Someone sympathetic to the Cardinal could, for example, argue that Ratzinger was preoccupied with academic and administrative matters during nearly the whole of his priestly life; hence, he never had any reason to suspect that persons like Martha and Mary even existed. Thus, one could argue that the Cardinal’s ignorance of “holy sex” between same-sex couples was regrettable but excusable.
Furthermore, since Cardinal Ratzinger entered seminary at a young age, he himself would have been largely or entirely a stranger to sexual experience as well; hence, he would have had no way of knowing that “in practice” sexual encounters were a blessing or a curse depending upon the degree to which mutual respect, mutual caring, and mutual affection were operative prior to, within, and after the sexual coupling. Only a narrow legalistic mentality could imagine that sex between an engaged couple, for instance, could be entirely evil and sinful before their wedding night while, after their marriage, every sexual act would be judged to be entirely holy and grace-filled. Priests who have done a measure of marriage counseling know full well that marital sex can sometimes be cruel, manipulative, and painful–far away from the “love making” normally expected.
Giving Cardinal Ratzinger the benefit of the doubt
So, I want to give Cardinal Ratzinger the benefit of the doubt. I want to say that his ignorance (as described in the two paragraphs above) is excusable. What is not excusable, however, is that Cardinal Ratzinger went ahead and made terrible judgments about the moral worth of same-sex unions when he was blissfully ignorant about these matters. A doctor who made a medical diagnosis of a patient without personally examining him would be held as culpable. In the same way, Ratzinger’s diagnosis of the worth of same-sex unions is culpable because he acted recklessly and irresponsibly.
The fact that he sent out letters to the bishops all over the world mandating that they would apply his diagnosis as irrevocable and definitive makes him all the more culpable. Why so? (a) Because he arrogantly imagines that his own judgments have nothing to gain from consultation with others; and (b) because he mistakingly imagines that neither he nor his staff at the CDF are in any way limited by their own culturally conditioned experiences and their past theological training; and (c) because God himself consulted with Abraham regarding his plans on how to deal with the sins of Sodom (Gen 18:17ff).
And God said, “Should I hide what I am about to do from Abraham?” With even greater necessity, Cardinal Ratzinger should have revealed to representative bishops and theologians thoughout the world what he was about to say and to do relative to homosexual unions. Had he done this, he might have sent out his tentative pastoral letter of 2003 with the following safeguards:
To acknowledge that he has arrived at his own moral judgment on the worth of homosexual unions [based upon his own limited and culturally conditioned experiences];
To insist that bishops, as true teachers, have the right to make their own diagnosis based on their own particular pastoral experiences and theological training;
If they should arrive at the same informed diagnosis as his own, then they should go ahead and instruct their priests to act likewise;
However, should they arrive at a diagnosis different from his own (esp. one that conflicts with his own), then they should NOT instruct their priests to act likewise. Rather they should communicate to him in detail how they arrived at their unique findings;
Why so? (a) So that he [Cardinal Ratzinger] might better take into account data and judgments emerging from cultural situation different from his own. (b) So that he [Cardinal Ratzinger] might entertain the possibility that he needs more prayer, reflection, and dialogue in order prudently to modify his original assessment [such that it might take into account a cultural situation previously unknown to him].
But Cardinal Ratzinger did not consult with the world-wide bishops. He could have done this easily and face-to-face by making his anticipated pastoral letter the topic for the tri-annual meeting of representative bishops in Rome. Likewise, he could have consulted….
I leave aside my personal judgment of Cardinal Ratzinger. I focus entirely here on the fact that he did not consult with other competent and informed bishops. What his motives were need not enter here because these remain hidden to us. The fact that there was no public consultation, however, is alarming. It hints at Cardinal Ratzinger’s incomprehensible sense of self-sufficiency. At no point does he ever hint that he has any major or minor natural limitations–limitations in terms of the impoverishment of his personal experiences with same-sex couples, limitations in terms of his nearly non-existent pastoral care of homosexuals, and limitations in terms of his impoverished training in the varieties of moral reasoning and in the dependence of moral theology upon the bible.
