Comfortable words

Nasturtiums with the Painting Dance, 1 MatisseTibago has been reading “How to defend the faith without raising your voice“. I challenged him in a comment to state Catholic doctrine on homosexuality, and he did so, rather well, I thought, putting it positively. His church is against discrimination, though when I googled “Catholic school dismiss lesbian teacher” I found Barbara Webb, Lisa Reimer, and this case from Italy, then gave up in dismay. Gay people can have “rich, deep, intense and fulfilling” same sex friendships without sex, and it is a shame that people seeing such friendships think the people are gay says Tibago- so JH Newman Wasn’t Gay!!

These are comfortable words. A straight Catholic could mouth them and feel good about himself, believing them reasonable and loving. I unpacked them a bit in the comments, saying what we hear is a demand that we never have a partner, and a statement that our expression of love is worth less than that of straights. To feel good, that straight Catholic has to lack empathy. And not everyone uses such apparently loving words: another site is happy to use words like “abomination”, “sodomite” and “hell”.

I had a look at what the Catholic Bishops had to say to parents finding their children were gay. They refer to prejudiced language offensive to gays as “humor”. They say that on finding out, parents might feel anger, mourning, fear, guilt, shame and loneliness. They tell parents to seek out therapy, and perhaps fake conversion “therapy”, though the Bishops do not require this in all cases. Parents should challenge their Matisse Lilacschildren if they have a partner, urge them to return to the Church through the sacrament of penance, and join up with other anti-gay parents. Such children could not have any sort of leadership or service role in the church if anyone thought they were having sex. But again there is lots of blah about Love, Respect, Compassion and Nature to make them feel better about themselves. Gods Grace is available to and sufficient for anyone open to receiving it, so if the gays are having sex it is entirely their fault.

I wondered for whose benefit this was. Celibacy freely chosen might be a spiritual discipline doing good for a person; celibacy enforced by others with backsliding and fear is not. God is love, and God’s commands are for our good- so how does enforced celibacy benefit us, when it is not good for the man to be alone, and better to marry than burn? God’s commands are for our individual good, not merely the good of the Community- though it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed, every hair on my head is numbered, which appears to show individual care. How would celibacy benefit me? Googling found me Celibrate, which says that sexual abstinence is healthier and more fulfilling than acting on homosexual urges, but does not say why.

Why Matisse? I did not want my post to be entirely depressing.

38 thoughts on “Comfortable words

  1. It would be no different for a heterosexual teacher who “comes out” to his/her students that he is living together with another because he loves her (but he is not married). This would be an extremely inappropriate example for students, and the teacher would then need to be dismissed. Would not that be obvious?


  2. “…better to marry than burn” is written and intended ONLY in the light of God’s Natural Law. If men and women “burn” with the sexual urge, that urge is only to be indulged within the context of its primary purpose according to how God designed life – to procreate, one generation after another, which is why you and I are here today. The seed of the male is just that – seed for new life, and the egg of the female is just that – the initial reactionary with which two are made one in the womb, which is designed by God to be the sacred sanctuary of new human life.


        • Thank you.

          The point of the post is that, while there are people who are happy to vilify others with words like “sodomite”, there is a greater number of Catholics who want to feel good about themselves, thinking themselves reasonable and loving, rather than smug, hypocritical and lacking in empathy.

          98% of sexually experienced self-identified Catholic women aged 15-44 in a survey had used contraception other than the rhythm method. The men involved did something the Priests call bad, too, of course. It seems to me that straights should address their own sins before considering specks in gay eyes.

          You seem to be half way between the haters and the hypocrites, calling so airily for dismissals.


          • We’re all sinners. So, we all need to help each other find the right path which approaches holiness according to God’s Word and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. For most of us, it is a life-long journey.


            • The question is, how do we help? Tedious moralising about things you do not understand, trying to get gay people not to have sex because you personally find it disgusting and feel no inclination towards it? For me, hearing others’ struggles and showing them respect has greater value.


            • But what is “healthy and free”? Catholicism produces people like Keith O’Brien- see the link in the post- who is neither. Quakerism produces people like the two lesbian couples in my meeting, far healthier, far more free.


