26 Responses

  1. Martin Keenan says:

    The second part (dated 10 August) is online and it refers to the first part published “last week”, but I cannot find the first part anywhere on the website. Can someone direct me to it, please; and if it is not online, would admin kindly post it.

  2. Vincent Couling says:

    Of course, we need to recognize that there are concrete examples of governments and civil administrations altruistically enacting laws to protect the civil rights of marginalised minority groups. A most obvious example would be the granting of civil same-sex marriages to protect the dignity of gays and lesbians in committed unions. Such legislation has been enacted in Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Iceland, Mexico*, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain and Sweden. Somewhat unsurprisingly, all of these are historically Christian countries.

    What is somewhat disconcerting is the amount of energy certain Catholic hierarchs have expended in opposing such legislation. They seem, perhaps, to be blurring the distinction between sacramental and civil marriage. After all, they don’t seem to be opposing, with the same vim and vigour, civil divorce and remarriage of heterosexual couples, ostensibly because such mere “civil” marriages are not recognized by God. It all leaves me a little bewildered.

    Perhaps the hierarchs, too, need to engage in a little introspection, and reflect on what would constitute the full human flourishing of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.

    * same-sex marriages in Mexico are currently only performed in Mexico City, though they are recognized in all 31Mexican states.

  3. John says:

    Dear Vincent,

    I strongly encourage you to visit the Catholic approved web site of the Courage Apostolate at http://www.couragerc.net. There you will find the truth as proclaimed by the teachings of the Holy Roman Catholic Church on the matter of homosexuality. Your comment Perhaps the hierarchs, too, need to engage in a little introspection, and reflect on what would constitute the full human flourishing of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. shows a clear bias in favour of the Gay & Lesbian movement. Something that the Church does not approve of and is in fact of the teachings of the World.

    Your comments also attack the sanctity of marriage which is in complete contrast to the truth and the teachings of the Church. I implore you to consider those teaching as found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church before such remarks can make more harm than good.

    Yours in Christ


  4. Vincent Couling says:

    Dear John,

    Perhaps re-read my post … I think that you have misunderstod my point about the distinction between civil and sacramental marriage.

    I have encouraged the so-called “courage” people to read the Catholic moral theologian Fr Paul Surlis’ theological note on “official” church teaching around this issue: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1252/is_16_127/ai_66191273/ .

    Another somewhat technical, but exceptionally thorough, analysis of official magisterial documents on homosexuality is undertaken by the now-deceased Dominican theologian and philosopher Fr Gareth Moore in “A Question of Truth: Christianity and Homosexuality.”

    Pax et bonum,


  5. John says:

    Hi Vincent,

    I understand where you are coming from as I have tried desperately to find a loop hole around this issue. I went to gay affirming churches in the hope that God could perhaps accept me having a homosexual relationship. My search however in that regard proved fruitless as it was not the way God wanted me to live. In accepting the true teachings of the Church I have come to know a peace and grace that I thought I could never have. I have completely accepted the official teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, teachings that are truly inspired by the Word of God. No matter what any person of this world may say contrary to the teachings of the Church, even a misguided or misinformed member of the Church may say, I will never waver from the teachings of the Church. For I have found a happiness and peace that is far more fulfilling than any homosexual relationship could ever be. I thus have thrown myself completely to the teachings of the Church, and I know without a shadow of a doubt I am at home and in Gods favour. Such is the power of the Church that is true and everlasting.

    God bless the Holy Roman Catholic Church and the people of the Church who maintain the purity and authority of the Church. To the glory of God the Father.

    I hope Vincent that you can come to accept that truth and proclaim it to those who are in need of it.


  6. Vincent Couling says:

    Hi John,

    I, too, understand where you are coming from. Only you can answer for yourself how God is calling you to live out your life – that is something that you have to figure out for yourself as a mature child of God, communing with Yahweh in the deepest recesses of your being. And I completely honour and respect your faith journey.

    However, I expect no less from you as regards the (intensely personal) faith journey of other gay and lesbian Catholics who, after lengthy discernment, have come to realise for themselves that the official church teachings are based on an incomplete understanding of the natural and divine law. Modern scientific insights into the homosexual condition have led to a relatively recent discovery … and here I will allow the eloquent words of Fr James Alison flesh the idea out (see http://www.jamesalison.co.uk/texts/eng59.html ):

    “In the last fifty years or so we have undergone a genuine human discovery of the sort that we, the human race, dont make all that often. A genuine anthropological discovery: one that is not a matter of fashion, or wishful thinking; not the result of a decline in morals or a collapse of family values. We now know something objectively true about humans that we didnt know before: that there is a regularly occurring, non-pathological minority variant in the human condition, independent of culture, habitat, religion, education, or customs, which we currently call being gay. This minority variant is not, of course, lived in a way that is independent of culture, habitat, religion, education and customs. It is lived, as is every other human reality, in an entirely culture-laden way, which is one of the reasons why it has in the past been so easy to mistake it as merely a function of culture, psychology, religion or morality: something to get worked up about rather than something that is just there.”

