See the Person: Understanding Pope Francis’ statements on homosexuality

Until recently, where the Catholic Church stands on homosexuality was regarded as obvious. The stance of the church toward gays and lesbians and their distinctive activities was seen as negative, leading to judgments and condemnations. Of decisive importance was the negative moral judgment on homosexual acts as intrinsically evil. Even though the magisterium had distinguished between homosexual acts and a homosexual inclination, the intrinsic moral evil of the acts meant that while the sexual orientation was not sinful in itself, it represented an inclination to do sinful things and so had to be resisted.

Recently, the church in the United States has strongly resisted the movement to legalize same-sex marriage, arguing that it would legitimize intrinsically evil homosexual acts, that it would have very negative effects on the institution of marriage, and that it would pose a serious threat to religious freedom. Recent comments by Pope Francis in this magazine and elsewhere imply that there may turn out to be more complexity to the Catholic position. Francis has declared on several occasions that he has no desire to challenge or change Catholic moral teaching on sexual matters or to innovate in church doctrine. Presumably, he does not want to contradict himself or the long tradition of Catholic teaching on this subject, which has biblical roots and has shaped legal norms in most Western countries for a long time. So, what is the pope up to?

Trying to decipher the mind of a sitting pope is a perilous enterprise, especially when he is opening up a highly controversial topic in both church and civil life. The most a friendly and admiring moral philosopher can do is read his words and actions and offer suggestions about how to construe them so that they form a coherent picture. This is something that should be done before people celebrate or condemn what the pope has been saying. It is important to keep in mind that on this topic the pope is not using the ordinary means of presenting and developing church teaching, which would normally be done by formal addresses, statements from Vatican officials and, in a more lasting form, through encyclical letters.

One way to characterize what the pope is doing is that he is prodding us to think about what the stance of the church toward homosexuality should be, rather than what it generally has been. Now the word stance, while common enough in English, is not a theological term. Theologians and most bishops speak of church teachings and doctrines, of norms and principles, of moral judgments and moral conclusions. Drawing on legal reasoning and moral philosophy, they aim at conclusions that can be applied consistently across a wide range of cases.

A ready starting point is the condemnation of homosexual acts as intrinsically evil. This approach is rationalistic rather than experiential, though those who employ it may turn to experience to support their arguments. For the moral rationalist, there is no need to encounter the people who perform the acts in order to learn what they experience or what the acts mean to them. This is not to say there are no emotional factors at work in the condemnation. They may be kept in the background, but such emotions can be quite powerful.

For many years a powerful set of forces shaped the rationalist approach. There were legal prohibitions against homosexual activity; experts in psychology saw it as a form of arrested or incomplete development; people were reluctant to recognize this inclination in themselves or in family or friends. Homosexuality was considered shameful, disreputable, dangerous and sinful. It was something to be shunned, denied, marginalized and condemned.

For a generation this severely negative set of social judgments and practices has been under attack. It has now come close to collapse in large areas of the world, though it is alive and vigorous in many other parts of the world. In an almost complete reversal, public opinion in the United States and many other Western countries has shifted to such an extent that homophobia has now become the reality to be concealed and denied. The traditional view is now widely regarded as vulnerable, embarrassing and unpersuasive. It no longer serves as a norm that needs only strict enforcement and louder commitment in order to achieve full acceptance.

The Church’s Response

In the face of such an unsettling change in society, what is the Catholic Church to do? If adamant opposition to homosexuality is unlikely to yield positive results at a time when the church’s influence on society is generally declining, should the traditional teaching be abandoned? This would be craven, especially given the often admirable character of the church’s critical response to many socially dominant attitudes and practices over the centuries. Bishops are right to insist that church teaching is not to be determined by opinion polls or election results. It would, however, be wrong to think that such shifts in public perception do not raise serious difficulties, which are perilous for Christians to ignore. It is unlikely that lasting good can come out of any stance on human affairs that in effect says, “We know what we know; what we don’t know is not worth learning about; and what contradicts what we think we know is not worth thinking about.” Such a stance is incompatible with the harmonious collaboration between faith and reason that Pope Benedict XVI saw as a characteristic strength of Catholicism.

What seems to be called for is a time of critical reflection on the tradition to clarify what strengths are to be preserved and what continuities are to be affirmed even while searching for the sources of limitations in the teaching and acknowledging the development of new questions and problems. Critical reflection also needs to be directed to public opinion and to those who would mold it in a new direction, who often harbor naïve, incoherent and immature views, even while they think of themselves as knowledgeable and progressive. Both kinds of critical reflection require time and support for research and careful dialogue that will assess what is known and what is not known, what is hoped and what is feared. There is an ongoing need to coordinate research and information across the fields of biology, medicine, social science and ethics as well as to look seriously at the development of Christian and other religious teaching on this topic down through the centuries.

A “stance,” as contrasted with beliefs or theoretical positions, normally brings with it a realization that other factors are at work. It involves a response to positions or movements in the broader social and intellectual world rather than merely to arguments and criticisms in scholarly journals. Adopting or modifying a stance provides an opportunity to weigh other factors beyond a specific judgment on the moral rightness or wrongness of an act. One can consider alternatives to the stance and think about how others will respond to it. One can consider changing factors in the social context. One can acknowledge the limits to knowledge and arguments once found persuasive.

There are signs that Pope Francis is in the process of thinking along some of these lines. In taking a critical view of the previous stance, one need not abandon it. In changing a stance, even one that has been widely held and is deeply persistent, one may not be changing or reversing church doctrine. Indeed, Francis has repeatedly said that he does not intend to change church doctrine. This produces disappointment in many journalists and advocates; but ignoring what he affirms will lead to more serious and lasting disappointment. There is also a risk that both those who hope for a radical transformation of Catholic teaching on homosexuality and those who dread such a change may miss the point of the more discerning, more compassionate stance that the pope seems intent on introducing. They may judge him by criteria that might be appropriate for legal, political and journalistic activities but that would distort the character of the church’s pastoral relationship with those to whom it is called to minister.

Humility Matters

Four important elements should mark a new stance toward homosexuals and homosexuality. The first is humility. We must acknowledge what we do not know and what we do not understand about the contemporary situation of homosexuals. This is an important point both for advocates of alternative lifestyles and for social and religious traditionalists. It is especially needed as we explore the difficult questions about how to understand the causes of homosexual inclinations and actions and how biological inheritance, historical experience and personal choice come together in shaping sexual orientation. Difficult questions also surround the social consequences of giving legal acceptance to same-sex unions, especially the effects of such a policy on the institution of marriage in Western societies. Humility is appropriate not merely for debate on broad social issues but also in the settings of family and friendship and in the decisions to seek and provide counsel and care for persons who are uncertain and distressed about homosexuality in themselves or others.

Second, we must show respect for the dignity of homosexual persons as creatures of the one God and Father of us all, as members of the community of the redeemed and as fellow citizens of the city and the world. The affirmation of traditional views needs to take place within an ethic of dialogue and must be marked by civility, compassion and charity. Desires that homosexuals should cease to exist, or that they should disappear from public space, or that laws should be enacted that would deny their human rights are simply not acceptable. Precisely because the disagreements over the moral assessments of homosexual acts and the future of relevant social institutions are real and are deeply felt, it is necessary to practice moral attitudes that will sustain conversation over time. This will help to bind the advocates of change and traditionalists. It should also restrain the mockery and denigration of people who in a spirit of honesty and faithfulness honor traditional social values. For in the church, we are called to show charity and mutual forbearance rather than to be victorious masters of cultural warfare.

The greater burden rests with those who, consciously or not, have been influenced in their attitudes and reactions by homophobia, by the fear and hatred of homosexual persons and acts. This can be manifested in schoolyard bullying, in malicious outing and violations of privacy, in blackmail and psychopathic violence. Many of those who are most critical of church teaching on sexuality have suffered wounds from homophobia, sometimes with the connivance of church members or, even worse, with their approval. For all these offenses against our brothers and sisters, there is need for repentance and conversion. As we turn to the future, there is a corresponding need to look critically at those who offer themselves as allies against gay and lesbian agendas.

