Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Catholic Church Vigorously Supports Stem Cell Research and Treatment

In the framework of Catholic thinking, the Fifth Commandment (Thou shalt not kill) requires explicit protection of human life from the moment of conception until actual physical death. Also by a series of “penumbras and emanations,” a sensitive Catholic conscience includes (under that commandment) the need of good diet, exercise, appropriate recreation, regular check-ups, avoidance of unnecessary risks to “life and limb”[1] and good medical research. Such a conscience is highly compatible with, and indeed necessary for a sophisticated spiritual life. Indeed, real Catholicism and real science make congenial bedfellows. Within recent history, Pope John Paul II worked strenuously to exploit the resources of reason and science to enhance a Catholic understanding of “how God works.” More recently, for example, the Archbishop of Melbourne, Australia, Cardinal George Pell, offered $150,000 in grants for research into adult stem cells as a concrete commitment to morally licit scientific innovation.

Such an offer reflects an accurate picture of the Catholic Church and its vigorous support for the remarkable work done with stem cell so far. There have been some strikingly successful treatments, using stem cells, for spinal cord injuries, leukemia, Krabbe’s Leudodystrophy (a rare degenerative enzyme disorder) Parkinson’s disease and several others. The stem cells derived were from various sources. Sometimes, from pregnancy related tissues like umbilical cords, placentas and amniotic fluid. Other times, from bone marrow, livers, epidermis, retinas, skeletal tissues, intestine, brain, dental pulp. Some clinicians are using fat from liposuction for significant numbers of adult type stem cells. Some have used neural stem cells from cadavers—as late as 20 hours after death.

Clearly, such medical breakthroughs are very exciting inasmuch as stem cells can potentially be used to replace and heal damaged tissue in the body in a manner previously unknown. The enthusiasm for such research has rightly reached a very high level of expectation ---almost as if, in the future, one might have a “repair kit” in the medicine cabinet ready for any medical emergency. However, as is the case in things human and scientific, one must exercise some caution, step back for a moment and examine what we are saying. There are possibly some “catches” in the case. And there are some very real negatives which must also be examined.

The above rosy assessment focuses on adult stem cells or miscarriages. It does not accept what amounts to “the baby killing” mode of obtaining stem cells. But even with the inclusion of the miscarriage possibility, it does appear that adult cells are preferable to embryonic stem cells. There are huge reasons why adult cells are preferable. They naturally exist in our bodies in the microenvironment of an adult body as natural repair mechanisms for many of our physical ills. They “fit.” Whereas, when we introduce embryonic stem cells into an adult microenvironment, something seriously negative can happen. Scientific caution is necessary here. With the use of embryonic stem cells, teratomas (or tumors) can develop which cannot easily be controlled. Immune system reactions can occur. These cannot be sloughed off as minor points. If transplanted cells are attacked by the immune system, the entire tissue will be the target of what can be a disastrous attack. This is the tissue in which the “foreign” cell resides. (i.e. embryonic cell in adult microenvironment)

Dr. Maureen L. Condic, professor of neurobiology (University of Utah, School of Medicine) in an article appearing in First Things, Jan. 2007, questions the whole notion of embryonic stem cell research. She notes that since 2002 (NIH database) there have been 80+ highly funded research projects investigating human embryonic stem cells. In 2006, NIH anticipated spending was “just $24,300,000.”[2] There have been 900 research papers submitted since 2002 plus an additional 1,000+ papers investigating animal research. Dr. Condic wrote in 2002: “…..there is no compelling scientific argument f or the public support of research on human embryos.” She informs her readers that scientists define serious scientific challenges as problems that have stubbornly resisted the best attempts of science to solve them. After 30 years of billions of dollars spent and countless hours of research with no results, immune rejection and tumor formation are still serious scientific and medical challenges. What has come of all the futile research? Using the “line” of Ron McKay of NIH (relative to the admitted studied ambiguities of some lobbyists[3]) which states that “…people need a fairy tale…”, Dr. Condic asks her definitive question. “Isn’t it time Americans recognize the promise of obtaining medical miracles from embryonic stem cells for the fairy tale it really is?”

