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Benedict XVI on Homosexuality: A Creative Interpretation by James Alison

May 16, 2011

Joseph Ratzinger and James Alison are two of my favorite living theologians.  Both are men of towering intellect whose profound creativity and lucid exposition are capable of making Christian doctrine come alive to the contemporary reader.  Both are ecclesially-minded and deeply traditional at heart while at the same time being capable of new articulations that keep the tradition fresh and meaningful.

Besides their similar gifts and temperment, Alison (the younger of the two by almost two generations) seems to have been profoundly influenced by Ratzinger.  In his doctoral thesis, The Joy of Being Wrong:  Original Sin Though Easter Eyes, no theologian appears in the footnotes as often as Ratzinger, and this is not in the form of critique.  Indeed the attentive reader will note marked similarities between Alison and Ratzinger on the most basic Christian doctrines, especially those connected with theological anthropology and soteriology

Many, however, upon hearing that Alison is a gay man, will be suspicious of all this.  And when, digging a little more, such folk discover that Alison does not believe that every gay person is ipso facto called to celibacy, those suspicions will certainly deepen.  Surely, despite broad agreement in Christian anthropology and soteriology, and despite affinities of temperment and style, Ratzinger and Alison must part ways on the question of homosexuality.  At least that is what would be assumed by both conservatives who celebrate Ratzinger as a bastion of traditional orthodoxy and progressives who denounce him as, well, a bastion of traditional orthodoxy.

But Papa Ratzi, as Alison affectionately calls the Pontiff, has been a bit of a Pope of surprises.  Indeed, in the awkward annual Christianity-on-the-cover-of-mainstream-magazines Week (also known as Holy Week), Canada’s news weekly, Maclean’s, asked “Is the Pope Catholic?”  And they hadn’t even heard Alison’s thesis!

His thesis is this:  Ratzinger is carefully and consistently paving the way for a  Christian interpretation of human sexuality that will allow the Church to recognize the non-pathological nature of homosexuality and acknowledge the value of committed homosexual relationships.

As you can imagine, given the Catholic blogosphere’s constantly demonstrated inability to talk about this issue like grown-ups, I was hesitant to bring this story to you.  On the other hand, I simply found it too fascinating to avoid, and I was shocked that the video on Youtube where I discovered this thesis had so few hits.  It struck me as something of which Catholics would at least like to be made aware.

Let me set the context for you.  In February 2006, a group at the University of San Francisco invited Alison to present this talk at an event titled “Is it ethical to be Catholic? – Queer Perspectives.”  (The full event can be watched on Youtube in 15 sections.)  In the first paragraph of Alison’s contribution, he notes his approval of the current Pope, to the surprise of his audience.

I think the full text of Alison’s talk is worth your while, though I was much less impressed by the other contributors.  In any case, though you may read the text of his prepared comments on his website, some of the most interesting things Alison has to say emerge during question period when his audience understandably asks him how he can be so sanguine about the current successor of Peter, so often presented as a bogeyman in such circles.  I present those comments for your consideration here:

I do not present these views as an endorsement or a condemnation of them.  I present them because they are fascinating for the life of the Church and because they are put forth by one of the most profound and creative theological intellects of our time and not some crackpot.  I am of the opinion that they warrant our consideration.  I am interested in hearing what strikes you in Alison’s comments, whether you find them prima facie plausible or implausible, and how they accord with your views of Ratzinger heretofore held.

I am not interested in debating Father Alison’s character, nor am I interested in the attack of those with whom we disagree on this sensitive subject.  I also intend to keep the discussion strictly on topic.  If you find that your comment is not approved within a reasonable amount of time, try saying a quick prayer and reformulating.


Brett Salkeld is a doctoral student in theology at Regis College in Toronto. He is a father of two (so far) and husband of one.

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192 Comments
  1. Peter Nguyen permalink
    May 16, 2011 1:32 pm

    I’ve been listening to Alison talk several times over in the past hour. I am hesitant to endorse his view that Benedict is over-turning Humanae Vitae, because that would involve a hermeneutics of discontinuity as opposed to continuity. And as we know, Benedict has been a proponent of the hermeneutics of continuity. Nonetheless, I agree with Alison’s point that the current Pope’s hermeneutics of Scriptures is more descriptive than proscriptive. More to follow…

    • brettsalkeld permalink*
      May 16, 2011 1:57 pm

      The Humane Vitae thing was an interesting but underdeveloped comment on his part. I myself have felt like HV is a transitional document, especially when reading JP II’s TOB. It seems to me that HV is the place in the tradition that lies between procreation as the primary (in some articulations even the sole) end of marriage, and unity being seen as the primary end of marriage. In HV the two passed one another and spent a moment as equals. When I read TOB I felt like this couldn’t be sustained. They are two different kinds of things and cannot be viewed as equal in any meaningful sense. It seems to me that the tradition is tending toward articulating procreation as an outgrowth of unity, which is primary. I think that Benedict continues this trajectory. I don’t for one minute think that this means the Church is about to endorse artificial contraception. In other news:
      http://vox-nova.com/2011/01/03/benedict-xvi-on-humanae-vitae/

      • Charles Robertson permalink
        May 16, 2011 2:25 pm

        I would say that unity is primary in the temporal order but that the procreative is primary in the order of nature.

        • brettsalkeld permalink*
          May 16, 2011 4:12 pm

          I kinda like that.

      • Dan permalink
        May 16, 2011 3:29 pm

        It seems to me that the tradition is tending toward articulating procreation as an outgrowth of unity, which is primary.

        Not being nearly as educated on the topic as yourself, I speak from a position of profound ignorance. Nevertheless, I can’t see that being the final resting place of the tradition. It seems wholly inconsistent with what I feel is a continued trajectory towards wholism – a wholism untainted by the subjectivity of individual perspective and respectful of the context of man as an animal as well as a spiritual being.

        Unity is not a necessary consequence of sex. However, procreation is. That alone indicates the primacy of procreation. Furthermore, the type of unity achieved through intercourse is also achievable without it.

        To me, the unitive aspect is a primordial psychological protection mechanism designed to ensure that mating partners work in tandem to protect mutual offspring. While this remains personal opinion, I cannot see how unity could be interpreted as primary given an objective eye.

      • Dan permalink
        May 16, 2011 3:31 pm

        Incidentally, if the Church were ever to consider the unitive as primary over the procreative, I am convinced that the corollary would be the justification of artificial contraception. I cannot see any logically consistent way you could have one without the other.

        • brettsalkeld permalink*
          May 16, 2011 4:10 pm

          I don’t see that speaking of unity as primary, if that indeed comes to pass, has anything to do with saying that the procreative can be artificially withheld. It is not the procreative’s supposed primacy that makes AC immoral.

        • James permalink
          February 17, 2013 2:44 pm

          I don’t think that would follow at all. The current understanding of the Church regarding contraception draws much of its richness from Trinitarian theology and the relations of the Persons in the Trinity. The sharing and giving of the spouses in the marital act is at once both the highest unitive act (indeed, the two are literally one), while at the same time being the act of procreation. Saying that the unitive is primary would not change the fact that the unity comes from complete self-giving, which is openness to the transmission of life in the primarily unitive act. I can’t see why the teaching on contraception would change at all. Besides, Pope Paul VI’s predictions about what would happen with a contraceptive culture have come to pass. This is a verification of the truth of the teaching as regards both the individual and social nature of the human person.

      • Dan permalink
        May 16, 2011 4:26 pm

        Charles, your comment intrigues me, but I’m not sure I understand what you mean by primary in the temporal order.

        • James permalink
          February 17, 2013 2:49 pm

          Primary in the temporal order would just mean that the spouses are united before they procreate, in the order of time. That’s to some extent true, obviously, but how does one explain the fact that traditionally the marriage is not consumated (even after the agreement of the spouses in the marital ceremony) until the spouses engage in the marital act? This would mean that, even assuming unity is primary, the spouses are not fully united until they engage in the procreative act.

          Remember Newman’s Development of Doctrine – that which develops from Tradition cannot repudiate it or fundamentally change it, but only build upon it. Would a change in primacy of the ends of marriage be a development of doctrine?

      • Dan permalink
        May 16, 2011 4:45 pm

        I don’t see that speaking of unity as primary, if that indeed comes to pass, has anything to do with saying that the procreative can be artificially withheld. It is not the procreative’s supposed primacy that makes AC immoral.

        I see your point, but this reduces most arguments against AC to a chalk line, at least from a pastoral perspective. You’d have to very carefully define what it is that makes AC immoral and why avoiding it would be desirable in light of the greater good of the pursuit of the unitive aspect. This is further complicated if such a framework can be used to establish the value of “committed homosexual relationships” (I’m still unclear whether he’s referring to celibacy or monogamy in his thesis). If the latter, then the unitive aspect of sex is either intrinsically defective in homosexual relationships, or that AC should have little to no impact on the unitive aspect for a couple who understands the nature of what they’re doing.

        • brettsalkeld permalink*
          May 16, 2011 5:50 pm

          Well, here may not be the place to engage this in detail, but my instinct tells me that openness to procreation is openness to permanence and thus existentially affirmative of the full reality of any unity worth celebrating with sex.

          As to homosexual relationships, Alison is talking about monogamy. And it seems to me that any way of squaring this circle starts with the fact that homosexual sex is not “sex” in the same way as marital intercourse. But I don’t know how such a squaring ends. Indeed, it may not, though I’d like to pick Alison’s brain on the subject.

      • Dan permalink
        May 16, 2011 10:08 pm

        Well said. Though I would point out that, while the procreative aspect is an expression of permanence, you can have said permanence without being open to procreation…

    • brettsalkeld permalink*
      May 16, 2011 2:06 pm

      As for a hermeneutic of continuity, I think Alison’s point is precisely that Benedict is working to achieve just such a hermeneutic even in what would seem to us a monumental shift. The simple fact that it does seem so monumental to us is one of the things that makes Alison’s reading less credible on the face of it, but I also suspect we are standing at a place in history where we cannot properly assess the actual size of such a change.

      • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO permalink*
        May 16, 2011 3:53 pm

        In this regard, it is worth reading the essays by fr. Rhomheimer that I have posted elsewhere. He argues (persuasively) that Benedict does not promote a “hermaneutic of continuity” but rather a “hermaneutic of reform/innovation in continuity”, something subtly different in very important ways.

  2. Peter Nguyen permalink
    May 16, 2011 2:06 pm

    Sorry meant to write “Humanae Vitae” Pope Benedict has made references to this encyclical in other talks. On the 40th anniversary Benedict refers to the ‘Humanae Vitae’ as a sign of contradiction, but also a continuity of the Church’s doctrine and tradition.” He also refers to it in his last encyclical in order to broaden the Church’s understanding of ethics–linking personal ethics with social ethics. So these are a few reasons why I am a bit hesitant to advocate Alison’s read of Pope Benedict’s subtle attempt to overturn “Humanae Vitae.” Please correct me if I am wrong.

  3. Darwin permalink
    May 16, 2011 2:07 pm

    Yeesh, wish they could have got some better sound quality on these.

    I think his “category mistake” claim that what we have seen, over the last 50-60 years, is a discovery of a new anthropological fact, that some people are by nature gay and that this is a fundamentally thing than not being gay, is an interesting one, in that it zeroes in on pretty much the only way that one could claim that Church doctrine would change on this topic — that somehow there was a fact about how humans work that had been unknown for the last 3000 years of revelation, and which now that we’ve found it out the Church (and other faiths) will have to respond to and will eventually come to a new conclusion.

    That said, this strikes me as a pretty hard to make claim at two levels:

    1) I’m intensely skeptical of the idea that there’s any fundamental truth about human beings work at a personal level (as opposed to, say, some piece of scientific trivia) which we are only just now figuring out. I see now reason we should address the question of sexual orientation and desire differently now than we did in 1300 AD, or come to that in 300 BC, and so at a basic humanistic level I find the whole “the GLTB community of the 20th and 21st centuries has figured out something entirely new in human history” ideas unpersuasive and

    2) I think it’s reasonable to question whether we can in fact claim, as Catholics, that the Church can have been wrong all this time on such a basic issue and still be what it claims to be. This strikes me, for instance, as being much more material a (claimed) mistake than the geocentric question.

    As he goes on to explain why he thinks he can see Benedict setting up this teaching, I must admit that I find him pretty unpersuasive in that he seems to do a lot of arguing from silence. So, for instance, Benedict talks about marriage as involving complementarity, permanence, and love — and from this Alison concludes that Benedict is intentionally leaving out procreation. But, of course, God’s creativity is also a fundamental part of His loving unity, it’s just not what Benedict is talking about at this very moment.

    Now honestly, a lot of this is probably that Alison and I both really love Benedict’s writing, and so when we find a gap in what he says, we both tend to fill that in with other things that we ourselves thing. Because, after all, it is human to see aspects of oneself in what one loves.

    It’s interesting to me that he sees John Paul II as being such a “fundamentalist” in his writings, something I would certainly not agree with. I can’t help wondering if this is in part just that John Paul II is very forthright in writing about sexual issues, and so there’s no where for Alison to read in between the lines and find his own views. Sex is not one of Benedict’s big topics in the way it was for John Paul, so it’s easier to fill in with what one wishes.

    That said, I found the snippets interesting and engaging to listen to — though as I say, fairly unpersuasive.

  4. Peter Nguyen permalink
    May 16, 2011 2:10 pm

    How does one interpret or weigh TOB in light of Humanae Vitae? The latter is a papal encyclical, while the former is what? How much weight does TOB?

  5. Charles Robertson permalink
    May 16, 2011 2:24 pm

    Alison’s point about the reference to Socrates in Deus Caritas Est is, it seems to me, misguided. I understand it in the context of BXVI’s understanding of the importance of Greek philosophy in the development of the Church’s theology. He is simply pointing to the fact that the biblical insight about the desire for union finds a positive echo in the Greek philosophical tradition. That is, the biblical mythos corresponds to a deep desire that is knowable by reason as well.

    With respect to HV, I think that Alison is reading way to much into the statement he invokes. BXVI has been very clear about the need to found the Church’s approach to ethical questions in a sound understanding of the natural law. From this standpoint, the procreative teleology of the generative faculty is the foundation which necessitates the exclusive and indissoluble union of the spouses. I see no evidence that there can be any other foundation for philosophical reasoning about the necessity of marriage as a social institution, which is itself necessary for understanding it as a sacrament. Also, it has long been recognized that union is primary from a certain point of view. To wit, Pius XI: “This mutual molding of husband and wife, this determined effort to perfect each other, can in a very real sense, as the Roman Catechism teaches, be said to be the chief reason and purpose of matrimony, provided matrimony be looked at, not in the restricted sense as instituted for the proper conception and education of the child, but more widely as the blending of life as a whole and the mutual interchange and sharing thereof.”

    • Dan permalink
      May 16, 2011 6:53 pm

      I wholly agree with you on this.

  6. Peter Paul Fuchs permalink
    May 16, 2011 3:35 pm

    First, some historical perspective. Views like the ones held by this man were in fact quite widespread when I was in the seminary at Catholic University (85-87). Since many of the seminarians were gay, it was not altogether surprising that there was a very sanguine view about the Roman Catholic Church’s ability to eventually embrace essentially all the ideas embraced in the videos. And this should also be of little surprise for when we went to moral theology class, say, with the most distinguished moral theologian in Catholic University, Charles Curran, were heard exquisitely crafted historical reflections on just how this process had happened in the past, and probably would happen in the future. As I look back on it now, it was all of a piece. How naive we all were!

    Well, the academic outrages of the Charles Curran Scandal are now a matter of public record. They were all caused, not by majority votes of the Congregation, as in Alison’s explanatory schema, but by the administrative actions of Ratzinger himself. So, I think history is, in fact, entirely disconfirmative of Alison’s view.

    Second, I must add, it is a nice thought abou the possibility of change . And it says something equally pleasant that this man wants to try to encompass the religion he loves in the arms of human decency. I am not here to knock it. Yet, I think the really telling thing about this all is the very title of the Youtube view. “Is it Ethical to be Catholic.” I can only answer that question as an outside observer now. But the only reasonable response vis-a-vis gay rights would be: It sure depends. If one’s adherence is such, by way of one’s vocation, that it can provide “cover” for the Church, then clearly not. If it is only one’s private belief, then there is no problem. The reason is also simple. Unlike the past, in which lack of means of communications limited any person’s ability to really have a large-scale grasp of any issue, the story is the opposite today. Any person can. in principle, be informed of the harm or benefit to others by way of online information, or other means of communication. In this light the utter intransigence and state of inured rigidity to the injustice caused by retrograde church positions is not something that can be hidden in its effects. Anyone can learn of their effects by clicking a mouse. So, in effect, again it is history, in this case the history of our own time, that is disconfirmative of the morality of Catholic membership today, with the sort of technical proviso that such membership would professionally help in “covering” those facts. I am afraid that I should not mince words, this puts people like journalists and academics in a difficult position in my view.

  7. May 16, 2011 3:40 pm

    Brett, I think any talk of the Church seeing “procreation” and “unity” as two separate things in sex that can be compared to each other in the way you are suggesting is misleading. The Church believes the unity can only be the unity of cooperating in the procreative sort of act, there is no other “unity” that could be posited there. And the procreative act is by nature unitive.

    Catholics who want to see HV overturned or “evolved past” imagine some category of “emotional unity” in sexuality separate from the reproductive sort of act…are mistaken. In the end that is simply sentimentalism and and subjectivism.

    Th unity the Church speaks of when discussing the “two” ends of the marital act is only ever the unity of male and female as one biological organism in the exchange of the potentialities of parenthood (whether those potentialities might sometimes be low or non-existent is another question). There is no other “unity” that can be teased out or separated from the procreative aspect, they’re two sides of the same coin.

    BUT, if we were to establish one as “primary” I think it’s pretty clear that sex wouldn’t exist as a union if it weren’t for procreation. There is no “union” separate from that.

  8. May 16, 2011 3:53 pm

    I am at work but will watch/listen when I get home. I love what you said about discussing this like adults – but that is what we must do and I hope that will happen. Thank you so much for this and for appropriately framing Alison with his multitude of gifts as well as seeing the Pope with a nuanced eye.Why is this so hard for so many who must either aggrandize or demonize but not be realistic?

  9. May 16, 2011 5:47 pm

    I’ll also add that his basic argument about “category mistake” amounts, it seems to me, to something like “is = ought.” Acting as if the Church’s reasoning is or would be affected by some “essentialist” notion of “the homosexual” being “discovered” as part of life simply shows a massive misunderstanding of how the Church determines morality.

    What I find ironic about those who advocate for an “adult” discussion of “broadening” sexual morality, is that there arguments usually have nothing to do with the objective order, and everything to do with emotions, subjectivity, sentiment, etc. As such, they are incredibly CONTINGENT on social and psycho-emotional constructions that are so very recent.

    The basic argument that “There’s a type of person whose nature is to do these things, therefore these things are okay and an authentic part of their human fulfillment” makes so many faulty assumptions that I can’t even begin to have time to deconstruct them.

