We have already observed that Cardinal Ratzinger formulated his analysis of homosexuality and of same-sex marriage without any intention of consulting the world-wide bishops for their input or for their approval.[i] Furthermore, we observed that he never organized theological or pastoral commissions that were charged to investigate the contemporary homosexual phenomena and to offer theological, psychological, and sociological guidelines for responding charitably and justly in the name of the Gospel. Rather, he took the course of publishing his own views, getting John Paul II to sign on, and then distributing a fait accompli to the bishops scattered throughout the world.
How do we judge this? Cardinal Ratzinger is a very intelligent and dedicated man, but no matter how intelligent, his gut reactions to homosexuality were formed in his personal experiences (which, following the Germanic scholarly tradition, he hides from his readers). Moreover, he wrote in complete isolation from the very priests and religious who had dedicated their lives to bring healing and holiness to gays and lesbians. Surely these persons would have to be consulted and their views taken into account if the Church was to have a safe and sure guide to assess the challenge of correctly understanding and ministering to gays and lesbians within the modern Church. But, for reasons unknown to us, Cardinal Ratzinger decided that he could not trust these people. Their compassion must have led them astray. He could not even trust the input of bishops who were dealing with this issue in widely diverse cultural and sociological contexts. Hence, taking the burden upon himself and trusting his Germanic training, he moved ahead with the dogged determination to bring gays and lesbians and their allies back on track. But this is exactly the arrogance that comes with fundamentalism that the Pope warns us against.
With such a defective process, is it any wonder that it produced such a misguided and misleading doctrine? Is it any wonder that such a one-sided and misinformed policy would rip into the soul of Catholic communities and tear them apart? And we judge this as the evil that comes in the wake of the Ratzinger Doctrine.
However, there are at least two sides to every issue:
On one side there are those who are proud to be Catholics because their Church finally stands up against homosexual organizations and their supporters who are pressuring the whole nation to give them the rights and privileges for recognizing a lifestyle that is an abomination before God and a sure formula for civil disintegration. These are the folks who believe that parents who have blurred sexual identities as “male” or “female” end up confusing their children until they end up thinking of themselves as “homosexuals.” Here, too, are the folks who believe that the teaching profession[ii] and the priesthood[iii] should be purged of all homosexuals because they invariably fail to provide healthy “role models” for children trying to discover themselves as either “male” or “female.” Still others fear homosexual teachers, homosexual day-care providers, and homosexual priests because they are invariably inclined toward the sexual exploitation of children. This is the side that embraces and applauds the Ratzinger Doctrine.
On the other side are those who are confused or angry with Cardinal Ratzinger because he artificially reduces homosexuality to “sexual functioning” and, as such, judges it as “unnatural,” “disordered,” “unfruitful,” and “immoral”—hence certainly not something deserving the recognition and protecting that has hitherto been accorded a marriage between one man and one woman. Cardinal Ratzinger, had he been more forthright, could have said that homosexual sex is first and foremost “just plain disgusting” and that “it is abhorrent for me as an educated man to even think about it or to imagine myself to ever being able to like it.” This honesty would have been refreshing because it would eventually have allowed him to entertain the thought that his way of being in his own skin was not as absolute and universal as he thought. Under the right circumstances, he might even come to admire a few gays and lesbians as talented and sophisticated persons like himself. And this would have caused him a deep crisis. Who so? Because now he would have to come to grips with the reality that, in the domain of sexuality, that these admirable individuals move to the beat of a different drummer that is just as normative for them as Ratzinger’s heterosexuality is normative for him. Once this occurs, it would become impossible for him to judge the worth of “the other” by standards worked out within the heterosexual community. But Cardinal Ratzinger is unwilling and perhaps even incapable of going there.
So, what does he do? He conveniently closes his eyes to “the other” and persists in believing that there is one, universal norm for human sexuality and that he had defined it and that God himself approves of it. And since he is comfortable with being in the majority and having power over the minority, he quietly loses sight of the instinctual “just plain disgusting” aspect of homosexual sex that undergirds his ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY in this matter. Even if the Bible were completely silent on this matter and even if same-sex couples could be shown to love and to raise healthy children that were never inclined toward homosexuality, Cardinal Ratzinger would still have the feeling in his gut that gay sex life was “just plain disgusting” and accordingly “just plain wrong.”
