A little about the queer stuff

A little about the queer stuff June 22, 2012

I had some major qualms about talking to a writer for the Blaze, but I remembered the byline from a pretty good interview with Todd Stiefel (a major atheist philanthopist), and I liked the questions that Billy Hallowell sent over.

Now seems like a pretty good time to mention that talking to someone doesn’t mean I’m endorsing them.  I generally find it easier to thrash out and clarify my ideas when I’ve got an interlocutor to play off of, so I’ve done some chatting with people who seem like they’d be good for that.  I’m not endorsing other pieces they’ve written or the outlets they write for.  Talking to people I disagree with (as I always like doing) means I’m trying to fight (productively) with them.

Hallowell’s distilled my answers into a piece that just went up, but I’d like to post the full answer I gave him to the inevitable, “So, you’re bisexual.  What about that?” question.  (I’m not knocking him for condensing, but I think it will help knock out at least some follow-up questions).  Here it is:


You mentioned some uncertainty in terms of how the Church handles homosexuality. What will you do if your views don’t mesh with the church’s?

I’m bisexual. Other queer people’s experience of their orientation varies, but, as far as I’m concerned, I’m bisexual because gender feels about as salient to me as hair color when it comes to looking for dates. That means I’m already out of step with the Catholic Church before you even get up to gay marriage or any issue like that, because the Church thinks gender is much more central to someone’s identity than I do.

I imagine I’ll do a lot more reading and pick a lot more fights over the next few years. I’m willing to not date women in the meantime, but I wouldn’t necessarily universalize that choice. C.S. Lewis once said he had no particular weakness for gambling, so he left it and other topics out of his discussion of moral behavior (see below). He didn’t think he had the standing to exhort others on the topic. Because I don’t find it much more of a privation to not date women than to not date redheads, I’m in a much different position than gay people or bi folks who care more about gender than I do. I’m not in much of a position to give advice.

As to the larger political question: civil marriage is different than sacramental marriage. If people can’t muster a convincing argument against gay marriage that doesn’t depend on the revealed truths of the Catholic Church, then asking the government to ban it is like expecting the State to enforce kosher dietary law on everyone (or even only secular Jews). I still support civil gay marriage.

And the the quote from Mere Christianity is:

Ever since I served as an infantryman in the first world war I have had a great dislike of people who, themselves in ease and safety, issue exhortations to men in the front line. As a result I have a reluctance to say much about temptations to which I myself am not exposed. No man, I suppose, is tempted to every sin. It so happens that the impulse which makes men gamble has been left out of my make-up; and, no doubt, I pay for this by lacking some good impulse of which it is the excess or perversion. I therefore did not feel myself qualified to give advice about permissable and impermissable gambling.



One other answer I quite liked got truncated, so I’ll throw that one up here, too, but it’s (presumably) a little less contentious:


What message do you have for other atheists who may be struggling and questioning their nonbelief?

I’d refer them to the Litany of Gendlin:

What is true is already so.
Owning up to it doesn’t make it worse.
Not being open about it doesn’t make it go away.
And because it’s true, it is what is there to be interacted with.
Anything untrue isn’t there to be lived.
People can stand what is true,
for they are already enduring it.

If you find yourself in a position where you might need to change your mind, you should remember that your decision doesn’t change the world.  You’ve always lived in whichever state of the world is true, so all you’re doing is changing how accurate your map is.  (And you’re obviously better off accurate!)

Whatever your religious beliefs, if you want to do heavy-lifting philosophical thinking, it’s a good idea to pause and think about thinking.  Learn about common forms of bias and flawed reasoning and work on spotting bad heuristics.  I like LessWrong.org particularly for this, and, personally, I usually find working on math or computer science gives me a better grip on other complex, abstract problems.


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  • Gerry

    It’s your terminology that is wrong here. Marriage is what it is. It would take much more space than this little box to fully define it and its importance to civilization. There is no such beast as “gay marriage”. Homosexual and bisexual people have been, and are now, married to spouses of the opposite sex. As a proponent of same-sex pseudo-marriage, you would naturally not be inclined to use that label. It’s astonishing to me that many, indeed, almost all, of those with the opposing view have foolishly adopted the “gay marriage” term.

    As for arguments against same-sex couplings recognized by civil authorities, ask Dennis Prager.

    • Slow Learner

      “Marriage is what it is”: a legal and social bond between two consenting adults, for a variety of purposes which can include mutual support, child raising, and sexual relations among others.
      Notice sex of the participants and religion are not mentioned anywhere in that.

      • Oregon Catholic

        I can redefine any word I want to mean anything I want. But like Leah is saying, truth stands whether you choose to recognize it or not. Marriage is now and has always been between a man and a woman. It is how God designed our world to work. The legal system simply followed what natural law made obvious. The legal and social bond you are describing is not marriage and should be called something else.

        • Slow Learner

          Marriage used to be one man many women.
          Marriage used to be primarily about property and inheritance.
          Marriage used to imply constant ongoing consent to sexual relations.
          The definition of marriage has changed quite a lot, as it happens, and for the better.
          The legal and social bond which I described is civil marriage as a growing number of countries recognise it. The Catholic Church can keep its own, more restrictive definition – indeed, I would be disappointed if their definition of Catholic marriage did not include “between two consenting Catholics”, whether or not they specify the sex of the participants.

          • … and yet comes the haunting echo that marriage was always between man and woman. The one thing which binds it to all of human history is this. It is not discarded lightly.

          • pagansister

            Well said, Slow Learner.

          • Max

            You are talking about the accidents of marriage, not the substance.

            Is There Really That Much at Stake?
            by Douglas Farrow

          • GarlicClove

            Actually, biblical, marriage was about one man and as many women as he could support financially. In the bible, men were even encouraged to take widows as their second wives as acts of charity.

          • Dianne

            and yet comes the haunting echo that marriage was always between man and woman.

            Well, no, it hasn’t. There are instances of same sex marriages or same sex unions, often considered to be of greater significance than the corresponding opposite sex unions, at least as far back as the classical era. Marriage has been a lot of different things at different times. One thing that it has never been is a static institution.

        • pagansister

          Why does the Church think it “owns” the word, “marriage”? It doesn’t. Those married by secular means are just as married as those wedding done in a religious institution or by a representative of a religion (priest, rabbi etc).

          • In reading your post, I am reminded that words have meaning only within the context in which they are used and to the extent the participants agree on what they mean within that context.

            Your question of why does the Church think it owns the word marriage is a proper question. Your statement that those married by secular means are just as married as those wedding done in a religious institution or by a representative of a religion (priest, rabbi etc) is both right and wrong.

            Indeed, the presence or absence of a marriage license does not determine the validity of a marriage in the eyes of God.. Neither does whether one is married in a courthouse or a church house determine the validity of a marriage. Indeed, a couple (man and woman) does not need any other person’s approval to enter into a biblical marriage. I do distinguish between biblical marriages and legal marriages. Legal advantages to legal marriages should be considered, however.

            So then the Church does not own the word marriage. Yet, God owns the concept of union indicated by the word marriage when it involves physical union in the form of sexual and other romantic interaction. His ownership is established by the fact that he created the man Adam and the woman Eve and told them to be fruitful and multiply and equipped them with the organs necessary for that purpose.

            Now then, a secular marriage in conflict with God’s model may be right for secular purposes but they are not right for spiritual purposes. One role of the Church is to promulgate that which is right for spiritual purposes and to stand against that which is not right for spiritual purposes. The church properly determines what is spiritually right based on a proper understanding of the principles set forth in the Christian Bible. Promulgating righteousness includes standing against any attempt to promulgate wickedness in the form of practices, policies, and laws.

            The Bible clearly establishes that romance between people of the same sex is wicked (Romans 1). A most important role of the Church is to call people to repentance from wicked behavior. If one supports, accepts, and is silent about that which is wicked, repentance will be less likely. This is why every church member is to himself/herself be careful to repent and call others to the same; this exemplifies love.

            Well I could go on but if interested I refer you to my website at http://www.cdboyd.org/ministry where I have messages/articles on marriage and same sex romantic relationships as well as relationship between government and church regarding societal issues.

            Peace, Love, and the Blessings of God


          • pagansister

            Chaurcey: Thank you for a well thought out and well written response to my post. I appreciate your stance—and it is obvious that you have a come at it from the religious point of view. I think that the word marriage should be used for those that choose a religious union and for those that choose a secular union. Both are open commitments by 2 adults (no matter the gender) to be life partners. Peace be with you also.

      • Dave H

        You are making wrong assumptions regarding about what marriage is and why we need to even use the term “legal” in relation to it.

        If one wants the government to officially recognize their romantic feelings towards someone else they do not understand the role of government as it relates to marriage. The government has never existed to personally validate the affections of individuals.

        The real question is: What is the essential public purpose of marriage?
        Answer: To unite children to their mother and father.

        That is it. It is about the good of society. Having people raised in the best circumstances (a sociological reality with abundant evidence) makes good citizens. The government must recognize and defend this institution for the good of children. There is no compelling reason why an adult would need government approval for mutual support and sexual relations (that are non-procreative). The government has no vested interest in either where children are not involved.

        So called gay marriage redefines not only marriage but parenthood. A child deserves to be know and be raised by her mother and father. Is that unreasonable?

        It is worth saying again – the government does not involve itself in personal affections. It involves itself in institutions that further a civil society. That is the only reason marriage has any government involvment in the first place. It is not about romance, recreational sex or civil rights. It is about uniting a mother and father to their children. That is why governments got involved in the first place – to protect this institution that creates new citizens in a stable environment and predates all governments.

        So no fault divorce and sex completely divorced from procreation (a natural result) are what got us to a place where we do not recognize something that should be obvious but gets completely lost in the “civil rights!” or “religious institution!” arguments. Neither have anything to do with why the state is concerned with the institution of marriage.

        • Oregon Catholic

          Even the state has forgotten the reason for marriage. No wonder it’s citizens have too.

        • As far as I can tell, government’s involvement in marriage actually has nothing to do with children at all. There are no laws against having children outside of wedlock, no laws requiring children inside of wedlock, and no laws governing the proper relationship of husband and wife once children are present. The only mention government makes towards children is a tax write-off (to offset the economic disincentive of having children since, you know, we need children) and the power to decide where the child ends up in a divorce (but that’s much more about the child’s rights than it is about the government’s definiton of marriage)

          From a governmental perspective, the point and purpose of marriage is to bind two consenting adults together as a single legal entity. They share a taxable income, they have rights and obligations upon the death of the other, they are permitted into hospital rooms if the the other is unable to explicitly allow them, they have equal right to property in case of a divorce, etc.

          You may disagree about the definition of the word “marriage”, but “marriage” by any other name would smell as sweet. The Catholic definition of marriage may make homosexual marriage an ontological impossibility, but the governmental definition does not. If your objection is to the government using the same word as the Church, you can differentiate (as Leah did) between civil marriage and sacramental marriage. But they are very clearly separate institutions, and crying ontological foul because someone is talking about a different institution with admittedly conflated terminology seems like bad practice- it’s not dealing with the actual issue, which is what rights ought homosexual couples desiring to enter into a legally binding commitment have?

          • YES. THIS.

            The RCC is free to define *its own sacramental marriage* any way it likes. Civil rights of gay couples — like hospital visiting, being legal next of kin even without a will, etc., are a different story, and I believe justice demands we grant those rights.

          • Eoin

            I have to agree with you both, thanks Jake, best post on this page!

          • Matt R

            There might not be laws prohibiting out-of-wedlock children but it’s frowned upon, and one used to be labeled a bastard in that situation. It encourages babies to be born within marriage, a)because marriage serves a procreative purpose and b) marriage is unifying two people and because of that property needs to get passed down…

          • The Governmental interest was for implicit assumptions not expressed in law. When a culture loses these assumptions, some amount of chaos erupts, as in today’s society.

          • (Source for “chaos.”)

          • Joez

            If we want to enlarge the marriage box to allow for same sex marriages, then we have to ask the question why should we stop there. Why should marriage be just between two consenting adults. Why shouldn’t polygamy be allowed. And why shouldn’t brothers and sisters be allowed to marry. And if I am old and my wife had died and I don’t want the government to get my inheritance, then I should be allowed to marry my best golfing buddy so that he can come into my hospital room and so he can receive all of my money tax free. If you want to enlarge this marriage box, then don’t think there won’t be other changes. There will be. And they should all be supported by people who support same sex marriages. Otherwise won’t you be labeled as “haters” and labeled as forcing your beliefs/morals on those of others. Go ahead, enlarge the marriage box, but if you support same sex marriage, then logically you have to conclude that many, many other forms of marriage should be “morally” correct and should be accepted by the state.

          • Dave H


            You avoided the question altogether and therefore built a case regarding a different question entirely.

            The question is: What is the essential public purpose of marriage? Why, historically, has any government been involved in legally recognizing this pre-existing institution? Well if you go back a read what I wrote you will find the answer. It recognized it as an essential good to the stable upbringing citizens. Recognizing the ideal environment for the upbringing of citizens is common sense in a society interested in perpetuating itself. But our generation has trouble understanding the common good as the individual’s personal felt needs being met is supreme.

            Keep the word “ideal” in focus.

            Certainly people can have children out of wedlock and the last 40 years have shown us what people had known for millennia prior – it is culturally and personally disastrous to do away with the family as a unit. But that has nothing to do with the WHY of governments’ interest in marriage.

            So again – What is the essential public purpose of marriage?
            Answers: To unite children to their mother and father.

            Why? Because it is good for the health and well-being of the future contributing member of society. It makes better citizens.

            It is pretty common sense when you think about it.

          • The problem, as I see it, is that there are many Christians (not just Roman Catholics) who will feel morally bound to oppose any proposal that provides equal rights in regards to such things as hospital visitation, etc… as long as it is called marriage. They will not necessarily feel so bound to oppose the exact same proposal when it is called “civil partnership” or some other such euphemism. In fact, the need to get same-sex unions past the bishops of the Church of England in the House of Lords is why Great Britain has civil partnerships rather than marriages.

        • visitor

          I believe the main reasons for marriage is coming from nature:

          – special relationship between 2 persons of opposed sex,
          – aimed to procreate and to live together; thus forming a family

          This is not an invention from any country or state. It is just part of what defines human beings

        • Slow Learner

          I have two responses to that view of marriage:
          1) Why are people too old to have children permitted to marry, in your view?
          2) If gay people are equally adequate adoptive parents (as the limited evidence available seems to show), why should they not be able to marry to raise adopted children?

          • Frank

            Don’t make the mistake of not looking at the purpose of marriage as an institution and focusing on any one marriage. Its intellectually dishonest.

          • Slow Learner

            The purpose of marriage? Marriage has many purposes, the main one being the fostering of a deep and continuing bond between the people who have undertaken it; a bond which can support them in all their endeavours, including but not limited to raising children.
            None of that has to be limited to a man and a woman, any more than it has to be limited to two people of the same race, or limited to two people of the same social class.
            Asking questions of those who claim otherwise is hardly ‘intellectually dishonest’. Discrimination is sometimes justified, but if you can’t defend it, don’t call it ‘intellectually dishonest’ of me to disagree with your view and ask questions.

          • Frank

            The purpose of marriage in culture has never, ever been about romance and love. We shouldn’t try to make it that either.

            It is intellectually dishonest to try and make an argument that if marriage is about procreation than what about any one marriage that does not include procreation. it’s lazy, ineffective and I would be embarrassed to put forth that argument.

            No one is preventing any bonds of love that people wish to form just don’t ask for equality of definition because that’s impossible.

          • Slow Learner

            Frank, one of the purposes of marriage, is and has always been the bond between the couple getting married. To insist that a connection between two people which can last for over 50 years have a singular purpose is a little narrow-minded.
            And I am still concerned that you see asking questions about the apparent corollaries of your claims as “intellectually dishonest”. While I do not claim to be remotely as skilled a practitioner of the art, it was a method held in some regard by Socrates, for whom it is now named.

          • Oregon Catholic

            Not only do you want to rewrite the definition of marriage now you are trying to rewrite it’s history as well. The notion of falling in love and selecting your own spouse is very very recent history. The real tradition is that families most often selected the mates for the family offspring and romance had nothing to do with it since they usually didn’t even know each other that well. Eastern cultures have traditionally made marriage contracts while the ‘engaged couple’ are still children. I worked recently with a 20 something woman from India. She came from a high caste family and was college educated but even her marriage to an Indian doctor was arranged and she met him only once or twice before they were married.

      • “Sexual relations” is hardwired into nature. Sexual relations refers to the intercourse between the two sexes of a sexual species. Jellyfish don’t have sexual relations, and neither do amoebas. Men can’t have sexual relations with other men. Sodomy isn’t sexual relations. It’s just putting a penis in a rectum. Not the same thing. What it has in common is a penis and an aperture, if I may be coarse. Sexual relations require more than just any kind of aperture, though. They require both male and female sexual organs. A rectum is not a sexual organ, but a digestive organ.

        This isn’t that hard. It amazes me how little this basic, if somewhat base, fact is recognized in public discourse. It isn’t religious folks who are being unscientific here, even if many are just appealing to authority and tradition. It’s the social reinventers that are being unscientific.

        • So I assume that you won’t mind if you catch me “not having sex” with your mother, wife or
          sister? Better yet, I’ll just “not have sex” with all three of them at once. LOL!

          By that logic I can remain a virgin while simultaneously giving oral to one woman, banging another in the ass, and finger-banging a third. The absurdity of that notion gives the lie to your assertion.

    • Charles

      I am reminded of ¡Three Amigos! – I don’t think that word means what you think it means. It is ironic considering a major theme of posts on this blog has been getting to the same place for our terms BEFORE arguing. One side is defining “Marriage” the way the church has for at least 700 or so years. The other side is defining Marriage the way society has for at least 50 or so years. These things are two different things.
      Imagine a world where a product is developed that contains Cocaine from coca leaves in it, so the word ‘coca’ is used in the name, over time the cocaine is removed from the recipe, but the name stays the same. Now they want to release a diet version of this product because the modern world has decided too much sugar may be bad, except a bunch of people are arguing that you shouldn’t make cocaine diet!

      Civil marriage ceased being remotely like sacramental marraige, or even a civil version of “sacramental marraige” LONG before anyone argued that it should be expanded to Same-Sex couples. If you can’t see that then you can’t really discuss the issue at all. In this way having a “civil union” that imparts all the same rights and benefits would be fine, except past experience tells us that AT LEAST CIVILLY you can’t have ‘seperate but equal’ because there never is an equality between seperate things.

      I preferable scenario might be for the civil authorities to call everything civil unions and allow churches there own things. However the term has already been redefined! Anyone who signs a “pre-nuptual” agreement, or gets divorced and remarried multiple times already doesn’t consider marriage what the Church considers marriage.

      • sdv

        Except you got it backwards. Civil marriage came first. Sacramental marriage came second. So why should the church get the name marriage and the state get the name union? Marriage was originally a civil contract. It should remain so. If the church wants to sacramentalize unions, call them unions. Not vice versa.

        • Eoin

          yeh, i don’t really understand why people think the RCC invented marriage – so what, pagan marriages suddenly never happened?

          • Not at all. But marriage certainly precedes the state. There were families long before there were governments.

        • Slow Learner

          +1 to this. The Church doesn’t own the word ‘marriage’!

          • pagansister

            Slow Learner—-I couldn’t agree more! I have wondered for to many years to count, just why ANY church thinks they “own” the word Marriage! If indeed “marriage” has to be a religious deal, then why is it necessary to have a marriage license and blood work to marry–required by the STATE? IMO 2 consenting adults, no matter the gender, should be allowed to be married—and there are many churches that now recognize that and perform the services. I have yet to figure out just how 2 people of the same gender being married has any effect on heterosexual unions/marriages? It doesn’t.

  • “Because I don’t find it much more of a privation to not date women than to not date redheads, I’m in a much different position than gay people or bi folks who care more about gender than I do. I’m not in much of a position to give advice.”

    Is it about giving advice or standing up for what is morally right? I’m a straight-cis-white-male, but that doesn’t mean I can’t or shouldn’t take a moral position on how the LGBT community is treated. Furthermore, just by explaining you’re perspective—that gender is about as important as hair color—you delivering a strong message that’s worth repeating.

    I realize that you’re not saying you agree with the Church’s stance here, but I hope you don’t stay quiet about where you disagree with Church policies on homosexuality just to conform to your new-found faith or because you’re worried you don’t have enough to say on the topic. Just my two cents.

    • leahlibresco

      I’m basically approaching this as walking the line between civil disobedience and dissent. I’m keeping my behavior inside Church teaching, but my voice and arguments are unrestrained. A fight (properly approached) is to everyone’s benefit. If I’m wrong, I want to lose, and if I’m right, I want to win. Neither of those things are likely to happen if I hold back on explaining my position and poking at other people’s about theirs.

      • Martha G

        The Church’s views on gender & sexuality are nothing if not clear and consistent – and rather foundational in the Catholic moral structure. If you convert, I don’t see how it matters if you think of yourself as right or wrong – meaning: if you submit to the Church, explaining a position that is counter to the Church’s teaching and poking Catholics about their positions isn’t dissent to one person’s position, it’s heresy. It’s putting yourself apart from the Church. It’s no longer about winning or losing – it’s about submission.

        • KL

          If that were the case, many great saints would be considered heretics. Heresy, properly speaking, involves: “[T]he obstinate denial or doubt after the reception of baptism of some truth which is to be believed by divine and Catholic faith” (1983 Code of Canon Law, Canon 751). For one thing, Leah isn’t baptized, so she can’t be heretic (loopholes, hurray!). But beyond that, “obstinacy” connotes an extended period of time as well as continued correction. There is also a great deal of discussion about what constitutes ” truth which is to be believed by divine and Catholic faith.” E.g., does this apply solely to dogmas or creedal statements? If not, what items of faith rise to the level of obligatory belief?

          Furthermore, one can submit to the authority of the Church while still raising questions about its teachings. This was, incidentally, the difference between the venerated St. Francis of Assisi and disgraced Peter Waldo, founder of the Waldensians. Both men believed that lay Christians ought to be able to preach the gospel without ecclesiastical authorization. The official Vatican position at the time was that such activity was not permitted, for various ecclesiastical and theological reasons. The Waldensians did so anyway, in defiance of papal authority, and as a result were labeled heretics and are mostly forgotten to history. Francis, on the other hand, respected ecclesiastical authority but tirelessly advocated for his order, sending delegations to Pope Innocent III. Ultimately, of course, St. Francis received ecclesiastical approval and is among the most beloved saints of the Christian tradition. If he had simply knuckled under and not challenged existing ecclesiastical practice, we would not have the Franciscans today.

          • Oregon Catholic

            “Both men believed that lay Christians ought to be able to preach the gospel without ecclesiastical authorization.”
            I presume you mean outside of Mass?

          • KL

            Correct. I use “gospel” here in the generic sense, not reading from Matt/Mark/Luke/John.

          • calahalexander

            Thanks for this comment, KL. It’s wonderful.

          • Slothmorse

            Dang, KL, remnd me not to get into an argument with you. Ever. Never have I seen a more structured, cogent argument for a stance constructed and written. Big, big hat-tip to you, ma’am.

            Now, on a side-line, I would love — I would pay cash money for a ‘plane ticket — to go to Leah’s baptism/confirmation. How about it, folks? Shall we thow a great party for Leah when she’s ready to make that great leap? (:And the angels sang and the angels wept and God smiled, for another soul was saved.”)

          • Catherine

            Amen! Thanks Kl!

        • JackOCat

          This is an interesting point. I’m not religious so I see this distinction from a pretty removed and relativistic point of view. Couldn’t one argue that within the church like many organizations the distinction between ‘dissent’ and ‘heresy’ is only truly settled in the future once the issue is settled one way or the other.

          To take a small example, eating meat on Friday used to be a weak form of heresy/dissent in the church. In hindsight today, I don’t then many Catholics would be too critical of those who violated that particular directive back in the day.

          I don’t claim my opinion should carry any weight in this marriage debate within the catholic church as I am not a member of it. I still find the debate and the calls to suppress the debate due to the issue already being settled really interesting.

          • Matt R

            Eating meat on Friday is not a violation of any moral teaching as revealed in Scripture and natural law, but it is violation of the penance set aside by the Church in matter of Church law. Disobedient yes, heretical no.

      • Oregon Catholic

        Do you see your ambivalence about gender and the Church’s proscription about same-sex coupling as perhaps a cross you have been given to bear like Christ? Maybe in clearer terms, have you thought about not ever being able to have a sexual relationship with a woman as something that you don’t need to argue about at all? I’m a new reader so forgive me if you have talked about this elsewhere.

        Let me give you an admittedly rather poor analogy, although an alcoholic will see the connection easily. If someone has a compulsion such as alcoholism, and it is a daily fight for them that they must take to Jesus in order to avoid the sinful behavior associated with it, does that mean that they should argue for the Church to approve of drunkeness? Or rather, is that a cross they have been given to struggle with and which God can use to sanctify them?

        • Slow Learner

          Do you see the offensiveness of comparing sexuality to a drug addiction? Do you see the connection between attitudes of this sort and the collapsing membership of the Catholic Church across the developed world?

          • PJ

            Offensiveness, or lack thereof, has no bearing on truth. Neither does “collapsing membership.”

            Anyway, for many centuries, social pressures artificially inflated the number of faithful. With those pressures waning, the lukewarm will leave, while those who genuinely love God and search after His Truth will remain. This is a preferable situation for everyone. The Gospel will not be diluted and the contradiction between Church and World will be heightened.

            I’d rather have one thankful convert than a dozen half-hearted pew-warmers. And the converts are coming. My wife was once a secular liberal Jew. No more. I myself, though baptized as an infant, grew up a sort of Epicurean heathen. We are both educated and cultured 20-somethings who came to recognize the rotten state of our society, and so fled into the arms of the Church. There are many more like us, as Leah’s conversion demonstrates so nicely.

          • Oregon Catholic

            Sorry if you find it offensive, it’s not meant to be but the comparison is apt in a number of ways.
            1. Alcoholism is probably a genetic predisposition as well as environmentally influenced – both popular assumptions about homosexuality as well and it explains why calling it (either one) a choice misses the mark.
            2. Ask anyone who is an alcoholic if their compulsion is as difficult (or more so) to resist day in and day out as any sexual urge and many will tell you yes. One of the popular arguments for saying it’s wrong to forbid homosexual relations is that it’s totally unrealistic to expect people not to have same-sex relations – ever – because the urge is simply too strong. But no one argues alcoholics shouldn’t abstain from alcohol – forever – no matter how hard it is to do so.
            3. This is purely anecdotal but commonly discussed in Al-Anon. If you ask many spouses and children of practicing alcoholics who the alcoholic loves most, they will tell you it is the alcohol. The ‘love’ relationship between the alcoholic and their drug of choice is that strong. In fact, it’s strong enough for many that they would rather die than give it up. It’s hard for people to understand who have not lived as, or with, an alcoholic to hear it described it in these terms but it’s true. So giving up alcohol can be as difficult a thing to ask an alcoholic to do as it would be to ask them to give up someone they love so much that they would die for them. But the Church still calls drunkeness sinful while recognizing the alcoholic condition as morally neutral, the same distinctions it makes with homosexuality.

            The Church recognizes that life can be a bitch but it stands it’s ground on the obligation to behave morally no matter how hard it is to do. This call to a higher moral obligation that goes beyond personal feelings and desires used to be widely accepted by religious and non-religious folks alike, even in my lifetime and I’m only in my 50s. But since the 1960s it has become more and more difficult for people in our ‘if it feels good do it’ culture to accept.

          • Chukwudi

            The Catholic Church has never being about numbers but the truth….
            The band wagon effect is not what is desirable in Christianity but the truth…
            There was a time when a whole nation thought it wise to eliminate all the impure of race starting with the Jews but did that make it right?
            Now I presume, Slow Learner that u don’t think the homosexuality is perverted, then other sexual preferences shouldn’t be seen as perverted too like say if I preferred to sleep with 6 year olds as long as the 6 year old consents I should be allowed right?
            Also where do you draw the line on moral depravity if the homosexual license should be granted to carry on with impunity?
            Why would u put a thief behind bars when he is only following his impulse just like the Homosexual follows his? Or why would u “Judge” a serial killer for bowing to his tendencies if when a homosexual bows to his it is tagged “normal”.
            Yes, I said tagged normal, because we know it is not normal for the purpose of sex has procreation at its base reason and if there is no possibility of this happening in a sexual union then it is as wrong as a man taking another mans life for no other reason than he has an urge to ….;
            So if you decide that one morally bankrupt act is acceptable, why deprive the other such acts? But I digress…
            What I was saying from the very beginning was that the catholic Church is about the truth not the numbers, it would prefer that it goes extinct from it refusal to bend than to flourish in a lie…
            And by the way, ur association with so many atheists have left u with a faulty view that the catholic church is being depleted, that all are leaving and none coming in. But u fail to realize that there are people who hunger for the truth and when they find it give it their all. This commentator is one such convert, who was converted by the none compromising truth which the church safe guards and I am not alone, we are legion…

          • Slow Learner

            First @PJ – Offensiveness doesn’t necessarily link with truth. However, as far as I can see comparing homosexuality with alcoholism is like comparing left-handedness to a heroin addiction. I can understand why anyone who is left-handed would consider you a bigot and beyond the realms of rational discourse once you have made such a comparison.
            Second @Oregon Catholic – so it wasn’t just a throwaway line, it was a considered opinion. That is…a little alarming. You consider the expression of love between two people to be equivalent to a drug addiction, dependent purely on the sex of the two people involved. What happens with someone who is intersex? Is their love for someone recognised as love, to be fostered and encouraged, or is it a drug addiction to be managed?
            Third @Chukwudi:
            I’m going to ignore your Godwinning for the good of the thread, and move on to your presumptuousness.
            Your understanding of consent is clearly entirely lacking – please don’t have sex until you’ve educated yourself on the fact that consent requires understanding. Have you ever met a six-year-old who can understand the physical and emotional consequences of sex?
            The obvious difference between a thief, a serial killer, and a gay person:
            A thief steals a wallet – who is harmed? The owner of the wallet.
            A serial killer murders someone – who is harmed? The murder victim.
            Two women have sex – who is harmed? Um…
            As to the numbers game, while there are inflows and outflows, surveys like ARIS show the balance firmly in favour of ‘out’ on a national level.

          • Oregon Catholic

            Slow Learner, You have missed the entire point (or perhaps not but choose to deflect). There are higher purposes and higher truths than simply submitting to whatever behavior or feelings one feels justified in, no matter how benign or even exalted one chooses to make it based on personal opinion. Analogies are always lacking but you choose to miss the point and focus on the flaws.

