Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Snarky Theology 4: "Things that go boink in the night." Catholicism on Sex and Gays

This one may have slightly less snark.  We'll see how it turns out.

I hear from a lot of people that the Catholic Church is obsessed with sex.  I usually hear this from people who aren't Catholic, or Catholics who haven't been to church since they left their parents' basement.  I've been going to church every Sunday for about 20 years.  That's approximately a 1300 masses, with holy days ... and I'm adding this note at 2:30 in the morning, so don't nitpick my math ....

In all 1300 masses, I don't think I've never heard the priest talk about sex unless there was a reading that involved adultery, or someone begetting someone else.

This month, I turn 29. I believe I am one of the few male beings on the planet, and maybe the only person in New York City, who is deliberately a virgin.

I put special emphasis on deliberately, since being one involuntarily is not really that impressive for a nerd of my caliber. I've been given the option, and I have expressly said no.  I don't think this is a gloating matter, and I don't mean it to be "Haha, I'm more virtuous than you," I mean it more in the context of "Whew, I dodged a bullet."

My reasons for avoiding sex are numerous. For starters, I'm not married.  I have personal reasons (I've met too many people where sex has taken normal people with slight personality quirks, and turned them into full-on neurotic messes). I have practical reasons (my parents are both in the medical field, and I ask far too many questions when I'm at a microbiology conference--did you know that there are 25 difference STDs, 50 with varying mutations, and that condoms have an 85% failure rate against pregnancies, and viruses are many, many times smaller than a sperm cell? Oy!)

Also: I've got this strange notion from my philosophy and my faith that has said that, “Sex should be the perfect union of two people, so that they are linked biologically, psychosomatically, psychologically, and spiritually, making them one.  You don't do that with just anybody.”

Hey, I warned you I was a romantic sap. You should expect some of this tripe every so often.

But this is just me. What about the Church of Rome?

Oh, yeah, apologetics.

My last, "philosophical / religion" position, is the same position of the Catholic Church, which isn't half as obsessed with sex as the average American. To expand on that original premise, sex should be such a perfect union, only undertaken by two people in a committed relationship. And, sex should also fulfill all of its natural functions.  I briefly covered this topic before.

Thus, the Roman Catholic Church is the only one where sex is a sacrament.... Something blessed by Christ that gives god’s grace

Yes, you read that right. You get married, you are supposed to have sex. Children should be an end result, but timing is everything, isn't it? There are usually enough signs and portents in the average hormone cycle that self control is the best method of birth control available.

For the record: sterility doesn't really enter into the equation. The married couple having sex is doing everything right, it's just a matter of equipment failure.

And now you know everything about the Church's, um, position on sex … Tab A goes into Slot B.  The Church doesn't care where else it stops on the way, it doesn't care if whips, chains, exhibitionism, or anything else is involved, as long as the end result adds up to Tab A in Slot B.  It doesn't matter how it starts, it matters where you finish. 

And, personally, not only do I not care, I don't want to know.

In sum: sex that has no possibility of procreation is considered a deliberate violation of the natural order of things, and hence considered a sin.  Save sex for marriage, and after that, knock yourself out.  Have fun. Thank you, the end, goodbye ....

What? You mean I missed something?

Q: “What about the pill?”

A: Sigh ...

To start with, even environmentalists are wary about the pill.  Something about chemicals and the environment.  I'm not big into the Green movement, so find one of the Green people to explain this. 

Aside from medical purposes, the Church doesn't like the pill; to start with, it's tinkering with natural body chemistry, and I have to tell you, the warning labels scare the crap out of me. And, I already told you, marriage is a contract to have children—unless the pill is for a medical purpose, like to correct an aspect of body chemistry that's out of whack, Catholic married people don't need it, do they?

Q: “What about condoms?” Again, marriage, contract, children.  Tab A into Slot B. 

A: Let's look at something ELSE the Pope said about contraceptives, aside from the Condom article.  "If we separate sexuality and fecundity from each other in principle ... then sexuality becomes arbitrary.  Logically, every form of sexuality is of equal value."

In English: when you separate sex from producing children, sleeping with a hooker has just as much value as sleeping with your wife.  They both have the same outcomes, and are treated with just as much responsibility.  Separate sex from reproduction, and now you can introduce animals and batteries into the conversation.

Q: "But maybe I don't want to have children right now, and I am married, and no one has an STD?"

A: Okay, fine, if you want to drag this out.....

