In last week’s column, I gave myself permission to wonder about one of the great unknowns: whether homosexuality originates through nature or nurture, and — if the answer is “nature” — what that might mean to our understanding of God, creation and calling. In attempting to explore the issue within the context of the Catechism and Catholic orthodoxy, I was hoping to straddle the divide between those who cannot discuss homosexuality without the word “abomination” eventually entering into it, and those who have long-since declared their spiritual autonomy over any sort of authoritative voice—be it divine, scriptural, traditional or founded upon study or prayer—preferring to embrace the absolute moral authority of collective sentimentalism.
A straddle is never comfortable, which is why one tries not to remain so-positioned for long. I had anticipated (and took no umbrage at) some of the dismissive responses to my piece because I knew I would be unpacking it further, at some later date.
A week is not very much later, but the incoherence and vapidity of Maureen Dowd’s June 18th column has rather forced the hand; daunted as I am by the prospect of countering so sterling a wit as this grown woman who refers to the good-natured Archbishop Timothy Dolan as, “the Starchbishop,” I will plod forward, looking first at that troublesome nature/nurture question.
Annoyed that canon lawyer and Vatican advisor Edward Peters had explained the church’s fundamental outlook on marriage in simple terms (“men and women are not supposed to live together without benefit of matrimony”) Dowd grouses,
But then the church denies the benefit of marriage to same-sex couples living together. Dolan insists that marriage between a man and a woman is “hard-wired” by God and nature. But the church refuses to acknowledge that homosexuality may be hard-wired by God and nature as well, and is not a lifestyle choice.”
That’s because no one has yet been able to demonstrate that homosexuality is, in fact, “hard-wired” by God. Aside from the ponderings of greater minds than either Dowd’s or mine, the best we can do is look at humanity, observe that “form follows function” and throw up our hands at arguments suggesting that form and function are relative issues or that human design is as irrelevant to the question as fishes are to bicycles. That Jesus of Nazareth said, “the Creator ‘made them male and female . . . for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” is apparently just one more opinion, since his Word did not address specifics.
Supposing, as I did last week, that we could conclusively demonstrate homosexuality as God-planned, it still would not necessarily follow that gays are therefore called to marriage. Considering the multi-cultural and multi-millennial understanding of the nature of marriage—an eternal understanding until about four decades ago—and recalling Christ’s acknowledgment that “Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so…” the challenge of our age may not be about parity (there has been little wisdom or contentment gained in women defining their success in masculine terms, so I am not sure gay fulfillment rests in adopting heterosexual norms, either) but about discovering the purpose of one’s createded-ness, one’s creature-liness, and exploring—permitting ourselves to really explore, without repressive cries of “hate” and “homophobia”—the idea that one’s life and inclination is meant to serve something so much larger and intimately God-centered than the passing exultation of a gay pride parade or even the physical expression of love.
This is not a conversation many wish to have just now—even idle speculation along such lines bares teeth on all sides, but it is interesting to wonder, is it not? Or are we all done with wondering?
Clearly some are. Stipulating that the church’s moral authority has been weakened for many, thanks to the deplorable sins of a distinct minority of her priests and a handful of bishops, it is nevertheless disheartening to observe the intellectual laziness of pundits who substitute repeated invocations of “pedophile priests” for reasoned argument, as Dowd does. To Dolan’s assertion that “Marriage is not simply a mechanism for delivering benefits: It is the union of a man and a woman in a loving, permanent, life-giving union to pro-create children,” all Dowd can come up with is “pedophile priests!”
Dowd is particularly convoluted in her support for gay marriage. She clearly supports it (or at least opposes the church’s opposition) but then writes, “The church refuses to acknowledge the hypocrisy at its heart: that it became a haven for gay priests even though it declares homosexual sex a sin . . .”
Why, she says that as though it’s a bad thing! As though she does not believe what is demonstrably true: that the church does not consider homosexual inclinations in and of themselves to be sinful, and that a man who identifies as homosexual can be a faithful and celibate priest!
She slips further down her oddly-chuted rabbit’s hole when she writes, “[the recently released John Jay Report] concluded, absurdly, that neither the all-male celibate priesthood nor homosexuality were causes [of priestly pedophilia.]”
Putting aside the truth that the most child sexual abuse occurs in the home (or the public schools) at the hands of un-celibate men and women, I wonder if Dowd realizes that in that sentence she sounds remarkably like Bill Donohue of the Catholic league and others who argue that the roots of the sexual abuse issue are grounded in homosexuality. But then, who would expect her to? There are few who expect such basic reasoning in our era of extreme sentimentalism.
Elizabeth Scalia is the Managing Editor of the Catholic Portal at Patheos and blogs as The Anchoress. Her previous articles for “On the Square” can be found here.
Last Week’s Piece at FT
Dowd at NY Times