Return to Faithful to the Truth
More troubling is the Vatican's wicked reaction to this phenomenon.It gives rise to greater concern in those countries that have granted or intend to grant – legal recognition to homosexual unions, which may include the possibility of adopting children. The present Considerations do not contain new doctrinal elements;
Although this is true, it is misleading. An old but recently neglected doctrine is included in the text, almost in passing. Whether this is accidental or intentional and whether it signifies the beginning of new developments, only time and the living Apostolic Tradition of the Church will tell.they seek rather to reiterate the essential points on this question and provide arguments drawn from reason which could be used by Bishops in preparing more specific interventions, appropriate to the different situations throughout the world, aimed at protecting and promoting the dignity of marriage, the foundation of the family, and the stability of society, of which this institution is a constitutive element.
It will be interesting to see how reasonable the arguments are. If they are anything like those independently drafted by "The Cosmos and Damien Society" of Canada, they will be anything but reasonable.The present Considerations are also intended to give direction to Catholic politicians by indicating the approaches to proposed legislation in this area which would be consistent with Christian conscience.(2)
This is a direct assault on the role of conscience. As prefect of the Holy Office, H.E. Cardinal Ratzinger has the distinctive role of proposing arguments in favour of and generally promoting the Church's Official teaching to the Catholic Faithful. As a Bishop, he has the duty to insist that everyone should act in accordance with their informed conscience. As a Catholic, he has the right to express his argued view as to what intellectual conclusions an informed Christian should arrive at. However, it is illegitimate to assert that his personal view of the matter is identical with objective truth. After all, he is not infallible.Since this question relates to the natural moral law, the arguments that follow are addressed not only to those who believe in Christ, but to all persons committed to promoting and defending the common good of society.
This is a welcome statement. It recognizes the fact that the questions at stake are not primarily matters of revelation but of ethics, psychology and sociology: morals rather than faith, and so decideable by rational debate based on critically evaluated evidence. We shall see to what extent the Cardinal's treatment of the issues conforms to such a programme.
H.E. seems to be arguing here, in a most un-catholic manner, that democracy is a solid basis for ethics. Moreover, he seems to argue not for a franchise of the consciences of individuals, but a democracy based on a counting of "major cultures": many of which are based on false religions. I hardly think that a Catholic should argue that the fact that Islamic societies generally reject the drinking of alcohol as seriously immoral is evidential that this activity is contrary to the "natural moral law". Cardinal Ratzinger indulges in a dangerous moral relativism here. I cannot also help but wonder as to the use of the epithet "major". I suspect that any "culture" that failed to recognize as true "the Church's teaching on marriage and on the complementarity of the sexes" would by that failure be relegated to the ranks of a minor culture!Marriage is not just any relationship between human beings. It was established by the Creator with its own nature, essential properties and purpose.(3)
Unfortunately, the Cardinal has already deviated from his programme. While claiming that the truth of what he is about to say is "evident to right reason and recognized as such by all the major cultures of the world", he has now invoked "the Creator": whose role in this matter would be disputed by Buddhists, Taoists and Confucians at least. Moreover, he has given an Aristotelian bias to the discussion by his use of the phrase "essential properties".No ideology can erase from the human spirit the certainty that marriage exists solely between a man and a woman, who by mutual personal gift, proper and exclusive to themselves, tend toward the communion of their persons.
It is vital to note that according to the Roman Catechism, the first purpose of marriage is companionship:
First of all, nature itself by an instinct implanted in both sexes impels them to such companionship, and this is further encouraged by the hope of mutual assistance in bearing more easily the discomforts of life and the infirmities of old age. [Catechism of the Oecumenical Council of Trent: "On Marriage"]
This proposition is either trivially true or palpably false. It is enough to consider myself alone in order to demonstrate this. I hereby inform my reader that is a fact that I have no personal "certainty that marriage exists solely between a man and a woman". This trivially disproves the informal sense of Cardinal Ratzinger's contention.In this way, they mutually perfect each other, in order to cooperate with God in the procreation and upbringing of new human lives.
On the other hand, I am not aware of such a certainty having at some point been "erased" by an "ideology": so H.E. is not formally wrong.
Moreover, even if no human person had "certainty that marriage exists solely between a man and a woman", it might still be the case that in some abstract sense the "human sprit" - whatever the Cardinal might mean by this, surely not "the Spirit of the Age" - would posses such a "certainty". I am amused that the Cardinal leans this far towards a Platonist analysis. I only regret that his inclination is purely terminological and counterproductive, rather than real and fruitful.
Of course, the proposition is manifestly false on a second ground: namely its insinuation that marriage is necessarily monogamous: a contention contradicted by the explicit witness of Sacred Scripture and many of "the major cultures of the world", in particular the muslim.
In what way do "they mutually perfect each other"? Is it, as the Society of Cosmos and Damian, following the ethical theory of the "New Natural Lawyers", have argued, that a single human individual is imperfect by virtue of their inability to reproduce? I certainly heard such an argument enunciated by a Catholic theologian, in my time as an undergraduate at Cambridge University. As I remarked then, such a doctrine implies the pernicious heresy that all celibates - including Cardinal Ratzinger, the Holy Mother of God, Our Blessed Lord and his Vicar on Earth - are imperfect and should get married in order to perfect themselves!3. The natural truth about marriage was confirmed by the Revelation contained in the biblical accounts of creation, an expression also of the original human wisdom, in which the voice of nature itself is heard. There are three fundamental elements of the Creator's plan for marriage, as narrated in the Book of Genesis.
This blinkered position should be contrasted with the expansive and wholesome teaching of Pius XIth's encyclical Casti Connubii:
This mutual moulding of husband and wife, this determined effort to perfect each other, can in a very real sense, as the Roman Catechism teaches, be said to be the chief reason and purpose of matrimony, provided matrimony be looked at not in the restricted sense as instituted for the proper conception and education of the child, but more widely as the blending of life as a whole and the mutual interchange and sharing thereof.
