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The cramping of Catholic moral reasoning.

The Catholic Diocese of Sacramento recently announced that it will no longer provide grants to a local nonprofit that serves the homeless. Why? Was it financial scandal? No. Egregious incompetence? No. The diocese decided to defund the group, which it had been working with for over two decades, because the agency's new director has publicly supported abortion rights and gay marriage. The Sacramento Bee reports:

"I have never represented any of those positions on behalf of Francis House," said Whitmore, formerly the senior pastor at St. Mark's United Methodist Church. "I was speaking as an individual. So for me, this came out of the blue."[...]In its letter to Whitmore, the Sacramento Diocese said it respects the work Francis House does and cannot expect every organization it supports financially to "actively promote Catholic teaching.""We can expect, however, that they or their leaders not publicly oppose Catholic teaching and that, unfortunately, is the situation in which we find ourselves," the letter reads.

Diocesan spokesman Kevin Eckery said the decision to drop Francis House as a beneficiary of the pastoral center's annual fundraising appeal stemmed in part from public confusion about the agency's affiliation with the church. Although Francis House was born at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic parish in Sacramento, it has long been nondenominational and no longer is part of the church.However, "a lot of people still think Francis House is a Catholic charity," he said, and some are concerned that Whitmore's views are a reflection of those of the church.Eckery said he was unsure whether the diocese had received complaints about its donations to Whitmore's agency. "But if we haven't had one yet, we would get one," he said. "We like to get out in front of these things."


But in its zeal to avoid confusing "a lot of people," the diocese has gotten so far in front of the issue that it may be in danger of leaving behind its own moral tradition. In what universe should one expect that providing a grant to an agency whose director holds public-policy views at odds with Catholic teaching (for the moment, leave aside the question of whether the church's teaching on marriage requires Catholics to oppose legalizing gay marriage) suggests support for such views, especially when they have nothing to do with the services the agency provides? We're talking about a homeless shelter. It does not provide abortions. It does not marry gay people. It feeds, houses, and clothes the homeless. Funding such an organization communicates nothing more than the church's traditional concern for the poor. Maybe you've heard of it.What does this decision mean? That the Diocese of Sacramento will begin screening its partner agencies to make sure their employees have not publicly disagreed with policy positions endorsed by the bishop, or the bishops? As Fr. Tom Reese told the Bee, "If the bishops are going to defund every organization headed by someone who disagrees with their views on gay marriage, birth control and abortion, they are going to find very few agencies to fund." Why stop there? Why not find out whether partner agencies have employees in leadership positions who are divorced? Or have attended civil unions of gay people? Or have publicly supported the Affordable Care Act?Here's one reason: the Catholic moral tradition is not kidding about original sin.Let me explain. Early this week I had an interesting e-mail exchange with a friend who expressed his frustration with certain aspects of the contraception-mandate debate. Why are so many people confused about the way insurance works? He wrote:

The fact that insurance itself requires premiums to be pooled tells me that any theory that an employer group is not paying for contraception when it is available in the wider pool of the insured is at best a polite fiction. The desire to maintain polite fictions is part of the problem with society in general and the church in particular. It comes from morality being thought of in legalistic terms and is purely and simply a means for one to avoid responsibility for things while appearing rigorously responsible. Maybe someone should address that.

Of course, the Catholic Church has never been above employing legalistic moral reasoning to justify morally questionable actions. But legalism cuts two ways. And when it comes to casuistry, I replied, I'm pro. It may seem absurdly legalistic to work with categories of cooperation to help us figure out whether our actions are morally permissible, but they were developed to acknowledge a crucial point of Christian theology: original sin. As the contraception-mandate debate has unfolded, I worry that some arguments coming from the bishops conference and its defenders skate too close to a Manichean view of moral acts. It's as though some have forgotten that the Catholic tradition acknowledges how difficult it is to engage in morally pure acts in a fallen world. The categories of cooperation force us to think about our responsibility as moral agents -- as people whose decisions have consequences, and a lineage, always tainted by structural sin. And, when properly used, that framework acts as a bulwark against sectarianism.Now, I agree that the accommodation could be called a polite fiction. But that doesn't make it a useless fiction, because it does something important, from the standpoint of Catholic moral thought: It permits Catholic institutions to avoid explicitly contracting for services they deem inimical to church teaching. Obviously, anyone who pays insurance companies -- whether Taco Bell owners, employees, or bishops -- is to some extent subsidizing medical services the church rejects. But whether you explicitly consent is not inconsequential.How many bishops are thinking that way right now? How many are thinking like the Amish? The Catholic tradition provides a wealth of resources to help us think through these sorts of problems. Why haven't bishops used this moment to make a Catholic argument in defense of their position that even the accommodation threatens to trample the religious freedom of Catholic institutions? It's bizarre.

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Grant Gallicho is an associate editor of Commonweal. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter.



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The Catholic Manichaeans will simply run their own Catholic agencies (e.g., shelters for the homeless).As to the insurance debate, perhaps the Catholic bishops can start a nation-wide Catholic insurance company for Catholics and Catholic institutions.

Maybe all the Church's charity will simply have to happen in the third world, a kind of outsourcing. Because it's not really the Church's business to accommodate its rules to the world's structures of sin, but to act in truth and charity in spite of them.

