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January 11, 2012



A few thoughts.

I will say at the outset that I believe the conflict between Catholicism’s moral code and homosexuality is insoluble.

Two very salient points, I believe:

Catholic morality has not accepted the admittedly very novel phenomenon of homosexual desire as shaping personal identity. It has not admitted the idea of “the homosexual person.” Without admitting that, it cannot include same-sex eros inside its traditional ethical field and justify overturning its consistent condemnation of homosexual acts. But if it ever accepts that, viz, that there are “homosexual persons”, defined by orientation, then it will have a very hard time continuing to condemn their acts without condemning them entirely. (And that, indeed, is how many homosexual people experience the Church's judgement on their eros.)

And at bottom, I believe that the predicament lies in the Catholic sexual axiom that holds together all of Catholic sexual morality: intimate sexual activity is only moral when it takes place between a man and woman who are married to each other and when it is open to procreation. If you ok homosexuality, this axiom falls apart and so does the entirety of Catholic sexual morality with it.

A scattering of other thoughts:

Arguments and theories about the etiology of homosexual desires remain just that: arguments and theories. Not a solid basis for moral assessment.

Descriptions of gay culture –gay male culture, primarily—tend more to exhibit the values of the describer than anything else. I say this both for appreciative and for critical voices.

The tendency of homosexual males to have many sexual contacts is obvious. But I would maintain that it is not something unique to homosexuality. It is because the "playing field" is composed only of males, who, as a sex, look for variety and frequency in sex. What keeps straight men from being as promiscuous is largely the resistance of women!

Aware of the above, and quite apart from evaluating homosexual eros “itself”, I find the very recent and contemporary social identity package of “gay” –despite minor exceptions—to be inseparable from the group-victim movements of the last fifty years, from the androphobic elements in feminism and from liberal/progressive/left politics.

Due to the foregoing, a Catholic blessing on homosexuality would include a tacit welcome to these other items. Just as, I may add, the Church’s sacramentalization of marriage necessarily required it to accept, at least in practice, many of the legal and social aspects of that institution throughout history.

The future of Catholicism appears to lie in the South, not in postmodern Europe and North America. In the South, patriarchy is strong and the Church confronts both Islam (the ultimate homophobic religion) and fundamentalist Protestantism. To shred its traditional morality to please a tiny minority of increasingly insignificant Westerners seems suicidal, especially given the decline seen in Xian denominations who have accepted gays.

The real energy behind Catholic sexual morality is the protection of marriage and the protection of sacerdotal and monastic celibacy. Anything that threatens these two fundamental institutions will be rejected.

Here endeth the lessons.

Spirit of Vatican II

One of Fr Kiely's victims (but we all have his blood on our hands): http://andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com/2012/01/my-name-was-not-eric-it-was-faggot.html

Spirit of Vatican II

EssEm -- how can you say gay issues are only the concern of a Western minority? Gays are being executed in Iran, gay marriage is being legislated in Latin America, gay Africans and Asians are highly visible in Paris and London not to mention their own countries. Your account of Catholic moral theology misses three key factors that came to prominence in the 1960s: the principle of the Primacy of Love; the co-equality of the Unitive with the Procreative aspect of marriage; the practical acceptance of Contraception among the vast majority of Catholic couples. All of these pose a solid basis for blessing stable homosexual unions.

Spirit of Vatican II

Note the change in paragraph 2358 from the first to the second edition of the Catechism:

First Edition: They do not choose their homosexual condition; for most of them it is a trial.

Second Edition: This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial.

Was Fr Kiely ordered to write his piece by the Vatican? Was the Furrow pressured to publish it?


EssEm forgets that with the existence of the "global village" through the Internet etc; his argument falls a litle flat.

Not to argue that it doesn't have some merit.

It's just that its merit is being increasingly questioned.

C Maureen McMahon

Reverend O'Leary;
Sadly, the Church's defenders frequently quote Nicolosi and others whose data and conclusions are rejected by the mainstream psychiatric, medical and psychological professional associations. The rejection is not the result of political correctness, but because scientific, replicatable and verifiable data do not support the conclusions. Nicolosi, Cameron and others of their ilk do the Church no service and the use of their testimony or conclusions as has been done by Church authorities in the recent past does the reputation of the Church tangible harm that some Bishops seem to be or choose to be unaware of.

Sam Johnson

If homosexuality is God given, is AIDS God given?

Spirit of Vatican II

If sexuality is Godgiven, is Syphilis Godgiven?