Dr. Tad Pacholczyk, neuroscientist from Yale, Harvard Medical and Massachusetts General Hospital solidifies her point.[4] He states the following: “Adult stem cells have been used successfully in human therapies for many years. But on the other side NO therapies in humans have ever been successfully carried out using embryonic stem cells.” In the light of this information it does seem unintelligent and imprudent to cut into the funding for already proven therapies using adult stem cells and re-direct the money to an unproven and highly resistant “possible.”

Hence, one finds it difficult to understand the ambiguous positions of famous names who drumbeat the virtues of embryonic stem research. Television and radio commercials sometimes feature Hollywood types who plead disingenuously[5] for ESCR (Embryonic stem cell research). This is sometimes done very slickly for funding without ever actually mentioning that human embryos are involved! The trick is to play on human sympathy. Sometimes, it is done most successfully on an uniformed public. It prompts one to ask several questions. What is their real motivation? What is their scientific information? Is it a case of mere ignorance, misplaced compassion or is it agenda? It has also been suggested that there is the possibility of enormous amounts of money to be made. Is this sheer nobility and humanitarianism?

It is particularly surprising in the case of educated alleged practicing Catholics. These persons have at least the information I, and thousands of others, have available. And, additionally, they have the incomparable guidance of the Holy Spirit through His Church. How can it be that the Governor of New Mexico, Bill Richardson (D) is allocating $6 million in state taxpayer funds not only for the laudable adult stem cell research but also for embryonic stem cell research? The Archbishop and Bishops of New Mexico have urged him to practice Catholic beliefs in his important work. They, in effect, remind him that ESCR is destroying human life. Is his Faith of such little import?

The Governor of Colorado, Bill Ritter (D), was similarly challenged (on another level) by Archbishop Chaput of Denver. Ritter plans to fund Planned Parenthood which Ritter says “…….specializes in the business of preventing them” (sic: children). Perhaps, to these gentlemen, being a Catholic is merely a cultural, social or familial accoutrement, to be kept in some harmless, non-meaningful “closet”. It does cause one to wonder. Only God knows, of course, but in these turbulent times, we, in the trenches, find such behavior troubling.

But, to the point. Does the Catholic Church support stem cell research? Of course. Catholic concern for the treatment of illness has been legendary throughout the ages. However, as a spiritual and humanitarian leader, it cannot and does not support the barbarism of cloning which, as a procedure, specifically destroys a human embryo in order to extract embryonic stem cells. While there has been an almost fevered race to generate a human clone, there have been only a few reports of alleged human cloning, none of which is verifiable. Some have been clear chicanery promoted by a “quasi-religious group for its own publicity” (Cf. Dr. Condic). The most outrageous was that claimed by a South Korean group (March 2004) led by Hwang Woo-Suk. The miracle has been accomplished. “We have eleven patient-specific stem cells lines from human clones……” Immediately, there was a clamor to have the Bush restriction on ESCR removed. However, it was soon discovered that Hwang’s “miracle” was a scientific fraud and that all the claimed cloned stem cell lines were fakes. Dr. Condic assures us that this should be no surprise. It is extremely difficult to clone any animal. Human cloning would be much more difficult than any other.

Even Dolly the sheep must be seen in perspective. Dolly was born as an abnormal. And the only one to survive to live birth out of 277 cloned embryos! How difficult to clone anything! Also, Dolly had to be “euthanized” due to her poor health. This was not so highly publicized as was her birth.

However, with all of the above said, let us suppose that modern technologies, now available (or soon will be) are able to use embryonic type stem cell without crossing any moral lines. (Note: embryonic type, not embryonic stem cells). Suppose those germ cells (which can be derived from the testicles) can be transmuted into embryonic-type stem cells and have the same alleged flexibility claimed for ones derived out of embryos! The Church would have no objection since there is no killing involved here. But we would insist (as with good science) that research be done on animals first.

