Archbishop O’Malley clarifies position on same-sex marriage

Archbishop O’Malley clarifies position on same-sex marriage

Archbishop Sean O’Malley is working to clarify his own stance on gay marriage. After the debacle of a couple of weeks ago when the Massachusetts bishops let Bishop Reilly of Worcester speak for them at the Legislature, it’s high time for Archbishop O’Malley to speak out.

What he has to say isn’t bad, although filtered through the Boston Globe it requires some parsing. Here is the lynchpin: “O’Malley said gays and lesbians should be entitled to the same kinds of benefits that might accompany the relationship between an adult child and his or her mother or siblings.” So what he’s saying is that while same-sex relationships are not entitled to all the same benefits as marriage, he does think they are entitled to the special benefits that other familial relationships are entitled to.

I’m still not decided on whether that’s a good thing. I’m inclined to think it’s not. Look, the point is why should homosexuals be entitled to special benefits just because they’re gay. If I have a girlfriend and I don’t marry her, why shouldn’t we get the same benefits that a gay couple does?

“As long as those rights are not extended because of the sexual relationship—if these are individual rights that are being granted, that would be a different issue, but I think that’s what caused the confusion in Massachusetts,” he said. “We don’t feel as though there should be rights revolving around that relationship, but some of the things people are asking for can be achieved in other ways.”

But they are being extended because of a sexual relationship. Is this just an attempt to accomplish the same thing through different means? The only reason these benefits are even being considered to be extended to gays is because they are gay. It’s not like they’re talking about extending benefits for anyone and everyone.

At least the Archbishop’s comments on the Church’s teaching on homosexuality aren’t bad:

“Many people in disagreement with the church may be following a certain conscience—an erroneous conscience—but they are doing violence to their own nature, because we believe that the lawgiver and the giver of our human nature are the same,” O’Malley said. “Not to follow God’s law introduces chaos into our own personal lives and into the lives of those around us.”

Earlier on he repeats the teaching that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered. I’m a little uncomfortable with the insistence that only homosexual acts are disordered, but that the inclination is not. Okay, I’m not saying that being tempted toward homosexuality, i.e. same-sex attraction, is a sin. That’s not at all what I’m saying. But we have to recognize that it too is disordered and should be battled against in oneself. We do a disservice to those who suffer from SSA if we tell them otherwise.

Besides, what are we telling such people if we say the attraction is okay, but the acts they want to engage in because of that attraction is bad? In every case, the inclination to sin is bad, it is not morally neutral. And unlike opposite-sex attraction, SSA can never result in a life-giving, God-ordered relationship.

Finally, on Voice of the Faithful has said he is meeting with them next week, hasn’t decided whether to continue the ban on new chapters, and said he isn’t worried about Catholic Charities accepting donations from them, yet hasn’t decided whether the archdiocese would accept them if offered directly. (This despite Cardinal Law’s direct order to Catholic Charities not to accept the funds. I would think that such blatant disobedience would be upsetting to a bishop.)

  • What caused the “confusion” in Massachusetts was the confusing statements by the Massachusetts bishops. Archbishop O’Malley’s statements to Michael Paulson don’t seem all that different from what Bishop Reilly said on Beacon Hill.

    “We don’t FEEL as though there should be rights revolving around that relationship…” [emphasis mine]

    There’s no “feeling” about it! Again, the bishops are speaking as if this is an issue open to their personal opinion.  It isn’t! The Holy See has been unambiguous about this…and as recently as last summer!

    “…but some of the things people are asking for can be achieved in other ways.”

    In other words, “don’t ask, don’t tell?” Talk about ambiguity!

    “Not to follow God’s law introduces chaos into our own personal lives and into the lives of those around us.”

    Chaos? What about “mortal sin?” What about “imperiling our immortal souls?” What about “the loss of Heaven and the pains of Hell?”

    What about “offending God?”

    Again, all we’re hearing about is the temporal consequences of sin (not that the word “sin” is even mentioned), as if this life is the be-all and end-all. We shouldn’t sin because it messes up “our own personal lives.”

    This seems to put sin on the same level as other things that can mess up “our own personal lives.” Heck, an inability to balance one’s checkbook can mess up—yes, and even bring chaos—to one’s “own personal life.” I’m sure the Archbishop isn’t equating the two, but it sure reads like it.

  • David,

    It’s not the people living with SSA and struggling against it that most of us are talking about . I’m talking about homosexual activists and their friends trying to get the Church to change her teachings. They are the people for whom SSA does define who they are.

    And it doesn’t help them or anyone else to sugarcoat it and say that SSA is okay as long as they don’t act on it.

    In fact, we could say the same thing about a lot of other tendencies, including watching pr0n, fornication, contraception. We’ve spent decades (and by we I mean mainly bishops and priests) treadly so softly on moral issues—and mostly sexual issues—that many Catholics think they can be good Catholics even as they ignore the Church’s teachings in those areas.

    Homosexuality is by no means the only problem area, but it’s the one right now with immediate political and cultural ramifications and is deserving of immediate attention.

