Category Archives: Sexuality and gender

Resource: “A Catholic Conversation About Homosexuality”

With his Apostolic Exhortation “Amoris Laetitia”, Pope Francis has placed great emphasis on the importance of pastoral accompaniment, discernment, and the interior forum for church responses to LGBT Catholics. The document also speaks of the importance of accompaniment and pastoral care for the families which include those LGBT people. But what does this mean, in practice?

The response to Fr James Martin’s book, “Building a Bridge” has shown that there is widespread hunger for this accompaniment – but also reveals the extent of public ignorance. Martin’s book focuses on just one simple part of church teaching, on the need for “respect, compassion and sensitivity”, but quite deliberately does not dig more deeply. There is a dire need for material which does indeed take a broader canvas, suitable for use in parish groups.

Fortunate Families, the USA group for the parents and families of LGBT Catholics,  has just such a great “resources” page, structured primarily for the Catholic families and friends of LGBT people, but also immensely valuable for anyone who simply wants to know more about the facts, without the polemics.

One of these valuable resources is an 8 part series,  “Let’s Talk About Homosexuality“, which is described as a “Catholic conversation” on the subject, for

• Parents of gay and lesbian children: parents still in the closet, alone with their secret; parents out of the secret; struggling with their questions, their fears, their faith.
• Parents of young children: moms and dads seeking information and insight for their own parenting role as teacher and counselor.
• Family members who may be struggling to deal with the hurtful stereotypes that exist within both society and their Church.
• Gay and lesbian people who may be searching for some sign of understanding from their Church.
• Anyone who is curious about homosexuality and  wanting to learn more.

________________________________________

Permission is granted for you to download and print this copyrighted series for your personal use, for parish study groups, for adult education programs, for ministry support, for future reference.

Structured as an adult education program to be placed on a parish website over a period of eight successive weeks, it could equally well be adapted for use in a discussion group meeting weekly (or monthly) – or for personal study, over eight sessions, at any frequency you choose.

Grouped into 3 major parts, the weekly instalments, with their main focus areas, are:

Part 1: Common Questions about Homosexuality

Week 1: Common Questions about Homosexuality

  • Segment 1: The Basic Stuff
  • Segment 2: Scientific Perspectives

Week 2: Common Questions about Homosexuality (Cont.)

  • Segment 3: Social Perspectives
  • Segment 4: Family Perspectives

Part 2: Putting a Human Face on Homosexuality: Gays, Lesbians and Parents Share Their Stories

Week 3: Putting a Human Face on Homosexuality

  • Parents Talk of Their Experience

Week 4: Putting a Human Face on Homosexuality

  • Gay and Lesbian Persons Talk of Their Experience

Part 3: Moral and Pastoral Considerations: Official Teaching and Other Catholic Voices

Week 5: Moral and Pastoral Considerations: What the Church Teaches

  • On Homosexual Orientation
  • On Human Dignity
  • On Discrimination and Social Justice
  • On Homosexual Acts
  • Chronology of significant documents on homosexuality issued by the Vatican and U.S. Bishops’ Conference.

Week 6: Moral and Pastoral Considerations: Other Catholic Voices

  • So What Are We To Do?
  • The Role of Conscience

Week 7: Moral and Pastoral Considerations: Other Catholic Voices

  • Shared Thoughts on Vatican Documents

Week 8: Moral and Pastoral Considerations: Other Catholic Voices:

  • The Question of “Finality”
  • “A Biblical Understanding”
  • Can Teaching Change?
  • One Last Question

These pages were put together some years ago, well before Pope Francis’ papacy, but they remain valuable. Read them at Fortunate Families, download them, discuss and distribute them.

 

Cardinal Wuerl: Married Gay Catholics “Not a Great Problem”

While Pope Francis and several leading cardinals have shown a welcome emphasis on pastoral accompaniment for LGBT Catholics and others in unconventional situations, it is disgraceful that others continue to insist on legalistic excuses for exclusion. The appalling directive in Madison diocese about church funerals for married lesbian or gay Catholics, and the recent firing of yet another teacher at a Catholic school not because she is gay, but because it became she was about to marry, are just the most recent examples of this.

Yet these practices, far from upholding Catholic teaching, are in fact contravening it.  As Fr James Martin SJ has repeatedly pointed out, it is unreasonable to claim that such sanctions are required because people are acting in conflict with Catholic doctrines, when they do not apply equivalent sanctions to people acting in conflict with other Catholic doctrines. This selective treatment is plainly discriminatory, and directly contradicts the Catechism requirement to treat lesbian and gay Catholics with “respect, compassion and sensitivity” – and also the directive against unjust discrimination.

This point was made very clearly four years ago, even before the more pastoral tone introduced to the church by Pope Francis, by Cardinal Wuerl of Washington. I reproduce below a post from my archives, originally written in April 2013, as pressure for marriage equality was building across the USA – and some bishops were fiercely resisting.

***********

It’s been obvious for a long time that as equal marriage becomes increasingly inevitable, as ordinary Catholics show their direct support for all Catholic relationships and families without discrimination on sexual or gender grounds, the bishops will be forced to consider ways to respond to the changing realities on the ground.  Cardinal Dolan’s admission that the Church needs to be more supportive of gay and lesbian Catholics but doesn’t know how, has drawn widespread commentary. Somewhat slipping under the radar, even though it does point to part at least of a workable response, is this, from Cardinal Donald Wuerl.

Cardinal Wuerl – Wikipedia

Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the cardinal archbishop of Washington, explained Sunday that gay Catholics who marry their partners may remain part of the Catholic Church even though the church will not recognize their marriage. In an appearance on “Fox News Sunday,” Wuerl explained this is similar to how the church treats Catholics who are divorced and remarried.

“We do that same thing with people who are married, divorced and remarried,” Wuerl said on the church’s refusal to recognize same-sex marriages. “We say, you know, you’re still part of the family, but we can’t recognize that second marriage… and it’s never been a great problem.

– Talking Points Memo

(emphasis added)

The high profile campaigns by bishops and their orthotoxic camp followers against gay marriage, and the extensive publicity to the language used about homosexuality, especially the description as an “intrinsically disordered” condition, leads many of us to assume that Catholic doctrine is especially discriminatory towards us. In fact, this is not so. In its insistence that every genital sexual act must be open to procreation, Catholic doctrine on sexual matters is equally disordered, to all.

The problem comes in the application, in pastoral practice. Although the Catechism and other documents are clear that artificial contraception within marriage, sexual relationships before marriage or after divorce and masturbation are all considered “grave sins”, “intrinsically disordered”, or “great evils”, in practice in most parishes there is a great deal of pastoral sensitivity displayed on these matters. For some reason, it is specifically same – sex relationships that arouse the ire of the Catholic right, who may not approve of other sexual transgressions, manage to bite their tongues and refrain from judging those who trangress, or the priests who welcome them in their parishes.

So, Cardinal Wuerl’s recognition that married gay Catholics are in a position no different to those who have remarried after divorce, “and it’s never been a great problem”, is a helpful step forward. It’s not been a great problem not because the documents approve, but because in most parishes, the formal rules are ignored, and a more sensitive, pastoral welcome applies instead. I hope that married gay and lesbian Catholics will take Cardinal Wuerl at his word, and take their places in Catholic parishes alongside other married couples – and expect the equal treatment, without encountering “great problems”, that the Cardinal has given them grounds to expect.

Italian Celebrity Funeral: Church and Homosexuality

ROME LETTER: IS NOT the Catholic Church’s teaching that homosexuality represents both a “grave depravation” and an “intrinsic disorder” a total hypocrisy? That oft-posed question has been doing the rounds in Italy in recent days following events at the funeral of the popular singer/songwriter Lucio Dalla.

The debate was sparked by the fact that a moving and emotional funeral oration was given at Dalla’s funeral in the Basilica of San Petronio by his 31-year-old partner/companion/lover, Marco Alemanno. Total hypocrisy, screamed commentators who suggested the semi-state basilica funeral and the lover’s oration had been tolerated not only because Dalla was a practising Catholic but because he was famous, successful and private about his sexual orientation.

Italian singer-songwriter Lucio Dalla

“Lucio Dalla’s funeral represents a very clear example of what it means to be gay in Italy today. You go to church, they grant you a funeral and they bury you according to the Catholic rite, just as long as you don’t say you are gay,” said television presenter Lucia Annunziata.

