Unfriend.

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As the new trend of super-imposing your views all over you profile pic takes hold – and those using the rainbow flag gradually become aware they have been duped into becoming part of a worldwide Facebook science project, one word has stood out for me in particular: Unfriend.

Everyone is unfriending each other. This is pretty interesting stuff.

Rainbows are unfriending Vaticans because they are vicious hateful bigots. Vaticans are unfriending Rainbows because they are in league with the devil (obviously). Plain profile pic-ers are unfriending both because they just want a quiet virtual life.

The thing about our virtual lives is that we can play God. I can literally stop you from existing in my virtual world at the click of a button. “Nah-nah-na-nah-nah! You-don’t-exist!”.

Stupid.

Well, maybe not stupid, but selfish – yes. It depends what you want to use social media for. If you want to create a private alternate universe where everyone agrees with everything you say then great! but if you want – for instance – to use it as Pope Benedict told us to – as a tool for evangelisation, then not so great.

Rainbow – “Why the hell (I don’t believe in hell by the way) can’t you understand that marriage is about LOVE. If two people feel that way about each other then they should be allowed to get married. Love is the strongest and most powerful feeling on the planet. #lovewins.”

Vatican – “Why the hell (i DO believe in hell) can’t you understand that a man and a woman’s body are meant for pro-creation and that marriage is a sacrament that real love is a choice not a feeling. Oh and by the way Christians do believe that #lovewins. We call it the Resurrection.”

Rainbow – “Can’t you see how bigoted you are being by trying to force your views on me? Your church is full of bullying haters who hate me and my gay friends and i’m not going to tolerate your stupid God crap. Instead i’m going to block you because i can’t stand to listen to your medieval rubbish any more. People like you need to be eradicated from society. #Tolerance #Diversity #RespectForAll.”

Vatican – “Can’t you see how bigoted you are being?! You are basically telling me that if i don’t comply with your new world order you are going to take my kids away! How dare you try to force your views on me and my children. People like you hate me and my Christian friends and i’m not going to tolerate your ‘groupthink’ liberal progressive atheist bullying. Instead i’m going to block you because i don’t want your filthy sexual perversion views tainting my clean and holy Facebook wall. People like you are going to Hell. You are not welcome. I’ll pray for you. #LordHelpMeTeachTransgressorsYourWays #LoveOneAnotherAsIHaveLovedYou #Forgiveness.”

Hyporcrites! Both of them!

The jewel in the crown of all this tho, is the Catholic Rainbows. The ones who openly profess to believe in a God and a church that they strongly disagree with. Hmmm… Yes. This is difficult. The vast majority of these guys that I have spoken to over the last few days simply do not know what the church teaches regarding marriage or the fact that the church completely condemns the discrimination of people experiencing same-sex attraction. They too believe that the church “hates gays” and that marriage is based on “love” and that love = feelings. Heck – most of the Catholics i’ve spoken to don’t even know what a sacrament is. Almost all of them are under the impression that the Pope agrees with Homosexuality because of the misinterpreted “Who am I to Judge?” comment. All of them agree with the use of artificial contraception.

This is seriously, seriously embarrassing for the church. The blatant ignorance of the people within the church regarding these issues is something that needs to be addressed – by the Bishops first and foremost, but also by the priests who should be prioritising this message and also by the faithful members of the church who’s job it is to evangelise.

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Pope Paul VI tells us in Evangelii Nuntiandi in 1975 that the church exists in order to evangelize”. This statement was repeated By Pope Benedict XVI at the Thirteenth Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelisation in 2012 where he highlighted the fact that “The union of a man and a woman, their becoming “one flesh” in charity, in fruitful and indissoluble love, is a sign that speaks of God with a force and an eloquence which in our days has become greater because unfortunately, for various reasons, marriage, in precisely the oldest regions evangelized, is going through a profound crisis”.

He pointed to a link between the current crisis of faith and this crisis in marriage, because marriage is based on the grace of God that man of today no longer recognizes. To overcome this crisis, any crisis, we need to be newly reconciled with God.

In his homily, he said “in every time and place, evangelization always has as its starting and finishing points Jesus Christ, the Son of God (cf. Mk 1:1); and the Crucifix is the supremely distinctive sign of him who announces the Gospel: a sign of love and peace, a call to conversion and reconciliation”.
This call, he continued, should take into account “those who do not yet know Jesus Christ and his message of salvation, and those who, though baptized, have drifted away from the Church”.

In 2013 Pope Francis told us in Evangelii Gaudium that evangelisation must start with an emphasis on God’s saving love before proclaiming doctrines and follow the “way of beauty”. Patience and “respectful and compassionate listening” are also a key part of evangelisation, he added.

