Catholic Moral Law and Theology – Sin and Same-Sex Marriage: It’s Okay to be Gay

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The results of the Australian postal plebiscite on same sex marriage were released today. To my surprise and disappointment (although with a healthy degree of amusement), the “Yes vote” won by 61%. The traditional media has run rampant with celebratory nonsense while social media has been flooded with victorious sentiment from the lefties. In light of this current atmosphere, now seems as good a time as any to set down my stance on the issues surrounding homosexuality in the modern day.

  1. Homosexual acts, are, always were, and always will be totally depraved and sinful. There is simply no escaping the biblical, magisterial, and divine testimony from Jesus himself, that homosexual acts are wrong and inherently evil. This is something that the Church is rightly insisting upon as crucial to the issue, and it is also something which the “yes vote” campaigners consistently (and conveniently) ignore.
  2. Sacramental marriage will always be between a man and a woman, and can never be between two members of the same sex. Sacramental marriage is the context in which sexual intercourse is supposed to occur, and therefore the context in which children happen. Sacramental marriage between a man and a woman is the essence of the family and the foundation of society.
  3. Same-gender sexual attraction is a disorder with it’s roots in the fall. It is unnatural and a sinful disposition. Nevertheless, no actual sin is committed unless a person who suffers from this disposition wilfully entertains lustful thoughts or wilfully engages in homosexual activity. Someone who has been born with same-sex attraction or has developed it later in life, nevertheless does not sin unless they indulge in their disorder and treat it as if it were just another normal impulse.
  4. Same-gender attraction which is non-sexual in nature is not sinful. There is nothing sinful about one man admiring another man’s body, or one woman acknowledging the beauty of another woman’s body. If someone is physically attractive, often this attraction exerts influence over people who share their gender: This is not sinful; this is not unnatural; this is merely human nature. Obviously there are problems if the body is being displayed immodestly or pornographically, as this encourages lust and tempts us away from mere attraction and towards sexual attraction.
  5. Love between two people of the same sex is not a sin, and is in fact encouraged by Christ, the bible and the Church. This is something that tends to go over the “No vote” party’s heads. When the “Yes vote” crowd are chanting “Love is love”, there is actually quite a lot of truth to what they are saying. Some times a same-sex relationship is close, intimate and loving to such a degree that it is more than a friendship. We need to acknowledge these relationships both as a church and as a society. Society needs to afford these relationships appropriate legal recognition, and Churches need to be willing to provide their blessings to these relationships. New liturgical rites need to be invented in order to publicly endorse and bless these profound, loving relationships between two men or two women.
  6. We also need to find some sort of term to describe the reality of this new situation. Personally I think the term “marriage” is inappropriate, as it carries over 3000 years of traditional, sacramental baggage. Perhaps something like “Consecrated partnership” would be appropriate: the two partners are religiously consecrated to each other and to God through their vows. These vows would look remarkably similar to marriage vows, or vows that monks and nuns take upon joining a religious order (importantly; there would be a vow of celibacy and chastity!). Nevertheless, the situation is not a sacramental marriage, and therefore something akin to a “divorce” would be a live possibility: Similar to when a nun is given a dispensation to return to normal life, or a priest requests to be laicized; and similarly to these cases, such a “divorce” would be strongly discouraged.
  7. Religious freedom needs to be upheld. If a business owner does not feel that they can provide goods and services to a gay wedding in good conscience, they should not be forced to do so. It is discrimination to refuse to serve someone because they are gay, but it is not discrimination to refuse to publicly contribute to a cause that you do not agree with: a Gay marriage today can easily be understood as a public statement in support of normalising homosexual behaviour; if as a business owner you do not agree with this public statement, you should not be forced to contribute to it.
  8. Priests, Pastors and Ministers can not and should not be forced to perform same-sex marriages. As per points 5 and 6, I think the church needs to make room for recognition of platonic same-sex partnerships which go above and beyond friendship. I think the church should give liturgical and official blessings to such relationships and canonically recognise them as a new form of consecrated life. However the church can never recognise same-sex relationships as being a valid form of sacramental marriage, because there can be no natural sexual relations between two members of the same sex, and therefore there can be no children (which is the primary purpose of a sacramental marriage).
  9. Assuming that some form of religiously consecrated same-sex relationship becomes recognised and endorsed by the church, perhaps one of the vows could be “to adopt and care for those who have lost their natural mother and father”. It is true that children have a right to be raised by their biological mother and father, however we find ourselves in a fallen world in which this simply does not always happen. Making one of the primary purposes of this new same-sex consecrated relationship to be the care and upbringing of abandoned children would actually be incredibly helpful for society, and could even serve as a live alternative for those who are seeking abortions.

