Christians, including Catholics, are acquiescing, and even favoring, the idea that homosexual behavior must be considered, at least, morally neutral…and must be considered something to which those, so inclined, have a right.
One of the most surprising, and dismaying, developments of recent years has been the degree to which Americans have come to accept the agenda of the radical homosexual “rights” movement—the “gays,” as they style themselves. They have also largely succeeded in getting Americans to accept their alteration of the meaning of what was once a perfectly good word, simply meaning “cheerful” or “happy,” but now meaning what they want it to mean.
Nor is today’s increased acceptance of the gay “rights” agenda confined to secularists, or to the religiously indifferent. Christians, including Catholics, in significant numbers are acquiescing in, and even favoring the idea, that homosexual behavior must no longer be disapproved of, or stigmatized. It must, at the very least, be considered morally neutral, if not actually somehow meritorious. Indeed, it must be considered something to which those, so inclined, have a right.
This viewpoint has, sadly, become widespread, if not dominant, not only in American society generally, but it has also affected—and sometimes divided—Christian communions and denominations, as well. Some of which, as a result of its influence, have deviated, and even departed entirely, from the traditional Christian understanding that always regarded same-sex intimacy as morally wrong, and out of bounds.
The same kind of deviation from the traditional Christian understanding has sometimes manifested itself within the Catholic Church. It has appeared in such phenomena as unauthorized “rainbow” Masses, and special “ministries,” carried out here and there in spite of the Church’s continuing strong moral condemnation of homosexual acts and practices. All in all, the “gays” have clearly succeeded in garnering considerable Christian sympathy for their dubious project.
When we consider the traditional Christian view of homosexual behavior, however—a view that, up until very recently, was largely reflected in society at-large—we must necessarily be surprised, not only at the degree, but at the rapidity, with which this deviant behavior has come to be accepted as both normal and natural. For the view that homosexual behavior is unnatural and immoral has been constant in Christian history, dating all the way back to New Testament times. St. Jude labeled homosexual acts as the product of “unnatural lust” (Jude 7). St. Paul, in a number of passages, characterized intimate, same-sex acts as “shameless acts” (Rom 1:27), holding that “sodomites” belonged among the “lawless and disobedient, the ungodly and sinners” (1 Tim 8:9); he bluntly declared that active homosexuals would definitely not “inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor 6:9).
These judgments by apostles were continuous with the Old Testament understanding that homosexual behavior was an “abomination” (Lev 18:22; 20:13), an understanding that was quite vividly brought out in the biblical account of what took place in Sodom and Gomorrah (cf, Gen 19: 1-29).
The traditional negative Christian view of homosexual practices and behavior was reaffirmed and codified for our own times by the Catechism of the Catholic Church, promulgated in 1992. It unambiguously teaches that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered. They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved” (CCC §2357; emphasis added).
This is pretty definite. Yet, the results of a survey conducted by the Marist Institute of Public Opinion, released in October, 2010, concluded that some 63 percent of practicing Catholics, and 68 percent of all Catholics, actually support legal recognition of homosexual unions, regardless of what their Church obviously teaches. A recent Pew survey similarly found that 66 percent of Catholics, and 62 percent of Protestants, favored the lifting of the ban on service in the U.S. military by open homosexuals in December, 2010. In a Washington Post-ABC News poll in December, 2010, similar results showed a whopping 77 percent of Americans who generally approved of the lifting of the military prohibition on service by avowed gays.
Other polls, as well as other indications, point to the same general result: the fact is that most Americans, including apparently most Christians, either no longer consider homosexual practices to be immoral, or no longer consider engaging in them to be disqualifying, as far as social acceptance is concerned, whether or not they are considered immoral.
In either case, what up until yesterday was almost universally thought to be incumbent upon everybody in the realm of sexual behavior for the proper working of the good society—namely, moral and decent behavior—seems to have simply gone by the board. Evidently, society scarcely any longer demands, or requires, even a minimal standard of sexual morality. Perhaps, there still remain a couple of strictures related to age or consent. Otherwise, the current “rule” in sexual matters truly now seems to be that “anything goes.”