        • leahlibresco

          One of the criteria of alcoholism is that your drinking causes problems in your life. What I’m picking a fight about is whether homosexual practice necessarily causes problems in anyone’s.

          • Kyle

            For that you have to define what you mean by “problem” first. And really, there’s nothing so important as whether one’s life is in union with Morality. If you take being out of step with Morality as, by definition a problem, then the question becomes, “What is Morality?”. Does the Church teach infallibly about Morality as she claims to?

            Tough questions but I’m interested to see where you go with this. Either way you will alienate people, that much I am sure of 🙂

          • Charles

            The church has already conceded on some issues that freedom dictates they can’t force the rest of society to obey their rules. You don’t see many arguing that cantraceptive devices (the unambiguosly non-abortive ones, like condoms) should be banned. However no one would argue that the churches teaching on the use of these has changed. I supect that at some point the church will recognize its form of marriage, but arguing against equality for the rest of civil society will no longer happen, because the battle will have been lost.

          • Kyle

            That’s a good comparison, Charles. The same could also be said of divorce and remarriage.

          • KL

            A wrinkle in the comparison between same-sex marriage and alcoholism as well in the definition of “harm” comes in when we are considering the good of the community/society as well as that of the individual — which, from a Catholic social teaching standpoint, can’t be overlooked. Kyle brings up a good point about divorce/remarriage. No-fault divorce laws brought about a significant change in the way civil marriage has been approached by citizens and lawmakers alike. In any given situation, an easily-obtained divorce may not “harm” any parties — such as in the case of a recently-married couple without any children. However, one might argue that the type of society and ways of relating to one another engendered by the ready availability of divorce does “harm” to the overall well-being of the society and those who live within it. Leah, granting the big IF of whether same-sex marriage causes negative societal rather than purely individual harm, would this affect your position?

          • Oregon Catholic

            “What I’m picking a fight about is whether homosexual practice necessarily causes problems in anyone’s. (life)

            A couple that come to my mind are:
            There can be disastrous health consequences for men and they are not uncommon.
            There are psychological tolls. I think people can feel an intrinsic wrongness about their homosexual behavior despite claims to the contrary. Societal disapproval isn’t going away anytime soon for both same-sex couples and the children with same-sex parents. I think many homosexuals who suffered greatly from their own feelings of confusion and being ‘different’ seem to forget or ignore that same harm that they visit on their children in their quest to have a family.

          • But aren’t you begging the question there? It assumes that homosexuality is, in and of itself, neutral and only is evil if it causes harm. Part of the Catholic teaching is that homosexuality is intrinsically disordered. So merely by engaging in homosexual practices harm is done, regardless of apparent fruits. In more general terms, engaging in sin does violence to the sinner’s soul.

            Mind your assumptions and axioms, especially in relation to the church. Otherwise you won’t get anything meaningful out of these fights.

          • Chukwudi

            Now Leah, I have learned, with being a catholic that it is better to obey even if u don’t understand the whys u just got to obey and in retrospect u will see the goods that come from obeying…
            Now that this is said, let me give u a few pointers as to why homosexuality has effects as wrong, if not worse than what alcoholism has…
            I mean worse because it takes time to set in and afterwards it is difficult to remove…
            Now my dear Leah please walk with me…
            A Gay guy is a guy, no doubt, and he does know what turns guys on right?
            Now for the sake of following my line of reasoning, I will assume ur answer is yes…
            Now if this hypothetical gay guy approaches another guy, there is no formality involved he just hits the nail on the head, and tells the other guy what he wants to hear, he offers him straight up sexual pleasures: yeah exactly of the same kind his is accustomed to with the lady folk(u see due to sexual experiments of this age the sexual styles of both the “straights and gays” are similar…
            Now at first to the straight guy who is first approached with this proposal, he is horrified and disgusted, and refuses. But he goes home and thinks, that he could get all those sexual benefits, which he gets with the lady folk, faster and with so much more easy without the whole romance and other bottlenecks he has to go through with a girl then, but then he pushes the thought violently from his head in disgust. Now let us imagine a society, where homosexuality is the norm, then the possibility that such a “straight” guy is approached is increased dramatically and of course his resolve to resist is reduced drastically, and curiosity sets in and in a moment of weakness(and you know how very weak we are these days) he succumbs to the amorous advances, and then he experiences it and realizes that they are exactly same experiences as with the female folks, but without the bottleneck and also without the need for boring condoms for birth control…
            So automatically this straight guy becomes a gay guy, because naturally humans don’t like a lot of obstacles the easier they can get something the happier they are…
            Now I believe same mechanics works for ladies too, for I know a lady loves a patient lover, and a man most of the time is not patient and if she is approached by another lady offering all the patience in the world, she would be converted too…
            Now let us say such a state exists a long time in a society, such that due to our love of easy there are more people identified as homosexuals than there are people identified as straight, then what becomes of the family? To have children artificial insemination would be used, and there won’t be a father and a mother but a father and a father or a mother and a mother. Now u might say “So?” to this, but Leah, whether u admit it or not, women and men compliment themselves and as a result give a very complete view of the world to a child. And also the love that parents who gave birth to a child show to that child can’t be mimicked artificially…
            As a result u have a society where most children grow up hurting and lacking, even though they know not what they lack or why they hurt…
            Now u will say: This is way too theoretical, gays go after their kind. But Leah I tell you that I am a guy who show no gay trait, with beards and swag that show masculine tendencies but where i stay, I have being approached by homosexuals not in a timid way but in a bold way offering me sexual favors from the onset, and by God’s grace I have repudiated their tempting offers. And they know I am straight!!!
            That is why the biblical account of Sodom and Gomorrah is accurate, because a whole town of men can become homosexual and when this happens, it is hard to find the way back to normal, or to even know what is normal, with alcoholism what is normal is not blured
            God Be With U

          • I’ve seen homosexual relationships that were disordered, but they weren’t discernably disordered *because they were homosexual.* They were disordered for the reasons all of our relationships are disordered–selfishness, pride, failure of compassion, etc.

            I have seen beautifully ordered homosexual relationships and I cannot be convinced that God sees them in any way lesser to or different than my own. That is not the God of my understanding. The God of my understanding said that love of Him and love of Other was all of the law and all of the prophets.

            I believe that marriage is meant so that each of us need not go through life alone; to make two people one entity; to reflect and be a symbol of the love of God for the world. I believe that divorce is (am I quoting Lewis or Chesterton?) something much more like cutting off a leg than breaking a contract.

            I have seen the love of God reflected in wonderfully blessed homosexual relationships. I will never betray my experience of the truth and deny that. I sincerely wonder how many people who insist on the disordered nature of same sex romantic partnerships have really spent any significant time around such couples. You shall know them by their fruit.

          • Oregon Catholic

            Chukwudi, I found your post to be one of the most interesting and thought provoking on this entire thread. I have never considered your A to Z scenario before but it certainly has the ring of truth to it. It also accounts for a lot of the frequent, aggressive, and anonymous sex that is associated with and celebrated by a segment of the homosexual community and which lacks even a pretense at any emotional connection.

          • Matt R

            Yes. The Catechism can explain it well…much better than I can.

          • Slow Learner

            Chukwudi, some of the problems with your little parable:
            1) men have very different sexual tastes. Being a man doesn’t give me the inside track to knowing what other men like in bed.
            2) many men like the romance, and don’t see it as merely “a bottleneck” between them and sexual pleasure.
            3) sex with a man and sex with a woman are not going to be identical, because their bodies are different and react in different ways. Unless you are going about sex paying no attention to the reactions of your partner, you can’t do the same thing with a man as with a woman.
            4) while many people are attracted to people of the same sex, more are not. The highest estimate I have ever seen is that 20% of people are not solely heterosexual; and that includes people who are primarily heterosexual and more likely to end up in a long-term relationship with someone of the opposite sex.
            5) You clearly place little value on adoption, or on the love and effort parents put into raising their children, if you consider the originator of the sperm or egg to be so significant, even if they play no further part in the child’s life.

          • Heidi

            Leah, on the physical plane, you might think that sex between two consenting adults causes ‘no harm’ to anyone at all.
            As Catholic, Christians, Jesus has always taught us that the physical life is transient. Ultimately, we have souls, and the soul is eternal, while the flesh isn’t. And therefore we live this physical life while keeping our eyes on the eternal one, by obeying his commandments. Using the standard of “as long as no one is harmed” to judge whether an action confirms to the moral law or not leads to serious flaws in trying to discern God’s commandments. In fact, the Wiccan practice has the motto of “do what you like, as long as you harm no one.”
            Can you see how this leads to Man thinking he can judge for himself whether his actions are right or not, by using his reasoning to rationalise and excuse himself that as long as he harms no one, his actions are right?
            We might not harm anyone in the ‘flesh’, but we are doing grave harm to our souls, when we deliberately turn away from clear-cut teachings in the bible and trying to rationalise our actions and create excuses for them. I’m not sure if this early into your conversion, you understand the power of devils yet (and in fact, even some Catholics dismiss the devil as some metaphor or myth). Jesus has made it clear many times, the existence of fallen angels that tempt humans, with more knowledge than we have, they are able to warp reasoning to their benefit. In this case, saying that civil union between two consenting adults is ok, likewise sex between the same gender is ok because no harm is done to anyone, and they love each other and all that…that is the reasoning of one who lives in flesh and forget about the spirit.
            “No harm done” can possibly be one of the most damaging motto to live and judge the morality of actions by — because it sets up the judgement and reasoning of man against that of God’s.

      • PJ Jedlovec

        I admire the openness with which you are addressing this question, Leah. As you are walking this path, I would definitely recommend studying deeply the Magisterium (teaching authority) of the Church and to what extent we owe Church teachings (dogmatic or not) the submission of our intellect and will. In the overwhelming individualism of our society, people forget the need for a teacher. An authority who doesn’t control the exploration of the truth, but rather guides it. We are blessed to have and to recognize this authority as Catholics, but unfortunately even many Catholics forget the need for this and refuse to accept even the truths that have been infallibly declared by the Church. I don’t know how much you already know about them , but I would recommend looking into the infallibility of the ordinary and universal Magisterium of the Church, in addition to that of Church Councils and ex cathedra Papal statements.

        • The problem with the Magisterium is not the institution itself, but how Conservative Catholics see it, as a group that ‘tell us’ what to think, and that anyone who goes against it is a heretic and should be expelled from the Church. This is a little childish, and only breeds intolerance in our Church.
          As you pointed out, the Magisterium is supposed to be an authority that doesn’t control the exploration of the truth, but rather guides it. (I prefer that to your previous sentence about submitting to it intellectually. We shouldn’t submit blindly. We should investigate, ask questions and go through the same though process as they did in order to understand their decisions. )The running joke around Catholics is that we don’t think because the Church does all the thinking for us. I sure as heck am not like that, and I would encourage Leah and all other converts to do the same. Be Critical of the institution, but always remember that it is guided by the Spirit, so we need to trust it as well in the end. Just…let’s avoid the stereotype of the unthinking Catholic. Let’s show the world that we’re capable of being rational beings that can think about what our Church is proposing to us and to look at it rationally.
          And in the end, if we disagree with it, that’s fine too. I don’t know of many relationships where you always agree with every single thing your partner says. Just as I expect turbulence in my relationship with people, so I do in my connection to the Church. But in the end, my love for Her Wisdom and for the Community of Saints -both past and present- that gathers around her is enough to sustain me through the periods of doubts and struggles with the institution. In other words, I can disagree with the position of the Magisterium, but my love for the institution it represents will always be stronger than my own desire to be right.
          Something like that…

          • PJ Jedlovec

            I agree with you for the most part. The stereotype of the unthinking Catholic is definitely something we need to avoid. But as you hint at, our relationship with the Church is different than other relationships, because the Church is the Mystical Body of Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit. There comes a point at which we must make the rational decision to accept that Christ has indeed established a Church and continues to remain in it and preserve it from error, and that we should therefore accept what this Church teaches as fundamental to the faith, even when it conflicts with what we would have come up with on our own. It is an incredibly difficult thing for all of us to do, but when we humble ourselves like this in obedience to Christ, who is the Truth itself, we can share in Christ’s own obedience and receive God’s abundant life and grace.

      • bendi

        Hi Leah, I’m a new reader (so forgive me if I mention something already addressed in previous posts). You are obviously a smart woman- and you are intellectually honest, which is an admirable quality and I believe the one which has led you to where you are. You were unwillingly to ignore the dissidence created by your atheism and your convictions regarding Morality.

        I believe the position you articulate here is a reasonable one and totally understandable given your particular journey. The key will be for you NOT to compromise on that intellectual honesty. Keep searching and asking questions- and keep learning to pray as you say you’ve recently begun to. You don’t have to immediately agree with everything the Church teaches. In fact, keeping your behavior inside Church teaching- even while not understanding why the teaching is such- is a great act of humility and obedience.

        In your post, you said “If people can’t muster a convincing argument against gay marriage that doesn’t depend on the revealed truths of the Catholic Church, then asking the government to ban it is like expecting the State to enforce kosher dietary law on everyone (or even only secular Jews).” In response, I would turn the tables and say “you first”! Can you muster a convincing argument in FAVOR of ANY type of “marriage” (or more generally, state recognition of some form of romantic relationship) that doesn’t depend on religious belief (whether directly, or simply by society in general embracing social constructs which came out of religious belief)? Look forward to reading your reply. I’ll be keeping you in my prayers.

    • Dammit, hit submit too early. Wanted to address the civil vs. catholic thing:

      “As to the larger political question: civil marriage is different than sacramental marriage. If people can’t muster a convincing argument against gay marriage that doesn’t depend on the revealed truths of the Catholic Church, then asking the government to ban it is like expecting the State to enforce kosher dietary law on everyone (or even only secular Jews). I still support civil gay marriage.”

      I think that’s great and I’m glad to hear you’re sticking to your guns on this, but I think it’s worth encouraging the Catholic Church to become more tolerant and understanding as well about Catholic beliefs if you’re going to join the Church. I think LGBT Catholics deserve to be happy married within their faith if that’s what they desire, and I don’t think there’s any reason to leave the Catholic stance unexamined or unopposed simply because it’s religious.

      • leahlibresco

        And then you hit submit too early again! I think some of my reply to your first comment should reassure you on this point.

        • Thank you for the reply. I would argue that civil disobedience requires action and that what you’re doing is dissent, but then I’m not sure civil disobedience in this case would entail—I guess finding a priest willing to marry you to a woman and then going through the vows—or that this would even accomplish your goals anyway. Even regular old disobedience probably wouldn’t accomplish much (the multitudes of Catholics who use birth control certainly haven’t made a dent in Church doctrine) so dissent really is the best option. Again, I’m very glad to hear that you’re not planning on being quiet about your disagreement with the Church on Civil gay marriage.

          However, I think that if you believe that marriage equality should exist withing the sacraments of the Catholic Church itself (which you may not, I’m not sure), then I would say you’d have, well, certainly not a ‘duty’ to vocally dissent on that as well, but I would hope that you would dissent in order to be consistent. I can buy self-identifying as Catholic and yet dissenting on certain Church viewpoints (see: pretty much every relative I have) but I feel like silence would be tacit approval.

          • Kristen inDallas

            There are also good reasons for dissenting against civil laws but not against church laws (even when we don’t agree with them). I am human… I suffer ocasionally from flawed logic. The government is a committee of humans, al suffering from flawed logic and motivated more by re-election than logic anyhow. When my logic and values clash with their logic and values, I tend to think I’m probably right (or at least more right). And the questions I ask are aimed to teach.

            However, expirience has taught me that whenever my logic/values clash with church teaching, I struggle and suffer until eventually, I realize the church was right. I still don’t fully understand EVERYTHING she teaches, but I have reached the point where I can admit that her wisdom vastly exceeds my own, and if I keep paying attention, God will show me. I still ask questions, but I ask them in the spirit of learning. That comes off a bit different than dissent. (And I totally respect Leah for her approach)

          • @Kristen: I believe your perspective depends on the doctrine of Papal Infallibility and belief in the Indefectibility of the Church. For those who believe the Church is also an organization consisting of flawed humans (insert typical list of Church scandals here), your argument will be a very difficult sell.

            I would also be curious if the cause of your struggling and suffering was because of whatever practice you were participating in or explicitly because your participation estranged you from the Church, even if only in the silence of your own heart. If the latter, then I would say the Church (or at least their position on that topic) was the cause of your struggle. I would also question whether certain types of struggles or suffering weren’t necessary at times to stay within what is morally right.

          • Charles

            Without meaning to speak for leah:

            She just recently decided to “correct” her entire world view, and then decided the direction she needed to move was towards teh Catholic Church, can she have a little breathing room before exhorting her to civil disobediance?

            One thing I think is ineffective is arguing against joining the Church because of A, B, or C, or telling people to leave because of A, B, or C – IF the Church is ‘closer’ to the truth, IF the sacraments connect one with God, don’t you think that trumps the political ugliness? Its easy to say abandon something if you don’t believe it to be real.

          • @Charles: I would never tell someone to abandon their faith, new-found or otherwise. I don’t do that to my wife, my siblings, my parents, my extended family, or any of my myriad in-laws, and I wouldn’t do it to someone I barely know on the internet.

            I did, however, call on Leah to remain vocal about where she disagrees with Church doctrine. If she needs time to sort out her opinions, perfectly understandable, but when she’s willing and able to articulate her positions while along the path of the on-going conversion process, that’s something I’d be very interested in reading.

            I do want to directly address this:
            “… IF the Church is ‘closer’ to the truth, IF the sacraments connect one with God, don’t you think that trumps the political ugliness? Its easy to say abandon something if you don’t believe it to be real.”

            But that’s just it Charles, I DON’T believe gods are real. Why should I consider someone’s sense of feeling connected to what I consider to be a fictional being of any worth when discussing political topics? Can you see how that might be unreasonable? It seems like a way to drown out debate to me.

          • Charles

            @Matt. Understandable. I wasnt implying that I thought you were telling Leah to abandon her faith, I was simply saying I dont think within the first few months is an appropriate time to push for her to dissent from same.

            As to when the political debate happens OF COURSE we can’t accept belief in a God as a valid defense, you are totally right that its simple a way to stiffle debate. My point was that it is easier for a non-believer to say “reject the church” because we don’t have that believe, but if you imagine that there is a God, and the Catholic sacraments connect us to him you can see how rejecting the Church because some of the Bishops are dicks is a not really a viable choice.

          • Kristen inDallas

            @Matt. You’re right it absolutely depends on an acceptance of papal infallibility. I wasn’t arguing that non-Catholics shouldn’t question church teaching… I was merely trying to give Leah (a new Catholic) a little cover if she chose not too. There are good reasons for arguing and there are also good reasons for asking humble questions instead. I wouldn’t want anyone to get the impression that you HAVE to argue to be true to an inquisitive nature.

            Sidebar – there are absolutely imperfect people working in the church in all different ranks. The doctrine of papal infallibility doesn’t imply that we think they are perfect individuals or even that they alsways make good decisions. It means that we believe in an absolute truth (God-given and therefore perfect) which cannot be corrupted. There’s a good explanation here: http://www.catholic.com/tracts/papal-infallibility

            Re. the personal questions, it was always the thing I was doing that caused me the pain. And any “estrangement of the heart” I may have felt came just as much from a disconnect with secular culture. (when it says do this it’ll make you feel better, and then you don’t). Plenty of the stuff I did before I was even aware it was a sin. I learned a lot of stuff “the hard way” and only discovered the depth of church teaching well after the fact, always wishing I had seen that sooner.”

          • @Charles: I guess I’m operating on the assumption that dissent is a part of the process. If she’s quiet about where she finds objections, then those will linger. By voicing her opinions she can grapple with the moral and theological arguments, thereby coming to a better conclusion for her own faith. I guess what I’m saying is, I don’t see dissent and “spiritual” growth as mutual exclusive.

            As for the latter point, I misunderstood and was focusing on debate rather than a call to abandon faith. This gets back to the role of dissent in the Church, but I agree with you that it’s acceptable to remain within the faith even if others within the faith act in ways you find objectionable. I want to be clear that I do think negative Church behavior (e.g., scandals, controversial teachings) should be taken into account by those evaluating their own faith, but at the same time I wouldn’t tell, for example, the American nuns and Franciscan friars who are protesting treatment by the Vatican that they should totally reconsider their faith because of the situation.

            ([url=http://www.religionnews.com/faith/leaders-and-institutions/In-cordial-dialogue-Vatican-asserts-control-over-U.S.-nuns]nuns story[/url], [url=http://www.religionnews.com/faith/doctrine-and-practice/franciscan-friars-back-american-nuns-in-vatican-spat]friars story[/url])

          • @Charles: I guess I don’t see dissent and “spiritual growth” as mutually exclusive. I would think that by voicing her opinions and being able to do the proper research on Church opinions via the response would be a good way to develop. As for the latter topic, I misunderstood you and was focusing on debate, not necessarily on calls to abandon faith. I think negative behavior by the Church should be considered by someone evaluating their faith/belonging, but I wouldn’t suggest that someone should abandon the Church when they believe in the mysteries but not in the politics. For example, nuns and Franciscan friars are protesting certain behaviors from the Vatican currently. I wouldn’t tell them they should just walk away from their faith over it.

            @Kristen: Thank you for the link. I’ve studied the doctrines of papal infallibility and Church infallibility previously during the course of my education (all Catholic: Franciscan, Carmelite, then Jesuit) and while I know it doesn’t apply to every opinion put out by the Church of even the Pope, I found it objectionable even as a practicing Catholic. Put simply, I think it’s clear that human have determined what is and isn’t infallible within Church doctrine and they’ve included some opinions I strongly disagree with.

          • Gah, please excuse the double post.

  • jose

    I don’t understand your answer, like at all. First you say you’re willing to stop dating women. I presume that is because the church says you should do so, as the church has grasped objective true morality. So it’s the moral thing to do for you not to date women.

    Then you hint for homosexuality to be left out of the discussion of moral behavior, just like Lewis left out gambling. But if it weren’t immoral, why would the church ask that of people? Is the church wrong on this? And if it is immoral, why would you let it out of the discussion of moral behavior?

    Then you support civil gay marriage. But according to the true, objective moral law (that of the church), such a thing is gravely immoral. Aren’t immoral things bad? Shouldn’t those people try to do the moral thing instead (ie chastity)? This isn’t any sort of “gotcha” attempt. I’m genuinely attempting to put all these things together coherently and failing.

    • Slow Learner

      Allowing civil gay marriage is about the Catholic Church keeping it’s nose well out of others’ business.

      Or did you not notice the part about how the Church “can’t muster a convincing argument against gay marriage that doesn’t depend on the revealed truths of the Catholic Church”

      • jose

        Others’ business? I thought morality was objective, true, and independent from humans, and it applied to all humans. Are you suggesting the moral law is only applicable to catholics? What kind of universal truth is that?

        I did notice that part. That’s why I asked my last question about gay marriage, whose connection to Leah’s point you might have not noticed.

        • Slow Learner

          If the people getting married are not being married by the Catholic Church, their marriage has nothing to do with the Catholic Church.

          If Catholic moral law really does correspond with an “objective, true, and independent” morality, then there should be secular moral or legal arguments for anything that Catholic moral law demands.
          Unless and until someone has come out with them convincingly, only Catholics should be expected to follow Catholic teachings; and Catholic teachings should not have the force of law even for Church members.
          That’s a fairly conventional argument for co-existence in a secular state, and while I can’t swear that Leah agrees with it, I hope she does.

          • Oregon Catholic

            But if you tell me I shouldn’t vote against or protest/work to defeat same sex civil ‘marriage’ because of my Catholic morality then you are trying to deny me my right to vote and exercise my civil liberties the way my conscience tells me. Thats tyranny on your part and my part has nothing to do with forcing my religion on others. I have every right as a citizen to use my vote to influence the laws that govern the society around me to conform to my morality and ethics. Don’t you do exactly the same when you vote?

          • Slow Learner

            If you only have religious reasons for opposing it, rather than the welfare of those concerned, then trying to legislate your opinion is a form of tyranny. You are expecting non-Catholics to obey Catholic teachings because Catholics have the majority, not because they are persuaded of the merits of that opinion.
            I do not vote to legislate morality, because I believe they are separate things; for instance adultery/cheating in relationships is immoral, but I would never wish to see someone face legal consequences for it.

          • anodognosic

            OC, I sincerely believe that the RCC is a net negative for humanity and harmful to its adherents. Still, I would never vote to restrict the worship and indoctrination of its members, and I would even support a number conscience exemptions to certain laws–although probably less than you would. In any case, it’s necessary to discriminate when it’s appropriate to make the government enforce your morality.

          • jose

            It goes like this:

            – I am the church. I hold the moral law. What I say is objectively true, it is universal, it applies to all humans. I say homosexuals should not marry; they should self-master their condition and practice chastity instead.

            – I am a follower of the church. I believe what the church says is true. I also believe a gay couple should marry if they want to, and it’s not true that they should practice chastity any more than a conventional heterosexual couple.

            ^ do you see the discrepancy there? If the follower knows that homosexuality is objectively immoral, why does she support gay marriage? Doesn’t she want morality to prevail? According to the church, achieving christian perfection is possible for gays if they practice chastity and discipline. Why would a follower of the church recommend marriage instead of chastity then?

          • Ryan

            Oregon Catholic, saying that you shouldn’t do something is not tyranny, it is a suggestion. You have every right to vote however you want and try to convince the rest of us to vote that way as well, telling us we should vote a certain way. Likewise, others have the right to vote any way and try to convince you to change your mind. No tyranny there in shoulds. You still have the right to vote that way, whether or not I or Slow Learner or anyone else says you shouldn’t. Now, if someone were to tell you you mustn’t vote a certain way, that would be tyranny. Interestingly, the right to vote includes the right to vote for tyrannical laws. Freedom includes freedom to work towards ending that freedom.

          • @Oregon Catholic –

            As Slow Learner points out (and, I think, Leah implies), the question is whether the Church’s prohibition of same-sex genital intercourse (and therefore of public encouragement/endorsement thereof such as same-sex marriage) is merely a matter of religious disipline, that is, a revealed precept that is binding only on the faithful; or whether it is a part of natural law with which revealed doctrine agrees.

            If it is the first, then the limit of the Church’s rights in the public sphere is freedom from compulsion to act otherwise: no Catholic can be forced to participate in a same-sex marriage. This is the “conscience” exemption that is included, for example, in Washington State’s legislation.

            If it is the second, however, then we ought to be able to produce natural law arguments, that is, arguments that are based on secular and rational foundations and that are accessible (if not acceptable) to anyone – including those who deny the revelation of Jesus Christ, or of Abraham, or for that matter the teachings of the Buddha.

            Now, it is because most Catholics consider the teaching on sexuality and marriage to be part of the natural law that we argue to include comparable legislation in civil law. But we have to admit that arguments based on Scripture or on theology will only serve to encourage and support the faithful. In order to convince the rest of society, we must demonstrate the rational basis for the State to support and enforce the traditional definition of marriage.

            As far as I know, there has been no Magisterial pronouncement on the relationship of civil marriage to sacramental marriage. So the position Leah takes (as I understand it) to consider civil marriage a completely and entirely separate institution from Sacramental Matrimony is a valid option for a practicing Catholic to hold. I’m not even sure that the definition of marriage as “one man to one woman” is necessarily considered part of the natural law. After all, polygamy is well attested in the Old Testament, apparently in conformity with the Ten Commandments.

            Therefore, even if you or I think Leah (and/or those pushing for same-sex marriage) is/are wrong, the onus is on us to show how and why – and meanwhile to presume good will on their part.

          • Oregon Catholic

            I have to say that I am surprised and a little confused by some of the comments addressed to me. Maybe I am misundertanding them or maybe you have misunderstood me. I wish I knew if the authors were Catholic or atheist as it might give me a clue to understanding them. But anyway, let me try and clarify.

            I’m Catholic. It is a big part of what makes me who I am and how I think. It is 100% responsible for how my conscience has been formed on moral issues. When I vote my (Catholic) conscience I am in no way forcing my religion on anyone else anymore than say, someone who votes democrat ‘forces’ his politics on his republican neighbor. I cannot separate my morality from my vote on gay ‘marriage’ and say well, I think it’s wrong but I won’t stand in anyone else’s way. Wrong is wrong and I would be a hypocrite if I voted against my conscience just because my Catholicism informed it. Nor am I going to facilitate for others what I consider to be wrong for me. I am not a moral relativist.

          • @Oregon Catholic –

            I think you are assuming that by voting your Catholic conscience, you are voting for a society that better reflects moral justice, or natural law – as you have come to know it through Catholic moral teaching.

            I think that most of the proponents of same-sex marriage think that the Church’s prohibition of same-sex intercourse is based on a specifically religious concern, seeking a kind of ritual purity or cohesion or discipline, as if we were Jews trying to foist a law that everybody must keep kosher, or as if as Catholics we tried to make all citizens attend Mass on Sunday. I hope you’ll agree that these kind of laws do not belong on the books.

            The reason religious laws do not belong on the books, but moral laws do, is that religious laws pertain only to the adherents of that particular religion; meanwhile, moral laws pertain to humanity as a whole – or at least the citizenry as a whole – regardless of whether or how much those morals are revealed within any given religion.

            Now, as Catholics, we’re going to have a hard time convincing non-Catholics that same-sex marriage is a moral issue if all we do is point to religious arguments for it. The religious arguments have a certain validity, but only for those who already accept the truth of the Catholic faith. For those who do not, the arguments must be based on a common foundation: our humanity, our ability to reason, our shared history and future in this society.

            Moreover, even once the morality of the issue is acknowledged, that does not determine the outcome. There are many approaches to governing a society, and even good Catholics can differ about how best to apply the morality of natural law (even as expressed by Church teaching) to our situation in this nation at this point in history.

          • Matt R

            There are! Read St Thomas Aquinas in particular. His explanation of the moral law would mesh with an understanding for the practices of marriage as seen through the lense of medieval common law…

          • Oregon Catholic

            “I think you are assuming that by voting your Catholic conscience, you are voting for a society that better reflects moral justice, or natural law – as you have come to know it through Catholic moral teaching.”
            Yes, this is how I see it.

            “I think that most of the proponents of same-sex marriage think that the Church’s prohibition of same-sex intercourse is based on a specifically religious concern, seeking a kind of ritual purity or cohesion or discipline, as if we were Jews trying to foist a law that everybody must keep kosher, or as if as Catholics we tried to make all citizens attend Mass on Sunday. I hope you’ll agree that these kind of laws do not belong on the books.”
            I agree and have no desire to impose religious rules on society.

