Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 14, 2005
Embrace intimacy in your life - within God's guidelines
A Shepherd Speaks
By BISHOP FRED HENRY
My last pastoral letter against the re-invention of marriage generated an avalanche of mail from all parts of the world, representing different constituencies and a wide range of opinions.
The most moving letters were those from young people struggling with same-sex attractions and from their parents urging that we "be loving and accepting of them as they are," and "support them in every way possible, not fan the flames of contempt for them by harsh words and odious comparisons."
Such pleas echo basic Christian teaching: "They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2358).
Remember Sacred Scripture
However, such acceptance shouldn't obliterate the other side of the coin, that is, "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" (no. 2357). The difficult balance is to hold onto both unconditional love and uncompromising truth.
Intimacy with God speaks to the centrality of the need for intimacy. "You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, . . ." Our call as Christian men and women is to an intimacy with God, an intimacy that is not exclusive but rather inclusive of others both in general and individually - ". . . and your neighbour as yourself" (Luke 10:27).
Most people find intimacy within their friendships that can realistically be reduced to two kinds: social friendships and intimate friendships. The former are those we enjoy with the people we work with, go to school with, live near, belong to clubs with, play golf with, have a drink with, tell a joke to, do a favour for.
As valuable as these relationships are, we need deeper friends. With these intimate friends we are able to put aside the masks, pretenses and phoniness - all the things about our self that we create in order to appear admirable - and permit the other person to see us as we are, warts and all. Obviously we are vulnerable when we do this. We open ourselves to rejection, humiliation, even exploitation, but also the possibility that we will move from acquaintance to friendliness, then on to friendship, love, and finally union.
In accordance with our complex and diverse needs, there are at least eight different types of intimacy: emotional, intellectual, aesthetic, creative, recreational, crisis, erotic and spiritual. No one person will ever be able to meet all these intimacy needs. We all need several intimate relationships in our lives, with both sexes, in order to meet such a variety of needs.
Dr. Richard Gilmartin, a psychologist and psychotherapist, maintains it is misleading to make "being intimate" synonymous with having sexual intercourse. Having a sexual relationship with another does not, in itself, bring intimacy. "Sex is a way of expressing intimacy, never a way of achieving it. Too often, we enter into a sexual relationship with another when what we really want is intimacy. . . . Sex can be intensely pleasurable, while intimacy is deeply satisfying. Whenever we separate sex from love, love suffers, and consequently our desire for true intimacy is never really fulfilled."
Things to remember
The challenge is not to avoid intimacy, but to embrace it, and find its expression in ways that do not compromise our values, such as:
Every person is created in God's image and has an inherent dignity.
Sexuality is a gift from God.
The power and freedom of sexuality can be channelled toward good or evil.
Christ summons all his followers to chastity, modesty and self-control.
In God's plan, sexual intercourse belongs only within marriage between a man and a woman.
Every act of intercourse must be open to the possible creation of human life.
Homosexual (genital) behaviour is objectively immoral. A distinction must be made between homosexual (genital) behaviour and a homosexual orientation, which is not immoral in itself.
Neither a homosexual orientation, nor a heterosexual one, leads inevitably to sexual activity.
One's total personhood is not reducible to sexual orientation or behaviour.
Our Christian tradition calls us to integrate chastity and intimacy in our pursuit of holiness and wholeness.
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