Calling my bluff on same-sex “marriage”?

I’m going to respond to the lengthy discussion in the combox to my post on the possibility of “civil disobedience” in relation to same-sex “marriage” laws here rather than there, where my comments would get somewhat lost (and we don’t want that, do we?). I want to respond to three issues: Perry on the kind of civil disobedience I am advocating; Tony on how my comments relate to divorce law; and Clara on whether or not we should institute a “Church only” marriage.

Perry calls my bluff by asking just “what kind of civil disobedience?” I had in mind – beyond the refusal of the Church to bless or solemnise such partnerships. [Note: Same-sex relationships, legalised or not, cannot be called “unions” – civil or otherwise – any more than they can be called “marriages” because the whole “one flesh” thingy relates only to what happens when a man and woman are “united”. One of the central reasons that marriage between two people of the same sex cannot take place is the simple matter that the “two remain two” at a very deep and real level: the “miracle” of marriage in which “the two become one flesh” does not and cannot take place whatever they do in the privacy of their own bedrooms.]

It is a good question, and on reflection, I realise that I had not thought this through very deeply. I think the most effective kind of civil disobedience on the part of those who defend true marriage must come in the form of words: what we say, preach, teach, write, print, publish, discuss etc. in the public square. It is in the sphere of rhetoric that such battles are fought, won and lost for the hearts and minds of people in our society today. The most effective kind of civil disobedience that we can mount is a refusal to use the new vocabulary in the way the social re-engineers demand. We must refuse clearly and publicly to call any kind of same-sex partnership “marriage”. We must teach that, the laws not-with-standing, such partnerships are NOT “marriages” (or even “unions” civil or otherwise). We must not do anything that would accord such partnerships the dignity of marriage. And above all, we must clearly proclaim and teach what marriage really is (more on this in a moment).

We should not be misled into thinking that we will be let off lightly for taking such a stance, or that to take such a stance will not require a great deal of courage. Not only will we be the victims of all kinds of hate speech (being called ourselves “hate-speakers”) for such a stance, but it may well become illegal to make such claims (since after all, the law will stand against us precisely in defining such relationships to be what we deny them to be).

And here is where I mean that we must do more than simply refuse to solemnise or bless such relationships. For my part, I share Andrew Bolt’s and Paul Kelly’s lack of faith in assurances that Churches and other religious communities will remain free to make such a refusal (Kelly says: “Only a fool would accept this at face value.”) How is it possible that this will not be regarded as “discrimination”? The passing of same-sex “marriage” laws would require more legal “exceptions”, such as that which currently “allows” the Church to continue to “discriminate” in matters relating to ordination and employment (although even these “exceptions” are currently under attack). The problem with such “exceptions” to the law are that they are precisely “exceptions allowing discrimination”. The exceptions put the Church on the back foot rhetorically and legally from the start. The mere fact that these ARE “exceptions” highlights the point of view that the Church is, legally, guilty of “discriminating”.

Were such laws to be passed, the Church must mount and maintain a campaign of education and discourse which teaches the clear truth about the nature of marriage. I remain dubious about whether we will have the courage and determination to carry this out. I base my doubts upon the way in which we have failed to clearly convey the plain and simple truth about marriage in the face of other attacks on this fundamental estate of our society, attacks such as legalised re-marriage (which is more of an issue for the Church than legal divorce) and the recognition of temporary and private partnerships as “defacto marriages” (as opposed to permanent common law marriages which have traditionally been recognised largely for the sake of the children of such unions). The lengthy discussion in reaction to my previous post is a clear example of how even well-educated Catholics (such as most of the readers of this blog are) can be very confused about the true nature of marriage. It has been argued that one of the reasons why so many annulments have been granted in recent decades is because many people have attempted marriage without properly understanding what marriage is – that is, they are unable to contract a true marriage because they have not had a clear intention of what it means to marry in the first place.

Tony’s first question in the combox to my previous post was why my comments do not relate to the State’s laws concerning divorce. In part, they do, but I do not dispute the State’s right to govern the estate of marriage by governing the process of divorce. I think it is worth acknowledging that just as marriage itself has been a universal phenomenon in human society, so has divorce – even in religious communities, such as in Jewish and Muslim societies. It is not even true to say that the Bible forbids divorce – the Torah is a part of the Bible and it allowed divorce (Deuteronomy 24:1-4). Jesus, on the other hand, forbade it, and the Apostle Paul followed this up by explaining that marriage between baptised Christians must be permanent because it is a sign of the mystery of the relationship between Christ and his Church. The indissolubility of marriage in Christian teaching pertains particularly to what we call “sacramental” marriage between a baptised man and a baptised woman. States, on the other hand, have always had laws governing divorce, because it is necessary to have laws which govern the situation of marriage break-ups for the protection potential “victims” of divorce. I believe this is proper, and in accord with natural law, whatever position one may take on the issue of remarriage after divorce.

I believe that it would also be false move for the Church to invent something such as Clara suggests along the lines of a “Church only marriage”. Despite the fact that the Church proclaims marriage between two Christians to be a “sacrament”, the Church did not invent marriage. Rather, marriage – which is a natural estate – is raised to the dignity of a sacrament by virtue of Christ’s Paschal Mystery and by virtue of the status of the marriage partners as baptised Christians. The Church has the power to bless such marriages – it is the Church’s “nuptial blessing” of legally solemnised marriages which is the historical origin of the ecclesiastical celebration marriage. The State – in certain jurisdictions and because of historical context – gives the Church and (in places such as Australia) other “ministers of religion” the authority to legally solemnise marriages. In the final analysis, the State properly has the power to govern the circumstances under which it will recognise a legal marriage – short of actually defining marriage to be anything other than a union entered into for life between one man and one woman. (Note that laws legalising divorce do not change this definition – a marriage is not legal if it is deliberately entered into as a temporary or time-limited arrangement – the intention to remain married “as long as you both shall live” is a fundamental requirement for a legal marriage).

There are many other issues raised in the discussion on marriage in the combox to the previous post, which I cannot go into here without this becoming an overly lengthy post (“Too late!” they cried). So I will leave it at that for now.

UPDATE: One addendum. The discussion in the combox went into the quesiton of whether or not polygamy should or could be recognised in Australia. An interesting test case has just been decided in Canada. The ruling judge said: “The law seeks to advance the institution of monogamous marriage, a fundamental value in Western society from the earliest of times… It seeks to protect against the many harms which are reasonably apprehended to arise out of the practice of polygamy.”

About Schütz

I am a PhD candidate & sessional academic at Australian Catholic University in Melbourne, Australia. After almost 10 years in ministry as a Lutheran pastor, I was received into the Catholic Church in 2003. I worked for the Archdiocese of Melbourne for 18 years in Ecumenism and Interfaith Relations. I have been editor of Gesher for the Council of Christians & Jews and am guest editor of the historical journal “Footprints”. I have a passion for pilgrimage and pioneered the MacKillop Woods Way.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

65 Responses to Calling my bluff on same-sex “marriage”?

  1. Tony says:

    For my part, I share Andrew Bolt’s and Paul Kelly’s lack of faith in assurances that Churches and other religious communities will remain free to make such a refusal (Kelly says: “Only a fool would accept this at face value.”)

    Unfortunately the pay wall prevents me from reading Kelly’s analysis, but describing someone as a fool for not buying it doesn’t auger well.

