Tuesday, 23 December 2008

human ecology

The Pope, speaking on issues of sexuality, argues from the position of an organisation which has a vested interested in preserving a traditional totally male hierarchy. It reflects a view, now not universally accepted, that women have no voice and no vote, where husbands take over the property and the rights of wives, and in which the woman is ceremonially handed over from her father to her husband at her wedding.

Women’s emancipation in society has been one of the chief causes of a serious rift between Church and State in many countries where the ministry of Churches has remained restricted to men. Even formerly Catholic countries now describe themselves as having a secular constitution, and signs of the rift are most noticeable in areas relating to human sexuality:

  • Female emancipation
  • Legalisation of contraception
  • Legalisation of abortion
  • Liberalisation of divorce laws
  • Decriminalisation of homosexual acts
  • Equal rights for women
  • An end to oppression of gay and lesbian people
  • Legal frameworks for gay partnerships

It would be difficult to cite any other area in which Church and State have been more out of step with each other.

This unfortunately gives the impression that the only morality of interest to the Church is sexual morality. Indeed, it would now appear that the last time the Church could ever claim to lead a moral crusade to promote human equality it was over the ending of slavery, some two centuries ago. Since then it has been the State which has been in the forefront of promoting the dignity and equality of all people, whilst the Church has maintained its traditional inequalities by arguing for an opt-out from national legislation.

Clearly Church and State perceive society very differently. The State sees all people as having an equal and valid contribution to make, whereas the Church, in preserving a traditional male hierarchy, has a structure which appears more primitive and tribal.

Homo sapiens evolved the capability of operating in larger units than any other large mammal. As this happened the pattern of a clan under the headship of a dominant male required some adjustment.

With children taking many years to come to maturity, grandparents became important in helping them acquire the skills they would need for survival. And it was no longer only the breeding couples of this largely monogamous species which held the fabric of society together. A significant contribution has always been made by those who did not marry. Those who did not have the constant responsibility of feeding and rearing their own children had time to develop skills and enrich the community in other ways which would make them valuable to the whole group.

Such people were not perceived as a threat to married couples. The man who did not covet his neighbour’s wife has always been less of a danger to society than the heterosexual man who might want to tempt her away. The reason for having strict marriage laws is not because of what gay people might do, but in order to protect couples from heterosexual predators. It would therefore appear that once again the Pope has shown that the Church is out of step with society in its understanding of human sexuality. There is no danger to the species from gay people whilst 90% of people are attracted to the opposite sex. Gay people have never posed any threat to those who wish to live as heterosexual couples. They simply accept this as a valid lifestyle for those who wish to enjoy it.

Society in Britain, North America, and much of Europe is happy with this situation and has framed legislation to protect the rights of all people. By contrast the Pope is the personification of a wrong human ecology; one which fails to give rights to all people. And people wonder, seeing the Church of England’s hesitation over the ordination of women to the episcopate, whether having an Established Church which retains such an outmoded view of women has anything to commend it.

Posted by Tom Ambrose on Tuesday, 23 December 2008 at 2:35pm GMT | TrackBack
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I think that's exactly right; in evolutionary terms (though may not be relevant here) the minority that does not fit but is carried by the group becomes an insurance policy against catastrophic environmental change. Here the gay couples and single people can add extra creativity into society.

Posted by: Pluralist on Tuesday, 23 December 2008 at 3:27pm GMT

After all the sex scandal exposure, Cardinal Law's coverups etc... The Holy Roman Catholic Church had to blame someone for all their ineffectiveness so let's beat up on GLBT community. I think they call that scapegoating!!!

What Rome is finding out is what we already know, "it's not easy trying to please all sides." They can't be too progressive since their biggest population is now in third world countries where they still have laws against gay and lesbian people and women owning property.

Posted by: BobinSWPA on Tuesday, 23 December 2008 at 4:18pm GMT

No doubt a watershed point for the Anglican Communion. And it begs the question, would we even be ready for homeless, unwed mother-to-be holing up in some barn? Somehow, a lot of us aren't getting the message, and it shows in the leadership of Christianity.

Posted by: choirboyfromhell on Tuesday, 23 December 2008 at 5:12pm GMT

I think the author is spot on in many ways. When it comes to women's issues, there are certain churches where the pastor delights in telling his (it's always his) flock that the male is head of the family in exactly the same way that Jesus is head of the Church (quoting St. Paul?). To me, that is an awesome appropriation of power. Jesus is absolute head of the Church. Jesus' word is Law, period.
Now, I understand that the saying has theological nuances, that Jesus isn't an absolute dictator, etc. But, all too often those nuances are ignored when it comes to men and their families.

The pope's statement remind me of those who say "Well, if homosexuality is accepted in society, and we all become homosexuals, humanity will die out." That's rot. 85 - 95% of all adult human beings are exclusively or mostly heterosexual. That's not going to change. GLBT people don’t recruit. Can’t you see the advertising campaign: “Become gay now, and enjoy being discriminated against, reviled, jailed, beaten up on public streets, and as an added bonus, maybe even executed! Sign up today!”

All we are asking for is that, in civil society, we have the same rights and responsibilities as other people in that civil society. Many nations permit divorce. That hasn't stopped the Roman Catholic Church from refusing to grant religious divorce. Likewise, civil marriage for gay and lesbian couples won't prevent the Roman Catholic Church from refusing to recognize such marriages. If people think their family needs protection from same-sex civil marriage, they need to look in a mirror first.

Posted by: peterpi on Tuesday, 23 December 2008 at 5:44pm GMT

The more the pope and other conservative-traditional religious leaders talk this sort of flat earth nonsense, the less compelling their witness to Jesus of Nazareth as Lord.

Any educated citizen can hardly avoid the parallels. Thus the church institution which put Galileo under house arrest, then apologized to him centuries after his death, now lays hard claim to propping up equally erroneous beliefs about human embodiment, gender, sexual orientation, and what is natural in nature.

Funny how all of this whirling pea soup almost always reduces down to bitter tasting males only and males embalming fluid in the long run.

Funny how it always plays high and mild until the moments when it has to again go low ball against, say, women ... or, say, folks who give to the community in any number of other serious ways besides brute reproduction. (Doesn't the pope know that an estimated ten million children in USA alone are children of gay parents? Is he advising them all to rush right over to the nearest local office of the inferiority bureau where they can register a lifelong status as unnaturally parented, second class people? Where has the man been for the last fifty years?)

Then to rank such backwards thinking based on closed revelation authorities, as equal with using the latest empirical knowledge to save our planet - too intellectually embarrassing for words.

Yet again the pope has taken an all too easy way out by attacking queer folks as a dire danger, though he also preaches out of the other side of his mouth by claiming that nobody should punch anybody in the face or put them in prison for being so entirely wrong and dangerous. Huh?

This preaching must again raise questions about what he really fears (for he sounds really afraid, and wants us to be really afraid of change, whether based on empirical change or equality change, too?).

Posted by: drdanfee on Tuesday, 23 December 2008 at 6:17pm GMT

Homosexuality is not a threat to humanity.

The same cannot be said for institutions such as the Vatican when they seek to de-humanize people. In this instance the deciding factor is sexual orientation; in other times, in other places it has been race, gender et al.

Humanity is corroded when human beings fail to recognise the common humanity of other men and women.

Posted by: Kevin Scott on Tuesday, 23 December 2008 at 7:10pm GMT

I have so far only seen an excerpt of the Pope's speech, but found it interesting that he seemed to be basing his "tackling" of homosexuality on the view that "male and female are innately different" - so reminding many of us who are different from the norm in some way that we are targets for coercive normalisation too: such as straight people who have not married, or who have decided to remain childfree.

Of course, "tackling homosexuality" makes about as much sense to me as an agenda as "tackling brunettes" or "clamping down on six-footers".

Posted by: Joan of Quark on Tuesday, 23 December 2008 at 7:36pm GMT

So, does anyone have a link to the actual speech, as opposed to characterizations and characterizations of characterizations?

