Tuesday, March 9, 2010

How Betty and Bob were different

I'm sure you've seen, by now, the story about the lesbians in Colorado who are outraged, just outraged, that the Catholic school the children they are raising have been attending has let them know the kids won't be accepted into the school next year. Archbishop Chaput's wonderfully pastoral letter about the situation is here; I would also add that there is an issue of justice to the other children in the school, who have the right to have their latency period undisturbed by such questions as "How is it possible for my friend Sally to have two mommies and no dad?"

Right there, we see one of the differences between this situation and another one that keeps being raised: that of the divorced and remarried couple who may also have their children enrolled in a Catholic school. It is not possible to tell, at sight, whether a heterosexual couple is validly married or not; it is, however, eminently possible from the Church's perspective to recognize a same-sex couple as not capable of entering a valid Catholic marriage with each other.

But there's another difference, one which I'd like to tell by means of a story--the story of Betty and Bob. Though I've changed their names and blurred or changed some of the details, Betty and Bob were real people, who lived a while ago. Here is their story:

When Betty was only a young teenage girl, she was married to a much older man. Betty was an innocent young girl, and according to the custom of the times, she hadn't really been told much about what marriage involved. She left her husband's home in terror on her wedding night, and didn't look back.

Years later, she met Bob. Betty was a good Catholic; Bob was a good Catholic. Believing Betty to be married in the eyes of the Church, Bob proposed to her anyway. They got married and had some children.

Betty and Bob knew their marriage was sinful. They believed they would likely end up in Hell because of it. Yet they enrolled their children into a Catholic school. They took their children to Mass every Sunday (as was required) and made sure they received all the sacraments. They never contradicted Church teaching regarding marriage, and listened patiently when their own children would come home from school and beg them to repent from their sin of marriage outside the Church, even if that meant parting from each other. One of their children even ended up in religious life, and prayed for her parents there.

At some point later, Betty and Bob somehow approached a priest who recognized in the tale of Betty's first "marriage" much that was wrong, and led to questions of its validity (since one can't truly consent to marriage if one is completely ignorant as to the nature of certain aspects of marriage, so to speak). Betty went through the annulment process, and she and her first "husband" were granted an annulment; Betty then married Bob in the Church. How their children rejoiced! Betty and Bob remained practicing Catholics the rest of their lives, and had good Catholic funerals when they died.

Now, how is this different from the story of the lesbians in Colorado?

Aside from some obvious differences, the biggest one was that Betty and Bob were fully aware of their sin, humble about it, and resigned (though very sadly) to what they believed its consequences would be. They practiced their religion anyway but refrained from the sacraments of the living; they made sure their children were raised in the faith. Though too terrified at the notion of parting from each other to pursue repentance, they were glad to work with the Church when they realized an annulment was a possibility. They weren't contradicting the Church at all--they agreed with their children's teachers that their immortal souls were in peril, and took steps to make sure their children would be better Catholics than they were being!

We don't know the whole story of what went on behind the scenes in Colorado, but we do know some meetings took place. Presumably some discussions were held as to whether the lesbian parenting partners would be willing to agree to do nothing at all to contradict what their children were, eventually, going to be taught--that sex outside of marriage is gravely evil, that marriage isn't a possibility for two people of the same sex. It is not a huge leap of the imagination to suppose that no agreement on the subject was reached.

The breakdown between the school and the lesbian parenting partners, according to both the Archbishop and the pastor of the parish in question, came about because the lesbians were not willing to act as "partners in faith" (as Archbishop Chaput put it) with the Catholic school. Is it possible for people living in a state of serious sin to act as "partners in faith?" The story of Betty and Bob shows that it is--but those living in the state of sin must not try to pretend that there is nothing sinful about their chosen way of life, or to insist that they be treated as if they were, in fact, in a valid marriage relationship. Since the homosexual agenda usually precludes any admission of sin in regard to homosexual sex acts, it is not hard to see how an impasse might have been reached.


Siarlys Jenkins said...

I seldom agree with Archbishop Chapin, but in this case, he is operating within his own jurisdiction, as he has every right to do. I'm not sure why anyone who is in flagrant disagreement with a core value of the church would want to send their children to church-sponsored schools in the first place. I understand parents who are NOT Catholic but don't have any particular problem with Catholic doctrine deciding, in this town, its the safest place to get my kids educated. I know many parents who made that choice, and others who chose Lutheran schools for the same reason. But when the focus of your life and family is in direct contradiction? Why did they seek it in the first place?