    Besides Pere’s very valid point about not only the Greens changing their written policy in this regard and then convincing Labor that this is a political hill to die on, there is no political or strategic logic to it. This is a kind of weak slippery slope argument where even much stronger ones are usually a waste of time an energy.

    The point of my original question was to discover where the ‘line in the sand’ is for you, in terms of civil disobedience. I still can’t understand why this particular issue requires civil disobedience and the state’s legal acceptance of marriage after divorce does not and why the proposals you’re suggesting shouldn’t apply to couples who are married after divorce.

    I also cannot understand, in principle, your point contained in the square brackets. A couple I know, in their 80s, got married in the church after both had marriages that ended in the death of their spouses. Far be for me to speculate in detail, but I can well imagine that becoming ‘as one flesh’ might not be high on their list of priorities in terms of their motivation.

    The bottom line, or at least one of them, is that the church provides no compelling argument to convince society that ‘gay marriage’ is an issue that should be actively opposed. It can’t even convince Catholics.

  2. Peregrinus says:

    Far be it from me to accuse you of bluffing, David. But perhaps you are overreaching a little in talking about “civil disobedience”.

    Fussing about the choice of words (“partnership” OK, but “marriage” and “union” bad) I think could look a bit precious. In another context it would be called political correctness. And if being picky about words is going to be described as “civil disobedience”, that’s going to look even more precious. Describing a committed same-sex conjugal relationship as a “partnership” is no sense civil disobedience. No law is being broken. You can’t be sent to prison for this. If we elevate this choice of language to the status of “civil disobedience” we end up looking like a bunch of drama queens, trying to claim “victim” and “oppressed” status for ourselves as though we were about to be set upon by dogs and dragged off to share an Alabama prison cell with Martin Luther King Jr. It’s not a good look.

    And fussing about language also looks a lot like tokenism. As I pointed out in the other thread, we will face more significant decisions than whether to call a relationship a marriage, a union or a partnership. Catholic hospitals will have to decide, for example, whether the legal same-sex spouse of a patient is their next of kin. If you’re suggesting that we object to the term “spouse” in this context, but treat the person as the patient’s next-of-kin, well, can you say “political correctness”? Whether or not you can, lots of other people will. On the other hand, can we seriously contemplate refusing to accept them as next of kin, and treating them as an unrelated stranger? Charity, decency, common sense and a concern for patient welfare utterly forbid such a course of action.

    As you rightly point out, marriage is a natural state which, as between baptised Christians, is raised to the dignity of a sacrament. As we know, not only sacramental marriages but natural marriages are, in the view of the church, indissoluble. The state, in permitting remarriage after divorce, confers the name of “marriage” on partnerships which are not, in the Catholic understanding, marriages at all. Arguably this is an even greater attack on the status and true character of marriage as understood by the Church than conferring the name “marriage” on a same-sex partnership. From the church’s point of view the latter is a category error, mistakenly including non-marital relationships in the category of “marriage”, but it doesn’t directly attack or negate any true marriage. But allowing remarriage not only involves the same category error, but also directly attacks and negates a true marriage – the first marriage of the spouse concerned. Plus it sends the message that every marriage is in essence a relationship continued at will. You can’t really argue that gay marriage sends the message that every marriage is not procreative.

    It seems to me that what distinguishes gay marriage is not that it is much more terrible or much more destructive, from a Catholic perspective than remarriage after divorce, but simply that it is newer and more unfamiliar. Plus, for some people – all the present company of course excepted – concerns about the gayness of gay marriage tap into precisely that fear and prejudice against which the Catechism warns us.

    Your point about the Canadian case is well taken. My point is that, in Australia, we have already embraced “many of the harms which are reasonably apprehended to arise out of the practice of polygamy”, and we haven’t avoided them simply by avoiding the use of the term “polygamy”. And my other point is that we didn’t do this because of pressure from Muslims, or strident demands from gays or other sexual minorities; this is entirely the work of heterosexuals from the Australian cultural mainstream.

    Finally, with respect to the freedom of religious communities to refuse to celebrate gay marriages, what I think Bolt (for whose thinking I have little respect) and Kelly (whose piece I can’t read, for the same reason as Tony) may be overlooking is that the necessary protections are already written into the Marriage Act, that they have been there for many decades and are very solidly established, and that the draft legislation to introduce marriage equality, as drawn up and promoted by the Greens who are presumed to be the most militant on this issue, leaves them wholly untouched. It’s simply wrong of you to say that the passing of same-sex marriage laws “will require more legal exceptions”; the necessary exception has been there for many years. There is so far no evidence of any attempt to remove it and, even if such an attempt were made, I see nobody putting forward a plausible scenario as to how that attempt might possibly succeed. Even if there were political support for such a measure – and there certainly is not – I don’t see how its proponents would get around section 116 of the Constitution, which guarantees the free exercise of religion, and precludes the Commonwealth from imposing any religious observance. The Commonwealth can recognise marriages celebrated by churches, but it cannot require churches to celebrate marriages.

    Bottom line: if you want your church to celebrate your gay marriage, you’ll achieve far more by lobbying your church to do so than by lobbying the state to force it to do so.

    • Schütz says:

      Just a note, Perry: The Pope has the power to dissolve a natural (ie. a non-sacramental) marriage “in favorem fidei”. Natural marriage is therefore NOT regarded as absolutely indissoluble by the Catholic Church.

    • Peter says:

      Pere,anyone who has followed this debate could not argue that same-sex marriage is being promoted,in the main,on the basis of equality.You have used that line yourself.
      I agree with you that ministers of religion who do not wish to marry a same-sex couple are protected under the Marriage Act.
      However,given that this is an issue of equality,that almost certainly will bring the Equal Opportunity Act into play.I am far from convinced that ministers of religion are protected under that act,and if gay marriage is legalised,sooner rather than later,someone will instigate an action under the EOA.
      Further to that,you say that the bill for the legalisation of same-sex marriage introduced by the Greens leaves in place the protections offered to ministers of religion.This is not saying anything.Any informed student of political and social history in this country will tell you that when a group wishes to institute a controversial social change,you do not adopt the crash through or crash approach,you adopt the minimalist approach,which is simply getting your cause legalised.Jack-booting those opposed to you can wait until later.
      A number of bills for the legalisation of euthanasia have been introduced in the various state parliaments around the country in recent years.Thankfully,to this point,all have been defeated.These bills all adopted the minimalist approach ie.assisted suicide would be restricted to those people who are terminally ill,in significant pain,and likely to die within a year.If these bills can’t get through,then I doubt that that a bill that advocated that any one who wanted to top themselves for whatever reason should be provided assistance to do so would get far.

  3. If the basis for the legitimisation of same sex marriage is the principle of non-discrimination – there doesn’t seem to be any other argument in play – I fully expect that ‘logic’ to compel the law to recognise polygamy as well at some stage down this ever-darkening track. Polygamy is alive and well in the suburbs of Australia, as anyone who has anything to do with our local Muslim communities can tell you. Indeed, there is already a limited, de facto government recognition of polygamous unions and the children of such for the purposes of welfare distribution.

    • Peregrinus says:

      Pastor, as I’ve pointed out elsewhere, to a large extent Australian law already accepts polygamy – both serial polygamy, facilitated through no-fault divorce laws, and concurrent polygamy, facilitated through the progressive assimilation of the position of de facto partners to that of spouses. For some time now we’ve had a situation in which the de facto partner of a married man stands pretty much in the position that a junior wife or concubine would have held in other legal systems. We avoid the term “polygamy”, but that doesn’t change the reality of what we have.