    This sort of discovery, and the effect it should have on the development or evolution of official church teaching, is expressly discussed by St Augustine: “The writings of bishops may be refuted both by the perhaps wiser words of anyone more experienced in the matter and by the weightier authority and more scholarly prudence of other bishops, and also by councils, if something in them perhaps has deviated from the truth; even councils held in particular regions or provinces must without quibbling give way to the authority of plenary councils of the whole Christian world; and even the earlier plenary councils are often corrected by later ones, if as a result of practical experience something that was closed is opened, something that was hidden becomes known.

    John, I genuinely have no desire to change your mind on this matter – but I do want it on public record in this forum that there are other ways of looking at this question, so that any young gay Catholics who might stumble upon this thread will realise that the question is not so cut and dried. In forming their consciences on this issue, they must surely read more than what the CCC and the CDF declarations of 1975 and 1986 have to say: they will ultimately also have to commune with God in the deepest recesses of their being, and find their own unique gift of peace and grace … and they must ultimately follow their conscience, even if it deviates from current official church teaching. There are, after all, as many faith journeys as there are people walking the face of this world.

    Peace and blessings,


  7. John says:

    Hi Vincent,

    I appreciate your comments and understanding on the matter and realize that you feel that you’re saying it to help others. I can respect that, as I can respect any openly gay minister arguing the same point. I do however strongly believe that as this is a Catholic Web site aimed at spreading the word of Christ and the teachings of His Church, that the Church’s position must be made absolutely clear at all times. The Church’s teachings, as passed down by Christ, the apostles, and all the bishops and the clergy from the beginning, are what we Catholics are to live by. Id like to reiterate to yourself and to inform all who will read this thread, that I am a man who suffers from homosexual inclinations. I have however found in the teachings of the Church and in Scripture itself, that I dont have to give into these feelings or have a gay relationship to be happy or to be at peace. I wish to convey to all who suffer from these feelings that they dont need to give into despair. That all they need to do is turn to Christ and to His Church, to hand over the inner conflict to Him. To bear the cross with joy in the realization that one will be doing so for the Glory of God the Father.

    There are countless sound argument by apologists, clergy and lay people alike, that show that the teachings of the Church are true and are in accordance with the will of God. I have found this along my journey, as well as arguments to the contrary by other churches and organizations. I came to realize though, that based on the teachings of the Church that are without error, that there can be only one truth. The Church will never change in this specific teaching as it has no authority to do so. As much as it has no authority to change anything that is indeed in accordance with the will of God or approve anything that is contrary to the will of God.

    I once again implore any person who suffers from homosexual inclinations to learn about the teachings of the Church. Know that you are not alone, that the Church is willing to help and assist you through programs such as the Courage Apostolate. To seek council from the wise who are fully ingrained in the pure teachings of the Church (such as the apologist web site at http://www.catholic.com). And I pray that you will find the peace that I have found in the bosom of the Holy Roman Catholic Church and in Christ the Lord.

    Blessings to Vincent and to all my brothers and sisters in Christ.


  8. Vincent Couling says:

    Of course, John’s acceptance of official church teaching about the homosexual condition is a bit of a red herring on this thread, where we are exploring broader society, and governments and civil administrations. Catholics are not a majority in South Africa, and even if we were, this country is a constitutional democracy and not a theocracy.

    My original point concerned the reaction of Catholic hierarchs to the relatively recent passing of civil same-sex marriage legislation in various democratic countries. Surely if the Catholic hierarchs want to impose their doctrine about sacramental marriage on these and other states, they must be consistent, and argue as passionately for these states to ban divorce and remarriage, or the sale of artificial contraceptives, etc.

    The reality is that there are many gays and lesbians in committed unions, some of them Catholic, many of them not … and these states have, rather unsurprisingly, passed legislation to help safeguard the integrity and dignity of these couples. This appears to be in accord with Cardinal Napier’s argument: “According to Catholic teaching the principle of the common good to which every aspect of social life must be related if it is to attain its fullest meaning, stems from the dignity, unity and equality of all people. The common good is the sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or as individuals to reach their fulfilment more fully and more easily.”

