Reflections on Two L.G.B.T. Questions at the Synod
Questions about L.G.B.T. issues are being discussed at the Synod of Bishops on Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment, currently underway in Rome, mainly because young people today are increasingly interested in questions about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. For many young people, L.G.B.T. people are their brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, friends and neighbors—and sometimes themselves. This is reflected in the synod’s working document, which stated, “[S]ome LGBT youth…wish to benefit from greater closeness and experience greater care from the Church.”
In some parts of the church, this may be considered primarily a “Western” concern. But the ethnic diversity of the L.G.B.T. community in the West, in part because some have sought refuge or asylum there because of their sexuality, demonstrates how the treatment of L.G.B.T. people is an issue for the global church. Moreover, increasing numbers of Catholics worldwide identify as L.G.B.T.
As a result, a few questions about L.G.B.T. people face the delegates at the synod. According to participants, discussions so far have centered on two questions, both about nomenclature: First, can the synod use the term “L.G.B.T.” in its documents? Second, can the synod acknowledge that gay couples can form a “family”? How might we approach those questions—while not challenging the church’s teaching on homosexuality or its opposition to same-sex marriage?
First, can the synod use the term “L.G.B.T.” in its documents?
Let me suggest three reasons why “L.G.B.T.” can be used in synod documents.
1. Naming L.G.B.T. people what they ask to be named is part of the “respect” called for by the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
This may be the most important reason to use the common term “L.G.B.T.” Referring to L.G.B.T. people with the name that most now use for themselves is part of the “respect” called for by the Catechism(No. 2358). To take another example, contemporary usage avoids the term “Negro” and instead opts for “African-American” or “Black,” which reflects what this group prefers. Refusing to call a group by the name that most in the group prefer borders on disrespect. L.G.B.T. youth, who are often harassed, bullied and “called names” are especially attentive to disrespectful language.
L.G.B.T. youth want to feel a part of the church.
Furthermore, if the church uses terms that are dated, unknown, overly clinical or considered disrespectful or even offensive (as “same-sex attracted” is with most L.G.B.T. people), the church risks preventing real dialogue with the group. And if the church cannot engage in dialogue, then it cannot do theology properly—a path contrary to the Second Vatican Council’s invitation to be a church in the modern world (“Gaudium et Spes”). Thus, acknowledging this common term, especially for young L.G.B.T. people, is both respectful and helpful theologically.
2. Using “L.G.B.T. Catholics” includes them in the church.
Some have argued that using that term separates L.G.B.T. people from the rest of the church. But this argument is not made with other groups in the church. There are many other groups who are regularly identified by a particular characteristic—young adult Catholics, Latin-American Catholics, elderly Catholics, Catholic parents—and few suggest that such an identification divides them from the church. It simply identifies them as constitutive members of the Body of Christ and reminds us of the rich diversity in the church (1 Cor 12:20). In particular, L.G.B.T. youth want to feel a part of the church. This is a sign of diversity not division.
3. Using “L.G.B.T. Catholics” does not connote acceptance of an ideology.
When people describe themselves as L.G.B.T. it does not mean that they consider their sexuality or identity the dominant trait of their personhood, any more than people who refer to themselves as “Italian Catholics” or “elderly Catholics” consider this the dominant trait. Using the term does not mean that being L.G.B.T. is the most important part of who they are. Overall, using an adjective is not equivalent to defining a person or group in terms of one characteristic.
Likewise, the term does not constitute a declaration of support for a political ideology or theological position. For example, when a young person identifies as “gay” or “lesbian,” he or she is simply expressing a part of who he or she is, not making a claim about any controversial issues. In fact, L.G.B.T. persons embrace a wide spectrum of social, political, economic worldviews and commitments.
For all these reasons, I would suggest that the synod can use the commonly accepted term “L.G.B.T.”
Second, can the synod acknowledge that gay couples can form a “family”?
Again, let me suggest three reasons why, without challenging the church’s opposition to same-sex marriage, it may make sense for the synod to use this nomenclature.
1. There are many ways to be a “family.”
Given the vast cultural difference in the world, there are many types of families, in addition to the nuclear family of the mother, father and children. And, historically, there have also been different kinds of families—in the Bible, for example, families came in many shapes and sizes.
Today, families are not always constituted solely by marriage but also by other bonds of love and kinship—for example, a single mother and her child; a divorced man and his adopted child; a remarried and divorced couple with children; a common-law couple with children; a grandparent, aunt or uncle raising grandchildren, nieces or nephews; a legal guardian living with his or her ward; multiple generations of adults living with siblings and cousins; and an extended family of brothers and sisters whose parents are deceased. Perhaps most common of all, at least in the West, are increasing numbers of children born to unmarried couples (men and women). Each group, though in a non-traditional setting, would consider themselves a family.
If the church desires to address the contemporary world effectively it must consider using the terms by which the world understands itself.
The church may not approve of some of these situations, but it nonetheless refers to them as families. It uses the term and has used the term in the synod, widely and colloquially. Perhaps even some synod delegates hail from non-traditional families, but they most likely refer to their own “family.” Pastors, too, recognize that families are far more complex than we can imagine. In these same ways, gay couples can form families and are deserving of the term.
2. Gay couples are “families” in both the legal and emotional sense.
The church is opposed to same-sex marriage. But increasingly, gay couples are recognized by civil authorities as families. Civil courts in many countries regard same-sex couples as legally families and in other countries as having affinitas (kinship). Thus, they are families in the legal sense.
These families are also a place where love resides—in care for one another, care for children, care for aging parents, care for the larger community—just as love resides in traditional families. Many gay couples also heroically adopt the most disadvantaged and marginalized children. Such families provide a measure of social stability in the world and add to the flourishing of society as they support others in community and contribute to the common good.
