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What Counts as "Unjust Discrimination"?

(This article is now featured in our collection of stories about Catholicism & Same-Sex Marriage)

Under the heading "You Shall Love Your Neighbor As Yourself," the Catechism of the Catholic Church considers homosexuality:

Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,tradition has always declared that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered." They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.(CCC 2357-8)

Clear enough, though one could quibble that "tradition" could not have "always" considered same-sex sex acts as "intrinsically disordered," since that language, as far as I know, originated with the scholastics, more than half-way into the Church's history. But I digress...

Over in Kansas City, Colleen Simon, pastoral associate at St. Francis Xavier parish, manages the food pantry that feeds 70 families a month. A few blocks away, Rev. Donna Simon, pastor of St. Mark Hope and Peace Lutheran Church, is also helping to revitalize the neighborhood

St. Mark now leads or supports ministries such as an orchard at 33rd and Forest and the Bus Stop Ministry where drinks, snacks and warm clothes are distributed weekly at the city’s second-busiest MAX transfer point at 39th and Troost.

The church houses organizations such as the Workers Organizing Committee Kansas City, which fights low pay for fast-food workers, and the Traditional Music Society, which promotes community cohesiveness through dance and music.

These good works, and those of others, are making a difference on the poorer side of Troost Ave., though "even today, the average child born west of Troost will live 16 years longer than a baby born in a neighboring ZIP code east of Troost."

Colleen Simon is married to Rev. Donna Simon. She kept what the Kansas CIty Star called a "don't ask, don't flaunt" attutude, though she was up-front about her marriage.

She said she told the pastor who hired her in July 2013 (he is no longer at the parish) of her marriage. But day to day, she avoided pronouns that would highlight it, substituting “my spouse” or “my beloved.”

Clearly, she had to go. Only a few weeks after the publication of the Kansas City Star piece describing their work, the diocese, headed by Bishop Robert Finn, insisted that she be fired. (The diocese has declined to comment.) 

Meanwhile, over at America Magazine, Rev. James Martin asks: "why do so many gay people say they feel hatred from members of the church?" He contrasts the nearly reflexive linking of gay identity to sin with Jesus' attitude toward Zaccheus the tax collector, whom Jesus simply loved. He concludes:

What might it mean for the church to love gays and lesbians more deeply? First, it would mean listening to their experiences—all their experiences, what their lives are like as a whole. Second, it would mean valuing their contributions to the church. Where would our church be without gays and lesbians—as music ministers, pastoral ministers, teachers, clergy and religious, hospital chaplains and directors of religious education? Infinitely poorer. Finally, it would mean publicly acknowledging their individual contributions: that is, saying that a particular gay Catholic has made a difference in our parish, our school, our diocese. This would help remind people that they are an important part of the body of Christ. Love means listening and respecting, but before that it means admitting that the person exists.

Francis DeBernardo at the New Ways Ministry blog agrees that it's time for LGBT people to be truly welcomed by the Church, not as "a special category of sinners, but, because they are, like most people, average, garden-variety sinners." He notes: 

for the past two years we have been witnessing dismissals of LGBT people from church employment, a total devaluing of their gifts and personhood.  Yes, this type of welcome is urgently needed, not just for a positive message, but to correct the terribly negative message that firings have sent.

It’s important, too, that LGBT people’s spiritual gifts are also acknowledged and affirmed. The particular journeys that LGBT people go on to accept, affirm, and announce their identities to others often results in incredible spiritual gifts that are not as readily attained by others.  For instance, their journeys often provide them with a strong sense about telling the truth, a deep reservoir of courage to  stand up to fear and rejection, a profound sense of God’s love, and a new respect for the primacy of their consciences. Amazing gifts that they can offer to the rest of the church!

Amen. I'd add also that listening to LGBT people might include being open to the possibility that language like "grave depravity," "intrinsic disorder," "objective disorder" and the like is in need of revision and rejection. It seems to be utterly unjust to apply such harsh and hurtful language to two women who love each other deeply and share also a profound commitment to service of the poor. They set a standard for love of neighbor that all of us--gay, straight, or whatever--would do well to emulate. 

 

Comments

Commenting Guidelines

Considering that this church is growing in Africa, Latin America and Asia, and diminishing in the First World, even if a true miracle would happen in Europe and North America, it will be an anomaly rather than a change of Roman Catholic heart.

I'm not holding my breath and people 50 years younger than I shouldn't, either.

I don't think the leaders of the church have any intention of ever treating LGBT folk as equals.  The fact that the church holds on to an interpretation of OT verses that many scholars have found questionable would seem to show that the church *chooses* to believe "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered"  in the very face of experience that shows this to be untrue.

So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.—Mt. 7:22

Maybe Bishop Finn wishes that someone would fire him.

... language like "grave depravity," "intrinsic disorder," "objective disorder" and the like is in need of revision and rejection.

A thousand times yes.

 

As to the Catholic institutions' "firing" of gay people who are married civilly, as allowed by law, I would, in principle, consider that "unjust" discrimination. However, if said people had willingly signed a contract and then later, knowingly violated the terms of the contract (e.g., to uphold the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church in matters of faith and morals), then I can see how such firing could be legally justified. I mean, people get fired for violating company policy all the time. 

