Wednesday, November 23, 2005

At Last....

...John Allen breaks his silence.

While clearly rejecting the ordination of persons with "deep-seated homosexual tendencies," the document nevertheless falls short of an outright ban on gay candidates. Aside from making a distinction regarding "transitory" tendencies, the document also specifies that it is still up to bishops and religious superiors to make judgments about whether individual candidates have obtained the "affective maturity" to be priests.

The document states that "it remains understood that the candidate himself is primarily responsible for his own formation." ....

"An honest reading of the document shows that the Vatican is simply banning gays," said Jesuit Fr. James Martin [an associate editor of America]. "The ‘application' of the document, even the portion of the document that says that rectors are ultimately responsible for their men, will be meaningless: No emotionally mature gay applicant these days will want to enter."

"The passage that states that gay men per se are cannot ‘correctly' relate to men and women will certainly cause anguish to the many celibate gay priests already working in ministry in the church," Martin said.

Experts on church documents note that this instruction was not explicitly published in forma specifica, which would mean that although a text was prepared by a Vatican office, the pope has invested it with his personal authority. Arguably, therefore, the instruction remains a document of a Vatican agency, and in that sense slightly more open to future revision.

In terms of how absolute the effect of the instruction will be, some canon lawyers point to the similar case offered by recent Vatican rulings on the ordination of men who are coeliacs, meaning wheat-intolerant, or alcoholics.

On August 22, 1994, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a seemingly absolute ban on such candidates, stating, "Given the centrality of the celebration of the Eucharist in the life of the priest, candidates for the priesthood who are affected by celiac disease or suffer from alcoholism or similar conditions may not be admitted to holy orders."

After much reaction and debate, however, the congregation issued a new document on July 24, 2003, which softened the ruling: "Given the centrality of the celebration of the Eucharist in the life of a priest, one must proceed with great caution before admitting to Holy Orders those candidates unable to ingest gluten or alcohol without serious harm," it stated.

Hmm. You may discuss.



Blogger Disgusted in DC said...

I wasn't aware that a new statement on the ordination of *alcoholics* came out a few years ago. I guess we won't be hearing many comparisons between SSAs and alcoholics from those who support the banning of the former like we used to.

But, there is an instructive point of comparison here. I always thought it was odd to ban someone with celiac disease or alcoholism as such from the priesthood. I mean, whose definition of alcoholism counts exactly? How much celiac disease matters? A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, but I recall that when interpreting restrictions in church doctrines, one must do so strictly (narrowly). The narrow reading of the alcoholic and celiac ban is that only those alcoholics and those celiacs who simply cannot carry out the duties of the priesthood ought not to be admitted And that interpretation seems to have prevailed 10 years later. It seems to me that a similar approach should be used with respect to "profoundly deep-seated homosexual tendencies," i.e. tendencies which are so all-consuming that one can't function in the priesthood.

That's almost certainly not the interpretation intended by the Congregation for Education as per James Martin's comments. However, it is the responsibility of the Congregation to draft their instructions precisely and, to the extent that the terms are ambiguous, the Bishops and seminary rectors should feel free to interpret them strictly. If the Congregation doesn't like that interpretation, then they can clarify down the road.

Needless to say, it is a horrible instruction.

23/11/05 17:14  
Blogger Jeff said...

"Needless to say, it is a horrible instruction."

How marvellously cheery that Patrick isn't pretending to like it! The best he can come up with is a justification for creative attempts at stuffing one's ears with one's fingers and saying, "Nee-nur, nee-nur, I can't heeeeeear you!" Of course, he and all the other dissidents can hear perfectly well, as all the kiddies who pull this stunt can.

Even John Allen's uncharacteristic attempt at spin control comes off as half-hearted. I suppose it's true that the document could be revised in the future. For those who believe that deep-seated homosexuality is on a level with allergy to wheat in the Economy of Salvation this may provide a slender reed of comfort to grasp at for those who are not so comfortable with pretending that "No" means something other than "No."

