Update on petitions in German-speaking countries

As reported here earlier, German-speaking theologians in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland have issued a statement, “Year of Departure,” calling for massive reforms in the Roman Catholic Church – optional celibacy for ordinands, ordination of women at least to the diaconate, recognition (not marriage) of same-sex partnerships, better treatment of remarried couples, and greater involvement of the people in naming of bishops and pastors. Some updates:

* As of March 11th, 240 theology professors in German-speaking countries, and 309 professors in all, have signed the declaration. This is now well over half the theology professors in Germany. Signatures will be accepted until March 5th, and on March 6th the entire list will be publicized.

* Priests and deacons of the Diocese of Freiburg, whose bishop is president of the German bishops’ conference, have opened a signatory list of supporters of the theologians’ statement. As of March11th, 296 clergymen have signed on. (The diocese of Freiburg has 477 priests in active service and 401 retired, of which the vast majority help with sacramental ministry regularly.) On March 1st, the list of signatories was forwarded to the bishop.

* As of March 11th, 347 religion teachers in Germany have signed a petition of support for the theologians’ statement.

* In a signatory list just opened, 24 priests and deacons of the diocese of Wurzburg have signed on.

There is a Facebook page: “Kirche braucht Veränderung” (“The Church Needs Changing”).

76 comments

  1. recognition (not marriage) of same-sex partnerships…
    better treatment of remarried couples…

    What does “recognition” and “better treatment” mean?

    After all, when I was living in an apartment in Chicago (some years ago), I “recognized” that the gay couple down the hall was, in fact, a gay couple.

    It didn’t mean for a moment that I thought their relationship was morally acceptable or in any way equivalent to even a natural (non-sacramental) marriage.

    Somehow, I suspect that the composers of this petition mean more than that. And therein, as they say, lies the rub.

    1. Fr, you speak about your not granting moral acceptability to other people and you describe yourself on your blog as ‘a lover of good cigars.’ Double standards don’t you think?

      1. It’s funny the things we are puritanical about, here in the glorious 21st century.

    2. Recognition of samesex couples as a good thing is now quite widespread in civilized society. If the Church had given pastoral recognition to such couples back in the sixties it might have had some influence on curbing the culture of promiscuity that brought us Aids.

      1. Father O —Recognition of samesex couples as a good thing is now quite widespread in civilized society. If the Church had given pastoral recognition —

        Father,

        I also saw this German petition as primarily a pro-homosexuality petition. It is only mentioned, but once it has been mentioned…like the old metaphor ‘a little bit pregnant’.

        My problem with this petition, and hence with this blog for promoting it, is that it goes directly against traditional Catholic teaching. Just mention the sins which cry out to heaven for vengeance…. I guess the Church was just wrong, (again)? I suppose the Folsum Street Leather people in San Francisco are right?

        What about Jesus Christ? did He not tie matrimony to one woman and one man? Is that not part of God’s ‘good’ creation? Was He wrong too?

      2. Fr. O’Leary,

        I am wondering how we identify “civilized society.” I hope we could avoid the question-begging assumption that a “civilized society” can be identified by its “recognition of samesex couples as a good thing.”

      3. Is “reporting” the same as “promoting”?

        When the editor writes:

        “As it stands, we do not have open communication. People are not allowed to speak openly to one another in the Church without fear of being punished.”

        And the petition is repeatedly brought up and the editors/reports never note that they stand with the orthodox teaching of the Church and not with the petitioners, the total picture of the rhetoric is at the least confusing.

    3. This petition is at the very least a call to afford basic dignity to people even if their orientation or living arrangements aren’t in accord with church doctrine. I sense that many or even most signatories might well desire same-sex blessings or acceptance of divorced and non-annulled remarried Catholics. Still, one can not sign the document, disagree with the notion of same-sex blessings or the relaxation of annulments, and still agree with the call to respect human dignity wherever people are found.

      I’ve heard some very homophobic sermons in my day, including sermons that have used grave slurs against gay people. Not surprisingly, all of these sermons were preached by self-identified traditional Catholic priests. It’s shameful and dishonest to cloak hatred, projection, or clerical self-hatred as “orthodoxy”. Also, it is scandalous to build a religious movement around the exclusion of those who, for whatever reason, are as broken an fallible as all of us are. I self-identify as “traditional”, but I advocate an open and modern traditionalism that doesn’t have to break the backs of others to nurse inadequacies or fears.

