If I should deliver my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing


Thanks to Caitlin who has a blog called Catholic Cookie Jar (which I would recommend to you). She used this picture in one of her posts and I thought it would be a good start to my own blog post.

In the past month or so, a few debates regarding Same Sex Marriage (SSM) have been taking place on my Facebook page. This is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, I post links to Catholic teaching on marriage because I find that many non-Catholics think we are bigots, that we hate anyone who is gay or lesbian, that we want to oppress them and most of all, that we consider them to be second-class citizens (of course, this debate is raging at the moment because David Cameron, in his wisdom, has decided to change the definition of marriage). This is all not true and I find that the Pope speaks eloquently on this subject, hence why I post a lot of his speeches on SSM. The love he feels for all, both non-Catholic and Catholic and those who love and hate him (though how you could hate that face, I don’t know…), is evident in his writing.

I believe this is the most difficult part of Catholic social teaching to explain because we probably all know somebody who is gay (and practising). I certainly do. They are my friends and some of my former schoolmates. I tried to tackle this subject a few times when one of my former schoolmates (who is gay and in a relationship) challenged me, regarding a speech the Pope had made that I had posted. I’m not sure how I did, but it did not end that well because he is no longer friends (in the Facebook sense of the word, which is loose, I admit) with me and neither are a lot of my other former schoolmates, who are his close friends (from that, you know how well I did!). Some of them were, at one time, my close friends too. In fact, I counted one of them amongst my best friends for a while and we had spent a lot of time together as teenagers. As I said to my former schoolmate (the person who challenged me and, by the way, I’m glad he did), I am not made of stone. I have quite a thick skin but obviously it hurts to know that people that I grew up with consider my views (that is, the teaching of the Church) so abhorrent, they cannot even stand to remain ‘friends’ with me on a social networking site.

Now, he said that I was self-righteous and snobby about this and other things that I talk about (namely abortion). He may well be right and I am heartily sorry if this is the case. I pray a lot that I may be more humble, compassionate and wise. I am well aware that I lack these qualities. Nevertheless, what I state is the truth and I have never stated it out of hatred. I believe that now, more than ever, these things need to be said. We have wandered so far from anything resembling a Judeo-Christian society that to be loyal to Christian teaching on homosexuality is a scandal, nowadays! As I said to him, we must live together in this society and if we are to co-exist peacefully, we must understand one another. I think I understand his position (perhaps I do not, but I’m pretty sure I do) but he does not understand mine and he shows this through his explanation of why I am wrong. Whenever I try to point out that he cannot understand Catholic teaching on homosexuality if he continues to cling to the idea that the Catholic Church hates homosexuals, he does something like pointing to the Old Testament as evidence that we are hypocritical (I find a lot of atheists and those who argue for SSM in churches like to use this) and that we pick and choose what parts of Christian teaching we want follow, because we wear clothes of mixed fabrics, for example. To my non-Catholic friends, please do not confuse Catholicism with a Protestant denomination. It is important to realise that we are not one and the same. First of all, we do not rely solely on the Bible. We have the Bible, the Magisterium of the Church and the Holy Spirit to guide us (I have provided a link for the Magisterium, but feel free to look up other things on that site, http://www.fisheaters.com ). Secondly, laws such as

Thou shalt not make thy cattle to gender with beasts of any other kind. Thou shalt not sow thy field with different seeds. Thou shalt not wear a garment that is woven of two sorts. – Leviticus 19:19

no longer apply to us. I am not picking and choosing what I believe in the Bible, it is a question of context. Jesus said, regarding Mosaic law,

Do not think that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets. I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. – Mathew 5:17

I told him that you cannot understand Catholicism in a day. I was born into a Catholic family and have attended mass my whole life and I am still learning. In fact, I feel I have just scraped the surface because I only started taking notice of my faith about a year and a half ago.

Someone I follow on Twitter called Mark Lambert has written a great explanation, but you should really read the whole blog post, especially when he points out what we would do, as Catholics, if we followed the Mosaic Law of the Old Testament.

