How to Soften Feelings of Disgust for Homosexuals

David was 7 years old and hoping to become a farmer like his dad.  Lisa was 12 and hoping to become a teacher like her mom.  A few years back, I was giving David and Lisa a tour of my garden.  Then, I lifted up a rock and, underneath, five pill bugs[i] came to life and began to flee.  I picked up one and placed it in the palm of my hand, and I showed them how the bug immediately curled up into a perfect little sphere.  “That’s why it’s called a pill bug.”

David came closer and attentively watched as the pill bug gradually came out of hiding and started crawling over my hand.  At the same time, Lisa backed away.  She was afraid of the bug.

I took the pill bug and placed it gently in David’s hand.  It immediately rolled itself into a “pill.”  Then David watched it attentively until it came out of hiding and began to crawl forward on his open hand.  He touched it briefly, and again the bug rolled itself into a “pill” [or as a minature soccer ball].

I asked Lisa if she wanted to try the same thing for herself.  “No way,” was her reply.  “I don’t want to be bitten by a nasty bug.”

I’m telling you this story to illustrate how, in the face of the pill bug, David and Lisa had massively different reactions.   Neither had experienced the pill bug before.  David was attracted by the bug and interested in its activity.  Lisa was repulsed by the bug and afraid to be bitten.  She wanted to keep as far away from the bug as possible.  In her experience of bugs, they were nasty and prone to bite her.  She wanted nothing to do with the pill bug.

This instinctual response illustrates how you, the reader, would be prone to react should you visit my garden with me and I would pick up a pill bug and set it in the palm of my hand. . . .  Some of you would react like David.  Some would react like Lisa.  Over the course of time, the Davidic portion of the population would be prone to interact positively with pill bugs.  The Lisatic portion, meanwhile, would back away and respond in horror when a pill bug was close at hand.

Could one convert a Davidic to a Lisatic?  It would be rare, but entirely possible.  Once a positive attraction is rewarded and reinforced in repeated positive experiences, it is difficult to go back to revert back to a frightened repulsion of pill bugs.  Only something very traumatic could wipe out the train of positive experiences.

Could one convert a Lisatic into a Davidic?  It would be rare, but moderately possible.  One would have to gain the trust of the Lisatic and to gradually expose him/her to the wonders of pill bugs.  The Lisatic would have to discover, first-hand, that the pill bug did not sting or bite the Davidics.  Thus, the negative repulsion could be gradually recognized as a fear and flight response based upon the irrational prejudice that the pill bug had a nasty bite. 

I refer to the Lisatic fear and flight response as based upon an irrational prejudice.  The pill bug does not have a nasty bite.  Lisa’s repulsion was based upon her projection of a characteristic that was never experienced.  Lisa’s fear of the unknown cannot compete with David’s delight in what is known.  David’s appreciation of pill bugs is not based upon an irrational projection.  It is based upon a chain of first-hand positive experiences.  In an open society where free and open judgments are arrived at freely, one could expect that the conversion rate to the Davidic position would outmatch the conversion rate to the Lisatic position.

This is exactly what is happening in our society when it comes to homosexual activity.  At any given time, only a small portion (5 to 8%) of men and women experience a same-sex attraction.  The majority of the population, meanwhile, is instinctively bewildered, perplexed, and repulsed by this attraction.  Hence, as in the case of the Lisatics, there is a natural tendency to amplify the fear and flight response with irrational projections.  Here are two examples:

As witnessed in the Bible in Genesis 19:1-11, homosexuals are predatory, continually on the search for their next sexual experience. Homosexuals are characterized by morbid, unhealthy, sexual desire (which the Bible calls lasciviousness). Homosexuals are prone to multiple sex partners, because homosexuality is rooted in sex-addiction. I heard a homosexual say that “sex is sex, whether male or female.” May I say, sex with the same sex is a horrible sin, and a form of mental illness[ii] caused by spiritual rebellion against God and His holy Word.

The secular workplace is hell-on-earth for many Christians, because of constant harassment in a hostile work environment being around the wicked. God-fearing Christians and the unrepentant wicked don’t mix! Gays are disrespecting Christians every time that they wave their filthy lifestyle in our faces. There’s no way that sexually deviate, left-wing, liberal, homosexuals can coexist with conservative, Bible-minded, Christians.[iii]

In an open society where free and open judgments are arrived at through open discussion, one could expect that the conversion rate to the Davidic position would outmatch the conversion rate to the Lisatic position.  This is exactly what has happened in the past fifty years.  As heterosexuals have personal contact with gays and lesbians, they quickly realize that much of their fear and flight responses are based upon irrational projections.  As a result, all sectors of society are gradually gravitating toward the Davidic position because it is based upon first-hand positive experiences that have a permanent effect because they are not based upon false projections and irrational fears.

How do these conversions take place?  To understand them, one has to recognize that everyone undergoing a conversion has a personal story to tell.  With this in mind, I want to share a few of my own conversion stories and then to draw some general conclusions.  

My conversion away from being a Jew-hater

My early religious training within Catholic schools and my early cultural training in an ethnic suburb of Cleveland at the outbreak of World War II made it quite natural for me to pity, to blame, and to despise Jews.[iv]  Had I been bombarded by Hitler’s speeches blaming and shaming Jews, I would undoubtedly have cheered him on.  The greater part of my family and neighbors would have done the same.  In point of fact, however, I never had contact with a single living Jew. But, then, in an unexpected moment, a real flesh and blood Jew, Mr. Martin, made his way into my life.

Mr. Martin agreed to employ me part‑time as a stock‑boy in his dry goods store on East 185th Street in Cleveland, Ohio.  I had just turned 16, and I desperately needed a larger income than my Cleveland Plain Dealer route had been able to afford me; hence, I felt lucky to have landed this new job.  On the other hand, I was anxious upon learning that Mr. Martin was “a Jew”. Would he exploit me?  Could he treat a Christian fairly?  Would he want me to work on Sundays[v] or on other religious holidays?

Over the months I was testing Mr. Martin and, unbeknownst to me, he was testing me as well.  One evening, after closing, I was sweeping the floors when I found a crumpled twenty-dollar bill under a counter.  My starting salary was fifty cents per hour, and twenty dollars represented a lot of money for a teenager in 1955.  Yet, without thinking twice, my Christian instincts took hold, and I turned the money over to Mr. Martin “lest someone come asking whether anyone has found it.”  It didn’t even enter my mind that the money might become mine if no one claimed it or that I might receive a reward if someone did.

As for my tests, Mr. Martin passed with flying colors.  He was genuinely sensitive to my religious convictions and school obligations when it came to scheduling my work hours.  He treated me fairly, at times even generously, and this disarmed all my earlier reservations.  In fact, I gradually came to admire Mr. Martin, and this admiration presented me with a new problem—a theological problem.  I knew that God had slated all Jews for eternal damnation because of what they did to Jesus.  I also knew that Jews couldn’t go to confession to obtain pardon for such a grievous sin.  On the other hand, it seemed unfair, somehow, that God should hold Mr. Martin guilty for such a crime.  If Mr. Martin did not harm me, even in little ways, how could he have ever consented to handing an innocent man over to Roman torturers two thousand years ago?  Thus began my soul-searching journey to try and find a way to rescue just one Jew from the fires of hell.

What do you learn from my story?  You might want to stop reading here and write down a few of your thoughts before continuing.  When finished, click on this endnote to see what I wrote.[vi]

Saving Mr. Martin from Eternal Hellfire

I never took my theological problem to any of my teachers or pastors. Given my upbringing, I felt secretly ashamed that I had developed an emotional attachment to a Jew.  I suspected that I might be ridiculed for what I was attempting to do.  Thus I was left to work out a private solution to my problem.  For starters, I already knew that for someone to commit a mortal sin, three things were necessary:

First, the thought, desire, word, action, or omission must be seriously wrong or considered seriously wrong; second, the sinner must be mindful of the serious wrong; third, the sinner must fully consent to it (Baltimore Catechism #69)

Thus, when it came to the death of Jesus, I was compelled to believe that God could only condemn those Jews who knowingly and willingly recognized the enormity of the sin and then went ahead and wanted to do it anyway.  It was hardly imaginable to me that Mr. Martin was that kind of Jew.  With a certain boyish simplicity, therefore, I felt that I had succeeded in finding a theological loophole[vii] whereby Mr. Martin was safe from the fires of hell.

A week later, another problem popped up. Mr. Martin may not have committed a mortal sin, but he still had that original sin which every human being inherited from our first parents, Adam and Eve. I had to admit that Mr. Martin was not a Catholic and that he did not have access to the Sacrament of Baptism that would remove that original sin. I knew original sin could be a serious obstacle since, without Baptism, even Catholic babies were prevented from ever going to heaven.  At best, they could expect to go to a place of natural happiness called “limbo.”[viii]  Thus, I felt sorry for Mr. Martin.  While safe from eternal hellfire, I was forced to see him relegated, for all eternity, to some minor place in the world to come. 

Never, never, never, in my wildest imagination, could I, in 1955, have perceived that the “blood guilt” of the Jews was a poison distilled in the third century and systematically passed down as part of Catholic identity to all future generations.  After all, I was assured that Jesus had sent the Holy Spirit to guide the teachers of my church and to preserve them from all error until the end of time.  It seemed unthinkable to me that my parents, my teachers, my pastors—people whom I knew and loved—could be the mindless purveyors of such a demonic distortion.  I mention these things, not by way of casting blame upon my Catholic forebears, but by way of indicating how completely blind even sympathetic and thoughtful persons can be when their hearts and minds are taken over by dark tendencies that claim to have God’s endorsement.[ix]

My conversion away from being a Nigger-hater

I grew up in a society torn by racial strife and racial prejudices.   African-Americans had three main lines for paving their future: Martin Luther King in the South, Malcolm X in the North, Black Panthers in the West.  Here are some of the voices that I was accustomed to hearing in Euclid, a suburb bordering the east side of Cleveland, OH, while I was growing up:

Few things are more clear than the utter worthlessness of blacks as a race. . . .  It may, indeed, be something of a ¨mark of Cain.¨ But apart from this it is really worse than a mere worthlessness—the gross stupidity, rank depravity, general overwhelming repulsiveness of [their] speech and behavior and most salient of all – THAT THEY ARE DANGEROU.S. – makes them utterly unfit to be among Whites.   ~~Servenet[x]

Blacks in America would not do well if they had to confront the truth about themselves. On a collective level, the truth has never done any good for them. They are more inclined toward simplistic solutions to their problems, eager to receive religious and political charlatans, too arrogant to humble themselves, and too dull-minded to perceive where they might be wrong.

Thus, Blacks are a people wholly unfit and unwilling to receive correction, stiff-necked in facing their dysfunctional ways and in reforming their strong criminal proclivities (yes, there are individual exceptions as in most things in life). They are a people who believe all the excuses and rationalizations their Jewish overlords tell them.

As a street cop who has worked among them for years, I witnessed up-close and personal what these people are really like in their own so-called ‘communities’ – and believe me, it’s not pretty! ~~Ambrose Kane[xi]

In 1965 the race riots began.[xii] 

– August 11-17, 1965: A routine identity check by police on two black men in a car sparks the Watts riots in Los Angeles, which leave 34 people dead, 1,032 injured and cause more than 40 millions dollars’ worth of damage.  The Watts ghetto is all but destroyed.

– Summer 1966: Violence flares in 43 cities, including Chicago, Cleveland, Ohio, Atlanta, Georgia, and San Francisco, resulting in 11 deaths and more than 400 injured.

Unable to any longer remain “an innocent bystander,” I worked with my brother, Norm, to bring together a dozen students from all-White Catholic schools to meet with a dozen Blacks coming from inner-city schools.  We adopt a “truth-telling” approach and agree to a “what’s said here stays here” policy.  This is the first time that I hear Blacks revealing the common misconceptions that Blacks have of Whites.  This is an eye-opener for me and for them as well.  The Whites also reveal their misconceptions of Blacks as well. 

Without going into further details, I want to point out that, after just four two-hour sessions, bonds of trust and affection are strong enough to have reciprocal home visitations and, in a few instances, mixed dating.  We establish safe-guards for enabling Blacks to feel safe in all-White neighborhoods, and for Whites to feel safe in Black neighborhoods.

After this, I travel to Europe for the first time.  Before leaving, I read James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time,[xiii] memoirs of his living in Europe.  It was in Europe that I met my own severe inability to quiet the fear and disgust associated with the racist notions that had fed my youth while growing up in Euclid, OH.  Here is my narrative:

I remember the shock that I felt when, in my late-twenties, I first saw a handsome Black man walking in the park with his arm around a blond White girl.  My head told me that this man’s ability to love and to cherish this woman is not determined by the color of his skin.  My gut, on the other hand, was churning and screaming out, “Something is very wrong here!”

I had to deliberately imagine myself as being that Black man and imagining for myself the pride and joy of having a companion like the blond girl I saw that day.  Gradually, over a period of months, I was able to quiet my gut feelings and to replace them with feelings of pride and joy.  I share this experience here because it indicates the route whereby I was able, at a later point, to gradually diminish the “utter disgust” that male-to-male sex evoked in my gut. 

Here then is the Buddhist practice that I found so helpful.

Loving-Kindness Meditation

Metta bhavana, or loving-kindness meditation, is a method of developing compassion. It comes from the Buddhist tradition, but it can be adapted and practiced by anyone, regardless of religious affiliation; loving-kindness meditation is essentially about cultivating love [and using that love to wash away those feelings which prevent us from loving those who are repugnant and most unworthy of our love].

Loving-kindness, or metta, as it is called in the Pali language, is unconditional, inclusive love, a love with wisdom. It has no conditions; it does not depend on whether one “deserves” it or not; it is not restricted to friends and family; it extends out from personal categories to include all living beings.

There are no expectations of anything in return.  This is the ideal, pure love, which everyone has in potential.

We begin with loving ourselves, for unless we have a measure of this unconditional love and acceptance for ourselves, it is difficult to extend it to others.

Then we [extend this unconditional love and acceptance to] include others who are special to us, and, ultimately, [we extend this unconditional love and acceptance to] include all living beings. . . . [including our enemies.]

This is a meditation of care, concern, tenderness, loving kindness, friendship—a feeling of warmth for oneself and others. The practice is the softening of the mind and heart, an opening to deeper and deeper levels of the feeling of kindness, of pure love.

Loving kindness is without any desire to possess another. It is not a sentimental feeling of goodwill, not an obligation, but comes from a selfless place. It does not depend on relationships, on how the other person feels about us. The process is first one of softening, breaking down barriers that we feel inwardly toward ourselves, and then those that we feel toward others.

[Here are the steps that require 20 to 35 minutes.]

      1. Take a very comfortable posture. One of the aims in this meditation is to feel good, so make your posture relaxed and comfortable. Begin to focus around the solar plexus, your chest area, your “heart center.” Breathe in and out from that area as if you are breathing from the heart center and as if all experience is happening from there. Anchor your mindfulness only on the sensations at your heart center.
      2. Breathing in and out from the heart center, begin by generating this kind feeling toward yourself. Feel any areas of mental blockage or numbness, self-judgment, self-hatred. Then drop beneath that to the place where we care for ourselves, where we want strength and health and safety for ourselves.  Continuing to breathe in and out, use either these traditional phrases or ones you choose yourself.  Say or think them several times.
        May I be safe and protected.
        May I be free of mental suffering or distress.

        May I be happy.
        May I be free of physical pain and suffering.
        May I be healthy and strong.
        May I be able to live in this world happily, peacefully, joyfully, with ease.
      3. Next, move to a person who most invites the feeling of pure unconditional loving kindness, the love that does not depend on getting anything back. The first person is usually someone we consider a mentor, a benefactor, an elder. It might be a parent, grandparent, teacher, someone toward whom it takes no effort to feel respect and reverence, someone who immediately elicits the feeling of care. Repeat the phrases for this person: “May she be safe and protected….
      4. After feeling strong unconditional love for the benefactor, move to a person you regard as a dear friend and repeat the phrases again, breathing in and out of your heart center.  “May she be safe and protected….
      5. Now move to a neutral person, someone for whom you feel neither strong like nor dislike. “May she be safe and protected….
      6. Now move to someone you have difficulty with—hostile feelings, resentments. Repeat the phrases for this person. If you have difficulty doing this, you can say before the phrases, “To the best of my ability I wish that you be….” If you begin to feel ill will toward this person, return to the benefactor and let the loving kindness arise again. Then return to this person.  Let the phrases spread through your whole body, mind, and heart.  “May she be safe and protected….
      7. After the difficult person, radiate loving kindness out to all beings. Stay in touch with the ember of warm, tender loving-kindness at the center of your being, and begin to visualize or engender a felt sense of all living beings. The traditional phrases are these:
        May all beings be safe and protected. . . .[xiv]

At one point, James and John wanted Jesus to give them permission to call down fire from heaven upon a Samaritan town that refused to give them hospitality once the Samaritans learned that they were intent upon ignoring the Samaritan temple and making a direct path toward Jerusalem (Luke 9:53).  To their surprise, Jesus “rebuked” his two disciples and refused to sanction their prejudice against Samaritans.

It is a wonder that the Parable of the Good Samaritan ever made it into the Gospels.  To be more exact, it made it only into Luke’s Gospel.  This could only mean that at least some of the disciples of Jesus took Jesus’ point of view to heart, and that they preached the Parable of the Good Samaritan in his name.  The fact that this Parable was acknowledged in only Luke’s Gospel means that, in other areas, this parable was decidedly not welcome.  The reader can easily imagine why.

This Parable tells a simple story of a Jew who gets robbed and beaten.  We never learn who did this nasty piece of work.  It really doesn’t matter.  The story focuses on the Jew who has been left to die (Luke 10:30) in a ditch next to the road.  Then a priest comes by.  He noticed the dying Jew but does nothing.  Maybe he has official priestly duties to perform and touching a man close to death may result in contracting an “impurity” that would make his priestly duties impossible.  Then a Levite comes bye.  He likewise decides not to help the victim.  Maybe he is afraid to give help because highway robbers often hide themselves and use their first victim as “bait” for capturing their next victim.  Jesus doesn’t speculate what might have motivated the priest and Levite to ignore the plight of the Jew in the ditch.  Everyone was familiar with instances of persons being robbed and savagely beaten.  Everyone was allowed to speculate why a priest or a Levite would hurry on bye.

When it comes to the Samaritan, however, Jesus provides a mass of details:

When he saw him, he was moved with pity.  He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him (Luke 10:33-34).

These details demonstrate how the Samaritan “was moved with pity” and took care of the half-dead Jew with extraordinary care and attention.  The Samaritan had nothing to gain in doing so.  Quite to the contrary, he had much to lose.  He helped a man in deep trouble.  He could have been attacked by the robbers and given the same rough treatment.  Clearly, he did not help the man because he was Jewish.  The greater possibility is that he had no certainty that the victim was Jewish.  No matter.  He “was moved with pity” for this unfortunate victim, and he had the courage to do something about it.  The priest and Levite surely must have felt some pity as well, but one must surmise that their pity was not sufficiently strong as to interrupt their trip and bring them to take action on behalf of the victim.  Only the “Samaritan” proved himself worthy of being identified as truly “loving his neighbor” (Luke 10:37).

Meeting a Good Gay Guy Online

When I go online, I notice that the vast majority of born-again Christians take a superior attitude and give the gays and lesbians that they encounter a “deserved verbal beating.”  They feel they have a duty to do this because they are acting in harmony with God’s will. 

Steve and Renee[xvii] provide two different illustrations of this:

Steve July 28, 2018 at 5:25 AM

Here’s the biggest problem we [born-again Christians] have . . . there is no such thing as “being gay”. Gay is a term used by the left to rationalize homosexual behavior. It’s a calmer word the left uses to make it seem normal and innocuous. When you hear the word “gay” you don’t hear the word “homosexual”, so it seems nicer.

It’s the same way the left uses “pro-choice” instead of “abortion”. Being “pro-choice” and “gay” doesn’t sound harsh and intolerant. Using those terms make people feel okay about doing something wrong. . . .

We can’t get caught up in using those terms or we fall into the trap of compromise. If we even use those terms we give credence and legitimacy to them. God didn’t, doesn’t, and will never create “gay” people. . . .

Renee June 17, 2018 at 6:30 AM

Now I know a lot of people are going to jump up and down and get all over me for this; but sometimes love has to be tough. There’s no excuse to condone sin and i don’t care who’s sin it is, or what sin it is. Discipleship has a price. People have (and in some places today still do) lay down their lives for the sake of the Kingdom. And yes, the truth brings division. That’s part of life.

Most GLBTQ Christians remain silent.  They know that they cannot help Steve and Renee.  As Michael Polanyi observed, “Every belief works in the eyes of the believer.”[xviii]  So, according to Steve, “God didn’t, doesn’t, and will never create “gay” people.”  According to Renee, “There’s no excuse to condone sin and i don’t care who’s sin it is, or what sin it is.”  Both are passionate truth-tellers sharing the “truth” that makes sense to them.  Nothing can dislodge their beliefs.  But, as an unexpected interloper, “R” arrives:

  R July 6, 2018  

I’m a gay person and this is painful to read, but I so appreciate the honesty and I appreciate that you all are trying hard to be good people and don’t want to hurt anyone.

I know it takes a long time to untangle a deep seated belief that has been there for so long and it’s a scary thing to do. Maybe you worry that if you change that belief, it would call into question many other beliefs and then pretty soon, your whole foundation is ripped from underneath you. That would be scary. 

I believe there is a way you can change your belief about homosexuality and still maintain all your others. Some bits of the Bible are a bit outdated – mixing fabrics, eating shellfish, eating pork etc – reason being that at the time, those things posed a practical threat. Maybe at the time, the world needed more people so the idea of a marriage without children could be threatening to the future of the world. We’re now at a time where the world is overpopulated actually, and we’re also at a time where gay marriages can yield children.

A lot has changed. The basic principals [sic] of not lying, cheating, stealing, killing, etc – the golden rule of treating people how you’d want to be treated – etc those are the principals that were meant to stay – the guidance around them just helped everyone survive and they can be slightly re-interpreted as the world changes over long periods of time. The core though – the basic principals – those were created to withstand any change and they should.

Notice how R begins by revealing his pain.  Then he identifies what he admires in the posts he has read.  He tries to find some ground for empathy with Steve and Renee.  He imagines that they are hurting, and thus he puts forward a life raft to help them deal with the stormy waters that might be threatening them.  Renee responds by sending the life raft back to R.

Renee June 17, 2018 at 6:30 AM

Now this whole “gay Christian remain celibate” thing I find an absolute farce because it’s made on an assumption that people can’t change. People change all the time and people’s “orientations” change too. (Change your thought process, you change your behavior.)

Now it’s not usually something that happens overnight; especially if someone is entrenched in a particular ideology. Yet it does happen and more often than people with an agenda would be willing to admit. In a good percent of cases it happens without any intervention and “no body [sic] ever knew”.

  R July 6, 2018 at 8:54 AM

I’ll tell you as a gay person, I can’t go [on with] my life without love. . . .  I’d kill myself. Most people would. Love is everything.

I can’t be in love with someone of the opposite sex the [same] way you can’t be in love with someone of the same sex. I could try and convince you and threaten your life and your afterlife – but it wouldn’t make you [feel] in love with someone of the same sex.

Could you fake it? For a little while, sure – but then you’re either having an affair later which involves lying and cheating and intentional deception on top of homosexuality, or you’re living without ever being in love. The options here are unbearable.

Please genuinely close your eyes and imagine yourself in our [/my] shoes. Imagine the person you’ve loved most in your life – someone who loved you back maybe – someone who made you better and whom you made better – pure and good love, now imagine you were told you’d go to hell and betray God and your family if you continued to love him/her. Imagine the only way you could be a good person is if you [abandoned your true love and] only had sex with and married someone of the same sex. . . .

Don’t put people in that position – don’t make them choose between life and love, and support your loved ones who feel they’ve had to. They need you badly. . . .

When I read this last line, I think back on Bishop Gumbleton’s story of his brother:

And so I went along with that kind of understanding, and I guess lack of understanding of homosexuality. Until suddenly in my own family I was confronted when my brother wrote a letter to my siblings and me and my mother coming out—saying he is gay and had been all his life—had struggled against it in various ways as many homosexual people do. Because first of all, you’re taught it’s wrong. And so you somehow feel it’s wrong. And you’re trying to do the right thing. So you’re trying not to be who you are.

