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Conservative Anglicans welcome, gay Catholics not so much

Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster has ended London's Soho masses for gay and lesbian Catholics because he didn't think they should have a "special" service. So he gave the church over to the new conservative Anglican ordinariate for their special services. Go figure:

[Nichols] said after six years of the masses, it was "time for a new phase".Nichols said the original aim of this pastoral provision was to enable people with same-sex attraction to enter more fully into the life of the church, within the existing parish structures.But, he said, it was important to recognise a distinction must be made between the pastoral care of a particular group and the regular celebration of the mass as the "highest prayer of the whole church"."I am, therefore, asking the group, which has, in recent years, helped to organise the celebration of mass on two Sundays of each month at Warwick Street now to focus their effort on the provision of pastoral care," the archbishop said, adding it would not include "the organisation of a regular mass".Critics of the special services included the former Catholic Herald editor Dr William Oddie, who accused church leaders of supporting a "homosexual lifestyle". He said it was clear "beyond peradventure that those who attend the masses are nearly all what the archdiocese calls 'non-celibate gay people' who intend to continue to defy Catholic teaching".Oddie wrote in the Catholic Herald in November that the masses were "the most potentially inflammatory source of division between Rome and Westminster".Meanwhile, writing in his blog, the Daily Telegraph's religious affairs commentator, Damian Thompson, described the services as "an embarrassment; a relic of old-style gay rights campaigning that scandalised large numbers of Catholics".

The "new evangelization"?

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All persons, gay or straight, have a right to these things. What the document in question says is that homosexual persons dont have a right to sinful behavior.Jim,In other words, to guarantee the right to employment, housing, etc,, gay people must either be celibate or be deep in the closet and never found out. In other words, we must not have "gay people." We must have celibate homosexual persons. In other words, gay people who live according to their own conscience and not according to the teachings of the Catholic Church do not actually have a right to employment and housing.

"You said above that the Catholic Church should say to the gay community, We will collaborate with you to create laws and policies that protect your human and civil rights. What kind of partner to the gay community would the Catholic Church be regarding human and civil rights if it supported the right of landlords to discriminate against gay couples in the housing market?"The church would be the kind of ally for the gay community that one generally finds in political endeavors: allies who may not agree on everything, and in fact may disagree profoundly on important principles, but who can make common cause for specific issues and injustices.The church does not and never will bless same-sex sexual activity, including same-sex marriage, civil unions and same-sex cohabitation arrangements/partnerships. But there are other issues, such as violence against gay persons and workplace discrimination against gay persons, where the church can and should speak up on behalf of victims and work side by side with the gay community to enact laws and policies that protect the human rights of gay persons.

"In other words, to guarantee the right to employment, housing, etc,, gay people must either be celibate or be deep in the closet and never found out. In other words, we must not have gay people."No, that's not an accurate restatement of what I wrote, nor of what the document says.I've provided, twice already, a quote from the document you've referenced, that contradicts your first sentence. That document says, quite plainly, that all persons have a right to housing.It doesn't say that gay persons must be celibate or deep in the closet and never found out.What I take that document to be saying is that the right of all persons, including gay persons, to housing, is a right that may come into conflict with other, equally legitimate or even overriding rights. What are some examples of such conflicts? The document itself gives one example, one having nothing to do with gay persons or gay rights, but that illustrates that the right to housing is not absolute: A mentally ill person with violent tendencies doesn't have a right to housing if her being in that house endangers the safety of others. The right to safety may equal, or even outweigh, the right to housing.If one accepts, even provisionally for the sake of discussion, the notion that homosexual sexual activity is morally objectionable, then it's not difficult to think of instances in which the right to housing would come into conflict with the right to not enable immoral behavior, or the right of landlords who also are parents to protect their children from exposure to immoral behavior. What would a policy that attempted to balance both sets of rights look like? I'm not sure how it would be crafted, but perhaps it would assert the right of all persons including gay persons to not be discriminated against in housing, but perhaps it would grant exceptions for small apartment buildings and boardinghouses owned by persons with religious or moral objections to same-sex marriage, civil unions and cohabitation. Note that such a policy would say nothing at all about celibacy or staying in the closet. It does acknowledge the reality that there are people who find same-sex marriage, civil unions and cohabitation to be morally objectionable, and that such moral views also are amenable to protection under the law.

