September 1999

Unsavory

I wonder if I’m the only subscriber puzzled by the letter entitled “‘Gay’ Now Means Lame” and your approving editorial comments following the letter (June). I can’t imagine that you intended to endorse bigotry or that you would victimize anyone, but it’s impossible to resist drawing exactly those inferences from your editorial comments.

I have worked as a teacher and high school administrator for many years. So naturally I was interested in your citing the authority of teenagers to confirm the letter writer’s assertion that, “Teens use it [the word gay] to mean lame. Instead of saying, ‘That’s so lame,’ they say, ‘That’s so gay.’” As for some teenagers’ mean-spirited use of the word gay, you should know that there are many adults who never miss an opportunity to have a discussion with one who voices it in their vicinity. Along with other terms of disapprobation rooted in ignorance and discrimination, that is one that demands conversation and education. Why do kids pick on gays at school? Think it has anything to do with normal adolescent anxiety about sexuality in general? Do you think it accidental that gay teenagers commit suicide much more frequently than straight teenagers? Perhaps their desperation just might have something to do with the fact that they are systematically abused by some (though by no means all) of their peers, and by others in society at large. The sad truth is, by explicitly aligning yourself with gay-bashers and celebrating their slurs, you contribute to an atmosphere in which everybody stands in direct risk of harm. Why would you dare take a chance of doing that?

But of course, your editorial comments are nothing more than a pseudo-romp in support of another agenda, which is this: “Gay,” for you, is a term for “absurd sex.” Gay is the word for sex without meaning. The word for that attitude of yours is smug. There may be plenty of absurd sex taking place, but not all of it takes place between members of the same sex. Even St. Paul in 1 Corinthians would have trouble with your extremist stance: It may be wrong to be homosexual, but he made it clear that it’s much worse to persecute and hate in the name of Jesus.

Do you hold out for the possibility — the slightest possibility — that there are biological determinants that might conceivably dictate, or at least influence, sexual orientation or desire? Or do you believe that today we know all we need to know about genetics and brain chemistry? If you do, you certainly wouldn’t be alone, but most of your colleagues are now living on mountaintops waiting for the Second Coming. No wonder plenty of Catholics think and hope that the Church will one day reverse its stand on homosexuality. If this sounds unfathomable, repeat this name to yourself: Galileo Galilei.

When you affirm that gay now means lame, you are using a revealing metaphor, word-purists that you profess being. You imply thereby that, since for you gay is wrong and flawed, there is something wrong and flawed with being disabled. I’m afraid Jesus takes issue with you there. He reserves his invective for his confused followers who assume that those he has miraculously cured were maimed for cause. Jesus, of course, has no fear of taking an unpopular stand. But he also has no fear of compassion. Compassion? Now, that’s one word I’d like to find in one of your editorial comments. I have a perfect place where you could use it too: in a reconsideration of your unsavory remarks.

Joseph Di Prisco
Berkeley, California




THE EDITOR REPLIES:

You want an end to “unsavory remarks.” Teacher, teach thyself! You circuitously accuse us of being bigots, victimizers, persecutors, and haters, and you straightforwardly accuse us of being smug extremists and allies of both End-Time fanatics and gay-bashers (and you label certain teenagers as mean-spirited, ignorant, and discriminatory). Truly, you are a master of the unsavory remark, a virtuoso name-caller! (Compared to all the slurs you hurl around, “lame” is quite tame.)

Now, we’ve been called almost all the things you call us, plus other distasteful things, on many occasions. We’ve been “systematically abused.” But that hasn’t given us the urge to commit suicide. You contend that when teens say “That’s so gay” (meaning “That’s so lame”), they contribute to an atmosphere that causes homosexual teens to commit suicide. Do homosexuals jump off bridges because of schoolyard jibes? In suggesting that, you are portraying them as lame in the extreme. (Consider real victimization and persecution — say, that of Christians and other dissidents by Communist regimes since 1917 and continuing to this day. These harassed, imprisoned, and tortured people were not and are not prone to commit suicide. Interesting!)

Word-purists that we are (or at least try to be), we know that “lame” not only means disabled; it also means weak, ineffectual, unsatisfactory; and in slang it means not in the know. We suspect it’s the second and third meanings, not the first meaning, that teens have in mind when they use “gay” as a euphemism for “lame.” Be that as it may, the Catechism of the Catholic Church calls homosexual acts “disordered,” and the revised Catechism adds that the homosexual inclination itself is “disordered,” which is like saying sexually disabled. But this sexual disability is not like an ordinary disability. Homosexuals may abstain from their disability, whereas ordinarily disabled people do not have that option. Homosexuals who’ve failed to abstain may seek forgiveness from God, whereas ordinarily disabled people are not in need of forgiveness simply because of their disability. These are moral distinctions that must be made.

