Homosexuality, Abortion and the Dignity of the Human Person



Pope Pius XII, far from being passive during the Holocaust, urged convents and monasteries to shelter Jews during the second world war.

The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, talks often of the dignity of the human person, the dignity of the person made in the image and likeness of God. It is a theme to which he often returns. It is fundamental to our understanding of what it means to be human, to how we view and treat others, to how we perceive ourselves.

It is because of the great dignity of the human being that the Church upsets many people in Her teaching. Yet, it is because of the great dignity which has been conferred on the human race that the Church also condemns much that the World also rightly condemns.

The Nazi regime of Hitler set about eroding the sacred dignity accorded to its citizens. According to the Nazi ideology of racial purity, the Jews were to be treated not as a people 'crowned a little lower than the angels', but as a people stripped of their humanity, a people now to be viewed as less than human, or sub-human. The Church has always condemned any ideology which seeks to lower our appreciation of the innate dignity which comes from merely being human. Every human being is made 'in the image and likeness of God'.

Yet, it was not just the Jews who were victims of the Nazi regime's drive for racial and societal purity. The Nazi ideology's breathtaking spectrum of people deemed 'unfit' for German society was extended to gypsies, mentally ill people and homosexuals among others. This too, the Church condemns, since every human being has a dignity which has been conferred upon him or her from conception, with rights which come not from the State, but from merely being human and have, the Church would say, being 'made in the image and likeness of God'.

Paradoxically, it is because of proclaiming the great dignity conferred on mankind that the Church comes in for a great deal of criticism. In a society which appears to view human identity as a social construct, rather than as a gift, society now organises itself into sub-groups, all of whom have something different to say about our identity. Society organises itself according to a new set of rights for which each group struggles. From the women's groups advocating abortion to the LGBT movement, advocating gay marriage, their causes are seen in terms of struggle against an oppressive society, organised against their cause for 'freedom'. Personal identities are seen in terms of sexuality or gender and a struggle for personal 'freedom' or 'liberation'.

Yet how can the Catholic Church support these causes when these causes go against or run contrary to the great dignity which has been conferred upon the human race by our Creator and Redeemer? She cannot, nor should She support a human ideology which fails to recognise our true identity as being adopted children of God. How can a Catholic, even a Catholic who is of a homosexual orientation, support the promotion of an ideology which is not grounded in the dignity which he has been given as a human being? How can identify himself as a baptised person, a disciple of Our Lord Jesus Christ, while supporting an ideology based on his sexual orientation alone.

Since by His Incarnation, God so loved the pinnacle of His Creation, Man, that He 'became flesh and dwelt among us', the Church proclaims that human dignity has been raised to a new and mysterious height. By virtue of his or her Baptism into the life of Grace, the human being is a 'new creation'. His or her dignity is grounded in the life of the God Himself. The human person is born not merely for material or sexual gratification in this life, but called into the divine life of the Trinity. He or she is called into a new relationship with his Creator and Redeemer. In other words, every human being is called not to proclaim his personal freedom in terms of gender or sexuality, or even perhaps race, but to proclaim that God is Love, to love Him, serve Him and give Him glory in this life, so that he may be with Him forever in the next. Every human being is called to be a Saint.

Abortion, euthanasia and the practise of homosexuality are practises which run contrary to human dignity. All of them can be presented as fulfilling a personal human freedom and yet none of these give mankind true freedom. All of these practises destroy the unique friendship and relationship between man and his Creator. They destroy the life of God within the human being.

For every Catholic, of any gender or sexuality, the Christian life constitutes a struggle. For every Catholic, of any gender or sexuality, the Church consistently calls upon us to receive forgiveness and Grace by frequenting the Sacrament of Confession and by going to Holy Communion so that we may obtain both forgiveness and Grace to live the Christian life.

Our Lord Jesus Christ, through the ministry of the Priest, through His Absolution, shows us gentleness, compassion and mercy in our weaknesses, no matter whether we are of a homosexual or heterosexual orientation. He does not have 'favourites'. He does not condemn us in our sinfulness our weakness or our temptations. He does not refuse our coming to Him but welcomes us as His children, no matter what we have done. As St Paul says, 'Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ'. For the homosexual, or the heterosexual, both Confession and Holy Communion wash away the stain of sin from the soul. Again, that original innocence, or original purity which was given the soul at Baptism is restored. Through the ministry of the Priest, Christ Himself rescues what was lost, restores that which was sullied and restores once again for us, the innate dignity which comes from being made in the 'image and likeness of God'.

