Before we go off shooting our machine guns, let’s look at this through the eyes of Jesus himself.
This is a campus activity. Therefore, unless it’s a diocesan university or a diocesan college, the bishop has no jurisdiction. Catholics should know this by now. Bishops have no authority over schools that they do not own. For the bishop to intervene would be an abuse of power.
The bishop has authority over the diocesan clergy that works for him and over the laity in his diocese. A college campus, a Catholic high school that is not diocesan is outside of his jurisdiction. Think of it the way that you would think of an embassy in your city. It may be in your city, but it’s not your country. Therefore, what happens in the embassy is out of your control as much as you would like to fix it. It is important not to impose on bishops what is contrary to Christ’s law for them.
The announcement may have been written by a student. Reading it, I can say that it is very poorly worded. It employs a lot of jargon incorrectly. God only knows that the person is trying to say or what the person understands these words to mean.
Asking someone to speak on how he or she reconciles his or her sexual orientation with his or her faith is not a sin. The Church does it all the time. That’s how we learn. These conversations are held at the Vatican and at Pontifical universities around the world. In order to develop a pastoral plan to serve the spiritual needs of people with same sex attraction, the Church has had to sit down and listen to them and to their spiritual needs from their point of view. That’s how the Church came out with the official document on the pastoral care of homosexual persons. That’s how the Church came to the conclusion that being homosexual is not a sin, but homosexual activity is. She listened. She heard and she reflected on what she heard against the backdrop of Sacred Tradition. If it were a sin to listen to someone tell his or her story, then the popes and the Sacred Congregation for the Faith and every Pontifical University and Pontifical School of Theology has sinned. Christ looks at the Church’s need to understand and at the individual’s need to be heard. There is no moral prohibition here.
In the worse case scenario, the person may say that she feels that it is justified to actively engage in same sex behavior. The audience does not have to buy into it. That’s her position, not the position of the Church. What is of interest to the learner is how she arrived at this position. Even when a person is in error, it is important to understand their thought process. If we want to be like Christ and help people correct their errors, it helps to understand where their logic falls apart.
It would have been much clearer if the announcement has simply said that there is a Protestant Lesbian Pastor who will share how she deals with her same sex attraction along her journey of faith. Then leave it at that. This way, you’re not endorsing her way of life. What you’re doing is inviting the students and faculty to hear someone’s story.
All of us hear people’s stories all the time, usually in more informal settings. People tell us about their marriage, divorce and remarriage. They tell us about their abortions. They speak to us about their infidelity to Church teaching. Just because we listen does not mean that we’re endorsing. We’re listening. We’re trying to understand the other person the same way that Christ understands him or her. We’re not going to pat them on the back for their errors. Christ listens to the woman at the well, but he does not pat her on the back. However, he tries to understand her and to show her that he’s interested in her story.
I hear these stories every day in my ministry. I don’t endorse any of them. However, as a son of St. Francis, I listen with the same ears that Francis listened with. If I am going to respond in a way that is appropriate and effective, it helps to understand the person’s struggles, the person’s mental processes and to pay close attention to where their logic falls apart.
I’ll close by saying that the announcement is poorly worded. I have no idea why. I can only guess that the person who wrote it does not know how to use this language correctly, because it’s all wrong.
Br. JR, OSF