“Marco Alemanno embodied in a church and in a totally public ceremony all the dignity of love between men. However, you would have to ask yourself how many less famous Catholic homosexuals, less protected by the charisma of their art, would have been able to feel themselves so fully members of their community.

“We would like to think that Marco’s brief oration for Lucio has established a precedent. For those homosexuals who are not Catholic, church teaching on the subject does not matter a damn, they could not care less. But for Catholic homosexuals, it is a huge problem. And it is to them that the thoughts of all decent-minded people turn, when we see Marco Alemanno praying for his ‘man’ beside the basilica altar,” commented writer Michele Serra.

-full report at The Irish Times.

I don’t for a minute believe Dalla had special treatment from the Church because he’s a celebrity. There must be thousands of gay couples, constantly, who get similar respectful treatment within their own parishes. The only special treatment here, is by the news media. His celebrity status makes him newsworthy – not a different class of Catholic. What we lose sight of, in the media hype over stories like that of Barbara Johnson, is that they hit the headlines precisely because they are newsworthy. Unless they are celebrities, like Dalla, the only reason they are newsworthy is that they are exceptional. For every horror like the denial of communion to a woman at her mother’s funeral, there are far more that go unreported, because they are so ordinary. Even Johnson, in precisely the same circumstances, in the same parish, was given the communion on a previous occasion – at her father’s funeral. That was not reported, because it was normal.  There are countless same – sex couples all over the world, worshipping and fully accepted in their parish communities. In my own life back in Johannesburg, my partner and I served openly as a couple on the parish pastoral council, without any comment or reaction at all. I am certain that in the many similar cases around the world, if one half of a gay or lesbian couple were to die, the parish community would respond in precisely the same way they would to any other couple – even if there is not celebrity status involved.

This story supports an increasingly strong perception I have that notwithstanding the strenuous opposition of Catholic bishops to legally recognized gay marriage, and regardless of  the widely – publicized horrors perpetrated by some individual priests and bishops, there is a major shift under way in the Church towards tacit understanding and acceptance of loving and faithful same – sex relationships – exactly as there is tacit understanding and acceptance of the role of conscience in contraceptive use by married couples.

I am attempting to put together two parallel series of posts on Bishop Geoffrey Robinson’s Baltimore address last week on the need to reform the whole of Catholic sexual teaching, heterosexual and homosexual, and on James Alison’s extended interview that I have previously referred to only in part.

Once I have done that, I will be able to substantiate more fully what I offer now only as an assertion:

The times, they are a-changing.

Enhanced by Zemanta

What Gay Catholics Have Done: Parish Ministry

In his report on the New Ways Ministries’ 2012 conference  From Water to Wine:  Lesbian/Gay Catholics and Relationships, Chuck Colbert summarized the main addresses, but also presented some questions by participants – and their reasons for attending. The reason given by one couple also offers insight into how they approach being lesbian and Catholic back home, in their parish:

Chicagoans Karen Allen and her partner, Mary Jo Hoag, attended the gathering, this their second one.

“What brings me here is the chance to be rooted in my faith and with the people of God and to be sent forth to create loving communities,” said Allen, who leads a gay and lesbian family-and-friends ministry at St. Nicholas parish in Evanston.

Allen said the parish group grew out the idea she and others got 10 years ago at the Louisville, Ky., New Ways symposium.

In proposing the idea, she explained, “We were welcomed to do so by our pastor at the time, who said, ‘Where have you been?'”

The ministry is about education and prayer and not so much advocacy, Allen said, but “more about how can we as gay and lesbian Catholics live fully integrated, authentic lives in our tradition.”

“Many have walked away [ from the church ] but returned in mid-life,” she explained, while readily acknowledging, “struggling mightily” with “clericalism and the hierarchy.”

“The church is our church,” said Hoag, explaining why she stays. “Many of us are cradle Catholics who grew up with the rituals, sacraments, and the teachings and feel comfortable. We are gifts to the church and shouldn’t go away, as we provide those gifts of love and understanding and outreach.”

New Ways Ministry, Allen added, provides us “a shot in the arm” to keep up our work in ministry.

Oppose Catholic Employment Discrimination

In North Carolina, a Catholic bishop is arguing in court that the church must have a fundamental right to fire LGBT Catholic employees who exercise their legal right to marry.

Lonnie Billard, left, with husband Richard Donham (pic – New Ways Ministry)

A bishop has claimed that the diocese over which he presides would be “irreparably damaged” if it is unable to fire church workers at will.

Bishop Peter Jugis of Charlotte, North Carolina, made his remarks while being deposed in the federal workplace discrimination court case of Lonnie Billard, who was fired from Charlotte Catholic High School in 2014 when his engagement to a man became public.

Jugis said in the deposition that continuing to employ church workers who advocate against or violate “fundamental moral tenets” of church teaching would be a cause for “scandal.”

-New Ways Ministry

What is truly scandalous, is when church bishops ignore both the Gospels’ clear message of inclusion for all, and the Church’s own teaching on the primacy of conscience and the importance of social justice – including employment justice.


Continue reading Oppose Catholic Employment Discrimination

Sex and Catholics 3: Vatican II and Modern Specialists

Chris Morely continues his guest post series on Natural Law: Part 3

Vatican II and incorporating modern specialist expertise

Part 1 dealt with the Natural Law.

In Part 2 we considered the male and female perspectives of Natural Law and the Church’s teachings on sexual morality, and recent learning from experts in evolution.

Here in Part 3, we move on to the Church’s stated position on considering outside expertise and some particular examples – insights from human psychology, secular liberal philosophy, and modern Christian moral theologians, including a Pope. We assess how well the Church’s sexual behaviour teaching copes with the various critiques and its response.

postage stamp showing Vatican 2 Council

Vatican II

The 2nd Vatican Council directed the Church to look beyond its well established traditions and scriptural interpretations and take account of the expertise available from various fields of learning in the modern world, and use these external insights to review and update its teachings of the Truth, as appropriate.

However this directive appears to be ignored more than followed.

The Church’s most recent formal statement is the 1986 letter to the bishops on the pastoral care of homosexual persons, from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

In paragraph 2, this tells us:

However, the Catholic moral viewpoint is founded on human reason illumined by faith and is consciously motivated by the desire to do the will of God our Father. The Church is thus in a position to learn from scientific discovery but also to transcend the horizons of science and to be confident that her more global vision does greater justice to the rich reality of the human person in his spiritual and physical dimensions, created by God and heir, by grace, to eternal life.

This is not a satisfactory response to the Vatican II instruction to learn from outside expertise. The key passage is: ‘we can learn from scientific discovery’ but our position means we can ‘transcend the horizons of science and .. be confident that [the Church’s] more global vision does greater justice to the rich reality of the human person in his spiritual and physical dimensions’.

In other words, we are correct already and simply don’t need to consider anything else or change our teaching as a result of any scientific discovery: “[the Church’s] more global vision does greater justice … “.

Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith office at the Vatican

Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith office at the Vatican

Unchanged since 1986 but outside expertise moves on

While the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has not changed its position on the treatment of lesbian and gay people since 1986, much new information has been gathered on the history of homosexuality, its nature and causes, biblical and theological perspectives, and from the empirical sciences.

In many areas covered by the Congregation’s pastoral guidelines, Catholic culture has made major advances (Curb & Manahan, 1985 [14]; Francoeur, 1988 [15], 1989 [16]; Gramick, 1983 [17], 1988 [18]; Nugent, 1984 [19], 1992 [20]). Those are just the first eight years worth of publications from around the time of its publication in 1986, and very much more has been published since.

The tension between the unchanging formal fixed Church view of homosexuality and the changing worldview, is evident when John R. Quinn, Archbishop of San Francisco, replied to the Curia’s 1986 letter on the pastoral care of homosexuals, with clear frustration:

We cannot fulfill our task [as pastors and bishops] simply by an uncritical application of solutions designed in past ages for problems which have qualitatively changed, or which did not exist in the past. (Quoted in Gramick & Furey, 1988, p. vii)  [13]

He was writing this from San Francisco as thousands of gay men in his city, significant numbers of whom were Catholic, already had HIV infection and were dying of AIDS, before any effective treatment was available. The world for lesbians and gay men had very significantly changed.
Project in San Francsisco to gather people's HIV stories from the last 30 years

 

No change: a comfort blanket

Plainly the field of sexual morality is one where the Church is reluctant to incorporate external expertise and the weight of modern moral theological and scriptural opinion, preferring instead to keep its comfort blanket of familiar traditions and teachings wrapped tight round its fist.

