‘Amoris Laetitia’ and gay marriage: a closer look

Cambridge, MA—Like many of you, I have not had time yet to digest "Amoris Laetitia," Pope Francis’ loving and open apostolic exhortation on the family, in response to the Synod on the Family. Like many commentators, and like you who are reading this, I am grateful for his charitable and sensitive tone. I admire his ability to thread the needle, so to speak, engaging complex moral issues for the sake of a global church with great skill. It will take a while for us to digest it, and I look forward to discussions on it in parishes, on campus, etc.

Here I would like to comment on the opening sentences in No. 251, on gay marriage—or the impossibility thereof. In discussing the dignity and mission of the family, the Synod Fathers observed that, “as for proposals to place unions between homo­sexual persons on the same level as marriage, there are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for mar­riage and family.”

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As you know, I am not an ethicist, nor even a very practical person, so I do not wish here to engage the substance of the debate about gay marriage as a legal, moral and religious issue. But I can, simply as a reader, make three points. First, I cannot help but be struck by the rather formal, one might say cold, tone of the paragraph. It seems to be out of keeping with Francis’ ordinary way of speaking, and seems to be in contrast with the preceding paragraph, which had a warm tone to it:

The Church makes her own the atti­tude of the Lord Jesus, who offers his bound­less love to each person without exception. During the Synod, we discussed the situation of families whose members include persons who experience same-sex attraction, a situation not easy either for parents or for children. We would like before all else to reaffirm that every person, regardless of sexual orientation, ought to be respected in his or her dignity and treated with consideration, while ‘every sign of unjust discrimination’ is to be carefully avoided, par­ticularly any form of aggression and violence. Such families should be given respectful pasto­ral guidance, so that those who manifest a ho­mosexual orientation can receive the assistance they need to understand and fully carry out God’s will in their lives (No. 250).

I note, too, that No. 250 twice speaks in the first person: “we discussed” and “we would like before all else to reaffirm…” No. 251 is by contrast more distant, lacking the “we,” instead simply observing that “the Synod Father observed…” It may be too much to read into the choice of words, but perhaps Francis is implicitly distancing himself from the judgment passed in No. 251.

Second, No. 251 proceeds by way of quotation, and text scholar that I am, I could not help but trace the quote that makes up the bulk of it. It is indeed quoted first of all from the 2015 Synod document:

Regarding proposals to place unions of homosexual persons on the same level as marriage, “there are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God's plan for marriage and family” (No. 76).

But this in turn is also a quote, from the 2003 Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith statement, Considerations Regarding Proposals To Give Legal Recognition To Unions Between Homosexual Persons:

There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God's plan for marriage and family. Marriage is holy, while homosexual acts go against the natural moral law. Homosexual acts “close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved” (No. 4).

By the way, the quoted words here are from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2357:

Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

Why is this trail of citations interesting, to me at least? I think it tells us that the point being made has a lineage in recent Vatican teachings—but also that Francis seems content to quote the synod, which is quoting the C.D.F., which is echoing the Catechism. There is a trail, but it is also an old one.

Though not a scholar of the papacy of Francis, I think he would have spoken differently had he spoken in his own voice. Think for instance of how he spoke of abortion in his September 2015 letter to Archbishop Rino Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, on the Year of Mercy:

The tragedy of abortion is experienced by some with a superficial awareness, as if  not realizing the extreme harm that such an act entails. Many others, on the other hand, although experiencing this moment as a defeat, believe they they have no other option. I think in particular of all the women who have resorted to abortion. I am well aware of the pressure that has led them to this decision. I know that it is an existential and moral ordeal. I have met so many women who bear in their heart the scar of this agonizing and painful decision.

I am sure the pope believes that abortion is a great evil, but the section of the letter I have quoted is remarkable for its sensitivity to women in trouble. If the pope had written about gay marriage in his own voice, I don't think No. 251 would have been the result. If some men and women, struggling for love, stability and family, choose to enter a gay marriage, might this not be a similar, analogous “this agonizing and painful decision” that merits the pope’s compassion, rather than the cold assertion made in No. 251?

Third, while I am not an ethicist, I am a comparativist, and so I found myself perplexed at the definitive words in No. 251: “There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for mar­riage and family.” Not at all similar, nor even remotely analogous? I wonder.