The immediate result is that his 2003 letter to the bishops receives poor marks. He seems incapable of functioning outside of an authoritarian and essentialist moral analysis. His pastoral index is dangerously low. He wrongly presumes that those bishops, priests, and nuns who are ministering to gays and lesbian Catholics have nothing to offer him. His moral analysis is entirely negative. He says nothing about the faith, hope, and responsible love that characterizes so many same-sex marriages. Without saying it, he makes the fatal error of imagining that all the varieties of homosexuality practiced today are no different than what was being narrated in the story of Sodom (Gen 18) and in the condemnations of Paul in Rom 1:24-26. As a result, the cardinal’s biblical analysis is naive and amateurish.
More importantly, given all the errors named above (biblical, moral, and pastoral), why didn’t a storm of protest emerge?
#1 Why did the world-wide bishops not take issue with Cardinal Ratzinger’s 2003 letter in the same way that the bishops took issue when Paul VI published Humanae Vitae? Did their silence signal assent?
#2 Why did the world-wide moral theologians not take issue with Cardinal Ratzinger’s analysis of same-sex unions in the same way that moral theologians took issue when Paul VI published Humanae Vitae? Did their silence signal assent?
#3 Why were the challenges leveled by DignityUSA never acknowledged by the US bishops? . . . never acknowledged in diocesan newspapers and journals.
If you wish to address one of these, please click on the link associated with each of the questions above.
How bishops are expected to function
Various mandates have been published respecting the proper functioning of bishops. More importantly, in 2004, the Congregation for Bishops prepared and disseminated “Apostolorum Successores” (Directory for the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops). Here are three sections that I have selected because they specify the conduct required of bishops. With even greater force, therefore, they apply to the conduct of Cardinal Ratzinger.
#1 Good government requires the Bishop to do all in his power to seek the truth and to make every effort to perfect his teaching, attentive not only to the quantity but also to the quality of his pronouncements. In this way he will avoid the risk of adopting pastoral solutions of a purely formal nature which fail to address the substance of the problems (sec. 57).
#2 The Bishop should make it his business to acquire accurate knowledge of the common good of the diocese. This knowledge should be continually updated and confirmed through frequent visits among the people of God entrusted to him – so that he comes to know them – and also through study, socio-religious research, the counsel of prudent persons and constant dialogue with the faithful, since modern life is subject to such rapid changes (sec. 58).
#3 The Bishop will judge all things with prudence. . . . With a merciful and benign yet firm spirit, he will rise above personal interests, avoiding undue haste or partisan spirit, and will be sure to listen to the interested parties before reaching a judgement on their actions (sec. 65).
I leave it to my readers to give a grade to Cardinal Ratzinger relative to these three segments of Apostolorum Successores.
Those who want to interact with “Cardinal Ratzinger’s culpability,” are invited to post now. A solid way to begin doing this is to offer “readback lines.” To do this, glace back over the entire blog and pick out the one or two lines that have made a deep impression upon you. Copy them and then drop them into a feedback text box below. If you wish, signal the emotion that comes with these readback lines: love, anger, joy, anxiety, peace, etc.
Natural Law and Sexual Morality
by Chaplain Mike 27 May 2015
In light of the Irish vote to legalize same-sex marriage, a decision that has its Catholic leaders pondering what the future might hold, I thought we might discuss a few thoughts about traditional Christian teaching on sexuality, in particular the place of “natural law” in understanding sexual morality.
We traditional Christians tend to think our view of morality is a slam-dunk. That nature itself teaches clearly the purposes and goals for sexual relations, and that God’s revelation in the Bible and the Church’s Word and Spirit-prompted traditions are unequivocally compatible with those natural laws. As Peter Leithart writes at First Things: “Through the creation, human beings know the ordinance of God that there is a ‘natural function’ for sexuality.”
In Humane Vitae (1968), the monumental Catholic document about contemporary sexual morality, the Church teaches that moral sexual acts meet three criteria. They must be:
As the Catechism says:
Conjugal love involves a totality, in which all the elements of the person enter—appeal of the body and instinct, power of feeling and affectivity, aspiration of the spirit and of will. It aims at a deeply personal unity, a unity that, beyond union in one flesh, leads to forming one heart and soul; it demands indissolubility and faithfulness in definitive mutual giving; and it is open to fertility. In a word it is a question of the normal characteristics of all natural conjugal love, but with a new significance which not only purifies and strengthens them, but raises them to the extent of making them the expression of specifically Christian values.