Posted by: rick allen on Tuesday, 23 December 2008 at 7:42pm GMT

I was rather disheartened to read this article containing the Vatican's understanding and attitudes about sexuality--any sort of sexuality. As a retired gay priest of the Canadian Anglican Church I spent my entire career carefully dodging and maneuvering around questions about my single status. I have recently published a book with Amazon, "A Priest's Tale" which documents both the struggles and the delights of being a gay man and a priest. It can also be found through my web site, donalddodman dot com

Posted by: Donald Dodman on Tuesday, 23 December 2008 at 8:01pm GMT

Here, at least, is the offending passage in German:

Weil der Glaube an den Schöpfer ein wesentlicher Teil des christlichen Credo ist, kann und darf sich die Kirche nicht damit begnügen, ihren Gläubigen die Botschaft des Heils auszurichten. Sie trägt Verantwortung für die Schöpfung und muß diese Verantwortung auch öffentlich zur Geltung bringen. Und sie muß dabei nicht nur die Erde, das Wasser und die Luft als Schöpfungsgaben verteidigen, die allen gehören. Sie muß auch den Menschen gegen die Zerstörung seiner selbst schützen. Es muß so etwas wie eine Ökologie des Menschen im recht verstandenen Sinn geben. Es ist nicht überholte Metaphysik, wenn die Kirche von der Natur des Menschen als Mann und Frau redet und das Achten dieser Schöpfungsordnung einfordert. Da geht es in der Tat um den Glauben an den Schöpfer und das Hören auf die Sprache der Schöpfung, die zu mißachten Selbstzerstörung des Menschen und so Zerstörung von Gottes eigenem Werk sein würde. Was in dem Begriff „Gender“ vielfach gesagt und gemeint wird, läuft letztlich auf die Selbstemanzipation des Menschen von der Schöpfung und vom Schöpfer hinaus. Der Mensch will sich nur selber machen und sein Eigenes immer nur selbst bestimmen. Aber so lebt er gegen die Wahrheit, lebt gegen den Schöpfergeist. Die Regenwälder verdienen unseren Schutz, ja, aber nicht weniger der Mensch als Geschöpf, dem eine Botschaft eingeschrieben ist, die nicht Gegensatz zu unserer Freiheit, sondern ihre Bedingung bedeutet. Große Theologen der Scholastik haben die Ehe, die lebenslange Verbindung von Mann und Frau als Schöpfungssakrament bezeichnet, das der Schöpfer selbst eingesetzt und das Christus dann – ohne die Schöpfungsbotschaft zu verändern – in die Heilsgeschichte als Sakrament des Neuen Bundes aufgenommen hat. Zur Verkündigungsaufgabe der Kirche gehört das Zeugnis für den Schöpfergeist in der Natur als Ganzer und gerade auch in der Natur des gottebenbildlichen Menschen. Von da aus sollte man die Enzyklika „Humanae vitae“ neu lesen: Papst Paul VI. ging es darin darum, die Liebe gegen Sexualität als Konsum, die Zukunft gegen den Alleinanspruch der Gegenwart und die Natur des Menschen gegen ihre Manipulation zu verteidigen.

It is, so far as I can tell, a rather conventional restatement of the Catholic notion of human sexuality as subject to natural law as traditionally understood, and suggesting the utility of an idea of ecological conservation applicable to human nature.

Posted by: rick allen on Tuesday, 23 December 2008 at 8:42pm GMT

"...the Catholic notion of human sexuality as subject to natural law as traditionally understood..."

And here is the crux of the problem..."natural law as traditionally understood" is scientifically incorrect. It has no relationship to the world as it really is, as we have discovered it to be after two centuries of scientific investigation...investigation that continues apace and continues to reveal that the traditional understanding of natural law is dead wrong.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Tuesday, 23 December 2008 at 9:28pm GMT

If celibacy were given approval, then too many people might become celibate, and the human race would die out.

Oh, wait.

Blessed feast of the Incarnation -- when perfect Truth dared enter this world in a completely unnatural way, and apart from the God-ordained pairing of male and female. Odd that God chose not to use what Benedict thinks all folk should choose; but then, the shoemaker's children go barefoot.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Tuesday, 23 December 2008 at 10:16pm GMT

If Rick Allen's selection is right (and if my German is any good), then this is not all that strong a denunciation. Benedict is drawing attention to our ironic defence of nature and of natural patterns and processes when it comes to ecology and our reluctance to defend natural patterns and processes when it comes to human beings. He refers approvingly to Humanae Vitae (no surprises there), and he thus makes the same mistake that Paul VI made in reducing human nature to biological processes, and reducing sexuality to what we have in common with animals. Humanae Vitae is dehumanising because it presumes that human intentionality is trumped by brute biology: it is an incredibly impoverished view of human nature couched in theological a prioris.

This same inability to embrace the shockingly real splendour of creation, our moral responsibility to co-create, even to co-create meaning, and to do so responsibly, in fear and trembling, yes, but also with a bit of excitement -- this inability seems apparent in the paragraph Rick isolated for us.

But if this is the extent of the 'offending' bits, it's hardly news....

Joe

Posted by: Joe on Tuesday, 23 December 2008 at 10:20pm GMT

The full text in English is here:
http://www.massinformation.org/2008/12/benedict-xvi-curia-address-in-english.html

The passage on sexuality runs:
"Joy as a fruit of the Holy Spirit - thus we come to the central theme of Sydney which was, in fact, the Holy Spirit. In this retrospective, I wish once more to point out in summary the orientation that was implicit in the theme.

1. First of all, there is the affirmation that comes to us from the start of the story of Creation, which tells of the Creator Spirit that moved over the waters, created the world and continuously renews it.

Faith in the Creator Spirit is an essential element of the Christian Creed. The fact that matter has a mathematical structure, is full of spirit (energy), is the foundation of the modern science of nature.

Only because matter is structured intelligently, our mind is able to interpret it and actively remodel it. The fact that this intelligent structure comes from the same Creator Spirit that also gave us our spirit, implies a task and a responsibility.

The ultimate basis of our responsibility towards the earth is our faith in creation. The earth is not simply a property that we can exploit according to our interests and desires. It is a gift of the Creator who designed its intrinsic order, and through this, has given us the orientative indications to follow as administrators of his Creation.

The fact that the earth, the cosmos, mirror the Creator Spirit also means that their rational structure - which beyond their mathematical structure, become almost palpable through experimentation - carries in itself an ethical orientation.

The Spirit that shaped them is more than mathematics - it is Goodness itself, which, through the language of creation, shows us the road to correct living.

Since faith in the Creator is an essential part of the Christian Creed, the Church cannot and should not limit itself to transmitting to its faithful only the message of salvation. She has a responsibility for Creation, and it should validate this responsibility in public.

In so doing, it should defend not just the earth, water and air as gifts of Creation that belong to everyone. She should also protect man from destroying himself.

It is necessary to have something like an ecology of man, understood in the right sense. It is not outdated metaphysics when the Church speaks of the nature of the human being as man and woman, and asks that this natural order be respected.

This has to do with faith in the Creator and listening to the language of creation, which, if disregarded, would be man's self-destruction and therefore a destruction of God's work itself.

That which has come to be expressed and understood with the term 'gender' effectively results in man's self-emancipation from Creation (nature) and from the Creator. Man wants to do everything by himself and to decide always and exclusively about anything that concerns him personally. But this is to live against truth, to live against the Spirit Creator.

The tropical rain forests deserve our protection, yes, but man does not deserve it less as a Creature of the Spirit himself, in whom is inscribed a message that does not mean a contradiction of human freedom but its condition.

The great theologians of Scholasticism described matrimony - which is the lifelong bond between a man and a woman - as a sacrament of Creation, that the Creator himself instituted, and that Christ, without changing the message of Creation, welcomed in the story of his alliance with men.

Part of the announcement that the Church should bring to men is a testimonial for the Spirit Creator present in all of nature, but specially in the nature of man, who was created in the image of God.

One must reread the encyclical Humanae vitae with this perspective: the intention of Pope Paul VI was to defend love against consumer sex, the future against the exclusive claim of the moment, and human nature against manipulation."

as Rick Allen says, hardly earth-shattering.


Posted by: John UK on Tuesday, 23 December 2008 at 10:25pm GMT

I am from Newfoundland, where the Roman Church was found to be shamelessly hiding and abetting pedophiles in the clergy and religious for decades. There was a public inquiry that slammed the way our social services system allowed it to go on, and pointed out just how far into government the RC Church's power went. There was a lawsuit, and after nearly two decades of fighting its victims, the Church finally managed to get them to drop their case, and thus will NEVER fully pay recompense to its victims. Never heard of this? Of course not, we are a small little place, so it was easy for Rome to ignore it, and how often does news from Newfoundland make it onto the world stage? It suddenly became a problem ten years later when it was American boys being "interfered with". Rome couldn't cover it up or avoid it any more. So Rome blamed the gays, and tried to purge its seminaries, as if gays were the cause, and not its bizarre attitude towards sex and the clergy.

