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Dolan on Gay Marriage

Archbishop Dolan's blog refused to take Father's Day off from the crusade against gay marriage. I applaud Dolan's embrace of blogging, and Dolan's posts have attracted a great deal of media attention, but I wish he would put more thought into his posts on this topic. I think it would be a much more powerful use of the medium, and would be helpful for those of us struggling to understand the Church's state of panic in the face of gay marriage, if he would engage in a more detailed way with the arguments on both sides of this issue. One searches his posts in vain for reasoned argument, finding instead a series of conclusory zingers like the one with which he finished up his most recent post. "Government presumes to redefine these sacred words at the peril of the common good." How does expanding the definition of the family to encompass same sex couples threaten the common good? Dolan doesn't tell us. His post simply ends.I looked back at his earlier post, and it also fails to adequately explain his views, except to tell us that the family is the foundation of our civilization and that tinkering with its definition is dangerous. I suppose I agree with both of those points, but neither one rules out same sex marriage. After all, the definition of marriage varies across time. Polygamy is approved in the Bible, though it is now illegal. Dolan doesn't discuss that, despite a reference to the authority of Genesis in his most recent post. Divorce used to be prohibited but no-fault divorce is now ubiquitous. Interracial marriage was legally forbidden in many US jurisdictions until just a generation ago. Now it is constitutionally protected. Telling us that revising the definition of the family is dangerous either means that all of these past changes were wrong or that, more likely, some were better than others. But if it means the latter, it adds nothing but a cautionary note to the present debate. It cannot be decisive.Indeed, Dolan himself can hardly make up his mind on the subject of marriage's meaning. In his two posts on the issue, he tells us that traditional definition of marriage is "timeless" and "as old as human reason and ordered good." And, yet, in these same two posts, separated by a mere four days, Dolan himself actually gives us, not one, but THREE different definitions of marriage. In his first post, he says that marriage is "one man, one woman, united in lifelong love and fidelity, hoping for children." His second definition, in the same post, is similar but not identical: "a loving, permanent, life-giving union to pro-create children." Finally, in his Father's Day post, he says that marriage is a "loving, faithful union between one man and one woman leading to a family."Of course, marriage has not been "lifelong" or "permanent" by law for a long time, and yet no blog posts urging NY legislators to (re)prohibit no-fault divorce as a grave threat to the common good have yet appeared on Dolan's blog. [UPDATE: By the way, no-fault divorce is actually a recent innovation in NY family law. While the Church opposed the change, during the debate, the director of the New York State Catholic Conference (which bills itself as the "official public policy voice of the Catholic Church") noted that [c]learly, not every marriage can be permanent."] Perhaps someone pointed this out after Dolan's first post, which might explain why he dropped any reference to duration in his most recent, timeless definition.As for procreation, "hoping for children" and "to pro-create children" are far from identical. Both might be read to rule out marriages among the non-fertile, though the "hoping for children" formulation is less exclusive on that front. But this leads to the question -- which is it to be? Does the marriage of two 80-year-olds threaten the timeless definition of marriage or undermine the common good? If not, why not? In his most recent definition, the reference to procreation is replaced by "leading to a family." This is circular, since legal recognition of same-sex couples as "families" would allow their unions to also "lead[] to a family." That's the whole point.These blog posts were useful opportunities for some thoughtful reflection on these questions, but the Archbishop chose instead to write unconvincing little screeds aimed at producing nice sound-bites for the press. Those who agree with him will no doubt take heart from his vocal opposition to New York's proposed legislation. For the rest of us, we are no better able to understand the foundation for his fears than we were before.

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Further to Jean's comments @ 8:25 pm: What if a heterosexual couple marries in the Catholic church and deliberately refuses to have children when there is no physical nor psychological reasons for doing so? Are they in apostasy?The Purposes of MarriageThe Catholic Church teaches that the purposes of marriage are for the procreation and upbringing of children and of the mutual welfare and support of the couple. *Neither of these can be deliberately excluded.*(http://www.rosary.freeuk.com/marry1.html#3 )

Felapton, why should one particular interpretation of one particular religious tradition dictate the legal definition of marriage in our country?

Show me where gay couples in long term (even unto lifetime) committed relationships are doing something that bears bad fruit? Show me the damage borne out by this sinful life to themselves or others? What is the argument from consequences?

