Catholic Sexual Incoherence

January 20, 2015 at 12:34 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments
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Well, according to the Boston Globe’s John Allen, Pope Francis, during his visit to and trip home from the Philippines, “rebooted the debate on sex” in the Catholic Church. This is so because on Friday night, February 16th, in Manila, the pope spoke out, in a talk to 20,000 Filipino families, against the “ideological colonization” of the family.  “Ideological colonization” is, apparently, a term that conservative Catholics, especially RC bishops in Africa, use to describe the West forcing contraception  and homosexuality on their  cultures as a requirement for economic assistance.  And a few days later Francis defended Pope Paul VI’s heroic condemnation of artificial birth control. These statements by the politically astute Pope Francis, we learn, are aimed at reducing opposition among conservatives before the October Synod on the Family by distinguishing between these implicitly central issues of Catholic sexual morality and the question of divorced and remarried Catholics receiving communion.

I am intrigued by this distinction between divorce, gay marriage, and contraception. To begin with, there’s the fact that Jesus actually does say some fairly negative things about divorce in the Gospels, whereas he has nothing whatever to say about gay marriage or contraception. And biblical scholars are not all that sure that even the story of Sodom and Gomorrah is about the evils of gay sex. The RCC has never felt compelled to base its teaching in scripture, of course, but it’s worth mentioning that scripture does not seem to be on their (our) side on this one.

Then there’s the matter of divorced and remarried Catholics being excluded from communion but Catholics who use artificial contraception not being excluded. Well, you may say, of course they’re excluded too; using contraception is a mortal sin, so everyone who uses it is excluded.  The trouble is, during the uproar over the contraceptives mandate in the Affordable Care Act, 97% of U.S. Catholic women (who were or had been sexually active, one assumes) reported using contraceptives. Within the margin of error, that could actually be all U.S. Catholic women–and the men in their lives too, I guess! (Oddly enough, a third of those reporting contraceptive use opposed the contraceptives mandate–I guess either they’re rich or they repented after menopause.) The upshot of all this is that a whole lot more U.S. Catholics break this ostensibly much more serious tenet of Catholic sexual morality than get divorced. And given the number of U.S. Catholics who go to confession these days, I’d say that a whole lot of these folks are taking communion despite the disciplinary ban on same.

Now truth be told, Catholic parishes don’t really want to know about any of this stuff. I’m reminded here of the daughter of an old friend who was doing the marriage prep program at the Yale Catholic Center and said to the priest, “So Father, is it a problem for you that my fiancé and I have been living together?” To which the priest replied, “Not as long as you’re not so stupid as to ask me.” I myself have registered at a number of Catholic parishes in the twenty five years that Keith and I have been together, and nobody ever asked about my marital status, much less whether I use contraceptives. The Catholics were doing “Don’t ask, don’t tell” long before Bill Clinton.

Let me be clear here: I am totally in favor of divorced and remarried Catholics taking communion. Contraceptive users as well. And gay Catholics of all sorts. Even Protestants and nones when they come to Mass. Everyone who thirsts, let them come to the waters.

But the notion that Pope Francis is distinguishing divorce from gay marriage and contraception so as to placate the conservatives is laughable. Truth be told, the church has or will soon have vastly more complex problems related to sexuality to deal with than these three. For example, does the Pope agree with the Ayatollah of Iran that transgender surgery is a good thing because it cures homosexuality? Can transgender men be admitted to the priesthood? Are seminaries testing to guarantee that men about to be ordained aren’t genetically female? And will Pope Francis mention in his upcoming encyclical on the environment that chemicals  seeping into our groundwater are resulting in the births of increasing numbers of intersex infants?

Hold onto your hats.



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  1. Disappointing but what waiting for this ‘bombshell’ to drop. People were all to eager to think that Francis was the answer to all the difficulties of a contemporary church and family…..alas….the opposite views were always there on the virtual perch to fall and be disseminated.


  2. Really coherent post, Marian, as ever, on all the incoherence. Thank you!


  3. Dear Marian,

    Could you make that last line a bit clearer? I never heard of an “intersex infant”. It occurs to me that you were joking! Were you? (I tend to be far too literal.)

    Thanks, Ellen Duell



    • Alas, I am not joking. Some babies are born with a mixture of male and female organs and genes. The wikipedia entry explains the phenomenon, to some extent, but I definitely read somewhere (which I had written down the citation) that chemicals put into the water supply by processes like fracking are shifting hormones and making intersex infants more common: Here’s the wikipedia entry


      • More likely its the discarded birth control chemicals and other related materials than the possible fracking by products which are contributing to the scrambling of the sexes.


  4. Our world gets more and more like the science fiction I read and love. Thank you for your delightful clarity and humor, I look forward to your blogs.
    Pope Francis is just a guy, a pretty big improvement over some who never mentioned social justice, but not perfect. Love your insights.


  5. Thank you Marian. Your posts are always helpful to me. I pray that you are blessed in all you do.   From: Marian Ronan To: Sent: Tuesday, January 20, 2015 11:34 AM Subject: [New post] Catholic Sexual Incoherence #yiv8839424888 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv8839424888 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv8839424888 a.yiv8839424888primaryactionlink:link, #yiv8839424888 a.yiv8839424888primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv8839424888 a.yiv8839424888primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv8839424888 a.yiv8839424888primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv8839424888 | Marian Ronan posted: “Well, according to the Boston Globe’s John Allen, Pope Francis, during his visit to and trip home from the Philippines, “rebooted the debate on sex” in the Catholic Church. This is so because on Friday night, February 16th, in Manila, the pope spoke out, ” | |


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