The Truth about Marriage

The Court and the New Consensus

There have been few changes in our moral, sexual, and legal culture more precipitous or, in some ways, more dramatic than the normalization of homosexuality and the growing acceptance of same-sex marriage. Within the lifetime of many Americans, homosexuality has gone from being a universally condemned vice, often only whispered about, to being an accepted and often celebrated sexual preference or identity. These attitudinal changes are especially pronounced between the generations, with younger Americans broadly supportive of the political demands of their gay and lesbian friends while their parents and grandparents continue to find these developments disorienting if not threatening to once-unquestioned values underpinning the family and traditional gender roles.

Commonweal has expressed skepticism and urged caution regarding the legalization of same-sex marriage, while at the same time defending the rights and dignity of homosexual persons both in society and in the church. In the aftermath of the chaos and destruction, both personal and social, wrought by the so-called sexual revolution, the rush to change the fundamental heterosexual basis of marriage seemed imprudent. With the institution of marriage already in crisis, such an unprecedented social experiment appeared to pose risks—especially to the already precarious place of children within modern marriage—that were all but impossible to measure. With divorce and out-of-wedlock birthrates soaring, tampering with the inherited understanding of marriage seemed like only one more instance of “enlightened” hubris. Advocates cast same-sex marriage as the extension of basic rights to a once excluded group, but it is likely also a reflection of—and a further step toward—an essentially privatized and libertarian moral culture.

None of these worries has been assuaged in any definitive way. There is simply not yet enough social-scientific data to say one way or the other how children raised in same-sex marriages fare, although there is plenty of anecdotal evidence suggesting that same-sex couples are as devoted to their children as their heterosexual neighbors. Will severing the connection marriage has historically forged between sex, procreation, and family formation further undermine the expectations and value our culture places on the institution? No one knows the answer to that question either, but it seems we are about to find out. Clearly, the societal consensus about what it means to treat heterosexuals and homosexuals equally has changed, and it comes as little surprise that the Supreme Court has followed that new consensus by removing recently erected impediments to same-sex marriage.

In United States v. Windsor, the Court ruled that in defining marriage as between one man and one woman the Defense of Marriage Act violated the “equal liberty” rights of same-sex couples. In Hollingsworth v. Perry, the Court let stand a lower court’s decision to strike down California’s Proposition 8, which prohibited same-sex marriage. For the time being, other state laws restricting marriage to heterosexual couples will stay on the books, but the DOMA ruling makes it unlikely those laws will survive legal challenges, which are already being brought in several states.

Ideally, divisive moral and social questions on which the Constitution is ostensibly silent are best left to democratic deliberation in the states, where those on the losing end of the argument would at least have the consolation of knowing that their views got a hearing from their fellow citizens. Those pressing for “marriage equality,” however, are not likely to leave the question up to majority vote. Most of the cultural and legal momentum now clearly favors same-sex marriage, and in truth it is hard not to be moved by the evident joy of same-sex couples over the Court’s decisions. At the same time, Americans who oppose these developments, most of whom do so for religious reasons, have cause for concern.

In the DOMA decision, Justice Anthony Kennedy characterized Congress’s effort to limit marriage to heterosexual couples as a “desire to harm,” dismissing the reasonable if speculative concerns of many Americans as mere bigotry (see "Worth Worrying About?" and "Right Decision, Wrong Reason"). Kennedy’s indictment is shortsighted, and exposes those with serious reservations about the emerging consensus to possible legal action for violating antidiscrimination laws. As Commonweal has editorialized in the past (“Protecting Religious Freedom”), champions of equal rights should support the broadest possible protections for dissenting religious communities and their associated agencies. It is one thing for the courts to rule that there is no constitutional justification for denying civil marriage to same-sex couples; it is quite another thing for the courts to force religious institutions to recognize such marriages in their employment and benefits agreements. Under our constitutional system, the state must give the widest possible berth to religious practice, and it is imperative that dissenting religious communities not be driven from the public square over this issue. As many of the most eloquent proponents of same-sex marriage acknowledge, Americans will need time to adjust to this change. Traditional religious communities continue to do indispensable work in caring for the needy, educating the young, and calling the larger society to account on important questions like war, torture, abortion, euthanasia, and economic justice. American democracy cannot afford to deprive itself of those moral and social resources, yet that is what could happen if the law comes to equate institutional resistance to the recognition of same-sex marriage with racial discrimination.

In this regard, it is no secret that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has been among the most outspoken opponents of same-sex marriage. The conference’s advocacy, which has often cast the debate in hyperbolic terms, has persuaded few and offended many. With typical alarm, the bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage issued a statement calling the Court’s decisions “a tragic day for marriage and our nation,” and a “profound injustice to the American people.” The statement went on to use variations on the phrase “the truth of marriage” seven times in two brief paragraphs, as though mere incantation were a substitute for persuasion. A more dexterous rhetorical strategy is needed if the church’s witness to the “truth” about marriage is not to be written off as blind prejudice. The bishops might begin by emphasizing that the church strongly defends the dignity of same-sex oriented people, a fact most Americans remain ignorant of. The bishops might also acknowledge the good of faithful, life-long same-sex unions, as well as the progress made in the public recognition of the manifold achievements and contributions of gays and lesbians. It is also time for the church to open its eyes to the selfless work same-sex couples do in raising children, many of whom would otherwise go uncared for and unloved.

Surely, whatever its legitimate reservations about the legalization of same-sex marriage, it is time for the church to begin to come to terms with this challenging new cultural and pastoral reality, a reality that calls for far more than overwrought predictions of moral decline and social calamity. Same-sex marriage may prove to be a mistake or a failed and eventually abandoned experiment, but it is not an existential threat to the church or to Western Civilization. It is now time to listen and learn from those the church has long silenced or ignored. Who knows, those being listened to might even return the compliment.

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The marriage licence bureau is always in the basement of city hall.the office is also  along side with offices that issue  permits for electrical plugs, new water heaters, kitchen sinks, parking permits and tickets etc.. Wise mature people don't get too excited about city hall permits,  especially who has them or doesn't...  it's the special interest groups who care the most.. . . 

Two comments: First, what will Francis's recent comment about not judging gay priests mean for the debate about gay marriage?  Second, and the more to the point of this piece--I found interesting the point, if I understood it correctly, that gay marriage could indeed be an imposition on religious freedom because the court would be "forc[ing] religion institutions to recognize such marriages in their employment and benefits agreements."  But how does that not already go on without gay marriage?  For example, a male and female who get married in a civil ceremony would presumably still receive the same benefits as other couples who married sacramentally.  Is that an imposition on religious freedom as well?  Does that force an organization who may not recognize the original marriage to now recognize something just because the state does?  Another example is a heterosexual married couple who gets divorced, and the employee gets remarried.  The benefits now shift to the new spouse.  Assuming there's been no annulment of the original marriage, has this also been an imposition on the religious institution, who, presumably, would view that original marriage as still in effect?

At a time when a monolithic sectarian (nee libertarian, aka "conservative") orthodoxy is intent on rolling back the Civil Rights Act, reversing a long tradition of openness to immigration, and conjuring the right to personal lethal force under the rubric of "stand your ground," this statement seems particularly curious:

"American democracy cannot afford to deprive itself of those moral and social resources, yet that is what could happen if the law comes to equate institutional resistance to the recognition of same-sex marriage with racial discrimination."

Add to this incongruity the protracted unwillingness of the Bishops to take full responsiblity for the lack of moral and withholding of social resources from victims of juvenile sexual abuse by clergy and one is left to wonder how a person of faith is to take such conjectures of doom seriously.

If, as it has with the rights and opportunities for women in church service, the US Catholic hierarchy continues to resist from a bastion of pre-modern selective judgment then it is difficult to see what is being defended by those so ill-equipped to lead where considerably more fundamental justice issues callout the challenge.

American democracy cannot afford to deprive itself of those moral and social resources, yet that is what could happen if the law comes to equate institutional resistance to the recognition of same-sex marriage with racial discrimination. - See more at: http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/truth-about-marriage#comment-form

American democracy cannot afford to deprive itself of those moral and social resources, yet that is what could happen if the law comes to equate institutional resistance to the recognition of same-sex marriage with racial discrimination. - See more at: http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/truth-about-marriage#comment-form

American democracy cannot afford to deprive itself of those moral and social resources, yet that is what could happen if the law comes to equate institutional resistance to the recognition of same-sex marriage with racial discrimination. - See more at: http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/truth-about-marriage#comment-form

Bravo to the Editors for this most insightful and truthful essay. With the recent comment by Pope Francis, that "who am I to judge them", perhaps the Church will recognize (as the editors said) faithful, life-long and fruitful civil unions, as well as the selfless and loving work same-sex couples do in raising children, many of whom would have gone uncared for and unloved.

 

 

Joseph Incandella -- thanks for those two very valuable and most important comments about recognizing for employment and benefits, the non-employee spouse of same sex civil marriages. 

It would be hypocritical for a Catholic organization (directed by mandate by the hierarchy) to deny employment benefits to non-employee spouses of same sex civil marriages based on religious beliefs (e.g., they are not married according to the Church and their sexual relations are considered immoral), but grant such benefits to the spouses of divorced and remarried Catholic employees who were remarried civilly (e.g., according to the Church they are committing adultery and their remarriages are not recognized); or to baptized Catholics who marry civilly but not in a Catholic Church (e.g., those Catholics that remain Catholic in name only but are spiritual but not religious). 

 

 

I never cease to be amazed that the RCC has survived quite handily in European and Latin American countries in which the institution of marriage is, first and foremost, a civil institution.  That state executes the contract between the parties and thereafter imparts the civil rights, benefits and responsibilities to those parties.  Religious organizations are not required to offer rituals and blessings to any people for whom they choose not to.  The United States is heading in this same direction and unless religious institutions agree to cooperate, they should be removed from the civil marriage process.

People who work for governmental institutions are hired to perform the duties and responsibilities of the jobs they occupy.  If their consciences prevent them from executing those functions for some people, then they can either have someone else performing the same function to do so for those they cosider to be  objectionable people or find another line of work.