 

I also am not holding my breath that the church teaching on homosexuality will change, but I do remain hopeful that the church's pastoral approach to our LGBT brothers and sisters may change, as it should, and when it does, hopefully, nobody would get fired for simply getting married to someone he or she loves anymore.

 

 

 

What is truly sad; hypocritical, and has to be internally and emotionally disruptive is that at least 40% of our current US priests are gay. 

What and how can they function as servant leaders in a church that holds these beliefs?  The dissonance is deafening.

Fact - catechism are almost always out of date summations of what the church held - they never reflect the current times and are updated only every 50-100 years. 

Allow me to get on a soapbox in terms of the catechism language:

- "Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained" - this is a false statement that ignores medical advances.  Not unlike the whole natural law concept.  It smacks of the same narrow and limited views of Humanae Vitae.\

- "They close the sexual act to the gift of life" - actually, this happens when any marriage happens and one or both spouses can't provide life.  It is biologism, to an extreme, and denies or negates the reality that marriage can be generative (without biology)

- you already mentioned the questionnable history of *intrinsic disorder*

- "They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity."   Would suggest that this is also a narrow viewpoint that ignores a broader manner of considering and valuing affective and sexual complementarity.

It seems to me that this is a case of unjust discrimination.

There is nothing against Catholic teaching for a gay couple to make a public declaration of their love, faithfulness and mutual committment eg in a state same sex marriage ceremony or a civil union.

If one considers the promises made at such ceremonies, it is clear that nothing in them is actually contary to any Catholic doctrine.

What seems to be missing from the knee jerk sacking actions of some is a serious consideration of the moral object chosen by the couple.

God Bless

for the past two years we have been witnessing dismissals of LGBT people from church employment,

This obfuscatory statement mars what otherwise would have been a fairly decent commentary on Fr. Martin's outstanding article (particularly insightful from DeBarnardo is this: "The particular journeys that LGBT people go on to accept, affirm, and announce their identities to others often results in incredible spiritual gifts that are not as readily attained by others.  For instance, their journeys often provide them with a strong sense about telling the truth, a deep reservoir of courage to  stand up to fear and rejection, a profound sense of God’s love, and a new respect for the primacy of their consciences. Amazing gifts that they can offer to the rest of the church!"  This is an insight that deserves to be incorporated into official church teaching.) 

The cases I'm aware of, and we can now add to it the case of Colleen Simon, are cases of LGBT persons being dismissed *precisely because they've entered into same sex marriages*.  Not noting that crucial fact could mislead readers into thinking that they were dismissed simply for being LGBT.

 

Nothing like the convicted enabler of a child sex abuser being so righteous.

What is truly sad; hypocritical, and has to be internally and emotionally disruptive is that at least 40% of our current US priests are gay. 

What and how can they function as servant leaders in a church that holds these beliefs?  The dissonance is deafening

What dissonance is there in a gay person serving the church, whether as priest, music minister, teacher, deacon or Bishop of Rome?  Surely the doors of the church should be open to persons of whatever sexuality, including doors to church ministry.

 

JP - your sexuality is part of who you are.  The Catechism statement appears to limit itself to sexual acts but the tone, attitude, and final paragraph describes a gay person as *less than normal* and in need of compassion, etc. 

This also is counter to much of what the church says from a social justice stance.

I think what is happening in Uganda does not leave our Roman Church untainted either. http://www.religiondispatches.org/archive/sexandgender/6926/loving_ugand...

Fr. O'Leary - I agree that the "kill the gays" movement in Uganda is horrible and all of us should distance ourselves from it as much as possible.  But despite the author of that article's unsupported claim that right-wing American Roman Catholics are somehow contributing to suppression and violence against gays in Uganda, there is no actual content in the article that mentions any Roman Catholic involvement, either pro or con; everyone mentioned in the article seems to be Evangelical (with one bishop mentioned who may be Anglican? - it's not clear).  If Roman Catholics, either in Uganda or the US, are somehow contributing to the abridgement of human rights of gays in Uganda, that is something that we should know about and speak out against.  I just don't see anything in the article that supports that.

 

Regarding unjust discrimination: this news story appeared on a local Chicago station a couple of days ago.  It reports Notre Dame doing the right thing.  Headline: "University of Notre Dame expresses pride, welcomes gay athletes"

The news story also includes an unfortunate quote from a self-described devout Catholic.  And the author of the piece describes the video as a "surprising new message".  I don't find the message surprising, but I'm also not surprised that there is a widespread perception, both inside and outside the church, that Notre Dame and the Catholic church in the US is homophobic.  We still have a lot of work to do, to teach our own brothers and sisters, and to proclaim to the general public, what the Catholic church actually teaches and believes.  Bravo to Notre Dame for contributing to this proclamation.

 

 

Ha!

your sexuality is part of who you are.  The Catechism statement appears to limit itself to sexual acts but the tone, attitude, and final paragraph describes a gay person as *less than normal* and in need of compassion, etc.

I agree that a person's sexuality is part of who a person is.  And I'm sorry if I'm being denser than usual, but I still don't see how that leads to "dissonance" between the fact that the church seemingly has many gay priests, on the one hand, and doesn't permit same sex marriage, on the other hand.  I don't hear any dissonance caused by juxtaposing those  two facts.  What is the inconsistency?

