Tag Archives: moral studies

Public Statement on behalf of Dr. Margaret Farley by CTS

Public Statement on Dr. Margaret Farley’s Contribution to the Field of Christian Moral Theology and the Role of the Theologian Today

on 30 June 2012.

The Board of Directors of the College Theology Society expresses its deep gratitude to Dr. Margaret Farley for her many contributions to the field of Christian moral theology. In a distinguished career at the Yale Divinity School spanning over four decades, Dr. Farley has written many books, articles, and lectures articulating her commitment to ethical behavior in a world scarred by injustices against the poor, against those suffering from illness, and against women. As a recipient of the Catholic Theological Society of America’s John Courtney Murray Award, a U.S. Department of State Foreign Service Institute Award, and the Grawemeyer Award in Religion, Dr. Farley has received commendations for her work from theologians, from diplomats, and from her fellow Religious Sisters of Mercy. As a past president of the Society of Christian Ethics and the Catholic Theological Society of America, she has reached out to diverse audiences including theologians from various religious traditions, medical professionals, and Christians across the world in Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America.

As Dr. Farley herself has clearly noted, certain theological positions in her 2006 book, Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics, are different from those currently taught by the magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church. Whether or not individual Roman Catholics agree with Dr. Farley’s conclusions in Just Love, most Catholics recognize that Catholic theologians communicate their findings not only to members within the Church but also to many others seeking to live justly in the pluralistic societies in which they live. In committing themselves to the theological task of faith seeking understanding, theologians frequently pose difficult questions in light of the lived experiences of the people of God. Among the most challenging aspects of exploring such questions in our current cultural context are the deep divisions which plague not only our society but also our Church. To heal the divisions in our polarized Church, we urgently encourage Catholic bishops and theologians to improve the ways in which they communicate with each other, and to collaborate in developing better structures and more transparent procedures to discuss theological differences in a more just and respectful manner. We, the Board Members of the CTS, have identified this important task as a priority in the coming year and look forward to discerning constructive ways forward.

Sandra Yocum, Ph.D.
University of Dayton
Dayton, OH
President

Maureen H. O’Connell, Ph.D.
Fordham University
New York, NY
Vice President

Bradford Hinze, Ph.D.
Fordham University
New York, NY
Past-President

William Collinge, Ph.D.
Mount Saint Mary’sUniversity
Emmitsburg, MD
Chairperson & Editor of Research & Publications

Brian Flanagan, Ph.D.
Marymount University
Arlington, VA
Treasurer

Nicholas Rademacher, Ph.D.
Cabrini College
Radnor, PA
Secretary

Mark J. Allman, Ph.D.
Merrimack College
North Andover, MA
Board Member

Colleen Carpenter, Ph.D.
St. Catherine University
St. Paul, MN
Board Member

Christopher Denny, Ph.D.
Saint John’s University
Queens, NY
Board Member

Patrick J. Lynch, Ph.D.
Canisius College
Buffalo, NY
Board Member

Margaret Pfeil, Ph.D.
University of Notre Dame
South Bend, IN
Board Member

Tobias Winright, Ph.D.
Saint Louis University
Saint Louis, MO
Board Member

Irresponsible Claims for NFP

scared2As a Catholic theologian, I am aware that the Catholic Church tends to be so promotional of NFP as to neglect to inform users that, as in all medical advice, there are potentially dangerous “side effects” to the use of NFP. This practice is unfortunate. It destroys confidence and subverts “honesty in advertising.”

Consider, for example, the medical advice given to patients by The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists:

Q.   How effective is NFP in preventing pregnancy?

A.   Natural family planning is not as effective as most other methods of birth control. One in four women who use this method become pregnant. The method is not suited for the following women:

• Women who should not get pregnant because of medical reasons

• Women with irregular menstrual periods who may not be able to tell when they are fertile

• Women with abnormal bleeding, vaginitis, or cervicitis (these make the cervical mucus method unreliable)

• Women who use certain medications (for instance, antibiotics, thyroid medications, and antihistamines) that may change the nature of vaginal secretions, making mucus signs impossible to read

• Women with certain problems unrelated to fertility (for instance, fever) that can cause changes in basal body temperature  (source)

If our  bishops would include these on a “warning label” with their NFP promotional pitches, then Catholic women who suffered through unwanted pregnancies would feel relieved that it was not their fault that they got pregnant while using NFP.  Meanwhile, those considering using NFP for the first time would be encouraged to know that the bishops are straight shooters and that they are not blinded by ideological and theological factors.

As things now stand, the glowing testimonials in favor of NFP are motivated by the “unspoken truth” that NFP is currently the ONLY OFFICIALLY APPROVED method for regulating pregnancies.  Hence,
Catholics who want to believe that Paul VI could make no major error in drafting Humanae Vitae will want to do fancy cartwheels to demonstrate  that he was 100% right about NFP.

