World Meeting of Families: Who’s welcome?

World Meeting of Families

I love this letter in today’s Irish Times by Angela Hanley. I think that by any standards the organizers of the World Meeting of Families have made a major mistake by redacting their booklet, and getting rid of any reference, by picture or text, to same sex couples. And their response, – a bland statement saying everyone is welcome, – is totally inadequate. We are now left with the suspicion that the American right-wing website, LifeSiteNews, is calling the shots. There is a further suspicion that certain financial contributions from right-wing sources may be exerting an influence. I really hope this is not the case.
I very much wish Francis’ visit to this country goes well, and that there won’t be any extraneous stuff between us and his message, which I believe will be really worth hearing. But the only way this can now be achieved is for the organisers to publicly explain why exactly they changed the content of the leaflet/booklet. They must realise that the age of secrecy in Church affairs is over, and there must be complete transparency in all matters to do with this event.
Angela’s letter is well worth reading:

Letter to The Irish Times from Angela Hanley

 Sir, – Patsy McGarry’s article on the expunging of photos of same-sex couples from a booklet prepared for the World Meeting of Families does not say who gave the order to do so (“Images of same-sex couples removed from World Meeting of Families booklet”, News, January 30th). Somebody, or a committee of somebodies, took this decision and gave the instruction. I think we are entitled to know who this person is, not only to ask him or her why, but also because there is to be State funding for this event. If a church’s pastoral event is to get taxpayers’ money, the taxpayer is entitled to have some explanation as to the organisers “cleansing” of photos of same-sex couples and the implicit discrimination and exclusion of that action.

The right-wing website believed to have influenced the decision says that the Catholic Church “declares authoritatively and for all time” against “homosexual acts.” Do we really need to remind church leaders that no “teaching” can take place without “reception”? The church can “teach” all it likes, but if the people don’t accept it, it ceases to be teaching and becomes diktat. Teaching is a dynamic act – call and response. Also, when one teaches, it ought to be from a position of knowledge. The 2003 document from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on same-sex unions displays abysmal ignorance about the reality of same-sex attraction. Not only that, it also displays a determined resistance to learning in order to teach authentically.

A truly inclusive act would be to include a same-sex headed family in a prominent way during the World Meeting of Families event. They are part of the fabric of Irish society as familial units. It may be a cliché, but it remains forever true: actions speak louder than words. – Yours, etc,

Angela Hanley

And from Brian Eyre:

I read recently that the spokesperson for the WMF has said that the World Meeting of Families in Dublin has always been understood as a meeting open to all.

This being the case has the ACP approached the Irish married priests to see if they will be present or would they like to be present  at this meeting?
By asking this question I do not wish to be understood as implying that the families of married priests should be given a special place at this meeting. As I see it this meeting could, or can, be an opportunity to call attention to the fact that in Ireland you do have married priests with families.

Of course it may be that these priests are not or would not be interested in taking part with their families in the event as a group but maybe they could take part as individual couples and families.

I was home in Ireland recently from Brazil. On three occasions when I met the PPs in two different parishes and when I presented myself as a married priest they asked me “Well how did you manage that”? as if I was the only priest in the world to have received a dispensation from celibacy to marry.

So I gather that in Ireland the topic of married priests or the fact that they exist is never brought up or that there is tremendous ignorance about their existence.

Maybe I read or am reading the situation in Ireland all wrong.


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  1. Eddie Finnegan says:

    Suppose, one bright Nazareth morning in 20AD, Mary and Joseph busy setting up the carpentry workshop for the day’s work were approached by their somewhat moody teenage son: “Ma ‘n’ Da, am thinkin about comin out.” How did they react, and how should the scene be iconographed in the Amoris Laetitia triptych and later redacted in the (un)accompanying WMF booklet?

  2. I hope the organizing committee of the World Meeting of Families make it loud and clear that all family types are welcome. We have come a long way of acceptance and welcome in this country.
    I hope that the Bishops make it clear that all family types are welcome in our Church.

