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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.

About the Author

Eduardo Moisés Peñalver is the Allan R. Tessler Dean of the Cornell Law School. He is the author of numerous books and articles on the subjects of property and land use law.

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Bishop Dolan is only pointing out what should be obvious to all; that tinkering with one of the oldest building blocks of society is at best, very dangerous.What is the matter with people who think that in order to correct something, that they find it necessary to shred society from end-to-end?Certainly people should be taxed correctly; certainly we can and should update our property and finance laws so gay folks can properly tend to the practical matters of their lives. Nobody should want to make gay folks lives more tedious or difficult than they already are. However that does not mean we should stand by while some nimrod legislators tear down the foundation of human society.I am glad the Bishop spoke out regarding this important matter.

Archbishop Dolan: The sacred word father implies mother. God the Father. God the ________. Father John Corapi. ________ John Corapi. (Prior to June 17, 2011, that is.)

I presume Dolan is speaking to his flock, not trying to convince the New York Times editorial board. He's keeping it basic and simple, sticking to principle and tradition. If he were to stray into complexity, he'd just be confusing some readers and delighting others by providing them with words and numbers they could pick apart.From a civil-rights point of view - which seems to be the way most pro-gay-marriage proponents see it - Dolan doesn't have a leg to stand on, no matter what he says.

Ken, how does allowing civil marriage for gays "shred society from end to end" and "tear down the foundation of society"? Like Dolan, you're heavy on emotional language and missing specifics and argument.

The Bishop is practicing political rhetoric, not theology or philosophy--as is his wont. I am utterly unconvinced by the "building block of society" rhetoric myself, believing that the term marriage covers a multitude of arrangements across history and human geography. I think extending the concept and legal definition to include same-sex relations is quite a big deal, far more so that righting the wrong of miscegenation laws. And yet I am for it.It seems to me that America made it's choice about the sanctity of marriage as a divinely ordained covenantal relationship with God as a third and enveloping partner when it twice elected divorced Ronald Reagan and continued to nominate candidates who put aside one wife for another.

"Those who agree with him will no doubt take heart from his vocal opposition to New Yorks proposed legislation. For the rest of us, we are no better able to understand the foundation for his fears than we were before."Is it the message or the messenger that is really the problem here? Seems to me the real heart of the problem for this and the previous post on the bishops must be the message. The Church's position on gay marriage really isn't that big of a secret is it? I mean a quick Google search of the topic led to a link to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. What would somehow be clearer if Dolan had written a more artful blog post (which aren't, to be sure, intended to be law review articles) that isn't already clear from the Church's Social Teaching? Since the author is a law professor, a query: would a particular judge's inartful or confusing exposition in an opinion of the requirements for summary judgment or stare decisis somehow weaken those standards themselves? I doubt we would conclude so. Yet that seems to me to be the precise complaint here.I agree with the comment above: I admire Dolan (and the Church in general's) fortitude on this issue, but the battle has already been lost. Whether or not one has a valid or legitimate argument about preserving traditional marriage has been rendered irrelevant, as simply a mask for one's bigotry. See King & Spalding.

David Smith (and Ken):Does speaking to the flock give an Archbishop license to make silly arguments:

Last time I consulted an atlas, it is clear we are living in New York, in the United States of America not in China or North Korea. In those countries, government presumes daily to redefine rights, relationships, values, and natural law. There, communiqus from the government can dictate the size of families, who lives and who dies, and what the very definition of family and marriage means.But, please, not here! Our countrys founding principles speak of rights given by God, not invented by government, and certain noble values life, home, family, marriage, children, faith that are protected, not re-defined, by a state presuming omnipotence.

What's going on in New York is the consideration of a bill by the members of the democratically elected New York Senate and Assembly. There is no resemblance to China or North Korea.

And, what about other rights, like that of a child to be raised in a family with a mom and a dad?

41% of children in the United States are born out of wedlock.

Our beliefs should not be viewed as discrimination against homosexual people. The Church affirms the basic human rights of gay men and women, and the state has rightly changed many laws to offer these men and women hospital visitation rights, bereavement leave, death benefits, insurance benefits, and the like.

See my post on ReligiousLeftLaw.com. The Catholic Church has never approved any law to guarantee gay rights. It is opposed to such legislation in principle.

Mary Wow; Ok here goes. From the beginnings of organized culture thousands of years ago, the family has been the fundamental building block of society.On a basic level, societies started with families, that grew into clans, and ultimately into cities and states.Clearly then, family is important to society. As a logical matter then, undermining the family is not good for society.Gay marriage proponents are the ones asking that we allow them to change the definition of family, but they do not explain how our allowing them to change this eons-old definition will either be beneficial to the common good or a least show that it will be neutral toward it.You ask me how changing the definition of family to include gay marriage is bad for society, but you have it the wrong way round. As a proponent of changing something that has been in place for at least five thousand years, as a proponent of changing the status quo, it is your job to show how the change you propose is good for society.

Yes, Mary. The "shred society from end to end" language is a bridge too far, over the top, beyond the pale, etc. It seems to me that anarchists and radicals who would eliminate marriage as an institution of patriarchy would better deserve such charges than those who say, "I'll have what they're having."

Gay-marriage merely tinkers with the definition of family, involving a swap of partners in the parental pair bond. It leaves all other familial elements of sibling status, inter-generational ties, and nepotistic relations intact. Is is divorce and re-marriage that undermines families.

Gay marriage proponents are the ones asking that we allow them to change the definition of family . . . What is the definition of family and how is it going to be changed?On a basic level, societies started with families, that grew into clans, and ultimately into cities and states.I think you are making up anthropology. While I am not an expert, I would imagine societies started with groups first and families developed within those groups. But the early families and, in fact, families up until quite recently were not the "nuclear family" (husband, wife, and their children) but rather extended families. These did, of course, need men and women to reproduce, but they did not need "one man and one woman."I really think this "redefining the family" charge is nonsense. Suppose a young teenage daughter gets pregnant and a decision is made to keep the baby. Is her baby not part of the family? Does she need to marry the father of her baby and move out into a new house so there will be another family? I know that many existing families consider the partners of their gay members to be part of the family. Two unmarried lesbians, when one of them gives birth to a child, certainly constitute a family. Family does not mean a married man and woman and their biological children. Here are a couple of definitions from the Merriam-Webster Unabridged

3 a : a group of individuals living under one roof : HOUSEHOLD b : the body of persons who live in one house and under one head including parents, children, servants, and lodgers or boarders; specifically : a group of persons sharing a common dwelling and table considered for census purposes to include at one extreme a single person living alone and at the other the residents of a hotel or the inmates of a prison5 a : the basic biosocial unit in society having as its nucleus two or more adults living together and cooperating in the care and rearing of their own or adopted children b : one's children c : a male and female animal with their young

Was there no "family" in the old television show My Three Sons, with a father and grandfather raising three boys?

Try to look at it like this Mary.Lets imagine I want to lower the speed limit in my neighborhood, from 35 to 25 mph. How would I set about this?I would first ask my neighbors if they agreed and if my proposal seemed sound and reasonable. I would then put together some data to illustrate the status quo and the problems caused by the current speed limit. I would likewise need to gather data to show how the change would benefit not only the local neighborhood, but also how the reduced speed limit in that area would not adversely affect the city; that the overall affect would be neutral-to-positive.Finally, I would ask for time to present my case to the city governing board or council, and would make my presentation accordingly. If they accepted my proposal, fine. If it is rejected, I can either live with the decision (a decision after all, of elected officials) or if I felt strongly enough about the issue, I could set about gathering signatures to put my proposal on the ballot, thus making my presentation directly to the voters.Do you see in this scenario, since I would be the person proposing a change to the status quo, how (i.e., because of that) it would then be my responsibility to explain why and how my proposal would be god for society?

oops - "...good for society?"

What DavidN said. Quite well.Ken, what you're ignoring (perhaps you're too busy inventing cultural history) is that proponents of gay marriage already have made the affirmative case in legislatures and courts in this and many other countries. If you have evidence heterosexual marriage and family would be harmed we'd have seen it by now.

in a wonderful graduate course "History of the 'Family'" my mind was expanded to recognize, as others have pointed out, how that concept evolved and changed throughout pre-history and history. I see more reason to support the cultural shift than to oppose it, especially with all the discongruencies others have pointed out. I believe that Abp. Dolan is more concerned with "power" than theology as the church continues to exercise less and less influence in defining the marriage commitment and sense of "family", there will ever louder screams about he way it "always" was regardless of history or anthropology.He surely has the right to advocate that no relgious tradition be forced to recognize any marriage that it does not wish to, but not to oppose the civil function and status it provides.

"The sky is falling down! The sky is falling down!" Truth is, the sky has already fallen. Interest in marriage as a legal and legitimating option for same-sex partners is not a cause, but a symptom of a transformation well underway in the nature of marriage as a social and civic institution. But same-sex marriage is not the road to perdition. A failure to live up to one's promises and commitments is. The most interesting argument against gay same-sex marriage is the notion that allows gays to marry (each other) will weaken marriage as a mark of status among heteros, especiallly male. It's the same idea that I have heard with respect to allowing women to be priests--that it drains force from gender distinctions. Ultimately the arguments involve domesticating men without demasculating them (by someone's definition)

Mary, for the benefit of me and those who might not have caught it; please re-state the case in favor of changing the definition of marriage (and by extension, family) that as you say, has been made in legislatures around the world? How does allowing gay marriage help society?

I think Archbishop Dolan's definition of a family would go something like this: "A male and female performing the ontologically pre-determined roles of father and mother and their children." Very few people will dispute the premise that only men are able to fulfill the role of father and only women are able to fulfill the role of mother. It is true that many children are currently in families in which only one of these relationships is present. Very few people will argue that those are desirable arrangements, although they are often the least bad possible arrangements (For example, if one parent is dead or dangerous.)To create a family which lacks one of the parents by intention (as opposed to by necessity) is not quite a redefinition of the concept. But it is a fairly radical innovation.

"Truth is, the sky has already fallen."Yes, this is obvious. But just because a patient has tuberculosis does not make it advisable to deliberately infect him with malaria.

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. In his Fathers Day post, he says that marriage is a loving, faithful union between one man and one woman leading to a family.I think it is interesting that opponents of same-sex marriage offer as the one, true, timeless definition of marriage an institution that does not allow for polygamy or divorce. Girgis/Geroge/Anderson do this in "What Is Marriage?" as does Archbishop Dolan. Even the old online Catholic Encyclopedia does not claim that polygamy and divorce are against natural law, and it seems to me that while we may consider polygamy a bad idea today, it was accepted and practiced by some of the greatest figures in the Old Testament. (I did not know, or I had forgotten until I looked it up a few days ago, that King Solomon, with his 700 wives and 300 concubines, was the son of King David and Bathsheba. Remember the story of those two?) Divorce certainly must have as long a history as marriage itself, and no doubt polygamy does, as well. There is now only one country in the world with no divorce laws (the Philippines). It would seem to me that the right for virtually all marriages to be dissolved by divorce is a much larger problem than the right of a few percent of same-sex couples to marry each other.

Haven't we been over all this before?http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/blog/?p=14010What's new to say? Either it's a simple rights issue or it's much more. You can't have it both ways.

To create a family which lacks one of the parents by intention (as opposed to by necessity) is not quite a redefinition of the concept. But it is a fairly radical innovation.Felapton,It seems less radical, or at least less harmful, than divorce, which modifies a family intentionally so it has only one parent.But just because a patient has tuberculosis does not make it advisable to deliberately infect him with malaria.Who is the patient here?

Ken says 'Clearly then, family is important to society. As a logical matter then, undermining the family is not good for society.'Why Ken, have Catholic sacramental marriages declined 50% in a decade and a half while Catholic population grew 15%?Why does A/B. Dolan and bishop DiMarzio have disdain for Catholic lay run marriage programs, as none are listed or funded in their dioceses? If you want credibility one has to put resources/attention instead of mouth into play.

Can someone explain to me why divorce is not the force that has torn down the foundations of society? We are living in the rubble of what marriage once was, for good and bad.

The patient is the institution of marriage. Many people would say, "Marriage is sick; let's not make it sicker." I agree that divorce is also bad for marriage. However, children of divorced parents still often have two parents in their lives, though not in the same housing unit.Children of gay couples are missing one parent. Archbishop Dolan over-emphasizes this point. But it is not irrelevant either.

@Ken,Gosh, I wouldn't think it's a good idea for you to form an opinion without familiarizing yourself with the opposing viewpoint, but that's your choice; I see no need to waste others' time here rehashing arguments that have been thoroughly aired in years of public discourse.

Here is a much better pastoral and theological approach to this local, political fight:http://www.cardinalseansblog.org/ (btw - this is also a bishop's blog)Appears that Dolan, in his effort to be orthodox and passionate, looses any ability to be nuanced, to take a step back and look at this issue more carefully, and finally to put into action his church history skills. Unfortunately, in his haste we get regurgited paeans.

Last week - - Dolan fails to stomp out sexual abuseThis week - - Dolan fails to provide critical exegesis of biblical texts on polygamyNext week - - Dolan fails to speak out on civilian deaths in Libya__________In the unlikely event that any post on this site might want to refer positively to Dolan here are a few of his interesting initiatives that might be worth discussing:http://www.cny.org/stories/Pentecost-Continues,5696?content_source=&cate...

Since the advent of democracy, the shape of marriage has always reflected popular will such that much of the civil law on marriage and family is incompatible with Church doctrine, and this has been the case for a long time. To take an obvious example, laws enabling and defining the rights of those who are divorced and remarried (e.g., spousal rights to benefits). Here are some other "innovations" that have occurred along the way:1. Divorce2. No-fault divorce (New York is the last state in the country to enable no-fault divorce, which occurred last year.)3. Custody presumptions (from men to women to best interests of the child)4. Marital property laws (before the mid-19th century, women basically had no rights to property even if they actually brought it to the marriage).5. Common law marriage -- laws that provided for de facto marital arrangements after the passage of a certain amount of time have been uniformly repealed, because legislatures noticed that there were a lot of people who intended to live together without intending to be married -- that is, who affirmatively did not want to be married, such that common law marriage was defeating their expectations.This is the handful that I could think of in five minutes that are easy to describe. They all have had significant impact on the nature of family relations. The Church does not advance its cause by making bold statements that are easily refuted on the facts.

Children of gay couples are missing one parent. Archbishop Dolan over-emphasizes this point. But it is not irrelevant either.Felapton,Well, children adopted by same-sex couples who have been given up by their birth parents will not be raised by their biological parents no matter what, and since single-parent adoption is permitted, they may be adopted and be missing a mother or father in their adoptive home. Or they may remain in foster care and never be adopted at all. So far, it seems that single parents and same-sex couples have been adopting some of the more difficult-to-place children from foster care who might not otherwise have been adopted.I don't suppose we have any good data regarding how same-sex couples who raise children are the biological mothers or fathers, and to what extent they include the biological mothers and fathers of their own children in the lives of the children. And of course while the issues of same-sex marriage, childbearing by those in same-sex relationships, and adoption by those in same-sex relationships are closely related, they are not the same issue. I know a number of same-sex couples who have been together most of their lives. Only one couple is legally married. None have children or plan on having them. It seems to me very difficult to say with any degree of certainty that the children adopted by same-sex couples would be better off had they remained unadopted or been adopted by someone other than same-sex couples.There has been at least one study that found children of lesbian couples fared better than children of heterosexual couples. It might be best to be somewhat cautious about pinning opposition to same-sex marriage on the welfare of the children. If further studies show lesbian parents are superior, it may be necessary to oppose heterosexual marriage.

As I said above, I think this is a losing battle, but for what it's worth - I'm dismayed by the argument contra-natural law evidenced in some of the comments. This argument seems to be essentially that the Catholic argument against gay marriage rests on an ideal not borne out in reality, as in the case of heterosexual marriage and divorce. Or perhaps that because hetero marriages have a high incidence of divorce, and the Church isn't advocating for a ban on divorce, that the Church's ideal of marriage is fractured and seems like selective outrage.I find this troubling for a few reasons:First, it seems to reject a long-held mode of Catholic argument, both analogical and sacramental. Simply because the ideal doesn't reflect reality or vice-versa does not mean that one must throw the baby out with the bathwater it seems to me. This is implicit in Thomas's levels of law, with the higest order - divine law, reflecting, but never being fully captured in the "lower" levels of law. The supernatural is never reduced completely to the natural, there is always brokeness and incompleteness. But that is not say that we should NOT strive to pass laws reflective of the best of the divine law.Secondly, there seems implicit an assertion that because the Church does not advocate a full ban on divorce, it somehow accommodates or tolerates divorce, and that this tolerance irreparably fractures its ideal of marriage. That seems an unsupportable position. The Church may not advocate a ban on divorce, but it also doesn't recognize divorce as such either. It also ignores the signficant social science research showing the detrimental effects of divorce on a variety of measures, including health, wages, education, etc. It further ignores the growing number of states restricting divorce in certain situations. The Church's stance on divorce may well look prophetic, rather than old and worn out, by the time it's all said and done.Again with respect to divorce, while divorce is certainly a fracturing of the ideal of marriage, it does not seem to me to be a rejection of the ideal in itself, as is the case with gay marriage. The suggestion above to the effect that there is no "big deal" about gay marriage because it simply amounts to a "swapping" of one partner is a very curious claim for a Roman Catholic to make. I think this is some of what Ms. Steinfels is getting at it in the other post when she wonders why advocates for gay marriage cannot or won't admit that such a change is a big deal, at least from a Catholic point of view. Finally, all Catholics should take note of the legal challenged filed by Catholic Charities in Illinois to that states civil union's law. The suit essentially seeks a conscience exemption for groups who do not accept same sex marriage such as the church with respect to adoption policies. Absent such an exemption, Catholic Charities will be forced out of the adoption services. What are the limits of "freedom of religion"?On a larger scale, I just read a piece by Prof. George on Mirror of Justice discussing the limits imposed on a Catholic's political leanings by Catholicism (he rejects Randian individualism FYI). I wonder in light of that whether, for a Catholic, marriage (or any moral matter) can ever simply, merely, just be a "civil rights" issue? Seems to me our Catholicism has to impose some limits on some of the civil rights rhetoric, whether it be to property or to marry whomever one desires.

