Why is eating shrimp alright and gay marriage not?
by Fr. Casey Jones, Podcast- Into the Deep:
Ok, here is the basic premise that is floating around: The bible says homosexual activity is a sin, but it also says that eating certain foods (or using certain fabrics, or working on the Sabbath, or cutting your hair, or shaving, or anything else in the Levitical code) is also a sin. So, all of you backward-thinking Christians should lighten up. You pick and choose what you want. You follow your own version of the bible. So, stop “hating”, and embrace gay marriage since you make up the rules as you go along anyway.
Please know this is intended in love and in letting people know the truth about what the Sacred Scriptures and the Church teach about homosexuality, because, frankly I am tired of the memes and comments about the bible and homosexuality that are strawmen, constructed under poor logic with false premises whose aim seems to be only to ridicule.
Before I begin, let me make some opening comments.
First of all, to all my gay friends out there: I love you. I can’t tell you how much I love you. I will never know the trials and prejudices that you have had to endure. This is not hate, but clarification. You know this, but I just want to say it. I say it because: one, it’s true and two, I need everyone else to know that I love you. The catechism of the Catholic Church says it well: “[Homosexual persons] must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.” (CCC 2358)
In that vein, secondly, I say: God loves you too. In fact, no matter who is reading this, I can assure you of God’s radical love for you and that he has a plan for your salvation. This is true of each and every one of you. Know that I love you all very much. I am selective of my Facebook friends.
Thirdly, no one group of people has a monopoly on sin. Many of my friends are living lives apart from Gods plan. I pray for you. I never preach at you. I never condemn. I try to present God’s love as an invitation, not as an imposition. You all know where I stand on the moral issues you know that I am a priest. You know that the Church teaches with the authority of Christ that certain moral actions are sins unto death and that these include sexual sins such as fornication (sex outside of marriage), adultery (sex with someone who is married, including those separated by a civil divorce, contraception, and anything else that takes God’s gift of sexual love outside of its context, which is both unitive and procreative, ends that are inseparable.
Fourth, please do not comment about me forcing my beliefs on anyone, this is intended as a presentation of what the Catholic Church teaches on homosexuality in light of Scripture, not an argument for or against civil homosexual marriage. That is a debate for another place and time.
Fifth, please do not come back at me with misplaced quotes from Pope Francis. Pope Francis upholds the teaching of the Church. Like him, (and for that matter, Jesus) I do not judge someone for an inclination, for an orientation that is not a choice made in freedom, but actions (be they hetero or homosexual) are choices. I do not judge anyone’s soul. That is for God, not me. But I can and, as a priest and a follower of Christ, should make judgments on objective moral actions.
Lastly, I do welcome honest and sincere questions in charity if they are on topic and fall into the parameters set above. Again, the topic is the Bible and Homosexuality.
Why is eating shrimp alright and gay marriage not?
In regard to the ceremonial and dietary laws of the Old Testament (the latter generally being related to the former), these were abrogated by the sacrifice of Christ. They aren’t necessary anymore. Christ has fulfilled the old law, it has passed away. It is not necessary to make sin offerings anymore. Christ came to fulfill it and to perfect these. They are done. He addresses this himself:
“Hear me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside a man which by going into him can defile him; but the things which come out of a man are what defile him…Do you not see that whatever goes into a man from outside cannot defile him, since it enters, not his heart but his stomach, and so passes on. (Mark 7:14-19)
In this Jesus declares all food to be clean. The same issue is addressed later in the Acts of the Apostles where Peter is given a vision in which he is told that there is no longer clean or unclean food, but that he is free to eat all; a message which he spoke to the Church. Just as Christ today guides his church in the person of Peter’s successor. (See Acts 11:1-18)
As the Catechism puts it: “Jesus perfects the dietary law, so important in Jewish daily life, by revealing its pedagogical meaning through a divine interpretation . . . What comes out of a man is what defiles a man.” For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts” and further “In presenting with divine authority the definitive interpretation of the Law, Jesus found himself confronted by certain teachers of the Law who did not accept his interpretation of the Law, guaranteed though it was by the divine signs that accompanied it. This was the case especially with the Sabbath laws, for he recalls often with rabbinical arguments, that the Sabbath rest is not violated by serving God and neighbor, which his own healings did.” (CCC 582)
Jesus also abrogated ceremonial laws about the Sabbath:
“Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath; his disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” He said to them, “Have you not read what David did, when he was hungry, and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of man is lord of the Sabbath.” (Matt. 12:1-8)
Jesus was clear that he fulfilled the ceremony of the Old law, and therefore abrogated these aspects. In fact, large portions of St. Paul’s writings in the New Testament are spent dealing with this issue. He speaks quite a bit on why we don’t keep Jewish feats, why we don’t necessarily circumcise male children, why we are not bound to these ceremonial laws, because Christ, the perfect Sacrifice has fulfilled them.