And so he had gone so far as entering the seminary at one point, which is sort of a safe place for a homosexual actually because you do have male relationships, even though you could be committed to celibacy. So you’re in more of a friendly environment. And you’ve a very respected role. And nobody questions why you’re not married if you’re a priest.

But then quickly he discovered that that was not where he should be, and so he left. But then he married. Again, in an attempt to say “No, I’m not gay.” And he was married for fifteen years or so and had four children. But could never shake who he was because you can’t—it’s something that is part of your person.

So when he came out, I suddenly had to deal with this in a way I never had before because it was on a very personal level. Do I reject my brother? Do I despise him because he’s evil? And so on.  So the first thing I had to do was deal with my own homophobia.

[i] The pill bug is the only crustacean that can spend its entire life on land. Their shells look like armor and they are known for their ability to roll into a ball. Sometimes children call them rollie-pollies. Most pill bugs live for up to two years. They are most active at night.  They do not carry diseases or contaminate food.

[ii] Before 1973, homosexuality was considered as a “mental illness”, at least by the psychiatrists that authored edition 2 of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-II).  In edition 3, it was reclassified as normal

[iii] I leave it to my reader to discover the multiple layers of suspicion and misinformation that have been brought together in this example.  Source=

[iv] Since I attended Catholic schools from kindergarden on up, religious training was very significant for me and for my parents as well.  From the Gospels, I learned that the Pharisees were Jews that stubbornly opposed Jesus and his teaching.  I pitied Jews because of this.  They had locked themselves within a false religion and would be judged by God on the Last Day for their bad judgment.  When bad things happened to Jews, therefore, it seemed to me that they were getting what they justly deserved.  No one ever told me that most contemporary Jews were not like the Pharisees and that Judaism had been changing for two thousand years after the death of Jesus.  As a result, when I heard the Gospel stories of how Jesus clashed with the Pharisees, I thought that I was discovering how living Jews were mindless hypocrites who opposed the moderation in Jesus’ message.  When I interacted with Jews, therefore, I was projecting upon them the mindset found in the Gospels.  As a result, I was highly critical of Judaism for a long time before I actually met my first Jew.

[v] In 1955, my family and I attended Holy Cross Catholic Church. I remember that the Sunday sermons often contained admonitions not to violate the 3rd Commandment by doing unnecessary work on the “Lord’s Day” (known as “the day of rest”).  Our sermons distinguished between necessary and unnecessary work.  Necessary work included mom’s preparing family meals and children washing the dishes.  Some dads had to work as firemen or policemen.  Unnecessary work consisted of activities like “mowing the lawn” or “painting the house” or “shopping for food”—things that could easily be taken care of on Saturdays.  At this point of time, most stores and shopping malls were closed on Sundays.   Happily Mr. Martin’s Dry Goods Store was among them.  

I have not heard from the pulpit an admonition to refrain from unnecessary work on Sundays for the past forty years.  It reveals something about myself when I say that I kept this practice faithfully into the 1990s when members of my own family began to playfully chide me for maintaining a “rigorist mindset.”

[vi] Here is what I learn from my story:

  • While I was growing up as a good, practicing Catholic, I could not be relied upon to correctly understand Judaism and Jews because my pious upbringing was shot-through with misinformation and prejudices. 
  • The conviction that I belonged to the “true religion” is not a protection against the “toxic errors” hidden within the fabric of my tradition.
  • When I encountered my first Jew, Mr. Martin, I doubted that he would be able to treat me and my religious obligations fairly.  Mr. Martin, likewise, was uncertain whether I could be trusted in money matters.
  • My spontaneous honesty when turning in the $20 without expecting a reward changed the way that Mr. Martin regarded me.  Mr. Martin also passed my tests with flying colors. 
  • Only when I began to admire Mr. Martin did I, for the first time, feel concerned about his financial and eternal welfare.  The breakdown of my anti-Jewish prejudices came only because I had met one Jew that did not deserve eternal hellfire.

[vii] A few years back, I wrote that this experience of finding a theological loophole  to save Mr. Martin was my first clue that I had a calling to be a theologian.  I was sixteen at the time and my passion was to study physics and chemistry.  I had to wait ten years before my discernment on this issue was clear enough such that I began to formally study theology. 

[viii] Since then, the official Catholic position on this issue has changed.  Infants who die without receiving Baptism are now expected to enjoy the Kingdom of Heaven along with their families.  The official reason for revising this judgment is as follows:

Being endowed with reason, conscience and freedom, adults are responsible for their own destiny in so far as they accept or reject God’s grace. Infants, however, who do not yet have the use of reason, conscience and freedom, cannot decide for themselves. Parents experience great grief and feelings of guilt when they do not have the moral assurance of the salvation of their children, and people find it increasingly difficult to accept that God is just and merciful if he excludes infants, who have no personal sins, from eternal happiness, whether they are Christian or non-Christian. From a theological point of view, the development of a theology of hope and an ecclesiology of communion, together with a recognition of the greatness of divine mercy, challenge an unduly restrictive view of salvation (THE HOPE OF SALVATION FOR INFANTS WHO DIE WITHOUT BEING BAPTISED, sec. 2, 2006

[ix] For those who wish to follow up my thoughts on this issue, please see my entire account in Aaron Milavec, Salvation Is from the Jews: Reflections on Saving Grace within Judaism and on Messianic Hope within Christianity (Liturgical Press, 2007).



[xii] Pics from the Cleveland riots can be seen here:



[xv] James Baldwin was here referring to the illusion that the USA has established a nearly perfect society.  The words of Balwin apply equally well to the illusion held by conservative Christians that the family endorsed by the Bible was always one man and one woman.

[xvi] https%

How bishops are expected to function

The bishop . . . will be sure to listen to the interested parties

Various mandates have been published respecting the proper functioning of bishops.  More importantly, in 2004,  the Congregation for Bishops prepared and disseminated “Apostolorum Successores” (Directory for the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops).   Here are three sections that I have selected because they specify the conduct required of bishops.  With even greater force, therefore, they apply to the conduct of Cardinal Ratzinger.

#1  Good government requires the Bishop to do all in his power to seek the truth and to make every effort to perfect his teaching, attentive not only to the quantity but also to the quality of his pronouncements. In this way he will avoid the risk of adopting pastoral solutions of a purely formal nature which fail to address the substance of the problems (sec. 57).

#2  The Bishop should make it his business to acquire accurate knowledge of the common good of the diocese. This knowledge should be continually updated and confirmed through frequent visits among the people of God entrusted to him – so that he comes to know them – and also through study, socio-religious research, the counsel of prudent persons and constant dialogue with the faithful, since modern life is subject to such rapid changes (sec. 58).

#3  The Bishop will judge all things with prudence. . . .  With a merciful and benign yet firm spirit, he will rise above personal interests, avoiding undue haste or partisan spirit, and will be sure to listen to the interested parties before reaching a judgement on their actions (sec. 65).

Why Constructive Dialogue on Homosexuality Can Take Place Among Methodists

Gays and the Church

Applying Psychology to facilitate constructive dialogue.

Andy Tix Ph.D. from Psychology Today, Feb 18, 2019

Although the Supreme Court’s landmark 2015 ruling in Obergefell vs. Hodges seemed to settle many civil issues about same-sex marriage in the United States, the topic remains contentious in many religious communities. In recent years, some denominations have broken with the historical Christian view that same-sex relations “miss the mark” and have become more LGBTQ affirming. Many have not, however, meaning they will not support “unrepentant” same sex sexual behavior or same-sex marriage in their churches.

From February 23-26, 2019, another major denomination will meet to discuss its official stance about same-sex relations, as leaders in the United Methodist Church will convene in St. Louis, Missouri to discuss “a way forward.” The plan recommended by the Methodist Council of Bishops would allow local decision-makers to implement policies about matters such as same-sex marriage that best fit their social contexts. If approved, this would enable more progressive districts to support the ordination of gay and lesbian Pastors and marry same-sex couples, subject to the conscience of the local pastor, while allowing more conservative districts to remain unchanged in policy and practice.

At play in these deliberations are questions of how to know what is true about matters of faith. The founder of the Methodist tradition – John Wesley – proposed four “ways of knowing,” now organized in what is popularly termed the “Wesleyan Quadrilateral:” experience, reason, tradition, and Scripture. Basically, Methodists look for “converging evidence” in these four domains when creating church policy, although Scripture is prioritized.

In anticipation of the denomination’s upcoming meetings, I have led a discussion group at my local Methodist church exploring same-sex relations, using the Wesleyan Quadrilateral as an organizing tool, for the past six weeks. Members of my church community have discussed their experiences with gays and lesbians, we invited several gay Christians to our group to listen and learn from their stories, and we have explored Scripture from both conservative and progressive perspectives. As a facilitator, my charge was to lead this group neutrally, meaning I have not shared my opinion very often, I have tried to make sure the best of materials are shared from both conservative and progressive viewpoints, and I have sought to create an atmosphere that is hospitable and conducive to honest, respectful conversations among individuals who often disagree.

As a psychological scientist, I have found an understanding of Psychology to be invaluable in my work. For instance, in the Wesleyan Quadrilateral, psychology illuminates how individuals may differ in interpreting experience, tradition, and Scripture. More centrally, part of “reason” is “science,” and so insights from psychological science often have taken center stage in this group’s discussions.

For example, many group members were surprised to learn about the connection between religion and suicidality among sexual minorities. In particular, in one study of over 20,000 young adults, researchers found a link between the importance ascribed to religion in participants’ lives and the amount of suicidal thinking among those identifying as gay, lesbian, or questioning.

In a session devoted almost entirely to science, we explored what research has revealed about the causes of sexual orientation and the changeability of sexual orientation. I assigned chapters from two books, reflecting both conservative and progressive perspectives. Doing this allowed us to focus on where psychologists with different theological positions agreed:

  1. 2-3% of the population reports being consistently and exclusively attracted to members of the same sex (more males than females).
  2. Sexual orientation is complex and poorly understood. There is no single cause.
  3. Part of what determines sexual orientation seems to be a genetic predisposition.
  4. Prenatal hormones seem to play a role in determining sexual orientation, at least in animal models.
  5. Poor parent-child relationships – including history of childhood trauma – do not seem to predict sexual orientation.
  6. Sexual orientation is not chosen; sexual behavior is.
  7. Most – if not all – people will not substantially change their sexual orientation.

More broadly, psychological research suggested ways to encourage constructive dialogue. Applying a tactic similar to the “jigsaw classroom,” I randomly assigned group members to tables during the more discussion-oriented sessions. This ensured that individuals were not self-selecting into groups with others who would further confirm their positions, but rather share views that would provoke deeper thought. We also often relied upon “ground rules” for conversation, including the importance of using “I statements” that required individuals to take ownership of their positions rather than asserting their universal truth value.article continues after advertisement

In our last session, most people noted that they did not change their beliefs very much as a result of their participation. What was almost universally agreed upon, though, was how much complexity was involved in the issue, and how much intellectual humility is necessary. Many people reported how learning from both sides stretched them and helped them gain greater empathy for those with whom they differed. 

Personally, I felt like leading a group on such a contentious, politicized issue with people I know and like was a huge risk. After the first session, my wife wondered aloud with me whether we were going to make enemies of everyone we knew! However, taking this leap taught me to trust that good still is possible and that, with a little guidance and encouragement, most people really are capable of open, respectful conversation.

That’s a lesson we all need to remember.

Sites for safe and trusted learning

Dear  Kathy,

I just spent an hour enjoying your website.  I find that you have created a very safe environment for those who are interested and concerned about what the Evangelical churches have been saying about homosexuality.  Your use of stories and your sleuthing found in “How the Bible Became Anti-gay” are captivating. I had read many times that the word “homosexual” was a recent insertion into English bibles, but no one mentioned how David, a lone seminarian, had been quietly working behind the scenes some sixty years ago in order to effective challenge its misuse in the RSV. Click here to read this fascinating story.


Mike Moroski

Mike Moroski

Standing Tall

among the Children of God
at Chaminade-Julianne Catholic High School

joined with other faculty and students who suffered unjustly
due to the tyranny of Archbishop Schnurr

The story of those Standing Tall
has been witnessed and recorded by Aaron Milavec
in his new book, WHAT JESUS WOULD SAY TO SAME-SEX COUPLES.               

For in the Last Days,
the sheep will be turned into wolves . . .
and they [the wolves] with persecute [the elect] (Didache 16:4).

Does the Bible require that marriage be limited to one man and one woman?

Here are the four case studies that I prepared as a research fellow with the Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research.  These explorations could also serve as a foundation for a workshop in a parish setting. They could also be used with gifted high school or college students.
The material is divided into four case studies.  One can use any of the case studies independently.  One can change the order in which the case studies are used.  Here are the case studies:

Please share any feedback at the end of this page.  Your experiences are significant to me and enable me to improve this workshop.  I warmly thank you.  Aaron Milavec (author) Continue reading “Does the Bible require that marriage be limited to one man and one woman?”

Nonviolent Resistance in the Moroski Case

The case of Mike Moroski revisited

Mike Moroski enjoys supporting young people and their dreams.  He tells them to take pride in being “who you are.”  He also recognizes that those with homosexual leanings are petrified at the thought of losing all their friends and of “coming out” to their parents.  But Mike Moroski knows how to listen deeply and to support each of them, especially if they identify themselves as “queer.”

Some well-connected parent gets wind of this, reads Moroski’s blogs, and informs Archbishop Schnurr by asking him, “Is this the kind of man we want teaching our children?”  The Archbishop, being a fundamentalist, could not just let this pass.  So, he responds by drafting a letter, consulting his lawyers, and then informing Moroski of his ultimatum: either agree in writing to be silenced on the homosexual issue or you will be dismissed immediately “for breach of contract.”  You know what happens next:

After much deliberation with my wife, family, trusted clergy, professionals from all walks of life and my own meditative silence, I decided not to take the post down, nor to recant my position that “I unabashedly believe gay people SHOULD be allowed to marry…”

If I take that post down I would not be able to look at the thousands of former students and families with whom I have worked for twelve years in the eye. . . . What would I say to all of them if I were to go against my OWN conscience[1] so that I could keep my job for four months?

It came down to the issue of personal integrity.  How could he promote integrity “at all costs” and then back down in the face of the Archbishop’s coercive threat in order to save himself and his family?

Notice here that Moroski gives no hint of having read the Ratzinger documents and having discovered how flawed the Vatican arguments actually are.  Notice too that Moroski appears to know nothing of how Ratzinger avoided all forms of public collaboration before, during, and after he ramrodded his documents through the system.  Moroski does not argue that 57% of Catholics already favor “same-sex marriages”; hence, the Archbishop would be following a self-defeating strategy if he imagined that removing him would help to preserve a doctrine that is already so broadly rejected by the “healthy good sense” (sensus fidelium[2]) of the faithful?  Moroski does not bring forward the names and words of various bishops and cardinals[3] who have gone on record as favoring “same-sex marriages.”  Moroski does not cite Vatican II when it upholds the right of Catholics to be “free from coercion”[4] and that, as a consequence, he might say that he cannot respond to the Archbishop’s ultimatum until he clarifies how and why he avoided any dialog and jumped immediately to drastic coercive measures by way of resolving the issue.  Moroski appeals, instead, to his integrity but he does not cite the writings of the younger Dr. Joseph Ratzinger who wrote the following by way of explaining the doctrine of Vatican II regarding “conscience”:

Over the pope as the expression of the binding claim of ecclesiastical authority, there still stands one’s own conscience, which must be obeyed before all else, even if necessary against the requirement of ecclesiastical authority.  This emphasis on the individual, whose conscience confronts him with a supreme and ultimate tribunal, and one which in the last resort is beyond the claim of external social groups, even of the official Church, also establishes a principle [that enables one to act] in opposition to increasing totalitarianism.[5]

Moroski does not cite the documents of the Church regarding justice, as when the U.S. Bishops wrote, “We must not only act justly but be perceived as acting justly if we are to succeed in winning popular support against same-sex marriages.”[6] Moroski does not ask the Archbishop how his conduct squares with the bishops’ own standards.  Finally, Moroski does not take the route of telling the Archbishop that his first and non-negotiable mandate is to continue serving his students and serving his faculty and that he intends to continue to do so for the duration of his contract and then and only then will he give his answer to the Archbishop’s ultimatum.

Strategies for implementing nonviolent resistance

This last route clearly moves toward nonviolent resistance.[7]  The Archbishop might decide to wait until the contract expires when all the cards would be in his deck.  Most probably, however, the Archbishop will be impatient and will make more threats.  For example, he might impose a deadline or he might insist that Moroski leave his office within five hours and not return.  When he ignores this, the Archbishop would probably proceed to have him arrested and forcefully removed “as a trespasser.”

The students could organize themselves in preparation for this eventuality.  At the arrival of the police, a prearranged signal would be given, and immediately students in sympathy with Moroski would, in absolute silence, immediately vacate their classrooms and surround Moroski in his office.[8]  If the police have not yet reached him, then students would join arms and block the halls or merely sit down and force the police to climb over them.  Once they reach Moroski, however, they would be told that they are invited to speak with him but not to leave with him.  They might decide to handcuff or chain Moroski’s ankles to a heavy desk, for example, to make certain that he could not easily be removed.  The students might hiss or hum, but they would not insult or restrain the police in any way.  All interactions with the police would be captured on multiple cell phones.  Meanwhile, other students would alert newspaper reporters and TV stations that a “nonviolent protest blocking the arrest of Moroski” was in progress at Purcell-Marion High School.  Legal advisors (parents of students) would also be brought in to advise both the police and the students of their rights.  Significant songs or even silly songs could be at the ready to keep the mood non-aggressive yet focused.  A protest statement detailing the injustice of the process to remove Mr. Moroski would be prepared in advance and given to reporters, to concerned parents, and other adult bystanders.

Educating students to use nonviolent confrontation

Even if, by some circumstance, Mike Moroski was removed and prevented from returning, concerned students of the school could hold a memorial in honor of Mr. Moroski.  At this memorial, a microphone could be passed around that would allow students to tell their stories regarding “What I learned from Mr. Moroski that I will never forget.”  Teams of students with video recorders would not only record what students said but to have students sign release forms allowing them to use their memorial message on the internet.

Following the memorial, four to five ten-minute YouTube videos could be prepared that would artfully present the grievance of the students followed by five to eight student statements.  At the close of each YouTube video would be an invitation to sign an online protest letter demanding the reinstatement of Mr. Moroski.  The letter and signatures would be addressed to the Archbishop and to the Catholics of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and delivered to him personally by a hundred students just prior to the Sunday liturgy.  The students then would distribute copies to the entire congregation and stay with the people to join in the Eucharist presided over by the Archbishop.

If this protest letter did not receive a favorable response from Archbishop Schnurr, then students could decide to shut-down the school for two hours on a couple of Friday afternoons and have “teach-ins” prepared in which the injustice of the situation were carefully and systematically presented followed by an hour of brain-storming strategizing on how to restore justice using principles of nonviolence confrontation.  Hopefully the students could work together with the full support of the administration in bringing this into realization.  It could be explained to them that this is a test case in Catholic Action and that it is preparing them to learn nonviolent confrontation techniques that would be invaluable for redressing injustice later in their lives.  If the administration falters, interested students could decide to merely silently walk out of their classrooms and assemble in the gym at the prearranged hour.

The “teach-ins” might even bring in nonviolent social activists who would strategize with the students how to put pressure on Archbishop Schnurr to meet their demands.  Who knows what the genius of these students could produce?  They could imaginatively create an internet fury that would knock the socks off the people of Cincinnati and have Archbishop Schnurr too ashamed to step outside his million-dollar mansion.  Or they might bring their parents on board and have one hundred of them contributed $500 each to rehire Mike Moroski as “their” vice-principle who was no longer under the authority of the Archbishop.  They could rethink band concerts, school plays, and athletic events in such a way as to perform them “in honor of Mike Moroski.”  The Archbishop would always be personally invited to attend.  If he failed to show, a copy of the program would be given to him with the tribute to Mike Moroski clearly visible.

If after all their efforts, Archbishop Schnurr would ultimately refuse to reconcile himself with Mike Moroski, then, as a final protest, the parents and the students could refuse to reconcile themselves with him as well.  When he visits, they could deliberately shun him by avoiding him or turning their backs to him.  When he addresses them, they could silently block their ears with their hands.  If he continues to ignore them, they could begin softly humming or whispering “Mike Moroski.”  A hundred students doing this could easily unnerve even an Archbishop.  He can’t have all or even one of them expelled[9] because he doesn’t know who they are.

All in all, it would only take a few instances like this to teach an unruly and menacing Archbishop that there are severe limits to his abuse of power.  They might even be able to convince him that teachers like Mike Moroski who support “same-sex marriages” are doing the entire Church an immense service in so far as they bring a level of welcome and support to Catholic gays and lesbians that has been decidedly curtailed by the Ratzinger Doctrine.

Shunning the Archbishop

Another strategy would be to shun[10] the Archbishop.  How so?  By drafting a letter something like the following:

To: Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr

From: Students of Purcell Marian High School

Re: dismissal of Mr. Mike Moroski

Your dismissal of Mr. Mike Moroski is an act of injustice and a sin against God.

It is an act of injustice in so far as the character and worth of a teacher in our school should never be decided on the basis of his/her position on same-sex marriages.  Many priests, bishops, and cardinals have openly favored offering some blessing and civil recognition of same-sex unions.  Pope Francis has, already for ten years, favored such a proposal[11] but he hesitates to call it “marriage.” Furthermore, to summarily deny a talented and worthy teacher his income without some due process is an injustice against his family.

It is a sin against God in so far as it is not for us to judge what measures same-sex couples should or should not employ to protect their loved ones.  God has assigned to each of us a dignity and a calling.  No one can be justly blamed or menaced for what God has created them to be.

Furthermore, as a Catholic bishop you are committed to respect the dignity and safeguard the God-given rights of gays and lesbians.  The “morality clause” that you placed in teacher contracts has the effect of menacing those teachers who promotes compassion and understanding for LGBTQ students.  This is a sin against God and a violation of your episcopal calling.

As Catholics, we urgently need faculty like Mr. Mike Moroski who actively promote compassion and understanding for LGBTQ students.  You should be humbly learning from him rather than trying to silence him.

For all these reasons, we have taken it upon ourselves the task of overturning your sins of injustice.  Mr. Mike Moroski is now employed by us and his salary has been increased because we cherish his character and his worth as a Catholic teacher among us.

Since you have sinned against God and against those gays and lesbians among us whom God loves, we no longer regard you as a suitable minister fit to officiate at any Eucharist held here in our school.  As Jesus said in the Gospel of Matthew, “If you are bringing your gift to the alter and remember that someone has something against you, go first and reconcile with him/her and then go and offer your gift.”  Be reconciled, therefore, so that we can, at some future point, again embrace you as our God-appointed pastor and Eucharistic celebrant.

Here below are our signatures.



[1] The appeal to “conscience” takes priority over all other sources for discerning “what is truly right and just by God’s standards” as opposed to following “a political ideology.”  Archbishop Schnurr clarifies this point as follows:

The answer is to consult our conscience, which is a judgment of reason about the good to be done and the evil to be avoided in a concrete situation (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, §1778 & Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, §17). A conscience must be well-formed by using reason to discover the natural law and faith to understand Sacred Scripture and official Church teaching.  We then submit our judgment to God in prayer, striving to discern His will. By humbly committing ourselves to the lifelong journey of developing our consciences, we more clearly distinguish the Truth of God in a complex, sometimes manipulative world, and make choices that promote the life and the dignity of all.

In effect, therefore, both Archbishop Schnurr and Mike Moroski both appeal to “conscience” by way of justifying how they acted.  Archbishop Schnurr delivered his ultimatum because he was responsible for insuring that teachers in his Catholic schools both teach and live according to the norms published by the Vatican.  Mike Moroski refused to capitulate because, according to his informed conscience, the Vatican had arrived at a defective judgment when it came to same-sex unions.  When such differences arise, the expectation might be that open dialog has to begin and to continue until they can work out some middle ground between them.  Both are Catholic pastors; yet, due to the authoritarian modality preferred by the Archbishop, he wasted no time with any dialog.  He moved directly to have Mike Moroski removed from his office with a police escort.

