Friday, April 13, 2012

Hell will hurt

I have to say that having spent some time in the Pacific Northwest and having attended Mass at this cathedral (where I and my classmates were sternly instructed NOT to kneel during the Canon) I find myself terribly, even violently, unsurprised by this:
Seattle's largest Catholic church will not be taking part in signature-gathering to stop same-sex marriage, despite a recent call by Western Washington's Catholic leaders.

Father Michael Ryan, head of St. James Cathedral, tells parishioners in a letter that gathering signatures for Referendum 74 would "prove hurtful and seriously divisive in our community."

A recent letter from Archbishop J. Peter Sartain and Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio Elizondo to the over 200 plus churches in the Archdiocese approved and encouraged the gathering of signatures in opposition of the recently enacted same-sex marriage measure.

But Father Ryan says in his letter that the leaders left it up to each pastor to decide whether to participate.

And so Father Ryan has apparently decided that using this opportunity to preach and teach the truth about the grave moral evil of homosexual sex acts and the further evil of participating in the total sham of pretending that relationships based around that evil are in any way analogous to marriage is too "hurtful" for Seattle's cathedral parish.

Newsflash, Father Ryan: Hell will hurt. It will hurt the people whose emphatic and obdurate adherence to grave moral evil with full knowledge and sufficient reflection causes them to spend eternity there by their own sinful choices. It will hurt the straight person who fornicates or uses contraception; it will hurt the person who shacks up without Holy Matrimony, and it will hurt heterosexual adulterers and homosexual partners who contribute to each other's residence in eternal punishment because they decide that their sex habits are more important than God.

The Catholic Church didn't make up her teachings against sexual immorality yesterday. For more than 2,000 years she has taught that the path to eternal life is not the one traveled by those who persist in mortal sin. Those who obstinately and permanently reject the Church's teachings against sexual immorality, whether they wish to approve of adultery (even the kind that pretends to be a second but invalid "marriage"), of fornication (even the kind that pretends to be all but "marriage" but is really nothing more than the old story of shacking up), and of homosexual partnerships (even if they try to force the state to pretend that these, too, are somehow "marriages") do not have a place at the banquet of Eternal Life. The same thing is true for all those who embrace grave sin against any of the Commandments and who do not repent before they die. To pretend otherwise is to reject Christianity itself, to reshape Christ and His Church into something He and she are not.

I wish Father Michael Ryan could have met one of the priests I recall from my childhood, who would unhesitatingly have issued him one of this priest's not-so-coveted "Society of Judas Iscariot" memberships, complete with the buttons my priest friend would hand out or mail to those deserving of membership in this not-illustrious Society. Judas is the patron of all those who want to remake Christ and His Church into their own images, to suit their own agendas, to further their own plans. Judas wanted a different Christ than the Son of God; in our own day, people like Andrew Sullivan want a buddy-Christ who is cool with mortal sins so long as those sins are sexual in nature, but who is still opposed to the things Andrew agrees are evil and wants Him to be opposed to.

Perhaps Father Ryan's congregation is full of people like Andrew who think that if they pretend hard enough, Christ will not be Christ, sin will not be sin, evil will not be evil, and Hell will not be real. Wishing to avoid hurting anyone's feelings on earth, they're totally okay with abandoning those people to a less-than-positive eternal fate. It is one thing to support, encourage, and exhort our fellow sinners as we wish for the same for ourselves--but I know, from the depths of my own sinfulness, that those who help me were those who call sin by its real names and encourage me to weed it out of my life, and to keep at that focused gardening lest those weeds grow up again. But it is something different, something ugly and untrue and sad, to pretend that sins are good things and that it is "hurtful" to say otherwise to people who sit in the cathedral's darkness like stunned sheep who can't find their Shepherd.

24 comments:

L. said...

The entire point rests on whether one accepts the definition of what is a "sin." Some of us, for instance, just can't believe a benevolent supreme being, if there were one, would damn people to hell for using contraception, or joining in homosexual unions.

Father Michael Ryan's stance does seem logically inconsistent, since he's part of an institution with a VERY clear point of view. But I haven't read the wording of the petition in question, and perhaps that is what he objects to? Perhaps this is his way of "hating the sin but loving the sinner," and he wants to reach out to the gay community in a more positive way, than simply giving up on them.