Consider this, for example.  When you visit the  cheerful site known as Catholic Online,  you will hear a Catholic mother of six explaining how she came to hold fast to NFP.   Along the way, however, she makes some pretty fantastical claims:

When women learn to read their cycles, they often report a renewed sense of self-worth. . . .  Women often can’t place their finger on it, but they sense this. Not surprisingly, couples who practice a method of NFP have only a 5% rate of divorce by comparison to the 50% rate in the population at large. Clearly, when couples treat one another with dignity and respect, honoring the wholeness of each person, their relationship is positively effected.

I say “fantastical” because if the text in red were true, then sex therapist and couples counselors would have  used this info by way of shoring up sagging marriages everywhere–and not just among Catholics.  Yet, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is not true.   And this unfortunately is the case, despite the fact that I have heard this claim routinely used in NFP  promotionals.   Hence, this is something like being told to take huge doses of vitamin C to prevent the onset of the common cold.  “Every belief works in the eyes of the believer” (Michael Polanyi).

Mark Twain — ‘What gets us into trouble is not what we don’t know. It’s what we know for sure that just ain’t so.’

Fraternally,

Aaron Milavec

Torture and the Violence of Organized Forgetting

Torture and the Violence of Organized Forgetting

by HENRY GIROUX  Weekend Edition December 12-14, 2014

With the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on torture, it becomes clear that in the aftermath of the loathsome terrorist attack of 9/11, the United States entered into a new and barbarous stage in its history, one in which acts of violence and moral depravity were not only embraced but celebrated. Certainly, this is not to suggest that the United States had not engaged in criminal and lawless acts historically or committed acts of brutality that would rightly be labeled acts of torture. That much about our history is clear and includes not only the support and participation in acts of indiscriminate violence and torture practiced through and with the right-wing Latin American dictatorships in Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia and Brazil in the 1970s but also through the wilful murder and torture of civilians in Vietnam, Iraq, and later at Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib, and Afghanistan. The United States is no stranger to torture nor is it a free of complicity in aiding other countries notorious for their abuses of human rights. Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman reminded us by taking us as far back as 1979 that of the “35 countries using torture on an administrative basis in the late 1970s, 26 were clients of the United States.”[1]

In fact, the United States has a long record of inflicting torture on others, both at home and abroad, although it has never admitted to such acts. Instead, the official response has been to deny this history or do everything to hide such monstrous acts from public view through government censorship, appealing to the state secrecy principle, or deploying a language that buried narratives of extraordinary cruelty in harmless sounding euphemisms. For example, the benign sounding CIA “Phoenix Program” in South Vietnam resulted in the deaths of over 21,000 Vietnamese. As Carl Boggs argues, the acts of U.S. barbarism in Vietnam appeared both unrestrained and never ending, with routinized brutality such as throwing people out of planes labeled as “flying lessons” or “half a helicopter ride,”[2] while tying a field telephone wire around a man’s testicles and ringing it up was a practice called “the Bell Telephone Hour.”[3] Officially sanctioned torture was never discussed as a legitimate concern; but, as indicated by a few well-documented accounts, it seems to be as American as apple pie.[4]

But torture for the United States is not merely a foreign export, it is also part of a long history of domestic terrorism as was evident in the attempts on the part of the FBI, working under a secret program called COINTELPRO, designed to assassinate those considered domestic and foreign enemies.[5] COINTELPRO was about more than spying, it was a legally sanctioned machinery of violence and assassination.[6] In one of the most notorious cases, the FBI worked with the Chicago Police to set up the conditions for the assassination of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, two members of the Black Panther Party. Noam Chomsky has called COINTELPRO, which went on from the 50s to the 70s, when it was stopped, “the worst systematic and extended violation of basic civil rights by the federal government,” and “compares with Wilson’s Red Scare.”[7] What characterized these programs of foreign and domestic terrorism was that they were all shrouded in secrecy and allegedly were conducted in the name of democratic rights.

Torture also has a longstanding presence domestically, particularly as part of the brutalized practices that have shaped American chattel slavery through to its most recent “peculiar institution,” the rapidly expanding prison-industrial complex.[8] The racial disparities in American prisons and criminal justice system register the profound injustice of racial discrimination as well as a sordid expression of racist violence. As the novelist Ishmael Reed contends, this is a prison system “that is rotten to the core … where torture and rape are regular occurrences and where in some states the conditions are worse than at Gitmo. California prison hospitals are so bad that they have been declared unconstitutional and a form of torture.”[9] One of the more recently publicized cases of prison torture involved the arrest of a former Chicago police commander, Jon Burge. He was charged with routinely torturing as many as 200 inmates, mostly African Americans, during police interrogations in the 1970s and 1980s, “in order to force them to falsely confess to crimes they did not commit.”[10] One report claims that many of these men were beaten with telephone books and that “cattle prods were used to administer electric shocks to victims’ genitals. They were suffocated, beaten and burned, and had guns forced into their mouths. They faced mock executions with shotguns. … One tactic used was known as ‘the Vietnam treatment,’ presumably started by Burge, a Vietnam veteran.”[11] The filmmaker Deborah Davis has documented a number of incidents in the 1990s that amount to the unequivocal torture of prisoners and has argued that many of the sadistic practices she witnessed taking place in the American prison system were simply exported to Abu Ghraib.

