The Bishops Speak Out!

What was that you say? The Bishops standing up for Catholic teaching? Shock! Horror! Call the Police! The Fire Brigade! The Vatican even!

But no, you heard me right. There is this brilliant bit in the Telegraph yesterday about Bishop Joseph Devine of Motherwell who has pointed out to the Prime Minister the obvious fact that he is clearly out of his depth. Certainly it is clear that David Cameron will not be able to exempt the Churches from a duty to offer marriages to homosexual couples, a specialist in religious discrimination law has said.

Neil Addison, a barrister and the director of the Warrington-based Thomas More Legal Centre, said that the Prime Minister’s assurances to the Church that they would not be compelled to perform religious marriage for gay couples are worthless: see here.

I was so happy to see the Bishop of Motherwell speaking out on this issue, especially as it seems what he has said needed so badly to be said. The he was joined by the brilliant Bishop of Portsmouth, Philip Egan, who issued this statement. They were then followed by the Archbishops of Southwark and Westminster, the President and Vice-President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales. Huzzah!!!

Archbishop Peter Smith demonstrates the Prime Minister's inept grasp of the situation perfectly:
The prime minister is against statutory regulation of the press because he fears that a subsequent Parliament might amend the Act.
If future Parliaments cannot be trusted to respect the freedom of the press, can they truly be trusted to uphold these "quadruple locks" that supposedly protect religious freedom?
At the prompting of CCFather, I have written to my MP about this issue. He is voting against, but included a bit of an explanation as to David Cameron's thing on the matter. To me, Cameron's position sounds utterly ridiculous, failing to grasp even the fundamental nuance in the argument. I have no doubt this will cost him dear in terms of support: it's a left -leaning issue, hence its majority support from that side of the House, support he can never hope to win. Politically, it seems like suicide alienating his own back benchers and supporters. Intellectually, it reduces the fundamental building block of our society to mere sentimentalism, and love to some sort of genital transaction.

Marriage has already been devalued, taking hits from legislation like the Matrimonial Causes Act of 1857 which established a model of marriage based on contract rather than sacrament and widened the availability of divorce beyond those who could afford to bring proceedings for annulment or to promote a private Bill.

Interestingly, the Rev Richard Coles, an Anglican, used this change to justify the redefinition recently on Twitter:


I found it interesting that an Anglican vicar, supporting homosexual unions (which are unequivocally condemned throughout the Bible, (which is where Anglicans draw their authority) as well as Christian Tradition), drew together two distinctly anti-Christian policies in this way (divorce and homosexual acts). Now I have long heard the Biblical appologia for homosexuality, but frankly, it is extremely difficult to reconcile with the consistent condemnation throughout Scripture.

The Church's doctrine regarding this issue is thus based, not on isolated phrases for facile theological argument, but on the solid foundation of a constant Biblical testimony. The community of faith today, in unbroken continuity with the Jewish and Christian communities within which the ancient Scriptures were written, continues to be nourished by those same Scriptures and by the Spirit of Truth whose Word they are. It is likewise essential to recognise that the Scriptures are not properly understood when they are interpreted in a way which contradicts the Church's living Tradition. To be correct, the interpretation of Scripture must be in substantial accord with that Tradition.

The Vatican Council II in Dei Verbum 10, put it this way:
"It is clear, therefore, that in the supremely wise arrangement of God, sacred Tradition, sacred Scripture, and the Magisterium of the Church are so connected and associated that one of them cannot stand without the others. Working together, each in its own way under the action of the one Holy Spirit, they all contribute effectively to the salvation of souls". 
In that spirit it is worth quoting the CDF document that best outlines, albeit briefly, the Biblical teaching.

Providing a basic plan for understanding this entire discussion of homosexuality is the theology of creation we find in Genesis. God, in his infinite wisdom and love, brings into existence all of reality as a reflection of his goodness. He fashions mankind, male and female, in his own image and likeness. Human beings, therefore, are nothing less than the work of God himself; and in the complementarity of the sexes, they are called to reflect the inner unity of the Creator. They do this in a striking way in their cooperation with him in the transmission of life by a mutual donation of the self to the other.

