William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

That Curious Synod Relatio

The officiala seala.

The officiala seala.

The extraordinary Synod released into the wild Monday its draft relatio which caused a lot of emotions to soar. The Left cheered, “This is the beginning!”, while the Right said, “This is the end!” (Both could be correct, of course.) Look for a spike in both champagne and whiskey sales as giddiness takes over.

One paragraph (#50) in particular captured the imagination of the world:

Pedophiles have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community: are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities? Often they wish to encounter a Church that offers them a welcoming home. Are our communities capable of providing that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?

No, wait. Something wrong with the keyboard. My bad. It actually read:

Adulterers have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community…accepting and valuing their sexual orientation…

Darn it. This new WordPress dynamic editor kills me. Try again:

Murderers have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community…accepting and valuing their furious raging temptations…

That’s not it either. Never mind. Since I can’t seem to get the editor to work, meanwhile you can link over the original, uncorrupted text.

Anyway, I don’t see why all the steam. Of course pedophiles, adulterers, and murderers are people, too! So are tax cheats, arsonists, and members of Congress. Listen, sisters and brothers, we’re all sinners needing the Grace of God, a grace we should beg with fear and trembling. That’s all the paragraph is trying to say.

This is no earthquake. There really isn’t anything to see here. Move along.

Does seem a bit unfair to all the other sinners to highlight the “gifts and qualities” of just one group, though. People are going to feel left out. Right now some little old lady is sitting in the back of the pews thinking, “All I do is gossip about my family members, which I know is sinful and hurtful, and I don’t even get one lousy paragraph?” The only answer we can give her is: Whoever said life was fair?

Just a moment. I think I have it…yes. The editor is fully functional again. Here’s #21.

The Gospel of the family, while it shines in the witness of many families who live coherently their fidelity to the sacrament, with their mature fruits of authentic daily sanctity must also nurture those seeds that are yet to mature, and must care for those trees that have dried up and wish not to be neglected.

Reactionary groups charged that the bishops cribbed this from the inside of a “Just Because” greeting card bought at a ₤100 store back in 1999, and reportedly found earlier this week between the seat cushions of a couch in Cardinal Wuerl’s hotel room. In answer to these serious allegations, Catholic blog watchdog Team Patheos said, “Reactionaries are poopy heads.”

I frankly don’t see it as a big deal. These bishops are busy guys and they only had a day, day-and-a-half to complete the relatio. They were thus in a position of a college student coming off a Thursday night with a term paper due next morning, and there sits before him Wikipedia in all its tempting glory. Besides, it’s the thought that counts, not the source, right?

The greeting-card crib may not have been the only skullduggery. A highly placed anonymous Source and self-described Zed-Head was able to tell your intrepid reporter that he suspects portions of the relatio were inserted by Chinese hackers who broke into the Vatican computers.

“How else do you explain phrases like paragraph nine’s ‘a greater need is encountered among individuals to take care of themselves, to know their inner being, and to live in greater harmony with their emotions and sentiments, seeking a relational quality in emotional life’ and thirteen’s ‘interpreting the nuptial covenant in terms of continuity and novelty’?” he asked.

“What have these to do with Catholic teaching and the salvation of souls? There is no way any faithful, conscientious bishop would have written these things. It must be from hackers.”

62 Comments

  1. Willis Eschenbach

    October 16, 2014 at 8:12 am

    Mmmm … while you may not see it as a big deal, in fact the church historically has treated gays differently than murderers. I understand perfectly that this current statement is not a change in the basic church position.

    However, it is a welcome sign of the change in focus of the church, moving to where it should be, which is a focus on healing and inclusion rather than on shaming and exclusion.

    Historically, the Church has come down much harder on gays than on many other sinners. I suspect this was based on guilt—while few priests historically have been murderers, many have been gay, which has led to … mmm, let me call it “mixed feelings” within the church hierarchy and let it go at that.

    Finally, let me say as a non-Catholic that this is another welcome change from that most amazing of men, the current Pope. I got no time for useless fops in designer shoes of silk and leather, no time for clowns in big funny hats … but Pope Francis is a man among men, and Catholics are fortunate to have him in charge.

    All the best,

    w.

  2. I am sooo happy Willis is happy—not.

    Maybe the first time this Pope was not voted in was the correct choice? Of course, inclusion as in “please, sit in on our service” is great. Inclusion such as “please rewrite our entire religion to suit yourself” is not. Someone is forgetting that religion is supposed to have rules and regulations—that is it’s purpose. If one does not like said rules, they can leave. Religion is not a democracy. Calling bad good does not make it so. Unfortunately, religion is often just as much a business as anything else and product reworking may be necessary to keep those doors open.

    I really can’t tell if this Pope is as much an “activist” as he is hailed to be. He was a hero until it became clear he was still calling homosexuality a sin instead of saying that the church was now okay with it. People see what they want to see.

  3. It’s sort of amusing that the entire teaching on sexuality is reduced to guilt feelings.

  4. “How else do you explain phrases like paragraph nine’s”? Latin to Italian to English? Portuguese to Italian to English? Who translates this stuff? Academics?

