Thursday, May 24, 2012

Homosexuality & Same-Sex Marriage - An Overview

(Rev 2, 2012-06-17: endnote/reference added for study caveats, links updated)
(Rev 1, 2012-05-25: endnote/reference added, link updated)
(Rev 0, 2012-05-24)


Summary Statement

Catholic Church teaching holds that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered and are not approved of, though individuals who have same-sex attraction are to be accepted with dignity and respect without unjust discrimination.  This is consistent with a holistic view of human life, marriage, and family which has been historically and consistently accepted with few extraordinary exceptions in every society and era until the beginnings of a significant transition in the late 1970's which continues to evolve to the present day.  Activist interests have lobbied for legitimization of homosexuality and acceptance of same-sex marriage according to a long-standing strategic initiative through progressive use of media, educational institutions, politics, and influence of popular opinion, often via unsubstantiated claims and coercive techniques; this occurs in the face of mounting evidence of negative consequences of homosexual behavior and lifestyle in recent past, and with reasonable basis for anticipated issues (both individual and societal) in the future.  Growing understanding of the causes of SSA, expanding approaches to care and support, evidence of treatability, and the implications of impacting the definition of marriage/parenthood provide motivation for a reevaluation of prevailing popular notions in light of more traditionally held views.

1.     Formal teaching according to the Catechism of the Catholic church holds that:
a.     Homosexual acts (same-sex relations between men/women) can be approved "under no circumstances" as they are:
                    i.  "acts of grave depravity" (per Sacred Scripture) and "intrinsically disordered" (per Sacred Tradition)
                   ii.  "contrary to the natural law", closed to "the gift of life", & "do not proceed from a genuine affective & sexual complementarity"
b.     Men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies (the number of which is "not negligible"): 
                    i.  find that "this inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial"
                   ii.  must be accepted with "respect, compassion, and sensitivity"..."every sign of unjust discrimination...should be avoided"
                  iii.  are called to fulfill God's will...and (if Christian) to "unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross" difficulties...from their condition
c.     Homosexual persons are called to chastity so that "By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom..."
                    i.  supported by friendship, prayer, sacramental grace, "they can & should gradually & resolutely approach Christian perfection"

2.     This teaching is reflected in the context of a holistic view of human life and vision for marriage & family presented in the 1968 papal encyclical, "Humanae Vitae" ('of Human Life').

3.     Homosexual behavior is not unique to modern times...in almost every society & era, it has been regarded as immoral, a sign of weakness, unacceptable, unnatural.  Exceptions appear as anomalies due to extraordinary cultural conditions:
a.     Classical Greece: homosexual behavior was glorified...but sexes were strictly separated; women restricted to home, regarded as inferior, not educated; adult males had sexual relationships w/adolescent boys (at maturity, were expected to marry a woman)              
"What we had then was not an enlightened approach to sexuality, but an organized form of abuse - of both women and boys."
b.     Ancient Rome: Caligula and Nero were said to have engaged in homosexuality....yet these reports come from enemies of these emperors, eager to demonstrate how depraved and insane they were. 
 "Indeed, even in decadent Rome we do not find a cultural normalization of homosexual behavior." 

4.     Recent transition from this historical context to the current US cultural climate of political activism, ongoing court cases, (also evident worldwide), and calls for tolerance, political correctness, acceptance, and/or indifference extends from a sequence of key events:
a.     1969: New York City, Stonewall Riots (Origin of modern gay-rights movement; uprising after funeral of Judy Garland, icon for many gay men)
b.     1972: Chicago, National Coalition of Gay Organizations Convention (developed the first Gay Rights Platform)
c.     1973: American Psychiatric Association annual meeting protests (continuing since 1970)
Gay activists pressure APS and succeed in removal of homosexuality as a diagnosis from its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM).
d.     1995: Beijing, UN Conference on Women lobbied by Women's Environmental and Development Organization (WEDO)
e.     1996: US Congress, Passes Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA, 427 to 81) ('marriage' and 'spouse' to include only male/female couples)
f.      1999: Vermont, State Supreme Court rules to require institution of "civil unions"
g.     2003: Massachusetts, The Goodridge Decision; Hillary Goodridge v. the Department of Public Health
State Supreme Court ruled (4-3) that barring same-sex marriage violates the MA Constitution, citing "no rational reason" for such restriction.
h.     2006: New York, Hernendez v. Robles (Rejected the 'no rational reason' argument from MA in 2003)
Citing "the legislature could rationally believe that it is better, other things being equal, for children to grow up with both a mother and a father." 