[Pius XI: "Casti Connubii" #24]
In the first place, man, the image of God, was created “male and female” (Gen 1:27).
This is not true. According to the more detailed account of the creation of mankind, found in the second chapter of Genesis: a sole human person, Adam, was first created alone. It was then in response to Adam's loneliness that a companion was created for him. It is not certain that before the Fall Adam and Eve were engendered. Even if they were, it is unclear that their genders were of any particular importance. There is not the slightest indication that their genders were any basis for "complementarity".Men and women are equal as persons and complementary as male and female.
Of course, the Cardinal fails to explicate his use of the words "persons" or "complementary".Sexuality is something that pertains to the physical-biological realm and has also been raised to a new level – the personal level – where nature and spirit are united.
This is a somewhat surprising and very welcome proposition. Note that no reference to previous teaching is given. I have myself argued that although sex is biologically for reproduction, theologically sex is for love. As the truths of theological science are prior to and interpretative of those of natural science, one should not seek to develop sexual ethics from physiological principles but rather from psycho-spiritual principles.Marriage is instituted by the Creator as a form of life in which a communion of persons is realized involving the use of the sexual faculty. “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife and they become one flesh” (Gen 2:24).
I recently discovered that this theme is not so novel. It was envisaged in the doctrine of the Catechism of the Council of Trent, and further developed by Pius XI in his encyclical Casti Connubii.
This is a strangely ambivalent statement. It could be taken to mean that, in the case of (wo)mankind, sex was intended by God to help motivate, realize and sustain a particular species of psycho-spiritual fellowship or friendship. On the other hand, it sounds very much like the strange and outlandish view made much more explicit by the Society of Cosmos and Damian. The critical words are "involving the use of the sexual faculty". It might be that the "communion" referred to is entirely physical, not psycho-spiritual at all: and is in fact nothing other than sexual intercourse itself. This teaching leans very far in the direction of the pernicious "Theology of the Body".Third, God has willed to give the union of man and woman a special participation in his work of creation. Thus, he blessed the man and the woman with the words “Be fruitful and multiply” (Gen 1:28). Therefore, in the Creator's plan, sexual complementarity and fruitfulness belong to the very nature of marriage.
Note that here, the Cardinal attempts to distinguish the unitive function of sex - implicitly referred to in his previous remark - from the procreative function. I have outlined elsewhere my fear that adherence to all aspects of the official teaching of the Church forces one to adopt an offensive account of heterosexual marriage. Ironically, the effect of this will be to undermine the dignity of marriage and the esteem in which it is generally held.Furthermore, the marital union of man and woman has been elevated by Christ to the dignity of a sacrament. The Church teaches that Christian marriage is an efficacious sign of the covenant between Christ and the Church (cf. Eph 5:32). This Christian meaning of marriage, far from diminishing the profoundly human value of the marital union between man and woman, confirms and strengthens it (cf. Mt 19:3-12; Mk 10:6-9).
In particular, my fear is that in order to find a means of distinguishing hetero-gender from homo-gender relationships, the union proper to marriage is in danger of being identified with "the marriage act", which indeed does have "a special participation in his work of creation". Instead of a psycho-spiritual union being seen as characteristic of marriage, a merely physiological-sexual union will be proposed as its defining feature.
This would be deplorable, and entirely contrary to the teaching of Pius XIth:
By matrimony, therefore, the souls of the contracting parties are joined and knit together more directly and more intimately than are their bodies, and that not by any passing affection of sense of spirit, but by a deliberate and firm act of the will; and from this union of souls by God's decree, a sacred and inviolable bond arises. Hence the nature of this contract, which is proper and peculiar to it alone, makes it entirely different both from the union of animals entered into by the blind instinct of nature alone in which neither reason nor free will plays a part, and also from the haphazard unions of men, which are far removed from all true and honourable unions of will and enjoy none of the rights of family life. [Pius XI: "Casti Connubii" #7]
Also note that while it is manifestly true that genitive "fruitfulness" belongs "to the very nature of" heterogender copulation, the Genesis text does not of itself demonstrate that "sexual complementarity and fruitfulness belong to the very nature of marriage". On the contrary, the Roman Catechism teaches that:
It should not be forgotten that Eve was called by Adam his companion. The woman, he says, whom thou gavest me as a companion. [Catechism of the Council of Trent "On Marriage"]
4. 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.
This proposition is disingenuous. It is either unimportantly true or palpably false. To the extent that it is true that a homogender union is not "analogous" to a breeding pair: because they do not breed, a similar conclusion must be attached to a heterogender union of two persons that are mutually sterile. On the other hand, both of these physiologically sterile unions might be thought similar to marriage in any number of regards.Marriage is holy, while homosexual acts go against the natural moral law.
Indeed, the very fact that the celibate Cardinal suggests that there is no similarity between a homogender union and "God's plan for marriage" should alert one to the fact that his concept of marriage is peculiar.
According to the Roman Catechism, there are three ends of marriage:
Clearly, the first and third ends are every bit as true for homo-gender as to hetero-gender unions. Moreover, according to the Roman Catechism, marriage has three blessings:
- offspring; and
- the avoidance of fornication.
Again, the second and third could be just as true for homo-gender as to hetero-gender marriage. To say that "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." is to identify "God's plan for marriage and family" with procreation, which is contrary to the teaching of the Catechism of the Council of Trent.
- fidelity and
- sacramental grace.
