Monday, April 09, 2012

The Catholic Church and Gay marriage - my problem with it all

When I joined the Catholic Church in 2007 it wasn't for an easy life. The moral and ethical stimulus challenges and enriches me in equal measure. I haven't tended to talk about it on this blog too much, and don't feel sufficiently comfortable with the scripture or the doctrine to pour forth. It's also a fact that most people I come across who on hearing I'm Catholic think it's akin to being in a right-wing political party. In so many ways it is so far from that.

To me it veers from being beautifully simple to achingly hard. Yet proper Christian love remains at the centre of it all. Christ's love and the simple message we used to hear at the end of every Mass - "go in peace to love, and serve the Lord". The comma is important.

Here's what the Pope had to say at Easter: "[Jesus Christ] is present as a force of hope through his Church, which is close to all human situations of suffering and injustice."

But here's a thing. At the celebration of Easter our priest's homily took a diversion from a message about Natural Law to one of the core issues of the day - gay marriage.

This is what priests should do - poke at your faith and remind us that it's not just the easy stuff about forgiveness and doing good, but the hard bits too. It was uncomfortable, as it should be. It causes you to reflect and sometimes recoil, as he should do. I make no bones about that, but what follows is where I am at the moment. Homosexuality has always caused a problem for the church, in fact for all faiths for all time, it has been one of the lines in the sand.

Evoking Natural Law brings the issue to the heart of faith, God's gifts and human existence. My difficulty is that I don't see homosexuality as a sin or against that natural law. I see it as a part of some people's human make up - their capacity to love and to share, but with someone of the same sex.

I tend to the view of controversial gay priest Father Bernard Lynch, who said this weekend: "I do feel there is need to witness to the fact that gay is good and gay belongs to God. There are millions of lesbian and gay Catholics who need a witness to the fact that their love is not evil."

So, while it's possible to take all of that on board and still say - "hang on" over accepting marriage between same sex couples in a union blessed by the Church, I find the logic here is towards taking the argument two steps backwards behind that line in the sand on homosexuality itself.  

This isn't my doctrine, this isn't even me saying I have all the answers, as you can see I haven't really said anything, but it's where I am with this issue at the moment. Any guidance gratefully received.


Roger Rodeo said...

Interesting comment sir. Pity more Catholics don't treat their faith as a stimulus for thought rather than a set of doctrines which must go unquestioned for fear of "eternal damnation" or whatever.
This, in fact, gets to the nub of the issue with all fundamentalist faiths. Some of us "think it's akin to being in a right-wing political party" because of the similarities with such an extreme thing (right or left!) I suppose - reactionary, authoritarian and autocratic approaches.
It is too easy for members of such faiths to take the nice, comfortable bits such as choirs, state-funded schools and socialising with other believers in their gang. It is harder for them to question the tenets that result (in such an unquestioning, doctrinal environment and structure) in the abuses of human rights relating to anti-abortion, anti-contraception (and resultant aids related deaths in Africa), anti scientific research (eg stem cell research), anti- equal womens rights etc.
Please be assured I am not signaling out the Roman Catholic faith here - there are many fundamentalist Christian, Jewish and Islamic faiths we should be worried about.
My key point is you should join one that fits with your beliefs or, if not, agitate actively and openly for change in yours. Otherwise you deserve all the critcism you get!
May your god be with you matey x

raving adman said...

I think the point is not whether or not that it's a sin. Some of the more primitive books of the bible suggest that it is - but other people's real or imagined sin is none of our business.
If we make it our business, we're suggesting their sins are greater than ours - which is an even greater sin. We all do something every day that the Bible says is wrong, be it putting a bet on the horses, telling a little lie or wearing mixed fibre clothes. So a) we need to have common sense and stop concentrating on the one 'sin', and b) we need to accept that in God's eyes, all sin is equal, and equally forgivable.
And whilst no one sin is greater than another, two commandments definitely are: to love God and to love and treat others as you love yourself. Jesus said all other laws “hang from them”.
Which means if we ourselves don't want to be excluded from the Church because we bought a lottery ticket or had a prawn sandwich, we can't expect to have other people excluded just because they do something that we don't.

raving adman said...

If anyone's interested, I really got on my high horse on the subject here:

Michael Taylor said...

On Twitter Michael Merrick made some excellent points: "Isn't he just saying that belief in truth as objective value is fundamentalist (semantic blackmail). Relativism would say that and yet, relativism requires objectivity, both to assert itself and ground it's (alleged) neutrality. Also comes to something queer when being anti-abortion can be portrayed as a human right abuse. Great big warning siren going off there."

I tend to agree with both points, there has to be some things that are true - but the comfortable bits aren't as Roger says - the choirs etc That's the Alain de Botton view of religious values and faith.

Joining one that fits your view comes back to the comparison with politics again - it genuinely isn't a matter of choice - it can't be. That's what separates faith from belief.

Gary Chaplin said...

Great blog. Challenging and provoking thought is what drives most organisations, except huge swathes of Religion/Religious bodies.

Belief (in Religion, or Gay Marriage/Women Clergy/Abortion) isn't seemingly the prime issue, the forced adherence to your chosen religion's doctrine being often perceived has being more important in a Victorian parental manner. "Don't ask why, just do".

My issue with religion has always been the damage it does to people's perception of, and acceptance of "God". Which ever religion you chose/follow, their version of events and subsequent doctrines are often to be seen as law, beyond discussion and beyond reproach - despite the fact that much of those doctrines have been formed based on one person's (or one group of person's) interpretation of a common story.

The seeming inability to accept change or in any way alter core beliefs is therefore not over surprising - alas such a standpoint will likely be the downfall of many religions.

Every organisation needs evolution, the church/religion is not exempt. Failure to be open to evolution will at best result in revolution, at worst in death.

For a collective that breeds and preaches tolerance, understanding and compassion, many religious bodies show few of those traits to the outside world. Has wider theological discussion created religious NIMBYs?

raving adman said...

No, it's not purely about choice. But it's not purely about faith either. Christians are required to “love God with all your heart and soul and mind”, so if your mind won't accept it, you're going to have to find another religion, or none.

Michael Taylor said...

Thanks Simon - brilliantly put as ever. Er, OK, belief, faith, being a Christian - We're saying the same thing aren't we?

Gary - the common view of the Catholic Church is so different to the experience of millions of Catholics. It seems old and slow and archaic and obsessed with certain issues of sex because that's what clerics and the church are constantly asked about. Why not economics, morality, banking? Pope Benedict is very learned on these matters.

There's a terrific blogpost by Michael Merrick -

...on how viewing the church through a prism of politics and organisational change is missing the point.

Thanks for engaging - really aprreciate you taking the time to comment.



raving adman said...

Gary, I agree with you. Just because some people in the Middle East 2000 years ago interpreted and applied God's word to their own time and place doesn't mean we're barred from interpreting and applying it to ours.