Third, all parties need to show realism in acknowledging the problems of perception and trust that complicate our efforts to understand and collaborate with one another. We must be aware of the challenges to mature and responsible behavior that human sexuality presents to all of us, regardless of our orientation. There is a profound need for realism in acknowledging the ambiguities that mark our histories, both personal and social. God’s judgment is not likely to yield a simple division between heterosexual sheep and homosexual goats, just as God’s creation does not produce persons who remain consistently on one side of this divide. Expulsion of those with sexual differences from the sacred precincts of the church and expunging their acts and gifts from our institutional memory may express a detestation of intrinsic evil, but it also carries with it an effective denial of common humanity. We must not only be charitable with others, but also honest with ourselves. Realistic self-understanding leads to the abandonment of hypocrisy; realistic understanding of others prepares the way for acceptance in community. Looking seriously at the communities in which we participate will disclose a complex tapestry in which the multicolored threads of the rainbow catch and reflect light, increase splendor and range, and are to be gratefully received.

Realism also involves a recognition that the moral, personal and spiritual development to which we are all called in Christ is not identical with some form of legal or philosophical consistency or even with doctrinal orthodoxy. Nor, on the other hand, is it to be defined as the successful working out of one’s sexual orientation. Both of these distortions involve a reduction of the human person to one or more favored aspects of what is a richer, more complex reality. They also involve the substitution of an immediate, testable accomplishment for the movement of the soul toward the transcendent Other in faith, hope and charity.

Fourth, during this period of scrutiny and reassessment, we must be patient with ourselves, with each other and with the friends and allies of the contesting groups both in the public arena and in the life of the church. The tasks of sifting arguments, modifying laws and institutional arrangements, reshaping personal and social expectations and examining the effects of changes when they are proposed and when they are enacted are all tasks that are best done over time. The process of learning, listening, revising, beginning anew and encouraging participants on all sides and at all levels consumes immense amounts of time and energy. In the United States and elsewhere, the whole process is going to be conducted under the shadow of the sexual abuse crisis, which will be a continuing source of suspicion, fear and acrimony. The very American desire for quick and unambiguous outcomes will make the necessary patience shorter in supply and harder to sustain. We have to bear in mind that law and public opinion in the United States now understand and treat homosexual relations between consenting adults and the sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable persons as significantly different realities.

Sexual Values

The new stance on the subject of homosexuality should open up possibilities for affirming the human dignity of homosexuals. It should also acknowledge their need for an appropriate form of pastoral ministry and should affirm a continuity of key values in a greatly changed social situation. For instance, the traditional teaching and practice of the church has presented faithfulness and fruitfulness as two of the great goods closely connected with sexual activity. Critics of homosexual practice have been honestly unable to see the continuing place for these values in same-sex unions. The desire of some homosexuals to adopt children as well as the desire of many homosexuals to enter into permanent unions can be seen as evidence of the power and attractiveness of these traditional values, even if they are being achieved in previously unacceptable ways.

Assessing the possibility for homosexuals to achieve these values in a sustainable way requires us to go beyond the current arguments about equal rights and equal protection for personal preferences to look carefully at actual lives and the way values are articulated and practiced. This can be one way of defending traditional marriage. But it is also a way of requiring the proponents of same-sex marriage to acknowledge the incompleteness of their approach and their arguments. Good intentions and earnest declarations do not constitute effective guarantees of lasting fidelity. The principal change would not be in the teaching of the church on the moral acceptability of homosexual activity, but in affirming and practicing pastoral ministry for persons engaged in irregular or questionable unions. Ministry would be carried on in a more tentative, inquiring spirit; it would be more intent on providing care and encouraging growth for persons, many of whom have known many sorrows, than in implementing policies within bureaucratic and legal frameworks.

Here we might apply a favorite metaphor of Pope Francis: those carrying on the ministry would function in a way like doctors in a field hospital. They would proceed from a genuine desire to understand the personal and spiritual aspirations of the persons in their care instead of simply repeating the equivalent of a fatal diagnosis, which is how repeated reliance on the notion of “intrinsic evil” will likely be perceived. This is not a proposal for adjudicating the numerous issues now under dispute, nor is it a theological program for resolving the problems of implementing change in this troubled area of the church’s theology and practice. But it may serve as a partial model for addressing similar problems in areas where Catholic Christians have been putting more energy into denunciation than into dialogue, where disjunctions and fractures have been growing in scale and lethality. Perhaps it is best conceived as a submission for the notice board in the field hospital.

