5.11.2012

Can of Worms

Homosexual Rights, Revisited
What is a Can of Worms post?

Much like with abortion, my thoughts on what I wrote about here and here have changed somewhat, or to use the politically-correct term of the day, they have evolved. These thoughts actually evolved quite a while ago, and I can say that with confidence because Alison can back me up if need be, as she has the proof in writing. (An aside: She has the proof in writing because when I asked for a letter of recommendation for my current job, she asked directly about my thoughts on this issue to be sure it would be appropriate to write the letter of recommendation.)

I also want to explain a bit why I haven't broached this topic sooner. There is one main reason: I honestly haven't felt emotionally up to defending my thoughts on this topic; as anyone who has read here regularly knows, my emotions have been bared in this space and it has become a safe, encouraging community on which I rely. I haven't wanted to risk seeing comment notification emails and feeling dread rather than encouragement. That said, I bring it up now because it is in the news, because I'm feeling rather confident as I've decided to put one step forward, and probably a little bit because it's not CD1 or close to it.

Finally, before I delve into this further, I also need to make something very clear as I write this: I am writing this here, on my personal blog in a capacity as an individual person. I am in no way writing in my capacity as an employee of our diocese. While my views are in line with church teaching, I do not pretend to be a theologian or apologist, and in fact, as you read, you may be surprised at the lack of faith-based reasoning behind my views. For official, Catholic Church teaching and resources, not just the writings/thoughts of me, please visit the USCCB or the Vatican or Catholic Answers.

Ok, I think it best to go over these, as I did with abortion, in a bulleted list with the before and now. How/what I used to think is in bold, followed by what has changed, how I currently think in italics.

1.  Homosexuality is not a choice. Thought for 2 reasons: 1) I do not choose to be heterosexual, I just am. 2) Why would anyone choose a life that will subject them to ridicule and cruelty? I continue to agree with this. I do not think any person wakes up, attracted to the opposite sex in the morning and sometime over lunch decides to be attracted to the same sex. This may beg the question, why does God the Creator, create a creature that is homosexual. I honestly, do not know. What I know is that he creates us all differently and that we all have our struggles and crosses to bear in this life. For some, that is infertility, for others it is same-sex attraction, for others it is physical disability, for others it is mental disability, and on and on and on.

2. I strongly agree that homosexuals should receive protection under the equal rights act for hiring, housing, etc. and not be discriminated against because of sexual orientation just as someone should not be discrimianted against for being a woman or black.  Yep. Still agree with this one. I don't really care whether you are attracted to men or women; whether you are black, purple, or green; or whether you are Catholic, Hindu, or Athiest as long as you can do your job well, are the best candidate for the position, pass a credit check for a mortgage, or pay your bills on time then by all means you should be hired, given a rental agreement or mortgage and be allowed to live and work just like everyone else.

3. We're skipping marriage for a second and going to homosexuals in the military being an okay thing. Again, as it relates to #2, if you have same-sex attraction, but are an awesome snipper or intelligence officer, go for it. I think "don't ask, don't tell" was a bad idea and am glad it's gone. Personally, I think it shouldn't even be an issue. There are rules against fraternization within the military that should prevent an sexual activity from occurring. Of course, we know rules are often broken, but whether you break the rule by having sex with someone of the same sex or the opposite sex, you are still breaking the rule.  As I do not want to misrepresent Catholic Church Teaching, I do want to say that I know the Archbishop of the military diocese has spoken out against this repeal and what I understand his main concerns to be were 1) that military chaplains would be forced to violate their conscience as it relates to service (wo)men wtih same-sex attraction and 2) the repeal would be used to push forward an agenda violating Church teaching. If either of those are occurring, I agree, it is a problem but IMHO it is a problem of misuse of the repeal, not the repeal itself.

4. And we have arrived at the biggest current hot topic, and where my thoughts have changed. Previously, I thought that secular or civil marriage should be legal for same sex couples. Now, I do not feel it should be legal, or frankly that it is even possible for it to be legal. To touch on Faith for a second, I do still know that Jesus taught love, forgiveness, respect and tolerance. He taught to love one another and to forgive our enemies. BUT, he also taught us to pick up our crosses, to follow him, and to repent. It is in this area that I feel our society has lost all touch with our Judeo-Christian roots - frankly both secularly and within our churches. There is much to be gained and learned from sufferring, from desiring something we can't have, and from obedience to a great power and a willingness to follow natural law.