      And while some Muslims may benefit from this treatment, they certainly didn’t bring it about. I can’t help feeling that there’s a degree of not seeing the beam in one’s own eye when heterosexual white Australians seek to blame Muslims, or gays, or any other minority for changes in society which in fact have largely been wrought by heterosexual white Australians.

      And as, again, I’ve suggested elsewhere, I think it’s pretty well inevitable that in the area of intimate human relationships and their wider social consequences, the law is going to reflect what is actually happening in society. I’d go further and say that the law should reflect that; otherwise the becomes at best irrelevant and at worst harmful. (And it’s this, rather than any principle of non-discrimination, which to my mind provides the strongest basis for arguing in favour of gay marriage, or for that matter polygamy.) If we want people not to enter into polygamous relationships, we have to change people’s attitudes. Changing the law is not going to do the trick.

      As always, there is much wisdom in Trollope:

      Mr Slope merely opened his eyes wider, and slightly shrugged his shoulders. He was not, however, prepared to give up his darling project.

      ‘I fear there is a great deal of Sabbath travelling here,’ said he, ‘on looking at the ‘Bradshaw’, I see that there are three trains in and three trains out every Sabbath. Could nothing be done to induce the company to withdraw them? Don’t you think, Dr Grantly, that a little energy might diminish the evil?’

      ‘Not being a director, I really can’t say. But if you can withdraw the passengers, the company, I dare say, will withdraw the trains,’ said the doctor.

      • Pere,

        While I’m not a great fan of ‘no fault’ divorce laws, I have some difficulty in accepting the notion that it renders marriage in our land a polygamous institution. I suspect that at heart our differences on this matter are theological. The question I have posed to David might open up that conversation further, although it may take us off-topic.

        • Peregrinus says:

          I think “no-fault” divorce supports a culture of serial polygamy. I’d have to concede, though, that that is materially different from concurrent polygamy. And, if Australian law stopped there, I don’t think I’d have much of a case.

          But when you add in “de facto” laws which assimilate de facto partners in many respect to the position of spouses (and which allow a married person to have one or more legally-recognised de facto partners as well as a spouse) it seems to me that you have a complex of laws whose net effect is really not very different from the legal acceptance of polygamy. It’s certainly a great deal close to polygamy than it is to the Christian ideal of marriage, I’d argue.

          As for the question you pose to David, I too am interested to see his answer!

          • Agreed, Pere, the government’s recognition of ‘de facto’ married couples who have not publicly vowed themselves to each other in the estate of marriage is another of those insatnces of good intentions gone seriously awry in many, many ways.

  4. Dan says:

    Tony said:
    “no compelling argument to convince society that ‘gay marriage’ is an issue that should be actively opposed.”

    Yes, I tend to agree, although, in terms of Catholics, what could be a more compelling reason to oppose such “marriages” than Mark 10:6-9 and Matthew 19:5-6

    In terms of the rest of society a more secular take on things might be that:

    The purpose of sex is for passing on the stronger genes and insuring the continuity of a species.
    Sexual desire facilitates that end.
    Now, when sexual desire does not, one can reasonably hold that type of sexual desire is a deviation from the norm.
    Therefore, one is not bigoted in not seeing same sex desire as normal.

    (I think it important to try to convince people that it’s ‘within reason’ not to accept same sex desires as normal, otherwise they will never listen)

    A secular society values reason and evidence particularly of the scientific kind.
    There is no scientific consensus on the cause of homosexual desire or
    how it fits into an evolutionary context.
    We must therefore, at least, entertain the possibility that homosexual desire is not normal and not to be promoted.
    The normalcy of homosexual desire is at the heart of the “same-sex marriage” push, but there is no consensus of scientific of evidence to support this.
    Thus, same-sex marriage shouldn’t be legalised as it puts on par heterosexual and homosexual desire, which needs to have a solid scientific backing not mere public opinion.

    The media soundbite:
    “I oppose “same-sex marriage” as there is a lack of scientific evidence to support the normalcy of homosexual desire, which is what would be enshrined in law if legalised”

    I’m just trying to make opposition ‘within reason’ because people don’t think one can do so. They dismiss opposition as mere religious sentiment which should not be imposed on all, as this is a secular country.

  5. Pardon me for having two bites at the cherry, but I’ve just read that C of E clergy who conscientiously oppose SSM are getting nervous at the prospect of being sued and bankrupted under anti-discrimination laws once the UK government has introduced SSM legislation. Granted, it’s a different jurisdiction where eligible members of a parish can expect to be married in the local parish church, thus effectively removing the clergy’s discretion in such matters and seemingly exposing them to this danger, but, mutatis mutandis, I can’t see how a similar threat would not present itself to Christian clergy in Australia.

    Also, David,this whole discussion reveals that Roman Catholics are essentially in the same position as covenanting Presbyterians on church-state relations – any state that does not reflect their confessional views is problematic. Interested in your response.

    • Peregrinus says:

      The UK, of course, already has “civil partnerships” – it has had them since I think 2005. The legislation which introduced them explicitly provided that a civil partnership not only need not but could not be registered in a church (or other religious venue), and the registration ceremony could not include religious readings, music or symbols.

      That was objected to by some religious bodies – the Unitarians, I think, and the Union of Reform Synagogues, but don’t quote me on that – who said that they wished to celebrate the formation of same-sex partnerships, and felt their inability to do so was an infringement of their religious freedom. And, if the state could live with recognised same-sex partnerships, they couldn’t see what public interest was imperilled by the recognition of such partnerships if formed in churches or synagogues.

      The state accepted the force of these arguments, and announced in February 2011 that it would remove these restrictions, but that religious venues would still not be compelled to offer civil partnerships. A consultation period followed, in which religious bodies expressed concern about (among other things) the risk of being forced to host civil partnership ceremonies. At the end of the consultation the Home Office published a response which included draft legislation explicitly providing that no religious body could be obliged to apply for approval to host civil partnership ceremonies, and that any body which did apply for approval would need the consent of their own “head office” (so an application to approve any Catholic church or chapel, for instance, would require the consent of the General Secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales).

      Full same-sex marriage is being considered in a separate consultation process. The process won’t begin until next March, but if the outcome is the introduction of same-sex marriage, expect similar protections for churches.

      I think the concern is not really that the government, or the courts, would force churches to host same-sex marriage ceremonies – the government has explicitly ruled this out, nobody seems to be calling for it, the principle that churches can choose not to marry people for theological or doctrinal reasons is well-established and the firestorm of protest that would erupt if anybody tried to force an unwilling minister to celebrate a marriage can easily be imagined. Plus, in Australia, we have a constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion, and a specific prohibition on the Commonwealth imposing any religious observance on anyone. That includes on ministers of religion.

      The real concern is that, if it becomes legally possible for churches to celebrate same-sex marriage, there will be internal pressure, from within the churches, to do so. This has been the experience in Scandinavian countries, most of which have offered gay marriage for some years. In no case has the state sought to force the established church, or any other church, to offer gay marriage – even though, obviously, in the Scandinavian context there is a well-established culture of the state directing church policy. But in every case the churches, or at least the Lutheran churches, have themselves wrestled with the question of whether they ought to do so, either because of liberal theological views that it was appropriate, or because of views which held that, as the established church, it was their particular mission to realise the religious dimension in every aspect of civic life.

