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  • Rev. Timothy E Byerley, Ph.D

Compassion, Guidance, and Gender Identity

Jean C. Lloyd is a Catholic convert who previously lived a “lesbian lifestyle”. She wrote a book about same-sex attraction entitled, The Public Discourse. She explains that after years of struggle she came to understand her “true colors” are those of a woman made in the image and likeness of God. She arrived at this state of liberation and healing with the help of Christians who were willing to be faithful to the truth while loving her and walking, praying and suffering with her. She said, “There’s something about a group of Christians who are 100% committed to the truth of Jesus and intensely living for him, but also willing to be vulnerable and walk together.”

Today, Jean recognizes that same-sex attraction is an inclination that will not bring her life and fulfillment. She also declares that arriving at this point of freedom and redemption required a clear exposition of the Catholic Church’s teaching on human sexuality. Jean and others like her have found liberation and their true identity in these teachings and want to see them clearly announced and applied in Catholic ministries to the LGTB community.

She was heartbroken to discover that many Catholic outreaches that emphasize messages of inclusivity, equality and justice seem to disregard the Church’s teachings and therefore frustrate the recovery of the very people they want to help. She believes that this mindset actually deprives people of the healing they long for. She said that, “Any ministry dealing with LGBT issues in this day and age has got to be unambiguous and clear … If we are not encouraged to resist sin and to live within God’s design for sexuality, which is the only way any human being can truly be free and flourish, what is intended to be ministry becomes a snare.”

Two Catholic apostolates which effectively help people with same-sex attraction by leading them to the truth are Courage International and Desert Stream / Living Waters. The Catholic founder of the latter organization, Andrew Comiskey, believes that many are misinterpreting Pope Francis’ idea of mercy as a mere tolerance of the “gay self”. He said that, “This is America, and I think our vision of mercy, as it’s applied to persons in many kinds of sexual disorders, is mixed, and even toxic in its mixture, so that you hear a lot about mercy but not a lot about repentance. You don’t hear a lot about turning into the new and the true.”

Concurring with this point, Jean Lloyd said that if pastoral ministers want to be truly merciful to those with issues of sexuality identity, they should consider the spiritual works of mercy, which include admonishing the sinner, instructing the ignorant, counseling the doubtful and comforting the sorrowful. Pastors and friends of those dealing with gender-identity conflicts should lovingly accompany and gently correct them when they are in error. She reminds us that “you are commanded in scripture to instruct me and correct me. Educate me. Help me properly form my conscience. Mercy is not letting me go my own way because I feel good about it. Mercy does not pretend that I can have the sinful pleasures of the far country and the joys of the Father’s house at the same time … Do not apologize for same-sex activity being outside of God’s will. This does not help me. This does not strengthen me; it weakens me. I need you to stand firm where I am wavering.”

All of this merely confirms once again that the perennial teachings of the Catholic Church are the true pathway to liberation, healing, and fullness of life in Jesus Christ. It is precisely what society needs today to restore individuals, marriage and the family to their true dignity and integrity. (This essay is a condensed version of an article entitled, “How to Accompany Catholics with Same-Sex Attraction,” National Catholic Register, April 16, 2017, page 3.)

St. Maria Goretti, pray for us!

Fr. Tim Byerley



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