How the Church could come out
OK, although I’m trained as a civil lawyer, I’m certainly no learned doctor of the Canon Law of the Catholic Church. For that reason, I’m going to be taking at face value many statements published by ostensibly authoritative sources concerning Church teachings regarding questions of Papal Primacy and LGTG issues, which the Church often describes as “homosexuality.” I discuss what appear to be the principal statements that would have to be walked back and how those might present problems with inconsistencies with related areas. I won’t be speculating about internal Church constituencies and the pushback that might result from a change in the Church’s positions.
To gratify the curiosity of the seekers after hidden motivations, I am a old, heterosexual, married male, baptized in the Catholic Church, but I never confessed or took communion. I am atheist after many years as an agnostic, of Mexican and Irish descent. Any readers who find that relevant should probably move on.
Sources of Doctrine and Papal Authority
Sources have experienced link rot; to be updated.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has a FAQ that the Catechism is an authoritative source of Church doctrine. American Bishops have long enjoyed a reputation for power and independence.
What is the doctrinal or teaching authority of the Catechism?
The Catechism is part of the Church’s official teaching in the sense that it was suggested by a Synod of Bishops, requested by the Holy Father, prepared and revised by bishops and promulgated by the Holy Father as part of his ordinary Magisterium. Pope John Paul II ordered the publication of the Catechism by the Apostolic Constitution, Fidei Depositum, on October 11, 1992. An apostolic constitution is a most solemn form by which popes promulgate official Church documents. The new Code of Canon Law, for example, was promulgated by the Apostolic Constitution, Sacrae Disciplinae Leges. In Fidei Depositum, Pope John Paul II said, “The Catechism of the Catholic Church, which I approved June 25th last and the publication of which I today order by virtue of my Apostolic Authority, is a statement of the Church’s faith and of catholic doctrine, attested to or illumined by Sacred Scripture, the Apostolic Tradition, and the Church’s Magisterium. I declare it to be a sure norm for teaching the faith and thus a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion.” John Paul II also stated that the Catechism “is given as a sure and authentic reference text for teaching Catholic doctrine.”
The term “ordinary Magisterium” appears to have been a term of some debate or confusion in the years following Vatican II. However, the term now is used in contradistinction to “extraordinary Magisterium”
a distinction is made between the “ordinary” and “extraordinary” Magisterium, emphasizing the importance of the first, which is permanent and ongoing, while the second, which is expressed in definitions, could be called exceptional.
In fact, the extraordinary Magisterium is seldom invoked. The latest was in 1950 by Pope Pius XII in the Bull Munificentissimus on the Assumption. Although the Pope may (and perhaps has a duty to) act in communion with the Bisphops in the Magisterium of the Church, he acts on his own authority
the extraordinary papal Magisterium, whose definitions are unreformable per se, and not from the consent of the Church" (ex sese, non autem ex consensu ecclesiae). This means that these definitions do not need the consent of the bishops in order to be valid, neither an antecedent consent, nor a consequent consent, “since they are pronounced with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, promised to him in blessed Peter, and therefore they need no approval of others, nor do they allow an appeal to any other judgment”. (See Magisterium).
The same principle applies to the exercise of the Pope’s ordinary Magisterium – consultation and the Pope’s authority to establish, infallibly, on his own authority when pronouncing non-definitional “doctrine concerning faith and morals” that require the inward assent and outward obedience of the faithful.
These are truths about God in himself and in his creative and redeeming work; the human person and the world in their creaturely status and destiny according to the design of Providence; eternal life and earthly life itself in its basic demands regarding truth and goodness.
The area of truths that the Magisterium can definitively teach includes those principles of reason that are not contained in the truths of faith but are closely related to them. In actual fact, both in the past and today, the Church’s Magisterium, especially the Roman Pontiff’s, preserves these principles and continually rescues them from the obfuscation and distortion they suffer under pressure from partisan viewpoints and bad habits well established in cultural models and currents of thought.
The Catechism makes this clear.
\882 The Pope, Bishop of Rome and Peter’s successor, “is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful.”402 “For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered.”403
402 LG 23. 403 LG 22; cf. CD 2,9.
\23. This collegial union is apparent also m (sic) the mutual relations of the individual bishops with particular churches and with the universal Church. The Roman Pontiff, as the successor of Peter, is the perpetual and visible principle and foundation of unity of both the bishops and of the faithful.
But the college or body of bishops has no authority unless it is understood together with the Roman Pontiff, the successor of Peter as its head. The pope’s power of primacy over all, both pastors and faithful, remains whole and intact. In virtue of his office, that is as Vicar of Christ and pastor of the whole Church, the Roman Pontiff has full, supreme and universal power over the Church. And he is always free to exercise this power. The order of bishops, which succeeds to the college of apostles and gives this apostolic body continued existence, is also the subject of supreme and full power over the universal Church, provided we understand this body together with its head the Roman Pontiff and never without this head.