“The Gospel tells us to correct others and to help them to grow on the basis of a recognition of the objective evil of their actions, but without making judgments about their responsibility and culpability… our personal experience of being accompanied and assisted, and of openness to those who accompany us, will teach us to be patient and compassionate with others, and to find the right way to gain their trust, their openness and their readiness to grow,” he wrote.

I guess the point is that we are all sinners. Jesus died for sinners, and it is our job to take the mercy we have experienced to the the people around us that we talk to everyday – even on Facebook. He invites us to turn away from Sin and come into a life-changing living relationship with Himself. This is the thing that is missing.

What we have to remember is that from the outside Christianity is totally bonkers. Why on earth would you listen to someone who tells you “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” – Luke 9:23. To invite a person experiencing same-sex attraction to accept their cross is something that simply cannot happen unless that person has found a greater love in Christ. This is the thing that is missing. This is why people cannot fathom what you are talking about. Christianity is a paradox. It’s all about Christ. It’s all about love, real love, agape love. And the incredibly challenging love we are called to is cross-shaped. It’s not easy – but it is worth it 🙂 ❤

How many people do you know who are in a life-changing living relationship with Christ? How many Catholics? What about you?

How are you supposed to bring Christ to others if you are blocking the people who need Him the most? Yours might be the only voice they hear who offers them the way out of where they currently are and into a new life in Him.

By all means defend marriage, but teach why we believe what we do. Speak the truth, proclaim the good news of the resurrection, of mercy and forgiveness, invite people to turn away from sin and come back to God, but choose your tone and words carefully. And perhaps consider friending all those people you just unfriended.

(I will be taking my own advice here 😉 )

44 thoughts on “Unfriend.

  1. Clare, You are such a gift, have such gifts. This is one of the best, well-articulated things I have read recently on the topic. Thank you and may God bless you and your family and your ministry.

  2. We are all sinners, but sin was just legalized, I think thats a big deal, I also think its a big deal that people choose to display sin as their profile picture, so lets all legalize our sins and plaster them on our faces. I have a flag on my profile picture, the flag of my church, the church Jesus founded, the church that offers me the sacraments to confess my sins and heal me from them. Am I unfriending Catholic rainbows? Yes I am. Because they are causing scandal, and I will do my small part to minimize their visible disregard for Church teachings. I will not help them spread their errors. The time for dialog is over, sides are being chosen. Choose wisely.

    • Although I have not unfriended any rainbows{and none have unfriended me}, I too have the Vatican flag on my profile and I am proud to show where I stand. With my church, the church that Jesus Christ founded. You are quite right Margie, the sides are being chosen. Choose wisely.

    • Margie, sin and societal law are quite often incompatible. The answer does not belong to government. America, for good or for bad, is a free society. The solution begins within ourselves — how we outwardly behave when all those around us my behave differently (that is probably the strongest form of evangelization). Are we trying to go tit-for-tat (you put up a flag so I’ll put up a flag; you put up a banner so I’ll put up a banner; you called me a bigot so I’ll call you a bigot; etc.) Or are we serving as an example of good Catholic citizenship? The solution continues with our families. Serving them, nurturing them in Word, Sacrament, and Charity. Government edicts will never work. I will not unfriend anyone for their views just as I wouldn’t unfriend anyone for their non-belief or any one with an illness. I pray for them all. And maybe, just maybe, my example might be a seed that may or may not grow. But that is not up to me.

    • Why are you against a sin that does no harm to anyone? Why do you need to believe that the bible’s always right? Why can’t you make your own decisions and have your own morals? Why are you a follower?

  3. I’m a “rainbow Catholic”, and not as ignorant as you claim such people to be. But I agree about the silliness and hypocrisy of “unfriending” people.

      • Hi Clare. I don’t disagree with much Church teaching, but on issues around sexuality I think there’s a lot to debate. Something essential for Christians to remember is that the Church’s teaching is something that develops, grows, and – yes – even changes, as Cardinal Reinhard Marx reminded us last year. Examples include Limbo, slavery, attitudes towards Jews, our understanding of Earth’s place in the solar system, the right to form trades unions, and so on. Church teachings on sexuality are based on what many believe to be flawed readings of Scripture, and an understanding of Natural Law that hasn’t kept up with scientific research. The institutional Church faces a real crisis because it isn’t following its own teaching of listening to the sense of the faithful, whom I believe are following the promptings of the Spirit to move in a more inclusive direction. It’s clear from The Acts of the Apostles that the Church has always been a place for debate, dissent, and discovery. The important thing is to remain with minds and hearts open, listening to the wisdom and experience of one another, and to discern God’s will together. As a Church historian, I’m so glad that we no longer burn those we accuse of heresy, but I think “unfriending” people on Facebook may be the modern equivalent. If only we (and include myself) took to heart the teaching and example of Jesus when it comes to self-righteousness and judging the other.

