Over at the very fine Accepting Abundance blog, authored by Stacy Trasancos, a rather remarkable display of hatefulness has erupted in the combox. Now just guess what the issue might be that has generated this storm of protest against a Catholic blogger on a Catholic blog. Sure enough it was the issue of homosexuality.
Stacy blogged on concerns she had over increasing public displays of affection between homosexual couples in her nearby park. Her concerns centered especially on the how such things affected her seven children who, with her, frequent the park.
The post was picked up by a couple “Gay” websites such as “Pink News” and “Queer Magazine” and this resulted in almost 1000 responses to Stacy’s post, many of them extremely vile. To be fair, many of the dissenting remarks were also respectful and to the point. But far too many were so vulgar, hateful and personally attacking of Stacy, her family, the Church, and Christians in general, that even editing the profanities cannot save them from the category of pure hate. In one comment it is wished that Stacy’s children be kidnapped, raped and murdered, and she is called two names that, even using asterisks, I will not publish on this site.
I too have be “treated” to this when I have published on the issue of homosexuality and the Church’s teaching (which accords with Scripture). I also get some extremely hateful replies, laced with personal attacks, when I blog on topics related to atheism, and the interplay between science and faith. Just let topics like these make their way to the wrong site and unbelievable comments pour in that I must either severely edit, or trash altogether. So much for the “tolerance” of many of our interlocutors. And yet it is we who are called hateful, bigoted, phobic and so forth.
What of these charges…that that we are supposedly hateful and bigoted?
It is true that believing Catholics and many people of faith, at least those who hold to a more strictly Biblical view, consider homosexual behavior to be wrong. The same can be said for illicit heterosexual behavior such as fornication, polygamy, and incest. And on account of our disapproval of such things, especially homosexual behavior, we are often called “intolerant,” homophobic, bigoted, hateful, etc).
But what if our objections do not simply emerge from bigotry as some claim but, rather, from a principled biblical stance? What if our objections come from a disciplined and principled reading of Scripture: a text we sincerely believe to be revealed by God, and which cannot be changed by us to suit our needs, a sacred text which clearly and consistently states that homosexual acts are gravely sinful and displeasing to God, a text which also condemn all illicit heterosexual activity.
These biblical principles and the Sacred text are not something we can simply set aside. We venerate the Scripture as the Word of God and we venerate both the Scripture and Sacred Tradition that go back to the Christ and the Apostles and then some seven thousand years of the full Judeo-Christian heritage. A principled reading of this does not simply permit us to start tearing pages from the Sacred text. Now this is principled, not bigoted, heartfelt, not hateful.
Some will argue that the biblical text has some pretty shocking things in it, for example that homosexuals should be killed (e.g. Lev 20). But Catholics do not read Scripture in a crudely mechanistic or piecemeal way, rather we draw our teaching and understanding from the Scripture considered in full and from the principle that the New Testament interprets and fulfills the Old Testament.
For example, some things in the Old Testament are fulfilled and transposed (e.g. Passover becomes Easter). Some things are abrogated (set aside) by later clarifications or by being overruled by Jesus himself (e.g. dietary laws, certain Sabbath regulations, some ceremonial precepts, divorce, and many of the harsh punishments such as stoning). But other things, such as the Ten Commandments and the Moral Law are carried forward without alteration.
Now homosexual acts and illicit heterosexual acts are in this last category. They are clearly and consistently spoken again at every stage of Biblical revelation, from begin to the very end. And even if some of the punishments, (e.g. stoning of adulterers and those guilty of homosexual acts), have been set aside, the teaching remains in force. By way of analogy, it was also said that children who disobeyed their parents could be stoned (Deut 21:18). This penalty has been set aside, but that children should obey their parents is no less taught.
As Catholics we strive to act out of a principled reading of the Sacred Scriptures that is both comprehensive and respectful of the fact that God is its author. Though some may wish to call us hateful, that does not make us so. I am not aware that I hate anyone. But I cannot therefore give blanket approval for everything that everyone does, including myself. Even our opponents in this matter do not do that. That I do not approve of something does not ipso facto make me a hateful, bigoted or phobic.
This does not exclude the fact that there may be some in our world who are in fact bigots, but it is wrong to lump together all who oppose the homosexual agenda into this category. In the end, I cannot and will not over rule Sacred Scripture and God for the sake of pleasing man or being thought politically correct.
The Catholic Church does not hate homosexuals. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says clearly enough
The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.
Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection. (CCC 2357-2359)
Now for some, who equate love and tolerance with a full and complete approval of all they do, such a statement will simply be dismissed. In their “all or nothing world,” a failure to approve wholeheartedly equals hate and bigotry. Little can be done to satisfy those such as these, except to point out the extremity of their judgment and the lack of tolerance they themselves exhibit.
As for the Church, we continue to welcome those with a homosexual orientation but must teach in love that, in accord with Scripture, they are called to live chastely, that is, in the celibate state, as in anyone who is unmarried. There are even support groups without Church auspices that provide encouragement such as Courage. It also remains true we cannot support Gay “marriage” for the same principled reasons that Scripture sets forth.
More than this we cannot do. But I will say, I know more than a few lay people with homosexual orientation who have embraced the Church teaching and live it well. They are good and faithful Catholics and many have leadership roles, and are valued members of their parishes. The Catholic Church does not hate homosexuals.
And this leads us finally back to Stacy Trasanco’s blog post. Some will argue that there is no harm in public displays of affection (PDAs) by homosexual couples, and that we should learn to be more tolerant.
Tolerance has its place but it also has its limits. As Catholics we are not wholly intolerant in the sense that we seek to force an end to private behavior we do not consider good. Very few Christians I have ever heard from are asking for the police to enter bedrooms and make arrests. But we ought not be asked to approve of public acts we consider wrong.
Almost every law in this country enshrines some sort of limit to tolerance, so limited tolerance is not unique to Bible-believing Christians. And we will, and must ask that others curb public behaviors we consider to be sinful.
We may lose this battle culturally, and PDAs by homosexual couples may become more common, but it is not hateful for us to enter the discussion and express our displeasure over this and seek to influence others in that discussion.
There are many questionable things that all Americans are willing to overlook if they are done in private. But when they become public, there is a legitimate discussion that must be allowed to take place. And that discussion will need to include not just a lot of talk about what my “rights” are, but also what has historically been the norm in given communities.
Further some respect for the general consensus needs to be considered. Frankly most Americans are currently not happy to see public displays of affection from homosexual couples and the reason for this may be something other than mere bigotry.
When things start going public, public discussions are necessarily going to follow. And personal threats, name calling, curses, generalizations, caricatures, lies, and the presumption of hate and bigotry are not legitimate ways to have this discussion. Too often those who demand tolerance are the last to show it. Stacy has surely experienced this, as have I and not a few others.
Image Credit: Accepting Abundance
This video shows, in a humorous way how those who hold up tolerance sometimes run afoul of it themselves.