I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus… proclaim the word; be persistent whether it be convenient or inconvenient… for a time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine, but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity, will accumulate teachers and will stop listening to the truth and will be diverted to myths.” (2 Timothy 4:1-2)
When I think of talking to teens about the Church’s teaching on same-sex attractions, that verse comes to mind. It seems to be something young people won’t “tolerate,” a subject that is very “inconvenient” to talk about. But we are charged, like Timothy was, to witness to the truth and proclaim God’s love. The moral teaching of the Church is clear on this matter; how we should go about sharing that teaching is not. Here are a few key things to keep in mind as you address this important and sensitive topic.
Pope Francis shocked the world when he said that he didn’t want to talk about homosexuality. In an interview translated into English and published by America magazine, he said, “We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.”
At first blush, it seems like the Holy Father is dodging the issue. But what he’s actually doing is trying to focus the conversation back to Jesus Christ. He goes on to say, “The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things… The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow.”
The Gospel must first be proclaimed in a “simple” way, and from that will flow our understanding of “moral consequences.” When we try to address the issue of same sex attraction outside of the context of the Gospel message, it’s like putting the cart before the horse. There’s a difference between catechizing teens about same sex attraction and educating them. Education is information for information’s sake; catechesis is about intimacy with Jesus Christ.