I am delighted to be able to offer not just a summary, but the full text of the L’Espresso article on Cardinal Martini’s book with its support for gay partnerships. (The translation is not my own, but kindly done for me by a translator).
Cardinal Martini: The Gays and I
By Ignazio Marino and Carlo Maria Martini
“It isn’t bad for two homosexuals to have a stable relationship, and so in that sense the state could also favour them. I disagree with the positions of those, in the Church, who take issue with civil unions.” The debate about sexuality by the former archbishop of Milan with Ignazio Marino
(March 23, 2012)
We publish a few pages of Credere e Conoscere (Believing and knowing), a dialogue between Ignazio Marino and Carlo Maria Martini just published by Einaudi (84 pages, €10). The book takes up and expands upon many of the themes addressed by the distinguished senator surgeon and by the biblical scholar, former cardinal of Milan, in “Così è la vita” (“That’s life”) published by L’Espresso edition number 16 of April 27, 2006.
Martini: “Sexuality is a very complex subject, about which there is also a “conflict of interpretations.” It’s a murky field, deep, fluid, difficult to define. It’s a part of existence in which the subconscious (and the unconscious?) especially come into play, where rational explanations can find, in the individual but also in social groups and cultures, an inner resistance that fails to be persuaded. This is no doubt also due to the fact that there are within us dark caverns and impenetrable mazes. Furthermore, the evolutionary strand that also touches mankind is not [yet] completed, and therefore we cannot easily predict the developments of the next millennia. It is data that is new in kind, and that somehow makes us afraid. Personally I am not competent on this topic and I am tackling it here just to try to say simply what life has taught me. But first I would like to hear from those who have scientific knowledge to start in some way from them.
Marino: “Sexuality, by definition, is an interpersonal relationship and as such should be fully received as an exchange and a gift and has an important role for human beings, regardless of age, gender, origin, culture. From the biological point of view it represents a fundamental aspect of life as do sleeping and eating. Much is due to the production of hormones from organs such as gonads, the pituitary, the adrenal cortex and the hypothalamus that regulate and encourage sexual activity. Certainly, coupled with the biological aspects that relate to sexuality, there is the cognitive dimension and the cultural one, which includes the ethical and moral aspects. They are spheres often difficult to fathom and inevitably influenced by a person’s education and psychological experience.
Science has long occupied itself with the study of sexual behaviour of human beings for different reasons: from birth control, to the transmission of diseases, to understanding the differences between human sexuality and that of other animal species. Most animals, in fact, seek a mate for reproductive purposes, whilst among humans sexual behaviours are not biologically linked only to reproduction, as well as not being only determined by hormones. The brain, in fact, has a key role in helping to increase or decrease the response to sexual stimulation, for example through learning, which plays a decisive role in sexual orientation. It is precisely for this reason that much attention should be given to full and proper sex education in the early stages of growth, to avoid creating feelings of guilt or punitive attitudes toward one’s body and one’s sexuality. It’s clear, and in my opinion not understandable, that the Catholic Church, in the course of several centuries of its history, has often ignored the issue of sexuality, or else viewed it in a way that was geared to give rise in the faithful to a sense of guilt with respect to sexual activity detached from reproductive purposes. I believe that this approach should at least be discussed because, as confirmed by scientific knowledge, sex cannot be considered as an element foreign to the human being, but rather as a natural fact.”
Martini: “First and foremost, it is something very personal and difficult to express in words. It is better expressed in poetry or what is called “the language of love.” In fact, the subject-matter is part of the great theme of love, as is well noted by Pope Benedict XVI. Early in his encyclical “God is love” (December 25, 2005) he speaks of eros and agape, connected to the major theme of classical literature. It seems to me that human sexuality is covered by a “vertical dynamism,” or “influence”, by an inner force that makes it become little by little the tool and place of deep friendship and intimacy of souls, to become, in the Christian view, a preparation for that great communion of hearts that is the goal of humanity’s journey. A true love is also a mature and lasting love, that when it is well lived goes to the heart of the person and overcomes the inevitable wear of time and a merely sensitive/emotional and bodily aspect, to become a union of souls. And here I would like to quickly note that, from personal experience, such a dynamic may also lead to such a love of God “with all [your] heart and with all [your] soul and with all [your] strength” (Dt 6.5) as to totally surpass the physical factor and thus become a chaste and intense friendship-love. From the above it appears that sexuality is primarily a force of nature, which however tends to prolong the species. It is a continuous struggle, relentless, against death. In this sense, sexuality is not only proper to mankind. But as I said above, in men and women it arises in the context of a dynamic that tends to make it scale the heights, bringing sexuality to a level of friendship and a deep understanding, almost incommunicable to others, of two people. Thus understood, it is essential for a happy married life and is a source of growth for husband and wife as well as their children: this applies particularly in the years when children become adults, a period that is getting longer as the average age increases. Only those who have developed a serious friendship continue to get along well with the other spouse even when the children are by that time all out of the house.
In this context, sexuality remains in itself a force that tends both to generation as well as to the communion of persons. The fact that you can also have children in a test tube does not change the nature of sexuality. It is always a natural tendency to self-giving between a man and a woman with a view to the realisation of a stable community of people.”
