Writing in El Paso Times, Texan priest Fr Michael Rodriguez has launched an impassioned diatribe against all forms of legal recognition for same sex union. His ranting could easily be dismissed as the lunatic fringe, but as so many Catholic catechismophiles share his ridiculous claims and assumptions, I think it is worth responding in full. This is his key assertion:
“Remember: Every single Catholic, out of fidelity to charity and truth, has the absolute duty to oppose (1) the murder of unborn babies, and (2) any and all government attempts to legalize homosexual unions.”
Not content to invent a supposed moral obligation to oppose all forms of union, he goes even further:
“Any Catholic who supports homosexual acts is, by definition, committing a mortal sin, and placing himself/herself outside of communion with the Roman Catholic Church.”Furthermore, a Catholic would be guilty of a most grievous sin of omission if he/she neglected to actively oppose the homosexual agenda, which thrives on deception and conceals its wicked horns under the guises of "equal rights," "tolerance," "who am I to judge?," etc.
What has he been smoking? He claims to base his words on a pastoral letter of the US bishops, which says, in part:
"It is not unjust to oppose legal recognition of same-sex unions, because marriage and same-sex unions are essentially different realities. 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."
Now I disagree with the bishops’ stance, but it as least an understandable, coherent position. It’s a big leap, though, to go from “it is not unjust to oppose…”, to saying that there exists an “absolute duty to oppose …“
He attempts to soften his position by stating
I urge all of the Catholic faithful to treat homosexuals with love, understanding, and respect.
In doing so, I fear that by his own standards, he damns himself. He has already insisted that a Catholic “would be guilty of a most grievous sin of omission if he/she neglected to actively oppose the homosexual agenda”. I have never been clear precisely what this notorious “agenda” comprises, but as one who actively promotes it, I am certain that a central part of it is precisely a demand to be treated with dignity, compassion and respect. By urging this part of it, Fr Rodriguez is himself promoting a key component of our “agenda”, and by his own standards is thus committing a “grievous mortal sin”.
By his standards, he also condemns not just himself, but the majority of US and European lay Catholics, and also a significant proportion of the clergy and some bishops. How so? He claims that Catholics have an obligation to actively oppose the homosexual agenda. But numerous (US) research surveys have shown that a narrow majority of Catholics approve of same sex marriage and gay adoption, while more substantial majorities approve some form of legal recognition, and do not see same sex relationships as being morally wrong. Among the clergy, some individual priests and groups of priests have publicly supported gay marriage, and many more privately support either marriage or civil unions. In Portugal, when the legal process that led to marriage equality first began, the country’s bishops attempted to prevent its introduction by asking for the provision of civil unions instead. As civil unions are one form of legal recognition which the bishops were actively promoting, where they too guilty of the “grievous sin” Rodriguez describes?
In April this year, the Cardinal Archbishop of Vienna, Christoph Schonborn, suggested that it is time for the church to reconsider its emphasis on “homosexual acts”, and instead consider the quality of the relationships. Since then three other bishops have said much the same thing. Are they too, condemned, for their “grievous sin”?
So, it would seem that Fr Rodriguez has taken it upon his own authority to condemn a huge proportion of the Catholic church for the grievous sin” of not actively opposing the homosexual agenda. Just what is he condemning us to? Read carefully, once again:
Any Catholic who supports homosexual acts is, by definition, committing a mortal sin, and placing himself/herself outside of communion with the Roman Catholic Church.”
He cannot be serious. This sounds like the same automatic excommunication recently invoked by the Bishop of Phoenix, and by the Vatican, in the cases of abortion and the “attempts” to ordain women. Is he really taking it on himself to proclaim the automatic excommunication of half the church, and more?
Let’s be clear on this: It is certainly the collective desire of the the Catholic bishops that we should oppose same sex unions, but it is by no means a moral obligation to do so. Nowhere in orthodox Catholic teaching is there anything that says there is any moral obligation to do everything the bishops urge, and there most certainly is not anything in the Catechism, in the creed, or in our baptismal vows that imposes such a supposed obligation.
On the contrary, one obligation that is stated very clearly in the teaching of the Church, is the obligation to follow one’s conscience. This was stated very clearly by one Fr Joseph Ratzinger, who insisted that conscience must take priority even over the demands of the pope.
