Irish Church accepts its teaching jars with the faithful


'Vote Yes' bus

Last Saturday evening there was an explosion of joy among the crowd at Dublin Castle when the result of the Irish Referendum on gay marriage was officially announced.

The ‘yes’ side had gained just over 62 per cent of the vote, the ‘no’ side just under 38 per cent, on a turn-out of over 60 per cent of the electorate (the 5th highest poll ever, in this 34th amendment to the 1937 Irish Constitution).

By any standard this was a decisive and handsome victory – only a single one of Ireland’s 43 constituencies voted against the amendment.

The atmosphere among the crowd in Dublin and elsewhere in Ireland was carnival like – rainbow flags flying, people smiling and embracing, a sense of delight. This, on the Vigil of the Feast of the Holy Spirit, was a kind of secular Pentecost, a communal experience of movement from fear to peace and joy. There was a sense of consolation. And many avoided the temptation of moving from delight to triumphalism.

The openly gay Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar, and the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin were at one in describing what had happened as ‘a social revolution’. In truth it was astonishing that up to 1993 homosexual acts were criminalised in Ireland, civil partnership had been introduced only in 2010, and now, so soon afterwards, the Irish people had become the first in the world to legalise gay marriage by popular vote. And, it would seem, this move won substantial support at all levels of Irish society – from the young, certainly, but also from older people; from rural as well as urban; from working class as well as middle class.

It would seem that those on the ‘no’ side of the campaign – despite the obvious disappointment of defeat – shared the good will that this result so clearly expressed towards gay people. It was a ringing statement that ‘you belong’, a loving embrace of all the gay women and men who are our brothers and sisters, our family and friends. In this respect, the reaction on the ‘no’ side was predominantly dignified and gracious, refusing to allow the disappointment of defeat turn to the kind of sulky resentment and disengagement that characterise desolation.

In any discernment of spirits, there is a need for a process of ‘confirmation’, a time of reflection and weighing up, a sifting of feelings and reasons. This is what the Irish people are embarking on now.

Serious questions remain – for us and for other countries considering going down the same route. Does equality always have to be conceived of in terms of uniformity? How do we identify and value the distinction and diversity than exists between male and female? How – in a debate characterised by an appeal to rights language – do we honour the rights of children, do we consider that their sense of identity can truly be honoured by the Brave New World of surrogacy and reproductive technologies, already sketched in the dystopian 1984 Handmaid’s Tale of the Canadian feminist novelist Margaret Atwood? How, in our public discourse, can we blend more harmoniously the appeal to story and witness with the appeal to analysis, the language of rights with that of the common good?

In particular, of course, there is need for an already demoralised Irish Catholic Church to take stock. The Bishops, for the most part, were restrained in their approach to campaigning, unable to support the Referendum, advising serious reflection, and yet basically, without using the terms, leaving it up to people’s consciences to vote.

Archbishop Martin said very clearly that he was voting ‘no’, and explained why in terms of faith-informed reasons that were accessible. Now, in response to the result, he acknowledges that the Church needs ‘a reality check across the board’, that it has to find a new language to get its message across, particularly to young people, and that if teaching isn’t expressed in terms of love then the Church has got it wrong.

But one senses that it is more than a new language that is required. When the teaching on male/female complementarity is invoked as part of the argument to bar women from office; when the teaching on natural law forbids contraception and describes homosexual relations as intrinsically disordered in a way that jars with the ‘sense of the faithful’ of so many of the baptised, then the Church, despite the many wise things it has to say on sexuality and parenthood, loses credibility.

Archbishop Martin and his colleagues here in Ireland – and further afield – need to take up with energy and enthusiasm the challenge of Pope Francis for a more collegial and dialogical church, in which the voice of all is heard. Then perhaps we can hope for an ecclesial Pentecost to correspond to the secular celebration last Saturday in Dublin, a joyful re-birth of our badly damaged church.

writerGerry O'Hanlon SJ is a staff member of the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice in Dublin and author of A New Vision for the Catholic Church: A view from Ireland (2011).



