Cardinal Ratzinger’s culpability

Someone sympathetic to the Cardinal could, for example, argue that Ratzinger was preoccupied with academic and administrative matters during nearly the whole of his priestly life; hence, he never had any reason to suspect that persons like Martha and Mary even existed.  Thus, one could argue that the Cardinal’s ignorance of “holy sex” between same-sex couples was regrettable but excusable.

Furthermore, since Cardinal Ratzinger entered seminary at a young age, he himself would have been largely or entirely a stranger to sexual experience as well; hence, he would have had no way of knowing that “in practice” sexual encounters were a blessing or a curse depending upon the degree to which mutual respect, mutual caring, and mutual affection were operative prior to, within, and after the sexual coupling.  Only a narrow legalistic mentality could imagine that sex between an engaged couple, for instance, could be entirely evil and sinful before their wedding night while, after their marriage, every sexual act would be judged to be entirely holy and grace-filled.  Priests who have done a measure of marriage counseling know full well that marital sex can sometimes be cruel, manipulative, and painful–far away from the “love making” normally expected.

Giving Cardinal Ratzinger the benefit of the doubt

So, I want to give Cardinal Ratzinger the benefit of the doubt.  I want to say that his ignorance (as described in the two paragraphs above) is excusable.  What is not excusable, however, is that Cardinal Ratzinger went ahead and made terrible judgments about the moral worth of same-sex unions when he was blissfully ignorant about these matters.  A doctor who made a medical diagnosis of a patient without personally examining him would be held as culpable.  In the same way, Ratzinger’s diagnosis of the worth of same-sex unions is culpable because he acted recklessly and irresponsibly.

The fact that he sent out letters to the bishops all over the world mandating that they would apply his diagnosis as irrevocable and definitive makes him all the more culpable.  Why so?  (a) Because he arrogantly imagines that his own judgments have nothing to gain from consultation with others; and (b) because he mistakingly imagines that neither he nor his staff at the CDF are in any way limited by their own culturally conditioned experiences and their past theological training; and (c) because God himself consulted with Abraham regarding his plans on how to deal with the sins of Sodom (Gen 18:17ff).

And God said, “Should I hide what I am about to do from Abraham?”  With even greater necessity, Cardinal Ratzinger should have revealed to representative bishops and theologians thoughout the world what he was about to say and to do relative to homosexual unions.  Had he done this, he might have sent out his tentative pastoral letter of 2003 with the following safeguards:

  1. To acknowledge that he has arrived at his own moral judgment on the worth of homosexual unions [based upon his own limited and culturally conditioned experiences];

  2. To insist that bishops, as true teachers, have the right to make their own diagnosis based on their own particular pastoral experiences and theological training;

  3. If they should arrive at the same informed diagnosis as his own, then they should go ahead and instruct their priests to act likewise;

  4. However, should they arrive at a diagnosis different from his own (esp. one that conflicts with his own), then they should NOT instruct their priests to act likewise.  Rather they should communicate to him in detail how they arrived at their unique findings;

  5. Why so?  (a) So that he [Cardinal Ratzinger] might better take into account data and judgments emerging from cultural situation different from his own.  (b) So that he [Cardinal Ratzinger] might entertain the possibility that he needs more prayer, reflection, and dialogue in order prudently to modify his original assessment [such that it might take into account a cultural situation previously unknown to him].

But Cardinal Ratzinger did not consult with the world-wide bishops.  He could have done this easily and face-to-face by making his anticipated pastoral letter the topic for the tri-annual  meeting of representative bishops in Rome.   Likewise, he could have consulted….

I leave aside my personal judgment of Cardinal Ratzinger.  I focus entirely here on the fact that he did not consult with other competent and informed bishops.  What his motives were need not enter here because these remain hidden to us.  The fact that there was no public consultation, however, is alarming.  It hints at Cardinal Ratzinger’s incomprehensible sense of self-sufficiency.  At no point does he ever hint that he has any major or minor natural limitations–limitations in terms of the impoverishment of his personal experiences with same-sex couples, limitations in terms of his nearly non-existent pastoral care of homosexuals, and limitations in terms of his impoverished training in the varieties of moral reasoning and in the dependence of moral theology upon the bible.

The immediate result is that his 2003 letter to the bishops receives poor marks.  He seems incapable of functioning outside of an authoritarian and essentialist moral analysis.  His pastoral index is dangerously low.  He wrongly presumes that those bishops, priests, and nuns who are ministering   to gays and lesbian Catholics have nothing to offer him.  His moral analysis is entirely negative.  He says nothing about the faith, hope, and responsible love that characterizes so many same-sex marriages.  Without saying it, he makes the fatal error of imagining that all the varieties of homosexuality practiced today are no different than what was being narrated in the story of Sodom (Gen 18) and in the condemnations of Paul in Rom 1:24-26As a result, the cardinal’s  biblical analysis is naive and amateurish.

More importantly, given all the errors named above (biblical, moral, and pastoral), why didn’t a storm of protest emerge?

#1  Why did the world-wide bishops not take issue with Cardinal Ratzinger’s 2003 letter in the same way that the bishops took issue when Paul VI published Humanae Vitae?  Did their silence signal assent?

#2  Why did the world-wide moral theologians not take issue with Cardinal Ratzinger’s analysis of same-sex unions in the same way that moral theologians took issue when Paul VI published Humanae Vitae?   Did their silence signal assent?

#3  Why were the challenges leveled by DignityUSA never acknowledged by the US bishops?  . . . never acknowledged in diocesan newspapers and journals.

If you wish to address one of these, please click on the link associated with each of the questions above.

How bishops are expected to function

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

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

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

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

I leave it to my readers to give a grade to Cardinal Ratzinger relative to these three segments of Apostolorum Successores.

 

Those who want to interact with “Cardinal Ratzinger’s culpability,” are invited to post now.  A solid way to begin doing this is to offer “readback lines.”  To do this, glace back over the entire blog and pick out the one or two lines that have made a deep impression upon you.  Copy them and then drop them into a feedback text box below.  If you wish, signal the emotion that comes with these readback lines: love, anger, joy, anxiety, peace, etc.

Guidelines for Contributors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Her final five words welcomed transparency and dialogue.  Brava!

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

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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.
http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traumatic_insemination

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
Amen.
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.

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How Jesus Opposed the Fundamentalists

 

Our struggle against fundamentalism within our own churches and within our own families needs all the help we can get from Jesus. Let’s explore this.

Did Jesus Experience Fundamentalism?

When the Gospels are explored, it is clear that homosexuality and same-sex marriages do not show up as pressing issues in the world of Jesus of Nazareth. However, what one does discover is that Jesus did confront Jewish fundamentalists during the period when he moved through the towns of Galilee and preached in their synagogues. Here is the first instance:

2:23 One Sabbath he was going through the grainfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain.2:24 The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” 2:25 And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food? 2:26 He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions.” 2:27 Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the Sabbath;2:28 so the Son of Man[i] is lord even of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:23-28)

The setting here is that Jesus and his disciples are passing through grainfields as they go from one town to another (Mark 1:38-39). On the way, his disciples are hungry. They take the tassels of the wheat and rub them between their hands to remove the outer covering and eat the grains. I have done this myself from time to time. The grains are rather tasteless, but they do provide enough nourishment to at least take the edge off of my hunger. According to the traditions of the time, anyone was permitted to do this at the edge of a farmer’s field but they must not enter into the field (stomping down the stalks of grain as they go).

The Pharisees here are the Jewish fundamentalists that Jesus encountered. Notice that their complaint is directed toward Jesus and not toward the disciples themselves. They clearly regard Jesus as responsible for training his disciples; hence, the critique of the disciples is actually a complaint against Jesus that he has not trained them properly.

They probably expect that Jesus will rein them in. But he doesn’t. Rather, he turns his attention to the Pharisees and tries to win them over to his point of view. In brief, he engages them in dialogue. To do this, he cites the case of David and his companions who are fleeing the wrath of King Saul and take the liberty to raid the loaves in the temple reserved for the priests. This is an excellent teaching moment.

The Pharisees, in this instance, would hardly be inclined to support the claim of the priests; rather, Jesus would expect them to grant David the right (given the circumstances) to take (not to be given) the temple loaves to satisfy his hunger and the hunger of his companions. Jesus deliberately chooses this test case because David (who is not yet the king) here breaks the law to satisfy his hunger. But this is exactly what the disciples of Jesus are doing: they are breaking the law of the Sabbath in order to satisfy their hunger.

Fundamentalists don’t know how to make exceptions. They don’t make exceptions for themselves, and they are quick to bring others in line so that they don’t make exceptions either.[ii] They are sticklers for maintaining the letter of the law, which, for them appears black and white.

The Mosaic Law (Torah), by the way, specifically says that “harvesting” is not permitted on the Sabbath. Taking a dozen handfuls of grain can hardly be equated with harvesting. But Jesus doesn’t want to quibble with them as to how many handfuls a man can take and eat before it becomes “harvesting.” In other words, Jesus doesn’t want to get bogged down in the convoluted logic of the Pharisees. Rather, he wants to lift them out of their familiar mindset and to teach them that David took the liberty to break the law and that it follows, as night follows day, that every Jew has the right to break the law when their personal circumstances merit an exception.

How Jesus Opposed the Jewish Taliban

Same here with Jesus. He is not pestering the Pharisees to practice what he practices; rather, he is trying to stop them from imposing their thinking on everyone else. This is what fundamentalist love to do. They persuade themselves that they have “God’s absolute point of view” and that their mission is to bring everyone else into line “with their God.” In so doing, they become the Catholic Taliban and justify their “moral terrorism” as somehow required by God himself. This is why, as shown above, Pope Francis calls them “godless.”

Do the Phaisees stop pestering Jesus and concede that the disciples do have sufficient cause to override the Sabbath? We don’t know, but probably not. In any case, the Evangelists do not tell us. But the Evangelists do go on to tell us that Jesus put forward a general norm: “The Sabbath was made for [the benefit of] humankind, not humankind [made] for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27 and par.). Thus, Jesus takes the stand that “the day of rest” was designed by God as a blessing to relieve exhaustion from the six days of work. In Gen 1, even God shows himself as resting follow the exertions of the six days of creation. Thus, according to this, God learned from his own experience how a day of rest could be beneficial. Hence, according to Jesus, every Jew was invited to free themselves of a wooden conformity with Sabbath regulations, especially when the welfare of suffering individuals was at stake.

This has a bearing on our topic of homosexuality. How is it that Evangelical Fundamentalists are so quick to gather up texts condemning homosexual sex when they so easily dispense themselves from the Law of Moses that condemns anyone failing to keep the Sabbath rest with death by stoning (Exod 31:14, 35:3; Deut 5:13; Nehemiah 13:15-21)? Or, to take up again the argument of Matthew Vines: How can Evangelical Fundamentalists turn to those on their right hand and preach the good news of the Gospel to heterosexuals saying, “God solemnly promises you companionship and sexual intimacy when he says, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him’”(Gen 2:18) and, then, to turn to their left and say to the homosexuals, “None of this applies to you. God blocks his ears to your cries of loneliness, and he makes no provision for any sexual intimacy to gladden your hearts. You will go into your twilight years utterly alone and no one will care for you as you take you final breath”? And if Jesus acted outside of the letter of the Mosaic Law when he was moved by compassion for the man with the withered arm and moved by compassion for his disciples stricken by hunger, would not this same Jesus rush to act outside of the Christian Code of Ethics in order to bring a speedy relief to those homosexuals pleading to have Christians recognize the legitimacy of their love and their desire for marriage? And should not the churches be the first (rather than the last) to recognize that God created the blessings of marriage for both the heterosexual and the homosexual alike?

Then another case of Sabbath fundamentalism is introduced:

3:1 Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand.3:2 They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him.3:3 And he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come forward.” 3:4 Then he said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent.3:5 He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.3:6 The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.3:7 Jesus departed with his disciples to the sea, and a great multitude from Galilee followed him. (Mark 3:1-7)

In the earlier case, Mark makes it clear that Jesus was not accused for violating the Sabbath. Only his disciples were accused. In this second case, Jesus stands alone as the healer and he alone is accused. This narrative presupposes that Jesus has already gained the reputation as a healer (Mark 1:39-2:12) and that his enemies acknowledged his power to heal but attributed it to Beelzebub (Mark 3:22). At one point, Jesus uses the metaphor of “the physician” to describe his work (Mark 2:17). It cannot be that “magic words” are used, since Jews distrusted magic and a magical healing would not constitute “work.” The presumption of Jesus’ accusers here must be that healing involved some manipulation of the arm or hand as a physician would do. Likewise, the term “withered” does not have to imply a congenital deformity because the term “restored” implies that the hand was useless and Jesus restored its use.[iii] Jerome, for instance, thought that the man was a mason who suffered an injury that put him out of work. Jesus restored his hand and restored his livelihood as well. It must also be noticed that if the restoration were very dramatic (bone and flesh are suddenly or gradually entirely transformed), the sheer power of the transformation would have caused awe and fear in Jesus’ enemies because they would know that he could afflict a man just as well as heal a man. So the fact that they do not back away or shudder with amazement also indicates that Mark does not think of this event as frightening. The issue, after all, is whether Jesus would heal on the Sabbath.

