John Corvino Responds to “New Natural Law” (Book, and Video)

Central to the orthodox Catholic rejection of homoerotic relationships, and all sexual intercourse not open to procreation, is the natural law theory of the medieval theologian and great doctor of the Church, Thomas Aquinas. However, there’s a great deal that needs to be said about the distortions of Aquinas’ understanding of natural law to support “traditional” marriage, while suppressing what he wrote about the naturalness of same – sex relationships for those whom modern terminology would describe as having a same – sex orientation.

Aquinas and the Middle Ages were an awfully long time ago, and it’s not surprising that it is now generally acknowledged, by traditional and revisionist moral theologians alike, that there are some problems with his conclusions (for example, that masturbation, which is not open to procreation, is more offensive to God than rape, which is). So some modern day conservative theologians who respect the core of Aquinas’ Natural Law theory have developed what is known as “New Natural Law Theory”.

I’m delighted to have found, via a short post at “Letters to the Catholic Right”, a link to a video series by John Corvino dealing with his book, “What’s Wrong with Homosexuality”.

As a professor of philosophy specialising in ethics and the philosophy of religion, Corvino is well equipped to tackle the problems with natural law theory, and of New Natural Law Theory, as they are regularly applied to debates about marriage equality.

In the Youtube video above, Corvino, introduces his argument.

This is what Amazon has to say about his book:

For the last twenty years, John Corvino–widely known as the author of the weekly column “The Gay Moralist”–has traversed the country responding to moral and religious arguments against same-sex relationships. In this timely book, he shares that experience–addressing the standard objections to homosexuality and offering insight into the culture wars more generally.

Is homosexuality unnatural? Does the Bible condemn it? Are people born gay (and should it matter either way)? Corvino approaches such questions with precision, sensitivity, and good humor. In the process, he makes a fresh case for moral engagement, forcefully rejecting the idea that morality is a “private matter.” This book appears at a time when same-sex marriage is being hotly debated across the U.S. Many people object to such marriage on the grounds that same-sex relationships are immoral, or at least, that they do not deserve the same social recognition as heterosexual relationships. Unfortunately, the traditional rhetoric of gay-rights advocates–which emphasizes privacy and tolerance–fails to meet this objection. Legally speaking, when it comes to marriage, “tolerance” might be enough, Corvino concedes, but socially speaking, marriage requires more. Marriage is more than just a relationship between two individuals, recognized by the state. It is also a relationship between those individuals and a larger community. The fight for same-sex marriage, ultimately, is a fight for full inclusion in the moral fabric. What is needed is a positive case for moral approval–which is what Corvino unabashedly offers here.

Corvino blends a philosopher’s precision with a light touch that is full of humanity and wit. This volume captures the voice of one of the most rational participants in a national debate noted for generating more heat than light.

Books by John Corvino:

What’s Wrong with Homosexuality? 
Debating Same-Sex Marriage  (with Maggie Gallagher)

 

Also related and recommended:

Alison, James: Faith Beyond Resentment: Fragments Catholic and Gay 

Alison, James: On Being Liked 

Alison, James:  Undergoing God: Dispatches from the Scene of a Break-In

Alison, James: Broken Hearts and New Creations: Intimations of a Great Reversal

Boswell, John: Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century  (University of Chicago Press, 1980) 424 pages

Boswell, John: Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe

Glaser, Chris: As My Own Soul: The Blessing of Same-Gender Marriage 

Glaser, Chris: Coming Out as Sacrament

Jordan, Mark:  Blessing Same-Sex Unions: The Perils of Queer Romance and the Confusions of Christian Marriage

McNeill, John: The Church and the Homosexual

McNeill, John: Freedom, Glorious Freedom: The Spiritual Journey to the Fullness of Life for Gays, Lesbians, and Everybody Else 

McNeill, John: Taking a Chance on God: Liberating Theology for Gays, Lesbians, and Their Lovers, Families,  and Friends 

McNeill, John: Sex as God Intended  

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

Letters to the Catholic Right Asks "What is Marriage? "

“Letters to the Catholic Right” has a post considering a dispute between Robert George and friends on one side, and Law Professor Charles Reid on the other, over what they did or did not say in a recent debate about marriage at Notre Dame. For a synopsis of the dispute see the full post, and follow the links for summary of the debate.

But here’s the key point made by LCR, which needs to be better appreciated by the “Catholic Right” he is addressing, who are convinced that the only valid marriage are of the penis – in – vagina sexual kind: that’s not the model displayed by the Holy Family, and nor has it always been the preferred model in Church history.

Here is the conclusion of the essay:

What is Marriage? Let’s Think a Little Harder.

No, what’s really astonishing to me is that this group of Catholics made this argument at a Catholic university during a debate on Catholicism and public policy and then defended it in writing at the start of Advent season.

Reid gets the irony. He writes, “In that paradigm of marriage for Catholics, the union of Mary and Joseph, it could only have been love that held the Holy Family together, not sex, since Catholics believe that Mary was ‘ever virgin.’”

