Monday, January 05, 2009

Perspectives on Natural Law

Part 5: Gregory Baum

Following is a fifth perspective on the concept of natural law from the compilation of perspectives that the leadership of the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities (CPCSM) recently sent to Archbishop John Nienstedt and the priests of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. (For why we shared these perspectives, click here.)

This particular perspective is from Catholic theologian Gregory Baum. It focuses on homosexuality and is excerpted from Baum’s article, “Homosexuality and the Natural Law” (The Ecumenist, Vol. 1, No. 2, 1994, pages 33-36).


Traditional Catholic teaching has consistently condemned homosexual love as a sin against nature. But, as John Coleman* has pointed out, for the first time in history we have personal witnesses and an extended literature in which homosexual men and women make known the hidden aspects of their personal lives, offer critical reflections of their own experiences and reveal the ethical orientation that guides them in their attitudes and actions. An ethical evaluation of homosexuality, Coleman argues, is valid and credible only if it has taken seriously these witnesses and this literature.

Some of these testimonies are offered by Christians deeply attached to their faith. These believing men and women have learned to embrace their sexual orientation as God’s will for them, as a gift of God’s creation, and they try to lead sexual lives in keeping with the Gospel’s call for truth, love, and justice.

Some Christian churches have already learned from this testimony. Can the Catholic Church learn from it? To say that this would contradict the Church’s past teaching is not a strong argument since such a change in theory and practice has taken place in regard to slavery, human rights, and the equality of women and men. There seems to be no a priori reason why one should reject the thesis that God who creates the majority of humanity as heterosexual, creates a minority as a natural variant defined by a homosexual orientation. If that were true, homosexual love would be in perfect keeping with the natural law.

* John Coleman, “The Homosexual Revolution and Hermeneutics,” The Sexual Revolution: Concilium, No. 173, 1984, pages 55-64.

Gregory Baum
- Excerpted from “Homosexuality and the Natural Law,” in The Ecumenist, Vol. 1, No. 2, 1994, pages 33-36.

NEXT: Part 6: William C. McDonough

Recommended Off-site Link:
Homosexuality and Natural Law: Beyond a Medieval Construct - Fr. James Roberts (Catholic New Times, January 4, 2004).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Perspectives on Natural Law: Part 1 - Herbert McCabe, OP
Perspectives on Natural Law: Part 2 - Judith Web Kay
Perspectives on Natural Law: Part 3 - Daniel Helminiak
Perspectives on Natural Law: Part 4 - Garry Wills

. . . and the related posts:
Celebrating Our Sanctifying Truth
The Many Manifestations of God’s Loving Embrace
Making Love, Giving Life
Compassion, Christian Community, and Homosexuality
The Pope’s “Scandalous” Stance on Homosexuality


Frank Partisan said...

OT: See this.

Anonymous said...

I knew John Coleman. I am not persuaded by any of this "Natural Law" nonsense.

Gregory Baum is a unique character. Apparently the Reforms of Vatican II did not go far enough. Into a monk's cell. Augustinian monk, that is.

Read Pope John Paul II's encyclicals. They are the "authoritative" teaching on natural law, a phrase he litters on every page at least half a dozen times.

Oh, and he had assistance from Benedict (Ratzinger).

Be a Catholic or Be Gay. If you can be both, fine, but don't change the rules. They are not yours to rewrite, or haven't you figured that out yet?

Come, Michael, your brighter than that.