  • Dom:

    “And it doesn’t help them or anyone else to sugarcoat it and say that SSA is okay as long as they don’t act on it.”

    But that’s exactly what the Catechism says. I point you to 2358 and 2359:

    2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. They do not choose their homosexual condition; for most of them it is a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

    2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.

    “In fact, we could say the same thing about a lot of other tendencies, including watching porn, fornication, contraception.”

    All the things you describe are specific acts (as is homosexual sodomy). In both cases, the analysis is the same—one can be tempted by a wrong act, but the Catholic moral life is about resisting and diminishing temptation.


  • And I would say that the Catechism doesn’t go as far as other Church documents on the matter.

    For one thing, I think it makes an unwarranted assumption that homosexuality is always a condition that is not chosen. There are cases in which a person is convinced by external factors that they are homosexual or even just to experiment with it, as in bisexuality.

    And yes, all of those things I describe are specific acts. But don’t tell me that the temptation to do them is not grave matter as well. I’m not saying that temptation is sin, but we have to be clear that we must avoid occasions of sin and avoid temptation. Temptation is the path toward sin; don’t set foot on the path.

    Whether you’re temptation is fornication or pornography or SSA, it is not enough just to say, “Well, I didn’t actually do the act. I just fantasized about it” or “I just think about it all the time even if I don’t do it.”

    What would you say to an alocholic who thinks about alochol all the time? I would not condemn him for it, but I would counsel him that his goal is to work to the point where it did not occupy his mind. Why aren’t we allowed to say that with regard to other matters?

    Are we buying partially into the anti-Christian construct that to warn about an occasion of sin is to preach hatred toward the tempted one?

    All I’m saying is that we do no one any favors if we do not call people to radical holiness, toward a difficult path that includes purging ourselves of even sinful tendencies. That’s what every great saint has told us, beginning with St. Paul.

  • “For one thing, I think it makes an unwarranted assumption that homosexuality is always a condition that is not chosen.”

    Um … I dunno where the Church teaches that. I know it teaches that for *some* people it is not chosen (the first two sentences of 2358). I absolutely agree that some *other* people “choose” to identify as gay or get into it via experimentation with bohemia and then the behavior begets the identity and vice versa in a perpetual feedback loop. Still, I have known too many homosexual persons, of varying states of grace, who’ve insisted persuasively to my mind that their same-sex attraction is an unchosen orientation/thorn in the flesh (whichever noun that person would have preferred).

    Otherwise, Dom, I’m not really sure we disagree, though I must protest that nothing I said can fairly be characterized as accusing you, the Church or anyone of preaching hate toward homosexual persons.

    “But don’t tell me that the temptation to do them is not grave matter as well.”

    I’m not … “the Catholic moral life is about resisting and diminishing temptation,” I said. And I absolutely agree also that we should avoid occasions of sin, and that stoking fantasies of immoral acts is also wrong.

    But at the same time, there is an absolute gap between a temptation and an act and between a temptation you stoke and one to which you say, “out of my sight, devil.” Because the devil hangs around and is not likely to leave you. I agree, it is not enough to say, “well, I didn’t act on it,” and homosexual persons, like all persons, need to grow in holiness to the point where the temptation is occupying their mind as little as God wills. But for some people, and I’m making this as an empirical statement, same-sex attraction doesn’t ever go away.

  • RC writes:

    “Some of the goals that gay-marriage proponents profess—the reasonable-sounding ones like matters of inheritance or health-care decision-making—can be accomplished without gay marriage. When the Archbishop points this out, he doesn’t deserve to have his intentions misrepresented.”

    No, actually he doesn’t, RC, because they’re not even his words. See:

    specifically: “7. Should persons who live in same-sex relationships be entitled to some of the same social and economic benefits given to married couples?”

    I still think the statement woos ambiguity—at best. Sure, I understand—as others, notably Colleen, in other threads on this blog have mentioned—that the benefits same-sex marriage advocates demand can be obtained without marriage. That’s not the issue. It’s one thing for a lay person to point this out. It’s quite another for bishops to do so in formal documentation. Why? Because in doing so, they appear to skirt the issue of the sinfulness of the relationship in the first place.

    From the bishops’ statement:

    “Some benefits currently sought by persons in homosexual unions can already be obtained without regard to marital status. For example, individuals can agree to own property jointly with another, and they can generally designate anyone they choose to be a beneficiary of their will or to make health care decisions in case they become incompetent.”

    Were I in an illicit union and I read the, I may well respond thusly:

    “Hey, good point! Sappho and I can buy a house together!”

    I mean, it seems to me to completely miss the mark.

    Look, when a group of grown Catholic men have to debate whether or not to use the word “sin” in a statement or document, and then decide against it…well, I call that ambiguity. At best.

  • Hi RC,

    “Rather, that passage shows the general public that the gay-rights campaigners’ arguments are misleading, if not disingenuous.”

    Hmmm…interesting. I hadn’t thought of it that way. If that’s the case, RC, then maybe the wording is a tad on the too-subtle side.

    ‘Course it could be that I’m a bit on the thick-headed side.

    [Hey, CAN the nods of agreement out there! wink]