Overall, if the church desires to address the contemporary world effectively it must consider using the terms by which the world understands itself. And, again, for the church to deny this may prevent dialogue with these many kinds of families.
3.Gay couples have children who need spiritual care—as members of “families.”
The church’s opposition to same-sex marriage is clear. But even though they are married without the church’s approval, gay parents do many of the same things that other parents do: love their children, provide for their upbringing and strive to help them become the persons God desires for them to be.
They also desire for their children to be part of the church. Thus, gay couples have their children baptized, bring them to Mass, teach them to pray, enroll them in religious education classes, rejoice at their reception of the sacraments and, overall, desire for their children the treasury of the church’s graces. This is the clear fruit of faith, the grace of God at work in the hearts of these parents.
Even in situations where L.G.B.T. Catholics have felt wounded by the church, many still want to raise their children in the faith—an unmistakable sign of God’s grace. This is a powerful source of life for the Body of Christ, and it is important for the church to recognize and affirm this. Children of these couples also naturally see themselves as part of a family. To argue otherwise risks making these children and young people feel excluded from their church.
The family has often been called the “little church,” where children first learn about God and about love. Thus, perhaps the best reason for using the term “family” for these couples and their children is that they are a locus of love.
I think many big and serious issues were not addressed by the Synod as explicated in this article.
1. While children of LGBT married couples can be baptized and receive all the sacraments in the Catholic Church and Holy Communion during Mass, their LGBT parents cannot receive the Eucharist because they are told they are living in perpetual sin. IMO, this is a barrier for young Catholics in these situations to continue in the faith. In many situations, LGBT Catholic families with children often have them baptized in a Christian Church, or if one parent is Jewish the children are frequently brought up in the Jewish faith.
2. It was mentioned that many LGBT married couples adopt the most disadvantaged and marginalized children. That is true. However, at the same time:
> LGBT married couples cannot adopt children from Catholic organizations unless they agree to abide by Federal government funding and non-discrimination rules.
> A young gay female in many parishes today are not permitted to be alter servers. In many parishes, young heterosexual females cannot become alter servers.
> Many priests tell parishioners that no one who is divorced -- even those divorced and not remarried -- may serve as liturgical ministers.
> Gay men are denied entry into a seminary solely based on their orientation.
> All homosexuals continued to be told that they have an intrinsic disorder. How are young Catholics who have LGBT parents impacted when they are told their parents have a intrinsic disorder?
> LGBT Catholics who teach in elementary Catholic school and become known to be in a gay marriage or relationship are fired. LGBT teachers are often told don't bother to apply for a teaching position at a Catholic elementary school.
All I see in this article are minor acknowledgments:
> the Church will use the term LGBT to describe such Catholics,
> LGBT married couples can be considered 'families' in the board sense of this term, and
> LGBT children can be baptized, educated in Catholic schools and receive the sacraments.
I totally agree with Michael.
Michael - I believe Fr. Martin is trying to get the doctrine changed for what he calls LGBT (I don't like the term, see below) without getting himself fired. It is easy for you to argue for him to move faster but you are not in any danger of losing your job.
Daniel Montiel replied to your comment you refer me to. I agree with Daniel. In my own words, I would say the following:
1. There is nothing in Fr. Martin's books or articles that state or imply that he is trying to change doctrine. This does not mean he would not welcome a development of the doctrine on homosexuality and a change in how the Church treats homosexuals or a change in the pastoral application of the doctrine on marriage and same sex marriage. On the other hand, I believe the doctrine about homosexuality and same sex marriage (e.g., civil, Christian or Jewish) should be developed and that the pastoral application of this doctrine should be changed in the same way that Holy Communion for the divorced and remarried was changed by Amoris Laetitia.
2. As to bisexuality, the term LGBT includes bisexuality. However, if a person chooses to marry someone in a permanent, faithful and loving relationship (e.g., civil, Christian, Jewish) then they enter into a "monogamous relationship" not a polygamous one. I don't believe Fr. Martin or anyone else, save perhaps for yourself, is trying to make polygamy morally permissible. While polygamy existed in ancient times, it was changed for good reasons.
Lastly, your comments can be more effective if you drop your sarcasm.
Mr. Barberi, I am not being sarcastic that I know of. Many people in high places in the church are saying Martin is a heretic, which doesn't matter to me in any case, as long as he is right. The bible prohibitions against homosexuality are much more severe than those against polygamy (if there are any), so it seems to me the "development" to permit polyamory (not polygamy) is a much smaller step, and much more in line with how most people have sexual relationships today. Or, are you against sex before marriage, or after divorce too? Finally, how is a development not a change - I think you are splitting hairs?
Garcia - While I come from the opposite side of this debate, I must compliment your logical consistency. For example, there is no fire-and-brimstone episode or threat for polygamy in the OT. It was always treated less harshly than homosexual acts. On your broader point, I too have never seen Fr. Martin, Michael Barberi, Vincent Couling or the other advocates ever defend the unique claims of bisexuals. Their focus on getting the Church to change teaching relates to homosexual acts. Barberi, in a recent post, said no one understood homosexuality in biblical times and they didn’t know that it was inborn (“born that way”) and then “natural.” But, I have never heard him argue that bisexuality is also natural because bisexuals are born that way. If one is naturally bisexual, then, according to them, one must give up half of their natural inclination and commit to a monogamous relationship with the other half. The gay community has long been suspicious of bisexual claims, in order to strengthen their view that one is born either homosexual or heterosexual. So, I too have long been against the use of acronyms to define people, particularly ones that are unstable. It would be a big mistake for the Church to begin to use these acronyms. They would be forever playing catch-up, and all documents would quickly become outdated in terms of terminology. No Catholic doctrine uses acronyms for racial or ethnic groups.