    I saw no new arguments here, nothing worthy of note in this guy’s discussion except the sensationalism of “Oooo look: here’s a sexually-liberal gay who is cleverly managing his cognitive dissonance, and carving out a ‘unique’ niche for himself, by blurring the Church’s teaching into such vagueness that anything could mean anything.”

    As long as the sentimentalists think they have “solved” the objections to them simply by shifting the paradigm to their own human-subjective-emotional one, rather than addressing the “hard” rationalistic foundations for those objections…they won’t have done anything except talk past the other side and deluded themselves in the process.

    “It feels right” is exactly the PROBLEM the Church has with all this.

    • Dan permalink
      May 16, 2011 7:08 pm

      The basic argument that “There’s a type of person whose nature is to do these things, therefore these things are okay and an authentic part of their human fulfillment” makes so many faulty assumptions that I can’t even begin to have time to deconstruct them.

      It seems to me that is the crux of the entire matter. If his claims are true that the way is, in fact, being paved to a non-pathological interpretation of homosexuality, then these things are ok and an authentic part of their human fulfillment. However, if he is reverse-engineering his hypothesis from this premise, then this whole matter is a rather large, albeit utterly unintentional, red herring. At the end of the day, his perspective is fundamentally not about the unitive aspect being primary, but rather whether the Church is willing to alter its stance that homosexuality is a pathology.

      • May 16, 2011 11:18 pm

        I’m not sure discussion of “pathology” has anything to do with it. I am actually against the stance, represented by the Seminary Instruction (which did, thankfully, fall flat), that homosexuality is some sort of psycho-pathology, but that’s mainly because I’d tend to deconstruct notions of “sexual orientation” into more basic constituent phenomena generally.

        The Church has always recognized the existence of concupiscence. There’s nothing new under the sun, and the fact that some people are aroused by this set of stimuli, some by that, and that our current culture has constructed a whole psycho-emotional thing around that…is hardly Her concern. Frankly, I think the Church needs to stick to discussing the morality of acts, and not get into all this analysis of “inclinations” which are really neither here nor there.

      • Dan permalink
        May 17, 2011 10:07 am

        I would disagree. It can be nothing other than pathology, or it would be permissible, and yea, even celebrated. The only resistance to homosexuality has to do with its perceived violation of the natural order. That is pathology in a nutshell. To call it by any other name is simply cosmetic.

      • May 17, 2011 5:08 pm

        Are you talking about acts or “orientation.” If the former, yes the act of procuring sexual pleasure outside (and, in fact, in a parody of) the marital act to which it is connatural…is surely a disordered moral object.

        If you’re talking about “homosexuality” as a psycho-emotional phenomenon, it IS permissible (because it simply IS) and, with qualification, might even be [chastely] “celebrated” by some.

        There seems to be a blurring here, on both sides, between complex psycho-emotional constructions…and acts. Just as in the Catechism’s extremely convoluted section on the matter.

      • Dan permalink
        May 18, 2011 1:12 am

        There seems to be a blurring here, on both sides, between complex psycho-emotional constructions…and acts. Just as in the Catechism’s extremely convoluted section on the matter.

        I agree that the blurring exists, but I feel it is largely a construct of our own predilections. The distinction between acts and “orientations” is essentially artificial. I don’t believe the Catechism makes the distinction because I don’t believe it needs to. If you read it without attempting to make such distinctions, I actually think the Catechism is extremely clear on the subject: Both are signs that the car has blown a tire. However, it is not the Church, but rather our own insecurity and predilections that perpetuate the lie that a flat tire lowers the overall value of the car.

        We remain uncomfortable with the idea that the catechism teaches that homosexuals are somehow defective, so we invent all sorts of artificial frameworks to reconcile what we perceive to be an ugly truth. But what we fail to realize is that homosexuals are no more defective in the eyes of God than anyone else. We are all driving around on a set of flats. How dare we have the unsubstantiated arrogance to presume that God thinks a homosexual inclination is somehow worse than my inclination to make a second trip to the buffet tablet? A homosexual act is grounded in love and unselfishness. Even my most insignificant pathologies are firmly rooted in selfishness. Which one do you think is worse in the eyes of God?

        I remain firmly convinced that God doesn’t think homosexuality is nearly as big a problem as we seem to think it is. Yet, for some reason, we find sexual matters highly provocative. Both sides are so insecure about it that we have no choice but to convolute the issue to justify our narrow-minded viewpoints. One side creates a set of artificial constructs that make no sense (i.e. artificially differentiating between acts and inclinations), and the other side throws the baby out with the bathwater (i.e. neither the act or the inclination are disordered). The reality is that it just simply isn’t that big a deal.

        Yes, the Church teaches that homosexuality is a defect. But who cares? It is probably one of the least important defects you could have. I have a dozen defects that are much much worse. We’re all imperfect and disordered, yet we’re all loved by God in equal measure, and we’re all called to love in equal measure. That’s really all that matters.

  10. Ronald King permalink
    May 16, 2011 7:39 pm

    It seems to me that he is more rational in his discussion of sexuality than those who base their reasoning on the “natural law”. My view of Pope Benedict is slightly changed by his interpretation of Pope B’s work. Pope B is an introvert and as such would move more subtly than JPII who happens to be an extrovert.
    Pope B, in my opinion needs to write more on what it means to human relationships from the truth of God being Love.
    As far as I am concerned Alison is on the right path.

  11. digbydolben permalink
    May 16, 2011 7:43 pm

    Later today I will take the time to listen to Allison–not because I believe that his intellectual project is feasible, but just because what you say about him makes him seem interesting.

    However, I pretty much agree with Peter Paul Fuchs above; the response of “a Sinner” is instructive regarding why Benedict XVI Ratzinger would probably argue that Allison himself has no business even being a priest–which means, probably, that neither did Newman, Gerard Hopkins and a host of other “gay” saints.

    The writer above who suggested that the “discovery” of a “gay” gene or any other evidence that homosexuality is never “chosen” represents a greater challenge to traditional theology than the heliocentric universe in the 17th century is, I think, correct, and it’s looking to prove more devestating, because it actually IS a revelation about a human nature that the “inerrant” Catholic Church knew nothing about.

    • Dan permalink
      May 16, 2011 10:02 pm

      I wouldn’t necessarily agree that the discovery of a gay gene Would change much. The church does not claim that homosexuality is a choice. It does seem to suggest it is a pathology of some sort.

    • Darwin permalink
      May 17, 2011 10:29 am

      I should clarify my statement referenced above: I think that an assertion that being homosexual means having a different nature and thus means that one is “meant” to have same sex relationships rather than opposite sex ones would be a much more material change in Church teaching than the acceptance of non-geocentrism, because it would be a morally significant fact about human beings, rather than a mere observation about the layout of the universe.

      However, the discovery of a “gay gene” in a scientific sense, should it occur, would not be the same thing as the Church making such a philosophical and theological determination. Many things are genetically determined which are not, in the philosophical sense, “meant” to be according to human nature.

      • May 17, 2011 4:18 pm

        I wonder if there is any possible scientific discovery about homosexuality that could be used by someone like Alison that Catholic moral theologians could not somehow discount if they felt the need. Suppose it could be demonstrated that homosexuality in evolving human beings was adaptive. Or that there were elements of sexuality and sexual attraction that were essential to human society and civilization that would exist even in the absence of sexual reproduction. It could always be argued that all of nature was damaged by the fall, or some such thing, and that humanity as it was supposed to have been would be heterosexual only. If any change happens, it probably won’t be because of science. It will be because attitudes change and scientific discoveries allow moral theologians that we now know something we didn’t know before. This is somewhat the argument that is made when the opinions of Aquinas and others regarding “quickening” are brought up in the abortion debate. It seems that if moral theologians had so desired, the concept of quickening could have been salvaged and reinterpreted in terms of the development of the nervous system.

      • Darwin permalink
        May 18, 2011 10:44 am

        I wonder if there is any possible scientific discovery about homosexuality that could be used by someone like Alison that Catholic moral theologians could not somehow discount if they felt the need.

        It’s important to consider what kinds of claims are being discussed here.

        The heliocentric issue was a fairly simple one because geocentrism was, at most, an assumption which people had made based on a passing reference in scripture seeming to agree with the scientific understanding of the time. There’s no moral content to the question of whether the earth or the sun is at the center of the solar system, and no real theological content either. The biggest issue was whether this threatened scriptural inerrancy, but scholars had dealt with many other similar issues before. If the Church hadn’t been in the midst of the Reformation, there arguably would have been very little reaction against heliocentrism.

        The question of homosexuality is one of “ought” rather than “is” and so science if inherently unable to answer the basic question as issue. Sure, people might have a genetic predisposition to homosexual relationships, but does that necessarily mean that it is good to act on that predisposition sexually? That’s a moral rather than a scientific question, and there are other sins which it is already known people can have genetic predispositions to (alcohol abuse, violence) which no one is interested in claiming are not in fact sinful behaviors which should be avoided.

        Suppose it could be demonstrated that homosexuality in evolving human beings was adaptive.

        There’s pretty good evidence that tendencies towards moderate amounts of adultery are adaptive. There’s also an argument that certain behaviors we’d define as racism are adaptive. If this could be “proved” (quotes because saying something is adaptive is often a bit of a story telling exercise — we seek to explain why something is prevalent and come up with a plausible seeming explanation) would this be a good reason for considering these actions to be moral?

        Again, the idea that something is “advantageous” in the evolutionary sense doesn’t seem to have any relation to morality. Why, indeed, should we think that evolutionary success is necessarily always and everywhere a moral good? It seems a lot more plausible that it just is without being necessarily good or bad.

        Or that there were elements of sexuality and sexual attraction that were essential to human society and civilization that would exist even in the absence of sexual reproduction.

        I guess I’m particularly confused by this one. How is it vaguely imaginable that one could make any scientific statement about what would be essential to humans if we didn’t reproduce sexually? Sexual reproduction is essential to how our species works. We shouldn’t even be humans if we didn’t reproduce sexually. So it seems rather hard to understand how one could say anything about what would be essential to society if we weren’t us.

  12. PeterPaul permalink
    May 16, 2011 9:28 pm

    How DOES the Church (read hierarchy) determine morality? It took the “Church” a long time to “alter its stance” that the earth was the center of the solar system. It’s difficult to think outside the box.

    • digbydolben permalink
      May 17, 2011 8:31 am

      PeterPaul, the Church really CAN “think outside the box” when it comes down to her political or social survival.

      When these folks talk about not being able to alter what the Church “knows,” consider this: for the first few centuries of her existence, Holy Mother Church knew, with absolute certainty, that the totally celibate, fully chaste state was superior to the connubial state. They “knew” that their Founder Himself had said so. Now you won’t find any Catholic moral theologian mouthing that line, in or out of the Vatican.

      Organized religion is about politics, money and social control–and the use of sexual mores for social control. True “religious knowledge,” in any faith, is limited to its mystics–all of whom, of any faith, must be listened to, if mankind is to survive on this planet, and the hierarchs who wish to intimidate folks into gender-identity conformism should be dismissed as what they are–traducers of the world’s precious religious knowledge that the Deity, being non-dualistic, is beyond gender-identity as a moral value and beyond criticism of ANY form of self-sacrificial love. (And, yes, “gay” love CAN be as “self-sacrificial” as “straight” love–I’ve seen it.)

    • May 17, 2011 10:18 am

      Truth be told, it took natural philosophy and science a long time to “alter its stance” about celestial mechanics. After all, Galileo’s observations were as easily accounted for by the geocentric theory of Tycho Brahe as by his own heliocentrism. Galileo could also not account for the absence of extrusion by whirling (i.e. why we don’t fly off the face of a spinning earth) nor could he provide any evidence of the stellar parallax, which would have to be observed were his theory true. (Indeed, there was no evidence of the stellar parallax until the 19th century.) In short, it was not a failure to think outside the box that led to a resistance to the Copernican/Galilean account of celestial mechanics, but the rather long time for anything more than suggestive evidence to arise. What would have been unwise would have been to assert that we have been misreading the Scriptures and misusing our reason because of some odd observations and an interesting but not compelling theory.

      This is among the reasons we ought to be cautious about letting our etiological theories about homosexuality get the better of us. What is certain is the constant teaching. The suggestions of modern psychology, genetics, etc. are interesting, but not yet compelling. Moreover, even if they were, as Dan notes above, the teaching of the Church (and, for that matter, of the Synagogue) of the moral illiceity of homosexual activity has not been grounded in any specific claims of the origins, for this or that individual, of his or her same-sex affectivity. This is why the moral teaching itself or the moral analysis of homosexuality as disordered is not dependent on any particular psychological or physiological account.

      • Peter Paul Fuchs permalink
        May 17, 2011 1:43 pm

        To the Dominican interlocutor Dominic Holtz

        Oh, sir, with all due respect to you due in this forum, that is the biggest load of hogwash I have ever heard. If you are as informed as your comments reveal yourself to be, then you yourself know that it is hogwash. The Catholic Church’s appraisal of what constituted “evidence” has at every point, and especially since the 13th century, been utterly guided by a simple format. And the format is in fact that of the most distinguished theologian of your Order.

        In a way, what proves my point most clearly and even colorfully is the reception of these scientific ideas in Latin America. In fact it shows the true tendency of the Catholic Church better than in the maelstrom of Europe, precisely because the Church had more control in the New World. What we see, well into the 18th Century and outrageously even into the 19th, was the Church in Latin America doing a great deal to thwart even the Thomism-questioning theories of the burgeoning sciences as much as possible. Even thwarting the explicit instructions of the Spanish Viceroys to encourage scientific questioning where they could. This is a matter of historical record, and a few exceptions (mostly Jesuit) does not negate it one bit.

        Sadly, and for many terribly, the Church is lately aping the pattern established long ago in Latin America more than its variable cutting edge moments in Europe at the same periods, vis-a-vis the issue of gay rights. In my assessment it has no other explanation than the waxing and waning of fanaticism in the Catholic Church, which is a pattern of all religions lamentably at times. Let me emphasize, that this does not mean that Catholic theology is in any way intrinsically fanatical.

        Catholics seem intent on re-writing history these days. In my opinion, it only makes what is good about your faith look superficial. A great shame.

        PS — I am a different “Peter Paul” than the one you initially responded to.

      • May 17, 2011 3:47 pm

        I note only that, despite calling my claims hogwash, you do nothing to show them false. You merely assert that this is so. That bright, well-informed thinkers across Europe, Catholic as well as Protestant, raised these scientific problems, you do not even engage. You claim the support of the history of Latin America, oddly asserting the unquestioned power there of the Church, without even noting that the patronato/padroado system actually problematized any direct ecclesial efforts there apart from royal (or often vice-royal) authority. You also give little reason to assert that Latin American Catholicism is more representative in the 18th and 19th centuries than Catholicism in Europe (or, for that matter, in Asia or North America).

        If you actually wish to carry this conversation forward, and should you have the respect for me as an interlocutor that you claim to have, you might chose to assert less and demonstrate more, accuse less and inform more.

      • May 17, 2011 5:26 pm

        Truth be told, it took natural philosophy and science a long time to “alter its stance” about celestial mechanics.

        Of course, the Church put Galileo’s works on the Index of Forbidden books and attempted to suppress publication of anything supporting his theories for the next 200 years. If it took a long time for science to alter it’s stance, that would no doubt be one reason. However, it seems to me under the circumstances, Galileo’s theories were accepted rather rapidly. Newton, who was born the year Galileo died, certainly accepted and built on the work of Galileo.

      • Peter Paul Fuchs permalink
        May 17, 2011 10:18 pm

        To my Dominican interlocutor,

        Well, now we are really down the rabbit hole. But I will not let us stay there. I wish in most honest charity to get at the facts of what is potentially good in your tradition. You seem to avoid it. You say I have asserted things, “without even noting that the patronato/padroado system actually problematized any direct ecclesial efforts there apart from royal (or often vice-royal) authority.” Do you actually hope with this statement to avoid the fact that the Church was vastly influential in Latin American affairs?? Can this possibly be your position?? What you aver seems to be that since they did not have total control we should leave the subject alone! Well, no. They were vastly empowered and we can read their true intentions by their simple actions played out over centuries.

        You are preaching to the choir when you say , “[t]hat bright, well-informed thinkers across Europe, Catholic as well as Protestant, raised these scientific problems,” I will stipulate that I am utterly convinced by Charles Taylor’s The Secular Age that many of the basic ideas of the Enlightenment are beholden to Christianity. But we are discussing a more specific matter, one which you seem to want to elide. Namely, what was the Church’s intent in all this?? Revisionist history want to white-wash it. Real history tells us something different. And the Latin American example becomes, thus, very telling. That is, that though the Church had some brilliant scientific minds, which add color to the historical tapestry, on the whole it is a story of intellectual stultification when possible. Not always, but often enough to make it a pattern. The Catholic Church is a huge affair, and thus by definition, no generalization fits it utterly. But history is about patterns, and the pattern is clear. My underlying point is that your views on gay rights vis-a-vis this same Church have little meaning unless you acknowledge this pattern. You have a right not to, but the world has a right to acknowledge that you as a Catholic scholar have chosen not to, and therefore draw its own conclusion therefrom.

      • Darwin permalink
        May 18, 2011 10:29 am

        Well, the Index of Forbidden Books didn’t necessarily hold much sway outside of central Italy at the time. People had no problem getting Galileo’s work.

        However, he didn’t necessarily have the influence he might otherwise have had right off because he got a couple things wrong and refused to correct them. Kepler was working at the same time and Galileo and more accurately described the shape of the Earth’s orbit around the sun. Kepler was also, arguably, much more of an influence on Newton than Galileo — in great part because Kepler was Protestant while Galileo was Catholic, two groups that didn’t get on well at the time.

      • May 18, 2011 10:46 am

        I seem to be having trouble saying things in a way that you understand what I mean by them. My position was not, for example, to understate the role and power of the Church in colonial and, on again off again, in post-colonial/post-revolutionary Latin America. My point was to reject your suggestion of the Church in Latin America represents a kind of pure or paradigmatic position because of that power. My raising of the existence of the patronato system was to note that the selection of the episcopacy, e.g., fell under the crown’s jurisdiction, and that religious orders could not operate unhindered or send whomever they thought best. These and other limits on the inner life of the Church necessarily skewed the kind of clergy, e.g. who were active in Latin America. As a result, it would not be helpful to present Latin America in the 18th and 19th centuries as paradigmatic of Catholicism. This is not a whitewash. Rather, it’s responsible methodology. (By way of contrast, where Catholicism was largely unimpeded legally, as in the USA during 19th century, one does not see the kinds of attitudes you note, suggesting that other factors, cultural and political, need to account for the behavior of the Church in Central and South America, and not merely a supposedly unimpeded, and thus supposedly more representative of its basic and true nature, Catholicism.)

        My point about science was not to note the relationship between the Enlightenment and Christian culture, although such a link exists. Rather, it was to note that Protestants also rejected heliocentrism as both religiously suspect and scientifically irresponsible. Likewise, while people remember the perduring of Galileo’s works on the Index, they forget that during the 18th and 19th centuries, the Church allowed the publication of works supporting heliocentrism. In other words, we need to look at the actual intellectual and publication history in the Catholic world, and not merely the celebrated, but highly mythologized story of Galileo. (This is not Catholic whitewashing. Responsible historians know that the popular version of this story is neither accurate nor helpful.)