This is simply a pair of unwarranted assertions. If "homosexual acts go against the natural moral law", then all of Ratzinger's case is won. However, this proposition has never been established, and repeating it ad nausiam does nothing to advance the argument.Homosexual acts “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”.(4)
I find it impossible to comment on such obscure, obtuse and impenetrable language. It is a cause for profound concern, regret, sadness and dismay that the referenced document: "The Catechism of the Catholic Church", which should be a clear presentation of the Good News of the Gospel to contemporary society, is laced with such incomprehensible gobbledegook. The Catechism of the Council of Trent is a quite different type of document!Sacred Scripture condemns homosexual acts “as a serious depravity... (cf. Rom 1:24-27; 1 Cor 6:10;1 Tim 1:10). This judgement of Scripture does not of course permit us to conclude that all those who suffer from this anomaly are personally responsible for it, but it does attest to the fact that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered”.(5)
If Sacred Scripture does say anything about homosexual acts, per se: which is contentious, it condemns them as being similar to acts that are simply sins, not as characteristic of some natural anomaly. The idea that individuals who do such things are not personally responsible for them nowhere features in Sacred Scripture. The idea of an orientation towards thievery or lying or swearing does not arise, though a general concupiscence does.This same moral judgement is found in many Christian writers of the first centuries(6) and is unanimously accepted by Catholic Tradition.
This assertion is, of course, highly contentious.Nonetheless, according to the teaching of the Church, men and women with homosexual tendencies “must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided”.(7) They are called, like other Christians, to live the virtue of chastity.(8) The homosexual inclination is however “objectively disordered”(9) and homosexual practices are “sins gravely contrary to chastity”.(10)
It is significant that this document quotes the Holy Bishop Polycarp of Smyrna; the Holy Martyr Justin and Saint Athenagoras in an attempt to establish Patristic testimony in favour of the official teaching of the Church. To my best knowledge, this is the first official document that has made such an attempt. It is most welcome, as it facilitates rational dialogue. Follow the links provided to view the texts referenced, together with my comments on them.
Where the government's policy is de facto tolerance and there is no explicit legal recognition of homosexual unions, it is necessary to distinguish carefully the various aspects of the problem. Moral conscience requires that, in every occasion, Christians give witness to the whole moral truth, which is contradicted both by approval of homosexual acts and unjust discrimination against homosexual persons. Therefore, discreet and prudent actions can be effective; these might involve: unmasking the way in which such tolerance might be exploited or used in the service of ideology; stating clearly the immoral nature of these unions; reminding the government of the need to contain the phenomenon within certain limits so as to safeguard public morality and, above all, to avoid exposing young people to erroneous ideas about sexuality and marriage that would deprive them of their necessary defences and contribute to the spread of the phenomenon. Those who would move from tolerance to the legitimization of specific rights for cohabiting homosexual persons need to be reminded that the approval or legalization of evil is something far different from the toleration of evil.
Sadly, this invective is reasonable and fair comment, given the Cardinal's grossly malformed conscience.In those situations where homosexual unions have been legally recognized or have been given the legal status and rights belonging to marriage, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty. One must refrain from any kind of formal co-operation in the enactment or application of such gravely unjust laws and, as far as possible, from material co-operation on the level of their application. In this area, everyone can exercise the right to conscientious objection.
This is remarkable. The Cardinal has not established that such a law would be "gravely unjust". For example, how is it gravely unjust to grant a same sex life partner various next of kin rights? Note that H.E. refers not just to a situation in which same sex couples are allowed to marry, but also to one where their unions receive some unspecified legal recognition. He then seems to incite civil disobedience in this matter!
"Clergy and bishops who distribute the Vatican's latest publication describing homosexual activity as "evil" could face prosecution under incitement to hatred legislation.
Ms. Aisling Reidy, director of the ICCL, warned yesterday that the statement could be in violation of the 1989 Incitement to Hatred Act.
'The document itself may not violate the Act, but if you were to use the document to say that gays are evil, it is likely to give rise to hatred, which is against the Act,' according to Ms Reidy. 'The wording is very strong and certainly goes against the spirit of the legislation.'"
[Liam Reid: IRISH TIMES 2nd August 2003]
This is a delightful example of a circular argument. The Cardinal argues that a law that grants rights to couples of the same gender is contrary to reason because these couples are of the same gender. Need I say more?It might be asked how a law can be contrary to the common good if it does not impose any particular kind of behaviour, but simply gives legal recognition to a de facto reality which does not seem to cause injustice to anyone.
Indeed it might! H.E. is to be commended for his clarity of thought and expression here.In this area, one needs first to reflect on the difference between homosexual behaviour as a private phenomenon and the same behaviour as a relationship in society, foreseen and approved by the law, to the point where it becomes one of the institutions in the legal structure. This second phenomenon is not only more serious, but also assumes a more wide reaching and profound influence, and would result in changes to the entire organization of society, contrary to the common good.
I wonder if these "changes" are first going to be specified and then secondly shown to be "contrary to the common good"? I doubt it!Civil laws are structuring principles of man's life in society, for good or for ill. They “play a very important and sometimes decisive role in influencing patterns of thought and behaviour”.(14) Lifestyles and the underlying presuppositions these express not only externally shape the life of society, but also tend to modify the younger generation's perception and evaluation of forms of behaviour.
Indeed, such a change in the law would tend to reduce bigotry, ignorance and unjust discrimination.Legal recognition of homosexual unions would obscure certain basic moral values and cause a devaluation of the institution of marriage.
Which "basic moral values" and how would it "cause a devaluation of the institution of marriage"? Perhaps in the way that the Society of Cosmos and Damien suggests?
