Mozambique officially makes gay sex legal | Gay Star News

New law will make clear that security measures cannot be taken against those who engage in ‘vices against nature’

29 JUNE 2015 | BY JOE MORGAN

Lambda

Gay sex was officially made legal in Mozambique today (29 June).

The southern African nation has officially been added to the list of countries with no law against same-sex relations, 180 days after the government agreed to the revised Penal Code.

Legislators specifically revised the penal code that allowed ‘security measures’ to be taken against people ‘who habitually engage in vices against nature’.

This was used to discriminate against and prosecute LGBTI people that could have sent them to a workhouse for up to three years.

A hangover from when it was colonized for the Portguese, the law was rarely enforced and it was considered by many to be a meaningless clause in the statute books.

via Mozambique officially makes gay sex legal | Gay Star News.

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Moral Judgements and “Intrinsically Evil”: The Subjective Perspective

Professor Alain Thomasett SJ of Paris University began his paper to the German French and Swiss bishops’ study day for the 2015 family synod, with a reflection on the concept of “intrinsically disordered” acts, and  the difficulties which it raises for many Catholics in making moral judgements.

This is the section on the importance of taking into account the subjective context of the person and her/his story, in my own translation from the original French text

The issue of intrinsically evil acts

The interpretation of the doctrine of acts known as “intrinsically evil” seems to be one of the fundamental sources of the current difficulties in the pastoral care of families, as it largely determines the condemnation of artificial contraception, the sexual acts of remarried divorcees and of couples in stable same-sex relationships. It appears to many to be incomprehensible and seems pastorally counter productive. If it rightly insists on objective benchmarks necessary for moral life, it neglects precisely the biographical dimension of existence, and the specific conditions of each personal journey, elements to which our contemporaries are very sensitive and which contribute to the current conditions for the reception of Church doctrine. Several arguments point in the direction of greater integration of the history of the people.

The subjective side, the need for discernment of the situation and the place of conscience

a) The final report of the Extraordinary Synod itself acknowledges this difficulty (no. 52), because it poses a “distinction between the objective situation of sin and mitigating circumstances, as ‘the accountability and responsibility for an action can be reduced or even eliminated’ by various ‘psychological or social factors’ (Catholic Catechism No. 1735).” According to this doctrine, although the objective evil remains, it can be mitigated (Veritatis Splendor, No. 81.2), subjective responsibility can be reduced or even eliminated. An objective disorder does not necessarily produce subjective guilt. To state it more clearly, the intent and the circumstances can influence the objective qualification of the act, and secondly, they are necessary to determine the moral responsibility of the subject who must decide and act according to conscience.  All Catholic moral tradition calls for discernment that takes into account these different elements for a moral judgement that is  left in the last resort to the conscience of the people. Vatican II recalled the primacy of conscience which must be the judge of last resort (cf. Gaudium et Spes, n ° 16.50). (Note 1)

b) Individuals and couples often face conflicts of obligations which force them, when it is impossible to satisfy all values ​​at once, to choose after deliberation to prioritize the most important duty.

In practical situations, discernment is needed: for example if openness to life and the preservation of marital and familial equilibrium conflict with each other. The pastoral notes of nine episcopates after Humanae Vitae (including those of the French , German and Swiss  Bishops for 1968), also go in this direction; in cases of conflicts they refer to the judgment of conscience and responsible parenthood, repeating the arguments of the Council. Must this not restore to its place the conscience of the people? This in no way removes the need to form the conscience,  but demands that conscience not be replaced.

c) A biographical perspective and narrative forces us to think that moral evaluation is not about isolated acts, but about human actions inserted into a history.

A single act, isolated from its context and the history of the subject who may be responsible (which the term intrinsically means) is not yet a human act but an element of assessment which must be completed to be judged. A homicide is a gesture, a physical act. To make a human action involves determining who is the author and to understand the reasons and circumstances that led to this action. Is it self-defence, an accident, a crime of passion, a murder, premeditated or otherwise. Likewise, do not be too quick to call a sexual act of contraception ‘intrinsically evil! Paul Ricoeur and the contemporary philosophy of action remind us that an act can be assigned to an author who can be held accountable solely through the medium of narrative.

