Tag Archives: same – sex relationships

British Catholics: Same-sex relationships “Not wrong at all”

In the UK, 62% of Catholics now say that same-sex relationships are “not at all wrong”.

This finding,  from the authoritative, annual British Social Attitudes Survey for 2017, is particularly dramatic when viewed over the long term, the thirty years from 1986 and 2016. This transformation in attitudes applies to all Christians, but especially to Catholics, for whom moral acceptance of same-sex relationships rose from just 9% 30 years ago, to 62% in 2016.

Continue reading British Catholics: Same-sex relationships “Not wrong at all”

Waiting for Francis – Divorced and Remarried, Same-Sex Couples

As we wait for Pope Francis’ formal response to the bishops’ synod “Assembly on Marriage and Family”, it’s worth looking back and taking stock.

Many lgbt Catholics voiced disappointment with the assembly proceedings and report, because they had so little to say about same-sex relationships. Others saw this relative silence as a positive sign, concluding from it that the bishops realize that the whole issue of homosexuality requires deeper study. However, there is at least one reason why the report, when it comes, will be worth close attention from gay Catholics: Francis’ conclusions on divorce will have resonance for us, too. Continue reading Waiting for Francis – Divorced and Remarried, Same-Sex Couples

Natural Law, in SUPPORT of Committed Same -Sex Relationships

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

October 20, 2015 (VoiceoftheFamily)

Thomas Aquinas
Thomas Aquinas

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.

PART I: LAW

What is law? [1]

“It belongs to law” says St Thomas Aquinas “to command and to forbid”. He continues: “Law is a rule and measure of acts, whereby man is induced to act, or is restrained from acting.”

For example, a law may restrain a man from stealing by forbidding theft, or it may induce a man to pay his taxes by commanding him to do so.

Does law have to be in accord with reason?[2]

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) 

Is law always ordered to the common good? [3]

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.

Is anyone able to make laws?[4]

No. The law is ordained to the common good, therefore only the whole people, or those who have care for the whole people, can make laws.

(The “whole people” must surely include those who have real -life experience of loving, committed sexual relationships)

These laws must be promulgated by the lawgiver before they come into force.

PART II: THE NATURAL LAW

Is there an eternal law? [5]

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 lawgiver is God – not the Vatican)

What is the natural law?[6]

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?[7]

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.

What are the precepts of the natural law? [8]

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.

(Avoid the evils of discrimination and exclusion)

Is the natural law the same for all men?[9]

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.

Can the natural law be changed?[10]

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? [11]

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”, )

Footnotes

[1] ST II:I q.90 a.1

[2] ST II:I q.90 a.1

[3] ST II:I q.90 a.2

[4] ST II:I q.91 a.3,4

[5] ST II:I q.91 a.1

[6] ST II:I q.91 a.2

[7] ST II:I q.94 a.3

[8] ST II:I q.94 a.2

[9] ST II:I q.94 a.4

[10] II:I q.94 a.5

[11] II:I q.94 a.6

Francis and LGBT Catholics: Lifesite News is NOT Happy (but I Am).

When Lifesite News is bothered, I’m generally happy – and they are concerned in a recent report about what they see as “confusing” signals from Pope Francis on gay relationships. There’s no need for confusion. On this and so many other issues, Francis’ signals are very clear indeed: he wants a Church much closer in spirit and in praxis to the Gospels and the example of Jesus Christ. This implies on the one hand, a real concern for the poor and marginalized of all kinds, and serious concern about the damage caused by the popular fixation with riches, greed and consumption. On the other hand, matters of sexual ethics and same – sex relationships feature no more strongly in his message, than they did in the teaching of Jesus Christ.

This is very, very different to the preoccupations of Lifesite News and similar allegedly “Catholic” groups, with their conviction that a puritanical sexual morality is central to Catholicism, so they are right to be concerned. From their distorted perspective, they should be.

