||22 May 2008|11:02am
By Conrado de Quiros
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:14:00 05/15/2008
I read with much interest a couple of bishops' take on gays. Their remarks were occasioned by several other Church officials earlier expressing their unhappiness over gays participating in the Santacruzan traditional parade, which they said tarnished the image of the Virgin Mary. It stirred up a minor storm last week.
Bishop Jose Oliveros, chair of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) Office on Bio-ethics, says that contrary to popular belief, the Catholic Church is not intolerant of gays, it is liberal with gays. The Church, he says, has come to terms with them. 'We try to be compassionate and understand homosexuals and guide them towards the right path where they should not act out on their desires.' By itself, being attracted to the same sex is not a sin. Doing something about that attraction is.
Bishop Leonardo Medroso, CBCP Commissioner on Canon Law chair, agrees. He has a rather clever way of proving it. Catholics, he says, are forbidden to have sex outside marriage. That applies to everyone, man or woman. 'Marriage and sex, as the Church views it, are solely for reproduction. That's the nature of marriage, opening up a couple to producing children. We cannot have that in a man-to-man or woman-to-woman relationship. Therefore, sex between persons of the same sex becomes unnatural and offends the Church.'
The argument is clever. It says nothing about whether being gay is aberrant or not. It merely says that all sex outside of marriage is a sin. And since gays may not marry (at least each other), then any sex by them is a sin!
The easiest course is for gays to just bolt out of Catholicism and shop around for a faith more hospitable to their cause. Though I grant that isn't easy: Islam seems far more forbidding, with its irascible 'May Allah strike down the unclean' attitude toward those who do not fit the mold. I don't know what the Buddhist, Hindu and Confucian positions are.
But not all Filipino gays will want to do that, many of them counting themselves lucky to be embracing Christ—in the figurative sense of course. I personally have gay friends who are good and decent—why shouldn't they be, they're no different from the rest of us—who are self-professed Christians, and who have gay relationships. A couple of gay women I know are even planning to have kids by artificial insemination. They cannot imagine a God that is compassionate and merciful who will consign them to hell because of it. But that's the wonder of it, how the Church insists on practicing the religious equivalent of Procrustes' bed: If the person does not fit the bed, cut off or stretch his arms and limbs until he does.
The Church's doctrine on marriage in particular should be enough to drive Catholics, straight or gay, into the arms of Hinduism, which extols the virtues of the Kama Sutra, or at least does not frown on it. The idea that marriage and sex exist solely for procreation could only have been invented either by masochists or persons whose nerve endings have been dulled to a state of insensateness. One is tempted to say that this is a case where the sheep should assure the shepherds that sex, or getting laid, or f---ing your brains out—three ways of expressing a miracle of Creation—is one of the most intense, well, religious experiences they can possibly have. But I doubt they need to be assured it at all. If they did, the Pope wouldn't have to publicly apologize to the victims of all sorts of sexual abuse by the clergy.
The idea of a couple, married or not, having sex in order to procreate is hilarious. It conjures the image of them hard at it (no pun intended for the male partner), enduring the ordeal, determined only like soldiers pinned down in trenches to persevere out of a sense of duty and finally to break through in one great rush. What a perverse and joyless act that is. I doubt any Christian, short of an ascetic, will fill the bill.
Whatever happened to love? Whatever happened to ecstasy? Whatever happened to two people, straight or gay, bonded by feelings that cannot be expressed by words, needing to express themselves to each other by flinging themselves into each other's arms and surrendering themselves into a consummation devoutly to be wished? Surely that is part of the magic of life?
Which brings me to the argument that the Church is not proscribing against gays, it is merely proscribing against gays acting as gays, or that it is not demanding that gays do not get attracted to other gays, it is merely demanding that gays do not act on it. I don't know about you but I found Ang Lee's 'Brokeback Mountain' to be an honest-to-goodness love story, ranking up there with 'When Harry Met Sally' and 'Sleepless in Seattle.' Gays do fall in love too, and what I figure is unnatural is to compel them on the ground that it is perverse or that they cannot procreate to abort it. There is nothing more natural than love in whatever form it takes. Sex is not overrated, procreation is. Demanding that gays feel but not fulfill is not Christian, it is sadistic.
I don't know the finer points of theology, but I've always had the impression that what distinguished the Old Testament from the New Testament is that the New looks at the world more positively. Where the Old Testament called on fire and brimstone to befall those who failed to obey their ten 'Thou shalt not's,' the New Testament called on God's grace to fall on those who obeyed his son's single commandment of 'Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.' That seems like a pitch for tolerance and largeness of spirit. Last I looked, if Jesus Christ frowned on anything, it was on prissiness and hypocrisy, preferring the company of fishers and a reformed (?) prostitute to those that scorned them.
It was so unnatural they nailed him to the cross.