Friday, January 02, 2009

Was I Really MisInterpreting The Pope?

Remember The Pope's tirade to the Curia that I accused of being blatantly anti-GLBT? There are those in the blogosphere who claim that people who read the Pope's message did so "wrongly" or that we overreacted.

Well, I'm not convinced. In fact it would seem that some theologians have more or less the same interpretation:

While the pope never mentioned “homosexuality,” it was his explanation of the nature of man and the order of the natural world that caused gays to react so harshly, Fr. George William Rutler, a leading Catholic theologian, told
The pope was saying that man is made in the image of God and is therefore “unique” among all species and has authority over nature, Fr. Rutler told, adding that realities such as gender – man and woman – are not arbitrary developments in biology, or accidents, but are clearly defined in the natural world for a reason.

If a person rejects nature’s assigning of gender, or tries to change it, then that is disruptive to nature and destructive, said Rutler. The natural environment must be responsibly protected, as the pope mentioned in reference to rain forests, but so must the natural order in men and women, said Rutler.

Ah yes, the classic argument from the clergy - if you are gay or transsexual, it's all your choice and you are "rejecting" God's divine order. I guess that "God's plan" for the world didn't include the Intersexed, or those who are simply infertile for whatever reason either.

This is why homosexuals see the pope’s remarks as threatening, said Rutler. “The homosexual is a classic Gnostic,” he said, “because the homosexual does not understand how gender is intrinsic to God’s will for the human race. Male-ness and female-ness are not arbitrary categories.”

Oh yes, the Pope may well have been speaking in allegorical terms or just plain riddles, but his message was plenty clear enough. Using the "but you don't understand ..." argument doesn't cut it. It's not hard to understand the Church's position. When the line of reasoning being used essentially tells an entire population that they are for one reason or another "immoral", "evil" or "invalid" as people. The message is the same, and it doesn't take much to pick up on it, even when it is carefully concealed in riddles.

The second point is that the "Natural Law" that the RC Church works from does not account for a great deal of the evidence that is available today. (Unsurprising, since Aquinas has been dead for several centuries. Consequently, the understanding of GLBT people as surprisingly ordinary human beings isn't reflected in there. In the following article, a point is made clearly that appropriately raises the kind of problem that the Church's "Natural Law" interpretation faces:

Perito questions both the validity and the reasonability of such an interpretation of natural law. A more person-centered view of human sexuality is explored by Perito. Telling gays that God loved them into existence and treasures them as people and simultaneously telling them that it is wrong to act on their feelings to act and love sexually is inconsistent. To many it appears either that God made us as we are, with all that entails about our sexuality because God loves us, or God has done something rather strange, created natural impulses (for homosexuality is as natural in the animal world as it is notable in human society) in order to frustrate them at every turn.

Convincing gays never to act on their sexuality because an interpretation of natural law theory believes the only purpose of sexuality is procreative, is comparable to telling gays to go play in traffic or to find somewhere to die. There the inherent sexism of this interpretation of natural law is apparent, and it is also socially acceptable heterosexism.

While I view homosexuality as quite distinct from transsexuality, the fact that the leadership of the Catholic Church insists on lumping the two together by using the term gender as a synonym for sex, and thus sexuality, so chances are pretty good that what is said about the GLB applies equally to the T.


Jerry said...

MgS, I doubt anyone could convince you of the correctness of the Church’s teachings on human sexuality. However, the fact that you continue to deliberately misrepresent what the Church teaches highlights you’re not so much interested in showing so called errors in Church teaching, but in creating straw man arguments so as to promote hate and contempt against the Church.

You say for example “[The Church] essentially tells an entire population [GLBT] that they are for one reason or another immoral, evil or invalid as people.” Well of course any individual, GLBT or normal, may be immoral or evil, but I’ve never heard the Church label the entire GLBT population with such terms. Also, I’ve never heard the Church describe any person as invalid, although those who support abortion obviously think the unborn are invalid people).

Instead of telling lies about what the Church teaches, why not improve your credibility by providing links to official Church teaching? The following is from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 2357-2359.

"Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared 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.

The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.

Church teaching sourced from here:

MgS said...


Since the Church's teachings on sexuality in general either ignore the more complete understandings of biology and human behaviour we have today, you are correct - I'm not likely to buy.

When the Church comes forward with a model that doesn't involve dismissing perfectly normal human behaviour as "objectively disordered" (a weasel phrase if I've ever heard one - devoid of meaning and filled with implications) It is in fact language like this which is dismissive of the very human narrative of GLBT people, and by using such language, the Church is effectively saying that those narratives are invalid.

If you've never heard the church label the entire GLBT population with such terms, then you haven't been paying attention. In the years since I started this blog, you can count on someone from the Church hierarchy opening their yap about the "evil" of homosexuality, or the "evil" of what they euphemistically call "gender confusion" (transsexualism to the rest of us) pretty regularly.

Sure, they might wrap it in flowery prose or nest it in the obscure language of the Humanae Vitae, but it boils down to the same thing every time.

The point I make is that I do not accept the Church's teachings because I argue that they are built upon a flawed foundation.