November 30, 2005

The Catholic church vs. homosexuals everywhere

Writing about web page http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/4480588.stm

The Catholic church has renewed its convicton that homosexuality is a tendancy rather then an orientation and that practising is a sin. It has renewed the ban on gay priests, saying that those who have indulged in homosexual practises must have renounced their former activities and been celibate for at least three years before being considered for the cloth.

But why the surprise?!

Would we not criticise the church for backing down on one of its fundamental beliefs? Wouldn't the headlines then read something like:
'Church abandons its teachings in favour of pandering to the general feeling of society'?

Surely an organisation cannot be strong without believing emphatically in the rules upon which it is based. Surely one of the reasons the church has become weaker, particularly during the past century, is because some of its fundamental principles have been challenged, for example by the theory of evolution. So why should the church be expected to backtrack on another of its beliefs when presumably, as a result, it would be weakened?


- 11 comments by 2 or more people Not publicly viewable

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  1. I agree with that – if you believe something, stick to it.

    Not to mention that the Catholic Church is approaching 2,000 years old; the whims and feelings of society are fleeting and will be gone within a few decades.

    30 Nov 2005, 14:27

  2. Chris May

    I'm not a catholic, or even a christian, so possibly my view is less well-informed than it might be, but hasn't the church changed quite a lot over the last 2000 years? It doesn't restrict publication of the bible, or (for the most part) performing* of mass in languages other than Latin any more, it doesn't consider heresy (or anything else, AFAIK) a sin punishable by death, it no longer sanctions war for the purpose of conversion (i.e. the crusades), and so on.

    Might it not be the case that the reason it's lasted so well is because it's been able to absorb and adapt to the fleeting whims and feelings of society, without losing sight of what it really stands for (i.e. that Jesus is the Son of God, that he died on the cross and was reborn etc) ?

    * what's the right verb for carrying out a mass?

    30 Nov 2005, 15:08

  3. A very good point, Chris, but the question is where should that adaption stop? And my point was that, in fact, in the long run it might not even benefit the church to adapt because the criticism of its lack of adherance to its own rules may well override the hatred incited in the gay community.

    Also, the difference with most of the issues you mention is that the change in view did not contradict biblical teachings.

    And perform is fine for a mass.

    30 Nov 2005, 15:20

  4. Given as a change in doctrine over this issue would greatly increase the acceptance of homosexuality in a world that is still predominately homophobic, I really don't see how anyone can morally justify it retaining its current policy given the vast alterations to Catholic belief and doctrine that have taken place over the centuries. Fish on a friday, etc.

    30 Nov 2005, 16:20

  5. Latin Mass, toleration of slave trade, no fish on Friday, institutionalised sexism, emphasis on comtemplative (i.e. monastry bound) religious orders, the existence of purgatory, railing of alters and the exclusion of the general public, utter intolerance to Protestants, Muslims and Jews,... all things which Catholicism has practised as standard in the past and has shed, so to claim Catholicism has any sort of consistency is ridiculous.

    The Church professes that its number one reason d'etre is to follow the teachings of Christ, hence how a lot of Old Testament stuff can get conveniently ignored. And how much did Christ have to say on homosexuality? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Frankly abolishing purgatory seems like a more extreme step as that's biblical.

    And Ed, has studying history not taught you that increased toleration has been going on and growing for several centuries now? I don't think it's fleeting.

    30 Nov 2005, 16:38

  6. The problem is, as Holly has mentioned, that it all depends on an individual's interpretation of the bible. Whether you take the fundamentals of the Christian faith to be based on the entirety of the bible or just the gospels is up for dispute. The bible condemns homosexuality, not in the gospels but in the rest of the old AND new testaments. It is unavoidable, whether or not Christians themselves believe in living their lives according to the gospels or the whole bible, that people will see any change of opinion as a weakness in the church. Many current disputes, of which the homosexuality debate is one of the most prominent, are dividing the church and thus reducing the public's opinion of it. You cannot take the gospels out of context completely because they are innately associated with their context, whether or not this is right or wrong in anyone's opinion.

