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James Martin, S.J.December 22, 2010

This is a repost of a post that was accidentally deleted (when I pushed the wrong button). 

Here’s a line from The Catechism of the Catholic Church that is not, I would wager, particularly well known.  It has to do with the overall treatment of gays and lesbians in modern society: “They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition” (#2358)  

That’s strong stuff: every sign of “unjust discrimination” should be avoided.  Without getting too theological, Catholics know that a "sign," as it is used here, can mean not just any evidence of discrimination, but anything that points to something discriminatory.  In any event, even if you quibble about what "sign" means, that word "every"is clear.  Every means every.

Most Catholics—in fact, most educated people around the world—know well the other teachings from the Catechism on the topic of homosexuality, which are very clearly stated.  Most, for example, would know the teaching clearly set forth in #2357, which states that homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered.”  But the full teaching of the Catholic church on homosexuality and homosexuals often surprises many people--including some Catholics.  (That's one reason I would like to focus on it here: it's somewhat less well known.)  In #2359, for example, the Catechism says that gays and lesbians who live chastely “can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.”  That’s strong stuff, too: it means that gays and lesbians who live chastely can lead holy lives, and even strive to become saints.  After all, that’s what approaching “Christian perfection” means: sanctity.

Given that the Catechism sets forth the church's opposition to “every sign of unjust discrimination" of gays and lesbians, I wonder how many Catholics will be celebrating President Obama’s signing of the repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law today, after its passage by both houses of Congress.  The law had previously prevented gays and lesbians who serve in the armed forces from publicly identifying themselves as homosexuals.  Originally, the Clinton-era law was, as I understand it, intended to protect gays and lesbians from "witch hunts," that is, formal investigations leading to their ejection from the service.  (And indeed, some who admitted their orientation in the past few years were dismissed, which removed many fine men and women from active duty when the country could probably least afford it--during wartime.)  But that earlier law is now judged to be "unjust" by the majority of American lawmakers.  And most Americans too, no matter what their political stance.  A Washington Post poll estimates eight out of ten Americans favored allowing gays and lesbians to serve their country openly.

The fact that the gay and lesbian soldiers who were willing to give their lives for their country were unable even to admit their presence within the military, seems about as far as you can get from any reasonable definition of "respect," to quote the Catechism.  How respectful is it to say to someone: "You cannot say that you are here with us.") Much less it is treating them with "sensitivity and compassion."  How compassionate is it to tell a soldier: "Feel free to sacrifice your life; just don't expect us to admit that you're here"?

At least as I see it, the repeal of DADT is not about marriage, or sexual activity, but about something else, and something perhaps more important: simple human dignity.  And the innate dignity of the human being is an overarching theme of Christian theology, Catholic teaching and the Catechism: "The dignity of the human person is rooted in his creation in the image and likeness of God" (#1700).  The repeal also turns on a question of justice, another overarching theme of Catholic teaching.  As Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, said as the Senate debate opened. “If you love this country enough to risk your life for it, you shouldn’t have to hide who you are.”  By saying to gays and lesbians, "Yes, you are here with us," the country honors them; and honor is a constitutive element of "respect," and is also related to social justice.  This subtle concept is something that the Catechism illustrates in a beautiful line: "Honor is the social witness given to human dignity, and everyone enjoys a natural right to the honor of his name and reputation and to respect" (#2479).

Since today's repeal of DADT says nothing about gay marriage (nor would it have been approved by lawmakers if it had), since it does not contradict church teaching on that matter, and since it takes a strong stance against "unjust discrimination" against gays and lesbians, as the Catechism encourages, will Catholics rejoice over this news?  In the past, when Congress passed, or the president signed, a bill offering protection for a marginalized group of people, the church would often take notice.  Remember that the Catechism sets forth a strong line on this--"every sign of unjust discrimination."  That's pretty broad.  Still, I wonder if there will be much rejoicing for this respectful, compassionate and sensitive act of justice.

