Friday, July 25, 2008

July 25, 2008: St. James and "Humanae Vitae"

The 40th anniversary of the publication of Humanae Vitae coincides with the feast of St. James who was martyred by beheading by the hand of Herod Agrippa himself in the year 44.King Herod had James executed by sword,[5] making him the first of the Twelve Apostles to be martyred.

His relics are said to be in Santiago de Compostela in Galicia (Spain). Saint James is the patron saint of Spain. His burial town, Santiago de Compostela, is considered the third most holy town of Roman Catholicism[6] (after Jerusalem and Rome). The traditional pilgrimage to the grave of the saint, known as the "Way of St. James," has become the most popular pilgrimage for Western European Catholics from the early Middle Ages onwards; making him one of the patron saints of pilgrimage.

According to ancient local tradition, on 2 January of the year AD 40, the Virgin Mary appeared to James on the bank of the Ebro River at Caesaraugusta, while he was preaching the Gospel in Spain. She appeared upon a pillar, Nuestra Señora del Pilar, and that pillar is conserved and venerated within the present Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar, in Zaragoza, Spain. Following that apparition, St James returned to Judea, where he was beheaded.

Called by Our Lord in midst of his secular, professional work – fishing – with his brother John, the two sons of Zebedee, they followed Him. What is outstanding in Judeo-Christianity is its distinction to the great mysticisms of Asia. There, the religious figures are great mystical, solitary figures who stand head and shoulders above the personalities of Western Monotheism. Joseph Ratzinger offered that “If we set the principal actors in the covenant-event of Israel against the religious personalities of Asia, then first of all we feel remarkably uncomfortable. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses, with all their wiles and tricks with their ill-temper and their inclination to violence, seem at least quite mediocre and pathetic next to someone like Buddha, Confucius, Lao-tzu, but even such treat prophetic characters as Hosea, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel are not entirely persuasive in such a comparison.” He goes on: “From the point of view of the history of religions, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob really are not ‘great religious personalities.’”[1]

The point Ratzinger is about enters deep into the theological epistemology that he is always presenting, i.e. Divine and human persons are relationalities and cannot be “seen” by the eye nor conceptualized in thought. They must be experienced and become consciousness by an act of self-transcendence. That means that the God (Monotheism) of the Bible “is not seen, as by the great mystics, but is experienced as one who acts and who remains (for the inner as for the outer eye) in the dark. And this in turn is because man does not, here, make his own attempts to rise, passing through the various levels of being to the innermost and most spiritual level, thus to seek out the divine in its own place, but the opposite happens: God seeks out man in the midst of his worldly and earthly connectinos and relationshisps; God, whom no one, not even the purest of men, can discover for himself, comes to man of his own volition and enters into relationship with him. We could say that biblical ‘mysticism’ is not a mysticism of images but of words and that its revelation is not a contemplation by man but the word and the act of God. It is not primarily the discovery of some truth; rather, it is the activity of God himself making history. Its meaning is, not that divine reality becomes visible to man, but that it makes the person who receives the revelation into an actor in divine history.”[2]

Ratzinger then quotes J. Danielou:

“A little child, an overworked workman, if they believe, stand at a higher level than the greatest ascetics. ‘We are not great religious personalities,’ Guardini once said; ‘we are servants of the Word.’ Christ himself had said that Saint John the Baptist might well be ‘the greatest among the children of men,’ but that ‘the least among the sons of the kingdom is greater than he’ (see Lk. 7, 28). It is possible for there to be great religious personalities in the world even outside of Christianity; it is indeed very possible for the greatest religious personalities to be found outside Christianity; but that means nothing; what counts is obedience to the Word of Christ.”[3]

Our point here is that which St. Josemaria Escriva makes: “Few followed Him out of love, my children. Do you recall that telling scene narrated by the Evangelist? Do you remember the petition made by the mother of two of the Apostles, with a pardonable motherly affection, but that shows she has been scheming with her ambitious sons? Command that these two sons of mine may sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom (Mt. 20,21). And they were Apostles, who were holy, especially afterwards.”

The response of Jesus Christ is: “Can you drink the cup that I am to drink?" (Mt. 20, 22). Their response is : “Possumus”We can! The point is to be in relation. The point is to accept the gift of the Cross and to make the gift of self in executing the response to the divine call. Ratzinger’s mind is: “the decisive thing is, not one’s own religious experience, but the divine call.”[4] And if the key is to be in relation responding to the divine call, then there are no “greats,” but rather an equality of all of us responding to the vocation, “while in mystical religion the mystic has ‘firsthand’ and the believer ‘secondhand’ religion, here just God alone deals at ‘first hand.’ All men without exception are dealing at second hand: servants of the divine call.”[5]

This ultimately means that religion as living faith is not an experience isolated in the never changing consciousness of some “greats,” but an historical reality that has a direction we call “progress” “and “an attitude we call hope.”[6]

Hence, the point of the feast being Christ’s “Can you drink from the chalice that I am about to drink from?” is Newman’s point: How much are we willing to risk on the reality we hear - the Word of God - but cannot see?

Newman: “Consider for an instant. Let everyone who hears me ask himself the question, What stake has he in the truth of Christ’s promise? How would he be a whit the worse off, supposing (which is impossible), but, supposing it to fail? We know what it is to have a stake in any venture of this world. We venture our property in plans which promise a return; in plans which we trust, which we have faith in. What have we ventured for Christ? What have we given to him on a belief of his promise? The Apostle said that he and his brethren would be of all men most miserable if the dead were not raised. Can we in any degree apply this to ourselves?... This is the question, What have we ventured? I really fear, when we come to examine, it will be found that there is nothing we resolved, nothing we do, nothing we do not do, notching we avoid, nothing we choose, nothing we give up, nothing we pursue, which we should not resolved, and do, and not do, and avid, and choose, and give up, and pursue, if Christ had not died, and heaven were not promised us. I really fear that most men called Christians, whatever they may profess, whatever they may think they feel, wherever warmth and illumination and love they may claim as their own, yet would go on almost as they, neither much better nor much worse, if they believed Christianity to be a fable.”[7]

Can we say that we have risked becoming the sign of contradiction – and our necks - by teaching the content of Humanae Vitae to a society that has wanted no part of it for the last 40 years?

[1] J. Ratzinger, “Truth and Tolerance” Ignatius (2004)41-42.
[2] Ibid 42.
[3] Ibid 43; Danielou, “Vom Geheimnis der Geshichte,” 133f.
[4] Ibid 44.
[5] Ibid
[6] Ibid
[7] John Henry Newman, “Parochial and Plain Sermons,” Ignatius (1987) 917-918

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Humanae Vitae - From "Object" to "Subject"

On the occasion of the 40th anniversary of Humanae Vitae, it must be noted that HV is the first supreme, practical statement of what actually took place in the Second Vatican Council. The Magisterium of the Catholic Church complemented and deepened its epistemological depth by inserting the previously objectivized presentation of doctrine into the subjective horizon of the ontological subject. Said somewhat less menacingly, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla remarked: “If we study the Conciliar Magisterium as a whole, we find that the Pastors of the Church were not so much concerned to answer questions like ‘What should men believe?,’ ‘What is the real meaning of this or that truth of faith?’ and so on, but rather to answer the more complex question: ‘What does it mean to be a believer, a Catholic and a member of the Church?’”[1] This is the meaning of Vatican II as “pastoral Council.” That is to say, instead of the “attitude” of dealing with truth in terms of concepts about “objects” – be they God, Christ, man, grace, sacraments, etc. – the “attitude” was the experience of the subject as ontological reality.

