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The President, Gay unions, and the problem of selective Christianity

May 10, 2012 144 Comments

The President’s disclosure that he now accepts so-called “Gay marriage” has received a good bit of political analysis. I am no political prognosticator and this is not a political blog. But when the President invokes Christ and the “golden rule,” to justify his decision, now I think we have something to discuss on a blog like this.

We have discussed at great length the problem with homosexual “marriage” beforHERE HERE HERE, and HERE) there is no reason restate it all again. Just click through to read those sorts of articles. Further I make reference in this post to Scripture’s consistent teaching forbidding Homosexual acts. I do not set forth all the Scriptures here but you can read what I have set forth more fully here: Biblical Teaching on Homosexual Activity

In this post however lets consider the problematic appeal of the President to Jesus to affirm Gay “marriage.” Specifically Mr Obama said to ABC News:

…In the end the values that I care most deeply about and she [Michele] cares most deeply about is how we treat other people and, you know, I, you know, we are both practicing Christians and obviously this position may be considered to put us at odds with the views of others but, you know, when we think about our faith, the thing at root that we think about is, not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it’s also the Golden Rule, you know, treat others the way you would want to be treated. And I think that’s what we try to impart to our kids and that’s what motivates me….[1]

It is a common problem today that people often present simplistic portraits of Jesus Christ to support a variety of agendas. And the portraits of Jesus are not only simplistic, they are incomplete (usually intentionally so), and fail to accept that Jesus cannot be reduced to a simple sentence or two.

I would argue this is what the President is doing here. As if to say, “Jesus, was basically a nice and affirming person, who spoke of Love,  and so beautifully and taught us to do unto to others as we would have them do to us. “Surely,” the thinking goes, “this Jesus would affirm and rejoice over two Gay people getting “married.”” It is as if this were all Jesus was or said, “Love…Do unto others”. Never mind that he had some pretty high standards when it came to sexuality (Matt 5:27-30; Matt 15:19; Mk 10:11; Rev 22:15; Rev 21:8) Never mind that he told his apostles he had other things to teach them and would send his Holy Spirit, and never mind that His Holy Spirit inspired the Epistles writers like Paul to speak clearly in the ancient Biblical tradition about the sinfulness of homosexual activity, fornication, and adultery [2]  “Never mind all that,” says the modern world, and our President, “I chose the Jesus who said only, ‘God is love, and be kind to one another.'”

And this is the textbook definition of heresy, to pick or choose. The English word derives from the Greek word hairesis, meaning to chose.

The essence of orthodoxy is in the balance [3, 4] and maintaining the tensions inherent in Jesus and the Christian message.  The essence of heresy is to pick and choose. And, as author Ross Douthat has ably demonstrated in his book Bad Religion – How we became a nation of heretics, there is a lot of heresy being peddled today. Heresy picks one, or perhaps several teachings, and emphasizes them in exclusion to other teachings which balance and complete them. And to be fair, as Douthat points out, heresy is not just a problem on the left side of the political or theological aisle. The right does it as well (e.g. prosperity gospel, easy justification for war etc).

The modern tendency on the left, from which the President speaks has been to reduce Jesus to a rather harmless hippie who went about talking about love and inclusion and healed people. Gone from this harmless and politically correct  Jesus are volumes of verses that help complete the picture: a Messiah who claimed authority in our lives, who spoke quite clearly of sin, yes even sexual sin, and who warned repeatedly of the coming judgment, and the reality not only heaven, but of hell.

But Jesus is not either of these descriptions alone, he is both. Orthodoxy is in the balance, not choosing one or the other or tipping in one direction.

In a masterful description, Ross Douthot shows the paradoxes and the necessary balances about Jesus and the faith with which true orthodoxy must wrestle and hold in tension:

Christianity is a paradoxical religion because the Jew of Nazareth is a paradoxical character. No figure in history or fiction contains as many multitudes as the New Testament’s Jesus. He’s a celibate ascetic who enjoys dining with publicans and changing water into wine at weddings. He’s an apocalyptic prophet one moment, a wise ethicist the next. He’s a fierce critic of Jewish religious law who insists that he’s actually fulfilling rather than subverting it. He preaches a reversal of every social hierarchy while deliberately avoiding explicitly political claims. He promises to set parents against children and then disallows divorce; he consorts with prostitutes while denouncing even lustful thoughts. He makes wild claims about his own relationship to God, and perhaps his own divinity, without displaying any of the usual signs of megalomania or madness. He can be egalitarian and hierarchical, gentle and impatient, extraordinarily charitable and extraordinarily judgmental. He sets impossible standards and then forgives the worst of sinners. He blesses the peacemakers and then promises that he’s brought not peace but the sword. He’s superhuman one moment; the next he’s weeping. And of course the accounts of his resurrection only heighten these paradoxes, by introducing a post-crucifixion Jesus who is somehow neither a resuscitated body nor a flitting ghost but something even stranger still—a being at once fleshly and supernatural, recognizable and transfigured, bearing the wounds of the crucifixion even as he passes easily through walls. (Kindle Edition Loc. 3005-16)

Douthat goes on to conclude:

The boast of Christian orthodoxy, as codified by the councils of the early Church and expounded in the Creeds, has always been its fidelity to the whole of Jesus…..[Where heresy says which one] Both, says orthodoxy….The goal of the great heresies, on the other hand, has often been to extract from the tensions of the gospel narratives a more consistent, streamlined, and noncontradictory Jesus. (Ibid).

Indeed a remarkable passage, even if I might quibble with a few words (e.g. the standards of Jesus moral vision are not “impossible” with grace). I would highly recommend the book and will be commenting on it some more in days ahead.

Disclaimer! – In saying the President is exemplifying heresy (i.e. pick and chose Christianity), I am alleging material heresy,  but I am not call him a heretic. It is not my role or in my competency to to declare someone a formal heretic.

But the President is clearly proclaiming a very partial and thus reconstructed Christ. The real Christ is, as Douthat ably notes, far more complicated and far less vague than the President would have us think. And there is far more to his teaching than the “Golden Rule.”

Another form of heresy common today is to pick and chose Scripture. The usual approach, especially in terms of homosexuality and sexual matters in general, is to reduce the entire New Testament to the verbal utterances of Jesus alone, a kind of “red letter” reductionism. This of course, denies the inspiration of the entire New Testament and, in effect, says that Acts, all the Epistles, and Revelation are not the Word of God, are not inspired, and may safely be ignored.

But this is heresy since we cannot pick and choose the books of the Bible, we cannot tear out pages, or cross out lines. Orthodoxy is to accept the whole of the Sacred Text, and to consider its claims with reference to the whole of Scripture and in keeping with its trajectory. For a Catholic, of course this is done in union with the Magisterium and Sacred Tradition.

Many supporters of homosexual behavior adopt this heresy by saying, “Jesus never said a word about or against Homosexuality.” True, but he also never said a word about a lot of things: drinking to excess, beating one’s wife, he never forbade ethnic humor, or said people should wear clothes, He never declared how big and how much money should be spent on the military etc, whether Government should provide welfare etc. Since Jesus did not say out of his own mouth we cannot beat our wives then it must be okay to beat them? Of course not. An argument from silence is very poor and unhelpful.

Further it is heresy to say divine revelation closed with the ascension of Jesus. Rather it continues unto the death of the last apostle. The Epistles are every bit the Word of the Lord, and authored by the Same Holy Spirit as are the Gospels. We cannot pick and choose what we like.

To be clear, the reading of Scripture is not a purely mechanistic endeavor. For example, merely pulling proof texts out of thin air, and out of context is wrong, for that too is often heresy – picking one thing, forgetting the rest.

Rather, Scripture is to be read in a way which respects the overall trajectory of the Scriptures as God leads his people through stages to Christ. Therefore certain things are operative early in Scripture (e.g. certain feasts, dietary laws and punitive measures) that later fall away or are fulfilled. Thus Passover is fulfilled and subsumed into the Eucharist, Jesus cancels dietary laws by declaring all foods clean, the application of stoning and other severe punishments are curtailed etc. But all these organic developments take place in Scripture itself, and can be observed there.

However, there ARE teachings (notably the Divine Moral Law) that remain unchanged and are continuously articulated at every stage of Biblical revelation. They do not undergo change or fall away.

Regarding sexuality, at no stage in the Old Testament all the way through to the end of the New Testament, is fornication or adultery affirmed. The same is true for homosexual acts. At no stage, anywhere in Sacred Scripture are homosexual acts or fornication, or adultery ever affirmed, nor are these acts described as anything but sinful (e.g. Leviticus 18: 22; Lev 20:13; Gen 19; 1 Corinthians 6-9; 1 Tim 1:8-11; Rom 1:19ff, inter al).

Thus orthodoxy, which holds to the whole and does not pick and choose Scripture, must in every way accept and announce that these are sinful acts, sinful enough to exclude one from the Kingdom if they are not repented of (e.g. 1 Cor 6:9).

Simply ushering in a “Jesus is love” argument cannot override texts like these. For the same Scripture which says, God is love, also contains these teachings forbidding extra-marital sex and a host of other moral teachings. The Biblical record sees no essential conflict in saying both “God is love” and “Fornication, Adultery, and Homosexual acts are sinfully wrong.” Thus neither should we have a problem. Orthodoxy says “both.”  Heresy says, “there is tension here and I am going to resolve it by picking the concept I like and excluding the other.”

The orthodox approach accepts the tension and sees a Christ who loves sinners (us) and holds them close, but who also summons us to repentance and a life that is increasingly free from sin and conformed to the truth by his grace .

I don’t know how the President will fare politically, but he has flunked theology and is, if you ask me (and even if you don’t) refashioned Jesus for his own purpose.

As for comments, I would rather not debate the whole Gay Marriage issue and/or the sinfulness of homosexuality. We’ve done that here before and the Church teaching is clear and is not going to change. I am most interested in comments that zero in on the problem of heresy – pick and choose Christianity and how it relates not only to this issue but others as well. But you decide.

Comments (144)

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  1. Bill says:

    The golden rule is clearly a good guide, do unto others as you would have them do unto you. But the golden rule has two weaknesses that promote pick and chose Christianity. First, it’s about…you…it starts by focusing on how you want to be treated, not by asking what the other needs. Second, the golden rule proscribes bad acts, it doesn’t necessarily promote good ones. We teach are kids the platinum rule, do unto others as they would have you treat them. This requires you to get outside your own selfish existence and imagine what it must be like to be the other. And then, it requires you to do some positive act of kindness or compassion toward them.

    Obama flunks theology and morality if he thinks the golden rule dictates or even supports a defense of gay marriage. But the golden rule does do to things for him. It allows him to continue his self-righteous focus on himself and it allows him to promote gay marriage in a back-handed way…by slyly making the issue one of trying to prevent those of us who defend marriage from doing a “terrible injustice” to gay people.

    Marriage is the union of one man and one woman who become one to create and raise children. Whatever gay couples do may be protected by a positive law, but it is not marriage. I have many gay friends and co-workers. I treat them with the same love, kindness and respect as anyone else. I hope and pray for their happiness and their salvation, but I cannot be bullied by a pagan President and a CINO Vice-President into calling something marriage that is not.

    • Excellent insights here Bill. I would only say this, that I cannot see the Pesidents motives here, as a politician I suppose I could cynically size him up, bit in the end I will leave that to the Lord. I know this, he is wrongly theolgically and has a pick and choose chiose Christianity

    • Daniel says:

      You neglected to mention that marriage is a sacrament of God’s love. In the heat of the argument against, we need to avoid a reactionary reductionism of the purpose of marriage to mere procreation. The unitive purpose of marriage is at least 50% of the reason for it and for some 100%.

  2. Deacon John Reed says:

    Well said. Thank You

  3. Loren Clobes says:

    As a Christian, I would like to thank you for your commentary. When one looks at the fact that roughly 65% of the world population is non-christian, it is quite obvious that the devil is fighting like mad to deceive the 35% who refuse to bow down to him.
    It is very alarming to note the erosion of Christian thinking by many who feel that anyone who is a “good person”, whether they accept Jesus Christ as their Savior or not, will still go to heaven.

    America, it is time for US to pray for forgiveness and to Bless God. He has already richly blessed US.

  4. Shari says:

    Part of the problem with “pick and choose Christianity” is that it is not a problem that is limited to gays or straights or for that matter laity. Many of us struggle with sins. Those might be sexual sins, or they might be gluttony or avarice or any of a number of items. I have no trouble with the Church’s position on sexuality and sexual sins, however it is noteworthy how little mention is made in sermons on the sin of avarice or usury which has caused at least as much destruction as have sexual sins. I can’t remember a single sermon discussing the evils of compound interest, despite the fact that Jesus condemns usury far more often than he condemns anything else. Nor have I heard any sermons on the subject of gluttony, or calls to “give it up for Jesus.” I hear sermons on the evils of birth control far more often than I hear sermons on the evils of male promiscuity, and I don’t believe I have ever heard a sermon on the evil of divorce or the abandonment of wives and children for more attractive alternatives.

    So, if the issue is orthodoxy, the church should not be picking and choosing either. Frankly, I think a liturgical cycle that includes the “seven deadly sins” and the various virtues and graces would be a good way for the Church to avoid the heresy of focusing on whatever the sin of the momment might be.

    The other problem lies in the sacrament of reconcilliation. I agree that the church should not be asked to bless sin. However the church IS asked to forgive sin and this is one of her more important roles. Yet, many pastors have difficulty forgiving a habitual sinner if that sinner has an unpopular (with the church) sin. Thus, a glutton who continues to gain weight will not be chastised for his lack of self control, however somebody (straight or gay) who lives in a relationship outside of marriage would be considered a habitual sinner. Many pastors would refuse to offer absolution to such individuals on the grounds that they do not manifest true contrition or repentance.