Topic tags: Gerry O'Hanlon, gay marriage, Catholic Church, Ireland, referendum, homosexuality



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Existing comments

That's very well said, especially the end. The Church is finally about love, unadorned and humble and unarrogant. Anything else it is about is tenth.

brian doyle | 27 May 2015  

Wow...on one hand I think that Fr Gerry is speaking in support of the Church and its teaching but then....

Andrew | 27 May 2015  

Two of the epigraphs of Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale" are, firstly, the text of Genesis 30:1-3 and then these words from Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal": "But as to myself, having been wearied out for many years with offering vain, idle, visionary thoughts, and at length utterly despairing of success, I fortunately fell upon this proposal....". The church in Ireland has acknowledged that change is needed. I especially liked "if teaching isn't expressed in terms of love then the Church has got it wrong."

Pam | 27 May 2015  

For more than seventy years I lived as an intrinsically disordered man. Now our churches have to open its doors to all. When will Australia catch up to Ireland and New Zealand? I wish! This is the Breath of Pentecost in action!

Murray J Greene | 27 May 2015  

O'Hanlon, , Doyle and Hamilton. A trinity of voices speaking the language we so desperately need.. Thanks.

Celia | 27 May 2015  

Priests should be married and women can become priests but never the twain shall meet when homosexuality is considered a normal relation as in the context of a male and female joined in unity. I have plenty of men I love but I do not go to bed with them. I have homesexuality friends that I like and one I recently took out to lunch for his birthday, he is a lovely person and I do not have a problem with him being gay but I do not approve in Gods eyes that men or women should be joined in marriage under the church. Christ always said that the was narrow, it seems there are fewer of them willing to make that journey or are you suggesting we modify the door. Society can so call evolve but God will never change. I am sure he will not be concerned as he always saves what he needs to for those he wants to live with. Let's face it there are some very old souls in life and then there are very new ones that never really make past the first mark, so He just keeps manufacturing them to keep up the numbers

Paul camilleri | 27 May 2015  

Gerry O'Hanlon SJ, an Irish priest who has contributed extensively to understanding the dysfunctional nature of our Church's governance and the need to stretch our imaginations in seeking renewal of Christ's Church, sums it all up when he states: "When the teaching on male/female complementarity is invoked as part of the argument to bar women from office; when the teaching on natural law forbids contraception and describes homosexual relations as intrinsically disordered in a way that jars with the ‘sense of the faithful’ of so many of the baptised, then the Church, despite the many wise things it has to say on sexuality and parenthood, loses credibility." The teachings of Christ's Church must meet the test of love.

Peter Johnstone | 27 May 2015  

in discussion about gay marriage we must understand that through greater knowledge about our genetic make-up we have developed different attitudes to sexual attraction and gender identity. There is a new emphasis on intimacy and affection in all relationships which were often forgotten with the prudery. of the 19th century

john ozanne | 27 May 2015  

Paul Camilleri needs to adhere to the point in his posting. The Irish referendum did not deal with God nor, directly, with the Church (for all that it might be argued that, over the years, there has been too little constitutional distinction between Church and State in that Irish Constitution). The question was simply to insert this clause: “Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.” Marriage is something which is a part of Law of each country and we all need to remember that it has exactly the same legal status whether the contract is signed in association with a liturgical ceremony (with a legally authorised clergyman), an outdoors event with a civil and legally registered celebrant, or in a government office supervised by a civil servant. The current Australian Royal Commission highlights, inter alia, the problems which can arise when the Catholic Church (or any other organisation) considers that it is separate from the law of each society. Every comment on last weekend's referendum in Ireland needs to keep that fundamental principle clearly in mind.

John CARMODY | 27 May 2015  

Comments of the ilk of Paul Camilleri's, suggesting that "the door (to salvation" is narrow" is basically doing the same thing fundamentalist Muslims do when they execute people for being the way God created them - ethnically, religiously, sexually - suggesting they have no soul, they will not be redeemed, they are intrinsically flawed and therefore of no worth from a spiritual point of view. Let me be clear that we are not talking about sin or sinfulness here - we are talking about the integrity of someone's being - their sexuality. Whether it's nature or nurture, I trust only God as the judge, and I will NOT allow my soul to be destroyed by misguided church dogma.