After 9/11, the United States slipped into a moral coma as President Bush and Vice President Cheney worked tirelessly to ensure that the United States would not be constrained by international prohibitions against cruel and inhumane treatment, and they furthered that project not only by making torture, as Mark Danner argues, “a marker of political commitment” but also by constructing a vast secret and illegal apparatus of violence in which, under the cover of national security, alleged “terrorists” could be kidnapped, made to disappear into secret CIA “black sites,” become ghost detainees removed from any vestige of legality, or be secretly abducted and sent to other countries to be tortured. As Jane Mayer puts it,

the lawyers also authorized other previously illegal practices, including the secret capture and indefinite detention of suspects without charges. Simply by designating the suspects “enemy combatants,” the President could suspend the ancient writ of habeas corpus that guarantees a person the right to challenge his imprisonment in front of a fair and independent authority. Once in U.S. custody, the President’s lawyers said, these suspects could be held incommunicado, hidden from their families and international monitors such as the Red Cross, and subjected to unending abuse, so long as it didn’t meet the lawyer’s own definition of torture. And they could be held for the duration of the war against terrorism, a struggle in which victory had never been clearly defined. [12]

The maiming and breaking of bodies and the forms of unimaginable pain inflicted by the Bush administration on so-called “enemy combatants” was no longer seen in violation of either international human rights or a constitutional commitment to democratic ideals. The war on terror had now reduced governance in the United States to a legalized apparatus of terror that mimicked the very violence it was meant to combat. In the aftermath of 9/11, under the leadership of Bush and his close neoconservative band of merry criminal advisors, justice took a leave of absence and the “gloves came off.”   As Mark Danner states, “the United States transformed itself from a country that, officially at least, condemned torture to a country that practised it.”[13] But it did more. Under the Bush-Cheney reign of power, torture was embraced in unprecedented ways through a no holds-barred approach to the war on terror that suggested the administration’s need to exhibit a kind of ethical and psychic hardening-a hyper-masculine, emotional callousness that expressed itself in a warped militaristic mind-set fueled by a high testosterone quotient. State secrecy and war crimes now became the only tributes now paid to democracy.

As Frank Rich once argued and the Senate Intelligence report confirms, “[T]orture was a premeditated policy approved at our government’s highest levels … psychologists and physicians were enlisted as collaborators in inflicting pain; and … in the assessment of reliable sources like the FBI director Robert Mueller, it did not help disrupt any terrorist attacks.”[14] When the torture memos of 2002 and 2005 were eventually made public by the Obama administration, clearly implicating the Bush-Cheney regime in torture, they revealed that the United States had been turned into a globalized torture state.[15] Conservative columnist, Andrew Sullivan, went so far as to claim that “If you want to know how democracies die, read these memos.”[16] The memos, written by government lawyers John Yoo, Steven Bradbury, and Jay Bybee, allowed the CIA under the Bush administration to torture Al Qaeda detainees held at Guantánamo and other secret detention centers around the world. They also offered detailed instructions on how to implement ten techniques prohibited in the Army Field Manual, including facial slaps, “use of a plastic neck collar to slam suspects into a specially-built wall,”[17] sleep deprivation, cramped confinement in small boxes, use of insects in confined boxes, stress positions, and waterboarding. All of this and more are now documented in the Senate report. In fact, the report claims that current disclosures about the practice of torture used by the CIA were more brutal and less effective than previously reported.

Waterboarding, which has been condemned by democracies all over the world, consists of the individual being “bound securely to an inclined bench, which is approximately four feet by seven feet. The individual’s feet are generally elevated. A cloth is placed over the forehead and eyes. Water is then applied to the cloth in a controlled manner [and] produces the perception of ‘suffocation and incipient panic.’”[18] The highly detailed, amoral nature in which these abuses were first defined and endorsed by lawyers from the Office of Legal Council was not only chilling but also reminiscent of the harsh and ethically deprived instrumentalism used by those technicians of death in criminal states such as Nazi Germany. Andy Worthington suggests that there is more than a hint of brutalization and dehumanization in the language used by the OLC’s Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Steven G. Bradbury, who wrote a detailed memo recommending:

“nudity, dietary manipulation and sleep deprivation”—now revealed explicitly as not just keeping a prisoner awake, but hanging him, naked except for a diaper, by a chain attached to shackles around his wrists—[as,] essentially, techniques that produce insignificant and transient discomfort. We are, for example, breezily told that caloric intake “will always be set at or above 1,000 kcal/day,” and are encouraged to compare this enforced starvation with “several commercial weight-loss programs in the United States which involve similar or even greater reductions in calorific intake” … and when it comes to waterboarding, Bradbury clinically confirms that it can be used 12 times a day over five days in a period of a month—a total of 60 times for a technique that is so horrible that one application is supposed to have even the most hardened terrorist literally gagging to tell all.[19]