Sara Emory
3 years 4 months ago
Evolution is a slow business, but as with all cycles of growth in the physical world there are periods of exponentially greater leaps between phases of relative dormancy. Institutions are, by definition, built upon a foundation of established doctrine, which inevitably turns almost instantly into rigid dogma - which in turn cannot do anything other than resist divine inspiration. People identify with a religious community or denomination for many different reasons, and a passionate commitment to the teachings of that one we call Jesus - to seek increasing understanding on as many levels as possible - in no way requires allegiance to the orthodox church, or any other church. However, Pope Francis gives hope to those who are ready for the Catholic Church to revere the radical from Galilee more than the imperial legacy of the Roman Empire. Nowhere did I see in this article a reference to the darkness of hypocrisy and denial underlying the profound legacy of homosexuality among Catholic clergy. Until that is openly addressed in the same conversation as the Church's official attitude toward homosexuality in general, no meaningful progress can be made.
Jim Lein
3 years 4 months ago
Overall, Pope Francis' stance is more open and welcoming in tone, less stern and dictatorial, than what has gone before. The article, though, did overlook the hypocrisy and irony of more than an insignifcant number of gay priests and undoubtedly some bishops. Some years back, I heard from good sources of a diocesan office in which advancement by priests was much more likely if they were gay. And about 30 years ago, I knew a priest who was sent to treatment because he came close to having an affair with a young adult woman in his parish. In his treatment group of 15 priests, he was good-naturedly called the straight guy. He was the only one. As to the sexual abuse of boys, I doubt gay priests have been any more involved than straight ones. I suspect the abuse was more due to psychosexual development problems, especially in those who entered seminary or pre-seminary right after eighth grade. Boarding schools in general have tended to have some same-sex experimentation, with most participants straight, in a passing phase. There are estimates, and probably some good data, on the percentage of priests who are gay. We do need some conversation on this. But as with discussion about abuse, the church is hardly showing openness for this discussion.
Sara Emory
3 years 4 months ago
Totally acknowledge Pope Francis' one step forward on the issue, and appreciate your acknowledgement of the rather ginormous elephant in the room. And am kind of blown away by the statistics and anecdotes you include, here. Though I should not be surprised. I would seriously question, though, the idea that priests who sexually abuse little boys are not gay. Probably a small proportion, for the reasons you cite, but - a straight, pedophile priest would, call my crazy, go for a little Catholic girl, no? Last I heard, they are, indeed, out there.
Sara Emory
3 years 4 months ago
( Also - "and probably some bishops?" Try cardinals. NOT THAT THERE'S ANYTHING WRONG WITH THAT. There is, however, a tremendous amount wrong with citing dubious biblical references as a basis for condemning homosexuality when, for many centuries, homosexuals have sought refuge in vestment and cloister. )
Carolyn Disco
3 years 4 months ago
Thank you, John Langan, SJ and congratulations to America for publishing this. Ah, humility; yes - at last open to discussion beyond "intrinsically disordered." Bravo, Francis.
William deHaas
3 years 4 months ago
Excellent analysis - reminds me of two recent experiences: - first, you echo (in different ways - *stances*) a consistent call and approach advocated by Rev. Charles Curran. His on-going talks at SMU covering subjects such as abortion, birth control, religious liberty always cite one foundational *stance* - that bishops should currently too often speak as if they have complete and total *certitude*. Curran does an excellent analysis of the fact that bishops/church do not have *certitude* about any number of sexual, biology, or genetics (the world, science, medicine continues to develop these areas of knowledge) - second, your emphasis on *stance* reminded me of a talk this week in Rome by Gustavo Gutierrez using scripture - The Good Samaritan. http://ncronline.org/blogs/ncr-today/gutierrez-vatican-church-must-be-samaritan-reaching-out-others Would suggest that Gutierrez's use of *samaritan* as a model for church echoes your analysis and *stance*...some key points: - The conference in Aparecida drafted a text that states: "Over 2,000 years since Christ came to this earth the continuing suffering and injustices lead us to live as a Samaritan church." This sentence has been the highlight of Aparecida and I believe it has a great, deep meaning. It is a beautiful sentence to define the church as a Samaritan church. - The Samaritan is not a Christian, is part of the Gospel as an example of someone who is not Christian. This is the starting of the story: Who is my neighbor, the neighbor that I have to love? And the answer that Jesus gave is not a theoretical definition about who our neighbor is. What he gives as an answer is a story, is a narration. - This means that my neighbor, however, is that person to whom we get close to, that we approach. In fact, we have no neighbors. We have no neighbors. They are not there. They become neighbors because we approach them. The moment we approach them they become our neighbor from our initiatives, gestures — these are the things that create proximity to those that are far away. - The possibility implies reciprocity. And the Samaritan approaches the wounded person and in that moment the two become aware of each other. This is the meaning of the parable of the Good Samaritan — something that expects a lot of us. Because it is easy to help those who are physically close: my family, my town, my country. The issue here is to go, to approach those who are farther away. To summarize - announcing certitude or judging others destroys the nature of the relationship - it cuts off any chance to understand the other; to encounter the other; to have reciprocity (even if that other is homosexual or etc, etc.)
Clint HYER
3 years 4 months ago
One issue I have is why we provide social recognition for couple that consciously decide not to have children. If one can argue against a homosexual couple, what is the basis for the social acceptance of a heterosexual couple that decides not to have any children.? Should not our laws favor those who provide for (naturally conceived or adopted) children and continue the society? What is the basis for providing societal acceptance and benefits (e.g. tax benefits) to couples that are heterosexual but decide not to have children while ostracizing those homosexual couple who adopt and raise children?
Tom McGlinchey
3 years 4 months ago
Finally! ... and as an added note, thank you.
IGNACIO SILVA
3 years 4 months ago
Just the other day at a restaurant I observed a heterosexual couple and a couple of tables away an ostensibly homosexual couple. The female of the heterosexual has her cell phone out & entertained it throughout their meal, casually engaging her 'partner' across the table. The homosexual couple didn't have a phone out, leaned forward towards each other, & were engaged in a lively conversation where each side practiced active listening with affirmation & support. Honest, I didn't just make this up. That's what I perceived in those mental snapshots I took. What about LOVE in homosexuality? What about mutual commitment of people to BE WITH each other no matter what? I'm being naïve, of course, & I think of Tina Turner's song "What's love got to do with it?"
Paul Ferris
3 years 4 months ago
This article will receive many comments. My own reaction was negative because I thought Langan was belaboring the obvious. Then I encountered the following paragraph and I cheered: " Realism also involves a recognition that the moral, personal and spiritual development to which we are all called in Christ is not identical with some form of legal or philosophical consistency or even with doctrinal orthodoxy. Nor, on the other hand, is it to be defined as the successful working out of one’s sexual orientation. Both of these distortions involve a reduction of the human person to one or more favored aspects of what is a richer, more complex reality. They also involve the substitution of an immediate, testable accomplishment for the movement of the soul toward the transcendent Other in faith, hope and charity." In this paragraph may be concealed not so much a shift in stance as what in science is called a paradigm shift.
WILLIAM FOSTER , Sr
3 years 4 months ago
I read with great interest your article " See the Person". I think this is so necessary in dealing with homosexuals. The real problem is to differentiate the circumstances of learning that a person may be a homosexual, but this has no consequences for you personally. Is the behavior of this individual or individuals of impact on you personally, or on the organization in which they function detrimental to the mission of that organization. As long as the person's orientation does not disrupt the mission of the organization, be it the Church, the armed forces, or even the seminary. When I was quite young, and second in command of a naval ship (the executive officer), the Captain and I were faced with a case homosexual acts performed on the ship between two individuals. Small ships usually turned to Naval Intelligence to investigate such cases- they were expert at such affairs; we were not. In the environment of a crew of 80 men such behavior on the ship was not only disruptive, but in the environment of more than 60 years ago, the inspired scandal and for many sailors, fear. It was deemed unacceptable behavior and resulted in at the least, an administrative discharge for unfitness. In the years since that incident, there has been an evolution of attitudes: "Don't Ask; Don't Tell" has evolved into acceptance of homosexuals in the military with the caveat that this must be "private" behavior, not affecting the mission of the unit. Most corporations follow a similar policy today as we have seen in the reaction to the Arizona law permitting unequal treatment of homosexuals. There have been discussions in the Catholic press that seminarians can be ordained if they are homosexual, but they are "inactive". I am ignorant of how this has been resolved, but what I have read is that there is desire to differentiate between sexual orientation and child abusers, realizing that one sexual orientation does not follow the other. You rightly establish "stance" as discrete from dogma and that evolution of dogma is not yet on the table.
Michael Barberi
3 years 4 months ago
