Tackling the problem of teaching convincingly what the Church offers about homosexuality

A video of interest HERE.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. BeckyCA says:

    Matthew Warner had a compelling blog post on this topic a few months ago: http://www.ncregister.com/blog/matthew-warner/pro-life-is-easy-pro-marriage-is-hard

    I have found this to be true in my own experience. When I was a student at a Catholic college 20 years ago, I knew almost no one who thought abortion was OK. But most people, out of a sense of compassion, thought homosexuality was morally acceptable, and that it was cruel for the Church to require celibacy of those with a homosexual orientation. If this was the trend in belief among young Catholics 20 years ago, I can only imagine it’s even more entrenched at my alma mater these days.

  2. anilwang says:

    The church’s teaching on homosexuality is pretty clear:

    The key problem is that terms such as “natural law” are no longer understood by most people and the value of quoting scripture has diminished since Protestants have so many interpretations on so many scriptural citations.

    Another key problem is that unless one understands the logic of Humanae Vitae it is nearly impossible to understand the Church’s stance on homosexuality. Contraception and masturbation are considered positive goods by most protestants and a large segment of society, so if you accept both, it is nearly impossible to justify why homosexual sex is not also good.

  3. Imrahil says:

    Dear @BeckyCA,

    thank you very much for quoting that article. Compelling indeed.

    On the other hand, I would not think we are losing the marriage battle. What we are losing is the anti-homos*xuality battle. (Let’s just frankly admit that we are anti-something, okay?) The marriage battle as distinct from it, viz. the notion that marriage as such is a union of man and woman and nothing else, is still pretty much accepted, where this acceptation has not been swamped in an ocean of emotionalities and politically correct taboos. People may happen to think that tax benefits and a right to visit should belong to homos*xuals; they may not care under whatever term a State handles this; things indeed not unproblematic in themselves; but except very tiny minorities they will not accept homos*xual marriage. If you, outside a political discussion, mention even to a homos*xual that there-and-there a marriage has happened, he will think of a man and a woman.

    Great also that And if you can’t defend traditional marriage without referring to the Bible, God or Natural Law, then you’ve already lost the argument (because people immediately stop listening or have trouble grasping what things like the “Natural Law” is and why it matters). Also ineffective is saying “this is the way we’ve done it for thousands of years.” Not gonna fly.

    I’d restrict this a bit where Natural Law, in content, is concerned. (For if all these won’t work, then obviously nothing will work. And something must still possibly work.) Of course, he’s only too right in his observation that people will stop listening. But the word “Natural Law” can be replaced by “follows from the Thing In Itself”, or so… This is propagandistic [neutral word] technique rather than content, of course.

    Then, however, something even more hard comes. For by arguing from natural law, we must argue in proving (!) terms that heteros*xuality is a higher calling and not only a higher calling (as is the religious vocation) but an obligatory calling. We need not prove that homos*xuality is unnormal; however, there is a great step between unnormal and abnormal, which should not be set aside by a diatribe, but conquered by irrefutable argument, and without recourse to Revelation (for that will provoke the “if that is so, I disagree with God”-reaction which, to my view, is the greater and not lesser evil).

    The arguments against m*sturbation and contraception are alike (and understandable from Humanae vitae); but they suppose, on the whole, a s*xually healthy person. The argument against homos*xuality has to, at least by hypothesis (whether such people exist at all is far from trivial), deal with a person who honestly and without traceable objective incorrectnesses experiences the abnormality as his nature.

  4. mamajen says:

    This was great, and I totally agree! I think what the Church teaches on homosexuality is quite wonderful. We really do need to get the message out more. Sadly we have too many Catholics who are at extreme ends of the spectrum, either ignoring Church teaching in favor of embracing homosexual behavior or ignoring Church teaching in favor of ridiculing, judging, and excluding people with same sex attractions. We all have our weaknesses and crosses to bear, some are heavier than others.