For all of these reasons, the Church can never support the desire of sub-groups in society which call for the liberation and freedom of individuals based upon gender and sexuality, since true liberation and true identity comes from God alone. The Church recognises that this dignity is conferred upon the human race from conception to death and that these rights to be treated with dignity should be respected. This singular right overrides all other claims to rights based upon human ideology. The Church states that all human beings, and directly homosexuals in orientation or heterosexual, should be treated with dignity, compassion and respect. Every man and woman has dignity. Nobody can take that dignity away from us.

Comments

shadowlands said…
F"or every Catholic, of any gender or sexuality, the Christian life constitutes a struggle."

True, in a way that most Catholics never have to look at, but the loneliness and separateness that homosexuals feel, is rarely looked upon by Catholics, other than to judge them.
But that is in direct contradiction to Christ's teaching.
Anonymous said…
Wait a minute – you speak of God’s Incarnation [as Christ], then say that homosexuality [but not heterosexuality] is a practice which will “destroy the unique friendship and relationship between man and his Creator” [who is God, and by implication his Incarnation as Christ]. You then go on to say that, in the eyes of Christ, it does not matter “whether we are of a homosexual or heterosexual orientation”, and that he “has no favourites.” I’m not theologian, but I’d say this clearly indicates he does have favourites, since he allows one set of practices to destroy a friendship, but not another. What am I missing here?
Patricius said…
Anonymous,You appear to be missing the crucial distinction between sin, on the one hand, and the sinner, on the other.
We are always loved by God and loveable. God's love for us is unconditional and constant. Our love for Him is conditional and not so.
Anonymous said…
On this response I will not raise the immature issue of Ratzinger’s active participation in the Nazi regime as a previous poster did (though quite how he explains his action I don’t know. Free Will and all that). I am more concerned to refute your headline that Pius actively resisted the Nazi regime. He did of course, as you say, encourage the sheltering of Jews, but this is not enough. He did not condemn Nazism, and indeed appointed a pro-Nazi delegate to deal with what he ominously and knowingly called “the German Question.” I give here only my own impressions on the issue, which I have derived from a variety of historians. There is, as one would expect, enough of such literature to fill a small library, and one can easily challenge much of what I say. Therefore, I do not claim to comprehensively refute your headline, only to provoke you into a stout defence of it based on historical fact. I offer my challenge as a Catholic with an independent moral conscience (a hybrid of Rome and Luther if you will), and one who is not happy with the Vatican’s actions during the Holocaust.

Walter Laqueur, in ‘The Terrible Secret’, has indicated that the Catholic Church was among the first high-status institutions to learn of the Holocaust (in any case the Church had already spoken out against small scale persecutions in Poland). If this is the case, we must ask, why did it not rise to the challenge of a far larger persecution but an evidently abhorrent and sacrilegious war machine?