5.     A small, vocal minority promotes homosexuality/same-sex marriage in opposition to views & societal concerns of the wider public:
a.     not with a view to ensuring rights of individuals to engage in homosexuality, but with an aim to impose recognition & acceptance of such as being an equally valid alternative to the civil recognition of marriage between one man & one woman.
1) The 1987 article "Overhauling Straight America" outlined a comprehensive plan to legitimize homosexuality.
b.     not as a groundswell, grass-roots movement, but through execution of a well-planned, long-term, strategic initiative undertaken by activists to change cultural views through progressive use of media, educational institutions, & political lobbying.
1) The 1989 book "After the Ball" laid out a strategy for overcoming public opposition.
c.     not through a reasoned consideration of the merits/detriments of the proposed alternative, but through manipulation and coercion to the point of accusing those opposed of being bigots (at best) and criminals (at worst) guilty of 'hate-crime'.

6.     In the current culture and with growing influence on popular opinion, certain myths & facts related to homosexuality and same-sex marriage warrant thoughtful consideration.

7.     There are three schools of thought on the origins of Same-Sex Attraction and corresponding implications w.r.t. treatability:
a.     Essentialism: Holds that sexual orientation is genetically/biologically determined (i.e. "nature").
Evidence opposes essentialism as a valid basis for the cause of SSA. 
b.     Constructionism: Holds that sexual identities are shaped by social forces (i.e. "nurture").
Constructionism remains more of a philosophical worldview than a scientific hypothesis.
c.     Developmentalism: Holds that sexual attraction to the other sex is the proper outcome of psychosexual development
Developmentalism indicates that "SSA occurs when an accidental convergence of circumstances leads to a failure to complete the process of sexual identification."  This indicates SSA can be both prevented & treated; considerable evidence exists to support in this regard. (note: caveats have been issued by one prominent study author)

8.     Cumulative experience of homosexuality in recent decades yields significant evidence of negative individual/societal consequences.

9.     Pending judicial cases & potential future consequences of normalizing homosexual marital unions yield a thought-provoking set of implications (same-sex marriage marginalizes fathers, redefines parenthood, empowers the state at the expense of society).

10.   The questionable balance of cost/consequence vs. benefit, the direct & indirect consequences to individuals and society, and the overriding moral implications associated with homosexuality/same-sex marriage provide compelling motivation for reflecting upon the conventional wisdom of current widespread beliefs in contrast to understanding and promoting the wisdom of Church teachings.

Homosexuality & Same-Sex Marriage - Background Brief

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Manhattan Declaration - An Overview Summary

(Rev 1, 2012-05-03: Summary Statement added)
(Rev 0, 2012-04-15)

Summary Statement:
We, as Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelical Christians, gathered in New York on September 28, 2009, ...act together in obedience to God, ...setting forth this declaration in the light of truth, ...to seek and defend the good of all...and call upon all people of goodwill...as we we affirm:
       1. the profound, inherent, & equal dignity of every human being...made in the image of God, possessing inherent rights of equal dignity & life
       2. marriage as a conjugal union of man & woman, ordained by God, historically understood to be the most basic institution in society
       3. religious liberty is grounded in the character of God, the example of Christ, and is an inherent freedom/dignity of human beings in divine image
We are Christians joined together across historic lines of differences to affirm our right/obligation to speak/act in defense of these truths,...and we pledge to each 
other & fellow believers that no power on earth, cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence. 
  
Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience (11//20/2009)

1. Preamble
1.1. Christians have a 2,000 year tradition of proclaiming God’s word, seeking justice, resisting tyranny, & compassion for poor,

        oppressed, suffering
1.2. Christians today proclaim the Gospel of costly grace, protect dignity of the human person, and stand for the common good.

2. Declaration
2.1. We, as Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelical Christians, gathered in New York on September 28, 2009, make the following declaration:
       1. We act together in obedience to the one true, triune God of holiness and love...to seek and defend the good of all who bear his image.
       2. We set forth this declaration in light of truth grounded in Holy Scripture, natural human reason, and the nature of the human person.
       3. We call upon all people of goodwill to consider, reflect critically on these issues...we appeal to everyone’s conscience

            in the sight of God.
2.2. While the whole scope of Christian moral concern (especially for the poor & vulnerable) claims our attention,

        we are troubled that in our nation:  
       1. the lives of the unborn, the disabled, and the elderly are severely threatened
       2. the institution of marriage (buffeted by promiscuity, infidelity, divorce) is in jeopardy of being redefined to fashionable ideologies
       3. freedom of religion/rights of conscience are gravely jeopardized by those who would compel persons of faith
            to compromise convictions
 2.3. Because of related foundational principles of justice & the common good, we are compelled to speak & act in their defense; we affirm:
       1. the profound, inherent, & equal dignity of every human being...in the image of God, possessing inherent rights of equal dignity & life
       2. marriage as a conjugal union of man & woman, ordained by God, historically understood to be the most basic institution in society 
       3. religious liberty - grounded in the character of God, example of Christ, and inherent freedom/dignity of human beings in divine image 
2.4. We are Christians joined together across historic lines of differences to affirm our right/obligation to speak/act in defense of these truths
2.5. We pledge to each other & fellow believers that no power on earth, cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence.

3. Life
3.1. Although public sentiment has moved in a pro-life direction, we note with sadness that pro-abortion ideology prevails today in our govt.
3.2. Our commitment to the sanctity of life is not a matter of partisan loyalty; both major political parties have been complicit in

       "the culture of death."
3.3. We will be united and untiring in our efforts to roll back the license to kill that began with the abandonment of the unborn to abortion
3.4. Christian witness will call on those entrusted with power in government to protect the weak & vulnerable against attack,

       with no discrimination
3.5. Ours is, as it must be, is a truly consistent ethic of love and life for all humans in all circumstances,

       and a concern not confined to our nation

4. Marriage
4.1. In Scripture, the creation of man and woman, and their one-flesh union as husband and wife, is the crowning achievement of

       God’s creation.
4.2. Vast human experience confirms that marriage is the original & most important institution for sustaining health, education,

       & welfare of persons
4.3. We have witnessed in the past several decades a serious erosion of the marriage culture in our country
4.4. To strengthen families, we must stop glamorizing promiscuity & infidelity
4.5. The impulse to redefine marriage to recognize same-sex/multiple partner relationships is a symptom (not cause) of the

       erosion of marriage; it must be resisted; yielding would abandon the possibility of restoring understanding of marriage
        & rebuilding marriage culture
4.6. Marriage is what one man and one woman establish when, forsaking all others and pledging lifelong commitment,
       they found a sharing of life at every level of being on a commitment that is sealed, completed and actualized by loving sexual intercourse
       in which spouses become one flesh, not in some merely metaphorical sense, but by fulfilling the conditions of procreation
4.7. In truth, marriage is not something abstract or neutral that may be re-defined by law to please those who are powerful and influential.
4.8. If we are to begin the process of reforming our laws and mores to rebuild marriage culture, we cannot afford