An outstanding article. Thank you Fr. Langan. We need a way to welcome into the Catholic Church those with a same-sex orientation without the negative juridical injunctions against sexual behavior, explicitly or implicitly communicated. For those born with a same-sex orientation, the answer is not a life-time of sexual abstinence or sexual expression as the litmus test for being a member of the Catholic Church. Often, people with a same-sex attraction feel like second-class citizens, people infected with some type of evil human distortion. Membership in the Catholic Church for people with a same-sex orientation often means adherence to a life-time of sexual abstinence. What is not adequately addressed is the fact that celibacy or life-time sexual abstinence is a gift from God given to the very few. Many seminarians do not take their final vows because they lack this gift. In order for celibacy or life-time sexual abstinence to work, it must be voluntarily chosen and not forced or imposed on people by authority. We are too quick to condemn and ostracize and do not want to see the person integrally and adequately considered, as a child of God with human dignity that often is seeking to love God and neighbor. Frequently, people with a same-sex orientation want to enter into a life-long, loving relationship of fidelity with another person, with the same goals of heterosexual couples of educating and rearing children (adopted or by In vitro fertilization for lesbian couples). This article is a good first step as a guiding principle for a pastoral solution to this most pressing problem.
John Quinn
3 years 4 months ago
The following reflection about events that occured more than thirty years ago was triggered by reading the America article. In the summer of 1983 I was Principal (now termed Course Director) of the OECTA/OCSTA Additional Qualification Religious Education course sponsored by the Hamilton-Wentworth CDSB and held at St. Jean de Brebeuf CSS. On the Friday of each week I coordinated a Forum. The Forum really began with the last hour on Thursday when the rest of the teaching staff had gone home and I introduced to the teacher-participants on the course what they would be seeing , hearing, discussing, questioning the following day. The Friday Forum the next day was entitled “Is there a place for me in my church?” The three speakers and panelist were: A Catholic woman theologian who was speaking to “Women in the Church.” A married Catholic priest whose laicization papers had not yet been processed. A gay Catholic, president of a Canadian chapter of Dignity. The Thursday evening fishbowl was like no other I had ever encountered on the course. To put it into context the Forum held the previous Friday had been on Catholic education and the two panelists were Bishop Paul Reding of Hamilton and Ted Schmidt, head of Religious Education at Neil McNeil CSS in Toronto and columnist with Catholic New Times. As always I was the moderator. When I introduced the topic and speakers on the Thursday afternoon there were some questions about Ted but the whole thing was over quickly and the Forum on Friday was calm and quiet. I had barely announced the topic and speakers when I was assailed by the teacher-participants, mostly colleagues and many friends of mine. “What was I doing bringing in a “gay” to speak to them? The term “gay” was the most polite, perhaps the only polite term, used to describe the speaker. Remember now that all the participants were teachers in Catholic elementary and secondary schools. It is also interesting to note that there was absolutely no concern about either of the other speakers. One teacher participant in particular, a principal and a friend of mine, was the most vehement and I suspect spoke for many as his comments were strongly supported stated that “if I knew my child’s teacher was gay I would pull my child out of that class and that school.” I told everyone that what I was hoping for the next day is that they would meet the person. The day of Forum I always met with the teacher-participants for thirty minutes before the actual presentations and panel discussions began. The mood was no better than the previous evening. The woman theologian was already present when the other two presenters walked in together. They had travelled together by car as they were coming from outside of Hamilton. As they walked in I was addressing the group. The group, as one, turned to look at the new arrivals. I was so tempted to ask the group to tell me which one was our gay presenter. I did not. However later in the day the pair of them shared with me that they had been thinking the same thing as all eyes were on them as they walked to the front. That particular Forum was the most successful of all. At lunchtime I was sitting with my principal-friend who had led the “pack” on Thursday afternoon. Between bites of his sandwich he would bang his fist on the table and comment, “….expetive, expletive…have I been doing that to people?” He also stated publicly that if ********* our gay speaker was his children’s teacher “it would be ok.” And he would not pull them out of the school. This was 1983, thirty one years ago and I suspect for many of those teachers this was the first time they were consciously in the presence, interacting, dialoging with a member of what today we call the LGBT community. They did what I was hoping for,they met the person and began the journey beyond the stereotype.
Eduardus Nugroho
3 years 4 months ago
The question is: can a child with a middle sexual orientation, ie not homosexual and not heterosexual, be influenced sexually by a homosexual person. There is no answer to this question up to now. Suppose the answer is yes, I would definitely pull my child from a school that employs a homosexual teacher. Or can somebody guarantee that the child will not be influenced ?
STEVEN PAYNE
3 years 4 months ago
Sometimes the most vehement resistance to change is from those who benefit from the status quo but are privately participating in the disapproved activity. The largest question for me is how many in the Church treat the LGBT as though they are not worthy to deal with, when the Church is to reach out to everyone. From personal experience, trying to create an outreach to LGBT in my diocese has been met with hostility and, so far, silence by the bishop. Maybe that will change under Pope Francis.
Gary Zalenski
3 years 4 months ago
An issue that needs eventual attention is the presence of homosexual bishops and priests. Knowing that the Church has issues with homosexuals, there is a concerted effort to overcompensate for one's homosexuality among the clergy. These bishops and priests seek greater attention to their accomplishments, seeking higher positions and ranks to divert attention from their orientation, all the while placing people and their needs on a lower scale. Then, there are those who have achieved high positions and then let their orientation guide their actions. The bishop of Bling, Germany, is a case in point. Yes, hate the sin, but love the sinner; or, in this case, hate the sin, but accept the orientation. However, the orientation is leading to some terrible actions on the part of some bishops, vicars general, judicial vicars, canon lawyers, pastors ..... . The Holy Father will soon find himself dealing with many more issues and individuals than the bishop of Bling.
thomas tucker
3 years 4 months ago
In other words, we should show mercy and love to everyone, as we are ALL sinners. No one should disagree with that. The disagreement comes when people talk about what constitutes objective sin. Francis is not changing that, and eventually people will notice that and repudiate him. In the menatime, the tone of love and mercy is welcome.
Thomas Carter
3 years 4 months ago
The first problem with the author's view is that he doesn't realize that if you have to decipher a pope's mind or what he's saying you already have a problem. Kind of like a shepherd who tells his sheep to go left while pointing to the right with his finger. For example, Pius XI's encyclical Casti Connubii on Christian marriage explicitly, accurately and unambiguously defines the Church's position. If Pope Francis is unable to do likewise the least he could do is just keep quiet. In case nobody's noticed the secular media, sitcoms, movies, etc, as well as major corporations, schools, and universities all seem to be pushing the "gay" agenda pretty hard. There couldn't be a better time for a pope to take a firm stance on the Church's position however as the author of this article pointed out we are left wondering what side he's on. The first disturbing thing about the pope which was so well expressed in Randy Engel's "Open letter to Pope Frances" is that he (as does the author of this article) uses the language of the homosexual collective (gayspeak) instead of the terms traditionally used by the church. Words like 'sexual orientation' 'gay' and 'homophobia' are used to reshape the way we think about homosexuals i.e. brainwash. For example 'sexual orientation' implies that one is born that way just as one is born left handed or right handed. SSAD or Same Sex Attraction Disorder is a far more accurate term from the Catholic perspective but obviously wouldn't do much for the 'gay' movement. More disturbing still is the punishment of priests who speak out against homosexuality. A prime example would be 85 year old Fr. Donat Gionet of New Brunswick who was removed from his duties after confirming the Church's stance on homosexuality at his local parish. The story was well publicized for anyone who wants to look it up. Another priest, Fr. Marcel Guarnizo, was suspended in 2012 for denying communion to an openly gay couple in New York. Again this was widely publicized. Finally, if anyone thinks the growing trend of homosexuals adopting and raising children I suggest reading the study of children raised by homosexual parents by sociologist Mark Regnerus.
Eduardus Nugroho
3 years 4 months ago
Completely agree with you. Just grow and show more love to others, including the sinners. In the face of a militant onslaught by the anti Christs, Catholics need to counter that with a much more militant action of love; like that showed by Saint Paul.
Thomas Carter
3 years 4 months ago
Probably the best way to show an open homosexual love, especially in this day and age when pseudo-intellectualism regarded as truth, is a clear condemnation of sexual perversion issued from the Chair of Peter. The Pope is not doing them any favors by allowing them to think they are leading virtuous lives while they are in fact invoking the wrath of God. It would also help if he would put together a commission to list the movies, TV shows, corporations who promote perversion so they can be boycotted by the faithful.
Michael Barberi
3 years 4 months ago
