How bishops are expected to function

The bishop . . . will be sure to listen to the interested parties

Various mandates have been published respecting the proper functioning of bishops.  More importantly, in 2004,  the Congregation for Bishops prepared and disseminated “Apostolorum Successores” (Directory for the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops).   Here are three sections that I have selected because they specify the conduct required of bishops.  With even greater force, therefore, they apply to the conduct of Cardinal Ratzinger.

#1  Good government requires the Bishop to do all in his power to seek the truth and to make every effort to perfect his teaching, attentive not only to the quantity but also to the quality of his pronouncements. In this way he will avoid the risk of adopting pastoral solutions of a purely formal nature which fail to address the substance of the problems (sec. 57).

#2  The Bishop should make it his business to acquire accurate knowledge of the common good of the diocese. This knowledge should be continually updated and confirmed through frequent visits among the people of God entrusted to him – so that he comes to know them – and also through study, socio-religious research, the counsel of prudent persons and constant dialogue with the faithful, since modern life is subject to such rapid changes (sec. 58).

#3  The Bishop will judge all things with prudence. . . .  With a merciful and benign yet firm spirit, he will rise above personal interests, avoiding undue haste or partisan spirit, and will be sure to listen to the interested parties before reaching a judgement on their actions (sec. 65).

Why Constructive Dialogue on Homosexuality Can Take Place Among Methodists

Gays and the Church

Applying Psychology to facilitate constructive dialogue.

Andy Tix Ph.D. from Psychology Today, Feb 18, 2019

Although the Supreme Court’s landmark 2015 ruling in Obergefell vs. Hodges seemed to settle many civil issues about same-sex marriage in the United States, the topic remains contentious in many religious communities. In recent years, some denominations have broken with the historical Christian view that same-sex relations “miss the mark” and have become more LGBTQ affirming. Many have not, however, meaning they will not support “unrepentant” same sex sexual behavior or same-sex marriage in their churches.

From February 23-26, 2019, another major denomination will meet to discuss its official stance about same-sex relations, as leaders in the United Methodist Church will convene in St. Louis, Missouri to discuss “a way forward.” The plan recommended by the Methodist Council of Bishops would allow local decision-makers to implement policies about matters such as same-sex marriage that best fit their social contexts. If approved, this would enable more progressive districts to support the ordination of gay and lesbian Pastors and marry same-sex couples, subject to the conscience of the local pastor, while allowing more conservative districts to remain unchanged in policy and practice.

At play in these deliberations are questions of how to know what is true about matters of faith. The founder of the Methodist tradition – John Wesley – proposed four “ways of knowing,” now organized in what is popularly termed the “Wesleyan Quadrilateral:” experience, reason, tradition, and Scripture. Basically, Methodists look for “converging evidence” in these four domains when creating church policy, although Scripture is prioritized.

In anticipation of the denomination’s upcoming meetings, I have led a discussion group at my local Methodist church exploring same-sex relations, using the Wesleyan Quadrilateral as an organizing tool, for the past six weeks. Members of my church community have discussed their experiences with gays and lesbians, we invited several gay Christians to our group to listen and learn from their stories, and we have explored Scripture from both conservative and progressive perspectives. As a facilitator, my charge was to lead this group neutrally, meaning I have not shared my opinion very often, I have tried to make sure the best of materials are shared from both conservative and progressive viewpoints, and I have sought to create an atmosphere that is hospitable and conducive to honest, respectful conversations among individuals who often disagree.

As a psychological scientist, I have found an understanding of Psychology to be invaluable in my work. For instance, in the Wesleyan Quadrilateral, psychology illuminates how individuals may differ in interpreting experience, tradition, and Scripture. More centrally, part of “reason” is “science,” and so insights from psychological science often have taken center stage in this group’s discussions.

For example, many group members were surprised to learn about the connection between religion and suicidality among sexual minorities. In particular, in one study of over 20,000 young adults, researchers found a link between the importance ascribed to religion in participants’ lives and the amount of suicidal thinking among those identifying as gay, lesbian, or questioning.

In a session devoted almost entirely to science, we explored what research has revealed about the causes of sexual orientation and the changeability of sexual orientation. I assigned chapters from two books, reflecting both conservative and progressive perspectives. Doing this allowed us to focus on where psychologists with different theological positions agreed:

  1. 2-3% of the population reports being consistently and exclusively attracted to members of the same sex (more males than females).
  2. Sexual orientation is complex and poorly understood. There is no single cause.
  3. Part of what determines sexual orientation seems to be a genetic predisposition.
  4. Prenatal hormones seem to play a role in determining sexual orientation, at least in animal models.
  5. Poor parent-child relationships – including history of childhood trauma – do not seem to predict sexual orientation.
  6. Sexual orientation is not chosen; sexual behavior is.
  7. Most – if not all – people will not substantially change their sexual orientation.

More broadly, psychological research suggested ways to encourage constructive dialogue. Applying a tactic similar to the “jigsaw classroom,” I randomly assigned group members to tables during the more discussion-oriented sessions. This ensured that individuals were not self-selecting into groups with others who would further confirm their positions, but rather share views that would provoke deeper thought. We also often relied upon “ground rules” for conversation, including the importance of using “I statements” that required individuals to take ownership of their positions rather than asserting their universal truth value.article continues after advertisement

In our last session, most people noted that they did not change their beliefs very much as a result of their participation. What was almost universally agreed upon, though, was how much complexity was involved in the issue, and how much intellectual humility is necessary. Many people reported how learning from both sides stretched them and helped them gain greater empathy for those with whom they differed. 

Personally, I felt like leading a group on such a contentious, politicized issue with people I know and like was a huge risk. After the first session, my wife wondered aloud with me whether we were going to make enemies of everyone we knew! However, taking this leap taught me to trust that good still is possible and that, with a little guidance and encouragement, most people really are capable of open, respectful conversation.

That’s a lesson we all need to remember.

Sites for safe and trusted learning

Dear  Kathy,

I just spent an hour enjoying your website.  I find that you have created a very safe environment for those who are interested and concerned about what the Evangelical churches have been saying about homosexuality.  Your use of stories and your sleuthing found in “How the Bible Became Anti-gay” are captivating. I had read many times that the word “homosexual” was a recent insertion into English bibles, but no one mentioned how David, a lone seminarian, had been quietly working behind the scenes some sixty years ago in order to effective challenge its misuse in the RSV. Click here to read this fascinating story.


Mike Moroski

Mike Moroski

Standing Tall

among the Children of God
at Chaminade-Julianne Catholic High School

joined with other faculty and students who suffered unjustly
due to the tyranny of Archbishop Schnurr

The story of those Standing Tall
has been witnessed and recorded by Aaron Milavec
in his new book, WHAT JESUS WOULD SAY TO SAME-SEX COUPLES.               

For in the Last Days,
the sheep will be turned into wolves . . .
and they [the wolves] with persecute [the elect] (Didache 16:4).

Does the Bible require that marriage be limited to one man and one woman?

Here are the four case studies that I prepared as a research fellow with the Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research.  These explorations could also serve as a foundation for a workshop in a parish setting. They could also be used with gifted high school or college students.
The material is divided into four case studies.  One can use any of the case studies independently.  One can change the order in which the case studies are used.  Here are the case studies:

Please share any feedback at the end of this page.  Your experiences are significant to me and enable me to improve this workshop.  I warmly thank you.  Aaron Milavec (author) Continue reading “Does the Bible require that marriage be limited to one man and one woman?”

Nonviolent Resistance in the Moroski Case

The case of Mike Moroski revisited

Mike Moroski enjoys supporting young people and their dreams.  He tells them to take pride in being “who you are.”  He also recognizes that those with homosexual leanings are petrified at the thought of losing all their friends and of “coming out” to their parents.  But Mike Moroski knows how to listen deeply and to support each of them, especially if they identify themselves as “queer.”

Some well-connected parent gets wind of this, reads Moroski’s blogs, and informs Archbishop Schnurr by asking him, “Is this the kind of man we want teaching our children?”  The Archbishop, being a fundamentalist, could not just let this pass.  So, he responds by drafting a letter, consulting his lawyers, and then informing Moroski of his ultimatum: either agree in writing to be silenced on the homosexual issue or you will be dismissed immediately “for breach of contract.”  You know what happens next:

After much deliberation with my wife, family, trusted clergy, professionals from all walks of life and my own meditative silence, I decided not to take the post down, nor to recant my position that “I unabashedly believe gay people SHOULD be allowed to marry…”

If I take that post down I would not be able to look at the thousands of former students and families with whom I have worked for twelve years in the eye. . . . What would I say to all of them if I were to go against my OWN conscience[1] so that I could keep my job for four months?

It came down to the issue of personal integrity.  How could he promote integrity “at all costs” and then back down in the face of the Archbishop’s coercive threat in order to save himself and his family?

Notice here that Moroski gives no hint of having read the Ratzinger documents and having discovered how flawed the Vatican arguments actually are.  Notice too that Moroski appears to know nothing of how Ratzinger avoided all forms of public collaboration before, during, and after he ramrodded his documents through the system.  Moroski does not argue that 57% of Catholics already favor “same-sex marriages”; hence, the Archbishop would be following a self-defeating strategy if he imagined that removing him would help to preserve a doctrine that is already so broadly rejected by the “healthy good sense” (sensus fidelium[2]) of the faithful?  Moroski does not bring forward the names and words of various bishops and cardinals[3] who have gone on record as favoring “same-sex marriages.”  Moroski does not cite Vatican II when it upholds the right of Catholics to be “free from coercion”[4] and that, as a consequence, he might say that he cannot respond to the Archbishop’s ultimatum until he clarifies how and why he avoided any dialog and jumped immediately to drastic coercive measures by way of resolving the issue.  Moroski appeals, instead, to his integrity but he does not cite the writings of the younger Dr. Joseph Ratzinger who wrote the following by way of explaining the doctrine of Vatican II regarding “conscience”:

Over the pope as the expression of the binding claim of ecclesiastical authority, there still stands one’s own conscience, which must be obeyed before all else, even if necessary against the requirement of ecclesiastical authority.  This emphasis on the individual, whose conscience confronts him with a supreme and ultimate tribunal, and one which in the last resort is beyond the claim of external social groups, even of the official Church, also establishes a principle [that enables one to act] in opposition to increasing totalitarianism.[5]

Moroski does not cite the documents of the Church regarding justice, as when the U.S. Bishops wrote, “We must not only act justly but be perceived as acting justly if we are to succeed in winning popular support against same-sex marriages.”[6] Moroski does not ask the Archbishop how his conduct squares with the bishops’ own standards.  Finally, Moroski does not take the route of telling the Archbishop that his first and non-negotiable mandate is to continue serving his students and serving his faculty and that he intends to continue to do so for the duration of his contract and then and only then will he give his answer to the Archbishop’s ultimatum.

Strategies for implementing nonviolent resistance

This last route clearly moves toward nonviolent resistance.[7]  The Archbishop might decide to wait until the contract expires when all the cards would be in his deck.  Most probably, however, the Archbishop will be impatient and will make more threats.  For example, he might impose a deadline or he might insist that Moroski leave his office within five hours and not return.  When he ignores this, the Archbishop would probably proceed to have him arrested and forcefully removed “as a trespasser.”

The students could organize themselves in preparation for this eventuality.  At the arrival of the police, a prearranged signal would be given, and immediately students in sympathy with Moroski would, in absolute silence, immediately vacate their classrooms and surround Moroski in his office.[8]  If the police have not yet reached him, then students would join arms and block the halls or merely sit down and force the police to climb over them.  Once they reach Moroski, however, they would be told that they are invited to speak with him but not to leave with him.  They might decide to handcuff or chain Moroski’s ankles to a heavy desk, for example, to make certain that he could not easily be removed.  The students might hiss or hum, but they would not insult or restrain the police in any way.  All interactions with the police would be captured on multiple cell phones.  Meanwhile, other students would alert newspaper reporters and TV stations that a “nonviolent protest blocking the arrest of Moroski” was in progress at Purcell-Marion High School.  Legal advisors (parents of students) would also be brought in to advise both the police and the students of their rights.  Significant songs or even silly songs could be at the ready to keep the mood non-aggressive yet focused.  A protest statement detailing the injustice of the process to remove Mr. Moroski would be prepared in advance and given to reporters, to concerned parents, and other adult bystanders.

Educating students to use nonviolent confrontation

Even if, by some circumstance, Mike Moroski was removed and prevented from returning, concerned students of the school could hold a memorial in honor of Mr. Moroski.  At this memorial, a microphone could be passed around that would allow students to tell their stories regarding “What I learned from Mr. Moroski that I will never forget.”  Teams of students with video recorders would not only record what students said but to have students sign release forms allowing them to use their memorial message on the internet.

Following the memorial, four to five ten-minute YouTube videos could be prepared that would artfully present the grievance of the students followed by five to eight student statements.  At the close of each YouTube video would be an invitation to sign an online protest letter demanding the reinstatement of Mr. Moroski.  The letter and signatures would be addressed to the Archbishop and to the Catholics of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and delivered to him personally by a hundred students just prior to the Sunday liturgy.  The students then would distribute copies to the entire congregation and stay with the people to join in the Eucharist presided over by the Archbishop.

If this protest letter did not receive a favorable response from Archbishop Schnurr, then students could decide to shut-down the school for two hours on a couple of Friday afternoons and have “teach-ins” prepared in which the injustice of the situation were carefully and systematically presented followed by an hour of brain-storming strategizing on how to restore justice using principles of nonviolence confrontation.  Hopefully the students could work together with the full support of the administration in bringing this into realization.  It could be explained to them that this is a test case in Catholic Action and that it is preparing them to learn nonviolent confrontation techniques that would be invaluable for redressing injustice later in their lives.  If the administration falters, interested students could decide to merely silently walk out of their classrooms and assemble in the gym at the prearranged hour.

The “teach-ins” might even bring in nonviolent social activists who would strategize with the students how to put pressure on Archbishop Schnurr to meet their demands.  Who knows what the genius of these students could produce?  They could imaginatively create an internet fury that would knock the socks off the people of Cincinnati and have Archbishop Schnurr too ashamed to step outside his million-dollar mansion.  Or they might bring their parents on board and have one hundred of them contributed $500 each to rehire Mike Moroski as “their” vice-principle who was no longer under the authority of the Archbishop.  They could rethink band concerts, school plays, and athletic events in such a way as to perform them “in honor of Mike Moroski.”  The Archbishop would always be personally invited to attend.  If he failed to show, a copy of the program would be given to him with the tribute to Mike Moroski clearly visible.

If after all their efforts, Archbishop Schnurr would ultimately refuse to reconcile himself with Mike Moroski, then, as a final protest, the parents and the students could refuse to reconcile themselves with him as well.  When he visits, they could deliberately shun him by avoiding him or turning their backs to him.  When he addresses them, they could silently block their ears with their hands.  If he continues to ignore them, they could begin softly humming or whispering “Mike Moroski.”  A hundred students doing this could easily unnerve even an Archbishop.  He can’t have all or even one of them expelled[9] because he doesn’t know who they are.

All in all, it would only take a few instances like this to teach an unruly and menacing Archbishop that there are severe limits to his abuse of power.  They might even be able to convince him that teachers like Mike Moroski who support “same-sex marriages” are doing the entire Church an immense service in so far as they bring a level of welcome and support to Catholic gays and lesbians that has been decidedly curtailed by the Ratzinger Doctrine.

Shunning the Archbishop

Another strategy would be to shun[10] the Archbishop.  How so?  By drafting a letter something like the following:

To: Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr

From: Students of Purcell Marian High School

Re: dismissal of Mr. Mike Moroski

Your dismissal of Mr. Mike Moroski is an act of injustice and a sin against God.

It is an act of injustice in so far as the character and worth of a teacher in our school should never be decided on the basis of his/her position on same-sex marriages.  Many priests, bishops, and cardinals have openly favored offering some blessing and civil recognition of same-sex unions.  Pope Francis has, already for ten years, favored such a proposal[11] but he hesitates to call it “marriage.” Furthermore, to summarily deny a talented and worthy teacher his income without some due process is an injustice against his family.

It is a sin against God in so far as it is not for us to judge what measures same-sex couples should or should not employ to protect their loved ones.  God has assigned to each of us a dignity and a calling.  No one can be justly blamed or menaced for what God has created them to be.

Furthermore, as a Catholic bishop you are committed to respect the dignity and safeguard the God-given rights of gays and lesbians.  The “morality clause” that you placed in teacher contracts has the effect of menacing those teachers who promotes compassion and understanding for LGBTQ students.  This is a sin against God and a violation of your episcopal calling.

As Catholics, we urgently need faculty like Mr. Mike Moroski who actively promote compassion and understanding for LGBTQ students.  You should be humbly learning from him rather than trying to silence him.

For all these reasons, we have taken it upon ourselves the task of overturning your sins of injustice.  Mr. Mike Moroski is now employed by us and his salary has been increased because we cherish his character and his worth as a Catholic teacher among us.

Since you have sinned against God and against those gays and lesbians among us whom God loves, we no longer regard you as a suitable minister fit to officiate at any Eucharist held here in our school.  As Jesus said in the Gospel of Matthew, “If you are bringing your gift to the alter and remember that someone has something against you, go first and reconcile with him/her and then go and offer your gift.”  Be reconciled, therefore, so that we can, at some future point, again embrace you as our God-appointed pastor and Eucharistic celebrant.

Here below are our signatures.



[1] The appeal to “conscience” takes priority over all other sources for discerning “what is truly right and just by God’s standards” as opposed to following “a political ideology.”  Archbishop Schnurr clarifies this point as follows:

The answer is to consult our conscience, which is a judgment of reason about the good to be done and the evil to be avoided in a concrete situation (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, §1778 & Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, §17). A conscience must be well-formed by using reason to discover the natural law and faith to understand Sacred Scripture and official Church teaching.  We then submit our judgment to God in prayer, striving to discern His will. By humbly committing ourselves to the lifelong journey of developing our consciences, we more clearly distinguish the Truth of God in a complex, sometimes manipulative world, and make choices that promote the life and the dignity of all.

In effect, therefore, both Archbishop Schnurr and Mike Moroski both appeal to “conscience” by way of justifying how they acted.  Archbishop Schnurr delivered his ultimatum because he was responsible for insuring that teachers in his Catholic schools both teach and live according to the norms published by the Vatican.  Mike Moroski refused to capitulate because, according to his informed conscience, the Vatican had arrived at a defective judgment when it came to same-sex unions.  When such differences arise, the expectation might be that open dialog has to begin and to continue until they can work out some middle ground between them.  Both are Catholic pastors; yet, due to the authoritarian modality preferred by the Archbishop, he wasted no time with any dialog.  He moved directly to have Mike Moroski removed from his office with a police escort.