      • ” I don’t disagree with much Church teaching…”

        Are you sure, Johan?

      • Yes Ruari, I’m sure. I believe in the Good News, and I profess the historic creeds of the Church. In this context of much more important issues, the debate around sexuality is a very small. It’s not THE defining issue of Christian belonging that some would like to make it. Let’s get back to the basics of loving God, and loving one another.

      • Ok, Johan, I must take your word for it.

        I only asked because it seemed that you misunderstood the Church’s longstanding attitude to slavery, our understanding of the Earth’s position in the Universe (as well as the Solar System!) and trades unions. But I will take your assurances at face value and accept that you believe what you say.

        For the avoidance of confusion in the future, can I recommend Timothy, St Paul and Acts, all of which make clear at various times that heterosexual monogamy and faithfulness was one way in which Christians differentiated themselves from the society in which they lived – and the level of importance they placed upon the visible manifestation of it – and, for social matters like trade unions, Rerum Novarum?

      • PS – I take your point about ‘unfriending’ on Facebook but, as it is reversible and burning at the spake was not, I think that it,s more the contemporary equivalent of “shunning”.

      • Thanks for taking my comments at face value Ruari. I’m a fellow in a university history department, specialising in Church history, so I do believe what I say. I think trusting the integrity of the other’s good will and good conscience is essential to constructive dialogue.

        The fact is that Church teaching really does change, and we needn’t be frightened of that. You mention “Rerum Novarum”, and that’s a good example. Before that groundbreaking document, the Church hierarchy was highly suspicious of trades unions, and Pope Pius X came very close to an outright condemnation of them. Various previous popes said it was immoral for workers to organise, and then only in Catholic groups. The Church grows in understanding. The Church now speaks out powerfully against human trafficking, but for centuries defended the slave trade. We also used to justify torture if it led to the truth being revealed, something we no longer accept. The 1995 Catechism states that the death penalty is acceptable in some instances, but Pope John Paul II later said it can never be justified and that passage in the Catechism should be changed.

        As regards Timothy, St. Paul and Acts, they indeed condemn various types of sexual activity, and you put your finger on it when saying that monogamy and faithfulness were one way of Christians differentiating themselves from the (pagan) society in which they lived. The same reason was why so many “pagan” practices were condemned by the people of Israel in the Old/First Testament (look at the long list of things Leviticus prohibits, and tell me why Christians only fixate on “sodomy”). Timothy, Paul and Luke had no concept of the modern understanding of a loving gay relationship. Homosexuality is a modern term, and not something that they or Jesus ever spoke about. We need to read the Bible with our brains in gear, including when we speak about the “sins of Sodom” which Ezekiel says were “pride, gluttony, and laziness”, not sexual, and which Jesus said was about lack of hospitality, not sexual. There’s a wealth of good (including Catholic) Bible scholarship helping us to really understand the context of the very few so-called “anti-gay” passages in Scripture, which you’d find online and in print.

        And yes, of course, burning at the stake was irreversible, unlike “unfriending” on Facebook. I’m not arguing for a direct correlation. But I think the underlying urge to shun, as you rightly put it, is similar. I find some of the comments in this thread astonishing, where people feel that unless they “unlike” someone they are condoning the sins of others. Even if one honestly thinks that LGBT+ people and their supporters are sinners, one should try to imitate Jesus in his attitude to sinners. THAT is Catholic Church teaching as much as the rest. Jesus had far more condemnation for self-righteous religious authorities than he did for those looked down on as sinners.

    • Thanks for your comments Johan. May i ask you a question that i asked all the Catholics i spoke to… Do you believe in the real presence in the Holy Eucharist?

      • I certainly do believe in the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist. How did those others you asked reply?

        May I ask a question in return? Do you think that Catholics are required to believe in transubstantiation? I’ll explain the significance after.

      • Johan, Some did. Some didn’t. A few didn’t know what the real presence meant. As far as transubstantiation goes, yes – Catholics are required to believe in it. Catholics believe the Eucharist to be the source and summit of the life of the church. So if someone didn’t believe in transubstantiation then that would undermine pretty much everything – especially the Mass and the role of the Priest.