    Me, I look to Naaman. (2 kings 5)

    Naaman had no sooner been healed of leprosy (the physical metaphor for spiritual sin and its reconcilliation) but he told Elisha (I paraphrase) “God will be my god in all things and I will sacrifice to no other gods BUT I just feel that there is no way I can avoid bowing down in the house of Rimmon (a minor demon) if my master goes there. Could you please pardon me in advance? ”

    Elisha does not say “it’s okay to bow down in the house of Rimmon.” Neither does Elisha get angry at this obviously hardened and unrepentent sinner and make the leprosy return. Elisha just says “Go in Peace.”

    There are a lot of people who, one way or another feel they cannot avoid “bowing down in the house of Rimmon.” It might be by using birth control. It might be by business practices or it might be in relationships with friends, kinsmen and others. The church should not be expected to condone sin, or to “forgive it in advance.” But I do think it is appropriate for the Church to say with Elisha “Go in Peace.”

    I think if the church were to do that, and were in addition to bring some balance to her condemnation of the various sins, it might find that the Naamans of the world, unregenerate Gentiles though they might be, might draw more closely to God.

    • Okay so Shari, I agree with you in principle. But here’s the problem: greed is not always easy to define in raw numbers, it exists to be sure, but it is not the same as say, abortion, or a sexual act that is easily defined. Thus, the Church can condemn greed, and we do, along with Jesus. But are you greedy, do you earn too much? Compared to whom? If i compare you D. Trump you are poor and should get hand outs, if I compare you to a poor woman in Haiti you are filthy rich and should give away most of what you own. On the other hand, if a person fornicates, or has an abortion, or commits a homesexual act, its pretty cut and dry. Do you see my point, one is easy to measure and has clear parameters, the other is open to debate among reasonable people. One is an act the other is a cumulative dispostion. The gospel needs to be preached in both instances, but they are issues with different parameters and valences.

      • John says:

        Sheri raises some challenging points (I really appreciate the seven deadly sins proposal); and I like your response to her. But, gluttony, unlike illicit sexual acts, surely must be judged on a sliding scale by God (I hope.) I mean, compared to most of the world now, and throughout all of history, we Westerners could only be viewed as glutinous. Yes?

      • Shari says:

        It may well be that sins of the flesh incur greater condemnation by the Church because they are “easy to measure.” I have no doubt that that is true. Actually dumb stuff like “did your doctor tell you to stop smoking?” or “did you get a flu vaccine?” is what is measured for “quality of care” simply because it is easy to measure. “Did they get the right diagnosis?” “Was your surgery done so that you are less likely to need a revision in 5 years than more likely to?” “Did your doctor manage to avoid complications despite your being high risk and noncompliant?” are much harder to answer, which is why the measures that hospitals are judged on are stuff like “how many people were discharged on cholesterol lowering agents or aspirin.” These don’t really measure which hospitals are doing the best job. Indeed the folks who deal with the most difficult patients will end up looking worse. The easiest way to buff your numbers in medicine is to only see easy patients. We all know this. (So does the government, but it doesn’t care).

        Same with the church. It is no great trick to condemn fornication or theft because after all these are not the “nice people” who engage in these behaviors. Any priest condemining these sins will get a lot of positive strokes from the wealthy, and comfortable who find it easier to find jobs, friendship or mates (being wealthy, being healthy, having been groomed all their lives) without “putting out” with sex or engaging in illegal behaviors. If you are slender, healthy and a generally “alpha” male or female you will not be asked for casual sex than if you are overweight, have bad teeth, or medical illnesses. Yet the former positive atributes are heavily associated with wealth not virtue. If you have a college degree it is a lot easier to find a job than if your parents never helped you through the educational process. If you dropped out of high school because you couldn’t pass the end of course exams or had learning difficulties that couldn’t be remediated because your parents were poor or struggled with their own problems, the only jobs open to you might involve the underground economy. Eventually the folks you associate with would suggest that you could really make money in the drug trade or in gangs, or in porn or something similar.

        So, difficult or not, I favor a “sin and virtue” lectionary. It was not fornication that caused the fall, it was the sin of pride and envy. It was not homosex that deliverered Jesus to Caiphus it was greed. The church should not ignore the sins of the flesh, but it should remember which sins Jesus thought were important. Those are not the sins that the Church focuses on today.

        • John says:


          Again, it is clear that you’ve considered these matters, and I favor your nuanced approach to these issues regarding sin. I think, you are also correct that Jesus didn’t highlight the sexual sins above all the others. But the gospels is replete with examples of it’s mention. Look no further that today’s reading from Acts 15!

          “It has been decided by the Holy Spirit and by ourselves not to saddle you with any burden beyond these essentials: you are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols; from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from fornication.”

          You rightly point out that material poverty can open one up to spiritual poverties as well. But, I would disagree with you that the “Church” somehow over-emphasizes sexual sins. A cursory reading of the Catechism would demonstrate, in fact, that the Church does emphasize all the seven deadly sins (though not in that format). Most of the pastoral care that Priest’s give isn’t regarding sexual matters.

          But disordered sexual issues are a major roadblock on the road to personal sanctity. They also have major ramifications for all of society. Children born from fornication, without benefit of loving two parent home, are at risk. Their souls, the souls of their parents, the effect on their communities all must be considered. The simple fact is, one of the most powerful abilities human beings have is reproduction. Civilization rests on it’s proper functioning! The Church, in her wisdom, recognizes this and councils purity and restraint.

          • Shari says:

            I am ENTIRELY convinced that sexual sins damage children, the family and the community. I merely point out that the Church picks and chooses among the sins. Even with sexual sins, I have yet to hear the Church arguing that civil marriage after divorce should not be recognized by the authorities, as this violates Christian norms. Yet, the damage done to children, the family and the community when a man abandons his wife and children to “marry up” is at least as great if not far greater than when a gay couple chooses to live together. If the Church is willing to pound the pulpit over the latter, why does it not do so over the former? In both cases, both parties are guilty of what the church would call fornication, and are involved in a marriage that makes a mockery of the entire Bride of Christ/Bridegroom holiness that Christian marriage is meant to model. If anything, divorce and remarriage with children is far more damaging, because (after all) there are children involved.

            Similarly, while gay folks who wish to send their children to Catholic schools are refused, heterosexual folks who cohabit are not so refused. Many Hispanic Catholics in my neck of the woods are unmarried due to one of the partners being illegal. They still live together, and if wealthy enough, they send their kids to Catholic schools, where the parents’ relationship is accepted as being the best of a bad situation. Maybe it is the best of a bad situation, but why the difference in treatment between the various groups of “fornicators?” The answer, of course, is that the Church keeps her mouth shut about divorcees because many of her most prominent sons are divorced. Look no further than Edward Kennedy. Did anybody in the Church ever chastise JFK? I seriously doubt it. When half of catholics are divorced and remarried, and the other half are living together but never married, it makes sense to collect your “Defender of the Family” brownie points by beating up on gays rather than by beating up on divorcees or the never marrieds. A bishop could get seriously hurt doing the latter!

            I have no trouble with the Catholic church defending the family or condemning sexual sin. However Jesus, refrained from condemning the woman caught in adultery (caught in the very act) not because He did not recognize this as sin. (Obviously He did – “Go and sin no more.”) Besides compassion, I think the reason Jesus probably refrained from condeming her was because He probably noticed the fact that the man who was presumably also caught in adultery (they were after all “caught in the very act”) had apparently been let off. As with the Catholic church the Pharisees of 2000 years ago also played favorites, being quick to condemn the weak, and slow to condemn the powerful.

            By all means condemn disordered sexual appetites But do so even handedly, or else save the fire and brimstone for the powerful not the weak. That is what Jesus did.

          • Dear Shari,

            Please recall that these topics come up and the Church must respond to them not because the Church is pounding away at the topic, but because the World. If you want to see who is obsessed with sex, turn on a TV. In this specific matter It was the President who started this discussion and I have chosen to cast is not as a discussion on homosexuality per se but on orthodoxy vs. heresy (pick and choose Christianity). But again, I am responding to an overture from the world, not pounding away at a topic in exclusion to others. As a regular reader of this blog, and I suppose other Catholic blogs too, you know that we talk about a lot of topics.

            As for compassion, Catholic Churches are open every day, and confessions can and are heard at any time. And absolution is given all the time for all sorts of sin including sexual sin. So here too I don’t know if your use of words like condemn and [lack of] compassion are fair. Like Jesus, we preach against sin and also reconcile sinners.

            Finally, as for gay couples not being able to send their kids to Catholic Schools, this is not a universal policy. I am not sure of the diocese where you live, but here in DC every parent (not just supposedly gay ones – not even sure how we’d always know who they are anyway), are asked to sign a document that they realize the teachings of the Catholic faith are going to be taught without ambiguity and also they they are doing their best to live the teachings of the faith. Cohabiting couples, gay or not, and others living in irregular situations could not likely read the document and honestly sign it if you ask me. But we leave decision up to them. But the policy applies to everyone, not just gays and we ask people to attest to their own suitability as parents in a Catholic school setting. Other dioceses have other policies or ways of handling this, but it is not as simple as saying gay couples are excluded simply as gay couples.

            Finally, we do not condemn appetites, (Catholic theology usually calls these desires). Rather we call certain “actions” or deeds sinful. Desires, unless intentionally inflamed by someone are, of themselves morally neutral, even if the object is wrong. For example, a married man may have a sexual thought or a desire for someone not his wife. He acknowledges it, and even enjoys the thought for a moment (otherwise, why would it be tempting), but he dismisses it as wrong and does not act on it. This is a temptation, but not a sin. Another person may be very angry about something (rightly or wrongly), but does not vent his anger inappropriately. He is thus tempted to fury and experiences anger, but has not sinned per se, unless he intentionally works to inflame the anger and/or acts wrongly based on it.

            Even more finally, every one is powerful and everyone is weak in some way or another. We all need a word to correct and also to console.

          • Dismas says:

            What I find truly hypocritical and intellectually dishonest is to drone on about sins against the natural law and order of marriage in a vein attempt to compare, redefine and justify unnatural acts as natural. No matter how hard one may attempt the deception of relativizing and confusing unnatural acts with natural, an apple can never be an orange and an orange will never be an apple.

          • shari says:

            Thank you for your Christian response.

            I still say that the Church would benefit from a “sin and virtue” lectionary, similar to its lectionary of gospel readings.

            I think if it did so, it might find itself not only responding to arguments regarding sexual relationships, but might find itself speaking equally passionately on other sins. During the cycle on adultery it would certainly be appropriate to weigh in on fornication (homo and hetero) not to mention divorce or abandoment of spouses and children. During the cycle on theft one could discuss theft by creditors who ensnare the obviously uncreditworthy in debt, theft by individuals who fail to pay taxes, or theft by government by implementing certifications and regulations solely for the purpose of extracting money. During the cycle on murder, one could discuss not just abortion, but also judicial killings, and the need to determine if a war is just and prudent (preferably via Congressional approval) before entering into war.

            I recognize that none of this would be easy. It would require quite a bit more education to come up with a tempered response to subjects other than fornication. However I think that you would agree that nobody, not even the church should pick and choose what parts of Christianity it will accept. For to do so, we agree would be heresy.

    • elcid says:

      While I agree in context to what you are stating, especially to refocus on the Seven Deadly Sins or better yet the TEN Commandants, the current focus on the sins that are currently addressed by the church are intrinsically evil and greatly affect society as a whole more than say usury or gluttony, the argument can be made that while the churches teaching on usury has not changed the context of how its applied to current economics/capital markets has changed, and Jesus gave a parable on this (see link below on usury), Fr. Heinrich Pesch gives a great outline on usury in his book “Solidarist Economics”, on the issue of gluttony as Msgr mentioned its not easy to define this, especially since some of these people may have health or mental related issues that caused them to eat more than needed.

      “You ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest” (Matt 25:27; cf. Luke 19:23).
      The Lord Jesus himself is the “master” in this parable, and it is impossible that he would place in his own mouth an injunction for his servant to do something intrinsically immoral

  5. Lisa says:

    Another excellent post. Thank you for taking the time to post this. Pick and choose Christianity is like a patient not following doctor’s orders. Say the doctor told the patient to get lots of sleep and take his medicine, but he only does the sleeping bit and expects to get better! Only following advice one likes won’t make one healthy and it won’t get one to Heaven either!

  6. aznativecatholicgrandma says:

    We maybe shouldn’t “judge” but we certainly can observe, weigh the evidence and then discern good from bad and this is BAD. We see how things have gone for Canada and how the Church’s hands have been theoretically tied, by the threat of “hate” crime if preaching from Holy Scripture or Holy Tradition…we must be DILLIGENT as Catholics/Christians to make sure we don’t make the same mistake here. WE also see how hard it has been to turn the tide on another abomination, abortion. Once we legitimize sin, all hell breaks loose!

    • While we do have some protections under Law that Canada doesn’t we ought to be vigilant as you point out, for the pressures against speaking on this at all are growing.

  7. Max says:

    What are we to make of the fact that civil marriage licenses are an invention of the radically anti-Church French Revolution?

    Had we lived in those times, we would have fought against the State in imposing itself into the most private relationship a human being can enter into. Do we really think it is necessary that we seek permission from the State in order to get married?

    People have the right the freely associate with one another and to enter into contract with others. The role of the state is to enforce contracts in case the contract is broken and the parties cannot agree among themselves how to resolve the impasse (the state serves as a neutral arbiter).

    In the United States, civil marriage licenses only came about to prevent interracial marriages in the 1880s-1920s. In 1959 the state of Virginia raided the home of Richard and Mildred Loving in the middle of the night because they were living as a married couple. This was a gross violation of liberty and an unnecessary intrusion of the State into private affairs.

    Keep the State out of marriage licenses, as it has been for the VAST majority of history. Leave marriage to the people and private institutions as it should be.

    • Yeah, I am sure there is a long history to State involvement, as you point out, Marriage is a contract from the Civil Law point of view and hence the State gets legally drawn into enforcing contracts

  8. Max says:

    I meant to write that Richard and Mildred were living as an interracial married couple. Google the case. My apologies and thank you Father for this blog. I am truly a big fan, I just think this issue can be resolved in other ways rather than looking to government for the answer.

