Thursday, April 9, 2015


One of the tricks that was used by the proponents of Guam's previous attempt at legalizing same-sex unions was to make it look like the archbishop personally was not willing to compromise. This allowed the proponents to objectify a single target and freeze it, or in this case: him. 

Unfortunately, due to the archbishop's lack of control of the message that was being put out in his name, the trick worked. And once the archbishop was objectified as the sole opponent of the bill, it was easy to then vilify the whole Catholic Church as homophobic, which is standard "m-o" for same-sex protagonists. 

The truth is of course that no bishop or priest has the authority to say anything other than what the Church says on matters of faith and morals where those matters are magisterially defined. And the right use of the sexual function is one of those matters. In short, sex by design, God's design, makes babies:
"God created man in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and God said to them: Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it." (Gen 1:27-28)
We might use sex for other things (money, pleasure, or even intimacy), but then we depart from God's design.

All of church teaching on sex flows from this central reality. The church didn't make it up. It didn't forbid certain sexual practices to be mean. The church has only done what it can ever do: hand on what was given to it from the beginning. So in light of this, let's use this opportunity to examine EXACTLY what the church teaches about homosexuality.

We find those teachings, officially published, in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. (Emphases mine.)

Chastity and homosexuality
2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. 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.
Before anyone gets too upset about the classification of homosexual acts as "acts of grave depravity", homosexual acts are not alone. Paragraph 2396 lists masturbation, fornication, and pornography, along with homosexual practices as "sins gravely contrary to chastity. It is important to note here though that the church is speaking objectively. It is not condemning the person but the act. Only God can determine culpability and the church does not pretend to do so (except to a certain degree in the confessional). Also, note that the church also labels homosexual acts as "intrinsically disordered." This is important and we'll come back to it.
2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

So here we see that the "inclination" is simply considered "objectively disordered". What does that mean? First, it DOES NOT mean that the PERSON is "objectively disordered", only the inclination. And since all of us have "inclinations" which are contrary to God's will for us, if not outright sinful, we all fall into that category: persons with objectively disordered inclinations. Modifying the word "disordered" with the word "objectively" simply means that apart from the person and whatever his or her intent or mental state may be, the inclination, the attraction, is contrary to nature, since all of nature is ordered to make more of itself (reproduce). We also see that the Church is zealous to protect the dignity of persons, as it is with all persons, who find themselves so inclined.
2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.
Of course we ALL are called to chastity, even in marriage. Chastity is not celibacy. Chastity is the right use of the sexual function and reverence for God's design. Use of the sexual function even in marriage can violate chastity if one of the ends of marriage is excluded - which we see in the following:
2370 Periodic continence, that is, the methods of birth regulation based on self-observation and the use of infertile periods, is in conformity with the objective criteria of morality These methods respect the bodies of the spouses, encourage tenderness between them, and favor the education of an authentic freedom. In contrast, "every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible" is intrinsically evil.
So here we see that the Church is exponentially more harsh on the misuse of the marital act than it is on homosexual acts. Homosexual acts are only labeled "intrinsically disordered", but not "evil". "Evil" is reserved for the purposeful rendering of "procreation impossible" by sacramentally married couples, i.e. the use of chemical, mechanical, or surgical means to frustrate the possibility of pregnancy. So the next time someone wants to bash the church for its position on homosexual relations, let them know that married couples are treated far more severely and show them where (in the Catechism).

And let us also address this issue of periodic continence as there is probably severe abuse of this as well. The Catechism says this:

2368 A particular aspect of this responsibility concerns the regulation of procreation. For just reasons, spouses may wish to space the births of their children. It is their duty to make certain that their desire is not motivated by selfishness but is in conformity with the generosity appropriate to responsible parenthood. Moreover, they should conform their behavior to the objective criteria of morality:                        
When it is a question of harmonizing married love with the responsible transmission of life, the morality of the behavior does not depend on sincere intention and evaluation of motives alone; but it must be determined by objective criteria, criteria drawn from the nature of the person and his acts, criteria that respect the total meaning of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love; this is possible only if the virtue of married chastity is practiced with sincerity of heart.
The second paragraph contains what is meant by "for just reasons." But to my knowledge, this is rarely taught to Catholic couples. When "periodic continence" (otherwise known as Natural Family Planning) is taught, most of us are told that it is up to us to decide when we want or don't want to have a child. Nothing seems to be said about our need to form our decisions according to "objective moral criteria." So here's the short course.

When the Church uses the word "just" along with words like "reason" or "cause" or, for the sake of illustration "just war", the Church means "proportionate". Thus in its teaching on Just War, a response to a threat or an attack must be "proportionate". In the case of the deliberate avoidance of the "fertile period", the Church is saying there must be "proportionate" reasons.

What are those?

There is no definitive list. There is only "objective moral criteria", and here is the essential criterion:

When we married, we promised before God and Church that we would accept children "willingly and lovingly from God." It was a condition of our sacramental marriage. Thus to purposely avoid children, even through "natural" means, requires a reason that is proportionate to the extreme seriousness of our public and sacred vow to accept children from God as central to the purpose of our marriage.

All this is important in the debate over same-sex marriage because if sacramentally married couples can choose to have or not have children according to their own will, then fecundity in marriage is an option and we have no standing to oppose the infecund marriage of same-sex couples.

Where do I stand?

I stand with the Church. However hard.

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