Catholic employers do not have to recognize any same-sex marriages to any greater or lesser extent than they do of those other individuals who are not sacramentally married; who are in successor marriages, post-divorce; or who have been married in states under conditions that may not be normally recognized in one’s state of employment, i.e., minimum marriageable ages.

The Catholics in the pews appear to be ahead of the Commonweal editors and church hierarchy on this.  Support for gay marriage has increased in the United States in recent years, and it's actually higher among Catholics than it is among Americans overall.

A majority of Catholics, 54 percent, now support gay marriage, compared to 47 percent of all Americans, according to a new Quinnipiac poll (http://www.quinnipiac.edu/institutes-and-centers/polling-institute/national/release-detail?ReleaseID=1863.

The poll also found that more Hispanics, Catholic or otherwise, support same-sex marriage than any other demographic. Sixty-three percent of self-identified Hispanics are in favor of gay marriage, compared to just 32 percent of blacks and 48 percent of whites.

It's not the first time in recent history that Quinnipiac has found more support than not for gay marriage among Catholics. A poll in December 2012 of white Catholics found that 49 percent favored gay marriage and 43 percent opposed it (http://www.quinnipiac.edu/institutes-and-centers/polling-institute/national/release-detail?ReleaseID=1820.  This latest poll surveyed total Catholics, not just whites, and found a higher level of support than among whites only.

I was disheartened to read the reasoning of the Commonweal editors for their stand against same-sex marriage. Thre is no connection between legalization of same-sex marriage and the decline of marriage, the divorce rates among heterosexual couples, the number of children born out of wedlock, the number of children in institutions and foster care, the terrible abuse of children by heterosexual parents, the Church's refusal to recognize the remarriage of women who had been abused or abandoned by previous spouses, th echurch's refusal to recognize th echilren born to remaied divorced parents -- the list goes on.

These problems in traditional marriages ware in no way connected marriage betwee two gay couples.

The Court recognized the fundamental human right of association and sought to remove the stigma imposed by some religious or bigoted persons on children raised by gay couples. Some states still prevent the adoption of children by both gay parents allowing only one to have a legal relationship to the child. Gay parents are now free to arrange the adoption of the child by both gay parents insuring the federal rights of inheritance and social security benefits to the child in case of the death of the single gay parent who had previously been the only one allowed to adopt.

Both gay married partners can now have inheritance rights, the right to visit the dying spouse in the hospital and other precious legal rights.

It is unfortunate that the editors, like the hierarchy, are introducing the red herring of religious liberty. No church is forced to perform any rite or religious ceremony to recognize the marriage of a gay couple. And if the church wishes to discriminate in their social services, then it is best that they do not expect citizens of different religious or non-religious orientation to subsidize their discrimination.

The editors believe that fundamental rights of equality should be subject to the vote of citizens in each state. No one would believe that even today in the deep South would marriages between different "racial" partners be accepted as legal.

The editorial is unworthy of the thinking lay people who over decades have expected an enlightened, common-sense and decent response to social issues. Gay people have their right to religious liberty and freedom of conscience in the civil sphere.

This article is ridiculous, false.  First, the article presupposes this world over the Church.  Church teaches on marriage are not subject to popular will, evolving societal standards, or any secular court ruling.  The USCCB position, or any other group putting out a statement, either teaches Church teaching or not.  If not, that position is outside the Catholic Church.  That the article positions future acceptability of homosexual social unions on a secular justification is telling.

 

Second the article is false in its presentation of reality and ethics.  The acceptability of homosexual “marriages” can also be viewed from the standpoint of reason and science.

 

Homosexuality is a defect.  This is true whether viewed on an individual basis or on a species foundation.  An extreme disconnect exists when the desire for sexual fulfillment (or ‘giving’) is not natural to the body.  The anatomy of a man is for a woman.  Same sex coupling is illogical.  The deficiency in reason is particularly apparent when humanity is viewed as biotic community.  Homosexuality is a defect in propagation of the species.  It is counter to a species evolutionary success.

 

Social history, social ‘science’, is not supportive of homosexual marriage either.  There have been successful cultures that tolerated homosexual acts.  There has not been a successful culture that embraced homosexual unions.  Helen, not Hector, launched a thousand ships.

 

Homosexual unions are unreasonable from a scientific standpoint.  For the Christian; reason and science are not the basis of truth.  Yet Truth cannot run counter to reason or science.  That would be deceit.  Of course, the prior sentence requires a humble respect for the extreme human fallibility.

 

If the union of same sexes is to be embraced by the Church, what is the basis?  What basis can then be used for the prohibition of other un-natural unions?  Brother and sister or brother and brother are un-acceptable on what grounds?  Polygamy is natural and has been very successful from a social science perspective.  Why prohibit a loving group?  Will religious doctrine be relative to popular whim?

 

The Church’s teaching on the sacrament of marriage, based in faith and charity, illuminates the logic of biology.  Charity also defines what may ‘grow’ from reason.  Eugenics, a logical outgrowth of evolutionary biology, is rejected by the Church.  So too is hatred towards a homosexual.

 

The following excerpts from this thoughtful and far-ranging editorial on same sex marriage and the possible impact on our society seem most important:

“There have been few changes in our moral, sexual, and legal culture more precipitous or, in some ways, more dramatic than the normalization of homosexuality and the growing acceptance of same-sex marriage. Within the lifetime of many Americans, homosexuality has gone from being a universally condemned vice, often only whispered about, to being an accepted and often celebrated sexual preference or identity. These attitudinal changes are especially pronounced between the generations, with younger Americans broadly supportive of the political demands of their gay and lesbian friends while their parents and grandparents continue to find these developments disorienting if not threatening to once-unquestioned values underpinning the family and traditional gender roles….

 

“Commonweal has expressed skepticism and urged caution regarding the legalization of same-sex marriage, while at the same time defending the rights and dignity of homosexual persons both in society and in the church. In the aftermath of the chaos and destruction, both personal and social, wrought by the so-called sexual revolution, the rush to change the fundamental heterosexual basis of marriage seemed imprudent. With the institution of marriage already in crisis, such an unprecedented social experiment appeared to pose risks—especially to the already precarious place of children within modern marriage—that were all but impossible to measure. With divorce and out-of-wedlock birthrates soaring, tampering with the inherited understanding of marriage seemed like only one more instance of “enlightened” hubris. Advocates cast same-sex marriage as the extension of basic rights to a once excluded group, but it is likely also a reflection of—and a further step toward—an essentially privatized and libertarian moral culture.

“None of these worries has been assuaged in any definitive way. ...”

It is this very precipitivness nature of the "gay movments" gains over the last forty years that should give us pause. Now, in the latest gain, we simply don't know how such a fundamental change in the meaning of marriage, families and child-raising will mean for the cohesion, peace and stablity of society. So, why go so far, so fast? The speed is literally frightening. (And any backlash might be even more frightening.)

We are dispensing within a few short years with millenia of wisdom regarding the nature of marriage and the meaning of homosexuality in our society. This is not a prejudcial observation; but, one, I trust, of prudence. I pray we slow down; absorb the changes already made; evaluate them; then move on deliberately and carefully. I also suspect there will be no such slowdown; but, I still wish and pray for it.

 

 

 

 

Please, get real, who's being forced, who's being denied. Before legalization? After lehgalization"

When the world goes wrong, it proves rather that the Church is right. The Church is justified, not because her children do not sin, but because they do.”

__G K Chesterton

Initially this was a pretty fair article,  until the "bad bishops" section.

We are certainly in agreement that  the cultural mores have changed quickly and in favor of same sex marriage, even among American Catholics.  But then, years of are own spiritually reckless lives and disrespect for marriage are the cause, no fault divorce and artificial contraception being two of the biggest reasons. 

My biggest surprise of your article is that you are surprised by the American Catholic Bishops.  Did you really expect that the Cattholic Church was going to "get with the secular culture" and cave on one of  if not the most imporatant 2000 year old church dogma on marriage?

Do you not understand it's the job of the chruch to be right when when the world is wrong?  Even if you disagree with the Catholic Faith, it would be more than reasonable to at least agree to their right to speak out against a major dogma.  For the record, that is their job. The fact that most of you are probably Catholic and don't undertstand the problem is another matter for another time. 

To address a few of your issues, let's start with "dignity."  The church (and catechism), has always taught that every human life is entitled to dignity, regardless of sexual orientation and or inside or out of the womb.  Pope Francis just confimed that teaching.

As for raising children, be it in a SSM or a Civil Union, we don't need 20 more years and 200 studies to know that raising kids in a active homosexual environment is spiritual suicide, in addition to the obvious consequences that every kid needs and wants a mother and father. 

The "truth" of marriage is that it is between a man and a women.  You can throw any label you want on anything , but two married persons of the same sex  is not "marriage."  And speaking of truth, love can only coincide with truth, consequently, the only real love is in accordance with the truth of Christ.  Of course, the secular folks will disagree, but I would then ask them on what their "standard" is based upon for dignity and equality.  Unless God is the standard, it's all relative in our moral relative world.

The really over the top concern is "achievements."  What?  What does a person's sexual orientation have to do with achievements?  After all of these years of women fighting to be more "equal," now it appears that we are being asked to go backwards to make people with same sex attraction, more important.  Not only does it not make any sense, it's just plain stupid.  Our achievements have absolutely nothing to do with anything expect our hard work to earn them.  Furthermore, one of the things that makes our achievements even more note worthy are the obstacles overcome in achieving them.  I don't know about you, but I've yet to meet anyone in all of my years of life who has been totally devoid of obstacles.

Lastly, the threat of moral and social decline is beyond real.  We are already living it.

In conclusion, the bishops are only doing their job (s).  If anyone needs to "come to terms" with anything, every Catholic who doesn't see or understand the  the consequences and sinfulness of active gay sex would be a very good place to start.

  The reality it's the faithful Catholics who love the most.  Real love is always keeping the best interest at heart of those whom we love, not our personal agendas.  Faithful Catholics want nothing more than the salvation of all souls, of everyone.  To confirm anyone in their sins, regardless of how counter cultural and spiritually dangerous  it is, is anything  but love.

