What does the Bible declare about marriage?

The Arguments from Authority: The Bible and Church Tradition

3.2.1 Does the Bible support the contention that marriage must be limited to one man and one woman?

When public discourse first considered the possibility of giving legal protection to same-sex unions, most Christian communities were alarmed at this because they judged that the traditional ideal of marriage was under attack.  Dr. Andreas J. Kostenberger, a widely published Protestant theologian, took offense at the very fact that civil discourse was entertaining to give further recognition and protection to same-sex unions at a time when traditional marital unions were in decline.  Here are the words of Dr. Kostenberger explaining himself:

#1  Marriage and the family are institutions under siege today, and only a return to the biblical foundation of these God-given institutions will reverse the decline of marriage and the family in our culture today.

#2  In the book of Genesis, we read that God in the beginning created first a man (Adam) to exercise dominion over his creation and subsequently a woman (Eve) as the man’s “suitable helper” (Gen 2:18, 20). Then, the inspired writer remarks, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24 ESV). This verse sets forth the biblical pattern as it was instituted by God at the beginning: one man is united to one woman in matrimony, and the two form one new natural family.

#3  The Bible makes clear that, at the root, marriage and the family are not human conventions based merely on a temporary consensus and time-honored tradition. Instead, Scripture teaches that family was God’s idea and that marriage is a divine, not merely human, institution. The implication of this truth is significant indeed, for this means that humans are not free to renegotiate or redefine marriage and the family in any way they choose but that they are called to preserve and respect what has been divinely instituted ((https://www.frc.org/brochure/the-Bibles-teaching-on-marriage-and-family)).

Continue reading “What does the Bible declare about marriage?”

Kevin Kukla’s Klaptrap

Kevin Kukla’s Klaptrap — Catholic Teaching on Sexuality Gone Beserk
Aaron Milavec

Two years ago I discovered Kevin Kukla’s claptrap on his website, ProLife365.org. At first, I was just annoyed. Then I realized that Kevin represented an educated, upwardly mobile Catholic Fundamentalist who is intent upon upholding and defending the entire Vatican ideology regarding the sexual issues of our day. Moreover, Kevin imagines himself to be a crusader bent upon bringing to young people the sure and unchanging truths of Catholic sexuality that even most priests are embarrassed to teach.

Kevin is not a lightweight. When I take issue with Kevin, I am taking issue with a Catholic who takes a secret delight in basking in the absolute certainty that is given to those who maintain an ideological conformity with the Vatican in all areas of sexual morality. In Kevin’s understanding, the whole world is going to hell in a hand basket, and only a slim minority of Catholic Fundamentalists like himself has a secure foundation in God’s truth.

Like Kevin Kula, I am a cradle-Catholic. I grew up in Euclid, Ohio, and my parents made certain that I attended a Catholic grade school and Catholic high school. Then I went on to attend a Catholic university and two Catholic graduate schools in theology. I was an altar server for fifty years and gained a robust gratitude for the power of Holy Orders and for the sacramental presence of Christ in the Eucharist. I mastered Theistic theology and then went on to master the Neothomism and revisionist theologies that erupted following Vatican II. I trained future Catholic priests and lay ministers in three different seminaries for twenty-five years.

I know and I love the Church, warts and all. However, I also learned that our Holy Mother the Church can be calloused and mean-spirited when it came time to consider issues of sexual conduct. Contrary to the orientation of Kevin Kukla, I am persuaded that the Catholic hierarchy has “almost never gotten it right on issues of sexual ethics.” For me “to serve the Lord,” therefore, I need to expose and challenge Kevin’s historical ignorance, his defective biblical interpretations, and his philosophical errors.

Kevin Kukla is inclined to judge me to be a deviant Catholic. I ask too many embarrassing questions and point fearlessly to the harm that the official Catholic teaching on sexuality has inflicted upon me and my generation of Catholics. This is hard to swallow.

This book is not about an academic debate. Rather it represents the opportunity to listen to two committed Catholics passionate about clarifying and improving upon the sexual morality of our Church. More often than not, Kevin and I began by trying to show the weakness and folly in the other’s positions. Gradually, however, we eventually decided to leave aside rigid positions in order to explore together how we can best serve young Catholics looking for moral guidance and prophetic joy in the teachings of Jesus Christ. If we cannot speak intelligently and civilly to each other, our young people have much to lose and our Church will remain incapable of listening to and addressing their urgent concerns.


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Aaron Milavec, BS physics, STB, ThD, theologian, poet, advocate, public speaker

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Responses to the three questions on p. 32 of my book

Q1. Examine the Pew data above.  What bearing does this have upon the audience that Matthew Vines is addressing?  How do you account for the fact that White Evangelical Protestants manifest the strongest antagonism to same-sex marriages?  How do you account for the fact that religiously unaffiliated Americans manifest the strongest support for same-sex marriages?



Q2.  How do you account for the fact that acceptance of same-sex marriages continues to slowly rise in all the categories polled?  Why is it that the current younger generation (20-29 years of age) in all categories demonstrates significantly higher levels of support for same-sex marriages than do their parents (40-55 years of age)?



Q3. My personal mentor, Dr. Michael Polanyi,1 was fond of noticing that “every belief works in the eyes of the believer.”  Dr. Terry Sejnowski2 takes this one step further: “Just because everyone believes in an explanation does not make it true.  It sometimes takes a full generation for a commonly held [mistaken] belief to be flushed from a community.”  This is certainly true for the social and religious stigma against interracial marriages and against interfaith marriages.  Can this also be true of same-sex marriages?  If so, why so?





1 Michael Polanyi, Personal Knowledge

2 Terrence J. Sejnowski, The Deep Learning Revolution (The MIT Press) p. 271.

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.

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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” (www.twotlj.org/Ford.html).

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.

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Natural Law and Sexual Morality

Natural Law and Sexual Morality

by Chaplain Mike  27 May 2015

In light of the Irish vote to legalize same-sex marriage, a decision that has its Catholic leaders pondering what the future might hold, I thought we might discuss a few thoughts about traditional Christian teaching on sexuality, in particular the place of “natural law” in understanding sexual morality.

We traditional Christians tend to think our view of morality is a slam-dunk. That nature itself teaches clearly the purposes and goals for sexual relations, and that God’s revelation in the Bible and the Church’s Word and Spirit-prompted traditions are unequivocally compatible with those natural laws. As Peter Leithart writes at First Things: “Through the creation, human beings know the ordinance of God that there is a ‘natural function’ for sexuality.”

In Humane Vitae (1968), the monumental Catholic document about contemporary sexual morality, the Church teaches that moral sexual acts meet three criteria. They must be:
• Marital
• Unitive
• Procreative

As the Catechism says:

Conjugal love involves a totality, in which all the elements of the person enter—appeal of the body and instinct, power of feeling and affectivity, aspiration of the spirit and of will. It aims at a deeply personal unity, a unity that, beyond union in one flesh, leads to forming one heart and soul; it demands indissolubility and faithfulness in definitive mutual giving; and it is open to fertility. In a word it is a question of the normal characteristics of all natural conjugal love, but with a new significance which not only purifies and strengthens them, but raises them to the extent of making them the expression of specifically Christian values.

This makes sense to me. I count myself traditional when it comes to matters of sexual morality.

But I wonder if appealing to natural law is really the best way to make the traditional point. It seems to me that nature teaches us some things fundamental about biology and reproduction. Male and female bodies complement one another. Human beings reproduce by joining them together in sexual intercourse. If we bring our Creator into the discussion, we might say that God designed our bodies this way for this purpose — this biological, procreative purpose. . . .

I’m not convinced that nature teaches us that sex should be marital. Or that “marital” must involve only one man and one woman, joined together for life. It seems to me that we need more information than what we could get from observing the natural world to come up with that.