So far the hideous, evil, vicious, demonic, compulsively-readable Uncle Diogenes is the only one to note one very important fact. This present instruction *CITES* the 2002 Letter from CDW which states in pertinent part: "A homosexual person, or one with a homosexual tendency is not fit to receive the sacrament of Holy Orders." Far from being a departure, then, from that previous letter, this is a REAFFIRMATION of that ban (on theological grounds) and, in combination with the 1962(?) Instruction, it's beginning to look like a solid precedential trail has been established across several decades. Not just, "No,", but "No, no, NO!"

And so the slender reed of hope begins to bend... Perhaps it would be best just to let go and be carried along with the stream? Go with the flow and "Think with the Church; Sentire cum Ecclesia"? No? Better to hang on til the last frayed fiber of rootlet parts from its muddy anchor?

Oh well, some people will never learn...

24/11/05 00:36  
Blogger Your local canonist said...

Paragraph five states:

"Experts on church documents note that this instruction was not explicitly published in forma specifica, which would mean that although a text was prepared by a Vatican office, the pope has invested it with his personal authority."

The opposite is true. If it was approved by the Pope 'in forma specifica' he has invested it with his own personal authority.

If it was not approved by the Pope 'in forma specifica' it is NOT invested with the Pope's personal authority.

This is important as it goes to the weight and legislative authority of the document. A document which has not been approved 'in forma specifica' issued by a Roman Discastery carries a good deal of weight, obviously. However, with out the 'in forma specifica' it does not create new law.

While I have not seen an official copy of the document under discussion and can't comment on it specifically. The authority of the approval 'in forma specifica' is a settled question of law. Look for it on your next Roman document!


24/11/05 19:39  
Blogger Brian said...

In the following quotation, I am assuming that the leaked version of the Congregation for Catholic Education's Instruction and Mr Robert Micken's translation are accurate.

"[T]he Church . . . cannot admit to Seminary or Holy Orders those who are actively homosexual, have deep-seated homosexual tendencies, or support the so-called gay culture. Such people, in fact, find themselves in a situation that seriously obstructs them from properly relating to men and women."

This statement is appallingly offensive. It is beyond belief that a credible institution could say such a thing. I leave aside the question as to what is meant by 'gay culture'. The Instruction seems to say that no gay man (or woman?) is capable of "properly relating" to any other person. Or rather that their gayness "seriously obstructs" them from such relationships.

I am a gay man. Am I not capable of love and caring relationship with my siblings or father? What was I doing when I visited the bedside of my mother as her life was approaching its end, and prayed with her? Was I not properly relating to my niece when I cared for her as a small child? How was it possible for me to listen and talk with my best friend as he considered marriage to another dear friend? (I was best man at the wedding.) And have I not had love and "proper relationship" with my partner, as we have shared all that we have and all that we are for almost a decade?

If Benedict XVI has in any way sanctioned these words, he no longer has a shred of credibility.

24/11/05 21:07  
Blogger Jeff said...


Sorry if you think it's appallingly offensive, but the fact that some Catholics are shocked!, shocked!, by such stuff just shows the need for the document and more like it. Homosexuality is a very serious disorder, that's what the Church teaches. If you thought that it didn't or if you think there is something new about this document, you are really fooling yourself. Odd if there were a disorder that had no effect and no implications for the soul and the personality, right? No one says you are not capable of goodness or even holiness, just that you have a disorder which has serious implications for those things. People afflicted with EVERY kind of sin and disorder are still capable of acts of goodness, right? Why should a homosexual orientation be any different?

As for the sanction of the Pope, all questions of "forma specifica" aside, do you think it was done behind his back? Obviously, he sanctions it and approves it. If he DIDN'T sanction it or approve it and permitted it to be released by his Dicastery, THEN he really WOULDN'T have much credibility.

24/11/05 23:04  
Blogger Ben said...

Brian, if you have disordered 'feelings' toward men or disordered atractions toward men, and as the Church has always taught these disorders are improper, then how can you have proper relationships with these same men? If you have a 'partner', which the church teaches is a disordered and sinfull relationship, how can you say that this same relationship is proper with it being unnatural and disordered?