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Andy Buechel
13 years 4 months ago
I'm curious what would qualify as evidence for you.  The militaries of every other major democratic country in the world are integrated with gay and straight persons.  None of them have suffered any of the problems that you fear.  And on this matter, what possible wisdom do military leaders have over the ''politicians'' (since we have, in fact, a civilian-run military)?  They have no more experience serving in a military with openly gay men and lesbians then generals in the 40s did serving in a military with African Americans integrated. 

So I ask you, what would qualify as good evidence in your mind that DADT could be repealed? 
Kevin Aldrich
13 years 4 months ago
Fr. Martin's argument is based on the CCC point that ''every sign of unjust discrimination'' should be avoided.

So he examines the words every, sign and discrimination, but makes no mention of unjust. Why is that, Fr. Martin?
Beth Cioffoletti
13 years 4 months ago
I'm confused.  Aren't gays and lesbians already "in the mix"? 
Chuck Anziulewicz
13 years 4 months ago

I sincerely doubt there will be any problems, despite all the wailing and gnashing of teeth by the supporters of the ban on Gay Americans in the military. All of our allies have successfully and uneventfully integrated Lesbians and Gay men into their militaries without problems. And most American military personnel already say they serve or have served with Gay soldiers without any problems.
I think it's also important to note that when young men age 18-25 register for Selective Service, they are not asked about their sexual orientation. And I suspect that if the United States ever finds itself in a major military conflict that requires reinstatement of the draft, the issue of Gays in the military is going to be the LEAST of our worries.
For what it's worth, I really don't care if any soldier, Gay OR Straight, is disciplined or booted out of the military because of inappropriate conduct when on-duty.
That's not what's at issue here. A qualified soldier should not be at risk for losing his career simply because of who he's dating on his own time. Under DADT, if Sgt. Mike is dating another man off-base, and his commanding officer is informed of this and asks him about it, Sgt. Mike can either lie or tell the truth. Either way he is jeopardizing his military career.
Hold all soldiers to the same standards of professional behavior, regardless of their sexual orientation, and the military will be able to do its job just fine. We don't need DADT to accomplish that goal.
13 years 4 months ago
Per our last conversation/agreement, I will only post once on this.

DADT was not "unjustified discrimination" - a homosexual could serve under the agreement and was not required to lie about his/her sexuality due to the official policy that no one could ask.

This policy was based not on personhood or ontology, but on personal behavior.  If a member of the military was found guilty of homosexual acts, only then could they be relieved of duty due to a violation of the unified code of military justice.  The code could also terminate members who engaged in adultery or incest.

This repeal is a de facto endorsement of homosexual behavior because it normalizes the action as one among many approved behaviors to choose from.  This is not about dignity or equality as much as it is about the reordering of sexual morality and the normalizing of homosexual acts as such.

I understand Fr. Martin's sentiments here but think they are underestimating the grand scale of changes to traditional Chrisitan morality and understanding of sexuality.  Our culture is being systematically eroded and replaced with an individualized, atomized and libertine understanding of the human person and this affects all aspects of our lives/society.

Personal liberty now trumps revealed understanding the Gospels on the nature society and sexuality.
13 years 4 months ago
(this is only half a comment ;)

Beth writes: "Prejudice and discrimination take a very long time to overcome,"

If you have to resort to name calling, it indicates that you do not have a strong argument for your position, Beth.  I am not "phobic" or prejudiced and neither are the other posters who are advocating the traditional morality of the Church.

Here is an interesting post from First Things on this issue of name calling:

"proponents of gay marriage and other progressive social causes ignore the arguments made by conservatives, falling back on the assertion that resistance is based on “hate.”

Beth Cioffoletti
13 years 4 months ago
I am not calling anyone "names", Brett. 

It's a fact that gay, lesbian and trans-gendered people have been subjected to discrimination by the laws of our country.   Acknowledging and naming this discrimination is a big step.

Prejudice and discrimination do take a long time to overcome, and face much resistence.  Look how long it took us, as a nation, to abolish slavery.