Certainly, the radical, organized, homosexual rights movement incurs no significant visible criticism or penalties for what it openly advocates and does, including public nudity and engaging in explicit sexual acts in “gay pride” demonstrations. The gays have achieved acceptability in ways that would have seemed unimaginable just a few short years ago.
More than that, in certain ways, the radical, organized, homosexual rights movement has turned the tables on upholders of traditional moral standards. It is now the people attempting to oppose the gay agenda, who may incur obloquy, possibly even having to pay penalties. For example, consider that for years the ROTC was banned from many college campuses because gays were not allowed to serve openly in the U.S. military. The Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights organization, recently stigmatized, as “anti-gay hate groups,” a number of perfectly responsible and respected organizations, such as the Family Research Council. The present writer personally knows of a case where McDonald’s fired a teen-aged employee for expressing his opinion to a fellow worker that a same-sex union does not constitute a marriage.
Again, Apple, the computer giant, similarly and summarily, penalized thousands of signatories of the ecumenical group, Manhattan Declaration, for affirming, among other things, that marriage was properly the union of a man and a woman—just as every dictionary published up until a couple of years ago necessarily defined marriage in exactly the same way.
The Random House College Dictionary on my desk, for example, copyright 1984, defines “marriage” as follows:
1.The social institution under which a man and a woman establish their decision to live as husband and wife by legal commitments, religious ceremonies, etc.;
2.The state, condition, or relationship of being married, wedlock: a happy marriage;
3.The legal or religious ceremony that formalizes the decision of a man and woman to live as husband and wife;
4. Any close or intimate association or union: the marriage of form and content;
It is, surely, this fourth part of the definition that the proponents of so-called “same-sex marriage” are reaching out to in an attempt to show that “same-sex marriage” is a true marriage. However, this fourth definition is obviously figurative, and is meant to be nothing else but that, according to the common understanding—which is the common understanding of all peoples, at all times, and in all places, up until a few short years ago. This is when the organized homosexual rights movement unhappily came upon the scene. The operative parts of this standard dictionary definition are, indisputably: man and woman, husband and wife.
No less than 30 states, in fact, have made an explicit point of legally defining marriage in exactly the same way, by means of constitutional amendments to that effect; and more states are in the process of doing so. The federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) itself defines it in the same way: the union of a man and a woman as husband and wife. The courts, that have attempted to invalidate DOMA, are simply reflecting the thinking that the organized homosexual “rights” movement is attempting to foist on the country.
In the usage which this radical movement has now made current, however, it is the articulating of the traditional understanding of what a marriage is that, amazingly, now amounts to “hate speech.” The law similarly, and increasingly, recognizes a category of so-called “hate crimes” on the same grounds. Christian ministers in Canada and Sweden have already been hauled into court, charged with hate crimes merely for preaching the biblical position that homosexual behavior and practices are sinful. In Britain, in early 2011, a black, Pentecostal couple, who had taken care of foster children for years, was told by a British court that they could no longer take children in because they disapproved of homosexual relationships.
Earlier, in Illinois, a religion teacher was accused of uttering “hate speech,” merely for stating accurately and correctly, what the Catholic Church teaching was regarding homosexual acts. He was immediately dismissed from his post, in fact, and only later reinstated after vigorous and sustained protests.
In November, 2010, the New York based Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights was widely pilloried in the press and media for “bigotry,” accusing it of being an American “Taliban” organization for mounting a protest against an exhibit of gay “art,” sponsored by the tax-supported Smithsonian Institution. One example was a depiction of Christ on the cross with ants crawling over his face.
Nor are these accusations of “hate” and “bigotry” the only consequences of refusing to accept the gay agenda. It is well known, for example, how the Catholic Church, both in Massachusetts and the District of Columbia, was forced by court decisions to abolish long-established adoption programs, rather than accept the requirement of placing children with same-sex couples. Similar cases have been brought about, or are pending, in other jurisdictions, as well. In March 2006, the Board of Supervisors of the City of San Francisco officially adopted a resolution harshly condemning the Catholic Church for not recognizing same-sex couples as legitimate parents, characterizing the Church’s teachings as “hateful,” “insulting,” “callous,” “absolutely unacceptable,” “insensitive,” and “ignorant.”
