Friday, October 17, 2014

Thoughts on a Statement by Cardinal Marx

In the article Amid criticism, Cardinal Marx supports synod's midterm report :: Catholic News Agency (CNA), we get this comment from Cardinal Marx, Archbishop of Munich, on same sex relationships:

“homosexuals who have been faithful, one to the other, for 30-35 years, and they take care the one of the other until the very last moment of life. But they live in irregular situation for the Church… as a Church, can I say that all of this has no value because we are speaking about a homosexual relation?”

“I cannot say: it’s all black, it’s all white,” Cardinal Marx stated. “And we cannot stand behind the logic of ‘everything or nothing.’”

I must say, with all due respect to his office, I am perplexed by Cardinal Marx and his statement. If we recognize that participating in homosexual acts are condemned by God, then we have to say that a same-sex relationship can never go beyond the level of platonic friendship. If a relationship goes beyond this, then the Church cannot accept it, and must seek to guide such a relationship towards a place that is right in the eyes of God.

More clarification would be helpful, but as it stands, this appears to be a fallacy of the middle ground. There is no middle ground between contradictory positions. When one party says “homosexual acts are sinful” and the other says “homosexual acts are not sinful,” there is no middle ground. This is a situation where one position must be true and one must be false.

I think we also have the appeal to pity fallacy. If the hypothetical couple mentioned has been together for 30-35 years and have affection for each other, this is still not a justification for finding some sort of compromise on calling it a sin. There simply are relationships which can never be recognized as valid. For example, consider polygamy and the convert who comes to the Catholic Church from such a culture. The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us:

2387 The predicament of a man who, desiring to convert to the Gospel, is obliged to repudiate one or more wives with whom he has shared years of conjugal life, is understandable. However polygamy is not in accord with the moral law. “[Conjugal] communion is radically contradicted by polygamy; this, in fact, directly negates the plan of God which was revealed from the beginning, because it is contrary to the equal personal dignity of men and women who in matrimony give themselves with a love that is total and therefore unique and exclusive.” The Christian who has previously lived in polygamy has a grave duty in justice to honor the obligations contracted in regard to his former wives and his children.

Despite years of living together polygamy is behavior which cannot be considered compatible with the teaching of the Church. I believe the same obligation follows for same sex couples, cohabiting couples and couples who were divorced and invalidly remarried. As the Catechism points out (#1789):

One may never do evil so that good may result from it.

Now the Church can, and should, develop ways of helping the people who have made decisions which place them in opposition to what God has made known to us. But these ways can never compromise Our Lord’s teaching. They have to be aimed at bringing these people back to follow Christ, and recognizing that He must be first in our lives. This isn’t some bureaucratic rule from the Church. This is what Jesus Christ Himself said in Luke 14:26-27.

26 “If any one comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 

Jesus also said in Matthew 5:29-30,

29 *If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body go into Gehenna.

Even though it can cause us some pain in this life, we do have to recognize that following Christ obliges us to reject certain behaviors and follow Him (Matthew 16:24).

If Cardinal Marx can find a better way to help people in these situations change their ways, that is good. But at the moment, I just can’t see how his words can be reconciled with Christ’s.

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