Homosexuality: 2. The Truth Question
If you read part one of this commentary (Homosexuality: 1. The Disorder Question), you’ll have noticed that my correspondent begins by asserting her “bona fides” through the statement: “I am a practicing Catholic.” She then goes on to reflect not Catholicism but the prevailing attitudes of the surrounding culture. In this light, her response to the reply outlined in the previous entry—the reply in which I explained the disordered nature of homosexuality—is even more telling:
I’m sure you can quote me the scripture proving that I am against “God’s plan” in this. And furthermore, you can bolster that with what the Magisterium has to say about “God’s plan”. It is really difficult to have a rational discussion about a subject when you are trumped by God. I guess you know what God thinks better than I do. As does the Magisterium. Of course. Silly me for using the brain God gave me.
This, of course, is nothing but vintage late twentieth-century and early twenty-first century self-congratulatory between-the-ears fluff. In the confusion that has characterized Catholic formation (or the lack thereof) over the past couple of generations, even Catholics don’t like being “trumped by God”. It’s so…so…irrational! We moderns have a nearly infinite capacity to portray ourselves as romantic heroes because we so courageously follow the crowd.
But it is not at all irrational (nor does it indicate a lack of personal integrity) to be trumped by God. In fact, to permit oneself to be trumped by God is the first lesson in the productive use of human reason.
There are, it would seem, two kinds of people in the world: (1) Those who understand that the human person has a powerful tendency to regard the prevailing attitudes of his surrounding culture as “rational”, and who therefore seek to protect themselves against the obvious pitfalls of that tendency; and, (2) Those who don’t, and so have no effective way of facilitating the transcendence of cultural limitations which is reason’s true glory. If my correspondent were at once intelligent, self-reflective and honest, she would admit immediately that, had she lived fifty or a hundred years ago, she would have had a strong tendency to believe that homosexuality was disordered. She would have received this from her surrounding culture, and she is likely to have accepted it uncritically, just as she now receives and accepts the opposite.
The problem here is that every culture, in every time and place, tends to inculcate a combination of truth and error, and by far the psychologically least demanding course is always to accept the entire mix uncritically. What this means, though, is that the most important activity of human reason is to find ways to place itself outside the assumptions of the surrounding culture so that it can perform a more objective analysis of each question. The simplest and most certain means of doing this is to avail oneself of Revelation.
The only absolutely certain authority in the universe is God. If we have good reason to believe—as we do—that God has desired to communicate with us through some revelation, and that we have identified this revelation (through its character and circumstances which are inexplicable without divine intervention), then an intelligent believer will always use anything he can learn from that revelation as both a starting point and a potential corrective, both to other sources of information and to his own propensity for intuitive and logical error. In other words, it is not the person who dislikes being “trumped by God” who is “using the brain God gave” him, but the person who really wants to be “trumped by God” as often as possible.
Now let us consider for a moment what it means to be “a practicing Catholic”. For purposes of being a Godparent, it means simple observable things, such as regularly attending Mass and participating at least externally in the life of the Church. But in a far more meaningful sense, being a practicing Catholic means engaging not only externally but interiorly in Catholic life—opening the mind to Revelation, participating in the life of grace, living ever more deeply the mysteries of Faith. One who claims to be a “practicing Catholic” should welcome a deeper appreciation of Scripture, a growing understanding of Tradition, and the intellectual and moral guidance of the Magisterium, for it is precisely these things which enable the Holy Spirit to perfect us, including our reason. In other words, it is only these things that enable us to be consistently trumped by God.
One of the many things Revelation helps us to do is to understand more fully the nature of all those things any given human culture tends to obscure. Therefore, one of the salutary results of adherence to Revelation is that Christians are able to perceive that homosexuality is disordered even when their culture tells them it is not. Moreover, they can also figure out the reasons and explain them cogently once they have gotten on the right track by seeing the basic truth in the Divine mind. Silly me, then, if I fail to take advantage of Revelation to free my mind from cultural constraint. Silly me if I fail to take advantage of the single most obvious aid that will enable me to “use the brain God gave me” well.