Bill deHaas: Thanks for that link to Cardinal O'Malley's blog.

The Church more than tolerates or accommodates divorce, it in fact requires it, in the case of annulments.

"The Church more than tolerates or accommodates divorce, it in fact requires it, in the case of annulments."I believe you're confusing the concepts. An annulment is not a divorce.

Jeff, no one is asking the Church to change its doctrine. If there is a failure here, it is the failure of the Church or Dolan to separate out Catholic doctrine from civil law. Civil law will always reflect popular will, for better or worse. It is only a defeat or concession for the Catholic Church to the extent that the Church considers itself to be subject to civil law definitions and rules on marriage, which it manifestly is not. I have no problem with the Church making the case in civil law type terms why gay marriage is bad -- but housing that opposition in the Catholic definition of sacramental marriage must fail almost by definition, because the popular will has rejected that definition as a mandatory element of marriage for a long time now. And, of course, no state can base its own laws on marriage by incorporating Catholic doctrine by reference.

The Church may not advocate a ban on divorce, but it also doesnt recognize divorce as such either.Jeff, Isn't it true that the Church requires a civil divorce before the annulment process can begin?

" ... at least one study that found children of lesbian couples fared better than children of heterosexual couples." No, I don't think it does. The Achenbach normative sample of American youth (comparison sample) does not seem to be restricted to children of heterosexual couples. It probably includes children of single-mothers and step-families. And it simply asserts they display less aggressive behavior and rule-breaking. I'm sure the Archbishop more concerned with their chances of attaining the Beatific Vision. (He himself is hardly a paragon of compliance.)

Jeff, I suspect that what Mary is saying is that before someone can get an annulment from the Church they must either be seeking or have sought legal dissolution of their marriage. This is a required element.

Jeff, I'm not confused. Annulments require a civil divorce.

Paul Moses (06/20/2011 - 3:58 pm):

Bill deHaas: Thanks for that link to Cardinal OMalleys blog.

Yes, thanks, though there was almost no defense there of the Church's position. He spent almost all his time saying that the Church doesn't hate gays.

"Jeff, I suspect that what Mary is saying is that before someone can get an annulment from the Church they must either be seeking or have sought legal dissolution of their marriage. This is a required element."I see now. Requiring it and encouraging it are still distinct in my mind."I have no problem with the Church making the case in civil law type terms why gay marriage is bad but housing that opposition in the Catholic definition of sacramental marriage must fail almost by definition, because the popular will has rejected that definition as a mandatory element of marriage for a long time now. And, of course, no state can base its own laws on marriage by incorporating Catholic doctrine by reference."I agree with you at least to an extent, which is why I think Catholics may not be able to accept the strictly "civil rights" framing of the issue. Of course the moral teaching of the Church is that its ideal of marriage is not strictly "sacramental", but one accessible to all via the natural law.

Nice dodge Mary (the old 'if you don't know I won't tell' trick), but nobody has explained why or how gay marriage would be good for society.

My use of the word "swapping" above was intentionally cheeky as a response to the idea that the very notion of family is "shredded" when two parents are of the same gender. Pshaw.The family is an accommodating and socially flexible structure. Same-sex marriage will not destroy it, even as it is clear that marriage is undergoing a sea-change due to many forces--social, economic, technological. Forbidding gays to marry (each other) is not going to stop those forces.At the same time, same-sex marriage is a very big deal--a game-changer. My position is that the civil law should accommodate the existing social contracts under emerging notions of marriage and family structures.

Two Tocquevillian predictions, both anticipating that after legalization of same-sex marriage debates will only become more intense.I remain convinced that recognition is the main goal of the homosexual marriage movement and that there is a strong possibility that institutionalizing gay marriage will not provide the desired reassurance. Then all the behaviors and words and traditions that honor traditional heterosexual marriage will have to be suppressed or at least delegitimized. Partner one, partner two. Robert Nagel, Colorado LawThe absolute equivalence of hetero and homosexual relationships will become public orthodoxy. The result will be that parents will be effectively disabled from expressing any preference whatsoever for heterosexuality, heterosexual families, or traditional heterosexual marriage, and any disapproval or lesser preference for homosexuality, even for their own children. The parity of homosexual and heterosexual relationships and life styles will be aggressively pursued, and anyone who dares to question this will be defined as a bigot. Do I look forward to this breathtaking expansion of the empire of political correctness? Certainly not! The implications of such a state of affairs for religious practice and expression are staggering -- this is a whole different subject unto itself.Amy Wax, Penn Lawhttp://www.fed-soc.org/debates/dbtid.24/default.asp

Well, I acknowledge Massachusetts has had gay marriage for several years now and we don't seem to have suffered any adverse effects. But we are a superior sort of people up here. I don't know how it will go in New York.

Religious leaders have both a right and an obligation to advise the wider community on religious objections to proposed legislation. For example, if the state were to propose a law requiring physicians to comply with a patient's desire for physician-assisted euthanasia, a bishop would be derelict in his duties not to protest.

Gay marriage is, on balance, good for the people who seek it and for those around them who benefit from the stabilizing effects of marriage. No harm to others. Gay people will, on balance, be happier, especially those who are married (to other gay people) in loving relationships. A multiplier effect obtains in that family and friends and neighbors of gay people will benefit from this happiness. (Not all married people are happier as a result, of course.) People who worry that their children might grow up to be gay might be less worried. People who fear the commitment and responsibility of marriage will see that gay couple making a life together and think, "I would like that for myself." People of a Christian persuasion can stop fighting with one another over this matter and attend to spiritual and corporal works of mercy that testify to God's radical call to justice and peace. The collective happiness of these sundry folk elevates the happiness quotient all around, contributing to a net "good for society."

"The family is an accommodating and socially flexible structure. Same-sex marriage will not destroy it, even as it is clear that marriage is undergoing a sea-change due to many forcessocial, economic, technological. Forbidding gays to marry (each other) is not going to stop those forces."Has the ideal of "family" ever excluded the possibility of procreation; or the mutuality of the different sexes inherent in Catholic Social Teaching? If it has, does this exclude a Christian from exhorting that norm as a good for society? Seems to me at one point, marital infidelity was routinely accepted, at least among some classes. I think a case can be made that marriage, and women, are better off with a more robust expectation of martial fidelity. "My position is that the civil law should accommodate the existing social contracts under emerging notions of marriage and family structures."So should one "police" the contract? Or should parties be free to contract with no restrictions? People enter into all sorts of contracts for nefarious purposes: hit jobs, sexual services, illegal drug sales. So are these to be "hands off" too because they are the result of a valid contract between consenting parties? Of should the civil law "accommodate" these "emerging notions" of marriage? How is this not the kind of radical individualism which we are told is the anti-thesis of the common good?On a macro-level, even if one rejects the Church's teaching on same sex marriage, should the Church be precluded from making its case?

Just to note that Eduardo's post did not claim there were no good arguments an archbishop could make against same-sex marriage. He just said that Archbishop Dolan's arguments weren't very good. And they weren't. I think I could make a better case against same-sex marriage myself, and I'm not opposed to it. If I were opposed to same-sex marriage, I would be disappointed Archbishop Dolan did such a poor job. And then there was his call to the radio show, in which he said things that were just not true: Youve got couples now in England who are now told they cant adopt children because theyre not open to same-sex marriage. As I pointed out, there is no same-sex marriage in England. He badly misrepresented the case he was referring to, and if he had used it correctly, it would have been a very effective argument for his position. The problem with Archbishop Dolan and other opponents of same-sex marriage (and some in the pro-life movement, as well) is they don't seem to feel that they have to stick to the facts. As long as they speak in opposition to same-sex marriage or abortion, accuracy is not important.

So much of what is viewed as orthodox Catholicism simply highlights one way that the faith has been lived in the past, determines this to be normative, and then dismisses what might depart from it as being somehow less Catholic. This tends to be quite dismissive of the constitutively changing nature of the traditions of such things as marriage.Sacramental marriage was not part of the Christian religion until 1545 at the Council of Trent. There was no sacrament of matrimony before that. In 1200 there first came the concept of marriage for love. Prior to that, women were given to men as part of a business arrangement between families. Nothing holy about that! If we do not want to redefine marriage, then we should go back to having your father arrange who you should marry.Lets try to define marriage as the Bible does. Shall we look at Abraham, the great patriarch, who slept with his servant when he discovered his beloved wife Sarah was infertile? Or to Jacob, who fathered children with four different women (two sisters and their servants)? Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon and the kings of Judah and Israelall these fathers and heroes were polygamists. The New Testament model of marriage is hardly better. Jesus himself was single and preached an indifference to earthly attachmentsespecially family. St. Paul regarded marriage as an act of last resort for those unable to contain their animal lust. It is better to marry than to burn with passion, says the apostle, in one of the most lukewarm endorsements of a treasured institution ever uttered. Would any contemporary heterosexual married couplewho likely woke up on their wedding day harboring some optimistic and newfangled ideas about gender equality and romantic loveturn to the Bible as a how-to script?I recommend you read John Boswells book Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality (University of Chicago Press, 1980), in which he documents legally recognized homosexual marriage in ancient Rome extending into the Christian period, and his Same-Sex Unions in Pre-modern Europe (Villard Books, 1994), in which he discusses Church-blessed same-sex unions and even an ancient Christian same-sex nuptial liturgy.

The Church should most definitely not be precluded from making its case with all vigor and clarity (or appropriate rhetorical mushiness, too.)

**those of us struggling to understand the Churchs state of panic in the face of gay marriage**__________________Come on, let's be honest here. You're 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 don't pretend that you are truly interested in some kind of dialogue toward you gaining greater understanding, much less acceptance of Church teaching, much less defending and promoting those truths that the Church teaches.

The Catholic Church effectively gives tacit approval to divorce with what has become the charade of annulment. In their 2002 book, Catholic Divorce: The Deception of Annulments, Joseph Martos and Pierre Hegy state:Because the grounds for annulment have become so broad that practically anyone who applies for one can obtain it, many observers now regard annulments as virtual divorces. After all, the same grounds for divorce in a civil court have become grounds for the nonexistence of marriage in an ecclesiastical court. (Page 23) To add to the deceit, many couples who receive annulments do so believing that their marriage was, in fact, sacramentally valid that the marital bond did exist but that, over time, it began to break down. These couples, understandably, choose not to disclose this part of the story to marriage tribunals so that they can qualify for an annulment.In other words it is the Catholic game of what the Brits refer to as "nudge-nudge, wink-wink."

But we are a superior sort of people up here. I dont know how it will go in New York.Felapton,As everyone knows, New York is so degenerate, it can't get any worse. In fact, I worry that same-sex marriage might be a threat to many forms of debauchery. Has anyone checked to see if the Netherlands and Spain are falling apart? They've had same-sex marriage for 10 and 7 years, respectively.

Are we making a distinction here between opposing this legislation and opposing any legislation that would require same-sex couples to receive equitable financial treatment? Is that distinction important to the Church? If we remove the word "marriage" from this discussion, what changes?

We have arrived at a situation as far as I am aware, where annulment is almost automatic."the chief reason why 80-90 percent of divorced Catholics simply ignore the annulment process and marry outside the church is because they regard the practice of annulments as deceitful. Because the grounds for an annulment have become so broad that practically anyone who applies for one can obtain it, many observers now regard annulments as "virtual divorces." After all, the same grounds used for divorce in a civil court have "become grounds for the nonexistence of marriage in an ecclesiastical court" (p. 23). To add to the deceit, many couples who receive annulments do so believing that their marriage was, in fact, sacramentally valid -- that the marital bond did exist but that, over time, it began to break down. These couples, understandably, choose not to disclose this part of the story to marriage tribunals so that they can qualify for an annulment."http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-religion/2586453/postsGiven this situation, the RCC has lost its moral position on divorce, and everyone knows it. So while those in favour of SSM may bring up the church and its position on divorce, the church dare not.

Oops, Jimmy and I are referring to the same book, but he was a few minutes ahead of me.

Would a Catholic who enters into a homosexual marriage thereby remove himself from the Catholic Church? I guess it's a pretty clear-cut instance of apostasy.

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.Bender,One can agree with what the Church teaches about marriage without opposing civil same-sex marriage. As has been noted over and over again, the Church has no problem distinguishing between sacramental marriage and mere civil marriage. They have diverged in every country of the world except the Philippines. The Church has never been sued or threatened by the government for refusing to perform marriage ceremonies for those it believes ineligible (for example, the divorced and civilly remarried).There are some areas of concern about religious freedom, but so far the problems have been church social-service organizations voluntarily shutting down when they lose government funds because of their refusal to comply with civil rights laws. There is no inalienable right to government funds to run, say, adoption services.

David.The NYT blog Motherlode, had a piece about the Netherlands 18 months or so ago.http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/11/09/how-the-dutch-work-same-se... sky did not fall, and pigs did not fly.

"There are some areas of concern about religious freedom, but so far the problems have been church social-service organizations voluntarily shutting down when they lose government funds because of their refusal to comply with civil rights laws. There is no inalienable right to government funds to run, say, adoption services."The cases I'm thinking of haven't been loss-of-state-funding cases; they've been loss-of-state-certification cases. The states in question won't certify adoption agencies that refuse to adopt children out to same-sex couples. That's clearly an unacceptable encroachment on religious freedom.

The states in question wont certify adoption agencies that refuse to adopt children out to same-sex couples. Thats clearly an unacceptable encroachment on religious freedom.Jim,I suppose that's an even hotter topic than same-sex marriage itself, but I am of two minds. One the one hand, exempting religious organizations who decline to permit same-sex couples is one possibility, and it does not place a burden on those couples if there are other adoption agencies they can go to. On the other hand, adoption is a legal process overseen by the state. If the state legalizes same-sex marriage, why should any adoption agency be permitted to treat same-sex marriages as inferior to opposite-sex marriages. How can an adoption agency say in advance there will never, ever be a case where specific same-sex parents will be the best choice for a specific child? That strikes me as pure bigotry. What if there is a gay couple made up of a pediatrician and a special education teacher who want to adopt a child with Down syndrome who will never function above the level of a 5-year-old, and whom no one else will take? What would be the reason for denying two people eminently qualified to care for such a child on the grounds that they were gay?

Please William; on what planet are you living? People of a Christian persuasion can stop fighting with one another over this matter and attend to spiritual and corporal works of mercy that testify to Gods radical call to justice and peace.William Only the Left is fighting about this. As for discussing gay marriage and why it is not a good idea, that is one way folks can attend to spiritual and corporal works of mercy that testify to Gods radical call to justice and peace. Pointing out that you and others proponents of gay marriage are wrong and trying to show you how and why you are wrong IS a spiritual work of mercy."The collective happiness of these sundry folk elevates the happiness quotient all around, contributing to a net good for society.Let me see, there are about 310,000,000 Americans, and assuming that half are adults, half of those are between 20 and 50, that about 1% of adults are gay, and that half of all gay people want to marry, that means your happiness quotient would rise for just a bit fewer than 400,000 people[(310,000,000 x 0.5) x 0.5] x 0.01 x 0.5 = 387,500 peopleI am trying to understand why in your quest for the collective happiness you think so advances the good of society; you apparently are willing to so casually risk the social and moral well being of over 300 million people in order to placate the rather odd sexual mores of less that one-half million people.

Jim, try the certification case from another angle: imagine an adoption agency refusing to certify Catholic couples because the religious tenets of the denomination sponsoring the agency considers the RCC to be a form of idolatry. Is it an encroachment on their religious freedom to prohibit that sort of testing? The short answer is no -- the long answer is that there is a big difference between "public" and "private" adoption, but the agencies whereof you speak are almost acting as quasi-public agencies carrying out state mandated adoption services, so the short answer is the right one.Birth parents can discriminate to their heart's content in choosing who should receive their child (assuming they aren't under judicial order of termination, in which case, see the short answer) -- when an agency has been subcontracted by the state to determine whether people meet state standards of suitability for being adoptive parents for children that the state is placing for adoption, it has to adhere to state standards, including non-discrimination laws. If you were the object of discriminatory animus this would be clear and sensible to you.

I find the regulation by the state of adoption policies based on equal treatment under law entirely acceptable. If gay marriage is the law in state X, I can see no legitimate basis for adoption agencies to be licensed such that gay couples are denied or discriminated against on the basis of a religious exemption of the agency. Next we would be hearing that a religious exemption exists for racially mixed couples. I see no "religious freedom" issue here the way I do in sacramental matters involving matrimony. I would like to hear the argument why faith-based adoption agencies should be exempt.

David It sounds like you are in fact of one-mind regarding that. In fact the effort it took to construct your wild exception-to-the rule example is witness to the fact that you approve of gay folks adopting children and that you do not like the notion of the state granting conscience or philosophical clause exemptions to Churches that object to placing children, even disabled children, with gay couples.

Ken,The point of my perhaps unlikely case is that the Catholic Church is not saying it's going to give preference to heterosexual married couples. I believe that's the case in almost all adoptions. The Church is saying that gay people, no matter how right they may be as parents for a specific child, are automatically ruled out because they are gay. To say there would never, ever conceivably be gay adoptive parents who would be best for any specific child under any circumstances is to say homosexuality rules out every other conceivable factor. That is bigotry. I could understand saying that in the overwhelming majority of cases, a child should be placed with a mother and a father. What I can't accept is saying that any gay people are always unfit, no matter what the circumstances, to raise a child. It goes beyond religious belief to contempt.

you apparently are willing to so casually risk the social and moral well being of over 300 million people in order to placate the rather odd sexual mores of less that one-half million people.Ken,Exactly how are less than a half million people who choose same-sex marriage going to harm the social and moral well being of 300 million people? Are they going to appear they are enjoying themselves so much that heterosexuals will be jealous and abandon traditional marriage? Did you know, by the way, that estimates are that somewhere between 1.7% and 6% of heterosexual marriages are "open marriages"? Some claim to fear that gay people will somehow increase infidelity in marriage, but if there are less than half a million gay people who would get married, even if they all had open marriages, they would be outnumbered by heterosexual married couples who agreed not to be monogamous.