This makes sense to me. I count myself traditional when it comes to matters of sexual morality.
But I wonder if appealing to natural law is really the best way to make the traditional point. It seems to me that nature teaches us some things fundamental about biology and reproduction. Male and female bodies complement one another. Human beings reproduce by joining them together in sexual intercourse. If we bring our Creator into the discussion, we might say that God designed our bodies this way for this purpose — this biological, procreative purpose. . . .
I’m not convinced that nature teaches us that sex should be marital. Or that “marital” must involve only one man and one woman, joined together for life. It seems to me that we need more information than what we could get from observing the natural world to come up with that.
Gary Gutting, professor of philosophy at Notre Dame and editor of Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, thinks the Church may have overplayed her hand with its emphasis on natural law teaching, especially in light of the contemporary debate on same-sex unions.
The problem is that, rightly developed, natural-law thinking seems to support rather than reject the morality of homosexual behavior.
Consider this line of thought from John Corvino, a philosopher at Wayne State University:
A gay relationship, like a straight relationship, can be a significant avenue of meaning, growth, and fulfillment. It can realize a variety of genuine human goods; it can bear good fruit. . . . [For both straight and gay couples,] sex is a powerful and unique way of building, celebrating, and replenishing intimacy.
The sort of relationship Corvino describes seems clearly one that would contribute to a couple’s fulfillment as human beings — whether the sex involved is hetero- or homosexual. Isn’t this just what it should mean to live in accord with human nature?
Noting that proponents also use natural law to show the immorality of birth control, masturbation and even non-reproductive sexual acts between heterosexuals, Gutting asks two questions:
First, why, even if non-reproductive sex were somehow less “natural” than reproductive, couldn’t it still play a positive role in a humanly fulfilling life of love between two people of the same sex?
Second, why must non-reproductive sex be only for the selfish pleasure of each partner, rather than, as Corvino put it, a way of building, celebrating, and replenishing their shared intimacy?
He is making the argument that the unitive and marital functions of sexuality can be fulfilled in relationships and through practices that are not necessarily procreative. The most conservative Catholic teachers disagree, and deny that any sexual act that leads to orgasm apart from intercourse is [il-] legitimate, even for heterosexual married couples. Yet we know that married couples continue their sexual relations long past childbearing years when no procreative purpose is in view, and find ways of pleasuring one another apart from intercourse alone. I suspect that those teachers don’t have a full appreciation of the significance of mutual pleasure in the sexual relationship.
As a traditionalist, if I were listing the essential elements of a “moral sexual act,” I would add “mutual pleasure” to marital, unitive, and procreative.
This “pleasure principle” is where a closer look at nature and human nature in particular might backfire on the traditional view. For example, because of the male anatomy, sexual intercourse is perfectly designed for male pleasure. This is not the case, however, with women. The anatomy of the female orgasm is focused on the clitoris, which is outside the vagina. The vast majority of women do not experience sexual climax through intercourse, but through direct stimulation of this external organ, and it’s entirely possible that those who do have orgasms during coitus have them because they receive indirect stimulation there. In other words, if sex is for mutual pleasure, then nature provided women with the wrong equipment to receive that pleasure through the procreative act alone.
It is not only nature, but the Bible itself that emphasizes the “mutual pleasure” significance of sex. In fact, one entire book of the Bible is devoted to it: The Song of Songs. This inspired, canonical work celebrates the unitive and mutual pleasure facets of love and sexuality with little emphasis on its marital aspects and no emphasis at all on its procreative possibilities. Maybe this book is one way God laughs at our little moral formulae.
Now, none of this is enough to persuade me to be anything other than the conservative person I am when it comes to sex, marriage, and family. And I have no agenda here of trying to persuade anyone else of anything. All this is simply to say that observations like these make me more cautious about thinking any case for a certain form of morality is strictly black and white, especially when based upon so-called “natural law” teaching.
