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Thursday, August 1, 2013

A dialogue about Pope Francis' words


This has turned out to be an intriguing dialogue with this person, going by markbirch, on the National Catholic Reporter where I signed in with Disqus.  I didn’t have to be arguing to make my points with him – which is the way he interacts with other people here at this site.  All I needed to do was to continue to present facts in regards to his statements.  I didn’t need to be accusatory toward him.  I didn’t need to say he was wrong.  I just needed to keep saying what I knew to be right.  What I’m asking him, in my own way, is why does he care what the Pope says, if he isn’t a Catholic any longer and is only an agnostic.  From our dialogue being on the NCR site, our discussion is public.  So, I decided to post this section of the dialogue here.

·         markbirch

He quotes a portion of what I had said:  "He [Pope Francis] would say that he feels that the same-sex sexual attractions are disordered"


With all due respect, you do not know what the Pope would say, because he didn't qualify his words in that way.

And, I don't care how much bloviating Timothy Dolan does, it is not possible to treat gay people with "dignity" while at the same time referring to us as "disordered".

Mike Jones replies to markbirch

Thank you for continuing our dialogue. Pope Francis has said that he supports the official position of the Catholic church on sexuality. Believe it or not, he also says that there is much more in common between his thinking and past Pope Benedict's thinking. Pope Francis is also careful to continue to say that gay people are not disordered. Who we are is so much more than just our sexual attractions. More than even our same-sex emotional and relational attractions - which he is careful to say are not disordered.

Here is my most recent comment to the article at Religion News Service entitled, Did Pope Francis change church teaching on homosexuality?

Are David and Alessandro sure of this statement?:
““objectively disordered.” Church teaching holds that because same-sex relations cannot lead to children they are against the natural moral law, and homosexuality has been condemned in

I think that the issue of procreation is a small part of the logic that leads to the statement about same-sex sexual attractions being viewed as objectively disordered. I do not think that the main issue of what the Catholic church understands biblical teaching and church tradition to present, is about having children. It is about same-sex sexual behavior not being pleasing to God, even if it feels

Homosexuality, when the term is referring to sexual attractions, as Timothy Dolan stated, is not condemned in Scripture. And of course there have always been heterosexual sexual relationships that did not, or could not, lead to having children. They are not viewed as disordered.

Wiki is sometimes very helpful:

The term, objectively disordered, is rooted in an understanding of what is viewed as moral or not, rather than what is considered natural; as some who have same-sex sexual attractions believe. I think that Pope Francis would say that same-sex couples who are sexual do experience unitive purposes in their sexual activity. I think that the Pope would also say that even most heterosexual sex today is not intended to be procreative - even by those in the Catholic church. I think that the main issue is one of what the Catholic church believes to be a biblical concept of the complementarity of the opposite sexes. Yet, I think that the Pope also understands that there is much complementarity in same-sex sexual relationships.

I think he would say that what feels natural, may still be against natural law. Still, I think he would also say that same-sex sexual relationships are of genuine affective (of emotion or feeling) complementarity. And I think he would say that what is not the natural sexual complementarity of same-sex sexual expression; that expression is still fulfilling in same-sex sexual relationships. Thus, I do think he would say it is primarily a moral issue.

markbirch replies to Mike Jones

"I think that the Pope would say..." Do you realize how many times you wrote this? When the Pope himself tells the world that gay people are valued and that our relationships are of God, then I will sit up and pay attention. Until then, I'm really not at all interested. I am not confused as to what the Catholic Church believes and practices in relation to gay people. I have experienced it first-hand. The distinction between homosexual orientation and homosexual acts is a false one, irrational and not worthy of the elaborate and convoluted distinctions that the Church makes of it.

Mike Jones replies to markbirch

Yes, I think that Pope Francis would say that he appreciates people who are trying to articulate what his positions are - and that he is pleased that people are gracious about expressing it numerous times. I think that is his main thrust, to express and emphasize mercy while holding to his theological views. One of his big points is to invite dialogue. He wants to show respect for all people. I like that.
Pope Francis continues to say that gay people are valued. And the many non-sexual relationships that gay people have are valued by God. The Pope would continue to say this.
People who would say that they are ever-straight (never, up to this point in time, having experienced same-sex sexual attractions) might also wish that the Pope would change his view that intimate sexual expression is to be only in marriage. My guess is that as much as he is also speaking about his desire that the Catholic church show respect for individuals who have divorced and are remarried, he would not say that he feels God is pleased with divorce. And I haven't heard him say his thinks God is pleased with sexual expression out of marriage.
My guess is that some gay people would be displeased if they were invited to wait until their gay marriage before being sexually intimate, because of their spiritual understanding of a blessed gay marriage.

markbirch replies to Mike Jones

He quotes a portion of what I had said:  "Pope Francis continues to say that gay people are valued. And the many non-sexual relationships that gay people have are valued by God. The Pope would continue to say this."


Most of what you're writing here are your own thoughts, and not those of the Pope. Who are you talking about regarding "their spiritual understanding of a blessed gay marriage?

What about the decades of love and commitment in my marriage? Do you actually think I should humbly accept condemnation for that? That is my life.