      The bottom line is that gay people, divorced and remarried people, and all people on the periphery of the church should be afforded dignity whether they’re at a Solemn EF or the folkiest of folk Masses. Dignity doesn’t stop with the replica baroque vestments. It’s time to draw the periphery into the center, regardless of the furniture or scenery. One doesn’t have to sign this document to affirm the “least” of our brothers and sisters. Who knows — the maligned and excluded might be farther along on the path of revelation than the self-righteous.

  2. Fr. – would make a distinction between a sacramental or even legal “marriage” and granting a couple a legal union. There is a tension there but think about John Courtney Murray and his religious freedom document….if we are not careful when challenging folks, society, cultures; we blur the distinction between stating moral truths and the rights of each indiviudual to their own conscience and search for truth. There is also the distinction between social laws and the moral truths of the church.

    1. Apropos to the same sex union recognition – from a talk today at the UN Geneva by the Vatican representative – http://www.americamagazine.org/blog/entry.cfm?blog_id=2&entry_id=3956

      Points to consider:
      – “At the heart of fundamental human rights is freedom of religion, conscience and belief: it affects personal identity and basic choices and it makes possible the enjoyment of other human rights.”
      – “It must promote religious tolerance and understanding throughout society, a goal that can be achieved if judicial systems are impartial in the implementation of laws and reject political pressure.

      – “The State should support all initiatives aimed at promoting dialogue and mutual respect; it must enforce its laws that fight against religious discrimination.

      Freedom of religion is a value for society – this right enables society to benefit from the social consequences that come with it: peaceful coexistence, national integration in today’s pluralistic situations, increased creativity as the talents of everyone are placed at the service of the common good.”
      – “Religious tolerance includes respecting differences of opinions in these matters, and respecting the difference between a state and a religious institution:
      – Finally – “the State must allow each person to freely search for the truth.”

      So, how does Rome reconcile these statements with its activity demanding that states not allow same sex unions?

      1. Bill,

        Rightly or wrongly, the Church has couched its views on gay marriage in terms of natural law, not theology (since marriage is both a “natural” sacrament as well as a Christian sacrament). In this way, opposition to gay marriage is like opposition to abortion: both are grounded in the natural law, which is, at least in principle, something that both believers and non-believers are bound to obey.

      2. Deacon (Dean) Fritz – here is the thing….natural law has to be interpreted and many theologians esp. moral theologians have suggested that natural law’s interpretation is outdated and needs to reflect 20th/21st century human developmental, science, biological, medical advancements. Theology trys to work out our understanding and experiences of grace building upon nature.

        Second, one could make a case that natural law defines the integrity of each human being which includes their sexual orientation, gender status, expressions of love, etc. as a integral part of each person’s religious freedom. So, if we are not careful, we can posit a natural law that restricts or limits the core tenet of natural law – the integrity of each person.

        Third, natural law also posits the distinction between public/societal/government laws and church laws. Again, would suggest that in an extreme, the church’s outspokenness invalidates religious freedom.

        Finally, interesting article by your own Cardinal – http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2011/0227/cardinal.aspx

        He seems to define natural law as completely opposed to same sex unions. Thus, he says: “God loves some people more!” which suggests as one commenter stated – “In life, differences abound in our relations to God and to other people. The differences — between the two sexes, among diverse races and cultures, in personal history and desire — make life rich. If we ignore them, we risk living only with ideas, divorced from real people. Is this entire article a code for a campaign against gay ‘marriage rights’. Is he saying that God’s “relative love” challenges any assertion of equality under abstract laws?

        Isn’t life much more nuanced than that? What about the gospel statement that there are no differences between Greek, slave, free, etc.?

    1. DM #5 We teach them the difference between deciding what is good for themselves, forming a right conscience, and being judgmental of others.

      If they are Americans, we teach them about the separation of church and state and the right of all to follow their own beliefs.

  3. Putting on my political scientist hat for a moment and saying that there is a huge difference between recognizing in civil law that any two adults living together ought to have the same opportunity to contract rights and responsibilities to each other, between that and saying that such people are in a sacramental marriage relationship. There are multiple legal and financial reasons for respecting the first sort of relationship whether or not it is the second.

    Such a change in civil law might even be a good occasion for catechists and preachers to explain more clearly how sacramental marriage differs from and should not be entered quite so casually as a civil marriage contract with its openness to divorce and starting over again.

    If you want to see another kettle of fish, think about trying to sort out the people raised in a Catholic culture whose families can not imagine them getting married in anything but a church service but the couple themselves “just want to get married” and do not perceive any difference between the civil contract and the sacramental covenant.

