Monday, September 08, 2008

Responding to a "Pastorally Egregious Document"

When going through some papers the other day I came across a copy of New Ways Ministry’s response to the 2003 Vatican document, Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons.

Because this response is well-written and deals with an issue that remains topical, I’d like to share it with readers of The Wild Reed.


New Ways Ministry’s Response to the
Vatican’s Statement on Same-Sex Marriage

August 20, 2003

The Vatican’s opposition to same-sex marriage initiatives has been well known and longstanding. Thus, one of the most disturbing aspects of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s recent document, Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons, is that it was written at all. Instead of preventing the legal recognition of same-sex relationships, the actual effect will be greater discrimination and intolerance of lesbian/gay people because the document is based upon ill-founded knowledge of homosexuality and the relationships of lesbian/gay people.

At the outset of Considerations, the Vatican refers to homosexuality as “a troubling moral and social phenomenon.” Inaccurately characterizing a person’s basic homosexual make-up as a mere “inclination” or just “tendencies,” it repeatedly describes the orientation, with lack of pastoral sensitivity, as an “anomaly” that is “intrinsically” and “objectively disordered.”

In effect, the doctrinal Congregation blames gay/lesbian people for the deterioration of “the dignity of marriage, the foundation of the family, and the stability of society,” all of which it considers as somehow threatened by homosexual unions. It ignores the alarming divorce rate already prevalent even among many practicing Catholics. The Vatican once again negatively singles out the lesbian/gay minority within society, rather than addressing itself to widespread heterosexual behaviors that are objectionable. To uphold the permanence of heterosexual bonds in the past, Church leaders sometimes remained silent in the face of certifiable violence directed against wives and children by abusive husbands. The heterosexual couples most wronged by this document are the parents of lesbian daughters and gay sons. The Vatican seems not to realize that striking the child injuries the parent.

The Congregation disregards the findings of the human sciences when it claims that same-sex unions “create obstacles in the normal development of children” and wrongly asserts, “such unions would actually mean doing violence to them.” Studies published in reputable journals have documented that children adopted or raised by lesbian/gay couples develop in a similar way to children raised in heterosexual households.

When citing the Book of Genesis, the Vatican statement calls sexuality “something that pertains to the [heterosexual] physical-biological realm.” In condemning homosexual unions as unnatural, the document invokes the scriptural image of “sexual complementarity” between female and male as the decisive factor for “procreative” fruitfulness. However, in light of today’s understanding of human development, we must not limit our view of nature to its purely “physical-biological functions. We need to acknowledge its complex personal and psychological components, including profound attraction between individuals of the same gender, who “complement” one another on an emotional level and help each other “procreate” in intellectual and artistic ways.

The document almost implies that the first chapters of Genesis, “in which the voice of nature itself is heard,” are a biblical revelation of mandatory heterosexuality, although the latter concept has been defined only by modern science. The relevant passages (Gen. 1:26-31; 2:7, 18-25) principally reveal the creation of sexual human beings in God’s image. The divine image is neither male nor female, neither heterosexual nor homosexual, and not concerned with marriage. The divine image concerns itself with loving relationships.

The Vatican document attempts to influence not only civic governmental bodies but also all those “who believe in Christ” and everyone “committed to . . . the common good.” Yet in speaking of the “natural moral law,” the authors of the document disregard the fact that some religious denominations have blessed homosexual unions for years, without viewing such practices as contrary to scripture, nature, or moral principles.

Despite the Vatican’s persistent view that same-sex unions are “harmful to the proper development of human society,” some prominent theologians, such as Philip Keane in Sexual Morality (1977), have long suggested that the Catholic Church itself should find ways of supporting stable homosexual partnerships. In fact, according to John Boswell’s Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe (1994), historically the Church may even have blessed such relationships at certain times and places under more enlightened circumstances.

New Ways Ministry repeats its persistent call to the Vatican and the U.S. bishops to engage in a broad, diverse dialogue with theologians, social scientists, psychologists, pastoral ministers, and lesbian/gay people and their families before they issue another word on homosexuality. The Vatican document illustrates how much education Catholic Church leaders need in this area before they can speak authoritatively and persuasively.

