From a reader…
A priest I spoke to said that I could not get confirmed or enter the Catholic Church (I was baptised in an evangelical church) as I am living with my same sex partner of 10 years. The relationship is now platonic and chaste. He said that due to near occasion of sin and scandal that it would not be permissible and that I would have to leave him first. Are occasion of sin and scandal grounds for stopping people from entering the Catholic Church or is this a grey area? I was looking at the USCCB pastoral message Always Our Children and it only requires chastity.
I’ll take you at your word.
Let’s be clear about a few things.
There is nothing wrong with a couple of men, friends, living together. However, I strongly suspect that many people have known about the nature of your relationship. They know that you were not chaste. That will surely remain a part of the equation. The Church – and you – have a responsibility before God not to cause or perpetuate scandal. This is why so many of the Church’s laws involving administration of sacraments in complex situations specify “remoto scandalo… once the possibility of scandal is removed”.
If you want to enter into the Catholic Church, then you should also want to adhere to everything that the Church authentically teaches. You should also, by definition, want to adhere to her laws and traditions. You should, by definition want also to protect the Church and make her ever more and more the visible sacrament of Christ’s love and presence. That’s one reason why the Church’s pastors – and lay people – if they have their heads screwed on in the right direction, want to avoid scandal. Scandal leads people to think that sin A,B or C maybe really isn’t so bad after all, since, after all, people committing those sins are receiving the sacraments with the seeming approval of her pastors.
Avoidance of scandal is not just the priest’s job. It is YOUR job, too. A faithful, humble, devout, well-meaning member of the Church – or catechumen! – would take that as an important element in decision making.
Another question revolves around why you two continue to live together. If what you have has finally matured into a true friendship that excludes that which does serious mutual spiritual harm, then … well… that’s good. But the fact remains that what the priest said is true: there are near occasions of sin and the possibility of scandal, because of your past. Hence, in this case I reject the argument of favorable economics of living under one roof.
I think the priest you spoke with, without knowing more about the conversation, is on the right track and has given you good advice.
Entrance in the Church, for an adult, stems from the desire to given oneself to Christ wholeheartedly. Therefore, because of that new relationship the Catholic also desires what is truly good for neighbor. Hence, avoidance of scandal and occasions of sins, not being a scandal to others or, God forbid, an occasion of sin for another person. True charity means wanting what is the true – not imagined – good of the other person.
If you genuinely want this membership in the Church then the elimination of the near occasion of sin and the elimination of the risk of scandal seems to be a necessary first step.
Lastly, I’ll leave you with something from the Second Vatican Council’s document Lumen gentium, on the Church:
14. This Sacred Council wishes to turn its attention firstly to the Catholic faithful. Basing itself upon Sacred Scripture and Tradition, it teaches that the Church, now sojourning on earth as an exile, is necessary for salvation. Christ, present to us in His Body, which is the Church, is the one Mediator and the unique way of salvation. In explicit terms He Himself affirmed the necessity of faith and baptism and thereby affirmed also the necessity of the Church, for through baptism as through a door men enter the Church. Whosoever, therefore, knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ, would refuse to enter or to remain in it, could not be saved.
They are fully incorporated in the society of the Church who, possessing the Spirit of Christ accept her entire system and all the means of salvation given to her, and are united with her as part of her visible bodily structure and through her with Christ, who rules her through the Supreme Pontiff and the bishops. The bonds which bind men to the Church in a visible way are profession of faith, the sacraments, and ecclesiastical government and communion. He is not saved, however, who, though part of the body of the Church, does not persevere in charity. He remains indeed in the bosom of the Church, but, as it were, only in a “bodily” manner and not “in his heart.” All the Church’s children should remember that their exalted status is to be attributed not to their own merits but to the special grace of Christ. If they fail moreover to respond to that grace in thought, word and deed, not only shall they not be saved but they will be the more severely judged.
Catechumens who, moved by the Holy Spirit, seek with explicit intention to be incorporated into the Church are by that very intention joined with her. With love and solicitude Mother Church already embraces them as her own.
Your desire to enter the Church, if sincerely, already brings with it certain consequences.
Remember: this is about the salvation of souls. That’s the long term, the eternal term.