      In short, experience elsewhere suggest that the pressure on churches in this regard is not external, but internal. It’s not impossible that someone would try to take a court action to force a church to celebrate a gay marriage, but nobody has ever succeeded in this, and governments have always lined up with churches, confirming their right not to do so. If we reach that point in Australia, I think the pressure on churches will be internal, not external.

        • Peregrinus says:

          Well, it’s an interesting article. But it seems to me to overlook two points:

          First, it makes the point that offering to celebrate weddings (which of course the CofE does at present) does not import an obligation to offer to celebrate civil partnership (which is, legally speaking, a different service to celebrating weddings). But if same-ex weddings become possible under new legislation, then the question of whether they can be offered to some people (opposite-sex couples) but not others (same-sex couples) “would have to be addressed in the course of that new legislation”.

          But what the article omits is any recognition of the willingness of the government to address that very question, and to do so in terms designed to address the concerns of those who object to same-sex unions. The original, and the amended, civil partnership legislation both contain detailed and explicit provisions to safeguard the position of those who don’t want to celebrate them. It’s true to say that marriage equality legislation would need to contain parallel provisions, but it must also be true to say that all the indications are that it will contain those provisions, if they are sought.

          Secondly, the article overlooks the point that this issue already exists, and has done for decades. Divorced people are legally to entitled to marry, and many do. CofE ministers can decline to marry them, and many do. So far as I know, nobody has yet successfully sued a CofE minister for discriminating between the divorced and the single in the provision of services, although discrimination on the grounds of marital status is just as illegal as discrimination on the grounds of sex or sexual orientation.

          Now, I don’t know whether this has never occurred to any divorced person seeking a church wedding, or whether there is legal protection for the church in this situation. But it would surprise me greatly if the former was the case.

        • Peregrinus says:

          PS: Surprising Fact of the Day that I Have Just Discovered

          Until 1925 the Church of England was legally obliged to remarry divorced persons. There were many fewer divorces in those days, of course, so the issue never arose in the working lives of most clergy. But if a divorced person presented themselves seeking to remarry, the minister had to whip out the stole and the prayer book and get to work.

          (And in a certain light this makes sense. Prior to 1836 there was no civil marriage in the UK (apart from brief period under Cromwell) so the only way a divorced person could remarry was in church.)

          That changed in 1925, when Parliament provided that a CofE minister could refuse to marry a divorced person – provided he found another minister willing to do so.

          At some still later date the law was changed again – probably by the CofE itself, after it had been granted a substantial measure of self-government – to provide that the church would not remarry divorcees.

          Finally, the law was changed – by the CofE General Synod – in 2002 to allow (but not require) CofE ministers to remarry divorced people, subject to certain conditions. In practice many CofE ministers refuse to remarry divorcees, either because they oppose remarriage after divorce, or because they are not willing to police the conditions laid down by the legislation.

    • Joshua says:

      I wonder what sort of twisted liturgy would be cooked up for such services, since the traditional Catholic form (for convenience I refer to the EF, since I have an order of service at hand) is so focussed on the complementarity of the sexes, e.g.

      Epistle: Ephesians 5:22-33
      Gradual: Psalm 127(128):3
      Gospel: St Matthew 19:3-6

      And the Nuptial Blessing makes abundant reference both to Ephesians 5 and to the great exemplars of holy wives in the Old Testament.

      No doubt either that overused chapter 13 of I Corinthians, read as endorsing whatsoever “luuurve” may be imagined, or a sad misuse of the story of David and Jonathan, would be employed at such a pretended blessing!

      • Peregrinus says:

        Well, you could enquire from the Progressive Rabbis what scripture readings they find appropriate to the occasion. (It won’t be 1 Cor 13, obviously.)

        • jules says:

          Cherry pickers the lot of them !
          Leviticus anyone?

          18:22 Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.

          • Tony says:

            Ah Leviticus! The benchmark for ‘cherry pickers’. And what a fantastic one it is too!

            So, while, your taking 18:22 to heart you may also like to answer the following:

            1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to New Zealanders, but not Tasmanians. Can you clarify? Why can’t I own Tasmanians?

            2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

            3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness – Lev.15: 19-24. The problem is how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offence.

            4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord – Lev.1:9. The problem is, my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

            5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath.Exodus 35:2. clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?

            6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination – Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree. Can you settle this? Are there ‘degrees’ of abomination?

            7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle- room here?

            8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?

            9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

            10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev.19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? Lev.24:10-16.

            Couldn’t we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

            I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable expertise in such matters, so I am confident you can help. Thank you again for reminding us that God’s word is eternal and unchanging and that we can’t ‘cherry pick’.

            (Of course this is shamelessly adapted from old classic.)

            • jules says:

              Homosexuality is condemned in both the old and new Testaments ,Tony. However , God allowed slavery for the purpose of His Holy Will. But never homosexual immorality, so as we see the prophetic words have been realized in diseases and HIV in particular. It is also interesting to note the effect living in sin has on the mind body and spirit…..
              Romans 1:26-32: For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error. 28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind and to things that should not be done. 29 They were filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious toward parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 They know God’s decree, that those who practice such things deserve to die–yet they not only do them but even applaud others who practice them. ”

              Tony are you one that ‘applauds’?
              You have been warned as we all have!

            • jules says:

              Hang on….Does the Bible condone slavery?? First of all this requires defining the word slave. “Slavery” in the Bible is actually an ancient form of ‘indentured servitude’. Basically, an indentured servant is someone who does services like manual labor or something else in exchange for food and shelter, provided by the master. Slavery is not necessary now as it was then. Also Paul, for example, calls himself a slave to Christ many times over in his epistles. Romans 1:1Paul, for example, calls himself a slave to Christ many times over in his epistles.
              But, your point was that this is what the Bible condones . Yep , and so does Jesus , it seems , because he doesn’t lift one finger to end it, right. In fact he speaks about slavery in a parable. (Luke 14:17) He knew about salves.

              But we are talking about marriage. Jesus upheld marriage as it was from the beginning…
              “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”

              Love this from Hebrews 13 (NIV)
              4 Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the ADULTERER and all the SEXUALLY IMMORAL.

            • Tony says:

              The ‘cherry picking’ benchmark of Leviticus, was yours Jules. Do you, for example, believe that Leviticus 20:13 should apply?

              They know God’s decree, that those who practice such things deserve to die …

              Is that what you think, Jules?

              However , God allowed slavery for the purpose of His Holy Will.

              But doesn’t now? Is that because those ‘cherry pickers’ of history decided that taking the bible too literally was dangerous?

              But never homosexual immorality, so as we see the prophetic words have been realized in diseases and HIV in particular.

              Really? And those children born with HIV because of their parents? And those who contracted it through blood transfusions? Part of God’s ‘holy will’ too, Jules?

            • Tony says:

              Hang on….

              Sure Jules.

              And the rest of Leviticus?

              Should gays be executed or not?

              (Remember (again), you bought Leviticus into this.)

            • jules says:

              Do you, for example, believe that Leviticus 20:13 should apply?
              They know God’s decree, that those who practice such things deserve to die

              Tony, you know vengeance is the Lords so is their judgment and condemnation done by God. They deserve , as we deserve , RIGHT JUDGMENT and justice. This is why we pray for the forgiveness of our sins and the sin of others.