            I think many people today, especially the moral relativists, have a very hard time understanding the difference between religion and morality. They seek to prevent anyone trying to impose a moral position on society that’s associated with a particular religion and see it as an affront to separation of church and state (how does your gay neighbor’s civil marriage harm your Catholic one?, keep your rosaries off my ovaries) while they seek to impose their own ‘secular’ morality. They are blind to the fact that doing so is exactly the same thing they are objecting to the religionist doing. I don’t want their anything-goes secular morality imposed on the society I have to live in anymore than they want mine. But we are both just exercising our civic right to our voice and our vote.

            I’m pretty pessimistic that there is going to be a meeting of the minds on the hot moral topics of the day anytime soon. We are pretty much speaking a different moral language than most of the rest of society. If you don’t believe in an intelligent creator or that you are subject to God’s law, why would you give any credence to living in tune with the natural law. In fact science takes great delight in overcoming nature, e.g., IVF, transhumanists.

          • Kyle

            I posted this elsewhere in the thread, but I think it is very relevant to this discussion.

            Fr. Robert Barron recently made a video where he talks about religious liberty and people “imposing their will.” Here is an excerpt from the 7:19 mark in the video:

            To me it’s a red herring, you know, “Oh, religious people oughtn’t to be imposing their will. Look, in the lively public conversation which is America, everyone is trying to do that. Whether you’re on a TV talk show, whether you’re in the halls of congress, whether you’re in a state legislature, whether you’re giving a persuasive public speech, you’re trying to impose your will. Everybody is. Fine, that’s the way the system works. What I resent, though, is the implication that religious people qua religious, simply aren’t allowed in that conversation.

            I also think that jose made a good point about the discrepancy of *knowing* that something is wrong but choosing to vote for a law that exalts that behavior.

          • Frank

            Here is a great document that talks about the importance of heterosexual marriage from a non religious standpoint:

            In the article, we argue that as a moral reality, marriage is the union of a man and a woman who make a permanent and exclusive commitment to each other of the type that is naturally fulfilled by bearing and rearing children together, and renewed by acts that constitute the behavioral part of the process of reproduction. We further argue that there are decisive principled as well as prudential reasons for the state to enshrine this understanding of marriage in its positive law, and to resist the call to recognize as marriages the sexual unions of same-sex partners.

            “Besides making this positive argument for our position and raising several objections to the view that same-sex unions should be recognized, we address what we consider the strongest philosophical objections to our view of the nature of marriage, as well as more pragmatic concerns about the point or consequences of implementing it as a policy.”


    • leahlibresco

      My point in bringing up Lewis is that if homosexual relationships are sinful, they would actually be a pretty easy one for me to eschew, so I’m definitely the wrong person to talk about how hard a requirement this would be generally. I should stick more to the things I struggle with. At present, I don’t think that gay relationships are anything but morally neutral, but I’m willing to avoid them while I fight about it and test how good my arguments actually are.

      Civil marriage is not sacramental marriage, and even if gay people really can’t be married in the eyes of the Church, that would not, itself, be an argument about those marriages being recognized by the state. The two institutions serve different purposes. To wit: the Church thinks if a Catholic enters a sacramental marriage, gets a civil divorce, and then remarries, the new marriage is invalid. But no one argues that the State should enforce this part of canon law, not even if it restricted the law to Catholics.

      • I’m nit-picking here, I know, but if you met the right girl, you might suddenly find that restriction very difficult.

        • leahlibresco

          Honestly, I’ve been through this before. I thought the ex-bf was the right guy, but impediments meant I had to give him up, however hard it was to do so.

          • So as I understand what you’re saying, if you met someone who was “right” but were impeded by Church doctrine, then you would have to let them go. Interesting.

      • A Philosopher

        But no one argues that the State should enforce this part of canon law, not even if it restricted the law to Catholics.

        Oh, you have so many dark corners of the Church Militant still to explore. Have you run into any of the American Monarchists yet?

      • jose

        Thanks for responding. If I understood correctly then, it’s a matter of “I think x, but the church tells me y, so since it’s not really that big a deal anyway I’ll just go with the church for now, just in case they’re right.” However the conclusion seems inescapable to me: if there is objective morality out there and the church grasps it, then they are right and you’re necessarily wrong. You have already converted, right?

        (As an aside, it’s disquieting seeing how quickly the converted put their own convictions away and hurry to obey the church despite them. I mean it’s been what, a week?)

        Related – I think the church made a smart move by retreating to the moral questions, since there is no way to check those. The old truths about the universe (aristotelian spheres, geocentrism, etc.) are definitely worse tactically because they are subject to attack. The thing is homosexuality is another empirical item of the world. You look at the world, that’s just what it looks like. Imho saying sex is only for reproduction and therefore gays are wrong (and so is everybody who uses sex for something else) is pretty much like saying species don’t change and therefore evolution is wrong. The conclusion comes first, then the observations that contradict the conclusion are attacked as being wrong and needing fixing. How about making the observations first, counting them as evidence of what things look like, and then reach a conclusion accordingly.

        It can be argued that there’s no point looking at the world since the real truth (the conclusion) has already been revealed. After all, God’s word > humans struggling to make sense and possibly getting it wrong. This links with your posts on morality and vision. How do we make sure the revealed objective truth is being transmitted correctly? We have the right equipment to see the correct colors, and so our minds are equipped to receive the moral law (although one of my t-shirts is green according to me and blue according to my brother – a disagreement that will never be settled). But in terms of color the mantis shrimp has better eyes. Those bugs are way more sensible to color than we are, among other superior features. We’re kinda lousy sighters tbh. Eagles see better than us too. Analogously, are we sure we’re adequately equipped to grasp objective morality? Could have God directed the law not to humans (not to chimps, not to birds, either) but to some other species that will evolve 50 million years from now, a really smart one – one that doesn’t spend two thousand years yelling at one another over what he meant?

        I can’t think of a way to check any of it. How do we get to know these things?

        • leahlibresco
          • jose

            How can you check the church has the right axioms? How did you reach that conclusion?

        • Oregon Catholic

          Jose, you have some very thoughtful questions but what comes to mind as I read them is boy does he make things hard for himself. It’s like a starving man going into a supermarket convinced he has to select the one perfect thing to eat and ending up so frustrated at trying to decide he leaves still starving.

          You can eliminate all the animals with superior traits and some life form 50 million years from now from your consideration about who has the revealed truth. Jesus of Nazareth told us what we need to know 2000 yrs ago.

          • jose

            Thanks. I’m sorry for sounding overzealous/pushy, sometimes failing to understand something can be frustrating. I think a sensible stance would be “although I believe gays should practice chastity as objective morality demands, people have a right to be immoral and disobey God, and I support that right”. However what we got sounds a lot like “The church is objectively right except maybe when they don’t agree with me”.

            As for the other thing, I’m pretty sure you already know why Jesus can’t count as an argument for your point, as it does what I described in the 2nd paragraph: taking the conclusion for granted and interpreting the world according to it (aka having faith a priori). Sure, Jesus could count – if we’re really capable of grasping god’s law. But if we aren’t, then Jesus was little more than an entertainer. How can we tell? Even worse: this applies not only to Jesus but to everything. The problem is there is no way to check these claims because all our tools to check stuff are limited to the natural. In other words, either I’m missing something or supernatural claims are impossible to verify. That, imo, is why religion relies on faith.

          • Slow Learner

            Was there a Jesus of Nazareth? Jury is still out on that, and that casts doubt on the entire religion built upon him.
            1 Corinthians 15:17

          • Oregon Catholic

            Uh, ya there was an actual Jesus of Nazareth slow learner. You might try reading some history.

          • Slow Learner

            Oregon Catholic, I have read a lot of history, and this is why I doubt it.
            Try reading Bart Ehrman, followed by Richard Carrier, for a view on Jesus in particular.
            As a brief summary, however, the fact is that no source which (1) mentions Jesus and (2) is not written by a Christian survives from earlier than about 200AD. That along with the potential for mythopoeia in the early Christian church opens up a genuine possibility that Jesus was a mythical figure, reified by later Christian believers.
            Please note that I say possibility; the case will probably never be proven. But my comment was not a mere throwaway, and there are serious historians of the period who now contend that Jesus never existed.

          • Kyle

            That is why it is the Best. Conspiracy. Ever..

            Totally worth watching, btw 🙂

            I can just imagine that in another 2000 years, people will cite current Holocaust deniers as proof that it may not have happened…

          • Alan

            Yeah, except the holocaust leaves a treasure trove of actual evidence for its occurrence – which mean, as today, the only people who would cite the deniers as evidence are those who are themselves simply deniers. On the other hand, Jesus leaves no treasure trove of evidence – no more, and possibly even less, reliable evidence for his claims than Joseph Smith’s followers have for his, or for that matter than L Ron Hubbard has for his claim to revealed truth.

          • pagansister

            Slow Learner, I’m with you—just where is the irrefutable proof that Jesus was an actual person? The Church isn’t proof, IMO. One of many reasons I left Christianity—no proof.

          • Kyle

            Alan, my point was that there will always be people, no matter how much evidence, that disbelieve in some historical events. Heck, there are even people who deny that the years 614-911 AD even happened .

      • Brian

        Oh, come on, Leah. Are you going to be a heterodox Catholic? You have run your Catholicism into the ground before it has even started. I have explained before how the principle of private judgment is completely incompatible with the assent of divine faith:


        Suppose a Protestant desires to become Catholic but withholds his assent from a few of the truths which the Church proposes. That individual is using his personal discretion to select from the Catholic “buffet.” Suppose this Protestant is later convinced through exegetical, historical, and philosophical arguments that the truths proposed for his belief by the Church are, indeed, true. He then gives assent to those truths.

        Neither scenario is compatible with the assent of divine faith. Even in the latter scenario, where the Protestant gives his total assent, the motivating principle of the assent is his own private judgment and not a reverent trust in the authority of God who reveals – that is, faith! The Protestant just happens to agree with the Catholic Church. He does not really have faith.

        You can see how this is pertinent to your own conversion, Leah. What you seem to be suggesting is just a theological impossibility. You are approaching Catholicism like that Protestant and not realizing that your paradigm is a non-starter.

        • Kyle

          Show some patience with her conversion, just as God has shown you patience. These thing take time and are *not* immediate.

        • JeseC

          I have to wonder if this kind of assent can even be maintained in light of Church history. I’ve done a bit of work on the Catholic Church in America and gender. It has not been long since the Church leadership would have taught that my actions, as a politically active woman studying philosophy in a mixed-gender university, were immoral. I think a quick study of history will reveal many times where the hierarchy has advanced a view that we now consider highly immoral.

          Simply put, if we try to extend the idea of infallibility too far, we end up with absurdity. We end up with contradiction.

          • Oregon Catholic

            “It has not been long since the Church leadership would have taught that my actions, as a politically active woman studying philosophy in a mixed-gender university, were immoral.”

            As opposed to society at large during the same time period? Prove the Church was any worse. Most universities made professional study difficult for women until well into the 20th century. Female doctors and engineers, for example, were rare until the latter half of the 1900’s.

          • JeseC

            That misses the point. I do think that it was a result of society at the time. But my point is that, once we allow in cases like that, we see that we can’t treat everything that the leadership agrees on as infallible doctrine. If it were infallible, it would still be immoral for women to vote and study in the university and so on.

  • I think I might wade into the ‘gay marriage’ argument just a bit with you and see if I can lay out a secular case against it. As a starting point I think it important to establish what the purpose is for the state to recognize and/or privilege certain relationship structures; maybe a better way to ask the question is to say “why does the state privilege marriage between a man and an unrelated woman and legislate again marriage between a brother and a sister or ?”

    It seems to me that it is in the State’s interest to encourage relationships that will provide the ‘likely’ best possible place for procreation of ‘hopefully’ healthy children and stability for their development into productive citizens. Now I realize that I’m talking about an ideal here so let’s not anyone jump the gun on picking apart particular anecdotal stories – first we need to establish the philosophical basis for marriage as a State-sponsored/recognized/privileged relationship.

    Procreation, naturally, can take place only in the sexual union of a male and female (ignore for a moment IVF, surrogacy etc. and stick with the philosophy). This privileges a male-female relationship for the State’s purposes. Further, we know that genetically there can be significant health issues caused by the pairing of too close relatives so the State has a motivation in restricting the relationships it will recognize to un-(closely)-related male and female. Lastly, two parent homes where the two individuals have committed to each other for life seem to provide (in general) the most stable home for the raising of children into productive citizens so the State is justified, based on its purposes of only recognizing relationships between two individuals and not three, or four, etc.

    I think that then we have established that the State has an interest in privileging only male-un-related-female life-long committed relationships which historically we have called Marriage.

    Now, that said, there are a host of other more concrete issues which should still be addressed such as things like inheritance, visitation rights, power of attorney, etc. and I think it would worthwhile to establish the possibility of civil union between any two (or more for that matter – say older siblings or friends) people which would provide for all of those benefits and leave alone civil marriage as a uniquely privileged relationship (due to the State’s interest in maintaining that privilege).

    I’m interested to hear your thoughts.

    • ugh, edits – in the first paragraph *against – not again and it should read “or (insert other relationship structure here)” but I think i may have inadvertently used some html.

    • butterfly5906

      “It seems to me that it is in the State’s interest to encourage relationships that will provide the ‘likely’ best possible place for procreation of ‘hopefully’ healthy children and stability for their development into productive citizens”

      Do you have any constitutional or legal support for this being the rational for state-recognized marriage?

      • I don’t think that there is any substantial (US) constitutional support for the state recognizing any particular relationship. There is considerable common law support for privileging marriage, heretofore always understood as something that existed between a man and a woman. More shortly, I don’t think that the question had come up historically other than anti-polygamy laws to deal with the Mormons.

        Thus the need to establish philosophically what the point is for the state to recognize or privilege any particular relationship.

    • Slow Learner

      Given that the available evidence (while limited) shows us that the ability of a gay couple to successfully raise children is no less than that of straight couples; and that even ignoring IVF and surrogacy there are many children in care who would benefit from being adopted, it seems there is no compelling interest in restricting the benefits of marriage to only those who can spawn without medical aid. After all, adopted children will benefit (possibly even more) from having a stable home environment.

      • Slow Learner, I need to watch myself before I get a crush on you. 😉

      • pagansister

        Perhaps I should stop agreeing with your comments—but I can’t do that, as you make so much sense!

      • I’m not sure that the available evidence supports your statement, particularly when combined with the evidence available connecting the importance of each biological parent to the psychological health of the child.

        That’s not to say that a same-sex couple couldn’t raise children as well as many opposite sex couples but simply that statistically the child will be better off with a female Mother and a male Father.

    • Slan21

      I don’t think the State should interfere that much with the private life of its citizen. Forbidding marriage to too closely related individuals may seem legit for public health reasons, but for instance the State doesn’t ask the will to have children as a condition to marriage (like the Catholic Church does iirc).
      Civil marriage, for what i know (but i’m not sure about the US), does only provide a legal framework and give tax cuts. It doesn’t sound fair that the State wanting to “encourage” some kind of relationship refuse this to other people, who can (and will) live together only lacking the possibility to get those advantages.

      This of course doesn’t apply to religious sacraments. If a religion does want to discriminate in some way, they only have to justify themselves in terms of philosophy.
      Please excuse my unperfect english.

      • This is an argument for removing ‘marriage’ from the political sphere entirely (which I would support) and having the state only perform civil unions of any two (or more?) people. I’m not opposed to that as a solution to the issue it would need to be carefully thought through.

    • Oregon Catholic

      Very well said Dan. I would add that 2 parents of the opposite sex has also been priviledged because it is the best social structure for raising psychologically healthy children of both sexes. This has long been recognized but is now being more closely studied since the increase of same sex partnerships has made the issue pertinent and even urgent to determine.

    • @Dan F. –

      I think you’re exactly right that the primary question is “what the purpose is for the state to recognize and/or privilege certain relationship structures”.

      When laws regulating “civil unions” or “domestic partnerships” started popping up, my first question was why these unions/partnerships/relationship had to have a sexual component at all. What business did the State have with regulating my sex life?

      Why couldn’t two siblings, or two friends, or some combination of seven siblings and friends, enter into some legal arrangement to provide certain civil and social privileges to one another? Why only two people whose relationship was sexual?

      I think the only reason the State has for regulating a sexual relationship is because sex is inherently connected to procreation. (Some here may argue that point, but I will point out that I did not say “exclusively” connected, but simply that sex and procreation have a natural connection that cannot be denied without denying all teleology.) Procreation has social consequences beyond the individuals involved: children add numbers to the community, and become a temporary burden to the community until they reach adulthood. This temporary burden, however, becomes the stable and productive membership of the community when they are adults. Therefore, the State has an interest in supporting this future stability of the community.

      Beyond that, I don’t see an interest the State has in regulating marriage; otherwise, why wouldn’t the State regulate friendships or relationships between members of a sports team or relationships between co-religionists?

      Therefore, it seems to me that, however the State regulates marriage, it ought to be based on the social implications of the procreative aspect of the sexual relationship. Other relationships can establish whatever mutual benefits they desire through legal contracts.

    • JackOCat

      The typical counter to this is:

      So the state has an interest in denying marriages if the opposite sex couple is know to not be capable of/or want to have children. Obviously no state on the the planet today is interested at all in this type of control of marriage and thus is follows that the states elevation of marriage to a special status does not originate from that view.

      If you ask me, states elevate marriage to a special status because marriage pre-dates today’s states and every current monotheistic religion for that matter. They just go with it because everyone has always gone with it.

      • My history is based on hearsay and secondary sources, so I’m open to correction here. However, I think you’re correct that governmental recognition and support of marriage is a relatively recent event – I think since the Renaissance. Marriage is as old as history, and no society that I’m aware of has ever lacked some kind of social convention that governs the relationship between a man and a woman and the children they (may) produce. So yes, it’s as close to universal and primordial as we can get, anthropologically speaking.

        As to your objection about infertile male/female couples: “Not capable” of having children is, even now, pretty much impossible to determine with absolute certainty in advance. But it remains clear that the male genitals and the female genitals are considered to be diseased or malfunctioning or broken or otherwise not fulfilling their nature if they become incapable of contributing to the conception and gestation of a child. Infertility is a disease, a flaw, a bug – not a feature.

        As for those who choose to make themselves infertile, until very recently (historically speaking), this choice was acknowledged to be a betrayal of the marital bond. Those who hold to a fully traditional view of marriage (the Catholic Church being probably the most prominent and vocal) still consider voluntary contraception and sterilization to be obstacles to marriage.

        The way marriage is practiced in the U.S. today is hardly an example of “traditional marriage.” Same-sex marriage is more a nail in the coffin than a bullet to the head. Contraception and no-fault divorce – whether you consider them morally acceptable or unacceptable – introduced the real redefinition of marriage in western society.

        • JackOCat

          Good points. I agree with your post. Thanks.

          • Matt R

            Robert bingo! Oh and for Leah, I would recommend the posts on the Distributist Review (which can be accessed via Facebook or their web page) which explain many issues you are having with the role of the State in marriage and the role of Holy Mother Church in marriage.

  • Kristen inDallas

    To be fair… our civil marriage laws are pretty screwed up across the board. When (most) states started introducing “no-fault” divorce rules, they completely changed the meaning. Why should one permanent-until-I-don’t-feel-like-it-any-more relationship be given priority over some other types of relationships? Why should the government back marriages at all, of any variety? (Isn’t that totally unfair to single people? Why should I be alone in the hospital if my best friend is willing to stay with me? Do I have to pretend she’s my “life partner”?)

    In theory (and historically), the laws were put there to protect children (by protecting their families). No fault divorces were like termites that eventually took out a whole wall of the house. Marriage (in the eyes of the government) is not really about kids any more but about what two adults want and consent to. Is it “fair” to prohibit consenting adult same sex couples from getting married for personal non child-centered reasons when we allow opposite-sex couples to do the same every day? I agree with you in that it’s a tough question.

    But asking someone to defend any limitations on what we allow marriage to become within the context of the already flawed system is like asking someone to hand you a non-sticky peanut from a jar of chunky peanut butter. If I stick with the house analogy, I think most traditional marriage advocates come at it from a place of: just because one wall is gone doesn’t mean we should knock down another, that’s the sort of thing that could make a whole house collapse. But then, I’m left asking the question, why would you want to live in a termite-infested one-walled house in the first place? Why not just build a new, better house? And I can’t even begin to understand why on earth the neighbors would want to move in, when it would be easier to build up their own termite-free, 3-walled (yet slightly more stable) triangle shaped house (civil union laws).

    • Slow Learner

      Or maybe you could update your view of marriage.

      I got married recently, and I wouldn’t have done it if I did not honestly intend to be with my wife for the rest of my life. However, I recognise the possibility that over time, despite all the effort and love we can put into our relationship, it might fail.
      If that does happen, all my good intentions would have come to naught; all my work on it likewise.
      Would I want, at that point, to have to apportion blame for the failure of the relationship in order to divorce my wife? Hell no.
      Unless you want to set yourself up in judgement, over whether someone else has suffered enough that it is permissible to end their relationship, you ought to agree.
      Divorce without finger-pointing and buck-passing seems to me much more sensible than “he did this” “she did that” mud-slinging.

      • Kristen inDallas

        I don’t advocate mud-slinging at all. I recognize that some people engaged in it, in order to leave a marriage they no longer wanted. But good people didn’t, they stuck it out, eventually got past the lull or the disagreement or whatever and made it work. Or they didn’t get past it but they made it work anyway. There were far fewer divorces and far fewer kids living in “broken homes.”

        I was married to an awesome guy, we were young and madly in love. He didn’t cheat, hit me, he wasn’t an addict or someone who made risky decisions. And neither wa I. But we grew appart, we wanted different things in life and we were still young and naive and we thought that meant we weren’t “meant to be” married. So we got a divorce, it was easier than the marriage. Fortunately there were no kids involved. I’m not miserable and neither is he, and we’re still friends. But I wish like anything that I knew then what I know now. I wish it would have been a little harder to just walk away, because I know that if it had, I probably wouldn’t have, and I don’t think he would have either. The whole thing was the picture of sensibility. But my gut still judges it wrong.

        I don’t mean to come off preachy… but I always wish someone would have told me this when I was first married: Everyone, EVERYONE will reach a point in the realtionship when both partners want to give up, when it doesn’t seem even worth fixing. What makes a marriage is a promise about what you are going to actually DO in those moments.

        • Slow Learner

          That’s a sad story; and maybe for you personally a higher hurdle to leap to get out might, ultimately, have helped.
          However, while I’m against taking long-lasting decisions while in an emotional state, I feel that if both partners are on an emotionally even keel, and they’ve talked it over, and they don’t think it’s worth going on…then that should be sufficient.
          Then again, my view of marriage is that the truly meaningful commitment is between husband and wife, and the state/church/whomever only formalises it in marrying them in the first place. So if the true marriage, between the spouses, is dead, then all you’re left with is empty formalism which ties the two together.

        • anodognosic

          Thanks for your story, Kristen. It’s always good not to forget that these kinds of arguments are about the real lives of real people.

          However, I don’t think it invalidates your experience to say that you don’t know how you’d feel if things had gone the other way. Or that it’s the same for everyone. And even granting all that, it’s yet another thing to say, even if staying together were always the right thing to do, that it’s the role of the government to do so. In being in favor of no-fault divorce, I just believe that it is a matter best left to individuals and their communities.

        • Kristen inDallas

          To be honest, in the first post I’m not really arguing that the state should have a role in keeping people married, or that there aren’t good reasons (for others) to want out of a bad marriage. I am saying that the only reason the state ever had for priveledging marriages over other types of partnerships went out the window when they decided marriage doesn’t mean permanent. If it’s not permanent then what is it? What makes it any better than long term cohabitation or some other arrangement? Why do we have endless volumes of law based aroud a concept that has been completely erroded of any real meaning? A thing is either permanent or it isn’t.

          Only telling my story in response to SL’s follow-up. To highlight the fact that changing the meaning of marriage doeas have real effects on real people and it affects how we relate to each other as a society. As a society, we have said that individual choice is more important than the preservation of the family. I won’t elaborate on whether or not I think that’s the right way to go, but I will say that if that’s the way we’re going, we have no business endorsing marriages at all. (Paragraph above applies strictly to civil marriages, sacramental marriages are a whole different ball of wax).

  • PJ


    When I first entered the Church, I was at odds with a few pretty important teachings. I did a lot of researching at first, and that helped. Especially illuminating were the encyclicals of the last two popes. They’re short and densely packed with information.

    However, research and rational reflection only took me so far. Then I turned to prayer. The more I prayed, the less I researched. I was somewhat surprised when, some time after, I realized that my inclinations had shifted significantly. My resistance to certain dogmas disappeared silently and peacefully. It was less struggle and more charm: the Spirit at work within my heart.

    Today, I still have a bone or two that I could pick with the magisterium, but I am aware that I am but a man, a creature with a brief time on this earth, and my intelligence is limited, my opinions influenced by my darker lusts. So I listen and learn and meditate on Scripture and Tradition.

    I can only suggest humility and patience, plus prayer. Let the Spirit of Love and Wisdom be your guide. I hope this helps.

    • Oregon Catholic

      Well said PJ. Intellect can only take us so far in matters relating to God who is beyond understanding. I also have strong disagreement with the Church on a couple of issues and I think I’m probably right and the Church is wrong. But the way I look at it is that it may not be God’s will that the Church be right on everything at all times. God can use these situations to bring about His will so I deal with it and don’t sweat the disagreement while God works things out in His own way and time.

      The best example for my philosophy I can think of was Christ’s crucifixion. That was about as ‘wrong’ in human terms as things can get but it was how God chose to work His will. And Jesus told Peter to “get behind me satan” when Peter wanted to stop the horrible wrong that he knew was coming.

    • Peggy Hagen

      Yes; and what is now is not what will be after Easter Vigil – if sacramental grace is a reality. As a “cradle “catholic, I envy you and Leah your process of learning and discovery!

    • Alan

      Yes religion (any of them) is very good at making you feel better about abandoning your intellectual pursuit of truth and just accepting someone else’s dogma. It’s why religions are such a useful tool in controlling the masses and maintaining power structures – though not a particularly good true at advancing our knowledge of the truth…

  • PJ

    “Last two popes” is slightly misleading. I mean JPII and Ben XVI.

    • Erin

      Amen, PJ. And Leah, I get what you mean about since you’re not being especially tempted by a certain sin, then you feel as though you shouldn’t necessarily be giving advice about it. But there is a difference between giving advice and simply witnessing to the Truth, as one commenter I think previously mentioned. The beauty of Catholicism, and its guarantee of divine guidance, is that we can trust that all that it teaches with regard to faith and morals IS TRUE (despite the obvious sinfulness of many of those within the Church – check out the lives of the saints for antidotes to that, such as St. Thomas More, whose feast day is today). Now, that is despite my own preferences, which used to make me very unhappy back in the days when I didn’t want MY sins to be sins. But once I was able to intellectually submit to the reality of the Church’s authority, I wanted to be obedient, as a first step in my love for Jesus Christ and His Church. And that eventually led me to the place where I knew I had to at least stand as a witness to the truth of the Church’s teachings, in all matters.
      God bless. Thanks for all your honesty. My prayers are with you.

      • Slow Learner

        Thomas More? Really!? The man is a factional Tudor politician extraordinaire – it’s like holding up a petty Henry VIII as a saint.

        • Contrarian

          Or Defender of the Faith, at least 😛

          • Slow Learner

            Boom Boom, well played. I just read that about St Thomas More as someone who’s studied a fair bit of Tudor English history, and found myself gaping.

        • deiseach

          Except that he gave up playing the politics game and went to the headsman’s block. There were plenty of courtiers willing to play the game, even if they had private opinions of their own – I’m thinking of Henry’s last wife, Catherine Parr, who outmanoeuvred the Catholic element in the court who tried to have her arrested for heresy by playing the “poor little woman” card with Henry (“I’m only a woman, I don’t know anything about these religious affairs, and I only argued about it with you to distract you while your leg was bothering you, but now you’ve explained the right view to me, husband, that settles it”). I don’t blame her for this, by the way,since surviving in Henry’s court was a cut-throat affair and you had to play any card you could; but she was not some ‘poor little woman’ as her history demonstrates (her various marriages show her to be competent and resourceful, and her publication of a second book,” Lamentacions of a synner” in late 1547 after Henry’s death set forth her own Reformed religious sympathies).

          Thomas Cranmer is considered a Protestant martyr, and for much the same reasons as St. Thomas More; after a lifetime of shuffling (and much worse, I would contend, than More ever did in office) and accommodation to whatever political winds were blowing, he eventually stuck to his guns at the very stake. The one admirable deed in his life as court chaplain, and I say that as an Irish Catholic who was raised on a history of Tudor politicking in Ireland.

          • Slow Learner

            Eh, I could accept seeing Thomas More as a martyr to the Catholic faith; he could very easily have bent his knee, accepted Henry’s supremacy, and lived.
            However, he’s personally responsible for peoples deaths, including William Tyndale’s burning at the stake – I don’t think that gibes very well with being a saintly example of virtue.

          • Kyle

            Slow Learner – how was More “personally responsible” for Tyndale’s burning at the stake? I’m genuinely curious, as I don’t know much about this period of history.


          • Slow Learner

            Kyle – Feel free to take this with a pinch of salt, as I can’t locate the source for that claim at the moment! I just remember reading that when Tyndale was under arrest, Cromwell interceded attempting to have him released, and that More was a decisive factor intervening the other way. I’ll see if I can trace it.

          • Kyle

            Slow Learner –
            From reading just on Wikipedia, it certainly seems that More opposed Tyndale’s theology and translation of the Bible, so that may have something to do with the charge of heresy against Tyndale. More was executed in July of 1535, almost a year before Tyndale was (Sep-Oct 1536), so it doesn’t seem he had any direct connection with Tyndale’s death in that regard.

          • Kyle

            Oops, should be “almost a year and a half before…”

      • anodognosic


        What about the obvious fact that, especially for such a hierarchical organization, the Church to a large extent is those within the Church? In practice, many of their failings translate into failings of the Church. Given the the Church has reversed itself before, and done some pretty terrible things, how can you trust that all that it teaches is true?

        Sorry. I can’t even countenance this kind of abrogation of our epistemological responsibilities. It kind of gives me the willies.

        • The Church has never reversed itself on matters of doctrine, and it is far from the only institution (religious or otherwise) to have members who have done some pretty horrible things in its name. The Church is divinely protected from teaching error as doctrine, but the members of the Church are still sinners who, yes, do horrible things (amazingly enough, those sinful creatures have never once taught that sin was acceptable!). There’s a longer explanation here.

          • PJ

            The very existence of Christianity presupposes that all men are carved from crooked timber. Entering the Church means that you acknowledge that you are a sinner in need of salvation and sanctification. There is no guarantee, however, that you will become a saint. Many enter the Ark only to fling themselves into the raging waters of the flood before the trip is complete. God help all of us!

