Monsignor Krzysztof Charamsa, the Polish priest and theologian who came out as both gay and partnered on the eve of the Family Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, has inside knowledge of the workings of the Vatican, and of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in particular.
In a lengthy interview with the Spanish Religion Digital, he has delivered a damning indictment of the Vatican culture, of CDF machinations to undermine Francis’ papacy, of compulsory clerical celibacy, of Church persecution of the LGBT community, and of closeted, gay priests, who take out their anger and self-loathing in hatred of openly gay people.
Cardinal Turkson, head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace:
Homosexuals cannot be criminalized.
We are all growing in this regard.
These are important statements, coming from one of the two most senior African officials at the Vatican, Cardinal Turkson made them in an interview with Frank DeBenardo of New Ways Ministry, who is in Rome for the Family Assembly of the Synod of Bishops.
Yet, I think it is remarkable that in a synod on marriage and family, 2/3rds of the groups did not think it was worth it to discuss what is clearly, by many bishops’ own words, one of the most significant developments in family life in human history: the recognition and acceptance of same-gender marriage and families headed by same-gender couples.
It won’t be possible to evaluate the synod Assembly on the Family until it’s all over, and Pope Francis has given his own judgement, but buried in the detail are some fascinating titbits. Here’s one that must not be overlooked, from the small-group report of the German bishops: they acknowledge the hurt caused by pastoral practice to “homosexually oriented people” and other groups, and offer an historic apology.
An dieser Stelle war uns ein Bekenntnis wichtig: Im falsch verstandenen Bemühen, die kirchliche Lehre hochzuhalten, kam es in der Pastoral immer wieder zu harten und unbarmherzigen Haltungen, die Leid über Menschen gebracht haben, insbesondere über ledige Mütter und außerehelich geborene Kinder, über Menschen in vorehelichen und nichtehelichen Lebensgemeinschaften, über homosexuelle orientierte Menschen und über Geschiedene und Wiederverheiratete. Als Bischöfe unserer Kirche bitten wir diese Menschen um Verzeihung.
At this point a confession is important for us: In a false interpretation of the attempt to uphold the doctrine of the church, it frequently happened that hard and merciless attitudes appeared in pastoral ministry, that has brought suffering to people, especially to unmarried mothers and children born outside of marriage, for people living in premarital and non-marital cohabitation, for homosexually oriented people and for divorced and remarried people. As Bishops of our Church we are asking these people for forgiveness.
This is huge.
For some people in North America and Western Europe, the most notable harm done by the Church to LGBT people has been the opposition to marriage equality, and in some case the resultant exclusion of married gay men and lesbians from church employment or pastoral ministry. In fact, the extent of the harm is far greater. In Africa and in history, this has included active persecution, criminalization, and death. Even in Europe and North America, it can remain a major contributing factor to adolescent suicide and homelessness.
Previous popes have issued apologies to the Jews fo r inciting anti-Semitism, and to Muslims for the crusades. Pope Francis has apologized to the indigenous people of South America for the colonial imposition of European ideology and destruction of cultural patterns. What that apology did not acknowledge, was that the colonial ideology that was imposed, included Western European understanding of sex, gender and family structure, with the resultant active persecution of all those whose sexual or gender behaviour did not fit those European norms.
Just as the Catholic Church has formally apologized for the historic harm done to the Jewish and Muslim communities, to the aboriginal inhabitants of the Americas, Africa and Asia, and for the medieval persecution of religious dissidents, an apology is due to the LGBT community for the persecution in so many ways, large and small, in history and to the present day.
This is the first such apology I have seen from any significant group of Catholic bishops. I applaud the German bishops for their courage and honesty.
It’s not often that I find myself agreeing with Lifesite News, but for once (possibly the first time, ever) I do. Aquinas’ concept of “Natural Law” needs to be far better understood – and that includes by the writers at Lifesite. Taken seriously, natural law theory is supportive, not condemnatory, of committed same – sex relationships, for those whose natural affectional orientation is towards the same sex.
