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Mark Shea's Blog: So That No Thought of Mine, No Matter How Stupid, Should Ever Go Unpublished Again!
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Can I just say that I’m sick to death of the claim that the Boy Scouts of America have embraced homosexuality? They haven’t embraced homosexuality anymore than they’ve embraced heterosexuality, that is, sexual practices among members that are not married. They still forbid any scout to engage in premarital sexual relations. The lifting of the ban on gay scouts amounts to allowing scouts who wish to be honest about their sexuality, who feel that it is nothing about which they should feel ashamed, who don’t wish to lie when pressed with comments or questions about things like romantic prospects from others, and who, for all we know, and Mark would attest to this adamantly, very well may be chaste, to be scouts without the threat of being kicked out. It’s very scandalizing that a concept like sexuality, which is so deeply rooted and highly elevated in cultural discourse, ESPECIALLY among Catholics, whenever its imperfect within an individual beyond the scope of what normal people have to deal with, all of a sudden it’s nobody’s business and it shouldn’t be talked about or worse: when it is talked about, it’s in the most condescending, distancing, admonishing tone. Mark, if you honestly wish for homosexual persons to be treated with the dignity, sensitivity, care, and respect for which the catechism, for which the gospel calls that we be treated, why do you promote the stigma that is the means by which people are pathetically trying to prove their orthodoxy?
Also, Johnnette Benkovic? She’s twisting all sorts of Church teachings to suit her own personal militant anti-secularism, which is not the Church’s stance. The Church isn’t anti-secular; it’s anti-Satanic. According to St. Paul, he and his forces are our ONLY enemy. Everything else can be brought under holy subjugation. Not to mention that she’s also a long-time proponent of Fr. Amorth, your favorite exorcist.
I certainly understand that argument. I would accept it if the BSA made clear that same-sex attraction is a temptation to sin, that feeding the temptation is a sin, and that acting upon it, at whatever age, is a sin. Instead, the BSA said just enough to try to appease those who wanted a more open policy (which failed in that aim, of course, as those pushing this change want much more sweeping revisions) while trying to not offend them by calling this particular orientation a temptation to sin. In short, they said too much not to say more, enough to sow confusion and not enough to provide clarity.
So what will a BSA troop do when a boy attracted to boys goes on a date with one, holds his hand and kisses him in public, just as a heterosexual boy does with a girl? Can it discipline that boy? Is such conduct sexual conduct under its new policy? If so, then it must discipline a boy for doing the same thing with a girl. For the BSA has said that sexual conduct is unacceptable for any boy young enough to be a boy scout without regard to his orientation. (So much for those of my ancestors who married before the age of 18 and the Canon Law, which makes the age of 16 the age of consent for a boy to marry, and the laws of most states which allow for marriage before the age of 18 with parental consent.) If it would not do so for a boy dating, holding hands with and kissing a girl, then it cannot discipline a boy for doing so with a boy. It’s policy explicitly makes no distinction between heterosexual behavior and homosexual behavior. But it has said that being OPENLY homosexual is not a bar to being a member of the Boy Scouts. Certainly, dating, holding hands with and kissing another boy is being openly homosexual.
And what of the 11-year-boy looking on while this happens and who then observes the Boy Scouts do nothing, say nothing, while a boy who steals is disciplined, say by being placed on probation by the troop? What lesson has he learned? He has learned that the organization which has him swear at every meeting to be “morally straight” believes stealing is grounds for discipline and, hence, immoral, while feeding a temptation to sin sexually by engaging in the courting or dating aspect of sexual conduct is not. He will learn, in short, that such actions are acceptable and present no moral issues, just the lesson which those pushing for this change want.
I don’t fear molestation of my sons (I believe reasonable steps can be taken to protect them in that regard and that such steps are already necessary), I fear their being taught moral confusion, the type which is swamping our society. A boy tempted in this way needs to be helped by a priest or pastor to recognize it as a temptation to sin and to find ways to resist the temptation. And boys coming of age need to have a clear, unmistakable message that sex is beautifully designed by God for married couples (a man and a woman) to share their love with each other and to, by God’s grace, give life to the next generation.
