Talk on same-sex attraction, marriage crowded after ruling

By: By Tom Dermody

Faithful Catholics should respond to persons with same-sex attraction with love and responsibility, not labels, and to those who advocate same-sex marriage with questions and truth, a priest told Catholic young adults at a crowded Theology on Tap session in Peoria on July 1.

“There can be no compassion — and that’s the operative word in this issue of same-sex attraction — unless there is truth, absolute truth. Anything less than that is phony baloney,” said Father Thomas Loya, pastor of Mother of God Byzantine Church in Homer Glen. A Catholic radio host and a frequent speaker on the Theology of the Body teaching of St. John Paul II, Father Loya was the final speaker in Peoria’s summer Theology on Tap series.

And his presentation on “Responding in Love” to those with same-sex attraction — coming five days after the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide — drew a capacity crowd to Kelleher’s Irish Pub, as seen in the photo above.

“I’d like to welcome all of you to real Christianity. It’s going to start for us now,” said Father Loya, predicting challenging days ahead for the church as it confronts moral relativism. He urged Catholics to better understand and embrace their faith in order to more brightly shine the light of the Gospel.

“We have for a very long time in America thought we could get away with a Christianity that had no cross, where there was no price to pay,” he told the group. But Christianity is “not a faith of comfort where everyone’s happy,” said Father Loya, pointing to areas around the globe where Christians are being persecuted today.

When persecution comes — as it always does for Christians, said Father Loya — “it asks us to make a choice, a real choice.”

In responding to persons with same-sex attraction, the easy path is to label and then dismiss them.

“It’s much harder to invite them on a journey to the truth about themselves, about God’s created world,” said Father Loya. “And then to walk with them every step of the way on that journey.”

To that end, he distributed a handout including basic points about the church and same-sex attraction issues, as well as a list of concerns regarding same-sex marriage.

The Catholic Church does not make up beliefs, rules, and morality, said Father Loya. It teaches the way God designed the Order of Creation, and says we are happiest when we see and live in a way that is honest to God’s order.

In response to a question on how to talk to Catholics who are supportive of the Supreme Court decision, Father Loya said “that’s our biggest challenge.”

“Call them to re-frame how they see what ‘Catholic’ is,” said Father Loya, repeatedly defining Catholicism not in terms of rules or teachings but as “a way of seeing the invisible, incomprehensible, incarnate, immeasurable God become visible, tangible, through the physical — and then living according to that vision.”

“All the Catholic Church does is point to what God has done, what is revealed, how it works, the why behind it,” said Father Loya. “And we say to the world, ‘Isn’t it wonderful?'”

The “DNA” of the created order is marriage, he said, based on the complementarity between a man and a woman and reflecting the relationship of God to us. “Once you presume to redefine that,” said Father Loya, “you pull the very thread that holds the Order of Creation together, and it collapses.”

Theology on Tap, coordinated in the Diocese of Peoria by the Office of Evangelization, offers young adults an opportunity to explore faith topics from a Catholic perspective in a casual setting.

Noting he was speaking in an Irish bar, Father Loya suggested that when confronted with the issues of same-sex attraction or marriage, faithful Catholics adopt the Irish practice of “answering a question with a question.”

“If someone says to you, ‘If you were really a church of love, you’d approve of same-sex marriage,’ ask them ‘What is love to you?’ ‘What is marriage to you? Is that all it is?’

The Catholic Church teaches that same-sex attraction itself is not sinful, though homosexual actions are sinful. It teaches that marriage is only a union between a man and a woman and that any sexual activity outside of marriage is sinful.

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