        • Cous

          @anodognosic – that’s why infallibility is so crucial – it’s a divine guarantee that whenever the bishops teach in unison on faith and morals or the pope speaks under certain conditions, they/he will be preserved from error. Obviously this isn’t going to convince anyone outside the system – infallibility only makes sense once you’ve accepted that Christ is God who is Truth itself and that he founded one church and promised to protect it and gave authority to its first leaders and earthly head (the apostles and Peter) whom he chose himself and promised the Holy Spirit would guide them – but it is defeasible. If you could find a place where the Church reversed or retracted her teachings on faith and morals (not just modified or added on or provided a different angle on the substantially same teaching), that would be evidence that the Church cannot be the 100%-reliable source of faith and morals she claims to be. She has certainly never claimed infallibility in other actions by her leaders and members, or in temporal affairs like elections and political movements.

          And infallibility does not mean “kill your brain at the door” – freedom, responsibility, and the paramount importance of forming and following one’s conscience are indispensable elements of her teachings, even when, again, said teachings are not put into practice by her members (e.g. forcibly baptizing all the inhabitants of a conquered country).

      • Oregon Catholic

        Slow Learner, when someone is a willing martyr to the faith it pretty much assumes saintly virtue at the time of their death regardless of what came before. And who we are at the time of our death is what is most important.

        • Oregon Catholic

          oops, this got posted in the wrong spot.

          • Slow Learner

            ‘s okay, I still saw it.
            I’m not sure I can agree, but at least it’s somewhat internally consistent.

  • Kyle

    Looking forward to seeing how this can of worms unfolds. I admire your desire for truth, Leah, and I think the litany of Gendlin is quite nice.

    I have a lot in my head that I can’t formulate into words, but I might just say that if the Church is right about homosex not being morally neutral, then it would not make sense to support a policy directly opposed to Morality.

    • Kyle

      It is also very admirable that you are willing to live according to the Church’s teaching wrt not dating women. I think that it is arguably more impressive (not quite the word I want) because you don’t think that gender is a particularly important issue.

      I am reminded of one of my favorite lines in the Psalms (100:100…easy to remember too!)

      I understand more than the aged,
      for I keep thy precepts.

    • anodognosic

      “Homosex”. Charming.

      In civil society, you play by the rules of civil society. It’s either that, or we’re a bunch of squabbling factions, to be subjugated by the strongest. And last time I checked, Catholics were well, well short of a majority in the United States.

      • Kyle

        Homosex, while not particularly charming, is an apt description of precisely what the Church objects to. She has no problem with friendships or relationships between members of the same sex, so long as they are not

        Surely you’re not suggesting that groups that don’t agree with “civil society” suppress their consciences and don’t speak up about their disagreements. Where would that get us?

        Here’s a quote from the 7:20ish mark of this video by Fr. Robert Barron:

        To me it’s a red herring, you know, “Oh, religious people oughtn’t to be imposing their will. Look, in the lively public conversation which is America, everyone is trying to do that. Whether you’re on a TV talk show, whether you’re in the halls of congress, whether you’re in a state legislature, whether you’re giving a persuasive public speech, you’re trying to impose your will. Everybody is. Fine, that’s the way the system works. What I resent, though, is the implication that religious people qua religious, simply aren’t allowed in that conversation.

        • Kyle

          Oops, forgot to finish a sentence there…”so long as they are not sexual (or any other sort of unhealthy relationship…abusive, coercive, etc., but that’s not the point here so we can ignore it I think).”

      • deiseach

        “And last time I checked, Catholics were well, well short of a majority in the United States.”

        Pew Report on Religion in United States (2008) – Catholics comprise 23.9% of adults in U.S.

        UCLA study on LGBT population of United States (2011) – About 3.5% of adults LGBT and 0.3% of adults transgender

        If you want to get into duelling minorities, anodognosic, then anything between 4-10% (depending on what survey or estimate you take) versus 24% leaves one element much larger than the other. Either nobody gets a say or everybody gets a say.

  • Contrarian

    The Litany of Gendlin is a favorite of mine. Props.

  • Valekhai

    The article wasn’t bad, but the comments section is hilarious.

    I also have to give props for the Eugene Gendlin quote. I just came across that for the first time yesterday in an article on Less Wrong.

  • Cameron

    Let me take a slightly different approach about a Catholic trying to change the Church’s positions: it is pointless. If you believe that the Catholic Church is at all what it claims to be, you cannot believe that the Church can EVER change its teachings on sexuality and marriage. The Church has purported to declare infallibly that sacramental marriage can only exist between a man and a woman (as well as other teachings on sexuality that preclude recognition of sexual acts outside of a heterosexual marriage). I don’t mean to start a debate about infallible Church teachings, but rather to point out that Catholics cannot logically believe the Church to be a mistaken or lying on issues of sexuality or Papal Infallibility but inspired on issues of the Eucharist, for example. The Church may be half hogwash and only correct by accident, but it cannot be half hogwash and half inspired-by-God.

    As someone who joined the Church still advocating gay marriage and believing in universal salvation, and now has no dissent against the Church whatsoever, let me suggest that you simply leave your heart open to the Holy Spirit’s inspiration (not that you have ever indicated you would not). Conversion is an on-going process that never ends. Cheers.

    • @Cameron: But the Church has changed positions on many political topics in its history. Isn’t it possible that today’s hot-button topics only seem intractable and essential to Church teachings because they are TODAY’S hot-button topics?

      • Erin

        The Church’s teachings are only infallible as proclaimed, ex cathedra (that means proclaimed by the pope, speaking as the head of the Church), with regard to faith and morals. Teachings or thoughts on political topics are not infallible. They are open to discussion and dissent, and are not required belief by Catholics. If you disagree, please name the moral or faith teaching of the Church that has changed.

        • KL

          Well…kind of. Yes, ex cathedra statements are infallible. But according to current Church teaching that is not the only time the Church speaks infallibly. Vatican II indicates that the dogmatic statements of ecumenical councils (e.g. Nicea –> the Nicene Creed) are infallibly, and that the bishops, taken collectively, “proclaim Christ’s doctrine infallibly whenever, even though dispersed through the world, but still maintaining the bond of communion among themselves and with the successor of Peter, and authentically teaching matters of faith and morals, they are in agreement on one position as definitively to be held” (Lumen Gentium 25).

          Granted, there is considerable room for discussion about what teachings meet those criteria. However, it’s a gross oversimplification to say that only ex cathedra statements are obligatory for Catholics. And while I generally agree that political topics are wholly non-obligatory, teasing out the theological stances behind the political ones can be tricky but is necessary. One may be able, in good conscience, to disagree with a particularly civil policy, but perhaps not the theological reasoning behind it.

      • @Matt –

        This assumes that the Church’s teaching on sex and marriage is a political teaching. But the Church treats these like moral teachings that must be applied, no matter what the political context.

        • But it can be examined from a moral or theological perspective as easily as from a political one, can it not?

          • Not sure what you mean. The point I meant to make was: The Church treats these like moral teachings, which are absolute and unchanging; not like political policy, which attempts to apply the teachings in the ever-changing complexity of whatever society one happens to live in.

            So the kind of analysis one does from a theological or moral perspective is of a different kind than the political analysis.

            Whether you agree or not (I expect you do not), am I being clear?

          • @Robert: I’m just saying that even if they are somehow inscrutable to political-minded (which I guess means “secular” in this context) evaluation, that doesn’t necessarily make them immutable even within a theological framework. Theologists can and do disagree with each other. I don’t think it’s fair to say “this moral value is a a religious teaching and therefore cannot be evaluated.” It ignores the layers of interpretation and debate that arrived at that present-day moral teaching.

          • Interesting: I think we’re using the same words in rather different ways, and I’m no longer sure what we disagree about, if we disagree at all.
            First, I’d say that I usually think of “secular” as being a much broader category than “political.” Secular contains pretty much everything in the world that’s accessible to reason, whereas political focuses on governing a society.
            Second, I take for granted that truth is one, and is objective; truth is reality as it can be known. You and I may have different perspectives on reality, but the difference in our understanding does not mean that reality is different for you and me. My understanding may be based on empirical experiment, and yours on religious doctrine, but what determines the truth of our understanding is how closely it adheres to reality.
            This goes for moral truth as well as physical truth. So yes, theologians and philosophers and political theorists and newspaper columnists may all disagree and debate about moral teachings and approaches. But if they are talking about moral principles, then they are talking about things that do not in themselves change. Moral truth is unchanging; it is not wrong to kill today and right to kill tomorrow.
            On the other hand, if they are talking about how to apply moral truth in a particular situation – say, in just war theory or in self defense or in debating the morality of abortion – they are talking about whether and how the moral truths that they agree on apply in a specific case. Even people who agree on a principle (murder is wrong) can (more or less) reasonably disagree whether soldiers are murderers, or whether self-defense is murder, or whether abortion is murder.
            The Catholic Church considers herself to have the authority to pronounce absolutely on some of the unchanging principles of morality, and to make final judgments about some particular cases. In most cases, however, her approach has been to stick to the core principles and let different people and communities sort out the details of particular situations. It is only when some hot-button issue begins to threaten the core principles that she speaks out on that issue.
            This is the state of the debate within the Catholic Church on same-sex marriage. The principle is pretty clear: marriage is for procreation as well as union of the spouses. Same-sex marriage as a sacrament is utterly excluded. The question is, what is or should be the relation to civil marriage? What is the role of the State or government in regulating or supporting marriage? And within that question is much room for debate.

          • @Robert: Hmm, it’s possible I was misunderstanding you and you weren’t arguing what I thought you were. If you believe that religious beliefs still have room for evaluation, albeit one focused on a theological approach, then I don’t think our positions are anywhere near as far as I’d thought. I still might (and did before I de-converted) argue over the theological interpretation of some “core values” though. And I still think that there should be room for the non-religious to evaluate religious thought without adhering to such restrictions, but of course that wasn’t what we were discussing. We were focused on how the faithful examine their own beliefs. So yeah, I think we’re closer than I first assumed. Thank you for the longer explanation.

            Granted, a moral relativist would reject some aspects of your argument (re: morality as universal truth), but I personally believe that a broadly applicable and beneficial (if not universal) code of morality is possible, or at least, worth pursuing.

          • Yes, I would have trouble even knowing how to have a rational debate at all with a moral relativist. But apart from that, everything – from first principles to arbitrary choices – is open to evaluation. It is open to evaluation, not because truth changes, but because we are finite beings, with limited perspectives and limited abilities to comprehend the reality we encounter. So my perspective on truth may be wrong; but even if it is right, it is certainly incomplete.

            And this is the case with Catholic doctrine: I believe it is correct and true. I also know that the expression of it that exists in the documents and expressions of that teaching is incomplete. Rather, the fulness of divine revelation is not a proposition, but a person: Jesus Christ himself, the Way, the Truth, the Life. Likewise, the fulness of natural knowledge is not a proposition, or a formula, but is the reality of the entire universe (or maybe even multiverse). Both are bigger than any one of us. So humility about our ability to know is a prerequisite for confidence in what we can and do know of the world.

          • @Robert: Well said. Good chatting with you!

    • A Philosopher

      The Church may be half hogwash and only correct by accident, but it cannot be half hogwash and half inspired-by-God.

      Well, yes it can. There’s clearly no contradiction in the claim that the Church has half of its doctrinal views inspired by God. One would have to believe, of course, that among the non-inspired views is the view that all the doctrinal views are inspired by God, but there’s no reason why that view should be insulated from disagreement more than others. (Alternatively, one could have a view of divine inspiration that didn’t obey the T axiom.)

  • Jay

    Leah, I can understand the “walking the line between civil disobedience and dissent” issue. Presumably, you think the Church is wrong to treat same-sex romance as unnatural, wrong to forbid Catholic marriage to couples of the same sex, and super-duper wrong to insist that secular governments tie civil marriage to Catholic marriage. And you would like to be a voice of dissent within Catholicism while still following the basic rules, which won’t be that hard for you because it’s akin to not dating redheads. If that’s what you’re saying, then I can understand that — if you already had strong reason to think Catholicism was basically correct in the first place.

    What concerns me is that you don’t seem to be taking the Church’s stance on this set of issues as strong evidence to avoid signing up with them in the first place. I’m sure this comment will draw howls from your religious readers, but the acceptable of same-sex romance as normal and healthy is just so overwhelmingly obvious that you have to be making some pretty fundamental errors to reject it. And you, presumably, of all people, have thought quite a bit about this sort of thing (and you went to Yale, so it’s not like you lack evidence of other people’s experience with it).

    So, given three observations — (1) you have strong reason to think same-sex romance is at least morally neutral; (2) the Catholic Church comes out the other way and makes at least kind of a big deal out of this; and (3) the supposed intellectual formidability of Catholic thought comes in part from its emphasis on coherent, integrated systems of belief — that would seem to be pretty damn good evidence that this group is prone to making serious errors in its reasoning. And if this particular issue — which again, is really pretty obvious to people on the outside — has caused them so much trouble, what’s the chance they’re getting everything else right? Or even, you know, close to right? It would be like reading a newspaper that routinely makes massive reporting errors on the set of stories you know most about, but then concluding that the rest of it is reliable.

    I know you have more to say about your reasons for converting, so maybe you have some kind of “no seriously, I have other super strong reasons to think Catholicism is right.” But if that’s really the case, I’m not sure you have much right to be an outspoken voice of dissent, when nearly all the supposedly formidable Catholic thinkers come out the other way on this. Anyway, I’d be curious to get your reactions here.

    Unrelated note: nice shout out to the Litany of Gendlin! May I also recommend the Litany of Tarski?

    • Jay

      Or to state the point more succinctly: http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=2352#comic.

    • leahlibresco

      Here’s a precis, but I’ll give a longer answer in a post(s?) that will probably go up next week. I think the Catholic Church has, at it’s heart, the right axioms, but that its small-c conservative structure means it takes a really long time to update the applications of those principles as new data emerges. And when you’re more interested in safeguarding the core ideas than speaking definitively on everything as it comes up, that’s prudent. But then you should be more careful to temper your confidence levels on new problems and questions.

      • PJ

        Fair enough, and the Church has made many worldly mistakes resultant from overly hasty judgments in the past (see: democracy, freedom of religion, etc.). But homosexuality is as old as, well, sin. Scripture tells us that man is made for woman, and woman for man. This is evident from reason, too, for we see clearly the emotional and physiological compatibility and complementarity of male and female.

        It is my experience that everyone has his own point of difficulty on the path to conversion. Some overcome them and enter the Church. Others are overcome BY them and do not enter the Church. Still others reach no resolution, yet achieve the courage to set aside their opinions for the greater good, the Greatest Good, Who is God.

      • I think the Catholic Church has, at it’s heart, the right axioms, but that its small-c conservative structure means it takes a really long time to update the applications of those principles as new data emerges.

        I think you’re making a problematic assumption here: namely, that the Catholic church has any desire or intention to “update” anything it teaches.

        Take the case of the Pontifical Commission on Birth Control, in which Pope Paul VI handpicked a 72-member panel to advise him on whether the church should change its rules and permit the use of contraception. Their overwhelming recommendation was that the church should, in fact, change the rule. The pope proceeded to throw that recommendation in the trash, explaining that the church had to stay the same forever and ever, because any change in their rules would be a tacit acknowledgement of earlier error (so why did he convene the panel in the first place? I have no idea either). As he put it:

        If it should be declared that contraception is not evil in itself, then we should have to concede frankly that the Holy Spirit had been on the side of the Protestant churches in 1930 and 1951… It should likewise have to be admitted that for a half a century the Spirit failed to protect Pius XI, Pius XII, and a large part of the Catholic hierarchy from a very serious error. This would mean that the leaders of the Church, acting with extreme imprudence, had condemned thousands of innocent human acts, forbidding, under pain of eternal damnation, a practice which would now be sanctioned.

        The church leadership seems to take it as an axiom that they can never be wrong about anything. Is this a principle to be applauded, much less emulated?

        • Actually, minor correction: that quote was from the pontifical commission’s dissenting minority report (which 4 members out of 72 signed onto). However, that was the conclusion the pope went on to endorse in Humanae Vitae, saying that the majority report was “at variance with the moral doctrine on marriage constantly taught by the magisterium of the Church.”

      • Paul Prescod

        @leah: ” I think the Catholic Church has, at it’s heart, the right axioms, but that its small-c conservative structure means it takes a really long time to update the applications of those principles as new data emerges.”

        I’m not sure you are listening to the many Catholics in this thread. The Church *cannot update* its teaching without violating one of these “right axioms”, the “axiom” that it is “always right” on issues of morality.

        You seem to have decided that the Church is not what it claims to be: an Infallible guide to Unchangeable Morals.

        If I understand correctly, then that means that the Church is simultaneously wrong on 1. the biggest human rights issue of our time and place and 2. the most important question on the epistemology of Morals that one could ask (“how do we determine what is moral”).

        So is wrong on most important things and yet it is “right for you”?

        Have you noticed how many people in this thread are asking you to put aside your rational thinking and just look for the answer “from the holy ghost” or “obey without understanding”? Is this really the role you envision for yourself in the future? A person who struggles to conform their reason to the dictates of a mystical voice which miraculously happens to agree with the Pope most of the time (after your subconscious has been appropriately primed, of course)?

        • Peggy Hagen

          If you starve to death as a child, or die from some easily treated disease you can’t get the medicine for, then it does not matter whether as an adult you could marry someone of your same gender or not. The biggest rights issues of our time are, and will always be, those touching on the right to life itself – and gay marriage, however you view it, will never do that. It may be more popular to talk about; it may seem more topical; it is not and can not be the most important human rights issue. The ones that are most important are also the ones that Judaism and Christianity have been concerned with all along – poverty, homelessness, caring for those who can’t care for themselves.

          • Slow Learner

            Because the US Conference of Catholic Bishops intervene so often in American politics to ensure that healthcare is broadly available, and children don’t go hungry.
            Oh no, wait, they intervene to make sure women don’t get healthcare, and that gay people can’t get married.
            Their own priorities…

          • Peggy Hagen

            The USCCB, as a whole, was in favor of the ACA (until the insurance mandate came along). Equally, they’ve spoken out against the Alabama immigration law; and when Obama announced the amnesty for illegal immigrants who came here as children, Archbishop Gomez of LA, speaking on behalf of the USCCB, praised his action. And the Church does a tremendous amount of nonpolitcal charity work – politics are not the only solution.

            In any case, I was speaking in terms of the entire tradition, across the world and stretching back more than 3,000 years, with it’s commands to care for the widow/the orphan/the stranger – to feed the hungry/care for the sick and dying/shelter the homeless. Not the actions of one group of religious leaders, in one country, in one narrow time period.

          • Frank

            Here are the stats of just one city’s Catholic Charity results: (I’d say they did quite a bit to combat poverty and care for the poor and needy.)

            Catholic Charities federated agencies in a year’s time have offered more than 100 programs to over 157,000 people in need. The majority, 76 percent, live below the poverty line, and approximately 90 percent of the people served were nonCatholic. In the past year, Catholic Charities has provided:

            156,937 meals served to homeless people.

            28,238 calls to the Homeless Hotline seeking emergency shelter.

            29,479 seniors housed, fed, counseled or received other services.

            1,217 people received legal assistance.

            3,963 adults received assistance with job searches or training.

            244 refugees were resettled.

            Catholic Charities has spent more than $80 million annually on services to the communities of St. Louis, from affordable housing to homeless shelters, and programs for our senior neighbors and our children. Public money funds many of these ministries because the organization is trusted with excellent service. This relationship has allowed people in our community to receive quality care without compromising the integrity of either the government or the Catholic Church.

          • If you starve to death as a child, or die from some easily treated disease you can’t get the medicine for, then it does not matter whether as an adult you could marry someone of your same gender or not.

            I very much agree with this, Peggy. Unfortunately, by their vehement opposition to contraception, the Catholic church helps ensure that societies stay trapped in self-perpetuating cycles of poverty and subsistence and thereby inadvertently furthers the very problems they claim to be concerned about.

            Conversely, when women gain the right to control their own reproduction and limit the size of their families, societies consistently experience a boom of economic prosperity, because families with fewer children can put more resources into improving the health and education of each one rather than having to spend all their resources just keeping all of them alive. This is a well-understood sociological phenomenon called the “demographic dividend“.

        • Seconding Paul Prescod’s excellent comment.

    • Oregon Catholic

      “but the acceptable of same-sex romance as normal and healthy is just so overwhelmingly obvious that you have to be making some pretty fundamental errors to reject it.”

      That’s pretty presumptive on your part and simply your opinion. It carries no more weight with me than my opinion that the Catholic position is correct carries with you – so it’s a weak argument. That aside though, I think you are on the right track to be questioning if it’s wise to make a committment to Catholicism while still holding a disenting opinion AND wishing to debate it. But that’s between Leah and her RCIA or spiritual advisor to decide.

      • Jay

        Oh, I’m not pretending that this is an argument, and I don’t expect it to persuade anyone who doesn’t already agree with me. But I think Leah does agree with me on this point, which is why I have expected it to be a major impediment to her getting on board with the Catholic project at all. But I guess I’ll just wait for her future posts explaining this in greater detail.

  • deiseach

    Not a bad piece at all, once I got over laughing at the headline (well, they got sex and religion into it; now, if they could only have managed to squeeze in a reference to money and politics as well, they could have ticked off their bingo card) and this line: “Earlier this week, The Blaze told you about atheist blogger Leah Libresco who shocked the world when she announced that she is now a Catholic. ”

    I’m shocked to find out I’ve been following the blog of a world-shocking world-shocker 🙂

    • leahlibresco

      I’m actually getting AED training at work next week. So soon I’ll be able to bring a personal touch to my world-shocking.

      • deiseach

        I don’t know what I should do; I mean, shocking the poor old world at this hour of its life, and the delicate state its constituion is in – should I be encouraging people in that kind of behaviour by reading their blogs and making silly comments?


    • But has she shocked the conscience of every rationalist community?

  • R P Freeding

    “Don’t judge me because I sin differently than you.” Bumper Sticker from http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2012/04/the-merciful-obtain-mercy?lang=eng&query=bumper+sticker+sins

  • I think there are several strong secular arguments against same-sex marriage; for example, here and here.

  • elcid

    I think Leah has a long road ahead, who knows maybe she is just another Ann Rice, her high intellect may just interfere with the simple faith and obedience needed to be a faithful Catholic. And just for the record Natural Law is a very good non-Catholic argument against homosexuality and gay marriage, thousands of years of recorded history should confirm this, and the fact that the lower animals who do not have a rational soul do what is natural to them and mate with the opposite sex.

    James 2:19
    Thou believest that there is one God. Thou dost well: the devils also believe and tremble

    • Peggy Hagen

      Exactly! She converted less than two months ago; she doesn’t get baptized or Confirmed until next spring; why not cast her into the outer darkness for still having unresolved doubts – and just being too darn smart to be Catholic, anyway? “What could possibly go Wong*?”

      *Auto-corrected, and left that way out of amusement.

    • PJ

      “I think Leah has a long road ahead, who knows maybe she is just another Ann Rice,”

      Be mild and peaceable, brother. We all have our inner battles.

      • elcid

        I wasn’t trying to be mean….but the fact is you can’t take the old atheistic subjective morals and bring them along with you into the church, doesn’t the bible say something about taking off the old man and put on the new man in Christ? maybe she should have seriously contemplated these issues before joining RCIA, in response to the other post concerning her intellect, as St. John of the Cross says “We must discuss in particular all the concepts and apprehensions of the intellect, the hindrance and harm they caues along the road to faith”.
        I rarely give my own opinion on things like this, I just prefer to quote the Saints or paraphrase what they say, seems like when I do so some Catholics get upset, maybe they should convert to protestantism, at least you have your pick on different dogmas of christian teaching that suits you.

        • The entire purpose of RCIA is to explore these issues. Not everyone who joins RCIA does so with the intention of converting.

          • Maureen

            Nobody’s “high intellect” interferes with faith. The better your intellect is, the better you can appreciate certain factors of the faith, just like any other kind of strength used or weakness worked out into something better.

            Intellectual pride, now, that interferes a lot, just like any other kind of bad pride. However, intellectual pride also interferes with the learning process, the intellect itself, and having any kind of happy relationship, so it’s not surprising that it ruins faith also.

            Let Leah have some time to think about this stuff.

            However, I don’t see why people think “new data” would come into play. Jesus lived and died and rose again in the days of the Roman Empire. During the early days of the Church, there were plenty of people around who were practising homosexuals and bisexuals, up to and including emperors. Whenever I want to understand some new social fad, I can usually find an early Christian letter that talks about the trouble they were having with it. 🙂

            The Church would have had a lot easier time if they’d said that all different kinds of sex and marriage was okey-dokey; there were religions that were all about that stuff. But the Church didn’t do that.

    • the fact that the lower animals who do not have a rational soul do what is natural to them and mate with the opposite sex

      Homosexuality is far from uncommon in nature. Take bonobos, just for starters.

      • Kyle

        Be careful about defending something because it happens in nature…you will wind up having to defend everything.

        As always, Chesterton has something to say on this matter in Orthodoxy (emphasis mine):

        All the same, it will be as well if Jones does not worship
        the sun and moon. If he does, there is a tendency for him to
        imitate them
        ; to say, that because the sun burns insects alive,
        he may burn insects alive. He thinks that because the sun gives people
        sun-stroke, he may give his neighbour measles. He thinks that
        because the moon is said to drive men mad, he may drive his wife mad.
        This ugly side of mere external optimism had also shown itself in
        the ancient world. About the time when the Stoic idealism had begun
        to show the weaknesses of pessimism, the old nature worship of the
        ancients had begun to show the enormous weaknesses of optimism.
        Nature worship is natural enough while the society is young, or,
        in other words, Pantheism is all right as long as it is the worship of Pan.
        But Nature has another side which experience and sin are not slow
        in finding out, and it is no flippancy to say of the god Pan that
        he soon showed the cloven hoof. The only objection to Natural Religion
        is that somehow it always becomes unnatural. A man loves Nature in
        the morning for her innocence and amiability, and at nightfall,
        if he is loving her still, it is for her darkness and her cruelty.

        He washes at dawn in clear water as did the Wise Man of the Stoics,
        yet, somehow at the dark end of the day, he is bathing in hot bull’s blood,
        as did Julian the Apostate. The mere pursuit of health always leads
        to something unhealthy. Physical nature must not be made the
        direct object of obedience; it must be enjoyed, not worshipped.
        Stars and mountains must not be taken seriously. If they are,
        we end where the pagan nature worship ended. Because the earth is kind,
        we can imitate all her cruelties. Because sexuality is sane,
        we can all go mad about sexuality. Mere optimism had reached its
        insane and appropriate termination. The theory that everything was good
        had become an orgy of everything that was bad.

      • Oregon Catholic

        And chimps brutalize and kill other chimps for reasons that have nothing to do with self defense. Should we legalize assault and murder?

        • Alan

          Geeze, he was responding to someone who argued that animals in nature having heterosexual sex was evidence for a natural law argument against homosexuality and when he points out that the premise is wrong you attack him for the method of the person he was responding to.

        • pagansister

          Oregon Catholic, human beings brutalize and kill each other. Is that “natural” too? There is nothing new under the sun—there have always been men attracted to men and women attracted to women. What they do may be what you consider (and of course the Church) “sinful” or bad or whatever. However, it really has no affect on your life, if you stop and think about it, so why worry about it? Married homosexual couples live just like you do (I assume) , going to work, sleeping with each other, perhaps raising children, paying rent or a mortgage, perhaps attending a religious institution on Sundays, or Fridays or whatever day is Holy to them. Why should the Church worry about this? Accept it? Perhaps not, but not condemn the “act” possibly involved between gay couples. That is absolutely not the business of any Church, IMO.

          • Oregon Catholic

            As a moral relativist it is virtually impossible to explain to you how what other people do or don’t do can affect me living in the same society or why some personal things are my business on a societal level. Relativists have no moral equilibration – everything is neutral and equal to you.

        • Erista

          You cannot SIMULTANEOUSLY hold that a) Nature determines right and wrong (homosexuality is wrong because animals don’t do it) AND b) Nature does not determine right and wrong (killing for no reason isn’t right just because animals do it). You really do have to pick one.

          • PJ

            Erista (and whoever else is confused on this point):

            The behavior of animals is not the basis of Natural Law. As I said earlier, to discern whether something is naturally lawful, one must ask, “Does this further human flourishing?” Of course, to answer that question competently, one must understand the telos of human life.

            It is amusing that contemporary liberals are so quick to scorn Natural Law, given that many of their great icons — Martin Luther King Jr, for instance — appealed to it in the service of justice.

            “You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court’s decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in public schools, at first glance it may seem paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may ask, “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with Saint Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.”
            –Letter from Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963

          • Erista

            Nothing in my post scorns (or advocates for) natural law. My post scorns using the behavior of animals as a basis for morality when it’s convenient (“the fact that the lower animals who do not have a rational soul do what is natural to them and mate with the opposite sex”) and rejecting animal behavior as a basis for morality when it is not (“And chimps brutalize and kill other chimps for reasons that have nothing to do with self defense. Should we legalize assault and murder?”). In essence, my post advocates for logic. Or as we said in symbolic logic, you can’t have both P and ~P be true. It’s violation of the laws of logic. If you want the behavior of animals in to influence how we view the morality of homosexuality, you have to take the behavior of animals whatever they do; you can’t use the behavior of animals when you think it agrees with your preconception and reject it when you are informed that it does not.

          • Oregon Catholic

            I guess I missed the memo that said sarcasm was supposed to follow the rules of logic. Sorry.

          • Erista

            Oregon Catholic, are you trying to say that “And chimps brutalize and kill other chimps for reasons that have nothing to do with self defense. Should we legalize assault and murder?” was meant as a sarcastic comment? That you don’t actually mean that we shouldn’t just kill each other without just cause because chimps do? Because that would be a very odd position to take, one that I can say with confidence that I’ve not seen a Christian take before . . . or anyone take before, for that matter. Or is there some other comment that you made that was meant to be sarcastic, and the whole “rules of logic” thing didn’t mean you were directing the comment at me?

  • David

    Here’s an interesting debate on gay marriage in a UK context held about a month ago between those who wish to keep the status quo and those who wish to change it. On the side arguing for the former were Dr Austin Ivereigh, Peter Williams (Both members of Catholic Voices) and the atheist and editor of Spiked Online magazine, Brendan O’Neil, and on the latter were Andrew Copson (Chief Executive of the British Humanist Society), Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain and liberal Catholic theologian, Professor Tina Beattie. What I found funny was that near the end of the debate, the moderator pointed out how odd it was that the side broadly advancing the Catholic argument never bothered consulting the Bible and instead relied solely on natural law while the other side did the opposite. 🙂 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vqr-sA3Dtv0

  • No one has banned gay marriage. Gays can hold any ceremonies they like. They can cal themselves married couples, or they can don dress uniforms and call themselves “Napoleon” and nobody will stop them or interfere. What they want is to conscript government into recognizing, legitimizing, and conferring official recognition on their private fantasies on behalf of the whole of society, and thereby forcing the rest of us to participate.