As is common knowledge, Pius was aware of the delicacy of the politics of the day (a virulent secularism had emerged in the wake of the chaotic farce of the Great War, and the poverty of much of Europe had prompted workers to turn away from the church en mass). He had to play his cards right, of course: to annoy the Nazi’s would surely have put paid to the existence of Catholicism within Germany. Furthermore, Italian overtures towards Germany made the position of the Vatican unstable. Pius’s response, as I am sure you also know, was to appoint Cesare Orsenigo as his diplomatic go-between to the Nazi regime (Orsengio can be seen here on a meet and greet with von Ribbentrop and Hitler):
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Bundesarchiv_Bild_183-H26878,_Berlin,_Neujahrsempfang_in_der_neuen_Reichskanzlei.jpg
Anonymous said…
The broader church (though not the Holy See) began to receive pretty conclusive evidence of atrocity in 1941, when a German Catholic, Margarete Sommer, reported that widespread murders were being undertaken by the Nazi’s in Lithuania. These reports were circulated amongst Bishops working within Germany who wished to take a strong stance against it (as indeed there was much grass-roots Catholic opposition to Fascism and its despicable policies). The problem is that these reports were fed to Orsengio, who, while undoubtedly concerned, decided against taking immediate action.
Furthermore, the Vatican subsequently offered numerous, and inconsistent accounts of its failure to explicitly condemn Nazi atrocities. To give just one example (from Phayer’s ‘The Catholic Church and the Holocaust’, Indiana Univ. Press, 2001), a Croation bishop, Alojzije Stepinac (a million points if you can pronounce his first name properly), spoke out openly against German atrocities, leading to the arrest of 31 priests. The Holy See, though aware of this, refused to comment upon Stepinac’s actions, and his name was not mentioned by the Vatican until long after the war had ended. What are we to make of such silence? The above book, pp.47-48 list numerous other incidents which show pretty conclusively that the Vatican was directly aware of the Nazi policy toward the Jews throughout the early years of the war, and most certainly by 1942. As Phayer concludes: “By 1942, the Holy See had received accounts about the ongoing murder of Jews from at least nine different countries where the Holocaust took place, including occupied Poland itself.” Nonetheless, “the Vatican avoided coming to the conclusion that genocide was occurring in Europe” – by a mixture of procrastination and disputation of the veracity of the frequent reports. As Phayer blithely asks, faced with a daily barrage of accounts from priests, bishops, and members of its congregation, what type of authentication were they waiting for exactly? Indeed, as he continues, envoys sent directly to the Vatican by both Roosevelt and Churchill had repeatedly asked the Church to publicly declare its opposition to both the Nazi regime and its actions, but the appeals were refused on the grounds of ‘insufficient evidence’. As a last point on this (though there is enough evidence to keep at it for far longer), French Catholics resisting the Vichy regime dashed off innumerable missives to the Vatican asking for official spiritual sanction for what was a necessarily violent resistance. They received no reply.
If, as you say, Pius was sheltering Jews and personally condemning the Holocaust, then his refusal to make such a stance public is both baffling and immoral. Men in positions of power, particularly if that power is descended from the divine will, are under absolute obligation to risk their positions by condemning Evil. As I say, writing as a Catholic with a conscience, his refusal to do so is not something which I can comfortably sweep under my own moral rug.
This is of course tied to the a-political stance of the church on a whole variety of issues. It seems that the church’s policy was a mixture of ‘don’t ask/don’t tell’, and ‘don’t get involved in another person’s political troubles’. This is all the more astonishing in light of how many fellow Catholics have recently flipped their wigs at the attempt to teach basic human sexuality to teenagers in accordance with the educational policies of the rest of the civilised world.
Anonymous said…
There is of course, as one would expect, a significant body of scholarship defending Pius, and I do not wish to claim my summary as exhaustive. However, perhaps the best response to the literature attacking Pius is The Pius war: responses to the critics of Pius XII, edited by Bottum & Dalin (an attempt by Catholic scholars and historians to exonerate Pius). Well worth reading if only for the fact that there is scarcely any attempt at all to tackle the major question of guilt and complicity head on. The authors, almost without exception, do as you do in your headline. They pick at lines pointing out this or that favourable quote or action which suggests that Pius was not a malicious man (which, of course, not a single one of his critics actively asserts). All historians seem to acknowledge that Pius was deeply troubled by Nazi aggression, that he was a tolerant and accepting man with a deep respect for Judaism, and who wished for a political solution to the troubles in Europe. This is not a question of making a monster of Pius; it is simply to observe what is an historical fact well grounded in textual (and photographic) evidence: In Orsengio Pius appointed a Nazi-sympathiser to placate the Nazis. Pius was absolutely intractable in his refusal to openly condemn what he saw as a vulgar material and political problem. Finally, and more speculatively, Pius was, perhaps, concerned about maintaining Catholic power during the war years (given the risk of a military occupation of the Vatican and the loss of its beloved treasure) than he was with providing the Catholic Resistance movements with spiritual approval for their spirited resistance to Evil. Many Catholics despised the Nazis and heroically gave their lives defending the persecuted millions without anyone asking them to. The tragedy of history for a Catholic, however, is that no one asked them to.
Anonymous said…
Sorry for the length - a three parter! I welcome your response(s) and thank you for the stimulating blog Lawrence
Anonymous said…
Patricius: fair point but this is a bit of a conundrum for a homosexual. You draw a distinction between discreet actions (sodomy) and continuous states of personhood (being gay). But what of a man who loves another man. Let's even assume they have an utterly non-sexual relationship. What then are we to say of the distinction between sin (act) and sinner (quality of being disposed to the act)? Surely by virtue of being homosexual you are being punished not for an act (sin) but for a disposition or quality of soul (sinner).
'But what of a man who loves another man. Let's even assume they have an utterly non-sexual relationship.'