This prejudice and discrimination are in the unconscious of all of us, not just those who oppose gay rights.  If anything, I'm calling ALL OF US names.
13 years 4 months ago
OK - this is really the last one for me:

The comment above this one reveals the true nature of this law - power and exclusion of religious persons from the government.

The same happend to Catholic Charities in Washington DC - forced out by "tolerance" laws...
Bill Mazzella
13 years 4 months ago
May I remind that it once was the teaching of the church that the Jewish people are punished by God because they, according to the teaching, crucified Christ. The church also approved slavery. The clergy and religious orders had many slaves. Jim McRea's comments in #7 nails it right between the eyes. In a church leadership which was virtually silent about the holocaust, ordered Christians to kill other Christians, has banquets where the poor are not welcome, etc., the reformation of behavior should start there before we blame gays for the problems of others. The hierarchy has systematically eroded the gospel for many centuries. But pick on the gays so people won't see the beams in their eyes.
13 years 4 months ago
"The hierarchy has systematically eroded the gospel for many centuries. But pick on the gays so people won't see the beams in their eyes."

With all due respect, if this comment were made about Pres. Obama, Nancy Pelosi, or the Jesuits, it would be hounded as uncivil.  But insert the word "hierarchy" and it somehow it passes muster.

Interesting to note that the second ques at the President's press conference today was what effect DADT's repeal has on gay marriage, so the notion that the 2 are unrelated is a bit naive.  Nonetheless, I trust when the time comes, we can expect a full-throated defense of the Church's firm teaching with respect to gay marriage from America, complete with citations to the Catechism.

Kang Dole
13 years 4 months ago
The above is, I think, intentionally over-simplistic. I can't imagine that, regardless of what their own opinions on the matter are, people don't know that it can't simply be assumed that the matter of homosexuality and personhood or ontology is settled.  Even if homoexuality was a choice, so what? Don't assume that all will take it for granted that such would be an unacceptable choice
Bill Mazzella
13 years 4 months ago
"This is incorrect due to the fact that the argument over the acceptance of homosexual acts is an issue of personal behavior and free will, while objections to race or gender are issues on ontology and personhood. Legit religious objections can be made about the former but not the latter."

Brett,  where do you get this from? Objections to race or gender is not an issue of personal behavior? So that means I can hate blacks and despise women. If I do it sounds like personal behavior to me. Legit religious objection cannot be made now because we have changed out outlook about women and blacks. As we may on gays. 
Kang Dole
13 years 4 months ago
Well, that's the crux, isn't it? You think that gay people need to refrain from living out their sexual feelings, and others (myself included) don't. As for your quote from Father Martin, well, it's up to him to be more specific as t what the chaste life is supposed to be. If he says that it means refraining from living sexually as a gay person (i.e. having sex with the people you're sexually attracted to), then I agree with him no more than I agree with you.  I'm sure that we'll all be losing sleep tonight over that becase the internet is serious business.

Church teaching on homosexuality is relevant to questions of government only inasmuch as it influences voters and policy-makers who don't need a mandate from voters.

Peter Lakeonovich
13 years 4 months ago
Somehow, nothing in this particular post makes me rejoice, excpet perhaps for the apostolate of Brett Joyce within the "In All Things" blog of America Magazine.

Fortunately, the Nativity is upon us and for that we do Rejoice.
Andy Buechel
13 years 4 months ago
Fr. Martin-
I am thrilled that DADT was repealed.  Sadly, considering the current climate in the Catholic Church, I just think that it's hoping for far too much to expect Catholic officiaidom to voice much support.  As these posts point out, the Vatican's use of "unjust" discrimination has given plenty of wiggle room to include just about any kind of discrimination (after all, no one thinks that their personal prejudices are ever unjust, but based solidly on reason, etc.-myself included).  It's a rhetorical sleight of hand that renders the attempt you're making with the Catechism noble, but ultimately futile, I fear.  The senators you quote may argue (as well they should), but by using the "unjust" qualifier before discrimination, just about anything can be squeezed in.