Tom, Should the Church/magisterium also ban Catholics from reading certain books that argue for a responsible reform of certain teachings? The issue of a committed, loving, long-term, faithful same-sex relationship (civil unions or civil marriages) that abide by the same responsibilities and obligations of heterosexual relationships (civil or church marriages), may find a solution in a responsible change in pastoral theology, not in a change in doctrine. Something that is considered evil, like killing a person, may not be necessarily sinful or strictly forbidden (e.g., if to safe-guard justice). Perhaps in the future there will be an a better answer to the moral dilemma facing people with a same-sex orientation where the Catholic Church/Magisterium imposes on such individuals a life-time of sexual abstinence.
Eduardus Nugroho
3 years 4 months ago
"though it is alive and vigorous in many other parts of the world".. I believe much more people in the world are against western stance in this matter. And history shows that no country can rule the world forever. When the world power changes, this century or next, I believe the old and traditional catholic stance will prevail... as it has been for 2000 years. Let's not be too afraid of the Catholic traditional stance. But show and give more and more love to the sinner.
Joseph Kalwinski
3 years 4 months ago
Eduardus and Thomas -- What do you find, if anything, offensive with these words of Pope Francis? “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” he told reporters on the papal plane after World Youth Day in Brazil. In a lengthy interview with the Jesuit priest and editor Antonio Spadaro, Pope Francis offers a lesson in humanity to clergy and other religious figures who reduce faith to ideology and rigid doctrine. "A person once asked me in a provocative manner if I approved of homosexuality," the pope said. "I replied with another question. Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person? We must always consider the person" There is no question that there is massive manipulation in the media to advance a secular viewpoint regarding homosexuality. If in doubt, check out the Huffington Post. But so what? The Church will always be assailed by the secular world. Fr. Langan is situating his comments in a Catholic millieu which is a milieu of reason and faith. Forgive me, but you two appear to think that there is no room for discussion
Thomas Carter
3 years 4 months ago
"Eduardus and Thomas -- What do you find, if anything, offensive with these words of Pope Francis?" “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” First he uses the language of the enemy, instead of the word "gay" he should have said, "If someone 'suffers from disordered affections' and searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?" Secondly, the phrase is meaningless. Meaningless to the point where you have question the mind mind that would form such a phrase. These are the types of phrases that politicians use when they have to talk for an hour without saying anything. First of all he frames his own, very narrow, context "if someone is gay and searches for the Lord and has good will" then he follows that with an open ended question, "who am I to judge?" It's true that only God can judge a man's heart but the Church and particularly the pope are well within their rights to judge actions and sodomy has already been explicitly condemned. In fact, it is one of only four sins which as the Bible says "cry out to Heaven for vengeance." In the next statement, the Pope says, "I replied with another question. Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person? We must always consider the person" The pope used a similar trick here, he invents his own question (that someone supposedly asked him somewhere) again framing the context of his next statement "...does God endorse the existence of this gay person with love or reject and condemn this person?..." My answer to the Pope to the pope would be, If that so-called person engaged in mortal sin (sodomy) and died unrepentant then I think his chances of condemnation are pretty good. All in all, if that is the best the pope can do in defending traditional Christian marriage and protecting Catholic children from homosexual propaganda then he would do better just to say nothing.
WILL GORDON
3 years 4 months ago
"The principal change would not be in the teaching of the church on the moral acceptability of homosexual activity, but in affirming and practicing pastoral ministry for persons engaged in irregular or questionable unions." With all due respect and a recognition that this is a shift from absolute condemnation, I continue to be insulted by the refusal to even consider the possibility that my natural god given inclination to love someone of the same gender is somehow irregular... It is the way god made me. As long as the church refuses to accept this reality, it clearly does not accept or want me in its fold.
Cody Serra
3 years 4 months ago
To take a rigid position on this issue, be it doctrinal, legal, or religious seems to me almost impossible at this time. The right to respect of his/her dignity of every human touches many of the above areas of knowledge. The open discussion of homosexuality is now geographically worldwide, conflicting, legal, religious, biological, medical, cultural, and more. Its complexity does not escape to any leader or reasonable person. I just want to contribute to this hot conversation with a quote from Francis. "A person once asked me in a provocative manner if I approved of homosexuality," the pope said. "I replied with another question. Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person? We must always consider the person."
Marie Rehbein
3 years 4 months ago
I am not sure what supporting theology lies behind the Church's condemnation of homosexual activity (or masturbation for that matter). If it's the Old Testament, we need to look at the contradiction in leaving behind other guidance while bringing this along. Why not require circumcision of Christians? Why not avoid eating pork, etc.? Does homosexual activity fall under any of the Ten Commandments if it's not being engaged in by a married man? Does lesbian activity even make the moral radar? I can see where the Church has a sacrament for marriage, but this has nothing to do with the behavior of homosexuals who don't qualify for sacrament.
Robert Little
3 years 4 months ago
You're right that many of the Old Testament rules such as those relating to diet are no longer with us, because of Jesus's statement that he comes not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. See Matthew 5:17-20. This is generally seen as a relaxing of strict Mosaic law. However, when the subject is sexual ethics, Jesus makes the laws more strict. In Matthew 19, Jesus states marriage is between a man and a woman. In Matthew 15, He says sexual acts outside of marriage are defiling. In Matthew 19, our Lord takes a *stricter* view of human sexuality than does His Jewish forebears: He said in reply, “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?" Of course, we're not a Bible-only church, let alone a Gospel-only church. The sola scriptura churches are largely more hostile to homosexuality than is the Catholic Church. We also take resource from the Church fathers, whose collective view is summarized at CCC 2357.
Thomas Carter
3 years 4 months ago
After reading more of the comments I realize that many of whom are posting here have absolutely no idea what we are up against. I don't write that to be insulting as I was in the same position 10 years ago. Fortunately I found the writings of pro-life journalist Randy Engel, Randy engel founded the Coalition for Life in 1972 and is one of America's top investigative journalists. In 1995, she exposed the long-standing abortion record of Dr. Henry Foster, President Bill Clinton's nominee for U.S. Surgeon General, resulting in the Senate's failure to approve the nomination. Here is her open letter to Pope Francis http://www.renewamerica.com/columns/engel/131110 Engel wrote 1500 page book on the homosexual colonization of the Catholic Church called Rite of Sodomy. She also wrote one several years ago now called Sex Education: The final Plague Hopefully, some of you will investigate her writings as there is no better authority on these subjects.
Jim Lein
3 years 4 months ago
The issue of directly harming others -- such as sexually abusing children -- is more important for the church to address than the issue of same sex loving relationships between two freely consenting adults. To paraphrase Pope Francis on such relationships: who are we to judge? It is wrong and un-Christian when one person regards and treats another as an object, more so when the victim is relatively powerless and is taken advantage of. From many years of doing psychotherapy, I have seen directly the damage done to victims of childhood sexual abuse, the deep and pervasive injury done by this form of objectification. We Catholics are clearly called to treat others as persons and not as objects. We each have enough to do in following this call. Why, then, the big concern about same sex relationships that are equal, mutual, loving, person to person?
Marie Rehbein
3 years 4 months ago
I suspect that a moral line was drawn in the days when it was not understood that some people were attracted to others of their same gender and not attracted to those of the other gender. When that moral line became less clear due to the growing understanding that some people were naturally inclined to be homosexual, it was as though there was no longer any line for moral behavior as it applies to homosexuals. I think your standard (and Pope Francis's, it seems) that people must treat each other as people and not sexual objects is the new moral line. It implies that the sin in sexual matters for homosexuals would be the same as those for heterosexuals -- not coveting the neighbors "wife", not committing adultery (betraying one's partner's trust).
Tim O'Leary
3 years 4 months ago