I appreciated being ministered to by Ken, but it seems that his "good for society" angle is a stacked deck since he begins and ends with the belief that SSM can never be a social good. So I say, what's the harm? Let the gays marry the gays (if they want to ). Again, where's the harm?

On that we a can agree William; I do begin with the point that SSM is intrinsically wrong. SSM is wrong because homosexual acts are, as the pope puts it; intrinsically disordered.

@Ken: "you apparently are willing to so casually risk the social and moral well being of over 300 million people in order to placate the rather odd sexual mores of less that one-half million people."So the applicability of principles of Catholic teaching about social justice and human rights depends on a numbers game?! The fewer people affected by injustice, the less right they have to consideration?On that basis, one could argue that the mass murder of the Jewish people in the 20th century ought to concern us less than what happens to the majority on any given day, because the Jewish people happen to be a minority of the world's population, and were a minority in Europe at the time of the Holocaust.I had thought that the whole tenor of Catholic teaching about social justice and human rights is to remind us that minority groups have rights, no matter how tiny those minority groups are--solely because they are comprised of human beings.And that the argument that the majority has a right to rule and oppress solely because it's a majority is opprobrious.I clearly have misunderstood Catholic social teaching.

"...odd sexual mores..." It's not clear what this means, but please see on the other thread stats and links indicating heterosexuals are just as likely to practice those "odd" behaviors. But maybe Ken wants to reinstate sodomy laws, so government can fully regulate consensual adult hetero- and homosexual behavior.

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.You do not do the alcoholic a favor by telling him to embrace his instincts, to do what he likes. For whatever reason, for him that is a path to sorrow and pain. The alcoholics cross is that he must try to steer clear of the thing his wants; nobody knows why this is.Likewise with gay folks; we do them no favor when we encourage them to follow their odd preferences. While it is important to be kind and understanding of the cross they bear, state endorsement of SSM is not a reasonable solution.

You can toss around labels like "intrinsically disordered," but human cultural history and biology (human and non-human species) don't support your claim.

Where's the harm? Sort of like where's the beef? I'm not seeing with my lying eyes the pernicious fruits of a destructive lifestyle in the men and women in my church who live committed relationship with same-sex partners. They seem joyful, spiritually grounded, moved to serve God and their fellow human beings. The analogy to alcoholism sounds to my ears as cheap cant.

Intrinsically disordered.... and yet homosexuality is a gift from God, who made us.

Given rates and risks of domestic violence, child sexual abuse, and rape, that "heterosexual lifestyle" is dangerous and doesn't deserve social or governmental sanction..

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.

It's on!

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

I recall being harshly expelled from a New Orleans trolley because I was the wrong color to have boarded and sat in the back. Far more seriously, criminal state law nearby forbade me until 1967 to marry the woman I might choose if I was the wrong color (or she was). Among other dire (real) considerations if we had married, children would have been _visibly_ marked for life in evidence of the crime. Defense of the foundations of society was sufficiently vigorous then to lead to Army deployment on the home front. The United States survived, nevertheless, as did a diverse, unfettered variety of religions, each with its own view of "divine laws". Experience suggests "the social and moral well being of over 300 million people" is not the delicate blossom Ken suggests. David N (2:06P) put it accurately. Inventing anthropology as Ken and Abp. Dolan do has the same effect as the Pope's occasional fabrication of history, weakening the intended argument rather than supporting it. Natural reproduction requires brief cooperation by a male and female at the right time. After that, the necessities of carrying on the species have been and continue to be provided in a variety of ways that raise children until they begin to contribute as adults. Freedoms of religion and speech allow anyone to believe and state a particular position (e.g., polygamy as practiced in the US in 2011) but imposing it on others in the US requires persuasion; repeated assertion doesn't make the case.

"Would a Catholic who enters into a homosexual marriage thereby remove himself from the Catholic Church? I guess its a pretty clear-cut instance of apostasy."Jim, interesting comment. May I poke play Devil's advocate?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?What if a heterosexual couple divorces b/c the husband cannot have sex. If the husband remarries civilly, is he an apostate? Isn't he merely marrying for the sake of ensuring that his companion inherits their joint property and wealth?

It is a sad faith which has to depend on the state to maintain its religious quality. If history is any guide the church should avoid this. Take your choice. Innocent III, Boniface VIII, Constantine, Urban, Eugene......

"homosexuality is a gift from God, who made us"The I was born that way argument for engaging in homosexual acts is insufficient. There is supposedly a gene that predisposes people to become alcoholics. But if genetics predisposes someone to alcoholism, it is undeniably a bad thing to indulge it. Therefore, merely having a genetic predisposition toward certain actions does not in itself justify acting out that predisposition. Note this does not say anything regarding the disordered nature of homosexual acts, only that basing an acceptance of those acts on genetic predisposition is inadequate, because as the alcoholism analogy shows doing so is not always best for us.

The I was born that way argument for engaging in homosexual acts is insufficient. Mark Harden:Of course it's insufficient.

David Nickol asked, "Has anyone checked to see if the Netherlands and Spain are falling apart? Theyve had same-sex marriage for 10 and 7 years, respectively."Yes, David, I checked and Spain is falling apart. The unemployment rate in Spain was last reported at 21.3 percent in the first quarter of 2011. With an average of just over one child per couple, Spain has one of the lowest birth rates in the world, and an aging population. The current birth rate is around 1.36 and the government pays bonues to couples to have kids. The birth rate is probably inflated by the size of immigrant families. I'm no math whiz, but I think you need 2.0 kids to replace Mom & Dad when their time is up.I don't believe same-sex marriage caused the decline of Spain -- it has been hurting for years. But who knows, perhaps same-sex marriage is more likely to appear in a society that's in decline.

Bill M. - Boniface VIII was the one who ended his Bull Unam Sanctam (1302): "Furthermore, we declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff." Probably would be hard sell these days. http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/b8-unam.html

Would a Catholic who enters into a homosexual marriage thereby remove himself from the Catholic Church? I guess its a pretty clear-cut instance of apostasy.Jim,Apostasy?What if a Catholic divorces civilly, does not get an annulment, and remarries civilly. Is that a clear-cut instance of apostasy?Time to quote Pope John Paul II on the pastoral care of divorced and civilly remarried Catholics. I fail to see why those in same-sex marriages can't be treated exactly the same way without one word of Church teaching on homosexuality being erased:

It is first of all urgently necessary to establish a pastoral plan of preparation and of timely support for couples at the moment of crisis. The proclamation of Christ's gift and commandment on marriage is in question. Pastors, especially parish priests, must with an open heart guide and support these men and women, making them understand that even when they have broken the marriage bond, they must not despair of the grace of God, who watches over their way. The Church does not cease to "invite her children who find themselves in these painful situations to approach the divine mercy by other ways ... until such time as they have attained the required dispositions" (Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, n. 34). Pastors "are called to help them experience the charity of Christ and the maternal closeness of the Church, receiving them with love, exhorting them to trust in God's mercy and suggesting, with prudence and respect, concrete ways of conversion and participation in the life of the community of the Church" (Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church concerning the Reception of Holy Communion by Divorced and Remarried Members of the Faithful, 14 September 1994, n. 2). The Lord, moved by mercy, reaches out to all the needy, with both the demand for truth and the oil of charity.

"Of course its insufficient."Thanks, David. I was directing my comment to the man who wrote (his full comment):"Intrinsically disordered. and yet homosexuality is a gift from God, who made us.Which seemed to me to be saying simply "I was born that way".

"But who knows, perhaps same-sex marriage is more likely to appear in a society thats in decline." Given Spain legalized sodomy in 1822, that's one heck of a long decline... ;)

"In a wonderful graduate course History of the Family my mind was expanded to recognize, as others have pointed out, how that concept evolved and changed throughout pre-history and history."David P. ==One technical logical point, but I think it is relevant. In the past the symbol "marriage" has had many verbal definitions (the things you find in dictionaries), and it has many verbal definitions today. Those definitions are associated with as many different concepts (thoughts which are the meanings of the words). There has been NO ONE concept that somehow changed into something other than itself.Here's the main point (which I"m sure you'd agree with): there is neither one definition of "marriage" nor one concept of "marriage". "Marriage" (some single institution) did not evolve into other institutions. There simply have been many analogous institutions *called* "marriage* that been approved by society at different times and places.It seems the US and other Western countries are in process of inventing new definitions/concepts for the word "marriage". It might be tempting to say that one of those meanings signifies whever it is that are the "building blocks of society", but "building blocks" is only a metaphor, and it really isn't a definition at all. On the other hand, it also might be quite rational to hold that one particular meaning is the *most important* meaning for society, and that that meaning ought to be defined into law.But if we're talking about being *rational* about this (and if we're talking natural law ethics we are most assuredly *required* to be rational) then we must give *reasons* for holding one definition/concept to be the most important one . And the requirement that reasons must be given holds whether you are anti-gay marriage or pro-gay marriage.In other words, we ought to be looking for the definition of "marriage" that is so important it needs to be defined in law, and we must give reasons for why that definition is the most important one for society.\Being rational also includes giving reasons why a definition/concept ought to be rejected. But in those cases too, we must give reasons/evidence why the definitions/concepts and ultimately the reality must be rejected.So I'll ask for the umpteenth umpteenth time -- with Mary -- why, why, why should gay partnerships not be included in the most important definition of "marriage", whatever that exact definition might be.Sorry to go on so about language use, but as Wittgenstein says, language can bewitch us. In very important matters we must be very careful how we use it.

Same scenario, different outcomes: Terry and Sam are a married couple. [ Terry has spent most of their many years together caring for Sam's adopted children and. recently, for Sam's disabled mother. Earlier, Terry had taken "family leave" from her job when the children needed her. The couple 's home is ownedjointly. Sam. the breadwinner, retired at 65,] and, by SS regulations, the two received an additional 50% of Sam's SS for Mary. [Sadly, Sam has died, after a long hospitalization, during which Terry lovingly attended to him.] Terry is supported by Sam's pension, on which he took the "survivor" option, and on 100% of his SS. In her "community property " state, she now owns the house. Terry and Sam (Terence and Samuel?) (Theresa and Samantha?) are a couple. [All bracketed statements are the same for both couples] Terry was not given "family leave", and was fired for taking time off. Terry did not receive SS. Terry was legally barred from Sam's deathbed by Sam's "family". " Terry did not receive Sam's pension or SS. Terry owns only half of the house. Sam's family owns the rest.

ISTM that getting into arguments about how "family" is best defined confuses the topic of the thread -- how is "marriage" best defined. They're related, but not identical.

"There is no inalienable right to government funds to run, say, adoption services.Only people have rights, and as I see it orphans have an inalienable right to be adopted. If a child needs a parent and a social group will provide a parent for him/her, then that kid has a right to the service. If the social group wants to specialize in one sort of adoption (same religion), then the kid ought to be able to be helped by that group (freedom of religion issue) -- and it government ought to provide funds for it.(OK, so I just thought this up.)

I have read a lot of inane comments on this blogsite, but this just about takes the cake:"But who knows, perhaps same-sex marriage is more likely to appear in a society thats in decline."But who knows, perhaps tornadoes and bad storms are more likely to appear in red states in the US as a way of God expressing disappointment in them.But who knows, perhaps higher rates of out-of-wedlock births are more likely to appear in red states in which conservative religion predominates because of the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

I'm not much of a believer in a gay gene, even if I think that same-sex attraction is neither chosen nor an affliction. Who knows by what curious process sexual identity is formed? I don't much care. But the analogy of same-sex attraction to a chemical or behavioral addition seems deeply flawed.

"Children of gay couples are missing one parent. "Felapton --Gay couples with a child/children would disagree. What they don't have is one parent of each sex. Whether or not this is good for the children is, as I see it, the only really important issue that still needs to be resolved.Yes there is some research indicating that all that is important is that there be two parents. But, as I see it, this issue is so fundamental and the data so far is so sparse that we ought to hold out on making a final judgment about it.

Terry and Sam, if they are Catholic, know that it is the avowed couple who are ministers of Matrimony, and they may pledge their troth in a private "ceremony", Known only to themselves and their God. ---- But they need that legal certification !

" ... why, why, why should gay partnerships not be included in the most important definition of 'marriage'?"Because marital (i.e., heterosexual, procreative) relations are commanded by God. Whereas homosexual relations are forbidden by God.It is useful to have different terms for things that are so completely unlike each other.

My comment about same-sex attraction being a gift from God is not fully reducible to "I was born that way" any more than it is to "the devil made me do it." It's a recognition that our sexuality is both something integral to who we are as persons and mysteriously complex. We have should not regard this orientation as a cruel curse or a developmental abnormality.

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.

I think Jim Ps point was that contracting a homosexual marriage is a public renunciation of a doctrine of the Church.Felapton,It would be no more public than a heterosexual civil marriage following a divorce without an annulment.

Since Catholics as a whole are imbued with a culture of father-knows-best-and-I'm-just-a-passive-parishioner, let me state more explicitly something I touched on in my previous comment: eligibility for communion is a two-party process. The primary responsibility for receiving communion is with the recipient. If you know you're not eligible - because of your church-illicit marital status or because of some other serious sin - don't go. You're committing a very great sacrilege by presenting yourself in the communion line. If you'll pardon what isn't hyperbole at all: you could burn in hell for the rest of eternity. The minister of communion also has some responsibility, and shouldn't quail from exercising it, particularly in some of the clear-cut examples I presented in my previous comment.

It's not really "public politicization of a sacred liturgy" though, it's politics of which the Church disapproves. It's rainbow ribbons, not pro-life pins, American flags, etc... I see all kinds of political pins and bracelets, don't see much fuss being made about them.

Well, of course we don't want public sinners and those who have publicly renounced doctrines of the church receiving the Eucharist, do we? Heaven forfend. And how could the purity of the assembled community be assured unless it had a stigmatized group of public sinners (and renouncers of the doctrine of the church) to target? Sinners are always, as we all know, someone other than ourselves . . . . I'm wondering if some kind of system of sirens and loud bells would be advisable, to alert the pure assembly to the presence of a public sinner and renouncer of a doctrine of the church in the communion line).At the very least, cameras seem in order, and amplifiers for the whispers in the communion line, so that the entire pure assembly might benefit from the instructive whispering about who is or is not a public renouncer of doctrine.And then when the purge is complete and people abandon the church preaching compassion and inclusion while practicing its opposite in droves, those left behind--the pure and holy--would at least have those videos to detect public renouncers of doctrine to console and edify them.

So if someone removes the offending ribbon upon refusal of the Bread of Life does the Eucharist then get offered?

Jim P. quizzing the communicants at my inner-city parish in San Francisco would be startling to see and it would make the Mass about a half hour longer.

Jim, you're wrong. I've tried three times to write a response, and erased it three times because I can't keep it measured. You're wrong, wrong, wrong. You're wrong. You're wrong. You're wrong.

Are we sure all the disciples were in a state of grace at the Last Supper?

Communion sounds a bit like applying for a mortgage under this scenario.

"Which commandments would Moses discover missing, Ann? Any new ones?"David Smith --Yes, here's a couple of new ones: marry for love of your spouse, do not keep slaves.Dear David and all you other conservatives of little faith: why are you apparently unwilling to admit that people of our time (of all generations, actually) would be wrong about some of God's will for us?The big gulf between contemporary conservatives and liberals that the conservatives don't realize that the teachings of the official Church about the infallibility of the popes and bishops in council is not really based on the very historical facts which Vatican I claimed to have happened, viz. that the Church has always since the beginning claimed infallibility for bishops and popes in certain circumstances.IT's not anybody's fault that they believe this -- the popes and bishops have told us it's true and that we must all believe it under pain of being condemned to Hell for all eternity. But if the sex scandal has taught us anything, it is that popes and bishops sometimes lie whether to themselves or others. (See JP II's pitiful denial of Maciel's wickedness, or the numerous American bishops who have covered up and lied about the predator priests.) In fact, popes and bishops seem to tell bigger lies than the little old lady Sodality members who warm the pews. We have no right to trust their veracity as we used to do.Ultimately, the problem is one of how to tell when a theological statement is true, qnd that often boils down to: which historians and historical evidence should be believed and why? Most specifically: what is the historical evidence for the infallibility of popes and bishops in council? Has the official Church *always* what the official Church now claims about its infallibility? That's for 20 other threads, but that is the basic problem, I think, when it comes to the bitter oppositions we find in the Church today.

David N. says: "It would be no more public than a heterosexual civil marriage following a divorce without an annulment."I think it would, because the status of an annulment is not a matter of public record. (Not sure, maybe somebody else knows.)I think the Communion question is pretty simple. At my parish, somebody hears confessions before every mass. If I haven't gone to confession right before mass, I don't go to Communion. About half the parish follows the same plan.

"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."Felapton --What is there about an affirmative command that necessarily makes it only a *general* one? And what is there about a negative command that makes it intrinsically *universal*?? What in either Scripture or Tradition justifies your making this distinction? (I never heard of such a distinction before. Hmm)

@William F.: "Communion sounds a bit like applying for a mortgage under this scenario."Ah, so much more serious, since one's immortal soul is at stake.And if bells, whistles, spycams, and microphones and other such benign modern truck and piffle don't remind us of the seriousness with which mother church in her infinite mercy and wisdom considers public renunciation of doctrine and saving our immortal souls, perhaps the rack and breaking people on the wheel, scolds' bridles, burning at the stake, and other stalwart medicines of mercy for errant sinners from the past would help. Whips have often done the trick in the past, too, I seem to recall, to keep public renouncers of doctrine who don't head to the confessional prior to receiving communion in line.Torture, after all, has been around for millennia, and who dare question the norms handed down to us from antiquity? Civilization might well fall apart if we let ourselves go down that baleful path.