I am not articulate enough to explain it now, especially at this late hour, but lets think about how 'gay' men relate and interact with women. They relate on a feminine level that doesn't bring the balance of the male and female how God created us. They are basically 'women' in men's bodies.(I admit this is not exactly all of them and it is a generalization). All the problems men and women have together, being opposites and complimentary, aren't much there. I guess you can say that it is hard for them to interact with them as men. Of course women like this(a new shopping buddy) but the fact is that they do not have a real man to woman relationship. These 'gay' men can never marry a woman in this disordered state because of the 'feelings' they have for the same sex. Regular women can't marry these 'gay' men because A. they don't want to marry the women and B. because these women want a straight man. I could also add that 'gay' and 'straight' men don't usually have healthy relationships. The basic truth is that proper relationships can't exist very well with disordered desires present.

I could go on for days but, how can 'gay' men have a regular healthy relationship with men or women the way God created us to have relationships. I don't follow that any of this can ever be seen as natural, healthy, proper or ordered the way God estabished it.


25/11/05 00:29  
Blogger Gotpraecht said...

Jeff and Ben,
Your postings have all the iron logic of the seven-day creationist who refuses to credit any empirical evidence that won't fit within his pre-determined system.

This is not to say that there is not a kind of fundamentalist disbelief that is guilty of exactly the same thing, but I would suggest that it is not, finally, Catholic to ignore the empirical evidence that gay people can and do relate to other men and women in a perfectly healthy way.

It is just no good to bang on about sentire cum ecclesia as if this was some kind of mandate to leave one's brain at the church door. If 16th century natural philosophers sensissent cum ecclesia then we would still be living in a pre-Copernican universe.

Why is it so apparently easy for most Catholics to accept changes to the church's long-standing tradition on other ethical and scientific matters and yet so impossible for us to raise questions about traditional sexual ethics?

I notice that for many of the posters here and elsewhere in the Catholic blogosphere, it seems possible to contemplate only two kinds of gay (or straight) sex: there is either unfettered licence with all kinds of attendant debauchery, or traditional marriage. The former makes a convenient straw man -- what Catholic, gay or straight, would want that? -- but it scarcely represents anything that Catholic gay people, their families and friends would recognise.

This applies as well to church documents on homosexuality that seem to envisage only two kinds of gay person: the tortured soul and the militant queer. Like the witch and her succubus for the 17th century, these stereotypes may create a certain frisson, but the reality for most gay Catholics, their families and friends is a lot more drab and ordinary.

And it is on account of that sheer ordinariness -- neither better nor worse than any other Catholic -- that I believe that gay Catholics will eventually win this argument.

25/11/05 04:25  
Blogger Fred said...

The former Master of the Dominicans Fr Timothy Radcliffe says that "there is the question of “spiritual fatherhood”. This is not a concept with which I am familiar."

I'm saddened but not surprised by Fr. Radcliffe's (apparently willful) ignorance of Christian formation. Anyone seeking to know more about the venerable traditon of spiritual fatherhood would do well to read Marko Ivan Rupnik's "In the Fire of the Burning Bush: An Initiation to the Spiritual Life."

25/11/05 11:21  
Blogger Socius said...

Let's begin with the Church's moral teaching that homosexual acts, like adultery, masturbation, and fornication, are all serious errors in the moral life, indeed, are mortal sins which make one unfit to receive communion.

If you don't begin with agreeing with this truth and attempting, within a Catholic tradition of moral reflection and spiritual life, to consider how an individual faced with sexual temptations can overcome them--whether by resisting them or by overcoming and uprooting immoral passions--then it doe not make much sense to listen to your arguments about gay priests. The whole question about gay culture is that of gay ideology, which is pretty much of the same essence as all permissive, modern, secular ideology about sex.

I don't see that Ratcliffe holds to the traditional view of the sinful nature of homosexual activity and the gay life style. Without holding to this, its all sophistry.

25/11/05 17:19  
Blogger Jeff said...


I'm all in favor of dialog on this issue. I can't imagine that there could be a serious question about it, but if someone wants to make the case, I'll listen.