    In asking the Catholic hierarchs to reflect on what would constitute the full human flourishing of our gay brothers and sisters, I was hinting at the need for a dialogue between the hierarchs and their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. After all, if I am to know what would constitute your full human flourishing, John, surely my starting point would be to ask you!

    The sort of hierarchical statements that make my stomach turn are exemplified by the recent hysterical rant indulged in by Cardinal Juan Sandoval Iniguez of Guadalajara after Mexico’s Supreme Court voted 9 to 2 to uphold adoption by gay couples. Cardinal Iniguez is reported by the media to have said that the Supreme Court would not reach such an absurd conclusion unless it was motivated by a large sum of money. He also apparently displayed overt homophobia in using a blatantly homophobic epithet: I do not know of any of you who would like to be adopted by a pair of lesbians or a pair of faggots. I think not. The Supreme Court has unanimously censured his risible allegations that they were bribed. Astonishingly, rather than attempt to reign him in, the entire Bishops’ Conference of Mexico has expressed its support of Cardinal Iniguez.

    And the Archdiocese of Mexico City also intervened spectacularly, when its spokesman, Hugo Valdemar verbally attacked the Mayor of Mexico City, Marcelo Ebrard: He and his government have created laws destructive to the family, the laws do worse damage than drug trafficking. Marcelo Ebrard and his party, the PRD, are determined to destroy us.

    The brouhaha is escalating, with Ebrard filing a defamation lawsuit against Cardinal Iniguez, and the Archdiocese of Guadalajara claiming that it has proof to support the allegations against the Supreme Court justices.

    So much for a measured, well-tempered dialogue between church and state on matters pertaining to the common good!

  9. Vincent Couling says:

    Dear John,

    You say “based on the teachings of the Church that are without error” – but, of course, you must know that the church taught (presumably without error?) in Lumen Gentium (Vatican II) ” … this infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer willed his Church to be endowed in defining doctrine of faith and morals, extends as far as the deposit of revelation extends.” I think the magisterium has yet to display that it is part of Christ’s revealed deposit of faith that the homosexual orientation is objectvely disordered, or that homosexual acts are always intrinsically disordered. Perhaps you could, for example, point me to the scripture reference where Jesus discusses homosexuality?

  10. Vincent Couling says:

    It might be an apposite moment to reflect on the statement released by a group of eminent Catholic theologians on the day the Papal encyclical Humanae Vitae was released, wherein they negatively evaluated the teaching. They argued that several non-infallible official teachings of the Church (e.g. on religious liberty, taking interest on a loan, the right to silence, and the ends of marriage) have subsequently been judged to be erroneous.Even Bernard Haring, the leading Catholic moral theologian in the world at the time, was among the 600 signatories (only scholars in theology, philosophy and canon law were permitted to sign so as not to water down its impact).

    I would also like to point you to the magisterial and scrupulously-researched book by renowned Catholic ethicist, historian and circuit-court judge John T Noonan Jr, A Church That Can and Cannot Change: The Development of Catholic Moral Teaching. In it, Noonan examines changes in official church teaching that have taken place in, for example, freedom of conscience, slavery and usury. He distinguishes between the deposit of faith (core, unchanging revealed truth) and areas where the moral teaching of the Church has changed definitively. He concludes that change is not a thing to be ashamed of, to be whispered about, to be disguised or held from the light of day, as grave guardians sometimes think it is a way of teaching celebrated in the Gospel itself (Mt 13:52). This echoes the words of Pope John XXIII: We are not on earth to guard a museum, but to cultivate a flowering garden of life.”

    And you might like to take the time to actually read Professor Fr Surlis’ theological note ( http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1252/is_16_127/ai_66191273/ ), which shows that contemporary official Church teaching on homosexuality is anything but the consensus of the bishops of the world … so if you wish to lay claim to infallibility on this matter, please explain precisely how the teaching is part of the Extraordinary Magisterium, or the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium. Laying claim to infallibility in matters gay is quite astonishing, and apparently utterly without basis in fact.

  11. John says:

    Hi Vincent,

    Firstly, I pray for peace in our conversation and I wish to state that I consider you my brother in Christ.

    I think we need to make some clear distinctions that the state and the Church are two separate entities. They are however entities that have common goals at times, such as the protection of minorities and people who are discriminated against. To show this care I quote from the Courage Apostolate web site:

    The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill Gods will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lords cross the difficulties that they may encounter from their condition.