  5. Evident guilt-by-association, Briggs.

  6. You realize Willis that as a non-Catholic you are condemned to … you know the less desirable place. I don’t see any softening of this position in the Synod.

    Briggs, you may have to start your own church.

  7. WmBriggs

    You should turn over all your BLOGs to Houston

    http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2014/10/14/city-houston-demands-pastors-turn-over-sermons/

    The subpoenas are just the latest twist in an ongoing saga over the Houston’s new non-discrimination ordinance. The law, among other things, would allow men to use the ladies room and vice versa. The city council approved the law in June.

    The Houston Chronicle reported opponents of the ordinance launched a petition drive that generated more than 50,000 signatures – far more than the 17,269 needed to put a referendum on the ballot.

    However, the city threw out the petition in August over alleged irregularities.

    After opponents of the bathroom bill filed a lawsuit the city’s attorneys responded by issuing the subpoenas against the pastors.

    The pastors were not part of the lawsuit. However, they were part of a coalition of some 400 Houston-area churches that opposed the ordinance. The churches represent a number of faith groups – from Southern Baptist to non-denominational.

  8. John B: I heard earlier today on the news that the city attorneys really did not mean this, they are very sorry they confused everyone and they are not asking for the actual sermons. They would never infringe on people’s religious views. There’s just a whole lot of misunderstanding going on out there it seems.

  9. You realize Willis that as a non-Catholic you are condemned to … you know the less desirable place.

    The one you’re rejecting now?

  10. Dover Beach,

    ?

  11. My Dear Mr. Briggs, would you please stop comparing homosexuality to being a murder or pedophile? I thought this is something that Sheri does, not you.

  12. As Queen Christina of Sweden said (and I paraphrase, because I can’t find the actual quote)…” the Church (i.e. the Catholic Church of the Latin Rite) must be true because it’s survived so many bad people”
    And one should note that what comes out of this Synod (which is, indeed, a preliminary statement to be fully fleshed in next year’s Synod) is just the opinion of a number of bishops…it is not Catholic Dogma nor even Doctrine; it has not been issued ex cathedra.

  13. Matt,
    Adultery, murder, and pedophilia are sins that have victims. Homosexuality between consenting adults doesn’t have victims as far as I can see. The comparison is a stretch, not unlike the illogical, undisciplined thinking you point out on the part of others daily. Keep up the good work, and don’t mix religion and logic too much as it rarely ends well.

  14. Why JH, how nice of you to notice my being the one who compares homosexuality to being a murderer or pedophile! Actually, I usually stick with homosexuality and pedophilia being equal if talking science and all three equal in religion, but I’m glad you took note!

  15. But wasn’t he Anglican church welcoming homosexuals a great success story?

  16. Oh if we could throw out “religion” and bring back relationship. The bottom line is to live treating others as you would like to be treated, whether you feel they deserve it or not. Who made you the judge, jury and executioner? To desire a relationship rather than rules and regulations! If we could all see inside the souls of one another and see their hurts, needs, wants, desires, feelings and have a true heart to help and support then and only then would the world change.
    Every living soul has a inward longing, a yearning to know a God. Some have not let it out, some have let it go and others pursue it in every way imaginable. I say the day will come when each of us will find out what is true and what isn’t as many of our family members, friends and enemies have already. Unfortunately only one has come back from death and let us know the answers to these questions and yet he was not accepted. Therefore I pose the following questions: Who would you believe if they came back from the dead and told you what they found? Just yourself? Your spouse? Your brother or sister? The President? If you can’t or don’t believe those around you now why would you start believing even if they came back after dying? Where is faith these days? How do we believe what others are saying without some faith?
    People are gambling with their lives – one says there is nothing after this so live it up and do what you want. What if these are wrong?
    Another says this god or this method is the way to happiness in the “afterlife”. What if they are wrong?
    Christian churches say that believing Jesus is the son of God, accepting him as Lord and Saviour and the work he did at the crucifixion is the way to heaven and those who reject it will end up in hell. What if they are right?
    Only when we all die will we all find the truth and then we will all agree. Until then…

  17. Adultery, murder, and pedophilia are sins that have victims. Homosexuality between consenting adults doesn’t have victims as far as I can see.

    There is quite a bit of adultery between consenting adults. And given the context, there is nothing illogical in what Matt has said.

  18. Steve: Is this a version of Rodney King’s “can’t we just all get along”? And where did “executioner” come from? Who’s advocating we just whack those we don’t agree with? Anyway, we absolutely cannot in any way just let people live and let live. There’s not enough room on the planet for that to work. I do bring up pedophilia over and over because even the most “nonjudgmental” person says it’s morally wrong. (Note the comment on adultery.) That would be one of those nasty judgements. There really is no such thing as a relationship without rules and regulations. It’s just a matter of who’s rules. See how people have flocked to ISIS–who has very, very clear cut rules and you play a very clearly defined part. People innately need rules and regulations. They will find them somewhere. Where would you like them to find the rules—churches or terrorists and gangs?

