Saturday, December 03, 2005

Gay Catholic Anguish

It is sad to see the anguish of those who are gay and are faithful Catholics, facing the recent church pronouncements about gay men -- even perfectly and faithfully celibate ones -- deemed unfit for the priesthood. Andrew Sullivan has been covering this issue daily, and a letter from a Notre Dame grad student published on his site particularly struck me. It's worth reading the whole thing, but here is an excerpt:
Always bear in mind that when God surveyed his creation he deemed it good. Not perfect, good. As creatures we must recognize the value of other despite any deficiencies. . . . We cannot pass this position off as a 'hate-the-sin-love-the-sinner' exhortation otherwise a commitment to celibacy would suffice. The equation of predilection to actual act has dangerous implications for all Catholics. The inclination to sin, common to all humans and part of our imperfection, should never be squared with sin itself lest we abandon the hope for living in a Christ-like way by overcoming the inclination to sin to instead act with love and justice.
To many of us, this new line from the Vatican to exclude men from the priesthood based on who they are rather than what they do appalls the conscience. But perhaps this is because those of us who are shocked have a liberal conscience, which differs from a Christian one. As Jason Kuznicki explains:
To the liberal conscience, there is no sense in which an innate tendency could in itself be morally disordered, and thus the Church’s former position, while regrettable, was at least comprehensible: An alcoholic is sick, not evil, and we try to understand that his actions are not fully his own. Under an analogous reading of the former policy, chastity — a free choice open to everyone — should have been enough.

Under the new policy, however, a strongly homosexual orientation, even among the perfectly chaste, is reason enough to bar candidates from the priesthood. As William Saletan complains in Slate, "Through no fault of your own, you’re doomed."

I hate to say this, but… well, yeah. Complaining about it misses the whole point of Christianity.

To the Christian, every one of us is doomed through no fault of our own, every single day of our lives. We stand condemned not because we have done some specific act, but merely because we are human. We are bound for Hell because of Adam’s sin, and because, in the Christian belief, his taint infects us all.
The analogy of homosexuality to alcoholism is a useful one. If a gay Catholic argues that it is unjust to condemn as evil (or "gravely morally disordered") his very nature regardless of his actions, he plays into the "hate-the-sin-love-the-sinner" reasoning, and makes himself analogous to an alcoholic. At best, this earns him only pity and sympathy, along with support and encouragement to suppress his natural inclinations. And a rational bar from the priesthood. (Incidentally, the Vatican has issued similar instructions to bar alcoholics from the priesthood.)

The only proper escape from this trap is to refute the fundamental premise that homosexual behavior is evil. The Vatican position is that homosexuality "does not represent a social value and even less so a moral virtue that could add to the civilization of sexuality. It could even be seen as a destabilizing reality for people and for society." This is just plain wrong. When two people exchange vows of lifelong loving commitment, tend to one another in sickness, support one another financially and spiritually, putting the other ahead of themselves, and sometimes even take on the additional selfless sacrifice of raising children, how is that not a social value, a moral virtue, and the very fabric of civilization, even when those two people happen to be the same gender? How is it that we can recognize and admire these values in penguins, yet miss the same in humans? That's the argument that needs to be made. Such an argument can clearly be made on liberal foundations, but I believe there is an argument to be made on Christian (and even specifically Catholic) grounds as well.

2 comments:

KipEsquire said...

I'm not sure that the Vatican's revised stance on homosexulaity is anything more than "applied original sin." I think that's what Saletan is hinting at.

If you have a problem with the new gay policy, then it seems to me that you must, by definition, also have a problem with original sin, which is the founding premise of all Roman Catholicism.

Oops.

Nancy Taylor said...

Your words, "To the Christian, every one of us is doomed through no fault of our own, every single day of our lives. We stand condemned not because we have done some specific act, but merely because we are human. We are bound for Hell because of Adam’s sin, and because, in the Christian belief, his taint infects us all." are the reason I don't consider myself a Christian. No loving God would come up with such garbage. As for your subject, gays in the priesthood is not the problem, celibacy is.