I believe you do not understand my position about bisexuality, so I have to reluctantly reply. I have answered your questions about bisexuals many times but you seem to be mixing up what I have said. Let me once again to try to clarify things for you.
If a bisexual marries someone, they do so "voluntarily" by entering into a permanent, faithful and loving relationship...full stop. A marriage today is a monogamous and permanent loving relationship where faithfulness is not only desired but required. Permanence, Faithfulness and Love is a vow couples make before God during the marriage ceremony. If faithfulness is not desired and genuine in a vow before God, then the marriage is not licit in the eyes of God (Christian or Jewish). Granted a few people may not believe in faithfulness, but this misses my point. Most people desire and vow to be faithful when getting married in a Church or in a civil ceremony.
Equally important, a marriage does not eliminate sexual desire for another person who is not their spouse. Nevertheless, because of love and the grace of God, most married couples resist and overcome immoral sexual desires. If they fail, they can confess their sin and receive forgiveness. We all are sinners whether we are single or married, heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual. However, most of us know the power of grace that can transform most marriages into permanent, "faithful" and loving relationships that are pleasing to God. The permanence, faithfulness and loving requirements of a marriage vow applies to heterosexuals, homosexuals or bisexuals. This is what couples strongly desire to adhere to when they marry in a Church and take a vow before God or even in a civil ceremony. Thus, couples sacrifice any sexual desire for another person that is not their spouse because of the love they have for their spouse when they get married. They do this voluntarily in the service of love and faithfulness and in their vow before God.
As for whether bisexuals are born that way, I don't know for certain but venture to say that they might be born that way or not. However, that is not the point when it comes to a marriage involving a bisexual, homosexual or heterosexual.. As I said, people sacrifice many things including sexual desire for other people when they enter into a permanent, faithful loving relationship.
Tim, I will not debate you on this subject because our exchanges are often not fruitful. I hope this explanation is clear to you. You can disagree with me but then again we always seem to have a different viewpoint on sexual ethics. Let's leave this discussion for another time.
I understand that some people in high places in the Church is saying Fr. Martin is a heretic. However, if you study these accusations you will note that those accusing Fr. Martin of heresy either completely misunderstand Fr. Martin or condemn him, and anyone else, that call for a rethinking about how the Church treats LGBT Catholics and homosexuality in general. These are likely the same people that call Pope Francis a heretic for issuing his Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia. Unfortunately, we live in a divided Church and in a crisis in truth. This fact often confuses Catholics and does not move us to unity.
As for polyamory, it does not matter if both parties in a marriage or intimate relationship agree that each party can have sex with another person. In the Catholic Church, this means adultery if a married person has sex with a person that is not their spouse. If two unmarried partners in a polygamous relationship has sex with another person, it is called fornication regardless if both parties consent to this.
Having said this and to the question about premarital sex, IMO there is a moral difference between young (often immature) unmarried adults who are having casual sex which is not in the service of love and who are not in a serious loving relationships that will likely lead to marriage.... and older mature unmarried adults (e.g., a divorced person, a widow or widower) who are having sex in the service of love and who are in a serious loving relationship that will likely lead to marriage.
I realize that the teachings of the Church do not see any moral difference in these situations. Nevertheless, a door may have been opened to a potential "pastoral development'" in Amoris Laetitia when Pope Francis said that many couples who are co-habitating for serious and complex reasons (as many do in South America) may not be devoid of Grace and the light of accompaniment and discernment (my words). It seems that the culpability of sin in such situations might be limited or eliminated by circumstances. More clarity about pastoral theology regarding these situations are necessary.
As to 'development' about polyamory, premarital sex or cohabitation, et al, these particular subjects also deserves a much longer and complicated discussion that a blog comment on AM. So, I will have to leave this here for now. Nevertheless, I will attempt to answer your question. My comments are not splitting hairs. For example, a 'development' is a change, but it is not the same as 'reform' which is also a change. A development is a change that does not contradict the original teaching. It expands on it. A 'reform' can contradict the original teaching. Many teachings have been reformed such as usury, slavery and the freedom of religion.
Michael - Glad to see you agree that a new teaching that DOES contradict the original teaching is a CHANGE of doctrine. So, if the teaching one day (today's Catechism, today's bible) says homosexual acts can never be approved, and another day (your position, and possibly Fr. Martin's) says they can be blessed, that would be a direct contradiction, or words mean nothing.
Tim - You don't understand what I said 'again'. To reform a teaching of the Church, a reversal of a teaching, is not immoral or wrong if it contradicts the original teaching especially if the new teaching is based on new knowledge, et al. Popes and Councils have taught many teachings as truth for centuries but they were eventually "reformed" where the new teaching was an unintended contradiction of the original teaching but based on a rethinking and new knowledge (e.g., Slavery, Usury, Freedom of Religion). The other thing you misunderstand is the difference between a change in a law (doctrine) and a change in the spirit of the law (its pastoral application). A change in a pastoral application does not contradict a doctrine. It is the difference between a moral principle that governs as an overarching principle and exceptions to a moral principle in concrete and detailed human circumstances. This is what Aquinas has taught us. There is also a difference between an immoral act, and circumstances that reduce or completely eliminate the culpability of the immoral act. Nevertheless, there is no culpability for a properly formed and informed conscience regardless if one's conscience goes against a moral teaching of the magisterium. I have gone over these ideas and concepts with you many times in past blog comments over the years but you fail to understand or don't want to understand them.
