HT to Kate for alerting me to this one.
Fr Frank Brennan has a piece in the current issue of Eureka Street in defence of the legal recognition of same-sex unions. He introduces his piece thus:
I remain of the view that we should [a] not extend the definition of marriage to include same-sex unions; that we should [b] legislate to recognise same-sex unions; and that we should [c] leave questions about the legal availability of new technologies for the creation of children by same-sex couples for determination at a later date.
A tick on [a], but a big X on [b] and [c], Fr B. Your positions on [b] and [c] have some merit to it from the point of view of secular politics. It has no merit from the point of view of Catholic doctrine, and it is inappropriate for a Catholic priest to write in this way.
I know that the Jesuits are free of the oversight of local bishops – they are, in fact, directly answerable to their Superior General, a priest, who is directly answerable to the Pope – but Fr Brennan indicates in his article that he is aware of the June 3rd 2003 CDF document addressed to all the bishops of the world to
be used by Bishops in preparing more specific interventions, appropriate to the different situations throughout the world, aimed at protecting and promoting the dignity of marriage, the foundation of the family, and the stability of society, of which this institution is a constitutive element.
He attributes this document to Cardinal Ratzinger, who was indeed the head of the CDF at the time and a co-signatory of the document, but it was issued with the full authority of Pope John Paul II. It remains in force today.
In this document, it is stated (with my emphasis) that
5. Faced with the fact of homosexual unions, civil authorities adopt different positions. At times they [a] simply tolerate the phenomenon; at other times [b] they advocate legal recognition of such unions, under the pretext of avoiding, with regard to certain rights, discrimination against persons who live with someone of the same sex. In other cases, [c] they favour giving homosexual unions legal equivalence to marriage properly so-called, along with the legal possibility of adopting children.
Note at this point that Fr Brennan’s position is [b] in the above quotation. The documentation goes on to explain:
Where the government’s policy is de facto tolerance and there is no explicit legal recognition of homosexual unions, it is necessary to distinguish carefully the various aspects of the problem. Moral conscience requires that, in every occasion, Christians give witness to the whole moral truth, which is contradicted both by approval of homosexual acts and unjust discrimination against homosexual persons. Therefore, discreet and prudent actions can be effective; these might involve: unmasking the way in which such tolerance might be exploited or used in the service of ideology; stating clearly the immoral nature of these unions; reminding the government of the need to contain the phenomenon within certain limits so as to safeguard public morality and, above all, to avoid exposing young people to erroneous ideas about sexuality and marriage that would deprive them of their necessary defences and contribute to the spread of the phenomenon. Those who would move from tolerance to the legitimization of specific rights for cohabiting homosexual persons need to be reminded that the approval or legalization of evil is something far different from the toleration of evil.
Fr Brennan should take note of this document, even if he is not under the authority of any bishop other the Bishop of Rome. Nevertheless, even under the authority of said Bishop, we should ask whether it is right and prudent for him to write as follows:
Though homosexual acts committed by a heterosexual person might be judged immoral, one cannot credibly cast judgment on all such acts committed by a homosexual person without first taking into account the personal and relational context of the sexual act.
There are homosexual persons who enter into loving, faithful and committed relationships. These persons should [a] be able to live in society free from discrimination, without state interference and with state support and approval. They should [b] enjoy the same state protection as de facto couples enjoy under existing state and territory laws.
I agree with him on [a]. That is in accord with the CDF document’s counsel of prudence in this matter. However, he is out of line on [b]. The CDF document argues from “the order of right reason” that
Laws in favour of homosexual unions are contrary to right reason because they confer legal guarantees, analogous to those granted to marriage, to unions between persons of the same sex. Given the values at stake in this question, the State could not grant legal standing to such unions without failing in its duty to promote and defend marriage as an institution essential to the common good.
Fr Brennan states that “Some Catholics agree completely with this teaching. Others find it problematic.” This is true. But that does not give him the right, as a priest of the Catholic Church sworn to obedience to the Holy Father, to promote this dissent.