"Critics will also complain that the CDF nowhere acknowledges the constructive role that their monogamy plays in the lives of gay and lesbian people who are committed to life-long and exclusive partnerships. The real, existential choice facing many people is not between celibacy and sexual activity, but between monogamy and promiscuity. Some gay couples live in lifelong monogamous unions that not only allow their own love to deepen but also enhance their ability to love others. These unions empower their participants to contribute in important and constructive ways to their professions, Churches, schools, neighbourhoods, and wider communities. Blanket dismissal of this reality does not contribute to the document's credibility. It has been argued that legal recognition of their relationship can encourage gay men to give up sexual licence in favour of the stability and love of committed monogamy. If banning legal protection weakens the level of commitment, the CDF is unwittingly contributing to conditions that encourage promiscuity." [Stephen Pope: "The Tablet" 09/08/03]
This asserts that the only basis for granting a relationship legal recognition is that it is "able to contribute in a proper way to the procreation and survival of the human race" on this basis, such recognition should be withheld from sterile heterogender couples.Homosexual unions are also totally lacking in the conjugal dimension, which represents the human and ordered form of sexuality. Sexual relations are human when and insofar as they express and promote the mutual assistance of the sexes in marriage and are open to the transmission of new life.
I am unclear what H.E. means by "the conjugal dimension", unless he means openness "to the transmission of new life": which is no more true of sterile heterogender couples than it is of homogender couples. Again, H.E. simply asserts, without giving any reason, that "Homosexual unions are also totally lacking in the conjugal dimension" just because they do not involve both "sexes".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. This is gravely immoral and in open contradiction to the principle, recognized also in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, that the best interests of the child, as the weaker and more vulnerable party, are to be the paramount consideration in every case.
This contention is profoundly insulting to all single parents, and I very much doubt that any such "experience" has been established objectively. It is significant that no published research in this area is referenced.
"This distorted use of the term 'violence' also implies that foster parents, single parents, and parents with serious physical or psychological handicaps, no matter how hard they try, are guilty of inflicting 'violence' on their children since they, too, consent to raise their children under less than optimal conditions. This use of the term 'violence' may even raise suspicions that the CDF is inciting hostility towards gays and lesbians by wider society; society detests no group more than those who use violence against children.
The document fails to give the slightest acknowledgement of the profound, long-lasting concrete good that is provided by some gay adoptive parents to their children. The concrete choice facing many children is not between a 'depraved' homosexual couple and a healthy and holy heterosexual family, but between an emotionally sterile institutional setting, perhaps punctuated by episodes in foster care, and adoption by a same-sex couple committed to providing a stable, loving and respectful family environment for a child's upbringing. Ethics needs to acknowledge the concrete opportunities faced by real children.
.... surely Catholic politicians ought to support laws that promote the rights of children of same-sex parents, no matter how much it condemns the 'homosexual union' itself? Since there are now many children being reared by same-sex adults, these rights are no small matter. They involve obtaining a child's medical care, dental care, inheritance rights, education, and hospital visitation rights. The Church's insistence that the State should not support these rights is unedifying."
[Stephen Pope: "The Tablet" 09/08/03]
Perhaps "the concept of marriage would undergo a radical transformation". Perhaps it would be remodelled on friendship: as it used to be understood in Old Testament times, and as envisaged both in the Roman Catechism and Pius XIth's encyclical Casti Connubii rather than on Roman Patriarchal Dominance. Perhaps this would be for the substantial betterment of "the common good".By putting homosexual unions on a legal plane analogous to that of marriage and the family, the State acts arbitrarily and in contradiction with its duties.
The principles of respect and non-discrimination cannot be invoked to support legal recognition of homosexual unions. Differentiating between persons or refusing social recognition or benefits is unacceptable only when it is contrary to justice.(16) The denial of the social and legal status of marriage to forms of cohabitation that are not and cannot be marital is not opposed to justice; on the contrary, justice requires it.
It is a truly sad day on which the Cardinal Prefect of the Holy Office so confuses justice with injustice.Nor can the principle of the proper autonomy of the individual be reasonably invoked. It is one thing to maintain that individual citizens may freely engage in those activities that interest them and that this falls within the common civil right to freedom; it is something quite different to hold that activities which do not represent a significant or positive contribution to the development of the human person in society can receive specific and categorical legal recognition by the State. Not even in a remote analogous sense do homosexual unions fulfil the purpose for which marriage and family deserve specific categorical recognition. On the contrary, there are good reasons for holding that such unions are harmful to the proper development of human society, especially if their impact on society were to increase.
Sadly, the Cardinal has singularly failed to clearly enunciate any of these "good reasons".From the legal order
9. Because married couples ensure the succession of generations and are therefore eminently within the public interest, civil law grants them institutional recognition. Homosexual unions, on the other hand, do not need specific attention from the legal standpoint since they do not exercise this function for the common good.
Nor is the argument valid according to which legal recognition of homosexual unions is necessary to avoid situations in which cohabiting homosexual persons, simply because they live together, might be deprived of real recognition of their rights as persons and citizens. In reality, they can always make use of the provisions of law – like all citizens from the standpoint of their private autonomy – to protect their rights in matters of common interest. It would be gravely unjust to sacrifice the common good and just laws on the family in order to protect personal goods that can and must be guaranteed in ways that do not harm the body of society.(17)
Sadly, this is simply ignorant and wrong in fact. I have given counter examples elsewhere.
".... the document does not distinguish, at least carefully enough, between same-sex marriage and same-sex civil unions. The term "marriage" has both a civil and religious sense, but the focus here is on its civil purpose. Laws concerning civil unions involve justice when they protect fairness in taxes, employment related benefits for gay couples such as dental and health insurance, shared home mortgages, and visitation rights to see a hospitalized partner. A man whose partner of 20 years becomes incapacitated for medical reasons ought to be able to make important medical and financial decisions the same way that married heterosexuals are empowered to do so by current law. A woman who wants to visit her dying partner in the last moments of her life ought to be able to do so."
[Stephen Pope: "The Tablet" 09/08/03]
When legislation in favour of the recognition of homosexual unions is proposed for the first time in a legislative assembly, the Catholic law-maker has a moral duty to express his opposition clearly and publicly and to vote against it. To vote in favour of a law so harmful to the common good is gravely immoral.