Gary Gutting, professor of philosophy at Notre Dame and editor of Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, thinks the Church may have overplayed her hand with its emphasis on natural law teaching, especially in light of the contemporary debate on same-sex unions.
The problem is that, rightly developed, natural-law thinking seems to support rather than reject the morality of homosexual behavior.

Consider this line of thought from John Corvino, a philosopher at Wayne State University:

A gay relationship, like a straight relationship, can be a significant avenue of meaning, growth, and fulfillment. It can realize a variety of genuine human goods; it can bear good fruit. . . . [For both straight and gay couples,] sex is a powerful and unique way of building, celebrating, and replenishing intimacy.

The sort of relationship Corvino describes seems clearly one that would contribute to a couple’s fulfillment as human beings — whether the sex involved is hetero- or homosexual. Isn’t this just what it should mean to live in accord with human nature?

Noting that proponents also use natural law to show the immorality of birth control, masturbation and even non-reproductive sexual acts between heterosexuals, Gutting asks two questions:
First, why, even if non-reproductive sex were somehow less “natural” than reproductive, couldn’t it still play a positive role in a humanly fulfilling life of love between two people of the same sex?
Second, why must non-reproductive sex be only for the selfish pleasure of each partner, rather than, as Corvino put it, a way of building, celebrating, and replenishing their shared intimacy?

He is making the argument that the unitive and marital functions of sexuality can be fulfilled in relationships and through practices that are not necessarily procreative. The most conservative Catholic teachers disagree, and deny that any sexual act that leads to orgasm apart from intercourse is [il-] legitimate, even for heterosexual married couples. Yet we know that married couples continue their sexual relations long past childbearing years when no procreative purpose is in view, and find ways of pleasuring one another apart from intercourse alone. I suspect that those teachers don’t have a full appreciation of the significance of mutual pleasure in the sexual relationship.

As a traditionalist, if I were listing the essential elements of a “moral sexual act,” I would add “mutual pleasure” to marital, unitive, and procreative.

This “pleasure principle” is where a closer look at nature and human nature in particular might backfire on the traditional view. For example, because of the male anatomy, sexual intercourse is perfectly designed for male pleasure. This is not the case, however, with women. The anatomy of the female orgasm is focused on the clitoris, which is outside the vagina. The vast majority of women do not experience sexual climax through intercourse, but through direct stimulation of this external organ, and it’s entirely possible that those who do have orgasms during coitus have them because they receive indirect stimulation there. In other words, if sex is for mutual pleasure, then nature provided women with the wrong equipment to receive that pleasure through the procreative act alone.

It is not only nature, but the Bible itself that emphasizes the “mutual pleasure” significance of sex. In fact, one entire book of the Bible is devoted to it: The Song of Songs. This inspired, canonical work celebrates the unitive and mutual pleasure facets of love and sexuality with little emphasis on its marital aspects and no emphasis at all on its procreative possibilities. Maybe this book is one way God laughs at our little moral formulae.

Now, none of this is enough to persuade me to be anything other than the conservative person I am when it comes to sex, marriage, and family. And I have no agenda here of trying to persuade anyone else of anything. All this is simply to say that observations like these make me more cautious about thinking any case for a certain form of morality is strictly black and white, especially when based upon so-called “natural law” teaching.

This also makes me want to take much less of an “us vs. them” approach to talking about sexuality. The fact is, people who do not practice traditional morality may find great meaning, satisfaction, and deep bonds of love in their sexual relationships. For me to simply dismiss those people out there in “the world” as enslaved and bound by selfish desires, seeking their own pleasure at the expense of others, is not an honest portrayal of the people I observe every day. Loving my neighbor means I can learn from my neighbor, appreciate my neighbor, and see the image of God in him or her even though we hold different moral views.

I can maintain my moral beliefs and still confess that things can get a bit murky.

There are three things which are too wonderful for me,
For which I do not understand:
The way of an eagle in the sky,
The way of a serpent on a rock,
The way of a ship in the middle of the sea,
And the way of a man with a maid.  (Proverbs 30:18-19, NASB)
E.G. says:
May 27, 2015 at 12:24 am
Appeals to ‘natural law’ can really go awry.

Robert F says:
May 27, 2015 at 5:34 am
I increasingly have a hard time putting any credence in any sexual morality that attempts to micromanage from outside what happens inside other people’s sexual lives. Such intrusion seems extremely unnatural to me, any way you cut it.

Miguel says [to Robert F]:
May 27, 2015 at 12:07 pm
Right? I mean, Jesus and all them had some important stuff to say about the topic and all, but I kind of appreciate how general and vague they tended to be. There’s a few things clearly over the line, and the rest is “love your neighbor.” ….just not in that way.

The Finn says:
May 27, 2015 at 6:03 am
> I count myself traditional when it comes to matters of sexual morality.
Same here
> I’m not convinced that nature teaches us that sex should be marital.
Agree. It does not seem nature has much interest in the matter.
> the Church may have overplayed her hand with its emphasis on natural law teaching
I agree. Natural Law upon analysis very often looks like “what we thought was ‘normal’ yesterday” more than it appears to be derivative of something from Nature. Nature is massive, you can find all kinds of things within it.
> All this is simply to say that observations like these make me more cautious about thinking any case for a certain form of morality is strictly black and white, especially when based upon so-called “natural law” teaching.
> For me to simply dismiss those people out there in “the world” as enslaved and bound by selfish desires, seeking their own pleasure at the expense of others, is not an honest portrayal of the people I observe every day
I know some really amazing people ‘of the world’; to accuse them of selfishness in their personal relationship would be unconscionable.

Henry Darger says:
May 28, 2015 at 6:16 am
Why does “traditional” Christianity always boil down to its most bigoted aspects? Whatever happened to love, the Golden Rule, etc.? On the subject of sex, the internet atheists are far more sensible and ethically grounded than this retrograde claptrap:  http://www.patheos.com/blogs/godlessindixie/2015/05/22/the-church-doesnt-get-to-make-the-rules-about-sex-anymore/

Stephen says:
May 27, 2015 at 9:12 am
May I point out that a Church who privileges celibacy just might not be the best source of advice on human sexuality?  And we should probably note that the Church’s teachings on sexuality are one of the most often cited factors in the rise of the ‘Nones’?
I was reading an article recently on the so-called “Purity Ball” movement in some Conservative Christian groups where ceremonies are held in which daughters pledge their virginity until marriage to their Fathers. The article pointed out that polls show young girls who pledge their virginity are just as likely to have premarital sex as ones who do not. But there is a striking increase in the likelihood of sexually transmitted diseases and unplanned pregnancies among the pledgers because they aren’t taught about contraception!

Chaplain Mike says:
May 27, 2015 at 5:08 pm
Earlier in the post I mentioned that the pleasure factor enhances unity, but I think it’s more than that, especially when viewed from the standpoint of what nature teaches. By nature, the sex act is pleasurable and since both partners are capable of orgasm, it is apparently designed for mutual pleasure. I think that traditional teaching has understated this for fear that an emphasis on pleasure will undercut moral responsibility. In my view that has had disastrous consequences. Neither nature nor the Bible is shy about the pleasure sex provides. If God made our bodies and the sexual process, he apparently designed them for pleasure as well as procreation, and in the case of females that doesn’t happen usually through intercourse. I thought that these were points worthy of making “mutual pleasure” a separate point.

Those who want to interact with this blog are warmly 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 takes less than a minute.

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.

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Pushback against the “Morality Clause” in SF

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco inserted a “morality clause” in teacher contracts that is quite similar to what Archbishop Schnurr did in Cincinnati.  The teachers and their supporters in San Francisco, however, were much more pro-active in confronting Archbishop Cordileone.  Students in Catholic schools also engaged in nonviolent protests against having their teachers muzzled by their Archbishop. They had candle-light vigils in defense of their teachers and in favor of allowing students to be authentic (see pic above) about their sexual orientation (see #TeachAcceptance).  At the Mass opening the school year, student lined the side-walk and entrance way to the Cathedral with expressions of support for their teachers against the heavy handed morality clause.  Nearly 80% of the teachers wore black as a sign and symbol of their mourning.