The New York Times claimed in an editorial “that to read the…four memos on prisoner interrogation written by George W. Bush’s Justice Department is to take a journey into depravity.”[20] The editorial was particularly incensed over a passage written by Jay Bybee, who was an Assistant Attorney General in the Bush administration at the time. As the Times then pointed out, Bybee “wrote admiringly about a contraption for waterboarding that would lurch a prisoner upright if he stopped breathing while water was poured over his face. He praised the Central Intelligence Agency for having doctors ready to perform an emergency tracheotomy if necessary.”[21] Bybee’s memo is particularly disturbing, even repugnant, in its disregard for human rights, human dignity, and democratic values, not only describing how the mechanics of waterboarding should be implemented but also providing detailed analysis for introducing insects into confined boxes that held suspected terrorist prisoners. In light of mounting criticism, Bybee both defended his support of such severe interrogation tactics and further argued that “the americas-ed-deficit-300x449memorandums represented ‘a good faith analysis of the law’ that properly defined the thin line between harsh treatment and torture.”[22] Indeed, it seems that Bybee should have looked carefully at the following judgment pronounced by the American court in Nuremberg to the lawyers and jurists who rewrote the law for the Nazi regime: “You destroyed law and justice in Germany utilizing the empty forms of the legal process.”[23] As brutal as the revelations revealed in the memos proved to be, the Senate report on torture goes even further documenting the millions of dollars spent on black sites, the amateurish qualifications of people to even conduct interrogations, the complicity of unqualified psychologists who milked the government for $81 million to develop torture techniques, and the endless lies produced by both the CIA and the Bush-Cheney administration regarding everything from the use of secret prisons established all over the world to the false claims that the use of torture was responsible for providing information that led to the finding and killing of Osama Bin Laden by members of the NAVY SEALs.[24] The report also stated that far more people were waterboarded than was first disclosed and that the sessions amounted to extreme acts of cruelty. Some members of the CIA choked up over the cruel nature of the interrogations and send memos to Langley calling their legality into question, but were told by higher officials to continue with the practice. In fact, the interrogations were considered so inhumane and cruel by some CIA officers that they threatened to transfer to other departments if the brutal interrogations continued.

The United States was condemned all over the world for its support of torture and that condemnation, hopefully, will take place once again in light of the report. Fortunately, President Obama when he came to office outlawed the most egregious acts practiced by the professional torturers of the Bush-Cheney regime. Yet undercurrents of authoritarianism die hard in the circles of unaccountable power. The Senate report makes clear that the CIA engaged in lies, distortions, and horrendous violations of human rights, including waterboarding and other sordid practices. The report also reveals that the CIA used monstrous methods such as forced rectal feeding, dragging hooded detainees “up and down a long corridor while being slapped and punched” and threatening to kill or rape family members of the prisoners.

In spite of the appalling evidence presented by the report, members s of the old Bush crowd, including former Vice-President Cheney, former CIA directors, George J. Tenet and Michael V. Hayden, and an endless number of prominent Republican Party politicians are still defending their use of torture or, as they euphemistically contend, “enhanced interrogation techniques.” The psychopathic undercurrent and the authoritarian impulse of such reactions finds its most instructive expression in former Bush communications chief Nicolle Wallace who while appearing on the “Morning Joe” show screeched in response to the revelations of the Senate Intelligence report “I don’t care what we did.” As Elias Isquith, a writer for Salon, contends, as “grotesque as that was, though, the really scary part was [the implication that] waterboarding, sleep deprivation, stress positions and sexual assault is part of what makes ‘America ‘great.’”[25] Wallace’s comments are more than morally repugnant. Wallace embodies the stance of so many other war criminals who were either indifferent to the massive suffering and deaths they caused or actually took pride in their actions. They are the bureaucrats whose thoughtlessness and moral depravity Hannah Arendt identified as the rear guard of totalitarianism.

Illegal legalities, moral depravity, and mad violence are now wrapped in the vocabulary of Orwellian doublethink. For instance, the rhetorical gymnastics used by the torture squad are designed to make the American public believe that if you refer to torture by some seemingly innocuous name then the pain and suffering it causes will suddenly disappear. The latter represents not just the discourse of magical thinking but a refusal to recognize that “If cruelty is the worst thing that humans do to each other, torture [is] the most extreme expression of human cruelty.”[26] These apostles of torture are politicians who thrive in some sick zone of political and social abandonment, and who unapologetically further acts of barbarism, fear, willful lies, and moral depravity. They are the new totalitarians who hate democracy, embrace a punishing state, and believe that politics is mostly an extension of war. They are the thoughtless gangsters reminiscent of the monsters who made fascism possible at another time in history. For them, torture is an instrument of fear; one sordid strategy and element in a war on terror that attempts to expand governmental power and put into play a vast (il)legal and repressive apparatus that expands the field of violence and the technologies, knowledge, and institutions central to fighting the all-encompassing war on terror. Americans now live under a government in which the doctrine of permanent warfare is legitimated through a state of emergency deeply rooted in a mass psychology of violence and culture of cruelty that are essential to transforming a government of laws into a regime of lawlessness.