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Posted by: unum -
Apr. 21, 2010 8:15 AM ET USA
While the "truth question" is certainly applicable to the laity, I think we need to address its application to the whole Church. The laity have the responsibility to seek truth, but they have not been given the responsibility to "teach as Jesus did", and on many occasions they have been misled. Many of the clergy have abdicated their teaching responsibility by succumbing to secular norms or watering down their teaching to avoid offending. A top to bottom examination of the Church is needed.
Posted by: -
Apr. 19, 2010 5:24 PM ET USA
It is truly amazing how few people have been trained to think critically. As teenagers, we were "beat up" almost every time we opened our mouth at the Jesuit high school I attended—how many times did I hear "define your terms" and "don't tell me what you don't understand; go back until you get to what you do understand—then we will work forward". Lack of logic, seeking the lazy/easy way through any question, and failure to understand the formulation of the question leave most in the dark.
Posted by: JimK01 -
Apr. 18, 2010 12:42 PM ET USA
Excellent articles! I regret that many folks won't read them simply because of the titles and primary subject matter, thus missing out on all that great Thomastic logic and reasoning. Please restructure and reissue these fine articles addressing a less controversial topic such as "lying, cheating or stealing." The logic and reasoning is the same and the potential articles could then be referenced for a wider variety of both lessons and people. I enjoy all your articles - please keep writing.
Posted by: BLRallo3059 -
Apr. 17, 2010 5:46 PM ET USA
It is indeed difficult, if not impossible, to make honest sense of the homosexuality issue without Cathilic moral teaching. I have many friends who are homosexuals and, as children of God, I love them. But I also pray for them every chance I get. If they are participating in homosexual acts, they are sinners (as we all are) and they need my prayers. My gay friends know that I am a fully observant Catholic but still choose genuine friendship over hostility and criticism.
Posted by: -
Apr. 17, 2010 11:22 AM ET USA
Bellarminite1: It was ever thus so. There is no golden age of Catholicism when Catholics did not behave as they are doing today. Likewise for bishops. Never trust a bishop, said St. John Chrysostom. On homosexuality, the writings of Fr. Tony Anatrella provide one of the clearest examinations of the subject. Things are disorderly when the sexual organs are use in the manner common to homosexual activity.
Posted by: wtchurch5213 -
Apr. 17, 2010 9:29 AM ET USA
Well done, Dr., well done!
Posted by: -
Apr. 16, 2010 9:32 PM ET USA
I m getting too old for this world. What is being heralded in Jesus' Church is beyond the pale. I can just imagine Jesus and His Holy Mother's sorrow watching what is being done to the people He died for. The more Jesus is not honored and loved, the more tendency for His people to forget Him. How, how sad. The nails are still being pounded into His hands and feet and His side is still being pierced. 'Oh, Jesus, remember me when you enter into Your Kingdom.'
Posted by: New Sister -
Apr. 16, 2010 5:49 PM ET USA
"don’t like being 'trumped by God'" !! I heard Dr von Hildebrand recently state (on EWTN) that it is our *forgetting we are creatures* that leads us to take an incorrect (wrong) moral position. I find this useful because our contemporaries are so far gone (many, I think, could be "invincibly ignorant") that we need to reel back to a most primordial level - is there a Creator? - before addressing with them His Law and the Authority to which He entrusted His Revelation.
Posted by: ebierer1724 -
Apr. 16, 2010 2:27 PM ET USA
Thank you Jeff.
Posted by: -
Apr. 16, 2010 9:02 AM ET USA
When working on my car I really hate being trumped by the maintenance manuals. I'd much rather decide for myself how the car should be repaired. That's why God gave me tools. Of course, my car hasn't been running well lately . . . wonder what I'm doing wrong.
Posted by: Frodo1945 -
Apr. 15, 2010 10:09 PM ET USA
Bellarminite1 Sounds like you are not outnumbered by Protestants but completely surrounded by them.
Posted by: Bellarminite1 -
Apr. 15, 2010 4:44 PM ET USA
Great job, Jeff. Thanks. Where I live, Catholics are far outnumbered by Protestants and, it seems, many of the "practicing Catholics" have taken on the notion that we're all responsible for interpreting Scripture and determining morality on our own, that the Holy Spirit will guide each of us individually as needed. They've decided that the Church and the Magisterium (if they even know what that is) are obsolete and out of touch with day-to-day reality. Very frustrating.