If only Archbishop Nichols had said gays are called to profound, life-long and chaste friendships

During a BBC studio debate on government plans to legalise gay marriage Archbishop Nichols said that homosexual couples are not called to marriage but to ‘a very profound and lifelong friendship.’  Unfortunately, the archbishop didn’t mention the one word that is fundamental to the Church’s teaching on homosexuality, and her approach to the pastoral care of persons who are homosexual, ‘chastity’.

This is the exchange in which Archbishop Nichols made his response:

‘Asked what he would say to a gay Catholic couple who approached him for marriage within the Church, the Archbishop said: “I would want to say to them that I understand their desires, that I understand their experience of love is vitally important in their lives, but I would want to say to them that they are called in my view, in the church’s view, to a very profound friendship in life.

“I would want them to be respected, but I would want them to have a vision in themselves that what they are called to is not marriage but a very profound and lifelong friendship.”

This is what the Church teaches about the importance of chastity to the vocation of persons who are homosexuals:

‘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.’ (CCC 2359)

‘To chose someone of the same sex for one’s sexual activity is to annul the rich symbolism and meaning, not to mention the goals, of the Creator’s sexual design. Homosexual activity is not a complementary union, able to transmit life; and so it thwarts the call to a life of that form of self-giving which the Gospel says is the essence of Christian living. This does not mean that homosexual persons are not often generous and giving of themselves; but when they engage in homosexual activity they confirm within themselves a disordered sexual inclination which is essentially self-indulgent.’ (Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the pastoral care of homosexual persons)

Protect the Pope comment: The problem with Archbishop Nichols omission of the word ‘chastity’ from his use of the phrase ‘profound and life-long friendship’ is that he is ignoring the sad fact that friendship, particularly in the case of homosexual persons, has been explicitly sexualised. For many people in our culture, particularly young people, the use of the word ‘friendship’ does not exclude sexual activity.

Why did the archbishop omit the one word that is fundamental to the Church’s teaching on homosexual persons? No doubt he would have been ridiculed and attacked in a public debate for mentioning ‘chastity’, but what does that matter to a man who will become our next cardinal. The essential role of a cardinal is to teach, explain and defend the truth handed down from the apostles. The situation facing the Church in this country, now more than ever, is that we speak the truth in love, the whole truth, not just the parts we think the people are willing to hear.

There is no getting away from the fact that Archbishop Nichols was caught between a rock and a hard place, and that he was right to speak with the understanding and concern of a pastor. But the question has to be asked, why the omission of chastity?



6 comments to If only Archbishop Nichols had said gays are called to profound, life-long and chaste friendships

  • Karla

    Exactly! Why leave out that so important word ‘chaste’? Oh :/

  • CathChap

    Well done VN. Managing to misrepresent Church teaching and patronise gay people in a single sentance.

  • Father John Harvey, the Founding Director of Courage, has listed the goals and purposes of Courage as follows:

    To live chaste lives in accordance with the Roman Catholic Church’s teaching on homosexuality.

    To dedicate our entire lives to Christ through service to others, spiritual reading, prayer, meditation, individual spiritual direction, frequent attendance at Mass, and the frequent reception of the sacraments of Penance and the Holy Eucharist.

    To foster a spirit of fellowship in which we may share with one another our thoughts and experiences and so ensure that none of us have to face the problems of homosexuality alone.

    To be mindful of the truth that chaste friendships are not only possible but necessary in celibate Christian life — to encourage one another in forming and sustaining them.

    To live lives that may serve as good examples to others with homosexual difficulties.

    Imagine if the Archbishop had spoken as clearly? This could have been a teaching moment. Another lost opportunity to clearly enunciate Catholic moral teaching. What a shame.

  • Gurn

    Ugh… what is he on!

  • Jonathan

    “they are called in my view,in the church’s view,to a very profound friendship in life.”
    Is that really the Church’s view? Could anybody give me a reference to an actual teaching document? I find it hard to believe as it seems imprudent: if I was tempted to sin by having sexual relations with someone then I hardly think the Holy Spirit would be calling me to live with them. Being alone in the same house there would be so much privacy and opportunity to sin. Furthermore these civil partnerships are exclusive. Why should these profound friendships require the exclusion of other friends? If I had a friend who was jealous of my other friendships would not count that as true Christian friendship.

  • James Hughes

    Who said he will be the next cardinal? given his track record he should be removed from active ministry never mind elevated to cardinal. His leadership has been dire and he pays lip service to the pope. Sack him!

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