I grow more and more intolerant of intolerance. The Puritan streak that has taken root in American Catholic moral theology will prbably have to run its course -- maybe like it did with Father Couglin and Father Feeney... or maybe there will a straw to break it all when the Mother of a some cardinal comes out as pro-choice on contraception and there is movement to take back his hat for having such a mother!

When societal norms shift as radically as they have over the past few decades, it may appear that the Church has become intolerant because our relative difference from society has increased. It's an optical illusion. We're just where we've always been, and that's no longer tolerated by society. Too bad, because we've been doing a lot of good, and it will be missed.

JFK was wrong as Santorum notes. As soon as the bishops are in charge they will drive the Protestants out.

Grant, If the head of Francis House had voiced anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim or homophobic sentiments (which, of course, would be highly unlikely) and the diocese had severed its relationship with the organization and its funding because of this, would you find that equally troubling? In the interest of consistency, I am assume you would.Thanks,A

Mighty big of you to assume that, Anthony. Next time you can save your keystrokes for something you're not already sure of.

Maybe I am a little slow today and not catching the sarcasm (which is so out of character for you :)). But I take that as a yes? I am over 40 now and starting to lose brain cells

Kathy makes a good point above (3/8, 5:21 pm) about how societal norms have shifted in recent decades. For those of us who support civil marriage being available to same-sex couples, it's important to keep in mind.Nonetheless, I still have not heard a persuasive argument for why the Church's opposition to this change in civil marriage is so different from the Church's position on civil recognition of many other kinds of marriage (e.g., between Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, interfaith, agnostics, atheists, etc.). None of those are sacramental marriage as we Catholics understand it---and yet we seem to live with them.

Luke, although they are not sacramental marriages they are valid marriages and recognized as such by the Church.

Just like that Cathy jettisoned the Pauline Privilege.

Why are so many people confused about the way insurance works? He wrote:The fact that insurance itself requires premiums to be pooled tells me that any theory that an employer group is not paying for contraception when it is available in the wider pool of the insured is at best a polite fiction. He is confused about how insurance works. When you purchase an insurance policy, you are not entering into an agreement to share the losses of other people in a pool. You are paying the insurance company a fixed amount to take the risk off of your hands. If the insurance company pays out more money than it takes in, it takes the loss - it cannot collect more money from you. The insurance company pools risks - you do not.

Bill, not at all. The Pauline Privilege dissolves a valid marriage.

Without knowing how much money is involved, it is clear enough the Francis House director has stated publically that he is pro-choice and favors gay marriage and Bishop Jaime Soto decides not to keep sending diocesan money (i.e. money of Catholics) to that charity.So what? Does Bishop Soto not have the right to determine where this money is spent?Surely the opinions of the director of any organization tend to affect how he or she runs that organization. That is what PP and others on the Left wailed about the Komen for Cure director they forced to resign.Do you think Bishop Soto perpetuate a scandal by giving the public impression that the Catholic Church somehow is Ok with the Francis Houses directors views? What would you have the bishop do?BTW - While someone can support the notion of gay marriage, the phrase "supported abortion rights" is nonsensical. People have rights; abortions do not have "rights". It is better to say "supported the view that women have a right to have an abortion". This may sound tedious, but when discussing important matters, it is best to use accurate, correct language.

And David P. - In American society anyway, "Liberal" is not synonymous with tolerance. If fact I know some self-described liberals who are not very tolerant of opposing views at all. I suspect this might be the same in other western countries as well.

If I lived in that diocese the decision as to where I would direct a decent portion of my non insubstantial charitable contributions would have been made for me.Ken: that you for not saying "Does Bishop Soto not have the right to determine where HIS money is spent?"More and more Catholics that I know are careful to ensure that any church contributions they make are NOT accessible by any bishop. Parish-based directed giving is the way to go.

And so the director of the Francis House could not help from publically endorsing things he knows go very much against the Catholic faith (abortion and gay marriage) and he (and some on this blog) think the Catholic Church for the sake of the poor - is just supposed to lay back, accept all that, and keep handing his organization money?And then try to lay the blame on the Church? Give me a break. The Roman Catholic Church is the largest charitable organization on the planet. If Francis house director and those here who agree/sympathize with him were really worried about the poor, he (and they) might think twice before taking these sorts of actions.