I wonder in part because, as readers know, I teach at Harvard, and in the very diverse, sometimes mind-boggling and headache-producing environs of the Divinity School. (More on that another time.) But in this context, I am in contact with persons in gay married relationships all the time. No relation is perfect, I am sure, but in these marriages I most often observe: honest, open, mature love; commitment, often over many years; fidelity and loyalty to one another, for richer or poorer, in health and in sickness; Christian faith, lived out in a deep human relationship; and, in several cases, great devotion to raising children. I am edified by these relationships, these marriages.

I grant that none of this, including my opinion, adds up at all to the evidence required to persuade the Vatican to rethink its stance on gay marriage. But it should be evident to anyone with their eyes open, that gay marriage is in many ways similar to marriage as is esteemed by the church, and that analogies abound, including those I have mentioned. It is hard to see how or why Pope Francis might think that gay marriage could be entirely dissimilar and equivocally unlike heterosexual marriage. It is hard to see why Pope Francis, even if quoting quotes from other documents, would be willing to say that the marriage of a gay couple is entirely outside God’s plan. Is there anything or anyone outside God's mercy and compassion? Later in "Amoris Laetitia" Francis writes,

We put so many conditions on mercy that we empty it of its con­crete meaning and real significance. That is the worst way of watering down the Gospel. It is true, for example, that mercy does not exclude justice and truth, but first and foremost we have to say that mercy is the fullness of justice and the most radiant manifestation of God’s truth. For this reason, we should always consider “inad­equate any theological conception which in the end puts in doubt the omnipotence of God and, especially, his mercy.” This offers us a framework and a setting which help us avoid a cold bureaucratic morality in dealing with more sensitive issues. Instead, it sets us in the context of a pastoral discernment filled with merciful love, which is ever ready to understand, forgive, accompany, hope, and above all integrate. That is the mindset which should prevail in the Church and lead us to “open our hearts to those living on the outermost fringes of society” (No. 311-12).

Though I am a Jesuit, I do not have the pope’s ear, nor the ear of those who have the pope’s ear. But were I to speak to him, I would thank him heartily for "Amoris Laetitia," its content and tone—and also ask him to rewrite No. 251 in light of Nos. 311-312, in his own hand, from his own heart.