"There is no place in the Catholic Church for gay Catholics if gay is taken to mean homosexual persons who embrace their orientation and do not consider homosexual acts to be intrinsically evil."If self-accepting gays pick up this message we will see a further decimation of church membership."The way for non-celibate gay people to be accepted into the Church is to become celibate gay people, divorce themselves from the gay community, and if at all possible go back into the closet."The closet means depression and other psychological ills; and it particularly means gay men marrying women, to the mystificatioin and misery of the woman.

"If one believes a homosexual orientation is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil, and that the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder, that homosexual acts are acts of grave depravity and constitute behavior to which no one has any conceivable right, why would anyone not want to divorce themselves from the gay community and go back into the closet? The gay community is based on an acceptance of a homosexual orientation as something either neutral or good. The Catholic Church requires the rejection of a homosexual orientation as an inclination to evil. The two views simply cannot be reconciled."The Catholic Church is not totally identical with the twisted Vatican coterie.

"The Church does not want gay people (as I define themthose who embrace their orientation as something not evil) to exist". Just as in the past we did not want Jews to exist. It is time for the Church to speak up against the retrograde Vatican hatemongers.

That the Vatican thinks the closet is an ideal is shown by a remark in one Vatican document that no one would even know gays were gays if they did not draw attention to it.The Vatican discourse on gays is poisonous, and the current hysteria about gay issues among the hierarchy (in stark contrast to the faithful) is really a hysteria about their own threatened authority. Claiming the support of biology and psychology, the sef-proclaimed "experts on humanity" got it dreadfully, dreadfully wrong. To admit this is unthinkable for them. Hence the diehard entrenchment.

Jim,The Church should work against discrimination against gay people and violence against gay people, but while many individual Catholics and priests do, the leadership spends far more time worrying about the right of people to discriminate against gays that the other way around.

"I believe the Church would be comfortable with landlords refusing to rent apartments to such couples. "The Vatican would perhaps think that this is an example of "just discrimination" (and not to practice it would be seen as cooperation in evil). I think that in the past theocratic clergy would think landlords should not rent to unmarried or divorced couples either.

I think sometimes the Church feels like Charlie Brown trying to kick the football. On the one hand the gay community wants to be treated no differently than anyone else, except that, well, if they dont have a special mass theyre being discriminated against, and well, in this one instance, they dont want to Church to take its own teaching all that seriously, and...The bottom line is that the leaders of the gay community are unable to countenance the notion that the Churchs teaching could have their best interests at heart, that it could be anything other than homophobic. A mature and fruitful dialogue is not possible with those prejudices.

Ive provided, twice already, a quote from the document youve referenced, that contradicts your first sentence. That document says, quite plainly, that all persons have a right to housing.Jim,Consider for a moment how gay people might react to being put into the same category by the Catholic Church as people with contagious diseases and the mentally ill who need to be quarantined or carted away for public safety! Regarding human and civil rights legislation, first please remember that the Church is opposed to writing into law protections for gay people. But suppose the Church comes around to your way of thinking and works with gay people to legally protect their human and civil rights. What you are proposing is to write discrimination into law. You want the law to say gay people have the right to housing and employment unless landlords or employers have religious objections, in which cases gay people can be discriminated against. Those who would deny gay people jobs or housing because they believe homosexual behavior is immoral are the reason anti-discrimination laws are needed in the first place. You seem to believe that anti-discrimination laws protecting gay peoples' rights to employment or housing somehow license gays to put on immoral displays in public or in front of children. Anti-discrimination laws give no special rights to misbehave. However, anti-discrimination laws protecting gay people cannot be based on the assumption that homosexual activity, and particularly domestic partnerships or same-sex marriages are immoral! Why in the world would government set up legal arrangements for relationships it considered immoral? The Catholic Church considers people who divorce and remarry to be living in adultery. Would you have it written into law that religious landlords could refuse to rent to the divorced and remarried, or religious employers could deny jobs to the divorced and remarried?