Once the authoritarian side of political governance takes hold, it is hard to eradicate. Power is addictive, especially when it is reckless and offers personal rewards from those who have capital, benefit from human misery, and are more than willing to reward politicians who follow the corporate script. Witness the support by a number of Republicans who still support the practice of torture and deny the legitimacy of the Senate report. Ignoring that torture is an element of power that is built on what can be rightly termed a willed amorality, they attack the Senate report not for its content but because they believe its release will anger the alleged enemies of the United States, as if that hasn’t already been done through a range of savage military practices or diplomatic acts. Or they argue that the Senate report is simply an attempt to embarrass the Bush-Cheney administration.
Civility has not been the strong point of a party that is overtly racist, hates immigrants, shuts down the government, and caters to every whim of the financial elite. Moreover, we don’t alienate our enemies, we create them by threatening to bomb them, encircle them with nuclear weapons, demonizing Muslims, torturing them, and killing them through indiscriminate drone strikes that mostly kill civilians. Principles are not being defended in these arguments only the kind of raw, naked power that has come to mark authoritarian regimes. It gets worse. The defenders of the globalized torture state are not simply confused or morally damaged; they are wedded to a finance state and the corporate machinery of social, cultural, and political violence that will provide them with lucrative jobs once they finish the bidding of defense contractors and other elements of the finance and warfare state.

To his credit, Arizona Senator John McCain, himself a victim of torture during the Vietnam War, broke with the moral dinosaurs in his party and in defending the release of the Senate report, insisted that the CIA’s use of torture during the Bush-Cheney years “stained our national honor, did much harm, and little practical good.” Most of his colleagues disagree and are now arguing that in spite of the evidence, torture produced actionable intelligence and helped to save lives, a claim the Senate report strongly negates. Once again, empirical utility trumps the levers of justice and the principles of human rights as moral considerations give way to a kind of ghastly death-embracing dance with a debased instrumental rationality.

Not only has the United States lost its moral compass, it has degenerated into a state of political darkness reminiscent of older dictatorships that maimed human bodies and inflicted unspeakable acts of violence on the innocent, while embracing a mad war-like utility and pragmatism in order to remove themselves from any sense of justice, compassion, and reason. This is the formative culture not simply of a society that is ethically lost, but one that produces a society that willingly becomes complicitous with the savage ethos and beliefs of an updated totalitarianism. The Senate report has brought one of the darkest sides of humanity to light and it has sparked a predictable outrage and public condemnation. Thus far, little has been said about either the conditions that made this journey into the dark side possible, or what moral, political, and educational absences had to occur in the collective psyche of both the American public and government that not only sanctioned torture but allowed it to happen? What made it so easy for the barbarians not only to implement acts of torture but to openly defend such practices as a sanctioned government policy?

With the release of the report, the supine American press finally has to acknowledge that the U.S. had joined with other totalitarian countries of the past in committing atrocities completely alien to any functioning democracy. America is no longer even a weak democracy. The lie is now more visible than ever. Nonetheless, the usual crowd of politicians, pundits, and mainstream media not only have little to say about the history of torture committed by the United States at home and abroad, but also about their own silence, if not complicity, in this dark side of American history. The possibility of a politically and morally charged critique has turned into a cowardly and evasive debate around questions such as: Does torture produce terrorist acts from taking place? Is waterboarding really an act of torture? Is torture justified in the face of extremist attacks on the United States? Is the CIA being scapegoated for actions promoted by the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld crowd? And so it goes. These are the wrong questions and reveal the toxic complicity the mainstream press has had all along with such anti-democratic practices. War crimes should not be debated; they should be condemned without qualification.

In an incredible act of bad faith, those responsible for state sanctioned acts of torture are now interviewed by the mainstream media and presented, if not portrayed, as reasonable men with honorable intentions. Rather than being condemned as agents of a totalitarian state and as war criminals who should be prosecuted, those who both gave the orders to torture and those who carried out such inhuman practices are treated as one side of a debate team, anxious to get the real story out in order to provide the other side of the narrative. There is more than a hint of moral depravity here; there is also what I have called elsewhere the violence of organized forgetting. Torture is not about the cowardly appeal to balance. The only reasonable approach any democracy can take towards torture is to condemn it.

For a society to treat torture as a reasonable practice worthy of informed debate reveals a cancer deeply embedded in the American social and political psyche, partly produced by the carcinogenic culture of the mainstream media, the spectacle of violence, and unchecked militarism of American society, and those commanding cultural apparatuses that believe that the only value that matters is rooted in acts of commerce and the accumulation of capital at any cost. Ideas matter, education matters, morality matters, and justice matters in a democracy. People who hold power in America should be held accountable for what the actions they take, especially when they violate all decent standards of human rights.

