One Catholic's perspective on Prop 8

He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone...

I am a devout, practicing, traditional Catholic, and I am against Proposition 8.

This might seem like a paradox, and may not be conservative enough or liberal enough depending on your views, but bear with me. The Roman Catholic faith, to which I am a fervent adherent, maintains the following official position on the matter of same-sex relations:
"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... close the sexual act to the gift of life...Under no circumstances can they be approved...This inclination [however]...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."
- Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2357-2358
The Catechism goes on to state that LGBT people are "called to chastity". This is the case because the Catholic Church teaches that sexual activity must be both an expression of eternal love and an act open to procreation. Since same-sex relations cannot be procreative, practicing Catholics are bound not to engage in them. Some Catholic theorists go so far as to say that romantic love cannot exist between two people of the same sex.

I can't disagree with the Church on the point that practicing Catholics cannot engage in homosexual acts without committing a sin. And I believe that any form of sexual activity in which a child cannot be created is also sinful (including masturbatory, oral, anal, or "safe" sex between people of any gender). However, I strongly disagree with the latter point: I have seen many same-sex couples who are more loving than a substantial number of their heterosexual counterparts. While I believe that the Church cannot permit her members to be joined in same-sex marriages, American civil law is, or should be, a completely different ball game.

First of all, what ever happened to separation of Church and state? At the end of the day, I'm glad I live in a nation where not everyone agrees with me. Freedom is what makes this country great. Secondly, since when does a government have a right to declare who its citizens can and can't marry? If John Doe can marry Suzy Smith, why can't Jane Doe marry her? In a democracy, the citizens are supposed to have true sovereignty over their government. So how can we let our political leaders tell us who to love, to honor, and to cherish 'til death do us part? I've always felt that part of the American dream was being able to love whomever you love, without apology. No matter what anyone says, I will never be convinced that love is a choice.

I encourage people to be true to their beliefs, whatever they are, and I especially urge all Catholics to follow the Church's teachings. That said, the matter of your sexuality is very personal. Share it with your partner, your friends, your family, trusted members of the community, your confessor, anyone, everyone, or no one at all if you don't want to. Whomever. But who you love is none of Uncle Sam's gosh darn business.

Some relevant links...

Courage, a Church-approved ministry to LGBT and questioning Catholics
The Trevor Project, a non-religious, non-profit resource for LGBTQ youth


Emma said...

Interesting post! Another Catholic LGBT site is Dignity. They have a different point of view about sex. Their FAQ says:

"Official Catholic teaching requires that homosexual people abstain from sex. But the Catholic Church also teaches solemnly that people are obliged to form their conscience carefully and responsibly and to follow it as the bottom line in every moral decision.

Neither Scripture nor Tradition nor natural law theory nor human science nor personal experience convincingly supports official Catholic teaching about the immorality of homogenital acts. Accordingly, and after much soul-searching, many gay and lesbian Catholics have formed consciences that differ from official Church teaching and have entered into homosexual relationships. In this respect they are exactly like the many married Catholic couples who cannot accept the official teaching on contraception."

Personally, I think this is a much healthier way of looking at it. But hey, I'm not Catholic, so I can't really say. I do, however, find this a little disturbing:

"Another network of groups, much smaller than Dignity, is Courage. Founded in the early 1980s by Fr. John Harvey, O.S.F.S., of New York City, it helps people to be celibate "in accordance with [the narrowest interpretation of] the Roman Catholic Church's teaching on homosexuality." A positive, life-enhancing celibacy is certainly a legitimate goal for those who freely choose it. But the Courage ministry rests on the belief that homosexuality is a psychological aberration, an emotional debility. Built on a 12-step program like Alcoholics Anonymous, Courage aims to have people restrain and control their "sickness." Such a negative starting point, which ignores the bulk of current scientific opinion, can hardly foster personal integration, emotional well-being, or real holiness."

I took a look at the Courage website and it does seem pretty negative about same-sex desire, which in my opinion is not a good position for an LGBT ministry to take!

All in all, though, this was an interesting post, and it'll be nice to have a Catholic perspective on the blog!

Timothy said...

Thanks for your comment, Emma! I'll agree, Courage doesn't have the best approach, and it has been called an "ex-gay" organization (I wouldn't go so far as to call it that). I probably haven't done as much research on this apostolate as I should have. I know it isn't for non-Catholics. It's sole purpose is to help LGBTQ people who want to attempt to follow the official teaching. From my understanding, it helps people with same-sex attractions to accept their "inclinations" (as the Catechism puts it) and live lives of celibacy.

If you want to know the honest-to-goodness truth, I wouldn't think homosexual acts were sinful if the Church didn't say so. If I were of a different faith, I would feel free to support LGBT rights even more strongly than I do now. I feel that the reason the Church teaches what it does is a series of unfortunate technicalities. But I understand that for the Church to change its stance, it would have to also change on the issues of birth control, as well non-procreative forms of heterosexual sex, and we all know that isn't going to happen. It's just a very difficult situation both for LGBTQ Catholics and for Catholics who support the freedom of all people to love freely, like myself.

Kim said...

Yay! A new member of SEU feminist!

Anyway, thank you for putting this article up. I'm slowly starting to re-identify myself as Catholic, and this piece kinda helped me out a little with my own beliefs. There are tons of things I don't agree with the church about, but I understand where they're coming from.

Oh, know what I do think is wrong? The Pope is threatening to excommunicate any politician who supports gay marriage.

Timothy said...

I'm glad my post is doing a bit of good for you, Kim! No, the Church, or at least its human leadership, isn't perfect. It took me a long time to come to terms with that.

I hadn't heard about the decision to excommunicate Catholic politicians for supporting LGBT rights. I'm with you on that one; it doesn't seem right. I am one of the few members of our JP2 generation who really likes the current Holy Father, but clearly I don't always agree with him...

Rachel said...

I appreciate your incredibly thoughtful and logical perspective on this issue and I'm glad you're here to write about this sort of thing! It's definitely relevant, especially to this blog, because St. Edward's identifies as a Catholic university but also happens to house a good number of feminists/people with liberal views.

This issue is so hard, I think, because these beliefs (whether feminist beliefs, catholic beliefs, or just the belief that LGBT people should have equal rights) are usually seen as dichotomous- and I'm still trying to figure out whether any of these can really belong together. It's the age-old question.. can I be a feminist and be Catholic? Can I be pro-life and be a feminist? Can I be gay and be Catholic?

Separation of church and state is so hard to achieve because it is difficult to keep your personal (or religious) morals that shape the person you are from affecting the decisions you make. Personal beliefs are so a part of who we are that sometimes we can't help but make a decision that follows in line with what coincides naturally with that we feel, because ultimately, that's what is easiest for us. Thankfully, I think we've elected someone capable of that delicate balancing act that will bring us closer to achieving this ideal.

Great first post! :)

Timothy said...