Catholic theologians are vulnerable when speaking out on these themes: some have been disciplined and others have lost their jobs. Debate and scholarly exploration of ideas is inhibited and closed down. The Church gives little sign of active, responsive listening.

It would be a firm but accurate criticism to say that the Church is being disrespectful to lesbian and gay Catholics by apparently not listening and responding to the wealth of new information and insights available in the 25 years since 1986, contrary to her own Catechism’s instruction to be ‘respectful, compassionate and sensitive’ to lesbian and gay people (in paragraph 2358).

 

Now it is time to turn our attention to some of the secular experts’ work that ought to have an impact on the Church’s thinking and teaching about sexual morality.

Psychologically natural forms of human sexual expression
Among the disregarded modern secular perspectives is that offered by Thomas Nagel ¹, who denies Aquinas’s central presupposition, that in order to discover what is natural in human sexuality we should focus on what humans and lower animals have in common. Using this approach, Aquinas concluded that the purpose of sexual activity and the sexual organs in humans was procreation, as it is in the lower animals.

bonobo couple

Aquinas considered animal behaviour so here’s a contented bonobo couple

 

Nagel, by contrast, argues that to discover what is distinctive about natural human sexuality, and so be able also to work out what is unnatural or perverted, we should focus instead on what humans and lower animals do not have in common. We should emphasize the ways in which humans are different from animals, the ways in which humans and their sexuality are special.

Thus Nagel argues that human sexuality, whether strictly procreative as required by Aquinas, or expressed in various other ways, is explained by human psychology. For it is human psychology that makes us quite different from other animals, and hence an account of natural human sexuality must acknowledge the uniqueness of human psychology. We have been created with and have evolved with proportionately massive brains compared with all other animals, and this makes us quantitatively and qualitatively different and our human psychology is expressed in distinctly human sexual behaviours.

Aquinas and the Church have ignored these brain and psychological differences from animals.

 

 

Mutual Attraction single record 45rpm

Mutual Attraction – Nagel argues that psychologically healthy sexual relations have both mutual interest and mutual arousal

Mutual sexual interest and arousal
Nagel therefore proposes that psychologically healthy natural human sexual interactions, are all those in which each person responds with sexual arousal to noticing the sexual arousal of the other person. In such an encounter, each person becomes aware of himself or herself and the other person as both the subject and the object of their joint sexual experiences. If mutual arousal and interest is not present, Nagel describes this as perverted, or in Aquinas’s terms, unnatural.

Psychology, not organs, not bodily responses
Nothing in Nagel’s psychological account of the natural and the perverted refers to bodily organs or physiological processes. That is, for a sexual encounter to be natural, it need not be procreative in form, as long as the requisite psychology of mutual recognition and arousal is present. Whether a sexual activity is natural or perverted does not depend, in Nagel’s view, on what organs are used or where they are put, but only on the character of the psychology of the sexual encounter.

Thus Nagel disagrees with Aquinas that homosexual activities, as a specific type of sexual act, are unnatural or perverted, for oral and anal sex may very well be accompanied by the mutual recognition of and response to the other’s sexual arousal.

Boswell pointing out that Thomas Aquinas was responsible for homosexuality being made a grave sinThomas Aquinas         1225 – 1274

Thomas Aquinas emphasised the sin in homosexual acts

The change from Aquinas’s judgemental natural law response to every activity that is not strictly procreational, toward an amoral psychological account such as Nagel’s, represents a more widespread modern trend. Aquinas’s moral or religious judgments are replaced by acceptance of behaviours as part of the normal range of human sexual expression, or by medical or psychiatric judgments and interventions. ²

 

There is no requirement for the Church to accept the specific sexual behaviour conclusions Nagel reaches (mutual interest leading to mutual arousal, whether married or not, followed by any consensual sexual behaviour), but there is a need to address his insight that exploring the perspective of what is different, special and unique about people compared with animals is illuminating. We have a highly intelligent human psychology not found in animal-kind. What does that mean for considering what are appropriate sexual behaviours and relationships for humans? Does it not suggest that human sexual behaviours are likely to be more complex and nuanced?

Could not Nagel’s insights be combined with the unitive, and consensual sexual behaviour be acceptable if that is within a marriage or the lesbian and gay equivalent?

 

Secular liberal sexual philosophy
Modern secular liberal sexual philosophers now emphasise the values of autonomous choice, self-determination, and pleasure in arriving at moral judgments about sexual behavior, in contrast to the Aquinas tradition that justifies highly restrictive sexual morality limits by reference to Natural Law, God and scripture as the source of those limits.

The secular liberal finds nothing morally wrong, or non-morally bad, about either masturbation or homosexual sexual activity. These might be ‘unnatural’ in the sense of being solitary or less common, but in many if not most cases, they can be carried out without harm being done either to the participants, or to anyone else.

For the secular liberal, anything done voluntarily between two or more people is generally morally permissible. A sexual act would be morally wrong if it were dishonest, coercive, or manipulative, and Natural Law theory would agree with that. However Aquinas would instead start by saying that anything that is not marital vaginal sex open to procreation is fundamentally wrong because it is ‘unnatural’ and against God’s purpose, and no amount of good intentions or other justification can ever eradicate that fatal flaw in any alternate sexual activity.

sex and power in alphabet bricks

 

Modern liberal Catholic moral theologians and others
Modern liberal Catholic moral theologians such as Todd Salzmann and Michael Lawler ³, and Sister Margaret Farley [4], and Dr James B Nickoloff [5], Bishop Geoffrey Robinson [6], James Alison [7], and Joshua Allen [8], all put a high moral value on consensual sexual activity only within committed permanent relationships, whether heterosexual marriage, lesbian and gay marriage, or lesbian and gay civil partnerships. Within such committed relationships, the emphasis is not on particular sexual acts and what body part goes where, but far more on its unitive value, consent and doing no harm.

spouse A is always for spouse B

commitment

Contemporary liberal Anglican, Episcopal and other liberal Christian moral theologians generally share this moral restriction on the use of human sexual faculties to those within committed permanent relationships.

In contrast, contemporary orthodox and evangelical Christian theologians are doctrinaire with tradition and biblical interpretations, decidedly hostile to any homosexual expression, and strict about limiting sex to within married heterosexual relationships, and they oppose adultery and divorce.

It is notable that a great deal more effort is put into condemning any homosexual activity whatsoever, than ever appears to be the case in relation to the much more frequent moral misbehaviours of heterosexuals which demonstrably harm others, such as adultery and divorce. In psychological terms this looks like a near pathological anti-homosexual obsession, scapegoating and displacement.

Oftentimes the Magisterium and others within the Catholic Church lurch into this same condemnatory response to homosexuality, forgetting their Catechism duty to treat lesbians and gay men with ‘respect, compassion and sensitivity’. Condemnatory sermonising that disregards the Catechism instructions on respect, compassion and sensitivity does not engender respect for the Church among those hurt by this. Frank acknowledgments of error and apologies for the unnecessary offence caused are decidedly rare and this is also un-Christian. Expecting lesbians and gay men to always turn the other cheek in the face of such Church misbehaviour is unreasonable. Such mistreatment, especially when repeated, is psychologically damaging to mental health and well-being.

 

Aquinas-lite, a contraception OK variant of Natural Law
Natural Law is still alive and well today among some contemporary philosophers of sex, even if the details do not exactly match Aquinas as now taught by the Church. John Finnis [9] [10] comes very close to a traditional Catholic or orthodox evangelical position. He does not require all vaginal intercourse within marriage to be open to procreation, so contraception is acceptable to Finnis.

However he invokes God and argues that only vaginal intercourse within marriage avoids ‘disintegrity’. Only in marital vaginal sex, as intended by God’s plan, do the couple attain a state of genuine unity: ‘the orgasmic union of the reproductive organs of husband and wife really unites them biologically.’ He says ‘all extramarital sexual gratification’ is morally worthless, even if it is vaginal intercourse within a committed relationship, because the body is then just a tool of sexual satisfaction and, as a result, the person undergoes ‘disintegration.’ ‘One’s choosing self [becomes] the quasi-slave of the experiencing self which is demanding gratification.’

Contraception - worth talking about

This is almost indistinguishable in practice from Aquinas. This is Aquinas-lite, ignoring Aquinas’s expectation of vaginal sex being for procreation and the contraception ban in In Humanae Vitae. Finnis appears to have conceived this framework to justify maintaining the hegemony of the current orthodox Catholic and evangelical Christian vaginal intercourse-only model for marriage. Finnis’s language is marginally different to Aquinas: ‘disintegrity’ and ‘disintegration’ being his terms to condemn all other sexual activity in place of Aquinas’s ‘unnatural’ or the 1986 letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faiths’ choice of the word ‘disordered’. It doesn’t feel any less damning to have that Finnis’s choice of words applied to you.