This also makes me want to take much less of an “us vs. them” approach to talking about sexuality. The fact is, people who do not practice traditional morality may find great meaning, satisfaction, and deep bonds of love in their sexual relationships. For me to simply dismiss those people out there in “the world” as enslaved and bound by selfish desires, seeking their own pleasure at the expense of others, is not an honest portrayal of the people I observe every day. Loving my neighbor means I can learn from my neighbor, appreciate my neighbor, and see the image of God in him or her even though we hold different moral views.
I can maintain my moral beliefs and still confess that things can get a bit murky.
There are three things which are too wonderful for me,
For which I do not understand:
The way of an eagle in the sky,
The way of a serpent on a rock,
The way of a ship in the middle of the sea,
And the way of a man with a maid. (Proverbs 30:18-19, NASB)
May 27, 2015 at 12:24 am
Appeals to ‘natural law’ can really go awry.
Robert F says:
May 27, 2015 at 5:34 am
I increasingly have a hard time putting any credence in any sexual morality that attempts to micromanage from outside what happens inside other people’s sexual lives. Such intrusion seems extremely unnatural to me, any way you cut it.
Miguel says [to Robert F]:
May 27, 2015 at 12:07 pm
Right? I mean, Jesus and all them had some important stuff to say about the topic and all, but I kind of appreciate how general and vague they tended to be. There’s a few things clearly over the line, and the rest is “love your neighbor.” ….just not in that way.
The Finn says:
May 27, 2015 at 6:03 am
> I count myself traditional when it comes to matters of sexual morality.
> I’m not convinced that nature teaches us that sex should be marital.
Agree. It does not seem nature has much interest in the matter.
> the Church may have overplayed her hand with its emphasis on natural law teaching
I agree. Natural Law upon analysis very often looks like “what we thought was ‘normal’ yesterday” more than it appears to be derivative of something from Nature. Nature is massive, you can find all kinds of things within it.
> All this is simply to say that observations like these make me more cautious about thinking any case for a certain form of morality is strictly black and white, especially when based upon so-called “natural law” teaching.
> For me to simply dismiss those people out there in “the world” as enslaved and bound by selfish desires, seeking their own pleasure at the expense of others, is not an honest portrayal of the people I observe every day
I know some really amazing people ‘of the world’; to accuse them of selfishness in their personal relationship would be unconscionable.
Henry Darger says:
May 28, 2015 at 6:16 am
Why does “traditional” Christianity always boil down to its most bigoted aspects? Whatever happened to love, the Golden Rule, etc.? On the subject of sex, the internet atheists are far more sensible and ethically grounded than this retrograde claptrap: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/godlessindixie/2015/05/22/the-church-doesnt-get-to-make-the-rules-about-sex-anymore/
May 27, 2015 at 9:12 am
May I point out that a Church who privileges celibacy just might not be the best source of advice on human sexuality? And we should probably note that the Church’s teachings on sexuality are one of the most often cited factors in the rise of the ‘Nones’?
I was reading an article recently on the so-called “Purity Ball” movement in some Conservative Christian groups where ceremonies are held in which daughters pledge their virginity until marriage to their Fathers. The article pointed out that polls show young girls who pledge their virginity are just as likely to have premarital sex as ones who do not. But there is a striking increase in the likelihood of sexually transmitted diseases and unplanned pregnancies among the pledgers because they aren’t taught about contraception!
Chaplain Mike says:
May 27, 2015 at 5:08 pm
Earlier in the post I mentioned that the pleasure factor enhances unity, but I think it’s more than that, especially when viewed from the standpoint of what nature teaches. By nature, the sex act is pleasurable and since both partners are capable of orgasm, it is apparently designed for mutual pleasure. I think that traditional teaching has understated this for fear that an emphasis on pleasure will undercut moral responsibility. In my view that has had disastrous consequences. Neither nature nor the Bible is shy about the pleasure sex provides. If God made our bodies and the sexual process, he apparently designed them for pleasure as well as procreation, and in the case of females that doesn’t happen usually through intercourse. I thought that these were points worthy of making “mutual pleasure” a separate point.
Those who want to interact with this blog are warmly invited to “Leave a Reply” below. A solid way to begin doing this is to offer “readback lines.” To do this, quickly glace back over the entire blog and pick out the one or two lines that have made a deep impression upon you. Copy them [CTRL-C] and then paste them [CTRL-V] into an empty comment box below. If you wish, signal the emotion that you feel when reading your readback lines. The primary emotions are anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, surprise. No need to further explain yourself. It is enough to identify the text important to you and to name the emotion(s) that it evokes. All of this takes less than a minute.
