Getting Natural Law and Sexual Ethics Right

By The Cranky Thomist

The Cranky ThomistFinally! From a Notre Dame professor no less. Unraveling the Church Ban on Gay Sex.

He is right. St. Thomas Aquinas made natural law a significant part of his moral philosophy. In his thought, natural law is driven by the primary principle of doing good and avoiding evil. The entire structure of morality, the intent of divine and natural law, as well as the virtues and grace, are all directed toward reasoning about which behaviors can move humans toward the love of God and toward the love of fellow creatures in charity. Morality consists of reason planning action so that good may be done and evil avoided. What is right is based upon what is good.

The primary law, upon which all other laws are based, is that good be done (i.e., flourishing into the love of God and the love of fellow creatures in charity) and evil avoided. Morality and law are thus drawn from that which makes humans grow toward the good.

“Since good is grasped as always desirable, the first premise in reason’s planning of action is that good is to be done and evil avoided. And on this are based all the other injunctions of the law in us by nature, which command us to do whatever reason, when planning action, naturally grasps to be good for man, whatever man naturally seeks as a goal” (Summa Theologica, 1a2ae. 94. 2).

Aquinas pointed out three derivatives of this natural law, seeing us first as living beings, then as physical creatures, and finally as reasoning creatures.

First, we must conserve human life and oppose death. Then, we must do whatever accords with our physical nature, which is what we have in common with other animals (e.g., having sex, raising children). Finally, we must do whatever accords with our rational nature, the thing that distinguishes us as human (“to know the truth about God, for example, and to live a social life; so the law in us by nature commands whatever is relevant to such inclinations, like avoiding ignorance and not offending those we live with” (Summa Theologica, 1a2ae. 94. 2).

Since natural law is based upon practical reasoning and our understanding of the reality around us, Aquinas believed it was knowable by all and applicable to all (with the caveat that it is humans doing the thinking).

As Gary Gutting says, “the church needs to undertake a thorough rethinking of its teachings on sexual ethics, including premarital sex, masturbation and remarriage after divorce. In every case, the old arguments no longer work (if they ever did), and a vast number of Catholics reject the teachings. It’s time for the church to realize that its sexual ethics are philosophically untenable and theologically unnecessary.”

Pope Francis: OMG Stop Firing Gay People

By The The Pope’s Fool News Service
December 5, 2014

The Popes Fool News Service (We Make Stuff Up)VATICAN CITY (TPF) — According to several people familiar with the conversation, Pope Francis was heard sounding off in a quite vexed manner about the too-popular habit of firing staff who have violated the letter of the law when it comes Church doctrine or teachings, but only after such violations have become public.

(NOTE: What follows is an informal English translation by our young staffer at the Vatican of the gist of the Pope’s concerns. It is expected that neither the official Italian version or an official English translation will be made available.) 

“Oh.  My.  God,” the Pope is reported to have said. “What is with these people? All the firings of the faithful who have been known for years to be gay? Or living together outside marriage? But only after it becomes public knowledge?! What, were these actions not considered sins before, when everyone involved knew exactly what was going on? And now with the contracts??”

cincinnati teachers contract

“Here’s the problem,” he continued. “When you fire someone, you make it a thing. It’s in the news. Then the person reacts, and there is a lawsuit. So it creates another thing. Then there’s a third thing, because none of this would have happened had the information not become public, which makes it about the publicity, not the action itself. This paints the Church into a corner, having to deal with all these self-inflicted things, out of which no good could possibly come. That church music director in Chicago? I just put the new archbishop in place there, and now he has to deal with this? And those teacher contracts with morality clauses in Cincinnati? All they do is make the firing more efficient. No wonder we’ve lost an entire generation of young people.” The Pope shook his head. “This is a scandal. The valuing of the appearance of purity above all else.”

The Pope was then reported to go off to pray.