ABout "divorce" and "annulment", it seems to me that our linguistic problems could be less opaque if, when talking about the Church's meaning(s) of "marriage" we spoke about "marriage" (civil/natural) as distinguished from "matrimony", which is both a natural/civil entity and a religious/supernatural one. It is because civil marriage is not exactly the same thing as matrimony that we can talk of civil "divorces" not really being "divorces" in the sense of our ecclesiastical meaning of "divorce". Same with "annulment". IT's a word which gets the theologians into a very great deal of trouble, but shouldn't have to.

In recent years John Paul II and others have tried to restore exorcism. In late antiquity exorcism was considered the one demonstration of the power of god that carried unanswerable authority. I suggest that we perform the rite on Dolan and others in the Catholic Conference as well as faithful same sex couples, to see where the demons are. My bet is that the same sex couples will be demon free.

Oops It's"50% of Sam's SS for Terry!"

"Come on, lets be honest here. Youre not struggling to understand. You are arbitrarily and obstinately rejecting what you know the Church is reminding the world regarding the truth of marriage.Of course, you are free to reject and dissent all you want. But dont pretend . . . "This is name-calling, not evidence.

"It is sort of like dealing with an alcoholic, the person who, like the gay person, is very attracted to an unhealthy and somehow self destructive lifestyle."YAY, KEN!! You have actually given us two reasons to oppose gay marriage.Now, please, tell us your reasons for thinking what you say is true. I mean, please tell us which illness(es) does it by its very nature produce? And what part or parts of the gay spouses are destroyed by their being united?

Generally, Catholics believe the commandments have changed when the Church teaches that they have. Catholics believe the Church, by the special assistance of the Holy Spirit, cannot err when it teaches a doctrine of faith or morals. When this prohibition is lifted, Archbishop Dolan will let us know.Acts 15: 28-29 (Council of Jerusalem)'It is the decision of the holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities, namely, to abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, from blood, from meats of strangled animals, and from unlawful marriage. If you keep free of these, you will be doing what is right.'"See John W. Martens on the question of when this was no longer considered binding. Catholics no longer pay any attention to the restriction on eating blood, although nobody knows when they stopped, but Orthodox Christians do not eat blood.

Echoing Ann O., someone flesh out the "somehow" in the observation on self-destruction. I keep reading that sentence and discover its many pathologies.

In line with Ann's encouragement to speak more clearly, the comparison needs to be restated. As stated, it is false. The alcoholic is attracted to a physical-mental state of being that is rewarding and satisfying, feels good, and encourages continuation. The unhealthy effects and self-destruction are unintended consequences, possibly either unknown or denied, and certainly are not what attracts the person. To attempt a parallel with a gay person (the sense of which is unclear to me), clarity is required on what are attractors, intended consequences, and unintended consequences or negative effects.

Jimmy Mac wrote, "But who knows, perhaps higher rates of out-of-wedlock births are more likely to appear in red states in which conservative religion predominates".That's no doubt true. In New York City 41% of all pregnancies end in abortion.

ANN ASKED: why, why, why should gay partnerships not be included in the most important definition of marriage?FELAPTON ANSWEREED: Because marital (i.e., heterosexual, procreative) relations are commanded by God. Whereas homosexual relations are forbidden by God.Felapton --Gotcha. If your first sentence is true, then all the celibate clergy and religious are acting against what God commanded. Not only does the Church tolerate this it praises such celibacy to high Heaen. So. . . ?Yes, homosexual relations were forbidden in ancient times, and that is very understandable when the Earth was not well-populated, modern medicine had not yet been invented and *over-populations had not yet become a very serious problem.. But it really is a fact, Felapton, that, like all good parents, God changes His commandments depending on His children's needs. Exclusively heterosexual unions are no longer needed, love of one's spouse is now seen to be part of the best sort of marriage people are capable of. So homosexuals should not be condemned to loveless heterosexual unions as they were in the past. They should be allowed to choose spouses according to love. Or do you deny that God has changed what commandments from time to time? Perhaps you have you never known a gay couple who very, very obviously love each other. Look around. There are many who are out now.

Ann (6/20 11:24 pm):

But it really is a fact, Felapton, that, like all good parents, God changes His commandments depending on His childrens needs.

Which commandments would Moses discover missing, Ann? Any new ones?Remember, God didn't provide paragraphs of theological qualifications. Just the bare bones. Either they're still there or they're not. If you're talking about changes in interpretation, that's high-priest stuff - not God stuff.