  9. Mark says:

    “It is not my role or in my competency to declare someone a formal heretic.” Can we go for “informal” heretic then?

    Pick-and-choose Christianity is an outcome of Protestantism’s rejection of authoritative Scriptural interpretation, leaving interpretation (a term many Protestants apparently disapprove of) open to personal choice. To the extent that the president is a Christian, he is a Protestant, and so it is perfectly acceptable for him to read/interpret Scripture any way he wants and still be completely correct and fully within his prerogative in doing so. Can Protestants rightly object to the president’s “reading” of Scripture? I can’t imagine how. And this is the weakness, the wrongness, the falseness (if not formal heresy) of Protestantism (especially so many of the modern American varieties).

    The president has flunked theology, philosophy and morality. But he passes the test of relativism with flying colors. And that’s all that matters, since Relativism is the only religion accepted by those who know what’s best for us backward Catholics who happen to believe that the Church founded by Christ is wiser than we are.

    • Mr. Smith says:

      Hear! Hear! Applause! Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding!
      Mark hit this one right out of the ballpark!

      Rumor has it a pair of lesbians will attempt to get married in a DC Catholic Church today (5/11). When they are refused, the Federalies will then arrest the clergyman who refuses on charges of discrimination. Msgr. Pope, today may be your day for martyrdom….

      • I rather doubt the scenario you describe will unfold today, though we may be headed for the fact that Catholic clergy will be decertified from acting as Justice of the Peace in weddings.

    • There is a distinction between formal and material heresy at work in my statement. One may erroneously hold a position(s) and be in material heresy. But to be declared a formal heretic requires a Bishop. Generally the term Heretic is not used by the Church today, especially to refer to Protestants since the divisions go back generations and people are born into schismatic situations and a climate of erroneous or incomplete teachings. Formal heresy requires a much more personal rejection of the core doctrines of the faith and presupposes a rather deep knowledge of the orthodox teaching. This is often lacking today.

    • Suzanne Martin says:

      I read this blog because it was posted by the Family Policy Institute of Washington and I get their updates via facebook. I am NOT a Catholic and would encourage you to stop implying that Protestants are lesser Christians, or heretics simply because they are not Catholics. It is improper for you to make that kind of judgement about an entire group of people whom you don’t know, save a few. I am flabbergasted at your comment that “to the extent that the president is a Christian, he is a Protestant, and so it is perfectly acceptable for him to read/interpret Scripture any way he wants and still be completely correct and fully within his prerogative in doing so. Can Protestants rightly object to the president’s “reading ” of Scripture? I can’t imagine how.” Of course I object! There are a LOT of protestants of all types that object! Anyone who loves the Bible and reads it for themselves, taking the whole counsel of the Word of God would object! How can you come out with a comment like that? I am shocked that the moderator of this blog did not moderate this comment out for it’s clear and outright bigotry. And now that I have said my peace, I will leave it with Jesus because that is the orthodox thing to do.

      • I am not sure to who you are responding, me or another commenter, this is now an old thread. But take heart, at least from me, that the orthodoxy to which I refer, and to which Douthot whom I quote as refers is classical Christian orthodoxy to which most Protestants and Catholics both subscribed until recently: e.g. biblical innerancy, Divinity of Christ, Trinity, and the moral vision of the new Testament. This is post (I cannot speak for all the comments) is not meant as a diatribe against Protestants.

  10. Stephen from New Orleans says:

    I appreciate the connection you made between the word heresy and picking and choosing…the so called cafeteria Catholicism.

    Funny how, in a cafeteria line, people are loathe to pick the first several items in the line before seeing the rest of what’s available in order to make “wise” choices. (I know, I’m a chef). Yet when it comes to living a life in Christ, people pick and choose what they want without being fully cognizant of The Scriptures and the Catechism.

  11. Kinana says:

    Msgr. Pope, thank you for this essay. I would add that this “pick and choose Christianity” affects not only Christians but also how non-Christians view Christianity. It makes discussions with non-Christians (e.g. atheists, agnostics, Jews, Muslims, etc.) more difficult/challenging if the Christian is saying ‘Yes, it (whatever teaching or verse is being picked on) is in the Bible but the actual meaning must incorporate the whole of the Bible, and the Magisterium of the Church and 2000 years of Sacred tradition!’

    Non-Christians often like to squeeze Christians and Christianity into the box of the Bible only, and leave out natural law, reason, logic and of course especially the Magisterium of the Church and 2000 years of Sacred tradition. This is a favorite tactic to win arguments and makes things much easier for the non-Christian. Muslims particularly have a hard time with these concepts because Islam calls Christians ‘people of the book’ rather than followers of Jesus.

  12. JuneT71 says:

    The Jesus that the President (and others public figures) advocates more the “path of least resistance”. This makes the message easier to swallow and acceptable – particularly for political purposes. Jesus did show and demonstrate that love is not easy – all we must do is look at the Cross and know this is the path of pain and suffering and then we are called to pick up that cross and follow. The corpus on the cross is love in action.

  13. Vijaya says:

    You had made an earlier post about kindness vs. love … and I think the president is falling into the “let’s be kind” trap. But I am witnessing a lot of selective hearing when it comes to the Gospel of Christ. Anything that is difficult to do is ignored. Even our vp (who is Catholic) supports this.

    I would like you to address in a future post about Melinda Gates — apparently she is a practicing Catholic who is promoting contraception (and quite effectively because of the foundation — they have lots of money) because it is a social justice issue. And the nuns she studied under support her … Thud!

    Here’s a link:

    Seems like even Catholics believe they can pick and choose what teachings of the Church they can oppose. It makes me very sad.

    Parce Domine!

    • Suzanne Martin says:

      Should we be more concerned about picking and choosing how we respond to various teachings of the Church (Catholic or otherwise), or the teachings of the Bible? It is NOT the same issue. I don’t know of any Scripture that bans birth control, enlighten me if there is one for then I would have to repent for using it when my husband and I were first married and couldn’t afford for me to stay home with a baby.

      • You’re off issue here. But for the record, no Christian Church, Catholic or Protestant ever approved of Contraception (referred to by it’s biblical name “Onanism” from the sin of Onan in the Bible), until 1930 when the Anglicans permitted it under restricted circumstances at the Lambeth Conference. The other Protestant denominations mocked the Anglicans at the time, but fell, one by one in the 1960s, leaving Catholics, the Eastern Orthodox, and Orthodox Jews quite alone. A little history can help from time to time.

        • Suzanne Martin says:

          Well, actually, I was responding to Vijaya’s comments regarding Melinda Gates and contraception.

          I just went and looked up the story of Onan and now I remember the story, (I hadn’t remembered it when I read your comment). I see in the story a selfish man who didn’t want to impregnate his dead brother’s wife because the children wouldn’t really be “his”. I don’t see a prohibition of contraception for married people. Is there another, less obscure passage that supports the assertion that this is a prohibition on birth control or has an entire doctrine been created from one passage?

          And while the history lesson is interesting, it is really unimportant whether or not a church establishment approves of contraception or not but whether or not it is prohibited somewhere in the Bible. So I would be looking for more than the story of Onan to convince me of that.

          And yes, I realize I was off topic, But like the question of gay marriage, the problem isn’t with picking and choosing the doctrine of a church (Catholic or otherwise) but rather picking and choosing which Biblical passages you want to accept. That is what the President has done…that is what the problem is,but some of the posters here seem to be equating church doctrine (Catholic or otherwise) with the Scriptures so I was trying to draw a dividing line between them as they are not always compatible.

          • No no other story. There is simply the fact that no biblical figures would have wanted any thing less than lots of Children. That is the Biblical mentality. No time to develop it here except to say that Barrenness was one of the worst curses. Many psalms speak of the glory of many children and a fruitful wife etc. You are free to toss the whole concept to the winds as a Protestant. But note only this, the last fifty years which favor contraception are a complete departure form biblical tradition and 2000 years of Christian tradition. Jesus told the women of Jerusalem not to weep for him, but to weep for their children for the day were actually coming when people would say, blessed are the barren. Your interpretation of the sin of Onan is decidedly modern. You can be modern all you want, it’s such a wonderfully wise and clearly spiritual age in which we live, isn’t it? Indeed, if you want the modern view, you can have all my turns. Contraception has provided so many wonderful fruits: promiscuity, higher divorce, teenage pregnancy, stds, abortion etc, all dramatically higher. Indeed, you can have all my turns in being modern and up to date.

          • Suzanne Martin says:

            I am “free to toss the whole concept to the winds as a Protestant”… What does being a Protestant have to do with it?

            I don’t see contraception in the context of married couples to be an indication that they have a disdain for children (“blessed are the barren”) and I still struggle to see how Onan not carrying out his duties prohibits my niece and her husband to use contraception so that they can delay children until they figure out the cause of his seizures that make it difficult for him to hold a job. Onan had a duty to his brother “so that his (the dead brother’s) name will not be blotted out from Israel.” There was a clear reason he had this duty, racial and familial survival.. Onan apparently didn’t care that his brother’s name would be blotted out from Israel. I don’t understand how that is a “modern” interpretation. I hardly see how my niece and her husband’s contraceptive decision at this point is in any way similar to Onan’s attitude.

            I do want you to know though, that I, in fact totally agree with everything you said about the President in your article. I was actually thinking the very kinds of things about it that you spoke: like the picking and choosing, so I am not “modern” as you want to label me,

  14. Anne says:

    Disturbing! POTUS said his young daughters influenced him to declare approval for gay marriage. These girls are the proverbial “canary in the coal mine” If they feel the Prince Charming and Cinderella theme(which most little girls see as ideal) is just as legitimate and wonderful when applied to two men or two women, we must surely now understand our society is toxic. What can we do? How do we go on from here? Any ideas?

    • Yes it is interesting too how one candidate was critiqued for possibly consulting his wife who “never had a real job” and another is not critiqued for consulting his underage daughters on a critical moral and social issue.

  15. MarkA says:

    I’m not surprised by President Obama’s and other Christians’ picking and choosing scripture to justify their political positions. This is objective scandal, which according to St. Thomas Aquinas is “a word or action evil in itself, which occasions another’s spiritual ruin.” It’s also how we developed the political philosophy of “Liberation Theology” in the 20th Century.

    I am shocked with the public scandal statements from Catholic politicians who are subject to Canon Law, unlike President Obama. Specifically Vice President Joe Biden and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. In fact, yesterday (5/10), Leader Pelosi said her Catholic faith “compels” her to “be against discrimination of any kind” and thus for same-sex marriage.

    This is public scandal. Where are our shepherds, the Bishops and Cardinals on this? I do speak respectfully of our shepherds, however there appears to be a fair amount of scandalous statements coming from Catholic public figures in the Archdiocese of Washington that are not publicly rebuked by by our shepherds.

    Let Holy Mother Church “Be sober and watch: because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, goeth about seeking whom he may devour.”

  16. Desmond Savage MD says:

    Dear Msgr Pope,

    Thank you for an excellent article, and for your continued balanced commentary. I have submitted two comments to the NYTimes- both got published, one yesterday in response to the lead editorial regarding Pres. Obama’s proclamation regarding the ‘rightness’ of Gay Marriage, and the other to Maureen Dowd’s ridiculous editorial two Sundays ago.

    My deep feeling is that the Church is definitely under attack, especially by those who fail to understand the cornerstone doctrine that is the basis of her teaching. Most I bet are non-Catholics or those who fail to understand the reason behind Her teaching. I have never been a militant Catholic, but I have steadily started to understand the importance for those of us who believe in the intrinsic holiness and rightness of the Church to back up Church leaders. Thanks for what you do. From Ghazni, Afghanistan.

    • MarkA says:

      Dr. Savage –
      You state – “I have never been a militant Catholic”
      With all due respect, you have been a member of the Church Militant since the day you were baptized!
      (In the words of Bruce Willis – “Welcome to the party, pal”)
      God bless you and thank you for your service.
      Yours in Christ,

      • Desmond Savage MD says:


        Thanks for welcoming me to the party! War and isolation are not two things that I’d recommend, but they definitely can be transformative…My beef, and I gather most of us here are just sick and tired of the Church getting pilloried in the the press, and we laity cannot be silent when it comes to the defense of our doctrine.

        Best regards,

  17. Will says:

    But he is heretical, as are all the Protestant denominations. And it is just one of the things pulling this country straight into a great chastisement.

    • Nathan says:

      Monsignor will correct me if I’m wrong, but Protestants, while in material heresy, are not formal heretics. That is, an American born and bred a Lutheran is NOT a heretic, unlike say Martin Luther himself. Therefore, “all the Protestant denominations” are not formally heretical as your comment might suggest.

  18. Will says:

    And half (or more than half) of Catholics too. {heretical}

  19. Jim says:

    It seems that too many Christians–including many Catholics–confuse tolerance with charity. Jesus taught us to love each other; he also was very clear that sin is not to be tolerated–go and sin no more.

    Tolerance of sinfulness is distinctly outside the bounds of charity–indeed, is a lack of charity–and is clearly outside the bounds of the message of our Lord; how can you truly love your neighbor when you see him/her on a path leading away from God and say, “that’s OK; you keep doing that”?

  20. CS says:

    Just a tiny quibble Msgr,

    You mentioned that the standards Jesus set are not impossibly high, with grace. The addendum there solidifies the position, but it’s misleading. I think it’s fairly obvious that Jesus did, in fact, set the bar impossibly high, as one reason among many others, to show that all are in need of Redemption. Even if one received all the grace necessary, which soul, besides our Lady, could possibly accept all of that grace being bound to this mortal coil? The goals are unattainably high so that all may continue to strive for them, and while I’m sure heaven hopes that we all do our utmost to meet them, the expectation, I’m sure, is much lower.

