Tag Archives: sexual ethics

"Unraveling the Church Ban on Gay Sex" – Notre Dame Professor Gary Gutting

More generally, the church needs to undertake a thorough rethinking of its teachings on sexual ethics, including premarital sex, masturbation and remarriage after divorce. In every case, the old arguments no longer work (if they ever did), and a vast number of Catholics reject the teachings. It’s time for the church to realize that its sexual ethics are philosophically untenable and theologically unnecessary.

– NYTimes.com.

Gary Gutting is a professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, and an editor of Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews. He is the author of, most recently, “Thinking the Impossible: French Philosophy since 1960,” and writes regularly for The Stone. The paragraph above concludes an opinion piece for the New York Times

For Queer Catholics, Conscience is Key!

For lgbt Catholics, and many other Christians, one of the most pressing and agonising dilemmas they face, is that of reconciling what they know to be the truth of their sexuality or gender identity, and church teaching. For Catholics in particular, the top – line response should be easy – “Follow your conscience”. The primacy of conscience is firmly established in Church teaching. Sadly, it’s not quite that simple.  Following one’s own conscience is not a blanket get – out of jail free card, allowing us to simply decide according to our own impulses how to make up our mind on ethical issues: Church teaching is clear on the primacy of conscience – but also insists on a rider, that conscience must be fully formed. Some Catholic archconservatives would argue that a conscience can only be fully formed, if it leads to straightforward compliance with the rules of the Catechism, but that is also simply not so. The essence of the dilemma, really, is not about how to reconcile sexuality and Church teaching, but how to find a balance between these two views.

An excellent starting point in that exploration is in an article in America magazine, “Following Faithfully: The Catholic way to choose the good“, by the lay theologians Todd Salzmann and Michael Lawler is worth not just reading, but careful study. (So is their influential book on sexual ethics, “The Sexual Person”).

We hope to reprint the full article in the next Quest Bulletin, but meanwhile, here are just a few extracts:

On the primacy of conscience:

From the great doctor of the church, Thomas Aquinas:

“Anyone upon whom the ecclesiastical authorities, in ignorance of the true facts, impose a demand that offends against his clear conscience should perish in excommunication rather than violate his conscience.” For any Catholic in search of truth, no stronger statement on the authority and inviolability of personal conscience could be found, but Aquinas goes further. He insists that even the dictate of an erroneous conscience must be followed and that to act against such a dictate is immoral.

From Fr Joseph Ratzinger (later, Pope Benedict XVI):

“Over the pope as the expression of the binding claim of ecclesiastical authority there still stands one’s own conscience, which must be obeyed before all else, if necessary even against the requirement of ecclesiastical authority. Conscience confronts [the individual] with a supreme and ultimate tribunal, and one which in the last resort is beyond the claim of external social groups, even of the official church.”

From Vatican II’s “Decree on Religious Freedom”, which, note Salzmann and Lawler, embraced Aquinas’s judgment on the inviolability of conscience:

“In all his activity a man is bound to follow his conscience faithfully, in order that he may come to God, for whom he was created. It follows that he is not to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his conscience. Nor, on the other hand, is he to be restrained from acting in accordance with his conscience, especially in matters religious”

On balancing the two views of conscience

Salzmann and Lawler contrast the positions of two eminent modern theologians, Germain Grisez and Bernhard Häring, C.Ss.R.

Germain Grisez holds that the only way to form one’s conscience is to conform it to the teaching of the church. …… For Professor Grisez and theologians who agree with him, including St. John Paul II, conscience is ultimately about obedience to church teaching.

and

Bernhard Häring, C.Ss.R., is diametrically opposed to that stance. …. Church doctrine is at the service of women and men as they use conscience in their search for goodness, truth and Christian wholeness; conscience is not at the service of doctrine. “It staggers the imagination,” Häring writes, “to think that an earthly authority or an ecclesiastical magisterium could take away from man his own decision of conscience.”

Noted Theologians Lawler and Salzmann, on Marriage.

“Fortunate Families” Newsletter reports the welcome news that the Catholic lay theologians Todd Salzmann and Michael Lawler (together with theologian Ellen Burke – Sullivan) have just published a new book, “The Church in the Modern World: Gaudium et Spes – Then and Now”, with a notable chapter dealing specifically with marriage.

This is important news. Their previous book, “The Sexual Person”, provided a superb, penetrating analysis of Catholic sexual theology in all its aspects. and included abundant examples of just why the allegedly “traditional” teaching is not all it is said to be, why it must change – and  how it is in fact constantly changing. For LGBT Catholics with a serious interest in the subject, “The Sexual Person” should be required reading.

