Thursday, July 13, 2006

Gay Marriage - A Note on the Catholic View of Homosexuality

From Ash:

I mentioned yesterday that Pope Benedict was in Spain, criticizing its government's recent legalization of same-sex marriages, and based on a comment from that post, I thought I'd do a quick blog on the Catholic view of the issue. (NB: And I'd love to hear your reactions, but in order to accurately get the conversation going, I'm withholding my opinion of this view . . . for now, any way.)

In an extreme oversimplification . . . . The Catholic Church believes marriage is a sacrament – a covenant between a man and a woman (specifically) and God. At the same time, Catholic teaching is that children are a gift from God – an expression of both a couple and God's love. The ideas of marriage and kids are so interconnected, it's part of a Catholic wedding for the couple to promise to accept children that God sends their way. And (I'm pretty sure that) spousal infertility is still one of the few reasons the Catholic Church will allow a couple to end a marriage.

Since you're supposed to be open to God's love via the gift of a child, the Catholic Church is against any sex act that does not include the possibility of procreation (including, but not limited to masturbation, oral sex, etc.) and the only form of birth control the Catholic Church approves is abstention. Thus, since same-sex acts cannot result in children, these acts are considered a sin / prohibited. But, as most theologians will explain, that really is a condemnation of the act itself, not of the person. If that seems like a hollow distinction, consider that unmarried heteros are also supposed to refrain from sex, too. And though I doubt you'd find a priest who says it now, in the not-so-distant past, even married couples determined to be infertile were sometimes told that they should never have sex again. (No one ever said Catholicism was nice. If you're interested / want to be really outraged, read Eunuchs in the Kingdom of Heaven)

Thus if you know you can't have children (i.e. are a same-sex couple), then you can't fulfill the responsibilities of marriage, so therefore, you can't get married. Of course, that breaks down when older couples, couples who are infertile, etc get married. This might have made more sense historically, when couples usually only got married after the woman was pregnant, and we didn't have such technological advances to determine fertility, increase longevity, etc. (If there's a theologian out there who can explain this, please do.)

Now there is a despicable amount of just plain-old homophobia in the Church – those who just condemn homosexuals as people, but a lot of theologians are troubled by this and find little theological support for it. (And it has lead to an increasingly bizarre quandary: those who are gay and in the Clergy end up criticizing gays for being in the Clergy.) But there is a consistent weltenschaung / theology in Catholic thought that I do think goes beyond mere discrimination. That point of view certainly doesn't need to be accepted, but it probably should be considered in the debates on the issue.


Anonymous ConcernedAdult said...

Well I'm not Catholic, but my view on marriage is somewhat similar to theirs. Not in all ways, but I do believe in the permanence of marriage, and it's inapplicability to childless couples.

Marriage is required to hold a family together. If we apply it to non-families out of kindness we only negate marriage's ability to preserve family structure while giving them very little in return.

5:46 PM  
Blogger JWO said...

Ashley, I really appreciate your cogent thoughtfulness about this subject. As a marriage and family therapist and a recovering bastard Catholic (i.e., Episcopalian)I see a politically motivated power struggle all over the place when I look at formalized religion.

My wife and I with similiar backgrounds have struggled with our attempts to maintain a true sense of individuality and spirituality in organized religion/business/political machines. I do not doubt that there are truly spiritual Catholics as well as in other faith communities, but how do you separate the sheep (those walking the walk) from the goats (those who only talk the talk)? The Catholic Church has millions of people's blood on its holy hands throughout history. Consider the witch burnings of Europe, the anniliation of native peoples (who would not convert), and their notorious involvement in the rat trail line, to mention a FEW.

The Catholic Church whatever it needs to do to protect its business, whether it be homosexuality, abortion, celebacy, marriage, divorce,and protecting the Los Angeles Diocese who had protected their pedophiliac priests!

I wish that any of us could look up to the Catholic Church as holding the high ground as THE example of moral authority instead of turpitude. The Catholic hierarchy needs scapegoats to maintain power as very similar to what is seen in highly dysfunctional families. What we need is a true separation from Church and State. Why? Look at the evidence of how the Church influenced the election of the most inenept person to the most powerful position on the planet... the President of the United States. Why don't most people know how the Catholic Church pulled strings behind the last election to elect BUSH? We only hear about the alleged power of the religious right not the historical and perpetual Papal influence. I consider heads of relgious organization the current CEOs of their businesses, religious business, and their actions based on THEIR bottom line.