I thank Fr. Langan for this very thoughtful article. I am particularly moved by the title “See the Person” and the last paragraph about Pope Francis’s field hospital metaphor. But, a doctor (as I am) who hides the diagnosis from the patient is not a good doctor. It is even worse if he withholds the correct medicine from the patient. Truth is the Church’s medicine, along with the sacraments, which are of course dependent on the Truth. Thinking about the issue pastorally, Jesus is always our best guide. He is our perfect example for how to act. In two of His meetings with women who had sins relating to sexual relations (the Samaritan Lady at the Well, John 4, and the woman caught in adultery, John 8), Jesus did not condemn either woman, but saw the person right through (and loved them more than we could). Yet, He did not hold back in either case from verbally recognizing their sin. He told the adulterous woman He would not condemn her, but to go and “sin no more.” Both interactions appear to have led to their conversions. However, when speaking doctrinally, not referring to a particular person, Jesus is much more direct about sin – And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” St. Paul elaborates further on what Jesus said in 1 Cor 6 “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” And, Paul’s teaching about homosexuality in Romans 1 is well known. The Church has a divine obligation to tell the whole truth about the human condition and about sexual immorality. Jesus said, “The Truth will set you free.” The corollary of that is we are cut off from freedom if we are not given the whole Truth, and not just those who perform any particular sin. All of us are injured if we lose the whole truth as it affects all our acts and choices. The Church would do great harm to deviate from true doctrine. My faith is that the Holy Spirit will not let that happen. At the same time, when dealing pastorally with individual souls, who are truly struggling to know God’s will and to live the whole teaching as well as they can, providing that the Truth is not denied, an approach full of love and mercy and forgiveness seven times seven is the divine medicine.
Vincent Couling
3 years 4 months ago
Tim O'Leary says that "Truth is the Church's medicine." Indeed! But let us not forget Pope Francis' caveats as regards a static image of the "Truth" with a capital T: “St. Vincent of Lerins makes a comparison between the biological development of man and the transmission from one era to another of the deposit of faith, which grows and is strengthened with time. Here, human self-understanding changes with time and so also human consciousness deepens. Let us think of when slavery was accepted or the death penalty was allowed without any problem. So we grow in the understanding of the truth. Exegetes and theologians help the church to mature in her own judgment. Even the other sciences and their development help the church in its growth in understanding. There are ecclesiastical rules and precepts that were once effective, but now they have lost value or meaning. The view of the church’s teaching as a monolith to defend without nuance or different understandings is wrong. ... When does a formulation of thought cease to be valid? When it loses sight of the human or even when it is afraid of the human or deluded about itself. ... The thinking of the church must recover genius and better understand how human beings understand themselves today, in order to develop and deepen the church’s teaching.” And then we have " If one has the answers to all the questions—that is the proof that God is not with him. It means that he is a false prophet using religion for himself. The great leaders of the people of God, like Moses, have always left room for doubt. You must leave room for the Lord, not for our certainties; we must be humble. Uncertainty is in every true discernment that is open to finding confirmation in spiritual consolation. ... If the Christian is a restorationist, a legalist, if he wants everything clear and safe, then he will find nothing. Tradition and memory of the past must help us to have the courage to open up new areas to God. Those who today always look for disciplinarian solutions, those who long for an exaggerated doctrinal ‘security,’ those who stubbornly try to recover a past that no longer exists­—they have a static and inward-directed view of things. In this way, faith becomes an ideology among other ideologies. I have a dogmatic certainty: God is in every person’s life. God is in everyone’s life." Pope Francis appears to have finally permitted an authentic conversation and dialogue on matters gay ... let us not try to shut down the discussion before it has even begun by laying claim to being in full possession of the Truth. After all, it was as recently as 1866 that the Holy Office gave an instruction, signed by Pope Pius IX, claiming that “Slavery itself, considered as such in its essential nature, is not at all contrary to the natural and divine law, and there can be several just titles of slavery … . It is not contrary to the natural and divine law for a slave to be sold, bought, exchanged or given.” On this issue, the Second Vatican Council was unequivocal: “… everyone must consider his every neighbour without exception as another self, taking into account first of all his life and the means necessary to living it with dignity … whatever insults human dignity, such as … slavery … are infamies indeed … they are supreme dishonour to the Creator.” [Gaudiem et Spes no. 27] Pope John Paul II went further in asserting slavery to be intrinsically evil and objectively disordered [Veritatis Splendor no. 80]. Surely this illustrates how very careful we need to be when we claim to be in possession of the fullness of Truth! As regards Romans 1, a little exegesis might help. Fr James Alison's " 'But the Bible says…'? A Catholic reading of Romans 1" is essential reading in this regard ... see http://www.jamesalison.co.uk/pdf/eng15.pdf
Hal Watts
3 years 4 months ago
While this article approaches the topic very nicely from a theological perspective, allow me to add the experience of lay people. My husband and I have been together for over 30 years; we met right after college, built a house together, put each other through graduate school, and have maintained a stable, loving relationship that is held up as a role model in our extended families. We know of MANY other gay couples who have also lived lives of commitment and faithfulness, and who, like us, have struggled to stay in the Church despite what we perceive as its tone-deaf and abusive teachings. ("Fundamentally disordered," etc.) There is a great hunger for God's love in the LGBT community that is such a ripe field for evangelization. If the Church could find a way to extricate itself from the anti-gay rut in which it is stuck, they would be amazed at second chances they might be given by gays and lesbians, not to mention their families and friends who are also alienated by the ham-handedness of church teaching on this topic.
Tom Wilson
3 years 4 months ago
Here is a fascinating different perspective which would not require a re-hashing of Catholic teaching to accommodate "homosexuality" (the use of quotes will become apparent when you read the piece) but instead would require "heterosexuals" to once acknowledge that sexual morality issues exist even when one is of "normal" sexual orientation. It's entitled, "Against Heterosexuality." http://www.firstthings.com/article/2014/03/against-heterosexuality
Tim O'Leary
3 years 4 months ago
Tom Wilson has highlighted an article that challenges the conventional wisdom of the homo/hetero divide. This is a welcome step away from some of the ideology surrounding the discussion. My last paragraph addresses the unity of the moral obligations on us all. Vincent Couling makes several interesting points that I agree with. I understand that St. Vincent of Lerins is thought to have been a Semipelagian and an opponent of St. Augustine on some issues. With that caveat, according to the Commonitory, he devised a method of distinguishing true doctrine from heresy. His approach gave primacy to Scripture, then, if that didn’t suffice, the Catholic Tradition, and third the sensus fidelium “what all have at all times and everywhere believed must be regarded as true.” The proscription on homosexual acts would have met all three of these, at least until a few decades ago. I do accept the development of doctrine and how science can inform it. An example would be on abortion. It was always accepted that it was very wrong to snuff out the life of an unborn child (see the 1st century Didache, for example), but it took the science of the 19th century to establish the onset of human life at conception (and not, say, at “quickening” as Aquinas thought). So, today the Church teaches firmly that human life must be protected from conception. And the Church directly connects the historical progress of non-lethal means to protect society for making the death penalty, while still legitimate in principle (CCC#2267) rarely, if ever, legitimate in practice (at least in developed societies that have those methods). I will not rehash my comments on the history of slavery but see my comments to this article http://americamagazine.org/issue/slavery-and-shock-old So, I agree with Vincent that the Church’s doctrine is not a monolith and should always take into account reliable new findings, especially from the harder sciences, where ideology has less sway. I also agree that none of us (me included, of course) have all the answers. God alone has the whole Truth with a capital T, and I have only a partial understanding of it. But, the Church has much more certainty than I, as I have no charism of protection from doctrinal error, as the Magisterium has. So, I do defer to the Lord, and His instrument the Magisterium as the arbiter of how I should interpret doctrine, the Scriptures, Tradition and the Natural Law. From Vincent's arguments, he might also agree that Catholics who want to see any particular change in Church teaching should also accept this same principle, to avoid becoming false prophets themselves. A bit more on Fr. Langan’s article. It seems to me that we must add to his discussion on humility the need to be humble with respect to the Gospel. The Church's doctrine is not something that the Church invented or discovered. It is not even something that she owns, even though she possesses it. It is a gift from The Lord to His people. Therefore, the Magisterium is very limited in its power to alter any doctrine. There is a unity of doctrine, a tapestry. A modification of one part of doctrine has implications for many other parts. This is not always evident to advocates for this or that change. It is in fact denied even when the Church outlines the relationship. Removing the long-held disapproval of homosexual sex would have a profound effect on Catholic moral doctrine for us all, certainly not only gay marriage. And since 95% describe themselves as heterosexuals, by far the largest effect will be on what is moral and immoral in sexual relations between men and women. It seems to me that it could essentially be an approval of any form of sexual activity between consenting adults, and could impact the Church’s teaching on the complementarity of the sexes, the use of the term father and mother, the relationship of children in the family and a severing of procreation from marriage in its essence. But, these are my opinions and I can await with confidence for the reliable teaching of the Magisterium on this subject.
Andrew Di Liddo
3 years 4 months ago
When confronted with abortion, I have certainly had to "see the person". Why is this so newsworthy? Seems like common sense to me.
Michael Barberi
3 years 4 months ago
