“Not only is it wrong to take the life of another, but it is also wrong to bestow the poison of anger upon him, strike him with slander, and speak ill of him.” — Pope Francis, Angelus, Feb. 16, 2014
Margery Eagan, the “spirituality columnist” for the CRUX site, recently wrote a column, “My prayer: That Francis prevails over the bigots within the Church” (Oct 21), in which she uses a broad and sloppy brush to attack those Catholics who, in short, uphold Church teaching regarding the true nature of homosexual inclinations (“objectively disordered”—CCC, 2358) and homosexual acts (“grave depravity”—CCC, 2357).
Especially interesting to me are two things: the faulty assumptions and misleading arguments she uses and the apparent (if tacit) approval of the hierarchy at CRUX. First, the assumptions and “arguments:
1). That the controversy over the passage in the “Relatio post disceptationem” was merely about being nice to homosexuals: “Nothing like the prospect of the Catholic Church ‘welcoming’ gays to cause hysteria in conservative ranks.” This is nonsense. The problem was with the fuzzy language in the midsession report suggesting that having an inclination toward homosexuality was somehow a positive and morally good thing:
Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community: are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities? Often they wish to encounter a Church that offers them a welcoming home. Are our communities capable of providing that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony? … Without denying the moral problems connected to homosexual unions it has to be noted that there are cases in which mutual aid to the point of sacrifice constitutes a precious support in the life of the partners.
If we are to “value” the homosexual orientation, then what to do with the clear teaching that such inclination is disordered? Ignore it? Cut it out? If so, should we also expect to rexamine Church teaching about adultery and fornication? Pornography, masturbation, and cohabitation? And what of polygamy and those who might have an orientation to a “swinging” lifestyle? What gifts might such people bring into the Church solely because of their orientations? No reasonable person denies that every sinner has gifts and abilities. What puzzled and upset so many Catholics was the suggestion that the flawed orientation and even sinful actions somehow—magically!—provide gifts and graces never before recognized.
2). That there are only two possible approaches to those identifying as homosexual: complete and total acceptance of the orientation and lifestyle (that is, a celebration of the Reign of Gay), or homophobic hatred, bigotry, and intolerance on every level and in ever possible way. This is clearly the intention of Eagan’s cherrypicking of certain anti-homosexual comments, as if comboxes are equal to the thoughtful and principled approaches to the topic that good Catholics have written. But, of course, this is how the Reign of Gay works: either bow and applaud madly, or be damned to the darkest fringes of society. The truly Catholic option is the one that so many (although not all) homosexuals despise: love the sinner, hate the sin. Eagan, however, will have none of it.
3). The sloppy attempt to equate homosexuality with a morally upright cause: “Let me point out the obvious here: Nobody gets this riled up when the pope — any pope — calls on remiss Catholics to pick up the pace on helping the poor, feeding the hungry, or welcoming the stranger. The hysteria — and anger — always centers on sex and gender.” Well, when objectively evil acts are presented as good and then forced down one’s collective throat, some people respond negatively. Helping the poor, feeding the hungry, etc., are universally acknowledged as good and just acts; homosexual acts are not universally acknowledged as such, certainly not by the Catholic Church, which states:
Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved. (CCC, par. 2357)
Eagan is either clueless or disingenuous in mocking the “hysteria” and “anger” surrounding these issues, as if people who believe that sex is meant for marriage and that homosexuality is not a good thing—just as, again, the Church teaches—should quietly roll over, shut up, and accept it like a good boy or girl. In case she hasn’t noticed, the cultural upheaval going on for some five decades now in the West has been largely fixated on sex and gender. It’s like wondering why a schoolboy who is continually bullied is so angry about being beat up and treated like dirt.
4). The solicitation of Pope Francis for her cause: “For one, Francis can play political hardball. He’s rumored to be ready to demote US Cardinal Raymond Burke, former archbishop of St. Louis, who has called gay relationships disordered and the ‘acts’ gays commit ‘always and everywhere wrong, evil.'” It is not known, exactly, why Francis is removing Cardinal Burke from his position. To assume that it is because Burke simply repeats what is found in the Catechism (see above, once again) is what we call “a stretch”. It is also misleading and assumes knowledge that Eagan obviously doesn’t possess.
5). Everyone knows someone who is “gay,” so it must be okay: “My children grew up with many children who had ‘two moms.’ My children are fine. The ‘two moms’ children are fine.” Anecdotal evidence is interesting, but is usually limited. In some cases, it is misleading (especially when provided so flippantly). As various studies have shown, homosexual men and women have higher rates of depression, abuse, separation, health problems, suicide, etc. Everything is not “fine”, despite assurances from liberal Bostonians.
6). The assumption—or hope, at the very least—that the Church will change its teaching about homosexuality: “My prayer: That Francis prevails over the bigots within the Church and that Catholicism, at last, moves on as well.” Like so many others, she fails to distinguish between welcoming all people (including those who identify as homosexual) and rejecting specific actions (homosexual acts, “same sex marriages”, etc.).
As to my second point, it’s not readily evident to me why Eagan is a “spirituality columnist”. Perhaps she was deemed suitable for the position because she has worked for the Boston Globe and she identified herself as Catholic, despite rejecting a fair number of Catholic teachings (yep, mostly having to do with the usual issues, centered on sex and gender). As she wrote in an August 2014 column:
When we talk about the Catholic Church now, we mostly talk about controversy: its opposition to birth control, to gays, the sex abuse crisis, what this new Pope Francis may or may not change. We’ve heard the complaints of lapsed Catholics so often their story has become a cliché.
And, again, who is it that is obessed with issues of sex and gender? (Oh, yeah, right. Project much?) Some of us love being Catholic because we love Jesus Christ and the Truth, we believe that the Church was founded by Jesus as a sacrament of salvation and the true household of God (1 Tim 3:15), and that God desires all of us to be “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet 1:4).
But I digress.
John Allen, Jr., associate editor of CRUX, wrote today about “The danger of calling people ‘bigots’” (scroll down from the top to the first subfeature):
In the wake of the recently concluded Synod of Bishops, some supporters of a more positive approach to gays and lesbians have been tempted to label the opposition that arose as bigots. In general, they do so because of an honorable and passionate commitment to protecting a vulnerable minority group against unjust prejudice.
As we go forward, however, it might be a good idea to think carefully about how we use such terms.
Great idea. First, think; and then do so carefully. Otherwise, CRUX is in danger of being called “CALUMNY”. Allen continued:
Even the most ferocious traditionalists at the synod always prefaced anything they had to say about gays and lesbians by stipulating that they possess the same human dignity as everyone else, that their human rights must be defended, and that they must not be subjected to discrimination or abuse.
The debate is not really about the treatment of gays, but the moral analysis of homosexuality and of same-sex relationships. Whatever else the conservative side of those arguments may be, it’s not by definition a form of homophobia.
Very well. Perhaps Allen could suggest to Eagan that she stick to spirituality and avoid moral theology, not to mention slander and stereotypes.
If you value the news and views Catholic World Report provides, please consider donating to support our efforts. Your contribution will help us continue to make CWR available to all readers worldwide for free, without a subscription. Thank you for your generosity!
Click here for more information on donating to CWR. Click here to sign up for our newsletter.