I have an important update to my post from yesterday in regard to the subject of “Intrinsic Disorder.” Many thanks to Marie Dean who pointed out to me via email, and who pledges to write a related post soon on her blog, that disorder is never intrinsic. This is the point I was (clumsily) making in my post, but I failed to point out that the use of the term “intrinsic disorder” is itself erroneous. I’m guessing I was subconsciously remembering how I have been treated in the past when I took issue with a term (“gay”) when writing on this topic. There is no such thing as an “intrinsic disorder” in Catholic spirituality. That man is intrinsically disordered, in spiritual language, is a protestant belief. We can attribute the error’s popularity to Martin Luther, primarily.
It is my understanding that “intrinsic disorder” is a medical term. Perhaps this is where Elizabeth Scalia has heard the term used before. In Catholic spirituality, we refer to same-sex attraction as “objective disorder.” This means, as I stated in my post, that it is something not inherently a part of our own being. Marie pointed this out to me via email (and rightly so):
Objective means outside one’s being but real, such as an objective perception or objective view; we sin objectively against God’s commands, and a disorder which is objective can be changed, (I can objectively become more holy, for example) wherein an intrinsic one cannot be, by definition.
Spot on. Mind you, I don’t expect the average person who is not well-studied in Catholic teaching and/or apologetics to understand why something that initially seems so trivial can be such a huge deal, but it really is the difference between understanding that you can become a saint and the false belief that one cannot possibly become a saint, in the sense that Catholics understand sainthood.
Protestants after the tradition of Martin Luther believe that human beings are intrinsically disordered. Luther referred to “saved” people as snow-covered piles of dung. Fr. William Saunders writes:
Luther believed that original sin had completely destroyed our likeness to God, so that a person lost his free will and all his works were sinful. He taught that after baptism, original sin remained. (While Catholics distinguish original sin from concupiscence, Lutherans essentially do not.) Even after baptism, man’s nature remains depraved; there is no re-creation. However, through baptism and the graces merited by our Lord’s passion and death, a man is clothed in grace and thereby appears just in the eyes of God. Martin Luther described a justified man as a snow-covered pile of dung, clean on the outside but not on the inside. (Please note, this is literally Luther’s imagery.) He explained further, “I understand grace in the sense of a favor of God, but not in the notion of a quality in the soul. It is any exterior good, that is, the favor of God as opposed to His anger.” For Luther, grace then remained extrinsic to the person, and did not produce a new creation. So the classic Lutheran phrase, simul justus et peccator — at the same time righteous and a sinner — captures the state of the person even after baptism.Following this reasoning, since man is depraved and sinful, so are his actions. Therefore, good works are meaningless for Luther, and have no part in justification, thereby ignoring the teaching of St. James. For Luther, salvation comes through “faith alone.”
Protestants of this erroneous tradition also believe that they can subjectively determine what the truth is without the aid of the Church. They see fides ecclesiastica as a false doctrine, hence their belief in Sola Scriptura. Anyone who has spent time debating protestants on the topic of subjective belief and objective truth should have no trouble understanding the topic of objective disorder. This is why I think that anyone who writes about Catholic theology and spirituality would do well to spend at least a month or two engaged in apologetics debate with protestants. The use or misuse of one term may seem trivial to you, but it is often the difference between understanding the truth about God and not understanding the truth about Him. As I have notedrepeatedly, it is the difference between life and death for me, personally.
I have been called a “drama queen” by Catholics who disagree with me on this because I ended up in the crisis unit when a former spiritual director got this wrong. I assure you that every time I write on this topic, I think of this. Please pay attention. Lives are at stake. If I said that “hives” are at stake, you’d have reason to ignore me and call me a loon who is just seeking attention and worldly glory because I’m “jealous” of some other blogger, but lives are at stake. Sometimes even one letter being wrong can change everything. My aim is to lead souls to Christ, not to generate traffic to my blog. If just one person comes to Christ because of what I have written here, it will be worth everything to me.