    Continually loving your blog,


  21. Daniel says:

    I still don’t understand how public and politically charged condemnations have become what Catholicism has become associated with in this issue. The Church’s orthodoxy about homosexuality is clear but the orthopraxy seems woefully underdeveloped. In summary, in the Catechism we admit that there is a significant portion of the population which suffers from a “deep-seated” tendency toward “intrinsically disordered” and “depraved” acts which “affects all aspects of the human person in the unity of his body and soul. It especially concerns affectivity, the capacity to love and to procreate, and in a more general way the aptitude for forming bonds of communion with others” [CCC 2232] We then proceed to explain why Jesus would never allow these people to get married for obvious rational reasons justified by Natural Law. While it is clear that Jesus never said anything about this (and Paul did), what Jesus clearly did was to seek out those who were suffering and marginalized and bring them Good News. What Good News are we bringing to homosexual persons except the message that the must never have any physical sexual intimacy in their life or they will certainly be condemned to hell? The scribes and Pharisees made a career of using the Law to decide who was “in” and who was “out”, and as I recall, Jesus was “out” in their estimation. I am not speaking against orthodoxy here, but merely encouraging a deeper engagement of the issue at a pastoral level. There is a lot of visceral back and forth about this–and much of the talk is about the “issue” rather than “human beings”–but if homosexuals are as we have described them in the Catechism (not unlike the lepers of first century Palestine), then we should be guided by Jesus, who (σπλαγχνισθεις) reached out in love. Let’s try to be known for that…

    • Nathan says:

      May I point out it is certainly not “clear that Jesus never said anything about this.” Jesus didn’t spend 30 plus years parroting the handful of sayings preserved in the Gospels again and again. He said a lot of things which are NOT recorded for us, as a matter of fact so many things that if they were to be recorded the whole world wouldn’t contain the books needed (John 21). The Bible’s (and the Church’s) clear and consistent condemnation of homosexual activity cannot be rolled back by a lack of a saying from Jesus on the matter. Furthermore, affirming someone’s sins (which Jesus NEVER does) is not “reaching out in love”, it is cooperation in evil. Remember, Jesus reached out to those in sin, forgave them, but ordered them to “go and sin no more” (John 8:11). We,therefore, need to reach out to those afflicted with same sex attraction, guide them to confession for forgiveness, and suggest they “sin no more.” This is the Good News that Christ brought to the marginalized, that they can be forgiven and (with grace and time) can sin no more – not that sin no longer mattered or existed.

      • Daniel says:

        Nathan, Some good clarification about Jesus’ refusal to affirm the sins of people, but I don’t think it’s fair to suggest that just because Jesus didn’t say it on record in the Gospels doesn’t mean he never said it. According to that logic I can have Jesus say just about anything I want. It is also apparent that Jesus’ ministry was seemingly very short and not 30 years long. The Gospels are what we have, so they must be our starting point. Just to be clear, though, according to Catholic belief same sex attraction is not cause to go to confession for forgiveness. It would be a very sad thing if our basis for a relationship with a homosexual person was simply to be one of guidance to confession and warnings about sinning in the future. We seem to take a position here which is exclusively judgmental and negative, and sounds more like the scribes and Pharisees attitude than Jesus’ in its [lack of] attention to the needs of actual human beings.

      • Scott W. says:

        Jesus never said anything about bestiality and incest either, so the whole Jesus-didn’t-say-anything-about-x is simply a Sola Scriptura dog that won’t hunt.

    • Shari says:

      Well, personally I don’t see that homosexual couples are any worse than cohabiting couples. The church rebukes both, and calls them both to repentance and chastity (which would involve celebacy for those unable to marry – whether same sex couples or those with any other impediment such as a prior marriage, or inability to procreate). There is nothing in Church teaching that keeps gay couples (or cohabiting couples) from living chastely with one another other than the fact that it would probably be extremely difficult for them to do so. I know lots of little old ladies who live together, not to mention brothers and sisters etc. It used to be even more common in days past than it is now.

      The reason that the Church rebukes sexual intimacy outside of marriage is (I understand) that sacramental marriage is supposed to mirror Christ’s relationship with his church. The marital act is supposed to be the means by which two souls join, from which new life forms. It is similar to the Eucharist in which Christ joins with us, from which new life (ours) forms. That doesn’t happen when new life is not a possibility, which is why sterilization also precludes sacramental marriage (though again not secular marriage).

      As regards what the secular law does, if secular law permits divorced people to remarry, then I see no reason that it should not permit same sex couples to marry. We aren’t talking about a sacrament here. I think most people would agree that a never married woman whose uterus was surgically removed for cancer is entitled to a secular marriage to a never married man, even if the Catholic church cannot see its way to a sacramental marriage for the two of them. What the Church does has always been different from what the World does.

      Frankly I agree with the Anchoress.

      She writes:
      “the churches should reconsider their roles in authenticating marriage. Governments issue birth certificates; churches issue baptismal certificates. Governments issue death certificates; churches pray the funerals. Governments issue divorces; Churches annul. Both work within their separate and necessary spheres, serving the corporeal and the spiritual. It is only in the issue of marriage that church and state have commingled authority. That should perhaps change, and soon. Let the government certify and the churches sanctify according to their rites and sacraments.”

      One difference between homosexual couples and heterosexual couples who cohabit is that homosexual couples often appear to wish the church to change while heterosexual cohabiting couples usually neither expect nor ask it. I think this is mostly due to the comingling of authority between the Church and government as regards marital benefits, so I agree that it would be well to separate the secular laws regarding legal benefits from the religious traditions regarding blessing when it comes to matrimony.

      • Largely agree with you here except on the point of being simply indifferent that Government lifts all distinctions about marriage. Whether we like it our not laws, and Government action or inaction have a strong influence on the way people think and act. Laws are not inconsequential to the framing of a cultural and moral vision. Hence I think that the Church should have fought no fault divorce as we did (we lost) and we should continue to fight abortion (we may be winning slowly here) and we should stand against the redefinition of marriage (even though it looks like we may lose). We must stay part of the conversation that determines national and cultural directions.

        I too would not mind however if we, Catholic priests, got out of the business of being Justice of the Peace in marriage law. Frankly I feel uncomfortable signing civil marriage licenses in DC as I do since I now fundamentally disagree with what the District of Columbia defines marriage to be. I have written on this elsewhere:

  22. Ray says:

    The American Catholic divide is deepening, Monsignor. This chasm has been growing since the Roe decision in 1973. Adding fuel to the fire is this latest heresy referenced in your column today. While it is not our role as laity to condemn our fellow citizens, it is the role of our Catholic hierarchy to keep schisms and heresies from harming our Church. Is it okay to see Roman Catholics publicly condone political topics that are in direct violation of Church teachings? No, it never has been and should not be now. Why does our Church allow our fellow Catholic politicians to disgrace our faith in this public way. Biden, Pelosi and Sebellius have publicly denounced long standing Catholic tenets of our faith.

    It is a sad state of affairs that the Church who stood up to so many heresies and schisms over the millenia has softened. Henry VIII and Martin Luther were in the end excommunicated for their unwillingness to recant. Are Abortion and Homosexual Marriage any less reprehensible than the sins of these protestant leaders of the past. Surely they are not. Eventually more than a slap of the hand must be rendered by our Church. If it doesn’t happen soon many more Catholics will form warped consciences and believe these terrible societal evils are acceptable, at least in some even small way. This public espousing of evil by our Catholic political leaders must be stopped once and for all. It says in the Bible somewhere that hot and cold are okay, but to be lukewarm is abominable(my words). As I see it our American Church hierarchy are being lukewarm in how they address this issue. IT’S TIME TO MAKE A STAND!!

  23. Joefen says:

    Msgr Pope, Excellent points! Associating the concept ‘pick and choose Christianity’ with non-Catholics especially hit home with me. I am on my way home to the Catholic Church after 35 yrs adult years in the Fundamentalist world of private interpretation of Scripture and the heresies of elevating texts that ‘fit’ and ignoring or twisting texts that don’t (e.g. John 6, James 2:24, and John 20:23).

    With your permission, I might use your phrase of ‘pick and choose Christianity’ to gently suggest that my Fundy friends (who proudly distance themselves from all the president’s political/moral positions) just may be in that cafeteria line right behind him when it comes to their traditions of Sola Scriptura, a 66 book Canon, and OSAS to name a few dishes on their tray.

  24. Jason says:

    I think it is the work of the Holy Spirit that prompted Mr. Obama to come out to endorse “gay marriage,” so that Catholics, who voted for him in 2008, would have to re-examinie their conscience and their faithfulness to Christ and His Church. We, Catholics, cannot vote or endorse anyone who works against the Holy Spirit in evengelizing Christ’s Kingdom and His mission for salvation of souls. My prediction is that Obama will lose of a great deal of votes from Catholics and conservative Christians. Let’s pray for Mr. Obama’s conversion and America’s conversion. May the Holy Sprit continue His work in our Church by granting us perseverance and fortitude. Lord, Jesus, come Lord, may Thy kingdom come and Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Amen.

    • Daniel says:

      You may be right Jason, but I think it may be more complicated. A recent poll indicated that in America, Catholics tend to favor legalizing same sex marriage 50% to 36%.

      • Your missing the point Daniel.

      • Joefen says:

        These “polls” are designed to distort the casual observer’s view of Christianity in general, and more specifically Catholicism.

        By lumping the guy who was baptized Catholic but couldn’t care less about his faith in with devout Catholics who faithfully adhere to the teaching of the Church, they can justify their own secular views that are contrary to orthodox Christianity. (“See, even they don’t follow their own teaching, why should any of us?”)

        It’s exactly the same tactic used to smear the Catholic teaching on contraception. The hypothesis is if most people reject the view, even a substantial percentage of the members of the faith itself (albiet artificially inflated) , that view can be reasonably considered odd or unreasonable.

        Notice you never see secular polls reporting the views of Catholics who, say, attend Mass on a daily basis. The results would be wildly different than “Catholics”.

      • Shari says:

        The major political issue here has to do with money and access. Spouses of heterosexual couples are automatically entitled to social security survivor benefits, health benefits, VA and Army benefits, special protections under the law and a raft of other goodies. This includes the 60 year old wife in a 40 year old marriage who put her husband through school and then dropped out to raise six kids. It also includes the 20 year old “wife” of a 2 year old marriage to a person who left his previous 2 wives and children to trade up to a newer model.

        If you are going to permit the latter, then it seems unreasonable to refuse access to health/survivor benefits to the 60 year old partner in a 40 year old lesbian arrangement who put her partner through school and then raised adopted children.

        The Catholic church does not permit remarriage following divorce (at least not without going through what is often a charade of an annulment) any more than it marries same sex couples. However NEITHER does the Catholic church engage in heated pulpit thumping and letter writing campaigns about the evils of divorce and remarriage, while it DOES do so regarding same sex unions. This is SHEER HYPOCRICY. Condemn divorce and remarriage with the same venom or else cool it about same sex unions.

        And don’t give the stuff about if priests cant “marry lesbians” they will be jailed. As Msgr. noted, if Catholic priests fail to conform to the secular law, they may lose their priviledge of being able to issue legal marriage certificates. Catholics will simply first have a church wedding and then go to the court and sign the legal document. Lots of folks who have nonchurch but large, fancy wedding in front of a Native American elder, shaman, or exchange vows in a Hollywood style wedding already do this, it is no big deal.

        Myself, I say what needs to happen is the money needs to leave the system. Either cut off all survivor/health insurance benefits for spouses of whatever orientation (my preference) or else say everybody gets a single shot at signing up their “significant other” whether this is a wife, husband, domestic partner, golden retriever, personal computer or grand piano. If that person/animal/inanimate object dies, or you divorce or you “marry” 3 other persons, TOUGH, no more benefits for person/entities nos. 2, 3 or whatever. (You will still get wails from the polygamists which is why I prefer option no. 1, but whatever).

        Having the money leave the system, can be arranged by having health benefits, legal definitions, and social security tied to citizenship and need rather than to “marriage.” Let marriage go back to being defined as a religious sacrament, and let government stop calling legal definitions tied to benefits “marriage.” THAT is what the real problem is. Folks who want benefits can buy insurance to pay for it or can simply make the legal arrangements that will give them the current legal benefits of “married couples.”

        For example, I have chosen to live with my twin sister in what amounts to a nunnery of two that has lasted over 50 years at this point. (We did split up for college and medical school before deciding we were happier together). We have two adopted children. We have separate health and disability insurance policies but otherwise hold all property jointly. My revocable living trust owns her life insurance and her interest in our various properties and business interests and her revocable living trust does the same for mine. She holds my durable power of attorney for health care should I ever become disabled and vice versa. Frankly we have more protections than most married couples and I certainly feel no need for either the Catholic church or the Government to “marry us” (the thought nauseates me frankly) or to otherwise pander to me in any way. Our relationship is entirely consistent with all norms of the Catholic church, no less that that of most religious (though I admit we pray a good deal less than real religious folk probably do).

        Then the Catholic church can focus on the sacred in marriage and can limit themselves to blessing the unions of a single man and single woman in life long matrimoney ONLY, while the Goths, Wiccans, Religion of Peace fanatics, New Agers can “marry” their black cats, broomsticks or their 70 virgins, I don’t care. In the meantime, folks who simply wish to live peacefully with their friends, siblings, or parents or children and to ensure their wellbeing in the events of their deaths can do so without a lot of sturm and drang and general hand wringing about how the country is going to h*ll.

        • Peadar Ban says:

          Well said

          • W. Randolph Steele says:

            Me, too. We are talking about CIVIL MARRIAGE. PERIOD. END OF STORY. I had an interesting conversation with a young woman at my polling place this past primary day. She is getting married shortly in a large civil ceremony. Her husband to be is an atheist. She is calls herslef a former Catholic, but a sort of Deist. HER view and she tells me, that many of her friends, is that they are marrying because it give them access to benefits etc. Otherwise, they wouldn’t. At it’s basic level, marriage is a contract. That’s what this is all about.

          • It would seem that is how many see it.