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Joshua DeCuir
1 year 7 months ago
George Weigel was once (rightly) pilloried in these very pages for suggesting a reading of Pope Benedict's Caritatis in Veritate that sought to separate Benedict's "true" voice from those that didn't really reflect his true thought. Isn't that precise interpretive key being employed here?
Anthony Ruff
1 year 7 months ago
No, I don't think it is the precise interpretive key. It's similar but not identical. Weigel saw two strands of thought running through Pope Benedict's document and said that one strand, in all its multiple manifestations, isn't what Benedict really thought. But he had no evidence for why Benedict didn't really think it. It doesn't count as evidence that this strand wasn't what Weigel really thought! Here, however, Fr. Clooney offers evidence for why one isolated statement is out of character with many statements that clearly represent the mind of Francis, and he points out a difference in word usage ("we") which counts as evidence. One may agree or disagree with Fr. Clooney's argument, but, unlike Weigel, he offers evidence for it. Fr. Anthony Ruff, OSB
Joshua DeCuir
1 year 7 months ago
I appreciate the nuance, but I'm not really sure the provision of "evidence" for one "voice" in a papal document is really necessary to change the effect. If both authors are employing a similar interpretive tool, as you admit is the case, it seems to me the lamentable effect is the same: to show that on those really, really important matters Pope [X] agrees with my side, it his is "authentic" voice & all that stuff he says I don't like he probably doesn't really believe anyway, so I can ignore it! I see precisely the same dynamic in this argument as was present in Weigel's.
Joshua DeCuir
1 year 7 months ago
One other response suggests itself to me. You (again rightly) criticize Weigel for interpreting the "false" Benedictine voice through the lens of Weigel's own views on those issues he saw as not truly Benedict; but it seems here that Fr. Clooney is deploying precisely the same hermeneutic. Hence his reference to his own experience at Harvard, etc. So, again, it seems both authors view the "true" as opposed to "not authentic" papal voice via their own beliefs on matter X.
William Rydberg
1 year 7 months ago
Is this the state of Conscience of Senior Jesuit fathers because it is not in compliance with the General Congregation #35 with respect to so many of the decrees that I might as well stop there. Point is, I read what in my opinion what are very superficial observations concerning serious matter. Once again, I am concerned about the formators in the North Eastern American Province. In my opinion there is a pattern here, that I suspect has to do with adequacy of formation. This seems so widespread, that the feasibility of discussion at GC36 is warranted on my opinion. A further suggestion, introduction of a post Congregation Auditing mechanism ought to be explored. With burning anxiety for our Jesuit Fathrrs in formation, Just my opinion, in the Risen Christ,
Jose Sanchez
1 year 7 months ago
Please elaborate, how is this post superficial in its analysis? Not only the text breaks down each of Pope Francis' quotes, but it analyzes by comparing with both other texts by the Pope and the writer's own experience. To me this is a great piece!
Sandi Sinor
1 year 7 months ago
You shouldn't hold your breath waiting for a reasoned, comprhensive answer. If you read enough articles on this website, you will learn that Mr. Rydberg uses about 75% of them to make some kind of complaint about the "poor formation" of the Jesuits these days. These repetetive complaints usually bear a very tenuous relationship to the actual content of the article - at best. Often they bear no relationship at all to the content, but simply repeat a few shallow generalities (superficial being one of his preferred adjectives). Perhaps he has pre-written them, and has a list of variations on the theme, and copies and pastes whateaver seems best for any given topic. ;) The comment boxes here appear to simply serve as a vehicle for Mr. Rydberg's complaints, so don't assume that he has really carefully read the articles in question, much less seriously analyzed them. He has a serious problem with the Jesuits for some reason.
Michael Malak
1 year 7 months ago
What counts, really, is what Jesus meant when he said "Love thy neighbor as ones self."
Joe Kash
1 year 7 months ago
We tend to see what we want to see.
Jeanne Kalvar
1 year 7 months ago
