Friday, June 28, 2019

The Homosexuality of the Catholic Church (4): Does Celibacy Naturally Require Masturbation?

This is a clip from the movie "Spotlight," which won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2015.  The movie tells the story of the Boston Globe reporters who broke the story in 2002 on how the Catholic Church in Boston and Cardinal Bernard Law covered up the priestly sexual abuse of children over 50 years or more.  This clip shows the scene in which the reporters are talking by telephone with Richard Sipe, a former Catholic monk and priest and psychotherapist who devoted much of his life studying celibacy and sexuality among priests, and who became a leading expert testifying in legal cases about clerical sexual abuse of minors.

The reporters tell him that they have found 13 priests in the Boston area who were guilty of sexual abuse.  They ask him whether that number seems right to him.  He responds by saying that by his estimate at least 6 percent of priests become pedophilic sexual abusers.  The reporters are shocked.  If that is true for Boston, that means that the number of abusive priests must around 90 rather than 13.  As they continue their investigation, they find that Sipe's prediction is correct--the number on their list goes up to 87.  (Eventually, the estimate of the proportion of Catholic priests in Boston who have sexually violated minors has been raised to 10%.)  The movie is accurate, because the Boston Globe reporters really did ask Sipe to fly to Boston and advise them during their investigation.

Sipe states his crucial idea at the beginning of his telephone conversation:
"If you really want to understand the crisis, you need to start with the celibacy requirement.  That was my first major finding.  Only 50 percent of the clergy are celibate.  Now, most of them are having sex with other adults.  But the fact remains that this creates a culture of secrecy that tolerates and even protects pedophiles."
Martel makes a similar point in his book:  because of the hypocrisy of the Catholic hierarchy--condemning homosexuality while they themselves practice it--they have created a culture of secrecy to hide their homosexuality, which then leads them to protect priestly pedophiles, for fear that revealing the practice of priestly pedophilia will also reveal the pervasive homosexuality of the Church.

This might seem to blame homosexuality for the sex abuse crisis in the Church, but as both Sipe and Martel indicate, most homosexuals have sex with other adults, and pedophilia is no more common among homosexuals than among heterosexuals.  But still it is true that the secrecy surrounding homosexuality in the Church inclines church leaders to coverup priestly sexual abuse of minors.

As Sipe indicates, the deeper problem here is the Church's celibacy requirement for the priesthood, a problem that ultimately arises from the Church's failure to teach the truth about the human nature of human sexuality.  The Church teaches that the only natural end for sexual activity is procreation within a valid marriage, and therefore any sexual activity that is not oriented to procreation is sinful.  Sexual pleasure for its own sake is sinful.  Consequently, masturbation, homosexuality, and all heterosexual activity that does not lead to reproduction within a marriage is contrary to nature.  Masturbation is worse than rape, because at least rape can lead to pregnancy and child-birth!

Sipe first revealed the failure of priestly celibacy in his book A Secret World: Sexuality and the Search for Celibacy (1990), which was based on interviewing over 1,500 people, most of them priests.  Sipe had himself been a celibate monk and priest for 18 years, before resigning his priesthood and marrying a former nun.  (This explains the Boston Globe editor in the film clip who wonders whether they can rely on the claims of a "hippie ex-priest who's shacking up with a nun.")

His most famous finding in the book is his estimate that less than 50 percent of priests are celibate.  This shows a failure of the Church's teaching on celibacy, but what's even worse is that Sipe found that most priests masturbate, and some must masturbate to achieve celibacy!  What this shows, Sipe says, is that masturbation is natural and even virtuous, and masturbation serves the function of reminding even the celibate priest that he is a naturally sexual animal.

But wouldn't true celibacy require abstinence from any sexual activity leading to orgasm--including masturbation?  If so, Sipe observes, then the only truly celibate priests might be those few who suffer from Kallman's syndrome--a genetic predisposition for a gonadotropin deficiency due to a deficit in the hypothalamus, so that there is an abnormally low level of testosterone (for men) and estrogen and progesterone (for women).  As a result, men have small genitalia (penis and testicles); and they have an abnormally low sex drive--they show an erotic apathy extending to all forms of sexual behavior, including masturbation.  But with the possible exception of such abnormal cases, almost all human beings will be naturally inclined to sexual pleasure, and this will be true even for most of those who strive for celibacy.

If this is a deep feature of human nature, and if the Christian doctrine of the incarnation of Jesus Christ means that God takes on the nature of man to become both fully God and fully man, then, Sipe suggests, we should see a natural human sexuality in Christ.  "Jesus Christ, celibate or not, could not have developed to maturity without erections and ejaculations, and there is no reason to think that these natural functions would have been devoid of sexual pleasure for him" (285).

There is some evidence that the depictions of Christ in Renaissance Art manifest His sexuality in the display of his genitals.  Leo Steinberg argued this in his book The Sexuality of Christ in Renaissance Art and in Modern Oblivion (University of Chicago Press, 1983, 1997).  Prior to the Renaissance, artists concentrated their attention on the head and shoulders of Christ, and they hid or covered up the lower parts of His body.  If Christ was shown partially naked, as in his crucifixion on the cross, His groin would be covered with a loin cloth.  This is odd, because the New Testament is clear that in His crucifixion, his body was stripped of all clothing.

In contrast to this prior artistic practice, here are some samples of the Renaissance art studied by Steinberg:

In the first picture, Mary's mother is fondling the penis of the baby Jesus.  In the second picture, the resurrected Jesus is shown with an erection.  The third is a picture of Michelangelo's sculpture Risen Christ, with a full penis and testicles.  The last picture shows what was done to Michelangelo's sculpture a few centuries later, when it was copied--the penis has been hidden by a bronze loincloth!

Before and after the Renaissance, artists were forbidden to show the penis and testicles of Christ, because this seemed shameful.  And even today when some contemporary artists have shown Christ with an erection, this is regarded as shocking and blasphemous.  But if one truly believes that Christ's incarnation requires that He fully take on the human nature of a man, would this not require that He have the sexual organs and desires of a real man?  The Renaissance artists thought so.

Michelangelo was a homosexual, and one can see in his artistic presentations of the male body a homoerotic pleasure in male beauty, including the bodily eroticism of Christ.  By supporting and displaying Michelangelo's art, the Catholic Church manifests a homoerotic aestheticism that contradicts its condemnation of homosexuality as sinful and unnatural.

Sipe has argued that the Catholic Church and Christianity generally lack a credible teaching about the sexual nature of human beings.  He has suggested that Christians would benefit from considering the sociobiological account of human sexual nature as put forth by Edward O. Wilson (in On Human Nature).  This sociobiological theory recognizes that the evolved sexual nature of human beings inclines them to sexual pleasure as a good in itself that is directed not just to procreation but also to bonding, and that homosexuality might be an evolved propensity for bonding.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

The Homosexuality of the Catholic Church (3): The Campy Humor of a Clerical Culture That Is Both Homophobic and Homoerotic

                                             Gay Acrobats Perform for Pope Benedict XVI

                                           The Episcopal Installation of Georg Ganswein

                     The "Loving Friendship" of Pope Benedict XVI and Georg Ganswein

Pope Benedict XVI's Famous Red Shoes

Benedict in His Red Ermine-Lined Bonnet

Benedict XVI loves ecclesiastical accessories--red shoes, red bonnets, gold watches and cuff-links and more.  Frederic Martel suggests that the best portrait of Benedict was drawn by Oscar Wilde in The Picture of Dorian Gray, where the homosexual dandy Dorian Gray develops a love for the priestly vestments of the Catholic Church. "In the mystic offices to which such things were put," Wilde observed, "there was something that quickened his imagination."