Thanks, Grant - interesting story and twist given some of the recent posts and clamor around HHS accomodation, USCCB reaction, etc. Thought it would be helpful to try to ignore the Pauline Privilege & Kathy's off the subject comments, and transition back to what you posted.As you state well, so much of this complex debate is looking at the degrees of moral causitry, the difficult balancing act in understanding the full concept of separation of church and state; and the issues around governmental decisions for the common good (public policy) that might impact moral theology.This is an excellent article by a Jesuit student who works in Public Health: points by Mr. Rozier: "The application of moral theology in public policy is almost always a matter of prudential judgment rather than doctrine. This means faithful people who are fully informed can come to different conclusions.""Theres a lot going on here. This is a religious liberty issue. It is an issue of cooperation with evil. It is a womens health issue. It is an issue of the common goods connection to contraception. It is an issue of forming individual consciences. Its an issue of the participation of religious institutions in public life.""Contraception is not classified as a preventive health measure because people believe it is like cancer. The Catholic position is that couples should not prevent pregnancy by technological means. But those who hold this position shouldnt assume that those who choose to prevent pregnancy are doing so because they think that pregnancy is a disease.""For the faithful Christian perhaps the real issue is how to live in a morally compromised world. Should you be a judge if you have to preside over divorce cases? Should you work an IT help desk if your work provides access to pornography? Should you pay taxes if your money funds executions? Should you buy an iPad if its was produced in unjust conditions?""But the right to religious liberty, like almost all rights, is not absolute. The government of the United States should not impose burdens on the practice of religion, and can do so only if the burden is vital to achieving an essential element of the common good that cannot be obtained otherwise.""we must be able to say, you are violating my religious liberty unnecessarily without sufficient cause. And this simple word, this unnecessarily, is not a propositional argument for which there is one right answer, it is a persuasive case that must be made.And persuasion gets adjudicated in the public square. The common good, and threats to it, must be argued for. So we should all stop yelling either about religious liberty or about womens health and start trying to persuade one another."I am also reminded of the numerous recent statements from B16 that acknowledge the fact that public policy is set by government; not the church. The church can influence this development but the church and government are not the same. In fact, this policy advocated by the Bee actually appears to violate religious liberty and more - well, a few people's religious liberty.

Obviously, anyone who pays insurance companies whether Taco Bell owners, employees, or bishops is to some extent subsidizing medical services the church rejects. That is not only not obvious, it is untrue, unless you make the heroic leap of assuming that insurance companies are systematically overcharging for policies that exclude contraception/abortion/etc., while systematically undercharging for policies that include contraception/abortion/etc. If they're doing that, then yes, people who buy policies that exclude those services are paying not just for their own set of risks but are cross-subsidizing the services for which the insurance company is not fully charging. But what evidence do you have that that is happening?

It's kind of an odd story. FWIW, here is another excerpt from the Bee story that may provide some clues:"Whitmore, a United Methodist minister, took over leadership of Francis House in April after the sudden death of longtime executive director Gregory Bunker. Within her own denomination, she has been a strong advocate of same-sex marriage. In 2008, during a short period in which gay marriage was legal in California, Whitmore openly defied church law by marrying same-sex couples. She has said publicly that she supports a woman's right to obtain an abortion."If I were told the set of facts in this snippet, and told that the diocese had cut off funding to her organization, I would immediately assume, "Someone complained." Unless/until we learn otherwise, that's going to be my assumption.

Note: paying into a common pool does NOT mean that you are "subsidizing" anything that is paid out of the pool. The term "subsidizing" does not refer to the fungibility of money; subsidization exists only if you are overpaying for your own services while someone else is underpaying.

The core problem of the contraception-insurance debate is too simple to need complicated moral reasoning. The bishops and those who support their position understand that. It's the other side that needs to work at justifications.Both sides realize that in a pluralistic society with a strong and meddlesome central government with a strong secular bent a compromise is needed. The opponents to the bishops' position simply surrendered far too soon.

Luke Hill 03/08/2012 - 5:44 pmNonetheless, I still have not heard a persuasive argument for why the Churchs opposition to this change in civil marriage is so different from the Churchs position on civil recognition of many other kinds of marriage (e.g., between Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, interfaith, agnostics, atheists, etc.). None of those are sacramental marriage as we Catholics understand itand yet we seem to live with them.

Might it have something to do with being fruitful and multiplying, having natural patents in the same house as the progeny, and so forth? Just a guess.

One decision by the secular government to tax the bishops would keep them quiet forever. They are certainly asking for it by politicking with donations and extremely partisan to boot.

David and Luke,I think it has to do with the natural law.

Yes, and, unfortunately at one time the magisterium interpreted "natural law" to include rights to own slaves because slaves were not fully human.So, we are back to trying to "persuade" the earlier post about the HHS decision, HV, birth control - there were some excellent documentation showing how the final decision on HV was really not based upon the merits of the question but on defending infallibility, the authority of the church, etc. Some of that documentation indicated that, even back in 1968, the committee and experts were suggesting that there were questions that needed much more investigation - one of the key questions was the meaning, understanding, and interpretation of "natural law".It is now 45 years since HV and its concept of natural law - obviously, we know much more about genetics, more about reproduction and the physical process, etc. To just knee jerk to "natural law" without considering recent medical/genetic advances weakens one's ability to persuade and appears to be a repeat of the HV errors - appealing to authority with little evidence, etc.

Is it really a matter of science, Bill? Isn't it more that society norms have changed in these ways? There is no societal restraint of the sexual instinct. Sex is perceived as consequence-free. Sexual partnerships are at-will, ad hoc. All brought to you by birth control.What is very troubling, beyond these ways adults are with one another, is the effect on our societal view of children.