[2] Two theological terms have come to express the understanding that all believers participate in elaborating Christian truth: sensus fidei and sensus fidelium. The first refers to the Christian’s possession of the fundamental truth of his faith. The second refers to his role in actively defending and elaborating that faith. Though the Second Vatican Council employed both terms (sensus fidelium : GS 52; sensus fidei : LG 12, 35; PO 9; see also John Paul II, Christifideles laici 14 and Ut unum sint 80) writers since the council have generally preferred the more active-subjective term, that is, sensus fidelium.

Historical Considerations. Historically, the common teaching in the Church saw an active role of all the faithful in determining Christian belief. The whole community attested to the apostolicity of the faith. Though the bishops increasingly taught with authority and defined the emerging orthodox synthesis at synods and general councils, the concrete life of the community was always considered and the faithful were routinely consulted. Chapters 6 and 15 of the Acts of the Apostles give us a glimpse of the inclusiveness of the whole community’s participation. In the first five centuries, the characterization of a local church as “apostolic” pointed to its whole life: its Scriptures, sacraments and liturgy, authorized leaders, moral norms, ecclesiastical discipline and polity, interaction with pagan culture, socialization of its members, and its explicit beliefs (

[3] See Appendix 5.

[4] It is in accordance with their dignity as persons-that is, beings endowed with reason and free will and therefore privileged to bear personal responsibility-that all men should be at once impelled by nature and also bound by. They are also bound to adhere to the truth, once it is known, and to order their whole lives in accord with the demands of truth. However, men cannot discharge these obligations in a manner in keeping with their own nature.  Therefore, the right to religious freedom has its foundation not in the subjective disposition of the person, but in his very nature (Declaration on Religious Freedom = Dignitatis Humanae, §2).

[5] Joseph Ratzinger, Commentary on the Doctrine of Vatican II, ed. Herbert Vorgrimler, Volume V, p 134.  One wonders whether Cardinal Ratzinger thought of himself as contributing to the totalitarianism of Vatican control over the worldwide Church.

[6] This statement is rather catchy because it ties together the intimate interplay between truly acting justly and the public perception thereof. To my recollection, the U.S. Catholic bishops first used the initial half of this statement in their “Pastoral Letter on the Economy,” written in the 80s.  Then, it next shows up in their 9/11 statement and is tied into formulating principles to be used by the President in the fight against “terrorism.”  The final word, consequently, is not “same-sex marriages” but “terrorism.”  Thirdly, this same principle gets cited in the bishop’s letter complaining about the miscarriage of justice in the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo.  If the statement is true, and clearly the U.S. bishops think so, then they might very well apply it as a guiding principle in their own vicious fight against “same-sex marriages.”

[7] To understand nonviolent resistance, one needs to look at the efficacy of Mahatma Gandhi in ousting the British colonization and military domination of India without needing to resort to guerrilla warfare.  Closer to home, one needs to think of the Montgomery bus boycott and the lunch-counter sit-ins (an invention of dissatisfied youth) that eventually overthrew a host of Jim Crow laws bent upon keeping “those damn Niggers in their place.”  Martin Luther King, Jr. called the principle of nonviolent resistance the ‘‘guiding light of our movement. Christ furnished the spirit and motivation while Gandhi furnished the method’’ (Papers 5:423).  For more details, see   The U.S. Catholic bishops strongly supported the Civil Rights Movement under King’s direction precisely because of its principled application of nonviolent resistance.  Meanwhile these same bishops encouraged dialog with Black Muslims but positively rejected the Black Panthers.

[8] For a story that demonstrates just how effective this can be, see Lauren FitzPatrick, “Students launch “read-in” at DuSable High to protest losing librarian,” Chicago Sun-Times 11 Dec 2015 (
) and Lauren FitzPatrick , “CPS reinstates DuSable librarian using ‘anonymous gift’,” Chicago Sun-Times 17 Dec 2015 (

[9] Needless to say, “expulsion” is an excessive and unwarranted penalty for someone acting in behalf of justice.  Malicious obstruction is one thing; mindful protest is quite another.  Even should the administration not understand this and try to identify and expel some of the ring leaders of the protest movement as a favor to the Archbishop, students could then turn their attention to teaching the administrators that they also are not free to abuse their authority and to punish those who are using Catholic principles in their struggle for justice.

[10] For an understanding of shunning, see

[11] For his published views, see “Pope Francis Allows For Civil Unions for Lesbian and Gay Couples ( New York Times reported that “Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio . . . spoke out in a heated meeting of bishops in 2010 and advocated a highly unorthodox solution: that the church in Argentina support the idea of civil unions for gay couples” (

Entering Marriage Because of a Rape

Wiki footnote on Deut  22:28-29

Among ancient cultures virginity was highly prized, and a woman who had been raped had little chance of marrying. These laws forced the rapist to provide for their victim (( One finds a case of this in Deut  22:28-29:

If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, he shall pay her father fifty shekels of silver [as her dowry]. He must marry the young woman, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives.

Here again, this is decreed as revealed Divine Law in Deuteronomy.  Notice that the injured party is not the virgin but her father who cannot expect a decent dowry because his daughter is damaged goods.  Rape is thus a form of theft for which the rapist is forced to pay the consequences: He must pay a hefty dowry and permanently marry the girl he raped.

Many countries still have such provisions.  Article 544 of the Italian Criminal Code, for example, considered rape an offence against ‘public morality’, not against an individual person. If the perpetrator married his victim, even if she was a minor, any sexual offence would lapse. Neither the law nor society made a distinction between such premarital rape on the one hand, and consensual elopement (in Sicily commonly called fuitina) on the other. Socially, the victim was put under heavy pressure to agree to marrying her rapist; the alternative was being shunned for the rest of her life as una donna svergognata: a “woman without honour” (literally: a shameless woman). The victim was held responsible for the humilation of losing her virginity out of wedlock, bringing shame upon herself and her family. If she agreed to marry her attacker, it was thus considered a “reparational marriage” (matrimonio riparatore), that restored her family’s honour.

In 1966, Franca Viola was one of the first women to refuse a “reparational marriage” publicly. Franca Viola was only 17 years old when she was raped with the intention of marriage in 1965. The aftermath of her trial ruled that rapists were no longer able to avoid punishment through the marriage of their victims.[43] In 1981, Italy eventually repealed Article 544 ((

In modern society, rape is a crime against the personal integrity of the victim. It is impossible for modern readers to permit themselves to think that God would be so calloused as to bind a woman to her rapist and to thereby give him permission (as husband) to rape her again whenever he pleases. These violations would not be immoral.  A man has the perfect right to devalue his own property. Only a barbaric god could invent (or even sanction) such a practice.  But there it is in Deut  22:28-29—a reminder that the gods of yesterday were often as cruel and barbaric as the people who served them.


When it comes to marriage practices, the bible cannot be trusted to tell us what God expects of us today.  Only the most uninformed can imagine that there is a consistent ethics of love and marriage stretching all the way from Genesis to the Book of Revelations. What Dr. Andreas J. Kostenberger presents us with is a pious delusion.  He has taken a description of marriage that pleases him and his congregation and has read it back into a select segment of texts that appear to support his assumptions.  At no time does he read the sacred texts within the mindset of the sacred authors.  He has become adept at reading into the text rather that reading out of the text.

In sum, Dr. Andreas J. Kostenberger is not to be trusted.  He would persuade us that God offers no patience with or sanction for same-sex marriages.  He does this because he projects upon God the same abhorrence he feels in his gut whenever he imagines two men sexually arousing each other.  This ruse must be exposed and dismissed.  Why so?  Because a fine man like Matthew Vines calls upon the living God to hear the depths of his loneliness and to speedily come to his aid. Saint Peter describes his own conversion saying, “You know it is against our laws for a Jewish man to enter a Gentile home like this or to associate with you [Gentiles]. But God has shown me that I should no longer think of anyone as impure or unclean” (Act 10:28).

Today we are at a momentous crossroads. Pope Francis has issued the warning to the assembled American bishops very precisely: If the Catholic hierarchy “continues to carry the loaves that Jesus gave them but fail to nourish the people of God with them, then they will persist in experiencing these loaves as a burden and they will throw them at sinners as a sign of God’s wrath” ((    )).


Cardinal Ratzinger slow to act on clerical child abuse scandal


Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in 1982. The office he led, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, had been given authority over abuse cases in 1922, documents show and canon lawyers confirm. Credit Diether Endicher/Associated Press

In its long struggle to grapple with sexual abuse, the Vatican often cites as a major turning point the decision in 2001 to give the office led by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger the authority to cut through a morass of bureaucracy and handle abuse cases directly.

The decision, in an apostolic letter from Pope John Paul II, earned Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, a reputation as the Vatican insider who most clearly recognized the threat the spreading sexual abuse scandals posed to the Roman Catholic Church.

But church documents and interviews with canon lawyers and bishops cast that 2001 decision and the future pope’s track record in a new and less flattering light.

The Vatican took action only after bishops from English-speaking nations became so concerned about resistance from top church officials that the Vatican convened a secret meeting to hear their complaints — an extraordinary example of prelates from across the globe collectively pressing their superiors for reform, and one that had not previously been revealed.

And the policy that resulted from that meeting, in contrast to the way it has been described by the Vatican, was not a sharp break with past practices. It was mainly a belated reaffirmation of longstanding church procedures that at least one bishop attending the meeting argued had been ignored for too long, according to church documents and interviews.

Continue reading the main story

The office led by Cardinal Ratzinger, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, had actually been given authority over sexual abuse cases nearly 80 years earlier, in 1922, documents show and canon lawyers confirm. But for the two decades he was in charge of that office, the future pope never asserted that authority, failing to act even as the cases undermined the church’s credibility in the United States, Australia, Ireland and elsewhere.

Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, an outspoken auxiliary bishop emeritus from Sydney, Australia, who attended the secret meeting in 2000, said that despite numerous warnings, top Vatican officials, including Benedict, took far longer to wake up to the abuse problems than many local bishops did.

“Why did the Vatican end up so far behind the bishops out on the front line, who with all their faults, did change — they did develop,” he said. “Why was the Vatican so many years behind?”

Cardinal Ratzinger, of course, had not yet become pope, a divinely ordained office not accustomed to direction from below. John Paul, his longtime superior, often dismissed allegations of pedophilia by priests as an attack on the church by its enemies. Supporters say that Cardinal Ratzinger would have preferred to take steps earlier to stanch the damage in certain cases.

But the future pope, it is now clear, was also part of a culture of nonresponsibility, denial, legalistic foot-dragging and outright obstruction. More than any top Vatican official other than John Paul, it was Cardinal Ratzinger who might have taken decisive action in the 1990s to prevent the scandal from metastasizing in country after country, growing to such proportions that it now threatens to consume his own papacy.

As pope, Benedict has met with victims of sexual abuse three times. He belatedly reopened an investigation into the Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the Legionaries of Christ, a powerful religious order — and a protégé of John Paul’s — and ultimately removed him from ministry. He gave American bishops greater leeway to take a tough line on abuse in the United States, and recently accepted the resignations of several bishops elsewhere. And on June 11, at an event in St. Peter’s Square meant to celebrate priests, he begged “forgiveness from God and from the persons involved” and promised to do “everything possible” to prevent future abuse.

But today the abuse crisis is still raging in the Catholic heartland of Europe: civil investigators in Belgium last week took the rare step of raiding church headquarters and the home of a former archbishop. The Vatican under Benedict is still responding to abuse by priests at its own pace, and it is being besieged by an outside world that wants it to move faster and more decisively.

Vatican officials, who declined to answer detailed questions related to Benedict’s history, say that the church will announce another round of changes to its canon laws, as it did in 2001, so that the church can improve its response to the abuse problem.

But the suggestion that more reforms are ahead is a nod to the fact that there is still widespread confusion among many bishops about how to handle allegations of abuse, and that their approaches are remarkably uneven from country to country.

National bishops’ conferences in some countries have adopted their own norms and standards. But several decades after sexual abuse by priests became a problem, Benedict has not yet instituted a universal set of rules.

Scandal and Confusion

The sexual abuse scandal first caught much of the world’s attention in 2002, with reports that the Boston archdiocese had been covering up for molesters for years. But the alarm bells had already been sounding for nearly two decades in many countries. In Lafayette, La., in 1984, the Rev. Gilbert Gauthé admitted to molesting 37 youngsters. In 1989, a sensational case erupted at an orphanage in the Canadian province of Newfoundland. By the mid-1990s, about 40 priests and brothers in Australia faced abuse allegations. In 1994, the Irish government was brought down when it botched the extradition of a notorious pedophile priest.

Bishops had a variety of disciplinary tools at their disposal — including the power to remove accused priests from contact with children and to suspend them from ministry altogether — that they could use without the Vatican’s direct approval.

Some used this authority to sideline abusive priests, minimizing the damage inflicted on their victims. Other bishops clearly made things worse, by shuffling abusers from one assignment to the next, never telling parishioners or reporting priests to the police.

But as court cases, financial settlements and media coverage mounted, many prelates looked to the Vatican for leadership and clarity on how to prosecute abusers under canon law and when to bring cases to the attention of the civil authorities. In the worst cases, involving serial offenders who denied culpability and resisted discipline, some bishops sought the Vatican’s guidance on how to dismiss them from the priesthood.

For this, bishops needed the Vatican’s help. Dismissing a priest is not like disbarring a lawyer or stripping a doctor of his medical license. In Catholic theology, ordaining a priest creates an indelible mark; to return him to the lay state required the approval of the pope.

Yet throughout the ’80s and ’90s, bishops who sought to penalize and dismiss abusive priests were daunted by a bewildering bureaucratic and canonical legal process, with contradicting laws and overlapping jurisdictions in Rome, according to church documents and interviews with bishops and canon lawyers.

Besides Cardinal Ratzinger’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, bishops were sending off their files on abuse cases to the Congregations for the Clergy, for Bishops, for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, and for the Evangelization of Peoples — plus the Vatican’s Secretariat of State; its appeals court, the Apostolic Signatura; and the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts.

“There was confusion everywhere,” said Archbishop Philip Edward Wilson of Adelaide, Australia.

A new Code of Canon Law issued in 1983 only muddied things further, among other things by setting a five-year statute of limitations within which abuse cases could be prosecuted.

During this period, the three dozen staff members working for Cardinal Ratzinger at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith were busy pursuing other problems. These included examining supernatural phenomena, like apparitions of the Virgin Mary, so that hoaxes did not “corrupt the faith,” according to the Rev. Brian Mulcahy, a former member of the staff. Other sections weighed requests by divorced Catholics to remarry and vetted the applications of former priests who wanted to be reinstated.

The heart of the office, though, was its doctrinal section. Cardinal Ratzinger, a German theologian appointed prefect of the congregation in 1981, aimed his renowned intellectual firepower at what he saw as “a fundamental threat to the faith of the church” — the liberation theology movement sweeping across Latin America.


In June, the pope promised to do “everything possible” to prevent future abuse. Credit Tiziana Fabi/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

As Father Gauthé was being prosecuted in Louisiana, Cardinal Ratzinger was publicly disciplining priests in Brazil and Peru for preaching that the church should work to empower the poor and oppressed, which the cardinal saw as a Marxist-inspired distortion of church doctrine. Later, he also reined in a Dutch theologian who thought lay people should be able to perform priestly functions, and an American who taught that Catholics could dissent from church teachings about abortion, birth control, divorce and homosexuality.

Different Focus for Cardinal

Cardinal Ratzinger also focused on reining in national bishops’ conferences, several of which, independent of Rome, had begun confronting the sexual abuse crisis and devising policies to address it in their countries. He declared that such conferences had “no theological basis” and “do not belong to the structure of the church.” Individual bishops, he reaffirmed, reigned supreme in their dioceses and reported only to the authority of the pope in Rome.

Another hint of his priorities came at a synod in 1990, when a bishop from Calgary gingerly mentioned the growing sexual abuse problem in Canada. When Cardinal Ratzinger rose to speak, however, it was of a different crisis: the diminishing image of the priesthood since the Second Vatican Council, and the “huge drop” in the numbers of priests as many resigned.

That concern — that the irrevocable commitment to the priesthood was being undermined by the exodus of priests leaving to marry or because they were simply disenchanted — had already led Cardinal Ratzinger to block the dismissal of at least one priest convicted of molestation, documents show.

“Look at it from the perspective of priestly commitment,” said the Rev. Joseph Fessio, a former student of Cardinal Ratzinger’s and founder of the conservative publishing house Ignatius Press. “You want to get married? You’re still a priest. You’re a sex offender? Well, you’re still a priest. Rome is looking at it from the objective reality of the priesthood.”

After another abuse scandal in 1992 in Fall River, Mass., bishops in the United States pressed the Vatican for an alternative to the slow and arcane canonical justice system. Without a full canonical trial, clerics accused of abuse could not be dismissed from the priesthood against their will (although a bishop could impose some restrictions short of that). In 1993, John Paul said he had heard the American bishops’ pleas and convened a joint commission of American and Vatican canonists to propose improvements.

John Paul rejected its proposal to let bishops dismiss priests using administrative procedures, without canonical trials. But he agreed to raise the age of majority to 18 from 16 for child-molestation cases. More important, he extended the statute of limitations to 10 years after the victim’s 18th birthday.

It is not known whether Cardinal Ratzinger spoke up in the internal deliberations that led to the two changes, which applied only to the United States.

But those changes clearly did not go far enough. And as the crisis steadily spread in other countries, bishops and church administrators from across the English-speaking world began meeting to compare notes on how to respond to it. After gathering on their own in 1996 and 1998, they demanded that the Curia, the Vatican’s administration, meet with them in Rome in 2000.

Frustrations Boil Over

The visiting bishops had reached the boiling point. After flailing about for 20 years, with little guidance from Rome, as stories about pedophile priests embroiled the church in lawsuits, shame and scandal, they had flown in to Rome from Australia, Canada, England and Wales, Ireland, New Zealand, Scotland, South Africa, the United States and the West Indies.

Many came out of frustration: the Vatican had too often thwarted bishops’ attempts to oust pedophile priests in their jurisdictions. Yet they had high hopes that they would make the case for reform. Nearly every major Vatican office was represented in the gathering, held in the same Vatican hotel that was built to house cardinals electing a new pope.

“The message we wanted to get across was: if individuals are to hide behind church law and use that law to impede the ability of bishops to discipline priests, then we have to have a new way of moving forward,” said Eamonn Walsh, auxiliary bishop of Dublin, one of 17 bishops who attended from overseas. (He was one of several Irish bishops who offered the pope their resignations last year because of the abuse scandal, but his has not been accepted.)

Yet many at the meeting grew dismayed as, over four long days in early April 2000, they heard senior Vatican officials dismiss clergy sexual abuse as a problem confined to the English-speaking world, and emphasize the need to protect the rights of accused priests over ensuring the safety of children, according to interviews with 10 church officials who attended the meeting.

Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, then the head of the Congregation for the Clergy, set the tone, playing down sexual abuse as an unavoidable fact of life, and complaining that lawyers and the media were unfairly focused on it, according to a copy of his prepared remarks. What is more, he asked, is it not contradictory for people to be so outraged by sexual abuse when society also promotes sexual liberation?

Another Vatican participant even observed that many pedophile priests had Irish surnames, a remark that offended delegates from Ireland.

“Prejudices came out,” said Bishop Robinson of Australia. “There were some very silly things said at times.”

Though disappointed, the visiting bishops were not entirely surprised.

“It wasn’t that there was bad will in Rome,” Bishop Walsh said. “They just didn’t have the firsthand experience that the dioceses were having around the world — experience with the manipulative, devious ways of the perpetrators. If the perpetrator said, ‘I didn’t do it,’ they would say, ‘He wouldn’t be telling a lie, he has to be telling the truth, and he’s innocent until proven guilty.’ ”

An exception to the prevailing attitude, several participants recalled, was Cardinal Ratzinger. He attended the sessions only intermittently and seldom spoke up. But in his only extended remarks, he made clear that he saw things differently from others in the Curia.

“The speech he gave was an analysis of the situation, the horrible nature of the crime, and that it had to be responded to promptly,” recalled Archbishop Wilson of Australia, who was at the meeting in 2000. “I felt, this guy gets it, he’s understanding the situation we’re facing. At long last, we’ll be able to move forward.”

Clarity Comes in a Letter

Even so, the meeting served as much to expose Cardinal Ratzinger’s inattention to the problem as it did to showcase his new attitude.

Archbishop Wilson said in an interview that during the session he had to call Vatican officials’ attention to long-ignored papal instructions, dating from 1922, and reissued in 1962, that gave Cardinal Ratzinger’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, previously known as the Holy Office, sole responsibility for deciding cases of priests accused of particularly heinous offenses: solicitation of sex during confession, homosexuality, pedophilia and bestiality.

Archbishop Wilson said he had stumbled across the old instructions as a canon law student in the early 1990s. And he eventually learned that canonists were deeply divided on whether the old instructions or the 1983 canon law — which were at odds on major points — should hold sway.

If the old instructions had prevailed, then there would be no cause for confusion among bishops across the globe: all sexual abuse cases would fall under Cardinal Ratzinger’s jurisdiction.

(The Vatican has recently insisted that Cardinal Ratzinger’s office was responsible only for cases related to priests who solicited sex in the confessional, but the 1922 instructions plainly gave his office jurisdiction over sexual abuse cases involving “youths of either sex” that did not involve violating the sacrament of confession.)

Few people in the room had any idea what Archbishop Wilson was talking about, other participants recalled. But Archbishop Wilson said he had discussed the old papal instructions with Cardinal Ratzinger’s office in the late 1990s and had been told that they indeed were the prevailing law in pedophilia cases.

Just over a year later, in May 2001, John Paul issued a confidential apostolic letter instructing that all cases of sexual abuse by priests were thenceforth to be handled by Cardinal Ratzinger’s office. The letter was called “Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela,” Latin for “Safeguarding the Sanctity of the Sacraments.”


A churchgoer in March received a pastoral letter to Irish Catholics written by Pope Benedict XVI. Credit Peter Muhly/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

In an accompanying cover letter, Cardinal Ratzinger, who is said to have been heavily involved in drafting the main document, wrote that the 1922 and 1962 instructions that gave his office authority over sexual abuse by priests cases were “in force until now.”

The upshot of that phrase, experts say, is that Catholic bishops around the world, who had been so confused for so long about what to do about molestation cases, could and should have simply directed them to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith all along.

Bishops and canon law experts said in interviews that they could only speculate as to why the future pope had not made this clear many years earlier.

“It makes no sense to me that they were sitting on this document,” said the Rev. John P. Beal, a canon law professor at the Catholic University of America. “Why didn’t they just say, ‘Here are the norms. If you need a copy we’ll send them to you?’ ”

Nicholas P. Cafardi, a Catholic expert in canon law who is dean emeritus and professor of law at Duquesne University School of Law, said, “When it came to handling child sexual abuse by priests, our legal system fell apart.”

There was additional confusion over the statute of limitations for sexual abuse cases — or whether there even was one, given the Vatican’s reaffirmation of the 1922 and 1962 papal instructions. Many bishops had believed that they could not prosecute cases against priests because they exceeded the five-year statute of limitations enacted in 1983, effectively shielding many molesters since victims of child abuse rarely came forward until they were well into adulthood.

Mr. Cafardi, who is also the author of “Before Dallas: The U.S. Bishops’ Response to Clergy Sexual Abuse of Children,” argued that another effect of the 2001 apostolic letter was to impose a 10-year statute of limitations on pedophilia cases where, under a careful reading of canon law, none had previously applied.

“When you think how much pain could’ve been prevented, if we only had a clear understanding of our own law,” he said. “It really is a terrible irony. This did not have to happen.”

Though the apostolic letter was praised for bringing clarity to the subject, it also reaffirmed a requirement that such cases be handled with the utmost confidentiality, under the “pontifical secret” — drawing criticism from many who argued that the church remained unwilling to report abusers to civil law enforcement.

Reforms, but Limited Reach

After the new procedures were adopted, Cardinal Ratzinger’s office became more responsive to requests to discipline priests, said bishops who sought help from his office. But when the sexual abuse scandal erupted again, in Boston in 2002, it immediately became clear to American bishops that the new procedures were inadequate.

Meeting in Dallas in the summer of 2002, the American bishops adopted a stronger set of canonical norms requiring bishops to report all criminal allegations to the secular authorities, and to permanently remove from ministry priests facing even one credible accusation of abuse. They also sought from the Vatican a streamlined way to discipline priests that would not require a drawn-out canonical trial.

The Vatican initially rejected the American bishops’ proposed norms. A committee of American bishops and Vatican officials, including Cardinal Ratzinger’s deputy, watered down the American mandatory-reporting requirement to say only that bishops must comply with civil laws on reporting crimes, which vary widely from place to place.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith reserved for itself the power to dismiss a man from the priesthood without a full canonical trial — the kind of administrative remedy that American bishops had long been begging the Vatican to delegate to them.

Even so, the American bishops got most of what they asked for, and Cardinal Ratzinger was their advocate, said Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory, then the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The Americans were allowed to keep their zero-tolerance provision for abusive priests, making the rules for the church in the United States far more stringent than in most of the rest of the world. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith also said it would waive the statute of limitations on a case-by-case basis if bishops asked.

Archbishop Gregory said he made 13 trips to Rome in three years, almost always meeting with Cardinal Ratzinger.

“He was extraordinarily supportive of what we were doing,” Archbishop Gregory said in an interview.

Other reforms enacted by American bishops included requiring background checks for church personnel working with children, improved screening of seminarians, training in recognizing abuse, annual compliance audits in each diocese and lay review boards to advise bishops on how to deal with abuse cases.

Those measures seem to be having an impact. Last year, according to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 513 people made allegations of sexual abuse against 346 priests or other church officials, roughly a third fewer cases than in 2008.

Yet the Vatican did not proactively apply those policies to other countries, and it is only now grappling with abuse problems elsewhere. Reports have surfaced of bishops in Chile, Brazil, India and Italy who quietly kept accused priests in ministry without informing local parishioners or prosecutors.

Benedict, now five years into his papacy, has yet to make clear if he intends to demand of bishops throughout the world — and of his own Curia — that all priests who committed abuse and bishops who abetted it must be punished.

As the crisis has mushroomed internationally this year, some cardinals in the Vatican have continued to blame the news media and label the criticism anti-Catholic persecution. Benedict himself has veered from defensiveness to contrition, saying in March that the faithful should not be intimidated by “the petty gossip of dominant opinion” — and then in May telling reporters that “the greatest persecution of the church does not come from the enemies outside, but is born from the sin in the church.”

The Vatican, moreover, has never made it mandatory for bishops around the world to report molesters to the civil authorities, or to alert parishes and communities where the abusive priests worked — information that often propels more victims to step forward. (Vatican officials caution that a reporting requirement could be dangerous in dictatorships and countries where the church is already subject to persecution.)

It was only in April that the Vatican posted “guidelines” on its Web site saying that church officials should comply with civil laws on reporting abuse. But those are recommendations, not requirements.

Today, a debate is roiling the Vatican, pitting those who see the American zero-tolerance norms as problematic because they lack due process for accused priests, against those who want to change canon law to make it easier to penalize and dismiss priests.

Where Benedict lies on this spectrum, even after nearly three decades of handling abuse cases, is still an open question.

German Catholics reject sex rules

German bishops tell Vatican: Catholics reject sex rules

Germany’s Catholic bishops, responding to a worldwide Vatican survey, saidroday that many Church teachings on sexual morality were either unknown to the faithful there or rejected as unrealistic and heartless.

They said the survey, drawn up for a synod on possible reforms in October, showed most German Catholics disputed Church bans on birth control and premarital or gay sex and criticised rules barring the divorced from remarriage in church.

The results will not be news to many Catholics, especially in affluent Western countries, but the blunt official admission of this wide gap between policy and practice is uncommon and bound to raise pressure on Pope Francis to introduce reforms.

Bishops in Germany, one of the richest and most influential national churches in the 1.2-billion-strong Catholic world, have been pressing the Vatican to reform, especially over divorce.

A statement from the German bishops conference called the results “a sober inventory of what German Catholics appreciate about Church teaching on marriage and the family and what they find offputting or unacceptable, either mostly or completely.”

Since his election last March, Pope Francis has hinted at possible reform on divorce and at a more welcoming approach to homosexuals. But he has stressed he does not want to change core Church teachings such as the ban on women priests.


The bishops’ report said many Germans still respect the Church’s ideal of stable marriages and a happy family life.

“The Church’s statements on premarital sexual relations, homosexuality, on those divorced and remarried, and on birth control, by contrast, are virtually never accepted, or are expressly rejected in the vast majority of cases,” it said.

“Almost all couples who wish to marry in church have already been living together,” it said. Less than three percent of Catholic couples, it said, use the rhythm method of birth control favoured by the Church rather than the pill, condom or other methods.

While almost all German Catholics approved artificial birth control, the “vast majority are against abortion”, it added.

There was a “marked tendency” among Catholics to accept legal recognition of same-sex unions as “a commandment of justice” and they felt the Church should bless them, the report said, although most did not want gay marriage to be legalised.

The report said many Germans cannot understand the rule that divorced Catholics cannot remarry in church and must be denied the sacraments if they opt for a civil ceremony.

Especially faithful churchgoers in this situation see this as “unjustified discrimination and … merciless,” it said.


Pope Francis has suggested the Church wants to show mercy towards divorced Catholics and might ease the rules, taking an example from the Orthodox churches that allow remarriage.

The report said divorced and remarried couples have “become a normal part of pastoral reality in Germany” but gave no figures. In the United States, an estimated 4.5 million of nearly 30 million married Catholics are divorced and remarried.

The German bishops suggested the Church should move away from what it called its “prohibition ethics” of rules against certain acts or views and stress “advisory ethics” meant to help Catholics live better lives.

In sexual morality, it should find a way of presenting its views that does not make people feel it is hostile to sex.

The report further said the Vatican should “take married couples and families seriously” and actively involve them in preparing the synod due to discuss possible reforms in October.  (source)

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“Humanae Vitae”–story of dissent and oppression within the Church

Fifty years ago [1968], Pope Paul VI issued an encyclical that shook the Catholic Church to its core by declaring that every use of artificial contraceptives is immoral. The document, “Humanae Vitae” (“Of Human Life”), was a shocker because many Catholics had hoped the pope, with the widening availability of the pill after its appearance in 1960, would open the way for Catholics to use the birth control pill.

The encyclical continues to be controversial, with the hierarchy, including Pope Francis, supporting it while most Catholics ignore it.

When the encyclical was published on July 25, 1968, the response from Catholic moral theologians was overwhelmingly negative. Although they liked many things in the encyclical, the universal prohibition against artificial contraception was not something they could support. They noted that almost all other Christian denominations approved of contraception and that the papally appointed commission to study the issue had recommended a more open position.

The opposition of theologians was not just behind closed doors. It was very public in scholarly articles, op-eds, news conferences and signed petitions. Both Catholic and secular media covered the dispute extensively. Disagreements in the Catholic Church over sex made good copy.

Nor were theologians the only ones to disagree. Some cardinals and bishops distanced themselves from the pope, pointing out that the document was not infallible teaching and that each person had to follow their conscience. The German bishops issued the “Declaration of Königstein” that left to individual conscience of lay people whether to use contraception or not.

And much of the laity worldwide did follow their own consciences. Polls have shown that the overwhelming majority of Catholics do not accept the hierarchy’s teaching that all use of artificial contraceptives is immoral. In 2016, the Pew Research Center found only 8 percent of American Catholics agree that using contraceptives is morally wrong. Catholic couples felt that they understood the situation better than celibate males.

It is uncertain how many Catholics left the church over this teaching, but it is clear that even more stayed, continued to go to Communion, and simply ignored it. This was a remarkable change for Catholics who had deferred to the clergy on moral and doctrinal teaching. It gave rise to the concept of “cafeteria Catholics,” Catholics who picked and chose which teachings they would accept.

Some in the hierarchy blamed dissenting theologians for leading the people astray. While it is true that the public debate eased the consciences of some Catholics, the vast majority of Catholic couples were making up their minds on their own. In fact, studies found that increasing numbers of Catholics were already using contraceptives in the 1950s.

Rather than shoring up the authority of the hierarchy with the laity, “Humanae Vitae” undermined it. In the laity’s mind, if the church could be so wrong on this issue, why should they trust the church in other areas?

“Humanae Vitae” was not just a dispute about sex. It quickly became a dispute over church authority.

Cardinal Karol Wojtyla of Krakow, Poland, was a member of the papal commission studying the question of birth control. The man who would become St. John Paul II missed the last meeting where a majority of the commission voted in favor of changing church teaching. As a result, his position on birth control was not well known. We now know that he supported the minority position and wrote directly to Paul VI supporting the retention of the church’s prohibition against artificial birth control.

If his opposition to birth control had been widely known, would he have been elected pope? Certainly, any cardinal who supported changing the church teaching and voted for him regretted it later.

John Paul understood that the debate over “Humanae Vitae” was as much about authority as sex. He was scandalized by the opposition of theologians and bishops to papal teaching. As a product of a persecuted church, he understood the importance of church unity. Once elected pope, he launched an inquisition against moral theologians who had spoken out against the encyclical. He was ably assisted in this effort by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, whom John Paul made head of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Ratzinger succeeded John Paul as Pope Benedict XVI.

Since most of the theologians at that time were priests or members of religious orders, John Paul was able to use their promise or vow of obedience to get them under control. They were removed from teaching positions in seminaries and universities, forbidden to write on sexual topics, and told to profess their acceptance of the encyclical. The training of priests was put into the hands of those who stressed papal authority and following rules rather than the reforms of Vatican II.

Likewise, “Humanae Vitae” became a litmus test for the appointment of bishops. Loyalty to papal authority became the most important quality looked for in a potential bishop, trumping pastoral skill and intelligence. Over the almost three decades that he was pope, John Paul remade the hierarchy into a body that had little creativity or imagination in implementing the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. Rather, they looked to Rome for leadership and stressed the importance of following rules.

Today, many in the hierarchy are claiming that “Humanae Vitae” was prophetic in its conviction that contraceptives led to the separation of sex from procreation and therefore to conjugal infidelity, disrespect for women, gender confusion, and gay marriage. But the controversy was never over the encyclical as a whole; rather, it was over its prohibition of every single use of artificial contraception.  To say that contraception caused all of these other problems is absurd, an insult to all the good people who have used contraceptives at some point in their lives.

How should the church deal with this problem? It is probably impossible for it to simply admit it was wrong. The church is not very good at that. What it could do is say that abortion is a far greater evil, and anyone who might be tempted to have an abortion should practice birth control. The church should also stop supporting laws forbidding the sale or public funding of contraceptives. These would be small steps in reversing a 50-year-old mistake.  (source)


The vexed history of Blessed Paul VI’s letter on life and love, published 50 years ago this week

In 1963, Father Andrew Greeley published an article citing studies that showed overwhelming support among American Catholics for the Church’s teaching that artificial birth control is always wrong.

“Catholics accept the Church’s teaching with a vengeance,” Father Greeley wrote, adding that on this subject some Catholics were “more Catholic than the Church.”

Five years later, in July 1968, Pope Paul VI published his encyclical “Humanae Vitae” (“Of Human Life”), which reaffirmed the teaching. It was greeted by a storm of theological and popular dissent.

Not long after, Father Greeley, a sociologist and novelist, declared the encyclical to be the source of many if not most ills in the Church. He didn’t explain what happened between 1963 and 1968 to account for the change.

Yet Catholic attitudes clearly did change. In 1973, demographers Charles Westoff and Larry Bumpass concluded that the use of contraceptives by American Catholic women shot up from 30 percent in 1955 to 68 percent in 1970.

As for here and now, a Pew Research Center study two years ago found that even among Catholics who attend Mass weekly, only 13 percent thought contraception was wrong.

Is that the end of the story? Hardly. While supporters of “Humanae Vitae” may now be comparatively few in number, the encyclical has the backing of a committed core of passionate defenders, including people who swear by Natural Family Planning and champion St. Pope John Paul II’s innovative Theology of the Body.

Since the time of Pope Paul VI, it has enjoyed the support of popes up to and including Pope Francis, who will canonize Pope Paul as a saint in October.

The cover of a 50th anniversary edition of “Humanae Vitae,” published by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE

A fresh look

Against the background of the gap between Church teaching and its rejection by many of Church members, the 50th anniversary of “Humanae Vitae” is an appropriate — some would say urgently necessary — time to take a fresh look at what went into building Catholic dissent.

To begin with, there is the obvious fact that the encyclical could hardly have appeared at a less auspicious time. In 1968, a cultural — and sexual — revolution was well underway in the United States and other countries, with a spirit of rebellion against whatever smacked of tradition or took a stand against self-indulgence spreading like wildfire.

Opposition also was mounting to the growing U.S. involvement in the war in Vietnam, and campus protests were erupting throughout the country. In April, Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated, with his killing sparking riots, burning and looting in several cities, including Washington, D.C.

Barely two months later, Robert F. Kennedy was gunned down in Los Angeles. President Lyndon Johnson, fearing public humiliation at the polls in November for his Vietnam policy, decided not to run for reelection. During the Democratic convention in Chicago, protesters clashed with police in the streets outside.

For years, too, powerful groups and institutions, including the Ford and Rockefeller foundations, had been promoting population control, with Catholics among those targeted by the message.

By 1968, breaking with previous policy, the government had started edging into the birth control business via Johnson’s Great Society program. Government involvement in population control at home and abroad would soon skyrocket under President Richard Nixon. Inevitably, all this had an effect on Catholics. So did events within the Church.

The Second Vatican Council had ended three years earlier, but the turmoil it unintentionally helped create was in full flood by 1968.

Highly publicized departures from the priesthood and religious life, a phenomenon that began during the council, were still taking place.

An ill-defined state of mind called “the Spirit of Vatican II” persuaded many people that old beliefs and old values should — and probably would — be tossed aside. The teaching against artificial birth control was an obvious target for that way of thinking.

The first oral contraceptive, Enovid, was approved by the FDA in 1960. WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Sowing the seeds

But the seeds of dissent had in fact been sown much earlier.

Up to 1930, a substantial consensus in opposition to artificial contraception existed among Christian churches.

But that year the Anglican bishops broke ranks at their Lambeth Conference, adopting a resolution giving guarded approval to the practice of artificial birth control by married couples in some circumstances. Other churches soon followed suit, and the consensus was no more.

Pope Pius XI stood firm. In his encyclical “Casti Connubii” (“On Christian Marriage”), dated Dec. 31, 1930, he issued a resounding defense of the Church’s traditional teaching. It concluded with these words:

“Any use whatsoever of matrimony exercised in such a way that the act is deliberately frustrated in its natural power to generate life is an offense against the law of God and of nature, and those who indulge in such are branded with the guilt of a grave sin.”

Pope Pius XII repeated the teaching. Speaking to a meeting of Italian midwives in October 1951, he recalled what Pope Pius XI had said, and declared: “This precept is in full force today as it was in the past, and so it will be in the future and always because it is not a simple human whim but the expression of a natural and divine law.”

As that suggests, the teaching wasn’t new. Essentially the same thing had been said for centuries by those with teaching authority in the Church whenever they addressed the question.

And although a scholar (and later a federal court judge) named John T. Noonan, in his influential 1965 book “Contraception,” argued in favor of change, even Noonan was obliged to admit that, as he wrote, “the teaching on contraception is clear and apparently fixed forever.”

In April 1963, shortly before his death, Pope John XXIII had established a Pontifical Commission on Population, Family, and Birth Rate whose specific purpose was to prepare for the Holy See’s participation in an upcoming conference sponsored by the United Nations and the World Health Organization.

No one knew it then, but this body was to play a central role in the drama of dissent leading up to “Humanae Vitae.”

Pope John died on June 3, 1963, and Cardinal Giovanni Montini of Milan was elected to succeed him. He took the name Paul VI.

Although he supported the teaching on birth control, the new pope apparently thought oral contraceptives — “the Pill” — might possibly be morally different from other forms of contraception. He therefore expanded the scope of the commission’s work while also enlarging its membership. Soon it became popularly known as the “birth control commission.”

A detailed account of its work was written several years ago by Dr. Germain Grisez, a prominent American Catholic ethicist and moral theologian who died last February. It can be found on his website, “The Way of the Lord Jesus” (

A philosophy professor at Georgetown University at the time of the events he records, Grisez in 1965 published his first book, “Contraception and the Natural Law,” in which he argued the case for the traditional teaching using a new theory of natural law based on human goods. (The argument, briefly, is that moral evil lies in freely willing and acting against fundamental goods of the human person, and contraception clearly does this in the case of the good of procreation.)

Grisez was enlisted by Father John C. Ford, SJ, an American moral theologian and commission member, and the two men worked closely together in the commission’s latter phases and later.

Although the commission president, starting in February 1966, was the conservative Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, its secretary general, Father Henri de Riedmatten, OP, a staff member of the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, tilted its work toward changing the teaching, according to Grisez.

In addition, he writes, Father Ford found a number of theologians on the commission to be “predisposed to change.” As the internal politicking continued, sentiment shifted in that direction.

That remained the case after Pope Paul reorganized the group to include only cardinals and bishops — 16 of them — as members, with the nonbishops designated experts.

Matters came to a head in a series of meetings in April, May and June of 1966.

The result was two documents — misleadingly labeled the “majority report” and the “minority report” — laying out various arguments and considerations, which were presented to the pope.

Pope Paul VI greets children as he visits the Church of St. Leo the Great in Rome March 31, 1968. CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE PHOTO/GIANCARLO GIULIANI, CATHOLIC PRESS PHOTO

Pressure on the pope

Not surprisingly, six months later, these and other commission documents were leaked to media and published in English and French — in the U.S., in the National Catholic Reporter. The move clearly seemed designed to put pressure on the pope.

The story got headline coverage around the world. But Pope Paul made it clear he wasn’t impressed, saying in an address in October 1966 that views generated within the birth control commission “cannot be considered definitive.”

Finally, on Monday, July 29, 1968, Pope Paul released “Humanae Vitae” for publication. It repeated the Church’s long-standing condemnation of all forms of artificial birth control. Each and every marital act, it said, “must of necessity retain its intrinsic relationship to the procreation of human life.”

The pope had finally spoken. But in a way it was already too late. Many Catholics had already made up their minds by then, and often they had decided in favor of birth control.

Many factors combined to produce this result. Pope Paul’s long delay was among them.

Presumably, he expected that Catholics would wait until the pope made up his mind and then obediently follow his lead.

But instead of that happening, the delay gave proponents of change time to mobilize support for their position, while feeding the impression that Pope Paul would go along with them in the end and sometimes suggesting that it hardly mattered whether he did or didn’t.

The media — increasingly including Catholic media — helped build this expectation of change. Even The Ladies Home Journal weighed in, with a 1966 article highly critical of “the rhythm method” that concluded with these words: “When there is this much widespread unhappiness, this much that is destructive of the very ideals of marriage the Church wants to preserve, something is wrong.”

The lay-edited Catholic journal Commonweal made the important point that the birth control debate was “a focal point for all manner of issues far more basic” than contraception.

According to the magazine, these included the nature of marriage, “the role and value of the Church’s teaching authority,” conscience, natural law and “the nature of morality.”

Some prominent theologians also became advocates of change. These included well-known figures like Father Bernard Haring, CSSR, author of a popular moral theology text, and the American moralist Father Richard McCormick, SJ.

Already, too, the Second Vatican Council had added fuel to the fire. That happened during the debate over “Gaudium et Spes,” the council’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, with the question being what, if anything, the council should say about birth control.

In the end, the Second Vatican Council settled for a footnote noting, at the insistence of Pope Paul, what Pope Pius XI had said about contraception back in 1930. But some still believe it would have been better if the bishops at Vatican II had been allowed to re-argue the question for themselves and settle it definitively there and then.

And so it went. By the time “Humanae Vitae” finally came out, the idea that the Church’s teaching would change was no longer a mere possibility, but for many people a virtual certainty. Disappointment and even anger were thus predictable early responses to the encyclical.

Most bishops’ conferences around the world declared their acceptance and assent. Most, but not all. Statements expressing some measure of disagreement — or at least nonacceptance — came from the hierarchies of France, the Netherlands, Canada, Germany, Austria and Scandinavia.

The bishops of the United States, meeting in November 1968, issued a long pastoral letter titled “Human Life in Our Day,” expressing strong support for what the pope had said, which they called an “obligatory statement.”

Pope Paul VI presides over a meeting of the Second Vatican Council in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican in 1963. CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE PHOTO/CATHOLIC PRESS PHOTO

A wider view

Apparently not content with talking about just one hot-button issue, however, the bishops also discussed the U.S. role in Vietnam, taking a skeptical view of what was going on there.

Stranger still, in speaking of birth control, the pastoral letter included a section of “Norms of Licit Theological Dissent” that identified what was allowable by “scholars” engaged in “professional theological work” who disagreed with “Humanae Vitae.”

In the real world, though, the dissent from the encyclical wasn’t occurring in cloistered academic settings where scholars expressed themselves with “prudence born of intellectual grace,” but in a world of news conferences, sound bites and headlines where dissent tended to be raucous and far from graceful.

That was the case, for example, with Father Charles Curran, at the time a theologian at the Catholic University of America, who called it “incredible that the pope should be thinking of such a statement.”

After the encyclical appeared, Father Curran, enjoying maximum media support, proceeded to carry on what one writer calls a “well-planned strategy” of opposition.

Especially notable, too, was the so-called “Washington case” involving public dissent by 51 priests of the Archdiocese of Washington (a number eventually reduced to 19, many of the original group having quit the priesthood by then).

When most of these men refused to back off, Cardinal Patrick O’Boyle of Washington withdrew their faculties to preach and hear confessions. The dispute eventually went to Rome, where in 1970 the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy found that Cardinal O’Boyle had acted correctly, but didn’t require the priests to withdraw their public dissent.

Meanwhile, dissent continued to spread — dissent not only from the teaching on birth control but, as had been predicted, from a lot else besides.

As a writer in Commonweal put it: “We see at work in the birth-control issue the celibacy debate, the germinal drive for divorce and remarriage, the frequency of intercommunion, and a number of more doctrines such as purgatory, hell, transubstantiation, Mary as coredemptrix, and so on.”

As noted, the teaching of “Humanae Vitae” has been endorsed by popes since Pope Paul, including Pope Francis. And Pope Francis will canonize Pope Paul in mid-October.

Some people nevertheless worry that Pope Francis might take the same approach to contraception that he took to communion for divorced and remarried Catholics in his document on marriage, “Amoris Laetitia” (“The Joy of Love”). That could mean declaring support for the teaching, while offering a “pastoral” solution for those who can’t — or anyway won’t — live by it.

A member of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Father Maurizio Chiodi, suggested something like that in a public lecture last December. He remains a member of the pontifical council.

But however that may be, judging by the poll numbers Catholic consciences are already in disarray on birth control. Admirers of “Humanae Vitae” hope nothing happens during its 50th anniversary year to make that situation worse — just as they hope the anniversary moves at least some of their dissenting coreligionists to take another look at its teaching.   (source)

Those who want to interact with this blog are invited to “Leave a Reply” below.  A solid way to begin doing this is to offer “readback lines.”  To do this, quickly glace back over the entire blog and pick out the one or two lines that have made a deep impression upon you.  Copy them [CTRL-C] and then paste them [CTRL-V] into an empty comment box below.  If you wish, signal the emotion that you feel when reading your readback lines.  The primary emotions are anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, surprise.   No need to further explain yourself.  It is enough to identify the text important to you and to name the emotion(s) that it evokes.  All of this normally takes less than a few minutes.

I and others will “thank you” for your contribution.  If you are tempted to say more, I urge you to hold back.  Your sense of safety and the safety of others is best protected by not getting overly wordy in the beginning.  This will come after a few days or weeks.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Leave a Reply~~~~~~~~

How marriage has changed over centuries

by The Week Staff
Ron Royals/Corbis  June 1, 2012

Since the ancient world, marriage has evolved from a preservation of power to a personal contract between two equals seeking love, stability, and happiness.

Has marriage always had the same definition?
Actually, the institution has been in a process of constant evolution. Pair-bonding began in the Stone Age as a way of organizing and controlling sexual conduct and providing a stable structure for child-rearing and the tasks of daily life. But that basic concept has taken many forms across different cultures and eras. “Whenever people talk about traditional marriage or traditional families, historians throw up their hands,” said Steven Mintz, a history professor at Columbia University. “We say, ‘When and where?'” The ancient Hebrews, for instance, engaged in polygamy — according to the Bible, King Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines — and men have taken multiple wives in cultures throughout the world, including China, Africa, and among American Mormons in the 19th century. Polygamy is still common across much of the Muslim world.

The idea of marriage as a sexually exclusive, romantic union between one man and one woman is a relatively recent development. Until two centuries ago, said Harvard historian Nancy Cott, “monogamous households were a tiny, tiny portion” of the world population, found in “just Western Europe and little settlements in North America.”

When did people start marrying?
The first recorded evidence of marriage contracts and ceremonies dates to 4,000 years ago, in Mesopotamia. In the ancient world, marriage served primarily as a means of preserving power, with kings and other members of the ruling class marrying off daughters to forge alliances, acquire land, and produce legitimate heirs. Even in the lower classes, women had little say over whom they married. The purpose of marriage was the production of heirs, as implied by the Latin word matrimonium, which is derived from mater (mother).

When did the church get involved?
In ancient Rome, marriage was a civil affair governed by imperial law. But when the empire collapsed, in the 5th century, church courts took over and elevated marriage to a holy union. As the church’s power grew through the Middle Ages, so did its influence over marriage. In 1215, marriage was declared one of the church’s seven sacraments, alongside rites like baptism and penance. But it was only in the 16th century that the church decreed that weddings [need to] be performed in public, by a priest, and before witnesses.

What role did love play?
For most of human history, almost none at all. Marriage was considered too serious a matter to be based on such a fragile emotion. “If love could grow out of it, that was wonderful,” said Stephanie Coontz, author of Marriage, a History. “But that was gravy.”

In fact, love and marriage were once widely regarded as incompatible with one another. A Roman politician was expelled from the Senate in the 2nd century B.C. for kissing his wife in public — behavior the essayist Plutarch condemned as “disgraceful.” In the 12th and 13th centuries, the European aristocracy viewed extramarital affairs as the highest form of romance, untainted by the gritty realities of daily life. And as late as the 18th century, the French philosopher Montesquieu wrote that any man who was in love with his wife was probably too dull to be loved by another woman.

In many societies, both ancient and modern, levirate marriage was practiced.   Among the Hebrews, a levirate marriage is literally a “marriage with a brother-in-law.” The word levirate, which has nothing to do with the tribe of Levi, comes from the Latin word levir, “a husband’s brother.” In ancient times, if a man died without a child, it was common for the man’s unmarried brother to marry the widow in order to provide an heir for the deceased. A widow would marry a brother-in-law, and the first son produced in that union was considered the legal descendant of her dead husband.

We see a couple of examples in the Bible of levirate marriage. The first is the story of Tamar and Onan in Genesis 38. Tamar had been married to Er, a son of Judah. Er died, leaving Tamar childless (Genesis 38:6–7). Judah’s solution was to follow the standard procedure of levirate marriage: he told Er’s brother Onan, “Sleep with your brother’s wife and fulfill your duty to her as a brother-in-law to raise up offspring for your brother” (verse 8). Onan was more than willing to sleep with Tamar, but, unfortunately, he had no desire to have a child with her: “Onan knew that the child would not be his; so whenever he slept with his brother’s wife, he spilled his semen on the ground to keep from providing offspring for his brother” (verse 9). In other words, Onan was taking selfish advantage of levirate marriage. He wanted sex with his sister-in-law, but he purposefully avoided impregnating her. God called Onan’s actions “wicked” and killed him (verse 10).  Onan was also aware that, if Tamar became pregnant, her child would claim a portion in the family inheritance.  Thus, the inheritance coming to Onan would be diluted.

Levirate marriage became part of the Law in Deuteronomy 25:5–6. There, the Israelites are commanded to care for women whose husbands died before they had children. An unmarried brother of the deceased man bore a responsibility to marry his sister-in-law: God called it “the duty of a brother-in-law” (Deuteronomy 25:5). God’s purpose for levirate marriage is stated: “The first son she bears shall carry on the name of the dead brother so that his name will not be blotted out from Israel” (verse 6). In ancient Israel the passing on of the family name and the inheritance within a tribe were vitally important (see Numbers 36:7 and 1 Kings 21:3).

Notice that levirate marriage was a match not born out of affection but out of duty.  Deut 25:7-10 illustrates this very well:

However, if a man does not want to marry his brother’s wife, she shall go to the elders at the town gate and say, “My husband’s brother refuses to carry on his brother’s name in Israel. He will not fulfill the duty of a brother-in-law to me.” Then the elders of his town shall summon him and talk to him. If he persists in saying, “I do not want to marry her,” his brother’s widow shall go up to him in the presence of the elders, take off one of his sandals, spit in his face and say, “This is what is done to the man who will not build up his brother’s family line.” 10 That man’s line shall be known in Israel as The Family of the Unsandaled.

The social pressure specified here was enormous.  The village elders, meanwhile, were intent upon providing for the widow from the resources of the family into which she married in the first place.  If that family failed to care for her out of obligation and if her parents were unwilling to allow her to return home, then the community had another charity case to attend to.

In India today, widows are often expelled from the family home and left to languish on the streets and alleyways.  This is done because the widow is held responsible (due to bad Karma) for the early death of her husband.  In older times, the widow threw herself on the burning funeral pyre thus eliminating any need to take care of her.  Today, along the shores of the Ganges River, communities of forsaken widows can be found.  The women here learn to chant sacred pujas and are given meager food and lodging in exchange for their prayers.  It is not a happy situation, to be sure.

Notice that levirate marriage allows for loveless unions and for polygamy.  Perhaps this explains why Jews have long ago abandoned levirate marriage,  and even the most devout Jews are not anxious for its return even though Deut 25:5 makes it clear that this is God’s will.  The existence of levirate marriage in Deut 25:5 also makes it clear that, when Gen 1-2 speaks of one-man-one-woman marriages, this does not mean that this precludes the mandating of one-man-two-women marriages in Deut 25:5.]

When did romance enter the picture?
In the 17th and 18th centuries, when Enlightenment thinkers pioneered the idea that life was about the pursuit of happiness. They advocated marrying for love rather than wealth or status. This trend was augmented by the Industrial Revolution and the growth of the middle class in the 19th century, which enabled young men to select a spouse and pay for a wedding, regardless of parental approval. As people took more control of their love lives, they began to demand the right to end unhappy unions. Divorce became much more commonplace.

Did marriage change in the 20th century?
Dramatically. For thousands of years, law and custom enforced the subordination of wives to husbands. But as the women’s-rights movement gained strength in the late 19th and 20th centuries, wives slowly began to insist on being regarded as their husbands’ equals, rather than their property. “By 1970,” said Marilyn Yalom, author of A History of the Wife, “marriage law had become gender-neutral in Western democracy.” At the same time, the rise of effective contraception fundamentally transformed marriage: Couples could choose how many children to have, and even to have no children at all. If they were unhappy with each other, they could divorce — and nearly half of all couples did. Marriage had become primarily a personal contract between two equals seeking love, stability, and happiness. This new definition opened the door to gays and lesbians claiming a right to be married, too. “We now fit under the Western philosophy of marriage,” said E.J. Graff, a lesbian and the author of What Is Marriage For?

Those who want to interact with this blog are invited to “Leave a Reply” below.  A solid way to begin doing this is to offer “readback lines.”  To do this, quickly glace back over the entire blog and pick out the one or two lines that have made a deep impression upon you.  Copy them [CTRL-C] and then paste them [CTRL-V] into an empty comment box below.  If you wish, signal the emotion that you feel when reading your readback lines.  The primary emotions are anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, surprise.   No need to further explain yourself.  It is enough to identify the text important to you and to name the emotion(s) that it evokes.  All of this normally takes less than a few minutes.

I and others will “thank you” for your contribution.  If you are tempted to say more, I urge you to hold back.  Your sense of safety and the safety of others is best protected by not getting overly wordy in the beginning.  This will come after a few days or weeks.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Leave a Reply~~~~~~~~

Guidelines for Contributors

All voices are welcome here.   Everyone has something to teach; everyone has something to learn.  In submitting your posts, however, please remember that safety is initially more important than truth-telling. Without safety, there can be no deep listening and no collaborative searching. And, without these qualities, no truth can be discovered, shared, and celebrated.  Here are my three favorite guidelines.

Our #1 guideline is simple: Speak from your heart about things that are important to you.  Begin with sharing read-back lines and emotion(s).  Then tell about your experiences and your personal story.  Finally, weigh in with your smart, informed ideas.

As Michael Polanyi says, “The most important things cannot be said.”  Personal stories, however, cut through the fog created by the fact that my words make perfect sense to me because my experiences fill in the gaps.  When you hear my words, however, your experiences fill in the gaps and misunderstandings naturally arise.

Our #2 guideline follows upon this: Help others to find the truth and the flaws in their thinking/acting, but do so in such a way that you don’t silence their voices or create fear in those who might want to support them.

Our #3: Make use of biblical texts without appearing to be definitive and authoritative.  Every line in the bible has a cultural and historical backdrop far removed from our own. Key texts have also gone through a long history of usage in the life of the church, and, even today, the meaning of texts changes as they are being interpreted by persons situated in new contexts.  Consider ending your post by writing: “Have I missed something here?”

Thus it is better not to pontificate, as Jerry did, when she posted: “Any intelligent person can see that when Jesus said, ‘this is not mine to grant’ (Matt 20:23), he said this because (a) he was totally unaware that he was the Messiah and (b) he was waiting for God to assign places in the world to come.”

Jerry later modified her post as follows: “Matt 20:23 appears [to me] to be saying that Jesus (at this point in time) was unaware that he would be the Messiah (who would appoint who would sit on his right and left) and that he was waiting for God to assign places in the world to come.  Have I missed something here?”

Her final five words welcomed transparency and dialogue.  Brava!

Share below read-back lines or guidelines you want to propose.

If you vigorously disagree with me

If you vigorously disagree with anything written in my blogs, do not be surprised .  Each of us is naturally rooted in our own history of experiences with LGBTQ believer.  Take comfort that there are millions of others who are locked into a “total war against the homosexual minority” [302,000 Google hits].  But a sustained war can be debilitating, and there is a sane wisdom in the admonition of Jesus to “love your enemies.”  So, while you are thinking of the kind of refutation that you’d like to prepare, give a thought also to the kinds of experiences that you might want to gain for yourself by visiting a support group and finding out first-hand what gays and lesbians really think about themselves and what kind of support they need.

Pope Francis wrote in Evangelii Gaudium: “Whenever we encounter another person in love, we learn something new about God” (§272). The pope further reminds us that “A Church which goes forth is a Church whose doors are open. Going out to others in order to reach the fringes of humanity does not mean rushing out aimlessly into the world. Often it is better simply to slow down, to put aside our eagerness in order to see and listen to others.” (§46).  This is ideally the best attitude to bring to a support group that you are visiting.

Preparing yourself for visiting a support group

Consider doing an online search using the search phrases “lesbian support group” or “gay support group” or “teen support group.”  Pick out a “group” that fits into your comfort zone.

When I did my online search using Google, I adding the word “*Cincinnati” so as to insure that my initial hits were local.  I received 728 hits for lesbian groups and 6200 hits for gay support groups in Cincinnati.

I chose to introduce myself as “a straight interested in better understanding the lives of gays and lesbians.”  You might want to do something like this for yourself so as to avoid setting up false pretenses.

After your second meeting, I invite you to write a reflection on your experience and send it to me at with the words “second encounter” in the subject line.  I will be glad to hear from you, to learn from your experiences, and to give you a reply.  Alternately,  I invite anyone who visits a support group to post below their experiences.

Bring a friend to the first meeting, if the thought of being the sole interloper makes you uneasy.  My hunch is that you will be amazed.  I myself received a warm welcome, and I didn’t have to pretend that I had any homosexual leanings to earn that welcome.

If you want to find someone who lives close to you to join up with you and go to a support group, type your first name, age, sex, and zip code [e.g., Aaron 80 m 45211] as the header to your post.  In the body of the post, briefly describe what support group you’d like to visit, where it is located, and why this particular group seems most appealing to you.

For parents and guardians

If you are a parent and are very much troubled by the experience of Gloria and Tony that I narrated earlier, then you most definitely will want to find yourself a “Parent Support Group” such as the one advertised above.

For those parents and guardians who are in conflict with a youth who has what you identify as a “dangerous” or “immoral” life style, please know that God wants to return you and your beloved child to a place of peace and love.

Remember that priests and pastors are sometimes very poorly equipped to be of help in this matter.  I myself have spent 25 years training future priests, and I  know firsthand that some seminaries are very ill-at-ease when discussing homosexuality.  Confide in your priest or pastor if you must, but don’t make the mistake of implementing any of the advice you receive before having tested it out within your Parent Support Group first.  Your child is too precious to risk doing unintentional harm to him/her by making repeated mistakes.  In the end, you will find little consolation in the fact that the pope is infallible if you get trapped into being excessively rigid or excessively lax when it comes time for loving your child with the same unconditional love that you have received from your heavenly Father.  God is love, and God loves your child no matter what sexual orientation they have received from their Father in Heaven.


When spiritual forces suffocate our children

Matthew Vines identifies a hidden menace that exists within communities that preach “submission to God” as the necessary condition for the salvation of lesbians. For myself, it was in reading Hillary McFarland’s book, Quivering Daughters (2010), that I realized just exactly what this menace is. McFarland summarizes her thesis in just a few lines:

For many wives and daughters, the Christian home [and the Christian church] is not always a safe place. And through spiritual and emotional abuse, women who [subordinate themselves to their husbands in all things and] become “the least of these” . . . experience deep wounds that only God can heal. But if living “God’s way” caused this pain [for women], why should they trust Him [Her] to heal it?

These words could apply just as well to the “anti-gay gospel” preached within the church in which Matthew Vines was raised. If he had submitted meekly to this “gospel,” then his resistance would have been broken, and he would have completely submitted (“Not my will, but thine be done.”). And while this “anti-gay gospel” promises him eternal life in the world to come, his whole existence in this world would be menaced by the incessant fear of God and the reoccurring realization that being gay condemns him to a life devoid of an intimate partner who holds him when he is afraid, who heals him when he is wounded, and who goes with him wherever God might lead.

This is why the personal spiritual journey of Matthew Vines is of critical importance. After his father approved of his six-page summation of his biblical research, Vines took his discoveries and presented them to the elders in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in his home town. He met privately with many of the church members as well. And here is what he discovered:

Despite my best efforts and the support of my family and some of our friends, our broader church community proved unreceptive to my message. Months of grueling, emotionally draining conversations with church leaders and members produced next to nothing in terms of progress. So eventually I left, dejected and depressed, but also determined to make change. Several months later, I found a church in town that was brave enough to offer me a public platform to speak about the issue. . . .

Notice here that Vines didn’t think that he should stay in the hope of slowly wearing down their resistance. Nor was he tempted to just give in, to acknowledge the superior insights accumulated in his church tradition, and to get on with the task of trying to make peace with the realization that sexual intimacy would never have any sanctioned place in his life.

Matthew Vines’ entire family deciding to leave their church as well. They didn’t do this in anger or in frustration. They did it because they wanted to express, first and foremost, their solidarity with their son or with their brother. They also did this, I would conjecture, because they were increasingly suspicious, thanks to the insights of their son, that there might be something drastically mistaken in the traditional Bible interpretations and that the “anti-gay gospel” was indeed destructive The psychological and spiritual harm that falls upon children.

Matthew Vines identifies a hidden menace that exists within communities that preach “submission to God” as the necessary condition for the salvation of lesbians. For myself, it was in reading Hillary McFarland’s book, Quivering Daughters (2010), that I realized just exactly what this menace is. McFarland summarizes her thesis in just a few lines:

For many wives and daughters, the Christian home [and the Christian church] is not always a safe place. And through spiritual and emotional abuse, women who [subordinate themselves to their husbands in all things and] become “the least of these” . . . experience deep wounds that only God can heal. But if living “God’s way” caused this pain [for women], why should they trust Him to heal it?

Matthew Vines at risk of a spiritual death

These words could apply just as well to the “anti-gay gospel” preached within the church in which Matthew Vines was raised. If he had submitted meekly to this “gospel,” then his resistance would have been broken, and he would have completely submitted (“Not my will, but thine be done.”).  And while this “anti-gay gospel” promises him eternal life in the world to come, his whole existence in this world would be menaced by the incessant fear of God and the reoccurring realization that being gay condemns him to a life devoid of an intimate partner who holds him when he is afraid, who heals him when he is wounded, and who goes with him wherever God might lead .

This is why the personal spiritual journey of Matthew Vines is of critical importance. After his father approved of his six-page summation of his biblical research, Vines took his discoveries and presented them to the elders in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in his home town. He met privately with many of the church members as well. And here is what he discovered:

Despite my best efforts and the support of my family and some of our friends, our broader church community proved unreceptive to my message. Months of grueling, emotionally draining conversations with church leaders and members produced next to nothing in terms of progress. So eventually I left, dejected and depressed, but also determined to make change. Several months later, I found a church in town that was brave enough to offer me a public platform to speak about the issue. . . .

Notice here that Vines didn’t think that he should stay in the hope of slowly wearing down their resistance. Nor was he tempted to just give in, to acknowledge the superior insights accumulated in his church tradition, and to get on with the task of trying to make peace with the realization that sexual intimacy would never have any sanctioned place in his life.

Matthew Vines’ entire family deciding to leave their church as well. They didn’t do this in anger or in frustration. They did it because they wanted to express, first and foremost, their solidarity with their son or with their brother. They also did this, I would conjecture, because they were increasingly suspicious, thanks to the insights of their son, that there might be something drastically mistaken in the traditional Bible interpretations and that the “anti-gay gospel” was indeed destructive to the spiritual and psychological well-being of Matthew. By extension, they might have conjectured that if the “anti-gay gospel” is poisonous to their son, it would follow, as the night follows the day, that this “gospel” would be toxic to other youths wrestling with their sexual orientation as well. Here is how Vines masterfully expresses this in his own words:

Could it be true? Could it really be that this holiest of books, which contains some of the most beautiful writings and inspiring stories known to mankind, along with the unparalleled teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, also happens to require the emotional and spiritual destruction of sexual minorities? For any of us who learned to love the Jesus who called the little children to him, whose highest law was that of love, and who was a fierce defender of the downtrodden and the outcast, this simply did not seem possible.
Thus, the suspicion was that the teachings of Jesus invalidate the “anti-gay gospel” and that, in the case of homosexuality, false teaching has distorted the biblical texts such that “Scripture is used to manipulate. God is used as a weapon.”

Personal story of a straight-A Catholic college student

One late night at the end of her sophomore year of college, Jackie sat in her parked car and made a phone call that would forever change the course of her life. An attractive sorority girl with almond eyes and delicate dimples, she was the product of a charmed Boise, Idaho, upbringing: a father who worked in finance, a private­ school education, a pool in the backyard, all the advantages that an upper-middle-class suburban childhood can provide – along with all the expectations attendant to that privilege.

There was a standard to meet,” Jackie says. “And I had met that standard my whole life. I was a straight-A student, the president of every club, I was in every sport. I remember my first day of college, my parents came with me to register for classes, and they sat down with my adviser and said, ‘So, what’s the best way to get her into law school?’”

Jackie just followed her parents’ lead understanding implicitly that discipline and structure went hand in hand with her family’s devout Catholic beliefs. She attended Mass three times a week, volunteered as an altar server and was the fourth generation of her family to attend her Catholic school; her grandfather had helped tile the cathedral.

“My junior year of high school, my parents thought it was weird that I’d never had a boyfriend,” she says, “so I knew I was supposed to get one. And I did. It was all just a rational thought process. None of it was emotionally involved.”

After graduating, Jackie attended nearby University of Idaho, where she rushed a sorority at her parents’ prompting. She chose a triple major of which they approved. “I remember walking out of the sorority house to go to Walmart or something, and I stopped at the door and thought to myself, ‘Should I tell someone I’m leaving?’” she says. “It was the first time in my life where I could just go somewhere and be my own person.”

In fact, it took the freedom of college for Jackie to even realize who her “own person” was. “Growing up, I knew that I felt different, but when you grow up Catholic, you don’t really know gay is an option,” she says. “I grew up in a household that said ‘fag’ a lot. We called people ‘fags,’ or things were ‘faggy.’” Her only sex-ed class was taught by a priest, and all she remembers him saying is, “‘Don’t masturbate and don’t be gay.’ I didn’t know what those words meant, so I just hoped to God that I wasn’t doing either of them.”

When Jackie got to college, the “typical gay sorority encounters” she found herself having didn’t seem to qualify as anything more than youthful exploration; she thought all girls drunkenly made out with their best friends. By her sophomore year, she was dating a fraternity brother but was also increasingly turned on by a friend she worked with at the campus women’s center. “I was just playing it off as ‘So maybe I’m just gay for you – I mean, I don’t have to tell my boyfriend’ this kind of thing,” she says. “I knew what I wanted, but it was never something I ever envisioned that I could have on a public level.” And yet, as her friendship with this woman turned physical and their relationship grew more serious, Jackie saw her future shrinking before her: a heterosexual marriage, children, church and the knowledge that all of it was based on a lie.

“I honestly thought my whole life I was just going to be an undercover gay,” she says, shaking her head in disbelief.

For better or worse, that plan was never to be. Toward the end of her sophomore year, Jackie got a text message from one of her sorority sisters who said she’d been seen kissing another girl, after which certain sisters started making it clear that they were not comfortable around Jackie. (“You’re living in the same house together,” she says, “and, of course, to close-minded people, if somebody’s gay, that means you’re automatically interested in all 80 of them.”) Eventually, she went before her chapter’s executive board and became the first sorority girl at her college to ever come out, at which point she realized that if she didn’t tell her parents, someone else would. “I was convinced somebody was going to blast it on Facebook.”

So while Jackie hoped for the best, she knew the call she was making had the potential to not end well. “You can’t hate me after I say this,” she pleaded when, alarmed to be receiving a call in the middle of the night, her mom picked up the phone.

“Oh, my God, you’re pregnant” was her mom’s first response, before running through a litany of parental fears. “Are you in jail? Did you get expelled? Are you in trouble? What happened? What did you do?” Suddenly her mom’s silence matched Jackie’s own. “Oh, my God,” she murmured in disbelief. “Are you gay?”

“Yeah,” Jackie forced herself to say.

After what felt like an eternity, her mom finally responded. “I don’t know what we could have done for God to have given us a fag as a child,” she said before hanging up.

As soon as the line went dead, Jackie began sobbing. Still, she convinced herself that her parents would come around and accept her, despite what they perceived to be her flaw. As planned, she drove to Canada to celebrate her birthday with friends. When her debit card didn’t work on the second day of the trip, she figured it was because she was in another country.

Once back in the States, however, she got a call from her older brother. “He said, ‘Mom and Dad don’t want to talk to you, but I’m supposed to tell you what’s going to happen,’” Jackie recalls. “And he’s like, ‘All your [credit] cards are going to be shut off, and Mom and Dad want you to take the car and drop it off at this specific location. Your phone’s going to last for this much longer. They don’t want you coming to the house, and you’re not to contact them. You’re not going to get any money from them. Nothing. And if you don’t return the car, they’re going to report it stolen.’ And I’m just bawling. I hung up on him because I couldn’t handle it.”

From that moment, Jackie knew that she was entirely on her own, that she had no home, no money and no family – and that this was the terrible price she’d pay for being a lesbian.[i]

A woefully tragic story that ends well

Woe to those Catholic households where, despite the best-laid plans for coordinated indoctrination, a child confesses having “homosexual inclinations.”  A mother known to me, let us call her Gloria, had a son of seventeen who confessed to such inclinations.  Upon hearing this, Gloria passed through many stages of grief.

First, angry denials: “No child of mine could possibly be gay!”  And threats: “Remember your teaching, son.  Sexual sins are always mortal.  Repent and confess them to a priest or, God forbid, you will go straight to hell.”

Second, there comes bargaining with God: “God, how could you have permitted this?  I have been a faithful believer and have supported your true Church all my life.  What must I do to get this unwanted sickness in my child’s life reversed?”

Thirdly, some months down the line after Gloria’s ceaseless prayers and novenas did not get the miracle she wanted, self-doubt emerges: “Where did I go wrong?  Or my husband?  Or his teachers?”

Then, her son leaves home and travels over a thousand miles away: “For the first time, I can breathe freely without my mother continually hounding me and prying into every aspect of my private life.”

With her son’s absence, Gloria becomes emotionally fragile.  She breaks down in tears multiple times every day and, invariably, whenever anyone asks about her son.  She seeks therapy.

Then she unexpectedly finds great solace in a support group of parents of homosexual children.  For the first time, she hears from parents who have arrived at the point where they accept the sexual orientation of their children.  She is horrified initially, but then she comes to realize that this acceptance enables parents to return to a supportive relationship with their children after a horrible period filled with harsh judgments and heart-breaking estrangement.

As a result of this realization, Gloria begins to avoid her parish priest entirely because she no longer wants to hear “any judgments he might have regarding the conduct of her son.”[i]  Gloria gradually stops going to her parish church entirely because she cannot tolerate the “self-righteous pity” expressed by certain “busy-bodies who are praying for Tony’s (not his real name) conversion and return to the Church.”

Tony writes a letter of a few pages each month.  At the end of three years, he writes a long letter describing how he met Joe, “a courageous and sensitive young man,” and how, over the course of time, they gradually became great friends.  Then Tony describes how they gradually became lovers and how they finally “pledged their undying love to each other.”  Then, for the first time in years, Tony acknowledges that he sorely misses his mother and, “if and only if she would agree to accept him as gay and to bless the love he has for Joe” then both of them would want to explore how they might visit for a few days right after Christmas.

Gloria is ecstatic!

At this point, Gloria tells me that she is ready to accept her son “just as God created him, no more and no less.”  This readiness came from her association with members of her parents support group.  As she became more and more at ease with their positive assessment of homosexuality, she at the same time became resentful of how the teachings of the Catholic Church had pitted her against her own son.

“Even before his leaving,” she said, “I should have been blessing him every day and assuring him that I will be there for him in whatever path God calls him—whether as a gay or as a straight.”  To this very day, she cannot understand how “bishops and priests teach us that loving our Creator and loving our neighbor are the heart of Jesus’ message and then, twisting this beautiful message, they go and teach my son that his deepest desires for intimacy are ‘disordered’ and that love-making between same-sex partners is always[ii] a mortal sin.”  In fact, she tells those who sympathetically hear her whole story that “those parents [in her support group] who seldom went to church taught me more about the depth of God’s love than all those Catholics who went to church every Sunday and firmly believed that Tony was destined for an eternity in hellfire.”


[i] At this point, Gloria completely distanced herself from the teaching of the Catholic Church regarding homosexuals.  In fact, she deeply resents the fact that her parish priest had set her against her son’s homosexuality and against any same-sex union that he might try to make for himself.

[ii] While some moral theologians sometimes say that sins against the sixth and ninth commandments deal with “serious matter” and, accordingly, infractions result in a mortal sin.  Even in classical moral theology, however, the conditions for committing a mortal sin always require, subjectively, that the person “recognizes the seriousness of the matter and then goes ahead and does it anyway.”  In the case of homosexual acts, however, even Cardinal Ratzinger acknowledges that those naturally inclined to such sex acts are less culpable than those heterosexuals who do the same thing while being emotionally repulsed by the act.

Furthermore, when two women use sex to express and celebrate their mutual love, they frequently do not see this as sinful at all.  In fact, they often engage in sex because they judge what they are doing as “love-making” and experience their mutual sex as a “source of grace.”  Cardinal Ratzinger would intervene here saying that, due to the fact that the procreative aspect of sexuality is missing, there must always be a degree of moral guilt.  Such a judgment, however, would follow from Ratzinger’s essentialist thinking and his attempt to define a universal rule used to evaluate heterosexual acts.  Furthermore, even in the case of a venial sin, one must judge the action as a minor deviation from what God expects.  Something which is regarded as a “virtuous deed” cannot subjectively be “a sin” at all.  Here again Ratzinger’s disordered thoughts on homosexuality bring him to conclusions which conflict with classical moral theology.

Those who want to interact with this blog are invited to “Leave a Reply” below.  A solid way to begin doing this is to offer “readback lines.”  To do this, quickly glace back over the entire blog and pick out the one or two lines that have made a deep impression upon you.  Copy them [CTRL-C] and then paste them [CTRL-V] into an empty comment box below.  If you wish, signal the emotion that you feel when reading your readback lines.  The primary emotions are anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, surprise.   No need to further explain yourself.  It is enough to identify the text important to you and to name the emotion(s) that it evokes.  All of this normally takes less than a few minutes.

I and others will “thank you” for your contribution.  If you are tempted to say more, I urge you to hold back.  Your sense of safety and the safety of others is best protected by not getting overly wordy in the beginning.  This will come after a few days or weeks.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Related Videos and Leave a Reply~~~~~~~~

Related Videos:

  • Mary McAleese, Irish Catholic Mother who Goes Up against the Church to protect her gay son, 24-minute video, go to
  • Stephen Fry, a British actor, who happens to be gay, offers this critique as part of the public debate in 2009 on the topic: Whether the Catholic Church is a force for good in the world,’ 20-minute video, go to[ii]
  • What Would You Do?: Son comes out to Mormon family, 7-minute video,
  • Phil reacts to a father devastated when he found out that his son Zach wants to transition to biologically become a woman, 5-minute video,

~~~~~~~~~Please remember, if you are an LGBT teen in need of help, the National Runaway Switchboard at 1-800-RUNAWAY can help you.

[i] The story continues at

[ii] Interested persons can find a shorter version and commentary here:


The coming out experience

For lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender people, realizing their sexual orientation or gender identity and sharing that information with family and friends is often a gradual process that can unfold over a series of years. This section looks at the process of coming out—when and how it happens, how difficult it is, and what impact it has on relationships.

The vast majority of LGBT respondents (86%) say they have told one or more close friends about their sexual orientation or gender identity. And some 54% say all or most of the important people in their life know that they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

There are large differences here across LGB groups. Lesbians and gay men are more likely than bisexuals to have told at least one close friend about their sexual orientation (96% of gay men and 94% of lesbians, compared with 79% of bisexuals). And they are much more likely to say that most of the people who are important to them know about this aspect of their life: 77% of gay men and 71% of lesbians say all or most people know, compared with 28% of bisexuals.

This section also explores the interactions LGBT adults have outside of their circles of family and close friends—in their communities and workplaces. Some seek out neighborhoods that are predominantly LGBT, but most do not. A majority of employed LGBT adults say their workplaces are accepting of people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Still, about half say only a few or none of their co-workers know about their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Ultimately, these journeys are personal and hard to quantify. Survey respondents were invited to elaborate on their experiences, and many of their stories are captured in an interactive feature on the Pew Research Center website.

Click here to view this important topic on the Pew Research Center site.

Those who want to interact with this blog are invited to “Leave a Reply” below.  A solid way to begin doing this is to offer “readback lines.”  To do this, quickly glace back over the entire blog and pick out the one or two lines that have made a deep impression upon you.  Copy them [CTRL-C] and then paste them [CTRL-V] into an empty comment box below.  If you wish, signal the emotion that you feel when reading your readback lines.  The primary emotions are anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, surprise.   No need to further explain yourself.  It is enough to identify the text important to you and to name the emotion(s) that it evokes.  All of this normally takes less than a few minutes.

I and others will “thank you” for your contribution.  If you are tempted to say more, I urge you to hold back.  Your sense of safety and the safety of others is best protected by not getting overly wordy in the beginning.  This will come after a few days or weeks.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Leave a Reply~~~~~~~~

No one can escape one’s experiential base

David was 7 years old and hoping to become a farmer like his dad.  Lisa was 12 and hoping to become a teacher like her mom.  A few years back, I was giving David and Lisa a tour of my garden.  Then, I lifted up a rock and, underneath, five pill bugs[i] came to life and began to flee.  I picked up one and placed it in the palm of my hand, and I showed them how the bug immediately curled up into a perfect little sphere.  “That’s why it’s called a pill bug.”

David came closer and attentively watched as the pill bug gradually felt safe enough to abandon its pill-shape [left side of pic] and to turn into a scaled bug crawling over my hand.  When this unexpected transformation took place, David was fascinated and came closer while Lisa backed away in fright.

I took the pill bug and placed it gently in David’s hand.  It immediately rolled itself into its pill-shaped defense.  Then David watched it attentively until it came out of hiding and began to crawl forward on his open hand.  He touched it briefly, and again the bug rolled itself into a “pill.”

I asked Lisa if she wanted to try this for herself.  “No way,” was her reply.  “I don’t want to be bitten by a nasty bug.”

Lessons learned from the pill bugs

I’m telling you this story to illustrate how, in the face of the pill bug, David and Lisa have massively different reactions.   Neither David nor Lisa had ever experienced pill bugs before.  David was attracted by the bugs and interested in their activity.  Lisa was repulsed by the bugs and drew back because she was afraid of being bitten.  She wanted to keep as far away from the bug as possible.  In her experience of bugs, they were almost always nasty and prone to bite her.  She wanted nothing to do with pill bugs.

For the purposes of our discussion here, let’s assume that the entire population can be divided into three subsets:

  1. DRs = those with David-like responses;
  2. LRs = those with Lisa-like responses;
  3. BiRs = those with a mixture of mild fascination and mild repulsion.

Imagine for a moment that you, the reader, have the opportunity to visit my garden in Cincinnati, Ohio, and that I, as part of your garden tour, would pick up a pill bug and set it in the palm of my hand. . . .  Just imagining this usually has the effect of letting you instinctively feel and know in advance whether you would be among the DRs who came forward to explore the pill bugs because they were experiencing a spontaneous fascination.  Likewise, my picture and story might be enough to persuade you that you were among the LRs who instinctively pulled back because they were experiencing an undeniable disgust.   Alternatively, perhaps you could say in advance that you would expect to find yourself among the small number of persons who are BiRs.

Now I want to invite you to do some speculation

Consider what it would take to convert a DR to a LR?  I imagine that this sort of conversion would be rare but not entirely impossible.  Once a positive attraction is rewarded and reinforced through repeated positive experiences, it is difficult to revert back to a frightened repulsion of pill bugs.  Only something very traumatic could wipe out the historical sequence of positive experiences.  I could imagine, for example, that a DR could read a medical report that proves that pill bugs are the carriers of a deadly disease.  Fear of contacting this disease would be sufficiently traumatic to cause a DR to pull back when spotting a pill bug.

Now, consider what it would take to convert a LR to a DR?  I imagine that this sort of conversion would be rare but moderately possible.  One would have to gain the trust of the LR and to gradually expose him/her to acknowledge some positive aspects of pill bugs.  Along the way, the LR would have to discover, vicariously, that the pill bug did not sting or bite.  Then, under the guidance of a trusted mentor, to cautiously come forward and to allow pill bugs to rest and foam on one’s hand.  Thus, with slow and gradual steps, the spontaneous negative repulsion could be gradually recognized for what it truly is, namely, as a fear and flight response based upon the irrational prejudice that the pill bug had a nasty bite.

I refer to the LR fear and flight response as based upon an irrational prejudice.  The pill bug does not, in fact, have a nasty bite.  Lisa’s repulsion was based upon her projection of a character trait that was never actually experienced.  Lisa’s fear of the unknown cannot compete with David’s delight in what is known.  David’s appreciation of pill bugs is not based upon an irrational projection.  It is based upon first-hand positive experiences.  In an open society where free and open judgments are arrived at freely, one could expect that the conversion rate to the DR position would, over a period of time, slowly overcome the conversion rate to the LR position.

Applying the pill bug experience with the homophobic experience

This is exactly what is happening in our society when it comes to responses to gays and lesbians.  At any given time, only a small portion (5 to 8 %) of men and women experience a same-sex attraction.  The majority of the population, meanwhile, is heterosexual and instinctively feels bewildered, perplexed, and repulsed by those who claim to have this attraction.  This homophobic reaction is an  instinctive response that operates very much like the LR.  As a result, LRs pull back in horror and are prone to amplify their fear and flight response.  When feeling attacked, LRs use their negative emotional energies to manufacture irrational projections.

Here is an example from a Christian website of how negative emotional energies are being creatively used to manufacture irrational projections.

As witnessed in the Bible in Genesis 19:1-11 [the story of why God decided to destroy Sodom], homosexuals are predatory, continually on the search for their next sexual experience. Homosexuals are characterized by morbid, unhealthy, sexual desire (which the Bible calls lasciviousness). Homosexuals are prone to multiple sex partners, because homosexuality is rooted in sex-addiction. I heard a homosexual say that “sex is sex, whether male or female.” May I say [in response], sex with the same sex is a horrible sin, and a form of mental illness[ii] caused by spiritual rebellion against God and His holy Word.

The author defines all homosexuals as “predatory,” as “characterized by morbid, unhealthy sexual desire,” and as “rooted in sex-addiction.”  These characteristics would better apply to pediphiliacs or nymphomaniacs.  The latter might indeed say, “sex is sex, whether male or female.” Only in the last line does the author touch on homosexuality as such and here is labeled as “a horrible sin” and a “mental illness”[ii] caused by “spiritual rebellion against God.”  So this brings up back to Gen 19:1-11 where the men in town (seemingly all homosexuals) rape the virgin daughters of Lot.  The author does not seem to notice that the crime here is that “gang rape” is being used to send the message to Lot that “visitors [angels actually] are not welcome here in Sodom.”  Gang violence has nothing to do with any of the two dozen homosexual lovers that I know personally.  This author clearly has had a different experience.  Of this, we learn nothing. The author alludes to Gen 19:1-11 but forgets to label homosexuals as “prone to gang violence.”

God inspired the prophet Ezekiel to say why He brought those cities to ruin. “Now this was the sin of … Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen” (Ezekiel 16:49–50, NIV).

Here is another example where work-place experiences are in the forefront:

The secular workplace is hell-on-earth for many Christians, because of constant harassment in a hostile work environment being around the wicked. God-fearing Christians and the unrepentant wicked don’t mix! Gays are disrespecting Christians every time that they wave their filthy lifestyle in our faces. There’s no way that sexually deviate, left-wing, liberal, homosexuals can co-exist with conservative, Bible-minded, Christians.[iii]

The author here fails to say precisely what is meant by waving “their filthy lifestyle in our faces.”  Does a female worker with a 5×7 pic of her female spouse and two daughters on her desk fit this definition?  Maybe so.  Think about it.  In a world of LRs, it would be downright insensitive and repulsive to have a framed pic of pill bugs on your desk.  Is this what the author means by “constant harassment in a hostile work environment being around the wicked.”  Clearly the business world is “uncomfortable” hearing about gay and lesbian marriages unless it is buffered by the smoldering hostility of “jokes.”

  • Nearly two-thirds (62%) of LGBT employees heard lesbian and gay jokes at work, while 43% heard bisexual jokes and 40% heard transgender jokes.26
  • Nearly three quarters (70%) of non-LGBT employees believe it is “unprofessional” to discuss sexual orientation or gender identity in the workplace.  [“Don’t ask; don’t tell?”] 27
  • LGBT people often cover or downplay aspects of their authentic selves (e.g., hiding personal relationships, changing the way they dress or speak) in order to avoid discrimination.28
  • When applying for jobs, LGBT people often conceal information about their sexual orientation or gender identity from their résumés in order to avoid bias or discrimination—especially people of color (12%), people with disabilities (15.5%), and young people between 18 and 24 years old (18.7%).29

Despite this persistence of old values, the Pew Research Report of 2013 indicates tremendous strides forward when it come to the social acceptance of LGBTQ persons.  Here is why this is so:

In the eyes of LGBT adults, greater social acceptance has come as a result of more Americans knowing someone who is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender as well as the efforts of high-profile public figures. A large majority (70%) says individuals simply knowing someone who is LGBT has helped a lot in terms of making society as a whole more accepting. Similar-sized majorities say well-known public figures—both LGBT (67%) and non-LGBT (66%)—have helped change societal views.

In an open society where free and open judgments are arrived at through open discussion, one could expect that the conversion rate to the DR position would outmatch the conversion rate to the LR position.  This is exactly what has happened in the past fifty years.  As heterosexuals have personal contacts with gays and lesbians living among them as neighbors, as co-workers, and as dedicated Christians, they quickly realize that the fear and flight of their earlier years were based upon irrational projections.  As a result, based upon studies such as the Pew Research Center, all sectors of society are gradually gravitating toward becoming DRs because this position is based upon first-hand positive experiences that are not distorted by false projections and irrational fears.

Respondents were asked about the various factors that may have contributed to increased acceptance of people who are LGBT. Individual relationships and the role of well-known public figures are viewed as being the most helpful things in terms of fostering acceptance. Fully seven-in-ten LGBT adults say people knowing someone who is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender helps a lot, and 24% say this helps a little.



How do these conversions take place?  To understand them, one has to recognize that everyone undergoing a conversion has a personal story to tell.  With this in mind, I want to share a few of my own conversion stories and then to draw some general conclusions.

My conversion away from being a Jew-hater

My early religious training within Catholic schools and my early cultural training in an ethnic suburb of Cleveland at the outbreak of World War II made it quite natural for me to pity, to blame, and to despise Jews.[iv]  Had I been bombarded by Hitler’s speeches blaming and shaming Jews, I would undoubtedly have cheered him on.  The greater part of my family and neighbors would have done the same.  In point of fact, however, I never had contact with a single living Jew. But, then, in an unexpected moment, a real flesh and blood Jew, Mr. Martin, made his way into my life.

Mr. Martin agreed to employ me part‑time as a stock‑boy in his dry goods store on East 185th Street in Cleveland, Ohio.  I had just turned 16, and I desperately needed a larger income than my Cleveland Plain Dealer route had been able to afford me; hence, I felt lucky to have landed this new job.  On the other hand, I was anxious upon learning that Mr. Martin was “a Jew”. Would he exploit me?  Could he treat a Christian fairly?  Would he want me to work on Sundays[v] or on other religious holidays?

Over the months I was testing Mr. Martin and, unbeknownst to me, he was testing me as well.  One evening, after closing, I was sweeping the floors when I found a crumpled twenty-dollar bill under a counter.  My starting salary was fifty cents per hour, and twenty dollars represented a lot of money for a teenager in 1955.  Yet, without thinking twice, my Christian instincts took hold, and I turned the money over to Mr. Martin “lest someone come asking whether anyone has found it.”  It didn’t even enter my mind that the money might become mine if no one claimed it or that I might receive a reward if someone did.

As for my tests, Mr. Martin passed with flying colors.  He was genuinely sensitive to my religious convictions and school obligations when it came to scheduling my work hours.  He treated me fairly, at times even generously, and this disarmed all my earlier reservations.  In fact, I gradually came to admire Mr. Martin, and this admiration presented me with a new problem–a theological problem.  I knew that God had slated all Jews for eternal damnation because of what they did to Jesus.  I also knew that Jews couldn’t go to confession to obtain pardon for such a grievous sin.  On the other hand, it seemed unfair, somehow, that God should hold Mr. Martin guilty for such a crime.  If Mr. Martin did not harm me, even in little ways, how could he have ever consented to handing an innocent man over to Roman torturers two thousand years ago?  Thus began my soul-searching journey to try and find a way to rescue just one Jew from the fires of hell.



What do you learn from my story?  You might want to stop reading here and write down a few of your thoughts before continuing.  When finished, click on this endnote to see what I wrote.[vi]



[i] The pill bug is the only crustacean that can spend its entire life on land. Their shells look like armor and they are known for their ability to roll into a ball. Sometimes children call them rollie-pollies. Most pill bugs live for up to two years. They are most active at night.  They do not carry diseases or contaminate food.

[ii] Before 1973, homosexuality was considered as a “mental illness”, at least by the psychiatrists that authored edition 2 of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-II).  In edition 3, it was reclassified as normal

[iii] I leave it to my reader to discover the multiple layers of suspicion and misinformation that have been brought together in this example.  Source=

[iv] Since I attended Catholic schools from kindergarden on up, religious training was very significant for me and for my parents as well.  From the Gospels, I learned that the Pharisees were Jews that stubbornly opposed Jesus and his teaching.  I pitied Jews because of this.  They had locked themselves within a false religion and would be judged by God on the Last Day for their bad judgment.  When bad things happened to Jews, therefore, it seemed to me that they were getting what they justly deserved.  No one ever told me that most contemporary Jews were not like the Pharisees and that Judaism had been changing for two thousand years after the death of Jesus.  As a result, when I heard the Gospel stories of how Jesus clashed with the Pharisees, I thought that I was discovering how living Jews were mindless hypocrites who opposed the moderation in Jesus’ message.  When I interacted with Jews, therefore, I was projecting upon them the mindset found in the Gospels.  As a result, I was highly critical of Judaism for a long time before I actually met my first Jew.

[v] In 1955, my family and I attended Holy Cross Catholic Church. I remember that the Sunday sermons often contained admonitions not to violate the 3rd Commandment by doing unnecessary work on the “Lord’s Day” (known as “the day of rest”).  Our sermons distinguished between necessary and unnecessary work.  Necessary work included mom’s preparing family meals and children washing the dishes.  Some dads had to work as firemen or policemen.  Unnecessary work consisted of activities like “mowing the lawn” or “painting the house” or “shopping for food”—things that could easily be taken care of on Saturdays.  At this point of time, most stores and shopping malls were closed on Sundays.   Happily Mr. Martin’s Dry Goods Store was among them.

I have not heard from the pulpit an admonition to refrain from unnecessary work on Sundays for the past forty years.  It reveals something about myself when I say that I kept this practice faithfully into the 1990s when members of my own family began to playfully chide me for maintaining a “rigorist mindset.”

[vi] Here is what I learn from my story:

  • While I was growing up as a good, practicing Catholic, I could not be relied upon to correctly understand Judaism and Jews because my pious upbringing was shot-through with misinformation and prejudices.
  • The conviction that I belonged to the “true religion” is not a protection against the “toxic errors” hidden within the fabric of my tradition.
  • When I encountered my first Jew, Mr. Martin, I doubted that he would be able to treat me and my religious obligations fairly.  Mr. Martin, on the other hand, was uncertain whether I could be trusted in money matters.
  • My spontaneous honesty when turning in the $20 without expecting a reward changed the way that Mr. Martin regarded me. Martin also passed my tests with flying colors.

Only when I began to admire Mr. Martin did I, for the first time, feel concerned about his financial and eternal welfare. The breakdown of my anti-Jewish prejudices came only because I had met one Jew that did not deserve eternal hellfire.

Those who want to interact with this blog are invited to “Leave a Reply” below.  A solid way to begin doing this is to offer “readback lines.”  To do this, quickly glace back over the entire blog and pick out the one or two lines that have made a deep impression upon you.  Copy them [CTRL-C] and then paste them [CTRL-V] into an empty comment box below.  If you wish, signal the emotion that you feel when reading your readback lines.  The primary emotions are anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, surprise.   No need to further explain yourself.  It is enough to identify the text important to you and to name the emotion(s) that it evokes.  All of this normally takes less than a few minutes.

I and others will “thank you” for your contribution.  If you are tempted to say more, I urge you to hold back.  Your sense of safety and the safety of others is best protected by not getting overly wordy in the beginning.  This will come after a few days or weeks.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Leave a Reply~~~~~~~~

The dubious theology of Cardinal Ratzinger

     Joseph Ratzinger (b. 1927) was named Cardinal-Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith [abbr.: CDF] by Pope John Paul II on 25 November 1981.  He held this office until he was elected as Pope Benedict XVI.  It was during his twenty-four year tenure as head of the CDF that he gave special importance to hammering out the theological analysis and pastoral response that was to be used for gays and lesbians.  Here are the key documents distributed to bishops worldwide that bear his signature:

  • Letter on the pastoral care of homosexual persons (October 1, 1986)[i]
  • Some considerations concerning the response to legislative proposals on the non-discrimination of homosexual persons (July 24, 1992)
  • Family, marriage and “de facto” unions (July 26, 2000)[ii]
  • Considerations regarding proposals to give legal recognition to unions between homosexual persons (June 3, 2003)

For our purposes the 2003 document is of prime importance.  My task will be to present and explain the key propositions within this document followed by my analysis and critique.

Proposition #1: “There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family.  Marriage is holy, while homosexual acts go against the natural moral law (§4).”

Analysis:  Cardinal Ratzinger here takes an essentialist viewpoint.  For him, sexual acts are permitted only to married couples, and every conjugal act of intercourse must be open to procreation (hence, contraceptives are prohibited[iii]).  By contrast, homosexual acts have neither the sanction of an exclusive life-long commitment nor the prospect of conceiving a new life.  According to the laws of nature, same-sex partners cannot conceive.  Their sex acts, consequently, are judged as “intrinsically disordered and able in no case to be approved.”[iv]  Thus, it follows from this that homosexual unions cannot be considered “in any way similar or even remotely analogous” to marriage.

Critique:  Cardinal Ratzinger fails to properly evaluate marital sex.  In some marriages, sex functions as a tool for dominating and humiliating of the subordinate partner.  It brings forth bruises and tears of pain from one partner and cries of anger from the other.  In such instances, the vows of marriage are used for subjugation.  To call these sex acts “holy” would be a farce.

Likewise, to say that same-sex couples can never have “holy” sex merely demonstrates how shallow the Cardinal’s investigations have been.  Presumably, the Cardinal had never had the opportunity to meet the sort of same-sex couples that I describe in Ch1.  In this case, his judgment would be based on his ignorance.

The fact of his “ignorance” is one thing.  Whether it is an excusable ignorance or a culpable ignorance is quite another.   Click here is order to pursue this question.  Keep reading if you want to further pursue an analysis of Rat’s 2003 letter on same-sex unions.

These dimensions of human sexuality escape Ratzinger’s notice entirely.  His treatment of marital love comes across to me as simplistic and legalistic.  His treatment of homosexual love comes across to me as shallow and uninformed.  As a result of his ignorance and his arrogance, he has saddled the world-wide Church with biblical judgments on homosexuality that are entirely misleading.  He has taken an essentialist form of Catholic moral reasoning and has applied it indiscriminatingly to all forms of homosexuality known today.

Major premise: Human sexuality is divine ordained for the conception of new life within the bounds of Holy Matrimony.

Minor premise: According to the laws of nature, same-sex partners cannot conceive a new life.

Conclusion: Their sex acts, as a result, must be judged as “intrinsically disordered and able in no case to be approved.”[iv]  And, from this, it necessarily follows that homosexual unions cannot be considered “in any way similar or even remotely analogous” to marriage.

Furthermore, someone sympathetic to the Cardinal might also add that, in all probability, his contact with homosexuals may have been entirely limited to the confessional and to “gay-pride” demonstrations.  Someone limited to these sort of experiences would understandably be prone to develop a  jaundiced perspective of the homosexual condition.

I myself was victim to such a jaundiced perspective due to my own early negative experience with gay men.  But I did not stop there.   I made opportunities to expand my understanding and discovered that I was severely ignorant of the variety of gay and lesbian life-styles and that, hidden below the surface, there existed personal stories of unconventional abiding love flowering among same-sex partners who gifted each other (and those around them) with bonds of affection and self-sacrificing mutual love that rivaled what my wife and I had attempted to offer each other.

On the other hand, what can one say of the union of Martha and Mary (described in Chapter 1)?  Have not these two women mutually accepted each other “as God has designed them”?  Has not their mutual love brought self-acceptance and healing to the injuries and disappointments that have been visited upon them by hateful strangers and enemies?  Does their promise of mutual and faithful love “for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, ‘til death do us part” nor draw down the blessings of God and the active support of those who love them and honor their self-sacrificing commitments?  Cardinal Ratzinger mentions none of these things.  This is a serious defect of his essentialist viewpoint.

For Cardinal Ratzinger, everything hinges on the assumption that every sex act must be open to procreation.  But this is decidedly not the case for even heterosexual love.  The yearning for sex knows no such artificial barrier.  Unlike those animals who only copulate when the female is “in heat,” humans have been designed by God to desire sex at all stages of the female fertility cycle.[v]  Hence, even by design, it is a serious mistake to conclude that God permits human sexuality only when conception is the natural outcome.

In same-sex unions, what can one say about the use of sex to celebrate their mutual love and to enhance their developing intimacy?  If I have found this to be true in my own love making with my wife, who am I to judge that same-sex unions cannot function “in many ways similar and analogous” (and, at times, even superior) to what I have discovered within my heterosexual marriage?  What a mistake it would be to condemn them all out of hand without reverently and quietly asking same-sex couples about these delicate and important aspects of their private lives.  Here again Cardinal Ratzinger mentions none of these things.  This is a serious defect.

Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, a retired auxiliary of Sydney, Australia, spoke at the Ways of Love conference on pastoral care with LGBTQ people, as follows:

It was God who created a world in which there are both heterosexuals and homosexuals.  This was not a mistake on God’s part that human beings are meant to repair; it is simply an undeniable part of God’s creation.

The only sexual acts that are natural to homosexuals are homosexual acts.  This is not a free choice they have made between two things that are equally attractive to them, but something that is deeply embedded in their nature, something they cannot simply be cast aside.  Homosexual acts come naturally to them, heterosexual acts do not.[vi]

What Bishop Robinson is affirming is that Cardinal Ratzinger’s judgment that “homosexual acts go against the natural moral law” only applies to heterosexuals.  God has uniquely designed homosexuals such that “homosexual acts” are natural to them and, consequently, their love making is, for them, a potential means of grace.  Bishop Robinson would therefore say that Cardinal Ratzinger’s analysis is intrinsically disordered because he makes the categorical error of taking the natural law that applies to heterosexuals and applying it indiscriminatingly to homosexuals.

Proposition #2: “Homosexual unions are totally lacking in the biological and anthropological elements of marriage and family which would be the basis, on the level of reason, for granting them legal recognition.  Such unions are not able to contribute in a proper way to the procreation and survival of the human race (§7).”

Analysis:  Cardinal Ratzinger now turns his attention to discover what reason a society might have to give legal recognition to homosexual unions if they contribute nothing to “the procreation and survival of the human race.”  This appears to be a utilitarian argument.  If homosexuals fail to contribute to “procreation and survival,” then it would be irrational to offer them legal recognition.

Critique: This argument is paper thin.  Every society has an investment in nourishing its members and in appreciating the gifts that they offer.  Even in the case of childless marriages, neither civil society nor the Church makes the fatal mistake of withdrawing its care and attention until such time as the first child is conceived.  Likewise, neither civil society nor the Church makes the fatal mistake of withdrawing its care and attention once a couple becomes infertile due to age or an accident or to God’s design.

“It takes a village to raise a child.”  I myself am indebted to scout masters, teachers, librarians, farmers, employers, counselors, officers of the law who saw fit to contribute to the man that I have become, in ways that extended beyond what my biological mother and father were able to supply.  I trust that among those who formed and supported me were to be found a few gays and lesbians.  I even have some suspicion as to who they might be.  Cardinal Ratzinger must be able to say the same thing for himself.  Thus, I find that the terms “procreation and survival” are excessively narrow criteria, and, if this rule were uniformly applied, then, as explained above, one out of three marriages would also be deemed unworthy of any special care and “legal recognition.”

This being the case, it would seem only fair to consider how same-sex unions contribute to the life-long nurturing and learning that normally takes place in extended families, in neighborhoods, in schools, and in businesses.  Hence, it seems unfair for Cardinal Ratzinger to fault same-sex couples for not procreating when the needs of our society are much more ongoing and nuanced.   To illustrate this, I want to cite here the case of just one of the petitioners that were involved in the recent Supreme Court ruling relative to same-sex marriages:

April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse are co-plaintiffs in the case from Michigan.  They celebrated a commitment ceremony to honor their permanent relation in 2007.  They both work as nurses, DeBoer in a neonatal unit and Rowse in an emergency unit.  In 2009, DeBoer and Rowse fostered and then adopted a baby boy.  Later that same year, they welcomed another son into their family.  The new baby, born prematurely and abandoned by his biological mother, required around-the-clock care.  The next year, a baby girl with special needs joined their family.  Michigan, however, permits only opposite-sex married couples or single individuals to adopt, so each child can have only one woman as his or her legal parent.  If an emergency were to arise, schools and hospitals may treat the three children as if they had only one parent.  And, were tragedy to befall either DeBoer or Rowse, the other would have no legal rights over the children she had not been permitted to adopt.  This couple seeks relief from the continuing uncertainty their unmarried status creates in their lives.

Just taking this single case, one wonders whether Cardinal Ratzinger would find that these two committed women are unworthy of any legal protections because their children, in this case, are adopted. And, going further, by what right does Cardinal Ratzinger take it upon himself to obstruct all those Catholics who support their quest for the civil recognition of their union?  Clearly Ratzinger’s thoughts are disordered and jaundiced.  He seems incapable of allowing for a nuanced recognition of the varieties of services that Catholics in same-sex unions provide within our society.

Cardinal Ratzinger lives in a comfortable world of abstract analysis and iron-clad condemnations:

If it is true that all Catholics are obliged to oppose the legal recognition of homosexual unions, Catholic politicians are obliged to do so in a particular way, in keeping with their responsibility as politicians. . . .  To vote in favor of a law so harmful to the common good is gravely immoral (§10).

But the very opposite is true!  It would be “gravely immoral” to deliberately block April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse from being legally named as co-parents of the handicapped children they have adopted.  Cardinal Ratzinger acts recklessly and unjustly when he brings pressure on every Catholic “to oppose the legal recognition of homosexual unions.”  In his mind, supporting legislation in favor of the legal recognition of same-sex unions is a mortal sin.  For someone who sees legal recognition “as beneficial to the common good,” it must be allowed that, both morally and legally, they vote their conscience.

Proposition #3: “As experience has shown, the absence of sexual complementarity in these unions creates obstacles in the normal development of children who would be placed in the care of such persons.  They would be deprived of the experience of either fatherhood or motherhood.  Allowing children to be adopted by persons living in such unions would actually mean doing violence to these children, in the sense that their condition of dependency would be used to place them in an environment that is not conducive to their full human development (§7).”

Analysis:  Cardinal Ratzinger now brings forward the argument that a child needs the nurturing exposure of both a father and a mother.  Having two fathers or two mothers doesn’t wash.  Hence, a society which enables same-sex couples to adopt children does “violence” (strong term) to these children for it consigns them to an environment that thwarts their “full human development.”

Critique:  Cardinal Ratzinger now appeals to “experience.”  Is he referring to his personal experience or to the general experience of parents or to the experience of childcare specialists? It is impossible to say. In any case, I would have Cardinal Ratzinger consider my own personal history.  My mother died when I was eight and my father did not remarry.  The same thing happened for the future pope, John Paul II, whose mother died when he was twelve, and his father never remarried.

Would Cardinal Ratzinger want to argue that these motherless families would be “doing violence to these children”?  If so, this is pure nonsense. I, for example, became quite adept at choosing my playmates on the basis of whether their mothers gave me some of the care and attention that was now absent in my own home.  And did I not draw closer to my maternal grandmother precisely because she treated me warmly as “her dear grandson”?  And did I not cherish Mary, the mother of Jesus, and reveal to her the black hole in my heart that followed upon the death of my mother?

I might presume that my experience might have found parallels in the life of the future John Paul II.  While Cardinal Ratzinger makes a cloaked appeal to “experience,” he seems to be blissfully ignorant of the experiences of children growing up in single-parent households.  Had he known of my experience or that of John Paul II, he would never have argued that adoption into motherless families would be “doing violence to these children.”

Cardinal Ratzinger was presumably raised by parents who followed the rule of separate domains.  His father did manly things.  His mother did womanly things.  This is what Cardinal Ratzinger appears to mean by “sexual complementarity.”  He might also be thinking of psychological complementarity that is exhibited in books such as Dr. John Grey’s Women Are from Venus; Men Are from Mars.[vii]

In contemporary society, however, the standards for judging manly things and womanly things have changed.  In the last thirty years, women have entered into nearly all the professions formerly judged to be suitable for men only.  Men, for their part, have not hesitated to enter into professions formerly judged as suitable only to women, for example, nursing and child care.  Many fathers and grandfathers, for their part, have felt the new-found freedom to change diapers, to feed their children, and to play with them—something that my own father and grandfather never did because they thought, in so doing, that they would be trespassing upon the domain reserved for women.

Even in the case of “The Sound of Music,” one cannot help but notice how Maria brings to the von Trap children a sense of playfulness and joy that was largely beyond the grasp of their father who was locked into his identity as a naval officer.[viii]  Thus, under the influence of Maria, Admiral von Trap gradually puts away his whistle and allows Maria to usher him into hitherto unknown dimension of personally relating to his children. He even goes so far as to participate in their group singing, and he performs publicly with his children, an endeavor which, in his era, would be judged by many as “unmanly.”  Thus, quite apart from his opposition to Hitler, Admirable von Trap gradually escapes the neat “sexual complementarity” that Cardinal Ratzinger seems to be requiring in every suitable family.

And what of same-sex couples?  Cardinal Ratzinger appeals to “experience,” but fails to tell us what experience that he has had of same-sex parents.[ix]  This is unfortunate.  If he had, he would have quickly noticed that, even among lesbian couples, one of the pair is prone to take on the home repairs, the organization of finances, and the disciple of children.  In some instances, one of the pair frequently even dresses more “manly” while the other dresses more “womanly” (as in the 15-year renewal of vows of the lesbian couple shown in the pic above).

Thus, what Cardinal Ratzinger fails to notice is how the modern flexibility of roles found within heterosexual unions has spilled over into same-sex couples as well.  Has this transition crippled the upbringing of children and given them mixed messages regarding sexual identities?[x]  Or has it liberated both boys and girls from rigid stereotypes that thwart their human development rather than to promote it?  In any case, Cardinal Ratzinger fails to make a convincing argument that same-sex couples are inherently detrimental to the human and sexual development of children in their care.

All in all, I would thus give Cardinal Ratzinger poor marks for his judgment regarding same-sex unions:

  • C- for Proposition #1;
  • F for Proposition #2;
  • D- for Proposition #3.

What grade would you give him for each of his three propositions?  What prejudicial stereotypes do you detect are underpinning Cardinal Ratzinger’s judgments?  What elements of your own experience would you have wanted to share with Cardinal Ratzinger that might have allowed him to reexamine his stereotypes and to replace them with informed judgments?

Those who want to interact with this blog are invited to “Leave a Reply” below.  A solid way to begin doing this is to offer “readback lines.”  To do this, quickly glace back over the entire blog and pick out the one or two lines that have made a deep impression upon you.  Copy them [CTRL-C] and then paste them [CTRL-V] into an empty comment box below.  If you wish, signal the emotion that you feel when reading your readback lines.  The primary emotions are anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, surprise.   No need to further explain yourself.  It is enough to identify the text important to you and to name the emotion(s) that it evokes.

I and others will “thank you” for your contribution.  If you are tempted to say more, I urge you to hold back.  Your sense of safety and the safety of others is best protected by not getting overly wordy in the beginning.  This will come after a few days or weeks.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Endnotes and Leave a Reply~~~~~~~~

[i] In this letter to the worldwide bishops, one finds the following:

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. [. . . .] It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church’s pastors wherever it occurs.

[ii] In this letter, an attempt is made to demonstrate that every society is founded upon the supreme importance given to marriage and family.  Any society, therefore, that would offer protection and rights to “civil unions” of same-sex couples or unmarried heterosexual couples would thereby weaken the family and contribute to “the breakdown of the natural institution of marriage”:

With the pretext of regulating one context of social and juridical cohabitation, attempts are made to justify the institutional recognition of de facto unions.  In this way, de facto unions would turn into an institution, and their rights and duties would be sanctioned by law to the detriment of the family based on marriage. The de facto unions would be put on a juridical level similar to marriage; moreover, this kind of cohabitation would be publicly qualified as a “good” by elevating it to a condition similar to, or equivalent to marriage, to the detriment of truth and justice.  In this way, a very strong contribution would be made toward the breakdown of the natural institution of marriage which is absolutely vital, basic and necessary for the whole social body.

The assumptions made by Cardinal Ratzinger in this letter do not hold up to close examination.  This will be shown in what follows.

[iii] For an examination of the faulty logic here, go to Catholic Scholars’ Statement on the Ethics of Using Contraceptives (
statement-on-contraceptives/).  For personal stories, go to

[iv] Ratzinger uses the phrase “intrinsically disordered” to indicate those actions which can never be considered as permissible due to special circumstances.  Ratzinger further judges that “although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin [because it is not freely chosen], it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil [illicit sex]; and thus the inclination [toward unnatural sex] itself must be seen as an objective disorder” (Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, §3).

[v] Christine Gudorf examines God’s design from the vantage point of the clitoris.  Gudorf’s philosophy [like that of Cardinal Ratzinger] is squarely within the Thomistic Natural Law tradition. But Gudorf argues that if we take a careful look at the anatomy and physiology of the female sexual organs, and especially the clitoris, instead of focusing exclusively on the male’s penis (which is what Aquinas did), quite different conclusions about God’s plan and design emerge and hence Christian sexual ethics turns out to be less restrictive. In particular, Gudorf claims that the female’s clitoris is an organ whose only purpose is the production of sexual pleasure and, unlike the mixed or dual functionality of the penis, has no connection with procreation. Gudorf concludes that the existence of the clitoris in the female body suggests that God intended that the purpose of sexual activity was as much for sexual pleasure for its own sake as it was for procreation. Therefore, according to Gudorf, pleasurable sexual activity apart from procreation does not violate God’s design, is not unnatural, and hence is not necessarily morally wrong, as long as it occurs in the context of a monogamous marriage (Sex, Body, and Pleasure, p. 65). (source=Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

[vi] To fully understand all of Bishop Robinson’s nuances, examples, and explanations, I urge interested persons to read his entire text which can be found on the conference’s website.

[vii] Dr. John Grey is a relationship counselor who writes a self-help book.  Unfortunately, his book describes “men” and “women” in stereotypical fashion that does a disservice to those couples who have a greater integration of the male and female dimensions of themselves.  The review from Publishers Weekly says that Dr. Grey’s “overuse of gimmicky, often silly analogies and metaphors makes his otherwise down-to-earth guide hard to take seriously. Here Martians (men) play Mr. Fix-It while Venusians (women) run the Home-Improvement Committee; when upset, Martians “go to their caves” (to sort things out alone) while Venusians “go to the well” (for emotional cleansing)” (

[viii] In effect, Marie wrote a biography, The Story of the Trapp Family Singers (1949), that traces a significantly different story from that of the musical and the film.  “Maria married Georg von Trapp in 1926, not 1938 as portrayed in the musical. She initially fell in love with the children rather than the father and only later came to love him. The father was not the aloof patriarch who disapproved of music but a warm gentle-hearted parent. They also left Austria openly by train” (  What was unusual is that Maria was 25 years younger than George and that they conceived and raised three additional children.  The Sound of Music was the highest-grossing film of all-time—surpassing Gone with the Wind—and held that distinction for five years. The film was just as popular throughout the world, breaking previous box-office records in twenty-nine countries.

[ix] Sr. Jeannine Gramick, a woman who has spent over forty years ministering to homosexuals, reports that she was able to have an informal discussion with Cardinal Ratzinger relative to his experiences with homosexuals.  Here is what she discovered:

A number of years ago, I had a providential meeting on a plane with Benedict XVI before he was elected pope. I was making a pilgrimage to Munich and we both happened to be on the same flight from Rome. In our 20-minute discussion about lesbian and gay people, I asked him if he had ever met any gay people. “Yes, in Germany,” he said. “In Berlin, they were demonstrating against the pope.” This was his experience of gay people—in a conflict situation. Apparently, he had not heard the personal stories of lesbian or gay people and how they feel about their lives, their beliefs, and the struggles they have encountered from society and the church (

[x] See, for example, Liz Halloran, “Report: Utah Judge Orders Child Removed from Home of Same-Sex Parents,” 11 Nov 2015 (

Matthew Vines’ use of Scriptures is quite sophisticated

Matthew Vines’ entire family deciding to leave their hometown church as well.  They didn’t do this in anger or in frustration.  They did it because they wanted to express, first and foremost, their solidarity with their son or with their brother.  They also did this, I would conjecture, because they were increasingly suspicious, thanks to the insights of their son, that there might be something drastically mistaken in the traditional Bible interpretations and that the “anti-gay gospel” was indeed destructive to the spiritual and psychological well-being of Matthew.  By extension, they might have conjectured that if the “anti-gay gospel” is poisonous to their son, it would follow, as the night follows the day, that this “gospel” would be toxic to other youths[i] wrestling with their sexual orientation as well.  Here is how Vines masterfully expresses this in his own words:

Could it be true?  Could it really be that this holiest of books, which contains some of the most beautiful writings and inspiring stories known to mankind, along with the unparalleled teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, also happens to require the emotional and spiritual destruction of sexual minorities?  For any of us who learned to love the Jesus who called the little children to him, whose highest law was that of love, and who was a fierce defender of the downtrodden and the outcast, this simply did not seem possible.[ii]

Thus, the suspicion was that the teachings of Jesus invalidate the “anti-gay gospel” and that, in the case of homosexuality, false teaching has distorted the biblical texts such that “Scripture is used to manipulate.  God is used as a weapon.” [iii]

Matthew Vines’ use of Scriptures is quite sophisticated

Matthew Vines’ use of Scriptures is quite sophisticated.  Vines is not only casting doubt on the “anti-gay gospel” and the texts used to support it, he is also discovering overlooked texts that construct a solid basis for an eventual acceptance of homosexual unions.  Here is an excellent example:

In the first two chapters of Genesis, God creates the heavens and the earth, plants, animals, man, and everything in the earth.  And He declares everything in creation to be either good or very good – except for one thing.  In Genesis 2:18, God says, “It is not good for the man to be alone.  I will make a helper suitable for him.”  And yes, the suitable helper or partner that God makes for Adam is Eve, a woman.  And a woman is a suitable partner for the vast majority of men – for straight men.  But for gay men, that isn’t the case.  For them, a woman is not a suitable partner.  And in all of the ways that a woman is a suitable partner for straight men—for gay men, it’s another gay man[iv] who is a suitable partner.

And the same is true for lesbian women.  For them, it is another lesbian woman who is a suitable partner.  But the necessary consequence of the traditional teaching on homosexuality is that, even though gay people have suitable partners, they must reject them, and they must live alone for their whole lives, without a spouse or a family of their own.

We are now declaring good the very first thing in Scripture that God declared not good: for the man to be forced to be alone.  And the fruit that this teaching has borne has been deeply wounding and destructive.[v]

Notice how Vines begins by carefully examining the text of Gen 1-3.  He isolates God’s declaration, “It is not good for a man to be alone,” as his key concern.  But then he shows that the “anti-gay gospel” frustrates God’s declaration in two ways:

  1. Gay people know very well that God has created for them “suitable partners,” yet the “anti-gay gospel” declares that same-sex partners are everywhere and always unsuitable;
  2. Likewise, the “anti-gay gospel” declares that gays must embrace life-long celibacy; yet, in so doing, they frustrate God’s declaration that “it is not good for a man to be alone” (Gen. 2:18).

This double failure on the part of the “anti-gay gospel” is “deeply wounding and destructive.”  The unspoken complaint here is that following the gospel of life should lead to peace, joy, and understanding; hence, quite clearly the “anti-gay gospel” is not the gospel of life even though Matthew’s church declares that it is the one and only Gospel.

Vines’ argument could be further expanded by taking note that in Gen. 1, God alone judges the worth of his majestic creation on the six days.  “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good” (Gen. 1:31).  Not so in Gen 2.  Here it is the earthling (Adam) who signals to God that he is lonely.  The assumption of the narrative is that God is never lonely; hence, not even God could have anticipated the onset of loneliness nor could he have immediately known how to heal this loneliness.  Nonetheless, God takes Adam at his word and throws himself into trying to find an appropriate solution:

So out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name (Gen. 2:19).

Notice here how, after each new trial, God brings his latest creation to the earthling so that he can name it and, quite possibly, discover whether this new creature will dispel his loneliness.  Notice carefully that the text demonstrates that God cannot anticipate the final solution to Adam’s problem.  He must experiment and then await Adam’s response.  This is because the “loneliness” belongs properly to the earthling and not to God.

What we can learn from this is that God, in the case of gays and lesbians, would not presume to know in advance that gays and lesbians would be prone to loneliness.  Even then, God would have to wait and see how gays and lesbians would choose to dispel their loneliness.[vi]  If God himself has to be patient and to listen, then it would be incumbent upon pastors in the Christian churches to do the same.  When they sidestep this listening process, they easily err because they take the “anti-gay gospel” given to them and force it upon people they do not properly understand.[vii]  So, the churches can error easily when they fail to act with the same care and discernment that God himself displays in Gen 2.

Those who want to interact with this blog are invited to “Leave a Reply” below.  A solid way to begin doing this is to offer “readback lines.”  To do this, quickly glace back over the entire blog and pick out the one or two lines that have made a deep impression upon you.  Copy them [CTRL-C] and then paste them [CTRL-V] into an empty comment box below.  If you wish, signal the emotion that you feel when reading your readback lines.  The primary emotions are anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, surprise.   No need to further explain yourself.  It is enough to identify the text important to you and to name the emotion(s) that it evokes.  All of this normally takes less than a few minutes.

I and others will “thank you” for your contribution.  If you are tempted to say more, I urge you to hold back.  Your sense of safety and the safety of others is best protected by not getting overly wordy in the beginning.  This will come after a few days or weeks.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Endnotes and Leave a Reply~~~~~~~~

[i] For excellent life-stories inspired by the Reformation Project of Matthew Vines, go to

[ii] Matthew Vines, “The Bible and Homosexuality: Why I Left College and Spent Two Years Finding Out What the Scriptures Really Say,” The Huffpost Gay Voices,  26 March 2012 (

[iii] Given my own special interest in Jewish-Christian relations, I am especially sensitive to how anti-Jewish sentiments circulating among Catholics were used to interpret a few texts in the Gospels (especially, “his blood be upon us and upon our children” Matt. 27:25) in order to prove (a) that God held all Jews accountable for the killing of Jesus and (b) that God, as a result of this crime, had rejected all Jews in all times and in all places as his chosen people, and, in their place, God embraced Catholics with his love and protection and enduring covenant.  In the wake of this “anti-Jewish gospel,” Christians routinely interpreted natural and deliberate disasters (beginning with the destruction of the temple by the Romans in 68-70 CE) as the divine retribution inflicted upon Jews for their crime of killing Jesus, the Son of God.

Not until after the Holocaust did the Christian churches finally come to their senses and begin to sort out what the Scriptures did and did not say about the Jews.  As a result, biblical interpretations held for more than sixteen hundred years were uprooted over the course of a few decades (1948-1968).  Meanwhile, biblical interpretations that had been ignored or obscured were brought forward, more especially, (a) that God’s election of the Jewish people was permanent and irrevocable and (b) that Jesus himself lived and died as a faithful Jew.

This case of anti-Jewish prejudice poisoning the true meaning of the Scriptures is important for a number of reasons.  First, it demonstrates that, once an error inserts itself, it can persist from generation to generation undetected because the false interpretation itself feeds upon the anti-Jewish prejudice that stimulated its origination.  Secondly, it demonstrates that, saints and sinners, bishops and scholars all were mutually supportive in maintaining and promoting these false biblical interpretations.  Only the massive and unthinkable Holocaust had enough shock value to inspire a critical reassessment of those anti-Jewish interpretations that had become firmly entrenched within the Catholic tradition.  For further details, see James Carroll, Constantine’s Sword: The Church and the Jews (New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2001) & Aaron Milavec, Salvation Is from the Jews: Reflections on Saving Grace within Judaism and on Messianic Hope within Christianity (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2007).

[iv] Keep in mind that complementary personalities and complementary skill-sets figure into the mutual choice of a suitable partner in both heterosexual and homosexual unions.

[v] Matthew Vines, “The Gay Debate: The Bible and Homosexuality,” 08 Mar 2012 (

[vi] This emphasis upon experimentation and flexibility found in the Gen. 2 account also serves to make way for transgendered and bisexual individuals.  When one hears the personal stories of such persons, it is not at all intuitive whether there is a single formula for how such persons will choose their soul mates.  Hence, as in the case of God, both heterosexuals and homosexual persons will have to wait and see what sort of choices satisfies their yearning hearts.

[vii] Many Christians think, for example, that giving legal recognition to “same-sex marriages” has the effect of devaluing “heterosexual marriages.”  In truth, the very opposite is the case.  It is because homosexuals esteem the permanent covenant of love that prevails in marriages that they want to participate in this social matrix themselves.  They also discern that sex in marriage entails a mutual surrender and provides a pleasure bonding that is re-creative and healing. This too they want to taste for themselves.  As for setting up households and deciding upon children, same-sex unions have a wide variety of options to consider here just as do their heterosexual counterparts.  No two heterosexual unions are the same.  The same rule will prevail among homosexual unions.  No two heterosexual unions express love and affection in the same way.  The same rule will surely prevail among homosexual unions.  What is avoided as vulgar by one couple may be a source of delight for another.  No two heterosexual unions make decisions and share household chores in exactly the same way.  Same for homosexual unions.

Matthew Vines’ disarming authenticity

Matthew Vines grew up in an Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Kirkwood, Missouri.  When he slowly came to the realization that he had a homosexual orientation, he was horrified by the fact that his Presbyterian church offered him no route whereby he might gain God’s blessing for his sexuality:

We affirm God’s design for the two sexes – male and female – and believe that each is a glorious gift from God.  Our sexuality is meant to be offered back to Him.  For some, this means joining in a one-man, one-woman marriage – for procreation, union and mutual delight.  For others, this means celibacy which allows for undivided devotion to Christ.  Sexual expression is designed for the marital relationship, and homosexual lust[i] and behavior are among the sexual sins that are outside God’s created intent and desire for us.

Vine, at the age of 21, realized that his divine salvation relied upon his willingness to accept God’s plan that sexual intimacy was exclusively reserved to heterosexual partners bound together in marriage.  Since Vines knew that he was not attracted to women, he faced the bleak prospect of trying “repairative therapies”[ii] and praying to God for a miracle that would “transform his sexual appetites.”[iii]  Should these options fail, he knew full well that he would be forced to maintain a lifelong celibacy, even though he honestly recognized that he was not naturally inclined in this direction either. Shaken by these bleak prospects for his future, Vines deliberately interrupted his college studies at Harvard (2008-2010) because he knew that he had to consult with biblical experts and come to a deeper understanding of why God opposes homosexuality as a divine calling for men like himself.

After doing some biblical research, he drafted a six-page summary of his results that he submitted to his father.  He trusted his father to have wisdom in this matter that exceeded his own.  When his father accepted his initial findings, he spent months expanded his study and made preparations to share his discoveries with members of his church who were concerned about this issue. In order to reach a wider audience, Vines spent $500 of his own money to have a professionally crafted five-minute video produced.  He distributed this online in March of 2012 under the YouTube title, “The Gay Debate: The Bible and Homosexuality.”  Given the largely positive response that his video received, Vines went ahead and prepared a full-hour video.

In April 2014, Vines published a book, God and the Gay Christian. He then entered into public debates with pastors and theologians.  Vines debated Dr. Michael Brown, author of Can You Be Gay and Christian? on Moody Radio on 28 June 2014.[iv]  Given the pain and confusion expressed by hundreds of young people who poured out their woes to him in emails, Vines felt called to initiate The Reformation Project—“a nonprofit organization designed to connect, train and empower LGBTQ Christians and their allies to actively promote changes in their churches on this issue.”[v]

Matthew Vines as a young man on fire

Make your choice for viewing either the short or the long exposure to Vines:

Click on your choice: Title Content
Five-minute version “God and the Gay Christian” (2012) His video went viral here: watch?v=gmp6lLct-fQ
Hour-long lecture “The Gay Debate: The Bible and Homosexuality” (2012) College Hill UM Church presentation with multi-lingual transcript
What are your thoughts and feelings on what you have just heard from Matthew Vine?  I invite you to take a sheet of paper and to write them down for your future use.  I invite you to share your thoughts in the response box offered below.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~ footnotes ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

[i] Notice that this evangelical statement terms all immoral sex as “lust.”  Ratzinger would prefer to say “self-indulgent passions” rather than “lust.”  Why so?  Because Ratzinger believes that the homosexual inclination is not chosen and, as such, in not to be considered in itself “sinful.”  Moreover, he allows that while all homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered,” the degree of guilt changes with the circumstances.  This is a much more nuanced position.   Here is the critical text: It has been argued that the homosexual orientation in certain cases is not the result of deliberate choice; and so the homosexual person would then have no choice but to behave in a homosexual fashion. Lacking freedom, such a person, even if engaged in homosexual activity, would not be culpable. Here, the Church’s wise moral tradition is necessary since it warns against generalizations in judging individual cases. In fact, circumstances may exist, or may have existed in the past, which would reduce or remove the culpability of the individual in a given instance; or other circumstances may increase it. What is at all costs to be avoided is the unfounded and demeaning assumption that the sexual behavior of homosexual persons is always and totally compulsive and therefore inculpable (The Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, §11).

[ii] Reparative Therapy (also known as Conversion Therapy) claims that adolescent homosexuality may arise from traumatic events in the past and that, with careful psychological counseling, part or all of same-sex attraction can be dispelled.  For a strong and persuasive advocate, see Joseph Nicolosi, Ph.D., What Is Reparative Therapy? Examining the Controversy (  Please be aware, however, that this form of therapy has been widely shown to be non-productive and even harmful to the degree that even the American Psychiatric Association warns against crediting its claims.  See “The Lies and Dangers of Efforts to Change Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity” (

[iii] Matthew Vines writes in his book as follows: As a lawyer, my dad weighed the evidence for the possibility of orientation change.  Pointing to Matt. 19:26, he reminded me that all things are possible with God.  Yet after reading a fair amount about “ex-gay” ministries, he realized that none of the evidence seemed to show God was changing gay people’s sexual orientation (God and the Gay Christian, p. 10). A controversial Christian ministry devoted to changing people “affected by homosexuality” announced in April of 2014 that it was shutting its doors after operating for more than three decades.  The announcement by Exodus International came during its religious conference in Irvine and after its President Alan Chambers apologized to members of the gay community for “years of undue judgment by the organization and the Christian Church as a whole.” ( god-gays-conversation-albert-mohler-matthew-vines/#sthash.ji8Nb8dn.dpuf). In October of 2011, John Smid, the former director of Love in Action, the country’s oldest and largest ex-gay ministry, acknowledged on his blog that, contrary to the claims of the movement he represented for decades, gay people cannot become straight. “I’ve never met a man who experienced a change from homosexual to heterosexual,” he wrote. He himself certainly has not.  Evangelicals used to insist that “change is possible,” says Warren Throckmorton, a Grove City College psychology professor once associated with the ex-gay movement. “The new paradigm, I believe, is no, it doesn’t look like that works, and so you go with it, you accept it, and you try to make the best life you can in congruence with the rest of your beliefs,” he says (

[iv] The Moody debate can be found online at

[v] Matthew Vines writes, “My inbox serves as a daily reminder of the countless people who are still struggling, and who still feel voiceless and powerless in the face of overwhelming opposition [within their church].”  Matthew Vines, “The Reformation Project: Training Christians to Eradicate Homophobia from the Church,” The Huffpost Gay Voices, 05 March 2013 (