Jim - If you're half right, just make an announcement from the pulpit beforehand directing those ineligible for communion for reasons you specify to stand up and move to the side. Anyone who should and fails to do so has presumably committed another sin of disobedience or something. The pseudo-semi-confessional ritual would become unnecessary, and political complications (see above) could be addressed elsewhere in a forum more appropriate than the altar.

David's new post on the declining state of matrimony in the Church is I think much in play here.Jim's idea that his "shocking" approach is right is the kind of thing, in my opinion, that drives many way from Church rules and, unfortunately, sacraments as well.

@WilliamL, what with baptismal fonts getting less use these days, there's room for waterboarding.

What's the Scriptural basis for denying Communion--seems even Judas partook.

"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."Felapton --C'mon now. If something was in fact universally true in 1066 it is still true now. If the Church teaches the opposite now from what it taught in 1066, that means the Church made a mistake either in 1066 or now.You really can't have it both way, Felapton. But does that mean that the Holy Spirit is not with us *leading* us to truth? (Do look at exactly what Jesus says about the HS remaining with us!) Does it follow that because we == the Church, hierarchy, whomever -- are sometimes wrong that we are *always* wrong about the basics? That there is nothing to old on to as true? Of course not. But it does imply that sometimes we can all be wrong. Not the HS and what He intends, but the rest of us can. I think it's like this: the basic teachings of the Church (whatever it is that the HS intends) are all true, and our problem is to discover just what exactly those basic teachings are. The best places to start looking for the truths are Scripture (which is not always literal history and which is ambiguous), Tradition (which is often ambiguous) and nature -- which reflects the Truth that is God Himself, but these natural truths are also difficult to discover.Does this mean that we don't need a pope and bishops? Heavens NO! We need experts to *guide* us in the best that the Church has had to offer over the millennia. And, yes, the buck has to stop somewhere, and that's the pope, or should be, anyway. (Unfortunately, they too can be mistaken and lie.) That is their function and we may not just dismiss what they see as the best teachings of the Church. They are guided in a special way -- but sometimes they too fail their special charisms. We know this from Church history. So finding theological truth has to be a group effort, with respect on both sides when there is disagreement. We'll only be completely sure in Heaven.

Denying communion to anyone is bad theology, I have long believed, and it was the ultimate reason I finally became an Episcopalian and worship weekly in a parish where all truly are welcome to receive. I'm sure we have a case of the Big Enders and Little Enders on that one.

"If something was in fact universally true in 1066 it is still true now."In 1066 it was true that "Flying machines do not exist." But it is not true now.Didn't you just say the opposite of this yesterday? That in 1066 it was true that "The survival of the human race depends on prolific procreation," but that that is no longer true?

I think it would, because the status of an annulment is not a matter of public record. (Not sure, maybe somebody else knows.)Felapton,If a divorced Catholic got an annulment and remarried, he or she would have a Catholic wedding, not a civil wedding. My example was a Catholic who was divorced and who remarried in a civil wedding. That would be just as public an act of "apostasy" as a same-sex civil ceremony. Of course, the whole unspoken assumption here is that it is a worse sin to be in a same-sex relationship than it is to be in a heterosexual adulterous one.

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?-------- (Just because I don't believe it doesn't mean it isn't true.)Maybe the busybodies so lacking in devotion, etiquette, custody of the eyes, and recollection need to be questioned before being allowed to receive communion. Do they think passing judgments on others is appropriate when approaching the sacrament?

ISTM the reason the question of denial of Communion provokes so much outrage is that everybody is aware that all sorts of people go to Communion all the time when they shouldn't. So it seems outrageous to point out that anybody ever should not receive.I think Jack Barry's suggestion is a good one. A brief review at the beginning of mass of the circumstances under which one should not receive. Who ever came up with the idea that everybody should receive all the time?

@David, I'm not an expert on this. But I think one of my state's prominent citizens divorced his wife and remarried in a civil ceremony. Then, under (mostly political) pressure, he filed for an annulment. Some years later, the annulment was granted. He didn't have a church wedding when the annulment came through. I think the civil marriage can be made retroactively sacramental or something. Anyway, nobody knew whether he was properly annulled or not until his campaign publicized the fact.

Someone at Sullivan's blog raised a point today that has often troubled me. If you belong to a religion that accepts and performs SSM, is it not true that your religious liberty is being infringed upon, if your church wedding is not accepted by the state?

"Who ever came up with the idea that everybody should receive all the time?" "Ding! Alex, what is 'Jesus'."

Whats the Scriptural basis for denying Communionseems even Judas partook.----Another instance where Jesus is ignored. (Like "Call no man father.")The minister of the sacrament may decide to withhold it, if he considers the communicant unfit, but the communicant may not refuse to receive the sacrament from a minister s/he considers unfit.We know from St. Thomas Aquinas that, "One should not shun God's sacrament be the man good or bad". (He was quoting Augustine.) Only if a priest keeps a concubine must we avoid hearing his mass.

"If you belong to a religion that accepts and performs SSM, is it not true that your religious liberty is being infringed upon, if your church wedding is not accepted by the state?"Don't think so. There was a case in Detroit a few years ago, in which a Yemenite immigrant argued his religion permitted him to marry a ten-year-old, so the state ought to accept it. He lost and the marriage was nullified.

Mary,I was to say the very same thing, with Jesus suffering the children to come unto Him and instructing, nay commanding, us to partake of His Body and Blood. But this form of prooftexting isn't going to work with those among us who believe that the Eucharist is an appropriate site of admonition and the regulation of members of the Mystical Body. You and I are operating under a very different ecclesiology than many of our fellow Catholics.

One of the saddest memories of my childhood through to adulthood was climbing over the knees of my parents on my way to communion. The sin of these good people was two-fold: the use of contraceptives within marriage after their second and eight years later, third child, and a certain scrupulosity that accepted the rules of the road.

Ken --I'm still waiting for you to tell us your reasons for saying that homosexual unions cause the "self destruction" of the partners, whether in whole or in part?Or are you going to just dismiss the question by saying "I'm not going to answer that question" the way Jim P. recently did?(What's with some of you conservatives about not answerig questions? Liberal might have silly aswers, but we do try provide them :-)

"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 youd 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."Claire - not precisely. Excommunication is a formal juridical pronouncement by someone in authority. One can sever communion with the church without being excommunicated - as, for example, remarrying without getting the previous marriage properly annulled, or by profaning the sacred Eucharist, or by publicly joining another religion or sect - there are many ways. We can break communication with God in the privacy of our own homes rather easily.

I don't see the link between marrying a child, and two adults being married in their own church. I see the necessity of protecting children from predators, something the church seems to have come to rather late in the proceedings.http://www.theinquiry.ca/Sylvestre_080509.hide.php

"Well, of course we dont want public sinners and those who have publicly renounced doctrines of the church receiving the Eucharist, do we? Heaven forfend. And how could the purity of the assembled community be assured unless it had a stigmatized group of public sinners (and renouncers of the doctrine of the church) to target? Sinners are always, as we all know, someone other than ourselves . . . ."It is perfectly possible for a person to commit one or more sins that disqualifies himself from receiving the sacrament. There is no need to stigmatize anyone, nor does anyone want to stigmatize anyone. In the topic at hand, the member of the church removed himself from communion with the church by conferring his consent in an illicit/invalid/impossible marriage ceremony that flies directly in the face of what the church teaches about marriage and arguably profanes the sacrament. Presumably, nobody coerced him to do so; he did so of his own free will, understanding the consequences (or not). It seems odd, to say the least, to do something so momentously and unmistakably deleterious to one's spiritual salvation and then gripe that the consequences of his action have come home to roost.

"If youre half right, just make an announcement from the pulpit beforehand directing those ineligible for communion for reasons you specify to stand up and move to the side."Hi, Jack, no need to make an announcement. Just consult the back of any missalette.

The minister doesn't need to police communion because those who take the Church's tenets to hearts will police themselves. This is all you can expect.

Jim. P. how about the hundreds of thousands of couples who used the internal forum in the 70s early 80s before it was 'frowned ' upon. Should we 'call them out' ??

"Or are you going to just dismiss the question by saying Im not going to answer that question the way Jim P. recently did?"Hi, Ann, if someone asks me a question and I know the answer, I generally answer it. If someone asks me a question and I don't know the answer, I generally say, "I don't know". In fairness, that's not quite the same as saying "I'm not going to answer that question".

Hi, Ed, as recently as my diaconal formation, the internal forum isn't frowned upon. I'm not sure what you're asking though - you'd need to give me an example. I've thought I've been pretty clear with some examples of when I would deny someone communion. (Which, for the record, I've never done, and have no plans to do, but would like to think I would if I find myself in a situation where, in my considered judgment, I should).

One can sever communion with the church without being excommunicated as, for example, remarrying without getting the previous marriage properly annulled, or by profaning the sacred Eucharist . . . .Jim,

Can. 1367 A person who throws away the consecrated species or takes or retains them for a sacrilegious purpose incurs a latae sententiae excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See; moreover, a cleric can be punished with another penalty, not excluding dismissal from the clerical state.

"The minister doesnt need to police communion because those who take the Churchs tenets to hearts will police themselves. This is all you can expect."Hi, Barbara, I generally agree, but would add that the church does have some expectations for communion ministers as well in this regard - cf certain bishops during recent elections who announced that so-and-so public candidate couldn't receive communion in his diocese. As a practical matter, it seems very unlikely that a person would be refused communion. I really know very few of the people who appear in my line, and I've belonged to this parish for something like 20 years now.

Almost 180 posts. A sure sign that power and politics is involved. We have had some great bishops in this country. For all his bark Cardinal Cushing was a good bishop as were many at that time. Theologian Richard McBrien has well termed the present American bishops as the worst in our history. It is indisputable really. Fifty years from now or maybe sooner, the American bishops will deplore this period in our history as one in which bishops were more political than pastoral, more polemic than peacemaker. And then some.

"Davids new post on the declining state of matrimony in the Church is I think much in play here. Jims idea that his shocking approach is right is the kind of thing, in my opinion, that drives many way from Church rules and, unfortunately, sacraments as well."Hi, Bob N - really, all I'm doing is proposing that the church follow her own discipline. That we find the discipline shocking is itself rather shocking.There is a theory afoot, and in fact I believe many bishops worldwide are rather fond of it, that the Catholic Church should not relax the bar it has set for membership and participation. I am rather partial to it myself.

ANN SAID: If something was in fact universally true in 1066 it is still true now.FELAPTON ANSWERED: In 1066 it was true that Flying machines do not exist. But it is not true now.Didnt you just say the opposite of this yesterday? That in 1066 it was true that The survival of the human race depends on prolific procreation, but that that is no longer true?ANN REPLIES:When William the Conqueror said in 1066 "Flying machines do not exist" the word "is" referred to that time only, and the statement could be said this way "Flying machines do not exist now" and it would mean exactly the same thing.However, that does not mean the same thing as your saying "Flying machines do not exist" because when you say "is" you're talking about a different time. So your statement is not the same statement as William the Conqueror's.Same with "The survival of the human race depends on prolific procreation". When somebody said that in 1,000000 BC, "depends" meant "depends now". If I say it today, then the "now" is a different now, so the statements are not the same, and one does not contradict the other.

It seems odd, to say the least, to do something so momentously and unmistakably deleterious to ones spiritual salvation and then gripe that the consequences of his action have come home to roost.Jim,People do have consciences, and they may follow them even if their consciences are not in agreement with the teachings of the Church. Of course, it is not something to be done without a great deal of serious thought. Didn't Aquinas say one was obliged to follow one's conscience even if it meant excommunication? We have at least two excommunicated saints that I know of: Joan of Arc and Mary MacKillop.

If communion IS something to be denied, it seems good pastoral practice to inform--and enforce--this practice in a deliberate way. For example, the use of contraceptives within marriage and sexual activity outside marriage should be especially stressed so that the faithful do not become lax in their scrupulosity and receive Jesus when they should not. I think many people, poorly catechized, believe that taking communion under such circumstances is no big deal because they do not appreciate the gravity of their condition. So, tell me, anyone, why it would not be a good thing to regularly and explicitly remind people of the importance of receiving communion in a proper state of grace as part of the worship service?

"Whats the Scriptural basis for denying Communionseems even Judas partook."From the CCC:"1384 The Lord addresses an invitation to us, urging us to receive him in the sacrament of the Eucharist: "Truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you."217"1385 To respond to this invitation we must prepare ourselves for so great and so holy a moment. St. Paul urges us to examine our conscience: "Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself."218 Anyone conscious of a grave sin must receive the sacrament of Reconciliation before coming to communion."My comment: these two paragraphs (and the two scripture passages they contain) encompass the basic tension at play. The church wants everyone to receive communion; but we need to be properly disposed in order to receive communion.As is well known, there were periods in church history where people received very seldom, and contented themselves with watching the host be elevated at mass (hence the ringing of the consecration bells) and making spiritual communions. Blessedly, that form of spirituality has mostly evolved into something better. But it would be a great mistake to imagine that the church now says, "Communion is for absolutely everyone! Come one, come all!" One still needs to be appropriately initiated, and one still needs to be propely disposed.

"For all his bark Cardinal Cushing was a good bishop as were many at that time. Theologian Richard McBrien has well termed the present American bishops as the worst in our history. It is indisputable really."I'm sorry, but this is just laughable on its face! The suggestion that Cushing and his ilk (McIntyre, Spellman, Stritch) were somehow preferable to the current lot is hard to take serious when the claim against the current lot is that they're ham-fisted and closed-minded! Come on! At least Dolan is attempting a justification of his position in public; I'd pay money to see you suggest to His Eminence Cardinal Cushing that he explain his indefatigable opposition to birth control on his blog! Secondly, that such an august figure as Richard McBrien should sniff from his heights that in his inestimable opinion the current lot fails his muster is worth about as much as real ecclesiologists assign to this views, which is about nil! Finally, what "period" are you referring to exactly? The period in which Cushing, et. al. ran the Church? Because that is the precise period in which problems began to surface. So when, pray tell, do you think the quality tanked? I would agree with some that the appointments under JP II, particularly in the latter years, were disappointing, but I think Benedict's appointments have been superb - do you think a Wuerl would have EVER gotten DC otherwise? The more I read the comments here, the more convinced I am that the problem many have is not with this or that bishop, or this or that teaching, it is with Catholicism itself, which refuses to be bent into whatever whims or desires those on the far right or the far left wish to make it into. Are the Church's ministers perfect, heavens no! Do they always make it easy to follow and defend them - of course not! But thus has it ever been, and I thank God for that! I thank God that we're not like the Anglicans who just take their votes and let the chips lie where they may; we're in this together, whether we like it or not, just the way I imagine it was planned all along.

JIm P. --At 9:02 a.m. you wrote: "William F wrote: Show me where gay couples in long term (even unto lifetime) committed relationships are doing something that bears bad fruit? You answered: "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 understood your first sentence to mean "I'm not going to answer your question." And you went directly on to say you would talk about a different question.So William's question still stands: how do gay couples in long term (even unto lifetime) committed relationship do something that bears bad fruit?As I see it, that question is much like the question that I asked Ken (how are gay marriages self destructive?)Once more some conservatives, when asked *why* gay unions/marriages are bad, simply don't answer or they just change the subject. I am still, after years of repeatedly asking for an answer, I am still waiting for one. It's been YEARS, for Heaven's sake. What is your answer?????

"Once more some conservatives, when asked *why* gay unions/marriages are bad, simply dont answer or they just change the subject. I am still, after years of repeatedly asking for an answer, I am still waiting for one. Its been YEARS, for Heavens sake. What is your answer?????"May I suggest you start with the Catechism of the Catholic Church? Then you might try Robert George. Or if you prefer, you can go to Cardinal Sean O'Malley's recent blog entry where he describes why it is that the Church has consistently opposed efforts to re-define marriage.What some of us are waiting on is a justifiable reason some Catholics have for opposing this consistently held teaching, at least on CAtholic theological grounds.

" ... because when you say is youre talking about a different time."Doesn't the same apply to apparent contradictions in Magisterial pronouncements. When the Church said "Usury is forbidden" they were talking about the economic conditions of the thirteenth century. When they say "IRA's are OK" they are talking about the economic conditions of the twenty-first century." ... conservatives, when asked *why* gay unions/marriages are bad, simply dont answer or they just change the subject."As I see it, this question has been repeatedly answered. The answers have been repeatedly ignored, ridiculed or shouted down. But it is not true to say the question has not been answered.

Jim, the CCC paragraphs that you quote explain that people need to be careful before coming forth to receive communion. Nothing in there says that it's up to the minister of communion to decide that they are unworthy and deny them communion. Nothing says that there are some cases when the minister says: "Well, I don't know if they are in a state of internal grace" and others when the minister says: "In this case it's clear cut and I'm going to deny them communion." I don't object (in this thread) to your claim that married gay men should not receive communion. I object strongly to your taking it upon yourself that you have the authority to decide to deny them communion. That's wrong.

Barbara --I can't find your post where you say people will police themselves, but I agree whole-heartedly.But I don't think this is a simple matter. I think it is a matter of the "internal forum" which someone mentioned, and the internal form is a matter of following one's conscience even when one's conscience differs with the magisterium. There were and I don't doubt still are millions of married Catholics who think that the official teaching about contraception is false, and they honestly believe that for the good of their marriage and their family they *ought* to use contraceptives. In such cases they are doing the will of God as they see it (which is all we can do after all), and I have no doubt that they *ought* to receive Communion given their sincere beliefs. Further following this line of reasoning, Jesus said, "Judge not". We NEVER can really know what the state of somebody else's soul is, what is going on within him or her, so I simply cannot see the possibility that anyone should ever decide to refuse Communion unless they staggered drunk up to the sacristy. Yes, we do police ourselves all the time with respect to receiving Communion if for no other reason than that we know that God Himself knows whether we are acting in good conscience or not. It's like not lying in Confession -- it wouldn't do us any good and would only make things worse :-)When will some people learn that the Church means what it says about following your conscience even if it turns out to be wrong?By the way, some people seem to be assuming in all of this that we go to Communion because we are good, that it's some sort of a reward. That's not the way I learned it. I was taught we go to Communion because we are weak and sinful, and we the grace of God to be found there, and that's why He has stayed with us. Mortal sin is turning totally away from God. And who would turn totally from God and then even think of going to Communion? I suppose the theological problem here is: just what is a mortal sin?

