It seems ironic that in one and the same article, Aaron Taylor applauds a piece of communication despite the fact that it was widely misrepresented and then turns right around and counsels Christians not to use certain kinds of communication precisely because they will be misrepresented
Taylor offers advice on how the Church can more effectively articulate its position on homosexuality, the chief of which is to abandon language that uses expressions like "intrinsically disordered." Such language, which Pope Francis avoided in his Rio comments (which were grossly distorted by the secular world), lends itself to being grossly distorted by the secular world.
In fact, the media reaction to the Pope's comments, comments with which Taylor begins his remarks, offers a lesson exactly the opposite to that which Taylor gives us.
But in addition to the inherent inconsistency of Taylor's article, this kind of perspective (a perspective which seems be one part creative theology and five parts public relations) is a dangerous stance from which to offer advice to the Church. Obviously the Church has to take account of how its message is received, which it does every time it issues a pronouncement in a language other than Latin. But crafting the message should never compromise its content.
It is easy for the kind of advice offered by Taylor to lapse into a kind of consequentialism that would inevitably result in the Church acting in ways that misrepresent its position--and worse.
In addition, it is not clear to me that because Aquinas says in one place that the act of sex outside of marriage is “intrinsically disordered” that he therefore believes that homosexual proclivity is itself not intrinsically disordered in a way that heterosexual fornication is not.
In fact, Aquinas draws a distinction in Question 154 of the Second Part of the Summa Theologica between some lustful vices, which are natural but not in accord with right reason, and other acts (e.g., masturbation, bestiality, homosexuality, and unnatural sexual relations between heterosexuals), which are not only not in accord with right reason, but which are, in addition, unnatural.
Both fornication and homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered,” but the latter are, in addition, according to Thomas, unnatural. This is, of course, backed up by the words of Paul in Romans, where he calls homosexual acts sin “against nature.”
I realize the subject here is whether we should use the term “intrinsically disordered,” but appealing to Thomas will only make things worse, since, in addition to being intrinsically disordered, Thomas would have us also calling them “unnatural,” a term not exactly designed to fix the PR problem Taylor is so concerned to fix.
And so it is hard to fathom, in a discussion in which Aquinas is apparently considered authoritative, how Taylor can say, “the real moral absolute for Catholics in the domain of sex is the one against non-procreative acts, regardless of either the gender or the sexual orientation of the participants.” There really are no other particular (or “real”) moral distinctions the Church draws?
I suggest Taylor spend a little more time in the Summa, where numerous other important distinctions are drawn. It would cure him of this misconception fairly quickly.
Then there is the discussion of the advantages of using expressions such as “exceptionless moral norms” and “moral absolutes,” which takes us from John Stuart Mill (who lurks behind the first part of Taylor's post) to Kant (who seems to haunt the second part).
Taylor thinks the Kantian approach will do the PR trick, which, whatever the advantages he thinks it has (which are questionable), have the additional disadvantage of distorting the traditional moral teaching of the Church. Traditionally, the Church's ethical teaching has been neither consequentialist (as would be the result of the PR emphasis) nor deontological (which his language of “moral absolutes” would promote).
The Church’s main ethical tradition is that of virtue ethics, which is founded on the idea (derived both Aristotle and Aquinas, as well as the Apostle Paul) that certain things are natural and unnatural—which is why it can speak an ethical language with terms like “intrinsic.” This is the tradition which Taylor would have us abandon.
I sympathize with Taylor's motivations and I’m sure there are better ways to present the truths of the Church than many are now doing. But the fact is that as long as the Church opposes homosexuality in any way, shape, or form, any statement by the Church or its members is going to be ill-received by the “gay community”-- a group of people with which, as a group, Taylor seems to be so concerned that the Church have good relations.
There may be a way to do things differently when it comes to a public dialogue on homosexuality, but abandoning the traditional moral categories the Church has used for centuries is not the way to do it. And if we're going to lose the public battle on this issue, which looks likely, we might as well do it with our moral theology intact, so that, in a better time, when the "gay community" will have been swept away by history, the Church can speak it anew.