Friday, August 31, 2012

O Joyous Mary

Our Dearest Mother,
In union with the Angel Gabriel,
as he said to you at the annunciation,
Hail Mary Full of Grace, The Lord is with you
Just as your cousin said to you, when you visited her
Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb
which is Jesus,
As we call to mind the Nativity, we proclaim
 Holy Mary, Mother of God
Present us to God as you presented your son
Pray for us sinners
Now, as we search for Him in this world
just as you searched for Him in Jerusalem
And also, when we find Him in Heaven
Just as you found Him in the Temple
Now and at the hour of our death.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Catholicism and Same-Sex-Attraction - Part 3 Gay Marriage

Well, this is the last installment of my first series.  My next post will cover some similar ground but it will be a different focus.  As with the last installment, i want you to know my position before you read this post.  Please go back and read Part 1 and Part 2 before reading this.  I cannot be held responsible for any offense you may take (and probably will take) if you aren't versed in what i have already said on this topic.
      Although we often hear claims to the contrary, the Catholic position on marriage is not based on our view of gay people.  Even if the Church didn't hold homosexual activity to be harmful to those who engage in it, our view of marriage would be the same.  Why?  Because our understanding of marriage is really based on our understanding of sex.
      For Catholics, we start with an assumption of meaning.  The universe has meaning, everything has a purpose.  This, you kinda gotta take on faith.  Either there is meaning and purpose or there isn't.  If there is no purpose or meaning then there is no true happiness, for happiness cannot exist apart from meaning.  There is just the now, to be lived to the fullest and then comes despair and death and nothing more.  (nice thought, huh?)
      But what if there is meaning?  Remember from Part 2, we discussed the three right desires; truth, goodness and beauty?  For the moment, i'm only concerned with truth.  A thing's purpose is tied to the truth of that thing.  To pursue something in truth is to pursue it in accord with its purpose.  (I know this seems abstract and confusing, bare with me for a moment longer.)
      Contemplate a house with no one to live in it.  No family to cuddle before its fire place.  No children to play in its yard.  No mom to tell bedtime stories.  No dad to scare away the monsters.  The purpose of a house is to be a home.  What is the allure of fixing up an old house, of restoring it, of making it a home once more?  That joy, that is from pursuing the house in accord with its purpose.
      Now contemplate sex.  What is its purpose?  The natural, physical purpose of sex is procreation, having kids!  There is also a spiritual purpose of joining the two individuals together, of uniting them together in love.  Children are the miraculous sign of this union.  This purpose should not be forgotten, but primarily it's the natural purpose which comes to bare on this topic.  When we separate sex from its procreative element we are separating it from its purpose, we are not pursuing it in truth, we are pursuing a falsehood.
      So sex and procreation can't be separated from each other if we are to find right desire.  But what about marriage?  Marriage is unique among all human institutions as the only one to flow seamlessly from the natural order.  When two people have sex they establish an everlasting bond.  They have joined themselves together for all time.  They pledge themselves to one another, giving themselves over, fully, without reserve.  Sometimes this is incarnated in the form of a child, a living union.  Marriage gives words to this act.  In marriage these truth are recognized, the two pledge themselves to one another, they join themselves for life.  Marriage gives words to this act.  Sex gives act to the words.
      Here, homosexuals get a bum deal.  It would be one thing if Christians applied this idea evenly across the board, but they don't.  We tolerate divorce; trying to end an everlasting bond.  We tolerate contraception; separating sex from its procreative ends.  We tolerate co-habitation; separating sex from marriage.
      The truth is, we're all a bunch of hypocrites.  We tolerate divorce and contraception and co-habitation because opposing them would be hard, because opposing them would affect us!  We want divorce and contraception and co-habitation.  What we want for ourselves we turn a blind eye to.  But we don't want gay marriage, we don't want gay sex and so we fight it.  We fight it because it's icky, because it doesn't affect us.
      The truth is, i don't agree with democrats on this point, but i respect them far more then i respect the republicans.  At least the democrats are consistent.  There is no such thing as gay marriage.  Gay sex, by its very nature, is closed to procreation.  It cannot be pursued in a way that respects its natural ends.  The sexual act of two gay men is not the sexual act to which marriage gives words, its a different act.  An act which i believe impedes the happiness of the men and women who engage in it.
      But at least i'm consistent.  I would say the same thing about divorce and contraception and any sex apart from marriage.  I place no burden on you to agree with me.  You are free to ignore what i have said and live your life as you choose.  I am proud to be Catholic and i am proud to not be a republican.  I am proud to be Catholic because this is the only place where these truths are found.  Not in any protestant church, not among Muslims nor Jews nor Buddhists.  Among the almighty atheist, agnostic, free thinking mob these ideas have never even seen the light of day.