That the Pope can have the unmitigated gall to make statements like this in the face of what he, even before he was Pope, had a part in, just makes him look laughably out of touch, and someone of his intellect and ability, and I believe sincerity, really ought to take more care to his image. Does he seriously think that a public apology in Australia, complete with sighing and tutting about how horrible this is suddenly gives him credibility to speak on sexual issues? He's got a long road to walk before he has any right to that, and the first step to be taken on that road is to pay the Newfoundland victims of priestly sexual abuse the recompense Rome owes them and so shamelessly, and successfully, connived to avoid paying. He might want to follow that up with an acknowledgement of the REAL cause of priestly pedophilia.

I have respect for the Pope, I really do. He is the senior bishop in the Western Church, but he isn't always right, and in this he is being a shameless hypocrite. And Simon, if you have to delete that last line in order to post this, so be it. I'm sorry, but this is just the height of hypocrisy and gall on the Pope's part, and I have no doubt it makes the Baby Jesus cry! It certainly adds to the damage done by the scandal of the late 80s. The log in the eye of the Bishop of Rome in regard to this would provide enough lumber for a good size house.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Tuesday, 23 December 2008 at 10:50pm GMT

"Here, at least, is the offending passage in German:"

And here a first rough (I've just come back from a Christmas party... may you all excuse my mistakes and the rough style!) translation of the truly offending and extremely ignorant passage into English:

Because the belief in the creator is an important part of the Christian credo, the church cannot and must not limit itself to telling believers about the message of salvation. It bears responsibility for creation and must proclaim this responsibility publicly. It must therefore not only defend the earth, the water and the air as gifts of creation which belong to everyone. It must also protect human beings from their own destruction. There has to be something like an ecology of mankind, understood in the appropriate way. It is not outdated metaphysics if the church speaks of the nature of human beings as man and woman and if it calls for recognition of this ordering of creation. It is indeed about the faith in the creator and about hearing the language of creation, disregarding of which would mean the self destruction of human beings and thus the destruction of God’s own creation.
What is often said and meant by the term “gender” is ultimately the self emancipation of human beings from creation and from the creator. Human beings only want to create themselves and only ever decide about what they themselves are about. But this means living against truth, against the spirit of creation. The rain forests deserve our protection, yes, but no less than human beings as creation, who are inscribed with a message which is not contrary to our freedom but which instead is the condition for it. Great scholarly theologians have described man and woman as a sacrament of creation, instituted by the creator himself, which Christ then took up into the salvation story as sacrament of the new covenant –without changing the message of creation. One of the tasks of proclamation for the church is the witness of the creator’s spirit in nature as a whole, and in particular in the nature of human beings formed in God’s image. From this starting point one should read the encyclical “Humane Vitae” afresh: Pope Paul VI intended to defend love against sexuality as consumption, the future against the sole demands of the present, and the nature of mankind against their manipulation.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 23 December 2008 at 11:24pm GMT

"Since then it has been the State which has been in the forefront of promoting the dignity and equality of all people, whilst the Church has maintained its traditional inequalities by arguing for an opt-out from national legislation".

Tom Ambrose's article here, on the Pope's recent declaration on the moral equivalence of the need to preserve the heterosexual human environment from the possible proliferation of the sexual activity of homosexuals, as being on a par, or more important even, than protection of the ecological environment; seems pretty much 'on the ball'.

The clerical defence of the 'status quo' in the ideas of the Vatican on this subject goes against the application of reason in an era of scientific discovery and sociological progression, and is perhaps only to be expected from a Roman Pontiff.

A breath of fresh air from our newly-appointed female Bishop of Christchurch, New Zealand, The Rt. Revd. Victoria Matthews, gives a different, entirely welcome, slant on what it means to be human - in terms of the Incarnational message of the Gospel. I quote, in part:

"People break the very heart of God and God keeps loving every person. So much so that the cross of Christ becomes the sign of God's everlasting love and promise of reconciliation. You see, no matter what we do, God is going to keep loving and calling every person back to Godself. But that is only part of the wonder and the mystery of Christmas because there are others gifts as well. No, I don't mean the gold, frankincense and myrrh although they are clearly part of the story. The other gifts are each other. At Christmas, in addition to understanding that God loves us so much that he gives us the Son of God, God also asks us to try to understand that we are created to be gifts one to another - gifts that are meant to be cherished and even invoke awe" - unquote.

How does that compare with the 'Gospel' of Benedict 16th? Thank God for a woman Bishop! The nurture is God's gift for us in Christchurch.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 23 December 2008 at 11:34pm GMT

The old news in the most recent Vatican statement is simply that queer folks are, still, always - outside what the Vatican considers nature created as good by God.

Repeating this in Advent is especially hard and tight-fisted and aggressive and mean. Just when perhaps some real global families are experimenting with how it might be to welcome their queer sons/daughters to the family table (along with committed partners? along with children?) - clunk goes the big Vatican fist to remind us that such jolly welcome might be sincere but stinky with bad faith, and might be outright dangerous to boot.

The pope is a smart guy, and there are lots of smart guys all around the Vatican - probably some very smart women too, subserviently wafting about here and there on the Vatican sidelines where so many women in fact find plenty to do in ordinary church life regardless of males first and males only preachments. So pleading naiveté or something else will hardly do to gloss over the intended strong insult.

The Vatican meant to insult, just as, say, Rick Warren means to demean and insult with his negative beliefs about queer folks. The newish bit nowadays is that if you notice the strong insult and criticize, the preacher immediately gets to play the game back by calling you unfair and aggressive.

Is anybody among us really ignorant of just how being repeatedly slapped (fast, hard, slow, soft - does it matter with insults?) with these very traditional presuppositions of being dangerously outside the created goods of nature is conformed standard practice in most traditional preaching/evangelism? - As if queer folks existed and worked and loved on some separate (dangerous, dirty) plane of personhood and planethood.

Posted by: drdanfee on Tuesday, 23 December 2008 at 11:39pm GMT

It is metaphysically impossible for the Roman Catholic Church to sink any lower. Seriously, how can thinking, educated people willfully associate with an organization like that? If the Episcopal Church adopted this type of backward, primitive theology, I would get up, walk out, and send a one sentence letter to my Rector - "Please take me off your rolls permanently".

But worst of all, mainstream, thoughtful, educated America thinks this is all Christianity can be - a dumbed down piece of superstitious nonsense that actually hurts people. This "theology" as espoused in mega churches and by the Roman Catholic hierarchy is aimed at the baser instincts of the must vulnerable among us. Two words come to mind when discussing extremist theology - arrogance and ignorance - a dangerous cocktail which threatens civilized societies.

Thank God for the beacon of light in the darkness that is the Episcopal Church.

Posted by: Dallas Bob on Wednesday, 24 December 2008 at 2:09am GMT

I also quote the German original on my weblog, with my own trans. What the Pope may not realize is that people's nerves are acerbated to fever pitch by the string of gaffes and dismissive utterances from Rome in recent months. Ruth Gledhill thinks the moment has come for the Roman Catholic dispute about homosexuality. It will dwarf your Anglican woes!

Posted by: Spirit of Vatican II on Wednesday, 24 December 2008 at 7:43am GMT

What certainly is a threat to the ecology of the world is overpopulation.

Not only does the Church encourage this overpopulation, but of course, demonises those least likely to reproduce.

Malthus was right. He needs rehabilitating and we need to seriously start talking about population control.

Posted by: Merseymike on Wednesday, 24 December 2008 at 12:15pm GMT

Tom Ambrose sees women's emancipation as the common denominator of his bullet points, whereas I see the common denominator as being the [normalisation of the] separation of sex from a marital context, which is something applying to both genders equally. What all will agree is that some of the things in the list (e.g. divorce, abortion) are light years away from 'freedom' of any variety let alone the true Christian variety. They are directly opposed to it, and they are lose-lose situations. So we'll raise our Christmas glasses to true freedom which comes hand in hand with life and with family love.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Wednesday, 24 December 2008 at 12:27pm GMT

While what the Pope says may be 'hardly earth-shattering' I believe that previously his anti-gay rhetoric was couched more in terms of personal morality - that is, I am causing myself harm by doing this. Here he joins the camp of those who depict homosexuality as having the potential to destroy society - and it's always ominous when a particular group is singled out as evil in that sense.

As far as his analogy goes, pairing rigorously-grounded contemporary ecological concerns with outdated medieval rhetoric about 'natural law', just because both use the word 'nature' is absurd.

Anyway - when someone spits in your face
today, it isn't consoling to be told that they've always been doing this. And the fact that they do this in the middle of a civil and polite speech about a number of other things is all the more insulting.

Well, there's one Pope who's off my Christmas card list...