It's also worth mentioning that the same people who gave us the Catechism also explicitly mentioned (in other documents) military recruitment as a category of discrimination that is not unjust.  They're wrong, but there you have it.
Peter Lakeonovich
13 years 4 months ago
Fr. Martin,

Assuming your question in #27 was asked in earnest, then I must ask you, in earnest, what substantial or essential distinction is there in a soldier's lifestyle (e.g., sexual orientation) that would make what we say about the men and women sacrificing their lives for us any different?

In other words, we honor ALL men and women in uniform who sacrifice their lives for us, recognizing there is no greater love than that.  So I think you may be making a distinction without any meaning, unless I'm missing something, or unless you think there is meaning in such categorizing.

Merry Christmas.
Bill Mazzella
13 years 4 months ago
"That is one reason why the military resists homosexual participation in their ranks, especially in combat situations. .You do not want one member looking over his shoulder and not trusting the judgment of those who he is in combat with."


What you have written is unquestionably discriminatory because the facts are that gays and lesbians have served quite honorably and bravely as all data shows. Where do you get your false information. Courage and fidelity are not tied to sexual orientation or do you posit that?

David Cruz-Uribe
13 years 4 months ago
Dear Fr. Martin,

I am going to split the difference on this, even though I am mindful of Jim Hightower's trenchant observation that the only thing in the middle of the road are "yellow lines and dead Armadillos."

I am generally pleased that DADT was repealed:  years ago, Barry Goldwater offered the commonsense opinion that "You don't have to be straight to be in the military; you just have to be able to shoot straight," and I think he pretty much nailed it on the head. 

However, I can't really "rejoice" since I think that the debate around its repeal reveals the over-simplistic nature of the discussion regarding homosexuality in America.  Mr. Joyce complained above that the repeal of DADT was part of the "normalization of homosexuality" but i think that this puts the cart before the horse:  it passed because it (homosexuality) has become normalized, and there are no public space to stand on where one can argue in favor of repeal without assenting to this normalization.    In other words, there is no room for someone to say "There are severe moral issues surrounding homosexuality and homosexual acts, but they are irrelevant to service in the military."  (This may not be a perfectly Catholic argument, but it seems consonant with paragraph #2358 that you cited above.) 

Even though you are correct that the repeal of DADT has nothing to do with gay marriage, the line between the repeal of DADT and the repeal of DOMA runs fairly straight in most public discourse.   And the Church is going to be at a great disadvantage in this fight because we have no place to stand, and at least some of our brethren are more than willing to use arguments grounded in bigotry and unjust discrimination to mae the case against gay marriage.  (I am not accusing any one personally of  homophobia, but I have read too many articles and heard to many casual comments while in conservative circles to deny that such bigotry exists and passes itself off as good Catholic teaching, the Catechism notwithstanding.)
13 years 4 months ago
The Catechism speaks of ''unjust'' discrimination, not ''all'' discrimination.  Since homosexual acts are sinful, then discriminating against anything that would promote or condone homosexual acts should be deemed justified.  Thus, changing the definition of marriage to include homosexuals, teaching acceptance of homosexuality as a lifestyle to sexually-impressionable school children, and allowing overtly homosexual men in the military alongside straight, hormone-raging young men, are all arguably justified acts of discrimination.   
Beth Cioffoletti
13 years 4 months ago
I am rejoicing.

Richard Rohr says that sexual issues are in the "shadowlands" for almost everyone.  "These images, identities are deep in our unconscious, going back to our earliest identities as “boys” or “girls” and embodied people, and they often carry shaming experiences besides."

Prejudice and discrimination take a very long time to overcome, and are met with great resistence.  When a society finally has the courage to recognize and name that prejudice and discrimination, a giant step has been taken.

Humanity has just moved a little closer to knowing what it is to love and respect and grant justice to one another as embodied people.  Alleluia.