The bottom line is that the leaders of the gay community are unable to countenance the notion that the Churchs teaching could have their best interests at heart, that it could be anything other than homophobic. A mature and fruitful dialogue is not possible with those prejudices.Mark Proska,I think many in the gay community would concede that the Church believes it has the best interests of gay people at heart, but they would also say that the Church is wrong and is doing a great deal of damage in spite of good intentions. From your viewpoint, not only is the Church not wrong, it cannot be wrong. From the point of the gay community, dialog is not possible with a group that considers itself infallible. And the Church does not want dialog with gay people. It wants gay people to stop being gay.

How does the mere presence of homosexuals in a neighborhood or particular house corrupt the morals of the children? Do the children need to be protected from even the the sight of gays? Why?And, I'll ask again for the hundreth time, just *how* does the mere existence of gay couples affect the marriages of straight people adversely? How do their practices hurt society? What is it about what they are and what they do that is destructive of other people's good lives?

"Consider for a moment how gay people might react to being put into the same category by the Catholic Church as people with contagious diseases and the mentally ill who need to be quarantined or carted away for public safety!"Yes, I considered it - that is why I took such pains to note that the example has nothing whatever to do with gay people. Nevertheless, as an example to demonstrate the rights to housing aren't without limit, it seems to work.

"The Catholic Church considers people who divorce and remarry to be living in adultery. Would you have it written into law that religious landlords could refuse to rent to the divorced and remarried"Yes, I'd be okay with that.

"How does the mere presence of homosexuals in a neighborhood or particular house corrupt the morals of the children?"Has anyone here claimed this?

"You want the law to say gay people have the right to housing and employment unless landlords or employers have religious objections, in which cases gay people can be discriminated against. Those who would deny gay people jobs or housing because they believe homosexual behavior is immoral are the reason anti-discrimination laws are needed in the first place."No, that's not an accurate description of what I suggested. I didn't suggest a policy that would allow gay people to be denied housing for being gay - in fact, I suggested something that is nearly the opposite of that. Here's what I wrote:"it would assert the right of all persons including gay persons to not be discriminated against in housing, but perhaps it would grant exceptions for small apartment buildings and boardinghouses owned by persons with religious or moral objections to same-sex marriage, civil unions and cohabitation."I trust the difference between being gay and being in a same-sex partnership are clear to you and to anyone reading this - that the two are not identical sets.It's true that, if my suggestion somehow became policy, people in same-sex marriage, civil unions and cohabitation might not be able to board in small buildings owned by people with religious objections to those arrangements. Such prospective renters would need to find places in buildings that are not small, or that are owned by people without those objections. I suppose you could call that "discrimination", but "exceptions for reasons of religious freedom" seems a more accurate term in this case. In the area I live, I'd expect that dog owners would have a more difficult time finding a place to rent than gay couples under this policy.

David N wrote: The Catholic Church considers people who divorce and remarry to be living in adultery. Would you have it written into law that religious landlords could refuse to rent to the divorced and remarriedI responded, "Yes, Id be okay with that."... and I'd add that the same provisions could apply to heterosexual cohabiting couples.FWIW, on the scale of social ills, those that fall out from heterosexual libertinism seem to me to be far, far worse than whatever badness is thought to happen from homosexual marriage. I think it's good for parents to reiterate to their children that cohabiting can have very bad outcomes, for the couple (and especially the woman), for any children that result from the union, and for the society that has to bear the burdens of the ills and suffering that result from it. And I don't object to governments supporting and reinforcing that social value. If that means that it makes it harder for couples to cohabit outside of marriage - then it does. That seems to be the point of the exercise.