While we say “Yes, Catholicism is highly supportive of stem cell research and its use to alleviate human ills”, at the same time we say “We are highly supportive of the culture of life. We oppose the culture of death which is inherent in embryonic stem cell research, a highly speculative project.”
________________________________________
[1] Some Catholic moralists hold smoking is immoral since it is such a clear hazard to health. Some similarly argue that prize fighting or boxing is forbidden since it so often damages participants. I have heard analogous assessment of football where so many players are seriously injured.
[2] Does this imply greater expectation of further vast funding? To whom does this money go? Cui bono? Who is benefiting financially from all the lobbying? Do big pharmaceutical firms have totally altruistic interest in ESCR?
[3] George Daley, stem cell researcher at Children’s Hospital in Boston admitted that his optimistic prediction (relative to cloned tissue) has “yet to be proven.”
[4] Stem cell research, Cloning and Human Embryos: Family Research Council, Washington, D.C. 2005
[5] It was rumored that one movie type deliberately omitted his symptom controlling medication so that he could be filmed in a commercial advocating stem cell research. With hands trembling and head rolling he masterfully pleaded that the funding should be allotted to research ( it seemed with implication of ECR)—apparently implying that such finding would quickly clear up his and others’ disease.

The Catholic Church Vigorously Supports Stem Cell Research and Treatment

In the framework of Catholic thinking, the Fifth Commandment (Thou shalt not kill) requires explicit protection of human life from the moment of conception until actual physical death. Also by a series of “penumbras and emanations,” a sensitive Catholic conscience includes (under that commandment) the need of good diet, exercise, appropriate recreation, regular check-ups, avoidance of unnecessary risks to “life and limb”[1] and good medical research. Such a conscience is highly compatible with, and indeed necessary for a sophisticated spiritual life. Indeed, real Catholicism and real science make congenial bedfellows. Within recent history, Pope John Paul II worked strenuously to exploit the resources of reason and science to enhance a Catholic understanding of “how God works.” More recently, for example, the Archbishop of Melbourne, Australia, Cardinal George Pell, offered $150,000 in grants for research into adult stem cells as a concrete commitment to morally licit scientific innovation.

Such an offer reflects an accurate picture of the Catholic Church and its vigorous support for the remarkable work done with stem cell so far. There have been some strikingly successful treatments, using stem cells, for spinal cord injuries, leukemia, Krabbe’s Leudodystrophy (a rare degenerative enzyme disorder) Parkinson’s disease and several others. The stem cells derived were from various sources. Sometimes, from pregnancy related tissues like umbilical cords, placentas and amniotic fluid. Other times, from bone marrow, livers, epidermis, retinas, skeletal tissues, intestine, brain, dental pulp. Some clinicians are using fat from liposuction for significant numbers of adult type stem cells. Some have used neural stem cells from cadavers—as late as 20 hours after death.

Clearly, such medical breakthroughs are very exciting inasmuch as stem cells can potentially be used to replace and heal damaged tissue in the body in a manner previously unknown. The enthusiasm for such research has rightly reached a very high level of expectation ---almost as if, in the future, one might have a “repair kit” in the medicine cabinet ready for any medical emergency. However, as is the case in things human and scientific, one must exercise some caution, step back for a moment and examine what we are saying. There are possibly some “catches” in the case. And there are some very real negatives which must also be examined.

The above rosy assessment focuses on adult stem cells or miscarriages. It does not accept what amounts to “the baby killing” mode of obtaining stem cells. But even with the inclusion of the miscarriage possibility, it does appear that adult cells are preferable to embryonic stem cells. There are huge reasons why adult cells are preferable. They naturally exist in our bodies in the microenvironment of an adult body as natural repair mechanisms for many of our physical ills. They “fit.” Whereas, when we introduce embryonic stem cells into an adult microenvironment, something seriously negative can happen. Scientific caution is necessary here. With the use of embryonic stem cells, teratomas (or tumors) can develop which cannot easily be controlled. Immune system reactions can occur. These cannot be sloughed off as minor points. If transplanted cells are attacked by the immune system, the entire tissue will be the target of what can be a disastrous attack. This is the tissue in which the “foreign” cell resides. (i.e. embryonic cell in adult microenvironment)

Dr. Maureen L. Condic, professor of neurobiology (University of Utah, School of Medicine) in an article appearing in First Things, Jan. 2007, questions the whole notion of embryonic stem cell research. She notes that since 2002 (NIH database) there have been 80+ highly funded research projects investigating human embryonic stem cells. In 2006, NIH anticipated spending was “just $24,3000,000.”[2] There have been 900 research papers submitted since 2002 plus an additional 1,000+ papers investigating animal research. Dr. Condic wrote in 2002: “…..there is no compelling scientific argument f or the public support of research on human embryos.” She informs her readers that scientists define serious scientific challenges as problems that have stubbornly resisted the best attempts of science to solve them. After 30 years of billions of dollars spent and countless hours of research with no results, immune rejection and tumor formation are still serious scientific and medical challenges. What has come of all the futile research? Using the “line” of Ron McKay of NIH (relative to the admitted studied ambiguities of some lobbyists[3]) which states that “…people need a fairy tale…”,Dr. Condic asks her definitive question. “Isn’t it time Americans recognize the promise of obtaining medical miracles from embryonic stem cells for the fairy tale it really is?”