The difficulty is, people on your side of the "issue" rarely trouble even to PRETEND to make a case. They just fall back on sneers and accusations of 'homophobia' and other such things; they try to snuff out discussion rather than engage in any. Charges of "fundamentalism" are no more convincing than the other "shaming" tactics.

I think someone who wants to propose that the Church's teaching on homosexuality from Leviticus to this latest instruction can change has the burden of proof and ought to start with that in mind. He ought to be sensible of the tremendous weight of Tradition on the other side.

And he ought to be thoroughly conscious that he might be wrong and if he IS wrong, then he's defending something dreadfully destructive.

Traditional sexual ethics are central to the Church's whole history of moral teaching; a quick perusal of the Gospels--from John and Herod to the admonitions concerning the last days--and the Letters of Paul make that obvious from the get-go. The case that there has been a big "hang-up" on that issue has to contend with the fact that this has been a characteristic theme in our religion from the beginning.

So: People who want to make a case that in spite of all this and in spite of absolutely clear condemnation of homosexuality in every mention by every teacher of the Old and New Testaments and every Father, Doctor and Pope who mentions it that it might be neutral or good on some occasions are welcome to do so. But start out acknowledging that there is considerable merit to the other side of the debate. That's an honest beginning. The shaming and sneering isn't. It's the kind of game people with a very weak hand generally play--people who know that their only hope is bluffing the other players into folding.

No folding here, partner. Cards on the table; show whatcha got.

26/11/05 01:19  
Blogger Atiyah said...

The Church has had a variety of positions on human sexuality actually her current position is quite different from her early position. For most of her history she has rationalised slavery and racism too. Now in relation to these she adopts a position that more truly reflects her fundamental message and mission. She will do the same on the issue of homosexuality in time.

BTW nice blog Rocco. But slapping the 'French cuff set' and then drooling over nice cufflinks oneself ummmm. And this conservative baiting that is engaged in it is a bit like bear baiting … it’s just not done:)

26/11/05 03:23  
Blogger Gotpraecht said...

Dear Jeff,

I'm not sure that this is the place to start a debate on the issue of homosexuality as such. However, I will try to summarise my position as briefly as possible below.

I take the following as basic starting points: that Scripture is the Word of God, that it needs to be interpreted in the light of Tradition and by the church, and that I might be wrong.

I also begin from the premise that the truth, whether of faith or reason is ultimately one -- even if and when this is not apparent to us. However, I also believe that we should always resist the temptation to force the two, or elements of either into a premature coherence.

I am dismayed at the tendency towards group-think, stereotype and authoritarianism on both sides of the debate.

I also accept that the Tradition on the morality of homosexual sex, particularly between men, stands overwhelmingly on your side rather than mine.

I also accept that there have been some rather poor efforts to rewrite the history of the Tradition, to make it more congenial to some modern assumptions.

On the other hand, I don't accept that the shape of the Christian tradition on sexual morality is nearly as stable or as central as you assume, and, as an historian, I believe that in general one should treat claims that things have, "always been the same" with considerable suspicion.

The church's prohibition lending money at interest was constant until the 15th century, but underwent some very careful and nuanced reworking. Likewise the church's teaching on the natural physical and intellectual inferiority of women (as distinct from their spiritual equality). The latter is now being subtly reworked, though advocates of a theology of the body don't realise quite how radically.

While I think that some attempts to explain away the Biblical texts on the "liberal" side of this debate have been hamfisted, their use on the "conservative" side of the debate often amounts to prooftexting with little serious consideration of context or the historical/cultural assumptions that have underwritten the use of the text in the tradition.

How much of the Levitical law applies to Christians has been contested throughout Christian history and even tidy distinctions between moral, judicial and ceremonial law have a large element of the arbitrary about them. We don't observe other Levitical rules on sexual purity (though Christians have often tried in the past). Why this one?

Another example is St.Paul's reference to male homosexuality in Romans 1. It is unequivocal, but when read in the context of the whole chapter -- a critique of idolatry -- it is clear that St. Paul regards the men in question as unbelievers who have made a conscious decision to abandon sex with women and have it with men instead. The reference to homosexual sex comes from a stock Jewish critique of paganism and is not central to St. Paul's argument, but an illustration of his central theme. Does this text really apply to the devout Catholic man from a devout and healthy Catholic family, who after years's of celibacy still finds himself exclusively attracted to men? If you have not met and talked with such individuals, then I would question your commitment to this dialogue.