 

Love’s the thing
Pope John Paul II, wrote a sexual morality text book as Karol Wojtyla [11], and said that allowing oneself to be used sexually by another makes an object of oneself, and consent alone is not enough for this to be morally acceptable. ‘Only love can preclude the use of one person by another’ (p. 30), since love is a unification of persons resulting from a mutual gift exchange of their selves.

Note, however, that his idea that a unifying love is the key component that justifies sexual activity (in addition to consent) has an interesting and ironic consequence: gay and lesbian sexual relations should also be permissible if they occur within loving, monogamous homosexual marriages (which is the position advocated by the theologians Patricia Jung and Ralph Smith [12]).

I heart unifying

unifying love

However at this point in any discussion, defenders of the view that sexual activity is justifiable only within heterosexual marriage (such as Finnis and Wojtyla), commonly resort to Natural Law to rule out homosexual marriage, and to God to rule out all homosexual activity.

This only works if their Scripture interpretations are sound. Demonstrate that traditional scripture interpretations against homosexual sex are unsound, as many scholars have, and they’ll try a flip to quoting Church Tradition. But as many scholars have shown, there was no continuous Christian tradition of homosexuality being a sin, until shortly after St Thomas Aquinas arrived and made it so. The homosexuality is an ‘unnatural vice’ tradition is late (over 1200 years after Jesus) and it was invented, and it stands tottering on shaky Natural Law foundations. [There is a continuous Church tradition of some kind of sexual sin from the earliest days. Sorry I distorted what I meant to say. See Terence’s comment at the end and my response. And Part 4 includes the history of the sexual sin in some detail, and describes how Thomas reinforced this and codified it in the Church’s theology.]

 

So the holes in the Catholic Church’s defence of its current Natural Law and sexual morality teaching are becoming really obvious. When the Natural Law arguments are under significant sustained critique, they turn to what they say ‘God says’ to rescue their argument. Impasse is often reached soon after this: if you don’t believe (as a secularist), or you’re a Christian who sees the loving Jesus of the Gospels welcoming all people including lesbians and gay men especially when in committed unitive relationships in place of a punishing God, or if you don’t accept the Church’s interpretations of scripture, there is impasse.

 

Changing Church views

There are signs and sounds of creaking tectonic plates that indicate the Catholic Church is tending to be less dogmatic than it has been in the past and is edging towards finding a fresh way to represent the Truth in its teaching. Terence has posted about how the Vatican hasn’t officially repeated the ‘intrinsically disordered’ phrase recently; and about the nuanced language coming from the Archbishops of Westminster and Southwark in the pastoral letter about civil gay marriage, and in the Archbishop of Westminster’s recent reconfirmation of the Soho Masses pastoral ministry for lesbians and gay men.

Significant moral theologians of all sexualities have continued to voice concerns about the Truth of the sexual morality teaching from the Church.

1943 hanging sign in the South of the USA for the segregated waiting room for coloured people

1943 hanging sign in the South of the USA for the segregated waiting room for coloured people

Human cost of waiting

However while waiting for these tectonic plates of sexual morality teaching to shift, the human cost, which is born by lesbians and gay men and not the Church, is significant. We should remember that slaves continued to suffer too in the very slow repositioning of the Church on the slavery issue. The Church should avoid imposing a similar lengthy human cost on further generations of lesbians and gay men.

There has been around 750 years of pain so far since Thomas Aquinas facilitated the first declaration that homosexuality is a sin. The Church’s continuing strictures are significant pressures that reinforce and give authority to lesbian and gay discrimination in law and other mistreatment, they encourage the avoidable spread of HIV/AIDS, and they provoke suicides, especially among lesbian, gay and questioning teenagers.

Sinful delay

It has been suggested by theologians that the Church can sin. Sins against slaves and against lesbians and gay men, for not working with due speed to resolve these issues, should be on the Church’s and Magisterium’s conscience, as should those relating to failures to effectively address clerical child abuse. Failing to effectively address clerical child abuse scandalises the world and is a cause of further doubt to Catholics and the world that the Church is speaking the Truth about the proper expression of human sexuality, when the Magisterium’s own involvement in and response to clerical sexual abuse has been so wanting and disordered.

 

Next Time: Part 4:  More holes and weaknesses in Natural Law exposed

Next time, in the final segment, we’ll consider a further range of experts, referenced in Stanford University’s Encyclopedia of Philosophy’s chapter on Homosexuality and Natural Law. We will conclude with a detailed examination of Thomas Aquinas’s homosexual deception, where he suppressed elements from Aristotle, and mis-stated others, and became a prime cause of the Church making homosexuality a grave sin for the first time.

 

Further Reading and References

For a thorough study of the approaches to Human Sexuality by the Catholic Church, this is particularly useful: Catholic Culture and Sexuality, by Robert T Francoeur, 2005.

It contains a section ‘Dealing with Homosexuality’.
Robert T. Francoeur, PhD, is co-editor of the international award-winning Continuum Complete International Encyclopedia of Sexuality (Francoeur & Noonan, 2004a), compiled by 280 experts reporting on all aspects of sexual attitudes, values, behaviors, and relationships in 62 countries on seven continents. Trained in Catholic theology, human embryology, and sexology, Francoeur is also recent editor of the Complete Dictionary of Sexology (Francoeur, et al. 1995.and Sex, Love and Marriage in the Twenty-First Century (Francoeur, Cornog & Perper, 1999).

¹ Nagel, Thomas. “Sexual Perversion”, in Alan Soble, ed., The Philosophy of Sex, 3st edition. Lanham, Md.: Rowman and Littlefield, 1997, pp. 9-20. http://www.iep.utm.edu/sexualit/#H10

² Soble, Alan. Sexual Investigations. New York: New York University Press,1996. (chapter 4)

³ Salzmann, Todd and Lawler, Michael. “The Sexual Person: Toward a Renewed Catholic Anthropology” Georgetown University Press, 2008 http://press.georgetown.edu/book/georgetown/sexual-person

[4] Farley, Margaret. “Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics”, Continuum, 2006
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/623342.Just_Love

[5] Nickoloff, James. “ ‘Intrinsically Disordered’ :Gay People and the Holiness of the Church” Bannan Institute, Santa Clara University, 2009 http://www.scu.edu/ignatiancenter/faculty/fellowships/upload/f_09_Intrinsically-Disordered.pdf

[6] Robinson, Geoffrey. “Christian Basis for Teaching on Sex: Sexual Relationships: Where does our Morality come from?” Address to New Ways Ministry Conference, March 2012 http://www.bishopgeoffrobinson.org/Christian%20Basis%20for%20Teaching%20on%20Sex.pdf

[7] Alison, James. Theology as Survival: an interview with James Alison by Brett Salkeld, 2012 http://www.jamesalison.co.uk/texts/eng67.html

[8] Allen, Joshua. Gay Marriage, Natural Law, and Civil Law: Understanding the Locus of Debate; De Libris Arbitrium, Center for Morality in Public Life, January 2011 http://www.cfmpl.org/reviews/2011/01/20/gay-marriage-natural-law-and-civil-law-understanding-the-locus-of-debate/

[9] Finnis, John. “Law, Morality, and Sexual Orientation” Notre Dame Law Review 69:5 (1994), pp1049-76.

[10] Finnis, John and Martha Nussbaum. “Is Homosexual Conduct Wrong? A Philosophical Exchange,” in Alan Soble, ed., The Philosophy of Sex, 3rd edition. Lanham, Md.: Rowman and Littlefield, 1997, pp. 89-94.

[11] Wojtyla, Karol [Pope John Paul II]. Love and Responsibility. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1981.

[12] Jung, Patricia, and Ralph Smith. Heterosexism: An Ethical Challenge. Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 1993.

[13] Catholic Culture and Sexuality, by Robert T Francoeur, 2005.

[14] Curb, R., & Manahan, N. (Eds.). (1985). Lesbian nuns breaking silence. Tallahassee, FL: Naiad Press.

[15] Francoeur, R. T. (1988). Two different worlds, Two different moralities. In J. Gramick & P. Furey (Eds.), The Vatican and homosexuality: Reactions to the “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the pastoral care of homosexual persons.” New York: Crossroad.