    Another quote from JOSEPH CARDINAL RATZINGER (our now beloved Pope Benedict XVI) from the CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH: LETTER TO THE BISHOPS OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH ON THE PASTORAL CARE OF HOMOSEXUAL PERSONS states: Therefore special concern and pastoral attention should be directed toward those who have this condition, lest they be led to believe that the living out of this orientation in homosexual activity is a morally acceptable option. It is not.

    I agree with you in principle that under no circumstances should any person, especially a member of the clergy, speak hateful words about those who suffer from homosexual inclinations. The Church always stands against such remarks and always reiterates its unending love to all of Gods children as commanded by Christ Himself.

    As to your last point, Christ himself never spoke about the topic of homosexuality. However, this is not a valid argument as Christ did not mention many sins (such as beastiality), so that doesnt mean that they still arent considered to be sins against God. It is however clearly stated in Scripture in the Book of Leviticus that it is a sin to God: If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination — Leviticus 20:13. Christ did however reiterate Scripture (in the Book of Genesis) supporting the union of one man and one woman: And He answered and said to them, Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate. (Mt 19:4-6)

    Also, Christ Himself said: “Think not that I have come to abolish the Law and the prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Mt 5:17). So to think that just because Christ doesnt mention a sin doesnt mean that it no longer is a sin.

    Id like to end with the following from the courage web site that reinforces the point Ive been trying to make of one of hope: Paul comfortingly reminds us, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Cor. 10:13). Homosexuals who want to live chastely can contact Courage, a national, Church-approved support group for help in deliverance from the homosexual lifestyle. — http://www.couragerc.net.

  12. John says:

    Hi Vincent,

    Countless articles may also be found to counter your articles provided. As with any organization, democracy or theocracy, there will always be those of opposing views. The final teachings of the Church on the matter however were and are clear and signifies the ultimate unity of the True Church: that unity “which Christ bestowed on his Church from the beginning. This unity, we believe, subsists in the Catholic Church as something she can never lose, and we hope that it will continue to increase until the end of time.”[ Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on May 28, 1992]

    It is thus a personal matter: To believe the teachings of any person, organization or different church, or to embrace the true and complete teachings of the Holy Roman Catholic Church.

  13. Vincent Couling says:

    Thanks for that post Fr John, it is much appreciated. Of course, that quote of Jesus pertains to the majority heterosexual condition, and by no means can be used to infer what Jesus would advise a gay couple.

    As for Jesus coming to fulfil the law – what exactly is the law? Cardinal Napier has expressed it most eloquently in his article above: Love one another, as I have loved you; and I have given my life for you. This echoes the Prophet Micah: “This and only this is what the Lord God asks of you: to act justly, to love tenderly, and to walk humbly with your God” (6:8). Now how this can be construed as in any way forbidding loving gay unions is well and truly beyond me.

    As for the scripture references, these have been amply dealt with using the historical-critical scientific methods of exegesis sanctioned by the Catholic Church. Read, for example, the excellent book by Fr Daniel Helminiak entitled “What the bible really says about homosexuality.”

    I agree that we are brothers in Christ, Fr John, but there can be little peace in our conversation if you consider a priori that gays are objectively disordered … that gays must be at eternal war with their sexuality. I believe such a proposition to be possiby heretical – for gays, too, are in the image and likeness of Yahweh.

  14. Vincent Couling says:

    Dear Fr John (Harvey?),

    I also find the triumphalism in your sentences to be quite revealing of your near-fundamentalism: “It is thus a personal matter: To believe the teachings of any person, organization or different church, or to embrace the true and complete teachings of the Holy Roman Catholic Church.”

    Would it have be correct, for example, to embrace the 1866 teaching of the Holy Office, signed by Pope Pius IX: Slavery itself, considered as such in its essential nature, is not at all contrary to the natural and divine law It is not contrary to the natural and divine law for a slave to be sold, bought, exchanged or given. Or rather to embrace the subsequent teaching of Pope John Paul II in Veritatis Splendor (no. 80) that asserts slavery to be intrinsically evil and objectively disordered? I look forward to your triumphal elucidation.

  15. John says:

    Hi Vincent,

    I’m blushing, but please note that I’m not a priest. Though that would be an honour and a blessing indeed.

    Indeed, one of the greatest commandments is to love one another as Christ loved us. And I assure you , that I have no hate for you or any homosexually inclined person. It is why I am so adamant in my position, because I love my brothers and sisters in Christ and I wish to make their journey a more blessed one.

