November 12, 2009

Those were the days....

When will the Roman Church wake up to the fact that it exists, in this country at least, in a pluralistic society where, while it is free to teach whatever it chooses anywhere and everywhere, it is not free in the public sector to infringe the rights of others, and to the extent it enters that public sphere has certain responsibilities to the whole public? Henry IV at the gates of Canossa in 1077 was a long while ago — and expecting civil society to toe your line borders on the fantastic, and it isn't going to get any better. Meaner and leaner seems to be the forecast.

Thus the Archdiocese of Washington whines that due to what they regard as insufficient "protection" for religious institutions in the DC gay-marriage law:

...[R]eligious organizations and individuals are at risk of legal action for refusing to promote and support same-sex marriages in a host of settings where it would compromise their religious beliefs. This includes employee benefits, adoption services and even the use of a church hall for non-wedding events for same-sex married couples. Religious organizations such as Catholic Charities could be denied licenses or certification by the government, denied the right to offer adoption and foster care services, or no longer be able to partner with the city to provide social services for the needy.

The idea that employee benefits required by law represent the "promotion" of anything other than simple justice is ludicrous. Employees are, as the church teaches, all sinners in one way or another, and paying them a fair wage with benefits need not be seen as the promotion of their sins, whatever they may be. I'm not aware that the Romans require their secular employees to be Roman Catholic, or even Christian, let alone to be free from sin, or regularly to be shriven prior to payday — though I know in some cases (religious school teachers) they don't want them to be gay or divorced, and I believe may well continue to maintain such restrictions.

As to adoption, the Romans are already on record that they'd rather have children go unadopted than go to gay or lesbian parents, so there's nothing new there. How this squares with "true religion" as James described it is another matter.

As to renting the hall ("even"!) — well, yes, if you rent your hall as a public facility for secular use you might well be in trouble with the law if you refuse to rent to someone in violation of anti-discrimination laws. Still, renting the hall is hardly promotion of anything that takes place in the hall, or the beliefs of the renters, is it? The fact is that if you wish to dabble in the secular realm (as a landlord taking people's money for the use of your hall) you will have to get real and be welcome to the civil society. You are, of course, entirely free to reserve your church hall for religious uses — which the law fully protects.

Finally, the veiled threat to find itself unable any longer to reach out to the needy in collaboration with the secular realm is a particularly low ethical posture. Whatever happened to not letting your left hand know what the right is doing? Is there something immoral with feeding the hungry or clothing the naked if they are gay or lesbian?

The Roman Archdiocese seems to suggest so. Frankly, this tired and manipulative ploy is well past its sell-by date, when Rome used to be able to call the shots for the secular society. The leadership of the Roman Church continues to show itself not only to be behind the times, but to be morally and ethically disordered. Objectively disordered, at that, for it is one thing just to be unethical or immoral, but for a church to be so, as in this case, is at odds with its "object."

Let me add that I have considerable respect for many individual Roman Catholics, including some in the leadership, but the recent antics many of the leaders, in many spheres, leads me to wonder how much longer this will go on. (I'm told that the Prophecy of Malachy provides for only one more pope after Benedict XVI, before the final fall of Rome.) I'd hate to see the lights go out with lean and mean as the watchwords — somehow just doesn't sound like what Jesus wants, does it?

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG


Grandmère Mimi said...

Well said, Tobias. And you gave me my first LOL for the day with "...or regularly to be shriven prior to payday...." And why not, I ask you? Think of the money that the RCC could save. Surely there are not enough RC priests to go around for individual comfessions. But then perhaps regular pre-payday general confessions could be scheduled to handle the crowds, and the church would not save money after all.

The petty and vindictive threats to cut off help to those who are in need, if the powers in the church cannot have their way, are shameful. How, in any way, do they embody Gospel values?

IT said...

Do they (Archdio of DC) have divorced/remarried employees, and do those employees have health insurance for their spouses?

Just asking.

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Thanks, GM.I think that might work for all of us!