              Is that what you think, Jules?

              Yes, God’s will be done to all people- and if He says He detests sexual perversion then so should we. But retribution is his.

              “However , God allowed slavery for the purpose of His Holy Will.”
              But doesn’t now? Is that because those ‘cherry pickers’ of history decided that taking the bible too literally was dangerous?

              I was thinking about how slavery has built nations, and help bring people to a better life in some circumstances- that is all part of God’s plan. We would not have world we live in now if slavery had not been around. I’m not saying that we should have it now, but God clearly allowed it to happen for a reason.

              “But never homosexual immorality, so as we see the prophetic words have been realized in diseases and HIV in particular.”
              Really? And those children born with HIV because of their parents? And those who contracted it through blood transfusions? Part of God’s ‘holy will’ too, Jules?

              Yes Tony, God has a way with dealing with people, nations and the world. Nothing exists without God’s approval. Even suffering…. ….and next time you see a blind, or paralyzed suffering child or AIDS victim, think about why God has allowed it. Think about how AIDS has spread in the Western world , in particular, think how God’s ways are not our ways and beyond our full understanding- then think of a world free of sin! Think how that could be achieved and how there would be no more suffering then.

              Tony says:
              And the rest of Leviticus?

              Should gays be executed or not?

              God deals with people as He wants, we see it time and time again in scripture.But as I said …vengeance is the Lords. Everyone is judged in the next life. However, clearly Jesus establishes the New Law, and sexually immorality is still exactly what it is immorality.

            • Tony says:

              Thanks Jules. I could not have expressed better the dangers of literal interpretation of scripture.

              Even then, there’s lots of cherry pickun’ wiggle room. You just choose to interpret some parts quite literally then try and dance around the rest.

              Your ‘apologetics’ for slavery would make the most accomplished spin doctors blush.

              Your notion of God’s ‘justice’ in regard to HIV only makes some sort of sense if everyone who got it, in some sensible way deserved it. But they don’t. That leaves you with a God not of justice, let alone mercy, but one of malevolent cruelty.

            • jules says:

              Your notion of God’s ‘justice’ in regard to HIV only makes some sort of sense if everyone who got it, in some sensible way deserved it. But they don’t. That leaves you with a God not of justice, let alone mercy, but one of malevolent cruelty.

              Don’t start spinning things around Tony, God allows the good , the bad and the ugly… because if not for anything else- but to teach us. Even the innocent suffer in the divine scheme of things. And you cannot give your personal spin on God without deconstruction of scripture, or rejecting everything the church teaches about salvation. And who are you to Judge God’s ‘cruelty’ . Cruelty has everything to do with free . Think of Abortion and the cruelty of the Mother and abortionists…then think of God’s mercy for true innocent, and damnation of the unrepentant.
              SS marriage is a degradation of God’s natural law – but we know JUSTICE and Mercy are His alone. The Church’s role in all this is to call sinners to repentance – even me and you. Homosexual acts are disgusting, degrading and hurt the individuals involved. NO ONE should encourage or applaud their behaviour. Scripture , tradition and even l science will attest that their practices are unnatural and cause harm to mind , body and soul…. more so to the unrepentant soul.
              Tony, you know what the church teaches and for years you have argued in support of ss unions etc… why? Do you honestly think God himself will change His mind?? LOL. Time you quit scandalizing the church and yourself.
              Pope Benedict is right in saying: “The only threat the Church can and must fear is the sin of her members”.
              Sin in the church is like a cancer in the body and people like you refuse to help with treatment.

            • Tony says:

              Enough Jules.

              I’m off to find some cherries.

  6. Joshua says:

    I read this in today’s Australian:

    Redefinition will damage marriage

    THE Organisation of Rabbis of Australasia opposes any legislation to legitimise same-sex marriage. This is not intended to show any discrimination against the gay community, but simply to uphold the sanctity and purpose of marriage, which is the union of man and woman not only to express their love for one another but also to bring future generations into the world.

    The institution of marriage and family life, as defined and practised for thousands of years as between a man and a woman, a father and a mother, respectively, is far too important and essential to the bedrock of society and civilisation as we know it to be undermined by those who presume to redefine its essence. Moreover, we are deeply concerned that, should any such redefinition occur, members of traditional communities like ours will incur moral opprobrium and may risk legal sanction if they refuse to transgress their beliefs.

    That prospect is unacceptable to all people of good will on both sides of this debate. We call upon Australians to stand opposed to any attempt, whether judicial, legislative or religious in nature, to bestow the sanctity of marriage upon same-sex couples.

    Rabbi Dovid Freilich is president of the Organisation of Rabbis of Australasia.

    • Joshua says:

      That said, I believe Progressive Rabbis have officiated at the blessing of same-sex unions for some years; I don’t know which group is the more representative of Judaism in Australia.

      • Peregrinus says:

        I’m pretty sure the Progressives would be in the minority.

        But I’m not sure that matters, in this context. If we aggregate Jews of all traditions, they’re still a minority. Catholics are a minority. Religious beleivers are a majority, but for how much longer?

        The truth is that there are diverse views within the community on this, and that’s not likely to change. Identifying which group is in the majority or in the minority relative to which other group doesn’t help very much. I don’t think we can argue, e.g. that the views of the majority should prevail and the views of the minority should be disregarded (and, if we did argue that, we’d have to conclude that gay marriage is the way to go).

  7. Overseas, I believe both ‘Progressive’/’Liberal’/’Reform’ and ‘Conservative’ rabbis have blessed same sex marriages. I understand Conservative Judaism is in a somewhat similar position to the Uniting Church here – it is permissive but not prescriptive, that is it leaves decisions on SSM up to local rabbis. That leaves the various Orthodox groups as the hold-outs.

    • Joshua says:

      I must be dreadfully naive – I just don’t get it as to how Jews or Christians can go along with same-sex unions or the idea of homosexual acts as moral, given the well-known texts in both the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures.

      • Peregrinus says:

        “That leaves the various Orthodox groups as the hold-outs.”

        It leaves Orthodox as the holdouts only if you analyse the question at the level of the broad liturgical traditions within Judaism. If you analyse the question congregation by congregation – and arguably that’s a more appropriate level of analysis for Judaism – then there are many Reform congregations, and I imagine the majority of Conservative congregations, which do not celebrate same-sex weddings. So the Orthodox congregations aren’t by any means alone in their stance.

        “I must be dreadfully naive – I just don’t get it as to how Jews or Christians can go along with same-sex unions or the idea of homosexual acts as moral, given the well-known texts in both the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures.”

        Not naïve, Joshua. But you are being called to confront something in yourself here. It’s one thing not to agree with somebody, but it’s quite another thing not to be able even to see how they can hold the position they do. And this is particularly confronting if you accept that they hold the position they do sincerely, prayerfully and after much reflection.

        And I don’t want to be seen to have a dig at you, Joshua. Any of us can find ourselves in this position of blank incomprehension at the stance of another, if not in relation to this particular issue, then in relation to another issue.

        It’s a learning moment. And the first thing we need to learn is that, if I can’t imagine how you can possibly think the things you do, one possible explanation – and, in truth, quite a likely one – is that this is failure of my imagination. Which is my problem, not yours.

