So, Let’s Talk About – Condoms and AIDS Prevention

Is it really true that Pope Benedict’s approval of condoms to prevent the transmission of HIV/AIDS is backed by very traditional teaching of Augustine and Aquinas? James Heffernan, writing at Huffington Post, seems to think so. First, he refers to Aquinas on the validity of self-defence, and  asks, does this imply that condoms are justifiable in AIDS prevention, as self-defence against infection?

In the 13th-century Summa Theologica, perhaps the greatest of all treatises on Roman Catholic doctrine, Saint Thomas Aquinas says that one may lawfully kill an assailant in self-defense. In such cases, says Aquinas, one’s action has a double effect: killing another and saving one’s own life. “Therefore, this act” he says, “since one’s intention is to save one’s own life, is not unlawful, seeing that it is natural to everything to keep itself in being as far as possible” (ST II-II, Qu. 64, Art 7).

If Aquinas says it is “NOT unlawful” to kill in self-defense, could he possibly say it IS unlawful to use a condom in self-defense, as a means of protecting oneself against fatal infection, or one’s partner from such infection?

St. Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225-1274), the eponym ...

St Thomas Aquinas (Fra Angelico)

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Fr Owen O’Sullivan on Gay Inclusion (Pt 4): “Homosexuality is fundamentally disordered”

In the fourth part of his long article on gay inclusion for the Irish theology magazine “Furrow”, Fr Owen O’Sullivan considers the part of the CDF presentation of the subject that most enrages gay and lesbian Catholics – that their orientation is fundamentally disordered. We know that this is simply not true, at least not in any conventional sense familiar from everyday speech. It is certainly not true in what appears to be the obvious, medical import: professionals in mental and physical health have agreed that same sex attraction is not disordered in any medical sense.

Not the only model

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Condoms and the “Marital Act”.

I got home late last night to find the news sites ablaze with reports that Pope Benedict has conceded that there could be some justification for the use of condoms “in certain cases”. Most reports see this (very slight) shift as significant: the Daily Telegraph headline calls it “historic”. Others are less convinced, noting that the example he gives is very specific, that of a male (homosexual) prostitute, for whom contraception is clearly a non- starter in the first place.

Condom Permitted?

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Fr Owen O’Sullivan on Gay Inclusion (Pt 2): Why Can’t They Just Keep Quiet About It?

At Boundless Salvation,  Jason Davies-Kildea, took as his second extract from Fr Owen O’Sullivan’s paper on Gay Inclusion a section headed “Why Can’t they Just Keep Quiet?”.

This is a short passage, and an apparently reasonable question – which hides some big and important questions. Fr O’Sullivan’s brief response is summarised even more  briefly in his first two sentences of the passage:

Homosexuality is not a problem; the denial of it is, especially if one denies it to oneself. Good human relationships (or good health) can never be founded on the basis of suppression or denial of the truth.

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Patrick Chen, on the “Erotic Christ”.

When I referred somewhat simplistically in an earlier post to LGBT “gloom” over the mid-term election results, Kittredge Cherry (of the excellent Jesus in Love blog) replied in a comment that  this should be set against remarkable progress in LGBT theology – an opinion I wholeheartedly endorse. Progress really has been remarkable since the early pioneers began to write about “gay and lesbian theology” thirty five years ago.

Patrick Chen is one of a much younger generation of theologians, with an expanding body of important work. Jesus in Love blog has begun publishing (in instalments) an extended article by Cheng, “Rethinking Sin and Grace for LGBT People Today”.  The first instalment is now available, under the provocative title, “The Erotic Christ“. Here is an extract:

The first christological model of sin and grace for LGBT people is the Erotic Christ.  According to Audre Lorde, the Black feminist lesbian writer, the erotic is about relationality and desire for the other; it is the power that arises out of “sharing deeply” with another person.  The erotic is to “share our joy in the satisfying” of the other, rather than simply using other people as “objects of satisfaction.”[2]

The Erotic Christ arises out of the reality that Jesus Christ, as the Word made flesh, is the very embodiment of God’s deepest desires for us.  Jesus Christ came down from heaven not for God’s own self-gratification, but rather for us and for our salvation.  In the gospels, Jesus repeatedly shows his love and desire for all those who come into contact with him, including physical touch.  He uses touch as a way to cure people of disease and disabilities, as well as to bring them back to life.  He washes the feet of his disciples, and he even allows the Beloved Disciple to lie close to his breast at the last supper.

Conversely, Jesus is touched physically by many of the people who come into contact with him.  He is touched by the bleeding woman who hoped that his powers could heal her.  He is bathed in expensive ointment by the woman at Bethany.  After his resurrection, Jesus allows Thomas to place his finger in the mark of the nails and also to place his hand in his side.  All of these physical interactions are manifestations of God’s love for us – and our reciprocal love for God – through the Erotic Christ.

Carter Heyward, the lesbian theologian and Episcopal priest, has written about the Erotic Christ in the context of the “radically mutual character” of Jesus Christ’s life, death, and resurrection.  For Heyward, the significance of Jesus Christ lies not only in the ways in which he touched others (both physically and otherwise), but also in the ways in which he was “healed, liberated, and transformed” by those who he encountered.  This power in mutual relation is not something that exists solely within the trinitarian relationship between God, Jesus Christ, or the Holy Spirit.  Rather, this power is present in all of us who have ever “loved, held, yearned, lost.”

Follow the link to read the full post at Kitt’s blog – and look out for the remaining instalments.