Anyway, its a matter of faith and doctrine, and the church can administer its own ministries in whatever manner it chooses. Would Catholic parents send their children to a Baptist school which still taught that the Church of Rome is the Whore of Babylon? I doubt it. It wouldn't be much different.

Anonymous said...

Siarlys, I would send them to the Lutheran school under 2 conditions:

1. It was superior to the public schools and I was under the impression from all the Lutherans I met that not only do they no longer talk about the Whore of Babylon, but they now understand that to be (wink, wink) an outdated teaching.

2. I had ulterior motives and knew I stood a good chance to sue them and force the Lutherans to accept Catholics so I could further infiltrate and help water-down the teachings I know to be wrong.

Either one of these two scenarios is the most likely event. I'd stake a huge amount of money on it.

It also is happening in my diocese where a homosexual teacher sought employment in Catholic schools with the sole purpose of suing them.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Fascinating Anonymous. Actually, I was talking about a Baptist school, although I do know of a school run by a Lutheran church -- and that church does still teach, although seldom mentions, the doctrine you describe as outdated. As a Protestant whose childhood playmates were mostly Catholic, I find the epithets ugly and unnecessary, although what I appreciate about the Reformation is that it broke the SECULAR power of the Bishops of Rome. Now, they have authority over anyone who chooses to accept that authority. Some very fine people make that choice. I worked with some of them at a hospitality house for several years.

But let's move on to the homosexual who wants to sue the Roman Catholic Church. They are going to lose. They will probably find their suit is dismissed without a trial. A legal reference I always recommend is:


It concerns a youth minister at an Anglican Church who entered into an unofficial "commitment ceremony" with another woman, and was phased out of her duties, her choice being incompatible with church doctrine. Her suit for "sexual harassment" was dismissed as entirely outside the jurisdiction of the courts. As long as the school is part of the mission of the church, courts will not interfere in matters of faith and doctrine.

So, you can't sue a Lutheran or Baptist or Pentecostal church which makes rhetorical statements about your church, and a gay activist can't sue your church for upholding church teaching on homosexuality. But you know what I found amusing? This Lutheran church I mentioned showed a video presentation on their school system, citing high marks from a private school accreditation commission, quoting on camera a Catholic member of the commission praising how well they integrated their faith into the school curriculum. I call that progress.

David said...

I truly enjoy the different light of interpretation that a different perspective can present, and simultaneously I lament Geoff G’s absence. Where you say here:

The breakdown between the school and the lesbian parenting partners, according to both the Archbishop and the pastor of the parish in question, came about because the lesbians were not willing to act as "partners in faith" (as Archbishop Chaput put it) with the Catholic school

I'm confused on what that requires. While it’s true we don't know the circumstances entirely, Archbishop Chaput's letter elaborates after the "partners in faith”:

If parents don’t respect the beliefs of the Church, or live in a manner that openly rejects those beliefs, then partnering with those parents becomes very difficult, if not impossible.

Perhaps I am being na├»ve or too skeptical, but the only way I see this couple being "partners in faith" is not a matter of agreeing simply with the Church's position that their arrangement is no peer to marriage, that they are in a state of sin, and that they should do the best to inculcate this view in their children. The statement "live in a manner that openly rejects those beliefs" precludes that possible outcome, leaving the couple little feasible option (in fact, Betty and Bob wouldn’t meet this standard-- unless it were broadened to be admissible under male/female coupling--but somehow I doubt their children would have been kicked out).

It is at this point where I diverge strongly from the assumed relevance of your comparison of pseudonymous Betty and Bob and wonder whyever you included it. At the end of all this, it isn't the fact that Betty and Bob appreciated they were in a state of sin and damned for it, where Alice and Andrea or Cameron and Chris might refuse to do so. Betty and Bob, whatever their intentions, were fully able to maintain their relationship working with the Church’s teaching. Perhaps their motivations were driven by the inspiration of salvation or being better Christians, but given how well they knew they were in a state of sin, as you purport, I am suspicious this had as much import as keeping together. It is a matter of convenience, those trials we are doled, that they could say, “Oh how nice! We lose absolutely nothing but our guilt!”