    1. I didn’t find it astute. I found it a mean-spirited anti-protestant rant casting aspersions on Germans in general, and blaming German Catholic progressives for every ill that has befallen their own church in the modern age. He says he sympathizes with those Germans who are vexed by having the Nazis always referenced, and then that’s just what he does. He is trying to change the subject, ISTM. He also has not come to grips with the abuse crisis, this much is clear, and so is trying to discredit the theologians who are saying it matters. It won’t work. This crisis does matter.

      1. Rita, I fail to see the anti-protestant sentiment you read into his piece. Are we not free to critique one form of Protestantism which is dying on the vine and that form is liberal Protestantism that began to develop in the first part of the 20th century? Certainly from an academic point of view and of discussion it is no more anti-Catholic to critique all the things you further write about concerning the Catholic authority system today. And certainly Protestants writing the same way you write about the authority structures of the Catholic Church would not necessarily be seen as anti-Catholic for their critique based upon their vision of things.
        When Weigel speaks of Germany being formed by Luther’s biblical translation, I saw that as a high compliment and liberalism whether Catholic or Protestant a betrayal of it.
        I suspect too in comparing the current clerical crisis of sexual abuse to Catholics, both lay and clergy who said nothing about Jews being persecuted in Germany and even participating in the execution of them (6 million Jews and 6 million others) wasn’t a crisis for the Church, both Protestant and Catholic, greater than what Catholics are going through now?

      2. Rita, I can only wonder if you thought the Robert Blair
        Kaiser lecture posted on this blog as in any way “mean-spirited”?
        Weigel seems nearly complimentary toward traditional Lutheran Protestantism in comparison to Kaiser’s take on the Church of Rome.

  4. I really can’t believe that there are those who would actually give this effort some kind of credibility.

    It matters not how many “professors” or whomever sign on…. is it realistic to believe that you’re going to get recognition of homosexual unions from the Church? And if that isn’t possible, is this anything other than just posing?

  5. I think it is a mistake to see all this ferment as centering on the acceptance of gay rights or gay marriage.

    Open communication, and structures of decision-making which are more participatory are up-front and in the center of the initial statement, and this movement. If we ignore those issues, we ignore the driving force of this whole thing.

    As it stands, we do not have open communication. People are not allowed to speak openly to one another in the Church without fear of being punished. We do not have structures of participation that are at all adequate to the modern world. We have a paternalistic system that is increasingly out of synch with the modern world, and which is very poorly adapted to dealing with the crimes committed within the institution by its clergy.

    We are forgetting that the sex abuse crisis was a deep betrayal of trust, and also a demonstration — as harsh and as jarring a demonstration as it is possible to give — that cover-ups, denial, and lack of participation lead to crimes, law suits, bankruptcy, attrition and the discrediting and undermining of the very mission of the Church.

    Let’s not hear any more twaddle about the supposedly permissive attitudes toward sexuality driving this initiative. What’s driving this is the abuse crisis.

    1. Let’s not hear any more twaddle about the supposedly permissive attitudes toward sexuality driving this initiative. What’s driving this is the abuse crisis.

      Then why does the petition not focus on government issues alone and instead chooses to call for the Church to recognize same-sex relationships.

      1. Because it is a pressing issue on which the Church has notoriously refused open discussion and rational consultation. Priests are getting an earful from gays and their families, and rightly.

    2. Rita A—Let’s not hear any more twaddle about the supposedly permissive attitudes toward sexuality driving this initiative.—

      Dear Rita,

      I’m afraid you can’t talk about me that way without also hitting Fr. O. We both seem to be in agreement that the pro-homosexuality drive is central to this document.

      Who said anything about ‘permissive attitudes toward sexualtiy’? I did ask, (and never received a response) if this forum still supports Christ’s teaching on Holy Matrimony, or maybe holds that this is one of those many things He never really said.

      1. Dear George,

        I do indeed disagree with both you and Fr. O’Leary in my read on what is important in this overall movement.

        The tendency to see any call for structural reform and greater dialogue in the Church as a Trojan horse for sexual license–and usually sexual permissiveness of society is presented as the underlying cause–is a very common form of reductionism. Forgive me if this is not what you were intending to suggest.

        If it makes you and Sam feel any better to hear this from me, as temporary 1-month editor of this blog, yes, I subscribe to the Church’s teachings on marriage. But I think that the teaching cannot be exempt from discussion. At this time in history a lot of people raise objections to it from a variety of perspectives, scientific and otherwise. Some have grave problems accepting it in their own lives, and it becomes a barrier in their relationship with God and neighbor. As long as they are not heard out, we suppress a discussion that needs to take place in our time, it seems to me, for the good of the whole.

