Recently, I stumbled upon a set of very bad arguments against the 2015 pastoral letter by Philippine bishops against marriage equality written by someone named Fr. RJ who claims to be a Catholic priest who is also an LGBT.
Fr. RJ’s response is considered beautiful by some blogs. I suppose, but the arguments are very bad. I’m sure some people will say I’m only saying that because I defend the Catholic position on same sex marriage. I assure you, even if I am pro same sex marriage, I would still consider Fr. RJ’s arguments to be bad. The LGBT community deserves a better and more logical defender.
The only way to provide a logical argument for same sex marriage is to get out of the Catholic framework, i.e. to prove that the Catholic understanding of marriage is wrong. This, in turn, entails the need to prove that the whole system of Catholic truths is wrong. Since Fr. RJ, as a Catholic priest, remains within the Catholic Church, his arguments end up illogical.
In this post, I will share my reply to Fr. RJ; but before that, let me clarify a couple of things.
- I am not anti-LBGT. In fact, one of my closest friends is gay. I don’t agree with his lifestyle but I don’t judge him negatively. After all, I am also a sinner, and I have also committed mortal sins against chastity.
- There is a difference between being anti-homosexuality and anti-homosexual. I am against the act, but not against the person. It is possible to love the sinner but hate the sin.
- I am not personally against Fr. RJ. I don’t even know the guy.
I will mention Fr. RJ’s counter-arguments then give my counter-counter arguments. I will not include the passage he quotes from the bishop’s letter unless it is necessary to do so for clarity’s sake. Quotes from the bishops are underlined. Fr. RJ’s arguments are numbered. My arguments are in bullet list.
1. Just because something is less common does not make it objectively disordered. Just because a couple do (sic) not have children or are unable to have children does not make them objectively disordered. By the same wrong argument that the bishops are using, celibacy or remaining unmarried should also be considered objectively disordered because it is not ordered towards the union of male and female in a relationship of natural complementarity.
- To describe something as ‘objectively disordered’ is to say that it does not follow God’s order. God created men to be for women, and vice versa. That is the order of things.
- The Catechism says “In marriage God unites them in such a way that, by forming ‘one flesh’ they can transmit human life: ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.’ By transmitting human life to their descendants, man and woman as spouses and parents cooperate in a unique way in the Creator’s work.” (372) This means, as Fr. RJ ought to know, that God has allowed spouses to bring in new souls into the world. That is one (but not the sole) of the purposes of marriage. Hence, unions which are by nature barren like homosexual unions cannot be allowed.
- What about heterosexual unions between persons who are infertile? Should these marriages also be considered objectively disordered? No, because these marriages intended to be fertile, but God for whatever reason has decided not to give them the gift of children. The spouses have the proper body parts for the propagation of children, but since children are a gift from God, not something owed by God to every married couple, their infertility it is not their fault. In contrast, in a homosexual marriage, the spouses don’t have the proper body parts to give birth to children, hence their union is objectively disordered. To give an analogy, if you have eggs and cheese, you can make a cheese omelette; otherwise, you can’t.
- Relating celibacy with the point against homosexual marriage is fallacious. The bishops were comparing homosexual unions with the Catholic understanding of marriage. For celibates, their lives are ordered towards a union with God, not with a human spouse; hence if someone who is called to celibacy is tempted by sex, then he is disordered. A good example of this is a priest who knows he is in the right vocation but he feels tempted to have a girlfriend or feels tempted to experience sex.
- The bishops in the very same pastoral letter admit that “There are some men and women, however, often through no fault of their own, who find themselves sexually attracted to individuals of the same sex… [Research] indicate that male and female homosexuality… have both biological and environmental causes.” If homosexuality is not a choice and if it has biological and environmental causes, then it is therefore natural. Just because something is less common does not make it unnatural.
- It is also ‘natural’ for husbands to cheat on their wives because research has suggested that this is how the male brain works. Should we accept adultery then?
- As a female with higher levels of testosterone than what is usual for most females, it is natural for me to desire sex as much as males do. Research has suggested that females like me respond to sexual stimuli very much like the usual male. This makes it more difficult for me to resist the temptation to commit sins against chastity. Should the Church make an exception for females like me and say that fornication and masturbation are not sins for us?
- Some LGBTs like me are called to celibacy. As a Catholic priest, it is a vocation I have responded to and embraced. However, to say that all LGBTs are called to abstinence from sexual intimacy has no basis in the Bible and no basis from reason. It is like saying that all LGBTs are called to become priests and nuns.