        What you seem not to want to admit is that your claim of the “obvious” pattern is a product of a very specific historiographical tradition, melding the Protestant propaganda of the 16th and 17th centuries with the anticlerical, anti-Christian literature of 18th century Enlightenment thinkers (e.g. Voltaire). The claim of Catholic stultification of intellectual endeavor is simply not found in respectable, academic historical work. I am neither partisan nor chauvinist nor willfully blind in making this claim. It is simply a claim of historiographical fact that the narrative you suggest (i.e. that though the Church had some brilliant scientific minds, which add color to the historical tapestry, on the whole it is a story of intellectual stultification when possible) is not to be found among professional academic historical studies.

        Finally, your attempt at intellectual blackmail (My underlying point is that your views on gay rights vis-a-vis this same Church have little meaning unless you acknowledge this pattern. You have a right not to, but the world has a right to acknowledge that you as a Catholic scholar have chosen not to, and therefore draw its own conclusion therefrom.) is, in light of the point above, neither convincing nor impressive. My underlying point would be that arguments rooted in rejected and partisan narratives designed to promote first English Protestantism and later secularism do not help the cause of people who wish to engage the teaching of the Church. The teaching ought to be confronted or accounted for as it is, and not by unhelpful appeals to, say, Galileo, which was why I intervened several posts above.

        (By the way, my name is Dominic. There is no need for the circumlocution “my Dominican interlocutor.”)

  13. May 17, 2011 3:45 am

    Much of what I would have liked to say has been said above re: the fundamentally unconvincing quality of Alison’s argument. It is clever, but too clever by half, I think. The suggestion that Benedict/Ratzinger, in alluding to the discussion in the Symposium is affirming as such the view of Aristophanes presented therein is, with all due respect, risible. Alison knows the complexity and richness of this dialogue of Plato, as well as the attempts by Christians throughout the past both to make use of Plato’s ideas and the necessary need to distance themselves from other things Plato asserts. I can, for example, speak positively of the discussion in the Phaedrus on the lover and beloved longing for the presence of the same divine each sees in both himself and the other, and their love expressed as inducing the other to be more and more conformed to that inner divine presence, without in any way endorsing the kind of homoerotic pedagogy with which this vision is presented.

    Positively (and indeed, as Alison was once, and for some time, a fellow Dominican, I owe him as much), I found his troubling of the questions “Is it ethical to be Catholic?” particularly excellent. It is, as he suggests, the wrong question entirely. We are not Catholic because we find its arguments especially convincing or because it conforms to what we have independently seen as the best means to procure the good. We have been called, and the Church is the means by which we are conformed by the Spirit to the Son, being made in him sons and daughters of the Father. It is the means by which God accomplishes this in us, as well as the fruit of his having done so.

    Negatively I worry that Alison has fallen victim to having taken simply as true the non-pathological character of homosexual relations, especially as open to sexual expression and on parity with, even if not identical to, marriage. I say this because the fundamental structure of his argument works as easily, if not even more easily, against his view than for it. What I mean is this: If, as he asserts, the pope’s role is to cool things down and thus allow for the gradual, almost imperceptible, movement of the Church, which necessarily entails speaking globally to disparate communities, then might we not wonder whether the generosity here is not to, say, the global south, who have not yet “caught up” with the West’s supposedly new anthropological insight? That is, rather than imagining that the pope really imagines that the West has it “right” but must, for the sake of the global Church, only express that approval through subtle omissions and footnotes, what if he imagines that the West is at a delicate moment, and so needs to here the perennial Gospel in slightly different tones?

    Fundamentally, my worry is that the attitude Alison promotes, viz. that one should simply go ahead in the “space” opened up by his subtle reading and not worry about the claims made by bishops, or even by the Holy See, will if followed more likely close someone off from being taught, being corrected, being counselled, by those constituted in the Church to do so.

    One last point: One of the reasons talk about Christian love cannot make procreation the final say, much less the joining of man and woman, is that these are temporal truths. The eschatological truth, of which these are images and sacramentally (for Christian marriage) effective signs is the joining of each redeemed person, and the Body of Christ as a whole, as Bride to the Bridegroom. This is the truth, which is the vocation of all called to eternal life, which religious life is here and now intended to manifest. Eshatologically, then, neither unity nor procreation is primary. Temporally, however, these are realities intended both to be present for that specific union, both natural and by grace sacramental, which is the fruitful joining of man and woman in marriage.

    • digbydolben permalink
      May 17, 2011 8:39 am

      This is the truth, which is the vocation of all called to eternal life, which religious life is here and now intended to manifest. Eshatologically, then, neither unity nor procreation is primary. Temporally, however, these are realities intended both to be present for that specific union, both natural and by grace sacramental, which is the fruitful joining of man and woman in marriage.

      Yeah, and once, Dominic, Christians were enjoined to forego “that specific union” in order to directly achieve the “primary” goal. Which is it, your Church’s new-fangled idolatry of marriage, or the Scriptures’ primacy of total celibacy and the chaste single life?

      • May 17, 2011 3:33 pm

        Why the either/or? If one can be a “eunuch for the sake of the kingdom” then he ought to do so. Many who read the “theology of the body” forget to read also Vita consecrata. There is no conflict here. Marriage is a great good, and one to which most of the faithful are called. There is another good, which is already an anticipation of the life to come, which is celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom, and ceteris paribus this is a greater good. The first is a sacrament, a sign of the marriage to which each as an individual and all as a whole a called to enter with Christ the Bridegroom. The second is not sacramental, but is proleptic. It anticipates the Kingdom and only makes sense eschatologically. As we see anticipated in Christ himself and in the Blessed Virgin, the eschaton resolves the division of marriage and celibacy. Marriage between created persons is temporal, and it will pass. But, the truth in which it participates is eternal, and is a universal vocation, viz. the mystical marriage with the Bridegroom. Consecrated celibacy is a sign of living this life already, in anticipation, but also awaiting the culmination of the wedding feast. Only the new creation will resolve both of these ways of life, even though there is a relative priority of the celibate life over the married life, objectively speaking. Subjectively, the sole measure is charity, and there are surly religious who will be passed over while charitable fathers and mothers will enter gloriously into the glory of the Resurrection.

    • Dan permalink
      May 17, 2011 10:13 am

      Excellent post.

      • Ronald King permalink
        May 17, 2011 4:41 pm

        Isn’t gene expression a part of the natural order?

      • Dan permalink
        May 18, 2011 12:14 am

        Was that directed at me? I’m not certain I understand what you’re asking.

    • PeterPaul permalink
      May 17, 2011 9:47 pm

      “What is certain is the constant teaching.” Dominic, that is exactly the stance I call into question. The teaching has not always been that constant, on slavery and usury for example, and in the interpretation and study of Scripture.

      • May 18, 2011 10:18 am

        Sorry. My referent here was vague. I meant “the constant teaching about the moral character of homosexual/-erotic activity.” I don’t want us to get sidetracked here re: slavery and usury, although we are likely to disagree. Nonetheless, my claim above was intended in a restricted sense related to the topic at hand.

  14. Liam permalink
    May 17, 2011 12:04 pm

    Six years ago, a woman named Susan Peterson made this comment in Amy Welborn’s blog in a thread that concerned Pope John Paul’s abstract way of addressing homosexuality as compared to marital sexuality. It’s worth impleading here, for it reminds people that, if the Church rests in comfort on the certainty of the truths it possesses, it’s not all there is to the question:

    “I think one ought to have a bit more understanding of and sympathy for the position a gay person finds himself in. He or she did not make his own sexuality. Whether there is a genetic component or whether it is all family dynamics and early experiences, the individual usually did nothing to contribute to his sexual make up. Yes, I think there are some people whose sexuality could have gone either way, who made some choices to follow the homosexual part of their nature. But for the most part, homosexuals just experience homosexuality as a “given” of their being.

    Now one’s sexuality is an important part of the self, of one’s self definition and understanding, of ones style of relating to the world even in non sexual matters. So how would you like to integrate into your self understanding that your sexuality is intrinsically disordered and that there is no way it can be expressed which is moral or holy? It is true that all of our sexuality is disordered since the Fall, and that it is a struggle for all of us not to misuse it, but still, heterosexuals know that there is a way they can express their sexuality which is holy and good. Even if this possibility is only theoretical, because they choose celibacy, or because for some reason they can’t marry, still, they know their desire is ultimately ordered towards marriage, towards something blessed by God.

    How hard it must be for a homosexual to accept that he has been afflicted with a disordered sexuality, and still believe that he is a good person, that he is basically an ok guy, of worth? God does us want to believe that we are basically of worth, OK, not bad, or worthless. Our sins are bad, but we are of worth, and have to believe it even to aspire to do better. I believe this integration can happen, but it is much, much harder than coming to believe, for instance that “I am basically an ok guy with a terribly quick temper that I have to learn to control.” It is much harder because sexuality is so central to one’s self understanding. Is it surprising that when people are struggling to believe in their self worth, rather than work through this very difficult integration, they sometimes decide that if they are of worth, their sexual orientation must be a normal and good way to be?
    Sexuality is something which leads people, sometimes almost forces them, outside their own boundaries, to reach out to others, open themselves up to others. It is of course not the only intimacy and sometimes is a mockery of intimacy, but it does have within it the impetus toward relationship and intimacy. To have to believe one’s sexuality is intrinsically disordered also makes it much harder for a person to figure out how to reach out beyond the self and achieve relationship and intimacy. [Editorial note: This applies all the more to intimacy with God, as it is the foundation for intimacy with anyone else.] Since intimacy with others is a part of a healthy human life, and sexuality is often an impetus towards such intimacy and since it provides a framework and pattern for relating to others even in relationships in which there is no genital sexual involvement, is it surprising that a person striving towards being a healthy human being who achieves intimacy with others, might take the path of deciding to assert that his sexuality is normal and healthy? To that person it seems that 1 his very being and identity, and 2 his very ability to relate to other human beings, is dependent on this assertion.

    And note that all of this can be said without bringing up lust. The frustration of lustful desires is — well, frustrating, as well all know — .but it is something a person with a feeling of self worth and healthy relationships to others can do. The reasons homosexuals come to feel that they must believe their sexuality is healthy are much deeper than “they want to indulge their lusts.” Our society doesn’t do a very good job of showing them what healthy sexuality IS ordered to, does it? Without ever saying that what is wrong is right, we should respect the homosexual person, in fact, almost be humbled by what is asked of him or her by God. If some choose a path short of that, we need to understand how difficult the path was that they were asked to negotiate, and still be respectful of the person. I don’t think one could do a homosexual person any spiritual good without understanding this and having that respect.”

    • May 17, 2011 12:19 pm

      That comment exactly expresses my own views.

      • Ronald King permalink
        May 17, 2011 4:58 pm

        I agree. Intimate relationships reveal to each of us what needs healing in self and the other. Our response to homosexuality seems to reveal in us the extent to which we are open to God’s Love as our guide.

    • Dan permalink
      May 17, 2011 4:21 pm

      Another very good post.

      I don’t think the Church, properly speaking, has any vested interest in differentiating homosexuals from the rest of society. Nor does it have an interest in making any moral judgements on homosexuals one way or the other. Unfortunately, the church does, which is where everything breaks down. As in many other things. the people give the institution a bad name and confuse the issue.

      If I read correctly, the catechism teaches everything mentioned in the post above.

      • Liam permalink
        May 17, 2011 8:18 pm

        No, the Catechism doesn’t. It touches at the perimeter of things, and evades grappling with the thorny heart of the issue (one can say that it’s not the job of a catechism to do that, but then we must be much more explicitly humble about the limits of such a catechism and not employ it as a universal theological wrench, as many Catholics appear tempted to do).

      • Dan permalink
        May 17, 2011 8:59 pm

        That is my fundamental point. The people are the ones who insist on passing judgment, not the Church. My reading of the catechism is that we are called to a deeper understanding, respect, and sympathy of the unique challenges that homosexuals must endure. I read nothing in there about the moral judgement passed by heterosexuals on homosexuals, which to me seems fundamentally unchristian.

    • May 17, 2011 5:19 pm

      I think these points are all very good Liam. I don’t think it justifies unchastity or homogenital acts, but I think it hits to the heart of why the Church’s pastoral approach to this question is so terribly deficient nowadays, and why I find the “objectively disordered” language to be incoherent.

      What’s disordered is concupiscence in general, the fact that our lower appetite inclines our will to subjective goods independent of the consent of Reason. But to reduce “homosexuality” (a complex construct) to its lusts…is, well, reductionist. There also seems to be something of a double-standard, inasmuch as heterosexual arousal by the thought of, say, oral sex to completion or other disordered acts…isn’t called “disordered” as if heterosexuals (and many in today’s pornography world have such fetishes) are afflicted with some pathology. It’s almost as if they have bought into the notion that homosexuality is a natural inclination towards sin (rather than just the neutral fact of arousal by certain stimuli) and that, thus, the human will has been in some sense actually corrupted, actually has evil as an object (impossible by any traditional theology of how the Will works). The theology surrounding this question is, upon analysis, incredibly sloppy and, frankly, unnecessary. It really isn’t the Church’s business to be approving or deconstructing various constructions like this, it’s to say what is moral or immoral in terms of moral objects, in terms of acts. Obsessing over the “inclination” is exactly what we should not do.

      Then, add to it comments from the Vatican like the seminary instruction’s claim that homosexuals lack affective maturity and that they cannot relate properly to men and women, and suddenly you realize that a lot of this is not so much the teachings on chastity (valid in themselves), but rather a whole lot of “conservative” institutional homophobia (so ironic in the Catholic clergy…) and just part of gender-politics, the politics of identity, and the culture wars, not any genuine concern for chastity.

      • Liam permalink
        May 17, 2011 8:23 pm

        Well, the Greek philosophical idea of separating appetites/emotion from reason is being rather demolished by modern neurology, so we should be careful about theologies that imply outmoded science as a premise.

        Ms Peterson’s reveals that you can’t neatly divide out the sexual orientation as bad lower appetite from the faculty of interpersonal intimacy that is also a necessary part of our relationship with God.

      • Dan permalink
        May 18, 2011 1:15 am

        There is a lot of wisdom in this post.

      • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO permalink*
        May 18, 2011 6:32 am

        Well said. This captures much of my own convoluted thinking on the subject.

      • May 18, 2011 7:20 am

        This is a great comment. The difficulty with the whole “objectively disordered” category is that it must mean something different and more than the disorder that we all embody as a result of concupiscence and yet mean something less than “intrinsically sinful,” or something like that. The pastoral danger is that it is read along the latter lines by people who don’t have A Sinner’s theological acumen, and the theological problem is that, when read correctly, it amounts to little more than a redundancy.

        I also agree that the Catechism is laughably evasive on this whole topic, and that this derives from certain members of the hierarchy thinking that the Church should have anything to say about sexual “identities” as opposed to discrete actions and the character–not identity–that is formed by their commission or omission.

      • May 18, 2011 9:19 am

        “The difficulty with the whole “objectively disordered” category is that it must mean something different and more than the disorder that we all embody as a result of concupiscence and yet mean something less than “intrinsically sinful,” or something like that.”

        Thank you, WJ! Exactly my thoughts. It is a novel category, theologically speaking, that I don’t think anyone used before the 1970’s. They’ve trumped it up in response to “essentialist” constructions of homosexuality, but in the process tacitly accept the essentialist construction, which leads to all sorts of theological problems when pursued.

        As for the evasiveness of the Catechism, I wrote a whole post on its equivocation and obfuscation here:

        http://renegadetrad.blogspot.com/2011/04/they-need-better-editor.html

  15. digbydolben permalink
    May 17, 2011 5:11 pm

    Bravo, Liam!

  16. Dan permalink
    May 17, 2011 9:17 pm

    I don’t really think you can divorce the acts from the orientation in terms of violations of the natural order. The reason why the former is objectively wrong is the same reason why the latter is considered a pathology. Ultimately, they are both signs that the car blew a tire. What is truly wrong is how we seem to empahsize that homosexuality is any more objectively wrong than all the other different pathologies we all have (e.g. Predisposition to gluttony, tendency to lie, etc…). We are all driving on a set of flats and seem to think that we have the right to complain about someone else’s predicament. At the end of the day I truly believe that God doesn’t think homosexuality is nearly as important an issue as any of us think it is.

    • Charles Robertson permalink
      May 18, 2011 9:05 am

      The reason sexual sins and disordered sexual appetites are more serious than other disordered appetites is that the generative faculty is directed to a higher good, namely, the good of the species, which is a common good, as opposed to the private good which is the object of the other inclinations. That is why sexual sins are mortal sins whereas other sins of sensuality are generally venial.

    • May 18, 2011 11:25 am

      Sigh. Dan, what you say only makes sense if homosexuality is reduced to its lusts. But, at that point, it’s lust in general that’s disordered, not the fact that it happens to be homosexual.

      What you say implies the homosexuality is a unique basic drive for homogenital interaction that some people have. Which is the exact same thing the liberal “essentialist” gays would try to claim.

      You say it’s a pathological drive, they say it’s a good and healthy and natural one. Frankly, if we admit that the object attracting the Will is “homogenital acts” as an end in itself, THEY have the stronger case; if the Will is inclined towards something as an end, it means that object is a proper fulfillment of that person’s nature. Unless we admit (as some Protestant theologies tend towards) that human nature has actually been fundamentally corrupted in the sense of being somehow positively ordered towards evil.

      In reality, though, both positions are based on faulty premises. The end the Will seeks in homogenital acts is not to be found in themselves, it is to be found in other basic goods apprehended to be obtainable therein which, while the Church would deny (and I would agree) can justify disordered means, are nevertheless real goods (albeit sought apart from their holistic context.)

      First and foremost among these IS (concupiscently) sexual pleasure and (irascibly) the compulsion of intrusive urges or fantasies which (in both homosexuals and heterosexuals) can at times have the character of an inexplicable or arbitrary obsession, troubling the mind with images and ideas and feelings which people perceive will be at least temporarily quieted by enacting them.

      Separated from a transcendent non-circular reason for identifying that in which such pleasure/satisfaction is taken as objectively good…such acts would be disordered. But the conscious experiences of pleasure/satisfaction are truly subjective goods which remains naturally appealing to the Will even when severed from any connatural intelligible and objective good.

      In our own culture at least, I’d tend to think that the “psycho-emotional” component of sexual activity is even more important to people than the “physical” pleasure in itself. Sexual arousal and pleasure have been sublimated into all sorts of abstract ideas and satisfactions related to self-image, “exploration,” intimacy, power, etc etc, according to extremely complicated social and personal constructions (though constructions are all they are). I think even more than excitement and orgasm, these are what people are seeking (though it is an unfulfilling illusion) in lives of unchastity. But again, this is equally true (and equally disordered) for homosexuals and heterosexuals.