Case in point: Ludwig Ott reports: “The Holy Office, in the year 1944, in answer to an enquiry, re-asserted the traditional teaching, according to which the primary purpose of marriage is the generation and bringing-up of children, and according to which the secondary purposes of marriage are essentially subordinate to the primary one: Denzinger 2295.”[2] Karol Wojtyla took the traditional teaching of the two ends, primary and secondary and declared that “conjugal morality consists of a stable and mature synthesis of nature’s purpose with the personalistic norm.”[3] With that intellectual move, he effectively transferred the whole horizon of analysis from object to subject (which is not a loss of ontological density and reality, but a gain). And it must be remembered that Wojtyla’s whole forma mentis is the disclosure of the “I” as the supreme ontological reality, indeed, the “privileged locus for the encounter with being, and hence with metaphysical enquiry.”[4] The personalistic norm as enunciated by Wojtyla is the following: “the person is the kind of good which does not admit of use and cannot be treated as an object of use and as such the means to an end. In its positive form the personalistic norm confirms this: the person is a good towards which the only proper and adequate attitude is love.”[5] And it must be recalled that Cardinal Wojtyla and Polish theologians played a major role in the conceptualization of Humanae Vitae. Weigel says: “In 1966, the archbishop of Krakow created his own diocesan commission to study the issues being debated by the Papal Commission. The archbishop, soon to be cardinal, was an active participant in the Krakow commission’s deliberations, which also drew on the expertise he had begun to gather in the nascent archdiocesan Institute for Family Studies. The Krakow commission completed its work in February 1968, and a memorandum of conclusions – ‘The Foundations of the Church’s Doctrine on the Principles of Conjugal Life’ – was drawn up in French and sent to Paul VI by Cardinal Wojtyla [found in Analecta Cracoviensia I (1969) 194-230].”[6]

The significant point is that the Magisterium of the Church, since the publication of Gaudium et Spes #48 which described married love as the “mutual giving of two persons” - in a word, the “self-giving” of Gaudium et Spes #24, the mutual giving of the “I’s,” the subjects – never returned to the conceptualization nor semantics of marriage as “nature” (an object) with primary and secondary ends. Rather, the marriage act is set forth conceptually and semantically as involving “the inseparable connection, willed by God and unable to be broken by man on his own initiative, between the two meaning of the conjugal act: the unitive meaning and the procreative meaning” (HV #12). One could say that the two ends of matrimony have been understood more deeply as raised up and seen as integrated in the enfleshed person as subject-gift. To be gift is to be love and to be fruitful as two inseparable dimensions of the self-giving subject. The moral criterion of matrimony, then, is not the child as a third party, but the act of self-giving. The child is not the moral criterion. Rather, the moral criterion is the metaphysical structure of the spouses imaging the divine Persons as Relations, whereby they must be always open to the child. This occurs even when the spouses refrain from intercourse during the fertile period

Total self-gift is the divinizing act. It precludes contraception. But it also includes self-restraint in abstaining from sexual relations when there are serious reasons not to have a child. In this case, one is taking advantage of a natural sterility in the cycle of the woman that should be known as integral to her person as enfleshed person. Both cases involve self-gift, the one to have the child, the other not to have the child when informed prudence would dictate otherwise. Gaudium et Spes #51 says: “When there is a question of harmonizing conjugal love with the responsible transmission of life, the moral aspect of any procedure does not depend solely on sincere intentions or on an evaluation of motives. It must be determined by objective standards. These, based on the nature of the human person and his or her acts, preserve the full sense of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love.” John Paul II clarified further: “In the light of the experience of many couples and of the data provided by the different human sciences, theological reflection is able to perceive and is called to study further the difference, both anthropological and moral, between contracepting and recourse to the rhythm of the cycle: it is a difference which is much wider and deeper than is usually thought, one which involves in the final analysis two irreconcilable concepts of the human person and of human sexuality. The choice of the natural rhythms involves accepting the cycle of the person, that is the woman, and thereby accepting dialogue, reciprocal respect, shared responsibility and self-control. To accept the cycle and to enter into dialogue means to recognize both the spiritual and corporal character of conjugal communion, and to live personal love with its requirement of fidelity.”[7]

With regard to NFP and the knowledge of the cycle, John Paul II further remarks: “Accordingly, every effort must be made to render such knowledge accessible to all married people and also to young adults before marriage, through clear, timely and serious instruction and education given by married couples, doctors and experts. Knowledge must then lead to education in self-control: hence the absolute necessity for the virtue of chastity and for permanent education in it. In the Christian view, chastity by no means signifies rejection of human sexuality or lack of esteem for it: rather it signifies spiritual energy capable of defending love from the perils of selfishness and aggressiveness, and able to advance it towards its full realization.”[8]

[1] K. Wojtyla, “Sources of Renewal,” Harper and Row (1979) 17.
[2] L. Ott, “Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma,” Tan 1974 (1952) 462.
[3] K. Wojtyla, “Love and Responsibility,” Farrar Straus Giroux (1981) 67.
[4] John Paul II, “Fides et Ratio” #83.
[5] Ibid 41
[6] G. Weigel, “Witness to Hope” Cliffside Books (1999) 207.
[7] John Paul II, “Familiaris Consortio” #32.
[8] Ibid 33.


Statement Of The Catholic Medical Association

November, 2000

Introduction1) Not born that way 2) Same sex attraction as a symptom 3) Same-sex attraction is preventable 4) At-risk, not predestined 5) Therapy 6) Goals of therapyII


The Catholic Medical Association is dedicated to upholding the principles of the Catholic Faith as related to the practice of medicine and to promoting Catholic medical ethics to the medical profession, including mental health professionals, the clergy, and the general public.
No issue has raised more concern in the past decade than that of homosexuality and therefore the CMA offers the following summary and review of the status of the question. This summary relies extensively on the conclusions of various studies and points out the consistency of the teachings of the Church with these studies. It is hoped that this review will also serve as an educational and reference tool for Catholic clergy, physicians, mental health professionals, educators, parents and the general public.

CMA supports the teachings of the Catholic Church as laid out in the revised version of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, in particular the teachings on sexuality: "All the baptized are called to chastity." (CCC, n.2348) "Married people are called to live conjugal chastity; others practice chastity in continence." (CCC, n.2349) "... tradition has always declared that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered... Under no circumstance can they be approved." (CCC, n.2333)
It is possible, with God's grace, for everyone to live a chaste life including persons experiencing same-sex attraction, as Cardinal George, Archbishop of Chicago, so powerfully stated in his address to the National Association of Catholic Diocesan Lesbian & Gay Ministries: "To deny that the power of God's grace enables those with homosexual attractions to live chastely is to deny, effectively, that Jesus has risen from the dead." (George 1999)

There are certainly circumstances such as psychological disorders and traumatic experiences which can, at times, render this chastity more difficult and there are conditions which can seriously diminish an individual's responsibility for lapses in chastity. These circumstances and conditions, however, do not negate free will or eliminate the power of grace. While many men and women who experience same-sex attractions say that their sexual desire for those of their own sex was experienced as a "given" (Chapman 1987[1]) this in no way implies a genetic predetermination or an unchangeable condition. Some surrendered to same-sex attractions because they were told that they were born with this inclination and that it was impossible to change the pattern of one's sexual attraction. Such persons may feel it is futile and hopeless to resist same-sex desires and embrace a "gay identity". These same persons may then feel oppressed by the fact that society and religion, in particular the Catholic Church, do not accept the expression of these desires in homosexual acts. (Schreier 1998[2])
The research referenced in this report counters the myth that same-sex attraction is genetically predetermined and unchangeable and offers hope for prevention and treatment.


A number of researchers have sought to find a biological cause for same-sexual attraction. The media has promoted the idea that a "gay gene" has already been discovered (Burr 1996 ), but in spite of several attempts none of the much publicized studies (Hamer 1993 ; LeVay 1991 ) have been scientifically replicated. (Gadd 1998) A number of authors have carefully reviewed these studies and found that they not only do not prove a genetic basis for same-sex attraction, they do not even claim to have scientific evidence for such a claim. (Byrne 1963 ; Crewdson 1995 ; Goldberg1992; Horgan 1995 ; McGuire 1995 ; Porter 1996; Rice 1999 )

If same-sex attraction were genetically determined, then one would expect identical twins to be identical in their sexual attractions. There are, however, numerous reports of identical twins who are not identical in their sexual attractions. (Bailey 1991 ; Eckert 1986; Friedman 1976; Green 1974; Heston 1968; McConaghy 1980; Rainer 1960; Zuger 1976) Case histories frequently reveal environmental factors which account for the development of different sexual attraction patterns in genetically identical children, supporting the theory that same-sex attraction is a product of the interplay of a variety of environmental factors. (Parker 1964 )

There are, however, ongoing attempts to convince the public that same-sex attraction is genetically based. (Marmor 1975 ) Such attempts may be politically motivated because people are more likely to respond positively to demands for changes in laws and religious teaching when they believe sexual attraction to be genetically determined and unchangeable. (Emulf 1989 ; Piskur 1992 ) Others have sought to prove a genetic basis for same-sex attraction so that they could appeal to the courts for rights based on the "immutability". (Green 1988 )

Catholics believe that sexuality was designed by God as a sign of the love of Christ, the bridegroom, for his Bride, the Church, and therefore sexual activity is appropriate only in marriage. Healthy psycho-sexual development leads naturally to attraction in persons of each sex for the other sex. Trauma, erroneous education, and sin can cause a deviation from this pattern. Persons should not be identified with their emotional or developmental conflicts as though this was the essence of their identity. In the debate between essentialism and social constructionism, the believer in natural law would hold that human beings have an essential nature -- either male or female -- and that sinful inclinations -- such as the desire to engage in homosexual acts -- are constructed and can, therefore, be deconstructed.

