The first step in clarity: “Partnerships” not “Unions”

Okay, this is going to be a short post on the continuing topic of “same-sex marriage”.

Some bishops (eg. Archbishop Vincent Nichols and Bishop Greg O’Kelly) have seen something of a life-line thrown to them by “civil unions” as alternative to “same-sex marriage”. A bit of caution here from the Vatican’s own directives on the matter.

The first step in clarity for Catholics (including bishops) in discussing this issue should be to refuse to use the word “unions” to describe the cohabitation of same-sex couples. These are NOT “unions”, but partnerships. The idea that marriage is a “union” is, if I am not mistaken, a specifically Judeo-Christian one, following on texts such as Genesis 2:24 and Matthew 19:5. As such it is appropriate to discuss the question of “union” in relation to marriage as a religious concept, and not a legal, secular concept.

In Christian thinking, marriage between one man and one woman is a “union” because man and woman are fundamentally orientated towards one another. This is a biological fact, but one that goes much deeper, according to Jesus’ teaching, to include a union at the level of being (ie. REALITY). The Genesis text makes it clear that God created humans “in his image” precisely as “man and woman”. Analogies help here: such as knives and forks and nuts and bolts. A nut and a bolt are oriented to one another in a fundamental fashion such that you can’t build a structure with only bolts or only nuts. “Man and woman” can form a unity in just the same way that “nut and bolt” form a union. Two nuts or two bolts form a pair, not a unity.

If (IF) it is believed beneficial to the State to regulate in some way the personal affairs of cohabiting persons of the same sex, fine. Personally, I would be supportive of any legislation that makes it possible for any two people (without any reference at all to the sex or sexual activity of the partners – how can you make a legal contract dependant upon what people do in “the privacy of their own bedrooms”?) to form a binding partnership with legal protection. But we should under all circumstances avoid calling them “unions”, since to do so is the equivalent of calling them “marriages”. Only marriage forms a “union”.

About Schütz

I am Catholic, married to Cathy, father of Maddy & Mia. Since 2002, I have been the Executive Officer of the Ecumenical & Interfaith Commission of the Archdiocese of Melbourne. I was once a Lutheran pastor, but a "year of grace" and soul-searching led me into the Catholic Church. It was a bumpy ride, but with the support of my (still Lutheran) wife, I was finally confirmed on June 16, 2003.
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34 Responses to The first step in clarity: “Partnerships” not “Unions”

  1. mormorador says:

    Im not sure the analogies are helpful – a first thought on reading them was: so whats the sexual equivalent of a splade (!), or, more relevantly for your test, as identical-but-unified-b/c you need two) chopsticks!

  2. Peregrinus says:

    It’s a brave attempt, David. But:

    1. I reiterate my previous warnings about exposing ourselves to charges of “political correctness”.

    2. The church authoritatively uses the term “union” in the way you advise against. In the Catechism, for instance, fornication is described as a “carnal union” (para 2353), and an invalid second marriage after divorce is similarly described as a “union” in para 2384, and a “civil union” in para 1650. More broadly a parish is a “union” (para 2179). In the Code of Canon Law we have “labour unions” (canon 287) and unions of religious instituted (Canon 582) , the Holy See “unites” ecclesiastical provinces where it seems advantageous to do so (Canon 433), the people of God “unite” together by participating in the Eucharistic gathering (canon 899), clerics are to be “united” by a bond of brotherhood and prayer (Canon 275), the brothers or sisters of a religious institute are “united” together as a special family in Christ (Canon 602), the college of bishops is “united” with its head, etc, etc.

    In short, while it can be argued that a marriage is a privileged and unique union, we cannot seriously maintain that marriage is the only relationship which can properly be called a union. The term “civil union” is chosen precisely to underline the fact that the relationships so characterised are not marriages, and while you can make a case that they are also not “unions” in the sense that a marriage is a union, they are undeniably unions in a variety of other real, meaningful and substantial senses. And the church can hardly claim that, while it can apply the term “union” to a wide variety of relationships which are not marriages, nobody else can. Or, at least, if it makes that claim, it can hardly hope to avoid ridicule and derision.