The Mosaic Law had a specific purpose for the Children of Israel. The Law of the Old Testament consisted of both the moral law and the civil law. The moral law dealt with the great ethics of life. Its purpose was to set apart the chosen people of Israel from all other nations on the basis of inner holiness with regard to honour for both God and man. You have to remember that at the time, strength was the power that ruled all. One of the most extraordinary truths of biblical faith is that monotheism lifted the Israelites out of that melee for power and set them apart from other nations who’s basis was strength and domination. This great moral law was to uplift the Children of Israel to a much higher standard of holiness and to serve as a model for all people of all generations (Isaiah 42:6). For example, the Ten Commandments are a code of moral law that pertain to man’s duties to God and fellowman. They are laws unaffected by changes in the environment, and thus themselves remain unchanged.
The civil law was different. It consisted of rules and regulations that pertained to everyday living; and these rules were influenced by both environment and customs of neighbouring pagan communities. Such laws dealt with issues of cleanliness, food, health, clothing, and religious ritual. The purpose of these laws was to set apart the Children of Israel from all other nations on the basis of outer holiness. They were to remain separate and distinct, and were to be distinguished in the eyes of the rest of the world for serving the one true God, and refusing to adopt the practices and superstitions of idolatrous worship that surrounded them.
Among these civil laws was the rule that forbade the eating of pig meat. It was a common practice among neighbouring pagan tribes to offer a pig as a sacred sacrifice to their idols. Furthermore, in that time and in that part of the world, the pig was a very filthy animal that fed on dead meat and garbage. As a result, eating pork caused the spread of terrible diseases that affected the whole community. This law made perfect sense, like the law about shellfish, which we all know can give you a very dodgy tummy if it is not fresh!
Traditionally we have understood that the OT Law contains elements that are indicative of God’s unchanging character, and therefore do not pass away with the coming of the Messiah. Indeed the NT reiterates their significance. (e.g. the Ten Commandments). There are elements in the Levitical law that Jesus fulfils, and therefore we have no further need of them (e.g. the sacrificial system), and there are elements that are distinctive to the society of Israel at the time, that may contain some wisdom for us, but are not applicable in the society in which we live, such as the kinds of things you reference.

Also, take a gander at this, which, of course, says much the same but it is always useful to read the same thing but phrased differently to understand it. For example, regarding Paul’s writings on food and drink:

…we can see that Paul recognized that much of the Old Testament law was instituted to set the stage for the new law that Christ would usher in. Much of the old law’s value could be viewed in this regard (emphasis added).

Perhaps now my non-Catholic friends are beginning to see what the deal is with the Old Testament. So, now you know. That’s all very well and good, but we still have the problem that you who are non-believers do not believe in any of this (and perhaps you are still of the opinion that I hate gays and lesbians… LE SIGH). That is a big problem, but Rome was not built in a day! In the meantime, as I said, we must co-exist. Same Sex Marriage will be legalised and I believe a lot of dark times are ahead for Christians and non-Christians alike in the UK. Certainly, our priests will need our prayers as they are put under pressure to deny their faith and take part in same sex ceremonies. To get back to my original point, I hope that I have not ever spoken about this issue in a way which is hateful. I will continue to try to speak with love and compassion, remembering that I am also a sinner. Please be patient and remember that before you express your loathing or pity for those who oppose SSM, you must first of all understand what it is they actually believe. I really think this is the best way to avoid a total split in our society between social liberals and conservatives. That could get very messy!


4 thoughts on “If I should deliver my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing

  1. It is true that Catholicism is something which might require an entire life to understand.But non catholic people often pick and choose and Bible verses in their literal meaning and end up having terrible misconceptions about our church

    One thing I have never understood is that why the traditionally Christian (if not catholic) countries of Europe and America often are poor witness for Christianity and Christ’s teachings are they are often the ones first to legalize SSM,abortions,prostitution and all sorts of evil things?

    I have been reading lots of internet articles on Pope’s abt SSM comments recently?(I am from a culture where this SSM is something which society cannot even think though some “progressive” are trying to change the way we think).Most of them portrays church as a hating gay people.Hardly they understand ot rather they purposefully ignore the fact that church is not against gays but it is rather against the concept of SSM

  2. I suspect there is more to this proposal, and that by rising to the provocation to talk about the moral questions surrounding homosexual behaviour, Christian conservatives do nothing more than play into the hands of those wishing to legalize homosexual marriage. The law is going to come, but marriage, fundamentally, died a long time ago.

    What we need to be wary of is that the state is constructing a moral fortress, founded on the same revolutionary ideas which led the human race into the bloodiest century in its history, namely the last one. There is simply no room for difference of opinion within this fortress, and that means it will be increasingly difficult for people to openly practise the Christian faith.

