Bishop Fred Henry

A SHEPHERD SPEAKS

November 23, 2015

"Heal the wounds, heal the wounds, so many wounds"

(Pope Francis)

In my lifetime, the mainstream liberal culture first championed divorce; divorce was followed by contraception and the proliferation of pornography, contraception by abortion and euthanasia, euthanasia by homosexual conduct, homosexual conduct by the entire abolition of distinctive gender.

But all these assaults are really attacks on the primal truth of the book of Genesis, "Male and female he created them" (Genesis 1.27).

For the creation of humans as male and female is a truth about marriage and thus against divorce. Complementarity - "bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh" - is against pornography, favours fertility and opposes contraception. More than that, it is against abortion and euthanasia, about the holiness of natural marital sex, and thus against homosexual acts.

It especially opposes the notion that the two created sexes are arbitrary impositions on mankind.

The cutting edge of liberal culture is the attempt to label the two created human sexes, male and female, as arbitrary and unjust impositions on humanity. This involves an attempt to separate sex from gender, that is, the biological fact (human anatomy and chromosomal cellular structure) of the two human sexes from their social and cultural expressions, which they term "gender."

Gender is seen as totally socially constructed and in no way grounded in nature.

Then, using such a phenomenon as hormonal treatment and "sex-change operations," they begin to deny the stability and reality of the two created sexes. After that, they claim that whether one undergoes such an operation, one's subjective feeling about what sex/gender one is trumps the physical facts of one's body.

From there, it is only a short step to the notion that male and female are only two out of a nearly infinite number of possible expressions of human sexuality.

In justifying the transformation that he has undergone, Bruce Jenner, now presenting himself as Caitlyn Jenner, consistently says something along these lines: "Deep down, I always knew that I was a woman, but I felt trapped in the body of a man. Therefore, I have the right to change my body to bring it in line with my true identity."

Notice how the mind or the will - the inner self - is casually identified as the "real me" whereas the body is presented as an antagonist which can and should be manipulated by the authentic self.

The soul and the body are in a master-slave relationship, the former legitimately dominating and re-making the latter.

For biblical people, the body can never be construed as a prison for the soul, nor as an object for the soul's manipulation.

Moreover, the mind or will is not the "true self" standing over and against the body. Rather, the body is an essential constituent of the true self.

God, not individual human beings, decides whether each person should be male or female.

God, not individual human beings, decides whether each person should be male or female.

For biblical people, human love is never a disembodied reality. Furthermore, love - which is an act of the will - does not hover above the body, but rather expresses itself through the body and according to the intelligibility of the body. To set the two in opposition or to maintain that an inner act is more important or comprehensive than the body is simply a modern destructive illusion.

Given the widespread support for transgender thinking in our culture, if you speak disapprovingly of Jenner's actions, be prepared for a hostile bombardment by those who would silence anyone who dares to challenge any of the tenets of LGBTQ lobby. You are instantly labelled "homophobic" and told to get with the times.

With the enshrinement of tolerance as one of society's prime principles, it is hard to speak the truth in love.

Pluralism is a demographic fact. Nothing more, nothing less. It does not imply that all ideas and religious beliefs are equally valid.

Diversity requires that we treat each other with respect. Tolerance enables us to live in peace with each other and their ideas. Mostly, it is a good thing. But tolerance is not an end in itself, and to tolerate or excuse a grave evil in society is itself a grave evil.

Catholics have a duty not to "tolerate" other people but to love them, which is a much more demanding task. Justice, charity, mercy, courage, prudence - these are Christian virtues; tolerance is not.

Real Christian virtues flow from an understanding of truth, unchanging and rooted in God, that exists and obligates us whether we like it or not. The pragmatic social truce we call "tolerance" has no such grounding.

Pluralism does not require us to mute our convictions. Nor does it ever excuse us from advancing our beliefs about justice and the common good in public. The Church upholds natural law, and social diversity within the bounds of natural law.

The Church still believes in rightly-ordered ends, hence in cooperating virtues more than in competing "values." It expects people to give a moral account of their values, not merely to identify and celebrate them.

The importance of ecology is no longer disputed. We must listen to the language of nature and we must answer accordingly. There is also an ecology of the human person.

HUMAN ECOLOGY

Human ecology means the human person has a nature that must be respected and cannot be manipulated at will. The person is not merely self-creating freedom; we do not create ourselves. The person is intellect and will, but also nature. A person's will is rightly ordered if he or she listens to human nature, respects it and accepts that nature. In this way, and in no other, is true human freedom fulfilled.

In his encyclical Laudato Si', Pope Francis stated, "The acceptance of our bodies as God's gift is vital for welcoming and accepting the entire world as a gift from the Father and our common home, whereas thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation.

"Learning to accept our body, to care for it and to respect its fullest meaning, is an essential element of any genuine human ecology. Also, valuing one's own body in its femininity or masculinity is necessary if I am going to be able to recognize myself in an encounter with someone who is different.

"In this way we can joyfully accept the specific gifts of another man or woman, the work of God the Creator, and find mutual enrichment" (n. 155).

The centrepiece of his encyclical is his focus on "integral ecology," by which he means the connectedness between natural and human ecology. The intrinsic worth of nature and of the human person are to be respected as one whole. Without accepting and protecting the continuity of all life, we cannot truly love and care for creation in an integral way.