Jeff and Felapton,I think everyone in this forum is well aware of the position of the Catholic Church on homosexual sex and same-sex marriage. What people are looking for, it seems to me, are reasons one can use to argue against civil laws permitting same-sex marriage. That would, it seems to me, include arguments based on the consequences of same-sex marriage where it has already been enacted for significant periods of time (e.g., the Netherlands for 10 years). Above (06/21/2011 - 10:42 am) I gave four links to articles that made the case for same-sex marriage based on secular reasoning. There is basically no argument against an assertion that the Catholic Church speaks for God, and God says homosexuality is an abomination. What I think people are asking for is for those who are opposed to same-sex marriage to make an argument against it that could be used in the legislature or in the courts. It simply isn't good enough to reply that God says it's an abomination.

"I understood your first sentence to mean Im not going to answer your question. And you went directly on to say you would talk about a different question. So Williams question still stands: how do gay couples in long term (even unto lifetime) committed relationship do something that bears bad fruit?"Ok, Ann. I hadn't understood that was what you were referring to. In that case, I don't think William was addressing that question to me - I've completely lost track of who he was talking to. I jumped on his comment/question to say something completely different.My short answer to his question is, I don't know. To expand somewhat: I don't think it harms society (as secular society views itself) in any immediate and visible way. Dogs aren't sleeping with cats or anything like that. If we expand the breadth of the question to encompass spiritual matters, I think we are talking about potentially a great deal of spiritual harm to the individuals involved in the homosexual legal union. I don't think bishops are wrong to be concerned about something that is promoted as a good in society and blessed by those in authority (homosexual legal unions) that results in terrible spiritual risks for those involved. I'd want spiritual virtues and social virtues to be aligned. Obviously, that is not always possible in the US. But the bishops are right to argue for their position - they are public figures who have a legitimate voice which deserves to be heard. Naturally, the final decision is not theirs. And I do not doubt that it may be possible for them to be more persuasive than they have been so far.

With Ann, David, myself and others still, I want an argument from consequences (not from definition) that stand up in a secular arena as to why SSM is bad social policy. We can see that liberalization of divorce has led to many social ills even as it has also improved the lot of some. How will SSM turn out?

"I think everyone in this forum is well aware of the position of the Catholic Church on homosexual sex and same-sex marriage."I beg to differ because you do on say: "It simply isnt good enough to reply that God says its an abomination" which is NOT the position of either THIS conservative (if I indeed qualify as such - depends who you ask I guess) NOR more importantly is it the position of the Catholic Church. And THAT is the problem. If you appreciate the Church's position, you appreciate how it translates into a civil argument. If you're fuzzy on how that works, I suggest you bone up on your John Courtney Murray as well. That's not to say you accept the Church's argument that (essentially) the civil law cannot set itself in opposition to the moral law, but to suggest that that the Church doesn't have an argument, or that its argument boils down to "God says so" is a gross misunderstanding and misrepresentation of the Church's teaching. And until that is straight, we're going in circles.I think it is disturbing that so many here have so blithely set themselves against this teaching and have the attitude of moral outrage that the Church and some us just don't see the light or don't read the right historians or are content being duped by the lying predators in the pulpit like a bunch of pious old women. That this topic has produced over 200 comments on one of the three entries on this topic bears out a comment from Ms. Steinfels: same sex marriage is a major change which we need to think and reflect on carefully, however one comes out. But the attitude of "you ignorant/uninformed/dull/misguided conservatives just need to get with it" doesn't seem very becoming of co-religionists, and doesn't seem likely to win over people to a different position either (if we're talking about rhetorical style).

David N. --Isn't it remarkable that Joan of Arc was finally canonized (in 1925 was it?) only because the French people even after all those centuries still appreciated the fact of her truly extraordinary holiness and her care for the French people. It wasn't the bloody bishops who saw her virtue. Yes, bloody -- they burned her at the stake. It was the pew warmers who saw the truth.I don't doubt that at least some of the dissident French theologians we find quite frequently through the ages weren't inspired by this mere girl's willingness to tell the truth *as she saw it regardless of what her bishops said -- and die for it if necessary. Amazing saint. Amazing influence.

I think that Jim Pauwels is an exemplary rhetor in this forum. We should all aspire to speak with the charity and integrity that he demonstrates, especially when he takes positions to the contrary of others.

What WmFG said. Jim's classy with a K. Even when he's wrong :)

"Above (06/21/2011 10:42 am) I gave four links to articles that made the case for same-sex marriage based on secular reasoning."I admit I read only the more recent article from the Economist. It did not make the case for same-sex marriage at all. It attempted refutations of arguments proposed against same-sex marriage. Then it asserted without proof that same-sex marriage would promote equality. Gratis asseritur, gratis negatur.

That this topic has produced over 200 comments on one of the three entries on this topic bears out a comment from Ms. Steinfels: same sex marriage is a major change which we need to think and reflect on carefully, however one comes out. Jeff,Something seems missing or garbled, but I would say that same-sex marriage is not a major change for our society. It is a matter of allowing perhaps 2%-4% of the population to contract civil marriages, many of whom will not choose to do so. Somehow there seems to be a fear that same-sex married couples will take over the institution and remake it to the point where it is unrecognizable, paving the way for infidelity to be the norm for all marriages, and laying the groundwork for polygamy, incestuous marriage (I can cite Archbishop Dolan to this effect), and, of course, marrying your dog. I simply don't believe that, and surely if it were true, there would be evidence from Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, and Sweden. If one doesn't accept the Church's position on homosexuality, then one may very well not accept the Church's position on what "natural law" is or what civil law ought to be. To my mind, the Church's position is one step removed from theocracy. The Church infallibly comes up with declarations on faith and morals, then asserts that they are not really religious positions but are "natural law," and then expects civil governments to adopt the Church's positions because they aren't really religious beliefs, but matters of natural law. I think the average American Catholic, who probably doesn't agree with a lot of what I said, nevertheless still resents the Catholic Church lobbying for or against legislation. Arguments are one thing, but politicking is another. So if the Church has good, solid arguments against same-sex marriage, I don't think people are opposed to those arguments being made loudly and clearly. But I think what many in this discussion feel (I certainly do) is that the arguments aren't being made well, and they aren't being made based on any evidence. Also, I think there is a sense that gay people have a right to exist and to follow their own consciences, and in a very real sense (as I have argued before, and will happily repeat the argument) the Catholic Church does not recognize the right of gay people to exist. It acknowledges the right of people with a homosexual orientation to be treated decently provided they remain celibate, stay in the closet, and don't try to become coaches or teachers of soldiers or priests. I think a lot of people find that objectionable, and if they don't, they should.

William and Mary (now doesn't that sound familiar :-)), I thank you for your kind words. And regarding Mary's little postscript: "Even when hes wrong :)" :-) - I regret to publicly acknowledge that such may have occurred here (as it does from time to time). I'm too lazy to track back and find it now, but at some point I opined to David N that a civilly married homosexual couple that was living in (as the church docs like to phrase it) 'perfect continence' would nevertheless need to obtain a civil divorce before it would be possible for them to resume full communion in the church. I believe I've misstated it (i.e., I was wrong). I've found at least a couple of cites, including this one from CCC, that indicates that in what seems an analogous situation - one who has married without obtaining an annulment of a previous marriage - he could present himself for communion if he first goes to confession and sincerely repents, and then promises to do his best to live celibately with his spouse for the rest of their lives."1650 Today there are numerous Catholics in many countries who have recourse to civil divorce and contract new civil unions. In fidelity to the words of Jesus Christ - "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery"160 the Church maintains that a new union cannot be recognized as valid, if the first marriage was. If the divorced are remarried civilly, they find themselves in a situation that objectively contravenes God's law. Consequently, they cannot receive Eucharistic communion as long as this situation persists. For the same reason, they cannot exercise certain ecclesial responsibilities. Reconciliation through the sacrament of Penance can be granted only to those who have repented for having violated the sign of the covenant and of fidelity to Christ, and who are committed to living in complete continence."This would certainly address the (real-life and moving) scenario David N brought up in which a Catholic partner elected to stop having sex with his partner because of his fidelity to church teaching, and his non-Catholic partner chose to remain with him in celibacy because of his love for the other.

While I am in retraction/correction mode: allow me to quote from this letter of Cardinal Ratzinger. This letter specifically addresses denying communion to Catholic politicians who have obstinately supported pro-choice causes and other things of that ilk. I think the principles he states here are applicable to the question of those who have entered a homosexual legal union."4. Apart from an individualss judgement about his worthiness to present himself to receive the Holy Eucharist, the minister of Holy Communion may find himself in the situation where he must refuse to distribute Holy Communion to someone, such as in cases of a declared excommunication, a declared interdict, or an obstinate persistence in manifest grave sin (cf. can. 915)."5. Regarding the grave sin of abortion or euthanasia, when a persons formal cooperation becomes manifest (understood, in the case of a Catholic politician, as his consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws), his Pastor should meet with him, instructing him about the Churchs teaching, informing him that he is not to present himself for Holy Communion until he brings to an end the objective situation of sin, and warning him that he will otherwise be denied the Eucharist."6. When these precautionary measures have not had their effect or in which they were not possible, and the person in question, with obstinate persistence, still presents himself to receive the Holy Eucharist, the minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it (cf. Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts Declaration Holy Communion and Divorced, Civilly Remarried Catholics [2002], nos. 3-4). This decision, properly speaking, is not a sanction or a penalty. Nor is the minister of Holy Communion passing judgement on the persons subjective guilt, but rather is reacting to the persons public unworthiness to receive Holy Communion due to an objective situation of sin."(from Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion - General Principles by Cardinal Ratzinger. http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?id=6041. No date given at this site for the document).So here is what I take away from this: * A communion minister does have the right to refuse communion (paragraph 4); BUT* Such refusal should be preceded by attempt at counseling by the recipient's pastor (paragraph 5). I believe the same requirement applies to those who present themselves for communion who are known to be divorced and civilly remarried.Thus, I should not deny communion to such folks without instruction from my pastor.

@Jeff Landry: "That this topic has produced over 200 comments on one of the three entries on this topic bears out a comment from Ms. Steinfels: same sex marriage is a major change which we need to think and reflect on carefully, however one comes out."I beg respectfully to disagree. The reason this topic elicits such passion, I would suggest, is that it involves real people and real lives, and therefore moves from the abstract level to a level of engagement--no matter on what side of the issues one comes down.From my side, it's clear that talking about deliberately choosing to deny communion to someone or to exclude someone from the eucharistic table: that's talking about the place in which we live, move, and have our being as people called Christian. Selecting a group of people and singling them out as incomparable sinners who exemplify all the sin in the world: that's heavy business, indeed, for anyone who cares about (or happens to be one of) those stigmatized people.Claiming that all civilization as we know it will tumble to the ground when a targeted minority gets out of the stigmatized space we've allocated to that group: that's a portentous claim, a heavy responsibility to lay on the shoulders of those human beings who happen to have been born into the stigmatized minority group.And, above all, trying to sustain claims that the church exists to be the sacramental sign of God's all-embracing salvific love in the world while the church's leaders and some of its members continue to ask a particular group of human to be scapegoats onto which we can heap the sins of the rest of the community as we drive them from our midst: that, too, tends to move theological discussion beyond the abstract level and engage attention and passion. It's, after all, the most central proclamations the church makes about itself we're discussing here--and the practiced fidelity (or not) of the community calling itself Catholic to those proclamations. It's also certainly the future of the church we're discussing here, given that solid data show that the primary reason younger folks are leaving churches in the U.S. today is that they no longer accept the decision of many churches to problematize gay lives by politicizing them, and calling that politicization proclaiming the gospel.

Mary: just saw the waterboarding reply. Why not, indeed?

Jim P @ 9:02 am said: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 agencys moral principles.Show me where Christian Science parents are doing something that bears bad fruit when they refuse medical treatment for their minor children. They are simply looking out for the best interest of the child, according to their religions moral principles.Show me where the albeit limited number of followers of Rev Fred Phelps are doing something that bears bad fruit when they interrupt funerals and constantly shout God Hates Fags. They are simply looking out for the best interest of society, according to their moral principles.And on and on -----

Knowing full well that these 2 articles defending the value of gay marriage will in no way be convincing to those who asked for them, I nonetheless provide them for the edification of those who wish it:Gay Marriage Is Good for AmericaBy JONATHAN RAUCHJune 21, 2008http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121400362307993399.html Gay Unions Shed Light on Gender in Marriage June 10, 2008 By TARA PARKER POP0Ehttp://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/10/health/10well.html?_r=1&partner=rssnyt...

There are so many half-truths or distortions in some of these comments that is simply astounding. To wit:DAvid Nickol says: 1. "The Church infallibly comes up with declarations on faith and morals, then asserts that they are not really religious positions but are natural law, and then expects civil governments to adopt the Churchs positions because they arent really religious beliefs, but matters of natural law. "As far as I know, the Church has not infallibly taught this, nor have I seen a claim to the contrary. The Church doesn't claim that religious truths are cloaked in natural laws; again, if you're mistaken on this, please read John Courtney Murray. If you reject it, then your problem, respectfully, is a lot deeper than just the Church's teaching. Indeed, your disagreement seems to go to a deeper level, as evidenced by this statement: "I think the average American Catholic, who probably doesnt agree with a lot of what I said, nevertheless still resents the Catholic Church lobbying for or against legislation. Arguments are one thing, but politicking is another. " So does that rule obtain to the budget? Would it obtain to Catholic hierarchs speaking out against immigration bills? Or is it just when they take a position contrary to your political position that they suddenly lose authority? If you reject natural law theory, what is your theory of legal jurisprudence? How does it relate to the moral law? Are you simply an empiricist? A utilitarian? At one point do you cease being a Catholic if you accept these alternative theories?Finally, this: "Also, I think there is a sense that gay people have a right to exist and to follow their own consciences, and in a very real sense (as I have argued before, and will happily repeat the argument) the Catholic Church does not recognize the right of gay people to exist." is simply a distortion of the Church's teaching. See Card. Sean O'Malley's recent blog.William Lindsey weighs in to assert: "From my side, its clear that talking about deliberately choosing to deny communion to someone or to exclude someone from the eucharistic table: thats talking about the place in which we live, move, and have our being as people called Christian. Selecting a group of people and singling them out as incomparable sinners who exemplify all the sin in the world: thats heavy business, indeed, for anyone who cares about (or happens to be one of) those stigmatized people."To which I ask who exactly is doing that? Homosexuals are not banned from Communion anymore than any other Catholic is banned. The Church does require that those who present themselves for Communion do so in a proper state; but the Church has ever thus done so. Should it not?If you were alive (maybe you were) during the Civil Rights era, you may be aware that the Archbishop of New Orleans excommunicated prominent segregationist Leander Perez; he was barred from receiving communion. Do you object to that action? Should the Church drop this enforcement, such that any who "come to the Table" should take communion? My only point: it's hard to have a rational and productive dialogue on this very contentious issue so long as we're not clear on the most basic and fundamental teachings of the Church. Accepting or rejecting them is one thing; but we need to be clear on what it is we're rejecting. So far, I'm not sure we are.

FWIW, I would not exclude a segregationist from the Eucharistic Table, even as I would have (if in a position to do so) preach against everything he stands for as he sat in the congregation.

My sense is that eating with sinners was, remains the most radical sign that Jesus performed. For whatever reasons of Church maintenance and group solidarity and theological truth, to use the Eucharist as a means of exclusion runs counter to my understanding of the faith. That puts me outside of the Roman Catholic Church, sadly.

If you were alive (maybe you were) during the Civil Rights era, you may be aware that the Archbishop of New Orleans excommunicated prominent segregationist Leander Perez; he was barred from receiving communion. Do you object to that action? Jeff Landry,Let me deal with the low-hanging fruit first and your other points later. Regarding Leander Perez (and this is just a snippet):

In 1960, while opposing desegregation of local public schools at a New Orleans rally, Perez said: "Don't wait for your daughter to be raped by these Congolese. Don't wait until the burrheads are forced into your schools. Do something about it now." Perez's speech inspired an assault on the school administration building by some two thousand segregationists, who were fought off by police and fire hoses. The mob then went loose in the city, attacking blacks in the streets. When the schools were opened, Perez organized a boycott by white residents, which included threats to whites who allowed their children to attend the desegregated schools. Perez arranged for poor whites to attend without charge a segregated private school, and he helped to establish a whites-only private school in New Orleans.

Was he excommunicated for the above? No. Two years after that, Archbishop Rummel excommunicated Perez and two other people who directly challenged his authority as archbishop to desegregate the Catholic schools.

In the spring of 1962, the Archdiocese of New Orleans announced its plan to desegregate the New Orleans parochial school system for the 19621963 school year. Perez led a movement to pressure businesses into firing any whites who allowed their children to attend the newly desegregated Catholic schools. Catholics in St. Bernard Parish boycotted one school, which the Archdiocese kept open without students for four months until it was burned down. In response, Archbishop Joseph Rummel excommunicated Perez on April 16, 1962. Perez responded by saying the Catholic Church was "being used as a front for clever Jews" and announced that he would form his own church, the "Perezbyterians."

