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The Vatican and gayness: a potential way forward


Shqiptar

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There’s no doubt that the Bible takes a dim view of homosexual acts. The Book of Leviticus lays it on the line:

Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.
Also, there’s no doubt that when it comes to deciding what represents truth, the Bible is the last word for most Christians. This is what lies at the heart of the concern expressed by various Christian figures over recognition of same sex couples.

There are a number of points to be made here:

(a) It would be unreasonable to expect Christians to ignore a part of the Bible and turn a millennia-old tenet of their beliefs on its head. So no-one should expect the Roman Catholic Church to suddenly do a volte-face and declare that homosexual acts are actually fine. Also, the RC Church is by no means the most homophobic of the Christian Churches.

(b) Nevertheless, what the Bible urges is that each person should abstain from these acts – nothing more than that. In their opposition to gayness, Roman Catholicism goes well beyond this position.

(c) Up until 1986, the position of the Vatican was that homosexual acts were "intrinsically disordered". However, in October of that year, the then Cardinal Ratzinger (now the retired Benedict XVI Emeritus) - in his role as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith - went much further. In his Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, Ratzinger declared that "Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder."

(d) So there you have it. Everyone is supposdly born with original sin, we're told: but gay people get an extra moral ball and chain, an "objective disorder" which inclines them strongly towards "intrinsic moral evil". Wow. Why God in his Infinite Wisdom would afflict some people with this (and not most people) is something that Ratzinger didn't explain - a curious omission for a chap who loves his theology.

(e) The Christian Scriptures condemn homosexual acts but they condemn other acts too; acts about which Christian leaders tend not to be so concerned. The following table lists some of these.

Eating shellfish (Leviticus 11:10)
Eating pork (Leviticus 11:8)
Having one’s hair cut (Leviticus 19:27)
People with physical/visual impairments going to church (Leviticus 21:16-23)
Planting two different crops in the same field (Leviticus 19:19)
Wearing clothes made of different types of material (Leviticus 19:19)
Eating meat (Genesis 1:29)

The list is by no means exhaustive but it’s sufficient to illustrate that if Christian leaders were to be consistent in seeking to condemn in such strong terms everything else that the Bible prohibits, it would impact greatly on the values and behaviours of modern society. It might even impact on their own behaviour.

As more and more countries recognise gay relationships, what is being recognised is simply the relationship – the love between two men or two women. Is this love really wrong? Would those who oppose the gayness prefer it if a gay couple didn’t love each other? Is it possible that in their view of Christian ethics, it’s better that two gay people hate each other?

Surely it wouldn't it be such an about-turn for Catholicism to recognise that love between two people is always a good thing even if they’re the same gender – and not an “intrinsical moral evil” as the Vatican would have us believe? Surely such an attitude would be closer to the ideals of Christianity than the blanket condemnation that the gay community currently faces.

It's time for the Vatican to disavow Ratzinger's letter of 1986. There is nothing in the Bible that condemns love between two men or two women. Indeed, there is every reason why such a love should be celebrated. That could be framed in provisos that what is being celebrated is the love itself whilst not implying any blanket acceptance of whatever they get up to in the bedroom. That's not rowing back on core teachings - it's rowing back on the legacy of a Pontiff who, whilst being undoubtedly sincere in his intentions, has been a highly polarising and divisive leader.

Further reading:
1. Pope’s views against gays are long and detailed
2. Church’s teaching on homosexuality needs re-evaluation. Association of Catholic Priests
 

sondagefaux

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It could also be argued that the injunction in Leviticus is nonsensical, thus null and void, because it is impossible for a man to lie with another man in the same way as a man can lie with a woman, since vaginal intercourse is impossible with two men.

That being the case, any men who don't engage in vaginal intercourse with each other aren't violating the injunction in Leviticus.
 

Shqiptar

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It could also be argued that the injunction in Leviticus is nonsensical, thus null and void, because it is impossible for a man to lie with another man in the same way as a man can lie with a woman, since vaginal intercourse is impossible with two men.