For centuries, syphilis led people to see sexuality as evil, succumbing to manicheanism. STDs were a badge of moral shame up to very recently. Now we treat them in a secular way, assessing risks and healthy lifestyles. This is unexciting for those who like to link sex and the devil, but it is probably more enlightened.

Sam Johnson

In most cases syphilis is punishment for evil. It is generally acquired by having engaged in non-marital sex (fornication, adultery, etc.). If one man and woman get married without having any other sexual partners syphilis is rare. It should be a mark of shame.

In most cases
AIDS is also contracted through illicit sexual intercourse. there are of course other means of transmission but it can be reasonably be argued that without the sexual means these other means would not occur.

Notice that I have not said anything about the devil or hatred sex. I have only spoken about human acts. So I do no see the force of your analogy.

So neither syphilis nor AIDS is God given for the use of sexuality but for the immoral use of sexuality.


Gee Sam,

It's too bad that greed isn't punished by a visible disease, nor envy,wrath,sloth, and pride.

Only gluttony seems to be also visibly punished by disease.

Yet the "physical" sins of lust and gluttony are the least important sins in the chain of sins.

I wonder why.

Spirit of Vatican II

Sam is getting more reasonable -- not sex, but the abuse of sex gives rise to disease -- likewise, not homosexual sex as such but abusive or careless sex gives rise to disease. And now that he has left the devil and manicheanism out of it, he might reconsider his image of a punishing God as well; we a talking about natural health issues, not supernatural sanctions.

Sam Johnson

I am not "getting more reasonable", as you put it. You unjustly imputed to me notions of the devil and manicheanism. Notice I have never once said anythin about either. Although you keep bringing it up. I think, frankly, you owe me an apology. Or do you prefer to dispute with straw men?

Whether one thinks that God is punishing this behavior or not, it is at the very least a natural punishment and not just a health issue. For this natural punishments are not attached to monogamous heterosexual relations.

-Sam Johnson

Sam Johnson


I would prefer it if you would at least attempt to make an argument.

Whether other sins are associated with visible diseases (although I am not sure what you mean by visible), there are clearly "visible" health effects with almost all sins. Sloth, for example, can lead to all sorts of health problems as can pride or wrath. I know of no medical professional who would deny this. The visible effects are often increased when sins are found in certain combinations. Thus sloth and gluttony can lead to diabetes etc. Wrath can contribute to high blood presure which in turn can lead to more serious medical conditions etc. Even the medievals (Aquinas etc.) had knowledge of this, although imperfectly understood. I am not sure why you do not.

- Sam Johnson


Well, I notice you didn't bring up greed. :)

I just want to argue that what you argue is only advocating the control of, say, one 7th or one 8th, depending on tradition, of the "sins" or mental fixations, "logismoi", that afflict human beings.

Still, you must agree that greed doesn't seem to have any "physical" manifestations, ( such as boils, facial deformation, etc;etc;).

Given that, it would seem that greed is the most dangerous "sin" or "logismoi", at least in this society.

Spirit of Vatican II

Sorry, it was a bit of a stretch to impute to Sam the demonization of sex that the Syphilis scare caused in the 16th century and that the Aids scare has caused more recently. Sam's position is clear: Aids and Syphilis are divine, or least divinely ordered, punishment for sexual sins. Moreover, all sins by their very nature produce such punishment.

My own view is that the category of punishment has no place at all in humane discussion of sexually transmitted disease.

Spirit of Vatican II

Evagrius, the problem is not whether sin produces punishment, but whether Aids is to be interpreted as a divine punishment for homosexual acts and therefore as proof that homosexual orientation is not godgiven.

To say that homosexuality is not godgiven, to my mind, implies manicheanism, as it relegates a part of God's creation to something defective and evil. "They are not well in their wits to whom anything that Thou hast created is displeasing." Sam cannot think of same-sex attraction and love as a positive good.

That a positive evaluation of the homosexual orientation lays grounds for a moral acceptance of its physical expression is a consequence that Sam would be very loth to draw. The Vatican thinks in the same way, as its constant altering of its texts on homosexual orientation in a negative direction since it first adressed the issue in 1975 shows.

In any case, I think we have shown that Sam's use of Aids to condemn homosexuality in general is a product of prejudiced reasoning, for it could equally be used to condemn sexuality in general. He now admits that only disordered sexuality (mostly) gives rise to Aids or Syphilis; though of course there are many "innocent" victims of these diseases. Why not simply say that contagious diseases are a hazard of human contact, and leave it at that?

