Click HERE for a Wall Street Journal op-ed that summarizes nicely the state of affairs in the city of the poverello of Assisi.
If I might, the key questions, as I see them…
1. Does the Archdiocese go too far in stipulating that teachers at Catholic schools may not publicly advocate for grave evils identified in the Catechism?
I do not count myself as Member #1 of the Archbishop-Cordileone Fan Club. But it would seem that the answer to this question is No.
Everyone is entitled to his or her private opinion and private life. Employees of Catholic institutions who privately act immorally face the judgment of their consciences, not the boss. (And, as the boss of a couple venerable, albeit small, Catholic institutions, I tend to consider Facebook private, because the last thing in the world I want to do is fuss about people’s facebooks. That said: Anyone who facebooks in order to serve the mission of the Church, please don’t contradict the Catechism!)
So private is private. But: Employees of the various levels of government, and of private companies, face stricter restrictions on public expression of their personal opinions than the Archd. of SF imposes.
Labron cannot openly root for the Lakers. State-Department employees don’t get to take sides publicly in the Obama-Netanyahu debate. If you want to make public statements about the Iran negotiations, don’t work for the State Department. If you think the Catechism is wrong, why sign up to participate in the educational mission of the Church?
And, as for identifying objectionable public positions, what standard is Abp. Cordileone supposed to use, other than the Catechism? Who could question that the Catechism serves as the fundamental reference point for what the Church, in all Her institutions, stands for?
Which brings us to the second–and, I think, decisive–question:
2. Is the morality or immorality of homosexual acts a settled matter?
According to a lot of well-bred people, the matter has been settled. To suggest that homosexual acts are inherently immoral–this suggestion is itself immoral, according to the assumptions of the solons of San Francisco. As I have proclaimed dramatically a few times, I am ready to go to jail, if these people want to throw me in. They do not make sense.
All of this said, though, let’s put the shoe on the other foot, too.
Individual archbishops have no authority to determine whether questions of morality remain open or stand closed. Abp. Cordileone, it seems to me, does right to insist that the Catechism must be the guide. Primary and secondary Catholic education is not really the place for the discussion of disputed questions of morality. (Although I know a few juniors and seniors who could definitely write a good and thoughtful paper on this subject.)
On the other hand, though, the Church must always have a forum in which people get to ask questions like: Is it conceivably possible that homosexual acts might, under some circumstances, actually be perfectly moral? In such a forum, the questioner has every right to follow up the question with arguments in favor of an affirmative response.
Now, I do not hold myself out as particularly knowledgeable regarding this debate in morals. I think some Episcopalians consider themselves to have had this debate, and solved the problem. I’m not so sure they have. Speaking for myself: Homosexual acts seem immoral to me on the grounds that they amount to nothing more than mutual masturbation. Pouring time and energy into such things is, at best, a terrible waste.
The argument has been proposed that some people are ‘gay’ by the will of God, since they experience homosexual inclinations without having made any choices that would stimulate such feelings.
That argument fails. Not with respect to the claims of experience, which can hardly be denied. But because it does not take the Fall, and the corrupted state of human nature, into account. The experience of homosexual desires does not indicate the will of God any more than other disordered appetites do. A diabetic can’t claim that God wills him or her to want to drink 24 Cokes a day.
Also: the way babies get made would seem to leave homosexual acts out, in an outer orbit of weirdness.
All that said, the Church has a forum for arguments to the contrary. People who want to make such arguments can and should make them. And any reasonable Catholic should listen and consider.