      • Hi Clare. I’m sorry to hear that some Catholics you spoke to didn’t believe in Christ’s true presence in the Eucharist, and likewise sorry that some didn’t know what it meant. But it doesn’t entirely surprise me because there are few people who are really taught the faith in a good way. I’m very grateful to the Carmelites, Jesuits and others who have taught me.

        As you say, the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Church’s life.

        You kindly answered my question and said “yes – Catholics are required to believe” in transubstantiation. I’m sorry to contradict you, but in fact they are not.

        What Catholics are required to believe in is the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist.

        Transubstantiation is a philosophical explanation for how this mystery of Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist comes about.

        Transubstantiation did not exist as a concept within Christianity until the rediscovery of ancient Greek philosophers, notably Aristotle, around the year 1200 (thanks, as it happens, to Muslim scholars preserving and translating the texts).

        When medieval philosophers like St. Thomas Aquinas read Aristotle’s teachings on matter and form, they thought that he provided a useful way of understanding how the bread and wine at Mass change into the body and blood of Christ.

        Transubstantiation is a philosophical explanation of how Christ’s presence is made real in the Eucharist. Another possibility that some Christians hold to is consubstantiation (that Christ is truly present, but the “substance” of bread and wine is also there). The Orthodox Churches also believe in the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist, but generally do not refer to transubstantiation. They generally prefer not to define how the change happens, speaking of it as “divine mystery”, “trans-elementation”, “re-ordination”, or simply “change”.

        Following the Protestant Reformation, when the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist was contested, the Council of Trent said that transubstantiation is a “fitting and proper” term for the change that happens at Mass. However, the important thing is “that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood.” This passage from Trent is quoted in the 1995 Catechism of the Catholic Church (#1376).

        The reason I asked the question about transubstantiation is that it is a question often put to students by those who teach theology and church history. Most Catholics think that they are required to believe in transubstantiation. In fact, they are required to believe in the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. Transubstantiation is a philosophical explanation of how it comes about, but what matters is not so much the method as the result. It might seem a subtle difference, but it’s an important one.

        Personally speaking, I’m not all that interested in transubstantiation. If that’s the Catholic Church’s preferred term, I’m happy to accept and use it, but what really matters to me is encountering Jesus Christ truly present in the Eucharist, however it comes about.

        Forgive me using this sort of “trick” question, but it shows that even many well-informed Catholics often don’t fully appreciate all the nuances and subtle distinctions of our faith (I include myself in that; I’m always learning new things and trying to broaden my understanding). Catholic Christianity is such a complex, fascinating, frustrating, and wonderfully rich tradition, and it invites a lifetime of study and reflection. But it only matters so long as it helps us spread the Good News of God’s love, and helps us to build God’s kingdom. Compared with God’s love, all this theological debate is – as Thomas Aquinas put it – so much straw.

      • I think if LGBT+ people feel called to live celibate lives (we are all invited to live chaste lives, there’s a difference), then they should follow God’s call. But most people, whatever their sexual orientation, are not called to celibacy, and I think they should not feel ashamed to live as the sexual beings God made them, in relationships that are loving and generous.

      • Johan I understand where you are coming from, and the church states that there is no need for people to feel ashamed of simply experiencing same-sex attraction. But it does say that to act on those feelings and become involved in sexual activity outside of marriage (1 man + 1 woman) is sinful ie. it separates us from God. Now to tell a person involved in a sexual relationship with someone they love is sinful, is perhaps the most painful thing i can think of. This applies not only to gay couples, but also to remarried hetro couples and co-habiting couples. For them to accept the churches teaching on sex is one of the biggest ‘asks’ i think anyone could think of. And i think it is pretty much an impossible ‘ask’ unless that person has found a greater love in Christ. I know from personal experience how painful it is not to be able to be with the person i love because of my religious beliefs – its nothing less than crucifying. But i also knew at the time that however much i wanted to believe that the church was wrong on this issue – it was actually right. And has always been right, and will always be right. It is so hard. And i do not blame anyone for wanting to dodge the cross of not being with the person they love. But even still, to be in serious sin and be separated from God is always worse. It is ok to struggle with it and it is ok to fall and get back up again, but it is never ok to try to convince ourselves that what the church calls serious sin is anything but that. Our lives here are short and full of suffering, but in the next life all our sorrows will be turned into joy. God bless you Johan xx

    • Hi Johan

      Thanks for your very interesting posts.

      Catholic doctrine does develop over time as new circumstances arise which are interpreted by the Church’s teaching authority using Scripture and Sacred Tradition, but the authentic development of doctrine must always be consistent with previous teaching. It can never blatantly contradict it. The process of developing doctrine is a bit like stretching an elastic band – you reach the point of heresy when the elastic band snaps.

