The Good and Bad in the Vatican’s new LGBT Statement

The Good and Bad in the Vatican’s new LGBT Statement October 14, 2014

same-sex-marriageIn what the Human Rights Campaign calls a “seismic shift in position,” the Extraordinary Synod of Catholic Bishops has issued a statement affirming loving, committed same-sex partnerships. And though this new declaration is a promising step toward greater equality for the LGBTQ community within the greater Christian Church, it leaves much yet to be desired on further reading.

Fist, the positive: it should not be minimized that the largest and oldest Christian institution in the world has acknowledged on any level the love that is expressed in covenant between two people of the same gender. And though I may fall short of the HRC’s declaration of this being seismic, it is undoubtedly historic. It is further evidence that, in spite of local and regional church officials still espousing hateful and discriminatory language in the media and from the pulpit, their Boss in Rome is urging a far different tone.

And yet, despite this remarkable change in attitude, there are some real concerns to contend with, just below the surface. Consider the following quote from the public statement:

“Without denying the moral problems connected to homosexual unions it has to be noted that there are cases in which mutual aid to the point of sacrifice constitutes a precious support in the life of the partners.”

So on the positive side, there is at least the suggestion that love, indeed, can take many forms, and that it is a good (maybe even holy) thing, even when it doesn’t look like some think it should.

On the other hand, the Church certainly is not endorsing same-sex marriage by any stretch. Rather, it is acknowledging the “preciousness” of loving, committed partnerships. While I am pleased and encouraged by this, it’s simply not enough.

Second, there’s still the assertion that the expression of same-sex attraction presents “moral problems.” So in a sense, this borders on what some evangelical Christians have settled on, which is that it’s all right if you’re gay; you just have to be celibate your entire life.

Sorry, but that is not equality.

At the risk of diverging from the primary point, it’s worth pointing out that there are a handful of passages in the Bible that are routinely referenced to support the marginalization of LGBTQ persons. Some call them the “clobber passages,” which is understandable for those on the receiving end of such judgment.

To begin with, there is no such word as “homosexuality” anywhere in the Bible. I know some people note that Jesus never talks about it, but in reality the whole bible never mentions being gay. At most, it references sexual acts between people of the same gender, but even that needs to be considered critically.

Perhaps the most often used scripture is Leviticus 18 which, in some english translations, explicitly condemns homosexual acts. However, when translated literally word-for-word from the original Hebrew, the text says:

‘And with mankind you shall not lie beds (plural noun) a woman/wife (singular noun).’

The only places where the Hebrew phrase for “woman/wife” is used is in Leviticus 18 and 20, and often they are translated differently in each place, even within the same translation. As for what exactly this phrase, taken from the original Hebrew, actually means is debated and largely unclear.

As for other texts, referring to Sodom and Gomorrah, and the Pauline letters, the same-sex acts referred to are in the specific context of male prostitution and sexual acts performed in the temple as a non-Jewish/non-Christian act of worship. There’s also the oft-called “Sin of Onan,” which sometimes is used to condemn masturbation, same-sex acts, contraception or any type of intercourse that might not lead to procreation. But we have to consider here that people in “biblical times” believed the entire embryo was contained within the man’s semen, and that the woman was simply the holding place for an already-viable baby. So if a man ejaculated without trying to make a baby, he was committing murder.

But we know better now. And as the old saying goes, when we know better, we do better.

 

There’s also the matter of Onan breaking his covenant with God by not trying to impregnate his late brother’s wife. A little creepy today, yes, but back then, it was a common cultural standard (and many believed, divinely ordained) for brothers’-in-law to marry and procreate with their sibling’s widowed spouse.

So to be clear, there is no mention anywhere in the scriptures of what is and is not acceptable between two people of the same gender in a loving, committed relationship. There’ no mention of being gay. Thomas Campbell, one of the most prominent Protestant leaders in the early 19th century, is known for his statement, “Where the Scriptures speak we speak, where the Scriptures are silent we are silent.” Though this phrase leaves something to be desired, as it tends toward the pharisaic legalism Jesus intended to free us from, it’s a “bare minimum” litmus test for how far our reach should extend as Christian arbiters of moral standards. 

Back to the original story thread. It’s encouraging to see Catholic leadership follow Pope Francis’ lead in extending more compassion and mercy to same-sex couples. But until our LGBTQ sisters and brothers are afforded true equality across the board, and until we recognize that heterosexual privilege is real and should be used to liberate others from their marginalized positions, we’re compelled to keep the drumbeat for justice going.

Christian Piatt is the author of “postChristian: What’s Left? Can we fix it? Do we care?” and a blogger on the Patheos Progressive Christian channelFor more information about Christian, visit www.christianpiatt.com, or find him on Twitter or Facebook.

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  • $122284574

    > in reality the whole bible never mentions being gay.

