Can there be ‘positive elements’ in illicit relationships?

‘Love Is Never Wrong’: Vatican Scrambles to Defend Homo Couple Blessings

Rocco Buttiglione defends Fiducia Supplicans for Vatican News

The release of the declaration Fiducia Supplicans on Dec. 18, 2023, has turned into a fiasco or, as we would say in the United States, into a dumpster fire. In multiple subsequent interviews, the DDF prefect ‘Cardinal’ Victor Manuel Fernandez has attempted to stop the bleeding while continuing to engage in the impossible balancing act of affirming both the novelty of Fiducia Supplicans and yet also its supposed fidelity to Tradition.

The recognize-and-resist traditionalists are celebrating that so many Novus Ordo bishops are apparently rejecting the doctrinal declaration that permits the blessing of adulterous and sodomitical couples, thinking the ‘resistance’ has scored a great victory thereby. In all their euphoria they seem unaware of the fact that this undercuts not merely Jorge Bergoglio’s wicked legislation but — since they accept him as a true Pope — also papal authority in principle. This, in turns, means that when their longed-for ‘good and holy Pope’ finally appears to ‘restore the Church’, then by the same token the majority of bishops will simply be able to reject his decrees as well, with the current mess as a historical precedent. Thus they have undermined the very foundation of any hopes of a future restoration according to their own theological position.

But be that as it may, in this post we will discuss a recent attempt at vindicating the infernal declaration that was published by the Unholy See’s own in-house news organization.

On Dec. 20, Vatican News released an article written by Prof. Rocco Buttiglione (b. 1948), an Italian academic, conservative politician, and member of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. Absurdly praising Fiducia Supplicans as an “authentic pastoral development solidly anchored in Church tradition and its moral theology” while also calling the document “almost a revolution”, Buttiglione utilizes an old Vatican II trick to persuade his readers to accept the blessing of sodomite couples: He simply locates ‘positive elements’ in the unholy relationships and declares that they are the object of blessing, not the smutty stuff which makes the couple a couple in the first place:

The starting point of the reality the Declaration has in mind is that of a couple in an “irregular” situation asking for a blessing. To avoid any misunderstanding, let us imagine that they ask not a priest but their parents. Would you give this blessing? I would give it. I would not bless the irregular sexual relationship. Still, I would bless the care they have for one another, the support they give each other in life, the comfort during times of grief, and the companionship in the face of difficulties. Love is never wrong; sexual relations, on the other hand, sometimes are. In the life of this couple, the good and the bad are so closely intertwined that it is not possible to separate them with a clean break. If a daughter of mine were in such a situation I would bless her [notice how he switches from them to just her –NOW] and certainly pray to God that in the journey of life, He might separate the good from the bad in that relationship by making it a step on the path to truth. God writes straight with crooked lines. I think any father would do the same thing and I don’t see how a priest, if he has a father’s heart for the members of his community, could do any different.

(Rocco Buttiglione, “Blessings: A pastoral development anchored in tradition”, Vatican News, Dec. 20, 2023; underlining added.)

What is expressed in this paragraph is so seriously flawed that a solid reality check is needed.

The fundamental error here lies in Buttiglione’s mistaken notion — one that has been very popular since the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) — that essence admits of degrees or parts (cf. Bernard J. Wuellner, Summary of Scholastic Principles [Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1956], n. 513). In other words, he thinks he can divide the relationship that exists between two sodomites into elements: some good and virtuous, others bad and sinful. The blessing, so he imagines, can be bestowed upon the positive, good, and virtuous elements and withheld from the negative, bad, and sinful ones.

This is an exercise in insanity.

The relationship that exists between two sodomites is mortally sinful. This is so because it is based on an impure attraction which is intrinsically evil: “…God delivered them up to shameful affections. For their women have changed the natural use into that use which is against nature. And, in like manner, the men also, leaving the natural use of the women, have burned in their lusts one towards another, men with men working that which is filthy, and receiving in themselves the recompense which was due to their error” (Rom 1:26-27).