Changes in a doctrine takes a very long time in the Catholic Church. A good reason why a change in doctrine takes a long time is because the hierarchy has an exaggerated fear that if they change a doctrine then this may lead to changes in other doctrines and this will damage the credibility and authority of the Church to teach the truth. Most Catholics, theologians and bishops believe this is a foolish fear. For example, this fear was mentioned in the discussions of the Pontifical Birth Control Commission in the 1960s when a Bishop or Cardinal said, in paraphrase, 'If we permit artificial birth control what will be say about all those people who died and went to hell because of contraception. A woman on the committee replied, Bishop, what makes you think God was listening to you?' This was sarcasm but I hope you get the point.
Pope Francis was wise to bring forth and integrate into the teachings of the Church a moral pillar, namely, the role of properly formed and informed conscience. Even Pope Benedict XVI said that Catholics should never go against their informed consciences even if they go against a teaching of the Church.
As for words, yes words have meanings but not every moral teaching and their words are not the absolute moral truth. You need to differentiate between the teachings of faith (e.g., the Creed) and moral teachings (e.g., Humanae Vitae). The words of faith and moral words do not carry the same weight or meaning. Also, the interpretation of Scripture also is subject to change as we grow in knowledge about the world, human sexuality, science, theology, anthropology, philosophy and history.
In summary, truth never changes but our understanding of truth does change. Thus, doctrine and many moral teachings the Church that were taught as truth for centuries have changed and were reformed, and may well continue to change and might be reformed in the future as we better understand truth.
Michael - We certainly do not agree on what development of doctrine means, especially when you say a contradiction is a development. Development of doctrine as the Church understands it is the drawing out of the implicit in what was explicit, in maturing of a simpler teaching, and in applying a more fundamental principle to new circumstances. For example, since the beginning the Church has believed in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist (see esp. John 6), but Transubstantiation is a drawing out of the implications of the original belief, as it was challenged by heretics, etc. The teachings on slavery and usury are similar developments. Slavery in Roman times was not always chattel slavery and Usury was always onerous to the debtor. An understanding of the absolute unacceptability of chattel slavery and the acceptance of interest as bringing value to the borrower are developments. The complete reversal of doctrine, especially moral doctrine is a totally different thing. If every moral doctrine was open to complete contradiction, it would make all doctrine relativistic or worse. While some protestant churches might believe this, the Catholic Church ill never do this. We will never come to a day when the Church says direct killing an innocent human being is a good thing, or that sex outside of a marriage between a man and a woman should be blessed, or that children can be cloned. Your concept of development leaves all morality provisional.
I fully understand the difference between the explicit doctrine and its pastoral application, but the Church has stood firm against the multi-pronged attack on marriage & procreation (contraception, abortion, divorce, homosexuality, cloning, etc) and Pope Francis has been very outspoken in resisting the gay lobby, even as he now finds it has also surrounded him in the Vatican. We also disagree on the uses of conscience. You seem to know well what the Church teaches, what the popes have taught, and you know you actively reject that very teaching, so you are not just disagreeing on an application of doctrine but actively oppose that doctrine.
Michael - I do not propose any new teaching or teaching different from the Holy Catholic Church. My only goal is to understand it more deeply and then defend it on these blogs. I know you are on your own journey of faith and I hope God assists you on it. You heavily blog on issues in the sexual space, particularly relating to contraceptive sex. I truly believe you are sincere. We can agree to disagree.
As you often say, we have said our piece, here and elsewhere, and it is better not to prolong or repeat it here. So, this is my last comment in this discussion. Thank you for vigorously defending due process and the presumption of innocence in the recent fracas and unjust attack. God Bless you on your journey.
Tim - There you go again, misrepresenting what I said. I never said that a contradiction is a development of a doctrine. NEVER. I SAID THAT A "REFORM" OF A TEACHING IS A CONTRADICTION OF A DOCTRINE. This is the problem with debating with you Tim. I am tired of correcting you about what I say.
Let me give you an example of reform and development. If a doctrine says that 'a man is standing in a room' but later says that a man is standing in a room and wearing eye glasses, then this is a 'development' of a doctrine. On the other hand, if years later the Church says that 'a horse is standing in a room', then this is a reform of a teaching and a contradiction of the original doctrine that said that a man is standing in the room.
Slavery was not a development of this teaching because all or most forms of slavery was once morally permitted, then only certain defined forms of slavery were permitted, then all forms of slavery were forbidden, then finally slavery of all kinds were intrinsically evil. These changes in this teaching is a "reform" of the teaching and a contradiction of the original teaching. Usury is another example of a reform of a teaching. There were 3 Papal Bulls and 2 Councils that asserted that interest on money lent was immoral and against Divine Law (e.g., Scripture). There were no exceptions, full stop. You can argue until the cows come home that slavery, usury and freedom of religions were only a development of these teachings but you fail to understand the difference between a development and a reform of a teaching.
Many books have been written about the reform of these teachings and we have spend extremely lengthly exchanges over the years about this subject but your explanations were always intellectually unpersuasive, not only to me but to most Catholics and theologians. I have real many articles and one book that support the Church's position about these teachings. None of them were convincing and I could easily refute them. You need to recognize that an admission that the Church reformed these teachings that were taught as truth for centuries, would put the Church in a very difficult position about defending their authority and credibility that it has never or will ever err in its moral teachings.
I never said that the teachings on cloning or the killing of an innocent person should be changed, so please don't conflate what I say with ridiculous analogies. This is another one of your argumentative strategies in an effort to imply that what I am arguing about is akin to changing such teachings. Also, please stop bringing up 'faith doctrines' like the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. What I argue about is not faith issues, but moral issues. Of course, I have asked you many times in the past to stop this stuff, but you continue to use irresponsible examples of articles of faith in your arguments with me. Somehow, you think this strengthens your argument but does the opposite.