The statement "There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God's plan for marriage and family. " is false in and of itself. Pretty much anything can be remotely analogous to something else by some degree or another. But that is nit-picking, I suppose. What interests me is what is not ruled out. It does not say that gay marriages (in the civil sense) are sinful in and of themselves. It does not say that those who engage in them are committing a mortal sin. Indeed, much of the discussion of the irregular situation could apply to those in this situation of a gay marriage. It simply says that they are not marriages in the full sense of the word as described elsewhere. But it does not say what they are. The vocation of the celibate priesthood is not analogous to marriage. It is, however, a righteous and worthy vocation and offers a full abundance and promise of life, including the fruits of the spirit. It may be that we may grow to understand the intimate relationship of two members of the same sex as a different vocation from marriage or the celibate religious life, full of its own special graces and its own divine purpose. That purpose may not be even 'remotely analogous' to heterosexual marriage, but it could be just as worthy, and imbued with just as many rights and fruitful in the fruits of the spirit just as the priesthood is. Heaven knows, we need all the help to the community we can give, and the gay couple can draw on each other for strength, love, full and self-sacrificing virtue, and support, while spending their fruits in good works towards the community as the priesthood does.
Joe Kash
1 year 7 months ago
Jeanne, You have the sure guide of the Catholic Catechism to get the answer to your questions. Be not afraid!
Jeanne Kalvar
1 year 7 months ago
I'm not afraid. I don't have just the catechism, with as much wisdom and insight as it can provide. For all its wisdom, it is still only a map, and a map can only guide your footsteps through the terrain that the creators of the map found themselves in when it was written. Time and insight changes things...shorelines change, landslides block one path and open another, paths that seemed simple and clear conceal hidden pitfalls that the mapmakers hadn't' seen because they didn't tread over that specific part of the terrain. Trees and bushes obscure the path ahead. Fortunately, I have the living hand of the Lord Jesus to guide me over the hills and valleys that are in my particular road. I can see the saints on the mountain in the distance, waving at me, calling me home. I have the Holy Spirit's workings within my own conscience to help me see my own feet, so I can watch where I'm going, even if the road described by the map is confusing or doesn't even make sense. So I'm not afraid. And I'm not afraid for our Church, because she is on the same path through time, if a much longer journey, and the same hand holds hers. She will come home.
Joe Kash
1 year 7 months ago
Pope Francis tweet 4/12/2016: Fidelity has to do with patience. Its joys and sacrifices bear fruit as the years go by.
Crystal Watson
1 year 7 months ago
What the Pope put in his exhortation about the marriage of LGBT people is not surprising when you consider that he's opined that marriage equality is the 'the work of the devil' in the past ... http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/13/pope-francis-gay-marriage-anti_n_2869221.html I really wish the idea that the Pope is a social liberal and cared about equality for LGBT people (and women too) was true, but I've seen no real evidence of it.
Joe Kash
1 year 7 months ago
Crystal, The pope is Catholic.
Crystal Watson
1 year 7 months ago
Since most Catholics support marriage equality, the Pope is actually part of the minority Catholic opinion on the subject.
Joe Kash
1 year 7 months ago
That might be true but the Pope teaches with authority. It is funny how the pundits such as these writers at America Magazine are so predictable. They read these documents only seeing what they want to see. Why read this stuff at all since it seems to not matter to you or them. If it only has meaning when it support what you know to be the truth then it has no meaning or authority at all. It reminds me of the story when Adam and Eve eat the apple so that they can only see what they want to see. I hope the apple at least tastes good.
Crystal Watson
1 year 7 months ago
"They read these documents only seeing what they want to see." Yes, but that's true for both liberals and conservatives :)
Allen 2Saint
1 year 7 months ago
Crystal, "Marriage equality" is a political term. It is not a religious one. We are a religion and we need to resolve this dilemma in a religious way.
Robert Lewis
1 year 7 months ago
“…In any way similar or even remotely analogous to God's plan for marriage and family. Marriage is holy, while homosexual acts go against the natural moral law…” I hope that I shall finally be permitted to bring up here on this thread certain things related to this subject that those who vet comments here at AMERICA have heretofore censored when I have previously attempted to broach them. I consider them to be significantly pertinent to this question of the Church’s increasingly perceived injustice to “gay” individuals, which, in my opinion, is doing grave damage to her standing in the general opinion of youth, at least in the West. First of all, the recognition of “God’s plan for marriage and the family” had ALREADY radically changed in Western culture—AWAY from the Catholic and Apostolic Church’s traditional appreciation of “marriage,” so that the Church’s programme of criticism of what she perforcedly and logically has to conceive to be the ORIGINAL and heretical deformation of Christian marriage ought to begin, first, with a much closer critique of what was done to marriage when the Protestant reformers defined it to be “dissoluble,” and