Red Cardigan said...

The wording of the petition, as far as I can find out online (someone in WA can tell me if I'm wrong), simply clarifies that marriage in Washington will mean the union of one man and one woman. I honestly don't understand why anyone who would find that "hurtful" would even be a Catholic. This is a ballot initiative, after all--wording on those things is usually rather bland.

David said...

The wording of the petition, as far as I can find out online (someone in WA can tell me if I'm wrong), simply clarifies that marriage in Washington will mean the union of one man and one woman. I honestly don't understand why anyone who would find that "hurtful" would even be a Catholic. This is a ballot initiative, after all--wording on those things is usually rather bland.

I can't tell if you're being intentionally obtuse. The aim of the petition (or rather, referendum), the reason for its existence, is to not enact gay marriage that the WA state legislature passed this year.

For people to whom the legally recognized status of their marriages is important, a capacity I'd grant to gays regarding their same-sex relationships, such a referendum would be hurtful. Not to mention friends, family, and co-workers of gay men and women who might find such recognition important within their communities.

Red Cardigan said...

Not being obtuse at all, David. What if I said that as a straight woman, I find gay "marriage" referendums hurtful because I entered a state that was recognized as a special, unique legal union between one man and one woman, and the redefining of marriage will force me to clarify when I say that I'm married that I mean to a man with whom I have biological children?

You'd laugh at the idea that my hurt feelings ought to matter, from your perspective, so why can't you understand that the same thing is true for those of us on the other side of this debate?

Patrick Kinsale said...

RedCardigan, thanks for a terrifically thoughtful post. The archbishop should be concerned because the cathedral should be his personal parish, and the pastor his personal emissary. I'd find a nice rural parish for Fr. Ryan to do the Lord's work in.

David said...

Erin, forgive me if this comes across as patronizing, not my intent, but I’m not convinced from your use of “gay ‘marriage’ referendum” in your analogy you understand the politics involved in this situation: the referendum in WA is to nullify what the state legislature already passed and the governor signed, gay marriage. Absent the referendum, this would be the reality come June, gays having their marriages recognized by the state.

With WA, it could be possible to have a “gay marriage initiative”, where the people could submit a petition with the required number of signatures to later have the voter population decide on the proposed legislation (i.e., recognizing gay marriages), but that’s a separate matter.

This referendum, the active gathering of signatures and if it passed when voted on, would take away gay marriage. You can argue the state doesn’t technically have it yet, since a referendum was always an option, but you can bet that if it happened where the Church was a major antagonist in that battle, people will certainly remember it in the light of the Church holding them down again and the endless victim scenarios that will result. I have little doubt that Fr. Ryan has considered how badly the situation could play out with a win for those against gay marriage, especially if you look at examples in California after Proposition 8 and the support of Catholic and Mormon communities. His actions might be shrewd, all things considered, but I would characterize it as cowardly given what I read from here.

Regardless, I’m having trouble connecting this scenario of the marriage capacity being taken away to your example of hurt feelings, as if feelings are the only thing at stake here.

Additionally, as I’ve stated a few times here before, I support gay marriage not because of “feelings” but because I think it would be good for society (I either hear you laughing or see you cringing!). We should create that social expectation for gay couples as well as straight couples rather than having no norms for them—or at least something better than your church’s “don’t do anything or go to Hell!” approach, which isn’t practical and leaves all doors open once ignored.

Living examples are more powerful than abstract theory, and since gay relations are no longer shunned or of the negative moral weight they used to be in our culture, it would be preferable they are channeled toward the institution of something such as marriage rather than there being aimless couples without the responsibilities or expectations of marriage.

Red Cardigan said...

But David, the voices of the gay rights movement have been clear: gay "marriage" is all about making marriage conform to gay ideals: that is, recreating marriage such that multiple sexual partners within the context of the so-called "marriage" are perfectly acceptable and even morally preferable to sexual fidelity. How does importing that concept of "marriage" help gay couples in any way? It doesn't: it just further destroys the whole concept of marriage, making it even more meaningless and irrelevant to people than it already is.

David said...