What you appear to be describing is commonly called friendship.

The British and American Governments were fully aware of Auschwitz, but failed to condemn it at the time either.

The Nazis had well-formed plans to assasinate the Pope

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 17, 2009 (Zenit.org).- A petition to recognize Pope Pius XII as Righteous Among the Nations at Jerusalem's Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial has been announced by the Pave the Way Foundation.

The initiative was presented Wednesday to Benedict XVI by Gary Krupp, founder of the New York-based foundation, which strives to foster interreligious dialogue.

Krupp, himself a Jew, met with the Holy Father after the general audience.... See More

Krupp also presented the Pope with a book about his predecessor: a volume that reproduces 255 pages of some 3,000 original documents about Pius XII. The documents, accompanied by photos, are the fruit of investigations into the life of Eugenio Pacelli and the work he did to help Jews during World War II.

"[It is] a sign of gratitude," Krupp told L'Osservatore Romano, "for Benedict XVI's initiatives in favor of dialogue between Catholics and Jews."
ROME, JUNE 16, 2009 (Zenit.org).- New evidence published today by the newspaper of the Italian bishops gives more credence to the belief that Adolf Hitler had planned to either kidnap or kill Pope Pius XII.

It has long been conjectured that Hitler had ordered the SS commander in Italy, General Karl Wolf, to seize the Vatican and take the Pope.

Dan Kurzman wrote about it in his 1997 book "A Special Mission: Hitler's Secret Plot to Seize the Vatican and Kidnap Pope Pius the XII," which is based on interviews with Wolf himself. Wolf's accounts, however, could never be verified.

New evidence published today by Avvenire now points to the role of the Reichssicherheitshauptamt (the Third Reich's main security office) in devising a plot to take out the Pope.

The newspaper cited the testimony of Niki Freytag Loringhoven, 72, the son of Wessel Freytag von Loringhoven, who during World War II was a colonel in the High Command of the German Armed Forces.

According to the son, days after Hitler's Italian ally, Benito Mussolini, had been arrested at the orders of King Victor Emmanuel III, Hitler ordered the Reichssicherheitshauptamt to devise a plot to punish the Italian people by kidnapping or murdering Pius XII and the king of Italy.

Hearing of the project, Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, head of the German counterintelligence service, informed his Italian counterpart, General Cesare Amè, during a secret meeting in Venice from July 29-30, 1943.

Also present at the meeting were colonels Erwin von Lahousen and Wessel Freytag von Loringhoven, who both worked in Section II of German counterintelligence, which dealt primarily with sabotage.

Canaris, Von Lahousen and Freytag von Loringhoven had all been part of the German resistance against the Nazis.

Amè, upon returning to Rome, spread news of the plans against the Pope and the king in order to block them, which proved successful. The plan was quickly dropped.

According to Avvenire, this testimony coincides with the deposition given by Von Lahousen during the Nuremberg war crimes trials on Feb. 1,1946 (Warnreise Testimony 1330-1430).

Canaris was later dismissed as the head of German intelligence in February 1944, put under house arrest, and then executed in 1945.

The two colonels participated with Claus Graf Schenk von Stauffenberg in the failed July 20 Plot to assassinate Hitler in 1944.
bombadyl said…
@ Anonymous
The situation of a man loving another man in a non sexual relationship as you describe, would not be condemned by the church. People generally know this as friendship.

People are not judged for having a disposition to sin, as this is something that is not a free choice for them. If the very act of being tempted is sin, then there would be no hope for anybody at all!

A person failing in resisting a temptation to which their disposition/situation makes them particularly susceptible, is more pardonable than a person who sins despite their disposition. Violence from one with a naturally volatile temperament is more easily forgiven than violence from one of a gentle temperament.