    1. We are Church Ireland says:

      Today February 1st ‘We are Church Ireland” are calling on the Irish Government to withhold state funding of the World Meeting of Families 2018 (WMoF 2018) until assurances are received from the organisers, the Dublin Catholic Archdiocese, that the event will welcome and include families headed by LGBT couples.
      Such assurances are necessary in view of the removal of images and text relating to LGBT people from the WMoF 2018 brochures.
      ” The Government should not use Irish taxpayers’ ‘money to fund any organisation that discriminates against LBGT families.” stated Brendan Butler, spokesperson of ‘We are Church Ireland’.

  3. Unfortunately, the positions set forth in Homosexualitatis Problema in 1986 still hold in Vatican circles, and whatever Francis’s good intentions he seems powerless to alter that. Cyberbullying sites such as Church Militant will rehearse over and over again every jot and tittle of that offensive document, pursuing their own obsessions in total disregard of the pastoral fall-out. In Amoris Laetitia Francis repeats the Ratzingerian meme that there is no conceivable analogy between gay couples and married couples. This leaves the Church defenceless against homophobia and violent homophobes.

  4. iggy o'donovan says:

    The story of Cardinal Farrell’s “ban” on Mary McAleese from the Womens conference, if true is surely an own goal. But should one be surprised??

  5. I respectfully have a different view that WACI @3.
    All family types are still welcome , it’s just that they might not get the same coverage.
    The whole episode highlights for me that continued discussion is needed in whole area of what it means to be a family in modern society.
    In a discussion with friends today who are not church-goers but who were so disappointed with the stance that is now being taken by the Vatican/World Meeting of Families.

  6. Margaret Hickey says:

    Iggy,reading the signs of the times does not mean going with the times. Mary Eberstadt has an interesting take on the question in current edition of First Things,’The zealous faith of secularism’.
    Can be read online.

  7. Lloyd Allan MacPherson says:

    Yes, Iggy, reading the signs of the times does not mean going with the times as Margaret Hickey has pointed out. I just wish people would read a little more frequently so they’d truly know “signs” when they see them.

    Everyone’s body is made up of a tartan of genetically distinct cells which can have a different sex than the rest. Catholics, for some reason, need a very simplistic way of looking at things, in binary terms, but in biology, things can get a little grey – chromosomes, hormones, cells and anatomy are not often arranged with one binary designation. I have first hand experience with this so my research on the matter is not extensive, but properly forms an understanding around endocrine disorders.

    Natural law, as Catholicism defines it, relies on being able to classify someone as male or female. Man + woman = continuation of species. Great – problem solved I guess – let’s make it a rule! What is recognised in nature is that bottle-nose dolphins engage in same sex copulation – lions, penguins, giraffes, american bison, warthogs, elephants, spotted hyenas – the list goes on. What happens in nature has changed the way science understands sex. It is reported that over 1500 species of animals show homosexual behaviour. Yes, they are “intrinsically disordered” too, I guess – perhaps National Geographic could make some adjustments to which animals are featured on the cover.

    Stop trying to classify people – it’s just another judgement we can all do without. If the basis of your religion hinges on natural law, the quicker you understand that nature doesn’t present us with absolutes, the better. Nature is infinitely more inventive and imaginative than we will ever be.

    Mary Eberstadt’s intelligence (writing) is nothing more than a confirmation that the Church can very well stand for 200 years, frozen in orthodoxy, without paying any mind to what is natural or not. Its own personal opinion, in this case doctrine, has become its crowning achievement, completely unrelated to the truth as science uncovers it, and not the unity it promises, when its tenets are put into action.

    Looks like the wilderness has been going through its own sexual revolution these days too – it’s a conspiracy I tell you.