  5. anilwang says:

    Actually, I don’t think referring to Natural Law automatically shuts down debate. Its definitely a better starting point than scripture. We simply can’t stop there since most people have no clue what it means or even that there are timeless laws founded on the nature of who and what we are and the nature of reality itself.

    But it can be taught. The Golden Rule is a good starting point. Another starting point is the rule that one should “poison the well” one drinks from since that leads to self destruction. Its pretty obvious, but it can lead to an understanding of environmental stewardship, preserving marriage as an institution for growing children, having greater than replacement rate fertility, and not making oneself a parasite (since too many will kill the host).

    Also the consensus of all religions and cultures across all times is another starting point for highlighting natural law. Using arguments from social Darwinism that cultures and religions that embraced totally false ideas would likely die off, one can affirm that many liberal ideas such as gay marriage should at least be looked at with suspicion. Of course there’s a lot of cruft to work through since some wrong ideas persist even though they may change their names (e.g. slavery versus sweat shops versus workers that need to work 6am to 2am in many jobs just to make ends meet). So its not a perfect starting point, but I think even in these wrong cases one can draw out some principles such as the inability of any culture or system to completely eliminate poverty so it is unrealistic to think that any new system will fix them.

    I don’t know a quick way to derive natural law in a quick pop cultural way, but I think its possible because we are all humans and we have to deal with the consequences of our actions. We just need some with the right pop culture skills to come up with the appropriate narrative. Once we have that, explaining Humanae Vitae and the need for marriage to be between one man and one woman is a lot easier.

  6. ladytatslace says:

    semi on topic here, but don’t know where else to put this.
    There has been much talk on the radio here today that a teen in the parish in the nearby town of Barnesville MN was denied confirmation this past weekend because he posted to his facebook page a support for “gay marriage”. According to the report his family was told he would not be eligible, due to the post, and his mother states that he did the homework, and the volunteer work so she feels he should not have been denied. She also stated an appeal to the Bishop of the Crookston diocese was denied.
    Yeah for the priest at Assumption Church in Barnesville, and Yeah to the Bishop of the diocese for standing up for what is proper.
    Now to try and convince people the priest was right.

  7. The Sicilian Woman says:

    The problem that the Church has had, especially since the various right movements and revolutions of the 60s, is that much decision-making is driven by emotion. A family might be “devout” Catholic, until one of the children comes out as being homosexual (or in other instances, the children decide to live with their partners). The game changes when an issue gets personal. The rule of God and His Word coming before all else becomes an option. I’ve seen it in mine and others’s families.

  8. anilwang says:


    Let me ask another question, could a Jehovah’s Witnesses convince you that it would be wrong to ever have a blood transplant? He couldn’t unless you already believe it to some degree (which I’m sure you don’t unless you suspect the blood supply is tainted).

    But that’s not the issue. I think that it is possible to appeal to mutual respect so that even if one doesn’t agree that blood transplants are to be taboo, that it is possible accept the Jehovah’s Witnesses convictions since we don’t want to have our own convictions violated.

    Tying confirmation to one’s acceptance of the faith must be allowed for similar reasons of mutual respect.

    That being said, Eastern Catholics confirm and give the Eucharist at the same time that they baptize infants, so theologically it is not a requirement, just a Latin Rite canon law requirement.

  9. LisaP. says:


    “According to the report his family was told he would not be eligible, due to the post, and his mother states that he did the homework, and the volunteer work so she feels he should not have been denied.”

    Ah, there it is again, my favorite topic. He filled out the workbook, so he should get the sacrament. . . . .

  10. ladytatslace says:

    @anilwang I may not have made myself clear. I support the Priest and the Bishop in their decision. Obviously the boy didn’t learn all he was supposed to about the beliefs and teachings of the Catholic Church during his classes. He and his family need some remedial teaching, but they aren’t the only ones that do. There are many even in my own family that don’t feel the need to embrace the all the Catholic Church stands for, they think they know better.
    @LisaP, yes, I dealt with this attitude many times during my years teaching CCD from 1st grade all the way through senior year of high school.
    I taught for more then 15 yrs and still hold the position of DRE. You should hear the parents about how hard it is for the children to have the time to do CCD homework. They have sports you know, can’t possibly find the time.
    O.K. Rant over. Sorry folks.