Sam Johnson

I notice that my last post was not posted.

At any rate, I do not think that I suffer from "prejudiced reasoning". It is simply a biological fact that certain diseases are associated with certain behaviors (not merely restricted to sexual behavior) and to deny this is to deny nature. At the very least, I think that one has to say that nature "punishes" certain types of behavior.

You seem to want to argue that homosexuality is God given but these terrible diseases are not God given (I prefer "divinely ordered"). This seems to be utterly gratuitous. There are really only three solution here. God created the disease and is therefore good (not just in itself but also in its effects), disease is the result of sin (either original or personal), or affirm some Manichaen structure to the cosmos. It seems as if you have rejected the first two solutions and therefore are left with the third. Thus it seems as if you have fallen into what you are clearly very eager to avoid.

Spirit of Vatican II

Your last post was the victim of a technical glitch; the same has happened to postings of my own.

"It is simply a biological fact that certain diseases are associated with certain behaviors." True, though rather vague. "One has to say that nature "punishes" certain types of behavior." No, that is the pathetic fallacy. Someone suffering from coeliac disease is not being punished for eating bread; someone with lung cancer is not being punished for smoking; it is just a matter of knowing the channels of danger in nature and avoiding them. Homosexuality as such is not a dangerous channel healthwise, any more than heterosexuality as such is.

"You seem to want to argue that homosexuality is God given but these terrible diseases are not God given (I prefer "divinely ordered").

Sexual orientation is "part of a person's basic personality; so like other such traits should be regarded as godgiven. Diseases are not godgiven (for they represent not being but a deficiency of being) and not used by God to punish, but they can be providential, like the blindness of the man in John IX.

"There are really only three solution here. God created the disease and is therefore good (not just in itself but also in its effects), disease is the result of sin (either original or personal), or affirm some Manichaean structure to the cosmos."

All three suppositions are heretical. God does not create evil, disease is not the result of sin (either this man's sin or his parents -- John IX), evil and good are not symmetrical or coequal.

You might defend the second view in a vague way by saying that disease is the result of original sin. But it is better to say that diseases are part of the presence of evil (of a defect in being) in the cosmos; evil has no ontological subsistence and cannot be set against good in a manichean way.

While various forms of evil (defectiveness in being) have attached to sexuality, it is still manichean to regard sexuality itself as inherently diseased (and Augustine's morose broodings about postlapsarian Adam's shameful inability to control his erections are seen by many as a relapse into the Manicheanism he so valiantly refuted on the ontological level).

Since 1985 the Vatican has attempted to portray homosexuality as a disorder due to original sin, but in the process it has not been able to defend itself against the unwanted consequence of viewing sexuality itself as such a disorder. The Vatican would like to count homosexuality as something like concupiscence, which Augustine saw as a result of original sin, but this does not work. Concupiscence, for gays and straights alike, is one thing; sexual orientation another.

True, some sexual orientations are problematic, the most obvious case being exclusive attraction to pre-pubescent children. Even such orientations are not however intrinsically evil -- they can be affectively sublimated even if they involve a proclivity to sexual acts that cannot be countenanced (this was widely recognized until recently). Some churchmen, more enlightened than the Vatican, warmly urge chaste friendship as a fulfilment of the homosexual vocation. (Augustine talks about same-sex caresses that are expressive of mutual fondness rather than of concupiscent desire.) If the Vatican built more generously on this basis the moral controversy about the licitness of sexual acts would be put in its proper, relatively minor place. The issue would be whether such acts have a unitive value in cementing stable relationships and whether their non-procreative character should be regarded as totally discrediting them, in view of the non-procreative character of most sexual acts and the practical acceptance of deliberate contraception, natural or artificial, by Catholics.

Sam Johnson

You write, "Homosexuality as such is not a dangerous channel healthwise, any more than heterosexuality as such is."

This is not true. Homosexual behavior is contrary to man's nature and as with most actions that are contrary, there are side effects. These effects are not associated with monogamous heterosexual activity. Notice that I have not said that these effects are not associated with all heterosexual activity but that they are not associated with monogamous hetersexual activity. (You keep arguing against this latter claim, as if I have made it.)

Whether you wish to call this "punishment" or a "dangerous channel" is immaterial. The result is the same. the activity is to be avoided.

