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Frank Cocozzelli and Maggie Gallagher: The Voice(s) of American Catholicism

Pentecost: One Spirit, Many Tongues

On 20 April last year, Frank Cocozzelli published an interesting essay entitled “Who Speaks for American Catholics?” at Talk to Action’s website (here). Cocozzelli notes the wide diversity of viewpoints of American Catholics on social and political issues, including issues with connections to Catholic moral teaching. As he notes, American Catholics frequently disagree with each other (and with official church teaching) on issues such as stem-cell research, abortion, and gay and lesbian rights.

Many of us find the political and moral positions of our brothers and sisters of the Catholic right morally repugnant precisely because of our commitment to Catholic moral teaching about economic and social justice and war and peace. As Cocozzelli rightly notes, “A strong case can be made that these icons of the Catholic Right are using abortion and LGBT rights as wedge issues primarily to elect laissez-faire economic conservatives.”

Shortly before Frank Cocozzelli published his article asking who speaks for American Catholics, noting the use of abortion and gay rights as wedge issues by the Catholic right to further a neoconservative economic strategy at odds with Catholic social teaching, another American Catholic, Maggie Gallagher, president of the National Organization for Marriage, published a statement at National Review contending that “Catholics”—by implication, all Catholics—will be penalized if the United States ever chooses fully to recognize the human rights of gay and lesbian citizens, including the right to marry. In response, Andrew Sullivan (also Catholic, and someone who writes frequently about Catholic issues) nominated Gallagher for one of his Malkin awards for the following statement (here):

After gay marriage, the most religiously committed Americans will be effectively marginalized as a public force—because they cannot act or support the idea that gay unions are marriages. Such people will, if we lose the marriage debate, be treated the way we treat bigots who oppose interracial marriage. Imagine: All it will take to make, say, a judicial nominee unconfirmable will be to establish that they are indeed Catholic.

For those who wish to read Gallagher’s entire piece, Andrew Sullivan’s Malkin Award posting links to it.

Gallup Poll, March 30, 2009, Catholics and Protestants, Moral Acceptability of Issues

I suspect that Maggie Gallagher is fully aware that, in her interpretation of what Catholic moral teaching requires vis-à-vis her gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, she is already in the minority, and will soon be defending a position considered marginal and indefensible by the large majority of American Catholics. Results of a Gallup poll released on 30 March 2009 indicate (here) that a majority of American Catholics (54%) do not believe homosexual relations are immoral, whereas only 45% of American citizens overall hold this position. The Gallup poll demonstrates that, even after several decades of sustained assault by the religious and political right, which has sought to force Catholics to walk lockstep with its political and moral positions, Catholics are to the left of other Americans on most moral and political issues.

I thought of these data on 8  April last year when I watched Maggie Gallagher and Joe Solmonese of the Human Rights Campaign debate gay marriage on MSNBC’s “Hard Ball” program.  In that segment, too, Gallagher spoke blithely of “the” Catholic position on gay issues, as if there is no disagreement at all among American Catholics about gay marriage and the morality of gay lives.

In fact, in this debate, Gallagher spoke as if the decision of Archbishop Sean O’Malley of Boston to close Catholic Charities in Boston in 2006 when that organization was required to place adoptive children in gay-headed households represents “the” Catholic position on such matters. Yet when the Boston archdiocese announced its intention to seek an exemption from this requirement in February 2006, 8 of the 42 members of the Catholic Charities board resigned in protest, noting that they considered it morally right for Catholic Charities to welcome gay parents (here).

Even as she speaks as though there is a unitary, dogmatically binding Catholic position on issues like gay adoption or gay marriage, Maggie Gallagher must know full well that there is a variety of Catholic viewpoints on these issues. And she has to know, as well, that this diversity exists for sound reasons, because a number of important moral principles are at play in the evaluation of these issues, and those principles can and do yield different moral outcomes as Catholics struggle to apply them.

Maggie Gallagher also has to know that the Gallup poll cited above explodes her claim to represent “the”—the only right and only possible—Catholic moral position on homosexuality. I can understand her political reasons for wishing to mislead the public into thinking that she represents the only thinkable Catholic position on gay issues. At the same time, I find that misrepresentation of the facts disingenuous and morally distasteful.

As a fellow Catholic, I would be much happier if Ms. Gallagher sought to ground what she says about the morality of gay people and gay lives in the truth. If a position is morally sound, it does not need lies to bolster it, and does not need to rely on cheap political tricks to compel people to assent to it.

(Crossposted from Bilgrimage, 21 April 2009, with slight editorial changes).

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52 Responses

  1. Mr. Lindsey,

    I don’t understand your last paragraph. As I understand Catholic teaching there is a unitary, doctrinally binding Catholic position on many issues, including gay marriage. Although the Magisterium’s reach is limited to teaching authority on theological issues, its authority in this realm is unitary.

    Certainly, when it comes to commenting on social issues, such as whether or not government should grant marital privileges to same sex partnerships, the Church does not have the final political (or moral)authority. But, I don’t think that the Catholic Church claims to have the final authority on how the government goes about its business. Nor does the Magisterium, according to its own teaching, claim to be the final authority on any moral issue. As you probably know, the Magisterium teaches that a person must consult Scripture and consult the Church in order to make an informed decision. However, final moral authority of the person’s actions always rests with the individual.

    Whether the government should grant marital privileges to same sex partnerships is a completely different question than whether same sex unions can be sacramental.

    Also, I don’t understand the relationship between the truth and what a majority of Catholics may believe. We can’t arrive at truth by voting.

    Lastly, claims about “conservative” or “right-wing” Catholics are nonsense. The creed (beliefs) of the Catholic Church are not instituted for the purpose of arriving at any political outcome. The fact that the principles may result in a particular political outcome are merely happenstance.

    So, who will speak for American Catholics? Scriptures speak for us; the Magisterium speaks for us; and we speak for ourselves.

  2. Thanks for your response, Mr. Ludescher.

    It seems illogical to me to argue (as you do)

    1) on the one hand, that “[n]or does the Magisterium, according to its own teaching, claim to be the final authority on any moral issue” and

    2) on the other hand, that “[a]lthough the Magisterium’s reach is limited to teaching authority on theological issues, its authority in this realm is unitary.”

    I hear this as an illicit attempt to provide the aura of infallibility to a moral teaching (about homosexuality) that has not been infallibly declared.

    As you note, our tradition emphasizes the sacred responsibility of conscience to make moral judgments after it informs itself by attention to scripture, tradition, church teaching, and pastoral guidance.

    Your approach of creeping infallibilism, which tries to lend an aura of infallibility to non-infallible teachings, would, in my humble opinion, make that sacred role of conscience in Catholic teaching null and void. And that would, I believe, be a very bad development for the church. It would extinguish the Spirit.

    I’m not proposing that church teaching be established by popular vote. I’m drawing attention to the fact that something is awry when the sensus fidelium is at such odds, for a period of a number of years and in much of the church, with magisterial teaching.

    When the informed consciences and the graced experience of many Catholics lead us to view church teaching in a particular area as wrong, it seems to me the proper pastoral response is listening (on the part of church authorities) and dialogue.

    Not attempts to impose erroneous teachings through strong-arm tactics rather than reasonable arguments and sound appeals to scripture and tradition . . . .

  3. Mr. Lindsey,

    I’m not sure that we are on the same wavelenghts.

    First, the Magisterium’s teachings may be wrong. But, they are still the Church’s official teachings. They constitute a very important part of developing an informed conscience for any Catholic.

    It is always possible that the Church’s teachings, just like Scriptures, can be misunderstood, or used in the wrong contexts. I see that happening in the same sex debate. For example, the Magisterium has never declared that homosexuals are “intrinsically disordered”; rather it teaches that the homosexual sexual act is intrinsically disordered. Politically it plays better to suggest that the Church thinks that gays are disordered; but, when that assertion is made, I often wonder if the asserter is doing so intentionally or out of ignorance. Even those as learned as Andrew Sullivan refuse to acknowledge that this is a critical distinction.

    In the context within which the Church uses the term “intrinsically disordered”, its teaching is accurate. Homosexual behavior (along with other sexual activities) is not, in any way ordered to the procreation of life. That is not to say anything about the dignity of the person who engages in such acts, nor is it to suggest that homosexuals cannot or should not be in faithful, monogamous, and loving relationships. However, it does suggest that that such relationships can never be considered sacramentally equivalent to opposite sex relationships. To do so would suggest that children constitute an insignificant part of the marriage union.

    Further, the teaching does not suggest that the Magisterium has any special competence to decide whether the government should allow such relationships. On this point, some Catholics, including those in positions of authority have confused the extent to which the teachings can be used to deny homosexuals the justice that the law demands. Catholics in positions of authority have the right, and the duty , to inform the laity of the Church’s teachings on social questions.

    I can think of a number of solid reasons for the government to allow individuals of the same sex to be married. However, none of the reasons involve love and commitment. It is not a requirement with opposite sex marriages. I don’t know why it should be a consideration now. And, I don’t know why it is brought up every time the legality of same sex marriage is discussed.

    I think that the reason that many Catholics feel at odds with the Church’s teaching is that the law and the Church are in the process of understanding what “marriage” means in the secular and sacramental process. Nowhere is the confusion more apparent than in the ECLA’s muddled attempt to issue a social statement on how same sex marriage should be treated within their Church. The ECLA gave congregrations 4 separate, and equally valid choices regarding how they could treat the issue. Because of ECLA’s failure to teach definitively, the ECLA is divided.

    When through informed consciences and graced experiences we are led to believe that a teaching is wrong, prudence dictates that we examine we have been good students before we demand that the Teacher be our students.

    • “Further, the teaching does not suggest that the Magisterium has any special competence to decide whether the government should allow such relationships”

      In this respect, see the response of the bishops of Portugal to that country’s proposed introduction of gay marriage, which is due any day now. They have decided quite clearly that they do NOT have that competence, in clear distinction to so many of the US bishops. (see “Catholic Church Won’t Fight Gay Marriage in Portugal“)

      The fact is, that with the exception of a fairly small number of closely defined issues, there is far more room in the Catholic Church for disagreement in good conscience, than many so-called spokesmen, or people claiming to promote Catholic teaching, would care to admit.