Jim McGarry, a retired educator who taught Catholic theology for twenty years at San Francisco’s St. Ignatius College Preparatory, a Jesuit Catholic high school that his own children now attend, supported the student protestors by publishing an “open letter” supporting their efforts and by saying openly what many were afraid to say:

“[The archbishop] is not in compliance with Catholic teaching,” McGarry said.  “He is very selectively choosing a small number of doctrines and putting them forward in a selective way and, I think, distorting the tradition … in a way that first of all endangers the health and well being of our children.”  McGarry argued that Cordileone’s hard-liner stance on homosexuality, which would permit the firing of teachers who wed same-sex partners, directly contradicts a line in the Catholic Catechism that reads, “Every sign of unjust discrimination [against gays and lesbians] should be avoided.”  He also noted that Catholic teaching is well-known for guaranteeing freedom of conscience, allowing Catholics to disobey their government — or each other — when they feel that their morals has [sic] been violated.[i]

These are excellent points that challenge Archbishop Cordileone’s presumption of orthodoxy when he distorts the Catholic tradition by placing undue emphasis upon the wholesale acceptance of the Ratzinger Doctrine of homosexuality.  In addressing the concerns of  roughly 80% of his teachers, “Archbishop Cordileone defends his imposition of his “morality clause” into faculty contracts by saying that this is no more and no less the “making more explicit what our schools are called to uphold, even in the face of social pressure.”  In so doing, however, the Archbishop is not self-aware; he is not playing with a full deck of cards:

  • The Archbishop defends his right to fire any teacher who openly supports same-sex marriages.  His morality clause clearly has some good features, these however are overshadowed by his unbalanced and one-sided bias against homosexual rights.  He says nothing, for example, of his intent to fire any faculty member who, in word or in deed, “unjustly discriminates against gays or lesbians.”  Both the Universal Catholic Catechism and the doctrinal directives of Cardinal Ratzinger clearly affirm that homosexuals are to be protected from unjust discrimination.   Why does the Archbishop not take notice of this?  Does this protection of sexual minorities not constitute an essential Catholic doctrine and guide to practicing the faith?
  • Dozens of high-ranking bishops and cardinals have already gone on record to advocate the civil protection of “same-sex unions.”  Pope Francis himself has favored for a long time the legalization of “same-sex unions” while reserving the term “marriage” in its traditional meaning.   If this is the case, how can  Archbishop Cordileone threaten to fire any teacher who enters into a civil “same-sex union”?  To be consistent, does the Archbishop need to expose and to punish those bishops and cardinals who have endorsed same-sex unions as a legitimate way for homosexuals to protect their rights?
  • Archbishop Cordileone inserts into the contract that teachers are “ministers.”  In so doing, he follows the example of Archbishop Snurr of Cincinnati who was cautioned by his lawyers to take this step so that teachers cannot defend themselves in court by saying that the U.S. Supreme Court decision of 2015 guarantees their right to enter into same-sex marriages.  If those teaching in the classroom are legally defined as “ministers of religion,” then the American legal system gives the Archbishop a free hand in firing teachers who are gay or lesbian.  Priests, for example, have a legal right to marry according to federal and state laws; yet, since they are classified as “ministers,” the Catholic Church can decide that it’s ministers cannot marry.  The U.S. courts cannot regulate the conduct of religious bodies when it comes time to determine the conditions of employment for ministers of religion.

Jim McGarry’s Open Letter to the students in SF

By way of closing this chapter, I want to reproduce here the whole of Jim McGarry’s Open Letter.  Notice that he begins with his experience.  He is calm, firm, and decisive.  Notice also that he validates the students’ experience.  This is key!  Then he invites the irate protestors to be nonviolent peacemakers as they offer unflinching support to those scarred by Ratzinger’s hate-language.

Decades before you were born, we, your parents, grew up in Catholic and other schools where no one was “out.”  We heard the term “fag” thrown around classrooms and hallways with casual cruelty.  There was overt bullying and brazen gossip based on perceived sexual orientation.  There was occasional violence.  There was loneliness and even despair among our peers who knew they were “different.”  There were suicides as well as descent into slower forms of self-destruction [sic].  There was anger smoldering beneath the surface among those who knew they would never be accepted.  Our teachers and school leaders?  Silent or worse [complicit?].

You young students, our sons, and daughters, in Catholic Schools in the last decade have grown up with a new reality.  You have peers “out of the closet,” and you see that their human dignity is not diminished by their sexual orientation, and you indeed celebrate your unity undergirding the differences.  You also have peers whose families are led by gay or lesbian parents; you visit them, they welcome you into their homes, you see their full humanity flowering in their families.  Some of you live in such families, newly protected by laws recognizing civil same sex marriage.  You may know a classmate who was conceived by in vitro fertilization.  You do not see the circumstances of his or her conception as changing in any way the inheritance as a child of God.  You include them in your circles without question.  This is new, this is a blessed change.

There is no going back.

However, the language currently proposed by the Archbishop for your faculty’s handbook, in which active homosexuals, including those in marriages no matter how loving, are labeled “gravely evil”—that language is what is now repulsive to you.  What a reversal!  Stay faithful to your new perception—and thank the current generation of teachers who have helped inform your consciences and boldly inspired you to believe that human dignity is indivisible.  Stand with them, and start by learning more about human beings from all the disciplines you study, and most especially from your study of the Gospel of love, from the God who liberates slaves and all those oppressed, from the Spirit that stands with the truth of Church teaching based on the saving presence of God’s grace and mercy in our lives.

Archbishop Cordileone cannot hear this message.  He is still firmly persuaded that Cardinal Ratzinger has given Catholics the truth and the whole truth.

He is persuaded that there is an intrinsic order in nature that must be heeded and obeyed.  He thus joins himself with those Catholic bishops in the South who were persuaded that “Negro slaves” were an inferior creature and that it was contrary to God’s intentions to allow these inferior creatures to marry and to interbreed.  The laws of nature do not allow humans to interbreed with chimpanzees.  The laws of God oppose interbreeding.  Never shall Negroes be allowed to marry Whites!

He is persuaded that there is an intrinsic order in nature that must be heeded and obeyed.  He thus joins himself with those Catholic bishops who entirely opposed the marriage of Catholic and Protestants.  Every child comes into the world with the expectation that the truths of the Catholic faith would be passed on without adulteration.  An interfaith marriage would naturally lead to a confusing mixture of truth and error.  The child born into such a union would never have the powers to distill the primal truth out of this confusion.  To prevent this, it must be assured that every Catholic child is raised by two parents whose minds are attached to the same faith and the same practice.  The spiritual future of such a child would be rightly protected.  Never shall Catholics be allowed to marry Protestants!

Archbishop Cordileone is persuaded that there is an intrinsic order in nature that must be heeded and obeyed.  While we have made concessions respecting interracial and interfaith marriages, we must draw a clear line of demarcation respecting homosexuals.  Marriage is directed toward reproduction.  Nature decrees this and so does the God of Nature.  Every marriage must bind a fertile man and a fertile woman.  We must never call “marriage” any union between two men or two women.

All in all, Archbishop Cordileone’s decision to draw a clear line of demarcation is laudable.  If everyone must be permitted to follow their informed conscience, then even AC must be allowed to follow his convictions in this case.

  1. It is a Catholic principle that no one ought to be coerced to act against his/her conscience.  As such, since many members of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church have already espoused the view[iv] that the civil rights of minorities could be better protected if they were permitted to have their unions sanctioned by civil authorities,
  2. it follows that those teachers who uphold this same view must not shunned or penalized for their convictions in this matter.  To do so, would be to commit a serious crime and sin against God.