       to re-define marriage falsely
4.9. Out of love (not "animus") & concern for common good (not "prejudice"), we pledge to labor to preserve marriage as

       a union of one man/one woman

5. Religious Liberty
5.1. The struggle for religious liberty across the centuries has been long and arduous.
5.2. Religious liberty is not a novel idea or recent development, but is grounded in the character of God Himself, most fully known in Jesus
5.3. Christians confess that God alone is Lord of the conscience; immunity from religious coercion is the cornerstone of an

       unconstrained conscience
5.4. Ironically, those who assert a "right" to kill the unborn/aged/disabled and a "right" to immoral sexual practices w/relationships

       recognized by law are often those who would trample the freedom of others to express religious & moral commitments to
       sanctity of life and dignity of marriage
5.5. In recent decades a growing body of case law paralleled decline in respect for religious values in media, the academy and

       political leadership
5.6. As Christians, we take seriously the Biblical admonition to respect and obey those in authority.
5.7. Through the centuries, Christianity has taught that civil disobedience is not only permitted, but sometimes required.
5.8. Because we honor justice and the common good...
       1. We will not comply with any edict compelling participation in abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide,

           or other anti-life acts
       2. We will not bend to any rule forcing us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or equivalent,
           or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality and immorality and marriage and the family
       3. We will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar’s.

           But under no circumstances will we render to Caesar what is God’s

Drafting Committee
Robert George Professor, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, Princeton University
Timothy George Professor, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University
Chuck Colson Founder, the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview (Lansdowne, VA)

Manhattan Declaration - Background Brief

Religious Liberty, HHS Mandate - An Overview

(Rev 1, 2012-05-03: Summary Statement added)
(Rev 0, 2012-04-15)

Summary Statement
As a follow-on to the Affordable Care Act  ("Obamacare"), HHS Secretary Sebelius issued a statement in January 2012 which maintained that religious exemption to employer requirements to provide coverage for reproductive services including contraception, sterilization, and "morning-after" drugs, apply only for organizations which meet a narrowly defined set of criteria.  Organizations which oppose providing this coverage as a matter of conscience and which were previously exempted from such, including many Catholic institutions, would now fail to meet these criteria and face significant fines and penalties for non-compliance.  This represents not just a Catholic issue, but is a much broader challenge to religious liberty for all people of faith.

1. On 1/20/12, as a follow-on to the Affordable Care Act  (signed 2/23/2010, commonly known as "Obamacare"),
    HHS Secretary Sebelius issued a statement  defining a 1yr extension to the 8/1/2012 deadline for "Nonprofit employers
    who, based on religious beliefs, do not currently provide contraceptive coverage in their insurance plan"
    to begin doing so.

2. The statement did not amend, but maintained that religious exemption applies only for an organization that: 
    (1) has the inculcation of religious values as its purpose
    (2) primarily employs persons who share its religious tenets
    (3) primarily serves persons who share its religious tenets
    (4) is a nonprofit organization under specific sections of the IRS code

3. Catholic groups consider the exemption to be 'too narrow , saying it would require such to stop all services to those
    who were not Catholic and would inappropriately involve the government in decisions on whether an organization is
    "religious enough" to be exempted.'

4. The formal teaching of the Catholic church holds that:
     a. Regulation of births  is an "aspect of responsible fatherhood and motherhood", but "does not justify recourse
         to morally  unacceptable means."
     b. Periodic continence  for birth regulation is morally acceptable, whereas action taken to
         "render procreation impossible" is intrinsically evil.
     c. Abortion is "gravely contrary to the moral law" (note: some contraceptives are abortifacient in nature)
     d. Citizens are "obliged in conscience"  not to follow the directives of civil authorities contrary to the moral order.

5. Sebelius' 1/20/12 statement has resulted in an outcry from Catholic leaders and support from groups opposed to
    weakening the contraceptive mandate or strengthening religious exemption (e.g. Planned Parenthood, NARAL).

