Monday, July 29, 2013

Media appears unaware that Pope Francis' statement on judging "gays" is nothing new

Today, headlines abounded throughout the news media that Pope Francis said he would not "judge" gay priests. From this article at, the Pope's expanded quote in question reads:
A gay person who is seeking God, who is of good will -- well, who am I to judge him? The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this very well. It says one must not marginalize these persons, they must be integrated into society. The problem isn't this (homosexual) orientation -- we must be like brothers and sisters. The problem is something else, the problem is lobbying either for this orientation or a political lobby or a Masonic lobby. (see bottom of post for links to full English translation of interview)
A BBC article, among others, expressed surprise at such a notion, stating: "The Pope's remarks are being seen as much more conciliatory than his predecessor's position on the issue."

Briefly, I'll point out the problem with the headlines that do not mention the person in question's pursuit of God and good will, which is different than the insinuation that the Pope doesn't judge the behavior of any "gay" person. Most headlines focus only on the first sentence, and only some articles expand on other parts of his statement.

But why would such a statement even be a headline? Even in the context of the Pope's comments, he refers to his comment being a reflection of the Catechism, which reads:
2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.
The media's reaction to Pope Francis' statement reveals a serious ignorance about Catholic teaching. Some stories insisted Pope Francis exhibited a new "tone," toward those with homosexual inclinations, attempting to contrast him with Pope Benedict XVI. Yet, in 2003, Pope Benedict (then Cardinal Ratzinger) provided almost the identical sentiment while citing the Catechism:
[A]ccording to the teaching of the Church, men and women with homosexual tendencies “must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided”. They are called, like other Christians, to live the virtue of chastity. (Cardinal Ratzinger, Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons, 2003)
Years earlier, Cardinal Ratzinger wrote a letter to bishops regarding the pastoral care of homosexual persons, in which he wrote:
The characteristic concern and good will exhibited by many clergy and religious in their pastoral care for homosexual persons is admirable, and, we hope, will not diminish. Such devoted ministers should have the confidence that they are faithfully following the will of the Lord by encouraging the homosexual person to lead a chaste life and by affirming that person's God-given dignity and worth. ... The God who is at once truth and love calls the Church to minister to every man, woman and child with the pastoral solicitude of our compassionate Lord. (Cardinal Ratzinger, Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, 1986)
As Pope Benedict, he said the same, again reflecting the basic Catechism teaching:
Deep-seated homosexual tendencies, which are found in a number of men and women, are also objectively disordered and, for those same people, often constitute a trial. Such persons must be accepted with respect and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. They are called to fulfil God's will in their lives and to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter. (Pope Benedict XVI, Concerning the Criteria for the Discernment of Vocations with regard to Persons with Homosexual Tendencies, 2005)
Both Pope Francis and Pope Benedict reflected the exact same sentiment as can be read in the Catechism. And Pope Benedict's words were even placed in official Church documents as compared to Pope Francis' comments off the cuff. Other statements by other bishops or Popes in history can be found to express a similar sentiment. Yet when Pope Francis articulated it recently, the media acted surprised. Where was the media in 1986 or 2005 to isolate a quote by Pope Benedict about gays stating, "Pope says gays worthy of love and dignity" or "Pope criticizes those who discriminate against gays." Why does the BBC, quoted above, think Pope Benedict's attitude was any different that Pope Francis'?

If the media had then desired to paint that particular caricature of Pope Benedict XVI, they could have done so, as they have with Pope Francis. But they were either negligent in recognizing Pope Benedict's words, or perhaps they consider the current social climate opportune to accent any comment that could be construed as favorable to a particular ideology, such as the current movement to certify "gay marriage" as a real institution. That could be why they did not isolate his sentence a moment later and come up with what would have been an accurate headline such as "Pope Francis condemns those who 'lobby' for homosexual behavior." Instead, Pope Francis may be seen as the media's utilitarian Rorschach blot from whom they have decided to draw whatever appearance they choose.

It is apparent in reading headlines such as the embarrassingly inaccurate one at the Huffington Post on this issue reading "Breakthrough: Pope OK with Gays," that some people interpret not "judging" in this context as "approval" of gay behavior.

It does not take much effort to read the next sentence in the Pope's statement that the Church's position is clarified in the Catechism. Quoted above is CCC#2358 on treating all persons with love, including those with homosexual tendencies. The preceding paragraph, CCC#2357 states: "[H]omosexual acts are intrinsically disordered. ... Under no circumstances can they be approved." So we have two teachings: homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered sins and we are still called to love those with homosexual tendencies. Also critical here is the following:
CCC#1861 Mortal sin is a radical possibility of human freedom, as is love itself. It results in the loss of charity and the privation of sanctifying grace, that is, of the state of grace. If it is not redeemed by repentance and God's forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ's kingdom and the eternal death of hell, for our freedom has the power to make choices for ever, with no turning back. However, although we can judge that an act is in itself a grave offense, we must entrust judgment of persons to the justice and mercy of God.
That's what the Catechism states. The Catechism is where Pope Francis referred those to understand the meaning of him not passing judgment on persons, even if one has judged those persons to have committed objectively mortal sins. It seems difficult for some in the media to understand that it is possible to love someone without approving of their every behavior. In fact, sometimes the loving response to another is to disapprove of their behavior. But perhaps this concept is alien to some persons, causing them to automatically misinterpret the Pope's meaning of not judging.