It is, therefore, probably wise to avoid wherever possible using the words "homosexual" and "heterosexual" as nouns since such usage implies a fixed state and an equivalence between the natural state of man and woman as created by God and persons experiencing same sex attractions or behaviors.


Individuals experience same-sex attractions for different reasons. While there are similarities in the patterns of development, each individual has a unique, personal history. In the histories of persons who experience same-sex attraction, one frequently finds one or more of the following:

Alienation from the father in early childhood, because the father was perceived as hostile or distant, violent or alcoholic, (Apperson 1968 ; Bene 1965 ; Bieber 1962 ; Fisher 1996 ; Pillard 1988 ; Sipova 1983 )

Mother was overprotective (boys), (Bieber, T. 1971 ; Bieber 1962 ; Snortum 1969 )
Mother was needy and demanding (boys), (Fitzgibbons 1999 )
Mother emotionally unavailable (girls), (Bradley 1997 ; Eisenbud 1982 )
Parents failed to encourage same-sex identification, (Zucker 1995 )
Lack of rough and tumble play (boys), (Friedman 1980 ; Hadden 1967a )
Failure to identify with same/sex peers, (Hockenberry 1987 ; Whitman 1977 )
Dislike of team sports (boys), (Thompson 1973 )
Lack of hand/eye coordination and resultant teasing by peers (boys), (Bailey 1993 ; Fitzgibbons 1999 ; Newman 1976 )
Sexual abuse or rape, (Beitchman 1991 ; Bradley 1997 ; Engel 1981 ; Finkelhor 1984; Gundlach 1967 )
Social phobia or extreme shyness, (Golwyn 1993 )
Parental loss through death or divorce, (Zucker 1995)
Separation from parent during critical developmental stages. (Zucker 1995)
In some cases, same-sex attraction or activity occurs in a patient with other psychological diagnosis, such as:
major depression, (Fergusson 1999 )
suicidal ideation, (Herrell 1999),
generalized anxiety disorder,
substance abuse,
conduct disorder in adolescents,
borderline personality disorder, (Parris 1993 ; Zubenko 1987 )
schizophrenia, (Gonsiorek 1982)
pathological narcissism. (Bychowski 1954 ; Kaplan 1967 )
In a few cases, homosexual behavior appears later in life as a response to a trauma such as abortion, (Berger 1994 ; de Beauvoir 1953) or profound loneliness (Fitzgibbons 1999).


If the emotional and developmental needs of each child are properly met by both family and peers, the development of same-sex attraction is very unlikely. Children need affection, praise and acceptance by each parent, by siblings and by peers. Such social and family situations, however, are not always easily established and the needs of children are not always readily identifiable. Some parents may be struggling with their own trials and be unable to provide the attention and support their children require. Sometimes parents work very hard but the particular personality of the child makes support and nurture more difficult. Some parents saw incipient signs, sought professional assistance and advice and were given inadequate and in some cases erroneous advice.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV (APA 1994 ) of the American Psychiatric Association has defined Gender Identity Disorder (GID) in children as a strong, persistent cross gender identification, a discomfort with one's own sex, and a preference for cross sex roles in play or in fantasies. Some researchers (Friedman 1988, Phillips, 1992 ) have identified another less pronounced syndrome in boys -- chronic feelings of unmasculinity. These boys while not engaging in any cross sex play or fantasies, feel profoundly inadequate in their masculinity and have an almost phobic reaction to rough and tumble play in early childhood and a strong dislike of team sports. Several studies have shown that children with Gender Identity Disorder and boys with chronic juvenile unmasculinity are at-risk for same-sex attraction in adolescence.(Newman 1976; Zucker 1995; Harry 1989 )

The early identification (Hadden 1967 ) and proper professional intervention, if supported by parents, can often overcome the gender identity disorder (Rekers 1974 ; Newman 1976). Unfortunately, many parents who report these concerns to their pediatricians are told not to worry about them. In some cases, the symptoms and parental concerns may appear to lessen when the child enters the second or third grade, but unless adequately dealt with the symptoms may reappear at puberty as intense, same-sex attraction. This attraction appears to be the result of a failure to identify positively with one's own sex.

It is important that those involved in child care and education become aware of the signs of gender identity disorder and chronic juvenile unmasculinity and access the resources available to find appropriate help for these children. (Bradley 1998; Brown 1963 ; Acosta 1975 ) Once convinced that same-sex attraction is not a genetically determined disorder, one is able to hope for prevention and one is also able to hope for a therapeutic model to greatly mitigate if not eliminate same-sex attractions.


While a number of studies have shown that children who have been sexually abused, children exhibiting the symptoms of GID, and boys with chronic juvenile unmasculinity are at risk for same-sex attractions in adolescence and adulthood, it is important to note that a significant percentage of these children do not become homosexually active as adults. (Green 1985 ; Bradley 1998)

For some, negative childhood experiences are overcome by later positive interactions. Some make a conscious decision to turn away from temptation. The presence and the power of God's grace, while not always measurable, cannot be discounted as a factor in helping an at-risk individual turn away from same-sex attraction. The labeling of an adolescent, or worse a child, as unchangeably "homosexual" does the individual a grave disservice. Such adolescents or children can, with appropriate, positive intervention, be given proper guidance to deal with early emotional traumas.


Those promoting the idea that sexual orientation is immutable frequently quote from a published discussion between Dr. C.C. Tripp and Dr. Lawrence Hatterer in which Dr. Tripp stated: "... there is not a single recorded instance of a change in homosexual orientation which has been validated by outside judges or testing. Kinsey wasn't able to find one. And neither Dr. Pomeroy nor I have been able to find such a patient. We would be happy to have one from Dr. Hatterer." (Tripp & Hatterer 1971)

They fail to reference Dr. Hatterer response:

"I have 'cured' many homosexuals, Dr. Tripp. Dr. Pomeroy or any other researcher may examine my work because it is all documented on 10 years of tape recordings. Many of these 'cured' (I prefer to use the word 'changed') patients have married, had families and live happy lives. It is a destructive myth that 'once a homosexual, always a homosexual." It has made and will make millions more committed homosexuals. What is more, not only have I but many other reputable psychiatrists (Dr. Samuel B. Hadden, Dr. Lionel Ovesey, Dr. Charles Socarides, Dr. Harold Lief, Dr. Irving Bieber, and others) have reported their successful treatments of the treatable homosexual." (Tripp & Hatterer 1971)

A number of therapists have written extensively on the positive results of therapy for same-sex attraction. Tripp chose to ignore the large body of literature on treatment and surveys of therapists. Reviews of treatment for unwanted same-sex attractions shows that it is as successful as treatment for similar psychological problems: about 30% experience a freedom from symptoms and another 30% experience improvement. (Bieber 1962 ; Clippinger 1974 ; Fine 1987 ; Kaye 1967 ; MacIntosh 1994 ; Marmor 1965 ; Nicolosi 2000 ; Rogers 1976 ; Satinover 1996 ; Throckmorton ; West )
Reports from individual therapists have been equally positive. (Barnhouse 1977 ; Bergler 1962 ; Bieber 1979 ; Cappon 1960 ; Caprio 1954 ; Ellis 1956 ; Hadden 1958 ; Hadden 1967b ; Hadfield 1958 ; Hatterer 1970 ; Kronemeyer 1989 , Nicolosi 1991) This is only a representative sampling of the therapists who report successful results in the treating of individuals experiencing same-sex attractions.