    3. In the Australian context, the argument is likely to be irrelevant in any case. Other countries have “civil unions” to unite same-sex couples, but in Australia we are likely to have “marriage” for this purpose. We already have a variety of state-based recognitions of either “civil partnerships” (Queensland, the ACT) or “domestic partnerships” (NSW, Vic). People who object to applying the term “marriage” to a same-sex civil marriage are unlikely to favour the term “partnership”, if only because this will lead to confusion with the already established usage. (And, if they do favour it, it won’t catch on, for that reason.) I predict that “civil union” will be the preferred term of protesters objecting to the use of the term “marriage”. And protesters arguing among themselves over whether “civil union” is the correct term of protest are going to be very reminiscent of the loonier reaches of the Trotskyite left. I used to hang around some of these people in my college days and, believe me, they project an aura of incredible ineffectiveness and irrelevance. Theirs is not an example you wish to emulate.

    4. And besides all this, the emphasis on terminology strikes me as completely wrong-headed. The challenges presented to Christian faith by the reality of homosexual identity and experience are numerous and significant. The question of what to call homosexual relationships which have achieved a degree of legal recognition comes a fairly long way down the list of priorities. How likely is it that any gay person is going to experience this as the outworking of a gospel that is going to be remotely attractive, or engaging, or even relevant, to him? How likely is it that any homophobic Christian is going to experience this as a call to charity?

    If I can speak plainly, this is going nowhere. And, from every angle that I can think of, the sooner it gets there, the better.

    • Peregrinus says:

      PS: For the sake of completeness I should point out that the CDF document to which David links in this post refers to homosexual “unions” more than thirty times.

    • Schütz says:

      Not “politically correct”, but “theologically correct”, Perry. I think that is where you misunderstand me.

      “Civil Union” implies the existence of some other kind of union? What kind? “Religious Unions”? Strictly speaking, isn’t Marriage a “Civil Union” (one could make a joke about that, but I am using the w0rd “civil” to mean “belonging to the civitas”)? The Catechism (1650) uses the word “civil unions” to mean marriages contracted outside the Church. So doesn’t the term “civil union” simply mean “non-religious marriage”? I think so. In common parlance, “Civil Unions” are a kind of marriage, not something other than marriage.

      In this post, I am speaking mainly of how the Church should speak of homosexual partnerships (legal or otherwise). I acknowledge that the Vatican directives do speak of “homosexual unions”. I have the sense that the word “union” in that document refers generally to the specifically sexual relationship between persons rather than the broader partnership relationship. Consider these two paragraphs:

      Third, God has willed to give the union of man and woman [ie. the sexual relationship between a man and a woman] a special participation in his work of creation. Thus, he blessed the man and the woman with the words “Be fruitful and multiply” (Gen 1:28). Therefore, in the Creator’s plan, sexual complementarity and fruitfulness belong to the very nature of marriage…

      …There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions [ie. the sexual relationship between persons of the same sex] to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family. Marriage is holy, while homosexual acts [nb. “ACTS”] go against the natural moral law. Homosexual acts [AGAIN] “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”.

      The term “carnal union” is used in the Catechism (2353) for “fornication” specifically to mean a sexual relationship “between an unmarried man and an unmarried woman”. In a comment below, Shannon says that “marriages arise out of a union, not the other way around.” I am not quite sure that he is correct there. I generally thought that the sexual union of marriage partners consummated marriage – ie. completed something already begun in the public exchange of vows of fidelity in the wedding ceremony. Thus, marriage leads to “union”; “carnal union” does not, in and of itself, lead marriage.

      Another interesting note: The English and the French versions of the Vatican Directives both speak of “homosexual unions”, but the German uses “lebensgemeinschaften”, which basically means a “cohabitation”, of a “life/living partnership”. Union would be “Vereinigung”, as in the Katechismus at 2353, which uses “körperliche Vereinigung” for “carnal union” (the Latin is “unio carnalis”). Katechismus 1650, where the English uses “Civil Unions” simply has “zivile Ehe” (the Latin is “civilem unionem”). There is no Latin version of the Directives, as far as I can see.

