Thursday, January 5, 2012

Reactionary "Catholic" Moral theology, cutting the foot to fit the shoe.

The Hartford Archdiocese wants gays and lesbians to practice abstinence in the New Year.
On Tuesday, the archdiocese announced it was launching a local chapter of a national ministry called Courage "to support men and women who struggle with homosexual tendencies and to motivate them to live chaste and fruitful lives in accordance with Catholic Church teachings."

1. This is wrong within the realm of current Catholic moral theology.

The following book description of “The Sexual Person” by Professors Todd A. Salzman and Charles E. Curran is found on Amazon Press.

"Two principles capture the essence of the official Catholic position on the morality of sexuality: first, that any human genital act must occur within the framework of heterosexual marriage; second, each and every marriage act must remain open to the transmission of life. In this comprehensive overview of Catholicism and sexuality, theologians Todd A. Salzman and Michael G. Lawler examine and challenge these principles. Remaining firmly within the Catholic tradition, they contend that the church is being inconsistent in its teaching by adopting a dynamic, historically conscious anthropology and worldview on social ethics and the interpretation of scripture while adopting a static, classicist anthropology and worldview on sexual ethics.

While some documents from Vatican II, like Gaudium et spes ("the marital act promotes self-giving by which spouses enrich each other"), gave hope for a renewed understanding of sexuality, the church has not carried out the full implications of this approach. In short, say Salzman and Lawler: emphasize relationships, not acts, and recognize Christianity's historically and culturally conditioned understanding of human sexuality. The Sexual Person draws historically, methodologically, and anthropologically from the best of Catholic tradition and provides a context for current theological debates between traditionalists and revisionists regarding marriage, cohabitation, homosexuality, reproductive technologies, and what it means to be human. This daring and potentially revolutionary book will be sure to provoke constructive dialogue among theologians, and between theologians and the Magisterium."

The critical piece in the thinking of Salzman & Lawler is to view/understand human sexuality not as merely a physical act; but rather, in the context of human relationships. What makes the sexual act morally good, or bad, is not the act per se, but the relationship between the two people engaging in the act.

2. It is wrong because it ignores the findings of science; the American Psychological Association states the following on this subject,

"The longstanding consensus of the behavioral and social sciences and the health and mental health professions is that homosexuality per se is a normal and positive variation of human sexual orientation (Bell, Weinberg & Hammersmith, 1981; Bullough, 1976; Ford & Beach 1951 ; Kinsey, Pomeroy, & Martin, 1948; Kinsey, Pomeroy, Martin, & Gebhard, 1953 ). Homosexuality per se is not a mental disorder (APA, 1975). Since 1974, the American Psychological Association (APA) has opposed stigma, prejudice, discrimination, and violence on the basis of sexual orientation and has taken a leadership role in supporting the equal rights of lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals (APA, 2005).

APA is concerned about ongoing efforts to mischaracterize homosexuality and promote the notion that sexual orientation can be changed and about the resurgence of sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE)1. SOCE has been controversial due to tensions between the values held by some faith-based organizations, on the one hand, and those held by lesbian, gay and bisexual rights organizations and professional and scientific organizations, on the other (Drescher, 2003; Drescher & Zucker, 2006). Some individuals and groups have promoted the idea of homosexuality as symptomatic of developmental defects or spiritual and moral failings and have argued that SOCE, including psychotherapy and religious efforts, could alter homosexual feelings and behaviors (Drescher & Zucker, 2006; Morrow & Beckstead, 2004). Many of these individuals and groups appeared to be embedded within the larger context of conservative religious political movements that have supported the stigmatization of homosexuality on political or religious grounds (Drescher, 2003; Southern Poverty Law Center, 2005; Drescher & Zucker, 2006)."

3. Finally this is wrong because it places an inhuman life long burden on children who happen to have a same-sex orientation.

All of these theological and scientific discussions may be very stimulating and even entertaining; however, the real effect of these abstract ideas is made concrete in the lives of real people. The American Psychological Association states,

“According to current scientific and professional understanding, the core attractions that form the basis for adult sexual orientation typically emerge between middle childhood and early adolescence. These patterns of emotional, romantic, and sexual attraction may arise without any prior sexual experience. People can be celibate and still know their sexual orientation-–be it lesbian, gay, bisexual, or heterosexual.”