But it’s not just Mary and Joseph; Catholic teaching is very respectful of a tradition known as the Josephite marriage, which is a legitimate marriage, based on spiritual union, in which the spouses don’t have sex. In Fulton Sheen’s words, “among some Jews and among some great Christian Saints, the vow of virginity was sometimes taken along with espousals. Marriage then became the frame into which the picture of virginity was placed. Marriage was like a sea on which the bark of carnal union never sailed, but one from which one fished the sustenance for life.”

So if we’re putting Reid’s view (“love makes a marriage”) up against George’s (“marriage requires penis-in-vagina sex”) then the weight of Catholic thinking ought to come down on Reid’s side.

– full post at  Letters to the Catholic Right.

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Women Bishops: Canada, Ireland

Just as the Church of Ireland was consecrating its first female bishop, the Anglican Church in Canada was electing a woman bishop of its own.

(The Telegraph report of the Irish consecration of Bishop Pat Storey referred to her as the “first Anglican woman bishop”. This is not strictly correct. She is the first woman bishop in the UK or Ireland, but there have been several more in other provinces of the Anglican communion, including some recently appointed in South Africa and India, for example).

More women bishops

The Diocese of New Westminster in the Anglican Church of Canada elected the Reverend Canon Melissa Skelton to be its ninth bishop on Saturday.

Press reports include:

Huffington Post Canada: Rev. Melissa Skelton Elected Bishop Of New Westminster

Douglas Todd Vancouver: Sun Rev. Melissa Skelton elected bishop of Vancouver-area Anglican diocese

Paul Sullivan Matro [Canada]: Anglican bishop brings branding skills

By coincidence the election took place on the same day as the Consecration Of The Revd Pat Storey As Bishop Of Meath & Kildare. Patrick Comerford, a Canon at Christ Church Cathedral, where the service took place, describes the occasion in detail: A Memorable Afternoon at the Consecration of Bishop Pat Storey in Christ Church Cathedral.

via Thinking Anglicans

Churches and Sexuality – Finding Common Ground

In the heated debates over sexuality, sin and the Christian response, is there a possibility that the churches find common ground? A new report by Savitri Hensman for the religious think tank Ekklesia thinks there is :

Think-tank proposes different approach to church sexuality row

Churches with different views in heated debates about sexuality actually share common ground and can move forward despite their differences, says a new paper from the Christian think-tank Ekklesia.

The research paper, ‘Church views on sexuality: recovering the middle ground’, by Savitri Hensman, rejects the popular idea that there are two warring blocks that may be labelled ‘traditionalists’ and ‘revisionists’. This is simplistic and can be misleading as well as unhelpful, it says.

In the new paper, Ekklesia identifies seven widely held viewpoints on sexuality within churches of different denominations and traditions. It shows that those with supposedly diametrically opposing positions often have more in common than they may at first think – even though they may presently disagree about same-sex relationships, for example.

Equally, it argues, coexistence among those sharing a ‘middle ground’ is not about weak compromise, but instead reflects an approach both deeply rooted in Bible and tradition and open to change as a living community led by the Spirit.

– full news release at Ekklesia.

The abstract for the published paper gives:

Abstract:
It is clear that Christians hold a spectrum of views on sexuality and marriage. However, the popular idea that there are two warring blocks that may be labelled  ‘traditionalists’ and ‘revisionists’ is simplistic and can be misleading as well as unhelpful. Current tensions could be reduced and reframed significantly if more church leaders acknowledged the extent of common ground in the middle of this continuum, allowed limited flexibility of practice, and enabled their communities to develop practices of discernment oriented towards the “grace and truth” (John 1.13- 15) that lies at the heart of the Christian message. In this paper, Ekklesia associate Savitri Hensman identifies seven widely held positions on sexuality. She suggests that those with supposedly diametrically opposing views often have more in common than they may at first think. Equally, she argues, in Christian terms, that coexistence among those sharing a ‘middle ground’ is not about weak compromise, but instead reflects an approach both deeply rooted in Bible and tradition and open to change as a living community led by the Spirit.

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Churches and Sexuality – Finding Common Ground

In the heated debates over sexuality, sin and the Christian response, is there a possibility that the churches find common ground? A new report by Savitri Hensman for the religious think tank Ekklesia thinks there is :

Think-tank proposes different approach to church sexuality row

Churches with different views in heated debates about sexuality actually share common ground and can move forward despite their differences, says a new paper from the Christian think-tank Ekklesia.

The research paper, ‘Church views on sexuality: recovering the middle ground’, by Savitri Hensman, rejects the popular idea that there are two warring blocks that may be labelled ‘traditionalists’ and ‘revisionists’. This is simplistic and can be misleading as well as unhelpful, it says.

In the new paper, Ekklesia identifies seven widely held viewpoints on sexuality within churches of different denominations and traditions. It shows that those with supposedly diametrically opposing positions often have more in common than they may at first think – even though they may presently disagree about same-sex relationships, for example.

Equally, it argues, coexistence among those sharing a ‘middle ground’ is not about weak compromise, but instead reflects an approach both deeply rooted in Bible and tradition and open to change as a living community led by the Spirit.

– full news release at Ekklesia.