There's, of course, not the space to go through all of the texts. All I can say is that there is much serious scholarship on these questions. To dismiss all of it as liberal special-pleading would be no fairer than for me to judge the conservative case on the basis of some of the, frankly, demented or pusillanimous tripe that is aired in the Catholic blogosphere.

Finally, while I accept your claim that I should take seriously the implications of my being wrong, your side also has to take this seriously. In some (though not all) cases homosexual relationships conform at least to all the rational criteria for "goodness."
Your side are asking those involved in such relationships to abandon them and commit themselves to celibacy, whether or not they believe themselves to have such a vocation.

Jesus speaks harshly against those who impose impossible burdens on others yet do not lift a finger to relieve them (Matt 23:4). It was after meeting and talking with good and holy gay couples (in so far as one can ever judge the holiness of another human being) and considering this verse that I took the risk of changing my mind.

26/11/05 07:38  
Blogger Ben said...


We are all sexually attracted to somebody. I, being married, find myself sexually atracted to other women. Do I have to act on it. Is it an impossible burden to demand that I not have sexual relations with them? When I was married or say I never got married, would it be an impossible burden for me to HAVE to live a celibate life?

Where do you get your ideas from faith? Where do you get your ideas about reason? I think Jeff was asking for phylisophical and faith reasons for your ideas. Where in our Catholic faith do you see homosexual sex understaood as a good thing from God? Where in natural law(reason) does homosexual sex fit in? It is clear what the Church has always taught. It is clearr that homosexual sex is unnatural. That is the basics of faith and reason.

Are you trying to say that Paul would be on your side on this issue and that the Church has been screwed all these years? What would Paul say about the Church teachings today and how would he fit in our discussion. Just trying to disprove the common understanding of scripture is not good enough. Show how homosexual sex fits in God's plan for Christian marriage, love, procreation and salvation and show how Paul and the rest of scripture back up your ideas.

What you are doing is sticking up for your "feelings" and
"wants" and "desires". Instead of hearing and adhering to truths that YOU find difficult because of your own desires to live otherwise.

You also say (about romans 1).

"Does this text really apply to the devout Catholic man from a devout and healthy Catholic family, who after years's of celibacy still finds himself exclusively attracted to men?"

Yes it does. There temptation is to do something that Paul condemns. This person can avoid sin by rejecting these evil thoughts. If one gives into evil thoughts and desires he is no longer devout(unless he cofesses his sin or course). To be devout one must strive to live the teachings of the church and seek holiness. You also once said there were

"good and holy gay couples"

This is impossible. There are no holy actively gay people. You may think otherwise but that is itself an unholy thought.

Your reading of Romans is ironical! (I think I just made that word up). Paul talks about how those that don't seek to listen and follow God in revelation and nature but do the oppposite will be given up to there dishonorable passions. I think you find yourself living within the condemnation of this scripture which you use to justify your deplorable possition. I, like Paul, am not ashamed of the Gospel. In this case the Gospel of the moral law. Don't begin to judge me because I aply it to myself also and find myself in the pathetic state of telling my sins to a priest very offen. Holiness is the constant seeking of the perfection which Christ is willing to give us.

26/11/05 13:45  
Blogger Jeff said...

Mr. Gotpraecht:

Very good. I take my hat off to you for continuing a civil dialog on this subject. Here’s my response.

As you note, it’s hard to carry on a dialog on this subject in the comments box. But it’s worth a try anyway, if only to show that it can be done. In brief therefore:

I don’t agree that we are both in the position of having to “consider what would happen if we are wrong.” That’s because I think we must approach consistent Church teaching presented authoritatively as Truth. Even if a Catholic finds himself in the difficult and anomalous position of “stretching the boundaries” on some particular issue, he should expect to be greeted with howls of outrage.