Benedict also loves handsome young men--such as his intimate friend Georg Ganswein, who is 30 years younger than he.  He promoted his friend, even making him an archbishop.  And unlike any modern pope, he presided over an elaborate liturgical celebration--a coronation mass--for Georg's consecration as archbishop on Epiphany, January 6, 2013.  It lasted almost three hours.  It can be seen in the YouTube video above.  Some in the Vatican said that this was the most beautiful liturgical ceremony they had ever seen.  One high point was when the pope spent a long time stroking Georg's hair.

Watching the video of this ceremony, Martel felt a loving admiration for Benedict's daring display of his homoeroticism:
"In his way, Joseph Ratzinger remained loyal to his singleton, in spite of the frantic warnings of the Curia.  This high mass was a magnificent statement.  And that day, he was radiant.  His restrained smile was a marvel.  Having drained the chalice to the dregs, he was not afraid of taking another drink from it.  He is handsome.  He is proud.  Magnetized by his own daring, he has won.  Seeing him again in the video, so superbly dramatic, I have never loved him as much as I do in that moment" (444).
This confirmed the pope's reputation as the "liturgy queen," a term first used by Mark Jordan in his book The Silence of Sodom, his account of the paradox that the clerical culture of the Church is at once both homophobic in its moral teaching and homoerotic in its liturgical aesthetic.

One month after his coronation of Georg, Benedict announced that he was resigning as pope, which no pope had done in over a thousand years.  Georg is now both personal secretary to the retired pope and prefect of the pontifical house of Pope Francis.

Martel recounts the many rumors about Benedict and Georg being lovers.  "These rumors and gossip, which were regularly passed on to me at the Vatican without ever being proven, all focus on the same thing: an emotional relationship" (438).  But "without ever being proven"!  That's the complaint of Martel's critics--that his book is full of unproven rumors of homosexuality passed on in a campy gay humorous style that many critics find offensive.

It should be noted, however, that Martel stresses that the speculation about Benedict and Georg's active homosexuality is largely discredited by the lack of any clear proof.  The "most likely hypothesis," Martel suggests, is that Benedict and Georg have a "loving friendship" in the ancient and medieval tradition of Platonic love.  We "might hypothesize that homophilia was the thorn in Joseph Ratzinger's flesh," just as it was for Saint Paul (447).  His latent homosexuality has been sublimated into clerical vocation, philosophical research, literary and musical aesthetic, extravagant clothing, and the beauty of boys.
"If this hypothesis is true--and how can we know?--it may be that Ratzinger was more sincere than LGBT activists believed when they rebuked him so often for being 'in the closet.'  According to this view, Benedict XVI has no other ambition than to impose his own virtues on others and, faithful to his own vow of chastity, he was only asking homosexuals to do as he did" (441).
Remember that it was Ratzinger who promoted the teaching that men with homosexual "inclinations" might be tolerated by the Church as long as they refrained from homosexual "acts," and thus were chaste in their love for other men.  This is what Martel calls the "Maritain Code."

In his attack on Martel's book in First Things, Paul Mankowski complains that Martel is so blinded by his bias that he cannot see anyone in the Church who sincerely believes the Catholic teaching on homosexuality as "intrinsically disordered."  "Martel's antipathies are too strong to allow him to see and recognize even trivial exceptions to his laws.  His universe admits no such being as a chaste person, hetero- or homosexual, who authentically believes the Catholic Church teaches truth; it is therefore no surprise that he failed to find such a man within the Vatican."

But this is not true, because Martel sees all those who follow the "Maritain Code"--including Benedict--as homophilic Catholics who accept the condemnation of practicing homosexuality, and who show their chaste homophilia in abstaining from homosexual acts, while channeling their homoerotic longings into a Platonic love of beauty and God.

Perhaps there is no hypocrisy when Catholics like Benedict live lives that are both homophobic and homoerotic, as long as their homoerotic longings escape the immorality of homosexual acts.   But this depends on the distinction first made by Cardinal Ratzinger between homosexual inclinations and homosexual acts.  Oddly, Ratzinger denied the moral relevance of this distinction in the "Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons," which was issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1986.  The Letter declared: "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" (sec. 3).

If the Catholic Church is really teaching that the homosexual inclination itself is an "objective disorder," then it would seem that Catholics like Benedict who try to live lives of chaste homoeroticism through "loving friendships" are hypocrites in failing to live up to the sexual morality that they profess to believe.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

The Homosexuality of the Catholic Church (2): Innuendo Rather Than Proof?

Most of the criticisms of Martel's book have come under five categories: innuendo rather than proof, a "gay" style of writing that is offensive, the failure to recognize the faithful Catholics among the priests and prelates, blaming homosexuals for the sexual abuse scandals, and ignorance of the theological implications of sexual morality.  Let's start with the first one: Does Martel present us enough reliable evidence to prove his claims?

The wide range of Martel's research is impressive.  His investigation was carried out over four years, in Italy and in over thirty other countries.  Between 2015 and 2018, he lived in Rome an average of a week a month.  During some of this time in Rome, he was lodged within the Vatican and in other residences in the holy see.  He also went to about fifty Italian cities.  The thirty other countries included Argentina, Chile, Peru, Cuba, Mexico, Spain, Poland, Switzerland, Great Britain, and the United States.  Most of his interviews were recorded, with the agreement of those being interviewed, so that he now has over four hundred hours of recordings.  He worked with over 80 collaborators around the world, who worked as translators and researchers.

He conducted over 1,500 face-to-face interviews, which included 41 cardinals, 52 bishops and monsignori, 45 apostolic nuncios, secretaries of nunciatures or foreign ambassadors, 11 Swiss Guards, and over 200 Catholic priests and seminarians.  There were 130 interviews with the 41 cardinals.  Of these 41, 34 are named, while 7 remain anonymous because they asked to speak "off the record."  Martel says that he did not wish to "out" any living priests, and therefore he has covered many people in anonymity.  All of his 28 sources within the Roman Curia, who were openly gay with him, remain anonymous.

Martel is a well-known French gay journalist, and his being gay allowed him to gain access to the hidden gay community in the Vatican and elsewhere.  Although he was baptized in the Catholic Church as a child, he now identifies himself as a "Catholic atheist," as someone who values the Catholic cultural traditions of France, but without any Catholic faith.