Marino: “If one accepts the principle that sex constitutes normalcy in the lives of couples, we must also ask ourselves about the dramatic situation of millions of women and men who live in countries where the sex act is closely linked to the spread of serious diseases, most notably AIDS. About 34 million people worldwide are carriers of HIV, one in three lives in a country in sub-Saharan Africa. In the last three decades 30 million patients died and, although the spread of the virus fell by 25 percent between 2001 and 2009, each year there are more than two million deaths. HIV is the scourge of a continent and gives rise not only to sick persons but also orphans, poverty, the inability to improve the 37 conditions of life. In the Western world today, this disease is kept under control thanks to drug therapies that will allow an HIV positive person to lead a completely normal existence, with a life expectancy similar to that of persons not affected by the virus. But in many African countries, where per capita spending in health care does not exceed ten dollars per year, access to therapies that fight AIDS is still very difficult and the virus continues to spread. At Drodro, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, I saw with my own eyes the living conditions of AIDS patients who cannot afford the nine dollars per day for required hospital admission. Not to mention the orphanage, built next to the hospital, which houses many children who have lost their parents. We know that AIDS can be addressed partly through prevention and the use of condoms. Faced with this tragedy how can one not encourage the use of a condom to help control the spread of the virus? Is it or is it not a duty of governments to make choices and take decisions on this issue? And, with respect to the official teaching of the Catholic Church, is it not a case of opting for a lesser evil and contribute to saving many human lives?”
Martini: “The figures that you cite provoke distress and heartache. In our Western world it is very hard to realize how much suffering there is in certain nations. Having visited them personally, I have witnessed this suffering, mostly borne with great dignity and almost in silence. One must do everything to fight AIDS, as I have argued on many occasions and as we wrote in our previous dialogue in 2006. Certainly the use of condoms can constitute in certain situations a lesser evil. Then there is the particular situation of spouses, one of whom is infected with AIDS. One is obliged to protect the other partner who likewise should be able to protect himself or herself. But the question rather is, should it be the case that religious authorities promote such a means of defence, almost holding that other morally sustainable means, including abstinence, be sidelined, while risking the promotion of an irresponsible attitude? The principle of lesser evil is one thing, applicable in all cases provided for by ethical doctrine, another thing altogether the matter of who is to express such things publicly.
I believe that prudence and consideration of different situations will permit everyone to contribute effectively to the fight against AIDS without fostering, in this way, irresponsible behaviour.”
Marino: “Concerning the social and cultural changes that we face in our time, it is natural at this point to raise the issue of homosexuality. It seems to me that the hypothesis of the possibility of a complete separation between sexuality and procreation leads us to consider also this point.”
Martini: “Considering all this I would like to also express my assessment on the topic of homosexuality. It’s hard to talk about it in a few words, because today it has assumed, especially in some Western countries, public significance and has made as its own those susceptibilities that belong to minority groups, or those who believe they are so, and who seek social recognition. Hence we can understand (not necessarily approve) certain efforts that at first might seem exaggerated, I think for example of events like the gay pride parade, which I can only justify by the fact that at this particular moment in history there exists for this group of people the need for self-affirmation, to show to everyone their existence, even at the risk of appearing overly provocative. I personally believe that God created man and woman and therefore the traditional moral doctrine continues to have certain good reasons on this point. Of course I am ready to admit that in some cases good faith, lived experiences, acquired habits, the unconscious and probably even a certain innate inclination can push one to choose for oneself a form of living with a partner of the same sex. In today’s world such behaviour cannot therefore be ostracised or demonized. I am also ready to admit the value of a loyal and lasting friendship between two persons of the same sex. Friendship has always been held in high honour in the ancient world, perhaps more so than today, although it was largely understood as part of that surpassing of the purely physical realm that I mentioned above, to be a union of minds and hearts. If it is also to be understood as a sexual gift [of self], then it cannot, I think, be raised to a way of life as can a successful family. The latter has a great and uncontested social value. Other ways of life cannot be thus in the same manner, and above all not presented in a manner so as to offend the beliefs of many.”
Marino: “We cannot ignore, however, that de facto couples, including same-sex ones, are a reality of our time, even though in many countries they are not recognized. As a result, couples united by a feeling of love are denied certain basic rights, such as the ability to support one’s boyfriend or girlfriend in hospital, the sharing of insurance contracts, to the exclusion of property acquired by inheritance or shared together in life and so on. I do not understand why the State should encounter difficulties in recognizing such unions, while respecting the fundamental role of the traditional family for the organization of society, and on the other hand, I struggle to understand why the greatest resistance comes from the Catholic Church that, at least in Italy, shows very little tolerance towards the idea of extending rights to all unions. Why so much opposition, at least judging by a reasoning that is widespread and made public?”
Martini: “I believe that the family is to be defended because it is really what keeps society stable and permanent, as well as for the fundamental role that it exercises in the raising of children. But it’s not bad, if instead of casual homosexual sex, two persons should have a degree of stability and therefore in this sense the State could also favour them. I do not agree with the positions of those in the Church, who take issue with civil unions. I support traditional marriage with all its values and am convinced that it should not be put into question. And if some people of the opposite sex, or even of the same sex, aspire to sign a pact to give some stability to the couple, why should we absolutely refuse that it be so? I think that the homosexual couple, as such, can never be totally equated to a marriage and on the other hand I do not think that the heterosexual couple and marriage should be propped or defended by extraordinary means because they are based on values so strong that I do not think one needs to intervene to protect it. For this reason too, if the State grants some benefits to homosexuals, I would not be too concerned. The Catholic Church, for its part, promotes partnerships that are beneficial for the continuation of the human species and its stability, and yet it is not right to express any discrimination for other types of unions.”
- Bishop Robinson: Catholic Assertions, Not Arguments
- Bishop Robinson: Sexual Acts, or Relationships?
- Bishop Robinson: The Middle Ground
- Thinking Anglicans: Church of Ireland conference on human sexuality
- C of E Group on human sexuality appoints advisers (Thinking Anglicans)
- Bishop Robinson Speaks of a New Sexual Morality and it’s Time He Was Heard (Enlightened Catholicism)