      The Church’s consistency in its 2,000 years of teaching on same-sex genital activity cannot be casually set aside. For the Catholic Church to embrace contemporary gay culture as the expression of “loving relationships” would in my view be snapping the elastic band. It would also mean junking very clear passages in St. Paul which are frankly impossible to get around. To argue, as some have, that Paul’s condemnations of same-sex genital activity are as anachronistic as his comments on women keeping their heads covered in church are, I think, being intellectually dishonest.

      As I am sure you know, the history of the Catholic Church — and its alleged doctrinal backflips — abounds with straw men, urban legends and canards. I found the article below (by a priest from the West Indies) to be a very interesting treatment of the Church’s historical teaching on slavery. It shows that one shouldn’t necessarily believe everything one hears about the history of the Catholic Church from new atheists, the BBC and the Guardian.

      http://www.faith.org.uk/article/july-august-2006-slavery-the-gospel-of-life-and-the-magisterium

      • Thanks for your interesting reply Francis.

        I agree that doctrine develops over time and that newer teachings cannot contradict older ones. However, there have been some pretty impressive swings in Church thinking, and at the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 Pope John Paul wasn’t afraid, in the name of the Church, to apologise for some the mistakes it has made. These were sometimes matters of discipline, but also of doctrine. Saint Athanasius standing alone for the truth reminds us that sometimes even the Church makes mistakes. We also have to bear in mind that there is a hierarchy of truths, and some issues are more open to development or rethinking than others.

        I like your image of the elastic band, though I’d say it is hard to distinguish exactly what is “heresy” from “orthodoxy”, particularly without the benefit of hindsight. At one time the Catholic Church opposed what Martin Luther had to say about the all-sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice, but a few years ago a common statement on this topic was agreed by the Lutheran and Catholic Churches. Luther’s views were denounced as heresy at the time, now they are part of Catholic teaching. It’s often very hard to be clear what is “heresy” and what is “orthodoxy”.

        We also have to bear in mind that we are in a fractured Church. Pope John Paul II said that if – God willing – the Roman and Orthodox Churches are united, we’ll have to go back to the last united Council, and every subsequent statement made from our own corners would have to be discussed again. Now wouldn’t that be complicated?!

        You say that “The Church’s consistency in its 2,000 years of teaching on same-sex genital activity cannot be casually set aside.” I absolutely accept that. But I do think we find ourselves in an unprecedented situation in the Church’s history. For thousands of years, many (not all) cultures have had difficulty accepting same-sex relationships. Anthropologists tell us that this was often linked to the issue of tribal regeneration. Most cultures, not only Christianity, condemned homosexual acts until the 20th century. In Britain, “same sex genital acts” were illegal in this country within living memory. However, societies have seen a massive shift. Most western societies now embrace LGBT+ people and perceive them, broadly speaking, as a positive benefit to society, not a group to be ashamed and afraid of. So it’s not only the Church that had a long “consistency” in its attitude to LGBT+ people; it’s a wider issue.

        Western societies have moved on this issue quicker than the Church (as on so many other social issues, sadly, where the Church has played catch up). Therefore the Church now needs to engage in the same process of reflection about LGBT+ issues that societies have. And many Catholics – especially younger ones – are just not convinced by the traditional arguments put forward. They aren’t all being wilful, or deluded, or rebellious for the sake of it (though certainly some are very poorly informed).

        To give one example of where I think we can, respectfully, set aside some of the Church’s 2000 year teaching … St. Thomas Aquinas argued against “same sex genital acts” because, he said, it was an aberration only witnessed among human beings, not among any other animal species. However, thanks to subsequent scientific enquiry, “same sex genital acts” have been witnessed in well over 200 animal species. If you’re going to argue from Natural Law, then you would have to conclude that same sex sexual activity is perfectly natural and normal. I feel that we can move on from the Church’s long tradition, where that tradition is based on bad science, or an inappropriate reading of Scripture.

        Most of the Church’s 2000 year tradition is based on over 1900 years of ignorance and fear. Likewise societies; I’m not singling out the Church. Thanks to social changes, and scientific discoveries, we now know that many of the arguments put out against homosexuality for centuries are simply false.

        You say that for the Church to accept same sex relationships would be, in your view, “snapping the elastic band” and straying into heresy. I accept that that is the view of many millions of good-hearted people. But many millions of good-hearted people think differently, and want to be able to express their opinions and challenge the Churches to move forwards in creative fidelity. It’s clear, from what he has said, that Pope Francis wants us to be mature enough to express differences of opinion and approach certain topics afresh.