Thank you for giving a name to this phenomenon, which is everywhere today: The cramping of moral reasoning. Where is it coming from? This judgmentalism against anybody who doesn't share their exact reasoning on abortion? (Does it apply to any other moral issue...besides contraception, which they now equate with abortion?) I may be slow, but I first noticed this attitutde during the 2008 presidential campaign when a prominent Catholic for Obama actually had to write a book explaining why it would be OK for a Catholic to vote for the Democrat in that campaign. As if. And then a priest denied him Communion for his trouble! And then, of course, there was that amazingly rude treatment afforded the President of the United States by prominent conservative Catholics when Notre Dame tried to honor him. Again, as if. Their cramped moral reasoning: That no one, not even a US President, who doesn't share Catholic moral reasoning on the issue of abortion is worthy of honor! That was shameful. Where does it end?

"If I were told the set of facts in this snippet, and told that the diocese had cut off funding to her organization, I would immediately assume, Someone complained. Unless/until we learn otherwise, thats going to be my assumption."Well, undoubtedly, somebody complained. They heard about her views somewhere. But the question is why is it impossible to support a good cause, help for the hungry, simply because the person directing it disagrees with you on abortion (and same-sex marriage)? Why the litmus tests for making common cause....and respecting people who disagree with you?

You can watch a news interview with the director of Fracis House here ....|tvideo|article ... in which she says she supports Planned Parenthood because of the help they provide poor women - not that she's a supporter of abortion - and that she had a pastoral reason for supporting same-sex marraige as a Methodist minister. The amount the Catholic Church contributes to Francis House is very small - about 2% of their budget. Tthe reason given by the church for defunding them is that the money comes from parishioners who wouldn't want to contribute anymore .... I think that's pretty disingenuous ...if the church allowed parishioners to choose for themselves where the money they give should go. I'd bet many of them would still want to help the homeless through Francis house. But then, of course, the church couldn't have as much to spend dooming the rights of women and gays.

I appreciate the responses to my earlier comment. I still don't find them persuasive. (E.g., plenty of opposite-sex couples get married under civil law with no intent or possibility of having children---with little or no objection from Catholic bishops. So why---other than its "newness"---the vigorous objections to civil same-sex marriage?)

I don't think there needs to be another reason besides "newness," Luke. When things come up, you deal with them. This is something that has never, ever, come up before. Marriage has always been male-female.

@Kathy (3/9, 8:29 am) Thanks for the reply. You're not saying that "newness" is a sufficient reason for Catholics to object to or to condemn something, are you?

Of course not, Luke. Your question was about what has given rise to the "vigorous objections" by the Church. The Church is often painted as the aggressor in all of these situations, but the fact is we're just responding to "the signs of the times," these ascendant structures of sin that are trying to orchestrate a societal buy-in of the most aberrant norms. When these strikes against human dignity keep appearing, the Church has to stand as itself, with its understanding of human nature, as well as its self-understanding, intact.

Kathy - your response on above exhibits a one sided view of US society. To state that birth control allows for a "consequence-free and sexual partnership at will" is a gross exaggeration. Sorry, but science & accurate social studies/trends based upon medical data are a part of any discussion in terms of natural law, artificial birth control, whether Ella is or causes abortions, etc. I linked to an article above by Rozier who works in public health. One example he illustrates is the approach to pregnancy - it is not a disease but it is a medical condition that can impact lives, families, costs, insurance costs, etc. if not properly managed (so, part of preventive care). Part of the HHS accomodation connected to the PPACA is to address the fact that pregnancy in the US is a costly affair impacting many aspects of US society. Thus, it can be the role of government to seek the common good by prudent implementation of policies that address and manage this condition. (yes, good people can disagree on the approaches but to demonize the accomodation and dismiss it because pregnancy is not a disease is misleading and game playing). Example - your last comment using phrases such as "strikes against human dignity" or "ascendant structures of sin" or "aberrant norms" are judgments and not balanced discussion of common values that require persuasion and reasoned debate to arrive at the best course to achieve the common good in a diverse/public society. In fact, to ignore the reality that pregnancy can be costly to society; that 50% of pregnancies happen to single parents which impacts society; etc. and then, using your approach which I would characterize as "just say no", ignores the "signs of the times." There are many questions and issues going on here - to simply reduce everything to birth control is the reason is naive and simplistic and does nothing to contribute to the effort to persuade. (in fact, an argument could be made about why the USCCB is not addressing single parenthood as much as they are addressing the birth control issue?)Your approach strips theology from its proper role to investigate (scientifically) to support and enhance any church pronouncements. Using your approach, theology, biblical studies, moral theology become apologetics.Again, the key is Persuasion....apologetics is not persuasion and US society rejects apologetics - that is Grant's point.

One of the "common ground" factors that we can begin with would be our common human experience of the inherent value of children. I see a real disconnect between the way children are seen in real life--on the ground, at the basic level of subsidiarity--and the way they are considered in the current debates. When you or your friends look at your children and grandchildren, I am sure that you do not see them primarily in financial terms. Of course there are expenses, but that is not what you see. You see a human being and beauty and potential. You care and love and desire to protect and nurture. Well you should, and well should they be valued as such by our societal consciousness. The difference between the HHS mandate and everyday human values could not be greater on this point of the valuation of children.

Exactly Kathy. As society moves away from natural law, some say the church should follow society. However the Church will follow the truth and truth does not change. An analogy is that while it seems like the Church has moved to the right (traditional), in fact the Church has not moved at all, objective truth and natural law have not changed, but society has moved to the left.

