Homosexuality - is it disgusting, or is it delightful?
This is the age old question on this topic, and the Catholic Church has been delightfully consistent in always condemning homosexuality as a grievous, grievous sin. Grievous, grievous.
As we know, Christ came down to earth to instruct us in the ways in which we must limit our sexual expression. He may have said the Beatitudes one stray weekend between appearances at the Knights of Columbus, He may have said startling things like "love thy enemy," "turn the other cheek," and "resist not the evil doer" - but He either meant those as quirky but meaningless bromides, or perhaps they've been mistranslated, and He actually said "God is my co-pilot, and whenever you go to war, know that God is right beside you, killing people too."
But the Church has a seamless garment approach to sexuality - it isn't just homosexuality that is forbidden (though that admittedly is the most disgusting of sex's faces), it also forbids all touching of oneself (otherwise known as masturbation, and called "normal development" by demon psychologists), all heterosexual contact outside of marriage, and, of course, any sexual contact that uses birth control since the ONLY ALLOWABLE sex must always leave open the possibility of childbirth. God created sex for procreation, not recreation. He added pleasure to the sexual act as a little trick to keep the population growing. But we are not meant to enjoy the pleasure, or if we do by chance, that cannot be our primary purpose.
I was fortunate to be a child in the late 50s, and so learned the truths of my religion through the brilliantly conceived Baltimore Catechism, so named for Our Blessed Mother's famous appearance at a Baltimore automobile dealership, where she warned against Godless communism and Japanese imports.
The Baltimore catechism correctly focused on the Ten Commandments, since they were the main focus of Christ's teaching on earth.
We lucky school children learned early how "Honor thy parents" really meant obeying them. Obedience is one of the hallmarks of a good Catholic; thinking for yourself is actually a danger to good morality, as we know.
And, of course, we became very familiar with the sixth commandment, "thou shalt not commit adultery." This commandment, the catechism explained, forbade "all impurities in thought, word, or action, whether or alone or with others." Who knew the word "adultery" had such a vast and miscellaneous meaning?
But the Holy Fathers of the Church were undoubtedly inspired by Humpty Dumpty in "Alice in Wonderland," who said "When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean."
It was great to be a 13 year old boy, and to worry and fret and use every ounce of one's conscious abilities to avoid masturbation. That truly was always Christ's core message: Stop touching yourselves!
And out of this profound and loving understanding of the inherent evilness of the body, the church came up with the idea of celibacy. Not only don't touch yourself as a child, but have no physical closeness with anyone for your entire life. That is surely what's best for grown men and women. Divorce yourself from your bodies.
As St. Paul, that holy mental case, wrote: "It is better to marry than to burn." Which means if you can't control your body, go ahead and marry, and thus avoid hellfire; but the implication is it's better to be unmarried and unsullied by the disgusting human flesh that God seemingly created as a sick joke. Plus you're only on earth a while, so you just have to put up with life and wait for your real lives in heaven. Plus, "the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit" - there, does that make it clearer why you should leave your bodies alone? You don't want to be grossing out the Holy Spirit, who may be traveling around your body like Raquel Welch and the scientists bopping around the blood stream in the movie Fantastic Voyage.
I so admire the Catholic Church for guarding and stressing what has been important in the teachings of Christ.
When I was 16 to 18, I was a very fervent believer, and it was during the anti-Vietnam war years; and I became involved with many of the anti-war Catholic leaders, including some of the younger priests at my monastery school. And I began to believe that Christ actually called us to be pacifists.
I didn't come to this belief that Christ called us to non-violence lightly. My Junior year in high school, a fellow student told me his beliefs on this topic, and I debated with him, telling him he was crazy, that war was inevitable, that one had to stand up to evil in the world militarily, and that furthermore the Catholic Church had always supported wars, and sent chaplains to be with the military, and never told people they couldn't fight in a war. They told people often and with great energy that they couldn't have sex outside of marriage, or use birth control, or masturbate, or have same sex relations. Don't, don't, don't, they said continually and with long, complicated reasonings. But killing people, the church has been very understanding about, as long as it's done in an organized way like in a war.
Oh, sure, they had the "just war" theory, but as far as I could see it applied to just about every western war that ever was. World War I, as I studied it in high school, was about the stupidest war ever, but I don't think there were any Catholic leaders telling people not to fight in it, were there? Or a pilot who drops a bomb that has vast "collateral damage" (meaning many women and children are burned up alive) - does the church say he should go to confession even? I've never heard it. Is it a sin to use the word "collateral damage" as a way of disguising what you're doing? I've never heard a church leader mention it.
The Church might tell people who considered voting for John Kerry that they should be blocked from receiving communion. But when did the Church ever say to young men and women: don't fight in a war, refuse, don't join up.
My senior year in high school I marched in the New York City peace march of 1967, protesting the Vietnam war. It was a beautiful spring day, and the march was joyful, and people leaned out of office buildings cheering the enormous crowd on. I thought surely this outpouring of citizen opposition would cause this war to end. And within a year Lyndon Johnson announced he would not run for president again - I felt we had won. And then a few months later, our choices suddenly boiled down to Hubert Humphrey and Richard Nixon - both committed to "staying the course," a phrase we hear a lot now.
This is supposed to be about sexuality and gayness, isn't it? But in truth I am in a place of enormous exhaustion and frustration with the Catholic Church - they've proclaimed themselves infallible (a very Alice in Wonderland-like way to win an argument, I must say); its bishops shuffled pedophile priests from parish to parish without even warning people, which seems positively certifiable; and it has energetically tried to block condom use in every country where there is burgeoning AIDS, using its philosophical stubbornness to insist that anyone who doesn't practice abstinence die - "you agree with me on abstinence, no sex is what I want you to do; and if you don't agree, then die die die, it's your fault."
What is the purpose of such a Church?
I feel sort of bad writing this. I assume most of the readers of Conscience still feel and believe in the direct line between Christ and His Church, no matter what idiocies and cruelties and stupidities are perpetrated by the fallible men who make up the Church's hierarchy. (And, boy, the birth control ban is just stupid, plain stupid.)
But I long ago stopped finding the Church a useful messenger of Christ. And I doubt Pope Ratzinger will change my mind. I've come to believe the "kingdom of heaven" is within - we're all part of the soul of God.
I believe that was declared a heresy long ago, right? Well, my apologies if this is too negative for the magazine. I wish you all well. But I'm not very interested in the Church's opinion on anything anymore.