EDITORIAL

Sexual dilemmas of Catholics

As we see, there are homosexuals among Inquisitors, too. A Polish theologian with major responsibilities at the Holy Office – the present name of the institution known for centuries as the Inquisition – has publicly come out as a homosexual and even introduced his partner to the world. As he was expecting, he was immediately dismissed of all his assignments. Two circumstances contributed to this denouement: the symbolic value of the respective institution and the opening of a Synod destined to the family, that already had its share of tensions. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is a highly influential institution inside the Catholic Church. Let us remember that Pope John Paul II had appointed Joseph Ratzinger as Prefect in 1981, and that the latter became the Pope’s lead adviser in matters of doctrine, and even his successor in the supreme position. One of the duties of this Congregation concerns marriage-related matters – more precisely, evaluating marriage cancellation requests, under the circumstances that actual divorce is forbidden for Catholics. We may also remember that, in matters connected to sexual morale, both John Paul II and Benedict XVI were highly conservative.
One of the most controversial official Catholic campaigns was the recent one that opposed the use of the condom, against any medical arguments. New Pope Francis seems, instead, to show much more openness to adapting Catholic practices to the evolution of mentalities. If, for several centuries, the Catholic Church had opposed such changes, at this time, plenty of Catholics ceased to follow its sexual morale precepts.
Looking back to the millennial history of Christianity, we cannot abstain from noticing that, as far as sexuality was concerned, the dominant position was not just conservative, but, quite often, outright repressive. Even Constantine the Great, the first Roman Emperor to assume his affinity to the new religion, conferring it protection and even privileges, has introduced a legislation that was very harsh on adultery. Christianity focused on demonizing sexuality instead of taming it.
Even the inferior status of the woman, more discriminating in certain aspects that it was in some Pre-Christian eras, had depended on this fear that sometimes reached exacerbation.
But, finally, European Age of Enlightenment earned a victory in this matter, too, and today, among things we question there are the value of sacramental marriage, of conjugal fidelity, of natural cycles of fertility and even of sexual identity. The adultery is no longer punished – except for a country that has a strong Catholic tradition, the Philippines -, divorce and even abortion have become legal in many countries, and homosexuality is increasingly tolerated.
Apparently, all these matters are related to the same aspect of private life, but there are a few significant distinctions that must be made. The debate on abortion, by example, cannot ignore the rights of the child that is already alive. Other discussions are much easier to approach, instead, and the only matter in their case is related to strategic implications. By example, why would Eucharist not be granted to remarried divorcees? It is just due to the attempt to not violate the principle of indestructibility of the sacramental marriage. But, frequently, it is just a mere matter of hypocrisy, as a few luckier Catholics even manage to obtain the “cancellation” of marriage, which is a masked form of divorce. Divorcees may be wonderful Catholics, with impeccable morality, yet they suffer for being, in fact, half excommunicated, as the Eucharist is the main form of integration in the Catholic community.
For many members of the clergy and theologians, giving up this principle is a harsher sin in the perspective of granting relativity to “marital love”. Actually, the choice is between idealism and realism. Christianity has often made the mistake of an idealism that had terrible consequences more often than none.
Are all of these aspects obviously condemned by Jesus – the one we know from the Holy Writings – are is it just a matter of interpretations?
Most Christian stipulations referring to private life and sexual morale come from Judaism, except for the strict interdiction of divorce. Any text, even those in the Bible – which, unavoidably for its complexity, is brimming with contradictions that are hard to conciliate, provides the opportunity of multiple interpretations, even in the case of statements that seem simple and clear. What Pope Francis seems to suggest is a suspension of the exaggerated power of tradition and a new discussion, with realistic arguments, of the present situation. Besides any debate, there is one truth that is not debatable: if the approach remains the same, the Church risks being “uselessly drastic and profoundly injust”, as the present Pope had declared at the opening of the Synod. Is it just a tactic attitude? Is it a simple missionary strategy to win back a large number of Catholics – and not just Catholics – discontent with the dominating Conservatism in the hierarchy of the Church? Or, perhaps, it is much more than that, it is a courageous reconsideration of the notion of sin and of actual identification of its forms. In other words, it is a reconsideration, in this case, of sexual morale. It is not about turning black into white and white into black. It is about understanding that more important than formal rules is the spirit moral actions are performed in. This is the genuine target of Christian practice. Sometimes even lying is more moral than being honest. Sometimes, even killing may be moral, if the purpose is to defend vulnerable being. It is much harder though, to have the clarvoyance to observe the real moral stakes of a situation. Who can teach Catholic priests such things? For the functionality of the system, it is much more realistic to apply restrictive rules that could be clear and easy to explain. For the comprehension of the situation, this fact must be seriously considered.
In the case of homosexuality, the reticence will be much higher, obviously. The theologian of the Holy Office did not accidentally pick this occasion, obviously, to come out. Besides personal motivations, he had tried to illustrate that homosexuality is not just an issue outside of the Church, but inside, too. The firm reaction of Vatican shows, though, that his gesture, made right before the opening of the Synod consecrated to the “family” was seen as a challenge that will affect even more the position of those inclined to a potential openness of the Church to such matters. As Opposition is serious and can in no case be minimized.
Actually, there is a special prestige of people pretending to defend “God’s truth” at any price. Are they not resembling martyrs not willing to give in front of too lax morality?

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