The issue of "seeing the person" as a human persons integrally and adequately considered has been in discussion since Vatican II. The moral discussion of a person with a same-sex attraction or orientation has frequently emphasized doctrine with somewhat abstract and ambiguous statements about human dignity with the objective of directing a better pastoral theology. However, any person with a same sex orientation or attraction will quickly tell us that they do not feel the church treats them with the same human dignity as they do heterosexuals. They are treated as people with some type of distorted human condition that moves them into mortal sin. To most people with a same-sex attraction or orientation, they do not choose to be attracted to a person of the same sex, but are born with such a human orientation. Rather that debate the principles and philosophies that underpin the teachings about homosexual acts and same-sex marriages or civil unions, that is to debate them theologically and doctrinally, the answer may be found in a better pastoral theology. Questions for the bishops and Pope Francis, and the Synod on the Family, might be: 1. Can two people with a same-sex attraction and orientation enter into live-long, committed, faithful and loving relationship subject to all the obligations and responsibilities of heterosexual couples, either in a civil marriage or union, one that could be blessed by the Church, but not be declared a Church marriage? 2. Can people with a same-sex attraction and orientation who are in a same-sex civil union or civil marriage, adopt orphaned children who are in a situation where it is most likely that they would never have the opportunity of being raised by a heterosexual married couple? 3. Should adopted children of same-sex parents or children born to a lesbian couple where the child is born by in vitro fertilization by a donor, be permitted to attend Catholic elementary and high school? 4. Given that marriage for heterosexuals is also a remedy for concupiscence, and a civil marriage or civil union between those with a same-sex attraction/orientation (and the sexual expression in such unions/marriages) continues to be condemned by the magisterium as gravely sinful, is the only way to salvation (save for confession) for people with a same-sex attraction/ orientation is to live a life of sexual abstinence? 5. Can people with a same-sex attraction/orientation become Eucharistic ministers? Can they become Eucharistic ministers if they are in a same-sex civil union or marriage? 6. Is the only way that same-sex couples who are in a civil union or civil marriage can receive Holy Communion is to abstain from any form of sexual expression in such unions/marriages? 7. If the principle of graduation for habitual sinners can be given to people in confession who practice contraception in a marriage (who have no firm purpose of amendment), and thus receive absolution and the Eucharist, can this same principle be given to other people who are habitual sinners such as those in a same-sex civil union or marriage? If not, why not?
Marie Rehbein
3 years 4 months ago
Your questions, Michael, reminded me of my children telling me (at least six years ago) that their school pastor answered a child's question about gay couples by saying that there is no sin in two people of the same gender living in the same house. I think he was suggesting that gay couples should be assumed to be roommates.
Michael Barberi
3 years 4 months ago
Very funny Marie. I am sure the school pastor did not want to answer the question if it implied a gay relationship similar to heterosexual married couples.
Tim O'Leary
3 years 4 months ago
Not sure how "marriage" for homosexuals is a remedy for concupiscence, but, to get to the top 10 list, here are 3 more questions. 8. If the Church blesses in vitro fertilization for lesbians, why can't it do so for heterosexuals? In your answer, please describe what is to be done with the "spare" embryos. For the lesbians, please address the role of the father of the child. Does he have any rights or duties? And should the child be allowed to have a relationship with his father, particularly with respect to the 4th commandment? 9. If the Church blesses "homosexual unions" (per Q1), please tell heterosexuals why they must confess similar sexual practices with their spouses? And address the connection between the unitive and the procreative in these activities. 10. Finally, before this goes any further, can the Church please update its teaching on masturbation? Otherwise, there could be demonstrations in the streets. And what's this all about blindness (is it physical or spiritual)?
Michael Barberi
3 years 4 months ago
Tim, You normally tend to extremism and ignore the details of argument, especially if it goes against a church teaching. According to your way of thinking, any disagreement (for any reason) with a church teaching is somehow disparaging, chastising, and defaming a pope or the magisterium. For your information Tim, a marriage, "period" is a remedy for concupiscence. I choose to expand upon this end of marriage as it would apply to heterosexuals or homosexuals. Each person has a sexual appetite Tim. In ancient times, there was not any knowledge of homosexuality/same-sex attraction/orientation because the norm of human beings was always considered to be heterosexuality. If someone was performing homosexual acts (or lesbian acts), such acts were considered unnatural acts because it was assumed that heterosexuals were choosing this type of behavior that was considered immoral then (and today). It was not conceivable that two people who had a same-sex attraction/orientation would consider heterosexual acts to be unnatural as well. All pre-marital sexual acts are immoral, be it between heterosexuals or homosexuals. Only in a marriage are sexual acts considered morally licit. Hence, there is a remedy for concupiscence for heterosexual couples, but not for homosexual couples. Get it Tim? I have no issue with In vitro fertilization for those married couples who cannot bear children in the normal manner because of fertility problems. For your information, many of the most orthodox traditionalists/apologists theologians (e.g., Janet Smith) believe that anal intercourse between Catholic married couples is not immoral as long as the act does not result in completion. Try explaining that. I choose not to debate you Tim primarily because it goes absolutely nowhere. You will take off on your tangents and never address any of my arguments, no matter how legitimate they are. Others have tried to educate you and temper your style of argument and negative tendency toward character/intention defaming. The issues under considerations in the questions I posited are more complex than this blog can afford to consider. I posited those questions Tim, because they are relevant to the contemporary discussion. I did not condone or try to legitimize any of them even though some of them I do agree with. That is for another day. You can never agree with any criticism of a teaching Tim, even contraception, because you stand on the moral higher ground. Too bad you are in the minority and the minority are not ipso facto being immoral, unfaithful, invincible ignorant, dissenters and any of the other so-called categories that are used to denigrate their arguments in a respectful discussion. Your recent comments on Humanae Vitae is a case in point. God Bless.
Michael Barberi
3 years 4 months ago
Pardon my typo. The sentence starting with: Too bad you are in the minority and the "majority" (not minority) blah, blah, blah…is the error I correct now.
Tim O'Leary
3 years 4 months ago
Michael - in your five paragraph-response to me (including "I choose not to debate you Tim"), numbers 1, 4 & 5 were ad hominem criticisms and two paragraphs dealt with substance. You should know that majorities do not establish the truth, or the Church would have never persuaded the pagan world. But, since it is Ash Wednesday, I will just respond to the two paragraphs where you used substantial arguments: regarding concupiscence and in vitro fertilization. On in vitro fertilization, you haven’t addressed the issue of the “spare” embryos that are either discarded (killed) or put in permanent suspended animation. I think you believe with the Church that human life begins at conception, so what do you think the Church should teach about these embryos? Note that this is a very different situation than a woman whose life is at risk from pregnancy. This is a free choice to fertilize embryos with the full knowledge that the “less fit” will be killed. Needless to say, the test tube is not exactly an endorsement of the procreative or the unitive arguments you have made against HV in the past. And, you haven’t addressed the obligations of the father in a “lesbian” couple or the rights the child has to a relationship with his father. As to concupiscence , I agree with you that we all have sexual appetites. And, since the Fall, not all sexual appetites are healthy. Certainly acting out on some sexual acts are immoral. The terrible sex abuse of children in the Church and even more outside the Church (a whole industry in SE Asia) is the clearest example of that. But, even when it comes to consenting adults, many sexual acts are very immoral. The question for the Church is, not what she thinks, but what does the Scripture, the Tradition and the Natural Law reveal about the true understanding of man and what is moral for our bodies. The pastoral response is subordinate to the Truth and must never deny that Truth. While I cannot avoid using the heterosexual and homosexual terms (and that ever-expanding acronym of special interest groups, LGBTQIA) , I think our modern world has got these categories very wrong. We are all human beings, and "male and female, He made them." Jesus endorsed this basic truth when He said “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female” (Matt 19). We are all called to holiness, and most of us fail, frequently and often. It is a severe challenge for a major part of our adult lives. Monogamous faithful marriage for one man and a woman can indeed be a partial remedy, but even in marriage, there is temptation and sinfulness. St. Paul teaches about the intimate seriousness of it all, when he says: “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Cor 6). The Church has a divine obligation to tell the whole truth about the human condition, including about sexual immorality. And she cannot abandon any group of people to their sins. This would cut them off from the Truth that can set them free. She cannot avoid a hard teaching just to be more popular. At the same time, when dealing pastorally with individual souls, who are truly struggling to know God’s will and to live the whole teaching as well as they can, providing that the Truth is not denied, an approach full of love and mercy and forgiveness seven times seven is the divine medicine.
Michael Barberi
3 years 4 months ago