"If your first sentence is true, then all the celibate clergy and religious are acting against what God commanded."God commanded mankind to marry and bring forth children. A commandment is not obligatory for every individual human, but only for those who are able to fulfill it. A prohibition is forbidden to everybody, because nobody is compelled to violate it."God changes His commandments depending on His childrens needs."How do we decide when the commandments have changed? When a well-funded advocacy group demands that they be changed? When some sociologist publishes a journal article propounding some theory for why things now require us to change them and the article is favorably reviewed by his peers? If Bernie Madoff proclaims his ability to steal is a gift from God, does that mean it the commandment not to steal has been changed?Generally, Catholics believe the commandments have changed when the Church teaches that they have. Catholics believe the Church, by the special assistance of the Holy Spirit, cannot err when it teaches a doctrine of faith or morals. When this prohibition is lifted, Archbishop Dolan will let us know.

A commandment is not obligatory for every individual human, but only for those who are able to fulfill it."Remember to keep holy the sabbath day.""Honor your father and your mother." "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments."

" ... sabbath day ... honor ... love the Lord, your God ... "These are commandments which comparatively few people are unable to fulfill. (Emergency medical workers and those whose parents are deceased are prevented from fulfilling some.) Similarly, anybody whom God calls to the priesthood or religious life is prevented from fulfilling the commandment to marry and procreate.I don't think anybody drinks blood anymore. Maybe a few nutcases.

If we legalize SSM the following bad thing(s) will happen:..............................................................................

Mmmmm........blood sausage, delicious.

"What if a homosexual couple marries in order to protect joint property and assets but is perfectly chaste? Have they done anything that flies in the face of Church teaching?"Hi, Jean, Except for the word "marries" in your hypothetical, I would say, no. I don't imagine that the church sees anything threatening about jointly owned property being inherited by the surviving owner. Your hypothetical implies a pretty instrumental view of marriage ('the social value of marriage is to ensure the orderly transferring of property'), and of course one that instrumental approach is commonly used to promote homosexual marriage ("my companion was on his deathbed and the hospital wouldn't let me visit him"). I do think that there could and should be legal structures short of marriage and civil unions that permits the protection of joint property, visiting rights, etc. It shouldn't be that hard to bring about, i.e. whenever anyone is admitted to a hospital, there is already a stack of paperwork to fill out, so why not include a permission form that allows the patient to designate who she wants for family visiting rights. In terms of joint ownership of property, I expect that such legal structures already exist (i.e. wills), but I'm not the legal expert around here by a very long stretch."What if a heterosexual couple divorces b/c the husband cannot have sex. If the husband remarries civilly, is he an apostate? Isnt he merely marrying for the sake of ensuring that his companion inherits their joint property and wealth?"David N asked a somewhat similar question. I don't know. I was being pretty speculative in using the word "apostate". Here is Wikipedia's definition: "the formal disaffiliation from or abandonment or renunciation of a religion by a person." Arguably, entering into a homosexual legal union is an abandonment and renunciation of the Catholic faith. I'm not sure if remarrying without an annulment is the same kind of thing. Such sacramentally distorting acts as ordaining women, or baptizing someone in the name of Mother Creator, Sister Redeemer, and Daughter Sanctifier seem like pretty parallel cases. I'll happily retract "apostate" if that's not correct. At the great risk of upsetting folks here: I am not big at all on refusing communion to politicians, even notoriously pro-choice ones, but if a person who is publicly known (even by me) to be in a homosexual legal union presents himself in my line for communion, I would whisper to him, "Are you still married to Joe?" and if he says yes, I would not offer him communion. That seems straightforward.

William F wrote: "Show me where gay couples in long term (even unto lifetime) committed relationships are doing something that bears bad fruit? "Sorry, I am not going to show you anything like that. But I am going to illustrate what I take to be a great inconsistency in this thread. I could equally say, Show me where Catholic adoption agencies are doing something that bears bad fruit. They are simply looking out for the best interest of the child, according to the agency's moral principles. Unless someone can demonstrate that a child is harmed by placing him for adoption with a heterosexual married couple(!), there is no reason to prohibit Catholic-affiiliated adoption agencies from continuing to operate.