AURELIUS | 27 May 2015  

So, if Church teachings on male/female complementarity, contraception, and homosexuality are out of step with the ‘sense of the faithful’ they need to be changed or the Church will lose credibility. Of course it’s been almost fifty years since most Church leaders even taught those truths which didn’t conform to the zeitgeist. A teacher I know resigned rather than teach the watered-down version of morality required by his principal, telling him that if he wanted to feed the kids stones instead of bread he could do that himself. Consequently, twenty years ago only 2 per cent of children in Brisbane continued to go to mass after leaving Catholic schools. It is because of the dereliction of duty of their teachers that the ‘sense of the faithful’ is now in total conformity with the secular world and all its corrosive values. Yet these same teachers now offer this as further confirmation of the need to revise Church teachings, saying, in effect, the people have spoken. Vox populi vox dei, ‘the voice of the people is the voice of God". And now that the mob demands Barabbas, he must be given to them.

Ross Howard | 27 May 2015  

Regardless of the overwhelming Irish vote, who will authorise the first gay marriage in a Catholic Church -- Rome, or the 62% 'Sense of the Faithful'?

Alan M | 27 May 2015  

"We" (historically)- only gradually accepted that humans evolved from lower forms of life. We are still reluctant to accept that EVERYTHING in God's plan evolves. Christianity began when Jesus of Nazareth gathered the evolving ingredients from a variety of sources- The Two great Commandments, the Coming of the end of the World, the Last Judgement when we will be judged on how we love and embrace all, especially the needy. It was these teachings that inspired The Way. When rejected by the Jewish establishment, the Way was adopted and adapted by the Greeks, who passes it on to the Romans, who likewise adopted and adapted it, especially politically. In each case cultural development played an important part in how the Universal Love was to be interpreted and expressed. In our rapidly changing world deeper appreciation of God's Will is needed if we are to remain true to God's Call.

Robert Liddy | 27 May 2015  

Where do we begin; I always say to myself, "what would Jesus do"? That is my guide. Of course I don't always know, but most of the time it is obvious. Love one another, as I have loved you. It's not that difficult. We exclude and punish innocent people who are divorced, some not even wanting it. We also exclude homosexuals and women, as well as many others. I don't think it's our right to judge, but to show guidance, love and acceptance. Our Catholic Church has become judgmental and exclusive, even hypocrital. Not what Jesus would do. The churches are not full anymore, less people are going to church and many women feel unequal. I thank God for Pope Francis, but we have a lot of work to do.

Kate | 27 May 2015  

This is is a wonderfully reasoned commentary. I was particularly taken by the comment that the 'no' voters bore no malice (something the Irish carry very well in their makeup). That is truly Catholic Christian and demonstrates the greatest commandment of all, love of our fellow men created equal "in God's image" regardless of any perceived flaws. It stands in stark contrast to the homosexual lobby's refusal to accept any other view that does not favour it. However, this commentary does raise the question "If civil union was accepted in Irish law in 2010, what on Earth is the need for same sex marriage? But then, we are talking about Ireland, the international master of irrationality.The homosexual campaign must have another agenda it seems to me. I recall reading the reports of the convict voyages to Australia in our founding history and was surprised to read that at a time when homosexuality was taboo, the chroniclers of the voyages chose to comment that during the long voyage that "buggery" (the language of the times, not mine) was not practised amongst the Irish convicts but was prevalent amongst the English. Does this suggest that the environment of a society might be perhaps the major determinate of sexual practice?

john frawley | 27 May 2015  

distinction and diversity than(t) exist between male and females. Paul says it: there is neither male or female in Christ. Sacramental marriage will undoubtedly remain as it is for a long time---but civil marriage has changed "and changed utterly" .

mary margaret flynn | 27 May 2015  

Is this a revelation from God, to tell us that He is withdrawing the command to increase and multiply and fill the earth, because we've done that now?

Gavan | 27 May 2015  

The Irish church gets its comeuppance, and it has been a long time coming. Let`s have sincere smiles and hugs and not scowls and wagging fingers. Don`t have to change what we believe ink thug the bishops would be wise to employ professional pollsters to run frequent opinion surveys on what their church-going faithful actually think and believe,

Eugene | 27 May 2015  

The significance of the Archbishop of Dublin's comments cannot be underestimated.