 

Recommended Books

Fr Owen O’Sullivan on Gay Inclusion (Pt 1): Is Homosexuality Unnatural?

Extracts from Fr Owen Sullivan’s Furrow article on gay inclusion may be read at “Boundless Salvation”, where they have been reproduced by Jason Davies-Kildea, a Salvation Army officer serving as Social Program Secretary of the Melbourne Central Division. He has divided the series into eight parts, under the headings

Here at QTC, I shall be attempting to add some commentary of my own, keeping to the same eight -part division.

So, is homosexuality “unnatural”? I have already published numerous posts showing clearly that it is not, at least not in the sense of “found in nature”. Abundant evidence shows conclusively that same sex erotic activity is found throughout human history, in multiple cultural contexts, and in all branches of the animal kingdom.  I am not going to haul out this evidence yet again. Regular readers will be familiar with it, new readers can follow the links. But, I have been told,”natural” does not mean “moral”. Of course it doesn’t – but it also doesn’t mean immoral. In any case,I am told further, that is not what the theologians mean by “unnatural”. What then, do they mean?

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“Speaking the Truth” on Catholic LGBT Inclusion

Regular readers here will know that the infamous CDF document on “homosexuals”, Homosexualitatis Problema (better known as then Cardinal Ratzinger’s Hallowe’en letter), is not my favourite Church document.  Nevertheless, it does include some important features, which many people in the Catholic Church too easily forget.

In its closing paragraphs, the document reminds us of the words of Scripture: “Speak the truth in love”, and “The truth shall set you free”. It is disgraceful that the document itself ignores its own advice here, but no matter: the advice itself is sound, and there are an increasing number of Catholics, lay and clerical, who are making up for the CDF omission, by speaking the truth in love on LGBT inclusion in church. The latest to do so is  Jody Huckaby, executive director of PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), in an address October 21 at King’s University-College, a Catholic institution based at the University of Western Ontario. In doing so, he reminded us of the other neglected portion of the CDF letter – the exhortation to treat “homosexual” persons with dignity, compassion and respect.

I regret that the only report I have been able to find of Huckaby’s address is from Lifesite News (but see the update below*), which is not usually renowned for its sympathy with progressive causes in general, or LGBT Catholics in particular. Nevertheless, they quote some sections verbatim, which are worth taking on board:

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Coming Soon: John McNeill & “Taking a Chance on God”, On Film, On-Line.

For some time, I have been reading reports of a documentary film on the life and ministry of the pioneer gay theologian, John McNeill, in production by Brendan Fay, one of the producers of “Saint of 9/11”, on the life and death at the World Trade Towers of Father Mychal Judge, the gay Franciscan chaplain to the NYC fire department,By way of a comment he has placed here today, I can now pass on the good news that a trailer for the film, which takes it title from one of John McNeill’s books, will shortly be available on-line:

Just wanted to inform all that in a few days a trailer to the documentary on my life and ministry will go on-line, at  “Taking a Chance on God”. (http://www.TakingaChanceonGod.com.) The complete documentary will be premiered in December.

McNeill's Book of the Same Title

 

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Catholic Sexual Ethics, Social Ethics, and Reality-Based Theology

One of the key points in Salzmann & Lawler’s exposition of Catholic sexual ethics (“The Sexual Person”) is the importance of  considering theology in the context of history. Explaining this idea, they describe two approaches to theology,a “classical” view, which sees all moral standards as static and fixed   for all time, and an “empirical” view, in which we recognize that circumstances and human understanding (for  example,of science), is constantly changing, and which implies that we must be constantly ready to refine our expression of those standards.

In its classicist mode, theology is a static, permanent achievement… In its empirical mode, it is a dynamic, ongoing process……. The classical understanding sees the human person as a series of created, static and definitively ordered temporal facts. The empirical understanding sees the person as a subject in the process of “self-realization in accordance with a project that develops in God-given autonomy, carried out in the present with a view to the future”.  Classical theology sees moral norms coming from the Magisterium as once and for all definitive; sexual norms enunciated in the fifth or sixteenth century continue to apply absolutely in the twenty-first. Empirical theology sees the moral norms of the past not as facts for uncritical and passive acceptance but as partial insights that are the bases for critical attention, understanding, evaluation, judgement and decisions in the present sociohistorical situation. What Augustine and his medieval sources knew about sexuality cannot be the exclusive basis for a moral judgement about sexuality today.

The empirical approach, they say, was endorsed by by Vatican II. Later, this view was clearly articulated by Pope John Paul II, in Sollicitudo rei socialis (1987).

Pope John Paul II, Progressive Theologian?

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“The Sexual Person”: Bishops, Theologians Clash on Sexual Ethics

In 2008 two Catholic academic theologians at a reputable Jesuit university published a book, “The Sexual Person: Toward a Renewed Catholic Anthropology (Moral Traditions)“,  on the Church’s sexual theology which represented a fundamental critique of its entire foundations. The United States Catholic Bishops have now launched a strong counter-attack, concentrating their fire especially on the authors’ section on homosexuality.

I am grateful to the Bishops for this attack: it has brought to my close attention a book that I was previously aware of, but had not considered too seriously. After reading some reviews and the extracts available at Google Books, I will now most certainly read it in full – and will later discuss its conclusions with my readers. As I have not yet had this opportunity to read the book for myself, I will not attempt in this post  to evaluate the content or conclusions. However, I have read the authors’ intent and methods as presented in the prologue, and can contrast these with the bishops’ disappointing response, which I have read and re-read in full. Read the rest of this entry »