You make an interesting point regarding the Catechism's claim that gay persons are in need of compassion.  I would assume that is in reference to its earlier statement that "This inclination ... constitutes for most of them a trial".  If it's true that being gay is a trial for many/most gay persons, then I would think they are deserving of our compassion.  But perhaps it's not true, or no longer as true as it once was, that being gay constitutes a trial.  

Regarding "less than normal": I assume that is in reference to the Catechism's description of the inclination as "objectively disordered".  I don't think those two phrases are synonymous, but of course I do know that this phrase isn't popular and is frequently (mis)understood to be something along the lines of "less than normal".  Not sure what the solution is. 

 

The tendency of attraction toward the same sex is not considered "disordered" by the Church just the acts.  Are homosexual acts contrary to natural law? Most if not all in this blog say "no". There is no difference between male/female and male/male female/female sexuality.  Do I have it right?

@ Jim Pauwels:  Does that Catechism that you so lovingly espouse have anything to say about willful ignorance?

Now deceased priest-sociologist Andrew Greeley estimated that the number of gay priests at much, much higher than just 40%.  [Greeley has been quoted that the numbers are closer to 75%!]  Most of my professional colleagues presume that until evidence emerges to the contrary that all priests are gay.

If many, if not most or all, of these hierarchs are closet gays, it would explain an awful lot about the clueless pastoral policies and practices embraced by the church on a whole host of issues [child sexual abuse, contraception, abortion, married clergy, women's ordination, church governance, and on, and on ...

Several years ago - before the election of Papa Francesco - I had a consultation with the Jesuits where I was shocked really to discover a very virulent form of political contention and competition there was between the straight Jesuits and the gay Jesuits for dominance and control of their internal cultural.  It was the weirdest form of twisted sexual/gender politics I've ever encountered - mainly because it was all between two competing groups of men in a very well educated and astute religious community - who nominally, at least, espouse celibacy.  Try figuring that out.  My head is still swimming.

If Catholics want to see a change in their hierarchs' approach to life, they have to take away their unfettered and unaccountable access to mountains of money that fuels and insolates the hierarchs in their narcissistic daydreams of life in the 21st century.  [This is the single biggest lesson I take away from the scandal of priests' sexual abuse and exploitation of children.]  

Catholics must find a way to SEPARATE the MONEY from the MINISTRY.  The Golden Rule of Politics is She/He who has the Gold Rules!  This isn't theology or doctrine - It's politics.

Once Catholics get control of all that money [and the power that it buys], the hearts and minds of the hierarchs will certainly follow.  Trust me, that's all they live for.

Natural law?  Not only has this theory been refuted (naturalistic fallacy), I've yet to understand what a medieval scholastic's interpretation of an ancient Greek philosopher's beliefs about nature have to do with following Jesus.

JP and Jim - had the same experience with another religious order....the internal politics trumps their charism, their mission, etc.  It is as if elections for provincial councils revolve around balancing out who is elected so that there is equality between gays and straights.

JP - my point is that our sexuality is an integral part of who we are.  The Catechism basically demands that any gay person must be celibate.  Really - thought celibacy was a choice and a charism or gift; not something imposed by threats of *intrinsic disorder*, etc.

It basically negates social justice and the dignity of creation of human beings. 

In terms of gay priests, IMO, it means that they have to construct or arrive at some internal choice or compartmentalization that what the church says about gays isn't either true or doesn't apply to them because they do not act on their sexuality.  (but, most evidence suggests that this isn't true - so, we have dissonance.  They also become a spokesperson for that skewed vision that gay actions are intrinsically disordered. 

And, seriously, doesn't the fact that most gay priests never come out tell you something about the dissonance; the disconnect?  Is that really very emotionally healthy?

Cozzens has written about this insightfully - you might want to peruse some of his books.

JP - one other thought and shifting gears....from America magazine:  http://www.americamagazine.org/content/all-things/teilhard%E2%80%99s-catholicism  (this echoes Crystal's comment)

Key paragraph:

"Today we have a profounder sense of human rights and of rightful self-assertion than Catholics did in Teilhard’s day. The church still has far to go to make its structures, law and judicial process match its confession of the dignity of women and men made in the image of God. Nonetheless, we can still learn from Teilhard’s love of the church and his docility in the face of misguided discipline. L.C.W.R. in its dialogue with the U.S. bishops, their real critics, and the C.D.F. exemplify the same patient love Teilhard did in enduring his silencing and exile."

I'm also not surprised that there is a widespread perception, both inside and outside the church, that Notre Dame and the Catholic church in the US is homophobic.  We still have a lot of work to do, to teach our own brothers and sisters, and to proclaim to the general public, what the Catholic church actually teaches and believes.

Jim P.,

I too am not surprised, and I suspect that there is even more work to do than you think, since what the Church teaches through its clergy appears to be diverging from what significant portions of lay Catholics, and I suspect some clergy too, believe and approve. And that may be in part because the Church's teaching is psychologically fractured and unsuitable for mass distribution.

As a man of sense, decency, and good will, Jim, you may be able somehow to bring together and reconcile the two opposite arms of Catholic teaching on homosexuality, but I think you are in the minority. A good many people, when they hear "acts of great depravity," "intrinsically disordered," and "contrary to the natural law," will not wait to hear about "respect, compassion, and sensitivity," or that every sign of unjust discrimination must be avoided. We were formed in tribalism and are preconditioned to distrust and hate those who are not just like ourselves. "Love thy neighbor" is always the new doctrine, the hard teaching that we must be reminded of again and again. "Despise and hurt others" is the default and needs no reinforcement. 