As to doctrine and the application of doctrine: I disagree with some doctrines, like Humanae Vitae. So what? This does not make my arguments wrong, misguided or unfaithful. On the other hand, I agree with Pope Francis on the application of the doctrine on marriage and divorce in Amoris Laetitia (AL). Evidently you don't and this seems to me to be an example of contradiction on your part because you agree with the teachings of Paul VI, JP II and Benedict XVI but not Pope Francis. However, applying the same principles in AL (e.g., the internal forum and the informed conscience) to other moral teachings like contraception or requiring homosexual to live a lifetime of sexual abstinence, is a logical and reasoned hopefulness. I believe at some point in the future this may happen. As for same sex marriage, I have no illusion that the Church will not change its teachings on this subject. However, there is a possibility that some change in the pastoral application of these teachings may change, and there are good reasons for this to happen as I have argued.
I know that you do not agree that the truth is revealed to us in agreement and disagreement. Nevertheless, if every Catholic, Bishop and Theologian would never have argued for change in certain teachings, think about what life would be like with no change in slavery, usury and the freedom of religion. Of course, you will argue that these teachings would have been reformed anyway but I believe you are standing with the very few with this view. I know that you will continue to argue that every teaching of the magisterium is the absolute moral truth because the Holy Spirit ensures that the words of popes, the papal magisterium, is guarded from error. Unfortunately, history demonstrates that this is not true. Equally important, the papal magisterium is only one of our Church's magisterium. There is the theological magisterium and the lay magisterium as well. Unfortunately, their voices are not considered in any formulation or change of doctrine or in their pastoral application. Nor are their voices seriously considered, at least in the modern era. Hopefully, things will change.
This is my last comment to you as well. I'll pray that God enlightens and blesses you on your journey. FYI, I always ask him to help me with our exchanges.
Mr. Barberi, Thank you for your explanation. So, the Church can change a doctrine by reforming it, even if that is a direct contradiction of past teaching. That means the Church is not bound forever to monogamy, and could in the future permit polyandry. In the meantime, I can follow my conscience and support polyandry today.
Yes, the Church can change a doctrine either by development or reform. However, many moral doctrines will likely never be changed such as same sex marriage. It may be possible, IMO, to change the pastoral application of same sex marriage and the salvation for homosexuals (e.g., some change in the requirement of a homosexual to live a lifetime of sexual abstinence even in a civil or Christian marriage). Nevertheless, you can and are required never to go against your properly formed and informed conscience and the process that this entails. If you don't have a properly formed and informed conscience and follow an appropriate process your conscience may well be ill-formed and not properly informed. If you want more details, let me know as this requires a more lengthly blog comment. Your 'opinion' per se is not a properly formed conscience.
Thanks again. I have a conscience at least as "properly formed" as the average person in the polls, but that too is determined by one's conscience, right? The way I see it, the teachings of the church are just one thing to take into consideration, and the latest science and one's own experience should have a greater influence. I am surprised you do not think same sex marriage will be eventually approved, like in several protestant churches, once the Catholics get over their opposition to homosexual acts being immoral. Unless they approve sex outside marriage first (as in civil unions), and then the question re marriage won't matter anymore.
You cannot rely on your conscience that you claim is 'properly formed' as the average person in polls and then say that this is sufficient to determine if your conscience is properly formed AND informed. The average Catholic has no idea about what a properly formed and informed conscience is, and I blame the Church for not fully discussing this and educating Catholics. The reason they don't do so is because they don't want Catholics to think that their 'opinion' is a properly formed and informed conscience and therefore they can 'pick and choose what doctrines and teachings suite their circumstances'. While some or many average Catholics may well have a properly formed and informed conscience on a particular subject/issue, others many not.
Below is a short description that might help you understand what an informed conscience is. It is not doing anything you think or desire, full stop. This is not a 'properly formed and informed conscience'.
> conscience is not infallible, it can err.
> one must form and inform one's conscience properly. In this regard, one must adequately education oneself as best they can about Church teachings and their rationale. One should ask questions until there are no more to ask. However, this does not mean that one should not comprehensively understand alternative scholarly viewpoints for reflection.
> Equally important, one must also be 'open to and seek further on-going education' of the subject in question especially if one's judgment of his/her informed conscience might be in tension with a Church teaching. In this regard, further education must last a lifetime. One must also seek frequently priestly and theological advice, pray often for enlightenment and God's grace, and frequently embrace the sacrament of reconciliation and the Eucharist.
> one must have humility and recognize that if one's informed conscience is in tension with a teaching of the magisterium, the teachings of the magisterium should be given preference. However, this does not mean that Catholics should automatically abandon one's judgement of his/her informed conscience.
In conclusion, we all sin and make bad decisions that some of us, including popes and councils, thought were right and truthful (e.g., slavery, denying freedom of religion). Nevertheless, we should not lose sight of the fact that while we need to look back at the past and learn and be guided by it (Church Tradition and Doctrine), we must also look forward to further education and understanding in terms of a rightful informed conscience with the help of the Holy Spirit and the virtue of prudence. This will not eliminate respectful disagreement but it will not plunge us into excessive guilt and doubt.
As Aquinas and the Church teaches, no one should go against their properly informed conscience even if it is in tension with a moral teaching of the Magisterium. If one does everything reasonable to seek and understand the truth, and to properly form and inform one's conscience as expiated above, Aquinas teaches us that there is no culpability for an erroneous conscience. To be clear, if a decision of a properly informed conscience is believed by the agent to be truthful and right, and not erroneous. he/she must never go against it. If one believes his conscience to be erroneous, he/she must never abide by it.