There are also numerous autobiographical reports from men and women who once believed themselves to be unchangeably bound by same-sex attractions and behaviors. Many of these men and women (Exodus 1990-2000 ) now describe themselves as free of same-sex attraction, fantasy, and behavior. Most of these individuals found freedom through participation in religion based support groups, although some also had recourse to therapists. Unfortunately, a number of influential persons and professional groups ignore this evidence (APA 1997 ; Herek 1991 ) and there seems to be a concerted effort on the part of "homosexual apologists" to deny the effectiveness of treatment of same-sex attraction or claim that such treatment is harmful. Barnhouse expressed wonderment at these efforts: "The distortion of reality inherent in the denials by homosexual apologists that the condition is curable is so immense that one wonders what motivates it."(Barnhouse 1977)

Robert Spitzer, M.D., the renowned Columbia University psychiatric researcher, who was directly involved in the 1973 decision to remove homosexuality from the American Psychiatric Association's list of mental disorders, has recently become involved with research the possibility of change. Dr. Spitzer stated in an interview: "I am convinced that many people have made substantial changes toward becoming heterosexual...I think that's news... I came to this study skeptical. I now claim that these changes can be sustained." (Spitzer 2000).


Those who claim that change of sexual orientation is impossible, usually define change as total and permanent freedom from all homosexual behavior, fantasy, or attraction in a person who had previously been homosexual in behavior and attraction. (Tripp 1971 ) Even when change is defined in this extreme manner the claim is untrue. Numerous studies report cases of total change. (Goetz 1997 )

Those who deny the possibility of total change admit that change of behavior is possible (Coleman 1978 ; Herron 1982 ) and that persons who have been sexually involved with both sexes appear more able to change.(Acosta 1975 ) A careful reading of the articles opposing therapy for change reveals that the authors who see therapy for change as unethical (Davison 1982 ; Gittings 1973 ) do so because they view the such therapy as oppressive to those who do not want to change (Begelman 1975 ; 1977 ; Murphy 1992 ; Sleek 1997 ; Smith 1988 ) and view those persons with same-sex attraction who express a desire to change as victims of societal or religious oppression. (Begelman 1977 ; Silverstein 1972 )

It should be noted that almost without exception, those who regard therapy as unethical, also reject abstinence from non-marital sexual activity as a minimal goal (Barrett 1996 ) and among the therapists who accept homosexual acts as normal many find nothing wrong with infidelity in committed relationships (Nelson 1982 ), anonymous sexual encounters, general promiscuity, auto-eroticism (Saghir 1973), sado-masochism, and various paraphilias. Some even support a lessening of restrictions on sex between adults and minors (Mirkin 1999 ) or deny the negative psychological impact of sexual child abuse. (Rind 1998; Smith 1988 )

Some of those who consider therapy unethical also challenge established theories of child development. (Davison 1982 ; Menvielle 1998 ) These tend to place blame for the undeniable problems suffered by homosexually active adolescents and adults on societal oppression. All research conclusions must be evaluated in light of the biases which the researchers bring to the project. When research is infused with an acknowledged political agenda, its value is seriously diminished.

It should be pointed out that Catholics cannot support forms of therapy which encourage the patients to replace one form of sexual sin with another. (Schwartz 1984) Some therapists, for example, do not consider a patient "cured" until he can comfortably engage in sexual activity with the other sex, even if the patient is not married. (Masters 1979) Others encouraged patients to masturbate using other-sex imagery. (Blitch 1972; Conrad 1976)

For a Catholic with same sex attraction, the goal of therapy should be freedom to live chastely according to one's state in life. Some of those who have struggled with same-sex attractions believe that they are called to a celibate life. They should not be made to feel that they have failed to achieve freedom, because they do not experience desires for the other sex . Others wish to marry and have children. There is every reason to hope that many will be able, in time, to achieve this goal. They should not, however, be encouraged to rush into marriage, since there is ample evidence that marriage is not a cure for same-sex attractions. With the power of grace, the sacraments, support from the community, and an experienced therapist, a determined individual should be able to achieve the inner freedom promised by Christ.

Experienced therapists can help individuals uncover and understand the root causes of the emotional trauma which gave rise to their same sex attractions and then work in therapy to resolve this pain. Men experiencing same-sex attractions often discover how their masculine identify was negatively effected by feelings of rejection from father or peers or from a poor body image which result in sadness, anger and insecurity. As this emotional pain is healed in therapy, the masculine identity is strengthened and same sex attractions diminish.

Women with same sex attractions can come to see how conflicts with fathers or other significant males led them to mistrust of male love or how lack of maternal affection led to a deep longing for female love. Insight into causes of anger and sadness will hopefully lead to forgiveness and freedom. All this takes time. In this respect individuals suffering from same-sex attraction are no different than the many other men and women who have emotional pain and need to learn how to forgive.

Catholic therapists working with Catholic individuals should feel free to use the wealth of Catholic spirituality in this healing process. Those with father wounds can be encouraged to develop their relationship with God as a loving father. Those who were rejected or ridiculed by peers as youngsters can meditate upon the Jesus as brother, friend, and protector. Those who feel unmothered can turn to Mary for comfort.

There is every reason for hope that with time those who seek freedom will find it, but we must recognize when we encourage hope, there are some who will not achieve their goals. We may find ourselves in the same position as a pediatric oncologist who spoke of how when he first began his practice, there was almost no hope for children stricken with cancer and the physician's duty was to help the parents accept the inevitable and not waste their resources chasing a "cure." Today almost 70% of the children recover, but each death leaves the medical team with terrible feeling of failure. As the prevention and treatment of same-sex attraction improves, the individuals who still struggle will, more than ever, need compassionate

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Is Same Sex Union "Marriage"? Msgr William B. Smith

When asked if same sex union is “marriage,” Smith answered:

“Same-sex union is not `marriage’ and should not be called such. The present Code of Canon Law correctly defines marriage as a `matrimonial covenant’ by which `a man and woman’ establish a partnership of their whole life which of its nature is ordered to the well-being of the spouses and to the procreation and upbringing of children (cf. Canon 1055, #1 and also CCC, #2362).

“Obviously, same-sex union has nothing to do with procreation; same-sex human procreation is a physical and human impossibility.

“Similarly, same-sex union is not truly unitive sex `ordered to the well-being of the spouses’ (here partners) because the exercise of sexuality here is not a `gift of self’ to the other but rather and simply masturbatory sex, a gift (if you will) of self to same self. Thus, the use of words here; `love’ (love that is not marital) or `lovers’ is quite misleading and simply not true.

“Same-sex expression – be it oral, anal or manual – is not and cannot be marital love since the complementary unitive dimension of human sexuality is absent. Masturbatory sex is not self-giving. It is, perhaps, self-getting and, in truth, it is self-indulgent lust. Galatians 5, 24 is addressed to all Christians: `How those who belong to Christ have crucified their flesh with its passion and desires’ (cum vitiis et concupiscentiis in the Vulgate).

“Now, either St. Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, has it right or, the whole of Christian tradition has it wrong. Masturbatory sex is not truly unitive nor is it at all procreative and that is what the Catechism teaches about Chastity and Homosexuality (CCC, #2357).

“This fundamental teaching of the Church `is founded upon the inseparable connection, willed by God and unable to be broken by man on his own initiative, between the two meanings of the conjugal act: the unitive meaning and the procreative meaning’ (Humanae Vitae [1968] n. 12; cf. CCC, #2366).

“This unitive-procreative connection is the very meaning of human sexuality. Every misuse of human sexuality somehow tries, most often artificially, to separate and/or suppress one of these goods allegedly for the sake of the other. Artificial reproduction separates the unitive good for the procreative; whereas, contraception and sterilization chemically suppress or surgically remove the procreative good for the unitive. However, masturbation is neither unitive nor procreative and thus can never be marital. Any love that does not transcend itself is not worthy of the name love.

“To advance legal claims, legal benefits or arrangements to make same-sex unions supposedly stable does not change in nature or reality what this activity is. It is what it is; indeed, it cannot help but be what it is, and surely it is not marital!”[1]

[1] Homiletic & Pastoral Review January 2004, 62.