I presume that the Cardinal is meaning that it would be at least mortally sinful.When legislation in favour of the recognition of homosexual unions is already in force, the Catholic politician must oppose it in the ways that are possible for him and make his opposition known; it is his duty to witness to the truth. If it is not possible to repeal such a law completely, the Catholic politician, recalling the indications contained in the Encyclical Letter Evangelium vitae, “could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level of general opinion and public morality”, on condition that his “absolute personal opposition” to such laws was clear and well known and that the danger of scandal was avoided.(18) This does not mean that a more restrictive law in this area could be considered just or even acceptable; rather, it is a question of the legitimate and dutiful attempt to obtain at least the partial repeal of an unjust law when its total abrogation is not possible at the moment.
"Catholic politicians will have to demonstrate the concrete negative effects of these unions on the common good if they are to make a persuasive public case against legalizing 'homosexual unions'. If they are to do so in good conscience, they also have to be personally convinced by the evidence itself, as well as by proper deference to the Church, that these unions are indeed pernicious.
What then is a Catholic politician, or indeed the Catholic citizen, to do if he or she is not so convinced? What if, after a thoughtful and conscientious process of deliberation and reflection, he or she becomes firmly convinced that the converse is the case? Since Catholic doctrine teaches that each person has a solemn moral obligation to adhere to the dictates of his or her conscience (even if that conscience is erroneous), then such a politician would in fact have a strict moral duty to promote the legalization of same-sex unions and not to do so would be sinful.
As Cardinal Ratzinger has written: 'Only the absoluteness of conscience is the antithesis to tyranny.'" [Stephen Pope : "The Tablet" 09/08/03]
" .... the document's greatest difficulty from the point of view of Christian ethics [is that] it communicates no sense of love for those involved in 'homosexual unions', and indeed none for gays and lesbians generally. This impression is reinforced by the fact that its arguments have not been crafted after a process of serious consultation and conversation with gay and lesbian people. Though the Church has engaged in extensive official dialogues with Protestants, Jews and Muslims, it has yet to do so with gay and lesbian Catholics. The magisterium speaks about them but not to them. This leaves the impression of suspicion, disdain and fear, not respect and love of one's neighbour." [Stephen Pope : "The Tablet" 09/08/03]The Sovereign Pontiff John Paul II, in the Audience of March 28, 2003, approved the present Considerations, adopted in the Ordinary Session of this Congregation, and ordered their publication.
Rome, from the Offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, June 3, 2003, Memorial of Saint Charles Lwanga and his Companions, Martyrs.
Joseph Card. Ratzinger
Angelo Amato, S.D.B.
Titular Archbishop of Sila
(1) Cf. John Paul II, Angelus Messages of February 20, 1994, and of June 19, 1994; Address to the Plenary Meeting of the Pontifical Council for the Family (March 24, 1999); Catechism of the Catholic Church, Nos. 2357-2359, 2396; Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration Persona humana (December 29, 1975), 8; Letter on the pastoral care of homosexual persons (October 1, 1986); Some considerations concerning the response to legislative proposals on the non-discrimination of homosexual persons (July 24, 1992); Pontifical Council for the Family, Letter to the Presidents of the Bishops' Conferences of Europe on the resolution of the European Parliament regarding homosexual couples (March 25, 1994); Family, marriage and “de facto” unions (July 26, 2000), 23.
(2) Cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Doctrinal Note on some questions regarding the participation of Catholics in political life (November 24, 2002), 4.
(3) Cf. Second Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes, 48.
(4) Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2357.
(5) Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration Persona humana (December 29, 1975), 8.
(6) Cf., for example, St. Polycarp, Letter to the Philippians, V, 3; St. Justin Martyr, First Apology, 27, 1-4; Athenagoras, Supplication for the Christians, 34.
(7) Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2358; cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter on the pastoral care of homosexual persons (October 1, 1986), 10.
(8) Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2359; cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter on the pastoral care of homosexual persons (October 1, 1986), 12.
(9) Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2358.
(10) Ibid., No. 2396.
(11) Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Evangelium vitae (March 25, 1995), 71.
(12) Cf. ibid., 72.
(13) Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, I-II, q. 95, a. 2.
(14) John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Evangelium vitae (March 25, 1995), 90.
(15) Cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction Donum vitae (February 22, 1987), II. A. 1-3.
(16) Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, II-II, q. 63, a.1, c.
(17) It should not be forgotten that there is always “a danger that legislation which would make homosexuality a basis for entitlements could actually encourage a person with a homosexual orientation to declare his homosexuality or even to seek a partner in order to exploit the provisions of the law” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Some considerations concerning the response to legislative proposals on the non-discrimination of homosexual persons [July 24, 1992], 14).
John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Evangelium vitae (March 25, 1995),
The Idaho Legislature has approved a constitutional amendment to define marriage in a manner which will ensure that same-gender "marriage" could never happen in Idaho. The amendment is subject to voter approval in November.
This is at its core an anti-gay movement.
For a Roman Catholic priest to address anything to do with homosexuality at this point in American history is probably not a wise move. The sexual scandals concerning those priests who molested children and the subsequent cover-up of those offences by some Catholic bishops have seriously damaged the credibility of Catholicism on moral issues. There is too much dirt on the Catholic windows for people to pay much attention to Catholic opinions. At the same time, recent Vatican statements and writings have shown a very strong anti-gay attitude from top church officials.
But I have not always been particularly wise, and this issue calls for some comments to be made about morality and legislation.
There are two main arguments made by many of those who want the constitutional amendment. The first is that homosexual activity is morally wrong. The second is that allowing same-gender unions to be legalized would weaken the existing institutions of marriage and family. Both of those points need to be carefully examined.
First, the various religious bodies of Idaho have strong opposing positions about what is moral or immoral in many different areas. That is part of the role religions are to play in a multicultural society. There are strong opinions about the morality of homosexuality. (My own church views homosexual activity as immoral.)
