Online Newsletter Nr. 204
Philippine Community
The Word in other Words

by Fr. Jun de Ocampo, SVD
Philippine Community Berlin

(GENESIS 1: 27)


Same-Sex Marriage in Germany
   Berlin was specially on the public eye as the news broke out that same-sex marriage would be legalized in Germany. At the last session before the summer break (June 30, 2017) the lower house of the German Parliament voted majority for it. Although it still requires the approval by the upper house, it appears to be just formalities when it becomes a law after the summer break. Although same-sex couples have been able to form civil unions in Germany since 2001, once a law, it extends full marital rights to same-sex couples, including the right to adopt children.

   Now four years as the Catholic Chaplain for Filipino migrants here in Berlin, it makes me wonder that this theme on same-sex appears to be an avoided topic. One time in an after-Sunday-Mass gathering of Pinoys here in Bayernallee, I mentioned casually to a Pinay about my plan to discuss this issue in one of the Adult Bible Catechism (ABC).

   Then a Pinoy happened to be passing by near us, she suddenly rolled her eyes to his direction and interrupted me, “Shhh, Father, isa rin yan (he is one of them),” in a gesture to quiet me lest he would feel being talked about.

It’s Not About Them, It’s About Us

   First of all, it’s not about them. It is about us.

   We are not talking about a controversial issue here. We are talking about people. We are not also talking about them because they are different from us. We are talking about people we know and love, about members of our close friends, or in our Filipino community, or perhaps a member of our own family, or any one of us having same-sex experiences. It’s about us.

   It is not an issue about them and us, on which suddenly the Church must clarify and defend her position who belongs and who do not belong. It is about us – each one of us, because we all belong to this one and same Church.

   That’s why, before labeling people by their sexual attraction – LGTB – it is most important to place the human person first before one’s sexual attraction. This is not an issue to be debated, this is about a person. Of course, there are ideas and counter-ideas to be presented, but at the heart of the issue is about persons, real human beings with real experiences, who are God’s own image and likeness like any of us. At the core of this issue are people – persons – whom God loves incredibly.

Our Identity

We´re not the sum of our weaknesses & failures;
we´re the sum of the Father´s love for us & our real
capacity to become the image of His son. - Pope St. John Paul II -
Attraction is not equal to Identity
   There is a common misunderstanding that when a person experiences same-sex attraction, whether as a Lesbian (L: female-to-female), or Gay (G: male-to-male), Transgender (T: one’s sense of gender does not correspond to one’s birth sex) or Bisexual (B: attraction in varying degrees to both male and female), one thinks that is one’s identity.   

There are sexual attractions that we are born with, which usually corresponds with the given sex at birth. There are however attractions that can change in the course of our life due to influence or conditions of our environment.   

Whether we were “born this way” (in the song of Lady Gaga), due to certain genes, or whether influenced by social-cultural or developmental factors, one thing remains: whatever sexual attractions we experience at any given stage of our life, does not define our human identity. In fact, nothing can change our identity.

How do the 2 become 1
without losing themselves?

   Unfortunately, our present culture leads us to the perception that our sexual attractions are our gender identities. Now it’s no longer whether you are either an “M” (male) or an “F” (female). Now, you are either a “G” or “L” or “B” or “T”. . . That is your identity. Facebook has more than 50 such genders to list, and still adding new ones until recently up to 70 labels.

   It’s not saying that these labels do not accurately represent what people are experiencing within them. But if we identify ourselves by these labels, we end up being restricted from our options and vision of the greater horizon of our true identity.

   Another more important thing about our attractions is that attractions by themselves have no moral value. That means that if we experience certain sexual attraction towards other persons – which we all do – doesn’t automatically make us a sinner, as if sexual attractions are sinful. Why? Because we don’t choose these sexual attractions, they are part of our humanity. But what makes them moral or immoral, is what we choose to do because of these sexual attractions that we experience.

Two Options: Gay Shame or Gay Pride?
   Partly contributing to this misconception that sex is sinful is the perceived notion that the Church and religion has laid down too many hard-to-follow rules on sexual morality. Given one who experiences same-sex attractions, one gives in to the idea that he/she has no place at all in the Church, or in the love of God.

   Even the social culture in which we have grown into, especially in the Philippines, have contributed to an attitude that unconsciously ridicules such people as if these people are “not normal” and hence need to be tolerated.

   Both factors have pushed people with same-sex attractions into a corner where they think they have only two options in life. First option: keep it secret from people (even from family and close friends) out of fear that if anyone gets to know that one has such feelings, they would be hated, laughed at and rejected. They could also not find any consolation from the Church because they feel that they are already condemned.

   This first option, one would think, would only lead them to a miserable life. And who wants to live a life of desolation and damnation?

   So if one cannot bear to hide in the closet anymore, the remaining option is: Face it all, embrace one’s sexual attractions as one’s identity, forget about God, the Church, the Bible, and do whatever-I-want-with-my-body and enter into the gay life style.