  • I’m a life-long doofus Catholic who has besties who are straight, gay, Christian, non-C, etc. I find that God isn’t making me pick who to love – He wants us to love all. There’s so many mysteries in our faith and I like to think that if I can’t find the answer to some, then trying to figure out gay love-marriage mystery isn’t going to get answered in this lifetime either. We are all in His image; we are all His beloved children. He loves each and everyone of us. We are imperfect beings and God doesn’t expect us to be perfect. But I’m so thrilled you are converting to Catholicism! congratulations! May God continue to bless you and keep you in His warm embrace!

  • Amy

    Nothing has taught me more about this subject than John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. JPII taught me that the Church’s views on sexuality are really about objectification of one’s partner getting in the way of a true love in Christ. True Christian love is about sacrificing your whole self for your partner in order to create new life naturally (in the form of children), which can only happen between a man and a woman. This is opposed to erotic love, which is sex used to pleausure one’s own self, which is entirely selfish. Because a homosexual relationship cannot create new life, it can only be erotic (no matter how many chores you do for your same-sex partner). It is for this same reason that the Catholic Church has a stance against contraception and pre-marital sex, and the reason why Catholic sacramental marriage includes the vow to (attempt to) have children.

    I am probably doing a horrible job explaining it all, but look up Christopher West, who does a great job of explaining it biblically.

    • Amy

      And to some extent I think our own physical desires often prevent us from seeing the Catholic teachings of sex as being entirely in sync with natural law–that is, the purpose of sex is procreation.

    • Kyle

      Leah, I would love to see you do some posts about Theology of the Body.

  • Monika Diaz

    I just read the news on CNN about your conversion to Catholicism, I think that is great, but as a fellow Christian in the faith of Jesus Christ who died for us in the cross I felt in me a compulsion to tell you something. I recently myself got saved (3 months ago), I accepted Jesus in my heart, repented of my sins, and I’m currently struggling with the wickedness of my heart, for we know that “the wages of sin is death” Rom 6:23. Have you done this? have you become a new being through the Lord Jesus? , “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” 2 Cor 5:17. Have your old ways come to pass? I have been christian my entire life, so how come I got saved 3 months ago? That’s the thing the old me had never died. I had never been born again (born in spirit, not flesh). “But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness” Rom 8:10. Do you know that salvation is more than believing, is more like falling in love (with Him)? “And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.” Luke 9:23-24. What is love but sacrifice, love is more than words, is action. The Lord Jesus showed to us what is the greatest act of love, that of dying on the cross for us.
    Also being a christian is not about religion, but a relationship with God, do you currently have a relationship with Him? Can you listen to the voice of the whisperer? ” And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice” 1 King 19:12. “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” Col 2:8
    For a Christian, life is harder, you will be rejected, sometimes by the people closest to you (Jesus was betrayed by his own disciple) “If the wold hates you, remember that it hated me first” John 15:18. Furthermore, the temptations will be greater, the enemy does not care when you are out in the world, he that is a “deceiver, the greatest of all”. But when you are troubled just pray and trust in the Lord. ” “The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.” Psalm 18:2
    One last thing I’ll say, you mention in this blog that you are bisexual. The testimony that my best friend has (the one that invited me to church, that by the way is called The Potter’s House) is that she was lesbian. She is 23 years old and has never been with man. She had only felt attraction towards women. She used to think that was the way she was, and she would feel guilty of it, but could not change. She even tried dating guys, but it did not work. She just did not feel anything. Now when she got saved, she got delivered from that right away. After she told her testimony, another girl in the church just recently came out with the same testimony, saying that she was ashamed of telling people what she was. Now after hearing from my friend’s testimony at church, she felt emboldened to talk about it. I remember seeing her crying and saying that for the first time in her life she had a feminine hairstyle, I will never forget that. Whatever is in your mind that your are the way you are and you cannot change, it is a lie. I have seen it with my own eyes, people can change, not with our own strength, but with the strength of the Lord Jesus. “Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God.” 1 Cor 6:9-10 Before you say I’m being to literal, remember that the bible is word of God, and God is Truth, if you chose to believe some things and not others, then you are implying (and I’m not talking really about what you say, but what is in your heart) that God is a liar, and that is blasphemy. Please, don’t take what I’m saying the wrong way, God is a loving God, but he is also a “consuming fire”. God’s eternal wrath is real. I purposed in my heart that I will not play with this, not anymore.
    I remember myself on the first weeks of my salvation crying to God, because I found myself with so much doubt (incredibly enough I never doubted the word of God before being saved) and so little understanding, and specially so much fear. I started to doubt even His own existence, even though I had never done so before. This website helped me a lot. I started reading this pastor’s study on the Bible that have been true eye openers and I would like to share it with you. I see the Bible now in an incredible different light : http://bible.org/byauthor/10
    Do not lose faith, trust the Lord, and “gird up the loins of the mind” the true battle is in hour head. May God bless you and bring you truth and understanding.

  • calahalexander

    Leah! You’re not playing it safe in the shallow end at all, are you? Holy crap. I can’t believe you posted on this already. I love your post, I love your honesty, and most of all, I wish I could take you out for a drink. I’m sure you’ll need one after reading all the comments (personally, I gave up 1/3 of the way through). I can’t tell you how much I admire you for trying to work through all this in the way that you are. It’s beautiful to watch.

  • AS

    You weren’t ever an atheist, you fraud. Agnostic on your best day.

    • KL

      I love the smell of the “No True Scotsman” fallacy in the morning. Especially with years of evidence to refute the claim.

    • Slan21

      Atheist =/=> sceptic, materialist, etc.
      You can be atheist and superstitious, or believe in an objective morality.

      • Steve

        Although that’s true, I would prefer superstitious people to not to call themselves Atheist at all. They are just way too easy prey for the believer community, case in point here. The problem is that people know the term Atheism, they are significantly less aware and understand even less the term Materialist. Non-materialist Atheists are somewhat rare. It is too bad that one of them made the big news today and that somehow she was representative of the community at large (prominent Atheist) when she is everything but. This is just sad.

  • PJ

    Monika makes some wise points.

    However, we must be careful when we speak of the wrath of God. The Apostle John tells us that, “God is love.” We also know that God does not change. He was, is, always will be love, as exemplified by the self-emptying and self-sacrifice of Christ, the Suffering Servant, who is meek and mild of heart. When we are wicked, we experience the infinite love of God as pain, just as a cheating husband is tormented by the purity and fidelity of his wife.

    Before anyone starts pointing to Sodom and Gomorrah, let me to a Scripture upon which I often meditate:

    “And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem, And sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him. And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem. And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of (Luke 9:51-55).”

    I deny not the judgment of God, but let us remember that His justice is rooted in His mercy, as the parable of Workers in the Vineyard demonstrates. When men start to wield about the “wrath of God,” it too easily becomes a bludgeon to whack others. The judgment of God is mystery. We should strive to see all things through the Cross, that ultimate sign that God loves us before we ever love Him.

  • Anna

    Personally and ultimately, I believe with the faith of a child that “God doesn’t make mistakes”. People are not mistakes whatever flavor they come in. My son came out at 15 and tried to commit suicide in an attempt to reconcile himself with Catholicsm. In trying to assure him he’s okay, it hit me out of nowhere and louder than an earthquake, God made him the way he is and far be it from me to tell him who he should and shouldn’t love. I support his desire and belief in marriage as much as he does mine and as much as I do my daughter’s. God gave us love and love is not wrong and if He bring him someone as a life-long partner than I’m happy and he is blessed.

    • pagansister

      Anna, I’m so glad your son didn’t succeed in his suicide attempt—and it is, IMO, very sad that he thought that would reconcile himself with his Catholic faith. For what it is worth, I wish him the best. Love between 2 consenting adults is not wrong, no matter what combination that happens to be! :o)

  • DavidM

    Litany of Gendlin? What nonsense. Dear Leah: Your decisions do change the world. How could you possibly deny that (as an atheist, as a Catholic inquirer, or as whatever)? The truth isn’t simply there to be interacted with – we have to seek it out before we can interact with it. Sometimes we have to die to self, give up cherished ideas, begin to endure truths that we were previously oblivious to. People prefer lies sometimes, precisely so they don’t have to endure the truth.

    Your Lewis quote serves you very badly, I’m afraid. It is clear enough in the Christian tradition that gambling is not inherently evil. There is no parallel with homosexual marriage – it is not something people might legitimately take part in with some of those doing so being tempted to do so so in a vicious way; on the contrary, it is an ideological invention, which one chooses to embrace or not, that is plainly contrary to the whole Christian moral tradition – i.e., it’s nothing like gambling.

    For strictly secular arguments against state promotion of the novel institution of ‘gay marriage’ you might be interested in the arguments of a philosopher named Margaret Somerville. All the best.

    • Cous

      Indeed – truth is not an indifferent 3rd party to be studied, it’s everything; your happiness and beliefs are part of the truth-map of the world, and if you change those, then you have changed the world. People may be “already enduring” moral truths but they will be infinitely worse off if they don’t have the right stance towards them. That’s like saying I can be indifferent about whether I’m driving towards the edge of a cliff, because I’m driving towards it whether I know it or not.

      • DavidM

        And this really gets to the heart of what Leah has described as driving her conversion: If atheism were true, then morality couldn’t be a person and it seems the universe just wouldn’t care about morality – so if it is true that people feel that racism is awesome, that would just be reality and we would just have to own up to it. Someone might not like it, but so what?: that would be, indifferently, just another part of reality… but – sans Dieu – there is no transcendent quality found in reality itself.

        “People can stand what is true, for they are already enduring it.” – Tell that to a person in a Nazi extermination camp.

        • I think you’re missing the point- the person in the Nazi camp would not be any better off if he didn’t know he was in a nazi camp. He’d actually be worse off. If he know the situation he’s in, he can make the best judgements and take the best action he can to accomplish whatever his goals are (survival, presumably)

          The point of the Litany of Gendlin is that’s it’s categorically better to interact with the world as it is rather than the world as it isn’t. It’s a claim that the better your map, the better decisions you will be able to make.

          There’s a very real sense where we can be psychologically happier not knowing the truth- but the consequences of the truth are going to bite us nonetheless.

          • leahlibresco

            Bingo. This.

          • Edgar

            Can anyone know the world as it is? No one can. We see the world according to the matrix of our conditioning. That is why there are many truths. Plural. And our perception is our reality. And as we come across things we do not understand, we are, as you say, bitten by reality. And as reality impinges on our conditioning, our awareness grows – as does our perception. And the world as it is becomes the world as it is now, ever changing in time and space.

          • DavidM

            Nonetheless, the Litany of Gendlin is mistaken, for the reasons I initially gave. If there is a transcendent score settler (if God is there to enact restorative justice), then perhaps there is a point to saying that it is categorically better to interact with the world as it is… But this doesn’t really even make sense in many contexts. The world, IN REALITY, includes finite subjects (e.g., human beings), and this subject-being doesn’t simply stand in abstract opposition to objective being, but is itself both subjective and objective FOR ITSELF. The world is fundamentally in the act of becoming; it is not just accomplished being towards which one can try to assume an ideal relationship of objective truth-relatedness – perhaps, for example, taking oneself as a fundamentally a ‘survivor,’ as you suggest, such that the measure of one’s success is measured by one’s survivability. What Gendlin misses is that one must put oneSELF on the line, life is risk, the truth is risky, the truth may not be pleasant – especially if you’re an atheist, but also if you’re prepared to grant that atheism’s claim – there is no God – is even a coherent possibility.

          • DavidM

            It’s important to note that in traumatic situations, the ‘survival’ response of human beings – who are not nothing, but are also not gods (Pascal) – is often to detach from the truth, whether this is psychological repression, or plain old blacking out.

  • DavidM

    To confirm the Church’s position on gambling, see CCC 2413: “Games of chance (card games, etc.) or wagers are not in themselves contrary to justice. They become morally unacceptable when they deprive someone of what is necessary to provide for his needs and those of others. The passion for gambling risks becoming an enslavement. Unfair wagers and cheating at games constitute grave matter, unless the damage inflicted is so slight that the one who suffers it cannot reasonably consider it significant.”

  • bryan

    you chose to become catholic because of the moral compass, yet, the vatican released an official document in 1964 to cover up all the sexual abuse of children or face excommunication. How do you feel about the document, that was written to protect priests from the claims of child abuse, but not the children?

    • Can you provide a link to this document?

      • Jesse Weinstein

        I suspect bryan was referring to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crimen_Sollicitationis .

      • bryan

        there’s a lot of documents that point to the coverup of abuse/crime from the highest of powers within the church.

      • bryan

        Also, it was the current pope who was in charge of enforcing the document back in 1962. If you love children and care about them, then the best thing for that child is to NOT be around a catholic church. The Vatican has A LOT of money and power, they can silence who ever they want and coverup whatever they want.

  • Michelle

    Leah, something to consider as you go through this is that there are no good arguments against homosexuality itself (setting aside marriage for a moment). I’ve talked to many Catholics on this and all I got was that it was “spiritually abusive” and contrary to human dignity…but no explanation of why. And these are some very smart Catholics I was talking to. I’d be interested in your thoughts on this – why the condemnation of same-sex relationships if there’s no harm to be found in them? Every single social issue I’ve heard discussed from the Catholic perspective can be explained and reasoned out in mostly secular terms, but this one doesn’t even have a religious explanation as to why it’s harmful. Do you think the Church has a meaningful (not arbitrary) reason to condemn same-sex relationships within itself? Thanks!

    • KL

      Michelle, with all due respect, the Catholics you spoke to may have been smart, but they were not very educated — on this issue, at least. The Catholic position on sexuality, with all its corollaries, rests on the assumption that sexual activity is, in and of itself, meant to be both unitive and procreative. That is, the purpose of human sexuality is to participate in an act that has the potential both to bring persons closer together and cooperate with God in the creation of new life. It is meant to be an expression of total and self-giving love, a material and physical reflection of the way in which God loves us (drawing us into unity with himself and creating life).

      This principle informs numerous Catholic teachings on sexuality. It’s why extra-marital heterosexual activity is discouraged, since total, unselfish self-gift without reservation is only possible within the lifelong bond of marriage. It’s why masturbation, which is neither unitive nor procreative, is not a valid expression of sexuality. It’s why contraception is unacceptable, since it artificially interferes with the procreative aspect of sexual intercourse, whether through physical barriers or chemical manipulation of natural biological processes. And it’s why homosexual intercourse is likewise unacceptable, since by its very nature (regardless of the two individuals involved), it can never be procreative.

      One can, of course, take issue with one or more of the premises involved in this argument. But the Catholic teaching on homosexual intercourse is very consistent with its overarching understanding of the nature and purpose of human sexuality.

    • Michelle

      Oh, they told me all of that. But that does nothing to explain why an inability to procreate is wrong and “spiritually abusive.” Why is the potential for children (within the context of marriage) the deciding factor in what is sexually acceptable? That’s what I’ve never gotten an answer to.

      • KL

        Well, I tried to gesture at that in my first post — in that all sexuality, from the Catholic point of view, is a reflection of God’s expression of life-giving love. By engaging in sexual intercourse, human beings are able to be partners with God in creating new humans; it’s a striking concept! Sex, by its nature, is meant to be both engendering of unity and potentially life-creating. Any sexual activity, whether heterosexual or homosexual, that fails to fulfill either one of those criteria is thus not a valid expression of sexuality.

        I’m not sure where the phrase “spiritually abusive” came from in your conversations; it’s not one that I’ve ever come across, and I personally don’t think it’s an accurate depiction of why the Church teaches against homosexual activity.

        • So infertile couples shouldn’t have sex?

          • Maureen

            In the Bible, it’s made very plain that infertile couples should have sex (plenty of sex), keep loving each other despite the inherent frustration and sadness, and keep hoping that God will make them fertile.

            Abraham and Sarah were infertile, until they founded an entire nation from their son. There are many other Biblical examples of infertile couples who are specially favored by God, and rewarded for their patience with a specially destined child.

            (Abraham’s story also points out that surrogate mothers have a sucky lot, just like there are a lot of stories about how polygamy isn’t the best plan. In case that was where you were going.)

          • KL

            No, since even an infertile heterosexual couple is engaging in an act that, in and of itself (again, regardless of the state of the individuals engaging in it), is ordered toward the possibility of procreation. (This is also why it is acceptable for even a fertile couple to have intercourse when they know there is no chance of conception — as is the case when using natural family planning methods.) If a couple cannot conceive, it is due to imperfection in one or both spouse’s reproductive capacity, whether due to illness, congenital issues, or the aging process. Homosexual intercourse, however, cannot and will not ever be procreative, even if the parties involved are in perfect health at their physical prime. It is a different category of activity.

    • Cous

      hi Michelle, I’m assuming you mean “same-sex sexual relationships,” there’s no condemnation against same-sex friendships (obviously) and homosexual orientation itself is not something you can be morally responsible for. Not sure what internet-deprived corner of the world your friends were living in, but the Church has hardly been reserved on why (forgive the graphic language) vaginal intercourse between a man and woman is the only proper expression of human sexual capacity, and that it should only occur within the context of marriage. From there, it’s pretty obvious that any sexual act between two people of the same sex cannot fit that description. For a recent religious book, Love and Responsibility or Theology of the Body, by John Paul (before and after he was elected pope). But you could go all the way back to Aquinas or the Church Fathers for additional Church teaching on this. For a secular account that does explicitly addresses gay marriage, an essay and forthcoming book called What Is Marriage?.

      If you meant to ask about romantic, non-sexual relationships where both partners accept that they can never get married…well, I won’t make more work for myself, but go ahead and ask about it if that’s what you meant.

      • Michelle

        I think I’m asking a much deeper question than has been addressed. I haven’t seen anything explaining WHY same-sex sexual relationships are wrong. Literally everything else the Church condemns, even if I disagree, is based in some recognition of a physical or psychological harm, and I can appreciate that. No one that I have seen has ever explained precisely where that harm lies in same-sex sexual relationships.

        Also, that paper out of Harvard, if you look deeper (I painfully read the whole thing a while ago), cites the USCCB and uses as support several studies that are not only from biased sources like the Witherspoon Institute but that also don’t even discuss same-sex parenting, only “broken” vs “unbroken” heterosexual families.

        • Oregon Catholic

          Michelle, At it’s simplest and most basic it is because it is not how God designed sex to be and sex has a spiritual purpose as well as a physical one. Homosexual behavior violates God’s Law for how we are to use our sexual capacity. Society treats sex so casually that people have lost any reverence for it or even remembrance of it’s higher purpose which is to reflect our relationship with God and to be co-creators with God in bringing new life and new eternal souls into being. Homosexual behavior mocks God.

          There are numerous books and articles that go into great detail on why violating Natural Law is harmful to individuals and society. You have to be willing to read and ponder with an open mind and not with an agenda.

          • Michelle

            “At it’s simplest and most basic it is because it is not how God designed sex to be and sex has a spiritual purpose as well as a physical one.”

            So…basically just because. Everything else is forbidden (against God’s Law) because it causes harm, this is forbidden…because.

          • Oregon Catholic

            Last try since I think you are being purposely obtuse. In fact you must be since you posted this just above –
            “Literally everything else the Church condemns, even if I disagree, is based in some recognition of a physical or psychological harm, and I can appreciate that.”

            Read my 12:48 pm response to Rosemary below for a concrete example of physical harm.

          • Michelle

            Is that actually why you’re against it? I don’t think it is, because that’s never ever brought up as a reason among Catholics (or, Catholicists, as I’m going to start calling you guys, since “homosexualist” doesn’t seem to strike you as offensive), only when you’re pressed for answers. You ignore the fact that many other forms of sexual expression (use your imagination) are quite a bit less likely than heterosexual intercourse to be painful/injurious. I think you’re badly confused about your own reasoning.

          • Michelle

            My mistake, you are obviously using that word because you consider it offensive. Pro tip: it sounds really, really ridiculous. Also, I did answer your question from below. You didn’t answer mine about whether I should marry a woman because I have a “masculine personality.”

        • Cous

          hey Michelle, wasn’t intending to jump ship on this convo, but had no computer access over the weekend – this problem has been hashed out in excruciating detail elsewhere on this blog (and in many other online discussions, articles, and books); but it sounds like you’re asking about the Church’s underlying framework of moral reasoning, not just her conclusions specifically on homosexual acts. I don’t understand why you think that the Church’s teachings measure the wrongness of an action by looking at physical and psychological harms, the Church definitely not consequentialist about morality, nor does she practice mere divine command theory (e.g. it’s ONLY wrong because God said so). Exhibit A: contraception. It has to do with the type of beings that humans are (sexually reproducing; having a gender; being rational; being mortal; learning by imitation; needing society; capable of language production; etc.). Any harm that contraception has on the couple’s relationship is because violating moral principles in one realm of human’s action has effects that trickle over into other areas, because humans are one integrated being; the wrongness of contraception is not based on observed harms, but on a train of reasoning that starts by understanding of man as a sexual being with particular sexual capacities and by combining that with certain principles about intentional human acts and what morality aims at (the good of the human person).

          Natural law does not derive morality from what’s “natural,” which is kind of a meaningless standard anyway (what abominations can’t you find somewhere in nature?), it means that you can “read” man’s morality from the way he is built, the abilities he has, the type of thing he is. As I often like to repeat, if humans were physiologically the same except that we reproduced asexually (OK, so some minor physiological adjustments would be needed), the Church’s teachings on sexual morality would apply the same principles but come to different conclusions. Marriage would be a meaningless concept, for example; morally speaking, sodomy would merely be a more intense version of kissing. Does that clarify the matter at all?

          (Also, it’s been a while since I read the Harvard paper, but as I remember it, you can pretty clearly separate out the philosophical and sociological arguments; my impression was that their teleological arguments require no reference to “biased” sources like the ones you have issues with.)

          • Michelle

            Nicely explained. I don’t agree with the conclusions or the idea that determinations of wrongness should be based on anything other than harm, and I think the Church’s position ultimately does much more harm than good, but I really do appreciate your explanation!

  • PJ


    “I’ve talked to many Catholics on this and all I got was that it was “spiritually abusive” and contrary to human dignity…but no explanation of why.”

    There are entire books written to answer your question. Apparently your interlocutors had not read them. If you’re interested, the arguments are there, and they are apparently persuasive to many people.

    Even the brute facts of physiology reveal homosexuality to be disordered. For instance, the anus, unlike the vagina, is not meant to be penetrated. This used to be common sense. Now it is apparently a shock to many people. On an emotional level, it is obvious that the female personality balances and complements the male personality, and vice versa. This has been universally recognized by humankind, and is the basis from mysticism and mythology, east and west. It is therefore no surprise that domestic violence is so prevalent among same-sex couples, or why infidelity is so widespread.

    As Christians, we are called to love everyone. That is why we counsel homosexuals to avoid intimate same-sex relationships: they are harmful to body, mind, and spirit, especially in comparison to a life of abstinence and consecration to God. Celibacy can be beautiful: it should be celebrated, not scorned.

    • Michelle

      “Not meant to be” doesn’t really mean a whole lot morally. Ears aren’t meant to have holes poked in them, but it does no harm and no one has a problem with it. Skin isn’t mean to be permanently drawn on, but few people would say “it’s not meant to be” and use that as an argument against tattooing. Are we meant to spend hours on a computer instead of hunting and gathering to feed our families?

      Personality, too – what does that mean? What is a feminine or a masculine personality? If I’m stoic, practical, and not concerned with appearances, does that make me masculine? Is a warm, caring, stay-at-home dad who loves to cook feminine? Human personality is so diverse that to say that men and women have complementary personalities simply isn’t logical.

      • DavidM

        “Not meant to be” doesn’t mean a whole lot morally? I think you should play that line back to yourself as many times as is necessary until the absurdity of it strikes you. In any case, what is your position: what is sex meant for?

        • I want you to answer Michelle’s points about pierced ears, computer use, etc., before you simply deny her thesis, “Not meant to be doesn’t imply morality” point blank. I think she has played that line back to herself plenty and the absurdity still hasn’t struck her. Nor I.

          By the way, I’m a nurse and I insert things into rectums all the time. Suppositories. Thermometers. Rectal tubes. Etc. I better stop, huh? Either that, or I suggest you clarify the difference between these uses.

          • DavidM

            If you think, in a moral context, that ears are not meant to have holes poked in them, then you ought not to poke holes in them. “Not meant to be” can have uses that are morally neutral, but it is still crucially morally important to establish what a thing is meant for. (I.e., you need to BEGIN by answering my question: What is sex for? – The moral significance of sex and what it is NOT for must be worked out on the basis of a prior understanding of this question.) Fingers are meant for all sorts of things (like tapping on a computer), penises and vaginas are much more limited. Do you really think that the point about using computers vs. hunting and gathering is a serious one? I’ll suggest this might be because you have dismissed the crucial role of thinking about the role of the “meant to be/not meant to be”-question in moral reasoning. For anyone who has not neglected this stage of inquiry, that objection should appear as absurdly naive grasping.

      • Corita

        Hi, Michelle, the argument for the Catholic theology of sex hinges greatly on something exhibited in the fundamental difference between the function of skin and ears, and the function of the sex organs.

        Catholic theology has its roots in a concept of Natural Law; that is, the way the created world functions –or appears to be meant to function– signals us as to the Divine Will. Modern sensibilities, with our ability to manipulate, decorate, and subjugate so much of creation to our own will, means many of us find the whole Natural Law thing bizarre. But the ears and skin, important as they are, are not fundamentally involved in bringing new children into being.

        And that is the other important part of Catholic theology of sex: As I told my son during one of our (many) sex talks, the Serious Thing about sex for us is that, a new life is a new soul. We, in our time-bound mortal bodies, co-operate with the Creator to make a new, eternally alive and free-willed person present in the world.

      • PJ

        Rosemary and Michelle,

        In deciding what is right and wrong in light of natural law, one must ask, “Does this forward the flourishing of the human person?” And to answer that question, one must know the goal of human flourishing, which is union with God. Union with God is not compromised by piercing one’s ears, nor by receiving an anal suppository. However, homosexuality is deleterious to physical, mental, and spiritual health, as is evident from high rates of promiscuity, substance abuse, domestic violence, depression, suicide, sexually transmitted disease, and so on and so forth. This maelstrom of self-harm, which is rooted in the sexual act, absolutely does not forward union with God. As such, it is “not meant to be.”

        I do not believe homosexuality is a “disease” or anything of the sort. It is just another manifestation of human sinfulness, to be avoided and eventually overcome through the love of God. I am a drug addict. I do not think myself any better or worse than a homosexual. Indeed, in many ways my special sin is worse. At least in homosexuality there is the going-beyond-the-self. My sin is entirely, entirely, entirely selfish. “Lord, I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof, but only say the Word and my soul shall be healed.”

        • “homosexuality is deleterious to physical, mental, and spiritual health, as is evident from high rates of promiscuity, substance abuse, domestic violence, depression, suicide, sexually transmitted disease, and so on and so forth.”

          The best research shows that what makes many homosexuals miserable is intolerance, See http://www.cdc.gov/msmhealth/stigma-and-discrimination.htm for a good index page that links to more information.

          Think about how hurt you are (or at least, how hurt I imagine you might be) every time you hear an angry atheist proclaiming how the RCC is morally corrupt and worse than valueless, or that being RCC is incompatible with reason, or that members of the RCC are all bigots, or that everyone in the RCC is hypocritical and stupid. Then imagine you couldn’t escape it. It was everywhere. Your family said it, your friends said it, everyone you know at school said it, you couldn’t get a good job because of your religion . . . etc. Just possibly, might that drive you to misery?

          There is often a higher rate of STD transmission among men having sex with men, because the mechanics of their intercourse causes a higher level of exposure (more blood, basically). Lesbians have a far LOWER rate of transmission of many STDs. Worldwide, though, the spread of HIV is fueled mostly by heterosexuals. In Africa this is sometimes because the man is promiscuous, becomes infected, comes home to his wife, infects here, and then their children are born with HIV. Nothing gay about it.

          Other than depression from being kicked around, there aren’t higher rates of mental illness among homosexuals than anyone else.

          • Michelle

            Rosemary, awesome. Thanks for all your comments. 🙂

            To address the other comments: “Not meant to be” truly doesn’t mean anything for me morally. I suppose we aren’t meant to kill each other, but that’s not why I don’t do it – I don’t do it because it causes a clear, identifiable harm (death of a person). Evolutionarily, I’m pretty sure I’m not meant to spend most of my days inside reading articles and writing essays, but I do it. You need to think deeper than “not meant to be.”

            As for the comments below, does it matter? I’m not sure what kind of people you know, but people are individuals and their personalities are not perfect reflections of their sex. By standard stereotypes, I have a pretty masculine personality – should I suppress my heterosexuality and marry a woman?

          • Slow Learner

            Can I reciprocate that sneaky crush? 😉

          • Oregon Catholic

            “There is often a higher rate of STD transmission among men having sex with men, because the mechanics of their intercourse causes a higher level of exposure (more blood, basically).”

            As well as increased risk of cancers and infections and ruptured rectums and incompetent anuses requiring the use of diapers, etc. etc.

            How ironic that you, and as an RN too, make this basically a throwaway line in conceeding what you seem to want to be a minor point!! And yet it is a definitive illustration of why sex between two men is abnormal in the most fundamental way possible. The body is actually screaming the out the message that sex this way is harmful and against nature, but you are deaf and blind to it.

          • Michelle

            Slow Learner, how scandalous! 🙂

          • DavidM

            The problem her is that claim is quite likely just not true, that homosexuals commit suicide because everybody’s mean to them. You can see this in cross-cultural studies: a society that is gay-friendly or gay-hostile doesn’t make a difference. Also think about the reality of persecuted Catholics, say in England: was there a higher incidence of suicide among Catholics? “Of course, there must have been,” you might say. But that is in fact not correct. I’m pretty sure your a priori reasoning is mistaken and you’re simply not looking at reality in order to ground your assertions.

      • Oregon Catholic

        Maybe you can explain something to me that I have always wondered about. Why is that in so many lesbian couples one woman seems typically feminine and the other seems to almost be a caricature of masculinity? It is as if they are trying to re-create a heterosexual relationship. That doesn’t seem to support your notion that complementary gender-role or personality is unimportant.

        • Oregon Catholic

          I’m addressing the above comment to Michelle.