        Ultimately, I think that sexuality is only the “presenting issue”. The real, deep down, issue is about authority. Who has the right to determine what is authentic Church teaching? Has the Church got the right to open certain questions up to debate? Can the Church develop and even seemingly change its teaching without “losing face” and having all its authority questioned? These are huge issues, and in our times of modern media, much is decided by instant sound bite rather than through sustained dialogue, prayer, and study.

        I disagree with your interpretation of St. Paul and don’t think I’m being intellectually dishonest about it, but it’s an area where perhaps all we can agree is that we disagree.

        You’re quite right that the history of the Church attracts much disinformation. But it doesn’t only come from “new atheists, the BBC and the Guardian”; there are plenty of conservative Catholics who put out half-truths because it suits their agenda. I don’t call them traditional Catholics, because they don’t understand the true meaning of Tradition.

    • Hi Johan

      Thanks for your interesting and considered response.

      On a point of detail, I think that the agreed statement signed by the Catholic and Lutheran churches revolved around the Reformation-era dispute about salvation by faith alone vs. salvation by faith and good works. The Catholic Church didn’t retract its formal position (or change its doctrine), but a form of words was found which was acceptable to both sides which did not undermine Catholic or Lutheran teaching.

      You cover a lot of ground in your most recent post so I’d like to boil things down a little.

      I think you and I disagree on two fundamental counts:

      1. I view the post-1960s permissive society not as a move to a new level of civilisation, enlightenment and personal freedom with which the Catholic will have to reconcile herself, but rather as a relapse into pre-Christian decadence and moral disintegration. You, by contrast, hold the view that Christian teaching on sexuality needs to be aligned with contemporary secular mores.

      2. I do not regard homosexuality as a part of God’s original plan for the human race. I agree with traditional Church teaching that same-sex attraction is a form of carnal concupiscence which results directly from our fallen state. You appear to take the contrary view which is that God has included same-sex attraction in His creation from the start. So “male and female he created them” could be rewritten as “gay and straight he created them.”

      Am I interpreting your view on the second of these basic positions correctly?

      • Hi Francis. Thanks for your comments.

        I suspect we do disagree on the two fundamental counts you list, though perhaps we don’t disagree entirely.

        1. I think the post-1960s society is a mixture of factors, good and bad. Certainly people in the West are more permissive, or at least they feel more free to speak about it (we know that many pre-19 century societies were fairly permissive). I believe freedom from unnecessary fear and guilt to be a good thing, though I also believe unfettered sexual promiscuity to be a bad thing. I think we have indeed witnessed new levels of civilisation and enlightenment on all kinds of levels, with greater mass education, greater levels of political participation, and greater respect for the marginalised (including women, Jews, LGBT+ people, the sick and disabled, ethnic minorites, etc.). Personal freedom comes with responsibilities as well as rights. Vatican II called for Christians to share the joys and hopes, fears and anxieties of our age. I think that a dualistic view of “Church vs. The World” is unhelpful. I don’t necessary “hold the view that Christian teaching on sexuality needs to be aligned with contemporary secular mores”, because I think there is much wisdom in the Church’s tradition, but I certainly think the Church needs to listen more to the real lived experience of its members, and learn from what the sciences and social sciences have uncovered.

        2. I do regard homosexuality as a part of God’s original plan for the human race, because it is a natural and normal part of human life for millions of people made by God in God’s image. Whether same-sex attraction has existed from the origins of creation or not, I cannot say, but it has certainly been part of human history for thousands of years. To juxtapose “male and female” against “gay and straight” is a false contrast; one is about biological sex, the other is about sexual orientation. And I think it’s wrong to expect the writers of Genesis to use anachronistic terminology, as they had no concept of “gay and straight”.

      • Hi Johan

        Thanks for taking the time to give your comments. I want to focus on your reference to homosexuality as “a natural and normal part of human life for millions of people.”

        I recommend the blog and Youtube clips of an American called Joseph Sciambra. He is a homosexual Catholic who lapsed from the faith and was heavily into the gay scene in San Francisco for many years. He now lives in accordance with the teachings of the Church and has a Catholic outreach ministry to LGBT people. I’m not going to link directly to his online material because of the adult nature of what he deals with, but I would leave one parting thought: it would be a stretch, after hearing his descriptions of the seamy side of the gay lifestyle, to describe it as “natural” or “normal.” In my personal view, these people need our help and prayers. Complacent endorsement is the last thing we should be offering them.