    I have read Fr Daniel Helminiaks book, but I suggest you read Father John Harveys book Homosexuality and the Catholic Church Clear Answers To Difficult Questions. There you will find the true teachings of the Church.

    Please note Vincent that I nor does the Church call homosexually inclined people to be disordered, any more than it does call murders disordered. It calls the act of homosexual intercourse disordered, not the person: Every human being is called to receive a gift of divine sonship, to become a child of God by grace. However, to receive this gift, we must reject sin, including homosexual behaviorthat is, acts intended to arouse or stimulate a sexual response regarding a person of the same sex. The Catholic Church teaches that such acts are always violations of divine and natural law. Homosexual desires, however, are not in themselves sinful. People are subject to a wide variety of sinful desires over which they have little direct control, but these do not become sinful until a person acts upon them, either by acting out the desire or by encouraging the desire and deliberately engaging in fantasies about acting it out. People tempted by homosexual desires, like people tempted by improper heterosexual desires, are not sinning until they act upon those desires in some manner. — Courage Apostolate, http://www.couragerc.net.

    Indeed my brother in Christ, we are sons of the one True God and I wish you peace.

  16. Vincent Couling says:

    Dear John,

    I believe it to be mendacious to claim that “Countless articles may also be found to counter your articles provided.” You can always prove me wrong on this point by finding even one article to counter Professor Fr Surlis’ theological note. Oh, have you even read it yet?

  17. Vincent Couling says:

    Persona Humana declared homosexual acts to be objectively disordered, but the CDFs 1986 letter On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons went a lot further: “In the discussion which followed the publication of the Declaration [Persona Humana], however, an overly benign interpretation was given to the homosexual condition itself, some going so far as to call it neutral, or even good. Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.

    How is this to be interpreted? Well, there is the rather recent Vatican instruction that gay men may not be ordained to the priesthood, even if they are virgins committed to lifelong celibacy. As Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski so lovingly explained (30 October 2008), no one who has a deep-seated homosexual tendency may be admitted to Holy Orders, since homosexuals are defective human beings with a disordered psyche: if ordained, this would create a wound on their priesthood!

  18. Vincent Couling says:

    Dear John,

    I have to admit to being quite worked up over this … but, having taken some deep breaths, let me in turn acknowledge the obvious: yes, we are indeed brothers in Christ. I, too, wish you peace and blessings.


  19. John says:

    Hi Vincent,

    As to your comment on slavery, please refer to the article at http://www.catholic.com by Mark Brumley (http://www.catholic.com/thisrock/1999/9907fea2.asp). A particular quote from that article reads: At the same time, Christianity in general-and Catholicism in particular-contributed greatly to the abolition of slavery and the emergence of a common appreciation for fundamental human rights. Catholics, not Protestants, worked for the abolition of slavery in Latin American countries like Brazil. The Catholic appreciation of natural law-as opposed to the Protestant principle of sola scriptura (when Scripture tells slaves to obey their masters)-has always made slavery less reconcilable with Catholicism than Protestantism. The Church’s consistent teaching that all men are made in God’s image and are called to redemption in Christ has helped give rise to the modern notion of human rights and equality-ideas diametrically opposed to chattel slavery that have led to a great diminishment in its practice.

    As to the statement of Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, I cannot say that I fully agree. However, I do believe that it is always at the Bishops discretion as to whether someone can become a priest either heterosexually or homosexually inclined. Besides, becoming a priest is not a right and is a sacrament that may be bestowed on one by the Church. For indeed the clergy are seen to be of wiser words of anyone more experienced when compared to the lay official.

    I also wish for you to use caution for it would seem that one of your goals is to discredit the authority of the Church. The consequences of such words on the faithful can be negative in nature.

  20. Vincent Couling says:

    Dear John,

    Let me quote directly from John T. Noonan’s scrupulously-researched book, “A Church That Can and Cannot Change”:

    pg 102: “Slavery continued to exist in the Papal States into the early nineteenth century. From 1600 to 1800 a total of two-thousand slaves, almost all Moslem, manned the galleys of the Pope’s navy. As late as 1800-1807 in the troubled papacy of Barnaba Chiaramonti, Pius VII, four privately owned slaves and eleven slaves of the state were registered in Rome at the Casa dei Catecumi. In Lisbon, in 1808, an inquisitor-general defended the justice not only of slavery but of the trade. … ”

    pp 103-109: “As early as 1814, in preparation for the Congress of Vienna, Castlereagh, the British foreign secretary, had pressed Cardinal Ercole Cosalvi, the pope’s secretary of state, to obtain a papal prohibition of the international slave trade. Pius VII responded by writing personally to the monarchs of France, Portugal, and Spain deploring the trade, put published nothing. Consalvi is not recorded as speaking on the matter at the Congress of Vienna.