  8. Margaret Hickey says:

    Lloyd, ‘natural law’ does not lose its claims because not everything in nature conforms to it. Pope Francis speaks of natural ecology in a wide sense,applying it to the human order as well as the natural environment. He emphatically upholds ‘fidelity to the Gospel'( AL,307) in the church’s teaching in relation to marriage and family. Marriage is the union of one man and one woman. ‘Both (mother and father)are necessary for a child’s integral and harmonious development’.’Respecting a child’s dignity means respecting his or her need and natural right to have a mother and a father( AL, 172). He calls divorce ‘ an evil’ (AL,246) Does this mean Francis is ‘ frozen in orthodoxy’? There are ways of living through which human life flourishes and these are the ways the Church proposes and has always proposed because the Gospel says so. Science has opened up new ways of undestanding ourselves and that is of course helpful but it does not change what our faith proposes. You are right in saying that the human reality is of’tartan’ complexity, variety and surprise. We are also fallen, wayward, wilful and basically messed up a lot of the time. That is why we all without exception need the balm of mercy,’ the beating heart of the Gospel (AL, 309) Mercy is not affirmation but forgiveness. If we weren’t sinners we wouldn’t need it. That is why no one is excluded who comes seeking the Lord. That is why Francis asks the church’s ministers ‘ to accompany’ each and everyone, to turn nobody away. Because none of us is ever in any position to cast a stone.

  9. Lloyd Allan MacPherson says:

    See there you go Margaret @ 10 – “natural law doesn’t lose its claims because not everything in nature conforms to it” – where does that fit in with the rights that are inherent by virtue of human nature? Can anyone but God tell us what is in our hearts and minds. Do tell. Aquinas derived the moral law from the nature of human beings. Human beings are rational, by nature – have you ever spoken with same sex couples? They are more often than not rational.

    Pope Francis made the statement that will forever indicate his position on these matters : “Who am I to judge?” It is just like Aquinas – when the natural law is denied, the doorway to ethical relativism is opened – society and states become totalitarian. Sounds like Francis doing his best to repeal orthodoxy in the Church to me, where he can. The problem is that many still see this as a “choice”. Are these people “fallen, wayward…messed up” or simple acting out what is in their hearts? You perhaps see homosexuals as people disregarding their true nature when they have been telling us for decades that they are simply accepting what it is they feel – they are not living a lie but we’d feel better to “convert” them and force them into a relationship they don’t belong in, thereby opening the doorway to totalitarianism as a religion.

    Yes, Francis is frozen in orthodoxy on issues of sexuality, marriage and divorce, as well as women’s rights. I can’t say I’d be thinking any differently if I were in his shoes since I’d be celibate, unmarried, never divorced and not a woman. I’d be listening to people that came before me to gauge my direction, sadly, unable to chart a new course in social justice in these regards – it comes with the position – it’s quite unnatural when you think about it.

    Religion and science are quite compatible but science will have to shape our faith on things we truly don’t understand. If it weren’t for science, Catholics would not be asked to recognise care for creation and the poor as central to Catholic teaching. It is with science, and certainly in this case economics, that these systemic issues are uncovered. There is no conversion to become something you are not. You would not ask the fish to live on land as much as you would demand a homosexual man to dedicate his love to a woman. That’s not how nature works nor natural law, no matter how hard we’ve tried to adulterate it with our own faulty moral code.

    First Nations in my area have lived here for 10,000+ years – they have perhaps recognised “two-spirited” people for that long. They didn’t demonise these people like early Europeans did, that’s for sure. Two-spirits were integral participants in the most important of ceremonies. We’wha, a Zuni lhamana, made a trip to Washington DC in 1886 and spent almost a year meeting “ladies” of society and leaders, including the president. They all thought she was a Zuni princess. She was a man. In 1513, Vasco Nuñez de Balboa had 40 “two-spirits” that he met by chance in Panama put to death, by his dogs.

    Nowadays we just limit their participation in important events and silence both their voices and those who support their rights within our religion. All due to the absurd testimony that these people are simply making the wrong life choices. We have something to learn from First Nations, the sooner the better, in more ways than one.