  4. Thank you for your reply, Mr. Ludescher.

    You say, “It is always possible that the Church’s teachings, just like Scriptures, can be misunderstood, or used in the wrong contexts.”

    It is also possible that the church’s teachings can be wrong, as the abandonment of the prohibition against usury demonstrates. Or the gradual repudiation of the church’s longstanding defense of slavery . . . .

    And the process by which we come to recognize that the church’s teachings have been wrong is one in which the sensus fidelium plays a key role. Suppression of theological discussion and the refusal to recognize what is taking place in the sensus fidelium harm the church at many significant levels.

    I’m afraid you’re mistaken when you say that “the Magisterium has never declared that homosexuals are ‘intrinsically disordered.'” Cardinal Ratzinger’s 1986 Pastoral Letter on the Care of Homosexual Persons explicitly states, “Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.”

    That language has now entered the magisterial teaching in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraph 2358), which also speaks of the “objective disorder” of a homosexual inclination.

  5. Mr. Lindsey,

    I reread the Catechism this morning. Nowhere does it mention that the homosexual person is disordered. The objective disorder refers to the inclination, not the person. The intrinsically disordered refers to the act.

    As further explanation, a person may have an inclination to have (heterosexual) sex before marriage. That inclination, though properly ordered toward procreation, is nevertheless objectively disordered because it is outside the marriage relationship.

    Of course, the ordering refers to the premise that sexual relations must be conjugal love between a man and a women within the context of a permanent, monogamous relationship open to the possibility of children.

    The bigger concern you seem to be raising is that the Church should place more emphasis on the pastoral aspects related to homosexuality, and less upon the doctrinal aspects. On the other hand, it is not the Church that keeps raising the doctrinal issue. It is the laity who continually assaults the Magisterium with cries to its doctrine, even as the Church has tried to adopt more, and better pastoral approaches.

    I keep hearing chants of how the Church is “slamming doors”, “keeping me out”, “denying human rights”, and all kinds of phrases. But, the Catechism is clear that the Church is open to homosexuals on an equal basis with heterosexuals. The sacrament of marriage doesn’t make a person in greater communion with the Church, nor does the Church engage in an investigation to see if people are fornicating, having abortions, sodomizing, or adultering. All are welcome.

    If sincerely believe that the Magisterium is wrong in this area, I think it is incumbent upon you to present a new or different standard on when sexual relations between non-married, non-heterosexual individuals can be considered to be within God’s plan for sexuality.

    • “The Catechism is clear that the Church is open to homosexuals on an equal basis with heterosexuals.”

      Mr Ludesher, this claim is patently false. AS Fr James Martin SJ has noted on his blog at America magazine, there are five specific things that the church actively denies or limits to openly gay catholics , purely on the basis of their orientation:

      * the right to enjoy romantic love
      * the right to either sacramental or even civil marriage to the person that they love
      * the right to adopt children
      * the right to train for the priesthood
      * the right to work for the Church

      • Terence,

        It’s not the openly gay that is at issue. That is, having a homosexual orientation or inclination is the the problem. The problem is promoting a teaching in opposition to the Magisterium’s position. Regarding the “rights” that you mention, there are no “rights” in the Church. There is only free will and human dignity. All those things mentioned would be denied to a heterosexual who expressed opposition to the teachings.

  6. Thank you again for your reply, Mr. Ludescher.

    You state,

    “I reread the Catechism this morning. Nowhere does it mention that the homosexual person is disordered. The objective disorder refers to the inclination, not the person. The intrinsically disordered refers to the act.”

    But you’re mistaken, unfortunately. The Catechism says (paragraph 2358),

    “The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial.”

    Inclinations are what people do (and are), not what acts do.

    Here, the Catechism is echoing Cardinal Ratzinger’s (now Benedict XVI) statement in his “Pastoral Letter on the Care of Homosexual Persons,”

    “Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.”

    To define an inclination of a group of people as an objective disorder is to define that group of people as objectively disordered in their very being,

  7. And extending the logic Mr. Ludescher is espousing, heterosexuals are also intrinsically disordered in their being because they too have an innate predisposition to sexual expression regardless of marriage or procreation. Sexual expression is innate, period.

    Fundamentally the Church has taught that for eons, which is why virginity and celibacy are required for religious commitment or leadership. Placing an inordinate emphasis on gay men and abortion in women clouds this truth big time.

    The ignorance of the innate nature of sexuality is so bad that in JPII’s theology of the body there is zero mention of a woman’s clitoris. Undoubtedly because this particular organ serves no other purpose than to produce pleasure. It certainly has no bearing on fertility or pregnancy. Does this represent another of God’s little design flaws?

    It seems to me the Church can not shore up it’s sexual teachings on the backs of gays. This campaign will never cover up the fact it has failed miserabely to capture the obedience and compliance of heterosexuals. It may make heterosexuals feel better about their own innate disordered tendencies but it does nothing to meaningfully address the sexual exploitation which has always been a feature of human culture.

    • Colkoch:

      Heterosexuals do have inclinations to engage in disordered sexual behaviors. Sexual expression is innate. That doesn’t make it good or bad. How we express that is what is important.

      I don’t buy your conspiracy theory of the Church. Like all human institutions, it suffers from human flaws. It is not trying to prevent people from sexually expressing themselves; it is trying to ensure that the sexual expression is appropriate.

  8. David it might help if they spent less time on sexual expression and more time on relational expression.

    • Colleen, you make an excellent point.

      You say, “And extending the logic Mr. Ludescher is espousing, heterosexuals are also intrinsically disordered in their being because they too have an innate predisposition to sexual expression regardless of marriage or procreation.”

      That’s absolutely right, it seems to me. The official magisterial position on homosexuality argues from “objectively disordered” acts committed by homosexuals to the conclusion that homosexuals themselves are “objectively disordered.”

      But though the language of objective disorder is also sometimes used in magisterial teaching to discuss acts committed by heterosexuals–e.g., ones that do not intend and actively thwart the possibility of procreation–the magisterium has never concluded that heterosexuals are objectively disordered in their very being.

      As you say, perhaps the whole approach to sexual ethics, based as it is on an acts-centered analysis rooted in an outmoded biologistic understanding of natural law, is awry.

      Another important question to ask seems to me this: why do so many people of faith today expend so much valuable energy focusing on their perception that gay and lesbian people are uniquely and dangerously sinful? As if the future of Christianity hinges on the determination to single out a group of people as uniquely disordered . . . .

      Surely there are sins that should be demanding our attention, beyond this “sin.” And surely if the cause we’re defending is noble when we exclude and demean gays and lesbians, we can defend that noble cause without stretching the truth, and by using sound reason and good exegesis and theological reflection.

    • Colkoch,

      And, it would help if those passionate about this issue would stop maligning the Church by suggesting that the Church hates homosexuals, or that it has an anti-homosexual agenda. The benchmark for determining whether the Church is right-thinking should not be whether or not the Church will permit same-sex unions to be a sacrament.

      Relations between a man and a woman, including sexual relations, are different than between a man and a man or multiple people. We all know that. We just don’t understand to what extent it is significant.

      To the extent that individuals like you can help the Church draw more refined distinctions on the expressive value of sexuality in God’s plan for all people, I think the Church’s teaching will get better and feel more inclusive. But to the extent that you are going to force the Church to admit that same sex relationships and opposite relationships are equal, the mission is bound for failure, because it isn’t true. The procreative act has a undeniable special/sacred place in human relationships.

  9. Mr. Lindsey,

    Thanks for the responses.

    If you or I define ourselves at our very being as being either homosexual or heterosexual, then I think your analysis is correct. But, the Magisterium doesn’t define it that way, and it is unfair to so conclude, or to even suggest that such an interpretation is true.

    At our core, we are all sinners unworthy of God’s grace. By original sin, we have inclinations and/or temptations to do evil. The Magisterium is not competent condemn us nor to shut us out of God’s grace, which we know that he has bestowed on mankind through history, and which he made evident in the person of Jesus Christ.

    Hence, I don’t understand your concern that the Magisterium is incorrect in its teaching. Because you have informed your conscience and you believe with the guidance of the Holy Spirit that your actions do not constitute a moral evil, the Magisterium’s teaching carries no moral force with you. So, why work so hard to change it? And, what would you change it to? When is a particular form of sexual expression appropriate, and when is it inappropriate?

    If two heterosexual persons announce that they are in a long-term loving and committed relationship should the Church accept that as a form worthy of bestowing sacramental grace?

    I don’t know the answers to these questions. But, I do know that if we are going to have a reasoned debate about the Magisterium’s teachings, we have to have a benchmark by which to judge the correctness or incorrectness of the teaching. Sensus fidelium may shed light upon the spirit which is lacking; but, generally it doesn’t give much reasoned guidance that can be used as a principle or a doctrine.

    • Mr Ludescher,

      As you so correctly point out, the Magisterium itself allows for conscientious dissent and so if we personally are operating after careful formation, we are not bound by it.
      However, you also ask, “So, why work so hard to change it?” Speaking for myself, the answer to that is in two parts: first, I don’t only work to change it, but also just to publicise your observation on conscience- a teaching which far too many people suppress or deny for sexual orientation, even as they promote it for contraception. Second, and more importantly, I try to change it because the teaching itself is destructive. By teaching people that they have been created “intrinsically disordered, it leads any number of problems as people, especially young people, conclude that they have an obligation to change their inherent, God-given natures, often leading to severe mental illness and shockingly high rates of youth suicide. On the other side, selective use of church teaching is frequently used to justify bullying, violent assaults, and even murder.

      What I would change most urgently is that line on “intrinsically disordered”, which is completely out of line with the findings of science – or anything else. I would also remove from all documents the claims that “it is undeniable” that Scripture strongly condemns homosexuality, and that the Church’s “constant tradition” has always condemend them. Both these claims are demonstrably untrue. There are numerous reputable bible scholars today, both Catholic and other, who do indeed deny the claims abut Scripture, claiming that the traditional interpretations are mistaken, and numerous historians who have shown that the so-called “constant tradition” of strong church opposition date only frm well into the second millenium – for less than half of church history.