John from Atlanta

10:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In response to jwo....

Sad, but true about the bad stuff.

To be fair, there are good stuff too. There were many good Catholics who risked their lives to rescue Jewish children during the Holocaust. There was a group of Catholic nuns who took in Jewish children and had them pretend to be Catholics so they could escape from the Nazis. These children lived through the war and grew up.

My jewish great grandmother was recused by a Catholic priest during the pogroms. She asked the priest why people did not like Jews. The priest explained that some people will always look for other people to target and blame.

I am truly sorry about the bad things that happened. I was lucky. I had good experiences with the Catholic church. One of the best teachers I had was at the Catholic school.

500 years ago, my ancestors were forced to flee parts of Europe because of the Inquisition.

Today, it is interesting because although I am not Catholic, many of my friends are Catholic. They are also some of the most liberal thinkers I know.

11:09 AM  
Blogger Genecks said...

I'm Roman Catholic. I understand the church has problems with people and want to condemn many things as a sin. I don't really see homosexuals as a problem, mainly because the people aren't giving birth to anything.

I really don't mind/care too much what homosexuals do. I'd like them to be more open so I know which persons are available in the dating scene for heterosexuals and which aren't.

However, I will say I have a problem with bisexuals. I'm not sure about this, but I believe their ability to go both ways allows them to cheat on any partner of both sexes. Thus, their ability to cheat on someone increases. I find that highly distasteful. Especially with the dating scene and all.

Of course, I'm being cynical.

Some people believe those who are homosexual and serving God ought to be genderless in some ways. They're on a higher level, a different plane of being and existence. You could refer to these people as "its."

It's not "he is a priest."
It's "it is a priest."

It's the idea of being genderless or without sex or preference. It's about transcending beyond the physical realm into some different state.

I think a lot of people fail to recognize that.

5:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe the Catholic teaching is all wrong on homosexual couples and there rights. Eveyrone should be treated qually whether they can produce or not. Being able to produce does not define a marriage, its juat a gift from God if u can. People dont get married to Create, but beacuse they care and love each other, and are commiting themselves to each other.
If you look in the old Testement it states that Eve was made from Adam's rib after Adam was not satificed with the birds and the wild animals. And when Eve was created he was happy. But he wasnt not happy becasue she was a female but beacuse she was just like him. The story of Adam and Eve have nothing to do with them being a heterosexual couple. It has to do with them being it just shows how people care more about poeple than animals and how they can bond together.
If it was about being reproducing, then Adam would have been happy with the aniamls, beacuse they can create too.
I think the Catholics need to mind there own business and go about there lives without concerning it on other peoples lives. Gay marriage doesnt effect you, it has nothing to do with you, so whyt make such a big deal.
As well in the bible there are questionable people who might of been gay.

4:56 PM  
Anonymous Cath said...

I'm a Catholic, but not 'perfect' - none of us are, and I perhaps practise things that are not acceptable by the Catholic Church.

I think you should know that the Church does not condemn homosexuals, but accepts and loves them as people, very much. Do you realise this? The actions of homosexuality though cannot be accepted as they are contrary to nature. God is merciful and understanding though.

I can empathise, as I have several 'gay' relatives! I don't know what else to say. God bless.

6:38 AM  
Anonymous Joan said...

I know that the catholic church has made some mistakes. What organization hasn't, look at past governments. People make mistakes, but God, in my opinion, doesn't. Personally I would quote, "Hate the sin, not the sinner." Homosexuality as said by Cath, is contrary to nature because the primary responisblity in marriage is to have children. God did of course create adam and eve first, a man and a women.

I have some gay friends actually, one of my closest friends is gay, and all but one of my friends claim no religion whatsoever.

The catholic church does not "protect its business" it tries its best to uphold faith, belief, and morals. The Pope will ask people to vote as their morals go, hence when my parish priest asked us to vote PC and not liberal to go against homosexual marriage.

If indeed as they say "Love is Love no matter who between" Then what is next? The marriage between father and daughter? Or perhaps father and son? Do you not condem such actions as incest and connect it with a troubled childhood, or misguided teachings?

I am not perfect, nor is my church, no one, may I remind you, is perfect. I condem liberal catholics as true protestants, and condem catholic politians such as Paul Martin as hypocrites looking for more power.

As I mentioned before we "hate the sin, not the sinner" Even Jesus ate with the tax collectors, protitutes and other sinners, telling them go and sin no more, for he is all forgiving.