Cardinal Ratzinger cannot acknowledge the impact of his gut experience on his moral reasoning. Why not? Because he has been taught to conceal his emotions and to rely exclusively upon rational arguments. So, he has cobbled together a careful list of rational arguments. When one examines them carefully as we did in Chapter Two, it quickly appears that his arguments don’t hold up under close examination. So why didn’t someone do what I did in Chapter Two much earlier? Fear. If big name theologians were being called on the carpet and being silenced right and left, what chance would I have to be heard? What chance would I even have to be published? The climate of oppression within the Catholic Church is so thick that Catholic publishers have willingly taken off the shelves and shredded thousands of copies of book titles that they decided were too risky to sell because they came down on the wrong side of the issues considered “closed” by the U.S. bishops.[iv]
I recently published an Amazon eBook entitled, The Seven Errors of our Catholic Bishops. For a full year I sought to find a Catholic publisher in the USA, in Canada, or in the UK. In all, I identified and contacted ten publishers who had already marketed some moderately provocative critical studies. Six turned me down on the grounds that my book would “not fit into their current marketing categories.” Four of the presses never responded even when I prompted them to do so after two months. Only one publisher, a scholar who trusted me, could tell me that the free and open discussion that Pope Francis revived during the two recent Synods has not yet caught on within the editorial boards of Catholic publishers. “They are still in the mode of self-censorship as the necessary precaution to insure the ongoing episcopal approval upon which their survival depends.”
So, there you have it. The bishops, for the most part, have been groomed to trust only compliant authors. And Ratzinger has been “the bulldog of the Vatican” insuring that deviant authors would be exposed, silenced, and, if necessary, purged from the Church.
At this juncture, Cardinal Ratzinger become a sympathizer with the millions of solid and upstanding Southern gentlemen who knew that “marriage between a White man and a Nigger” was “unnatural,” “disordered,” and “immoral”—something that no decent, God-loving society could ever approve.[v] These Southern gentlemen had their favorite Bible passages and they had the hard-won wisdom of their fathers and grandfathers guiding their judgment. But even if the Bible was completely silent on this matter and even if interracial couples could be shown to truly love and truly cherish each other, they would still rely upon the feeling in their gut to uphold their ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY that interracial marriages were “disgusting” and “morally intolerable.” And even though they knew that their “grandpappies” had plenty of sex with the attractive female slaves in the barn, they would swear on the Bible that this sexual dalliance never diminished by even a hair’s breadth the absolute devotion their grandfathers had for their Southern wives and their Southern children and their Southern God.
In the past, sincere individuals maintained various absolute constructs of when sexual activity was permitted and when it was banned. Here are three such positions:
- Augustine distrusted sex under all circumstances. Even marital sexuality done exclusively with the motive to propagate the species was, in his eyes, always somewhat sinful because of the passion involved in every erection. Yet, marital sex was totally immoral if the couple knew that they could not possibly conceive. Safe sex in this epoch meant sex with as little passion as possible and with the sole aim of “being fruitful.”
- Others maintained with equal certainty that no man should approach his wife during her menstruation. Anyone having intercourse during this period was absolute immoral. Safe sex meant abstaining from sex during the time of a “woman’s curse.” Even after medical studies confirmed that this bleeding was entirely natural and beneficial, most men continued to hold on to their fear of menstrual blood.
- Up until very recently, Catholic moralists [mostly priests] insisted that the missionary position was the only allowed human posture to take when having sex. Entering by the rear was regarded as “animal sex[vi].” Furthermore, only men were permitted to initiate sex. Only men could be on top. Anything else was an abomination before God.
Even among heterosexuals, one can see that different eras of Catholic history scrupulously maintained moral norms that are no longer upheld today. Some of these epochs partially overlapped. In each of these periods, however, one can be reasonable sure that the vast majority of individuals had an ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY that God required this or that for sex to be moral. Each age examined their experience and their experience demonstrated to them that certain ways or times of having sex were “just plain disgusting” and accordingly “just plain wrong.”
Today, however, no serious moralist blindly endorses all of the moral norms that were upheld by their grandfathers and grandmothers. Modern husbands and wives generally talk about their sexual experiences with each other. They do this by way of gaining the assurance that their sex play is mutually beneficial. Others do this because they are constantly innovating their sexual behavior by way of discovering different ways for expressing the love they have for each other. Men sometimes buy titillating lingerie for their wives and keep the lights on, so they can visually enjoy their wives. Some even engage in “talking dirty” while having sex. Some use sex toys. Only the prudish and the fundamentalists retain the moral and psychological taboos of the past.
Those who want to interact with this blog are invited to “Leave a Reply” below. A solid way to begin doing this is to offer “readback lines.” To do this, quickly glace back over the entire blog and pick out the one or two lines that have made a deep impression upon you. Copy them [CTRL-C] and then paste them [CTRL-V] into an empty comment box below. If you wish, signal the emotion that you feel when reading your readback lines. The primary emotions are anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, surprise. No need to further explain yourself. It is enough to identify the text important to you and to name the emotion(s) that it evokes. All of this normally takes less than a few minutes.