Just a final observation––I think the matter of this media frenzy today demonstrates the relevance of the Church. Even though comboxes or members of the media scoff at the Church, claiming her to be irrelevant, their ear remains turned even as they look the other way. It demonstrates the moral authority the Church still bears, even as there exists irrational cries to silence her. Many members of the media appear almost giddy that the Pope may have approved homosexual behavior (which he did not). Could there be a psychology, that though some people with their lips say they don't care what the Pope says, they subconsciously desire the support of the Pope because they recognize the moral authority the Church still bears? Even if the media is trying to "use" the Pope as utilitarian to advance a particular cause, in their abuse of the Pope's words, they show that they recognize the power in having the Church's voice on their side. Perhaps it is telling that this is at least the third time the media has misrepresented Pope Francis' words: on atheism, Purgatory, and now homosexual behavior.

See also:
What Pope Francis really said about gays - and no, it's not new by Fr. Jonathan Morris
7 things you need to know about what Pope Francis said about gays by Jimmy Akin
Added 8/5/13: Here is Zenit's English translation of the entire Pope Francis interview on the Brazil flight (part 1 and part 2)


Monday, July 15, 2013

Replies to "gay marriage" arguments 2

Read the original Replies to "gay marriage" arguments here.

The Marriage of Tobias and Sarah by Havickszoon (1673)

Following are two additional arguments set forth by proponents of gay "marriage" and thoughts on each.

God loves everyone, including gay people. Therefore if you want to be godly, you should endorse gay "marriage." If you don't, you are a "hater."
The premise of this argument may be tricky to spot because there is a subtle switch from the premise to the conclusion. To rephrase the above argument, it claims: God loves everyone, therefore, God condones anyone's behavior because to love includes condoning behavior. However, this is clearly fallacious thinking. It is perhaps a breed of the fallacy of equivocation in which two different concepts, a person and the morality of a behavior, are wrongly equated. In fact, in the above argument, the arguer himself does not condone anyone who does not endorse gay "marriage," which ironically suggests that arguer himself does not love everyone according to the standard of the very argument he proposes. It is also extremely easy to find the label "hater" thrown about in forums or comboxes by supporters of gay "marriage."

Additionally, a reasonable person can see that condoning behavior is not always an act of love. If a child steals cookies from another child's lunch bag, his mother would not exhibit love to that child if she condoned his theft as acceptable. If she disapproved of his behavior, would that mean she did not love her child? Would it mean she hated her child? Of course not. By telling the child it is not okay to steal, the mother exhibits love. In other words, it is not an act of love to confirm someone in a lie or illicit act.

The teaching that God loves everyone is considered a teaching of Christian scripture and often used by proponents of gay "marriage" in the above context. Yet even in Scripture, we can see God condemning, say, idolatrous behavior in ancient Israel, even if that practice was popular and widespread.

The Catechism teaches the following about persons who are confronted by same-sex attraction:
The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. ... They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition. (CCC#2358)
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is aware of the sense of rejection that may be experienced by some with homosexual tendencies:
Essential to the success of ministry to persons with a homosexual inclination will be the support and leadership of the bishop and other pastoral leaders. A welcoming stance of Christian love by the leadership and the community as a whole is essential for this important work. This is particularly important because more than a few persons with a homosexual inclination feel themselves to be unwelcome and rejected. (USCCB, Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination, 2006)
So when it comes to matters of love, the Church is aware and should be given due credit for emphasizing the love that should be given to those who face same-sex attraction. Christians and non-Christians should be able to agree as a principle that human beings possess the dignity to be treated with love. However, as established, love is not defined by the approval of any behavior.

As well, the above argument does not confront whether or not a marriage can even occur without one man and one woman exchanging vows. It is the Church's position that it is impossible for a marriage to even occur without the proper ingredients.

It should also be noted that the Church does not condemn someone simply for being confronted with same-sex attraction. Just as the Church exhorts a single person, clergyman, or religious celibate, the Church exhorts those facing same-sex attraction to chastity and acknowledges their capacity to approach Christian perfection!
Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection. (CCC#2359)
Those who dismiss the Church's position without confronting the Church's theology on the dignity of persons and the communal complementarity of the created genders do a disservice. As radio host Al Kresta has been known to say, "A mark of intellectual maturity is to be able to represent your opponent's position in a way that your opponent would recognize as fair and accurate." Blurting out things like "bigot!", "you just follow a two-thousand year old book!", or similar interjections are unworthy arguments.