What do you call a girl who uses the rhythm method of birth control?  Pregnant. We've all heard this joke, and there are probably priests who've told this joke.  The rhythm method is so broken, it's not funny.  There is something called natural family planning, which requires observation of natural body functions, and self control.  Please look it up yourself, I am not going into those details here on this blog, thank you very much.  Though I should note that it has a success rate against pregnancies that is somewhere in the mid-90% range. 

To quote the pope (Yes, I'm whipping out the Pope here), the Church goes for
"natural regulation of conception, which is not just a method, but also a way of life.  Because it presupposes that couples take time for each other.  And that is something fundamentally different from when I take the pill without binding myself interiorly to another person, so that I can jump into bed with a random acquaintance."

IE: If you don't want to have children, use your brain, and keep it zipped for a few days, okay?  Thanks.

Bye.  We're done. Good day.

Q; “But I'm not married, but I want to have sex. That means I should ditch both the pill and condoms, right?”

A: All right, fine.  I'm going to bash my head against a wall a little.

Keep it zipped if you're not married is the Church's position. As I already mentioned in my Church, Sex and Latex article, if you're already committing a sin (like, you know, non-marital sexual affairs, or even, God save us, extra-marital affairs), taking precautions to mitigate side-effects of your screwing around would be a good idea.

Q: “Are you judging me?” 

A: I don't know how many times I can say that, 1) I don't care  2) I'm only explaining aspects of my religion, and 3) as far as judgement goes, I already did that article.  I've been asked these questions a lot.  And very often, I have to say it a few times.

Q:  "But what about this fling I had"---

A: Let me stop you right there, and see if I can issue a generic statement that should cover a lot of things.

Can we agree that somethings are better than others?  Dark Chocolate better than milk chocolate, or New York Pizza versus California pizza, or ... you get the idea.

As far as sex goes, it was once broken down for me like this ... think of this as the only secular portion of this blog.

Solo <   $ <   One Night <  Friends w/Benefits <    Girlfriend <    Committed Relationship <  Marriage.

And if I have to translate that into English for you, forget it. This blog has been PG in language since the start, I'm not having it go into an R rating now.

Even Matt, who is an atheist, and as far as I can get from Catholic theology, has also noted that a committed relationship is better than occasional flings ... And he's made this argument from experience.  I guess I'm not the only romantic sap around here.

Oh, yeah, and Matt's position is basically a secular version of the Catholic Church's.  Again, Rome prefers a committed relationship that lasts for, oh, life.  But welcome to America, where the divorce rate is a little over 40%

Q: "The Divorce rate is over 60%, isn't it?"  

A:  Not if you take out all of the repeat customers to the lawyer's office (thank you to my friend Jason for that number).  Next topic?

Q “What about gays? Why does the church hate them?”

A: ..... 

The Catholic Church hates nobody.  If it makes you feel any better, if I get any more stupid questions, I will hate you.

Let's go straight to the videotape.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church says

"The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible ... 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."

Yes, we really hate gays, don't we?

Q:  "Then what's the Catholic issue with Gays?"

Here's the part where the Church and gays might, conceivably, have an issue:

Back to the Catechism.  "Basing itself on Sacred Scripture .... tradition has always declared that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered."

Yes, that's the harshest word that Catholics have towards gays: disordered.  Ooooo, let's call out the SWAT team... And when you consider that the American Psychological Association had homosexuality down as a psychological disorder until a couple of decades ago, I wonder where we got the term from .....

Here's a question for you, dear reader: What do the gay commentator and playwright Harvey Fierstein, Lesbian Lawyer and ex-NOW (CA) President Tammy Bruce, and the Pope all have in common?

They really don't like gay lifestyles …

Nope, I'm not joking.

With Fierstein, a little background.  Fierstein was picketed for a brief period of time in the early 1980s, because he had come out with a play that had three, monogamous, gay couples ... he was picketed by gays, who protested on the grounds that "We can have sex with anyone at anytime, we don't need to be tied down to one person!"

Then newspaper stories on AIDS came out soon after, and monogamy became very popular.

More recently, Fierstein has noted that the trends have come back.  He's written in the New York Times about a trend of gay youth that says “Hey, if you get AIDS, that means you have become a man!” Apparently, according to Fierstein, the triple cocktail and other AIDS medications have made AIDS "trendy"—the infected can live for decades, so now it's “just a status symbol.”  Fierstein's a little nervous of such "trends." 

Lesbian, Lawyer, and ex-NOW California President Tammy Bruce has noted that this thought process of "Hey!  AIDS won't kill you immediately" has led to another trend—multiple partners a year, with numbers in the triple-digits.