We do have a position of the sufficiency of language to express, though not to exhaust, Truth, stretching back at least to the Council of Nicaea, if not before. We are a Church of dogmas and doctrines.

The fact that certain doctrines are susceptible of some development does not mean that EVERY doctrine is susceptible of EVERY development. If that were true, we would not have any propositional truths to defend, just opinions to contest. Maybe you think that’s where we’re headed. But it seems to me you can hardly demand that everyone recognize that or be consigned to hoi “fundamentalist” polloi.

So, I consider your arguments on this particular issue and find them completely unpersuasive. Thus I am left in the position I started with. Homosexual activity is profoundly evil and to be condemned. Homosexual inclinations are grave disorders and to be treated as other inclinations to evil are treated.


Doctrine regarding complex social issues like “religious freedom” or “slavery” is especially susceptible to development because they involve the relation of very complex concepts to complex situations. How “freedom” relates to “conscience” and “the common good” are not easy questions to pin down with simple doctrinal formulations. Those of our Fathers who explained WHY usury was wrong over the ages explained that it involved taking advantage of people’s needs for gain. If someone in trouble comes to you for grocery money and you charge them interest, you’ve still committed a mortal sin even today. The last word on usury has certainly not been said and the laxism toward it today is hardly a new Doctrine.

I don’t agree that there was definitive Church teaching on the “intellectual and physical equality” of women with men—as opposed to suppositions or explications thereof—nor do I think there is definitive teaching on it today. There really is not sufficient room to do more than touch on this subject, but suffice it to say that agelong teaching concerning the the union of the two into one flesh through the sexual act, the marital duty of one spouse toward the other where the satisfaction of longings is concerned, not to mention the sacramentality of the Marriage bond sealed with the sexual act itself leave plenty of room for development into the present rich vein without in any way being seen as contradicting the Tradition of the Church on this subject.

Your exegesis of Romans is not new to me, but I must say, I find it one of the most tendentious pieces of Scripture “scholarship” I have ever seen. I can’t imagine anyone who didn’t have a point to prove about homosexuality accepting yours as a plausible reading for one moment. I mean, for heaven’s sake, the whole point of the passage is not, “These things are evil for idolators”, it’s BECAUSE these sinners rejected belief in God that they became idolators. THEREFORE, God delivered them up to uncleanness, to wit dishonoring their bodies. Women acted AGAINST NATURE. In like manner, men were given up to the unnatural lusts (“filthy”, Paul calls them). This is their PUNISHMENT for their perversity. There is a long list of sins including avarice, envy, contention, deceit, etc. which would have to be treated in the same fashion as homosexual acts, but which are no more susceptible to such treatment than the sexual sins in question.

If one looks to see whether there is any SIGN of changing Church doctrine on this subject being accepted by the Church today, I would have to say there is nothing of the kind. On all these “outrageous” sexual questions the Church’s teaching is still that we are gravely bound by absolute, objective norms and that situational analysis doesn’t apply. The consistency of teaching on homosexuality is, I submit, far more obviously consistent “at all times and everywhere” than that on contraception and women’s ordination, which have been about as definitively settled on the basis of the ordinary magisterium could possibly be without explicitly invoking ex cathedra infallibility.

I can’t admit that anything is up for grabs if we have difficulty understanding it or if our mind rebels. So I can’t accept the characterization of “checking our minds at the door.” There are things to be accepted, whether we like them or not. I can’t see any reason why you or I or anyone else should be so confident in our own individual judgment on these matters that we can’t imagine being wrong or that we consider it likelier that thousands of years of Jewish and Christian tradition are wrong rather than that sex-crazed, relativistic secular society is wrong. And that tradition—in contrast to so many others—has always taught a harsh and restrictive doctrine of sexual morality which has been decried as unlivable and impossible and cruel. It still teaches it today.

One of the many mysteries of sin is that people can commit certain sins and simultaneously exhibit striking virtues. That doesn't mean the sins aren't sins. Of course, I have met and read gay people who exhibit virtues. There are also gay people who admit that there something peculiarly unhealthy and demoralizing about their urges but who are derided and discouraged from seeking help because the dogmatism of the day will tell them that it's merely a question of unalterable nature. Shall I accuse you of a "lack of commitment to dialog" if you do not acknowledge them in a way that satisfies me? I think it's better that we leave all that stuff to one side.