          • W. Randolph Steele says:

            Exactly my point. Even my own home state of Indiana, not a bastion of liberalism, recognized “palamony” (a form of contractual marriage) back in 1980 in the State Supreme Court case Glasgo v Glasgo, which stated that while you could not contract for sexual favors, the court could excise that part out and enforce the rest of it.
            I learnaed from a distant cousin in Germany, that church weddings there and elsewhere in Europe are pretty small affairs because the state doesn’t recognize church weddings. You go to the registry office and THEN have the church wedding. Here the state does recognize them, so my point is that the state can recognize whatever it wants. Remember, the only reason Utah got rid of poligamy was to get admitted to the Union. There were and stil are a number of polygimous communites in rural Utah and Arizona. Apparently, with a couple of notable exceptions, with no one worse for the wear.

            Another observation The new fastest rising segment of the adult population-single households, many made up of divorced people who have decided just to have their place and come together with whomever whenever, maybe even a steady companion, but separate households.

            A recent annulment case I know of was based on the fact that, after having lived with her husband for 5 years, a woman “suddenly” announced that they were getting married. when asked by several guests at the wedding why, she frankly admitted that the ONLY reason she was getting married was becuase she now had a chronic medical condition and she needed to be on his health insurance which was only possible if they were officially married. THAT annulment sailed through, but that situation is more common than you think.

            Finally, a memo from Pres Bushes 2004 pollster has been leadked on the internet, telling Rep’s to soft peddle the whole issue of gay marraige because public opinion among REPUBLICANS is changing, albeit more slowly than Dem’s and independents. His view is that within a few more years even Republicans will in favor of it because younger people are moving than way very rapidly. A national poll released today shows a 52-43 approval for gay marriage. You also should remember that the lawyer arguing the case against California’s Prop 8 is Ted Olson, Solicitor General of the United States George Bushes Justice Dept and I’ve had some not particularly liberal lawyers tell me that he MAY have a case. So I would be too sanguine because 32 states have outlawed it. One win in the Supreme court could wipe all those laws away.
            Monsignor, I understand the Churches position and I understand morality etc, but in a Western Democracy, the majority with minority rights protected usualy prevails. Not to mention major corporations are in favor, as are many cities because it attracts the “creative class”(a term coined by Richard Florida) of talented professionals. So there you are. Me? I don’t have a dog in this fight, but if I were a betin’ man, I’d bet on the gays.

  25. Nathan says:

    The “pick and choosers” (both liberal and conservative) take their primary worldview from something other than the Church and try to accommodate Christ into their liberalism or conservatism, which will always lead to (at least material) heresy. We must start with the Church and Her Divine Founder and allow that to shape our politics, then (and only then) can we stay true to Jesus. Peter Kreeft once said “Americans treat religion like politics, and politics like a religion,” only when we reorder this inherent disorder will these types of heresies be overcome.

    • Ray says:

      Pick and Choosers??? The article speaks of the open manifestations regarding the acceptance of homosexuality. It won’t take most of us Church attending Catholics long to discern the evil of those kind of pronouncements. Just finished one of Kreeft’s books and he is a great speaker for our Church. What context did he make the quote you used? No one is trying to pigeon whole Our Savior’s words into our ideology. His Words along with Sacred Tradition have meaning for how we are to live our lives. If you still like pablum as an adult then may God Bless You. For me, I want a Church and Magesterium willing to stand up and be counted, as the martyrs have been throughout history. The time for milquetoast pandering of evil is over.

  26. Charles says:

    When I hear these appeals to otherwise unChristian ideas I’m reminded of a homily that presented God’s pronouncement as “I Am” as God as He exists, incapable of being named and defined and thereby uncontrollable. He simply exists which we are to humbly accept and follow.

  27. JRP says:

    An excellent and balanced article, thank you Monsignor. It’s good to see clarity.

    You bring up a good point: who _does_ have a responsibility to declare a public person as having expressed (positively or cryptically) formal heresy (and, if they persist obstinately doing so, to declare them to be a formal heretic), for the cure of their souls and to repair the scandal they bring about? It’s not you, and it’s not I, certainly.

  28. ThomasD says:

    Why should application of the golden rule be limited to the benign or unintrusive? Is it wrong to expect that my brothers and sisters hold me accountable should they be aware of my transgressions? Do they do me any favor by tolerating what should not be tolerated? Would I ask them to disavow what they know in their own heart to be wrong? No, they would do a disservice to us both.

    Yes, Christ shows us that we should be compassionate with the sinner, but there is no reason why we should not discourage the sin, nor encourage him to change his ways.

    There is nothing golden about expecting others to tolerate the intolerable.

  29. RichardC says:

    It’s boring to be a pick-and-choose Catholic.

  30. elcid says:

    obama practices Liberation Theology, there really isn’t any sin to account for…just salvation from poverty and social justice, a false and illlogical social justice as articulated by liberals I may add, probably the best book I ever read on Liberalism is by a 19th Century Spanish priest, I offer an excerpt below.

    Liberalism Is a Sin
    by Fr. Felix Sarda Y Salvany

    “Liberalism, whether in the doctrinal or practical order, is a sin. In the doctrinal order, it is heresy, and consequently a mortal sin against faith. In the practical order it is a sin against the commandments of God and of the Church, for it virtually transgresses all commandments. To be more precise: in the doctrinal order Liberalism strikes at the very foundations of faith; it is heresy radical and universal, because WITHIN IT ARE
    COMPREHENDED ALL HERESIES.. In the practical order it is a radical and universal infraction of the divine law, since it sanctions and authorizes all infractions of that law.”

    Chapter 26 Permanent Causes of Liberalism

    1. Corruption of morals: The theater, literature, public and private morals are saturated with obscenity and impurity. The result is inevitable; a corrupt generation necessarily begets a revolutionary generation. Liberalism is the program of naturalism. Freethought begets freemorals or immorality. Restraint is thrown off, and a free rein given to the passions. WHOEVER THINKS WHAT HE PLEASES WILL DO WHAT HE PLEASES. Liberalism in the intellectual order is license in the moral order. Disorder in the intellect begets disorder in the heart, and vice versa. Thus does Liberalism propagate immorality, and immorality Liberalism.

    2. Journalism: The influence exercised without ceasing by the numerous publications which Liberalism spreads broadcast is incalculable. In spite of themselves, by the ubiquity of the press, people are forced to live in a Liberal atmosphere. Commerce, the arts, literature, science, politics, domestic and foreign news, all reach us in some way through Liberal channels, and come clothed in a Liberal dress. UNLESS ONE IS ON HIS GUARD, HE FINDS HIMSELF THINKING, SPEAKING AND ACTING AS A LIBERAL. Such is the tainted character of the empoisoned air we breathe! Poor people, by very reason of their simple good faith, more easily absorb the poison than anyone else; they absorb it in prose, in verse, in pictures, in public, in private, in the city, in the country, everywhere. Liberal doctrines ever pursue them, and like leeches fasten on them never to relax their hold. Its work is rendered much more harmful by the particular condition of the disciple, as we shall see in our third count

    3. General ignorance in matters of religion: In weaving its meshes around the people, Liberalism has applied itself to the task of cutting them off from all communication with that alone which is able to lay bare its imposture the Church. For the past two hundred years Liberalism has striven to paralyze the action of the Church, to render her mute, and especially in the old world to leave her merely an official character, so as to sever her connections with the people. The Liberals themselves have avowed this to be their aim. To destroy the religious life, to place every hindrance possible in the way of Catholic teaching, to ridicule the clergy and to deprive them of their prestige.

    4. Secular education: To gain the child is to secure the man. To educate a generation apart from God and the Church is to feed the fires of Liberalism to repletion. When religion is divorced from the school Liberalism becomes its paramour. Secularism is naturalism, the denial of the supernatural. When that denial is instilled into the soul of the child the soil of the supernatural becomes sterilized. Liberalism has realized the
    terrific power of education, and with satanic energy is now striving the world over for the possession of the child. With what success we have only to look around us to realize. In its effort to slay Christ it decrees the slaughter of the innocents. “Snatch the soul of the child from the breast of its mother the Church,” says Liberalism, “and I will conquer the world.” HERE IS THE REAL BATTLEGROUND BETWEEN FAITH AND INFIDELITY. HE WHO IS VICTOR HERE IS VICTOR EVERYWHERE.

  31. Anthony C says:

    Excellent article, Monsignor!

    Although there are many Christians out there who prescribe to the pick and choose, it is so nice to go to Daily Mass and be surrounded by individuals who give their WHOLE lives to the Lord! It is so wonderful to be surrounded by people who will do anything to run closer to the Lord, regardless of the difficulties involved! That being said, I believe in my younger generation (I’m 28) we have grown accustomed to living in a comfortable environment. We have air conditioning, we have our iPhones to check the internet when we please and generally speaking we are comfortable (physically at least). Thus, that type of lifestyle is very conducive to the ‘pick and choose’ Gospel. If it feels good (or comfortable) God must want it! It’s just a misguided generation. But then I look around in Mass and I see so much promise and so much love in people’s hearts, so I am confident that enough people are doing enough things to promote what is right and true about the Gospel.

    God Bless!

  32. Stefanie says:

    Monsignor, thank you for your calm words on this matter — pointing us to clear Church teaching.
    I recently taught the RCIA teens about a few of the early heresies. Am sorry I didn’t have your words as a explanation of the ‘choosing’ — the taking Jesus apart. I’ll remember in the future!

    A few months ago, in the midst of all the Health Care Mandate stuff, Elizabeth Scalia (The Anchoress) wrote: “Obamacare’s great gift: Clarification”
    I wrote it on a post-it note and it is in my prayer list book as a constant reminder to me.
    Perhaps we could say that our President’s constant gift to American Catholics is ‘Clarification.’

  33. Fluffyfox says:

    Well i believe the church will change their policy on gays later on. Because the church once called Galileo a heretic due to him saying the sun was the center of the universe. By bible passages such as this. “And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed . . .”

    Times change and the church will change sooner or later.

    • Well, you have done a pretty good job of confusing the unchangeable and divine moral law with speculative and natural theology. But this much is clear to anyone who knows Catholic moral theology: the Church has no authority whatsoever to render homosexual acts sinless. Neither can she do so with regards fornication or adultery. Sorry Fluffyfoxx you’re going to have to talk to God on this one, he said it.

      • Hieronymus says:

        The day the Church changes its teaching about homosexuality will be the day when I’ll leave the Church because She will be not only in the state of apostasy but also in denial of common sense. Homosexual practices are objectively disordered and one does not need a religious perspective to see them as such.

  34. Dwane says:

    Mr. Pope;

    I am sorry – This is not about “Religious” marriage it is about Civil Marriage.

    There is a BIG difference here.

    When you get married in a Civil Marriage or even a Common Law Marriage – GOD does not have to be invoked nor is it required by the state.

    As for Church sanctioned marriages – The Church has and fully instituted religious restriction through out the ages….Bt the Church being imperfect has always had a heart when it came to bending the rules for profit, money or power.

    You are basically stating that you wish to impose the Church’s view of what marriage sour be in a civil institution….Then my question to you is just where does that stop? Inter-fath marriage restrictions? Or how about banning atheists the ability to marry at all since they deny the existence of GOD.

    I am sorry I live in America not a Theocracy run by the Church – Thank GOD.

    • America has never been a theocracy. But it is you, not the Church or anyone else against gay “marriage” who is demanding legal change. We are not imposing and do not have the power to impose. We are asking that the laws that have always been in place remain unchanged. It is really you and your fellow supporters who are imposing and demanding change. And while you exempt yourself from a religious for doing so, the fact is that you do have a religious perspective. That there either is no God, or that he and his devout followers should be banished from the public square or have no influence over Law or public policy, IS a religious perspective. Secularists such as you seem to be, have a right to the public debate, but so do we. It would seem you are winning the political debate at this moment, as a fellow American citizen, I have the right to engage you and continue the discussion whatever my reasons for doing so are. That does not make America a theocracy, is part of the democratic process for all the voices to weigh in.

      You ask, “Where does it all stop?” I suppose it stops where Americans collectively through the democratic process say it will end. I am not sure why you fear the faithful or think we have all this power to impose etc. We have no more or less power than any other group or coalition, and no more ability to get our way or not than any other. It’s all about discussion and organization, building coalitions etc. Not theocracy, democracy. Go your way and build your power, I will do the same, this is America.

      • Dwane says:

        “But it is you, not the Church or anyone else against gay “marriage” who is demanding legal change. We are not imposing and do not have the power to impose. We are asking that the laws that have always been in place remain unchanged.”

        You know that this same argument was used multiple times from religious clergy and from the pulpit to justify laws that people did not want changed? Need I remind you slavery, inter-racial marriages, even the right of women to vote? and the old “where will it all end – hopefully when all a treated equally under the law and not as second class citizens.

        I have no problem with religion being in the public square – but your “freedom of religion” should not infringe upon my rights as a US citizen.

        Giving someone else equal rights does not infringe or take rights from you in any way. It just makes it illegal to enforce a prejudices and beliefs in the public square as common law for all.

        The Church does not own Civil Marriage – that is my point. But Religion has been used to restrict marriage before as it is being done now….and that is not right and is very unconstiutional.

        • I am not sure how it violates your civil rights unless marriage is a right enumerated in the constitution. That said, it would seem that certain benefits have accrued to married couples and it is not unreasonable to demand equal protection under law, I just don’t know if we need to call it marriage. I understand why marriage got benefits – it was because children were in the mix. I also understand why some think it is unfair that such is the case. Hence I do not wholly exclude your thinking here. But it seems it is more than a benefits issue with you – you want the word marriage. I am not sure that is a right any more than you wearing a blue shirt and demand I call it red, that is not a right I think the government should uphold that you strive to legally require me to call your blue shirt red.

          As for the slavery/inter-racial marriage stuff, it is an old and tired claim. Bishops in the South excommunicated slaveholders and the Church never had a teaching on inter-racial marriage. Sure perhaps a renegade pastor here or there. But I suspect you’d object if I took one homosexual renegade who like to spit on his opponents and made him emblematic of your movement, or if I referred to over one dozen of the members of your movement, who comments I could not post because they cursed me out in the most vile way, as emblematic. So avoid the tired old stuff and stick to the present issue. That said, even IF your charge was true, would it not also invalidate civil law that upheld such practices. Why is civil law your god, despite its failings in these very matters and yet religious views must be set aside and ridiculed because of (alleged) failings? Should you not then hate America and tell it to go away and that civil law is wholly discredited as worthy of any respect?