I know this personally from our sufferring with infertility. Our society tells The Man and I that we want a baby, so we should go demand a baby and make one any way possible. We've decided to honor the way God created us and how He wants us to create new life and have lengthened our sufferring as a result. But, you know what, we have grown and benefitted in so many ways as we've born this sufferring. No, it's not easy and on the days that the sufferring is the greatest, I feel it is all very unfair and I get quite angry. Yet, I see the fruits and the growth and the benefits of being obedient and willing to follow God's plan and natural law.

Which moves me to my non-faith understanding of why same sex "marriage" is impossible. When we look at a man and a woman, side by side and look at their biology, their objective design, it is clear what they were designed for - how they fit together, quite literally. It is clear from this fitting together how future humans are created. It is clear that a man's pe.nis was designed to deposit sp.erm into a woman's vag.ina and for the sp.erm to meet with egg to create a new life. Is this a pleasurable act? Absolutely. Is enjoying the pleasure of this act bad? Absolutely not! However, when the order is replaced and the pleasure is placed ahead of the purpose we have begun to violate natural law. We have reproductive organs and parts so that we can, in fact, reproduce. The pleasure is the bonus; the side effect if you will.

Philosophy describes it like this: the per se end of sexual intercourse is reproduction and the per accidens end is pleasure, bonding of the couple. While both are equal and legitimate ends, it is reproduction that is the essential end, while pleasure follows. In our society, we have made pleasure the purpose of pretty much everything we do, and specifically with our sexual lives, we have completely flipped pleasure and reproduction - in fact, removed reproduction in many instances. If something doesn't bring us pleasure or make us happy, we don't do it. Period. We have lost sight of the natural way of our creation and replaced it with our desires. When we separated sex from babies we lowered ourselves from a higher-order thinking creature to that of an animal; to that of a creature without self-control driven solely by pleasure and survival.

Often I hear the argument that same-sex attraction and actions are seen all throughout animal species, and I do not disagree with that, it is true. Yet, are we not different from animals? Are we not rational beings with self-control and higher-order decision making abilities? Do we not pride ourselves on our ability to think, to reason, and to discern? We, when considering objectively how male and female humans were created, are able to see that we were made to fit together, to become one, to marry and to reproduce; looking objectively at two men or two women does not yield this same conclusion. Does this sound cruel? Maybe. And this is where I return to the idea of pleasure and sufferring. In our society, sufferring = bad and pleasure = good. This is an absolute we have come to accept, and given this absolute and belief system, then it makes sense why same-sex "marriage" is ok to some. And yet, if we allow ourselves to embrace the sufferings in our life and to grow and learn from them, we can see a more fulfilling life than we ever imagined possible when only focused on pleasure.

Finally, I will return to my argument of faith, because, ironically, that is where I rooted my previous point of view. No, Jesus never said there was a limit or exception to His message of love, forgiveness, and acceptance and I am not, in any way, shape, or form suggesting we not love, forgive, and accept those with same sex attraction. Yet, if we are to accept that message, must we not also accept that we are sinful and that He told us to go forth and sin no more? Must we not also accept that our desires and that feels good may not be what is best for us? Are Adam and Eve not proof of this? Had they denied their desire for the forbidden fruit, none of us would be experiencing this fallen world. Jesus never said, if it feels good, do it. Instead he said to lay down our life for our friends; for a man to leave his mother and father and cling to his wife; that it would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven; that whoever loves his life loses it and whoever hates his life in this world will perserve it for eternity.

I will end this on the idea that tolerance does not equal agreement. One can be tolerant and kind without agreeing. While I do not think we can all agree all of the time (or even part of the time), I do think we can look for similarities and then work from there rather than focusing all of our energies on differences and why we are right or wrong. I have more to say on the difference in my own life and how I approach things between when I first wrote on this topic and now, but that is for a different post.

This Can of Worms has been opened. What do you think? (And a reminder, you certainly do not have to agree with me, but I do ask that you only leave respectful comments, especially replies to other commentors. If you wouldn't say it directly to the person's face, then you shouldn't type it here :).)

Edited to add some much needed paragraphing in #4 :).

27 comments:

  1. Wow, beautiful thoughts and ideas. God is surely working through you!

    One thought, marriage is impossible between 2 people of the same gender. It takes consumation for a marriage to be. This is impossible for those of the same gender.

    The Courage movement has great things to say, check them out at couragerc.net.

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    1. Thank-you E. I started down the idea of consumation, but didn't complete that thought, so thank-you for making that point. I've not heard of the Courage movement, I will have to check it out.

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  2. You are really amazing. For many reasons you impress me but right now mostly because the way you're able to discuss issues without your personal emotions. I love that I was able to ask you about this and have a discussion about it. That doesn't happen with everyone! I'm especially grateful for the good day this month that makes a post like this possible. Those are hard to come by...