Posted by: Brian on Wednesday, 24 December 2008 at 12:43pm GMT

"the [normalisation of the] separation of sex from a marital context"

Christopher, it was the linking of sex and marriage that was "normalized", and that a long time ago. Sex doesn't, at base, have much to do with marriage or anything else other than reproduction, though in the context of a loving committed relationship it is worlds away from what it is without these things. Now how do I, a gay man, know that? I think it was a good thing to link the two, for many reasons, which may surprise you. But it is simply not the case that the default position for humans is monogamous, or even polygamous sexual activity for that matter, that moderns have somehow rebelled against. Whether or not we are agreed on the "essential" nature of the linkage between sexual activity and partnered status in human society, we DO agree, I think that it is a good thing. Why then deny that good thing to 10% of the human population? Why say "It's a good thing for straight people to be encouraged to enter lifelong monogamous relationships, it provides comfort, companionship, support, and (supposedly) reduces sexual 'impropriety', for want of a better word. Gay people, on the other hand, cannot have these benefits of monogamy, but must open to all the things marriage protects people from, and, what's more, if they fall prey to thse things, it's their own fault and they should be punished for that"? So, are the benefits and protections granted by marriage really what this is all about?

Posted by: Ford Elms on Wednesday, 24 December 2008 at 1:22pm GMT

This is priceless, “Become gay now, and enjoy being discriminated against, reviled, jailed, beaten up on public streets, and as an added bonus, maybe even executed! Sign up today!”

I worked as an organist for years in the Roman Catholic Church. Every priest I worked for/with was gay. I'd play funerals for other churches whose organist had full time jobs and met a good 1/4 of our diocesan priest. I know of only two who were straight. I often wonder how those who are still alive feel about their precious church?
How can someone can beat up others for something they are themselves.

Posted by: BobinSWPA on Wednesday, 24 December 2008 at 4:10pm GMT

"Is anybody among us really ignorant of just how being repeatedly slapped (fast, hard, slow, soft - does it matter with insults?) with these very traditional presuppositions of being dangerously outside the created goods of nature is conformed standard practice in most traditional preaching/evangelism?"

In fact, traditional Christian teaching puts us all "dangerously outside the created goods of nature" insofar as it teaches that we all live in a fallen world. The doctrine of original sin is the primary means by which we see that any critique of others applies in spades to ourselves. It doesn't mean that the critique is wrong, only that all are essentially affected in the same way. (Interestingly, St. Paul's notorious discussion of same-sex attraction was used in precisely that fashion, if one bothers to read into chapter 2).

So the various violations of the nature of man as male and female are hardly an "attack on gays." They include, primarily, divorce and adultery, as well as the other traditional sexual offenses which I'm sure I need not list.

My guess is that the reference to ecology is directed at some uses of artificial reproduction using genetic engineering--human cloning, human/animal hybrids, and the like. If we do to the human gene pool what we have done to our lakes and rivers we may be in for some rough sledding. But these kinds of concerns, I understand, were brought up by that good Anglican C.S. Lewis over a half century ago.

But current politics make it expedient to pronounce these kinds of reflections "attacks on gays".

Posted by: rick allen on Wednesday, 24 December 2008 at 5:42pm GMT

Alas RA, no.

The fact is a categorically different discernment lexicon is being used to name and weigh queer folks, than is used to name and weigh straight folks. Hence the mistaken and skewed natural law narratives which reserve a special bad faith place for queer folks, uninhabited by straight folks. This used to be a whole bad faith list of church life things - giving rise to those original nasty historical associations between, say, sodomy and heresy. That will help get you burned at the stake, at double risk.

Now, we have passed through two more iterations.

One dropped or backgrounded the sodomy-heresy equations in favor of focusing on a categorical presupposition that straight folks make babies thus doing good innately as God's creaturely will even in a fallen world, while queer folks categorically do not make babies thus failing to do God's creaturely will even in a fallen cosmos. Hence, a special bad faith place established again, this time based on not making babies.

After this trash talk shift was moving along among us (especially we believers), it eventually became somewhat embarrassing to continue criminalizing people in western democracies, even if nobody was making babies.

Then slowly we see a further shift, away from trash talking queer folks because of no babies, to trash talking queer folks because they are presupposed to violate categorical gender norms. This narrative must speak by scrupulously ignoring two empirical considerations - first, we have data telling us that androgyny is associated with improved coping/thriving, not a detriment. This thriving overturns the defect presumptions at work about complex gender=contaminated gender.

The pope gets danger wrong: We need gender variance and complexity in our adaptive/evolutionary tool kits of human nature.

Plus second, all of the data suggests that gender is a complex continuum not two and only two separate categorical male/female distinctions which must be carefully kept uncontaminated. Male/female is the beginning of the variances, not the sum total of them, empirically speaking, in an evolutionary/adaptive process.

The Vatican and other believers are still loudly getting it all wrong on both empirical counts. Flat earth. Collapsing categorical medieval simplistics about gender into modern notions of ecology and environment is very bad intellectual form. One might expect it in a freshman or sophomore class paper, but hardly from a pope or a Vatican full of believers with advanced degrees. Alas, Lord have mercy.

Posted by: drdanfee on Wednesday, 24 December 2008 at 7:38pm GMT

'Thank God for the beacon of light in the darkness that is the Episcopal Church.'

I'm so glad to read such positive affirmation. I feel the same way about the Church of England (well, most of it ...). We should be proud of our liberal churches. They will win.

Happy Christmas, all.

Posted by: john on Wednesday, 24 December 2008 at 8:30pm GMT

"In fact, traditional Christian teaching puts us all "dangerously outside the created goods of nature" insofar as it teaches that we all live in a fallen world."

It is actually the opposite. The Fall affected all of Creation, it fell with us. Thus we are part of the "created goods of nature". That is why the Incarnation works: God assumes fallen created nature, "flesh", if you will, in order to restore fallen created nature to its original state of grace. I'm really getting tired of all this "We're all sinners, we're all fallen" nonsense. It isn't the statement that is nonsense, it's the way it is used. When the rest of fallen humanity is at risk for disownment, loss of employment and housing, and being beaten to death by a bunch of drunks of a Friday night, all simply for being fallen sinners, then you'll have have a point. Until then this comparison is an ignorant insult and misses the point of the Incarnation. Homosexuality is obviously NOT the same as any other sin in the eyes of conservatives, and they can either keep trying to convince the rest of us of something that is patently not true, or engage in a bit of self examination to understand why everybody else can see the falsehood of it. Let's be honest, they don't want to split the Church because TEC arrogantly wants to condone greed now, do they? In fact, greed has been transmogrified into the virtue of ambition.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Wednesday, 24 December 2008 at 8:34pm GMT

"What all will agree is that some of the things in the list (e.g. divorce, abortion) are light years away from 'freedom' of any variety let alone the true Christian variety."

I'm reminded of the punchline to an old joke: "What you mean 'we', paleface?" Christopher, I think you'll find that "all" do not so agree and you should not be so quick to assume that your own prejudices are shared by everyone else.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Wednesday, 24 December 2008 at 10:35pm GMT

A valid question in all of this hoo-ha might just be: "Has His Holiness the Pope fallen short of what God requires of all men and women, in terms of his reluctance (and, so far, failure) to take his part in the reproduction of the human species?

Ot is it a case of 'What's good for the goose may not always be good for the Gander'?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 24 December 2008 at 11:57pm GMT

What does this blog have in common with Sydney Anglican Forums? Answer: it contains such bile against the Catholic Church..you know you may be closer to the evangelicals than you think. Happy Christmas, dear fundamentalist liberals.

Simon ..you've got to allow this to make them think.

[Ed: I don't have to if I don't want to :-) Merry Christmas everyone! Simon K]

Posted by: Robert Ian Williams on Thursday, 25 December 2008 at 10:41am GMT

danfree wrote: 'Plus second, all of the data suggests that gender is a complex continuum not two and only two separate categorical male/female distinctions which must be carefully kept uncontaminated. Male/female is the beginning of the variances, not the sum total of them, empirically speaking, in an evolutionary/adaptive process.'

Given that the Pope condemned the notion of "gender theory", in that sense that gender is a continuum, is this your attempt to biologically justify this? Any examples?

Pat O'Neill wrote:
'Christopher, I think you'll find that "all" do not so agree and you should not be so quick to assume that your own prejudices are shared by everyone else.'

Not everyone else, but perhaps half of my fellow countrymen and a third of the world's population of differing faiths. It's a number that can't be ignored in any attempt to build a consensus. Unfortunately, manifest around here is the liberal prejudice against values which even the more liberal among us hold, something unadmitted yet expressed.

Let's drink to our families. That's how we got here. That's how we will go on. Happy holidays!