          Finally, though you shout “Civil” as the main point, whether you like it or not, we who are religiously observant are part of the civil order, we are citizens, and have every right to try and influence the laws of this land as we would like. You have the right to oppose us. But whether you like it or us or not, we are your fellow citizens, wholly imbued with the same rights to the public discussion as you. Thou shalt not kill has religious roots and is enshrined in our civil law, do you dispute that too. The religious or not religious roots of law are really not a valid reason to exclude. Argue the point not the heritage of the law, for, frankly, most laws have religious roots as well as civil.

  35. Confused says:

    I have read all of the comments, and I wonder how each and every one of you claims to condemn cafeteria Catholicism, when I guarantee each and every one of you does it in some form. Every woman on here ignores scripture’s commandment to be silent. How many of you practice Levitical Law? The Bible’s position on slavery is well documented and discussed, yet I am certain many of you feel, in retrospect, that slavery was wrong.

    And what each and every person here is ignoring, is that NOONE, not the president, not GLAAD, not anyone has suggested that any church or religious organization recognize a same sex marriage. That’s a red herring promoted to scare people. What has been said, is that if you want government money, you will respect government non discrimination laws, which protect you as well as those who are different from you.

    In this debate, most of the vile lies, have been coming from the religious community. It is the behavior of the community itself that has sent people running from it. If you lose this debate you have no one to blame but yourselves.

    As a Catholic who has left the Church because of lies spread by my priest and bishops, specifically about this issue, I ask you to research the truth, ask your church why they are so focused on this one civil item.

    And I ask you all, why you have no respect for the United Stated Constitution.

    • **** Well you seem to have missed what I wrote in the article. For we as Catholics do not read the Bible in the mechanistic way that you describe. The pertinet quote from teh artcile that I think answers your rebuff is:

      To be clear, the reading of Scripture is not a purely mechanistic endeavor. For example, merely pulling proof texts out of thin air, and out of context is wrong, for that too is often heresy – picking one thing, forgetting the rest.

      Rather, Scripture is to be read in a way which respects the overall trajectory of the Scriptures as God leads his people through stages to Christ. Therefore certain things are operative early in Scripture (e.g. certain feasts, dietary laws and punitive measures) that later fall away or are fulfilled. Thus Passover is fulfilled and subsumed into the Eucharist, Jesus cancels dietary laws by declaring all foods clean, the application of stoning and other severe punishments are curtailed etc. But all these organic developments take place in Scripture itself, and can be observed there.

      However, there ARE teachings (notably the Divine Moral Law) that remain unchanged and are continuously articulated at every stage of Biblical revelation. They do not undergo change or fall away.

      Regarding sexuality, at no stage in the Old Testament all the way through to the end of the New Testament, is fornication or adultery affirmed. The same is true for homosexual acts. At no stage, anywhere in Sacred Scripture are homosexual acts or fornication, or adultery ever affirmed, nor are these acts described as anything but sinful (e.g. Leviticus 18: 22; Lev 20:13; Gen 19; 1 Corinthians 6-9; 1 Tim 1:8-11; Rom 1:19ff, inter al).

      I think your argument is more with a fundamentalist reading, which Catholics do not Hold. As for people leaving the Church, perhaps some are but we cannot base our teaching on what is popular. Many left Jesus for what he taught (e.g. John 6). Further, the mainline Protestant Church who largely embrace your errors have lost far more than the Catholic and Evangelical Churches which have not. But that said, this is not about numbers. It is about preaching the Gospel in season and out of season.

      Most of the Levitical Law you cite was abrogated by later Biblical legislation or fulfilled. For example, Jesus rendered all foods clean, and did away with the highly technical laws related to Sabbath rest, he is the Lamb so we no longer slaughter animals etc. However, in so doing, he did not dismiss the whole of it, and surely did not dismiss divine law.

      I am sorry that you left, but calling the teaching of the Church “lies” does not make them so.

      I removed your comments of a personal nature and those involving personal attack as they are inappropriate for this forum.

      • Claude says:

        In other words, you pick and choose the parts that suit your hierarchy’s doctrine and ignore the inconvenient parts. Typical. The parts you choose may not be the parts that Jesus of Nazareth would have chosen… most likely not, actually. Other denominations pick and choose different parts. The United Church embraces same sex marriage based on the same documents and the same Jesus. Many denominations support the use of contraception, but yours doesn’t, based on the same documents and the same Jesus. Atheists and agnostics are as moral as your flock is, and often more, but still, you want to shove your beliefs down their throats, and impose dominion of your religious institution over their rights, obligations and government. You can exercise your religion freely, but you cannot impose it on society at large.

        • You own remarks indicate that I don’t have the capacity to “shove your beliefs down their throats” and “impose dominion” I am not sure why you think I or we have this power and why you seem to fear it. Frankly, If anyone is doing “imposing” here it is the Gay lobby – nevermind the people of California spoke, off to court to force your agenda on them etc. You and your type have the have a right to try, but I and others also have the right to push back. In the end the culture and the political realm will continue to wrestle with the issue and whatever the outcome, everyone has the right to speak. You and I are both citizens and there is a democratic process at work. No need to talk about imposing really, just articulating and arguing our views.

          As for the problems of some of the other Christian denominations you mention, I cannot speak for them, but they are wrong in my estimation. I am a Catholic, not a UCC. Contraception is another issue

  36. CPT_Doom says:

    I was raised Catholic and learned about other “divine laws” including that divorce was sinful and remarriage afterwards is equivalent to adultery. Now Mr. Pope wants to question someone else’s definition of what marriage is? Please.

    I also find it interesting that the Catholic Church, in state after state and city after city, is willing not only to tolerate open heresy and blasphemy by Mormons – a religious lifestyle choice that was called a “pseudo-Christian cult” by the nuns who taught me Catholicism – but to work with them to attack, denigrate and demean innocent gay and lesbian citizens. When exactly did turning your back on God to worship in a false church become less of a sin than homosexuality?

    For years the Catholic church, including its hospitals and schools, had no problem with society’s demands that they accept and tolerate lifestyle choices completely at odds with their theology. A Catholic hospital cannot, for example, refuse to acknowledge a legal spouse, even when the “marriage” in question violates the Church’s teachings. Catholic adoption agencies could not use heresy, blasphemy, adultery or fornication to refuse adoptive parents and Catholic schools had to treat bastard children – like the firstborn son of National Organization for Marriage founder Maggie Gallagher – the same as children born into legitimate familes – and there was no outcry. Why is it any different for gays and lesbians? More importantly, if the Catholic leadership will not accept the civil rights of gays and lesbians, should gay or lesbian doctors or EMTs be forced to treat Catholics the same as everyone else?

    • Many of the statements in your final paragraph are factually wrong. For example the Church has been decertified from doing adoptions in places like DC, Mass, and Calif. precisely because we could not and would not ignore all the things you state and would not grant adoptions in such cases. Hence we were decertified and have had to leave the adoption work we did for well over a century.

      As for your concerns about marriage, they are not without some merit. But, for the record, the Catholic Church does not teach that divorce is good or not sinful, as you apparently want us to do regarding homosexual acts. Hence your analogy does not really work. As for annulments, there is surely a debate within the Church on weather we are too quick to recognize that a prior civil marriage was not in fact a marriage in the fuller Christian and Catholic sense. But to be clear, we are saying that there was not an actual marriage since something was lacking, not that divorce is Okay. We are saying the same thing with Gay unions. They are not marriages in any Catholic, Christian or Biblical sense.

      I edited out your remarks of a highly personal and attacking nature since they are not appropriate for this forum.

  37. Crandall Marsh says:

    So am I to believe that you, and the Church of course, follow all of the rules and laws of the Bible? Do you put to death those who work on the Sabbath? Do you eat shellfish? Do you trim your hair? Do you avoid contact with menstruating women? As you know there are many more, including some really strange rules on slavery and causing a woman to lose her unborn child. So it would seem to even the most obtuse observer that you do indeed pick and choose what rules you follow. Your logic, reasoning, a critical thinking skills in general are horrible. My first year logic and critical thinking students easily find the glaring faults in your arguments.

    • Well you seem to have missed what I wrote in the article. For we as Catholics do not read the Bible in the mechanistic way that you describe. The pertinet quote from teh artcile that I think answers your rebuff is:

      To be clear, the reading of Scripture is not a purely mechanistic endeavor. For example, merely pulling proof texts out of thin air, and out of context is wrong, for that too is often heresy – picking one thing, forgetting the rest.

      Rather, Scripture is to be read in a way which respects the overall trajectory of the Scriptures as God leads his people through stages to Christ. Therefore certain things are operative early in Scripture (e.g. certain feasts, dietary laws and punitive measures) that later fall away or are fulfilled. Thus Passover is fulfilled and subsumed into the Eucharist, Jesus cancels dietary laws by declaring all foods clean, the application of stoning and other severe punishments are curtailed etc. But all these organic developments take place in Scripture itself, and can be observed there.

      However, there ARE teachings (notably the Divine Moral Law) that remain unchanged and are continuously articulated at every stage of Biblical revelation. They do not undergo change or fall away.

      Regarding sexuality, at no stage in the Old Testament all the way through to the end of the New Testament, is fornication or adultery affirmed. The same is true for homosexual acts. At no stage, anywhere in Sacred Scripture are homosexual acts or fornication, or adultery ever affirmed, nor are these acts described as anything but sinful (e.g. Leviticus 18: 22; Lev 20:13; Gen 19; 1 Corinthians 6-9; 1 Tim 1:8-11; Rom 1:19ff, inter al).

      I think your argument is more with a fundamentalist reading, which Catholics do not Hold

  38. Nathaniel says:

    Great post Msgr. Pope. Robert Lewis Dabney, a Protestant Theologian from the 19th century, had some excellent words regarding the abuse of the Golden Rule.

    ‘But a more special word should be devoted to the argument from the Golden Rule. The sophism is so bald, and the clear evolution of it has been given so often, in the humblest manuals of ethics prepared for school boys, that it is tiresome to repeat its exposure. But as [they] continue to advance the oft-torn and tattered folly, the friends of truth must continue to tear it to shreds. The whole reasoning of the proceeds on the absurd idea, that any caprice or vain desire we might entertain towards our fellowman, if we were in his place, and he in ours, must be the rule of our conduct towards him, whether desire would be in itself right or not. This absurdity has been illustrated by a thousand instances. On this rule, a parent who, were he a child again, would be waywayrd and self indulgent, commits a clear sin in restraining or punishing the waywardness of his child, for this is doing the opposite of what he would wish where he again the child. Judge and sheriff commit a criminal murder in condemning and executing the most atrocious felon; for were they on the gallows themselves, the overmastering love of life would very surely prompt them to desire release. In a word, whatever ill-regulated desire we are conscious of having, or of being likely to have, in reversed circumstances, that desire we are bound to make the rule of action in granting the parallel caprice of any other man, be he beggar, highwayman or what not. On this understanding the Golden Rule would become any thing but golden; it would be a rule of iniquity; for instead of making impartial equity our regulating principle, it would make the accidents of man’s criminal caprice the law of his acts. It would become every man’s duty to enable all other men to do whatever his own sinful heart, mutatis mutandis, might prompt.’

  39. Bob says:

    Of course all your examples are of things that violate Christ’s Law, being gay doesn’t. Telling is that when the disciples asked Christ if they should be celibate he answered a different question using a term that meant men who did not have sex with women, not necessarily celibate. Jesus knew that some people are born other than heterosexual and had no problem with it and knew that to be otherwise isn’t there choice but God’s. Paul’s first convert was the ethiopian eunuch, again a term used to identify those who didn’t have sex with women, not necessarily have no sex at all.

    Marriage is of this world and not wasn’t even a sacrament until the 13 century for the Catholic church and isn’t at all for most Protestant denominations. We marry to sanctify our purely of this world sexual urges in a framework of spiritual love that will be part of the next. It achieves this goal no matter what the gender combination of the couple.

    As Jesus told us the Law was made for man, not man for the Law. The question is since there are gay people just as God intended are they better off married in loving relationships while in this world or not? The answer to that question is obvious to all those filled with Grace.

    • You seem to be citing Matt 19 and your interpretation of the word Eunuch is fanciful to say the least, it’s just plain made up. A Eunuch is and has always been understood as one who is incapable of sexual union due to damaged or missing sexual organs. The Greek literally means “Keeper of a bedchamber” (eunochos). These were considered safe to do so since they were not capable of the sexual act. They they were employed to look after the bedrooms of the wealthy, their wives, and children.

      The Lord says, is answering the Apostles exclamation that (if divorce is not allowed) “it is better never to marry” For some he says, that is imposed on them (because they are Eunuchs) and thus they do not and cannot marry. Jesus then goes on to applaud others, who though capable of the marital act, freely renounce marriage for the sake of the Kingdom. He thus teaches precisely the opposite of what you want him to teach.

      Please avoid fanciful arguments. Frankly I have to suppose many proponents of your position on homosexuality would be embarrassed by this misguided attempt by you to make a text say something it plainly does not. It shows no knowledge of Greek, of history, nor does it respect the context of the text.

      Further you also misquote Jesus in your third paragraph. He says the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath (MK 2:27), he does not say this of the Law. Your knowledge of scripture is poorly demonstrated by this sort of an error.

      And your middle paragraph shows that you also do not know or understand sacramental theology. For marriage is mentioned by the Fathers (long before the 13th century) as a sacrament. Say what you will about the Protestant understanding, but you clearly do not know or understand Catholic theology. Further, that marriage is a sacrament, is not part of the reason we oppose gay unions being called marriage. There are both scriptural and natural law reason that the Church opposes the misapplication of the term. And thus you further show you do not understand your opponent’s argument at all.

