Friday, 11 October 2013

Independent: Groundwork in morals
Sunday, 22 September 2013, 08:34 , by Michael Asciak []

I enjoyed reading the letter Pope Francis sent to Civilta Cattolica in which he essentially asked for the Church and Catholics to stop judging people out of context. We are all sinners! He meant to say two things. Firstly, that there are other aspects of social and church doctrine that need to be underlined as well, such as solidarity and mercy and secondly, that there needs to be a shift in how we look at other people.

He has, in fact, said nothing that goes against the Magisterium as it has always stood. The problem as he perceives it is the context in which humanity exists and functions. We are used to hearing Church doctrine promulgated in a way which underlines the moral object. The moral object is the moral nature of the objective act itself that we perform. This is intrinsically good or bad in itself and this moral object never changes.

For example, to kill another innocent human being is always wrong morally. However the church has always taught – and Francis seems to be underlying this – that the subjective aspects surrounding the moral object need to be called to mind as well. Matters such as individual circumstances and intentions need to be considered too in the final equation. So every moral act consists of the moral object, the individual circumstances and the individual intentions. This is called the moral act as separate from the moral object itself. The moral object can never be changed by circumstances or intentions, but the guilt incurred itself may be mitigated by these circumstances or intentions of the human condition. It is this context that the Pope is inviting us to consider.

One cannot simply look at a woman who has had an abortion, for example, and judge her simply on that moral object alone without considering the circumstances and intentions surrounding the case. These may ultimately help mitigate the guilt and by adopting a merciful disposition to these people, Catholics may leave the road open to, and encourage a disposition amenable to, contrition and reconciliation rather than despair.

In a nutshell, the Pope is asking us to be more open-minded, loving and less judgemental, tempering our conclusions with the quality of mercy. Morality is both objective and subjective and we cannot ever be in the shoes of others and replicate the subjective conditions they have endured, although the moral object may be obvious to everyone! This makes us more human.

The Pope’s refusal to condemn homosexuals is a similar case in point. One should not judge and condemn people for orientations which, in this case, arise through no fault of their own and lead them to specific actions they may choose to follow.

The Pope did, however, recently distinguish between the pastoral inclusion of human individual homosexual dispositions and actions and the purported rights and positions that are often drummed up by exponents of the homosexual lobby. Their claim to equality in things in which they cannot be equal is a case in hand. Last week, the gay and lesbian lobby in Malta put forward such a complaint in that the current IVF law, passed by our Parliament last autumn, is discriminatory in their regard, because it does not allow them access to the technical procedure in order to be able to start a procreative family which they perforce must do by undergoing gamete donation or reception to or from third parties.

Now this is not true at all, because the law also makes it illegal for heterosexuals to donate or receive gametes to/from third parties. So there is no discrimination in this regard with respect to homosexuals. Neither heterosexual nor homosexual couples may donate or receive donated gametes, as the best parents for the children born from any procedures – whether technical or natural – are necessarily their biological ones and the production of children outside this natural genetic confine is far from ideal.

Their purported right to start a family by gamete donation using IVF (like marriage), is not an actual right, because they are not comparing like with like. The complementary sexual union and procreative potential open to heterosexuals because of their specific physical characteristics simply do not exist physically within the purely emotional aspect of a homosexual relationship. This issue is, after all, not about homosexuality at all, but about the intrinsic nature of human sexuality (and marriage, if the case arises). For there to be a breach of a real fundamental right, there needs to be a breach of a basic human good.

One of the basic human goods is practical reason (prudence) and in this case there is no breach of practical reason because this dictates that procreation is necessarily brought about by complementary sexual intercourse between a man and a woman who are then in the best position and obliged to raise their genetic offspring as a result of the intrinsic nature of their relationship. As a man, I can claim to have the right to have an ovulation just because another gender of the same species has this natural function although I do not. However, is this a real right – given that men and women do not have the same sexual nature and being a man, practical reason dictates that I, as a necessity, cannot have an ovulation much less purport to have the right to have one?

In the same vein, homosexuals may not lay a real claim to marriage because of the intrinsic nature of marriage, which does not encompass the nature of the emotional bond between two homosexuals. It would be better for homosexuals to lay claim for the state to recognise the particular nature of their civil union by special arrangements of positive civil law than to lay claim to objective concepts of marriage and human procreation which have been defined since time immemorial in all cultures before the foundation of states.

It is now possible to change the nature of an objective truth even if its concepts are confused by clouding issues in purely emotive subjective opinions. The moral object itself is forever assured through human nature and human rationality, but the circumstances and intentions of human beings who have freely chosen homosexual relationships calls for society to respect and show acceptance and understanding for their personal choices in seeking their own fulfilment and happiness in life. They are, after all, our brothers and sisters and children of a God who does not discriminate in the mercy and charity he dispenses to his loved ones.

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