    That’s quite a stretch. Even atheists are pretty sure it mentions gay sex. Philemon alludes to sanctified pederasty when Paul wrote a ribald innuendo using a play on words about how useful a slave-boy named Useful was to both himself and his Master He-Who-Kisses. An informative text on sex in the bible is SEX RITES: The Origins of Christianity: The Ritual Use of Sex, Drugs, and Human Sacrifice by historian Diane Agorio. ancientmeme.blogspot.com

    • LoneWolf343

      Well…that was…headache inducing…

      • $122284574

        Take two tylenol and call me in the morning.

        • LoneWolf343

          I think certain other drugs are required to read that.

        • sharon peters

          I’ll give ya odds. Kane’s dead five minutes after Frank gets off the train…
          ~Bartender
          HIGH NOON (1952)

    • WilmRoget

      “That’s quite a stretch.”

      No, it is not.

      “Even atheists”

      So you take the word of people who reject the existence of God.

  • Andy

    Thanks Christian. I appreciate what you’re trying to do. I’m afraid you’ve glossed the most relevant scripture in the discussion–Romans 1:24-27. The exegesis there cannot dismiss the teaching as contextual limited since Paul is trying to make the argument for the universality of human sin (culminating in Romans 3:23-26). The larger argument at that point is that Jews had the law and Gentiles had the revelation of nature and how things are supposed to work in nature. And everyone has violated principles they knew to be right and consequently everyone relies on grace. Paul’s repeated use of the word “natural” is key. Based on Paul’s understanding of biology, homosexual acts were not natural. Today, we increasingly understand that same sex attraction occurs naturally. I would argue that the biblical principle that sex should be natural, consensual and covenantal remains. What has changed for some of us and hopefully will change for all of us is what we understand to be natural.

    • Christian Piatt

      amen! goes along with what I said about when we know better, we do better.

    • Frank6548

      Are you suggesting that since homosexual behavior in animals is observed ( of course it’s not about sex but power) then it’s natural?

      Feel free to act like an animal.

      • Wolf

        Actually it’s not always about power – animals have been observed to engage in sex for purely pleasure purposes, and even if not, it’s not always about power. In bonobos and penguins, for instance, same-sex couples form lifelong pairs in many cases.

        And unnatural is not always bad. Cars are unnatural. Glasses are unnatural. The computer you’re hiding behind is unnatural.

        • Frank6548

          Homosexual behavior will always be sinful. Nothing will change that.

          • BeaverTales

            Perhaps in the view of the RCC, but the hypocrisy of speaking out against gays while capitulating to other sins committed by more politically powerful groups (like women, divorcees, people who support the death penalty, etc.) just makes the RCC look predatory and opportunistic.

          • Frank6548

            It’s the view of anyone who holds true to the Word of God.

            All humanity is opportunistic.

            Just because some people try and justify one sin doesn’t make another sin less sinful.

          • WilmRoget

            You are wrong, and clearly, not even God could convince you otherwise.

        • Verity

          Some animals also murder their mate after sex. If we’re now taking our moral cues from the animal kingdom…hmmm…

          • WilmRoget

            “Some animals also murder their mate after sex.”

            Yep, heterosexual ones. Thus we see from nature that heterosexuality is wrong.

        • Guest

          So you’re an animal, are you? We’ll have you caught, caged, spayed or neutered, used for medical experiments, fur or other usable parts, and when you no longer amuse us we’ll simply have you destroyed. Do some stupid dog tricks for us, maybe we’ll give you a treat.

          • WilmRoget

            Are you are rock or a plant, a fungi or a virus, since you are not an animal?

      • WilmRoget

        “( of course it’s not about sex but power)”

        Nice lie.

        Your argument from nature damns you Frank of the constantly changing numbers – because your computer is not natural. Neither is written language.

        When you argue that something is wrong because it is unnatural, you are also condemning all written text, including the Bible.

    • Verity

      Paul anticipates this kind of thinking. He describes and defines homosexuality without using the word homosexual in Romans 1:26-27. “And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet.” Very clear in the English and in the Greek.
      My cousin recently passed away at the age of 32 from HIV. How can we call it loving to endorse such a destructive behavior? Destructive physically and spiritually. Is physical ravaging of the body from HIV a “natural” thing we want to endorse? How can it be loving to endorse a behavior that evokes the wrath of God? Are we not guilty of Romans 1:32 – “Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

      • Giauz Ragnarock

        Women are property to be used? What is the natural use of the intersex person? What’s the natural use of the man, for that matter, and why is it not said that these women ever left the natural use of the man?

        Truly I say to you, the passage is based in hate of all things female.

    • WilmRoget

      “Thanks Christian. I appreciate what you’re trying to do. I’m afraid
      you’ve glossed the most relevant scripture in the discussion–Romans
      1:24-27.’

      You are engaged in the same fraud Verity is.