        In this particular instance there are indeed well-known texts in both the Hebrew and Christian scripture (although the latter, of course, are of no concern to the Progressive Rabbis). But we have to acknowledge that they come to us with a huge accretion of misunderstanding and homophobic prejudice which we have to somehow look through in order to see what the texts are teaching us. This isn’t easy. But when we do this, we find that to a large extent these texts address homosexual acts in the context of coercion, or in the context of idolatry. They don’t address homosexual orientation (because the concept was completely unknown to the human authors of the scriptures) and, it follows, they don’t address homosexual acts in the context of an expression of homosexual orientation. Or, at least, they don’t directly address them.

        We also have to note that the Catholic church’s position on this matter isn’t the outcome of a simplistic, mechanistic application of these scriptural passages, generalising them from the specific acts addressed to all forms of homosexual expression in all contexts.

        The Catholic position is heavily informed by an intellectual tradition within Catholicism which sees the essence of every created thing to include not just what it is but also what it is for. Hence, in another context entirely, the Catholic church can assert that the consecrated bread and wine are really the body and blood of Christ because, although physically they have not changed in any way, they have been called by God to an entirely new destiny, which is to be uplifted and incorporated into the body of Christ. Their purpose, their destiny, what they are for has fundamentally changed, and this is a real, and not merely symbolic, change, because their purpose is part of their reality.

        Right. This purposive account of reality also informs the church’s understanding of sexuality, and leads it to see the notion of an unprocreative sexual orientation as fundamentally broken. (“Intrinsically disordered”, in the words of the Catechism.) But that emerges only very elliptically from scripture which, as noted above, has nothing at all to say about sexuality (in the sense of sexual orientation), at least directly.

        You can see, then, how other traditions which don’t share the distinctively Catholic purposive account of reality wouldn’t necessarily take the same view. The scriptural texts you mention can very easily be read narrowly, if you don’t start with a predisposition to read them broadly, and in fact I think a narrow reading is very defensible. And while the Catholic position, correctly understood, is consistent with those texts, it doesn’t really emerge from them (and it certainly doesn’t necessarily emerge from them) but from a much wider understanding about the true nature of created things.

        And if you come from a non-Catholic or non-Christian tradition which doesn’t share that wider understanding, or doesn’t place so much emphasis on it, then it’s not difficult to arrive at a quite different understanding of the place of sexual orientation in the scheme of things.

        • Joshua says:

          I think I get what you mean, P. – thanks.

        • Stephen K says:

          You know, Peregrinus, yours is the first explanation of the traditional Catholic view of the Eucharist / transubstantiation that makes digestible sense to me. This is not to say I think that teleology explains everything or is more than one approach to understanding a complex and mysterious world. Nor would it be to agree that Scripture and other resources are not prone to frequent simplistic mechanistic application on the part of Catholics for a whole range of matters. You rightly, in my view, make clear the challenge confronting every person, to be able to get inside the head and thinking and feeling of those with whose conclusions you do not concur and truly see that no position, no perspective is exhaustive.

          But, to get back to the main thing I want to say, I just cannot imagine a more succinct or coherent summary of the underlying philosophical emphasis or intention. Not to mention your lucid explanations of everything else. Reading you is like looking into clear water and seeing right to the bottom. My sincere appreciation.

          • Joshua says:

            As long as P. holds to a real transsubstantiation, not a mere transsignification nor transfinalization, I would say his unpacking of the Eucharistic transformation is OK.

            • Stephen K says:

              Wow! Four “trans”s in one sentence! And I hadn’t heard the third one before!

              Joshua, I can immediately see the different meanings of each, but can you tell me why one, and not the second or third, is so insisted upon? The way I see it, both transsignification and transfinalisation are entirely supportive of the various Eucharistic meanings, even to supporting paraliturgical applications. Moreover, I think they accord better with perception. And, as we constantly hear in relation to other subject matter, there’s a lot to be said for “common sense”.

              Why is this insistence on transubstantiation such an Alamo? Can you explain to me why or how this is more than speculative metaphysical mechanics, or why it is not an unnecessary complication to a religious mystery? Why is it not just an example of hubris in trying to have an answer for everything, even if it ends up erecting barriers?

              You’ve raised two interesting alternatives – or complementary – concepts here.

            • Peregrinus says:

              “As long as P. holds to a real transsubstantiation, not a mere transsignification nor transfinalization, I would say his unpacking of the Eucharistic transformation is OK.”

              Well, that’s fortunate! I’m the first to concede that what I wrote was an over-simplification and could be considerably improved upon, but it is based on the writings of one Ratzinger, J.

              For what it’s worth, I don’t find the language of transubstantiation particularly useful or enlightening, which is why I tend to avoid it. I don’t find that it helps to deepen my Eucharistic faith. This, of course, could reflect on me rather than on the language of transubstantiation, but I suspect I’m not alone. And if my suspicion is correct, we do need to find other language in which to talk about the sacramental mystery of the Real Presence. None of this amounts to a denial of transubstantiation; just an assertion that there is more to be said.

            • Joshua says:

              I say this, because “transsignification” (i.e. the bread and wine acquire a new meaning as signs) and “transfinalization” (i.e. they acquire a new end or purpose) were terms proposed by theologians in the ’50’s or ’60’s that, as Paul VI said in one of his writings (Credo of the People of God perhaps?), are certainly true, but don’t tell the whole story – Catholic belief attests to a stronger change, to a change in their very substance (not of course in their attributes such as their physical, chemical composition), called “transsubstantiation”, which encompasses and includes both these concepts, which are subsets if you will of the wider truth. Remember, the bread and wine cease to be bread and wine, though to the senses they remain such: they become Christ’s Body and Blood. Certainly their appearance points toward their sacramental purpose (hence they are truly transsignified, truly transfinalized), but they do not remain bread and wine, as they would if they were only and solely transsignified and transfinalized. The Catholic belief is in a real presence, not merely in a new sign value and a new purpose for the bread and wine. Hope this helps!

            • Joshua says:

              P.S. Pardon me if this is already obvious, but when we adore and worship Christ truly present in the Eucharist, whether at the Elevation, or when we receive Holy Communion, or when we genuflect before the reserved Sacrament, or attend Exposition – then we worship and adore one truly present beneath the sacramental veils. This seems to my mind to require transsubstantiation (and I suppose a good Lutheran would agree to worshipping Christ “in, with and under” the Eucharistic elements, even if he would reject the term “consubstantiation” that Catholics tend to foist upon Lutheran understanding of the presence), for a merely transfinalized or transsignified bread and wine would remain that, even if its purpose had changed to be that of imparting union with Christ and eternal life as spiritual food and drink, even if they now signified those most holy and salvific truths, and even if they truly effected them. Transsignification and transfinalization do not logically require a real presence in the consecrated elements – rather, they better answer to the way water in baptism receives a new and higher purpose and meaning. The other sacraments, in common with the Eucharist, effect what they signify (the matter used in them is transsignified and transfinalized); but only the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar is as the Germans would say a Realsymbol, not just symbolic of Christ as our Nourishment, not just actually effecting our spiritual nourishment, but being Christ himself present in His Sacrament. Again, I hope this long note is helpful!

            • Peregrinus says:

              This is interesting and useful, Joshua, but our discussion of the Real Presence is something of a side issue to the main topic of David’s original post. Plus, we have reached the limit of “nesting” of responses that the system allows, and continuing the discussion from this point is going to become confusing. Although I have a couple of responses to points you make here, for the reasons given I think I will withhold them. Perhaps we can return to this at some point in the future if David is inspired to put up a pertinent post!

