Tag Archives: Fr Owen O’Sullivan

A Theology of Gay Inclusion, Pt 6: "Our sexual relationships"

In March this year, Fr Owen O’Sullivan published an article in the theological journal “Furrow” on the inclusion of gays in the Church. The CDF seem to have found this article dangerous, and have ordered him not publish anything further without prior approval. In the modern internet age, this attempted censorship simply does not work: the original article has been published on-line in a series of posts at an Australian Salvation Army blog, “Boundless Salvation”. 

Here is the sixth extract:

Our theology of sexual relationships

We have the commandment, ‘Thou shalt not kill,’ but have developed an elaborate theology around self-defence, just war, capital punishment, and indirect killing. But, where the sixth commandment is concerned, a blanket disapproval covers everything outside the marital bed, and much within it. Some theological language around sexuality is so spiritualized and out-of-the-body that it becomes a way of avoiding the truth that God created people sexual. Is there not much in our tradition that is anti- the human body, despite the Incarnation and Resurrection? We are not far from thinking, if not actually saying, that people should have as little sex as possible, and ideally – as in celibacy – none at all.

We wish that eros be safely tucked away and put to sleep in the bed of monogamous heterosexual marriage. But re-awakening it could help us to see our relationship with God as a love affair, with emotion. All our theology, not only of sexuality, is so deeply pervaded by exclusivism, by either-or instead of both-and, that we are probably not capable even of imagining such an awakening. In the Septuagint Song of Songs, the word used for love is agapein; this includes the sexual. Yet the church is afraid of sex; it’s our Pandora’s box, better kept locked. Why is the church so afraid of erring on the side of love? Jesus had no such fear. The difference between being open, or not, to questioning your prejudices is what Christian tradition calls conversion.

A Theology of Gay Inclusion, Pt 5: "What’s wrong with saying 'Do your best' ?"

In March this year, Fr Owen O’Sullivan published an article in the theological journal “Furrow” on the inclusion of gays in the Church. The CDF seem to have found this article dangerous, and have ordered him not publish anything further without prior approval. In the modern internet age, this attempted censorship simply does not work: the original article has been published on-line in a series of posts at an Australian Salvation Army blog, “Boundless Salvation”. 

Here is the fifth extract:

What’s wrong with saying “Do your best”?

What’s wrong with saying to the homosexual, ‘Being a homosexual is not sinful; performing homosexual acts is. So do your best. If you fail, go to confession, ask for forgiveness, and try again. God will help you’?

What’s wrong with it is that it ignores the full truth, and nothing worthwhile in human relationships can be founded on half-truths. There’s an analogy here with Humanae Vitae. That document states, in effect, that a man should love a woman in her totality, and not implicitly say to her, ‘I love you – but not your fertility; I don’t want that.’ The church says to homosexuals, ‘We love you – but not your homosexuality; we don’t want that.’ In effect we say, ‘What a pity you’re not normal!’ We ‘respect and love’ them – except for what is a most precious and important part of what they are. All the talk in the world about loving the sinner while hating the sin rings hollow: how can you respect or love a person while repudiating something they see as central to their self-understanding? Sexual orientation is central to that.

Jesus – who is not recorded as having said anything about homosexuality – went about including those the religious authorities of the day excluded on the grounds that they did not fit the established pattern of behaviour. Should we not consider the possibility that we might be wrong? It wouldn’t be the first time!

Think, too, of the Gospel parable of the ten talents: one man, motivated by fear, wrapped up his talent, buried it, and then handed it back intact. Jesus had strong words for him. (Matthew 25.14-30; Luke 19.12-27) For homosexuals, is the gift of their sexuality meant to be wrapped up, buried, and returned unused? Why did God make people sexual, if not for them to give expression to it?

A Theology of Gay Inclusion (Pt 4): "Homosexuality is objectively disordered."

n March this year, Fr Owen O’Sullivan published an article in the theological journal “Furrow” on the inclusion of gays in the Church. The CDF seem to have found this article dangerous, and have ordered him not publish anything further without prior approval. In the modern internet age, this attempted censorship simply does not work: the original article has been published on-line in a series of posts at an Australian Salvation Army blog, “Boundless Salvation”. 

Here is the fourth extract:

‘Homosexuality is objectively disordered.’

Saying that homosexuality is objectively disordered presumes that sexuality can be evaluated outside of the context of persons and their relationships. Context matters. In the context of a loving, committed relationship, sexual acts have a different significance from what they have outside it. To ignore the context is to ignore the person, to ignore the full truth. To ignore the person is the pharisaism that Jesus condemned in the Gospel. Human relationships, like human beings, are so diverse that a one-size-fits-all approach to morality does justice neither to them nor to itself.

In the days before the church changed its teaching from support for to opposition to capital punishment, we heard the metaphysical argument that the dignity of natural law, outraged by the act of murder, required the death penalty as fitting punishment. When someone shifts the ground of moral debate from the inter-personal (e.g. human relationships) to the biological (e.g. objective disorder), it sounds like an admission of defeat. It’s a materialistic argument which elevates the biological to the metaphysical. There’s more to humanity than the biological. Quasi-metaphysical arguments about moral behaviour acquire a (bogus) aura of irrefutability because, like Saint Anselm’s metaphysical proof of God’s existence, they involve a jump from the speculative to the real order. But such a jump is invalid.

In this debate, to say that serious account must be taken of the quality of relationships between people is to leave oneself open to a charge of subjectivism. But its opposite pole, objectivism, is as fallacious; it is distorting and incomplete, as if everyone else had an axe to grind while the objectivist is a privileged person with a detached view from nowhere, above all personal considerations. Objectivism posits a reification of relationships, as if they could be considered ‘in themselves,’ apart from the human beings involved. This ‘dispassionate’ approach has its head in the sand, afraid of what it might see. The best authorities in sexuality are those who lead loving, committed, healthy, integrated sexual lives; the authority of experience trumps the experience of authority any day.

To homosexuals, the pastoral rhetoric about respect is dishonest, because it is not possible to respect a person while hating the actions that express what that person is. A frequent comment by homosexuals is that they believe they have become better human beings by coming out and entering into a committed relationship. If you have to suppress your sexuality, can you develop as a balanced human-being with feelings of self-worth? What is it like to live with your soul split from your body and your mind? Reality wins every time; reality is truth.