6. The administration announced a revision to the mandate on 2/10/2012 wherein insurance companies would be
    forced to offer the "preventive services" without co-pay, while "religious organizations will not be required to subsidize
    the cost of contraception." 
    Critics of this 'compromise' point out that "the new rule accomplishes the same goal – forcing employers
    to underwrite policies covering the offensive services – by a different means."

7. This is not just a Catholic issue, but is a much broader challenge to religious liberty for all people of faith.

Religious Liberty, HHS Mandate - Background Brief

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Contraception - An Overview

(Rev 1, 2012-05-03: Summary Statement added)
(Rev 0, 2012-04-15)

Summary Statement:
The Catholic Church holds that regulation of births is an aspect of responsible parenthood, but does not justify morally unacceptable means (i.e. contraception).  This
position is grounded in a holistic view of human life and vision for marriage & family presented in the 1968 papal encyclical, "Humanae Vitae".  Contraceptives have documented adverse physical side-effects with evidence of physical consequences of use, and reasonable indication of an indirect relationship to a number of negative societal effects.  Periodic continence (i.e. Natural Famiily Planning - NFP) represents an equally effective and morally acceptable means of achieving regulation of birth without the drawbacks noted, while also providing benefits derived from the attitudes and personal characteristics which it engenders between spouses.

1. Formal teaching according to the Catechism of the Catholic church holds that:
    a. Regulation of births is an "aspect of responsible fatherhood and motherhood",
        but "does not justify recourse to morally unacceptable means."
    b. Periodic continence for birth regulation is morally acceptable, whereas
        action taken to "render procreation impossible" (i.e. contraception) is intrinsically evil.
    c. Abortion is "gravely contrary to the moral law" (note: some contraceptives are abortifacient  in nature)

2. The acceptance of artificial contraception as a widespread means for regulation of births
    is a relatively recent development in human history; all Christians condemned the use of
    artificial birth control until the 20th century.

3. Catholic teaching is grounded in the context of a holistic view of human life and vision for
    marriage & family presented in the 1968 papal encyclical, "Humanae Vitae"
    ('of Human Life', subtitled 'On the Regulation of Birth). 
    It considers related modern questions, distinctions between morally licit & illicit solutions,
    respective benefits & detriments, and means & roles:

4. While artificial contraceptives are presumed effective (when properly used), adverse physical side-effects
    include: Headaches, migraines, mental depression..., a decrease or loss of sexual drive, abdominal cramps,
    bloating, weight gain or loss, and water retention; nausea...vomiting...either temporary or permanent infertility...
    in users with previous menstrual irregularities or who began the drug before full maturity.

5. Study evidence also suggests further physical consequences of use.

6. In addition to these direct physical effects, the last 40+ years have evidenced a range of significant,
    negative societal effects for which an indirect relationship  to the use of artificial contraception can be
    reasonably suggested and deduced.

7. Fundamentally, the tradeoff between Natural Family Planning (NFP) vs. artificial contraception reduces to:
    a. Artificial contraception : Disciplined application/use affords opportunity for sexual relations 100% of the time.
    b. NFP                             : Disciplined application/use affords opportunity for sexual relations roughly 65% of the time.
    This comparison begs the question of whether the cost/consequences (direct and indirect) weigh
    favorably against the limited benefit of roughly 35% increased potential opportunity for sexual relations
    w/o undue risk of unintended births.

8. In the context of the cultural popularity of all things natural (i.e. "green") and the ironic rejection of "natural"  
    licit methods, myths & facts related to NFP (including substantive benefits beyond birth regulation)
    warrant thoughtful consideration.

9. The questionable balance of cost/consequence vs. benefit, the direct & indirect consequences, and
    the overriding moral implications associated with artificial contraception provide a compelling motivation
    for reflecting upon the conventional wisdom of current widespread practice in contrast to understanding
    and promoting  the wisdom of Church teachings.

Contraception - Background Brief