Archbishop Cordileone has thus acted rashly and unjustly.  Instead of honoring the civil and religious rights of his teachers, he has effectively trampled over them.  Should he ever dismiss a teacher for supporting in word or deed same-sex marriages, then he would have to answer before God as to why he betrayed his sacred duty.  The friends and the family of the teacher are also gravely harmed.  Students are deprived of a capable, dedicated teacher who rules his life by obedience to God rather than obedience to man.  AC also betrays his trust as an administrator–he has given grave scandal by mismanaging the affairs of the Church.

Furthermore, Archbishop Cordileone has the obligation to honor and protect gays and lesbians as loved by God and as deserving the pastoral care of his office.  He also has the obligation to “act justly” as an employer and not to punish teachers by imposing a “gag order” designed to hinder the well-intentioned and legitimate support that Catholics have offered in favor of same-sex civil marriages.

In Boston, meanwhile, this very issue was being discussed by Cardinal O’Malley:

At the end of the event [a panel discussion on Pope Francis held in Boston on 14 Sept 2014], after the crowd had dissipated, I [Francis DeBernardo] had the opportunity to thank Cardinal O’Malley one-on-one for his compassionate remarks earlier in the evening about the LGBTQ community.

As we spoke, the cardinal told me that we must first convince people we love them before talking about the Ten Commandments. I pointed out that it has been hard to convince LGBTQ Catholics and their allies of this love when so many church workers have had LGBT-related employment disputes with Catholic schools and parishes. Responding to my comment, Cardinal O’Malley said this trend was a situation that “needs to be rectified.”[v]

Meanwhile, in far-flung Australia, another voice sounds that upholds the “deviance” of the SF teachers and pushes against the forces of oppression in the Church represented by the Archbishop:

Australian Bishop Vincent Long Van Nguyen has said that it is not good enough for the Church to treat gay people with compassion and then define their lifestyle as “intrinsically disordered,” “We cannot talk about the ­integrity of creation, the universal and inclusive love of God, while at the same time colluding with the forces of oppression in the ill-treatment of racial minorities, women and homosexual persons,” said Bishop Long of Parramatta diocese in western Sydney.

“It won’t wash with young people, especially when we purport to treat gay people with love and compassion and yet define their sexuality as ‘intrinsically disordered.’ This is particularly true when the church has not been a shining beacon and a trailblazer in the fight against inequality and ­intolerance.”vi]

Here is the petition that students and parents signed as part of the teach-in on #TeachAcceptance.

The necessary next step would be to allow Cardinal Ratzinger’s condemnation of same-sex unions be competently investigated to see whether it does contain shoddy logic, dubious misinformation, and defective biblical exegesis (as shown in Chapter 2).  The world-wide Catholic bishops have never been consulted on this issue.  Nor has the Pontifical Biblical Commission or the Vatican’s International Theological Commission.  In this Jubilee Year that Pope Francis proclaimed, “to rediscover God’s mercy and experience the mystery of his love,” would it not be to the interest of all persons concerned . . .

. . . to encourage and to officially sponsor[ii] open and free discussions of all aspects of homosexuality,

. . . to permit oral histories [iii]to be gathered whereby Catholics in same-sex unions would have an opportunity to share their stories publicly, and

. . . to have all bishops and priests and self-appointed “watchdogs” cease and desist from all forms of coercive action and to have all censures lifted against those persons who did not agree with or comply with the Ratzinger Doctrine.

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] See Appendix 4: Catholic Church Leaders Who Made Positive Statements about Civil Unions and Same-Gender Marriages

[ii] Francis DeBernardo, Boston’s Cardinal O’Malley: LGBTQ Church Worker Firings “Need to be Rectified,” New Ways Ministry 15 Sept 2014 (https://www.newwaysministry.org/2014/09/15/bostons-cardinal-omalley-lgbt-church-worker-firings-need-to-be-rectified/)

[iii] Global Pulse staff, “Australian bishop challenges Church on homosexuality,” 16 Sept 2016 (https://international.la-croix.com/news/

[iv] Jack Jenkins, “How San Francisco Catholics Are Pushing Pope Francis’ LimitsThinkProgress, 10 March 2015 (http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2015/03/10/3631727/

[v] Remember, in Chapter Three, Pope Francis brought the bishops at the two Synods back to the place where they could freely speak their minds to each other and the necessary means to recover the collegiality required to discover pastoral solutions to address the suffering of Catholic families.

[vi] In the “Further Resources,” you will find some mind-bending and heart-rending oral narratives.  This will allow everyone to recognize that there can be no abstract code of ethics like the Ratzinger Doctrine that will resolve the issues associated with homosexuality.  This is the reason that I have not been tempted to supply a code of ethics to replace the sorely defective work of Cardinal Ratzinger.  If you are a life-long expert in IBM computers, you cannot hope to provide a solid set of rules for maintaining and using Apple computers.  So, too, someone who is a heterosexual cannot hope to provide, in isolation, a solid code of ethics for homosexuals.  It remains, therefore, for homosexuals to dialogue with each other to address their ethical questions on their own behalf.  Heterosexuals can be invited to listen and to learn and to advise—but surely not to imagine that they are experts in a realm that they can only know second-hand.  The intellectual arrogance of men like Cardinal Ratzinger is staggering. 


Protestant and Catholic Fundamentalism in action

Fundamentalists thrive in times of rapid social change.

Fundamentalists generally champion emotionally charged issues that can be reduced to unambiguous black and white terms.  Fundamentalists succeed in making a show of strength by humiliating and marginalizing “deviants” who are unable to protect themselves.  Thus the Taliban sends out men and women each morning who are employed as “morality police,” armed with paint brushes on three foot poles and cans of black paint.  They are charged with painting the bare ankles or the hair of any woman “immodestly dressed.”  They can arrest any woman who is outdoors without a male relative acting as chaperone.  They can likewise arrest any unrelated man and woman conversing together at the bus stop.

The self-appointed “morality police” among Catholic fundamentalists are often bishops who can be just as intrusive and menacing, but they use different forms of intimidation peculiar to their office:

Archbishop John Myers of Newark just told Catholics in his diocese who support same-sex marriage that they should “refrain from receiving Holy Communion” and calls “a proper backing of marriage” a fundamental issue for Catholic voters heading into the election.  Catholics in Minnesota will receive a letter this week from the state’s bishops encouraging them to donate money for television ads asking voters to approve a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.  The new archbishop of San Francisco has said gays and lesbians who are in a sexual relationship of any kind should not receive Communion.  In Omaha, the archbishop is encouraging priests to preach against the city’s recently passed sexual orientation anti-discrimination ordinance.  Meanwhile, the Seattle archbishop, who is overseeing the Vatican crackdown on Catholic nuns while he lobbies for an anti-gay marriage ballot initiative, cheerily warns that “human society would be harmed beyond repair” by same-sex marriage.[i]

The Seattle archbishop did not need to invent his emotionally-charged words of doom; he borrowed them right out of Cardinal Ratzinger letter on same-sex marriages.

Pope Francis has nothing to do with encouraging bishops to avidly strike out at supporters of same-sex marriages inside and outside the Church.  The image of the Church favored by the Pope is that of a “field hospital” that welcomes in those injured and heals their wounds.  Meanwhile, for fundamentalists, their image of the Church is “the fortress on the hilltop” that protects the “true believers” and defends the true faith against all the enemies of God.  However, Pope Francis, up to this point, has not taken any strong steps to discourage bishops like Archbishop Schnurr and Archbishop John Myers of Newark from punishing and humiliating the supporters of same-sex marriages.  And, more to the point, when the U.S. bishops meet in their bi-annual meetings, there is no attempt to call for moderation and to challenge whether the excesses promoted by the zealots violates the Gospel of Love and denies the “dignity” that even Cardinal Ratzinger affirms for gays and lesbians.

Not a week passes when I don’t hear a horror story of how gay and lesbian Catholics have been openly abused by those who imagine themselves to be the self-appointed “morality police” of fundamentalism.[ii]  Here are two illustrative cases:

Case #1 Father Kneib denies Communion to the mother of the deceased

Carol Parker and Josie Martin have been same-sex partners for twenty years.  They had served as lector, cantor, and choir singer for twelve years at Columban Catholic Church in Chillicothe, Missouri.  Then Carol’s mother died.