      In other words, the only disorder is that of concupiscence in general, is that in fallen man individual subject goods can petition the will independent of holistic reason. The fact that these goods can be obtained separately rather than as part of the whole and transcendent good, however, is simply neutral and in most cases just the result of the logic of causation in creation. The fact that (say) rubbing the genitals leads to physiological processes of sexual arousal even outside the marriage act is not disordered…it’s just how things work.

      As such, the mere fact of arousal by certain stimuli lead to greater excitement and thus pleasure (or probably more importantly, as I said, have been constructed with all sorts of more abstract ideas of self-image and intimacy) isn’t disordered in itself. It just is. Just like the fact that I COULD get money (and obtain other basic goods, satisfactions, or enjoyments, with it) by grabbing that woman’s purse there, that those goods petition my Will independent of the consideration of reason. But I don’t see how homosexuality can be singled out in this regard.

      And that’s only homosexual LUST. The fact is, “homosexuality” is a complex social/personal construction that contains AT LEAST two elements, usually: the question of sexual arousal by same-sex stimuli, but also the question of romantic love (itself a contingent construction) for members of the same sex.

      As the comment above says, “one’s sexuality is an important part of the self, of one’s self definition and understanding, of ones style of relating to the world even in non sexual matters” and as the Catechism itself does admit, “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.”

      If homosexuality is reduced to lust, I suppose it is disordered or “pathological” or “broken” but only inasmuch as ALL lust is; the particular stimuli is really irrelevant. But if we recognize homosexuality as one form or aspect of the “sexuality” that the Catechism speaks of as relevant to our whole way of relating in the world as males or females, our whole affective life, then singling it out as “disordered” is a pretty grim message for homosexuals and does make it seem a lot worse than the other things you seem to want to make it equivalent to.

      • Dan permalink
        May 18, 2011 12:50 pm

        I’m sorry, I don’t see how the conclusions you are drawing follow from my post (which is expounded more clearly in the reply to your comments further above – this isolated post was made in error). My point is that it is an artificial division to separate the acts from the orientation, and yet you seem to be using that exact methodology in an attempt to disprove my arguments. This illustrates my point perfectly – that such constructs ultimately miss the point create division. It sounds like we’re talking past each other rather than to each other.

        What you say implies the homosexuality is a unique basic drive for homogenital interaction that some people have.

        I’m not certain as to how what I said that could be interpreted in that context, but I certainly don’t believe that at all. Homosexuality is a complex phenomenon driven mostly by the desire for deeper intimacy with a member of the same gender. The homogenital aspects are most certainly secondary at best.

        If I am not misreading you, you are claiming that I am reducing this to lust, but I don’t see how I am. An inclination is not a lust. The matter is not as complex as you are making it out to be. The point is that there is an objective natural end to physical attraction/intimacy that harmonizes the physical, psychological, and social (e.g. offspring) aspects of the human person. This is defective in a homosexual relationship – the most perfect homosexual relationship lacks what the most perfect heterosexual relationship has. That does NOT mean that the average case scenario implies that a homosexual relationship is more defective than a heterosexual one. But they can never be made equivalent.

        Argue all you want about objects, intentions, etc.. but in the end it’s not a complex matter. And frankly in my opinion it really isn’t that big a deal, given that none of us have the perfect relationship, whether heterosexual or homosexual. Who are we to judge?

      • May 18, 2011 5:18 pm

        “The homogenital aspects are most certainly secondary at best.”

        I think that is too much of a generalization. I think it would depend a lot on the individual in question. I know plenty of homosexuals AND heterosexuals…for whom the genital aspect is NOT secondary, for whom any notion of romance or intimacy was long ago discarded for a life of sex-as-a-drug.

        “If I am not misreading you, you are claiming that I am reducing this to lust, but I don’t see how I am. An inclination is not a lust.”

        And what I’m saying is that abstracted from its lusts, homosexuality is neutral, not disordered.

        “The matter is not as complex as you are making it out to be. The point is that there is an objective natural end to physical attraction/intimacy that harmonizes the physical, psychological, and social (e.g. offspring) aspects of the human person.”

        Here, I suppose, is where I’d disagree. This may be where TOTB tends, but that’s why I don’t like TOTB. I think that “attraction” and “intimacy” have a lot of purposes in human society that are not only ordered toward the genital/marital, and this sort of construction of sex with love is both silly and harmful.

        I’d be fine with the idea of chaste homo-romantic friendships, for example, and believe the idea was simply a non-issue before marriage was redefined in a sentimentalist fashion as this romantic emotional union (which is really proper to friendships generally) rather than as simply a mutual exchange of the rights to parent each others children. The Church definitely does NOT require a couple to be “in love” (talk about a construct!) to get validly married.

        Rather, I’d say, there is an objective meaning to the intensity of sexual desire and pleasure, a connatural objective good to which the accompanying subjective goods correspond. The reason people want to do these things is because of mating. The reason there is an intense desire to bump genitals is because of mating. To, say, add a condom is to make the universe absurd, and renders “the good” a meaningless solipsistic phenomenon. Then you’re just going through the motions to access the pleasure/desire-satisfaction OF mating (by “tricking” the brain/body, as it were, hacking into those reward-circuits) but completely emptied of the objective element that makes the experience intelligibly desirable/pleasurable in the first place! Then that’s just like a drug.

        The stimuli that arouse, though, is really neither here nor there. Pavlov’s dog was conditioned to be made hungry by the ringing of a bell. Is that “disordered”? Does it suddenly make bells the object of his drive to eat? No, it just is, a physiological reality with no moral implications whatsoever.

      • Dan permalink
        May 19, 2011 12:21 pm

        I think that is too much of a generalization. I think it would depend a lot on the individual in question. I know plenty of homosexuals AND heterosexuals…for whom the genital aspect is NOT secondary, for whom any notion of romance or intimacy was long ago discarded for a life of sex-as-a-drug.

        That is precisely the lust issue you speak very correctly about. But that is a cross-cutting concern that is not specific to any specific sexual orientation. It cannot be used to categorize homosexuality in any way; it’s ultimately irrelevant to our discussion.

        And what I’m saying is that abstracted from its lusts, homosexuality is neutral, not disordered.

        If you sufficiently isolate anything from its proper context, everything is neutral. That’s like abstracting the number three from ordinality and appreciating it for its “threeness”. I’m not sure that has any meaning.

        In any case, I’m not sure there’s any point in splitting hairs. I see the logic of your perspective. Even if I disagree with some of your methodology, I respect your position as reasonable, defensible, and well thought out.

  17. digbydolben permalink
    May 18, 2011 4:46 am

    And “Bravo,” to you, too, “Sinner”!

  18. Ronald King permalink
    May 18, 2011 9:43 am

    Dan, Sorry, that was not directed at you. I have had sleep deprivation since Saturday and everything is blurring together. I think I was attempting to make the point that every human response to this violent world could be considered the natural outcome of the natural law of cause and effect.

  19. May 18, 2011 11:58 am

    Liam writes: “Well, the Greek philosophical idea of separating appetites/emotion from reason is being rather demolished by modern neurology…”

    This is news to me, especially since Aristotle’s concept of choice or decision is parsed either as “desiring reason” or “reasoning desire.” What studies do you have in mind?

  20. May 18, 2011 12:29 pm

    By the way, Dominic Holz, O.P. is beasting all over this thread. God I love Dominicans.

    • brettsalkeld permalink*
      May 18, 2011 12:32 pm

      Beasting?

      • May 18, 2011 12:39 pm

        You must be Canadian: “to demonstrate excellence and prowess at an activity; to dominate all competition.” i.e. “The Bulls were in trouble against the Hawks until Derrick Rose started beasting it all over the court.”

      • Dan permalink
        May 18, 2011 5:04 pm

        I’m Canadian and I know all about beasting. I think Brett’s problem is he watches sissy sports like hockey and baseball that have no use for the term.

  21. Charles Robertson permalink
    May 18, 2011 2:11 pm

    The reason the inclination to same-sex sex acts is a “disordered inclination” is that the natural inclination of the generative faculty is to a member of the opposite sex. The proper object of the concupiscible faculty is the pleasurable good, and its inclination is disordered not by being directed to an improper object, but by its lack of obedience to reason which determines the due measure of goods to be enjoyed. To desire too much drink/food/sexual pleasure is disordered because it is not consonant with reason, not because the desire is directed to an unsuitable object. So, inasmuch as same-sex attraction is prompted by the desire for pleasure, it is disordered in the same way as the desire to bed any member of the opposite sex without reference to the demands of practical reason. But in comparison to the natural inclination of the generative faculty (and not the sensitive appetite) it is disordered by being directed to an unsuitable object. The generative faculty by its very nature is directed to the good of the species, and so on the hypothesis of this end, its active use must be directed by the rational agent to its proper object, a member of the opposite sex. By being habitually disposed to direct one’s sexual activity to a member of the same sex (and this can occur through a conscious fantasy life or unconscious factors beyond one’s control) constitutes a disorder over and above the disordered desire for pleasure that is common to all sins of concupiscence. It is not simply a disposition for pleasure in excess or deficiency, but a disposition to direct the activity of a faculty to an improper object. A habitual disposition or inclination to act in this way is itself a disordered inclination. Such an inclination can arise as a result of chosen acts or out of environmental factors beyond the control of the subject of that inclination, not excluding the possibility of a genetic source. A disordered inclination such as this is not of itself sinful, but to act on it would be since it could not in principle be ordered to the good of the individual, the species or the universe.

    • May 18, 2011 5:03 pm

      If homosexual acts are not ordered to the good of the individual, the species, or the universe, how can mandatory celibacy be ordered to the good of the individual, the species, or the universe? Or the multiverse, for that matter? If non-procreative acts by those who are not themselves “ordered to procreative acts” are not for the good of the species or the universe, how can mandatory celibacy, which removes from the human gene pool the genes of the best and the brightest (or at least that is how we used to think of them) be good for the species?

      If someone who is constitutionally a Kinsey 6 (exclusively homosexual), and who is definitely not going to engage in reproductive behavior with the opposite sex, engages in non-procreative homosexual sex with another Kinsey 6, how exactly can his or her behavior be described as not for the good of the species or the multiverse? On the other hand, how can someone who is a Kinsey 0, with excellent genes, be acting for the good of the species by declining to reproduce?

      Perhaps the human race is going to hell in a hand basket because mandatory celibacy is breeding holiness genes out of the race.

      • Charles Robertson permalink
        May 18, 2011 8:33 pm

        1. Celibacy is not mandatory to anyone. It is a gift of God to those who have been called by Him.
        2. The celibate does not direct the activity of his generative faculty to any object whatsoever. Consequently, there can be no disordered activity on his part.

      • Thales permalink
        May 19, 2011 8:03 am

        David,
        Your questions about celibacy are answered by Thomas Aquinas, Summa, II-II, Q.152.

    • May 18, 2011 5:44 pm

      “The reason the inclination to same-sex sex acts is a ‘disordered inclination’ is that the natural inclination of the generative faculty is to a member of the opposite sex.”

      First, to reduce homosexuality to an “inclination to same-sex sex acts” is, again, reductionist.

      Second, this is not even how I would define the aspect you are talking about. Is arousal by a certain stimuli the same as an inclination to participate in such acts? Sometimes, sometimes not. Just because an image arouses someone, for example, doesn’t mean they want to have sex with what’s in the image. Maybe they will just want to masturbate while looking at it (ie, a purely voyeuristic phenomenon). Now, obviously, in most cases people perceive a more intense (and, especially, tactile) contact with the stimuli will lead to more intense arousal and thus more intense pleasure, but…I don’t think in itself the mere fact that a stimuli (either sensory, or more abstract) induces a certain (pleasurable) state is disordered or necessarily constitutes an inclination to pursue such a state irrationally.

      Is the fact that I know heroin will induce in me an illicit state of unnatural pleasure “disordered”? Does this fact mean I have an “inclination” to try heroin? Or (more reasonably) is it just a bare biophysiological fact? I’d conclude the disorder is only in the fact that such a state can appeal to the will apart from reason, not in the mere fact of a certain (in this case chemical) stimuli’s ability to induce it (a fact which just is).

      ” The proper object of the concupiscible faculty is the pleasurable good, and its inclination is disordered not by being directed to an improper object, but by its lack of obedience to reason which determines the due measure of goods to be enjoyed. To desire too much drink/food/sexual pleasure is disordered because it is not consonant with reason, not because the desire is directed to an unsuitable object. So, inasmuch as same-sex attraction is prompted by the desire for pleasure, it is disordered in the same way as the desire to bed any member of the opposite sex without reference to the demands of practical reason.”

      Correct.

      “But in comparison to the natural inclination of the generative faculty (and not the sensitive appetite) it is disordered by being directed to an unsuitable object. The generative faculty by its very nature is directed to the good of the species, and so on the hypothesis of this end, its active use must be directed by the rational agent to its proper object, a member of the opposite sex.”

      I would disagree with defining the proper object of it as “a member of the opposite sex.” The object can never be a thing, it can only be an act. Yes, the proper object is an act (specifically, the marital act of procreative union) involving a member of the opposite sex…but there are plenty of things that can be done with a member of the opposite sex that are not in accord with reason either. The mere fact that one sex or the other induces the biophysiological state of arousal…is neither here nor there morally. A heterosexual man aroused by breasts is just as disordered if he lusts to ejaculate on them.

      “By being habitually disposed to direct one’s sexual activity to a member of the same sex (and this can occur through a conscious fantasy life or unconscious factors beyond one’s control) constitutes a disorder over and above the disordered desire for pleasure that is common to all sins of concupiscence.”

      But see, then, this IS reducing homosexuality to its lust. “Habitual disposition” implies either a virtue or vice. This is defining homosexuality as a vice, a habit inclining the will toward sin.

      But I think it would be offensive to reduce homosexuality to that. I think, most basically, even concentrating just on the genital aspect, it is simply the fact that certain stimuli induce arousal.

      Then again, scientists may someday soon find a psychoactive drug that will induce arousal and orgasms more intense than any sex could ever be…and will the fact that this drug achieves its effect (by simple biochemical cause and effect) be “disordered”??

      More simply: is the fact that my right hand can be a stimuli of arousal and orgasm for me (instead of a woman) “disordered”? Or is it just a neutral reality (with the disorder being in the fact that concupiscent lets the good of pleasure appeal to my will independent of reason)?

      This I think gets to the heart of the issue. What you’ve said is, to me, clearly the logic behind talk of “objective disorder.” It is the construction of homosexuality as, if not a sin, a vice (ie, a habit of the will towards sin). Except, habits are only acquired through acts. The will cannot have a habit, in that sense, that it did not choose. Speaking as if a vice can be unconsciously acquired (or inborn) is bad theology and implies, in this case, that the homosexual is actually a sort of creature irrevocably vicious. There’s also the fact that vice can be conquered, whereas the mere fact that certain stimuli induce arousal…usually cannot change.

      “It is not simply a disposition for pleasure in excess or deficiency, but a disposition to direct the activity of a faculty to an improper object.”

      What object and what disposition? Homosexuality in itself is just the fact that, for certain people, the stimuli which procure the most intense excitement and thus pleasure…are same-sex. The only problem is that concupiscence allows such a state to be desired/enjoyed regardless of the means employed to obtain it. But that’s just what concupiscence is in general.

      • Charles Robertson permalink
        May 18, 2011 8:24 pm

        “I would disagree with defining the proper object of it as “a member of the opposite sex.” The object can never be a thing, it can only be an act.”

        Faculties are distiguished by their formal objects. The formal object of a faculty is discovered by considering the acts proceeding from the faculty. The act of the reproductive faculty is directed to a member of the opposite sex as its material object, to a mature member of the species as its formal object.

        “But see, then, this IS reducing homosexuality to its lust. “Habitual disposition” implies either a virtue or vice. This is defining homosexuality as a vice, a habit inclining the will toward sin.”

        A habitual inclination has the character of vice if it is voluntary in cause. Homosexual inclinations need not be voluntary in cause, but I certainly think they can be. The particular vice it would be is a bestial form of intemperance, which exists in the concupiscible faculty as its subject.

      • May 19, 2011 12:57 pm

        And I’m just saying I think that’s a strange view of what homosexuality (or heterosexuality for that matter) is.

        Certain stimuli (visual, tactile, more abstract, etc) cause the physiological state of arousal, which suggests to the Will sexual pleasure and (perhaps even more primarily) release from the tension that arousal represents. In such a situation, increased application of that stimuli is one obvious means to obtain that, though not the only one (a man [involuntarily] aroused by seeing another woman, or a man, or dog COULD go home and get off in a perfectly natural manner with his wife based on it).

        But I think the mere fact that certain stimuli are responded to by the body with arousal is simply neutral and only has a bearing on the question of the Will and inclinations to acts inasmuch as arousal petitions the Will with the idea of its culmination/release and inasmuch as further application of the same stimuli is perceived as one possible means of obtaining that.

        But like I said…is it “disordered” that a Bell was the stimuli that aroused Pavlov’s Dog’s hunger?? Is it disordered that my brain would react to heroin with illicit pleasure? Is it disordered that a certain injection could make me horny too??

        By sloppily accepting the liberal essentialist construction of homosexuality (ie, that there is a species of creature known as “the homosexual” who has an inborn habit of homogenital acts) at face value, the Vatican is left in the awkward position of then saying that such a creature is intrinsically depraved, even apart from and prior to the question of voluntary acts.

  22. CSHart permalink
    May 18, 2011 2:13 pm

    Spot the difference/sameness in the following paragraph. And before you go all “moralistic” or “traditionalistic” (as the strangely illiterate Fr. Alison might put it) just remember that some of my best friends are adulterers and life is not always “uncomplicatistic.”

    So, to my first point. In the last fifty years or so we have undergone a genuine human discovery of the sort that we, the human race, don’t make all that often. A genuine anthropological discovery: one that is not a matter of fashion, or wishful thinking; not the result of a decline in morals or a collapse of family values. We now know something objectively true about humans that we didn’t know before: that there is a regularly occurring, non-pathological minority variant in the human condition, independent of culture, habitat, religion, education, or customs, which we currently call “being adulterous”. This minority variant is not, of course, lived in a way that is independent of culture, habitat, religion, education and customs. It is lived, as is every other human reality, in an entirely culture-laden way, which is one of the reasons why it has in the past been so easy to mistake it as merely a function of culture, psychology, religion or morality: something to get worked up about rather than something that is just there.

    • Dan permalink
      May 18, 2011 4:23 pm

      Comparing adulterousness and homosexuality is fraught with incongruencies. If I read your intentions correctly, I would consider obesity as the ideal comparison: Sometimes chosen, but more often than not a combinations of genetics, environment, psychology, etc.. They suffer in almost all the same ways that homosexuals do: They are misunderstood, belittled, and ostracised by mainstream society. They desire intimacy like we all do, but feel like they are worthless and unlovable because of their differences. Many persecute them for their condition, thinking it a matter of choice and not a matter of nature. The thought of them is often associated with disease and illness; the similarities are striking.

    • Erich permalink
      May 18, 2011 4:26 pm

      You are equating adultery with homosexuality?