    In 1822, the Concert of Europe met to deal with revolution in Spain. A new occasion was provided for British overtures, this time from Foreign Secretary Canning to Secretary of State Consalvi, who referred the matter to the secretary of the Congregation for Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs for examination. The report back was not favourable. True, there was suffering caused by the trade, but abolition was a notion of the antireligious philosophers of the eighteenth century. The most competent theologians and canonists held slavery to be not contrary to natural law and to be approved in principle by the Old Testament. A Papal prohibition would please the British, who oppressed Catholics, and it would compromise the colonial interests of France, Portugal and Spain. Pius VII did nothing.

    By 1839, Great Britain had extended abolition to its colonies. The country was beginning to shine as the champion of human liberty. Freetown, Sierra Leone its foundations going back to Granville Sharp in 1787 was now a port where the British Navy set down hundreds of slaves liberated from slavers. … Spain was pushed by Britain into a treaty outlawing the trade. Portugal remained adamant against renouncing it. The British Foreign Secretary, Henry John Temple, Viscount Palmerston, made suppression of the trade his personal cause. In 1839 the Palmerston Act, passed by Parliament, authorized the British navy to stop all slavers carrying the Portuguese flag, deposit their crews in Portuguese territory, and take the rescued Africans for care by British authorities. … Against this background of vigorous diplomacy and naval intervention, Palmerston thought of the pope.
    Thomas Aubin, charg daffaires in Rome under the direction of Henry Edward Fox at the British legation in Tuscany, was directed to sound out the court of Rome on whether it would cooperate in a move against the slave trade.

    The convoluted diplomatic manoeuvrings that follow take several pages for Noonan to explicate. I present a few snippets from Noonans description:

    … the Foreign Office drafted a note for Aubin to present to Gregory XVI. It asked the popes aid in suppression of the African Slave Trade, an object which the British Government is most anxious to accomplish and which is of great importance to all Christendom. The note delicately alluded to the Christian Church being mainly instrumental in ending slavery as it once existed in the Roman Empire. Modern slavery was much worse. It began with unprovoked Aggression upon innocent people and was undertaken from the cold blooded calculation of gain, the basest motive which can tempt to crime. It inflicted sufferings of Body and of Mind beyond the power of tongue to describe. Unfortunately certain governments in spiritual communion with the See of Rome were either delaying (Spain was meant), or refusing to cooperate (Portugal) with the British government in suppression of the trade. …

    On November 3, 1839, Gregory XVI issued In supremo Apostolatus fastigio … to dissuade the faithful from the inhuman trade in Blacks or any other kind of men.… No one in the papal government expressed surprise or regret that it had taken a Protestant power with a highly pragmatic foreign minister to lead the pope into repudiating a traffic that had flourished since the fifteenth century. …

    In the United States, during the 1840 presidential campaign, when the Secretary of State John Forsyth linked the Whig candidate to abolitionism and the Catholic Church, he was answered by John England, bishop of Charleston, the leading Catholic prelate in the United States … Bishop England indignantly noted that the pope had in view only the international trade; he quoted Gregory XVI himself as telling him in person in Rome that the Southern states have not engaged in the negro traffic. Bishop England went on in a series of articles in his newspaper, the Catholic Miscellany, to show that the Catholic Church had always accepted domestic slavery; it was not incompatible with the natural law; and, when title to a slave was justly acquired, it was lawful in the eye of heaven. …

    Gregory XVIs letter had no obvious impact on the two nominally Catholic countries engaged in the slave trade, Portugal and Brazil, nor on seminary teaching in France. Three years later under the pressure of the effective enforcement of the Palmerston Act, Portugal by treaty with Great Britain abolished the trade. … Brazilian cooperation was so uncertain and sporadic that in 1845, Lord Aberdeen obtained a law … authorizing the royal navy to seize Brazilian slave ships, with the result that the Brazilian slave trade came to an end in 1850-1851. In supremo had taken away any claim to moral legitimacy. It was British resolution and sea power that brought a stop to the business.