      2. But I think that the teaching cannot be exempt from discussion.

        What’s confusing then is that it IS on the table for discussion. We’re discussing it right here.

        Moral theologians still publish about this topic all the time. Preachers preach about. People write books, etc. What’s forbidden is publishing one’s view (and obstinately [in the moral theology sense] holding the view) that the teaching of the Church is wrong. We’re not forbidden to talk about the arguments.

        Interpretive charity requires us to assume they’re not making a nonsensical redundent demand: demanding a discussion about an issue that is being discussed, therefore they must be calling for a debate in which the outcome is in doubt and they are therefore not orthodox.

        But charity regarding their orthodoxy requires us to assume that they adhere to the teaching of the Church and just want an open discussion of the issue, but since there is no prohibition on discussing the issue, this makes it seem that they’re making nonsensical demands.

        The result is that the petition is ambigious in its meaning (perhaps intentionally so.)

      3. The silencing of theologians is probably in view, and pressure brought to bear on Catholic journals and periodicals to present nothing but the one approved viewpoint. The affair of Thomas Reese and America magazine comes to mind. It didn’t matter that the official position was well represented by authors in the magazine. They were pressured to not publish any alternative opinions. This is not “open discussion.”

        Sam, you say the discussion is taking place. In a secular forum, you are corrrect, it is. The book publishers you have in mind are secular presses, no? You also say “We are discussing it right here” but actually what we we are talking about the possibility or impossibility of others having the discussion openly in the Church.

      4. Pressure on Catholic journals and periodicals: that’s why it would be better to have lay people in charge of – and with sole control over – Catholic media: they are less susceptible to pressure. The Ministry of the Media is a good one to give primarily to lay Catholics. The clergy have the ambo, the rest of the Faithful (informed by what they heard coming from the ambo) can have the media.

    3. It is about sex. These folks don’t like the Church teaching on sex. Simple as that. George Weigal has them well sussed. So does Pope Benedict.

  6. Sorry, Fr. Allan – but to use the word “astute” with Weigel just doesn’t hold up to honest scrutiny. Weigel gutted any objective label long ago with his partisan, apologetic, and slanted opinions.

    Here is a much better presentation which expands on this German initiative and connects to the history of the church: http://www.ncronline.org/news/faith-parish/every-day-chruch-should-give-birth-church

    Highlights:
    – “Every day the church gives birth to the church!”
    – “the question is not whether authority should continue to exist in the church; the question is whether the church will find the will and the wisdom to re-imagine church authority in accord with both the ancient biblical tradition and the demands of the church today. ”
    – “For many church leaders, the default reaction to this situation is to return to the juridical paradigm of command and obey. Their solution is to insist on an uncritical and unswerving obedience to all church teaching. And so they enforce fidelity oaths on ministers and church employees. They micro-manage curricular and textbook decisions in Catholic schools and parish religious education programs.”

    1. Thanks for the link to R. Gaillardetz’s fine article, Bill. It’s impressive in its clarity and sheds lilght also on the European scene in the same period also.

      Rita, thanks for your views above!

      The conversation shows at least that liturgy is about life and not just about devotional performances.

  7. “I am wondering how we identify “civilized society.” I hope we could avoid the question-begging assumption that a “civilized society” can be identified by its “recognition of samesex couples as a good thing.”

    I do avoid that assumption. France, Britain, Holland, Spain, Ireland, are societies I consider civilized; I have always considered them civilized.

    The recognition of gay unions is surely another cause to rejoice in the blessing of living in civilized countries. I was invited to express my views on this at a secular forum lately — what a difference from the cramped and hypocritical Catholic world. See http://josephsoleary.typepad.com/my_weblog/2011/02/catholic-theology-faces-gay-marriage.html

  8. Joe O’Leary :
    Because it is a pressing issue on which the Church has notoriously refused open discussion and rational consultation. Priests are getting an earful from gays and their families, and rightly.

    Joe, you know as well as I do that the only thing “priests are getting an earful” about is the constant stream of parishioners complaining week-in and week-out Sunday after Sunday over the last 40-ish years about the “unelevated” language of the 1973 Missal.

  9. #3. Fritz, my problem is not primarily with someone’s decision to smoke good cigars, so long as they don’t do it near me.

    My difficulty lies with someone who doesn’t see the irony in deciding to withhold granting moral acceptability to two people who choose to love and support each other simply because they happen to be of the same gender, while at the same time he describes himself as a lover of good cigars.