 

 

 

Yes indeed, Karl, we need a better God, 'cause this one sure gummed up creation when he included gay  people. What a klutz!

I'd just get out of this whole stinkin' universe if I knew the way.

Ah John P, not good.  God doesn't make mistakes.  I can sum it up for you in a one line from Pope John Paul II:

 

In the encounter with Christ, every man discovers the mystery of his own life.

 

Dare to know Christ, intimately, subsequently, you will know your own mystery.

 

 

Commonweal editors:  Advocates cast same-sex marriage as the extension of basic rights to a once excluded group, but it is likely also a reflection of—and a further step toward—an essentially privatized and libertarian moral culture. - See more at: http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/truth-about-marriage#comment-form

Ummmm - did it ever occur to you that the gay rights movement of the last 40 years is about a group of people claiming their dignity and leading more open, honest, dignified lives?   Does it say nothing to you that the major gay rights battles have been about marriage, about service in the military?  Are these the aspirations of the depraved?

And for all the pap about supporting the dignity of gays and lesbians, what exactly are you proposing as the alternative to marriage?  What would you have in place for those same-sex couples you praise for their selfless work raising children?  Do you not see how empty that praise is?

The Patricias of the world would no doubt be happy to go back to a world where gays and lesbians had the decency to kill themselves, or go into the clergy and pray for a vocation, or abandon themselves to the underworld and isolate from family.  And how much has straight society itself suffered from the old system?  How many men held back from emotional intimacy with their sons or friends or other family members because of ideas about manhood that in part rejected anything that could be considered "sissy"?  How many people didn't pursue interests or even careers because they might be perceived as homosexual?

If where we find ourselves now is too precipitous a change, exactly where should we be?  I wonder how many parents of happy same-sex couples really wish their child had found a Courage meeting and was in effect living the life of a recovering addict?  It would be interesting to hear from parents of gay or lesbian children who are in happy, thriving relationships.

Editors --

Excellent editorial!

In the good old days of the Church's ascendency in Franco Spain, the head of the "Holy Office" (they of the Inquisition), Cardinal Ottoviani (who literally suffered one blind eye), stated that Jews in Spain had no legal right to open synagogues since error has no rights. Pope Pius XII in an address to Italian jurors stated that error has no rights but people in error do have rights and hence Jews should be alowed to open public synagogues. If the Church keeps insisting that God made a mistake in creating gay people as gay, they must nevertheless, according to the reasoning of Pope Pius XII, afford them all legal rights despite the Church's belief that their orientation is an error (on God's part).

The editors encapsulated the weakness of the USCCB modus operandi on the issue and got to the heart of the matter with this: “The statement (by the USCCB) went on to use variations on the phrase ‘the truth of marriage’…as though mere incantation were a substitute for persuasion.”

 

That is why the bishops have provided little on no illumination regarding the issue (and very few other issue with the exception of Catholic social teaching). Their ability to persuade is not their forte, and it has not been their forte since John Paul II started appointing bishops noted more for their opposition to birth control, defense of a celibate priesthood, and a thinly disguised misogyny (that opposes the ordination of women to the priesthood) than for their theological acumen.

 

If this entity (USCCB) happened to be a law firm engaged in defense work, few, if any, would engage them to provide a defense in a court of law. They would likely be bankrupt very quickly.

Another example of their ineptness to use anything more than incantation to make their case has been their “religious liberty” crusade.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hi Georgoe:

 

Can you point out to me where in the teachings of the Catholic Faith teaches that God made an "error?"  The church refers to a "disorder" which is a in no way the same as God made a mistake.  In point of fact, it has never been conclusively determined that homosexuality is even an inborn trait. (see article link at the end)

As for PPXII and the Jews, it's a non-sequitur to compare sexual sin with anothers' right to practice their faith.  Furthermore, if PPXII is your role model, know that he too would be in line with the faithful American Bishops.

That said, of course we all have "rights," along with our free-will.  Along with those rights also comes conscience.  To quote John Henry Newman,  "Conscience has rights because it has duties."

 

Back to the central topic of the bishops being "out of touch," some might find the below link helpful ("Bishop approved).

 

http://www.catholic.com/tracts/homosexuality

 

(Hollingsworth is misspelled in the editorial.)

Finally the church seems to be broadening its view beyond homosexuality per se, looking at relationships.  Certainly consensual committed relationships between adults of relatively equal social status are more moral than a series of one night stands, or a superior using status to coerce an inferior into having sex -- whatever the persons' sexual orientation. This of course applies to adults sexually abusing children. 

Whenever an interaction is I-It rather than I-Thou, this is no longer moral, no longer following the Gospel, the love Jesus spoke of.  I suggest a reading or re-reading of Martin Buber's classic, "I and Thou," the older 1937 English translation by Ronald Gregor Smith; it's more poetic and powerful than the later, "I and You" translation.  The big problem -- within and outside the church -- is people engaging in I-It relationships.  This includes pornography and corporations regarding workers as a commodity.  Sexual orientation is a lesser concern.   

To refer to sexual orientation as "disordered" without the knowledge of its evolution seems to me to be subjectively disordered.  It also appears to create a state of distress within the mind of the observer associated with the one being observed and identified as disordered.  This then becomes the basis of the relationship which is not the expression of love, rather, this distress is the seed of violence between the observer and the observed.  The cry for justice by those who are prejudged is a cry against the violence created by the seed of distress  when one's worldview is shaken by the unknown.  Dogmatic beliefs are attempts to create "order" when one encounters the subjective interpretation of "disorder".  

Our society needs considerable moral suasion, as not only are workers a commodity, corporations are persons and money is speech.  The church mutes its moral voice if it gets bogged down in lesser concerns rather than addressing these major concerns. 

Ron how exactly has homosexuality "evolved?"  I hope you are not referring to merely secular cultural acceptance. 

From listen to many of you, I think there is a problem in the understanding of authentic freedom.  We all want to be free, but none of us can ever possible be free in union with sin.

Just as there can be no authenic truth outside of love, it's also impossible to have true freedom outside of truth.  This is much of what the Catholic Church is trying to teach.  For all who doubt me, especially if you are one of 80% of Americans addicted to porn or even hetersexual sinful sex, how "free" you are  in your 'freedom' ("license"), to participate in it? 

This is directly from church teaching.

As for the church getting bogged down in "lesser concerns," what ultimately matters more than eternal salvation, which is exactly what is at stake.  It's also the responsibility of every Catholic Bishop to make that know to all the souls entrusted to his care.  What any of us do with that information is of course our free will, but they have a right and an obligation to teach it. 

Patricia, I am only referring to the evolution of sexual identity and preference. 

The objectifying of one person by another is THE I-It problem the church has inadequately addressed.  This is, of course, the sexual abuse of children by priests.  Until this problem is better tended to, why waste time worrying about an I-Thou relationship between two same-sex persons?  If the church doesn't want to marry such persons, it doesn't have to.  But the state can marry them if it wants to. 

Again, why waste time on this issue when there is much work to do in fostering more I-Thou relationships within the church?  To not do this work is to ignore the Gospel teachings and letters of Paul and James. It is to miss the point of our religion: love.       

Agree, Jim. 

-------

(Thanks, Editors, for correcting the spelling.)

 

 

Jim I don't know what planet you are living on, but the Catholic Church is the now the safest place in the universe for kids.  The only thing left hanging is more discipline for some of the abusing priests who are still alive. If only our schools and homes could offer kids the protection the CC now does.  Yes, it was horrible, but it has for the most part been resolved, especially that kids are safer than ever. 

Actually, Ross Douthart in the NYT has a great piece today specifically on that subject.

Why you think the church can only handle one sinner or crisis at a time is beyond me and certainly not even logical.  The church exists to teach the gospels and to teach all necessary for the salvation of souls, as well as making reparations for ours.  All sin matters, period, but as the Pope Francis recently pointed out, even Peter t was not only forgiven but made to be the first pope. 

It's always very telling when the only argument for big church issues is the sex abuse crisis.  As I often say, it was the Mother Load for every dissenting catholic that either dosn't know the faith or doesn't want to know it.

 

Off topic:

As for spelling checks, it's disappointing that an edit function wasn't included in the new format.  I apologize for my many typos.  I have a habit of typing very fast, and most of the time not proofing.

 

I found this editorial to be somewhat illogical.  It seemed to equate things that are happening with gay marriage as if they were" dependent variables."  The idea that somehow divorce and out of wedlock births are soaring, thus we need to ban gay marriage is a little strange, to say the least.  Those things have been "soaring" for 2 or 3 decades.  I can't for the life of me figure out what gay marriage has to do with either of those facts, unless you want to argue that it is just the latest in a long line of breakdowns in traditional societal relationships. 

On the question of religious freedom I am equally stumped. There is a general principal, I think, that when the Church, or any Church for that matter, is acting in a general business rleationship it has to follow the law.  When it hires an employee, for example, that employee is generally covered by generally applicable employment law.  The Church can't pay its employees less than minimum wage, nor can it have them work in dangerous occupations without complying with OSHA.  It can't not pay social security and medicare taxes.  Providing health insurance would seem to fall into this catagorey.  If an employee is married legally, not sacrementally, then one would expect that the Church would offer the same benefits it offers any legally married person in its employ.  I don't get how that imposes any restrictions on religous freedom any more than requiring payment of FICA taxes.  If the State comes into the Church and demands that Fr. O'Malley provide a Catholic wedding to Chuck and Bob, that is a very different situation.  But nothing like that is happening or is likely to happen. 

To me the Church has done an awful job of making its case, if indeed it has a case to be made.  simply stating that homosexuality is "disordered" without defending that proposition may have been acceptable in an earlier century. But the parish priest is no longer the most educated man in the village.  It certainly has not made the case that providing the legal framework for 2 people to decide who has certian rights to such thing as property and legal decision-making in cases of health is wrong.

 

There just is no case against gay marriage, which is why the church has made such an awful mess of trying to make one.