Dr. Tad Pacholczyk, neuroscientist from Yale, Harvard Medical and Massachusetts General Hospital solidifies her point.[4] He states the following: “ Adult stem cells have been used successfully in human therapies for many years. But on the other side NO therapies in humans have ever been successfully carried out using embryonic stem cells.” In the light of this information it does seem unintelligent and imprudent to cut into the funding for already proven therapies using adult stem cells and re-direct the money to an unproven and highly resistant “possible.”

Hence, one finds it difficult to understand the ambiguous positions of famous names who drumbeat the virtues of embryonic stem research. Television and radio commercials sometimes feature Hollywood types who plead disingenuously[5] for ESCR (Embryonic stem cell research). This is sometimes done very slickly for funding without ever actually mentioning that human embryos are involved! The trick is to play on human sympathy. Sometimes, it is done most successfully on an uniformed public. It prompts one to ask several questions. What is their real motivation? What is their scientific information? Is it a case of mere ignorance, misplaced compassion or is it agenda? It has also been suggested that there is the possibility of enormous amounts of money to be made. Is this sheer nobility and humanitarianism?

It is particularly surprising in the case of educated alleged practicing Catholics. These persons have at least the information I, and thousands of others, have available. And, additionally, they have the incomparable guidance of the Holy Spirit through His Church. How can it be that the Governor of New Mexico, Bill Richardson (D) is allocating $6 million in state taxpayer funds not only for the laudable adult stem cell research but also for embryonic stem cell research? The Archbishop and Bishops of New Mexico have urged him to practice Catholic beliefs in his important work. They, in effect, remind him that ESCR is destroying human life. Is his Faith of such little import?

The Governor of Colorado, Bill Ritter (D), was similarly challenged (on another level) by Archbishop Chaput of Denver. Ritter plans to fund Planned Parenthood which Ritter says “…….specializes in the business of preventing them” (sic: children). Perhaps, to these gentlemen, being a Catholic is merely a cultural, social or familial accoutrement, to be kept in some harmless, non-meaningful “closet”. It does cause one to wonder. Only God knows, of course, but in these turbulent times, we , in the trenches, find such behavior troubling.

But, to the point. Does the Catholic Church support stem cell research? Of course. Catholic concern for the treatment of illness has been legendary throughout the ages. However, as a spiritual and humanitarian leader, it cannot and does not support the barbarism of cloning which, as a procedure, specifically destroys a human embryo in order to extract embryonic stem cells. While there has been an almost fevered race to generate a human clone, there have been only a few reports of alleged human cloning, none of which is verifiable. Some have been clear chicanery promoted by a “quasi-religious group for its own publicity” (Cf. Dr. Condic) The most outrageous was that claimed by a South Korean group (March 2004) led by Hwang Woo-Suk. The miracle has been accomplished. “We have eleven patient-specific stem cells lines from human clones……” Immediately, there was a clamor to have the Bush restriction on ESCR removed. However, it was soon discovered that Hwang’s “miracle” was a scientific fraud and that all the claimed cloned stem cell lines were fakes. Dr. Condic assures us that this should be no surprise. It is extremely difficult to clone any animal. Human cloning would be much more difficult than any other.

Even Dolly the sheep must be seen in perspective. Dolly was born as an abnormal. And the only one to survive to live birth out of 277 cloned embryos! How difficult to clone anything! Also, Dolly had to be “euthanized” due to her poor health. This was not so highly publicized as was her birth.

However, with all of the above said, let us suppose that modern technologies, now available (or soon will be) are able to use embryonic type stem cell without crossing any moral lines. (Note: embryonic type not embryonic stem cells). Suppose those germ cells (which can be derived from the testicles) can be transmuted into embryonic-type stem cells and have the same alleged flexibility claimed for ones derived out of embryos! The Church would have no objection since there is no killing involved here.. But we would insist (as with good science) that research be done on animals first.