I and others will “thank you” for your contribution. If you are tempted to say more, I urge you to hold back. Your sense of safety and the safety of others is best protected by not getting overly wordy in the beginning. This will come after a few days or weeks.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Endnotes and Leave a Reply~~~~~~~~
Cardinal Ratzinger uses arguments largely drawn from reason. Other opponents of gays and lesbians, however, give much greater attention to those critical texts in the Jewish and Christian Scriptures that explicitly condemn men having sex with other men. In fact, the terms “sodomy” and “sodomize” came into the English language due to the biblical narrative (Gen 19:1-15) that describes how God’s wrath fell on the city of Sodom precisely because its male citizenry took delight in humiliating outsiders by raping them anally.
This biblical text and others as well never speak of men having sex with other men as a sign and symbol of the love bond that binds them together.[i] God’s wrath fell on the city of Sodom because of detestable “acts of hate” being inflicted upon strangers. There is no biblical text that either approves or disapproves of “acts of love” between committed same-sex partners.
The condemnation of Paul in Rom 1:24-26
St. Paul in his letter to the Romans condemns idolatry for it leads to homosexuality. Idolatry, in Paul’s mind, leaves aside worship of the Creator and, in its place, “exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals.” In parallel fashion, idolatry leads a man to exchange the sexual use of his wife and to seek sexual satisfaction[ii] with another man: “men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another.”
Paul, in his letters, condemns shameful acts of sex. He condemns the man sleeping with his step-mother (1 Cor 5:1). He condemns “male prostitutes”[iii] and “sodomites” (1 Cor 6:9). Most scholars[iv] remind us that Corinth was famously dedicated to the goddess Aphrodite (Venus) and that temple prostitution was the standard way for religious devotees, both men and women, to worship the goddess and to maintain the temple staff at the same time. The fact that Paul condemns “idolaters” first and then goes on to immediately name “adulterers, male prostitutes, and sodomites” (1 Cor 6:9 NRSV) may signal that, here also, Paul names the immoral offshoots of temple worship.
Paul is quite possibly aware that cultic prostitution was commonly practiced by the ancient Near Eastern fertility religions and that, from the moment the Israelites entered into the Promised Land, they struggled to avoid such practices (Num 25:1-9, Jdg 2:17-19). This became especially prevalent beginning with the monarchy of Rehoboam (1 Kgs 14:24) and extending to the monarchy of Josiah (2 Kgs 23:7). According to Exod 34:11-16 the practice of exterminating conquered tribes was necessitated in order to wipe out cultic prostitution. During the Deteronomic reform, the Law of Moses was expanded specifically to forbid cultic prostitution for Israelites (Deut 23:16-17, Amos 2:7). Thus, to the degree that Paul was aware of these aspects of his Jewish historical background, he would have had a predisposition to seeing a causal link between idolatry and cultic prostitution.
In the Letter to the Romans, Paul expressly condemns “homosexuality.” Why so? Here is the progression in his argument.
First, men exchanged “the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature [idols] rather than the Creator” (Rom 1:25). Next, as a result, “God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity” (1:24). “Their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another” (1:26).
The link that Paul draws between idolatry and homosexuality[v] may appear obscure to modern thinkers. This link, however, is very clear and dear to Paul. The implied logic is this: Make the mistake of exchanging worship of the true God for idol worship and, in the next moment, you will make the mistake of exchanging natural sex for unnatural sex.
Think now with me about Martha and Mary, two lesbian lay-ministers in my parish who asked me to join with a dozen others to witness their “vows of perpetual fidelity.” Is this anything like what Paul was encountering? Let’s explore this:
- Martha and Mary worship exclusively with me at Annunciation Catholic Church. Paul is condemning devotees of the goddess Aphrodite (Venus) in Corinth.
- Martha and Mary have been living in an exclusive relationship, sharing their daily lives, for over a dozen years. Paul is condemning female devotees who exchange sex with female prostitutes (probably slaves). This is decidedly not an exclusive relationship and does not imply an abiding emotional bond together.