Maybe it is time to treat the Senate torture report as just one register of a series of crimes being committed under the regime of a savage neoliberalism. After all, an economic policy that views ethics as a liability, disdains the public good, and enshrines self-interest as the highest of virtues provides a petri dish not just for state sanctioned torture abroad but also for a range of lawless and cruel policies at home. Maybe it’s time to connect the dots between the government’s use of waterboarding and a history that includes the killing of Black Panther, Fred Hampton by the Chicago police, the illegal existence of COINTELPRO, the savage brutality of the Phoenix Program in Vietnam, the rise of the post-Orwellian surveillance state, the militarization of the local police, the transformation of underserved American cities into war zones, the creation of Obama’s kill list, the use of drones that indiscriminately execute people, and the recent killing of Michael Brown and Eric Garner at the hands of militarized police force that now acts with impunity.[27]

Is it not reasonable to argue that the lawlessness that creates the torture state and provides immunity for killer cops also provides protection for those in the government and CIA who put into play the tentacles of the globalized torture state? Is it too far-fetched to argue that Eric Garner’s utterance, “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe” is a reminder of the many foreign nationals under the control of the torture state who might have uttered the same words as they were being tortured? Connect these dots and there is more at play here than retreat into a facile high moralism that condemns torture as a “stain on our values.” Instead, what becomes evident is that torture has become symptomatic of something much larger than an errant plunge into immorality and lawlessness and begins to reveal a more systemic rush into what Robert Jay Lifton has described as “a death-saturated age”[28] in which matters of violence, survival, and trauma inescapably bear down on daily experience while pushing the United States into the dark recesses of a new authoritarianism. The Senate report reveals only one moment in an endless upsurge of lawlessness that has come to characterize the United States’ long, slow plunge into totalitarianism. Americans now inhabit a society where the delete button holds sway and the ethical imagination withers. And what are being erased are not only any vestige of a sense of commitment, but public and historical memory and the foundations of any viable notion of justice, equality, and accountability. That is the story that needs to be told.

There is another story to be told about another kind of torture, one that is more capacious and seemingly more abstract but just as deadly in its destruction of human life, justice, and democracy. This is a mode of torture that resembles the “mind virus” mentioned in the Senate report, one that induces fear, paralysis, and produces the toxic formative culture that characterizes the reign of neoliberalism.   Isolation, privatization, and the cold logic of instrumental rationality have created a new kind of social formation and social order in which it becomes difficult to form communal bonds, deep connections, a sense of intimacy, and long term commitments. Neoliberalism has created a society of monsters for whom pain and suffering are viewed as entertainment or deserving of scorn, warfare is a permanent state of existence, torture becomes a matter of expediency, and militarism is celebrated as the most powerful mediator of human relationships.

Under the reign of neoliberalism, politics has taken an exit from ethics and thus the issue of social costs is divorced from any form of intervention in the world. This is the ideological metrics of political zombies. The key word here is atomization and it is the curse of both neoliberal societies and democracy itself. A radical democracy demands a notion of educated hope capable of energizing a generation of young people and others who connect the torture state to the violence and criminality of an economic system that celebrates its own depravities. It demands a social movement unwilling to abide by technological fixes or cheap reforms. It demands a new politics for which the word revolution means going to the root of the problem and addressing it non-violently with dignity, civic courage, and the refusal to accept a future that mimics the present. Torture is not just a matter of policy, it is a deadening mindset, a point of identification, a form of moral paralysis, a war crime, an element of the spectacle of violence, and it must be challenged in all of its dreadful registers.  (source)

Henry A. Giroux currently holds the McMaster University Chair for Scholarship in the Public Interest in the English and Cultural Studies Department and a Distinguished Visiting Professorship at Ryerson University. His most recent books are America’s Education Deficit and the War on Youth (Monthly Review Press, 2013) and Neoliberalism’s War on Higher Education (Haymarket Press, 2014). His web site is www.henryagiroux.com.

Notes. 

[1] Cited in Edward S. Herman, “Folks Out There Have a ‘Distaste of Western Civilization and Cultural Values’,” Center for Research on Globalization (September 15, 2001). Online at: ,http://www.globalresearch.ca/articles/HER109A.html

[2]. Carl Boggs supplies an excellent commentary on the historical amnesia in the U.S. media surrounding the legacy of torture promoted by the United States. See Carl Boggs, “Torture: An American Legacy,” CounterPunch.org (June 17, 2009). Online at: http://www.counterpunch.org/boggs06172009.html.

[3]. Ibid.

[4]. There are many valuable sources that document this history. Some exemplary texts include: A.J. Langguth, Hidden Terrors: The Truth About U.S. Police Operations in Latin America (New York: Pantheon Books, 1979); Gordon Thomas, Journey Into Madness: The True Story of Secret CIA Mind Control and Medical Abuse (New York: Bantam, 1989); Danner, Torture and Truth; Jennifer K. Harbury, Truth, Torture, and the American Way: The History and Consequences of U.S. Involvement in Torture (Boston: Beacon Press, 2005); Alfred McCoy, A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2006); and Rejali, Torture and Democracy. See also Jane Mayer, The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals (New York: Doubleday, 2008); and Phillipe Sands, Torture Team (London: Penguin, 2009). On the torture of children, see Michael Haas, George W. Bush, War Criminal?: The Bush Administration’s Liability for 269 War Crimes (Westport: Praeger, 2009). Also, see Henry A. Giroux, Hearts of Darkness: Torturing Children in the War on Terror (Boulder: Paradigm, 2010).