That being the case, any men who don't engage in vaginal intercourse with each other aren't violating the injunction in Leviticus.
Perhaps but there are also places in the New Testament where it's made fairly plain that for two guys to have sex is A Bad Thing.
 

farnaby

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There is nothing in the Bible that condemns love between two men or two women. Indeed, there is every reason why such a love should be celebrated. That could be framed in provisos that what is being celebrated is the love itself whilst not implying any blanket acceptance of whatever they get up to in the bedroom. That's not rowing back on core teachings - it's rowing back on the legacy of a Pontiff who, whilst being undoubtedly sincere in his intentions, has been a highly polarising and divisive leader.
Strange to play devil's advocate for a pope but here goes:

You're confusing two quite different types of love - caritas and eros. Caritas (charity) is the ideal of Christian love - a universal love and knowledge of humanity and God's world. No sex here please. Eros is erotic love - that specific love which exists (as devout Catholics would have it) for the purpose of pro-creation and, if you really must, a bonding pleasure between husband and wife.

To allow two men to love each other in the sense of caritas is fairly meaningless as caritas is to be applied equally to God's creation, not to specific persons.

To allow them to love each other in the sense of Eros is proscribed given the strict definition/purpose outlined above.


For the record I find the church definition/purpose of Eros to be ridiculously constrained and personally see no reason why a loving sexual relationship between two men is not a good thing.
 

Shqiptar

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Strange to play devil's advocate for a pope but here goes:

You're confusing two quite different types of love - caritas and eros. Caritas (charity) is the ideal of Christian love - a universal love and knowledge of humanity and God's world. No sex here please. Eros is erotic love - that specific love which exists (as devout Catholics would have it) for the purpose of pro-creation and, if you really must, a bonding pleasure between husband and wife.

To allow two men to love each other in the sense of caritas is fairly meaningless as caritas is to be applied equally to God's creation, not to specific persons.

To allow them to love each other in the sense of Eros is proscribed given the strict definition/purpose outlined above.


For the record I find the church definition/purpose of Eros to be ridiculously constrained and personally see no reason why a loving sexual relationship between two men is not a good thing.
I think in any intimate relationship, you get caritas and eros. Why condemn the caritas just because they don't like the eros?
 

Shqiptar

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It could also be argued that the injunction in Leviticus is nonsensical, thus null and void, because it is impossible for a man to lie with another man in the same way as a man can lie with a woman, since vaginal intercourse is impossible with two men.

That being the case, any men who don't engage in vaginal intercourse with each other aren't violating the injunction in Leviticus.
26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones.
27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.
(Romans 1:26-2)

9 Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor malakoi, arsenokoitai,
10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
(1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

Arsenokoitai (lovely descriptive word) is apparently translated as "sodomites" or "men who engage in homosexual acts".
 

Mitsui2

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There’s no doubt that the Bible takes a dim view of homosexual acts. The Book of Leviticus lays it on the line:

Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.
Also, there’s no doubt that when it comes to deciding what represents truth, the Bible is the last word for most Christians. This is what lies at the heart of the concern expressed by various Christian figures over recognition of same sex couples....

...It would be unreasonable to expect Christians to ignore a part of the Bible and turn a millennia-old tenet of their beliefs on its head.
While it's heartening to see any attempt to bring reason to this debate, Shqiptar, it's hard to overlook the fact that you almost immediately cite a number of instances in which other (and equally definitive) strictures from Levicticus are quite happily (and "unreasonably"?) ignored by almost all modern Christians-

Eating shellfish (Leviticus 11:10)
Eating pork (Leviticus 11:8)
Having one’s hair cut (Leviticus 19:27)
People with physical/visual impairments going to church (Leviticus 21:16-23)
Planting two different crops in the same field (Leviticus 19:19)
Wearing clothes made of different types of material (Leviticus 19:19)
Eating meat (Genesis 1:29)
While you yourself do of course point out the discrepancy in this, it seems a little overcharitable to imply that such a pick 'n' mix (or even a la carte!) approach to obeying Biblical injunctions somehow qualifies as reasonable.
 