Erin, why is it so easy for you write off the no-true-Catholics who might use contraception and the published, sensationalist narratives, but if I were to mention that maybe not every gay person believes that of what your presumed big gay establishment speaks, I’m an outlier and non-representative of what you really think the “gay ideals” are? We are more likely to recognize the diversity of groups of which we are a part (you and knowing the broad range of opinions that exist in Catholics on hot topics) than groups of which we are not a part (all gays don’t want monogamy and are trying to subvert marriage). It’s the basis of stereotyping. We are not all alike; they are all the same.

Here’s another issue: you’re not going to find a very cohesive and established platform across everyone who identifies as gay. That’s because it can and does cross all boundaries. You have gay Christians, Muslims, blacks, whites, men, women, conservatives, liberals—all brushes.

You are going to see some people who want the excess of which you speak. And you see will some people, such as myself, who want none of the multiple partners and desire a monogamous relationship. But I am very uncomfortable that you are inclined to take someone else’s opinion, whether published or shared to you in private, and use as a broad brush to impugn an entire group. And I am very bothered that you would pick the most negative representation possible of that group. It would be akin to me taking one Catholic bigot (and there are some!) and using him to presume that all Catholics are therefore bigots and hate gays, solely because they identify as such. People like you are clearly exceptions to the rule. It’s not the case! I know that.

You have a problem with people who want to pervert your idea of marriage to one of infidelity among guys? They speak against it! Such as I do and have. You might, you just might get more traction with your points and arguing for something your audience can relate to rather than a platform that begins with, “Don’t be with someone of the same sex”. It’s one reason I doubt you care about the fidelity issue of gays so much as just gives you a feeling of moral superiority. I don’t see you at all trying to promote fidelity for gay relationships. Be honest: your real proscription doesn’t even allow for the discussion of gay fidelity. It’s just a blight you can tack on.

L. said...

Just wondering, where could you have gotten the idea that "multiple sexual partners" is part of the mainstream gay agenda?

So "gay ideals" are "recreating marriage such that multiple sexual partners within the context of the so-called 'marriage' are perfectly acceptable and even morally preferable to sexual fidelity?"

I guess most of the gay folks I know didn't read the manual. For them, in faithful relationships for many decades, "gay marriage" meant getting the same rights that other married couples get.

Red Cardigan said...

Well, David, we could talk about the prominence of people like Dan Savage and Andrew Sullivan and what they profess about gay "marriage," but I think we just have to agree to disagree on this.

But you're right about one thing. I believe that unrepentant homosexual sex acts will potentially (given knowledge and reflection) send a person to Hell whether they are committed in the context of a monogamous relationship or a promiscuous one. I also believe that unrepentant heterosexual unmarried sex acts and unrepentant adulterous ones will do the same (even if a man leaves his wife of five years to commit adultery with one woman for forty). Our disagreement comes from your belief that there is really no such thing as immoral sex acts, or perhaps sex is only immoral if it's insincere or one-night-stand-ish, or something. You choose your own morality in these things and then want society to conform to your personal rules: can you imagine for a moment why someone who thinks that sexual morality is more significant and more important than each person choosing whatever works for him or her might reject that view, and even see it as harmful to society and culture?

L. said...

"You choose your own morality in these things and then want society to conform to your personal rules." -->

Wait, isn't this what EVERYONE here is doing? We all have our opinions on what is moral, and we all hope to live in societies that conform to them.

Red Cardigan said...

L., relativism isn't really a moral principle. The culture you live in is well aware of that! :)

And that's my point: when everyone thinks that morality should be whatever everyone wants, how do you structure society? Gay "marriage" today, polygamous "marriage" and incestuous "marriage" tomorrow, college roommate "marriage" next week (because if college roomies can call themselves married they'll get tax breaks for four years--and some marriage don't last that long anyway!) etc.

It's moral chaos, societal ruin, and cultural collapse. And then some culture that believes in something more than "Anything Goes!" as its motto moves in and takes over.

Like Islam...

David said...

Well, David, we could talk about the prominence of people like Dan Savage and Andrew Sullivan and what they profess about gay "marriage," but I think we just have to agree to disagree on this.