          • PJ

            Precisely. The distinctions of sexual demeanor common to the homosexual dynamic (aggressives vs. passives) are attempts to recreate the natural distinctions necessary and natural to the heterosexual dynamic.

          • Oregon Catholic

            I’m noticing I’m not getting anything but the vaguest attempt at an answer above. More of that blindness and deafness and singing la la la la…. I see so often when the really hard questions come up that homosexualist defenders have no good answer for.

      • Mark

        You’re wrong to be asking these questions to these people. Now let me explain why: you’re employing the use of logic. I suppose I agree with your position that most Catholic do

  • Robert

    I appreciate what you’ve done, which you probably won’t see, but in no doubt will feel. Atheism is given a bad rep in that it is perceived as something that is definative and can never be rethought without being crazy. You’ve shown those that may have just a small belief that it is ok to find something that aligns with those beliefs and call it their own. You conquered your own doubts and have moved closer in your journey and in doing so have helped others begin theirs. God Bless you.

  • 180_Degrees_From_Sanity

    As a recent Athiest – Catholicism convert myself I cannot imagine what it is like to convert so publicly. I am struggling with the same issues. I can get the stance on contraception. Even on abortion. As an athiest looking into the heavens realizing how big the universe was, how rare life is, I can only see it as precious.

    I like the idea of two people of the same sex taking a vow to truly love one another and inviting christ into thier lives at the same time, regardless of what goes on behind closed doors or what sins they are still dealing with. Intuitively, to me, it seems right. Prayer has yet to sway me in this either. Maybe it will. I can only think that the church moves at a glacier’s pace and I shouldn’t let being “stuck” on the issue keep me from finding my way to truth.

  • Matthais777

    Yuck. I think the comments section proves what kinda company your keeping now Leah. I gotta say, i’m taking bets for how long till you either get your head on straight, or start proclaiming to the world what disgusting filthy sinners us bi-sexuals are and how christ led you out of “Sexual hedonism” as your new fans like to call it. Christians are just as immoral as their god.

    • Cous

      Fear not, she appears to have a good long-term strategy in place for staving off Bible-quoting love-fests.

    • 180_Degrees_From_Sanity

      Yup, I hear a lot of that coming from some christians. I also noticed a little too graphic imaginings of what goes on in a homosexual relationships on EWTN the other day when I tried to listen in (I switched the channel, do they not know children might be listening at 3:00 in the afternoon? ). The Catholics I am closest to would never call a fellow sinner a hedonist. Disgusting Filthy sinner is also something I would not expect to hear. I’m following Leah closly because I don’t have a terribly logical answer for my conversion and am hoping that maybe she does.

      My wife is still a card carrying UU and thinks I have had a stroke or nervous breakdown. I have yet to tell some of my closest friends of my conversion, especially those who are LGBT. Mostly because I love them and it worries me that my conversion will hurt them in some way. I also am confused by some Catholics I ask questions of and get the answer of “I don’t know much about the church or its beliefs other than I should go to Mass on Sundays”
      As far as “Christians are just as immoral as their God” goes. All of them?

      • Matthais777@yahoo.com

        Since there is really no way to properly explain my own opinion without writing a small dissertation about it, i’ll say “My apologies, i should have said “Most”, but “Most” implies that some of the ones who aren’t immoral are moral because of their faith, when in my observation they are moral because they are decent people first who have faith second, and will let their decency as human beings override the tenents of their faith.” Any time anyone has ever tried to tell me that christianity itself is moral all i can think is “Bears and scapegoats”.

      • Gina C.

        I know of several people who believe that God has a place for gays in the church. How else are they supposed to grow in faith? This is not a matter of right or wrong it’s a matter of understanding and compassion. If I were you, I would leave the Catholic Church and become Episcopalian before you get burned. There’s also too much Dogma in that denomination. Jesus is everything, why pray to the saints when He’s the one who atoned for our sins. Why talk to a person through prayer when you can talk to God? (Dutch Reformed is another good denomination for you as is liberal Lutheran.) Feel free to contact me, I’ll answer anything.

  • I’ve waited a long, long time for God to raise up a female C.S. Lewis:

    Luke 2:29    “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
    you now dismiss your servant in peace.
    Stay humble precious Leah.

    • R.C.


      As God wills it…but give the lady a little while to catch her bearings, please!

    • ratnerstar

      And I’ve waited a long, long time for God to raise up a white Rick James!

  • terry

    welcome to the true.the catholic church and Jesus.welcome sister

    • pagansister

      Hate to burst your bubble, terry. There is no such thing as a “true” church—not even the Catholic one. For you, it is the TRUE Church—and the Church would have you believe that—makes for great advertizing. However there are many, many religions/faiths in the world, Christian and non-Christian that are just as “true” for their followers. Many are much older than the Catholic faith. Some of those followers may feel theirs is the only one, but many also recognize that other faiths are just as true and have no feeling that if someone isn’t a member of that particular faith that they are somehow “condemned” to a really bad place.

  • Richard Conti

    I am glad that you have come to know God. One God, for all people.
    How we worship God has split us into a multitude of religions, and (excepting animism, ancestor worship and the like) we are all worshiping the one God. Since our introduction to the God of Abraham, we have given Him a name, have asked His name, and have used His name in vain. The bottom line is, God is God , and His name is, I Am. Fitting for One who is all ! As a Catholic, I follow the Church as it has evolved from the time of God’s Son, and our messiah, Jesus Christ. Catholicism has many rules, some of which are not amenable to some people, hence a plethora of other Christian Churches. Same God. Judaism, different rules & Non-belief that Jesus is THE messiah. Same God. Islam, different rules, important prophet & non belief that Jesus is the messiah. Same God. Holy Father, Heavenly Father, God, Abba, Allah. Same God.
    Even us Catholics pick & choose our rules when they don’t contradict canons of faith. Faith is a journey and a pathway to Him. I can’t know who will, and who won’t attain heaven, only He can. We must maintain our moral compass, however, and I believe the old adage applies – If it doesn’t sound right, it isn’t. I know killing each other won’t get us to heaven. Neither will disobeying the commandments, or the golden rule. If we apply the commandments to questionable choices, the choices usually become obvious. So when faced with questions about abortion, contraception, same sex relationships etc. , Ask for guidance from him – and the answer may be obvious.
    Blessings +

    • Gina C.

      So this union is acceptable to you as you believe that the God of Islam is God the Father? Yahweh is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob NOT Ishmael and Mohammed. Christ is not a mere prophet as Islam states, he is sitting on a divine throne in heaven as we speak at the right hand of the Father and is God himself as he defeated Satan and atoned for our sins.

  • chris(other)

    Leah, may God’s peace be with you. While the argument about SSM can go many places, down several rabbit holes, I think, given your post the other day about cracking eggs, the big question seems to be about the Church’s rather Aristotelian based terminology regarding the nature of our bodies and their relationship to who we are. This is not specifically a field of revelation, though I think, certainly that the Incarnation bears heavily upon the fleshi-ness of our nature. Likewise, I think your challenge for a Catholic rejection of SSM is a bit misguided. For, while arguments can be made….and right philosophy found, as Aquinas says, the philosophic truth will only be known by a few, after much searching, and mixed with some amount of errors. While that should not be a claim that rejects philosophic inquiry into this discussion, the realization of the nature of the dynamics within a democratic context, whereby most people are nominally Christian – it makes sense for almost all of the Church (both hierarchy and lay) articulation of marriage to be substantively based on revelation. That may not be very satisfying for one working her way into the Church, but the discussion is not geared to make converts per se, but simply to counteract a violation of the moral order first and foremost.

  • The issue is what does sex mean. Starting with homosexuality and asking what problems it creates is backwards. What does it means to be a man? What does it means to be a woman? What is the purpose of sex? These are the questions we need to answer before we can address all the various sexual acts people find interesting. Once we understand the essence of something we can easily when that essence is contradicted and therefore we are doing something immoral.

    The basic answer is sex is a whole lot deeper and whole lot more meaningful than we imagine. That our bodies and souls can’t be separated. That we are designed to give ourselves away totally in love. A love that will overflow and bless the world. So children become important. Not just to have kids but to have all the forms of fruitfulness God want to give us.

    Modern man thinks he is so smart about sex. He only thinks that because his view is hugely truncated. It is like Chesterton describing the insane man. His world is not irrational but just turned in on itself. Trapped in the physical. Some see a little emotional connection but very little. Then we think we have proved something by declaring we can’t see what is wrong with X.

  • R.C.


    As someone who’d only recently become aware of your blog, I’d no idea that you were a sufficiently public figure to have your conversion mentioned on MSNBC, CNN. (Sorry! And, wow! Quite the compliment, I suppose.)

    But given the publicity associated with your conversion, a thought sprang to mind:

    If you haven’t already checked out what Jennifer Fulwiler said in her post at NCRegister about “spiritual attack,” well…now would be a good time.

    Ideally you should have a good priest, or at least someone solid (stable, businesslike, informed, and calmly orthodox) to talk to about such things, if needed. Someone who won’t be sensationalistic or hyperbolic, but who won’t be dismissive either.

    I’m not saying to watch out for evil voices or anything Hollywood-esque. Don’t worry about it. Just…be informed, and know that it sometimes goes with the territory.

  • Max

    The answer is to get the government out of licensing marriage altogether. In the United States government licensing of marriage began in the 1890s to prevent interracial marriages. Before that, civil marriage began with the French Revolution, when the anti-Church revolutionaries refused to recognize marriages officiated in Church (or private institutions for those of other faiths). As a Libertarian, I’ve long believed that when government gets involved in a realm it should not be in (the most intimate of private relationships), it causes more strife than it fixes. Marriage from a secular point of view will always be a contract. The role of government is to enforce contracts if they must be ended and the parties cannot come to terms between themselves. So government would still be there in case of divorce and other such things. We just wouldn’t have these silly arguments over who should be allowed to go to City Hall to have their love validated.

  • Let the girl have some time. I converted to Catholicism at roughly the same age as Leah (23) and it took me some time (i.e. a few years) to totally accept the Church’s teaching on a few issues, even though I was quite aware that it was extremely likely that the Church was right and I was wrong, even though I couldn’t necessarily see how at the time. Our previous experiences and beliefs leave a mark on us and it normally is a gradual process for the Holy Spirit to “transform us by renewing our minds.”

  • I honestly think the best solution is that the government should get out of the marriage business and grant civil unions to all couples, granting certain basic rights regardless of gender. I don’t hear anyone arguing that homosexual couples shouldn’t have hospital visiting rights,* for example.

    Couples who wish to pursue covenantal marriage may do so, then, in any tradition or denomination they like and that allows them. I think the Catholic Church should be free to not marry gay couples. Most gay couples wouldn’t want to get married in the Catholic Church, anyway; those that do can fight internally like Leah; those that don’t, have many other denominations to pick from.

  • Jesse Weinstein

    As other commenters have mentioned, I’m somewhat puzzled at how you can at the same time hold that
    1) “Morality is a person”, objective, universal, perfect, and best expressed through the views of the RCC
    2) that some of the views of the RCC (that you refer as “revealed truths”) should not be applied to people who arn’t Catholics.

    It comes back again to what I asked previously — why do you think this stuff is *true*?

  • SeanD

    Feel free to email me if you want to discuss this more, what follows is my attempt to show why civil same-sex marriage would still be ethically wrong.

    I am sure you know and understand the natural law argument up to the point that human sexuality is ordered towards procreation. I think you begin to struggle with it because while you admit this point, you still do not see how that must also entail the prohibition of all other sexual activity between consenting adults. My argument would be that since sex is ordered towards procreation then society has a compelling interest in it because the creation of life and the protection of life go hand in hand. Furthermore if the sexual act is a chief concern of society because of its procreative aspect, so too then must society in some way be concerned with the instruments of sexual union. By publicly condoning homosexual acts society would be severing the unique relationship between procreation and heterosexual sex. This can have dire affects, many of which can be found in the contraceptive mentality discussed by Pope Paul VI in Humane Vitae.

    I know this is really compact and not drawn out enough, but I have just started thinking along these lines and am pressed for time right now. Email me if you would like to talke about this more because it will be the surest way to get a hold of me. All the best, and prayers for you on your path into the Church.

  • Corita

    Dear Leah, I read the interview and I was struck by what you said about the possibility of personality being a difficulty; that is, the talk of the warm-fuzzies Jesus relationship, etc. I related quite a lot, but not because I am less emotive…but because I am highly so. I have learned that the desires and emotions of a “Mediterranean” temperament like mine cannot always be trusted in the spiritual journey. My most fruitful times now are the contemplative ones, without a lot of emotional hills and valleys. Also, I hold to the belief that the “personal relationship with Jesus” is at least as much an invention of the post-Romantic, Protestant + personalism culture as it is a spiritual reality, and can become a false idol or at least, an opportunity for despair in certain people.
    It is certainly *not* the only way to relate to the Creator of the universe– I often think of all the people for generations who knew nothing of the “personal” in their spiritual life but observed their duties faithfully and placed their trust in God.
    In the end, what I think we are all called to is to meet Our Lord in an *intimate* relationship, which might or might not involve the kind of emotional romanticism our modern age prizes in its incessant yammering about love. Intimacy can be cultivated in many ways and look like many things, but in the end it is all the same: opening ourselves up to the Other, in Love for the Good of the other.

    The intimacy of dialogue comes to mind, and I think that is something you know quite well.

  • Edgar

    Leah, all this confusion. To me you are a square peg trying to fit herself in a round hole. The round hole, the Church, will never change its shape to conform to yours. So you have to change your shape. This will mean abandoning some of the truths you have learned. I have never thought the Church totally aligns with the truth. In this postmodern world, there are many truths, some in direct conflict. You have to choose those that you can live by. It’s as simple – or as difficult – as that.

  • PJ

    “In this postmodern world, there are many truths,”

    If there are many truths, then there is in fact only one truth: that there exists no truth. And that cannot and must not be so. It is not so. God is Truth. We do not conform ourselves to Him, but He conforms us to Him. Glory to God for all things!

    On the matter of homosexuality, I believe that some of the great saints of this age will be gays and lesbians who choose God over the World; who bear their cross with courage and pride. Homosexuals are stigmatized both outside and inside the Church, so they are in an ideal situation to practice Christlike forgiveness and mercy to their haters. That is the stuff great witnesses are made of.

  • Edgar

    “If there are many truths, then there is in fact only one truth: that there exists no truth.”

    The argument is fallacious in that it assumes that truth is monolithic. It’s not. The Catholic truth is different from the Protestant truth. The Christian truth is different from the Islamic truth. Who is to say which one possesses the one and great truth?

  • Edgar

    “If there are many truths, then there is in fact only one truth: that there exists no truth.”

    The argument is fallacious in that it assumes that truth is monolithic. It’s not. The Catholic truth is different from the Protestant truth. The Christian truth is different from the Islamic truth. And all claiming to be true. Who is to say which is the one and great truth?

  • TR

    Is it just me, or are there a shocking number of new people telling Leah what to believe and do, with massive amounts of condescension? And I’m not talking about the random crazy person (“MY GOD CATHOLICS ARE EVIL!!”), but about purported supporters.

    E.g., “You are wise to be cautious of delusion in prayer. St Paul warns in Colossians…”, “maybe she should have seriously contemplated these issues before joining RCIA”, “you have to change your shape”, “Let the girl have some time”, “Now my dear Leah please walk with me…”, “You are obviously a smart woman…the key will be for you NOT to compromise on that intellectual honesty”.

    Gee. What would she have done without that key?

    You know, folks that like to work out regularly get irritated every New Year by the two-week wonders who flood the gym, and finally trickle away. Kinda feels like that. Maybe they’ll go away eventually, and I can get back to enjoying Leah’s regular fare, with the marvelous comments from anodognosic, deiseach, Hibernia, and others.
    Am I being too grumpy?

    • Peggy Hagen

      Not at all.

  • Rose

    There is no conflict at all between supporting same-sex civil marriage and following and believing the doctrine of the Catholic Church.

    First of all, civil marriage does not and has never fulfilled the Catholic requirements for a sacramental marriage. The Church would not and should not perform a marriage between Hindus, atheist, or couples using contraception. These marriages are alien to the purpose and definition of sacramental marriage. In particular the contracepting couples are transgressing Catholic sexual morality in exactly the same way as a same-sex couple, by separating sex from the possiblity reproduction.Nevertheless, all of them are recognized as equal by the government, and rightly so.

    The second objection, that same-sex marriage is an ontological impossibility because marriage is by definition between a man and a woman, is truly a word game and not a true objection. Same-sex sacramental marriage is indeed a contradiction. But the use of the word marriage under different definitions in the public sphere does not in any way contradict the strictures of sacramental marriage. A Catholic confirmation by definition, among other things, binds the recipient to Christ and the Roman Catholic Church. When a Reform Jewish congregation performs a confirmation, it has nothing to do with those things and is a direct contradiction of the Catholic Church’s understanding of the word. No one claims that a Jewish confirmation is an ontological impossibility. As with the question of marriage, the use of the same word merely implies that there are commonalities (between adults with full consent) as well as differences (said adults must be Catholics and of opposite genders).

    • Brian


      I am afraid you are mistaken, Rose. An orthodox Catholic cannot support civil same-sex unions.

      • Rose

        I’m reading the link (it’s interesting, but so long I wanted to say this before I take the time to go through it). Just to rephrase in light of the rest of my comment: I suppose what I really mean is not whether Catholics can/should support it, but that they have in fact already conceeded, in other contexts, the two main points on which they object.

        • Brian

          Ah, I am sorry if I misunderstood you. I will have to re-read your comments again.

          Please do read the link, though. Stay close to Bryan Cross!

      • PJ

        One’s opinion in regards to this matter might be important, but certainly it is not essential to salvation. What is essential to salvation is feeding the poor, clothing the naked, and caring for the sick; in conjunction with Christ-like self-emptying and joyful love of God and neighbor.

        • Brian

          PJ, what is essential for salvation is for God to decide through his Magisterium. In so far as the prohibition on homosexual acts is a teaching of the universal and ordinary Magisterium, it is a dogma. To dissent from it is to commit heresy – i.e., to destroy the virtue of faith in your soul and cut yourself off from communion with God.

          It is essential.

  • I haven’t really been commenting up until now, but I just had to raise a few points about this latest post:

    C.S. Lewis once said he had no particular weakness for gambling, so he left it and other topics out of his discussion of moral behavior (see below). He didn’t think he had the standing to exhort others on the topic.

    The reply I’d give to this, Leah, would be the same as my reply to Lewis: If it’s in fact true that morality is a person who actively seeks to reveal himself to us, why do you feel you’re not qualified to opine on this topic? Wouldn’t you be just as qualified as anyone else, or are you saying this is an issue on which the source of morality hasn’t said anything to you either way?

    If people can’t muster a convincing argument against gay marriage that doesn’t depend on the revealed truths of the Catholic Church, then asking the government to ban it is like expecting the State to enforce kosher dietary law on everyone (or even only secular Jews). I still support civil gay marriage.

    This is reassuring to me on a personal level, I’ll admit, but I really don’t understand how it squares with your newly adopted worldview. If your belief is that there’s one objective source of morality, and that he has spoken to you personally, how can you continue to maintain that there is or should be a distinction between “civil” and “sacramental” law? Either something is objectively right or it isn’t.

  • Brian

    (Oops, I posted this comment in the wrong place, so I am posting again here.)

    Oh, come on, Leah. Are you going to be a heterodox Catholic? You have run your Catholicism into the ground before it has even started. I have explained before how the principle of private judgment is completely incompatible with the assent of divine faith:


    Suppose a Protestant desires to become Catholic but withholds his assent from a few of the truths which the Church proposes. That individual is using his personal discretion to select from the Catholic “buffet.” Suppose this Protestant is later convinced through exegetical, historical, and philosophical arguments that the truths proposed for his belief by the Church are, indeed, true. He then gives assent to those truths.

    Neither scenario is compatible with the assent of divine faith. Even in the latter scenario, where the Protestant gives his total assent, the motivating principle of the assent is his own private judgment and not a reverent trust in the authority of God who reveals – that is, faith! The Protestant just happens to agree with the Catholic Church. He does not really have faith.

    You can see how this is pertinent to your own conversion, Leah. What you seem to be suggesting is just a theological impossibility. You are approaching Catholicism like that Protestant and not realizing that your paradigm is a non-starter.

    • Just to be clear, Brian: You’re saying that a true Catholic is required to believe whatever the church teaches without even asking what the evidence is, correct?

      • Maureen

        There are a ton of different ways that faith can come to people. I was raised in the ocean from before I can remember; so I’m not worried too much about how the other fish get here, as long as they get here. Actually, I’m more worried about myself staying here. 😉

      • Brian

        I hesitate to answer your question before correcting a possible misunderstanding that you may have about what Divine Faith is.

        Catholicism is not fideistic. Sure, individual Catholics may be fideists, but their fideism would be condemned by the Church. The Church teaches that reason can and must be used to reach certainty about truths which are preliminary to faith – truths which faith presupposes. These truths the Church calls the “praeambula fidei.” The existence of God, the attributes and nature of God (including his omniscience and infallibility), the nature of Man, the immortal soul of Man, the duties that Man has towards his Creator, and the natural moral law are all truths which can be known with certainty through the natural light of human reasons. Further, it can be known with certainty that God revealed himself to man in history through a Son, and that this divine person founded the Catholic Church to be an infallible keeper and teacher of his revelation. These “motiva credibilitatis,” the Church teaches, can be known through reason with certainty.

        Now, seeing that an infallible God has revealed himself through the Church, Man makes an act of faith in God and what he has revealed, knowing that what he is putting his trust in is more sure than any other knowledge because it rests on an omniscient and infallible Teller of truth. Man is being both eminently rational and moral in his faith. Rational, since his faith is prepared for by an intellectual assent based on objective evidence. Moral, since he is bound his duties toward his Creator to believe and trust in Him.

        Catholicism is not rationalistic, though. It does not put to rational tests what has been revealed. It would, first of all, be an impious offense against God. Suppose your closest friend tells you something important that you cannot verify immediately and can only take on his word. You refuse to trust him, though, and perform an exhaustive investigation to see if what he says is true. The investigation reveals that he was telling the truth, and you finally “believe” him after the results of the investigation prove him correct. What does that say about your regard for your friend , your trust in him? Of course, the analogy is not perfect since God is an omniscient and infallible person, but the analogy suffices to show your failure of duty and regard to your Creator. It is your rational and pious duty to believe and trust Him when he makes something known to you. To perform rational tests on that knowledge is methodological atheism, which is irrational and impious.

        Another reason why rationalism fails is because much of Revelation cannot, in principle, be determined by ourselves to be true. No philosopher could think his way to demonstrating, for example, that God is Three Divine Persons. We have no recourse but to trust the Revealer (i.e., the Son of God through his Catholic Church). So your question misunderstands that many of the truths of Revelation could not, in principle, be evident to us this side of the grave. This is another reason why faith is the rational response.

        So yeah, we must believe whatever the Church teaches, even though what she teaches might be not evident to us. But that faith is more sure than any other knowledge since it rests on the authority of God. If the atheist is to complain that trusting the authority of an unknown God is irresponsible, we agree. From there, a discussion of the praembula fidei and the motiva credibilitatis ensues.

        More on faith:

        Wilson vs. Hitches: A Catholic Perspective

        Faith and Revealed Truth

        • I appreciate that disquisition, Brian. Let me just emphasize this part that you said, because I think it’s important:

          Catholicism is not rationalistic, though. It does not put to rational tests what has been revealed. It would, first of all, be an impious offense against God.

          Leah, I do hope you’re listening. 🙂

          • Brian

            Yeah, imagine a small child performing tests on the commands and orders of his parents. That child is a douche bag.

            Now, take that douche baggery and multiply it times an infinity when we’re dealing with the infinite authority, holiness, lovingness, awesomeness, and coolness – Someone who has an absolute stake on your very existence and who wills the good for you. Yeah, you’d be a freaking douche bag.

          • Charles

            This is a false statement. Catholicism claims to be completely rational. I am not going to debate whether it is 🙂 But you get the great tradition of folks like Aquinas precisely because it is rational.

          • TR

            This is terrible – it represents the worst of what critics charge about religion in general and Catholicism in particular. “Don’t question – only use your brain as instructed!” Fortunately, it doesn’t represent the Church, nor the many fine thinkers in the Church. Do you really think you’ll get JP2, Ratzinger, Michael Novak, Von Hildebrand, Macintyre, Teilhard de Chardin, Jacques Maritain, de Lubac (and on and on) with this sort of approach?

            Ratzinger speaks in his Introduction to Christianity (a peerless book) of the “purely tentative fashion” in which theology speaks. In other words, each teaching is simultaneously a confession of ignorance, a feel in the dark for the unutterable. He goes on to use every philosophical tool available to restate the Creed. His, and John Paul II’s, approach to the intertwining claims of faith are reason are much more subtle than this hamhanded slam.

            Fortunately, I say again, no one died and left Brian bishop.

          • TR

            *claims of faith and reason

          • Slow Learner

            Brian, when I have children, I will expect them to test my commands. I will be trying to raise children who can think for themselves, not little automata.
            Yes, if I say “Get out of the road!” I will expect immediate unquestioning obedience, lest the bus run them down; but generally I will expect to have to give reasons for my requests and demands, because unquestioning obedience is creepy.

          • Oregon Catholic

            Slow Learner, give it time. Every parent retreats at times into “because I said so” with pre-schoolers and teens alike because they will hound you to death with whys. ; -) It’s their job but parents have the right to be insrutable sometimes because you can’t always distill wisdom and experience into answers suitable for those with no wisdom and experience.

            God kind of works the same way using the slimest of analogy. There is a point which humans can never see beyond in our limited view and capacity and faith has to take over. It takes humility to know one’s limitations. One of the things I always find the most amusing about atheists is their small-minded arrogance in thinking that if they can’t find ‘evidence’ God exists then God can’t exist. You can’t create the simplest of bacteria from scratch even though science can document a recipe of all the ingredients. Yet you think you can scrutinize God through scientific method (well actually you can discover a lot but you reject simple observation). You truly have to be a legend in your own mind to be an atheist. And atheists think we’re irrational! Go figure.

          • Brian

            TR, the entire reason I gave such a long response to Adam was to avoid precisely your misunderstanding. I thought I successfully avoided it. Nowhere in my post did I say that our assent is brainless – quite the contrary, I tried very hard to show that our assent is in accord with right reason and moral law.

            It is reasonable to trust the word of an omniscient and infallible Truth Teller, and it is moral to accept what your Creator is trying to impart to you. You don’t leave your REASON at the door, but you do leave your RATIONALISM at the door.

            You can ask questions about the faith, and the Church encourages you to use your reason all the way to answer them. But the point I have been emphasizing is that taking a rationalistic approach (i.e., “Screw what the Church teaches, I won’t believe unless *I* see that it is true) is simply the wrong way to go, rationally and morally. In other spheres of intellectual, that approach can sometimes be called for and even laudable, but when you are dealing with a Divine Person and Revealed Truth, it is methodological atheism. Wrong both rationally and morally.

          • TR

            I understand that because finding the Church reasonable requires the use of reason, you believe that assenting to the Church’s teachings is not brainless. But past that acceptance, you believe further questioning is “methodological atheism.” I disagree.

            The Church is a conversation partner, if you will. In our personal and communal disputations over truth and Truth, if we are members of the Catholic body, then we must include the Church in that conversation, with the expectation that her authoritative voice may hold reason.
            The “rationalistic” approach says both, “I won’t believe unless I see that it is true,” and “I will talk with the Church until I believe.”

            On a deeper level, I find your charge of methodological atheism to assume a competition between reason and faith. I analogize this model to the Calvinist model of grace and works, which assumes man’s will and God’s must be opposed – where there is one, there cannot be the other. The Catholic model, by contrast, believes in collaboration; we are enabled by God to freely choose or reject grace. Similarly, human reason and divine faith are not in competition with each other.

            I urge the Catholic both-and – not a dreadful “either post-conversion rationalism OR True Faith” dualism that believes God has nothing to do with reason, and so our human reasoning process must be devoid of God.

            This dualism has three consequences. First, by opposing divine faith and thus God’s grace to human reason, God becomes a creature, a finite demigod – against which the New Atheists justly preach. Second, God is thus not permitted into the human reasoning process (which should actually be seen as an expression of love towards, not against, God). Third, we lose our intellectual integrity.
            This dualism is wrong both rationally and morally.

          • Brian

            TR, I have no idea what you just said. I still think you don’t understand what I wrote, and I am beginning to think that you don’t understand what you are writing, either. In order to get past this confusion, I would have to ask you to define a few terms, but may I suggest a more appropriate venue?


            I hope you take the invitation.

      • Brian

        Addendum: BUT THERE IS NO REASON WHY A CATHOLIC MUST REMAIN IN THAT IGNORANCE!!! 🙂 This the mean of the phrase Faith Seeking Understanding. And this is the challenge to Leah’s Catholicism right now. Will she seek understanding IN faith? Or will she have a methodology of private judgment which precludes faith? Again, since we know already some base facts which prepared our faith assent in the first place, the former methodology is actually the rational one. The latter is the irrational one. (And immoral one.)

    • TR

      Richard John Neuhaus would probably disagree. He wrote that the mark of a Catholic is Ecclesia cum sentire”, thinking with the Church. But thinking with the Church, he liked to say, begins with thinking.

      So suppose a Catholic disagrees with the Church, on whatever. But she thinks the Church may have some sort of divine inspiration, and as a member of the community also thinks herself bound in good faith to continue to grapple with the Church’s teaching, to consider if perhaps there are reasons for the teaching which may eventually prove convincing. This isn’t “private judgment” – it is precisely the definition of thinking with the Church.

      To try to forbid the thinking part, as though it conflicted with the community/Church part…there are an awful lot of philosophical traditions within the Church, and an awful lot of intellectuals have joined up over the years because of the richness of the tradition, and ain’t nobody going to stop nobody from thinking.

  • Robert H.

    Marriage can be defended from the point of view of social benefit and the interest of the state. God created marriage through nature in the human biological expression and the state merely recognized this fact for its own survival. Have a look at the Ruth Institute http://www.ruthinstitute.org/.

  • Scott Taylor

    Sometimes if I am unsure about something, and it is something that I think about a lot, I will spend a lot of time and prayer with God, and if necessary to clear my head, and my heart, I will fast.

  • Doragoon

    I hear a lot of people saying, “Let us not settle what is good; but let us settle whether we are getting more of it.”
    The question is if gay marriage is moral. Does the government have an obligation to only pass laws consistent with objective morality?