Pope Praying

Synod 2015 Searching for Contracepting, Cohabiting, Divorced, and Gay Couples to Testify

By The The Pope’s Fool News Service
October 23, 2014

The Popes Fool News Service (We Make Stuff Up)VATICAN CITY (TPF) — According to several people familiar with next year’s plans for the 2015 Synod of Bishops on the Family, organizers are looking for users of artificial contraception, cohabiting couples, gay Catholics, and the divorced and remarried to act as “auditors” to testify before the bishops. Our sources spoke on condition of anonymity because they are prohibited from publicly discussing the plans, but noted that they wanted to find Catholics who were wounded, damaged, and broken—in effect, the smelly sheep on the margins of the laity. “We want to get some actual sinners in there, you know, the intrinsically disordered,” said one source. “Many of these bishops don’t have much pastoral experience, so it would be good for them to meet these wounded and broken people close up. If they were wowed by the Australian couple testifying about their friends’ inviting their gay son and his partner to Christmas dinner, this group is sure to steal the show, to say nothing of spinning a few mitres.” Another source noted that such auditors shouldn’t be hard to find, as together they make up an overwhelming majority of the faithful, at least in the West.

Bishops Accuse God of Massive Screwup by Creating Gays

By The The Pope’s Fool News Service
October 22, 2014

The Popes Fool News Service (We Make Stuff Up)VATICAN CITY (TPF) — A cardinal, who declined to be named as he is not authorized to comment, has reported on background of a growing discontent among a small group of bishops. They are disturbed not only with Pope Francis, but with the Almighty Himself. “You know, some of us are beginning to think that the deity has just royally screwed up by creating people who are gay,” he said. “You have to wonder if He even knew what He was doing. Applying the bell curve to the whole sexuality thing? Making some people straight, some people gay, and some people bisexual? What’s up with that? Same mistake in the animal world, too,” he continued. “It’s a mystery.”

The cardinal expressed concern that this particular aspect of God’s creation sows confusion among the faithful. “I mean really, how are we supposed to run a church based on the traditional family when there are all these gay people running around wanting their unions recognized? Many of us feel that love and mercy and hanging out with sinners is all well and good, but it’s a hell of a way to run a two-thousand-year-old institution. It just throws a wrench into the whole business. It perplexes the faithful; pretty soon they’ll be questioning what ‘intrinsically disordered’ even means. You have to draw the line somewhere. This business about hating the sin but loving the sinner is really just so much smoke and mirrors; nobody believes it anyway. If a person is intrinsically disordered, and God created that person, then God screwed up.”

Synod Stuns Planet by Proposing Use of “Nice” Words re Gays (UPDATED)

By The Pope’s Fool News Service
Updated October 17, 2014

The Popes Fool News Service (We Make Stuff Up)VATICAN CITY (TPF) — Roman Catholics around the world were gobsmacked when the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family issued its relatio post disceptationem, or interim report. Variously described as an earthquake, the big one, seismic, groundbreaking, and shocking, on the one hand, and shameful and completely wrong on the other, the relatio suggested that the bishops are considering the possibility of speaking in a more gentle way about cohabiting couples, divorced and remarried parishioners, and gay Catholics and their children. As explained by John Allen on PBS Newshour, it authorizes “people at the grass roots to feel good about the fact that you can be both a faithful Catholic, and you can be friends with gays and lesbians, you can be friends with people who are living together outside of marriage, you can be friends with people who are divorced and remarried,” without approving their lifestyles.

The consensus is that even though no doctrine is changing, the mere fact that the Church’s vocabulary might move from evil, gravely immoral, and intrinsically disordered, to woundeddamaged, and broken, is a stunner. As PBS Newshour’s Judy Woodruff said, “It’s certainly gotten our attention.” The shift is best summed up by Cardinal Dolan, who said, “The bishops are speaking with immense love and tenderness about their people, especially about their broken people.”

Later Cardinal Pizzicato, head of the Pontifical Council for Congregations, clarified that doctrine was indeed not changing, and that while the Church still considers the homosexual lifestyle intrinsically disordered, sex outside marriage gravely immoral, and Catholics who remarry without an annulment basically adulterers, the bishops are trying to figure out a nicer way to communicate those doctrines.

