Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Homosexuality and the Catholic Church

I love being Catholic. I always have. I love the Mass and Eucharist. I love the concern for social justice, I love most of the teachings. But there are a few areas I flat-out ignore, and others I openly rebel against. Most of those areas have to do with sex.

For instance, I'm a fan of contraceptives. Always have been, as have most--not quite all, but close--of the Catholic women I know. I once pointed out to a priest friend of mine that if our parish church really wanted people to follow the Church-approved rhythm method, they should find someone to teach the class who hadn't had five children in eight years. He said, "But all of those children were planned."

"That may well be," I said, "but to the rest of us, it doesn't look like the method works. Most of us couldn't procreate that quickly if we tried."

The thing about contraception, though, is that it's a very private issue. Most of us don't go around openly pro- or anti-contraception. You can't tell by looking at me whether or not I use birth control; unless you're my husband, it's really none of your concern.

Homosexuality, and heterosexuality, are intrinsic parts of a person's being, and I've long grieved over my Church's official position on gays. My priest friend above tried to tell me that gay people were "Intrinsically disordered,"--a phrase borrowed from Pope Benedict, alas--"like being born blind," he said.

I said that I thought being born without a uterus, or with undescended testicles, would be like being born blind, but that being born gay was part of the normal variance of God's creation.

I don't know what my priest friend really thought about that. He's good at discussing doctrine, but not himself.

Anyway, the point of all this is that on Friday, sitting down at a Starbucks at the University of Notre Dame while my son went to class, I opened up the South Bend Tribune and got a pleasant surprise. Indiana law had just changed to recognizing same-sex marriage. Notre Dame immediately sent out an email to its employees to say that anyone affected by this change should contact human resources to change their benefits. "Notre Dame is a Catholic university and endorses a Catholic view of marriage. However, it will follow the relevant civil law and begin to implement this change immediately." 

Part of the reason this is awesome is that they could have wiggled out of it--there's a loophole for religious institutions; many faith-based colleges are using it.  (Notre Dame also makes it very clear that LGBT students are welcome on campus. I'm glad about that, too.)

Then yesterday word came out of the synod of bishops currently underway in Rome that the official church is getting a little more open, too. Remarkably, at least to me, the Church--the big one--sent out requests for all Catholics, everywhere, to fill out an online survey before this synod. They asked us what we thought instead of telling us what we should. That was unprecedented. Apparently, much of the world thinks the church needs to become more accepting of gays. The first words out of the synod were that homosexuals had "gifts and qualities to offer." It doesn't sound like much, but, like Pope Francis' earlier comment, "Who am I to judge?" it's a start, and I rejoice in it.