Yesterday I wrote a piece about the tendencies between left brain thinking and right brain thinking. Today and tomorrow I want to examine how this left brained tendency of the hierarchy is impacting one particular issue mainstream churches are trying to grapple with, and how maintaining an absoulitist straight line left brain approach leads to some interesting moral conundrums for the confused laity. The following extract is from Catholic Spirit the official publication of the Archdiocese of St Paul and Minneapolis, and is written by Archbishop John Nienstedt:
• Those who actively encourage or promote homosexual acts or such activity within a homosexual lifestyle formally cooperate in a grave evil and, if they do so knowingly and willingly, are guilty of mortal sin. They have broken communion with the church and are prohibited from receiving holy Communion until they have had a conversion of heart, expressed sorrow for their action and received sacramental absolution from a priest.
The first thing one has to note about this teaching of the Bishop is that it is not about active homosexuals, but about their ecouragers and promoters. They too are cooperating in grave evil, guilty of mortal sin, and self excommunicated until they have had a conversion of heart, express sorrow and recieve sacramental absolution. What Bishop Nienstedt has done here is taken the next left brained logical step in annunciating the Church's official position on homosexual activity.
Unfortunately it caused quite an uproar in his archdiocese because many parents of gay children wanted to know if supporting their gay children was now a mortal sin. Since this letter was printed right before Thanksgiving and Christmas, it caused an even bigger uproar. Were parents supposed to tell their partnered gay children to leave their partners in the closet. Were they supposed to provide separate bedrooms, and as part of their conversion of heart lecture the partners on the evil of their ways? If their gay children didn't listen, were they to toss them out of the house like the Church had tossed them out of the Church? What if one knowingly employed a partenered gay person, did that put them at risk for mortal sin as well? Was providing economic support a form of 'grave evil' support? If you were a friend of a gay person and didn't condemn them did that make you gravely evil as well? What if you actually liked their partner, was that supporting even more grave evil?
That's the trouble with left brain thinking taking an absolutist position to the next logical step. There's a lot more trees than just the ones Bishop Nienstedt thought he was cutting down. Interestingly enough the Archdiocese has not clarified any of these above raised concerns. However it does tout some of the worst thinking on this issue in the form of praising the efforts of the basically twelve step group Courage, the family support group Encourage, and citing the research of the mostly professionally disregarded group NARTH (National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, http://www.narth.com/). I'm not stating my personal opinion about Courage and NARTH, but the overwhelming opinion of the professionals in the medical, psychiatric, psychological and sociological fields. No, I'm discussing a left brained judgment here, and once a position has been arrived at, no evidence to the contrary will compute, no matter how overwhelming. Only the evidence which supports the accepted 'truth' will be allowed to influence the matter precisely because it doesn't influence the matter, it supports the already arrived at conclusion. It's all very circular. Courage and NARTH certainly fit this bill.
So the families, friends, and employers in Minneapolis are left wondering how sinful they really are, and how should they proceed if they wish to stay in communion with their parishes and the Archdiocese. Well, if they follow the teaching they will be tossing out their unrepentant children, stopping their friendships, and firing their gay employees. Now where it gets really interesting is that this left brained thinking will call these seemingly draconian steps, love for the gay person: http://thecatholicspirit.com/main.asp?
One is not harming gays at all, certainly not in any homophobic sense, but demonstrating the kind of love Christ had for sinners. Hate the sin, love the sinner. No enabling behavior on our watch, just tough love. Any scriptural passage which may contradict this view of Christ will not be cited because it doesn't compute and doesn't fit the circular logic supporting the main premise.
This whole teaching is perfectly logical and consistent, but only if you buy the main premise that homosexuality has always been condemned by God. If you buy the premise that lustful sexual acts between heterosexual men was the activity condemned by the scriptures, then you can come to a completely different understanding of this entire issue. Maybe homosexuality isn't about sexual acts, but about the same kind of love heterosexuals feel for each other, and maybe gays are just as capable of loving committed relationships, and maybe letting gays marry isn't such a horrid threat to heterosexual marriage after all, and maybe even, there is more to hetersexual sex than procreation or why would God make homosexuals. Just what is their witness to the Divine plan?
Those what if questions are, of course, more the domain of right hemispheric thinking than left hemispheric thinking. But this is a switch in thinking that's not ingrained in the magesterium, it's actively discouraged, and is probably why Hans Kung did everything in his power to stay out of the magesterium. http://clericalwhispers.blogspot.com/2008/07/theologys-steadfast-questioner.html Hans Kung clearly saw the trap, the one he avoided, and the one Nienstedt, Burke, and even Benedict did not.
But what is it about this particular issue that seems to elevate it to a somewhat undeserved status in the realm of sexual morality? This is an issue which really doesn't apply to the vast majority of Catholics, less than 10 percent. Why isn't the issue artificial contraception for instance? Is it because if I let my left brain proceed on Nienstedt's condemnation of enablers there wouldn't be too many people left in the Archdiocese of Minneapolis? Why is homosexuality apparently ontologically so much worse than say clerical pedophilia or heterosexual rape, especially to the Roman Catholic Church? I suspect this has something to do with the percentage of gays in the priesthood, which far exceeds the percentage of gays in the main population, and that phenomenon is not limited to Catholicism, it's true for all mainstream Christian religions. Then why the persecution of gays you might ask? Because by and large we are not talking psychologically healthy gays, but that's tomorrow's article.