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Dolan on Gay Marriage

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

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" ... 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.

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About the Author

Eduardo Moisés Peñalver is the John P. Wilson Professor of Law at the University of Chicago Law School. He is the author of numerous books and articles on the subjects of property and land use law.