Martel's book also relies on many written sources: there are over a thousand references to books, articles, and other documents (including police reports), with citations in a document of 300 pages available online (

The breadth of Martel's research and the number of sources he can cite to support his claims are stunning to many of his readers.  Nevertheless, many of his critics--like James Martin and Paul Mankowski--say that he has no proof for anything, and they use words like "innuendo," "gossip," "guessing," "imagining," and "bitchiness."  One reason for this, is that Martel often has to shroud his sources in anonymity, and so, his critics complain, his readers are forced to trust Martel to be a reliable reporter.

Mankowski complains about Martel's "shoddy use of sources":
"When the source is named, the offending cleric he informs against is not ('Sometimes I find monsignori, archbishops and cardinals making passes at me'); conversely, when the offending cleric is named, the source who informed on him is not ('I was told by someone close to him . . .').
"One jaw of the vise is always missing; they never come together in a grip.  Martel's revelations, even when most useful in the course of reform, all slip away into innuendo: '[Archbishop Paul] Marcinkus was homosexual: he had a weakness for Swiss Guards.  He often lent them his car, a metallic grey Peugeot 504 with a lovely leather interior.  At one point I remember that he was going out with a Swiss Guard, and it lasted for some time.'  The source?  'A layman close to the archbishop who worked in the Vatican at the time.'"
Mankowski is mistaken, however, in saying that "one jaw of the vise is always missing," because there are many cases in Martel's book where he names both the accuser and the accused.  For example, one of Martel's first contacts within the Vatican was Francesco Lepore, who had been Pope Benedict's Latin translator.  Lepore identified himself to Martel as a gay priest.  A few months after first meeting Martel in 2015, Lepore sent a letter to Pope Francis telling him that he was leaving the priesthood and coming out publicly as gay.  Lepore provided extensive testimony about the gay underworld in the Vatican, and he told Martel that around 80 per cent of the Vatican was homosexual (18-19).  Some of the people who protected Lepore as a practicing homosexual in the Vatican are named.  When some of Lepore's superiors wanted to remove him from the Vatican, Mgr Stanislaw Dziwisz, the personal secretary to Pope John Paul II, intervened and had him appointed private secretary to Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, who was aware of Lepore's homosexuality.  Later, the pain of living a double life became so unbearable for Lepore that he intentionally used his Vatican computer to access various online gay sites and left his session open so that it could be spotted.  He was asked to leave.  Tauran rebuked him--not for being gay but for being so stupid as to be caught (20-21).

Martel reports:
"Over the course of about a dozen interviews, Francesco Lepore told me about the mad gaiety of the Vatican.  His testimony is incontestable.  He has had several lovers among archbishops and prelates; he has been propositioned by a number of cardinals, whom we discuss: an endless list.  I have scrupulously checked all of those stories, making contact myself with those cardinals, archbishops, monsignori, nuncios, assistants, ordinary priests or confessors at St. Peter's, all basically homosexual" (19).
But still the "endless list" here remains anonymous to the reader, which is why Mankowski complains that we are forced to trust Martel without being able to see the proof for ourselves. In his response to his critics, Martel explains:
". . . To demand concrete proof of the homosexuality of the majority of cardinals is to consign oneself to failure from the outset, because even when you have such proof (which I do for the majority of them), the law prohibits the disclosure of their private lives.  As I specify at the end of the book, by indicating their names, I had fourteen lawyers working with me on In the Closet of the Vatican.  It is not difficult to infer that some tangible evidence could not be published.  In France, Italy, the U.S., and the United Kingdom, among other countries, the law is such that revealing the homosexuality of a person, even if you have proof, may be considered an invasion of privacy.  But it is not simply a legal problem--it is also a moral one.  Journalistic integrity--at least mine--forbids 'outing' people.  I made the choice not to 'out' living cardinals and priests; I stand by this choice, and I have stuck to it . . . . In the end, I would rather be accused of 'insinuations' than to commit 'outings.'"
". . . Requiring 'proof' either naively ignores this situation, or it functions to silence the researcher and the journalist.  It deprives us of a key to general understanding of the system.  One may very well have reliable information, written documents, and firsthand testimony--as I do--but it is impossible to produce them legally.  The demand for the publication of evidence encourages the continuation of the lie and possibly also the cover-up of sexual abuses. . . . Rejecting my book on the ground of 'innuendo,' 'insinuations,' and 'gossip' thus comes down to maintaining a 'state lie' and, in a way, to allowing the crisis of sexual abuse to continue."
Much of what Martel presents is a matter of public record where both the accusers and the accused are named.  That is so, for example, with the case of the Marcial Maciel scandal.  The founder and leader of the Legion of Christ, Maciel was one of the most influential clerics in the Catholic Church.  Beginning in the 1940s, he was accused of sexual abuse.  In 1956, he was suspended by the Vatican. But then he was pardoned and found innocent by Pope Paul VI and John Paul II, although the Vatican had a thick file of complaints against him.  Eventually, hundreds of victims, including children and seminarians, were identified.  It was also found that he had six children by two women, and he had sexually abused his own sons.  Although John Paul II was repeatedly informed of Maciel's crimes, the Pope refused to have his friend Maciel punished.  In 2005, Benedict XVI stripped Maciel of his duties, but there was no other punishment: he was not arrested or excommunicated.  He died in 2008.  And thus one of the greatest sexual predators of the past 50 years lived out his life while being protected by the Church.

Martel has also been challenged by some readers who say that he has no proof or evidence to support his account of Jacques Maritain as a latent homosexual.  This is an important point for the general argument of Martel's book, because of the prominence he gives to "the Maritain Code" in the history of homosexuality in the Catholic Church.  Maritain was a Thomistic philosopher and theologian who had great influence over the Catholic Church, particularly at Vatican II and during the papacy of Paul VI, who was a friend of Maritain's.  Maritain condemned homosexuality as a mortal sin, and he tried to persuade his homosexual friends--Andre Gide, Jean Cocteau, Julien Green, and Maurice Sachs--to suppress their homosexual inclinations.  Martel argues that he was thus recommending his own choice as a homophilic man sexually attracted to men who chose to suppress and sublimate his homophilic desires so that he never engaged in homosexual acts, and so that he could channel his erotic longings towards the love of God.  He was a homophile but not a homosexual.

Martel suggests that a majority of the post-war cardinals and bishops chose this same psychic strategy--the sublimation of their homophilic sexuality into faith and chastity.  This was the "Maritain Code."  This prevailed until the end of Paul VI's papacy.  But then with Pope John Paul II's papacy, most of the cardinals and bishops shifted to practicing their homosexuality in secret, while condemning it in public.  This history is conveyed in the 9th Rule: "The homophiles of the Vatican generally move from chastity towards homosexuality; homosexuals never go into reverse gear and become homophile" (169).

Martel has three kinds of evidence that Maritain was a sublimated or repressed homophile.  The first is the fact that he surrounded himself with homosexual friends.  The second is that, as Jean-Luc Barre reported in his biography of Maritain and his wife, when they married, they made a secret pact to remain chaste, so that they could devout all of their eroticism to the love of God.  They never had children, and it's possible that they never consummated their marriage.

