Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Debate: Homosexuality

Case in point is debate between Robbie George/Patrick Lee and Todd A. Salzman and Michael G. Lawler in “Theological Studies” #67 (2006), #69 (2008).

My take: Robbie George and Lee have the right answer with the wrong anthropology, and therefore, the wrong explanation. Salzman and Lawler have the wrong answer and the right anthropology which they vitiate by failing to see it ontologically.

In “Theological Studies” 69 (2008), 647, Robbie George and Patrick Lee (G/L) state that “Human beings are animal organisms.” Previously they stated: “In sexual intercourse between a man and a woman (whether married or not), a real organic union is established. This is a literal, biological point – albeit one bearing enormous moral significance in view of the fact that the human body is not a mere instrument of the human person but is part of the personal reality of the human being.” They then say: “Human beings are animal organisms, albeit of a particular type. An organic action is one in which several bodily parts – tissues, cells, molecules, atoms, and so on – participate. But the subject of the action is the organism as a whole.” Then “Coitus is a unitary action in which the male and the female become one organism.” They go on to say: “In coitus itself… the male and the female become biologically united. Their reproductive organs are actualized, as internally designed, to be a (now) unitary subject of a single act…the man and the woman genuinely become on body, one flesh, a biological unit.”[1]

As Robbie follows Grisez’s line of “The Goods” as self-evident moral criteria (no metaphysics - which G. dismisses as dissecated abstraction: you cannot derive “ought” from “is,” and if you do, you are a “voluntarist”), the good of matrimony is the organic unity of hetero-genital organs within the behavioral conditions of procreation. They become “a single subject of a biological action.”[2] “By contrast, sexual acts that do not establish a biological union cannot embody marriage and do not directly realize any other basic good. Such acts can only a means to other ends…. A person communion can be enhanced only by the joint sharing in a basic good, but two or more people merely stimulating each other to orgasm – no matter what they subjectively intend, or how they perceive or feel their act – is not an instance of organic unity and is not the shared realization of any basic human good.”[3]

In a word when debating with Robbie George, you are debating with a “new natural law theorist” (NNLT) of the Grisez school of “the goods” as self evident (really Kantian provenance since there is no metaphysics of the “I” [or anything else]), and therefore, you start with the right answer given by the Magisterium (homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered) and work your back to the implausible self-evidence of “the goods.” “The good” in this case is the biological-organic unity the male and the female form in coitus when performing acts that reproductive in type.

Todd A. Salzman and Michael G. Lawler start with the “wrong” answer since they blatantly contradict the Magisterium and common sense on homosexuality. The scandalous part of it is that deploy a relational anthropology quite in keeping Vatican II, although they vitiate it by appealing to the “magisterium” of the Catholic bishops (“Always Our Children” - attached) which is perniciously ambiguous and wrongheaded.

They quite correctly state: “We believe our theological anthropology more accurately reflects the theological claim that human beings are created in the image and likeness of God and are theologically communicative in relationships, including sexual relationships that reflect God’s faithful and steadfast fidelity. We also believe that it more accurately reflects and incorporates what the human and social sciences tell us about the nature of sexual orientation, homosexual or heterosexual. Our most central argument, then, is grounded in a theological anthropology – an anthropology that L/G fail to acknowledge or address in their response.”

I agree. They also state:

Gaudium et Spes introduced a new sexual anthropology by removing the hierarchy of the ends of marriage, the procreative and the unitive. This anthropological development recognizes what married couples for centuries have known through experience, namely, that the unitive meaningof the truly humana sexual act is at least as important as, if not more important than, the procreative meaning of the sexual act. A couple can morally justify a sexual act without the procreative meaning of the sexual act being present or even possible; the couple can never morally justify a sexual act if the unitive meaning is not present. Unfortunately, there was not a corresponding shift or development in the magisterium’s sexual norms deduced from this anthropology: the anthropology changed but the norms remained the same. We argue that the shift in anthropology has normative implications for homosexual relationships as well as for heterosexual marriage. The unitive meaning of sexual acts can be realized by both homosexual and heterosexual couples.”[4]

Their point: “What we do claim… is that an adequate sexual anthropology must consider a person’s sexual orientation as a starting point to determine the appropriate genitalia when engaging in a truly human sexual act. Once sexual orientation is determined, then ‘the reality of a bodily act’ will be defined morally, in part, on the basis of whether or not it is an authentic expression of one’s sexual orientation. We are arguing for expanding the definition of moral sexual acts beyond reproductive sexual acts on the basis of a fuller anthropology that recognizes sexual orientation as a God-given dimension of the sexual human person.”[5]

What are they missing? Ratzinger’s observation in “Truth and Conscience:” “There is an inner ontological tendency within man, who is created in the likeness of God, toward the divine. From its origin, man’s being resonates with some things and clashes with others. This anamnesis of the origin, which results from the god-like constitution of our being, is not a conceptually articulated knowing, a store of retrievable contents. It is, so to speak, an inner sense, a capacity to recall, so that the one whom it addresses, if he is not turned in on himself, hears its echo from within. He sees: That’s it! That is what my nature points to and seeks.”[6]

The Point: Ratzinger is offering a metaphysics of the “law of the Person.” It is a law of relationality, as S/L would have it, but it is ontological. S/L want relationality as the moral criterion. That is correct. But it is not ontological and therefore not grounded in reality.

But then, again, neither is Robbie George. He is talking about the “self-evidence” of “the good” of one flesh union as ontological organism. S/L call this “Reductionist (p. 667), and they are right.

To be timely, use the references of BXVI in “Caritas in Veritate” where he is asking for:

· “a metaphysical interpretation of the ‘humanum’ in which relationality is an essential element’ (55).

· “The human person nature is actively involved n his own development. The development in question is not simply the result of natural mechanisms, since as everybody knows, we are all capable of making free and responsible choices. Nor is it merely at the mercy of our caprice since we all know that we are a gift, not something self-generated. Our freedom is profoundly shaped by our being, and by its limits. No one shapes his own conscience arbitrarily, but we all build our own ‘I’ on the basis of a ‘self’ which is given to us… A person’s development is compromised, if he claims to be solely responsible for producing what he becomes.”

S/L: Relational meaning of person, but not ontological, and therefore, subjectivistic, and therefore, homosexual.

L/G: Right answer heterosexuality, but non-magisterial anthropology. Once you step outside of relationality as the constitutive ontology of the human person, you follow “nature” and ends. You are in the world of “equal” but how “different” except accidentally? Robbie is not even in that world. He is in the world of Grisez and the “goods” ungrounded metaphysically. Good luck!

[1] Patrick Lee and Oberta P. George, Quaestio Disputata, “What Male-Female Comoplementarity Make Possible: Marriage as Two-ini-One-Flesh Unity,” Theological Studies 69 (2008) 641-66 ?.

[2] Ibid

[3] Ibid 652.

[4] Salzman and Lawler, “Truly Human Sexual Acts: A Response to Patrick Lee and Robert George, Theological Studies 69 (2008) 670.

[5] Ibid

[6] J. Ratzinger, “Conscience and Truth,” in On Conscience Ignatius (2006) 32.

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