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  3. I love your thoughts and agree with them. You state them more eloquently than I ever could. :-)

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  4. I'll be honest and I'm sure I'll get flack for it, but I'm not sure what I think about this whole thing. I have friends and family members who are gay and I love them so much. One in particular is one of the most selfless, giving people I know. I struggle with this a lot. I have a hard time reconciling whats in the Bible with the human being I see in front of me. I agree with what you said about pleasure in our society and about our crosses. I want to follow God, I just don't want to come across as unloving. I guess I have some more to learn about God in this realm. Right now I'm just not convicted either way.

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    1. I struggled with the "what would I say to friends/family members" too. One of The Man's best friends is gay and as you said, an awesome person. I think this is one gift of my IF, is that I have learned and lived with pain that society says is unnecessary - I could "just" do IVF or IUI, yet I do not. Do I love my friends who have done it any less? Nope. Do those same friends know my feelings on this issue? Yep. Are we still friends? Yep.

      I don't type this to try to convince you, just to share part of how I got here. If we speak the truth in love, whether it be about IF, same-sex attraction, abortion, or whatever we are not being un-loving. None of this is easy, but we weren't promised easy, were we? :)

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    2. I love this post. You've stated very eloquently what I have believed for a while now.

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    3. I guess I've heard a lot of "truth" spoken in hate that I don't want to be lumped into that group. You've given me something to think about and to ask God about. I'm greatly interested in hearing more about how you and C handle this stuff with your friends. Thanks for facilitating a loving, open and honest discussion R, you rock!

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    4. Oh, "truth" spoken in hate...may as well lie as far as I'm concerned. Not wanting to get lumped in with that group was my reason for not speaking out for a while.

      I wish I could tell you we had some magic solution or method. We truly just focus on the things we have in common and don't discuss it much otherwise - though our beliefs are not secret. Also, our approach when we have children will be to continue these friendships and to teach our children our beliefs, yet model love and respect for those whom we disagree. As long as our friends don't cross lines with us/our family there won't be a problem...just as I'd never start teaching one of these same friends' kids to pray the rosary without their permission.

      I know it's not an easy situation, I will keep you in my prayers as you navigate these waters.

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  5. Very, very well said.
    Nice job!

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  6. Obviously I disagree on #4. But I think I will leave it at that. :) Thank you for standing up for our rights to employment and housing and military service!

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    1. :) Thank you for commenting here! I certainly appreciate your point of view, even if we disagree and the fact that I wrote this in such a way that you felt comfortable commenting is proof of God's goodness and grace.

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  7. I completely agree with what you said about tolerance--when did tolerance become synonymous with agreement? In fact, they CANNOT be synonymous...because if you agree with someone, what need is there to be tolerant? At that point, it's moot!

    I also think it's unfair when people are disrespected or verbally attacked, as I was earlier this week via FB, for simply voicing their beliefs or viewpoints. You can disagree with someone and still treat them with respect--a fact that too many people on both sides of many issues have forgotten.

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  8. I am not agreeing or disagreeing with anything you wrote here, but just last night I was talking with Josh about how I don't understand those who are anti-gay marriage (for reasons other than homophobia) while supporting contraception. But then I was thinking about the counter-arguments about the marriages of infertile couples, those past reproductive age etc.

    My deepest beliefs line up with the fullest Catholic teaching that I understand, but that is light-years away from where our culture is, and still incredibly far from most popular apologetics on what people imagine to be the Church's teachings. And so I am confused about how to translate my ultimate beliefs to the level of public policy and average conversation.

    So I would love to read your answer to someone who asked about the reason for disapproving of gay marriage for the reasons above, while still accepting heterosexual marriage without reproduction.

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    1. Before I answer your question, I want to say how much I agree with your second paragraph. We, as a culture, are so very far from Catholic teaching it is hard to see how to get back there. I certainly don't have the answer. I know I feel better when I spend time in prayer and take advantage of the sacraments. I also agree, I don't understand how one can support contraception and be anti-gay marriage - when you've separated sex from babies you've separated sex from babies, period. :)

      No, heterosexual marriage without reproduction vs. gay "marriage": maybe I'm simplifying this too much, but to me it is because with gay "marriage" the potential for reproduction is never ever there (not through any act which only involves the two people in the "marriage"). Whereas to heterosexual marriage, the potential for reproduction is there, but may be impeded by some physical issue (that could be self-inflicted or not) or age, but at one point there was a possibility.