\2. In this Church of Christ the Roman pontiff, as the successor of Peter, to whom Christ entrusted the feeding of His sheep and lambs, enjoys supreme, full, immediate, and universal authority over the care of souls by divine institution. Therefore, as pastor of all the faithful, he is sent to provide for the common good of the universal Church and for the good of the individual churches. Hence, he holds a primacy of ordinary power over all the churches.
\9. In exercising supreme, full, and immediate power in the universal Church, the Roman pontiff makes use of the departments of the Roman Curia which, therefore, perform their duties in his name and with his authority for the good of the churches and in the service of the sacred pastors.
Conclusion: If Church’s position on same-sex relations has not been set definitionally by extraordinary Magisterium, the Pope has the power to change it in the exercise of his ordinary Magisterium.
Current Doctrine in the Catechism
Chastity and homosexuality
\2357 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,141 tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.”142 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.
\2358 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.
\2359 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.
\141 Cf. Gen 191-29; Rom 124-27; 1 Cor 6,10; 1 Tim 1,10. \142 CDF, Persona humana 8. \143 FC 11.
Persona humana is a declaration on certain questions concerning sexual ethics issued by the CDF,which is the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, informally know as the Inquisition. No specific references are given to pronouncements; I have linked to the latest relevant guidance. FC is Familiaris Consortio
In short, it is not a sin to be gay, only to have gay sex. Gay Catholics should be chaste, that is, celibate. That, of course, is a hard sell for many people, especially in light of the further teaching on masturbation:
\2352 By masturbation is to be understood the deliberate stimulation of the genital organs in order to derive sexual pleasure. “Both the Magisterium of the Church, in the course of a constant tradition, and the moral sense of the faithful have been in no doubt and have firmly maintained that masturbation is an intrinsically and gravely disordered action.”138 “The deliberate use of the sexual faculty, for whatever reason, outside of marriage is essentially contrary to its purpose.” For here sexual pleasure is sought outside of “the sexual relationship which is demanded by the moral order and in which the total meaning of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love is achieved.”139
\138 CDF, Persona humana 9. \139 CDF, Persona humana 9.
Scripture Interpretations that Would Have to be Adjusted
Gen 191-29 relates the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah because “all the townsmen of Sodom, both young and old - all the people to the last man” asked Lot to turn over his two guests “that we may have intimacies with them.” Lot objected “I beg you, my brothers, not to do this wicked thing” and offered up his daughters as substitutes. The guests turned out to be two angels on a mission to destroy the towns. In footnote 6 to Gen 18-20
Israelite tradition was unanimous in ascribing the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah to the wickedness of these cities, but tradition varied in regard to the nature of this wickedness. According to the present account of the Yahwist, the sin of Sodom was homosexuality (⇒ Genesis 19,4-5), which is therefore also known as sodomy; but according to Isaiah (⇒ Isaiah 1,9-10; ⇒ 3,9), it was a lack of social justice; Ezekiel (⇒ Ezekiel 16,46-51) described it as a disregard for the poor, whereas Jeremiah (⇒ Jeremiah 23,14) saw it as general immorality.
Lot’s position is ambiguous; it’s hard to know if his objection was to sodomy or to forcible sodomy. The trouble with the Yawist interpretation is that God appears to be in some doubt about the reports that have reached Him.
the LORD said: “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great, and their sin so grave, that I must go down and see whether or not their actions fully correspond to the cry against them that comes to me. I mean to find out.”
In Romans 124-27, the Apostle relates that God’s punishment for denying Him was
Therefore, God handed them over to impurity through the lusts of their hearts 15 for the mutual degradation of their bodies.
They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and revered and worshiped the creature rather than the creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
Therefore, God handed them over to degrading passions. Their females exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the males likewise gave up natural relations with females and burned with lust for one another. Males did shameful things with males and thus received in their own persons the due penalty for their perversity.
FN 15: In order to expose the depth of humanity’s rebellion against the Creator, God handed them over to impurity through the lusts of their hearts.
Apparently homosexuality is a punishment for the sin of denying God rather than the sin itself.
In Timothy 1 Tim 1,10,
We know that the law is good, provided that one uses it as law, with the understanding that law is meant not for a righteous person but for the lawless and unruly, the godless and sinful, the unholy and profane, those who kill their fathers or mothers, murderers, the unchaste, practicing homosexuals, 5 kidnapers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is opposed to sound teaching, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted.
\5 … Sodomites: see ⇒ 1 Cor 6,9 and the note there.
First Corinthians 1 Cor 6,9
\2 3 Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers nor boy prostitutes nor practicing homosexuals
2 9-10 A catalogue of typical vices that exclude from the kingdom of God and that should be excluded from God’s church. Such lists (cf ⇒ 1 Cor 5,10) reflect the common moral sensibility of the New Testament period.