[2] Two theological terms have come to express the understanding that all believers participate in elaborating Christian truth: sensus fidei and sensus fidelium. The first refers to the Christian’s possession of the fundamental truth of his faith. The second refers to his role in actively defending and elaborating that faith. Though the Second Vatican Council employed both terms (sensus fidelium : GS 52; sensus fidei : LG 12, 35; PO 9; see also John Paul II, Christifideles laici 14 and Ut unum sint 80) writers since the council have generally preferred the more active-subjective term, that is, sensus fidelium.

Historical Considerations. Historically, the common teaching in the Church saw an active role of all the faithful in determining Christian belief. The whole community attested to the apostolicity of the faith. Though the bishops increasingly taught with authority and defined the emerging orthodox synthesis at synods and general councils, the concrete life of the community was always considered and the faithful were routinely consulted. Chapters 6 and 15 of the Acts of the Apostles give us a glimpse of the inclusiveness of the whole community’s participation. In the first five centuries, the characterization of a local church as “apostolic” pointed to its whole life: its Scriptures, sacraments and liturgy, authorized leaders, moral norms, ecclesiastical discipline and polity, interaction with pagan culture, socialization of its members, and its explicit beliefs (

[3] See Appendix 5.

[4] It is in accordance with their dignity as persons-that is, beings endowed with reason and free will and therefore privileged to bear personal responsibility-that all men should be at once impelled by nature and also bound by. They are also bound to adhere to the truth, once it is known, and to order their whole lives in accord with the demands of truth. However, men cannot discharge these obligations in a manner in keeping with their own nature.  Therefore, the right to religious freedom has its foundation not in the subjective disposition of the person, but in his very nature (Declaration on Religious Freedom = Dignitatis Humanae, §2).

[5] Joseph Ratzinger, Commentary on the Doctrine of Vatican II, ed. Herbert Vorgrimler, Volume V, p 134.  One wonders whether Cardinal Ratzinger thought of himself as contributing to the totalitarianism of Vatican control over the worldwide Church.

[6] This statement is rather catchy because it ties together the intimate interplay between truly acting justly and the public perception thereof. To my recollection, the U.S. Catholic bishops first used the initial half of this statement in their “Pastoral Letter on the Economy,” written in the 80s.  Then, it next shows up in their 9/11 statement and is tied into formulating principles to be used by the President in the fight against “terrorism.”  The final word, consequently, is not “same-sex marriages” but “terrorism.”  Thirdly, this same principle gets cited in the bishop’s letter complaining about the miscarriage of justice in the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo.  If the statement is true, and clearly the U.S. bishops think so, then they might very well apply it as a guiding principle in their own vicious fight against “same-sex marriages.”

[7] To understand nonviolent resistance, one needs to look at the efficacy of Mahatma Gandhi in ousting the British colonization and military domination of India without needing to resort to guerrilla warfare.  Closer to home, one needs to think of the Montgomery bus boycott and the lunch-counter sit-ins (an invention of dissatisfied youth) that eventually overthrew a host of Jim Crow laws bent upon keeping “those damn Niggers in their place.”  Martin Luther King, Jr. called the principle of nonviolent resistance the ‘‘guiding light of our movement. Christ furnished the spirit and motivation while Gandhi furnished the method’’ (Papers 5:423).  For more details, see   The U.S. Catholic bishops strongly supported the Civil Rights Movement under King’s direction precisely because of its principled application of nonviolent resistance.  Meanwhile these same bishops encouraged dialog with Black Muslims but positively rejected the Black Panthers.

[8] For a story that demonstrates just how effective this can be, see Lauren FitzPatrick, “Students launch “read-in” at DuSable High to protest losing librarian,” Chicago Sun-Times 11 Dec 2015 (
) and Lauren FitzPatrick , “CPS reinstates DuSable librarian using ‘anonymous gift’,” Chicago Sun-Times 17 Dec 2015 (

[9] Needless to say, “expulsion” is an excessive and unwarranted penalty for someone acting in behalf of justice.  Malicious obstruction is one thing; mindful protest is quite another.  Even should the administration not understand this and try to identify and expel some of the ring leaders of the protest movement as a favor to the Archbishop, students could then turn their attention to teaching the administrators that they also are not free to abuse their authority and to punish those who are using Catholic principles in their struggle for justice.

[10] For an understanding of shunning, see

[11] For his published views, see “Pope Francis Allows For Civil Unions for Lesbian and Gay Couples ( New York Times reported that “Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio . . . spoke out in a heated meeting of bishops in 2010 and advocated a highly unorthodox solution: that the church in Argentina support the idea of civil unions for gay couples” (

The Case of Mike Moroski

The case of Mike Moroski[1]

Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati dismissed Mike Moroski, the assistant principal of Purcell Marian High School (Dayton, OH) after he refused to remove a private blog expressing support for same-sex marriages.  Here are the words of Mike Moroski describing the situation that has been imposed upon him:

On Monday, February 4th [2014] I was given an ultimatum by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.  Namely, to take down my post on this site entitled, “Choose Your Battles,” sign a number of documents assuring my silence and keep my job — or, resign.

After much deliberation with my wife, family, trusted clergy, professionals from all walks of life and my own meditative silence, I decided not to take the post down, nor to recant my position that “I unabashedly believe gay people SHOULD be allowed to marry. . . .”

If I take that post down I would not be able to look at the thousands of former students and families with whom I have worked for twelve years in the eye. . . .   What would I say to all of them if I were to go against my OWN conscience[2] so that I could keep my job for four months?

I refused to agree to the Archdiocese’s terms BECAUSE OF my faith formation at Catholic schools and relationship with Catholic family members & clergy — not in spite of it [. . .]

If any of you Cavaliers [students at Purcell Marian High School] are reading this, please know that I love you and I am in your corner.  I hope that someday you may come to understand why I am not in my office to share a laugh, a cry or a story. . . .   As I always tried to teach you — NEVER compromise who you are for someone else — and NEVER let anyone make you someone THEY want you to be.  Be strong and take care of one another [. . .]

The “Morality Clause” in Teacher Contracts

After the dismissal of Mike Moroski and after the Archdiocese was successfully sued in court by a fired teacher for $171,000,[3] it appears that Archbishop Schnurr met with his lawyers and was advised to include a “morality clause”[4] in all teacher contracts so as to better protect the interests of the Archdiocese in future court cases.[5]  This “morality clause,” would make it perfectly clear that teachers acknowledged certain ways of acting as incompatible with their employment in the Archdiocese.[6]

The “morality clause” of the new teachers contract for the 2014-2015 school year permits not only for the firing of gay and lesbian school employees, but also for anyone supporting of the “homosexual lifestyle” [which presumably includes same-sex marriage] as grounds for dismissal.

In response to Archbishop Schnurr’s “morality clause,” Dr. Sharon Groves, director of the Human Rights Campaign published the following analysis:

At a time when Pope Francis is talking about support of civil unions, the Cincinnati Archdiocese, in a throwback to past times, is talking about firing gay and lesbian teachers and silencing their straight supporters.  This isn’t in keeping with the olive branch Pope Francis has extended to LGBTQ people around the world, but even more importantly, it’s not in keeping with the living message of God’s love of all people.

The majority of Catholics and people of faith believe LGBTQ people deserve dignity, respect, and equal protections under the law,[7] and at the same time leaders of the Cincinnati Archdiocese are determined to weed out supporters of LGBTQ equality.  This must stop.

The new contract also prohibits membership in an LGBTQ equality organization, such as the Conference of Catholic Lesbians or DignityUSA.  Creating a safe space for LGBTQ young people, by placing a multicolored-rainbow sticker on your car bumper, for example, could [presumably] be grounds for dismissal.[8]

I had the opportunity to interview some Catholic teachers perplexed by this change in policy.  All of them were angry at the heavy-handed coercion involved in the imposition of the “morality clause.”  One teacher noted that “signing this new contract effectively meant that we [the teachers] would lose our civil liberties outside the classroom as the price for continuing to teach inside the classroom.”  In contrast, Paul Kindt, a high school religion teacher, reported that he proudly signed the contract because he believed that the Catholic Church has “THE TRUTH” about love and marriage and that is precisely what he presents to his students—”no human opinions,” he emphasized, “just God’s point of view.”[9]

Another teacher I interviewed was much more personally distressed by the “morality clause”:

My own brother has just recently come out that he is homosexual.  I personally want to listen to him deeply but also to publicly support him in the changes that this will produce in his life.  In signing this contract, I feel that I am endorsing a Catholic education that forces young people to suppress or deny any homosexual leanings because they are indoctrinated from their earliest years that such a condition leads to serious sin and the threat of eternal hellfire.  This was what my brother was saying to our family.  That he was scared out of his mind to even admit the truth to himself while he was in Catholic schools.

“So how is this to be resolved?”, I asked.  She continued:

I’m damned if I do and I’m damned if I don’t.  I love teaching and I had made the choice of Catholic schools because they give kids a challenging moral code.  But on this issue of homosexual unions, I’m completely at a loss.  If I sign, I will feel that I am betraying the best interests of my brother.  If I don’t sign, there is no way in hell that I could find a full-time opening in a public school this late in the summer.[10]

My third interview was perhaps the most critical one:

Our pastor gathered us in the rectory and heard some of the grievances surrounding the “morality clause” in the new contract.  By way of an action step, he proposed the following:

“I have no investment in policing your private lives or in scrutinizing those causes you are supporting in our society.  In fact, I detest the Archbishop’s senseless meddling.  I’m more concerned with our ability, as a parish, to welcome with dignity all the diverse sorts of families that we have in our midst.  When we celebrated the baptism of the twins adopted by Karl and Adam, I was proud of the diversity of our parish and proud of the way that everyone accepted gay parents with enthusiasm.

“This is the kind of worshipping community that Jesus would have championed had he been present.  So, I don’t see any reason to mount a protest in the face of the Archbishop’s senseless meddling—it would only put us in the limelight and give him a reason to begin disrupting the excellent ministries that we already undertaken.  Hence, I trust you and our parents trust you with their children.

“I would, accordingly, ask you to sign the contract for this greater good and to let go of your anxieties.  Be not afraid.  I will stand behind you.  How many would be able to live with this?”

Everyone gave a visible sign of relief.  Not a single voice opposed the resolution this pastor proposed to his teachers.[11]

This interview illustrates how a local pastor had compelling reasons to take the side of his teachers and, for grave pastoral reasons, to deliberately subvert the intentionality of Archbishop Schnurr to purge the ranks of the 2,200 teachers employed by the Archdiocese.

Molly Shumate, a first-grade teacher, was directly touched by one of the newly highlighted restrictions because she has a son who’s gay.  She’s ending her career teaching at her childhood school rather than agree to the restrictions spelled out in the “morality clause” that she says “could restrict her from publicly supporting her son.”[12]

“In my heart, I know I need to go.  I need to find another avenue because I am going to support my son,” Shumate told CNN.  “If in five or ten years he finds a partner and he wants to be with that person, I’m going to be in the front row with the biggest bouquet.” [13]

The Cincinnati Chapter of the Voice of the Faithful mounted a campaign in support of teacher rights.  They petitioned to be able to discuss this issue with Archbishop Schnurr, but he declined to meet with them or with representatives of the 2,200 teachers.

The situation in the archdiocese of Cincinnati is not unique.  Toughening up teacher contracts and getting rid of persons in same-sex unions or persons visibly supporting same-sex unions is growing.[14]


Archbishop Schnurr is in a real bind.  He believes that his divine mandate is to be a courageous shepherd and “to protect the faith of his flock” in the face of doubters on the inside and critics on the outside.  Archbishop Schnurr argues quite correctly that those parents who send their children to Catholic schools do so in the good faith that their teachers themselves affirm that faith in both their hearts and in their conduct.  What is in the heart of a believer cannot be seen or judged.  The conduct of their lives, however, is very much open to public observation and public judgment.  This is why the “morality clause” deals with issues of conduct that is to be expected of exemplary Catholic teachers.  “By their fruits, you shall know them” (Matt. 7:16)

So far, so good.

Needless to say, Archbishop Schnurr has not called for workshops designed to persuade his teachers that the Vatican has “the truth and the whole truth” regarding sexual morality.  Moreover, notice also that Archbishop Schnurr has not called for open dialog or for further research or for sensitive listening groups with gays and lesbians present precisely because he takes for granted that it is too late for such “soft measures.”  In his mind, these issues have already been investigated and authoritatively settled by virtue of the Cardinal Ratzinger decrees (all approved by John Paul II) that were sent out to all bishops by the Vatican.

This is also the reason why Archbishop Schnurr deliberately avoids meeting with “distressed teachers” or their supporters.  As the Archbishop sees it, these distressed teachers have signed on to be “Catholics,” so let them step up to the plate and deliver the goods.  If they cannot, perhaps their gift as teachers needs to be used elsewhere.

In this instance Archbishop Schnurr has adopted an authoritarian leadership style.  He is committed to purging Catholic schools of teachers unwilling to accept his “morality clause.”  But does that go far enough?  In the face of any call for open discussions among the parents and maybe even mild protests from among the students, does Archbishop Schnurr expect to play the authoritarian card when dealing with parents and students as well?  You can bet he does!

Did Archbishop Schnurr act justly?

While it may be the case that Archbishop Schnurr has the right to hire and fire whomever he wishes, this does not mean that he can act arbitrarily.  In other words, he must act justly.  Here are some reasons to think that he did not.

Bishops are required to protect homosexuals from unjust discrimination in employment.  When Archbishop Schnurr formulated a “morality clause,” he effectively barred the way for any qualified gay or lesbian faculty member from teaching in Catholic schools.  Their only crime would be their sexual orientation.  And since “sexual orientation” is never a sin; it would be a gross miscarriage of justice to fire someone solely on the grounds of their sexual orientation.  Hence, the morality clause is prejudicial and a direct violation of the Vatican ruling that Bishops are required to protect homosexuals from unjust discrimination in employment.

Archbishop Schnurr went even one step further.  He fired a teacher solely because he was unwilling to cover up his advocacy of “same-sex marriages.” Yes, I want to make clear that Archbishop Schnurr never met with Mike Moroski to see whether he could change his mind.  And why not?  Was he too busy to do so?  Was he aware that open dialog on this point had little promise of success?  Was he aware that even Pope Francis had argued that “civil marriages”[15] would be of benefit for same-sex couples?

We will never know the answer to these questions.  What we do know, however, is that Archbishop Schnurr was clear that if Mike Moroski removed his online post then the Archbishop would allow him to continue as a teacher in good standing.  Sad but true.  Archbishop Schnurr goal was to silence Mike Moroski.  Then Archbishop Schnurr could go back to that person or those persons who originally objected to Mike Moroski’s post and say, “Mike Moroski has withdrawn his statement.  I, accordingly, have removed my threat.”

But make no mistake here.  Archbishop Schnurr was party to creating a public deception. He was effectively saying to Mike Moroski, “I know and you know that your mind is made up in favor of same-sex marriages.  When you remove your online post, this will not change.  What it will do, however, is to remove you from being in direct violation of the ‘morality clause’ in your teacher’s contract.  Your private views are of no consequence.  It is only your public advocacy that is troublesome and punishable.”

Mike Moroski was correct in understanding that “marriage” would help to protect the civil rights afforded “same-sex unions.”  Dozens of high-ranking bishops and cardinals have already gone on record to advocate the civil protection of “same-sex unions.”  Pope Francis himself has favored for a long time the legalization of “same-sex unions” while reserving the term “marriage” in its traditional meaning.

All in all, Archbishop Schnurr’s decision to dismiss Mike Moroski on this issue alone is a gross violation of justice.  The Catholic Church has made it clear . . .

  1. That no one ought to be coerced to act against their conscience;
  2. That since the hierarchy of the Catholic Church has already made room for a diversity of views[16] respecting how the rights of gays and lesbians are to be best protected, it follows that Mike Moroski was entirely justified to express his opinion on this matter;
  3. That a just punishment must always be measured by the gravity of the crime committed.

Archbishop Schnurr thus acted rashly and unjustly.  Instead of honoring Mike Moroski’s rights, he effectively trampled over them.  He imposed grave harm on Mike Moroski and on his family.  He deprived Purcell Marian High School of a capable, dedicated teacher and administrator. Even beyond this, Archbishop Schnurr betrayed the trust that he has as an administrator—he has given grave scandal by mismanaging the affairs of the Church.

Furthermore, Archbishop Schnurr acted against the interests of gays and lesbians within the Catholic Church by lashing out at Mike Moroski.  Archbishop Schnurr has the obligation to honor and protect gays and lesbians as loved by God and as deserving the pastoral care of his office.  He also has the obligation to “act justly” as an employer and not to punish Mike Moroski by imposing a “gag order” designed to hinder his well-intentioned and legitimate support for same-sex civil marriages.

In Boston, meanwhile, this very issue was being discussed by Cardinal O’Malley:

At the end of the event [a panel discussion on Pope Francis held in Boston on 14 Sept 2014], after the crowd had dissipated, I [Francis DeBernardo] had the opportunity to thank Cardinal O’Malley one-on-one for his compassionate remarks earlier in the evening about the LGBTQ community.

As we spoke, the cardinal told me that we must first convince people we love them before talking about the Ten Commandments. I pointed out that it has been hard to convince LGBTQ Catholics and their allies of this love when so many church workers have had LGBT-related employment disputes with Catholic schools and parishes. Responding to my comment, Cardinal O’Malley said this trend was a situation that “needs to be rectified.”[17]

Meanwhile, in far-flung Australia, another voice sounds that upholds the “deviance” of Mike Moroski and pushes against the forces of oppression in the Church represented by the Archbishop:

Australian Bishop Vincent Long Van Nguyen has said that it is not good enough for the Church to treat gay people with compassion and then define their lifestyle as “intrinsically disordered,” “We cannot talk about the ­integrity of creation, the universal and inclusive love of God, while at the same time colluding with the forces of oppression in the ill-treatment of racial minorities, women and homosexual persons,” said Bishop Long of Parramatta diocese in western Sydney.

“It won’t wash with young people, especially when we purport to treat gay people with love and compassion and yet define their sexuality as ‘intrinsically disordered.’ This is particularly true when the church has not been a shining beacon and a trailblazer in the fight against inequality and ­intolerance.”[18]

The position of Archbishop Schnurr

Archbishop Schnurr will be seen by some to join himself with those parents who rashly disown their own children when they “come out” as lesbians or gays.  These are the children who are forced to live on the streets and who are forced to commit petty thefts and sometimes even to sell their own bodies in order than they might stay alive.  These are the children who, despairing of ever being truly understood and loved, are tempted to cut themselves and to bring their misery to an end.

Archbishop Schnurr will be seen by some as joining himself with those parents who hate “queers” and who send their children to a Catholic high school because they mistakenly believe that teachers openly condemning the lifestyle of “queers” offer their children a measure of immunity from ever being “queer.”  The parents who took notice of Mike Moroski’s website and who reported him to the Archbishop Schnurr might indeed have had this frame of mind.  They might even have threatened to withdraw their children if appropriate action was not taken.

If Archbishop Schnurr was concerned about protecting the spiritual lives of gays and lesbians enrolled in Purcell Marian High School, do you not think that he might have included in his morality clause a warning against “those teachers who demonstrate by word or action an irrational fear or unchristian prejudice against gays and lesbians”?  And what if a teacher would post a blog that includes this: “I hate gays and should any child of mine admit to being gay, I would immediately disown him”?  Would Archbishop Schnurr take quick action here as he did in the case of Mike Moroski?

Sad to say, I expect he would not.

On the other hand, Catholic teaching distinguishes between the person, the inclination, and the act. Persons with homosexual inclinations are not to be condemned or excluded from the Church. On the contrary, they are children of God who have an equal dignity with every other human being.  If they yield to the inclination to homosexuality, they might commit a serious sin.  But just as in the case of any other Catholic who gives in to the temptation to sin, they are urged to trust in God’s mercy, to confess their failings, and to reform their lives. At no time do they become unlovable or unforgiveable in God’s eyes or in the eyes of the Church.  This is why the Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks of the inclination toward homosexual acts as “objectively disordered” while, at the same time, insisting that persons with such inclinations “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.

This is why administrators must weed out teachers who demonstrate by word or action an irrational fear or unchristian prejudice against gays and lesbians.  They are excluded for the very same reason why racists were excluded from the ranks of teachers in the 1970s.  The same goes for the teacher who claims that he would disown his own child should they identify themselves as gay or lesbian.  This is an unnatural and unchristian impulse that must be challenged rather than championed.  And I would fully expect Archbishop Schnurr to remove any teacher who would make such menacing claims in his private blog.

What is troubling, however, is that Archbishop Schnurr is so decidedly one-sided when it comes time to disqualifying teachers.  Anyone who supports same-sex unions or who enters into a same-sex civil marriage has to be excluded.  Okay.  One can allow that this issue is important for the Archbishop.  But why then does the Archbishop not be consistent by excluding anyone unable or unwilling to accept gays and lesbians with “respect, compassion, and sensitivity”?[19]  Is this not the greater sin?  Is this not the far greater danger to our youth?

When students at risk have nowhere to turn

It is the lack of compassion and sensitivity that drives young people to acts of desperation.  Some feel alienated from their own school chums because they feel left out by their dating games.  Some even despair that God cursed them with the abnormality of being “queer.” Many run away from intolerable situations at home and live, vulnerable and exposed, in the dark alleyways and flop houses of our urban jungles.  Many resort to cutting themselves or overdosing on drugs.  Here are the essential facts to guide us on our way:

  • 1 out of 6 students nationwide (grades 9–12) seriously considered suicide in the past year.[20]
  • LGB youth are almost five times as likely to have attempted suicide compared to heterosexual youth.[21]
  • LGB youth who come from highly rejecting families are 8.4 times as likely to have attempted suicide as LGB peers who reported no or low levels of family rejection.[22]
  • Each episode of LGBTQ victimization, such as physical or verbal harassment or abuse, increases the likelihood of self-harming behavior by 2.5 times on average.[23]

Providing a safe environment in Catholic schools

With this in mind, does Archbishop Schnurr understand that, within the student body at his high school, there are cliques ready to extend “respect, compassion, and sensitivity” to those with a LGBTQ orientation?  Other cliques, meanwhile, may be mildly or brutally antagonistic to anyone they brand as “queer.”  Members of these latter cliques take relish in verbally and physically badgering “queer” students who do not know how to defend themselves.  This is sometimes called “bullying.” It shows up everywhere, even in Catholic schools.

Does the Archbishop know which members of the faculty and staff are prepared to effectively intervene when queer baiting or bullying takes place?  Are students given training programs that use role-playing and peer-on-peer counseling such that every student at Purcell Marian High School might feel safe, secure, and accepted within whatever color of the rainbow our loving Creator assigns to them?

Does every student and faculty member know the Trevor Lifeline (1-866-488-7386)—The only national 24/7 crisis intervention and suicide prevention lifeline for LGBTQ young people[24]?  Does the Archbishop recognize his own limitations when it comes to counseling a youth in crisis?  Would he be prepared to recommend the Trevor Lifeline (1-866-488-7386) as a vital resource for those at Purcell Marian High School who will inevitably be approached by troubled youths?

My purpose in posing these questions is not to embarrass Archbishop Schnurr but to alert him and my readers to the sorts of questions that parents need to be asking of the administrators of any school to which they intend to send their children.  Our children are too precious and too vulnerable to figure these things out for themselves.  As a parent, I am responsible for assuring myself and my child that “yes, this is a safe place for you to learn and to grow.”

As for Archbishop Schnurr, I would expect that he is intelligent enough to recognize that when he fires someone like Mike Moroski, he effectively removes a man extraordinarily capable when it comes to taking the steps to ensure that everyone at Purcell Marian has a safe place to grow up and discover their sexual orientation.  For the moment, let’s imagine a dangerous scenario.  What would happen if Archbishop Schnurr hired private detectives who extended his witch-hunt?  Let’s further imagine that these detectives were able to identify everyone who was “soft” on homosexuality and “prone” to support same-sex marriages.  Then, let’s imagine that every one of these administrators and faculty were fired.  Would everyone then feel that Purcell Marian was entirely compliant with the Vatican norms and that every student was safe to grow into the sexuality that the Creator assigned them without being shamed, taunted, or coerced by faculty or students?

Hardly!  The successful witch-hunt and purge would have the effect of insuring an outward compliance but, at the same time, such dismissals would invariably diminish the availability of that “respect, compassion, and sensitivity” whereby those with a LGBTQ orientation are to survive and thrive.  In this atmosphere, cliques that enjoy queer bating would most probably become more brazen because they would be expected to be rewarded by faculty members rather than challenged and redirected.  Then “queers” would cringe in abject misery and have no one to turn to for a sympathetic ear or a word of support.  Programs for “reparative therapies”[25] would again flourish.  When they failed, as they most certainly must, despairing “queers” would be tempted to resort to cutting and suicide in order to relieve their abject misery.  But now no faculty member or student would even be aware of any crisis intervention or suicide prevention lifeline for LGBTQ young people.

Public support for the homosexual lifestyle

While I admit that I am presenting here a worst-case scenario, it does, nonetheless, have the benefit of showing how Archbishop Schnurr’s taste for purging the faculty of “deviants” has the ugly side-effect of putting LGBTQ students at risk.  Archbishop Schnurr might explain to his close friends that the firing Mike Moroski had the good effect of silencing parents who suspected that he had gone soft on deviant faculty.  And, since Archbishop Schnurr is quite intelligent, he might also tell his lawyers that by firing Mike Moroski he sends a loud and clear message to all other faculty that he will not brook even the slightest “deviance”[26] from the “morality clause” that is written into their contracts.

The text of the “morality clause” clearly focuses upon a list of sexually deviant behaviors:

“Public support of or publicly living together outside marriage, public support of or sexual activity out of wedlock, public support of or [publicly living a] homosexual lifestyle, public support of or use of abortion, public support of or use of a surrogate mother, public support of or use of in vitro fertilization or artificial insemination” (excerpt from Teacher’s Contract for 2014-2015).

One can see here that broad sweeping categories are named but not clearly defined.  Does a mother who attends the civil marriage ceremony of her son and his male lover fall under this rule that prohibits “public support”?  Does she fall under this rule by merely sending out invitations (even if she herself does not attend)?  Does the blog of Mike Moroski constitute “public support”?  Does the public reception of same-sex couples by Pope Francis constitute “public support”?  Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston says that the recent trend of firing gays and lesbians from Catholic jobs because they decide to enter into legal same-gender marriages “needs to be rectified.”  Does this constitute “public support”?

Notice what is absent from the Archbishop’s list of unacceptable conduct: “public support of or the use of hate speech against gays and lesbians, public support of or the use of mob action to provoke acts of hatred directed toward gays or lesbians.”

In sum, here is where we have come and where we are going:

  • Archbishop Schnurr unlawfully dismisses Mike Moroski because he supports same-sex marriages.  Nearly a hundred bishops and cardinals have gone on record for supporting same-sex marriages.  No matter.
  • Archbishop Schnurr, in his “morality clause,” gives no evidence that faculty members need to create and maintain a safety zone wherein students of all sexual orientations can survive and thrive and be mutually supportive.  His “gag order” shows that all he was interested in was outward compliance.
  • Archbishop Schnurr denies the free speech rights of Mike Moroski both as a citizen and as a Catholic.  More importantly, the Archbishop leaves the impression that Catholic schools do not build character based upon informed consent.  Rather, the Archbishop implies that thought-control and conformity to pre-made decisions are the necessary substitutes for the demanding skills of respectfully entering into free and open discussion of contemporary issues.  As such, Catholic education falls victim to substituting “mindless conformity” for open discussion and informed consent.


It is to this last point that our attention must now turn.  I decided to join and to sponsor a petition asking Pope Francis to investigate and to rectify the injustices imposed on Mike Moroski.  My petition was formulated as follows:

Justice for Catholic high school teacher fired because he supported same-sex marriages

Dr. Aaron Milavec started this petition to Pope Francis

The Case of Mike Moroski   

Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati dismissed Mike Moroski, the assistant principal of Purcell Marian High School (Dayton, OH) after he refused to remove a private blog expressing support for same-sex marriages.

Here are the words of Mike Moroski describing the situation that was imposed upon him:

On Monday, February 4th [2014] I was given an ultimatum by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.  Namely, to take down my post on this site entitled, “Choose Your Battles,” sign a number of documents assuring my silence and keep my job — or, resign.

After much deliberation with my wife, family, trusted clergy, professionals from all walks of life and my own meditative silence, I decided not to take the post down, nor to recant my position that “I unabashedly believe gay people SHOULD be allowed to marry. . . .”

If I take that post down I would not be able to look at the thousands of former students and families with whom I have worked for twelve years in the eye. . . .   What would I say to all of them if I were to go against my OWN conscience so that I could keep my job . . . ?

If any of you Cavaliers [students at Purcell Marian High School] are reading this, please know that I love you and I am in your corner.  I hope that someday you may come to understand why I am not in my office to share a laugh, a cry or a story. . . .   As I always tried to teach you — NEVER compromise who you are for someone else — and NEVER let anyone make you someone THEY want you to be.  Be strong and take care of one another [. . . .]

Archbishop Schnurr delivered his ultimatum because he saw himself as responsible for insuring the parents who sent their sons and daughters to Purcell Marian High School that they would encounter teachers entirely supportive of the official Vatican norms that oppose granting civil “marriages” to same-sex couples. Mike Moroski refused to capitulate because, according to his informed conscience, civil same-sex marriages would provide gays and lesbians with a measure of dignity and the protection of their civil rights as “married partners.”

According to Archbishop Schnurr, it would appear that free and open discussion of the merits and liabilities of granting civil marriages cannot take place within Catholic schools.  The case here does not imply that Mike Moroski ever promoted any such discussions of this issue among his students. Rather, the issue turns entirely on the unwillingness of Mike Moroski to accept the “gag order” mandated by the Archbishop.

The “gag order” of Archbishop Schnurr denies the free speech rights of Mike Moroski both as a citizen and as a Catholic.  More importantly, the Archbishop leaves the impression that Catholic schools do not build character based on informed consent.  Rather, the Archbishop implies that thought-control and conformity to pre-existing decisions substitutes for the free and open exploration of contemporary issues.  As such, Catholic education falls victim to becoming a coercive indoctrination in the service of a false piety.

By signing this petition, you are calling upon Pope Francis to intervene in this case (a) by exonerating Mike Moroski of all charges against him, (b) by praising him for his exemplary fortitude in resisting unjust oppression, and (c) by reinstating him with a ten-year teaching contract [should he be willing to accept this].

Furthermore, at a time when free and open discussion is the necessary landscape whereby Catholics everywhere might hope to arrive at an informed understanding of the issues surrounding same-sex marriages, signing this petition urges Pope Francis to challenge Archbishop Schnurr to mend his ways and to reverse the damage he has done by publicly acknowledging to Mike Moroski and the students of Purcell Marian High School that he failed as a Christian and as an Archbishop when he imposed a “gag order” on Mike Moroski.

Please sign this petition and join in the discussion:

As a long-time teacher in Catholic schools, I have felt the silent terror of working in an authoritarian environment.  Not a week passes when I don’t hear of another dismissal of the kind reported above.  A single intervention on the part of Pope Francis would give hope to tens of thousands of teachers who face dismissal should they support same-sex marriages.  Pope Francis’ intervention would send a clear signal: “Indoctrination is not the heart and soul of Catholic education.”  This intervention would alert administrators everywhere that “mindless conformity” is the toxic authoritarian substitute for the hard work of developing skills for sensitive listening and compassionate acceptance that is at the heart of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

When teaching is reduced to indoctrination

No learning can take place if the experiences and the thoughts of students cannot be acknowledged and explored.  Authoritarianism may succeed in forcing teachers to toe the line, but any successful teacher knows that authoritarianism in high school inevitably leads to indoctrination, intimidation, and quiet conformity.  As soon as students are free of the school atmosphere, they say what they really think among their chums and, in some cases, they also discuss their “doubts” with their parents as well.

If parents blindly enforce the authority of the Archbishop, then these parents effectively “bully” their own children by “setting them straight” and, wittingly or unwittingly, collude with the Archbishop who demands submission of mind and heart.  This, of course, has limited results because it sets children on the road to rebellion and prepares them to throw off everything that has been “crammed down their throats” the moment that they leave home.

But let’s face it.  When Archbishop Schnurr plays his authoritarian card, he effectively treats his own teachers much like the authoritarian parents that unwittingly alienate their children and set them on the road to rebellion.  If children need acceptance, trust, and openness to their grievances, then, with an even more urgent care, even an archbishop needs to do the same when it comes to teachers.  Vatican II makes this abundantly clear:

It is in accordance with their dignity as persons-that is, beings endowed with reason and free will and therefore privileged to bear personal responsibility-that all men should be at once impelled by nature and also bound by a moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth.  They are also bound to adhere to the truth, once it is known, and to order their whole lives in accord with the demands of truth.  However, men cannot discharge these obligations in a manner in keeping with their own nature unless they enjoy immunity from external coercion as well as psychological freedom.  Therefore, the right to religious freedom has its foundation not in the subjective disposition of the person, but in his very nature (Declaration on Religious Freedom = Dignitatis Humanae, §2).

Part II deals with how nonviolent resistance applies to the Moroski Case.



[1] Mike Moroski served at Moeller High School for 10 years as a teacher, service learning coordinator, and House Dean. Concurrently, he ran a nonprofit, Choices Cafe, that bridged the gap between those with means and those without. Mike finished his time in secondary education as the Assistant Principal at Purcell Marian. He was terminated from his post at Purcell Marian by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati for his public support of marriage equality. Mike earned his B.A. & M.A. in English from Xavier University, and an M.B.A. in nonprofit administration from the University of Notre Dame (M.N.A.). Currently, in addition to his role as executive director of UpSpring (working to keep children experiencing homelessness connected to their education), Mike is a trustee on the Southwestern Ohio Workforce Investment Board, a member of Cincinnati’s Human Services Advisory Committee, and a member of Mayor John Cranley’s Hand Up Steering Committee. ( For an interview with Mike Moroski, see

[2] The appeal to “conscience” takes priority over all other sources for discerning “what is truly right and just by God’s standards” as opposed to following “a political ideology.”  Archbishop Schnurr clarifies this point as follows:

The answer is to consult our conscience, which is a judgment of reason about the good to be done and the evil to be avoided in a concrete situation (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, §1778 & Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, 17). A conscience must be well-formed by using reason to discover the natural law and faith to understand Sacred Scripture and official Church teaching.  We then submit our judgment to God in prayer, striving to discern His will. By humbly committing ourselves to the lifelong journey of developing our consciences, we more clearly distinguish the Truth of God in a complex, sometimes manipulative world, and make choices that promote the life and the dignity of all.  (

In effect, therefore, both Archbishop Schnurr and Mike Moroski both appeal to “conscience” by way of justifying how they acted.  Archbishop Schnurr delivered his ultimatum because he was responsible for insuring that teachers in his Catholic schools both teach and live according to the norms published by the Vatican.  Mike Moroski refused to capitulate because, according to his informed conscience, the Vatican had arrived at a defective judgment when it came to same-sex unions.  When such differences arise, the expectation might be that open dialog must begin and to continue until they can work out some middle ground between them.  Both are Catholic pastors; yet, due to the authoritarian modality preferred by the Archbishop, he decided against any dialog.  He moved directly to have Mike Moroski removed from his office by a police escort.

[3] “Jury awards Christa Dias $171K in suit against Archdiocese of Cincinnati,” Associated Press 03 June 2013 (

[4] The term “morality clause” has been used by newspaper and television reporters and is not the language of the contract itself.  The “morality clause” is on page 6 of the contract.  A complete contract can be found here:

[5] If interested, see news video here:

[6] Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco has initiated a course of action that is quite similar to that of Archbishop Schnurr.  The teachers and their supporters in San Francisco, however, were much more pro-active in confronting Archbishop Cordileone on his presumed “orthodoxy” in representing Catholicism.  Jim McGarry, a retired educator who taught Catholic theology for twenty years at San Francisco’s St. Ignatius College Preparatory, a Jesuit Catholic high school in San Francisco that his children attend, supported student protestors saying:

“[The archbishop] is not in compliance with Catholic teaching,” McGarry said. “He is very selectively choosing a small number of doctrines and putting them forward in a selective way and, I think, distorting the tradition . . . in a way that first of all endangers the health and well-being of our children.” McGarry argued that Cordileone’s hardline stance on homosexuality, which would permit the firing of teachers who wed same-sex partners, directly contradicts a line in the Catechism of the Catholic Church that reads, “Every sign of unjust discrimination [against homosexuals] should be avoided.” He also noted that Catholic teaching is well-known for guaranteeing freedom of conscience, allowing Catholics to disobey their government—or each other— when they feel that their morals have been violated.

For details, see

[7] Recent polling found that 86 percent of Christians believed the very tenets of their faith compelled them to support protections for LGBTQ people under the law and 59 percent of lay Catholics support marriage equality.

[8] Archbishop John Nienstedt refused Communion to about twenty people wearing rainbow buttons and ribbons at a mass at St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, MN, in 2010.  See Madeleine Baran, “Archdiocese: Communion too sacred to be used as protest,” MPRNews, 06 Oct 2010 (

[9] Paul Kindt, “I’m Signing the Contract — in Sharpie,” The Catholic Beat, 30 April 2014  (

[10] The teacher interviewed wished to remain anonymous.

[11] The teacher interviewed wished to remain animus.

[12] Notice how this mother is being torn by her love for teaching and her determination to support her son.  The 1986 statement to parents in “Always Our Children” makes the point that parents have a primary role in walking with their children as they explore their sexual identity.  See Appendix 1 for details.

[13] Source for this paragraph is Susan Candiotti and Chris Welch, CNN, “A litany of ‘thou shalt nots’: Catholic teachers challenge morality clause,” 31 May 2014 (

[14] A survey of firings and “morality clauses” can be found here:

[15] The New York Times reported that “Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio . . . spoke out in a heated meeting of bishops in 2010 and advocated a highly unorthodox solution: that the church in Argentina support the idea of civil unions for gay couples” (

[16] See Appendix 4: Catholic Church Leaders Who Made Positive Statements about Civil Unions and Same-Gender Marriages

[17] Francis DeBernardo, Boston’s Cardinal O’Malley: LGBTQ Church Worker Firings “Need to be Rectified,” New Ways Ministry 15 Sept 2014 (

[18] Global Pulse staff, “Australian bishop challenges Church on homosexuality,” 16 Sept 2016 (

[19] If this is true, then the Catholic teachers of Cincinnati should expect Archbishop Schnurr to provide them with a much more balanced “morality clause” in their future employment contracts.

[20] CDC. (2016). Sexual Identity, Sex of Sexual Contacts, and Health-Risk Behaviors Among Students in Grades 9-12: Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

[21] CDC. (2016). Sexual Identity, Sex of Sexual Contacts, and Health-Risk Behaviors Among Students in Grades 9-12: Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

[22] Family Acceptance Project™. (2009). Family rejection as a predictor of negative health outcomes in white and Latino lesbian, gay, and bisexual young adults [Pediatric, 123(1), 346-52].

[23] IMPACT (2010). Mental health disorders, psychological distress, and suicidality in a diverse sample of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youths. American Journal of Public Health. 100(12), 2426-32.

[24] For the online life-saving and life-affirming resources of the Tervor Project, go to

[25] Reparative Therapy (also known as Conversion Therapy) claims that adolescent homosexuality may arise from traumatic events in the past and that, with careful psychological counseling, part or all of same-sex attraction can be dispelled.  For a strong and persuasive advocate, see Joseph Nicolosi, Ph.D., What Is Reparative Therapy? Examining the Controversy (  Please be aware, however, that this form of therapy has been widely shown to be non-productive and even harmful to the degree that even the American Psychiatric Association warns against crediting its claims.  See “The Lies and Dangers of Efforts to Change Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity” (

[26] The text of the “morality clause” clearly focuses upon a list of sexually deviant behaviors: “public support of or publicly living together outside marriage, public support of or sexual activity out of wedlock, public support of or [publicly living a] homosexual lifestyle, public support of or use of abortion, public support of or use of a surrogate mother, public support of or use of in vitro fertilization or artificial insemination” (excerpt from Teacher’s Contract for 2014-2015).  One can see here that broad sweeping categories are named but not clearly defined.  Does a mother who attends the civil marriage ceremony of her son and his male lover fall under this rule that prohibits “public support”?  Does she fall under this rule by merely sending out invitations (even if she does not herself attend)?  Does the blog of Mike Moroski constitute “public support”?  Does the public reception of same-sex couples by Pope Francis constitute “public support”?  Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston says that the recent trend of firing gay and lesbian people from Catholic jobs because they are in legal same-gender marriages “needs to be rectified.”  Not all church jobs require church marriages, he added.  Does this constitute “public support”?

Notice what is absent from the Archbishop’s list of unacceptable conduct: “public support of or the use of hate speech against gays and lesbians, public support of the use of mob action to provoke acts of hatred directed toward gays or lesbians.”

What does the Bible declare about marriage?

The Arguments from Authority: The Bible and Church Tradition

3.2.1 Does the Bible support the contention that marriage must be limited to one man and one woman?

When public discourse first considered the possibility of giving legal protection to same-sex unions, most Christian communities were alarmed at this because they judged that the traditional ideal of marriage was under attack.  Dr. Andreas J. Kostenberger, a widely published Protestant theologian, took offense at the very fact that civil discourse was entertaining to give further recognition and protection to same-sex unions at a time when traditional marital unions were in decline.  Here are the words of Dr. Kostenberger explaining himself:

#1  Marriage and the family are institutions under siege today, and only a return to the biblical foundation of these God-given institutions will reverse the decline of marriage and the family in our culture today.

#2  In the book of Genesis, we read that God in the beginning created first a man (Adam) to exercise dominion over his creation and subsequently a woman (Eve) as the man’s “suitable helper” (Gen 2:18, 20). Then, the inspired writer remarks, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24 ESV). This verse sets forth the biblical pattern as it was instituted by God at the beginning: one man is united to one woman in matrimony, and the two form one new natural family.

#3  The Bible makes clear that, at the root, marriage and the family are not human conventions based merely on a temporary consensus and time-honored tradition. Instead, Scripture teaches that family was God’s idea and that marriage is a divine, not merely human, institution. The implication of this truth is significant indeed, for this means that humans are not free to renegotiate or redefine marriage and the family in any way they choose but that they are called to preserve and respect what has been divinely instituted ((

Continue reading “What does the Bible declare about marriage?”

Kevin Kukla’s Klaptrap

Kevin Kukla’s Klaptrap — Catholic Teaching on Sexuality Gone Beserk
Aaron Milavec

Two years ago I discovered Kevin Kukla’s claptrap on his website, At first, I was just annoyed. Then I realized that Kevin represented an educated, upwardly mobile Catholic Fundamentalist who is intent upon upholding and defending the entire Vatican ideology regarding the sexual issues of our day. Moreover, Kevin imagines himself to be a crusader bent upon bringing to young people the sure and unchanging truths of Catholic sexuality that even most priests are embarrassed to teach.

Kevin is not a lightweight. When I take issue with Kevin, I am taking issue with a Catholic who takes a secret delight in basking in the absolute certainty that is given to those who maintain an ideological conformity with the Vatican in all areas of sexual morality. In Kevin’s understanding, the whole world is going to hell in a hand basket, and only a slim minority of Catholic Fundamentalists like himself has a secure foundation in God’s truth.

Like Kevin Kula, I am a cradle-Catholic. I grew up in Euclid, Ohio, and my parents made certain that I attended a Catholic grade school and Catholic high school. Then I went on to attend a Catholic university and two Catholic graduate schools in theology. I was an altar server for fifty years and gained a robust gratitude for the power of Holy Orders and for the sacramental presence of Christ in the Eucharist. I mastered Theistic theology and then went on to master the Neothomism and revisionist theologies that erupted following Vatican II. I trained future Catholic priests and lay ministers in three different seminaries for twenty-five years.

I know and I love the Church, warts and all. However, I also learned that our Holy Mother the Church can be calloused and mean-spirited when it came time to consider issues of sexual conduct. Contrary to the orientation of Kevin Kukla, I am persuaded that the Catholic hierarchy has “almost never gotten it right on issues of sexual ethics.” For me “to serve the Lord,” therefore, I need to expose and challenge Kevin’s historical ignorance, his defective biblical interpretations, and his philosophical errors.

Kevin Kukla is inclined to judge me to be a deviant Catholic. I ask too many embarrassing questions and point fearlessly to the harm that the official Catholic teaching on sexuality has inflicted upon me and my generation of Catholics. This is hard to swallow.

This book is not about an academic debate. Rather it represents the opportunity to listen to two committed Catholics passionate about clarifying and improving upon the sexual morality of our Church. More often than not, Kevin and I began by trying to show the weakness and folly in the other’s positions. Gradually, however, we eventually decided to leave aside rigid positions in order to explore together how we can best serve young Catholics looking for moral guidance and prophetic joy in the teachings of Jesus Christ. If we cannot speak intelligently and civilly to each other, our young people have much to lose and our Church will remain incapable of listening to and addressing their urgent concerns.


If you know anyone who would appreciate a book like this, please consider forwarding them a link to this page =, or, better yet, forwarding to them your review.

For a small price, I have made this Kindle eBook available. If you need to read this on any Apple products, go to and click on “Read on any Device” found under the book cover. If you register your email when purchasing this book, I will be pleased to send you periodic updates FREE of charge. To get the app reader from Apple:

To read my eBook on your PC, get free app at

Peace and joy in learning and in-depth understanding,

Aaron Milavec, BS physics, STB, ThD, theologian, poet, advocate, public speaker

You will get a MOBI (5MB) file

$ 6.95

Excluding VAT

Entering Marriage Because of a Rape

Wiki footnote on Deut  22:28-29

Among ancient cultures virginity was highly prized, and a woman who had been raped had little chance of marrying. These laws forced the rapist to provide for their victim (( One finds a case of this in Deut  22:28-29:

If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, he shall pay her father fifty shekels of silver [as her dowry]. He must marry the young woman, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives.

Here again, this is decreed as revealed Divine Law in Deuteronomy.  Notice that the injured party is not the virgin but her father who cannot expect a decent dowry because his daughter is damaged goods.  Rape is thus a form of theft for which the rapist is forced to pay the consequences: He must pay a hefty dowry and permanently marry the girl he raped.

Many countries still have such provisions.  Article 544 of the Italian Criminal Code, for example, considered rape an offence against ‘public morality’, not against an individual person. If the perpetrator married his victim, even if she was a minor, any sexual offence would lapse. Neither the law nor society made a distinction between such premarital rape on the one hand, and consensual elopement (in Sicily commonly called fuitina) on the other. Socially, the victim was put under heavy pressure to agree to marrying her rapist; the alternative was being shunned for the rest of her life as una donna svergognata: a “woman without honour” (literally: a shameless woman). The victim was held responsible for the humilation of losing her virginity out of wedlock, bringing shame upon herself and her family. If she agreed to marry her attacker, it was thus considered a “reparational marriage” (matrimonio riparatore), that restored her family’s honour.

In 1966, Franca Viola was one of the first women to refuse a “reparational marriage” publicly. Franca Viola was only 17 years old when she was raped with the intention of marriage in 1965. The aftermath of her trial ruled that rapists were no longer able to avoid punishment through the marriage of their victims.[43] In 1981, Italy eventually repealed Article 544 ((

In modern society, rape is a crime against the personal integrity of the victim. It is impossible for modern readers to permit themselves to think that God would be so calloused as to bind a woman to her rapist and to thereby give him permission (as husband) to rape her again whenever he pleases. These violations would not be immoral.  A man has the perfect right to devalue his own property. Only a barbaric god could invent (or even sanction) such a practice.  But there it is in Deut  22:28-29—a reminder that the gods of yesterday were often as cruel and barbaric as the people who served them.


When it comes to marriage practices, the bible cannot be trusted to tell us what God expects of us today.  Only the most uninformed can imagine that there is a consistent ethics of love and marriage stretching all the way from Genesis to the Book of Revelations. What Dr. Andreas J. Kostenberger presents us with is a pious delusion.  He has taken a description of marriage that pleases him and his congregation and has read it back into a select segment of texts that appear to support his assumptions.  At no time does he read the sacred texts within the mindset of the sacred authors.  He has become adept at reading into the text rather that reading out of the text.

In sum, Dr. Andreas J. Kostenberger is not to be trusted.  He would persuade us that God offers no patience with or sanction for same-sex marriages.  He does this because he projects upon God the same abhorrence he feels in his gut whenever he imagines two men sexually arousing each other.  This ruse must be exposed and dismissed.  Why so?  Because a fine man like Matthew Vines calls upon the living God to hear the depths of his loneliness and to speedily come to his aid. Saint Peter describes his own conversion saying, “You know it is against our laws for a Jewish man to enter a Gentile home like this or to associate with you [Gentiles]. But God has shown me that I should no longer think of anyone as impure or unclean” (Act 10:28).

Today we are at a momentous crossroads. Pope Francis has issued the warning to the assembled American bishops very precisely: If the Catholic hierarchy “continues to carry the loaves that Jesus gave them but fail to nourish the people of God with them, then they will persist in experiencing these loaves as a burden and they will throw them at sinners as a sign of God’s wrath” ((    )).


Responses to the three questions on p. 32 of my book

Q1. Examine the Pew data above.  What bearing does this have upon the audience that Matthew Vines is addressing?  How do you account for the fact that White Evangelical Protestants manifest the strongest antagonism to same-sex marriages?  How do you account for the fact that religiously unaffiliated Americans manifest the strongest support for same-sex marriages?



Q2.  How do you account for the fact that acceptance of same-sex marriages continues to slowly rise in all the categories polled?  Why is it that the current younger generation (20-29 years of age) in all categories demonstrates significantly higher levels of support for same-sex marriages than do their parents (40-55 years of age)?



Q3. My personal mentor, Dr. Michael Polanyi,1 was fond of noticing that “every belief works in the eyes of the believer.”  Dr. Terry Sejnowski2 takes this one step further: “Just because everyone believes in an explanation does not make it true.  It sometimes takes a full generation for a commonly held [mistaken] belief to be flushed from a community.”  This is certainly true for the social and religious stigma against interracial marriages and against interfaith marriages.  Can this also be true of same-sex marriages?  If so, why so?





1 Michael Polanyi, Personal Knowledge

2 Terrence J. Sejnowski, The Deep Learning Revolution (The MIT Press) p. 271.

Biblical Perspectives on Homosexuality

Biblical Perspectives on Homosexuality

by Walter Wink

Walter Wink is professor at Auburn Theological Seminary, New York City. He received his Th.D. from Union Theological Semianry, has been active in peace movements throughout the world, and is a Fellow of the Jesus Seminar. His books include: The Powers that Be: Theology for a New Millenium (1999), Homosexuality and Christian Faith (1999), and Cracking the Gnostic Code (1993).

This article appeared in the Christian Century November 7, 1979, p. 1082. Copyright by the Christian Century Foundation and used by permission. Current articles and subscription information can be found at This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted & Winnie Brock.


There is no biblical sex ethic. The Bible knows only a love ethic, which is constantly being brought to bear on whatever sexual mores are dominant in a given country, culture or period. Despite ones revulsion against homosexuality, nevertheless, it appears, for some persons, to be the only natural form their sexuality takes.

No more divisive issue faces the churches of this country today than the question of ordaining homosexuals. Like the issue of slavery a century ago, it has the potential for splitting entire denominations. And like the issue of slavery, the argument revolves around the interpretation of Scripture. What does the Bible say about homosexuality, and how are we to apply it to this tormented question?

We may begin by excluding all references to Sodom in the Old and New Testaments, since the sin of the Sodomites was homosexual rape, carried out by heterosexuals intent on humiliating strangers by treating them “like women,” thus demasculinizing them. (This is also the case in a similar account in Judges 19-21.) Their brutal gang-rape has nothing to do with the problem of whether genuine love expressed between consenting persons of the same sex is legitimate or not. Likewise Deuteronomy 23:17-18 must be pruned from the list, since it most likely refers to a heterosexual “stud” involved in Canaanite fertility rites that have infiltrated Jewish worship; the King James Version inaccurately labeled him a “sodomite.”

Several other texts are ambiguous. It is not clear whether I Corinthians 6:9 and I Timothy 1:10 refer to the “passive” and “active” partners in homosexual relationships, or to homosexual and heterosexual male prostitutes. In short, it is unclear whether the issue is homosexuality alone, or promiscuity and “sex-for-hire.”

Unequivocal Condemnations

With these texts eliminated, we are left with three references, all of which unequivocally condemn homosexuality. Leviticus 18:22 states the principle:

“You [masculine] shall not lie-with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.” The second (Lev. 20:13) adds the penalty: “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death, their blood is upon them.”

Such an act was regarded as an “abomination” for several reasons. The Hebrew prescientific understanding was that male semen contained the whole of nascent life. With no knowledge of eggs and ovulation, it was assumed that the woman provided only the incubating space. Hence the spilling of semen for any nonprocreative purpose — in coitus interruptus (Gen. 38:1-11), male homosexual acts or male masturbation — was considered tantamount to abortion or murder. (Female homosexual acts and masturbation were consequently not so seriously regarded.) One can appreciate how a tribe struggling to populate a country in which its people were outnumbered would value procreation highly, but such values are rendered questionable in a world facing total annihilation through overpopulation.

In addition, when a man acted like a woman sexually, male dignity was compromised. It was a degradation, not only in regard to himself, but for every other male. The patriarchalism of Hebrew culture shows its hand in the very formulation of the commandment, since no similar stricture was formulated to forbid homosexual acts between females. On top of that is the more universal repugnance heterosexuals tend to feel for acts and orientations foreign to them. (Left-handedness has evoked something of the same response in many cultures.)

Whatever the rationale for their formulation, however, the texts leave no room for maneuvering. Persons committing homosexual acts are to be executed. The meaning is clear: anyone who wishes to base his or her beliefs on the witness of the Old Testament must be completely consistent and demand the death penalty for everyone who performs homosexual acts. This was in fact the case until fairly recent times — hence the name “faggots,” which homosexuals earned while burning at the stake. Even though no tribunal is likely to execute homosexuals ever again, a shocking number of gays are murdered by “straights” every year in this country.

The third text is Romans 1:26-27, which, like Leviticus 18 and 20, unequivocally denounces homosexual behavior:

For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error.

No doubt Paul was unaware of the distinction between sexual orientation, over which one has apparently very little choice, and sexual behavior. He apparently assumes that those whom he condemns are heterosexual, and are acting contrary to nature, “leaving,” “giving up,” or “exchanging” their regular sexual orientation for that which is foreign to them. Paul knew nothing of the modern psychosexual understanding of homosexuals as persons whose orientation is fixed early in life, persons for whom having heterosexual relations would be acting contrary to nature, “leaving,” “giving up” or “exchanging” their usual sexual orientation.

Likewise the relationships Paul describes are heavy with lust; they are not relationships of genuine same-sex love. Paul assumes that venereal disease is the divine punishment for homosexual behavior; we know it as a risk involved in promiscuity of every stripe, but would hesitate to label it a divine punishment, since not everyone who is promiscuous contracts it. And Paul believes that homosexuality is contrary to nature, whereas we have learned that it is manifested by a wide variety of species, especially (but not solely) under the pressure of overpopulation. It would appear then to be a quite natural mechanism for preserving species.

Other Practices

Nevertheless, the Bible quite clearly takes a negative view of homosexuality, in those few instances where it is mentioned at all. And the repugnance felt toward homosexuality was not just that it was deemed unnatural but also that it was considered unJewish, representing yet one more incursion of pagan civilization into Jewish life. But this conclusion does not solve the hermeneutical problem of our attitude toward homosexuality today. For there are other sexual attitudes, practices and restrictions which are normative in Scripture but which we no longer accept as normative:

  1. Nudity, the characteristic of paradise, was regarded in Judaism as reprehensible, even within the family (Lev. 18:6-19; Ezek. 22:10; II Sam. 6:20; 10:4; Isa. 20:2-4;- 47:3). For a son to look upon his father’s nudity was equivalent to a crime (Gen. 9:20-27). To a great extent this taboo probably even inhibited the practice of husbands and wives (this is still true of a surprising number of people reared in the Judeo-Christian taboo system). We may not be prepared for nude beaches, but are we prepared to regard nudity in the locker room or at the old swimming hole or in the home as an accursed sin?
  2. Old Testament law strictly forbids sexual intercourse during the seven days of the menstrual period (Lev. 18: 19; 15:18-24), and anyone who engaged in it was to be summarily executed (Lev. 18:29, though 15:24 contradicts this). Today many people on occasion have intercourse during menstruation and think nothing of it. Are they sinners?
  3. The Bible nowhere explicitly prohibits sexual relations between unmarried consenting adults — a discovery that caused John Calvin no little astonishment. The Song of Songs eulogizes a love affair between two unmarried persons, though even some scholars have conspired to cover up the fact with heavy layers of allegorical interpretation. For millennia the church has forbidden sex outside of marriage. Today many teen-agers, single adults, the widowed and the divorced are reverting to “biblical” practice, while others continue to believe that sexual intercourse belongs only within marriage. Which view is right?
  4. The Bible virtually lacks terms for the sexual organs, being content with such euphemisms as “foot” or “thigh” for the genitals, and using other euphemisms to describe coitus, such as “he knew her.” Today we regard such language as “puritanical” and contrary to a proper regard for the goodness of creation.
  5. Semen and menstrual blood rendered all who touched them unclean (Lev. 15:16-24). Intercourse rendered one unclean until sundown; menstruation rendered the woman unclean for seven days. Some people may still feel that uncleanness attaches to semen and menstrual blood, but most people who consider themselves “enlightened” regard these fluids as completely natural and only at times “messy, not “unclean.”

Adultery, Prostitution and Polygamy

  1. Social regulations regarding adultery, incest, rape and prostitution are, in the Old Testament, determined largely by considerations of the males’ property rights over women. Prostitution was considered quite natural and necessary as a safeguard of the virginity of the unmarried and the property rights of husbands (Gen. 38:12-19; Josh. 2:1-7). A man was not guilty of sin for visiting a prostitute, though the prostitute herself was regarded as a sinner. Even Paul must appeal to reason in attacking prostitution (I Cor. 6:12-20); he cannot lump it in the category of adultery (vs. 9). Today we are moving, with great social turbulence and at a high but necessary cost, toward a more equitable set of social arrangements in which women are no longer regarded as the chattel of men; love, fidelity and mutual respect replace property rights and concern to reduce competition between related males for the same woman. We have, as yet, made very little progress in changing the double standard in regard to prostitution. As the moral ground shifts, will moral positions remain the same?
  2. The punishment for adultery was death by stoning for both the man and the woman (Deut. 22:22), but here adultery is defined by the marital status of the woman. A married man who has intercourse with an unmarried woman is not an adulterer — again, the double standard. And a bride who is found not to be a virgin is to be stoned to death (Deut. 22:13-21), but male virginity at marriage is never even mentioned. Today some Christians argue that the development of contraceptives makes even the social prohibition against extramarital intercourse passé — which is to say, they are prepared to extend to women the privileges which the Old Testament freely accords to men. Others, who believe that sexual intercourse requires a monogamous context for true love to flourish, would nonetheless be aghast at the idea of stoning those who disagree.
  3. Polygamy was regularly practiced in the Old Testament. It goes unmentioned in the New — unless, as many scholars now believe, I Timothy 3:2, 12 and Titus 1:6 mean, as the Greek plainly reads, that bishops and deacons should have only one wife, referring not to divorce and remarriage (surely a widowed and remarried bishop was not disallowed) but to polygamy. If so, polygamy was still being practiced in the early church but was beginning to be discouraged. We know from the Mishnah and the Talmud that polygamy continued to be practiced sporadically within Judaism for centuries following the New Testament period. Christian missionaries to Africa in past centuries were ruthless in demanding that tribal chieftains divorce all but one wife, with tragic consequences for the ones rejected. Now many wonder whether some other arrangement might have been more humane, even if it included tolerance of polygamy in at least the first generation of believers.

No Longer Binding

A form of polygamy was the levirate marriage. When a married man in Israel died childless, his brother was supposed to marry the widow and sire children for his deceased brother. Jesus mentions this custom without criticism (Matt. 22:23-33). Today not even devout Jews observe this unambiguous commandment (Deut. 25:5-10).

In the New Testament, Paul taught that it was best not to marry (I Cor. 7). While he qualifies this as his own advice and not a commandment of the Lord, it is clearly advice that most Christians choose to ignore. And here and elsewhere, in explicitly authoritative teaching, Scripture teaches patriarchal, male-dominant marital relationships as the norm. Do we wish to perpetuate that teaching?

Jews were supposed to practice endogamy — that is, marriage within the 12 tribes of Israel. Until recently a similar rule prevailed in the American south, in laws against interracial marriage (miscegenation). We have witnessed, within our own lifetimes, the legal battle to nullify state laws against miscegenation and the gradual change in social attitudes toward toleration and even acceptance of interracial couples in public. Sexual mores can alter quite radically even in a single lifetime.

The Old Testament regarded celibacy as abnormal (Jeremiah’s divinely commanded celibacy is a sign of doom for the families of Israel [Jer. 16: 1-4]), and I Timothy 4:1-3 calls compulsory celibacy a heresy. Yet the Catholic Church has made it normative for priests and nuns.

In many other ways we have developed different norms from those explicitly laid down by the Bible: “When men fight with one another and the wife of the one draws near to rescue her husband from the hand of him who is beating him, and puts out her hand and seizes him by the private parts [i.e., testicles], then you shall cut off her hand” (Deut. 25:11 f.). We, on the contrary, might very, well applaud her. And just as we no longer countenance slavery, which both Old and New Testaments regarded as normal, so we also no longer countenance the use of female slaves, concubines and captives as sexual toys or breeding machines by their male owners, which Leviticus 19:20 f., II Samuel 5:13 and Numbers 31:17-20 permitted — and as many American slave owners did slightly over 100 years ago.

The Problem of Authority

These cases are relevant to our attitude toward the authority of Scripture. Clearly we regard certain things, especially in the Old Testament, as no longer binding. Other things we regard as binding, including legislation in the Old Testament that is not mentioned at all in the New. What is the principle of selection here? Most of us would regard as taboo intercourse with animals, incest, rape, adultery, prostitution, polygamy, levirate marriage and concubinage — even though the Old Testament permits the last four and the New Testament is silent regarding most of them.

How do we make judgments that these should be taboo, however? There exist no simply biblical grounds, for as I have tried to show, in other respects many of us would clearly reject biblical attitudes and practices regarding nudity, intercourse during menstruation, prudery about speaking of the sexual organs and act, the “uncleanness” of semen and menstrual blood, endogamy, levirate marriage, and social regulations based on the assumption that women are sexual properties subject to men. Obviously many of our choices in these matters are arbitrary. Mormon polygamy was outlawed in this country, despite the constitutional protection of freedom of religion, because it violated the sensibilities of the dominant Christian culture, even though no explicit biblical prohibition against polygamy exists. (Jesus’ teaching about divorce is no exception, since he quotes Genesis 2:24 as his authority, and this text was never understood in Israel as excluding polygamy. A man could become “one flesh” with more than one woman, through the act of intercourse.)

The problem of authority is not mitigated by the doctrine that the cultic requirements of the Old Testament were abrogated by the New, and that only the moral commandments of the Old Testament remain in force. For most of these sexual mores fall among the moral commandments. If Christ is the end of the law (Rom.10:4), if we have been discharged from the law to serve, not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit (Rom.7:6), then all of these Old Testament sexual mores come under the authority of the Spirit. We cannot then take even what Paul says as a new law. Even fundamentalists reserve the right to pick and choose which laws they will observe, though they seldom admit to doing just that. For the same Paul who condemns homosexual acts as sinful is the Paul who tells women like Anita Bryant to remain silent in the church (I Cor. 14:34). If Anita Bryant were consistently biblical, she would demand that gays be stoned to death — though she would never be able to say so in church!

 ‘Judge for Yourselves’

The crux of the matter, it seems to me, is simply that the Bible has no sexual ethic. There is no biblical sex ethic. The Bible knows only a love ethic, which is constantly being brought to bear on whatever sexual mores are dominant in any given country, or culture, or period.

Approached from the point of view of love, rather than that of law, the issue is at once transformed. Now the question is not “What is permitted?” but rather “What does it mean to love my homosexual neighbor?” Approached from the point of view of faith rather than of works, the question ceases to be “What constitutes a breach of divine law in the sexual realm?” and becomes instead “What constitutes obedience to the God revealed in the cosmic lover, Jesus Christ?” Approached from the point of view of the Spirit rather than of the letter, the question ceases to be “What does Scripture command?” and becomes “What is the Word that the Spirit speaks to the churches now, in the light of Scripture, tradition, theology, psychology, genetics, anthropology and biology?”

In a little-remembered statement, Jesus said, “Why do you not judge for yourselves what is right?” (Luke 12:57). Such sovereign freedom strikes terror in the hearts of many Christians; they would rather be under law and be told what is right. Yet Paul himself echoes Jesus’ sentiment immediately preceding one of his possible references to homosexuality: “Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, matters pertaining to this life!” (I Cor. 6:3). The last thing Paul would want is for people to respond to his ethical advice as a new law engraved on tablets of stone. He is himself trying to “judge for himself what is right.” If now new evidence is in on the phenomenon of homosexuality, are we not obligated — no, free — to re-evaluate the whole issue in the light of all available data and decide, under God, for ourselves? Is this not the radical freedom for obedience which the gospel establishes?

It may, of course, be objected that this analysis has drawn our noses so close to texts that the general tenor of the whole is lost. The Bible clearly considers homosexuality a sin, and whether it is stated three times or 3,ooo is beside the point. Just as some of us grew up “knowing” that homosexuality was the unutterable sin, though no one ever spoke of it, so the whole Bible “knows” it to be wrong.

I freely grant all that. The issue is precisely whether that biblical judgment is correct.

The whole tenor of the Bible sanctions slavery as well, and nowhere attacks it as unjust. Are we prepared to argue that slavery today is biblically justified? The overwhelming burden of the biblical message is that women are inferior to men. Are we willing to perpetuate that status?

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.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Leave a Reply~~~~~~~~

The shame of John Paul II: Pope Benedict allows cover-up in canonization

The Shame of John Paul II: How the Sex Abuse Scandal Stained His Papacy

The pope failed to take decisive action in response to clear evidence of a criminal underground in the priesthood.

The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute assisted in a section of this article, drawn from Jason Berry’s Render Unto Rome: The Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church, to be published June 7 by Crown.

On May 1, Pope Benedict XVI will beatify his predecessor, John Paul II, at a huge ceremony in St. Peter’s Square in Rome. Beatification, the final step before canonization, or sainthood, ennobles the deceased as “blessed,” or worthy of veneration. Authorities have prepared for a million visitors to the weekend events.

Most beatification cases are decided decades after the person dies—a sign of Vatican probity on whether a life achievement, nominated by religious colleagues, merits a path to sainthood. The timetable is at the pope’s discretion. In this case, Benedict’s decision to fast-track John Paul’s case has drawn a chorus of criticism from prominent Catholics and survivors of sexual abuse by clergy.

Should a pope who turned his back on the worst crisis in modern Catholic history be exalted as a saint? Lawsuits by victims, numerous prosecutions and news coverage of bishops who enabled abuse are the shadow story of John Paul’s twenty-six-year pontificate, during which time he responded to continuing allegations of clergy abuse with denial and inertia. American dioceses and religious orders alone have spent nearly $2 billion on legal actions and treatment of sex offenders, an aching scandal at incalculable cost to the church’s stature.

John Paul II has been widely hailed as a commanding figure on the global stage, a catalyst in the fall of Soviet Communism and a champion of human rights. His stirring homilies on freedom in his first papal trip back to Poland in 1979 galvanized the Solidarity union movement. On his 1987 trip to Chile, during the Pinochet dictatorship, John Paul said Mass for a vast throng and “presented speaker after speaker who complained of censorship, torture, and political murder,” wrote Jonathan Kwitny in his 1997 biography Man of the Century. John Paul’s trip was a turning point in Chile’s transition to democracy. On the other hand, the pope looked askance at liberation theology, believing the Latin American grassroots movement to be an extension of the Marxism that had subjugated Poland. And he was conflicted on the role of progressive Latin American clergy who were allied with the poor and resisted persecution by death squads.

Moreover, on the greatest internal crisis facing the church, the pope failed, time and again, to take decisive action in response to clear evidence of a criminal underground in the priesthood, a subculture that sexually traumatized tens of thousands of youngsters. Despite a 1984 warning memo from the Rev. Thomas Doyle, then a canon lawyer in the Vatican Embassy in Washington, and a ninety-three-page report on the problem co-written by Doyle in 1985, which was sent to every American bishop, John Paul ordered no outreach to victims, no binding policy to rid the priesthood of deviants. In 1989 the US conference of bishops sent experts in canon law to Rome, seeking a streamlined process for defrocking child molesters rather than waiting for the byzantine Vatican bureaucracy and final word from the pope. John Paul refused. Litigation and prosecutions spread, but the pope remained passive.

As victim-survivors found their way to lawyers, a train of legal discovery in the United States, Ireland and other countries yielded documents linking complicit bishops, religious-order superiors and Vatican officials in the concealment of sex offenders. On April 21 in an important lawsuit against the Vatican by a man who was abused by a predator priest, a federal district court in Portland, Oregon, ordered church officials in Rome to turn over documents for discovery. District Judge Michael Mosman said, “Plaintiff has proffered evidence that tends to show the Holy See knew of [the priest’s] propensities and that in some cases, the Holy See exercised direct control over the conduct, placement, and removal of individual priests accused of similar sexual misconduct.” The US Supreme Court declined to hear the Holy See’s appeal for dismissal, which was based on a claim of sovereign immunity.

On John Paul’s role in the church’s long nightmare, the Rev. Richard McBrien, a distinguished University of Notre Dame theologian, wrote, “Indeed, he had a terrible record, full of denial and foot-dragging, on the greatest crisis to confront the Catholic Church since the Reformation of the 16th century.”

John Paul’s beatification may give a media boost to the Vatican, but Pope Benedict’s negligence earlier in his career has also done severe damage to the papacy; media coverage last year spotlighted how Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, as Benedict was then known, failed to dismiss several known abusers. How can any pope be a voice for peace, proclaim the sanctity of life and speak for human rights while giving de facto Vatican immunity to bishops and cardinals who concealed child molesters? John Paul bequeathed a quagmire to Benedict: an archaic tradition of Vatican tribunals subservient to bishops and high church officials.

* * *

Indeed, the Vatican has a dysfunctional justice system. Consider the case of Cardinal Bernard Law, who resigned as Boston archbishop in 2002 amid a Boston Globe investigation reporting allegations of more than ninety clergy perpetrators under his authority. That number has grown to 204, according to, an online archive on the church crisis. In May 2004 the archdiocese, facing a $4 million deficit and a $37 million loan to repay, announced a wave of parish closings to make up the shortfall. The next day came news that Law was bound for Rome to become pastor of the historic basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, with an estimated $12,000 monthly salary, according to the New York Times. He now sits on the Vatican’s board of the Congregation for Bishops, which chooses new bishops.

In a subtle, indirect way, the Vatican signaled its realization that the abuse crisis would have posed serious problems for John Paul’s beatification if his overall record had been considered. On April 1 the Catholic News Service reported from Rome, “Pope John Paul II is being beatified not because of his impact on history or on the Catholic Church, but because of the way he lived the Christian virtues of faith, hope, and love, said Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes.

What thick irony. Clearly, John Paul was one of history’s great popes. As an evangelist he visited 129 countries, more than all previous popes combined. He canonized more saints than all of his predecessors. A staunch traditionalist on sexual issues and theology, he nevertheless emphasized human rights as a political value. In making personal piety a standard for sainthood, the Vatican is restricting scrutiny of John Paul’s record in order to whitewash embarrassing information about his greatest failure.

John Paul is not the only former pope about whom this is a burning issue. Many Jewish leaders as well as Catholics oppose a Vatican move to canonize Pius XII, citing his wartime reticence on Nazi atrocities. Although recent scholarship has found that Pius took some initiatives to help Jews avoid death camps, his silence in the face of Hitler’s crimes is a human rights issue. Moral justice is a force in historical memory; we cannot change the past, but we must account for those who had power yet failed to forcefully resist great evil.

In the 1990s John Paul began to make a famous series of apologies for past church sins, particularly anti-Semitism, calling for “purification of the historical memory.” He apologized for church racism, the Inquisition, the Crusades, to Galileo, and to Indians—a stirring line of atonement. But he did not include children abused by priests. Finally, after extensive media coverage in the United States, Canada, Australia and Ireland, he did voice concern for victims—but he also scolded the media, accusing them of sensationalism. John Paul’s myopia stemmed from a chivalrous idea of religious life, born of his years as the leader of a Polish church that functioned in opposition to the Communist regime. Under such harsh conditions, he considered church unity paramount, and he saw that unity vindicated when the Iron Curtain fell.

In April 2002, as coverage of the scandals hit critical mass, an ailing John Paul, bloated from treatment for Parkinson’s disease, summoned the American cardinals to Rome. Reading a statement for cameras, the pope called clergy abuse “an appalling sin” and said the priesthood had no room for such men; he also called on “the power of Christian conversion,” implying redemption for sex offenders. Instead of promulgating a clear policy on defrocking abusers, he absolved the bishops of their “generalized lack of knowledge,” faulting “the advice of clinical experts.” He thus put the blame on therapists rather than on the bishops who recycled child molesters.

In June 2002 the US Conference of Catholic Bishops adopted a youth protection charter, declaring “zero tolerance” for any cleric who abuses a child. The charter sparked important preventive training in Catholic schools; bishops removed hundreds of predators who had evaded prosecution. But the charter lacks enforcement teeth, as revealed by recent news from Philadelphia, where twenty-one priests were removed and four others indicted only after a stinging grand jury report. And the charter has no oversight of bishops or cardinals. Despite its flaws the charter does represent progress, and yet the Vatican itself still has nothing comparable to it.

Bishops look to the pope for leadership. But in the worst scandal of his papacy, John Paul ignored serious allegations of abuse against Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the archconservative religious order known as the Legion of Christ. In fact, the pope defiantly praised the long-accused pedophile for six years after a group of Maciel’s victims filed a canon law case in 1998. The group sought his excommunication before Cardinal Ratzinger’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which was gradually assuming control over such proceedings.

Born in Mexico in 1920, Maciel founded the order in 1941. The Legion was based on papal loyalty, and John Paul returned the favor by giving it strong support during his papacy—a natural alliance, given that he shared the order’s militant anticommunism and its struggle to save the church from liberal drift, particularly liberation theology. John Paul saw young Legionaries, marching in pairs with short haircuts and double-breasted coats, as a sign of resurgent orthodoxy, of a church triumphant after the 1930s anticlerical violence in Mexico and postwar Communist persecution of the Polish church.

Maciel did advance work on John Paul’s 1979 trip to Mexico, a year after Juan Vaca, a former Legion priest, sent the Vatican a list of twenty of Maciel’s victims, including himself. Nothing happened. Vaca wrote again in 1989, including a long personal letter to the pope, again to no avail.

The greatest fundraiser of the modern church, Maciel targeted wealthy conservatives, singling out widows and wives of powerful men. Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim was a Legion benefactor, as was William Casey, CIA director under Ronald Reagan. Casey and his wife funded a building on the Legion campus in Cheshire, Connecticut. Footage of Maciel and John Paul was pivotal to Legion fundraising, with the Legion sending VHS cassettes to targeted donors. One shows John Paul in 1993 at the balcony above St. Peter’s Square, telling crowds, “You are all sons and daughters of Father Maciel!” A 1994 papal letter the Legion placed in Mexican daily papers called Maciel “an efficacious guide to youth.” Maciel worked his donor base with constant travel. By 2006, with only 650 priests and 2,500 seminarians (the Jesuits had 16,000), the Legion had a $650 million budget, according to the Wall Street Journal, and a network of schools and colleges in Europe, Latin America and the United States—twenty-four elite prep schools in America alone.

* * *

On February 23, 1997, Gerald Renner and I published an investigation in the Hartford Courant of Maciel with on-the-record accounts by two Spaniards and seven Mexicans who accused him of abusing them when they were seminarians in Spain and Rome in the 1950s and ’60s. Boys cut off from family, awed by the charismatic leader called Nuestro Padre, they were stunned by his morphine addiction, bewildered as he whispered claims of his permission from Pius XII for sexual activity because of chronic pain. Maciel refused to be interviewed, but claimed innocence in a statement. The Vatican refused to make any comment.

William Donohue of the Catholic League responded immediately with a letter to the Courant, scoffing at the allegations. The order set up a website, LegionaryFacts, which charged the accusers—and us—with fomenting a conspiracy against Maciel. Father Richard John Neuhaus, an influential Catholic conservative and editor of the journal First Things, called the accusations “scurrilous” and proclaimed Maciel’s innocence “a moral certainty.” William Bennett, a national lecturer on ethics who later became a CNN analyst, also voiced support for the Legion. Harvard law professor Mary Ann Glendon, who lectured at the Legion university in Rome, derided the accusations and praised Maciel’s “radiant holiness.” George Weigel, a biographer of John Paul, weighed in for the Legion, too. These conservatives were in the pope’s corner: in the fall of 1997 John Paul had appointed Maciel to an important religious conference in Rome.

In October 1998 José Barba and another ex-Legionary who had been abused by Maciel flew to Rome. After leaving the Legion as a young man in 1962, Barba earned a doctorate from Harvard in Latin American studies and is now a professor at ITAM, a major university in Mexico City. On behalf of the nine men who had gone public in the Courant about Maciel’s abuse of them, Barba hired Martha Wegan, an Austrian canon lawyer in Rome who practiced in Vatican tribunals. Wegan filed a canonical grievance in 1998 seeking Maciel’s excommunication by Ratzinger’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Under the church’s monarchical system, the pope is the supreme arbiter of canon law. He can halt, reverse or remove any proceeding. Maciel had a powerful Vatican ally in Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the secretary of state, an office analogous to prime minister. In a 1999 letter to her clients, Wegan reported that the case had been tabled “for the time being…. In such a delicate situation, time must be allowed to play its role.” Barba explains, “Wegan told me for the first time—and to my enormous surprise—that Cardinal Angelo Sodano had pressed so that Cardinal Ratzinger wouldn’t proceed ahead with our case.”

Ratzinger, a moral absolutist who had persecuted liberal theologians, realized that the absence of a central system to defrock abusers was hurting the church. So in 2001 he persuaded John Paul to consolidate that authority in Ratzinger’s office—a move for which no one in the Roman Curia envied him. But by then, Maciel had spent heavily on favors to Vatican officials to insulate himself from punishment.

Sodano’s nephew, Andrea, worked on construction of a Legion university in Rome. “Cardinal Sodano helped change the zoning requirements to build the university,” says Glenn Favreau, a former seminarian who worked under Maciel before leaving the order in 1997. As I reported in the National Catholic Reporter last year, two priests on the project told Maciel that Andrea’s work was inadequate. “Pay him! You pay him!” Maciel is said to have yelled. Indeed they did.

Maciel approved cash gifts of $5,000 and $10,000 to Cardinal Sodano, according to these priests, former Legionaries who spoke on background for my article. They say Maciel ordered cash envelopes of $2,500 to $5,000 to cardinals who said Mass at Legion events. And they say he offered a Mercedes to the late Cardinal Pio Laghi, prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, seeking the highest Vatican rank for the new university. Laghi spurned the offer. There has been no rebuttal to these allegations, and neither the Legion nor the Vatican has responded directly to the charges.

Maciel spared no expense in hosting events for church officials at the Legion center. “Sodano came over with his entire family, 200 of them, for a big meal when he was named a cardinal. And we fed them all,” recalls ex-seminarian Favreau, now an attorney in Washington, DC. “When Sodano became secretary of state, there was another celebration.” Sodano declined my interview requests.

The man closest to John Paul was his Polish-born secretary, Monsignor Stanislaw Dziwisz. Dziwisz oversaw the guest list of those given the rare privilege of attending the pope’s early Mass—British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his family, for example. Two priests who left the Legion and who requested anonymity for fear of repercussions from the Vatican told me in detailed interviews how Maciel supporters paid Dziwisz for the privilege. “A wealthy family from Mexico,” recounted one priest, “gave Dziwisz $50,000.” This was in 1997, after Maciel was accused by Barba and the other men in the Hartford Courant article. The priest spoke of many such transactions with Dziwisz. “It was always cash. And in dollars,” he said. Maciel pulled out the stops for a grand reception honoring Dziwisz when he became a bishop.

* * *

A second priest who steered Legion patrons’ money to Dziwisz said, “The expression [in Rome] is opere de carità: ‘We’re making an offering for your works of charity.’ In fact, you don’t know where the money is going. It’s an elegant way of giving a bribe.” As the abuse accusations against Maciel became known, the priest told me he “woke up and asked: Am I giving my life to serve God, or one man who had his problems? It was not worth consecrating myself to Maciel.” Both men left the Legion in disgust, though both remained priests. “Maciel wanted to buy power,” said the first cleric. “[Legion] superiors lie about money—where it comes from, where it goes, how it’s given.” Dziwisz, now a cardinal in Krakow, refused to be interviewed.

According to the first priest, Ratzinger gave a theology lecture at the Legion complex but refused an envelope with money.

In 2002 ABC reporter Brian Ross approached Ratzinger in front of his waiting limousine and asked about Maciel. A flustered Ratzinger slapped Ross’s hand and said, “Come to me when the moment is given—not yet.”

In late November 2004, with a beaming Sodano onstage, Maciel won praise yet again from John Paul, who had six months to live. By then Ratzinger realized that the next pope, whoever he might be, would be yoked to a scandal if the case languished; he ordered a canon lawyer on his staff, Charles Scicluna, to investigate. Among the many people who gave testimony to Scicluna in Rome, New York and Mexico City, thirty aging men told him about how Maciel abused them in seminary and about his morphine addiction. In 2006, the year after Ratzinger became Pope Benedict, the Vatican ordered Maciel out of active ministry for “a life of prayer and penance.” Maciel went to his birthplace in southwest Mexico—and a reunion with his daughter and her mother, a paramour from Acapulco. Photographs of them surfaced last year in a Mexican gossip magazine, two years after Maciel’s death.

In 2008 upon Maciel’s burial in Mexico—far from the grand tomb he’d built for himself in a basilica he had erected in Rome, anticipating his own canonization—the Legion website announced that the founder had gone to heaven. In 2010, after news of the daughter broke, the Legion apologized to its followers and, finally, to Maciel’s victims. Two grown sons of Maciel also came forward, alleging incest. In a move without precedent in modern church history, Benedict ordered an investigation of the entire religious order. The Vatican has since taken over the Legion in a kind of receivership.

The LegionaryFacts website disappeared after Maciel’s 2006 punishment; none of the conservative ideologues who had so staunchly defended him apologized to the victims, though George Weigel, who has a research chair at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, called for a Vatican investigation of the Legion in 2009.

Weigel got ten interviews with John Paul for his 992-page biography Witness to Hope (1999), which all but ignores the abuse crisis. Kwitny’s 1997 biography faults John Paul on that front, in an otherwise favorable portrait. Weigel’s 2010 sequel, The End of the Beginning: Pope John Paul II—the Victory of Freedom, the Last Years, the Legacy, suggests that the pope had “inadequate” information. John Paul, he intones, was “ill served by associates and subordinates who ought to have been more alert to the implications of [Maciel’s] cult of personality…. Despite the negative implications of John Paul’s reputation that some of [his] critics quickly drew, what was at work in this scandalous affair was deception in the service of the mysterium iniquitatis”—the mystery of evil. That’s it, folks. The pope who took on the Soviet empire was duped by the “mystery of evil.” Nothing about Sodano pressuring Ratzinger. Dziwisz, Weigel concludes, “was “susceptible to misreading personalities.”

“Beatification is a bitter pill for clergy victims because of John Paul II’s record of protecting abusers and neglecting victims,” states Terence McKiernan, co-director of BishopAccountability
.org. “John Paul received many letters from sexual victims which he simply ignored.” But apparently bad times must be forgotten now, as the media machinery focuses on the beatification. Since the 1990s, at least sixteen bishops and one cardinal (the late Hans Hermann Groer of Austria) abused children, “stepped down” and yet remained bishops in title. As Weigel now sings history for NBC, ceremonies will include Cardinal Dziwisz, Angelo Sodano (now dean of the College of Cardinals) and his successor as secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone. Bertone, while archbishop of Genoa in 2003, wrote a glowing introduction to Maciel’s as-told-to memoir Christ Is My Life. If Bertone wasn’t paid he should have been, since he served as a canon lawyer for Ratzinger in the years when the Maciel case sat stale.

The beatification will include a French nun whose neurological illness was reportedly cured by a miraculous intervention after prayers to John Paul. This is sure to draw derision in some corners, but miracles are embedded in church history, and if the spirit of John Paul has healing power, we are a better world for it. The agony of Catholicism, however, calls for another healing—that of truth brought to bear on ecclesial powers, robed in shame, dripping with hypocrisy.

Saint Augustine put it well in City of God: “Justice is that virtue which gives everyone his due.”  (source)


00Tuesday, January 18, 2011 7:14 PM

The extraordinary and enduring friendship between John Paul II and Benedict XVI provides the already rich drama of the late Pope’s cause for canonization with a unique dimension unheard of in centuries [if ever, since no enterprising journalist or historian has yet cited a precedent], in the history of the Church’s formal recognition of persons who lived in closest imitation of Christ. With his usual insight, Jose Luis Restan sees that…

A friendship beyond flesh and blood
Translated from

January 17, 2011

“You do not have to write the letter at all, for I want to have you to the end”, John Paul II told Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as the latter approached his 75th birthday and would therefore have to present a mandatory letter of resignation from active service upon reaching canonical retirement age.

“That was the great and undeserved benevolence he showed me from the very beginning… He had placed a great, very cordial, and profound trust in me. As the guarantee, so to speak, that we would travel the right course in the faith”, Benedict XVI recalls in the recent interview book Light of the World.

And so it was until their final handclasp when Papa Wojtyla could no longer speak [on the eve of his death]. This was a friendship for the history books that deserves to be recalled now that we know that John Paul I will be proclaimed Blessed on May 1.

It was a unity, as the Apostle Paul said, that was not born of flesh and blood, but from their mutual faith. There were so many historical and personal differences that could have divided them.

One was Polish, a man of action, the other German, a methodical intellectual. The first was an extrovert and gifted with a sense of theater for grand gestures, the other reserved and mild-mannered.

But Wojtyla sought to have Ratzinger with him almost from the start of his Pontificate. They knew about each other from Vatican II [though they did not meet at the time] but they got to know each other in Munich during the talks (not always easy) between the German and Polish bishops to seal a historic reconciliation. And when the German cardinal finally agreed to come to Rome in 1982, the Polish Pope made it clear he wanted him nearby to the end.

Personal confidences by Popes are rare [at least until Light of the World!] but John Paul II wrote that Cardinal Ratzinger was more than just a close collaborator but a trusted friend.

Something united them that went beyond any differences: they were both anchored doubly in the Tradition of the Church and in the world they lived in, a world full of tensions in which wide margins of Christianity on both the right and the left were retreating visibly from the great patrimony of the faith.

But neither one stepped back nor were daunted by the harshness of the times, nor did they resign themselves to facile lamentation of the evils of the time and the torments of a Church still seeking to digest the contents of Vatican II.

Both were men acting freely who had forged their intelligence and the courage of their faith in defying the totalitarian monsters of Nazism and Communism. Both loved beauty as an expression of God’s truth and his tender love for man – Wojtyla through the heater and poetry, Ratzinger through music.

Finally, the two shared the mission of revitalizing the tired body of the Church and to bring it into true missionary dialog with the modern world – because that was the great cause of Vatican II, and for their interpretation of it in continuity with Tradition, they both suffered incomprehensions and equivocations from all sides.

This does not mean they agreed about everything, and each knew his place. John Paul II’s overwhelming personality and charisma were unique, and on more than one occasion, Ratzinger expressed admiration for that impulsion, as well as for the simple and direct way in which Papa Wojtyla addressed the thorniest issues.

But he has also described the great patience of the Polish Pope, his willingness to listen, and his humility about accepting contrary opinion. One can imagine their conversations over almost a quarter-century [when they met twice a week, conversing in German], surveying the broad horizons and weighty problems of teh Church!

“Sometimes, we disagreed, but I never disobeyed him”, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith says in the interview book Salt of the earth.

This beautiful friendship needs to be put forward because there have been recent efforts that are stupid but poisonous claiming a rupture between their Pontificates.

It is true that Benedict XVI has had to take care of questions left pending, as no doubt the next Pope will when his time comes. A Pontificate is never a finished work, but only one stage in the Church’s pilgrimage through time. And this is an essential claim of modesty that Papa Ratzinger does not fail to mention.

It is also true that circumstances change with growing speed. The Berlin Wall is no longer there, but nihilism has grown in Europe. Liberation theology is no longer a force anywhere, but the global crisis has generated new anthropological challenges. And the fury of Islamist extremist terrorism has erupted in all its violent crudity, along with the rise of anti-Christian persecution in places like India, Pakistan, China and Africa.

The tremendous shake-up that the first part of John Paul II’s Pontificate represented was not always translated into constructive channels nor lasting instruction. These are things that only the perspective of time and that the wisdom provided by the Holy Spirit will allow us to discern.

For instance, the distinct way in which Benedict XVI has addressed the tragedy caused by priestly offenses against minors has much to do with this experience at the CDF, where he had to deal with the bitter consequences of ill-advised decisions made by some bishops about these offenses and the offenders, but also with what modern psychology has to say about the pathology of pedophilia. And, of course, by his own particular intelligence. All this produced a sorrowful maturation in him.

But this does not mean that John Paul II was negligently complacent in this regard. He faced the issue squarely when the scandal erupted in the United States [by assigning the primary responsibility for dealing with them to Cardinal Ratzinger and the CDF}, starting a process that his successor has been able to pursue in depth.

Some had thought that Benedict XVI would play politics and deliberately slow down the process of beatification for John Paul II if only to avoid inevitable accusations on the past of the media, or even as a way to personally distance himself, as it were, in view of doubts that have been expressed about some of Karol Wojtyla’s personal traits [specifically, the argument that his ‘indifferencee’ to the sex abuse scandal and his friendship with Fr. Maciel cast doubt on his personal holiness].

One has to be blind to think that Benedict XVI would allow himself to be intimidated or influenced by such considerations and the malevolence of some who now praise him after having maligned him in the past and who could just as easily switch again. [For instance, the vitriol from some writers one had previously thought to be diehard ‘Ratzingerians’ over the next Assisi meeting is simply astounding and incomprehensible for anyone who claims to know and admire the Holy Father!]

The cries of ‘Santo subito’ have now been partially fulfilled six years later – enough time for the Church to minutely scrutinize every turn in the life of Karol Wojtyla (including, for instance, the letters he exchanged with his old friend Wanda) and to verify the various wonders that the Lord worked in the world through his life.

It was right to proceed so scrupulously so that the verdict of the Church about his personal holiness does not just arise from the passionate belief of the faithful but from the Church’s own exigencies for certainty.

“Let us be happy”, Benedict XVI said when he added his own personal announcement of the beatification after the Sunday Angelus. One would have to be sick not to rejoice.



Vatican rejects accusations against Pope John Paul II ahead of canonization

Less than a week before former Pope John Paul II is to be declared a saint, critics want answers about an abuse scandal involving an order of priests he had championed for years. The Vatican has refuted the claims.

The Vatican dismissed critics’ concerns over Pope John Paul’s legacy on Tuesday, just days ahead of a highly-anticipated ceremony that will see the beloved pontiff declared saint. The case in question surrounds Legion of Christ founder Marcial Maciel, who was found to have sexually abused both seminarians and children. The order had received strong support from the late pope and his closest advisors, which prompted critics to question whether John Paul II had covered up the scandal during his time at the head of the Catholic Church from 1978 until his death in 2005.

“There is no personal implication of the Holy Father (John Paul II) in this affair,” Vatican spokesperson Federico Lombardi told reporters, citing evidence collected while John Paul was being considered for sainthood.

Monsignor Slawomir Oder, the Polish priest who has spearheaded John Paul II’s fast-track to sainthood, also rejected the accusations.

“There is no sign of personal involvement of the Holy Father in this case,” Oder said on Tuesday.  (source)


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.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Leave a Reply~~~~~~~~

Cardinal Ratzinger slow to act on clerical child abuse scandal


Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in 1982. The office he led, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, had been given authority over abuse cases in 1922, documents show and canon lawyers confirm. Credit Diether Endicher/Associated Press

In its long struggle to grapple with sexual abuse, the Vatican often cites as a major turning point the decision in 2001 to give the office led by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger the authority to cut through a morass of bureaucracy and handle abuse cases directly.

The decision, in an apostolic letter from Pope John Paul II, earned Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, a reputation as the Vatican insider who most clearly recognized the threat the spreading sexual abuse scandals posed to the Roman Catholic Church.

But church documents and interviews with canon lawyers and bishops cast that 2001 decision and the future pope’s track record in a new and less flattering light.

The Vatican took action only after bishops from English-speaking nations became so concerned about resistance from top church officials that the Vatican convened a secret meeting to hear their complaints — an extraordinary example of prelates from across the globe collectively pressing their superiors for reform, and one that had not previously been revealed.

And the policy that resulted from that meeting, in contrast to the way it has been described by the Vatican, was not a sharp break with past practices. It was mainly a belated reaffirmation of longstanding church procedures that at least one bishop attending the meeting argued had been ignored for too long, according to church documents and interviews.

Continue reading the main story

The office led by Cardinal Ratzinger, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, had actually been given authority over sexual abuse cases nearly 80 years earlier, in 1922, documents show and canon lawyers confirm. But for the two decades he was in charge of that office, the future pope never asserted that authority, failing to act even as the cases undermined the church’s credibility in the United States, Australia, Ireland and elsewhere.

Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, an outspoken auxiliary bishop emeritus from Sydney, Australia, who attended the secret meeting in 2000, said that despite numerous warnings, top Vatican officials, including Benedict, took far longer to wake up to the abuse problems than many local bishops did.

“Why did the Vatican end up so far behind the bishops out on the front line, who with all their faults, did change — they did develop,” he said. “Why was the Vatican so many years behind?”

Cardinal Ratzinger, of course, had not yet become pope, a divinely ordained office not accustomed to direction from below. John Paul, his longtime superior, often dismissed allegations of pedophilia by priests as an attack on the church by its enemies. Supporters say that Cardinal Ratzinger would have preferred to take steps earlier to stanch the damage in certain cases.

But the future pope, it is now clear, was also part of a culture of nonresponsibility, denial, legalistic foot-dragging and outright obstruction. More than any top Vatican official other than John Paul, it was Cardinal Ratzinger who might have taken decisive action in the 1990s to prevent the scandal from metastasizing in country after country, growing to such proportions that it now threatens to consume his own papacy.

As pope, Benedict has met with victims of sexual abuse three times. He belatedly reopened an investigation into the Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the Legionaries of Christ, a powerful religious order — and a protégé of John Paul’s — and ultimately removed him from ministry. He gave American bishops greater leeway to take a tough line on abuse in the United States, and recently accepted the resignations of several bishops elsewhere. And on June 11, at an event in St. Peter’s Square meant to celebrate priests, he begged “forgiveness from God and from the persons involved” and promised to do “everything possible” to prevent future abuse.

But today the abuse crisis is still raging in the Catholic heartland of Europe: civil investigators in Belgium last week took the rare step of raiding church headquarters and the home of a former archbishop. The Vatican under Benedict is still responding to abuse by priests at its own pace, and it is being besieged by an outside world that wants it to move faster and more decisively.

Vatican officials, who declined to answer detailed questions related to Benedict’s history, say that the church will announce another round of changes to its canon laws, as it did in 2001, so that the church can improve its response to the abuse problem.

But the suggestion that more reforms are ahead is a nod to the fact that there is still widespread confusion among many bishops about how to handle allegations of abuse, and that their approaches are remarkably uneven from country to country.

National bishops’ conferences in some countries have adopted their own norms and standards. But several decades after sexual abuse by priests became a problem, Benedict has not yet instituted a universal set of rules.

Scandal and Confusion

The sexual abuse scandal first caught much of the world’s attention in 2002, with reports that the Boston archdiocese had been covering up for molesters for years. But the alarm bells had already been sounding for nearly two decades in many countries. In Lafayette, La., in 1984, the Rev. Gilbert Gauthé admitted to molesting 37 youngsters. In 1989, a sensational case erupted at an orphanage in the Canadian province of Newfoundland. By the mid-1990s, about 40 priests and brothers in Australia faced abuse allegations. In 1994, the Irish government was brought down when it botched the extradition of a notorious pedophile priest.

Bishops had a variety of disciplinary tools at their disposal — including the power to remove accused priests from contact with children and to suspend them from ministry altogether — that they could use without the Vatican’s direct approval.

Some used this authority to sideline abusive priests, minimizing the damage inflicted on their victims. Other bishops clearly made things worse, by shuffling abusers from one assignment to the next, never telling parishioners or reporting priests to the police.

But as court cases, financial settlements and media coverage mounted, many prelates looked to the Vatican for leadership and clarity on how to prosecute abusers under canon law and when to bring cases to the attention of the civil authorities. In the worst cases, involving serial offenders who denied culpability and resisted discipline, some bishops sought the Vatican’s guidance on how to dismiss them from the priesthood.

For this, bishops needed the Vatican’s help. Dismissing a priest is not like disbarring a lawyer or stripping a doctor of his medical license. In Catholic theology, ordaining a priest creates an indelible mark; to return him to the lay state required the approval of the pope.

Yet throughout the ’80s and ’90s, bishops who sought to penalize and dismiss abusive priests were daunted by a bewildering bureaucratic and canonical legal process, with contradicting laws and overlapping jurisdictions in Rome, according to church documents and interviews with bishops and canon lawyers.

Besides Cardinal Ratzinger’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, bishops were sending off their files on abuse cases to the Congregations for the Clergy, for Bishops, for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, and for the Evangelization of Peoples — plus the Vatican’s Secretariat of State; its appeals court, the Apostolic Signatura; and the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts.

“There was confusion everywhere,” said Archbishop Philip Edward Wilson of Adelaide, Australia.

A new Code of Canon Law issued in 1983 only muddied things further, among other things by setting a five-year statute of limitations within which abuse cases could be prosecuted.

During this period, the three dozen staff members working for Cardinal Ratzinger at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith were busy pursuing other problems. These included examining supernatural phenomena, like apparitions of the Virgin Mary, so that hoaxes did not “corrupt the faith,” according to the Rev. Brian Mulcahy, a former member of the staff. Other sections weighed requests by divorced Catholics to remarry and vetted the applications of former priests who wanted to be reinstated.

The heart of the office, though, was its doctrinal section. Cardinal Ratzinger, a German theologian appointed prefect of the congregation in 1981, aimed his renowned intellectual firepower at what he saw as “a fundamental threat to the faith of the church” — the liberation theology movement sweeping across Latin America.


In June, the pope promised to do “everything possible” to prevent future abuse. Credit Tiziana Fabi/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

As Father Gauthé was being prosecuted in Louisiana, Cardinal Ratzinger was publicly disciplining priests in Brazil and Peru for preaching that the church should work to empower the poor and oppressed, which the cardinal saw as a Marxist-inspired distortion of church doctrine. Later, he also reined in a Dutch theologian who thought lay people should be able to perform priestly functions, and an American who taught that Catholics could dissent from church teachings about abortion, birth control, divorce and homosexuality.

Different Focus for Cardinal

Cardinal Ratzinger also focused on reining in national bishops’ conferences, several of which, independent of Rome, had begun confronting the sexual abuse crisis and devising policies to address it in their countries. He declared that such conferences had “no theological basis” and “do not belong to the structure of the church.” Individual bishops, he reaffirmed, reigned supreme in their dioceses and reported only to the authority of the pope in Rome.

Another hint of his priorities came at a synod in 1990, when a bishop from Calgary gingerly mentioned the growing sexual abuse problem in Canada. When Cardinal Ratzinger rose to speak, however, it was of a different crisis: the diminishing image of the priesthood since the Second Vatican Council, and the “huge drop” in the numbers of priests as many resigned.

That concern — that the irrevocable commitment to the priesthood was being undermined by the exodus of priests leaving to marry or because they were simply disenchanted — had already led Cardinal Ratzinger to block the dismissal of at least one priest convicted of molestation, documents show.

“Look at it from the perspective of priestly commitment,” said the Rev. Joseph Fessio, a former student of Cardinal Ratzinger’s and founder of the conservative publishing house Ignatius Press. “You want to get married? You’re still a priest. You’re a sex offender? Well, you’re still a priest. Rome is looking at it from the objective reality of the priesthood.”

After another abuse scandal in 1992 in Fall River, Mass., bishops in the United States pressed the Vatican for an alternative to the slow and arcane canonical justice system. Without a full canonical trial, clerics accused of abuse could not be dismissed from the priesthood against their will (although a bishop could impose some restrictions short of that). In 1993, John Paul said he had heard the American bishops’ pleas and convened a joint commission of American and Vatican canonists to propose improvements.

John Paul rejected its proposal to let bishops dismiss priests using administrative procedures, without canonical trials. But he agreed to raise the age of majority to 18 from 16 for child-molestation cases. More important, he extended the statute of limitations to 10 years after the victim’s 18th birthday.

It is not known whether Cardinal Ratzinger spoke up in the internal deliberations that led to the two changes, which applied only to the United States.

But those changes clearly did not go far enough. And as the crisis steadily spread in other countries, bishops and church administrators from across the English-speaking world began meeting to compare notes on how to respond to it. After gathering on their own in 1996 and 1998, they demanded that the Curia, the Vatican’s administration, meet with them in Rome in 2000.

Frustrations Boil Over

The visiting bishops had reached the boiling point. After flailing about for 20 years, with little guidance from Rome, as stories about pedophile priests embroiled the church in lawsuits, shame and scandal, they had flown in to Rome from Australia, Canada, England and Wales, Ireland, New Zealand, Scotland, South Africa, the United States and the West Indies.

Many came out of frustration: the Vatican had too often thwarted bishops’ attempts to oust pedophile priests in their jurisdictions. Yet they had high hopes that they would make the case for reform. Nearly every major Vatican office was represented in the gathering, held in the same Vatican hotel that was built to house cardinals electing a new pope.

“The message we wanted to get across was: if individuals are to hide behind church law and use that law to impede the ability of bishops to discipline priests, then we have to have a new way of moving forward,” said Eamonn Walsh, auxiliary bishop of Dublin, one of 17 bishops who attended from overseas. (He was one of several Irish bishops who offered the pope their resignations last year because of the abuse scandal, but his has not been accepted.)

Yet many at the meeting grew dismayed as, over four long days in early April 2000, they heard senior Vatican officials dismiss clergy sexual abuse as a problem confined to the English-speaking world, and emphasize the need to protect the rights of accused priests over ensuring the safety of children, according to interviews with 10 church officials who attended the meeting.

Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, then the head of the Congregation for the Clergy, set the tone, playing down sexual abuse as an unavoidable fact of life, and complaining that lawyers and the media were unfairly focused on it, according to a copy of his prepared remarks. What is more, he asked, is it not contradictory for people to be so outraged by sexual abuse when society also promotes sexual liberation?

Another Vatican participant even observed that many pedophile priests had Irish surnames, a remark that offended delegates from Ireland.

“Prejudices came out,” said Bishop Robinson of Australia. “There were some very silly things said at times.”

Though disappointed, the visiting bishops were not entirely surprised.

“It wasn’t that there was bad will in Rome,” Bishop Walsh said. “They just didn’t have the firsthand experience that the dioceses were having around the world — experience with the manipulative, devious ways of the perpetrators. If the perpetrator said, ‘I didn’t do it,’ they would say, ‘He wouldn’t be telling a lie, he has to be telling the truth, and he’s innocent until proven guilty.’ ”

An exception to the prevailing attitude, several participants recalled, was Cardinal Ratzinger. He attended the sessions only intermittently and seldom spoke up. But in his only extended remarks, he made clear that he saw things differently from others in the Curia.

“The speech he gave was an analysis of the situation, the horrible nature of the crime, and that it had to be responded to promptly,” recalled Archbishop Wilson of Australia, who was at the meeting in 2000. “I felt, this guy gets it, he’s understanding the situation we’re facing. At long last, we’ll be able to move forward.”

Clarity Comes in a Letter

Even so, the meeting served as much to expose Cardinal Ratzinger’s inattention to the problem as it did to showcase his new attitude.

Archbishop Wilson said in an interview that during the session he had to call Vatican officials’ attention to long-ignored papal instructions, dating from 1922, and reissued in 1962, that gave Cardinal Ratzinger’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, previously known as the Holy Office, sole responsibility for deciding cases of priests accused of particularly heinous offenses: solicitation of sex during confession, homosexuality, pedophilia and bestiality.

Archbishop Wilson said he had stumbled across the old instructions as a canon law student in the early 1990s. And he eventually learned that canonists were deeply divided on whether the old instructions or the 1983 canon law — which were at odds on major points — should hold sway.

If the old instructions had prevailed, then there would be no cause for confusion among bishops across the globe: all sexual abuse cases would fall under Cardinal Ratzinger’s jurisdiction.

(The Vatican has recently insisted that Cardinal Ratzinger’s office was responsible only for cases related to priests who solicited sex in the confessional, but the 1922 instructions plainly gave his office jurisdiction over sexual abuse cases involving “youths of either sex” that did not involve violating the sacrament of confession.)

Few people in the room had any idea what Archbishop Wilson was talking about, other participants recalled. But Archbishop Wilson said he had discussed the old papal instructions with Cardinal Ratzinger’s office in the late 1990s and had been told that they indeed were the prevailing law in pedophilia cases.

Just over a year later, in May 2001, John Paul issued a confidential apostolic letter instructing that all cases of sexual abuse by priests were thenceforth to be handled by Cardinal Ratzinger’s office. The letter was called “Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela,” Latin for “Safeguarding the Sanctity of the Sacraments.”


A churchgoer in March received a pastoral letter to Irish Catholics written by Pope Benedict XVI. Credit Peter Muhly/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

In an accompanying cover letter, Cardinal Ratzinger, who is said to have been heavily involved in drafting the main document, wrote that the 1922 and 1962 instructions that gave his office authority over sexual abuse by priests cases were “in force until now.”

The upshot of that phrase, experts say, is that Catholic bishops around the world, who had been so confused for so long about what to do about molestation cases, could and should have simply directed them to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith all along.

Bishops and canon law experts said in interviews that they could only speculate as to why the future pope had not made this clear many years earlier.

“It makes no sense to me that they were sitting on this document,” said the Rev. John P. Beal, a canon law professor at the Catholic University of America. “Why didn’t they just say, ‘Here are the norms. If you need a copy we’ll send them to you?’ ”

Nicholas P. Cafardi, a Catholic expert in canon law who is dean emeritus and professor of law at Duquesne University School of Law, said, “When it came to handling child sexual abuse by priests, our legal system fell apart.”

There was additional confusion over the statute of limitations for sexual abuse cases — or whether there even was one, given the Vatican’s reaffirmation of the 1922 and 1962 papal instructions. Many bishops had believed that they could not prosecute cases against priests because they exceeded the five-year statute of limitations enacted in 1983, effectively shielding many molesters since victims of child abuse rarely came forward until they were well into adulthood.

Mr. Cafardi, who is also the author of “Before Dallas: The U.S. Bishops’ Response to Clergy Sexual Abuse of Children,” argued that another effect of the 2001 apostolic letter was to impose a 10-year statute of limitations on pedophilia cases where, under a careful reading of canon law, none had previously applied.

“When you think how much pain could’ve been prevented, if we only had a clear understanding of our own law,” he said. “It really is a terrible irony. This did not have to happen.”

Though the apostolic letter was praised for bringing clarity to the subject, it also reaffirmed a requirement that such cases be handled with the utmost confidentiality, under the “pontifical secret” — drawing criticism from many who argued that the church remained unwilling to report abusers to civil law enforcement.

Reforms, but Limited Reach

After the new procedures were adopted, Cardinal Ratzinger’s office became more responsive to requests to discipline priests, said bishops who sought help from his office. But when the sexual abuse scandal erupted again, in Boston in 2002, it immediately became clear to American bishops that the new procedures were inadequate.

Meeting in Dallas in the summer of 2002, the American bishops adopted a stronger set of canonical norms requiring bishops to report all criminal allegations to the secular authorities, and to permanently remove from ministry priests facing even one credible accusation of abuse. They also sought from the Vatican a streamlined way to discipline priests that would not require a drawn-out canonical trial.

The Vatican initially rejected the American bishops’ proposed norms. A committee of American bishops and Vatican officials, including Cardinal Ratzinger’s deputy, watered down the American mandatory-reporting requirement to say only that bishops must comply with civil laws on reporting crimes, which vary widely from place to place.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith reserved for itself the power to dismiss a man from the priesthood without a full canonical trial — the kind of administrative remedy that American bishops had long been begging the Vatican to delegate to them.

Even so, the American bishops got most of what they asked for, and Cardinal Ratzinger was their advocate, said Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory, then the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The Americans were allowed to keep their zero-tolerance provision for abusive priests, making the rules for the church in the United States far more stringent than in most of the rest of the world. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith also said it would waive the statute of limitations on a case-by-case basis if bishops asked.

Archbishop Gregory said he made 13 trips to Rome in three years, almost always meeting with Cardinal Ratzinger.

“He was extraordinarily supportive of what we were doing,” Archbishop Gregory said in an interview.

Other reforms enacted by American bishops included requiring background checks for church personnel working with children, improved screening of seminarians, training in recognizing abuse, annual compliance audits in each diocese and lay review boards to advise bishops on how to deal with abuse cases.

Those measures seem to be having an impact. Last year, according to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 513 people made allegations of sexual abuse against 346 priests or other church officials, roughly a third fewer cases than in 2008.

Yet the Vatican did not proactively apply those policies to other countries, and it is only now grappling with abuse problems elsewhere. Reports have surfaced of bishops in Chile, Brazil, India and Italy who quietly kept accused priests in ministry without informing local parishioners or prosecutors.

Benedict, now five years into his papacy, has yet to make clear if he intends to demand of bishops throughout the world — and of his own Curia — that all priests who committed abuse and bishops who abetted it must be punished.

As the crisis has mushroomed internationally this year, some cardinals in the Vatican have continued to blame the news media and label the criticism anti-Catholic persecution. Benedict himself has veered from defensiveness to contrition, saying in March that the faithful should not be intimidated by “the petty gossip of dominant opinion” — and then in May telling reporters that “the greatest persecution of the church does not come from the enemies outside, but is born from the sin in the church.”

The Vatican, moreover, has never made it mandatory for bishops around the world to report molesters to the civil authorities, or to alert parishes and communities where the abusive priests worked — information that often propels more victims to step forward. (Vatican officials caution that a reporting requirement could be dangerous in dictatorships and countries where the church is already subject to persecution.)

It was only in April that the Vatican posted “guidelines” on its Web site saying that church officials should comply with civil laws on reporting abuse. But those are recommendations, not requirements.

Today, a debate is roiling the Vatican, pitting those who see the American zero-tolerance norms as problematic because they lack due process for accused priests, against those who want to change canon law to make it easier to penalize and dismiss priests.

Where Benedict lies on this spectrum, even after nearly three decades of handling abuse cases, is still an open question.

German Catholics reject sex rules

German bishops tell Vatican: Catholics reject sex rules

Germany’s Catholic bishops, responding to a worldwide Vatican survey, saidroday that many Church teachings on sexual morality were either unknown to the faithful there or rejected as unrealistic and heartless.

They said the survey, drawn up for a synod on possible reforms in October, showed most German Catholics disputed Church bans on birth control and premarital or gay sex and criticised rules barring the divorced from remarriage in church.

The results will not be news to many Catholics, especially in affluent Western countries, but the blunt official admission of this wide gap between policy and practice is uncommon and bound to raise pressure on Pope Francis to introduce reforms.

Bishops in Germany, one of the richest and most influential national churches in the 1.2-billion-strong Catholic world, have been pressing the Vatican to reform, especially over divorce.

A statement from the German bishops conference called the results “a sober inventory of what German Catholics appreciate about Church teaching on marriage and the family and what they find offputting or unacceptable, either mostly or completely.”

Since his election last March, Pope Francis has hinted at possible reform on divorce and at a more welcoming approach to homosexuals. But he has stressed he does not want to change core Church teachings such as the ban on women priests.


The bishops’ report said many Germans still respect the Church’s ideal of stable marriages and a happy family life.

“The Church’s statements on premarital sexual relations, homosexuality, on those divorced and remarried, and on birth control, by contrast, are virtually never accepted, or are expressly rejected in the vast majority of cases,” it said.

“Almost all couples who wish to marry in church have already been living together,” it said. Less than three percent of Catholic couples, it said, use the rhythm method of birth control favoured by the Church rather than the pill, condom or other methods.

While almost all German Catholics approved artificial birth control, the “vast majority are against abortion”, it added.

There was a “marked tendency” among Catholics to accept legal recognition of same-sex unions as “a commandment of justice” and they felt the Church should bless them, the report said, although most did not want gay marriage to be legalised.

The report said many Germans cannot understand the rule that divorced Catholics cannot remarry in church and must be denied the sacraments if they opt for a civil ceremony.

Especially faithful churchgoers in this situation see this as “unjustified discrimination and … merciless,” it said.


Pope Francis has suggested the Church wants to show mercy towards divorced Catholics and might ease the rules, taking an example from the Orthodox churches that allow remarriage.

The report said divorced and remarried couples have “become a normal part of pastoral reality in Germany” but gave no figures. In the United States, an estimated 4.5 million of nearly 30 million married Catholics are divorced and remarried.

The German bishops suggested the Church should move away from what it called its “prohibition ethics” of rules against certain acts or views and stress “advisory ethics” meant to help Catholics live better lives.

In sexual morality, it should find a way of presenting its views that does not make people feel it is hostile to sex.

The report further said the Vatican should “take married couples and families seriously” and actively involve them in preparing the synod due to discuss possible reforms in October.  (source)

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.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Leave a Reply~~~~~~~~

Vatican Credibility Takes Another Hit

Vatican Credibility Takes Another Hit: Photo of Benedict Letter Intentionally Altered

The Vatican published parts of a letter from Pope Benedict this week, and the Catholic world suddenly lost its mind.

The reason? Because the letter said that “Pope Francis is a man of profound philosophical and theological formation” and that the 11-volume theological work on the theology of the pope “help to see the inner continuity between the two pontificates” of Francis and Benedict.

Almost immediately, people concerned by the disaster of the present pontificate began calling the letter a fake.

“Thirty five years,” wrote one breathless Catholic on Twitter, “of reading, analysing and writing about the works of Joseph Ratzinger provides more than enough experience to know he would never resort to such trite inchoate Bergoglian banalities inherent in that letter”. It was a sentiment echoed across social media.

Others speculated about Benedict being a “prisoner” of the Vatican, of the “evil underground of…inernationalists with money and power” responsible for a coup that brought Benedict out of power, and so on. The name of George Soros appeared at least once in my feeds in connection with the latest developments.

Essentially, every unproven theory people have had about why Benedict abdicated, who was behind it, and what he’s now being forced to do has come back to the surface with a vengeance — all in the wake of a simple, brief letter about some books that, as it turns out, the former pope doesn’t even have the time to read.

And that last part is where the story gets interesting. At first, the letter was simply read at the presentation of the books on the theology of Pope Francis by Msgr. Viganò of the Vatican Secretariat for Communications, and excerpts were shared without the full text. Some reports say only parts of the letter were read at the presentation, others that it was read it in its entirety. The letter from Benedict, along with the books, appeared in a promotional photo sent to the media on Monday, March 12. Take a look and see if you see anything odd:

The first thing you’ll notice is that the stack of books, on the right, are covering all but the signature of the former pope. There is clearly some text there – we can see the words “la saluto” above the signature line, but that’s all.

But what people did not immediately notice — largely because soft focus around the edges of a photo is a common stylistic technique — is that the two bottom lines of the first page of the letter are blurred to the point that they are not readable.

When Sandro Magister released the full text of the letter, we were given to understand what is being hidden by clever staging and the application of some Photoshop filters. With the real text beside the image, one can make out the shape of the words, “Tuttavia non mi sento di scrivere su di essi una breve e densa pagina teologica perché in tutta la mia vita è sempre stato chiaro che…”

It is the opening line of a paragraph which reads, in English:

Nonetheless, I do not feel that I can write a brief and dense theological page about them because for my whole life it has always been clear that I would write and express myself only on books that I had also truly read. Unfortunately, even if only for physical reasons, I am not able to read the eleven little volumes in the near future, all the more so in that I am under other obligations to which I have already agreed.

Despite what nevertheless amounts to fairly hearty endorsement of Francis, the former pope was evidently demurring on a request made that he write something of more significance about the new set of theological texts, saying that he hasn’t had time to thoroughly read the books he’s being asked to help promote, and due to limitations of health and time, doesn’t plan to.

This is hardly a devastating letdown for Vatican PR. The two preceding paragraphs should have sufficed. Nevertheless, someone in the Vatican Secretariat for Communications apparently thought that Benedict’s strongly positive words about his successor weren’t unequivocal enough, and so the photo was doctored, and the less-than-emphatic section physically covered up.

The even more surprising thing is that the Vatican has admitted it. They have conceded that they violated what the Associated Press called, in a report on this story published today, “strict standards that forbid digital manipulation of photos” — standards followed by “most independent news media” .

The Vatican admitted Thursday that it blurred the two final lines of the first page where Benedict begins to explain that he didn’t actually read the books in question. He wrote that he cannot contribute a theological assessment of Francis as requested by Vigano because he has other projects to do.

The Vatican didn’t explain why it blurred the lines other than to say it never intended for the full letter to be released.

Not long ago, my home was broken into by someone known to our family while we were out of town. We had an immediate suspicion, and an arrest was made, which resulted in confession. When asked why he did it, the young man apparently tried to explain, among other poorly-thought-out reasons, that he “didn’t think he would be caught” — as though this somehow mitigated the stupidity of what he did. (You will be unsurprised to learn that this reasoning did not keep him from being convicted and serving time for his actions.)

Essentially, that’s what the Vatican is saying here: “We didn’t plan to release the entire letter, so we didn’t think we’d get caught attempting to mislead the public.” But they were caught, and they’ve damaged their credibility yet again with a once-friendly secular media:

The missing content significantly altered the meaning of the quotes the Vatican chose to highlight, which were widely picked up by the media. Those quotes suggested that Benedict had read the volume, agreed with it and given it his full endorsement and assessment. The doctoring of the photo is significant because news media rely on Vatican photographers for images of the pope at events that are closed to independent media.

There is nothing new in a story about the Vatican lying to the public. We’ve written about this before, here and here and probably other places besides. It is a tragically common theme, and one that has quite serious implications for the Holy See. If they can’t be trusted to tell us the truth about something so small, what about more important things? Why should we accept anything they say — assertion or denial — as anything but another convenient falsehood to help advance whatever narrative they’re trying to promote?

Perhaps more disturbing is the effect all this dishonesty on the faithful. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many Catholics reach the instantaneous conclusion that something coming out in the name of a pope was a phony — and it’s hard to blame them. It was the reaction I had when Pope Benedict allegedly issued a denial in response to our story about the Third Secret and Fr. Dollinger. (I’ve since come to believe that the denial may, in fact, have been real, but that’s another story.)

In this case, I’ve suspected all along that this letter’s expression of solidarity between the two popes was authentic — read this excellent article by Hilary White at The Remnant if you would like to understand why — but the admission of guilt on the part of the Vatican now removes most of my remaining doubt. Why would they go to the trouble to write a fake letter — and then doctor a photo of it — that doesn’t endorse the thing they were using it to promote?

What isn’t fake is the anger and betrayal many Catholics feel — anger and betrayal that will only deepen because of the events of this week.  (source)

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

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.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Leave a Reply~~~~~~~~

“Humanae Vitae”–story of dissent and oppression within the Church

Fifty years ago [1968], Pope Paul VI issued an encyclical that shook the Catholic Church to its core by declaring that every use of artificial contraceptives is immoral. The document, “Humanae Vitae” (“Of Human Life”), was a shocker because many Catholics had hoped the pope, with the widening availability of the pill after its appearance in 1960, would open the way for Catholics to use the birth control pill.

The encyclical continues to be controversial, with the hierarchy, including Pope Francis, supporting it while most Catholics ignore it.

When the encyclical was published on July 25, 1968, the response from Catholic moral theologians was overwhelmingly negative. Although they liked many things in the encyclical, the universal prohibition against artificial contraception was not something they could support. They noted that almost all other Christian denominations approved of contraception and that the papally appointed commission to study the issue had recommended a more open position.

The opposition of theologians was not just behind closed doors. It was very public in scholarly articles, op-eds, news conferences and signed petitions. Both Catholic and secular media covered the dispute extensively. Disagreements in the Catholic Church over sex made good copy.

Nor were theologians the only ones to disagree. Some cardinals and bishops distanced themselves from the pope, pointing out that the document was not infallible teaching and that each person had to follow their conscience. The German bishops issued the “Declaration of Königstein” that left to individual conscience of lay people whether to use contraception or not.

And much of the laity worldwide did follow their own consciences. Polls have shown that the overwhelming majority of Catholics do not accept the hierarchy’s teaching that all use of artificial contraceptives is immoral. In 2016, the Pew Research Center found only 8 percent of American Catholics agree that using contraceptives is morally wrong. Catholic couples felt that they understood the situation better than celibate males.

It is uncertain how many Catholics left the church over this teaching, but it is clear that even more stayed, continued to go to Communion, and simply ignored it. This was a remarkable change for Catholics who had deferred to the clergy on moral and doctrinal teaching. It gave rise to the concept of “cafeteria Catholics,” Catholics who picked and chose which teachings they would accept.

Some in the hierarchy blamed dissenting theologians for leading the people astray. While it is true that the public debate eased the consciences of some Catholics, the vast majority of Catholic couples were making up their minds on their own. In fact, studies found that increasing numbers of Catholics were already using contraceptives in the 1950s.

Rather than shoring up the authority of the hierarchy with the laity, “Humanae Vitae” undermined it. In the laity’s mind, if the church could be so wrong on this issue, why should they trust the church in other areas?

“Humanae Vitae” was not just a dispute about sex. It quickly became a dispute over church authority.

Cardinal Karol Wojtyla of Krakow, Poland, was a member of the papal commission studying the question of birth control. The man who would become St. John Paul II missed the last meeting where a majority of the commission voted in favor of changing church teaching. As a result, his position on birth control was not well known. We now know that he supported the minority position and wrote directly to Paul VI supporting the retention of the church’s prohibition against artificial birth control.

If his opposition to birth control had been widely known, would he have been elected pope? Certainly, any cardinal who supported changing the church teaching and voted for him regretted it later.

John Paul understood that the debate over “Humanae Vitae” was as much about authority as sex. He was scandalized by the opposition of theologians and bishops to papal teaching. As a product of a persecuted church, he understood the importance of church unity. Once elected pope, he launched an inquisition against moral theologians who had spoken out against the encyclical. He was ably assisted in this effort by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, whom John Paul made head of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Ratzinger succeeded John Paul as Pope Benedict XVI.

Since most of the theologians at that time were priests or members of religious orders, John Paul was able to use their promise or vow of obedience to get them under control. They were removed from teaching positions in seminaries and universities, forbidden to write on sexual topics, and told to profess their acceptance of the encyclical. The training of priests was put into the hands of those who stressed papal authority and following rules rather than the reforms of Vatican II.

Likewise, “Humanae Vitae” became a litmus test for the appointment of bishops. Loyalty to papal authority became the most important quality looked for in a potential bishop, trumping pastoral skill and intelligence. Over the almost three decades that he was pope, John Paul remade the hierarchy into a body that had little creativity or imagination in implementing the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. Rather, they looked to Rome for leadership and stressed the importance of following rules.

Today, many in the hierarchy are claiming that “Humanae Vitae” was prophetic in its conviction that contraceptives led to the separation of sex from procreation and therefore to conjugal infidelity, disrespect for women, gender confusion, and gay marriage. But the controversy was never over the encyclical as a whole; rather, it was over its prohibition of every single use of artificial contraception.  To say that contraception caused all of these other problems is absurd, an insult to all the good people who have used contraceptives at some point in their lives.

How should the church deal with this problem? It is probably impossible for it to simply admit it was wrong. The church is not very good at that. What it could do is say that abortion is a far greater evil, and anyone who might be tempted to have an abortion should practice birth control. The church should also stop supporting laws forbidding the sale or public funding of contraceptives. These would be small steps in reversing a 50-year-old mistake.  (source)


The vexed history of Blessed Paul VI’s letter on life and love, published 50 years ago this week

In 1963, Father Andrew Greeley published an article citing studies that showed overwhelming support among American Catholics for the Church’s teaching that artificial birth control is always wrong.

“Catholics accept the Church’s teaching with a vengeance,” Father Greeley wrote, adding that on this subject some Catholics were “more Catholic than the Church.”

Five years later, in July 1968, Pope Paul VI published his encyclical “Humanae Vitae” (“Of Human Life”), which reaffirmed the teaching. It was greeted by a storm of theological and popular dissent.

Not long after, Father Greeley, a sociologist and novelist, declared the encyclical to be the source of many if not most ills in the Church. He didn’t explain what happened between 1963 and 1968 to account for the change.

Yet Catholic attitudes clearly did change. In 1973, demographers Charles Westoff and Larry Bumpass concluded that the use of contraceptives by American Catholic women shot up from 30 percent in 1955 to 68 percent in 1970.

As for here and now, a Pew Research Center study two years ago found that even among Catholics who attend Mass weekly, only 13 percent thought contraception was wrong.

Is that the end of the story? Hardly. While supporters of “Humanae Vitae” may now be comparatively few in number, the encyclical has the backing of a committed core of passionate defenders, including people who swear by Natural Family Planning and champion St. Pope John Paul II’s innovative Theology of the Body.

Since the time of Pope Paul VI, it has enjoyed the support of popes up to and including Pope Francis, who will canonize Pope Paul as a saint in October.

The cover of a 50th anniversary edition of “Humanae Vitae,” published by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE

A fresh look

Against the background of the gap between Church teaching and its rejection by many of Church members, the 50th anniversary of “Humanae Vitae” is an appropriate — some would say urgently necessary — time to take a fresh look at what went into building Catholic dissent.

To begin with, there is the obvious fact that the encyclical could hardly have appeared at a less auspicious time. In 1968, a cultural — and sexual — revolution was well underway in the United States and other countries, with a spirit of rebellion against whatever smacked of tradition or took a stand against self-indulgence spreading like wildfire.

Opposition also was mounting to the growing U.S. involvement in the war in Vietnam, and campus protests were erupting throughout the country. In April, Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated, with his killing sparking riots, burning and looting in several cities, including Washington, D.C.

Barely two months later, Robert F. Kennedy was gunned down in Los Angeles. President Lyndon Johnson, fearing public humiliation at the polls in November for his Vietnam policy, decided not to run for reelection. During the Democratic convention in Chicago, protesters clashed with police in the streets outside.

For years, too, powerful groups and institutions, including the Ford and Rockefeller foundations, had been promoting population control, with Catholics among those targeted by the message.

By 1968, breaking with previous policy, the government had started edging into the birth control business via Johnson’s Great Society program. Government involvement in population control at home and abroad would soon skyrocket under President Richard Nixon. Inevitably, all this had an effect on Catholics. So did events within the Church.

The Second Vatican Council had ended three years earlier, but the turmoil it unintentionally helped create was in full flood by 1968.

Highly publicized departures from the priesthood and religious life, a phenomenon that began during the council, were still taking place.

An ill-defined state of mind called “the Spirit of Vatican II” persuaded many people that old beliefs and old values should — and probably would — be tossed aside. The teaching against artificial birth control was an obvious target for that way of thinking.

The first oral contraceptive, Enovid, was approved by the FDA in 1960. WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Sowing the seeds

But the seeds of dissent had in fact been sown much earlier.

Up to 1930, a substantial consensus in opposition to artificial contraception existed among Christian churches.

But that year the Anglican bishops broke ranks at their Lambeth Conference, adopting a resolution giving guarded approval to the practice of artificial birth control by married couples in some circumstances. Other churches soon followed suit, and the consensus was no more.

Pope Pius XI stood firm. In his encyclical “Casti Connubii” (“On Christian Marriage”), dated Dec. 31, 1930, he issued a resounding defense of the Church’s traditional teaching. It concluded with these words:

“Any use whatsoever of matrimony exercised in such a way that the act is deliberately frustrated in its natural power to generate life is an offense against the law of God and of nature, and those who indulge in such are branded with the guilt of a grave sin.”

Pope Pius XII repeated the teaching. Speaking to a meeting of Italian midwives in October 1951, he recalled what Pope Pius XI had said, and declared: “This precept is in full force today as it was in the past, and so it will be in the future and always because it is not a simple human whim but the expression of a natural and divine law.”

As that suggests, the teaching wasn’t new. Essentially the same thing had been said for centuries by those with teaching authority in the Church whenever they addressed the question.

And although a scholar (and later a federal court judge) named John T. Noonan, in his influential 1965 book “Contraception,” argued in favor of change, even Noonan was obliged to admit that, as he wrote, “the teaching on contraception is clear and apparently fixed forever.”

In April 1963, shortly before his death, Pope John XXIII had established a Pontifical Commission on Population, Family, and Birth Rate whose specific purpose was to prepare for the Holy See’s participation in an upcoming conference sponsored by the United Nations and the World Health Organization.

No one knew it then, but this body was to play a central role in the drama of dissent leading up to “Humanae Vitae.”

Pope John died on June 3, 1963, and Cardinal Giovanni Montini of Milan was elected to succeed him. He took the name Paul VI.

Although he supported the teaching on birth control, the new pope apparently thought oral contraceptives — “the Pill” — might possibly be morally different from other forms of contraception. He therefore expanded the scope of the commission’s work while also enlarging its membership. Soon it became popularly known as the “birth control commission.”

A detailed account of its work was written several years ago by Dr. Germain Grisez, a prominent American Catholic ethicist and moral theologian who died last February. It can be found on his website, “The Way of the Lord Jesus” (

A philosophy professor at Georgetown University at the time of the events he records, Grisez in 1965 published his first book, “Contraception and the Natural Law,” in which he argued the case for the traditional teaching using a new theory of natural law based on human goods. (The argument, briefly, is that moral evil lies in freely willing and acting against fundamental goods of the human person, and contraception clearly does this in the case of the good of procreation.)

Grisez was enlisted by Father John C. Ford, SJ, an American moral theologian and commission member, and the two men worked closely together in the commission’s latter phases and later.

Although the commission president, starting in February 1966, was the conservative Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, its secretary general, Father Henri de Riedmatten, OP, a staff member of the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, tilted its work toward changing the teaching, according to Grisez.

In addition, he writes, Father Ford found a number of theologians on the commission to be “predisposed to change.” As the internal politicking continued, sentiment shifted in that direction.

That remained the case after Pope Paul reorganized the group to include only cardinals and bishops — 16 of them — as members, with the nonbishops designated experts.

Matters came to a head in a series of meetings in April, May and June of 1966.

The result was two documents — misleadingly labeled the “majority report” and the “minority report” — laying out various arguments and considerations, which were presented to the pope.

Pope Paul VI greets children as he visits the Church of St. Leo the Great in Rome March 31, 1968. CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE PHOTO/GIANCARLO GIULIANI, CATHOLIC PRESS PHOTO

Pressure on the pope

Not surprisingly, six months later, these and other commission documents were leaked to media and published in English and French — in the U.S., in the National Catholic Reporter. The move clearly seemed designed to put pressure on the pope.

The story got headline coverage around the world. But Pope Paul made it clear he wasn’t impressed, saying in an address in October 1966 that views generated within the birth control commission “cannot be considered definitive.”

Finally, on Monday, July 29, 1968, Pope Paul released “Humanae Vitae” for publication. It repeated the Church’s long-standing condemnation of all forms of artificial birth control. Each and every marital act, it said, “must of necessity retain its intrinsic relationship to the procreation of human life.”

The pope had finally spoken. But in a way it was already too late. Many Catholics had already made up their minds by then, and often they had decided in favor of birth control.

Many factors combined to produce this result. Pope Paul’s long delay was among them.

Presumably, he expected that Catholics would wait until the pope made up his mind and then obediently follow his lead.

But instead of that happening, the delay gave proponents of change time to mobilize support for their position, while feeding the impression that Pope Paul would go along with them in the end and sometimes suggesting that it hardly mattered whether he did or didn’t.

The media — increasingly including Catholic media — helped build this expectation of change. Even The Ladies Home Journal weighed in, with a 1966 article highly critical of “the rhythm method” that concluded with these words: “When there is this much widespread unhappiness, this much that is destructive of the very ideals of marriage the Church wants to preserve, something is wrong.”

The lay-edited Catholic journal Commonweal made the important point that the birth control debate was “a focal point for all manner of issues far more basic” than contraception.

According to the magazine, these included the nature of marriage, “the role and value of the Church’s teaching authority,” conscience, natural law and “the nature of morality.”

Some prominent theologians also became advocates of change. These included well-known figures like Father Bernard Haring, CSSR, author of a popular moral theology text, and the American moralist Father Richard McCormick, SJ.

Already, too, the Second Vatican Council had added fuel to the fire. That happened during the debate over “Gaudium et Spes,” the council’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, with the question being what, if anything, the council should say about birth control.

In the end, the Second Vatican Council settled for a footnote noting, at the insistence of Pope Paul, what Pope Pius XI had said about contraception back in 1930. But some still believe it would have been better if the bishops at Vatican II had been allowed to re-argue the question for themselves and settle it definitively there and then.

And so it went. By the time “Humanae Vitae” finally came out, the idea that the Church’s teaching would change was no longer a mere possibility, but for many people a virtual certainty. Disappointment and even anger were thus predictable early responses to the encyclical.

Most bishops’ conferences around the world declared their acceptance and assent. Most, but not all. Statements expressing some measure of disagreement — or at least nonacceptance — came from the hierarchies of France, the Netherlands, Canada, Germany, Austria and Scandinavia.

The bishops of the United States, meeting in November 1968, issued a long pastoral letter titled “Human Life in Our Day,” expressing strong support for what the pope had said, which they called an “obligatory statement.”

Pope Paul VI presides over a meeting of the Second Vatican Council in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican in 1963. CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE PHOTO/CATHOLIC PRESS PHOTO

A wider view

Apparently not content with talking about just one hot-button issue, however, the bishops also discussed the U.S. role in Vietnam, taking a skeptical view of what was going on there.

Stranger still, in speaking of birth control, the pastoral letter included a section of “Norms of Licit Theological Dissent” that identified what was allowable by “scholars” engaged in “professional theological work” who disagreed with “Humanae Vitae.”

In the real world, though, the dissent from the encyclical wasn’t occurring in cloistered academic settings where scholars expressed themselves with “prudence born of intellectual grace,” but in a world of news conferences, sound bites and headlines where dissent tended to be raucous and far from graceful.

That was the case, for example, with Father Charles Curran, at the time a theologian at the Catholic University of America, who called it “incredible that the pope should be thinking of such a statement.”

After the encyclical appeared, Father Curran, enjoying maximum media support, proceeded to carry on what one writer calls a “well-planned strategy” of opposition.

Especially notable, too, was the so-called “Washington case” involving public dissent by 51 priests of the Archdiocese of Washington (a number eventually reduced to 19, many of the original group having quit the priesthood by then).

When most of these men refused to back off, Cardinal Patrick O’Boyle of Washington withdrew their faculties to preach and hear confessions. The dispute eventually went to Rome, where in 1970 the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy found that Cardinal O’Boyle had acted correctly, but didn’t require the priests to withdraw their public dissent.

Meanwhile, dissent continued to spread — dissent not only from the teaching on birth control but, as had been predicted, from a lot else besides.

As a writer in Commonweal put it: “We see at work in the birth-control issue the celibacy debate, the germinal drive for divorce and remarriage, the frequency of intercommunion, and a number of more doctrines such as purgatory, hell, transubstantiation, Mary as coredemptrix, and so on.”

As noted, the teaching of “Humanae Vitae” has been endorsed by popes since Pope Paul, including Pope Francis. And Pope Francis will canonize Pope Paul in mid-October.

Some people nevertheless worry that Pope Francis might take the same approach to contraception that he took to communion for divorced and remarried Catholics in his document on marriage, “Amoris Laetitia” (“The Joy of Love”). That could mean declaring support for the teaching, while offering a “pastoral” solution for those who can’t — or anyway won’t — live by it.

A member of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Father Maurizio Chiodi, suggested something like that in a public lecture last December. He remains a member of the pontifical council.

But however that may be, judging by the poll numbers Catholic consciences are already in disarray on birth control. Admirers of “Humanae Vitae” hope nothing happens during its 50th anniversary year to make that situation worse — just as they hope the anniversary moves at least some of their dissenting coreligionists to take another look at its teaching.   (source)

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.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Leave a Reply~~~~~~~~

How marriage has changed over centuries

by The Week Staff
Ron Royals/Corbis  June 1, 2012

Since the ancient world, marriage has evolved from a preservation of power to a personal contract between two equals seeking love, stability, and happiness.

Has marriage always had the same definition?
Actually, the institution has been in a process of constant evolution. Pair-bonding began in the Stone Age as a way of organizing and controlling sexual conduct and providing a stable structure for child-rearing and the tasks of daily life. But that basic concept has taken many forms across different cultures and eras. “Whenever people talk about traditional marriage or traditional families, historians throw up their hands,” said Steven Mintz, a history professor at Columbia University. “We say, ‘When and where?'” The ancient Hebrews, for instance, engaged in polygamy — according to the Bible, King Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines — and men have taken multiple wives in cultures throughout the world, including China, Africa, and among American Mormons in the 19th century. Polygamy is still common across much of the Muslim world.

The idea of marriage as a sexually exclusive, romantic union between one man and one woman is a relatively recent development. Until two centuries ago, said Harvard historian Nancy Cott, “monogamous households were a tiny, tiny portion” of the world population, found in “just Western Europe and little settlements in North America.”

When did people start marrying?
The first recorded evidence of marriage contracts and ceremonies dates to 4,000 years ago, in Mesopotamia. In the ancient world, marriage served primarily as a means of preserving power, with kings and other members of the ruling class marrying off daughters to forge alliances, acquire land, and produce legitimate heirs. Even in the lower classes, women had little say over whom they married. The purpose of marriage was the production of heirs, as implied by the Latin word matrimonium, which is derived from mater (mother).

When did the church get involved?
In ancient Rome, marriage was a civil affair governed by imperial law. But when the empire collapsed, in the 5th century, church courts took over and elevated marriage to a holy union. As the church’s power grew through the Middle Ages, so did its influence over marriage. In 1215, marriage was declared one of the church’s seven sacraments, alongside rites like baptism and penance. But it was only in the 16th century that the church decreed that weddings [need to] be performed in public, by a priest, and before witnesses.

What role did love play?
For most of human history, almost none at all. Marriage was considered too serious a matter to be based on such a fragile emotion. “If love could grow out of it, that was wonderful,” said Stephanie Coontz, author of Marriage, a History. “But that was gravy.”

In fact, love and marriage were once widely regarded as incompatible with one another. A Roman politician was expelled from the Senate in the 2nd century B.C. for kissing his wife in public — behavior the essayist Plutarch condemned as “disgraceful.” In the 12th and 13th centuries, the European aristocracy viewed extramarital affairs as the highest form of romance, untainted by the gritty realities of daily life. And as late as the 18th century, the French philosopher Montesquieu wrote that any man who was in love with his wife was probably too dull to be loved by another woman.

In many societies, both ancient and modern, levirate marriage was practiced.   Among the Hebrews, a levirate marriage is literally a “marriage with a brother-in-law.” The word levirate, which has nothing to do with the tribe of Levi, comes from the Latin word levir, “a husband’s brother.” In ancient times, if a man died without a child, it was common for the man’s unmarried brother to marry the widow in order to provide an heir for the deceased. A widow would marry a brother-in-law, and the first son produced in that union was considered the legal descendant of her dead husband.

We see a couple of examples in the Bible of levirate marriage. The first is the story of Tamar and Onan in Genesis 38. Tamar had been married to Er, a son of Judah. Er died, leaving Tamar childless (Genesis 38:6–7). Judah’s solution was to follow the standard procedure of levirate marriage: he told Er’s brother Onan, “Sleep with your brother’s wife and fulfill your duty to her as a brother-in-law to raise up offspring for your brother” (verse 8). Onan was more than willing to sleep with Tamar, but, unfortunately, he had no desire to have a child with her: “Onan knew that the child would not be his; so whenever he slept with his brother’s wife, he spilled his semen on the ground to keep from providing offspring for his brother” (verse 9). In other words, Onan was taking selfish advantage of levirate marriage. He wanted sex with his sister-in-law, but he purposefully avoided impregnating her. God called Onan’s actions “wicked” and killed him (verse 10).  Onan was also aware that, if Tamar became pregnant, her child would claim a portion in the family inheritance.  Thus, the inheritance coming to Onan would be diluted.

Levirate marriage became part of the Law in Deuteronomy 25:5–6. There, the Israelites are commanded to care for women whose husbands died before they had children. An unmarried brother of the deceased man bore a responsibility to marry his sister-in-law: God called it “the duty of a brother-in-law” (Deuteronomy 25:5). God’s purpose for levirate marriage is stated: “The first son she bears shall carry on the name of the dead brother so that his name will not be blotted out from Israel” (verse 6). In ancient Israel the passing on of the family name and the inheritance within a tribe were vitally important (see Numbers 36:7 and 1 Kings 21:3).

Notice that levirate marriage was a match not born out of affection but out of duty.  Deut 25:7-10 illustrates this very well:

However, if a man does not want to marry his brother’s wife, she shall go to the elders at the town gate and say, “My husband’s brother refuses to carry on his brother’s name in Israel. He will not fulfill the duty of a brother-in-law to me.” Then the elders of his town shall summon him and talk to him. If he persists in saying, “I do not want to marry her,” his brother’s widow shall go up to him in the presence of the elders, take off one of his sandals, spit in his face and say, “This is what is done to the man who will not build up his brother’s family line.” 10 That man’s line shall be known in Israel as The Family of the Unsandaled.

The social pressure specified here was enormous.  The village elders, meanwhile, were intent upon providing for the widow from the resources of the family into which she married in the first place.  If that family failed to care for her out of obligation and if her parents were unwilling to allow her to return home, then the community had another charity case to attend to.

In India today, widows are often expelled from the family home and left to languish on the streets and alleyways.  This is done because the widow is held responsible (due to bad Karma) for the early death of her husband.  In older times, the widow threw herself on the burning funeral pyre thus eliminating any need to take care of her.  Today, along the shores of the Ganges River, communities of forsaken widows can be found.  The women here learn to chant sacred pujas and are given meager food and lodging in exchange for their prayers.  It is not a happy situation, to be sure.

Notice that levirate marriage allows for loveless unions and for polygamy.  Perhaps this explains why Jews have long ago abandoned levirate marriage,  and even the most devout Jews are not anxious for its return even though Deut 25:5 makes it clear that this is God’s will.  The existence of levirate marriage in Deut 25:5 also makes it clear that, when Gen 1-2 speaks of one-man-one-woman marriages, this does not mean that this precludes the mandating of one-man-two-women marriages in Deut 25:5.]

When did romance enter the picture?
In the 17th and 18th centuries, when Enlightenment thinkers pioneered the idea that life was about the pursuit of happiness. They advocated marrying for love rather than wealth or status. This trend was augmented by the Industrial Revolution and the growth of the middle class in the 19th century, which enabled young men to select a spouse and pay for a wedding, regardless of parental approval. As people took more control of their love lives, they began to demand the right to end unhappy unions. Divorce became much more commonplace.

Did marriage change in the 20th century?
Dramatically. For thousands of years, law and custom enforced the subordination of wives to husbands. But as the women’s-rights movement gained strength in the late 19th and 20th centuries, wives slowly began to insist on being regarded as their husbands’ equals, rather than their property. “By 1970,” said Marilyn Yalom, author of A History of the Wife, “marriage law had become gender-neutral in Western democracy.” At the same time, the rise of effective contraception fundamentally transformed marriage: Couples could choose how many children to have, and even to have no children at all. If they were unhappy with each other, they could divorce — and nearly half of all couples did. Marriage had become primarily a personal contract between two equals seeking love, stability, and happiness. This new definition opened the door to gays and lesbians claiming a right to be married, too. “We now fit under the Western philosophy of marriage,” said E.J. Graff, a lesbian and the author of What Is Marriage For?

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.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Leave a Reply~~~~~~~~