With the Prospect of Having to Give a Class on Homosexuality: Re-reading Old (2003) Musings

The Wall Street Journal has published two op ed pieces[1] that basically say the same thing: Conservatives should have no argument with gay marriage since the protagonists serve the country, raise children, share financial responsibility, are personally responsible for the other and others, produce emotional stability, protect individual liberty, stabilize American families, protect religious freedom, guarantee states’ rights. So what’s the problem?

The New York Times editorial of November 20 drew a parallel between the situation of gay marriage and overcoming racism legally. It said: “When the rights of disadvantaged groups are newly recognized, there is often opposition, some of it fierce, and the road ahead may be rough. But like the early court rulings striking down segregation, this has the feel of a legal revolution beginning.”

What seems to be the problem is the dumbing down of the perennial and universal experience of spousal love between a man and woman to the thin abstraction of civil existence. At this level the human person is synonymous with a numerical individual where ciphers have no color and one must be understandably colorblind. This is to reduce the thickness of the sexual existence of the self to the thinness of an exterior black, white or yellow and demand that everybody see gray. When will the child announce that the emperor has no clothes? Such a dumbing down reduces human sexuality to a combination of platonic friendship and animal titillation.

The actual experience of human sexuality in the immense majority of people is mutual self-giving which involves asymmetrical donation and reception. In every homosexual union there is an absence of genital gift as in lesbians or reception as in homosexuals. That reciprocal but asymmetrical complementarity of bodies in the human is fundamental for the difference of the experience of personhood in man and woman.

Even on the level of "myth," the account of that most ancient of documents, Genesis 2, speaks of the first human as neither male nor female. This first rational human, Adam, was commanded by the Creator to till the garden and name the animals. In the act of obeying, Helen Keller like, “he” suddenly experienced self as different from the rest of creation, and in a unique sense, alone. The Creator pronounced this to be inadequate for a being created in the image of a “We,” and re-created the human as male and female. Thereupon, they entered into a sexual union with their entire selves as embodied personalities and reached fulfillment as image of the divine.

Sexuality, in this account, is pervasive to the very “I.” The very self is masculine or feminine. “The difference between man and woman is a metaphysical one. A long time ago the Pythagoreans divined this when they placed male and female among the Categories…”[2] As a result, on the level of experience and not by abstract thinking – variations to the contrary being pathological -, the self experiences itself as male or female. It is not a neutral structure to which sexuality is added. “Conjugal love is so far from a compound of friendship and sensuality.” It is an act that is different from every other form of love in that it is the very gift of oneself in such a physical way that one becomes one being, one flesh, with another, and in the process engenders new life. It is a mystical experience of self-transcendence whereby the two become one flesh. There is no escaping the longing to become the other, to be one body with the other. As body, the “I” and the “you” meet on the level of sperm and egg in the engendering of a new person. Rather than seeing this as an evolution of animal sex, it is the mystical experience of persons in ecstatic love that is only image in animals. In persons, it is love engendering personal life. In animals it is a populating of species.

This is not the rational abstraction of a calculus of civic virtues such as “emotional calm,” “social stability,” “service to country,” “raising children,” etc., which provokes the scandal at and dismay of the opposition to gay marriage. It is the perennially lived experience that has been so damaged by the acquisitive culture of non-gift that it has been vulnerable to the gay critique.

And it seems to have no conceptual rebuttal once the argument is couched in the abstract terms of reductive civility. As Guerriero says, “How can conservatives disagree?” or Sullivan, “What is the social conservative position on civil unions?” “What aspects of them can conservatives get behind?” “What details are they less convinced by?” The wings of reason have been clipped by the long-standing alienation from the experience of the self as transcending in sexual self-giving. “What details are they less convinced by?”

C.S. Lewis says, “We castrate, and bid the geldings be fruitful.” The self has been locked in on itself since the first sin and the continuous self-deflations of personal sin in the erotic and economic autonomy of the last centuries. Sex has become a self-indulgent contact sport. We live in flatland giving reason no context of consciousness in which to orient itself as to meaning. We have no north. The argument from the Supreme Court Case “Lawrence” in Texas that decriminalizes homosexual acts, and Massachusetts Judge Marshall who provides homosexuals legal access to civil marriage, diminish and flatten the question to the thin prism of legality for individuals from whom sexuality has been abstracted out. The legal must be based on the real dimensions of life where the overwhelming and universal life experience has been the anthropologically thick sexual differentiation and complementarity. Once you strip real life experience out of the argument and you work with the abstraction of civil individuals relating as abstracted individuals – neither male or female – the argumentation becomes disingenuous. Having forfeited the absolute that reason feeds on, the mind is left to struggle only with a calculus of proportionate or disproportionate values or consequences. It is only with the heart that one sees rightly. One cannot reason well about the human person independent of the experience of being a human person. And that involves sexuality.

Sexuality removed, we are now reduced to the civil issue of black, yellow and white. Once we have removed the experiential difference between male and female as irreducibly different ways of being equally human, they have been flattened out and abstracted as mere accidental differences of race. We are out of contact with the being that is ourselves. Once the public is led across that epistemological threshold, the entire issue is a no-brainer. The legal obstacles to homosexual marriage and its legal and financial consequences will be removed as if they were of the same genre as the laws prohibiting interracial marriage. However, the real has a relentless way of re-entering the equation. The human experience of being an embodied and sexed person seeking completion in complementary sexual union will out.

[1] Andrew Sullivan, The State of Our Unions, WSJ, Wednesday October 8, 2003, A 24; Patrick Guerriero, ‘Til Death Do Us Part, WSJ, Thursday December 4, 2003 A 16.
[2] Dietrich von Hildebrand, Marriage, The Mystery of Faithful Love, Sophia Institute Press (1984) 11.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

From an American OBGYN

I had the privilege of spending two weeks recently in Rome!!!... I approached Zenit news about doing a story about my reason for going to Rome this time around… It is an interview with the developer of Naprotechnology( Dr. Tom Hilgers), which some of you have personal experience with, although most of you may just have read about or just heard mention of it….

I hope to have other interviews in the near future. One with a family doctor from Utah, a Mormon, who believes in the teachings of Pope Paul VI as he read in the encyclical Humanae Vitae. Another article will be about and Irish family doctor who has dedicated his whole medical practice in Ireland to helping woman and their husband achieve a pregnancy using the principles of Naprotechnology. He is so successful, even with couples that have undergone IVF and failed at this, that the IVF gurus in England and Ireland are telling people he practices "witchcraft". So far, 800 live births over 10 years of practice. Another story is of an American priest who after spending 8 years in Pakistan realized when he got back to the states that the greatest tragedy to Catholics is their widespread adoption of contraception and sterilization. He is now "retired" and does mission work in the USA and Canada spreading the GOOD NEWS of what the Church teaches about marriage, sex in marriage and how understanding the cycles of fertility and infertility binds and strengths couples in their love (Dr. Robert Conkling).

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Our Lady of Mount Carmel - July 16, 2008

The topic of Mt. Carmel is the topic of Our Lady, Elijah, the mountain itself which is Christ, and faith which is Love.

In 1964 Joseph Ratzinger asked: if love is the point of Christianity, why faith? He answered by asking, as usual, another question: “Who among us would not have to admit that even in the acts of kindness he practices toward others, there is still an element of selfishness, something of self-satisfaction and looking back at ourselves? Who among us would not have to admit that he is more or less living in the pre-Copernican illusion and looking at other people, seeing them as real, only in their relationship to our own selves?... It is at this point that faith begins.”[1]

With regard to St. Thomas the Apostle, Newman remarked: “What the Apostle says of Abraham is a description of all true faith: it goes out not knowing whither it goes. It does not crave or bargain to see the end of the journey; it does not argue with St. Thomas, in the days of his ignorance, ‘we know not whither, and how can we know the way?’ It is persuaded that it has quite enough light to walk by, far more than sinful man has a right to expect, if it sees one step in advance; and it leaves all knowledge of the country over which it is journeying to Him who calls it on.”[2]

As we have seen on July 3d, St. Thomas the Apostle was neither saint nor blessed because he saw and believed. It is precisely because he saw that he did not really believe yet. The certitude that comes from faith is a knowing that comes from the love that is self-gift. It is a knowing without seeing. And yet it is a seeing that is not by sight. Ratzinger’s point is that faith is needed because I don’t really love enough until I relinquish the certitude that comes from myself and my own investigation – making sure for myself. I am sure because of my love for the other. “Faith is thus that stage in love which really distinguishes it as love; it consists in overcoming the complacency and self-satisfaction of the person who says, ‘I have done everything. I don’t need any further help.’ It is only in ‘faith’ like this that selfishness, the real opposite of love, comes to an end.”[3]

