Sexual Identity Crisis, One Thing Cardinal Dolan Got Wrong

Cardinal Dolan has certainly been taking a beating lately with the issues of Fulton Sheen and the St. Patrick’s Day parade at the same time. In his response to the criticisms he has received for accepting the position of Grand Marshal for the parade (found here) he voiced how much of a beating he has been taking, and I’m sure it’s not easy to be dealing with what he is going through as a public figure and leader in the Church. As one of his flock in the Archdiocese of New York, I want to defend him against the attacks. Working with the Church has enlightened me to a lot of the politics that go on behind the scenes, and one thing I know for sure is that the public never has the full story. For that reason I generally have a default position of giving most situations the benefit of the doubt.

In the Cardinal’s response, however, he opened himself up to valid and respectful discussion and criticism of his words. Not criticism based on media-inflated concepts and inflammatory blog mongers, but evaluation of his actual statement. The Cardinal holds a position in the Church in which he is responsible for teaching the faithful. All of his public words have an important effect. Being Catholic means being integrated in every part of life, including sound bites, press releases, and blog responses. I would like to address something he said in his response and his overall position as voiced in his response.

Cardinal Dolan made the valid, and not unimportant, point that we need to love the sinner while we hate the sin. We cannot group together people with SSA and treat them with any less love or dignity because of actions that they may or may not be engaging in. This is a point that I have written about previously (found here), and I am grateful to the Cardinal for echoing the words of Pope Francis, and ultimately Jesus, about how to love people – especially those engaging in serious sin.

With all due respect to the Cardinal, and with great reverence to his office, I have to point out an error in the teaching inherent in his response. Not about loving the sinner and hating the sin, but on the point of IDENTITY. The issue of homosexuality in our culture, which is intimately tied to the issue of marriage and the family – an issue that the Church feels is so important right now as to call a Synod of Bishops on next month – is directly related to a complete misunderstanding by our culture of sexual identity. I was very disappointed to read in the Cardinal’s response a propagation of this misunderstanding. Let me explain:

There are two fundamental sexual identities: Male and Female. “Male and female he created them.” Heterosexuality is not an identity, and neither is homosexuality. These are terms that describe the types of sexual and romantic attractions a male or female might feel. Reducing the identity of a person to their sexual attractions is a profound error – not to mention degrading! This confusion lies at the root of most of our cultural confusion regarding sex, marriage, and the family. Human identity is erroneously reduced to how a man or woman wants to use his or her genitals.

The homosexual agenda seeks to legitimize itself by staking a claim to a “homosexual identity”. If homosexuality (or heterosexuality) was a point of identity, there would be a grave responsibility to regard it with great reverence and dignity – the type of dignity and reverence that is owed to a person in his or her femininity or masculinity. This is, of course, the whole point and reason why there is a push to accept homosexuality as a point of identity.

In Cardinal Dolan’s response, he says, “So, while actions are immoral, identity is not! … To the point: the committee’s decision allows a group to publicize its identity, not promote actions contrary to the values of the Church”. Of course homosexual identity is not a sin, because it’s not an identity! He missed a great opportunity to say something on the Catholic teaching about the identity of the human person. “Male and female he created them”, not “heterosexual and homosexual he created them”.

Human identity consists in this: First we are all children of God. Second, some of us are male children of God, and some are female children of God. That is our identity. Sexuality is an effect of our identity – not the source of it.

Cardinal Dolan has accepted the position of Grand Marshal for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. I think that’s great. Let the man march. Let him follow the footsteps of Jesus who spent a good part of his time with those who thought differently than him, who ate and drank with (and loved) the sinners. But let him be clear in his teaching, as Jesus was; especially during these times – and especially in this city. For now, let the faithful join together in prayer for the Bishops’ Synod on the Family, so that the truth and beauty and goodness of the human person will once again be understood, and taught clearly and powerfully to the faithful and to those who seek the truth.

2 Comments
  • James
    Posted at 05:43h, 21 September Reply

    “I would like you to make yourselves reachable, not just in terms of the number of ways you can be contacted, but in terms of the inner space you offer people and their needs, communicating the teaching of the Church in its entirety, instead of presenting it to them as a catalogue of regrets. Welcome all without discrimination, offering the firmness of the authority that enables growth and the gentleness of paternity that generates….Engage in respectful dialogue with the great traditions in which you are immersed, without fear of getting lost and without feeling the need to defend your borders, because the Church’s identity is defined by the love of Christ which knows no boundaries. Do not waste energy in conflict and disagreement, but rather use it to build and to love,” he concluded, wishing bishops “fruitfulness, patience, humility and much prayer”. Pope Francis to the new Bishops, 9/18/2014

    http://vaticaninsider.lastampa.it/en/the-vatican/detail/articolo/francesco-francisco-francis-vescovi-bishops-obispos-36392/

    Cardinal Dolan is not a perfect bishop. Who is a perfect bishop? Pope? Mother? Father? In this case, he just made what Pope Francis kindly asked. Dolan might have used better words to describe the sexual identity crisis, but that is not the point here. The problem is that as Catholics, sometimes we say we have to evangelize with charity, but then all we care about is that people get things right. Of course caring that people get things right is important. But the “how” you do it is way more important, as Christ taught us. You do not bring people to Christ by making sure they get things right, but by making sure they feel loved. They are loved, no matter what. If they feel loved, soon or later they will get the things right, they’ll get to the Truth that the Catholic Church preserves. That’s a point we should never miss. I’m sure this article had the best intentions, but misses this point. Instead of complaining all the time about our bishops and pointing out what they did or got wrong, we should pray for them. In this case, Dolan is criticized for his brave decision. When you do something brave, people criticize you, especially people who are Catholics like you. Jesus was criticized by the Pharisees, and by those who shared his same law. Because he was doing something they did not understand. Pope Francis remarks that and says “But if we come out, what happens to those who go on road can also happen: an accident can happen. But I say I prefer a thousand times a Church that has an accident than a Church that is sick.”

    • Dr. Greg
      Posted at 08:23h, 21 September Reply

      Thank you for your comments James. I think you may have missed the point and tone of my article though. If you read any of my other articles you will soon realize that I am not “complaining all the time about our bishops”. We need to avoid the extremism and divisiveness that your comment promotes. It is not “for” or “against”. This is precisely the point that Francis is making. We can engage in meaningful and charitable dialogue with the world, and we can do so within the Church as well. There really is no difference, because we are all human. James, we need to evolve from an “us” vs “them” mentality. This article is supportive of Cardinal Dolan in his office, and grateful for his position of compassion towards people with a different worldview. Anyone who assumes that having some argument with one thing he said means that I am criticizing the Cardinal “for his brave decision” is guilty of the same black and white thinking that Pope Francis is warning us against. Instead, let us “engage in respectful dialogue with the great traditions in which we are immersed.” If you have something to add to this dialogue regarding its content, I’m happy to hear your contribution. Your comments seem to imply that the dialogue should not be happening, and to that point I respectfully disagree.

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