      Living life in accord with truth is hard.  I know you can't do it yourself, don't force others to.  Go live your life to the best of your ability.  If you want one final piece of advice, i'd live it as a Catholic.  Only here is the fullness of truth to be found.  Only here is it united to the fullness of goodness and beauty.  Only here can true happiness be obtained.
      I might be wrong, but i really don't think i am.

Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."  John 14:6

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Catholicism and Same-Sex-Attraction - Part 2 The Act Itself

This is the post i've been putting off for years.  I don't really want to write it.  So many people already have, i almost don't see a point to adding my voice to the fray.  But maybe i'll say something unique, maybe i'll impact someone whom others have missed.  Maybe...
      I've already written Part 1 and you can't leave a series uncompleted.  (I'm looking at you Swordquest!)  I would just ask, before reading this post, if you haven't already, go back and read Part 1.  It sets the tone for the series and hopefully establishes my position.  Basically, if you read Part 2 without first reading Part 1, you sacrifice the right to call me hateful, intolerant, close-minded, spiteful, ignorant, bigot or a stupid-jerk-headed-poo-poo-face.  So long as you read Part 1 first, i'll contend myself with the knowledge that i tried and you can call me whatever you wish.
      As i set out on this particular sojourn, i want to be very careful of what i say.  I'm not interested in passing judgement on anyone.  Each of us has a unique temptation set.   In fact, as far as what i have to say here, it doesn't matter in the slightest if you are gay, straight, lesbian, bi-gender or tran-sexual.  There are, basically, three ways of dealing with a temptation.  It doesn't matter who you are or what the temptation is.  These three responses are about as universal as it gets. 
      The response that takes the most flak is resisting the temptation.  You stare it in the face and say "NO" until you inevitably give in or go crazy.  Catholics don't like this tactic because it doesn't work.  Secular folks will speak poorly of it because it drives you insane. Pretty much everyone (maybe not puritans) will tell you it leads to self-hatred and depression, suicidal tendencies and perhaps even bed wetting.
      A second response is to simply give in.  Accept who you are and embrace your desires.  A lot of people will tell you this is the best option.  This view says, "Do what makes you happy."  Meaning, do what grants you the greatest immediate satisfaction.  I don't need to appeal to Christ or Catholic teaching here.  Buddha, Confucius, Mohammad, Socrates and a host of others will all tell you the same thing; Short term gratification leads to lasting misery.  Unless your desire is to love God and neighbor, this is definitely the wrong response.
      Before i look at the third response, i will try and explain why these first two don't work.

      Buddha had a lot to say worth hearing.  One of the things he says is that all desire leads to suffering.  This is true.  Now, his solution is to eliminate all desire. (Makes since, right?)  Confucius would agree that all desire leads to suffering but would disagree with the solution.
      Confucius (In accord with my Catholic faith) distinguishes between right desire and wrong desire.  Wrong desire grants temporary happiness but inevitably leads to a lasting suffering.  Right desire comes at the cost of temporary suffering but grants a lasting joy, true happiness.  Consider this in regard to pornography.  The first time, you look at pictures of girls or guys in swim suits, and that satisfies, for awhile.  But soon you need to look again, only now you need more, you need erotic poses.  Next time you need nudity, then sex, then video...  Eventually, no matter how many hours you spend in front of a computer screen, you cannot find images that satisfy.  This desire has left you empty, with nothing to show for it but a very large credit card bill and a lot of suffering.
      Right desire is the exact opposite.  Perhaps as a child your parents dragged you to an art museum.  In boredom you suffered through an endless lineup of stupid painting after stupid painting.  Minutes seemed like hours.  But then, this one paining catches your eye.  You don't know why, but you are drawn to it.  Something about it lightens your burden, gives you a sense of joy.  You stare at it for ten, fifteen, twenty minutes, examining every nuance, until you parents forcibly drag you away.  Some time latter you return to the art museum, looking for that painting, but it's gone.  You begin to look at others, examining them for that trait you found in the first.  And you find it.  It's beauty.  Each time you come you find more of it.  Whereas before, you would look at twenty paintings in a minute, now you can spend twenty minutes looking at a single painting.
      With wrong desire, the more you indulge it, the more you need to be satisfied.  With right desire, the more you receive of it, the less you need.
      All right desire consists of truth, goodness and beauty.  We can pursue these desires, it is okay to give into them.  (to pursue truth, goodness and beauty; to love God and neighbor; same thing)  At times we may abstain from a lesser good in order to receive a greater good.  But these are topics for another time.
      When we pursue wrong desire we inevitably find nothing but suffering.  When we actively resist these temptations, we are desiring a falsehood, we are desiring to be someone else.  You create a contradiction within yourself where you both desire to have cake and desire to not have cake at the same time.  Either you give in and hate yourself, because who you are is someone who ate cake, or you resist and the unfilled desire for sweet, moist, chocolaty goodness eats at you.  Holding on to your wrong desires will destroy you, whether you are fighting and wrestling with them or indulging them.  There is only one thing to do.
      You need to let them go.  There are only so many hours in the day.  If you spend 24 of them pursing truth, goodness and beauty, you will not have time to pursue sex or drugs or chocolate cake.  And here is the best part; truth, goodness and beauty do not exclude sex, drugs or chocolate cake.  When untied with marriage and procreation, sex becomes a right desire, it leads to greater happiness.  If you are married, i would advise having more sex. (and don't use contraception; large quantities of procreative sex leads to large quantities of children, large quantities of children leads to large quantities of birthday parties, large quantities of birthday parties leads to large quantities of chocolate cake. (contraception is an impediment to chocolate cake, so don't do it!))
      For Catholics love and meaning ought to be recognized as almost equivalent.  Love gives meaning and is the natural response to meaning.  Meaning is expressed in the world through truth, goodness and beauty.  Don't waist your time pursuing something else.  Nothing else matters.  Love truth, love goodness and love beauty.  You will find meaning, and meaning will give you joy.  Everything else will pass away.