To sum - to those whom more is given, more is expected.
Anonymous said…
Lawrence: like I say, the Pope realised he was in a perilous position. Of ocurse the Nazi's planned to dispense with him, they ran a secular political machine. I don't see what this has to do with the failure to publicly condemn the Holocaust at the time. The fact that a Jewish man praised a single Catholic is similarly irrelevant, since I had made it quite clear that numerous Catholics opposed the Nazis and assisted the Jewish populations of Europe. As it is, your response does not constitute a refutation of my claims (rather like the book I mentioned, the 'defence' of Pius tends to skirt around the real issue of guilt, since his refusal to comment cannot easily be defended by a man of reason).

Re: sexuality. Love without sex is friendship you say. Ok, fine. So just to be clear, we are now condeming ANY sexual act which is not productive of children. I would like this to be made clear, just for the sake of moral consistency in Church teachings. Any form of sexual act, heterosexual or homosexual, which does not produce a child, vitiates man's relation to God. Is that right? I fear you may be alienating 99.999999% of the human race from God's love here (including Catholics)
bombadyl said…
@ Anonymous
Yes, any sexual act, which either by its nature, or by purposeful intervention, is not open to life, is seen by the Church as morally wrong.

And as has been said before, God does love sinners - it is by sin that we reject Him...
Anonymous said…
Ok, fine. Now my point is simply the following: never again say 'homosexuality is a sin', since by doing so you are relying upon a prejudice against homosexuals to sell your moral agenda. Why not say instead 'all human sexual activity what so ever which does not intend to produce a child is a sin' (and then watch how quickly your religion disappears down the spout)
Anonymous. I have never heard a priest say that. I deliberately said in my post 'the practise of...'
Anonymous said…
Ok, so "the practice of any sexual activity what so ever which does not take as its aim the production of a child is immoral". According to Wikipedia 18.6 billion condoms will be purchased each year by 2015. That's a lot of links severed with the creator.
bombadyl said…
Well, be it on their own conscience - truth or moral right is not decided by what is popular.
Anonymous said…
I quite agree, and am a Catholic for precisely this reason (particularly with regard to the abortion debate). My point is simply that, by singling out homosexuality rather than, say, those who intend to practice oral sex (apologies for the coarseness of this remark), you are, in effect, being a little coward. Why pick on one group and not another? In anycase, there are far less homosexual couples than heterosexual couples who practice non-procreative sex in any form (I take this to be so obvious I won't even bother trying to back it up with fact, I trust you will agree on this point). If that is the case, and if ALL non-procreative sexual activity is sinful, then why not simply drop all future reference to homosexuality and instead campaign against oral sex? You won't, because you would lose a lot of credibility, and that is why I am complaining. One has to be consistent
bombadyl said…
There isn't a Church campaign against homosexual behaviour, any more than against oral sex - the church says they are wrong and wants it's members to be able to act accordingly.

The difference I think you will find is that many of those in favour of homosexual behaviour have organised themselves into outspoken groups that are prepared to undermine the right of Catholics (or anybody else) to criticise this behaviour. And they are mainly doing it by creating confusion about what the Church says on the matter - trying to say that we are damning all those with homosexual tendencies, which is emphatically not the case.

If those who were 'pro oral sex' identified themselves and behaved in such a manner, the Church would react similarly towards them.
Anonymous said…
I'm sure there will be similar 'pro-oral sex' organisations once you start making it quite public what you think of those practices, which you have implicitly promised to do. BTW, are there really these hysterical anti-church pro-gay lobbies?? I only brought up the subject originally because Lawrence called his post "Homosexuality, Abortion and the Dignity of the Human Person". If he had said "Homosexuality, onanism, oral sex, protected sex, and a whole raft of other non-procreative practices, abortion and the dignity of the human person" then I would have thought 'fair enough - it's a bit weird, but there you go'. As it is, singling out the gays (again) seems to be relying upon a long-standing public prejudice to make the agenda look less objectionable (to some, I still have my doubts about it)
Shepherd said…
Pope Pius XII did condemn the concentration camps. On the occasion of his fourth pronouncement some 4,000 priests, nuns and religious were murdered the following day in retaliation. He then, quite sensibly, refrained from further public condemnations.
The Stalin inspired bandwagon of accusing this holy man of doing nothing has long been discredited.