Perez had been a vile segregationist for years before he was excommunicated. He wasn't excommunicated for being a segregationist. He was excommunicated because he challenged Archbishop Rummel's authority. We've had discussions here as to whether Archbishop Rummel was a civil-rights hero or not. That is not particularly relevant. What is relevant is that he did not excommunicate a vicious segregationist politician for his segregationist political policies or activities. Rummel excommunicated Perez because Perez was materially interfering with the way Rummel was running the archdiocese.

My only point: its hard to have a rational and productive dialogue on this very contentious issue so long as were not clear on the most basic and fundamental teachings of the Church.-----And hard/impossible to have a rational discussion of what the basic and fundamental teachings are. Woulld the gospels be the source of those? The gospels say nothing about homosexuals, but in Luke we read Jesus' instructions to the Twelve: "Take nothing for your journey, neither staves, nor money, neither bread, neither money; neither have two coats apiece."Does any successor to the apostles observe that directive? Why not? Who decided to ignore that rule and allow big elaborate staves, etc.?

My thanks to Jim P (some thousand posts back on this thread) for addressing my question. I am still not persuaded that homosexuals who avail themselves of marital protection through civil union ought to be denied communion on that basis alone.While I find "the rules" questions interesting in the abstract, I think it might be wise to remember that Catholics are not fundamentalists, and that there is room for the Holy Spirit to act in the way we treat others, whether they are "legally" allowed at the Table or not.

See Card. Sean OMalleys recent blog.Jeff Landry,I read it. I didn't see the word gay. I didn't see anything in it about gay people. It was all about homosexual persons. It was like reading something about how we love and accept blacks/African Americans and finding them called Negroes, coloreds, and darkies all the way through. The Church is the enemy of gay people to such an extent that it won't even call them what they call themselves. By gay people I mean homosexual persons who accept their sexual orientation rather than considering it "intrinsically disordered" or a "more or less strong tendency ordered to an intrinsic moral evil." I mean people who have made a decision of conscience to live as gay people, among other gay people and straight people, as openly as they are comfortable with and to expect the right not to be treated as if their relationships were "acts of grave depravity." The Cardinal says:

Many homosexual persons in our Church lead holy lives and make an outstanding contribution to the life of the Church by their service, generosity and the sharing of their spiritual gifts.

I say, "Name three." Now, I have no doubt whatsoever that there are many, but it is the position of the Church that a homosexual orientation is something that must be hidden. One of the reasons it must be kept hidden is that the Church opposes any and all legislation to prohibit discrimination against "homosexual persons," and indeed it even maintains that barring homosexual persons from the military, coaching jobs, teaching jobsand of course, the priesthoodis not unjust discrimination, no matter how chaste their behavior. The Church does not even oppose all discrimination against celibate homosexual persons, and it actually invites discrimination against gay people:

Homosexual persons, as human persons, have the same rights as all persons including the right of not being treated in a manner which offends their personal dignity (cf. no. 10). Among other rights, all persons have the right to work, to housing, etc. Nevertheless, these rights are not absolute. They can be legitimately limited for objectively disordered external conduct. This is sometimes not only licit but obligatory. This would obtain moreover not only in the case of culpable behavior but even in the case of actions of the physically or mentally ill. Thus it is accepted that the state may restrict the exercise of rights, for example, in the case of contagious or mentally ill persons, in order to protect the common good.

Objectively disordered external conduct, if it referred to indecent exposure or sex in public places, would indeed be grounds for certain kinds of discrimination. But objectively disordered external conduct includes having a same-sex partner, being in a same-sex civil union, or entering a same-sex marriage. The CDF said:

But the proper reaction to crimes committed against homosexual persons should not be to claim that the homosexual condition is not disordered. When such a claim is made and when homosexual activity is consequently condoned, or when civil legislation is introduced to protect behavior to which no one has any conceivable right, neither the Church nor society at large should be surprised when other distorted notions and practices gain ground, and irrational and violent reactions increase.

Some people, when that came out, read it as the Church justifying violence in reaction to gay rights legislation. I don't think I would go that far, but it was certainly an unwise thing to say. In any case, the phrase I have highlighted is what I want to focus on. Homosexual behaviorthe behavior that makes "homosexual persons" into gay personsis "behavior to which no one has any conceivable right." This is why I say, quite reasonably, I think, that the Church does not recognize the right of gay people to exist. Anything that gay people would do, in the best of conscience by their own rights, acting as moral agents making decisions for themselves, is something to which they have no conceivable right. If the Church had its way, there would be no gay people. There would be celibate homosexual persons who kept their existence, as best they could, a secret.

As I note on another thread, the loss to the Church of people like me and my wife over these political issues is a slow-motion train wreck. It wasn't theological disagreements that pushed me over the edge, heated as these matters can be; it was the weight thrown on the political levers on issues of civil rights and discrimination. Efforts to restrict civil rights of gay people cost the church three Catholics (multiplied by a factor of millions, I'd say). In the end, I suppose, those who remain will say it was worth it, but I suspect many others will differ. The recognition of the rights and reality of gay persons living lives of purpose and dignity true to the truth of their existence is the moral test of our day. The Catholic Church is failing this test.

It's just weird to hear gay men grouse and complain all the time about how stigmatized and marginalized they are in the Church and then to hear straight people grouse and complain all the time about having to sit and watch all the gay priests flounce and preen their way through the liturgy every Sunday morning. I suppose the moral of the story is that people will always find a reason to grouse and complain about church.

Who is making this complaint, Felapton? And whence this flouting and preening? What the hey? I have experienced a few priests who perform a certain mode of effeminacy (as convention would have it), but are you not falsely and snidely comparing substantive critiques of those who feel denigrated by the church's rhetoric with those whose own norms of masculinity make others a source of trivial annoyance. I think your use of "grouse and complain" is uncharitable; it's a move to dismiss the alienation may gay people experience in the RCC. I admit it: sometimes I too feel put off by certain forms of talking, walking etc. among some gay men, but I offer it up to God and double down on my commitment to civil rights for all God's children, gay and straight.

Felapton, Where has that happened here? Links to specific comments, please. Sure, I've read complaints about ridiculous vestments/ritual but never couched as about the sexuality of the cleric. It would be inaccurate and bigoted to assume that external behaviors are necessary or sufficient signs of sexual orientation.

David N., let me just mention something that Fr Komonchak has drilled into me in his many comments on the topic: you write "the Church", but the Church does not equal the hierarchy. What the CDF thinks of gays and what the members of the Church think are two different things.

I found the letter from Cardinal Ratzinger challenging, so I looked up the reference. To explain his reasoning, he refers to a legislative text about denying communion to divorced and remarried Catholics, http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/intrptxt/documents..., "Given that the fact that these faithful are not living more uxorio is per se occult, while their condition as persons who are divorced and remarried is per se manifest, they will be able to receive Eucharistic Communion only remoto scandalo." It is translated into understandable English at http://www.scribd.com/doc/46811462/Does-there-exist-an-internal-forum-so.... We learn this: "The manner of avoiding scandal is that, living as brother and sister, they receive Holy Communion in a place where the fact of their divorce and civil remarriage is not commonly known".Thus the basis of Cardinal Ratzinger's reasoning is the rule for giving communion to divorced and remarried Catholics: it's only possible if they have tried to get an annulment AND they live in absolute continence AND they go to a parish where it is not known that they are divorced and remarried. Otherwise, no communion for them.That's the text that informs Cardinal Ratzinger's letter, that, in turn, informs your judgement. As for me, I find that rule hypocritical in the extreme, which, oddly, is a relief: it enables me to dismiss Cardinal Ratzinger's letter without another thought.

One of the more disturbing things in this long thread is an admission by Deacon Jim P that he doesn't know the people in his line at communion and, consequently, wouldn't know whom to deny the Eucharist on moral grounds in the event. Chew on that, this culture of anonymity, and read above the byzantine arrangements where communion is taken in cognito. I worship with between 100 and 130 people most Sundays. I am not just taking communion; I am receiving the Eucharist with them.

" because when you say is youre talking about a different time.Doesnt the same apply to apparent contradictions in Magisterial pronouncements. When the Church said Usury is forbidden they were talking about the economic conditions of the thirteenth century. When they say IRAs are OK they are talking about the economic conditions of the twenty-first century."Felapton ---This is a question about interpretation. One can only try to figure out from each context what the particular meaning of the particular speaker was at the particular time. (Context here means a set of circumstances that determines us to accept one interpretation over another.)When looking at official Church teachings it seems to me that usually we know from a context whether a commandment is supposed to apply to most or to some. When the Church says somethings may not be done because it is "intrinsically evil" that means it is evil by its very nature and therefore (given it's ethical principle that we may never do wrong to accomplish right) it would follow that the document intends that such an action is always wrong without any exceptions ever.As with all interpretations, we can be wrong. This is why I say that the dogma of the infallibility fo the popes and bishops is impossible -- there is no way even the popes and bishops can always be sure that they are interpreting either Scripture or Tradition correctly. On the other hand, if we believe that God/the Holy Spirit is Truth itself, then it follows that His meanings of His words are all true. The problem is to get to His meanings. They are infallible.

"My short answer to his question is, I dont know. To expand somewhat: I dont think it harms society (as secular society views itself) in any immediate and visible way. Dogs arent sleeping with cats or anything like that. If we expand the breadth of the question to encompass spiritual matters, I think we are talking about potentially a great deal of spiritual harm to the individuals involved in the homosexual legal union."Jim P. ==I gather that what you are saying here and in what follows is that there is the risk of great spiritual harm from gay marriages, and the bishops seem to know what that harm is.Hmm. But the bishops also don't point to any specific reasons that spiritual harm is done, except to to say that gay sexual relations are sinful. This is a circular argument. They are saying that gay sex is sinful because gay sex is sinful. Not really an argument at all.

As the great philosopher named Groucho said: "Who are you gonna believe: me or your lying eyes?" If same-sex love within relations rooted in mutual respect and commitment is the moral cancer we're told it is, we would see the rot, no? As we do with real sins. We don't see it because it isn't there. Loving gay relations call out the rhetoric against them for the willful, if sincere, lie it is. Stuff and nonsense.

"When looking at official Church teachings it seems to me that usually we know from a context whether a commandment is supposed to apply to most or to some."No, I disagree. I have always considered Magisterial pronouncements to be more like advice from the Delphic Oracle. They do not always mean what they appear to mean at the time. The reason is not only that the oracle intends to be ambiguous (it does) but also because the petitioner invariably puts his own spin on the answer.I'm thinking of Book III in the Aeneid when the oracle tells the Trojans to return to their ancestral homeland. "Oh, that would be Crete," says Anchises. So they go to Crete and get decimated by a plague. Just as they're about to go consult the oracle again, Aeneas has a vision that they should go to Italy. "Oh, those ancestors," says Anchises, "I forgot about them."

As if on clue, Mirror of Justice has a nice series of posts this morning with some arguments against same sex marriage by John Finnis and Robert George (start the attacks); but George is helpful enough to post various rebuttals to his argument. I recommend checking them out, especially to the extent some have claimed that same sex opponents have not offered reasoned arguments for their opinions. You may not agree with them, but I doubt you'll find any more finely reasoned arguments than Finnis & George.http://mirrorofjustice.blogs.com/mirrorofjustice/

To follow William and others argument, why should the Catholic Church (all churches for that matter) not perform gay marriage ceremonies? Why don't they and why haven't they?If one is going to say SSM is a good thing, why not have the corage of your convictions and insist (since it is such a good thing), that it ought to be applied across the board?

Why should any church be compelled to perform ceremonies it believes are against its religious vision and mission? I don't understand Ken's point. I hope that many churches will indeed bless unions and perform SSM, but no one should expect or demand uniformity.

My point is directed to those (most folks here it seems) who sneer at a bishop who dares to point out that the Catholic Church does not think legalizing gay marriage is a good move for society. Do you think the Catholic Church is wrong; do you think Rome should come down in favor of gay marriage?If you think Rome is wrong, that at least is consistent with your arguments. If on the other hand, you think the Church is correct in maintaining that homosexual acts are sinful, then why would you say the bishops in a society ought to quiet down when that society is considering legalizing same-sex marriage?

Gerelyn wrote: "And hard/impossible to have a rational discussion of what the basic and fundamental teachings are. Woulld the gospels be the source of those?"The Gospels, and scripture more generally, are certainly among our primary sources - read, of course, in the light of church teaching and tradition.

"One of the more disturbing things in this long thread is an admission by Deacon Jim P that he doesnt know the people in his line at communion and, consequently, wouldnt know whom to deny the Eucharist on moral grounds in the event. Chew on that, this culture of anonymity, and read above the byzantine arrangements where communion is taken in cognito. I worship with between 100 and 130 people most Sundays. I am not just taking communion; I am receiving the Eucharist with them."The sheer size of American suburban Catholic parishes is a fact of life, of course. My parish has about 3,000 registered families. As I've stated, I'm not actively looking to deny the Eucharist to anyone. If I were in a faith community of 100-130, I would hopefully have a closer relationship with a larger percentage of the parish. But even then, I wouldn't know the secrets of virtually anyone unless they chose to reveal them to me. I don't see how a deacon or a lay communion minister can judge worthiness to receive and deny communion to anyone. In the case of a priest, anything he learns in the confessional is off-limits for denying communion, istm, as part of the seal of the confessional.I'm suggesting that a homosexual legal union, by virtue of the public nature of its act, is an exception to what I've just stated. It is public; it is persistent; it is sinful. A communion minister really could objectively judge such a thing with a great deal of accuracy. Please note the important qualification I posted sometime back, that there should be some pastoral outreach that precedes such a denial.Even though you and I don't belong to the same churches anymore, and we shouldn't engage in table fellowship, we're still brothers in Christ.

Of course I don't think homosexual acts are sinful in themselves--of their essence, by definition, as a matter of revelation and self-evident natural law: no. They can be sinful, of course, since sin is an inescapable dimension of all of our actions.

Im suggesting that a homosexual legal union, by virtue of the public nature of its act, is an exception to what Ive just stated. It is public; it is persistent; it is sinful.Jim,As long as you would treat someone who is known to be divorced, with no annulment, and civilly remarried the exact same way, I don't have too many problems with this. And I hope you would approach them both equally when it comes to a civil divorce. Married couples (same-sex or opposite sex) who choose to conform to the teachings of the Church and cease having sex may have any number of reasons for not obtaining a civil divorce. They may have children whom they want to have two legal parents. They may own property together. They may still want to make be able to make medical decisions for one another should one become incapacitated. There may be questions of insurance benefits, survivor benefits, and so on. On priests and deacons not knowing parishioners, I can understand the problems. But I always did feel like the parish my family belonged to when I lived at home was much like a bank. You could do all your business there without anyone knowing who you were. And there was almost none of the social life through the parish that Protestant churches often have in abundance. Whenever I see someone on television who has gone through an ordeal of some kind and they say, "I never could have done it without the people from my church," I always think to myself, "I wonder how that works."But on knowing and being known in a parish, it may be wise to be careful what you wish for. I remember my father telling a story he'd been told by a friend he worked with who went to confession and was the last one in line. He confessed, feeling quite anonymous, and when the confession was over, the priest said, "Oh, and Bill, could you please turn the lights off on your way out?"

If on the other hand, you think the Church is correct in maintaining that homosexual acts are sinful, then why would you say the bishops in a society ought to quiet down when that society is considering legalizing same-sex marriage?Ken,As a Catholic, one might feel that homosexual acts are sinful, but one might also feel that it is not the business of the Church to try to make (or keep) all sinful behavior illegal. If others do not believe same-sex marriage is sinful, and they see same-sex marriage as neutral or beneficial for society, it seems to me a perfectly good Catholic could say, "Not everything Catholics disapprove of should be illegal." It is indeed a long established Catholic principle that it is not the business of the Church to try to outlaw everything it considers sinful. So in my opinion, it's a question of whether same-sex marriage (for a believing Catholic) is something that ought or ought not be prohibited by law, even if it is sinful. It's a matter of prudential decision.As a non-Catholic, someone could take the position that while the Church has a right to speak out about what it considers right and wrong, and even about what it thinks should be legal and illegal, it doesn't have the right to get into the nitty gritty of the political process, and it shouldn't use its political clout to try to impose Catholic beliefs on non-Catholics. To whatever extent I sneer at Archbishop Dolan, it is to the extent that he distorted the truth and made wild, demagogic statements.

David N. answers the question as I would.

I tried to read the George article but for some reason my SSRN account isn't working. So I read the publicly available replies, etc., which summarized their reasoning (I hope). Even before I read the conclusion, I had the same thought, and it is this:"In its broad and unforgiving sweep, this argument is self-destructively over-inclusive. It succeeds only in diminishing the institution of marriage itself."This is the difficulty with the procreation argument: people who don't want to procreate might ask themselves why they should even bother getting married. Likewise, people whose procreative capacity has been fulfilled (or can never be fulfilled) might very well ask themselves why they should stay married. If, that is, it's all about the children. But it's not all about the children. Even putting aside the fact that people might want to be married because they truly feel about each other all those things that are summed up by wedding vows, the argument revolves around the issue of supporting family life without acknowledging the legal status of all married couples: they receive legal privileges that are not available outside of the institution of marriage, these privileges are often tangentially related to child rearing at best, and in that capacity these privileges constitute their own very evident rationale for getting, being, or even staying married. It is these privileges (in my view) that are really at issue for those seeking same sex marriage -- whether it is as simple as inheritance rights or as complicated as being the person with authority and rights when a partner is hospitalized. The legal privileges of marriage are completely disconnected from the presence of children. Likewise, rights and responsibilities with regard to children flow from the presence of children themselves rather than the marital status of their parents (while, obviously, children with parents whose marriage is intact statistically fare better). Until laws regarding marital privilege more narrowly link the benefits of marriage to the good of procreation, it simply misses the mark to state that the two ARE tied together, when as a matter of empirical fact they are not. Just a short example: H and W get divorced after 30 years of marriage, with four adult children. H remarries and six months later dies. H's new wife is the prima facie beneficiary of his estate without regard to the fact that the first wife is the "family" spouse. To the extent that the first wife has any benefits it is through the judicial system and the elaborate modifications to various entitlement laws that try to protect her. It's not a given based on the fact that the children issued forth as a result of the first marriage.