@Kathy (3/9, 8:50 am) Thanks again for your reply. (I'm glad "newness" is off the table.) Now we're back to civil recognition of various kinds of marriages, and what the Church's response is or should be. Again, we've got (and have had for centuries) couples getting married (civilly) every day who don't see marriage as a sacrament, and don't agree with or accept the norms for marriage that the Catholic Church sets out. And, for the most part, Catholics are okay with that, are tolerant of it.And we have numerous historical examples of societies in which same-sex marriages (or their cultural equivalents) were recognized, acknowledged and/or tolerated. We also have the Church's own experience over the centuries and across the continents of having a wide range of responses both to indigenous marriage customs, to sexuality in general and to homosexuality in particular.Given all that, it certainly seems that there are a broad range of responses Catholics can legitimately have to civil recognition of same-sex marriage. No? (Witness Bishop Malone who has, for whatever mix of reasons, decided that the diocese of Portland will respond differently to the this year's Maine ballot question than it did to the last ballot question on this issue.)

Ken,It's moved to the left, and more importantly towards an economic, utilitarian valuation of the human person. The Church's idea of the human person has much more in common with our everyday view of our children and our friends than HHS has. No one wants to be a figure on a budget sheet. No one thinks of their friends or children that way. Why should we accept this as our societal view? Certainly "because the current administration mandates it" cannot be a sufficient impetus to make us lose our human moorings entirely.

Sorry, Kathy, you are entitled to your opinion but you have no facts to support your belief that the HHS accomodation is so far from supporting children, etc.Today, John Allen was writing about a different issue but one of his bullet points summarizes well part of this debate and things such as this dismissal in California or Prof. Kaveny's post using the letter by Marshall:"Evangelical Catholicism, meaning a powerful thrust to recover an unapologetic and uncompromising form of Catholic identity, rooted in traditional markers of Catholic thought, speech and practice. The effort to foster a "thick" Catholic identity is the clear ide fixe of the church's leadership class today""To be sure, not all secularists have such a chip on their shoulders. In principle, "secularism" can simply mean church/state separation, a level playing field for both religious and nonreligious actors, and protection of minority rights. In such a milieu, religious people and groups are free to bring their values to public life just like anyone else. Yet there are currents in the West with a more fundamentalist reading of the secularist creed, which seek to muzzle public expressions of faith. To steer Western societies away from that extremist position, some heavy intellectual and political lifting will need to be done....."Also, Fr. K's quote from Richard Hofstadter about movements and cycles in American History in terms of religious extremists and movements" there is a style of mind that is far from new, and that is not necessarily right-wing. I call it the paranoid style, simply because no other word adequately evokes the sense of heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy that I have in mind. Let me finish by stating a casual observation found in some left wing places - that some pro-life folks are very extreme in protecting life until after it is born; then they disappear from the scene.

Given all that, it certainly seems that there are a broad range of responses Catholics can legitimately have to civil recognition of same-sex marriage. No?

Can have, sure. Should have - depends on your brand of Catholicism, Luke. You and Kathy seem to belong to different Catholic churches. Not much point in your arguing about things like this - nobody can win - except to take advantage of the opportunity to articulate your feelings.Just out of curiosity, Luke, where would you draw limits on who can marry? I can think of many possibilities beyond two gays or lesbians. That's not a sarcastic question - I think the answer might be instructive for many of us. Is marriage appropriately whatever the civil authorities say it is?

Sorry, Kathy, you are entitled to your opinion but you have no facts to support your belief

Wouldn't it be pleasant if we could refrain from this sort of speech?

" Wouldnt it be pleasant if we could refrain from this sort of speech? "Are you disputing the truth of his statement, or just uncomfortable with a statement with which you don't agree?

Uncomfortable with the insult, Jimmy. "You have no facts to support your beliefs" is calling the person addressed a liar or a mental incompetent.

David S. -- Basic logic translated from the Latin: Freely asserted, freely denied.

where would you draw limits on who can marryWe humans were made for love and made for freedom. And it is truth which sets us free. Freedom is necessarily dependent and contingent upon truth. Authentic love is equally dependent upon truth. Genuine love implies truth because love seeks what is good and true for the other, and the fullness of authentic love is also dynamic and open to bearing fruit. Thus, the ability to engage in something contrary to truth, as one might want to do, is not love or freedom at all.The limitation on the freedom to marry is necessarily limited by truth. To legislate or decree as a lawful marriage that which is ontologically impossible, then, would not be freedom at all because it would not be true, it would be merely a counterfeit marriage.What is the truth of the nature of marriage? What is the truth of the nature of the human person, male and female?What does the body of a male and the body of a female reveal to us with respect to the truth of their respective natures? That each is complementary of the other, and their bodies were made for joinder with each other, that is, the exclusively male part is made to marry (join with) the exclusively female part.But surely marrying (joining) the exclusively male part to the digestive tract of another male is just as good? Surely it is the functional and moral equivilent of a male-female joinder? Surely such a joining is just as fruitful and creative? Surely the digestive organ is complementary of the reproductive organ?Or maybe not.It is not human law which hinders or limits who can marry. It is the truth of reality itself that imposes those limits. These are the facts -- whatever is in Ripley's book is irrelevant.