Gay shame or gay pride?

Sex is not equal to Love
   At the very root of these two options is one common basic human desire in each human person: the need to be loved, to be accepted, affirmed, valued.

   Our world had told us that love is sex. Sex equals love. And that if one can’t have sex then one can’t have love. How did it come to this? Because the world has sexualized everything.

   Just look how sex is used to attract attention to products being advertised to us. Our culture has become sexualized, powered by a sexualized mass media and technology. As consumers, our mentality, attitudes, and perceptions are shaped by what we take in from this constant exposure, often subconsciously.

   And one very important aspect of our life that has become contaminated by this mentality is our human relationships. Even a simple friendship has become sexualized. Take two guys who share common interest and like to hang out often together. It won’t be long when people start suspecting that they are “homos”. “You guys having a “bro-mance”? Or a girl might have a friend who is a girl, whom she really loves. She’s attracted to her beauty; she loves her company, but they don’t necessarily feel like it’s a sexual attraction. Before long, her other friends would start telling her that she has “girl crush” or that she’s a lesbian.
   A lovely friendship between two persons of the same sex, because they were attracted to each other’s goodness, beauty, personal gifts, etc., is good and healthy. We are supposed to become friends to each other, even the Jesus considered his 12 men-apostles “friends”. But our world has taught us that friendship is sexualized.

   Of course, it does happen that certain people of the same sex do have same-sexual attractions. They grow through the years and find it hard to live through the loneliness and desolation of the first option. Some opt for the second option.

   They embrace this attraction and find people like them who could give them attention, affirmation and acceptance they needed. They experiment with their attractions in a sexual way and enter into what people call “gay lifestyle”.

   This creates bonding, and gives the experience of love that one has been longing for. And this further re-enforces the idea, “This is simply who I am”. And this identity will only be fulfilled by acting it out in a sexual way.

Still the Same Church
   When referring to one’s personal identity, the Church always opens for us the first book of the Bible that looks at every person as a creature made “in the image and likeness of God” (Genesis 1:27). That is man’s identity. This image and likeness of God are reflected in every person’s intelligence, free will, and capacity for love. As God the creator is eternal, so is every human person destined for eternal life. When baptized in the name of the Lord, one becomes a brother or sister of Christ.

   Remember the Catechism of the Church speaking about the “indelible mark” of Baptism. The Church, refusing to consider the person as ‘heterosexual’ or ‘homosexual’, insists that every person carries with him a fundamental identity: creature of God, and by His grace, His child and heir to eternal life.

   The terms LGTB are an even further degrading of a person’s own wonderful complexity. Referring to oneself among such labels, is in fact reducing one’s individual identity to one’s sexual attractions. Every human being is far more than that in the mystery of his or her personhood. Whether one is born this way, or developed LGTB attractions later in life, does not at all alter one’s personal identity.

   One time Mother Teresa of Calcutta was interviewed. The first question started about the homosexuals in Calcutta. Upon hearing that word, she interrupted, “I don’t like the word ‘homosexual’.” She continued, “No, no, no. For the rest of the interview, I would like you to refer to them as ‘friends of Jesus’.”

   St. Pope John Paul II once said, “You are not the sum of your weaknesses, your worst, or your failures, or your sins. You are the sum of the Father’s love for you.” So regardless of to whom one is inclined or attracted to, either to the opposite sex, or the same sex, or whatever one is experiencing, does not and cannot be enough to alter one’s true identity. We are not the sum total of our attractions, but the sum total of God’s love.

God Loves Sex
   God is love. God made us out of love, and God made us for love. And therefore it is only in love that we find total fulfillment. As God made us into his image and likeness, so it is only in reflecting God in our life that our existence finds its meaning. “Man cannot live without love. Without love man remains incomprehensible to himself.” (John Paul II).

   God is a relationship of persons we call the Holy Trinity – the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. So shall man live in relationship. The relationship in God is a relationship in love. The Father pours out himself completely without reserve into the Son, and the Son receives that giving and in turn pours Himself out completely into the Father and the love exchange is so strong that forms its Spirit into another person.

   In the sacrament of Marriage, through the sexual embrace between the husband and wife, the husband pours out himself completely into his wife. As a love exchange, the wife receives that gift and in
  response the wife pours herself out complete into her husband and that love exchange is so strong that nine months later we have to give it a name.

   God loves sex. He created sex in our bodies so that He can share with us the power of procreation through sex. As we all know, our reproductive system is the only system in our bodies that need something else to operate. Our nervous system functions on its own, so does our respiratory system and all the systems in our bodies. Come to think about our reproductive system, it is only when it is joined together with the complimentary organ of someone else’s reproductive system when incredible miracles happen. Even the sexual pleasure that goes with the sexual embrace was in God’s beautiful design for the purposes of procreation and family. Sex, marriage and family as we see, are themselves incredible reflections and experience of God’s very nature.

End of Same Sex and the Same Church – Part I (Part II on next Migrant issue)