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.



Commenting Guidelines

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.





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'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:

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 (, 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.




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, 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 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. 


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. 




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:

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.