[5] Amy Goodman, “From COINTELPRO to Snowden, the FBI Burglars Speak Out after 43 Years of Silence (Part 2),” Democracy Now! (January 8, 2014). Online:

http://www.democracynow.org/blog/2014/1/8/from_cointelpro_to_snowden_the_fbi

[6] For an excellent source, see Ward Churchill and Jim Vander Wall, The COINTELPRO Papers: Documents from the FBI’s Secret Wars against Dissent in the United States (Boston: South End Press, 2001). Also see The People’s History of the CIA. Online: http://www.thepeopleshistory.net/2013/07/cointelpro-fbis-war-on-us-citizens.html.

[7] Chomsky quoted in Amy Goodman, “From COINTELPRO to Snowden, the FBI Burglars Speak Out after 43 Years of Silence (Part 2).” Online: http://www.democracynow.org/blog/2014/1/8/from_cointelpro_to_snowden_the_fbi

[8]. See, for example, Angela Y. Davis, Abolition Democracy: Beyond Empire, Prisons, and Torture (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2005); and Loic Wacquant, Punishing the Poor (Durham: Duke University Press, 2009).

[9]. Ishmael Reed, “How Henry Louis Gates Got Ordained as the Nation’s ‘Leading Black Intellectual,’” Black Agenda Report (July 27, 2009). Online at: http://www.blackagendareport.com/?q=content/how-henry-louis-gates-got-ordained-nations-leading-black-intellectual.

[10]. Pepe Lozano, “Chicago Torture Probe Draws Worldwide Attention,” Political Affairs Magazine (July 6, 2006). Online at: http://www.politicalaffairs.net/article/view/3770/1/196/. See also Susan Saulny, “Ex-Officer Linked to Brutality Is Arrested,” New York Times (October 22, 2008). Online at: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/22/us/22chicago.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss.

[11]. Lozano, ibid.

[12]. Mayer, The Dark Side, p. 8.

[13]. Mark Danner, “US Torture: Voices from the Black Sites,” New York Review of Books, Vol. 56, No. 6 (April 9, 2009), p. 77.

[14]. Frank Rich, “The Banality of Bush White House Evil,” New York Times (April 26, 2009), p. WK14.

[15]. The torture memos can be found at the American Civil Liberties Union website. Online at: http://www.aclu.org/safefree/general/olc_memos.html.

[16]. Andrew Sullivan, “The Bigger Picture,” The Daily Dish (April 17, 2009). Online at: http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2009/04/the-bigger-picture.html.

[17]. Ewen MacAskill, “Obama Releases Bush Torture Memos: Insects, Sleep Deprivation and Waterboarding among Approved Techniques by the Bush Administration,” The Guardian (April 16, 2009). Online at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/apr/16/torture-memos-bush-administration.

[18]. Ibid.

[19]. Andy Worthington, “Five Terrible Truths About the CIA Torture Memos,” Future of Freedom Foundation (April 22, 2009). Online at: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2009/04/22-6.

[20]. Editorial, “The Torturers’ Manifesto,” New York Times (April 19, 2009), p. WK9.

[21]. Ibid.

[22]. Bybee cited in Neil A. Lewis, “Official Defends Signing Interrogation Memos,” New York Times (April 29, 2009), p. A12.

[23]. Thomas C. Hilde, “Introduction,” in On Torture, ed. Thomas C. Hilde (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2008), p. 141.

[24] Mark Mazzetti, “Panel Faults C.I.A. Over Brutality and Deceit in Terrorism Interrogations,” New York Times (December 9, 2014). Online: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/10/world/senate-intelligence-committee-cia-torture-report.html.

[25] Error! Main Document Only.Elias Isquith, “‘I don’t care what we did’: What Nicolle Wallace’s rant reveals about America’s torture problem,” Salon (December 9, 2012). Online: http://www.salon.com/2014/12/09/i_dont_care_what_we_did_what_nicolle_wallaces_rant_reveals_about_americas_torture_problem/

[26] Thomas C. Hilde, “Introduction,” in On Torture, ed. Thomas C. Hilde (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2008), p. 1.

[27] See, for one example of this type of analysis, Error! Main Document Only.Chauncey DeVega, “The Culture of Cruelty is International: From Lynchings to Eric Garner and the CIA Torture Report,” We Are Respectable Negroes (December 10, 2014). Online: http://www.chaunceydevega.com/2014/12/the-culture-of-cruelty-is-international.html

[28] Robert Jay Lifton, Death in Life: Survivors of Hiroshima (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1987), p. 479

 

 

 

Bishop Geoffrey Robinson: New Approaches to LGBT People

Bishop Geoffrey Robinson: New Approaches to LGBT People

 

Bishop Geoffrey RobinsonOne bishop’s voice was heard loudly and clearly in Rome in the last few days, not by church leaders, but by Catholic LGBT people and ally advocates.  Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, a retired auxiliary of Sydney, Australia, spoke at the Ways Of Love conference on pastoral care with LGBT people, about which we posted yesterday.  The gathering in Rome was to discuss new possible approaches to LGBT people that the synod could take.

Bishop Robinson, who many readers may remember spoke at New Ways Ministry’s Seventh National Symposium in 2012, outlined a new approach to sexual ethics for the Church that would recognize the goodness and holiness of same-sex committed relationships.  His talk was a highlight of the conference, and I will try to outline some of the main points below.