  21. Vincent Couling says:

    And it is not my intention to discredit the authority of the church … merely to show that it can err in its moral teaching, and that it can subsequently correct itself: that there has been a definite evolution of moral teaching in Holy Mother. Since I am a mere ant, perhaps you will be convinced by a true authority: these are the words of Pope Pelagius II (words drafted by the man who was to become Pope Gregory the Great):

    Dear brethren, do you think that when Peter was reversing his position, one should have replied: We refuse to hear what you are saying since you previously taught the opposite? In the matter [at hand] one position was held while the truth was being sought, and a different position was adopted after truth had been found. Why should a change of position be thought a crime ? For what is reprehensible is not changing ones mind, but being fickle in ones views. If the mind remains unwavering in seeking to know what is right, why should you object when it abandons its ignorance and reformulates its views?

    Noonan in his book distinguishes between the deposit of faith (core, unchanging revealed truth) and areas where the moral teaching of the Church has changed definitively. He concludes that change is not a thing to be ashamed of, to be whispered about, to be disguised or held from the light of day, as grave guardians sometimes think it is a way of teaching celebrated in the Gospel itself (Mt 13:52).

  22. John says:

    Dear Vincent,

    Thank you for providing the information. I believe that we can therefore conclude, that on the aspect of slavery, that the Church’s position may once have been incorrect. We cannot however ignore the massive positive contributions the Church has made though in the areas of human rights throughout the ages.

    What is however impossible to ignore are the many verses in Scripture that clearly show that homosexuality is a sin and an offense to God. I do believe that we can thus trust Scripture and the Churchs teachings and definitions of it to be absolutely true. If not, then we could very well bring into question all that the Church teaches. And that would be a form of Protestantism, and we would very well no longer be faithful Catholics.

    To offer a counterargument to yours, if God also approved of homosexual unions which obviously existed at the time, why is there no mention of it in a morally acceptable fashion? Heterosexual unions are mentioned however and clearly shown to be in favour with the Lord. On what possible Biblical grounds can homosexuality be approved?

  23. Vincent Couling says:

    Dear John,

    What of the verses that “clearly” show slavery to be in accord with divine law? I think that you might profit from reading the document The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church presented by the Pontifical Biblical Commission to Pope John Paul II on April 23, 1993. A few excerpts follow:

    Fundamentalist interpretation starts from the principle that the Bible, being the word of God, inspired and free from error, should be read and interpreted literally in all its details. But by literal interpretation it understands a naively literalist interpretation, one, that is to say, which excludes every effort at understanding the Bible that takes account of its historical origins and development. It is opposed, therefore, to the use of the historical-critical method, as indeed to the use of any other scientific method for the interpretation of Scripture.

    The basic problem with fundamentalist interpretation of this kind is that, refusing to take into account the historical character of biblical revelation, it makes itself incapable of accepting the full truth of the incarnation itself. As regards relationships with God, fundamentalism seeks to escape any closeness of the divine and the human. It refuses to admit that the inspired word of God has been expressed in human language and that this word has been expressed, under divine inspiration, by human authors possessed of limited capacities and resources. For this reason, it tends to treat the biblical text as if it had been dictated word for word by the Spirit. It fails to recognize that the word of God has been formulated in language and expression conditioned by various periods. It pays no attention to the literary forms and to the human ways of thinking to be found in the biblical texts, many of which are the result of a process extending over long periods of time and bearing the mark of very diverse historical situations.

    Fundamentalism also places undue stress upon the inerrancy of certain details in the biblical texts, especially in what concerns historical events or supposedly scientific truth. It often historicizes material which from the start never claimed to be historical. It considers historical everything that is reported or recounted with verbs in the past tense, failing to take the necessary account of the possibility of symbolic or figurative meaning.

    Fundamentalism often shows a tendency to ignore or to deny the problems presented by the biblical text in its original Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek form. It is often narrowly bound to one fixed translation, whether old or present-day. By the same token it fails to take account of the rereadings (relectures) of certain texts which are found within the Bible itself.

    Fundamentalism likewise tends to adopt very narrow points of view. It accepts the literal reality of an ancient, out-of-date cosmology simply because it is found expressed in the Bible; this blocks any dialogue with a broader way of seeing the relationship between culture and faith. Its relying upon a non-critical reading of certain texts of the Bible serves to reinforce political ideas and social attitudes that are marked by prejudicesracism, for example*quite contrary to the Christian Gospel.

    The fundamentalist approach is dangerous, for it is attractive to people who look to the Bible for ready answers to the problems of life. It can deceive these people, offering them interpretations that are pious but illusory, instead of telling them that the Bible does not necessarily contain an immediate answer to each and every problem. Without saying as much in so many words, fundamentalism actually invites people to a kind of intellectual suicide. It injects into life a false certitude, for it unwittingly confuses the divine substance of the biblical message with what are in fact its human limitations.