      ” Based on Paul’s understanding of biology, homosexual acts were not natural.’

      When did you talk to Paul about this?

      ” Paul’s repeated use of the word “natural” is key.”

      Actually, the word Paul used is ‘physikos’, innate nature, instinctive, inborn. What he actually describes – people innately sexually attracted to the opposite gender – is heterosexuals. Paul is writing about heterosexual idolaters in known fertility religions.

  • Frank6548

    Homosexual behavior will always be sinful.

    • Christian Piatt

      feel free to keep to trolling the RLC blog Frank.

      • Frank6548

        I will continue to post the truth.

        • Guest

          between trolling toilets for sex?

          • Frank6548

            I understand you are reduced to foolishness.

    • WilmRoget

      And yet it is not sin, and those who claim it is, are false teachers, workers of iniquity, wolves in sheep’s clothing whose evil message destroys human lives.

  • Verity

    I have the proclivity for Stealing and yet society says that I shouldn’t steal…how is that equality? Shouldn’t I be able to follow my desires and proclivities…God doesn’t make mistakes. My friend feels the natural urge for Pedophilia…why stop him? He was born that way! Let people be who they are!

    • Giauz Ragnarock

      I agree. Society is working against the later parties you mentioned. Those people desperately desire to have their possessions deceptively or forcefully taken against their desires. Those children desperately wish to be raped, possibly murdered, against their desires.

    • WilmRoget

      Equating homosexuality with pedophilia and stealing only shows that you have no moral sense, and that you should never, ever be allowed to be alone with anyone else’s possessions or children.

  • Verity

    Paul anticipates this kind of thinking. He describes and defines homosexuality without using the word homosexual in Romans 1:26-27. “And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet.” Very clear in the English and in the Greek.
    My cousin recently passed away at the age of 32 from HIV. How can we call it loving to endorse such a destructive behavior? Destructive physically and spiritually. How can it be loving to endorse a behavior that evokes the wrath of God? Are we not guilty of Romans 1:32 – “Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

    • radiofreerome

      would you rather him dive HIV or kill himself from despair? For despair and suicide are exactly where your theology ends up. You better think about how you treated him when he was on earth because it’s how Jesus will remember your treatment of him.

      • WilmRoget

        Please do not equate homosexuality with HIV, most cases of it, worldwide, are in heterosexuals, and 51% are in women.

        HIV is easily transmitted between men for a scientific reason – the virus exploits proteins in semen to get around the immune system. That is also why HIV is more easily transmitted from a man to a woman, and why lesbians have the lowest rate of HIV infection and transmission.

    • Frank6548

      There is no justification for sin. Anyone who supports sinful behavior is demonstrating hate.

      • WilmRoget

        And that is why people rebuke you.

    • WilmRoget

      ” He describes and defines homosexuality without using the word homosexual in Romans 1:26-27.”

      No. First off, you are raping the text by ignoring the preceding verses, that explicitly describe idolatry, and use the concept of exchanging, abandoning. People exchange knowledge of God for idols, Paul writes, and then they exchange their innate sexual use of the opposite sex for sex that is unnatural to them, as part of their worship of idols.

      ” Very clear in the English and in the Greek. ”

      No. The greek clearly states ‘physikos chresis’ innate, instinctive, inborn sexual use of. Homosexuals do not have a physikos chresis toward the opposite sex. They don’t. Paul is writing about heterosexual idolaters, that’s all. But by ignoring the context and the point about idolatry, the RCC freed itself to engage in idolatry.

      “My cousin recently passed away at the age of 32 from HIV.’

      World wide, the proportionate majority of all HIV infections and deaths have been in heterosexuals. A new study, by the way, points out:
      “Young women of reproductive-age are among those at greatest risk of
      acquiring HIV, and several studies have suggested that during pregnancy
      women are even more susceptible to infection. Now, a new study finds
      that pregnancy is a time when men also are at greater risk. In fact,
      their risk doubles if their partner is both HIV-infected and pregnant.”

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100523205810.htm

      Furthermore, for most of human history, the leading cause of death for women has been pregnancy and delivery.

      So, applying your own argument to the real facts of the matter: ” How can we call it loving to endorse such a destructive behavior? Destructive physically and spiritually.”

      We must condemn heterosexuality as sin. After all, it was a presumed heterosexual couple who brought sin into the world, and the fruit of heterosexual sex is cursed, in the very first curse on humans in the Bible, in Genesis 3. And there are more than 300 passages that condemn specific expressions of heterosexual sexual desire.

      “Are we not guilty of Romans 1:32 – “Although they know God’s righteous
      decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only
      continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice
      them.”

      Ironically, you and your peers are condemned, per Romans 1

      28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29 They
      have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and
      depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice.
      They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

      Not because you have not brutalized GLBTQ people enough, but because you brutalize us at all.