Beyond that is the suspicion that the Catholic Church is not just homophobic, but heterophobic as well, or at least heterodubious. I used to read frequently that the vowed religious life was the superior way, and that marriage was a concession to the "weakness of the flesh" for those who could not asprire to the higher life. There would usually be some mention of Martha and Mary and a lot of St. Paul. Is that still current, or has it gone down the doctrinal memory hole?

I hope that before it sets out anew to teach and proclaim its doctrine on this controversial matter, the Church will take a long moment to reflect on its own Januslike view of human sexuality.

 

Further to Crystal's comment re: Natural Law:

“The jurists who believe in Natural Law seem to me to be in that naive state of mind that accepts what has been familiar and accepted by them and their neighbors as something that must be accepted by all men everywhere.” Oliver Wendell Holmes, on Natural Law and the legal system

 

 

A couple stray comments:

1. "Objective disorder" means (in this context) that the object of one's sexual attraction is disordered, i.e., one is attracted to someone who is not a potential procreative partner. As such, it applies to gay people, not only acts, as it says in the Catechism. (It would seem logically to apply also to men of age, say, 60 or older who are attracted to age-appropriate female partners. Oddly, that's never enforced in the Church.) "Intrinsic disorder" is generally applied to acts which cannot be ordered to (which cannot result in or aim at resulting in) procreation. Both terms reflect an understanding of human sexuality as chiefly (pre-Vatican II and, arguably, JPII onward,) or inextricably (Vatican II until JPII) for procreation. I cannot see how calling someone "objectively disordered" or their love-making gravely depraved is compatible with a stance of welcome in the Church. To be clear--there ARE sex acts which are gravely depraved. Bishop Finn covers up for priests who do them, no problem. But acts of committed love between compatible, consenting, adults? 

2. @JP: indeed Simon wasn't fired for being a lesbian, and that's an important clarification. Nor was she fired for same-sex sex acts, (which is the point at which she violated Catholic teaching, strictly speaking.) Nor, interestingly, was she fired for being married to another woman--that had already been disclosed discreetly at the time of her hiring. (Nor was she fired for being Lutheran, as far as I can tell from the reports, which would have raised different questions entirely.) She was fired for her marriage becoming known, for creating "scandal" in its technical sense. Two quick points on this:

     a. scandal always has two sides. In avoiding the scandal of having people infer from her presence on parish staff that somehow the Church had come to approve of same-sex marriage, the bishop created the opposite scandal--that the Church believes it's OK to fire someone doing good work in a hard situation for the "crime" of it coming to light that she'd made a public declaration of love and responsibility for another person. Simon is 58, a cancer survivor, which adds the added circumstance of firing someone doing good work who may find reemployment difficult. 

     b. In this and other cases, it's been clear that had the relationship not been formalized, there would be no problem. In other words, it's Simon's public declaration of love and responsibility that made her vulnerable, not her sexual relationship itself. At the very least, she would have had to keep the marriage strictly secret. Are these good messages for gay Catholics, especially gay Catholic kids? They might get the idea "I can work in the Church and have a lover, but I must never marry--never publicly declare love and responsibility. If I am not called to celibate chastity, I must always be willing to abandon those closest to me if I want to be welcome in the Catholic Church." Not a great message, istm. I'd call it scandalous.

"Objective disorder" means (in this context) that the object of one's sexual attraction is disordered, i.e., one is attracted to someone who is not a potential procreative partner. As such, it applies to gaypeople, not only acts

Lisa, perhaps I'm not following your explanation, but what the Catechism says, as you quoted it in your original post, is that  "This inclination ... is objectively disordered".  Thus it seems to be referring, neither to a homosexual act nor to a gay person, but to an inclination - that is, what it calls in the previous sentence "deep-seated homosexual tendencies".  Perhaps you are simply noting what Bill d noted earlier, that a person's inclination is part of who s/he is?

 

I cannot see how calling someone "objectively disordered" or their love-making gravely depraved is compatible with a stance of welcome in the Church. 

(My apologies for the multiple replies, I had meant to include this in my previous comment).  

I suppose the church considers the inclination "objectively disordered" in the sense that it inclines a person to sinful behavior.  Naturally, we could think of any number of other inclinations that also are disordered in the sense that they incline the person toward sinful behavior, e.g. a cowardly person's inclination to avoid risk to himself even at the expense of others' safety, or a shrewish person's inclination to be spiteful and nasty.  You named another inclination that is objectively disordered: the inclination that some people have to behave sexually toward minors.  There are many, many ways to sin.  

The church's stance on welcome is that all of us are welcome - to let God change our lives.  As the baptismal rite exhorts us, we're welcome to reject sin.  

Regarding Simon's marriage becoming publicly known leading to her firing: this seems to be another recurring pattern with same-sex-married church employees, i.e. they're fired when the officials figure out they're married.  I've commented in the past that I think it's reasonable to assume, both in Catholic theology and in common sense, that a married couple is a sexually active couple.  