Ann O. asked:How does the mere presence of homosexuals in a neighborhood or particular house corrupt the morals of the children?Jim P. replied "Has anyone here claimed this?Ann O. replies: at 9:04 David N. quotes a CDF document:"Since in the assessment of proposed legislation uppermost concern should be given to the responsibility to defend and promote family life, strict attention should be paid to the single provisions of proposed measures. How would they affect adoption or foster care? Would they protect homosexual acts, public or private? Do they confer equivalent family status on homosexual unions, for example, in respect to public housing or by entitling the homosexual partner to the privileges of employment which could include such things as family participation in the health benefits given to employees?"The CDF obviously thinks that housing should be restricted for the sake of "family life". I assume that means that if housing were *not* restricted -- if gays were allowed to rent near families -- then the consequence would be their very presence in the neighborhood would have the effect of corrupting family life, including the morals of the children.If this is not what the CDF has in mind, then what *does* the CDF have in mind? I ask for the umpteenth time: how does the presence/practice of homosexuals affect heterosexual family life deleteriously? How does it damage a heterosexual marriage? How does it damage the children's morality?

Ann: perhaps the CDF believes that homosexuality is contagious, that it is seductive, that it is what people would desire if it were not forbidden, and that once he taboo is broken everyone will rush to become homosexual.

From your viewpoint, not only is the Church not wrong, it cannot be wrong. From the point of the gay community, dialog is not possible with a group that considers itself infallible. And the Church does not want dialog with gay people. It wants gay people to stop being gay.David NickolYour first statement is factually incorrect. I believe it is entirely possible the Churchs teaching is wrong. I do, however, believe the Churchs makes a compelling case.Your second statement is misleading. The Church, as far as I am aware, has not proclaimed its teaching in this regard to be infallible. Whats more important is that its actually irrelevant whether the Church holds it to be infallible or not. The Catholic Church has made a case for its teaching based on natural law, which everyone has access to. The gay community can engage Church teaching on natural law--if they had the confidence to make an argument that dares to speak that name. It would be helpful if you could direct me to one.Your third statement is factually incorrect and comes across as in bad faith.Your fourth statement is not an argumentits an exasperated plea. It assumes that the desire defines the person, which is precisely what the Church teaches as false. It's what you need to show is true--you can't do that by assuming it's true. I have never seen a case where the argument of the gay community has not devolved into some version of, I just know it is good to act on my desires. This is an insular, Gnostic argument and I have trouble finding it compelling. Its not a dialogue at allits a monologue.

"The CDF obviously thinks that housing should be restricted for the sake of family life. I assume that means that if housing were *not* restricted if gays were allowed to rent near families then the consequence would be their very presence in the neighborhood would have the effect of corrupting family life, including the morals of the children. If this is not what the CDF has in mind, then what *does* the CDF have in mind?"Ann, I don't think the passage you're highlighting says quite what you're you're taking away from it. Here is what I think is the key snippet:"Would they protect homosexual acts, public or private? Do they confer equivalent family status on homosexual unions, for example, in respect to public housing"Note that the concerns being considered here are not the mere presence of gay persons in a building or a neighborhood; the concerns are with homosexual *acts* and homosexual *unions*. This seems to follow from the premise that the church considers homosexual acts to be sinful, and homosexual unions (which I've been describing in this discussion as same-sex marriage, same-sex civil unions, and same-sex cohabitation) as being extremely morally problematic, for a number of reasons - not least because they seem to enable homosexual acts. Any form of partnering other than valid marriage between a man and a woman is problematic in the eyes of the church.The same document explicitly states that all persons, including homosexuals, have a right to housing.

The same document explicitly states that all persons, including homosexuals, have a right to housing.Jim,First, I am somewhat in agreement with you, in that I think all anti-discrimination laws (whether concerning race, religion, sexual orientation, etc.) should exempt landlords who will be living in very close contact with their tenants. This is the case for federal law, which has the following exemptions:

owner-occupied buildings with four or fewer rental units single-family housing rented without the use of advertising or without a real estate broker, as long as the landlord owns no more than three such homes at any one time certain types of housing operated by religious organizations and private clubs that limit occupancy to their own members, and with respect to age discrimination only, housing reserved exclusively for senior citizens. There are two kinds of senior citizen housing exempted: communities where every tenant is 62 years of age or older, or 55 and older communities in which at least 80% of the occupied units must be occupied by at least one person 55 years or older.