Posted by: Ren Aguila on Thursday, 25 December 2008 at 11:36am GMT

Things were so much easier and clearer back in the day when "as the Prince believed, then so did the realm." That was so much simpler than leaving matters of doctrine to the vague whims of individual conscience. I'm sure there are still a few nostalgic sighs for those days to be heard in the halls of the Vatican and elsewhere.

Blame those constitutions, and their liberal social contract theory and ideals of universal enfranchisement! And worse still, blame universal education! All this trouble began when the peasants began thinking for themselves instead of listening obediently to their betters. First they learn to read, and then they start demanding to vote. Next thing you know, we have women owning property and voting, and men marrying other men. What has the world come too?

(irony now off)

A Blessed Feast of Our Lord's Incarnation to all!

Posted by: counterlight on Thursday, 25 December 2008 at 12:52pm GMT

"What has the world come too?"

Picking up on your irony, can I add that the world has come to a place where we seem to have the idea that we can vote on what it is we are going to tell God is His will.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Thursday, 25 December 2008 at 6:32pm GMT

Hello, Thank you for this web site. Please help me understand the Episcopal church's stance on homosexuality. I beg you not to think of me as a homophobe; I am not. I only wish I could understand how it is compatible with scripture. I, along with St. Paul, count myself chief among sinners, and do not like singling out one behavior or action. I am just so confused. I would greatly appreciate any light you could shed on the subject. I miss being a part of the ECUSA. Thank you.

Posted by: Valerie on Thursday, 25 December 2008 at 6:49pm GMT

"I only wish I could understand how it is compatible with scripture."

So does everybody else! I am a gay man who has no doubt whatsoever of God's love for me, or that he has led me to the relationship I now find myself in. Yet I am not at all sure that sacrimental matrimony is meant for me, for starters. Yet, we need to understand what the ancients were talking about, how they understood the issue, and indeed, what Scriptural authority actually is. Despite what many Evangelicals would say, Anglicans are not traditionally fundamentalist or literalist. It is patently obvious the Bible is NOT, nor was it intended to be, a historical document in the way we would understand it, and Christians do not consider it a book of laws. Christians don't have much use for laws. That doesn't mean it isn't true, just that the truth of, say, the Fall, does not need a real garden or a real Adam to be true. We also believe that the faith rests on Scripture, Tradition (and some of us would say that Scripture is a part of Tradition), and Reason. The Bible is not some sort of Divine dictation written down verbatim, it was written by people inspired by God, but obviously not having the understanding and wisdom of God. Therefor, they could not be expected to know everything, or in some cases to understand what they were inspired to write. Politics also played a role. The reality of David, for instance, was quite different from the two stories we are told in the OT. The Church was given a faith, and a book to explain that, I call the Bible the User's Manual. So, compatible with Scripture is only part of it, is it compatible with tradition, is it compatible with Reason? For me personally Reason is the least important, actually. We are currently trying to decide what we believe about homosexuality, and the trouble is that some are very ostentatiously unwilling to wait till the Church has figured it out. Some are so convinced of the "prophetic" nature of their behaviour, they don't give a cobbler's cuss about who they offend or alienate, others are so convinced of their righteousness and the need to defend the Gospel against the heathen hoardes, they are willing to lie, slander, and defame any they believe are part of those heathen hoardes, even their fellow Anglicans. If you are looking for something definitive you've come to the wrong place. Most Anglicans aren't all that comfortable with absolute statements that we know what God thinks. That's why every 100 years or so we have to have a schism, since it takes that long to build up a group big enough to decide they need more certainty than Anglicans can give, and break off to be more certain and absolute on thier own. That brings out the worst in all sides,unfortunately, but it also gives people like me something to be sarcastic about. So, where does TEC stand on homosexuality? The same place global Anglicanism stands, we're trying to work out where that is at present. Bear with us.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Thursday, 25 December 2008 at 8:26pm GMT

Hello Valerie

You could to worse than start here:

http://www.reluctantjourney.co.uk/

Happy Christmas!

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 25 December 2008 at 9:31pm GMT

Ren:

I suppose it depends on who you're asking. Conduct a poll of Western Europeans and Americans (including Canadians) under the age of, say, 40...and you'll get a very different set of responses, responses that indicate a far greater understanding and tolerance of gender differences and sexual orientation than in the older groups, or in more "traditional" societies.

I'll also add that 50 years ago, if you wanted a consensus on mixed-race marriage, you'd have found it in the "opposed" position. The majority is not always not correct, it is often morally deficient.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Thursday, 25 December 2008 at 10:17pm GMT

Robert Ian Williams writes "What does this blog have in common with Sydney Anglican Forums? Answer: it contains such bile against the Catholic Church..you know you may be closer to the evangelicals than you think. Happy Christmas, dear fundamentalist liberals."

As someone who unfortunately lives in the Sydney Anglican Diocese and taught for many years in schools run by the Sydney Catholic Diocese I do not see a lot of difference. Whatever their other differences, they are united in hating the gays. The difference is that the thinking lay people and many of the religious within the Catholic Diocese do not espouse the views of the Cardinal and Pope and allowed me to find acceptance by God as a gay man, whereas the majority of Anglicans in the Diocese follow the official Jensen line. Thankfully my time with the Roman Catholics allowed me to find a home in the few Anglo-Catholic parishes in Sydney despite my evangelical upbringing. So I am thankful for the Episcopal church and the majority of the Anglican Church of Australia. I always saw there was no real home for me in the Roman Catholic church unless there was a change of earthquake proportions at the top of the hierarchy.

Posted by: Brian R on Thursday, 25 December 2008 at 11:48pm GMT

Um, am I the only person to realise that the pope's address was not about homosexuality? It was about contraception. The pope thinks contraception is contrary to nature because it severs sex from its (natural) context of marriage and parenthood.

This is straight out of Humanae Vitae (1969).

In women artificial contraception enables a cleft between their sex (biology) and gender (behaviour) because they circumvent motherhood, in which femininity has traditionally consisted.

The pope sees contraception as the occasion of the 'masculinisation' of society; it is a kind of market-driven colonisation of the human person. For this reason, too, it is associated with the despoiling of the earth.

Posted by: Chris Tyack on Friday, 26 December 2008 at 3:59am GMT

Pat the analogy with mixed race marriage is totally false....it was only banned in some Northern European colonial societies, and then only with black people. Furthermore that legislation was in the context of slave societies, and only lasted for about 200 years.

In Racialist South Africa, most of the leading Afrikaner families had some Asiatic slave ancestry.

Posted by: Robert Ian Williams on Friday, 26 December 2008 at 6:59am GMT

Valerie -

At the risk of, I suspect, feeding a concern-troll, I would only add to what has already been said that it is a good idea to view Scripture as a starting-point, not the final word on any issue. God's truth proceeds out of Scripture, it isn't buried in it.

It's also, I think, important to remember that this is not an Episcopalian website - it is a site set up and run by members of the Church of England, with a reach to the worldwide Anglican communion, which includes the US-based Episcopal Church. Many viewpoints are represented here, though the preponderance of us are quite liberal.

Posted by: Oriscus on Friday, 26 December 2008 at 7:50am GMT

Ren:

A barnyard epithet occurs to me. While mixed-race marriage may not have been "banned" in all societies, it most definitely made a pariah of the white member of the couple in "polite society" almost everywhere--until the middle of the last century. As for it being "black only," research the attitudes toward Europeans marrying Asians among the British colonials before WW2...or the same among American troops in the period after that war.

The analogy is quite apt.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Friday, 26 December 2008 at 11:38am GMT

Oh of course, RIW, we all hate the Holy Church of Rome with an unjustified hatred. All the things I spoke of are utterly untrue, I made them all up because I am an anti-Roman bigot! Let's see, need for strong centralized authority to ease all your moral quandaries, nice clearly set out rules, persecution complex, conviction that you are the only True Christians, inability to see your own faults, Romans, Evangelicals, what's the difference? But it's only some members of each camp that were separated at birth, right?

"am I the only person to realise that the pope's address was not about homosexuality?"

Chris, that doesn't matter. Rome's manifest ignorance on sexual issues and her monstrous treatment of the child sexual victims of her priests and brothers means Rome has no moral authority to speak to such issues. At all. Rome has an awful lot to atone for in that area before the Pope has any right whatsoever to speak in this area. He might be the Bishop of Rome, but that does not give him the right to act as an ignorant hypocrite. How can he speak about, for instance, human ecology in regard to sexual behaviour when the Church over which he rules has done such damage to that very ecology, and when Rome's response has been ignorant, insincere, and caused even more damage? How many lives has Rome ruined in the way she has dealt with priestly pedophilia alone, not counting the rest of her behaviour WRT sex? How many Africans are dead because of the Church's opposition to the condoms that could have stopped the spread of HIV? Not saying Anglicans are blameless in that last area, all the same.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Friday, 26 December 2008 at 1:25pm GMT

Please don't let this web site go the way of Stand Firm and Virtue on line..vehicles of sheer hate... Indeed whilst there are anti- Catholics on the Sydney Anglican Forums the moderators do a good job in stopping over the top language.