People are "born" homosexual. Therefore, gay "marriage" should be condoned.
This argument is related to the other buzz-phrase, "marriage equality," which claims homosexual "marriage" is the same thing as marriage between complementary genders. The thinking seems to be that since people are born heterosexual and are allowed to marry, therefore people who are "born" homosexual should be allowed to marry a person of their same gender.

There are at least a couple problems with this reasoning. The first is the lack of conclusive evidence that persons with homosexual tendencies are "born" with those tendencies. There are a number of scientific studies refuting the idea that genetics is the reason for homosexual tendencies, including the fact that many identical twins do not share the same sexual attractions.

Consider also the principle espoused in the above argument. It says, if a person is born with Tendency X, then society should condone any enterprise which allows them to perform Tendency X. But what if a person is born with a tendency that all or most of society recognizes as disordered? Some scientific studies show that the brains of criminals exhibit abnormalities in certain areas. Hypothesize for a moment that someone is born with a certain brain abnormality that tends that person toward some violent, criminal behavior. Now apply the above argument. It would say something like: If a person is born with violent, criminal tendencies, society should condone their behavior as acceptable.

In other words, whether or not a person is born with a certain tendency, does not tell us whether or not that tendency is beneficial for society, much less moral.

Consider also what such proponents of gay "marriage" are asking: that the union of two same-gendered people be recognized as marriage, on the grounds that the individuals are "born" that way. But if, as the Church argues, marriage is only possible with one man and one woman, it is irrelevant what sexual tendencies any individual is born with because marriage does not depend on that. To give an analogy similar to my Estonia analogy last post, let's say there is a full-grown adult, Skippy, who would like to be recognized as six-feet tall. However, Skippy is, in reality, five-feet tall. No matter what a court or legislature may say, they cannot "write" Skippy's height at six-feet and make it a reality. In the same way, neither the way a person is born, nor a government declaration can alter marriage as anything but the union of one man and one woman.

Related reading:
How redefining marriage harms society by Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

Monday, July 1, 2013

Replies to "gay marriage" arguments

Following are common arguments in favor of so-called "gay marriage" and some thoughts on each. There are indeed many other arguments and replies one could consider on this issue besides what is covered below, but in the interest of brevity, I will limit this post to these.

First, let me caution against a knee-jerk response: none of this should be interpreted as some sort of "hatred" for persons who assert homosexuality. Rather, consider this: if marriage can only "occur" if the ingredients of one man committed to one woman are joined, then it is not "love" to confirm one's peers in a lie by endorsing something as marriage which is not marriage. The sensitivity of this issue among families and friends demands that people avoid a strictly "emotional" response to arguments presented rationally and in good faith. One can still be a proponent of marriage as it has been known for centuries and still exhibit love for anyone, regardless of opinions or behaviors.

If two people love each other, they should be allowed the same rights and benefits no matter their genders.
First off, everyone does have the same rights. All persons desiring to enter the institution of marriage must do so with a member of the opposite sex. That's what a marriage is. Proponents of marriage are not granting themselves any privilege for themselves that they would deny to anyone else.

Additionally, if special federal benefits should be granted to "two people who love each other," then any two people who love each other, platonically or otherwise, deserve those benefits. Two brothers, a brother and sister, a daughter and father, two cousins, two friends, etc... Any two people who "love each other" fit the criteria argued by many proponents of "gay marriage."

As a radio caller Christine from Indiana said on the June 27 Catholic Connection show with Teresa Tomeo: "When I was listening to a lawyer on CNN who was so excited about the ruling, and he said, 'Now this means that two people who love each other can, you know, get married and are equal.' And I said, well, I love my mother."

As many have also pointed out, the legal precedent at hand is establishing a basis for state-recognized polygamy, concubines, incest, "temporary" marriages, situational or contractual marriages, etc... Although one can find "gay marriage" supporters scoff at this slippery slope, we have already seen advocates for these kinds of "marriages" attempt to springboard on the current legal precedents. The principles advanced by "gay marriage" proponents are transplantable to these arrangements without needing revision.

It is discrimination to bar any class of people from receiving the same benefits of other married people.
Again, no one has special privileges regarding marriage denied to anyone else (see previous answer). Additionally, why is there no movement demanding that single people receive the same benefits demanded for "gay couples"? In refusing single people, all of whom "love" someone, such benefits, proponents of "gay marriage" by their own definitions are advocating for discrimination against a "class of people." The arguments set forth do not show cause for why "two people who love each other AND share genital activity" merit benefits verses two people who love each other and are otherwise still committed to that love for life.

