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.


  1. Because I was born gay, the church says I should be celibate because sex is reserved specifically for procreating only. I'm sure that's the intent of all couples every time they have sex; to make babies. If I'm to lead a celibate life, maybe I should become a priest? Or is that even allowed? I remember reading a memorandum from the archdiocese stating that homosexuals should not be serving in any ministries in any capacity. Hate the sin not the sinner they say, yet they expect us to live an unrealitically chaste lifestyle and treat us as sub-human.

    1. There are many who lead celibate lives, not just gays who choose to live chastely. Single people of every sort and even married people, many married people. All that Christ promises is "My grace is enough for you." There is nothing unrealistic about relying on Christ.

    2. The Archbishop of Washington DC, Archbishop Donald Wuerl, said it best when speaking about Catholics who are gay. Just to paraphrase, he basically said that the Church loves you (LGBT) and welcomes you, but asks of you, like all other Catholics, to walk as closely to Christ as possible. We all have crosses to bear in every state, whether single, married, or religious and the road to follow Christ is not easy. We stumble and fall, but even so, we must stay on the path no matter how difficult.

      I will not judge or preach to you. I do not know you or your situation, but please read this article from a Catholic young man who happens to be gay..(The original article can be found here: )

      "Gay, Catholic, and Doing Fine"

      Steve Gershom (a pseudonym) is a gay Catholic man in his late twenties. His blog,, has been around for some months, but he has just decided to make it public. It's original, funny, poignant -- and culturally important. You can also find him on Twitter as stevegershom. I am profoundly grateful to Steve for agreeing to write this post for the Bubble.


      When Leila asked me to write about gay marriage, the first thing I found out was how little I know about it. If I wanted to say anything coherent, I'd have to have definite beliefs about some deeper, thornier subjects first: the relationship between civil and moral law, just for starters. Even if I were sure enough of myself to talk about those things, I doubt I could do it in a blog-sized article.

      So I'll have to do it in a more personal way. That might be better anyhow.

      I have heard a lot about how mean the Church is, and how bigoted, because she opposes gay marriage. How badly she misunderstands gay people, and how hostile she is towards us. My gut reaction to such things is: Are you freaking kidding me? Are we even talking about the same church?

      When I go to Confession, I sometimes mention the fact that I'm gay, to give the priest some context. (And to spare him some confusion: Did you say 'locker room'? What were you doing in the women's...oh.) I've always gotten one of two responses: either compassion, encouragement, and admiration, because the celibate life is difficult and profoundly counter-cultural; or nothing at all, not even a ripple, as if I had confessed eating too much on Thanksgiving.

      Of the two responses, my ego prefers the first -- who doesn't like thinking of themselves as some kind of hero? -- but the second might make more sense. Being gay doesn't mean I'm special or extraordinary. It just means that my life is not always easy. (Surprise!) And as my friend J. said when I told him recently about my homosexuality, "I guess if it wasn't that, it would have been something else." Meaning that nobody lives without a burden of one kind or another. As Rabbi Abraham Heschel said: "The man who has not suffered, what can he possibly know, anyway?"

      Where are all these bigoted Catholics I keep hearing about? When I told my family a year ago, not one of them responded with anything but love and understanding. Nobody acted like I had a disease. Nobody started treating me differently or looking at me funny. The same is true of every one of the Catholic friends that I've told. They love me for who I am.

      Actually, the only time I get shock or disgust or disbelief, the only time I've noticed people treating me differently after I tell them, is when I tell someone who supports the gay lifestyle. Celibacy?? You must be some kind of freak.

      Hooray for tolerance of different viewpoints. I'm grateful to gay activists for some things -- making people people more aware of the prevalence of homosexuality, making homophobia less socially acceptable -- but they also make it more difficult for me to be understood, to be accepted for who I am and what I believe. If I want open-mindedness, acceptance, and understanding, I look to Catholics.