Notice also that the healing in this narrative is not endangering the life of the man. Everyone would recognize the legitimacy for life-saving remedies on the Sabbath. In this case, therefore, Jesus uses this as a teaching lesson for the Pharisees. The issue is not that of doing a “miracle,” since even a miracle would be presumed to be done with God’s power and God is surely the Lord of the Sabbath. The words of Jesus as well make this clear: “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save life or to kill?” Jesus is on target, here, when he gives them a black and white question. Do good or do evil? Save a life or destroy a life? If they say, the former, then Jesus has their approval and can go ahead without any fear that he and his adversaries are on the same page? If they choose the latter terms, then Jesus has them over the barrel because they will be unable to justify their choice from the Scriptures and will look silly in the minds of the people. So they are sullenly silent.

He looked around at them with anger (Mark 3:5). Most Christians only think of Jesus as flaring up in anger only when he drives the money-changers from the temple. But here he is livid with anger. Surely there is a message here for Pope Francis and his supporters who are menaced by Cardinal Burke and his Taliban supporters.

In sum, Jesus deliberately heals a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath and defends his disciples for picking grain and satisfying their hunger on the Sabbath. He turns on his critics by questioning them sternly: “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do well or to do harm?” (Mark 3:4 and par.) and again “Have you never read what David did when we was in need and was hungry?” (Mark 2:25 and par.). In the end, he entirely dismisses the notion of “true religion” held by the Sabbath fundamentalists. They imagine that they are defending God’s honor by ramrodding Sabbath rules that tolerate no exceptions down the throats of the weak and the suffering.

The Jewish Taliban Was Paralyzed by Jesus

Jesus turns on his critics by questioning them sternly: “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm?” (Mark 3:4 and par.) and again “Have you never read what David did when we was in need and was hungry?” (Mark 2:25 and par.). In the end, he entirely dismisses the notion of “true religion” embraced by his critics. He ends up saying to them, “The Sabbath was made for [the benefit of] humankind, not humankind [made] for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27 and par.). Thus, Jesus takes the stand that “the day of rest” was designed by God as a blessing to relieve exhaustion from the six days of work. In Gen 1, God shows himself as resting follow the exertions of the six days of creation. Thus, according to this, God learned from his own experience how a day of rest could be beneficial. Hence, according to Jesus, every Jew was invited to rid themselves of a wooden conformity with Sabbath regulations especially when the welfare of suffering individuals was at stake.

What Does Pope Francis Think About Fundamentalists?

Pope Francis understands the corrosive effects of fundamentalism. He knows full well that it has infected the Catholic Church and that it subverts true religion and causes tremendous suffering[vii] whenever it shows its ugly head. Let Pope Francis speaks for himself:

So some may ask, “Pope Francis is the pope. Why isn’t he fixing this?” If one of the reporters had asked this question, Francis would have probably replied:

I’m doing what I can. But I’m not a Superman that can see and hear the evil being done by fundamentalist in ever diocese in the world and then rush faster than a speeding bullet to provide a papal remedy. So that’s why I said a moment ago ‘We have to combat it.’ Be fearless!

Pope Francis is recruiting you and I to challenge this menace[viii] wherever it shows up in our part of the world.

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] Some commentators take Mark 2:28 to be an assertion of Jesus’ authority to act like God, who is the Lord of the Sabbath. “To claim then to be Lord of the Sabbath was essentially to claim to be God.” This appears to me to be a mistaken understanding. Jesus is not pulling rank; rather, he is saying that everyone (his disciples and David included) has the right to judge (as a lord) when exceptional circumstances warrant setting aside the normal rules for “the day of rest.” Far from asserting his own authority, Jesus is affirming the right of his disciples (and of David) to judge such matters for themselves without any need to “get permission” from the Pharisees or from the priests. Notice, too, that David did not ask permission to take the special loaves reserved for the priests even though they were everywhere in the temple.

Scholars have noticed that the “son of man” sayings in the Gospels go in two directions. At times Jesus uses “son of man” as an oblique reference to himself (e.g., Mark 2:10, 8:31, 9:9, 9:31). At other times, Jesus clearly used “son of man” to refer to a heavenly being who will come in the end time to gather the elect and to judge the living and the dead (Mark 8:38, 13:26, 14:62). The Book of Enoch and Dan 7 specifically support this latter use of “Son of Man.”

Mark 2:28 doesn’t harmonize easily in either of these two directions. Mark 2:27 says, in effect, that ‘the Sabbath was made to serve humankind, and not humankind made to serve the Sabbath.’ Jesus, after all, is supporting the right of his disciples to decide for themselves whether they are permitted to take the edge off their hunger on the Sabbath. They don’t ask anyone for permission. They don’t even ask Jesus. Hence, Mark 2:28 has the sense of meaning ‘it therefore follows that everyone [every ‘son of a man’] has authority to decide how to keep the Sabbath.’ The Pharisees might have been inclined to accept such a judgment because they believed that every Jew had the right to learn to read and to interpret the Torah for themselves.

[ii] It is not exactly right to say they make no exceptions. Taking the case of tubal ligations, we saw how Kukla (following the teaching of the Vatican) allows it in some well-defined circumstances. So far so good. The menace of fundamentalism is that it apparently gives men like Kukla the right to decide what circumstances are allowed and which are not. They then adjust their definitions and their logic to permit just these and nothing else. The menace of fundamentalism is that Kukla now believes that he must guide every Catholic to use his definitions and his logic. When you check online, you will find a woman asking him whether she can have sexual relations with her husband if her reasons for getting a tubal ligation were immoral. “This greatly concerns me!” she says. What is going on here? Kukla is promoting this woman’s entry into a destructive fundamentalism. “Think like me and you will be saved,” says Kukla. Can you imagine the suffering that would be inflicted on her husband if this women would decide that his operation was a “permanent contraceptive” that required of her that she never make love to him again until the operation was reversed? Jesus says, “They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them” (Matt 23:4). To understand Pope Francis in a case such as this, see n. 111.

[iii] Robert H. Gundry, Mark: A Commentary on His Apology for the Cross (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993), 153.

[iv] See full text at http://prolife365.com/porn-viewing/

[v] Used twice: http://prolife365.com/those-awaiting-the-synod-to-redefine-the-churchs-dogmatic-teachings-on-marriage-will-be-greatly-disappointed/ and http://prolife365.com/problems-with-gay-marriage/

[vi] Thomas Aquinas makes the point that anger is the passion that naturally arises when justice is being denied. “Far from being a sin, ira [Latin: anger] is a positive good when directed by reason” (II-II. 158. 8 ad 2). Thus, some theologians argue that “not being angry at times may, given the circumstances, constitute a sin” (Robert Miner, “Thomas Aquinas on the Passions: A Study of Summa Theologiae, 1a2ae 22-48,” p. 286).

[vii] Karen Doherty, an organizer of the Conference of Catholic Lesbians, tells her own personal story of the meeting that she had in 1984 with Cardinal John O’Connor in NYC:

So again, [this] was one of those naïve, hopeful beliefs that if they [the Church leaders] would only hear us and hear our story, then they’d change. And I did remember thinking about him, because his predecessor would not meet at all with lesbian and gay groups, that at least he did. And he didn’t come in with a battery of advisors or canon lawyers, or anyone. He came in alone. So he met alone with about ten or twelve representatives from the various groups, including Dignity and CCL [Conference of Catholic Lesbians]. And he listened to what people had to say. And there was some heated exchange. And what he ended the meeting was, is that the teachings of the church are very deep on this issue, and I’ve heard you, but I do not see that there is going to be any change whatsoever. And I remember (cries as she tells this story) a man sitting next to me that had lost his children [when he came out as gay] starting to cry. And all the Catholics crying because there was no escape [from our situation]. You were hearing it, that no matter what, we [the bishops] can’t take you as you are. And I remember just sitting there feeling bad. And there was just a sense of resolve that we were going to go on [despite the bishops]. (http://www.lgbtran.org/Exhibits/OralHistory/Doherty/KDoherty.pdf)

After hearing many cases of parents disowning their children, I did not want to overlook the grief felt by parents who have heard their bishops abandon them.  At the same time, this narrative tells the story of how parents often get abandoned by their children.  They do this, in large part, because they feel betrayed by the dark secrets that their parents have concealed from them and because they feel ashamed of their parent’s choice of a homosexual life-style.  Underneath it all is the nasty logic of Ratzinger’s dogma of homosexuality.

Those who want to interact with “Cardinal Ratzinger’s culpability,” 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

My response to a Catholic fundamentalist

I first met Kevin Kukla online.  I came to appreciate him as having a solid intellect and a good heart.  He is a devoted family man and an accomplished philosophy professor at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa. He has created his own website, prolife365.com, and has about three dozen posted blogs.  The first one I read was “3 BIG Reasons Why the Catholic Church Teaches Against Voluntary Sterilizations.”  It didn’t take long for me to notice that Kukla has all the traits of Cardinal Ratzinger, including his mission to promote Catholic Fundamentalism as the only “true” faith.  Let’s look at some details and then I will share with you my response to his blog.

Here is what one finds on a medical website when one searches for the phrase “sterilization for women”:

What is Tubal Ligation?

Tubal Ligation is also knows as Tubal Sterilization or Sterilization for women. It is a permanent procedure that women undergo to prevent pregnancy. During this procedure, a health care professional will close or block a woman’s fallopian tubes.

How Does Tubal Ligation Prevent Pregnancy?

This method prevents sperm from reaching the eggs. Your body releases one egg each month and it passes through the fallopian tubes towards the uterus. Serialization for women blocks each of these tubes so the eggs cannot reach the uterus.  Without fertilization of an egg, a woman cannot become pregnant.

What Are the Benefits of Tubal Sterilization?

This method is a permanent method of birth control. It allows you to enjoy sex without worrying about becoming pregnant. It is simple, convenient, and safe. Most women say that they have an increase in sexual pleasure as well. This is likey because they don’t have to think about unwanted pregnancy.

Tubal Sterilization does not affect or change your hormone levels. The hormones that affect breast size, sex drive, muscle tone, voice, hair are still made in the ovaries. These hormones will still flow through your body as normal. You will still have normal periods and menopause will not happen earlier.

Tubal Ligation might be right for you, if you:

  • Do not want anymore children ever (you and your partner agree)
  • Do not want to pass a hereditary disability or illness
  • Think a future pregnancy can threaten your life
  • Agree with your partner that a vasectomy is not for him
  • Believe other birth control methods are unacceptable

What Are the Disadvantages of Tubal Sterilization?

This method is not for you if you:

  • Want to become pregnant in the future
  • Are feeling pressure from friends, family, or your partner
  • Are trying to solve a short term/temporary problem (being out of work, financial worries, physical illness, short-term mental, sexual or marriage problems).

It is important to think about the future and any possible life changes. Examples can include death of a child, remarriage or divorce.  [full text = https://www.birthcontrol.com/options/tubal-ligation/]

What I notice here is that a woman contemplating a tubal ligation is prompted to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of this medical procedure.  It is not meant for everyone.  Women must decide for themselves by taking into account her special circumstances.  No one is going to impose a solution upon her.  In coming to her decision, she is advised to talk this over with her husband because her decision here will impact his life most assuredly.  She is advised to seriously take into account how a tubal ligation will effect her own situation, both short term and long term.

When Kevin Kukla enters into a discussion with a woman contemplating a tubal ligation, he bypasses all discussion of advantages and disadvantages.  For him, such a discussion is unnecessary once one realizes that a tubal ligation is a grave sin that endangers one’s future with God in heaven.  In view of this, Kukla immediately gets to the heart of the matter (as he sees it):

When it comes to getting a voluntary sterilization, the same [moral] principles apply.  To purposely mutilate one’s flesh, so as to render one’s self sterile is a grave sin.[i]

I note immediately that Kukla equates a tubal ligation with self-mutilation.  His use of language appears directed to shock his reader.  After all, a tubal ligation is a “surgical procedure” performed by a doctor of medicine in a safe, sterile environment.  The moment that he equates “tubal ligation” with self-mutilation he commits the logical fallacy of presupposing his conclusion (namely, that a tubal ligation is a grave sin) in the very definition of his terms.  This would be like a prosecuting attorney addressing a defendant as “the rapist” throughout a trial.