  10. Margaret Hickey says:

    Lloyd @11, indeed every person should have the same rights and be treated with equal dignity. Sexual orientation is not a measure of anyone’s rationality or worth (don’t know why you impute the opposite view to me ). Each of us without exception is ‘fallen’ and flawed so no one is in a position to cast judgment on another. However, science and religion alike tell us that design and purpose align in the natural world to produce an order without which the natural world would not long survive. That is observation, not judgment.
    To accept this as a truth, to uphold it as a value, to defend it as a tenet of our faith does not mean excluding those who live according to a different imperative . Pope Francis says in AL,’same sex relationships are not remotely analgous to God’s plan for marriage’. But he doesn’t censor, he doesn’t condemn. He ‘accompanies’.The church’s teaching and Francis’s concern centre here (AL) on the rights and dignity of children. Whatever supports those things matters a great deal.
    I think Francis has very insightful things to say about women’s rights and role in AL
    The Gospel not science tells us to care for the poor (‘I was hungry….etc’) and for creation whose ‘stewards’ we are. Science does show that these are more than moral instruction;they are mandatory for our collective survival.
    I agree science and religious faith work in harmony.

  11. “However, science and religion alike tell us that design and purpose align in the natural world to produce an order without which the natural world would not long survive. ”

    Yes there is a heterosexual reproductive order in nature — who denies that?

    But clearly there is a homosexual order or orders as well, as is now registered throughout the animal kingdom (though it was stridently denied for so long). That this order also has a valid evolutionary purpose etc. there is no reason to doubt.

    So it is ridiculous to say that heterosexual reproduction annihilates the rights and experiences of gays. It is the kind of tawdry sophistry that has caused Catholics to fall on their face again and again in their argument against lgbt people.

  12. Margaret Hickey says:

    Joe @13,homosexuality in the animal world is something I am not familiar with (I am open to learning). I am aware of course of sexualized cavorting between males when in the proximity of females in heat. However, if you are looking for patterns in the animal world, I would say procreative coupling and dedicated devotion to their young is the dominant drive to be observed. Gender roles are powerfully defined too and sharply differentiated. Where human relations are concerned, it is a bit disingenous to claim that procreation and heterosexuality are one thing and homosexuality another and they should not be seen as mutual threats. The attack on marriage and the family(nuclear), historically understood, is woven into gay rights campaigning. That cannot be denied. Gay love, gay relations as a free standing phenomenon can indeed be considered separately. How they forms part of the evolutionary process is unclear to me but love between people and its expression, outside the norm (I am using the word in a technical, nor judgmental sense) is a reality. I think that argument as been well and truly won though you may not agree. But gay people and gay couples are visible in our society in social milieux and at every level of public life. In schools there is a level of protection for them against bullying that does not extend to other children who for a range of random reasons do not fit in. Yes, lloyd @11, Francis may be looking towards some devlopment in the church’s position. He is restrained, not by dark conservative forces primarily,but because his powers are subservient to the mandate of his office which is to teach and defend the apostolic faith. He is not an emperor as some appear to think being held back by by a praetorian guard of time-warped cardinals. The new idea from LGBT members of faith that blblical strictures against homosexuality apply to licentious behaviour among heterosexuals and should not be understood as censure of monagamous, mutually committed same sex couples is one some bishops seem keen to explore. A bit like the case against contraception by married Catholic couples. Yes, the lived experience of people should not be dismissed but neither is it an authority to be relied on absolutely because no one -or no group- is judge in their own case. Something may be right and not feel ‘natural’ or comfortable ( forgiving) and wrong and feel very natural indeed (infidelity,overeating or drinking). This may sound simplistic but perhaps at other more significant levels of human conduct something similar applies? God’s ways are above our ways. Discerning them means first and foremost shutting out the sirens of secularism and letting the Spirit speak in the silence of our collective prayer at the heart of Church.

