A Catholic reflection on marriage for the feast of the holy family…


Many people are wisely avoiding theological argument and using secular arguments to promote marriage to the world. When engaging with non Christians it is what must be done. But today I want to ponder things from a clear Catholic perspective:

Contract marriages, quick and easy divorce, a proliferation of pornography, the loss of tax relief for married couples, an economic system frustrating stay at home mothers by demanding dual income to pay mortgages, political ambivalence to extra marital affairs, a media saturated with portrayals of casual sex without consequence. All these and more work against family life in modern Britain. There is an underlying self indulgence in societies view of relationships. Sex existing, within this society of the individual, for the chief purpose of adult gratification and not the building up of family life.

It stands in stark contrast to Catholic teaching which upholds the family as something sacred promoting responsibility over rights and fidelity and service of spouse over gratification of self. Unlike society it fiercely protects life from the womb to the tomb. Here sex is never divorced from its consequences and thus ever linked to its clear God given purpose, procreation. Sex very much exists for the building up of family life.

Christian philosophy therefore views modern societal attitudes to sex disordered and sinful. And like all sin it results in devastating consequences. Thousands of abortions each year. A multi billion pound sex industry which enslaves both those acting and those watching. People, far from being upheld as sacred, made in the image of God, become objects for selfish gratification. To be discarded once used.

The point is surely indisputable. The world advocates hedonistic indulgence to the point it no longer even believes self control is possible, let alone desirable. An attitude that turns sex, both normative and perverse, into a fundamental human right so long as consent is involved. The recent decision to refuse blocks on Internet pornography being another sign of moral downfall. Clearly avoiding embarrassment for adults having to opt in, is preferable to protecting children whose families have no idea as to how to opt out. This despite clear evidence that most teens have viewed extreme content online.

Within this permissive culture selection of life style and partner also centre on adult desire and not children’s needs. Serial monogamy is normative and too often little ones must navigate through the utter chaos thrown up by the convoluted sex lives of parents. Spiritual and moral confusion abounds. Any soap opera teaches that. We reap the sorrow an over sexualised culture sows.

Yet it is from within this culture, with its rampant philosophy of self, that Mr. Cameron, is claiming moral authority to lecture the church on matters of marriage and sexuality. What cheek! If only he could discern why the church resists him and respect it enough to listen. For the Catholic church is now almost alone in pointing to the sanctity of marriage as a lifelong union between one man and one woman for the clear and obvious purpose of procreation. The ideal union in which children may be born and nurtured in accordance with God’s will as revealed by scripture and tradition.

Catholic teaching offers Christians two ways in which sexuality can be lived. Christ centred celibacy or Christ centred marriage. Both calling us to ensure that sex is never divorved from love of God and others. Passion linked to something sacred. They achieve it in slightly different ways.

Celibacy is not merely the avoiding of sex but an active and prayerful engagement with God. The world naturally scorns celibacy, seeing it as redundant or dysfunctional. It doesn’t believe it possible. But the bible teaches celibacy is not only possible but uplifting and deeply sacred. A state every Christian will encounter at some point. All unmarried people should strive to achieve it. For some it will be temporary. For others a state following the loss of a spouse. For others a permanent state.But whenever it happens, its purpose is identical. And it is open to Christians of all orientations. The gay and the straight.

Christ Centred Marriage is not, as our over sexualised culture imagines, the easier option. The way to get your jollies! In fact, if properly lived out, it is every bit as demanding as celibacy. In marriage we sacrifice self to service of spouse. Sexual union is not about gratification here. It is about giving wholly of ourselves to another. Expressed, in part, through intercourse. But if we do this without loving our spouse, if only using their body for release, if thinking of another person, we are in the realm of sin. Marriage is a forum for healthy sex then but no guarantee of it. Which is why marriage is as challenging as celibacy as any couple will tell you. Both are possible, both are difficult. Both require grace.

Now should Catholic standards be expected of non Christians? Well we have no authority to insist on this and for that reason I can accept a society, though not endorse it, that creates civil unions where necessary. But as regards the definition of marriage itself the line is drawn. For it is something shared by church and society and as Christians we must remember why this s important.

So let us turn to the issue of our day. The clamour for so called ‘gay marriage.’The question for Christians in particular is this. Why should homosexuals be barred from Christ centred marriage. Surely if love is from God we could include them as well?

The first problem lies in the fact that any sex within a same sex union is automatically divorced from its procreative potential and function. Which is, according to Christian teaching, against natural law. This is not the same as a barren couple because, in this case, the potential is there and they model a union in which it normally would be.

Homosexual sex is unique then in always being unable to produce life. It lacks the fruit of heterosexual union. Subsequently the only tangible result of gay sex outside of genital gratification is kinship. Something which doesn’t require sex to produce. Now if homosexual unions are sacred, why does God deprive them of children? This is a theological dilemma for those believing in a created order and God’s revelation.

Another difficulty has to do with the acceptance of ‘the other’ required by marriage. Homosexuality only encompasses love for one who is the same. What I am driving at -is that homosexuality leads away from complementarily of genders to a polarising of the sexes. This is seen in its fullness by the way in which the bodies of two men or women do not fit together like man and woman combined. Suggesting homosexual sex is not part of God’s design. Here is the teaching of St. Paul

‘Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with one another and received in their own persons the penalty for their error.’

By quoting scripture we uncover the biggest problem of all. Not a single text supports homosexual sex. Wherever it is mentioned it is viewed as a perversion of God’s purpose. Those wanting to change church teaching have tried two tactics to get around this. The first is to begin tenuous explanations. Twisting the meaning in each particular text. Arguing that emphasis is actually on, rape, cultic temple practice etc.. But when all the explanations are placed together, it becomes apparent that this is clutching at straws. Scripture is against homosexual sex. And even if we do choose to follow tenuous re-interpretation, it only becomes silent. It is still not supportive. Anywhere.

Realising this fact the second tactic is to dismiss the texts altogether. Claiming culture has changed since Christ, so the Bible is no longer relevant. Well culture may have changed but humanity hasn’t! To dismiss scripture by saying that modern homosexual sex is different to that of the ancient world is deeply dishonest. Classical literature dismisses that idea. Human behaviour has changed very little, if at all. There are plenty of references to loving homosexual unions in Roman and Greek texts. They were very much known about when the bible was written. It was only Judaism that would not tolerate it…which Christians state began the divine revelation.

What we are seeing here is classic ‘arrow up’ theology. Where you ignore the parts of scripture you dislike. But where then are the limits? Who is to choose the obsolete teachings? And even worse, why has God done a U-turn after two thousand years? Soon anything out of the ordinary needs dismissing. Including the miraculous? If we follow such thinking then the bible stops telling us what to believe; we use it instead to believe what we want.

Marriage between homosexuals is impossible then if we are serious about the bible and historic teaching. Such unions fall short of the requirements of marriage, set out in scripture and two thousand years of tradition. Without the possibility of children and the acceptance of the complementary gender we simply have no authority to change the laws of God. Not least when heterosexual marriage runs like a river through all scripture from the creation of Adam and Eve to the marriage of Christ and his bride, the Church, in Revelation.

There only exists then one final possibility to endorse homosexual sex. That is the option to bless rather than marry homosexual unions. Could this be a third way, not equal to but nonetheless acceptable in God’s eyes? Sadly the notion of marriage as a sacrament dismisses this.

Just as a priest needs Gods’ authority through ordination, so couples need God’s authority in marriage. For a wedding is, in fact, the licence from God to be sexually active. A covenant of responsibility. The moment God formally enters a relationship. Jesus said

‘From the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh…therefore what God has joined together, let no-one separate’ (Mark 10 4-9)

Sex outside marriage lacks this joining of God. It is akin to saying mass without being ordained. ‘At best harmless play acting at worst dangerous blasphemy!’ For even if the fruits seem good, non marital sex can never be spiritually validated. It is without God’s special license. That is not to say its necessarily as wicked as murder, for example, but it certainly falls short of the ideal of marriage. And ‘to fall short’ is the very definition of sin. And sin blocks us from grace.

When this is understood we realise that blessing rather than marrying homosexuals is gobbledegook. We cannot bless what is not authorised by God. That would be like praising the person play-acting as priest. And in any case, I Ed, have no blessing to give. I can only impart God’s blessing. And if marriage is by definition the blessing of unions, the suggested distinction in blessing unions not marriages does not even exist.

I must conclude then, Catholicism teaches that active homosexuality is not consistent with biblical teaching. Homosexuals are called to celibacy. Something difficult to achieve but no tougher than the call to Godly marriage. Many of us fail at both – I know I have- but the important thing is to recognise that God works with us in our failures as well as our triumphs and grace and mercy abound.

The person who is drawn to another of the same sex, may love that person fully, but not sexually. Just like the married person infatuated with someone other than their spouse; must learn how to control the desire. They should seek God’s help in transforming this destructive desire into something more sacred. And confession exists for those who struggle.

So we end up with a situation in which the world might well accept active gay unions where the church does not. We might salute the desire to afford those unions respect and legal protection. But for the person seeking fidelity to the church the standard is demanding for all. Christ centred celibacy or Christ centred marriage. Thank goodness there is love and forgiveness for all when we struggle and even sometimes fail.

101 thoughts on “A Catholic reflection on marriage for the feast of the holy family…”

  1. Perhaps the time has come to revive the designation Holy Matrimony for sacramental marriage, and concede to the civil power the ability to legislate as it pleases with respect to the contractual and legal effects and boundaries for civil marriage (whilst not abandoning the right to warn of the harmful effects that particular policies may entail). I can see that canon lawyers will have to decide the circumstances in which the marriages of non-Catholic baptized Christians will or will not be sacramentally binding, since the presumption of law that a civil marriage is the union for life of one man and one woman will have been abrogated; and for Catholics there will have to be a non-sacramental civil ceremony, followed by a sacramental binding in the Catholic Church -with the Church abjuring any rights for its marriages to be civilly registered.

  2. Thanks for this Father – and Happy Christmas to you, your family and flock.

    Another important point to make is that celibacy does not equal solitude. Celibates are not called to a solitary life – or a life without love. I think we (in the Church) need to proclaim a new vision of celibacy that is grace-filled, life-affirming and joyful. In addition – we need to make the point that it is not just gay people who are called to celibacy. Everyone who is not married is called to live the celibate life.

  3. I think you have highlighted the importance of vocation. The understanding of Christian marriage cannot be detached from our understanding of this. It makes we think of St Augustine’s famous quote “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you” which tells us what vocation is all about. God makes me the person he created me to be as I discover my vocation. Whether it is to the married or to the single life, each is about a person discovering themselves loved by the God who made them.

    From my experience, I think the response to God’s love in my life is sometime difficult because, in my sinful state, I resist and assert my own ego, my own sinful self. This then causes problems and difficulties. It takes a huge shift in thinking to acknowledge that God is the true centre of my life.

  4. Thank you Fr. Ed, particularly for your passages on celibacy. Being at the age of 34 and so far unmarried and never having had a serious girlfriend, I have to get used to the idea of staying celibate for the rest of my life. The thought frightens me, and seeking reassurance from the church I find that there are very few role models for the state of celibate layman. In this our time, where sex is presented to us as the apex of bliss and happiness, it is hard to grasp the teaching of the church. I can completely understand everybody who struggles with it. But I also think that the teachers of the church quite often fall short of adequately explaining this teaching. Blessed John Paul’s “Theology of the Body” is a great example of how it should be, but where are the bishops explaining chastity to the youth of today?

    1. There is plenty of time, Victor. Try to set aside the fear you speak of and accept and enjoy life for what is now. And then surprising new avenues may open up!

  5. Father Ed, you write that procreation is the clear God given purpose of sex. In an earlier post, you wrote that the main purpose of marriage is creating life and raising children. If you are right, then a marriage entered into after the bride has had a hysterectomy or has passed her menopause does not have the main purpose of marriage and sex. I suggest the Anglican teaching, that marriage has a number of purposes, is more realistic,convincing, humane and correct.

    1. So you think those circumstances, as outlined, justify a wholesale redefinition of marriage? The institution is under siege from those who wish to bend it to a different agenda. So I think the hardline stance taken by the Catholic church is probably the only one worth working with.
      I had thought that the concession of keeping Holy Matrimony reserved to the church as Observer suggested earlier might be a way ahead but in truth I think it would just be quicker and more effective to wave the white flag of surrender.

    2. The Catholic Church teaches that even if the couple is unable to have children because of medical or biological reasons, such a union is still blessed by God and a means of his grace, as conjugal act serves to unite them in body and soul in a mutual act of self-giving. Provided the sterility is not artificially induced, such a union is still sacramental and fulfills the requirement for a Christian marriage.

    3. John, infertility in a heterosexual couple is the result of a disorder (either a sickness, a disease, a medical emergency, or the process of aging) that is the result of the Fall. But their conjugal love is still ordered toward procreation. Infertility happens because something, somewhere has gone wrong. For a homosexual, infertility is ordered. Their is no fruitful union. An infertile homosexual couple is by design. Homosexual acts are not ordered toward new life, ever.

      A huge, huge distinction.

      Homosexuals cannot even consummate a marriage, as they cannot complete the marital act in the first place. There is no “one flesh” union at all.

      An infertile man and wife can become one flesh. And God has been known even to bring miracles conceptions out of those couples believed to be barren. The act is rightly ordered.

        1. Sadly it is more self referencing. It fails to understand the situation that many many homosexual people find themselves in – even faithful Roman Catholic ones, thankfully.
          A good book to read is Exchanging the truth of God for a lie, by Jeremy Marks. It puts a quite other point of view, scripturally, and from an evangelical perspective. The Archbishop of Westminster did not speak with any knowledge apart from his own tradition at Christmas, and demonstrates once again the little catholic bubble that the Roman church is caught up in.

          1. Andrew – you have used the (somewhat dismissive) phrase ‘self-referencing’ several times recently. It does not wrap up your argument – so please would you care to explain what you mean?

            I think the Church understands the situation gay people “find themselves in” (strange phrase – they’re gay – so what?) very deeply, but the mistake it does not make is to move, by false compassion, to a position of affirming homosexual genital activity. Such a position would be based on an untruth – that human sexuality is solely (or even primarily) concerned with mutual gratification – a position that is as boring and life-denying as it is untrue.

            As for the Church existing in a bubble – well I’m not sure what you mean by that, but we are called to be ‘in the world, but not of the world’ so I’ll take your observation as a compliment.

        2. With respect, I find these responses puzzling. My post was not directed to “equal marriage” or “homosexual marriage”. I was not concerned to support this kind of “marriage”. Nor was my post concerned with homosexuality in any other way. I merely wrote that Father Ed had stated that procreation is the clear God given purpose of sex, and that the main purpose of marriage is creating life and raising children; and that, if he was right, then a marriage entered into after the bride has had a hysterectomy or has passed her menopause does not have the main purpose of marriage and sex. The responses, including that of Father Ed, do not dispute what I wrote. This suggests that my deduction was correct, and he was saying, or at least seemed to be saying, that marriage entered into after the bride has had a hysterectomy or has passed her menopause does not have the main purpose of marriage and sex, however proper and good it may be in other ways (as it has been for me personally).
          Incidentally, Leila and Father Ed, I have never seen it asserted before that the menopause is a result of the Fall. The serpent has even more to answer for than I thought!
          A happy and blessed 2013 to all posters and readers!

          1. Judging by the posts of Canon Andy and his mates, the serpent indeed does have a lot to answer for.

    4. A number of purposes from which you can pick and choose those you approve of, you mean? Fine – but that’s not how we relate to a God who reveals.

  6. Leila,

    There was no ‘Fall’. Everybody knows this, though not enough Christians acknowledge it. Homosexuality is not ‘abnormal’: it is just something that happens, always has, always will. In itself, it poses no moral or theological problems. That being so, it seems cruel and hypocritical to deny homosexual people the pleasures and companionship which come from sex. Above all, there is absolutely no threat here to heterosexuality.

    1. John – you’re arguing against Scripture there, so I don’t think a Christian could agree with you without rejecting Scripture. I think it’s a pretty safe assumption that what you think Christians believe by the ‘Fall’ (and indeed, what some Christians may in all honesty believe) is probably not what the Catholic Church understands by the Fall. The truth of the Fall is self-evident if you believe that God made us to share the Divine Life – we’re clearly not sharing it now.

      I also don’t think Leila wrote that homosexuality is abnormal – correct me on that if you will.

      You may an assumption of your own as well – that the ‘pleasure and companionship’ available via homosexual sex is comparable to that which is available between a man and a woman. How do you know that’s true?

  7. Thank you for this beautiful reflection on marriage. My husband and I just celebrated our 8th anniversary with our 5 children yesterday.. It is a blessed thing to hear a married priest testifying to the power of celibacy and the vocation of marriage at the same time. The call to holiness is indeed universal.

  8. Mike from Devon,

    I am a Christian.

    The Fall is a metaphor – a powerful one but also a very partial one. Given what we now know about the development of life, including the emergence of hominids, there is no point at which it is remotely plausible to insert a ‘fall’ in any substantive sense. And to argue, or imply, as Leila does, that any physical imperfections are a result of ‘the Fall’ is, I’m afraid, just nonsense. Theology, whether Catholic or Protestant, has to do much better than this. It is because it so frequently doesn’t – and doesn’t at what purports to be an informed level – that it is so widely disregarded, even despised. This is a matter which should concern you.

    1. John – yes – and no.

      I am sure Leila is not suggesting the Fall as a biological theory of evolution. It is important not to try and read Holy Scripture like that, because in so doing, one obscures the truth to which it bears witness. The Darwinian evolution of hominids is not a real challenge to the conception of the Fall because we do not hold the Genesis account as biology: it is theology. It explains, succinctly and directly, Man’s origin and destiny in respect of his relationship with God, both his likeness (and his unlikeness) to God and how we can explain the evident imperfections we see in the world. This is not ‘it’: our home is in the heart of the Divine, not in the world as it is now.

      I think this means Theology has already ‘done better’ than you think it does. You have put up a straw man and destroyed it – good. But we didn’t believe in the straw man anyway…

    2. If the Fall is “just” a metaphor, how can it then not be used to expkain physical imperfections and/or sexual pervertions?!

    3. I believe when Mike from Devon asked how would you know, and Mike please correct me if I’m wrong, the assumption was that to know like you claimed, you’d have to be either a practicing homosexual or bi-sexual. Not whether you’re a Christian or not.

      If you are a practising homosexual, it’s obvious why your posts are slanted in that direction.

  9. Mike: time is limited but I will attempt a reply.
    The whole Galileo saga is probably a good example of the Roman Catholic Church self referencing, and one of course of which it repented. It had created a world/universe view which was internally consistent but did not allow for developments in science and human understanding to inform it. The Roman Catholic Church uses its own lights to light the way, and by and large refuses any other lights to help with illumination.
    The on-going use of the word ‘secular’ on this blog is another good example. And so supposed orthodoxy about the virgin birth is allowed to create heterodoxy about the incarnation. The secular is denied any influence, whereas orthodoxy about the incarnation affirms the secular.
    So when it comes to homosexuality, the situation some people find themselves in, including faithful Roman Catholics, is of discovering a lifelong committed faithful relationship which includes a sexual relationship as an expression of that love. A committed, faithful and sexual relationship is a very private matter and I’m not going to get into any discussion of detail on a public forum. It is sufficient to say that there is enough experience from other spheres to suggest that the black and white view the Roman Catholic church takes is as seriously wrong as it was about Galileo. The book I have suggested presents another, quite scriptural, approach.
    All the best for 2013 and happy new year.

    1. Thanks Andrew – all the best to you for a happy and holy 2013 as well.

      Thanks for your answer – but I’m afraid it won’t do to raise the Galileo affair as an example of self-referencing. In fact, the opposite is true. With respect, you are looking back into the past with 21st century eyes rather than thinking about how such a theory would have been received at the time. What Galileo proposed was contrary to what the scientific community (generally) accepted to be the case and he could not explain (and he himself accepted this) why the stars did not appear to move in relation to the earth (which at the time was strong evidence for geocentrism.) The fact is that the stars do move in relation to the earth, but this could not have been detected with instruments available at the time. So, yes, the Church was being conservative – and, yes, it could easily have treated Galileo much more charitably, but it was not self-referencing. It was upholding general consensus in the light of a new theory which did not seem to answer the critical objection of the contemporary scientific community.

      You may say that the Catholic Church creates its own light. If you are correct in your theory, then it really is Antichrist! Naturally, I disagree entirely. The light by which the Catholic Church views the world is none other than the Word Incarnate (cf John 1:9) – and there IS no other light.

      A lifelong committed relationship need not entail a sexual component in order for it to express commitment and fidelity. It is a shame you won’t discuss the details because they need to be discussed in the open: not by reference to specific people, of course, but if you assert that there is plenty of evidence to refute the Catholic position that sexual activity between humans of the same sex is not morally acceptable – then let’s have it. It is not enough to say that people desire such activity – I don’t deny that.

      I will look at the book you propose, but knowing the Sciptures pretty well (in Greek as well as in translation) it would take quite a bit to convince me otherwise than a pretty plain reading of what the Lord had to say about sex and marriage.

      As a precursor to a different debate – may I pose a question to you – do you think that people have sex in heaven? If so – why? If not – are they unfulfilled?

    2. You talk as though only the Catholic Church, of all religions and denominations, regards active homosexuality as sinful and disordered and then assert that as the Catholic Church was wrong to condemn Galileo, then we are safe enough in ignoring its attitude to homosexuality. You know that the first is totally untrue (so why are the other religions and denominations wrong?) and if you regard the second as a serious argument for your case, then you are clearly ‘clutching at straws’ to an extent that you appear to undermine it.

  10. Mr Godsall raises the case of Galilleo, and as usual completely misunderstands the whole controversy.
    The Church is not anti-scientific. It has supported scientific endeavors for centuries. During Galileo’s time, the Jesuits had a highly respected group of astronomers and scientists in Rome. In addition, many notable scientists received encouragement and funding from the Church and from individual Church officials. Many of the scientific advances during this period were made either by clerics or as a result of Church funding.
    Nicolaus Copernicus dedicated his most famous work, On the Revolution of the Celestial Orbs, in which he gave an excellent account of heliocentricity, to Pope Paul III. Copernicus entrusted this work to Andreas Osiander, a Lutheran clergyman who knew that Protestant reaction to it would be negative, since Martin Luther seemed to have condemned the new theory, and, as a result, the book would be condemned. Osiander wrote a preface to the book, in which heliocentrism was presented only as a theory that would account for the movements of the planets more simply than geocentrism did—something Copernicus did not intend.
    Ten years prior to Galileo, Johannes Kepler published a heliocentric work that expanded on Copernicus’ work. As a result, Kepler also found opposition among his fellow Protestants for his heliocentric views and found a welcome reception among some Jesuits who were known for their scientific achievements
    Anti-Catholics often cite the Galileo case as an example of the Church refusing to abandon outdated or incorrect teaching, and clinging to a “tradition.” They fail to realize that the judges who presided over Galileo’s case were not the only people who held to a geocentric view of the universe. It was the received view among scientists at the time.
    Centuries earlier, Aristotle had refuted heliocentricity, and by Galileo’s time, nearly every major thinker subscribed to a geocentric view. Copernicus refrained from publishing his heliocentric theory for some time, not out of fear of censure from the Church, but out of fear of ridicule from his colleagues.

  11. Cont…
    Many people wrongly believe Galileo proved heliocentricity. He could not answer the strongest argument against it, which had been made nearly two thousand years earlier by Aristotle: If heliocentrism were true, then there would be observable parallax shifts in the stars’ positions as the earth moved in its orbit around the sun. However, given the technology of Galileo’s time, no such shifts in their positions could be observed. It would require more sensitive measuring equipment than was available in Galileo’s day to document the existence of these shifts, given the stars’ great distance. Until then, the available evidence suggested that the stars were fixed in their positions relative to the earth, and, thus, that the earth and the stars were not moving in space—only the sun, moon, and planets were.
    Thus Galileo did not prove the theory by the Aristotelian standards of science in his day. Most astronomers in that day were not convinced of the great distance of the stars that the Copernican theory required to account for the absence of observable parallax shifts. This is one of the main reasons why the respected astronomer Tycho Brahe refused to adopt Copernicus fully.
    Galileo could have safely proposed heliocentricity as a theory or a method to more simply account for the planets’ motions. His problem arose when he stopped proposing it as a scientific theory and began proclaiming it as truth, though there was no conclusive proof of it at the time. Even so, Galileo would not have been in so much trouble if he had chosen to stay within the realm of science and out of the realm of theology. But, despite his friends’ warnings, he insisted on moving the debate onto theological grounds.
    In 1614, Galileo felt compelled to answer the charge that this “new science” was contrary to certain Scripture passages. His opponents pointed to Bible passages with statements like, “And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed . . .” (Josh. 10:13). This is not an isolated occurrence. Psalms 93 and 104 and Ecclesiastes 1:5 also speak of celestial motion and terrestrial stability. A literalistic reading of these passages would have to be abandoned if the heliocentric theory were adopted. Unfortunately, throughout Church history there have been those who insist on reading the Bible in a more literal sense than it was intended.

  12. Cont…
    During this period, personal interpretation of Scripture was a sensitive subject. In the early 1600s, the Church had just been through the Reformation experience, and one of the chief quarrels with Protestants was over individual interpretation of the Bible.
    Theologians were not prepared to entertain the heliocentric theory based on a layman’s interpretation. Yet Galileo insisted on moving the debate into a theological realm. There is little question that if Galileo had kept the discussion within the accepted boundaries of astronomy (i.e., predicting planetary motions) and had not claimed physical truth for the heliocentric theory, the issue would not have escalated to the point it did.
    Galileo came to Rome to see Pope Paul V (1605-1621). The pope, weary of controversy, turned the matter over to the Holy Office, which issued a condemnation of Galileo’s theory in 1616. Things returned to relative quiet for a time, until Galileo forced another showdown.
    At Galileo’s request, Cardinal Robert Bellarmine,—one of the most important Catholic theologians of the day—issued a certificate that, although it forbade Galileo to hold or defend the heliocentric theory, did not prevent him from conjecturing it. When Galileo met with the new pope, Urban VIII, in 1623, he received permission from his longtime friend to write a work on heliocentrism, but the new pontiff cautioned him not to advocate the new position, only to present arguments for and against it. When Galileo wrote the Dialogue on the Two World Systems, he used an argument the pope had offered, and placed it in the mouth of his character Simplicio. Galileo, perhaps inadvertently, made fun of the pope, a result that could only have disastrous consequences. Urban felt mocked and could not believe how his friend could disgrace him publicly. Galileo had mocked the very person he needed as a benefactor. He also alienated his long-time supporters, the Jesuits, with attacks on one of their astronomers. The result was the infamous trial, which is still heralded as the final separation of science and religion.
    Galileo recanted his heliocentric teachings, but it was not—as is commonly supposed—under torture nor after a harsh imprisonment.
    Galileo’s friend Nicolini

  13. Cont…
    Galileo’s friend Nicolini, Tuscan ambassador to the Vatican, sent regular reports to the court regarding affairs in Rome. Many of his letters dealt with the ongoing controversy surrounding Galileo.
    Had Galileo been tortured, Nicolini would have reported it to his king. The records demonstrate that Galileo could not be tortured because of regulations laid down in The Directory for Inquisitors (Nicholas Eymeric, 1595). This was the official guide of the Holy Office, the Church office charged with dealing with such matters, and was followed to the letter.
    Even so, the Catholic Church today acknowledges that Galileo’s condemnation was wrong. The Vatican has even issued two stamps of Galileo as an expression of regret for his mistreatment.
    Although three of the ten cardinals who judged Galileo refused to sign the verdict, his works were eventually condemned.
    No ecumenical council met concerning Galileo, and the pope was not at the center of the discussions, which were handled by the Holy Office. When the Holy Office finished its work, Urban VIII ratified its verdict, but did not attempt to engage infallibility.
    It is a good thing that the Church did not rush to embrace Galileo’s views, because it turned out that his ideas were not entirely correct, either. Galileo believed that the sun was not just the fixed center of the solar system but the fixed center of the universe. We now know that the sun is not the center of the universe and that it does move—it simply orbits the center of the galaxy rather than the earth.
    As more recent science has shown, both Galileo and his opponents were partly right and partly wrong. Galileo was right in asserting the mobility of the earth and wrong in asserting the immobility of the sun. His opponents were right in asserting the mobility of the sun and wrong in asserting the immobility of the earth.
    Had the Catholic Church rushed to endorse Galileo’s views—and there were many in the Church who were quite favourable to them—the Church would have embraced what modern science has disproved.

  14. Mike,

    Leila wrote this:

    John [not me], infertility in a heterosexual couple is the result of a disorder (either a sickness, a disease, a medical emergency, or the process of aging) that is the result of the Fall.

    Seems pretty clear to me. Also seems to me nonsense. How am I misconstruing it? I know (I am afraid) many Christians who take the same view as Leila.

    1. Again, John, if the Fall is “just” a metaphor how can it not be used to explain physical imperfections and/or sexual pervertions?!

      1. If the fall is mere metaphor then surely redemption is as well. And then this life is really all there is and the resurrection is neither literal nor efficacious.

        All the same with you I will stick to the Gospel version

  15. I don’t think ‘redemption’ is mere metaphor: there’s plenty to ‘redeem’ without the Fall. I do, as a matter of fact, think that the crucifixion and resurrection have other functions besides the ‘redemption’ of sin – like, for example and very importantly – indicating that death is not the end.

    I don’t think a metaphor ‘per se’ rules out the exclusion of certain things. However, the things in question – the phenomenon of homosexuality and its practices (within certain constraints) – are not dealt with by this particular metaphor but by evolution. Presumably, the persistence of homosexuality at all periods and in all cultures indicates that it must have evolutionary value – not least, I suggest, being to help fill up the ranks of Christian priests of all denominations, in whose ranks homosexual men are disproportionately represented.

    I await a defence of Leila’s claim that physical imperfections/malfunctions in humans result from the Fall.

    1. “Presumably, the persistence of homosexuality at all periods and in all cultures indicates that it must have evolutionary value.”
      Do you mean the same “evolutionary value” as, for instance, Huntington’s disease and Hemophilia (which are both genetically proven conditions – the jury is still “out” regarding homosexuality) or are there just some persistent atypical human conditions that have “evolutionary value”?

    2. Oddly, John, the sentiments expressed here reflect very closely those recorded by Canon Godsall on an Anglican blog i.e. that Christ did not die for our sins but as an example of sacrifice (or some such heresy). This coincidence is surprising to someone who has never heard of it before.

  16. Mike and Observer

    The Galileo issue is far too complicated to deal with in a few sentences and that is why I said I was short of time and it was only an attempt at a reply. Time is too short for this as well, but it needs to be borne in mind that the Church was a patron of science and that was another part of the self referencing loop that meant it felt compelled to declare that Galileo was guilty of extreme heresy. So it by no means as simple as you both make out.

    Science has shown us that sexuality is a complicated area and I don’t have time to discuss in detail. But clearly it is a life giving – and love giving – area for a committed couple that extends well beyond the single purpose of child bearing. That is why family planning has been such an important thing. Morally, it is impossible to make a distinction between natural forms of family planning, of which the Roman Catholic Church approves, and some artificial forms. (Note that I say some – not all because it is widely understood that some forms rely on interfering with an already fertilised egg). The intent is the same – to enable a couple to express their love sexually without the worry of pregnancy. In terms of moral consistency the Roman Catholic Church can not approve of one but not the other. Once that is recognised, the sexual component of a same sex committed relationship takes on a different, and morally permissible, perspective.

    1. Andrew – these are questions of fundamental importance! It’s not OK to say ‘the Church is wrong, but I don’t have time to explain why’. You raised Galileo – and we replied to say, ‘not good enough – explain further’…!

      However – you are absolutely right to make the link (as Archbishop Williams did recently) between contraception and homosexuality. The Anglican acceptance of artificial contraception in the 1930s was the start of a process of great change, evidently.

      In terms of equivalence of homosexual and heterosexual sex as expressions of love and affection – this does not follow when you consider that male homosexual sex is extremely damaging to the body’s soft tissues? A fact that the medical profession is restrained from admitting clinically but knows to be true. You can’t deny that.

      You also didn’t answer my question above, which was “do you think that people have sex in heaven? If so – why? If not – are they unfulfilled?”

      1. Mike: sadly time is limited. I think the Galileo example works because it threatened the Church’s role in science, of which it was such a patron. It did that whether Galileo was right about the mechanics or not. The point is about somebody other than the Church having insight.
        The point about contraception and homosexuality is not just about artificial contraception. If the RC Church accepts that contraception is permissible, which is does, then it accepts that sex has another function than procreation, which it self evidently does. Humans are different from animals in that respect. Sex is clearly a source of joy and love, not just an expression of it. It is calling ‘making love’ for a reason. That is what it does. Yet the RC church (and other bodies, of course) want to deny gay people that joy. Do you accept that there is no moral difference between artificial and natural forms of contraception? Both are intended to prevent pregnancy.
        Sex in heaven? Who knows. But to affirm that means saying things about heaven – like it is temporal, and spatial and that we inhabit it with bodies. How do you know we do that?

      2. Oh and you make the mistake of assuming that gay sex is all about men and all about penetration. My research suggests that it is more about women and rather little about penetration. Why does the church only think about men all the time?

        1. If it’s little about penetration, according to your research (where was it published, by the way?), then how come HIV is so prevalent among gay men? Is it spread by word of mouth?

        1. Our Lord certainly does answer the question. But tell that to the utilitarian liberals, like Mr Godsall, who are ruling the CofE and they will not get it!

        2. JRM – Yes. Absolutely. Which leads us onto a different question – what are the implications of eternally not having sex? What might that teach us about human relationships ‘in time’ and the relative quality thereof?

          Andrew – (1.) Galileo’s theory did no such thing – it didn’t threaten the Church’s role in science (which continues to this day, of course) and the Church is never afraid of truth, because Truth is her guiding light. Then, now and always (2.) the Church has never denied that there are other functions to sex between a man and a woman – which is made very clear in the Rite of Christian Marriage – but it is always possible to have a hierarchy of ‘goods’ – therefore the good of the unitive function of sex in marriage is subordinate to the primary good – which is the transmission of life itself – a Divine mandate cf. Gen 1:28. and it is called ‘making love’ because it is life-giving and Love creates, not because it permits self-indulgence (3.) the Catholic Church is not in the business of denying joy – quite the opposite. It is perfectly possible for gay people (in fact, all people) to lead joyful lives without sex – indeed – a heavenly life! (4.) I make no such mistake about gay sex, which is why I deliberately wrote ‘male homosexual sex’. Whilst, yes, the definition of what is, or is not, sex is debatable (to a certain point) if you expand the definition too far, you’re no longer talking about sex. Not to be crude, but I think I would argue that penetration is of the essence of sex. Less than that and you’re into the realm of non-genital sexual activity, which has different moral considerations. (5.) we know things about Heaven because our Faith is in a God who reveals. It is not true to say we do not inhabit Heaven in bodies – and we CAN know, because it has been revealed – to claim otherwise rides roughshod over the Transfiguration, the Resurrection (I would say the Assumption too of course, but I’m a Catholic) and clear propositions in Holy Scripture, such as Philippians 3:20-21 or Job 19:26 and the Creeds. We are not Spirits. We have bodies – and our bodies are so very important to God – hence this whole debate!

      1. It’s a form of contraception even if it is natural isn’t it Antony? Your church has said it is morally acceptable hasn’t it? It is still intended to prevent conception! So please explain the moral difference between them.

        1. To abstain from sexual intercourse and to have conjugal sexual relationship, within a heterosexual Christian marriage, with the knowledge of “fruitful periods” can hardly be described as “contraception”! My guess is that the lack of philosofy and latin, amongst utilitarian, liberal secularists in the CofE make obvious matters rather complicated!

    2. “Morally, it is impossible to make a distinction between natural forms of family planning, of which the Roman Catholic Church approves, and some artificial forms.”
      Surely it is possible. Any artificial forms distort the sexual act, while what you call “natural forms” simply involve restraint.

  17. Mike and others:

    I am not a practising homosexual (I have had same-sex relationships in the now very remote past). I have homosexual friends.

    I do not accept that homosexuality is a disease.

    I think that homosexual people can derive more or less the same degree of sexual satisfaction/fulfilment/one-ness etc. out of their relationships as heterosexual people. That seems to be the case with the perhaps half-dozen homosexual couples I currently know in proefessional, personal and church life. They seem to me in general no more and less well adjusted than their heterosexual equivalents.

    As to specific sexual practices: I think they can, if practised responsibly, be viable. You presumably know – but do not choose to acknowledge – that such practices have traditionally been far commoner in Catholic and Orthodox countries as a way of preserving virginity. ‘Greek style’ is a well-known euphemism; 50% of Brazilians, including women, consider them ‘normal’.

    I am glad no one here has attempted to defend Leila’s claim.


  18. Mike: so what is the difference morally between artificial and natural means of contraception? They both intend to prevent conception.
    And what is the status of the many female same sex relationships that exist?

    1. Andrew – one is engineered, the other is natural. It’s really very easy. One applies the intellect and reason to a natural situation – taking a risk that God may have other plans, of course – the other sets out to frustrate a natural process and attempts to ‘capture’ sex and change it from something life-giving to something self-indulgent.

      What do you mean by a female same sex relationship? That covers a huge spectrum of different qualities of relationship from friendship to erotic partnership. I assume you mean the latter – to which the answer is equally simple – sexual genital activity outside of marriage is unchaste – the Lord’s own words say that sexual immorality ‘defiles’ (Matt 15:19-20) and Paul tells us that fornicators will not inherit the Kingdom of Heaven (1 Cor 6:9).

      I’m not forcing you to believe this – but what I do object to is the oh-so-modern idea that somehow this is compatible with Christian teaching. It isn’t. You may believe what you like (and preach what you like) but do not be surprised if people call you on it.

      John – I wouldn’t dream of asking – and I don’t think homosexuality is a disease either. Neither do I condemn anyone for their inclination or disposition. Nor do I believe God resigns gay people to a loveless and insular existence (hence my very first post). The use of the word ‘disorder’ in the Catechism is technically correct (only in theological terms) but pastorally difficult because it connotes precisely the thoughts of disease or pathology that you raise. It is not meant to, I promise.

      In fact, to some degree or other, everyone’s inclinations (bar Our Blessed Lord and His Holy Mother) and appetites are ‘disordered’ because we all sin – gay or straight. I imagine the issue that would divide us is that of homosexual genital sexual activity. I don’t agree that it is ever morally permissible under any circumstances, but to think that this is the most important offence against love is equally wrong. There are things which wound the Lord’s Sacred Heart even more grievously – and Holy Church has the remedy for sin – by His command She applies the grace of the Lord’s own sacrifice in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

      1. Mike I am afraid your distinction between natural and artificial forms of family planning really won’t do. In both cases a couple are taking a risk. There is no 100% safe means of family planning. In both cases a couple are using intimacy to enhance their loving relationship – to make love. You have already acknowledged that conception is not the only reason for sex. So morally there is no difference. And that of course is the reason why 99% of Roman Catholics in the States (according to survey) use a variety of methods of family planning and why countless RC clergy indicate to couples that they do not wish to have a part in discussion about the matter. It is, as you say, quite simple.

          1. That people may disregard their faith is completely irrelevant to the theological debates here. Please stick to describing Catholicism and use that as the standard rather than basing it on the supposed examples of Anglican wannabees you love to refer to.

        1. Mr Godsall, please direct us all to this survey – 99% sounds like something from the “USSR Department of Statistics” – or is it just one of your standard lies?!

          1. And as usual, Mr Godsalk, you are the devils advocate in using the tactic of “mixing up” the real issue! No wonder that you will make a brilliant career in the post-Christian CofE!

          2. Yes he speaks the sort of double speak that allows civil partnered bishops so long as they claim to be celibate.

        2. Andrew – the ‘risk-taking’ aspect is hardly the important distinction – so what if there’s *also* a risk in artificial contraception? I have acknowledged that there are other ‘goods’ involved in sex – but they are subordinate, and ordered, to the predominant good which is procreation (thus sex is pleasurable because procreation is good and the unitive aspect assists parents in raising children by strengthening family bonds). Once may make a similar point about eating and nutrition – there are other ‘goods’ involved in eating – but they are subordinate, and ordered, to the predominant good which is nutrition (thus eating is pleasurable because nutrition is good).

          “So morally there is no difference” is a weak conclusion.

          1. Mike: the primary purpose of sex is of con joining the couple so that they become one….hence conjugal. Procreation is a by product of that. Procreation is not always possible or desirable, and the RC church acknowledges that. That is why natural family planning is permitted. So procreation is not the predominant good.

  19. I think many here would benefit from reading today’s ‘Independent’ and the interview with Benny Hazlehurst, than whom no one more Evangelical (but who is also patently decent and reflecting).

    1. John – three points – (1.) I have never advocated gay conversion therapy: it doesn’t work, as far as I see. Much better to integrate one’s sexuality into holiness of life – a process that is a lifelong struggle, (2.) interesting that Rev Hazlehurst’s volte face happened in relation to an encounter with Dean Jeffrey John – whose relationship is on the record as being celibate – and no doubt a very pleasant man; but (3.) the approach to Holy Scripture of even a patently decent and reflecting Evangelical Anglican is not likely one that I would share 100%. I note the article references the ‘usual’ passages. I don’t tend to scour Scripture for juicy phrases or scenarios that ‘speak’ to me or are directly ‘on the topic’ – Scripture is not a medical dictionary, it is a library – in fact, a Scriptural verse much more in point does not speak of sexual morality at all, it is this: “be therefore perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt 5: 48). That is our aspiration.

      1. Glad you don’t use scripture as a medical dictionary Mike. Your reply about heaven was beginning to look like you were a literalist! The language about heaven is evidently picture language. That’s a venerable part of the scriptural library. But we twist scripture when we take it literally.

        1. …and we emasculate it when we don’t take it literally enough…

          “picture language” – neat. Is that really how you think the Holy Spirit works? The Third Person of the Most Holy Trinity so capricious and teasing as to dangle profundities in front of us with no way of being clear about what they mean? Doesn’t even sound like religion to me…

          1. Good grief Mike – don’t you think pictures and music are a lot clearer than mere words? Pictures and music really communicate the profundities in a way that literal words simply can’t. It was Felix Mendelssohn who said “People usually complain that music is so ambiguous, that it leaves them in such doubt as to what they are supposed to think, whereas words can be understood by everyone. But to me it seems exactly the opposite.” I didn’t realise you were such a literalist! What you are proposing doesn’t sound like religion at all! Religion is about relationship. you seem to be proposing a dictatorship.

          2. Andrew – for some reason I cannot ‘reply’ to yours below – but I hope you get this.

            I don’t think there’s a competition between pictures, words and music. All are in fact related to the infinite Word, so arguing between them is like asking the Lord who will sit on His right or left.

            I am not a ‘literalist’ in the sense that you imagine – but both the approach of fundamentalist Christians (who, relying on translation, treat Scripture like a textbook) and the approach you seem to advocate (which appears to be ‘it’s all picture language and therefore up for interpretation) are, I’m sorry I can’t say this more politely, seriously deficient. I’m afraid you need the Catholic Church (which at the moment, your community still publicly professes, ‘credo’) in order to interpret Holy Scripture correctly.

            I think we can agree, however, that religion is about relationship – I would use that same language myself – God, by nature is “relationship” or “communion”. In His infinite goodness we are extended an invitation to God’s intimate friendship – a sharing of his very own relationship in the Divine Life – but we’re hardly equal partners are we? Therefore the critical task is to listen – to listen to His voice written in our deepest selves – and to respond wholeheartedly as creature to creator – and that is a very different perspective from one in which our task is to change God into our image – it has been and always will be the other way around.

            I don’t see in your comments on this site the signs of someone secure and confident in their own opinions. I was going to write back with something more strongly worded but then I realised what I see from your public comments is in fact despair (veiled and locked up, for sure, but despair all the same) and that makes me very sad indeed. The hope I have is that whatever I have done (or will do to) offend God has already been paid for in the sacrifice of Himself on the Cross – the only question mark is over my own eternal destiny – do I want to be friends with God or not? If I do – I must listen to what God reveals about that, rather than trusting in my own private judgment or my (frequently disordered) appetites and affections. Life is not an opportunity to indulge in passing things – it is an opportunity to build a vessel worthy to be filled up to the brim with God’s love in eternity. God will fill it to the brim – but its capacity is up to each one of us.

          3. Mike: I suspect it suits you to see more general despair, but I can assure you that the only despair I feel is associated with some of the comments on this blog that I am responding to. I am encouraged by the rather different face of Roman Catholicism that I see in friends and family and thankful for that.

          4. Ah there you go again! Taking the voice of Catholic dissent and giving it an authority it cannot possess! It matters not how often you say it- it won’t come true!!

          5. Grow up Mike, for goodness sake!
            You can’t make an argument for the superior morality of natural family planning and you need to resort to a kind of patronising tone? Not convincing and not really worthy of your independent thinking. Let’s talk over a beer one Friday evening shall we? ;)
            Ed: it already is true. It’s just that you can’t acknowledge it because it doesn’t fit the ‘we are not allowed to think that’ mentality that you have currently bought into.

          6. Ok using only the catechism and papal documents please give a defence of such liberalism to prove it is part of authentic Catholic witness.

          7. Ed: authentic Catholic witness is rather more than papal documents and the catechism – thankfully.
            Authentic Catholic witness is about christians proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ to the whole world, isn’t it? If you really believe that liberal Roman Catholics or liberal Anglicans or liberal any other Christian can’t proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ then there is little point in any discussion.

          8. So you cannot do it then? Interesting… Game, set and match to me methinks and proof that you deliberately seek to confuse by refusing to name dissent for what it is! Little wonder you suddenly wish to cut the dialogue!!

          9. No the point Ed is that you don’t want anything that is not in the catechism or papal documents to count. There is lots of authentic Christian witness that is not in either. Always has been. Always will be.
            Or are you saying that Anglican or Lutheran witness is not authentic Christian witness?

          10. Firstly I was referring to CATHOLIC not CHRISTIAN witness. And it has nothing to do with what I do or do not want. Catholicism is not the liberal behemoth that Anglicanism is but is a faith built on a firm belief in a REVEALED faith. That is why it HAS a Catechism and that is why, as I consistently have to point out to you, those people you know who dissent from the teaching of their defined faith are not an authority to quote in any argument. They are simply dissenters.

          11. Andrew – if you look back at the posts above I (and several others!) have tried in several different ways to explain the moral difference between natural family planning and artificial contraception – you’re not convinced? What of it?

            One last time then – there is a clear moral difference between using knowledge about human reproduction to abstain from sex during fertile periods (usually in fact ‘more’ or ‘less’ fertile periods) and manipulating the sexual act with artificial devices that permit a blindness of outlook to the full and beautiful totality of sexual expression. The reason for this is that artificial contraception refuses to acknowledge the fundamental good of sex which is procreation. This is not a distinction I have plucked out of the air – it fits into an intricate pattern of thinking.

            As for these millions of Catholics you say are busy contracepting – even if this were true, which I doubt – this does not give definitive evidence of rejection of the Church’s teaching – neither you nor I can put windows on the soul. Falling short of the Church’s teaching is not evidence for its rejection. Quite honestly, in today’s world when bombarded by erotic imagery everywhere it’s no surprise people end up in sexualised patterns of behaviour. Thankfully, the Church also has the remedy for this – and God deals patiently with us.

            You know, the Catholic Church is not afraid of Truth – how could it be since Her founder is Truth Himself. Therefore, She will proclaim it however unpopular it may be. I’m sorry you found my tone patronising – that was not my intention – but I say it how I see it.

            Always yes to the prospect of a beer!

  20. Mike,

    Thanks. I was responding to Terry and Andrew as well as you, hence the ‘confession’ and the disclaimer.

    We (you and I) agree and disagree. Our disagreement includes the one you emphasise, though there are others too. But life is too short. Best wishes.

  21. According to Canon Andrew’s claim, abstinence is a form of contraception, so every celibate person on earth is constantly contracepting!!! That is the absurd conclusion to which his failure to distinguish leads.

    Using his lawyer’s methods we might as well ask, “What’s the moral difference between contraception and abortion? They both aim to prevent birth.” “What’s the moral difference between a life sentence and a death sentence? They both aim to prevent further murders.” Sorry, just not good enough.

    Fact is, contraception (“artificial” is a redundant epithet) aims to remove the fundamentally procreative character of the marital act. That is the real, solid, undeniable difference Andrew perhaps willingly fails to see.

    And by the way John, nobody needs to rush to Leila’s defence re. the Fall because the Apostle does that quite nicely in Romans 8 and related passages ;)

    1. Hear-hear! Very well argued Dan! But you see the real problem with Mr Godsall is that he so obviously is a post- modern, utilitarian secularist and thus lacks the ability to see how he is contradicting himself and sometimes just formulating plain nonsence!

    2. Sorry but you it words in my mouth. The issue is about natural or artificial forms of family planning. Those using artificial forms also abstain. There is no moral difference between natural or artificial forms of family planning and no one here has yet demonstrated that there is. The intent is the same.

      1. Andy, Andy. Just give it a rest. This is not a blog full of your usual CoE church-goers who look up in wonder at the great Canon Andrew preaching from on high about how great the modern, liberated, with it Anglican church is and how all the problems in the world would go away if only the Catholic Church listened to what the CoE is saying, followed its example and got with the programme.

        On the other hand, you do provide good entertainment.

      2. “Those using artificial forms also abstain.”

        Do they really? By abstain, I take it we mean that the couple choose not to have sex when they both want to. The whole point of artificial means is to eliminate the need for this self-restraint!

        Whereas the natural approach respects the proper place of self-control which after all is a fruit of the Spirit to be nurtured in all areas of a Christian’s life.

        I don’t see how the difference could be starker!

  22. Dan,

    So you agree with Leila that before The Fall (or, ‘the Fall’) human beings never suffered any physical defects or impairments? That’s what you both seem to be committed to, and I’m afraid, it’s absurd. (And Paul, of course, knew nothing about evolution.) The point is that an over-literal commitment to ‘orthodoxy’ results in detailed claims which aren’t any more tenable.

    1. Evolution is itself absurd. By the way Paul almost certainly did know various evolutionary ideas current in his day, such that humans evolved from fish (Anaximander), they started grunting and gradually learned to talk (Democritus), and had been around for millions of years (Plato made it at least 200 million!). And surely I don’t have to point out that he resolutely opposed the random-atoms concept of Epicurus in Acts 17.

      Although I don’t think he lived late enough to read of the deification of Chance by Pliny the Elder.

      Nothing new under the sun – except perhaps the claim that all these sorts of beliefs are strictly ‘science’.

      1. Again a brilliant reply Dan! But I am not sure that you will get anywhere with John who might even be a closet-disciple of Ayatollah Dawkins?!

  23. Unfortunately for you, Dan, evolution is true. Only a fool or a bigot denies this. Which are you? As for evolution in the ancient (pagan) world, there are various anticipations, including the ones you mention (and others you don’t), but none of them (even the most developed, that of Lucretius) registers evolution’s sheer explanatory power. As for whether Paul knew of them, the ones you mention (and others you don’t) aren’t very ‘mainstream’, especially for an orthodox, albeit Greek-speaking, Jew. As for Antony’s ignorant, stupid and offensive imputation that I am a Dawkins follower, one despairs. You guys have a lot to learn, and one of the things you really should learn is that, when the chips are down, ‘orthodox’ and ‘liberal’ Christians are actually on the same side.

    1. I may be a fool or a bigot but I have waited very nearly a lifetime to see – what I was assured as a schoolboy that I would certainly see – the proof in the form of fossils of the existence of the ‘half man-half monkey’ and all the stages in between. Where are they? Evolution isn’t called a theory for nothing, that’s what it is until these remains are found.

    2. That might depend on how ‘liberal’….

      Your points in turn John.

      Even if it happened to be foolish to reject evolution, how does that make anyone a bigot exactly? As you realise, quite a few bigots are found waving the flag for evolution, which may be partly why you’re keen to dissociate yourself from a prime example of such! (By the way I never believed Antony’s insinuation about you.)

      Evolution’s supposed great explanatory power is actually big claims which break down as soon as specifics enter the picture. For example Darwin’s sexual selection theory which he devised to explain the peacock’s tail, turns out to have no effect according to a recent seven-year study.

      Another example: sperm whales can dive as deep as 3km, and to cope with the immense pressure have articulated collapsible lungs. Moreover, the oceans are pitch black below 400m depth, so this whale has echolocation like bats. Both features are absolutely necessary for it to be able to dive so deep, yet neither has any survival advantage to a creature that stays in the well-lit shallows. To cap it all, the whale descends by cutting off blood supply to the reservoir of oil in its nose so that it solidifies, shrinking and raising the whale’s overall density just above that of seawater; and to rise, the whale simply opens the blood supply again so as to warm and melt said oil, thus tipping the whale’s density just below that of its environment. How long did that cunning mechanism take to ‘evolve’? And all to no purpose for a shallow-water organism.

      Of course those ancient ideas weren’t mainstream for Jews – they were pagan, that’s just my point!

      But just to recollect, we’re having this discussion because you (or Leila?) raised the matter of the Fall. The big evolutionary picture is indeed at loggerheads with it.

    1. It is quite reasonable to accept evolutionary theory as a Catholic. I believe that within scientific circles there is still some debate about it as to whether it is just a small step within a species thing or else a large cross species development. The first is certain, the second convincing but thus far unproved.

  24. Catholics are absolutely required to accept ‘monogenism’, that is that all mankind share one set of original parents. There is absolutely no scientific proof that this was not the case (but, as far as I am aware, some indications that this was indeed so). We are not required to adhere to any particular theory as to how those first parents came into being.

    1. That’s interesting Steve. Does it then not matter at all how sin and death entered the world? In particular, is it compatible with Catholicism to say that Adam and Eve began their existence sinful and/or mortal?

      Also, why is monogenesis a vital doctrine?

    2. Father Ed, is it correct that Roman Catholics are absolutley required to accept “monogenism”? If so, can you direct me to where this is authoratively stated.

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