This morning, I read an article by William Lindsey at The Open Tabernacle titled, “Same-Sex Relationships as Self-Centered: Deconstructing the Argument“. While I found the conclusion and purpose of the argument(s) therein to be appealing (indeed, I more or less agree with his views on the moralityof homosexual relations), I could not help but notice two ways it could be better.
First of all, Lindsey interprets a quote by then Cardinal Ratzinger in a way which I found dubious. By dubious, I mean scarcely supported elsewhere in the article, and “not what I would have said”. Cardinal Ratzinger wrote:
This does not mean that homosexual persons are not often generous and giving of themselves; but when they engage in homosexual activity they confirm within themselves a disordered sexual inclination which is essentially self-indulgent. – Cardinal Ratzinger
Now, Lindsey interprets this quote of Cardinal Ratzinger’s as saying that homosexual couples do not contribute to society, unlike heterosexual couples, which can produce offspring. Therefore, homosexual relations can be said to be “selfish”. To support his interpretation, Lindsey presents a quote from Archbishop Victor Sanchez Espinoza of Puebla, Mexico, who “used this rhetoric of gay self-indulgence to critique Mexico City’s new gay marriage law”:
…the union between persons of the same sex is only of interest to the couple and does not provide this fundamental contribution to society. – Archbishop Sanchez Espinoza
My concern is with whether the Archbishop intended this statement as a reference to “self-indulgence”, in the theological style of the Church, or to selfishness, as a more political appeal. I might be tempted to see the two as essentially different, and this is a potential threat to Lindsey’s reasoning. Lindsey makes the leap from homosexual inclinations to homosexual relations without considering the possibility that Cardinal Ratzinger could make an important distinction here. The Cardinal describes homosexual inclinations as being essentially self-indulgent. Yet, an inclination cannot be sensibly described as selfish! It may seem, then, that Cardinal Ratzinger is not saying that homosexual relations do not contribute to society (that is the business of politics, and not theology), but rather, that homosexual inclinations are self-indulgent; which is to say, that an inclination to engage in sexual activity with one’s own sex can be construed as a desire to engage in sexual acts with an image of one’s self. That is what I might say the Cardinal means by a “self-indulgent” inclination.
Furthermore, Archbishop Espinoza’s reference to contribution to society (which is the primary referential basis for Lindsey’s premise that “self-indulgence” refers to selfishness, which is the penalty of being a couple incapable of reproducing) , in light of my potential interpretation of Ratzinger’s words as a reader, becomes much more political than theological. If the Archbishop was speaking of theology, I might ask, why did he base his obection to gay marriage (a political issue) on his concern for “contributing to society” (a political concern)?
Mr. Lindsey, what I recommend for you to do in light of this potential objection is to shore up your defenses before you get blasted by an opponent who actually believes homosexuality is “disordered”. As for me, I mean only to help you fortify it by offering you this critique. What you need to do is not offer a justification for your interpretation of Ratzinger’s quote on a grammatical basis (such as mine), as this is no time for a scripture-style exegesis. After all, Ratzinger is still alive! Without a doubt, there exists somewhere on the internet an explanation of Ratzinger’s views on the nature of homosexual inclinations and what he means by “self-indulgence”. Find it, and if it agrees with your interpretation, reproduce it alongside Espinoza’s quote. That will render this counter-argument of yours irrefutable, as Ratzinger’s view really will be wrong. If it does not agree with your interpretation, then you are confusing this argument for another. Ratzinger would not be speaking to homosexuals not being able to reproduce or contribute to society in this case, but rather, he would be making a similar philosophical case to the one made by Catholics against masturbation. (Ex. Peter Kreeft) In that case, your article would not apply to the argument used by Ratzinger, but to a different argument made by Archbishop Espinoza to protest Mexican gay-marriage legislation.
The second point that I want to make is that your article focuses too much on material benefits that homosexual couples provide for society. You mention the ability to adopt, take care of elderly parents, etc, and from this you conclude that homosexual couples are not worthless as Espinoza claims, but actually of incalculable value to creation. This is not a very Catholic thing to say, because it only describes what homosexual unions are good for, as opposed to whether they are good in their own right. That is, it defends only the extrinsic value of homosexual unions, as opposed to their intrinsic value. That would be a much more important concept to discuss.
Indeed, this is what I recommend. Your rebuttal of Espinoza’s argument should not take the form of your listing the material benefits of homosexual unions. Instead, you should center your rebuttal of Espinoza around the idea that he is not considering the intrisic value of homosexual unions; only their extrinsic value. After all, heterosexual unions between infertile individuals have exactly the same extrinsic value as homosexual unions, and it would be wise of you to ask why he does not condemn them alongside homosexual unions, as his argument that you quote applies just as easily to them! You should mention that the real matter at stake is the intrinsic value of love in certain unions between heterosexuals, infertile people, and homosexuals; that is, how they are good in their own right, rather than merely good for.
I hope you do not take my critique as a mark of disagreement with your theology. As I mentioned before, since I agree with you in saying that homosexuality is not necessarily sinful, we are in the same boat. Consequently, I am only looking after you, that’s all.
Under the Mercy,