3 9 The Greek word translated as boy prostitutes may refer to catamites, i.e., boys or young men who were kept for purposes of prostitution, a practice not uncommon in the Greco-Roman world. In Greek mythology this was the function of Ganymede, the “cupbearer of the gods,” whose Latin name was Catamitus. The term translated Sodomites refers to adult males who indulged in homosexual practices with such boys. See similar condemnations of such practices in ⇒ Romans 1 26-27; ⇒ 1 Tim 1,10.
Other Previous Objections to Overcome
Christian revelation recognizes two specific ways of realizing the vocation of the human person in its entirety, to love: marriage and virginity or celibacy. Either one is, in its own proper form, an actuation of the most profound truth of man, of his being “created in the image of God.”
8. Society owes its continued survival to the family, founded on marriage. The inevitable consequence of legal recognition of homosexual unions would be the redefinition of marriage, which would become, in its legal status, an institution devoid of essential reference to factors linked to heterosexuality; for example, procreation and raising children. If, from the legal standpoint, marriage between a man and a woman were to be considered just one possible form of marriage, the concept of marriage would undergo a radical transformation, with grave detriment to the common good. By putting homosexual unions on a legal plane analogous to that of marriage and the family, the State acts arbitrarily and in contradiction with its duties.
The principles of respect and non-discrimination cannot be invoked to support legal recognition of homosexual unions. Differentiating between persons or refusing social recognition or benefits is unacceptable only when it is contrary to justice.(16) The denial of the social and legal status of marriage to forms of cohabitation that are not and cannot be marital is not opposed to justice; on the contrary, justice requires it.
Nor can the principle of the proper autonomy of the individual be reasonably invoked. It is one thing to maintain that individual citizens may freely engage in those activities that interest them and that this falls within the common civil right to freedom; it is something quite different to hold that activities which do not represent a significant or positive contribution to the development of the human person in society can receive specific and categorical legal recognition by the State. Not even in a remote analogous sense do homosexual unions fulfil the purpose for which marriage and family deserve specific categorical recognition. On the contrary, there are good reasons for holding that such unions are harmful to the proper development of human society, especially if their impact on society were to increase
For according to the objective moral order, homosexual relations are acts which lack an essential and indispensable finality. In Sacred Scripture they are condemned as a serious depravity and even presented as the sad consequence of rejecting God. citations omitted This judgment of Scripture does not of course permit us to conclude that all those who suffer from this anomaly are personally responsible for it, but it does attest to the fact that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered and can in no case be approved of.
Persona humana 8
The main reason is that, whatever the motive for acting this way, the deliberate use of the sexual faculty outside normal conjugal relations essentially contradicts the finality of the faculty. For it lacks the sexual relationship called for by the moral order, namely the relationship which realizes “the full sense of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love.” citations omitted All deliberate exercise of sexuality must be reserved to this regular relationship. Even if it cannot be proved that Scripture condemns this sin by name, the tradition of the Church has rightly understood it to be condemned in the New Testament when the latter speaks of “impurity,” “unchasteness” and other vices contrary to chastity and continence.
Persona humana 9
How a Pope might imagine explaining a change in position
The Scriptural bases used to condemn homosexuality are not convincing. The outrage committed against Lot and his angelic guests can just as easily be seen as an offense against the duties of a host to protect guests. The Apostle speaks of homosexual relations being used as a punishment rather than a sin in and of itself. St. Paul also speaks of the law as meant for the non-righteous and gives as an example practicing homosexuals who, among others are thought to “stand opposed to sound teaching.” But the examples include such serious matters as patricide, matricide and other murderers in the same breath with unchastity. The examples mix acts that are evil in and of themselves with those that may be wrong only because they were forbidden. In First Corinthians a similar list, the Church has already noted, is based on prevalent moral norms at the time, including a repugnance for the practice of men abusing boys, a topic of great sadness today. I think the existing Scriptural justification is open to revision.
The three recent pronouncements must also be addressed. Familiaris Consortio poses the difficult question: Why should the alternatives of marriage between a man and a woman, on the one hand, and the choice of virginity or chastity, on the other, be the sole means by which the Creator intended humanity to express intimate love? Much seems to depend on this argument. Guiding children away from profligacy, reducing the birth of children to those unable to care for them and pointing the way for priests to celibacy are all examples. If we were to approve of sexual acts outside of marriage in the case of homosexual relations, would that bring down the entire edifice of Church teaching on sexuality? If homosexual relations cannot lead to procreation, how can married couples be counseled to remain open to the possibility of conception each time they have relations? Would we also have to change teachings, then, on birth control? This idea of sexuality being intrinsically related to procreation as part of God’s plan and natural order is the argument made by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Persona Humana cites only the “tradition of the Church” as the reason for interpreting Scripture to refer to homosexual relations as a sin, but makes the same natural law argument regarding the heterosexuality as the only natural and proper use of the sexual facility.
How difficult it is to change only one thing! Might it be better to review our entire understanding of “God made man in his own image” and what is natural? Would that help or hinder the faithful finding their way to God’s love? I must pray.