Monday, June 8, 2015

Why the Church cannot but buck the trend as far as sexual moral norms are concerned.

There is much that is changing in the world of sexual morality, standards and acceptable norms.  Perhaps those who are living in this day and age can consider themselves as unique to have seen and heard the greatest voice from the many who are insisting that their rights to do or live (or love) as they please be given wide acceptance by just about all levels of authority, whether the Church, governing bodies or leadership of other forms.  Greater and stronger pressure seems to be put on positions of jurisdiction and supremacy to accept the LGBT cause, and most recently, the majority of Irish voters (about 62 %) made it clear that they wanted a change in their constitution to make legal same sex marriage in their country.  To be sure, this is not the first country in the world to accede to this pressure, but certainly the first in a very Catholic country.  In an interview with a state broadcaster, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin is known to have said that the Church needs to do a reality check, after having seen the majority of young people, especially the gay men and women endorsed same-sex marriage and felt strongly that this “enriched” the way that they live. 

So, the pressure seems to be on, and at a rather strong notch at that, for other countries to do the same, causing many to wonder if pressure itself is enough cause to make a wrong right, and to change what is (or was) known and accepted as a universal standard of human natural morality to now change. 

What is at hand, and if there is something that is missing in the proverbial “big picture”, what is it?  Why is it that the Church seems to be the last bastion of things moral where we seem to have held such standards that cause us to be seen as not just purveyors but upholders of what is right? 

Professor of Philosophy and author Peter Kreeft is adept in his pedagogy when giving clear logic and sound reasoning to the Church's teachings in his writings.  Of the fundamentals of our moral foundations, he gives rather interesting, and in my opinion, compelling reasons which appeal to the masses.  What follows in the next four paragraphs are paraphrased from his thoughts put creatively across.

What is and always holds is that rules of morality do not change either with the times or with pressure because the Church had always and will always hold that the rules are not just arbitrary rules, but based on the fact of the unchanging essence of love.

Times may be changing, and indeed they are, but they also need to be measured against unchanging standards.  If standards are changing at the same time that times are changing, then there will be much confusion and unclarity because it will not be possible to say what a true standard is.  In a game of soccer, how can there be a declaration of either a foul or a goal point if what makes a goal post a goal post keeps shifting?  In a race, how can a runner be declared to be a winner if the finish line keeps being moved further and further away as the race is being run? 

Is it just for universal laws to be changed just because of pressure from certain ‘interest’ groups?  Stealing or the taking of things that do not belong to you is and will always be wrong.  A true certified kleptomaniac cannot and will not, even if there were a large group of them, change the fact that stealing is wrong.  No amount of pressure will change this.  There is a moral standard that is universal here. 

Even in the world of measurement and math a metre measured is a metre long and this meter is the measurement of the length of the path travelled by light in a vacuum during a time interval of 1/299 792 458 of a second.  There is such technical precision to things physical and mathematical and they are accepted as having universal standards and norms.  No one, no matter how much pressure is placed by well meaning and well-intentioned groups to change what a vacuum is, or insist that the measure of a time interval should be different, can change such standards. 

As in almost everything, these examples which Kreeft used are moot, but they are relevant to the topic at hand.  They go to show that things get awry and fudged when rules are not set to universally accepted standards?  Because it has direct bearing on what I set out to state in a rather bold but misunderstood way – that our Church’s morality is and has always been set by the unchanging essence of love.  Who’s love?  God’s.

When we say that the rules of morality are universal, we are saying boldly that the rules are for everyone.  Yes, even for positions of leadership in the Church.  That is why there is a zero-tolerance for any sexual misconduct among clergy, and those guilty have been brought to justice for their crimes.  There are, and never should ever be two standards.  There is thus not just Christian morality.  It is human morality for the human nature.  Connected to this is our understanding of natural law morality. 

And herein lies that great irony that appears to be at the heart of the issue.  The most common grouse and complaint about the Church is that it is not being fair to those with the LGBT agenda.  They are seeking equality on many levels, and want their ‘right’ to be treated like everybody else, citing for instance, the right to marriage, or the right to have the freedom to perform sexual acts with their own gender and not be criminalized for doing so, just to name a few big-ticket issues. 

But what many fail to realise is that the Church has always been fair and consistent in this.  The call to live in chastity and abstinence has always been issued to all – hetero and homosexuals.  In no way has there ever been one moral standard for those who are heterosexuals and another for homosexuals.  The Church has always seen sexual acts outside of marriage to be a moral transgression, and these include but are not solely limited to acts that are with the self or other human beings.  Similarly and subsequently, the call to self-mastery has been the long-standing solution to be able to live this way, and it is a call to live in the shadow and light of the Cross. 

Christians have always agreed that Jesus Christ is the most complete man, most human of men (because he is also the most divine of men) that he becomes and is the greatest revelation of God himself.

It is when there is disagreement and refusal of acceptance that Jesus Christ is the revealer of who God is that standards of God’s love in Christ is rejected as the standard to be kept to.  It is even sadder when it is within the Catholic Church that baptized members themselves begin to reject the very basic tenets of this faith statement and put undue pressure on the magisterium to change their standards of godliness.  

But this is where the difficult and yet so-challenging issue of dialoguing is so necessary for the Church.  Coming out with our crosses brandished with an almost insistent fury at the masses who are baying for their ‘rights’ to be ‘who they are’ will not bring a peaceful and loving discussion to any dialogue table.  It is actually because of our godly standards that we in fact have to become a Church that continues to love the sinner and stand by what we hold to the truth with regard to sin.  Perhaps it is at the heart of the matter that we find new and attractive ways to speak about sacrifice, and true heroism (where one takes the more challenging route of moral martyrdom than the easier path of hedonism) and the difficult path of self-denial rather than instant gratification.  Maybe we need to hail as true spiritual heroes examples of men and women who had lived with same-sex attraction issues with a moral courage to stay chaste and strive for holiness despite their inherent temptations, and men and women who saw these tendencies not as curses, but blessings where it became so clear to them that their paths towards eternal union with God was precisely in the way that they handled this gift with chastity and great reverence.  These would be concrete ways of living the Cross of Christ.