Savage and Sullivan’s prominence to whom on that issue? Of the blogs I read, it’s mostly in the conservative sphere where their views are brought up, by authors against gay marriage, putting those two up as poster boys of the evil and using them to slight the whole group of gays. I see it as a common retort from conservative commenters, too, whenever a discussion on gay marriage comes up, but rarely from self-identified gay commenters. I’d be curious your exposure to them and whether it’s the same route as me rather than through gay people referencing them as icons of their community. As an analogy, if I used Santorum or Pelosi as the authority on all things Catholic, and my how prominent they are!, you’d rightly be upset if I scoped their views on abortion or torture when forming my full opinion on how Catholics really behave or believe.

You choose your own morality in these things and then want society to conform to your personal rules: can you imagine for a moment why someone who thinks that sexual morality is more significant and more important than each person choosing whatever works for him or her might reject that view, and even see it as harmful to society and culture?

The funny thing is, I agree with you that sexuality morality is important and significant, otherwise I would not think fidelity and marriage are important, and for similar reasons of reducing harm to our society and culture. Being for gay marriage and a sexual morality are not mutually exclusive.

We differ, certainly, on what composes that sexual morality, where I think an analogue of gay relationships can fit into the framework without destroying it.

L. said...

Bit Erin, how is what I do any different from what you do?

You are choosing to live according to the code of a particular religion, because you believe it's the right way to live -- not just for you, but for all the rest of society, too. You want society to conform to these religious beliefs because you truly believe it is best for us, and too bad for those of us who strongly disagree with certain aspects of it. You would ban my abortificient contraception, if you could -- and I understand why.

E.g., "You choose your own morality in these things and then want society to conform to your personal rules."

I'm not saying it's a bad thing. I am certainly doing all I can to make the world around me conform to my personal morality -- I raise my children according my beliefs, and I vote for politicians who can best put forth my views. I am sure you do exactly the same, which is my point. That's all.

L. said...

I also suggest you read up on Islam, if you really believe that "Anything Goes!" is its motto.

L. said...

Oh, nevermind about the Islam comment -- I read it too quickly, and I now see that what you mean is that people like me, whom you believe think "anything goes," are just setting the stage for Islam to move in next.

Or radical Catholicism....

Patrick said...

Not allowing a petition to circulate isn't a sin, Red. In fact, for all I (or you) know, this may be the prudent thing to do: being orthodox doesn't require taking every opportunity to alienate as many people as possible.

ElizabethK said...

I think you're right on this one, Erin. The pastor seems to be abdicating his responsibility to all members of his flock because he doesn't want to hurt anyone's feelings instead of speaking hard truths. I also think he's mistaken, and somehow imagines that not participating will raise the church in the estimation of those he seems to fear--it won't. If people are afraid to say, in a civilized society, that they don;t want to change the definition of marriage, then the bullies have won. It's easy to rationalize caving to bullies as compassion, but as you point out, it's false compassion--or at least this pastor, being who he is, should understand it as such.

Patrick Praying said...

I think the topic is interesting because, at its core, the specific question in the Seattle parish to me seems to be "How much Church effort and $$ do we, as Americans, want to put into fighting civil legislation that the Church authorities maintains will hurt people but most Americans (in fact, an increasing number of Americans every day)think is good for our country.

Patrick Praying said...

And Red, you always jump the shark when you say things like the "gay ideal [is] recreating marriage such that multiple sexual partners within the context of the so-called "marriage" are perfectly acceptable and even morally preferable to sexual fidelity." It's destructive.

More importantly (to me) your views hold such contempt for our civil laws that I find it offensive. Sorry to be so direct, but I've studied law and practiced law and I hold a collosal amount of respect for our legal system.

In our laws, concepts of hell and sin are not present. And thant's a good thing. SOME religions think your ability to drive a car and to vote are also sinful, but thankfully (for you) our civil laws don't take those concepts into our reasonable interpretation of what is right and what is wrong.

I'm curious: how do you square yourself with respect for our civil laws and what should - and should not - inform them?

Red Cardigan said...

Patrick, I could turn the question around on you: do you think morality should be eradicated from law?

That would fly in the face of centuries of jurisprudence, especially that based on English law (as our laws tend to be). Law without any context to morality would be hard to envision, but let's take a look.