 

If 2 men or 2 women have the human qualities needed to tie the knot, and have not been totally demoralized by smug catholic homophobia, then they are contributing to a culture of marital responsibility and fidelity, not destroying it. Those who admire and love their gay and lesbian partnered friends see this, the church doesn't, yet.

Homosexuality was not known in OT times as we know it today. During those times everyone was believed to be heterosexual. Hence a homosexual act was considered an abomination because it was against the order of nature for heterosexuals. Today we know that homosexuality is a natural orientation, a condition that people are born with and not something the person chooses. The homosexual orientation is an inversion of the heterosexual orientation. Today the Church believes that homosexuality is not immoral. However, the Church teaches that the choice to engage in homosexual acts is intrinsically disordered and immoral. This means that homosexuals must practice a lifetime of sexual abstinence, despite the fact that lifetime sexual abstinence, as well as celibacy, is a gift from God given to the very few. In order to work, lifetime sexual abstience must be voluntarily chosen, not imposed on individuals by authority. This seems to be an impractical and unreasonable requirement because not everyone is called to practice complete sexual abstinence, or celibacy. Nor does the Church teach that God grants homosexuals (3.5% of the population are gay and lesbian) the grace and infused virtue necessary to live such a life. For homosexuals, both heterosexual acts and sexual abstinence are unnatural acts. 

 

From OT times to the 15th century, the male seed was believed to hold all the essence of the human person and to spill this seed on the ground, or in a place not suited for procreation, was considered quasi-homicide. Thus, a homosexual act was quasi-homicide as well and unnatural (against the natural law). This fact seems to be minimized by the Church in the formulation of its teachings.

 

The Sodom example, and the Lot story, is important for understanding Scripture. There is no textual evidence that the angry mob in the Lot story were homosexuals. The logical conclusion is that they were all heterosexual men who were freely choosing an unnatural act (gang rape). While the male rape by heterosexuals is condemned in the text, it is not an unambiguous condemnation of a just and loving homosexual act of men with a homosexual orientation. Homosexuality is one of three natural human orientations (e.g., homosexuality, heterosexuality and bi-sexuality). These natural human orientations were not known in NT times because of ignorance.

 

Todd Salzman in his book 'Sexual Ethics' makes clear, Magisterial teaching says that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered for the following reasons:

a. they are contrary to the natural law, the principles of which are reflected in human nature itself;

b. they close the sexual act to the gift of life; and,

c. they do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity.

 

As to "a" above, the essential order of nature must be respected as a promotion of man's dignity. However, the Church does not recognize homosexuality as an essential order of nature.

 

Salzman also says "No one is arguing that homosexual activity is moral because it is natural for those with a homosexual orientation, for that would treat natural facts as moral justification. To be moral, any sexual act, whether homosexual or heterosexual, must be not only natural but also just, loving and in accord with holistic complementarity (sexual, personal and biological). Holistic complementarity includes "orientation", personal, and biological complementarity, and the integration and manifestation of all three in just, loving, committed sexual acts (in a committed marital relationship) that facilitate a person's ability to love God, neighbor, and self in a more profound and holy way." 

 

The Church condemns homosexual acts because they close the sexual act to the gift of life. This is contradicted in principle when the Church says that marital acts of infertile couples or menopausal women are not immoral. Nor are sexual acts immoral if they are objectively non-procreative by intention, end and choice as when couples deliberately restrict marital acts to infertile times to avoid pregnancy. In these cases, the unitive and procreative dimensions of the marital act are separated.

 

 

 

Ronald King:  well said.  Enjoy this as well: 

http://theweek.com/article/index/228541/how-marriage-has-changed-over-ce...

 

Your editorial "The Truth about Marriage" [30 July] is a profound disappointment. You're straddling all the wrong fences.

Over the centuries the hierarchy has accrued and reserved for itself alone the gracious gifts of the Spirit to the whole community.  In various ways the entire church is called to teach and sanctify.  It is the restricted use of the term magisterium that imperils the integrity of the religious community, not the imagined catastrophes caused by publicly licensed agencies "forced" to extend health-insurance benefits to the family of a same-sex couple.

The Spirit moves in the whole world, not only among the Catholic hierarchy.  Our church has a rich theology.  It would have been more sensible for your editors to urge the bishops to mine the treasures found in our sacramental theology.  Christ is our definitive revelation and sacrament, and, by extension, so are the People of God.  He did not leave us seven magic things.  It took many centuries for the present sacrament of matrimony to evolve.  Surely this evolution has not abruptly stopped.  The church will eventually recognize that other relationships within itself also reflect the love of Christ and bring grace to the world.  The teachings of theologians and the sense of the faithful are important indicators in this regard.

Am I misreading your thoughts about discrimination, or has Commonweal, too, nosed its way to the trough to feast on the garbage shoveled there by the bishops?  However well-meaning your intentions, your quotation marks around "marriage equality" and a thought like "Same-sex marriage may prove to be a mistake of a failed and eventually abandoned experiment..." are dismaying.

As a student at a Catholic university in a 1955 Senior religion class, I learned for the first time (!) that it was the Church's official position that "Procreation is the primary end of marriage." I objected, on no grounds other than my intuitive sense of the centrality of relationship to marriage. Subsequently in the course of my marriage, I evolved through the stages from the rhythm method of controlling conception (it didn't work on three successive occasions), through the process of accepting the relevance and rightness of human intervention through artificial means. In the meantime, the bishops at Vatican II charged with responsility for addressing this issue presented a report strongly urging a change in Catholic policy, which was suppressed by Paul VI. I was more influenced by the committee of bishops whose report I read and approved of.

It is my view that the historic roots of the prohibitions against contraception are the same as the prohibition of masturbation (I believe that Pope Paul also believed that to be the case, if I remember correctly). And, I believe that the historic driver from ancient times had two components: creating certainty concerning who is the legitamate father of all children, which necessitated a woman's being a virgin at the time of marriage, and the corrollary protection of the property rights of the family. Land was generally transmitted to the legitimate children in various cultures, according to the local customs.

In the 20th century the historic issues refenced above became moot. DNA evidence now can confirm legitimacy, and preservation of the rights of heirs occurs through sophisticated legal processes.

Consequently, I see no need to sequester the term "marriage" along the traditional gender lines (even though I went through the same initial process as referred to in this article of wishing that the gay community could be satisfied with civil unions). To paraphrase the Scholastic terminology, I consider the primary end of marriage to be relationship. Even Catholic thinkers today honor the concept of bonding of husband and wife as a legitimate and honorable aspect of sexuality.

Jim McDonald

Los Angeles

I appreciate the insights of this editorial on gay marriage, even though more cautious than I would be., and the tangle of religious freedom will always be with us as a work in progress. From my experience of long term committed couples of the same sex, I have come to realize that the main sexual organ, the seat of love, emotion, and commitment, is the brain, not the sexual organs that differentiate man and woman. With this realization, a lot of things fall into place, especially if one is persuaded that same-sex orientation is innate, rather than a learned behavior.Transgendering people also fit within this paradigm in their own unique way. As we are discovering, biology is not necessarily destiny. We  have so much to learn yet about human sexuality. The "others" are helping us to make these discoveries.

Fr. Ken Smits, Capuchin

No worries, Patricia @1:09 pm. Your typos are not a problem. I almost wish there were more of them.

Fr, Ken,
It is this very precipitous nature of the "gay movements" gains over the last forty years that should give us pause. Now, in the latest gain, we simply don't know how such a fundamental change in the meaning of marriage, families and child-raising will mean for the cohesion, peace and stability of society. So, why go so far, so fast? The speed is literally frightening. (And any backlash might be even more frightening.)

We are dispensing within a few short years with millenia of wisdom regarding the nature of marriage and the meaning of homosexuality in our society. This is not a prejudicial observation; but, one, I trust, of prudence. I pray we slow down; absorb the changes already made; evaluate them; then move on deliberately and carefully. I also suspect there will be no such slowdown; but, I still wish and pray for it.

I do not question your personal encounters with gay couples and the positives that they have engendered. I have gay couple friends whom I love and admire for many reasons. However, we surely do not know enough about how changing the definition of marriage will have on our culture, let alone, if it occurs, allowing gay couple adoptions on the same level as heterosexual will have on the children adopted. There are many other areas in which we are ignorant, or at least confused. I fear changes of this magnitude made so quickly by society will not come out well. Can we not slow down a decade or two, at least, until more studies can be made and more reflection taken?

This editorial reminds me of those National Review articles expressing doubt about the feasibility of racial integration and urging blacks to let whites lead.

In twenty years you will be ashamed to have written it.

why waste time worrying about an I-Thou relationship between two same-sex persons?

 

Because these relationships by their very nature are I - It relationships.  Consent can never make immoral actions moral.  While it is certainly true that a lack of consent is a moral determinant, the corollary about consent is false.  The idea that consent is an element of moral behavior is a fundamental error of our society. 

 

Wayne Sheriden,

I think the truth is that it is marriage that is changing.  What was a lifetime commitment is no longer seen that way.  What was seen only 20 year ago by most as a necessary step before having children is simply not seen as any such requirement today.  I think that this is a too little studied development, but one which will have profoundly greater impacts on society than a few gay marriages.  In one sense, the idea that gay couple want to get married is almost quaint when one looks at what is actually happening to the institution in the heterosexual community.  Average age of marriage is now 27 for women and 29 for men compared to 23 and 26 in 1990.  Almost half of Americans over the age of 20 are unmarried, something that has not happened before.  28% of adults over 18 have never married, compared to about 19% two decades ago.  I think in many ways it is this change, tha tmarriage is neither the "preferred state" not the dominat state in society that is what has really shaken people.  The fear that an already shakey institution will now be burdened even more is going on beneath the surface of this debate,I think. 

Consent can never make immoral actions moral.

If Mary has a box of chocolates and Johnny takes one without asking her, he's stealing, and that's an immoral action. If he asks, "May I have a chocolate, Mary"? and she says, "Yes," and he then takes one, it's still immoral.

Life just got a little bit harder. Or...

 

I'm sorry -- the editors sound a lot like the white moderates Dr. King responded to in Letter to a Birmingham Jail.  Lets's move slow, prudence, yes we recognize your dignity, but we cannot move at the pace of change you want.