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  9. Below are 5 arguments against same-sex marriage recently posted by Fr Stephen Wang on his blog Bridges and Tangents. They're based on what's happening in the UK rather than the US but I think they're the best short summary of arguments I've read anywhere.


    First, it radically transforms the meaning of marriage for all couples (not just same-sex couples) and turns it into simply a committed relationship between any two consenting adults.

    Second, it makes different forms of family life equivalent, and disregards the evidence that it is in the best interests of children to be brought up by their own natural/biological parents. Marriage between a man and a woman is the only relationship that allows children to be conceived by their own natural/biological parents and raised in that lifelong family unit, which is why it is given a special status. This is not a prejudice but a natural reality.

    Third, this proposal will increase prejudice and intolerance against those who believe and teach that marriage can only be between a man and a woman.

    Fourth, it drives a wedge between civil and religious views of marriage, which can only harm society. At present there is a single understanding of marriage, shared by both religious and non-religious people, but celebrated in different contexts (civil or religious).

    Fifth, this proposal has been ‘forced’ onto the political agenda; it was not in any party manifestos; it is not a pressing political issue for most people; and 70% of people support the traditional understanding of marriage (according to a recent poll).

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    1. Tonia, thank-you for these points, you've added much to this conversation and I appreciate it.

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  10. This is good. I'm so glad that you have written this post. I never tackle an issue like this because I am really confused about how I feel. I'm not confused about what I know...but confused about how I feel. It muddies the water so much when you have friends and family who struggle with same-sex attraction or homosexual tendencies.

    One of the biggest turning points for me on this issue was exactly what you pointed out...that we all have our crosses to bear.

    Thanks for writing this.

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  11. Great post, although I disagree on #4. I don't think the state should ever recognize "marriage" or grant license for "marriage" in any way for any couple, gay or straight. Marriage is a holy sacrament bestowed by the church. I am a firm believer that everyone wishing to establish a formal arrangement with their partner (same sex or opposite sex) should apply for a civil union license with the state and talk to their church about having their union blessed as a marriage if that is what they desire. This way, the denominations that believe gay marriage is wrong (which MANY denominations do for all of the reasons you so eloquently describe) don't have to grant a marriage to a gay couple, don't have to violate their moral teachings AND they don't have to interfere in the legal, financial matters of a state-granted civil union - a true separation of church and state.

    In the interest of fairness, I would have happily had the state consider my "marriage" (to my husband) a civil union and only had it referred to as a "marriage" by the Catholic church where the actual sacrament was bestowed on us. States have no business granting "marriages" in the same way that churches have no business dictating what legal/financial benefits that couples should be allowed to have. Churches are not political organizations and states are not religious institutions. Let's just let each do their job and stay out of the other's business. This is, of course, just my humble opinion.

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    1. This is an interesting perspective Kay - thanks. I think my only issue on this is that I know the importance of children being raised in a family with their mother and father - children need role models of both the same and opposite sex in their lives. I know there is all kinds of research and anecdotal evidence of kids raised in non-traditional families that turn out just "fine", but when compared to kids in two-parent stable families, they still don't report as much success. So, while the state shouldn't infringe on religious rights (which I think we both strongly agree on) and the Church shouldn't force her beliefs on the state, I do think the state has an interest in what is best for her citizens.

      I think, specifically in our country, we have destroyed the traditional family so badly, that anything that isn't abusive or single-parent is becoming accepted as "normal" and "healthy." I remember growing up and buying that my family was "normal" and that I was "fine" and it wasn't until adulthood that the impacts of my parent's divorce started coming to light...and in the grand scheme of divorce and remarriage my family's situation is certainly one of the "good" ones.

      I guess it just boils down to the idea of sacrifice again, and that it's not such a bad thing and that marriage or civil unions aren't just about the adults involved. If it were just the adults, maybe, but in a society that demands children and allows them to be created any way possible, including selling eggs, sperm, and womb-space, we know it isn't just the adults a civil union would affect.

      I realize as I write this, I was writing very fast and bluntly but I state this side with the utmost respect of where you are coming from, and if there were protections to ensure that civil unions only affected adults, I'd be much more willing to be open to the idea.

      And one more quick aside - yes, I realize heterosexuals have made a mess of marriage, but I really do think that is part of what has led us down this road. Were we, heterosexuals, more respectful of our marriages we might not be here. (There are lots of layers and reasons to this that would get us way off topic, I do believe :)).

      Again - thanks so much for this unique take on this issue.

