A reader writes:
The mainstream media and the blogosphere are alike in misunderstanding the Church’s teaching and the nuance taken by Benedict XVI as chief teacher. Please note that you, like the rest who report the stories about Church teaching and gay Catholics, leave out three big pieces of the puzzle.
1. It is about straight people, not gay people.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, the document that contains the “intrinsic disorder” and “objective disorder” judgments against non-procreation, is equally clear about straight people. Every straight couple who uses birth control or whose play time is inclusive of anything apart from the missionary position is condemned with the same brush as we are as gay people. The upshot? If you read Benedict himself (as opposed to the Palin-esque US bishops), he never really talks about gay people he applies the Catechism to straight culture.
2. Gay couples are, in fact, living holy lives. That same Catechism encourages gay people to pair off. Unfortunately, the English translation is “disinterested friends,” but the original Latin is “graced help-mates.” And the Catechism is clear that we exist and that “becoming straight” is not the answer for us. The upshot? The Church should be speaking out quite vocally for legal protections for gay couples. Marriage? No. Civil unions? Some other term? Yes, in the interest of promoting chastity for gay people.
3. There is no prohibition on gay priests. There is a prohibition on gay seminarians who are overtly active within the “gay culture” that is dying in any case. This is a temporary measure to address the fact that the priesthood itself is in crisis, and the presence of overwhelming numbers of gay guys with issues was complicating priestly formation. Right move? Probably not. Nonetheless, it was done as a practical matter, not a theological one. The upshot? One more reminder from the Vatican that gay men can (and should!) investigate life options apart from priesthood, and remain good Catholics. So, don’t be so hard on Benedict! Some day, his Catechism and his reign could be remembered as our ecclesial emancipation!
As for the church's alleged support for gay couples, show me a single statement from Benedict or the bishops that supports civic recognition for gay relationships. I wish it were true, but it isn't. And while the proscription on non-reproductive sexual acts applies to gays and straights alike, the straights have the option of reproductive sexual acts, while gays simply don't. And where the straights don't have the option, as in post-menopausal or infertile relationships, the church gives them a pass. The church uniquely singles out gay people in not giving us a pass on the same humane grounds. So the unique insistence on total celibacy as a condition for being accepted even as a member of the Church remains exclusively reserved for gay people. Celibacy may be defensible in terms of the priesthood (although I disagree), but pastorally indefensible in guiding lay gays to productive and healthy lives.
Buried within the Catholic teaching, as I exhaustively explored in Virtually Normal, there is a kernel for expanding God's grace and the church's institutions and even sacraments to include all God's people. But Benedict has clearly made a decision not to let that kernel grow and blossom, but to snuff it out not only within the church but outside as well. He remains the enemy of gay people and our dignity. And, of course, of his own.