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CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH - Some Observations on A Response to a Profession of Faith by Fr. Robert Nugent, SDS

In the letter which accompanied his Response, Father Nugent stated that, for pastoral reasons, he believed it was necessary to introduced a number of changes into the text of the Profession of Faith formulated by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, as it contained technical language not easily or accurately understood by people without theological training. He explained that certain English-speaking Conferences of Bishops have conveyed magisterial teaching on homosexuality in language fully consistent with that teaching, and he had endeavored to incorporate such language into his Response, while "maintaining respect for the intent and purpose of the original text."

A careful and objective analysis of his Response has shown that, while certain of the changes introduced are simply matters of style, and not therefore objectionable, others obscure the meaning of the original text. Among the modifications, which are problematic and thus make the text inadequate, are the following:

In paragraphs 3 and 5, Father Nugent changed the reference from "homosexual acts" to "homosexual [genital] acts." This modification would seem to imply the existence of a category of specifically "non-genital homosexual acts" which might be morally acceptable.

In paragraph 3, the statement that "homosexual acts are always. objectively evil" was changed to say that "homosexual [genital] acts are always, objectively speaking, morally wrong." The revised formulation is considerable weaker than the original and could be read in the sense of a distinction between good/evil as qualities of the subject or his intentions, and right/wrong as qualities—perhaps pre-moral qualities—of actions or events. Such distinctions have been used by proportionalist theorists to justify intrinsically evil actions.

In paragraph 3, the important phrase "intrinsically evil" has been changed to "objectively disordered" and, in paragraph 4, "intrinsically evil" has been changed to "objectively immoral." These changes are not insignificant. They give the impression that, according to Father Nugent, in certain cases, homosexual acts might be subjectively justifiable. Such ambiguity is not acceptable in a Profession of Faith. In fact, the phrase "intrinsically evil" is employed by the Magisterium of the Church (cf. Veritatis splendor, 79-83), and should not be replaced, even for pastoral motives, with terminology which is far less clear.

Paragraph 7 of Father Nugent's Response is a completely new addition. While its precise meaning is not altogether clear, the reference to "difficulties in determining whether a part5icular teaching has in fact been taught infallibly by a non-defining act of the ordinary and universal magisterium," in the specific context of a Profession of Faith on the subject of homosexuality, can only be taken to mean that the author wishes to call into question the definitive status of doctrines regarding homosexuality belonging to the first and second paragraphs of the Professio fidei. The implication is that the status of doctrines of the first and second paragraphs is open to debate; thus, this addition contributes decisively to the inadequacy of his Response.