While we say “Yes, Catholicism is highly supportive of stem cell research and its use to alleviate human ills” at the same time we say “ We are highly supportive of the culture of life. We oppose the culture of death which is inherent in embryonic stem cell research, a highly speculative project.”


________________________________________
[1] Some Catholic moralists hold smoking is immoral since it is such a clear hazard to health. Some similarly argue that prize fighting or boxing is forbidden since it so often damages participants. I have heard analogous assessment of football where so many players are seriously injured.
[2] Does this imply greater expectation of further vast funding? To whom does this money go? Cui bono? Who is benefiting financially from all the lobbying? Do big pharmaceutical firms have totally altruistic interest in ESCR?
[3] George Daley, stem cell researcher at Children’s Hospital in Boston admitted that his optimistic prediction (relative to cloned tissue) has “yet to be proven.”
[4] Stem cell research, Cloning and Human Embryos: Family Research Council, Washington D.C. 2005
[5] It was rumored that one movie type deliberately omitted his symptom controlling medication so that he could be filmed in a commercial advocating stem cell research. With hands trembling and head rolling he masterfully pleaded that the funding should be allotted to research ( it seemed with implication of ECR)—apparently implying that such finding would quickly clear up his and others’ disease.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Can One Be Homosexual and a Practicing Catholic at the Same Time?

In 1945 while studying for a degree in Thomistic Philosophy at the Catholic University in Washington, D.C, I had the incredible privilege of sharing the wisdom of such greats as Fulton. J. Sheen, Ignatius Smith, the scholarly Dominican priest (who was my mentor), Fr.Robert Slavin, the Silver Tongued Cosmologist, , Fr. Charles Hart, the international Ontologist and so many others. They opened our minds to the great thinkers of History and to the consequences of such thinking. We learned of Occam’s Razor and Categorical Imperatives and Principles of Non-contradiction. But throughout all our studies there was the omnipresence of the Angelic Doctor, Thomas Aquinas, whose spirit seemed to dominate everything we read and assessed.

While I have forgotten most of what I heard from those days, I have incorporated a cognitive “Thomistic piece” which might be a mutation of his thinking (or even a “rumor”). However, it has made much sense to me. He reputedly [1] said: “Never deny. Seldom affirm. Always distinguish.” Rumor or not, using this little schema allows one to attempt to answer the question: “Can one be a homosexual and a practicing Catholic the same time?” I think that one can use the “distinction” element for even rudimentary insight into the “truth” of the question and the answer.

For example, what does homosexual in this question mean? Does it mean merely the tendency [2] to same sex attraction? Does it mean actively practicing same sex behavior as a pattern? Does it mean an intellectual, political, psychological, even religious acceptance of the whole “Gay” [3] agenda? Does it speak of homosexuals living in a same sex union?

If then one distinguishes here and holds that the question asks only about a tendency which is recognized as such and which is controlled by healthy spiritual and psychological specifics, then ,of course, such a person can be, has been and will be a “good” practicing Catholic. There is no obstacle. In fact, there have been innumerable instances of Catholics with the tendency to Same Sex Attraction (SSA) who have become not only admirable Catholics but have attained high levels of sanctity. The Members of the Catholic group called Courage [4] have coined their own phrase, “The platform of Holiness” which embodies their belief that their struggle for chastity (in the Catholic sense) has allowed them a closeness to God, previously not experienced by them. Interestingly, while their success stems from many sources, one such source is the use of the mechanism called Suppression. This is substantively different from repression which stems from fear and is basically unconscious. The suppression usage is conscious and follows a courageous confrontation with sexual drives. It looks directly at sexual compulsions and deviations and makes a conscious choice to opt for interior chastity. It nourishes the chaste external lifestyle so strongly demanded by the loving Lord.