However, I continue to read the paragraph you quote very differently than you do:

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.

If "objectively disordered external conduct" includes being in a same-sex domestic partnership, civil union, or marriagewhich I believe it does in the mind of the CDFor even reasonably discreet homosexual behavior of the same type as unmarried heterosexuals "playing the field," then gay people (according to the CDF) don't have a right to housing or employment at all, because gay people (as opposed to celibate people with a homosexual orientation) expect and deserve the right to cohabit or join in legal partnerships. The Church may not recognize the right of gay people to be sexually active without paying penalties for it, but the state does.

The same document explicitly states that all persons, including homosexuals, have a right to housing.Jim,Or to put it much more succinctly, the Church speaks of rights for homosexuals but not for gay people.

David N.--Pretty much everything you have said has been absolutely spot-on.Mark Proska--There are actually many theologians, gay and straight, who have engaged natural law arguments about homosexuality. Margaret Farely treats the topic in "Just Love" and it is a major topic (along with analysis of Thomas and Barth) in Eugene Rogers' grossly underread "Sexuality and the Christian Body" which makes (in my mind a brilliantly compelling case) for same-sex marriage entirely predicated on Christian tradition and teaching. Jean Porter's book "Nature as Reason" is not about same-sex marriage or homosexuality but gives a detailed, Thomistic presentation of natural law that allows space for it. There are more, but those are good places to start.

I believe it is entirely possible the Churchs teaching is wrong.Mark Proska,Then why not let people who disagree with the Church live according to their own consciences? Must people who are not even Catholic and who don't agree with the Church engage in debate with the Church and win in order to live according to their own beliefs? There is no universal agreement that natural law theory is a good way to look at the world, and among those who believe it is, there are many approaches to natural law. There are those who make natural law arguments that do not condemn homosexuality. There are also those who maintain that the "New Natural Law" (the major proponents of which are John Finnis and Robert George) is at bottom not natural law at all but rests on religious premises. The point, though, is that we do not expect Jews or Protestants or any other group that disagrees with the Catholic Church to engage in debate with Catholics and prove Judaism or Protestantism before they can express disagreement with the Catholic Church and live their lives according to their own beliefs and consciences. An exchange between the Catholic Church and philosophers who disagree with its natural law arguments against homosexuality would be fascinating, but could there really be a "dialog"? The Catholic position on homosexuality is imposed on Catholics by Church authority. Those within the Church who show sympathy to the gay community are removed from their ministries or silenced (Father John McNeil, Father Robert Nugent, Sister Jeannine Gramick). Even the USCCB was in effect disciplined by the Vatican for Always Our Children: A Pastoral Message To Parents Of Homosexual Children And Suggestions For Pastoral Ministers. See John Allen's account in his book Cardinal Ratzinger: The Vatican's Enforcer of the Faith.

Jim P. --On the one hand the statement says that homosexuals should not be allowed housing if they are living together, but on the other hand it says that to they have a right to housing. So should gay partners be forced to live under bridges and in caves? Granted, the current hierarchy says that homosexual acts are wrong, but how can they jump from that to saying that homosexual partners have no right to live in houses/apartments?In other words, they assert an (unjustified in some cases) necessary connection between gays living together and having gay sexual relations. Heterosexual partners share some of those practices, but the hierarchy doesn't say to restrict their access to housing.And, after months of my asking you, you still haven't said how gay partnerships by their very existence damage heterosexual marriage.

"Ann: perhaps the CDF believes that homosexuality is contagious, that it is seductive, that it is what people would desire if it were not forbidden, and that once he taboo is broken everyone will rush to become homosexual."Claire --Perhaps that's what the hierarchy, or some of it, thinks, but if so, then it is their weird thinking that requires an explanation. And Freud had one -- according to him some (not all) celibates are repressed homosexuals. Which doesn't make them either bad or good persons. But the theory does explain some of the irrationality we find in some of the bishops, does it not?

