All of this is excellent news for same-sex couples, of course, but the emphasis on "committed, lifelong relationships" leaves out the single minister, the divorced minister, the widowed minister -- whether gay, straight, or bisexual -- who must still adhere to a standard of celibacy unless their partner status changes.
I've long believed that the major sexuality problem denominations face is that they are unable to acknowledge that celibacy until marriage doesn't apply to most single adults. There are more than 75 million American adults who are single -- more than at any time in history. We are marrying later, divorcing at high levels, and living longer, so more of us will be widowed. And as a whole, we're having sexual relationships when we aren't in marriages.
As Director of the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing, Reverend Haffner thinks celibacy and chastity are overrated:
The Religious Institute has long called for a new sexual ethic to replace the traditional "celibacy until marriage, chastity after." This new ethic is free of double standards based on sexual orientation, sex, gender or marital status. It calls for sexual relationships to be consensual, non-exploitative, honest, pleasurable and protected, whether inside or outside of a covenanted relationship. It insists that intimate relationships be grounded in communication and shared values.
Take a look at this Religious Declaration on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing. Then take a look at the list of endorsers for this document. They include:
- Sister Eileen Brady, Roman Catholic, Manchester, NH
- Natanael Mateus-Ruiz, Campus Minister, Roman Catholic, Stratford, Ontario
- Rev. Edward J. Shields, Roman Catholic, Seattle, WA
- Rev. Gary Southerton, Roman Catholic, Seattle, WA
- Father Edward J. Dietrich, Roman Catholic, Palm Springs, CA
There are also several endorsers who claim to be Roman Catholic although they do not list themselves as holding leadership positions in the Church.
It seems to me that the bishops have a responsibility to discipline those members of the Catholic Church, especially those who hold a title of leadership or responsibility, who endorse such a radical sexual morality. At the very least, the bishops must speak out when priests and religious preach in error in the Church's name. Yet I have Googled these names and found nothing to indicate any formal objection from the episcopate. Is it because they do not know of this scandal? What should a faithful Catholic do?