I like the Martin Reynolds approach..he disagrees with much Catholic teaching, but he is always generous and charitable. He is also critical of liberals if need be.

Criticism is the guardian of our souls.

Posted by: Robert Ian Williams on Friday, 26 December 2008 at 1:46pm GMT

I think that Chris Tyack is probably right - the Pope is addressing himself primarily to the issue of contraception, AFAICT. I may not agree with him, but this is not such strange stuff for a Pope to say.

Posted by: BillyD on Friday, 26 December 2008 at 2:11pm GMT

"...we seem to have the idea that we can vote on what it is we are going to tell God is His will."

Or perhaps we have come to a point where we must all try to discern God's will together, rather than rely on our self-appointed unaccountable Betters to tell us what His will is.

Posted by: counterlight on Friday, 26 December 2008 at 2:28pm GMT

Ford, Oriscus Very, Very well said. I really never thought of expressing scripture as a starting point, not the final word. Thanks for the wording.

My understanding is the RC Church in the U.S. hasn't decreased in population or grown any. The influx of immigrants has kept the population of practicing RC's about the same. The irony is, without the influx, the RC population in the U.S. is decreasing. My area of the U.S. is 40 to 50% Catholic (Pittsburgh). Many of my teaching colleagues are RC's. Most are non-practicing and/or don't agree with many of the teachings of the RC Church. More and more people are using their brains. In my small TEC parish half the members are what they term, "recovering catholics."

I did come across some interesting post from the Huffington Post: " Warren-Endorsed Nigerian Archbishop Backed Anti-Gay Laws Worse Than Pre-WWII Third Reich's."

Here's the link
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bruce-wilson
(Simon, this was on PEP so I thought I'd repost here).

Blessed Christmastide and Health and Happiness for the New Year.
Bob

Posted by: BobinSWPA on Friday, 26 December 2008 at 3:48pm GMT

RIW, come down off the Cross, there's people in need of the wood.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Friday, 26 December 2008 at 3:50pm GMT

"we must all try to discern God's will together"

You're right, of course, but there are times when it looks more like we're telling Him what His will is rather than trying to discern what He wants for us. But perhaps there were people like me 1600 years ago, complaining that that's what all those bishops in Nicea were doing. Plus ca change...

Posted by: Ford Elms on Friday, 26 December 2008 at 7:35pm GMT

Please not "Stand Firm in Hate." If I said something offensive my humble apologies RIW.

Happy Boxing Day.

Posted by: BobinSWPA on Friday, 26 December 2008 at 10:58pm GMT

Ford dear, you must stop picking up those phrases from people who cross Australia on buses.

Posted by: choirboyfromhell on Friday, 26 December 2008 at 11:22pm GMT

Ha ha, choirboy, crossing Australia on buses... I like that! What a strange and amusing picture we all get of our various cultures via the media.

I must respond to RIW; because the majority on a blog [SydAng, StandFirm, Virtue, etc] don't subscribe to your worldview, RIW, doesn't necessarily make them 'hateful'.

Just different. I enjoy your scholarship RIW, but you must allow people their prejudices.. they are the soul of good blogs!

Posted by: Peter Jones on Saturday, 27 December 2008 at 5:40am GMT

Disappointed Ford in your blasphemous analogy..St Paul tells us ( under the inspiration of God ) that without charity we are nothing and faith is in vain.

Posted by: Robert Ian Williams on Saturday, 27 December 2008 at 7:51am GMT

"Criticism is the guardian of our souls." R.I.W.

There you are Robert. And it was YOU who said it!
So, if you detect a little bit of stick against the RC agenda, it is only to balance the little bit of stick you give to us Anglicans - despite having been one for longer than you have been an RC. I would have thought that the Church of your childhood would have a little more of your respect than you are willing to give us here.

As someone else has remarked on this site. You don't need to preach to Anglicans about their problems, your Church has enough of its own - if only you had an appropriate site to help the Pope to put things right. but I'm afraid there may never be a site called 'Thinking Romans'

Have a Happy New Year, Robert, if you can!

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Saturday, 27 December 2008 at 9:07am GMT

Chris Tyack et al, I think the address is about homosexuality, but only partly - it's also about marriage, contraception, gender reassignment, and a whole horde of other items which call into question the supposed "natural law". Your quote about contraception enabling women to "circumvent motherhood, in which femininity has traditionally consisted" was a timely reminder.

Apart from the issue of people who are certain they are born to be something which is outside the pale, or discern that their own path is not to follow all these rules, I find this worldview in which an act can only have one purpose or one meaning stultifyingly flat. Just because sex, or rather heterosexual penetrative sex between two fertile people blah blah blah, can result in conception, does not logically imply all sex should on all occasions have the same meaning.

It's also interesting that the fragility of femininity seems to be more in the concept itself - rather than feminine women being fragile little things who faint if they glimpse a mouse, it's the view that all women are to be feminine, which in turn is to be childbearers, and that's pretty much all they are, which is in need of retiring to its lacy chamber for a little rest these days.

These pronouncements shut down creativity as well as oppressing people and tacitly permitting oppression - there are real questions to be explored in sexuality, such as how we might use what appears to be scientific fact, discerning what might be truth in a "soft" science like psychology, and how it would be incorporated into a Christian understanding of proper behaviour. All of which would be an exciting way of using the talents God has given us for exploring and understanding.

Posted by: Joan of Quark on Saturday, 27 December 2008 at 3:25pm GMT

"Disappointed Ford in your blasphemous analogy."

RIW, I think you'll find that as the prestige and influence of a culture goes down, the degree of irreverence towards the existing power structures goes up. That's why that joke is extant in both Newfoundland and Australia. Lighten up! Religious stereotypes are a source of humour here, applying to all alike, and that's better than the violence we brought with us from the Mother Country. We CofE are confidently self righteous, we know we're God's chosen, He even speaks the same language! Methodists are considered dour and judgemental. At one time, some of them considered laughter to be a sin! I see you've brought that tradition across the Tiber.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Saturday, 27 December 2008 at 3:46pm GMT

Ford, this is not a game..and at the heart of all this are souls.

What blind prejudice Ron....Catholics gave you philosophy and ordered modern thought.

However God's revelation must always be respected and obeyed. Now that is true liberation...liberation from our own self- deception...the primal sin.

Posted by: Robert Ian Williams on Saturday, 27 December 2008 at 5:25pm GMT

I thought the Greeks gave us philosophy -- Aquinas without Aristotle is .. well, I can't imagine!

And it is the application of this same "natural law" theory that leads Aquinas to the conclusion that masturbation is a worse sin than rape (I'm not making this up).

I am not a great fan of "natural law" theory, I fear.

Posted by: Prior Aelred on Saturday, 27 December 2008 at 8:16pm GMT

RIW: If this is not a game, then why are those in power teaching hate and falsehoods in the church?

I was under the impression that logic and philosophy came way before the Church in Rome; perhaps the other side of the Aegean? And why has it been largely lost since the 1870's?

This is no game. We are deadly serious. We just haven't lost the art of laughing what we see in the mirror in the morning. That's called humility.

Posted by: choirboyfromhell on Saturday, 27 December 2008 at 9:31pm GMT

I thought ordered modern thought was a result of the Enlightenment...largely a Protestant movement.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Sunday, 28 December 2008 at 12:36am GMT

Robert, do you have a Licence to Preach in your Church? And is your former Anglican Theological Study of any use to you now that you are in the Land of Utter Certainty? Has the old regime of Scripture, tradition and REASON had to be left behind in your new religious enclave? 'Twould be a great pity if you have to abandon your sense of perspective. That's what this is all about.

I agree with you that: 'Catholics gave me (us) our philosophy and ordered modern thought', only it was English and not Roman. The English variety is a much more bracing discipline, with a God-given freedom to think for one's self - outside of the square.

Redemption is God's gift to every living soul, and does not need the intervention of a magisterium - 'tremendum' though it may be. The true Church is a haven, not a sieve. Deo gratias!

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Sunday, 28 December 2008 at 5:16am GMT

Of course St Thomas Aquinas is not infallible...but Catholicism placed philosophy in a Christian context.