It is not the right nor the responsibility of the Legislature to decide moral issues. While all lawmaking is to some extent legislating morality, the basis for laws is not personal theology but what is best for society.
Lawmakers face personal tension in laws that allow actions the individual legislator sees as immoral. Examples include abortion, gambling, use of alcohol, divorce, race issues and capital punishment. Because homosexual activity is legal in Idaho, the morality of it is not the lawmakers' responsibility. The morality of what gay people do is not any more of an issue than is the morality of those who go to Jackpot and gamble or those who go to bars and drink.
This brings up the second point. The argument says that allowing two people of the same gender to form a legal union would weaken marriage and weaken family life. I strongly disagree and, in fact, believe that allowing same-gender legal unions would strengthen marriage and family life.
What weakens marriage and family life are people who live together, have children together, without any legally recognized commitment. There are thousands of children in Idaho today who have never known a stable marriage or any stable family life.
Many people in the gay community want a stable union. They want to publicly make a commitment. The effort for "gay marriage" or "civil unions" is a movement reaffirming the importance of commitment and family life. The gay lifestyle is criticized for its lack of structure, its promiscuity, its disregard of convention. But society has worked very hard to deny homosexual people any opportunity to have structure.
There are thousands of gay men and women in Idaho. They are citizens and they have rights. Their desire for stable recognized unions strengthens the argument that society needs marriage commitment and family life.
Gay people are never again going to be a closeted silent minority. The rest of society must accept that reality, whether they like it or not. If laws are made about gays, they must be fair and just laws.
The Rev. W. Thomas Faucher is pastor
at St. Mary's Catholic Church.
In an open letter published in La Presse, the largest circulation newspaper in the province, they called on other Catholic clergy to join them in opposing the Vatican ban on gays in seminaries and same-sex marriage. Under the headline "Enough is enough," the priests charge that by pronouncing homosexuality a "disorder," the church is fuelling homophobia. The 980 word letter notes the church has been wrong before on "the mysteries of political, social, family and sexual life."
The letter also criticizes the Canadian bishops' conference which fought legislation legalizing same-sex marriage in Canada. The bishops made a presentation before a Parliamentary committee studying the legislation and told MPs that allowing same-sex marriage weakened families and endangered children. "Was there any trace of the compassion that marked Jesus' passage on Earth?" the letter asks. "Not a paragraph, not a sentence in your brief that takes into account the historical discrimination against homosexuals and the tragedy of their social and ecclesial exclusion."
Religious scholars in Quebec where most people consider themselves Catholic but where attendance at mass is lower than most other regions of Canada, called the letter and its tone surprising and suggested it could set a precedent.
One of the authors, Father Claude Lefebvre of the Saint-Étienne parish in Montreal, said the letter stemmed from a discussion group of Quebec priests who felt uneasy about the church's official discourse.
"We don't want people to believe that everyone within the church thinks the same way," he said in an interview.
The priests' pastoral activities with regular faithful had put them
at odds with their leaders, he said. "Our contact with people influenced
our action and way of thinking. We wish that, within the Church, Christians
lend an ear to people who live their
homosexual orientation. That they live with the people rather than just with books."
Analysts said it has been decades since Catholic priests in Quebec have
disagreed so widely and so publicly with their church
"I wouldn't call this unprecedented but I'd be at a loss to come up with a precedent," said Christophe Potworowski, the Kennedy-Smith Chair in Catholic Studies at McGill University. "It points to a serious crisis in the Quebec church and the lack of communion between priests in pastoral positions and their bishops."
Prof. Potworowski and another expert, Guy Ménard, a professor of religious studies at the University of Quebec in Montreal, agreed there hasn't been such a broad, open protest in Quebec since the 1968 Humanae Vitae encyclical that declared contraception immoral.
The signatories include the maverick, outspoken Father Raymond Gravel. Father Gravel -- who had a rough-and-tumble youth as a prostitute and barman in a leather bar before he entered the priesthood -- has often criticized the church's views on gays in the past.
The 19 who signed the letter could be gambling on the fact that there is a shortage of priests in Quebec to avoid disciplinary measures from their bishops, Prof. Potworowski said.
Two recent Church documents concern people with a homosexual orientation: one concerns the civil marriage of partners of the same sex here in Canada and the other is about access to the priesthood and comes from the Vatican. The first of these documents is a memo from the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Canada (CCBC) to the legislative committee for the proposed law C-38; the other document comes from the Roman Congregation for Catholic Education. In both documents the overall attitude and reasoning are cause for concern and disagreement on our part - and on the part of many others.
What a very different attitude we find in the memo presented to the legislative committee on gay marriage! You seem to be giving a course on law and anthropology to our political representatives. You denounce the poor state of marriage in our country and you decry its further degradation if C-38 should become a law. Unfortunately you remind us of those "prophets of doom" John XXIII referred to at the beginning of the Council.
How very far we have come from the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the World from the Council. There we read, "The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age (...) are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ. Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts."
And is there any trace of the compassion that marked Jesus' journey on earth? Not one paragraph, not one sentence of your memo takes into consideration the historical discrimination that has faced homosexual individuals nor the exclusion from society and church that has deeply wounded so many homosexuals. The gay movement's quest for social recognition in so many areas is rooted in this human suffering. Isn't this something that should cause us concern?
This is the same attitude found in the Roman Congregation's Instruction
on the admission of homosexuals to Holy Orders.
Timothy Radcliffe, the former Master General of the Dominicans, is reported as saying about this document (Tablet, November 27, 2005) "I have no doubt that God calls homosexuals to the sacrament of Orders; they are among the most committed and impressive men I have known. And we can assume that God will continue to call both homosexuals and heterosexuals to the priesthood because the Church has need of the qualities of both."
He concludes, "We should be more concerned with what our seminarians are inclined to hate - rather than what they love. Racism, misogyny, homophobia - these are indications that an individuall cannot be a good model of Christ."