In Genesis 3, we find that this truth about persons being an image of God has been obscured by original sin. There inevitably follows a loss of awareness of the covenantal character of the union these persons had with God and with each other. The human body retains its "spousal significance" but this is now clouded by sin. Thus, in Genesis 19:1-11, the deterioration due to sin continues in the story of the men of Sodom. There can be no doubt of the moral judgement made there against homosexual relations. In Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, in the course of describing the conditions necessary for belonging to the Chosen People, the author excludes from the People of God those who behave in a homosexual fashion.

Against the background of this exposition of theocratic law, an eschatological perspective is developed by St. Paul when, in I Cor 6:9, he proposes the same doctrine and lists those who behave in a homosexual fashion among those who shall not enter the Kingdom of God.

In Romans 1:18-32, still building on the moral traditions of his forebears, but in the new context of the confrontation between Christianity and the pagan society of his day, Paul uses homosexual behaviour as an example of the blindness which has overcome humankind. Instead of the original harmony between Creator and creatures, the acute distortion of idolatry has led to all kinds of moral excess. Paul is at a loss to find a clearer example of this disharmony than homosexual relations. Finally, 1 Tim. 1, in full continuity with the Biblical position, singles out those who spread wrong doctrine and in v. 10 explicitly names as sinners those who engage in homosexual acts.

With regards the argument against marriage, in Matthew 19, Jesus Himself states:
"Have you not read that the Creator from the beginning made them male and female and that He said: This is why a man must leave father and mother, and cling to his wife, and the two become one body? They are no longer two, therefore, but one body. So then, what God has united, man must not divide."
In Malachi 2:16 - God says "I hate divorce." These are strong words from our Lord. Divorce and remarriage violates the sacred marital covenant between a husband and a wife that has been ordained by God.

In Matthew 19:6 as we have seen, Jesus makes it clear that it is God who joins the husband and wife together, according to His will. What God joins together cannot be dissolved because God's will is perfect and eternal.

In Matthew 19:9; Mark 10:11-12; Luke 16:18 - Jesus says that whoever divorces and remarries another commits adultery. This is an offence against the natural law.

In Rom. 7:2-3 - again, Paul reiterates Jesus' teaching that sacramental marriage followed by a divorce and remarriage is adultery. He who commits adultery destroys himself. (Prov. 6:23).

1 Cor. 7:10-11 - once again, Paul gives Christ's teaching that married couples cannot divorce and remarry. This violates God's divine plan for the husband and wife.

Matthew 5:31-32 - the Lord permits divorce only for "porneia." This Greek word generally means unlawful sexual intercourse due to either blood relations (also called incest) or non-sacramental unions. The Lord does not permit divorce for "moicheia" (adultery). It is also important to note that in these cases, a marriage never existed in the first place, so the Lord is not actually permitting divorce, but a dissolution of the unlawful union.

Eph. 5:22-32 - Paul says that the sacramental union of husband and wife is the image of Christ and the Church. Just as Christ the Bridegroom and His Bride the Church are inseparable, so are a husband and wife also inseparable. A civil divorce cannot dissolve a sacramental marriage (between two baptized people).

1 Cor. 7:12-15 - these verses set forth what the Church calls the "Pauline privilege" - two unbaptised people marry, and afterwards one of the people is baptised. If the unbaptised person decides to leave the marriage, the Christian is free to remarry (because the first marriage was not sacramental, and a union between a baptised and an unbaptised person can jeopardise the baptised person's faith).

Ezra 10:1-14 - these verses support what the Church calls the "Petrine privilege" - a baptised person marries an unbaptised person. To save the baptised person’s faith from being jeopardised, the Pope may dissolve such a marriage pursuant to his binding and loosing authority.

Rev. 19:9 - the marital union of man and woman reflect Christ's union with the Church at the heavenly marriage supper. Just as Christ and the Church have become one flesh through the Eucharist and the union brings forth spiritual life for God's children, a man and a woman become one flesh and their union brings forth physical life for the Church. This union is indissoluble.

Considering this clear account, it does seem extraordinary the lengths some will go to in order to justify a position which stands in direct conflict with the office they hold. Surely the ultimate hubris and ideology consists of re-making God in your own image. Is this what Richard is attempting to do here I wonder?

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