Thursday, December 22, 2011

Response to a liberal Catholic

In the comments of

 Tim MacGeorge writes,
With all due respect, I think that your posts, to varying degrees, represent what so many Catholics suffer from, and that is what one seminary professor of mine referred to as a "4th grade education" when it comes to things religious and theological. To take selected scripture passages out of context in order to "prove" a point is an illegitimate use of scripture. Practically every scripture scholar agrees that neither the Hebrew nor Christian scriptures address what we today call "same-sex attraction." Old testament passages often cited against homosexuality use the same word to describe such acts as they do to describe the eating of shellfish and the wearing of clothes of mixed fibers -- yet for some reason the bishops don't condemn wearing cotton-blend clothes with the same ferocity. I wonder why? As to the claim that no Catholic in good conscience can support gay marriage, well this is simply false. There are thousands and thousands of good Catholics - including many theologians and clergy -- with very well-formed consciences, who firmly believe that the "official" position of the current bishops is simply incorrect. Just as the "teaching" of the church as "developed" over time as it relates to other moral issues (e.g. slavery, usury to name but two), so too will this teaching. Best wishes to both of you and I pray that the Lord of Light whose birth we celebrate might continue to enlighten us all on our journey from darkness into the Light of His Love and Truth.
I have an education in things religious and theological that surpasses the 4th grade somewhat, so allow me to (helpfully) point to some rhetorical wrinkles in your post. First, your statement about Scripture appears to ignore the Letter to the Romans, which if it isn't about same sex attraction, must have been written metaphorically. Perhaps you can reveal the true meaning. Moreover, I'm curious about which scripture scholars are so persuaded that the Bible is a great friend of same sex attraction.

Second, I believe there is a intellectual dishonesty in likening Deuteronomy's proscription against sodomy to its dietary laws. You know as well as I do that the Catholic Church's own position on gay sex is founded less on minutiae of Hebrew religious law than it is on sober theological reflection on the human body as a beloved creation. Sexual matters have earned special attention in Catholic teaching through the centuries because they are, after all, at the heart of human origins, and thus also our identity and dignity.

Third, as to what "good Catholics" can or cannot believe, let's be precise in our language, please. Most American Catholics dissent from Catholic teaching in this or that issue. Dissent is materially wrong, sometimes seriously so, but normally it is borne out of misunderstanding rather than malice. I think it's unfortunate that Catholics are not trained better in desiring and seeking a deeper understanding of the truths behind Catholic teaching.

Only God can know hearts, and thus who the "good Catholics" really are. To be a Catholic in good standing with the Church (a more objective descriptor), one ought not publicly teach against Catholic doctrine in any matter of faith and morals, by word or example. Anybody can mark "Catholic" on the census forms, but at no time has the Church given a smile and wink to the idea that the contents of the Catechism are mostly fair-game for dissent. So there are likely many millions of Catholics who are not objectively in good standing with the Church. They may be good people. So might I. God only knows.

Also, no need to use scare quotes for the phrase "'official' position". It really is the official position. And it is not likely to change. This is because impossibility of gay marriage actually has the same ideological root as one of the other positions you mentioned: the prohibition of slavery. Both of these positions are founded on the inviolable dignity of the human individual in body, mind, and spirit. Gay sex and slavery both represent a misappropriation and distortion of the meaning of the human body.

Any development of doctrine (and I agree that doctrine does develop) is going to more powerfully honor that principle--not contradict it. So while liberals are expecting Catholic thought to move inevitably leftward (as you seem to be), those thinking with the Church see it moving, in fits and starts, ever Christward. Leftward and Christward are not opposites but they are emphatically not the same. Liberals are doomed to be disappointed with doctrinal development.


Paperback Writer said...

Well written Jeff. I'm curious to know if you got any further responses to your argument!

bill bannon said...

I actually agree with you on gay activity but disagree on slavery. Chattel slavery was given by God to the Jews in a context far different than modern economies. Ergo the Catholic trend starting in Vatican II and reappearing in "Splendor of the Truth" section 80 of denouncing slavery wholesale is a fallible error. Here is God giving chattel slavery to the Jews in the Catholic translation (NAB) of the Bible:
Leviticus 25:44-46
* The male and female slaves that you possess—these you shall acquire from the nations round about you.p
You may also acquire them from among the resident aliens who reside with you, and from their families who are with you, those whom they bore in your land. These you may possess,
and bequeath to your children as their hereditary possession forever. You may treat them as slaves. But none of you shall lord it harshly over any of your fellow Israelites."

In primitive nomadic economies, there were no prisons and no welfare assistance if one was beginning to starve.
Both groups ended up as slaves....the starving would volunteer for it....criminals would not and you will eventually see harsh passages in the Bible regarding beating slaves.
Very understandable once you imagine yourself as a farm owner with a criminal slave whose offense was robbing people under force of arms.
Right now far into the Amazon, you probably have slavery for these same reasons among primitive tribes. Brazil and Peru have the largest number of uncontacted tribes on earth....which does not speak well of Spain and Portugal's orginal mission per the late 15th century Popes who thought both countries would missionize all people there.
Not every single thing a Pope says even about morals is infallible (see Ludwig Ott/ Introduction to "Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma"/ online for free (the intro only). John Paul II erred in calling slavery an intrinsic evil. God does not give intrinsic evils but He gave slavery in a primitive context to the Jews in Leviticus 25:44-46.