not with an over-exaggerated fear of what is the much lesser threat to her understanding of the connubial state that is posed by so-called “gay marriage.” And I think that this confusion ought to be understood to be simply the logical extension of both Protestant theology’s and Enlightenment secularism’s understanding of the anthropology that applies to marriage. I do not think that there is a significant enough appreciation of the degree to which Christ, in the Gospel of Matthew, made innovations against what had been the Mosaic “plan for marriage and the family” when He declared it to be indissoluble, except for adultery, against the objection of the “disciple” (presumably Matthew) in that Scripture, that Moses had permitted divorce. I also don’t consider that there is sufficient understanding, especially among the American Catholic clergy, of the Reformers’ –particularly Luther’s—intention to change the “theology of marriage” to make it reflective of their agenda to justify their “salvation by faith alone” heresy. That change, away from “sacramental marriage,” in favour of “companionate marriage” (as exemplified in Milton’s "Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce"), rendered marriage “dissoluble” in the interest and behalf of the couple “in love”, and not “indissoluble,” to protect the interests of the children and the couple’s extended family. It made of marriage a much more private and less social matter than it previously had been, in Christendom. If there is any doubt that this was intentional and subservient to, for example, Luther’s agenda to employ his concept of this fundamental human relationship as proof of a NEW and quite radical theological doctrine, one should take a close look at the section of Luther’s TABLE TALK in which he responds to one of HIS follower’s objection that the divorce he was undertaking, of a nun from her vows, in order to marry her, was forbidden TWICE by the Savior, in the Gospel of Matthew, by saying that he is well aware of it, but believes that the Savior “had his tongue far in His cheek, when He gave us that commandment”—meaning, by the logic of Luther’s theological position, that we were being given a law that we could not obey, in order to “convict us of our sins”. This fundamental change in the definition of marriage, making it, in essence, no longer sacramental, and therefore imminently dissoluble, is what we Catholics live with in modern America, without properly understanding how it impacts upon such matters as “gay marriage.” It means, in the context of what has come to be the culturally and religiously acceptable definition of heterosexual marriage, with its legally and socially justifiable acceptance of the serial monogamy (on-demand divorce) that the Americans call “traditional marriage,” that the theologians of the Catholic Church really don’t have “a dog in this fight.” “Gay Marriage” simply has no relation to what we call “marriage” and our definition of “marriage” is not susceptible of being in any way transformed by what the majority—or the “gay” minority--in the American culture do. It also seems to imply strongly, however, that we are being unjust and unfair to a persecuted minority by insisting that our definition of “marriage” should be employed to restrict them from a “right” that the Protestant principle of “companionate marriage,” which is “dissoluble,” DOES most logically extend to them. Additionally, in regard to this “gay marriage” issue, Christ’s more liberal attitude to human sexuality—more liberal than St. Paul’s or Augustine’s or the modern Catholic Church’s--is increasingly being pried open and examined in its actual Biblical context, and this can no longer be hidden from “the good people in the pews,” in order to keep them supportive of a hyper-patriarchal gender theory that posits a “complementarity” that simply isn’t supported by modern science. Oh, I know about “Go and sin no more,” spoken to the woman at whom the Savior would not throw the first stone, but “go and sin no more” was not said when Jesus Christ was actually extended the perfect opportunity to explicitly rebuke “same-sex love” and attraction. I have explained it before on these threads, and my explanation was censored by the editors of AMERICA, probably as giving too much “scandal” to the good, conservative Catholics who tune in here, but it’s important, I believe, that they know, in order to open some space for the operations of conscience that Pope Francis writes about, of the occasion in which Jesus Christ did NOT hesitate to give “scandal” to fundamentalist and puritanical Jews regarding homosexual relationships, so please allow publication of what follows: Classical scholarship has, in the past few decades, made abundantly clear what were the officially prescribed relationships between Roman citizens and their slaves in the Graeco-Roman world, and sexual access to slaves of both sexes by their masters was sanctioned by law, and, indeed, culturally approved. This is directly relevant to the Scriptural account of the healing of the centurion’s “servant,” because “servant” is NOT the accurate translation of the Greek "paieus" of the original text, which actually means something like “minion,” and signifies a beloved slave, not a servant. Christ heals the sick slave boy at the Roman centurion’s request and pronounces that He has not seen such faith amongst the Jews. He does NOT rebuke the centurion for enjoying a physical relationship with his slave boy, and sends him on his way without a scolding. Some extraordinarily paranoid fundamentalist Christians who know of this likelihood respond to this claim, which I’m not the only one to make in recent times, that the Savior, in his “omniscience,” would have known that there was no sexual contact in that particular Roman’s relationship with his slave boy, but my response to that is that the Lord was, at the very least, “giving scandal” to the Jews standing around witnessing the confabulation, because they would have known very well what were the practices of their Roman occupiers, and would have expected to hear, at the very least, a request that this particular Roman “sin no more,” but the rebuke is not there, and the centurion’s enormous gratitude for the saving of the life of his adolescent male lover is preserved in the passage of the liturgy of the Mass, which repeats “Lord, I am not worthy, but only say the word, and my soul” [beloved] “shall be healed.” “Gay rights”—including the right of access to all the civil rights that “straight” people enjoy, including the right to cohabitate legally, and to adopt children, and to enjoy tax breaks for dependents—all of these things are increasingly perceived to be basic human rights, and the Church will continue to oppose them to her enormous social and cultural peril. And whether the hierarchs of the Catholic Church like it or not, even her Sacred Scriptures are going to be read in the same charitable spirit as the one with which I just interpreted the story of the healing of the centurion’s slave boy, and the proscriptions of Deuteronomy and Leviticus, as well as the railings of Paul of Tarsus, are going to be interpreted as either peculiar to their times or as signifying a critical misapprehension of what we nowadays consider to be a “healthy” and self-sacrificing “same sex marriage”. And the reason will be that such proscriptions will not be perceived as being in the “spirit” of the Church’s Founder.
Thomas Caddick
1 year 7 months ago
'Christ, in the Gospel of Matthew, made innovations against what had been the Mosaic “plan for marriage and the family” when He declared it to be indissoluble, except for adultery' Obviously, try as you may, it’s untenable to conclude that Jesus really meant that 'everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery... UNLESS, of course, either of you commit adultery, in which case you can both just divorce and remarry'. The Matthean exception ('whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery') of 'sexual immorality' [porneia] is a different word in Greek to 'adultery' [moicheia]. This is because it isn’t referring to married people committing adultery, (which neither makes sense of the textual difference, nor the absolute proscriptions Jesus gives against divorce/remarriage (Mark 10:9-12, Matt 19:6, Luke 16:18), nor the supposed difficulty of the teaching which led to apostles concluding that it’s therefore 'better not to marry' and Jesus calling people who can't handle it to celibacy), but is instead referring to marriages that are invalid according Levitical law, which had particularly stronger strictures than the Gentiles on what constitutes an incestuous union, which is why St Paul writes in 1 Corinthians: 'It is actually reported that there is immorality [porneia] among you, and of a kind that is not found even among pagans; for a man is living with his father’s wife.'
Tim O'Leary
1 year 7 months ago
Robert – what a twisted misinterpretation of Holy Scripture. Why is it that homosex apologists like yourself must obsessively bring sexual activity into so many interpretations of history or scripture when it is so unwarranted? Even more egregious, you assume that love (“highly favored”) for another person, particularly of the same sex, must imply some sexual component. Are chaste philia or agape wholly missing in your understanding? 1) The scripture passage (Luke 7:1-10) makes no mention of the servant’s age, yet you assume it is a boy? Are you inadvertently excusing pedophilia? 2) If you assume the servant is a man, why assume he or the Centurion would be homosexual, since only 2-5% of the population self-identify as such by the most rigorous polls? 3) If you assume the Centurion is not in the 2-5%, are you thinking Jesus is excusing homosex for heterosexuals? 4) This is a Centurion thought worthy of the Jewish elders, who plead on his behalf. It is highly unlikely that they would endorse him if he was using his servants immorally, by Jewish standards. 5) The Centurion appears by the description to be a highly moral “righteous” gentile, very close to the Jewish people and trying to live his moral responsibilities as best as he can. The most reasonable assumption is that he knew the Jewish law and was trying to live by its moral teachings, even though he was not a Jew. 6) We can be much more certain that most of the people Jesus healed were sinners (he came to heal the sinners), yet he does not say “go and sin no more” with every healing, just with the adulteress who had been apparently correctly convicted. 7) Jesus strongly endorsed the moral law in His teachings. He said “For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.” (Mt 15 19). His whole point was to bring mercy to sinners, to heal them, to save them, by dying for them, all of us. Not to excuse their sins or leave them in their sins. This the True Gospel.