I do sympathize with church employees who want to be married to the person they love and also keep the job they love.  Keeping a marriage secret is not a good way to live; marriage is, by its nature, a public social institution whose social importance and meaning extends far beyond the spouses themselves.  As a practical matter, it may be that the best that we can do about these situations is that the church should make it clear upfront to all employees that entering into a same sex marriage is cause for termination (if this is its policy; I am not sure that it must needs be its policy).  At least that way the gay employee can make a free choice in the matter, understanding the consequences.  

Btw, Lisa, you've made your point about the two sides of scandal in previous posts and comments, and I continue to agree with your analysis.  But note that a same sex marriage is more than a declaration of love and responsibility.  It is also necessarily a declaration that the spouses reject and stand against church teaching by the way they've chosen to live.  If that is indeed the reason that Simon was fired, Finn could ameliorate the risk of scandal by making it clear that that is the reason, and not her public declaration of love and responsibility

 

Hi Jim, Indeed, I'd say that sexual orientation is inborn and an innate aspect of personhood. Here I'd agree with what the Catechism says just a few paragraphs above what I quoted in the post:

Sexuality affects all aspects of the human person in the unity of his body and soul. It especially concerns affectivity, the capacity to love and to procreate, and in a more general way the aptitude for forming bonds of communion with others. Everyone, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity. (CCC 2332-3) 

The question this statement raises, then, is whether all people are born or meant to be heterosexual, or, in other words, whether only heterosexual orientation is natural, strictly speaking. After all, people can be born broken, or "defective" in traits deemed natural for our species. Our understanding of what's natural, of course, is open to revision and correction--we no longer think women are defective men, for example, or that some people are "naturally" suited to being slaves. So is being LGBT a matter of defect, or a natural variation like left-handedness, eye color, height, race, or sex? 

What's deemed natural is always a reflection of a larger vision of human flourishing, holistically and socially considered. That vision is an ongoing project of discussion and discernment, and cannot asserted to be complete and unrevisable. For a great discussion of Thomistic Natural Law, I recommend Jean Porter's excellent "Nature As Reason." 

Even IF it were true that LGBT people are born somehow "broken," (which I cannot agree with, in light of the science (especially biology, psychology and sociology),  the experience of LGBT people, the resonant love of so many LGBT couples, and other pieces of an argument too long for a blog comment,) that still doesn't mean that this firing was just. She was running a food pantry, for heaven's sake. Yes, exactly that--for heaven's sake. 

 

I used to read frequently that the vowed religious life was the superior way, and that marriage was a concession to the "weakness of the flesh" for those who could not asprire to the higher life. There would usually be some mention of Martha and Mary and a lot of St. Paul. Is that still current, or has it gone down the doctrinal memory hole?

John P - yeah, there is scriptural warrant for that view.  I guess, as a post-Vatican II person, I didn't grow up in a church that viewed married sex as a sort of grudging concession to the weakness of the flesh.  Probably we could find doctrinaire conservative Catholics who would insist that the scriptural-warranted view hasn't gone down the memory hole, and all that's missing are clergy with the nerve to proclaim the old truth.  I guess I don't have the nerve either, or desire for that matter, to insist on that.  I don't really have any appetite to talk about anything related to sex from the pulpit.  There are kids out there in the pews.  Let the parents have the awkward conversations.  As a parent, I can barely muster the nerve to have that kind of conversation with my own kids.

 

Lisa - that is a very interesting quote from the Catechism.  Somehow, in racing to the homosexual parts over the years, I've scooted right past that one.  A lotta food for thought and further reading, to be sure.

 

There's so much that is troubling in the church's stance on this issue. 

- the stance isn't Christian, per se ... other Christian denominations like the Episcopal Church, thr Quakers, the UCC, the Lutherans, accept marriage equality ... so why is it so grimly held on to?

- the fact that gays can be in romantic relationships and keep their jobs with the Catholic Church, but woll lose their jobs if they marry seems like an effort to try to keep gay relationshps marginal, unrrecognized by the community, "abnormal".  It's almost a kind of balckmail.

- the assertion that the Catholic Church "loves" LGBT people while at the same time hating what they do seems like a passive-aggressive effort to doom them to second class lives while at the same time refusing to take responsibility for the homophobia that drives this attitude.

The church has lost this battle, not just with the secular world but with Catholics too, as has been shown by polls and response to the Vatican's own survey on family life.  The church's refusal to even reconsider the basis of their stance only seems to support the worst ideas about their motives.

Hi again, Jim,

"the church should make it clear upfront to all employees that entering into a same sex marriage is cause for termination (if this is its policy; I am not sure that it must needs be its policy)."

I'd tend to agree--if we held straight people likewise to the analogous standards, likewise explicitly spelled out. But we don't--sometimes it's hard to tell, as with couples practicing contraception, and sometimes we just seem to agree to look the other way, as when straight people live together, and sometimes--on a good day--we figure out that firing people is a worse policy because of the possible consequences, as when we say that single employees ought not to be fired for being pregnant because of the implicit coercion to abortion that such a policy entails.

And on this matter, I'd say we're in the third category for the reasons I mentioned, I think the consequences are worse if we fire married gay employees. So I'm with you on your questioning whether this must be the policy. Nope. 

 

Help me to understand the response to my earlier comment that my thinking is naive to believe that homosexual acts are not in accord with natural law.    So, a belief in natural law is obsolete, for the cave man.  And those poor foolish Greek philosophers , if only they had Commonweal to have guided them.