Bender ==What you're saying just amounts to saying that homosexual love is immoral because it isn't heterosexual love. That's like saying Beethoven's music is no good because it isn't Mozart's.To establish homosexual love as *intrinsically* immoral you have to show that it is destructive of something good or prevents some good that ought to be. (REmember: the Church advises all people to marry only persons t which they are strongly attracted. Such attraction doesn't happen with gays, so they, according to current rules, shouldn't marry.) Neither you, the Church, Brett, nor several other on this blog ever get around to telling us what is intrinsically destructive or inhibiting of flourishing about homosexual love.So what does homosexual marriage destroy? Which due good does it prevent?

OOps -- "such attraction doesn't happen with gays" should have been "such attraction to persons of the opposite sex doesn't happen with gays"

I've been watching videos of young priests and laymen like Michael Voris raging and ranting against contraception, Planned Parenthood, Margaret Sanger etc. I don't like this crusading Catholicism -- we tried it in Ireland, and it flopped -- I don't see a future for it.Dialogue may be the way forward, beginning with dialogue with the majority of US Catholics, who are supposed to approve of contraception and gay marriage.

Bender and Ann, I suppose the whole thing turns on a word - "marriage". Maybe we should just give up and let the state do what it will unopposed. If two homosexuals can marry, then why not three or four or more people of various kinds in various configurations? Why not a human and a dog? Why can a person not marry himself or herself? Why not bring back polygamy - or bring on polyandry - now that the Judeo-Christian influence over society has all but vanished? "Marriage" is just a word that the state uses to define a certain tax status. The secular democratic state, value free, simply blows with the wind. It can hardly be any other way.Maybe the Church - the churches - are well advised to simply call what they're concerned with something like "Christian sacramental marriage" and get on with trying to influence people in ways in which they're still susceptible of being influenced.

Marriage is not just a word -- the Catholic Church has proclaimed the virtues and values of marriage in a mainly attractive way -- now gays and lesbians, many of them, are saying, "gee, I can practice those virtues too, thanks to my love for one other special person". Polygamy has indeed a noble biblical lineage and also flourished in traditional Asian and African cultures; Aquinas considered it compatible with Natural Law. I know of men and women who really, really love their cat(s) or their dog(s), and perhaps for carrying animals across borders they would like their relationship to enjoy civil recognition. Since I dislike cats and dogs I am not able to enter into this. I think that a human for whom a dog or cat is the supreme significant other is in a sad state.Why would someone marry themselves? It's an original idea, but sorta dotty. I don't see it catching on.Someone married the Eiffel Tower -- but not legally. I know moral theologians who urge sacramental marriage for samesex couples.

@David Smith (3/9, 3:32 pm) Thanks for the questions. First, as to feelings, I don't feel like Kathy and I "seem to belong to different Catholic churches". One of the things I've always enjoyed, as far back as I can recall, about being Catholic is the sense that the church is far bigger than just me and my friends, and people who think just like me, act just like me, believe just like me, pray just like me, and have political views just like me.Second, I don't think I'm well equipped to answer the somewhat theoretical question as to where to draw the limits on who can marry. (I suspect there are others here who are well-equipped by their intellectual training and formation, so please, jump in folks.)Not by training, but by inclination, I've read enough history to know that the Church has, over thousands of years, functioned in hundreds of societies with wildly differing understandings of marriage and what's appropriate related to marriage. At times, the Church has taken a more confrontational approach---defending its own understanding of marriage and its role in civil society, while attacking other understandings. At times, the Church has taken a more tolerant approach. Here in the US (not without extensive debate both in this country and within the global church) Catholics have generally accepted the understanding that sacramental marriage is, among other things, effectively a subset of civil marriage within the larger society. All of our sacramental marriages are recognized by the civil authorities, and have access to the rights and privileges of civil marriage in this nation. In addition, there are many (most!) civil marriages that do not meet our Catholic definition of sacramental marriage---and those marriages (of opposite-sex couples, of whatever faith or no faith) also have access to the (numerous) rights and privileges of civil marriage. Again, for the most part, we Catholics are/have been at-the-least tolerant of that.So, something like your observation @3/10, 3:08 am, is not far from what I think I'm saying. As a matter of prudential judgment (if nothing else), perhaps it's well for the Church in the United States to think of, and treat, civil same-sex marriage as being pretty similar to civil opposite-sex marriage.What limited evidence we have---it's been less than a decade since the Goodridge decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court---seems to suggest that, at least as a matter of civil law, there are many good reasons to conclude that gay and lesbian marriages have much in common with straight marriages.

Luke,I appreciate your comments. I too believe that it is possible to discuss and even disagree with others without caricaturing them.I wonder if you've considered the difference between the sex acts that are done in homosexual unions and those in heterosexual marriages. I think the Church's inability to bless homosexual unions really comes down to the sexual act itself. The question isn't whether a homosexual couple is neighborly or pleasant, etc., but whether their sexual activity accords with the natural law.