Finally, I want to reiterate that homosexual acts are always sinful, and therefore even if the Church is so understanding as to recognise same-sex relationships as a valid form of consecrated life, the church can never endorse homosexual acts in the contexts of these relationships: Same-sex couples are prohibited by divine law from engaging in unnatural sexual intercourse and if they do so they must have recourse to the sacrament of penance with a firm purpose of amendment. Furthermore while the church can (and indeed, should) recognise same-sex relationships as a new form of consecrated life, it can never raise these relationships to the same status as a sacramental marriage between a man and a woman.

In essence the church needs to recognise love as love and sin as sin, and send a clear message on both these fronts: “You’re a guy who loves another guy? That’s fine and good and you have our blessing, just make sure you don’t have sex with each other!”

Mary as Priest, Prophet, and King: Article Review

Summary

McGregor opens by pointing out that Mary is a member of the church. As Mary is a member of the church, she must then therefore participate in Christ’s kingship, prophet-hood and priesthood, just like all the other members of the church participate in these things. McGregor in his article goes on to examine how and in what special senses Mary participates in these three offices.

McGregor identifies some relevant difficulties and ambiguities in the magisterial source texts Lumen Gentium and the Catechism, and he then goes on to survey what these church documents have to say concerning the notion that disciples of Christ are also prophets, priests and kings. He establishes that priesthood is the primary one of the three roles with respect to Christ, and it is therefore also the primary role which Christ’s disciples participate in. From this, McGregor argues that the offices of prophet and king are subordinate (or subsequent) to the office of priest.

McGregor goes on to discuss how Mary is also anointed, in a similar way to Christ himself.1 He points to Mary’s immaculate conception as the moment when she was anointed by the Holy Spirit. Immediately following this, McGregor discusses with scriptural examples how Mary is a Prophet, Priest and King. In a footnote he makes it clear that he is truly speaking here of Mary as a king, not a queen, as the latter title carries all sorts of deep traditional and theological connotations which he does not want to evoke. McGregor devotes the rest of the paper to examining some episodes in Mary’s life as case studies of Mary as priest, prophet and king: The Annunciation, The Visitation, The “Pondering” of Mary in Her Heart, and the Wedding at Cana.

Comment

I found the most interesting and radical part of this paper to be McGregor’s meditations under the heading “The “Pondering” of Mary in Her Heart.” Due to the influence of secularism, atheism and materialism on our culture and education, I have often understood the mind and intellect to be nothing more than the brain, and in a similar way I have often understood the heart to simply be “that which pumps blood around the body.” Whereas in this paper, McGregor succinctly and powerfully explains the full theological force of the term “heart;” he theologically defines it to be far more than the physiological blood pump located in a persons torso:

As the affective center of the human person it is the locus of the passions. As the intellectual center of the human person it is the locus of thought, understanding, doubt and questioning, deception and belief. As the volitional center of the human person it is the locus of intention and decision. The heart is also the locus of imagination and memory. As the moral center of the human person it is the locus of virtue, including theological virtue. It is the locus of conscience. It is the locus of that holiness which is normally called singleness or purity of heart. It is the locus of relation with other human persons. According to Sacred Scripture, the heart thinks, chooses, feels, imagines, and remembers. If it does all these things it cannot simply be any one of these things, but must be the union of all these things.2

Such a rich description of the heart is compelling, and a powerful antidote to any materialistic leanings. How could a simple blood pump also be responsible for all of these important theological functions? McGregor also quotes Ratzinger on this theme:

The organ for seeing God is the heart. The intellect alone is not enough. In order for man to become capable of perceiving God, the energies of his existence have to work in harmony. His will must be pure and so too must the underlying affective dimension of his soul, which gives intelligence and will their direction. Speaking of the heart in this way means precisely that man’s perceptive powers play in concert, which also requires the proper interplay of body and soul, since this is essential for the totality of the creature we call “man.” Man’s fundamental affective disposition actually depends on just this unity of body and soul and on man’s acceptance of being both body and spirit. This means he places the body under the discipline of the spirit, yet does not isolate intellect or will. Rather, he accepts himself as coming from God, and thereby also acknowledges and lives out the bodiliness of his existence as an enrichment for the spirit. The heart—the wholeness of man—must be pure, interiorly open and free, in order for man to be able to see God.3

One part of this which jumps out at me is “The organ for seeing God is the heart. The intellect alone is not enough.” This would be an interesting area for further research, seeing as the western tradition (particularly in Aquinas) seems to place lots of emphasis on the intellectual beatific vision of God. It would be curious to mine the Christian traditions both east and west in order to examine the relative emphases on the heart and the mind in different quarters of the Christian world. As one example, the eastern saint Isaac of Nineveh (who was a member of the far eastern Syriac church) has this to say:

And what is a merciful heart? It is the heart burning for the sake of all creation, for men, for birds, for animals, for demons, and every created thing; and by the recollection of them the eyes of a merciful man pour forth abundant tears. By the strong and vehement mercy which grips his heart and by his great compassion, his heart is humbled and he cannot bear to hear or to see any injury or slight sorrow in creation. For this reason he offers up tearful prayer continually even for irrational beasts, for the enemies of the truth, and for those who harm him, that they be protected and receive mercy. And in like manner he even prays for the family of reptiles because of the great compassion that burns without measure in his heart in the likeness of God.4

Personally, I find the idea of Mary as Priest, Prophet and King to be quite strange, even if – as the paper demonstrates – it is a valid way of thinking. I would tend to prefer to emphasise Mary’s distinct roles and feminine offices, rather than try and shoehorn her character into the more masculine offices and roles of Christ. Irenaeus’s developed theory of recapitulation is helpful here, as it emphasises the distinct ways that Adam and Eve each contributed to original sin, and the correspondingly distinct ways that Jesus and Mary contribute to the salvation on human kind. Both Mary and Christ participate in salvation and recapitulation, but in their own distinct ways;5 Mary recapitulates through her life of virginal motherhood,6 whereas Christ recapitulates through his life of sinless priesthood. This observation is relevant to the “female priests” debate; arguably, women ontologically cannot be priests in an analogous way to how it is ontologically impossible for men to be mothers. Arguably, the analogue of Christian priesthood for men is Christian motherhood for women. Understood in this way, the sacrament of marriage could be understood as a sort of “female ordination,” where the bride is “ordained” to the “Holy order” of motherhood.7 In this sense, Christian men are called to participate in the priesthood, prophet-hood and kingship of Christ, while Christian women are called to participate in the purity and motherhood of Mary.8

Conclusion

I don’t actually dispute or disagree with any of the ideas McGregor puts forward in his paper, but I just find the question of “How is Mary a priest, prophet and king?” to itself be somewhat of an “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” enquiry. I propose that it is far more important to focus on Mary’s virginity, motherhood and her being a faithful spouse to Saint Joseph. While it is true that all members of the Church participate in Christ and his mission (McGregors article is a good demonstration of this point), I propose that it is more appropriate for female members of the church to take Mary as their role model, while male members of the church should instead look to emulate Christ. Just as Mary and Christ had different and distinct roles in the story of humankind’s salvation and recapitulation, so too Christian men and women have different roles to play in the mission of the church. Mary – and Christian women in general – do indeed participate in Christ’s priesthood, prophet-hood and kingship; however I think it is more important to focus on Mary’s unique role and her feminine offices (Mother, Virgin, Wife, etc), rather than trying to shoehorn her into the masculine offices (Prophet, Priest, King) of Christ.

1Recall that the title “Christ” literally means “anointed one”

2McGregor, in Mariology at the Beginning of the Third Millennium, page 177.