My young sons will not be put in an organization which sows confusion and fails to provide clarity on one of the most pressing moral issues of our time, but which nevertheless overtly claims to be developing moral character. BSA is an elective. I elect to direct my sons to activities which offer clear and unmistakable moral lessons.
Greg, it isn’t really my or anyone else’s business to which BSA-like organization your sons belong. My concern is that BSA is being treated like Benedict Arnold in the overall culture war being fought over homosexuality. Yes, PDA between a scout and another guy would be open homosexuality, but it obviously isn’t the only way to be so. Since there are likely many single gay scouts who are open about their sexuality and even *gasp* chaste(!), the definition of homosexuality from which they’re working is probably different from yours and even the Church’s given that BSA is, like many Christian organizations in this country, overwhelmingly Protestant (which begs the question why a Catholic would want his sons participating in an organization that, when it comes to moral specifics, doesn’t hold Catholic teaching in the first place).
As for your illustration of a scout with a boyfriend and a scout with a girlfriend, let me pose this to you. If, as you said, same-sex attraction IS a temptation to sin (presuming you mean that the sin would be sex with someone of the same gender), then it would follow that opposite sex attraction is the SAME THING so long as the two between which the attraction occurs aren’t married. Why not just require scouts to be celibate until they leave the troop?
The BSA could have easily made the distinction you made between PDA and publicly confessing a temptation to sin, between giving into temptation to sin and resisting temptation to sin. It chose not to. That speaks volumes.
As to your second paragraph, some would agree that a boy and a girl (a man and a woman) should not even kiss before marriage. But here is the difference, and you know it very well. Dating someone of the opposite sex is, in our society, a step toward finding a spouse to whom marriage and, thereafter, coitus would be licit . Dating someone of the same sex is not. The first is part of a process for finding a spouse of the opposite sex. Maybe it is not the best process, but it is (or at least can be) a process leading toward a licit end. The latter is not. Both could indeed feed temptation to sin. But the former could also led to licit ends, chaste ends, the latter cannot. Here, you conflate celibacy and the process of finding a spouse. One can date, hold hands, and kiss and remain celibate, but whether or not it is appropriate to do so depends upon whether the next step can be licit and moral, that is, would marriage to this person be licit if the relationship develops along the path begun?
You, say, “If, as you said, same-sex attraction IS a temptation to sin. . . . ” Do you deny it is? Do you believe that engaging in sexual activities with someone of the same sex is a sin? If so, isn’t being sexually attracted to someone of the same sex a temptation to sin? If I am sexually attracted to a woman to whom I am not married (I am married already), isn’t that a temptation to sin, a temptation which I need to nip in the bud by avoiding any activity which might feed the temptation, say like going on a date with such a woman, holding her hand, and kissing her? What do you think my wife would think if I did those things? Would she be wrong to object? Would it be a convincing defense that my dating relationship with the other woman had remained celibate? Or would I have wronged my wife? Would she justly believe I was on the path to adultery and was already being unfaithful to her by starting down a path that is directed toward an illicit and immoral end?
You are absolutely correct, it is no one’s business what activities my sons participate in, nor is it mine what other parents choose for their sons. However, prudence dictates that parents choose wisely among elective activities, asking themselves, is this edifying for my son, is this clarifying for him, is this activity the very best option in helping my son to become an obedient follower of Christ.
You never addressed my central point, that the new BSA policy creates moral confusion not clarity and that it could lead a boy to believe that homosexual behavior is licit and moral. Do you agree that all Christians should be taught that sexual acts between people of the same sex are sinful? Do you agree that all Christians should be taught that each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire? Do you believe that desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin? Should there be any confusion about that?
“Attraction”, which can mean a number of things and which the Church never formally defines anywhere, is not necessarily a sexual desire. Two people can experience attraction to each other and not be tempted in the slightest to engage in sexual intercourse. I’m sure prepubescents and pubescents alike experience attraction before they even truly understand the mechanics of sex, so no, I don’t believe that to be attracted to someone is necessarily to experience any sort of temptation to sin. You’re conflating the two.