  13. Lloyd Allan MacPherson says:

    Exactly Joe @ 13 – the elimination of all these clerical kings in our midst is the way, the truth and the light. We all need advice, there’s no question but only on certain topics. I believe in monogamy but that’s just me. If you are in a committed relationship with another person and that’s what makes you happy and productive, enjoy. You literally can’t play God with these things – if it is destructive in any way – rehabilitate it – grow it – nurture it – take a break from it – leave it for good in certain cases.

    Do we live like we have people instructing us on what to do, exactly to keep things in balance (my definition of government) or is it a corporate free for all? Important question the ACP should answer perhaps through an article or two – generate some ideas.

  14. Margaret Hickey says:

    Lloyd@15, a ‘ committed’ relationship cannot also be one you ‘can take a break from’or’leave for good’ in a quest for more fulfilment. Following our own inherent nature is not an irrestible imperative if we live in Christ and draw from the well of his grace. Our nature is fallen and our desires may be misdirected. Discerning which to follow and which to resist is the big question in all lives and touches on many more dilemmas other than the subject of this thread.

  15. ” it is a bit disingenious to claim that procreation and heterosexuality are one thing and homosexuality another”

    I am not drawing a Manichean opposition between them, as homophobes do; they are variants within the wider reality of sexuality as such, which is a good, god-created reality. Even the animal “cavortings” (though homosexual bonding of quasi-marital stability is also observed in the animal kingdom) also praise the Creator.

    “The attack on marriage and the family(nuclear), historically understood, is woven into gay rights campaigning. That cannot be denied.” It can certainly be denied. Of course there are lots of people both gay and straight who scoff at marriage, but the vast majority of gays do not do so since they are usually themselves the product of marriage. The gay marriage movement comes from the conservative flank of gay campaigning, as its very goal indicates. Mrs McAleese is a fierce champion of the nuclear family and wants to extend its blessings as far as possible to gay men and women.

    “Gay love, gay relations as a free standing phenomenon can indeed be considered separately. How they form part of the evolutionary process is unclear to me but love between people and its expression, outside the norm (I am using the word in a technical, not judgmental sense) is a reality. I think that argument has been well and truly won though you may not agree.” Not sure what argument you mean. That heterosexual relations are “normative” and homosexual ones “free standing”? I don’t think acceptance of the latter in any way impugns the former, but I do see many people trying to say that respect for the former must crush the latter. I don’t like the “queer” rhetoric that makes much of the non-normativity of gay relations. I would stress their normalcy and bless them as such, leaving disputes about “norms” to academics. Nature in any case presents us with a wide variety of human and animal realities and does not seem particularly worried about norms.

  16. “Our nature is fallen and our desires may be misdirected. Discerning which to follow and which to resist is the big question in all lives and touches on many more dilemmas other than the subject of this thread.”

    Well, gay couples discern that their godgiven desires lead them to form relationships that they see as blessed. Invoking Original Sin to disqualify this discernment is a lamentable strategy.

  17. Margaret Hickey says:

    Joe @17/18, nuclear family defined as a couple and ‘their’children. In scientific terms, the nucleus of both our social and biological order. By ‘free standing’ I mean a relationship that involves two committed people without the dimension of parenthood. ( I do not have a problem of gay people raising children whose parents are not around to care for them for any reason. All things being equal I would choose a heterosexual couple if possible because they can provide both mother and father figures in the child’s life) By saying the argument is won, I mean gay people are now accepted and protected across social life in Ireland. I disagree again that we can discern moral choices without reference to the Gospel and the church’s teaching. Discernment is about more than acting in a way that feels natural to us ( as I said, infidelity can feel very natural and in a way ‘ right’)

  18. A married couple is already a family, as Mrs McA. points out in her speech before the marriage equality referendum.

    Sterile couples are also a family and their marriage is of equal dignity with fertile ones.

    There is moral discernment without reference to the Gospel or the Church, and secular or non-Christian societies build up resources of ethical wisdom without reference to religious authority. The Church itself approves of Natural Law as the primary source of moral insight and refuses to usurp that role.