This is my last comment to you. I hope God enlightens you and blesses you on your journey.
John Corvino, Professor of Philosophy and Department Chair at Wayne State University, has dealt excellently with the "slippery slope" allegation that "approval of homosexuality somehow entails approval for polygamy, bestiality, and incest" ... his reflection is well worth a read ... http://www.johncorvino.com/wp-content/plugins/pdf-viewer/stable/web/viewer.html?file=http://www.johncorvino.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Corvino-PIB.pdf
I'm Catholic and I'm gay. I agree with Father Martin that people who aren't heterosexuals should be treated with respect. I was often called by painful terms as a boy in the late 1960's ( "sissy") as well as by the offensive term "faggot" as an adolescent in the late 1970's. I was called these terms by my peers of different or no particular faith, not only Catholics. Ironically, I had not even revealed my sexual orientation until many years later; many of my peers simply correctly assumed that I was gay. However, I have no objection to the term "same-sex attraction." I also agree with Father that being gay is not the sum of my personality . I'm quiet, generally amiable and patient unless I 'm tired or wish to pursue something other than what someone else (a friend, family member, or fellow nursing home resident). I enjoy reading books about history and murder mysteries (both fictional and true crime). I enjoy helping people in need (I'm a retired Special Education teacher who worked with children and adults with different disabilities in various capacities for over twenty years. I like writing letters about all different subjects to various media outlets. I have many friends, former co-workers, and know other people of different faiths, and while I may disagree with some of their views, I respect them and consider myself to be ecumenical. However, like Pope Francis, I firmly believe that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. People who are not heterosexuals should be welcomed into each parish community. However, I believe that those who publicly declare that they have a civil "marriage" shouldn't be permitted to hold positions of authority. I could continue, and in fact did in another article in America about "walking in the shoes" of a Catholic who's gay. I certainly have. done so. There are any number of religions that condone same-sex relationships, and some faiths (I believe the Episcopal Church) that perform same-sex marriages. At one point in my life as a young man, for several years I doubted God's existence. Ironically, I still did my best to follow our faith's moral teachings. After experiencing many difficulties and struggles in my life and in the lives of loved ones (, one aunt of whom I was very close who died from a malignant brain tumor, three of whom died from cancer-one spent most of her life in a state mental hospital, though my family and me regularly visited her), my Dad who spent much of his final seven years of life hospitalized from complications from diabetes, and who died after spending a,month comatose-although he died peacefully, and a close friend and co-worker who committed suicide by hanging herself) as well as many years ago having had sex with men but regretting it and experiencing forgiveness and consolation through the Sacrament of Reconciliation --I decided that God has reasons for everything, even suffering, that are unknown to humanity, I t may well be that just as Jesus, our Savior and Good Shepherd had such great love for humanity that He was willing to suffer and die for our sins, but rose in victory over death to give all people the opportunity to enjoy eternal life.
Mr. Donovan, thank you for a beautifully written and heartfelt expression of your journey as a human being—the unity of body and soul imbued with the grace of God. Like you, I also felt the need to comment on the recent piece about walking in the shoes of a Catholic faithful who is gay, but I did not. But your honesty and sincere witness compelled me to reply here. In full disclosure, I am a cradle Catholic, late baby boomer (born 1963), given up for adoption due to being the offspring of an adulterous affair between two older Catholics, baptized shortly after birth and cared for by nuns briefly before being adopted and raised an only child by loving older Catholic parents (one a convert) and loving extended family, educated for 12 years in Catholic schools, sexually abused from age 9-13 by a teenage son of close Catholic family friends and witnessing the abuse of my 5-yo female cousin with whom I was closely raised and whom I love by this same broken youth, but felt powerless to stop.
As a consequence, I have struggled with my heterosexuality and relationships with girls and women, not questioning my orientation, but instead becoming hypersexualized and heterosexually promiscuous driven by insecurity and mistrust and often destroying relationships, including nearly destroying my own marriage of the last 21 years from this fallout. Struggling with addiction and depression, while appearing successful and leading a blessed life on the outside, because I have been blessed. Though angry at God sometimes, losing my religion at others, but never abandoning it for an easier and more accepting way, because I have been and am blessed by Christ.
My cross, my shoes so to speak, in my vocation of faithful and sacramental marriage have been fidelity and chastity. My wants drive me to desire the excitement and fleeting pleasures of sex with other women, thankfully not younger women, but still other women who are not my beautiful and loving wife (who converted to Catholicism 10 years after our marriage and 6 years after our second child).
Thankfully, Christ, God our Father, and the Holy Spirit have given me the grace and strength not to pursue this intrinsically disordered path. But I have sinned and committed adultery in my heart.
We all need to walk in each other’s shoes since we all struggle with The Way. But because it is The Truth, and not my, or yours, or his, or her truth, it is the only way, the Way of the Cross, but also the way that leads to the Good News of redemption, salvation, and the resurrection.
I prayfor, love, and welcome all those that hold fast and struggle with this backward and ancient way, for it is in God’s time and not our own.
We are one in God and must love and help each other as Jesus commanded us to do.
Peace in Christ
When you begin a discussion by laying down rules that conform with contemporary society, you run the risk of misunderstanding the Word of God. Jesus called everyone, including the most hated and outcast, but with the sole objective of changing hearts and minds. Jesus did not agree with contemporary society, he came to change it from within. As scripture reflects "we are neither Greek or Jew, slave or free person, male or female, for in Christ we are heirs." To forego Christ we cast off all labels and bare our hearts.