The attraction that exists between sodomites is not of a lawful kind, as would be a brotherly love between siblings or friends. It is fundamentally a sexual attraction. Any homosexual relationship, therefore, is evil in itself, and to consent to it is a mortal sin:

You have heard that it was said to them of old: Thou shalt not commit adultery. But I say to you, that whosoever shall look on a woman to lust after her, hath already committed adultery with her in his heart. And if thy right eye scandalize thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee. For it is expedient for thee that one of thy members should perish, rather than that thy whole body be cast into hell. And if thy right hand scandalize thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is expedient for thee that one of thy members should perish, rather than that thy whole body be cast into hell.

(Matthew 5:27-30)

It goes without saying that if it is a mortal sin for a man to consent to impure thoughts about a woman, it is all the more so (a fortiori) a mortal sin for a man to consent to being with another man; and of course that is precisely what the Church has taught from the beginning:

Yet you know well enough that wrong-doers will not inherit God’s kingdom. Make no mistake about it; it is not the debauched, the idolaters, the adulterous, it is not the effeminate, the sinners against nature, the dishonest, the misers, the drunkards, the bitter of speech, the extortioners that will inherit the kingdom of God.

(1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Knox translation)

There is a popular error among Novus Ordos according to which homosexuals can be couples and even live together as long as there is no sexual activity between them. That is false. Of course two men (or women) can share a home together and be friends; but that is not what we are talking about here. Fiducia Supplicans concerns itself with so-called “gay couples”, not simply with friends.

What about Buttiglione’s protestation that he would bless “the care [the illicit couple] have for one another, the support they give each other in life, the comfort during times of grief, and the companionship in the face of difficulties”?

We have already seen that it is impossible to separate the good from the bad here because these elements do not exist in isolation; they are mixed together in one unholy and illicit relationship. However, even if it were possible to do so, Buttiglione is mistaken to think that what he identifies as positive elements are in fact such.

There is nothing positive about the mutual care, support, comfort, or companionship of sodomites. All these are things that affirm, validate, and maintain their sodomitic union, their evil lifestyle, their habitual mortal sin. Care, support, comfort, and companionship are what keep the two individuals attached to each other and makes the necessary breakup up all the more difficult and distressing at least on an emotional level. Thus, what may appear to be ‘positive elements’ at first glance are in fact evils that keep the individuals firmly anchored in mortal sin.

And so we can see that this is actually not a matter of love at all, as Buttiglione falsely suggests when he says, “Love is never wrong.” It is true that genuine charity is never wrong, for charity is the queen of virtues. But a homo-affective relationship is not love, it is vice. And one cannot filter virtuous elements out of this vice and celebrate them.

The validity of our critique is more easily visible when we apply Buttiglione’s reasoning to a very different ethical scenario. Why stop at finding positive elements in sodomitical or other sexually impure relationships? Why not also in murder, for example? We can easily take, for example, the slaying of St. John the Baptist on the order of King Herod and apply the elements trick of Buttiglione to it to see how absurd his defense of blessing sodomite couples is.

First, let us recall the biblical pericope:

And when a convenient day was come, Herod made a supper for his birthday, for the princes, and tribunes, and chief men of Galilee. And when the daughter of the same Herodias had come in, and had danced, and pleased Herod, and them that were at table with him, the king said to the damsel: Ask of me what thou wilt, and I will give it thee. And he swore to her: Whatsoever thou shalt ask I will give thee, though it be the half of my kingdom. Who when she was gone out, said to her mother, What shall I ask? But she said: The head of John the Baptist. And when she was come in immediately with haste to the king, she asked, saying: I will that forthwith thou give me in a dish, the head of John the Baptist. And the king was struck sad. Yet because of his oath, and because of them that were with him at table, he would not displease her: But sending an executioner, he commanded that his head should be brought in a dish. And he beheaded him in the prison, and brought his head in a dish: and gave it to the damsel, and the damsel gave it to her mother.

(Mark 6:21-28)

Using the ‘elements’ approach of Buttiglione, which he got from Vatican II and Amoris Laetitia (see n. 292), we can now “reflect” upon King Herod’s action and, in typical Modernist fashion, come up with some real nonsense, sufficiently verbose, that sounds like it came straight from a recent Vatican document. It might sound like this:

Without denying the moral problems associated with taking the life of an innocent person, which the church has referred to as a “sin”, the faithful People of God, called to be “Children of Light” (cf. Jn 12:36; Lk 16:8), nevertheless recognize that sinful human beings often live in imperfect situations. Inasmuch as “all have sinned” (cf. Rom 3:23) and the fullness of virtue is but found in the fewest of people (cf. Mt 19:21-22), we cannot focus merely on the negative aspects of King Herod’s decision to shorten the earthly life of St. John the Baptist, as though this constituted the entirety of the matter. The church rejects as simplistic and pharisaical any attempts to reduce what is in reality a complex and multi-faceted ethical problem, to a self-righteous and ready-made black-and-white logic that exhausts itself in accusing and judging rather than in treating and curing.