From our perspectives as LGBT Catholics, we need to understand that while these issues are not central to Francis’ concerns, the signals he is sending out are distinctly encouraging, in so many ways. In addition to the words which have attracted so much positive publicity, there have also been a series of notable episcopal an curial appointments which will help to tilt the balance more in our favour. Lifesite very helpfully lists these/

Bishop Heiner Koch: Bishop Koch was appointed June 8, 2015 by Pope Francis as the new Archbishop of Berlin, and selected as one of the three delegates of the German Bishops’ Conference to participate in the upcoming October 2015 Synod of Bishops on the Family. Koch has said, “Any bond that strengthens and holds people is in my eyes good; that applies also to same-sex relationships.” In another public interview he said: “To present homosexuality as sin is wounding. … I know homosexual pairs that live values such as reliability and responsibility in an exemplary way.”

Cardinal Godfried Danneels: The retired former archbishop of Brussels was a special appointment by Pope Francis to the 2014 Synod of Bishops. In addition to wearing rainbow liturgical vestments and being caught on tape concealing sexual abuse, Danneels said in 2013 of the passage of gay “marriage”: “I think it’s a positive development that states are free to open up civil marriage for gays if they want.”

Cardinal Walter Kasper: A few days into his pontificate Pope Francis praised one of Cardinal Kasper’s books, and then selected the cardinal to deliver the controversial keynote address to the consistory of cardinals advocating his proposal to allow divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive communion in some circumstances. This proposal led to the high-profile debate at the first Synod of Bishops on the Family. Cardinal Kasper has again been selected as a personal appointee of the pope to the second Synod and regularly meets with Pope Francis. Kasper defended the vote of the Irish in favor of homosexual “marriages”, saying: “A democratic state has the duty to respect the will of the people; and it seems clear that, if the majority of the people wants such homosexual unions, the state has a duty to recognize such rights.”

Archbishop Bruno Forte: The archbishop of Chieti-Vasto was appointed Special Secretary to the 2014 Synod by Pope Francis. He is the Italian theologian who wascredited with drafting the controversial homosexuality section of the infamous midterm report of the Synod which spoke of “accepting and valuing [homosexuals’] sexual orientation.” When questioned about the language, Forte said homosexual unions have “rights that should be protected,” calling it an “issue of civilization and respect of those people.”


Bishop Johan Bonny
: The bishop of Antwerp in Belgium has just been named as one of the delegates to the 2015 Synod of Bishops on the Family despite open dissent on homosexual unions. While being named as a delegate to the synod may not in itself constitute a major promotion, what is unique about Bonny is the extremity and clarity of his dissent. “Inside the Church, we must look for a formal recognition of the relational dimension that is also present in many homosexual, lesbian and bisexual couples,” he said in a December 2014 interview. “In the same way that in society there exists a diversity of legal frameworks for partners, there must be a diversity of forms of recognition in the Church.”

Father Timothy Radcliffe: In May,Pope Francis appointed the former Master of the Dominican Order as a consultor for the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace despite his well-known support for homosexuality. Writing on homosexuality in 2013, he said: “We must ask what it means, and how far it is Eucharistic. Certainly it can be generous, vulnerable, tender, mutual and non-violent. So in many ways, I would think that it can be expressive of Christ’s self-gift.” In a 2006 lecture he advocated “accompanying” homosexuals, which he defined as “watching ‘Brokeback Mountain,’ reading gay novels, living with our gay friends and listening with them as they listen to the Lord.”

 

Moral Theologian: Same – Sex Couples Deserve Sexual Expression of Their Love

First, it has to be said that same-sex oriented people have the right, in their lives – and that includes, too, the fact that like all people, they are sexual beings – to be recognized.

– moral theologian Eberhard Schockenhoff

Eberhard Schockenhoff, Theologe und stellvertretender Vorsitzender im Deutschen Ethikrat, spricht am 19. Mai 2015 in München.
Eberhard Schockenhoff, Theologe und stellvertretender Vorsitzender im Deutschen Ethikrat, spricht am 19. Mai 2015 in München.

Finally, an influential, mainstream Catholic theologian has faced the elephant in the room. More and more cardinals, bishops and others in the Catholic church have come to accept that same – sex couples deserve to have legal recognition of their relationships. Some have said so publicly, many more now agree, but are keeping their opinions firmly to themselves. Some have said they see positive value in such civil unions, others are more reluctant, seeing them merely as something to be accepted as a lesser evil than full marriage. But in all the many observations on the subject I have seen, there’s one crucial point no-one has yet dared mention publicly: can the Church accept that couples in such same – sex legal, committed and loving relationships, may express their love sexually?