I'm glad to see a few words in favor of big tent Church -sometimes(many times?) I wonder here.Notions of marriage, family, position of women in the relatuionship have changed over time and now we are looking at the issue of gay relationships quite differently.Children are important but i haven't seen any proof that gay couples don't love and help most children brought into their families.The nub of the issue is the traditional Augustinian view that procreation is a primary goal of marriage and that every act should be open to (whatever that means beyond avoiding "artifical" interfernce).Meanwhile mature loving capacity has more and more been recognized as essential and now seen by some as really the heart of the matter.Even in my lifetime shotgun marriages, while thought to be problematic, were often supported.Arranged marriages were and in some places are still common.Woman's place was secondary to the man of the house and problems of violence were hardly given the attention that they are today (but perhaps not much in the Church.)Our understandings do move forward and just as our understnding of the physical universe has grown by leaps and bounds to cxhallenge us" so in the current times, our knowledge of persons, problems of relaionships etc. have been thrown into sharper focus than just looking back over thousands of years when much was taken for granted. )IMO some downplay the role of the social sciences as a way of not confronting these issues.)Comments then on the"natural" need some sophistication that resonates experientially.Hence the argument here will go on and on.

Since the Pauline privlege came up., canoniss created a way to make Paul;s justification of divorce acceptable long ago, despite Jesus stern insistence on the new(eschatological)?) covennat view that marriage could not be brokenSo now the whole notion of divorced/remaried ctaholics approaching the table is raised by many -quite rightly in my opinion.Paul was being pastoral in his day, but canonists are stuck in defending legalities.Somewhere in this whole discussion, the real problem of change in the Church keeps rising up -as it always has in some ways - but change is hard for many if they are deeply imvested in the notion that change is impossoible in ths or that.

"Why not a human and a dog? Why can a person not marry himself or herself? Why not bring back polygamy or bring on polyandry "David S. --As I see it, it boils down to the nature of friendship, of which marriage is the ultimate form. Marriage is (or seems to be) a union of people who love and respect each other so much that they are willing to commit their lives to the good of the other as well as to their own good. The good of their children is closely related.But people are such that they cannot focus intently on more than one thing at a time (that is just a characteristic of our consciousnesses), and so they cannot concentrate their love fully on more than one person at a time, and so they can't have more than one best friend -- with three or more involved in a triangle somebody is bound to be short-changed. Yes, many not-very-mature men would like a marriage with many wives, but the obverse is not true. Women don't want to share their husbands -- and they also don't want to have their own children sharing their father's wealth. (Selfish? Not really.) Oh, the Mormons claimed differently, but I think they've learned that there are better ways. Oh, sure, menages a' trois are still tried, but have you ever heard of one that was satisfactory to all three people? Loyalties and interests inevitably become divided because you can't give your full atttention to two people at the same time, and the full unity that characterizes a good marriage is lost. (Which, by the way, seems to be one of the reasons parenthood is so difficult -- parents must often divide attention between more than one child, and children often hate this. We even have a name for it -- sibling rivalry.) Of course, some people ask so little of life that they're willing to take whatever they can get, and end up sharing mates. Some women even tolerate adultery, but I've never known one who really accepted it. And marriage is a search for the best a person is capable of.Also, as Aristotle remarked over 2000 years ago in very different circumstances, friendship is always between equals. True, it is only in recent centuries that this aspect is being seen very clearly -- women officially, at any rate, were seen as inferior to men. But we all know that in the best romantic relationships this has never been true -- just look at the best of love poetry. It is about two people who do not look down on each other. Inequality of potentials is the reason there is no friendship with a dog or cat (at least no truly deep friendship -- you can't really tell a dog everything and expect to be fully understood. And never ask them for advice -- they'll say "Let's just go out and play" every time :-) Cats, actually have brains with highly developed afffective regions, and they seem to understand people's feelings much more easily than dogs do -- some even seem to understand people more easily than some people undeerstand each other's feelings. I'd say this is their most winning characteristic. But they are totally incapable of even loyalty, much less love of anything that doesn't contribute to their own comfort. Dogs do manage loyalty very well, but that's about ti. As to the Eiffel Tower, that way lies madness. Who would get the dog?How come this spinster is so sure of all this? Mainly because I lived with parents whose marriage was a fine one. Granted, they lucked out finding each other. Also it seems that all my gtandparents were particularly well-married. (One grandmother told me she fell in love with my grandfather at the age of 12 and never loved another man. And she was an extremely popular girl, with many admirers, including a gay one who seems to have made an exception about her.) The result was, I think, that all their children learned what a good marriage can be, and married well. I don't mean that in the sense of marrying money/status, but of finding a true love, making a committment and most of the time, though not always, putting the other first.

Arguments pro and con. Take your pick.In the end, up to Sacramento Catholics to decide if they will give financial support to their parishes and diocese.Take it out on the poor in the name of so-called "orthodoxy".Orthotoxy continues in this decision by the bishop.

I just want to point out that the Diocese and Bishop of Sacramento probably have more charitable causes they would like to support than money to do so. I highly doubt that they are taking the money which would have gone to Francis House and using it to throw parties. I'm sure its being redirected to different charities which also serve the poor.