@ James S. FWIW, I am a card-carrying Aristotelian/Thomistic natural law thinker. But the natural law is not a simple matter of "structure determines morality," a stance which bit the dust a few centuries ago. Human nature is not reducible to a parts list. But Aristotle and Thomas are (metaphorically) alive and well in Catholic moral theology! See Jean Porter, "Nature as Reason." Great book.

 

James,

The thing that's wrong with natural law is that it assumes that the way everything *is* is the way everything *ought* to be, that everything is this way because it the way God wants it to be.  It's not surprising that Aristotle thought this and not surprising that Aquinas jumped on it, but given evolution, it can be seen that most of what *is* is this way simply because it made the survival of the species more likely.  Here's just a bit of a pretty long lecture by Keith Ward that deals with natural law  http://www.gresham.ac.uk/lectures-and-events/superhumans-interfering-wit...   ...

"[...] As G. E. Moore argued, one cannot assume that a way in which I naturally tend to behave is desirable, either for myself or for others. Humans tend to rape, kill and lie, and such behaviour is very undesirable.  The view that natural inclinations are, as such, good would be widely denied by evolutionary biologists. We now know, though we have only really known since the structure of DNA was discovered, that there are behavioural tendencies in human beings that are laid down in the coding of transmitted DNA.

It is our DNA that carries a code for building proteins that will in turn construct bodies with specific physical characteristics and tendencies to behave in certain 'instinctive' ways. These are our natural inclinations. In every generation DNA is subject to mutations or chemical changes - humans generate about 100 mutations per generation. Some of these are harmful, and so are anything but good. Some of them give rise to natural inclinations that may or may not be harmful. Most of the harmful inclinations are eliminated by natural selection, but some get through. So the tendency to hate foreigners, and for men to subjugate and rape women, are tendencies that have proved quite conducive to human survival as a species. But they could hardly be called good, or in accord with the purposes of God.  It is, of course, true that the things we naturally tend to do have been conducive to survival over thousands or millions of years. Otherwise we would not have survived. And it seems likely that behavioural tendencies conducive to survival would generally have come to be thought desirable, and to be associated with pleasure. But these are not necessary or inviolable connections. I may have a tendency to take intoxicating substances, which give pleasure. Such a tendency may be genetically ingrained, and it may have survived in the genome simply because its harmfulness has not been bad enough to wipe the human species out. Nevertheless, intoxicating substances may be very bad for me, and kill me in the end. From an evolutionary point of view, this would not matter very much, since in the end I would be beyond reproductive age in any case, so the harm done to me would not cause any decrease in fecundity. It might even increase my fecundity when I am young, though it will kill me as soon as I am past child-bearing age. So this natural tendency will be good for reproductive success, but bad for me personally. If I can take rational control of my behaviour, I might well desire to live longer and reproduce less, in which case my rational desires will conflict with my natural inclinations.     

To take another case, humans may be naturally aggressive, for that has had an evolutionary advantage in the past. But now it is counter-productive, and may lead to the extermination of the human race. What is genetically programmed, according to evolutionary biologists, is what was good for the survival of my genes in the far past, or what at least was not counter-productive, thousands or millions of years ago. That may now be very bad for survival, and so should be rationally opposed ..."

Crystal Watson

Thank you for that excellent post.  I think people get stuck in a time-bound notion of natural law going back to Aristotle, the Stoics, Acquinas, etc.  Your post shows that the natiure of nature is to evolve and so we have continually to update our notion of natural law.  Despite the proud history of the Church  being on the side of science and knowledge, it has not kept pace with the progress of evolution and natural law.  The fact of the matter is that there is no, once for all, given notion of natural law, which is how the Church views it (valid always and everywhere). As a corrolary, I would add that as God does not interfere with human freedom, so also does God not interevene in nature, but rather allows the freedom of evolution to run its course. If Teilhard was right that course evolves towards God in Christ.

Thanks, Alan.  A spiritual director told me once that creation is risky.  You don't always know going in how things will turn out and what you create has a life of its own.  But that doesn't mean that God doesn't have a desire for the world and for us, or that he isn't hoping and working so that we'll get there eventually  :)

I wonder what an innocent gay teenager would feel reading this discussion. He or she would certainly feel the chill of homophobia at many points. It reminds me of discussions among antisemites as to how much the Jews are responsible for their blindness or discussions among racists as to whether blacks are statistically less intelligent than whites.

perhaps it is only one contributor who has created that miasma, but as so often in Catholic circles he has been allowed to determine the terms of the debate.

Let's go back to the basic experience of our younger gay friends and relatives -- that gay orientation is just as much a source of pleasure and joy as straight orientation, that it harbors the possible blessing of long-term loving relationships, that all should be free to explore and live out their sexuality and that this freedom of conscience and freedom to live ("life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness") deserves to be respected by all, and supported institutionally by church and state. Discrimination against anyone based on denial of these values is unjust.

Even to far from innocent 45 year olds with MPhils, it feels like that, Fr O'Leary, and in all these years you are the first commentator I've read who has begun to suspect it. As for the claim that all sinful tendencies are dis-orders etc... why does the catechism not use this vocabulary of them? Mind you 'grave depravity' is an improvement on 'crying out to heaven for vengeance,' which the bullies in my schools were particularly fond of.   