      The undefended assumption here is that gay sex, that pursuit of sweet man flesh, is a wrong desire, which will lead to misery, to suffering.  I could write a philosophical treatise defending this position, but it wouldn't matter.  The most convincing argument is lived experience.  Go live it.  Go experience whatever life you want to.  If you find i'm right, the Church will still be here when you get back.
      True love is to desire that which is best for another.  This is what the Catholic Church desires for us, what God desires for us.  I would encourage you to consider carefully what the Church says, to offer God a place in your life.  Know that your loved and go find the meaning in your life.

<< Part 1                                                                                                     Part 3 >>

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Catholicism and Same-Sex-Attraction - Part 1 - Our Response

Originally i was planning on writing a piece addressing gay-marriage.  A young friend of mine asked me to explain the Catholic position and I started to write the response there on Facebook.  I quickly realized it was going to be too long for that particular forum.  As the discussion unfolded in my mind i came to believe i was approaching this from the wrong angle.
      For those who don't believe in same-sex-marriage the question revolves around the very nature of marriage.  My first impulse was to build my argument there.  However, for the opposition, for those who believe in and support same-sex-marriage, the heart of the issue is the person.  I fear we occasionally lose sight of that, of the person.  Occasionally, someone will discuss the nature of the homosexual act.  This is closer, but even then i fear we often fail to reflect on the person performing the act. 
      Be sure, i do not mean to say always, nor even usually.  It suffices to say often.  We Catholics have a primary objective, to love our neighbors as ourselves, and perhaps we often fall short of that.  I know we fall short whenever we fail to take account of the person.  I'm not interested in pointing fingers or laying blame, there is plenty to go around.  Perhaps some even falls on me.  At the moment, i'm not interested in the nature of marriage. (I'll get to that in part 3)  I'm also not interested in discussing the nature of the homosexual act.  (I'll get to that in part 2)  For the moment i'm only interested in the person.
      In truth, i'm only ever interested in the person.  I'm so very sorry if i have ever failed to display that.  But this is what i am trying to express here.  This is my love letter to you.  I've not written many, so it may not be very good.  But a love letter it is nonetheless.  To everyone who is not 100% straight.  To everyone who may feel hurt by my actions or my views.  This is my love letter to you.

      You are loved.  Not necessarily the mushy, fluffy love displayed in Hollywood, but the true love of desiring for another that which is best for them.  This love does not care who you are, what you have done or what you believe.  For the sake of this love the Church proclaims, "They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided."
      I affirm the love any two people may have for each other.  True self-giving love is the foundation stone of my faith.  I affirm it wherever it is found.  Whether it is Mother Teresa caring for lepers and orphans, or two gay men seeking acceptance.  If this love is self giving, if it desires the best for the other; then this is a love to be affirmed, to be recognized.
      I accept you for who you are.  I accept what you have already done and i don't really care.  We are not defined by our actions, but by the image we carry within us.  Our actions can be forgot, forgiven, they can be cast to the wind.  What matters is not what we have done, but who we now choose to be.  I choose to be one who loves.  I choose to be one who loves you for who you are.  
      I cannot affirm all the choices we make.  I cannot affirm all the responses we choose to all our hopes and desires.  Each of us walks a path of their own choosing, seeking a singular destination.  Perhaps you will let me share my path with you.  In the end, we must each choose for ourselves which path we will follow.  I will love you regardless of the choice you make.  I will love you for as long as you let me.  This is the path i choose. 

                                                                          I sign this with all sincerity,
                                                                                                     One who loves

                                                                                                                        Part 2 >>

Saturday, August 18, 2012

When Can Catholics Wear Condoms? A Response

I've been putting this off for awhile, but i thought it was about time i starting using my blogspot account.  After a few years of avoiding the thing, i figure either use it or get rid of it.  So here i am using it.