- Martha and Mary have chosen a same-sex union because their Creator designed them to have an innate sexual attraction to their own kind. Union with a man would be “unnatural” for them and contrary to God design for them. Paul, on the other hand, condemns temple prostitution because (a) it is a form of idolatry and (b) it requires an “unnatural” act of sex.
In conclusion, Paul’s condemnation of homosexuality in Rom 1:24-26 can have no application to the same-sex union of Martha and Mary as it exists today. Paul was condemning homosexuality as he knew it in his day, namely, as an offshoot of temple prostitution.
In Ohio, most Catholic churches have a summer festival in order to raise a major portion of their operating expenses. At these festivals, Catholics get an opportunity “to have some good, clean fun together” and “to meet their neighbors” as well. From time to time, some unsavory practices do creep into these fairs. Some would be shocked to find black-jack-poker tables and belly dancing at a few of these fairs. I myself was especially disappointed to find cruelty to animals–baby ducks being forced to take part in betting races and baby fish slowly suffocating in plastic bags being offered as prizes. At some Protestant churches in the remote hills of Kentucky, worshipers routinely reach into cages and pick up rattle snakes with their bare hands. They do this in order to testify to the power of God to overcome serpents. In none of these cases, however, I have yet to find a Christian congregation sponsoring “sacred prostitution” by way of funding the work of the Christian ministry. Should any church ever encourage such a practice, Paul’s condemnation would surely apply. That is for sure.
But it is equally certain that the case of Martha and Mary has nothing to do with prostitution and idolatry.[vi]
Anyone who says that it does has never properly done their homework. Thus, I challenge Cardinal Ratzinger and his supporters to cease and desist from calling upon Rom 1:24-26 by way of passing judgment as to whether God loves same-sex marriages.
Listen to the words of a prominent supporter of Cardinal Ratzinger: Cardinal Juan Sandoval Íñiguez, Archbishop Emeritus of Guadalajara, Mexico:
“There are many people who have the misfortune of being homosexual but who live chastely,” said Sandoval. “Those, yes, [who live chastely] are going to enter into the kingdom of God. But those who practice it [homosexually] will not enter the kingdom of God. St. Paul says that. And homosexuality is condemned, totally condemned, in the Old Testament, in Genesis, and by St. Paul in the New Testament.”
“So just as those who have normal tendencies, and aren’t married, have to abstain [from sex], so those who have abnormal tendencies must also abstain,” said Sandoval, adding, “Even more so, knowing that homosexuality is a psychological illness which can be cured. Let them seek a cure, because homosexuality is never permitted.”
Cardinal Sandoval finds support from Cardinal Ratzinger’s when it comes time to using Rom 1:24-26 to condemn contemporary same-sex marriages. But not even Ratzinger maintains the dubious notion that “homosexuality is a psychological illness” that might someday find a “cure.” Thus, Cardinal Sandoval has not only failed to do his homework on Rom 1:24-26, he has also failed to keep up with advances in the field of psychology. Being a cardinal in the Catholic Church, truth to say, offers him no protection from making errors in either the field of psychology or in the field of biblical studies.
When it comes to biblical studies, make no mistake about it. This is not Cardinal Ratzinger’s specialization. He has neither the training nor the interest in keeping abreast with contemporary biblical studies. This being the case, then I must ask the Cardinal:
“Why did you not get the outside help you needed in biblical studies?”
“How could you have possibly imagined that homosexual couples today were doing the same sort of things described in Gen 19:1-15 and Rom 1:24-26?”
Those who want to interact with this blog are invited to “Leave a Reply” below. A solid way to begin doing this is to offer “readback lines.” To do this, quickly glace back over the entire blog and pick out the one or two lines that have made a deep impression upon you. Copy them [CTRL-C] and then paste them [CTRL-V] into an empty comment box below. If you wish, signal the emotion that you feel when reading your readback lines. The primary emotions are anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, surprise. No need to further explain yourself. It is enough to identify the text important to you and to name the emotion(s) that it evokes. All of this normally takes less than a few minutes.