@Jim P., doesn't the Church have a more narrow definition of apostasy. I was under the impression you had to deny a Really Big Truth (maybe a de fide teaching?) like the Resurrection or the Real Presence to be considered an apostate.

Arguably, entering into a homosexual legal union is an abandonment and renunciation of the Catholic faith. Im not sure if remarrying without an annulment is the same kind of thing. Jim,Why would you say that? According to the Catholic view, divorce and remarriage is in violation of the very words of Jesus. He never said anything about same-sex marriage, though. It seems to me a good case could be made that divorce and civil remarriage is a sacrilege against the sacrament of marriage. Again, from the Catholic view, it's not like premarital sex, or even extramarital sex. Divorce and civil remarriage would seem to me to be an offense against the sacrament of marriage, a breaking of the marriage vows, and adultery, all wrapped into one. Also, why it is not obstinately persisting in manifest grave sin is a mystery to me. (Wasn't it considered so in the past?) The divorced and civilly remarried may not receive the sacraments, although as I understand John Paul II and the USCCB, they are invited to attend Sunday mass and participate in the life of the parish.What makes same-sex civil marriage a more serious departure from Catholic teaching than divorce and civil remarriage? I'd be interested in hearing you make the case. Also, I have no idea why the use of artificial contraception by at least 9 out of 10 married Catholics of childbearing age is also not merely impermissible, but an offense against the sacrament of marriage. According to Catholic teaching, I don't know why heterosexual departures from the teachings of the Church are not considered more serious than homosexual ones. After all, heterosexuals have options. ("It is better to marry than to burn.") Homosexuals, in Catholic teaching, have no options. It is not better to marry than to burn, because homosexuals can't marry. An unchaste heterosexual had a permissible path to follow. An unchaste homosexual had no option other than lifelong abstinence. Also, what makes same-sex civil marriage any more and act of "apostasy" than same-sex cohabitation? The answer to all of this, in my opinion, is that there is a reaction within the Catholic Church to homosexuality that goes beyond its degree of sinfulness and is influenced by fear, disgust, and prejudice that have little or nothing to do with morality. Same-sex marriage is worse than heterosexual divorce and civil remarriage because homosexuality makes a lot of people very uncomfortable.

It astounds me to hear someone affirm that voluntaristic charitable organizations should be allowed to operate on the basis of discrimination against entire classes of persons. Of course married gay couples must be treated no differently from married heterosexual couples in matters of adoption. To do otherwise would indeed bear bad fruit. It would set up invidious distinctions. Now if sectarian organizations work only with members of a single denomination, that's another thing. But if the whole thing comes down to no gays need apply or we only place white children, etc.

Still waiting to hear the case in favor of instituting gay marriage; why would that be good for society?Patrick Molloy summed it up nicely (quoting): In the interests of fair play perhaps Professor Penalver can refer us to a blog post or short essay, either his own or someone elses, which convincingly lays out the case for same-sex marriage. The blog posts of Archbishop Dolan which he finds to be inadequate were 340 and 550 words long. Lets give Professor Penalver 1,000 words and then we can make potshots, I mean criticisms, aimed at his case. If its not an unconvincing little screed aimed at producing nice sound bites for the press then it will be a valuable exercise. I assume he will want to cover in his essay all biblical issues, ancient and recent history, potential unintended consequences, and multiple hard cases if he wants to persuade anyone of the reasonableness of his argument.

". . . if a person who is publicly known (even by me) to be in a homosexual legal union presents himself in my line for communion, I would whisper to him, Are you still married to Joe? and if he says yes, I would not offer him communion. That seems straightforward."------Are men who study for the diaconate/priesthood instructed to whisper questions to people in line for communion? Would a person be asked if s/he was still practicing birth control? Still gambling/drinking/smoking/overeating? I think being questioned by a person distributing communion would be an intolerable intrusion for some. Maybe that accounts for some decisions to leave the Church.

It astounds me to hear someone affirm that voluntaristic charitable organizations should be allowed to operate on the basis of discrimination against entire classes of persons. ----------Nothing astounds me about adoption. Catholic (and most/all other) adoption agencies have traditionally discrimiinated against entire classes of persons, namely "unwed" mothers and "illegitimate" children. One example: Catholic (and other) agencies historically separated twins. Another example: Catholic agencies concealed from adopted people all information about their biological and sacramental beginnings, including the names they were given at baptism. (There was a great article on this a number of years ago in NCR by a priest who was adopted.)