[16] Francoeur, R. T. (1989). New dimensions in human sexuality. In R. H. Iles (Ed.), The Gospel imperative in the midst of AIDS: Toward a prophetic pastoral theology. Winton, CT: Morehouse Publishing.

[17] Gramick, J. (Ed.). (1983). Homosexuality and the Catholic Church. Chicago, IL: Thomas More Press.

[18] Gramick, J., & Furey, P. (Eds.). (1988). The Vatican and homosexuality: Reactions to the “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the pastoral care of homosexual persons.” New York: Crossroad.

[19] Nugent, R. (Ed.). (1984). A challenge to love: Gay and lesbian Catholics in the Church. New York: Crossroad.

[20] Nugent, R., & Gramick, J. (1992). Building bridges: Gay and lesbian reality and the Catholic Church. Mystic, CT: Twenty-Third Publications.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...Chris Morley’s complete series on natural law

Enhanced by Zemanta

More Weaknesses in Natural Law (Sex and Catholics 4)

Natural Law: Part 4

More Holes and Weaknesses in Natural Law and the future for sexual love
Part 1 dealt with the Natural Law.

Part 2 considered the male and female perspectives of Natural Law and the Church’s teachings on sexual morality, and recent learning from experts in evolution.

Part 3 considered examples of the world’s expertise in science and learning relating to the Church’s sexual morality teaching and assessed the Church’s teaching in the light of these critiques, and its response.

 

Now in this final section, Part 4, we consider more expert criticism of the use of Natural Law and Church’s sexual morality teachings about homosexuality. We critically assess what is called “New Natural Law” and its treatment of homosexuality. We conclude by examining Thomas Aquinas’s Homosexual Deception, and how this reinforced the Catholic Church’s treatment of homosexuality as a grave sin. The Church now needs to reassess whether it is transmitting the Truth about sexually expressing love in human relationships.

 

Natural Law and Homosexuality

Natural Law and Homosexuality are discussed in Stanford University’s Encyclopedia of Philosophy and this finds significant holes in the Catholic Church’s defence of its current Natural Law teaching. It’s clear that when Natural Law can’t defend the Church’s teaching it falls back on what it claims ‘God says’ to rescue the argument. We hear from some fresh contemporary experts, ones we did not meet in part 3. ¹

 

Sterile marriages and homosexual relationships

The Church makes procreation the ‘natural fulfillment’ of marriage, but this denigrates sterile marriages where one or both partners is infertile, and also devalues vaginal sex within marriage after a woman’s menopause. Yet vaginal sex within sterile and post-menopausal marriages is not morally wrong and the Church agrees these marriages are perfectly valid and acceptable. Why, people reasonably ask, is homosexual sex in the same context wrong (in a long-term committed relationship, such as a civil partnership, or lesbian or gay marriage)? ²

Infertility Reality poster

The Natural Law response to any suggestion that sex within lesbian and gay marriages and civil partnerships should be allowed, is to defend the Church’s teaching by saying that while vaginal intercourse within a sterile marriage is potentially procreative (considered in itself),  sex within same-sex relationships is never potentially procreative. ³

But is this biological distinction also morally relevant and persuasive, and in the way that Natural Law theorists assume?

Is this relevant and persuasive?

The Vatican and other orthodox Christians have no alternative left but to resort to tradition and interpretations of scripture to try to support natural law; they must respond that it’s because ‘God said so’ and only (even if just theoretically) procreative vaginal sex within a heterosexual marriage is ‘natural’ and ‘ordained’ by God.

Saying sex can only ever be within a heterosexual marriage because ‘God said so’, is not a Natural Law argument, it’s just based on interpretation of scripture. If you are secular, or don’t accept those scripture interpretations, that’s unpersuasive.

The Natural Law defence is particularly flimsy, because this says that the only permissible sex Natural Law ever permits is vaginal sex; but the key procreative part is irrelevant for infertile or post-menopausal couples. Asserting Natural Law to restrict sex to vaginal only appears really weak; this is more a matter of Church tradition, based on Aquinas’s reasoning.

If you insist it is from Natural Law, that requires a simplistic and particularly restrictive doctrinaire view of Natural Law that has been adopted by the Church and rigidly adhered to.

Angel delivers miracle fertility message

When the couple are infertile or post-menopausal, the Church attempts to include the theoretical procreativity as well, but that is an appeal for a miracle. [This happened only once in the New Testament. Barren and elderly Elizabeth, the wife of Zechariah, nonetheless had a miraculous son, John the Baptist. Zechariah was visited and informed of this by an angel (Luke 1, 6-7, 13-15)]. The Church doesn’t teach post-menopausal women or infertile couples to expect a miracle of procreation, as a justification for having vaginal sex.

The Church refuses to allow assisting fertility with things like IVF. Natural Law is behind that.

Loving unions and secular Natural Law
Secular Natural Law theorists, when they consider infertility or post-menopausal marriages, waver and oscillate. On the one hand, they want to defend an ideal of marriage as a loving union wherein two persons are committed to their mutual flourishing, and where sex is a unitive complement to that ideal. Yet that opens the possibility of permissible gay sex, or of heterosexual oral or anal sex, all of which they want to oppose.

equal narriage Union Jacks at Buckingham Palace

Reductive fallback on procreation
So secular Natural Law theorists then must defend a version of human sexuality which seems crudely reductive, emphasizing procreation to the point where literally a male orgasm anywhere except in the vagina of one’s loving spouse is impermissible, like orthodox Catholic teaching. Then, when accused of being reductive, they move back to the broader ideal of marriage.

 

Secular liberal ideas in modern natural law
So secular Natural Law theorists have now made significant concessions to mainstream liberal thought. In contrast to medieval times, most contemporary secular Natural Law theorists argue for little or no governmental intervention in sexual activity, and do not believe the state should attempt to prevent all moral wrongdoing.

Defend Equality, Love Unites poster

Secular justification of discrimination and lesbian and gay exclusion
Some secular Natural Law theorists still argue against homosexuality, and some even argue there should not even be any anti-discrimination legal protection for gays and lesbians in areas like employment and housing; the most extreme have even served as expert witnesses in court cases and produced expert opinions for the courts in cases disputing the legal rights and protections of lesbians and gay men.

Natural Law Gay Hate Tweet

Natural Law Homophobic Tweet from a Coffee Shop

Where does this aversion to homosexuality come from, especially where this is also used to justify unequal treatment and discrimination? If the person is secular, then they can’t call on religion or its traditions for an explanation. Their gay aversion can only be based on a very simplistic heterosexual vaginal penetration view of sex, as proposed by Aquinas; anything else would allow heterosexual oral / anal sex and that makes excluding lesbians and gay men illogical. The only other possible explanation for such a restrictive conception of acceptable sex is secular homophobic prejudice. In the 21st century, for secularists to argue Natural Law only permits vaginal heterosexual sex is simplistic, anachronistic, and medieval, in the face of scientific studies of nature showing the biological abundance of diverse sexual behaviour patterns and the blurring of gender roles.

 

Catholic teaching forbids unjust discrimination
The Catholic Church certainly opposes ‘unjust’ discrimination against homosexuals, and states clearly that a homosexual orientation is never a justification for this.

 ope urges UK Bishops to fight gay equality                           ooops! Do what the Church says not as I do, please people

The Stanford Encyclopedia says some secular Natural Law theorists, like the Catholic Church, argue against allowing gay and lesbian marriage equality, and it cites Gerard V Bradley [4] and Robert P George [5]. However it is clear neither of them are secularists arguing a secularist view; both are Catholic authors arguing a Catholic case.

Gerard V Bradley is a Catholic working at the Notre Dame Law School and contributed his essay to the Catholic Social Science Review. Robert P George wrote his essay “‘Same-Sex Marriage’ and ‘Moral Neutrality’”, using Catholic Natural Law and religious arguments. There is a detailed critique and summary of his essay here. There is nothing new here: both use arguments we have heard before in the Pastoral letter from the London Archbishops opposing lesbian and gay marriage, but these pieces are written for an academic audience.

 

The “New Natural Law” and homosexuality
Stephen J Pope has written an ethical analysis and critique of the Magisterium’s arguments against same sex marriage, which appeared in Theological Studies 65 (2004). [7]
This lengthy extract below is very helpful in critically understanding current Catholic Natural Law in relation to homosexuality:

                                 Natural Law, Homosexuality and Roman Catholicism book  

“The central concern of the natural moral law in relation to the state’s civil law is, of course, justice and related notions of human rights, fairness, equity, and the common good. The state does in fact “legislate morality” in some sense, but, as St. Thomas Aquinas held, the civil law cannot and should not enforce the entire natural moral law. [8]
The Magisterium does not advocate the civil law should make illegal all “homosexual activity”. The Magisterium restricts itself to preaching this activity is wrong, both inside and outside the Church.