  4. I myself am in NO position to point out where the hypocrites are, for I have been a hypocrite most of my life. Hypocrisy becomes part of the human experience whenever we lean upon our own understanding and fail to trust in the Lord; and thus we are all offenders. May it please God to grant us more Grace and may we forgive and be kind to one another. Through Christ Our Lord, AMEN

  5. I agree that our Church should issue clear statements on where it stands (or what God teaches) on many issues; rather than be vague in its teachings. Many Catholics, as you say, are not clear on many of the Church’s teachings.

    I once did not like what I wrote on my page so I unfriended myself and could not log in any more. Perhaps others should follow this example.

    God bless.

  6. To Johan:

    “The Church now speaks out powerfully against human trafficking, but for centuries defended the slave trade.”

    Which centuries did you have in mind? I know that some times, at some points, some individuals upheld the ‘rights’ of slavery but St Paul was pretty clear when he returned Onesimus that Philemon should receive him “as a brother”, which was a pretty clear instruction to make him a freeman. At the same time, he was instructing Onesimus to have patience and to submit to Earthly authority as in “render unto Caesar…”. We should also bear in mind what the word translated as ‘slave’ was: more ‘servant’ or indentured labourer than our understanding. Be that as it may, at the time that St Paul was writing, the institution of slavery was weakening and was doing so under the influence of Christianity. If all are equal, who then can own another?

    Interestingly, what St Paul did was actually illegal under existing Jewish Law. Deuteronomy 23:15-16: “Thou shalt not deliver unto his master the servant which is escaped from his master unto thee.”

    Further, he enjoined masters to treat their slaves justly and kindly (Eph 6:9; Col 4:1), clearly implying that slaves are not mere property. Prettyr revolutionary, without actually and overtly challenging the social order of the time.

    The situation of slavery at the time was that it was an integral part of the economy. It has been estimated that, by the dawn of the First Century AD, as many as one-third of the entire population of the Roman Empire were ‘slaves’. Many were genuine slaves, as captives taken in war, but most were not. They were gaining rights and ffreedoms at the time, oncluding the right to marry and to own and inherit property. The practice of freeing slaves on the death of their maser was becoming so widespread that it was threatening the economy; a decree restricting the practice was introduced under Caesar Augustus.

    Gregory of Nyssa and John Chrysostom denounced slavery, unequivocally.

    Slavery had all but disappeared in the West by the Middle Ages and I think Pope Eugene IV made the position of the Church pretty clear when, in 1435, he condemned the enslavement of peoples in the Canary Islands. His bull Sicut Dudum rebuked European enslavers and commanded that “all and each of the faithful of each sex, within the space of fifteen days of the publication of these letters in the place where they live, that they restore to their earlier liberty all and each person of either sex who were once residents of [the] Canary Islands . . . who have been made subject to slavery. These people are to be totally and perpetually free and are to be let go without the exaction or reception of any money.”

    Pope Paul III applied the same principle to the newly encountered inhabitants of the West and South Indies in the bull Sublimis Deus (1537). Therein he described the enslavers as allies of the devil and declared attempts to justify such slavery “null and void.” Accompanying the bull was another document, Pastorale Officium, which attached a latae sententiae excommunication remittable only by the pope himself for those who attempted to enslave the Indians or steal their goods.

    When Europeans began enslaving Africans as a cheap source of labor, the Holy Office of the Inquisition was asked about the morality of enslaving innocent blacks (Response of the Congregation of the Holy Office, 230, March 20, 1686). The practice was rejected, as was trading such slaves. Slaveholders, the Holy Office declared, were obliged to emancipate and even compensate blacks unjustly enslaved.

    Papal condemnation of slavery persisted throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Pope Gregory XVI’s 1839 bull, In Supremo, for instance, reiterated papal opposition to enslaving “Indians, blacks, or other such people” and forbade “any ecclesiastic or lay person from presuming to defend as permissible this trade in blacks under no matter what pretext or excuse.” In 1888 and again in 1890, Pope Leo XIII forcefully condemned slavery and sought its elimination where it persisted in parts of South America and Africa.

    (Acknowledgements to Mark Brumley, whose research on the subject I have quoted liberally).

    Finally (I hope) we have God’s clear word on the subject, repeated every Good Friday: “I led you out of Egypt, from slavery to freedom, but you led your Saviour to the cross.”

    Next: trade unions.

  7. To Johan:

    Regarding trade unions: obviously, the Bible has nothing to say about unions as such, because they had not been invented.

    However…

    Luke 10:7 The Labourer is worthy of his hire.
    James 5:4 Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth.

    I know that other verses are quoted by those who uphold the Libertarian Right’s belief in the absolute freedom of an employer but t/o the Bible, you find God intervening on the side of the downtrodden and oppressed. In the end, what was the biggest instrument of collective bargaining seen to date? The Jewish people, who He brought out of bondage – as discussed above.