As for your appeal to Galileo: Pope John Paul II said to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences (Oct. 31, 1992) that “the Galileo case has been a sort of ‘myth,’” according to which the Church stands convicted of “‘dogmatic’ obscurantism.” And, as Paul Cardinal Poupard noted in presenting a report on the findings of the Papal Commission on Galileo on October 31, 1992, in the Vatican, Galileo suffered house arrest because he disobeyed a misguided “disciplinary measure” imposed by the Church. Galileo was not found guilty of violating official Church doctrine. But the Church’s teaching on homosexuality is a matter of official doctrine, not discipline. If in the very unlikely event it is proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that all homosexuals are born that way, the Church’s teaching on the sinfulness of homosexual acts will not be “reversed.” After all, we’re all required by God not to sin, even though we’re all born sinners. Moreover, as the Holy See’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith stated (with the Holy Father’s explicit approval) in a “Notification” released to the public on July 14, 1999, the Church’s teaching that homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered” is “definitive” and “unchangeable.”

As for kids picking on homosexuals in school: That would never happen if the latter stayed in the closet. A couple of my good friends in high school were (as I found out years later) homosexuals. It was a rough school, but no one picked on them for the simple reason that no one knew they were homosexuals.

Why are homosexuals prone to commit suicide? Probably because they themselves know deep down that theirs is a disordered and desperate way of life. How can they be saved from suicide? By scolding kids who say “That’s so gay”? Oh, puh-leez! Moreover, to eradicate what remains of the social stigma against homosexuality would only invite more kids to experiment with and adopt that disordered, desperate, and suicide-prone way of life. The answer is to direct homosexuals to the forgiveness and new life found in Jesus.




Catholic Ad Policy?

I know that Our Sunday Visitor and the National Catholic Register refuse to print your trademarks ads, but I don’t recall if the National Catholic Reporter also refuses to print them. I read the Reporter to find out what “the other side” is doing. In its May 21 issue there was a display ad promoting a “prophetic community…in which women and men act as equals and partners in ministry, celebrate inclusivity in language, ministries and structures…and officiate at weddings and funerals.” Does this reflect the Reporter’s conception of a Catholic advertising policy?

Gordon M. Seely
Belmont, California




Ed. Note:

Yes, sad to say, it probably does. And yes, the Reporter finds our trademark ads unacceptable for publication. While we don’t go looking for beyond-the-pale ads in the Reporter, we won’t forget the classified ad in the October 30, 1998, Reporter for something called the National Catholic Church of America offering “priesthood for men and women” and promising to be “gay/lesbian affirming.” Nor will we forget the display ad in the April 9, 1999, Reporter for an outfit called Goddess Gate in Mexico offering “cross-cultural exploration of feminine power….” Goddesses, priestesses, and homosexuality — need we say more about the Reporter’s ad policies?




Defensive War vs. Total War

In response to Rexford Davis’s letter (June), there are several important points I would like to make about Just War theory.

Davis’s objections to the defensive nature of the Just War seem to be the result of a misunderstanding; he apparently thinks that this limits a military force to those means that are purely defensive in nature. In fact, “defensive” refers to the motivation of the war. The original article in the NOR by Nicholas Lund-Molfese (April) was not as clear on this point as it might have been; in fact, I suspect his argument may have been somewhat mistaken. Many interpretations of Just War theory point out that an actual military attack is not necessary for a defensive intent. Serious oppression, if it threatens the well-being of a nation’s people, is sufficient. However, this does not mean that any means may be used to fight a war, even if it is “defensive.” Nor does it mean that we are justified in completely crushing our enemies.

Davis clearly endorses total war, arguing that it is the inevitable result of modern technology, and that bombing civilians is legitimate because most of them can be presumed to support the war effort in one way or another. Our nation is fortunate that we never had a Coventry, or that we did not suffer the fire bombings we inflicted on Dresden, Cologne, and Tokyo — I suspect this would change our outlook on total war. These were barbaric and unjustifiable actions.

Davis states that the atomic bombs used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki “saved” a great many lives because we didn’t have to invade Japan. But Japan had already made two efforts to negotiate a surrender. An enemy who is trying to surrender is hardly a legitimate target for nuclear attack, no matter how you look at it.

There were other military options than invasion, such as imposing a blockade, or destroying the military capacity to continue war against us (which we had already achieved for the most part).

If the use of atom bombs was just a “demonstration” of what we could do, we could just as easily have demonstrated them on some noncivilian target — dropping the second bomb cannot be justified. And neither target had any real military value, nor would a nuclear weapon have been necessary to destroy the military targets that were there. This means that it was our intention to kill civilians. This (too) was total war.

Our declared intention that we would only accept an “unconditional surrender” is the real reason that invasion seemed necessary, and then (to save American combatant lives) that dropping atom bombs seemed necessary. But unconditional surrender is itself a violation of the Just War. It meant that our intent was no longer to defend ourselves from an unjust aggressor, but also to destroy that enemy. This desire for revenge was understandable under the circumstances, but still unjust. Admittedly, this has been the underlying philosophy of almost all 20th-century wars, but then we’ve had the bloodiest and most barbaric wars in history in this century. At any rate “everyone else is doing it” has never been considered an adequate moral justification for doing wrong.

Finally, our use of nuclear weapons effectively released the nuclear genie from the bottle. We may find that others will feel themselves justified in trying to do the same to us — one of the natural consequences of immoral acts. Now, with nuclear weapons in the hands of more and more nations, can we really believe that none of them will consider using them to “save” lives?