King wrote to white moderates:

I have just received a letter from a white brother in Texas. He writes: "All Christians know that the colored people will receive equal rights eventually, but it is possible that you are in too great a religious hurry. It has taken Christianity almost two thousand years to accomplish what it has. The teachings of Christ take time to come to earth." Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely irrational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills.

There are ills to be cured.  Time alone will not cure them.  Adjustments don't just happen -- they have to be made to happen.   Basic civil rights of gay people are still being denied. 

If I read this editorial correctly, the people who continue to suffer because their spouse is the same sex are supposed to be prudent and allow spouses to be deported while we wait for adjustment?  Children they raised from birth should be taken away because a spouse dies while others adjust? The woman in the picture accompanying this article should lose a home or life savings so others can adjust?  The caution and prudence the editors advise would perpetuate horribly unjust burdens on gay families, of course very different from the oppression Dr. King fought, but it is oppression nonetheless. 

Jack, to compare SSM to the civil right's movement is not only ignorant, but insulting to alll who lived, and suffered,  under Jim Crow Laws.  As a Christian, I'm quite certain, along with  Dr. King's neice, Alveda King, that he would agree. 

Here's Alveda King in her own words.

There simply is no logical comparison between race, and gender.  The race of a person has absolutely nothing to do with "the content of his/her character," unlike the sex of a person haivng everything to do with what nature (and God), intended. 

While I and any reasonable, and certainly all faihtful Judeo/Christians (a group which interestingly never once denied interracial marriages), would treat any person of any sexual orientation with equal digntity including legal rights between them, are not bigots because we fail to acknowledge two people of the same sex seeking marriage as good for them, their children, or society. 

Furthermore, and if you want to throw in the race card, which ever weak argument always does, those pushing the gay marriage bandwagon are far worse than even  the elite white Redeemers after the post civil war Reconstructionist effort. 

It's simply astonishing to me that after 6000 years of every culture on the planet defining marriage as being between opposite sexes, we the people of our time, the Godless enlighgted,sages that we are, have finally gotten it right.  Imagine!

Must be those Holiday Inns.

I'd say Martin Luther King's *wife* trumps Martin Luther King's niece.

Thanks Jim.  That was interesting.

Well,  Coretta King was wrong Jim, and called out so by a plethora of Black American Pastors. 

Look no further than the majority of the Ronald Reagan Family, especially Ron Jr. compared to President Reagan.  Sometimes apples really do fall far from the tree, especially on issues that take extraordinary moral courage in our always needing to be liked culture.

Perhaps Coretta Scott King was simply like you, Patricia:  brave enough to speak the truth as her conscience saw it  in spite of voices to the contrary.

Well Jim, not if that truth was based on the same truth that her husband followed, Jesus Christ.

Interesting that if Coretta King was so on board with the "injustice equals injustice everywhere" mantra, she never, at least to my knowledge (someone can correct me if I'm wrong), spoke out against abortion.

I wasn't disagreeing with you that C King supported same sex marriage, only that she was wrong.

On a similar note, perhaps even a better example than the Reagans, is Laura and George Bush.  While Laura Bush had the class to not speak her personal view while George was still in office, she wasted little time afterwards in letting us know that she supports both gay marriage and abortion.

http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/laura-bush-supports-gay-marriage-abortion/story?id=10629213

As I said earlier, not all apples fall close to the tree.  Thank God at least for Alveda King who is also in the pro life movement.

 

 

 

Patricia,  God wired us to be loved and that we will be judged as we judge others.  Expressing prejudice or ignorance is not moral courage, especially in a society that protects free speech.  Putting one's life on the line and giving up everything for those less fortunate is moral courage.

Ron I'm not arguing that you don't have the right under the freedom of free speech to voice your opinion on gay marriage.  In my right to free speech, I'm arguing that gay sex is sinful, harmful to society, unnatural, and like all sin, against the teachings of Jesus Christ. 

Consequently, to embarce sinful behavior, of any kind, unto others and or a society, is objectively sinful in and of itself.  Shame on the actions of Coretta King for not having the moral courage of her late husband and or niece Alveda.

 

 

 

Patricia,

Where, ever, does Jesus say even a single word about gay sex?  If you look at his answers to the question "what must I do to be saved?" He is nothing if not consistent.  Love God.  Love your neighbor as yourself.  And he doesn't separate the two great commandments.  Again ever.  It is we who make rules and regulations to define "good Caholics" and "bad Catholics." He says love your neighbor, even i fyour neighbor is a Samaritan, a "bad Jew" in the context of the times.  He says when I was hungry or homeless or naked or an outcast and you put out your hand, you took a step toward saving us both.  We don't really like that though, so we say if you're not a good Catholic, or you're gay or you're not a "good Catholic" we don't have to help you...you're a sinner,  though those were the people he ate with and spoke to and cured and forgave.  It has always been interesting to me that when Jesus performed healings, he also forgave sins.  Nobody asked him to forgive sins, though. He just did.  They asked for sight, or to walk or to have their children back, or to be saved from death by stoning.  I can't remember a single miracle story, though perhaps I missed one, where the subject comes to Jesus and says, "forgive my sins." He simply does it.  Maybe we should be more like that.  When he was asked, "Rabbi, Teach us to pray," he said "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive others"  Not as we forgive other who ask our forgiveness, or as we forgive others who are worthy somehow of our forgiveness, or who have repented and earned forgiveness.  Maybe we should be more like that.  Instead of judging people who may or may not have any control over who they love,how they love.  Maybe we should just love them.  Maybe we don't judge the person who had an abortion, call her a sinner, a murderer.  Maybe we just forgive and love.  I've known people who have been thorugh that.  Some are haunted to this day.  Some it doesn't bother.  Personally,I don't know, probbably can never know all the circumstances, so I don't judge.  At least I try not to.  I have friends and relatives who are gay.  And married.  Again, I see how they love each other. I saw the pain some went though getting to the where they are, too.  In one case being rejected by family for many years, though thankfully now back together. But finally happy and complete in the arms of someone she loves and who loves her back.   To borrow a line from Pope Francis, Who am I to judge?  Who are you to judge?  They are our neighbors just as are heterosexual couples, and celebate priests and bishops.  Enough of my soapbox. 

Well, one more thing. I don't know that Corretta Scott King needs me to defend her. her life speaks for itself. But I will say that while there are many whose moral courage can be questioned, I would not put her among them. 

 

Patricia:  I hope that you are not a mother because, if you are and have followed the church's admonition to be fruitful and multiply, then you are a major cause of male homosexuality: 

 http://www.medicaldaily.com/articles/10287/20120613/homosexuality-gene-mother-reproduction-evolution.htm#XcGBJuOfXIMigbJp.99

Male homosexuality is inborn and may be triggered by a gene carried by mothers, new findings suggest.

Evolutionarily speaking, homosexuality as a trait would not last because it discourages reproductive sex with women and therefore procreation.

However a new study, published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1743-6109.2012.02785.x/abst...), found a correlation between gay men and their mothers and maternal aunts, who are prone to have significantly more children compared to the maternal relatives of straight men.

Researchers led by Andrea Camperio Ciani, from the University of Padova in Italy, say that the findings of the link between homosexuality and female fertility strongly support the "balancing selection hypothesis," which suggests that a gene which causes homosexuality also leads to high fecundity or reproduction among their female relatives.

The team noted that the "gay man gene" may not get passed down directly, but instead survive through the generations through future generations making their male inheritors gay.

 

 

Patricia,

You said in sarcasm " It's simply astonishing to me that after 6000 years of every culture on the planet defining marriage as being between opposite sexes, we the people of our time, the Godless enlighgted,sages that we are, have finally gotten it right.  Imagine! 

There were many Church teaching proclaimed as truth for centuries by the RCC but were eventually reformed such as: slavery (only condemned in its entirety in 1891 by Pope Leo), usury, freedom of religion, the lack of the right to silence and the torture of heretics. To wit, the Church as well as individuals can err by ignorance, a distorted reason, a misunderstanding or an exaggerated fear of change.  This does not mean that same-sex marriage per se will be entirely reformed by the RCC, but the condemation of human sexual acts in a faithful, committed, loving and life-long same-sex civil marriage may carry a different moral meaning than sexual acts outside of a civil or church marriage. I refer you to my previous posting for a deeper philosophical and theological argument.

 

 

Patricia wrote:

Jack, to compare SSM to the civil right's movement is not only ignorant, but insulting to alll who lived, and suffered,  under Jim Crow Laws.  As a Christian, I'm quite certain, along with  Dr. King's neice, Alveda King, that he would agree.

Why would comparing the gay civil rights movement to the African-American civil rights movement be ignorant and insulting?  I could see why equating the two may insult some -- but simple comparisions (which note the real differences).  How is that insulting or ignorant? I was careful to say that the oppression King fought against was very different, but maybe you did not read that?

It is silly to try to put words into Dr. King's mouth on subjects he did opine on.  I do know, however, he worked closely with several gay men and knew they were gay -- Bayard Rustin, for one.  He was the brains behind the Montgomery Bus Boycott.  The 1963 March on Washington would not have happened without this gay man whom King trusted and respected.

 

 

Thanks to all for the interesting discussion, especially those I agree with.  LOL.  The argument concerning religious freedom cuts both ways.  There may be legitimate concerns about the impact on some groups when SSM is legalized.  At the same time, there seems to be little concern on the part of opponents to SSM for those individuals whose religious freedom is already compromised by not legalizing SSM.  Many Christians [including 60% of Catholics] and other religious groups support SSM, but the denial of their religious freedom does not seem to be a concern.  This issue has been long touted as a part of the "culture war."  The problem with doing so is that in wars there are winners and losers.  Long fought battles do not lead to concerns about the losers "rights."  No one is going to force the RCC to marry gay couples.  Success in protecting legitimate concerns is more likely to be won by compromise rather than battle.  