  11. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    They’re now $150 closer to the goal. I pray they continue to receive donations to meet their need.

  12. John Nelson says:

    If I am not mistaken, that is Fr. John Hollowell of the diocese of Indianapolis. Fr Z recently posted that he began a Sunday Mass celebrating the Usus Antiquior. Please support him in this endeavor.

  13. majuscule says:

    Oh good…the donation wasn’t through one of those startup money raising sites (they probably wouldn’t have allowed this subject matter anyway…am I being uncharitable yes I am).

    Donating was easy peasy!

  14. Pingback: Convert Journal – 7 Quick Takes Friday (set #80)

  15. SKAY says:

    It cannot happen seeon enough. This has now become about the children.

    “The ACLU has filed a lawsuit to force a Utah school district to keep a lesbian advocacy book on elementary school library shelves.

    In the Davis School District in Utah, children as young as kindergarten age can check out a homosexual propaganda book called In My Mothers’ House, about three adopted kids and their lesbian “mothers,” if their parents sign a permission slip.

    The book was removed from shelves after another Windridge mother complained to school officials when her kindergartner brought it home. It is presently kept behind the counter.”

  16. jeff says:

    This movie’s successful production will result in more good than all the combox comments since the advent of the internet.

    I’ve donated $25. It’s not much but if all of Fr Zed’s readers donate this much then they will reach their target. Put your money where your mouth is folks!

  17. Hidden One says:

    Father really should – if he hasn’t already – personally write to a few bishops. A few hundred dollars here, a few thousand there, a gift in kind… all I can offer right now are my prayers, and this initative will get some of them, but bishops and their dioceses often have deeper pockets.

    Frankly, compared to most fundraising efforts in the Catholic West, this is nothing. Almost every time I turn around I hear about or read about a single donation worth five, ten, twenty times what this documentary is asking for.

  18. zekarja says:

    Dr Rowan Williams of Canterbury makes an interesting comment that, unintentionally, supports the Catholic view:

    “In a church that accepts the legitimacy of contraception, the absolute condemnation of same-sex relations of intimacy must rely either on an abstract fundamentalist deployment of a number of very ambiguous biblical texts, or on a problematic and nonscriptural theory about natural complementarity, applied narrowly and crudely to physical differentiation without regard to psychological structures.”

  19. acardnal says:

    zekarja, do you have a citation for that quote?

  20. Sissy says:

    acardnal, you don’t need a citation….that sounds JUST like him. ; )

  21. zekarja says:

    That quote is from “The Body’s Grace” which is a lecture and essay written by Rowan Williams.

  22. acardnal says:

    Reads more Anglican than Catholic. Perhaps one of their homosexual bishops drafted it for him.

  23. acardnal says:

    zekarja , You sure didn’t get from Wikipedia?

  24. acardnal says:

    Herewith an excerpt from Mary Eberstadt’s article in the February 2010 edition of First Things that mentions Rowan’s quote and discusses the Anglican’s faulty attempt to justify homosexual activity as moral. Her entire essay can be read here: http://www.firstthings.com/article/2010/01/christianity-lite

    “That is precisely why the change in doctrine over contraception has been used repeatedly by Anglican leaders to justify proposed changes in religious attitudes toward homosexuality. Robert Runcie, for example, former archbishop of Canterbury, explained his own personal decision to ordain practicing homosexuals on exactly those grounds. In a BBC radio interview in 1996, he cited the Lambeth Conference of 1930, observing that “once the Church signalled . . . that sexual activity was for human delight and a blessing even if it was divorced from any idea of procreation . . . once you’ve said that sexual activity is . . . pleasing to God in itself, then what about people who are engaged in same-sex expression and who are incapable of heterosexual expression?”