There may or may not be teachings in the RCC that need correction. But as it stands, those who are no longer in communion (or who ought not be receiving because they are in opposition to various teachings) may have to make peace with partial acceptance.Folks at the local parish have never kicked me out of the local parish when I wanted to pray there. They have never returned my money. They have never declined my help when it's time to tote children around to various functions or do grunt work decorating the church. They have never refused to catechize my child (though some churches refuse to take on the children of gay couples or divorcees). They have never refused my donations to their charity drives. These are all ways people can participate in the Church and continue to grow in their Christian faith without leaving the Church.

Ann: exactly.Jean: you know I don't agree with you on "ought not be receiving because they are in opposition to various teachings", but maybe it makes you more free: since you are able to lead a Christian life while excluding yourself from the receipting of the Eucharist, you would be able to deal with decreased availability of Mass due to priest scarcity, and are not vulnerable to clerical bad temper. By choosing to not receive, you can also stand in solidarity with those who are forbidden from receiving, in the same way that Simone Weil refused to be baptized to stand in solidarity with the unbaptized. Last year a well-respected priest reacted to my lament on decreased Mass attendance by saying that there were lots of people who had deep Christian faith and led great Christian lives yet rarely or never went to Mass. I was, and still am, perplexed by this answer. But maybe it is time to develop a theory of Christianity outside the Eucharist.

Hi, Claire:Hermits do not go to Mass. The desert ammas and abbas did not go to Mass. Attendance at Mass is not required of those holy men and women. Omnes sancti Monachi et Eremite, orate pro nobis!

For how some similar issues are being dealt with in another Church, see http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/05/world/europe/anglicans-open-a-path-to-...

Claire, I wish you would not impute to me any of those ennobling reasons for not taking communion because they are not my reasons for leaving the Table; I merely cannot and do not accept that certain things I have done (and would not significantly do differently now) as sins--the same as divorcees, actively gay people, and any number of others who may or may not still be receiving. Moreover, I was not raised in a sacramental church, did not encounter the concept until I was baptized by the Episcopalians at age 27. So it is probably true that I do not feel as shut out by not receiving as someone who had been received as a little child. Moreover, I believe that Christ finds other ways to feed souls than through the sacraments ... how else would I have found my way to Him, when I had never received them?Anway, I merely offered my previous post because I was struck by this comment in the conversation, "the 'Gays are not welcome in the Catholic Church' rallying cry is simply a petulant, puerile, nobody-loves-me rationalization."While the post strikes me as unnecessarily astringent and lacking in much empathy or charity, it is true that many of us whose actions have placed us outside the pale do sometimes choose to focus on the stern and inflexible aspects of Mother Church, and forget that she is also good and wise, and that anybody who wants to participate to some degree will be accepted. The Pope said of divorcees who continue to go to Mass without receiving that that action "is not nothing." Not sure what to make of that, but contemplating Matthew 15:21-17 may be helpful.All this is far afield from David Gibson's original post.

All this is far afield from David Gibsons original post.But after 80 comments, it's ok.

"There is no place in the Catholic Church for "Is it possible, I wonder, that a sentence that begins with that thought and those words might never end?

"On the one hand the statement says that homosexuals should not be allowed housing if they are living together, but on the other hand it says that to they have a right to housing."Before I respond, I just want to comment that the CDF doc is not the subject of the post, and while I think there is some merit in doing a deeper dive on what it is that the church teaches - or what it taught 20 years ago - regarding homosexuality, istm that the CDF doc doesn't really figure directly in this UK story. For my part, I believe I've just about run my course on this doc.Ann, regarding your statement that "homosexuals should not be allowed housing if they are living together" - I don't think the document goes that far. I think what it means by "right" in this context is that civil authorities should not promulgate civil laws that would force landlords to accept cohabiting homosexuals as tenants in spite of the landlords' moral objections to those arrangements.If my view on this is correct, then we would still conclude, I suppose, that the church's moral vision would curtail individual freedom - at least the freedom to partner as one wishes. I guess that shouldn't be news.(Referring to real people with clinical language like "cohabiting homosexuals" is off-putting. There has to be a better way to talk about this.)