    If we wait until we die, isn’t that a bit late? Or are you meaning something different here?

  19. Sheri, thank you. You deserve it.

  20. Sheri: Exactly my point. We need rules. Death is too late.
    “Let us sit down and talk with ISIS” will not work. Hence the reason we have so many different types of governments and religions. Leadership is needed or we will be in a severe mess. As messed up as leadership is sometimes at least there is a leader. Take Iraq, the leader was removed and the vacuum was so severe it spawned what we have today. I believe no one should be above the law and live as if there were no rules. And rules may have their flaws but changing the fundamentals of our humanity goes too far. Unfortunately the world cannot physically recognize the spiritual side of our decisions. Of course, IF there is a spiritual realm…

  21. Briggs

    October 16, 2014 at 1:08 pm

    JH,

    I would have thought the comparison to Members of Congress would have been more offensive.

    Anyway, there was no comparison of types of sinners. That misses the point. The very large point.

  22. Unfortunately the world cannot physically recognize the spiritual side of our decisions.

    The world cannot physically recognize an idea either.

  23. Steve: I clearly did not understand your comment. Thank you for clarify it for me. Seems we are in agreement.

  24. Anyway, there was no comparison of types of sinners.
    That misses the point. The very large point.

    You like to say that people miss your point and that people are consistently wrong. I think you miss my point, the very large point.

  25. Briggs

    October 16, 2014 at 2:36 pm

    JH, Only when they’re consistently wrong and miss the point.

  26. Sheri :

    I’ve been searching for an official statement regarding the Houston issue. I’m NOT finding a lot that support what you said.

    The closest I got was from the American Spectator :
    “Houston Mayor Totally Didn’t Mean That Subpoena Thing, You Guys
    By Emily Zanotti on 10.16.14 | 2:51PM”

    I’d love a link to a true reframing of this as Houston sees it.
    What I saw on the net was : “Houston has a problem”

    John

  27. JH, Only when they’re consistently wrong and miss the point.

    There has been no effort to compare the degree of sin in each nor was the any attempt to equate them in the post. There has been, however, some pearl-clutching in the combox.

  28. Sheri: (Did you REALLY mean?)
    Someone is forgetting that religion is supposed to have rules and regulations—that is it’s purpose.

    Wow

    The “message” I am getting from Jesus the Christ is completely different from that idea (ideal?). I’m still trying to get his message(s). But your statement is NOT the message I’ve gotten from him so far.

    Love you my sister

  29. Scotian,

    Perhaps Dover thinks you have something against West Virginia which I’ve heard is almost heaven despite HEVEN being a mere 5.3nm east by north (magnetic) of the Martinsburg, WV airport.

  30. John B: Yes, I really meant that. You can add that God loves us, Jesus loves us or whatever else you want, but bottom line, God gave us rules to follow to make our lives easier. If you don’t want rules, you join a social club (actually most of those have rules too). What kind of religion lacks rules? I am curious what message you are getting, if you want to share.

  31. DAV

    That WV as Heaven idea was put forth by John Denver (he WAS kinda far out, man)

    IA was heaven according to Field of Dreams

  32. I’ll try to write something up tonight
    (Don’t expect anything great – but I’ll try to be succinct)

    I DO believe in rules, but THAT is NOT what religion should be all about.

    But the number one thing “Religion” should do is TEACH us about God’s love (God’s love doesn’t belong in the “whatever else you want” category).

    Jesus said to preach the “Good News”, as far as I know the “Good News” is God’s Love.

  33. Aren’t the rules part of the love? Didn’t God give us rules to live life by so we would thrive? I guess I see the rules as an integral part of the love. God was pretty clear that the rules has meaning, violating them had consequences and that he had created a way to be forgiven for those violations.

    I’ll wait to see what you have. I am not very good at separating things into parts, so I lump all of God into rules for living because He loved us and didn’t want us to get hurt. It’s like parenting—you have to have rules and discipline or you really don’t love the child. It’s all one. So don’t take what I said too literally—I live in a Gestalt where everything ties together. Sometimes that makes no sense to people.

  34. John B: I heard the information about Houston on the radio. I’m sorry but I don’t have another reference at the moment. Maybe it will come out later today or tomorrow.

  35. http://hotair.com/archives/2014/10/16/houston-mayor-city-attorney-on-second-thought-maybe-those-subpoenas-were-a-wee-bit-broad/

    This was one of two or three I found. Just Google “Houston backpedals on sermon subpoenas” for more.

  36. Briggs,

    Only when they’re consistently wrong and miss the point.

    About the best encapsulation I’ve read is: Not to put too fine a point on it, but this makes no sense whatsoever.

    It works just as well in the original context: http://theweek.com/article/index/269891/pope-francis-machiavellian-strategy-to-liberalize-the-catholic-church

    For me, the real money quote was: If [liberalizing church doctrine on marriage, the family, and homosexuality with stealth reform] is what Pope Francis is going for, I don’t blame conservatives for beginning to express serious misgivings. It’s a brilliant, clever, supremely Machiavellian strategy — one that promises to produce far-reaching reforms down the road while permitting the present pope both to claim plausible deniability (“I haven’t changed church doctrine!”) and to enjoy nearly constant effusive coverage in the secular press.

    I expect you tell me that I too am consistently wrong and have missed the point. Which is the point.

  37. “[teach] them to obey everything I have commanded you”
    “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching”
    “As they traveled from town to town, they delivered the decisions … for the people to obey”
    “Take special note of anyone who does not obey our instruction in this letter.”
    “and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him”
    “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other”
    “But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them.”

    Rules are not an end in themselves, but that doesn’t mean they are irrelevant. Love of the rule-giver is demonstrated by obedience to the rules.

  38. I think many people–Catholics and non-Catholics–are missing the point of the Synod, and what was said. I’ve read the whole report, and I agree with George Weigel, a scholar and not a closet liberal (in the religious practice or political sense).
    I’ll quote from his article in National Review Online:
    “The 2014 synod is an agenda-setting exercise that was intended by Pope Francis to help prepare the work of the 2015 Synod on the Family. The pope knows full well that marriage and the family are in crisis throughout the world. In his own remarks before the synod, he said that he hoped the synod would lift up the beauty of Christian marriage and Christian family life in a world too dominated by what he’s often called a ‘throwaway culture,’ the throwaways all too frequently including spouses and children. That some bishops, theologians, and bishop-theologians from dying local churches in Europe have tried to use the synod to instruct the entire Catholic Church on appropriate pastoral solutions to difficult and tangled human situations will strike some as cheeky, and others as just bizarre. But whatever those synod fathers and advisers thought they were doing, what they effectively have done is to contribute to the false sense that this, at last, is the moment of the Great Catholic Cave-In.”
    Reading the rest of the article gives the full sense of what Pope Francis is trying to accomplish in the Synod, and that this summary of the proceedings is indeed preliminary.
    Here’s a link to the full article:
    http://eppc.org/publications/the-great-catholic-cave-in-that-wasnt/

  39. John B,

    Regarding rules and love, I refer you to John 14:15: “If you love me, keep my commandments.”

    There is no divide between love and obedience, and how can we be saved if we do not love God?

    Furthermore, there is no mercy in allowing a man unwarned to continue in grave sin. For this, I would advise you to read Ezekiel 3:16-21. It is not loving, but slothful and cowardly to encourage presumption on the part of struggling sinners and to undermine their resolve.

  40. Sheri, with respect to that Houston Mayor who has been attempting to trample on religious liberties, here are two articles (from National Review Online) that are of interest:
    http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/390509/houston-mayor-who-tried-harassing-pastors-says-shes-real-victim-ian-tuttle
    http://www.nationalreview.com/article/390408/houstons-mayor-throws-out-citizens-petition-goes-after-local-pastors-ian-tuttle
    what is significant in the latter article that a petition against a Houston “fairness” edict was arbitrarily rejected by capricious devices by city lawyers–so those advocating equal rights, but for me, not for thee.

  41. Sheri, Andrew W and Hrodgar

    I simply responded to Sheri’s words: “religion is supposed to have rules and regulations—THAT IS IT’S PURPOSE.”

    I’m glad parenting was mentioned. When a child is an infant, the only rule is that the parent love and care for that child. Only AFTER that child develops a sense of relationship. Love and obedience go hand in hand, but there is a hierarchy. God FIRST loved us.

    Most of us are infants, and the church can ONLY FIRST teach love.

    And what about that infant that doesn’t grow into a loving family, that child becomes broken … Jesus came for the broken … which part of the broken child do you teach all of the rules? Or do you wait until God makes him whole again.

    In the Author’s Note/Preface for his book “Blue Like Jazz”

    Donald Miller wrote:

    I never liked Jazz music because jazz music didn’t resolve.
    But I was outside the Bagdad Theatre in Portland one night
    When I saw a man playing the saxophone. I stood there
    For fifteen minutes, and he never opened his eyes.
    After That I liked jazz music.
    Sometimes you have to watch somebody love something
    Before you can love it yourself. It is as if they are showing
    You the way.

    Miller closes the note with:

    I used to not like God because God didn’t resolve. But
    That was before any of this happened.

    John B

  42. Sheri:
    I live in a Gestalt where everything ties together. Sometimes that makes no sense to people.

    I do as well, as I think most of the commenters do.

    …everything ties together [each of us have this Gordian knot of ideas]. Would it be better for us to test the free ends and see where they go? Or should we just take a sword and sever the whole thing?

    I see a lot of the second option taking place on many Blogs

  43. More grist for the mill: “Following that embarrassment, Pope Francis added Cardinal Wilfrid Napier of South Africa to the committee that will draft the synod’s concluding report, which will be discussed and voted on tomorrow. The committee until now included no Africans. Napier is among the chorus of synod fathers who say that the interim report released on Monday bore little relation to the discussion that had taken place in the synod hall.” That seems likely.
    (from:
    http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/390557/re-synod-gets-weirder-nicholas-frankovich)

  44. John B: I don’t know if there are free ends on that knot. One endless loop seems more likely. At least in my own case. It’s more a loop than a knot.

    Maybe part of the problem here is that we are kind of using the word “religion” as Christian. The Old Testament with the Jews was a huge list of rules and regulations on how to live one’s life. There are many other religions that provide guidelines on how to live one’s life, some with an emphasis on love and some not so much. I will grant you that the New Testament is more about love and less about rules, but the rules are still there.

    Yes, God first loved us but when he made us, he made us with rules to follow. In the Garden of Eden, there were rules from the first day of creation, so far as I can tell. Rules which were broken and Adam and Eve were removed from paradise. I just cannot see how the two entities are not completely entwined. I do understand that you can, but I simply cannot.

  45. Nullius in Verba

    October 17, 2014 at 3:04 pm

    “Pedophiles have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community:”

    And it came to pass, that, as Jesus sat at meat in his house, many publicans and sinners sat also together with Jesus and his disciples: for there were many, and they followed him.

    And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners?

    When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

    Yes, I’m sure sinners have things to offer to the Christian community, as the Christian community has things to offer to sinners. Some of us suffer the sin of pride – thinking that we are more virtuous than our neighbors. We do not want to invite them to our table, in disgust at their sin. But they do not want to invite us to theirs for the same reason, in disgust at our sin of pride and intolerance. Who gains from such unremitting enmity?

    People are born with desires, about which they have no choice. But we can choose what to do about them. We cannot help but envy our neighbor’s possessions, but we can choose not to steal. We cannot help but enjoy luxury, but we can choose to resist indulgence. We cannot help but be wearied by labor, but we can choose work over sloth. The desire itself is not the sin; it is in stealing from and hurting others to indulge our own desires, without earning the right.

    And it is easier to take from and hurt people we don’t know, who we have not spoken to openly of this at our table. It is easier to hurt those who have rejected us. It is easier to take by force from those who have refused us. It is harder to make the distinction between the desire and the act, and thus to desire without acting, when society fails to make the same distinction.

    The rules change. It used to be sinful to wear clothing of mixed linen and wool, to get tattoos, or to eat any seafood besides fish (that had fins and scales). There were good reasons for that at the time. They were not sinful for themselves but for what went with them – a context that has changed over time and has now been lost. We can ‘change the rules’ if we understand what the original reason for the ruling was and can see that it no longer applies – thus it’s not actually changing the rules, it’s completing them: expanding on the unspoken context and conditions under which the original rule applied. The ability to change the rules is the reason that Christians are not Jews. You can change them again, if it’s right to do so.

    The eaters of pork have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community too, like buttered bacon sandwiches. What could be more heavenly?

  46. Nullius in Verba: Yes, Jesus sat with the publicans and sinners, but he did not move in with them, tell them they were a-okay just they way they were, etc. I really don’t know why people think the Catholic church excluded sinners–I never saw a sign on a Catholic church that said “No homosexuals, pedophiles, cohabitators, etc, beyond this door.” In fact, it seems that the greatest reason why people don’t go is they don’t like the message. Jesus did not change the message for the sinners–it was still repent and go and sin no more.

    Rules do change on things like what one wears and what one eats. They don’t change on sexual behaviour–that was a fundamental rule that, if I remember correctly, figured promenintly in the removal from the Garden of Eden–they realized they were naked and covered themselves. I doubt such a fundamental thing is open to new interpretations, no matter how desperately people want it to be.

    Are you really arguing that Mother Teresa was not more virtuous than Hitler and she would have been prideful if she thought so? The Unification Church told me that was true, but I kind of dismissed it. Maybe you think I shouldn’t have?

  47. Sheri,

    Yes, Jesus sat with the publicans and sinners, but he did not move in with them, tell them they were a-okay just they way they were, etc.

    Personally, one of my favorite scenes is the time He chased the money changers out of the temple with a whip. I bring this up because the two stories make a distinction between what’s not acceptable at church vs. what is to be at least tolerated in at large society. No, Christ did not move in with the publicans and adulterers, but neither did he run them out of town on a rail. In Matt. 10 we find instructions some instructions for the twelve disciples:

    Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel … And into whatsoever city or town ye shall enter, enquire who in it is worthy; and there abide till ye go thence … And if the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it: but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you … And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet … Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city … Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.

    I think that last verse (16) is significant, as well as “… if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you … ” in verse 13.

    As far as whether those who are unchaste according to set-in-stone doctrine have a contribution for the Catholic community is up for them to decide. But I do know that Christ taught that in society at large, even Samaritans living outside the covenant were considered neighbors, and in at least one case, more helpful than either a Rabbi or a Levite. More than a few Catholic-founded and administered hospitals owe their name to the charitable character of that story.

    Another place this concept is reinforced in a different way is in the parable of the wheat and the tares; essentially don’t pull up the weeds before the harvest lest the crop be damaged in the process. Throughout, it’s assumed that the reader understands things like murder and thievery call for more immediate attention and restraint.

    My takeaway: don’t bother taking the word those whom you know won’t be converted, but neither condemn them publicly when they live among you as neighbors. And recognize that there is good to be found among everyone; which charity might one day serve to your benefit, or even your life.

    For me, the good news of this synod is hope that it signals a change in Catholic political activities along the lines of legislating secular marriages.

    Are you really arguing that Mother Teresa was not more virtuous than Hitler and she would have been prideful if she thought so?

    We’ve come full circle and slid even further downhill. Are you really arguing that fornicators, adulterers and non-celibate homosexuals are as evil as Hitler?

    No, I didn’t think so.

  48. Nullius in Verba

    October 18, 2014 at 4:05 am

    “Yes, Jesus sat with the publicans and sinners, but he did not move in with them, tell them they were a-okay just they way they were, etc.”

    Maybe, but the question was whether sinners should be welcomed into the Christian community, not whether sin was a-okay. It can perhaps be thought of as a mutual-support community for people trying to sin less. It’s not a society for those who are without sin to throw stones at others.

    “Rules do change on things like what one wears and what one eats. They don’t change on sexual behaviour”

    Why? What’s the difference?

    “that was a fundamental rule that, if I remember correctly, figured prominently in the removal from the Garden of Eden–they realized they were naked and covered themselves.”

    The Garden of Eden story is widely seen as an allegory for the end of childhood and sexual innocence, but that’s not what it says. “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” The ability to judge between good and evil was what was forbidden to man, and what causes all the trouble. (Interesting side question: did God lie when he said Adam would die on the day he ate it?)

    “And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” (Was any of that untrue? And what is meant by “gods” here? What would Eve have understood that to mean?)

    Their embarrassment at being naked was what gave them away. It was the fact that they recognized sexual sin, and acted to avoid it, that got them into trouble. “And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. […] And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?”

    The act of sexual sin was not the problem, it was them judging it to be sin that was forbidden. It is the people saying “this is right and that is wrong” that are the true bearers of that inheritance that denies us Eden. What we inherited, that we were never meant to have, was the urge to cover our own nakedness.

    But the actual reason for them being chucked out of Eden was stated clearly in the final verses. “And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.” (Interesting side question: who is “us” in the first sentence?)

    The story is quite strange and no doubt there is a deeper meaning behind it, but on the surface it is perfectly clear. Adam and Eve were not thrown out of Eden for sexual sin – quite the opposite – and they were not even thrown out for simple disobedience. Not knowing the difference between good and evil, they wouldn’t have known that was wrong. They were thrown out to stop them becoming gods.

    “Are you really arguing that Mother Teresa was not more virtuous than Hitler and she would have been prideful if she thought so?”

    Mother Teresa was well-noted for keeping company with sinners, and not criticizing them harshly for it. Her mission was to help the poor, and lead people towards the light by her own example, not by rejecting them or lecturing them on what they must or must not do. Mother Teresa was indeed more virtuous than Hitler, because she didn’t waste her time claiming to be so – telling people about how much more virtuous she was than they were, or worse, how much less virtuous they were than she was. They could see it for themselves. She just got on with the job, and trusted those who had eyes to see to understand the message for themselves. “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”

    Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

  49. I feel obliged for balance sake to point out that not everyone has the same positive view of Mother Teresa as presented in the previous comments. See, for example:

    http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/human-rights/2014/04/squalid-truth-behind-legacy-mother-teresa

    I hope that I will not be judged for this, but I feel that there are many other missionaries and indead secular medical volunteers who are more deserving of praise.

  50. Brandon: I mostly agree, except I would argue that to some degree you have to call out bad behaviour or you are actually approving of it. Note the huge increase in lies, theft, etc as society now considers lying at the top of the political spectrum to be acceptable, or at least something they apparently do not care to correct or call wrong. As much as possible, you just leave people be. (Very good.)
    And no, I wasn’t arguing sexual deviants were as socially damaging as Hitler. However, all sin is equal as far as the Christian religion goes, it does not differentiate. Hitler was socially damaging large scale because of the sheer number of sins and delite in carrying out the sins. (I won’t address sexual deviance here—much too long, but it does damage society, but not in the same way Hitler did. That could only occur if homosexuals required all straight people who opposed gays be killed—wait a minute……)

    Nellius: Okay–this jumped to the expected “judge not” rhetoric that I anticipated. That is the most misused verse in Bible and generally enough reason to leave a conversation. It’s used to shut down all discussion about right and wrong and say we can do whatever we want. It also completely negates all of religion and morality–you cannot say anything is wrong. And yet you will. You will decry behaviours you don’t like, thus showing you are a hypocrit in the end. Always happens that way, unless you’re a genuine anarchist. So, end if discussion. I’m tired of the same old tired arguments that have no validity and I’m not going through it again. Really, it sounds like climate change with a new coat of paint.
    Yes, I read the remainder of your post, but in light of the the “judge not” comment, see no reason to respond.
    (Scotian–I was aware that Mother Teresa may have been somewhat different from what her public face may have shown. Much of what was in the article was after her death, but I have no doubt that were many problems in the charities. I was just going for polar opposites. )

  51. Nullius in Verba

    October 18, 2014 at 10:04 am

    “It’s used to shut down all discussion about right and wrong and say we can do whatever we want.”

    No it doesn’t! The argument doesn’t say that we can do whatever we want, it only says that we cannot tell other people what to do. We are each responsible for determining what is good and bad and trying to do good ourselves. But we are only responsible for our own behavior, not anybody else’s. You can offer to help and advise them with your opinion if they want it, but it it is not for us to judge others. Only God has the wisdom to do that, and their sins are a private matter between them and God, and none of our business.

    It’s like students marking one another’s homework. Being told not to judge one another doesn’t mean you’re not going to get judged.

  52. Really? Laws tell other people what to do. Most religions tell other people what to do. If we cannot tell other people what to do, then churches have to shut down because a whole lot of those tell people what sin is, which is a judgment. There was then no point to the New Testament disciples, because they weren’t allowed to tell people what to do—yet, there they were. Forget missionaries—they’re just judmental people telling you God loves you and what God expects of you. They just told you that you are a sinner according to what God says. And there goes religion……..Unless, of course, this falls under the “they asked for it” category.

    Being responsible for our behaviour and the proper labeling of it are two different things. A murderer is responsible for his behaviour and goes to jail. Was he just a guy who killed someone or is he a bad person for what he did? Was his behaviour and therefore himself wrong? We can’t stop his choice, but we certainly do label it.

    Your examples of students requires the students also have the answer book when grading, since religion provides the answer book when determining whether an activity is sin or not.

  53. Nullius in Verba

    October 18, 2014 at 11:40 am

    “If we cannot tell other people what to do, then churches have to shut down because a whole lot of those tell people what sin is, which is a judgment.”

    Churches should not be judging others, any more than anyone else should.

    As it says in Genesis, people have knowledge of good and evil for themselves. Churches and scripture can help people get the arguments and reasons straight in difficult cases, but they’re not responsible for deciding. Which is a good job too, because of the number of times Churches and religions got it wrong! (There are many religions and schisms – they can’t all be right!)

    You are personally responsible for your own actions, which could not be the case if the Church could tell you what to do. If the Church tells you to do something you know is wrong, you can’t say it wasn’t your fault and you’re not responsible for it. You’re the one who has to pay the penalty, so you have both the right and the responsibility to decide what to do for yourself. It would be unjust if you were to receive the rewards or punishments for somebody else’s decision. At the very least, you will be judged for your decision to follow a particular church.

    “Was he just a guy who killed someone or is he a bad person for what he did? Was his behaviour and therefore himself wrong?”

    I don’t know. It depends why he did it. There are circumstances where he might not be, I think.

    When Moses ordered the violent deaths of the Midianite women and children (Numbers 31), at God’s instruction, was his behavior wrong? I think you know the answer to that one. But what would the Church say?

    “Your examples of students requires the students also have the answer book when grading, since religion provides the answer book when determining whether an activity is sin or not.”

    Does it?

    So are bacon sandwiches a sin or not? The answer book appears to give both possible answers.

  54. As I originally suspected, this is pointless. (I’ve done this before and I don’t have time to waste on the game of minutia and so forth. I’m done. Declare victory, do a happy dance, whatever. You’re wasting my time.)

  55. Nullius in Verba

    October 18, 2014 at 3:05 pm

    ‘Victory’ wasn’t the point. The aim of discussion is better understanding of the issues and of other points of view, and in my view time spent getting a better understanding is never wasted.

    But I would only want to do that with willing participants, and would always prefer that people not engage with me than get upset or annoyed. So I appreciate your openness, and apologize for taking up your time.

  56. Nellius: It would be different if you were presenting arguments I had not been hearing for three decades. Further discussion would not seem to be in either of our interests, it seems. Perhaps on a different subject, later on.

  57. Sheri,

    I mostly agree, except I would argue that to some degree you have to call out bad behaviour or you are actually approving of it.

    I agree with that on principle. Our disagreement here may be on what we consider societally dangerous behavior. One question I ask when considering moral issues is, “Does a given behavior negatively affect me or my loved ones directly?” Things such as theft and murder are clear cut cases: I don’t want someone else to murder and/or rob me or someone I care about, so I think it’s appropriate for we as a society to legislate against those actions and impose negative consequences via due process on those who commit them.

    I get it that allowing same sex couples to marry constitutes tacit societal approval of homosexuality, and in point of fact, that is one of the overtly stated goals of the marriage equality movement. I really get it that you don’t like it because it’s evident to me that you do think homosexuality causes societal harm — or at the very least that approval of homosexual acts will result in a society that you don’t want any part of.

    Most important to me is the question of direct harm to uninvolved third-parties, i.e., heterosexuals. My well-researched and considered opinion is that the preponderance of evidence suggests so little direct harms as to be effectively zero. In my mind, the most arguable exception to this is unsafe sex practices committed by irresponsible gay men having unprotected sex … especially when it comes to HIV transmission. I offer that extending marriage rights to gay men stands at least a chance of mitigating irresponsible promiscuity. Even if not, I don’t think it’s credible to argue that allowing gay men to marry would make the problem worse.

    Note the huge increase in lies, theft, etc as society now considers lying at the top of the political spectrum to be acceptable, or at least something they apparently do not care to correct or call wrong.

    Again I agree in principle. I do have my own hard lines which aren’t to be crossed. Obviously mine are drawn differently than yours. Otherwise we are on the same page.

    As much as possible, you just leave people be. (Very good.)

    On that we firmly agree, it’s a central part of my own argument here. Again, we differ in opinion on defining what’s well enough to leave alone.

    And no, I wasn’t arguing sexual deviants were as socially damaging as Hitler.

    I know. My objection was that you were reading that into NiV’s statements, AKA putting words in his mouth which I wasn’t seeing. Yes, I do that too — have done it to you — and yes it’s wrong when I do it.

    However, all sin is equal as far as the Christian religion goes, it does not differentiate.

    I do understand that’s how you see it. It doesn’t hold true for all of Christianity, at least not on the books. My understanding of Catholicism (from my readings of catechism) is that not all sins are as serious as others, but that sexual transgressions among consenting adults are (or nearly) on par with rape, molestation and murder. It’s nearly the same in Mormonism, which is what I was steeped in from childhood. My background does influence my views of Catholic doctrine, something YOS is attempting to disabuse me of. And rightfully so.

    Hitler was socially damaging large scale because of the sheer number of sins and delite in carrying out the sins.

    Chief among them, the genocidal murder of 6 million people plus several times more war dead, including those of his own armies. By the numbers, Stalin’s genocidal tally was far greater, yet we love to hate Hitler more. But I digress.

    I won’t address sexual deviance here—much too long, but it does damage society, but not in the same way Hitler did. That could only occur if homosexuals required all straight people who opposed gays be killed—wait a minute……

    Well I want to address this because it’s what I find most objectionable. I’ll lead with where we probably agree: anyone who advocates killing members of other groups just because of vocal opposition in public deserves at least a verbal smackdown, if not a fine and/or a week or month stay in the county pokey to let them know we’re serious about our disapproval of such talk. What I really don’t like in what you’ve said is that it’s edging toward holding the larger, better-behaved group responsible for the transgressions of a noisy minority.

    It’s to your own benefit to not do this as well because that can, and does, go both ways. I don’t stand for it when atheists lump moderate theists into the same bucket as the radicals. That kind of crap is more damaging to the stability and pleasantness of society as a whole than the disruptions of the noisy few — it compounds and therefore amplifies the rhetoric. That’s not acceptable to me, and I’ve taken plenty of atheists to task — quite harshly at times — for doing it.

  58. As I said in a previous comment, the preliminary report that has been so criticized is just that–preliminary. See “Catholic Bishops scrap welcome to gays…”
    http://www.foxnews.com/world/2014/10/18/catholic-bishops-scrap-landmark-welcome-to-gays-in-sign-split/?intcmp=latestnews

  59. Nullius in Verba

    October 19, 2014 at 4:15 am

    ” It would be different if you were presenting arguments I had not been hearing for three decades. Further discussion would not seem to be in either of our interests, it seems.”

    And in those three decades, did you ever come up with any answers to those arguments?

    I’m afraid I had assumed that if somebody had been hearing the arguments against for a long time and yet still held to their opinion, they must have some powerful counter-argument to explain why the arguments are wrong. That was what I was interested in. What are the best and strongest arguments against my beliefs I can find? If it can withstand those, it’s a suitable belief to hold. If it can’t, I have to change my mind and modify it. It’s the only way beliefs can truly be justified.
    And I am genuinely interested in why people think as they do.

    There are two distinct styles to religious people – the intolerant, rule-bound, Moses/Spanish Inquisition/Islamist style of smiting the sinners, and the tolerant, pragmatic, Gandhi/Mother Teresa/Buddha style of making friends with them first. Moses was of the first style, while Jesus was of the second. What I never really understood was why so many Christians didn’t follow Jesus.

    Oh, I can understand the psychological appeal of the Moses approach, and for people with a Moses frame of mind there’s an obvious temptation to push things in that direction, but given how clear Jesus was about the distinction, and how many times the Pharisees pointed out religious law-breaking only for him to explain that the rules were not that rigid, and not always the most important aspect to consider, I’ve never really understood how they justify changing things back like that.

    Maybe there’s no justification for it. Maybe it’s because people didn’t choose to be Christian, but were brought up that way, and those of a Moses turn of mind do the best they can with what they’ve got. Maybe those tendencies were built in early, through Paul’s influence, or when the Church merged with the Roman Empire. Even Jesus spent a lot of time complaining that even his disciples didn’t understand – so maybe it goes right back to the beginning.

    I don’t know. It seems like an important question to me, though.

    But as I said, I only want to hold discussions with the willing. I know that sometimes with my interest in the deeper issues, I accidentally step on the toes of people who feel strongly about their beliefs. So while continued discussion would be in my interests, I’m not prepared to do it if it’s not in yours as well. Once again, I apologize if I upset you.

    I’ll look forward to that ‘different subject’ later on.

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