This is not the case with the moral laws.
These are eternal. In fact, Jesus typically holds us to even higher moral standards. Jesus demonstrates this several times in the Sermon on the Mount, when he uses the formula: “You have heard that it was said…but I say to you” for example: “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Matthew 5:38)
One of these actually happens to address marriage:
“Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, [πορνεία, a Greek word that is hard to translate into English whose exact meaning remains an enigma] makes her an adulteress; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery” (Matthew 5:31)
And another: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5: 27) So, Jesus does not abrogate the moral Law, particularly the laws about marriage and Chasity. In fact, he holds us to an even higher standard that was acceptable before.
He specifies this again in Matthew 19:4-9:
He answered, “Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one’? So they are no longer two but one. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.” They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?” He said to them, “For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity,[ πορνεία] and marries another, commits adultery; and he who marries a divorced woman, commits adultery.” Thus Jesus establishes that marriage is an insolvable unity between a man and a woman. He does not permit divorce.
Scripture also makes it clear that, as I said before, taking God’s gift of sexuality out of context is a grave offense.
“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals [literally ‘sodomites’ i.e. those who participate in the actions, not those who have the orientation] nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” 1 Corinthians 6:9-11
Again, St. Paul makes the point that there is no one group who has a monopoly on sin, but that life in Christ entails putting sin behind us.
The same sentiment is found in the book of revelation: “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, as for murderers, fornicators, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their lot shall be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” (Rev. 21:8) Again, fornication is sex outside of marriage.
Now, you may want to say “A-ha! If you would ‘let’ gay people get married than it wouldn’t be a sin.”
The problem is that from the beginning, the scriptures point that marriage is a union between a man and a woman. Yes, there were concessions made for polygamy and other circumstances, but Jesus ended that when he brought the law to perfection, (See Matthew 19 above). So to someone who reads scripture honestly, saying “gay marriage” is like saying “square circle”. It is not this way because the bible or the Church says it is so. The scriptures and the Church say it is so, because it is so.
All of this being said, We as a Church, I feel, have a long way to go in reaching out to the LBGT community. I think it can be done in love. I know several people who identify as homosexual who are living chastely, even some in domestic partnerships, who follow the moral teachings of the Church. It’s not easy, just like it isn’t easy for the hetro couple who cannot perform the martial act for health reasons that arise during the marriage.
As the Catechism states “Homosexual persons are called to chastity [glossed as ‘The moral virtue which, under the cardinal virtue of temperance, provides for the successful integration of sexuality within the person leading to the inner unity of the bodily and spiritual being]. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.” (CCC 2359)
We all have the things we struggle with as far as an inclination to sin, thank God I am not judged on my inclinations, nor on the actions of which I have repented, but by God’s grace we all are called to be holy.
This again, was an attempt to explain what many people see as a contradiction. I hope that it was successful. Boundaries being set, questions/discussion is encouraged. God bless you all.