      To sum up:

      1) I am not arguing for “political correctness” here, but theological precision
      2) Since the Scriptures only describe marriage between a man and a woman as resulting in the “one flesh”/”no longer two but one” phenomenon, we should not use the word “union” to describe relationships that ape marriage.
      3) Our refusal to do so should be the first step in our “civil disobedience” wherever “civil unions” for homosexual “lebensgemeinschaften” are legally endorsed.

      • Peregrinus says:

        1) One person’s theological correctness is another person’s political correctness, David. In both cases we have an insistence that language must be used this way, and not that way, in order to conform to a particular ideology. The insistence on correct usage may gratify those who already share the ideology, but it will at best amuse those who don’t. As a form of civil disobedience, therefore, it’s counter-productive. Civil disobedience is supposed to make the oppressor feel shame, not hilarity.

        2) Plainly, the magisterium does not share this view. It routinely uses the word “union” to describe those relationships. But then, perhaps the CDF is not theologically correct?

        3) See 1). This is not any kind of civil disobedience that I can recognise.

  3. Shan says:

    I think you’re putting the cart before the horse David. Marriages arise out of a union, not the other way around.

  4. matthias says:

    Please find here a link to what is happening in England re civil partnerships and churches

    http://www.anglican-mainstream.net/2011/11/29/civil-partnerships-in-religious-premises-act-now-contact-the-lords-today/

  5. Hannah says:

    Come on Pere this from you? “2. The church authoritatively uses the term “union” in the way you advise against. In the Catechism, for instance, fornication is described as a “carnal union” (para 2353), and an invalid second marriage after divorce is similarly described as a “union” in para 2384, and a “civil union” in para 1650. More broadly a parish is a “union” (para 2179). In the Code of Canon Law we have “labour unions” (canon 287) and unions of religious instituted (Canon 582) , the Holy See “unites” ecclesiastical provinces where it seems advantageous to do so (Canon 433), the people of God “unite” together by participating in the Eucharistic gathering (canon 899), clerics are to be “united” by a bond of brotherhood and prayer (Canon 275), the brothers or sisters of a religious institute are “united” together as a special family in Christ (Canon 602), the college of bishops is “united” with its head, etc, etc.”
    even using “carnal union” is meant “sinful union” but still between male and female.
    all the types of unions you have described are legitimate “male and female” unions (they fit together and are of the right order though sinful). “United” as a family, organisation, group etc. is a joining together and not carnally.
    Pere you have played semantics and i expect better from you. As for the sooner we get there the better. I wouldnt think so, would you really think so?
    Find a word for the homosexual relationship which satisfies their desire but leave “marriage” as God intended from the beginning.
    Have a good day
    Hannah

    • Peregrinus says:

      ”Come on Pere this from you? “2. The church authoritatively uses the term “union” in the way you advise against . . . all the types of unions you have described are legitimate “male and female” unions . . . Pere you have played semantics and i expect better from you. . . .”

      Hannah, some years ago the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a document entitled “Considerations regarding proposals to give legal recognistion to unions between homosexual persons”. There’s a link to it in David’s post. It refers to “homosexual unions” more than thirty times, and uses no other term for those unions. It’s signed by Joseph Ratzinger, and approved by Pope John Paul II. How much more authoritative do you want?

      • Hannah says:

        Well then Pere if the Holy Father approves/d “unions” then lets have “marriage” after all its only a word and anything goes these days. Its all getting a bit too hard and it seems that the “other side” has a good strong handle on things so bring on euthanasia, abortion is no argument, cloning is no argument, homosexual marriage is a no argument. All sorts of other unities will become no argument, so why bother?

        • Peregrinus says:

          Don’t ask me, Hannah. You have to make your own decisions about what to bother about.

          I’m just not bothered to get excited about the supposed wrongness of describing a commited conjugal homosexual relationship as a “union”. And I’m in good company.