Also, the above argument is essentially, "If person X wants Y, and someone else has Y, it's discrimination to deprive X of Y." Consider, for example, if I want to be recognized as a naturally born citizen of Estonia. However, I was not born in Estonia. Yet there are others who were born there. If I demanded a law to recognize me as a natural born citizen of Estonia, and if that law were enacted, it would not make me a naturally born citizen of Estonia because some realities are not affected by the stroke of a pen. Ultimately, it is faulty to automatically assume that any enterprise had by one person is automatically discrimination against someone else who does not possess the same enterprise.

If marriage must be open to procreation, then why are infertile or elderly couples of the opposite sex allowed to marry? Since they are, then procreation is not "necessary" for a marriage and therefore "gay couples" are no different than those couples.
There are a number of problems with this argument as well. Sometimes couples who were diagnosed or thought to be infertile due to a defect or old age are surprised to find themselves pregnant. Absolute infertility is not an infallible thing to diagnose. Just last month a woman went to the hospital with "back pain" to find herself giving birth to a baby she did not know she was carrying––and her husband had had a vasectomy besides.

Secondly, the opposite genders, by their nature, have procreative qualities. Any infertility is a degradation or malfunction of the body. For civil society to embrace the marriage of such a couple is not to say "marriage does not involve procreation." For reasons in the previous paragraph, fertility may still exist. That alone is reason to continue support for marriage between one man and one woman. And also, by still recognizing marriage only in male-female relationships, the entire idea of a procreative union is fortified culturally whether or not the couple themselves are ever able to conceive. They retain their share of maleness and femaleness in which fertility resides in the complementarity of genders. That children are conceived by a man and woman is a statement not requiring any specific couple to exemplify. It is the basic, natural structure of a generational society. The complementarity they embody does not escape their genders if one or both of them should have a physical insufficiency. The recognition of their union fosters an environment of other male-female marriages which would be fertile. Same-sex "marriages" do not represent the fertility of maleness and femaleness because one or the other is lacking. By their very nature, the union of the same gender is always impotent.

As well, no one seems to argue that a married couple that was once fertile is suddenly not married once they reach old age simply because they are diagnosed as infertile. Yet, like a newly wed elderly couple, they still represent the male-female union that is elsewhere fertile and encouraged. And in this way, the figure of their gender complementarity fortifies the normative fertility associated with the genders they represent. In fortifying the idea that marriage is between one man and one woman, the idea of the fertility associated with the complementary genders is likewise fortified.

Children raised by "married" gay couples do just as well or better as children raised by their mothers and fathers.
In theory, even if this was true, it would not make the union of any two of the same genders "a marriage." But this is not true. History and social science have produced much evidence that children end up more prone to broken homes or other problems when raised apart from one of their parents. (Examples: citizenlink, Univ. of Texas-Austin study and here, Crisis Magazine, etc. See below for more thoughts on faulty male-female marriages.

Concluding thoughts
Now, of course there are a number of broken male-female marriages resulting in plenty of children raised in poverty or prone to crime, etc... In Catholic circles, you will have found for many years, criticism of the breakdown of marriage preceding all this talk of "gay marriage." In May, TCV reviewed the 1880 encyclical Arcanum by Pope Leo XIII who warned against straying from committed male-female marriages and facilitating divorce or concubines. The boom of contraception in marriage has also led to the further objectification of spouses, as predicted by Pope Paul VI, and hyper physically-sexualized the institution of marriage while championing infertility.

As I said in that May post, marriage has not degraded because the culture listened to the Church, but because the culture has scoffed at and failed to heed the warnings of the Church. A point being that support for "gay marriage" is not a remedy for the poisoned well of marriage. Rather, a number of arguments for "gay marriage" are founded on many of the decayed attributes of marriage in the last centuries, which are themselves repeats of ancient marital troubles in various times and cultures.

From a civil perspective alone, it is in the best interest for the state to recognize and foster a citizenry in which children have the best chance to be raised, in the order of nature, by both their mother and father. Regarding marriage, that is what the goal of a society seeking stability should be.

And finally, this is not heard much in the media, but I have not heard many people consider whether or not proponents of "gay marriage" are advancing a particular religious belief. Marriage is not an observable, quantifiable thing you can contain in a beaker in a laboratory. Proponents of marriage throughout the centuries recognize it as a divine institution because one can observe and verify the complementarity and potency of the genders that have been created. Proponents of "gay marriage," as we have observed, often base their arguments as reflections on the existing institution of male-female marriage. Is it fair to bring to the table whether or not proponents of "gay marriage" are imposing a state-sanctioned religion of sorts on the public?

(Added July 15, 2013: Read Replies to "gay marriage" arguments 2 here)

Image at top of post is Simon de Vos' Wedding at Cana, from Wikimedia Commons.