The Editors express concern about heterosexual marriage as a reason for going slowly on SSM.  The argument is not persuasive.  It's akin to saying that, until every obese person gets down to the proper BMI, we should not feed the hungry.  What do heterosexual marital problems have to do with SSM?  If heterosexual marriage is such an issue, shouldn't you be calling for a moritorium on that?  To the small extent that gays are having children out of wedlock, SSM would solve that problem.  Gay couples are having children with or without SSM.  Isn't the issue whether they would do better if their parents were married and if their marriages were considered legitimate?  Are gays going to do better at marriage than heterosexuals?  Probably not.  Why?  Because they are broken and flawed just like we all are.  But that's the point, they are just like everyone else.  They aren't "queer" or twisted heterosexuals.  

I will say that the Editors have tried to steer a course which takes into account both sides and I applaud them for that.  I'm not sure when SSM will be legal throughout the US, but it will be.  They are correct in urging the church to come to grips with that.  

Jim Dunn you asked me an often asked question:  Where does Jesus say anything about gay sex?  The short answer is, you appear to not be fully understanding the teachings of Christ, making the mistake of many and reducing Jesus to a "soup kitchen lovin' hippie who just wants to get along, or something.  This link by the prolific and holy Msg. Charles Pope of DC can answer your quesiton in complete detail.   Here's an excerpt:

“Surely,” the thinking goes, “this Jesus would affirm and rejoice over two Gay people getting “married.”" It is as if this were all Jesus was or said, “Love…Do unto others”. Never mind that he had some pretty high standards when it came to sexuality (Matt 5:27-30; Matt 15:19; Mk 10:11; Rev 22:15; Rev 21:8) Never mind that he told his apostles he had other things to teach them and would send his Holy Spirit, and never mind that His Holy Spirit inspired the Epistles writers like Paul to speak clearly in the ancient Biblical tradition about the sinfulness of homosexual activity, fornication, and adultery [2] “Never mind all that,” says the modern world, and our President, “I chose the Jesus who said only, ‘God is love, and be kind to one another.’”

As for Pope Francis and the "out of context" "who am I to judge," the transcript has finally been released.  Again, quite different taken in full context, and from the Catechism partly written by E Pope Benedict.

Michael B you asked me to consider the "errors of the Catholic Chruch," with the assumption that  the Catholic Church teaching on gay marriage might well also be found to have been "in error."  Well, the church simply can't error, period.  If and when it ever does, it would simply not be the Catholic Church that Jesus founded, and promised to not only always protect and guide via the perfection of the Holy Spiirt, but would also be with us until the end of time, even prevailing over the "gates of hell."    Of course, that is not to be confused with the ability of all men, even popes at times, to error, albeit a pope never has, never will, and can't, by the protection of the Holy Spiirt, error in any teachings on faith and morals. To go into each issue you addressed is beyond the scope of this blog.  I suggest you go catholic.com, type in your issue, and you will be easily be provided with thoughtful answers by Catholic Answers Staff Apologists.

That said Michael, two of your issues are quite paradoxical to the subject matter, usury and slavery.  Usury is as much about using each other for sexual pleasure as it about money.  And slavery, as much  about us being enslaved to our sinful passions than the sinful ownership of humans as slaves.

And Jack, I wasn't the one who initially brought up MLK, nor am I trying to "put words into his mouth."  From all accounts he was a courageous Christain man, one who unlikely would have comprised his beliefs and supported gay marriage. 

As for his working with gay and or HIV people, what do you think many of the Catholics around the world do?  The number one care taker of HIV patients, many shunned by their familes, are the Catholic Religioius.  I just met a nun who spent 20 years working with them.

Lastly FWIW, I love gay people, and did so far before it was fashionable.  I have gay friends, gay relatives, and gay business associates.  If I had to list the most significant people in my life, the list would certainly include someone with SSA.  The fact that I would never support or attend a gay wedding, even though most of you don't understand it,  is Christian Love. 

At the risk of sounding "preachy" for all who are defensive against me, I swear to you, the answer is not gay marriage, it's Jesus Christ, especially through the mass and the  sacraments of the Catholic Church.  In reality, whatever our problem, be it the "haunting of our aboritons" or the enslavement of our sinful sexuality, we are all "the women at the well," the ones to whom Jesus saya, "I have a better way."  Trust me, I have both lived and experienced in others, the glory of that "better way," the one where only the Truth can both heal us and set us free.  We might make mistakes, but God doesn't, He only mercyfully forgives them, if we allow Him. 

JPII had it right, "In the encounter with Christ, we understand the mystery of our own lives."

 

 

It is narcissistic selfishness, not the secular government's recognition of same-sex spousal unions, that poses the greatest threat to the stability of the traditional heterosexual marriage.

Patricia -- I agree with one of your points, namely that Christ promised that "His Church" would not be lead into error. However, "His Church" is not solely the Pope and the Roman Curia. It is an all inclusive term meaning the laity, theologians, priests, bishops, and popes. Popes and ecumenical councils have erred. Read the history of usury and you see that two papal bulls and three ecumenical councils taught that usury was divine law and immoral. It was the laity and theologians, in disagreement, that helped to reform this teaching. Other teachings proclaimed as truth were: slavery (unjust slavery was condemend, but not so-called just slavery, until slavery per se was condemned in its entireity in 1891 by Pope Leo); the lack of religious freedom, the torture of heretics and the lack of the right to silence were also taught for centuries as truth, but were eventually reformed. 

As for same-sex marriage, I only offered some contemporary theological thoughts for reflection. This is a complex topic and this blog is not the proper forum for a lengthly discussion. As to your reference to Catholic Answers, I prefer to be guided by my two theological mentors, other theologians (both traditionalists and revisionists), my continuing education involving to date more than 75 book on theology that help me understand both the underlying priniciples for Church teachings and other legitimate philosophical and theological arguments, my parish priest, frequent prayer, frequenting the sacraments of reconciliation and Euharistic reception, reflection, and the Holy Spirit. You can disagree and remain a faithful Catholic who loves God and neighbor and His Church.

Your analogy of slavery and usury is not far from the truth when people are fixated on utilitarianism and not love. Nevertheless, John Paull II beleived that unless there is a total self-giving and openness to procreation under all circumstances, and in every act of coitus, spouses are expressing a false, evil and destructive love. He believed that natural family planning (NFP) was God's procreative plan. No one knows God's procreative plan with moral certainty and we should not make NFP a moral absolute based on symbolic speculation. We also must balance assertions with existential reality when we find no evidence whatsoever that NFP couples treat each other as loving subjects, while couples that use artificial birth control have a utilitarian attitude and a diabolical love grounded in concupiscence.

 

 

 

 

Michael I appreiciate your debate, but this thread is about gay marriage, not slavery, usury, and contraception.

You are simply  misguided in your thinking (and or sources).  The fact remains, that the Catholic Church can't , never did, and never will err in faith and morals.   Collectively, the theologicans with the Pope comprise the Magesterium of the Catholic Church, infallible on the treachings of faith and morals, which certainly include slavery and usury.  The magesterial experts, led by the Holy Spirit, collectively know every necessary nuance and  historical  significance.  FWI, Catholic Answers is based 100% on the offical teachings of the Church.  If  and when any of us go beyond/outside those magesterial teachings,  as in trying to be good under under our own versionor theologian as you seem to imply, then it becomes heretical Pelegianism.

In brief,  usury in terms of money was totally differnet centuries ago then it is now in modern times.  As for slavery, you couldn't be more wrong.  Slavery was condemened by over at least 10 popes or more before Pope Leo's XIII well known encyclical.  In fact, the teaching was so strong, it even made it's way into the US Constitution. 

To  wrap this up back into the original subject matter of gay marriage,  magine  the difference in American History had the US just listened to the teachings of the Catholic Church (in the Constitution) from day one on slavery..  We wouldn't even have had  a civil rights issue of which to compare same sex marriage. 

Furthermore, if only  the  US Catholics would have been  faithful to the 1900 year dogmatic teaching against artificial birth control and divorce, there would still be plenty of Americans (Catholics of course), living out strong marrages, devoid of divorce and cheap sex, both major factors in the "pleasure sex only" marriages that now include gay marriage along with the rest of America, save for the remaining minority remnant.

Lastly, every person in the past 2000 years who has bet against the fallability of the  Catholic Church Teachings (again not to be consfused with many  sinful membera) has lost, self included. 

And far worse than losing a bet, will be a culture that accepts gay marriage as "normal,  justified, and most of all, loving.  

 

Michael B just to be clear, I'm certainly not accusing you of heretical Palegianism.  I have no idea of the debpts of you reasoning or of your heart.   Had I written it better, would have said, "puts one into the danger of heretical Palegianism.

Also, It's up to you what if anything of which you chose to agree.  Just know that  that "my points" are not my own, but based on the revealed teachings of Jesus Christ, subsequently, the immutable teachings of the Catholic Church, the "keeper and enforcer"  of those teachings.

Patricia -- debating with you is like debating with the magisterium. In their opinion, the book is closed to debate on same sex marriage, contraception, women priests, and the sacrament of reconciliation and Eucharistic reception for the divorced and remarried (hopefully, Pope Francis will change this teaching). That is why there is profound disagreement among priests, the laity, theologians and bishops over certain teachings. The disagreement has divided our Church and we live in a crisis of truth. 

A few points, for I do not want to debate with you at lenght since this blog is not the place for it.

While some popes have condemned "unjust slavery", most considered just slavery perfectly moral. I correct your ignorance. As early as the 1866, Pius IX and his Holy Office issued proclaimations endorsing the morality of slavery. Consider the following:

“Slavery itself, considered as such in its essential nature, is not at all contrary to the natural and divine law, and there can be several just titles of slavery and these are referred to by approved theologians and commentators of the sacred canons.... It is not contrary to the natural and divine law for a slave to be sold, bought, exchanged or given”. 
Pius IX (Instruction 20 June 1866 AD). J.F.MAXWELL, ‘The Development of Catholic Doctrine Concerning Slavery’, World Jurist11 (1969-70) pp.306-307.