Other examples could be cited. The radical organized homosexual rights movement has plainly succeeded, beyond its wildest dreams, in getting many people, and many institutions, to agree that opposition to its agenda requires censure, vilification, and actual concrete penalties. Court decisions, for example, are increasingly likely to reflect the gay agenda. The gay ideology is only too likely to trump any traditional understanding of a particular issue—and sometimes it even seems to trump common sense, as well.
In today’s new and wholly unprecedented situation—where it is, more often than not, the radical homosexual agenda that now carries the day—are there Christian voices being raised calling for opposition to the homosexual juggernaut? No. As a matter of fact, quite a few Christian voices are calling for still greater tolerance for homosexuals, against a supposed continuing widespread intolerance against them! One would think the homosexuals truly were still a despised minority, by the success of their efforts to successfully persuade so many people to believe these charges.
Even in the Catechism of the Catholic Church—in a paragraph more commonly invoked than the paragraph quoted above identifying homosexuality as a disorder—solemnly teaches that “the number of men and women, who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies, is not negligible. They do not choose their homosexual condition; for most of them it is a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard must be avoided…” (CCC §2358).
This passage from the Catechism is actually most often quoted when we are typically reminded by Church leaders, for the nth time, that discrimination against homosexuals and “gay bashing,” are unworthy and unchristian and must stop—as if that were the major problem for Christians today as far as homosexuals are concerned.
We can readily agree, of course, and should agree, that there, indeed, should not be any discrimination against homosexual persons. Discrimination—or a fortiori persecution—of any minority group is unjust, and should be stopped, if it is indeed taking place. It is sadly true, in fact, that contempt, and even hatred, of homosexuals were formerly manifest at times in our society, and no doubt still persist, here and there. Where they occur, they should be vigorously opposed. Hatred of homosexuals is unworthy and un-Christian.
However, the predominant problem in our society today is most distinctly not gay-bashing or discrimination against homosexuals. It is just the opposite. A much more serious problem in our society now is the steady dismantling of the traditional moral code of the West, based on the Ten Commandments. This moral code is now going by the board, in many instances, as if it never existed. The relentless, national campaigns against perceived discrimination against homosexuals—and, not incidentally, also for supposed special homosexual “rights”—are contributing precisely to the further dismantling of the moral code.
It is quite true, of course, that the radical, organized, homosexual “rights” movement has, all along, brilliantly exploited the supposed analogy between the unjust discrimination on racial grounds, formerly practiced in the United States, and the supposed present unjust discrimination inherent in, e.g., denying somebody the right to “marry” a person of the same sex, or to serve openly as an avowed homosexual in the U.S. military. These latter instances, however, are not true cases of discrimination.
For there is no “right” to marry a person of the same sex—for the simple reason that a liaison between two persons, based only on a same-sex relationship, is not a marriage! Simply calling this kind of relationship a marriage, does not make it a marriage A marriage is a relationship contracted between a man and a woman, who are, henceforth, bonded together, agreeing to live together permanently—and who also, importantly and indeed essentially, as persons of the opposite sex, possess the natural potential of bringing children into the world, thus forming a family, which is always the necessary basis of any and every human society. Persons of the same sex, who come together, do not, and cannot, constitute a family in this way; nor does their possible mutual affection, and/or agreement to live together, constitute a marriage.
Similarly, there is no “right” to serve in the military. In fact, there are many necessary exclusions where the military is concerned, including those restrictions related to height, weight, age, eyesight, or other bodily and mental conditions. Excluding persons with particular sexual proclivities, who insist on the right to act on them, is in no way unjust if it serves the basic military mission of the defense of society. Allowing homosexual activities within the framework of military life, however, introduces a kind of distraction that can be harmful to the basic military mission.
