church’s living Tradition.
Human beings procreate male/female, but human sexuality isn’t just about that…its about so much more…I think Pope Francis has given the Church, has given us all permission to take these questions seriously and not just answer them out of a categorical system that worked for centuries because we didn’t have these kinds of complications to deal with because we either weren’t acknowledging them or we weren’t aware of them.
The Catechism states:
Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” 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.
Conroy concluded with:
How might God be present in the homosexual experience?
How might God be present in homosexual relationships?
And our Church needs to come up with a way of addressing that so it is absolutely clear that being gay or lesbian is no different in the eyes of God to being heterosexual in so far it is to be a member of our Church.