"As a non-Catholic, someone could take the position that while the Church has a right to speak out about what it considers right and wrong, and even about what it thinks should be legal and illegal, it doesnt have the right to get into the nitty gritty of the political process, and it shouldnt use its political clout to try to impose Catholic beliefs on non-Catholics."This is the entire nub of the problem. What this statement reveals is the prevailing political philosophy that has been adopted even by some Catholics, and why I think this is a losing battle. As more eloquently detailed by Courtney Murray, among others, the prevailing view for centuries was that positive law rested on a foundation of moral truths self-evident to all, and that such laws, while not being a total mirror of the moral law, was checked by the moral law and could not violate such law. The Church stood as one among many signposts to people of the moral law; but it was clear that the moral truth was NOT simply "Catholic belief."Unfortunately, this "common understanding" has been eroded, such that it is non-existent now, replaced by various theories of utilitarianism or Rawlsian liberalism. But the problem for all these theories is that they lack any moral foundation, and are simply a "might makes right" or whoever gets the most votes wins. So to say "you're imposing your X beliefs on Y" is really meaningless; aren't you imposing your "Y beliefs on X"? If you don't think you're doing that, then what's the point? This what troubles me about the move lately by the LGBT advocates to label any argument as simply resulting from bigotry or homophobia. So lots of people have made "wild, demagogic statements."

David Once a law has been made, I tend to agree with your point. In this country, a free republic, the Roman Catholic Church cannot overrule the US government.However the matter of same-sex marriage is nowhere near settled law. As a society, we are now discussing gay marriage, and while most states have rejected the notion, and while most of the time when the question is put to the voters it has been rejected, this issue is not yet settled.If, after the sort of lengthy discussion that is typical in any free country, after the people have given this important matter the sort of thoughtful consideration it deserves, if the majority of the people then decide that gay marriage is on balance a net positive and that they want to legalize it, then American Catholics will have to accept the fact that gay marriage is legal. At that point Catholics would need to recognize that most Americans do not agree with them, and therefore that as a group, Catholics are outside the majority American view.Until this matter is settled however, American Catholics have the right to bring their personal principles and world-view to the table when discussing this matter and trying to help their fellow citizens come to a consensus regarding gay marriage. As American citizens, we Catholics (along with Muslims, Mormons, Jews etc.) have as much right to space and time in the public square as other groups have.

And yes Jeff, you are correct. Until recently, most moral truths were self-evident; most civil law was a basic unfolding of the Ten Commandments, and Natural Law was recognized as a good thing.

Today, if I were single, I could legally marry any single, willing woman I wanted to, whatever color she is, undeterred by the criminal law of the state. 45 years ago, that was not true a few miles from where I sit. Nothing in the laws says that I should or that it would be good for me, society, or civilization to do so. Nothing in the laws encourages or requires it to be done by me or anyone else. It is generally recognized that children of such a marriage may be visibly marked for life by having parents of two different colors. The ungainly democratic process in which we live eventually concluded, after much debate and violence, that something as humanly fundamental as racial color was not grounds for criminalizing the prevailing 20th-century concept of marriage of a man and woman. The concept has evolved substantially since Biblical times, Abp. Dolan's and others' claims notwithstanding, recognition of which could clarify the ongoing debate. Procreation is recognized as a possibility, beneficial overall to the survival of the species but, in individual cases, not mandatory nor is it grounds for civil punishment when it does not occur, whatever the reason. The Catholic Church is ambivalent, sanctioning some deliberate steps taken to prevent procreation but not others, depending on the sufficiency of the justification. Nature guarantees the absolute impossibility of procreation most (> 80%) of the time for fertile, healthy women (see NFP). In the current debate, it would help to distinguish procreative aspects for individuals and for the society - they differ.

"Im thinking of Book III in the Aeneid when the oracle tells the Trojans to return to their ancestral homeland. Oh, that would be Crete, says Anchises. So they go to Crete and get decimated by a plague. Just as theyre about to go consult the oracle again, Aeneas has a vision that they should go to Italy. Oh, those ancestors, says Anchises, I forgot about them."This sounds like dynamic equivalence. :-)

"The Gospels, and scripture more generally, are certainly among our primary sources read, of course, in the light of church teaching and tradition."-------- (Interesting to see how the gospels, the "memoirs of the apostles" as Justin Martyr called them, have been downgraded, made secondary to the fads some wish were "tradition".)

"As long as you would treat someone who is known to be divorced, with no annulment, and civilly remarried the exact same way, I dont have too many problems with this. And I hope you would approach them both equally when it comes to a civil divorce. Married couples (same-sex or opposite sex) who choose to conform to the teachings of the Church and cease having sex may have any number of reasons for not obtaining a civil divorce. They may have children whom they want to have two legal parents. They may own property together. They may still want to make be able to make medical decisions for one another should one become incapacitated. There may be questions of insurance benefits, survivor benefits, and so on."I agree, and I'd like to think I wouldn't treat the two categories differently. As Felapton pointed out back a long way up the thread, though, as a practical matter, it's easier to know how the circumstances line up for a married gay person than for a divorced, not annulled, remarried, still married for a good reason, celibate person.At any rate, I have no specific plans to deny communion to anyone.

Me: The Gospels, and scripture more generally, are certainly among our primary sources read, of course, in the light of church teaching and tradition.Gerelyn: "(Interesting to see how the gospels, the memoirs of the apostles as Justin Martyr called them, have been downgraded, made secondary to the fads some wish were tradition.)"Hi, Gerelyn, this is pretty off-topic. If you've never read Dei Verbum, you'll find lots of good stuff in there about how the church views scripture and revelation. http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents...

What is natural law and why is it capitalized? I assume they are different from the laws of nature, but how do we know what they are and how do we enforce them?

"On priests and deacons not knowing parishioners, I can understand the problems. But I always did feel like the parish my family belonged to when I lived at home was much like a bank. You could do all your business there without anyone knowing who you were. And there was almost none of the social life through the parish that Protestant churches often have in abundance. Whenever I see someone on television who has gone through an ordeal of some kind and they say, I never could have done it without the people from my church, I always think to myself, I wonder how that works."I know what you mean. I don't think parishes viewed themselves as social centers (using that term in a non-pejorative sense) when we were kids - there was a whole different self-image of the institutional church and the role of a parish. I don't think people looked to their parish the same way they do today. My own view is that our local community's communal bonds are so much weaker now than they used to be that people look to their churches to fulfill more of their social needs than used to be the case. Catholic parishes, some of them anyway, are trying to adjust. But as with so much about Catholicism, the culture that prevailed when we were young still exerts a lot of influence over Catholic behavior today.

"As a non-Catholic, someone could take the position that while the Church has a right to speak out about what it considers right and wrong, and even about what it thinks should be legal and illegal, it doesnt have the right to get into the nitty gritty of the political process, and it shouldnt use its political clout to try to impose Catholic beliefs on non-Catholics."On the other hand - defense contractors, labor unions and the AARP all do it. Why shouldn't the Catholic Church?

(Jim, talking about the gospels is never off-topic in a discussion of the Catholic Church.) There is nothing about homosexuality in the gospels. Because some American bishops send funds contributed by hardworking Catholics in their dioceses to other dioceses to battle SSM, does not make it "church teaching and tradition".(It was church teaching at one time that Catholics could not pray for the souls of their pagan ancestors.)I wonder what those who decry SSM do when one of their children wants to marry a beloved partner of the same sex. I wonder how they feel when they read articles or see pictures in the paper that make it obvious how HAPPY loving partners are when their relationships are recognized. Why would anyone want to deny that joy to others?

Jack said Today, if I were single, I could legally marry any single, willing woman I wanted toThat sounds good Jack, but the problem with your statement is that it is not true. You cannot legally marry any single, willing woman you want to, and for good reason:A man cannot legally marry his mother or his auntA man cannot legally marry his sister or his daughterA man cannot legally marry a woman who is already marriedSociety has determined in our case via representative government using a democratic process that we will not allow insect or polygamy.All societies have the right to determine what will be allowed and what will not be allowed. That is why we are currently discussing same-sex marriage. As a society, we are trying to decide whether or not we will allow it.

"Unfortunately, this common understanding has been eroded, such that it is non-existent now, replaced by various theories of utilitarianism or Rawlsian liberalism. But the problem for all these theories is that they lack any moral foundation, and are simply a might makes right or whoever gets the most votes wins. So to say youre imposing your X beliefs on Y is really meaningless; arent you imposing your Y beliefs on X? If you dont think youre doing that, then whats the point? This what troubles me about the move lately by the LGBT advocates to label any argument as simply resulting from bigotry or homophobia. So lots of people have made wild, demagogic statements."The vast majority of us go through our lives with little or no philosophical grounding, so it's often difficult to point to what it is that underlies our opinions. A couple of generations ago, the notion of gay people marrying wouldn't have received a respectful hearing in the public square, because there were societal consensuses about marriage and the proper behavior of gays that wouldn't have countenanced such a discussion. There has been a lot of movement since then on both of those questions - marriage and the behavior of gays. There is an emerging social consensus - already fully emerged among influential opinion makers, the educated and the young - that we need to be tolerant of public behavior that is important to others, if it doesn't harm us. (Note that I'm not condemning anything here, just observing how things used to be and how they've changed.)A real difficulty for the church is that she enters public conversations like this with her own philosophical and theological background that is not part of the common currency of social discourse. (I presume there was more commonality a few generations ago when the mainline Protestant churches were vibrant and most Americans belonged to one of them. Now that almost all of them are ghosts of their former selves, one of the losses is that shared Christian philosophical/theological heritage.) When the church says what she says, it may be grounded in Aristotle, scripture, Aquinas and John Paul II; but it is heard by people who hear it through a filters of civil rights, political rhetoric and the primacy of personal experience and emotion. It almost requires ecumenical-style conversations to bridge these gaps.

Your attribution to me (and my relatives) of wanting incest is unsupported. "Single" means not married. Read the text.

Please William; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_lawExcerpt:Natural law or the law of nature (Latin: lex naturalis) has been described as a law whose content is set by nature and is thus universal.[1] As classically used, natural law refers to the use of reason to analyze human nature and deduce binding rules of moral behavior. The phrase natural law is opposed to the positive law (meaning "man-made law", not "good law"; cf. posit) of a given political community, society, or nation-state, and thus can function as a standard by which to criticize that law.[2] In natural law jurisprudence, on the other hand, the content of positive law cannot be known without some reference to the natural law (or something like it). Used in this way, natural law can be invoked to criticize decisions about the statutes, but less so to criticize the law itself. Some use natural law synonymously with natural justice or natural right (Latin ius naturale)[citation needed]Although natural law is often conflated with common law, the two are distinct in that natural law is a view that certain rights or values are inherent in or universally cognizable by virtue of human reason or human nature, while common law is the legal tradition whereby certain rights or values are legally cognizable by virtue of judicial recognition or articulation.[3] Natural law theories have, however, exercised a profound influence on the development of English common law,[4] and have featured greatly in the philosophies of Thomas Aquinas, Francisco Surez, Richard Hooker, Thomas Hobbes, Hugo Grotius, Samuel von Pufendorf, John Locke, Francis Hutcheson, Jean Jacques Burlamaqui, and Emmerich de Vattel. Because of the intersection between natural law and natural rights, it has been cited as a component in United States Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. The essence of Declarationism is that the founding of the United States is based on Natural law.Paul of Tarsus wrote in his Epistle to the Romans: "For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things contained in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law unto themselves, their conscience also bearing witness."[40] The intellectual historian A.J. Carlyle has commented on this passage as follows:There can be little doubt that St Paul's words imply some conception analogous to 'natural law' in Cicero, a law written in men's hearts, recognized by man's reason, a law distinct from the positive law of any State, or from what St Paul recognized as the revealed law of God. It is in this sense that St Paul's words are taken by the Fathers of the fourth and fifth centuries like St Hilary of Poitiers, St Ambrose, and St Augustine, and there seems no reason to doubt the correctness of their interpretation.[41]

Jack - My point is that none of us can marry "anyone we please". Society has rules about such things, and the people in a given society have the right to set the rules for their society.

The Catholic Church has the right and responsibility to speak to political matters, including the definition and status of marriage. The Church should speak with a clear and authoritative voice on any matter of public concern. I left the RCC because I didn't wish the institution to speak for me on same-sex marriage legislation, and in particular to fundraise in the pews, during the Mass, for political causes, and use discretionary funds at a diocesan level to influence plebiscites (including in other jurisdictions). I think these last two matters are poor practices that speak to a lack of accountability.

So how, exactly, do I know that sexual relations (feelings of affection, acts of intimacy) between two persons of the same sex are in violation of the natural law. It seems to me that natural law (or Natural Law) is in the eyes of the beholder.

On the other hand defense contractors, labor unions and the AARP all do it. Why shouldnt the Catholic Church?Jim,Because the Church wants to keep its 501(c)(3) tax exempt status?There are other interesting problems. For example, the bishops are adamantly opposed to same-sex marriage. However, polls show that 51% of Catholics support same-sex marriage. I don't know how much the Church takes in through Sunday collections, but whatever the level of Catholic giving is at present, if the Church starts politicking on hot button issues, I would imagine it would lose financial support.

@Jeff: "My only point: its hard to have a rational and productive dialogue on this very contentious issue so long as were not clear on the most basic and fundamental teachings of the Church."But that's precisely the point under discussion here. Your reference to what happened in New Orleans during the Civil Rights struggle underscores that point. As this and other recent threads at this site have noted, for centuries, the church taught very clearly that slavery was mandated by scripture and congruent with natural law and reason. Bishops and religious owned slaves.During the Civil Rights struggle in the 1950s and 1960s (and yes, I was alive then, and in school at Loyola in New Orleans in the 1960s), some Catholic leaders like Rummel of New Orleans took a courageous and prophetic stand against practices that had PREVIOUSLY been taken for granted by most Catholics and justified by church teaching,, and were still taken for granted and justified by many Catholics.The process by which the church changed its mind about the issue of slavery, about racism in general, and about many other issues throughout history, has been one in which some Catholics somewhere have dared to ask if church teaching is adequate or correct.That's a step AGAINST WHICH you are--strangely--arguing here, with your absolute certainty that the church is correct in condemning same-sex sexual relationships and the civil marriage of same-sex couples, and that this teaching cannot be questioned or discussed.You also ask me, "The Church does require that those who present themselves for Communion do so in a proper state; but the Church has ever thus done so. Should it not?"But I had clearly outlined a method of using bells, alarums, whistles, and spycams to identify and single out the group of public sinners du jour that the majority may decided to exclude from communion at any given point in time, in order to make itself appear untainted and pure from all sin! In doing so, I was following the lead of those posters who have stated that God commands heterosexuality and condemns homosexuality (though, curiously enough, I haven't ever seen either of those terms in the scriptures, and would be surprised to find them there, since they're modern neologisms). Posters who also argue in this thread that that public dissenters from church doctrine should, of course, be excluded from communion.If you assume that no one in this thread has suggested excluding anyone from communion, and that no one in the Catholic church in the U.S. these days presses for such exclusion, I'd suggest you aren't paying careful attention to this thread or the news about the church in general.My own position? Start the kind of witch hunt implied with some of these suggestions, and you'll quickly decimate the body of Christ. All things considered, it seems far preferable to me to invite, welcome, and include, and encourage people to follow the venerable Catholic tradition of consulting their consciences and collaborating with their confessors as they approach the communion rail.I am a traditional Southern person, in many ways. Inviting, welcoming, and including rank high in my list of virtues--though God knows, I'm also painfully aware of the many ways in which both contemporary Southerners and my ancestors have failed to exhibit those virtues vis-a-vis selected groups of people. In the South, many of us who are white Christians have gone in quick succession from targeting people of color to women to gay and lesbian folks. What seems consistent is our need to find a group on which to vent our insecurities and angers, in the name of God. I'm not very attracted to a faith community that is big on disinviting, unwelcoming, and excluding. Or using a targeted group of people as a scapegoat to bear sins that are far more widely exhibited within the body of Christ than within that minority group alone.

Society has rules about such things, and the people in a given society have the right to set the rules for their society.Ken,Not exactly. The people of the United States cannot, for example, say that a black man may not marry a white woman. It once was the case, but "society" did not change its mind. The Supreme Court declared anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional. There are many, many restrictions society can't, in the United States, put on who can marry whom, and there are restrictions no society should put on who can marry whom. It is not even the position of the Catholic Church that the majority in a society get to make the rules.

"There is an emerging social consensus already fully emerged among influential opinion makers, the educated and the young that we need to be tolerant of public behavior that is important to others, if it doesnt harm us." There is? That's news to me; seems like the people of California who voted to ban same sex marriage had a different "social consensus." Why is that consensus to be subjected to question? My state has a similar consensus and has banned same sex marriage. Is that consensus to be challenged?

"If you assume that no one in this thread has suggested excluding anyone from communion, and that no one in the Catholic church in the U.S. these days presses for such exclusion, Id suggest you arent paying careful attention to this thread or the news about the church in general."I'm suggesting that neither I nor the Catholic Church has suggested excluding homosexuals from communion simply because they are homosexual. And I just don't see the kind of "spycam" theology that you do.