      For the rest, I would change not only the teaching on same sex relationships, but the entire sexual teaching, which is based on rules which were originally developed in completely different
      conditions, to move the emphasis away from purely procreative, and more towards the loving, unitive aspect of sexual expression. I would begin here by belatedly accepting the strong advice given to pope Paul Vi by his own panel of expert advisors, and recognise the plain fact that contraception is not morally wrong.

      In doing so, I would in fact be following a separate part of church teaching, that unless a teaching is accepted by the faithful as a whole, it is invalid. The teaching on contraception quite clearly is not accepted by “the faithful as a hole”. Once we get that onto a rational basis, it will become possible to develop a more rational basis for the rest of the teaching on sexual ethics.

      ” And, what would you change it to?”

    • Mr. Lindsey,

      Your points above are well-taken.

      One of the dangers of any distinct doctrine is that it will be misunderstood or used to inflict the very harm that it was designed to prevent.

      In my own experiences, I have seen people quoting Scriptures quite accurately for the wrong propositions. It always makes me cringe. It reminds me of Jesus’ rebuke of the Pharisees for failing to capture the spirit for which the law was intended.

      Far too often I have seen this in the context of the gay marriage debate. There is no doubt that Scripture condemns homosexuality. But, it is condemned because sexuality is being used without regard to the person or the act itself. Certainly, the overriding message of the Gospel is not that man must conform his head to laws, but that he must conform his heart to the Spirit.

      I think that it is most unfortunate that many travesties have been committed against people of homosexual orientation based strictly upon their orientation. I also find it most unfortunate that so much of the Church’s focus in the past, and much of it to this day has been upon maintaining a purity of doctrine without acknowledging that the purity of doctrine does not help the bleeding of the heart.

      But, I do not see this as an institutional problem. Nor do I see it as doctrinal problem. It is a human problem. It is a pastoral problem. The lot of individuals with gay orientations will not be made better by changes in doctrine. The lot will be made better by reviving the Spirit of the Gospels every time doctrine is at stake. The purpose of the Magisterium is to teach, not to judge.

      As I see it, the first part of the Magisterium’s teaching on homosexuals is not directed to me. I do not have a homosexual orientation. (However, I do have many sexual temptations which are considered sins by the Church.) However, the second part of its teaching is directed to me. I am not to treat homosexuals any differently than any other person. I am not to judge. I am not to inquire about whether they are actively sexual.

      I think the Church can, and will do better. I have seen it with abortion. In spite of the Church’s strong condemnation of abortion, it offers many services to those considering abortion, and those having had abortions. It has done it with AIDs. It will do it with homosexuality. Humans take time to adjust. Humans need time to absorb, and to understand the Spirit in a different light.

      • Thank you, Mr. Ludescher. This is a beautiful, cogent, and generous statement.

        I particularly like your conclusion. Since you and I have disagreed about details of how to approach this discussion, your conclusion demonstrates that it’s possible for those who approach an issue of concern like this one from opposite sides of the fence can arrive at common ground, if we talk respectfully, have the humility to examine our own presuppositions, and listen with both mind and heart to others.

        I hope you are right. I hope that the church can and will do better. There are millions of us who are LGBT children of God, who have been made actively unwanted by the churches today–including our church. The pain of such exclusion runs very deep. And people willing to engage us and look for better pastoral approaches are doing something very necessary and important.

      • Mr. Lindsey,

        Thank you for the kind words.

        What would be helpful for me as I struggle to understand what is proper pastoral response to Catholics who are homosexually oriented is to be able to determine when sex outside of the procreative function is consistent with the sex’s proper role in human relationships. I don’t think this area of the Catholic doctrine is very well-developed.

        For example, natural family planning seems to have, at its heart, the sole function to be able to have sex without getting pregnant. Such actions are not viewed intrinsically disordered; but they would seem to be “intentionally disordered” as disordered is defined in the Catechism. Further, it would seem that such persons would be more culpable (towards sexual sin) than homosexual persons whose sexual preferences are “unintentionally disordered” to not reproduce.

        Further, from my standpoint, any sexual doctrine has to recognize the special and sacred nature of the male/female copulation done for the purposes of creating life if such a doctrine is to have any lasting validity. It seems to me that any doctrine which ignores this reality is not intellectually honest.

        In the political context, the concept of marriage has been so watered down that I have no intellectual or judicial problem agreeing that same sex marriage should be equivalent to opposite sex marriage. But, in the theological context, I really struggle to see how the Church can pronounce all “marriages” as equal or equivalent without changing the fundamental nature of sacramental marriage. I would like your (someone’s) help on this.

        While I don’t think it has been right for the Church to throw stones at the homosexuals, I am also convinced that throwing stones back is not the corrective action. For a defender of the Magisterium, which I am, calls for dotrinal change based upon arguments that the Church needs to get with the times feels like stone-throwing.

        Once again, thank you for the kind words. And, I look forward to any words of guidance you may offer.

        • David, I’m not sure I have much guidance. Like you, I’m a fellow pilgrim in search of the truth (of transformative truth imbued with divine energy, in this case). I welcome the dialogue for that reason.

          And I actually think you yourself have found the path to an answer to the questions you raise: you say that Catholic doctrine about the proper role of sex in human relationships is not well-developed. And I agree. The emphasis on acts, considered from a narrow biological perspective, as the heart of sexual morality is, in my view, tragically short-sighted. It overlooks the relational context of sexual behavior, which deserves far more attention and is far more important than the context of acts considered from a biological standpoint, in my view.

          Vatican II provided a framework for the discussion by noting the unitive and procreative function of sex in marriage. That distinction has been obliterated and ignored, practically speaking, in much of our teaching after Vatican II. I suspect it has been obliterated and ignored at the magisterial level because a determination was made in Paul VI’s papacy to hold the hard line on the teaching about artificial contraception, despite the advice of Paul VI’s theological commission to revise this teaching, primarily because the papacy did not want to give a signal that the church can have been wrong about any teaching.

          And yet the church has, in fact, revised its teaching on issues like usury and slavery–or about women’s rights and women’s role in the world, and about “witches,” and any number of matters. It harms the church today, I believe, for the magisterium to pretend that the vast majority of Catholics in the Western world do not accept and practice artificial contraception–and have rejected the biologistic natural-law approach to sexual morality.

          Precisely because I prefer to look at issues of sexual morality from a relational rather than biologistic standpoint, I can’t agree with your statement that “any sexual doctrine has to recognize the special and sacred nature of the male/female copulation done for the purposes of creating life if such a doctrine is to have any lasting validity.” The church locks itself into some absurd boxes by its defense of a narrow biologistic interpretation of natural-law theory about sexuality.

          One of those absurd boxes is evident here. If the church chooses to marry non-procreative male-female couples–and it does so choose–while refusing to accept same-sex unions, then what we’re really arguing is not that marriage has to be confined to male-female couples because of procreation, but because there’s some inherent symbolism we want to maintain by having a man marry a woman.

          The church marries heterosexual couples beyond childbearing age, who cannot and will not procreate–whose sexual acts will always be closed to procreation. It does not instruct them not to engage in sexual activity for that reason. The church also marries heterosexual couples in which one or both partners is unable to conceive for physical reasons. No instruction not to engage in sexual activity since it can’t issue in procreation.

          The question becomes, then, why it is so important to maintain this male-female symbolism, when we admit that it’s not all about procreation and hasn’t ever been all about procreation? My guess: it’s because we are afraid of dealing with the subversion of male domination and patriarchal structures that we imagine will take place through same-sex unions, especially the union of two men.

          • Mr. LIndsey,

            We can’t ignore the biological basis of sex without violating reason. The male/female thing is more than just symbolism, although in many cases, such as the ones that you cite, male/female doesn’t make any more sense in a sexual context than male/male.

            I think that there should be doctrinal room for considering the relational aspects of sex. Vatican II considered it in discussing the unitive aspects of sex within a marriage relationship. Those same unitive qualities could exist in other relationships. That being said, doing so risks creating a completely subjective view of sex unless that view always keeps in perspective the procreative aspect of sex as being sex’s primary purpose.

          • Mr. Ludescher, you say, “We can’t ignore the biological basis of sex without violating reason.”

            Take that statement and remove the word “sex,” and you will find the same argument again and again over the course of history, when church and culture came to a new ethical consensus about other issues that were thought to be grounded in nature and reason. “We can’t ignore the biological basis of women’s subordination to men without violating reason.” “We can’t ignore the biological basis of the essential difference of people of color from white people without violating reason.” “We can’t ignore the biological basis of the subordination of people of color to white people without violating reason.”

            And in Nazi Germany, “We can’t ignore the biological basis of the difference between Christians and Jews without violating reason.”

            The problem with such arguments is that the “reason” they defend is an historical construct. It’s created by certain groups of people for certain reasons. My response to you previously suggested that the male-female complementarity argument has been created by patriarchal cultures to protect male domination from criticism.

            The fact of the matter is, the church itself ignores the biological basis of sex–selectively. That was my point in noting that the church has no problem at all with marrying a man and a woman who are infertile and will never procreate. And it does not tell them that their sexual activity is objectively disordered because they cannot procreate.

            Something else is clearly at work in the refusal of the Catholic tradition to accept and include those of us who are LGBT, and our relationships. In my view, that something else is homophobia, and the homophobia is rooted in the determination of the leaders of our church to pin the future of the church on patriarchy and male domination.

            And in my view, what that determination is doing to the church–and to the culture at large–is sinful, every bit as much as was the church’s complicity in slavery, in subordination of people of color to white people, and in the subordination of women to men.

  10. Mr. Ludescher, I have just realized you posted a comment as I was working on my own, and I am only now seeing it. I did not want you to think that I had ignored your comment, or that my previous one was a response to this comment.

    I wholeheartedly agree that what is important is that, at our core, we are all sinners in need of God’s grace.

    Where I cannot agree is with your contention that the magisterium makes no distinction between heterosexuals and homosexuals. The citations from key magisterial documents I’ve cited in the past two days in our conversation show clearly the preoccupation of the magisterium with noticing the difference between gay and straight people, in way that is clearly invidious to gay people.

    To imply that gay folks somehow create the invidious distinction by claiming their God-given natures and then seeking full membership in the body of Christ along with all other sinners is to twist the facts.

