Guest columnist || Amanda Lee
Photo from http://badcatholic.co
Living out my Catholic identity on the Yale-NUS Campus has been a difficult and wonderful experience.
It has been wonderful because people are open to listening. I’ve shared my beliefs, about how we honor but not worship Mother Mary, about the structure of mass, about the Divine Office, Sacraments, confession, adoration, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church to people who listen with an open heart.
It has been wonderful because I share my life on campus with people who have become close to my heart and teach me Christ’s love every day.
It has been difficult because it is tiring. There is little time to work out issues brought up in class or in conversation. For example, last week, homosexuality and gender were in the forefront of my Understanding Behavior and Cognition (UBC) and Modern Social Thought classes. Thinking about these issues in light of my faith was extremely time consuming, and with pressing deadlines and duties, I wanted to give up.
However, I thought about the openness of my classmates as they listened as I shared the source of my identity: Christ and the Catholic Church. Was that not tiring and time consuming as well? Did they not have deadlines, duties and thoughts to work out after having opened their heart to my sharing?
If Pope Francis has taught me anything, it is that we must wage war not against each other but the demons that exist in the world, and more importantly, against the demons that live within us. I realized slowly that the battle was not to convince all, but to make sure my heart and mind were aligned.
In UBC class I discovered how much hurt can stem from the use of language such as “abnormal”. Even though we don’t mean for a word to hold a value judgment, it often does. Same-sex attraction is often perceived as either “innate” or “chosen”. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, in fact, acknowledges that:
People do not choose their homosexual condition…
-Catechism of the Catholic Church 2357
I have been trying to read and listen to the stories of love, forgiveness, and struggle of the many Catholics who experience same-sex attraction and trans-genderism. The Singapore Archdiocese is opening up conversations about same-sex attraction and transgenderism, and trying to welcome and walk with those who were previously discriminated and hurt by some in the Catholic community.
The central call of the Catholic Church is to uphold the dignity of a human person. It is where all her teachings on social justice and sexuality stem from. Instead of building walls of pride, hurt and laziness, Pope Francis calls us to build bridges of discomfort and awkward conversations. Doctrines form the basic understanding of my faith, but real life is messier and more colorful than the basic guidelines to my belief. The best way for doctrines to be lived and contemplated is to journey together.
In the Church, we often note that those who experience same-sex attraction are called to chastity. We forget: The Church holds all humanity to the standard of chastity.
Chastity, the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being.
-Catechism of the Catholic Church 2337
To quote the mighty Chesterton, chastity does not mean abstention from sexual wrong; it means something flaming, like Joan of Arc. I have fallen terribly short of chastity. I continue to do so every day. I am fortunate to have my Ubi Caritas (YNC Catholic Society) and friends from YNC who unconditionally support me through my struggle; and it is my greatest hope that our community will be a place where we can find these support systems and walk together. I want to share my struggle with those of you who struggle.
Yes, I have questions and struggles that I might never be able to answer in my short lifetime. Nevertheless, I have come to recognize that paradoxes are not a sign of inconsistency, but function as a relentless urge in our yearning for integrity. Paradoxes force us to never stop communicating with each other. Just as the Synod of Bishops are discoursing in the Vatican about how best to serve this historically marginalized community who struggle against societal and religious discrimination (often stemming from the Church itself), so must the discourse continue in the world, in Asia, in this community of learning, and most importantly, within our hearts.