With the Family Synod now bringing marriage, divorce and same – sex relationships so much more  into mainstream Catholic discussion, it is likely that this book, with its chapter on marriage, will be equally valuable for LGBT Catholics. Continue reading Noted Theologians Lawler and Salzmann, on Marriage.

Marriage teaching ‘disconnected’, say Dublin Catholics

I think we already knew this – but it’s good to have it acknowledged by a respected Archbishop.

Catholic teaching on contraception, cohabitation, same sex relationships, the divorced and remarried is “disconnected from real life experience of families – and not by just younger people”, said Archbishop Diarmuid Martin last night.

In general, church teaching in those areas was found to be “poorly understood . . . poorly accepted” by Catholics in Dublin, he said at a meeting in Holy Cross College, Clonliffe. He was commenting on findings of a consultation in the diocese.

Similar consultations took place all over Ireland at the urging of Pope Francis, in advance of the Synod of Bishops on the family in Rome next October.

Archbishop Martin is the only Irish bishop to disclose findings in his diocese.

viaThe Irish Times, Fri, Feb 28, 2014.

 

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Worldwide, Catholics Disagree with Vatican Sexual Doctrines.

There is an abundance of research evidence to show that US Catholics reject Vatican doctrines on almost all elements of sexual doctrines, from contraception through masturbation and cohabitation, to gay marriage. Conservative Catholics often respond to this evidence with the claim that outside North America and Europe, things are different. From a global perspective, they claim, most Catholics support church teaching. Findings of a new global survey show they are wrong.

Pope Francis faces church divided over doctrine, global poll of Catholics finds

Most Catholics worldwide disagree with church teachings on divorce, abortion and contraception and are split on whether women and married men should become priests, according to a large new poll released Sunday and commissioned by the U.S. Spanish-language network Univision.

Catholics worldwide approve of contraception (graphic - Washington Post)
Catholics worldwide approve of contraception (graphic – Washington Post)

On the topic of gay marriage, two-thirds of Catholics polled agree with church leaders.

Overall, however, the poll of more than 12,000 Catholics in 12 countries reveals a church dramatically divided: Between the developing world in Africa and Asia, which hews closely to doctrine on these issues, and Western countries in Europe, North America and parts of Latin America, which strongly support practices that the church teaches are immoral.

The widespread disagreement with Catholic doctrine on abortion and contraception and the hemispheric chasm lay bare the challenge for Pope Francis’s year-old papacy and the unity it has engendered.

 – The Washington Post.

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"Redefining Marriage?" (Birmingham Conference, Centre for the Study of Christianity and Sexuality)

The bitter and divisive arguments in the struggles towards marriage equality have highlighted some important issues around the institution of marriage, challenging many common assumptions. For example:

  • The claim by opponents that we cannot redefine marriage are groundless – marriage has been constantly evolving, or “being redefined”, throughout human history. Traditional marriage is not threatened by gay marriage  – issues like widespread promiscuity, cohabitation without marriage, adultery and divorce are far more serious threats.
  • In many modern weddings, the expensive social occasion and conspicuous expense, with the wedding planner a more important presider over ritual than the priest or pastor, has undermined the religious significance of the institution.
  • The inherently patriarchal nature of traditional marriage, raises the question whether civil unions may be more desirable – for different sex couples, as well as for gay men and lesbians.
  • It is untrue that same – sex couples cannot form enduring, stable relationships. There is abundant research evidence to show the contrary, and that on balance same – sex couples are often happier than different – sex couples, because they are more likely to be based on genuine partnership, equality and negotiation.
  • While most gay men and lesbians are overwhelmingly in favour of equal access in law to marriage, some are ambivalent about the extent to which they want it for themselves, wondering if they really want to give up the more relaxed attitude to open relationships, or the single lifestyles, they’ve previously enjoyed.
  • Conversely, some heterosexual people have begun to ask whether their relationships too, could benefit from some tolerance of relationships outside the marriage? Continue reading "Redefining Marriage?" (Birmingham Conference, Centre for the Study of Christianity and Sexuality)

Der Spiegel: "Pope Francis' Sex Problem"

When news first broke of the global consultation on marriage and family, I predicted that because this would lay bare the huge gulf between Vatican teaching on sex, and Catholic belief and practice on the ground, the consequences would be far greater than Pope Francis and his advisors may have anticipated. As results start to come in, and assorted submissions from reputable theologians are made public, it is becoming clearer than ever that I was right.

Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna has released results for Austria showing how wide is the gap, and now we have a investigative report from Der Spiegel, on the thoughts of German Catholics.

The Pope’s Sex Problem:

Catholic Survey Shows Deep Frustration within the Church

The Vatican last year sent out a survey to Catholics around the world focusing on attitudes to sex and sexuality. The responses are now in — and they show that the Church is badly in need of reform. Can Pope Francis meet such expectations?

Adolescents find it embarrassing to talk about sex with adults. Even more so when the adult in question is their Catholic priest.

4.0.1

About 20 girls and boys are sitting on leather sofas in the basement of St. Josef Catholic Community Center on the outskirts of Berlin. The walls are brightly painted and bags of gummy bears and chocolate are on a table in the center of the room.

Hannah, Jonas and their friends giggle when Harald Tux, a friendly, balding man with glasses, reads a questionnaire from the Vatican out loud. It’s about premarital sex, and the officials in Rome want to know how these young Catholics in Berlin’s Weissensee neighborhood feel about it. “Is contraception an option for you?” the theologian asks. The youths are already whispering, and they can’t help but smile when Tux finally gets to the point: “If you used contraception, would you confess to it?”

“Huh?” a girl asks with a grimace. “It’s not a crime,” exclaims a boy in a hooded sweatshirt. They all snort with laughter.

The debate continues. “For our generation, it’s also a question of responsibility. If you don’t want to become a parent at 16 or 17, you have to use contraception,” says Hannah. The 16-year-old and her fellow adolescents cite many other issues where they believe change is needed. “Homosexuals should also be allowed to marry, so that the church can be open to everyone,” says Jonas. “The church doesn’t have the right to interfere.”

Last week, Germany’s Catholic bishops held a two-day conference in the Bavarian city of Würzburg for the purpose of compiling and analyzing the responses given by Hannah, Jonas and other Catholics from all 27 dioceses in Germany. Their conclusions are bound for Rome. The project has likely led to more churchgoers expressing their opinions than ever before in 2,000-year history of the church.

In the past, the church has turned to its bishops to assess the mood in the grassroots, but their reports often contained more pious desires and wishful thinking than facts.

A Wave of Protest

But now the people of God have spoken. Church members around the world were asked for their opinions on the most controversial issues in Catholicism. They expressed how they feel about the strict prohibitions of their faith, on issues ranging from the family to sexual morality. In the coming weeks and months, their responses to the surveys will be processed and analyzed, and in October Pope Francis and bishops from around the world will discuss the results during an extraordinary synod.

SPIEGEL has taken a closer look at the mood in all 27 German dioceses. Some divulged very little information, while many others provided extensive data. Catholic family and youth organizations that were particularly involved in the survey also contributed.

The outcome is devastating for the guardians of pure doctrine. Even the reactions of committed Catholics reflect disinterest, enmity and deep displeasure. Many can no longer relate to the old dogmas and feel left alone by the church. Even in conservative Bavaria, 86 percent of Catholics do not believe it is a sin to use the pill or condoms, both condemned by the church.

– full report at  SPIEGEL ONLINE.

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Bilgrimage: Catholic Sexual Ethics and the Category of Justice: A Reminder about Margaret Farley's Pioneering Work

Bill Lindsey, writing about the German theologians’ response to the Catholic global survey on marriage and the family, remembered Margaret Farley’s Pioneering Work in the field of sexual ethics and justice:

Catholic Sexual Ethics and the Category of Justice: A Reminder about Margaret Farley’s Pioneering Work.

As I thought about that statement during the rest of the day, it occurred to me that I very much need to remind readers of the important work in the field of sexual ethics done by Margaret Farley. In 2012, I did a series of postings excerpting material from Farley’s significant book Just Love (which the U.S. Catholic bishops found objectionable). As that series of postings notes, Farley has been a pioneer among Catholic theologians in applying the norm of justice to Catholic teachings about human sexuality.

She has been a pioneer in insisting that we cannot adequately do sexual ethics while prescinding from questions about justice. And it’s perhaps for that insistence that the U.S. Catholic bishops think her theology is not sufficiently Catholic and not sufficiently deferential to the magisterium.

Here’s the first in that series I did in 2012 regarding Just Love. Click on Farley’s name in the label below that posting, and the whole series should pop up, in case you’re interested in it.

via Bilgrimage