Fairly recently, a Manhattan group of dissident homosexual Catholics met for monthly meetings in which they supported each others’ active gay life. They encouraged each other to continue partaking of the Catholic life and insisted that it was appropriate to simultaneously carry the persona of the “Good Catholic.” The layman leader of the Group testified in a local newspaper article that they never actually raised the Catholic position. He liked keeping it all “ ambiguous.” He preferred to “leave it to the person.” There was no confrontation with the actual teaching of the Church. Here was deliberate suppression with a negative choice. One might predict like a hyperbolic curve that the group would become chaotic and dissolve. It did. Both the present Pope, Benedict XVI (when he was Prefect of the Defense of the Faith) and Cardinal Trujilllo (when he was with the Family Council of the Vatican,) supported the notion that to be silent about the teaching of the Church in this instance is “ neither pastoral nor caring.” This can be analogously applicable to the alleged “love” of the all permissive parent who watches his child disintegrate while he protests how accepting he is. Perhaps, we should label such parental behavior for what it is—basic hostility with a mask!

There can be, in fact, a contradiction in the question itself unless one makes the necessary distinction. Oxymoronic means a basic inner contradiction of terms, within a word or phrase or sentence. “Practicing Catholic and active homosexual” is clearly oxymoronic.

The Catholic Church definitely teaches that homosexual acts are always wrong. Always sinful. Always abominable in God’s sight. Such behavior can never be approved. With this distinction, the answer to the question is also patent. Such persons are in direct opposition to the Catholic teaching and in no way could be considered as good or practicing Catholics. So, should a questioner fail to make such a distinction and hold, a la the theology of inclusion, that homosexual sexual behavior between two men or women is acceptable to the Church and that such persons might approach the Communion line or rail, he would be obviously acting out of order. Logically, any behavior could otherwise be justified, couldn’t it? Adulterers. Thieves. Arsonists. Perverts. Character assassins. Fornicators. Anything? The only requirement, then, is a desire to join the Church. Don‘t ask questions. Don’t have criteria for admission. God will understand. A reductio ad absurdum! [5] Realistically, the Catholic Church is not meant to be a warm, fuzzy place which makes you feel good. It is rather a place of transformation, sacrifice and Cross carrying.

There are some within the Church (alas, including even some na├»ve clerics) who, with loving but misplaced compassion, opt to overlook Catholic wisdom and centuries old experience and, in effect, say that we will disregard the teachings (ultimately) of Christ’s own Church. Recently, a prestigious Religious Order announced that because of financial strictures, it would close a Center in a large city which was dedicated to Gay persons. In the announcement, it was stated that many persons (presumably homosexuals) have been kept in the Church because of the accepting style of the Center. Yet when the Members (homosexuals) were advised that they could continue their religious lives by attending the local Cathedral, they refused because the local Bishop would not support same sex marriages! Yet, in the minds of the well intentioned clerics, these Homosexuals were being kept in the Church!

It was particularly upsetting, at a public meeting, to hear a “searching” Catholic lesbian lament that in a recent confession, the confessor gave her advice which was utterly contrary to Catholic teaching and practice. “Jesus never said anything about homosexuality.. so it is O.K”. “Don’t be too hasty in shelving your gay relationship..” The Church will change in time and will publicly accept gay living into Catholic life…” An old priest present at the meeting in some kind of semi-tragic need to appear chic and “today,” suggested that the confessor was just being kind. The lesbian replied with a terse remark that Jesus did say something about those who mislead His little ones and the attendant millstone tied around the neck of the disloyal one [6]. Such clerical malfeasance, especially in the Confessional, does nothing in the long run but confuse and hurt God’s people. It almost appears that these clerics are obsessed with the need for others to love and approve them. This is quite distant from the Lord’s rule: we are to serve and not to be served. To a psychologist much of the all giving and all loving stance of these clerics is really a mask for deep unconscious hostility which is difficult to face consciously. It is a similar dynamic one finds in the all permissive parent, mentioned above, who unconsciously says: “Go cut your throat. Don’t bother me. Do whatever you want…” True love is tough and other oriented. Priests are called “Father” and are expected to act as loving surrogate parents not as buddies for their teenage charges.


When once I asked a liberal homosexual priest why he stayed in the priesthood when he blatantly disagreed with his own Church’s teaching on homosexual behavior, he assured me that despite his interior angst, he believed that he was functioning as a prophet. He intended with this prophetic dimension of the priesthood to change the Church’s teaching by working from within. There was little I could do to enlighten him that his ambition was similar to butting his head against the wall. God’s commandments were not for one era only or to end in April of 2007. They are forever and unchangeable.