Ken, gays are not asking for the creation of a category of legal status known as "gay" marriage. They are asking not be denied admission into the category of an existing legal status known as "marriage." So we start with the rather uncontested proposition that marriage is a "good" in the broadest sense, for society, for married people, their children, etc. If it is a good for you and me, so it can be a good for anyone else. The real question for you is, does marriage become less good for society if it admits more people, and specifically, gay people? The answer to that question should not necessarily be determinative, but it is at least the right place for you to start.

George Weigel has a good article related to New York's AB Dolan:http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/print/270110And a quaint quote from John Adams, in a letter to his wife; "This afternoon, led by curiosity and good company, I strolled away to mother church, or rather grandmother church. I mean the Romish chapel. . . . The entertainment was to me most awful and affecting: the poor wretches fingering their beads, chanting Latin, not a word of which they understood; their pater nosters and ave Marias; their holy water; their crossing themselves perpetually; their bowing to the name of Jesus, whenever they hear it; their bowings, kneelings, and genuflections before the altar. The dress of the priest was rich white lace. His pulpit was velvet and gold. The altar piece was very rich, little images and crucifixes about; wax candles lighted up. . . . "

Jim, at least in Illinois, the Catholic Charities adoption services were funded almost entirely by the state. CC placed children in homes with married couples as well as "non-cohabiting" single adults (presumably without regard to their sexual orientation). They were willing to refer gay couples to other agencies. In my view, it truly was the choice of the state to determine whether that was a reasonable workaround to the new Illinois law on civil unions. Again, there is a huge distinction between the decision of a Catholic birthmother with intact parental rights refusing to place her child with a single person, or a gay couple, and the decision of an adoption agency certified by the state to refuse to certify a gay couple as suitable parents eligible for adopting any child, when the state makes such certification an entry ticket to state approval of all adoptions.

Barbara - As for "a good place for you to start" the responsibility for making the case for this change is yours and other proponents of same-sex marriage. You folks are calling for a change, and I and others who think like I do are asking you to explain why we should change something that has been the rule-custom, the norm for at least the past 5,000 years. Why is your idea better than all the societies that have gone before ours? Why should we consider your idea? What is its merit? Why and how would it be better than that status quo?Other than emotive blather from thos on your side of this, I have yet to hear anything substantial.

Oh and I forgot the hissy fits: "Other than emotive blather and the periodic (seemingly obligatory) hissy fits from those on your side of this, I have yet to hear anything substantial

I would whisper to him, Are you still married to Joe? and if he says yes, I would not offer him communion. That seems straightforward.Jim,Wouldn't the appropriate question (from your point of view) be, "Do you have sex with your partner?" I used to know a gay couple in which one partner, a Catholic, decided for religious reasons to stop having sex. However, they other partner cared for him enough to remain in the relationship. They were not legally married, but if they had been, would you expect them to legally divorce to be eligible for communion?

Gay people should be allowed to marry because they want to marry, marriage being a state carries responsibilities as well as rights. If two gay people want to undertake the responsibility of, say, being liable for each other's debts and support, and subject to judicial oversight ensuring that the dissolution of their union does not contravene the welfare of their dependents, their willingness to do so has as much benefit for society at large as when my husband and I made the same commitment to each other. The collateral effects of the impact of allowing gay people to marry are tenuous, speculative, unproven, and, basically, give way too much solicitude to the hypothetical interests of those who appear to be eligible for but not all that interested in marriage. We all have to weigh the benefits and burdens of being married and while it is appropriate for me to point to features of marriage I don't like (not being able to shed the debt of a shopaholic spouse, for instance), and decide whether that makes it unduly burdensome for myself, it is strange and rather presumptuous for me to consider the benefits of my own marriage plans in terms of who else gets to be married -- It isn't remotely sensible for me to consider whether I should get married based on whether I want to be more like Britney Spears or Andrew Sullivan. Public policy should not cater to the whims of society's most irrational members.