Shqiptar

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While it's heartening to see any attempt to bring reason to this debate, Shqiptar, it's hard to overlook the fact that you almost immediately cite a number of instances in which other (and equally definitive) strictures from Levicticus are quite happily (and "unreasonably"?) ignored by almost all modern Christians-

While you yourself do of course point out the discrepancy in this, it seems a little overcharitable to imply that such a pick 'n' mix (or even a la carte!) approach to obeying Biblical injunctions somehow qualifies as reasonable.
Well, it's not that I think of it as reasonable. I threw in the point as an aside to contrast the fuss they make about gayness with their ignoring of other Biblical prohibitions. I suppose I should have developed that aspect of the argument a little more.
 

Roll_On

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shqiptar,

It seems to me like you are trying to find consistency and/or morality from the vatican. I think you'll find that a fruitless exercise. The Catholic Church is institutionally inconsistent and institutionally immoral by objective standards in most of the western world.

You are talking about an organisation that makes profits that would make Bill Gates blush. The very same organisation that passes around collection plates in the most destitute communities of Brazil, Argentina, the Philippines and wherever else they can make a buck out of unfortunate third world illiterates. Doesn't it strike you as odd that the more wealthy/developed a country becomes, the less relevant the church becomes.

You're talking about an institution that establishes itself in HIV ridden areas Africa and Asia discouraging condom use.

Their mission is not anything spiritual it's greed. They want more and more members, so they need poor people to have more and more children so that they stay poor and raise yet more members so they can do likewise. It's an aggressive cycle of shameless profiteering at the expense of the unfortunate and it's an art they have fine tuned over their 2000 year existence.

This organisation started and funded various bloody wars and mass killings, told the British that God said they should rule Ireland. This organisation shunned republican and nationalist individuals up until 1922. Then they changed their tune because they just like being on the side of who's in power at the time. Then they went on a 60 year reign of terror beating and raping children and imprisoning woman and forcing them to work for their profit.

How on Earth can you expect this organisation to be in any way consistant or moral?

P.S. I'm not having a go, just offering my point of view.
 

statsman

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Perhaps but there are also places in the New Testament where it's made fairly plain that for two guys to have sex is A Bad Thing.
Inevitably, the injunction is addressed only to men. Indeed, if one were a woman one could read it as an injunction against heterosexual intercourse. Why should anyone consider as reasonable a moral theory that ignores 51% of the species?
 

Iphonista

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Why this endless obsessing about the Catholic Church? If you don't like the club rules, then leave. I don't like greyhound racing. I'm not expecting Bord na gCon to abandon their support of it just because I don't like it.
 
D

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Re OP - Leviticus, as with all other books of the Bible cannot be read in isolation - you need to look at the text, context and culture. As you point out, many of the other items referred to in this Book are, in the context of modern life, deemed defunct. Other major texts which are commonly cited in condemnation of homosexuality Genisis 19, Corinthians 6:9-10 and Romans 1:24-28 are the subject of debate and dispute by theologians, historians and other commentators.

The Vatican's position on homosexuality is set out in Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons and in relation to homosexual priests - Criteria for the Discernment of Vocation for Persons with Homosexual Tendencies

While not stating it definitively, the view seems to be that homosexuality is a post-birth, nurture based, psychological disorder rather than it being the way a person is created from conception. If the latter was taken as a possibility, the Church would be suggesting that God created a disordered person which, in the context of Catholic theology is not possible.

In any event, all Christians outside of marriage are called to live a life of chastity. This alone would preclude homosexual men from engaging in sexual acts. To me, this is the most compelling argument within Catholic theology against homosexuality as a life style or way of life. If, however, you are not a Catholic or do not subscribe to Catholic teaching, such an argument would be irrelevant. The point you make about love - platonic love between two people is not an issue but many sexual acts have little or nothing to do with love. Love is evident in the world every day and it has nothing to do with sex. One definition of love is putting the needs of another before one's own. Often, what is called love, in the context of a relationship, is need based and certainly not about putting the needs of the other before one's own!

In relation to homosexual priests - they take a vow of celibacy and are called to chastity - their sexuality should not be an issue aside from their own personal acceptance and peace.
 