      Although i would have rather written on something more unique, to establish my individuality and distinctiveness, i'm writing a response piece.  Someone i respect over at Patheos recently posted an article entitled When Can Catholics Wear Condoms?  It's a good question.  As he rightly points out, there is nothing wrong with wearing a condom.  

"So we should feel free to wear condoms. We should feel free to wear four or five of them. Just not during sex."

       I'm not going to bother recapping his entire argument.  It suffices to say, it's a good question.  The meat of the topic is; if you are using a condom for a purpose other than contraception, is it then ok?  Our Holy Father has already given us one example in which it would be.  If a gay prostitute wears a condom, the act itself is already contracepted by the fact that two men cannot procreate with each other.  As a consequence the condom would be only to prevent the spread of HIV, this is a good thing.
      While i cannot advocate going into this particular profession, being a condom wearing gay prostitute may be a step up from being a condom-free gay prostitute.  (If you want to find true joy in life, this is probably a profession best avoided all together.)

      Now, what of a married couple?  The husband has AIDs and doesn't want to pass it to his wife.  Could he wear a condom?  While my esteemed counterpart answers in the affirmative, i would have to disagree. Sorry

      The center of this discussion seems to come from Humanae Vitae, where it puts forth, "the Church does not consider at all illicit the use of those therapeutic means necessary to cure bodily diseases,"
 (It seems to me that preventing bodily diseases of which there is a significant and immediate risk would also qualify.  So i see no problem here.)
It continues, "even if a foreseeable impediment to procreation should result there from—provided such impediment is not directly intended for any motive whatsoever.”
       I would put forth, this is where condoms face a problem.  It has to do with how they work to prevent AIDs.  I'll get to this in a second.

      This concept, from Humanae Vitae, is based off of Thomas Aquinas's Principle of Double Effect, which allows for certain harmful actions to be justifiable given three conditions;
  1. the nature of the act is itself good, or at least morally neutral.
Sex is good.  Wrapping a piece of rubber around a body part is... weird, but morally neutral.  So, i see no problem here.

     3. the good effect outweighs the bad effect in circumstances sufficiently grave to justify causing the bad effect and the agent exercises due diligence to minimize the harm.

Not getting AIDs, or not passing them on to a loved on, is good.  I would classify not getting pregnant as morally neutral, although also sad.  Due diligence to minimize the harm is something i'll bring back up latter.

     2. the agent intends the good effect and not the bad either as a means to the good or as an end itself.

You might notice i went out of order.  That's because the second condition is the one that gives me the greatest pause.  The bad effect cannot be the means to the good effect.

      The condom works, both as a contraceptive method and to prevent AIDs, by preventing the transfer of fluid from the man to the woman.  The very thing that helps to prevent AIDs is also that thing which renders the act infertile.  The bad effect, the contraceptive attribute of the condom, would be the means of preventing AIDs.
      In chemical contraception, by comparison, the pill alters the hormonal balance of the woman.  This altered hormonal balance may have the dual effect of curing a medical condition and reducing fertility.  However, these two effect are independent of each other.  In theory, a woman could receive the medical benefits and still get pregnant.  The one is not dependent on the other.
       With condoms, these two effects are inseparably united to each other.  There is no way in which the woman can get pregnant if the condom is doing it's job properly, that is, of preventing the exchange of bodily fluids.  The impediment is being directly intended for the motive of preventing AIDs.  I do not see how condoms could fit with Humanae Vitae or the principle of double effect.

      There is also a point from condition #3 i want to address: Doing due diligence to minimize harm.  Condoms are not 100% effective at preventing STDs.  Abstinence is.  If your only goal is to prevent the transfer of an STD, it seems abstinence is more fitting.
      Additionally, when one uses a condom, for any reason, they are directly separating the procreative element from sexuality.  They are dehumanizing it.  This leads to seeing sex as an ends in itself.  It reduces your partner to a mere means to your own sexual gratification.  It does a great deal of harm.
      When i am in a state of sin, i will abstain from the Eucharist.  I love and adore the Eucharist and receiving it grants me a great deal of grace.  However, when i am in a state of sin i will abstain, and the abstaining grants me far more graces then the reception would have.  This is because of my love for it and my desire to do no harm to my Lord.
      Sometimes in life, we are called to abstain from things that are good in order to receive something better.  Using a condom in the confines of a marriage will do harm to that marriage.  Sometimes abstinence is the fullest form of self giving love, and will do good for the couple. 

      The third condition seems to rule out condoms on the grounds that abstinence does less harm and the second condition would rule condoms out all together.

“[The Church] of course does not see [condoms] as a real and moral solution. In certain cases, where the intention is to reduce the risk of infection, it can nevertheless be a first step on the way to another, more humane sexuality.”
 Pope Benedict XV