Furthermore, New Ways Ministry calls on the Vatican to correct this pastorally egregious document by writing a subsequent statement on eliminating prejudice, discrimination, and violence that lesbian/gay people experience because of the ignorance of people in the Church and the wider society. Church teaching is clear that prejudice against lesbian/gay people is a serious moral evil, yet Vatican leaders have yet to explore this destructive social phenomenon in any sort of comprehensive and high-level document.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:

Making Love, Giving Life
The Non-Negotiables of Human Sex
Relationship: The Crucial Factor in Sexual Morality
Joan Timmerman on the “Wisdom of the Body”
The Many Manifestations of God’s Loving Embrace
Compassion, Christian Community, and Homosexuality
Celebrating and Embodying Divine Hospitality
Beyond Courage
When “Guidelines” Lack Guidance
Be Not Afraid: You Can Be Happy and Gay
Trusting God’s Generous Invitation
A Catholic’s Prayer for His Fellow Pilgrim, Benedict XVI
Sons of the Church: The Witnessing of Gay Catholic Men – A Discussion Guide
The Many Forms of Courage
One Gay Catholic Parent Who Isn’t Leaving the Church
Civil Unions and Christian Tradition
Revisiting Same-Gender Marriage


kevin57 said...

And just how did the Vatican respond to New Ways Ministries call for a correction to this document? The head of the said Congregation was elevated to Pontifex Maximus. God has got to have a sense of humor! I know I need to.

Anonymous said...


We can all admire the handsome Boswell's Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality, we can all grieve Boswell's premature death to AIDS, but few, very few people give John Boswell’s Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe (1994), any crediblity. It is a sand castle on a beach that the waves of oceanic truth cannot abide.

Anyone familiar with the monastic brotherhood knows that some communities promote sponsorship of one religious brother/sister by, for, and of another, but in no possible way were any of these same-sex (brotherhood) commitments akin to SSM/U. It offends all sensibility to stretch such absurdities to outrageous revisionism. But why did Boswell become so dishonest?

Like Queer Theory, Boswell's impending death took liberties that has no one would concede intellectually were he to have lived -- however handsome the Yale androphile may be, required authenticity not revised mythology.

I'm not denying monastics have had the opportunity to make it with other monastics -- heavens, a monastic seduced me at age 18 and I'm not even a Catholic -- how could I be? With someone capable of such affection and intimate expression, yet unable to look the man in the eyes whose other body parts fit quite nicely, why would anyone dare?

But sucking cock only brought the possibility to a climax he could not accept, since his Church could not. Sadly, this handsome and affectionate seducer took many men thereafter to his closet, seduced them for a time, only to repent in the morning. A Catholic guy I knew did late-afternoon confession, the Vigil Mass (in grace), and hit Dave's baths every week. In this order, lest any disorder send him to hell. The disorder was his dysfunctional histrionics which proved he could not accept himself and the faith which demanded he not be himself. He never was.

The impoverished life experience in denial or excuses for incapacity is the problem, not the solution for anyone. I've known men that used the Church's stance to deny themselves love (but enjoy the homoeroticism) because to love and enjoy another man was a sin he could not repent. One in particular, K. C. of Dignity, was a nice, but totally undignified, man.

These "cases" may have opened vistas for me and others, but their own homophobia, their guilt of sin and the consequences of hell, only serve to repeat offenses, by perpetuating the inability to accept "the problem." The PROBLEM is obvious to all, but those in denial, in and out of confessionals, on their way to Mass, before they finish the night in a bathhouse and in someone's arms, before all affection awake their guilt and terror.

The monk who seduced me is finally in a relationship now, but only after 20+ years of seducing guys, feeling filthy and sinful for corrupting others, hitting the confessional and doing penance, until week in and out, until something breaks. For Marc, he was and remains a genuine man, a loving man who loves his Beloved; but for every Marc, I can count hundreds of S&M-B&D unMarc's, whose self-loathing, self-hate, and self-corruption needs confirming as the horribly disordered men their church insists they are. THEY AGREE. They live disordered lives, to confirm THEY are the problem, that THEY are the corrupt sinner their church insists they are, that THEY are unloved of god, until they confess and do penance, that THEY are not living up to gawd's standards. They can't, and so finally they surrender -- not to their sexual authenticity -- but to the LIES they have lived for so long.