    When church documents rely too much on biblical quotes and too little on natural law argument that is a sign of weakness (notably in the case of the 1986 document “The Problem of Homosexuality”).

  19. Margaret Hickey says:

    Joe @20 I understand the bible and natural law to be in accord. Re families, the concern is that children have their own parents, know them and are raised by them (unless there are reasons against that in individual cases). Marriage as we know it in the Christian tradition guarantees that. Other models of marriage deny it. This discussion is primarily about the charisms of marriage and whether or not it should be open to any relationships other than one between one man and one woman, irrespective of age or fertility.

  20. Are the Bible and Natural Law always in accord? I think natural law can correct the Bible’s attitudes on many fronts, and indeed in some cases that correction is going on within the Bible itself (example include genocide, torture, capital punishment, slavery, status of women).

    “Other models of marriage deny it” — well I am against surrogate motherhood and sperm donation; apart from that I don’t see same-sex marriage as denying children the chance to be raised by their own parents.

    Single motherhood could be seen as denying the right of a child to a father — but in real life circumstances it may be a regrettable necessity and we often see single mothers do a stupendous job of rearing their children.

    We need not make the ideal the enemy of the real.

    “This discussion is primarily about the charisms of marriage and whether or not it should be open to any relationships other than one between one man and one woman, irrespective of age or fertility.”

    The charisms of marriage correspond to the goods of marriage: fides, proles, sacramentum.

    You admit that those charisms and goods are shared, at least in an analogical way, by elderly and sterile couples. You hold that they cannot be shared by same-sex couples. But we see that in practice they are: the charism of fides, mutual love and fidelity, or proles — in adoptive parenthood and in wider creative contribution to the community, and the charism of reflecting the love of Christ, sacramentum, are exhibited by same-sex couples in their own styles.

  21. Lloyd Allan MacPherson says:

    After reading all this I’m thankful for one thing – that my children created and continue to create a safe space for anyone different in their school. They themselves have been mistreated for allegiances and understand that there can be no commitment to such divisive requirements for the institution of learning to flourish. If teachers allow for this unequal right in the classroom, it jeopardises everything they stand for.

    Students were the first to create the safe space even before the teachers knew they needed one. Once the teachers knew, it was too late since children had already started committing suicide. The smart children with proper Catholic upbringing saved the day here, along with many others, believers and non. Peacemakers at work among us.

    Be like the children why don’t we. Create the space where one and all deserve to be and watch God at work. He moves through them first – I’ve witnessed it. If you haven’t, I’m hoping this story will give you something to contemplate.

  22. Margaret Hickey says:

    @22, /You say same sex relationships share many of the charisms of marriage. Can accept that. But do they share the defining ones?The gift of procreation is the greatest charism of marriage but what is its ontology? Being husband and wife is the core and essence of marriage, its ontology in other words. The possibility of children may or may not be realised but it is from that husband/wife model alone that children are born.IF you change that understanding there is no argument against polyamory or polygamy or at least no argument against making an argument because you have already broken the mould. When you think of it, is there not a natural progression from deconstrucing the marriage relationship to deconstructing other relationships?Thus two fathers or two mothers is no more absurd than two husbands or two wives?

  23. Phil Greene says:

    Yes Lloyd, aren’t they amazing! I love their support of each other, and how normal it is becoming to be “different”! I see same-sex people holding hands , or arm-in-arm and what was once something that would catch me off-guard is now normal and our children would be upset if we thought doubt there are still many challenges but our world is changing and for me, I am so glad that my daughter is here to roll her eyes and chastise me saying , “yes but mam, that was in the olden days!!”
    I do wonder if it’s not so much who’s welcome, but who wants to go to the WMOF..? Its not for me, I would prefer to see more WMOFaith conferences where open discussion is part of the Agenda, where we are all looking at how we move forward together both in the present and the future in this new world that our children must inhabit. btw -The farmers in the west were short of fodder this winter and our farmers in the East had to help them out and did so in kindred spirit .. meanwhile we are busy pouring tons of cement on our arable land in the east for IT hubs etc..
    In all the recent conversations on this site , and very robust conversations which are greatly needed my thoughts keep coming back to 2 sentences – love God. Love your neighbour, but maybe my thoughts are too simple..For some the gates of heaven look easier to enter than the “gates” to the Vatican right now !
    To Joe, you are an amazing inclusive teacher, if you are ever back in Ireland for key-notes , lectures etc. please let us know about them.