Laws prohibit stealing. You can argue that stealing is bad for society, just as I argue that gay "marriage" is bad for society, but if a group of kleptomaniacs say that stealing for them is an expression of an alternative lifestyle and provide detailed statistics to prove that the kinds of weird, petty thefts that kleptomaniacs indulge in doesn't really harm businesses, raise prices, or otherwise negatively impact society--an argument I feel certain they could rationally make--how do you keep insisting on imposing your anti-theft morality on them? Don't laws against theft boil down to: we think stealing is wrong and so we won't allow even small amounts of it to happen?

Or take torture. As a Catholic and a Christian I oppose torture on moral grounds, and I have no problem saying that my morality informs my strong belief that torture is evil. But in our own day we've seen people, some of them even claiming to be Christians, argue that torture is a sort of glorified preemptive self-defense. Should we throw religion out of the torture debate entirely and approve torture on the grounds that it may be efficacious in some situations, and that forbidding it means imposing our religiously-informed morality on others?

Or take environmentalism. My city pretty much makes residents recycle; in some parts of the country you can be fined for not putting recyclables in the proper containers but throwing them away instead. But isn't environmentalism based on a moral belief that we have some sort of duty to the earth, to future generations and to our neighbors in terms of the use and disposal of renewable materials? What if someone strongly believes in trashing the environment on the grounds that he doesn't plan to reproduce and doesn't really care what happens to the planet thousands of years from now--should we get to impose our morality on him to the point of fining him for not recycling?

The funny thing is, I can bring up plenty of examples to show the actual societal HARM that an anything-goes approach to sexual morality has done to society. Out-of-wedlock births keep skyrocketing, divorce is rampant, sexually-transmitted disease is at levels our ancestors never experienced, children in single-parent homes experience outcomes such as much higher rates of sexual abuse than their counterparts being raised by their own biological parents, the foster-care system is strained to the breaking point, poverty that is linked to these situations is growing, etc. But the answer I get from gay activists is: but gay "marriage" will fix all that! People will see that marriage is important! etc.

Wrong. Countries that legalized gay marriage a decade or so ago have seen heterosexual marriage go into free fall. Gay "marriage" seems to be the nail in the marriage coffin, so to speak. Once "marriage" is a meaningless societal construct such that it's basically defined as any two sex partners who want tax breaks, it falls across the board--heterosexuals and homosexuals alike abandon it.

Now, you can argue that abandoning marriage will be good for children, that kids should have random adult "parenting partners" or "parenting groups" instead of a mother and a father, that having kids experiment with sexual promiscuity at earlier and earlier ages is good and healthy, etc. But you can't say that there's no societal impact from abandoning traditional sexual morality unless you're willing to lie to yourself and others about this stuff.

L. said...

"... do you think morality should be eradicated from law?"

That is a strawman, if I ever saw one.

The question here is really, upon WHICH morality should laws be based?

And if gay marriage "seems to be the nail in the marriage coffin," I'd say the U.S. notion that all marriages should be traditional is dying without a coffin, even with gay marriage still not permitted in most states. Not that I have anything against traditional marriage -- since I'm in a long-term, opposite-sex partnership myself -- but it's possible to encourage and support traditional families without singling them out as the ideal, since other kinds of unions/combinations can be just as good (or, in some cases, better).

c matt said...

More importantly (to me) your views hold such contempt for our civil laws that I find it offensive. Sorry to be so direct, but I've studied law and practiced law and I hold a collosal amount of respect for our legal system.

You must not have been practising long if you think every law (or jurist) deserves respect. Civil laws are made by humans, and surprise, human's can err. Humans can pass bad laws. Further, by definition, law is the forcing of someone's (or some group's) morality on others.

As for what the majority think of ssm, for the moment, the majority seem to be against it. It is only non-democratic processes that seem capable of enacting ssm. True, that may change, and I will see that as cultural decline, while others may see that as progress. Whether the country survives that "progress" in any resemblance to what we have known only time will tell. Because I do not think it will, it is imperative that I and others who believe the same speak (or type) against it.

c matt said...

The entire point rests on whether one accepts the definition of what is a "sin."

Yes, obviously.

Some of us, for instance, just can't believe a benevolent supreme being, if there were one, would damn people to hell for using contraception, or joining in homosexual unions.

Likewise, that rests entirely on whether your belief is correct. That does not mean your belief is correct, but you can believe it all you want.