Robert Lewis
1 year 7 months ago
Sorry, but I think that yours is the ahistorical and disingenuous interpretation of this event; it is completely oblivious to what was the norm for relationships between masters and slaves in the Roman empire.It is also wildly naive regarding the sexual morality of Roman officials and soldiers. I suggest you take a look at the HBO series "Rome"; in that serialized teledrama American film-makers are finally coming close to an accurate description of Roman mores.You also ignore the meaning of the Greek term used to describe the slave; it most definitely DOES mean an adolescent boy.
Robert Lewis
1 year 7 months ago
And, by the way, Mr. O'Leary, in case you didn't notice it, I nowhere suggested that the centurion didn't actually love his slave boy or that he might not, indeed, have felt "agape-love" for him. What I'm simply suggesting is that it would have been inevitable that the Jews listening to the exchange would have assumed the normal slave-master relationship, and would have expected a rebuke of it. Because of this clear-cut cultural dimension to the exchange, Jesus comes across in it as being far less of a legalist regarding "same-sex love" than modern Catholic "conservatives" like you, or like the Pharisees and Sadducees of His time. And, additionally, I'm happy to say that the "conservatives" here are right to be suspicious of this document; by virtue of its logic, it is a "closeted" endorsement of "gay marriage," and will eventually be held to have opened the Church's door to it: http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/faithbased/2016/04/pope_francis_amoris_laetitia_is_a_closeted_argument_for_gay_marriage.html
Tim O'Leary
1 year 7 months ago
Re your last comment - it must be opposite day.
Tim O'Leary
1 year 7 months ago
This must be the first time in America's combox where a blogger argues that Jesus meant to excuse or endorse same-sex pedophile/ephebiphile relationships. Amazingly wrong-headed and dangerous.
Robert Lewis
1 year 7 months ago
I never said "excuse" or "endorse": I wonder if you can actually read, because what I clearly implied is "forgive" WITHOUT the "condemnation" that the Jews would have clearly expected. That, in other words, He didn't think it was as big a deal as you and others wish to make it.
Tim O'Leary
1 year 7 months ago
Not "a big deal"? No "Go and sin no more"? You are clearly not implying forgiveness. The Jewish elders think the Centurion a good man, not a child abuser, and never hint of desiring any rebuke. Your "theory" is completely unfounded.
Robert Lewis
1 year 7 months ago
And YOU are perfectly willing to take the whole episode clearny out of its historical and cultural context, in which Roman approbation of use of slaves for the sexual "relief" of their masters was a legal and social convention. No "centurions" was ever, or could ever be a Jew at that period in Roman history--later, yes.
Allen 2Saint
1 year 7 months ago
Robert, I commend your passions, but in order to fully embrace who we are as RC Church vis a vis gay persons, we need to use the theologies on the table as they pertain to sexuality and marriage. We cannot reason a new dogma. We need to fully engage what's there and see where we stand and what we may say a gay comment is.
Robert Lewis
1 year 7 months ago
Is mine a "gay comment"? There are plenty of "gays" who become infuriated when I agree with the "conservatives" that Catholic "sacramental marriage" can NEVER countenance "gay marriage." (To be clear, as per my comment below re. how Francis's encyclical opens up the possibility of "gay marriage," I actually DON'T agree with the columnist that it "opens" the Church "logically" to precisely that; however, I DO think it "opens" the Church to blessing--even publicly, in Church--commitments by those who feel "same-sex" love for each other, and who aspire to love platonically and to live together in chastity. I actually think that that is coming--IF the Catholic Church would like to keep tens of millions of Catholic youth in America and in Europe as active churchgoers. But the "conservatives" are right; "sacramental marriage" is as much out for the "gays" as it is out for Protestants who believe in "companionate marriage" and the "right to divorce.")
Allen 2Saint
1 year 7 months ago
Robert, I agree with your conclusions. I was not attacking your view, but your process getting to your view. We are people of a faith and I feel we need to employ our faith's meanings and language if we are to move forward. There is enough right in scripture, natural law and so called "complimentarity," which in fact has never been defined, to justify these conclusions.
Allen 2Saint
1 year 7 months ago
I meant "commitment" not "comment."
Tim Reidy
1 year 7 months ago

