Father Tony

An intelligent Catholic lady

Filed By Father Tony | October 24, 2008 6:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, The Movement
Tags: California, Catholic church, Prop 8, Prop. 8

Here's a video message from a philosophy professor in California (a devout Roman Catholic and mother of a regular Farmboyz reader) giving forth the truth about why California Catholics should not be strong-armed by their bishops into voting for Prop 8.

iPhone users: Click to watch

The volume is a bit low on the video, so I have asked her for, and received, the text of her message:

I am speaking with you today about an alternative Catholic way to think about Proposition 8. As a devout practicing Catholic, I feel compelled to do this because the California Bishops are offering you only one way to think about same sex civil marriage, and it is not a way that is accepted by all Bishops and theologians.

First I want to say what Proposition 8 is not about.. It is not about the morality of homosexuality itself. Nor does it have anything to do whether homosexuals would be able to marry in the Church. What proposition 8 does do is to take away the legal right of homosexuals to enter into a civil marriage. A civil marriage is a contract that has legal ramifications. It is very different from a sacramental marriage where two people stand before God and make a covenant. Currently two atheists can enter into a civil marriage, but they could not marry in the Church. That would be the same status for homosexuals if Proposition 8 is defeated.

I stated earlier that the Bishops are giving us only one interpretation of Catholic teaching and that there is debate in the Church on the issue of same sex civil marriage. This debate is an example of why the Church does not claim infallibility in moral matters. The Church usually tries to bring the best information available at any point in time to current moral issues. Because this information can change, the Church wisely does not invoke infallibility. Therefore, the Church does claim is that we must have an informed conscience. But we must have an informed conscience for another reason; the Church has been wrong on in the past. It was wrong about slavery, Jews and the status of women.

The first source for an informed conscience must be Scripture. If we look at the Ten Commandments, we see that they do not mention homosexuality at all. The do refer to adultery however. But for Christians the primary scripture has to be the Gospels which give us the life and teaching of Jesus. Again, Jesus never mentions homosexuality. In fact Jesus is silent about sexual sin. What he does preach about is the law of love. He tells us that all of the commandments can be condensed into that one law: love. Further, if we look at the live of Jesus we see that he was primarily concerned about lifting up the oppressed and the marginalized, categories which refer to homosexuals today. Finally, we speak of Scripture on this issue we have to address Paul. It is important to realize that in most cases where Paul spoke about homosexuality, he also condemned adultery and fornication, yet the Bishops do not see a civil law banning those things.

A second source of our conscience is the Natural Law as it was formulated by Thomas Aquinas. Aquinas looked to experience to help us identify what goods of human lilfe. He identified one of those goods as procreative sex. Whatever violates or gets in the way of a good, is wrong. On this view contraception is immoral, which certainly is consistent with the Church's teaching today. Yet, again, the Bishops do not see a civil law banning contraception. Later, the Church added the unitive purpose of married sex that is the bonding that sex produces as an important purpose of marriage. But this is an aspect of marriage that homosexuals can participate in. And here, adultery breaks the union and is thus much more threatening to marriage than homosexuality. Again, the Bishops do not seek a civil ban on adultery.

We can look to the documents of Vatican II for help in understanding why the Bishops do not pursue banning these things. Vatican II gave us a beautiful document titled the Declaration on Religious Freedom which states that the purpose of society is to uphold human freedom, and human freedom should only be curtailed when absolutely necessary for the common good. John Courtney Murray, who was primarily responsible for the document, argued that it is not the direct jog of the Church to create a social order and that imposing a private morality on the public order damages both morality and public policy. Therefore we have no moral obligation to prohibit an act simply because it is immoral. This is why we don't use civil law to oppose contraception, and adultery. It would be an imposition of private morality on the public order. The question then is, why have we singled out homosexuality?

Murray argued that if we valued freedom of conscience as basic, then we have to be able to practice what we believe, without government interference, a right that everyone must have, as long as it does no harm to the common good.

The Bishops entry into the public order on the issue of same sex civil marriage ignores what we know about neurology, psychology and the Church's own claim made in 1975 that most homosexuality stems from an innate instinct. Furthermore, it violates our own Church's Declaration on Religious Freedom.

I urge you to think about all of these things as you approach Proposition 8.

(Crossposted at Farmboyz)

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Well done! By avoiding the question of homosexuality's morality, she doesn't contradict the Ordinary Magisterium (the teachings which have been taught everywhere, always and by all). So yes, Rome's relatively recent pronouncements against gay marriage fall short of infallibility.
Therefore, these statements can be opposed by an informed conscience.

Of course, some folks would argue that if your conscience leads you against the Church's teaching, then it isn't really informed. But those people probably don't read this blog (or Farmboyz, for that matter). I may be wrong about that, though. ;)

I've distanced myself from the Catholic Church, but I hope that anyone who is in regular contact with Catholics will find this article helpful.