New Natural Law
There are a variety of ways of interpreting natural law within Catholic theology, but the “new natural law” theory presents the most visible school of Catholic ethics engaged in the public debate over same-sex marriage.

The “new natural law theory” works from a key premise:

“In voluntary acting for human goods and avoiding what is opposed to them, one ought to choose and will those and only those possibilities whose willing is compatible with integral human fulfillment.” [9]

Individuals may never legitimately attack a “basic good,” including the “marital good.” [10] According to “new natural lawyers” Gerard Bradley and Robert George,

“Marriage, considered not as a mere legal convention, but, rather as a two-in-one-flesh communion of persons that is consummated and actualized by sexual acts of the reproductive type, is an intrinsic (or, in our parlance, ‘basic’) human good; as such, marriage provides a non-instrumental reason for spouses, whether or not they are capable of conceiving children in their acts of genital union, to perform such acts.” [11]

“Homosexual acts” are thus not ethically permitted because they are incapable of attaining this “one flesh unity”; in fact, “homosexual acts” merely create the “appearance” of true sexual intimacy.” [12]

The “new natural lawyers” in effect maintain that the “good of union” cannot be pursued unless the couple is also “open to procreation.” [Contraception is unacceptable].

The “new natural lawyers” recognize that the law should neither simply legislate the entirety of the moral law, nor outlaw all sexual acts such as contraception or fornication that violate the “marital good.” The purpose of civil law is to secure the conditions that “favor, facilitate and foster the realization by each individual of his or her personal development.” [13]

gay not gay switch on chest             New Natural Law: The State should do what it can to discourage gay lifeFinnis

Finnis argues that the state has a “compelling interest in denying that homosexual conduct—a ‘gay lifestyle’—is a valid, humanly acceptable choice and form of life,” and that it ought to do “what it properly can . . . to discourage such conduct.” [14] Since the government is a teacher and the law has a pedagogical function, neither government nor law can remain “morally neutral” with regard to social institutions as important as marriage and the family.

no tolerance road sign

Thus in some settings a government could be perfectly justified in imposing legal restrictions on “the advertising and marketing of homosexual services, the maintenance of places of resort for homosexual activity, or the promotion of homosexualist ‘lifestyles’ via public education and public media of communication,” [15] and so forth.

Objections to “New Natural Law”

The “new natural law” theory is vulnerable to two objections. First, it fails to build a logical case for its claim that accepting the ethical legitimacy of any and all “homosexual acts” necessarily implies that one regards sexual activity as nothing more than the pursuit of individual self-gratification. [16]

Errors of Condemnation

Its sweeping ethical condemnation of all intentionally non-procreative sex is excessively monolithic and undifferentiated.

As legal scholar Stephen Macedo points out, it is

“strikingly simplistic and implausible to portray the essential nature of every form of non-procreative sexuality as no better than the least valuable form.” [17]

The same habit of gross over-generalization is exhibited in its claims about gay people. It is a reductionistic exaggeration to epitomize the behavior of every gay person as driven by a “promiscuous, liberationist ‘gay lifestyle,’ which rejects all sexual restraints and value judgments.” [18] If this were universally the case, there would in fact be few gay activists lobbying for same-sex marriage. Gay people are more diverse, and in morally relevant ways, than is recognized by the “new natural law theory.”

It's a choice to be a bigot

Second, the “new natural law” argument does not take into account the concrete experience of gay people. Here it replicates the Magisterium’s oversight. It attempts to justify its position on the basis of a deductive argument and abstract philosophical analysis, but it cannot avoid making claims of a predictive nature about the real world, how people will act in it, and the probable consequences of their actions on their communities. This empirical dimension is especially important when considering moral arguments against same-sex marriage.”

 

Britons of Distinction Alan Turing Gay Hero postage stamp

You Can’t Predict or Generalise about Lesbians and Gay Men: Britons of Distinction: Alan Turing, Gay Hero

 

Continuing evolution of attitudes and moral responses
We are still going through a period and process where attitudes and thinking about lesbian and gay marriage and behaviour are evolving and developing, in both secular and Christian moral philosophy. Both are heatedly debated in the USA, far more so than in the UK.

The significantly shifting public attitudes to lesbian and gay marriage illustrate sharply this ideological flux and the tension between liberal and conservative orthodox opinions. The tide has turned and is running generally, in most of the developed and nominally Christian world, in support of lesbian and gay rights and acceptance.

It Gets Better - hands holding light

 

 

Thomas Aquinas’s deliberate deceptions about Sodomy [19]
As the conclusion to this series, it’s time to look into Thomas Aquinas’s homosexual deception, and how this reinforced the treatment of homosexual behaviour by the Church as a serious sin. This was referred to in the first post on Natural Law, when I described St Thomas Aquinas as a naughty deceptive moral theologian, because he buried and distorted some key passages in Aristotle to suit the Church’s historic hostility.

history of christianity, from Thomas Aquinas, through gay people to Galileo

The background is that the Church has fairly consistently taught that some kind of sexual behaviour, which the Church now says are homosexual acts, was a serious sin (‘homosexual’ was a word only invented in the late 19th century); this is based on Romans 1: 26–27. St Paul’s words are taken together with passages in Leviticus which are understood to be also about homosexual acts.

But Leviticus was actually condemning other things. One was breaking a major Jewish and middle eastern social taboo by being inhospitable to your visitors and guests (Lot and his wife did this). Reform Jews see in another of Leviticus’s warnings: “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is an abomination”, a warning against temple prostitution, of Jews adopting the idolatrous fertility cults and practices of their Canaanite neighbours.

Leviticus also said no hair cuts, but I guess you are skipping that one

St Paul had been a strict Jew who actively persecuted the early Christians, converted but remained an authoritarian character. What he was actually condemning (in Romans 1 26) was the sexual abuse of male power and privilege: sexual acts by a more powerful, higher status male, imposing sex on a younger, lower status male. Among Greeks this was typically a youth who lived with an older man as a pupil and apprentice, learning to be a good adult male citizen. Among Romans, Paul was condemning higher status males imposing themselves sexually on their male slaves.

We only hear his condemnation about sex with other males. Sex with a woman would be the sins of adultery and fornication (sex outside marriage) which were bad, but not publicly shameful in Paul’s eyes.

St. Paul also instructed women to always cover their heads in Church, but the Catholic Church chooses to ignore that and now keeps quiet about it.

london Gay Men's Chorus perform Seven Deadly Sins poster

There was no such thing as ‘homosexuality’ or ‘homosexuals’, as we understand these in the Greek or Roman world at the time. Despite the claims usually made, and the wording of the translations commonly quoted, what St Paul was really condemning was male power abuse, through the sexual use of vulnerable males.

There was no culture of male couples preferring sex with each other, to sex with a woman; refraining from marriage to have a male partner was alien. So in religious and secular writing from this time and later, the references are always to acts, never to a “sexual orientation”, nor to “homosexuals”, which are modern concepts.

Both Roman and Greek pagan society vehemently derided and stigmatized behaviours such as male effeminacy, any adult Roman male citizen being penetrated by another citizen, or by anyone of a lesser status, particularly by a slave. The early Church inherited these pagan hostile attitudes and these linked into Judaic prohibitions in Leviticus. So early writings by Church fathers describe same-sex acts as sinful, and St Chrysostom in the 4th century described same sex acts as worse than murder. This condemnation of same sex behaviour continued in later centuries.

Saints Sergius and Bacchus

Saints Sergius and Bacchus

However, the historian John Boswell disagreed strongly with this account, and referred to the same-sex Church ceremony of adelphopoiesis, which united two people of the same sex as “spiritual sisters/brothers”, and Boswell argued this gave Church blessings to romantic and sexual unions. Others point out that the ceremony’s words say that it was not a carnal union, and that the union was a ceremony creating “blood-brothers”, and that is what the pictures of Saints Sergius and Bacchus together are depicting. However Saints Sergius and Bacchus were both referred to as erastai in ancient Greek manuscripts, the same word used to describe lovers. We won’t ever really know for sure because it was so long ago and we can’t know what happened in or out of bed.