          • Tony M says:

            I’m just not bothered to get excited about the supposed wrongness of describing a commited conjugal homosexual relationship as a “union”.

            Jumping the gun a bit, Pere.
            I’m bothered about calling a homosexual anything “conjugal”, as any derivation of the the word I can find, and have ever understood, relates to joining or uniting in marriage .
            “Committed” wrt homosexual partnerships is stretching things far enough!

  6. Paul G says:

    I must admit, I don’t understand most of this discussion, but my practical predictions and observations are:
    – gay marriage will be made legal, one way or another in a few years
    – the reason for the push for gay marriage in most cases has nothing to do with a desire for a religious sacrament, it is about demanding that no-one dare criticise homosexual actions.
    – as soon as gay marriage is made legal, someone will go to the nearest Catholic church and ask the priest to perform a gay marriage. Assuming the priest says no, this will become a cause celebre and the argument will continue.
    – even when gay marriage is made legal, the majority of people will see a difference between a married couple bringing up a family in the suburbs and a gay couple in the inner city going to the opera.

    • Tony says:

      On the first point: I suspect you’re right. The arguments against it are just not getting any significant traction except for those that ‘preach to the choir’.
      On the second point: Doesn’t make any kind of sense. I can’t see that that the legalisation of gay marriage will make any difference to those who criticise ‘homosexual actions’ (whatever that means), in fact, the criticism is, if anything, more intense.
      On the third point: Highly unlikely this side of other, highly improbable, legislative changes.
      On the forth point: Probably (understatement alert!).

  7. Antonia Romanesca says:

    Paul G
    – gay marriage will be made legal, one way or another in a few years”

    Yes, no doubt about this and one does get the impression that it is because of the vigour of the international ‘gay’ rights lobby. I find it puzzling that homosexual persons wish to emulate ‘straights’ and have a legal marriage, given that they can already be de factor partners, with the ‘spousal’ rights that go with that.

    Perhaps its because civil marriage has been with us for such a long time now, as an alternative to a church wedding – and they see it as their absolute right?

    As orthodox Christianity [rc and Eastern Orthodox] places emphasis on marriage for procreation and hopefully family, I just can’t understand why homosexual persons would want an orthodox Christian marriage, given the Church’s view on sodomy, for eg. Maybe its just civil marriage they are pursuing? {Any comments on this?} However, its hard enough to persuade youngsters in their 20s and 30s to get married! Might not gay marriage take more of the gloss off civil marriage and cause the heterosexual marriage rate to drop even further?

    “ the reason for the push for gay marriage in most cases has nothing to do with a desire for a religious sacrament, it is about demanding that no-one dare criticise homosexual actions.”

    Certainly religious impulse does not seem to be at the fore – I have got the vibe that its civil marriage which is being avidly pursued, not orthodox Christian marriages or orthodox Jewish marriages. Bob Brown’s partner wears a gold wedding band, we noticed. Maybe they want ‘the civil marriage to match the ring but I still find it puzzling that they do. There does seem to be concern in orthodox Christian circles and also orthodox and conservative Jewish, that bullying might be involved eventually, to try to force these groups to comply with homosexual marriage – through pressure on governments. I fear it may cause some straight youngsters to feel, that the homosexual cause {re gay alliances legally sanctioned} is insatiable and actually make them as a generation, less compassionate to homosexuals – this is my impression, from the numerous under 30s I speak with.

    – “as soon as gay marriage is made legal, someone will go to the nearest Catholic church and ask the priest to perform a gay marriage. Assuming the priest says no, this will become a cause celebre and the argument will continue.”

    Certainly its hard to believe there won’t be pressure upon Rome and also upon orthodox and conservative Jewry, to perform gay unions.

    Plenty of civilized people who are uneasy about the mechanics of homosexuality, [male in particular, when it involves sodomy], are not necessarily ‘bigots’ and ‘persecutors’ who ‘condemn gays as deviants’, as I notice commonly alleged by ‘gays’. Many women, when it gets down to tin tacks, resent the suggestion that their unique equipment is the same as a rectum and feel that ‘healthy male homosexual lifestyles’ are simply based on a lie. Bottom line, is that femme male homosexuals do not have women’s bits and that seems unlikely to change in the near future! As to what is to be done about this……?”