The third line of evidence for Maritain being a homophile is his passionate love in his youth for Ernest Psichari, who died in World War I in 1914.  Through Jean-Luc Barre, Martel has had access to the unpublished correspondence between these two young men--175 love letters.  Here are some excerpts from Maritain's letters to Psichari (166).  "I feel that our two strangers are penetrating one another gently, timidly, slowly."  "Ernest, you are my friend.  You alone."  "Your eyes are splendescent [sic] lighthouses.  Your hair is a virgin forest, full of whispers and kisses."  "I love you, I live, I think of you."  "It is in you alone that I live."  "You are Apollo."  "I love you, I kiss you."  Well, you get the idea.

Barre has said in interviews with Martel that Maritain was surely sexually attracted to men, even if he never acted on his inclinations and remained chaste.  (Martel identifies Barre as one of the "main editors" for Martel's book.)  If so, then Maritain practiced what his teacher Thomas Aquinas identified as "loving friendship" (amor amicitiae), as contrasted with "concupiscent love" (amor concupiscentiae).

Remarkably, this seems to be what Ratzinger has recommended, and what has been put into the Catechism of the Catholic Church--that those with homosexual "inclinations" can strive for "Christian perfection" by being chaste in refraining from homosexual "acts."  But even if such a chaste Platonic homophilia is achievable by a few people like Maritain, one must wonder whether this would be unnatural for most homosexuals.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

The Hypocritical Homosexuality of the Catholic Church: A Defense of Frederic Martel's Book

Almost a thousand years ago--in 1049--Saint Peter Damian published his book The Book of Gomorrah, condemning the practice of "sodomy" (sodomia)--a word that he invented--by the priests, monks, and bishops of the Catholic Church.  Pope Leo IX endorsed the book and proposed to purge the Church of this "crime against nature."  But if the Pope tried to do this, he failed.

Now, with the simultaneous publication in eight languages of Frederic Martel's In the Closet of the Vatican: Power, Homosexuality, Hypocrisy, we have a new book arguing that the majority of the Church's prelates are secretly homosexual, and that this explains the Church's rigid teaching about sexual morality, its condemnation of homosexuality, and its coverups of priestly sexual abuse.  Martel concludes: "Those who preach abstinence before marriage, refuse divorce, denounce homosexuality, and make believers feel guilty for their behavior ae in fact the biggest hypocrites of them all.  They practice in secret what they denounce in public."

The sexual abuse scandals have created a crisis for the Church, but now this book creates an even deeper crisis--comparable to the Protestant Reformation--that could explode the institutional structure of the largest Christian organization in the world.

The Catholic criticism of Martel's book has come from both sides in the current split between the two living popes--the progressive left on the side of Pope Francis and the traditionalist right on the side of Pope Benedict XVI.  The Catholic left says that Martel's book provides a weapon for the Catholic right in arguing that the Vatican has been corrupted by a homosexual lobby that supports Francis's pro-gay agenda.  The Catholic right says that Martel's book is a defamatory attack on those priests and prelates who oppose the homosexual lobby because he falsely charges them with being practicing homosexuals themselves and thus hypocritical.

A good internet symposium on Martel's book includes Martel's response to his critics.  It also includes a good example of the Catholic left-wing critique from Father James Martin, SJ, the editor-at-large of the Jesuit magazine America.  An example of the Catholic right-wing critique has been written by Father Paul Mankowski, SJ, at First Things.

Since I find Martel's book largely persuasive, I will defend it against five kinds of criticisms.  I will also suggest that the book points to the need for a revised Thomistic natural law of sexuality that conforms to the truth about evolved sexual desires of human nature.

Before doing that, I will start by summarizing Martel's conclusions as conveyed in what he identifies as the 14 Rules of The Closet.


1.  For a long time, the priesthood was the ideal escape-route for young homosexuals.  Homosexuality is one of the keys to their vocation (8).

2.  Homosexuality spreads the closer one gets to the holy of holies; there are more and more homosexuals as one rises through the Catholic hierarchy.  In the College of Cardinals and at the Vatican, the preferential selection process is said to be perfected; homosexuality becomes the rule, heterosexuality the exception (10).

3.  The more vehemently opposed a cleric is to gays, the stronger his homophobic obsession, the more likely it is that he is insincere, and that his vehemence conceals something (34).

4.  The more pro-gay a cleric is, the less likely he is to be gay; the more homophobic a cleric is, the more likely he is to be homosexual (41).

5.  Rumors, gossip, settling of scores, revenge and sexual harassment are rife in the holy see.  The gay question is one of the mainsprings of these plots (60).

6.  Behind the majority of cases of sexual abuse there are priests and bishops who have protected the aggressors because of their own homosexuality and out of fear that it might be revealed in the event of a scandal.  The culture of secrecy that was needed to maintain silence about the high prevalence of homosexuality in the Church has allowed sexual abuse to be hidden and predators to act (92).

7.  The most gay-friendly cardinals, bishops, and priests, the ones who talk little about the homosexual question, are generally heterosexual (123).

8.  In prostitution in Rome between priests and Arab escorts, two sexual poverties come together: the profound sexual frustration of Catholic priests is echoed in the constraints of Islam, which make heterosexual acts outside of marriage difficult for a young Muslim (129).

9.  The homophiles of the Vatican generally move from chastity towards homosexuality; homosexuals never go into reverse gear and become homophilic (169).

10.  Homosexual priests and theologians are much more inclined to impose priestly celibacy than their heterosexual co-religionists.  They are very concerned to have this vow of chastity respected, even though it is intrinsically  against nature\ (176-77).

11.  Most nuncios are homosexual, but their diplomacy is essentially homophobic.  They are denouncing what they are themselves.  As for cardinals, bishops, and priests, the more they travel, the more suspect they are (311).

12.  Rumors peddled about the homosexuality of a cardinal or a prelate are often leaked by homosexuals, themselves closeted, attacking their liberal opponents.  They are essential weapons used in the Vatican against gays by gays (388).

13.  Do not ask who the companions of cardinals and bishops are; ask their secretaries, their assistants or their proteges, and you will be able to tell the truth by their reaction (537).

14.  We are often mistaken about the loves of priests, and about the number of people with whom they have liaisons: when we wrongly interpret friendships as liaisons, which is an error by addition; but also when we fail to imagine friendships as liaisons, which is another kind of error, this time by subtraction (538).

Of these rules, the most important one for the argument of this book is #4--the more homophobic a cardinal or a priest is in public, the more likely he is homosexual in private, the worst form of hypocrisy.

The next most important rule is #6--the culture of secrecy necessary to maintain silence about homosexuality in the Church explains why priests and bishops have hidden priestly sexual abuse of boys and seminarians, for fear that any public exposure of this would reveal the prevalence of homosexuality.

One should note that in his investigation of homosexuality in the Catholic Church, Martel did not attempt to study lesbianism, because he believes one would probably have to be a woman to carry out that investigation, although he does speculate "that female religious life in the closet is as dominated by the prism of lesbianism as the life of the male clergy is by the gay question" (535).

To be continued . . .

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Fiddling While Rome Burns: Ryan Anderson's Lecture on the Catholic Crisis

Recently, Ryan T. Anderson was appointed as the first St. John Paul II Teaching Fellow at the University of Dallas, where he delivered his inaugural lecture on "Catholic Thought and the Challenges of Our Time."  Here's the video of his lecture.