If I don't see any objection from you, Mr. G., I'll have this exchange posted in the next couple of days in a deep backwater of the blogosphere in the unlikely event that anyone wishes to make any further commentary on it. In any case, I thank you again for your concessions, your erudition, and your civilized tone.

27/11/05 14:55  
Blogger Jeff said...

I want to add one more thing.

My wife's cousin is married to an Anglican clergyman. He is in NO sense of the word a fundamentalist on any doctrine, from Christology to morality. After years of pastoral counseling of homosexuals, he came to doubt his conviction that homosexuality was a version of the normal. It seemed to him that homosexuals were in fact a miserable and tortured lot and that this was not caused by social pressure, but by the condition itself. He was remonstrating with one gay person, trying to help him adjust to his homosexual nature and was met with the response, "NO! NO! You don't understand! It's HORRIBLE, HORRIBLE!"

For an example of one of the "transitional gays" mentioned in the document, see this Amazon review (you'll have to piece it together):

27/11/05 15:41  
Blogger Atiyah said...

You assert consistency where there is none on issues of sexuality. The early Church taught that you should leave your wife and family (indeed Jesus insisted some of the Apostles do just that - ummm Jesus a family wreaker!) and to pursue the ideal Christian life. Remember all those chaste hermetic men living in caves? She then relented a little and conceded that chastity within marriage was acceptable but not ideal. She then taught that sex was ok but solely and exclusively for the purposes of reproduction. Latterly she recognizes the twin purposes of procreation and bonding and this notion of procreative potential which is actually coda for situations were no reproduction is possible actually it just looks like it. What need does a creator have for “procreational potential”? How do you square non-procreational potential of post menopausal women who still (if you didn’t realize it) enjoy orgasm? The existence of the orgasm means God intends them to still be capable of have sex despite not being able to have children.

Whilst you can potentially but problematically assert natural law (laws derived divinely) you cannot assert nature as homosexuality is as best as we can tell a natural phenomenon, occurring since the beginning of time, across races, ethic and cultural groups (including in other high functioning species) at a consistent rate of the population whatever prevailing taboos, with the same incidences of sexual expression within that population. Empirical evidence (reason) weighs heavily against the Church on the issue of homosexuality.

The assertions of natural law is problematic because if homosexuality is not part of God’s plan for humanity then why does He created them and why has He done so consistently and appears to be still doing so? Sexual arousal by persons of the same sex is true to the God given nature of homosexual men and women as is are those of the opposite sex to heterosexuals.

As for likening homosexuality to the wondering eye of a married man as he leers or lusts after another women …. get a grip. By reducing homosexuality to lust you are unable to conceive that homosexuals can love each other in a manner that is health and appropriate for them. In this regard best evidence is against you. Nor are they innately unhappy but they do lack role models and face prejudice and discrimination all of which is unhealthy.

27/11/05 22:15  
Blogger Gotpraecht said...


If you interpreted my take on Romans as meaning that “These things are evil for idolators" [sc. only] that's not what I meant. Perhaps I could have been clearer.

I think we probably agree that what St. Paul means is that: men become homosexuals (as well as unjust, rotten, greedy etc.) when they abandon worship of the true God for idolatry.

To put it another way: original sin leads to idolatry, idolatry leads to homosexual sex and various other things which I suspect we'd all agree are sinful.

For more on this, see: Martti Nissinsen, Homoeroticism in the Biblical World: a Historical Perspective.

I emphasise that I am not asking, "what would St. Paul have thought if he knew what we knew...?" That is simply an anachronistic kind of question and impermissible from my perspective as an historian.

What I am asking is: does Paul's analysis of homosexuality and its origins correspond with what we know to be the case now?

Here I am making an explicit and unashamed appeal to the scientific evidence on the grounds that this is an entirely legitimate appeal for a Catholic (as opposed to a fideist Protestant) to make.

I suspect that here we should first of all stop swapping anecdotes. You seem to know some gay miserabilists. I know some apparently perfectly happy and well adjusted ones. So what, either way?