For despite his shortcomings and limitations, even in Herod’s conduct there may be discovered some traces of that perfection to which all men are called (cf. Mt 5:48). Did he not show great kindness to the daughter of Herodias, not only by inviting her to take an active role in a royal birthday celebration — a sign of great personal esteem founded on mutual respect — but even more so by vowing to selflessly grant her every wish, even to the half of his kingdom? And did he not express sadness at the request of the damsel, manifesting his inward disapproval and displeasure at her desire for the head of St. John? Although the king’s order to decapitate the Baptist cannot be considered on an equal footing with allowing him to go free, is it not true that the motivation for Herod’s decision was the direct result of his desire to honor the oath he had sworn, the breaking of which would have constituted an injustice in its own right (cf. Eccl 5:4)?

The faithful People of God must reject as one-sided any approach to this question that would view Herod’s action merely from a rigorist point-of-view as the trespassing of a commandment, leaving out of account the many positive elements that can be found in his conduct considered in its entirety, however imperfect it may have been. Rather than allowing these seeds of holiness manifested by Herod to dry up and wither away, the church prefers to build upon them, urging all to take a positive approach towards anyone who may find himself in a similar situation, lest such people should feel excluded or unwelcome, in a manner similar to the woman caught in adultery (cf. Jn 8:3), in a church where “there is a place for everyone, with all their problems” (Evangelii Gaudium, 47).

This dimension of the complexity of ethical experience takes on a decidedly pastoral character when viewed within the context of social or cultural factors that often exert undue influence upon not a few individuals whose actions, though they are objectively disordered, nevertheless possess elements that are inherently ordered towards a moral good. For there are many who, while making choices the church cannot agree with, and the intrinsic moral insufficiency of which it would be wrong to deny, embrace a certain lifestyle not out of malice or depravity, but rather out of a desire to do good, as can be seen in the case of King Herod.

These positive elements found in Herod’s behavior are ordered by their very nature towards a life of sanctity. By valuing and emphasizing them instead of the negative aspects, and avoiding any harsh language and all unjust discrimination, a climate of openness and respectful dialogue can be nurtured, which provides the groundwork for an ongoing culture of encounter which the Holy Father exhorts all to continually foster. Thus the church, seeing in the circumstances surrounding such choices a ray of that light, goodness, and truth that enlightens all men (cf. Jn 1:9), recognizes that elements of virtue and goodness are indeed often found outside the visible confines of official sanctity. Our task as followers of the truth is to discover these traits wherever they may exist (cf. 1 Thess 5:21), without compromising Catholic doctrine or pretending that they exist in their fullness where they exist only in part. Though his actions did not correspond to the Christian ideal, the church strives to foster an attitude of openness and dialogue with King Herod and all who find themselves in situations comparable to his.

Are you nauseous yet? What you have just read is an application of Buttiglione’s idea to the specific case of the murder of St. John the Baptist at the hands of King Herod. Sound ridiculous? Of course it does, because it is. But if you add enough Modernist mumbo-jumbo, as we did here, you can make it sound scholarly and serious, and make it palatable for the masses. This is the Modernist trick, and it has worked extremely well for decades.

It is dangerous nonsense, therefore, to say that a sodomite couple can be blessed or praised, for example, for their “fidelity” to or “care” for each other. It would be like praising a harlot for her charming beauty, or a child molester for the exquisite candy with which he lures his victims, or a mother for letting her children drink sewage on the grounds that it also contains water, which is an element necessary for life.

Buttiglione has embarrassed himself defending Fiducia Supplicans, just as he did when he defended Amoris Laetitia.

There is nothing Catholic left in these people.

Image source: composite with elements from Shutterstock (PixLove) and Wikimedia Commons (Elena Torre from Viareggio, Italia; modified)
Licenses: paid and CC BY 2.0 DEED

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