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Reclaiming the Rainbow

Tom Nash

You may have noticed—at work, on TV, or maybe just looking out the window—that June has been “Pride Month,” when many celebrate what they see as social advances for those with same-sex attraction (SSA).

The month was chosen to commemorate the Stonewall Riots, which took place in Greenwich Village in June 1969, when soliciting homosexual sex was still a crime. Almost fifty years later, though, same-sex “marriage” has been legalized in the United States and other countries; and many of our institutions celebrate homosexuality, while people who oppose it on moral grounds are subject to civil lawsuits, heavy fines and lawyer fees, and even criminal prosecution for hate crimes.

So, advocates for homosexuality think they have a lot to celebrate, and the emblem of their “pride” movement is a multicolored flag symbolizing a rainbow of inclusion and tolerance.

The rainbow symbol, however, was a Judeo-Christian image first, one that Catholics should reclaim in charity and clarity to better extend the Church’s mission to those who experience SSA. The rainbow is first seen as a sign of God’s hope and mercy following the great flood (Gen. 9:8-17). And Jesus reveals that making disciples of all nations is at the heart of the Church’s divine mandate (Matt. 28:18-20). Everyone, including those of all ethnicities and skin colors, is welcome in God’s kingdom. This makes the Catholic Church the truly original “Rainbow Coalition.”

Some would counter that the Church does not shine forth a truly inclusive rainbow of God’s love because it forbids same-sex marriage and tells people with SSA that they cannot act on what they think are natural sexual desires.

To be clear, the Church calls all human persons to chastity (1 Cor. 6:9-10; Gal. 5:19-21), which means not engaging in sexual activity before or outside the covenant of indissoluble marriage. This is a tall order for any person, including those who are married, for they must die to themselves if they are to navigate their nuptial participation in divine love faithfully and fruitfully (see CCC 1639, Eph. 5:21-33).

But whereas the marital act possesses self-evident complementarity, as the two become “one flesh” (Gen. 2:23-24) in an act that is naturally ordered to the possibility of procreation (see CCC 2366ff.), sexual acts between two men or two women betray an absence of complementarity. Natural procreation is impossible. There is no joining in “one flesh” to symbolize and effect the conjugal union possible only between a man and a woman. This is why such sexual acts “are contrary to the natural law” (CCC 2357) that God made knowable in our hearts in order to provide fulfillment to human persons, who are made in his lovingly diffusive image and likeness (Gen. 1:26-27).

Homosexual sex, therefore, gravely impedes participation in God’s plan for human fulfillment and also impedes the healing rays of the Lord’s mercifully encompassing rainbow of love (see Gen. 19:1-29, Rom. 1:24-27, CCC 2357-59). And so to those who experience SSA the Church proclaims the chastity of total sexual continence.

And yet God and his Church do not leave those with SSA “to go it alone.” The words of Sacred Scripture—“It is not good that the man should be alone” (Gen. 2:18)—are not only for those called to the union of marriage. It is for all people, married and unmarried, particularly as we live out our respective vocations in the Church, the family of God. St. Paul preaches that all disciples are to be united in authentic Christian fellowship (1 Cor. 12:12-26), and Jesus prays that we all be one, as he and the Father are one (John 17:20-23).

You can’t get more one than that, because “God himself is an eternal exchange of love, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and he has destined us to share in that exchange. . . . By sending his only Son and the Spirit of Love in the fullness of time, God has revealed his innermost secret” (CCC 221).

And since we need not be married to experience God’s abundant life (John 10:10), we can better understand that others in the Church who embrace total sexual continence can nevertheless be called “Father” and “Brother” and “Mother” and “Sister”! So the Church does have an expansive view of the family of God, one in which spiritual fecundity, and not simply marital procreation, blossoms forth, including through the roles of grandfather and grandmother, godfather and godmother, aunt and uncle, friend and teacher.

Indeed, the rainbow of God’s redemptive love is fittingly for everyone both to receive and to propagate. This is the truly liberating message that the Church provides to those with SSA (John 8:31-32), for example, through the wonderful apostolate Courage, which fosters joyful fellowship between brothers and sisters in Christ.

To share the gospel fruitfully, including through resources like Courage’s documentary “Desire of the Everlasting Hills” (which is online and free), we must remember our own status as sinners in need of God’s mercy, as the Church reminds the faithful:

Every one living on the face of the earth has personal problems and difficulties, but challenges to growth, strengths, talents, and gifts as well. Today, the Church provides a badly needed context for the care of the human person when she refuses to consider the person as a “heterosexual” or a “homosexual” and insists that every person has a fundamental identity: the creature of God, and by grace, his child and heir to eternal life.

As some of us learn firsthand when we steadfastly hold to and promote the Church’s wisdom regarding sex, there is a strong opposition that will zealously try to cast Catholicism as a hate-filled and moribund religion and its teachings as the opposite of true, inclusive love.

Consequently, we must strive to grow in heroic virtue, as this is going to be an extended struggle in which any righteous anger cannot be accompanied by sin (Eph. 4:25-32), turning the other cheek will likely become a painfully frequent practice (Matt. 5:38-39), and ultimate victory will require a persevering plan of drowning evil with good (Rom. 12:20-21). All these efforts cannot succeed unless they are fueled and sustained by our merciful Lord Jesus in the Eucharist and the sacrament of reconciliation.

To be sure, we must personify the rainbow of God’s merciful love if our witness is going to have credibility. And those same sacraments, along with “prayer, witness, counsel and individual care,” are crucial so that those who deal with SSA will realize and experience the same rainbow of reconciliation, healing, and hope that God long ago provided to Noah and his family.

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