    3. Part II

      Is it hard to be gay and Catholic? Yes, because like everybody, I sometimes want things that are not good for me. The Church doesn't let me have those things, not because she's mean, but because she's a good mother. If my son or daughter wanted to eat sand I'd tell them: that's not what eating is for; it won't nourish you; it will hurt you. Maybe my daughter has some kind of condition that makes her like sand better than food, but I still wouldn't let her eat it. Actually, if she was young or stubborn enough, I might not be able to reason with her -- I might just have to make a rule against eating sand. Even if she thought I was mean.

      So the Church doesn't oppose gay marriage because it's wrong; she opposes it because it's impossible, just as impossible as living on sand. The Church believes, and I believe, in a universe that means something, and in a God who made the universe -- made men and women, designed sex and marriage from the ground up. In that universe, gay marriage doesn't make sense. It doesn't fit with the rest of the picture, and we're not about to throw out the rest of the picture.

      If you don't believe in these things, if you believe that men and women and sex and marriage are pretty much whatever we say they are, then okay: we don't have much left to talk about. That's not the world I live in.

      So, yes, it's hard to be gay and Catholic -- it's hard to be anything and Catholic -- because I don't always get to do what I want. Show me a religion where you always get to do what you want and I'll show you a pretty shabby, lazy religion. Something not worth living or dying for, or even getting up in the morning for. That might be the kind of world John Lennon wanted, but John Lennon was kind of an idiot.

      Would I trade in my Catholicism for a worldview where I get to marry a man? Would I trade in the Eucharist and the Mass and the rest of it? Being a Catholic means believing in a God who literally waits in the chapel for me, hoping I'll stop by just for ten minutes so he can pour out love and healing on my heart. Which is worth more -- all this, or getting to have sex with who I want? I wish everybody, straight or gay, had as beautiful a life as I have.

      I know this isn't a satisfactory answer. I don't think any words could be. I try to make my life a satisfactory answer, to this question and to others: What are people for? What is love, and what does it look like? How do we get past our own selfishness so we can love God and our neighbors and ourselves?

      It's a work in progress.

    4. Wonderful comment. We all bear our crosses. Some suffer more than others, ie. Christians in Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, Pakistan, etc. but each Christian is called to a life of sacrifice and yours is definitely a life of sacrifice. God bless you and your journey towards heaven.

  2. Great article! a must read I think for all Catholics. I only regret that Rome used the term homosexual. I read an excellent booklet on the matter wherein a priest stated that these people are not homosexual but rather heterosexual with Same Sex Attractions (SSA). It helps us better understand the dilemma .

    1. True, Rome's docs sometimes uses the term "homosexual persons". It may be a translation issue. Actual teaching is that human beings are only male and female, not homo or heterosexual.

  3. When they come to destroy your business because you are pro-traditional family

    Posted on 2 April 2015 by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

    I’ve been thinking about how homosexualists target Christian businesses for destruction. Approach a florist or a bakery or, now, a pizzeria and tell the owner that this is for a homosexual “wedding” and then hammer them with law suits.

    Enough already. It’s time for everyone to calm down.

    We need a new approach.

    Think about this.

    When some homosexual couple comes to your Christian business for services at their immoral event, don’t panic. Go ahead and take their business!

    Then explain what is going to happen next.

    Tell them that the food and services will be just fine. And then inform them that all of the money that they pay for the services will be donated to a traditional pro-family lobby. If it is something like catering, where your employees have to be there to provide services, tell them that all your people will smile, be professional, and everyone of them will be wearing crucifixes and have the Holy Family embroidered on their uniforms. Then show them pictures of your uniforms. When the truck pulls up, speakers will be playing Immaculate Mary. Show them the truck and play the music.

    “Oh, you would be offended by that? I’m so sorry. You approached us because we are Christians. Right? We are happy to provide services for you and we are grateful that you chose to come to our Christian catering business. We just want to be of help.”

    Then tell them that you will take out an ad in the paper to let everyone know what you did with their money, thanking them by name for their business so that you could make the contribution.

    I suspect this approach, if adopted far and wide, would put an end to attacks on Christian businesses.

    1. I love Father Z. Very well thought out response to such a challenge.