This is the set of elements of the story that can give meaning to action, and therefore qualify to evaluate it (Note.2). This is the judgement of conscience that ultimately can carry it. Moral standards describe acts. Conscience must judge an action. The objectives ethical guidelines given by the Church are only one element (admittedly essential but not unique) of moral discernment which must take place in conscience. We must give a fair place to moral standards and conscience to avoid giving the impression that conscience is reduced to blind obedience to rules that are imposed on it from outside. To omit this would reduce Christian ethics to a pure moralism, which Christians moreover reject overwhelmingly and justifiably. (Note 3) 

Notes:

1 “Only the conscience of the subject can provide the immediate norm for  action (…) Natural law can not be presented as an already established set of rules imposed a priori on the moral subject, but it is an objective source of inspiration for his eminently personal, approach to decision making.” International Theological Commission, “In search of a universal. ethic A New Look at Natural Law, Rome, 2008, No. 59. See also GS 50.2: “This judgement  is ultimately that of the couple themselves who must decide it before God

2 See, among others, Paul Ricoeur, Oneself as another, Seuil, 1990, especially Chapter 5 and 6.

3 For further details, see Alain Thomasset, “In fidelity to the Second Vatican Council: the hermeneutic dimension of moral theology”, Journal of Ethics and Moral Theology, No. 263, March 2011, p. 31-61 and No. 264, June 2011, p. 9-27

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“Don’t Talk About Us, Unless You Talk With Us”: It’s Happening.

A major impediment which has historically restricted the ability of the Catholic Church to properly implement it’s own instruction to treat gay and lesbian people with “respect, compassion and sensitivity” has been that far too long, bishops have refused  even to meet with our people. There is abundant evidence that is now beginning to change.

The importance of this is that it is impossible to show genuine compassion or sensitivity for any people unless you understand the realities of their lives –  and it impossible to acquire that necessary understanding  unless you speak to them, or to people who share their experience.  Far too often in the past, we’ve read of embarrassing apologies from people insisting that words they may have said “were not intended to offend” – which immediately displays their lack of sensitivity, arising from ignorance of how the words would be heard.

Brendan Butler, from We are Church Ireland, Dr Richard O'Leary, from Faith in Marriage Equality, and Jim O'Crowley, from Gay Catholic, at St. Patrick's Cathedral, Armagh.
Brendan Butler, from We are Church Ireland, Dr Richard O’Leary, from Faith in Marriage Equality, and Jim O’Crowley, from Gay Catholic, at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh. (Picture Irish Central)

Fortunately, there have been numerous examples in recent years of lesbian and gay Catholics in many regions of the worlds having discussions with local bishops and cardinals, and even with some highly influential members of the Curia, and with at least two members of Pope Francis’ “inner cabinet” of nine cardinal advisors (Cardinal O’Malley of the USA, and Cardinal Gracias of India).

Some of these have been publicly reported, some have not. It is clear though, that the number of such meetings has been increasing, and are being held with increasingly influential figures. The latest of many such reports comes from Ireland, where the Primate of all Ireland, Archbishop Eamonn Martin, met with representatives of three different gay faith groups.   Continue reading “Don’t Talk About Us, Unless You Talk With Us”: It’s Happening.

WHY Our Stories Matter

I wrote yesterday about the new attention some theologians are paying to “narrative theology”, which draws on people’s life experience in their real world situations as a source for theological reflection. The importance of this was highlighted in the Rome study day for selected bishops from Germany, France and Switzerland in preparation for the 2015 Family Synod, when a third of the programme (and two of the six papers) were devoted to it.

One of these papers, by Prof Dr Alain Thomasett SJ of the University of Paris, had the title Taking into account of the history and biographical developments of the moral life and the pastoral care of the family”.  In this paper, Thomasett tackles head on the challenge presented by what Catholic doctrine  describe as “intrinsically evil” sexual acts, and the difficulties this doctrine presents for many Catholics in real life situation. This difficulty certainly troubles gay and lesbian Catholics, but not only them. (Thomasett also refers directly to those who have divorced and remarried, who will be a central focus of the Synod, and to married couples practicing contraception). The key to resolving the problem, he argues, lies in making a firm distinction between objective judgement of the acts, and the moral culpability of the people, which can only be assessed in the context of their particular situations and purpose. Continue reading WHY Our Stories Matter

Narrative Theology: The Value of LGBT Lives

Bondings 2.0 reported yesterday on a number  of LGBT  Catholics, and Catholic family members of LGBT people, who will be attending the September World Meeting of Families. Included in the report was a link to an Equally Blessed blogsite, at which these people share their stories.  One of their number, Debbie, writes “I ordered an official World Meeting of Families sweatshirt, and then colored the the logo in rainbow.  It looks great.”