IT, I don't know but I'd be willing to wager that to be the case. The legal standards are very high for a church to be able to refuse legal requirements -- in particular to show exactly how or why the employment or benefits relate to the religious nature of the institution. Even religious schools have to show such a close relationship if they want to function in the public sphere -- which is really my argument.

It's hard to imagine, given the divorce statistics, that of the many office workers, custodians, administrators and so on that there aren't a few divorcees! "Marital Status" is already a protected category. said...

You may be correct that the examples used by the Roman Catholic Church, such as renting halls, providing employee benefits, etc., are technically not promoting so called "gay marriage," but the concern about religious liberties being infringed by the current politically correct culture is valid in an over-all sense.

There seems to be a movement, not just in the United States, but in Canada and some other countries, to outlaw "hate speech" and to define hate speech as anything derogatory to homosexuals. Yet the Bible itself condemns homosexuality. This puts those who practice their religious freedom to preach the gospel at risk of lawsuits for teaching exactly what the Bible says.

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

I think if you will read carefully concerning current legislation in England on the subject of hate speech you will see that your concerns are unfounded. It is very clear that "hate speech" must be more than a simple religious teaching, but also have the effect of inciting violence or practicing actual discrimination in one form or another.

Of course, I also disagree with your assertion that the "Bible itself condemns homosexuality." It does no such thing, except in flawed and culturally biased translations, any more than it "condemns heterosexuality."

If people who "preach the Gospel" would actually do that, they would have no fear of lawsuits in this regard.

Tim said...

I think I agree with your problems with the RCC. Individual matters of doctrine aside, I'm still looking for a word that sums-up their problems, being variously ultra-conservative, auto-protectionist, Establishment, power and/or abuse and imperialism. Perhaps `Rome' is its own best adjective?

It seems best, to me, to regard it as a matter of evolution. From Karen Armstrong's perspective, theology is (loosely) a search for truth that has bifurcated since 800BCE from Judaism to Christianty to reformed-or-not, etc; it may be found in some parts of one denomination and in other parts of another, and if they're left to their own devices the good ideas will hopefully remain and the less than wonderful ones (slavery...) drop off and the different traditions blur (just watch the CoE, methodists, episcopalians and presbyterians). It seems to me the RCC is a boulder in the stream of progress, fixed saying "we have it all right, always have done, and we need to protect what we have". Give it another millenium and the rest of the world will unite to occupy the other half of the football pitch (as the game deteriorates into one of two tribes) and devour it - so much for conservatism. said...

Tobias Stanislas Haller: I am glad to hear that in the U.K. hate speech is defined as more than just religious teaching, but would, as you say, incite violence. I hope it will be the same in other countries, but I fear it will not.

As far as Bible teaching regarding homosexuality is concerned, you are wrong. said...

Romans 1:27 is the verse I was looking for. In the King James Version it reads, "And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another, men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet."

The context of this whole passage is the various forms of unrighteousness of mankind, and the above seems to be describing homosexuality. If you think this is a mistranslation, tell me how you think it should be translated. It will be easy enough to look up any words in question in the original language to resolve this.

Sorry I did not include this in my previous comment. It took time for me to find it.

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Good points, Tim.

Penman, mere contradiction will hardly convince me of my error. As to the passage from Romans, it is not so much a question of translation, as taking it out of the context that provides a better understanding of the author's meaning.

Romans 1 is not "about homosexuality" -- it is "about" idolatry. The unseemly behavior of the men is seen by Paul as punishment for the error of having worshipped idols instead of the true God. But this passage should no more be seen as a "condemnation of homosexuality" or same-sex marriage (the actual topic of this discussion) than God's command to Hosea to marry a prostitute (Hosea 1:2) should be understood as divine endorsement of prostitution.

Taking biblical passages written to address a particular topic or situation and applying them too broadly is one of the worst misuses of God's Word.

However, as I say, this is off the topic of this post. If you want to continue to think that Romans 1:27 is relevant to a contemporary discussion of same-sex marriage among Christians, rather than being a description of the chaotic society of idolatrous pagan Greece and Rome, you are welcome to do so. But this is not the place to continue that discussion. said...