William FG --About how we get to know natural law: two preliminary notes: First, there are many theories of natural law. They mainly derive from Aristotle and the Stoics. Second, a few words about Aristotle's basic theory. The essence of something is its "whatness", that which makes it to be the *kind* of thing it is. Material things have two levels of being -- their "substance", which is their most basic reality that remains the same even as the being changes in some ways. Substance gives rise to "properties", which further determine the being. For instance, it is a property of a seed to form roots, it is a property of water to freeze at 32 degrees F, properties of human beings including wanting food, friends, sex, children, education, etc. These properties are all *necessarily* part of being human. They come necessarily with being-human. We cannot not want them unless we will to do so. (Note: will gets to be something of a theoretical problem in natural law theory sometimes, but it's not fatal by any means.) Also note: the word "substance" and "properties" are used in Aristotelian natural law theory in the very same way that modern chemists use the terms. "Nature" means "essence as operative", or put another way, nature is substance as it acts for its own good, its own fulfillment of its best capabilities (faculties). So a substance's nature is how it acts --- or needs to act -- for its capabilities to be perfected. According to Aristotle (and Thomas sometimes) we get to know what those capabilities are through experience. We look around and *find* that certain actions lead to the fulfillment of certain capacities while others frustrates those capacities. The most basic notion here is that there are certain sorts of behavior which *necessarily* lead to the fulfillment of people's best capacities, and there are certain sorts of behavior which *necessarily* prevent fulfillment or simply do not aim to fulfill what *must be fulfilled* if a person is to be happy. (I've oversimplified some, of course.) People in a society pool their experiences and end up generalizing about what makes people happy --- and, note, they're the same basic things in all cultures because all cultures are made up of people: food, comfort, sex, friendship, marriage, children, education, being part of society, beauty. Once the generalizations have been discovered (using reason to do so), the society *commands* that the members be allowed to do or commands that people do what leads to happiness, and society *commands* that certain actions that frustrate these capabilities be prohibited. Note the defining connection in all this between actions *necessary* for happiness and command or *law*. For instance, one of the great human capacities is the capacity for friendship. Without friends we cannot be happy. To betray a friend is to prevent the fulfilment of that friendship, so it violates our capacity, it goes against our nature, it is immoral.

@Jeff: "Im suggesting that neither I nor the Catholic Church has suggested excluding homosexuals from communion simply because they are homosexual."I think you and I must read different Catholic newspapers, Jeff.I'm aware of a number of cases in which people have been excluded from communion in Catholic parishes in recent years solely because they were assumed to be either gay or in support of those who are unapologetically gay.In some of these cases, the excuse for the exclusion is, of course, that the folks are wearing rainbow pins or sashes, though I haven't heard of sartorial qualifications for communion on the part of any other groups in the church. If they are there, it seems the Knights of Columbus are violating some serious church laws when they approach the altar in full regalia.In other cases, the exclusion has been solely because the people in question are known to be a gay couple--an unapologetic, open gay couple.We can quibble and say that these folks are being excluded because they are "public" "sinners" or making a "political statement." What is consistent in these stories, however, is the deliberate targeting of a particular group in the church.I suspect that there might be many other public sinners who make overt political statements in the communion line on any given Sunday, don't you, Jeff? Why the disproportionate emphasis on those who happen to be gay public sinners or activists, I wonder?And then, of course, there's the fact that the church is, in so many places and so many ways so unwelcoming to those of us who are gay that many of us have heard the message some of our fellow Catholics intend to give us and we simply no longer participate. And won't do so as long as our very humanity is defined--in an exclusive way that applies only to those who are gay--as intrinsically disordered.And then there's also the fact that those of us who are openly and unapologetically gay have almost no job security or protection from discrimination in most Catholic institutions, and everything the church tries to tell us about how we're loved and welcome will continue to fall on deaf ears as long as we can be excluded from the table of daily bread in the twinkling of an eye by a Catholic employer solely because of our sexual orientation, with no recourse against the injustice. (Empty) welcome is a meager word to munch on when one has no salary or health care coverage due to the decisions of the welcoming community that practices radical unwelcome while preaching its opposite.

"seems like the people of California who voted to ban same sex marriage had a different social consensus. Why is that consensus to be subjected to question? "Hey, Jeff, I wouldn't call the outcome of the California referendum an example of "social consensus" - more like "sharp division".Had that vote been conducted in 1960 there probably would have been an actual consensus. That was then, this is now.

"Society has determined in our case via representative government using a democratic process that we will not allow insect or polygamy. All societies have the right to determine what will be allowed and what will not be allowed. That is why we are currently discussing same-sex marriage. As a society, we are trying to decide whether or not we will allow it."This wonderful Judeo-Christian society at one time decided that people of differing races could not marry. And they used the bible as justification, too. Maybe even natural law.And, no, all societies DO NOT have the right to determine what will or will not be allowed. In this country we are a society of laws and have a constitution - and for very good reason. The tyranny of the majority has a long history in this country and luckily laws take place over prejudices.May I call you attention to this? "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. (The Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States)BTW, I have nothing against insects.

So why do I get the sense that Natural Law is just Thomism whose theology has been made sub rosa? Why should Aristotle (much as I love the guy) be the ultimate window onto truth?

I agree that Aristotle should not be the ultimate window onto truth. Here is what Aristotle says about bison:"Owing to the savor of its flesh it is sought for in the chase. When it is wounded it runs away, and stops only when thoroughly exhausted. It defends itself against an assailant by kicking and projecting its excrement to a distance of eight yards; this device it can easily adopt over and over again, and the excrement is so pungent that the hair of hunting-dogs is burnt off by it."On subjects other than bison, Aristotle is usually worth consulting, though not uncritically.

William FG --I don't understand your question. What doyou have in mind here?

"Im aware of a number of cases in which people have been excluded from communion in Catholic parishes in recent years solely because they were assumed to be either gay or in support of those who are unapologetically gay. In some of these cases, the excuse for the exclusion is, of course, that the folks are wearing rainbow pins or sashes, though I havent heard of sartorial qualifications for communion on the part of any other groups in the church. If they are there, it seems the Knights of Columbus are violating some serious church laws when they approach the altar in full regalia."William L, if you believe that wearers of rainbow sashes are denied communion in some times and places because they are gay or because they "support those who are unapologetically gay", you're mistaken. Here's a pretty good news story - hope it helps. http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/0502992.htm

"I suspect that there might be many other public sinners who make overt political statements in the communion line on any given Sunday"I don't know of any. Can you give some examples?

Per David Not exactly. The people of the United States cannot, for example, say that a black man may not marry a white woman. It once was the case, but society did not change its mind. The Supreme Court declared anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional. There are many, many restrictions society cant, in the United States, put on who can marry whom, and there are restrictions no society should put on who can marry whom. It is not even the position of the Catholic Church that the majority in a society get to make the rules.David The US Constitution was developed, approved, and even changed (via amendment) by the free society we thankfully have and likewise, the US Supreme Court and the rest of our government was established. The Supreme Court is not separate from, and does not lord over society from somewhere on high. It is a reflection of the values of society and its charter is straightforward enough; to determine whether a given law is in line with the ideals set forth by American society in our Constitution.The supreme court did not declare anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional back in the 1870s; it came around to that conclusion about a hundred years later (sometime in the 1970s I think). In the century that had past between the end of the Civil War and 1970, the view of most Americans regarding black-white marriage had changed quite a bit.It is simply factual that over the course of about a hundred years, American society did change how it viewed the constitution regarding inter-racial marriage; the opinion of the majority evolved on that and other issues as well. Eventually the rules regarding inter-racial marriage were changed. They were changed by the Supreme Court when - in the view of most of society - it was time to change them. The Supreme Court then, is a reflection of the values our society holdsAnd so my point stands; a given society is well within its rights to set up the laws and customs by which people in that society will live. For example, while I do not think anyone should have their hand cut off for stealing (or for doing anything else for that matter), some societies have laws that call exactly for that penalty. Now, you and I can tsk, tsk all day long but in fact, folks in those societies do not care what we or anyone else thinks regarding the matter. Moreover, the fact of the matter is that they are well within their right to organize and set the rules for their society; it is their concern.Why would I presume that any society would not have the right to self determination?

Felapton --Ah, the great scientists! They'll believe anything:-)

There may be reasons for Catholics to not support gay marriage (e.g. traditional understanding & Biblical view of marriage consisting of a man and a woman) but upholding the sanctity of marriage is certianly not one of them.Thanks to us heterosexuals, marriage could not sink any lower. Divorce. Multiple divorces. Starter marriages. Marriage as reality TV. The Bachelor. Who Wants to Marry My Father? Multiple marriages. Adultery. Celebrity marriages. Open marriages. Polyamory. Public affairs. Private affairs. Ugly divorces. Damaged children. Custody fights. Facebook affairs. Do I need to go on?The idea that despite the way heterosexuals have denegrated marriage, homosexuals still want access to this most "scared" insitution may be a positive sign in a troubled world. Who knows? Maybe gay couples can redeem an institution destroyed by heterosexuals.

Ken --Nice, decent, educated Soitherners thought slavery was AOK, and for the longest time the Northerners generally agreed to it. Did that make the laws just?

Suzanne, I do not agree with how you are using notion of collective guilt. Politicians like to use group-identity to pit one group against another, usually with their own political gain in mind. In any case, I do not think group-identification is fitting or useful in this discussion. I do not think one can say Homosexuals will damage the institution of marriage or that Heterosexuals have damaged the institution of marriage. It is more complex than pointing a finger at one group or the other.

Ann I am not talking about whether slavery laws were just (they obviously were not) or whether laws that call for chopping someones hands off for stealing are just (they are not). I am simply pointing out that societies are within their rights to organize themselves and set rules for themselves as the majority sees fit.In the case of slavery, obviously that question divided the nation. However eventually it was settled and slavery was outlawed. After the American Civil War, legal slavery continued in other countries for years. The point is that as a society, while initially America chose to simply not address slavery, American society eventually, ultimately decided that slavery was wrong. In any case however, Americans were well within their rights to make the decision; to decide what sort of society we would have.In Saudi Arabia for example, women cannot drive and they must wear the burka. Now I do not think that is fair or just, but the fact of the matter is that the Saudis have the right to organize their society as they wish.Do you not think a society has the right to self determination?

@ Jim P. Are people who wear the Red Star ever refused communion? A red star is a recognizable symbol of Communist ideology. Nobody wears it by accident.

Ann, of course there is no guarantee a society will make correct choices; societies are comprised of flawed human beings. However all societies have the right to decide the sorts of laws and customs under which they will operate.A Norwegian is different than a Spaniard and he is different than a Japanese man, and he is different than someone from Laos. Each of those societies has their own laws and customers, and each is entitled to them.I do not see why the notion of a society having a right to self determination is so bothersome.

The Russians set up Soviet society and seemed to prefer that to anything else until the late 1980s.While Soviet communism was cruel, as long as they kept it within their own country, it was more or less their own business.Red China is probably a better example; China operates under a brutal atheistic communist regime, but regardless of what I think of it, how the Chinese organize themselves inside China is very much their business. It is their country, their society; not anyone elses. The majority in Chinese society have decided that is how they want their nation organized, and that is their right.

@Jim: I suspect that there might be many other public sinners who make overt political statements in the communion line on any given Sunday.If you're reading the sentence to be talking about public sinners making overt political statements, then I can understand your skepticism. And if that's the sense you're making of it, then it's obviously not well-constructed, and I have to apologize for that.If you are doubting, however, that there are other public sinners besides the openly gay couples who preoccupy attention on this thread, or others making overt political statements (again, besides openly gay folks who may be, e.g., wearing rainbow pins), then I'm puzzled. I'm puzzled that you don't recognize that the communion lines in any given Catholic church on any given Sunday have an assortment of people who often include people who could, if a community wished to tag them that way, be identified as public sinners. And people whose politics are worn as openly on their sleeves as are those of the rainbow community.I'm not aware that the church is in the habit of turning away from communion people who pay unjust wages to their employees, or practice discrimination in hiring and firing decisions--though I'm pretty sure those people do exist and approach the altar in many communities. Nor am I aware that folks who engage in sexist, racist, or environmentally destructive behavior are generally turned away from the altar, though I suspect they exist in some communities and approach the communion rail without fear in those communities. I seem to recall that bishops who have been known to have engaged in immoral and even criminal protection of priests who have abused children frequently commune, even when their sins have been made public, and none of the questions asked here about communing gays are asked about them.To the best of my recollection, even people who assisted in massacring workers (and advocates for workers) in Latin America and in disappearing political dissidents in decades not far from the present have boldly approached the communion rail and not been turned away--when many of those in the church have known who these people were and what they've done. I know many parishes in which heterosexual couples living "in sin" receive communion routinely on Sundays, and nobody bats an eyelash. I know of one parish after another where married couples practicing contraception--though perhaps without public announcements about this (they're accorded the right to follow their consciences without public shaming)--go to communion. No questions asked. My brother and his wife have never asked about their welcome at the communion rail after they chose, following consultation with their pastor, for her to have a tubal ligation some years ago.While some of us remain fixated on the question of whether or not to let a rainbow pin-wearing gay person (or a supporter of such a person), or members of a gay couple come to communion, we seem curiously inattentive to the sins of many other "public" sinners. Strange, isn't it?

At my church several of the priests who preside at Eucharist and several of our communion ministers are openly gay and in committed relationships. It's wonderful to be free of the sexual politics that make a turnstile of the communion rail.

William F - You are not attending Roman Catholic church now; correct?

That is correct. I attend St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Ardmore, PA.

In any case however, Americans were well within their rights to make the decision; to decide what sort of society we would have.Ken,You are saying Americans were well within their rights to have slavery. Nobody has a right to sanction slavery. It was, is, and always will be wrong. If you are making the point that democratic societies do set their own rules, then who can disagree. If you are making a point that democratic societies have a right to set their own rules, that is true insofar as the rules they set don't violate human rights or do any other kind of avoidable harm. You seem to be saying slavery is okay if the majority says it is okay. But it isn't. Individuals in the United States have a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but they don't have a right to do anything they want just because they are free.

David, please don't be silly; slavery was terrible and was very wrong, and this is an important discussion.My point is that societies have the right to set the rules that will apply to people living in that society. I pointed out that societies make the correct choices. Still people have the right organize their society as the majority sees fit.-------------------------------------------------------------Ann, of course there is no guarantee a society will make correct choices; societies are comprised of flawed human beings. However all societies have the right to decide the sorts of laws and customs under which they will operate.A Norwegian is different than a Spaniard and he is different than a Japanese man, and he is different than someone from Laos. Each of those societies has their own laws and customers, and each is entitled to them.I do not see why the notion of a society having a right to self determination is so bothersome.

David In some Arab lands they cut off the hands of people who were caught stealing.This punishment is cruel and unusual, and probably a sin. However wrong that law is, it does not negate the fact that even when they choose poorly people in a society have the right to set the rules by which they live.For example, you and I have no right to dictate to the people of Yemen, what their criminal code should be, and what punishments folks in Yemen should allow.

According to Wikipedia, Yemen has signed and ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Saudi Arabia has not.

David - I meant to say "...I pointed out that societies [don't always] make the correct choices..."

@William F.: "Its wonderful to be free of the sexual politics that make a turnstile of the communion rail."And it's interesting that Ken wants to underscore that you're speaking here qua Episcopalian. Not as a Roman Catholic. Ken appears eager to own the turnstile on behalf of our RC church.Apropos your remark (and I wholeheartedly agree with you that politics shouldn't make a turnstile of the communion rail; and it's a measure of how badly miscatechized some Catholics are these days, and how little they understand what their faith is all about that they aren't deeply shocked at how far Catholicism has stepped in that direction, at least in the U.S.)--apropos nothing at all in this thread, and apropos everything in the thread: One of the most painful experiences I've ever had in church was something I witnessed at the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the latter half of the 1980s. I'd gone on pilgrimage there, and was attending a liturgy at the shrine. In the pew ahead of me was a man with a small boy I took to be his son. Both were in tattered and somewhat dirty clothes. They stood out among the others attending this liturgy, most of whom seemed to be a tour group of what appeared to be affluent Mexicans.When time for communion arrived, the man got up and stood in the communion line with others at the liturgy. I saw all of this from my seat, since I did not go to communion. When the man reached one of the priests distributing communion, the priest shook his head and refused communion to him.The man, who already had the posture of a whipped animal, then crept back with an even more subdued posture to his pew. The small boy witnessed the whole scenario. This man and the boy I thought was his son were dark-skinned Mexican campesinos, obviously from the lower echelons of their country's socio-economic order.All the priests concelebrating the liturgy, and all of the other people attending the liturgy, were light-skinned and appeared to be from the higher echelons of Mexican society. The priest who shook his head and refused communion to the man appeared, frankly, haughty.Of course, I was a visitor and had no idea at all whether the priest knew the man to whom he refused communion, and I had no idea why he chose to do this. I did know, from the accents of the people I'm describing, that they were Mexican.I recounted what had happened a day or so later to an American missionary priest in Mexico City whom I'd met on this pilgrimage, and he assured me that the priest would not have forbidden communion to the man without good reason. I have to say, I found his assurance less than convincing. To me, it seemed to be more about holding up clerical side than recognizing that it might be possible that someone could be refused communion at a pilgrimage site because he was an unknown person of a lower social class attending a liturgy being celebrated for a tour group of known persons from a higher social class.I don't think I'll ever stop seeing in my mind's eye that man creeping back to his pew in his torn and soiled clothes, and the little boy with large eyes in similar clothes watching his father's (as I took him to be) humiliation.

@Ken: "David, please dont be silly; slavery was terrible and was very wrong, and this is an important discussion."Amazing, isn't it, how easy it is to know that fact now, in retrospect, after the moral arc of history has moved decisively in the direction of viewing slavery as morally reprehensible.But how difficult it would have been to ascertain this moral fact at a point in history when people of faith largely supported slavery, and when many of their faith communities harped constantly on how the bible mandates slavery, and how both natural law and reason indicate that slavery is a positive good for society.At the time that a few people of faith (and people in secular society) began to question slavery, they were considered radical dissidents whose questions about a venerable, scripturally blessed institution would unravel the fabric of their society. They were told to stop questioning the clear, consistent teaching of Christian churches for centuries.It was only because those courageous people persisted in questioning what had long been taken for granted by everyone around them--including people of faith--and challenging the consensus of their own religious communities about what scripture holds and what nature and reason demand that we can now look back and say with such certainty that slavery was terrible and wrong--when some of our own bishops and religious in the U.S. owned slaves in the past.

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