    • May 18, 2011 4:31 pm

      As the very literate Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary might put it:

      Main Entry: mor·al·is·tic
      Function: adjective
      1 : characterized by or expressive of a concern with morality
      2 : characterized by or expressive of a narrow and conventional moral attitude
      – mor·al·is·ti·cal·ly adverb

      “moralistic.” Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged. Merriam-Webster, 2002. http://unabridged.merriam-webster.com (18 May 2011).

      ——————————–

      Main Entry: tra·di·tion·al·ist
      Function: noun
      Inflected Form(s): -s
      Etymology: French traditionaliste, from traditionalisme, after such pairs as Middle French athéisme atheism: athéiste atheist
      : one who adheres to or advocates adherence to tradition : a believer in or proponent of traditionalism
      - tra·di·tion·al·is·tic adjective

      “traditionalist.” Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged. Merriam-Webster, 2002. http://unabridged.merriam-webster.com (18 May 2011).

    • May 18, 2011 4:46 pm

      I had an exchange in another forum with someone who insisted that “sexual orientation is what you do with your private parts.” You seem to think along those lines. In order to be “adulterous,” you have to commit adultery. What do you have to commit in order to be gay? Even Vatican documents recognize the existence of “homosexual persons” and affirms that being a homosexual person in and of itself is not sinful. And of course at the moment, being a homosexual person—having deep seated homosexual tendencies—does disqualify a person from being ordained, even if he is celibate. So clearly the Church recognizes that there are gay people who do not commit homosexual acts, who remain gay nevertheless when they are celibate. If being gay—being a homosexual person—required committing homosexual acts, then all homosexual persons would have to be condemned by the Church.

      You analogy between gay people and adulterous people is as wrong as your allegation that Fr. Alison is “strangely illiterate” for using two perfectly good words. You might have saved yourself some embarrassment by checking a dictionary first.

      • CSHart permalink
        May 18, 2011 11:38 pm

        In fact I did not say these were not real words, or, indeed, that Fr. Alison ever actually used them. I merely threw them out, in the ironic way that us literate types have, as an example of the sort of word Alison misuses all the time. Illiteracy extends not just to the use of non-existent words, but also to the misuse of existent ones. It also applies to people like you who misread what is said and then over-excite themselves in an imagined “gotcha” moment. I think it is very funny that you imagine me to be “embarrassed” and I think you should try to get out more often.

        But to the point. One may very well possess an adulterous nature that, if unchecked, will lead one to commit adultery. In fact, I would say that all people who commit adultery consider it beforehand, but not all those who consider it beforehand actually commit it. Now an inclination to adulterous expression and one to homosexual expression are alike in this respect: they both may be experienced quite apart from the will of the one who experiences them, and their indulgence may be resisted through the will of the one who experiences them. In so far as the indulgence of these inclinations is not resisted, sin is committed.

  23. Peter Paul Fuchs permalink
    May 18, 2011 4:17 pm

    Dominic the Dominican,
    Well, you have come up with another howler: “The claim of Catholic stultification of intellectual endeavor is simply not found in respectable, academic historical work.”
    I think this shows, again with due respect to you, the willingness of Catholics these days, as quite distinct from the past, to just play fast and loose with historical facts. “Catholic stultification” was my attempt at euphemism, trying to be charitable, a lot of good it does me apparently. In fact the scholarly literature on Latin America is filled with much more than “stultification” laid at the doorstep of the Church. To such an extent that I really wonder if what you consider “respectable” is on the level of Thomas Woods’ puerile emissions. I am afraid you prove my point exactly about the insular and, to my mind, solipsistic rationale alive today in Rome apparently. A great shame because many Catholic historians of the past were very honest. And let other casual readers note that I have avoided even talking about the Holy Office, manned mostly by your Order, out of respects for you, but boy there is a lot there vis-a-vis Latin America in the “respectable” literature.
    As to your specific point about the appointment of Bishops by the Crown, that is a good one. And it shows again how complicated history is at every period. We are not going to encompass centuries’ long complexity in a few blog comments. But let us take as a guiding example the reform efforts of Archbishop Palafox, and the really amazing counter efforts by the Jesuits. The same Jesuits working directly at Papal behest, and not the Crown! I think if we are talking “paradigmatic” this case shows when push came to shove with the Crown the true power of the top leadership of the Church in Latin America, and its true intent.
    I am well aware of the trend of recent Church apologetics to try to fob off all criticism with assertions of some sub rosa intellectual compliance with “ant-Catholic” historiographical bias. That is such a huge topic that all I can bring myself to say is NO to that simplistic idea.

    Lastly, I think you getting a bit overwrought if you would have recourse to mere hyperbole about “blackmail.” I am going to let that hyperbole pass in charity, thinking the energy must be a bit overwhelming these days in the “Eternal City”.

    [I would ask you two to make closing arguments and let it rest as this is quite off topic. Thanks. BS]

  24. digbydolben permalink
    May 18, 2011 7:43 pm

    I have to say that some of the thinking on this thread is extraordinarily encouraging to me, and, I’d reckon, to all who think that the Roman Catholic Church need to rethink their position on the ethics of this issue. Even those who think that the “orientation” is “disordered” (which I don’t) are proving here to be sensible and charitable.
    However, along the lines of “pastoral care,” I’d like to ask a question of both sides. My question is prompted by two comments with which I strongly concur in the thread above. Here they are:

    If you’re talking about “homosexuality” as a psycho-emotional phenomenon, it IS permissible (because it simply IS) and, with qualification, might even be [chastely] “celebrated” by some.

    In our own culture at least, I’d tend to think that the “psycho-emotional” component of sexual activity is even more important to people than the “physical” pleasure in itself. Sexual arousal and pleasure have been sublimated into all sorts of abstract ideas and satisfactions related to self-image, “exploration,” intimacy, power, etc etc, according to extremely complicated social and personal constructions (though constructions are all they are).

    What if, in its pastoral care for the “same-sex attracted,” the Church were to put in place another “construction” designed to affirm the legitimacy of chaste “same-sex attraction”—say, a rite of chaste “friendship-commitment” in which two people of the same sex were to promise before the “people of God,” in their churches to live together in an exclusively devoted and self-sacrificial way?

    It seems to me that a large part of the real harm that the Catholic Church is doing to the “same-sex attracted” is to demand that they remain silent regarding their “orientation,” when, in fact, the “cross” that some of them bear nobly and chastely deserves public celebration as, perhaps, a remarkable sign of Christ’s solidarity with those who suffer. I believe that if homosexual people were actually WELCOMED into Christian communities and offered an opportunity for self-affirmation through public service to others AS “same-sex-oriented” people, the modern youth who find the Church’s position on homosexual ACTS so risible and hypocritical would be, instead, impressed with the Church’s integrity and bravery in wrestling with the suffering of EVERYBODY.

    • May 24, 2011 11:34 pm

      Well, in fact, rites of “making brothers” existed in the past. It’s not clear at all that they were necessarily attempts to create “same-sex couples” in the modern sense; certainly such a thing could never be equivalent to marriage, and “romantic love” is (with “sexual orientation”) too recent a concept to project back onto it. They may have just been a creating of “adopted” brothers post-adulthood (rather than requiring one or their parents to actually adopt the other) for the sake of financial and social/political “alliance,” but either way there is some evidence it created a sort of domestic partnership between two men.

      Again, I’m not claiming that “homosexuality” should be read into these couples. Some may have experienced the phenomena we’d construct as that today, others may have just been good friends or “room-mates” or whatever for whom it was practical to share life if they were the rare case of an unmarried bachelor (or even, we can’t be sure, if they WERE married but were ALSO created such a bond). It may have been socio-politically advantageous to cement such an alliance (perhaps if they were only children and, say, had no sister to cement the familial bond through giving her to the other in marriage), etc. We can’t really know.

      More interestingly, though, it was also used among monks, apparently, especially in the East (contrast that with the West’s later unhealthy aversion to “particular friendships” in religious life and the clergy).

      Whatever its significance in its own historical context, I would tend to think such rites could be co-opted for the purpose of carving out some recognition of same-sex love (among both “homosexuals” and “heterosexuals,” also married to opposite sex spouses or not), something I think is severely lacking in the Church due to homophobia. Again, it wouldn’t even have to be a “gay” thing necessarily, though surely homosexuals would probably find it most useful. Where is the place in the Church for declaring such a love as David and Jonathan had for each other, etc? No where, really. “The family” has been apotheosized, but real friendship (of the “romantic” variety or otherwise) has been rather ignored (and even been viewed with suspicion among the clergy).

      Vox Nova had another thread about this a long time ago (in which you posted), and the response there was likewise heartening:

      http://vox-nova.com/2009/10/06/homosexuals-in-chaste-relationships/

      I do think holding up to the world, and young people especially, same-sex love (without any sort of obsession over which stimuli arouse people) that is chaste and heroic etc (perhaps also resourcing “The Phaedrus” etc) would help to both give a place to homosexuals in the Church (as, you’re right, currently they are asked to, basically, sit down, shut up, and let everyone else pretend they don’t exist so as not to complicate things; a USCCB document, even, specifically discouraged “coming out” publicly, even as chaste!) but also might help deconstruct the whole notion of “sexual orientation” as some sort of essence practically requiring people to engage in unchaste acts and, in that sense, combat homophobic “heterosexualized” constructs of masculinity that, I think, deprive even heterosexual men of same-sex intimacy that I think, in the past, was more taken for granted (and, in the Church, should be).

      And I don’t think any of this would really need to construct homosexuality as a “cross” or “suffering” either. As (outside the rare case of a mixed-orientation marriage; a possibility I wouldn’t quite entirely dismiss either) simply a call to a different type of lifestyle, a different type of relating in the form of particular relationship, that is not genital, but which is not the total detachment and universal “levelling” imagined in priesthood or religious life that shuns “particular friendships” either.

      • May 25, 2011 7:44 am

        True enough; perhaps the best place to explore the themes of these rites are in the works by and on Pavel Florensky. He is the one who really brought them to light, and he also seemed to have interest in them for himself (until he was told he was not to be a monk, but a married priest).

  25. brettsalkeld permalink*
    May 19, 2011 9:26 am

    So, it seems to me that some aspects of Alison’s argument hold up better than others. I too think that the reference to Plato is a bit of a stretch. And I think that the point that Ratzinger might be cooling things down precisely to go in the other direction is an interesting one.

    On the other hand, the widespread acceptance of A Sinner’s point that the Catechism already grants too much ground in this regard is an interesting one for considering Alison’s thesis, especially since we all know who is responsible for the Catechism! Further to that point, A Sinner’s concerns about TOB might suggest that JPII isn’t quite so bad as Alison thinks (from a gay perspective).

    • erich permalink
      May 19, 2011 9:45 am

      But I think CSHart puts it very well. If Alison’s line of argument is true with respect to being gay, then how does it fail with respect to being adulterous.

      This is what CSHart says:
      But to the point. One may very well possess an adulterous nature that, if unchecked, will lead one to commit adultery. In fact, I would say that all people who commit adultery consider it beforehand, but not all those who consider it beforehand actually commit it. Now an inclination to adulterous expression and one to homosexual expression are alike in this respect: they both may be experienced quite apart from the will of the one who experiences them, and their indulgence may be resisted through the will of the one who experiences them. In so far as the indulgence of these inclinations is not resisted, sin is committed.

      • Ronald King permalink
        May 19, 2011 12:05 pm

        You use the term “will” as the determining factor in how we act. What is the “will”?

      • brettsalkeld permalink*
        May 19, 2011 12:36 pm

        I’m not sure this adultery bit is a great parallel. Adultery is the engagement in acts which are good in themselves, but in a sinful context. Virtually everyone is inclined to the acts which constitute adultery. I’m not sure that being inclined to them with a person who is not your spouse is really any different than being inclined to them with your spouse. It simply means you have a sex drive.

        Homosexual acts, on the other hand, have been considered evil in themselves by the Catholic ethical tradition. If that tradition is to change it must somehow explain how these acts are not evil in themselves. That is the issue with which Alison must deal if he is to advance his thesis much further. And perhaps he has dealt with it in other places. I don’t know.

        In any case, the adultery bit only works if we all grant that homosexual acts are evil. But if we all grant that, the adultery bit becomes superfluous.

      • May 19, 2011 1:47 pm

        It seems to me that equating gay, straight, and “adulterous” is like saying there are different classifications of animals according to what they eat—herbivores, carnivores, omnivores, and those who like chocolate. I suppose if you don’t take sexual orientation to be something extremely basic to human nature, then equating and adulterous “orientation” to a homosexual orientation might make some tiny bit of sense. But in actuality, someone with an adulterous orientation is almost certainly going to be classifiable as either heterosexual or homosexual, just as the chocolate lover is going to be an omnivore or a herbivore, but not a carnivore.

        And of course what would an adulterous orientation be like? Would it be a man who did not find sex satisfying unless he was married but only had satisfying sex with women who were not his wife? And were he divorced, would not find those very same women sexually satisfying any more? Or perhaps it would be a single woman who was only sexually satisfied by married men. One can imagine, of course, a man who gets a thrill out of cheating on his wife, or a woman who gets a thrill from bedding other women’s husbands, but I think in cases like that it would not so much be a sexual “orientation” but a character trait that exhibits itself in the person’s sexuality as well as elsewhere.

        A temptation or desire to do certain sexual things really can’t be compared to an orientation. If it could, there would be thousands or millions or even billions of sexual orientations. You would have a new sexual orientation every time you experienced a sexual desire.

        I think the problem is that a lot of people just don’t “get” sexual orientation. Someone in another forum (I think I mentioned this) said that a sexual orientation is what you do with your private parts. That’s nonsense. Sexual orientation is much more basic and profound that sexual behavior.

    • May 19, 2011 12:28 pm

      I don’t think my point or what people are accepting in it is that the Catechism grants too much ground. It’s that the Catechism is homophobic (and at the very least very sloppy) in mixing the “orientation” with the question of the morality of acts.

      As for the question of gays and TOTB, this is an interesting conversation I’ve had before. TOTB is basically a vague sentimentalist construction of human sexuality that attempts to justify the Church’s moral teachings on the basis of, essentially, “proper symbolism” in the acts. It constructs the morality of it all as, ultimately, a psychological phenomenon primarily related to the “language” of the body-as-expressive.

      This pulls things both ways when it comes to the homosexuality question. On the one hand, this construction of sexuality rooted in subjectivity…is basically a concession to modern sentimentalism which sees [good] sexual acts as primarily an “expression” of “romantic love” rather than as something rooted in objective functionality (as a “natural law” approach would posit). In this way, it opens itself up very easily to non-procreative sex acts pleading “But we intend that symbolism too. We can speak a different language or use a different ‘syntax’ and MEAN the same thing. One can still give and one can receive in a life-giving way on the emotional level!!” Blah blah blah.

      On the other hand, TOTBs insistence that only ONE “syntax” or “symbolism” is “correct” and innately natural to the human psyche on some deep level (even though language and symbolism and expression are inherently arbitrary and contextual) basically DOES make the homosexual orientation (as opposed to just acts) relevant (and pathological) because if external sex acts are primarily good as simply the expression of a prior internal good “psychological symbolism” and good for that reason…then the homosexual, it follows, is deficient in the very make-up of their psyche because they can’t intuitively understand the proper relation of self to other (or Christ to Church, or a million other things the TOTB now reads through the lens of sex).

      By reversing the order of the values (ie, by positing that the acts are good because they enact a proper internal symbolism, rather than saying that the symbolism is apt because it derives from good acts) it leaves the homosexual constructed as intrinsically warped, emotionally stunted, and without access to the privileged instinctive gnosis of God’s Trinitarian nature known as “heterosexuality” (-rolls eyes-) and denies them the possibility of being an “affectively mature” human being and healthily relating to men and women (ala the Seminary Instructions insulting insinuations about homosexuals). But it also opens the door to a subjectivism based on internal and (allegedly) highly personal “meaning” that, carried to its logical conclusion, I could see being used to justify any act as long as it was linked to a proper attitude or emotional disposition of self-giving or some nonsense like that. In fact, I have actually seen a couple gay Christians do this, justifying sodomy with the almost Tantric explanation:

      “I would say that the value, the virtue, of sexual interaction, regardless of the sex of the individuals in question is the establishing of a connection that allows human beings to experience (in the best of circumstances) the bond of eros and all the grace and joy that bond makes available to human beings. In my way of speaking, physical intimacy has its proper finality in the unitive function, the bonding of two individuals in the unity of eros that is an image of the tri-personal, tri-unity of God Himself. The physical intimacy is the sacrament of eros, the physical sign and vehicle of an invisible grace.”

      All very TOTB in its poetic BSing vagueness, and all very WRONG. Orgasm is made out to be some sort of sacrament that mystically unites the people using each other’s bodies (indeed, in our culture at least, the very idea of the other’s subjectivity and mutual desire) to obtain it. It’s absurd, and yet that’s almost exactly the “mysticalization” of sex that TOTB proposes.

      • brettsalkeld permalink*
        May 19, 2011 1:44 pm

        So, John Paul wasn’t near as bad as Alison makes him out to be? Is that right? ;)

      • May 19, 2011 5:41 pm

        That’s a bizarre question to ask me because I DON’T agree with Alison. So are you asking if I think John Paul’s position is bad from MY perspective, or from Alison’s?

        But, coincidentally, in this case it amounts to the same thing: I’d say John Paul is bad on this question inasmuch as he seems to not just hold up the marital act as the only moral context for sexual pleasure, but also seems to apotheosize the internal psycho-emotional state/construction of “heterosexuality” as somehow of moral worth in itself (to the exclusion of any corresponding worth to homosexuality).

        However, as I said, John Paul’s placing of the moral value primarily in an internal psycho-emotional state like this (rather than in the objective external reality/act, which he seems to parse merely as its expression rather than the other way around)…should probably be seen as a bit more of a potential wedge by Alison’s crowd (though I think, seeing as I disagree with Alison and do think homogenital acts are bad, that it’s just one more deficiency/danger of TOTB).

        • brettsalkeld permalink*
          May 20, 2011 7:57 am

          Well, I agree with you that it amounts to the same thing. That’s the basis of my slightly tongue-in-cheek comment. It seems that you and Alison agree on what the Catechism actually says. You both see some slippage in the traditional Catholic response that tends toward an anthropology that makes same-sex relationships more coherent within a Catholic framework. The difference is that he thinks this is good, but you think it is bad.

          I am further pointing out that, though Alison does not seem happy with JPII, your critiques of TOB tend in the same direction as your critiques of the Catechism and so, perhaps Alison might be able to find something in TOB that he likes, i.e., precisely what you don’t like in it.

          All of which is to highlight that I find it interesting that Alison is closer to the Catechism and TOB, at least in your reading, than you are. This strikes me as highly relevant given that my initial question in this post was whether or not Alison’s reading of Benedict is a plausible one. Your answer seems to be a resounding, if unhappy, “Yes!”

