Oh Ireland - I despair!
So today it has emerged that Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin has declined to comment on the position of those Catholics who may vote Yes in Friday’s same-sex marriage referendum. It was not his policy “to tell others how to vote”, a spokeswoman said, while he stressed “that people should be informed”.
With so much in the balance, the Archbishop prevaricates and fails to teach the faith or to stand up to the tide of secular wrong thinking sweeping over his people! How can an Archbishop not have a policy to tell his people the truth of so straightforward an issue as this?
Influential supporters of the Yes vote are not so circumspect as the Archbishop, the recently appointed lecturer at our main teacher training college, St. Mary's, Mary McAleese has been most vocal in presenting her subjective and confused reasoning.
The Irish Times article goes on to explain how Archbishop Diarmuid was pushed for a clarification on the issue because he had totally confused everyone up to this point in the debate.
Lets face it, the press are confused, and the Iona Institute are confused, and, as the Archbishop states in an article written for The Irish Times yesterday,
"there are those of the ecclesiastical right wing who accuse me of being in favour of a Yes vote"
So his fellow churchmen are confused, I ask you, what hope have the poor faithful of Ireland got of having an informed conscience on this issue?
This is just typical. The usual waffle dressed up as compassion or some such. No one is asking the Archbishop to condemn men and women with Same Sex Attraction, indeed the Church's official teaching is that
"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." CCC 2358Honestly, I wonder if these prelates own a copy of the Catechism!
Fundamentally; ontologically; existentially - "gay marriage" differs from heterosexual marriage. It is not the same thing, so it cannot be "equal". It is not ordered towards children. It is about the relationship between two people of the same sex, however Marriage has always been the bedrock of the family unit, the building block of society, the
...school of deeper humanity...Thus the family, in which the various generations come together and help one another grow wiser and harmonize personal rights with the other requirements of social life, is the foundation of society. All those, therefore, who exercise influence over communities and social groups should work efficiently for the welfare of marriage and the family. Public authority should regard it as a sacred duty to recognize, protect and promote their authentic nature, to shield public morality and to favor the prosperity of home life. The right of parents to beget and educate their children in the bosom of the family must be safeguarded. Children too who unhappily lack the blessing of a family should be protected by prudent legislation and various undertakings and assisted by the help they need. ~ (GS 52)The faithful are confused because:
a). God is love.
b). If two people love each other, how can that not be good?
c). Almost all of western society accepts this as normal now, we need to get with the times!
But in fact this is based on a peculiarly Western idea of homosexuality. This behaviour is found widely in different cultures and historical periods, true, but the enlightening fact is that gay identity is a modern, Western invention, connected with much wider questions of personal identity explored in such classic books as Charles Taylor’s Sources of the Self.
Some of these ideas were explored in a recent talk by Mgr Keith Baltrop where he explains that articulating the unique nature of the lobby we face today does not mean that there were not people in past times who were primarily attracted to people of the same sex, but that such an attraction was not the basis for constructing a personal identity in the way it is for a modern gay person. What concerned people in previous historical periods was sexual behaviour, not identity, and specifically, in male homosexual relations, which partner was penetrative and which was receptive. Hinduism and Buddhism do not regard homosexuality in the same way as the Abrahamic faiths do. for these people, the homosexual person is regarded as somewhat unfortunate, their condition being seen as the result of bad karma from a previous life.
In modern society, impartial study reveals a surprising fact which will be disturbing to those who accuse Christianity of being responsible for homophobia: negative attitudes to homosexuality did not decrease as Christianity loosened its hold on Western society in modern times, but if anything increased. Let us take three groups who all defined themselves more or less in opposition to traditional Christianity: the intellectuals of the Enlightenment; the psychological profession (until very recently, when homosexuality was finally removed from the list of mental illnesses); and the Communist establishment in the Soviet Union and elsewhere. All showed, though in different ways, marked hostility or disdain towards homosexuals.
Many contemporary writers on Catholic moral theology have stressed that the basis of the moral life, from Jesus to St. Thomas Aquinas, is not so much the keeping of rules and commandments out of a sense of obligation, but the search for happiness, both in this life and for eternity, through a life of virtue. Traditional Catholic moral theology has affirmed that to bring the kind of lasting happiness the Gospel promises, sexual activity must take place within a publicly declared permanent relationship, must serve to deepen the partners in mutual love, and must be open to the gift of new life.
Applying this to the question of gay sex, only people who are living a full, authentic life of holiness, in which the search for God’s kingdom is put above all other things, can tell us whether that is consistent with sex in a committed relationship, following the rules of discernment laid down by St. Ignatius Loyola, again based on practical experience, that if we are on the downward path to hell, sin is not only attractive but will tend to make us happy, whereas if we are genuinely seeking God, it will disturb our peace. “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts,” says St. Paul in Col. 3:15. In this connection it should be remembered that Pope Francis’ famous question on the plane, “Who am I to judge?” was actually “Who am I to judge if someone is sincerely seeking God?”
Studies by homosexual researchers themselves show that, despite decades of gay liberation, gay pride marches, and the hitherto undreamt of possibility to contract a gay marriage, many gay people lack a positive self-image, or as one writer puts it, a story in which they can find themselves, a myth that gives an overarching sense of meaning to their lives. They have won the external battles, but feel empty inside.
The reality is that gay life today is often sordid, especially among men in a city such as London, with its gay bars catering to different tastes, gay saunas, and of course gay dating sites easily accessible on the internet and mobile phones, to say nothing of a huge range of gay pornography. The reality of gay life for many men is hard to imagine for those who have no experience of it, and indeed is carefully concealed, if it is even known about, by the media: hundreds or even thousands of sexual partners a year, widespread use of drugs, orgies involving 20 or 30 people, and sexual practices so bizarre you most certainly don’t want to imagine them. Then there is the awkward truth that most male homosexual activity in other cultures has been of the transgenerational kind, in other words between adult men and teenagers. We are constantly surprised by stories like this.
One of the pastoral situations we meet in the Church is therefore a man who has had widespread experience of such a reality and has, like the Prodigal Son rolling in the muck, so to speak, come to his senses. Such men usually need and ask for a straightforward, disciplined approach based on the sacraments, prayer and a life of service to the Church and local community, often with the support of others who have had a similar experience.
Although gay civil partnerships and marriage are currently seen by many people as a perfectly reasonable parallel to heterosexual marriage or long-term partnership, research shows the reality is somewhat different. It seems that quite a low percentage of those entering into gay partnerships or marriage practice sexual fidelity in the sense that would be acceptable in a straight partnership. Very often sexual interest in each other fades after a relatively short time, and it is considered quite acceptable, or at least tolerable, for one or both partners to seek sexual pleasure elsewhere, even though they continue to live together for mutual support.
Ultimately, what the Church teaches is stunningly simple: that any sexual activity outside of marriage, whether gay or straight, is wrong, not because a rule says so but because it simply does not lead to true happiness for a human being.
Without judgement (as with any sin) the pastoral approach to gay people must surely be based on the cultivation of warm friendships, in which sincere dialogue between the Church’s teaching and the real-life experience of gay people is possible, along with the medicine of mercy which all of us, whatever our orientation or experience will always need.
Sadly, the basis of the problem is simply the failure of the Church to teach what it has always taught. If the Church had the courage to explain why contraception was such a problem, when it seemed to so many it was an answer to prayer, we would not find it so difficult to understand why sex outside marriage is a problem, and therefore why gay sex is more about self-gratification and using another person as an object than real love - which can only be sacrificial in nature.
And that is exactly what Archbishop Martin is guilty of here.