AN INTELLECTUAL HISTORY OF CATHOLIC COMPLEMENTARITY
Gender complementarity has since Pope John Paul II dominated official Roman Catholic discussions about gender and sexuality. It has become the all-purpose explanation for why the church cannot change its teachings or practices in these areas. Men and women, we are told, have essential and changeless natures that are permanently different and that prescribe not interchangeable roles. Gender complementarity encounters skepticism in major Catholic publications, such as America, Commonweal and the National Catholic Reporter, as well as more broadly among Roman Catholic theologians and ethicists. The fundamental intellectual problem with gender complementarity is that it rests on a circular argument. Gender complementarity is allegedly a fact of nature and therefore the self-evident basis of what the hierarchy has to teach about the “natural” institutions of marriage and family. The church, so the argument goes, is simply following natural law (the moral rules inscribed by nature on human society). Despite the supposed factuality of gender complementarity, it would seem that it can only be authentically recognized in the forms of marriage and family that the church prescribes. In short, gender complementarity supposes a natural law framework of which at the same time it is the foundation. This is an intellectual house of cards that collapses as soon as one asks what evidence, external to the teaching of the church, we have that such facts actually exist in nature! Natural law proclaims that self-evident facts of nature can be recognized not only by faithful Catholics but by all human beings. When scientific evidence cannot confirm these facts and when so much of ordinary human experience contradicts them, natural law appears to be more an artifice of authority than a narrative of objective reality.
More: Sheila Briggs, at Conscience Magazine
1968’s ‘Humane Vitae’ has done massive harm to the Catholic Church and has been largely ignored by many, writes TP O’Mahony
Time for a renunciation of anti-contraception doctrine by the Catholic Church
It is surely time for an open, direct, and formal renunciation of Humanae Vitae — the 1968 anti-contraception encyclical from Pope Paul VI.
This ill-conceived document has caused enormous harm, not least to papal authority, and been the source of worry, stress, and misery for millions of Catholic couples around the globe.
It’s publication on July 25, 1968, caused widespread disappointment and even dismay, and sparked a huge controversy.
At the time, I wrote that the crisis it created was the greates the Catholic Church had faced since the Reformation in the 16th century.
In retrospect, that was no exaggerated claim, and today — nearly 50 years later — we are still living with the divisions stemming from that encyclical. In the aftermath of its appearance, millions of Catholics stopped going to confession and many others abandoned the Church altogether.
Today, Bondings 2.0 introduces a new monthly series on LGBT Catholic history.
In April 1991, Connecticut’s state legislature was debating a bill that would outlaw discrimination against lesbian and gay people in housing, employment, and public accommodation. The bill had originally been introduced in 1973, but always failed. On April 5, 1991, in the midst of the debate, Hartford’s Archbishop John F. Whealon wrote a column entitled “The church and the homosexual person” in the archdiocesan newspaper The Catholic Transcript, in which he stated that discrimination against lesbian and gay people “is always morally wrong.”
The following are some excerpts from Whealon’s column:
Archbishop John F. Whealon
“What is the official teaching of the Catholic Church concerning homosexuality? . . . The cornerstone of this teaching is the dignity of every human being. Every person is made in God’s image and therefore worthy of love, and must recognize in self a spiritual and mortal soul, and must regard the body as good and honorable because God has created it and will raise it up on the last day. . . . The dignity of every son and daughter of God is basic for any Catholic in approaching this question about homosexual persons. . .
Source: Bondings 2.0