Stuart Blackler | 27 May 2015  

In response to John Ozanne: Your question about genetics raises a very deep personal dilemma of mine - if at some stage in the distant future the religious institutions on this planet release GLBT people of the burden of guilt for expressing their sexual desires the same way heterosexual people do, why is genetics of concern? Surely the expression of our sexual desires would be judged on whether the actions are LOVING in nature, rather than the result of our genetic make-up. That said, would it be such a leap of understanding to believe that it's irrelvant if sexual/gender identity is genetic or a personal choice?

AURELIUS | 27 May 2015  

As Archbishop Martin has observed, there is a need for ‘a reality check across the board’ After that, what the Church has to determine is whether it has failed to communicate its message effectively or whether that message itself needs to change. And if it still considers that the message itself is valid and only the communication thereof has been flawed, then it has to stick to its message, regardless of whether the majority agrees with its position or not.

Fred | 27 May 2015  

If Definitive Church Teaching jars with [rejected by] the Faithful, then 'the Faithful' is a misnomer.

Father John George | 28 May 2015  

Dear AURELIUS. If you genuinely believe that GLBT people express their love in the same way heterosexual people do, that suggests a lack of understanding of. I. True love. 2. the homosexual sex act and/or 3. The hetero-sexual sex act. I have always found your comments on ES to be well researched and generally well informed so I would be intrigued to find the source of your obvious acceptance of a genetic influence on sexual orientation which in my reading (that I believe is not selective in accordance with my sexuality and comes mainly from medical research world literature) indicates that there is no credible, established evidence supporting a genetic influence for sexual orientation but much that suggests that environmental factors in childhood, as with many other adult characteristics, are major identifiable factors. Google contains innumerable references on the matter.

john frawley | 28 May 2015  

Father John George. You have fitted it all into a nutshell!

john frawley | 28 May 2015  

My comment was actually denying the mainstream GLBT claim that people are born gay, transgender - whatever - and that if an orientation were accepted as intrinsically benign rather than disordered, it would be irrelevant. But I know that the lived experience of the majority of GLBT people is that have no choice over their orientation, and an equal level of ability as heterosexual people in accepting a life of total sexual abstinence (probably none).

AURELIUS | 28 May 2015  

Why does it matter Fr JG whether one's sexual orientation is a result of nature, nurture, choice or chance? So far as the state is concerned, 'marriage' is a civil matter. Organised religion lost its monopoly on regulating marriage long ago, just as it lost control over divorce.

Ginger Meggs | 28 May 2015  

It might be helpful were those who advocate same-sex 'marriage' in the name of "love" to define just what they understand by it. It is not at all the self-evident reality some commentators here appear to assume it to be, which the Church in articulating reasoned and Revelation-based teachings on sexuality does not - and in a way far worthier and respectful of human intelligence than the pop-lyric fuzziness of the Beatles' 'All you need is love.' The use of the word "equality" in justifying same-sex 'marriage' provokes similar questioning for the way it appeals to justice by fudging the difference between the traditional understanding of marriage and its media-magnified contemporary rival.

John Kelly | 28 May 2015  

Yes the church has to express it's teaching in terms of love. But what is it's teaching? Perhaps the priests and bishops have been inept at that very thing. The first step to soul searching should be to ask, What has God revealed to be true? Sadly Gerry, truth is not determined by popular vote. Where are the Jeremiah's? The church is scared because it has lost it's own conviction. Perhaps the church should have been directing the people to see what has happened in Massachusetts where same sex marriage has been around for a decade to see another shocking truth. Check out the real agenda, see what will be coming to an 11 year old's classroom near you. You should also read, 'The Overhauling of Straight America', the so called gay bible and realise how you have been duped “At least in the beginning we are seeking public desensitization and nothing more. We do not need and cannot expect full ‘appreciation’ or ‘understanding’ of homosexuality from the average America. You can forget about trying to persuade the masses that homosexuality is a good thing. But if you can only get them to think that it is just another thing, with a shrug of the shoulders, then your battle for legal and social rights is virtually won. ”

Steve | 29 May 2015  

John Kelly, if you or any church has a monopoly on the definition or practice of "love", then maybe you should be putting yourself forward as some kind of divine being or second coming of Christ. Does every traditional marriage pass the test 100% for truly loving intent and action?

