The narrow spectrum of (approved) moral thought in the Catholic Church

The recent comments made by Pope Francis on gay marriage and contraception have made their way around the news circuit:

“The family is threatened by growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage, by relativism, by the culture of the ephemeral, by a lack of openness to life,” Francis said.

[…] The pope also issued a strong defense of Pope Paul VI’s controversial 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae, which upheld the Church’s traditional ban on birth control.

“He had the strength to defend openness to life at a time when many people were worried about population growth,” Francis said.


The comments also came less than a week after a speech to diplomats at the Vatican in which Francis criticized “legislation which benefits various forms of cohabitation rather than adequately supporting the family for the welfare of society as a whole,” saying that such legislation had contributed to a widespread sense of the family as “disposable.”

On contraception and Paul VI, Francis said in a November 2014 interview with an Italian newspaper that his predecessor’s “genius was prophetic.”

“He had the courage to stand against the majority, to defend moral discipline, to exercise a ‘brake’ on the culture, to oppose [both] present and future neo-Malthusianism,” he said.

This is coming from the pope who as been the softest on LGTBQ people and non-“traditional” families in all of papal history. Take that in for a moment — this is the most lenient pope on these issues, and yet he is this hard line on said issues. That says something about the state of dialogue in the Catholic Church. It reminds me of something that happened at Catholic University of America late last year:

Catholic University of America students affiliated with two unofficial campus organizations, LIFT CUA and CUAllies, challenged anti-gay speakers who appeared at an event on children’s rights which was held at the Washington, DC school. The program, hosted by a campus group working against LGBT equality, featured Robert Oscar Lopez who has called the LGBT rights movement “an engine of world-historical evil” and an “international war on black people” tied to a modern form of slavery. It also featured self-identified advocate for children, Stella Morabito, who has written against marriage equality by claiming “Abolishing all civil marriage is the primary goal of the elites who have been pushing same sex marriage.”  LIFT CUA is a student group working for campus reform, and CUAllies is the campus’ unofficial LGBT student group.

The event was held in collaboration with the annual Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. CUAllies noted a bizarre twist:

“Today, it is a well-known fact that the most important aspect a family must provide for a child to thrive is love! LGBT Youth make up 1/5 of all homeless youth, and are twice as likely to fall into homelessness due to a families intolerance or non-acceptance. Mr. Lopez carries a message of hate and discrimination where ever he speaks, guised in an idea of children’s rights. He should not be allowed to speak on campus ever, let alone during a week dedicated to bringing awareness to hunger and homelessness as well as offer solutions to prevent it.”

Pro-LGBT students interrupted the event by chanting “Racist, sexist, anti-gay. Free speech fascists go away.”  You can view the protest below or by clicking here.

Yes, a panel at CUA was solely represented by homophobes. Even within the larger discussion in the Church, the only approved opinions on homosexuality are either 1) any homosexual expression whatsoever is to be suppressed or 2) while homosexual attraction can be natural, any and all same-sex genital contact is necessarily abhorrent and gays can either be celibate or enter into a heterosexual marriage. The Catechism of the Catholic Church doesn’t mince words in calling homosexual attractions “objectively disordered” and homo-genital contact “intrinsically disordered.” The Catholic hierarchy and apologetics groups have made it clear that opposition to civil same-sex marriage is “non-negotiable.” Meanwhile, violence against LGBTQ people and homophobia has yet to be condemned at any remotely official level in the Church. The Church’s spectrum of (approved) moral thought on homosexuality comes down to two types of homophobia: homophobia with a snarl, or homophobia with a condescending smile.

The amazing thing about all of this is that poll after poll after poll shows that a majority of practicing Catholics (defined as attending mass weekly) in the West support gay marriage and find nothing sinful about monogamous gay relationships. All the while, Catholic theologians and clergy use terms like “intrinsically disordered,” “gender ideology,” and “threat to families” to describe gay relationships — terms that don’t enter anyone’s lexicon, outside of their echo chamber. Similarly, every poll since the 1970’s has shown that a decent majority of practicing Catholic married couples use contraception, and only about 2% use Church-approved Natural Family Planning. And yet, like LGBTQ issues, the Church is unrelenting on preaching contraception as a grave sin.

This wasn’t always the case. From the time of the Second Vatican Council until the pontificate of Pope John Paul II, dissent on sexual issues was heard. There was never any change on these teachings, but there were many bishops, priests, and lay people who dissented on sexual issues and were heard by Vatican commissions. There was, for that brief window, dialogue. Since the pontificate of of John Paul II, dissenting voices have been silenced. Bishops who are more open on these issues are nearly impossible to find. The discussion in the Church is solely regarding tone and not substance.

This narrow spectrum of (approved) positions in the Church is what first made me question the whole program. There is no culture of discovery, conscience, free thought, or open dialogue — only dogmatism and (attempts at) control. You can be kind to LGTBQ people, but don’t for a moment consider that their relationships can be pleasing to God. You can be understanding towards couples who use contraception, but don’t you dare think that there is ever a justified reason to use contraception. This level of control became too much for me to handle. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if it would be too much the anti-legalist Jesus of Nazareth to handle.


One thought on “The narrow spectrum of (approved) moral thought in the Catholic Church

  1. I am not a person to answer on “the church” however I will say that I have known many gay priests and have talked to clergy who did not buy into all the teaching of the church, who had their own ideas, and own lives separate from their church duties and lives. I wonder what that says about faith and belief, because even while they were living differently than their leaders demanded of others and even them, they still really believed in God, loved God, and Worshiped cheerfully. They just felt that the leaders of the church were mistaken and did not need to know what they were doing in their “private” time. I just felt they were people, deserving of the same respects, had the same desires, and wishes of any and all of us, including the same failings. Hugs


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