P.S if you want to know who truly controls high decisions look to who has the money, and who has more money then the banks? Who has loaned money to support wars? Who has made profit out of it? Not the Catholic church that is for sure.

If I may remind you not only jews were killed in world war 2, christians were not taken too kindly either.

8:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I haven't read all the comments, so I don't know if this has been said or not, but I have two thoughts:
1) You cannot end a marriage b/c of spousal infertility. This is assuming one or both parties are naturally infertile. If one or both of you had a surgical procedure to render you sterile (tubal ligation, vasectomy), and you did not want any children or did not want any more (ie closing your minds and hearts to the possibility of children), that is contradictory to the marriage vows to be "free, total, faithful, fruitful", and there MAY be grounds for an annulment. That is something to discuss with your priest and bishop.
2) "Since you're supposed to be open to God's love via the gift of a child, the Catholic Church is against any sex act that does not include the possibility of procreation (including, but not limited to masturbation, oral sex, etc.)"...
This is a bit errant. The Church does allow oral sex, as long as it is used in foreplay and ultimately leads to intercourse. You are not allowed to bring each other to orgasm outside of intercourse (particularly the male)...if there is premature ejaculation, that is not alarming since it happens from time to time (and you need to look at the content of your heart: did you intend to ejaculate outside of the woman's body or did you want ejaculation to happen during intercourse...the man and God certainly know) and is not sinful (assuming what was just mentioned: did not desire to ejaculate outside of the marital act).
"and the only form of birth control the Catholic Church approves is abstention"...
the Church does allow periodic abstinence for the spacing of births. You are asked to examine your hearts on this issue. If you have a SERIOUS REASON to not have a child at that particular point in time, you should abstain from having intercourse during the fertile period. If you do not have a serious reason, you should be open to life. If you do not have a serious reason, that doesn't require you to have intercourse at that point in time. For example, if you do not have a serious reason to have a child at that point in time, but one of the spouses is sick with the flu during the fertile period, it is not right to ask of them to unite in the marital act because they are ill. The loving thing to do is to not have intercourse at that time. Or if the couple doesn't have a serious reason to not have a child, but one or the other spouse is away on business during the fertile time, it is not a sin that they are not having intercourse. The Church has NEVER required you to have intercourse because it is the fertile period.

11:04 PM  
Blogger Jos76 said...

Most catholics that I know are taught to love the sinner, but hate the sin. Essentially, it is okay to be Catholic and gay as long as you are not practicing. From what I understand about alomost all of the Catholics that I know, this is common practice for gays and catholics in the church. Basically, most Cathoics claim to be Catholic, but are really practicing.

5:11 PM  
Blogger David said...

I'm gay, was raised Catholic and am lapsed.

As the Catholic Church understands it, wrong and sin are not the same thing.
Wrongness creates harm, disorder and destruction.
Wrongness is evidenced in the objective/ external world.

Sin is self-distancing from God and is in the heart.
Sin is more a general attitude than any particular action.

We sin when we deliberately do what we believe is wrong.

When I fell in love with my partner (of 9 years) nothing about being with him, in my heart, was or is ''wrong''.
Therefore there is no sin.
Additionally it creates no distruction on the outside it can't be ''wrong''.

Church teachings can conflict with other Church teachings.

I do recognise the distruction that occurs to me when my Uber-Catholic father cites the Catechism out of context while
ignoring the whole.
Clearly that is "wrong" but for him it may or may not be a "sin".
(Pride and prejudice are insidious things.)

On the subject of Churches as businesses: Of course they are businesses.
Not to say that many priests, bishops etc aren't there for the highest of reasons.
On the other hand it's unrealistic to believe that some aren't there for power.
Naturally, the Church is concerned with it's own bottom line.

As is evidenced by the massive gold stores.
How could anyone believe the Church isn't ROLLING in dough?
Visit the Vatican!...Look at what the Pope wears.
Jesus wouldn't be caught wearing such finery.
It was exactly the opposite of what he wanted.
He rejected such things.

On politics:
I believe that the seperation of Church and State is necessary to protect both.
On a personal note, I feel the Pope should keep to himself regarding who our president shouuld be...unless he's willing to pay taxes.
For at that point he becomes something of a lobbyist...a political ''player''.

Why has no one mentioned the 2.5million gays who were killed in the holocaust???

We're treated as if it never happened.

Thanks for reading.

1:27 AM  

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