Their recently ordained parish priest, Father Benjamin Kneib [pic shown at his recent ordination], decided that, in conscience, he could not give the lesbian couple Communion at the funeral mass.  Both of them were devastated: “It was a shock to hear him say that,” Parker said to the News-Press.  “I never expected that, especially at my mother’s funeral.”[iii]  Many of those in the parish who know and respect the couple refused to accept communion themselves in solidarity with the grieving couple.

Parker and Martin expressed their sadness that [Fr.] Kneib would choose to compound their grief by preventing them from participating fully in the funeral.  “It was very important to me, my last opportunity to worship here at the church with her [my departed mother].” [iv]

Upon noticing how many of those attending the funeral had declined to take Communion, Fr. Kneib later apologized to Parker for taking action “at the time of her mother’s funeral.” But the bond of trust had been broken:

The couple has found a new church to attend, one hour away.  Parker said to Fox [News], “My faith is strong enough that I wasn’t going to let this deter me to go to church.”  “We’re all God’s children, and we have every right to receive Communion,” Parker told the News-Press.  “Even the pope has said, ‘Who am I to judge?’”[v]

This is the sad legacy of Ratzinger Doctrine that has infected Fr. Kneib.  He takes Holy Communion and uses it as a way to bless the righteous and as a way to rebuke “sinners.”  And who are the “sinners” according to current Catholic practice?  Those women who procure an abortion and those who assist her.  Those who use any form of artificial birth control or make it possible for other to use birth control.  Those who divorce and remarry (while their initial spouse is still alive) in a civil union.  And, most recently, active homosexuals and anyone who supports same-sex civil marriages.  It is these later persons that my book is most concerned with.

In the long history of the Catholic Church, “excommunication” was used in cases of grave sins that severely harmed individuals and harmed the community.  Three sins in the first five centuries merited excommunication: idolatry, murder, and adultery.

Excommunication meant expulsion from the community and no contact with its assemblies.  No  excommunication was definitive, however.  In fact, those who were repentant after having committed one the three unpardonable sins were admitted to the “order of penitents” which gave them the tools to rectify the causes and the effects of their grievous failing.  After a suitable time of “purification,” penitents who were readmitted were again allowed to take part in all of the church assemblies, most especially, the Sunday Eucharist.

As time developed, various other practices limited the use of excommunication.  Most especially, the emergence of private confession of sins to a priest in the fifth century and the penitential practices associated with Lent (the forty days prior to Easter) were of decisive importance.  Now, a grave sinner could be tolerated within the community as long as they did not receive Holy Communion during the Eucharist.  After confessing their sin to a priest, they were give a “penance” that may have lasted for years.  Once they completed their penance, they were given absolution by their priest and allowed to receive Holy Communion again.  Excommunications still did take place, but they were reserved for special cases where the nature of the crime was very pronounced and very public, e.g., the killing of a priest.

This helps to understand how and why the contemporary Church has used the denial of the right to take Holy Communion as a penetential discipline for someone committing a serious sin.  In the past, each person examined their own conscience prior to going to the altar to  receive Holy Communion.  If one detected an unconfessed grave sin, then one did not approach the altar without going to confession first.  In my youth, I was trained to go to Confession every Saturday afternoon so that I could  receive Communion on the day following.  Those who did not approach the altar were not assumed to be grave sinners.  Far from it.  If one did not abstain from eating and drinking from Saturday midnight onward, one was not permitted to approach the altar.

Did Fr. Kneib deny communion for a just cause?

On an online discussion board, some of those affected by Fr. Kneib’s actions had a chance to express their views.  Here is one such letter posted by 

We are all sinners, even Fr. Kneib. But how does he know the condition of anyone’s soul? He certainly hasn’t been listening to Pope Francis. . . . And those of us who believe we know who is or isn’t worthy to receive communion not only cut off others from an opportunity for grace and renewal with Jesus and his people, but also, and more importantly, deny themselves of the same opportunity to partake in the sharing of grace and christan love.  Fr Kneib has much to learn.

After a lot of give and take, Martin takes issue with Bill.  He writes as follows:

It may be hard to hear for some people, but Fr. Kneib did the right thing asking the woman who was in a sexually-active lesbian relationship from refraining from communion. . . . In 1 Corinthians, St. Paul warns (all of us!) about approaching the Eucharist unworthily.  Fr. Kneib’s actions were in the woman’s best interests and out of love for her. Let us pray for her.

There is some merit here.  Martin gives voice to those Catholics who have been instructed [and innocently misled] by their bishops into believing that lesbian sex is always abjectively immoral. But, for just a brief moment, let’s leave this matter of morality aside and examine the whole tenor of Martin’s letter:

To begin with, it puzzles me how either Fr. Kneib or Martin know that these two women are in “a sexually-active lesbian relationship.”  Do they spy into their bedroom at night?  Or do they simply assume this because they themselves are obsessed with disturbing thoughts of sex every time anyone uses the word “lesbian”?  But I notice that both women are in their late 60s.  Is it not more probable that they are living as “sisters” and as “friends” without any active sex life?  And, even if they are in “a sexually-active lesbian relationship,” how can either Fr. Kneib or Martin know whether the pair might have confessed their sins to another priest so that they would be free to receive Holy Communion at the funeral Mass?

It also puzzles me that  Martin so easily comes to the conclusion that Fr. Kneib’s actions were done “in the woman’s best interests and out of love for her.”  Has Martin revealed his hand here and presumed that “Father knows best”?  Is this the ugly head of arrogant paternalism showing itself and presuming (without any clear evidence) that men always KNOW what’s in the best interests of a woman?

It also puzzles me that Martin affirms (again without any evidence) that Fr. Kneib acted “out of love.”  So much evil has been done to women by men supposedly acting “out of love.”  How does Martin really know Fr. Kneib’s motives?  Maybe Fr. Kneib is just being a meddlesome busy-body.  Does Martin himself feel uncomfortable with the thought that lesbians enjoy unsavory sex on Saturday night and then come to church on Sunday morning and desecrate the “body of Christ” with impure hands?  If so, isn’t Martin exposing his own “dirty thoughts”?  Isn’t  he entirely ignorant of what truly are the “best interests” of Carol Parker?  Is he not likewise entirely ignorant of the motives prompting Fr. Kneib and, as a result, his assertion that Fr. Kneib acted “out of love” is no more or less than his own “pious fantasy.”

It also puzzles me that Martin wants to believe (needs to  believe) that priests are appointed by God as “morality police” who drive “known sinners” away from Holy Communion?  And what of the “embezzlers,” the “wife beaters,” and “those fathers who terrorize their underage daughters into having sex on Saturday night”? Does Martin want Fr. Kneib to expose these “sinners” as well and to drive them away from Holy Communion?  Martin’s letter is unclear on this point.

It puzzles me as to what prompts Martin to defend Fr. Kneib?  Does Martin expect Fr. Kneib to do for him what he cannot himself do, namely, to drive a wedge between this sinning lesbian couple and their spiritual family?  Paul’s letter clearly says, “Everyone ought to examine themselves” (1 Cor 22:28) before taking Holy Communion.  Martin completely overlooks this aspect of Paul’s text.  He wrongly assumes that Paul’s text authorizes Fr. Kneib to examine and to determine who is worthy to receive.  But this is precluded by Paul:  “Everyone ought to examine themselves” (1 Cor 11:28).

Finally, Martin’s final appeal, “Let us pray for her,” makes me cringe. Martin is playing with fire here.  We do well when we pray that God would bless those we love and bless our enemies (Matt 5:44) as well.  But, in this context, I greatly fear that Martin might be offering his readers a piece of self-serving pious nonsense whereby he assumes that God somehow needs our prayers in order to either cure Carol Parker of her lesbian inclinations or to stop her from “loving” her partner.  It never occurs to Martin that God loves Carol just as he made her and that the problem might be that Martin along with the Catholic bishops cannot see the “wonderful work” that God has already done is creating Carol just as she is.

In the “Hail Mary,” Catholics ask the mother of Jesus “to pray for us sinners.”  We are the sinners.  We are praying for ourselves!  Jesus, Mary’s son, was also aware of the arrogance involved in praying for those “others” whom we regard as “sinners.”  Recall how Jesus told the story of how “two men went up to the temple to pray” (Luke 18:10).   Jesus let’s us hear in detail the prayers of both of these men.  At the end, Jesus sternly warns us (his listeners) against those who exalt themselves in their prayers and who humiliate those who are not like us.  With this, I give Jesus the final word.


Case #2 Father Coelho denies Anointing of the Sick to a stroke victim

Lifelong Catholic Ronald Plishka wasn’t sure that he that he would survive when an ambulance brought him to the emergency room of Washington, D.C.’s Washington Hospital Center to treat his heart attack, so he requested a priest to give him Communion and administer the Last Rites[vi].

 Father Brian Coelho, a priest assigned to the hospital’s Department of Spiritual Care, arrived at his bedside to perform the sacrament of anointing of the sick, but stopped preparing for Communion once he found out that Plishka was gay. . .  Plishka told The Blade that Coelho offered to take his confession before proceeding with Communion and sacramental last rites.  “We started talking and I told him I was so happy with this new pope because of his comments about the gays and his accepting the gays,” Plishka said.  “And I mentioned that I was gay.  I said it and then I asked him does that bother you?  And he said, ‘Oh, no, that does not bother me.'”

. . . Plishka said that after his revelation, Coelho simply “would not continue” with the anointing of the sick sacrament or administration of Communion, offering Plishka no explanation.

“He said, ‘I will pray with you,’ but that’s all he’d do.  That was it.”  Plishka was shocked and angered by Coelho’s reaction.  He told The Blade, “He wanted to pray.  That’s what he wanted to do.  He said well I could pray with you.  And I just told him to get the f*** out of here — excuse me.  But that’s what I told him.”

. . . A spokesperson for the hospital, So Young Pak, released a statement to the Huffington Post that said, “MedStar Washington Hospital Center has taken our patient’s concerns very seriously.  While the priest is not an employee but rather is assigned by the Archdiocese of Washington to provide spiritual care at our hospital, it is our expectation that all who support our patients adhere to our values.  This includes offering pastoral and spiritual support to all patients, regardless of their faith traditions.”

Pak continued, “Our hospital was recognized last year as a “Leader in LGBTQ Healthcare Equality” by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.  We want to hold true to this important commitment to the LGBTQ community and to all of our patients.  Our Department of Spiritual Care has reinforced our expectations with this particular priest and his superiors.”

After Plishka told Coelho to leave, “The doctors came in and told me to calm down or I’m going to have another heart attack,” he said.

. . . The hospital sent a Methodist pastor to Plishka’s room, who prayed with him and gave him Communion. However, Plishka noted that “it’s not the same.  It’s not my religion, you know?  I’ve been a Catholic all my life and for them to refuse me a sacrament and to refuse me Communion?  It destroyed me.”

Plishka chose to speak out about the experience in the hopes of making a difference.  He said, “I think there comes a time when as a gay man you have to take a stand, you know?  It’s just intolerable to be treated like you’re nothing.  And I could have died.  And all I did was ask for the rites of the church that are due to me.  But because I’m gay I’m denied that.”[vii]

This is the tragic legacy of the Ratzinger Doctrine in action.  This priest and many others like him lose all sense of good pastoral judgment.  Instead of allowing the rite for the Anointing of the Sick to bring the one suffering into the presence of a God in their time of anguish[viii], it would appear that, the stroke victim was effectively denied this sacrament because he is an unrepentant homosexual.  This is not the true faith of the Catholic Church; it is the recent fanaticism of the few imposing themselves upon the whole.

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] John Gehring, “Catholic Bishops Rev Up Political Machine to Fight the Gays,” Faith in Public Life 26 Sept 2012  (http://www.faithinpubliclife.org/blog/catholic-bishops-rev-up-political-machine-to-fight-the-gays/).  Notice here that I’ve used a report from 2012 by way of indicating that the anti-gay fundamentalism within Catholicism is not a recent innovation.

[ii] I write here “guardians of fundamentalism.”  They, of course, see themselves as “guardians of Church doctrine.”  The “doctrine” they are endeavoring to impose upon the Catholic population, however, is largely limited to an ultra-conservative code of sexual purity that has become widespread only within the last fifty years.   In their eyes, however, this code expresses “God’s will for us” in these modern times and carries with it the approval of the last three popes.  Hence, they feel obliged to impose it on themselves and on everyone else as well.  For an example of how Catholic fundamentalists “tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders” (Matt. 23:4), see Monsignor Charles M. Mangan, “Married Couples Who Intentionally Chose Sterilization For Contraceptive Purposes and Lasting Repentance,” Catholic Online (http://www.catholic.org/featured/headline.php?ID=655).

[iii] “Lesbian Couple Denied Communion At Mother’s Funeral By Catholic Priest; Carol Parker And Josie Martin ‘Shocked’,” HuffPost 05 Feb 2014 (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/05/lesbian-denied-communion_n_4731562.html).

[iv] “Lesbian Couple Denied Communion.”

[v] “Lesbian Couple Denied Communion.”

[vi] The “last rites” is the older phrase because it refers to the sacrament of Extreme Unction (Latin, “Last Anointing”) prior to death.  After Vatican II, this practice was altered and this sacrament was renamed “Anointing of the Sick” and the faithful were encouraged to make use of this sacrament in the case of any severe illness and not just when the patient was dying.  Confession (a separate sacrament) can be administered prior to the Anointing of the Sick if the sick person requests it.  If the person is alert, s/he can request receiving Communion after the Anointing.

[vii] Ronald Plishka, “Gay Heart Attack Patient, Says Catholic Priest Refused Him Last Rites,” HuffPost 20 Feb 2014 (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/20/ronald-plishka-gay-heart-attack_n_4823914.html).

[viii] The Catechism of the Catholic Church details the benefits of this Anointing as follows:

The first grace of this sacrament is one of strengthening, peace and courage to overcome the difficulties that go with the condition of serious illness or the frailty of old age. This grace is a gift of the Holy Spirit, who renews trust and faith in God and strengthens against the temptations of the evil one, the temptation to discouragement and anguish in the face of death. This assistance from the Lord by the power of his Spirit is meant to lead the sick person to healing of the soul, but also of the body if such is God’s will. Furthermore, “if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.” (§1520)

