Even though fall has just barely begun here in the northern hemisphere, an annual spring tradition is causing quite a stir in New York City and across the vast realm of the internet. Archbishop of New York, Timothy Cardinal Dolan, has been asked to be the Grand Marshal of the 2015 New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Simultaneously, the Parade Committee has made the decision “to allow a group of self-identified Gays of Irish ancestry to march in the parade with their own banner.” Previously, the Committee “had a long-standing policy that banned most forms of political signs and self-identification.” In light of this later development, Cardinal Dolan writes, many critics have urged him to refuse the honor of Grand Marshal.

However, in the Cardinal Column for the Archdiocese of New York, Cardinal Dolan explains the decision to continue to serve as Grand Marshal. “The most important question I had to ask myself was this: does the new policy violate Catholic faith or morals?” writes Cardinal Dolan. “From my review, it does not. Catholic teaching is clear: ‘being Gay’ is not a sin, nor contrary to God’s revealed morals. Homosexual actions are,” Cardinal Dolan continues. In summary of his reasoning, Cardinal Dolan reiterates, “So, while actions are immoral, identity is not! In fact, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us, people with same-sex attraction are God’s children, deserving dignity and respect, never to be treated with discrimination or injustice.” This quotation from the Catechism is indeed important to this situation. However, paragraph 2358 of the Catechism is not the extent of the Church’s teaching on homosexuality.

In the very next paragraph, the Catechism states “Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.” Those who identify themselves as “gay” are called to leave their life of disordered affections just as every other person is called to leave behind our disordered affections.

It can be tempting to posit a broad demarcation between action and identity, especially when it comes to discussing the emotionally charged and culturally prevalent issue of homosexuality. However, the Church warns of the danger to taking “an overly benign interpretation…[of] the homosexual condition.” In the Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons (which I have quoted before, and urge anyone interested in this issue to read,) the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith writes: “Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.”

While saying “I am gay” does not, in and of itself, constitute a sin, it does associate oneself with an “objective disorder.” Belief in Christ and the accompanying new life in the Holy Spirit calls one to leave behind all such disorders so that moral life might be “increased and brought to maturity in grace.”

It is for this reason that words, definitions, terms, and identifications should be used carefully and deliberately. We must also be wary of identifying ourselves or others by small aspects of our lives, thought processes, and emotions. The true identity of every person is their creation in the image of the immortal God, separation from him through sin, the offer of redemption through his Son, and sanctification and restoration through the Holy Spirit and sacramental graces.