            • Healthy (body and soul) and free (according to God’s will and design for each of us – freedom to choose to love God truly according to his design/plan (which is wise) and not our own (which may be unwise).)


            • Thank you for coming back on this. Catholics have to be continually reminded of Galileo, even after you un-banned his book in the 19th century, and apologised in the 21st. People learn, and get better at stuff. If you imagine you know God’s plan from what it was thought to be centuries ago, or if you believe that π =3, you will be continually wrong. You will imagine that being gay is not entirely normal and natural. The Southern Baptists will come round in thirty years, one of them predicted recently; I dare to hope even the Catholics may come round eventually.

              Seek God’s loving purposes for us, not how they were understood centuries ago.


            • Regarding Galileo, I think that the problem was that he attempted to affect theology with his findings rather than keep it in the realm of science, and that caused some misunderstandings leading to disciplinary actions.

              The Church certainly has and continues to change the way it administers discipline. For example, in the past, people may have been required to confess their sins publically and do 5 years’ penance for adultery. The Church has since moved to private confession with penance being a private (and often very light) matter.

              While the Church does change disciplinary tactics and administrative policies, the Church does not change truths which it has confirmed or defined in matters of faith and morals.


            • To add to my previous comment about Church discipline, the expression “fornication” was used prevalently in the New Testament and was thoroughly classified as a grievous sin. It is not something the Church could ever seek to change since it is very clearly wrong according to Sacred Scripture.


            • Oh, that’s interesting. That the Earth is not the centre of the Cosmos has theological significance. That the Bible states the Earth is flat and immoveable means that we have to explain away those verses. Galileo suggested how we might approach those verses. Your sect, if it had been willing to accept the falsity of Geocentrism, would have found the theological arguments soon enough. You have found them by now, I presume. Had your sect been open to the truth, there would have been no theological controversy.

              “The Church”, you say, as if it were the whole of Christianity. To correct this error- you do not speak for the Egyptian Coptic Christians, and I find your implicit denial of their Christianity offensive- I used the term “Your sect”. Can we compromise, on “The Catholic church”? I understand you may find “Papist” or “Romish” offensive. “Western Constantinian” might be accurate.


            • Indeed, what did Jesus say 2,000 years ago? Yes, that is important. What did Moses say? That is important, too. What did God say 5,000 years ago? That is important, too. But what did a 50 year old person say today without wisdom? Not very important since they do not accept the wisdom of all who have made mistakes or succeeded, learned, and then taught others to avoid mistakes or to succeed.


            • Oh, Francis! If you really cared about what Jesus said, you would be on the side of truth, and in favour of equal marriage, and against the erroneous teachings of your church!

              Are you fifty?

              The wisdom of all, you say. Do you mean people like Cardinal Keith O’Brien? Or perhaps all those happily married gay people who have indeed succeeded, learned, and then taught others to avoid mistakes or to succeed.


            • Do you imagine that you are humble? You say NO to God! No, you will not take any account of new understanding. No, you will see the suffering of others and you will spurn them. God preserve us from men who imagine they are humble!


            • Clare, you have judged my words and me incorrectly. I just put it out there – a rule that all of us must strive to follow – for everyone’s good, including myself. I imagine that I am a human being striving for holiness and obedience to God.


            • Dear Francis,

              I called this post “Comfortable words”. You illustrate perfectly what I was trying to get over. You have these beautiful words: natural law… the womb, which is designed by God to be the sacred sanctuary of new human life… the right path which approaches holiness according to God’s Word and the guidance of the Holy Spirit… helping others become healthy and free is very good… freedom to choose to love God truly according to his design/plan (which is wise)… the wisdom of all who have made mistakes or succeeded, learned, and then taught others to avoid mistakes or to succeed… I imagine that I am a human being striving for holiness and obedience to God…

              The problem is that your words insulate you from reality. Reality is human beings knowing they are attracted to the same sex, at times in utter shame because the only words they have for their state are condemning words like “sodomite” or “invert”, in terror that anyone finds out in their church. At best, they will be tolerated if they toe the line completely and are celibate; but sometimes they will be subject to hateful language and exclusion, even though they are celibate.

              And, Reality is human beings accepting themselves as created by God, forming loving relationships which are complementary in the best and truest sense, that the two people fit together as a loving supportive couple, bearing one another’s burdens.