    The church, at this point in history, has at an official level and in its official teaching an unhealthy, pointed, discriminatory preoccupation with those members of the church who are gay and lesbian. This discriminatory preoccupation, which extends to statements of Vatican officials that gay people cannot enter the kingdom of heaven, radically undercuts what the church wishes to teach about human rights in every area.

    Your proposal of continue dialogue in the church about these matters seems very sound to me–and welcome. But that dialogue would have to recognize the disparity in the way in which the church now treats heterosexual and homosexual people, as a precondition for dialogue. Otherwise, the dialogue would begin on a footing that already predetermines the marginal status of those who are gay and lesbian.

  11. David I can’t speak for any other author associated with this blog, but I am personally motivated to question the sexual teachings because of the impact on our kids. The rate of homeless gay teenagers is forty percent of the total of homeless teenage population. The rate of suicide is triple what it is for straight kids. The bullying in our schools is endemic.

    This is in itself an indictment of the teaching on gays because it perpetuates the misery, especially for kids who have never been sexually active. It bothers me that a teen ager would take his or her own life over an act they haven’t committed.

    I don’t care about consenting adults, I care about trapped kids and not only trapped gay kids. I also care about trapped teen age girls who have bought into the whole mantra of my body is myself and my sexual appeal is equal to my self esteem.

    I strongly suspect that no reasoned guidance will be accepted that doesn’t come exclusively from the minds of straight males and that is truly cause for concern. Especially for Catholicism when Jesus was born with out the intervention of a straight male.

  12. David I agree whole heartedly with this statement as something the Church really needs to do:

    “to be able to determine when sex outside of the procreative function is consistent with the sex’s proper role in human relationships. I don’t think this area of the Catholic doctrine is very well-developed.”

    I often wonder if we shouldn’t look at the concept of another form of marriage, call it a Convenental form of marriage, in which the covenant is not just between the couple but also includes their future progeny. It seems to me this would place significant emphasis on the traditional teaching about marriage. The church could then develop a ‘blessing’ ceremony for couples who wish to commit to each other, but are not ready for children, can not have, or do not want children.

    I just throw this out as something to think about and not in context of a blessing ceremony for gays, although their is historical precedent in the Church for such blessings. I throw it out as an avenue to further what you wrote about natural family planning. Your logic is very good, and I don’t think I’ve read this anywhere else:

    “but they would seem to be “intentionally disordered” as disordered is defined in the Catechism. Further, it would seem that such persons would be more culpable (towards sexual sin) than homosexual persons whose sexual preferences are “unintentionally disordered” to not reproduce.”

    • Colkoch:

      I think there is merit in the kinds of arrangements that you talk about as “covenental” forms of marriage. I would be especially interested to see these forms adopted in the secular, i.e., legal, arena.

      Legal marriage, as practiced in today’s society, is a chaotic and hollow structure. At least in Minnesota, it is simply a contract between a man and woman, which carries no consequence for its breach. So, if a man cheats on his wife, spends all of their money, and leaves her destitute, and emotionally broken, there is no consequence. Moreover, children are barely above property. A man can leave his wife regardless of the effects upon the children, and even though it destroys that structure that we call “family”.

      This institution is ripe for reform. Government can, and probably should de-link sex and marriage. And, I think that government can, and should, institute more consequential attitudes regarding fidelity and progeny. There is a fundamental difference between those who “commit” themselves only until someone better comes along, and those who are committed until “death do us part”. And, there is a fundamental difference between those arrangements which have children, and those which do not.

  13. Mr. Lindsey,

    I agree that something is clearly at work in the tradition preventing an honoring of homosexual relationships. I would further agree that the division and fractured relationships that are being caused inside and outside the Church is causing substantial harm.

    But, to attribute the teachings to homophobia, patriarchy, or male domination is neither accurate nor fair. Regarding accurate, it could be said that the Church is “sin-phobic” given its emphasis on sin; in the same vein, homophobic is unjust discrimination, not any discrimination. Regarding fair, even if the Church is homophobic, patriarchial, and male dominated, I don’t think it can be said that the Church believes that the future is rooted in maintaining these bigotries.

    I believe that the Church’s malady is something more complicated. In the parable of the adultress, Jesus is confronted with what appears to be on a first glance an impossible situation. If he announces that the woman can go free, then he is going against Mosaic law. If he permits the stoning, he is not compassionate.

    The Church is caught in the same predicament now. Her teachings on homosexuality, read in their most favorable light, reflect the Gospel message. Let me explain.

    Read in their least favorable light, they appear to say that stoning homosexuals is OK. (Remember, Jesus didn’t tell the crowd that the adultress couldn’t be stoned, nor did he tell them that she shouldn’t be stoned. How dare he violate the law.)

    But, in their most favorable light, the Church is condemning the act, without making a judgment on th person. (Neither was the adultress freed to repeat her actions. Jesus tells her to go and sin no more.)

    I believe that progress would be made if “advocates” not only read the teachings in their most favorable light, but it also forced the Magisterium to do so. Calling for a change in the sacramental nature of homosexual relationships is a challenge to which the Church cannot respond adequately.

    However, the Church has no choice, by its own teaching, and by the Gospel, for how it must respond when homosexuals are going to be stoned. It must defend by reminding all who seek to stone that none of us are without sin, and that its teachings are not meant to condemn, but to teach.

    For surely, Jesus could not announce to the crowd that the woman had committed no sin, nor could he announce that the stoning could proceed.

    • Again, I appreciate your recognition that the church’s abysmal pastoral response (my phrase: I do not wish to put words into your mouth) is causing serious harm both inside and outside the church. And I appreciate your willingness to dialogue, even as you defend the magisterial position.

      But if we’re going to talk about sin, and if we’re going to use the Johannine story of Jesus and the woman caught in adultery as our basis for doing so, here are points I’d want to raise:

      1. Why are so many Christians today preoccupied with the “sin” of homosexuality, when there surely are sins deserving of far more attention?
      2. If the church’s preoccupation reflects–as it often claims–the view that affirming gay people and gay unions will destroy traditional marriage, why is the church not working with equal vigor to combat the real threats to traditional marriage, such as divorce?
      3. In stepping into the civil sphere to remove the right of civil marriage from same-sex couples, the church claims that it must exert influence over legislative decisions to protect marriage. If the primary threat to traditional marriage is divorce, why is the church not entering the civil arena to work to outlaw divorce?
      4. When we look at the Johannine story you cite–indeed, when we read all four canonical gospels–we never find a single word about homosexuality. We find much written about love, mercy, and inclusion. If Jesus himself was completely silent on this topic, and obviously not preoccupied with it, why are so many Christians today intent to make it the central focus of their attention?
      5. Can the church credibly claim to be a sign of salvation in the world and continue this obsessive (and malicious) focus on a vulnerable minority? Or does what the church says about and how it treats LGBT persons radically undermine the church’s ability to proclaim the gospel in the world today?
      6. Finally, I certainly agree that the church should always step in when a minority group is to be stoned. And since we agree on that, could we also agree that it is scandalous that Pope Benedict has kept silence about the impending kill-the-gays legislation in Uganda, which even the mainstream media (there were editorials this week in NY Times and Washington Post) calls barbaric?

      • Mr. Lindsey,

        Let me tell you that I am enjoying this discussion, and I hope others are too. I am deeply interested in the understanding how healing can happen within the Church, and I am personally troubled by the political, pastoral, and academic status of these affairs within the Church. I cannot even begin to understand how you must feel having lived for so long with what appears to be both a blessing and a burden.

        That being said, I will attempt some answers to your questions:

        1. I don’t know if Christians are preoccupied with sin of homosexuality, so much as this issue is at the forefront of “sexual” issues right now. In my opinion, the issue has been brought there by folks like you who have waited for years to be able to be address the Magisterium.
        2. In fairness, I think the Church has worked to combat threats to marriage from all different sources. No one is really interested in the Church’s teaching on divorce (or contraception, fornication, or adultery) anymore. For the most part, at least in America, the Church’s teachings are no longer controversial because people don’t care what the Church teaches. Gay marriage, however, is controversial; so, it is getting a lot of press (including blogs).
        3. In my opinion, the Church’s reach into the legal requirements of marriage has extended beyond teaching. And, really what could the Church do about divorce, which is the flip side of marriage?
        4. This question can be turned upon you. Why is it so critically important to you that the Church’s teaching change for you to feel love, mercy, and inclusion? Do you not believe that the Church truly loves you? Do you not love her? She is not the Magisterium, and the Magisterium is not she. She had one billion children. Is it really possible for her to lay down a rule on homosexuality that would convey her love to you?
        5. How are you and I going to help the Church reclaim its role as a sign of salvation in the world? We will work together, we will talk, we will break bread, we will celebrate the sacraments, and we will pray that the Holy Spirit will continue to guide us and the Church.
        6. I don’t know the right response to this. I know that the Vatican did clarify the Church’s teaching recently when some member of the clergy said that gays (active gays?) could not obtain salvation. The Vatican did clarify that that is not the teaching of the Church.

        As always, I look forward to hearing and learning from you. And I will leave your with these words from Pope John Paul II (as a prologue to the Catechism), ” The whole concern of the doctrine and its teaching must be directed to the love that never ends. Whether something is proposed for belief, for hope, or for action, the love of our Lord must always be made accessible…” . I would hope that you agree that Pope John Paul II sincerely tried to make the teachings of the Church make love more accessible to you even though he may have failed on behalf of the Church.

        • I’m enjoying the discussion, too, Mr. Ludescher. I hope others are. I don’t know how much these threads draw ongoing reader attention. I’m glad that the threads seem to be providing a forum for serious ongoing dialogue on several threads.

          And as I’ve said before, I welcome your willingness to keep talking. The American theologian David Tracy says somewhere that the willingness of people to argue with each other represents a level of respect for the other that is not there when we simply endure in silence observations with which we disagree.

          I am also grateful for your solicitude, as a member of the body of Christ, for those who report that the church is often not salvific but demonic, in the face it shows us. Your willingness at least to listen to that report (and to care about what some of us perceive as inhumane treatment) matters tremendously.

          I would like to focus on the important question you ask in #4 above. This doesn’t mean I am ignoring your other points. In fact, as a preliminary to what I’d like to say about #4: one reason I continue pointing to the church’s wildly different response to same-sex marriage (where it aggressively enters the civil sphere and tries to affect legislation,court rulings, and plebiscites) and to divorce (where it does nothing of the sort) is to note the difference in–the disparity between–how the church treats its LGBT members and its heterosexual ones.

