So Can We Eat Oysters or Not?

Eating Lobster

A good question came up in the comment box regarding this post okaying a little tattoo for a Catholic boy.

A parishioner asked if it was okay to get a tattoo since a verse in Leviticus forbids it. I explained that in Old Testament times pagan people had tattoos as a way of making a blood sacrifice to their pagan gods and signing their bodies as a way of showing their devotion to the demon gods.

He was hardly doing that in going to the tattoo parlor.

My giving the nod to a tattoo drew this comment:

Really? You can see your way clear to okay tattoo’s, and I’m sure you don’t oppose eating lobster, but you can’t manage to put the Leviticus injunction against homosexuality, in the same historic trash can? Hypocrisy, at it’s finest. (And frankly, people would do just fine, without tats and shellfish. Without the love of another human? Not so much)

Alas, here’s where the commenter shows his ignorance. He assumes that Catholics are Bible only Christians. If so, then he is right. If we believe the Bible is the ironclad, word for word, Word of God, then we must follow all the Bible rules down to the letter and not eat oysters or lobsters or crawfish gumbo. No pork chops, pulled pork sandwiches, BLT or hey–not football since a football is made from pigskin and Leviticus forbids touching the carcass of a pig.

But Catholics are not Bible only Christians and never have been. We have always interpreted the Bible and applied it to the current age.

Believe it or not we have actually thought it through.

The dietary prohibitions in the OT were dealt with early on. In the Acts of the Apostles St Peter the first pope dealt with it. He was given a vision of a sheet full of unclean animals and the spirit said, “Go ahead and eat.” Even before that Jesus said, “It is what comes out of a man that defiles him not what goes in…” and St Mark interprets and says, “So he declared all foods to be clean.” So go ahead and pay a visit to Red Lobster and eat those scallops wrapped in bacon… It’s okay. It really is.

We interpret the Bible and apply it to modern needs using common sense and several other authoritative elements. Natural law is a very important one. The whole of Catholic teaching down the ages is another authoritative factor.

So, for example, we allow women to come to church without wearing a hat even though it says in the Bible they should keep their heads covered in worship. Despite the ban on women wearing braided hair and gold and pearl jewelry we say, “It’s okay.” That’s because we combine knowledge with common sense. In New Testament times it was prostitutes or vain silly rich women who showed their hair, braided it into ornate headdresses and wore lots of jewelry. We draw out the big principle and say, “Christian ladies should dress modestly and without vanity.”

Does the Old Testament forbid homosexual actions? Yes, but we don’t say homosexual actions are sinful simply because of a verse in Leviticus which must be obeyed with robotic obedience because it is the Word of God.  We make that judgement based on common sense, natural law and the whole of Catholic theology. The big picture of Catholic theology says God created men and women and they are to get married and have babies and that is primarily what their genitals are for. Likewise a mouth is for eating and a rectum is for expelling solid waste from the body. They weren’t designed for ahem…sexual activities… This observation we call “natural law” because it simply is as it is and anyone with common sense can see it for what it is.

The whole of Catholic theology interlinks with Catholic anthropology. in other words, what we believe about people is pretty much as important as what we believe about God. We believe God man men and women to be in a relationship with him, and it is through certain physical means called sacraments that the relationship is brought to life. One of these sacraments is marriage and from the beginning of creation marriage was between a man and a woman not only to bring forth children but to co operate with God in the creation of eternal souls. The physical and spiritual are intertwined.

The prohibition on homosexual actions is based therefore, not on a verse in Leviticus, but on the whole shootin’ match–God, humanity, man, woman, Jesus, Mary, love, marriage, kids, families, everlasting life…Everything Catholic is connected and everything makes sense when you study the whole thing.

So oysters and lobster and pork BBQ and bacon sandwiches are okay and ladies can wear trousers and don’t have to wear hats to church.

Gay sex?–or any sex outside marriage for that matter–

It’s forbidden.

 

About Fr. Dwight Longenecker

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