- Here is one (for there are many) Bible basis for saying that LGBTs are called to abstinence: 1 Corinthians 6: 9-11 “Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” Take note: This verse says ‘men who practice homosexuality’ NOT ‘men who are homosexuals. Thus, a person may be attracted to persons of the same gender, but as long as he does not do the act, he can still inherit the kingdom of God.
- LGBTs are called to abstinence in the same way that everybody is called to abstinence when dealing with people they are sexually attracted to but are not married to. Hence, a man may be sexually attracted to a woman who is not his wife but must abstain from sexual intimacy with her because it is not right.
- Human beings, limited as we are, have this sad tendency to misunderstand God’s plan for His creation. The good news is that we can also learn from our mistakes and correct our past errors. Homophobia and discrimination against LGBTs is one area where we have gravely misunderstood God’s plan. The truth is that God created LGBTs and God has a beautiful place for LGBT persons and LGBT families in His loving plan.
- The last statement is debatable. Did God also create adulterers? What if an adulterer tells you, Fr. RJ, that he can’t control himself? That he really must go after other women? And what if the wife is ok with her husband’s adultery, and she even encourages him because she wants him to be happy? You can’t say then that the adulterer is hurting anyone. Is this part of God’s loving plan? Think about it.
- Catholics are called to resist all attempts to normalize homosexual behavior and homosexual unions in their culture.
Catholics are called to resist equality and social justice for LGBTs? Sorry, this is not what Jesus taught. Jesus was always on the side of the marginalized. Jesus was always on the side of human rights and human dignity.
- The bishops didn’t say ‘resist equality and social justice for LGBTs.’ They said ‘resist all attempts to normalize homosexual behavior and homosexual unions in their culture.’ In other words, homosexuality must be understood by all Catholics as abnormal, or objectively disordered. In other words, we love the sinner, but hate the sin.
- Same sex marriage is now legal in many countries and, so far, none of these countries have collapsed and fallen into ruin. I challenge any bishop to look an LGBT couple in the eye and prove to them that their marriage perverts and undermines the common good. The reality is that the legalization of same sex marriage enhances human rights and social justice. The United Nations itself has spoken out against all forms of discrimination against LGBTs including “the denial of legal recognition of same-sex relationships”.
- I think the ‘common good’ here refers to the spiritual good which the Catholic understanding of marriage contributes to. If homosexual marriage is allowed, why not also allow polygamous marriages? The parties involved can also give the same arguments, e.g. it is natural, we are marginalized, we are not given the same rights, this is what makes us happy, etc. Further, why not also allow marriages between human beings and animals? If the animal seems happy and isn’t abused, then what’s the problem?
- Homosexual unions, on the other hand, do not have the basic biological and anthropological elements of marriage and family.
The Catholic Bishops of England and Wales disprove the above statement when they admitted: “We recognise that many same sex couples raise children in loving and caring homes.”
- The fact that a home is loving and caring doesn’t necessarily mean it is a moral home. Morality is not all about having loving and caring feelings. For example, secular families may be loving and caring, but the parents may encourage their children to commit sins like fornication, masturbation and adultery, all for the sake of making their children feel loved. Such parents may interpret ‘love’ as ‘do whatever makes you happy as long as you’re not hurting anyone,’ but that is not what morality means. Morality entails the existence of standards, and these standards can sometimes hurt others. For example, speaking up about widespread corruption is moral, but it hurts a lot of people who may be dependent on the stolen money.
- Just because something is different or uncommon does not mean that it should not be given legal recognition and legal protection.
- True, but I don’t think that’s what the bishops were against. Marriage understood properly in the Catholic sense contributes a common good to society which homosexual unions cannot give. It will be difficult to elaborate on this good, but please see what the Catechism teaches on matrimony.
- [Homosexual unions] harm the common good… [Homosexual unions] do not and cannot contribute to the common good in the same way that marriages do.
The bishops contradict themselves on these points because in the same pastoral letter they admit that homosexual unions could be occasions for virtue, “and as such, are good for society. There are many instances where same-sex couples have clearly grown in virtue, for example, the virtues of patience, forgiveness, and generosity, in and through their efforts to build a life together.”
- There is a ‘but’ in there somewhere, Fr. RJ. Here it is, a direct quote from the bishops: “It may be true that homosexual unions, in certain cases, may be occasions for the growth of imperfect natural virtue. However, this alone would not be a reason for granting them the legal status of marriage, because they still do not and cannot contribute to the common good in the same way that marriages do.”