The responsibility of seeking and defining natural law is incumbent on everyone since it is something common to all humankind. The Church can find inspiration in certain sources of enormous value that are her own property. But she is still one with humankind and part of this world. Can one imagine that she alone possesses the keys that will open the doors of authentic human experience? Will she necessarily have the last word on the mysteries of political, social, family and sexual life? Does she possess the "entire truth" about human beings? History and common sense tell us otherwise. In these matters the official teaching of the church has been wrong more than once.
We can only hope that in this area the whole Church will feel it is
an engaged partner in the human experience. May the Church
herself with all her resources and limitations face the truth - with neither diffidence nor arrogance. May she show solidarity and confidence. It seems to us that this was the spirit and feelings that prompted John XXIII and Vatican II to call on the people of God to be receptive to the signs of the times.
Secondly, we would like to initiate a dialogue in the Church on all
the aspects of homosexuality. This sort of dialogue involving
opposing, dissenting views is - unfortunately - not going on today in our Churches. This is especially the case since Rome has already spoken on this matter. We would like to see Christians listening to the life-experience of our homosexual brothers and sisters. This should take place in local communities and in even more expanded forums with the bishops. We would want our bishops to discuss this subject amongst themselves and initiate a discussion in their local churches. We would hope that theologians would be invited to contribute to this discussion. Whether these meetings are formal or informal, public or private, open to all or restricted it doesn't really matter. What is important is that there be a free discussion, that everyone speak freely and sincerely.
For our part, we have met with those who know the homosexual situation in the Church and we have decided to make our reaction public. The André Naud Forum is already expanding and the list of subjects we discuss is growing. We proclaim publicly our desire to carry out the great project of evangelization outlined in the Second Vatican Council. Above all we do not want to return to the XIXth century: the time for ultramontanism (extreme conservatism) is over. Responsible dissent is possible in the Church. We want to avail ourselves of this right because we love the Church of Christ and we hope it will carry out its mission in our times.
The priests who signed this letter and their dioceses:
André Anctil, José V. Arruda, Jean-Pierre Langlois, Claude Lefebvre, Claude Lussier (Montreal); Eric Généreux, Raymond Gravel, Bernard Houle, Pierre-Gervais Majeau, Guylain Prince, Claude Ritchie (Joliette); Jean-Yves Cédilot, Jocelyn Jobin, Alain Léonard, Lucien Lemieux (St-Jean-Longueuil); Benoît Fortin, Michel Lacroix, Claude St-Laurent (Gatineau); Jacques Pelletier (Gaspé).
Cardinal Ouellet, Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte of Montreal and Bishop Gilles Cazabon of Saint-Jerome, president of the Assembly of Quebec Catholic Bishops, spoke at a March 9 press conference in Trois-Rivieres, during the Quebec bishops' four day semi-annual meeting in neighbouring Cap-de-la-Madeleine.
Cardinal Turcotte told journalists that dissent within the church is
not unusual. Many of the issues in the letter had been raised at
a two day meeting he had with his priests nearly two years ago, he said, adding that plans for another meeting were already in the
works. He also downplayed the hype over the issue generated in the media, pointing out that it created "a confrontational dynamic.... Different opinions in the church are very common," he said. "So I don't think we should attach undue importance to this event, as if we were facing a schism.... "I'm looking forward to speaking with these priests."
Later, he told reporters: "I have friends among that list of priests. If they wanted to contact me, all they had to do was call me, and we would have met. But they prepared something and they addressed it to the media. Now it becomes a more difficult exchange." During the press conference, Cardinal Turcotte strongly defended the teachings of the church and its role of proclaiming the Gospel to society. "The church welcomes and ministers to homosexuals, but it cannot bless behaviours that contradict the Gospel," he said. "The same applies to heterosexuals," he added.
The Quebec bishops will be in Rome for regularly scheduled visits May
1-15. Cardinal Turcotte said the bishops will report the
issues that have been raised in the letter during their visit.
"We are not legislating, honourable members, for people far away and not known by us. We are enlarging the opportunity for happiness to our neighbours, our co-workers, our friends and, our families: at the same time we are making a more decent society, because a decent society is one that does not humiliate its members. In his poem 'The Family', our [gay] poet Luis Cernuda was sorry because, 'How does man live in denial in vain by giving rules that prohibit and condemn?'"
"Today, the Spanish society answers to a group of people who, during many years have, been humiliated, whose rights have been ignored, whose dignity has been offended, their identity denied, and their liberty oppressed. Today the Spanish society grants them the respect they deserve, recognizes their rights, restores their dignity, affirms their identity, and restores their liberty."
"It is true that they are only a minority, but their triumph is everyone's
triumph. It is also the triumph of those who oppose this law, even
though they do not know this yet: because it is the triumph of Liberty.
Their victory makes all of us (even those who oppose the law) better people,
it makes our society better. Honourable members, There is no damage to
marriage or to the concept of family in allowing two people of the same
sex to get married. To the contrary, what happens is this class of Spanish
citizens get the potential to organize their lives with the rights and
privileges of marriage and family. There is no danger to the
institution of marriage, but precisely the opposite: this law enhances and respects marriage."
"Today, conscious that some people and institutions are in a profound
disagreement with this change in our civil law, I wish to express that,
like other reforms to the marriage code that preceded this one, this law
will generate no evil, that its only consequence will be the avoiding of
senseless suffering of decent human beings. A society that avoids senseless
decent human beings is a better society."
"With the approval of this Bill, our country takes another step in the
path of liberty and tolerance that was begun by the democratic change of
government. Our children will look at us incredulously if we tell
them that many years ago, our mothers had less rights than our fathers,
or if we tell them that people had to stay married against their will even
though they were
unable to share their lives. Today we can offer them a beautiful lesson: every right gained, each access to liberty has been the result of the struggle and sacrifice of many people that deserve our recognition and praise."