The abstract for the published paper gives:

Abstract:
It is clear that Christians hold a spectrum of views on sexuality and marriage. However, the popular idea that there are two warring blocks that may be labelled  ‘traditionalists’ and ‘revisionists’ is simplistic and can be misleading as well as unhelpful. Current tensions could be reduced and reframed significantly if more church leaders acknowledged the extent of common ground in the middle of this continuum, allowed limited flexibility of practice, and enabled their communities to develop practices of discernment oriented towards the “grace and truth” (John 1.13- 15) that lies at the heart of the Christian message. In this paper, Ekklesia associate Savitri Hensman identifies seven widely held positions on sexuality. She suggests that those with supposedly diametrically opposing views often have more in common than they may at first think. Equally, she argues, in Christian terms, that coexistence among those sharing a ‘middle ground’ is not about weak compromise, but instead reflects an approach both deeply rooted in Bible and tradition and open to change as a living community led by the Spirit.

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Pope Francis’ World AIDS Day prayer:

This year, World AIDS Day conincided with the First Sunday of Advent. Pope Francis paid attention to both, in his Angelus message. The scriptural message for the first reading yesterday concerned an end to war (“turning swords into ploughshares”), and Francis looked forward to a time when nations will co-exist in peace. But for World Aids Day, he also included an expression of “solidarity” for all those affected by AIDS, and a hope that they will all have access to the healthcare that they need.

English: The Red ribbon is a symbol for solida...

Continue reading Pope Francis’ World AIDS Day prayer:

Pope Francis' World AIDS Day prayer:

This year, World AIDS Day conincided with the First Sunday of Advent. Pope Francis paid attention to both, in his Angelus message. The scriptural message for the first reading yesterday concerned an end to war (“turning swords into ploughshares”), and Francis looked forward to a time when nations will co-exist in peace. But for World Aids Day, he also included an expression of “solidarity” for all those affected by AIDS, and a hope that they will all have access to the healthcare that they need.

English: The Red ribbon is a symbol for solida...

Continue reading Pope Francis' World AIDS Day prayer:

Blessed Charles de Foucauld , Martyr

CHARLES DE FOUCAULD (Brother Charles of Jesus) was born in Strasbourg, France on September 15th, 1858. Orphaned at the age of six, he and his sister Marie were raised by their grandfather in whose footsteps he followed by taking up a military career.

He lost his faith as an adolescent.His taste for easy living was well known to all and yet he showed that he could be strong willed and constant in difficult situations. He undertook a risky exploration of Morocco (1883-1884). Seeing the way Muslims expressed their faith questioned him and he began repeating, “My God, if you exist, let me come to know you.”

On his return to France, the warm, respectful welcome he received from his deeply Christian family made him continue his search. Under the guidance of Fr. Huvelin he rediscovered God in October 1886.He was then 28 years old. “As soon as I believed in God, I understood that I could not do otherwise than to live for him alone.”

A pilgrimage to the Holy Land revealed his vocation to him: to follow Jesus in his life at Nazareth.He spent 7 years as a Trappist, first in France and then at Akbès in Syria. Later he began to lead a life of prayer and adoration, alone, near a convent of Poor Clares in Nazareth.
Ordained a priest at 43 (1901) he left for the Sahara, living at first in Beni Abbès and later at Tamanrasset among the Tuaregs of the Hoggar. He wanted to be among those who were, “the furthest removed, the most abandoned.” He wanted all who drew close to him to find in him a brother, “a universal brother.” In a great respect for the culture and faith of those among whom he lived, his desire was to “shout the Gospel with his life”. “I would like to be sufficiently good that people would say, “If such is the servant, what must the Master be like?”
On the evening of December 1st 1916, he was killed by a band of marauders who had encircled his house.
He had always dreamed of sharing his vocation with others: after having written several rules for religious life, he came to the conclusion that this “life of Nazareth” could be led by all. Today the “spiritual family of Charles de Foucauld” encompasses several associations of the faithful, religious communities and secular institutes for both lay people and priests.
-Vatican News Service

For a possible gay connection, through his close friend Louis Massignon, see Gay Mystic.:

Sometime ago, however,  I received a personal communication via a White Father with many years experience in North Africa, (who is normally very defensive about the church and unwilling to relate negative comments about saintly figures) that Foucauld’s  death was caused in part as revenge for his practice of entertaining handsome young Tuareg men in his hermitage in the evenings. Rumors also suggest that the 15 year old boy was something other than a guard. This source did not affirm any improprieties  on Blessed Charles’ part, (and I for one, would not believe them, if they did), but they do suggest a predilection for beautiful young males. The rumors, like swirls of dust in the desert, are difficult to credit because of Charles’ own dissolute early life and female lovers, but then, who knows? Read below of his very close connection to  the great Islamic scholar, Louis Massignon, who underwent a great psychological crisis because of his own homosexuality, and who partly attributed his conversion to Christianity to Charles de Foucauld. Blessed Charles  would later  name Massignon the executor of his will and Massignon was responsible for publishing Charles’ Rule for the Little Brothers of Jesus.