"Diseases are not godgiven (for they represent not being but a deficiency of being) and not used by God to punish, but they can be providential, like the blindness of the man in John IX."

First, disease is godgiven. Disease are not an abstraction nor are they merely a deficiency of being. A bacteria or virus has being. It is a thing and as such is good. So this is not like blindness which is merely a deficiency. So your analysis is already flawed.

Spirit of Vatican II

But the effects you mention are not associated with monogamous homosexual activity either. In fact lesbian couples probably have the lowest incidence of STDs of any group.

Happily married gay and lesbian couples find joy in their sexual lives much as heterosexual couples do, and most doctors and psychiatrists agree that this is a wholly positive health indicator. Wrong teaching on homosexuality has condemned millions of people to loneliness and/or promiscuity, which are not recommended for good health.

I really think you should mix more with gays and lesbians as friends instead of pontificating about them as specimens of some alien species. Your pontification that their sexual lives and even their sexual orientation are "contrary to man's (sic) nature" would melt away in face of the phenomena.

Augustine would deny that evil as such has being. A virus or a bacterium or the Devil himself are entirely good insofar as they are. It is necessary to claim this is order to avoid the Manichean heresy. I never said that the Manichean heresy has not strong arguments on its side, but I believe those of Augustine are stronger, and of course more in accord with the biblical vision of the goodness of creation.

Sam Johnson

So now we are correcting usage?

You are again imputing to me something that you would have no way of knowing, i.e. the amount of time that I have or have not spent with homosexuals. Perhaps, I have spent a great deal of time with them and seen the damage that their behavior has caused.

You seem to prefer to impute things to your opponent rather than dealing with the issue. Alien species?

Spirit of Vatican II

Dealing with the issue of your claim that gay behavior is against human nature, I recommend that you mix on terms of equality with gay men and women who can vouch the opposite, particularly with those who have found true happiness in a loving relationship. Perhaps you have spent a great deal of time with gays, but you still cling to the usage of "homosexual" as a noun -- a verbal technique for putting gays at a distance as alien, as "they" not "us". "Seen the damage that their behavior has caused" -- again, distinguo, this "they" does not include many gays, especially stable and happy gay couples. Your view does not match the phenomena, and I am answering by saying that you need to study the phenomena more empathetically.

William Fisher

The assertion that “Homosexual behavior is contrary to man’s nature” is simply that – an assertion. It has no objective meaning, but is rather no more than an attempt to present personal dislike or disapproval as though it were a scientific observation. As the late English philosopher A.J. Ayer rightly observed, “Nothing that actually happens is contrary to nature, though there are some actions that we misleadingly call unnatural as a way of expressing our disapproval of them.”

Of course, you may still believe that homosexual behaviour is morally reprehensible, but an attempt to justify that moral judgment by an appeal to “man’s nature” is a non-starter.


"Catholic morality has not accepted the admittedly very novel phenomenon of homosexual desire as shaping personal identity."

## On another board, someone quoted CCC 2332: "Sexuality affects all aspects of the human person in the unity of his body and soul. It especially concerns affectivity, the capacity to love and to procreate, and in a more general way the aptitude for forming bonds of communion with others."

That quotation is as true of gay Catholics as of any others. Yet the 1986 Letter,and the three quotations from it in CCC 2357-59, seem not to take account of such thinking. One is gay in everything one does - being gay is no more reducible to overtly sexual acts, than being Catholic is reducible to going to Mass. To be gay, is a basic part of gay people's humanity as the people they are; it is not like wearing a shirt, that one can take off simply by doing so.


@ Sam Johnson:

"There are really only three solutions here. God created the disease and is therefore good (not just in itself but also in its effects), disease is the result of sin (either original or personal), or affirm some Manichaen structure to the cosmos."

## What sin did I commit in order to be born with a tendency to have epileptic fits :) ?

I hope you don't go in for that "generational curse" hoo-hah. Fits are caused by faulty "wiring" in the brain, and not (as a read of Mark 9.14-29 might suggest) by demonic possession. By your argument, it would seem, that by taking anti-convulsant medication, Christians with epilepsy are seeking to escape the Divinely-sent punishment of - what, I don't know.

There is a fourth solution: to suggest that your account reifies God. IMHO, *all* language about God is "mythological", because we can describe God only with the very faulty and inadequate concepts we use for describing creatures.

Spirit of Vatican II

Thanks for the Catechism quote, Rat-biter; the Catechism is a work of many hands, so tensions and contradictions are sure to turn up.

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