    “- even when gay marriage is made legal, the majority of people will see a difference between a married couple bringing up a family in the suburbs and a gay couple in the inner city going to the opera.”

    Yes, I feel that is true. I feel that the wrangle to secure gay marriage may actually further estrange gays from the straight world. Many ‘straights’ see legal marriage for gays as unseemly and unnecessary, tho some are too intimidated to say so!

    • Peregrinus says:

      Yes, no doubt about this and one does get the impression that it is because of the vigour of the international ‘gay’ rights lobby.

      I think it has more to do with the vigour of the domestic gay rights lobby.

      I find it puzzling that homosexual persons wish to emulate ‘straights’ and have a legal marriage, given that they can already be de factor partners, with the ‘spousal’ rights that go with that.

      Why should this puzzle you? After all, straight couples can already be de facto partners with the rights that go with that, and yet many of them choose to have a legal marriage. Why should we exepct gay couples to choose differently?

      Perhaps its because civil marriage has been with us for such a long time now, as an alternative to a church wedding – and they see it as their absolute right?

      I doubt that. We rarely exercise our rights purely and simply because we have them. I have the right, if I wish, to go into the street and preach fundamentalist Protestantism, and I think it very important that I should have that right, and so should everyone else. Nevertheless, I haven’t the least desire to exercise that right.

      No, I think we shouldn’t overlook the obvious. Possibly the reason gay people wish to have a legal marriage is that they want to be legally married, with all the various legal and civic consequences that go with being married?

      Certainly religious impulse does not seem to be at the fore – I have got the vibe that its civil marriage which is being avidly pursued, not orthodox Christian marriages or orthodox Jewish marriages.

      I think we need to distinguish between peoples’ reasons for marrying, and whether they have a church ceremony.

      If we look just at ceremonies, it’s a fact that a majority of marriages in Australia today are already celebrated in civil ceremonies. It this means that “religious impulse is not at the fore” then I’m afraid this has implications for straights as well as for gays.

      But life is not so simple. While Catholics belong to a tradition which assigns the fullest religious significance to a marriage only if it is celebrated in church (at least, if it’s a marriage between Catholics), the majority of Australians who profess a religious identity belong to traditions which do not take that view. We can’t assume, therefore, that couples who marry in a civil ceremony assign no religious significance to their marriage. And that goes for gay couples as well as straight couples.

      There are lots of gay people with religious faith, and they may well have religious motivations for desiring to marry. The fact that most of them belong to traditions which won’t offer them a religious celebration of their marriage doesn’t entitle us to say that, for them, the “religious impulse is not at the fore”.

      “Certainly its hard to believe there won’t be pressure upon Rome and also upon orthodox and conservative Jewry, to perform gay unions.”

      We’ve discussed this already. There will be no significant legal pressure. Not only the existing terms of the Marriage Act, but the very explicit terms of the Constitution of Australia, absolutely forbid the power of the state from compelling churches to celebrate marriages which they choose not to celebrate.

      There will, of course, be pressure, and it will mostly come from within the churches. Gay Catholics, for example, will be hurt that they cannot celebrate their marriage in their own church.

      But it’s already the case that divorced Catholics who fail to get an annulment may be hurt that they cannot celebrate their second marriages in their church. We live with this problem. The fact that the church might be embarrassed to be asked to celebrate a gay marriage is no argument for saying that gay marriage ought to be unlawful.

      I feel that the wrangle to secure gay marriage may actually further estrange gays from the straight world. Many ‘straights’ see legal marriage for gays as unseemly and unnecessary, tho some are too intimidated to say so!

      I don’t see much evidence for this, I confess. In Australia, a clear majority of straight people favour the legalisation of gay marriage. David suggests in a post below that this is because they see no good reason why gay people should not have access to the same legal rights and legal status as they themselves have access to. If he’s right – and I think he is – then they won’t feel estranged from gays who marry. If anything, they feel embarrassed at being estranged from gays by laws which allow them to marry, but do not allow gays to marry.