Kukla’s use of exaggerated and circular arguments continues:

As I have discussed in the past, even earlier this week, sterile sex is not an act of love.  Obtaining a tubal ligation or a vasectomy is a form of permanent birth control, which is also gravely immoral.

Love includes doing what’s best for the other person—not using [manipulating?] that person.  Holding back one’s fertility, therefore, qualifies as using another person, in this case for sexual pleasure.[ii]

Kukla here wants us to believe that a tubal ligation or a vasectomy is “a form of birth control.” If the use of birth control is gravely immoral, then it follows that “permanent birth control” is all the more offensive.  Furthermore, Kukla is persuaded that the use of birth control is tantamount to manipulating one’s partner for one’s selfish sexual pleasure.  What strikes me as excessive here is his notion that every act of sex before the operation is judged to be “loving” while every act of sex after the operation is automatically reduced to being “loveless” and “manipulative.”  Kukla affirms these judgments without in any way making clear how he arrived at them.

It never enters Kukla’s mind that the sterilization might have been prescribed by a doctor as “medically necessary” because “another pregnancy will almost certainly be fatal.”  So, a couple that avoids the grievious sin of “self-mutilation” would have to use abstinence or NFP to prevent another pregnancy.  Abstinence might not be attractive because it means that one or both partners would be prone to experience sexual frustration that could lead to masturbation or infidelity–both grave sins.  NFP, meanwhile, is notoriously ineffective for many couples.  Hence, using NFP would be a source of grave endangerment for the couple described above.   I would expect that most of my readers would be able to imagine the severe anxiety that would plague their love making.

Maybe the medical website had a case like this in mind when it suggested that “Tubal Ligation might be right for you, if you think a future pregnancy can threaten your life.”  This is the promise and the benefit of this operation:

It allows you to enjoy sex without worrying about becoming pregnant. It is simple, convenient, and safe. Most women say that they have an increase in sexual pleasure as well. This is likely because they don’t have to think about unwanted pregnancy.

Kukla gives no signal that he would be open to special  circumstances that would more than justify allowing tubal ligation (“mutilation”).  This is not surprising.  Kukla’s blindness to circumstances is a clue that his analysis depends upon an essentialist position.  Acts are black or while, moral or immoral.  Self-mutilation is gravely evil and never permitted.  Birth control is gravely evil and never permitted.  Tubal ligation is a form of mutilation and a form of birth control.  As such, it is never permitted.

Kukla gives us no hint of his own experience in this realm, nor does he recount the experience of others by way of making his point.  The reader is kept guessing as to how a simple operation could change a loving, caring person into an ogre.  The following paragraphs help us to get a glimpse as to why he says what he says:

The purpose for sex is two-fold.  First and foremost, it is ordered toward the procreation of children.  Obviously, if one or both partners are sterilized, then the conjugal act no longer is ordered toward its primary purpose.

Second, the conjugal act is supposed to be unitive for the spouses and a remedy for concupiscence.  To purposely hold back one’s fertility from one’s spouse means the second purpose becomes frustrated as well.  How can there be unity, when one or both spouses are not fully committed?[iii]

Here Kukla defines, as does Cardinal Ratzinger, what two factors are absolutely essential for marital love-making to be judged as “good.”  Then, he shows how a tubal ligation vitiates one or both of these requirements.  When this happens, “good sex” falls immediately into his category of “bad sex” or “loveless sex.”  There is here no middle ground of “grey sex”—every act is black or white.

Notice how easily Kukla arrives at the harsh judgment (made without any explanation) that “both spouses are not fully committed.” Notice also that Kukla never speaks about “mutual surrender” and “pleasure bonding.” Not once does Kukla allow that “good sex” must be playful, mutual, and non-coercive.  A husband could force himself upon his wife and seemingly fulfill Kukla’s notion of “good sex.” Does not the phrase “as a remedy for concupiscence” harken back to the time when a husband “took his pleasure” as he might with a slave or a prostitute?  And why does Kukla repeatedly use the clinical term “conjugal act” (just as does Cardinal Ratzinger) while studiously avoiding the modern notion of “love-making”?

This line of thinking and speaking is important to notice here because it helps to make transparent how Kukla along with Cardinal Ratzinger will later apply this same sort of analysis to lesbian lovers and come up with the hard and fast conclusion that a lesbian is only capable of  “bad sex” = “loveless sex” =  “grave sin every single time.”

No sooner does Kukla finish making his grand analysis when he has to back up and make a series of escape clauses to allow for exceptions.  Here is one such exception:

If a medical condition necessitates someone to lose the use of or to have removed their sexual organs, then this is not a sin.  There, the mutilization is a therapeutic means of improving one’s life physically.[iv]

Note here that the continued use of the term “mutilation” at this point forces us to believe that, in Kukla’s mind, there are now “good mutilations” and “bad mutilations.”  This makes Kukla’s judgments appear prejudicial and arbitrary.  If a woman has a life-threatening cancer growing in her follicles, then they might be surgically removed.  Why so?  Because here the organs themselves pose a physical threat.  Healthy follicles cannot be removed.

Kukla position may flounder here.  How about the case of removing tonsils in children?  If this a “mutilation” that is never permitted? Then, following the logic of Kukla above, are we to suppose that one must always wait until the tonsils are inflamed and the child has a high fever before removing them?  Does the same hold true for wisdom teeth?  Can they be removed only if and when they are sore and impacted?  A case then can be made for the legitimacy of “preventative surgery.”  Extending this further, would it be possible to see tubal ligation as a form of preventative surgery?

Does a wife who is chronically nervous and psychologically frigid because of her “fear of yet another pregnancy” have the right to get a “tubal ligation” as the therapeutic means to retain her sanity?  How about a wife with three children who is “chronically worn out” and knows that she will either stop having babies or she will walk out of her marriage and her children’s lives completely?  Kukla fails to consider such cases.  Is this because he has never encountered them? Or is it because he, as a man, fails to give much weight to women’s psychological health?  One cannot be sure. In any case, we know that he makes an allowance for tubal ligations (a therapeutic “mutilation”) in cases of “medical necessity,” but he makes no parallel case for “psychological necessity.”

Kukla then makes further exceptions so that he can protect his earlier definition of what constitutes “good sex”:

If a physical ailment prevents a couple from conceiving, then they are not sinning by having conjugal relations without the ability to get pregnant.

As for menopause, this is a natural function of women that their ovaries eventually stop producing ovums, and so they cannot become pregnant again.  This too is natural and any subsequent marital relations are not sinful.[v]

The exception clauses here demonstrate that some naturally occurring circumstances can allow one to have “good sex” even when the first essential, namely fertility, is not present.  If that is true, then it would seem to follow that a lesbian couple in a committed relationship might fall in this category. They are prevented from conceiving by the natural circumstance that they are both females.  However, both Kukla and Cardinal Ratzinger will throw in a new caveat to prevent us from allowing this exception.  They will introduce an essentialist definition of marriage as exclusively designed for “one man and one woman.”

Essentialists set up the rules of the game so that, at every turn, they are sure to win all the arguments.  And if you spot one weakness or one loophole, they already have another essentialist rule tucked up their sleeves that they can shake out and place on the table thereby blocking counter arguments.

The application of their rules routinely produces immense amounts of suffering and even threatens to breakdown solid marriages as well.[vi]  Their sense of compassion and mercy is severely limited by their assumptions.  To maintain their absolute certainties, they have to tell themselves that they have chosen the “narrow path” by upholding all of God’s sexual purity codes.

As they follow in Christ’s footsteps, the thistles and thorns on both sides of the path cut into their flesh.  They are content to not be happy in this world; their eyes are on the prize in the world to come.  Being disposed to relish pain more than joy, they naturally listen to the suffering of their victims with the same disposition that they give to their own suffering.  “I will offer my sufferings along with the infinite sufferings of my divine Savior nailed to the cross,” they whisper in their prayers.[vii]

My letter to Kevin Kukla

Kevin,

You are living in an unreal world. . . .  You’re very good at the tech talk, but I don’t hear you referring to any lived experience.  So this is where I intend to begin.

You say, “Love includes doing what’s best for the other person—not using that person.  Holding back one’s fertility, therefore, qualifies as using another person, in this case for sexual pleasure.”

But I say to you, “Love includes doing what’s best for the other person—not using that person.  Having sex with my wife that is mutual, joyous, and self-giving is never a sin.  Far from it.  It is a source of grace mixed with delicious ecstasy!  And this is the case when it might result in conception and when it might not or cannot–doesn’t matter.”

I must say that, when my wife and I together decided to go off contraceptives, we checked her vaginal mucus each night and, when it got slippery, we knew this was the beginning of the fertile segment of her menstrual cycle.  That night, we had a special rush of pleasure bonding because together we imagined that we were creating (with God’s help) our future daughter.

The next three nights were the same.  The great sex that was our gift to each other was there, but now it was infused with our joint love for our future daughter. . . .  We fucked like rabbits throughout the night.  We laughed and played and kissed for hours.  This was like the unrestrained sex that we had for the first two weeks after our wedding. . . .  It was glorious.

But we were mistaken.  No conception took place.  So the next month the sign of the slippery mucus came again, and again our marital orgy came over us with the naturalness of dew falling off the morning leaves.  Again, we felt our future daughter was palpably there with us and we loved her along with loving each other.  Nonstop.

But it didn’t happen.  Six months later, we consulted a specialist in fertility studies.  The experts told us we both were “marginally fertile.”  So we continued our monthly sex orgies[viii] for two full years.  Near the end of the second year, the vision of our daughter, I must admit, had grown dim.  In its place, our love making now was often drenched in tears of pain and regret.  Good sex, believe it or not, can heal these memories and mend the wounds that life imposes on those who love God.

Then it happened!  No, we did not get pregnant.  But the love that we had so faithfully generated for our future daughter had mysteriously spread out into the world and moved Zoila, a complete stranger, to ask my long-time social worker friend Margaret a favor: “I’m pregnant.  I need to find a couple in the USA who would take and love my baby.”  Now Zoila had illegally crossed the Rio Grande and was being detained by the INS awaiting imminent deportation.  And so we gave her the residency rights that she wanted and needed, and she gave us the beloved daughter that we wanted and needed.
====================

Now some theological reflections:

#1 Would our sex have been more committed or more holy if we had not used contraceptives for the first four years of our marriage?  NO WAY!

#2 Would we have been happier, fuller, more ecstatic in our love-making if we had used NFP?  NO WAY!

In fact, the peak of my wife’s friskiness was exactly when her mucus was slippery.  It’s the same for most other women as well.  NFP enforces “abstinence” just at the time when the sex drive of the woman is highest.

Wonder if you know this?

#3 Does it become “unnatural” for my wife to want sex, to love sex, to enjoy sex during this fertile period [when the NFP people are abstaining]?  NO WAY!  God’s gift is not to be spurned.

Those who rely upon NFP (a) miss out on the natural high period in their fertility cycle and (b) risk an untimely or socially disruptive pregnancy because NFP is one of the LEAST reliable ways of exercising RESPONSIBILE sexuality.[ix]

The 5% of Catholics still practicing NFP, needless to say, will never tell you this.

They foolishly limit themselves to NFP because they buy into the indoctrination that came after Humanae Vitae in 1968.  Pope Paul rigged the membership of the Birth Control Commission,[x] and then when they didn’t give him the answer he expected, he secretly shelved their report and wrote Humanae Vitae for the purpose of shoving his solution down the throats of 95% of those on the Commission.  And notice carefully he didn’t say that NFP was a good way, a better way, a superior way.  No he had the gall to say IT’S THE ONLY WAY.  So now the zealots (the Catholic Taliban) go about telling everyone that God wants married couples to stick with God and stick with NFP.  What is wrong with the picture?  The whole thing smells of a terrible dishonesty.

And they talk so easy and calmly about “grave sins” for not going God’s way as do you, Kevin, in your article.  I don’t buy it!  Over 90% of Catholics don’t buy it.  It is a phony bill of goods, decided by a dishonest pope who never did his homework and never had the least understanding of the blessed sex that I have with my wife.