Thus, your attempt to imagine what history would be like if the U.S. just listened to the teachings of the RCC from day one on slavery...is absurd and admits to a certain misunderstanding, even an ignorance of the history of Church teachings. As for usury, the Church has never explained how this teaching as explicitly revealed in Scripture and proclaimed by 2 popes and 3 ecumenical councils "as Divine Law", was not the case. Clearly, the teaching was wrong and it was responsibly reformed without addressing this issue.

Lastly, there has not be one prominent widely accepted study that concluded that the increase in contraception causes the increase in divorce, the increase in spousal abuse, or the increase in abortion. Nor is there any evidence whatsoever that Catholics who have children and want no more for good reasons and practice artificial birth control are having sex for pleasure devoid of true marital love (or as JP II asserted, they are practicing a false, evil and destructive love).

Even Pius XII exempted couples from their procreative obligations in marriage for good reasons (1951 Address to the Midwives). Somehow, periodic continence or natural family planning (NFP) suddenly became the only licit birth control method and God's procreative plan. What the Church fails to recognize and adequately answer is the fact that this method separates the unitive and procreative dimensions of the marital act (HV 12) because couples are deliberately and intentionally performing the physical acts of measuing basil temperature and cervical mucus and plotting them on a calendar in order to determine infertile times and so that sexual intercourse can be limited to those times rendering the marital act non-procreative. In other words, they are not merely abstaining. Both NFP and contraceptive couples have the same end/goal and intention of preventing   sexual intercourse in marriage from resulting in conception. Either NPF and contraception violate HV or they do not.

As for gay marriage, I believe this issue is highly complex but I do believe there is a difference between sex between heterosexuals and homosexuals outside of a loving, committed, faithful, and long term relationship, and sex within such a loving relationship (e.g., a civil or church marriage). Time will tell how this Church's teaching might change.

I pray for compassion, respect, dignity and inclusion of people with a same-sex orientation that want to love God and neighbor and be a member of the RCC. It is perplexing to me that people with a same sex attraction must practice lifetime sexual abstinence. At least, heterosexuals have something called "marriage" where their natural passions can be responsibly practiced. Lifetime sexual abstinence is a gift from God given to the very few. It must be voluntarily chosen, not imposed upon people from authority. It is an excessive burden and unreasonable to require lifetime sexual abstinence for a person with a same sex orientation as a absolute means without remainder for their salvation.

We can disagree and remain faithful Catholics. I make no presumption here, but when we both get to heaven we will finally know the truth.

 

 

Since this thread is still going, let me state one way where I think the comparison between gay rights and civil rights for African Americans is different.   African American children suffered economically, socially and political from the effects of the discrimination from society at large, but they had no reason to believe their parents or their churches would reject them.

African American children suffered economically, socially and political from the effects of the discrimination from society at large, but they had no reason to believe their parents or their churches would reject them.

 

Huh?  Never mind that the crux of the "rejection" of gay marraige (not to be misunderstood of gay people) is firstly their rejection of the teachings of Christ and disrespect for those of us who do value, respect it, and try to live and shape our lives witihin it. 

 

Michael B with you I simply digress.  Either you are Catholic and believe that the Magesterium is the inspired teaching authority of the church or you are not.   I have no desire to engage into debates outside of church teachings (or off topic as much as I can help it). 

The only thing I don't understand is why people like you insist on being called Catholic when you have nothing but disdain against its teaching authority. There are  countless Protestant Churches that march to your drum. 

Patricia,

I respect your opinion but disagree with it based on facts and legitimate philosophical and theological reasons. It is your right to think and believe in the way you do. I don't disparage your thinking or your opinion. However, I object to your irresponsible assertion that I have distain for Church authority. Shame on you.

I disagree with "some" teachings and this is based on much study and deep reflection. I love God and neighbor and I am a faithful Catholic, despite your excessively orthodox opinion.

You can't understand how someone who disgrees with a Church teaching based on his/her informed conscience can call themselves Catholic. Well, it was in disagreement that many of the teachings of the Church, claimed as truth, were eventually reformed.

You have a classicist view of the world. I don't, and so does most of the Church of Christ. In your view the truth has already been proclaimed, taught, and is universal and irreformable. I believe that the world and our growing knowledge of Scripture, tradition, the world, human experience, reason, as well as philosophy, theology, anthropology, et al, is constantly changing and this bring us to a better understanding of truth. I respectfully responded to your erroneous misunderstandings, yet you ignore them.

I will pray for you. 

 

 

Patricia,

As to your question "how can people who disagree with certain Church teachings call themselves Catholic"? Note the following.

 

According to the last two major LA Times U.S. priests surveys in 1994 and 2002 (with a 37% response rate and a 95% confidence level), note the percentage of priests who believe it is seldom or never a sin:

a. 19% to engage in homosexual behavior. 18% of younger priests ordained less than 21 years had the same belief.
b. 43 % to use condoms as a protection against AIDS. 38% of younger priests ordained less than 21 years had the same belief.
c. 40% to use artificial methods of birth control for married couples. 31% of younger priests ordained less than 21 years had the same belief.
d. 42% to masturbate. 39% of younger priests ordained less than 21 years had the same belief.

> 58% believe that Catholics can disagree with some teachings and be faithful. 57% of younger priests ordained less than 21 years had the same opinion.

MY POINT: When a significant percentage of priests (and the laity and theologians) display such profound disagreement with certain Church teachings, widespread non-reception becomes the norm because the teaching does not possess the power to change behavior. Teachings "not received" by a significant percentage of Catholics have profound implications for the teachings and the principles that underpin them, as well as authority/deontology.

Patricia....they all call themselves Catholic for good reasons.

 

 

Sorry Michael, when anyone, including priests, stray from the official teachings of the chruch, it's called apostacy.  That's where we are.  Faithful people pray for those priests, not cause more scandal quoting them.

Right is still right, even when the whole world is wrong.

 

 

Patricia -- You can bury your head in the sand and claim apostacy, but it is not apostacy to disgree with certain Church teachings for legitimate philosophical and theological reasons and an informed conscience. Nor is a legitimate decision of conscience being unfaithful as long as every effort is made to understand the Church's teachings, to ask questions and get answers, to pray, frequent the sacraments, be guided your spiritual priest advisor, and be open to further education and reflection for there is always some truth on both sides of an issue.

Unfortunately, your position claims too much of a moral certitude. As such, it functions as an impasse to respectful, intelligent and open dialogue and any rational progress in resolving the divisive issues that plague our Church. 

This will be my final comment. I will let our fellow bloggers determine their own conclusions regarding the issues we have been discussing. For your information, I pray for all priests, theologians and the latiy of our Church for God to bring us all into the light of truth.

 

 

Patricia -- You can bury your head in the sand and claim apostacy, but it is not apostacy to disgree with certain Church teachings for legitimate philosophical and theological reasons and an informed conscience -.

 

Michael you are just plalin wrong.  For starters, you fall into the "informed conscience" trap as overused as the erroneous "do not judge," (we are called to judge actions, just not hearts) taken out of context.  In proper context, the rest, and most important part of the "informed conscience" is in accordance with church teachings.  It does not mean, whatever we can rationalize.

What I do agree with you on is that we don't have to believe in everything to be Catholic, provided we are open to the church teachings, and continue to pray and make an effort to receive the faith to believe what we lack.  It makes sense that every person is at a different place on the spiritual journey.  That said, Catholics still have an obligation to live as if they are true, and pray for grace to know they are true.  It does not mean to seek outside opinion and understanding against what the church's teaches.  That's how we got thousands of Protestant Denominations, and almsot always because the Catholic/Jesus teaching didn't fit someone's life style.

As for moral certitude, the Catholic Church is the teacher and keeper of the fullness of the teachings of Jesus Christ.  If we can't call  Jesus both  Truth and moral certitude (as He told us he was), then the entire Catholic Faith is a sham.  Furthermore, per your quote, the reason  "58% disagree and still call themselves Catholic" is moral relativism, the consequence of the denial of moral certitutde, the fullness of the teachings of Jesus Christ, AKA as the prophesized apostacy we are now experiencing.

 

Bruce thinks same sex relations are not I-thou but I-it relationships -- what about white-black relations?  or Christian-Jew relations?

There is so much in our discussion of the social consequences of social acceptance of homosexual culture that lacks information.  We argue on values instead of sociology or history.  We use various doucments and philosophical or theological principles to support what we want. In our culture wars, there is often a hidden mendacity as well as lack of information on both sides.

I appreciate this Commonweal editorial because it is well-written in showing a respect for the traditional teaching of the Catholic Church and a respect for the experience of the some gay people seeking SSM and social validation.  However neither that editorial nor the discussion of it in these comments deal with a significant driver of the movement for SSM, concern for the care of senior gay partners. 

The discussion of SSM in this magazine and in the public square has focused exclusively on care of children and equal civil rights.  In the January 13, 2012 issue of Commonweal, several of the writers noted that many heterosexual people were delaying marriage but not delaying living together nor having children.  For many people procreation has become separate from emotional and relationship attachment, economic benefits of living together, and other benefits.

I want to know if this is also true among gay couples.  Many of those in favor of SSM argue that gay people want the same marriage rights as heterosexual couples.  What are the ages of those gay people who are getting married?  Are they similar to the trend in the heterosexual community or different?

Many of the anecdotes against DOMA that I heard before the Supreme Court ruling were that middle aged and elderly gay people were not allowed access to their partners when one was hospitalized.  This illustrates another function of family that is overlooked in this debate on SSM, care for elderly members.

I don't like how Catholic bishops use teachings on marriage and abortion as political organizing tools to solidify their base because of their desire to strengthen the institution.  On the other hand, I don't like the lack of knowledge in the current debate about the times in Western culture when homosexuality was more accepted and the age of Rome's sexual excess.  If we are to discuss social consequences of changes in marriage policies, it would be nice to have this kind of background.

Does marriage among gay people make that culture more conservative?  What percent of gay people will take advantage of marriage opportunities and what will their ages be?

I don't know the answers for these questions and I am not sure what significance those answers would have for implementation of different marital policies.  But I would like to see a more honest discussion that considers the reality of SSM and social consequences rather than a mendacity that avoids these questions and the shouting in the current culture wars over different values and ideals.

