San Francisco Catholic teachers have been girding their loins for battle against their Archbishop, Salvatore Cordileone, who wishes to “include morality clauses in their handbook and labor contract” in “which a teacher could face punishment or dismissal for ‘escorting a woman into an abortion clinic, handing out contraception to students,'” or supporting gay marriage. The Archbishop hopes to control his employees lives both inside and outside of the classroom with this approach. Certainly the Archbishop has this prerogative, though the legality of making the morality clause a part of the employees actual contract might be questionable.
Legalities aside, though, the central question for me is how can we evaluate this morality clause in light of radical Christianity? That is, if we go back to the root (radical) of what Christians believe Jesus wants from us – to love God and our neighbor — how does this morality clause hold up?
First, it should be acknowledged that each of the three issues listed above are different. For instance, one could argue that regardless of Church teaching, handing out contraception and/or fomenting an abortion for a child could be prohibited on the grounds that it would interfere inappropriately in the agency of the parents. If nothing else, such a prohibition might save the archdiocese from many lawsuits properly filed by parents incensed that a teacher would circumvent their parental authority. But this prohibition could hold up despite church teachings, not because of it.
The issue of gay marriage, however, stands in contrast to those two issues and is where Cordileone and his Club stands on very weak ground, indeed. Nicholas Senz, a conservative Catholic blogger and student of theology, represents the thinking involved in this Club of Cordileone that serves as the sodden Terra non firma upon which the Church’s decidedly Un-Christian view of gay marriage rests. And there are two problems with this worldview.
First, Senz writes that “[there] are some actions that are not good for human beings to do and that do not lead to their flourishing and fulfillment; and when we see others doing such actions [being gay], it is precisely our love for them, our desire for their fulfillment, that causes us to disapprove of those actions.”
This thinking is the jumping off point for the first problem with the church hierarchy so transfixed and confused by all things sexual: The problem is this — there is no evidence that homosexual “acts” are “not good for human beings.” In fact, plenty of evidence exists that gay men and women, freed to unite in love, actually do flourish! And the converse is true as well — that gay men and women oppressed by a prohibition from uniting in love suffer. Therefore, there is no reason to disapprove of these “actions.” In fact, one could argue that disapproving of these actions is immoral.
Sadly, however, church doctrine has obstinately held fast to ridiculous human made beliefs about sexuality that have led to great pain and suffering. Human made suffering of humans — precisely what God and Jesus teach us to fight against.
To defend these decidedly anti-Christian views towards human love and sexuality, the Club of Cordileone employs a false dichotomy to invalidate those of us who believe in love as Jesus taught. Senz describes us thus:
“These are the sort who see Catholic identity as a tribal designation as opposed to being rooted in a relationship with God in Jesus Christ through his Church and holding to certain beliefs about him”
And so this is where the second problem begins. Senz, and the old school Church hierarchy, represented by people like Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, describes an immoral zero-sum world that does not actually exist.
What does exist is the fact that those of us who are Catholic and celebrate the love of two consenting humans — regardless of their gender — do both. We belong to a community (tribe) of love and we are radically aligned with what Jesus wants for us all.
Senz concludes his essay by saying to us that “This is not the Catholic faith, and it is not heading that way.” But the truth is that, albeit slowly and inexorably, this is actually where the Church is headed — finally. We are headed on the path of love laid by Jesus.