Joseph - it is I you are referring to as one who "has determined the terms of the debate".  The term of the debate was placed in the opening of this blog when the Catechism of the Church was quoted.  You are the one who has ignored the initial term because you and others have "evolved" from the naive, hateful teachings of the Church.  And what debate?   You are all busy saying the same thing and congratulating yourselves that you are not like the rest of the people. 

Given that there is plenty of information, from science, to philosopjy, to biblical interpretation, to show that there's nothing wrong with same-sex relationships, it seems almost like people choose what to believe about this issue not based on facts but based on something else. I read an article today that touches on this.  It was about why people continue to believe what they do, even in the face of compelling facts to the contrary.  It made me think of why the church continues to believe and teach what it does about gayness  ...

"When there’s no immediate threat to our understanding of the world, we change our beliefs. It’s when that change contradicts something we’ve long held as important that problems occur .... False beliefs, it turns out, have little to do with one’s stated political affiliations and far more to do with self-identity: What kind of person am I, and what kind of person do I want to be? " - http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/mariakonnikova/2014/05/why-do-peop...

 

So far, I and the teaching Church are naive, stubborn, stupid, ignorant of facts, have not evolved intellectually and personally, and have an identity problem.   Commonweal ex cathedra. 

I recently attended a wedding in which there was a difference of 30 years between the spouses. The priest talked about their mutual love. It was perplexing. That must be a different kind of love than what we typically have in mind when we think of spousal love. Yet, why not? I thought about gay couples. If I can accept that they love each other in a way I don't quite understand, why shouldn't I also accept that a couple with an age difference of a whole generation can also love one another in a way I don't quite understand?

Maybe those who are turned off by gay couples can try that analogy in reverse.

James, I'm not trying to insult you.  I've given reasons why I believe the teaching is wrong ... (1) that the scriptural verses used to justify the church's stance are open to interpretation (I could give links if anyone cares), and (2) that the theory of evolution has changed perceptions of Aristotle's view of nature/teleology (have more links for this too).  What are your reasons for believing the teaching?

Thanks for articulating this, Crystal:

"So the tendency to hate foreigners, and for men to subjugate and rape women, are tendencies that have proved quite conducive to human survival as a species. But they could hardly be called good, or in accord with the purposes of God. It is, of course, true that the things we naturally tend to do have been conducive to survival over thousands or millions of years.  Otherwise we would not have survived."

To me, original sin is a metaphor for exactly this baggage from the past, the behaviors that humankind can't seem to get away from, the things our ancestors passed on to us that still wound us. 

 

 

 

 

James Sullivan

If you want to betaken seriously here you have to present a reasonable argument instead of just expressing your deep disatiafaction with and contempt for Commonweal.  How can someone dialogue with you when you just want to dengirate and drop bombs? 

Lorenzo, 

I think that the terminology does needs to be considered, including both the classic vocabulary and the meanings of the words today. Let's look at "depravity", "intrinsic", and  "disorder".

*  Classic Catholic moral theology included the verb "depravo" which meant "to pervert" or "to corrupt", and this is, indeed, a very strong, morally judgmental term.  But there is no Latin noun form for "depravity".   The contemporary noun "depravity" means less a process of corrupting than the end result of such a process.  The word is highly evaluative, connoting as it does the worst sort of moral state of being.  I should think that even if someone thinks that homosexual acts are morally wrong that those who are guilty them should not be classified with the moral monsters, which is what "depravity" connotes these days.  So ISTM the term should be totally removed from the conversation.

*  There is no classic equivalent word for "disorder" (no "disorderum") in Aquinas, but certainly there are words in  Latin which together mean  "an inclination not ordered to a good end", so the  concept of what we call a moral "disorder" is found in classic moral theology.  It should be noted that in the classic moral theology disorders can be more or less serious, including everything from murder to telling little lies.  So he phrase can in the classic lingo be more or less negative.

However, I suspect that in contemporary discussions of homosexual inclinations the meaning of the word "disorder",  with all its negative connotations, has its origin in its use in contemporary psychiatry.  The basic reference for psychiatrists is the DSM. i.e., the  "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders".  It has always been a controversial book, and still is, not the least because in the past it classified homosexual leanings as a disorder, but now it doesn't.  At the present, if I'm not mistaken, the word "disorder" in psychiatry refers only to *serious* mental problems, and homosexuality is no considered a defect at all. 

So all in all I'd say that in this culture the word "disorder" is a more or less negative word, alhough generally it is very negative, but the use of the word was initially found more in  psychiatry than in moral theology.  At least I don't remember the use of the word in ethics classes. 

 

*  "Intrinsic" has its root meaning in the Latin "intrinsecus" which means "inner" and "interior".  Something is intrinsic to an object when it is part of an object or is the whole object itself. For instance, rosebushes are intrinsically inclined to produce roses and to have green leaves.  These properties are *intrinsic* to being a rosebush, and are the basis for saying that having green leaves is necessarily a part of being a rosebush -- they are part of what rosebushes are.  So of itself, the meaning of "intrinsic" is not pejorative, at least not in Catholic moral theology. 

So there are some contexts in which the uses of these words would not be very negative, but other contexts in which they are extremely negative.  And, of course, individuals can and do add their own negative evaluations to them.

This brings us to the question of the morality of name-calling, a different moral issue.

James Sullivan wrote:

 

.