Due to the perversity of the human mind, it is wonderful that God guarantees the transmission of the truth via his teaching authority on earth.
Without it, the Christian revelation would have been lost within a generation.

Posted by: Robert Ian Williams on Sunday, 28 December 2008 at 6:40am GMT

Prior, masturbation a sin? my heaven's!
Why does so much of Christianity look at anything remotely sexual as dirty/sinful. I like to think of sex like my bourbon, all in moderation. Anything taken to extreme can be dangerous. Many of my catholic relatives and friends have this vision of Mary as spotless, undefiled my man.
I've always wondered why Mary had to be a perpetual virgin or a virgin in general.
Sex isn't dirty. (Sorry if some find this approach offensive).

"Catholics gave you philosophy and ordered modern thought." I have to agree with those posting for the Greeks. Also, I've heard it said more than once that Jesus may have come in contact with some Eastern/Buddhist concepts/teaching?
(Reading Living Buddha, Living Christ, Christmas gift).

As for natural order, some of my special needs students would ask who's order? Take people who are born with both genders. Parents can make a decision which maybe the wrong choice. Wouldn't changing a faulty choice be natural?

Posted by: BobinSWPA on Sunday, 28 December 2008 at 7:04am GMT

"God guarantees the transmission of the truth via his teaching authority on earth.
Without it, the Christian revelation would have been lost within a generation." - R.I.W.

Question: Was Peter infallible in his denial of any knowledge of Christ at his trial? Was he infallible when contesting with Paul about certain Jewish customs being no longer necessary for salvation?

Are we talking about a different kind of Peter here? Or is it still the same old bumbling Peter whose preeminence has long been overshadowed by the collegiality of the broader concilium of the Church Catholic and Apostolic of the East, West, North and global South?

It is important to realise that James and John also shared the vision of Christ in glory before his death, resurrection and ascension. I guess God knows it would be folly to trust one single disciple to 'govern' the Body of Christ (that's probably why Jesus chose twelve of them), for Christ alone is Lord of the Church. Deo gratias!

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Sunday, 28 December 2008 at 9:11am GMT

Thank you very much for your explanations and time. You have been a great help to me!

Posted by: Valerie on Sunday, 28 December 2008 at 6:16pm GMT

Ron..... Our Blessed Lord told Peter that after his conversion he would remain in an unfailing faith to confirm his brothers. His conversion took place after his denial.


Don't go the way of the evangelicals......read the Scripture as a whole in context.

I will not " lighten up" when our Lord is dishonoured.

Posted by: Robert Ian Williams on Monday, 29 December 2008 at 6:44am GMT

Robert, I do not detect any attempt here to 'dishonour our Lord'. Maybe there is some hope that, with the demise of the Apostle Peter, there has been an ongoing teaching charism imparted by the Holy Spirit to other luminaries in the Church, which has led to necessary enlightenment - overcoming the cultural and spiritual limitations of a first-century Church understanding of Christ's mission in the world he has redeemed. We all know that the Head of the Christian Church is Jesus Christ. We do not want his authority to be over-ruled - by anyone.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Monday, 29 December 2008 at 10:27am GMT

"Ford, this is not a game..and at the heart of all this are souls."

Of course. And my quoting of a frequently used cultural dismissal of those who construct for themselves the image of martyrdom certainly endangers souls now, doesn't it? It is not dishonouring of Our Lord to suggest that perhaps you are not as oppressed as you want the world to think you are, and therefor perhaps do not deserve the martyr status you seem so eager to claim for yourself. For all your righteous indignation, it is not me who is dishonouring Our Lord. If anything can be said to do that, it would be your martur complex, and not my dismissal of it.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Monday, 29 December 2008 at 2:04pm GMT

"By contrast the Pope is the personification of a wrong human ecology; one which fails to give rights to all people."

The real issue is (and has always been) whether we should give rights to all human actions.

Posted by: Dan Baynes on Tuesday, 30 December 2008 at 10:18am GMT

Hi Pat-

In that case, what is so good about abortion, or about divorce?

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Tuesday, 30 December 2008 at 12:49pm GMT

"what is so good about abortion, or about divorce?"

1. Family has seven children. Father has a minimum wage job. Mother doesn't work. They live in the US. He loses his minimum wage job, one week after she gets pregnant with number 8. What is so good about subjecting this family to even greater poverty than they already endure?

2. They married young, have three children, ages 4 to 8. He is an alcoholic. He began to beat her six months after they married. When she was pregnant with child number three, he beat her so badly she miscarried. He refuses therapy. What is so great about expecting her to stay in that situation?

3. She's 18. He's not much older, an apprentice electrician. She gets pregnant. Her mother is very much in the public eye. They have a choice: abort, get married, or she can have the child and her, her mother, and her presumably tight family, her mother being a paragon of "Christian family values" after all, can all pitch in to raise the child. They, of course, decide to get married. In ten years when they have actually matured enough to contract a marriage, they realize they can no longer live together. What's so good about forcing them to stay together just because ten years earlier they got married out of pressure to conform to her mother's conservative values, though she might have even held those values herself?

Posted by: Ford Elms on Tuesday, 30 December 2008 at 3:28pm GMT

Christopher:

For a devout Christian, perhaps there is nothing good about them (but I can imagine circumstances where even for such there is no better alternative); but we do not live in a 100% Christian world or 100% Christian nation, and so we must have laws that apply even to those of us who are not Christian.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Tuesday, 30 December 2008 at 4:04pm GMT

"1. Family has seven children. Father has a minimum wage job. Mother doesn't work. They live in the US. He loses his minimum wage job, one week after she gets pregnant with number 8. What is so good about subjecting this family to even greater poverty?"

Ford, that's a lousy example. Full disclosure: I speak as the biological son of a single mother who already had three children, and was put up for adoption. I owe my life to her not using abortion as a method of family planning.

Posted by: BillyD on Tuesday, 30 December 2008 at 4:15pm GMT

BillyD:

Lucky you...I'd bet you're white. Black baby in the same circumstances has a far lower chance at being adopted and will, instead, probably wind up as a ward of the state, in foster care, until he/she "ages out".

Wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Tuesday, 30 December 2008 at 7:06pm GMT

The trouble with your scenario Ford is that you rule out the glory and majesty of suffering and sacrifice.

Posted by: Robert Ian Williams on Tuesday, 30 December 2008 at 9:47pm GMT

"Lucky you..."

I prefer to think of myself as "blessed," rather than "lucky," if it's just the same to you.

"I'd bet you're white."

Guilty as charged.

"Black baby in the same circumstances ...Wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy."

It's not the ideal situation, but it gives them a better shot than being the target of a D&C cannula.

Now that you mention it, though, I know of a couple of white gay couples who have adopted black babies.

Posted by: BillyD on Tuesday, 30 December 2008 at 11:30pm GMT

RIW: "The trouble with your scenario Ford is that you rule out the glory and majesty of suffering and sacrifice."

I'm not Ford, but, wow, something about sinning more that Grace may abound comes to mind....

There is *no* glory nor majesty in suffering nor sacrifice nor in both together. Our Lord's suffering and sacrifice are glorious and majestic in what they have accomplished in our redemption.

In this confusion lies something sick at the heart of Christendom.

For the sake of your own soul, Robert, *do* come down off the cross.

Posted by: Oriscus on Wednesday, 31 December 2008 at 2:00am GMT

"The trouble with your scenario Ford is that you rule out the glory and majesty of suffering and sacrifice." - Robert I. Williams -

Now, now, Robert; wasn't it Saint Paul who said;
"God forbid that I should glory - save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ - through whom the world is crucified to me, and I to the world"?

Is this what you say is happeniong to you?

Self-oblation was Christ's gift to the world. Are you saying that you can measure up to the challenge?

On facing that challenge himself, even Saint Paul had, in the end, to admit his failure to measure up: "Why do I do the things I know I shouldn't do; why don't I do the things I should do"? It was only then, on reflection, that Paul was able to answer his own conundrum: "But thanks be to God for the victory..in Jesus Christ".

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 31 December 2008 at 9:43am GMT

Hi Ford-
Your three scenarii:

(1) I am not familiar with the USA arrangements. It strikes me that this couple would be in extreme poverty both before and after any proposed divorce - so purely financially there would not be much difference. (Also our world likes at times to pretend that financial factors are the only factors, which kinda figures if one is a fundamentalist capitalist. This is well different from the christian worldview, of course.) However, the organisational, legal, emotional, child-related upheaval from the divorce option would outweigh the no-divorce option by a factor of plenty.