- …the Catholic Church has the obligation to remind same-sex couples that natural virtue is insufficient for salvation and for the eternal beatitude to which everyone is called. Only the supernatural virtues are salvific.
Supernatural virtues are called supernatural because they come from God. Bishops do not get to decide who will receive and who will not receive supernatural virtues. God is the one who generously and lovingly distributes supernatural virtues and divine graces to all people, including to LGBTs, LGBT couples, and LGBT families.
- This is totally off the mark. The bishops didn’t say they decide who will receive supernatural virtues.
- As human civilization advances and as our understanding of human rights progresses, it is time to let go of past errors in the same way that the Church today no longer approves of the Crusades, the Inquisition, and slavery. We continue to value marriage between a man and a woman without getting imprisoned by a restricted definition of marriage which marginalizes a significant portion of the population who are only demanding to be given equal rights and equal protection under the law.
- This is only a rehashing of previously mentioned points.
- The Church herself is a family. This pastoral letter ostracizes the Church’s LGBT sons and daughters. This pastoral letter does not preach mercy. Instead, this pastoral letter preaches discrimination and injustice. I believe Jesus would side with LGBTs and I believe Jesus challenges the Church to repent and to seek conversion from the real sin, the sin of homophobia.
- Love the sinner, hate the sin, Fr. RJ.
- This pastoral letter aggravates the shame that LGBT persons are being made to feel. Mama Mary loves her LGBT children and embraces LGBTs with unconditional love. I believe this pastoral letter saddens Mama Mary because it hurts and it shames many of her children.
- Love the sinner, hate the sin, Fr. RJ.
Statements from Fr. RJ’s conclusion and my replies:
- The 1993 Catechism of the Catholic Church itself contains problematic statements against LGBTs. For instance, the catechism also uses the phrase “objectively disordered” to describe the homosexual inclination, a phrase which is disappointingly being parroted by the Philippine bishops in this pastoral letter.
- It’s the Catechism. If you have a problem with what is said there, you have a problem with the Church herself. In other words, Fr. RJ’s arguments are not against the bishops, but against Holy Mother Church. Fr. RJ, who as a priest is married to the Church, is attacking his spouse.
- However, it is troubling that not once in the entire pastoral letter did the bishops quote the most important and the most correct statement in the catechism about homosexuality: “[Homosexuals] must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.” This pastoral letter clearly fails in expressing acceptance, respect, compassion, or sensitivity for LGBTs.
- Did they have to use a direct quote? While the bishops did not use that quote, they did say, “The Catholic Church looks at her children who have deep seated homosexual attraction with motherly compassion and paternal love …”
- This pastoral letter is very judgmental, and it also marginalizes LGBTs.
- Love the sinner, hate the sin.
- Legalizing same sex marriage is an important and necessary means of integrating LGBTs into society.
- This is debatable. In Filipino society, LGBTs are not discriminated against in the sense that they are not dismissed from their jobs, nor are they forbidden from participating in Catholic activities, e.g. being a lay minister, joining the priesthood, etc. Also, same sex couples are not harassed by society. There is a difference between considering an act to be wrong and harassing people who do that act. Like I keep saying, love the sinner but hate the sin. Further, to force the Catholic Church to accept same sex marriage is to force her to deny her truths. To deny one truth is to deny the whole system of truth. Either you accept the Church’s teachings as a whole or do not. To cherry pick is to be a protestant.
- This pastoral letter not only violates the teaching of the catechism about accepting and respecting LGBTs, it further violates Pope Francis’ teaching against judging and marginalizing LGBTs.
- But the very same catechism which teaches the acceptance and need to respect LGBTs also teach that homosexuality is objectively disordered. Like I keep saying, Love the sinner, hate the sin.
- Also, Pope Francis’ quote is taken out of context. He did NOT in any way say that homosexuality is not a sin. When asked what his position on same sex marriage was, the pope replied, “The position of the Church. I am a son of the Church.” You may read the whole transcript here.
- The Gospel is about human rights, and equality, and about love.
- NO! This is a protestant idea, not Catholic. The Gospel is about the good news that God became man so that man may become gods. I’m not going to expound on this because to do so would require a lot of space, but please look it up if you don’t understand it.
To conclude, Fr. RJ, with all due respect, I find it hard to believe that you are a priest for I understand Catholic teaching better than you do. I have nothing personal against you, Fr. RJ, and I’ll be praying for you.