Another way to think about it: All the love he was capable of giving, but suppressed after doing a "deed" of intrinsic disorder, will never receive Vatican approval. It was not until he severed all ties with his Oppressor that his abilities to love -- as he had me -- found fulfillment. But the damages done to himself, if not to others, by hoping god would heal his healthy homoerotic love, should have suggested that the confessional box is just a closet in which to hide. Truly dark and truly hidden. The damage done to men who are truly capable of love -- receiving and giving -- that become the very antithesis with support of the institution that corrupted them originally, defends them when they corrupt others, and pretends the problem is in the link to gawd, has to be one of the most inhumane institutions on earth.

But look at all those who are corrupted in Zorastrianism -- Judaism, Christianity, and Islam -- most beginning the first cognizances with cocks mutilated, people suspicious of male aggression, and males suspicious of their inner guilt. I'd rather die on the battlefield of Troy as honest and authentic than to die every day to the world in order to be alive to death. But, J-C-I prefer death, the deadly, the moribund, the failed -- and then blame others.

Who takes responsibility for honest feelings without becoming a capitol sin and a deadly maggot? Shall I start to name names? Or are they already legion?

Anonymous said...


So the problem is self-hatred and internalized oppression?

Just asking,

Mark A.

Anonymous said...

The "problem" is lack of authenticity, or inauthenticity, whether (1) adopted as a strategy of denial, or (2) arises from conditioning and imprinting by bad nurturing, or (3) used defensively as an excuse of non-culpable sin -- or in some combination.

We all meet life's events and circumstances differently, but we can take various approaches that are similar in their nature to determine which allow us to be honest, genuine, authentic, respecting, and noble. This does not happen suddenly or spontaneously, but is a never-ending process of self-scrutiny, without succumbing to scrupulosity. The self-reflexive value judgments are what give our lives their meaning and value, and the practice of self-scrutiny is the means to doing so.

If X feels good, but one is told X is bad, such claims need to be determined independently from authority -- especially from authority's known to be bad authorities. After we determine the validity of the claim, then we scrutinize ourselves against the true value judgments, not the bad judgments. Thus, (1) if X is quite good, notwithstanding some false teaching, then (2) we measure ourselves against the good value. This two-step process occupies an authentic person's attention, because the "feedback loop" of (1) valid claim to the good, (2) measured by our self-scrutiny to do good, ( = ) keeps us flourishing in personal excellence and authenticity.

The joy, happiness, fulfillment, enjoyment that ensues from authenticity is not only the fulcrum of life's meaning and values, it is the center of the exuberance of life -- notwithstanding hill and dale.

We have no need to question authorities we agree with, but when we are told authorities tell us "no" and we think "yes," then it is sloth not determine the truth, goodness, or rightness of the claim. An authentic person does this; the inauthentic person avoids it in manifest ways -- some of which I identify [supra]. He uses excuses, blame-games, denial, etc., which are all defense mechanisms of avoidance -- refusal to confront his own inauthenticity.

Some of the kinkiest queers accept the fact that they are psychosexually deviant, just as others have told them, and then set new "bars" in which to demonstrate it. What do they have to lose? They are already lost! The religious monk who tried to suppress himself, which clearly he was unable to do, spent 20 years roaming in a unnatural wilderness, not only affecting others, but dulling himself, both in life and as a charming person. But it was his charismatic personality and good looks that were being dulled by his denial, his obsessive-compulsive religious practices used to "overcome" his impulses, that finally had to be discarded entirely in order to allow him to see the true and authentic man he could again be. When he did, he found he was also loveable -- which, it turns out, is what he had allowed himself to believe from his Church than men who love men cannot be.

What kind of nonsense proclaims:

Homophilia is the disposition the Church now accepts as morally neutral (as if dispositions were not, as Aquinas rebuts), but homoeroticism is the act or acts of homophilia which the church regards as objectively immoral and gravely sinful. The more recent revisionism, which makes god the author of intrinsic disorders [the disposition], but humans culpable for acting on them [homoeroticism] is absurdly untenable and obscenely bad theology, and worse anthropology. Well, to act on a disposition IS who HE IS. If it is criminal, harmful, immoral, dangerous, he should suppress it, but if not, his own conscience will convict himself falsely for long. The authentic individual recognizes the conflict and resolves to remedy it, while the inauthentic individual does everything but -- including accepting his church, but then denouncing its teachings, and all sorts of queer confusions to no good purpose.

Anonymous said...

Okay, I get it - REALLY BAD self-hatred and internalized oppression.

Coupled with REALLY BAD self-deception and a lack of uncritical reception of an reflection on "received truth."

This is not a "gay" issue - its a human issue.