It is straightforward enough, as with divorced/remarried Catholics, unmarried Catholics who live together, and Catholics who use birth control, non-celibate gay Catholics cannot receive communion. Of course they should attend mass and if they are so inclined, attend the various parish events like prayer groups and social functions. But a special mass? That seems a bit much, and so of course the bishop is correct.

What does interest me about this story is the purpose or end of Catholic outreach to the gay community - or, more broadly, to homosexuals (trying here to adopt here David N's distinction, which I think I understand). I expect that those charged with creating and sustaining these ministries generally do so out of an instinct or intuition of love and consolation toward those who frequently are hated and have suffered.My take on the motivation of the opponents of the Soho Masses is that they want these ministries to consist of support for those who are trying to live celibate lives, and don't want to settle for love and consolation if that can be construed as enabling sinful behavior.FWIW, my opinion is that love and consolation count for a lot - more than sufficient to justify a ministry.

The question, in a nutshell, is what kind of "outreach" is appropriate to those who are in dissent. Gay Catholics, using my definition of gay, are in dissent, and if they are receiving the eucharist, they are doing so illegitimately (and sacrilegiously). If the Soho Masses were being used by Catholics who were in dissent as masses for them, then the objection is obvious. The Church doesn't hold masses for dissenters who are determined to receive communion in violation of canon law. What I think is galling for many gay people is the obviously much larger number of Catholics who attend mass faithfully, without being challenged, who dissent on contraception (and other matters). Interestingly, one hears conservative Catholics complain about this, too. Why don't the bishops make a statement such as the following? "If you use contraception, you are forbidden to receive communion in this diocese. Period." The unequivocal rejection of the idea of couples in a same-sex relationship being worthy to receive communion seems like a double standard when there is toleration of the widespread (nearly universal) use of contraception.It seems to me that the only kind of outreach the Catholic Church can currently do involving gay people is the kind of outreach that aims at conversionas I said above, the kind of outreach that might be done for prostitutes. A big question for the Catholic Church (or any religion, I suppose) is how it chooses to interact with people it wishes to evangelize but will not accept into the fold until there is some kind of conversion. Of course, the question would be quite different if the Church did not consider disagreement on sexual matters of such importance that if you disagree, you place yourself outside the Church. It seems to me, in spite of the fact that some even claim that Humanae Vitae is infallible, that contraception is a matter about which if you don't get too vocal in your disagreement, you are not considered outside the Church. But homosexuality is a matter that, however privately you dissent on, you are considered outside the Church. And if you speak up, you will be disciplined or silenced.

David: liked your last paragraph so much that I copied it in the thread on the SSPX, to which it also applies.

David--I think you may go too far in saying that those who dissent on homosexuality are out of the church. I don't think even the hierarchy says this. Look at, for instance, Jeannine Gramick. She was certainly punished and they attempted to silence her, and she has rejected such attempts. She speaks out as much as she ever did, and quite publicly. She has not, however, ever been declared excommunicate, ex laetae or otherwise. She is a member of a canonically recognized religious order and, to the best of my knowledge, has not been told not to present herself for the eucharist. Doubtless, many bishops and probably Rome think that she shouldn't, but there is no sanction upon her (again to the best of my knoweldge) that requires it. The same goes for John McNeill. He was expelled from the Jesuits and from the priesthood, but not excommunicated. Doubtless, as far as the hierarchy goes, these people are now on the margins of the church, but the margin is still not outside. Clearly this is often unjust and certainly uncomfortable. But it's not simply a matter of inside/outside either.

"My take on the motivation of the opponents of the Soho Masses is that they want these ministries to consist of support for those who are trying to live celibate lives, and dont want to settle for love and consolation if that can be construed as enabling sinful behavior."Which again is predicated on the idea that all sexual behavior between two people of the same sex is sinful. A sterile face-off.

"It is straightforward enough, as with divorced/remarried Catholics, unmarried Catholics who live together, and Catholics who use birth control, non-celibate gay Catholics cannot receive communion."Did not Paul VI say that use of contraceptives should NOT be a reason for staying away from communion? Did he not talk about acts that are objectivey immoral but subjectively defensible, and about freedom of conscience? Did not Jan Visser, coauthor of Persona Humana, say that at the pastoral level stable gay couples could be tolerate or even encouraged as a lesser evil?