AURELIUS | 29 May 2015  

I'm glad you realise that truth is not determined by popular vote, STEVE, hence the actions of Western countries (based on Christian values) that charge headfirst into wars, denying the Definitive Church teaching not to kill another human being.

AURELIUS | 29 May 2015  

Spot on Steve. The Irish vote shows the effectiveness of well-funded (US money) propaganda. In 1990, Kirk and Madsen published, “After the Ball: How America Will Conquer Its Fear and Hatred of Gays in the 90s”. They wrote of: “a planned psychological attack, in the form of propaganda fed to the nation via the media…our effect is achieved without reference to facts, logic, or proof.” In 1998 Matthew Shepard (age 21) was the gay victim of a brutal murder. In 1999, Jesse Dirkhising (age 13) was brutally murdered by two gay men. US media monitor Lexis recorded the stories for Shepard: Dirkhising at 3007:46. Australia’s Fairfax f2 database recorded 34:0. Additionally, Shepard’s death was publicised in documentaries, movies, television, plays, poems, songs, a foundation established, and ‘hate crime’ legislation enacted, all keeping Shepard’s case before the public’s eyes. Dirkhising is forgotten. So much for the Enlightenment claims that science and reason alone would suffice! The psychiatrist Leo Alexander discovered at Nuremburg that Christians became Nazis out of a herd-instinct, “fear of ostracism by the group”. Few had the convictions of Dietrich Bonhoeffer or Sophie Scholl. Today’s Catholics are even less prepared to resist for which their shepherds must stand condemned.

Ross Howard | 29 May 2015  

Aurelius there is a Catholic Just war teaching, the very antithesis of your 'charging head-first into wars' but rather time spent seriously weighing issues before war. #Catholic Just war theory (jus bellum iustum) is a doctrine, also referred to as a tradition, of military ethics studied by theologians, ethicists, policy makers and military leaders. The purpose of the doctrine is to ensure war is morally justifiable through a series of criteria, all of which must be met after prolonged and earnest consideration for a war to be just. The criteria are split into two groups: "the right to go to war’' (jus ad bellum) and ‘'right conduct in war’' (jus in bello). The first concerns the morality of going to war and the second with moral conduct within war. Recently there have been calls for the inclusion of a third category of just war theory - jus post bellum - dealing with the morality of post-war settlement and reconstruction.

Father John George | 29 May 2015  

'Aurelius', why not respond to what I actually say, rather than a caricature of it? Your mode of response simply reinforces my point about about the misuse of language in this critical debate.

John Kelly | 29 May 2015  

Good work Gerry O'Hanlon. There can be no 'rhetoric' of love used 'to get the Church's message across.' 'If the message isn't love than what is it? No use of love for another purpose. Simply love.

Pauline Small | 29 May 2015  

Dear Fr John and Dr John, Does not "sensus fidei" not come into the picture in what way we have seen happening in Ireland and elsewhere on this issue. The popular vote included a lot of Catholics...even truly faithful ones! The Church is going to have to take much more seriously the opinion on morals (if not faith) of the laity from their lived experience if it is not to completely lose relevance and/or credibility.It has not done too well over recent decades and has a lot of work to do.

Eugene | 29 May 2015  

You're not suggesting, surely, Fr JG, that the so called Christian West has applied those just war criteria before launching the many wars that it has launched in the past half century? Do you really think Howard did all that assessment before throwing in his lot with Bush, or that Abbott carefully considered whether his enthusiastic offer join the US in attacking ISIS met the just war criteria? Those decisions had nothing to do with morality; they were about politics and resource security. That is what Aurelius, if I understand him correctly, meant when he referred to 'the actions of Western countries (based on Christian values) that charge headfirst into wars'. On the contrary, it could be argued that those individuals who have gone to fight with ISIS have gone because they, rightly or wrongly, believed that their cause was just, just as those who participated in the Spanish Civil War did.

Ginger Meggs | 29 May 2015  

It would appear that the majority of voters in Ireland are not in accord with the Catholic Church's position on this matter. I cannot see this position changing because it is a doctrinal one. There are interesting times ahead.