With Alice and Andrea or Cameron and Chris, the demands to make themselves right with God, the Church, and their salvation entails the destruction of a relationship, the severing of a family, and a crass revocation of what should be an integral part of their humanity and interaction with others. In fact it is probably this recognition of how integral it is what leads some gays and lesbians to disregard much of what the Church says and find it difficult to consider themselves in sin—not because sin corrupts the moral conscience but because they can’t find as much relevance to their position from the Catechism. As an illustration, read from the CCC 2331 through 2400 [click my name] but with the perspective of having your own quite natural attractions and inclinations toward your husband being disordered, that your own desire for affiliation is directed toward an evil. Suspend reality for one moment and how the text makes several references to your situation as a good (pretend it as more something you can’t share part of). In my mind, it is one of the cruelest jokes to exist.

It is true the unrepentant Alice and Andrea might be less willing to keep silent as the humble Bob and Betty, coinciding with the view that their relationship mimics both the form and function of male/female complementarity (another one of those cruel jokes). It’s particularly for this reason I don’t see this conflict dissipating soon.

However nice it is to block sexual sins together, it’s far easier to convince someone of the wrongness of adultery than it is a gay man or woman their homosexuality, despite Father Breslin’s protestations of relativism being the culprit.

Red Cardigan said...

David, I appreciate your perspective, but I think you may be misunderstanding something essential about the point.

My "Betty and Bob" knew and believed their relationship was sinful. They didn't think their love was an excuse. They didn't think their inclination to stay together instead of separate was morally good. And they promised, in essence, that they would never undermine their children's faith by pretending otherwise.

Could the Church have refused to educate their children, too? Well, their children were baptized Catholics, as were Betty and Bob, so I don't know if that changes the situation any--I don't know if the lesbian couple or the children they are raising as parenting partners have been baptized Catholic.

I understand the point you are trying to make: the Church recognizes that same-sex attractions are an inclination toward something which is sinful, and you think that same-sex attracted people deny this, and see it instead as something which is good in itself. That's a huge philosophical distance between our two viewpoints.

But let's look at it this way: we're all attracted to sin in some way or other. Some of us have disordered appetites for food; others for drink. Some have a disordered love of money or a tendency to lie or steal. And some people have disordered appetites when it comes to sex: they may be unfaithful, or they may be promiscuous, or they may trick themselves into saying "committed relationship" when what they really mean is a relationship in which there has been no committment whatsoever made between the couple. Or, the disorder may involve sexual desire for a member of one's own gender.

That is how the Church looks at it. Homosexual sex acts are certainly not the only sexual sins a person can commit, and sexual sins are only a part of the vast potential for sinfulness people have. But the Church takes all of this rather seriously.

Do people who commit sexual sins enroll their kids in Catholic schools? Probably. But when the situation becomes publicly known and a source of scandal, the pastor or principal has only two choices--ignore the situation and give the impression that the Church really doesn't mean what she says about sin, or insist on the teaching even if this means the breakdown of the relationship between the people involved and the school.

Could a heterosexual couple end up in this situation? Absolutely. If those in charge discovered that a couple was living together without marriage and was actively undermining or planning to undermine what the child was being taught on the subject in the school, the situation would be the same, and the heterosexual couple would also be informed that their children couldn't continue to attend the school. It's not so much about the specific sexual sin involved as it is about the attitude of those living in it toward that sin--do they accept that they are sinning and seek the moral clarity the Church provides for their children, even if it takes them as long as it took Betty and Bob to straighten things out? Or do they insist that all truths are equal and that their relationship isn't sinful simply because they say it isn't?

Siarlys Jenkins said...

I have a different question about Betty and Bob. I have difficult wrapping my mind, my heart, my soul, just about any part of me, around an understanding of God who would condemn Betty or Bob or both of them to an eternity in hell over the facts stated here. I commend the church for recognizing that the circumstances of Betty's earlier "marriage" were ripe for annulment. I personally think there is a really good possibility that Jesus would recognize that, even if the church had not. I also have doubts that two people, no matter how deeply in love, who REALLY BELIEVED they were going to burn for eternity over it would have stuck with the marriage.

I suppose that is one reason I'm not Catholic. From my viewpoint, that would open a distinction between Betty and Bob, on the one hand, and the same-sex couple on the other. Betty and Bob could, conceivably, get themselves right with the church, much less with God, in due course, while the other couple might never be able to do so with the church, and its conjectural whether they could with God. The Metropolitan Baptist Church teaches that God accepts them just as they are. Who is right? God knows.