The Synod on Synodality in Rome has been front-page news all week long. And for good reason. As expected, theological hydrogen bombs are being dropped on the Catholic Church from Pope Francis—of all people. Don’t tell me I didn’t warn you. As I reported the other day, Pope Francis has expressed his willingness to permit blessings for same-sex marriages in the Catholic Church. This is a dramatic reversal from a recent statement of the Vatican stating that “the Church cannot bless sin.”
We Cannot Bless Sin
It’s a good point, actually. How can one bless a sin? Can embezzlers and drug-traffickers get a blessing too? Can assassins and mobsters get their murder weapons blessed? Many people suspect that the move to bless same-sex “marriage” signals a doctrinal change on homosexuality: the real reason why Pope Francis is open to these “marriage” blessings is because he doesn’t think homosexuality is a sin.
As I previously reported (see above links), many of the participants in the synod, including the German bishops, reject the belief that homosexuality is a sin. They claim that the traditional teaching of the Church is outdated and primitive because it comes from the Bible—which is outdated and primitive, according to them. Even Pope Francis asserted in Amoris Laetitia that sex education should come from science.
Todd Flowerday, a frequent commenter, advanced this view in the com-box recently:
The [Church’s] Tradition, and alas, Scripture, are not qualified to determine the scientific reality [of homosexuality]. Biology and to a degree, psychology are. Scripture and Tradition missed on slavery, the geocentric universe, racism, and other things. I’d be cautious about pronouncing on an issue that’s only been a thing in mainstream culture for two generations, maybe three.
Let me summarize Flowerday’s position. Many Catholic bishops express a similar viewpoint:
- The Bible contains many errors that science has corrected.
- Therefore, the issue of homosexuality should be decided by science, not the Bible.
The New Atheists got rich with this argument. Here’s how I handled them in my first book.
The Immoral Landscape… Excerpt:
At the end of Letter to a Christian Nation, Sam Harris has this to say, “Religion once offered answers to many questions that have now been ceded to the care of science. This process of scientific conquest and religious forfeiture has been relentless, one directional, and utterly predictable.” Many things are wrong about this statement, and I think our investigation of asceticism shows us just how wrong it is. If physics can help us to understand our universe better, that’s a wonderful thing; the Bible was never about physics. If evolution contributes to our knowledge of biology—terrific! The Bible is not concerned with biology. Nor does the Bible concern itself with seismology or chemistry or medicine either. Thus, to reject Christianity because it teaches us nothing about evolution or astronomy or plate tectonics is like refusing to listen to Mozart because his operas shed no light on quantum mechanics. The point I am making here is that the New Atheists have been attacking Christianity for all the wrong reasons. The honest question that must be asked is this: does Christianity contribute genuine knowledge to some area of life? What we have seen thus far is that, indeed, Christianity adds much to our understanding of human nature.
The Bible Is the Word of God
Thus, the Bible can get a lot of stuff wrong even though it is the Word of God. In the Bible, God taught us how to get to heaven, not how to get to Mars. And in 1Cor. 6: 9–10, St. Paul makes clear that sexual purity is necessary for eternal life:
9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor sexual perverts, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God.—RSV
Now ask yourself this question. What scientific discovery has ever refuted St. Paul’s claim? Did scientists discover a secret tape recording of God saying that He changed his mind about sexual morality? I don’t think so. As Christians, we hold certain beliefs about human nature that come from the Bible and not from science. We believe that we have a soul, for example. And that soul will go to Heaven or Hell based on how we behave on earth. Vatican II taught that this supernatural understanding of human nature was essential for comprehending sexual morality. (See Gaudium et Spes, 51.)
Thus, it is necessary for Catholics who profess belief in “One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic” faith that their understanding of the human person transcends science. More to come on this topic!