          On the face of it, if the church’s real reason for attacking same-sex marriage (and same-sex human beings) is to safeguard “traditional” marriage, then it’s engaged in a perplexing crusade when the vast majority of its members are heterosexual rather than homosexual, and when it can easily be shown that the shortcomings of heterosexuals in marriage, including the willingness of heterosexual couples to seek divorces, is far and away the biggest reason “traditional” marriage is under assault.

          All the lavish outlay of money spent to combat civil marriage for gay people (and even civil unions), and the willingness to ally itself with political groups that actively target gay people and spread toxic lies about us: this seems disproportionate. Puzzling. Unpastoral. A strange misuse of energy the church would better spend working to combat divorce. If the real reason the church opposes same-sex marriage is to keep “traditional” marriage safe . . . .

          And so your questions in #4: “Why is it so critically important to you that the Church’s teaching change for you to feel love, mercy, and inclusion? Do you not believe that the Church truly loves you?”

          It’s critically important to me to feel love, mercy, and inclusion coming from the church, because that’s critically important to anyone for whom the church matters. And how can I possibly believe that the church loves me–how can any gay person who listens carefully to what the church teaches and who observes what it does to gay people–imagine that the church loves me/us?

          Have a look again at what Terry Weldon notes in this thread on Jan. 7. Citing a posting by Fr. Jim Martin at the America blog at the end of last year, he notes five things the church denies to its openly gay members that it has no problem at all permitting to its straight ones:

          * the right to enjoy romantic love
          * the right to either sacramental or even civil marriage to the person that they love
          * the right to adopt children
          * the right to train for the priesthood
          * the right to work for the Church

          How can anyone who experiences that disparity, that discrimination, feel loved? To take only one of the five (and all seem significant to me): how can a gay person working for the church who is fired for claiming his or her identity feel loved when he or she loses his/her livelihood? Love is not about a fuzzy sentiment. It’s about what we do to people.

          What does the church do to LGBT persons–what message does it give us about the worth of our human lives–when it turns us away from the table of daily bread by firing us when we admit our orientation? I’ve seen quite a few people fired, without any due process, in Catholic institutions for being gay.

          I’ve never seen a heterosexual person fired for practicing artificial contraception, though the same norm that forbids gay sexual acts also forbids the use of contraception–and though one would assume that the vast majority of married straight couples working in Catholic institutions do practice artificial contraception, given data showing that over 90% of Western Catholics accept that practice.

          There’s glaring disparity here. There’s ugly discrimination. It’s impossible to talk about love when people’s dignity is assaulted and livelihood taken away by an institution that explicitly targets those who are gay and lesbian in these invidious ways.

  14. Mr. Lindsey,

    I don’t think that it is fair to the Church (and you) to demand that the Church change its teaching before you feel welcomed. In fact, I think such an approach is destined to create more division.

    Further, there are two kinds of discrimination that you cite. Each kind needs a separate pastoral, and perhaps, theological response.

    The first kind, what I would call procedural discrimination, is the discrimination that occurs when the Church focuses upon homosexuality without focusing upon divorce, artificial contraception, fornication, etc. To complain that those who practice fornication or divorce aren’t excluded while those who practice homosexuality are doesn’t tell the whole story. If someone were to announce that the Church’s teachings on fornication or divorce are wrong, and yet they wanted to be a teacher in the Church, the Church would have no real choice but to suppress that view if the person were to teach in the Magisterium’s name. The same thing is true with homosexuality. You can’t be a representative of the Church, at least in that area, if you are in open defiance of the Church. So, just because the Church doesn’t treat everyone as poorly as you are treated doesn’t mean that they love the other people more.

    The second kind of discrimination, what I would call substantative discrimination, is discrimination that doesn’t basis itself within how others are treated, but rather bases itself upon homosexuals are being discriminated against. (The Catechism calls it “just discrimination”.)

    In this area, I think that the homosexual movement suffers from not being entirely honest with themselves and society in general. I think that we could agree that sex, in general, can be rightly ordered or wrongly ordered. Pornography, incest, and bestiality are clear examples of wrongly ordered sexual activities (according to most people). Homosexual activity is not “protected” just because it is homosexual. If homosexual acts are to have any rightly ordered place in the Church’s teaching it must be within the context that already exists – of loving, committed, monogamous relationships.

    To the extent that there can be a differentation within the homosexual movement between “rightly ordered” and “wrongly ordered” homosexual relationships, I think there is much more room for discussion, and possible compromise, at least within the laity.

    I can accept that someone may believe that sex within a lifelong, monogamous, committed relationship fulfills God’s call to him or her. However, that is different than saying that God’s plan for human sexuality is that it is ordered for the sensual pleasures of the individual.

    You have tangentially touched upon what could be a possible response of the Church to “gay marriage”. One of the possible responses would be for the Church to differentiate between marriages which can produce children from those which can’t produce children. I can’t see the Church willing to head down that path, nor do I see that as something which you would favor.

    Nevertheless, I could see the Church developing its own version of the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. In other words, the Church may be willing to indicate that the Catechism calls everyone outside of the marriage relationship to a life of chastity. However, whether a person is chaste or not is not the a concern of the Church.

    • It’s interesting to me that you choose to go the “not fair” route, Mr. Ludescher.

      That’s interesting because, unless I am mistaken (and please forgive me if I am), you have never yet engaged the comment Terry Weldon made to you early in this thread, and which I repeated yesterday, about how the church treats its gay and its straight members radically differently.

      If the list of points Fr. Martin makes in his posting at America about what the church does not permit to its gay members, which it permits to its straight members, is correct (and you haven’t refuted it), then surely the question to raise about fairness here is quite different from the one you raise!

      You say it’s not fair for those who are gay to note what the church does to us as it proclaims to love us. Doesn’t that stand on its head a situation of grave injustice, which is clear to many folks inside and outside the church, in a blame-the-victim kind of way?

      There is invidious discrimination at work here, and trying to shift blame to those responding to the discrimination–it’s we who are causing division in the church by noting what the church does to us!–is not going to resolve that discrimination. As people begin to see beyond the stereotypes and recognize that the people to whom this is being done are human in the same way everyone else is human, the church begins to appear less and less credible when it preaches about love, mercy, inclusion, communion, justice, and so forth. It’s surely incumbent on the church to live love, mercy, inclusion, communion, and justice before preaching it, isn’t it? That is, if the church wishes to be credible . . . .

      Perhaps I’m sensitive to these blame-the-victim dynamics because I grew up as integration was taking place in my very segregated community in the South. I constantly heard white people blame black people in that period for creating division, for causing trouble, for making things miserable for everyone, because they wouldn’t just be quiet and wait for the authorities to work things out. All the while, we white folks making that argument never adverted to our own tremendous, unmerited privilege, and to the glaring injustices with which people of color coped–in the same way, I would argue, that heterosexual men today sometimes do not recognize their own unmerited privilege as they ignore the discrimination women and gay folks endure in patriarchal societies and churches.

      You say, “Pornography, incest, and bestiality are clear examples of wrongly ordered sexual activities (according to most people). Homosexual activity is not ‘protected’ just because it is homosexual.” And yet, though heterosexual people use pornography and engage in incest and bestiality, the church does not teach, on the basis of those acts, that all heterosexual people are “objectively disordered.” It does teach that all gay people are objectively disordered because it regards homosexual acts as wrongly ordered.

      I think you have missed Fr. Martin’s point about the fact that the church routinely fires gay employees who become public about their identities. You seem to think I was speaking only of teachers in Catholic institutions. To the contrary, the church routinely fires any employee in a Catholic institution who is gay and makes that fact public. As I noted before, it does not seek out heterosexual employees using artificial contraception and fire them, or heterosexual employees who are divorced and remarried or dating a prospective new spouse and fire them.

      Young people are leaving the church rapidly, in part, because the way the church treats its gay members is so grossly insupportable that this behavior is becoming a scandal for a generation in which many young folks know and love gay family members, friends, and so forth. It seems to me time those who care about the church stop apologizing for this behavior and try to do something about it–if they want the church to have a bright and viable future.

      As to changing church teaching–isn’t it some 90%+ of Catholics in the Western world who are implicitly asking the church to reconsider its sexual ethics, because they reject the biologistic interpretation of natural law? Why point only to gay folks when we talk about the rejection of Catholic teaching in this area?

  15. Mr. Lindsey,

    I wasn’t suggesting the “not fair” defense as a defense to poor treatment. I was suggesting the “not fair” defense as a suggestion that you (homosexuals) may have set the wrong standard for determining whether or not the treatment is poor.

    First, dismiss the idea that the Church says that homosexuals are disordered. Dismiss it now, and dismiss it forever. If it ever was asserted as a teaching, it is not now being so asserted. No doubt many people, perhaps even some in the Magisterium believe it to be true. But, homosexuals are not disordered. People are not disordered, acts are disordered. I will join you in shouting this from the rooftops.

    I do not doubt that many are unable and unwilling to touch the Samaritian who has the homosexual inclination. But, the Gospel shows us and the Church teaches that the neighbor is the one who picks up and cares for those who are considered the outcasts of society.

    Your argument that homosexuals are being unfairly treated has much merit. It would be fair to say that there is a certain privilege bestowed upon heterosexual relationships that is not deserved, or that many heterosexual relationships don’t receive the same level of scrutiny that homosexual relationships receive.

    But, that doesn’t logically mean that homosexual relationships should be elevated or heterosexual relationships be lowered. It means that we must have a more thoughtful theological approach, and certainly a better pastoral response.

    One of the difficulties I see is that many advocates for same sex marriage are openly defiant of the Church’s teachings, such as the Rainbow Sash folks in Minnesota. In a democratic institution, open defiance can change people’s minds and hearts. But, open defiance in a non-democratic institution calls for discipline. I have experienced this with my parents. They would let me violate their rules without any significant consequence as long as I admitted to their rules. However, open defiance was always met with resistance.

    People “violate” the artificial contraception rule all the time without consequence because very few challenge the authority of the Church. But, I don’t think the same can be said for much of the same-sex marriage folks.