              Look at the suffering your way causes, and repent.

              There is a caricature “gay lifestyle”- promiscuous, self-destructive, liable to venereal disease, addiction and suicide, of people deformed by the shame you inflict on them. And, increasingly, there is a sane and healthy gay lifestyle of people who have overcome such shame and become mature and strong because of it, good servants of Christ.


            • I look at my words as a goal to strive for. I could rest in my sins or I could develop good habits and seek the Face of God. Likewise, an alcoholic can cave in to alcohol or build barriers to this destructive behavior. We all have this choice to make.


            • No, Clare. I am a man in need of God’s favor and salvation just like anyone else and who tries to be a servant of God and neighbor.


            • No? Then fuck off.

              And ponder this passage: They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. 5 They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. 6 They love to have the place of honour at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, 7 and to be greeted with respect in the market-places, and to have people call them rabbi. 8 But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. 9 And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father—the one in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant.

              That is, don’t have popes and cardinals and priests, but govern yourselves as Quakers do, as Friends serving one another and moving between roles of service.


            • Obviously, with your expression of hatred to me, you don’t know the mind of Jesus Christ.

              Clare, I am sorry and I understand that you feel terribly burdened by God’s will. I hope that you will not use such harsh language like that towards me again since it is God’s will and words, not my own. Thank you.

              [Edited, to make two comments one.]


            • Francis,

              I am not burdened by God’s will at all. God’s will is liberating. Fools like you who imagine you know God’s will, because you ignore God’s teaching and our increased learning, and ignore the words of Jesus like the ones I just quoted to you, cannot burden me because I can see through you.

              However, I don’t think you are capable of understanding. Your overweening arrogance makes you incapable of seeing God’s will. Therefore it is wearing to correspond with you: you make ridiculous, near to blasphemous assertions, and ignore everything I say.

              My comment policy is “Don’t bore me”. Any further comment from you will be deleted, unless you show the slightest indication that you might possibly be beginning to understand.

              I meant “fuck off” in contempt rather than hatred, but if it is an expression of hatred indicating a lack of knowledge of Jesus, what is “You brood of vipers!” And what is “the teacher would then need to be dismissed. Would not that be obvious?”


  3. The weight of Christian tradition is heavy. A simplistic reading of certain verses seems rather clear at first pass. It is a heavy thing to ask a person to challenge the teachings they have heard all their lives from people they love and respect. The easy option is to cling to the simple, traditional view, even if it means building a culture of hate and mandated celibacy. To come up with a different view is quite difficult. It takes quite a bit of love to be motivated enough to dig deep into theology and the historical context of scripture to reconcile the God of the Bible and a homosexual couple in the minds of many Christians. If you have found Christians who will engage in that study and come out in full support of homosexual relationships, do not take them for granted. If you have found Christians who just “don’t have time” or “aren’t trained in theology” to dig any deeper than the literal reading of 5 or 6 verses, well, they don’t have time to love you well either. Walk away from them, but hopefully not Christianity as a whole.


    • Welcome, Faith. I am very pleased to meet you.

      My page “Gay Christians” links to a great deal of scholarship on the clobber passages. I felt rejected by my Anglican church, but found a home with Quakers. Quaker opinion is not uniform in the US- Indiana Yearly Meeting split over homosexuality- but those in Friends General Conference tend to be accepting. I get hope from the struggles of the Methodists in the US, too: I hope they will not split.


  4. I think I’ll use this in the future; “Are you gay or Same-sex attracted?… No? Then fuck off.”
    It is a very un-Christian emotion I am feeling right now but I can’t stop laughing!


  5. I’m commenting on this since you linked to this post in one of your comments on my post.

    I think one big thing (that your discussion with Tibago points out) is that there are just fundamentally different worldviews between Catholics and many non-Catholics. So anyone trying to defend Catholic sexual ethics to someone who does not share that worldview is going to have a difficult time no matter how “comfortable” their words are — the problem isn’t just how nice they phrase things, but that there is a fundamentally different worldview underlying the positions.

    I like your comments here on celibacy. It seems that as a voluntary avocation, it can be spiritually very beautiful, but to require it an entire class of people (all LGBTQ people, for example) seems very harsh. At the same time, I understand why it’s still required in traditional Christian sexual ethics.