Am I angry with Catholic teaching on these issues?  You can be sure I am.  And why?  Because the Catholic Taliban has set out to ramrod the purity codes that they have manufactured for themselves down the throats of every Catholic on the face of the earth OR BE DAMNED!  Think of the priests, nuns, and theologians that the bishops have mercilessly tormented because they refused to toe the line of the Taliban who have taken over the Vatican.

This is not the way of Jesus, buddy!

Bless him!   Bless him!  Bless him!  He kept it simple and he kept it straight!  “What must I do to gain eternal life?” is the question set before him.  The Response: Love God . . . and love your Neighbor as yourself.  Nothing about complicated purity codes here.  Did I miss something?

Yeah, I did miss something:

Where is the love of God and love of Neighbor in the way that Cardinal Ratzinger tormented some of our best priests, nuns, and theologians. . . ?

And Jesus said and I say with him, “Woe to you who tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders” (Matt 23:4).  So, I stand with Jesus against the Catholic Taliban.

Want to hear more, go to https://payhip.com/b/6zpm

Fraternally,
Aaron

Reflections on my strategy

I decided to move in quickly and to take the field by highlighting my own moral standards.  I state where I stand and clearly distinguish myself from the fundamentalists.  I practically boast that my standards have a solidity that NFP cannot match.  In fact, I try to make the NFP advocates jealous.

I let my personal story speak for itself.  My hope is that Kukla will feel some small admiration for the road he never allowed himself to travel.

I also make it a point to single out the three points where my moral standards refuse to bow down to his Vatican rigidity.  Then I make a clear appeal to the freedom of Jesus: “He kept it simple and he kept it straight.”  Finally, I show how “Love your Neighbor” was brutally missing in the Ratzinger mistreatment of his enemies.  I let him know that I think of him and Cardinal Ratzinger as the “Catholic Taliban.”[xi]   Following in the footsteps of Pope Francis, I give him no place to hide.  This is “tough love”—nothing less will be able to reach him.

In the end, I acknowledge that Kukla is my Brother whether he accepts my position or not.  I never grovel or beg, since this would be interpreted as though I somehow need his recognition.  This would be interpreted as uncertainty on my part.  So I profess my faith in just the way that Pope Francis advised: “It is necessary to say everything that is felt with parrhesia [Greek: rhetoric boldness or frankness of speech].”

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 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] Kevin Kukla, “3 BIG Reasons Why the Catholic Church Teaches Against Voluntary Sterilizations,” ProLife365, 30 Nov 2015  (http://prolife365.com/tubal-ligation-and-vasectomy-sterilizations/).

[ii] Kukla, “3 BIG Reasons.”

[iii] Kukla, “3 BIG Reasons.”

[iv] Kukla, “3 BIG Reasons.”

[v] Kukla, “3 BIG Reasons.”

[vi] Let me supply an instance of this suffering:

I know of a devout Catholic woman married to a Protestant gentleman.  The first two children born to them during the first three years of their marriage were a mutual joy that bound them together in lifelong bliss.  But in their early 40s, this bliss was rudely shattered by two unplanned pregnancies due to the failure of NFP.  The wife had to interrupt her career as an artist in order to become a full-time mother and part-time grandmother.

The husband never entirely trusted NFP.  Nor did his wife, truth to say, but she was traumatized by the thought that every contraceptive use would be a mortal sin that risks eternal hellfire.  She consulted two priests on this matter.  One invited her to “look at her distress and trials as an opportunity to be united with the sufferings of Christ on the cross.”  The second assured her that “praying unceasingly would give her the strength to follow Christ and to gain for herself (and for her husband) treasures in the world to come.”

The husband was frustrated that “these priests sugarcoated her sufferings rather than relieved them.”  The more he tried to gently persuade his wife to try the pill, the more she moved physically and emotionally away from him.

Initially her husband attended Mass with her and was even considering converting to Catholicism.  Later, he resented the way that “her priests” fed into her religious trauma.  He blamed “these priests for undercutting their marital bliss.”  So, in the summers, he played golf frequently, and, in the winters, he went out drinking while his wife and his two infant daughters went to Mass without him.  He was both angry and depressed.  She, meanwhile, was stuck in a dark place where her love for her husband is constrained by her love for her Church.   So, they ended up sleeping fitfully at night in separate beds.  They started out as ardent lovers and ended up as “working partners in a sexless marriage.”

[vii]  “What a beautiful opportunity it is to combine my sufferings with the sufferings of Christ,” they say.  Accordingly, fundamentalists sugar-coat their sufferings and sugar-coat the suffering of their victims as well.  This is why I produced, just prior to this book, the following: Aaron Milavec, “The Forgiveness of Sins without the Crucifixion of Jesus,” Kindle eBooks, 01 Nov 2015 (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B017GQE6RS/).

[viii] I am deliberately using the term “sex orgies” to register the fervent and loving passion that erupted each month when we were consciously and deliberately enjoying the sex that God created for producing offspring.  The long Christian tradition, by contrast, has been more prone to exalt suffering rather sexual enjoyment.  St. Augustine, for example, imagined that the impulsiveness of hot sex was essentially sinful because any act wherein a man loses his rational control is necessarily dehumanizing (following the Stoic philosophers).  For Augustine, even marital sex undertaken to fulfill the command “to be fruitful and to multiply” was still a venial sin.  Had he known better, he would have said that this sex is doubly blessed and doubly satisfying.

The twelfth-century Italian theologian Peter Lombard even went so far as to maintain in his De excusatione coitus that for a husband to love his wife too ardently is a sin worse than adultery.  Such opinions are theological nonsense. Yet, even Blessed Pope John Paul II made the mistake of teaching that it is “a [minor] sin” for a man to love his wife too ardently.  For a biblical and historical study of this issue, see “Jesus on Sex and Marriage and Finding the Heart of God(http://www.churchonfire.net/sex/).

[ix] For full details, see http://www.churchonfire.net/?p=989.

[x] For more details about the Pontifical Birth Control Commission, see http://www.churchonfire.net/?page_id=24#Sec7

[xi] Christian Taliban?  I discovered that I am not alone in this assessment.  See Michael Carino, “Have We Become Christian Taliban?” 09 Sept 2011 (http://www
.michaelcarino.com/have-we-become-christian-taliban/
).  See, also, Fr. Rosica who says, “There is a certain form of Taliban Catholicism out there now that would like to dictate everything, and really it doesn’t speak to the future“  (http://callmejorgebergoglio.blogspot.com/2015/02/cardinal-carlo-maria-martini-sj.html).

How Jesus opposed the Jewish Taliban

Consider the case of Jesus.  He is not pestering the Pharisees to practice what he practices; rather, he is trying to stop them from imposing their thinking on everyone else.  This is what fundamentalist love to do.  They persuade themselves that they have “God’s absolute point of view” and that their mission is to bring everyone else into line with “their God.”  In so doing, they become the Catholic Taliban and justify their “moral terrorism” as somehow required by God himself.  This is why Pope Francis calls them “godless.”

Do the Pharisees stop pestering Jesus and concede that the disciples do have sufficient cause to override the Sabbath?  We don’t know, but probably not.  In any case, the Evangelists do not tell us.  But the Evangelists do go on to tell us that Jesus put forward a general norm: “The Sabbath was made for [the benefit of] humankind, not humankind [made] for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27 and par.).  Thus, Jesus takes the stand that “the day of rest” was designed by God as a blessing to relieve exhaustion from the six days of work.  In Gen. 1, even God shows himself as resting follow the exertions of the six days of creation.  Thus, according to this, God learned from his own experience how a day of rest could be beneficial.  Hence, according to Jesus, every Jew was invited to free themselves of a wooden conformity with Sabbath regulations, especially when the welfare of suffering individuals was at stake.

This has a bearing on our topic of homosexuality.  How is it that Evangelical Fundamentalists are so quick to gather up texts condemning homosexual sex when they so easily dispense themselves from the Law of Moses that condemns anyone failing to keep the Sabbath rest with death by stoning (Exod. 31:14, 35:3; Deut. 5:13; Neh. 13:15-21)?  Or, to take up again the argument of Matthew Vines: How can Evangelical Fundamentalists turn to those on their right hand and preach the good news of the Gospel to heterosexuals saying, “God solemnly promises you companionship and sexual intimacy when he says, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him’”(Gen. 2:18) and, then, to turn to their left and say to homosexuals, “None of this applies to you.  God blocks his ears to your cries of loneliness, and he makes no provision for any sexual intimacy to gladden your hearts.  You will go into your twilight years utterly alone and no one will care for you as you take you final breath”?  And if Jesus acted outside of the letter of the Mosaic Law when he was moved by compassion for the man with the withered arm and moved by compassion for his disciples stricken by hunger, would not this same Jesus rush to act outside of the Christian Code of Ethics in order to bring a speedy relief to those gays and lesbians pleading to have Christians recognize the legitimacy of their love and their desire for marriage?  And should not the churches be the first (rather than the last) to recognize that God created the blessings of marriage for both the heterosexual and the homosexual alike?

Then another case of Sabbath fundamentalism is introduced:

3:1 Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. 3:2 they watched him to see whether he would cure him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. 3:3 And he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come forward.”  3:4 Then he said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. 3:5 He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. 3:6 The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him. 3:7 Jesus departed with his disciples to the sea, and a great multitude from Galilee followed him. (Mark 3:1-7)

In the earlier case, Mark makes it clear that Jesus was not accused for violating the Sabbath.  Only his disciples were accused.  In this second case, Jesus stands alone as the healer and he alone is accused.  This narrative presupposes that Jesus has already gained the reputation as a healer (Mark 1:39-2:12) and that his enemies acknowledged his power to heal but attributed it to Beelzebub (Mark 3:22).  At one point, Jesus uses the metaphor of “the physician” to describe his work (Mark 2:17).  It cannot be that “magic words” are used, since Jews distrusted magic and a magical healing would not constitute “work.”  The presumption of Jesus’ accusers here must be that healing involved some manipulation of the arm or hand as a physician would do.  Likewise, the term “withered” does not have to imply a congenital deformity because the term “restored” implies that the hand was useless and Jesus restored its use.[i]  Jerome, for instance, thought that the man was a mason who suffered an injury that put him out of work.  Jesus restored his hand and restored his livelihood as well.  It must also be noticed that if the restoration were very dramatic (bone and flesh are suddenly or gradually entirely transformed), the sheer power of the transformation would have caused awe and fear in Jesus’ enemies because they would know that he could afflict a man just as well as heal a man.  So the fact that they do not back away or shudder with amazement also indicates that Mark does not think of this event as frightening.  The issue, after all, is whether Jesus would heal on the Sabbath.

Notice also that the healing in this narrative is not endangering the life of the man.  Everyone would recognize the legitimacy for life-saving remedies on the Sabbath.  In this case, therefore, Jesus uses this as a teaching lesson for the Pharisees.  The issue is not that of doing a “miracle,” since even a miracle would be presumed to be done with God’s power and God is surely the Lord of the Sabbath.  The words of Jesus as well make this clear: “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save life or to kill?”  Jesus is on target, here, when he gives them a black and white question.  Do good or do evil?  Save a life or destroy a life?  If they say, the former, then Jesus has their approval and can go ahead without any fear that he and his adversaries are on the same page.  If they choose the latter terms, then Jesus has them over the barrel because they will be unable to justify their choice from the Scriptures and will look silly in the minds of the people.  So they are sullenly silent.

He looked around at them with anger (Mark 3:5).  Most Christians only think of Jesus as flaring up in anger only when he drives the money-changers from the temple.  But here he is livid with anger.  This is how I feel when writing about Archbishop Schnurr, Father Kneib, and Father Coelho—“Don’t you dare treat my Brothers and Sisters in this way!”  I want to scream at them.  “You’re destroying people’s lives with your fundamentalist bullshit.  Stop it!”[ii]  Pure and unadulterated anger[iii] is sometime the only authentic response to the evil that fundamentalist do. . . .

How the Jewish Taliban was paralyzed by Jesus

Jesus turns on his critics by questioning them sternly: “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm?” (Mark 3:4 and par.) and again “Have you never read what David did when he was in need and was hungry?” (Mark 2:25 and par.).  In the end, he entirely dismisses the notion of “true religion” embraced by his critics. He ends up saying to them, “The Sabbath was made for [the benefit of] humankind, not humankind [made] for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27 and par.).  Thus, Jesus takes the stand that “the day of rest” was designed by God as a blessing to relieve exhaustion from the six days of work.  In Gen. 1, God shows himself as resting following the exertions of the six days of creation.  Thus, according to this, God learned from his own experience how a day of rest could be beneficial.  Hence, according to Jesus, every Jew was invited to rid themselves of a wooden conformity with Sabbath regulations especially when the welfare of suffering individuals was at stake.