    Asking the Church to allow homosexual couples to engage in sacramental marriage is a HUGE step. That much has to be admitted. It is not as simple as passing a new law. It must pass the test of truth.

    If it is to come, it must come through a revised understanding of sexuality that includes rather than excludes the procreative function of sex. It requires deep intellectual thought, not political action. It requires a commitment to the larger cause of increasing the Church’s understanding of sexuality. It requires discriminating thought.

    Perhaps there is merit in abandoning the strict natural law theory of sexuality. But, I haven’t seen a good mixture of natural law and “relationship law” theory yet. Relationship law theory can quickly devolve into a subjective and meaningless teaching as everyone does whatever he or she desires without reference to an informed conscience.

    • “One of the difficulties I see is that many advocates for same sex marriage are openly defiant of the Church’s teachings . . . .”

      As are 90%+ of heterosexual Catholics in the Western world, in their acceptance of artificial contraception. Yet the Catholic church is not firing those Catholics from its institutions or mounting expensive political campaigns to remove civil rights from them. Nor does its Catechism–its official compendium of magisterial teaching–refer to them as disordered in their very personhood.

      The significant question here is a question of human rights and of the church’s credibility. You say in a previous comment in this thread that there are no rights in the church.

      And so I have to ask, How on earth can the church expect to be credible when it calls secular society to respect human rights, while it violates the rights of some of its own members–egregiously, repeatedly?

      • Mr. Lindsey,

        I say that there are no “rights” in the Church because we don’t talk about what rights God gave us; rather, we talk about what freedoms we were given. One purpose the Church serves is to teach us how to use our freedoms. (As I recall, the Church serves 3 primary functions: sacraments, teaching, and charity).

        I don’t understand the “civil rights” arguments, especially when made incorrectly. There is no “right” to be married – either civilly or sacramentally. The question rather is, “Should you be free to spend time with whomever you wish, and to engage in sex with whomever you wish?”. The answers to these questions are different civilly and sacramentally.

        That said, the Church has lost much credibility because many in positions of authority have misused or abused the power. There has tended to be an excessive legalism to the teaching, much as Judaism suffered from excessive legalism in Jesus’ time.

        That doesn’t mean that the teaching is wrong. It does mean that the focus needs to change so that when the Church speaks, that she speaks the Gospel, and not the words of men who comprise the Church. It is the Gospel that people must see when the Church speaks.

        When Jesus violated the Sabbath to preach and heal, an important part of the Law was violated. But, a more important part was being fulfilled.

        Perhaps the time has come for the Church to de-emphasize many of its teachings in favor of more works of sacraments and charity, especially towards those, such as you, who while not materially poor, are being denied the sacraments (grace of the Church?) and charity from the Church.

        Perhaps your plea is not for more or better teaching. Perhaps your plea is for the Church to live up to its potential for grace and charity. Perhaps the best way for the Church to reinforce its teaching is not by discipline but by example.

        I’m not sure of how to resolve the questions you pose without feeling some shame, individual and collective, on behalf of my Church, your Church. I’m not sure what the Church’s proper response should be. My reaction is that the Church’s response has to grounded in Reconciliation. There has to be contrition for the lack of grace and charity. I just don’t know what is the proper Penance for the Church. Whatever that is, the Holy Spirit has to be in the middle of the action.

        • Thanks again for a thoughtful response, Mr. Ludescher. If I may, I’d like to engage in particular the statements in the penultimate paragraph and the one before it–that the time may have come for the church to focus more on the sacraments and charity and less on teachings, and that my plea may be for the church to live up to its potential for grace and charity.

          If I could rephrase those two points (and, in general, I agree with their gist): as my two articles here about Schillebeeckx’s theology note, if the church is the sacramental sign of God’s salvific love in the world, then the way the church lives, how it behaves, how it structures itself–all have strong import for the church’s ability to signify or obscure God’s salvific love in the world.

          And so I agree: the church teaches first and foremost by being and by doing. Francis of Assisi was echoing the deeply traditional sacramental insight about the nature of the church when he told his followers to preach the gospel always, and, if necessary, use words.

          This is my theological basis for arguing that the church loses its credibility when it teaches secular society to respect human rights while violating the rights of its own members. I don’t agree, frankly, that there aren’t rights in the church. And I have never bought the neoconservative argument that talk about human rights is necessarily a capitulation of the church to liberal individualism. As David Hollenbach’s work has shown, the human rights tradition is very deeply rooted in Catholic theology and Catholic teaching.

          When the church violates the rights of various groups* right within its own structures and institutional life, it becomes a counter-sign to the gospel and a counter-sign to God’s salvific love in the world. It obscures what is most fundamental about the church, its raison d’etre: to proclaim through its very life the message of salvation and love it exists to impart in the world, as a sacramental sign.

          As to your claim that there’s no right to marry, I have to disagree very strongly. The U.N. Declaration of human rights states explicitly (article 16) that marriage is a fundamental human right.

          * My focus in this thread has been on the church’s violations of the rights of its gay members. But in some ways, the violation of women’s rights in the Catholic church is more egregious than its violation of gay rights.

  16. Mr. Lindsey:

    Because so much of the cause of same-sex relationships seems to turn upon requests for the granting of the “marriage right”, it would be helpful for me to have you expound upon your concepts of a civil and Christian/Catholic marriage.

    In my opinion, as a lawyer, civil marriage (at least in Minnesota) has no valid constructs. It need not be permanent, monogamous, life-giving, nor loving. It is a hollow contract which gives the illusion of creating family, but, in reality, does nothing to protect the vulnerable. For that reason, I have no intellectual difficulty opening it up to anyone, including polygamists or blood relatives. Obviously there are political difficulties with such an approach. But, at least such an approach is fair and honest. I would welcome your thoughts on civil marriage.

    For sacramental marriage, I struggle with how we could or should define marriage. It seems to me that marriage is more than a temporary consensual relationship between adults. Further, it is more than a government-approved contract between adults. It is more than a loving, committed, publicly accountable relationship (ECLA definition). It is clearly something other than what the government decides it to be.

    So, how would you decide or define when the Church should bestow the sacramental blessings upon those who wish to be married in the Church? How is it different than a civil marriage?

    • Mr. Ludescher, I have to say that I am not entirely clear about what you’re asking, and if I miss your point or answer a question you haven’t asked, please tell me.

      You ask how civil and sacramental marriage differ. My response would be very simple–and I don’t intend it to be insultingly simple. It seems to me sacramental marriage is simply what it claims to be: the lifelong union of two people who commit themselves in the presence of the Christian community to love each other faithfully, and to build and serve the community as the community commits itself to build and serve the couple who are marrying, as well as their family.

      I don’t think I agree with your judgment that a civil union is a “hollow contract.” Marriage is the last sacrament to enter the canonical list of sacraments. When it did so, it did so as a sacralized version of longstanding forms of civil marriage. There’s a continuity between sacramental and civil marriage, historically speaking. The sacramental form grew out of the practice of civil marriage.

      In my experience, those who choose to seal their marriage commitment civilly rather than sacramentally do not always–not by any means–enter impermanent, non-monogamous, non-life-giving, and non-loving unions. Their reasons for choosing a civil rather than a sacramental marriage may depend on all kinds of factors.

      If they’re Catholic, perhaps one or both partners are divorced, and the church will not marry them. Perhaps they’re alienated from religious traditions. Perhaps they simply have no religious tradition. None of these reasons would seem to me, on the face of it, to preclude a loving, lifelong, generative commitment.

      And experience shows me that there are couples all around me who married civilly and who set a strong example of what it means to be married–an example from which Catholics can surely learn. (As this line of reasoning suggests, I disagree strongly with Brit Hume when he maintains that because Tiger Woods is a Buddhist, he has no strong religious foundation for understanding marriage, sin, or forgiveness” we can learn from other religious traditions, because God is active beyond the boundaries of our church in a loving and salvific way.)

      I hope this answer addresses what you really asked. If I didn’t hear well, please let me know, and I’ll try again.

  17. Mr. Lindsey,

    By civil marriage being hollow, I was suggesting that the government doesn’t require any commitment from people getting married. So, the question to you is “Should the government require monogamy? permanance? complimentariness? any other attribute?”. Obviously, many enter and live civil marriages that are sacred. But, the government doesn’t require any attributes. Should it?

    Your defintion of sacramental marriage appears to be much broader than the current Catholic defintion. Does it include room for polygamists? divorce? adultery? sterilization? familial marriage? bigamy? Why or why not?

    What does love each other faithfully mean? Does it allow the individuals involved to set their own criteria on questions of loving or faithfulness? What is God’s involvement in the promise? What is the community’s involvement?

    It has occurred to me that the apostles must have faced a similar problem in the conversion of the Gentiles. Do the Gentiles have to follow Jewish custom and laws to be welcomed into the community of believers? History’s answer to that question was, “To be accepted into the Jewish faith, one must follow the Jewish law. But, to be welcomed into the community of believers, one need only believe in Jesus Christ.”

    • Again, I have to say I’m having some difficulty following the tack of your argument, Mr. Ludescher. You say that the “government doesn’t require any attributes” when it joins two people in civil marriage.

      But your own argument undercuts that statement by noting that it doesn’t permit polygamy, for instance. It requires the “attributes” of a single couple (one man and one woman). And it requires all sorts of other “attributes,” including that the couple be of age, that neither be already married, that they not be related within a certain degree of consanguinity, that if one or both have previously been married, they be legally divorced, and so on.

      The entire argument I hear those opposing gay marriage promoting these days is that allowing same-sex couples to marry will disrupt a social institution in which society (and government) have so much invested–that is, invested to safeguard and promote families–that same-sex couples can’t possibly be allowed to marry. This argument against same-sex marriage presupposes that civil marriage is anything but “hollow,” and that government is anything but lacksadaisical about the commitment of those getting married.

      When you turn your attention to what I say about sacramental marriage, again, I have trouble seeing the point you want to make. You ask if my understanding of sacramental marriage includes room for polygamy. And yet my previous response to you on this point speaks clearly and explicitly of “two people.”

      You’re asking about speculative possibilities re: how far sacramental marriage can be expanded and “pushed.” My reply to you was simply to tell you what you asked me to tell you: what I think sacramental marriage is all about. As it’s currently understood and practiced in the church . . . .