Boswell, in his essay The Church and the Homosexual,  attributes Christianity’s denunciations of “homosexuality” to a supposedly rising intolerance in Europe throughout the 12th century, but the historian R W Southern disagrees: “the only relevant generalization which emerges from the penitential codes down to the eleventh century is that sodomy was treated on about the same level as copulation with animals.”

 

St Thomas has his say on homosexual acts [6]

It was shortly after this, in the middle of the 13th Century, that Thomas Aquinas produces his work where he distorted Aristotle, to support the Church’s condemnation of same sex acts.

Thomas Aquinas is responsible for the ‘sodomy delusion’. In a crucial passage of his major work Summa Theologiae (III, q. 31, 7) he falsified the material which he borrowed from Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics (VII v 34, 1148b).

strong delusion - in rainbow colours

In this, Aristotle had explicitly stated that sexual attraction to males (venereorum masculis) could be motivated either by nature (natura) or from habit (ex consuetudine).

In his commentary on this Latin translation of Aristotle, Aquinas dutifully reported Aristotle saying that acting on an attraction to the same gender could be ‘natural’: “from the nature of the physical constitution which [certain people] have received from the beginning” (ex natura corporalis complexionis quam acceperunt a principio).

But when he came to write his theological masterwork, the Summa Theologiae, he suppressed the fact that acting on one’s homosexual nature can be ‘natural’, and instead bluntly asserted that what is contrary to human nature (id quod est contra naturam hominis) may “become connatural to a particular human being” (fiat huic homini connaturale).

“Connatural” here does not mean “inborn” but applies to feelings that have fused with your personality, to be “second nature”. So Thomas is saying ‘unnatural homosexual behaviour’ can become ‘second nature’, which is not what Aristotle had said at all. So Aquinas fiddled his sources to fit the Church’s rules, to reinforce the Church’s teaching about same sex sin. He was writing a major theology book for the Church. If you did this at university now, you’d risk being failed for serious misrepresentation of your sources and academic deceit.

Later he manages another fiddle by adding something Aristotle never said, that “such corruption can be…for psychological causes” (quae corruptio potest esse…ex parte animae). Aquinas claims this involves “intercourse with animals or males” (in coitu bestiarum aut masculorum), which neatly fits the Church’s sin agenda by deliberately paraphrasing the Christian notion of sodomia (which then included both bestiality and any same sex behaviour).

 

Homosexuality as a theological problem
So Aquinas strongly reinforced homosexuality as problem for Christian theologians, who have, ever since, kept up the tradition that erotic attraction to one’s own sex is a choice that becomes second nature and therefore must be condemned as deliberate, unnatural, abnormal and pathological.

Aquinas gave the condemnation of same sex acts a proper scholastic context, making it a standard in moral theology and the Canon Law of the Roman Catholic Church, and this helped legitimise homophobic criminal laws and social discrimination for the last 750 years.

theology is simply that part of religion that requires brains

His authority appears unchallengeable, because the Council of Trent in the 16th century declared him a ‘Doctor of the Church’. The Church will want to avoid admitting a major Saint and Doctor of the Church made any error in writing about natural same sex attraction, a foundation stone of Catholic moral theology.

His theological conclusions help explain why the Church is reluctant now to reassess its teaching, when modern evidence and thinking calls for a serious review. Aquinas codified a teaching and reinforced a Tradition that was built on mistranslations and misinterpretations of Scripture, the pagan patriarchal roots of same-sex revulsion and exclusion, and the Church now chooses to disregard the wealth of scientific understanding about the flexibility and diversity in gender and sexual behaviour found throughout the natural world and different human cultures, and the changed world situation since 2000 years ago. The Church is discomforted because all this doesn’t fit the doctrinaire and simplistic construction which is the Catholic Natural Law for sexual behaviour.

Rather than recognise the weight of evidence calling for a thorough reassessment of whether the Church is actually transmitting God’s Truth and the message of Jesus in Gospels about sexually expressing human love, the Church is still sheltering within its comfort zone of old certainties. The Second Vatican Council made clear this is not good enough. The Church has found new understandings of the Truth before, including about slavery and usury. The Truth about the  sexual expression of love between people is its latest challenge.

 

Further Reading and References
¹ Pickett, Brent, “Homosexuality”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2011 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.),  and Homosexuality and Natural Law

² Macedo, Stephen, 1995, “Homosexuality and the Conservative Mind” Georgetown Law Journal 84: 261-300.

³ George, Robert P., 1999, In Defense of Natural Law. New York: Oxford University Press

[4] Bradley, Gerard V., 2001, “The End of Marriage” in Marriage and the Common Good. Ed. by Kenneth D. Whitehead. South Bend, IN: St. Augustine’s Press.

[5] George, Robert P., 2001, “‘Same-Sex Marriage’ and ‘Moral Neutrality’” in Marriage and the Common Good. Ed. by Kenneth D. Whitehead. South Bend, IN: St. Augustine’s Press.

[6] http://www.williamapercy.com/wiki/images/Aquinas.pdf

[7] Pope, Stephen J., 2004, The Magisterium’s arguments against same sex marriage: an ethical analysis and critique, Theological Studies, 65

[8] Aquinas, Thomas Summa theologiae 1–2, q. 96, a. 2, ad 3.

[9] Finnis, “Law, Morality, and ‘Sexual Orientation,”’ 1075, n.63.

[10] See Germain Grisez, The Way of the Lord Jesus, vol. 2: Living a Christian Life(Quincy, Ill: Franciscan, 1993) 651; and John Finnis, “Law, Morality, and ‘Sexual Orientation,”’ Notre Dame Law Review 69 (1994) 1049.

[11] Gerard V. Bradley and Robert P. George, “Marriage and the Liberal Imagination,”Georgetown Law Journal 84 (1995) 301–20, at 301–2.

[12] Grisez, The Way of the Lord Jesus 2.653. Finnis argues that sexual intimacy between two members of the same sex can by their very nature accomplish no more than what is expressed in casual sex, sex contracted with a prostitute, or solitary masturbation. (See Finnis, “Law, Morality, and ‘Sexual Orientation,”’ 1049, 1067.) Some critics of course object strenuously to this description of gay and lesbian sexual activity, but this debate need not be entered here. See Paul J. Weithman, “Natural Law, Morality, and Sexual Complementarity,” in David M. Estlund and Martha C. Nussbaum, ed., Sex, Preference, and Family: Essays on Law and Nature (New York: Oxford University, 1997) especially 239–41.

[13] John Finnis, Natural Law and Natural Rights (Oxford: Clarendon, 1980) 147.

[14] Finnis, “Law, Morality, and ‘Sexual Orientation,”’ 1070, emphasis in original text. See also Robert P. George, “’Same-Sex Marriage’ and ‘Moral Neutrality,”’ in Christopher Wolfe, ed., Homosexuality and American Public Life (Dallas: Spence Publishing Company, 1999) 141–53.

[15] Finnis, as [14]

[16] Weithman, “Natural Law, Morality, and Sexual Complementarity” 242–43.

[17] Stephen Macedo, “Homosexuality and the Conservative Mind,” Georgetown Law Journal 84 (December 1995) 261–300, at 282; emphasis in the original text.

[18] Stephen Macedo, as [17]

[19] http://www.williamapercy.com/wiki/images/Aquinas.pdf

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...Chris Morley’s complete series on natural law

 

Is Aquinas’ Natural Law Gay-friendly?

A book in French (“Amours“) by a noted Dominican theologian, an acknowledged expert on the work of Thomas Aquinas, argues that yes, indeed it is.

The only English reports about “Amours” that I’ve seen, have been hostile responses from the right. However, there’s no doubt that a gay friendly reading of Thomas is not only possible, but quite possibly more appropriate than the usual argument that same-sex relationships are contrary to natural law, and Oliva’s book is not the first to point this out – just the first to do so at length, and with such impeccable credentials.

The problem is that the critics cling to a few paragraphs about “sodomy” in the Summa, embracing Thomas’ conclusions, based on the state of knowledge in the 13th century – and totally ignore his method, which emphasises the importance of reason, and respect for the findings of science. If he were living today, with all the knowledge from natural and social science now available, he would surely have reached very different conclusions.

But even in his own time, according to Boswell some of his writing is indeed gay friendly, Even then, Boswell writes,Aquinas recognized that for some individuals, an attraction to the same sex is natural, and so not after all “against nature”.