The mountain is always Christ the Cornerstone. It is the place of loving prayer and contemplation. Elijah prayed in belief to end the drought, and it ended. “Behold a little cloud like a man’s hand is rising out of the sea. People could see it from the summit of Mount Carmel while the prophet Elijah was beseeching the Lord to put an end to a long drought. The cloud quickly spread to cover the sky and brought abundant rain to the parched earth. Scripture scholars see this rain cloud as a type of the Blessed Virgin Mary. By bringing the Savior into the world she bore the living water to quench the thirst of all humanity, and she continually brings us countless graces.”[4]

Elijah is a major figure here. In the third Book of Kings (19, 11-21), we find him as the only believer in Israel: “I have been most zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. But the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, torn down your altars, and pout your prophets to the sword. I alone am left, and they seek to take my life.” He had confronted Ahab and Jezebel and their 450 priests of Baal in a contest of faith on Mt. Carmel. The 450 had prayed, slashed themselves, danced, shouted, etc. to no avail: “But there was not as sound; no one answered, and no one was listening.” Then Elijah prayed saying: “Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these tings by your command. Answer me, Lord! Answer me, that this people may know that you, Lord, are God and that you have brought them back to their senses” (3 Kings 18, 36).

Threatened by Jezebel, Elijah begins a journey of 40 days from Mount Carmel to Mount. Sinai – the site of direct encounter with God - to restore and strengthen his faith. He is told “Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord” (3 Kings 19, 11). Before the Lord comes “a great and strong wind… overthrowing the mountains, and breaking the rocks in pieces; the Lord is not in the wind, and after the wind an earthquake; the Lord is not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire; the Lord is not in the fire, and after the fire a whistling of a gentle air. And when Elijah heard it, he covered his face with his mantle, and coming forth stood at the entering in of the cave, and behold a voice unto him, saying: What dost thou here, Elijah?” (19, 11-13).

After performing the great works and visible testimonies concerning the Lord, Elijah – not unlike John the Baptist – had to go through yet another conversion to find the Lord in the small things and obscurities of ordinary life. He had to come to belief again by finding God not in the great winds, fires and earthquakes, but in the gentle breeze. This was precisely the point of Benedict XVI concerning John the Baptist who had begun to doubt in prison and send to Christ messengers with the question: “Are you who is to come, or shall we look for another?” Therefore, the gently breeze, the darkness and obscurity of prison, and, yes, ordinary life, the search for the quid divinum in the quotidian, the Church telling us that, indeed, Christ has risen from the dead – this is the locus where we become blessed and holy by the loving gift of self to the Person of the revealing God.

Our Lady is the chief protagonist of this. The “truth of Mary” is the announcement of Elizabeth at the visitation: “Blessed is she who believed.” Luke said three times that Mary kept the word in her heart and pondered it (Lk. 1, 29; 2, 19; 2, 51). Ratzinger said: “First of all, then, she is portrayed as a source of the tradition. The word is kept in her memory; therefore she is a reliable witness for what took place. But memory requires more than a merely external registering of events. We can only receive and hold fast tot eh uttered word if we are involved inwardly. If something does not touch me, it will not penetrate; it will dissolve in the flux of memories and lose its particular face… I cannot really understand something for which I have no love whatsoever. So the transmission of the message needs more than the kind of memory that stores telephone numbers: what is required is a memory of the heart, in which I invest something of myself. Involvement and faithfulness are not opposites: they are interdependent…. Mary becomes a model for the Church’s mission, i.e., that of being a dwelling place for the Word, preserving it and keeping it safe in times of confusion, protecting it, as it were, from the elements. Hence she is also the interpretation of the parable of the seed sowed in good soil and yielding fruit a hundredfold. She is not the thin surface earth which cannot accommodate roots; she is not the barren earth which the sparrows have pecked bare; nor is she overgrown by the weeds of affluence that inhibit new growth. She is a human being with depth. She lets the word sink deep into her. So the process of fruitful transformation can take place in a twofold direction: she saturates the Word with her life, as it were, putting the sap and energy of her life at the Word’s disposal; but as a result, conversely, her life is permeated, enriched and deepened by the energies of the Word, which gives everything its meaning. First of all it is she who digests the Word, so to speak, transmuting it: ut in doing so she herself, with her life, is in turn transmuted into the Word. Her life becomes word and meaning. That is how the gospel is handed on in the Church.”[5]

The Scapular: On July 16, 1251, the Blessed Virgin appeared to St. Simon Stock, the superior general of the Carmelite Order, promising a special blessing for all who wear her scapular. “The Blessed Virgin Mary promised many privileges in this world to those who wear her scapular. Moreover, it is a pious belief that, since she is so merciful and powerful everywhere, in the next life she will comfort by her motherly protection those who have worn the scapular and are expiating their sins in the fires of purgatory, and bring them promptly to their heavenly home.”[6]

“Wear on your breast the holy scapular of Carmel. There are many excellent Marian devotions, but few are as deep-rooted among the faithful and so richly blessed by the popes. Besides, how motherly is the Sabbatine privilege!” (Josemaria Escirva, “The Way” 600).

[1] J. Ratzinger “What It Means to Be a Christian” Ignatius (2006) 74.
[2] John Henry Newman, “Faith Without Sight,” Plain and Parochial Sermons 11, 2, Ignatius (1987) 234-235.
[3] J. Ratzinger, Op. cit 75.
[4] Francisco Fernandez Carvajal. “In Conversation with God” VII, 13.
[5] J. Ratzinger, “Seek That Which is Above,” Ignatius (1986) 101-103.
[6] Roman Breviary of St. Pius V, Ad Mat., Sixth Reading

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Elijah and John the Baptist

Don’t miss the connection Our Lord makes between Elijah and John the Baptist. Elijah was the last believing prophet in Israel. He had just given public testimony concerning the reality of the transcendent God on the top of Mt. Carmel calling down divine fire on the animal victim that was turned into a holocaust. Pursued by Jezebel, he walks the forty miles to climb Mt. Horeb-Sinai to have his faith strengthened. He takes his place in a cave on the mountain where he is told to “go outside and stand on the mountain before the Lord; the Lord will be passing by.” A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the Lord – but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake – but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was fire – but the Lord was not in the fire. After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound. When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave. A voice said to him, ‘Elijah, why are you here!’” And Elijah dialogued with God.

John the Baptist also was mighty in his testimony concerning God. But when he was cast in jail, doubt came over him and he sent messengers to ask if Jesus was really the Christ, the God-man, or not. The answer that came back was that Love was in the world in the form of giving sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, speech to the mute, life to the death and the preaching of the Good News to the poor. Blessed is he who is not scandalized in me.

The point is that both were looking for the transcendent God in big things that could impress the senses and give conceptual clarity to the mind. Both had to go through yet another conversion to perceive God. It was revealed to them that God was to be found only in faith and in the small things – in the whispering of the wind and healing the sick. There must be a conversion of the person from within to be able to see and recognize the presence of God right before our eyes. One has to give up everything to be able to see and hear God: “Elijah went over to him Elisha) and threw his cloak over im. Elisha left the oxen, ran after Elijah, and said, ‘Please, let me kiss my father and mother goodbye, and I will follow you.’… Elisha left him and, taking the yoke of oxen, slaughtered them; he used the plowing equipment for fuel to boil their flesh, and gave it to his people to eat. Then he left and followed Elijah as his attendant.”[1]

[1] First Book of Kings, 19, 1-9, 11-21.

St. Bonaventure 2008

Bonaventure’s history: In 1257, he is called from professorship in Paris to replace John of Parma as General of the Franciscans. John of Parma had gotten himself, and therefore the Franciscan Order, embroiled in the polemics and condemnation of the theories of Joachim of Fiore which centered on the three ages of history, Father (Old Testament), Son (Incarnation to St. Francis) and Spirit (the new and final ”Order”). Ratzinger wrote: “Here it becomes clear not only that St. Francis himself is the bearer of the seal of God by reason of the Stigmata, but also that he shares in the function of the apocalyptic angel of the seal. He is to share in the task of sealing the elect of the final age. It is his task to sign the 144,000 elect with the seal of God, and in this way to establish the community of the final age. This new and final ‘Order’ which is to arise out of the tribulation of the final days will be a Franciscan Order; its proper form of life will be that of St. Francis. The obvious crisis of the moment is the meaning of revelation, its relation to the Sacred Scripture, and the exegesis thereof.