"Today we demonstrate with this Bill that societies can better themselves and can cross barriers and create tolerance by putting a stop to the unhappiness and humiliation of some of our citizens. Today, for many of our countrymen, comes the day predicted by Kavafis [the great Greek gay poet] one century ago:
'Later 'twas said of the most perfect society
someone else, made like me
certainly will come out and act freely.' "
In a Wednesday night interview with Wolf Blitzer, on CNN's The Situation Room, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick said he is opposed to same-sex marriage but not opposed to same-sex civil unions if they can "protect [people's] right to take care of each other."
The official transcript of the segment of the CNN interview in question follows:
BLITZER: "Another very sensitive issue that's being dealt with in the Senate right now involves a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. Senator Ted Kennedy said this yesterday. He said, "A vote for this amendment is a vote for bigotry, pure and simple." You disagree with him, don't you?"
MCCARRICK: "On this one, I do. Ted and I have - do have differences from time to time. And this is a real big one. It seems to me that we really have to continue to define marriage as we've defined marriage for thousands of years as a union between a man and a woman.
Now, I think the legislation as it is proposed would not throw out the possibility of a civil union. And I think we can - we can live with that if this is what - if this is what the Constitution will provide for. But to say that you can take this concept of marriage, this word of marriage and use it in ways that it has never been used before, as far as I know, in the history of the world, I think that makes no sense."BLITZER: "So just explain. You think that you could live with - you could SUPPORT civil unions between GAYS and LESBIANS, but you wouldn't like them to get formally married, is that right?"
I think - I think basically the ideal would be that everybody [including the Cardinal?] was - was able to enter a union with a man and a woman and bring children into the world and have the wonderful relationship of man and wife that is so mutually supportive and is really so much part of our society and what keeps our society together. That's the ideal.
If you can't meet that ideal, if there are people who for one reason or another just cannot do that or feel they cannot do that, then in order to protect their right to take care of each other, in order to take care of their right to have visitation in a hospital or something like that, I think that you could allow, not the ideal, but you could allow for that for a civil union.But if you begin to fool around with the whole - the whole nature of marriage, then you're doing something which effects the whole culture and denigrated what is so important for us. Marriage is the basic foundation of our family structure. And if we lose that, then I think we become a society that's in real trouble."
"Well then, why is the Cardinal not married to a woman? And, does he now propose that all who cannot enter into marriage be allowed to form unions? Even celibate priests of the Roman Rite?"Washington DC, Jun. 12, 2006 (CNA) -
I am sorry to say that I do not believe him to be at all sincere. His premises are faulty (''the ideal would be that everybody were able to enter into a heterosexual marriage union''), his reluctant willingness to allow for some kind
of limited unions for those ''who cannot enter into marriage'' seems more like a concession which he later can easily retract [a prophetic statement!]."
[Comment from a Catholic Priest (10/06/06, 2006)]
Cardinal Theodore McCarrick issued a clarification Friday on remarks he made during an interview on CNN's The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer. The interview had generated some concern among many Catholics.
The cardinal said he recognized that his remarks could have given the wrong impression to people who took them out of context.
“I'm afraid that I misspoke last Wednesday when I was being interviewed on CNN,” the cardinal wrote, referring to the June 7 interview.
The cardinal explained that he and Blitzer were discussing the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment that had yet to be voted on in the Senate. During the interview, the cardinal defended the need to “continue to define marriage as we have defined marriage for thousands of years as a union between a man and a woman.”
“After that, I spoke of the legislation as it had been proposed and that it would not eliminate the possibility of civil unions,” the cardinal wrote in his clarification. “I said, ‘If this is what the legislation would provide for, I think we can live with that.’”
“My point was that the wording of the proposed legislation to protect marriage, which did not eliminate civil unions, might be necessary in order to have the votes needed to pass it,” he explained in the clarification, which was posted on the Archdiocese of Washington's website this weekend.The ideal, he had said during the interview, is that everyone should be “able to enter a union with a man and a woman and that would bring children into the world and have the wonderful relationship of man and wife that is so mutually supportive and is really so much part of our society and what keeps society together.”
“When probed further on the question of civil unions, which came up because the wording of the constitutional amendment did not seem to eliminate them, I returned to the ideal,” he wrote.
“In trying to reply to a question [about gays and lesbians], I [said that I did positively support them being able to contract civil unions and then] mentioned people who may need the right to take care of each other when they are grievously ill and hospitalized, but it was always in the context of the proposed legislation and in no way in favour of a lifestyle [this, alone, is true] that is contrary to the teaching of the Church and Scripture,” he clarified.“I realized that my words could have given the wrong impression to someone who did not take my remarks in context,” wrote the cardinal. “I regret any confusion my words may have caused because I did not make myself sufficiently clear.”
"Cardinal McCarrick's behaviour is, alas, typical. When I first read the news article, I thought and expressed my opinion that he would later retract his begrudging 'permission' for the State not to totally outlaw the possibility of
ever allowing for 'same-sex civil unions.' I write 'typical behaviour,' because it happens often that a bigot in a televised interview will admit to more than he really wishes, in order not to appear unreasonably bigoted. When
later confronted by his bigoted followers and/or superiors, he can later easily claim to have been misquoted."
[Comment from a Catholic Priest (13/06/06)]
"It might be that the Cardinal initially expressed his true opinion from a pastoral perspective, then later felt compelled by forces outside himself to appease the conservatives. I mean, how can one claim to be of a
pastoral mind and yet want to legally bar people from attending the sick bed of their loved ones? No one can be sure, but I'd bet pressure came to bear on him afterwards, and he subsequently clarified (retracted) his remarks. How many of these princes of the church really believe what the hierarchy teaches on the subject, and how many of them simply toe the party line? It's hard to say, but in any case, McCarrick was untruthful one way or another."
[Comment from a Catholic lay-woman (14/06/06)]