How Jesus impacts events today

This has a bearing on our topic of homosexuality.  How is it that Evangelical Fundamentalists are so quick to gather up texts condemning homosexual sex when they so easily dispense themselves from the Law of Moses that condemns anyone failing to keep the Sabbath rest with death by stoning (Exod. 31:14, 35:3; Deut. 5:13; Neh. 13:15-21)?  Or, to take up again the argument of Matthew Vines: How can Evangelical Fundamentalists be so certain that God wants to extend to heterosexuals companionship and sexual intimacy when he said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Gen. 2:18) but, then, he turns around and says to the homosexual, “None of this applies to you.  God blocks his ears to your cries of loneliness and he makes no provision for any sexual intimacy to gladden your lives”? 

And if Jesus acted outside of the letter of the Mosaic Law when he was moved by compassion for the man with the withered arm and compassion for his disciples stricken by hunger, would not this same Jesus rush to act outside of the Christian Code of Ethics today in order to bring a speedy relief to those gays and lesbians pleading to have some small recognition of the legitimacy of their love and their desire for marriage?  And should not the churches be the first (rather than the last) to recognize that God created the blessings of marriage for both the heterosexual and the homosexual alike?

Last of all, we need to note that confronting fundamentalists is a dangerous affair.  The Jewish fundamentalists take their complaints to the court of Herod, King of Galilee.  According to the Synoptic Gospels, Herod had John the Baptist arrested on trumped-up charges.  Because of his indiscretion on his birthday, Harod gets trapped into killing him even though “Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him” (Mark 6:20 and par.).  Jesus could well be next on the list. . .

Many other texts in the Gospels demonstrate how Jesus even challenged certain bad habits on the part of his own disciples.  Consider this:

An argument arose among them [the 12 disciples] as to which one of them was the greatest.  But Jesus, aware of their inner thoughts, took a little child and put it by his side, and said to them, “Whoever welcomes this child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me; for the least among all of you is the greatest.”

One can think here of how the churches argue among themselves as to which denomination is the greatest or which is the closest to God’s heart.  One can think here also of how Catholic fundamentalists dispute with each other as to what sexual ethics is most pleasing to God.  And how about those Catholics who secretly pray in their hearts: “Thank you God for not creating me or any of my children as homosexuals”?  How does God respond to this prayer?

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] Robert H. Gundry, Mark: A Commentary on his Apology for the Cross (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993), 153.

[ii] Used twice: http://prolife365.com/those-awaiting-the-synod-to-redefine-the-churchs-dogmatic-teachings-on-marriage-will-be-greatly-disappointed/ and  http://prolife365.com/problems-with-gay-marriage/

[iii] Thomas Aquinas makes the point that anger is the passion that naturally arises when justice is being denied.  “Far from being a sin, ira [Latin: anger] is a positive good when directed by reason” (II-II. 158. 8 ad 2).  Thus, some theologians argue that “not being angry at times may, given the circumstances, constitute a sin” (Robert Miner, “Thomas Aquinas on the Passions: A Study of Summa Theologiae, 1a2ae 22-48,” p. 286).

The fundamentalist takeover of the Church

We have already observed that Cardinal Ratzinger formulated his analysis of homosexuality and of same-sex marriage without any intention of consulting the world-wide bishops for their input or for their approval.[i]  Furthermore, we observed that he never organized theological or pastoral commissions that were charged to investigate the contemporary homosexual phenomena and to offer theological, psychological, and sociological guidelines for responding charitably and justly in the name of the Gospel.  Rather, he took the course of publishing his own views, getting John Paul II to sign on, and then distributing a fait accompli to the bishops scattered throughout the world.

How do we judge this?  Cardinal Ratzinger is a very intelligent and dedicated man, but no matter how intelligent, his gut reactions to homosexuality were formed in his personal experiences (which, following the Germanic scholarly tradition, he hides from his readers).  Moreover, he wrote in complete isolation from the very priests and religious who had dedicated their lives to bring healing and holiness to gays and lesbians.  Surely these persons would have to be consulted and their views taken into account if the Church was to have a safe and sure guide to assess the challenge of correctly understanding and ministering to gays and lesbians within the modern Church.  But, for reasons unknown to us, Cardinal Ratzinger decided that he could not trust these people.  Their compassion must have led them astray.  He could not even trust the input of bishops who were dealing with this issue in widely diverse cultural and sociological contexts.  Hence, taking the burden upon himself and trusting his Germanic training, he moved ahead with the dogged determination to bring gays and lesbians and their allies back on track.  But this is exactly the arrogance that comes with fundamentalism that the Pope warns us against.

With such a defective process, is it any wonder that it produced such a misguided and misleading doctrine?  Is it any wonder that such a one-sided and misinformed policy would rip into the soul of Catholic communities and tear them apart?  And we judge this as the evil that comes in the wake of the Ratzinger Doctrine.

However, there are at least two sides to every issue:

On one side there are those who are proud to be Catholics because their Church finally stands up against homosexual organizations and their supporters who are pressuring the whole nation to give them the rights and privileges for recognizing a lifestyle that is an abomination before God and a sure formula for civil disintegration.  These are the folks who believe that parents who have blurred sexual identities as “male” or “female” end up confusing their children until they end up thinking of themselves as “homosexuals.”  Here, too, are the folks who believe that the teaching profession[ii] and the priesthood[iii] should be purged of all homosexuals because they invariably fail to provide healthy “role models” for children trying to discover themselves as either “male” or “female.”  Still others fear homosexual teachers, homosexual day-care providers, and homosexual priests because they are invariably inclined toward the sexual exploitation of children.  This is the side that embraces and applauds the Ratzinger Doctrine.

On the other side are those who are confused or angry with Cardinal Ratzinger because he artificially reduces homosexuality to “sexual functioning” and, as such, judges it as “unnatural,” “disordered,” “unfruitful,” and “immoral”—hence certainly not something deserving the recognition and protecting that has hitherto been accorded a marriage between one man and one woman.  Cardinal Ratzinger, had he been more forthright, could have said that homosexual sex is first and foremost “just plain disgusting” and that “it is abhorrent for me as an educated man to even think about it or to imagine myself to ever being able to like it.”  This honesty would have been refreshing because it would eventually have allowed him to entertain the thought that his way of being in his own skin was not as absolute and universal as he thought.  Under the right circumstances, he might even come to admire a few gays and lesbians as talented and sophisticated persons like himself.  And this would have caused him a deep crisis.  Who so?  Because now he would have to come to grips with the reality that, in the domain of sexuality, that these admirable individuals move to the beat of a different drummer that is just as normative for them as Ratzinger’s heterosexuality is normative for him.  Once this occurs, it would become impossible for him to judge the worth of “the other” by standards worked out within the heterosexual community.  But Cardinal Ratzinger is unwilling and perhaps even incapable of going there.

So, what does he do?  He conveniently closes his eyes to “the other” and persists in believing that there is one, universal norm for human sexuality and that he had defined it and that God himself approves of it.  And since he is comfortable with being in the majority and having power over the minority, he quietly loses sight of the instinctual “just plain disgusting” aspect of homosexual sex that undergirds his ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY in this matter.  Even if the Bible were completely silent on this matter and even if same-sex couples could be shown to love and to raise healthy children that were never inclined toward homosexuality, Cardinal Ratzinger would still have the feeling in his gut that gay sex life was “just plain disgusting” and accordingly “just plain wrong.”

Cardinal Ratzinger cannot acknowledge the impact of his gut experience on his moral reasoning.  Why not?  Because he has been taught to conceal his emotions and to rely exclusively upon rational arguments.  So, he has cobbled together a careful list of rational arguments.  When one examines them carefully as we did in Chapter Two, it quickly appears that his arguments don’t hold up under close examination.  So why didn’t someone do what I did in Chapter Two much earlier?  Fear.  If big name theologians were being called on the carpet and being silenced right and left, what chance would I have to be heard?  What chance would I even have to be published?  The climate of oppression within the Catholic Church is so thick that Catholic publishers have willingly taken off the shelves and shredded thousands of copies of book titles that they decided were too risky to sell because they came down on the wrong side of the issues considered “closed” by the U.S. bishops.[iv]

Self-censorship within Catholic publishing houses

I recently published an Amazon eBook entitled, The Seven Errors of our Catholic Bishops.  For a full year I sought to find a Catholic publisher in the USA, in Canada, or in the UK.  In all, I identified and contacted ten publishers who had already marketed some moderately provocative critical studies.  Six turned me down on the grounds that my book would “not fit into their current marketing categories.”  Four of the presses never responded even when I prompted them to do so after two months.  Only one publisher, a scholar who trusted me, could tell me that the free and open discussion that Pope Francis revived during the two recent Synods has not yet caught on within the editorial boards of Catholic publishers.  “They are still in the mode of self-censorship as the necessary precaution to insure the ongoing episcopal approval upon which their survival depends.”

So, there you have it.  The bishops, for the most part, have been groomed to trust only compliant authors.  And Ratzinger has been “the bulldog of the Vatican” insuring that deviant authors would be exposed, silenced, and, if necessary, purged from the Church.

Absolute rules laid down for moral sex in the past

At this juncture, Cardinal Ratzinger become a sympathizer with the millions of solid and upstanding Southern gentlemen who knew that “marriage between a White man and a Nigger” was “unnatural,” “disordered,” and “immoral”—something that no decent, God-loving society could ever approve.[v]   These Southern gentlemen had their favorite Bible passages and they had the hard-won wisdom of their fathers and grandfathers guiding their judgment.  But even if the Bible was completely silent on this matter and even if interracial couples could be shown to truly love and truly cherish each other, they would still rely upon the feeling in their gut to uphold their ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY that interracial marriages were “disgusting” and “morally intolerable.”  And even though they knew that their “grandpappies” had plenty of sex with the attractive female slaves in the barn, they would swear on the Bible that this sexual dalliance never diminished by even a hair’s breadth the absolute devotion their grandfathers had for their Southern wives and their Southern children and their Southern God.

In the past, sincere individuals maintained various absolute constructs of when sexual activity was permitted and when it was banned.  Here are three such positions:

  • Augustine distrusted sex under all circumstances. Even marital sexuality done exclusively with the motive to propagate the species was, in his eyes, always somewhat sinful because of the passion involved in every erection.  Yet, marital sex was totally immoral if the couple knew that they could not possibly conceive.  Safe sex in this epoch meant sex with as little passion as possible and with the sole aim of “being fruitful.”
  • Others maintained with equal certainty that no man should approach his wife during her menstruation. Anyone having intercourse during this period was absolute immoral.  Safe sex meant abstaining from sex during the time of a “woman’s curse.”  Even after medical studies confirmed that this bleeding was entirely natural and beneficial, most men continued to hold on to their fear of menstrual blood.
  • Up until very recently, Catholic moralists [mostly priests] insisted that the missionary position was the only allowed human posture to take when having sex. Entering by the rear was regarded as “animal sex[vi].” Furthermore, only men were permitted to initiate sex.  Only men could be on top.  Anything else was an abomination before God.

Even among heterosexuals, one can see that different eras of Catholic history scrupulously maintained moral norms that are no longer upheld today. Some of these epochs partially overlapped.  In each of these periods, however, one can be reasonable sure that the vast majority of individuals had an ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY that God required this or that for sex to be moral.  Each age examined their experience and their experience demonstrated to them that certain ways or times of having sex were “just plain disgusting” and accordingly “just plain wrong.”

Today, however, no serious moralist blindly endorses all of the moral norms that were upheld by their grandfathers and grandmothers.  Modern husbands and wives generally talk about their sexual experiences with each other.  They do this by way of gaining the assurance that their sex play is mutually beneficial.  Others do this because they are constantly innovating their sexual behavior by way of discovering different ways for expressing the love they have for each other.  Men sometimes buy titillating lingerie for their wives and keep the lights on, so they can visually enjoy their wives.  Some even engage in “talking dirty” while having sex.  Some use sex toys.  Only the prudish and the fundamentalists retain the moral and psychological taboos of the past.

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] This closed-door mode of operating was not always Cardinal Ratzinger approach.  When it came to the preparation of the universal catechism, for example, the bishops throughout the world were brought in on the project.  Theological and catechetical institutes were invited to make suggestions to improve the preliminary drafts.  Throughout, Ratzinger worked in collaboration with other experts.  For details, see Cardinal James Hickey, “Launching the Catechism for Australia,” address presented at the National Press Club in Canberra, 22 June 1994 (https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=5241).