            • Joshua says:

              Indeed! Good idea, P. – David well knows how I can go off on a tangent…

        • Alexander says:

          It might be the wrong forum to point this out, but many of the arguments Perry relays are actually just not true. For instance, far from “homophobic” prejudice being widespread in Ancient Rome, MSMs (that is, men who have sex with men, or similar grammatical froms) were quite common. Of the first 15 emperors, Claudius (reigned AD 41 – 54) was the only one who did not take male sex partners.

          The fact that such a liberal society as Rome, as well as Greece, did not develop equivalents of homosexuality per se, while they were quite accepting of MSM is ought to make the independent thinker question the reality of homosexuality as a natural sexual identity. Ancient Rome, and to a lesser extent Greece, defined people not as hetrosexual or homosexual, but rather as giving (exclusively male) and taking (could be either male or female).

          It is worth noting that the ancient Roman pattern is what is recorded in “nature”, and historically has been most often condemned. One common way, in poorly policed areas, of emasculating a male is to give him one (i.e. gay rape). Consider the stereotype you have of prison sex: It’s not a loving couple who have (what is perceived to be) mutually-affirming sex (although I’m sure it happens); ratherit is the alpha abusing an omega and establishing hierarchy.

          For every Christian, it is always worth remembering the scripture is inspired by the Holy Spirit. I think particularly of the very clear condemnation of homosexual behavior in the first chapter of his letter to the Romans. I’m only aware of people attempting to “explain this away” by saying Paul didn’t understand sexuality “properly”. But do we?

          Although there is much disagreement about Paul’s meaning when he wrote “malokois” and “arsenokoitai”, one understanding is that they refer to the passive and active partners. Another is that they refer to different kinds of male prostitutes. I suggest reading the words in context makes the former more probable.

          For every modern, it is worth remembering that we consider people from the past to have been wrong. But equally, they would consider us wrong. We don’t live at the end of history—only at the end of recorded history—and views commonly held today might turn out to be wrong. Of course, no-one can form their opinions on the basis of things we don’t know today, but perhaps we can apply Paul’s advice to the Thessalonians to “test everything; hold fast to what is good” also to what we know from the secular sphere.

          Scientific studies were not used to establish the modern social classifications; rather, the studies have happened on what occurs. So why should we colour the Bible’s picture of sexuality with the inks of a sinful world?

          Furthermore, cognitive psychology is finding more and more links between thought and behaviour, even in surprisingly high and exclusively human processes. The mind is also hugely adaptable. Although I’ve had nothing at all to do with sexuality, it seems surprising that research on sexuality makes essentially no reference to the body. It seems to me homosexuality is more likely to be accounted for on social grounds, and can profitably be compared to gambling addiction (although I don’t think it’s equivalent!).

          Given that we have no idea of what homosexuality actually is, I think we should be cautious about taking the world’s values and using them as the prism in which interpret the Bible’s references to homosexuality.

          But I also want to say that I came to doubt the accuracy of the common understanding of sexuality before I believed in the resurrection. (I’m only just now reading the Bible…)

          • Peregrinus says:

            When I talked about “a huge accretion of misunderstanding and homophobic prejudice”, Alexander, I wasn’t thinking of classical Rome.

            I accept that homosexual identity is a cultural construct. But so is heterosexual identity (and indeed every sexual identity that we might care to name). If preceding generations did not share our concept of homosexual identity – and I agree with you that they did not – then it must follow that they also did not share our concept of heterosexual identity, if only because they are defined in opposition to one another.

            I think myself that we (and by “we” I mean both the world and the church) have barely scratched the surface of a full understanding of human sexuality, and the difficulty we have in discerning what is revealed in scriptural passages on homosexuality arises not only because of the authors’ imperfect and culturally-limited understanding and that of the audience for which they were writing, but also our own imperfect and culturally-limited etc.

            At the same time, we can’t ignore the realities of human experience. Indeed, in an area like human sexuality, the only way we are ever going to improve our understanding is by reflecting upon the realities of human experience. Many would find your comparison between homosexuality and gambling addiction offensive but, rather than go down that unprofitable road, I’d raise a different point; is that how people who feel homosexual attraction or identify as homosexual report their experience? If not, why would we think that it’s a useful, relevant or profitable comparison? If yes, in what other ways do they report their experience? And on what basis, if any, would we regard some reports as valid, useful or profitable and others as misconceived or unhelpful?

  8. PM says:


    You get to the nub of the question when you say that ‘marriage – which is a natural estate – is raised to the dignity of a sacrament by virtue of Christ’s Paschal Mystery and by virtue of the status of the marriage partners as baptised Christians’. The Angelic Doctor himself would be proud of you: gratia non tollit naturam sed perficit.

    It is a measure of how much we have lost of our intellectual tradition that I hear Catholics saying ‘we can do our thing in church and they can do theirs.’ The concept of natural law has largely gone missing. (The same tolerance must never, of course, be shown to Catholics who like theology of liturgical music from before 1968!)

    Ironically, the Catholic understanding of sexuality is in some ways very Darwinian in that it pays due respect to the biological imperative of preserving the life of the species. ‘Biologism’ is the ultimate heresy in postmodernist gender studies, but there are some things for which certain bits of the anatomy are just not fitted by evolutionary adaptation – delicacy forbids me from elaborating!

    But I worry deeply about where the political controversy might lead us. The alliance of a certain type of Christianity with (what some of us at least think is) the thoroughly repellent social darwninism of the right wing of the US Republican party is not only misguided but repels people who don’t share those views.

  9. Martin Snigg says:

    Thanks for your posts David, agree wholeheartedly. Eve Tushnet is a same sex attracted Jewish convert to Catholicism and was previously an active gay rights campaigner. She’s been featured in the NYT and was interviewed on

    “same-sex marriage would change the fundamental ideal of marriage. Even the most ardent defenders of divorce today view it as a necessary evil, a response to the tragedy of marriage failure. Same-sex marriage by contrast, would say that the ideal marriage is gender neutral – not a way for boys to become men by marrying and pledging to care for women. It would say that the ideal marriage includes children only when they have been specially planned and chosen – children would become optional extras rather than the natural fruit and symbol of the spouses union. It would say that the ideal family need not include a father – a message that is especially pernicious in a country where one-third of births in 2000 were to unwed mothers. And it would say (because who can imagine that most homosexual couples would wed?) that marriage itself is optional, not the norm – that marriage is for heroes, and since you and I aren’t heroic, we must not be called to marry. Any one of these changes would be destructive. Put together, they are a recipe for disaster, a recipe for revisiting and surpassing the harm done to families by the “sexual revolution.”

    It really would mean the final nail in the coffin of any hope for marriage renewal. There is no way back from SSM apart through chaos and destruction.

    I recall George Cardinal Pell holding a press conference some years ago now about our insane divorce laws – he received ridicule and complete dismissal.

    When the state can arrogate to itself the power to redefine a natural institution, then in an age of genetic engineering, human nature itself is the next frontier. And some Christian knights are fighting the transhumanists for us as we speak e.g. Patrick Deneen.

    There comes a time when you have to make a stand. Of course exemptions placing the church outside the law is unacceptable, Christians and marriage should remain under the law it marginalises Christian teaching in the public mind – we will still be free to preach but freedom of religion would have been transformed into ‘freedom of worship’ free to have our private hobbies but disallowed any public voice. All public institutions will have to follow the SSM law obviously which includes public education, ever corner of society (wherever the state touches individual lives which is virtually at every point) is affected.