And...we do not condemn homosexuals, only the sin of homosexuality.
This post was in direct response to criticism on an earlier post which I highlighted on my Facebook page. I wanted to explain Church teaching a little more. I am not picking on any community. I should have said that at the beginning, apologies.
Anonymous said…
I know you're not, I was more concerned with the Pius issue. Can you provide a link to a source corroborating the Papal condemnation? If that is true then his actions would have been justified in a certain sense. Though one would expect the murder of 4,000 nuns and priests to have inflamed the Catholic support which was already causing Hitler problems in Germany (not to mention in Vichy France where German control was subject already to constant attack). I am not aware that he did make such a condemnation, and as I have indicated above, there is much direct evidence that he persistently refused to speak about the subject (until after the war).

Incidentally, I apologise for getting your name wrong [Lawrence rather than Laurence]. Also, I wasn't specifically accusing you of having a go at homosexuals! I only meant to say that these morality campaigns, if consistent, would alienate almost the entire country and basically end all support for the Church (at least over here). So until there is silence on the issue of private sexuality, or an increasingly vocal resistance to all non-procreative sex, the Church seems to be making a mess of things here
Anonymous said…
p.s., a final remark (as this is now going nowhere) - it is absurd to say that the hundereds of historical monographs and articles, produced by well respected professors and scholars of Vatican records, are guilty of mere fabrication. It is even more absurd to say this is a 'Stalinist' fabrication. The claims are based on solid fact which is available to anyone who cares to go and check it out. You can see for yourself, for example, that Cesare Orsenigo personally met Hitler. As I say, the most damning case comes not from the accusers, but from the defenders. The authoritative volume defending Pius (referenced above) makes precisely the type of defence you just attempted: "Yes, but . . ." or "Well, faced with the circumstances, what would you do?" Note how, suddenly, the absolutist moral stance taken on an issue like abortion is dropped in favour of a more convenient contextualist defence ("yes but he had no choice but to stay silent"). This does not satisfy my Catholic instincts
Ronan said…
Wow, this has been a really interesting discussion. Thanks for making good points on both sides. Anonymous (wish you'd use a moniker), I thought the same thing about the post's title, and thought it should read 'extramarital sex' rather than 'homosexuality'. I can see Laurence's point that he's specifically been called a homoprobe, and is responding to that, but I think we miss important teaching moments when we allow opponents to mire us in the gay issue.l
Anonymous said…
He's been called a homoprobe?? Laurence, what have you been up to!
Ronan said…
Anon, there shouldn't be silence on the issue of sexuality at all. I don't agree that the church loses credibility by pointing out that onanism, oral sex, promiscuity etc are sins. The loss of credibility comes when homosex becomes the sole focus. I think young men and women would respond remarkably well if truly exposed to the church's call to exercise their sexuality responsibly.
Ronan said…
Also wanted to say, Nazi or no, Pius had an outstanding sense of style! Look at that hat! Those gloves and ring! They should get Bowie to play him if they ever do a biopic!
Anonymous said…
Hey Ronan, fair point and perhaps I wasn't clear. I only wished to say that, as far as I can see, we have two options. One is to consistently preach the evils of non-procreative sex (and be bloody frank about it), the other is to shut up about sex in general. I am a hardliner when it comes to either/or decisions - so if we want to go down the 'talking about sex' route, then let's go down it properly. However, if we do, we will have to be clear with ourselves that this will mean the end of the Church as an institution in, at the very least, Western Europe. If we tell teenagers that if they are with us, they are not to do anything with their lust but suppress it and wait to have children, then turn the tap off when they have had as many as they can plausibly afford to keep, we will not find many converts. I ask you, why would we do this? I am not meaning to be ambivalent about the Papal teachings, or the teachings of the Fathers (though THEY are generally ambivalent about sex), but it is the duty of any institution to ensure it appoints successors. If we fail to reach people we fail to accomplish this task.
Anonymous said…
Ha yes, he was a stylish Pope, 50 cent's got nothing on him. He was also one of the best (peace time) Popes as well. Still think 'homoprobe' is the greatest typo ever!
Ronan said…
Edwina, that wasn't a typo, i just can't help being peurile when talking about sex.

I don't think we should be teaching the evils at all, rather the good that marriage, or even chastity, have to offer. I'm not sure how teaching chastity would mean 'the end of the church' when that is almost what defines her! If you are interested in converting folk, then you need to ask what you're converting them to. If you are junking all reference to sexual morality, then you are not winning converts to catholicism, but to something else. The same goes for 'successors'; we're talking about apostolic succession, not just successors for the sake of successors.

