Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Archbishop John Nienstedt gets Chastized for Chastizing

Archbishop John Nienstedt, leader of the Minneapolis / St Paul Archdiocese, ruffled a few feathers by restating the Catholic Church's position on homosexuality. In his piece, the Archbishop simply affirms the Church's position on homosexuality, and explains why anyone who endorses or supports immoral behavior should not be allowed to speak, or receive awards from Catholic institutions. From the article:
Those who actively encourage or promote homosexual acts or such activity within a homosexual lifestyle formally cooperate in a grave evil and, if they do so knowingly and willingly, are guilty of mortal sin. They have broken communion with the church and are prohibited from receiving holy Communion until they have had a conversion of heart, expressed sorrow for their action and received sacramental absolution from a priest.

St. Augustine's Confessions, while not unique in its treatment of sexuality, has been echoed through history. Sex isn't the bad part, it's the desire that is. Augustine refers to it as "mud", "thorns", and "an open sore that must be scratched." In his time, and even today, to refuse desire of any kind, choosing rather to devote one's life to God is seen as a virtue. Of course, humanity would not survive very long if everyone remained celibate and relied on virgin births. So, what's the compromise? You may have sex, but only in marriage, and only for the purpose of conceiving a child. Seems good enough, that policy allows humanity to flourish, and cuts down in immoral sexual acts. Immoral in this case is determined by what is "natural," and by "natural," I mean for the purposes of procreation. The desire, therefor, to have sex with someone of the same gender is immoral, or "unnatural" because no matter how you try, you won't procreate, and you give into desire, which takes us back to scratching an open wound. I have not read what the church's position is on enjoying sex with whomever you are married to, and if that's a sinful desire or not.

Anyway, enough about that. About 300 Roman Catholics protested Archbishop Neinstedt. This strong handed treatment of homosexuality AND the family and friends of those who identify as homosexual is wrong, according to Mel White, founder of Soulforce, a group who's Vision Statement reads: "The purpose of Soulforce is freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance." Michael Bayly, executive coordinator of the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities, believes that the Catholic Church's teaching on homosexual activity will have to change. I agree, but I'm not going to hold my breath for that. Archbishop Neinstedt's words are hurtful, not only for the LGBT community, but for the people who support them. It's nice to see people standing up, and making their voices heard. It's also unfortunate that people love the organization, but don't like the policy, so are unwilling to accept another church or faith. On what justification could the Church change its teaching on homosexuality? From an article, one child at the protest quoted this passage attributed to Jesus, "I came that you might have life - and have it to the full!" That's positive, but I don't know if that would convince a conservative Catholic that gay sex was OK. How would you challenge the Church's teachings on homosexuality? I'll take the role of a conservative, "If it feels good, it must be wrong guy," and you get to use history, scripture, personal testimony to convince me that gay sex is OK.

1 comment:

Chris Schommer said...

I saw this interview go by and thought of this post. It's Sister Wendy, of PBS art history fame and she was asked about gay marriage and the Catholic church.

Q: You've spoken out about gay marriage. How do you balance what you believe with what you have sworn to uphold?

A: I believe in loyalty. We should respect our church, but never believe that the church has the last word. The church is saying "this", but I believe that sooner or later "this" will change. "This" is not the mind of our Lord. God is all love. It's a delicate balancing thing. The Church has changed it's position over the years, and because the spirit is with the Church, in the end the Church will always get it right. But in the end. The spirit of the Church is the meaning of love, which hasn't yet, perhaps, been fully understood.