Thursday, November 16, 2006

Priestly Words. With Commentary.

From the Washington Post:

Bishop Arthur J. Serratelli, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' committee on doctrine, said the church considers same-sex attractions to be "objectively disordered" because "they do not accord with the natural purpose of sexuality." Although "simply experiencing a homosexual inclination is not in itself a sin," he said, homosexual acts are "sinful," "never morally acceptable" and "do not lead to true human happiness.

The bishop presents his beliefs as Eternal Verities beyond dispute. In fact, his reasoning is anything but universal or indisputable.

Natural purpose? To procreate, of course. No argument there. The natural purpose is revealed in our physiology. Traditional religion has no shortage of injunctions to reproduce and taboos against anything that would limit reproduction, traits necessary to ensure the survival, the same as any other animal living on this planet. Three thousand years later, human survival is not at all threatened by a lack of individuals. Our growth and technology may need ever more people but the world itself is threatened with overpopulation and consumption. So the natural purpose of sex among humans no longer serves the species well. Yet we as a species remain hard wired for sex. The church would have everyone refrain from sex unless procreating.

Sinful? What does that mean? Using the criterion of Doing Unto Others, I define sin as an act that inflicts harm and injury on another person, another being. Sex is not inherently harmful or injurious. When sex brutalizes and degrades, it is as likely to be heterosexual as homosexual. As long as sex is shared lovingly and caringly, with affection and consent, no harm ensues and no sin is possible. Others may define sin differently but harm and disrespect to others is to me the only real sin.

Never morally acceptable? Why is that? What is it about homosexual acts that is morally unacceptable? Sex is morally unacceptable when it degrades and disrespects others not because it’s two men or two women. An otherwise exemplary life is not somehow negated simply because the partners are the same gender and a fully intimate bond. What two people do in private does not concern me as a moral issue . How they treat each other, how they respect others, including me, is far more important.

Does not lead to human happiness? Since the church defines human happiness as following its path to God and a heavenly afterlife, a path that does not include a lane for homosexuals committing homosexual acts (or, for that matter, heterosexuals copulating without procreation), I can see why the bishop would say that. But looking at human relationships, I don’t see universal happiness among heteros. I do know committed, loving gay and lesbian couples who are happy as are many, but not all, heterosexual couples. One lesbian with a history of troubled relationships was no happier when she lived as a heterosexual. Homosexuality is no more a barrier to happiness than heterosexuality is a guarantee.

As much as the good bishop wants to offer his church’s view of homosexuality as universal truth, it’s still an opinion that limits human freedom in destructive ways. The anti-homosexual bias of the Roman Catholic and other churches who insist that homosexuality is a sin is a bias without justification other than the clerics’ edict. They are certainly entitled to their opinion and to run their church consistent with their beliefs. But I don’t accept those beliefs and do not want them inflicted on any society as some immutable universal truth.

If they want universal truths, I recommend the clerics read the first sentence of the preamble to the American Declaration of Independence. After that, it’s all subjective.


Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

the biggest problem i have with the religious is that while science may present us with questions that can't be answered the religious present us with answers that can't be questioned.

8:30 AM  
Blogger Bronxboy59 said...

Some of us are willing to question those answers, while trying not to abandon religion entirely. I believe strongly that religion doesn't belong exclusively to the clergy or to traditionalists.

This is not to say that I won't run screaming from the Catholic church tomorrow. Anyone who has made that choice has more than enough reason to.

8:31 PM  

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