Catholic discussion of these issues moves in a sterile spiral. Sensible human beings have moved on, discovered how to live their lives with a modicum of freedom, dignity, love and joy. All except the retarded Catholic parents who drive their kids to suicide.

"The unequivocal rejection of the idea of couples in a same-sex relationship being worthy to receive communion seems like a double standard when there is toleration of the widespread (nearly universal) use of contraception."David N. --We are none of us "worthy" to receive Communion. Reception of Communion is in every case a pure, unearned gift, even to the greatest saints.Because many gay people are dissenters *in good conscience* that indicates to me that they should be able in good conscience to continue to receive Communion. Should Mary Mackillop not have gone to Communion? She was even officially excommunicated, but she is now recognized officially as a saint.

Thanks for the reference Joseph O'Leary; From Persona Humana: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_..."At the present time there are those who, basing themselves on observations in the psychological order, have begun to judge indulgently, and even to excuse completely, homosexual relations between certain people. This they do in opposition to the constant teaching of the Magisterium and to the moral sense of the Christian people.A distinction is drawn, and it seems with some reason, between homosexuals whose tendency comes from a false education, from a lack of normal sexual development, from habit, from bad example, or from other similar causes, and is transitory or at least not incurable; and homosexuals who are definitively such because of some kind of innate instinct or a pathological constitution judged to be incurable.In regard to this second category of subjects, some people conclude that their tendency is so natural that it justifies in their case homosexual relations within a sincere communion of life and love analogous to marriage, in so far as such homosexuals feel incapable of enduring a solitary life.In the pastoral field, these homosexuals must certainly be treated with understanding and sustained in the hope of overcoming their personal difficulties and their inability to fit into society. Their culpability will be judged with prudence. But no pastoral method can be employed which would give moral justification to these acts on the grounds that they would be consonant with the condition of such people. For according to the objective moral order, homosexual relations are acts which lack an essential and indispensable finality. In Sacred Scripture they are condemned as a serious depravity and even presented as the sad consequence of rejecting God.[18] This judgment of Scripture does not of course permit us to conclude that all those who suffer from this anomaly are personally responsible for it, but it does attest to the fact that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered and can in no case be approved of."

Ken, you do not seem to grasp the hermeneutics of the pastoral application of the text you quote. According to its co-author Jan Visser, while the acts are not approved of, the situation of a stable couple is provisionally tolerated as the lesser evil. Paul VI clarifies that objectively immoral acts can be "diminished in guilt, inculpable, or subjectively defensible" and stresses the freedom of conscience to dissent from church teaching or apply them in light of one's circumstances. The phrases "consonant with the condition" and "innate instinct" do not recur in Homosexualitatis Problema 1986 which adds the new specification that the orientation itself as distinct from acts must be seen as objectively disordered.It seems that Catholics generally have moved on since the time of these documents.

Priests following the above hermeneutics would urge gays in confessional to be faithful to their partners and refrain from playing around -- this is what I meant by "encouraging" a lesser evil.

I am annoyed by Catholic and anti-Catholic gay activists gloating over the mishap of an Illinois priest who phoned the cops to get him out of handcuffs. I think the broadcasting of his call to the cops is a breach of his human rights. It is also very dangerous in that it discourages people from phoning the cops if there are embarrassing circumstances, e. g. theft or blackmail from a sexual partner; health or even life-threatening effects of gadgets used for private sexual purposes such as stimulants, vibrators, ropes (deaths by misadventure from such items are not unknown). I do not advocate any sexual misbehavior, but I do plead for more understanding and tolerance and less pharisaical hypocrisy when it comes to throwing the first stone.

Andy B--Thank you for your suggestions.

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About the Author

David Gibson is a national reporter for Religion News Service and author of The Coming Catholic Church (HarperOne) and The Rule of Benedict (HarperOne). He blogs at dotCommonweal.