    Might I suggest that you take a look at some laudable attempts at objective historical-critical readings of the so-called homosexual clobber passages in scripture see, for example,

    What the bible really says about homosexuality by Fr Daniel Helminiak,

    A question of truth: Christianity and homosexuality by Fr Gareth Moore OP,

    and the Fr James Alison article But the Bible says? A Catholic reading of Romans 1? at http://www.jamesalison.co.uk/texts/eng15.html

    *I suppose homophobia might equally well be added here.

  24. Vincent Couling says:

    Dear John,

    You ask: “On what possible Biblical grounds can homosexuality be approved?”

    I would suggest that since loving homosexual unions are in accord with the scriptural commandment to love God, neighbour and self, that I can claim “quod erat demonstrandum”.

    There are also the tantalising possibilities in the love relationships of David and Jonathan, Ruth and Naomi, and the Roman centurion and his critically-ill slave boy [what hardened centurion is going to be in quite such a state over a mere slave boy, unless there is another dynamic at play?].

  25. Vincent Couling says:

    Dear John,

    You state: “We cannot however ignore the massive positive contributions the Church has made though in the areas of human rights throughout the ages.”

    I couldn’t agree with you more. Which is why I have such hope for our beloved Church, a Church of tensions, ironies and paradoxes.

    I’m reminded of the words of Carlo Carretto: “How much I must criticize you, my church, and yet how much I love you! You have made me suffer more than anyone and yet I owe more to you than to anyone. I should like to see you destroyed and yet I need your presence. You have given me much scandal and yet you alone have made me understand holiness. Never in this world have I seen anything more compromised, more false, yet never have I touched anything more pure, more generous or more beautiful. Countless times I have felt like slamming the door of my soul in your face – and yet, every night, I have prayed that I might die in your sure arms! No, I cannot be free of you, for I am one with you, even if not completely you. Then too – where would I go? To build another church? But I could not build one without the same defects, for they are my defects. And again, if I were to build another church, it would be my church, not Christ’s church. No, I am old enough, I know better.”

  26. John says:

    Hi Vincent,

    I do believe that we would could very well argue this until we are blue in the face, so I believe to argue this further is now pointless. One obvious truth remains: the view that homosexuality is a sin against God is one that the Church teaches. It is not a recent teachings, and has been taught since the start of the Church. (Please refer to this link for supporting evidence http://www.catholic.com/library/Early_Teachings_on_Homosexuality.asp). I therefore implore any person who suffers from homosexual inclinations to seek the truth and advice from the wise. A good priest is always a great start and the Courage Apostolate web site also offers great assistance.

    I note though that your referrals to external sources outside of the Church are your only point of reference. Arguments posed by Fr Daniel Helminiak have all been dismissed by other authors, that of the Church and other churches such as Father John Harveys Homosexuality and the Catholic Church Clear Answers To Difficult Questions and The Gay Gospel? by Joe Dallas. These books stand on moral, natural and Biblical grounds and quite clearly refute all claims made by those who promote homosexuality. I have read both sides of the story, and the revelation revealed to me is that the teachings of the Catholic Church are the true ones. The interpretation of Scripture is truly an important aspect of this entire argument. I mean, if we were to rely on the interpretation of individuals of Scripture, then the belief that a Jehovah Witness have that Christ and the Archangel Michael are the same being cannot be refuted. The only reason why we can refute such claims is that the Holy Catholic Church has made its position absolutely clear and taught us the true teachings, that Christ is the Son of God and part of the Trinity. The Church teaches that homosexuality is incorrect, based on natural and moral laws. That is the bottom line.

    As to the concept that as long as theres love and commitment then its OK in the eyes of God, then surely based on the same principle, if I love my brother/sister/mother/father in the same way then surely God will approve me having a sexual relationship with them? On what possible grounds could you refute me that? Or for example, if I were to meet a loving 10 year old who loves me dearly and I him, surely a sexual relationship can be condoned provided theres commitment and love? You will find yourself basing your argument to refute me on this on the same basis that the Church would base its argument: That it is a sin, that it is immoral and that it is against the natural law.

    On a personal note I will thus stand by the true teachings of the Church until otherwise changed, though I fully believe that that will not happen as the Chruch will have no right to do so. To gamble on my soul based on the possibility that the Church may have got it wrong is just too much of a risk to me. For in my life, God is first, and no human relationship can ever be above my relationship with God. I will thus bear my cross gladly, in the full knowledge and faith in Christ the Lord and the Holy Roman Catholic Church.

    Blessings to all.