      • Gareth says:

        Pere: In Australia, a clear majority of straight people favour the legalisation of gay marriage.

        Gareth: Absolute rubbish.

        In fact politicans sampling of their own electroates earlier in the year found quite the contrary to the so-called ‘polls’ (ofen comminssion by the homosexual lobby and manipulated anyway).

        I think you would this is another case of the silent majority having their views drowned out.

        So sad

  8. Marcel says:

    ‘Civil partnerships’ based on the sins that cry to heaven for vengeance:
    1. A murderers partnership (to protect hitmen’s legal rights when entering a contract).
    2. A defrauders partnership (to enshrine the legal rights of bad employers).
    3. A Dicekensian partnership (when two people conspire to oppress the poor).

    and, …. um. Wait what’s the other sin that cries out to heaven? Well, let’s make sure we march in the street for their right to be as legally protected as the murdering, defrauding and oppressive personages above.

    • Peregrinus says:

      I have to point out that a partnership of employers who pay inadequate wages is perfectly legal. (The payment of inadequate wages may not be, but the partnership is.) And partnerships of financiers who take over, merge, asset-strip and liquidate seem to be keenly encouraged.

      As for the oppression of the foreigner, well, neither the Liberal Party of Australia nor the ALP have been proscribed yet.

      The fourth sin, the one you have trouble recalling, is the sin of Sodom which, we have on the highest authority, was arrogance, greed and indifference to the suffering of others. Partnerships which engage in such activities – I can think of a few – are not illegal.

      (Combinations to commit murder are, I grant, illegal. Unless, of course, they call themselves “governments”.)

      • Gareth says:

        Pere: The fourth sin, the one you have trouble recalling, is the sin of Sodom which, we have on the highest authority, was arrogance, greed and indifference to the suffering of others. \

        Gareth: As you well know this is not the case Pere. You have stated pure propaganda

        Sodom was destroyed quite blantantly for sins of the flesh or putting it bluntly for males penetrating their genitals in other males anuses.

        I am not sure why you continually play games Pere or is the truth a bit too hot to handle?

        • Peregrinus says:

          Well, I suppose you can call the prophets “propaganda”, and defend the term.

          But – as I imagine you know, Gareth – when I talk about the “highest authority” I am referring to scripture – and, specifically, the prophet Ezekiel, who is quite specific about the sins for which Sodom was destroyed. He doesn’t mention anal sex.

          In fact, we can arrive at the same conclusion simply by reading the Genesis account (which is presumably what Exekiel did). It’s clear by Genesis 18:17 that God has determined to destroy Sodom for its sins, yet the episode of anal sex which so engages your attention does not occur until Genesis 19. In fact, the sinfulness of Sodom is referred to as early as Gen 13, but there is no suggestion there of homosexual practices. This first comment about sinfulness occurs immediately after we are told that Lot, a stranger, had come to dwell next to them. Can you spot the connection? And in Gen 14 we find the King of Sodom unsuccessfully attempting to claim Lot as a slave, as booty of war. (He offers Lot’s property to Abraham to sweeten the deal.) So God already had plently of reason to be angry at Sodom by Gen 18.

          The attempted abuse of the visiting angels in Chapter 19 is all of a piece. The people of Sodom victimise and abuse strangers in every possible way, and the rape is merely the symbolic culmination of this. Even in this last episode Lot is warned by the perpetrators not to obstruct them and they remind him that he, too, is a foreigner. The message is unmistakeable.

          You may choose to take the homosexual dimension to this last outrage and elevate it into the “Sin of Sodom”, but weightier voices than yours have taken a more coherent and holistic view.

          And, even in that episode, the prejudice of the people of Sodom against foreigner, as such, is quite explicit.

          • Gareth says:

            Your post doesnt warrant a logical response.

            Believe me, Sodom was destroyed for the vile moral filth of homosexuality.

            • Gareth says:

              Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. —Jude 1:7

    • Tony says:

      … cry to heaven for vengeance …

      What is the source of this phrase?