As for what behaviour could be reasonably expected of young people, it's pretty clear you can't easily suppress sexuality, and the role of the church should be to teach, not to police and enforce. All that really needs to be done is explain the teaching in a consistent manner, and young people will make their own informed decision; that's what free will is about. On the other hand, if you tell kids it isn't possible to control their animal urges then they won't know to try. The majority of young folk tend to find their way into monogamous relationships, because they understand instinctively that this is the safest and most respectful way to exercise their sexuality, despite all the 60s era liberated crap they are fed on. The church has a responsibility to give voice to and encourage this instinct, and to enshrine it as far as possible within marriage. The church does a woefully bad job of doing this in present day Britain because her members lack confidence and faith in her teaching. I had to figure all this out for myself, without much help from a church that is embarassed to spread its own teaching.
bombadyl said…
I do agree with this. Talking frankly on this and setting a goal of chastity is certainly good! The youth do not like to be patronised, and the government's recommended route does exactly that; 'Oh, they're just teenagers, they can't be expected to control themselves!' And yet despite this, they are supposed to responsibly use contraception! It's a contradiction of attitudes!

I say that setting the bar high, trusting them with this difficult task, but telling them how worthwhile it is, will reap rewards in more areas than just sexual health...
Anonymous said…
Hi Ronan: This '60s era' thing is a strange one though, because that is the time, more or less, when the idea of hard-line sexual morality, which we are discussing now, came into being. It is late, so I will just dash this off, but one can find any number of examples of, say, late nineteenth-century ambivalence within the Church to extra-marital sex (only for men, of course). This has no bearing on what is right or wrong, but it is something of a paradox that we now see the 60s as the age of the devil, when in fact, it was the very sexual frankness of the age which allowed the universalisation of a transparent sexual ethos within the Church (since it increased the ability of people to feel open about such discussions). Were it not for the 'sexual liberation', which really amounted only to the increasing permissibility of discussing sex, we would not feel comfortable in having this exchnage (referring instead, as my gran does, to 'unmentionables' and 'naughty people', with flame-red cheeks). So I think we have to take this as an historical fact, lest we slip into unreason. Sex was not, to the Church of 1880, what it is to the Church of 2010. We kid ourselves if we create an eternal standard of sexual ethics (or else we will simply go on exchanging single quotes: you will give my Father X saying extra-marital sex is evil, I will give you Father Y saying extra-marital-sex is venial). Finally, Bombadyl, I again agree, but I am reluctant to see my Church follow the American example and dish out 'true love waits' rings promoting chastity. Why? Because I feel that the incursion of an institution into free will is impermissible. The institution is an ideal, not a starting condition. We welcome sinners, as sinners ourselves, with simple and clear-cut moral messages which we hope to attain. These are perhaps the forlorn hopes of corrupted flesh, but, I assume, this is why we follow the Church. We see within ourselves the errors of the material world (the Madonna song notwithstanding), and seek to affirm a higher, purer goal of reason and clarity of thought. If we demand this as a starting condition we take the aim to be the given, which is surely assuming for ourselves too much of what we seek in God
Ben Trovato said…
Anon

You talk easily about facts and black and white, but your facts seem to come form selected sources and be laden with interpretation.

Of course the Church was talking about sexual morality before the 60s and with a clear voice: read Casti Conubii.

Humanae Vitae stated nothing new - the reason it was so reviled was because people expected it to change Church teaching: everyone was clear what that teaching was already.

Of course HV came out in response to the 60s - the Church responds to challenges to the Truth by teaching - thus many of the clearest statements of Church teaching are in response to challenges or crises: that does not mean the teachings are invented at that time, merely reiterated, clarified or strengthened.

To say one priest says something is venial and the other says it is a sin is strange. Venial sins are sins. Arguing about venial v. mortal sins is not normally that helpful due to the subjective aspect: what is clear is that either is wrong.

In haste...

