Homosexuality, Identity, and the Grace of Chastity | Carrie Gress | CWR
Courage’s Fr. Paul Check on why chastity is an essential virtue for those with same-sex attraction—and for all Christians.
St. Augustine is famous for having prayed, “Lord, make me chaste, but not yet.” Father Paul Check, the director of Courage, suggests that chastity, like justice and mercy, is indeed part of the Good News of Christ and to ignore it is self-defeating.
The Courage apostolate ministers to people with same-sex attraction who want to live by the Catholic Church’s sexual teachings, providing self-governed and anonymous group meetings around the country.
Father Check, who served as an officer in the Marine Corps prior to being ordained to the priesthood in 1997, spoke recently with Catholic World Report about the Church’s wisdom in not reducing persons to an identity based solely upon their sexual appetites, and how the average Catholic can respond to the aggressive social agenda of the gay lobby.
CWR: Within Courage, you make a clear distinction between same-sex attraction and the gay lifestyle. Can you clarify the difference?
Father Check: The most important question ever asked in human history was asked by Our Lord when he said to the apostles, “Who do you say that I am?” It is the question of identity, because it is from an understanding of identity that we then know how to live in a way consistent with that identity. I won’t say that it is always easy, because we have concupiscence, but in order for us to understand the proper way of asking, we first have to clearly answer the question of being.
With regard to the human person, the question of “Who am I?” is best answered with the understanding that we are children of God redeemed by the blood of Christ and called to be his disciples, and we are invited to grow in this life of grace and glory in the life to come. There is the foundation of the most important or essential part of our identity.
Now there are other things that make up our identity as well. Our human family, and where we are from geographically. These things are also important but not as important as the fundamental question of our identity, our being children of God.
We are created as sexual beings and this story is told to us in the book of Genesis, which is not a science book, of course, and does not tell us in precise terms how man came to be but rather precisely who we are and who we are intended to be and to whom we are to look for an understanding of our identity. In that Genesis story it is made plain that God in his wisdom divided the human race in such a way that human nature is expressed in the masculine and the feminine. This is a very rich theological and anthropological question. But for our purposes here, while there is such a thing as human nature, that nature is always expressed very concretely in a person—a person that is either masculine or feminine, so that sexual identity is also something that is integral to who the person is. And in order to know who we are and how that sexual identity is properly expressed we go back to the Genesis story and learn about the union of man and woman, the fruitfulness of God in his plan, and how his gifts of fertility are associated with the sexual faculty and are inherently bound up with sexual intimacy.
With that preamble, the reason that the Church, it seems to me, avoids the labels of “gay,” “homosexual,” and “lesbian” as nouns is because in her maternal wisdom and charity, and in following the story of who man is, she does not want to collapse someone’s identity into only their sexual appetite. That seems unjust and uncharitable. It takes a bit more charity to say that a person has same-sex attraction than to use the labels that are very popular in the culture today.
In saying this, of course, I am not in any way minimizing the strength, the intensity, the duration or the frequency of the feelings of same-sex attraction and how important these feelings are to someone’s self-understanding. We only want to give same-sex attraction its proper label. Not too much, but clearly not too little.
CWR: As a result of that, what do you see in the gay lifestyle that then defeats the ability to have a life of authentic happiness?