I and others will “thank you” for your contribution. If you are tempted to say more, I urge you to hold back. Your sense of safety and the safety of others is best protected by not getting overly wordy in the beginning. This will come after a few days or weeks.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Endnotes and Leave a Reply~~~~~~~~
[i] Matthew Vines discovery that the biblical texts commonly used to condemn homosexuality do not address the morality of committed homosexual unions has been noted by Roman Catholic biblical scholars:
The 1986 Letter set to the bishops by Cardinal Ratzinger cites six scriptural passages that demonstrate that “homosexual behavior” is immoral (Gen. 19:1-11; Lev. 18:22, 20:13; 1 Cor. 6:9-10; 1 Tim 1:9-10; Rom. 1:26-27). The Catechism of the Catholic Church enforces this position as well: “Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved” (§2378). But this is disputed by a number of biblical scholars and theologians.
Key points made by biblical scholars such as Derrick Bailey, Victor Paul Furnish, James P. Hanigan, Daniel Helminiak, H. Darrell Lance, and Robin Scroggs include:
- There are translation difficulties. For example, it was 1946 before the term “homosexual” first appeared in an English translation (1946 Revised Standard Version). Homosexuality is not a prominent biblical concern. The prophets, the gospels, and Jesus say nothing about homosexuality as a “same-sex attraction.”
- These six scriptural texts are not in passages dealing with moral principles but appear in contexts where the focus is something else. For example, most biblical scholars believe the primary sin of Sodom is inhospitality. Jesus implies that in Luke 10:8-12 (If not welcomed in town, wipe dust of feet in protest. “I tell you, on that day it will be more tolerable for Sodom than for that town.”). None of the 21 later Hebrew Scripture references to Sodom even mention homosexual acts.
- The biblical writers had no concept of homosexual orientation. Scientists first began to understand homosexuality as an orientation in the mid-to-late 1800s.
The Bible takes no direct stand on the morality of homogenital acts as such nor on the morality of gay and lesbian relationships as we conceive them today. . . . That is all that can be said about biblical teaching on homosexuality. If people would still seek to know if gay and lesbian sex in itself is good or evil, if homogenital acts per se are right or wrong, they will have to look elsewhere for an answer. For the fact of the matter is simple enough. The Bible never addresses that question. More than that, the Bible seems deliberately unconcerned about it. (Theologian Daniel Helminiak, What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality, April 2000, p.132-133)
[ii] Notice that in this text Paul expresses a patriarchal point of view. The issue is “the sexual satisfaction of men.” Men decide. Love has nothing to do with it. Exclusive commitment has nothing to do with it. Men get their sexual needs met as best pleases them.
[iii] The NRSV translates the Greek as “male prostitutes and sodomites.” The KJV has “nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind”—quite a different translation. The NIV translates: “nor men who have sex with men” and the footnotes says, “The words men who have sex with men translate two Greek words that refer to the passive and active participants in homosexual acts.”
What one discovers here is that the Greek text is very difficult to translate and that none of the English translations can be seen as definitive. Consider, for example, the first Greek word=malakoi:
This common Greek word had different connotations depending on the context in which it was used. In terms of morality, it generally referred to something like laziness, degeneracy, decadence, or lack of courage. The connotation was of being “soft like a woman” or like the delicate expensive fabrics worn by rich men.
In the patriarchal culture of the time, women were thought to be weaker than men, more fearful, more vulnerable, and more vain. Thus, men who ate too much, liked expensive things, were lazy, or liked to dress well were considered “soft like a woman.” Although this type of misogynistic thinking is intolerable in our modern society, it was common in ancient times and explains why the King James Version translated malakoi as “effeminate.”
But it is important to understand the difference between ancient and modern notions of what makes one effeminate. Paul wasn’t condemning men who swish and carry purses; he was condemning a type of moral weakness. The ancient Roman and Greek understanding of what it meant to be manly or womanly was quite different from today. First-century Romans didn’t think of effeminacy as merely a homosexual trait. In that culture, any man who was more interested in pleasure than in duty was considered to be woman-like [i.e.“soft”].