  24. Margaret Hickey says:

    Joe @22 the NT accords with natural law re ‘torture, capital punishment, status of women, genocide (even) slavery’. It is our discernement that needs to catch up.

  25. As the ethical wisdom of humanity grows (and it does) all ancient texts, even divinely inspired ones, have to be corrected because of the now apparent blind spots of their cultural matrix.

    The NT is uncritical of slavery and capital punishment, benighted about gays and women in some places, and we even have a parable in Matthew where the kind hands the unforgiving person over to the torturers (basanistes) and Jesus is portrayed as saying the God will do the same to us.

  26. Margaret Hickey says:

    Parables illustrate a teaching.The non negotiable mandate to forgive is the point of Matthew’s story of the unforgiving servant. It is not a lesson in how to sock it to those who have provoked us. The lesson about how to deal with provocation is found elsewhere in the instruction to ‘turn the other cheek”.

  27. Margaret Hickey says:

    Joe @28 yes there is nothing explicit about capital punishment or slavery but the great commandment takes all of this and more in its grand sweep.
    ‘Benighted’ is a word I would be slow to use about Scripture.

  28. The approval of torture is not found in the parable itself but in the comment ascribed to Jesus.

    The great commandment combines two quotes from Torah.

    For benightedness read Exodus 31 and 1 Samuel 15 and tell me why one would not use that word or a stronger one?

  29. Sorry — mistake in my last post, it should be Numbers 31.

    Exodus 32:26-8 is an even more horrendous text. The Levites are told to slay worshippers of the Golden Calf: “Go back and forth through the camp from one end to the other, each killing his brother and friend and neighbour.” The editors of Exodus may have had problems with this, since, contradictorily, they have the merciful God change his mind about the intended punishment even as the Israelites dance before the idol (Ex 32:14).

    As to capital punishment, it is solemnly proclaimed almost as a dogma at Genesis 9:6: 2Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed.” Romans 13 seems to confirm this. So we have got to accept that moral progress makes some passages of Scripture obsolete or plain wrong.

  30. Margaret Hickey says:

    Joe @31/32 It is Jesus in the NT who gets the final word.

  31. Margaret Hickey says:

    Joe @31, if I thought the text of Matthew could be validly read that way I would not be a Christian.

  32. “As the ethical wisdom of humanity grows (and it does) all ancient texts, even divinely inspired ones, have to be corrected because of the now apparent blind spots of their cultural matrix.”

    Joe, I think you sum things up perfectly in that sentence. We heard this morning from Leviticus on how to deal with those afflicted with leprosy. Does Leviticus not also tell us how to deal with those we suspect of being homosexual and with young women who are found not to be virgins on their wedding night? I think, if I remember correctly –and I have not checked Leviticus today to confirm this  –that the recommended punishment is death by stoning. That is surely one example of an ancient text that needs correction. And, I am sure there are many more.

    I think, Joe, your contribution to these current debates/conversations on this site has been outstanding and courageous. I agree completely with Phil@25 that “you are an amazing inclusive teacher”. Though we disagree on one issue, I remember saying, during one conversation here, that I thought you were one of the great priest contributors on this site. You very humbly declined to accept that accolade from me but I remain more convinced of it that ever. I have read everything you have written this last week or so and also much of what those with contrary positions have written to which you have patiently responded every single time. When I have a few spare hours I must re-read it all again.
    Thanks, Joe.