Mr. Agostino, thank you for making this point. Gay, Italian, LGBTQA, Irish, Chinese, heterosexual, African-American, cradle, Filipino, and on and on—these are all labels that divide and focus on circumstances of birth and place or on one dimension of our humanity (e.g., our sexuality), that are meaningless to Christ. We are all followers of Him, The Father’s children, Christ’s brothers and sisters—we are Catholic, a universal Church—this very fact terrifies governments and secular authorities and oligarchs, because while we support our nations when we believe they are following God’s way, we are ultimately not beholden to these governments, only to God’s Kingdom.
The only labeIs I accept are Sinner and repentant Catholic.
Funny how the Irish or the deaf or the married (etc) aren't somehow shamed or attacked for daring to recognize such a group label, whereas queer Catholics are subtly pushed to either reject or feel bad about their biology.
Though I occasionally disagree in approach, Fr. Martin, I want to thank you from the depths of my spirit for your ministry to LGBT Catholics. As a queer woman, I have experienced much emotional and spiritual pain at the hands of the Catholic Church. One day, for some reason that only God knows, I found myself in the Christian section of a local Barnes & Noble in Detroit, Michigan. I was just having a look and I came across your book. I can remember opening the hardcover copy and reading the portion of Psalm 139 that you included there. I immediately began to cry as I read the first few pages. Fearful of what I felt, I stuffed the book back on the shelf and left without a purchase, only to return a few days later to buy it. There were areas of the book I didn't necessarily agree with or think were spot on with regards to our community, but your book and ministry are beautiful BECAUSE of those (perceived) blind spots (and I have seen you've released an updated and expanded edition- thank you!), and because of the tricky stuff, because that's what this dialogue is all about - fleshing these things out and turning to God for answers.
That being said, your book, your ministry, and your continued outreach to the LGBT community and your general calls for a more compassionate and inclusive Church brought me back onto my knees in a pew for the first time in five years.
To anyone in this comment thread expressing disregard, distaste, or meanness towards Fr. Martin and the LGBT community, remember that we are a Church of calling in - and that my experience as I've shared here is not unique when it comes to Fr. Martin's work. His work, and this conversation that is slowly beginning across the country thanks to MANY people, is God's grace in action. If people are going back to Church, are praying again, are dusting off their Bibles and digging out our rosaries, can we really argue that that's a bad thing? When this is what people are telling you, that we're coming back, that we feel welcome, is this a time for you to shout that we're intrinsically disordered? I urge you to consider the gravity and importance of inclusion, kindness, and compassion towards people who have otherwise felt marginalized.
As a woman, a member of the LGBTQ community, and a young person (I'm 22), there have been many times when I have felt the Church is just not an inclusive and welcoming place for me. Thanks to Fr. Martin, I and other young people, other women, and other LGBT folks feel we're able to walk into a Church and give it another go.
I think that's worth you listening, you who may otherwise turn your back on us.
Fr. Martin – I appreciate your campaign for the rights of sexual minorities and to change the teaching of the catholic church. However, you seem to only care about gay men and maybe a little about lesbians. In particular, you never raise the particular needs of bisexual people. Bisexual people are naturally oriented to both sexes, and any morality that requires them to choose one or the other is against their nature as they were created. Monogamy is a denial of the nature of bisexuality. Polyamory is the only natural end of a bisexual inclination.
Also, I don't like to be referred to by an acronym, or a subset of an acronym. You act as if bisexuals do not exist, when most recent studies show increasing numbers of bisexuals and no change in the other parts of the acronym. But, keep up the good work - before they throw you out.
I appreciate this very much. I'm bisexual and feel this deeply.
You are free, of course, to not like the acronym LGBT, but it’s odd that you mention the acronym in this column’s title - which includes ‘bisexual’ as one of the 4 letters - at the same time as you complain that Fr. Martin is pretending that bisexuals don’t exist.
Also (briefly), the fact that bisexual people can be attracted to more than one gender may lead to a (perfectly normal) desire for sex with more than one person - in this case, one from each gender. But just as the straight man may (perfectly naturally) desire intercourse with more than one woman, both Catholic teaching and the structure of Catholic matrimony will limit his, well, dance card to one person. Bisexuals have no special exemption from this expectation: a healthy heterosexual male may not want to be restricted to one woman, and a healthy bisexual male may not want to be restricted to one woman or one man. I don’t see why bisexuals somehow get to skip the expectations of monogamy and fidelity simply because their idea of “everything I am interested in” happens to include different genders. Monogamy is not some guarantee of “having access to representative examples of all I find attractive” - far from it.
Mr. Montiel, I know that there is a B in LGBT, but are there any writings of Fr. Martin's outside the acronym that he addresses the bisexual? I am not aware of them (but I could be wrong). To include B only in an acronym is to co-opt B for the cause. In any case, you above make a good defense of the queer. Why doesn't Fr. Martin ever use LGBTQ? My point is I am not referring to marriage, but to polyamory (at least for now - that has a promise not to have other sex partners and is a special case, unless they agree on an open marriage). Are you against sex before marriage or after divorce? Isn't that just conceding too much? All the church has to do is say sex with any consenting adults is ok for all the fighting to stop. This is what most sex experts agree on. As I said above to Mr. Barberi, approving polyamory is a much smaller step than approving homosexuality from the bible.
Garcia - Is it LGBT, LGBTQ, LGBTQIA, LGBTQIAPK (NPR) or ...etc? Here is a 10-page primer on the terminology from Michigan State University http://lbgtrc.msu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Glossary-of-LGBTQIA-Terms.pdf
Here is an argument to change LGBT to GSD - Gender and Sexual Diversities — as a more inclusive term.