To examine the remainder of this article, go to Jeff Minor, The Children are Free, pp. 16-18. (http://wouldjesusdiscriminate.org/biblical_evidence/no_fems_no_fairies.html)
[iv] Most biblical scholars are persuaded that Paul was a witness to the temple prostitution in Corinth. More recently, however, scholars have questioned this assumption. Why so? (a) Only a few ancient sources speak of how sacred prostitution functioned in the cult of Aphrodite. (b) Corinth as a Greek city-state was completely destroyed by the Romans, and it was restored in 44 BCE by Julius Caesar as a Roman colony. (c) Paul never once mentions the Temple of Aphrodite (compare with Acts 19). Thus Paul’s tirade against idolatry as inevitably leading to shameful “unnatural” sex may have been a standard line of argumentation learned during his Pharisaical training and have nothing to do with the decadence he observed among the worshippers of Aphrodite in Corinth. See Tony Perrottet, “Ancient Greek Temples of Sex” (https://thesmartset.com/article11210701/) & “Holy Hookers and Historical Myths” (http://thethirstygargoyle.blogspot.com/2011/07/holy-hookers-and-historical-myths.html).
One must also remember that cultic prostitution was commonly practiced by the ancient Near Eastern fertility religions and that, from the moment they entered into the Promised Land, the Israelites struggled to avoid such practices (Num 25:1-9, Jdg 2:17-19). This became especially prevalent beginning with the monarchy of Rehoboam (1 Kgs 14:24) and extending to the monarchy of Josiah (2 Kgs 23:7). According to Exod 34:11-16 the practice of exterminating conquered tribes was necessitated in order to wipe out cultic prostitution. During the Deteronomic reform, the Law of Moses was expanded specifically to forbid cultic prostitution for Israelites (Deut 23:16-17, Amos 2:7).
Jeffrey H. Tigay, Emeritus A.M. Ellis Professor of Hebrew and Semitic Languages and Literatures in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Pennsylvania, disagrees: “It is questionable whether cultic prostitution existed at all in the ancient Near East” (http://www.kjvtoday.com/home/sodomite-or-cult-prostitute-deuteronomy-2317-et-al).
[v] In today’s society, Christians have the nasty habit of linking atheism with the absence of moral norms. This is a stereotype, to be sure. I am currently living in Shanghai, China. The Chinese are 98% atheists, yet, in day to day contacts, they practice an exemplary morality. We never lock our doors here. In the marketplace, I often pay for groceries by extending my hand filled with a bunch of coins and allow the merchant to select the correct amount. I feel secure when travelling in dark alleys in the middle of the night. When I tripped and fell on my face, complete strangers immediately came to my assistance.
Paul, in his day, was operating out of Jewish stereotypes that linked idolatry with homosexuality. For a study of these Jewish stereotypes and for an understanding of how name-calling was used in rhetorical arguments, see Jeremy Punt, “Religion, sex and politics: Scripting connections in Romans 1:18-32 and Wisdom 14:12-14,” HTS Teologiese Studies/Theological Studies, 73 (2017) n.4 (http://www.scielo.org.za/
[vi] Dale B. Martin, “Heterosexism and the Interpretation of Romans 1:18-32,” Biblical Interpretation, 3/3 (1995) 332 – 355.
Modern interpreters, influenced more by particularly modern forms of heterosexism and its construction of homosexuality, desire, and “nature” than by a straightforward historical-critical reading of Paul’s letter, portray Paul as referring to the “Fall” of Genesis 1-3 in Romans 1. Paul, it is assumed, takes homosexuality to be a sign of “humanity’s fallen state.” These interpreters, therefore, inscribe homosexual desire into universal fallen humanity in a way that Paul does not do. For one thing, Paul is referring not to the Fall in Romans 1 but to the invention of idolatry and polytheism by the Gentiles; homosexual intercourse is therefore not a symptom of “the Fall” but of Gentile polytheism.
“When seeking a biblical justification for opposing homosexual behavior, many people turn to Romans 1:26-27, but John Piper argues that one cannot separate these verses from Paul’s argument about idolatry in verses 18-25” (http://www.christianitytoday.com/pastors/2012/september-online-only/ur-video-piper-homosexuality-and-idolatry.html). “Idolatry and shrine prostitution, not homosexuality and lesbianism, are primarily what Paul addressed in Romans 1” (http://www.gaychristian101.com/Romans-1-And-Homosexuality.html). See also n. 36.