The scientific evidence is of course mixed, and I would never suggest that one can or should argue straight from science to morality. However, I hope you will not mind me, a Scot, saying, that public discourse in the United States seems, as far as I can see, blighted by a weird hybrid of fideism and postmodern relativism in that, if you don't like what science tells you, you tend to shoot the messenger. If, for example, a scientist claims that some gays can become straight, then "he would say that, because he's a "fundamentalist"/Catholic, or whatever. But conversely, if the psychological establishment tells us that gay people can be and are perfectly well adjusted and healthy, then, "they would say that because they are part of the grand secular liberal establishment conspiracy."

Again, I suggest that either approach has more in common with Protestant sectarianism and fideism with its love of the conspiracy theory, than with any genuinely Catholic approach to reason and natural law.

Furthermore, it seems to me that a fair reading of the available scientific literature would suggest that:

for some people sexuality is fluid and thus changeable;

for some it is fixed;

for some there seems to be some genetic and physiological component in sexuality, though, like human behaviour in general, it can't simply be reduced to these;

finally, for some gay people a gay sexual orientation brings with it few other disadvantages than, say, deafness, and, in particular, does not seem to affect their chances of psychological adjustment and happiness in so far as these can be measured by purely rational standards.

Now (and I hope that this doesn't stray too far back into the realm of the anecdotal) I and others (e.g. Kevin Kelly, New Directions in Sexual Ethics) see at least prima facie evidence that some homosexual relationships display and may even produce fruits that we would regard as good even by an appeal to the data of revelation alone. For example, the "peace, patience, kindness, goodness etc." of Galatians 5:22.

While I freely grant you that we can see every day pathological manifestations of homosexuality (as well as heterosexuality and sexual behaviour in general) I simply want to suggest that the evidence of reason, indeed perhaps reason informed by faith, does not, for me at least, square with what I find in Romans 1.

Does that mean I am contemptuous of Biblical authority? Only if I am contemptuous of Biblical authority when I suggest that Genesis is not scientifically or generally historically acurate (and not even the current pope thinks it is). Only if I am wrong to suggest, as the theologians of the body do, that we can retain the ethos of Paul's teaching on gender without accepting the naturalistic assumptions that underwrite it in Paul and in the wider tradition.

(And by the way, the Tradition has far more to say about the natural inferiority of women than the immorality of homosexual sex, and says it no less definitively -- however you define definitively)

It may be constructive to compare this debate with that over Abortion, on which, I'm sure you'll be relieved to know, I stand 100% with the church. My views on abortion don't make me popular with my friends. My views on homosexuality are usually more amenable to them. Why am I prepared to stick my neck out on one and not the other? At least one of the reasons is that I am confident of being able to make my case about abortion rationally, without an appeal to "the Bible says," or "the Tradition/Magisterium says" argumentation. If your believe that this is an illegitimate thing to do, then the whole of the Catholic Contra Gentiles tradition of argumentation is illegitimate. If there is a convincing rational demonstration of the necessary intrinsic evil of gay sex, then I have yet to see it. Although, until 10 years ago, I tried to argue the church's position on homosexuality on rational grounds, I realised that I couldn't do so without feeling embarrassed and a complete fraud.

I've taken up far too much room and time, so won't go any further, though there's something I would like to say to Ben.

Yes, it is certainly the case that most Catholics will have to live in chaste celibacy at some time in their lives. However, no-one, apart from homosexuals, is asked to live in celibacy for his/her whole life, whether or not he or she has the gift for this.
The nearest heterosexual case is the divorced Catholic, and even that individual has had one crack at an intimate sexual relationship. I suppose you could either assume that homosexuals can all convert and get married (and the evidence for this possibility seems slim in many if not most cases) or you could claim that all homosexual people ipso facto are granted the gift of celibacy. Perhaps you believe this to be so, but you must still at least consider how, prior to marriage, you might have reacted if you had been told that you would not be allowed to be married, and whether or not you might have become a miserablist thereafter.

28/11/05 12:23  

Post a Comment

<< Home