    Similarly, archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has also retrospectively connected the dots between approving purposely sterile sex for heterosexuals on the one hand and extending the same theological courtesy to homosexuals on the other. As he observed in a lecture in 1989, three years before he became bishop, “In a church which accepts the legitimacy of contraception, the absolute condemnation of same-sex relations of intimacy must rely either on an abstract fundamentalist deployment of a number of very ambiguous texts or on a problematic and non-scriptural theory about natural complementarity, applied narrowly and crudely to physical differentiation without regard to psychological structures.”

    Thus, in retrospect, does the modern Anglican path—from careful, even reluctant line-drawing over contraception at Lambeth in 1930, to divorced noncelibate homosexual Bishop Gene Robinson today—appear not only unsurprising but practically inevitable. Put differently, the rejection of the ban on birth control was not incidental to the Anglicans’ subsequent implosion over homosexuality. It was what started it.”

  25. zekarja says:

    I am a traditional Catholic. Rowan Williams quote was in support for gay marriage on the basis the the “Church” of England allows birth control. I posted the quote a a valuable piece because it shows a logical step after legitimizing birth control. If one believes that sex need not be open to life, what much is left against homosexuality besides what I quoted by Rowan Williams. All I am saying is that Dr Williams makes an interesting point.

    Disclaimer: I am against all practice of homosexuality and all practice of birth control.

  26. zekarja says:

    Acardnal, Wikipedia is where I first read it, however it is from “The Body’s Grace” written by Dr Rowan Williams.

  27. zekarja says:

    It is easier to say, “you must be open to life and that excludes homosexuality” than to say, “the OT law says this or that” to which you get a response about how “we are no longer under the law” and “do you eat pork?”

    Ergo, even though Dr Williams has justified homosexuality on the bases of birth control, he also shows us Catholics that there is a link to allowing birth control and homosexuality.

  28. Sissy says:

    It is easier to say, “you must be open to life and that excludes homosexuality” than to say, “the OT law says this or that” to which you get a response about how “we are no longer under the law” and “do you eat pork?”

    Thanks for posting that, zekarja. That is a really good point.

  29. chantgirl says:

    zekarja- If I am speaking to a fellow Christian or even just a theist, I will ask, “If God created your body parts for a specific purpose, would it not be a rejection of God to use them in a way that goes against what they are designed to do?”. Many people have never asked themselves this question. They seem to think that God will condone whatever they want to do, even if it is harmful, because they are listening to their “heart” (ie hormones, poorly-formed conscience). Fot those who do not believe in God at all, the argument is a little more difficult because they have to be convinced that using body parts in a way that they are not designed to be used is harmful, and most will not have facts cloud their opinions. Many in the post-modern world espouse the ancient heresy that the spirit is good and that the body is either bad or superfluous, or that we are evolving beyond our physical limitations, and it is these people who are the most difficult to reach on the homosexuality argument. To reach these people, prayer and penance is probably more helpful than arguments. Christians and theists, however, have no excuse to ignore the purpose of the gifts that God has given us.

  30. acardnal says:

    zekarja, I think I understand your position now. From your initial post of Rowan Williams’ quote, it appeared to me that you supported William’s position that contraception and homosexual behavior was moral.

  31. zekarja says:

    Acardnal, you are correct. I do not in any way support birth control or homosexuality.

  32. acardnal says:

    zekarja, I got confused by your initial standalone quotation because it does not support the Catholic position when read alone, but with your accompanying explanation, it shows the sophistry of Williams’ position.

    I am sure you have heard the phrase “a text, taken out of context is a pretext.” One can be misled. That is what happened when I read your initial quotation. I wonder how many readers know that the bible says “there is no God”? When that phrase is read in context, it says “The fool says in his heart, there is no God.” See Psalm 14. Anyway, thanks for the clarification.

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