Imagine yourself at the age described by the APA in the preceding statement. Further imagine yourself at Sunday Mass with your family and hearing the “Courage” message from the pulpit. Imagine how your classmates hearing the same message would view you, if they “knew.”

Listen now to the words of a young Rabbi,

“You lay impossible burdens on men but will not lift a finger to lighten them.” Luke 11: 46

• Telling a child that there is something inherently defective about them as a person is evil.
• Telling them that they may never date, hold hands, fall in love with or marry the person they are naturally attracted to is evil.
• Telling them that they must live their life alone for the next 50, 60, 70, etc years is evil.
• Doing all of this in the name of God while claiming to be “compassionate” is both evil and a blasphemy.

This is the real sin here and it is the sin of the bishops who close their eyes to the truth in order to advance their careers and make an idol of an institution while forgetting God who is love and the people who they were ordained to serve.


Frank said...

Back in the 1980's Dignity/Hartford essentially saved me from a life of loneliness, isolation and guilt. Their enlightened and affirming stance on same sex relationships within a Catholic theology served for me a grace-ful exit from the institutional church.

At that time we (Dignity) were engaged in the beginning of a constructive and hope-full dialogue with the then Archbishop Whealon. Then came the "Ratzinger letter".

Unfortunately, the dialogue broke down over the very issue of celibacy and the requirement that Dignity teach the party line of "no genital expression" outside of marriage. I think the "Courage" alternative was suggested at that time by the Archbishop but there were no takers.

Dignity/Hartford was expelled from its home at a local Catholic parish school and while it continued for several years after that, Dignity/Hartford eventually became unrecognizable and is no longer the influential organization it once was.

I suspect that young LGBT persons are even more "nominally Catholic" now than in the 1980's so I would not expect "Courage" to attract much of a following. I am afraid, however that those who may be drawn to "Courage" will emerge more hurt and damaged than I did after a traditional Catholic upbringing in the 1950's, and 60's.

I can't help but think the Hartford Archdiocese believes it is offering a compassionate and relevant ministry. I trust the Archbishop will learn how impotent a ministry it is.

Joe said...

Writing in The Furrow, and quoting Socarides, Bieber and Nicolosi, 70 year old Irish Jesuit Bart Kiely of the Gregorianum opines that one third of gays can become heterosexual if they put their mind to it. Ironically, his piece is titled "Homosexuality and the Freedom to Think" even though the man he is replying to, Owen O'Sullivan, has been silenced by the Vatican. Must things get worse in the Catholic world before they get better?

Joe said...

Mark Jordan in a recent book points out the obvious: when the Vatican makes statements about he psychology of sexual orientation they are NOT the product of careful theological and anthropological reflection, but ad hoc clutching at some theory du jour (or more often, one of yesterday's theories) that appear to offer a prop. Hence the second edition of the Catechism alters its text to reflect a new popularity of exgay bunkum among Vatican defenders. An obscene article by an Irish Jesuit who teaches in the Gregorian University touts the claim that one third of gays can become straights with therapy, and another third can become heterosexually functioning (the author no doubt thinks that this should suffice to satisfy the wifey by whom they fulfill their procreative duties). See This entire performance by the Vatican and its pseudo-theologians and pseudo-psychologists has become an excruciating farce.

Joe O'Leary said...

Correction: not "silenced" but obliged to show his articles to the CDF before publication; he has published twice in "Doctrine and Life" since then. I've sent a riposte, "Homosexuality and the Freedom of Love" to "The Furrow."

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SugarloafPaul said...

This is the first time I am writing for this blog but I am happy that I have run across it. I found it looking for Catholic Moral Theology on Sex. That being written, I wholeheartedly agree with what is being discussed here. I find a great hypocrisy amongst Catholic priests and the hierarchy. At my parish, I was removed as an extra-ordinary minister of the Eucharist because I openly announced that I am a gay Catholic, former seminarian, and that I have AIDS. It was an old deacon who removed me and he said that by openly stating that I had AIDS I am a scandal. I wonder how many straight Catholic know that according to current church documents oral sex is just as intrinsically disordered as gay sex?