Setting Record straight on recent controversy

I wish to clarify inaccuracies that have appeared in the media over the past several days. Among our members at St. Michael Catholic Church in Marquette we have valued parishioners with same sex attraction who serve in many capacities, including liturgical ministries. As their pastor, I love all of my parishioners whatever their circumstance. At no point have I instructed anyone to stand at the back of the church, the cry-room, or in the vestibule. Reports of this having occurred are a misunderstanding.

In the Catholic Christian Church there is a well-known, biblically-based teaching that those who are attracted to the same sex live a life of chastity, and that marriage is to be between one man and one woman. Jesus himself is our exemplar of chaste love. Chastity applies to everyone: the married and the unmarried, the divorced and widowed, those who have chosen a single life and those unable to get married. Within marriage, chastity means being faithful to one’s spouse, being open to life, and treating one’s spouse with dignity.

For the unmarried, chastity means abstaining from sexual relations. This expectation is consistently made known to new members of the Catholic Church, and is freely chosen when they make the decision to become Catholic. With God’s grace and the prayerful support of others, living chastely can be a life of rich vitality, deep loving relationships and generosity.

All Christians struggle and sometimes fail to live up to the teachings of Christ, myself included. Distinct from this is the case in which someone makes a deliberately thought-out life-decision to live in a manner which runs contrary to the teachings of their faith and of Scripture.

When it becomes a matter not of failing to live up to the teachings of Christ, but of actively opposing them and celebrating their contrary, the situation calls for a particular pastoral response. More specifically, if a parishioner has chosen to celebrate and promote views contradicting the words they would sing in the choir, or proclaim from Scripture as a lector, then they are asked not to lead in the singing or proclamation of those words. However, they are still welcome to worship in the church with fellow members of the Body of Christ.

As a Catholic Christian, I recognize my own unworthiness; I, too, fail to live up to the Word. All the same, I must not deliberately oppose It. As I strive to remain steadfast in faith, one of the most loving things I can do for my parishioners is ask them to be similarly faithful, and prayerfully help them strive for integrity when their personal choices and actions clearly contradict the faith we profess as Catholic Christians.

In all sincerity, my prayers are with anyone who is confused or feels hurt by the misunderstandings that have taken place in the past several days. With many concerned parishioners, I don’t want to see anyone separated from our parish family or the Church.

Editor’s note: Rev. Larry Van Damme is pastor of St. Michael Catholic Church in Marquette. Prior to that he was pastor of St. Albert the Great University Parrish in Houghton.