Sunday, December 06, 2009

"Dignity" or Right to Reject Moral Teaching

There is a sad note today in the body of Christ as a whole, as an ecclesial community "elects" as bishop yet another person who has embraced a lifestyle contrary to the moral teachings of Christ, His holy apostles, and two millennia of Christian tradition.

Those advocating the election of someone who is living with a lover of the same sex claim that this is about respecting the dignity of such a person. In other words, it is necessary, according to them, to elect this person in order that their dignity may be upheld.

But the issue is really not about dignity. That person would have their dignity no matter what, even if they are living in sin, though they would not be living according to the dignity of the sons and daughters of God. Still they would need to be respected as a person. But respect as a person does not mean you elect them to a position within the body of Christ that requires, even demands, a spotless moral life (which is why it is a serious scandal when people in said position do not live according to the mystery of the passion of Christ and fall into serious sin). It seems apparent that the real issue at stake is not a pseudo-claim at dignity but rather an attempt to reaffirm this particular denomination's rejection of the centuries of Christian moral teaching.

And that teaching is clear:

The tendency of same sex attraction, though disordered in its nature, is not in itself a sin, since that tendency is not the moral choice of the person with said tendency. Such persons are called to chastity outside of the sacrament of matrimony (just like everyone else).

Persons with same sex attraction are not to be discriminated against due to their tendency.

However, in the case of a person who engages in the sin of same sex intercourse, it is right for the Church to exclude from certain offices such a person based on the bad example of their moral life. Since the act of same sex intercourse is within the decision making capability of the person with same sex attraction, that act can indeed be deemed culpable to the person. Of course, moral theologians explain that the severity of the culpability may be mitigated by the psychological maturity of the person or due to other factors, etc, and so though the sin itself is to be condemned as grave, none of us can condemn the person (say they are going to hell). However, we are called to solicite the conscience of the person (remind them of the gravity of the sin) that they may repent so that they may not be lost, should they be gravely culpable. None of this is to cast dispersion upon the dignity of the person with same sex attraction, but rather to be sure that they do not sin and infringe upon their own dignity and the dignity of holiness that Christ looks to bestow upon us.

No. We do not have the right as Christians to place those who are living immorally into positions of leadership and those in such positions will have a greater accounting before the judgment seat of Christ (I tremble myself when I think of this). Neither should we Christians mask the rejection of Christian moral teaching under the guise of respecting dignity. This is an age old trick of hiding evil under the mask of good (though I am not claiming that those who are saying they are "respecting dignity" are aware that they are masking evil under the guise of good... they could simply be deceived.).


Brother Charles said...

Good for you, brother. For various reasons, it can be hard to stick up for the truth in this particular regard. Stay strong.

Anonymous said...

Brother, with all due respect, as brave as it is to stand up to this, I thought the Church was trying to unite again? Wouldn't it be a statement to accept all people into the church, as it is supposed to be "One, holy, catholic, and apostolic"?

Br. Christopher Gaffrey, ofm said...

Dear Anonymous, Thank you for your comment, and I did take it as a respectful one, so thank you for that. From what I read, however, I think you may have misunderstood the point I was trying to make. Objecting to the "election" to bishop of one whose life is not in line with Christian moral teaching, is not about rejecting that person from membership in the church. Nor is the issue about the "election" to bishop of one who has the tendency of same sex attraction. The issue is that the person is not living chastely in his or her non-marital relationship, and hence he or she is not living up to the demands of the Christian moral life. It is bad enough when those in this position fail to live up to the demands of the Christian life. But it is even worse to reject Christian moral teaching, saying that respect for the dignity of the person demands that they be considered a candidate for bishop. If the person under consideration were an adulterer, no one would say that respect for the person demands they be considered for the position of bishop. Instead, they would be claiming that that person should not be considered for "election" to bishop. Again, notice that the issue is not membership in the church, but being raised to a position of spiritual leadership.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for making that clearer for me, Brother.