      • Dan permalink
        May 19, 2011 6:23 pm

        A Sinner,

        It seems like you have substantial discomfort with both a natural law and sentimentalist approach to this matter, as they are both lacking at expressing the full truth of the matter. You then criticize the Catechism for being evasive in failing to choose a side. However, I don’t think I’ve actually heard you present a solution. The closest I can surmise is that the acts are wrong but the orientation isn’t. Isn’t that ultimately a contradiction? I have morally neutral inclinations that are not intrinsically disordered, but the natural expression of those inclinations is? If I were a gay man, I would find that utterly patronizing, and potentially even more insulting than someone who claimed outright that I had a fundamental problem with my orientation. At least the latter is consistent.

        I don’t mean to continue to press my point, but the only solution I can see that isn’t contradictory is the one proposed by the Catechism; it isn’t a matter of picking a side in the act/orientation debate, or creating an artificial construct to harmonize both. It’s that the division itself doesn’t exist.

      • Dan permalink
        May 19, 2011 6:25 pm

        And by “latter”, I mean Catechism.

      • Dan permalink
        May 20, 2011 10:19 am

        And I feel that Alison’s reading is wholly inadmissible; that the Catechism is not vague enough to allow his interpretation. I appear to stand alone in this regard, though I cannot for the life of me understand how it could be any other way.

        Let’s lay this out mathematically. There are only four possibilities:

        1. The orientation is not disordered and the act is not disordered.
        2. The orientation is not disordered but the act is disordered
        3. The orientation is disordered but the act is not disordered
        4. The orientation is disordered and the act is disordered

        I think we would all agree that (1) is ruled out entirely by the Catechism. CCC.2357 would rule out (3). That leaves “A Sinner”‘s argument that the Catechism is vague between 2 and 4. However, CCC.2358 very clearly refers to “inclination”, not to acts. To me, this clearly rules out #2.

        I don’t believe the argument that the language is subtle enough to be suggesting one reading and meaning another. A Sinner has acknowledged this by his own admission – referring to the Catechism’s language as “homophobic” and writing a treatise on why the language is unsuitable. This only makes sense if you assume, a priori, #2 to be true and #4 to be false. However, the language is NOT problematic at all if you follow occum’s razor – if #4 is the clearest, least confusing interpretation, it is probably the correct one.

        Furthermore, in order to maintain A Sinner’s viewpoint, you’d have to assume that the author of the Catechism was either careless or had full intent to obfuscate the truth. I cannot find any kind of precedent to assume that.

        The only option left is #4, which rules out Alison’s interpretation.

      • May 24, 2011 11:01 pm

        In response to Brett:

        I think you still misunderstand me.

        I DON’T think the Church has slipped from a traditional position. In fact, I think it’s gotten unnecessarily STRICT, starting to condescendingly judge mere passions rather than the question of how people respond to them.

        Yes, ironically, this could contain some kernel of an idea that might eventually support the pro-gay crowd inasmuch as, if the morality of passions are taken as the moral basis of acts (ie, something like, “If an act flows from a ‘good’ passion like love, it’s okay”) instead of the other way around…then this could be taken as a basis for justifying all sorts of unchaste acts IF the passion they were based on were seen as good.

        However, the Vatican obviously ISN’T constructing the phenomena of homosexuality as good passions, they’re constructing them as “objectively disordered.” So the framework they’re seemingly adopting here may in general be more favorable to it, but the specific parsing in that framework is actually much LESS favorable.

        So, yes, in the broad sense of accepting sentimentalism as having some sort of value in moral judgment, they vaguely adopt a framework in which unchaste acts could be approved IF the sentiments were called good. BUT they call the specific sentiments bad/disordered in this case, which actually has the effect of making the Church MORE hostile and such relationships LESS coherent within a Catholic anthropological framework.

        Under the old construction, for example, there was at least room imaginable for CHASTE relationships of homo-eros that could be considered non-problematic (if people were discreet, at least, and it was not a proximate occasion of sin for them). Because the morality was rooted in acts.

        But now, it is the “homosexuality” in itself as a psycho-emotional phenomenon which is called disordered as a whole, so such a “romantic friendship” (even if abstaining from unchaste acts) would likely be seen as “disordered” in itself merely because it is the result of “objectively disordered”/pathological passions that do not contain the “mystical emotional significance” of “heterosexual” eros (again, I roll my eyes at that sort of TOTB babble).

        • brettsalkeld permalink*
          May 25, 2011 11:51 am

          Actually, I am under the impression we are understanding one another perfectly well, especially the paragraph that starts with , “Yes, ironically”. Such irony was exactly my point.

          I do not deny that the acts are seen as bad in the Catechism. I only point out that your analysis is not so far from Father Alison’s and that, to people who are not convinced that the acts are bad, such an analysis seems to leave a bit of wiggle room. Of course, if you think the acts are evil, it doesn’t. At some point, of course, Alison must deal with that question. That he didn’t address it in a room full of people convinced that the acts are not evil is unsurprising.

      • May 24, 2011 11:14 pm

        In response to Dan, I think you misunderstand me too:

        “It seems like you have substantial discomfort with both a natural law and sentimentalist approach to this matter, as they are both lacking at expressing the full truth of the matter.”

        Not at all. I think I’d consider myself to take a [New] Natural Law approach to the matter very much. And to agree with the Catechism here:

        “In themselves passions are neither good nor evil. They are morally qualified only to the extent that they effectively engage reason and will [...] Strong feelings are not decisive for the morality or the holiness of persons; they are simply the inexhaustible reservoir of images and affections in which the moral life is expressed. Passions are morally good when they contribute to a good action, evil in the opposite case. The upright will orders the movements of the senses it appropriates to the good and to beatitude; an evil will succumbs to disordered passions and exacerbates them. Emotions and feelings can be taken up into the virtues or perverted by the vices.”

        However, a construction of homosexuality as intrinsically disordered, as a passion evil-in-itself (as if the only acts it can contribute to are evil ones!) is extremely problematic. It amounts to saying that a man who (assuming the act is also Reasonable) is motivated to die for another man out of homo-romantic love…is doing something disordered or at least not virtuous.

        I can’t accept that. Such an act could be supremely noble and virtuous in my book.

        Passions are neutral, it’s how you channel them that’s morally relevant.

        “Isn’t that ultimately a contradiction? I have morally neutral inclinations that are not intrinsically disordered, but the natural expression of those inclinations is?”

        What exactly is the “natural expression” of arousal by same-sex stimuli? What ACT do they imply specifically? Oral? Anal? Manual? Frottage?

        This is the very construction I disagree with, Dan; that homosexuality amounts to some sort of inborn habit towards some particular act or acts. It doesn’t: there is no particular act implied by the mere fact of arousal by same-sex stimuli.

        Habits towards acts (that is to say, either virtue or vice) can only be acquired by the will actually willing such acts (repeatedly) and thus acquiring the habit.

        Homosexuality is not an inclination toward acts, in itself; that is to reduce it to its lusts and acquired vices. It is simply a biophysical/psycho-emotional disposition to be aroused by certain stimuli (not to mention the question of romantic love).

        I don’t think the author of the Catechism was willfully obfuscating, but I do think whoever constructed this particular section was naive or overly accepting of (ironically) the gay-essentialist construction of what homosexuality is.

      • Dan permalink
        May 25, 2011 10:27 pm

        Thank you for the clarification. That is helpful.

        Perhaps we are not as far off as it seems. I think we are in agreement that an inclination in and of itself is morally neutral. Where we diverge seems to be in the insinuation that “disordered” somehow implies “morally evil”. I do not feel that they can or should be adjoined. Having homosexual inclinations is disordered, but remains morally neutral. If you take this perspective, the Catechism is not, in fact, homophobic or imprecise.

      • May 26, 2011 8:43 am

        “Morally bad” doesn’t necessarily mean sinful. A vice is morally bad but not a sin, and I feel like the catechism’s language of “intrinsically disordered” constructs homosexuality as a vice rather than as simply a passion that can be subsumed into either virtue OR vice.

      • Dan permalink
        May 26, 2011 10:45 am

        I see it that “intrinsically disordered” speaks more to the opportunity to build virtue or vice relative to how you deal with it, as opposed to an intrinsic vicious quality of the disorder. I think this perspective is supported by Church’s call for them to live chaste lives implies that they see it as an opportunity to build virtue. This seems consistent with the Church’s perspective on other disorders as well.

      • May 27, 2011 11:12 am

        If you can build virtue with it, how is it disordered?

      • Dan permalink
        May 27, 2011 11:44 pm

        Every opportunity to build virtue stems from a challenge; a defect that we have which we must overcome. The source of such defects do not have to be disordered inclinations. For example, if I am a coward, it does not mean my inclination toward self-preservation is intrinsically disordered. Rather, it means I have a shortage of courage. Evil actions may proceed from that imbalance, but none of its causes were intrinsically disordered inclinations.

        It is possible to identify an inclination as intrinsically disordered by the manifest acts that proceed from it. But that does not mean either that (a) the acts qualify said inclination, or that (b) all evil acts proceed from intrinsically disordered inclinations. They are not commutative.

        But presumably these “inclinations” are only “disordered” inasmuch as they incline toward evil acts.

        By my argument above, it is clear that I don’t agree with this statement. This is the fundamental source of our disagreement.

      • May 30, 2011 12:13 am

        Is cowardice a prerequisite for courage??

        If an inclination does not incline towards evil acts, how in any sense can it be said to be disordered? Surely an “inclination” is only disordered relative to the acts it inclines towards.

      • Dan permalink
        May 30, 2011 11:57 am

        Cowardice is not a prerequisite for courage. It is an opportunity to develop courage. You asked how it could be possible that one could build virtue from a disordered inclination. My answer is that the challenges presented by the disordered inclination are opportunities for virtue, as any other challenge is.

        Even if a disordered inclination is defined as such because it inclines toward evil acts, that still supports my point. Aren’t you then saying that homosexuality is disordered because it inclines towards homosexual acts, which you consider evil? If you are saying that homosexuality isn’t disordered because it inclines towards some passive state of affection, then you have acknowledged that an inclination isn’t defined according to its acts. Which one is it?

  26. erich permalink
    May 19, 2011 1:11 pm

    In what way is an adulterous act good in itself? Or the sexual aspect of an adulterous act good in itself? My understanding of what deems a sexual act “good” is that it is always open to a procreative dimension. And being procreative is not the same as mere breeding. One can only be properly procreative within the ambit of marriage. This is the reason why adulterous sex, qua sex, is wrong, because it is not pro-creatively oriented. Ditto masturbatory, premarital and homosexual sex. There might be other reasons why adulterous sex is wrong, the context you refer to and so on, but this is beside the point. The common evil of these sexual activities lies in their failure to be pro-creatively oriented.

    • erich permalink
      May 19, 2011 1:18 pm

      @Ronald King,
      The will is what you experience when you freely express yourself. I may become aware that I feel like eating a slice of cake. The arising of this awareness is beyond my will. But I may freely choose to eat a slice of cake or refrain from doing so. Expressing either choice in response to the arising awareness falls within the ambit of my will.

      • Ronald King permalink
        May 19, 2011 3:26 pm

        So will can be seen as the “super-ego” in Freudian terminology?

    • brettsalkeld permalink*
      May 19, 2011 1:38 pm

      I simply meant that the adulterous act is sex and sex is good. That seems relevant because sex is what people have an inclination towards. That inclination is independent of whether or not the act can lead to procreation. Sex with my mistress (or my common law spouse) is more likely to lead to babies than sex with my pregnant (or breastfeeding, or post-menopausal, or post-hysterectomy) wife, but the underlying inclination towards sex is the same.

      I’m afraid that I do not see the claim that sex is an act that is good in itself as remotely controversial.

      • erich permalink
        May 19, 2011 1:53 pm

        The sex with your mistress that is more likely to lead to babies than the sex with your pregnant wife is less pro-creatively oriented than the sex with your wife. Please attend more thoughtfully to what I say about the difference between breeding and procreativity.

        Bodily activity of a sexual nature to which one is subject when one sleeps and dreams is not good or evil in itself because it is not, and cannot be, intentionally oriented. Sexual activity that is freely engaged in by one who is morally competent is always open to being judged either good or evil precisely because it is intentionally oriented and this orientation is either morally permissible or impermissible.
        Homosexual sex is wrong because it fails to be pro-creatively intended. Adulterous sex is wrong because it also fails to be pro-creatively intended. Adulterous sex may also be wrong for other reasons, unfaithfulness etc., but so too may homosexual sex.
        Adulterous men may argue, and boy, haven’t they, that their “need”, “drive”, “freedom-to-self-expressive-selfhood” justifies their adulterousness. And if we start from where Alison starts, they are right!

        • brettsalkeld permalink*
          May 19, 2011 2:32 pm

          Actually, before I wrote that line, I double-checked to see if you had said anything concrete about what differentiated breeding from procreation, but couldn’t find anything.

          I feel like there is a lot that doesn’t line up in your presentation. I’m still not seeing why adultery is wrong because it is not procreative. For instance, is it theoretically impossible to intend procreation with a mistress? Do expound.

      • May 19, 2011 6:04 pm

        People don’t have an inclination towards sex. THIS is the construction I’d disagree with.

        There is a lower appetite and the higher appetite. The lower attracts the will to sexual pleasure (however obtained). Reason (the higher appetite) attracts it to (in the proper holistic context) the marital act.

        There is no “in between” appetite which is innately attracted to, to be blunt, rubbing your penis in a vagina. If that act is carried out, it is either because Reason knows that (in the proper context of marriage) it is part of the objective transcendent good, or because it is perceived to be a source of greater physical and psychological pleasure (due to the acquisition of a paraphilia for the idea based on cultural conditioning).

        That’s the thing about gay essentialism which is so non-credible to me. Homosexuality itself reveals that there is no “essential act” innately desired by people. Homosexuals are aroused by the somatoform of attractive members of the same sex (or, perhaps even more importantly, the “idea of” that sex)…but there is no one particular act implied by this. The psychological genesis of people’s preference for this act or that (vaginal is not all heterosexuals’ favorite either) is much more complicated a process of conditioning.

        Truthfully, apart from Reason…there is no one particular act implied by heterosexually induced arousal either. Apart from Reason or cultural conditioning, oral sex is as “obvious” a path to take with heterosexually induced arousal as vaginal.

        That different people acquire different tastes, different fetishes (albeit, perhaps based on some fundamental category like same or opposite sex), is not a moral justification for enacting such ideas, but neither is it “objectively disordered.” It just is.

        I would also add, the Church does not teach that any mere EXTERNAL event or arrangement of matter is evil. Morality only involves the Will, morality is internal. So, for example, it is not homogenital acts considered as mere juxtapositions of bodies which is condemned, but rather pursuing the pleasure of the marital act outside the marital act. Merely something like (to be graphic) “putting your penis in another man’s mouth” is the sin, the sin is in the incongruity between the pleasure taken in this and the objective significance of that pleasure; it basically draws a false equivalent, indicates to you that something is as good (subjectively) as the marital act when it objectively is not.

        But then, homosexuals DON’T have an intrinsic inclination to any particular act, neither oral nor anal nor whatever. They are aroused by members of the same sex, and thus usually acquire some form of fantasy about how to interact with that stimuli for maximum excitement and pleasure (whether it be some form of genital interaction, or purely voyeuristic, etc). But I do not buy into the construction that homosexuality is an innate tendency to homogenital acts (again, so vague: which acts in particular??) anymore than I buy the construction that heterosexuality is an innate tendency to vaginal sex (it’s not, it’s the mere fact of arousal by opposite-sex stimuli, but that fact is used to obtain sexual pleasure in a MULTITUDE of other ways and, apart from Reason, which is to say on a purely psycho-emotional level, the idea that vaginal is the universal “goal” of heterosexuality…is naive and very much a construct).

      • PDogg permalink
        May 20, 2011 1:12 am

        If the acts being “good” is a barrier to CSHart’s adultery analogy a better comparison may be if an individual had an orientation to sodomy or oral sex with the opposite sex. By orientation I mean a failure to be aroused (or a reduced level of arousal) if the individual is not thinking about or engaged in these acts. It doesn’t have to involve adultery either.

        • brettsalkeld permalink*
          May 20, 2011 8:07 am

          PDogg,
          I’m afraid I just don’t see people having inclinations to acts like this. It seems to me that if a heterosexual person is not aroused by vaginal sex, there is something else going on, e.g., paranoia over an unplanned pregnancy. In fact, I suspect that most homosexuals would have no problem whatsoever with vaginal sex per se. The problem is that they can’t do it with someone they’re attracted to. In fact, it seems to me (though I have nothing to go on here except something I once heard from a friend) that many homosexual males, like anyone else, find the prospect of (at least receiving) anal sex disconcerting and intimidating. Being gay does not mean “is aroused by the thought of anal sex.”
          For the record, it seems to me that people have an inclination to interpersonal intimacy with other people. Depending on who those other people are, there is a range of options for expressing physical intimacy. I am fairly convinced that anyone for whom vaginal sex is a possibility would prefer that as the culmination of physical intimacy barring extrinsic factors such as fear of pregnancy or some strange neurosis having its genesis in one’s personal history.
          I just don’t think there are good analogues for a homosexual inclination. It seems to me sui generis. (Which is not to say that I wholeheardtedly affirm the category, but that is another issue.)

      • May 20, 2011 3:51 am

        @A Sinner: This is, I think, a very helpful rendering of the question in general, and I would agree with its overall tenor. I would like to trouble a bit, however, the following claim:

        That different people acquire different tastes, different fetishes (albeit, perhaps based on some fundamental category like same or opposite sex), is not a moral justification for enacting such ideas, but neither is it “objectively disordered.” It just is.

        It seems to me that the passions are not, in rational animals, altogether morally neutral as this claim seems to suggest. The passions (of which sexual arousal is one) exist in human beings to serve as prompts, leading us to pursue by the will (which is a rational desire, or a desiring reason) what reason sees to be good. Since human beings unlike, say, angels, need and use the body to come to knowledge, the body’s responses can and should incline us towards and be supportive of the right kinds of moral choices. This is why, e.g., in a rightly ordered person, a baby is a lovely thing the sight of which brings feelings of joy, and a baby in pain or distress ought to arouse a (passionate/prerational) sense of distress in the onlooker. The feelings/passions are not moral acts in themselves, but if rightly ordered, support the right kinds of choices and decisions.

        This is why some passions can justifiably be called disordered. In the case of sexual arousal, we can say that the arousal exists to promote the right kind of rational bond of love and goodwill between men and women in the procreative and mutually supportive state of marriage. When this arousal has become fixed (by whatever etiological account we present) on someone or some kind who cannot be the rational subject of such a union, not merely per accidens (like a woman being aroused by a married man or a vowed celibate) but per se (like a woman being aroused by another woman), then the desire is disordered as such. Why? It would make it easier, more pleasant, etc. to arrive at incorrect conclusions of reason and consent to incorrect inclinations of the will (e.g. wanting to be with that woman in a relationship imitating a marital one).