He presents the history of the Catholic Church as a story of answering challenges to the truths taught by the Church.  First, the early Church answered challenges to its truths about God.  Then, the Church during the Reformation answered challenges to its truths about the Church itself.  Now, today, the Church must answer challenges to its truths about human nature--about man as created in the image of God.  He then spends most of his lecture arguing that Karol Wojtyla (who became Pope John Paul II) and Joseph Ratzinger (who became Pope Benedict XVI) have rightly defended the Catholic truths about human nature, which can resolve the current crisis of the Church.

What is most remarkable about this lecture is not what he says but what he doesn't say.  He says nothing about scandals in the Church over the clerical sexual abuse of young boys and seminarians and over the predominant homosexuality of the Catholic priesthood and hierarchy that has been responsible for covering up priestly pedophilia.  In particular, he says nothing about the fact that both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI were surrounded by homosexuals who hypocritically condemned homosexuality as sinful, while protecting tens of thousands of sexually abusive priests, which included some of the greatest pedophiles and sexual perverts of the past 100 years--such as Father Marcial Maciel, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, and Cardinal Lopez Trujillo, who abused thousands of children and seminarians.  He says nothing about the evidence that in the United States somewhere between 6% and 10% of the Catholic priests are pedophilic sex abusers, and elsewhere in the world the proportion is probably much higher.

Anderson is utterly silent about the many revelations of these facts--such as Carlo Vigano's letters and Frederic Martel's book In the Closet of the Vatican: Power, Homosexuality, Hypocrisy.  (There is a significant silence about Martel's book at The Public Discourse, the internet journal for the Witherspoon Institute founded and edited by Anderson.)  Moreover, he has only one sentence (at the end of the lecture) about Pope Francis, while remaining silent about Francis's warning about the hypocrisy and corruption of homosexuality in the Church: "Behind rigidity there is always something hidden, in many cases a double life."

This is the true crisis of the Catholic Church that has driven many Catholics away from their Church, and which may well soon destroy the Church completely.  I suspect that Anderson cannot confront this crisis because to do so would force him to consider the possibility that the crisis arises from the Church's false teaching about the human nature of sexuality, which can only be overcome by formulating a true account of the natural law of human sexuality.

As one illustration of the confusion in the Church's teaching on sexual morality, consider what Ratzinger has taught about homosexuality.  He has affirmed the traditional teaching that homosexuality is utterly abhorrent because it is "against nature" in that same-sex pleasure has no procreative end.  But then in his Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons (1986), Cardinal Ratzinger distinguished between the homosexual "condition" or "tendency" and homosexual "acts," and then claimed that only homosexual acts are "intrinsically disordered."  And yet he also said that "the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder" (sec. 3).  A few years later, however, in the New Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992), the Church embraced Ratzinger's distinction between homosexual "tendencies" and homosexual "acts," and affirmed that only "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered."  The Catechism even declared: "Homosexual persons are called to chastity.  By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection" (par. 2359).

The "Christian perfection" of homosexuality?  Does this imply that priests and clerics and even popes can be homosexual in their inclinations as long as they don't actually practice homosexuality--or as long as they are homophilic without being fully homosexual?  Or is it self-contradictory to accept homophilic inclinations as natural but not homosexual actions?

There is some evidence that the recent popes--Paul VI, John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis--have tried to live a life of homophilic chastity with their homophilic inclinations sublimated into "loving friendships" (such as Benedict's homoerotic love for Georg Ganswein), and in doing this they perhaps followed the example of Paul who struggled with "a thorn in the flesh."  But how is this consistent with Benedict's teaching that "the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder"?

Does the pervasive practice of homosexuality among priests and clerics show the failure of Benedict's intellectual project for separating homophilic inclinations from homosexual acts?  Is it unnatural to demand that homosexuals deny their sexual nature?

And does this confusion about homosexuality show a more general confusion in the Church's teaching about human sexuality that comes from a failure to recognize the natural goodness of sexual pleasure as serving the good of conjugal bonding even when it does not serve the good of procreation?

To answer these questions, Anderson--and other traditionalist Catholics--would have to recognize and speak about the true crisis of the Catholic Church as arising from its false teaching about human sexuality.

I will continue with this line of thought in my next post.

I have written previously about Ryan Anderson here and here.

Sunday, June 09, 2019

Aquinas's Esoteric Teaching on Homosexuality as Naturally Unnatural

Pope Francis has opened up a debate within the Catholic Church as to whether homosexuality and same-sex marriage can be tolerated or even blessed by the Church.  On the one side, the anti-Francis priests and prelates insist that the orthodox doctrine of the Church is clear in condemning homosexuality as sodomy--the "vice against nature"--and thus contrary to both natural law and canon law.  On the other side, the pro-Francis priests and prelates suggest that this doctrine might need to be changed so as to recognize the moral dignity of homosexuals.

In his recently published book--In the Closet of the Vatican: Power, Homosexuality, Hypocrisy--Frederic Martel has made the shocking claim that the great majority of priests and prelates--including those in the Vatican--are homosexuals, and therefore the battle over homosexuality between the anti-Francis conservatives and the pro-Francis liberals is actually a battle "between two homosexualized factions of the Church" (90).  Oddly, then, the conservative Catholics condemning homosexuality display the hypocrisy of "homophobic homosexuals" (51).

Since Thomas Aquinas has long been seen as the authoritative philosopher and theologian for the Catholic Church, it's not surprising that part of this debate over homosexuality has been a debate over how to interpret Aquinas's teaching on the natural law of homosexuality.  What I find fascinating about this is how it reveals the two levels of Aquinas's writing--the surface level that conforms to the popular opinion of Aquinas's time and the hidden level that conveys to the careful reader Aquinas's secret teaching.  The anti-Francis traditionalists can point to Aquinas's exoteric teaching that homosexuality is the "vice against nature."  The pro-Francis liberals can point to Aquinas's esoteric teaching that homosexuality is natural for those individuals with a natural inclination to same-sex love.

Shortly after being elected Pope in 2013, Francis called for Synod on the Family to meet in Rome in 2014-2015.  This synod brought together all of the cardinals and a large number of bishops to debate questions about the doctrines of family--such as how the Church should judge divorce and homosexuality.  Francis asked Lorenzo Baldisseri, an Italian bishop, to organize the preparations for the synod with the help of one of the most gay-friendly cardinals--the German Walter Kasper--who would lead the fight for sexual liberalism against Francis's conservative opponents.

From his interviews with Cardinal Kasper, Martel learned that Francis found a way to enlist Aquinas as a supporter for his pro-gay agenda.  Adriano Oliva is an Italian Dominican living in Paris who is one of the leading scholars on Thomas Aquinas.  He is the president of the Leonine Commission which is the program of the Dominican Order for preparing critical editions of all of the works of Aquinas.  Early in 2015, he sent a letter to Kasper describing his work on a text that would interpret Aquinas as supporting homosexuality as a natural human propensity for some individuals, which might support the Church in recognizing same-sex unions.  Kasper passed the letter onto Pope Francis, who so liked this work that he asked that Oliva's text be distributed to the participants in the synod.  Later that year, Oliva's text was published as a book in French: Amours: L'Eglise, les divorces remarries, les couples homosexuels (Paris: Cerf, 2015).  It has not yet been translated into English.