The German moral theologian Eberhard Schockenhoff has, in effect, answered with a clear “yes”. He’s done so not in so many words, but that is the clear implication of his words, quoted above. Continue reading Moral Theologian: Same – Sex Couples Deserve Sexual Expression of Their Love

Kasper: Same – sex Unions “Central” to the 2015 Family Synod.

For lesbian and gay Catholics, there is dynamite in Cardinal Walter Kasper’s expectations for the October Synod. Recall, that he has form in this. Addressing the 2014 consistory of cardinals, his reflections on more sympathetic pastoral response to divorced and remarried Catholic gave advance notice that would be a major them of the initial, extraordinary synod. So it proved. Now, he has given notice of a different them that could be a major focus of this years synod: same -sex couples and recognition of their unions. (Lifesite News agrees with my interpretation, greeting the news with horror. What distresses Lifesite usually pleases me).

Gay marriage

Continue reading Kasper: Same – sex Unions “Central” to the 2015 Family Synod.

Germany’s Largest Lay Group’s Call for Same – Sex Blessings

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, President of the German Bishops’ Conference, has “rebuked” the country’s largest lay group, the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK), for its call for a change in Church teaching.

Stefan Vesper, General Secretary of ZdK
Stefan Vesper, General Secretary of ZdK

It will be no surprise that the call has been criticized by the German bishops.   In addition to greater acceptance of divorced and remarried Catholics, the position paper calls for Church blessings for same – sex couples. What is notable, is that the call was made in the first place, that Cardinal Marx’s rebuke includes the conciliatory statement that ““necessary theological debate” and dialogue on both subjects would be helpful”, and that Marx praised the ZdK’s position paper for its many “theological and socially significant statements on the family”.

When the Family Synod was first announced and ever since, the Vatican and others have insisted that the intention was to debate and refine pastoral practice – not to change or even discuss doctrine. It’s becoming clearer than ever though, that there is a growing awareness that the need for doctrinal change will have to be seriously addresses, whether at the synod, or later. Cardinal Marx’s acknowledgement that theological dialogue with lay people is an impressive example of that.

For a report on Cardinal Marx’s response, see The Tablet News, (25th May), or for the full German text of the position paper, see the ZdK website

Germany’s Largest Lay Group’s Call for Same – Sex Blessings

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, President of the German Bishops’ Conference, has “rebuked” the country’s largest lay group, the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK), for its call for a change in Church teaching.

Stefan Vesper, General Secretary of ZdK
Stefan Vesper, General Secretary of ZdK

It will be no surprise that the call has been criticized by the German bishops.   In addition to greater acceptance of divorced and remarried Catholics, the position paper calls for Church blessings for same – sex couples. What is notable, is that the call was made in the first place, that Cardinal Marx’s rebuke includes the conciliatory statement that ““necessary theological debate” and dialogue on both subjects would be helpful”, and that Marx praised the ZdK’s position paper for its many “theological and socially significant statements on the family”.

When the Family Synod was first announced and ever since, the Vatican and others have insisted that the intention was to debate and refine pastoral practice – not to change or even discuss doctrine. It’s becoming clearer than ever though, that there is a growing awareness that the need for doctrinal change will have to be seriously addresses, whether at the synod, or later. Cardinal Marx’s acknowledgement that theological dialogue with lay people is an impressive example of that.

For a report on Cardinal Marx’s response, see The Tablet News, (25th May), or for the full German text of the position paper, see the ZdK website

Swiss Catholics Call for Blessings for Same-sex Partnerships

In a remarkable document published by the Swiss Bishops Conference, it is noted that in Switzerland, there is strong support for the recognition of same – sex relationships, including blessings of such partnerships.

Following a comprehensive national consultation with the nation’s Catholics, in which more than 6000 people participated, the Swiss Catholic bishops have reported that Swiss Catholics want to see blessings for same – sex partnerships, and also a change in the teaching on communion for divorced and remarried people.

Swiss consultation

Continue reading Swiss Catholics Call for Blessings for Same-sex Partnerships