    I am not debating whether the Catholic church has or has not been consistent: I wouldn't dispute it has been highly inconsistent in the past. But the position of church in society has changed. It has gone from being an organisation which is obeyed and believed by most to being criticised left, right and centre. In a cynical modern world where everything has to be justified, with proof if possible, and every inconsistency is pointed out the church is crumbling from the inside out.

    Religion is general is taking a huge beating at the moment: but is it worse for the church to offend the homosexual community, and to some extent society at large, or to change it's opinion when a larger proportion of its members are of the more conservative viewpoint and thus would be opposed to it.

    30 Nov 2005, 17:32

  7. The question you're asking is should the Church lead or be lead? The fact is that it aspires to lead, its doctrines and missions are geared towards dragging people towards something better, therefore it's not legitimate for it to hide behind the excuse that it's merely following its majority.

    Criticism of the Church is not a 21st century innovation. It has been schisming and suffering attacks and challenges for centuries. Sometimes, as in the Counter Reformation, the changes have been useful in preserving it, but at others, like after Vatican II, it's not gone so well.

    I personally want to see more tolerance in the Catholic Church, it was largely it's intolerant attitude that drove me out in the first place…

    30 Nov 2005, 17:41

  8. This entry was supposed to pose the question:
    – What would you do if you were the Pope and were trying to make this decision whilst remaining true to the bible and the beliefs of your followers AND trying to maintain/increase the popularity of the church? Is it more important to remain true to the teachings of your faith or to adapt to society so that your popularity is maintained? Would you have made the same decision, say, 100 years ago or does the social situation at the time change it? Should the social situation make a difference, in your opinion?

    …rather than:
    – Is this decision firstly, out of character for the Catholic church and, secondly, a subversion of the teachings of the bible?

    Although the second question is also very interesting…

    30 Nov 2005, 17:42

  9. (Comment 8 was supposed to immediately follow comment 6).

    Of course the church has been subject to criticism in the past. However, in the past the general consensus of the population has been to classify themselves as Christian, attend church and adhere to Christian morals. The extent to which this is happening now has decreased so significantly that many churches will face closure in the next 10–20 years as their congregations decline. I don't think the church has ever seen a mass exodus and general loss of faith like this before.

    Surely the majority view of the followers of a religion should correspond to its own doctrines. If not isn't there something fundamentally wrong?

    30 Nov 2005, 17:54

  10. Chris May

    don't think the church has ever seen a mass exodus and general loss of faith like this before.

    Straying off the original topic somewhat, but when you say 'loss of faith', do you mean ' stopped believing in God' or 'Stopped believing in the teachings and policies of the {catholic|anglican|whatever} church ?'

    I ask because I know quite a few people who would still claim to have 'Faith' but don't hold with the Church per se (I suppose some might argue that they're deluding themselves, and that if you're not in church every sunday your faith doesn't count, but that seems rather extreme to me :-))

    01 Dec 2005, 15:06

  11. Indeed, this should be clarified as, as you point out, a 'mass exodus' from churches is different from a 'loss of faith'.

    In the context of this discussion it would be primarily the people who have 'stopped believing in the teachings and policies of the (Catholic) church', as it is the viewpoint of the Catholic church which is in discussion. As I have previously mentioned, and as is obvious when entering most churches in this country, there has been large reduction in churchgoing in the last century or so. Although many people maintain that they have a faith, and I would never make the assumption that their faith doesn't count, I think it's a very vague label. I don't necessarily think that many of them actively consider their beliefs or try to clarify them. It's a lack of active faith that has declined. But then, some would say that it's better for people to say that they're not sure instead of unquestioningly obeying a religion they don't really fit with.

    Any church (or organisation) always has to be at least partly motivated by an ambition to extend its membership and message. Although many non-churchgoers still claim to have a faith of some sort, the wish of anyone within the church will always be for someone to be active in their faith as this presumably brings them a deeper understanding, gives them a regular time for worship and, indeed, brings them 'closer to God'.

    01 Dec 2005, 16:17


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