While, on the other hand, you have the Catholic church running clinics that take care of 25% of all AIDS victims on the planet, and 40% of those infected in Africa.

Now, if you go from the Catholic position on sex, you can understand why the church doesn't like gay sex.  The distinction usually made that that the Church dislikes the actions, not the people committing the acts.  Hence why on one hand, we should care for the people, but the actions are "disordered."  The older summation of this idea (going back 1500 years) is: "Error has no rights, but people do."

Also, let me note something.  Last time I checked, the Catholic Church has never utilized stoning as an official punishment for, well, anything.  We don't kill people for being something -- being gay is not a sin.  Thank you.

Q: "So, what? That means you're going to legislate who people love?" 

A: Me? Personally? I don't careI'll say it until I'm blue in the face.  Sleep with whoever you like, just don't tell me about it the morning after.  This goes for you straight people, too. 

In fact, since there are more straight people than gays, this goes double for you.

Again, it's not about who loves who.  It's more lifestyle issues.

Q: "So, basically, that means that all gays should become virgin priests?" 

It's not required.  Though it's not out of the question, because a lot of gays are following that route. 

According to statistics from Fr. Andrew M. Greeley, PhD (Sociology, U of Chicago), about 10% of the priesthood is gay, and keeping it zipped. (I'll see if I can find a link for this, I remember this from an article of his a few years ago -- and you type in "gay" and "Catholic" into a search engine, see what screwed up stuff you get).

Q: So, pedophilia ...?
A: Separate question, separate article. I'm blogging as fast as I can.  Short version from the Church: pedophilia bad.  Personally: If I had my way, sharp objects and kerosene will be involved ... but no one asks my opinion.

I think that just about covers it.  Any other questions can be asked in my comments.  If you have issues with how I have translated Italian, religious Bureaucratic-Speak into Plain English, comment.  If you have complaints about the content of what I have said, take it up with the Vatican. 

HOWEVER, keep it civil.  I've never said it before, but before the little exchange of words over Lent, I never felt the need to.  I did not delete any of the comments from the Lent article, because I didn't tell people "no profanity," and I wasn't going to pull a bait and switch.   Now, you have been warned.

Keep in mind, next week we will have a guest blog from Ann Margaret Lewis, an interview with her, and a review of her novel Murder in the Vatican: The Church Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes.


  1. John, that bit about AIDS and gay culture is so ridiculous as to evade even cursory reply.

    But I think you left out a very important part of Catholic sexuality -- masturbation. Where does the Church stand on masturbation? You make stray reference to it in your hierarchy of sexual activities, but I think you should develop the theme a little.

    Additionally, and because we should always put our money where our mouth is, as Jesus himself did on the Cross, what has the Catholic Church done to promulgate these sexual policies? How has it made married, monogamous love possible for Catholic youths?

    And, just to be perfectly clear, your reference to an act-actor divide raises a very important question: isn't "love the sinner, hate the sin" (words you didn't use) a fundamentally un-Christian attitude? And if yes, how do you better characterize the Catholic stance on sin and sinners?

  2. AIDS and gay culture, you can take it up with Harvey and Tammy. You want the articles Mr. Fierstein wrote for the NYTimes, I'll go digging, but I can get them for you.

    As you noted, masterbation is covered in the blog under the mathematical equation. The Church is against it. But, then again, I figured that most readers could figure that part out from the TAB A, SLOT B portion ... and I'm embarassed enough as it is that I'm posting this blog, so forgive me for shading over a few things.

    "Love the sinner, hate the sin" was covered in the whole "error has no rights, people do" -- you hate the error (the sin) not the person. And that is the church's stand, it's from St. Augustine, Doctor of the Church. So, it may be an un-Christian attitude if you don't count Catholics as Christian -- which is not uncommon.

    As for the Church promulgating sexual policies, I could cite the early 20th century encyclical; I could cite the current Pope and his book "The Light of the World." However, that's for people who go out and read Catholic dogma. For everyone else, there is "Pre Cana," wedding prep. As for everything else -- we're now going to go back to my reason for this Snarky Theology series .....

    CATHOLIC EDUCATION SUCKS FOR EDUCATING CATHOLICS. They try. And they do it badly ... if I thought that everything here was clearly and concisely communicated, I wouldn't do an article on it.

    Thank you.


Please, by all means, leave a message below. I welcome any and all comments. However, language that could not make it to network television will result in your comment being deleted. I don';t like saying it, but prior events have shown me that I need to. Thanks.