Mike Jones replies to markbirch

There is a growing voice in Christianity and in the Catholic church that says that same-sex sexual behavior is blessed by God if it is in a gay marriage. Brian McLaren would be one cultural voice that would present this position, outside of the Catholic church. Brian would say that he knows that his spiritual understanding of a blessed gay marriage would not be held by a number of his peers. But since this is his own personal position, he then officiated at his son's same-sex marriage. The organization, Dignity would not put such a limit on what they would feel is a blessed spiritual relationship. Our culture is vague on whether it feels that a spiritually blessed same-sex relationship should result in marriage, even in states where gay marriage is legal.
Our culture also is vague on the difference between a loving, committed, long-term relationship and a monogamous gay marriage for life. As is our culture also vague as to whether there needs to be monogamy in a marriage, gay or straight. Love and commitment in a gay marriage, as in a straight marriage, might not mean or require monogamy. As in regards to gay marriage, Pope Francis is trying to address multiple issues in heterosexual relationships that he would feel is not pleasing to God. He is not saying that there is not love or commitment in gay marriages. He is saying that he does not believe that God blesses those relationships.
On the other hand, my own perspective is that to be in the Catholic church and thus to honor the Catholic church would mean to follow it's teaching on marriage. The condemnation would come if it did come, more from not following through on the commitment to the Catholic church and to what it teaches. Being a part of a different faith community would remove the concept of condemnation coming from the Catholic church and its perspectives. Pope Francis desires to honor various faith perspectives outside of the Catholic church.
I'm not quite clear on how the word, condemnation, is used here. What Pope Francis is saying is that if we confess what we believe to be sin, God forgives and forgets that sin and he is inviting the Catholic church to do the same. Pope Francis is a supporter of civil unions which are not connected with the blessing of the Catholic church. My guess is that he would also be a supporter of gay marriages that are not connected with the Catholic church. He would not be condemning those.
Was your marriage celebrated in the Catholic church? Or, possibly was it conducted within a spiritual context outside of the Catholic church? Is your marriage sanctioned beyond that of a legal marriage? Are you waiting and hoping that your marriage would be blessed by the Catholic church and until then you would feel condemned? I know that for some individuals they make the decision to shift from the Catholic church to, for instance, the Episcopal church where gay marriages are blessed. However for some people their commitment to the Catholic church is strong and to shift to a different Christian faith expression is not an option.

markbirch replies to Mike Jones

Who are you referring to by "our culture"? Roman Catholic?

I don't know of any same-sex marriages that are celebrated in the Catholic Church, since the middle-ages that is (John Boswell's research). I am aware of some priests who have discreetly officiated at the weddings of gay or lesbian couples, but in a context where the marriages were not civilly legal.

We are ex-Catholics, not otherwise affiliated with any other denomination and are not seeking any church sanction for our marriage.

The Pope's position as you presume to articulate it is, at best, one of polite condescension, and in Argentine, it wasn't even remotely polite. This is what Pope Francis said as a cardinal during the public debate over gay marriage in Argentina:

“Let’s not be naïve. We’re not talking about a simple political battle. It is a destructive pretension against the plan of God,” he said. “We are not talking about a mere bill, but rather a machination of the Father of Lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.”

He called civil unions "the lesser of two evils".

Doesn't sound at all like a "supporter" to me...

Mike Jones replies to markbirch

The culture of the USA. I would see the term, Catholic church, to be interchangable with Roman Catholic.
Individuals celebrate heterosexual marriages in the Catholic where those individuals are already sexually intimate before marriage. Children are celebrated in baptism in the Catholic church were their parents have used birth control to limit the number of children they will have. Similarly, same-sex couples who were married civilly and thus are legally married in the eyes of the state, are still welcomed to celebrate in the Catholic church.
The Catholic church would not have celebrated the heterosexual premarital sexual expression, the use of contraception, or the legal civil gay marriage.
We need to be careful to separate out the context that Pope Francis was speaking of when he was speaking as a Cardinal. In the setting you are referring to, he was speaking of gay marriage and civil unions that would be within the blessing of the Catholic church. He was not referring to civil unions or gay marriages that were outside of the context of the Catholic church in terms of the church's blessing or approval of those unions.
It seems to me that since you and your husband are ex-Catholics, the blessing of the Catholic church would not pertain to your marriage since you are not under the spiritual care of the Catholic church. I thought I understood from elsewhere that you were hoping that the Catholic church would someday bless your marriage.
It's important to understand where Pope Francis sees his leaderships as over and where he does not see it as over. He would not feel his position and perspectives would pertain to other Christian faith expressions outside of the Catholic church.

markbirch replies to Mike Jones

"Similarly, same-sex couples who were married civilly and thus are legally married in the eyes of the state, are still welcomed to celebrate in the Catholic church."

Mike, go ahead and call your local parish. Tell them you're legally married to a man and that you'd like to celebrate your relationship by having a ceremony there. Let me know how that turns out for you. I'm serious here! Do it.

Mike Jones replies to markbirch

Pope Francis isn't talking about a local Catholic church parish having a ceremony (a wedding ceremony) for that parish to celebrate your relationship. He is saying that a starting point in listening to people who have an alternative perspective is to celebrate with them where they are currently at. He means to celebrate with you and your husband what you and he feel is good in your marriage. That doesn't mean to have a marriage ceremony. The local parishes in the community where I live would welcome you and your husband to worship there with them. If they knew that you are your husband were legally married, or more simply, if in you speaking with them, you shared with them that you and your husband were sexually intimate with each other (and you didn't happen to share with them that you were legally married) they would ask that you not share in the celebration of mass. Yes, I've carefully asked these type of questions. It's important for me to know what their responses would be before I invited same-sex partners to attend there.

We would never turn anyone away from our table.

Mike Jones replies to markbirch

I'm pleased that you and your husband have the same perspective as Pope Francis does. As past Catholics you welcome anyone to your table in your home. Pope Francis as a present Catholic is doing the same thing at his table in his home and in his conversations with people.