    Here are two reasons why one could attach moral unacceptability to the latter: the cigar smoker is harming him/herself and polluting the environment. They had a choice to smoke tobacco, in the knowledge that the substance is highly addictive. I don’t see wanting to protect one’s health and that of others and wanting to promote a less-polluted environment as evidence of a particularly Puritan spirituality. If it is, I stand condemned.

    1. Gerald F—-My difficulty lies with someone who doesn’t see the irony in deciding to withhold granting moral acceptability to two people who choose to love and support each other simply because they happen to be of the same gender, while at the same time he describes himself as a lover of good cigars.

      —-

      Gerald, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar!

    2. I’m not much of a cigar fan myself.

      Still, in the interest of accuracy, I don’t think the objection was to people of the same gender choosing to love and support each other, unless “love and support” now means “engage in mutual genital stimulation.”

      If so, I will have to be more careful next time I am tempted to thank my parents and my children for their love and support.

      1. I agree, Dean Fritz. This string has a ‘truth in labeling’ problem which is tied to this whole discussion. This is what leads me to believe people are advocating something but want to veil their intent.

        I don’t understand how Rita can say she accepts the Church’s teaching, but then says it’s open to discussion– unless she means she accepts it for now, but would not be surprised if, after the Freiburg diocese has its way, it were to go up the chimney with Santa Claus.

      2. George, I am laughing about your Santa Claus image! Allow me to pursue this just one step further then I’ll quit.

        You are married, right? Say you and your wife disagree about some matter. You feel strongly that you are right and she is wrong, but she says “I want to talk about it.” Surely you would be wise to listen and enter into conversation. Out of the exchange comes insight, sympathy, and perhaps even a new way forward. At the very least, it affirms the respect and love you have for one another despite the disagreement. That is all that I am saying. And I suspect many of the people who signed these statements are saying something similar.

        Consider how many of the abuse victims, when they finally received a hearing through the courts or the media, said they would have settled for being listened to by representatives of the Church in the first place. They weren’t. They were shut down, and told to keep quiet. They were disbelieved. They were pressed to sign agreements not to speak.

        Whether it is listening to people who disagree about teachings or listening to people who have been hurt, it’s all part of the deal. We need to do better on this.

    3. Gerald:

      If you see sodomy and cigar-smoking as somehow morally equivalent, then you inhabit a very different moral universe than do I.

      One might say, an “alternate” moral universe.

  10. Joe O’Leary :

    Because it is a pressing issue on which the Church has notoriously refused open discussion and rational consultation. Priests are getting an earful from gays and their families, and rightly.

    Lol. That is so funny. If you practise sodomy it is a sin! What do you want – the Church to say it’s not a sin? Sorry, no can do. Look in the Catechism it explains all this. I don’t understand why people can’t accept that if you wanna follow the Lord, you give up your sins, whatever they are.

    You make your choice: God or gay sex. Whom do you wish to serve? There can only be one idol in your life – the true God, or lust. Make your choice and be done with it.

      1. Have you ever considered that the proper place of sex is within marriage, which can only be between a man and a woman?

        My wife and I, before we were married, could have had sex. Would that have “deepened” our loving relationship? Absolutely not. The teaching of the Church is very clear on this point: sex outside of marriage is sinful. Sex can only be a true expression of love inside marriage; outside of that context (and even sometimes inside of it), it can ultimately be only objectifying and selfish, no matter the intention.

        Does a letter signed by hundreds of theologians, priests, and laymen make a difference to what is true? What if it were signed by thousands? Or millions? No–what the Church teaches as true was true, is true, and will always be true.

      2. It can also be sinful, and according to our Catholic faith, “disordered”. Are we allowed to talk about that?

      3. “It can also be sinful, and according to our Catholic faith, “disordered”. Are we allowed to talk about that?”

        I suppose even loving sexual relationships can be sinful if they cause hurt to others, etc. But at least concede that sex can express love and does not have to be demonized as it is by bible-bashers (who have succeeded in making the Bible hated).

        The theory that the homosexual orientation is “disordered” occurs for the first time in Catholic teaching in a CDF document published in 1986 and greeted with very widespread criticism. To identify this document so simply with “our Catholic faith” is theologically suicidal. Indeed, it is what has brought our Church into great disrepute; polls shows that the first thing that comes to many peoples’ mind when asked to describe Catholicism is ‘anti-gay’.

      4. So if the Church teaches we are all disordered due to Original Sin and if one has an extra chromosome, that person is disordered, does that mean the Catholic Church is anti-human being and anti-Downs Syndrome?

