Tuesday, January 18, 2005

What Does the Bishop Mean?

From my morning reading of the Globe & Mail I see that Bishop Fred Henry, the Catholic Ordinary of Calgary, has launched into media orbit a pastoral letter on Same Sex marriage, which is blowing up into a major controversy. Bishop Henry last caught the attention during the last federal election campaign when he attacked Mr. Martin for his stance on this issue. The following quotation is at issue.

Since homosexuality, adultery, prostitution and pornography undermine the foundations of the family, the basis of society, then the State must use its coercive power to proscribe or curtail them in the interests of the common good.

It is my guess that Bishop Henry has stepped into a large cow paddy on this one. What can he mean by the use of the phrase "coercive power of the state?"

Those who read my blog regularly know at least two things about me. First, I am a practicing, believing, Catholic. Second, I am opposed to same sex marriage. To this list you may add a third item. I am appalled at the unpastoral language used by this bishop of the Church, who does the cause of faith and reason no favours with his letter.

Frankly, much of the letter ought not to surprise anyone with a modicum of knowlege of the Church's doctrinal positions on marriage and sexuality. The Catechism of the Catholic Faith (which lays out the doctrines of the Church) teaches a difficult truth about homosexuality. It views homosexual activity as being sinful. Anyone surprised so far?

2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,140 tradition has always declared that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered."141 They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

2359 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.

It is Section 2358 of the Catechism where Bishop Henry falls short in his pastoral duty. He failed to treat the subjects of his pastoral letter with, "...respect, compassion, and sensitivity." ..... and I want an explanation on what he means by advocating the coercive power of the state.


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