Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Gov. Christie gets Church teaching on homosexuality wrong

Photo of NJ Gov. Chris Christie by Luigi Novi, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

An August 19, 2013 press release from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie announced the governor's signing of a ban on reparative therapy for minors. As a brief segue, the psychology involved in homosexual reparative therapy does not seem entirely consistent according to a variety of studies, although states like California and New Jersey have chosen scientific sides.* But the controversy of bans on reparative therapy, even on willing participants, and an examination of the variety of extant psychological disorders are not the purpose of this post.

In the NJ press release is included the following portion of a transcript from 2011 between the governor and CNN's Piers Morgan.
Piers Morgan: Is homosexuality a sin?
Governor Christie: Well my religion says it’s a sin. I mean I think, but for me, I’ve always believed that people are born with the predisposition to be homosexual. And so I think if someone is born that way it’s very difficult to say then that’s a sin. But I understand that my Church says that, but for me personally I don’t look at someone who is homosexual as a sinner.
Christie is a Catholic. When he says that his religion says "homosexuality" is a sin, he is wrong. When he says the Church calls a person who is simply "born that way" to be in "sin," he is wrong. Let's review the correct teaching again in these excerpts from the Catechism (full paragraphs here).
CCC#2357 Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered." They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. 

CCC#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.

CCC#2359 Homosexual persons...can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.
Let's summarize the 3 excerpts:
2357 - Homosexual ACTS are sinful.
2358 - Homosexual persons should be treated with love.
2359 - Homosexual persons can attain Christian perfection.

Yet Christie claims to contradict his Church when he says he doesn't believe someone "who is homosexual" is a sinner. The Church's teaching on sexuality is consistent for any person––sexual behavior is appropriate only in a marital setting, must be open to life, etc. Acts of the body or indulgent acts of the heart contradictory to that environment are sinful. CCC#2352 includes the statement: "The deliberate use of the sexual faculty, for whatever reason, outside of marriage is essentially contrary to its purpose." It should be noted the Church is not merciless toward persons who may fall into sexual sin. Recently the Pope made the distinction of inappropriate judgment of persons, including those with homosexual leanings. And anyone who sins is embraced to receive the sacrament of reconciliation.

Let's look at another recent statement by a teacher of the faith, a Catholic Bishop (emphasis mine):
Church teaching is very clear that the homosexual inclination is not sinful and that same-sex attraction is not immoral, but that what we’re dealing with here is the distinction between the inclination and the conduct. ... Homosexual activity will not be condoned. (Bishop Robert Guglielmone of Charleston, May 27, 2013)
Christie is wrong. He is incorrect. As it is worded, his statement could cause scandal and false myths about the Church. If Christie does understand Church teaching and its gravity but simply rejects it, he has excommunicated himself latae sententiae. (For his part, Piers Morgan, who professes to be Catholic, has also demonstrated vitriol for Catholic teaching.)

*For example, see articles such as this from the National Catholic Register. Or read through the plaintiff's case (PDF) in the California ban. In their argument, they point out the reliance of the defendant on the American Psychological Association's 2009 Report of the Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation. The studies by that task force include the following statement: [S]ame-sex sexual attractions and behavior occur in the context of a variety of sexual orientations and sexual orientation identities, and for some, sexual orientation identity (i.e., individual or group membership and affiliation, self-labeling) is fluid or has an indefinite outcome. Other state-dismissed research can be found in the works of licensed therapists such as the participating plaintiffs in that case David Pickup, Dr. Christopher Rosik, Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, Robert Vazzo, and the National Association of Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), the American Association of Christian Counselors, et al.

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