Edward Fido | 29 May 2015  

Like Ross Howard, I have also read "After the Ball". Kirk and Madsen are unashamedly dishonest in the tactics they employ. I quote from the book. "First the public should be persuaded the gays are victims of circumstance, that they no more chose their sexual orientation than they did say their height, skin color, talents or limitations. (We argue that, for all practical purposes, bays should be considered to have been born gay --even though sexual orientation, for most humans, seems to be the product of a complex interaction between innate predispositions and environmental factors during childhood and early adolescence.)..And since no choice is involved gayness can be no blameworthy than straightness." (pg 184) One could not be more brazen in one's mendacity. The authors wanted the straight community to find homosexuality "thoroughly tiresome". (pg 178) Further they said, "Gays can undermine the moral authority of..... churches over less fervent adherents by portraying such institutions as antiquated backwaters badly out of step with the times and the latest finding of psychology." (pg 179) Kirk and Madsen have been more successful than they could ever have hoped. We do not judge this issue on its merits so much as want to be up with the hep crowd.

Marg | 29 May 2015  

“How can they hear unless a preacher is sent?” asks St Paul in Romans. The Irish voted for same-sex marriage mainly because, for the past 50 years priests, bishops and schools have given up preaching the unalloyed seamless Catholic doctrine on sexual morality, chastity and marital love, and supporting that difficult but beautiful teaching pastorally. With respect, if Fr O’Hanlon dissents from Church teaching on contraception and homosexual acts, he’s part of the reason for the “Yes” vote.

HH | 30 May 2015  

HH, the Irish referendum had nothing to do with Christian marriage, it was all about civil marriage. Canon law, sharia law, or any religious teaching whatsoever is irrelevant.

Ginger Meggs | 30 May 2015  

There's nothing in G O'Hanlon's article to suggest a judgment either way on contraception or homosexual acts. My understanding is that he's questioning the use of a purely natural law-based morality which is not definitive, and still has room to be reinterpreted given current understandings. And this led to the challenge posed to me by John Frawley and John Kelly. Obviously I am aware of church teachings, and that any sexual act not leading to procreation is regarded as immoral, and therefore not loving. How can I respond, knowing you reject anything outside this understanding? But being a Catholic myself, with a sincere desire to engage with the church and keep my conscience as informed as possibly - through reading, seeking advice, prayer, reflection and forums like this - I am still unable to explain (ON YOUR TERMS - PROCREATION) how a same-sex relationship can be just as loving and moral as a heterosexual relationship. But through many years of discernment, turmoil, suffering and soul-searching, I cannot accept John Kelly's belief that same-sex relationships are at odds with Revelation (there was no concept in Scriptures of a distinct orientation of homosexuatity - which was generally regarded in abusive, adulterous, non-consensual terms), and I am offended John Kelly would trivialize and dehumanize any relationship a gay person may have today as "pop-lyric fuzziness of the Beatles' 'All you need is love." The fact is, gay people exist. But the comments by Ross Howard and Marg trying to suggest there is a gay lobby trying to "recruit and convert people" through fear is downright dishonest and ludicrous and fails to recognise the simple fact that the majority of heterosexuals don't suddenly "turn gay" after listening to a bit of "propaganda", just as gay people don't become heterosexual through gay conversion therapy. These beliefs seem typical of a small percentage of heterosexual people with homoerotic feelings who try to project their guilt onto the so-called "gay lobby", and wrongly presume that other heterosexual people must be feeling the same thing. So if gay people exist, a minority orientation in the diverse spectrum of human sexuality, morality based on natural law that emphasizes only procreation is a dilemma, because celibacy is not a reasonable, healthy or achievable way of live for either heterosexuals or homosexuals. But there has been an attempt to legitimate and validate infertile or elderly heterosexual couples (who's sexual activity doesn't lead to procreation), and some natural law theorists emphasize love and mutual support for human flourishing as the center of a relationship rather than procreation, consequently questioning why same-same couples can't be seen in this regard.

AURELIUS | 30 May 2015  

'unalloyed seamless Catholic doctrine on sexual morality, chastity and marital love'? Tell that to the Irish abused, HH.