To illustrate, I reproduce below the Lifesite argument in full, interspersed with added emphasis and a bare minimum of commentary. All that is required, to see my point, is to read it from the perspective of someone with a natural, God-given same-sex affectional orientation, in the full knowledge that natural and social sciences are both clear that such an orientation is entirely natural, non-pathological, and found in every human society throughout history and in every geographic region, and also in every branch of the animal kingdom.
A quick primer on the natural law as it comes under attack at the Synod
The Instrumentum Laboris of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family, which was published in June 2014 and served as the agenda for last year’s synod, contained many problematic texts on the subject of the natural law. Paragraph 20 stated:
“In fact, what underlies the relationship between the Gospel of the Family and the natural law is not so much the defence of an abstract philosophical concept as the necessary relation which the Gospel establishes with the human person in the variety of circumstances created by history and culture.”
and paragraph no. 30 stated:
“The language traditionally used in explaining the term ‘natural law’ should be improved so that the values of the Gospel can be communicated to people today in a more intelligible manner. In particular, the vast majority of responses and an even greater part of the observations request that more emphasis be placed on the role of the Word of God as a privileged instrument in the conception of married life and the family, and recommend greater reference to the Bible, its language and narratives. In this regard, respondents propose bringing the issue to public discussion and developing the idea of biblical inspiration and the ‘order in creation,’ which could permit a rereading of the concept of the natural law in a more meaningful manner in today’s world.” (No.30)
These paragraphs, and others like them, indicate an extraordinary confusion about the reality of the natural law and the relationship between the natural and supernatural orders.
(Are they really objecting to reference to the Bible, in consideration of natural law? Or does their understanding of natural law trump Scripture?)
None of the more recent synodal documents make any reference to the natural law. The Relatio Synodi of the Extraordinary Synod and the Instrumentum Laboris of the Ordinary Synod make no reference to this fundamental underpinning of the Church’s understanding of human morality.
In his book The Rigging of a Vatican Synod?experienced Vatican journalist Edward Pentin revealed that Cardinal Baldisseri told Cardinal Burke that “Natural law doesn’t mean anything anymore”.
(No, he didn’t. What he said, was that in popular understanding, based on responses to the questionnaire, “Natural law doesn’t mean anything anymore”. In that, he was absolutely correct.)
Is Cardinal Baldisseri correct?
It is our conviction that the Church’s traditional understanding is accessible to all people in all ages. In this post we will present a short overview of the natural law according to the teaching of St Thomas Aquinas, the common doctor of the Church. We will begin by examining the nature of law itself; we will then be able to proceed to discuss the natural law in particular.
St Thomas tells us that “the rule and measure of human acts is reason”. This means that in order for an act to be truly human, it must accord with right reason. Man is distinguished from an animal, a plant, or an inanimate object because he alone “is master of his actions”. The plant instinctively grows towards the light, the animal instinctively flees from a predator or pursues its prey, but man is able to reason and make free choices.
(“Right reason” is certainly informed by the findings of science, which tells us
that natural and social sciences are both clear that such an orientation is entirely natural, non-pathological, and found in every human society throughout history and in every geographic region, and also in every branch of the animal kingdom. – see above)
Law, as we saw above, is the “rule and measure of acts” in those situations where “man is induced to act or is restrained from acting.” If all human acts must accord with reason then it follows that all the laws that govern human acts must also accord with reason.
It is on these grounds that St Thomas can assert that a command only has “the nature of law” if it is “in accord with some rule of reason.” Indeed he teaches that “a law is nothing else but a dictate of practical reason emanating from the ruler.”
It follows from this that all “laws” that are contrary to reason, such as those which permit abortion, are not true laws.