Let's go back to the basic experience of our younger gay friends and relatives -- that gay orientation is just as much a source of pleasure and joy as straight orientation, that it harbors the possible blessing of long-term loving relationships, that all should be free to explore and live out their sexuality and that this freedom of conscience and freedom to live ("life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness") deserves to be respected by all, and supported institutionally by church and state. Discrimination against anyone based on denial of these values is unjust.

Lorenzo Fernandez-Vicente May 24, 2014 - 3:49am

Even to far from innocent 45 year olds with MPhils, it feels like that, Fr O'Leary, and in all these years you are the first commentator I've read who has begun to suspect it. As for the claim that all sinful tendencies are dis-orders etc... why does the catechism not use this vocabulary of them? Mind you 'grave depravity' is an improvement on 'crying out to heaven for vengeance,' which the bullies in my schools were particularly fond of.   

James Sullivan May 24, 2014 - 9:38am

"Joseph - it is I you are referring to as one who "has determined the terms of the debate"." (actually, no)

" The term of the debate was placed in the opening of this blog when the Catechism of the Church was quoted.  You are the one who has ignored the initial term because you and others have "evolved" from the naive, hateful teachings of the Church.  And what debate?   You are all busy saying the same thing and congratulating yourselves that you are not like the rest of the people."

I also think that the Catechism is so flawed on this issue that it should not be allowed to set the terms of the debate. Rather we must look first to the human experience and the human welfare of the living members of the church and of our society. As Don Michele de Paolis, whose hand Pope Francis kissed, said:  “We must overcome the letter of Scripture. It is the same St. Paul in 2 Corinthians 3:6 who says, ‘The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.’”  That this biblical letter killed and continues to kill, unfortunately, at times, not only morally but also physically, is a fact. The Bible ‘is’ not the word of God; the Bible ‘contains’ the word of God. Instead of wasting energy in endless controversy the Church aims to build a Christian spirituality of joyous acceptance of self, gratitude to God in the knowledge that homosexual love is a gift from Him no less than heterosexual. A spirituality in which we dialogue with and consult all, but obey God alone. Church people are completely ignorant of the phenomenon of homosexuality, which science has now clarified unequivocally: the homosexual orientation is not chosen freely by the person. The boy or girl will discover that it is an approach deeply rooted in personality, which is an essential aspect of his identity: it is not a disease, it is not a perversion.”

“Some church people say, ‘It’s okay to be gay, but they should not have sex, they can not love each other.’ This is the greatest hypocrisy. It’s like saying to a plant that grows, ‘You must not flourish, you must not bear fruit!’ Yes, it is against nature!’ We must have patience with our Mother Church. Her attitude towards homosexuals will change.” 

James O'Sullivan wrote; "Joseph - it is I you are referring to as one who "has determined the terms of the debate"." (actually, no)

" The term of the debate was placed in the opening of this blog when the Catechism of the Church was quoted.  You are the one who has ignored the initial term because you and others have "evolved" from the naive, hateful teachings of the Church.  And what debate?   You are all busy saying the same thing and congratulating yourselves that you are not like the rest of the people."

I also think that the Catechism is so flawed on this issue that it should not be allowed to set the terms of the debate. Rather we must look first to the human experience and the human welfare of the living members of the church and of our society. As Don Michele de Paolis, whose hand Pope Francis kissed, said:  “We must overcome the letter of Scripture. It is the same St. Paul in 2 Corinthians 3:6 who says, ‘The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.’”  That this biblical letter killed and continues to kill, unfortunately, at times, not only morally but also physically, is a fact. The Bible ‘is’ not the word of God; the Bible ‘contains’ the word of God. Instead of wasting energy in endless controversy the Church aims to build a Christian spirituality of joyous acceptance of self, gratitude to God in the knowledge that homosexual love is a gift from Him no less than heterosexual. A spirituality in which we dialogue with and consult all, but obey God alone. Church people are completely ignorant of the phenomenon of homosexuality, which science has now clarified unequivocally: the homosexual orientation is not chosen freely by the person. The boy or girl will discover that it is an approach deeply rooted in personality, which is an essential aspect of his identity: it is not a disease, it is not a perversion.”

“Some church people say, ‘It’s okay to be gay, but they should not have sex, they can not love each other.’ This is the greatest hypocrisy. It’s like saying to a plant that grows, ‘You must not flourish, you must not bear fruit!’ Yes, it is against nature!’ We must have patience with our Mother Church. Her attitude towards homosexuals will change.”

Joseph:  Your comment,

“Some church people say, ‘It’s okay to be gay, but they should not have sex, they can not love each other.’ This is the greatest hypocrisy. It’s like saying to a plant that grows, ‘You must not flourish, you must not bear fruit!’ Yes, it is against nature!’ We must have patience with our Mother Church. Her attitude towards homosexuals will change.”

Needs some clarification. 

1. If you believe that love means having sex, you are only partially correct.  Sexual love is only part of it, and at that, the least important part.

2. Homosexual acts cannot result in the conception of a child, so thos acts can never 'bear fruit'.

3. It's not so much against nature as it is not congruent with nature.  And there are the cringe-worthy aspects of homosexual sodomy to consider...

4. The Church's stance on homosexuality is not an 'attitude'.  It is the considered teaching of the Church.

All of the above having been said, I have to also say that some of the kindest, funniest, and brightest people I have ever met were gay.  Go gigure.

Sorry.  Meant to say, go figure.

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