Thursday, May 14, 2009

Personal Aside: What Would Ernie Say About Same-Sex Marriage? We Bring Him Back Reincarnated.


[What would Ernie…Fr. Ernest Kilzer OSB…say about same-sex marriage? As one who took four years of philosophy and theology from him, let me try to summon up his spirit from the Saint John’s Abbey churchyard].

TR: Father, so sorry to disturb you but the culture has gone from bad to worse since you left us and an issue before us now is same-sex marriage. Let me fill you in if you haven’t followed it. Legislation is being adopted by several of the states to certify same-sex marriage as legitimate and in fact some couples are being “married.” Religiously, the latest Presbyterian Church (USA) referendum on sexual morality upheld a law requiring all clergy and lay office-holders “to live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman or chastity in singleness…”

Fr. Ernest: Good.

TR: But it was a close call and a tight vote. Although the rule can apply equally to heterosexuals, it can also pertain to homosexuals. A liberal proposal to repeal the law needed endorsement from a majority of the church’s 173 regional presbyteries. Last month a majority of 87 bodies had already voted to block the change although it continues through this month.

Fr. Ernest: What are the Lutherans doing?

TR: The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America…that’s the liberal branch distinct from the Missouri Synod which is conservative…approved a task force proposal to allow gay clergy and transmitted it for decision by an August assembly. Strategically, the council asked the assembly to require only a simple majority for passage instead of the two-thirds normally required for major policy changes. Three members of the council dissented but didn’t get very far. What will interest you as a theologian is that the ELCA’s more prestigious hierarchy disputes current church teaching. A statement by 129 Lutheran theologians insists that biblical texts on homosexuality “are not directly pertinent to the 21st century discussion” because they deal with rape or with Old Testament ritual that does not bind Christians—or bypass issues like “sexual orientation”…or presuppose what they call one particular interpretation of “nature.”

Fr. Ernest: I’m afraid to ask what the Episcopalians are doing. They were fading away from constancy even in my time.

TR: Well, actually, Father there are some bright spots there. The newly-formed Anglican Church in North America which embraces tradition consists of 11 organizations and four formal Episcopal dioceses will hold a June organizational assembly. They consist of 81,000 regular worshipers in 693 congregations. This new church has won recognition from the huge Anglican church of Nigeria and is reaching out—and is likely to ultimately include—Anglicanism in Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, southern South America and Sydney, Australia. They will compete with the Episcopal Church here and the Anglican Church in Canada. The Episcopal Church in America will hold a July convention to consider a formal recognition of same-sex behavior.

Fr. Ernest: Well, now you want my take on this.

TR: If you would.

Fr. Ernest: As one who was my student for four years, you --or certainly should—know what I will say. The fresh news you relay that has happened since my departure does not change the content of my words one iota.

About these news about our Protestant brothers: Actually as one who has understood the incongruous stretching of the U. S. Constitution by liberals, Mr. Roeser, you can undoubtedly understand what has transpired with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. They are obviously twisting the Old Testament in the same way that Justices Douglas and Blackmun have devised out of whole cloth a spurious “right to privacy.” I note you say that they aver the Bible “bypasses”…I think that’s the word you used…”bypasses” the issue of sexual orientation.

Of course it does not. It has never bypassed sexual orientation but treats deviance from heterosexuality as what it is--sin. So their rationale is a tortured one. But I want to concentrate on the fact that our Church…the Catholic…does not rely solely on the Scriptures…by which I mean Scriptures alone…indispensable as they may be. Our theology relies on three pillars: Revelation, Faith (which involves what we Catholics call Tradition) and Reason. Biblical truths are contained in Revelation. It is with the Bible that God revealed Himself. That said, if we respond, we believe which entails Faith. They are intertwined. Finally, there is sound basis for scripture saying that our faith should be consonant with Reason. St. Paul to the Romans says that they should worship God “in a way that is worthy of thinking beings.” In Corinthians he tells them—and us—that “if Christ has not been raised from the dead then our preaching is useless and your believing is useless.” I could go on but won’t.

Now getting to the point of why you asked me here: There has been a widespread corruption of morals with which has come an unbridled exaltation of sex. This is as old as the human race. Wherever and whenever there is prosperity, there is luxury and inevitably decadence. The founders of this country lived through hardship. Untold wealth and luxury have given us permissiveness and inevitably sexual promiscuity. The promiscuity has been hidden by the word “homosexuality” and the bogus drive for “equal rights” designed to resemble the earlier drive for equality among the races but which is in reality a need…stemming from our historic religious sensibility…to justify by cynical means homosexual coupling…which has always been known as the sin of sodomy.

In response to this sexual hedonism, the document “On the Church in the Modern World” published in 1975 as an offshoot of Vatican II addresses itself to the prevalent moral confusion. And what does it say? Essentially that in moral matters man cannot make value judgments based on his personal whim. Which means that we cannot…stress cannot…ascertain moral knowledge by our own unaided reason. That is because God has made His will known not just by the light of reason but by His own revelation. So we have Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition to enlighten our minds as well as reason to ascertain God’s will in the moral order.

You remember from our four years together, Mr. Roeser, that with these three lamps which I described earlier, the Church has devised its position that states the immutability of the moral law. The Church’s mission is to teach truth to the human race. The Church’s moral principles cannot change—unlike our friends in the ELC…the Evangelical Lutheran Church… who say the old-timers in the Bible and those who committed the truths to writing were old fashioned and in need of contemporary revision.

Then you ask: what are the sources for our knowledge of homosexuality? They are Reason and Revelation. What are the grounds attributable to Reason? They are the harm caused to the human race by practice of homosexuality. This includes the fact that homosexuality undermines the foundations of the family. Some say “no.” But the complementary natures of men and women are self-evident. Marriage between men and women form the sole context for societal up-building. You can derive sexual satisfaction from enjoying pornography, incest, promiscuity and homosexuality but they cannot satisfy the human spirit. It is for that reason that every healthy human society has restricted marriage to heterosexual pairs.

Outside of a few sexual experiments in Sweden, there are no examples in all of human history that equality in treatment between heterosexual marriages and homosexual coupling. The nature of the human condition is that deviation does not proceed alone. You cannot have one section of town defiling spirituality without it catching hold in the other sections. We are not meant to live without strictures.

Some say: what harm does it do to me if my neighbor insists on having sexual relations with, say, a goat? That is abject libertarianism in its worst form which is akin to libertine license. Scandal is “catching.” The movement of our culture toward hedonism…living together…behaving with the same indiscriminate familiarity as do puppy dogs—more prevalent in ghetto areas of big cities… has resulted in gradual scarcity of marriage and this has gone on for more than forty years in this country. The marriage rate has tumbled from 148 per 1000 unmarried women ages 15-44 in the year 1960 to 82 in 1996, a decline of 45%...and is still declining. Births within marriage have fallen from 4.03 million in 1960 to 2.6 million in 1997, a decline of 36%. Non-family households has risen from 7.9 million in 1960 to 31.5 million in 2000.

So don’t tell me that bad examples do not breed imitation. They do because that is the human condition.

TR: Father, would you hang around for a bit? My blog is running a bit long and I’d like to continue it tomorrow.

Fr. Ernest: No, I cannot as you put it “hang around” least of all for the sake of a “blog.” But I will return. And we shall continue. I am just getting warmed up.

1 comment:

  1. Thomas:
    You paint a picture of Fr. Ernest as being a very wise man. Certainly this column today speaks of solid Catholic Wisdom. If Father Ernest, OSB was wise it certainly rubbed off on at least one of his students. Thanks for sharing what you reported. It needed to be said.