  • Adrien

    Two facts to keep in mind in your journey ahead:
    – Faith in god is neither necessary nor sufficient for morality
    -Religious morality, like almost everything else human, is a product of nature and nurture (biology and culture)

    • Matt R

      I’m not sure those are facts. Rather I would say those are two propositions (or even conclusions to a degree) which inform your world view…

    • What you say is true in one sense and understanding and only your point of view sense.
      “Faith in God is neither necessary nor sufficient for morality”
      This is true because faith alone is not enough. We cannot simply say that we believe or simply believe that God is out there, but we must act also. St. Paul says that if we have faith and hope but no Charity we have nothing. This is one side of the coin, but the other side is that if you have full and complete deep faith in God, then that is all you need because included in that faith are all the other virtues and through that faith you will come to be more like God and thus become closer to him and thus be made able to continually be with him in the afterlife.
      “Religious morality is a product of nature and nurture”
      This may be true in that it is not contrary to faith, to the teachings of the Church or to faith in God, because God in his providence guides all things. If we believe that God could not guide man to faith through “nature and nurture” then we are limiting the being we call omnipotent. If we believe that God just would not do that, we need to remember that his ways are not our ways. The understanding of this statement that is not compatible with faith however is the belief that only through “nature and nurture” could religion have been invented, and there could not possibly be some primary cause causing the secondary causes to have the nature to nurture religion. Also, if there were an omnipotent being who caused the existence of all other being, would it be contrary to reason that he would design that world in such a way that the rational beings of that world would learn to know and love him?
      Good luck all with your search for truth. It is the most important search we can embark upon.
      Through Our Lady Mother,
      PS: The Catholic Church has always held the position that faith and reason are perfectly compatible and absolutely support each other. Therefore in learning more about one, education in the other necessarily follows, unless rejected by the searcher.

  • Brian

    Links for Leah and any homosexualists reading:

    Two Questions about Marriage and Civil Law

    What is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense

    • Michelle

      bahaha, “homosexualist.” Cute. Never heard a Catholicist use that one before!

      • Brian

        A homosexualist – a gay OR straight activist for contemporary liberal values on the human person and sexuality.

        • Epicurean

          How very charitable.

          I’m not saying you have to agree with gay rights or anything. But if you’re going to use a word for a type of person as an epithet, then you’re doing Catholicism wrong. Homosexuals are due dignity, and “homosexualism” is a sin against that. I’ll pray for you.

  • M

    I see a lot of people in the thread suggesting that, if an individual genuinely holds something to be an absolute moral evil, the individual should support making that thing illegal, in order to protect others as much as possible from evil. Obviously, if a person believes they have information that would do others good or prevent them harm, the moral thing to do is to share that information with others. The problem with making this a role of government is that the end result in a pluralistic society would have to be, to greater or lesser degree, conversion by the sword.

    When a society consists of multiple groups who disagree about absolute moral truth, but each believe that it is their duty to make their truth the governing force in society, you get deadly religious and ideological conflicts. To live in a stable pluralistic society, you have to give up the idea that the role of government is to promote absolute moral truth, and task it merely with preserving the stability of the society. This leaves room for persuasion of others to your truth, but not force. Laws are a form of force, because they aren’t really laws unless they have consequences. And that raises all sorts of thorny questions- Are you willing to fine someone who doesn’t share your beliefs? Jail them? Kill them? What’s the appropriate and just level of deterrent? Is forcing someone to behave according to your truth actually doing them any good? Could the enforcement of adherence to truth do more damage to the person than allowing them to go against truth would have?

    • KC

      Thomas Aquinas said, “human laws do not forbid all vices […], but only the more grievous vices.” I do not think that it is the role of the government to outlaw all immorality, but only the ones that negatively impact society, such as theft, murder, etc. I also do not think that it is the role of the government to positively advocate (through laws) what are vices. For example, it is one thing for a government to decide to not limit child pornography (which is rightly illegal), but it is another for them to say that in the interest of freedom of speech child pornography should be protected as someones right. In the US there is often a thought that if it is legal then it is right and if it is illegal it is probably wrong. It would be better if some issues of morality were left for each person to inform their own conscience as to wether it is right or wrong. I think this would satisfy many while at the same time not be “a conversion by the sword.”

    • Oregon Catholic

      I think there is a difference between trying to pass a law to prevent behavior one sees as immoral from becoming legally promoted, i.e. gay marriage, and passing a law that forces someone to do something against their morals, i.e. the HHS mandate. The first is passive and the second is aggressive and more harmful IMO.

  • KC

    Leah, it sounds as though you have been having some questions about the Catholic Church’s teaching regarding homosexuality. Remember that a 1000 questions do not equal a single doubt. As a convert I think that questions are valuable and I assure you that there is nothing in Scripture (understood properly) or the Church’s Tradition that contradict reason. The Church’s big emphasis is not on homosexuality, but is rather on chastity. There is a difference between what someone desires out of a passion and what someone wills. We cannot always control our passions, but we can control what we will to do. Before my own conversion I wondered why the Church taught that masturbation was wrong, since – as far as I could tell – I was not hurting anyone. I later understood that it was because I was using my body, with its God given nature, in a way that it was not intended to be used. I had been allowing my passions to control my intellect when my intellect should have been informing my passions. Our body’s reveal a design that confirms what is morally good and hence what leads us to holiness and ultimatly to the beatific vision. Morality is living a life fully alive as we were designed to live. Also This same understanding can be applied to any action that is unchaste, including homosexual acts. I hope this helps, God bless.

  • Dan C

    Congrats and welcome to faith. Dorothy Day, who I recommend, is another convert, described herself as “God-haunted” in her book, the Long Loneliness.

    Another great convert who has great writing is poet Mary Karr. She describes her conversion in an essay in Poetry magazine, “Facing Altars: Prayer and Poetry.” I excerpted her first lines below, which drew me in and I couldn’t put her down:

    “To confess my unlikely Catholicism in Poetry—a journal founded in part on and for the godless, twentieth-century disillusionaries of J. Alfred Prufrock and his pals—feels like an act of perversion kinkier than any dildo-wielding dominatrix could manage on HBO’s “Real Sex Extra.” I can’t even blame it on my being a cradle Catholic, some brainwashed escapee of the pleated skirt and communion veil who—after a misspent youth and facing an Eleanor Rigby-like dotage—plodded back into the confession booth some rainy Saturday. Not victim, but volunteer…”


    And on she goes.

    I recommend her essay and her poems. There is good treasure for the Catholic.

  • Hello Leah

    Just found out about your story of conversion. I commend you that you are in search for Truth and that you are willing to rock the boat in order to do so. However, and I believe you must have faced such arguments relentlessly, Moral Law is a concept that has been rebuked ad nauseam from the Atheist community. I suggest you to watch Frans De Waal’s TED talk about moral behaviour in animals. Mammalian and Higher primate behaviour is what we would call “moral”. Morality needs to be thought of in terms of evolution and worked upon from the ground up and not metaphysically downwards. I always like to point out that such a cute thing like the cuckoo bird, hijacks the nests of other birds, kills their offspring and lays its own eggs so that it freeloads the job of raising its young on other birds. This is survival. We have survived because of our “morality”…. There is no law inscribed anywhere – no meaning; we simply seek to make sense of things with our brain and behave both according to our inherited primate heritage and our faculties of reason.

  • Joez

    If we want to enlarge the marriage box to allow for same sex marriages, then we have to ask the question why should we stop there. Why should marriage be just between two consenting adults. Why shouldn’t polygamy be allowed. And why shouldn’t brothers and sisters be allowed to marry. And if I am old and my wife had died and I don’t want the government to get my inheritance, then I should be allowed to marry my best golfing buddy so that he can come into my hospital room and so he can receive all of my money tax free. If you want to enlarge this marriage box, then don’t think there won’t be other changes. There will be. And they should all be supported by people who support same sex marriages. Otherwise won’t you be labeled as “haters” and labeled as forcing your beliefs/morals on those of others. Go ahead, enlarge the marriage box, but if you support same sex marriage, then logically you have to conclude that many, many other forms of marriage should be “morally” correct and should be accepted by the state.

    • Oregon Catholic

      Yes, including marriage between pedophiles and victims. We are sentencing children in this country as young as 13 to death and to life imprisonment for decisions they made. It should be very easy for NAMBLA to argue that the age of sexual consent should be at least that low and from there it will be a slippery slide downward to ever lower ages. Even our government thinks that condoms should be available free of charge and without parental consent to grade schoolers, so it seems inconsistent to claim that any child capable of and interested in completing a sex act can’t make their own decisions about who to have sex with. These are what happen when people think with their genitals and not with their mind.

      • Joez

        I would like to hear from a supporter of same sex marriages that if we change the law to support same sex marriages, that they would also support the law for polygamy and the marriage of a brother and sister. If they don’t support this then why not. Why should their new definition of marriage – between any two consenting adults – be the accepted norm. Shouldn’t we consider the views and rights of all individuals and how they define marriage. If a supporter of same sex marriages can’t support polygamy should they be labeled a hater or wouldn’t they be forcing their moral views on those individuals who want to be in a polygamous marriage. You can ask the same questions about marriage of a brother and a sister or cousins (although this is allowed in some states). Supporter of same sex marriages are screaming for equal rights. They just want their moral views to be accepted. So shouldn’t they support others who also want their moral views on marriage supported and want similar rights. Supporters of same sex marriages can’t be that hypocritical can they? They can’t seriously want their new definition to be the ONLY definition of marriage – can they? They can’t be that closed minded can they? They can’t be that Puritan in their beliefs can they? Why would they be such haters?

        • Erista

          You do realize that arguing that “if same sex couples should be able to marry, then polygamous marriage should be allowed” is a lot like arguing that “if the government can restrict marriage to men and women, then the government should also be able to restrict marriage to same-race couples”?

          Arguing that “if the government allows X, then they’ll have to allow Y!” is no more reasonable than arguing “If the government prohibits W, then they’ll have to prohibit Z!”

          However you feel about polygamy, incest, and homosexuality, the reasons for objecting to any of the three are different. Well, it’s different unless your sole reason is, “I think God told me to reject them all for no particular reason other than His will, ” in which case I hope you can recognize that people other than you reject and accept each based on differing criterion.

          • Brian

            You misunderstand the objection. The whole point is that if homosexualists can force an unprincipled change on the meaning and purpose of marriage, then not allowing a similar change for other kinds of relationships, like polygamous relationships, would be ad hoc. This is very similar to how homosexualists accuse advocates of marriage to be ad hoc in their defining of marriage as between one man and woman. Homosexualists see that definition as unprincipled and, therefore, unjustly discriminated against same-sex couples.

            What the “polygamy” objection is meant to do is show how homosexualists are being, in fact, ad hoc when they redefine it to include same-sex couples but exclude other kinds of relationships. It is the reduction ad absurdum of the homosexualist argument, exposing it as based more on bluff and question-begging than on sound moral reasoning. Of course, you actually have to agree that polygamous relationships could not be marriages to see the reductio ad absurdum.

          • Erista

            What? I’m having trouble understanding what you are trying to say.

            Ad hoc:
            for the particular end or case at hand without consideration of wider application

            1 a : concerned with a particular end or purpose b : formed or used for specific or immediate problems or needs
            : fashioned from whatever is immediately available : improvised

            However, I will reiterate: If people oppose homosexual marriages for reason A, incestuous marriages for reason B, and polygamy for reason C, asserting that reason A is invalid and thus homosexual marriages should be allowed does not touch reason B or reason C at all; this is just like how you aren’t required to oppose interracial marriages for reason X if you oppose gay marriages for reason Y. If someone wants to argue that reason B , reason C, reason X, or reason Y are also invalid, they can do that.

          • Brian

            Try a philosophical dictionary, Erista.

            See, supporters of marriage think that marriage has an objective basis which can be discerned through the use of reason. This is based on realist philosophy. Once you depart from that and no longer tie marriage to its objective, rational foundation, you can define marriage any way you want. since you have abandoned any principled definition, anyway. So arbitrarily limiting “marriage” between just two partners is ad hoc – that is, “hastily constructed to support or explain something without any underlying sense or logical framework.”* In other words, an ad hoc explanation is an arbitrary, unprincipled one.

            The “polygamy” objection is meant to show how the reductio ad absurdum of the homosexualist argument. Of course, I have met homosexualists who have no problem with polygamy. For me, that’s proof of how absurd homosexualism is, but that people actually are becoming ok with polygamy is one reason why I don’t use the “polygamy” objection.

          • Erista

            So what is this rational, objective foundation that the “supporters of marriage” think marriage has?

            Furthermore, marriage is not something that has somehow been immutable throughout the ages. In essence, we’ve already changed it. Marriage used to be something very specific: a contract between two men. These two men were either the father of the bride and the father of the groom, or the father of the bride and the groom. The grooms side wanted something very specific, which could be unpaid labor (someone to keep house), someone to provide heirs (which is why barrenness used to be grounds for annulment), and/or a dowry (in places that provided it). In fact, there are places today that have marriages like this. For example, in India, newly wed women are sometimes killed because their new in laws want more dowry but her biological family cannot or won’t provide more. The bride’s family also wanted something specific; to stop paying for the upkeep of a girl child, or a bride price (in places that provided it). This not wanting to pay for the upkeep of a girl child is a reason that girls in India are often killed by their parents, either through overt actions like drowning or covert actions like not feeding or providing medical care.

            But we in the west have changed all that. No longer is the woman required to stay home. No longer is all the woman’s property and income considered to be the man’s. No longer do we say your marriage didn’t happen if you are barren. No longer are children essential to marriage. We decided that marriage was going to be about two people deciding to be in a relationship. They can be in love, or not. They can choose traditional gender roles, or not. They can have children, or not. They can hold to “to death do us part,” or not. They can merge all their property, or not. They can be married in a faith, or not. They can live together, or not. They can be monogamous, or not.

            So, I don’t see what objective, rational foundation you think our legal marriage system is based on, because it doesn’t seem to require much of anything from its participants.

            And I’ll say it again: If you object to polygamy for reason X, you don’t have to object to homosexual marriage for reason Y. If you think that homosexual marriage does fit into the institution of marriage for reason Y, but you think polygamy does not for reason X, there’s nothing illogical about that. You can’t just lump polygamy and homosexual marriage into the same catagory if people object to them for different reasons. If people objected to them for the same reason, then your argument makes sense. But when I hear people making arguments about both, I don’t hear people giving the same reasons for opposing incestuous marriages, polygamous marriages, and homosexual marriages. For example, I hear people argue against incestuous marriages because of a) birth defects b) abuse of power between the person with the more power in the family relationship, and I hear people argue against polygamy* because it’s not possible to provide the benefits of marriage to many people. Neither of these apply to homosexual marriage.

            *Interestingly, I don’t usually hear people provide reasons they are against polygamy, but I often hear people provide reasons against incest. People (including people who oppose homosexual marriages) don’t seem to have many actual reasons that they oppose polygamous marriages.

  • Leah: Considering that Catholic means universal, you seem to approach Catholic teaching as if it were tribal.

    This may be acceptable for practical reasons and for matters of revealed truth when evangelizing a pagan society, but the Catholic composition of marriage does not rely on revealed truth. It relies on the common experience of mankind. Yes, some cultures seemed contract serial marriage, and others “spirit marriage” between a dead man and a living, unmarriagable woman, and some depraved cultures allowed divorce. In each, though, is the haunting echo, like the sound of distant war drums, that it was always between man and woman.

    Catholic theology has much to say about the why of marriage, and sacramentality — being only between the baptized —- is certainly among revealed truth. But the what of marriage can be known even by moderns.

    • I’m curious, too, about your use of “gender” rather than “sex.”

    • Because this is one of those unwieldly, huge threads, I won’t be monitoring replies here. I’m not against discussion, though, so please consider a larger version of this comment posted at my blog.

  • Sean

    The Church distinguishes marriage in two ways. The first way is as a natural contract. In light of this perspective the primary purpose of marriage is the procreation and rearing of children. Any union which is of its nature incapable of producing children is invalid. Therefore unions of the same sex, which have no possibility of producing children through sexual activity cannot be entered into. The Church is even very lenient on this, allowing people who are sterile to marry, but only forbids marriages in which there is “antecedent and perpetual impotence to have intercourse” (see Can. 1084). The Church recognizes what nature recognizes — sexual activity at its root is about reproduction.

    Over and above this, Jesus instituted the sacrament of marriage, in which a Christian enters when making the vow of marriage in the presence of the Church. This aspect of marriage has for its primary purpose the sanctification and happiness of the spouses and children. This raised Christian marriage from a simple natural contact into a means of gaining grace.

    Now looking at these two aspects with their purposes, the Church does not pose a contradiction between the two. Looking at the current trend toward civil creation of same-sex marriages, we see that the State is proposing something which on the one hand wishes to go against the nature of the natural contract, and on the other hand having nothing to do with the sacramental system of the Church. While the State is free to contravene every sort of law built into the cosmos for whatever purpose that may tend towards, the Church has a anchor which it cannot go against. That’s why she opens Her arms very widely for every sort of person, but will not compromise on the principles handed down to this day. People are deluded to think we have any new enlightening information on sexuality that past ages didn’t have. How the babies come is just as plain as it was in 33 AD or 2012 BC.

    So what does the Church hold? That same-sex sexual acts are disordered and immoral. Disordered because they are not ordered to procreation (meaning the possibility is absolute zero). There is no complementarity in the same sexes. In Catholic theology there is a clear understanding of this. The Church is the bride, while Christ is the groom. God comes to us (male), and we receive (female). From this union there is always fruit. It is a participation in the act of creation.

    Now same-sex acts are immoral because of the direct prohibition of it by our creator. As for attraction, the Church recognizes that there is still much to be learned. but also states that the attraction is disordered. Why? For the same reasons that it is not ordered to creation. It seems, but not stated, that the Church thinks that these desires should rather be ones of friendship and non-sexual love. And we see C.S. Lewis believing that it is a perversion of storge (see below). I think in our time we have causes that are different than the clinical ones already observed. For instance, hormones in our food systems and cultural promotion of gender confusion (feeding back into the system).


  • Leah, I expect you will find being catholic to be incompatable with both morality and empiricism. You will run into both once you start exploring the Chruch approach to morality. IF we ahve a moral sense, and can feel that “morality” loves us, and empiricism is valid, then it is appropriate to test whether the Catholic model of God matches or not the perfection of morality. Catholicism, instead, holds to the to “know nothing” view that we cannot know what Morality or Love is, since their infinite manifestations are so beyond us (we “know nothing” in relation to them), that what may appear to be evil and bad for us is really loving and good — hence the Goodness of God is not empirically testable, and we can actually have no idea what morality is, or whether it loves us. If you maintian yourcommittment to morality and empiricsim, you will have to look elsewhere.

  • Clifford Baines

    Leah, thank you for sharing your story as you go down this path. In the interest of presenting the philosophical challenge you seem to want, I felt the need to respond to this post in particular.

    The analogy to being forbidden to date redheads doesn’t make things any more palatable; arguably, it’s worse. If the Church actually had such a prohibition, it would be morally reprehensible as well. It would be a kind of racism. If I could think of no reason to condemn same-sex romantic relationships, then I wouldn’t feel any more comfortable joining the Catholic church than I would joining a church that forbade dating outside of one’s race, no matter how easy it was to play along. Would you?

    Your use of that Lewis quote unfortunately doesn’t just dodge the point, but in fact turns a compassionate principle backwards. In that quote, Lewis was taking it as a given that gambling is sinful, a “perversion” of some other “good impulse”, and his principle of polite deference applied only to giving specific rules or instructions to those who are “tempted”. His general, vague condemnation remained. Had he been asked why he subscribed to a religion that vilified gambling at all, his answer would’ve been something more like this other quote from him: “Gambling ought never to be an important part of a man’s life. If it is a way in which large sums of money are transferred from person to person without doing any good (e.g., producing employment, goodwill, etc.) then it is a bad thing.”

    When you’re asked how you can square your existing position with that of the Church, and you respond with the logic of the former quote instead of the latter, it creates an unsettling backwards effect, where a walk-a-mile-in-their-moccasins philosophy is used to defend condemnation instead of resist it. I know that you’re explicitly not trying to stop other people from being queer, and in fact you’re still willing to argue in favor of queerness (or at least against being against it) while you abstain, so the practical scope of that condemnation is limited to yourself and a portion of your prospective dating partners. But I still think the logical mismatch is worth considering, especially if you find yourself staying in this ethical limbo for a long time.

    Thank you again for sharing and being open to critique. I hope that mine helps you on your quest for truth.

  • I have a question that is not of the typical “but why Catholicism?” variety, and instead pertains specifically to your circumstances, if you’re interested in taking a look.


  • Big Al

    This is a much simpler topic than either side will admit. The difficulty has to do with context and words, not substance. The reason that there is this tension, is because both sides have incorrectly defined the problem. To the Christian, marriage is a Sacrament, akin to Baptism. It is a covenant relationship between a man and a woman under a vow to their God. So, when the word “marriage” is used, this is its context. The error from the other side is the failure to understand that the attempt to legalize homosexual marriage is seen as an affront to a religious Sacrament. But the problem isn’t religion, and it isn’t even a gay marriage advocate. The problem is the role of State. We would think it strange for a State government to sanction a Baptism. Why then was the State ever permitted to sanction, much less ratify the legitimacy, of a marriage? That is where the problem started, an overlap of the spheres of government and Church. Marriage belonged solely with the Church as a religious sacrament. And, had it remained there, this issue would not exist. The advocates of gay marriage talk about equality, but I think they realize they are poking a needle in the eye of convention, intentionally so. I say this because it is not at all about equality, to the extent that civil unions are already recognized granting fully rights and privileges. It is thus not the legal standing, the rights accorded by the State, that they seek. They are directly picking a fight with the culture, and with religious convention, for the purpose of making it bend. Most, even the religious, have no problem with civil unions granting full rights and privileges of a spouse. So, why push the envelope and seek to hijack a term “marriage” which is associated with a religious Sacrament? At least have the honesty to admit that it is not about equality of rights but a deliberate attempt to push the bounds of the culture at the expense of religious sensibility.

    • Erista

      Civil unions do not offer the same rights and privileges of marriages. If you aren’t aware of the differences, see this site:

      People “push the envelope” for a couple of reasons.

      1) It is a lot easier to get access to marriage federally than to try to make every single state and federal agency to grand all the same rights and privileges to civil unions as they do to marriages. Furthermore, getting access to marriage means that if married couples get some new benefit, no one has to run around and make sure that civil unions are included.

      2) People who are of religions that are in favor of same-sex marriages don’t like being given fewer rights to exercise their religion than religions that are opposed to same-sex marriages. In essence, saying that John’s religion gets to grant state-recognized marriage to the people it wants to but Jane’s does not isn’t something that sits well with Jane or her faith.

    • Slow Learner

      This argument might hold water if marriage had originated in the church; however, marriage pre-dates Christianity, and is a secular institution hijacked by the church.

      • pagansister

        Yep, Slow Learner, hijacked is indeed a very good word for what the church(s) have done.

      • KC

        The you are right in saying that marriage predates Christianity. However, the Church’s understanding of marriage originates from Jewish marriage. Also the US government did not invent marriage so if there is any hijacking it would be by the government that claims to be able to define marriage any way that it wants.

    • Oregon Catholic

      For some it probably is a stick in the eye of religion but for most I believe it is an attempt to have the state put a stamp of approval on it and thereby declare homosexuality to be just as normal as heterosexuality. But wherever it is put to a vote it is rejected by society.

      • pagansister

        To those who are attracted to the same gender, Oregon Catholic, it is just as normal as those who are attracted to the opposite gender. Why shouldn’t they be allowed the same civil rights to marry and raise families? No church is or should be required to marry anyone. But marriage and the use of that “holy” word should have no restrictions upon it, when 2 adults commit to each other. No one chooses to be attracted to the same gender—or the opposite gender—(though I know you don’t believe that). Since some believe that God created everyone,(and I guess everything?) how can part of those creations be attracted to the same gender if it is so very sinful? :o) Just asking.

        • WSquared

          The attraction itself isn’t sinful. It’s sexual activity between two people of the same sex that is. After all, someone who is attracted to someone of the same sex can still choose not to act on that attraction, just as much as someone attracted to someone of the opposite sex can choose not to act on it. You are right that nobody chooses to be attracted to the same gender or the opposite gender. But it doesn’t necessarily follow that we should then act on those attractions.

          The Church applies this across the board: if you are not married, regardless of your attraction and which direction it runs, partaking in sexual activity is gravely sinful. So no, you most certainly are not off the hook, simply because you’re “straight.” A same-sex attracted or queer Catholic who struggles to remain faithful to Church teaching regarding chastity and accepts help from God in the form of grace in doing so is in a state of grace. There is absolutely no difference between this person and a heterosexual single, likewise faithful Catholic who is celibate, because they are not married, or who if called to the priesthood or religious life, will remain celibate. A heterosexual Catholic who is cohabiting, and who deliberately blows off Church teaching in this regard is not in a state of grace, but is in a state of grave sin, if mortal sin. Chastity is required of absolutely everybody, according to their state in life: chastity means celibacy for the unmarried, and in marriage, lust between husband and wife, where both are treating each other as sexual objects is still sinful. Sex is not sinful or dirty in itself. But misuse and abuse of it sure is.

          Also, marriage isn’t primarily about “two adults committing to each other.” In the Church, there is an understanding that marital relations are to be open to life– unitive and procreative. So it is an understanding that involves the possibility of children, and not deliberately frustrating the sexual act so as to close off that possibility, and so marriage isn’t exclusively or primarily about the two adults committing, therefore.

          The Church does point out that homosexual persons and persons with same-sex attraction are to be treated with respect and dignity, and are also called to be saints, along with all of the rest of us. They are no more or less capable than any of us of being saints, and like anybody else, it is God’s grace that will make them saints, and they choose whether or not to accept that grace and cooperate with it. God wants them to be with Him in Heaven, too, and His Son suffered and died for them, too. And like the rest of us, He calls them also to pick up their cross and follow Him, and to join their suffering, whatever it may be, to His. He suffers with them, too, just as He suffers with the rest of us. And He promises redemption to those who suffer with Him– that again goes for ALL of us.

          • pagansister

            With respect, Wsquared, I have heard all the points you have made above before. I also know the Church’s thinking that there should always be procreation when married and to do anything besides NFP is just plain wrong. Spent 10 years teaching in an RC school, and many of the younger teachers were most certainly not adhering to the no sex before marriage—one was living with her fiance, and the other was marrying the father of her 2 year old, and the 2 year old was in the wedding. Both were marrying in a Catholic church. So, right or wrong. Many of the teachers found the use of ABC perfectly fine. To degree that those attracted to the same gender only “sin” when they engage in “the act”, is asking 2 loving men or women to not express their love, no matter what form that takes. Similar to asking a heterosexual non-married couple who plan to marry to not express that love. I’m not saying random sex(preferably consenting adults) is a great idea ,though that is also no ones business either, except the 2 people involved. With most religions, there will be those who will follow the rules like robots, and those who will do as they please and still consider themselves true followers of a faith. In the end? It’s their decision. It is between them and their divine being—and no one else, IMO.

  • Erista

    As a redhead, I am irked by the implication (or outright statement) that it would be perfectly fine for a religion to declare that people morally cannot date redheads. It is not acceptable for any organization to push for people to discriminate against me based on my hair color.

    If the any church declared that dating redheads was immoral, I would hope that you would have the common decency to oppose such a mandate. And if you did not have such decency, if you ran around saying, “Oh, well, I will limit myself to non-red heads because the Catholic church says to, but I won’t judge people who take part in that behavior!” then I would be deeply offended and very angry.

    I don’t care if you want to date me, but to say, “Oh, well, I won’t date you because dating someone with your hair color is deemed immoral by my religion,” is to grant credibility to that bigoted statement. And that I do not appreciate.

    Furthermore, this situation is less hypothetical than you might think; there really are places in the world where redheads really are discriminated against and otherwise treated poorly. Here is an article about it: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/6725653.stm

    So, Leah, do you really understand what you are saying? Are you really willing to go over to redhead who face bullying, taunts, ridicule, and discrimination that it wouldn’t a big deal if the view of them as shameful and bad was codified into religion?

    I hope not. I hope that if any religion REALLY did that, then you would oppose it. I hope that you would choose to throw your weight and money behind such a religion. But if you are willing to treat homosexuals like that, then I am not very hopeful.

  • Big Al

    I am approaching this argument from a libertarian position. That the sphere of states and religion should not overlap. Because marriage was, and remains, principally a religious Sacrament, we are debating words, not principals. To the Christian, gay marriage is an affront to the sacramental definition of the term. Is that hard to understand? And, Eristra, if you are correct, and in some states civil unions don’t confer the same rights as marriage, why wouldn’t the solution be to strengthen the laws defining civil unions to confer those same rights? And by doing so, avoid trying to redefine what, at essence, is a a religious institution.

    • Slow Learner

      Wrong, wrong, wrong.
      Marriage does not have its origin in religion; marriage is neither controlled nor arbitrated by any Church, and the arrogance of the Catholic and other churches in attempting to do so is a large part of the current dispute over marriage.
      It is a secular institution, which therefore can be regulated by the secular state.
      Sacramental marriage is a secular marriage with bells and whistles added by a particular religion. Very important bells and whistles, from the perspective of the newly-weds – but from the perspective of the State, bells and whistles nonetheless.

  • Big Al

    And Erista, I think you misunderstand Leah’s position. As I understand, and I may be wrong on this as well, but her shift is similar to something that I reasoned through decades ago. I can’t pinpoint the time, maybe in my early 30’s I suppose. I was fairly liberal in my thinking. I had this notion that truth was subjective. This applied equally to artistic tastes. There was no such notion as objectively good art, or good music. It was up to the individual to define for themselves what good meant. And this applied equally to morality. My morality did not have to be your morality. We define our own notions of goodness. And then one day, the foundation of this thinking cracked. This notion of subjectivism no longer held water. It struck me that there was an objective truth. Tupac was not Bach, and Warhol’s painting of a Campbell Soup can was not Michelangelo. I wanted to know if something was true, and I sensed truth. It seemed external to my thinking, and existed independent of my thinking. And I think that is where Leah is at this point. She reached the point where she grasps that there is an objective truth, an objective morality. The interesting thing about objective truth, is just because you do not like it, does not mean it isn’t true. And that means that it takes alot of courage to question where you stand. Of course, I don’t mean to take the liberty of interpreting Leah’s position, and she can correct me if I am off track.

    • Erista

      I think you are correct in your view of Leah’s argument (although I could be wrong). I am simply arguing that if she actually put her argument into action (i.e. she actually accepted her religion declaring that sex with a redhead was wrong, that redheads should not be allowed to marry the people they love, that redheads should remain alone for their entire lives and simply offer their suffering up to God), then I would not simply nod and accept her view passively because I would consider her actions to be incredibly vile and unethical. I’m saying that if I take her analogy as an actual argument, then it’s an argument against her decision, not for it, because discriminating against redheads is not something that is moral.