As for your central point, why should there be any confusion? You’re creating the scenario of a scout openly dating a male and yet that isn’t what this is about. No, BSA didn’t make a clear distinction between mere same sex attraction and openly dating, but you chose for them and are running with merely one scenario and that speaks volumes as well. You want to peg them before they even have a chance to fully work out a more detailed response, which is extremely reactionary and actually far from prudent or cautionary. Not only are you painting BSA with a broad brush, but all people who identify themselves as non-heterosexual by implying that they need some extra instruction concerning what they’re to do when everyone, including them, knows what the Church thinks of them. This is what I meant by the never-ending condescension, admonition, and distancing as if you just don’t want anything to do with same-sex attracted individuals period. If this is your attitude, then I think it’s great for you and your sons that there are alternative scout-like programs popping up where there will either be a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy or even better: a strictly straight-only policy.
Robert, you are engaging in sophistry.
Answer my questions. Let’s start with, is it a sin for two men to engage in sexual relations with one another?
We can work from your answer to that.
I can’t help but notice that you’ve not answered the question.
Yes, it is a sin for two men to engage in sexual relations with one another. It is a sin for a man to entertain the thought of engaging in sexual relations with another man. Both are gravely evil. The inclination toward having the temptation to engage in sexual relations with another man is, as the Catechism states, objectively disordered, a term that actually bears no moral consequence. To want to have sex is not a disorder in itself. It is objectively disordered because the object toward which the inclination is oriented is the wrong object. Pretty basic theology.
It is not a sin, nor is it even a temptation to sin, for a man to look at another man and get butterflies. A 10 year old boy or girl can look at a member of the opposite sex, not even know what sex is, and get butterflies. An adult can do the same, knowing what sex is, and it wouldn’t necessarily make it a temptation to sleep with them. Like I said, you’re conflating sexual desire and attraction. The two don’t always go together because life is a bit more complicated than you’re making it out to be right now. As I also said, “attraction” has a range of meanings that often get conflated with each other. It appears from our discussion thus far that the concept of “attraction” from which you’re working is a bit narrower than mine is. Your conception may or may not be the one the Church is using. I don’t presume to know which she does, I’m just making the most sense of it that I can, much like yourself.
It appears to me that our problem may not be with the definition of “attraction”, but with the definition of the term “temptation”. To be tempted carries with it no moral fault. Christ, the sinless One, was tempted, yet without sin.
Let’s be clear, the BSA used neither term. They used the terms “sexual orientation or preference.” Our disagreement over the meaning of terms, however, illustrates the precise problem I have. Because it uses undefined terms and says very little beyond that, the BSA has sowed confusion and not provided clarity. Had it provided the type of explanation which you just did in your last response to me, that would have helped a great deal. It did not do so. Given that it had several months to consider the issue, received considerable input in developing the language chosen, and surveyed the parents of its members, it is hard to believe that the vagueness was not intentional. Indeed, the resolution states, “[T]he Boy Scouts of America does not have an agenda on the matter of sexual orientation, and resolving this complex issue is not the role of the organization, nor may any member use Scouting to promote or advance any social or political position or agenda.”
The problem is that the BSA does have an agenda on morality. The Boy Scout oath has the boys swear to be “morally straight”. Further, the resolution states, “youth are still developing, learning about themselves and who they are, developing their sense of right and wrong, and understanding their duty to God to live a moral life.” Boy Scouts purports to help in that development, yet it chooses vague language open to a variety of interpretations on this moral issue, one of the pressing moral issues of our age. I want my sons to receive clear, moral lessons, not carefully worded ambiguities on a key moral issue, especially from an organization that purports to help boys be and become “morally straight”. As I said in my initial reply, it is the sowing of confusion that is my objection and is the reason why I am pulling my sons out of BSA and enrolling them in programs which offer a clearer moral message. My current leadership duties having just come to an end, as soon as some wrap up work is completed, we will be leaving the BSA.