BT
Ronan said…
Edwina,
I think 'hard line' (or, as i like to call them, 'sensible') attitudes toward sex have coexisted alongside all manner of perversion, degeneracy and libertinism throughout history. Look at the victorian era's sexual schizophrenia, or the writings of the Earl of Rochester during the reign of Charles II. The idea that today's spastically infantalised discourse is 'open and honest' about sex is a nonsense. Very few are open and honest about, in particular, what happens in the earliest stages of human life in the moments and months following conception. And as this whole discussion has shown, any mention of homosexuality in a less than positive light sends most moderns into an apoplectic fit of hysteria in an attempt to shut down debate. The Church and I think there *are* eternal ethical standards - you did say you were Catholic, didn't you? Anyway, what concerns me most about the last few weeks' debate over the sex ed bill is that any child with pro-life views who is 'frank' about baby murder will be bullied into 'moderating' their unfashionable views in the name of 'equality and diversity'.

As for how we promote good sexual values among young people, it should begin with a few brave priests and married lay people going into schools and universities and encouraging sexually active and cohabiting young adults and teenagers to formalise their relationships thru the sacrament of marriage. The churches should be discouraging the tendency for marriage to wait til the couple's family can afford a huge and expensive wedding party; they should instead be encouraging simple ceremonies early on in a couple's commitment, giving the relationship the recognition it deserves as early as possible. I hope there are some priests reading and taking note of this, as I'd be interested in knowing what is stopping them from doing this.
Anonymous said…
I note that this post has 37 responses mainly about homosexuals but previous posts about homeless people and the soup run get two or three responses at most.

Bryan
Ronan said…
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Anonymous said…
Dear Ronan,

Thank you for your reponse to my comment.

Thirty-one of the comments above yours mention homosexuals. So I think it is fair to say that the 37 are mainly about homosexuals.

Sorry to be contradict you but...

My aim was to point out that there is rather less interest (measured in numbers of comments) in the posts on homelessness.

We can help the homeless we cannot help those who deny the natural moral law.

Good wishes,

Bryan
Ronan said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said…
Ha, actually I quite agree with Bryan - I know I am a part of this lengthy exchange but I think it's clear that certain issues get people talking. Ronan, you say:
"as this whole discussion has shown, any mention of homosexuality in a less than positive light sends most moderns into an apoplectic fit of hysteria in an attempt to shut down debate"
Where does this debate demonstrate "apoplectic fits" and attempts to "shut down debate"?? I note that I, once, observed that the post's title was lop-sided (nothing more). And you agreed. So no hysteria there then. Did anyone else even bother to defend homosexuality here? If they did, I didn't see it. I can only conclude that our mutual observation that the post was mistitled constitutes hysteria in your mind. Similarly, you move from 'abortion' to 'child killing' which has, again, a strange parallel with the approach of neo-con Protestants. Rush Limbaugh, for instance, uses the same phrase on his radio show (every 5 seconds, then plays the sound of a vacuum cleaner and a woman shrieking). If you want to make the Church a cheap penny circus for mawkish perverts then fine, but I will avoid using the language of Protestant scare-mongers.

Ben Trovato: very good point, but actually I wasn't even referring to anything as specific as HV - I simply meant to indicate that our ability, as laity, to discuss sex, has to be placed in an historical context. You know very well that you approach these issues differently to your parents' generation, as they did to their parents' generation. I am simply suspicious of these mini-falls which each generation imagines pervade its age (i.e., for us it is some great corruption in the 60s, for our partents, probably the War was suspected of corrupting sexual morals, for their parents, the dissolution of Victorian values, for their parents, the growth of factories and so on back to Adam and Eve, which was the only fall worth acknowledging). I was merely saying that with these social changes comes the ability to speak openly about matters - and still assert out voice as Catholics
Ronan said…
Edwina, when I mentioned hysteria I was referring to the discussions that Laurence has mentioned via facebook, where he has been accused of being homophobic, bigoted, misogynist, etc. I wasn't directing that at your comments at all, and should have made clear that 'this whole discussion' has ranged over several threads on several websites this weekend.

As for homelessness; I've nothing of value to add to a discussion on it, and the idea we should help our neighbours is uncontroversial. Perhaps if some of the Brighton Council workers had arrived to defend their cowardice and lack of care for the poor then there might have been a similarly longwinded discussion.
Shepherd said…
Being homeless is not a sin; being a practicing homosexual is!
That may be why more attention has gone to the homosexual issue - after all, this blog is largely about the Faith, even the name has strong links with the Old Testament).
By the way, can we lay this homophobe thing to rest?
I generally dislike the machinations, networking and trappings of homosexuals but I am not a homophobe because I am not afraid of homosexuals.