Here's a way to look at the marriage debatemarriage = friendship + opposite sex + sexual relationship + progenygay Marriage = Friendship + same sex + sexual relationshipBoth types have an element of friendship defined as a life-long, committed, cohabitating, and monogamousMarriage has a relationship with a person of the opposite sex, who by definition thinks and acts differently helping each to be more fully human, since men and women think and act differentlyGay marriage has a relationship with someone of the same sex, who by definition cannot broaden your horizons as much since they will not think and act as differently as someone of the opposite sex.Heterosexual sex joins together complementary bodies which may or may not produce childrenHomosexual sex is shared by bodies of the same type and can never produce childrenMarriage can produce children who benefit from having a mother and a father and who also grow from the relationship with their child. Society also benefits from new humanityGay marriage can never produce children, any children they raise are deprived of one parental type, and they live under an explicit lie: you have 2 mommies or 2 daddies.So what I see, is that the only similarity between these 2 states of life is that the people involved share a deep committed friendship.

Bruce --What you say might be true if the only good that hetero couples produced were being good parents (granted a major good). But there are many other goods produced in marriage -- AND not all marriages produce ALL of them. It simply isn't true that hetero spouses themselves do not also flourish *as individuals* because of the contributions of their spouses to their lives apart from the kids. You assume that the homosexual spousal relationship is totally unlike the hetero one. Given the couples of various sorts I have known, that is not true. In the best committed relationships there are personal commitments, appreciations, sacrifices, shared enjoyments, etc., etc., that are simply not available in ordinary friendships, or at least not available to the same degree nor in such a unified way. You also assume that all gay people of their respective sexes are all alike and therefore there is no complimentarity. That is also patently false. Their differences might be *different* differences from purely sexual differences (we are getting metaphysical here :-), but still things like complementary personalities are real and valuable, just as they are in hetero marriage. And sometimes the intensification of likenesses can be a big plus. For instance, when both spouses appreciate the same music, books, or NFL teams :-) those common interests can be extremely rewarding. And in some cases they benefit the community. A trivial instance: if both garden and share plants with the neighbors. Or when two highly artistic gay men provide the understanding of their art aims that a same-sex person could not.I think your trouble is you've never *known* a solid gay couple.I would be the first to grant you that the matter of children is a huge difference. But having children is not the only way to live a meaningful life. Even the Church -- and Freud -- grant that.

Bruce,What you leave out of your marriage equations is the most important part of all: love. Basing your definition of what constitutes a marriage on sex deprives marriage of its true significance and leads to a materialist worldview, depriving both partners of their humanity and turning them into the equivalent of livestock, whose purpose is solely to reproduce.I simply don't believe that the defining characteristic of marriage is sex. (And I doubt anyone who's truly happily married would define their marriage primarily as a sexual relationship. My guess would be they'd define it by love.) Bender, All the above goes for your even more extremely genitally-fixated understanding of what constitutes a true marriage Now look, Bruce and Bender, I assume you're both from a different generation than me*, but for those of us who've grown up with openly gay friends and witnessed their loving marriages, to deny them the right to marry is nothing less than immoral.*based on the fact that you have aol e-mail accounts.

"...those of us whove grown up with openly gay friends and witnessed their loving marriages..."Matt--Not an expert, but I think the Church's teaching is that what you've witnessed is friendship, not the total gift of self, open to the transmission of life, which is reserved to marriage.

Matt, I know and have worked with many openly gay people only a few of whom I would describe as friends. Your comment reminds me of something my son said to me when I complained that he was wearing his pants too low. His response was 'Dad, people's waists are lower this generation' Of course, as an anatomical matter, that was patently false. I think your observation is heavily influenced by social convention which is quite frequently a poor indicator of morality.

Bender --Cardinal Newman said of his friend Ambrose St. John;s death, "I have ever thought no bereavement was equal to that of a husband's or a wife's, but I feel it difficult to believe that any can be greater, or any one's sorrow greater, than mine."[87] He directed that he be buried in the same grave as St. John: "I wish, with all my heart, to be buried in Fr Ambrose St John's grave and I give this as my last, my imperative will."[88]" (Wikipedia, Cardinal Newman)According to you, that was impossible.

"What you leave out of your marriage equations is the most important part of all: love. Basing your definition of what constitutes a marriage on sex deprives marriage of its true significance and leads to a materialist worldview, depriving both partners of their humanity and turning them into the equivalent of livestock, whose purpose is solely to reproduce."Yes, so many arguments on this, including the Vatican document forbidding civil recognition of same-sex unions, are based on a radical forclusion of love. Love is not mentioned because it is fatal to their argument.

"I think the Churchs teaching is that what youve witnessed is friendship, not the total gift of self, open to the transmission of life, which is reserved to marriage."Even though we are a bit long in the tooth anymore (married for 40 years), my partner and I have always been open to any transmission of life that God chose for us. And if anyone has given themselves to each other totally, after 40 years we have!And you continue to conflate marriage with matrimony. Ain't so.

I think we should be asking the question of why the agency new director finds it appropriate to speak of gay rights and or same sex marriage?Clearly his job is not that but the care of the town's homeless and mentally ill and NOT something else!Perhaps he needs to be shown the door?

"And you continue to conflate marriage with matrimony."I stand accused. What's the difference?

P.: Because there is freedom of speech in this country. And the agency director is not Catholic. Neither is the agency. By the way, she's a she.

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