Gay marriage, Christianity...
From Father Angel: Following is part of a concern written to me by a person who has questions about the Catholic Church and gay marriage. And at the heart of the concern is wondering whether or not the Catholic Church is just too stubborn? Is it possible that Catholic teaching about gay marriage should just move on, evolve, and change with the times? And if it does not change, will the Church lose those members who are gay and are not feeling affirmed by the Church?
Anon: I do believe I have a vocation. I also long to get married and have a family (with a gay partner). However, I don’t want to (become a Catholic priest and) rush to seal away my fate being single forever you know ? I do believe firmly that I’m VERY blessed to live in an age that, finally, after well over two thousand years, we have finally accepted homosexuality and gay relationships.
Fr. Angel responds: There have always been gay relationships, as in gay friends. And in the Catholic community through the years, there has been knowledge of these relationships. They were accepted up to a point where they were not explicitly labeled “homosexual” but were called “spiritual friendships” or “chaste friendships” because they focused on love, not sex.
But what you are talking about, what you actually mean is when gay people get together and have sex, either anal, oral, or using some other way to masturbate each other. Okay, that is fine, but let’s just call it what it is—an acceptance of gay sex. Of course, in modern society, there is an overall insistence on the person’s right to “choice,” or “reproductive freedom” or “responsible, safe sex” without any regard to whether it is moral or ethical conduct.
So, what you are asking of the Catholic Church community is not merely to accept gay friendships that are close, chaste, and committed, but to accept it when gay people get together and have sex. You are asking the Church to accept mores and conduct, approved from a purely secular viewpoint of individual rights, and absorb that into a Christian theology of the body. That is a very tall order.
By the way, just to be clear, although you euphemistically used the term “gay relationships”, we should clarify that this is not the same thing as gay love. There are plenty of gay people who have very deep relationships of love, but without having sex with each other. On the other hand, there are gay people who have lots of sex with multiple partners, or casual partners, and are happy with that, but are not doing it out of “love” in the sense of a long term commitment of sacrifice and fidelity.
Coming from the New Testament theology of Jesus, who only spoke of marriage as being between a man and a woman, and coming from a Catholic interpretation of St. Paul, who insists on the purity of the body as a temple of the Holy Spirit, I can see no reconciliation between what you are asking, and what is the Apostolic Tradition of the Church. It is not just because the Catholic Church respects Natural Law philosophy, as a framework for asking whether something is authentic human nature and therefore whether it is healthy and good for us. It is because the canon of Scripture as formulated in Church Councils does not allow for this new thinking about gay sex, without a huge evolution in nouveau exegesis.
Catholic exegetes do at times go through Greek this and Greek that, through convoluted cultural situations in 1st century Palestine and the Roman Empire, to come up with new interpretations which see the Bible as neutral on the question of gay sex. However, the vast majority of respected Catholic scholars, exegetes and theologians don’t buy it. And when they look at the view of gay sex, as developed in the primitive Christian communities, they see no acceptance of gay sex. Then, when they look at the writings of ancient Fathers, they see even more explicit and clear condemnation of gay sex with the use of “abomination” language to boot.
Bottom line, I don’t see how Catholicism could accept gay sex, and gay marriage, without totally alienating those in the Catholic Church who stand by the classic interpretations of Scripture and Tradition on this question. Even more so, in an age when Catholicism is trying to dialogue more intensely with the hundreds of millions of Christians of the ancient churches of Eastern Orthodoxy, the reversal or turnabout of two millennia of faith and Tradition would doom forever any hope of reunion with the ancient churches of the East.
Anon: I don’t want to throw the possibility of me having a relationship, marriage and family away, because what if that ends up being my vocation? In short, I don’t think I should have to choose and I don’t think while these inclinations are naturally objectively dis-ordered, that they are sinful when performed out of love like a regular straight couple.
“Out of love like a regular straight couple” is another phrase which is used often in the Catholic gay community. But let’s clarify that the vast majority of gay couples do not want to abide by the same moral teachings as a “regular straight couple” in the Catholic community.
This is the difficulty of using phrases like “performed out of love.” It sounds nice. Actually, it sounds great. In our regular marriage preparation, we tell straight couples that it is not enough to perform out of love, but that the Church opposes divorce, contraception, and the unions entered into by people who have not grown sufficiently in maturity and responsibility. And yet, my impression in these debates is that many Catholic gay couples believe that they should have a special category, or special rules to follow, when it comes to their way of performing out of love.
The vast majority of gay couples do not want to be married. Even the vast majority of Catholic gay couples do not want to be married. If they do get married, they do not want to be told that they have to remain with that partner for life. Even though straight couples have high rates of divorce, there are even much higher rates of split up among gay couples. Furthermore, most gay couples do not wish to have children, nor do they see children as having an essential connection to marriage. For most of them, marriage is a bond of love, period. They don’t necessarily have to be faithful to that bond. They don’t necessarily have to be committed to that bond. And that bond, for the vast majority of gay couples, does not have to bring children along.
So, in the Catholic Church, there is, and there always has been, a belief that a certain theology about sex has to be preached, if the Church is going to be the Church and be faithful to the Church core identity as Jesus established it. That means that yes, there is a firm belief in the sinfulness of sex acts which are broken off from life time commitment, from stable, mature commitments, and from the openness to life, is not a matter preached for straight couples, while gay couples get a pass.
Thus, I don’t know how a Christian tries to reconcile gay sex, or heterosexual sex outside of marriage, with the convictions of the New Testament and with the convictions of the early Church.
In fact, people in the early Church grew up in a Greek and Roman world where there were plenty of orgies and unrestricted sex between couples who had no intention to be together for life, to be faithful to each other, or to have children. The testimony of the early Christians, when they talk about sex, is that such behavior or mores are what they left behind when they became Christian—not what they wanted to embrace in their new life after baptism.
To say that a person has a “vocation” or a calling to gay marriage, or to have gay sex, goes against the Church’s conviction that God is not pleased with gay sex or with having gay sex within gay marriage. Yes, I have heard from people that Catholic theologians can now see a possibility of accepting gay sex when it is a case of a gay couple who are committed for life and open to fruitfulness, by way of adoption or artificial means of conception and impregnation. The thinking is that while the Church should see wanton hookups as wrong, there is a place for welcoming loving same sex couples who strive to have a Christian marriage.
That would require Catholicism to completely invent itself into a new religion. It would require a completely new moral theology which simply dismisses or ignores the fact that only a miniscule number of gay couples want to get married and have a family to begin with (and therefore, why are we inventing a new theology of marriage when it does nothing to serve most of the gay community anyway?). It would also require the Church to dismiss and erase the confession of millions of Catholics, among them the great saints, who adhered to the traditional Faith and the traditional teaching about the sinfulness of sex outside of heterosexual marriage.
There are Christian communities who have reinvented themselves and invented a whole new theology to go along with their acceptance of gay sex. But my challenge, and my question is, why would I belong to a church that can say that the truth of yesterday is a falsehood today? Why would I join a church or religion where the teachings are not connected to the revelation and truth of God, which is unchanging, in order to cater to me, pander to me, and give me the name “Christian” with little of the responsibility that goes with that name? What else will that new religion say to please people? Tomorrow maybe they will be pro-abortion. The day after, maybe they will side with the government to eliminate conscience protection. Or maybe people will see through the moral relativism of such a church, and it will just eventually die off and not be an effective force for building the Kingdom of God?