Crystal Watson
13 years 4 months ago
 I'm rejoicing too, but I doubt we'll hear many official Catholic comments praising it.  An example of the difference that could be: here's a video at YouTube showing the people at All Saints Church (Episcopalians) in Los Angeles applauding the repeal of DADT (conservatives, avert your eyes - the priest is a woman  :) .....

Jim McCrea
13 years 4 months ago
Whether Catholics rejoice over or disclaim the value of the repeal of DADT is absolutely irrelevent.  May I repeat:  absolutely irrelevant.

It will be the law of the land and that is that.  If some Catholics can't handle it then they can get out of the military, and this includes chaplains as well.  The military is NOT a democracy; obey just orders or pay the consequences.

" - allowing overtly homosexual men in the military alongside straight, hormone-raging young men -"  Are you worried that these supposedly straight young men won't be able to control themselves and with throw their bodies at overtly homosexual men with willful (I almost said "gay") abandon and shameless lust? 
13 years 4 months ago
I feel like pulling my hair out when I read this blog.  I really do need to stop visiting this site.


It is not who you are but what you do.
Kang Dole
13 years 4 months ago
This is a momentous step-I fully recognize that-but now that presidential pen has touched presidential paper, I find myself thinking of the ways in which it's small. Small because it is now enabling the US military to institute changes that other militaries instituted (with no clear ensuing problem) some time back. Small because it does not enable gays to serve in the US military (they've been doing that for centuries, and bear in mind that with the institution of DADT, they've been doing it with the stunted permission of the government for close to two decades), but rather allows them to serve as themselves, just as straights have been doing. Small, but huge.

A couple of other things: it seems that people argue against the presence of gays in the military out of fear that these gays won't be able to handle themselves in such close quarters with those of the gender to which they are attracted. I wonder sometimes if some straight guys don't imagine that every gay out there wants to jump their bones. They don't. They're also not breathing amyl nitrate in lieu of oxygen. If gays have been able to demonstrate the dedication and discipline needed to abide by protocols discriminatory against them, then they will be able to obey rules governing personal interaction with other soldiers. If they can't they'll face the consequences (just as should be the case with straight soldiers).

The flip-side of that concern is whether straight soldiers who have a problem with their fellow soldiers being out will ash out in violence. Well, maybe they'll want to, and maybe they will-but I'm thinking that institutions as hepped up on discipline as the branches of the military will seek to maintain that discipline. It will be too bad if the American military can't cope with the stresses of restructuring-or put the uniform on people capable of controlling their animalistic urge to kill gay people-when other countries' militaries can do that.
Jim McCrea
13 years 4 months ago
Brett:  NO religious people are being excluded form the government, or the military.  You are entitled to your personal biases at will.  Where the line is drawn, however, is when you refuse to abide by law and/or legitimate military orders, i.e., that it will be lawful for openly identified gays and lesbians to serve in the military.  If you can't abide by that to the point that you will actively resist that, then you have 2 choices:  resist and find yourself subject to punishment, or get out.  No one can force you to socialize with gays/lesbians, but that cannot extend to serving, living or being in the same room with them.  I'm sure that people who had what they considered to be "religious" objections to serving on an equal basis with blacks or women had to learn the same lesson.  If you go into the military you learn on your very first day that some rights and priviliges you enjoyed as a civilian cease to exsit once you are sworn in, i.e., you do not have freedom of speech nor the right to disobey legitimate orders.  You are subject to an entirely different set of laws:  the Uniform Code of Military Justice.  If you find THAT to be religious discrimination then, by all means, do not enter the military.
13 years 4 months ago
I think I can reply to this: Jim writes: "I'm sure that people who had what they considered to be "religious" objections to serving on an equal basis with blacks or women had to learn the same lesson."

This is incorrect due to the fact that the argument over the acceptance of homosexual acts is an issue of personal behavior and free will, while objections to race or gender are issues on ontology and personhood.  Legit religious objections can be made about the former but not the latter.

This is a power play that will force Christians out of the military, but since I do not think Christians should join an imperial military such as the US now employs, that is fine with me.

These new forms of "tolerance" and "neutrality" are mere ideological terms used by the left delegimitize their political opponets and control speech. 