Mark Cole
Warren, Pennsylvania




“John Paul the Great”? Not Quite

If Pope John Paul is succeeded by someone even better than he in terms of enforcing orthodoxy against those who oppose or undermine it, would a big schism occur in the U.S. and wherever liberals have wormed their way into the Church’s bureaucracy? In my opinion that would be no bad thing. This is an outcome, however, that John Paul seems to have wished to avoid throughout his pontificate. I do wonder why, though. Yes, the battle lines are clearer now than when he became Pope in 1978, but after over 20 years of effort that’s not much to show for.

Prof. William J. Tighe
Muhlenberg College
Allentown, Pennsylvania




Reverence to a Fault

Regarding the article “God Be in My Hand — or on My Tongue?” by Rev. David Watt (June), which contends that receiving the Host on the tongue is preferable to receiving in the hand: Eamon Duffy’s The Stripping of the Altars presents a picture of the reverence of “early Christians” for the Eucharist. The Host was so revered that virtually only the priest could look upon and receive Him. At that time hardly anyone “received” at all. Should we return to that degree of awe and reverence?

In the Bible when Jesus touches or is touched, His healing Love passes out from Him through touch. One can barely comprehend the feeling of touching Jesus as the people in His lifetime did. But now we can touch this same Jesus, alive here present for us — only if we believe the consecrated bread and wine is the Body and Blood of Him who told His disciples to “bring the little ones to Me.” Surely He patted some of them on the head, smiled, lifted one up, while others were clinging to His robe, others with outstretched arms wanting to be lifted up and carried in His arms.

This is why we receive Jesus in our hands. Look at Him for a second and contemplate His command to take My Body and eat it, take My Blood and drink it.

Life is an evolution of growth and decay. Our understanding of things changes. For example, we seldom use black garments at funerals; though we are saddened by death we see it as a joyous occasion, as we are to be reunited with God. Isn’t this a better way of viewing death? Of course we always understood this, but isn’t white a better expression of it?

Donald & Jeannette O”Rourke
Manchester, New Hampshire




Spiritual Body

I’ve taught religion in Catholic schools and colleges for 22 years, have been a daily communicant for over 50 years, and have read everything I can find on the Eucharist. Not only do I accept the Church’s teaching on the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, but I consider it our fundamental doctrine, by which the Church stands or falls. Yet some polls find that belief in the doctrine among Catholics is ebbing away. Could Catholics benefit from a new insight into the Real Presence, one that is easily understandable and plainly found in Scripture?

I will share one that came to me recently, after a strange experience that seemed like a temporary death (others have told me they, too, have experienced this temporary death). I seemed to be floating weightlessly, looking down on my own body. My spiritual body was identical to the lifeless physical body below. Suddenly Jesus was on my right, speaking to me from a blindingly brilliant light. I know that according to the Creed Jesus’ glorified body is “seated at the right hand of the Father.” I felt his “real presence,” a bodily presence as real as my own.

After this experience I went back to some Scripture passages I had read many times with no more reaction than “That’s nice.” Now I began to grasp new meaning in them. St. Paul relates (2 Cor. 12:1-4) that he went up to the third heaven “whether in the body or out of the body, I do not know. Only God knows.” Perhaps it was because of this experience that St. Paul can state so emphatically (in 1 Cor. 15:44), “If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body.” Could it have been my spiritual body, and the spiritual body of Jesus, that I had encountered in my strange experience? And could it be that this is the way in which Jesus is present in the Eucharist — in His spiritual body?

From the earliest days, the Church has taught that Jesus is present — body, blood, soul, and divinity — in the tiniest particle of consecrated bread or wine. St. Paul declares, “Therefore whoever eats of the bread or drinks of the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner is guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Cor. 11:27) (emphasis added). St. Peter says that Jesus “being put to death in the flesh, was made alive in the spirit, and, in the spirit, he went to preach the Good News to the spirits who had died” (1 Pet. 3:18-19, 4:6). Being “in the spirit” means the same as being in one’s “spiritual body.”

Because Jesus in his spiritual body is really and objectively present in the Eucharist, Pope Paul VI — while noting Christ’s presence in the assembly, the readings, the preaching, etc. — reminds us that the Eucharist is Christ’s “unique presence,” “presence in the fullest sense,” where He is “wholly and entirely present,” “present corporeally” (Mysterium Fidei, 1965).

There is definitely a lack of appreciation for the Real Presence — a lack of belief, even — among priests and bishops who renovate their churches in disobedience to Canon 938 (1983), which requires that the tabernacle in which the most holy Sacrament is reserved should be “prominent, conspicuous, and beautifully decorated.” In the face of disdain or disbelief among many Catholics, how can we grasp yet more firmly the essential fact of Jesus’ objective, corporeal presence in the Eucharist? The technical term “transubstantiation” is difficult to explain. Perhaps we can legitimately envision that Jesus’ real, immortal, invisible, spiritual body is present in the Eucharist under the appearances of bread and wine.

Jane Collard
Julian, California



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