Ginger Meggs | 31 May 2015  

Mr. Meggs it is outrageous to suggest that all Christian nations[of varying attachment applied Catholic Just War teaching to wars of this and previous century. I merely articulated the doctrine. Can you imagine Iosif Vissarionovich Stalin, a former seminarian of Orthodox Russia, splitting hairs over said doctrine? Though he did retort ''And how many tanks has the Vatican''?

Father John George | 31 May 2015  

'Aurelius'; my point is about the facile and specious nature of arguments appealing to "equality" and "love" as self-evident in support of same-sex 'marriage' and ignorance,, indifference and hostility displayed towards Church teaching. I'd also indicate that my understanding of Catholic teaching on the purpose of marriage is not confined to procreation only but accepts the unitive dimension as well. I note note your shift from the topic at hand when it comes to the authoritative status of the Church's teaching on marriage (which I do consider both reasoned and revealed) to what you broadly term in your latest posting as "same-sex relationships". The specific issue is what constitutes marriage,and its status, which both Church teaching and Scripture hold to be divinely originate.

John Kelly | 31 May 2015  

Obviously, I refer to "same-sex relationships" because at the moment "marriage" in that context is not legal. And your opinion on the morality of the "unitive" aspect of same-sex marriage is based more on homophobia than Christian revelation, in my judgment.

AURELIUS | 01 June 2015  

“But there has been an attempt to legitimate and validate infertile or elderly heterosexual couples (who's sexual activity doesn't lead to procreation)…” Aurelius, to clarify: The Church has always recognised that infertile couples can marry, but that impotent couples or individuals are unable to. Humanae Vitae 12 carefully defines the marital act as one which, of its fundamental nature, renders a couple capable of generating new life. Infertile couples can perform the marital act according to this definition, because their intercourse does *of its fundamental nature* render them capable of generating new life. Of course, new life never actually results from their intercourse. But that’s not because their sexual intercourse is *in itself* defective, but because of circumstances *outside* their act of intercourse (immotile sperm, absence of a uterus, aged ova, etc). And so, because they are able to perform the characteristic marital act, they are able to be married. (A thing acts according to its nature, as Aquinas says.) Impotent sexual acts, on the other hand, don’t lead to procreation precisely because of their intrinsic nature. They are thus acts different in essence from the marital act. (Incidentally, this is why heterosexual condomistic intercourse is not true marital intercourse and can never be morally licit, even if performed for motives other than contraception such as preventing the transmission of HIV.) Couples, heterosexual, or otherwise who are unable to perform the marital act together are thus unable to marry. Anyone arguing from the ability of infertile heterosexual couples to marry to the conclusion that therefore same-sex marriage is possible is simply misinformed as to Church teaching, even if they have theology degrees, or sit on the U.S. Supreme Court (as I observed recently).

HH | 01 June 2015  

"Canon law, sharia law, or any religious teaching whatsoever is irrelevant." GM: Civil law is the ordering of reason for the common good. How one evaluates a given civil law proposal depends upon one’s conception of the common good, and that is in turn informed by one’s view of man, the world and the answers to the ultimate questions – one’s take on life -“religion” (including atheism or agnosticism) as it were. So, you can’t even begin to evaluate a civil law without bringing your religion – your own take on life – to the table. Far from being hermetically sealed off from each other, one’s religion and one’s evaluation of a civil law proposal are inextricably bound up together. That being the case, your statement that religious teachings are “irrelevant” can only get some purchase if by it you mean something like: “Other peoples’ takes on life that I don’t share are irrelevant to my evaluation of this law”. Which of course is trivially true, since, insofar as it must be true in your own case, it must also be true for every other person - Christian, Jew, Marxist, whatever – considering the proposed law.