The mission of Bonaventure was to migrate from a conceptual scholasticism that he was teaching in Paris to an experiential (and Franciscan) theology that would give direction to the task at hand, and, as we might be able to see, to the task of the Church of our own time. In 1259, Bonaventure “withdrew into solitude on Mount Alverna, the holy Mount of the Order” where “he… had no other intention in mind than to allow himself to be drawn more deeply into the spiritual world of Francis in whose place he now stood.

“The Itinerarium mentis in Deum, which Bonaventure brought with him from these weeks of solitude, is a first sign of a new intellectual direction. From this book onward, the figure of St. Francis enters ever more into the center of his thought; indeed, it is precisely that Francis who has fittingly been called the ‘Christ-Image of the Middle Ages’… [In 1267] Bonaventure returned to the university pulpit ten years after his departure, and he entered again into the arena of doctrinal disputes which were becoming ever more critical. But it was a transformed Bonaventure. He did not return simply to take up a position within the interdisciplinary debates. Rather, he came back as an outsider to point out the limits of science from the perspective of faith. It is in this context that we must understand… the final work of this period, the Collationes in Hexaemeron, written in 1273, that clearly provides us with the synthesis and crown of the whole development. It is first in this world that Bonaventure offers a penetrating exposition of those problems which had led earlier to the downfall of John of Parma. These were the problems which had kept the entire Order in suspense to an ever-increasing degree; namely, the questions of Joachimism and Spiritualism. For this reason, the work, by its very nature, was forced to undertake a fundamental treatment of the theology of history.”

Ratzinger continues: “It is the intention of the Hexaemeron to hold up the picture of the true Christian wisdom in the face of the intellectual aberrations of the age. But for Bonaventure, who was entirely a man of his times, wisdom is unthinkable and unintelligible without reference to the historical situation in which it has it place. Consequently, the development of the ideal of wisdom naturally grows into treatment of the theology of history…

“Bonaventure arrives at a new theory of scriptural exegesis which emphasizes the historical character of the scriptural statements in contrast to the exegesis of the Fathers and the Scholastics which had been more clearly directed to the unchangeable and the enduring….

“Certainly Scripture is closed objectively. But is meaning is advancing in a steady growth through history; and this growth is not yet closed. As the physical world contains seeds, so also Scripture contains ‘seeds;’ that is, seeds of meaning. And this meaning develops in a constant process of growth in time. Consequently we are able to interpret many things which the Fathers could not have known because for them these things still lay in the dark future while for us they are accessible as past history. Still other things remain dark for us. And so, new knowledge arises constantly from Scripture. Something is taking place; and this happening, this history, continues onward as long as there is history at all. This is of fundamental importance for the theologian who explains Scripture. It makes it clear that the theologian cannot abstract from history in his explanation of Scripture; neither from the past nor from the future. In this way, the exegesis of Scripture becomes a theology of history; the clarification of the past leads to prophecy concerning the future.”

It is valuable to compare these remarks (1) with Ratzinger remarks on his habilitation thesis on Bonaventure; and (2) from Ratzinger’s commentary on the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

First, the habilitation thesis: “`revelation’ is always a concept denoting an act. The word refers to the act in which God shows himself [the divine Person] not to the objectified result of this act [the written word]. And because this is so, the receiving subject [the person/subject/believer] is always also a part of the concept of ‘revelation.’ Where there is no one to perceive ‘revelation,’ no re-vel-ation has occurred, because no veil has been removed. By definition, revelation requires a someone who apprehends it. These insights, gained through my reading of Bonaventure, were later on very important for me at the time of the concilar discussion on revelation, Scripture, and tradition. Because, if Bonaventure is right, then revelation precedes Scripture and becomes deposited in Scripture but is not simply identical with it. This in turn means that revelation is always something greater than what is merely written down. And this again means that there can be no such thing as pure sola scriptura (‘by Scripture alone’), because an essential element of Scripture is the Church as understanding subject, and with this the fundamental sense of tradition is already given.” [3]He immediately adds that this position was not understood to be “a faithful rendering of Bonaventure’s thought (however, to this day I still affirm the contrary) but a dangerous modernism that had to lead to the subjectivization of the concept of revelation .” (Milestones 108-109).

Secondly, he comments on the Catechism of the Catholic Church by asking: “What is Sacred Scripture, after all? What makes this rather heterogeneous collection of literary works, which came into being over a period of roughly a thousand years, into a book, into a holy book that is interpreted as such? As one pursues this question, the specific features of the Christian faith and of its understanding of revelation become quite clear. The uniqueness of the Christian faith consists, first, of the fact that it is related to historical events, or, better yet, to a coherent story that has actually taken place in history. In this respect, the question about the fact, about the real event, is essential to it, and therefore it must allow room for the historical method. But these historical events are significant for the faith only because faith is certain that God himself has acted in them in a specific way and that the events carry within themselves a surplus meaning that is beyond mere historical facticity and comes from somewhere else, giving them significance for all time and for all men. This surplus cannot be separated from the facts; it is not a meaning subsequently posed upon them from without; rather, it is itself present in the event, even though it transcends mere facticity. This act of transcending is anchored in fact, and therein lies the significance of the whole biblical story… but because the history itself is more than what this people has done and undergone…, it is not only the people speaking in these books, but also the God who acts in it and through it. The figure of the ‘author,’ which is so important for historical research, therefore has three levels: The individual author [1] is supported by the people as a whole [2]. This is evident precisely in the ongoing continuations and modifications of the book; in this regard source criticism…has provided us with valuable findings. Ultimately it is not merely an individual author who is speaking; instead, the texts develop in a process of reflection, of cultivation, of new understanding, a process that goes beyond every individual author. Yet precisely in this process of advancing, which relativizes all the individual authors, a profound transcendence is at work: in this process of advancing, of purification, of development, the inspiring Spirit [3] is active, who guides actions and events in the Word and, in the events and actions, propels back to the Word…[4]

“From[5] this complex nature of the literary creation called ‘Bible,’ it automatically follows that one cannot determine the meaning of its individual texts from what the first author – who in most cases is hypothetically ascertained – intended to say historically. Indeed, all the texts are involved in an ongoing process of revision, in which their potential for significance progressively unfolds; hence no text belongs just to ne individual historical author. Because the text itself has the character of a process, it is not permissible, even on the basis of its own literary nature, to pin it down to a particular historical moment and to encapsulate it in that moment (which at the same time would relegated it irretrievably to the past), whereas reading the Scripture as Bible means precisely that one finds the present in the historical Word and opens oneself to the future. The doctrine of the multiple senses of Scripture, which was developed by te Church Fathers and systematized in the Middle Ages, is recognized again today as being scientifically appropriate, given the nature of this unique structure of texts…[6]

“This dynamic view of the Bible, in the context of the lived and ongoing history of the people of God, leads then to another important insight about the nature of Christianity: ‘Still, the Christian faith is not a “religion of the book”,’ says the Catechism succinctly (CCC 108). This is an extremely important statement. The faith does not refer simply to a book, which as such would be the sole and final authority for the believer. In the center of the Christina faith stands, not a book, but a person – Jesus Christ, who is himself the living Word of God and who interprets himself, so to speak, in the words of Scripture, which conversely can understood correctly, however, only in the life with him, in a living relationship to him. And since Christ has built and is building for himself the Church, the people of God, as his living organism], his ‘Body,’ it follows that part and parcel of the relationship with him is fellowship with the pilgrim people, which is actually the human author and proprietor of the Bible, as we have heard. If the living Christ is the genuine norm for interpreting the Bible, that means that we understand this book correctly only within the synchronic and diachronic understanding of the faith [that is, the understanding at any given time and over time] shared by the whole Church. Outside of this lived connection, the Bible is merely a more or less heterogeneous literary anthology, not a present-day signpost for our life. Scripture and tradition cannot be separated…. The Catechism sets forth this connection, which includes at the same time the Church’s authority to interpret Scripture, as the Second Letter of Peter explicitly testifies: ‘First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation’ (2 Peter 1, 20)…. (I)t is becoming apparent that any interpretation that is detached from the life of the Church and from her historical experiences remains non-obligatory and cannot rise above the literary genre of a hypothesis…”

[1] J. Ratzinger “The Theology of History in St. Bonaventure,” Franciscan Herald Press (1989) 3.
[2] Ibid 7-9.
[3] J. Ratzinger, “Milestones,” (1998), 108-109.
[4] J. Ratzinger, “Is the Catechism Up-To-Date? On the Way to Jesus Christ, Ignatius (2005) Ibid 148-149.
[5] Ibid 150.
[6] Ibid
[7] Ibid 151-152.