  40. Jor says:

    Three points: 1) Shari’s discussion continues a long-neglected element–the role of women, relationships, and the rest of the world in an overwhelmingly male-dominated theology of Jesus. The imbalance this has caused creates such oddities as the queerly negative attacks on nuns for their negativity/silence about homosexuality and abortion, the investigation of girl scouts and the general belief among Catholics and non-Catholics alike that so much of the magisterium’s role today is to control, require obedience and force uniformity. 2) The final reference to the president not as “material heretic” but as a pagan, in my mind, vitiated the whole careful theological structure–it suggested that, with said judgment in mind that the President IS a “pagan,” not merely a material heretic there was little doubt that the question contained the answer, a foregone conclusion. 3) the “pick and choose” translation of the Greek word that gives us heretic offered a connotation that the Greek original does not have. The Greek word means to “choose,” and does not imply as the article continually suggests “(pick and) choose” as though it is a cafeteria/buffet situation. …I do not believe in over-simplifying the teachings of Jesus, nor do I reject the need for balance and careful understandings between apparently contradictory principles. I do believe in core values and that we are in a constant quest for the “living God,” not a dead one.

    • The difference between choose and pick and choose is significant to you. FIne. I am not sure I see the big difference, but fair enough, in terms of etymology. The basic point remains though that heresy chooses one or several truths over and against other stated truths whereas orthodoxy strive to hold the whole and the tensions and balance that are necessary.

      The male dominated theology stuff is tired and old, it is not proven merely by your stating it. I have lots of women leaders in the parish, and so does every parish. You limit the Church to the hierarchy, that is your issue, not the Church’s

    • shari says:

      Shari is actually a little sorry she wrote some of that stuff, now, and it occurs to me, reading some of these postings (including I regret, some of my own) that perhaps part of the reason that the Church is so hard on sexual sins is that it appears to open the door to an amazing amount of anger, malice, hatred and other more serious sins. Perhaps sexual sins are like smoking pot, which seems to be a gateway to more serious and dangerous drugs..

      I had two major points: One was that the sin of fornication should be treated no more severely, and probably a rather less severely than the sin of greed, anger etc, and that there should be no distinction between homosexual and heterosexual cohabitation as both were surely sinful as Catholics understand sin. This is not to say that others might disagree with the sinfulness involved in cohabitation (or for that matter greed, pride anger etc) however this happens to be a Catholic blog. It is understood that folks who post here have a Catholic outlook, or at least respect a Catholic outlook. Folks who think greed is good, would be better served posting their thoughts on a financial blog, while those who idealize cohabitation may prefer to post on a blog devoted to Hollywood celebrities. My point regarding the woman caught in adultery was not that she did not sin (obviously she did, Jesus said so) but that the Pharasees held her to a higher standard than they held the man who was caught with her, and that was unjust.

      My other point was that it would be best to remove government benefits from the marital contract, as this is what underlies much of the calls for the extension of “marriage” to a variety of domestic arrangements, and muddies the ethical and theological foundations of marriage in this country.

      As for the magisterium, I have no trouble with a priesthood limited to men. Jesus could have chosen women to be apostles, but did not, despite having numerous women friends, and despite the fact that his own mother whose holiness has never been doubted by the Church was at Pentacost. (I do have a problem with a diaconate limited to men, as it appears clear that there have been female deacons from at least the time of Paul. However, as long as the deaconate is treated as a stepping stone to the priesthood, that probably cannot be fixed in my lifetime, and in any event, nobody needs a “title” to be a servant, so it is not important in the larger equation.)

      In point of fact, men are different from women, and this is a good thing. As I see it, while we are all to obey both great commandments, the tendency of a Christian man is to preferentially model the first great commandment, which is to love God above all things. The tendency of a Christian women is to preferentially model the second great commandment, which is to love our neighbors, especially our children as ourselves. The second great commandment is not less than the first, nor is it greater than the first. It is “like unto the first.” However, the first must come first, for if you do not love God first, your love of your neighbor or even your children may become bent or misshapen. If the two commandments are “married” a Christian family, society, and world ensues.

      It is not surprising that female orders might feel more sympathy to the outcasts of the world (including gays) than might male orders, I think this may be part of the female charism. However this might be why drawing hard lines as to where one’s duties to God ends, and one’s duties to man begins might be better drawn by men than by women, though woman can and do, and should speak up for those for whom they feel sympathy. St. Mary did that at the wedding at Cannae, and she continues to do so today.

  41. Claude says:

    What Charles Pope’s commentary does is tell us how irrelevant the Bible is in providing guidance in the 21st century, because a lot of issues that we are confronted with today did not exist back then. The Bible is a collection of disparate texts of various origins written over several centuries, and is not the basis for the governance of society in the 21st century. Certainly, it has a historic importance, and it shows us that back then, as it is the case today, there were power struggles, politics, love and hate. It may inform our decisions to show us that religion and government had good and bad sides to them. And religious fundamentalists constantly pick and choose which parts of their good book they want. They quote parts of Leviticus, but gladly ignore others, for example (they despise homosexuals, while eating shrimp and wearing their mixed fabrics. The main message is that religious fundamentalism, based on texts written a couple millenia ago, cannot hold dominion over a diverse secular society and its government. The only dominion they can hold is within their homes and churches, within the confines of the law.

    • The Catholic Church does not merely use scriptural arguments. Natural Law also speaks to the issue. The design of the body is such that it is clear that a man is meant for a woman, and a woman for a man, not the man for the man or the woman for the woman. Further an anus is not for sex, but the expulsion of waste etc. In terms of marriage, the complementarity of the sexes is necessary for children, which is an essential end of marriage. Children also benefit best from a father and mother, a male and female, in their human development. It is reasonable then that heterosexual marriage should receive favor under law since it is linked to children and to the best conditions in which to raise them – father and mother. Hence it is reasonable to discourage divorce and single parenthood and to encourage heterosexual, faithful marriage – since that is what is best for children. Nature herself gives this model.

    • Also Claude, I am not going to say it all again, you can read how I answered others before, but the Catholic Church does not read scripture the way you say we do. We do not simply pick and choose as you describe. Rather we look to the whole and in particular how everything is fulfilled in Christ. And for the rest you can read above. But do not equate us with a fundamentalist reading as you seem to think here.

  42. James says:

    In a recent poll ( 51% of Catholics approved of same-sex marriage, 1 percent more than the population as a whole.

    I understand why you are so vehement: you are losing.

    • Well it’s not about winning or loosing. The gospel goes in and out of season, but the cross wins, it always wins, in the end I am not at all concerns that the truth will out. I suspect you are right, in the meantime gay “marriage” will likely grow. However the jury is still out, at the current time 32 states have passed legislation upholding traditional marriage. I am not vehement, as far as I can tell, just joyful in the Lord and hoping you’ll come round. At any rate have a nice day James O…

      • Dismas says:

        In a recent election 61% of North Carolina voted against same sex marriage. 92 out of 100 North Carolina counties voted against same sex marriage. I have to question the validity of a virtual reality gallup pole versus the actual reality of a statewide election?

        Vote Type Summary

        Contest Detail Map
        100 of 100 Counties Reporting
        Percent Votes
        61.06% 1,306,409
        38.94% 833,120

      • Claude says:

        Your base is not following you any more. For instance, 97% of Catholic Women have used contraception at one time or another (vs. 99% in the population at large). your hierarchy is out of touch with the base. Your Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, described thus the religious hierarchy of his time: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.” (Matthew 23:27) You, and those in your hierarchy, choose to ignore that statement that describes you so well.

        • Well they are not following us on some things, other things yes. The Catholic Church is not shrinking in #s though church attendance is flat to slightly dropping. We have discussed that quite a bit on this blog. Nevertheless you seem to presume that numbers and popularity are the point of it all. That may be the case with politics, but that cannot be the Church’s preoccupation. Nor can we “the hierarchy” remain concerned with what you think of us Claude. You clearly are harsh, and I would say, mean-spirited in your assessment. But the Church has been here long before the homosexual movement arose and will be here long after. All the things you say of us and your adopting the words of Christ who you obviously do not believe in, does not make us to be any of the things you say. Your words remain your own. As for your hostility, you show your self and your movement poorly. I will not allow you to represent you or your movement but you do epitomize the stereotype of the “angry gay man,” hardly gay at all, just angry and bitter. Despite your wishes, we are not going away. Your movement may grow and ours decline, but the church will still be here long after you have risen and fallen.

          I suspect the Muslims are a far more vigorous matter for us in the Church to be concerned with. They make your little movement pale by comparison. I am neither impressed or threatened by your anger, I find it more sad than than anything. You will face worse enemies than the Catholic Church. For the record once more, you and I are citizens of a great country and we both have rights to speak and act in this matter. Anger and personal denunciations are not necessary. Jesus loves sinners, which means he loves us both.

  43. David Alexander says:

    Msgr. Pope-

    The official stance of the church on same-sex marriage notwithstanding, you should be very proud of your fellow Catholics. I spent ten years teaching at a girls Catholic high school in Baltimore. During that time (six years ago), my partner and I adopted a baby girl. The support and love shown to us by my friends and colleagues there, including the school administration, surpassed anything that we could have expected. They saw us as a family in every sense of the word.

    • Nothing personal David, but children are better with a father and mother for the reasons stated. That said, I realize some older children who are hard to adopt might do better in a single parent situation or a situation such as yours than mere foster care.

      • David Alexander says:

        Msgr. Pope-

        Children will thrive if in any family in which they are loved, whether it be headed by a mother and a father, two mothers, two fathers, a single parent, or even grandparents. Our daughter (who we adopted as an infant, by the way) is testament to this. Fortunately, many Christian faith communities embrace families of all kinds, and we are fortunate to have found one of those here in Columbia, Maryland. In the best traditions of social justice, many Catholic parishes also welcome families headed by LGBT parents. Do not underestimate the compassion and flexibility of the people in your church — it is no surprise to me that Catholics support marriage equality at a rate higher than any other Christian denomination.

        • Dismas says:

          I suppose that all depends on ones paradigm of what family, love and faith communities actually are. What’s your view? Did the families you and your live-in come from teach you these paradigms or did you adopt them from somewhere else?

        • I dont underestimate it and am not speaking in absolute terms about the social reality you describe. I do not agree with on the principle that it makes no difference at all who or what the parents are. It seems very clear and also common sense that a father and mother are normative and best for children. and i dont think it is wrong for Catholic Charities to seek to find those settings and give them preference. That said, i speak in a general way and in terms of principle. There are individual situations where the ideal is not possible. Thus i do not wish to dishonor or dismiss the goodness of what you do. Even while speaking in a general way, that, say, divorce is bad, i honor and repsect that not every single parent situation is bad and has nothing good. And i would say the same about your situation. I also think most Catholics and parishes, as you say, have enough sophistication and charity to distinguish the particular from the general and that even though someething may be textbook ideal, it may in fact be good and what is best. Caritas suprema lex.

  44. Anne says:

    I believe that Homosexuality has been the downfall of many nations and Almighty God’s Infallible Word describes in horrid details the final estate of any nation when homosexuality is received, promoted and running rampant (You have only to read Lev. 18:22-26, Rom. 1:18-32). No nation has ever survived homosexuality’s destructive deception and ravishing consequences (psychologically and physically). The graveyard of nations throughout the world’s history is a witness to the validity of this statement. Violation of God’s Law will have unimaginable consequences on us all.

    The gay life style is the most destructive of all life styles and their practitioners are the most enraged of all people. That is not my mere opinion but the facts of overwhelming statistics.

    I also want to say that a True Biblical Christianity does not hate the one who practices homosexuality but seeks to share the glorious saving Gospel with them and with all people with repentance. The saving message is that Almighty God Loves them and sent His Son to pay the price for our transgressions (John 3:16-17).

    The gay lobby is truly the lobby of rage, hate, bigotry and violence and now with the “political endorsement” of gay marriage from President Obama they will hijack and aggressively dominate this everywhere. They will continually seek anyone who is on the defensive or moderate and seek to force them to change their opinion for the acceptance and passing of Homosexual marriage as the new law of the land, Politician, Priest, Bishop, Lay, Children, nothing is beneath them.

    If you put yourself directly at war with Almighty God, then accept some exceptional catastrophic consequences.

    May the Lord always be for us Our Saviour and Our Rock!

    London, UK

  45. Richard G Evans says:

    I submit this comment not to argue the issue but rather to just say that, coming from same-sex attraction background, I appreciate your balance here. I wrote more on this elsewhere if you or your readers wish to read my thoughts and placed a link at the end of this post. If that is not okay certainly feel free to remove it.

    As to the topic at hand, I re-entered the Church in 2005 after 35 years away, and very admittedly entered through the “cafeteria door.” After many bad experiences from both pro and anti-gay groups, I was very, very reluctant to believe I was and am accepted. It was the teaching of the Catholic Church which for the first time ever caused me to find that balance. Life is not perfect but I am not miserable either. The “cafeteria is closed” as someone aptly put it. God bless you in all you do.


  46. Matt says:

    Msgr Pope, Obama should be guided through the text of today’s Gospel. That is a powerful yet succinct and concise explanation of what authentic love is. None of this pickng and choosing stuff; and you had great answers all-around.

  47. Gregory says:

    Near as I can tell, the Catholic church in this country has made its peace with plenty of civil marriages it considers to be spiritually invalid–after all, most marriages in this country were not sacramental in the eyes of the Church. I doubt the RCC is out to legally invalidate the civil marriages of atheist couples, of Jewish or Muslim couples–or for that matter, most Protestants (for whom, I understand, marriage is not a sacrament, and even if it were, it’s not a sacrament in the eyes of the “one true holy and apostolic church”). I know that extending such consideration to gay couples must seem a bit of a reach to you…but there is indeed a precedent for acknowledging the legal unions of couples whose spritural union you must find lacking (or non-existent). Most non-Catholic couples can live with that if you can. You’d only have the right to invalidate their legal marriage if they chose to convert. Most gay couples will likely feel the same way.

    • Well, as I pointed out elsewhere, there are legitimate legal questions and conerns related to the legal status and privileges of marriage. While reaminging sympathetic to this, I still wonder why the insistence to use the word marriage and to demand that everyone consider it as such, or else they are hateful biogts. I think there is a lot of good will on the part of Christians and others who oppose the marriage classification since the word and concept is more than just a civil definition, it is cultural, religious and others things besides.