                                                                                          Adriano Oliva

Although Aquinas is easily quoted as teaching that homosexuality is "against nature," Oliva points to some largely ignored passages in the Summa Theologica (particularly, I-II, q. 31, a. 7), where Aquinas says that the homosexual inclination is natural for homosexual individuals, and so homosexual love is part of the natural law for those inclined by their nature to it.  (Aquinas's works in Latin and English are available online.) In one sense, "nature" is what is common to humans and animals, such as the natural inclinations for the self-preservation of the individual (through eating, drinking, and sleeping) and for the reproduction of the species (through sexual intercourse of male and female that leads to procreation).  From this point of view, the sexual union of men is contrary to the nature of the species as inclined to reproduction.  But it can be "connatural" (connaturale) for those individuals who have a natural desire for same-sex union, just as it is natural for hot water to give heat.  (Connaturale generally has the same meaning as naturale, although connaturale seems to refer to what is "natural" for particular individuals or a group of individuals rather than the whole species.)  So, for those individuals naturally inclined to it, homosexuality is naturally unnatural!

If homosexuality is natural for the homosexual individual, then it would be naturally good for that individual, because, as Aquinas says, "everything to which human beings are inclined by their nature belongs to the natural law" (I-II, q. 94, a. 3), and because "that which is the end of certain natural things cannot be evil in itself, because things that exist naturally are ordered to their end by divine providence" (SCG, 3.126).  Every natural inclination aims at some end that is good.

This interpretation of Aquinas supporting a gay Thomism provoked a furious rebuttal from traditionalist Thomistic scholars.  Five Dominicans--three from the Angelicum, the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas in Rome, and two from the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C.--published a disdainful attack (published here in First Things).  They accused Oliva of misreading Aquinas in the most absurd ways.  So, for example, in considering the passage Oliva cites as supporting homosexual acts as natural (I-II, q. 31, a. 7), they explain:
"it can happen that what is unnatural for human beings in general can turn out to be somewhat 'natural' for certain individuals, because their nature has been altered.  For example, some sick persons enjoy eating earth.  This is not really natural for them, Aquinas explains, but is more properly understood as a corruption of their nature.  What is unnatural for most (eating earth) becomes 'natural' for them, but only in a qualified way."
"Aquinas then states that due to bad 'customs' or habits, some men eventually find delight in eating human beings, or in sexual union with animals or other men (coitu bestiarum aut maculorum).  So, for some people, cannibalism, bestiality, or homosexual intercourse can become pleasurable as quasi-natural, because past sinful acts distort their nature."
"Oliva celebrates this text.  He thinks it shows that homosexual acts are natural for homosexual persons.  And what is natural must be good!  Also, for Oliva, Aquinas places the origin of the inclination for gay sex in the soul of the homosexual person.  That is, this inclination comes from the most intimate part of his being, and it moves all the way to sexual union.  Oliva concludes that we can distinguish between gay sex sought simply for physical pleasure, and the tender gay sex that comes from the homosexual person's most intimate self.  Indeed, homosexual persons are called to live out the inclination which is natural for them, namely, in fidelity to another person of the same sex, and enjoying sexual acts not primarily for pleasure but as expressions of love.  The Church should bless such unions." 
 "Now if, as Oliva proposes, Thomas means that the homosexual inclination comes from the most intimate part of the person's soul, then the same reading must apply to Aquinas's mention of cannibalism and bestiality.  Yet this is clearly absurd.  Aquinas cannot mean that cannibals and practitioners of bestiality are following the inclinations of their most intimate selves.  That is precisely why Thomas mentions custom. . . . Oliva's claim that, for Thomas, some persons are born with a homosexual soul, is outrageous as a matter of textual interpretation.  It would mean that, for Aquinas, others are born with cannibalistic souls, and others with souls geared to practice bestiality."
But notice what the Dominicans have done here.  They cannot deny that Aquinas in this passage really does say that homosexuality is natural--or connatural--for some individuals, and that's what Oliva stresses.  But then they point out that in the context of the whole passage, Aquinas's teaching here is incoherent.  Homosexuality is natural for some individuals, but it's also unnatural, because it's actually a corruption of their nature by custom, as is the case for cannibalism and bestiality.  So, homosexuality cannot be natural after all, but only "quasi-natural" or natural "only in a qualified way."

(For the argument that this passage is coherent if one properly understands what is meant by the "connaturality" of homosexuality, see a paper by J. Budziszewski on "The Natural, The Connatural, and The Unnatural," which appears as a chapter in his book The Line Through the Heart. I must admit that I am struggling to answer his argument.)

When a careful thinker and writer like Aquinas writes an incoherent passage, we have to wonder why.  Maybe he just fell here into sloppy writing.  Or maybe he intentionally wrote this incoherent passage so as to convey different meanings to different readers.  Most of his readers--like the five Dominican fathers--will see him accepting the popular opinion of medieval Christians that condemns homosexuality as being just as unnatural in its corruption as cannibalism and bestiality.  But a few careful readers--like Oliva--will suspect that Aquinas is casting doubt on this popular opinion (even as he appears to endorse it) by saying that homosexuality can be natural for some people, while protecting himself from persecution by hiding this secret teaching from his popular readers.

The problem with esoteric writing, however, is that when it's successful, it's almost impossible to prove to those readers not inclined to look for it.  The best that one can do is to point to a pattern of writing that hints at a secret teaching that is unpopular for the writer's general audience, which must be hidden from their view, while being revealed to a few careful readers inclined to doubt popular opinions.  (I have written a series of posts on esoteric writing here and here.)

Consider this passage:  "certain special sins are said to be against nature, and so against the commingling of male and female, which is natural for all animals, is the sleeping together of men, which is specially said to be the vice against nature" (I-II, q. 94, a. 3, ad 2).  Immediately after this passage, Aquinas writes: "because of the diverse conditions of human beings, it happens that some acts are virtuous for some people, as proportionate and suitable for them, which are nonetheless vicious for others, as disproportionate for them" (ad 3).

So, having just said that homosexuality is "said to be" the "vice against nature," he then says that what is a vice for some people can be a virtue for others, if it is proportionate to their individual temperament.  Should the careful reader consider the possibility that while homosexuality is "said to be" unnatural by most people, who are naturally heterosexual, homosexuality can be naturally virtuous for those individuals naturally inclined to it?  That's the conclusion drawn by John Boswell writing about this passage: "In the end Aquinas admits more or less frankly that his categorization of homosexual acts as 'unnatural' is a concession to popular sentiment and parlance" (Christianity, Social Tolerance3, and Homosexuality [University of Chicago Press, 1980], 328).