Ken, your use of the term "hissy fit" seems to me to illustrate precisely what's radically questionable about your basic criterion for keeping rational discussion of full equality for LGBT people at bay. You tell Barbara she engages in an emotion-laden hissy fit.The Urban Dictionary site says the following about that term: "A sudden outburst of temper, often used to describe female anger at something trivial. Originally regional from American South. Thought to originate from contraction of 'hysterical fit.'"So "hissy" echoes "hysterical," the pseudo-medical term long used in popular discourse to imply that women who disagree with men are merely venting irrational emotion, are reflecting the vapors of the womb, the .And then you want to convince us that, merely because a certain standard of behavior has been "the norm for at least the past 5,000 years," and the accepted practice of "all the societies that have gone before ours," we ought to consider it sacrosanct?!Subordination of women to men--legal, institutionalized subordination of women to men (since women are, with their emotion-generating uteruses, prone to hysteria and in need of men's rational control) was the norm in one society after another for more than 5,000 years. All the societies that have gone before ours took it for granted and would have considered it insane to question that norm.But we've begun to question it, as we did with other venerable norms held as inviolable and unquestionable by societies from time immemorial--including the norm that some people have the right to hold others in slavery, in chattel bondage.The argument from antiquity is hardly an unambiguous or patently positive argument. The same can be said for the unsavory rhetorical strategy men all too frequently try to use against women, to dismiss their insights and contributions to conversations--that women are prone to emotion and hysteria. Isn't it interesting that so many of these arguments come down, in the end, to the insistence of some men that they have the right to dismiss, insult, demean, and deny rights to someone else? Just because it has always been that way.And because God and nature happen to ordain that this is how it ought to be. Or so those men keep saying.

I would whisper to him, Are you still married to Joe? and if he says yes, I would not offer him communion. That seems straightforward.Shocking. If I was on the receiving end of that rejection, I would probably leave the parish. Pushing people out: that's scandalous!As the person offering communion, I would, if I really believed it, approach him afterwards, try to enter in a discussion, and if that seemed helpful, suggest that he might consider that receiving communion is not compatible with gay marriage, or with not having gone to confession in the past 12 months, or with destroying a marriage by continuing to have an affair, or whatever. But I would never bar access to the Body of Christ from someone wishing to receive it! That's not our mission, and it is not the way to conversion. It goes against my understanding of the gospels.

I offered that marriage is good for gay people and those who support them and not detrimental to others. Society is an abstraction whose needs not be considered. But I would venture that we all have a stake in seeing that each person in our community enjoys life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

The presumption that to some persons the Eucharist--the Bread of Life and the Cup of Salvation, the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ--must be denied lies at the core of what is wrong with the sect of Catholicism.

I would hope anyone standing next in line to that gay man, at hearing the refusal, would choose to decline Communion, put an arm around him, and walk out of the church together. Every week I see married couples with no or perfectly spaced 2.5 kids happily granted Communion--why is their "sin" (90 percent contracept) not meriting denial? Moreover, as Claire said, why is the Communion line the place to sort it out at all?

"@Jim P., doesnt the Church have a more narrow definition of apostasy. I was under the impression you had to deny a Really Big Truth (maybe a de fide teaching?) like the Resurrection or the Real Presence to be considered an apostate."Hi, Felapton, is "the marriage bond is conferred by the mutual consent between a man and a woman" the same kind of thing? It certainly goes to the heart of the matter of a sacrament.As I say, I won't insist on apostacy. Until I am appointed to, elected to or usurp a bishop's chair, I don't have the power to declare it. I do continue to hold the opinion that two men or two women who mutually consent to marriage, with full understanding of what they're doing, have thereby broken communion with the church.

I think Jim P's point was that contracting a homosexual marriage is a public renunciation of a doctrine of the Church.

"Why would you say that?"As to my views on the seriousness of entering into a same-sex legal union, see my previous reply to Felapton. Regarding all of the other examples you bring up - divorcing and remarrying civilly, premarital sex, birth control and so on - I certainly agree that they are very serious sins that rupture a person's relationship with God and imperil his salvation.

An aura of surreality seems to have taken over, reminiscent of the eminent observational philosopher Lewis Carroll: Abp. Dolan of New York, Pres. USCCB: "The sacred word "father" implies "mother." The terms "father and mother" presume "husband and wife," and imply "children." These words are so basic that they're the first ones a baby says;" http://www.catholic.org/national/national_story.php?id=41846 "I would whisper to him, Are you still married to Joe? and if he says yes, I would not offer him communion. That seems straightforward." Perhaps not all bad an idea. Given the faded popularity of sacramental confession, this technique would offer an alternative. Each candidate communicant, on approaching the altar, would be run through a quick, whispered check-off list - Are you now? Did you do ? Have you ? Do you ? In the interests of brevity, questions could be limited to matters involving sex. If not, why not? What's important?