There is, then, no real “discrimination” at all involved in denying “marriage” to homosexuals, or in excluding them from military service. In actual fact, though, these individuals are not merely demanding “rights” being denied to them; they are actually demanding a special status based on their homosexuality. They already possess all of the same “true rights” as everybody else. But, they go on to claim the extra “right” of having a false marriage declared to be a true marriage, just as they are also claiming an extra right of being exempt from the normal rules of military service, established to maximize the effectiveness of carrying out the proper mission of the military.
What is being “denied” to them, therefore, constitutes nothing else but a merely perceived discrimination. It is in no way discrimination in the true sense, as was the case, historically, with racial discrimination in America. That analogy is false.
Moreover, ending this perceived “discrimination” really means imposing a new form of discrimination on everybody else, on those who continue to accept the biblical and Church teaching that homosexual behavior is morally wrong. This burden falls, especially onerously, on Christians who continue to take their faith seriously. Henceforth, it is the believers in traditional morality who must lay their convictions aside, grit their teeth, and acquiesce in a new—and now official!—“morality,” that considers intimate same-sex acts to be morally neutral, if not morally right and praiseworthy. But, again, this is not true; these acts are not morally right and praiseworthy.
Nor, as we have already noted, does the new morality—which imagines this to be so without consequences—reflect reality. There are serious consequences that, in some cases, may be far-reaching, both for individuals and for society. With the lifting of the ban on service by avowed homosexuals, members of the armed services, for example, must now in many cases live in close contact with behaviors that are objectively immoral, and are, most likely, morally repugnant for those compelled to suffer them. This is no small thing. They certainly won’t have the “right” to protest! In December 2010, the substantial majorities in both houses of Congress that abolished the previous law, have now, in fact, established a new situation in the military. Henceforth, any objection to homosexual behavior will be stigmatized, adversely affecting assignments, promotions, and the like. Military chaplains will find it difficult, if not impossible, to affirm the moral teachings of their denominations in their pastoral and counseling work. Both commanders, and those in the ranks, will be obliged to suppress their opposition, treating wrongdoing as a right.
These, and similar consequences, will only be compounded and multiplied once the regularization of same-sex behavior is brought about in society at-large by means of, e.g., court or legislative approval of so-called same-sex marriage. Indeed, these consequences may be even more far-reaching where marriage is concerned, since it will be the very definition of what a marriage is that will be fundamentally changed. Whereas, in the case of military rules, what it means to be a soldier will not be fundamentally changed by allowing an avowed, practicing homosexual to be in the military.
In both cases, though, moral neutrality will no longer be an option, or even a possibility. Once homosexual practices are officially legalized by a positive judicial or legislative act, they will almost inevitably be seen as perfectly moral, as well. Everybody will be obliged to consider them acceptable, and perfectly all right. Ending the so-called “discrimination” against homosexuals, thus, really does mean imposing a new form of discrimination on everybody else. It will become an obligation to consider what is false and wrong to be true and right. We have already seen, in some of the examples cited above, how all this is going to work itself out in practice.
What stance, then, should Christians, and in particular, Catholics, adopt in this new, and unprecedented situation? Well, for starters, we should never cease to stick as closely as possible to the real truth of the matter, refusing to acquiesce in whatever way turns out to be available to us, in the falsehood and error that is being imposed upon us. For example, we must continue to affirm that the discrimination that our society is supposed to have been practicing against homosexuals, is not true discrimination. It is not comparable to racial discrimination. Race is neutral, and nobody really can alter the color of his skin, or the shape of his eyes.
However, behavior—for whatever the impetus or motive for it—is chosen. Choosing whether or not to act on same-sex attractions or impulses is a matter within the control of the will of the individual person. The radical, organized, homosexual “rights” movement should not be allowed to get away with claiming that, the practices they want to legitimize, are beyond the control of those who want to engage in them, and are “natural” or “right” for them. They are not. Homosexuals are just as able as the rest of us to live the chaste lives to which everybody is called, depending upon one’s state of life.