It is interesting to see what the world deems as heroic these days.  So many give this title so loosely and evidence is writ large with the countless who are calling Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner a hero for what he has done surgically and being so upfront about it.  No more hiding, no more excuses.  Apparently, Bruce has found his ‘happiness’.  It’s all put out for all to see in an almost voyeuristic way.  It should be no surprise to see that cross-dressing is much more attractive to the world than is Cross-carrying.  

But the Church too has heroes – lots of them.  They are called saints, especially those who have really done the difficult things in life, like standing for truth, for upholding the very difficult Christian standards in their moral lives, and for not giving in to what many would call their ‘rights’ in life.  These heroes have not only found their happiness, but something that perdures in a deeper and more profound way.  They have found joy.  Happiness is fleeting, but joy is abiding because joy is and has always been founded in God’s own life. 

We need new eyes to see the kind of difference between worldly heroism in hedonism versus the heroism and courage displayed in the lives of saints that brought lasting joy.  Perhaps it is only when we do this effectively and with great charity that we as Church can begin to face the challenge of effective evangelism and charitable and loving dialogue.  Otherwise, dialogue leading to understanding and sacrifice will always be in a provocative confrontation.  



  1. Hi Fr. Luke. I am deeply saddened, although not that surprised, with what has happened in Ireland. But in reality: only 60% of the electorate actually came forward to vote. So actually only about 36% of the Irish people gave their ‘yes’ to (ugh!) same-sex ‘marriage’ after all.

    One wonders if it would have made any difference at all if the other forty percent had turned up as well. Maybe not; for it’s far easier to ‘go with the flow’ than to swim against the current. And it is a strong current indeed.

    It is becoming increasingly difficult today not to be seen as ‘completely bonkers’ by those (in society) whose views and opinions reflect the so-called ‘progressive’ worldview of things. The courage that you write about is to hold firm to Christ and all that the Catholic church teaches in spite of everything that is happening around us –no matter how ridiculous it might seem to others. God bless you.

  2. God Bless You Father Luke for this post!

  3. Dearest Fr. Luke,

    When reflecting on your post, thinking along the lines of our culture of self-entitlement as root cause to the right to relativism & morality shift, when I came across another reflection from Fr. Robert Barron, which shudders me.

    In a nutshell, Fr. Barron's article talks about the heresy of ancient Gnosticism resurfacing (again). That the spirit which is holy is trapped in the body which is unholy, and Fr. Barron, cleverly link up a “typology” of this heresy resurfacing against the case of our LBGTs brothers and sisters who sought to “free” their true self trapped in their bodies…. Deeply provoking ... We are coming back to this ancient heresy all over again... its sinister subtlety only makes one shudders … The battles the Church is up against, and how discerning and on guard we must always be. (Like our immune system to recognize mutant germ ... ;} )

    Echoing Pope Francis, we do not have the right to judge them (LBGTs), as the heavy cross they are carrying is from God. God never make mistakes. God trust them so much to prevail, (none to be lost) in the tough battle they are called into.

    Personally, I have some very good friends, who are struggling with this cross, and I dare say, they are some of the most beautiful people (in every sense), kind and gentle souls who genuinely love the people around them, despite not sharing our faith.

    In my younger (pre-loving God) days, knowing them to be such wonderful people who deserve “happiness”, I may well have been one in the queue giving vote in support of gay marriage. So, understanding the misplaced kind intentions, I do not think we should appraise Ireland too harshly. It all boils down to our efforts in RE-EVANGELISATION & united prayers as a whole universal church.

    The Natural Law written by God in our heart and bodies cannot be denied, even by non-believers, all will hear the TRUTH. We must pray for them to be given faith to believe and for ourselves, that we will not be weary, making ourselves available to God, discerning the many manners in evangelizing we are called to. And may God use our sacrifice for our good and the good of ALL HIS HOLY CHURCH. (Amen).

    Thank You Fr Luke.
    Praying for you always.

  4. Why the Church cannot but buck the trend as far as sexual moral norms are concerned.

    Whilst reading about some of the great early church fathers today, I chanced upon Gregory of Nyssa - who wrote, “Sick, our nature demanded to be healed; fallen, to be raised up; dead, to rise again. We had lost the possession of the good; it was necessary for it to be given back to us. Closed in darkness, it was necessary to bring us the light; captives, we awaited a Saviour; prisoners, help; slaves, a liberator. Are these things minor or insignificant? Did they not move God to descend to human nature and visit it, since humanity was in so miserable and unhappy a state?” He was referring to the need for the coming of the Redeemer, the Christ.

    But, if we stop to reflect, isn’t all that he said applicable to our world today as well – where the natural order of things are brought into disarray and Divine Law is pilloried to appease the ego of a vocal attention-seeking minority who may feel that the world has short-changed them? While not all our LGBT brothers and sisters fall into this category, it has to be realized that the social and cultural fabric of society could be torn to shreds if there is no mutual respect, trust and love to safeguard what has been nurtured throughout the centuries especially that of the sanctity of marriage and family. Perhaps that is one reason why- “the Church cannot but buck the trend as far as sexual moral norms are concerned” for Christ has given her custody of this beautiful world of ours when He returned to the Father. Seen in this light, the Church seems to be the last bastion of hope for humanity.

    God bless u, Fr