      5. That some people don’t like a teaching of the Church is regrettable but is of little importance in the context of our discussion, we know this from Gospel of St. John and some people’s response to Our Lord’s teaching on the Eucharist.. You also seem troubled by the authority of the Church to teach us that which is necessary for our salvation, something she did in the doc. you reference. That poses a problem in the reception of Vatican II because the council reinforced the hierarchical Church’s authority to teach definitively in matters of faith & morals.

  11. The German priests are expressing the common sense of the European clergy. They deserve better than the myopic obsession with what gay men might or might not be doing in the privacy of their bedroom. It sounds as if conservative churchmen have given up on poking around in the beds of the legally married and even of the premarital youth to focus all their moral ardor on destroying stable gay relationships in case genitalia happen to be stimulated.

    1. SO, has anyone here actually read the Fathers of the Church on the subject of sodomy? Has anyone looked at the constant Church Tradition which condemns sodomy as gravely immoral? That we are even having to correct PRIESTS about this issue speaks volumes about the apostasy in the Church, the same apostasy foretold at La Salette. This is pure modernism – the idea that truth evolves, that nothing is absolutely true always and everywhere. That the Bible is ultimately irrelevant and so is God! It’s madness. Is it any wonder the Church is in such a mess when men that think this way were in charge?

  12. If the German priests had said nothing about gays their document would rightly be dismissed as clerical trimming and self-censorship. As it is, they said the necessary minimum, little more than what several bishops and Cardinals have said. . But we all know what the point of the document was — the diagnosis of a dysfuncional church and the call for urgent reform. It is a bland document, but one on which bishops and a future Council might be brought to agree. It’s not as if we’re not in crisis.

  13. There are other things than sex in life and in the Gospels. If my neighbors across the street have sex the wrong way according to Catholic teaching, and the ones on the other side spend their money the wrong way according to Catholic teaching, then the second ones will be lectors, EMs, members of pastoral councils, CCD teachers, and in general welcome to be active members of the local church in spite of their faults; whereas the first ones will be ostracized (“excluded”, says the petition). That’s unfair.

    “It is about sex”: what fraction of the petition is about sex? Very little, yet it’s almost the only part that gets notice. That obsession with sex is unhealthy.

    I personally think that their petition would have been stronger if they had dropped the case about discrimination of gays and stuck to divorced and remarried Catholics, or at least if they had omitted their compliments of committed gay couples. But they’re not politicians – they don’t drop lost causes to improve their odds of being heard.

  14. and the ones on the other side spend their money the wrong way according to Catholic teaching, then the second ones will be lectors, EMs, members of pastoral councils, CCD teachers, and in general welcome to be active members of the local church in spite of their faults; whereas the first ones will be ostracized (”excluded”, says the petition). That’s unfair.

    Yes that’s unfair, but it’s not an unfairness that’s inherent in the rules, just their application. If your neighbors are really “obstinately persist[ing] in manifest grave sin” regarding how they spend their money, you can correct them and/or bring the matter to the Church. Lowering the standards of moral behavior is not the way to solve the problem of their uneven application.

  15. “Lowering the standards of moral behavior is not the way to solve the problem of their uneven application.”

    In fact, gays who construct a stable quasi-marital union are doing a morally good thing. As long as pharisaical Catholics choose to sniff at their “practices” (Cardinal George’s one-word summary of what gays are about) the Church will continue to alienate and persecute many good people. That is why far-seeing pastors like Cardinal Martini and the late John Paul I urged pastoral recognition of gay couples.

  16. “So if the Church teaches we are all disordered due to Original Sin and if one has an extra chromosome, that person is disordered, does that mean the Catholic Church is anti-human being and anti-Downs Syndrome?”

    That precisely is the problem with Homosexualitatis Problema. It takes the notion of disorder-due-to-original-sin, which in classical theology applies to every human being (except two) and applies it obnoxiously to one group of human beings, considered to be specifically disordered in their sexuality. In the dim Augustinian past all sexuality was regarded as disordered in the same way, and peccaminous even within marriage; this dismal heritage has been diminished and repackaged for the exclusive use of gays. Similarly, if sufferers from Down Syndrome or any other mental or physical malady has original sin dumped on them in this way they would rightly be outraged. Now it may be objected that the latter conditions are recognized maladies and that all the CDF are saying is that homosexuality is a malady too; but this will not wash, (a) because all experts tell us that homosexuality is not a malady; (b) because the CDF does not say that homosexuality is a malady. The intrinsic disorder referred to is a tendency toward a selfish form of sexuality — in short it is just the same thing as Augustine called concupiscence and which he saw as the most evident symptom of original sin (a sin whose effect was first manifested in Adam’s inability to stop himself having an erection; hence the figleaf; as Augustine says in many places. The real disorder is the Augustinian pessimism that the Church is steeped in still.