      And I have to say, it seems to me what I told you is not at all “much broader” than what the church understands marriage to be. In my view, I accurately described the salient features of sacramental marriage precisely as the tradition understands it to be: two people marry each other in the presence of the Christian community, promising as they do so to live their life of love and faithfulness in the context of the community, with its support. As this promise is made, the community promises in return to support the couple and provide a context within which the couple can live out its promises to each other.

      I’m not denigrating your questions about whether the sacramental notion of marriage can include room for polygamists or bigamists, for those who are divorced, for those who are sterilized, etc. But those questions have to do with complex pastoral decisions that would differ with each case, wouldn’t they? For instance, the question of polygamy or bigamy doesn’t seem to loom large for Americans outside some religious communities in which polygamy has been traditionally practiced, where it’s a live pastoral question in Africa.

      But the question of whether the church should permit a divorced couple to remarry–or how it should treat a divorced couple who have remarried pastorally–is a significant pastoral question in the American cultural context.

      If you’re asking these questions to ask whether I think the understanding of sacramental marriage can shift in response to new cultural patterns and new cultural understandings, I’d say that of course it can. It always has. And as it does so, there should be a continuity in the process of development which assures that the core understanding of what marriage is–which I believe I’ve sketched in my sketch of sacramental marriage–remains always constant.

      • Mr. Lindsey:

        I am trying to understand what the “core understanding” of marriage should be, at least in your opinion.

        I understand that the Church’s teaching on marriage to include, at its very core, the life-giving function of the procreative act. For it is undeniable that the conjugal act between man and woman produces children.

        With the push for same-sex civil marriage, and corresponding theologies creating same-sex sacramental marriage, how does the conjugal act of sex and procreation fit into a consistent law or theology of marriage?

        • Thanks for clarifying the question, Mr. Ludescher.

          Yes, the teaching of the church on marriage does undeniably include at its very core, as you say, “the life-giving function of the procreative act.”

          In my formulation of what seems to me to be the theological meaning of that core, I used the word “generative” to try to capture that insight. I did so for the following reasons.

          First, as we’ve both agreed in this discussion, though the church lays great stress on the procreative act, it has no problem at all marrying a heterosexual couple incapable of procreation. Given this fact, it seems to me that it’s more honest–a truer reflection of pastoral practice–to state that the intent of marriage is for the couple being married to live generatively within the context of the Christian community.

          Generativity is, as you probably know, a term stressed in Erik Erikson’s developmental psychology. Erikson argues that people can be generative in the literal procreative sense of having children. They can also be generative in the broader sense of engendering life in the community around them through self-giving acts that open the world up to others, who can then realize their potential through the opening that generative people create for them.

          In my view, speaking of marriages as generative allows us to recognize that many marriages do contribute to the community generatively through the procreation of children, but that many other marriages contribute generatively in non-procreative ways. (I’m speaking here of the male-female marriages that the church celebrates sacramentally.) Those couples who marry sacramentally and promise to be generative within the context of the Christian community, but which fail for whatever reason to produce children, can and do (I believe) contribute in manifold generative ways to the community, and to the world around them.

          I believe the church ought to recognize those contributions and support them, as it promises support to a new couple making their marriage vows in the presence of the community.

          Am I arguing, then, that the church should open sacramental marriage to same-sex couples? In principle, I see no reason that the church cannot do so. In practice, I very much doubt that this will happen in my lifetime or the foreseeable future.

          Do I support the right of civil marriage for same-sex couples? Absolutely so. And it seems to me that the church’s attempt to deny that right and even remove it when it has been accorded to gay citizens in many areas of the world is anti-gospel and evil.

  18. Mr. Lindsey,

    Your answer is the best one that I have ever heard to justify same-sex marriages inside the Church.

    Pastorally, the argument is compelling. Intellectually, the argument is not strong enough for me to believe that the Church’s core teaching should be changed. Nevertheless, I think that such an argument offers much to change, soften, or refocus teachings about “intrinsically disordered” behavior.

    I will need to give your response more thought.

    • Thanks, Mr. Ludescher. I should note that I’m having some connectivity problems, which is why I’m slow to respond–and the problems may be with me for a day or two more.

      I’m glad my argument seems worth considering. In my view, the church is not wise to place all its eggs in the procreativity basket, with its sexual ethics and its theology of marriage. People and relationships can be generative in other ways, it seems to me. And that wider generativity surely deserves to be recognized and supported by faith communities.

      I wonder why the church refuses even to bless same-sex unions. Surely the church could choose that as a pastoral response, even if it wishes to maintain that those unions are not the norm or ideal. As a German Dominican priest said to me several years ago when I was traveling in Germany, the church blesses dogs, cats, fields, crops, fishing boats, salt, water, and oil. But it can’t bless two men or two women living in loving relationships with each other?

  19. Mr. Lindsey,

    As I reflected upon Obie Holman’s post on the ECLA process, it occurred to me that the “homosexuality” question has so many different aspects, i.e. theological, philosophical, political, etc. that reaching an agreement on the issues requires that one define the sphere of discussion prior to the issue being debated. Further, discussion requires that men of good will be willing to be honest in the discussion to ensure that arguments from one sphere are not unfairly used in another sphere.

    For example, Obie talks about the “Social Statement” of the ECLA. The most recent statement on sexuality is intended to be the opinion of the voting representatives of the Church of how to address sexuality. It would be unfair to classify it as a theological or philosophical statement. In fact, if one closely analyzes the statement, one can see that the premises from which it proceeds it of questionable veracity.

    Your statement that the Catholic Church should honor “generative” relationships has much to offer. From a pastoral approach, looking to the good of the relationship makes sense. But, it does not address the possibility of alternate “generative” relationships, and that those relationships would also classify for blessings by the Church. Nor does it address the “regenerative” relationships created by the copulation of man and woman.

    Much of my difficulties with the philosophies espoused by the same sex marriage advocates revolves around the narrowness and subjectiveness of the philosophies. If we are going to have same-sex marriage, why not polygamous marriages, or incestuous marriages? Does your “generative” concept permit these types of marriages?

    • My reading of the ECLA document is very different, Mr. Ludescher’s. You say that it would be unfair to classify the “Social Statement” of the ELCA as a theological or philosophical statement.

      I think, to the contrary, that the document is a well-crafted, carefully prepared theological statement that is steeped in traditional Lutheran theology, and above all, in the concept of the “bound conscience.”

      Two observations about the next comments you make. You say that the philosophies used to talk about same-sex issues are “narrow” and “subjective.” Surely that’s a matter of opinion. It seems to imply that there’s some “objective” philosophical language in which to discuss these and other theological issues.

      In the Catholic tradition, that claim has often been made about neo-scholastic philosophy–that it is somehow the ideal “objective” language to use to discuss theological issues. And yet the choice to canonize one particular philosophical language over the course of 2000 years of church history, with a richly diverse set of philosophical tools to discuss theological issues, is itself wildly subjective.

      My second observation: though questions like polygamy and incest deserve ethical and theological analysis, these are red-herring issues when it comes to discussions of same-sex issues. Those bringing these questions into the conversation are almost always doing so to sidetrack discussions of same-sex marriage itself, and to imply a totally unfounded slippery slope effect, if same-sex marriage is permitted.

      I saw the same process at work when I was growing up in the civil rights period in the American South, when people argued that permitting integration would lead to 1) black men marrying “our” blond daughters and “mongrelizing” the race; 2) the spread of venereal diseases; 3) the fall of the nation to communism, because the ultimate agenda of African Americans and the rebellious youth of the 1960s was to open the doors to Russian domination of the U.S.

      • Mr. Lindsey,

        I thoroughly enjoyed reading the ECLA’s Social Statement. The idea of a “bound” conscience is something that I have become familar with only recently. In essence, the Catholic faith has the same bound conscience mentality. Bound conscience can be its own kind of philosophy or theology. But, as the document itself points out, the bound conscience is not something that can be debated among learned men because in the end, “bound conscience” can always be used as an intellectual loophole. That’s why I that the Statement is exactly what it claims to be – a social statement.

        You will note, for instance, that the Statement provides that a bound conscience can lead one to conclude that homosexuality is an abomination. I don’t consider the Social Statement to be of significant intellectual value when the same premises can lead to such a wide disparity in the conclusion.

        I speak of “narrow” in the sense that it is almost impossible for someone such as me to raise a voice in defense without being shouted down as being wrong, mean-spirited, or uncaring. Much of the concern has switched from a “broad” genuine search for the truth to a “narrow” advocacy the “cause” of same-sex marriage.

        That brings me to the point of “subjective”. I understand that many people no longer believe that truth, sin, and morality are or can be objective. But, we generally accept some facts as being objective. That the procreative act holds a special significance to mankind and to creation in general is too obvious to be capable of an easy proof.

        I understand your point about side issues. Issues such as polygamy and incest can be red-herring issues. But, they are not in our discussion. I raise them to be able to understand how the “generative” theology you are advocating treats these real expressions of sexuality. Is incest and/or polygamy intrinsically disordered sexual behavior in a “generative” philosophy? Why can’t these relationships also be included in marriage?

        One of the things that some same-sex marriage advocates are trying to do is to close the marriage door behind them. But, I think we all know that others, such as polygamists are sure to follow. I know that they will be making some of the same claims. And, if they are opposite-sex polygamists, there will be some arguing that people are already polygamous in practice, and that we should honor those relationships. When, if ever, do we close the door? What rationales do we use? Are they fair rationales?

        • “Social” statement and “theological” statement aren’t opposites, Mr. Ludescher. In the Catholic tradition, we call the significant social teaching statements made by various popes and bishops’ conferences theological statements. They depend on theological analysis, just as the ELCA statement does. Its introduction and opening section point out that it’s based solidly in Lutheran theology and in a response to the call of Jesus to live as his disciples.

          And that’s the context within which the document places the concept of “bound conscience.” Bound conscience is not the individualistic concept you describe, in which any option to which one points and then claims it’s a conscientious one is acceptable within the Christian worldview. As the ELCA statement notes repeatedly, while Lutherans staunchly defend the right of each conscience to read and interpret scripture and come to conclusions that bind one’s conscience on that basis, conscience is always normed by certain core affirmations of Christian faith.