The threat by active homosexual Catholics that they will leave the Church unless they get what they want is analogous to children threatening to hold their breath until they turn blue unless their desires are met. Spiritual blackmail cannot change God’s Will. Interestingly, the stance of other religious groups which fully accept homosexual demands is unappealing to these people. They still wish to remain Catholics but find it very difficult to live up the Catholic ethic. But that is the challenge of the Cross which realistically cannot be dismissed. Sometimes in my vulnerable and tired moments, I find myself hoping they will join another group, take their demands elsewhere and leave us alone! But we have the obligation to seek all lost sheep which is exactly what the Church does in insisting on the observance of the law of God. And it is important to note that keeping God’s law is not unjust oppression or discrimination. It is a concrete expression of the Love of the Lord for us all. One might recall His admonition: “If you love Me, keep My commandments…” Love, after all, does serve!


There is the constant and beautiful picture of Christ presented as loving everyone and forgiving everyone. And everything. The woman caught in adultery is a favorite image presented by some all loving, all forgiving and all accepting liberal Catholics. God understands, they say, and besides everyone has a right to love and be loved. Therefore, gay people have every right to live their sexual lives however they wish and still have every right to the Eucharist. Put some big bucks in the basket on Sunday – and Voila!--- homosexuals can be good Catholics. Cynical? Perhaps, but that was one aspect of the rationale presented once by an angry gay Pastor for admitting active Gays into full communion in his parish.

Where is the rest of the story of the adulterous woman? Most of us know that Christ did indeed forgive but clearly ordered the woman to amend her life and “Sin no more.” Atonement is expected, even required. Forgiveness has its own painful price. This is understood by those of good faith. A retired top NYPD official (whom I have known for 40 years) after a bitter divorce, entered an illicit relationship with a divorced person. In spite of his deep desire to receive the Eucharist, he refrains because he has faced a harsh truth. The Church regards his present arrangement as “sinful”--- at least objectively. While only God knows his real moral status, he is still barred from Holy Communion, a consequence he accepts with sadness. But he is ruthlessly honest and knows that Mary Poppins resolutions are not necessarily Catholic. Patronizing pats on the head are for children. Adults face reality and own their responsibility.

Obviously, another distinction must be made. What does one mean by the Church? Are legitimate discussion debate, dissent and dialogue included in the notion of Church? One would think so as long as challengers (like me) believe and accept the teachings of the Lord as taught in Catholicism. Those who wish to turn the Catholic Church into a long range image of the Episcopalian church which is so obviously imploding or, even, into Unitarians, are not, in my opinion, of the Church. It is an old and solid principle that one can tell the loyal Catholic by how he follows the axiom: Sentire cum ecclesia [7]. And that means, clearly, the Pope and the Magisterium of the Church.

Like almost every living psychologist, I answer the question with a cautious “ It all depends”.

Yes. The Catholic with SSA who strives for a chaste life and accepts the teaching that sexual expression is only for a man and a woman in lawful marriage, is to be encouraged to practice the Faith in all its privileges.

No. The Catholic with SSA who rejects the Church’s teaching on sexual morality, both as a personal practice and as a belief is out of order.. Until and unless he accepts Christ in the fullness of Catholicism, he cannot be considered a “good” Catholic. He can and should attend Mass, refraining from the Eucharist and should pray daily for the grace of conversion .

Hence, to prepare to answer the question of this essay, one might gainfully understand the value of distinctions. Then make your answer.

[1] Up to now, I have never been able to track down any attribution in the writings of Thomas Aquinas. It might have been Duns Scotus after all.

[2] Tendency is used rather than “orientation” which implies total almost innate pervasion. Tendency avoids this mistake by seeing the drive as secondary rather than primary as do the Gay Activists.

[3] Gay basically means a political stance whereby everything is assessed in terms of homosexual values and goals. This means same sex marriage, gay adoption, equivalence of homosexual practices with the usual historical norms of society.

[4] Courage, founded by Cardinal Cooke and Fr John Harvey, articulates the Catholic view that licit sex expression is exclusively for a man and a woman in lawful marriage. All else including homosexual behavior is not only inappropriate but sinful.

[5] This refers to the reduction of a proposition to such an intellectual position that the mind involuntarily rejects it as irrational and totally unacceptable.

[6] Does one need to be reminded of the horrific consequences noted by the Master?

[7] Loosely translated, “…..to feel with the Church..” Or vibrate or believe.