Consider also how when Aquinas says that homosexuality is against nature because it violates the natural law of procreation, he contradicts what he says in defense of virginity as a virtue for those who choose to remain celibate (like himself) because this suits their natural temperament (II-II, q. 152, a. 2).  To the question of whether virginity is unlawful, Aquinas answers no.  The first objection to his answer is that virginity is unlawful because it violates the natural law of procreation as necessary for the preservation of the species.  Here is his reply to this objection:
"A duty may be of two sorts: it may be enjoined on the individual, and such a duty cannot be ignored without sin.  Or it may be enjoined upon a multitude; in this case, no individual in the multitude is obligated to fulfill the duty . . . . The commandment regarding procreation applies to the human race as a whole. . . . It is therefore sufficient for the race if some people undertake to reproduce physically."
Similarly, Aquinas argues that while natural law dictates marriage directed to reproduction and the rearing of children as a natural good for most people, because this is a general inclination, nevertheless some individuals will have a natural temperament that suits them for a life of celibacy, which need not impede the natural good of reproduction as long as most people marry and have children (ST, suppl., q. 41, aa. 1-2).  Aquinas leaves his careful reader to apply this to homosexuality and conclude that same-sex coupling does not impede reproduction by heterosexual couples, and thus does not violate the natural law of reproduction.  In this way, homosexuality is naturally unnatural.

In the nest post, I will have more to say about Martel's book on the Catholic priesthood and Vatican as the world's largest homosexual organization.

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Is Masturbation Worse Than Rape? Thomas Aquinas's Esoteric Writing About Sodomy

Among the sins of lust, according to Thomas Aquinas and the Catholic Church, the greatest is the "sin against nature," which includes masturbation, homosexual intercourse, bestiality, and any "unnatural, monstrous, or bestial form" of sexual activity--such as fellatio, cunnilingus, or interfemoral or anal sex (Summa Theologica, II-II, q. 154, a. 11).  Traditionally, all these forms of non-procreative sex--with orgasmic pleasure achieved outside the coital insertion of a penis in a vagina--have been condemned as sodomy.  Aquinas indicates that the first obvious objection to this is that surely the sins of lust that harm our neighbor--such as adultery and rape--are greater sins than the sins against nature that harm no one (ST, II-II, q. 155, obj. 1).

In response, Aquinas bites the bullet and replies to this objection by insisting: "Just as the ordering of right reason proceeds from man, so the order of nature is from God Himself; wherefore in sins against nature, whereby the very order of nature is violated, an injury is done to God, the Author of nature" (q. 155, a. 1).  To support this claim, he quotes a passage from Augustine's Confessions (3.8.15), in which Augustine speaks of the "disgraceful acts against nature" (flagitia contra naturam) committed by the people of Sodom (reported in Genesis 19) as a violation of God's law deserving God's punishment by annihilation of the city. Augustine explains:  "the social bond which should exist between God and us is violated when the nature of which he is the author is polluted by a perversion of sexual desire."

Notice what this means: masturbation, fellatio, and cunnilingus are worse than rape!  Most of us--including most Catholics--will find that hard to swallow.  Some readers--myself included--will find Aquinas's reasoning here so implausible that they will suspect that Aquinas himself does not believe it, and that he is engaging in some esoteric writing--suggesting that his exoteric endorsement of the Catholic Church's condemnation of the "vices against nature" is stated in such a way that careful readers will see a secret teaching contradicting the public teaching.  (Previously, I have written posts here and here about Aquinas using secret writing to take the side of reason against revelation while living in a community where the Church enforced belief in revelation.)

This raises at least two questions.  Are there any persuasive arguments for condemning and punishing all forms of sodomy as contrary to natural law?  And if these arguments turn out to be remarkably weak, does that suggest that there might be some hidden motivation in the Catholic Church for professing these arguments--perhaps a hypocritical opposition to homosexuality from homosexual priests who live double lives?

My post here is on the first question.  My next post will be on the second.


There are three strange features of Aquinas's reply to that objection.  The first is that the quoted passage from Augustine's Confessions does not explicitly identify the "disgraceful acts against nature" committed by the people of Sodom.  The Old Testament is not clear about whether the people of Sodom were punished specifically for homosexuality or for some other misconduct.  Shortly after the passage in the Confessions quoted by Aquinas, Augustine quotes Paul in Romans (1:26) as condemning lust for "that use which is against nature."  But Augustine does not quote the entire passage from Paul here identifying this sin against nature as homosexuality: "Among them women have exchanged the natural use for the use which is against nature; and men too, giving up the natural use of women, burn with lust for one another" (1:26-27).  (This passage from Paul in Romans 1 is noteworthy in that it is the only statement in the Bible that condemns not just gay men but also lesbian women.)

The second strange feature of Aquinas's reply is that he does not challenge the objector's claim that the "vice against nature" does not harm other human beings.  This is a crucial point for determining the legal regulation of sodomy, because since Aquinas says that it is not proper for human law to prohibit all vices, but only to prohibit those vices that are harmful to others--such as murder and theft--it follows implicitly that even if Christians must condemn sodomy morally, they cannot rightly punish it with legal coercion (ST, I-II, q. 96, a. 2).

In the Old Testament, sodomy is punished with death (Leviticus 20:13); and for that reason, sodomy had been a capital crime throughout much of the Christian world until the 19th century.  In the United States, sodomy was a crime in many states up to 2003, when the Supreme Court decision in Lawrence v. Texas struck down such laws as unconstitutional.

In contrast to the Old Testament, the New Testament does not recommend any legal coercive punishment for sodomy, although it does recommend that Christians condemn and punish it as practiced by members of the Christian churches.  Paul teaches the Christians in the Corinthian church that those in the Christian community guilty of sodomy and other sexual immorality must be punished by being banished from the community; but the Christians should not go to the courts in Corinth to seek judgments against these evil-doers (1 Corinthians 5-6).  Sodomites and other such sinners banished from the churches will be punished by God with eternal damnation in the afterlife.

Paul writes: "For what is it to me to judge those outside?  Is it not for you to judge those inside?  But God is to judge those outside" (1 Cor. 5:12-13).  Here is the New Testament scriptural basis for a Christian libertarianism, which enforces Christian morality among those within the voluntary association of the Christian churches, but which does not coercively enforce this morality through law.  So as long as sexual immorality like sodomy does not harm others, it can be permitted by human law, with the understanding that it will be judged by God in the afterlife.  (I have written about this Christian Lockean libertarianism here, here., and here.)  Aquinas seems to agree with this.

And yet even if sodomy is harmless, Aquinas indicates, it is worse than harmful sexual sins like rape, because sodomy is against the order of nature and thus an injury done to God as the Author of nature.  But this is a third strange feature of Aquinas's reply to the objection, because he must assume a sexual teleology of procreation that is too narrow to account for the full range of human sexual nature.

John Corvino has made this point well in his book What's Wrong with Homosexuality?  He very briefly explains this in a video here.  Here is a longer (1 hour) video with his famous lecture "What's Morally Wrong with Homosexuality?"

Homosexuality and other forms of sodomy, Aquinas claims, are all "unnatural," because they cannot result in procreation.  Just as eyes are for seeing, ears are for hearing, and feet are for walking, genitals are for procreating.  It is immoral to use one's genitals to achieve orgasmic pleasure without achieving procreation, because that violates the natural purpose of those organs.