    By co opting the language of marriage, the architects of this moral revolution make it increasingly difficult for Christians to assert God’s understanding of it. In effect, it makes the claim of moral equality with heterosexual marriage. The old moral laws fade away without trace. The language to assert the old belief is gone.

    Sexual behaviour outside marriage ought to be discouraged, yes. But not in this setting.

  3. Hi Rhos – I stumbled upon your blog by way of stumbling upon your twitter account. A least, I think that is how it happened, but in any case I’m glad I did.

    It’s really interesting to read your thoughts on the Catholic Church, and I think you have been particularly honest when you note the important differences between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. Recently I have started enjoying a lot of contemporary writing and blogging from conservative Roman Catholics, and sadly many of them, while very keen to affirm the Church of Rome, are equally as keen to minimise any theological differences. I imagine that this is due, in part, to the pro-life movement, as well as to current opposition to same sex marriage, and to movements such as Evangelicals and Catholics Together. However, as much as Roman Catholics and Protestants should indeed be standing together on moral issues, conflating our theologies does nobody any good.

    I am a conservative, confessional Protestant (Presbyterian, specifically), and while I have a great deal of solidarity with Roman Catholics regarding moral issues, and a great deal of sympathy with confessional Roman Catholics on some theological issues, I too would want to stress the differences, if for no other reason than for the sake of integrity.

    I should also mention that perhaps your description of Protestantism as relying “solely on the Bible'” is something of a caricature. Frankly, if more Protestants relied on the Bible the world, or at least the church of God, would be a much better place. As it stands, however, so-called Protestant Liberalism has infected all denominations of Protestantism, as well as the Roman Catholic Church. This liberalism reduces adherents to members of autonomous sub-Christian (at best) cults.

    But I digress: the Bible-only view is common among Protestants, but this too is a sad development, for it doesn’t take into account the traditional Reformed and Lutheran view of the importance of traditions when it comes to Christian theology, piety and practice. When I say that this is the Reformed and Lutheran view, I would also want to hold it out as an utterly Biblical view as well. In the New Testament, “tradition” (paradises in Greek) is used sometimes in a negative way, but also favourably, especially by St Paul (see, for example, 1 Cor. 11:2; 2 Thess. 2:14-15; 2 Thess. 3:6). Of course, I am not here referring mainly to outward traditions of what we wear and how conduct the liturgy, rather I am referring to the tradition of a particular interpretation of the Holy Scriptures. This is best seen in the Protestant practice of confessing, by which I mean churches writing and subscribing to ecclesiastical statements of faith. In my own tradition, the Westminster Confession of Faith is known as the Subordinate Standard of faith (subordinate, that is, to the Supreme Standard, namely Scripture). The Reformation principle of “sola Scriptura” certainly assumed that Protestants would not be “no creed but the Bible” kind of Christians, such is probably the prevailing view of most Christian churches.

    Historically, at least, a “no creed but the Bible” approach has been considered in Protestantism to be the heresy of Biblicism, which is essentially “idolatry of the letter.” In some cases, it means that doctrines are “proven” using a wrong text. Other times the Biblical text is used to teach something which the Bible doesn’t purport to teach. Sill other times the Scriptures are read in isolation from Christian tradition and the history of the life and witness of the church.

    Those who claim “no creed but the Bible,” either in such terms or in their Christian practice, will usually shun and demonise all types of “man made” creeds, confessions and catechisms, but in reality they too have a creed, or a tradition of interpretations the Bible. The only difference is that they are not honest enough to put it on paper, and to subject it to Biblical and theological scrutiny.

    Anyway, I am enjoying your blog and tweets, and would be happy to discuss Protestantism and Catholicism with you further. No doubt there is much I can learn too.

  4. Lugubrious Booby says, importantly, that “marriage, fundamentally, died a long time ago.” I think this is a key point, which is overlooked by many oppponents of same-sex ‘marriage.’ It seems to me that if (heterosexual) marriage were properly understood then the impossibility and outrageousness of same-sex ‘marriage’ would be obvious. The push for same-sex ‘marriage’ should be a wake-up call about the urgent need to discover or rediscover what marriage is really about.

    It’s not only some ‘gay’ friends who will be scandalised by our opposition to same-sex ‘marriage’: how many ‘straight’ friends will be remain our friends if we insist that marriage is the exclusive relationship for sex, that it must be life-long (with no divorce and re-marriage) and faithful, and that sex within marriage must always be open to life?

    Same sex ‘marriage’ is only one aspect of the difficulty!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s