Tim, If our exchanges eventually lead to the assertion that whatever moral norms the magisterium declares are the complete and absolute moral truth, then any legitimate argument and reasons offered that challenge a church teaching will be unproductive. Tim, I really don't dislike an intellectual and respectful debate. As I have mentioned to you many times, I study both the church teachings and their underlying principles and philosophies (inclusive of scripture, et al) and other theological arguments that challenge us to rethink our presuppositions and rationale. I don't "look" to disagree with a church teaching, I want to understand them. Nevertheless, I don't agree with certain church teachings, some with a strong and convincing argument, some with less and sometimes I take a middle ground (e.g., abortion on demand is immoral, but it is not immoral, to save the life of the mother who threatened by a non-viable fetus, or in the cases of rape or incest). It is my preference that any debate must stick to the points in argument and try to put aside, temporarily, the argument from authority. Since this is Ash Wednesday, I will answer one of your questions regarding in vitro fertilization. Most of what follows is Todd Salzman's position. The spare embryos should be frozen, a process know as cryopreservation. In in vitro fertilization, these frozen embryos can be used later if the embryo transfer in unsuccessful or if the couple desires another pregnancy. Some moral theologians argue against the morality of ARTs (artificial reproductive technologies) on the basis that fertilization is not directly the result of the marital act. Others argue for it based on the intention of the couple in conjunction with their sexual intercourse, to maintain the unitive and procreative meanings of their "overall marital, interpersonal relationship" that defines in whole or in part the moral meaning of any artificial technique. The Church/magisterium prohibits destroying embryos or any experimentation that will damage or destroy them. However, the Church/magisterium seems to allow adoptive embryo transfer which separates genetic parenthood from both gestational and social parenthood. This possibility challenges us to rethink the meaning and nature of parenthood which includes genetic, gestation and social parenthood. The sexual acts of infertile couples can never result in genetic, gestational and social parenthood. In the case of an postnatal adopted child, the sexual acts of infertile couples can never result in genetic or gestational parenthood, but they do express and promote the union of the spouses and strengthen social parenthood or the nurturing of a child into adulthood. Therefore, in the case of an postnatal adopted child the church/magisterium allows a rupture between both genetic and gestational parenthood, and social parenthood. However, in the case of adoptive embryo transfer, there is only a rupture between genetic parenthood, and both gestational and social parenthood. Social parenthood is common between post natal adoption and frozen embryo adoption. As Germain Grizez wrote: parenthood is far more than biological relationship; its essence is not so much in begetting and giving birth as in the readiness to accept the gift of life, commitment to nurture it and faithful fulfillment of the commitment through many years. The magisterium's seemingly approval of embryo adoption, and approval of postnatal adoption, also recognized the moral legitimacy of separating the conjugal act from genetic parenthood. In the case of homogeneous artificial fertilization, as with pre- and postnatal adoption, there is not a conjugal act of the parents immediately responsible for procreation. Some argue that if heterogeneous artificial fertilization is permitted as a moral option, then there is nothing to prevent lesbian or gay couples (through surrogacy) from reproducing children. Embryo adoption would provide lesbian couples an opportunity to participate in both the gestational and social-nurturing dimensions of parenthood. As I mentioned, there if no credible social-scientific evidence to support the claim that homosexual parenting has a negative impact on children. Tim, I realize that pages can be written on this subject, and what I have written is not the whole of it. However, I hope you will see that there are legitimate arguments for a rethinking of certain church teachings. This does not mean that every legitimate argument for a rethinking on issues such as same-sex marriages or same-sex parenting/adoption, is the absolute moral truth. I framed those questions that you found somewhat offensive in a respectful and honest manner. I do not want to have a lengthly debate with you on them. Perhaps this can be done at another time. For you information, much of what I have said, I have said other times to you on other topic/articles, but they were either ignored by you or you choose to argue about some minor issue or the issue about authority. God Bless.
Tim O'Leary
3 years 4 months ago
Michael - you "ignored the key question about the embryos and chose to argue about some minor issue." Is it just to create an embryo whose future is cryopreservation for an indefinite or permanent period? This is a freely chosen act. It seems to be a real affront to human dignity. I can see why the Church opposes the choice of in vitro fertilization, when these effects are unavoidable. Once an embryo is frozen, it poses a true moral dilemma for a moral person - adoption or death or permanent cryopreservation. But, the first wrong is to put the human into this inhuman situation.
Michael Barberi
3 years 4 months ago
Tim, You see what you want to see, and nothing more. I addressed the issue appropriately, but you ignore my c comment, as usual. Responsible married couples who are infertile and want to have a child through in vitro fertilization do not have the explicit end/goal and intention of creating embryos whose future is cryopreservation. The decision about cryopreservation of excess embryos is the moral righteous act. The excess embryos produced through the process of in vitro fertilization are not intended (e.g., outside of the agent's intention and per accident per Aquinas). You are making the mistake, through ignorance, by determining the morality of a voluntary human act by what is physically being done. For that matter, removing a cancerous uterus would be killing the embryo/fetus because that is what is resulting from the physical act. Killing a person by swinging an axe and severing his head is a freely chosen act, but that does not make the act immoral (e.g., it is morally permissible if to safe-guard justice and immoral if it is for vengeance…which is the intention and end of the agent, not the material-physical chosen act). The morality of voluntary human acts is based on the holistic integration of the agent's motivation, end/goal, intention, circumstances and the physical act. You misunderstand and misinterpret how voluntary human acts are specified.
Tim O'Leary
3 years 4 months ago
Michael - I didn't call your ignorance into the topic, but that is your style, I suppose. You have a knack of avoiding the key point and then complaining the other is ignoring you. I can rephrase my question. Does the desire to have a child outweigh the knowledge that one is consigning a fellow child of God to cryopreservation? If you think it does, do you think the parents should have the moral obligation to pay for their progeny to be kept frozen for as long as the embryo is not adopted?
Michael Barberi
3 years 4 months ago
Tim, The choice of the word "ignorance" is appropriate and not negative or denigrating. t simply means, a lack of a specific knowledge. We all do not possess complete knowledge of certain subjects, myself included. However, your misunderstanding about the moral specification of voluntary human acts is not correct because you lack an adequate knowledge of this subject. My "style" is not disrespectful. Tim, I understand your position but it is an extreme one for you take it personally when anyone disagrees with a church teaching and offers a strong compelling argument for such disagreement. America Magazine allows for open and respectful discussion and debate. My comments and motivation is respectful, honest, and open to other thoughts. You may not agree with them but if you challenge my reasoned argument, I will challenge your argument if is not based on facts or a misinterpretation of certain things. Since this is the beginning of Lent, let us strive to be respectful and reasonable in our exchanges. Now for a response to your question. One can have knowledge of the effects of a voluntary human action but not "intend" it as a means to an end or as an end. The term intention is very specific in moral theology and is easily misunderstood. The two examples I offered on my previous posting demonstrate that: the surgeon foresees that the embryo/fetus will die because of the act of removing the cancerous uterus; and the person swinging the axe and severing the head of the person foresees that his act will cause in the death of the person. However, the foreseeable "effects" in both of these examples are known, but they are outside the intention of the agent and are not immoral acts. The morality of these acts are determined by the end, intention, circumstances, and the physical act/object of the agent. However, other things can come into play here such as the act must be appropriate, suitable and proportionate, and cannot be contrary to virtue (which itself can have various perspectives). There is much disagreement over the interpretation of Aquinas and the morality of voluntary human action. Much of the traditionalist interpretation causes inconsistence and contradiction, for while they argue for the immorality of certain cases, they also argue morality of other cases with the same principles. What I have come to understand is that certain teachings do not possess the whole of truth, but only a partial truth. Tim, it took me about 3 years of constant study to start to understand the ethics and method of Aquinas and the morality of voluntary human actions (which directs many of the church's thinking today). I am still learning, but I do grasp most of it, but not the whole of it. Nevertheless, I have reached a stage in my moral theological education of being comfortable about my moral decisions and arguments and the rationale for them. This is a continuing process. I hope I have answered your question.
Tim O'Leary
3 years 4 months ago
Michael - the magisterium has not been part of this string of questions. My specific questions were of your opinion: Does the desire to have a child outweigh the knowledge that one is consigning a fellow child of God to cryopreservation? If you think it does, do you think the parents should have the moral obligation to pay for their progeny to be kept frozen for as long as the embryo is not adopted. I don't think either question was specifically addressed but I know they hard to answer. So, peace to you too.

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