In the discussion group for Christian masturbators, there has recently been a thread on guilt. For me the problem with guilt is the time-lag between what you can convince yourself in your mind is right or not wrong and the feelings which drag behind, and guilt lies in the feelings. We have to learn to trust our mind and our faith over and above our feelings. The Catholic system has a way of playing on the feelings and maintaining control over the establishment through this manipulation. But I have heard Southern Baptists claim that the guilt they can be made to feel is even worse. My experience, in fact, has been that when I got convinced that there was no sin either in masturbation or in hooking up with other guys, the guilt gradually fell away with practice.
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
The Canadian bishops in their communication at one point say this: “Young people, particularly adolescents and young men, may be tempted to commit suicide once they can no longer deny or ignore their deep-seated same-sex inclinations. Everyone must be alert to offer hope and assistance to these young people lest despair obscure their judgment.” My answer to this is: what hope is there if they are meant to face the fact that they can never in any way realize those deep-seated same-sex inclinations. The approach here is pastorally ridiculous.
My thought as the Canadian bishops’ letter came to its conclusion was that these guys are happily and heartily telling 10% or so of the population that they are condemned to a life of hard struggle in the name of fidelity to abstract moral criteria that are opposed to actions that can do no harm to anyone. Such an approach is difficult to square with the gospel that wants us to love one another and help each other to live lives of peace and well-being and does not have a word to say about what we do with our sexual organs. My final reflection after finishing reading this document was that it was more like institutionalized mental torture than pastoral care.
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
This is the title of a letter issued by the Canadian Catholic Bishops, timed, I suppose, to coincide with the vote on Gay Marriage in the State of New York just south of the border. You can admire it for its powerful denunciation of discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people and for underlining that homosexual persons are loved by God and welcome in the Church. It is not surprising of course that the Canadian bishops uphold the teaching of the Catechism that homosexual acts are disordered. But what hit me between the eyes on reading the bishops’ message was the gross logical error. The bishops are trying to say that the attraction is not sinful or disordered but the actions to which the persons feel attracted are. Anybody outside the Catholic hierarchy would automatically say that if there is something wrong or evil about an action, then there is something not right about the attraction. The hierarchy needs to break out of its cocoon and acknowledge that the only way of integrating homosexuals into society and manifesting the fact that they are loved as they are and intended by God is by recognizing that the actions they aspire to are good.
The bishops say that they are not addressing the question of the origin of same-sex attraction. But their argument that the attraction is not morally disordered, while the acts aspired to are, hangs at one point on the fact that the attraction is not freely chosen. Now, it seems to me, that if the attraction is not freely chosen you need an answer to where does it come from. The Catholic Church does not seem to want to contradict scientists and medical expertise and say that the attraction is some sort of illness or disorder. There does not, in fact, seem to be much alternative left but to say that the attraction was built into the person by his or her Creator, and is, therefore, good. Then, if it is good, realizing it in act must be good also. There can be nothing wrong with homosexual acts.
The bishops’ document proposes chastity as the given vocation of the person with same-sex attraction, but chastity has until the argument against homosexuals came on the table been regarded by Christian tradition as a special charismatic gift and vocation given to individual persons, and not pre-determined as an answer to a particular person’s disinclination to marry or incapability of being married. The document makes the additional error of suggesting that persons with same-sex attraction could still countenance marriage. An idea that experience has proven is not pastorally wise. It is interesting, too, that if a person with same-sex attraction turns up at a novitiate house and says, “I am homosexual so I have a vocation to chastity and want to join the religious life,” a Vatican document or two decree that no way is he to be allowed to enter the seminary or novitiate.
These are my comments on reading the introductory part of the Canadian bishops’ letter. I may have more to say when I have studied their “guidelines.”
Monday, June 27, 2011
In 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 there is this list of what type of people St. Paul thinks will not come into the Christian inheritance: Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, the spineless, people who go to bed with men, thieves, gluttons, drunkards, revilers, robbers. Gareth Moore explains that the Greek for “spineless” is the ordinary word for soft. So it means people without discipline, as I would interpret it. The King James translation of the Bible brought it into the homosexual debate by translating it “effeminate”. Personally, I don’t think that homosexuals are automatically either effeminate or undisciplined. My experience is that we can be quite disciplined about our manfucking if we want to be. But then there is this Greek word which Saint Jerome translates “masculorum concubitores”. Which means men who go to bed with men, and, it’s true that’s what the Greek term looks like. My basic personal reaction is that because St. Paul thinks that those of us men who go to bed with men won’t share the kingdom of Heaven does not mean that it is so. You only have to read what St. Paul says about women covering their hair or keeping silent in the Christian Assembly to know that things have moved on since St. Paul had his ideas. But I need to read what Gareth Moore has to say about this term translated by the Revised Standard Version as “homosexuals”. Gareth’s first point, I suppose, is that Paul himself coined the term. It means literally what St. Jerome understood, but, does have a history, it would seem, from my reading, not Gareth Moore’s, that would indicate that Paul might have been meaning those who frequent the temple male prostitutes. Where Paul’s argument would be with pagan worship and not with homosexual acts. Gareth, following Philo, suggests that Paul’s primary concern would have been that men going to bed with men results in the feminizing of a man. In particular, Gareth thinks that Paul was taking issue with institutionalized pederasty such as was known in the ancient world, and is totally foreign to our contemporary culture.
Sunday, June 26, 2011
When Gareth Moore, in his book A Question of Truth comes to discuss Romans 1:26-27, he explains that what Paul is condemning among the Pagans, is not homosexual activity or passion, but simply giving way to passion at all, which according to Paul’s philosophy, was degrading and considered to reduce man to the weak state of the woman or woman to the status of an animal. Thus, “God gave them up to dishonourable passions.” The manifestation of this state was that their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another. For Paul the remedy for pagans so laid low by passions is to become followers of Christ, who will liberate them from all passions. It works out, then, that in this text Paul is not properly condemning homosexual acts or even homosexuality at all. The homophobic have read this interpretation into Saint Paul’s text.
Saturday, June 25, 2011
In my reading of Gareth Moore’s book, A Question of Truth, I have got to his treatment of the Leviticus text: “You shall not lie with a man as with a woman.” For him penetration with the penis was done by the male on the female by way of subjugating her and making her the man’s own. This was the structure of the male dominant society in Israel three thousand or so years ago. Obviously it was an abomination for a man to so subjugate another man, it was contrary to the structure that God had built into society. So, ultimately, this text is just not talking about homosexuality at all. That is Gareth’s answer to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that sees this text as condemning all and every homosexual gesture and not just penal penetration. Thank God for clear-headed men like Gareth Moore.
Friday, June 24, 2011
Reading further in Gareth Moore’s book, A Question of Truth, I have got to his treatment of the Sodom story. There he says quite emphatically that several considerations indicate strongly that the Roman Catholic interpretation, that Genesis 19:1-11 implies a condemnation of homosexual acts, is wrong. Gareth shows that the offence of the men of Sodom was against hospitality in wanting to do with these visitors to Lot’s house something that was against their desire and will, amounting to violating and abusing them. Lot could seemingly offer his daughters for the men’s pleasure because his daughters were his possession and his guests were not. Just that element shows that the authors of the account were not condemning sexual pleasure and not the man to man kind any more than the heterosexual kind. An element I find interesting and that Gareth Moore does not comment on is that to our cultural mentality offering one’s daughters for one’s fellow-citizens’ pleasure would be totally unacceptable, where the biblical authors do not seem to have any moral problem with it. This, in itself, shows that the whole account was written in a different cultural setting from our own.