(2) What is so great about the authorities' allowing the guy to remain in that situation? Be open about what is happening and the guy will receive the treatment he needs for restoration. Your presentation of the scenario suggests that the guy either would or should remain exactly where he is at. That makes no sense.

(3) 'They *can* no longer live together'?? This misuses the word 'can'. It is quite clear that after 10 years' marriage they will have shared far more with one another than with any other individual, and will therefore be in that sense 'closer'. However, the negativity/despair that they'd display in taking the easy throwaway option and refusing to see any brightness in life or any hope in the future (or to believe that we can take life by the scruff of the neck rather than being passive) will be carried with them after the marriage as well, and will infect any future relationships. So if you ask: do I prefer the option that brings two or multiple negative or despairing relationships to the option that brings one, then the answer (obviously, mathematically) must be the latter, with the proviso that negativity and despair is all a mental attitude anyway, and therefore is subject to change and to positive acts of will. In addition, throwing away the first marriage will cause them to see marriage per se as disposable, which root attitude/assumption is the main no.1 root cause of its becoming just that. This is liable to cause their future relationships to fail as well (ie to have a far greater than average chance of failing). Would I advise that path? Neither I nor anyone could.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Wednesday, 31 December 2008 at 1:15pm GMT

"(1) I am not familiar with the USA arrangements. It strikes me that this couple would be in extreme poverty both before and after any proposed divorce ..."

I read Ford's first scenario as a justification for abortion, not divorce.

Posted by: BillyD on Wednesday, 31 December 2008 at 2:21pm GMT

Another adopted person (relinquished on day one by birth mother) checking in: I have never seen the point of chasing what-ifs down the hypothetical rabbithole. I don't know anything about philosophy but the things which have happened to me seem essential to my being me. If my birth mother had miscarried, or obtained an illegal abortion, or I had been adopted by other people, different things would have happened and I would be a different person, because I think the body and spirit are essentially intertwined.

So I just don't think it is useful for me to take any emotions about whether "I" would have existed or not into consideration when trying to decide whether abortions should be legal or not.

Posted by: Joan of Quark on Wednesday, 31 December 2008 at 6:07pm GMT

Now, now, we all know that it is more holy to have an unwanted child born into a family that cannot and do not wish for them. I guess that gives credance to "holy suffering". Especially when it isn't our own.

Shell & RIW: Have you ever slept under a highway underpass? Ever had the feeling one gets when they're sacked for no fault of their own? Ever sat on a picket line? Ever had children, be nervious at seeing their needs met and to do something other than get on this blog and proclaim pronouncements?

Posted by: choirboyfromhell on Wednesday, 31 December 2008 at 6:10pm GMT

"So I just don't think it is useful for me to take any emotions about whether "I" would have existed or not into consideration when trying to decide whether abortions should be legal or not."

Me neither. For the record, although I think that abortion is (usually) a grave sin, I also think that it should remain legal. And I think that it's a lousy means of family planning. My objection to Ford's post wasn't to the idea that abortion is justified under some circumstances, but that it - rather than adoption - should be the default strategy for dealing with an unexpected pregnancy. I think a better example of a justified abortion could be a pregnancy that threatens the mother's life, or a fetus diagnosed with Trisomy 18.

Posted by: BillyD on Wednesday, 31 December 2008 at 9:56pm GMT

"My objection to Ford's post wasn't to the idea that abortion is justified under some circumstances, but that it - rather than adoption - should be the default strategy for dealing with an unexpected pregnancy."

No it wasn't! The question was what good is there in abortion or divorce. I actually agree with your stance on abortion. I just reject Christopher's blanket condemnation of them as never containing anything that is good. That's a far cry from saying that the default position for unwanted pregnancy should be abortion. There is also the fact that those who put forward adoption as an alternative, with which I have no quarrel, do not seem to be the least interesting in actually adopting one of these unwanted children, or indeed doing anything else to help the mother carry the burden their particular scruples have forced on her.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Friday, 2 January 2009 at 1:22pm GMT

Hi Pat-

If this is not a 100% Christian nation and therefore laws should apply both to Christians and nonChristians, then what is the coherent position supposedly held by nonChristians that reckons abortion and divorce not to be bad things? It is no good their saying 'This is my position and I don't have to give reasons' because then one would be justified in suspecting that they hold this so-called 'position' for 'reasons' of personal convenience, rather than actually beuing able to argue in favour of it. You would then be saying that a 'position' based on personal convenience (or else based on nothing at all) should be treated as being of equal value to a position which is argued for and based on reason. That would, of course, be nonsense. So your challenge is to restate your position in terms which do not qualify as 'nonsense'.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Saturday, 3 January 2009 at 12:56pm GMT

"what is the coherent position supposedly held by nonChristians that reckons abortion and divorce not to be bad things? It is no good their saying 'This is my position and I don't have to give reasons'."

Christopher, two points:
1. Do you honestly not know any reasons for supporting a woman's right to choose or for supporting divorce? Do you really believe that those who support it have no reasons or have not given any?

2. Your Christian/non-Christian dichotomy seems to imply that one can't support abortion and/or divorce and be a Christian at the same time. Is this a misreading of your belief?

Posted by: Ford Elms on Monday, 5 January 2009 at 4:40pm GMT

Yes, I notice too late that Ford's first example relates to abortion not divorce. In which case we have the truly astounding circumstance that abrupt termination of any and every circumstance in the child's life is considered to be more in that child's interests than the presumably worse (how?) adoption option, wherein the child could enjoy 100% as opposed to 0%) of all that destiny had in store for her/him. Summary: 0% is a better option than 100%. This is not only untrue but as absolutely untrue as anything could be.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Monday, 5 January 2009 at 5:17pm GMT

"is considered to be more in that child's interests than the presumably worse (how?) adoption option"
No need to be so absolute, Christopher, as I said above, I was NOT making a case for abortion or divorce, merely pointing out that your blanket dismissal both as never containing good is simply untrue, and what's more, not necessary if one is to oppose abortion. As to how adoption can be worse, do you really have to ask? Do you know anything at all about what has gone on in North America in respect to the great evil done by Christians to those unable to defend themselves? I have made reference to it before, Christopher, and you really need to make yourself aware of it. It makes you realize that you simply cannot make absolute statements about such things, adoption might not be better in every instance, nor foster care either. I am not opposing you on abortion, Christopher, I am however opposing your moral absoluteness and the legalism that leads to your breathtaking ability to ignore human suffering in favour of some high sounding moral principle. This is shown in your attitude that divorce is all about people treating marriage as something that can be thrown away, with no appreciation whatsoever for the real reason some divorce. Your naive idea that "the authorities" have the ability to remove an abusive husband from the home and "fix" him in some sense is laughable, and reveals how little you understand about domestic abuse, but you prefer the moral principle that it is wrong to divorce and remarry with no understanding whatsoever that strict adherence to this might well lead to loss of life and "the authorities" are powerless to stop it. You have direct access on this site to someone who has survived horrendous domestic abuse, and who has from time to time given us some hints as to what that was and how much pain it has caused her. Have you not read her posts and tried to understand? The Church did very similar things to other kids, Christopher, and we are now paying the price. We have been knocked off our pedestal, deservedly, we have been required to pay recomplense to the victims, and we have learned a lesson about the unChristian nature of the moral superiority that led us to believe such things were right. So, from experience, I have learned that moral absolutism is not a good thing, and no assurance that one's behaviour is Godly.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Monday, 5 January 2009 at 8:07pm GMT

That would be fine if I held an absolutist position in the first place. The truth is the reverse: I am opposing an absolutist position. The absolutist/dogmatic position I am opposing states: 'There are *no* situations that are always wrong and *no* situations that are always right.'

My position - and is it not less extreme and more sensible (I hope!) - is: 'We cannot assume in advance that there are absolutely *no* situations in life that are always wrong, or *none* that are always right. After all, life contains many kinds of situation, and the chances are that there will be some in both these extreme categories, together with a great deal in the middle.

The likeliest kinds of situation to be found at the polar extreme are: those involving life and death, those involving extreme selfishness, those involving cruelty, especially to the relatively innocent, those which practically always cause depression and negative symptoms, those which are intrinsically negative (especially where positive alternatives are available).

But the proof of the pudding is: a total condemnation cannot be sustained if even one counter-example can be found. I have answered those you have so far put forward (or if I haven't, show me how not and I will consider it).

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Monday, 12 January 2009 at 12:22pm GMT

"a total condemnation cannot be sustained"

You seem to have been doing a good job of sustaining a total condemnation of abortion, Christopher.

Posted by: Ford ELms on Tuesday, 13 January 2009 at 2:34pm GMT
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