That leads to my next question to Robert. Are you or have you ever been an adult leader in scouting? Do you or have you ever been a scout yourself and, if so, for how long? Do you or have you ever had a son in BSA and, if so, for how long? A lot of folks who have had nothing whatsoever to do with scouting have felt free to tell parents like me, who have held leadership positions and who have had sons in scouting for several years, what we should do and to tell churches and parishes which have sponsored troops and packs for years what they should do. If you’ve not been in scouting, it really isn’t your business.
I didn’t imply that temptation carried any moral fault. I said that you conflated being tempted with being attracted, which is what you did. You said same-sex attraction IS a temptation to sin, which it most certainly, as I explained and illustrated clear as day before, is not.
I’m not going to say that your sensibilities are wrong. I’m sure you have every reason to think the way you do about BSA’s decision. I’m not a parent. I was a cub scout for maybe a year back in middle school. I have no further affiliation with BSA. Were I a parent, however, I would take on the task of teaching my children about their experiences, even the ones that I’d rather they not have. I would want them to see that the world isn’t perfect, that people aren’t perfect, that there are things out there that can hurt them if they aren’t smart, diligent, and grounded, that there are things out there that can hurt them nonetheless, because that’s reality. I wouldn’t want to create a reality for my children. I would want to teach them through what they’ve experienced with or without me being there.
I don’t know you or how you parent and I have no say in it. I know that not having been a parent, my theory means about as much to you as my theory on how the BSA should handle itself. If I said something that rubbed you the wrong way, that’s one thing. If your perception is that I’m telling anyone with whom I’m conversing in this thread what they should do or think, it’s off. I’m doing no such thing. It is not my business as I stated early on in this conversation, what you or anyone else decides is a good extracurricular activity for your son or daughter or how you decide.
Since one of my own sins is to put a bad ‘spin’ on other people’s remarks I will apologize in advance if I am doing that here. Re: you remark about “attractions” you seem to be deliberately obtuse. Everyone else seems to be aware that we are talking about sexual, or at least nascent sexual, attractions. No one here is imagining that anyone is complaining about a situation where one 11yo boy says to himself “Hey that other 11yo boy is really nice and friendly. He knows how to climb trees, tie knots, play great video games and do other cool stuff. I want to be buds.” In fact the complaint is that in a certain type of environment and with a certain type of kid the above situation could be sexualized to say “See you are attracted to boys.” What I hear Greg and others saying is not distancing but rather that we need to support and encourage HEALTHY same-sex friendships that have NO sexual overtone SO THAT those with same-sex sexual attraction can be helped in the best possible way to resist their temptations. I know that comboxes tend to bring out the worst in people. But in reality I have seen nothing but complete respect and compassion offered to those who deal with SSA.
Indeed, Matthew. I began my initial post to this thread as follows:
“I certainly understand that argument [that is, the initial argument made by Robert]. I would accept it if the BSA made clear that same-sex attraction is a temptation to sin, that feeding the temptation is a sin, and that acting upon it, at whatever age, is a sin.”
The rest of my response was directed to why I believe the BSA’s failure to do so creates confusion rather than clarity and why I believe that an organization which purports to help boys develop, among other things, moral character, must not sow confusion but must provide clarity.
I’m well aware that my son is tempted to sin, sins which he does not always successfully resist. The difference is that we call them sins and call him to repentance. We don’t try to find sophisticated formulations to deny his need for moral development and repentance and we were part of the BSA so long as we believed it was an aid, and not a hindrance in that regard. But to be an aid, and not a hindrance, it must not so moral confusion.
Obtuse? No. I would say thorough. After all, we did just start a discussion without defining any terms that haven’t actually been previously defined for this discussion, so it was likely to happen. As for your example, I would say that’s a bit more broad than I was willing to go and I wasn’t merely speaking in terms of same-sex attraction, either. At least in my experience, it is very possible to experience romantic attraction that doesn’t necessarily involve sexual arousal. I know of others who have experienced the same. That’s one of the layers of meaning behind the word “attraction”. It’s misunderstandings like this that lead to the end of your scenario, which, unfortunately, happens often: one layer of attraction is mistaken for the one everyone automatically jumps to whenever it’s referenced. I think the best way to create an environment in which same-sex friendships don’t have those types of dynamics where there’s hurt, misunderstanding, and confusion is to be more intellectually open, honest, and diligent and stop trying to make everything to danged simple. Life. isn’t. simple.