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  12. This is a great post! SSM is one of the hardest teachings for me to accept. I see both sides so clearly. But I trust the wisdom of the Church over my own feelings. But then I can't help to think that who are we to impose our beliefs on someone who doesn't believe the same as we do? But it is our jobs to get others to heaven... or is it? Or is it all moral relativism? I get so confused...

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    1. Thanks for your comment and honesty Maggie. I struggled so much with this issue, until I forced myself to consider it objectively. Not whether or not I was hurting someone's feelings or dictating their life, but what was objective truth. This is when I started relating it to our IF and considering the weight of the cross but also the fruits of it. There is a reproductive endocrinologist right here in our town that could have done IVF at least twice for us in the past 18 months - and knowing that a dear, wonderful, awesome friend of mine has a beautiful daughter that is a product of IVF. I also wondered how, I could embrace the Church's teaching on NFP, abortion, protection and value of all life and not her teaching on homosexuality.

      And then I read the Catechism and found that the Catholic Church does not condemn those with SSA, but rather holds them to the same standards as the rest of us - chastity outside of marriage (and within, but that's another issue) and a marriage that is open to life, with respect for God as Creator of life. The consistency of the Church's teachings always bring me comfort.

      I hope this didn't confuse you any more....

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  13. I don't think I've ever commented on your blog before, but I just wanted to tell you that I think it's very courageous of you to talk about this. I know exactly what you mean about dreading what kind of comments you might get. I'm happy to see that you seem to have a group of very respectful people on both sides. Also, you did a wonderful job of communicating your position respectfully. I have found lately that it can be nearly impossible to even broach the topic - to attempt to communicate the actual teachings of the Church, our actual views of the dignity of all people (gay and straight) - without being shouted down. There is so much misinformation to get through before a conversation can even begin. And I've often felt that my IF helps me to talk about this more compassionately - b/c IF is similar in so many ways. It is a cross that cuts you off from a natural rhythm of life just as SSA does. It feels very lonely and very unfair. But those aren't reasons enough to turn from Truth and embrace wrong. Anyway - excellent post!

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    1. Thanks for commenting Cecilia :) - and for your kind words.

      I will keep you in my prayers as you walk this long, difficult road of IF.

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  14. We all have our struggles in life, although some of those struggles are what we make of a situation which we fail to accept. I used to struggle with my infertility too. I desperately seeked the spirit of truth. I re-examined the Bible. At first it didn't make me any wiser. Then I started having those dreams, which I didn't understand at first.

    In one dream I found myself in a scenario reading Genesis 1:28, while wetting the page with my tears. "Be fertile, increase in number, fill the earth..." Those words became more and more unclear to me. I wiped away my tears and looked down at my Bible. I noticed a blank space where the words had been.

    In another dream I found myself holding the Bible. It was a new Bible, which my great aunt had given me. We sat down for a cup of tea, while my great aunt told me: "Oh dear, would you mind reading a little something for me?". I told her that I would be happy to, and so she said: "The first chapter of Genesis then, my dear." I started reading and read about the large sea creatures and every type of wild animal. When I had just finished 1:27, I stopped. My great aunt asked me if I didn't want to finish the story. I told her that I couldn't finish it. My great aunt took a look at the Bible and noticed that 1:28 wasn't there. It was in fact cut out from the page. My great aunt cried out: "Now this is strange, it was just in new condition. I recently purchased it for you, I assure you".

    My dreams were not just ordinary dreams. They were strong and emotional. I wondered if God could have tried to tell me something. Could my dreams have been dreams from God? If so, what was God's will?

    In my job as a social worker, I have met a lot of vulnerable children who have been mistreated and abused by their parents. One day at my job, when reflecting on those experiences of mine, I heard a voice in my head saying: “The world needs more parents – not more children.” Bewildered by this realization, I understood my dreams in another light. The reason 1:28 had disappeared in my dreams could have been God’s way of telling me that this commandment is no longer God's wish. I often get reminded of how children have it today, especially since I have learned more about children’s situation in Africa. I understand that the only commandment humankind has managed to fulfill is indeed to be fruitful and multiply – and that do an exaggeration. God wants us to love all of his children, and we have failed to do so.

    Humankind has reproduced, but failed to take care of their children. It’s clear to me now that God doesn’t want all of us to reproduce. All children are God’s children. Today I understand my infertility as a blessing. Although I have struggled to see it that way, I know now that my fertility is a blessing to me and to an orphan child out there. You see, my husband and I seek to adopt, and we are confident this is what God has intended for us.

    So why has God created homosexuals? Isn't it obvious? God wants and needs more parents to his children – all of his children.

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  15. * Although I have struggled to see it that way, I know now that my infertility is a blessing to me and to an orphan child out there.

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