Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Another Response on Homosexuality and Church Teaching

I asked a close friend of mine who is in a committed homosexual relationship and who is a former priest what he thought of the exchanges between Greg and me on the issue of homosexuality and Christian teaching (here, here, here, here and here). After reading the various posts, here is what he wrote to me:

“Greg asks whether ‘a departure from traditional Christian teaching on sexual morality [might] set the stage for a broader disintegration, not only of church structure and world-wide communion, but of basic Christian doctrine?’ Like it or not, the ground on which we stand is shifting, roiling. Hanging tight isn’t a viable option. Perhaps it shouldn’t even be an option – at least among reflective, thinking individuals. We are in the midst of a profound and thorough cultural transformation. Do you think God might even have something to do with it? It took the Magisterium a couple of centuries to adjust to Newtonian physics. We haven’t seen anything yet! I don’t even know the quarks and scientific constructs (e.g., astronomy) and the new synthesis the Church’s tradition needs to incorporate.

“Greg also asks ‘what Christian group of any significance size and venerability has accepted a revision of traditional church teaching on sexual morality, thereby setting aside the complementarity of male and female as a guiding principle for sexual relationships, while still maintaining orthodox beliefs on the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Christ, on His Church, and on the Scriptures?’ Truthfully, I fail to see any imperative between core Christian doctrine and its moral teaching. Twenty years ago I could have made a pretty compelling philosophical case that it would be virtually impossible for the Magisterium (which I take to include a robust appreciation for the sensus fidelium) to infallibly define any moral teaching because morality by definition includes human behavior by autonomous moral subjects. Today, making such an argument simply holds little interest for me. As an old Baptist preacher was heard to say: ‘Sometimes your religion can be so heavenly minded it’s no earthly good.’

“Greg also asks whether it might ‘be that an assault on that dimension of the magisterial authority addressing sexual relationships is so revolutionary as to place the magisterial authority itself and generally at risk, so as to lead to an inevitable post-modern retreat from tradition…’, observing that ‘some on and off this list might welcome such a diminution of magisterial authority and a movement away from orthodoxy and tradition.’ I admit it. I’m one of them and thought it would happen with Vatican II. It seems from what we are seeing now that the principle historians describe about social revolution is true – there will be a last, gasping Conservative resurgence before it all breaks open. It’s been 500 years since the Reformation. My sense is that the current resurgence of rigidity and “restoration” in the Roman Catholic Church is simply building up pressure for the next Reformation – and this will be the work of the Spirit of God.

“Greg lastly suggests, ‘In sum, might the surgery necessary to excise moral teaching on sexual relationships from the rest of the body of Christian tradition prove to be so radical that the patient cannot survive?’ Moral teaching on sexual matters is simply one of the most neuralgic (it’s about sex, after all) flash points of the profound cultural transformation in whose wake we live. That is exciting and it not something I fear. Greg needs to be careful not to confuse or conflate “the Church” with “the body of Christian tradition”, or at least those threads of the tradition Greg deems to include or defend.

“Finally, about your post from one of your readers: I am not surprised by the survey results about the level of religious activity of homosexuals. I believe religious practice is quite high among gays and lesbians. Sadly, I suspect some of it might be based on fear or guilt (best little boy in the world syndrome). On a personal level, I guess I take offense at the implication that anything about my relationship with my partner or even my delight in the male physique is antithetical to my Christian faith, inconsistent with my religious practice or “displeases” God. I know I was a better priest and pastor precisely because I am gay. Others, in numerous ministerial contexts have affirmed this – mostly coming from women or anyone else on the margins of society or who knows life on the underside/outside of power structures. I will conclude with one of my favorite quotes from Flannery O’Connor: ‘You know, most of us come to the Church by means the Church wouldn’t allow.’”


Stabile, Susan | Permalink

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