(and also all “laws” formulated by celibate abstract theologians, which ignore the patent findings of science, on the nature of human sexuality)
Law is always ordered to the common good. We have seen above that law must always accord with reason. St Thomas teaches that reason is principally ordered towards man’s final end, which is happiness. Therefore laws must be ordained principally to human happiness.
(and that must include the “human happiness” of sexual and gender minorities)
Every individual man forms part of a social whole; he is an imperfect part of a perfect society (the Church and the State are both perfect societies because they possess all the means to achieve their ends and are not subject to any higher authority in their sphere). Therefore law must be principally ordained to the good of the social whole, that is, to the common good.
God has created all things by His divine wisdom and, by His divine providence, He directs everything that He has created to its proper end. This divine reason, “the very idea of the government of things in God”, has, says St Thomas, “the nature of law.”
This law, which directs all things in the universe to their proper end, is the eternal law. The lawgiver is God and His eternal law has been promulgated by His Divine Word for all eternity.
The eternal law, which directs all things to their proper end, also directs man to his proper end. Yet man, because he possesses intellect and will, is able to freely choose to act or to refrain from acting. How then does the eternal law direct man to his end?
As stated above, all things in the universe are ruled and measured by the eternal law. It follows from this that all things “partake somewhat of the eternal law”, that is, “from its being imprinted on them” so that from this “they derive their respective inclinations to their proper acts and ends.” We can see this in the way that plants respond to external stimuli, or animals to their instincts, or any object to the laws of physics.
(Or those with a natural same-sex orientation, to others of the same sex).
Man’s rational nature must also be imprinted by the eternal law if man is to have “natural inclination to [his] proper act and end.” This imprinting of the eternal law on man’s rational nature is nothing other than a share of the “eternal reason” of God.
This participation in the “eternal law” is called the natural law.
Are the precepts of the natural law self-evident?
The first precepts of the natural law are self-evident. All men and women have the natural moral law “written in their hearts” to which their “conscience utters its own testimony” (Rm 2:15). “There is in every man a natural inclination to act according to reason.” The first principles of moral action are habitually present in the human intellect.
The first precept of the natural law is: “good is to be done and pursued, and evil is to be avoided”. All the other precepts of the natural law follow from this. These other precepts are ordered in accordance with the order of the natural inclinations.
(“Good is to be done” – and love is always good. We also know from Genesis 2 that “It is not good for man to be alone. I will make him a companion”).
Firstly man shares with all created things an inclination to preserve his own being; “whatever is a means of preserving human life and of warding of its obstacles, belongs to the natural law.”
Secondly, there are those fundamental aspects of our being that we share not just with our fellow human beings but also with non-rational animals, “such as sexual intercourse, education of offspring and so forth.”
(Gay and lesbian also share the desire (and need) for sexual intercourse – and often, to raise and educate children.)
Thirdly, there are those things which pertain to our rational nature; “thus man has a natural inclination to know the truth about God, and to live in society: and in this respect, whatever pertains to this inclination belongs to the natural law.”
All of the precepts of the law of nature form just one natural law because all flow from the first precept: good is to be done and pursued and evil is to be avoided.
The natural law, as explained above, deals with those things to which human beings are inclined naturally.
All human beings share the same fundamental human nature. Therefore, as regards the general principles underlying human thought and action, “truth or rectitude is the same for all, and is equally known by all.”
The application of the general principles may vary according to the concrete circumstances in which men act, but the first principles themselves remain inviolable. Evil can never be done so that good results; the end never justifies the means.
The natural law, as we have seen above, is the imprinting of the eternal law on rational creatures. This law has remained the same since the very moment that the first rational creatures were created by God. It is “altogether unchangeable in its first principles.”
(For naturally gay and lesbian people, opposite-sex attraction is most certainly NOT “imprinted” on us, as rational creatures. Quite the contrary).
Laws may be added above and beyond the natural law, for example human laws that seek to serve the common good in concrete circumstances, but these laws can never negate the natural law.
(and that includes equal marriage laws, which evidence shows, improves the common good).
