The Catholic Laity/Bishops Disconnect on Sexuality, Homosexuality

The evidence of a gulf in thinking on homosexuality (and sexuality more generally) between the formal position of Vatican orthodoxy and the  real beliefs of ordinary Catholics is clear. To make sense of this. we need to consider two key questions: the compelling, established evidence that such a gulf exists, and the more tentative evidence that the oligarchy is starting to catch up.

In this post, I simply present a summary of the main findings on the belief of real Catholics, with some commentary and supporting links. Later, I will report on commentary elsewhere, and expand on the signs of the change that must come from the bishops’ oligarchy – and is just starting to do so.

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“Come Out”, Do Not Be Ashamed, Filipino Archbishops Tell Gay Catholics

The website of the Filipino television station GMA News has an intriguing report that two Archbishops, Paciano Aniceto pf San Fernando and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz have urged to “come out in the open”, because they have nothing to be ashamed of.

Their full message does not depart from the formal position of Vatican doctrine, as it repeats the standard distinction between “homosexual persons” and  “homosexual acts”, and repeats the warning that these “acts” because they are “contrary to natural law”, and do not flow from “natural complementarity”. In this respect, they are as offensive as many other utterances from our bishops and the Vatican. (The occasion for this remarks was the Philippines launch of the book ”  ” by Fr John Harvey, the founder of Courage).   Nevertheless, I see some good news in this report, supporting my belief that there is a gradual and welcome shift of emphasis underway. There are two elements of this shift evident in the bishops’ message.

Image via Wikipedia

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On being fruitful


(“Bart” continues his series of reflections on sexual ethics, from the perspective of a gay priest):

parents

Image by nerdcoregirl via Flickr

In their instructive work The Sexual Person, authors Todd A Salzman and Michael G Lawler offer their readers the following definition:

We define a natural, reasonable, and moral sexual act as a just and loving act in accord with a person’s innate sexual orientation that facilitates a deeper appreciation, integration, and sharing of a person’s embodied self with another embodied self. Biological-genital complementarity is always a dimension of the natural, reasonable, and moral sexual act, and reproductive complementarity may be a dimension of it in the case of fertile, heterosexual couples who choose to reproduce. Reproductive complementarity will not be a possibility in the case of homosexual couples, but genital complementarity—understood in an orientation, personal, and integrated sense, and not just in a biological, physical sense—will be. (page 67)

The above quote serves me as an introduction to the knotty topic of procreation (the authors use the word “reproductive”) and same-sex marriage. Knotty because procreation is probably the single issue of any relevance that distinguishes between hetero and homosexual couples. We need to realise that there are two parts to the “procreation” argument against extending marriage to same-sex couples. The first part of the argument links procreation to marriage: if the couple cannot as a couple procreate, then they are not entitled to call their relationship marriage. Is this argument reasonable and correct? Read the rest of this entry »

Catholic Revolution Gaining Momentum: Germany, Ireland

Within hours of my post earlier today on the Catholic silent revolution, came news of a dramatic corroboration, with a solid band of German academic theologians in open revolt.

In September this year, Pope Benedict will make his first papal visit to Berlin. This will be worth watching: there have been numerous indications that the German Church has been transformed by public anger and disillusionment following the abuse scandals. Well in advance of the visit, prominent German Catholics are preparing for the visit by making public calls for reforms in the Church.

Reuters has a call by a sizeable number of Catholic theologians, said to represent fully one third of all the theologians in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, for far-reaching, radical reforms of the Catholic Church.

English language reports have concentrated on the call to ordain “older” married men, which intriguingly appears to mirror a similar call made right back in 1970 by – Fr Joseph Ratzinger.

Supporters of a married priesthood caused a stir late last month when they unearthed a 1970 appeal to ordain older married men signed by nine German theologians including the then Father Joseph Ratzinger, the present pope.

An end to celibacy though is not the only reform that is needed, nor the only one demanded by the German theologians.  They have also asked for the ordination of women, lay participation in the election of bishops, and greater inclusion for those who have remarried or are in homosexual partnerships. Read the rest of this entry »

Marriage. What’s in a word?