When approaching gay marriage from the prism of sexual ethics, many people may well find that the dictates of conscience may lead them to oppose it. But sexual ethics are not the only, or even the most important, dimension of Church teaching. Many Catholics believe that teaching on social justice, and reaching out to the poor and the marginalized, is more important. Approaching marriage equality from the prism of social justice, many Catholics have been led by conscience to conclude that they must support it. This was certainly the case with some of the Argentinean senators who supported their family equality bill, and with “Catholics for Marriage equality in the US”.
So, in focussing exclusively on the approach from sexual ethics, Rodriguez is ignoring a huge chunk of orthodox catholic teaching – on the primacy of conscience, and on social justice. He is also ignoring the evidence of history.
By insisting on the spurious claim of an obligation to oppose all forms of legal recognition, he is including civil unions – but civil unions are just that, legal contracts to provide some protections to the partners in a relationship. They are not about sexual relationships – partners wanting a sexual relationship can (and do) have one without requiring a contract to authorize it. And liturgical recognition of same sex unions has a long tradition in the church, as amply demonstrated by both John Boswell and Alan Bray . To this day, there are echoes of these same –sex unions in the modern Mass, with the paired names of Felicity and Perpetua, Phillip and Bartholomew incorporated into the Eucharistic prayer – just as they were listed in the liturgies for same sex unions. (No, these were not “comparable” to modern marriage – but nor are modern civil unions, and nor were the the early heterosexual marriages comparable to modern marriage.) To the cynics who insist that in practice, civil unions are about sex, I reply that they need not be. In the early church, many saintly married couples committed themselves to voluntary virginity, even within marriage. In the nineteenth century, Cardinal John Newman, who will be beatified next month, was famed for the intensity of his (celibate) love for his dear friend Ambrose St John, even to the extent of insisting on being buried with him in a shared grave “for all eternity”. For any Catholic of homosexual orientation wishing to live strictly within orthodox teaching, which clearly states that the homosexual “condition” is not sinful, this celibate emotional bond might well make a fitting model of emotional friendship. If two such people chose to share their lives together, in chastity, is it in any way conceivable that there is a “moral obligation” to oppose legal protection for their relationship?
Finally, Rodriguez even ignores the evidence of the Gospels.
By His own words and actions, Jesus Christ clearly showed that He did not reject people in homosexual relationships. He demonstrated this by agreeing to heal the Roman centurion’s “servant” (“paidion”), in a context that would have strongly suggested a sexual relationship. This too, has an echo in the modern Mass – the prayer shortly before communion, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you….” is a close variant of the centurion’s reply when Jesus started off for his house “Lord.I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof…”.
There is additional echo of gay unions in the Mass. Taken as a whole, theologian Gerard Loughlin has shown how it is an echo of the wedding at Cana, a wedding which in Catholic theology, is taken symbolically to represent Christ’s own wedding to his (male) disciples, and to the Church as a whole – including the men. There is even a tradition that the couple getting married were Jesus and His beloved disciple, John.
With three distinct echoes of gay relationships or unions, the Mass itself, the centrepiece of Catholic practice can be seen as promoting the “gay agenda” – or that part of it which seeks inclusion in Church.
Will Fr Rodriguez now cease celebrating the Mass?
To simplify: One would have to be ghastly morally decrepit to think that if 51 percent of Americans opine that rape is OK, then rape becomes, in effect, all right. Sure, the majority is politically capable of such a vote, but this could never make rape morally right.
This is typical of the garbage from the institutional Catholic Church, who blithely ignore their own history, which is full of recognized saints. ordained bishops and even popes who have had sex with men. For centuries (over half its history), the church recognized formal liturgical rites for church blessings of same sex unions, and also buried some same sex couples together in shared tombs, exactly as married couples.
The Mass itself contains three echoes of gay unions - the healing of the Roman soldier's "paidion" - i.e., his sexual servant is recalled in the words, "Lord, I am not worthy"; same sex couples named in the Eucharistic Prayer; and the Mass itself is commemorates Christ's wedding to his Church (male and female). Theologian Gerald Loughlin has noted that one tradition was that the famous wedding was that of Christ to his "beloved disciple" John.
Same Sex Unions
The Very Modern “Traditional” Marriage
Modern Inclusive Churches
The Queer Mass:
Gay Wedding at Cana
Same sex couples recognised