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UPDATE: Some words in the English translation of the relatio post disceptationem or interim report of the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family have been changed.

The AP reports that “A section initially titled ‘Welcoming homosexuals’ is now ‘Providing for homosexual persons,’ and the tone of the text is significantly colder and less welcoming. … The first version asked if the church was capable of ‘welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities.’ The new version asks if the church is capable of providing for these people, guaranteeing … them … a place of fellowship in our communities.'”

The the original Italian version of the relatio remains the official text, and still contains the original “welcoming” language, leading an Italian cardinal to wonder if Italy would see an influx of gay Catholics yearning to be welcomed into the Church, rather than just being provided for.

Fearing Conservative Backlash, Synod Bishops Suggest Scripture Change

By The Pope’s Fool News Service
October 16, 2014

The Popes Fool News Service (We Make Stuff Up)VATICAN CITY (TPF) — An updated English translation for the New Testament has been suggested today by a group of bishops attending the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in the Vatican. The change would remove the word “welcome” and replace it with “make provision for,” especially in those verses relating to people considered to be the “smelly sheep on the margins.” Cardinal Pizzicato, head of the Pontifical Council for Congregations, explained the impetus behind the change. “For example, in Matthew 25, it would reduce confusion among the faithful if it read, ‘For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you made provision for me.’ And this one,” he continued, “from Luke, describing the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttering about Jesus. ‘This man makes provision for sinners, and eats with them.’ We don’t want to give the wrong impression. The current wording is too vague and liberal sounding. And well have to see about that whole ‘eating with them’ thing,” he said. “We don’t want the faithful to misinterpret the Gospels and think that it’s okay to sin. Going forward, we also think it’s more comfortable to ‘make provision’ for one another as Christ ‘made provision’ for us.”

When asked why only the English translation of the New Testament is being considered for such changes, Cardinal Pizzicato replied, “I don’t make the rules, I just follow them.”

Synod Stuns Planet by Proposing Use of “Nice” Words re Gays

By The Pope’s Fool News Service
October 14, 2014

The Popes Fool News Service (We Make Stuff Up)VATICAN CITY (TPF) — Roman Catholics around the world were gobsmacked when the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family issued its relatio post disceptationem, or interim report. Variously described as an earthquake, the big one, seismic, groundbreaking, and shocking, on the one hand, and shameful and completely wrong on the other, the relatio suggested that the bishops are considering the possibility of speaking in a more gentle way about cohabiting couples, divorced and remarried parishioners, and gay Catholics and their children. As explained by John Allen on PBS Newshour, it authorizes “people at the grass roots to feel good about the fact that you can be both a faithful Catholic, and you can be friends with gays and lesbians, you can be friends with people who are living together outside of marriage, you can be friends with people who are divorced and remarried,” without approving their lifestyles.

The consensus is that even though no doctrine is changing, the mere fact that the Church’s vocabulary might move from evil, gravely immoral, and intrinsically disordered, to wounded, damaged, and broken, is a stunner. As PBS Newshour’s Judy Woodruff said, “It’s certainly gotten our attention.” The shift is best summed up by Cardinal Dolan, who said, “The bishops are speaking with immense love and tenderness about their people, especially about their broken people.”

Later Cardinal Pizzicato, head of the Pontifical Council for Congregations, clarified that doctrine was indeed not changing, and that while the Church still considers the homosexual lifestyle intrinsically disordered, sex outside marriage gravely immoral, and Catholics who remarry without an annulment basically adulterers, the bishops are trying to figure out a nicer way to communicate those doctrines.

The Pope’s Fool News Service asked our person on the street, Lily Lonigan, a sixty-something Roman Catholic who works at the Polkadot Shamrock Bar, Internet Cafe and Daycare Center, for a reaction. Rolling her eyes, she said, “The pathetic thing is that changing vocabulary from evil, gravely immoral, and intrinsically disordered, to woundeddamaged, and broken, is considered earth-shaking progress. When they start ordaining women, gay or otherwise, I’ll start paying attention.”