      • Peregrinus says:

        Scripture. There are four, or by some counts five, sins which are described at one point or another in scripture as crying to heaven for vengeance (or some very similar phrase):

        Murder: God tells Cain that “your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground” (Gen 4:10)

        The sin of Sodom: “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin is so grave” (Gen 18:20, and something similar in Gen 19:13).

        The oppression of the foreigner and the exile: “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying for help on account of their taskmasters . . .The Israelites’ cry for help has reached me, and I have also seen the cruel way in which the Egyptians are oppressing them”.

        The oppression of the foreigner, the widow and the orphan: “You will not molest or oppress aliens, for you yourselves were once aliens in Egypt. You will not ill-treat widows or orphans. If you ill-treat them in any way and they make an appeal to me for help, I shall certainly hear their appeal.” (Ex 22:20-22)

        Defrauding the labourer of his wages: “You must not exploit a opor and needy wage-earner, be he one of your brothers or a foreigner resident in your community. You must pay him his wages each day, not allowing the sun to set before you do, since he, being poor, needs them badly; otherwise he may appeal to the Lord against you, and you would incur guilt.” (Deut 2:14-15)

        What these sins have in common is that they are social sins; sins of injustice, in which the physically, politically, socially or economically powerful use their power to oppress those who are already disadvantaged.

        The Israelites had a holistic view of the world, in which the moral order was an instrinsic part of the created order. They would readily accept that if the community sinned then there would be “real-world” consequence – so, for example, if Temple observances were neglected then nobody would be in the least surprised if the cows aborted or fruit fell from the trees before it ripened. But in relation to these social sins they drew a particularly close connection; the evil consequences flowing from injustice and the abuse of power were fairly direct and immediate, and the concept of the “sins that cry to heaven for vengeance” was the way this truth was expressed in scripture.

        For our own time, I think it’s interesting to note that, with the exception of murder, all of the sins that cry to heaven for vengeance are sins perpetrated against (among others) the stranger/the foreigner. God seems to have a special care for foreigners, and injustice directed at them has dire consequences. I’m sure there’s a lesson in their for contemporary Australia, if only I could see what it was.

  9. matthias says:

    I noticed a side bit in THE AGE last Sunday where it said that the number of couples-men and women-being married in churches is dropping.

    • Peregrinus says:

      Marriages celebrated civilly overtook marriages celebrated by ministers of religion in 1998 and the trend has continued strongly since. Nationally, there are now two civil marriage celebrations for every religious marriage celebration.

      As of 2009 (which is the latest year for which I can find state and territory figures) religious ceremonies were most popular in the ACT (where they represented 37.4% of all marriages) and NSW (37.2%) and least popular in Qld (27.9%) and the NT (26.0%). They’re a godless lot in the Territory, evidently.

      Sydney, on the other hand, is famous for its lively gay culture while the NT, well, isn’t. Interesting that, the more prominent and mainstream gay culture is, the more popular church weddings are.

      • Tony says:

        Sydney, on the other hand, is famous for its lively gay culture while the NT, well, isn’t. Interesting that, the more prominent and mainstream gay culture is, the more popular church weddings are.

        Gads Pere! This could represent a paradigm shift! We need to enlist homosexuals in the fight to restore religious weddings not alienate them! You saw it here first.

        More seriously, the same trend is evident in funerals evidently. In fact, many people choose to have nothing or next-to-nothing by way of a ceremony to say goodbye to departed loved ones.

    • Peter says:

      Be careful taking anything you read in the Age as gospel Matthias.

  10. matthias says:

    Tony re funeral trends, I have stipulated to my family-my wife and children are not Christians,although all three were baptised and brought up in the Uniting Church (there’s the first problem LOL) -that under no circumstances am i to have a civil celebrant but my priest/pastor to officiate. I have even given a copy to my solicitor,and my non Christian Green Socialist brother has told me that he will ensure my wishes are followed. ( i think that is because my wife and he do not get on -second problem,not mine -again LOL)

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