[ii] Jackie M. Blount, Fit to Teach: Same-Sex Desire, Gender, and School Work in the Twentieth Century (NY: SUNY Press, 2005).    In the 1970s, some of the best-credentialed educators who were invested with power and authority as superintendents were openly and aggressively dismissing anyone with confused sexual tendencies.  This was based on the belief that students influenced by such teachers would be prone to imitate their “deviant behavior.” In brief, these educators manufactured a doctrine of contempt based upon passionately held presuppositions that were largely unproven and untested. In this climate, even heterosexual persons who displayed confused sexual tendencies were considered unfit for teaching.

This caused enormous suffering for those teachers who were insecure about their sex roles.  The same pain and suffering was inflicting parents and students who also may not have exemplified a clear and unambiguous sexual identity.  Mothers who were domineering and wore the pants in the family were thus seen as setting a confusing “bad example” for their children.  Fathers who were soft-spoken and artistically inclined also set a “bad example.”  The presupposition was that parents with blurred sexual characteristics were “unfit for parenting” in precisely the same way and for the same reasons that teachers with blurred role identifications were “unfit for teaching.”

Blount narrates how various political and social organizations in the 1970s and 1980s fought to maintain the teaching of contempt while others sought to overturn misunderstandings and the popular prejudices.  Blount uses well-chosen case studies throughout to illustrate the long and bloody struggle toward an open and frank public exchange that enabled the public at large to honor alternative sexual orientations on the part of teachers and students alike.

In the end, this book is a must-read for those who may not be aware of how long and perilous our journey has been toward providing homosexuals and heterosexuals with “blurred sexual identities” a place of safety and of honor within the ranks of teachers.

[iii] When it comes to the campaign to rid the seminaries of gay candidates, no one has yet been able to write such a detailed story.  This is because the campaign is largely secret and because seminarians have, in most instances, taken the tact, “Don’t ask.  Don’t tell.”  For an excellent introduction to this topic, see B.A. Robinson, “Excluding homosexuals from Catholic seminaries,” Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance, 22 April 2009 (http://www.religioustolerance.org/hom_rcc2.htm).

[iv] Women’s ordination is one such issue.  I called the book ordering department of Paulist Press three years ago and inquired as to why three titles that they had formerly published on the topic of women’s ordination were no longer listed in any of their catalogues, printed or online.  The woman responsible for sales told me, in a calm, steady voice, “Paulist Press has NEVER published any book that deviates from the Catholic faith as defined by the Magisterium.”  I then gave her the titles of the three books, one by one, asking whether there were still a few copies on their shelves that could be sold.  Not a one.  A nervous manager had them shredded once they saw the writing on the wall during the purges initiated by Cardinal Ratzinger.

[v] The Pew study found that a record 14.6 percent of all new marriages in the United States in 2008 were between persons of different racial or ethnic backgrounds, six times the intermarriage rate in 1960 and more than double the rate in 1980.  Here’s the part of the report that most news outlets omitted: “Of the four groups tested in the survey, openness to a family member’s marriage to an African American ranked lowest”  (http://newamericamedia.org/2010/07/black-people-least-desirable-in-mix-marriages.php).

[vi] In the past, zoologists were prone to find their own proclivities mirrored within the animal kingdom.  Female animals were characterized as “coy,” while the male was seen as initiating sex whenever any of his females was “in heat.”  In so doing, humans noticed and concentrated on those aspects of animal sexuality that mirrored human sexuality.  Under these conditions, homosexual activities went unnoticed.

In recent times the issue of homosexuality has sparked new research into the varieties of sex found within the animal kingdom.  The lioness, for example, initiates sex repeated in the period when she is fertile.  Female macaques mount other females repeatedly and their sex play serves to create emotional bonds with each other.  They even mount the alpha male in the hopes of stimulating him to have sex.

Among some species, lifelong female coupling takes place and this serves to securely raise a new chick every season.  Consider the conduct of the Laysan albatross which nests in Hawaii, US.  Among these huge birds, pairs are usually “married” for life. It takes two parents working together to rear a chick successfully, and doing so repeatedly means that the parents can hone their skills together. But in one population on the island of Oahu, 31% of the pairings are made up of two unrelated females. What’s more, they rear chicks, fathered by males that are already in a committed pair but sneak matings with one or both of the females. Like male-female pairs, these female-female pairs can only rear one chick in a season.  See   Melissa Hogenboom, “Are There Any Homosexual Animals,” BBC, 6 February 2015 (http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20150206-are-there-any-homosexual-animals).

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/
australian-bishop-challenges-church-on-homosexuality/3819)

[iv] Jack Jenkins, “How San Francisco Catholics Are Pushing Pope Francis’ LimitsThinkProgress, 10 March 2015 (http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2015/03/10/3631727/
san-francisco-catholics-fighting-lgbt-rights-testing-limits-pope-francis-rhetoric/
).

[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)

If you vigorously disagree with me

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

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

Preparing yourself for visiting a support group

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

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

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

After your second meeting, I invite you to write a reflection on your experience and send it to me at Milavec@Jesus4Lesbians.com with the words “second encounter” in the subject line.  I will be glad to hear from you, to learn from your experiences, and to give you a reply.  Alternately,  I invite anyone who visits a support group to post below their experiences.

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

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

For parents and guardians

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

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

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

Fraternally,
Aaron

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/
culture/culture-news/the-forsaken-a-rising-number-of-homeless-gay-teens-are-being-cast-out-by-religious-families-46746/

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

 

Two biblical condemnations of same-sex unions

Cardinal Ratzinger uses arguments largely drawn from reason.  Other opponents of gays and lesbians, however, give much greater attention to those critical texts in the Jewish and Christian Scriptures that explicitly condemn men having sex with other men.  In fact, the terms “sodomy” and “sodomize” came into the English language due to the biblical narrative (Gen 19:1-15) that describes how God’s wrath fell on the city of Sodom precisely because its male citizenry took delight in humiliating outsiders by raping them anally.

This biblical text and others as well never speak of men having sex with other men as a sign and symbol of the love bond that binds them together.[i] God’s wrath fell on the city of Sodom because of detestable “acts of hate” being inflicted upon strangers.  There is no biblical text that either approves or disapproves of “acts of love” between committed same-sex partners.   

The condemnation of Paul in Rom 1:24-26

St. Paul in his letter to the Romans condemns idolatry for it leads to homosexuality.  Idolatry, in Paul’s mind, leaves aside worship of the Creator and, in its place, “exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals.” In parallel fashion, idolatry leads a man to exchange the sexual use of his wife and to seek sexual satisfaction[ii] with another man: “men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another.”

Paul, in his letters, condemns shameful acts of sex.  He condemns the man sleeping with his step-mother (1 Cor 5:1).  He condemns “male prostitutes”[iii] and “sodomites” (1 Cor 6:9).  Most scholars[iv] remind us that Corinth was famously dedicated to the goddess Aphrodite (Venus) and that temple prostitution was the standard way for religious devotees, both men and women, to worship the goddess and to maintain the temple staff at the same time.   The fact that Paul condemns “idolaters” first and then goes on to immediately name “adulterers, male prostitutes, and sodomites” (1 Cor 6:9 NRSV) may signal that, here also, Paul names the immoral offshoots of temple worship.

Paul is quite possibly aware that cultic prostitution was commonly practiced by the ancient Near Eastern fertility religions and that, from the moment the Israelites entered into the Promised Land, they struggled to avoid such practices (Num 25:1-9, Jdg 2:17-19). This became especially prevalent beginning with the monarchy of Rehoboam (1 Kgs 14:24) and extending to the monarchy of Josiah (2 Kgs 23:7).  According to Exod 34:11-16 the practice of exterminating conquered tribes was necessitated in order to wipe out cultic prostitution.  During the Deteronomic reform, the Law of Moses was expanded specifically to forbid cultic prostitution for Israelites (Deut 23:16-17, Amos 2:7).  Thus, to the degree that Paul was aware of these aspects of his Jewish historical background, he would have had a predisposition to seeing a causal link between idolatry and cultic prostitution.

In the Letter to the Romans, Paul expressly condemns “homosexuality.”  Why so?  Here is the progression in his argument.

First, men exchanged “the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature [idols] rather than the Creator” (Rom 1:25).  Next, as a result, “God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity” (1:24).   “Their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another” (1:26).

The link that Paul draws between idolatry and homosexuality[v] may appear obscure to modern thinkers.  This link, however, is very clear and dear to Paul.  The implied logic is this: Make the mistake of exchanging worship of the true God for idol worship and, in the next moment, you will make the mistake of exchanging natural sex for unnatural sex.

Think now with me about Martha and Mary, two lesbian lay-ministers in my parish who asked me to join with a dozen others to witness their “vows of perpetual fidelity.”  Is this anything like what Paul was encountering?  Let’s explore this:

  1. Martha and Mary worship exclusively with me at Annunciation Catholic Church.  Paul is condemning devotees of the goddess Aphrodite (Venus) in Corinth.
  2. Martha and Mary have been living in an exclusive relationship, sharing their daily lives, for over a dozen years.  Paul is condemning female devotees who exchange sex with female prostitutes (probably slaves).  This is decidedly not an exclusive relationship and does not imply an abiding emotional bond together.
  3. Martha and Mary have chosen a same-sex union because their Creator designed them to have an innate sexual attraction to their own kind.  Union with a man would be “unnatural” for them and contrary to God design for them.  Paul, on the other hand, condemns temple prostitution because (a) it is a form of idolatry and (b) it requires an “unnatural” act of sex.

In conclusion, Paul’s condemnation of homosexuality in Rom 1:24-26 can have no application to the same-sex union of Martha and Mary as it exists today.  Paul was condemning homosexuality as he knew it in his day, namely, as an offshoot of temple prostitution.

In Ohio, most Catholic churches have a summer festival in order to raise a major portion of their operating expenses.  At these festivals, Catholics get an opportunity “to have some good, clean fun together” and “to meet their neighbors” as well.  From time to time, some unsavory practices do creep into these fairs.  Some would be shocked to find black-jack-poker tables and belly dancing at a few of these fairs.  I myself was especially disappointed to find cruelty to animals–baby ducks being forced to take part in betting races and baby fish slowly suffocating in plastic bags being offered as prizes.   At some Protestant churches in the remote hills of Kentucky, worshipers routinely reach into cages and pick up rattle snakes with their bare hands.  They do this in order to testify to the power of God to overcome serpents.  In none of these cases, however, I have yet to find a Christian congregation sponsoring “sacred prostitution” by way of funding the work of the Christian ministry.  Should any church ever encourage such a practice, Paul’s condemnation would surely apply.  That is for sure.

But it is equally certain that the case of Martha and Mary has nothing to do with prostitution and idolatry.[vi]

Anyone who says that it does has never properly done their homework.  Thus, I challenge Cardinal Ratzinger and his supporters to cease and desist from calling upon Rom 1:24-26 by way of passing judgment as to whether God loves same-sex marriages.

Listen to the words of a prominent supporter of Cardinal Ratzinger: Cardinal Juan Sandoval Íñiguez, Archbishop Emeritus of Guadalajara, Mexico:

“There are many people who have the misfortune of being homosexual but who live chastely,” said Sandoval. “Those, yes, [who live chastely] are going to enter into the kingdom of God. But those who practice it [homosexually] will not enter the kingdom of God. St. Paul says that. And homosexuality is condemned, totally condemned, in the Old Testament, in Genesis, and by St. Paul in the New Testament.”

“So just as those who have normal tendencies, and aren’t married, have to abstain [from sex], so those who have abnormal tendencies must also abstain,” said Sandoval, adding, “Even more so, knowing that homosexuality is a psychological illness which can be cured. Let them seek a cure, because homosexuality is never permitted.”

Cardinal Sandoval finds support from Cardinal Ratzinger’s when it comes time to using Rom 1:24-26 to condemn contemporary same-sex marriages.  But not even Ratzinger maintains the dubious notion that “homosexuality is a psychological illness” that might someday find a “cure.”  Thus, Cardinal Sandoval has not only failed to do his homework on Rom 1:24-26, he has also failed to keep up with advances in the field of psychology.  Being a cardinal in the Catholic Church, truth to say, offers him no protection from making errors in either the field of psychology or in the field of biblical studies.