They only tolerate secular, individualism (in commerce, law and sexuality) - an ideology at direct odds with Catholicism...
13 years 4 months ago

Contrary to what Freud believed, sexuality is not the defining feature or the main componet of the human being.

As Fr. Martin states:
"it means that gays and lesbians who live chastely can lead holy lives, and even strive to become saints.  After all, that’s what approaching “Christian perfection” means: sanctity."
13 years 4 months ago
Bill, I am simply stating that race and gender are issues of innate personhood, while issues relating to homosexual acts are related to free will.

One can refrain from an action (e.g., sex), but cannot change one's given gender or ethnicity.
13 years 4 months ago
@Jim McC said ''Are you worried that these supposedly straight young men won't be able to control themselves and with throw their bodies at overtly homosexual men with willful (I almost said ''gay'') abandon and shameless lust?''

Yeah, Jim, it's all a big joke.  Like the joke that the Catholic priesthood has become since Vatican II when homosexuals were admitted with a wink and a hush.  What remains is a priesthood with a high percentage of homosexuals relative to the general population; a shortage of candidates for the priesthood; a feminized mass and pitiful attendance by men; a pedophile crisis that escalated, not coincidentally, over the last 40-50 years; and priests on America magazine advocating for homosexual marriage and an overthrow of the magesterium.  And this with what is essentially a DADT policy.

Andy Buechel
13 years 4 months ago
To Brett (#18 specifically):
Here, I actually agree with you completely.  The idea of sexual orientation being a defining part of us is in fact a thoroughly modern concept and has little to no basis in Christian tradition.  Of course, this applies to the modern concept of ''heterosexuality'' as much as ''homosexuality.''  I think it is woth mentioning, however, that one of those who vociferously voices this modern view is Benedict XVI.  If celibate men with ''homosexual attractions'' (or however you want to call it) are automatically unfit for priesthood-as Benedict has reaffirmed in his latest interview text-this is because he too views sexual orientation as a (perhaps THE) defining characteristic of personhood.

Contemporary, official Catholic teaching on sexuality and gender owes far more to Freud than to the Fathers.  Sadly, this is frequently masqueraded as an unbroken tradition rather than the innovation it is.
13 years 4 months ago
My comment was lost yesterday when this thread was originally deleted.  Here it is again:

'Father Martin,

I will say it again that not all the objections to gays in the military have to do with discrimination against gays.  You can accept a gay person in nearly every role you can imagine but because of the uniqueness of some roles it could be a problem.  One is in the military and specifically in combat.  Twice I laid out the reasoning for the objections to someone in combat and they are not frivolous.  So to go on record as saying that those who oppose gays in such situations as discriminatory is an act of prejudice in itself. 

I always assumed since I was old enough to know about homosexual behavior that a significant percentage of the religious and priests were gay.  Never once did it affect my admiration for any of them as some of them were my fondest teachers.  I have worked with gays in various places in my life time and I have found them generally talented and fun to be around in a work setting with only a few exceptions.' 

Here is what I said on Monday of this week about this.

'I said this before several months ago when this issue came up.  There is a reason the military is a different situation and not all military situations are relevant.

If you have a group of men and all are heterosexual then there is no romantic attraction of anyone for the others.  So such feelings are not an issue.  Put one homosexual man amongst these heterosexual men and you then have one who could have a sexual attraction to one or more in the group.  The military operates such that these men are close to each other physically, sleep next to each other, shower with each other and fight with each other.  In such situation a sexual attraction of one member for another could affect their judgment on how they act and who might live and who might die.  That type of judgment should not exist.

That is one reason why the military resists homosexual participation in their ranks, especially in combat situations. .You do not want one member looking over his shoulder and not trusting the judgment of those who he is in combat with.  There are obviously lots of assignments in the military where that would not come into play.  Those who blithely say it is discrimination should look at themselves in the mirror and say am I being  prejudiced when I criticize those who do not support homosexuals in certain military situations as bigoted.'

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