Please use your full name in future comments as per our comments policy.

Henry George
11 months ago
Mr. Lewis, You assume that every Master either took sexual advantage of every slave or that because the Centurion asks Jesus to heal the slave that there must have been a deep sexual attraction between the Centurion and the slave. Perhaps the slave had been with the Centurion since birth, for perhaps his mother was a family slave of the Centurion and so he asked Jesus to heal the slave if possible. While well written, your argument is too conclusive and too assumptive without far, far more evidence. As noted by other Commentators - very difficult to believe that Pious Jews would look favourably upon the Centurion if he did with the boy what you said - he must have been doing.
Mike Escril
1 year 7 months ago
Crystal...
Thomas Caddick
1 year 7 months ago
Of course gay marriages can be analogous to traditional marriages in terms of their love and commitment, just as relationships between family and friends can display a deep and permanent union of hearts and minds, but same-sex unions' lack of sexual complementarity means that by definition they lack the openness to life and possibility of real bodily union that marriage is uniquely ordered to - hence the logical correctness of the CDF's statement. We can um and ah about whether or not the Church's language should be more pastorally sensitive (I often think it should be) but the fundamental question is whether or not you agree with the Church's understanding of the nature of marriage (i.e. do you actually hold to the Catholic faith?), otherwise your views on how the Church should or shouldn't articulate its doctrine are null and void.
Robert Lewis
1 year 7 months ago
Mr. Caddick, have you fully considered what you are saying? Are you suggesting that you have to hold to the Catholic faith, in order to agree that the Church SHOULD "articulate its understanding of the nature of marriage"? I and many like me who no longer fully subscribe to the Catholic faith DO feel that the Church should, indeed, articulate its definition of marriage. I should think that whatever we think about "Trinities," "Hells," "Purgatories," "Virgin Births" and "Immaculate Conceptions," we can affirm, along with you, that the Catholic definition of marriage for heterosexual people is more spiritual and more civilized than the typical American Protestant or atheistic definition of it.
Allen 2Saint
1 year 7 months ago
Would you define "complimentarily" please? And show where this term resides in our dogmas?
Tim O'Leary
1 year 7 months ago
Fr. Clooney might be right that Pope Francis could have been tempted to use different language from the defined Church teaching in the Catechism. My guess is that he prayed about it and used it in the end because he didn't have better language that would still defend marriage as it really is. I continue to be amazed how the Holy Spirit protects the Church from erroneous teaching, in every season, against the current of the affluent nations, focused as they are on secular ideologies and personal fulfillment rather than faithfulness to the eternal moral law. Pope Francis is following St. Pope John Paul II in emphasizing mercy (recall the latter's devotion to St. Faustina and his inauguration of Divine Mercy Sunday and his death on the vigil of that feast). But mercy is all the greater if the sin is recognized in its fullness - a corollary of Luke 7:47. As Jesus said: "Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven--as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little."
Patrick Murtha
1 year 7 months ago
Luther or Loyola--it seems that some of the modern Jesuits forget who their founder is. Let us hope that if the pope were to rewrite No 251, he would indeed write with a steady hand, worded from a fatherly heart, and guided by a good head. There is a lot of talk of people using their hearts, but whatever happened to using their heads? You know you can use both at the same time. It is a rather marvelous thing; it is rather human thing. Has the basis of moral good become based on affections or afflictions? Whatever happened to the very principle of Lover: "...he who does the will of my Father." Richard Weaver is right, modern man has become a moral idiot.
Allen 2Saint
1 year 7 months ago
These comments represent the "tug of war" between polarized sides, rather than voices of the faithful willing to follow the movement of the Holy Spirit via the Pope's exhortation. A conclusion that could be safely made, based on a repeated reading of the text is that, to coin an English phrase, "the perfect is not to be the enemy of the good." While we do not affirm gay unions as "marriage," based so very clearly on our longstanding definition of marriage as being open to procreation, we affirm gay commitments which are loving,supportive and have the capacity to participate and contribute to society. We are to look for God's grace in the imperfect. It should be noted that the sexual act "component" we object to is in every way, the same "component" we object to in heterosexual acts. They are sexual acts that are not open to procreation. It is only our social bias and bigotry that makes "gay sex" the scandal and focus of attention, while unmarried and married straight couples are never attacked in the same way. As the catechism clearly states, no sign of unjust discrimination should be allowed. That is a fair reading of the text and what it implies, if read with love and fidelity to the church, rather than our own motivations and political leanings.
Robert Lewis
1 year 7 months ago
Despite your nasty adumbration against me below, I find myself in total agreement with you here. However, I would also add that we are entitled to read in light of our own private, independent scholarship, which the Church has always agreed should, additionally, be allowed to inform our consciences. I do happen to know a lot about the theologies of the so-called "Reformers" and how they differed from that of orthodox Christianity, and being an amateur classics scholar, I DO happen to know a great deal about the societies and cultures of the ancient Mediterranean world, including their legal systems as they pertained to marriage and slavery. I sometimes wish that Catholics, including priests, knew more, because they were thoroughly alien cultures from ours, with different value systems, for the most part.
Allen 2Saint
1 year 7 months ago
I may have misunderstood you before, and I apologize. But I think we need to remember that the Gospels were not documentaries and it is unlikely to me, anyway, that the relationship was seen in an either sexual or relational way. I could be wrong, but let's see what scholarship says on that?
Pancho Mulongeni
1 year 5 months ago
The only question is "what do you think this whole thread would do for a queer catholic person?". Can someone please just say, you are gay, lesbian, trans, bi, asexual, we love, you are accepted, its ok. Rather then nitpick the issue. Thanks

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