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!