Is it possible for the natural law to cease to exist in the heart of man?
The first principles of the natural law can never be removed from the hearts of men. They remain forever “written in their hearts” (Rm 2:15).
On particular occasions however “reason is hindered from applying the general principle to a particular point of practice, on account of concupiscence or some other passion” and, as far as secondary precepts are concerned, “the natural law can be blotted out from the human heart, either by evil persuasions… or by vicious customs and corrupt habits”.
(And the “evil persuasions, vicious customs and corrupt habits” that have “blotted out the natural law from the human heart” include ignorance and prejudice about and towards the sexual “other”, )
For LGBT Catholics, possibly the most important news I’ve seen coming out of the Synod assembly on marriage and family, is a speech that Pope Francis gave on Saturday, in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Synod of Bishops.
It’s been widely reported that he spoke in favour of “decentralization”, but there’s much more of great importance. Not only is he speaking in favour of decentralization, but also reminds the bishops of the importance of listening, and of the “sensus fideii”, and of collegiality at all levels of the church — from the top, down to parish level. He also describes the structure of the church not as the usual pyramid, with pope and bishops at the top and the rest of us down below – but as an inverted pyramid, with pope (and bishops) at the bottom – because their job is service, not control. I see this as the most important, most exciting news to have come out of the synod thus far. (I’m working towards an English translation, which I’ll publish later at my website, “The Queer Church Repository”, with commentary on the blot, “Queering the Churcch”)
Here at the Queer Church, restructuring continues – and we’re also expanding our ministry.
I began my activities in LGBT ministry by volunteering at the Soho Masses, and went on to begin writing about LGBT faith matters here at Queering the Church. I also became involved with Quest as conference speaker, webmaster and now Quest Bulletin editor, took on additional webmaster responsibilities for the Centre for the Study of Christianity and Sexuality, and for the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics. I have also facilitated successful workshops for Quest, and on “Next Steps” in expanding LGBT ministry. During the build up to the introduction of UK equal marriage, I was a regular participant in radio and television programmes as an openly gay, Catholic advocate for equality.
A few years ago, it was German speaking theologians from Europe who hit the headlines when they signed a letter asking for far-reaching reforms on Church teaching and structure.
Now, a group of mostly Spanish language from Latin America who have asked the Synod for far more radical reforms. They ask for full LGBT equality in Church (including equal marriage), an end to the absolute ban on abortion, admission to the priesthood for married men and women, and access to communion for divorced and remarried Catholics.
David Berger is a Catholic (lay) theologian who was fired from a prestigious teaching post because he is openly gay. As such, he has a special insight into the significance of the Vatican theologian Msgr Krzysztof’s coming out as gay and partnered. He shared his views in an interviewwith Frankfurter Rundschau.
This is my own free translation:
The Catholic Church can no longer avoid the debate over gay priests.
The gay theologian David Berger talks in an interview about the outing of gay clergy Krzysztof Charamsa and about homosexuals in the Vatican. However, Berger leans against blessings for homosexual couples.
Mr. Berger, the Vatican summarily dismissed – in secular terms – the gay theologian Krzysztof Charamsa after his coming out . Was this grasping at crisis management?
In an attempt to demonstrate strength, the apparatus showed in truth its weakness and its vulnerability. The great legal tradition of the Catholic Church, of which we might actually be proud, in this moment is worth nothing any more, after the outwardly hostile attitude towards homosexuality is exposed as living a lie.
Excellent article on the meaning of the synod on the family. However I would modify the proposal of Kaspar and suggest that certain bishops be prohibited from receiving the sacraments until they have passed through a penitential process designed by the faithful of their diocese. “The Instrumentum showed that there is broad agreement on several issues, especially on Cardinal Walter Kasper’s proposal that, in certain cases, divorced and remarried Catholics should be allowed to receive the sacraments following “a journey of reconciliation or penance, under the auspices of the local bishop”.”