    In your comment on my post, you mentioned Francis Phillip as an example of the “blindness and lovelessness of a traditional Catholic”…but to me it seems to me that Francis was as respectful as he possibly could be while maintaining his tradition. There is a fundamental mismatch in worldviews that probably will mean that anything a traditional Catholic says in support of their position will probably be seen as blindness or lovelessness, however.


    • Welcome, Andrew. I am delighted to have you here. Thank you for commenting. I did not read your piece in great depth, just picked out one or two bits and piled in. I am sorry for that. But, as a Christian, when people talk of Christian heterosexism I want them always to qualify the word “Christian”. There are even liberal Catholics.

      There are different world views- different ways of moral thinking. Much of lay conservative Catholicism is merely rules-based, not always with great understanding. When they get beyond Thou Shalt Not they may have a tincture of Virtue ethics, which I find attractive; but it seems no consequentialist morality. As most of my moral thinking is consequentialist, I look into ways of showing such moral thinking is better- but hardly get further than picking on individual instances of great harm done by their false reasoning from rules, such as their way of dealing with ectopic pregnancies, doing great harm to the mother without any moral gain.

      I feel you are too understanding. Francis was not listening, not really responding to anything I said, just reiterating “Gay=Bad”. If I had not deleted his comment like that he would never have given up. Same with Agellius: false learning about Aquinas does not make him any use as a foil for you to find greater understanding. He will stick to his immovable ignorance.


      • Does it bother you that there are a lot of Christians who aren’t LGBT-affirming, though? It seemed from your comments that you wanted to try to minimize this, when from my perspective, there are more anti-LGBT Christians than pro-LGBT Christians. (I think this is true globally as well as in the United States.) So, it seems to me that a pro-LGBT Christian would have to be qualified rather than an anti-LGBT Christian.

        I agree that what I’ve read of Catholic thought isn’t very friendly toward consequentialism…rather, they have that principle of double effect that seems to always look at intentions as well as consequences. I don’t really know of a way to bridge the divide — it seems like it just ends up being people talking across from each other, rather than really talking with one another. I see that a lot in many conversations on many sites.

        I think that talking with people like Francis and Agellius is useful to realize that there are in fact such very different ways at looking at the world. I am not necessarily hoping to convert them (and I think they realize too that it is unlikely that they will convert me), but I just want to better understand how people can see things so very differently. I think that too is part of greater understanding.


        • Over here, there is progress. The churches have the right to marry gay couples, if the whole denomination chooses, and there are movements in the URC and the Methodists to do this. I see that fool preaching Leviticus 20- stone them- and am angry that he distorts my spiritual path to his evil ends. I don’t want to minimise their numbers, but saying “Christians believe gay=Bad” gives them power to define the meaning of Christianity, God, the Bible, Jesus- which I believe they wholly misunderstand. Christianity means many things, and no group has the right to define it.

          I started googling around how to persuade deontologists of consequentialist ethics, and came across this post. Marcel writes, a good end can never be justified by an evil means (I think he means the good end cannot justify the evil means) but then in the comments he’s asked about shooting a gun-man in order to save his hostages, and he writes, the end you would seek in the situations you describe is preservation of your own life or others – a good one. So, I believe the statement [that “the ends do not justify the means”] still stands. This seems confused to me. One could express a rule, “self defence- including defence of others- is permissible,” which I think Catholics would affirm; but he needs to reword the means. It is “self-defence” rather than “shooting a man”, a more abstract wording to justify killing. I may blog on this. I wrote on the monstrous evil results their “double effect” argument has in ectopic pregnancy.

          I think deontologists, perhaps even doctors of moral philosophy, are consequentialist when it suits them, and run of the mill Catholics bore me quickly. Perhaps Agellius is better than Francis, as he dug out an essay on Thomas; but flat-earthers can go into great detail on the Bedford Levels experiments, and are still wrong. Catholicism means “Gay=Bad” (except to those liberal Catholics) presuppositionalism is an even more opaque way of blocking out all contrary argument, people see things wildly differently, often because it suits them to see that way. It is more interesting to debate with someone who might help me see differently.


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