          These include the call to love unreservedly–everyone and anyone, including one’s enemies–and to build a Christian community that welcomes everyone without exception. And so I can’t agree with your conclusion that the ELCA statement is intellectually thin. I think that for anyone who reads it with an attempt to appreciate the Lutheran tradition and Lutheran theology, it’s a finely honed and traditional Lutheran statement, one that deserves theological attention.

          As to the rest of what you say–re: objectivity and subjectivity–I can only repeat that I think you find certainty and objectivity in some areas where I find room for further discussion. Your experience as a heterosexual man in the church is different than mine as a gay man in the church. And so we bring to the core documents different experiences and questions, even as we seek accord on the basic affirmations around which everything revolves: the obligation to love unreservedly and to welcome unreservedly.

          Take the following statement as an example: “That the procreative act holds a special significance to mankind and to creation in general is too obvious to be capable of an easy proof.” You hear and use that statement differently than I do, because of your status as a heterosexual man.

          First–and this is not insignificant–I don’t speak of the human community as “mankind.” My experience of marginalization as a gay man sensitizes me to the fact that half the human race is female. And so I use terms to describe the human community which aren’t gender-specific. I prefer to speak of “humankind” rather than “mankind.”

          And I have nowhere denied that the procreative act holds a special significance to humankind and to creation. I have argued that this biological fact is not, in my view, what we ought to build our sexual ethics around. As the church itself admits, in permitting heterosexual couples incapable of procreating to marry and to engage in sexual activity.

          The church permits those heterosexual couples to marry knowing full well they cannot procreate because it recognizes that marriage confers other benefits on a couple and on the Christian community. It strengthens the bond of love the couple shares, and in doing so, strengthens the bonds of love in the entire Christian community.

          Recognizing the biological fact that procreation is of great significance to the human race and to creation is not warrant for condemning all non-procreative heterosexual unions. Nor is it warrant for condemning all homosexual unions.

          I’d also encourage you to think further about statements that something is “too obvious to be capable of an easy proof.” My persistent references to how we’ve changed our minds, as a society and as a church, about the “too obvious” inferiority of women and people of color are attempts to point out to you that in the past, people have taken for granted practices that came to be seen as grossly unfair and unethical. They took those practices for granted and ignored ethical questions about their tenability precisely because the practices seemed to be based on natural laws that are “too obvious to be capable of an easy proof.”

          Our obligation as people of faith trying to discern God’s will in a complex world is to question what seems too obvious to be capable of easy proof–especially when growing numbers of people point out to us that we’re misusing concepts of nature and biology to justify social practices that are deeply discriminatory. I can understand that many heterosexual men–who have developed these social practices and understandings of nature and biology to consolidate their unmerited power and privilege in society and church–are loath to question these “too obvious” beliefs.

          But our commitment as followers of Christ demands that we examine our complicity in beliefs that harm others, and which aren’t founded in our core affirmations. The scriptures and our tradition don’t center on the biological difference between males and females. Or on procreation. Or on marriage and family.

          They center on loving tenderly, doing justice, and walking humbly with God.

          • Mr. Lindsey,

            No doubt we must love tenderly, do justice, and walk humbly with God. But, I can’t agree that the Church not adopting same-sex marriage somehow harms you or that I am complicit in harming you thereby violating the principles of loving tenderly, doing justice or walking humbly.

            There is no tradtion nor Scripture that would support the requirement that the Church should offer a sacred blessing for a same-sex relationship. There is tradition, and some Scripture suggesting that there is a sexual ethic which has, at its core, the union between a man and a woman. In addition, there is a natural law rationality that appears to have more objectivity than non-natural law rationalities.

            One aspect of the ECLA document that does have some substantial rational merit is the concept that sexual morality (and morality in general) has very little to do with salvation. As a result, it really does not matter what approach congregations take toward gay clergy. A congregation may adopt any one of the four approaches to homosexuality and still be within the permissible theological teaching of the Church.

            It seems to me that the pastoral benefits of such an approach may outweigh its intellectual deficiencies. When Jesus told the crowd, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”, he was telling the crowd that judging was God’s job, and we all have plenty of sin to worry about without worrying about others’ sins. Nevertheless, to provide some guidance on what sins we may be committing, we need to have some reference.

            While you don’t deny that the procreative act holds a special significance for humankind, neither have you admitted that holds a special significance, or what that significance should be in the church’s economy of sex and marriage.

            I think we can both agree that American society has developed a philosophy that what is normative is moral. This normative thinking is causing all kinds of social and personal ills. In heterosexual sex, fornication, abortion, adultery, divorce etc. are now normative behavior, normative behaviors that are causing much harm.

            The Church’s denial of same-sex marriages may be unfair in light of her willingness to allow marriages between infertile or barren couples. However, that unfairness cannot be said to be a harm of commission. Perhaps it is a harm of omission. But, the most obvious cure for this ailment is for the Church to offer a blessing rather than a sacrament to barren and homosexual couples.

          • Mr. Ludescher, you say, “I can’t agree that the Church not adopting same-sex marriage somehow harms you or that I am complicit in harming you thereby violating the principles of loving tenderly, doing justice or walking humbly.”

            But I’ve stated very plainly in this thread that I don’t expect or ask the church to marry same-sex couples sacramentally.

            I’ve said that the church’s political campaign to remove the right of civil marriage from LGBT citizens is discriminatory, harmful, and antithetical to what the church teaches about justice. To select a particular minority, one already subject to discrimination and even violence, and to remove from it civil rights is an act of cruelty.

            We’ve gone over and over this ground, noting that, while the church claims this right to interfere with civil law by stating that it is protecting marriage, it does not seek to interfere with civil laws re: divorce–though divorce is far and away the greatest threat to heterosexual marriage.

            I’m sorry you don’t see the point. Many of us caught up in the discriminatory beliefs and practices of a segregated society also did not see the point when it was made repeatedly to us during the period of integration. Thankfully, then–and now, with the treatment of LGBT citizens–more and more people do begin to recognize the immorality of discrimination, as those who experience it tell our stories. And society changes, and churches even change when the social shift occurs–though, as Dr. King said, they should be the headlight of movements for justice, rather than the taillight.

            I wish you well and hope that whatever you’re seeking as you focus on this issue of crucial significance to many of your brothers and sisters, you’ll find.

  20. Mr. Lindsey,

    I have appreciated the opportunities to discuss this issue.

    I think you overstate the case to claim that the Church has a political campaign to remove the right of civil marriage from same-sex couples.

    First, there is no such civil right; there is no “right” to marry whomever you want. The right is the freedom to cohabitate and to engage in sexual behaviors. For the most part, that is now allowed in the public sphere for same-sex couples.

    The “right” of which you are speaking is the political and judicial question of whether same-sex couples should be given the same privileges as opposite-sex couples. On that matter, I agree with you. I think that justice requires that same-sex couples be allowed to marry civilly.

    However, I think that the same justice that requires that we extend marriage to same-sex couples also requires us to extend marriage beyond the idea of a “couple” and beyond the idea of monogamy. It is near-sighted to suggest that the definition of civil marriage will be resolved once the government extends marriage privileges to same-sex couples. Adding same-sex couples to the list of allowable marriage does nothing to give us a better idea of the limits of where justice stops, and injustice starts.

    Officials of the Church have, in many cases, waged active campaigns to prevent same-sex marriages. However, many advocates of same-sex marriages have waged active campaigns against the Church and its teachings, often unfairly, and, in my opinion, often for the purpose of achieving political ends. The Pope is right in suggesting that many are attacking the Church for even suggesting the obvious, ie. that men and women are biologically different, and that that difference is important. Your recent is a good example of creating more of the Church’s position than is really there.

    I am willing to be an spokesperson for civil same-sex marriages. In fact, when the bishop in my diocese requested that parishioners sign onto a petition to support on a constitutional amendment to define marriage as between one woman and one man, I not only didn’t sign, but I sent a letter to the archdiosesan newspaper (the Catholic Spirit) stating that I objected to the Church’s involvement in support of the constitutional amendment.

    But, I cannot support many, if not most of the tactics being used. The Church does not have to be your enemy; it could be your friend. As much as it may hurt to hear that homosexuality is intrinsically disordered, don’t make it worse by false claims that the Church says that you are intrinsically disordered. Be willing to draw the distinctions, especially regarding the sacredness of the conjugal act. Help formulate a more sophisicated theology that isn’t just directed at your particular cause but encompasses a sexual ethic that survives any challenges.

    I have enjoyed this conversation. I have learned much. I hope that you can say the same.

    • Thank you. Yes, I’ve enjoyed the conversation. We obviously will continue to see these issues very differently, because we are affected by them very differently. I applaud you for encouraging your diocese to respect the civil right of gay persons to marry. (And, yes, the U.N. declaration of human rights does explicitly state that marriage is a right, as I pointed out to you in the discussion–though that statement does not, of course, speak of same-sex couples when it speaks of the right to marry).

      I must profoundly disagree that the church is not engaged in an organized political campaign to remove the right of marriage from same-sex couples. As an attorney, you’re following the prop 8 trial carefully, I assume. And so you’ll know that the plaintiffs produced evidence yesterday showing that the LDS church and Catholic church colluded to remove the right of civil marriage from gay citizens of California.

      As the Catholic church throughout the U.S. did when Maine granted same-sex couples the right to marry. Dioceses around the nation sent money to the diocese of Portland, Maine, to attack gay citizens of Maine. For my own life, this has a certain personal “face,” so to speak. One of the dioceses that contributed to this campaign to remove the right of civil marriage from same-sex couples in Maine was the Crookston diocese. In fact, claims have been made that, per capita, Crookston gave more money than any other diocese in the nation to attack gay citizens of Maine.

      My life partner grew up in the Crookston diocese, and has two aunts who are nuns there as well as hundreds of family members in his large, extended German-Catholic family. It is a personal suffering to him to see the church in which he grew up dehumanizing him and other gay people, in the name of God.

      What you perceive as an “attack” of gay people on the church is a reaction to shocking cruelty and discrimination. This cruelty and discrimination are undermining the church’s effectiveness at proclaiming the gospel or calling society to respect human rights.

      Again, thank you for supporting the right to civil marriage for same-sex couples. Perhaps the church will listen to your voice–and I’m grateful to you for making your views heard.

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