Re: James Gleason

My experience is that the marriage bureau is in the court house, not citiy hall.  Also, in one county it is was on the first floor; in another on the fourth. 

In addition, one courthouse had a room with pews where guests of the couple could attend the wedding.  We invited family and friends.   I also attended a recent civil wedding of a young couple in a  the conference room in the office of a justice of the peace. This took place 18 mos. before the scheduled Catholic Church big wedding in a different country. 

I said to the young groom that although this small wedding was not as socially significant as the one scheduled for the future, that this one still counts.

Patricia holds the church has never, ever erred on faith or morals -- which logically means that it is ok to torture suspected heretics and relapsed Jews, and that the Jewish people have been condemned by God to perpetual slavery, and so on and so forth.

The fact remains, that the Catholic Church can't , never did, and never will err in faith and morals.  - See more at: http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/truth-about-marriage?page=1#sthash.ILa...

Joseph can you please reference where and when  in official church teaching it is or was ok to torture suspected heretics and relapsed Jews, and that the Jewish people have been condemned by God to perpetual slavery, and so on and so forth.

I made it clear that many members of the church have sinned, however, the church has never changed its dogmatic and doctrines, or ever erred.  . It simply can't and still be the Catholic Church.

 

 

 

 

To the unsubstantiate claim that the Church has never erred, I note that 2 papal bulls and 3 ecumenical councils definitively declared usury to be divine law and immoral. It was the laity and theologians in disagreement with 2 popes and 3 ecumenical councils that lead to the reform of the doctrine of usury.

The "inconsistent teachings" about slavery is another example. Note that in 1866, Pius IX and his Holy Office (equivalent to the CDF today) said it was not against divine law for a slave to be sold, bought or exchanged. Shockenly, this definive pronouncement came after the bloody Civil War and the abolishment of slavery in the U.S. From Wikipedia, see below. Just slavery was taught to be moral for centuries.

 

A number of Popes did issue papal bulls condemning "unjust" enslavement ("just" enslavement was still accepted), and mistreatment of Native Americans by Spanish and Portuguese colonials; however, these were largely ignored. Nonetheless, Catholic missionaries such as the Jesuits, who also owned slaves, worked to alleviate the suffering of Native American slaves in the New World. Debate about the morality of slavery continued throughout this period, with some books critical of slavery being placed on the Index of Forbidden Books by the Holy Office between 1573-1826. Capuchin missionaries were excommunicated for calling for the emancipation of black slaves in the Americas.

In spite of a stronger condemnation of unjust types of slavery by Pope Gregory XVI in his bull In Supremo Apostolatus issued in 1839, some American bishops continued to support slave-holding interests until the abolition of slavery.

It was not until Pope Leo in 1891 that condemned slavery per se.

More on when the Church has erred.

On May 15, Pope Innocent IV issued a papal bull entitled Ad extirpanda, which authorized the use of torture by inquisitors. The bull argued that as heretics are "murderers of souls as well as robbers of God’s sacraments and of the Christian faith ...", they are "to be coerced—as are thieves and bandits—into confessing their errors and accusing others, although one must stop short of danger to life or limb." The following parameters were placed on the use of torture:

  • that it did not cause loss of life or limb (citra membri diminutionem et mortis periculum)
  • that it was used only once
  • that the Inquisitor deemed the evidence against the accused to be virtually certain.

Torture was undoubtedly used in the trial of the Templars, but is in fact not much found in heresy trials until the later fourteenth century. Torture methods that resulted in bloodshed, births, mutilation or death were forbidden. Also, torture could be performed only once. However, it was common practice to consider a second torture session to be a "continuation" of the first.

 

I thank you for addressing this topic.  The tone of the editorial strikes a measured balance between the direction civil society is taking and the Church's concern about its credibility in the public square.

"It is one thing forthe courts to rule that there is no constitutional justification for denying civil marriage to same-sex couples; it is quite another thing for the courts to force religious institutions to recognize such marriages in their employment and benefits agreements. Under our constitutional system, the state must give the widest possible berth to religious practice, and it is imperative that dissenting religious communities not be driven from the public square over this issue. As many of the most eloquent proponents of same-sex marriage acknowledge, Americans will need time to adjust to this change."

There is an aspect of this topic you do not raise, except perhaps implicitly in noting that society's position is changing.  What is the character of this change?  Yes, it is "not an existential threat to the church or to Western civilization" but is this change part of a larger pattern and, if so, what is the larger pattern?  The Church's position could well be that the larger pattern is a trend toward relativistic secularism.  Your editorial points to the dignity of all people and the selfless work of raising children, which argue against the hyperbolic terminology of USCCB advocacy on this issue.

I would put the tension in different terms, borrowing from Augustine: God's "book of nature" is gradually imposing further constraints upon our interpretation of God's "book of scripture (and tradition)".  Given what we now know about cosmic unfolding since the Big Bang, this progression is God's work.

The history of aversion to homosexual behavior dates to ancient times when overwrought males had sexual relations with sheep, and we have no reason to believe that human weakness and temptation do not still play a role in observed homosexual behavior.  But the "book of nature" continues to suggest to us that the lines of gender and behavior are rough around the edges.  It is now known, for example, that maleness is the product of a single gene on the Y chromosome.  This was discovered when an anotomical female was found to have an X and a Y chromosome.  His/her Y chromosome was missing a small piece, the same piece that turned up in on a different chromosome in another individual who was an anotomical male but with two X chromsomes.

And it is now understood that gender itself is a biological adaptation, dating back billions of years, that survived and is now dominant because it dramatically increased the ability of biological organisms to adapt to environmental changes.  

So it is no longer surprising to recognize that male/female coupling, while remaining the dominant biological reality, is rough around the edges.  Humans are not the only species that exhibit homosexual behavior.  Ever more clearly, our society is coming to understand that much homosexual attraction and behavior is not "inherently disordered" and that interpreting "the book of scripture (and tradition)" to support the "inherently disordered" view is as mistaken as maintaining that the sun revolves around the earth.  Bellarmine and Galileo both understood Augustine's point about deference to "the book of nature" and Bellarmine cautioned that, at the time, the evidence for the Copernican hypothesis still fell short of being a theory that could be relied upon.

It took several hundred years for the institutional Church to change its thinking on Galileo, and only recently (see John Paul II's 10/31/1992 speech to the Pontifical Academy) was the "Galileo affair" formally concluded.  The error of "inherently disordered" will probably take less time to resolve, but resolution is more neuralgic because behavior, sexual and otherwise, retains a moral dimension.  Indeed, the moral dimension -- how we image God by loving one another -- is not simply retained, as if a vestige from a distant past, but is growing.  The long view of cosmic history suggests that it is no accident that public consciousness has been developing a more acute appreciation of how to make this world a better place.  It is no accident that global warming and the XL pipeline seem increasingly important to many, taking emphasis away from personal sexual morality and shifting it toward social justice.  There is some irony, therefore, in the Church's concern that society's moral sense is falling victim to relativism and secularism.

With that as a preface, I would like to comment on the highlighted conclusions above:

"it is quite another thing for the courts to force religious institutions to recognize such marriages in their employment and benefits agreements. "

A better question is whether religious institutions are exempt from the requirements of civil society. If civil society comes to the conclusion -- as appears to be forthcoming -- that discrimination in employment and benefits on the basis of marital status is against public policy, it is not at all clear that terms of employment and benefits have a religious character.  The freedom of Church institutions to pursue discriminatory preferences is not inherently a question of freedom of religion.

"it is imperative that dissenting religious communities not be driven from the public square over this issue."

Clearly, the Church can continue to speak its mind in the public square.  The question is whether the institutions of the Church will withdraw from providing services in order to avoid compliance with requirements of civil society.  However, these nascent requirements are not simply lawful but expose a prejudice of long standing.  Hints of such withdrawal would appear to be a precipitous indulgence in pique at the expense of a further delay in justice.  Since the "book of nature" is likely to prevail on this matter, as it did with Galileo, one hopes that cooler heads will avoid such withdrawal.

"Americans will need time to adjust to this change."

Americans will take such time, in any event.  Homosexuality is sufficiently prevalent that most Americans are able to reevaluate their own prejudices in light of practical experience with friends and neighbors, which is far more persuasive than an abstraction drawn from the "book of scripture (and tradition)".  It is still a difficult transition for most.  The Church would be wise to find a way to show leadership on this question rather than being dragged kicking and screaming.  A more nuanced theology is called for than reliance upon relativism and secularism.

The Church's doctrinal focus is an impediment to clarity on this issue.  There is a journey that needs to be undertaken, both by the Church and by the faithful that are struggling to adjust to a reality that is unfolding out of God's "book of nature."  Would it not be more prudent of the Church to focus its considerable moral and intellectual resources on the integrity of this journey?  Admittedly, this would be a more pastoral focus.  The priority of the well formed conscience has a solid doctrinal foundation, but the current focus on doctrine tends toward impatience with a conscience that does not conform with doctrine.  This problem is particularly acute with the conscience of those whose gender is not distinctly male or female.  

But regardless of what God's "book of nature" has in store for these fellow human beings, their journey of faith strives to maintain integrity.  Homosexuality provides the Church with an opportunity to find a better way to give priority to conscience than to keep these matters behind a pastoral shadow.  Who knows?  A shift in focus from doctrine to the integrity of the journey, where the priority of conscience is dealt with openly, might lead to a better understanding of other neuralgic intersections between doctrine and the experience of love for the other, such as Catholic relationships with other religions.

 

Will no one bring up the fact that  according to Gallup no more than three percent of the population identifies as homosexual. Reference is made to the younger generation defending the rights of their gay and lesbian friends. Perhaps they are referring to their "friends" on Glee and Modern Family, because there are surely not enough gays and lesbians to be known and defended by their heterosexual peers. I am certainly of the mind to live and let live, but not on the basis of persuasive moral arguments. I believe we are witnessing the consequences of a population that is too ready to accept the sophisticated sounding arguments of educated elites whose real agenda is to place the last nail in the coffin of traditional morality. With that out of the way people are free to do whatever makes them feel good. Good luck with that.

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