Sorry Robert, you are wrong. The attractions are NOT the same. Engaging in the preliminary acts that express heterosexuality is in fact pursuing a GOOD thing. To engage in the preliminary acts that express homosexuality is pursuing a BAD thing. The Church clearly states that the same-sex attraction is itself disordered. Heterosexual attractions are attraction to a good thing that can be consummated at an appropriate time. This is never true of homosexuality. I am not a parent but if I were I would want the BSA encouraging my son in chaste courting behavior – with girls. Matthew
Greg and I weren’t discussion Thomist theology concerning existential good and existential bad as ends and the means by which one gets there. We were discussing whether or not attraction is a temptation to sin, which it either is not or is just haphazard language to describe something else. I’m not sure which Greg believes it to be.
I’ve tried, less eloquently than Matthew, to express the same point, Robert. Please answer my questions. Attraction to do evil is a temptation to sin. Thus, being sexually attracted to someone of the same sex is a temptation to sin. Being sexually attracted to someone who is married to another is a temptation to sin. Being sexually attracted to someone besides your own spouse, if you are married, is a temptation to sin. Being sexually attracted to someone to whom you can become married under the Canon law is not, in itself, a temptation to sin. It can be, if directed toward illicit and immoral ends, but if directed to marriage and marital intimacy, it is not. That’s the difference and you know it well.
Indeed. You can’t compare SSA to normal sexual attraction.
I’m pretty sure I deleted this, but as you can see, this is part of my larger comment.
If all the Catholics leave the BSA then the activists will have succeeded. If we stay and continue to support Scouting – including the “morally straight” part – then Scouting will continue to exist. If you wish to avoid the sight of sin I wish you all the best in the desert or at one of the many fine Carthusian monasteries that still exist.
It is obvious that the BSA is under extreme pressure from activists who are wealthy and very powerful. If we disengage then they not only gain control the BSA but we lose an opportunity to engage them in an actual contest of ideas – the same contest we are losing everywhere else.
If a parent brings a new boy to the troop and announces that the boy is gay I would ask the parent to explain what they mean. If the parent says the boy enjoys sodomy with his friends I would tell the parent that sexual activity has no place in the Scouts. If the parent says that the boy does not like girls (in the sense that Bill Clinton likes girls) I would tell them that no sane 12 year old boy likes girls in that manner. If the parent says that the boy is a loner and does not share interests with typical boys I would say that Scouting is filled with lots of different kids and no Scouts are unwelcome in the BSA.
Let the homosexual activists explain themselves – put the burden on them. Let’s stop preemptively surrendering. If one night two angels arrive and tell us to leave Sodom then we will do so and never look back. That has not happened.
The BSA is a man-made organization. It can be replaced by other man-made organizations, organizations more closely tied to the Church and more subject to its control and influence. What man creates, man can destroy. No man-made entity lasts forever. Don’t confuse what is man-made with what is God-ordained. Perhaps it is a good thing that the Church will sponsor scouting organizations that are free to, among other things, instruct boys in the teachings of the Church. Maybe that is better not only than the Boy Scouts as it will be on January 1, 2014, but than the Boy Scouts as it has always been.
I really don’t see the wisdom in putting my 11-year-old son into a position of fighting to keep the BSA as it was before this change in policy. He is at the age in which my focus for him should be his edification, making him fit to fight the good fight as he matures. I believe it would not be wise to use him now as a cultural warrior.
Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When this breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish.
Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever.
“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
Baden-Powell is dead as are his immediate successors. His plans and theirs have perished.
Even religious orders have been suppressed when they go off the rails.
It’s probably been mentioned elsewhere, but new scouting organizations for girls have been around since the late 90′s. Check out the American Heritage Girls, in particular their required statement of faith for leaders and charter organizations.
They can be found at http://www.ahgonline.org
Their statement of faith: http://ahgonline.org/pages/page.asp?page_id=19322
A Pastor pastoring….
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