Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Too, too, far ...

Many of us have nothing but admiration for Archbishop Desmond Tutu's courageous stand against the evil of apartheid in his native South Africa. But when he states [report here from The Independent] "I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. No, I would say sorry, I mean I would much rather go to the other place. I would not worship a God who is homophobic and that is how deeply I feel about this," not only is he doing a manifest injustice to the far from 'homophobic' theology and ethical tradition of the Christian Church which formed him, but he also seems incredibly, categorically, and, to my mind, dangerously, and even offensively, certain that his own clearly highly subjective interpretation, Nobel Prize and the respect of the whole world notwithstanding,  accurately and beyond the shadow of a doubt represents the Divine Reality. 
Oh  to possess the infallible and hubristic certainty of contemporary liberal Christians! How could God possibly not agree with them?

11 comments:

  1. Quaestio 154 of the Secunda Secundae in Thomas’s Summa Theologiae deals with the sin of ‘luxuria’ which covers all forms of sexual activity aside from vaginal penetration within the contract of marriage. There is little doubt that by simple reference to scripture and tradition this is the only way to go doctrinally.

    However, the arguments revolve around nature as well as revelation; the sins against nature are enumerated as bestiality (the worst), followed by the sin ‘against sexuality’; followed by the sin ‘against the appropriate receptacle’ (non-vaginal intercourse, but between man and woman).

    Archbishop Desmond’s views on homosexuality are based on an understanding that anything God-given by birth is precisely that: a gift from God, and that this is the context in which we interpret both scripture and tradition. It was this conviction that led him to fight against apartheid and the same conviction leads him to take his views (correct and courageous in my view) on sexuality.

    It is very hard to see a consistent middle ground on this. Either you are with the ‘God hates Fags’ brigade or at some point you have to recognise the opposite. Since I have been part of the Church in Wales we have been on that ‘slippery slope’ from remarrying divorcees to respecting (though not recognising) civil partnerships, and the logical, sound and good conclusion is very clearly the opening to gay people of the dignity and rights of marriage.

    The only alternative is to go for the ‘God hates Fags’ line, because – as Tutu has been saying for years – if God has given people an attraction for the same sex, then it is a cruel idea of God that then condemns them for acting according to nature. Indeed, it is a God whom he and I would repudiate.

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  2. "Archbishop Desmond’s views on homosexuality are based on an understanding that anything God-given by birth is precisely that: a gift from God ... if God has given people an attraction for the same sex, then it is a cruel idea of God that then condemns them for acting according to nature. Indeed, it is a God whom he and I would repudiate."

    I see. So much for the Fall of Man and, for that matter, Original Sin. But why stop with homosexual sodomy (or pseudogamy)? Welcome, polyamory; welcome, polygamy. One could add other matters ad libitum, concerning other purportedly "God-given by birth" traits. It calls to mind the 16th-Century Catholic historian Nicholas Sanders' remark in his "Origin and Progress of the English Schism," about Henry VIII's church's demi-Catholic religious doctrine, that Henry was like one that should cast a man from a tall tower and bid him stop halfway down.

    Whatever this is, it bears no relation to Catholic Christianity, or, for that matter, to "Mere Christianity."

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    1. Point taken. Some of us, Anglicans (mere Christians?) nonetheless, would have preferred not to have been cast from the tall tower to begin with ...

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    2. Before you say it - "but we have, so deal with it..."

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  3. "The only alternative is to go for the ‘God hates Fags’ line."

    Not really, the appropriate line is "God hates buggery."

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  4. "anything God-given by birth is precisely that: a gift from God, and that this is the context in which we interpret both scripture and tradition."

    Abervicar, I know of someone who told a group of us that he was born a paedophile. He can't help himself, it's something that was there from the start.
    So, to quote and paraphrase you again: " if God has given people an attraction for sex with young people, then it is a cruel idea of God that then condemns them for acting according to nature. Indeed, it is a God whom he and I would repudiate."