Happytolearn

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I read a book called 'What the bible really says about homosexuality'. It's a while back now - but one point the author makes is that as far as his research could establish the word 'Abomination' used in its original form - was also used in relation to something God himself did. God could never have been attributed to an abomination. His view of the word was that it referred to something 'unusual' or 'odd' - but certainly not morally evil. Repeated translations over the centuries injected a bias into the meaning.
He also felt that the whole Sodom thing was more a rejection of rape - not man on man action. I'll have a peek at the book again tonight so I'm less vague.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bible-Really-About-Homosexuality-ebook/dp/B005BTQEQ4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1362660404&sr=8-1
 

Shqiptar

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I read a book called 'What the bible really says about homosexuality'. It's a while back now - but one point the author makes is that as far as his research could establish the word 'Abomination' used in its original form - was also used in relation to something God himself did. God could never have been attributed to an abomination. His view of the word was that it referred to something 'unusual' or 'odd' - but certainly not morally evil. Repeated translations over the centuries injected a bias into the meaning.
He also felt that the whole Sodom thing was more a rejection of rape - not man on man action. I'll have a peek at the book again tonight so I'm less vague.

What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality eBook: Daniel A. Helminiak Ph.D.: Amazon.co.uk: Kindle Store
That's all fine and grand but the RCC pays little heed to what other Christian Churches say: they're merely "ecclesiastical communities", after all. So the interpretations of one lone guy won't even register on its radar.
 

Shqiptar

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Re OP - Leviticus, as with all other books of the Bible cannot be read in isolation - you need to look at the text, context and culture. As you point out, many of the other items referred to in this Book are, in the context of modern life, deemed defunct. Other major texts which are commonly cited in condemnation of homosexuality Genisis 19, Corinthians 6:9-10 and Romans 1:24-28 are the subject of debate and dispute by theologians, historians and other commentators.

The Vatican's position on homosexuality is set out in Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons and in relation to homosexual priests - Criteria for the Discernment of Vocation for Persons with Homosexual Tendencies

While not stating it definitively, the view seems to be that homosexuality is a post-birth, nurture based, psychological disorder rather than it being the way a person is created from conception. If the latter was taken as a possibility, the Church would be suggesting that God created a disordered person which, in the context of Catholic theology is not possible.

In any event, all Christians outside of marriage are called to live a life of chastity. This alone would preclude homosexual men from engaging in sexual acts. To me, this is the most compelling argument within Catholic theology against homosexuality as a life style or way of life. If, however, you are not a Catholic or do not subscribe to Catholic teaching, such an argument would be irrelevant. The point you make about love - platonic love between two people is not an issue but many sexual acts have little or nothing to do with love. Love is evident in the world every day and it has nothing to do with sex. One definition of love is putting the needs of another before one's own. Often, what is called love, in the context of a relationship, is need based and certainly not about putting the needs of the other before one's own!
I don't think that what I'm asking for is such a radical departure. It would, in effect, amount to a return to the theological position pre-1986. I accept that they're not going give the thumbs up to acts of intimacy between people of the same gender.

Those two types of love you describe are not mutually exclusive: they can coexist in the same relationship. All I'm arguing is that the platonic (non-erotic, if you prefer) love between two people of the same gender be recognised as something positive and good.
 

Happytolearn

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That's all fine and grand but the RCC pays little heed to what other Christian Churches say: they're merely "ecclesiastical communities", after all. So the interpretations of one lone guy won't even register on its radar.
I truly believe necessity will make them wake up - the last time I was in my parish church (wedding) I saw they'd removed about 10 rows of pews to make it seem more full at mass. This said everything to me. If they don't evolve they'll go the way of Betamax.
 

LamportsEdge

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Heh. That is good. The Roman Catholic Church. The Betamax of Psychologies.
 

LamportsEdge

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It isn't actually physically possible to 'lie with a man as one lies with a woman'. I think these celibates don't realise that the method may be similar but the physiology is somewhat different.

I suspect their objection is centred around the age old 'every sperm is sacred' thang and the imprecation about not using Mr Sperm for anything other than the making of new catholics for the church to tax.
 
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