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 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y7laFwqGIvE
  • 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 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1SJ6AV31MxA[ii]
  • What Would You Do?: Son comes out to Mormon family, 7-minute video, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BnY_V4X1C8M
  • 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, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r6AQ_85U7Q0

~~~~~~~~~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 https://www.rollingstone.com/

[ii] Interested persons can find a shorter version and commentary here: http://www.thebodyissacred.org/body/obsession.asp


“Catholic teacher fired for getting married”

When I do a Google search for “Catholic teacher fired for getting married,”  I get nearly ten million hits.  Overwhelmed by this, I did the same search on youtube.com.   Among the top forty hits, I have removed obvious duplicates and hits that do not apply.  Here are the top results.

Every story is that of a heartbreak.  Students are heartbroken to suddenly lose a beloved teacher.  They quickly discover that “her crime” was to marry the person “she loves.”  The religion teachers tell them that “God is love” and that homosexuals deserve our love, but, in today’s Church, many bishops clearly think that the love commandment applies only to heterosexuals.  What a mess!

2:48 = length of video in minutes: seconds

A Catholic school teacher was fired for marrying the love of her life – a woman. = summary of content

3.8K views9 months ago

Jocelyn Morfii married the love of her life — and was fired by the Catholic school where she taught.

3.9K views5 years ago

When Carla Hale was fired from Bishop Watterson High School in Columbus Ohio because she’s gay after working there for 19 …


St. Cloud teacher suing school for firing her after she revealed that she become pregnant when single.

173K views9 months ago

First-grade teacher Jocelyn Morffi was fired after marrying her wife. Cenk Uygur, the host of The Young Turks, tells you why.


Skutt Catholic students support gay teacher during school walk.


Join #FOWLERNATION!! http://bit.ly/14crV4D A Southern California man who taught at a Catholic high school for 17 years was …


Source: https://www.local10.com/education/openly-gay-teacherfired-from-miami-catholic-school-after-gettingmarried.


Flint Dollar says it was no secret he was gay while teaching at Mount de Sales Academy, a Catholic school in Macon, GA.

1K views4 years ago

A high school history teacher fired for being gay in 1972 received a long-awaited apology from the school board 42 years later.


Join #FOWLERNATION!! http://bit.ly/14crV4D Whether it’s the Affordable Care Act or dealing with gay teachers, Catholic …

302K views2 months ago

Roncalli High School Guidance Counselor Shelly Fitzgerald was placed on administrative leave after officials discovered she was …


A veteran teacher, respected by her peers, is accused of telling children too much about her gay life.

via CNN “A teacher at a Catholic school in Indiana is suing the diocese where she worked after being fired because the in vitro …


Teacher fired over pregnant and single. Did the Catholic school have the right to fire her? Hear what our A+ panel has to say.


Students gathered outside of the Catholic Diocese of Columbus to show their support for Carla Hale, their former teacher.

39K views8 years ago

FREE Month Of Movies(!): http://www.netflix.com/tyt New TYT Facebook Page(!): Follow us on Twitter: …


A local teacher fired from a Catholic school because of the danger her abusive, ex-husband posed to the campus is taking her …


Shortly after marrying her long-time female partner, Tippi McCullough received a phone call from the principal of Mt. St. Mary …

Teacher fired by Catholic employer after receiving fertility treatments. –On the Bonus Show: Kids drunk off hand sanitizer, Obama …


A local teacher fired from a Catholic school because of the danger her abusive, ex-husband posed to the campus is taking her …

5.9K views5 years ago

Worried the students were at risk, a Catholic school fired Carie Charlesworth. For more U.S. stories, click here: …


Visit http://www.outwithdad.com/whenisthenextepisode for info about season 3! Rose responds with fear and anger to news item …


A gay teacher at a Catholic high school was fired Friday after he applied for a marriage license. Michael Griffin was fired from Holy …


COLUMBUS (AP) — The gay teacher that was fired by a Catholic school in the Columbus area says the local union for Catholic …


A beloved Miami Catholic school teacher who recently married her partner, was fired mere days later, angering parents. Jocelyn …


Former Mount St. Mary’s Catholic teacher Tippi McCullough, fired by Mt. St. Mary’s Catholic School for Girls in Little Rock, …


teacher fired for doing the right thing.


CINCINNATI (Jeff Hirsh) — The Archdiocese of Cincinnati is defending its new contract for Catholic school teachers. All employees …


A portion of our Young Turks Main Show from February 12, 2018. For more go to http://www.tytnetwork.com/join. Hour 1: Cenk.


Some parents and students at a Macon catholic school say they’re upset over the firing of the school’s openly gay band director.


lesbian teacher fired from catholic school for marrying girlfriend . “In their eyes I’m not the right kind of Catholic for my choice in …


A Portland public school teacher claims he was fired for refusing to allow Planned Parenthood advocates into his math class and …

66K views8 years ago

New TYT Network channels: http://www.youtube.com/thetopvlog http://www.youtube.com/tytsports New TYT Facebook Page(!)


David Weston, CEO of the Teacher Development Trust and former science and maths teacher, talks about coming out as an LGBT …


The former theology teacher claims he was fired for blowing the whistle on another teacher.


Top Stories: 1. Catholic Teacher Seeking “Gay Marriage” Is Fired 2. Lesbian Mayor Denied by Local Judge 3. Jon Stewart Mocks …


Krzysztof Charamsa says his faith is not shaken. If anything, he says he’s a better priest for coming out — and it’s time for the …

30K views7 years ago

A substitute teacher in Florida was fired for being involved in gay porn. Ana Kasparian and Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks …


Kate Drumgoole has filed a lawsuit in Superior Court in Hackensack alleging that Paramus Catholic; its president, James P. Vail; …


A presentation by Honourable Mr. Justice Murray Sinclair as part of the Indigenous Knowledge Seminar Series offered by …


In the spirit of Thanksgiving, this timely and insightful forum moderated by Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian …


A Vancouver high school teacher was arrested on child rape charges Tuesday, the school’s principal and police confirmed.


Shawn Loftis tells Dr. Drew that he was fired from the Miami-Dade school district because of his gay porn past. For more …


Watch “The Download” Every Week, Monday-Friday: http://www.churchmilitant.com/video/archive/the-download Church Militant …


Ever heard of equal opportunity employment? Well, apparently, this Catholic school in New Jersey hasn’t. Too many people still …


Social media: ○ Discord: https://discord.gg/MurxWTd ○ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CrashUnderride ○ Twitter: …

122 views5 years ago

Bishop Watterson students are calling for change after they said a teacher was fired for being gay.


The coalition of Catholic high school students, Social Outreach Seattle and Eastside Catholic high school students asking the …

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~~~~~~~~

Are my criticisms of Ratzinger’s Doctrine rash and disrespectful?

Some persons will want to chide Aaron Milavec by saying, “The manner in which he exposes the defective logic and methodology of Cardinal Ratzinger is altogether rash and disrespectful.”  How so?

First, Milavec is just one theologian in the Church; Cardinal Ratzinger, by contrast, holds an exalted office in the Vatican which requires him to authoritatively decide certain delicate matters and to instruct the worldwide bishops as to what they are to think and to do relative to these matters.  In brief, Milavec should humbly submit himself to be taught by Cardinal Ratzinger.  Worse yet, Milavec takes upon himself the task of publicly correcting Ratzinger.

Second, if Milavec is indeed a Catholic theologian, then his proper role is to defend the teaching magisterium and certainly not to call it into question.  If Milavec notices flaws in Cardinal Ratzinger teaching, therefore, he should humbly and privately bring his observations to Cardinal Ratzinger’s attention and to leave it to him to decide if anything needs to be revised.

Third, it is altogether unfitting to broadcast to the whole Church the manifest flaws within the authoritative teaching of Cardinal Ratzinger since this has the effect of teaching Catholics to disrespect the “holy office” itself.  God himself has set Cardinal Ratzinger over us as our teacher and our guide in coming to arrive at God’s point of view in the matter of homosexuality.  Milavec’s role is to listen and obey.

How would I respond to these charges?  I would, first of all, acknowledge that there is some merit in each of these three points.  But I don’t want to get into an analysis at this point.  It would be non-productive.  Rather, let me tell you a story which will make my possible rebuttal all the more clear.

When I was first hired to teach at The Athenaeum of Ohio, Daniel Pilarczyk was then the Archbishop of Cincinnati and head of the Board of Trustees for the seminary.  At that time, Archbishop Pilarczyk was writing a popular book on key aspects of the modern Church.  One chapter was entitled, “Authority is Good for You.”  In an attempt to garnish feedback for his book, Archbishop Pilarczyk distributed to the Athenaeum faculty a preliminary draft of his chapter that would become the basis for an open discussion.  So, on the appointed day and time, the entire faculty sat in a circle of chairs and awaited the arrival of the Archbishop.  He arrived and warmly greeted the Rector and Dean and those few members of the faculty that he knew due to their long years of service at the Athenaeum.  Since I was a new-comer, I just enjoyed the Archbishop’s charming ways.

