Thursday, April 14, 2016

Keeping the Conversation about Amoris Laetitia Real: "There Are Absolutely No Grounds for Considering Homosexual Unions to Be in Any Way Similar or Even Remotely Analogous to God’s Plan for Mar­riage and Family"

Father Francis X. Clooney looks at Pope Francis's statement in Amoris Laetitia (§251) that there are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way even remotely analogous to God's plan for marriage and family, and confesses himself perplexed:

[W]hile I am not an ethicist, I am a comparativist, and so I found myself perplexed at the definitive words in No. 251: "There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for mar­riage and family." Not at all similar, nor even remotely analogous? I wonder. 
I wonder in part because, as readers know, I teach at Harvard, and in the very diverse, sometimes mind-boggling and headache-producing environs of the Divinity School. (More on that another time.) But in this context, I am in contact with persons in gay married relationships all the time. No relation is perfect, I am sure, but in these marriages I most often observe: honest, open, mature love; commitment, often over many years; fidelity and loyalty to one another, for richer or poorer, in health and in sickness; Christian faith, lived out in a deep human relationship; and, in several cases, great devotion to raising children. I am edified by these relationships, these marriages. 
I grant that none of this, including my opinion, adds up at all to the evidence required to persuade the Vatican to rethink its stance on gay marriage. But it should be evident to anyone with their eyes open, that gay marriage is in many ways similar to marriage as is esteemed by the church, and that analogies abound, including those I have mentioned. It is hard to see how or why Pope Francis might think that gay marriage could be entirely dissimilar and equivocally unlike heterosexual marriage. It is hard to see why Pope Francis, even if quoting quotes from other documents, would be willing to say that the marriage of a gay couple is entirely outside God's plan. Is there anything or anyone outside God's mercy and compassion? 

Sister Christine Schenk looks at the same passage in Amoris Laetitia and reaches a conclusion similar to that of Father Clooney:

Instead of pastorally validating that great goodness exists in these relationships, the exhortation simply repeats condemnations of same-sex unions and adoptions by same-sex couples. It even repeats the false claim that international aid to developing nations is dependent on openness to marriage equality. (251) 
According to Frank DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, many in the Catholic LGBT community, while not expecting progress on gay marriage, had hoped the pope would offer an affirming message to them. 
"Where is the Pope Francis who embraced his gay former student and husband during his U.S. visit?" asked DeBernardo in a public statement
In my experience, LGBT folks are among the most committed of Catholics and pretty much wrote the book about how to love and stay with a church whose hierarchy would often prefer that they go away. 
How painful for them to read the exhortation's reflection about spousal and family commitment as imaging God -- knowing all the while that this is also true for them –- only to have their love denigrated as not "even remotely analogous to God's plan..." (251).

My take on this passage: To say that the loving and committed relationships of a group of human beings are not even remotely analogous to God's plan for humanity is to say that the human beings living those not remotely analogous relationships are not valued or included in God's plan for humanity.

This is a horrifically damaging claim to make about a group of human beings, one that opens them to savage abuse and violence. Analogically, it consigns this group of human beings to a place that is beyond God's mercy.

And in doing so, it makes mincemeat out of everything else this exhortation on the family has to say about mercy.

(Thanks to Jim McCrea for emailing me the link to Father Clooney's article.)

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