Tuesday, February 22, 2011
A Spiritual Plan to Redirect One's Life (Part 1)
This is a spiritual plan of life outlined by the late Fr. John Harvey for those struggling with SSA. I hope you find this useful in your day-to-day life and in your spiritual journey to Christ.
Today we hear much about equal rights for homosexuals. It is asserted that if a person is attracted on by persons of his own sex, and is not attracted to persons of the opposite sex, he should be allowed to live with a person of his own sex. After all, it is “natural” for him. Furthermore, say some theologians, the homosexual living in the world cannot be expected to live a life of complete abstinence from sexual activity, because he does not have the gift of continence possessed by religious or priests. To insist that he live a life of chastity is to ask for a miracle of grace. So the argument goes.
This life of reasoning implies that chastity is morally impossible for the homosexual in the world. This comes as no surprise. Sexual pleasure is today widely regarded as a necessity. Almost no one speaks of self-control as a practical consideration for helping solve sexual problems among adolescents or adults. In some sex-education courses children are taught the use of pill, the IUD and the like. Abortion is recommended as a backstop when contraceptives fail. In short, chastity is not regarded as viable, for either homosexual or heterosexual.
It is against this adverse background that proposes the thesis that the confirmed homosexual, male or female, can live a life of chastity in the world. I use the term confirmed advisedly, because I am not speaking about persons who are homosexual in action for a relatively short span in their lives, and who later realize that they are heterosexual and seek marriage or a chaste life in the world. I confine my thesis to the person who from long experience, sometimes with professional advice as well, is convinced that his sexual orientation is toward members of his own sex. He may not have come to this insight until his mid-twenties, and when he does, he may be tempted to promiscuity or to seek a steady partner. Very often he senses the loneliness and incompleteness of both patterns of behavior, but he has been led to think that these are his only choices. The idea of living alone in the world may not even occur to him, or, if it does, it seems bleak as the Sahara desert. In this situation the homosexual needs strong spiritual direction, a plan of life and the friendship of other devout persons who have already managed to live a chaste life in the world. I shall take up the question of spiritual direction and a plan of life first and then consider the homosexual’s need for friendship.
In recommending strong spiritual direction I am not ignoring the fact that many homosexuals profit by some form of psychological counseling, which helps them to self-understanding. The spiritual director, however, has a different, but related goal. His first task is to explain the teaching of the Church on homosexual activity. This can be found in the Holy See’s Declaration on Sexual Ethics (January, 1976) and in Principles to Guide Confessors in Questions of Homosexuality (1974). These two statements explain the constant teaching of the Church on the morality of homosexual actions and give insights for spiritual direction of homosexuals.
It is necessary to begin with the teaching of the Church, because some theologians teach that the Scriptures do not really condemn genital union between two members of the same sex, provided they void promiscuity.
From one end of the Scriptures to the other, however, from Genesis 1:27, 2:18-24, to Ephesians 5:21-33, the model of genital sexual love is man and woman united in marriage with the hope of children. Nowhere in the Scriptures are homosexual actions ever approved, and wherever they are mentioned in the Old Testament (Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13) they are condemned. Likewise they are condemned in the New Testament , in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; 1 Timothy1:9-10; and most explicitly for both male and female in Romans 1:26-27, which I quote: “For this cause God has given them up to shameful lusts; for their women have exchanged natural intercourse for what is against nature, and in the same way men too, having given up natural intercourse with women, have burned in their lusts toward one another, men with men practicing that well-known shamefulness and receiving in their own bodies the fitting punishment of their perversity.” (Kleist-Lilly translation).
To argue that the writers of Holy Scripture did not possess a contemporary knowledge of the homosexual condition is to avoid the basic moral issue which evaluates, not psychological phenomena, but the moral values or disvalues involved in homosexual activity.
Besides the Scriptural argument against homosexual actions, a secondary argument is the natural complementarity of man and woman. Such complementarity is lacking in a homosexual relationship. The homosexual is denied so many of the spiritual and emotional rewards available to the man and woman who enter into a harmonious long term relationship. He seems to have a built-in incapacity to complement and fulfill another homosexual. Lacking in the pleasure of family and children, he finds the aging process lonelier. As Andre Guidon said recently: “It is therefore easy to see how the homosexual relation fails as a totally human relationship. This authentic human sense of the other, as nourished by the enriching and complementary otherness of the other sex, conspicuously absent” (The Sexual Language, 339).
Here one sees the sterility of the homosexual relationship in which there is no family and no family history. This sterility is vividly portrayed in John Rechy’s novel, City of Night. The male protagonist flees from intimate friendship with other men or women.
More recently (1977) Ruth Tiffany Barn-house develops other serious psychological arguments against a homosexual lifestyle (Homosexuality: a Symbolic Confusion).
Finally, homosexual actions have no meaning in themselves. They can mean whatever the person wants them to mean: relief from tension; expression of friendship; form of domination; play or fun.
From such an analysis both the spiritual director and the homosexual must be convinced that the arguments against homosexual activity are certain.
Once the homosexual is convinced that he ought to be continent he needs some hope that he can attain a chaste life. He may be overwhelmed by a sense of powerlessness, burdened by an apparent inability to overcome his desires for homosexual activity. He may grant that it is possible for others, but not for him, particularly if he has tried for years to live a chaste life and has failed completely
He may be close to despair. He must come to realize that he is powerless over homosexual acts, and that he needs the help of God. He needs to belong to some group, from which he will get support. He needs a spiritual plan of life.
Few have given thought to the fact that the struggling homosexual can profit greatly form group support when the members of the group are as motivated to practice chastity as he is, and when he is given a spiritual plan of life.
Spiritual Plan of Life
The purpose of a plan of life is to give direction to one’s life within the context of Christian faith. A plan of life is not rule of thumb, not the easy steps to happiness, but a radical rethinking of an inadequate view of life. It is deep determination to redirect the will in the pursuit of God; it leads to the gradual formation of systematic practices which are designed to help the homosexual to fulfill these though-out objectives. Ascetical practices chosen to achieve the goal of supernatural rehabilitation are not all of the same value. Some contribute more than others; meditation is more important than examination of conscience. Whatever the practices of asceticism chosen – and I will suggest some – sense of unifying purpose must be kept alive.
Persons with purpose in life are happy because that gives wholeness to their life; their plan to achieve that goal is well worked out and diligently followed.
One part of this plan of life for homosexuals is the selection of some work of charity to neighbor – usually a specific contribution of service to the poor, or handicapped, or aged. Without this external service, the homosexual will probably remain in a dream world, and waste his vitality in bitter complaints about society’s lack of acceptance of homosexuals.
This plan of life is based upon the teachings of the Gospel. It is centered in the person of Christ. It uses all the means which the Church proposes to live like Christ, with principal stress upon the hearing of the Word of God and the reception of the sacraments. Since the goal of imitating Christ is beyond our human strength, the homosexual seeks these divinely-supplied means of grace. He knows that no one is able to remain in the friendship of Christ unless he has the help of God.
There are two necessary characteristics of such a plan of life:
1. It must be sufficiently structured to include certain spiritual exercises for everyday,
2. And it must be pliable enough to allow for the changing circumstances of daily life.
(...to be continued)