When it comes to biblical studies, make no mistake about it.  This is not Cardinal Ratzinger’s specialization.  He has neither the training nor the interest in keeping abreast with contemporary biblical studies.  This being the case, then I must ask the Cardinal:

“Why did you not get the outside help you needed in biblical studies?”

“How could you have possibly imagined that homosexual couples today were doing the same sort of things described in Gen 19:1-15 and Rom 1:24-26?”

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] Matthew Vines discovery that the biblical texts commonly used to condemn homosexuality do not address the morality of committed homosexual unions has been noted by Roman Catholic biblical scholars:

The 1986 Letter set to the bishops by Cardinal Ratzinger cites six scriptural passages that demonstrate that “homosexual behavior” is immoral (Gen. 19:1-11; Lev. 18:22, 20:13; 1 Cor. 6:9-10; 1 Tim 1:9-10; Rom. 1:26-27). The Catechism of the Catholic Church enforces this position as well: “Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved” (§2378).  But this is disputed by a number of biblical scholars and theologians.

Key points made by biblical scholars such as Derrick Bailey, Victor Paul Furnish, James P. Hanigan, Daniel Helminiak, H. Darrell Lance, and Robin Scroggs include:

  1. There are translation difficulties. For example, it was 1946 before the term “homosexual” first appeared in an English translation (1946 Revised Standard Version). Homosexuality is not a prominent biblical concern. The prophets, the gospels, and Jesus say nothing about homosexuality as a “same-sex attraction.”
  2. These six scriptural texts are not in passages dealing with moral principles but appear in contexts where the focus is something else. For example, most biblical scholars believe the primary sin of Sodom is inhospitality. Jesus implies that in Luke 10:8-12 (If not welcomed in town, wipe dust of feet in protest. “I tell you, on that day it will be more tolerable for Sodom than for that town.”). None of the 21 later Hebrew Scripture references to Sodom even mention homosexual acts.
  3. The biblical writers had no concept of homosexual orientation. Scientists first began to understand homosexuality as an orientation in the mid-to-late 1800s.

The Bible takes no direct stand on the morality of homogenital acts as such nor on the morality of gay and lesbian relationships as we conceive them today. . . . That is all that can be said about biblical teaching on homosexuality. If people would still seek to know if gay and lesbian sex in itself is good or evil, if homogenital acts per se are right or wrong, they will have to look elsewhere for an answer. For the fact of the matter is simple enough. The Bible never addresses that question. More than that, the Bible seems deliberately unconcerned about it.  (Theologian Daniel Helminiak, What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality, April 2000, p.132-133)

[ii] Notice that in this text Paul expresses a patriarchal point of view.  The issue is “the sexual satisfaction of men.”  Men decide.  Love has nothing to do with it.  Exclusive commitment has nothing to do with it.  Men get their sexual needs met as best pleases them.

[iii] The NRSV translates the Greek as “male prostitutes and sodomites.” The KJV has “nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind”—quite a different translation.   The NIV translates: “nor men who have sex with men” and the footnotes says, “The words men who have sex with men translate two Greek words that refer to the passive and active participants in homosexual acts.”

What one discovers here is that the Greek text is very difficult to translate and that none of the English translations can be seen as definitive.  Consider, for example, the first Greek word=malakoi:

This common Greek word had different connotations depending on the context in which it was used. In terms of morality, it generally referred to something like laziness, degeneracy, decadence, or lack of courage. The connotation was of being “soft like a woman” or like the delicate expensive fabrics worn by rich men.

In the patriarchal culture of the time, women were thought to be weaker than men, more fearful, more vulnerable, and more vain. Thus, men who ate too much, liked expensive things, were lazy, or liked to dress well were considered “soft like a woman.” Although this type of misogynistic thinking is intolerable in our modern society, it was common in ancient times and explains why the King James Version translated malakoi as “effeminate.”

But it is important to understand the difference between ancient and modern notions of what makes one effeminate. Paul wasn’t condemning men who swish and carry purses; he was condemning a type of moral weakness. The ancient Roman and Greek understanding of what it meant to be manly or womanly was quite different from today. First-century Romans didn’t think of effeminacy as merely a homosexual trait. In that culture, any man who was more interested in pleasure than in duty was considered to be woman-like [i.e.“soft”].

To examine the remainder of this article, go to Jeff Minor, The Children are Free, pp. 16-18.  (http://wouldjesusdiscriminate.org/biblical_evidence/no_fems_no_fairies.html)

[iv] Most biblical scholars are persuaded that Paul was a witness to the temple prostitution in Corinth.  More recently, however, scholars have questioned this assumption.  Why so?  (a) Only a few ancient sources speak of how sacred prostitution functioned in the cult of Aphrodite.  (b) Corinth as a Greek city-state was completely destroyed by the Romans, and it was restored in 44 BCE by Julius Caesar as a Roman colony.  (c) Paul never once mentions the Temple of Aphrodite (compare with Acts 19).  Thus Paul’s tirade against idolatry as inevitably leading to shameful “unnatural” sex may have been a standard line of argumentation learned during his Pharisaical training and have nothing to do with the decadence he observed among the worshippers of Aphrodite in Corinth.  See Tony Perrottet, “Ancient Greek Temples of Sex” (https://thesmartset.com/article11210701/) & “Holy Hookers and Historical Myths” (http://thethirstygargoyle.blogspot.com/2011/07/holy-hookers-and-historical-myths.html).

One must also remember that cultic prostitution was commonly practiced by the ancient Near Eastern fertility religions and that, from the moment they entered into the Promised Land, the Israelites struggled to avoid such practices (Num 25:1-9, Jdg 2:17-19). This became especially prevalent beginning with the monarchy of Rehoboam (1 Kgs 14:24) and extending to the monarchy of Josiah (2 Kgs 23:7).  According to Exod 34:11-16 the practice of exterminating conquered tribes was necessitated in order to wipe out cultic prostitution.  During the Deteronomic reform, the Law of Moses was expanded specifically to forbid cultic prostitution for Israelites (Deut 23:16-17, Amos 2:7).

Jeffrey H. Tigay, Emeritus A.M. Ellis Professor of Hebrew and Semitic Languages and Literatures in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Pennsylvania, disagrees: “It is questionable whether cultic prostitution existed at all in the ancient Near East” (http://www.kjvtoday.com/home/sodomite-or-cult-prostitute-deuteronomy-2317-et-al).

[v] In today’s society, Christians have the nasty habit of linking atheism with the absence of moral norms.  This is a stereotype, to be sure.  I am currently living in Shanghai, China.  The Chinese are 98% atheists, yet, in day to day contacts, they practice an exemplary morality.  We never lock our doors here.  In the marketplace, I often pay for groceries by extending my hand filled with a bunch of coins and allow the merchant to select the correct amount.  I feel secure when travelling in dark alleys in the middle of the night.  When I tripped and fell on my face, complete strangers immediately came to my assistance.

Paul, in his day, was operating out of Jewish stereotypes that linked idolatry with homosexuality.  For a study of these Jewish stereotypes and for an understanding of how name-calling was used in rhetorical arguments, see Jeremy Punt, “Religion, sex and politics: Scripting connections in Romans 1:18-32 and Wisdom 14:12-14,” HTS Teologiese Studies/Theological Studies, 73 (2017) n.4 (http://www.scielo.org.za/
scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0259-94222017000400021).

[vi] Dale B. Martin, “Heterosexism and the Interpretation of Romans 1:18-32,”  Biblical Interpretation, 3/3 (1995)  332 – 355.

Modern interpreters, influenced more by particularly modern forms of heterosexism and its construction of homosexuality, desire, and “nature” than by a straightforward historical-critical reading of Paul’s letter, portray Paul as referring to the “Fall” of Genesis 1-3 in Romans 1. Paul, it is assumed, takes homosexuality to be a sign of “humanity’s fallen state.” These interpreters, therefore, inscribe homosexual desire into universal fallen humanity in a way that Paul does not do. For one thing, Paul is referring not to the Fall in Romans 1 but to the invention of idolatry and polytheism by the Gentiles; homosexual intercourse is therefore not a symptom of “the Fall” but of Gentile polytheism.

“When seeking a biblical justification for opposing homosexual behavior, many people turn to Romans 1:26-27, but John Piper argues that one cannot separate these verses from Paul’s argument about idolatry in verses 18-25” (http://www.christianitytoday.com/pastors/2012/september-online-only/ur-video-piper-homosexuality-and-idolatry.html). “Idolatry and shrine prostitution, not homosexuality and lesbianism, are primarily what Paul addressed in Romans 1” (http://www.gaychristian101.com/Romans-1-And-Homosexuality.html).  See also n. 36.

“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 …

2:34

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.

3:04

Skutt Catholic students support gay teacher during school walk.

3:22

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

1:52

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

2:28

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.

1:58

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 …

2:24

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 …

3:16

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

1:02

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: …

1:26

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

1:10

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 …

1:42

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: …

3:52

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

1:27

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

0:53

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

3:28

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

29:20

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

3:00

teacher fired for doing the right thing.

3:22

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

53:46

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

2:14

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

1:58

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

2:58

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(!)

5:32

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

2:00

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

4:10

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

0:57

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 …

1:09

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

1:39:30

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

26:07

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

1:52

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

5:29

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

0:45

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

3:17

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

9:42

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

1:39
122 views5 years ago

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

4:00

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).

New Ways Ministry

In 1977, Sr. Jeannine Gramick, SSND, and Fr. Robert Nugent, SDS, founded New Way Ministries, “a gay-positive ministry of advocacy and justice for lesbian and gay Catholics and reconciliation within the larger Christian and civil communities.”  They took this bold step because their experience with LGBTQ Catholics had demonstrated to them that the gay-negative approach was miserably failing.  Gays were being daily threatened and abused by civil forms of discrimination (“gay-bashing”).  It was criminal that the Church added to and reinforced this abusive situation by preaching that homosexual activity was always seriously sinful and, if not repented and confessed to a priest, automatically doomed them to eternal hellfire.

Gays, more often than not, were socialized into either pitying or despising their own homosexual urges.  Most instinctively were repulsed by the fact that they were the rejects of society and, apparently, God’s rejects just as well.  They urgently wanted public approval and divine approval, even if it meant denying their psycho-sexual orientation.  Many spent years to convince themselves that their “homosexual attractions” were only a “passing phase.”  Thus they entered into heterosexual dating scene and, with a little good luck, many of them gained social and divine approval by entering into lawful marriages.  Not a day or night passed, however, when they did not have “doubts” and “disturbing nightmares.”  They were getting the approval they hungered for, to  be sure; yet, in their heart of hearts, they feared that “they were living a lie.”

This is the situation experienced by light-skinned African-Americans who decide to pass themselves off as White in an attempt to escape racial prejudice that circulates in American society.   This is the situation of some Jews known to me who, in an attempt to escape the unsettling stigma of “being preferred by God but, at the same time, being hated by all men,” decide to conceal their blood line in order to pass as goy (a Gentile, a non-Jew).  They end up getting the approval they hungered for, to  be sure; yet, in their heart of hearts, not a day passes when they don’t fear being exposed as “an imposter.”

In a nutshell, the “gay-positive” Gospel begins in these terms:

In all cultures and in every period of history, a certain percentage of men and women develop as gays and lesbians.  These individuals should be considered as part of God’s creative plan.  Their sexual orientation has no necessary connection with sin, sickness, or failure [neither their own or their parents]; rather, it is a gift from God to be accepted and lived out with gratitude. God does not despise anything God has created.[i]

Notice that the “gay-positive” approach enables homosexuals and heterosexuals to equally lay claim to being created by God and being loved by God.  Moreover, everyone is called to serve God through the unique gifts and callings that God has written on their hearts.  What this means for gays is that, instead of hating their condition and denying it vigorously at every turn, gays and lesbians were invited to accept their sexual orientation “with gratitude” and to work out their vocation within their God-given and God-sanctioned sexual orientation.

The immediate result of this was two-fold.  First, lesbians and gays could no longer escape their sexual orientation and conceal it to themselves and to everyone else as well.  “Living a lie” was no longer a viable option because this would thwart “God’s creative plan.”  Second, lesbians and gays were not required to shut down their sexuality and live the whole of heir lives as celibates in order to be approved by God on the day of judgment.  Quite to the contrary, they were being called to work out their patterns of sexual bonding in such a way as to discover “God creative plan” for them.  Instead of burying their treasure, they were required by God to invest it for the betterment of themselves and for the betterment of society.