        In contrast, other kinds of tastes are not disordered, or at least not in the same way. Say the woman has a preference for (i.e. she is aroused more readily by) bald men, or men with hairy chests, or men ten years her senior. None of these things per se make the living out of her rational commitments more difficult. She could, that is, if the desire were strong, find a suitable husband who was bald, hairy-chested, and ten yeas her senior. Indeed, in this case, her passions would be supportive of her rational commitments as a wife. Such passion may be problematic per accidens, but there is noting in their nature which would be an obstacle to rational choosing. Fetishes are relatively more problematic since they can become interpersonal obstacles in loving relationships, but might still be able to be included in living out a sexual life in accord with reason, albeit with difficulty (depending on the fetish).

        Where I agree with you especially (at least I think I do, if I understood you correctly, despite the above clarification), is that the shorthand “homosexual inclination” is largely unhelpful, and indeed even hurtful for many. The fact is that tender, passionate feelings of men for one another, or women for one another, which feelings are the source of deep bonds of friendship and love are great goods. They prompt and support what ought to arise from our rational nature, viz. abiding and powerful friendship. If these feelings come to be accompanied also by sexual arousal, we don’t do anyone any favors to suggest that the sexual arousal is what is most deeply determinative, or that the arousal demands that this bond of friendship is meant to exist in the mode of a marital union.

      • May 25, 2011 3:03 pm

        But Dominic, I’d tend to think any passion could be used to encourage good or help evil. As the Catechism says, they can be taken up into the vices OR virtues. Someone with a strong bloodlust may become a serial killer, or just a really good soldier. Someone who likes to eat a lot may become an obese glutton, or a really good chef. Any passion would seem to work this way. You seem to be suggesting homosexuality can never be “used” for good and ONLY for evil/unchastity, but I think, then, you lack some imagination.

    • May 19, 2011 1:55 pm

      There is nothing adulterous about a sex act itself. If one could watch a couple having sex, one would clearly know whether they were performing heterosexual or homosexual sex. The wrongness of an adulterous sex act is not in the sex itself. It is in the breaking of vows, the betrayal, the lying, and so on. You can think you are having adulterous sex when you are not. If a married man’s wife is on a business trip, and he takes advantage of his wife’s absence to hook up with another woman, they are not committing adultery if unbeknownst to the husband, his wife has been killed in a plane crash on the way to her destination. There is simply no way of identifying an adulterous sex act by the sex act itself. Unless all the various spouses are in the room and verifiably alive, you can never be 100% certain you are committing adultery.

      • CSHart permalink
        May 19, 2011 3:18 pm

        There is no such thing as a “sex act in itself.” It is a scientistically debased abstraction that has no place in rational discussion about what is morally ordered and morally disordered. You sound like a theological version of B.F. Skinner. Thus:
        Is fellatio a homosexual act or a heterosexual act? It rather depends on who is doing it to whom, doesn’t it? If I, a man, am in a dark room with my wife and a few other wives and their spouses, and we are all naked and engaged in what is called an orgy and I find that someone is giving me oral sex, is this sex act homosexual or heterosexual? Is it adulterous or not? Is it homosexual and adulterous? Well, we can only properly judge if someone turns on the lights…Only then can we get at the truth.
        God save us from the likes of you all.

      • May 19, 2011 4:47 pm

        There is no such thing as a “sex act in itself.” It is a scientistically debased abstraction that has no place in rational discussion about what is morally ordered and morally disordered.

        It is actually unclear to me exactly what your point is, but if I am understanding you correctly, I think you are quite wrong here, at least according to Catholic thought. If I understand what you are attempting to say, if there is no “sex act in itself,” then no sex act could be “intrinsically wrong.” Everything would depend on external circumstances.

        Not terribly long ago we discussed the thinking of Germain Grisez about sexual intercourse for the elderly, disabled, and so on (Question 29: What sexual activity is permissible for elderly married couples?) Not everyone agreed with his thinking, but he does go into the question in considerable detail what the minimum requirements an elderly or disabled couple must meet in order to be performing licit sexual intercourse instead of illicit sexual activity. Also, in the much-discussed paper by Girgis, George, and Anderson (What Is Marriage?) it is clear that only a very specific type of sex act can make a marriage, even between an infertile heterosexual couple.

        I really don’t get the business about the lights being off at your orgy. If you have sexual intercourse with a woman in the dark not knowing whether it is your wife, it is adultery if it isn’t your wife. (Also, there is a real question in my mind whether accidental sex with one’s wife would be considered marital intercourse in Catholic though. Neither of you would have the proper intention for marital intercourse.) If you are receiving oral sex in the dark, you may not know if it is homosexual or heterosexual, but it nevertheless is one or the other . . . and I might add that the person performing it knows without turning on the light! And of course the important thing from the Catholic point of view is that you and your wife are hosting an orgy. Everything else is pretty much secondary.

        In any case, I think in Catholic thought there is very much indeed such a thing as the “sex act in itself.”

        God save us from the likes of you all.

        Who all? I am not in full agreement with Catholic thought on sexual morality, but unless I am mistaken, in my comments here I have stayed well within the boundaries of Catholic thought.

      • Dan permalink
        May 19, 2011 5:34 pm

        CSHart, your lack of charity completely destroys the impact of the potentially valid point you could have made there.

  27. May 19, 2011 2:06 pm

    It is amazing to me how many people don’t seem to “get” what sexual orientation is. Those who think homosexuality is a choice clearly don’t understand sexual orientation. Those who think there can be an “adulterous orientation” seem to me to be clueless. Those who think sexual orientation is “what you do with your private parts” must be very confused. Those who object to the findings of the John Jay report that most of the priests who sexually abused boys are not homosexual can’t seem to make a distinction between committing a homosexual act and having a homosexual orientation. (Granted, this last one is a little more difficult, but not that much. Men who engage in homosexual sex in prison but would never dreaming of doing so when women are available can hardly be thought of as gay.)

    Whenever I read something by someone who doesn’t “get it,” I wonder if they just can’t make the connection between their own sexual orientation and someone else’s, or if their own feelings of sexual attraction are so weak (or perhaps nonexistent) that for them sexual orientation is a kind of choice.

    • Erich permalink
      May 19, 2011 2:44 pm

      But why do you not address CSHart above? His reply to you earlier sems very good to me. He deserves your considered response, not just your name calling. Here you are, sir. Here is what he says. Respond.

      “But to the point. One may very well possess an adulterous nature that, if unchecked, will lead one to commit adultery. In fact, I would say that all people who commit adultery consider it beforehand, but not all those who consider it beforehand actually commit it. Now an inclination to adulterous expression and one to homosexual expression are alike in this respect: they both may be experienced quite apart from the will of the one who experiences them, and their indulgence may be resisted through the will of the one who experiences them. In so far as the indulgence of these inclinations is not resisted, sin is committed.”

      [I'm going to allow this, but with a warning. No one is required to find persuasive what you find persuasive and no one is required to respond to anyone else. There is no need to simply copy and paste things that we have all already read, and it won't get through the censor again. If you have an argument to make, you can make it, but cutting and pasting other's arguments with emphatic commands that they be responded to is out of bounds. BS]

      • May 19, 2011 4:09 pm

        Erich,

        I did respond to him directly in my message of May 18, 2011 4:46 pm. I am not aware that I engage in name calling, although basically stated he had embarrassed himself by calling Fr. Alison “strangely illiterate.” I also addressed the issue directly in my message of May 19, 2011 1:47 pm.

        To repeat myself somewhat, it is difficult to equate an inclination to commit adultery to a sexual orientation. As I asked above, what would an “adultery orientation” be like? One might be tempted to have sex with a person who happened to be married, but that is not an inclination toward adultery. Can one imagine someone who goes through puberty having feelings about committing adultery purely in the abstract? Say he is a male. Would he find only females attractive? If viewing pornography, would he only find pictures of women arousing if they were married? Or if his chief object of desire was adulterous sex, would it matter to him if the married persons he wanted to commit adultery with were married men or married women? If he was really inclined toward adultery, it would seem that the gender of the person would matter less than the marital status?

        It just makes no sense to elevate temptations to do something wrong to the level of sexual orientations. If Alison is right, and I think he is, then being gay and being straight are very fundamental characteristics of the human personality. This is, of course, also the view of the Church, as evidenced by its use of the term “homosexual person.”

        Insofar as almost every person is tempted to have sex before marriage, would it make sense to say that they are “fornication persons”?

        It is true but trivial that, just as someone with a homosexual orientation may be tempted to commit a homosexual act and resist it, someone may be tempted to commit adultery and resist it. That is true of all wishes, desires, temptations, and so on. CSHart, it seems, would make basically any of those into the equivalent of a sexual orientation, which they are not.

      • Erich permalink
        May 19, 2011 4:16 pm

        Thanks. Noted. I am all chastened.

  28. Erich permalink
    May 19, 2011 5:08 pm

    @brettsalkeld, re notion of procreation

    Procreation is an integrative concept. As is orientation. Our ultimate orientation is towards a destined fulfillment in God. There are subordinate orientations which support this ultimate orientation. Man is not just an individual; he is a social and historical being. He occupies multiple realms of reality, all of which are related to, and must be properly integrated with each other.

    A man who would father a child does not just bring the child into the world, he is also responsible for rearing the child and furthering that child’s eternal destiny. Sex is never simply sex. The order of sex must align with the greater order of the individual, which must align with the order of the family, which must align with the order of the community, the culture, the church; the entire institutional and political ordering which ultimately serves mankind’s orientation to God. This is the great premise of the Church. All her social teaching reflects it and cannot be understood apart from it.

  29. Ronald King permalink
    May 19, 2011 5:29 pm

    “God save us from the likes of you all.”-CSHart
    What is in your heart when you make a statement like that. I think a huge point is being overlooked and that is what is in the hearts of those who believe that human beings with same sex attraction are intrinsically disordered. What is your core feeling, not belief, about this?

  30. brettsalkeld permalink*
    May 20, 2011 8:14 am

    I am not buying this whole, ‘sex acts are all constructed’ business. Vaginal sex, it seems to me, is sui generis. Not only is it the only act that leads to procreation, but it is the only act where what is done to one partner is simultaneously done to the other. (I know we can imagine reciprocal versions of various other acts, but the reciprocity is extrinisic to the act itself in those cases. With vaginal sex it is intrinsic to the act.)
    And I gotta say, from personal experience, it strikes me as completely natural, and not at all socially constructed, that it is my urge to “finish things” with my wife in that way. In fact, it seems the furthest thing from a social construct to want to do so given the evolutionary implications. That we might start somewhere else is almost certainly a social construct, but the desire to finish with vaginal sex strikes me as virtually instinctual (even if easy to override given the socially constructed desire).

    • May 20, 2011 8:35 am

      The following would have been much more likely in the days when sexual descriptions and images were not omnipresent, but don’t you think with sexual awakening at puberty, orientation can be experienced (whether homosexual or heterosexual) without having any idea of how sexual intercourse or other sex acts are performed? It used to be common to say “sexual or affectional preference” rather than sexual orientation. I think many people know what their affectional preference is before they know anything about the sex acts that they will eventually want to engage in. This is one reason why I disagree with CSHart on equating an adulterous inclination to a hetero- or homosexual inclination. The latter are not mere inclinations to perform certain sex acts. They are basic facets of the personality that color how people relate to persons of their own sex and persons of the opposite sex.

      • brettsalkeld permalink*
        May 20, 2011 11:25 am

        I am sure you are right that people yearn for the interpersonal aspect of sex without any knowledge of its mechanics. On the other hand, I am reasonably convinced that, given time and freedom two people would figure it out a la Blue Lagoon. And, furthermore, I think that, having explored all their possibilities, those two (opposite sex) people would recognize that the actual marital act was different than (even reciprocated) manual, oral or anal sex. The only thing that comes close, because of its intrinsically reciprocal nature, might be what is sometimes called ‘dry sex,’ but I think we all know that two kids on an island who discover dry sex and vaginal sex are gonna choose vaginal sex every time (barring certain imaginable extrinsic factors such as medical conditions that make penetration painful or impossible).

      • May 20, 2011 12:03 pm

        I am sure you are right that people yearn for the interpersonal aspect of sex without any knowledge of its mechanics.

        brett,

        That is all I need to support my hypothesis. It is possible to be fully aware of one’s sexual orientation as an attraction to people of a particular gender without knowing what sex acts one would perform with that person. The person I was arguing with on First Things insisted “sexual orientation is what you do with your private parts.” That is simply the wrong way to look at it.

        I think in times past, women frequently married without knowing the mechanics of sexual intercourse. I believe it sometimes also happened that couples married and did not know how to have sex. My mother told me that my grandmother told her that when she (my grandmother) was pregnant with her first child (probably around 1900), she expected it to be born through her navel.

        • brettsalkeld permalink*
          May 20, 2011 1:33 pm

          On this we are fully agreed.

          I remember reading a story a few years ago about a conservative couple in Germany that had not managed to have children for years and years. When they went to a specialist, the specialist discovered they didn’t know how to have sex. I don’t think this goes against my thesis, however. It seems they did not have the freedom to discover what comes naturally.

      • May 20, 2011 3:30 pm

        brett,

        I think this is what you’re trying to say.

    • Ronald King permalink
      May 20, 2011 9:01 am

      Just off the top of my head here, and it seems to have been this way for a while, to finish the sex act is an instinctual drive on several levels. On one level it is procreative instinctively. On another level it is reinforced by the neurobiology of pleasure. Still another level produces the production of neurotransmitters that enhance bonding to one another thus improving the chances that the relationship will endure.
      We tend to start with a narcissistic desire to finish things because it produces a pleasure that is overwhelming. We can remain stuck at this point and the other person is merely an object to attain that pleasure. Or, we develop empathy in addition to that basic drive to achieve pleasure(lust) and that lust along with empathy results in the union that evolves into an ever developing bond of love throughout the life cycle, and, I may add regardless of sexual orientation.

    • May 24, 2011 11:27 pm

      Brett, I think what you say is well-meaning but naive. Reason suggests the marital act. The sensitive appetite likes pleasure HOWEVER acquired. The paraphilia for vaginal sex (or oral, or anal, or manual, etc) as the specific means for achieving that pleasure, however, is acquired, in humans at least. Not all heterosexuals do find it the most pleasurable (though most do by sheer mechanics, as you describe) nor is it intrinsically implied by heterosexuality. The mere fact of arousal by opposite-sex stimuli in the broad sense is very different than speaking of the specific arousal by the thought of vaginal sex, even if that is the the most arousing form of opposite-sex stimulation for MOST heterosexuals (and for good reason!)

      The point is, however, speaking of arousal by a category of stimuli (whether it be “male” or “female”) does not imply any particular act WITH that stimuli.

      The fact of arousal by a certain stimuli may be inborn. The idea of particular acts is most definitely not (the mere fact that people can be ignorant of the act until a certain point shows this).

      Vaginal sex may suggest itself as rather obviously “discoverable” as “the best” (for most people) based on the reciprocity you describe in the mechanics, but an instinct to ACT is not inborn in this case, merely the physiological reaction to stimuli (which then, through a more complicated process, finds out ways to get off).

      The urge to finish, on the level of sensitive (as opposed to rational) appetite IS acquired/imprinted at some point rather than “instinctive,” and is not equivalent to heterosexuality in-itself.

      • brettsalkeld permalink*
        May 25, 2011 12:04 pm

        This strikes me as bizarre. Do we find members of the animal kingdom that forego vaginal intercourse because it is not the most satisfying for every member of the species? It seems to me that foregoing vaginal intercourse is the social construction. Does reason suggest the marital act to camels?

      • May 25, 2011 12:53 pm

        Humans are not animals. Our imprinting for this sort of thing works differently and is much more cerebral, psychologically based.

        Note: I am NOT saying that the only reason people have vaginal sex is pure Reason. There IS a desire in the lower-appetite there for many people, but it is what Aquinas would call an “acquired” as opposed to “natural” desire, I think.

        The natural object of the lower appetite here is not for any particular act, but for pleasure. It’s primary end is the pleasure, not the act used to achieve it. That act comes to be seen as desirable by association with pleasure.

        In the case of sex acts, they imprint in the manner of a paraphilia; that is to say, the thought of them becomes arousing through a process of conditioning (albeit one that may be “inevitable” for most people).

        Babies, even babies “born heterosexual” are not born with a desire for vaginal sex, as they don’t even know what that is! They’re born liking sexual pleasure, and perhaps born aroused by certain stimuli…but that a given act becomes internally constructed as the maximumly pleasurable application of the stimuli…is something that develops through a process of imprinting/conditioning that does not always necessarily go in the “logical” seeming direction.

      • May 25, 2011 1:11 pm

        brett,

        I may have pointed this out before, but did you know that over 90% of the sexual contacts among giraffes are males having anal intercourse (to climax) with other males? Those making religious arguments against homosexuality often dismiss out of hand evidence of widespread homosexual behavior in the animal kingdom. But certainly it means something. Those who make arguments that homosexual behavior is bad for the species and self-evidently wrong because it is not reproductive have some explaining to do when it comes to giraffes, bonobos, penguins, and so on, particularly when it is demonstrably adaptive:

        “One fundamental premise in social debates has been that homosexuality is unnatural. This premise is wrong. Homosexuality is both common and highly essential in the lives of a number of species,” explains Petter Boeckman, who is the academic advisor for the “Against Nature’s Order?” exhibition.

        The most well-known homosexual animal is the dwarf chimpanzee, one of humanity’s closes relatives. The entire species is bisexual. Sex plays an conspicuous role in all their activities and takes the focus away from violence, which is the most typical method of solving conflicts among primates and many other animals.

        • brettsalkeld permalink*
          May 25, 2011 8:02 pm

          I had not heard that before. That is fascinating.

          If I had to guess, I’d think the giraffes do this with other males when the females are uninterested. I’d be surprised to hear that many of the male giraffes shun the females altogether.

          In any case, my argument wasn’t that homosexual behavior is bad for the species, but that heterosexual behavior has a certain priority that is recognized even before reflexive thought. I think the suggestion that vaginal sex is either purely instinctual or purely a response to reason is a false dichotomy.

      • May 25, 2011 3:21 pm

        Does reason suggest the marital act to camels?

        Brett,

        It seems to me your question is whether human beings perform sexual intercourse by instinct, and camels do (presumably). Do Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins in Blue Lagoon figure out intercourse, or do they do it by instinct. I think A Sinner is probably right that heterosexual intercourse is not a true instinctual behavior. On the other hand, presumably homosexual acts among some animals are instinctual behaviors. I am no expert here, but I believe pre-humans “gave up” most instincts along the path to becoming true humans except the most basic physical reactions (e.g., babies knowing how to suckle) in favor of infinitely more flexible and modifiable learned behaviors.

        • brettsalkeld permalink*
          May 25, 2011 8:05 pm

          I think the vestiges of instinct shape a lot of what we do. I think it is too simple to say suckling is instinct, but the fact that men like full breasts and healthy skin, hair, and teeth, or that women like flowers and diamonds has nothing to do with it.

  31. Ronald King permalink
    May 20, 2011 1:51 pm

    All I remember is that when Mrs. Italian neighbor sat on my lap when I was 12 she looked at me and said, “My goodness Ronnie” I was later taught what to do with it and then it became somewhat serial in confession.

