Tuesday, March 02, 2010

The Notre Dame "Observer" and the Magisterium on Homosexuality

The Notre Dame Observer has refused to publish Dr. Charles E. Rice's biweekly "Right or Wrong" column on the topic of Catholic teaching on homosexuality.

Charles E. Rice

Right or Wrong?

March 1, 2010

A big issue at Notre Dame a few weeks ago was “sexual orientation” and the status of the Notre Dame Gay/ Lesbian/ Bisexual/ Transgender (GLBT) community. Enough time has passed to make it useful to review some of the governing principles as found in the teaching of the Catholic Church. That teaching includes four pertinent elements:

1. Homosexual acts are always objectively wrong. The starting point is the Catechism: “Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction to persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, Tradition has always declared that ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.’ They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.” No. 2357.

Homosexual acts are doubly wrong. They are not only contrary to nature. They are wrong also because they are extra-marital. The Letter on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, issued in 1986 with the approval of John Paul II, said, “It is only in the marital relationship that the use of the sexual faculty can be morally good. A person engaging in homosexual behavior therefore acts immorally. To choose someone of the same sex for one’s sexual activity is to annul the rich symbolism and meaning, not to mention the goals of the Creator’s sexual design.” No 7.

2. Since homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered,” the inclination toward those acts is disordered. An inclination to commit any morally disordered act, whether theft, fornication or whatever, is a disordered inclination. “The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies,” says the Catechism, “is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial.” No. 2358. That inclination, however, is not in itself a sin.

3. “[M]en and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies,” says the Catechism, “must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.” No. 2358. In a culture which tends to marginalize and disrespect those with physical or psychological disorders, it will be useful to recall the admonition of the 1986 Letter that “The human person, made in the image and likeness of God, can hardly be adequately described by a reductionist reference to his or her sexual orientation…. Today the Church provides a badly needed context for the care of the human person when she… insists that every person has a fundamental identity: the creature of God and, by grace, his child and heir to eternal life.” No. 16. The prohibition of “unjust” discrimination, however, does not rule out the making of reasonable and just distinctions with respect to military service, the wording of university nondiscrimination policies and other matters including admission to seminaries. As the Congregation for Catholic Education said in its 2005 Instruction on the subject, “the Church, while profoundly respecting the persons in question, cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practice homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called ‘gay culture.’” No. 2.

4. “[M]en and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies…. are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives, and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition…. Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.” Catechism, nos. 2358, 2359.

The positive, hopeful teaching of the Church on marriage, the family and the transmission of life is founded on the dignity of the person as a creature made in the image and likeness of God. The “gay rights” movement is, instead, a predictable consequence of the now-dominant contraceptive ethic. Until the Anglican Lambeth Conference of 1930, no Christian denomination had ever said that contraception could ever be objectively right. The Catholic Church continues to affirm the traditional Christian position that contraception is intrinsically an objective evil.

Contraception, said Paul VI in Humanae Vitae in 1968, is wrong because it deliberately separates the unitive and procreative aspects of the sexual act. If, sex has no intrinsic relation to procreation and if, through contraception, it is entirely up to man (of both sexes) whether sex will have any such relation, how can one deny legitimacy to sexual acts between two men or between two women? The contraceptive society cannot deny that legitimacy without denying itself. Further, if individual choice prevails without regard to limits of nature, how can the choice be limited to two persons? Polygamy (one man, multiple women), polyandry (one woman, multiple men), polyamory (sexual relations between or among multiple persons of one or both sexes) and other possible arrangements, involving the animal kingdom as well, would derive legitimacy from the same contraceptive premise that justifies one-on-one homosexual relations.

It would be a mistake to view the homosexual issue as simply a question of individual rights. The militant “gay rights” movement seeks a cultural and legal redefinition of marriage and the family, contrary to the reality rooted in reason as well as faith. Marriage, a union of man and woman, is the creation not of the state but of God himself as seen in Genesis. Sacramento coadjutor bishop Jaime Soto, on Sept. 26, 2008, said: “Married love is a beautiful, heroic expression of faithful, life-giving, life-creating love. It should not be accommodated and manipulated for those who would believe that they can and have a right to mimic its unique expression.” Space limits preclude discussion here of the “same-sex marriage” issue, which we defer to a later column.

Professor Emeritus Rice is on the law school faculty. He may be reached at 574-633-4415 or rice.1@nd.edu.

From: Matt Gamber [mgamber@nd.edu]

Sent: Tuesday, March 02, 2010 1:24 AM
To: Charles Rice
Subject: Tuesday's column

Dear Mr. Rice,

I wanted to first introduce myself as Matt Gamber, the new Editor-in-Chief of The Observer. Thank you for your continued hard work and contributions to The Observer's Viewpoint section.

Second, I wanted to let you know why we chose not to run your most recent submission in Tuesday's Observer. First, it far exceeded our word limit guidelines, which I understand our Viewpoint Editor, Michelle Maitz, has shared with you in the past. Our daily space limitations require that we enforce this word limit, and we would appreciate your attention to this limit in the future.

Also, I personally had some concerns with the content of the column, particularly considering The Mobile Party comic incident earlier in the semester at The Observer. While your piece was well-researched and I trust the information was factually correct, I did not feel it lent itself to creating a productive discussion, all things considered. I was a bit concerned with certain language as well.

In the future, if you would like to examine this topic, we thought it might be beneficial to do so in a point-counterpoint format, perhaps with an author of an opposing or differing viewpoint. That way, each "side," to speak, would have the opportunity to present relevant facts, evidence and analysis to define its position.

As I began, I again thank you for your contributions to The Observer. Please let me know if you have any questions regarding this decision, and I look forward to working with you in the future.

Matt Gamber

Matt Gamber
The Observer
Cell: (847) 287-1141
Office: (574) 631-4542

--- On Tue, 3/2/10, Charles Rice wrote:

From: Charles Rice
Subject: FW: Rice Column on Catholic Teaching on Homosexuality
To: "emrice123@yahoo.com"
Date: Tuesday, March 2, 2010, 3:05 PM

From: Charles Rice
Sent: Tuesday, March 02, 2010 3:04 PM
To: Matthew Gamber
Subject: Rice Column on Catholic Teaching on Homosexuality

Dear Mr. Gamber:

Thank you for your email informing me that my column presenting the teachings of the Church on homosexuality will not be published. Since 1992, I have been privileged to publish every two weeks a column, entitled “Right or Wrong,” in the Observer. I emphasize my appreciation for the unfailing professionalism and courtesy of the Observer editors with whom I have had contact over those years.

You mention the column “far exceeded our word limit guidelines.” It is in fact significantly shorter than each of the three previous columns published this semester in the Observer. I was not asked to shorten any of them. The rejected column accurately presented relevant teachings of the Catholic Church on homosexuality. I understand why you are concerned over the content of the column. You further propose that if I examine the topic of homosexuality in the future, “we thought it might be beneficial to do so in a point-counterpoint format, perhaps with an author of an opposing or differing viewpoint. That way, each ‘side,’ so to speak, would have the opportunity to present relevant facts, evidence and analysis to define its position.”
In a university that claims to be Catholic, I am not willing to restrict my presentation of Catholic teaching to a format that treats the authoritative teaching of the Church as merely one viewpoint or “side” among many. If you require that future columns of mine on homosexuality comply with a format such as you propose, it will be inappropriate for me to continue writing the column for the Observer.


Charles E. Rice
Professor Emeritus
Notre Dame Law School

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