The Archbishop summarized his chapter in ten minutes.  He spoke of how every human organization, whether it is for a garden club, a manufacturing business, or a city government, must have a hierarchy of duly appointed officers who were charged with the good management of the whole enterprise.  The Church, therefore, should not imagine that she is exempt from this rule.  Good management requires that the appointed officers achieve the common good by assigning specific tasks to specific individuals.  Offices were expected to give directions and to hold their subordinates accountable.  Subordinates, on the other hand, were expected to serve the common good by obeying their superiors and fulfilling the tasks assigned to them.  Theologians, in this scheme of things, the Archbishop explained, had “the role of explaining and defending the Catholic teaching of the popes and bishops.”  So, then the meeting was thrown open for discussion.

A long and uncomfortable silence fell upon the group.  Our resourceful Dean of Studies broke the ice by applauding the Archbishop for allowing us to notice that the Catholic Church was not an exceptional case of hierarchical office holders demanding obedience.  The same thing also applied to Proctor and Gamble, the great soap company that had its international headquarters in Cincinnati.  Another long silence followed.

Lessons learned from Proctor and Gamble

My mind was racing.  Something was not quite right in the model that the Archbishop was setting before us.  But I was trying to find a way to say it. . . .  So, I threw caution to the winds, and decided to start speaking.  Here is what came out:

Let’s look at the case of Ivory Soap.  Throughout the world, Ivory Soap is being sold to the public as a safe and efficient cleansing soap that is “99 and 44 hundredths percent pure.”  Everyone in the corporation, from the top of the hierarchy all the way down the chain of command, stands behind this product.  The Publicity Department takes great pride in unflinchingly promoting the use of this product and they spend millions of dollars advertising the wholesome benefits of Ivory Soap to the public.

So far so good.  But the management and the Publicity Department at Proctor and Gamble depend very much upon the Research and Development Department.  The task of the R&D people, for example, is to thoroughly test a new product before it is released to the public.  Even after a new product is released, however, the R&D people are keen to keep records of instances when the product failed.  In the files of the Research and Development Department, therefore, there is a file folder with reports detailing the “product failures” of Ivory Soap.

Ah, here’s one of the cases detailed in this folder.  What does it tell us?  It tells us about a little girl of four who decided to give a bath to the two-week-old kittens that were clustered around their mother in quiet corner of the kitchen.  This little girl used Ivory Soap that was “99 and 44 hundredths percent pure.”  After the bath, however, all three kittens were blind.  This was an unfortunate result.  The R&D people decided not to recommend that management withdrawing the product because “most adults would never presume to use Ivory Soap to clean two-week-old kittens.”  However, they did alert management that even a product guaranteed to be “99 and 44 hundredths percent pure” would inevitable, under certain circumstances, end up doing great harm.

So now let’s apply this to the task of theologians.  It occurs to me that the task of theologians is to be like the R&D people and to thoroughly check out a new product before it is distributed to the public.  The Immaculate Conception of Mary, for example, was rigorously investigated by a committee of theologians and historians before it was proclaimed as part of Catholic doctrine by Pius IX.  Once proclaimed, theologians and bishops worked together as a Publicity Department to communicate it accurately to the faithful and to encourage its use within their pious devotions to Mary.  This is the area where our Archbishop focused his attention.

So, now, in keeping with my analogy, I arrive at the point of recognizing that every new doctrine can never be 100 percent pure.  Every doctrine, no matter how pure it seems on the surface, will inevitably result in doing great harm under certain circumstances.  So, I’m asking myself, who are the R&D people in the Church who are responsible for keeping track of the failures of our doctrines.  And once the failures begin to multiply, who are the R&D people who are responsible for alerting the bishops that a particular product may have so many documented failures as to require either that “a warning label detailing dangerous side-effects be published” or that the “product be withdrawn from general use as a hazard to spiritual health”?  And, in the end, if theologians have this task and the hierarchy and the people vitally depend upon us to function in this capacity, then why are we, as theologians, not making this clear in our job descriptions?  And why are our bishops not asking us theologians to keep them informed of the high failure rates of some of our current doctrines?

I’m laughing to myself as I recall and write down this story.  I took the Archbishop’s metaphor and extended it in a direction that, apparently, no one else had been thinking about.  Jesus told disturbing parables.  Now, here I was, creating a parable that both endorsed and challenged the position taken by our Archbishop.  It might also have served to challenge my colleagues to think of their job descriptions in a brand-new way.

But, just as Jesus encountered instances where his parables brought everyone to silence, so it was with my parable.  A long, uncomfortable silence fell upon us.  The Archbishop finally spoke, “Gosh, I never thought about it that way.  I’m going to have to think about what you said.”

When the Archbishop’s book[i] finally came out, I checked his chapter on authority to see whether anything had changed.  Nothing I could notice.  He did change the title though from “Authority is Good for You” to the more neutral, “Authority in the Church.”

So, did I fail?  Not entirely.  For, over the years, I became more and more aware of how some approved doctrines of my Church were causing grave harm to so many people. Only a few isolated theologians and pastors had sufficient love for the Church combined with sufficient fearlessness to perform the very unwelcome task of serving as God’s prophets and whistle-blowers.  So, it is my love for the people of God and my fearlessness that has prompted our Father in Heaven to choose me to write what I have written in this book.

Have I been too hard on Cardinal Ratzinger?  Some may think so.  All I can see is that our children are dying as a result of the toxic side-effects of this doctrine.  Some have taken their own lives out of shame and desperation.  Fathers have disowned their sons.  Mothers are ashamed of their daughters.  Some are cast out–hungry, homeless, and utterly miserable.  Our Church has been savagely torn apart by Ratzinger’s doctrine.  Lesbians in permanent unions have been denied Communion.  Teachers supporting them are being fired from our Catholic schools.

So, as I see it, my task is to write the “WARNING LABEL” that our bishops are unable and unwilling to write.  I pray to God that I will be more successful than when I told my parable during the faculty colloquium with the Archbishop.  But it is not healthy for me to overwhelm myself with self-doubts.  It is too late for that.  Like Jesus, I go forward no matter what the cost.  I leave the outcome in the hands of our Father in Heaven as did Jesus when he, in his day, openly confronted the Jewish Taliban.

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] Archbishop Daniel E Pilarczyk, Twelve Tough Issues and More: What the Church Teaches and Why  (Cincinnati: St. Anthony Messenger Press, 1988).

What Protestant pastors are preaching about homosexuality



Contributed by Paul Wallace on Aug 24, 2004

The Church must redemptively address the homosexual community.


What Do You Say To A Homosexual Series

Contributed by Jeff Strite on Jul 13, 2014

What do say to a homosexual? Do you say it’s “Ok?” That it is none of your business that they live like that? Or that they’re going to hell and God hates them?


Continue reading “What Protestant pastors are preaching about homosexuality”

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=http://www.jesus-is-savior.com/

[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.







had no choice then but to adapt an abstract legalistic morality:

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.



Either the Cardinal comes to this judgment because he has never taken the time and effort to meet the sort of same-sex couples that I describe in Ch1 or he presumes that such experience is unnecessary because he adamantly


or (b) that  necessary limitation of the essentialist viewpoint used by the Cardinal.

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 (http://www.wijngaardsinstitute.com/
statement-on-contraceptives/).  For personal stories, go to http://www.wijngaardsinstitute.com/endorsements-statement-contraception/

[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 https://www.iep.utm.edu/sexualit/#H6)

[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)” (http://www.amazon.com/Men-Mars-Women-Venus-Understanding/dp/

[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” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Story_of_the_Trapp_Family_Singers).  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 (https://newwaysministryblog.wordpress.com/2013/07/15/sister-jeannines-debate-with-bishop-thomas-paprocki-on-marriage-equality/).

[x] See, for example, Liz Halloran, “Report: Utah Judge Orders Child Removed from Home of Same-Sex Parents,” 11 Nov 2015 (http://www.hrc.org/blog/entry/report-utah-judge-orders-child-removed-from-home-of-same-sex-parents).