Friday, August 30, 2013

A thought and a question

As a result of posting a link to "God's Kingdom, a place of unimaginable hospitality" on Facebook, a bit of a friendly dialogue ensued. The fruit of this exchange for me was realizing, yet again, that a fairly large number of those Christians who are accusatory towards people who engage in homosexual activity themselves engage in unnatural sex, which is what employing contraception as well as engaging in certain other activities basically amount to. This sounds harsh, but let's speak the truth in love among ourselves before we set about correcting everyone else, especially when it involves attempting to apply a double standard, to live an outright contradiction, which is the antithesis of truth and so in nowise loving; something about splinters and beams comes to mind (see Matt 7:3-5).

I am not among those who insist, like the disgraced disciple of creation spiritualist Matthew Fox, the former leader of Sheffield's Nine o' Clock Service, the de-frocked Church of England vicar, Chris Brain, who, though married, was having relations with some 40 women from his congregation (shades of Smith, Koresh, et al), that we must discover "a postmodern definition of sexuality in the church" (I use this example not to be obscure, but because it's something I have been reading about this past week). One of the beautiful dimensions of so-called post-modernism is that everything old is new again. I have no problem suggesting that Christians might benefit tremendously from re-discovering the pre-scholastic understanding of our humanity, familiarizing ourselves with pre-Thomistic theological anthropology, which extends to matters of human sexuality (reaching back before scholasticism is one reason for my on-going interest in St. Bernard and Luther).

I am always struck by this passage from Archbishop Rowan Williams' 1989 essay The Body's Grace (which essay I critiqued here several years back): "in a church which accepts the legitimacy of contraception, the absolute condemnation of same-sex relations of intimacy must rely either on an abstract fundamentalist deployment of a number of very ambiguous texts, or on a problematic and non-scriptural theory about natural complementarity, applied narrowly and crudely to physical differentiation without regard to psychological structures."

Painting by Pelagio Palagi (1775-1860)

While I stand by my 2010 critique, I think Williams' insight bears keeping in mind, at least as a check on our propensity to be exclusively ideological, that is, fearful about such matters. As many commentators who are better informed than I am have observed, the unraveling of conjugal marriage began a long time ago, certainly before 2013, with Christians being quite complicit in the unraveling.

To make all of this a bit less abstract, When is the last time you heard of a married teacher or administrator being fired from a Catholic school for using contraception (let's not even discuss married clergy in this regard), or being divorced and remarried without first having their previous marriage declared null? I wonder, does this constitute a double standard, one that violates what the Catechism teaches, namely that "Every sign of unjust discrimination" towards people who are homosexual "should be avoided"? (par. 2358)

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