Tobias Stanislas Haller:

I didn't mean to go off-topic in my comments, and I didn't realize you would regard my comments as off-topic, else I would not have made them. In the post, the Archdiocese of Washington was quoted as saying, "...organizations and individuals are at risk of legal action for refusing to promote and support same-sex marriages in a host of settings where it would compromise their religious beliefs. This includes ..." The fact they the quote refers to a "host of settings" indicates they have a broad-based concern, not limited by the examples they gave of hall-rentals, adoptions, etc. I was merely acknowledging that broad-based concern when I raised the subject of hate speech legislation, because I know it has been a problem in some countries and may become a problem in the United States. And in discussing why that concern is valid and why teaching against homosexuality is a matter of religious concern, I mentioned that the Bible teaches against homosexuality. You then replied saying it does not and brought up the issue of "flawed and culturally biased translations." So I quoted Romans 1:27 in hopes you could show me where biased translation was. You then also discussed Romans 1:27 mentioning the context. All this relates, directly or indirectly, to the broad-based concern of the Catholic Church as evidenced in the original post. It surprised me that you said this is off-topic.

Why did I quote Romans 1:27? I had to, because you said in your instructions for commenters: "I ask three things of commenters...avoid mere contradiction or assertion; if you disagree, give a reason..." Following your rules, I had to mention that the Bible teaches against homosexuality in order to "give a reason" why prohibitions against hate speech could infringe upon religious freedom to teach, which falls within the broadly worded "host of settings" that the Archdiocese of Washington is quoted as being concerned about. For the same reason I had to quote Romans 1:27 to "give a reason" for my assertion that the Bible teaches against homosexuality.

So if I was off your intended topic, it was not intentional on my part. Now that I know you don't want to discuss this aspect, I will refrain.

Would it be off-topic to ask you your opinion of why the Archdiocese of Washington is concerned? What do you think is their motive? If one can pay employee benefits for same-sex couples, rent halls for same-sex unions, and give babies for adoption to same-sex couples without compromising one's religious beliefs, then why would the Archdiocese of Washington be concerned about it? For what it is worth, I am not Catholic, nor do I agree with many of their beliefs, so I am not saying these things just to support the Catholic Church.

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Thanks Penman for the further thoughts. The "off topic" aspect was getting into a debate about what the Bible says, or doesn't. I have actually written a book on that subject (you can find it on the upper right corner of the screen) but it wasn't the topic of this post.

The topic of this post was the assertion of the Archdiocese of Washington, that by continuing to offer certain social services, it is somehow in danger of "supporting same-sex marriage." My contention is that this is false (except perhaps in the case of adoption), since there is no direct connection between these services, or the status of the secular empolyees and non Roman Catholics who make use of them, and same-sex marriage -- about which the church is free to continue to teach as it likes with no restriction whatsoever. And while I disagree with their teaching, they are free to teach it, and I would defend that right.

Secondly, from a Roman perspective the Bible doesn't enter into it. I realize you are not a Roman Catholic (I suspected as much since you quote the KJV!). The RC opposition to same-sexuality is not based on Scripture, but on an argument from "natural law." This is the second reason you comment was off topic, as it isn't the reason for the Roman Church's concerns, however wide-ranging they may be. You didn't realize that. Please understand I take no offense about being off-topic, I just want to try to keep the discussion relevant to the narrow concern. Getting into the issue of what the Bible teaches is best discussed elsewhere.

To answer your final question, which does get us back to the topic: the Archdiocese's real "concern" is their opposition to same-sex marriage, and they are using the social services as an excuse to bring pressure to bear. As to ways to address their "concern" I've posted a follow-up that lays out a perfectly good Roman Catholic way to deal with the dilemma: the Principle of Double Effect. This is the same ethical standard the Roman Catholic Church uses in other situations, and they could use it here with no damage to their "concerns" or consciences.

The issue is that when one is offering a social service and taking government money to do so, one must follow the laws of the land. Nothing prevents the Roman Catholic adoption agencies from continuing to function without government support, or, in the case of employee benefits, acknowledging the Double Effect.

Hope this clarifies. Thanks again for your comments.