I and others will “thank you” for your contribution. If you are tempted to say more, I urge you to hold back. Your sense of safety and the safety of others is best protected by not getting overly wordy in the beginning. This will come after a few days or weeks.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Endnotes and Leave a Reply~~~~~~~~
[i] This closed-door mode of operating was not always Cardinal Ratzinger approach. When it came to the preparation of the universal catechism, for example, the bishops throughout the world were brought in on the project. Theological and catechetical institutes were invited to make suggestions to improve the preliminary drafts. Throughout, Ratzinger worked in collaboration with other experts. For details, see Cardinal James Hickey, “Launching the Catechism for Australia,” address presented at the National Press Club in Canberra, 22 June 1994 (https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=5241).
[ii] Jackie M. Blount, Fit to Teach: Same-Sex Desire, Gender, and School Work in the Twentieth Century (NY: SUNY Press, 2005). In the 1970s, some of the best-credentialed educators who were invested with power and authority as superintendents were openly and aggressively dismissing anyone with confused sexual tendencies. This was based on the belief that students influenced by such teachers would be prone to imitate their “deviant behavior.” In brief, these educators manufactured a doctrine of contempt based upon passionately held presuppositions that were largely unproven and untested. In this climate, even heterosexual persons who displayed confused sexual tendencies were considered unfit for teaching.
This caused enormous suffering for those teachers who were insecure about their sex roles. The same pain and suffering was inflicting parents and students who also may not have exemplified a clear and unambiguous sexual identity. Mothers who were domineering and wore the pants in the family were thus seen as setting a confusing “bad example” for their children. Fathers who were soft-spoken and artistically inclined also set a “bad example.” The presupposition was that parents with blurred sexual characteristics were “unfit for parenting” in precisely the same way and for the same reasons that teachers with blurred role identifications were “unfit for teaching.”
Blount narrates how various political and social organizations in the 1970s and 1980s fought to maintain the teaching of contempt while others sought to overturn misunderstandings and the popular prejudices. Blount uses well-chosen case studies throughout to illustrate the long and bloody struggle toward an open and frank public exchange that enabled the public at large to honor alternative sexual orientations on the part of teachers and students alike.
In the end, this book is a must-read for those who may not be aware of how long and perilous our journey has been toward providing homosexuals and heterosexuals with “blurred sexual identities” a place of safety and of honor within the ranks of teachers.
[iii] When it comes to the campaign to rid the seminaries of gay candidates, no one has yet been able to write such a detailed story. This is because the campaign is largely secret and because seminarians have, in most instances, taken the tact, “Don’t ask. Don’t tell.” For an excellent introduction to this topic, see B.A. Robinson, “Excluding homosexuals from Catholic seminaries,” Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance, 22 April 2009 (http://www.religioustolerance.org/hom_rcc2.htm).
[iv] Women’s ordination is one such issue. I called the book ordering department of Paulist Press three years ago and inquired as to why three titles that they had formerly published on the topic of women’s ordination were no longer listed in any of their catalogues, printed or online. The woman responsible for sales told me, in a calm, steady voice, “Paulist Press has NEVER published any book that deviates from the Catholic faith as defined by the Magisterium.” I then gave her the titles of the three books, one by one, asking whether there were still a few copies on their shelves that could be sold. Not a one. A nervous manager had them shredded once they saw the writing on the wall during the purges initiated by Cardinal Ratzinger.
[v] The Pew study found that a record 14.6 percent of all new marriages in the United States in 2008 were between persons of different racial or ethnic backgrounds, six times the intermarriage rate in 1960 and more than double the rate in 1980. Here’s the part of the report that most news outlets omitted: “Of the four groups tested in the survey, openness to a family member’s marriage to an African American ranked lowest” (http://newamericamedia.org/2010/07/black-people-least-desirable-in-mix-marriages.php).
[vi] In the past, zoologists were prone to find their own proclivities mirrored within the animal kingdom. Female animals were characterized as “coy,” while the male was seen as initiating sex whenever any of his females was “in heat.” In so doing, humans noticed and concentrated on those aspects of animal sexuality that mirrored human sexuality. Under these conditions, homosexual activities went unnoticed.
In recent times the issue of homosexuality has sparked new research into the varieties of sex found within the animal kingdom. The lioness, for example, initiates sex repeated in the period when she is fertile. Female macaques mount other females repeatedly and their sex play serves to create emotional bonds with each other. They even mount the alpha male in the hopes of stimulating him to have sex.
Among some species, lifelong female coupling takes place and this serves to securely raise a new chick every season. Consider the conduct of the Laysan albatross which nests in Hawaii, US. Among these huge birds, pairs are usually “married” for life. It takes two parents working together to rear a chick successfully, and doing so repeatedly means that the parents can hone their skills together. But in one population on the island of Oahu, 31% of the pairings are made up of two unrelated females. What’s more, they rear chicks, fathered by males that are already in a committed pair but sneak matings with one or both of the females. Like male-female pairs, these female-female pairs can only rear one chick in a season. See Melissa Hogenboom, “Are There Any Homosexual Animals,” BBC, 6 February 2015 (http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20150206-are-there-any-homosexual-animals).