"Davies noted that the term LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) still excluded “a whole batch of people who didn’t feel able to go to mainstream counseling organizations and also wouldn’t necessarily be welcome at LGBT counseling organizations,”
Mr. O'Leary - you make my point. I wish Fr. Martin would stop including us in an acronym just for his own political goals. Bisexuals have their own wants and needs that are being ignored.
Garcia - The LGBT acronym is pure political fashion, made up of disparate proclivities cobbled together to make a tiny minority a little larger. It says nothing true about the people it claims to represent. The Church would be unwise to adopt an already inaccurate and out-of-date nomenclature in its writings. Fr. Martin is very unwise on this point.
"Proclivities"? That word is defined as "a tendency to choose or do something regularly; an inclination or predisposition toward a particular thing." Queer people don't "choose" their orientation, and, also, a gay person can not "choose" to be attracted to the opposite gender.
But I am sure *many* here are used to seeing people like you try to dismiss biological reality as "political fashion". And I am (unsurprised but) sad to hear that you view anywhere from 1-3% of humanity as "a tiny minority". You don't even bother to count the numbers of people you idly condemn to either hell or lifelong isolation, do you? *smh*
there are so many more women than LGBTs, I don't think America has its priorities right in focusing so much on a minority group, instead of using the same space and energy to militate against the patriarchy and hierarchy that is holding half the population down and preventing them from taking a rightful place in the service of THEIR church!
This comment is built on the assumption that women and LGBT people are separate groups. There are many, many LGBT women. These identities intersect. I'm totally with you in fighting patriarchy and Church hierarchy, but within that half of the population are even more marginalized people.
I love the com boxes on America. You hardly ever have to draw out all the implications of a position staked out in a article. Those in favor of the position will usually do it for you.
So, in this case, it would be a natural consequence of Fr. Martin's position that the adoption by the Church of the paraphilias acronym as a naming courtesy must NECESSARILY lead to the acceptance of any and all sexual diversities that are now or are hitherto folded into the term (queer, asexual, polyamorous would just be the beginning). What about neutrois and genderflux? Where do you draw the line once you've abandoned the position that God made them male and female, and original sin and its consequences have lead us everywhere else?
1. No. “Same-sex attracted” is clumsier, but far more accurate - and unlike LGBT, far less likely to need replacing by LGBTQ, then by LGBTQI, then by LGBTQIA, then by LGBTQQIP2SAA, then by .......; and this is without going into the new pronouns. Why stop at using, or changing, acronyms, when there are all those pronouns to use as well ? The Church already has the concepts with which to discuss SSAism - adopting vocabulary loaded with secularising ideas from outside the CC would be exceedingly unwise.
Which is why the word “gay” should also be avoided; the Teaching Church cannot seem to approve forms of sexuality and sexual activity that she has constantly rejected as unworthy of Christians, or as disordered. They are harmful to Christians, every bit as more “spiritual” sins, like pride, envy, avarice, wrath, or sloth with all their poisonous fruits. These are as dangerous as, or more dangerous than, lust in all its forms, whether fornication, masturbation, sodomy, sexual fantasising, pornography, adultery, or any other “sin against the body”. The Church cannot approve any of these sins and disordered behaviours, just as she cannot approve same-sex activity.
2. The world outside the Church may very well recognise same-sex unions & the children in them as families. But the world is not the Church Christ founded. The Church of Christ, and all its members, are bound by their calling to be the Holy People of God, to have the Mind of Christ, the priorities of Christ, to obey and internalise the Law of Christ, to have the motives of Christ, to belong totally, always and in every way to Christ.
And Christ has defined for all times and places that marriage is between one man, and one woman. Same-sex unions are not, nor can they be, marriages. So the unit formed by those unions, and the presence of children, cannot be families. They are built upon the foundation of a sexual relationship which is disordered, so the society built on this relationship cannot be a family in the proper sense. A family can be nuclear, extended, or without a spouse because of separation, death, or desertion; but it cannot be a family if the two spouses cannot reflect the Mystery of the Church, which is one of a total self-donation, that responds to God’s total gift of Self in Christ. Christian marriage is fundamentally not about the spouses at all. It is a participation, by Christians, in the mystery of Christ’s Love of His Church. The spouses are not interchangeable equals - the Church is not the equal of Christ.
To conform the thinking, practice, speech, attitudes, and doctrine of the Church to that of the world, would be an enormous disservice to same-sex people regardless of religion or lack of it, to Catholics, to coming generations, to the mission of the Church. The more the evil and corruption in the world is appeased by Catholics, the more difficult it becomes to say the hard sayings that need to be said and heard. All men are injured by sin, their own or others; we are all sinners. So all of us need healing and purifying from our sins & blindness. And that, un-PC as it may be to say this, also includes same-sex attracted Catholics and all other SSA people. That attraction is a disorder, as are the disorders in the rest of us.
I truly appreciate Fr Martin’s work in the area of helping the hierarchy and others in the Church open their hearts and minds to the reality — ever ancient and ever new — that there are and always have been what we now call LGBT persons within the human family and the Body of Christ. With that appreciation however, comes a bit of fatigue. As a gay man no longer in his youth, part of me wants to cry out, “How long, O Lord?” How long must we wait to be recognized for who we are? How long must we wait for Holy Mother to see us as daughters and sons just as fully as our straight brothers and sisters? Do the bishops really need to be convinced that we, too, are worthy of respect and deserve the dignity of being called “family”? ... And yes, how long must we wait until we are not afraid to “... challeng[e] the church’s teaching on homosexuality or its opposition to same-sex marriage,” for being the theologically indefensible positions that they are? ... Thank you, Fr Martin, for being a voice that is listened to, even when so many LGBT voices go unheard.
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