At Jesuit-run Amerika there is an article by Jesuit homosexualist activist Fr James Martin in which he writes about the “official” teaching, as he puts it, of the Church (he doesn’t use a capital) concerning homosexual inclinations and homosexual acts.
It may be that he has finally had so many challenges thrown at him that he couldn’t dodge them anymore. He finally decided to stand in the batters box and take a hack.
I haven’t made an extensive study of Martin’s writings. That said, this is the first time I’ve seen him sidle up to clarity about moral dimension of the aforementioned inclinations and acts.
All in all, Martin’s offering isn’t bad. He brings up natural law. He brings up the Catechism of the Catholic Church. He brings up chastity. He brings up the inherent dignity of all persons. That’s all well and good.
One might fault him a little for suggesting that few Catholics know that treating homosexual persons badly is wrong. Frankly, I find that absurd. But, let’s give him a pass on that point.
However, you have to read between the lines. Start with the title.
What is the official church teaching on homosexuality? Responding to a commonly asked question
What is the “official church teaching”…
Later in the piece
… we can perhaps best understand it from the church’s traditional reliance on natural law, which was itself heavily influenced by the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas
… In terms of sexuality, all sex is “ordered” toward what are called the “affective” (love) and “generative” (having children) ends, within the context of a marriage.
… official church teaching rules out any sort of sexual activity outside the marriage of a man and a woman
… it is important for the institutional church to understand the lived experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholics.
While Martin went a long way toward clarity, I sense a subtle hedge which he is signaling to his base. For example, among libs you find code language, terms such as the “institutional church”. Using the small “c” is already a signal. At outlets like the Fishwrap you constantly find writers pitting an amorphous “spirit-filled” or “prophetic” church against the “institutional church”, as if the former trumps the latter. Yes, we have to know what the “institutional church” says, or – better “said” (once upon a time), as if studying the history of a topic. However, we are advancing beyond the merely “institutional”, old hide-bound church shackled by laws and taboos and outdated mores no longer suited to our far more mature era.
Martin uses the word “official” throughout and rightly so. He is, after all, responding to a question.
QUAERITUR: What is the official church teaching on homosexuality?
Think about that question. Students ask questions like this. People who are confused about the facts ask questions like that. But it seems to me that most people who want to know if the thing they are doing is a sin or not simply ask, “What does the Church teach about homosexuality?” The heart-searching penitent doesn’t hedge.
Am I being too picky? I want to be fair to Fr. Martin, whom I’ve beaten up occasionally in these electronic pages. However, when I start at the top and read to the bottom I wonder if he isn’t signaling that because the teaching is “official” or it is “institutional”, it is also changeable.
Laws and rules and institutions and “officialdom” can be changed, after all.
The Church doesn’t just have “official” rules about homosexual acts. What the Church teaches is also rooted both in divine revelation and in natural law.
Martin mentions natural law. But he writes:
… we can perhaps best understand it from the church’s traditional reliance on natural law…
… according to the traditional interpretation of natural law, homosexual acts are not ordered toward those specific ends and so they are deemed “disordered.”
… That is one reason that it’s important for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people to understand the church’s teaching in its totality—the Gospels, the tradition of natural law and its roots in Thomistic and Aristotelian reasoning, …
So, someone looking for a way out of the Church’s teachings might latch onto that “traditional”. Traditions aren’t so important are they? Well, they are important in the sense that we should know what they were. For example, it is important to know that the Church used Latin for a long time. But we’ve outgrown all that. Traditions can be changed, right? Women traditionally covered their heads in church. They don’t have to do that anymore. Traditionally we abstained from meat on all Fridays. Traditionally, Lent was far more rigorous. Traditionally, we interpreted natural law to mean that sex acts between persons of the same sex were “disordered”. But can’t there be non-traditional interpretations of natural law? The official or institutional church clings to traditions. But we should be freer in the spirit in a prophetic church that isn’t bound in taboos.
There’s the “traditional” way, and there’s the “contemporary” and “new” and “openminded” etc….
Again, I am glad that Fr. Martin has taken greater steps toward clarity. And yet his explanation seemed to glide above the bases, rather than touch them as he ran them. This isn’t a home run for the Jesuit. It might be a single base because he was hit by a pitch.
Here’s the bottom line for anyone who is scratching her head.
The Church’s official teaching is her official teaching not just because she teaches if officially. She teaches what she teaches because IT IS TRUE.
The TRUTH is the foundation of the Church’s teaching.
Holy Church must be true to Her Lord who is the Way, the TRUTH, and the Life.
People with homosexual inclinations are PEOPLE. They are images of God and the dignified subjects of their own acts, worthy of respect, justice, charity, etc., just like every other person.
However, there is no time in the past, present or future of the human race that homosexual acts will be anything other than intrinsically evil. Why? Because the are evil in themselves and not just because – right now – we say they are… officially.