Here is a further expression of a “gay-positive” approach:

The church’s traditional position has been that since every homosexual act is sinful and contrary to God’s plan, the love that exists between gay and lesbian people is [inherently] sinful and alienates the lover from God.  [If God gives each of us a unique face, a unique calling, a unique sexual orientation; then it must be] argued that the love [in all its aspects] between two lesbians or gay men, assuming that it is a constructive human love, is not sinful. . . .  On the contrary, it can be a holy love, mediating God’s presence in the human community as effectively as heterosexual love.[ii]

Year after year, New Way Ministries gradually gained increasing enthusiastic support by LGBTQ Catholics.  The “gay-positive” approach brought faith acceptance and holistic healing into the lives of hundreds of gay Catholics.  This made “coming out of the closet” much easier since each member was in contact with a network of faith-filled supporters that demonstrated the grace of being authentic with oneself and with one’s Creator.  Being relieved of the “fear of eternal hellfire” is no small matter in the life of a Catholic.  Moreover, once one became authentic with oneself, with one’s Creator, and with a group of supportive Catholics, then it became possible to be bold and to stand up for oneself in the face of both civil and ecclesiastical “gay bashing.”

In 1988, Cardinal Ratzinger, the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, launched an official investigation into the theololgy of Sr. Jeannine Gramick and Fr. Robert Nugent because of concerns that the pair had “allowed ‘errors and ambiguities’ into their discussions of Catholic teaching on homosexuality.”  Cardinal Ratzinger said the two had not sufficiently emphasized the official church teaching to the effect that homosexual acts were “intrinsically disordered.”  The inquiry closed some ten years later with a directive ordering the pair to stop their pastoral ministry to gays and lesbians and their families.   In 1999 Fr. Nugent was further required to remain silent on issues of homosexuality—no more speaking or writing.  After submitting, he distanced himself from New Way Ministries and returned to full-time work in parish ministry.

Sr. Gramick took a different tack with her response.  As with Fr. Nugent, the CDF prohibited her from further ministry to homosexuals.  And while she had long performed this ministry with the blessing of her order, the School Sisters of Notre Dame, it—under pressure from the CDF and the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life (CICLSAL)—ordered her in 2000 to remain totally silent about the Vatican investigation and on matters of homosexuality more generally.  This meant that she could not “encourage the faithful to publicly express their dissent from the official Magisterium, nor protest decisions of the Holy See, nor criticize the Magisterium in any public forum whatsoever concerning homosexuality or related issues.”

After much deliberation, Sr. Gramick decided that her conscience and commitments carried more weight than the Vatican pressure to force her hand by have her submit by virtue of the fact that she had made a vow of obedience to the School Sisters of Notre Dame.  Under threat of dismissal from her religious order, she insisted on speaking out and honoring her commitments actively,[i] eventually transferring to the Sisters of Loreto in 2001.[ii]

Conclusions

In a healthy organization, someone in management might create a position paper and then give it to the people down the line who have lots of experience with which to critique and to improve it.  As a result, the original position paper gets revised and improved by working experts in the field.  In a dysfunctional organization, someone in management creates a position paper and then mandates that it must be implemented on all levels.  Those disagreeing or dragging their feet when it comes time for implementation are “written up” for insubordination and, the next time around, if they persist, they are shown the door.

The latter case describes Cardinal Ratzinger in his 26-year tenure heading up the CDF.  He produced the official position papers on homosexuality.  No one knows whom he may have invited to write the first draft.  Once he had the document prepared, no one knows whether he consulted anyone and asked them to make improvements.  What we do know, however, is that Cardinal Ratzinger did not solicit feedback from Fr. John J. McNeill, S.J., Sr. Jeannine Gramick, SSND, or Fr. Robert Nugent, SDS, well-known persons who had years of experience with Catholic gays and lesbians, their troubles, their hopes, their fears, their victories.

???We have already observed that Cardinal Ratzinger formulated his analysis of homosexuality and of same-sex marriage without any intention of consulting the world-wide bishops for their input or for their approval.[i]  Furthermore, we observed that he never organized theological or pastoral commissions that were charged to investigate the contemporary homosexual phenomena and to offer theological, psychological, and sociological guidelines for responding charitably and justly in the name of the Gospel.  Rather, he took the course of publishing his own views, getting John Paul II to sign on, and then distributing a fait accompli to the bishops scattered throughout the world.

How do we judge this?  Cardinal Ratzinger is a very intelligent and dedicated man, but no matter how intelligent, his gut reactions to homosexuality were formed in his personal experiences (which, following the Germanic scholarly tradition, he hides from his readers).  Moreover, he wrote in complete isolation from the very priests and religious who had dedicated their lives to bring healing and holiness to gays and lesbians.  Surely these persons would have to be consulted and their views taken into account if the Church was to have a safe and sure guide to assess the challenge of correctly understanding and ministering to gays and lesbians within the modern Church.  But, for reasons unknown to us, Cardinal Ratzinger decided that he could not trust these people.  Their compassion must have led them astray.  He could not even trust the input of bishops who were dealing with this issue in widely diverse cultural and sociological contexts.  Hence, taking the burden upon himself and trusting his Germanic training, he moved ahead with the dogged determination to bring gays and lesbians and their allies back on track.  But this is exactly the arrogance that comes with fundamentalism that the Pope warns us against.

With such a defective process, is it any wonder that it produced such a misguided and misleading doctrine?  Is it any wonder that such a one-sided and misinformed policy would rip into the soul of Catholic communities and tear them apart?  And we judge this as the evil that comes in the wake of the Ratzinger Doctrine.

[i] This closed-door mode of operating was not always Cardinal Ratzinger approach.  When it came to the preparation of the universal catechism, for example, the bishops throughout the world were brought in on the project.  Theological and catechetical institutes were invited to make suggestions to improve the preliminary drafts.  Throughout, Ratzinger worked in collaboration with other experts.  For details, see Cardinal James Hickey, “Launching the Catechism for Australia,” address presented at the National Press Club in Canberra, 22 June 1994 (https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=5241).

Nor did he consult the world-wide Catholic bishops on this important issue.  This would have given him an international and intercultural perspective on homosexuality and open up an exchange on the varieties of pastoral practice currently being used.  Nor was the Pontifical Biblical Commission or the Vatican’s International Theological Commission brought into the picture.  These groups were already formed and they would have been an excellent sounding board to explore how the bible treats homosexuality and how the history of the church offers diverse instances when disciplinary decrees and moral theology addressed various aspects of homosexual activity.

Once published, Cardinal Ratzinger used his office to harass and punish anyone who disagreed with him.  He was their judge and jury.  He had no intention to give anyone disagreeing with him a fair hearing.  If they couldn’t learn to obey, then they deserved to be silenced, humiliated, and eventually thrown out of their orders and, if necessary, thrown out of their Church.

Was the CDF functioning as an unjust and dysfunctional system in this period?  You bet it was.

I offer three reflections:

#1 As for the repressive conduct of Cardinal Ratzinger and a large segment of the hierarchy in this matter, one would do well to remember the cautionary words of President Harry S. Truman:

Once a government [or a Church] is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens [believers] and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.

Some might think that a tyranny cloaked in the garb of Jesus can hardly be a tyranny. The truth, however, is just the opposite. The insistence of Cardinal Ratzinger and his allies that they were merely implementing the sovereign will of our Savior in these matters fundamentally distorts the person, the teaching, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.[iii]

#2 Recently, John J. McCoy wrote a very thoughtful biography of Archbishop Hunthausen, a pastor who was powerfully transformed during his participation in Vatican II.  In his biography he laments how Hunthausen was hounded out of office and was replaced by a series of “autocratic monarchs who had little concern for transparency or accountability.”  Then he writes this:

Under John Paul II and Benedict XVI, we became a church that censured, excluded, and punished to protect what was defined as universal Catholic Church.  I abhorred Benedict’s notion that for the sake of the truth, if would be better if the church dwindled to a small, faithful, and orthodox remnant.  Such an idea presumes that doctrine is unchanging.  Yet Vatican II recognized that doctrine evolves and develops in its encounter with the world.  How could a church that once justified slavery and called Jews “Christ-killers” hold that its teaching on marriage, sexuality, ordination, or any issue—save Christ’s divinity, love, and promise of eternal life—are immutable and unchangeable?

#3 When Pope Benedict XVI was elected in 2005, the Jesuit magazine, America, published an editorial wherein the editors presented “Challenges for the New Pope” as they saw them:

During the last couple of decades, there have been too many issues taken off the discussion table.  This has been very unhealthy for the church.  By some estimates, over 100 theologians have been silenced or reprimanded by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

A church that cannot openly discuss issues is a church retreating into an intellectual ghetto.  And the issues are many: birth control, divorce, women priests, married priests, homosexuality, the selection of bishops, the over centralization of decision making in the Vatican, inclusive language, enculturation of the liturgy, catechetics, intercommunion and the role of the laity in church governance.  There are no simple answers to these issues, and reformers must recognize that every change has both positive and negative effects.  But without open discussion, church life will become more and more dysfunctional.[iv]

As we now know, Benedict XVI was incapable of allowing, much less encouraging, open discussion and collective decision-making.  In fact, once Cardinal Ratzinger was elected as the pope, he showed his true authoritarian colors.  He wasted no time in using his new position to his advantage.  With an unquenchable will to power, he pushed forward a retrenchment on a whole series of Vatican II reforms.  The hope of the Jesuits, however, was not entirely spoken in vain.  Benedict resigned on 11 Feb 2013[v] and Pope Francis, himself a Jesuit, was elected to fulfill, in steady measured steps, the shattered hopes of his Jesuit brothers.

A church that cannot openly discuss issues is a church retreating into an intellectual ghetto.

~~ “[Jesuit] Challenges for the New Pope”

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] I discovered an extended statement presented by Sr. Jeannine Gramick following a public debate with Bishop Thomas Paprocki in 2013.  Her statement is very balanced, very compassionate, and very persuasive.  See “Sister Jeannine’s Debate with Bishop Thomas Paprocki on Marriage Equality,” Bondings (https://newwaysministryblog.wordpress.com/2013/07/15/sister-jeannines-debate-with-bishop-thomas-paprocki-on-marriage-equality/).

[ii] The two short biographies here are reprinted from Catholics for a Free Choice, “Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s Preparation for the Papacy: How ‘the Vatican’s Enforcer’ ran the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (1979 – 2005),” April 2006, pp. 10-11.  (https://www.catholicsforchoice.org/topics/reform/documents/2006movingforwardbylookingback.pdf)

[iii] For a balanced analysis of when and how the bishops overstep their authority and overestimate their competence, see Richard R. Gaillardetz, ed., When the Magisterium Intervenes: The Magisterium and Theologians in Today’s Church (Collegeville, Liturgical Press, 2012).

[iv] Editors, “Challenges for the New Pope,” America, 25 April 2005

[v] The significance of this date and the personal impact of Pope Benedict’s resignation just after it happened can be seen here: Archbishop Leo Cushley, “A monsignor sobbed, then silence fell: an eyewitness account of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation,” Catholic Herald 11 Feb 2015 [two years after the event] (http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/commentandblogs/2015/02/11/a-monsignor-sobbed-then-silence-fell-an-eyewitness-account-of-benedict-xvis-resignation/).

What Protestant pastors are preaching about homosexuality

 

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Contributed by Paul Wallace on Aug 24, 2004

The Church must redemptively address the homosexual community.

Scripture:

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”

The coming out experience

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No one can escape one’s experiential base

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

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

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

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

Lessons learned from the pill bugs

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

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

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

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

Now I want to invite you to do some speculation

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

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

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

Applying the pill bug experience with the homophobic experience

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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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]

 

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[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/
Evils%20in%20America/Sodomy/how_to_respond.htm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The dubious theology of Cardinal Ratzinger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder. [. . . .] It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church’s pastors wherever it occurs.

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

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

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

[iii] For an examination of the faulty logic here, go to Catholic Scholars’ Statement on the Ethics of Using Contraceptives (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/
0060574216).

[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).

Matthew Vines’ use of Scriptures is quite sophisticated

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

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

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

Matthew Vines’ use of Scriptures is quite sophisticated

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[i] For excellent life-stories inspired by the Reformation Project of Matthew Vines, go to https://twitter.com/ReformationP/

[ii] Matthew Vines, “The Bible and Homosexuality: Why I Left College and Spent Two Years Finding Out What the Scriptures Really Say,” The Huffpost Gay Voices,  26 March 2012 (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/matthew-vines/bible-homosexuality_b_
1378368.html
).

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

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

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

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

[v] Matthew Vines, “The Gay Debate: The Bible and Homosexuality,” 08 Mar 2012 (www.matthewvines.com/transcript/).

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

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