Here’s the video I inserted at the end of my last post, for those of you who may have entered the discussion at this stage. Though the clip talks about civil unions, the intent clearly is to provoke a debate about marriage. Extending marriage legislation (including use of the term “marriage”) to same-sex couples is probably a government’s litmus test, the sign of its commitment to recognise the equal status of its LGBT citizens. I have already expressed myself as favouring the use of the word marriage rather than the terms civil unions or partnerships. Today, I thought it necessary to give a few reasons (there will probably others I have failed to mention), reasons that reflect both what I have gleaned from other sources as well as my own take on the matter. Naturally, I would like my words to be seen as an encouragement to same-sex couples  who already are in a civil union or partnership to continue to insist on getting civil authorities (as well as religious institutions as the case may be) to fully incorporate these civil unions/partnerships into the wider institution of marriage. So the caveat is: if couples so wish. I would be the last to wish to force a hetero-normative institution (that is how marriage is viewed in some quarters) on gay and lesbian couples, as not every couple may see itself as being prepared to take on the baggage that comes with the institution of marriage.

"Victory!" - This couple has been wa...

Image via Wikipedia

 

Marriage. “What’s in a word?” You may ask. Why should one choose to use the word “marriage” to cover same-sex unions too? For a start, if the state, through its laws, wants to give all the rights that a heterosexual couple has through marriage to gay and lesbian couples, then it (the state) will need to explain why it insists on using two different terms to cover the same ground. We’re talking of same-sex couples having the same rights and duties, as well as privileges as straight couples, in other words, deserving of equal status and recognition. If, on the other hand, the state does not wish to accord the same status to the unions of same-sex couples, as it does to heterosexual couples, then it should be challenged to give its reasons for making this distinction, or in other words, why it is discriminating between its citizens.

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“The Sexual Person”

I have just completed a first reading of “The Sexual Person: Toward a Renewed Catholic Anthropology (Moral Traditions) “, by the Catholic theologians Todd A. Salzmann and Michael G. Lawler.  I stress here, “a first reading”, as I have no doubt that this will be for me one of those foundational texts that I return to again and again.  After just an introductory acquaintance, I have no intention of attempting here any kind of formal assessment or review, but I do want to share some preliminary thoughts, some of which I propose to expand into full posts a little later.

 

The constantly evolving, ever-changing  Catholic tradition.

Whatever it is that Vatican spokesmen mean when they refer to the Church’s “constant and unchanging tradition”, it cannot be what the plain English words appear to mean. Across the full range  of sexual ethics, Catholic tradition has changed constantly. This is not only an historical fact, it is also inevitable and in fact demanded by the Magisterium itself. I particularly like the words of a certain Joseph Ratzinger, which highlight the importance of identifying and correcting the “distorting tradition” in the Church:

“Not everything that exists in the Church must for that reason be also a legitimate tradition…. There is a distorting tradition as well as a legitimate tradition, ….[and] …consequently tradition must not be considered only affirmatively but also critically.”

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Defective Theology From Colorado Springs Diocese.

The principle behind 12-step programmes has become familiar, made famous by Alcoholics Anonymous, and since adapted for narcotics addictions, gambling addictions and other pathological behaviours, where it is widely agreed they can be extremely helpful in turning around self-destructive behaviour. Note carefully those qualifiers – they have worked in turning around addictive or otherwise self-destructive behaviour. Their use in attempting to modify behaviour which is totally natural and healthy (but possibly unpopular) is no more appropriate than using dangerous hydroquinine – based skin lighteners to “cure” dark skin – but this is what the Catholic diocese of Colorado Springs is trying to do, with a spurious 12-step programme that claims to offer support to those  suffering from same-sex attraction – by asking them to make amends for those whom they have hurt.

As Call to Action has noted in their response, this is plain bad theology.  Same-sex attraction is not a disease or addiction, but is totally natural. The only hurt that needs healing is not that done by gay men and lesbians on others, but that inflicted on them by misguided programmes such as this. What I find particularly offensive in the response by the programme organisers to the outraged reaction, is their pretence that the only orientation they are promoting is an orientation to Jesus Christ. They are not – Jesus, in his life and ministry said absolutely nothing against same sex relationships, and much in support. He most specifically promoted inclusion and welcome to all, including those otherwise marginalized by the social and religious elites of his day. If the diocese were to genuinely focus on an orientation to Jesus Christ, the only 12-step programme worth considering would not be aimed at those with same-sex attraction, but at those so burdened by homophobia that they are determined to impose their heterosexual agenda on everybody else. They are the ones who should be apologising for the hurt that they have caused to others, not the gay men and lesbians whose only “fault” has been to love.

This is a press statement from Equally Blessed: Read the rest of this entry »