    Now, you can say I am taking you out of context but that is the line of thought you are espousing. You can't have one and not the other. As William Tighe said, if you condone homosexuality as a gift from God, then everything else goes, I'm afraid.
    God, don't you just love this warm, fuzzy feeling?

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  5. "would have preferred not to have been cast from the tall tower to begin with ..."

    Mascall would have agreed with you; he told me the same thing explcitly, more then once.

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  6. Evidently it was rash of me to offer a reasoned view and to hope for a reasoned view in return.

    The doctrine of Original Sin covers all without exception. If you wish to use that doctrine to support the sinfulness of particular acts, you will have to justify that position (because all acts are potentially sinful); if you wish to use that doctrine to assert the total depravity line, you will again have to justify in that context why one particular sexual act should be considered worse than another one. This is actually Thomas’s aim in the passages which I quoted.

    Elsewhere in the Summa Thomas characterises Original Sin as a sickness or disease corrupting that which is good in itself. Unlike Augustine at his worst, or some of the theologians of the Reformation, he acknowledges the permanence of created good in humanity, asserting the distinctively Catholic view that grace builds on nature.

    For Thomas, the issue of homosexuality has no more or less to do with Original Sin than the issue of whether marriage is a remedy for an alleged sinfulness inherent in sexual human nature.

    Indeed, I would agree with him that Original Sin is apt to corrupt the original God-given beauty of human passions (sex among them) but I would (based in the teaching of Jesus) assert that the remedy lies not in the manner and location of the use of the sexual organs; rather it lies in the faithfulness and self-giving of the relationship in which the passion is expressed.

    It is a very short time ago – and we should recall not so long either in the USA and Europe – that apartheid theologians were arguing that the Fall affected Black and Coloured people more than it affected whites. Again I would side with Archbishop Desmond in asserting Catholic teaching that Original Sin affects all equally. When we recognise that, we can start to co-operate in the economy of grace.

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    1. I apologise for the haste as I am preparing to go on holiday.
      Your arguments need a far more thorough reply; I apologise not not having time to make one, but two observations will have to suffice:
      Firstly, while agreeing that St Thomas' methodology deserves close examination with regard to same-sex attraction, it is only fair to point out that his conclusions are diametrically opposed to those who argue in favour of Christian approbation of same-sex physical relationships.
      And secondly, the continued references to theological justifications for apartheid fail to recognise (and to come clean about?) the fact that these have never been regarded as valid by 'Catholic' Christians of any description. To use the dubious theological reasoning of certain sections of the Dutch Reformed Church (unrepresentative in itself of the wider Reformed tradition)to belabour orthodox Christian moral theology appears to be - at best - intellectual sleight of hand...
      Frankly, this is one argument I am not sorry to be leaving behind ...

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  7. Before you go on holiday, Michael, please permit me some further comments:

    (1) If Terry will read my second post, he will see further clarification that my argument is not the one which he is sending up – nor is it warm and fuzzy.

    (2) In my argument I specifically distinguish the premise by which Thomas arrives at his conclusions; and I offer an alternative which is itself Gospel-founded.

    I agree that it is a serious matter to amend or re-interpret what has been so far understood as valid Tradition; this is why it deserves more serious argument (with specific reference to the basis of the Tradition) than it seems to be getting.

    Oh – and by the way, the theological offshoot of Social Darwinism that was espoused by many (not all) of the Dutch Reformed is not unknown within either Catholic or Anglican history in South Africa, Europe, and the USA (as I suggested).

    Have a lovely holiday. I hope the weather in France is at least as good as we are fortunate to be enjoying here! ☺

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    1. I wouldn't disagree about the need for renewed examination (and, I would say)necessary re-statement of the Tradition in this regard.
      As to an aberrant and (by the standards of the Tradition itself) repugnant theological social Darwinism being 'not unknown' among certain Roman Catholics and Anglicans, that is, as you are very aware, not the same thing at all as receiving ecclesial and doctrinal validation.
      Sorry not to be able to discuss this further now. it will probably have to wait post vacation and pilgrimage! I hope the weather here remains as good

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