  33. Margaret Hickey says:

    Paddy @35 would you not take the Gospels rather than Leviticus as your final authority? Mining ancient texts to justify a theory while blinking away what the Gospels is clear on, is certainly an exercise in patience -and some might say obfuscation- though it also rather tries patience I’m afraid.

  34. Margaret, you would give up on Christianity just because of one obsolete text?

    Think of how gays and transsexuals feel, who are clobbered with such texts day in day out yet refuse to give up on their Christian faith.

    “The letter kills, it is the spirit that gives life.”

  35. Margaret Hickey says:

    Joe@37 ‘ obsolete text’? We are talking about a text from Matthew in the NT canon. As I undestand the parable genre, there is no difficulty with Jesus’ words in this context. If I thought our Lord was recommending cruel,vindictive behaviour, or attributing such to the Father (as you appear to infer in @28) then it would indeed be a stumbling block for me.

  36. Margaret Hickey says:

    Re me @40, in fairness you are probably saying that texts can obscure Jesus’ thoughts and teaching and we need to filter ‘obsolete’ or obscure texts and make allowances etc. So we are both coming to the same place in terms of not finding the text in question any sort of stumbling block.
    However, in respect of the big question of natural law and the clearly stated positions of Scripture (for the Church if not for all its associates)I think we have both laid out our positions. I have no more to add.

  37. The point is that we need not remain imprisoned by representations in NT texts that belong to a past context now obsolete. This goes for:

    Romans 1:25-7: They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error. (A text quoted with no hermeneutical precautions in Persona Humana.)

    1 Timothy 2:11-15 A woman[a] should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man;[b] she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women[c] will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.

    Titus 1:10-14: For there are also many disobedient, vain talkers, and seducers: especially they who are of the circumcision: Who must be reproved, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake. One of them a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are always liars, evil beasts, slothful bellies. This testimony is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith; Not giving heed to Jewish fables and commandments of men, who turn themselves away from the truth.

  38. Margaret Hickey says:

    There is no ‘ past context’ where marriage and family are concerned, just a God given paradigm that the current age is undermining to a point of destruction. The question ‘who can marry?’ leads in the question ‘who can be a parent?’. It doesn’t’even stop there. Who can be a woman? Who can be a man? Who can wander between the two identities?
    The answer is about whether personal leanings should conform to biological and natural reality or reality be re-shaped, rudely and violently perhaps, to align with leanings, unstable as they can be.
    Clearly some passages in the NT are time conditioned- to a point.St Paul writing today would not round on talkative women who should wait till they got home from synagoue to ask their husbands to explain things. That would have made a lot of sense in the context of the time. Today he would possibly castigate so called Catholics who have never taken the trouble to acquire an adult understanding of the faith yet feel they should be listened to and heeded by church leaders.
    Adam and Eve, humanity created male and female, not because they are interhchangeable surely?

  39. “There is no ‘ past context’ where marriage and family are concerned, just a God given paradigm that the current age is undermining to a point of destruction.”

    There are surely countless past contexts and present ones as well in which paradigms such as forced marriages or marriage as slavery hold sway.

    Something of the sort peeps up here and there in Scripture, as in the quote from 1 Tim.

    As we learn more about biology and about gender dysphoria and about same-sex potential relationships we can legitimately ask if much of what we take as godgiven is in fact shaped by contexts that are being invalidated.

  40. Margaret Hickey says:

    Don’t know where marriage is described in the NT as anything other than a union of a man and woman,committed to each other and to family responsibilites, a replica of Christ’s relationship with his church to add deeper significance.
    New contexts may arise with new ideologies which can always find obliging science to validate them, no ?
    Tim 1 is clear on marriage and some difficulties with the text don’t do anything to fuzz the central message. As in the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew, the main teaching point is clear and the words of Jesus at the end of the narrative do not add anything to what is already in the parable itself, where the master of the servants is clearly identified as God.

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