  32. Roman permalink
    May 21, 2011 3:04 pm

    In the third video he states that the CDF document on homosexuality and the seminary left out the key phrase “intrinsically disordered” in reference to the tendencies; but quite the contrary it was precisely on this basis that the CDF made the decicion that it did,

    “Concerning profoundly deep-rooted homosexual tendencies, that one discovers in a certain number of men and women, these are also objectively disordered and often constitute a trial, even for these men and women. These people must be received with respect and delicacy; one will avoid every mark of unjust discrimination with respect to them. These are called to realize the will of God in their lives and to unite to the Sacrifice of the Lord the difficulties that they may encounter.

    In light of this teaching, this department, in agreement with the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, holds it necessary clearly to affirm that the Church, while profoundly respecting the persons in question, may not admit to the seminary and Holy Orders those who practice homosexuality, show profoundly deep-rooted homosexual tendencies, or support the so-called gay culture.

    The above persons find themselves, in fact, in a situation that gravely obstructs a right way of relating with men and women. The negative consequences that may derive from the Ordination of persons with profoundly deep-rooted homosexual tendencies are by no means to by ignored.”

    Perhaps I’m missing something to his point here?

  33. aschmi permalink
    May 23, 2011 3:17 pm

    Mr. Alison’s thought is creative but he ‘reads in to’ BXVI’s teaching extensively.
    He appears most concerned with defining life by the decision to engage in homosexual practice.
    Conspicuously absent from the discussion are those same sex attracted persons who have chosen to remain faithful to the teaching of the Catholic Church and the orthodox interpretation of Scripture.
    Mr. Alison has an audience committed to positions bolstered by his theological propositions. My sense, however, is that the concern of this particular discussion posted on video is more to do with choosing homosexual lifestyle and how to justify that with reference to one’s religion over and above having one’s life defined by relationship with Jesus Christ and the new identity that one receives in Him.

    • brettsalkeld permalink*
      May 24, 2011 3:18 pm

      My experience of reading James Alison gives me the very opposite impression. He does not at all strike me as someone who “chooses” a homosexual lifestyle and tries to make it fit with his religious beliefs. Rather, he strikes me as someone who has been radically converted by the gospel. That is one reason I even mention him in this forum. If he did not strike me in this way, I too would have found such a reading of Benedict unlikely.

      On the other hand, I concur with your noting the absence of those same-sex attracted persons who have found freedom in living chastely. Theirs is a voice that needs to be heard here. I don’t know if Alison addresses such people in his other work or not. In any case, he should.

      • aschmi permalink
        May 24, 2011 8:10 pm

        It is clear that homosexual orientation is not a personal choice, however, Alison has `chosen` to engage in homosexual relationships with men in direct contradiction to orthodox teaching of the Church. In that sense he has chosen the homosexual lifestyle over the life in Christ that the Church guides the same sex attracted person toward. Jesus Christ is the Lover that fulfills, one cannot be conformed to Christ while contradicting God`s Word.

        Alison`s propositions use theological language to affirm a profoundly secular view of homosexual behaviour. I perceive Alison`s thought to fall potentially within the realm of speculative non-Catholic theology. Ultimately his ideas appear self-serving in that they press toward the affirmation of same-sex genital sexual relationships, thus putting them in conflict with the fundamentals of Catholic orthodoxy from which Benedict XVI does not stray.

        • brettsalkeld permalink*
          May 24, 2011 9:37 pm

          Alison has `chosen` to engage in homosexual relationships with men in direct contradiction to orthodox teaching of the Church.

          He has? Do you know something I don’t? That’s an awfully big presumption to make without some hard evidence.

  34. grega permalink
    May 24, 2011 10:43 pm

    Honestly – Society is pretty much already moving on regarding these ‘question’-
    A term like ‘disordered’ simply has no business being applied broadly to our homosexual brothers and sisters.It is deeply offensive and has to go – period. The church has always moved along with society – it will move again – Yes a certain fraction of humanity might be described by names like disordered – sexual orientation or gender or race are not the determining factors here at all but personal conduct and personal character .
    Of course as pointed out over and over in this com box sex is a natural part of any healthy adult commited relationship – comes natural indeed – is natural.
    This heterosexual male and father very would very much distrust folks that claim otherwise and would like to keep his kids away from them.

    • May 24, 2011 11:30 pm

      “sex is a natural part of any healthy adult commited relationship – comes natural indeed – is natural.”

      That’s quite a leap, and requires accepting a particular historically contingent construct of “committed relationship.”

      I know plenty of friends very much loyal and committed to each other who are not sexually active with each other! I also know plenty of open-relationships that are sexually active without being exclusive.

      What you seem to be saying, then, to me, amounts to little more than “genital relationships are genital.” Which is to say: nothing. A tautology. Because the very question is WHICH relationships should be constructed as genital.

    • Dan permalink
      May 25, 2011 10:54 am

      Do you think the issue is primarily with use of the term “disordered”, or our insecure perceptions that equate “disordered” with “of lesser worth”?

      We’re all disordered in our own ways. In my opinion, calling a spade a spade is more respectful and carries more dignity than calling a spade a heart out of perceived mercy. It’s patronizing and actually dehumanizes the individual in question.

      • May 25, 2011 1:02 pm

        There’s nothing disordered about it, though. That’s the problem. They’re calling a mere passion “disordered” even though passions are neutral in themselves, good or bad only inasmuch as they lead to or are used for good or bad acts. Constructing homosexuality as an inborn inclination to a certain [bad] act (I’ll ask again: which act, exactly?) is to treat it as a vice, and the homosexual as, if not intrinsically sinful, at least intrinsically vicious. But that’s bad theology and a gay-essentialist understanding of homosexuality. Homosexuality is the mere fact of arousal by certain stimuli. May it become part of a vice, an inclination to a sinful act, if channeled into sodomy? Of course. May it become part of a virtue if sublimated into self-sacrificial love for men (or, use your imagination: channeled into sex with an opposite-sex spouse)?? That’s what I think they’re forgetting. As I will respond to Dominic above, I think any passion can be channeled into supporting the good. The question of how more or less “difficult” it may be…is a difference of degree only, not nature.

      • Dan permalink
        May 26, 2011 12:32 am

        See my recent response above starting with “Thank you for the clarification”. I don’t think the term “disordered” implies either good or evil. Neither do I think an inclination should be defined in terms of its associated act. Actions can be good, neutral, or evil. Inclinations can be ordered or disordered. They are orthogonal concepts. I can have an inclination towards violence. That inclination is disordered, but it is not evil. It only becomes evil if I act on it.

        This is why I think the term “disordered” is both accurate and ultimately respectful. It makes no value judgements on the individual or their actions.

      • Dan permalink
        May 26, 2011 12:34 am

        An important correction to my post above: ” It only becomes evil if I act on it.” should have read “Evil only occurs if I act on my disordered inclination”.

      • May 26, 2011 9:03 am

        “Neither do I think an inclination should be defined in terms of its associated act. Actions can be good, neutral, or evil.”

        But presumably these “inclinations” are only “disordered” inasmuch as they incline toward evil acts.

        My very point is that I would question whether any mere passion can be said unequivocally to incline towards evil acts instead of good apart from a habit of will (ie, a vice) choosing to USE them that way.

        But, then again, I’d think any mere passion can be used by the will for good too (albeit sometimes it might take a little creativity or sublimation).

        So my point is, passions are not habits of acting, that passions in themselves can be co-opted for either good acts and habits OR bad acts and habits (yes, ANY passion), and that homosexuality (and heterosexuality) are merely passions, not habits of will (virtues or vices) except inasmuch as they are used to enable good or bad acts, virtuous and vicious habits.

        “I can have an inclination towards violence. That inclination is disordered, but it is not evil. It only becomes evil if I act on it.”

        It’s not disordered if used for, say, self-defense, just policing or soldiering, hunting food for your village, directing films with aesthetic merit ala Quentin Tarantino lol, etc.

        What is insulting about the “objectively disordered” language is that (besides failing to separate various elements of the construct of homosexuality, such as romantic love from arousal) it constructs these passions as only possibly usable for evil and in no way able to contribute to virtue or good acts rather than vice or sin.

        What this requires, then, of homosexuals is simply a compartmentalization and abnegation of this passion of theirs, rather than INTEGRATION (somehow) into a holy life, which is the real goal of Christian life: integration of all passions, not renunciation of “bad” ones. Because passions aren’t good or bad, it’s how you integrate them.

        And I think we see the effect of offering a model of “ignore that part of your temperament and compartmentalize it from yourself” in the self-loathing of many closeted homosexuals in the Church. And I think that’s a shame, because with a little imagination a model of chaste integration rather than abnegation could be offered, presenting homosexuality as simply a special calling rather than a cross or pathological flaw.

      • Dan permalink
        May 27, 2011 11:05 pm

        Would you consider obesity a “special calling”?

      • May 30, 2011 12:19 am

        I don’t think the Church considers hunger for food to be “intrinsically disordered” though.

        All of us desire infinite pleasure-of-eating in our lower appetite, it’s just that we are prevented from following this by A) a balancing irascible appetite against the pain/discomfort of feeling too full and B) Reason.

        Is having a slower metabolism/retaining more fat than most people when eating the same amount a “special calling”?? Well, I’d ask in turn, is it “intrinsically disordered”?? Or is it just a bare biophysiological fact?

        I’d argue the latter. It’s just a bare biophysiological fact. Like “homosexuality” and “heterosexuality.”

        Does this mean I’d interpret it as a special calling to more fasting (ie, eating less than satisfies the lower appetite of hunger because Reason knows the body actually needs less than makes one feel full?)…perhaps I would.

  35. aschmi permalink
    May 24, 2011 10:43 pm

    I read a bio that indicated his first partner died of AIDS in Brazil. Perhaps it was inaccurate. My apologies if the information was erroneous.

    • brettsalkeld permalink*
      May 24, 2011 10:52 pm

      OK, that’s more than I knew.
      It remains, however, that I don’t know if this was a direct act of disobedience or a fall into sin like we all have. To put it very simply, I don’t know if Father Alison himself considered this something he should go to confession for or not. Do you know if he has said anything about these issues?

      • aschmi permalink
        May 24, 2011 11:21 pm

        Mr. Alison was a priest at the time of the aforementioned relationship.

        The same article goes on to say that Alison is ordained but is no longer authorised to engage in pastoral ministry as a priest in any Catholic diocese, nor is he attached to any religious order of the Roman Catholic Church.

      • aschmi permalink
        May 24, 2011 11:26 pm

        I don’t know if he’s spoken further on the homosexual relationship that he was involved in while he was still an active priest. I’m not clear how his feelings regarding need to go to confession or not play into the question, Catholic moral teaching is clear regarding homosexual relationships.

        • brettsalkeld permalink*
          May 25, 2011 11:59 am

          Well, my point is simply that the fact that he has sinned is not a revelation, nor proof of disobedience, any more than my sin or your sin. If he felt the need to confess, that would probably indicate that his sin was not done to ‘stick it to the Church’ in the way your characterization of him implies.

          In any case, I realize that we have now begun to discuss Father Alison’s character, something I said I would not do in this thread. It will end here.

          And you are correct about his ambiguous canonical status. It is much like the situation Father Balthasar found himself in upon leaving the Jesuits.

    • May 25, 2011 9:43 pm

      Catholic teaching is clear about “homosexual” relationships: they must be chaste. As far as I know, he hasn’t said whether his relationship with his partner was sexually active with each other or not, so let’s not jump to that conclusion even if it seems likely.

  36. aschmi permalink
    May 24, 2011 10:49 pm

    The article is here in a 2009 article of COMMONWEAL magazine, http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1252/is_2_136/ai_n32372850/

  37. digbydolben permalink
    May 25, 2011 10:25 pm

    May it become part of a virtue if sublimated into self-sacrificial love for men (or, use your imagination: channeled into sex with an opposite-sex spouse)?? That’s what I think they’re forgetting.

    But what “sinner” is obviously forgetting above are the vagaries of human love, e.g. might it not happen that to deny someone who loves you the affirmation of physical love-making could become an act of cruel egoism, not “self-sacrificial” at all?

    • May 26, 2011 9:08 am

      Well, I’ll say this: chastity is a virtue, frigidity is not.

      I don’t approve of homogenital acts or a construction of sex as somehow the “natural” or inevitable “expression” of romantic love, as if it is ultimately an expressive act or finds its morality as expressive of an emotion people are calling “love” as if that justifies anything. That’s the sentimentalist view I find extremely shaky and dangerous.

      But, of course, one can do good for the wrong reasons. If one is chaste not out of love of virtue, but simply with cruel intent (like a woman with-holding sex not to be chaste but simply to “punish” or get revenge on her boyfriend) then that of course takes away any virtue from it, because all three “fonts” of morality in the act must be good.

  38. PDogg permalink
    May 26, 2011 1:49 am

    Hey Brett,
    I’m sorry I took a while to get back to you regarding our last back and forth on this issue (last post May 20th) but I had a few thoughts that I wanted to get across. For starters pornography is a billion dollar industry churning out movies built for customers with inclinations to specific unnatural acts (opposite sex sodomy, oral sex, group sex, etc). Most of these customers are not solely turned on by these acts but seek out these movies (and potentially prostitutes) to achieve a greater level of arousal and more pleasurable “sex”. In a similar way many homosexuals are not solely turned on by the same sex (ie. Those previously married, other homosexuals I have known). In this way both pornography addicts and (some/many?*) homosexuals engage in unnatural sex acts not because they cannot have tradition heterosexual sex but because other types of sex (ie sex with a group of people, with the same sex, etc) are more pleasurable. I guess my question is can we build a theology around the injustice of people not having the most pleasurable sex (or intimacy) there is? And can we leave pornography addicts out then? Perhaps their group sex desires could be channelled into a productive three to five way marriage.

    *I acknowledge not all homosexuals may have the ability to engage in heterosexual sex or may be thinking about homosexual sex while having heterosexual sex, but a severe pornography addict can have these same issues. The news program 20/20 did a special on pornography addiction where the man they interviewed claimed he couldn’t finish while having sex with his wife unless he imagined himself masturbating. I am writing this sentence so I do not end a post with the word “masturbating”. Ahh not again.

  39. digbydolben permalink
    May 27, 2011 3:47 am

    Again, I’m going to ask–this time of “sinner” and PDogg–the same question I did above, but in a different way, since no one so far has been willing to address it:

    Sinner says this:

    I don’t approve of homogenital acts or a construction of sex as somehow the “natural” or inevitable “expression” of romantic love, as if it is ultimately an expressive act or finds its morality as expressive of an emotion people are calling ‘love’…”

    But, what if you DO actually feel love for someone of the same sex and you live in a society that represses and stigmatizes ALL expressions of romantic, same-sex love, even those which in previous anthropological ages were accepted and valued? And what if you belong to a religious tradition that requires NO expression of your feelings, and also demands that you keep affectional orientation a SECRET? Don’t you think that this frustrates any and all efforts to channel romantic same-sex attraction into more creative, and, ultimately more fulfilling expressions of it?

    • Ronald King permalink
      May 27, 2011 9:46 am

      yes

    • May 27, 2011 11:20 am

      I certainly sympathize with what you say. People can and do accomplish it anyway, trust me. But certainly we live in an age when (in the internal forum) culpability even for objectively grave matter can be extremely difficult to determine with any sort of certitude without a deep deep empathy. And certainly I think the Church’s pastoral approach could be a lot more about authentic human fulfillment and a lot less about politicized “conservative” homophobia and identity-wars. They could start by apologizing for the insults in that seminary instruction and by stopping all talk of “intrinsically disordered” immediately. A “positive” theology of the homoerotic or homoromantic (albeit still requiring chastity) could also be encouraged or developed.

    • PDogg permalink
      May 28, 2011 3:04 am

      I agree with you Digby to the extent that our culture stigmatizes non-sexual love between members of the same sex but I’m not sure it would be healthy to be romantic with someone of the same sex if you were trying to remain chaste. I guess it depends on your definition of romantic and what that would entail.
      One question I have, given our culture stigmatizes non sexual same sex affection/love, could one’s subconscious trigger same sex attraction to get this intimacy or acceptance?
      A friend of mine who spent some time in Vietnam noticed both the absence of gays and the prevalence of non sexual same sex intimacy there. Not to say there are no gay people in Vietnam and I’ll have to get the details on the intimacy but I just wanted to acknowledge that culture may have an impact on same sex attraction.

  40. digbydolben permalink
    May 28, 2011 12:00 am

    Alright, then, Ronald and “sinner,” I am then going to suggest something to you that I wouldn’t dare suggest on a Muslim or even a Sufi website: look into the relationship between Jalauld’din Rumi and Shams ud-Din, as expressed in Rumi’s poetry, as translated by Colman Barks. It is considerably more instructive regarding this possibility than the agonized, albeit beautiful poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins, which does succeed in sublimating homoerotic desire into what we in Asis term bhakti devotion to a most virile deity, but which–in my opinion, and in the opinion of a lot of modern critics–peters out into the frustrated despair of the “dark sonnets.” Christianity and Judaism may be more haunted by the repulsion against the flesh of its Gnostic antecedents than Islam is–and certainly more deeply wounded by it than are any of the religions of the East.

    • May 30, 2011 12:25 am

      I’ll look it up, but…trust me, I hardly need someone else’s poetry to confirm for me the “possibility”…

    • Ronald King permalink
      May 30, 2011 7:10 am

      Digby, I was wrong when I answered yes above–one of those days:) Sublimation can be a healthy adaptation to oppression for the individual. However, is silence helpful to those with the same struggles who do not have that creative gift, and, is it helpful to those who judge same-sex attraction as “intrinsically disordered”?

  41. digbydolben permalink
    May 29, 2011 11:26 pm

    I guess it depends on your definition of romantic and what that would entail…

    From what I can make out of the literature–which I do know a lot about–once upon a time poetry-writing was considered far more “romantic” than genital stimulation (and, for the recipient of the poems, more emotionally satisfying). But that was another age, and a far different and a much more cultivated and sensitive populace.

  42. digbydolben permalink
    May 29, 2011 11:34 pm

    Oh, and PDogg, I can’t resist correcting your friend’s obviously superficial observations of same-sex attraction in Asian cultures: In Asia there is MUCH “homosexual” behaviour, believe me. But your friend is right; there are no “gays,” because Asians do not categorize themselves by any such thing as a “sexual orientation.” Most of those who practice “homosexuality” in Asia are either married or intend to become so, and most boys’ first “sexual experience” (if you can call it that) is with members of their same sex, because of the sequestration of females here, by almost every Asian society.

  43. brettsalkeld permalink*
    May 30, 2011 8:35 pm

    I’m gonna ask for closing arguments here guys.

  44. digbydolben permalink
    May 31, 2011 3:49 am

    No “closing arguments”–just this observation: This has been the most civilised, morally intelligent conversation I’ve ever had with Roman Catholics on this subject. If most Catholics could manage to talk this way about this subject with those who differ with them–or even with those who agree–then I think that this issue would not be the incendiary, inflammatory one it has become, especially for independent-thinking and “gay-friendly” Catholic youth.

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