Rainbow WMF

These stories, and all our stories, are immensely valuable, in the continuing development of both moral and pastoral theology as it affects LGBT Catholics.

One sign of just how important these stories are, is graphically illustrated in the texts of the papers delivered to the recent Rome study day of leading bishops and theologians from Germany, France and Switzerland, in preparation for the 2015 Synod on Marriage and Family in the Contemporary World*.   Continue reading Narrative Theology: The Value of LGBT Lives

Civil Unions for Italy? European Court Says Yes.

In this map of recognition of same – sex couples across Europe, it is striking how completely gay marriage applies across the Scandinavia and in the western part of the country – everywhere except Northern Ireland, where there are civil unions, but not (yet) full marriage. The same applies in the German speaking countries of central Europe, and even in some countries of the former Yugoslavia and the Soviet bloc.

Italy is a glaring gap, due largely to the influence of the powerful Italian Catholic Church – but that could soon change.  The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that by failing to provide either civil unions or full gay marriage, Italy is violating the human rights of same – sex couples.

Same_sex_marriage_map_Europe_detailed

This will not have any immediate legal effect, but it will add substantially to the increasing political pressure. The Italian government has already promised to introduce civil unions, but has not yet followed words with actions. This judgement could change that, and polls show that support for gay marriage is increasing steadily.

What about the Catholic bishops?

In the past, they have strenuously and effectively opposed even civil unions, but in the Church too, things have changed. Many bishops in Europe and the America’s have been coming to the view that civil unions are at least more acceptable than full gay marriage, and are willing to accede to them as the “lesser of two evils” – or even (in a few cases), as having direct value in themselves. This was the option preferred by Pope Francis, when still Cardinal Bergoglio, leading the Church’s opposition to gay marriage in Argentina, and some years before that, of the Catholic bishops of Portugal. In both those countries, their efforts failed and full marriage was introduced.

The Italian bishops carry rather more weight with the their government, so it is unlikely that any attempt at full marriage equality will succeed. Civil unions however, will be easier – and the Italian government knows it.

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The Trouble With “Catholic Teaching” on LGBT Issues

I am often accused by orthotoxic Catholics of being a “heretic”, because I supposedly challenge and publicly dissent from “Church teaching”. I dispute this: there are most certainly certain, isolated elements of the teaching that I dispute – but this dispute arises from a deeply Catholic starting point, and placed firmly within Catholic tradition.

The difficulty with what my accusers describe as “Catholic teaching” as it affects lesbian and gay people, is that what is popularly presented and widely known, is extremely selective, and viewed solely in the context of genital acts. The full teaching however, is more complex. It is well known that it is dangerous to quote isolated biblical verses out of context, and the same principle applies to single paragraphs of the Catholic Catechism.

For example, I have written previously about some of the inherent contradictions within teaching specifically about homosexuality, (On transgender issues, there is useful information at The Catholic Transgender, especially how the position of the Church is sometimes misrepresented). But even without grappling with the complexities of inherent contradictions and misrepresentations, there is much helpful material in the Magisterium that deserves to be better known.

To help Quest members understand some of the more helpful elements in the formal Catholic teaching that affects our lives, we have for some time wanted to put together a compilation of “Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)” about that teaching. At Bondings 2.0, Frank DeBenardo has a report on just such a list of FAQ’s that appeared for a time on the website of the Archdiocese of Louisiana, before mysteriously disappearing, when the archdiocese concluded that it was somehow “unauthorized”. The oddity is that the bulk of the material comprises extracts from standard documents of the Catholic Church, or accurate summaries of the material, put together in what DeBenardo describes as a “masterly” and pastorally sensitive manner.

It is unfortunate that Louisiana has now removed such a valuable resource. However, New Ways Ministry have reproduced the content at their own site – and we at Quest can take advantage. The material deleted from the Louisiana website now forms the foundation of our own page of FAQ’s, which in time will be updated with more up to date material – especially with the guidance from Pope Francis, and the results of the 2015 Family Synod in Rome.

( A version of this post has been cross-posted at the website of Quest, the British association for Lesbian and Gay Catholic).

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