"It astounds me to hear someone affirm that voluntaristic charitable organizations should be allowed to operate on the basis of discrimination against entire classes of persons. Of course married gay couples must be treated no differently from married heterosexual couples in matters of adoption. To do otherwise would indeed bear bad fruit. It would set up invidious distinctions. Now if sectarian organizations work only with members of a single denomination, thats another thing. But if the whole thing comes down to no gays need apply or we only place white children, etc."Hi, William, Adoption agencies discriminate, if by 'discriminate' we mean 'draw meaningful distinctions' against all sorts of living situations, married, single, cohabiting, etc. I'm not an expert on adoptions, but I assume that a married couple who is unable to financially support a child should expect to have their application denied, through no moral failing on their part, because placing a child there is not in the child's best interest. I would imagine that people with criminal backgrounds would find it difficult to adopt, regardless of whether or not they're reformed their lives. Why should the poor and criminals who have already paid their debts to society be discriminated against in this way - aren't they classes of people who are also entitled to whatever right it is that homosexuals in legal unions are supposed to be entitled to here?If folks will pardon some forthright words: in the eyes of the Catholic church, homosexual marriage is gravely sinful. An agency that tries to conduct its business according to what the church believes would not want to place a child in a home environment that is (in the eyes of the church) inextricably woven with grave sin.

"Wouldnt the appropriate question (from your point of view) be, Do you have sex with your partner? I used to know a gay couple in which one partner, a Catholic, decided for religious reasons to stop having sex. However, they other partner cared for him enough to remain in the relationship. They were not legally married, but if they had been, would you expect them to legally divorce to be eligible for communion?"David - it's touching to hear that his partner loved him so much that they decided to stay together. To answer your question - yes, I would want them to be divorced. I don't think the church is okay with publicly-married-in-a-homosexual-union-but-celibate.

Me: "I would whisper to him, Are you still married to Joe? and if he says yes, I would not offer him communion. That seems straightforward."Claire: "Shocking. If I was on the receiving end of that rejection, I would probably leave the parish. Pushing people out: thats scandalous!"Hi, Claire, yes, I expected it would be a bit shocking, but I don't see how it's escapable. The point is that, as soon as the person conveyed his consent to his partner, his communion with the church was broken. He shouldn't expect to receive communion or any other sacrament at that point, except for the sacrament of reconciliation and all it entails (one element of which presumably would be ending his homosexual legal union). Leaving the parish may be beside the point, or not.

Jim P, Share with us the categories and circumstances in which you and fellow clergy refuse the Eucharist to your parishioners.

"Are men who study for the diaconate/priesthood instructed to whisper questions to people in line for communion? Would a person be asked if s/he was still practicing birth control? Still gambling/drinking/smoking/overeating? I think being questioned by a person distributing communion would be an intolerable intrusion for some. Maybe that accounts for some decisions to leave the Church."Gerelyn, people whisper to each other in communion lines all the time. Not infrequently, it has to do with eligibility to receive communion, usually along these lines: "hey, dad, has the little tyke standing before me and staring up at me rather ambiguously made his first communion yet?"And yes, Ministers of communion - not just priests and deacons but laypersons, too - are supposed to deny communion to people who aren't supposed to receive communion. For example, if my mother-in-law is a Baptist - something I would know for certain to be true - and she presents herself to receive communion, I would deny her communion.I don't know who takes birth control and who doesn't, who is sleeping with whom, and so on. I don't interrogate people about such things in the communion line. It's up to the recipient to be in the necessary state of grace.Some bishops have instructed communion ministers not to offer communion to wearers of rainbow sashes, because that is a public politicization of the sacred liturgy. If my bishop so instructed me, I would follow his instruction.Someone in a homosexual marriage is like a rainbow sash wearer, or my hypothetical mother-in-law. He is publicly known to be doing something that disqualifies him from communion. I suppose I could just refuse him without the whispering, but it seems kinder to ask him whether anything has changed in his like that would make him eligible.

Jim, so, you are declaring that a gay man who entered a civil marriage has automatically excommunicated himself. Where did you read that? I know that this was promulgated a few years ago for abortion (so you'd have a case for refusing communion to a doctor who procured an abortion), but I am not aware that that was decided for anything else.

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