      Now, I understand that some people believe that morality is relative only to God’s will, and thus if God declared tomorrow that redheads should be treated as I described above, they would acquiesce. This is very convenient because it allows people to explain the change in morality after Jesus’s death (aka why eating pork or wearing clothes of mixed fibers was wrong before Jesus but not wrong after it). But I am not one of those people. I believe that morality has a force that isn’t just based on your particular deity’s will. I believe that doing what I described to redheads is just plain wrong.

      Ultimately, it comes down to whether you believe that God (hypothetically or literally, depending on if you are a theist or not) chooses to forbid X because X is wrong, or if you believe that God chooses to forbid X for some other reason unrelated to its morality and thus X becomes wrong because it is contrary to God’s will. I don’t believe that any deity could simply declare having red hair to be sinful through force of will alone. I believe that red hair is not immoral simply based on what morality is.

  • Big Al

    Thinking back, I do remember when the crack in my notion of subjectivism first appeared. I was always interested in music, but never took up an instrument. In my early 30’s, finally took a music theory class. I looked at the sheet music to a rap song, and it essentially consisted of a 3 note sequence, repeated ad nauseum. Not kidding, three notes. I looked at the sheet music to a mellow rock song that I was fond of, and it was a fairly simple 3 or 4 chord progression. And then I saw the sheet music to a Bach symphony. It did not matter if you did not like, or could not appreciate classical music. But you had to concede the level of complexity, the unfathomable ability to “hear” so many instruments in your head, and to orchestrate the interconnected voices of each. The sheet music amazed me. And while I may prefer to listen to the simple pop song and enjoy it, I could not equate one with the other. Music was no longer purely subjective, and there was an objective truth underlying it, and that truth was external to whether or not I could appreciate it fully. And, this is likewise true of art. And no less true of morality. There is an externality that is independent of my own personal thinking. An objective morality, may be personally inconvenient at times, but that does not make it less true.

    • Rose

      I’m not here to argue against the objectivity of truth, but the example you’ve given here is quite silly and has nothing to do with music or objective beauty. A Bach symphony does indeed have more complex harmony and arrangement then most pop songs. People like us, for whom writing a symphony would be basically impossible, are amazed by the formidable talent involved in its creation in addition to the beauty of the music. But the idea that the objective superior beauty of Bach is demonstrating by the fact that it has a greater complexity of instruments and melodic lines is absurd and beside the point, akin to determining the beauty of a painting by counting the number of colors used.

      • Big Al

        Rose, I agree with you completely. But, you do see that trying to articulate beauty is impossible. There is depth and complexity, yes, and then there is something more, something impossible to describe, just beauty. The complexity of the arrangement is certainly part of it, but not all. Sort of like standing on a mountain top, looking over a lake, and feeling this sense of breathtaking awe.

  • suburbanbanshee

    So… is it supposed to be some kind of traitorous reaction if a depressive/suicidal person tries to discourage other depressive/suicidal people from fulfilling their genetic imperative by killing themselves? Because, gosh, the Church teaches that we depressive/suicidal people should try to keep going instead of killing themselves or staring into the dark all day. And yeah, that suicide is a really really bad sin.

    Yeah, now that I think about it, that used to be a thing. How dare the Catholic Church try to discourage people from committing suicide, when it’s so much nobler to just off yourself in a corner? But suicide’s trendiness has decreased in the last year or so, for some reason.

  • Big Al

    Okay, Erista. I think I understand where you are coming from. But let me suggest that the red hair analogy doesn’t quite work. I think issues of morality, and human sexuality in particular, are complicated, much more complicated. But this thread is getting too long, and that discussion is better suited for its own thread.

  • Leah,
    It is possible to be a Catholic and an atheist at the same time. Just as there are secular Jews, there are also secular Catholics. I myself am a secular Catholic. I was raised in the culture, but I find many of its official proclamations to be dubious at best. It sounds like you are a candidate for Catholicism who also rejects many of the tenets of faith. Traditionalist Catholics would call this cafeteria catholicism, but what is wrong with being honest and saying that you believe certain parts of faith, but not others? On the matter of marriage, as I noted, I am secular, but my wife is still a member of the Catholic church. However, neither one of us wanted to be wed in a church by a priest. I don’t see that the Catholic church is capable of adding any particular value through their own marriage ceremony. On almost every point the church is backward, particularly on female submission, contraception, and divorce. In reality 98% of catholics use contraception, many get divorced, and few wives submissively obey their husbands. So what’s the point of getting the Church’s imprimatur anyway?

    • pagansister

      Not my business, biblicalaaronc, but since you said you and your wife weren’t married in the Church, does it consider you married? And I agree—the Church is backwards in very, very many ways. I think there might be a few “leaders” in the Church who are still under the impression that Catholics are only using NFP, staying married forever, and that some wives are actually obeying their husbands! Also, what is with the no married priests thing?

    • PJ

      ” Traditionalist Catholics would call this cafeteria catholicism, but what is wrong with being honest and saying that you believe certain parts of faith, but not others? ”

      People have been believing “certain parts of the faith, but not others” since the very beginning. They’re called heretics.

      “A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition reject; knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.” (Titus 3:10-11).

      The Church is not a social club. It is the Body of Christ, with one Head.

      There is room for doubt and questioning. These are natural and to be expected. There is also room for difference of opinion when it comes to matters of discipline and custom. However, obstinate rejection of essential teachings is not acceptable. A “cafeteria Catholic” is no Catholic at all. Though he might continue to go through the motions, he has cut himself off from the Body.

      The very word “Catholic” (katha holos) means “according to the whole.” That is, one is “Catholic” when one is in accordance with the fullness of the Divine teaching.

      • Heretic: a label to be worn proudly…or humbly.

        • PJ

          Really, there is no better word for a “cafeteria Catholic,” given that a heretic is, as per the original etymology, one who “chooses.” Nonetheless, I don’t intend it as a slur. Heretics are usually just mislead souls: poorly catechized, lacking good spiritual guidance, struggling to overcome some inner demon. Few are obstinate rebels bent on schism.

  • Jon

    Hey, thanks for the post.

    I’m no Catholic but perhaps the “Theology of the Body” may help you with understanding Catholicism’s teachings… of course you’re probably familiar with it.

    I’m around a “4” on the Kinsey scale but pretty conservative when it comes to scripture and sexuality. I was raised Christian though, full disclosure there.

    Don’t let people get you down by jumping down your throat for not be a “perfect Catholic” or think precisely right or anything like that. Everyone who practices Christianity is an amateur, really. My 62 year old Pastor says he hopes he lives to 120 because he thinks he’s just starting to “get it [Christianity.]

    Congratulations on finding the Church and I pray that your further intellectual and religious inquireries bring you much joy and peace and some very interesting conversation.

  • John

    What rational atheist would be “really sure” that “objective” morality exists? Given the paucity of evidence regarding objective morality, at best, for an atheist, objective morality should be a mere possibility.

    I would argue evidence suggests that morality is purely subjective and emotional.

    It’s appropriate for you to no longer call yourself an atheist, but I’m frustrated by the news taglines of “atheist” converting to Catholicism.

    • leahlibresco

      There’s not a lot of evidence for the real existence of physical objects either.

      • Hidden One

        I think that St. Thomas Aquinas (particularly in Summa Theologia I.84 and I.85) manages to handle the problem of the external world very well – the upshot of it all is that said problem is itself a fiction, but not because the thought-thing divide is to be ignored. Au contraire. (Recent Thomists who explain him well include the late Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P. and Etienne Gilson.) In case you aren’t familiar with Thomist realism and are interested, Leah, feel free to email me (I think Patheos lets you do that) and I’ll send you stuff. I wrote a 40 page (undergrad) paper on it recently.

  • Paul

    I have not doubt you will be an atheist again some day. Why?

    If you truly are bisexual after and live an honest life most main stream churches will never accept you as being a true Christian. They won’t be able to get past the fact you are living a sinful life by choosing to be bisexual. You see, they think sexuality is a choice and possibly they are right in your case because obviously you are able to choose to be with a man or a woman on a whim (your statement you will only date men). Not only this is you are sincere about being a Christian you will have to rectify what the Bible says about homosexuality with your own beliefs.

    Secondly, you will realize that morality does not come from God. Morality is something humans have developed to survive and adapt. It is also very subjective as has been mentioned. Hence your OK with being bisexual and a Christian and most Christians would not be OK with this.

    Before you solidify your position 100% read the Old Testament. Really read it and think about it and see if the God there meshes up with your ideas and morality.

    I’m a X-Christian by the way. I was raised in church, taught Sunday school, Bible study, lead people to Christ. You name it, I did it in Jesus name for 35 years. It’s funny how you can change when you think critically though. I’m sorry you stopped thinking that way. Maybe you’ll come around.

    • PJ


      I’d think twice about casting judgments regarding another person’s capacity for critical thinking when you have, at best, an ambiguous grasp of Catholic teaching, especially in regards to homosexuality. You sound very Protestant: Let me tell you that Catholics have very different understandings of God and Scripture than do “most main stream churches.”

    • Frosted Flakes

      Paul, what you’re speaking of does not sound much like the Catholic Church at all. Rather, it sounds very Protestant. It’s important to distinguish the difference between the two, as most of what you said is irrelevant because (1) Catholics don’t believe that the sexual attraction to those of the same sex is sinful, rather, they believe that the homosexual act itself is sinful, and (2) Catholics do not believe in Sola Scriptura. Your comment about the Old Testament has no relevance to Leah, because the Catholic Church does not believe everything the Old Testament says word for word. Rather, we take it in context and believe that Jesus perfected the teachings initiated in the Old Testament. It doesn’t surprise me at all that Leah has chosen the Catholic Church to join. On the whole, I believe our beliefs are much more logical than what many Protestant beliefs are.

      Leah didn’t convert because she “stopped thinking critically.” I hate when people assume that Christians don’t actually think for themselves.

      • One reason I love the Church: it is the most consistent philosophy and ethic of man… ever.

    • Kirsten

      Paul wrote: “If you truly are bisexual after and live an honest life most main stream churches will never accept you as being a true Christian. They won’t be able to get past the fact you are living a sinful life by choosing to be bisexual.”
      I reply as one of those Inconvenient Christians; neither RC nor Evangelical. Conservatives don’t want to call us Christian because we’re liberal and Athiests don’t want to believe we’re liberal because we’re Christian. In fact, it was 2005 when my denomination (United Church of Christ) passed a resolution at our national gathering honoring all marriage regardless of gender. This followed more than 3 decades of GLBT rights discussions, as the first openly Gay man ordained in the UCC was in 1972. We still have a long way to go but I believe we’re moving in the right and faithful direction.
      To Paul: You sound like one of the many who has been deeply wounded by the church and for that I am extremely sorry. Churches, whether one believes them to be divinely inspired or not, are made up of humans with all of our fears and frailties and can be very cruel indeed.
      I hope that someday grace will overcome the polarized rhetoric which monopolizes so many discussion boards and we can see the beautiful tapestry of life that lives between the selvage edges of the fabric.

    • Rachel K

      I’m a bisexual convert to Catholicism. It has never, ever been an issue for me among any of my believing friends or my confessors (although, to be fair, since I married a man it doesn’t come up often). I’m very sorry that you met Christians who were uncharitable enough to give you this impression of the Church, but they didn’t speak for all Christians.

  • Welcome home. And God bless. Converts are so amazing.

    If you have a chance, go through Story of a Soul and possibly Introduction to the Devout Life. Both are available in the public domain. You can even get the audio from Librivox.org. It has absolutely nothing to do with this blog post, but, I find that they have done more for me (Story of a Soul especially) than any theologian or apologist has ever dreamed.

    They are some good food for the soul, possibly the best outside of the sacraments.

  • Kingofthenet

    Leah, What is wrong with Hyper Advanced Space Aliens for ANYTHING you want of a God? Seriously, they can create Universes, seed Planets and BEST OF ALL, not insult the natural order. Simple No? No need for Yahweh and his murderous rampages, you went from Atheism to following a MONSTER that in his OWN book kills EVERY SINGLE LIVING THING on Earth save one small boat. Than 6 million of his ‘chosen people’ are killed in the most horrible way, with NO interceding, I guess saving them ONCE was all they get. So what chance you think YOU got?

  • Daniel Woike

    This is a very contentious issue. But I would like to present a libertarian view of this issue. I am devout Catholic and since I have started reading libertarian people on this issue I have noticed it divides them too. In a certain sense they support all 3 positions, keep marriage between one man and one woman, support sam-sex “marriage” laws, and to say that the government should get out of the marriage issue entirely. In a perfect world, all libertarians would support the 3rd choice. But since they are lots of other things attached to all these things it becomes more contentious. I would like to post a few things it would be nice if you would read. I would say though that I think the only options a Catholic who wants to respect church teaching would be these options, keeping marriage legally between one man and one woman, supporting same-sex unions(because this does not force people who do not think they are married to have to recognize it), or advocating for the state to get out of the marriage debate entirely and leave it up to the Churches and people to decide.

    But all this does not address the real question why do Catholics reject homosexual actions. I am sure you have heard plenty of the these arguments and I think they make sense. Plus if you are going to be Catholic you should actually accept the teaching. I liked that you said that you would not date women. And I understand your worry if trying to universal this issue with other people who are same-sex attracted. Actually talking to someone about this can be very difficult as there are multiple things you want to make sure you don’t do or things you want to say. The great balance between truth and charity, is a very hard thing to figure out indeed. I am sure you have heard of steve gershom. He has some great stuff on his blog. Here are the links.

  • Daniel Woike
  • Juraj Farkasovsky

    my name is Juraj (George) and I´m from Slovakia. being a convert myself I was happy to read about your plan to enter the God´s family. Don´t forget you are going to have a lot of siblings all around the world that will pray for you and with you. I see that you have many questions about Church´s teaching on sexuality. This is the best resource you can get on this topic:
    God bless you.

  • Mark

    As a gay ex-catholic with a lot a resentment directed at the church, I’m wondering how you’re queer friends are reacting to your conversion. PS I went to high school with you.

  • Amy

    I would also like to commend you on your decision to follow the Church teaching on this subject WHILE you work to understand it, as opposed to AFTER understanding it. Already, you understand what it means to be truly Catholic so much more than many cradle Catholics I know.

  • Fortuna Veritas

    So… You chose to be Roman Catholic, despite them being one of the more anti-gay, and yet also most hypocritical about it, what with homosexual pedophilia coverups being something they loved so much, and immediately hung your sexuality up on the towel despite your own reservations with the stodgy decision that is clearly locked in the historical bigotry and hatred of the church (and this, as a whole rather than just the Roman Catholics), when there are many other Christian denominations which do not take such a hardline or antiquated view of sexuality?

    Why haven’t you answered what’s wrong with Anglicans/Episcopalians? They’re basically like Roman Catholics except without the problematic pedophilia coverups, the problem of the pope and past popes, less ethical problems with the amount of wealth they’ve stockpiled versus what they’re doing to help the world, and they’re friendlier to alternate sexualities.

    Roman Catholic-Lite, I believe they’re known as.

    • Fortuna, I’m sorry, but the Episcoples offer even fewer answers than the Catholics do. The Catholic Church may have the problem of the Pope, but the Episcoples have the problems related to Lambeth and they have all of the issues related to the “divine right of kings”. They also have *far* worse in the ratio of dollars in to dollars given to the poor.

      And, to be completely honest, these days the Catholic Church is one of the safest places for children. They are far more likely to be abused by coaches, teachers, and volunteers. As far as I know, all diocese in the U.S. require that all of their employees receive basic training in how to spot and report child abuse even if they don’t work with kids. Some places even require criminal background check before people are allowed to volunteer (actually caused a problem for me — they used a digital scanner and my fingerprints don’t show up very well). You can’t say the same for the local PAL, 4H, the swim team, the YMCA… This is NOT to say that the Church did not fail here, but that the world is *far* more dangerous and *far* more frightening than we believed when we were children.

  • Oldspeaker

    To perturb the notion that homosexual acts are sinful, there are people who cannot easily be classified as male or female. People with androgen insensitivity syndrome (AIS) are genetic males who have intersex or female traits because their bodies cannot fully respond to male hormones; they may look like masculine women or completely like women (they have female genitals although they still have testicles hidden in their bodies). With whom they have sexual relations is only a dilemma if you buy into the purported divine injunction against homosexual conduct.

    • Simply because a medical condition exists which makes an issue ambiguous that does not mean that the entire point is mute. It simply means that there must be (and is) nuance.

      If you’re interested, I am more than willing to help research on what that nuance actually means and how it is meant to be applied.

      • Oldspeaker

        I was coming from a materialist and evolutionist perspective. From an evolutionist perspective, there are no bounds on bodily and behavioral elaboration. Please expand on the nuance, but note that I do not hold your religious premises.

  • Greetings from Guatemala! While I do not agree on your views regarding civil gay marriage and gender issues, I respect the way you frame your arguments in a genuine and honest way and what it seems to me, a desire to learn and let God do His work in your life.
    If I might, I would like to suggest to you the books by Dr. Jennifer Roback-Morse (“Love and Economics” and “Smart Sex”), a Catholic economist who is doing great work regarding family, marriage and other issues.
    All my best to you and may God continue tod do His sanctifying work in your life.

  • “I’m basically approaching this as walking the line between civil disobedience and dissent. I’m keeping my behavior inside Church teaching, but my voice and arguments are unrestrained. A fight (properly approached) is to everyone’s benefit. If I’m wrong, I want to lose, and if I’m right, I want to win. Neither of those things are likely to happen if I hold back on explaining my position and poking at other people’s about theirs.”

    This, in a nutshell, is what theologians (e.g. Sr. Farley http://ncronline.org/news/vatican/statement-mercy-sister-margaret-farley) do in their work. Their work would be meaningless if they were required to always figure out a way to reconcile their findings and conclusions with official doctrines and dogma. There really wouldn’t be any point to theology in general if it were only about looking for ways to reaffirm Church teachings.

    – Larry Weisenthal/Huntington Beach CA

  • Thank you for the C.S. Lewis quote. I thought I’d heard it some time ago, but haven’t been able to locate it since (partly because, like here, I’d heard it referenced in relation to a discussion on sexuality, but apparently the quote is only indirectly about that topic, itself. Although it is clearly still relevant). Now I’ll be able to find it when I need it again. 🙂

  • Jeff

    Leah, it’s true that the Church teaches that marriage is a sacrament.
    But it teaches that sacramental marriage is a sacrament.
    Natural marriage also exists. And it is a good.
    Sexual liaisons between people of different sexes are not goods. They are evils. And they are NOT marriages.

  • Kathy

    The union of man and woman = Child. Life comes from the conjugal act, whether welcomed or not. There is no other conclusion for same sex unions. Up until 20 years ago, this was a mute point.

    • pagansister

      Kathy, And what is wrong with not having children? Many heterosexual married couples choose to have no children for many reasons. Some I expect are Catholic. Many homosexual couples are fortunately allowed to adopt—and many adopt children no one else will take—and give them loving and caring homes. So the argument of “the union of man and woman=Child” ? Not the only reason for marriage.

  • Yahzi

    Leah, I’ve read through a lot of these comments, and one thing that strikes me is how so many of them seem very unwelcoming to a person who self-identifies as bisexual. It appears that most of your fellow believers do not believe that you should ever marry a woman.

    On the other hand, when you were still an atheist dating a believer, did your fellow atheists tell you it was immoral to marry a believer? We may have predicted heartache and failure; but did we assert that you should not try, that it was wrong to even consider it? Did we assert that your status as an atheist depended on whom you chose to marry?

    You have rejected the company of those who accepted you in whatever form you were, in exchange for the company of those who only accept you if you change. This makes me sad.

    • Not every Catholic in the world is “company” to every other Catholic in the world.

    • Frank

      Well one could stay exactly who they are without God or accept God and let God transform them into someone more Godly. If you want to stay right where you are that’s oyur choice.. Leah has chosen something more. She is smart!

  • David Davies

    A reality exists before we create the word we use to describe that reality. Ontology precedes logogeny, to create an expression.

    When I ask the bartender for a ‘martini’, he cannot then offer me a concoction made up of orange soda and yogurt. He must have the correct ingredients for a drink called a ‘martini’.

    ‘Marriage’ has particular ingredients. It requires a man and a woman. A horse and a dog won’t do, no matter how devoted they are to each other. Wrong species, wrong ingredients. Two men won’t do. Right species, wrong ingredients.

    If we go full Humpty Dumpty here and allow the word ‘marriage’ to mean any relationship whatever then we will have to find a new word to distinguish the male/female pair bonding. Language is supposed to be descriptive, and when a word has to come with footnotes so that we know what the word is actually describing then it is time to find a new word.

    In any case, and whatever name it is given, the male/female pair bonding is different in kind from other sexual relationships.

    • pagansister

      Yes, D. Davies, marriage does have particular ingredients, and your examples are like apples and oranges. The main ingredient of marriage is 2 adults who love each other and wish to live together for the rest of their natural lives (hopefully). They wish to formalize that by marrying. If that form is in a religious ceremony or secular one, makes no difference.

      • David Davies

        pagansister. How do you not see this?

        relationship A – man + woman
        relationship B – man + man

        both are human relationships but A is not B. they do not have the same ingredients.

        • pagansister

          D. Davies: Blind I guess. :o)

        • pagansister

          D Davies, you forgot “relationship C “- woman +woman. Just saying. I suppose they haven’t got the same ingredients, as A. Right? OR is” C” less “sinful” ?

          • David Davies

            Trying to keep it simple, pagansister. Unwilling to multiply examples. Point remains the same. A+ B does not equal A + A nor B + B. The only way you can make that work is if you posit that A = B. It seems to me that there are real differences between men and women which are non trivial. If you assert that a man is the same as a woman then I think you have a serious problem with ontology.

        • Dianne

          relationship A – man + woman
          relationship B – man + man

          both are human relationships but A is not B. they do not have the same ingredients.

          Relationship A: man A and woman A: This couple marries when they are 18 because they want to have sex and can’t see any way to get it except through marriage and have two children within the next three years.

          Relationship B: man B and woman B: This couple marries when they are 30 after several previous relationships. They have no children but happily live together and are an integral part of the lives of their young nephews and nieces.

          Relationship C: man C and woman C: This couple never marries, but lives together from the time they are 40 until they die 50 or so years later. They have one child, early in the relationship.

          Relationship D: man D and woman D: They meet at age 78 as widow and widower and marry shortly thereafter and live happily, if briefly, ever after. No children, of course.

          Are relationships A, B, C and D all the same just because they are opposite sex relationships? Should A and C be valued over B and D because B and D don’t have children? Would the B relationship be less valuable if it were between two men or two women, rather than a man and a woman?

  • Stephen

    There are many Catholics who are both faithful to magisterial teaching and still recognize that state recognition of homosexual marriage does nothing to impugn upon sacramental marriage. You might check out some of Tom Wood’s writing. He is a faithful “conservative Catholic” (in the sense that he affirms the teachings, creeds, councils, etc., of the Church), but insists that the State should not discriminate on marriage. Full disclosure: he is, as am I, a libertarian, so some of the things you’d see might be disagreeable to you. However, on this issue I thought you might like to know that there are Catholics who both favor rights for homosexuals while still actively pursuing the life of Christ as revealed by his Church.



  • pagansister

    Leah, your journey into the Church is not, as you already know, isn’t going to be easy. Having left Christianity (not the Catholic Church) many, many years before you were born, I could not return to it now as a much older person. Life has proven to me that leaving was the right thing to do. Hope you find the RCC what you think it is, and it feeds your soul.

  • Rachel K

    Leah, regardless of what some others in your combox are saying on both sides of the atheist/Catholic divide, it’s possible to be a bisexual fledgling Catholic. I came to the Church from a semi-Baptist, semi-wishy-washy-non-denominational “eh, Jesus was a great guy” background rather than an atheist one, but in terms of my sexuality, I was very close to where you were when I started the conversion process. I wasn’t actively dating a woman, so I didn’t need to agonize over breaking up with a girlfriend for the sake of conversion (in fact, my recent relationship with a woman had ended disastrously, so I was pretty keen on the idea of swearing off women for awhile); I disagreed with the Church on homosexuality but on very few other things; and I was an ardent supporter of gay civil marriage. I had the good fortune to get together with my future husband about a month after my baptism, so I never had to worry about whether or not to date a woman (a luxury that I know lesbian converts don’t have).

    It took a very long time, but over the course of several years, I read enough about the Church’s sacramental and sexual theology to understand why, given the Church’s teaching on sex and the sacraments, it would never allow religious gay marriage. This was incredibly difficult for me at first, but since I agreed with all that underlying theology, it became pretty clear to me that I’d been trying to stick a round peg into a square hole.

    As far as gay civil marriage, honestly, it’s still something I struggle with. I know I’m not supposed to support it, but at the same time, I can’t get too worked up over opposing it. I can’t really accept something that I believe condemns two people to a life opposed to God’s plan for them, but in the face of abortion, no-fault divorce, exploitation of the poor, and exploitation of illegal immigrants–and that’s not even getting into the horrors going on in the third world!–the gender of the person in my ex-girlfriend’s bed seems like the last thing I should be worrying about. So even if you do change your mind about Church teaching on homosexuality, you don’t have to be out protesting the Pride parade or anything. 😉

    But I never would have understood the Church’s teaching if I hadn’t immersed myself in it, and I don’t think I ever would have accepted it if I hadn’t looked at it from all angles. The argument that ultimately won me over had nothing to do with sex; it was a chapter in a Scott Hahn book about the sacraments, and that particular chapter didn’t even mention marriage (I think it was about baptism). Without taking in the full tapestry of Church teaching, it’s easy to look at one aspect you disagree with and get sidetracked.

    And ultimately, when I disagree with the Church, I keep coming back to John 6:68: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know you are the Holy One of God.” Once that falls into place, everything else is just details.

  • Dianne

    As far as I can tell, the arguments against gay marriage presented here are:

    1. Tradition. It’s always been that way.
    2. God says it must be that way.
    3. Civilization will collapse if it’s allowed.

    Well, number 1 is false. There are numerous historical examples of male/male or female/female relationships sanctioned by various civil and religious groups, including the Catholic church.

    As to 2, I’m not Catholic and not terribly up on theology, but it’s my understanding that claiming to know the mind of God is heresy. How do you know that God isn’t kinder than you and doesn’t take as much joy in a love between two men or two women as between one man and one woman? Will you justify the misery you’ve caused families torn apart by your policies to your deity? Is your belief more important than the right of a woman to stand by her partner’s bed as she dies or a man’s right to not have his child ripped from him because his husband died?

    Three is also blatantly false. Iowa has not become a den of iniquity. Canada remains stable. Denmark…well, ok, I’ll give you Denmark*. But Holland, Germany, New York, Massachusetts, etc are doing fine. Society does not collapse when gay marriage is instituted. Marriage doesn’t collapse either. It just doesn’t happen.

    *It’s a joke. Denmark is a perfectly nice place. A little wild, maybe, but by no means a morass of a failed society.

  • Kate

    I have been following your story, Leah, with a sort of casual interest, more out of bafflement than anything else, as I simply cannot see how to connect the morality dots and come to the conclusion that Catholicism is right, so I’ve been trying to understand. Your statements in this post have gotten my dander up enough to comment, however, which is significant considering I’m a longtime lurker pretty much everywhere.

    The moment I read: “I’m willing to not date women in the meantime,” things got personal for me, pretty quick. It troubles me for many reasons.

    First, I reject the idea that you can simply remove homosexuality from the discussion of the moral superiority/truth of the Catholic dogma. I do not see the correlation to the C.S. Lewis/gambling example, as the biological origins of homosexuality (I know still debatable, but not really in my books), importance or severity of the sin of homosexuality in the Church’s opinion (regardless of their official stance, no one can deny that they’re tenacity in stopping homosexuality far outstrips their campaigns against gambling, haven’t seen a huge movement against casinos from them in like, forever), not to mention the psychological consequences of their “homosexuality is a sin” stance on the so-called sinners, makes the two issues completely incomparable.

    Also, it’s unfair to equate your current situation and your relationship with the “sin” in question with Lewis’s, as he expressly states he has never been tempted by gambling, but you are bisexual and so have been “tempted” by homosexuality, if not in deed then in thought (don’t know your dating history so didn’t want to presume). Also, this idea that you can just stop dating women to remove the issue is an extremely harmful idea, as it suggests that by not dating women you have suddenly become not queer anymore, an idea that is a large contributing factor in biphobia. People from both ends of the sexuality spectrum are constantly taking a sort “aha! I knew you weren’t really gay” attitude the moment a bisexual women starts dating a man, or decides that it is a man she wants to be with for the rest of her life. Which, you know, is not cool. Being gay is not just about what you do, but how you feel, even though the Catholic Church is always trying to reduce the issue to sex. For example, I’m still a virgin, does this make me any less of a lesbian? No siree bob, if God looked in to my head he’d see I was plenty sinful in that regard.

    The Church’s official stance may be hate the sin love the sinner, but I still suspect that even if I promised, cross my heart, pinky swore not to do the nasty with my lady love ever, the Catholic Church would still not be okay with me getting married. They are very much in favour of playing thought police (that kind of stuff is right in the big 10, do not covet and all that), so unless you’re saying you’re going to turn off your attraction to women (or perhaps in your situation turn off your gender blindness as it were and restrict your attraction to dudes only) as well as changing your dating practices, homosexuality is still very much in the picture. And while this may even be an option for you, it only becomes a tenable moral position if the Catholic Church stated that homosexuality was specifically a sin for you as an individual. But thats not the case, it refers to all humanity, so unless you’re planning on turning off gayness everywhere for a while, it still doesn’t excuse you from coming down on one side or the other of the “is loving and wanting to be with another consenting human being an inherently sinful thing” issue, and I really don’t see how that is a difficult decision for someone who is concerned with morality.

    Saying you’re just going to stop doing a behaviour so you don’t have to discuss the rammifications of that behaviour morally, means that either you’ve decided the behaviour is sinful and you shouldn’t be doing it in which case, you know, screw that, or it’s just a cop out so that you don’t have to admit that the expressed word of god both through the bible and the pope is wrong in a big way, bringing the whole moral system in to question. Which also sucks.

    Which brings me bake to bafflement.

  • You know, being Episcopalian is very like being Catholic, except without essentializing gender, either in terms of who we ordain or who we allow to form sexual relationships. I’m Episcopalian so I’m biased, but with even a cursory look at your blog I think you’d fit in well with us. We’re much smaller then the RCC, so we can be easy to overlook, but for a lot of people we are Catholicism without the bad bits, though we can get somewhat silly on the left edge of things.