    Those who are strong are enjoined to defend the weak, to stand with them against oppressors.

    (Just reflecting back to the slavery thing, this is pretty good. Again I ask: what centuries did you have in mind?: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2003/julyweb-only/7-14-53.0.html)

  8. Johan:

    If you really think that “Timothy, Paul and Luke had no concept of the modern understanding of a loving gay relationship…” you must either believe that human beings have changed out of all recognition over the past 2000 years, or you may not understand that the decisions of the early Church were deliberate and taken in the light and context of the society in which they were living and the Church existed at the time.

    I mean, seriously…

    Anyway, the sin of Sodom was not ‘abuse of hospitality’ – that was the great crime of the Massacre of Gelncoe, when those who had been sleeping under the roofs of the McDonalds as guests turned on their hosts and murdered them.

    What does the text say? I think it’s pretty clear. The men of the City – and it is made quite clear it was the men – wanted to ‘abuse’ the guests, and it is quite clear in what manner.

    “The two arrived at Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city. When he saw them, he got up to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground. “My lords,” he said, “please turn aside to your servant’s house. You can wash your feet and spend the night and then go on your way early in the morning.” “No,” they answered, “we will spend the night in the square.” But he insisted so strongly that they did go with him and entered his house. He prepared a meal for them, baking bread without yeast, and they ate. Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old—surrounded the house. They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.” Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him and said, “No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing. Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.” “Get out of our way,” they replied. And they said, “This fellow came here as an alien, and now he wants to play the judge! We’ll treat you worse than them.” They kept bringing pressure on Lot and moved forward to break down the door. But the men inside reached out and pulled Lot back into the house and shut the door. Then they struck the men who were at the door of the house, young and old, with blindness so that they could not find the door. The two men said to Lot, “Do you have anyone else here—sons-in-law, sons or daughters, or anyone else in the city who belongs to you? Get them out of here,because we are going to destroy this place. The outcry to the Lord against its people is so great that he has sent us to destroy it.” (Genesis 18:20-22; 19:1-13)”

    Sodom’s pride in its luxury and riches, while ‘widows and orphans lay crying outside the walls’ – in other words, lack of charity – was also part of it. But the objective of the attempted attack on the Angels is unambiguous.

    All this is not to say that we should spend our time pointing fingers and engaging in blame and ‘condemnation of sinners’. Heck, if sinners are to be condemned without mercy then I will be one of the first on the end of the pitchfork.

    But let us neither confuse nor obfuscate (deliberately or not) what the Church teaches and what key passages mean, in terms of the lessons being taught.

  9. SHAME on this author ! I know the person in the photograph and I also know that since she initially wrote a post on her Facebook page about unfriending, not gays, but Christians who support an unGodly lifestyle, she had modified her opinion a bit in other posts BUT to use that photo is a personal attack and shows that the woman who wrote this article is as self-righteous as they come! By using that picture, the catty woman who wrote this article has proven herself to be as vicious as any of those she is attacking. I call her for what she is. A hypocrite. She is guilty of the very thing she is blathering about. This article isn’t worth the space it is written on! You get me SICK to my stomach!

  10. Back to the basics, “God created man and woman”….nothing in between.
    Thanks for all the comments, very instructives.
    Everything could be questioned (as seen on this article) but to current, non lecture catholics (like me) following teachings of Church and Magisterial is enough.
    P.S: Yes, that opinion for sure is to be questioned. Signs of OUR times.

  11. Johan

    Regarding New Ways Ministry, it is worth being clear that this organisation has been repeatedly condemned by the Church as being at odds with Church teaching.

    They do not present an authentic view of Catholicism.

  12. I love participating in religion and politics in debate groups. I’ve done so for years on Facebook. I’ve even gotten into debates on sites like change.org and on Youtube. And I do enjoy debating face to face: I have been a political activist since 1994- even though I “retired” in 2014, I somehow manage to get into the occasional controversy (the 2014 Burnsville City Council race, for example. BTW: I’m still a little hurt that I wasn’t invited to present my take on the race. I wasn’t invited on the Jack and Ben radio show to give my side.) All my experiences have been, and are, learning experiences. One of the biggest lessons that I’ve learned is when to walk away. When a person has deeply held beliefs, such as the beliefs about gay marriage, everything that I say and do is POINTLESS. No good “fruit” comes from the dialog. I have witnessed how this issue tears Christians- Catholics in particular- apart. It’s time to walk away.

  13. Pingback: Faith In Our Families blog round-up 2015. Best year yet! | Faith in our Families

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