Similarly, the claim that one’s same-sex inclinations or proclivities somehow form the basis of one’s identity, must be rejected as yet another unproven assumption, as yet another falsehood. Throughout the entire period leading up to the December 2010, repeal of the law requiring the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in the military services, all the military officers, government officials, legislators, and media reporters and practitioners involved, virtually without exception, referred to the alleged discrimination being imposed on homosexuals as a denial of “who they are.”
No, the previous policy was instituted not because of “who they are,” but rather because of “what they do,” which up until now, was seen as incompatible with effective military service. In fact, the true and authentic human dignity that persons with homosexual tendencies share with everyone else is actually diminished by imagining that their identity as human persons can be reduced to the question of their sexual desires or proclivities. Catholics should reject this claim as yet another pernicious falsehood.
Moreover, it must be insisted upon that those with same-sex attractions or predilections do not really possess some kind of a “right” to indulge in them. To recognize a claim of this type would really be tantamount to agreeing that human beings have a “right” to do whatever they happen to want to do at any time, which is absurd. There is no right to do wrong.
In the end, it comes down to the fact that Catholics must continue to affirm and insist upon the real truth about sexuality and marriage, regardless of what current public opinion—the elites, the media, the courts, the legislatures, and so on—might decide to the contrary. Sexuality is not merely a vehicle for self-expression, self-realization, or pleasure. Marriage is not merely an affectional, intimate relationship that two (or more) people might just decide upon as they see fit. Sex and marriage each have a meaning and purpose which arise out of the design and plan of Almighty God for human beings. There is, in other words, a Gospel truth about both sex and marriage which Catholics are obliged to affirm and defend, “in season and out of season” (II Tim 4:2).
For whatever else may be said about homosexual behavior, it is, and remains, patently “unnatural.” Neither the amazingly successful advocacy for it today, by the radical, organized, homosexual “rights” movement, nor the apparent current acceptance of it by society at large, can somehow make it natural. There is, in any case, the very real question of whether our society’s current acceptance of it can persist over time. The jury is still out on that. It was the Roman poet Horace who observed, long ago, that naturam expellas furca, tamen usque recurret, that is: “you may throw nature out with a pitchfork, but she will keep coming back”!
Will “nature” come back in this case? Will Christians who have acquiesced in the contemporary aberration come back to a realization of what their faith really entails? Time will tell. Neither current legislation, nor court decisions, are carved in stone; nor will current indulgent attitudes necessarily persist forever. Recently wrought changes can always be changed back, especially when it turns out that they do not work, or otherwise produce bad consequences.
In the meantime, it is surely incumbent upon Catholics—living in this radically, secularized, morally decadent, neo-pagan society—to continue to insist upon the truths that are in our possession. We must insist on these truths, no matter what society may think it has currently decided with such seeming finality to the contrary. We cannot acquiesce in the radical homosexual “rights” agenda, which is false, pernicious, and wrong. It was Jesus himself who told us: “You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (Jn 8:32).
Neither can the Catholic Church acquiesce in this immoral and destructive agenda. Moreover, this is becoming blindingly clear to our Church leadership. On September 20, 2011, New York Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic bishops, wrote to President Barack Obama in response to a number of Obama administration decisions—in particular, responding to the U.S. Department of Justice’s decision not only to no longer defend the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), but actually to go into the federal courts against DOMA, arguing that it should be overturned. It was written in a way rarely witnessed, a forceful communication from a Catholic archbishop to an American president. Archbishop Dolan “spoke truth to power,” as the saying goes, inter alia, in the following words:
Mr. President, I respectfully urge to press the reset button on your administration’s approach to DOMA. Our federal government should not be presuming ill intent or moral blindness on the part of the overwhelming majority of its citizens, millions of whom have gone to the polls to directly support DOMA in their states, and have, thereby, endorsed marriage as the union of man and woman.
Nor should a policy disagreement over the meaning of marriage be treated by federal officials as a federal offense—but this will happen if the Justice Department’s latest constitutional theory prevails in court. The administration’s failure to change course on this matter will…precipitate a national conflict between church and state of enormous proportions, and to the detriment of both institutions.
Thus, on behalf of my brother bishops, I urge, yet again, that your administration end its campaign against DOMA, the institution of marriage it protects, and religious freedom…