The Signs of the Times

Some questions that are likely on the horizon. Or in the confessional.

Food for thought, as we hear about various diocesan and other pastoral plans for outreach to LGBT families:

Scenario 1:

Penitent: “Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. It’s been a month since my last confession. I have been unfaithful to my husband.”

Priest (from behind the confessional screen): “You sound like a man. Are you?”

Penitent: “I am a man. I am a gay man. I was unfaithful to my husband with another man.”

Scenario 2:

Penitent: “Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. It’s been a month since my last confession. I have been unfaithful to my husband.”

Priest (from behind the confessional screen): “You sound like a man. Are you?”

Penitent: “I am a transgendered man, yes. I was unfaithful to my gay husband with a woman. I think I may be bi-sexual or pan-sexual. I’m not sure.”

What does a priest instructed to reach out to LGBT families say by way of reply? Does he try to help the penitent understand that what he (or she) thinks is a marriage isn’t really a marriage? Does he propose helping the penitent come to a better understanding of human sexuality? Is that consistent with due pastoral sensitivity to LGBT persons? Does he leave the penitent to his (or her) deep misunderstanding, on the grounds that priests may sometimes leave consciences in good faith in their errors, lest after correction they come to commit culpably grave sins?

Does the priest proceed as if the marital infidelity was genuine marital infidelity, just because the confused penitent thinks it was? Does the priest absolve the repentant penitent of infidelity to his (or her) “spouse”? Does he withhold absolution? Or is even to raise these questions, with particular scenarios, an illegitimate exercise of casuistry? (As if these situations could never arise nowadays and are therefore farfetched examples devised only to bind people with rules or to judge them.)

“You lay traps for me!” you say.

To which I say, quoting Robert Bolt’s Thomas More: “No, I show you the times.”


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About Mark Brumley 58 Articles
Mark Brumley is president and CEO of Ignatius Press.