“Thus it may happen that something which is against human nature, in regard to reason or to preservation of the body, may become natural to a particular man, owing to some defect of nature in him. The “defect” of nature should not be taken as implying some contravention of natural laws. Aquinas compares this sort of innate homosexuality to hot water. Although it is natural for water to be cold, it may be altogether natural in some circumstances, for it to become hot.Although it may not be natural for humans  in general to be homosexual, it is apparently entirely natural.for some particular individuals.”  (CSTH, p326).

In Aquinas’ view, moreover, everything which is in any way “natural” has a purpose, and the purpose is good: “Natural inclinations occur in things because of God, who moves all things…….. Whatever is the end of anything natural cannot be bad in itself, since everything which exists naturally us ordained by divine providence to fill some purpose”.  (CSTH, 327).

There seems to be much more interest these days in more sympathetic serious theology of same-sex relationships. It’s been suggested that one of the reasons the topic was largely ignored at the family synod assembly, was a recognition that the whole subject needs greater study, with due attention to the science, and to hearing the stories of gay people ourselves. I’m convinced that as this study proceeds, this gay friendly Thomism will indeed become “the wave of the future”

 (I’ll be looking for more reports of this, from less hostile sources)

Recommended Books

Boswell, John: Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People In Western Europe From The Beginning Of The Christian Era To The Fourteenth Century: Gay … of the Christian Era to the 14th Century
Moore, Gareth: A Question of Truth: Christianity and Homosexuality
Oliva, Adriano: Amours : L’église, les divorcés remariés, les couples homosexuels (French Edition)

Related Posts

“Traditional Family” Values, Traditional “Family Values”

This is fun!
From the great state of South Carolina, we were diverted some months ago by the fascinating tale of how one can now go “hiking the Appalachian trail” in Argentina. Now, in quick succession, it appears that there are two more emerging stories of interest: Mike Rogers reports that rumours about the sexual orientation of a certain Lieutenant – Governor, which have been doing the rounds long enough that even I, on this side of the Atlantic have heard them before, have been “confirmed” (but instead of evidence, Rogers simply points to his “100% track record” on previous outings). Also, from FitsNews.com (“unfair; unbalanced”. the site proudly proclaims), we have:
“S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford may be an amateur Romeo, but it looks like he’s got nothing on his appointment to the S.C. State Board of Education.
Kristin Maguire, an Upstate evangelical and one of South Carolina’s most respected social conservatives, has been one of the governor’s closest education policy advisors for years. She’s also Sanford’s appointment to the S.C. Board of Education, which last year elected her its Chairwoman.
What else is she?
The prolific author of hardcore erotic fiction on the Internet, according to documents provided to the governor’s office earlier this summer and later obtained by FITS.
Maguire, a professed Christian who home-schools her four children, declined to comment for our story but did not deny that she had previously frequented websites that feature such X-rated material.”
Ah, that grand tradition of “defending traditional family values”, as espoused so fervently by Larry Craig, Congressmen Vitter & Foley, preacher Ted Haggert …and all the others whose names I have forgotten and am too lazy right now to look up. You know them better than I do.
In any case, pointing out the hypocrisy is too easy. There are two other points behind this that deserve closer attention, because they are less frequently pointed out.
Outing the Church
First, I applaud Mike Rogers for his commendable work on outing the political hypocrites. (For the record, I am a “fierce defender” of any individual’s rigut to privacy. While I strongly endorse the personal and community value of coming out wherever possible, that final qualification is crucial: sometimes it is just not possible). BUT: when some closeted queer goes on the attack aginst the community, all rights to sympathy are waived. This is a position which I believe is fairly widely shared. So when are the professional ecclesiastical journalists, in the Vatican or around the world, going to start to follow suit?
It is widely reported that a large and growing proportion of priests, at all levels in the hierarchy, are gay. Others are heterosexual, but non-celibate. Professional Vatican watchers, it is said, know not only who many of these people are, but also their partners and preferred sexual practices. As with politicians, I would prefer that they should have the courage to come out publicly, difficult as this would be, but where they choose not to, we must respect their privacy. But as with politicians, where they actively connive in the church’s demonization of “homosexuals” and other sexual minorities, they should lose that right to provacy. There have been plenty of reports of gay bishops and cardinals emerging after their deaths, or after nasty blackmail scandals – so why not when they are alive?
It is also often said that tthe pope’s balls are one of the three most useless things in the world. So………come on, you professional clerical journalists: are yourcojones any more useful than His Holiness’s ?
“Traditional family”: a modern invention
Raymond and I had a wonderful day today enjoying the English landscape, driving around Jane Austen’s beloved Hampshire. I got to see Jane ‘s house where she spent the last ten years of her life, as well as the nearby Gilbert White’s House. Jane Austen is well known as the most popular English novelist, totally respectable and a model of gentility and propriety. Gilbert White is less well known, but equally respectable. He was a clergyman, renowned as a naturalist for his careful observations and detailed notes on natural history and gardening. Guess what? Neither of these models of English respectablity lived in “traditional” family structures. During her years at Chawton, Jane and her similarly unmarried sister Clarissa lived with their widowed mother – and a friend, who lived with them, but occupied a bedroom a little apart. Jane’s brother Thomas had earlier left the family – because he had the good fortune to have been “adopted” by a wealthy childless couple, the Knights, who felt in need of an heir to take charge of their large estate. The Rev White was unmarried – but does not appear to have lived alone in his large, rambling house and extensive garden.
Nor did many people at this time (late 18th and early 19th centuries), or earlier, live in “traditional” family structures. If you were rich enough, you might get to live with your family in a grand country house – but also with the extensive staff required to run it. Tradesmen and working professionals shared their homes with apprentices and servants. Conversely, if you were not rich enough, you probably left your family to live with your employer (if you had one), as an apprentice, in domestic service, or as a farm labourer, or travelled the country as an itinerant tradesman. And if a man was lucky enough to live with his woman and children, perhaps in a farm cottage – it was entirely possible that they were not married at all: marriage was largely a legal matter of settling property, of little practical value or religious importance if there was no property to settle. (Marriage was not required, nor treated as a sacrament by the church, for many centuries),
Biblical Times.
After returning home, I began reading the introduction to Bernadette Brooten’s “Love Between Women”. Just in theopening chapter, I came acros numerous references to same-sex marriages in the classical period – in Rome, in Sparta, in Canaan, in Egypt and elsewhere. It is well known that family structures of the Hebrew Bible hardly conformed to the “traditional” family we keep hearing about, with all-powerful men holding absolute power over the women, children and slaves of the household, with multiple wives and concubines, arranged marriages and extended families living together. In the Christian New Testament, I can’t off the top of my head think of a single instance of a “traditional” family unit. Certainly not Christ’s own biological family, nor His later family of choice, nor the household of Martha, Mary and Lazarus, nor those of the apostles, who were urged to leave their families behind, nor the Roman centurion and his “paidion” (or male slave, commonly used for sexual purposes).
No, wait: there is one, if you ignore the palace staff. The family of Herod, Herodias and Salome lived together as Daddy, Mummy and daughter.
So which of these do you suppose is referred to by “traditional family” values?
(Cross-posted from “Queering the Church“)
 

“Queer and Catholic” – NOT a Contradiction

Mark Dowd’s impressive new book, “Queer and Catholic” is subtitled “a life of contradictions”. However, as the book itself demonstrates, there is no inherent contradiction between being queer and Catholic. Mark’s life has been steeped in Catholicism, from childhood in a deeply Catholic family, through education, to professional life as a broadcaster specialising in religion, to his current activities. At the same time, he has always known he was gay – from the age of eight, before he knew the word or what it meant – and at least from university, he has always been open about his orientation.  This is a life fully gay, fully and deeply Catholic. The title however is not “Gay and Catholic”, but “Queer and Catholic”. This is significant. In its original meaning before it became a pejorative, or was later appropriated by queer theory, the word meant simply “strange”. There is something very strange indeed in the Vatican horror of homosexuality.

The only contradiction that exists between being queer and Catholic, as Mark himself states in his introduction, is within the church itself, where he states that the church is so anti-gay, because it is so gay.  This is an internal contradiction that the church will in time be forced to resolve. Indeed, there are encouraging signs that even now, important leaders of the church, from Pope Francis himself, through senior cardinals and professional theologians, to lay Catholics in the pews, know that things must change. Pastoral practice in many dioceses and parishes is already vastly better than it was a few decades ago, even to serious discussions taking place about blessing same-sex unions.  Changes in pastoral practice will eventually and inevitably lead to changes also in underlying theology.




Continue reading “Queer and Catholic” – NOT a Contradiction