    1. Fr. O, I think one could make a good case for heterosexuality as being ordered to natural sex (i.e. natural law) if we are to write only about genital sex. Within in marriage, sex become a sacrament because it is both unitive and pro-creative. Outside of marriage even the most natural and non-disordered of sex is still a sin. Being disordered though is not a sin unless one acts in a sinful way. The tendency toward concupiscence is the disorder of original sin that “afflicts” both those who are heterosexual and homosexual. The danger with your logic is that we can’t call anything disordered if it applies to one’s genital sexual appetite even pedophiles or ephebophiles.
      And yes, even in heterosexual marriage, sexual activity that would be considered sodomy would be considered sinful and disordered if that is one’s genital sexual proclivity.
      Now, if you are speaking of love that might even have a physical dimension in terms of feelings, then two homosexuals certainly could find a home in the Church if they intend to live chastely. They could receive Holy Communion in a state of grace if they are not having “unnatural sex.” We should make a distinction between sexuality and genital sex as it concerns all of this. The Church has every right and duty to call it what it is, natural or unnatural, ordered or disordered. The tendency toward disorder is not the sin though, the actual act is.

  17. Only comments with a full name will be approved.

    Fr. Allan J. McDonald :

    So if the Church teaches we are all disordered due to Original Sin and if one has an extra chromosome, that person is disordered, does that mean the Catholic Church is anti-human being and anti-Downs Syndrome?

    Fr Allan, in speaking about Original Sin and Down’s Syndrome, you are referring to two types of disorder, moral and ontic, a differentiation which you should have been familiar with from your fundamental moral theology courses. A decision about the former is arrived at by moral reasoning and about the latter by scientific observation. People who are chemically or physically disordered are not, by virtue of that fact, regarded as morally inferior to others. To blur the difference between these two is an egregious example of careless and lazy reasoning.

    I think it is clear that what Joe is suggesting is that the church may be perceived as being anti-gay, not because it attributes moral disorder to gay people on the basis of their common humanity but because, additionally, it attributes further, intrinsic moral disorder to them because of their gender orientation, as though such a verdict could be arrived at automatically by scientific observation, rather than by moral reasoning.

    1. Good and valid points, but if one’ sexuality is geared toward a disordered form of sex, then one could make a case that orientation is an ontic “evil” or disorder, but the person with it is not culpable unless he/she acts on it.
      I am very familiar with ontic evil as Fr. Phil Keane, SS was my spiritual director in the seminary.

  18. Preface II for Lent will take care of all these problems since Vox Clara changed 2008’s literal translation of “inordinate desires” to 2010’s “disordered affections.”

    Which is weird, because every place 2008 translated the Latin literally as “vices”, 2010 waters it down to “faults.”

    For the difference between “vices” and “faults” in traditional Catholic moral theology see the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

    Yet these violations of Liturgiam authenticam get awarded the recognitio, and those of us who point it out are accused of “fomenting dissent” rather than Vox Clara and CDW being accused of not following their own directives. Amazing.

  19. Only comments with a full name will be approved.

    Fr. Allan J. McDonald :

    Good and valid points, but if one’ sexuality is geared toward a disordered form of sex, then one could make a case that orientation is an ontic “evil” or disorder, but the person with it is not culpable unless he/she acts on it.

    Fr Allan, you have completly missed the point and it is not all that nuanced. It leaves one wondering whether in fact you have grasped the distinction between them. And if you have not, what are you doing expounding on moral issues? The argument is not whether orientation is an ontic evil, it is of course whether it is a moral evil.

    1. I think what I’ve written is that it can’t be a personal choice or moral evil if one is born with a “disordered” sexuality. The acts of sex outside of marriage is the criteria for judging their morality as well as the type of sex, no matter one’s orientation, whether homosexual or heterosexual. The question though that I can’t answer is what causes homosexuality, genes or environment. That’s for someone else to explain, but obviously there are a number of factors involved. But our belief in inherited original sin that makes all of us less than perfect does open the door that some one could be born with a “disordered” sexuality. And certainly if there is a pathological defect that develops even later in life, one’s culpability for the acts committed are lessened. It is not a sin to be born in the way we are nor is anyone with any type of disorder due to genes or what is inherited either from our first parents or from our actual parents to be considered evil or culpable. That was made rather clear to me by my second grade teacher, that its not our fault that we inherited original sin.