3Ratzinger, Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism, 92–93.

4St Isaac of Ninevah, Ascetical Homily 71

5Recall the Marian titles “Co-redemptrix” and “Mediatrix of all graces”

6Cf 1 Timothy 2:15

7In saying this, I am assuming the theology of marriage which holds that marriage, sexual consummation and children are all three sides of the same coin.

8This idea is not developed here, but tentatively outlined. I would like to do further research on this theme one day.

Homosexuality – Exploration Of Same-sex Marriage Under Catholic Moral Law: “It’s Okay to be Gay”

The Boundaries Of The Loves

There are four kinds of love: Agapic, Platonic, Romantic and Erotic.

Agape is the best kind of love: it is the kind of love embodied by Christ on the cross, it is the love which lies at the essence of divinity. Agape is a love that we are called to extend to literally everyone – including our enemies. This love has the purpose of producing a just, stable, ideal society.

Platonic love is the love between friends. It occurs between people of any gender. Platonic love is ordered towards the individual enrichment of each of the friends. Friendships may arise and dissolve spontaneously as time goes by.

Romantic love is for committed lovers. The lovers may be of any gender, male/male, female/female or male/female. Speculatively, it may be possible between more than two people at once. This love is ordered towards the vocation or mission of the people involved: they are dedicating their lives to their partners. Vows and formal promises may be made, binding the partners together. In principle, these relationships are dissolvable, however this requires official process and dispensation, and ideally the promises are adhered to for an entire lifetime.

Erotic love is reserved for a man united to a woman in marriage. It is ordered towards the creation of children, and the strengthening of the indissolvable bond that exists between this married couple. Divorce is not possible; once a marriage has been contracted, it can never be dissolved (even if all the different loves involved become absent).

Does Catholic Moral Theology Allow For Same-sex Marriage?

Philosophical Background:

  1. Everything has a purpose. To thwart something’s purpose is to sin.
  2. The purpose of erotic love is to create children and bind married spouses together. Anything which thwarts this dual purpose is sinful.

Catholic Sexual Ethics Summarised As Five Simple Rules:

  1. It is sinful to ejaculate outside a vagina
  2. It is sinful for a person to engage in erotic stimulation if they do not also have the intention and ability to engage in completed copulative sex (ie. ejaculation inside a vagina) some time in the future.
  3. It is sinful to engage in erotic stimulation with someone to whom you are not married.
  4. Sodomy (erotic anal stimulation) is always and everywhere sinful.
  5. Only a committed relationship between a man and a woman can be referred to as a marriage.

Implications Of These Rules:

  1. The sort of romantic commitment embodied in marriage is forbidden between no two people, regardless their of gender, age, race and so on (That is, there is no Catholic moral principle preventing such love): Men can romantically commit to men; women can romantically commit to women. The only restriction is that of mental and emotional maturity and rationality being possessed by both parties entering into the relationship. The church needs to recognise this and make allowances for official, formal, liturgical vows of public commitment to be made between same-sex couples. We also need some new terminology to describe such relationships: they are not marriages, but they are not mere friendships either; perhaps “Consecrated Romance” would be appropriate.
  2. Erotic stimulation is forbidden between same-sex couples, as these relationships do not amount to marriage.

Observations:

  1. Masturbation is sinful (rules one and two).
  2. Condoms are sinful (rule one)
  3. Romantic physical signs of affection between same-sex couples are fine. For example hugging, hand holding, kissing on the cheek and briefly pecking on the lips are all permissible.
  4. Erotic stimulation between same-sex couples is forbidden, so french kissing is not permissible in public or in private and genital stimulation is strictly out of bounds.
  5. Oral sex is permissible, but only in the context of foreplay between a married couple.
  6. Erotic stimulation is something that should only occur in private. French kissing in public is inappropriate even if the couple are married.
  7. Same-sex attraction is not a disorder unless it strays into eroticism. It is perfectly ok to feel romantic attraction to someone of the same sex.

The Bottom Line:

Same-sex marriage is possible so long as you don’t call it marriage and the couple doesn’t have sex.