"Humanae Vitae" and the Gay Agendum

What about homosexuality? Our culture is impotent to resist the "gay agenda" because we have already accepted its basic premise with contraception – the reduction of sex to the exchange of pleasure. When openness to life is no longer an intrinsic part of the sexual equation, why does sexual behavior have to be with the opposite sex?

Christopher West

Monday, July 14, 2008

Benedict XVI on "Humanae Vitae"


Clementine Hall Saturday, 10 May 2008

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood, Dear Brothers and Sisters,

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In the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World,
Gaudium et Spes, the Second Vatican Council was already addressing scientists, urging them to join forces to achieve unity in knowledge and a consolidated certainty on the conditions that can favour "the proper regulation of births" (n. 52). My Predecessor of venerable memory, the Servant of God Paul VI, published his Encyclical Letter Humanae Vitae on 25 July 1968. The Document very soon became a sign of contradiction. Drafted to treat a difficult situation, it constitutes a significant show of courage in reasserting the continuity of the Church's doctrine and tradition. This text, all too often misunderstood and misinterpreted, also sparked much discussion because it was published at the beginning of profound contestations that marked the lives of entire generations. Forty years after its publication this teaching not only expresses its unchanged truth but also reveals the farsightedness with which the problem is treated. In fact, conjugal love is described within a global process that does not stop at the division between soul and body and is not subjected to mere sentiment, often transient and precarious, but rather takes charge of the person's unity and the total sharing of the spouses who, in their reciprocal acceptance, offer themselves in a promise of faithful and exclusive love that flows from a genuine choice of freedom. How can such love remain closed to the gift of life? Life is always a precious gift; every time we witness its beginnings we see the power of the creative action of God who trusts man and thus calls him to build the future with the strength of hope.

The Magisterium of the Church cannot be exonerated from reflecting in an ever new and deeper way on the fundamental principles that concern marriage and procreation. What was true yesterday is true also today. The truth expressed in Humanae Vitae does not change; on the contrary, precisely in the light of the new scientific discoveries, its teaching becomes more timely and elicits reflection on the intrinsic value it possesses. The key word to enter coherently into its content remains "love". As I wrote in my first Encyclical Deus Caritas Est: "Man is truly himself when his body and soul are intimately united.... Yet it is neither the spirit alone nor the body alone that loves: it is man, the person, a unified creature composed of body and soul, who loves" (n. 5). If this unity is removed, the value of the person is lost and there is a serious risk of considering the body a commodity that can be bought or sold (cf. ibid). In a culture subjected to the prevalence of "having' over "being', human life risks losing its value. If the practice of sexuality becomes a drug that seeks to enslave one's partner to one's own desires and interests, without respecting the cycle of the beloved, then what must be defended is no longer solely the true concept of love but in the first place the dignity of the person. As believers, we could never let the domination of technology invalidate the quality of love and the sacredness of life.
It was not by chance that Jesus, in speaking of human love, alluded to what God created at the beginning of the Creation (cf. Mt 19: 4-6). His teaching refers to a free act with which the Creator not only meant to express the riches of his love which is open, giving itself to all, but he also wanted to impress upon it a paradigm in accordance with which humanity's action must be declined. In the fruitfulness of conjugal love, the man and the woman share in the Father's creative act and make it clear that at the origin of their spousal life they pronounce a genuine "yes" which is truly lived in reciprocity, remaining ever open to life. This word of the Lord with its profound truth endures unchanged and cannot be abolished by the different theories that have succeeded one another in the course of the years, and at times even been contradictory. Natural law, which is at the root of the recognition of true equality between persons and peoples, deserves to be recognized as the source that inspires the relationship between the spouses in their responsibility for begetting new children. The transmission of life is inscribed in nature and its laws stand as an unwritten norm to which all must refer. Any attempt to turn one's gaze away from this principle is in itself barren and does not produce a future.

We urgently need to rediscover a new covenant that has always been fruitful when it has been respected; it puts reason and love first. A perceptive teacher like William of Saint-Thierry could write words that we feel are profoundly valid even for our time: "If reason instructs love and love illumines reason, if reason is converted into love and love consents to be held within the bounds of reason, they can do something great" (De Natura et dignitate amoris, 21, 8). What is this "something great" that we can witness? It is the promotion of responsibility for life which brings to fruition the gift that each one makes of him or herself to the other. It is the fruit of a love that can think and choose in complete freedom, without letting itself be conditioned unduly by the possible sacrifice requested. From this comes the miracle of life that parents experience in themselves, as they sense the extraordinary nature of what takes place in them and through them. No mechanical technique can substitute the act of love that husband and wife exchange as the sign of a greater mystery which (as protagonists and sharers in creation) sees them playing the lead and sharing in creation.

Unfortunately, more and more often we see sorrowful events that involve adolescents, whose reactions show their incorrect knowledge of the mystery of life and of the risky implications of their actions. The urgent need for education to which I often refer, primarily concerns the theme of life. I sincerely hope that young people in particular will be given very special attention so that they may learn the true meaning of love and prepare for it with an appropriate education in sexuality, without letting themselves be distracted by ephemeral messages that prevent them from reaching the essence of the truth at stake. To circulate false illusions in the context of love or to deceive people concerning the genuine responsibilities that they are called to assume with the exercise of their own sexuality does not do honour to a society based on the principles of freedom and democracy. Freedom must be conjugated with truth and responsibility with the force of dedication to the other, even with sacrifice; without these components the human community does not grow and the risk of enclosing itself in an asphyxiating cycle of selfishness is always present.

The teaching expressed by the Encyclical Humanae Vitae is not easy. Yet it conforms with the fundamental structure through which life has always been transmitted since the world's creation, with respect for nature and in conformity with its needs. Concern for human life and safeguarding the person's dignity require us not to leave anything untried so that all may be involved in the genuine truth of responsible conjugal love in full adherence to the law engraved on the heart of every person. With these sentiments I impart the Apostolic Blessing to you all.

40th Anniversary of Humanae Vitae - Friday July 25

In the total gift of self - corrupted by contraception -, the transcendent dimension of the human person and the experience of the Transcendent God is at stake.

(11) "(T)he Church, calling men back to the observance of the norms of the natural law, as interpreted by its constant doctrine, teaches that each and every marriage act (quilibet matrimonii usus) must remain open to the transmission of life.

(12) "That teaching, often set forth by the Magisterium, is founded upon the inseparable connection, willed by God and unable to be broken by man on his own initiative, between the two meanings of the conjugal act: the unitive meaning and the procreative meaning. Indeed, by its intimate structure, the conjugal act, while most closely uniting husband and wife, capacitates them for the generation of new lives, according to laws inscribed in the very being of man and of woman. By safeguarding both these essential aspects, the unitive and the procreative, the conjugal act preserves in its fullness the sense of the true mutual love and its ordination towards man's most high calling to parenthood. We believe that the men of our day are particualrly capable of seizing the deeply reasonable and human character of this fundamental principle."

The Church’s view of “conjugal love”

(9) “This love is first of all fully human, that is to say, of the senses and of the spirit at the same time…intended to endure and to grow by means of the joys and sorrows of daily life, in such a way that husband and wife become one heart and one soul, and together attain their human perfection.

“This love is total, that is to say, it is a very special form of personal friendship, in which husband and wife generously share everything, without undue reservations or selfish calculations.

“Again, this love is faithful and exclusive until death…, a fidelity which can sometimes be difficult, but is always possible, always noble and meritorious, as no one can deny.

“Finally this love is fruitful for it is not exhausted by the communion between husband and wife, but is destined to continue, raising up new lives.”