      1. Fr Allan
        Can you please stick to the point! It is the orientation of gay people itself which has been labelled as disordered, not their actions.

        You concede the failed moral reasoning inherent in such a position.To paraphrase your first and last sentences: a moral disorder is not a moral disorder if one is born with it. Ergo..

      2. Just to be clear, my understanding of Vatican issued statement about the homosexual orientation being “disordered” is that it is precisely that, a disorder, not something one chooses. Therefore it is morally neutral, but nonetheless a disorder, no more different than any other disorder we might be born with including an orientation toward clinical depression. Depression isn’t immoral, but if it causes one to mistreat people, the depressed person’s actions could be judged as immoral. You are the one saying, I presume, that the Vatican is placing the burden of moral responsibility on the person for his/her orientation. I don’t read it that way and if I’m wrong I stand corrected.

  20. Fr Allan, many read the Vatican document as you so, as identifying a precise ontic evil –comparable to a pedophile disposition. In fact the document invites such a reading by its claim to be supported by the natural sciences (Latin version) or the human sciences (English version), referring to old-fashioned and discredited psychoanalysts like Charles Socarides no doubt. In a more recent document homosexuality is called an “anomaly” and the prominence given to Fr Anatrella as a psychoanalytical expert goes in the same direction。

    I note that the 1986 document never uses the word “unnatural” – this I consider due to the restraining hand of Cardinal Ratzinger.

    Now the confusion arises from the moral terms used to describe the homosexual orientation in the body of the document, as a tendency to selfish acts. Human beings are born with concupiscence as a result of original sin – that is, they are morally disordered, though not guilty of actual sin until the age of reason; this paradigm is transferred to gays in a special way in the document.

    Philip Keane would regard the evil of homosexual or contraceptive sex as more ontic than moral and would allow ontic evils in a moral context (which is why his book was censured).
    My own view: the Vatican made a Galileo-style in intervening on the wrong side in the scientific debate about homosexuality. It follows a questionable Augustine or even Manichean heritage in branding homosexuality as morally negative in itself. Its attitude to homosexual acts like its attitude to contraceptive acts is based either on a failure to see that ontic evils are not necessarily moral evils. The ontic evil is merely…

  21. My own view: the Vatican made a Galileo-style mistake in intervening on the wrong side in the scientific debate about homosexuality. It follows a questionable Augustine or even Manichean heritage in branding homosexuality as morally negative in itself. Its attitude to homosexual acts like its attitude to contraceptive acts is based either on a failure to see that ontic evils are not necessarily moral evils, or on a failure to see that they are not evils at all. The ontic evil, if it exists, would consist only in incompleteness. Discuss.


  22. People who are chemically or physically disordered are not, by virtue of that fact, regarded as morally inferior to others.

    Yikes! I don’t know if anyone else in this huge amount of what I believe to be tangential discussion of church teaching on homosexuality has pointed this out, but I can’t take any more of this discussion of human beings as disordered! Just to clarify, the church’s teaching, as stated in the Catechism, is that the inclination toward same gender preference is disordered, not the person who has this inclination! The act is called ‘intrinsically evil,’ not the person! When it comes to discussing the person, the language is ‘created in the image and likeness of God,’ and so deserving of the respect due an image and likeness of God, including, but not limited to, an avoidance of unjust discrimination and persecution. To even come close to insinuating that persons with this particular inclination are ‘morally inferior’ to persons lacking this particular inclination is a rejection of basic church teaching.

  23. I agree — both homophobes and over-excited gay advocates constantly distort what the CDF says — people are not disordered but their desires and acts may be. The controversial issue is that the homosexual orientation cannot be categorized as a local disorder since it is the entirety of the sexuality of a gay person, just as heterosexuality is the entirety of the sexuality of a heterosexual (abstracting from bisexuality for the moment). Can one brand a person’s entire sexuality disordered while still respecting the dignity of the person?

  24. M.Z. “Just to clarify, the church’s teaching, as stated in the Catechism, is that the inclination toward same gender preference is disordered, not the person who has this inclination!”

    .

    The question is, what is the nature of the disordered inclination? Is it a moral disorder or is it an ontic disorder?

    It cannot be the former, because as you point out, intrinsically moral disorder relates to actions not to persons.And the judging of an act as morally evil requires the exercise of freedom of choice on the part of the agent. On the other hand, if the disorder is merely, ontic, like poverty, for example, it may be so only to people who think it so, and it may not be so to people who do not think it so.

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