Aquinas does recognize that nature is variable in that human body parts can have multiple uses, so that one can properly use a body part for something other than its primary natural purpose.  For example, one can choose to walk on one's hands.  But still, Aquinas observes, in walking on one's hands, "man's good is not much opposed by such inordinate use" (Summa Contra Gentiles, 3.122.9).  By contrast, it might seem that sodomy undermines the natural human good of procreation.  "Every emission of semen in such a way that generation cannot follow is contrary to the good of man" (SCG, 3.122.5).

There are three obvious problems with this reasoning, however.  The first problem is that sexual pleasure can serve some natural ends other than procreation.  Aquinas himself concedes this when he says that marriage is naturally directed not only to procreation but also to the conjugal bonding of the couple.  Heterosexual couples often have sex so that mutual pleasure strengthens their bond to one another, even when they don't want to procreate or cannot procreate; and to do this, they might engage in non-coital sexual acts such as fellatio, cunnilingus, or interfemoral sex. This being true, homosexual acts can promote this same natural end by reinforcing the intimate bonding of homosexual couples.  To deny this, one would have to argue either that conjugal bonding without procreation is not a natural human good or that gay men and lesbian women cannot achieve this good.

The second problem with the claim that sodomite sexual acts cannot achieve procreation is that couples can contribute to the procreation and rearing of children through adoption or in vitro fertilization, even though the adoptive couple has not produced the children through coital intercourse.  Consequently, gay and lesbian couples can achieve both of the natural ends of marriage--conjugal bonding and parental care.
The third problem is that those who choose not to directly procreate themselves are not necessarily undermining the good of procreation.  After all, Aquinas himself was a celibate monk, and he claimed that those who chose celibacy might have a "natural temperament" for celibacy.  So refraining from procreating does not deny the natural good of procreation.

These obvious problems with the Thomistic natural law of sodomy as against nature have led some proponents of natural law to propose an alternative--the "new natural law."


Robert George of Princeton University is one of the leading proponents of the "new natural law."  He has indicated that the Thomistic natural law argument against sodomy as unnatural fails:  "It is often assumed in treatments of sexual ethics that the central argument from natural law theory against non-marital sexual acts is simply that such acts are unnatural, that is, contrary to the direction inscribed in the reproductive or procreative power.  This argument, often described as the 'perverted faculty argument,' is easily disposed of" (1999, 161).  He explains: "It is not clear, for example, that acting against the orientation of a biological power is necessarily wrong, nor is it clear that sodomitic and other non-marital acts are really contrary to that direction" (1999, 181, n. 2).

So, the Thomistic argument against sodomy is "easily disposed of," because it is not clear that non-procreative sex is necessarily wrong or really contrary to procreation.  As an alternative to this argument, George follows those like Germain Grisez and John Finnis in arguing that sodomy is wrong because it violates marriage as a "basic good" of human life.

Following Grisez's lead, Finnis in 1980 (in Natural Law and Natural Rights) proposed a list of seven "basic goods" or "basic values" that could be self-evidently known by intuition as the basic aspects of human well-being:  life, knowledge, play, aesthetic experience, sociability (friendship), practical reasonableness, and religion (Finnis 1980, 86-90).

This list resembles what Aquinas identifies as the "natural inclinations" of human nature or what I identify as the 20 "natural desires."  But unlike Aquinas and myself, Finnis is a Kantian rationalist who wants these basic goods to be known by pure reason alone without any grounding in the natural inclinations or desires of human nature.  For that reason, Finnis does not even like the idea of "natural law": he speaks of "the rather unhappy term 'natural law,'" because he wants a natural law without nature (1980, 374).  He wants to move from Thomistic naturalism to Kantian rationalism.  (I have criticized the Kantianism of the new natural law here.)

Notice that the list of seven basic goods does not include procreative sex or marriage.  Finnis indicated that sexual intercourse could fall under more than one of these goods: "as a human action, pursuit and realization of value, sexual intercourse may be play, and/or expression of love or friendship, and/or an effort to procreate" (1980, 86).  This suggests that non-procreative sex could satisfy one or more of the basic human goods.  But, then, years later, after the first edition of Natural Law and Natural Rights, Finnis added "marriage" to his list of "basic goods," so that he could criticize homosexuality as a violation of this basic good (Finnis 1996; 2011, 446-48).

According to the new natural lawyers, marriage as a basic good is a comprehensive "two-in-one-flesh" union of a male and female, for whom their coital penis-in-vagina sex renders them literally a single organic reproductive whole.  Consequently, the sexual union of a same-sex couple cannot ever be a "real marriage," because they can never experience that penis-in-vagina coital union for reproduction.

There are some obvious objections to this reasoning, which I have brought up in some previous posts hereherehere, and here.

The most common objection is that if the new natural lawyers were right, sterile heterosexual couples could not have a "real marriage," because they cannot reproduce.  The reply to this objection is that a heterosexual married couple do have a "real marriage," even if they are sterile, because their sexual acts can still be "of the reproductive type."  This is said to be analogous to a baseball team that never wins a game: this is still a baseball team because it is oriented to the goal of winning, even if it always loses.

The fallacy in this analogy, however, is that it does not distinguish between a goal that does not occur, although people are intentionally seeking it, and a goal that cannot occur, so that anyone aware of its impossibility cannot intentionally seek it.  A losing baseball team can continue trying to win, as long as winning is a possibility.  But if the team knows that winning is impossible, they cannot honestly strive to win.  Similarly, an infertile heterosexual couple who know that they are infertile cannot honestly try to procreate; and so, if they engage in sexual acts, this must be for some end other than reproduction.  Since reproduction is not their goal, it cannot be said that their sexual acts are "of the reproductive type."

Moreover, why should we say that coital union--penis-in-vagina--is the only human good that human beings can achieve through sex?  Why can't both heterosexual and homosexual couples express their love for one another and build their conjugal bond through mutual pleasure-giving without coital union?

Can't we also assume that most of those people who might adopt the new natural law argument for "real marriage" cannot consistently adhere to it?  They will appeal to the argument for the sake of condemning same-sex coupling.  But they won't accept the argument's claim that heterosexual couples who engage in contraception, masturbation, fellatio, cunnilingus, and interfemoral sex are engaging in sodomy.  Isn't that because they recognize that sexual activity serves human goods other than reproduction through coitus?

If the arguments for the Catholic Church's condemnation of sodomy are so weak that even most Catholics do not believe them, we must wonder whether there is some hidden motivation for the Church's position.  Recently, Pope Francis hinted at the answer: "Behind rigidity there is always something hidden, in many cases a double life."  I will pursue this thought in the next post.


Corvino, John. 2013. What's Wrong with Homosexuality? Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Finnis, John. 1980. Natural Law and Natural Rights. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Finnis, John. 1996. "Is Natural Law Theory Compatible with Limited Government?" In Robert George, ed., Natural Law, Liberalism, and Morality, 1-26. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Finnis, John. 2011. Natural Law and Natural Rights. 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

George, Robert P. 1999. In Defense of Natural Law. Oxford: Oxford University Press.