HH | 01 June 2015  

“But there has been an attempt to legitimate and validate infertile or elderly heterosexual couples (whose sexual activity doesn't lead to procreation)…” Aurelius, to clarify: The Church has always recognised that merely infertile people can marry, but that the impotent are unable to. Recently, the teaching was re-expressed in a fruitful way. Humanae Vitae para. 12, in a significant but often overlooked passage, carefully defines the marital act as one which, of its fundamental nature, renders a couple capable of generating new life. Accordingly, infertile couples can perform the marital act, because their intercourse does *of its fundamental nature* render them capable of generating new life. Someone might say, "But new life never actually results from their intercourse!" True. But that’s not because their sexual intercourse is *in itself* defective, but due to circumstances *outside* their act of intercourse (immotile sperm, absence of a uterus, aged ova, etc). And so, because they are able to perform the characteristically marital act, they are able to be married. Impotent acts also never result in the generation of new life. But here it is precisely because they are intrinsically defective, not because of external circumstances. Impotent acts are thus acts different in essence from the sexual intercourse of fertile and merely infertile couples. (Incidentally, this is why heterosexual condomistic intercourse is not true marital intercourse and can never be morally licit, even if performed for motives other than contraception such as preventing the transmission of HIV.) Couples, heterosexual or otherwise, who are unable to perform the marital act together are thus unable to marry. Anyone arguing from the ability of infertile heterosexual couples to marry to the conclusion that therefore same-sex marriage is possible is simply misinformed as to Church teaching - which is not surprising given that, sadly, even many theologians and a U.S. Supreme Court justice are oblivious to the relevant distinctions.

HH | 01 June 2015  

On another thread, I observed that if one was looking for evidence of an obsession by Catholics with matters sexual, one needn't look further than the (then) current state of this website where 2 (12%) of the 17 articles currently displayed, dealt with sex, but where those two articles had attracted 55 (39%) of the comments. I suggested that Francis will have a tough task ahead of him in trying to refocus the minds of his flock on matters other than sex. Why is it that Catholics find it so hard to focus on matters above their navels?

Ginger Meggs | 01 June 2015  

'Aurelius', having frequently heard it of late in conversation on the issue at hand, I confess to wondering how long it would take for the word "homophobia" to appear - I admire your restraint in its employment until now I don't however, regard it as an argument, but rather a substitute for argument properly so-called.

John Kelly | 01 June 2015  

Mr. Meggs Catholics must address burning issues in the real world and sex, and variants are burning issues needing response.

Father John George | 02 June 2015  

Yes, you are right JOHN KELLY, I have actually run out of arguments. This is a deeply personal issue and when all is said and done, nothing I have read here, or said myself comes close to the truth of this issue. I use the term "homophobic" because it can feel quite intrusive and soul destroying being judge and analyzed like a lab animal, on such a base physical/biological/sexual level without any apparent regard to the emotional, spiritual concerns of people concerned.

AURELIUS | 04 June 2015  

Aurelius, this is not simply a personal issue, just as Catholic teaching is not restricted to the merely physical/biological/sexual dimensions since it upholds the body-soul unity of human beings. Nor, I suggest, can sexuality be totally mystified.

John Kelly | 05 June 2015  

No, John Kelly, I am not saying sexuality is totally mystified My point is that there is much that we don't understand - and this will never be a debate where anyone has the final word. I'm not trying to win any argument or hold any high moral ground. For many people it's simply a matter of survival, and healthy mainstream psychological consensus on this issue is far more likely to save lives than the way church doctrine is being slapped in people's faces.

AURELIUS | 09 June 2015  

Yes, I understand that Fr JG, but why is 'sex' such a 'burning issue' for Catholics, (especially for Catholic men, if the proportion of comments from men on this site is any indication)?

Ginger Meggs | 12 June 2015  

The answer is easy. The Church should walk away from everything that compromises its integrity and focus on following Jesus, even if (especially if) that means losing its wealth. Sell the schools that aren't focused on Jesus to the Government and give the money to the poor. No, actually give it to the poor, don't use it to pay someone's salary to design programs and policies for "alleviating the sufferring of the poor". Give it away. We all should be striving to become saints (personally doing the hard yards), not try and justify things with meaningless words. We are straying from God's Word people, and that never ends well. Secular society has already left Christendom behind and the gap is widening and becoming clearer. You can follow them but it is a dead end track. If you stick with Jesus and his clear teachings, you will be a light to the nations. Make the choice. You can't have a foot in both camps anymore, the gap is too wide.

Andrew D | 13 June 2015  

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