    Before they crucified Our Lord he was stripped, we ought to have no illusions about what follows after our public dignity has been forceably removed in law.
    Contra Peregrinus
    “In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man
    As modest stillness and humility:
    But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
    Then imitate the action of the tiger;
    Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
    Disguise fair nature with hard-favour’d rage;
    Then lend the eye a terrible aspect; ”

    P.s. I’m not sure what point Peregrinus is trying to make re: not everyone is an Aristotelian. What else can one be? It is nominalism that got us into this mess, if any church subscribes to it they likely the root cause of the whole problem – and that means I suppose the Lutherans on down. Merely adverting to a difference of opinion obscures the fact that no one can live in any other way than as if realism were true. It is not ‘catholic’ or ‘catholic essentialism’ is the foundation of science, language, morality and what makes the natural law tick for goodness’ sake.

  10. Joshua says:

    As Fr Joseph Vnuk, O.P., opined in his postmodern way, if homosexuality is not just an imitation of heterosexuality, then far from wishing to ape marriage, it would espouse a radically different ethic – he argued that this would be celibacy; others more cynical would say promiscuity no doubt!

    • Tony says:

      I think that’s just silly, Joshua. There are homosexuals, like heterosexuals, who are celibate, promiscuous, faithful, interested in marriage, not interested in marriage, interested in being part of a family, not interested in being part of a family, etc, etc.

      • Joshua says:

        I merely quote the good Father.

        • Tony says:

          That’s fine Joshua, what concerns me though is that hint of what we do when we discriminate against an identified group, that is, we tend to regard them as a homogeneous in opinion and behaviour.

          • Joshua says:

            I think we need to reclaim the term “discriminate” from the pejorative sense it has acquired; I can and do discriminate between, say, a well-made ham sandwich at Café A and a rather overpriced and tasteless one at Bar B.

            In any case, the reason I would say homosexual acts are to be deprecated is that, far from looking down my nose at persons involved in such acts, I sincerely believe in consonance with the Catholic Faith that such acts are in and of themselves serious sins, sins crying to heaven, and those who delight in them are in grave danger of everlasting damnation.

            The more we are forced by social pressure to cease from any comment against such activities, the less chance such persons have of being rescued from their sins and a verdict of woe at the Tribunal of Christ when they die. We ought indeed love the sinner and seek to separate them from the sin which we hate, for the good of their infinitely precious souls.

            • Tony says:

              Use of the ‘D’ word doesn’t seem to be a huge problem in my experience, Joshua. If person A was to describe person B as ‘discriminating’ I suggest that person B would have no problem regarding that as a compliment.

              Again, the second part of you post seems to me to represent one of the arguments that is not gaining much traction in the wider community. Like it or not, I also think most Catholics eye’s glaze over when they hear this sort of talk. For older Catholics it brings back memories of the hellfire preachers of their youth.

            • Joshua says:

              Well, it is true that the penalty for sodomy is hellfire – to rather bluntly summarize the well-known Catholic moral teaching on homosexual acts.

              If people’s eyes glaze over at such plain unvarnished truth, so much the worse for them; the scoffing world may well learn its mistake too late! “The laughter of fools is as the crackling of thorns under a pot.”

            • Tony says:

              … If people’s eyes glaze over at such plain unvarnished truth, so much the worse for them …

              Could be. In the meantime the church, on this and other issues, needs to come up with a way of communicating its message that works. No matter how much you believe it ‘Listen or go to hell’ is probably not going to get there.

            • Schütz says:

              What do you mean by “communicate its message”, Tony? What message would that be in this instance?

            • Tony says:

              The only person who’s had a go at creating a message that might engage the wider community in this string is Dan and, with respect, it wasn’t that compelling.

              David seems to be suggesting some sort of civil disobedience — which on reflection doesn’t grab the imagination — and a way of insisting that language be used in a particular way — despite that not generally being the case.

              So the church’s arguments end up being obscure, intellectual, vague or, at the other end of the scale, hellfire and brimstone, which most people these days ignore (at best) and laugh at (at worst).

              Into that space comes a message like this:
              and reasonable people ask ‘What exactly is the problem here?’

            • Gareth says:

              One thing I noticed about you Tony is you continually imply you know what most Catholics think, when in most people’s experience this is not the case at all.

            • Tony says:

              I don’t imply I know anything, Gareth. I’m just offering an opinion like everyone else.

              … when in most people’s experience …

              See? Are you implying you know ‘most people’s’ experience?

            • Gareth says:

              It would be a safe bet Tony that most practising Catholics are deeply opposed to the redefinition of marriage as opposed to your assertion that the Church has not ‘convinced’ members to its teaching

            • Tony says:

              I’m not a gambler, Gareth, but I think there’s a good chance you’d lose your money.

              The trends towards more acceptance of homosexuals in the community and the idea of ‘gay marriage’ have shown a consistent upward movement for some time now with no evidence that Catholics are any different.

              No doubt you’ll trust your own instincts rather than any silly old social research and that will influence where you put your metaphorical money.

  11. Gareth says:

    Tony trying to market to the faithful sins that condemns souls to hell in a positive fashion – Id love to see that.

  12. Alex Caughey says:

    I have often conducted tours of ancient Corinth taking moments to view the city, as Paul of Tarsus once did when writing his letters to his fellow Jews from a hill side overlooking the ruins of a once thriving community of some 100,000 souls evacuated long ago due to seismic activity. The modern town of Corinth is not too far from ancient Corinth focused more on agriculture than on tourism or, shrines dedicated to the gods of ancient Greece, and ancient Rome.

    Despite being located in Greece Corinth was a cosmopolitan city attracting residents, and tourists from across the Roman Empire enthusiastic to make the pilgrimage to the shrines, and the temples of their favourite god paying homage, and making generous donations.

    Paul never succeeded in fully dismantling his Pharisaical tendency to judge others unworthy, when viewing the sexual customs of the various pagan shrines as an insult to his sense of morality. Paul condemned prostitution in all its manifestations as exploitation of both the sex worker, and their clients. In this sense we can understand why Paul’s reference to soft men was directed at those men who provided sexual services for other men as a religious duty, as well as judging those who sought such sexual services and paid accordingly. The whole pagan set up was abhorrent to Paul’s puritanical upbringing which had recognised sexual life being solely the domain of a married heterosexual couple.

    It is highly likely that the communities of Sodom, and Gomorrah were destroyed by a meteor shower rather than by any destructive action by our loving Father, angry with those who refused hospitality to visitors who were hungry, naked and without shelter.

    Except at aristocratic level in ancient Greece, and ancient Rome homosexual relationships with youth were frowned upon by law, even execution were exploitation of minors for sexual purposes proven beyond doubt.

    A citizen of Athens as celebrated and as wise as Socrates was found guilty of both corrupting the minds of the youth of Athens and of “not believing in the gods of the state,” and subsequently sentenced to death by drinking a mixture containing hemlock. Political dissent was probably the principle factor behind the guilty verdict with the sexual allegations providing the legal justification or, pretext if you will.

    There is a real risk that judgement of the apparent culpability of our fellow man for failing to live up to our understandings of all that is ideal in human behaviour will encourage us to cast the first stone. We need to examine our own life and its concealed faults before electing to judge another for not living up to our expectations.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *