Response to Bishop Warfel
Posted by Richard Bonine, Jr. (+15419) 8 years ago
I am writing in response to Bishop Michael Warfel’s recent guest opinion in the Billings Gazette concerning same-sex marriage. I feel as though a rebuttal is in order. For the record, I was born and raised in Roman Catholicism and graduated from Catholic high school in Eastern Montana.

The Bishop began his piece by asking the question “Why does the Church insist upon upholding its teaching on marriage as between one man and one woman?” He then states “Church teaching is never based on trends in society, but on truth.” The unvarnished truth is that there are many details about the meaning and practice of marriage with in the Church that have changed to fit the society and culture of the time. The Church is full of revisionists that tweak history to meet the Churches purposes.

Early Christians did not radically alter customs according to which marriage was constituted and practiced but followed the traditional practices of the culture in which they lived, first Jewish and later Greco-Roman. In both of these cultures, the law recognized that marriage, as a social fact with certain juridical consequences, marrying was almost exclusively a family matter. It took place without necessary involvement of either religious or civil authority. And while liturgical rites for the celebration on marriage gradually emerged, their observance was not necessary for the ecclesial recognition of the validity of the marriage until after the Council of Trent in the sixteenth century.

While Augustine identified a threefold goodness in marriage: the good of fidelity, the good of children, and the good of sacrament, he also believed that sexual relations could not be had with out the commission of at least a venial sin. It wasn’t until the Council of Verona in 1184 that marriage was considered a sacrament in the Catholic Church.

The Bishop’s premise that the Church has always had a consistent teaching on marriage and that, that teaching remains unchanged by trends in society is patently false. Is sexual intercourse within the confines of a Catholic marriage still a venial sin, or did that teaching “change”? Anyone with a cursory understanding of Church history can quickly recognize that the Church has modified many of its doctrines to fit the trends of society. It wouldn’t survive if it didn’t.

The Bishop goes on to appeal to “natural law” as some segments of society don’t appreciate “traditional Christian values”. It is uncertain what is meant by “natural law: as it could have multiple meanings. I will discuss two potential usages. If one is going to appeal to the laws of nature in a scientific sense, then one must necessarily accept the associate biology of such law. The biological facts are that there is a certain percentage of the human population that is homosexual. It is not a “learned behavior”; rather it is a genetic predisposition.

Let’s not forget that it was the Catholic Church that persecuted and punished Galileo for his idea that the earth revolved around the sun rather than the earth being stationary as previously thought and taught. It wasn’t until 1968, that the Church officially apologized to Galileo’s family for their atrocity. The Church’s record on things involving “Natural Law” is less than stellar.

In discussing this issue, one cannot help but think of natural law as found in scripture, specifically in Romans 1:24-27. In these verses, Paul makes the statement that “For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women gave up natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed by passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.”

It seems necessary to comment on the above, that "natural" versus "unnatural" as relates to the above text, is not defined by Scripture as "heterosexuality versus homosexuality." The words themselves do not mean this but rather indicate that "unnatural" versus "natural" has to do with a specific sex act itself, rather than the sexual orientation of the persons who commit the act.

Either heterosexuals or homosexuals could commit the "unnatural" act. The exact language of the Greek text requires that we consider the act itself to be "unnatural." Such a statement as, "It is unnatural - contrary to the basic inborn nature of man - for men and women to engage in homosexual practices. Heterosexuality is "natural" - an inborn quality generated by the Creator," does not come from the text here, or anywhere else in Scripture. It derives purely from preconception. It is a bias placed upon the text rather than reading it from the text.

It comes from a misreading of this and other texts. If it is true that homosexuality is inherently "unnatural" that fact must necessarily be derived from Scriptures that make such a statement overtly, which no Scripture does. It is dishonest exegesis to first adopt an opinion then allow that opinion to serve as the foundation upon which exegesis is built.

Thus, the first emphatic point we must make about what is "natural" in this text is: "No Scripture says 'homosexuality is unnatural'; and no Scripture says “heterosexuality is natural." This is simple fact. Any novice Bible student can prove this by simply searching diligently through their favorite concordance. Such a statement is simply not there. Therefore, any conclusion we make as to the "naturalness" of homosexuality holds no more authority than any other purely human opinion.

To me the conclusion seems inescapable. Paul condemns the "unnatural" act of abandoning true worship of God and using sex in worship of idols, a common practice of the day, and pursuing such treatment of others as degraded them through exploitation and violence. The specific forms of this degradation and violence were both heterosexual and homosexual prostitution in pagan temples, the sexual exploitation of young boys by adult males. The name for this behavior is "pederasty." It was indeed homosexual in orientation. But what made the act evil and "degrading" was its exploitation of vulnerable, young boys, sometimes with violence. If heterosexuals exploit young people it is equally "degrading" and evil.

Thus sexual orientation is not the issue here. The issue is the unloving and inconsiderate treatment of others, especially of vulnerable and mostly defenseless children. I’ve been the victim of a Catholic pedophile principal, so I understand things about this that others may not.

The bishop makes several other errors in judgment and statement that are simply not true. Marriage doesn’t always have the purposes the Bishop claims they do. There is little evidence that marriage between husband/father and wife/mother is a requirement in raising children or is a superior method.

The Bishop suggests that variations like polymorous marriages may occur. Interestingly, the Bible is full of such examples of such relationships and God is absolutely silent on the matter. The “hero’s” of the Bible like Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon, etc. ALL had multiple wives. Somehow society survived.

The upshot of all of this is that the Bishop and his associates are putting their spin and interpretations based on iron-age reasoning and documents. They should be more focused on love and allowing people to serve others. Society is best served when we allow consenting adults the freedom to pursue relationships of their choosing.

[This message has been edited by Richard Bonine, Jr. (10/5/2014)]
Posted by Richard Bonine, Jr. (+15419) 8 years ago
Here is a link to the Bishop's editorial