  48. Gregory says:

    Thank you for the response. Actually, I’m more curious as to whether or not, the Church recognizes that atheist couples (heterosexual ones, I mean) are married in the Church’s eyes. I imagine that such a couple wouldn’t care–unless they had a sudden urge to convert.

    In my own life, I’ve always assumed that in the unlikely event that I were to re-join the Catholic church, for instance, that my previous marriage to a secular Jew(ish woman) would be declared invalid. And now that we’re divorced, I assume that that in such a scenario, I would likely have to confess to some sort of sexual sin (i.e. living in a non-Church sanctioned union). The Church could legitimately make that demand of me, if I chose to re-convert. But, I assume, the Church would never have contested this union’s validity as a “legal marriage.”

    Therefore the question the “religious concept” of marriage is–I’m guessing–not absolutely definitive, even by the Church’s standards. You are not saying that non-Catholics’ non-sacramental marriages are legally invalid. And even the “cultural” significance is relative. Surely a Japanese couple who moved to this country would still have their marriage acknowledged as legally valid, even though the Shin-to ceremony that unified them would be both religiously and CULTURALLY foreign to the majority of Americans.

    While I try not to judge any one invidual’s hostility toward the concept of gay marriage, I suspect that there IS a certain degree of anti-gay bigotry in many such instances. The “I have gay friends and family whom I like/love, but…” comments often have a condescending tone to them.

    • In marriages where one or both of the parties are unbaptized are consider “natural marriages” but not sacramental marriage. But, given the natural law tradition of the Church, such natural marriages could only be considered marriage (i.e. natural marriage) if they were heterosexual. The Church considers such marriages not only legally but also considers them valid, even for a Catholic married to an unbaptized person, as long as they had their marriage witnessed by a priest or deacon according to proper canonical form. As for marriage between two heterosexual non-believers, here too they are not just civil unions we respect, they are valid marriages and are sacraments from our point of view if both are baptized (e.g. Lutheran or Methodist, or baptist etc). If one or both of them are unbaptized, it is a natural union, but a valid marriage in itself, not just because it is a legal union.

  49. Gregory says:

    Interesting. I would never have assumed that you’d view Protestant marriages as being “sacramental.” As far as I know, most (if not all) Protestant sects don’t view marriage as a sacrament themselves, so it certainly is interesting to learn that the Roman Catholic Church would regard them as such. But it does mesh with something that I heard once before, namely that converts from other Christian churches would not necessarily have to “re-marry” in the Church. From your answer, it’s not clear to me whether or not, two (former) atheists would (if they had previously been baptized) have to have a Catholic marriage ceremony to have their union blessed by the Church. I never would have guessed that, in such a scenario, their “justice of the peace” marriage would be good enough, but if I read your response correctly, it may well be.

    • Judith says:

      I think I have the correct information, but I’m (obvs) not the last word:

      Catholics do view the marriage of two baptized Christians as a sacramental marriage, as long as other criteria are met, e.g., the two entered the marriage with the intention to contract a valid, lifelong marriage.

      (here’s a link to a quick & easy explanation:

      For two “former” atheists, if they were/are baptized Christians, their marriage is a sacramental union as well. (They could be current atheists – perhaps were baptized but do not practice nor profess any faith.)
      See this link, 3rd paragraph under the subhead “Catholic marriage requires sacramental Matrimony)

      The “justice of the peace” is neither here nor there. Strictly speaking, the man and the woman confer the sacrament upon each other when they exchange vows.

  50. Peter Wolczuk says:

    The president is taking a lot of chances in an election year but, just think of the incredible, broad and comprehensive mandate that he (and his associates) can cite if they pull it off by getting him a second term. I think that satan must be glutted with joy over the attention that is being given to so many sick attitudes at this time.
    Has anyone noticed that, although President Obama is daring enough to be in favour of so many controversial things, there doesn’t seem to be any risks on the part of himself (or his associates) on speaking against anything. Am I missing some committment or, is the Obama election team steering clear of being caught in a controversy of opposing anything?
    I wonder what he, or his front people, would have to say if it was pointed out that; while there is an endorsement of so many things; is the silence a sign that anything goes and has his backing. Probably best to first do a good search of the news to see if he has clearly spoken against anything significant. Perhaps even set the stage so that, if someone in his camp says anything harmful to his campaign and takes the fall for it, that it looks like they meant to do that to keep Obama out of it. All the controversy about religious and spiritual type issues needs a firm handle at the helm of the United States. A firm hand that doesn’t dodge making the occasional unpopular decision.
    Upon proofreading I’m sure glad that I didn’t just submit at the end of my first paragraph as I almost did but, instead, prayed for guidance. After I began putting in the rest that came to me I sure became fumble fingered and had a bit of a struggle to get that stuff through the keyboard. Things that make one go, “hmm”???

  51. bill bannon says:

    We’re kidding ourselves. Many are doing this selective Bible citing.
    Much trouble lay ahead as leader figures within Christianity do this and receive no healthy retort by any prominent near peers.

  52. Lisa Moeller says:

    so, my story is this….i lived as a gay woman my entire adult life. i was also addicted to drugs my entire adult life. i was sexually abused as a child and that was predominantly the reason. in june of 2010, i was healed of the abuse, delivered from drugs, and my identity restored by the power of Jesus Christ. the most humbling part is that i did not reach out to Him, rather He interrupted the downward spiral i was in, and completely changed from that moment on. i was completely homosexual and was instantly heterosexual, with absolutely no effort on my part. this debunkts the whole “born this way” theory, and i plan to release all that i have learned from Him in a book i am writing entitled, “You weren’t meant to carry that” which will bring to light the truth that God has placed in my heart, which i know will lead to criticism, resentment, and persecution. but for those with eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts that are open, it may also lead to restoration. i invite anyone who is interested in my story to friend me, and you can see photos and testimonies of God’s grace.

    • Lissa says:

      So glad to hear of your book. I want to read it! Prayers for you in your journey. My story is similar.

  53. Michael says:

    Msgr. Pope,
    I have also heard that argument that because Jesus never condemed homosexuality that it must not be a sin. However, the probable reason it was not mentioned in the Gospels is that there was no need for Jesus to mention homosexual behavior since he lived in a culture where homosexuality was universally condemed. Why lecture on a subject when everyone listening to you already agrees with what you plan to say ? I have no strong opinion one way or another, mainly because there are much more serious sins that have been routinely ignored or actively supported by leaders of the various Christian churches. The most obvious one is war. It is inconceivable that the hierarchy of any Christian denomination would ever oppose the leaders of their own country when they wage war and murder the citizens of another nation. Indeed, the most evil of sexual sins occur during war. Last week was the anniversary of the end of World War 2. It is well documented that the Red Army killed millions and raped millions of women in the Soviet conquest of Germany and Eastern Europe. There were up to 2 million abortions recorded, women who were victims of the Red Army. Now, I am not suprised at the behaviour of the Red Army. The were mostly atheists and the government and military of the Soviet Union was entirely atheist. However, there are 2 sides to every war . It is also well documented that the Axis governments and miltaries of Germany, Italy, Hungary and Romania killed 30 million and also raped millions of women. The soldiers of those countries and their armies were mainly Protestant or Catholic. The Protestant churches of Germany either supported Hitler or were silent. The Vatican never excommunicated or even denied communion to Catholic soldiers who committed these evils. Our own country invaded and waged war in Iraq. The result of that war is 100,000 dead Iraqis, 2 million refugees ( including 500,000 Christian refugees, HALF the Christian population of Iraq ). I doubt that you will ever see any eclesiastical sanctions on any Catholic politician who supported that war. Nor would any other Christian denomination do so. Gay marriage ? The world has had much more serious issues to confront in previous 100 years.

  54. Bill says:

    Dear Msgr Pope:

    I thank you for a clear and lucid explication of Catholic teaching. The sad fact we need it today shows how sick our society has become. I see the word “toxic” used to describe a society in which the President of the United States can say his little girls have inspired him to support gay marriage. I totally agree with that.

    But there is deeper problem here. In our toxic society, there is an epidemic of singleness that afflicts faithful practicing Catholics who want to get married the good old fashioned way and just can’t, no matter what they do. The Church never publicly prays for single people seeking marriage. Catholic parishes are a social wasteland for anyone who is single over age 25. Two, perhaps three generations of single people under 40 have left the Church, leaving those of us who have stayed an isolated minority, who can’t get married in the Church and, assuming we would want to, can’t get married in secular society either. Those of us over 40 are looking at a lifetime of loneliness, unless, in middle age, we do get married in some point. Then at least we will have companionship, but the possibility of biological children will be long gone. I sometimes think we would not be fighting a rear-guard action against so-called same-sex marriage if the Church had put a higher priority on fostering marriage among its members as an urgent pastoral concern rather than just a matter of individual counseling for the occasional lonely parishioner. The Catholic lay society that used to take of marriage isn’t there to do it anymore and has not been, perhaps since the 1960s.

  55. Joseph Brislane says:

    The law cannot, and will not, force your religious institutions to perform, recognize, or accept the legal union of two people. The religious convictions of any institution, however, have no place in the laws of this nation. Too often the religious right clings to the guaranteed religious freedoms of this nation, then sneer derisively when the way they have chosen is not the way of everyone they share this country with.

    Marriage, as a religious ceremony, is in no danger and under no threat. Marriage, as a legal action, is unequal and unfair as it is applied in this nation. As with many religious-based arguments against same-sex marriage, this article, though well written (except for the uncertainly of Ross Douthat’s name, and the over looking of the fact that there are numerous gospels that were omitted from the Bible, yet omission and selective application of the gospels is heresy) completely misses the point of this issue insofar as it being a legal issue.

    Allowing loving partners life benefits, insurance benefits, life decision, medical participation and access, and the certificate that legally binds them in the eyes of the law does nothing to threaten or diminish the religious ceremony or institution of holy matrimony. They are, in fact, separate, as they well should be. Allowing people to love each other and share properly in each others lives, as far as a legal issue is concerned, should have zero to do with the opinions of any religious institution (no matter how prolific) in a nation that was founded on religious freedom, and settled by those fleeing religious oppression.

    Very well written article, Mr. Pope, you are a skilled writer. But I fear that you, like so many others with your oppositional stance, are running up and down the fence barking at a dog that is not in your yard and that you have no right to assert yourselves over.

  56. Sara D says:

    Beautifully put Joe Brislane! I have nothing to add to that :)

  57. Suzanne Martin says:

    The article was discussing President Obama’s selective Christianity supported “new” view of gay marriage ( which isn’t actually new since he had a much stronger pro-gay marriage view in the 90’s as a senator). Personally, though not a Catholic, am a Christian and am most annoyed more with his reasons than his actual opinion. But being against gay marriage isn’t just about a faith perception but about other things as well that have been well explained on this website at previous times.

  58. David Simonton says:

    In postulating that one cannot “pick and choose” which scriptural passages to emphasize over others without engaging in material heresy, you effectively argue that most or all theology is a form of heresy in varying degrees.

    The President is not a Biblical literalist, which is to his credit. It is impossible to approach scripture in a way that is both literalist and intelligent. Scriptural texts are both historical and cultural artifacts, and the definition of “God-breathed” or “inspired” is a legitimate theological inquiry. That is, one does not have to dismiss the whole of the Christian texts as “not the word of God” in order to recognize that Paul, for example, was a man who lived in a time and culture, and who wrote from that perspective. Unless, of course, you are a Bible literalist, which the President is not.

    This does not make the President a heretic. It simply makes him “not a Bible literalist.” And orthodoxy, of course, tends to vary somewhat by religious tradition. Many Protestant denominations encourage congregants to approach scripture critically rather than dogmatically. That may not sit well with you, but it’s a thing that exists nonetheless.

    • Mark says:

      Define what you mean by “Biblical literalist.” Intelligent study of Scripture yields some surprising conclusions, particularly for those who approach such matters with a heavy dose of self-serving subjectivity : some Scripture was likely intended in a figurative fashion (e.g., the Creation Story), while other parts were likely intended in a very literal fashion. If you seriously study the Scripture referring to homosexual behavior, and are honest about it, it seems clear that the Scriptures require a literalist interpretation.

      • David Simonton says:

        I’m using the phrase Bible literalism to describe a category of fundamentalism that holds the Bible (usually a particular subset of the books as prescribed by a particular dogma) is literally “the word of God,” meaning God wrote it. This view exists within a spectrum of beliefs about what it means for a piece of writing to be “inspired.” Curtis Knapp may well represent what this sounds like:

        Christians who approach scripture in a radically different way may allow that the writings that comprise “the Bible” were written by mortal men who lived in a time, place and culture, and whose writings reflect that time, place and culture. These Christians often allow for the possibility that Paul, for example, may have been both “inspired” as well as fallible. They may concede that Paul probably intended his letter to the Romans in a very literal fashion, and they may additionally conclude that their religion is not primarily Pauline in nature.

        Indeed many Christians study scripture very seriously, even in the original languages. They study it historically and culturally. They wrestle with it. And many of these same Christians conclude that a careful study of Jesus’ teachings, and a sincere desire to walk in His path, reveal that they cannot apply Paul’s words lovingly to the gay and lesbian people they count among their family and friends. They conclude that their God (who is not Paul) commands them otherwise.

        Certain other Christians look at this as something other than “real” Christianity, which is a phenomenon not unique to Christianity. “Heretics!” they cry. But of course Jesus was a heretic, and history is littered with the corpses of people who believed they had cornered the market on truth.

  59. Russ says:

    This NYTimes blog post says that marriage as a sacrament has only been in effect since the 11th century.

    “…Thomas Aquinas argued that the spouses’ consent is the efficient cause of marriage and the seal of intercourse was the final cause…”

    I find myself wondering what Aquinas thought of homosexual intercourse, in the sense of “does it apply the seal of authority to a joining?”

    Maybe you, Msgr Pope should educate Mr Wills to your point of view?

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