Bishop Robinson began by dismantling some of the crippling assumptions that underline current church teaching, most particularly the idea that sexual sins are among the most grievous that humans might commit:

“Striking a king or president has always been considered a more serious offence than striking an ordinary citizen. In line with this, it was said, the greatest king by far is God, so an offence against God is far more serious than an offence against a mere human being.

“Because all sexual sins were seen as direct offences against God, they were, therefore, all seen as most serious sins. Sexual sins were seen as on the same level as the other sin that is directly against God, blasphemy, and this helps to explain why, in the Catholic Church, sexual morality has long been given a quite exaggerated importance.

“For centuries the Church has taught that every sexual sin is a mortal sin. In this field, it was held, there are no venial sins. . . .

“This teaching fostered belief in an incredibly angry God, for this God would condemn a person to an eternity in hell for a single unrepented moment of deliberate pleasure arising from sexual desire. This idea of God is totally contrary to the entire idea of God that Jesus presented to us, and I cannot accept it.

“My first rebellion against Church teaching on sex came, therefore, not directly from a rejection of what the Church said about sex, but a rejection of the false god that this teaching presented.”

Robinson also objected to the presumption that the Church’s sexual ethics should be based on judging the solely of sexual acts:

“. . . [T]he teaching of the Church is based on a consideration of what is seen as the God-given nature of the physical acts in themselves, rather than on these acts as actions of human beings. And it continues to do this at a time when the whole trend in moral theology is in the opposite direction.

“As a result it gets into impossible difficulties in analysing physical acts without a context of human relations. For example, some married couples find that there is a blockage preventing the sperm from reaching the ovum, but that in a simple procedure a doctor can take the husband’s sperm and insert it into the wife in such a way that is passes the blockage and enables conception. But the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith condemned this action because the physical act was not considered “integral”, even though the entire reason for this intervention was precisely that the couple wanted their marriage to be both unitive and procreative.

“The Church’s arguments concerning sex are based solely on the physical act in itself rather than on the physical act as an action affecting persons and relationships.”

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Focusing in on lesbian and gay sexuality in particular, Robinson challenged the presumption of “natural law theory” opposing same-gender relationships:

“It was God who created a world in which there are both heterosexuals and homosexuals. This was not a mistake on God’s part that human beings are meant to repair; it is simply an undeniable part of God’s creation.

The only sexual acts that are natural to homosexuals are homosexual acts. This is not a free choice they have made between two things that are equally attractive to them, but something that is deeply embedded in their nature, something they cannot simply cast aside. Homosexual acts come naturally to them, heterosexual acts do not. They cannot perform what the Church would call ‘natural’ acts in a way that is natural to them.

“Why should we turn to some abstraction in determining what is natural rather than to the actual lived experience of human beings? Why should we say that homosexuals are acting against nature when they are acting in accordance with the only nature they have ever experienced?

“The Church claims that it is basing itself on ‘natural law,’ but a natural law based on abstractions is a false natural law. Indeed, it brings the whole concept of natural law into disrepute.”

The bishop began an outline of a new basis for sexual ethics, based more on the teachings of Jesus than on any other outside philosophical theory.  He began this section of his talk by quoting Scripture:

“ ‘If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea’ (Mk.9:42).

“ ‘Then they will answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’”(Mt.25:44-45)

“In these two quotations Jesus identifies with the weakest persons in the community, and tells us that any harm done to them is a harm done to himself.

“I suggest that this harm done to people is the real sin in matters of sex, the only sin that angers God.

“I suggest, therefore, that we should look at sexual morality in terms of the good or harm done to persons and the relationships between them rather than in terms of a direct offence against God.

“Following from this, may we say that sexual pleasure, like all other pleasure, is in itself morally neutral, neither good nor bad? Is it rather the circumstances affecting persons and relationships that make this pleasure good or bad, e.g. a good pleasure for a married couple seeking reconciliation after a disagreement, a bad pleasure for a man committing rape?”

After critiquing a reigning ethic of sex in the contemporary world that only cautions people to “do no harm,”  Bishop Robinson supplies an ethic based more on the commandment to love our neighbor:

“I suggest that the central questions concerning sexual morality are: Are we moving towards a genuinely Christian ethic if we base our sexual actions on a profound respect for the relationships that give meaning, purpose and direction to human life, and on loving our neighbour as we would want our neighbour to love us?

“Within this context, may we ask whether a sexual act is morally right when, positively, it is based on a genuine love of neighbour, that is, a genuine desire for what is good for the other person, rather than solely on self-interest, and, negatively, contains no damaging elements such as harm to a third person, any form of coercion or deceit, or any harm to the ability of sex to express love? . . . .

“Many would object that what I have proposed would not give a clear and simple rule to people. But God never promised us that everything in the moral life would be clear and simple. Morality is not just about doing right things; it is also about struggling to know what is the right thing to do. It is not just about doing what everyone else around us is doing; it is about taking a genuine personal responsibility for everything we do. And it is about being profoundly sensitive to the needs and vulnerabilities of the people with whom we interact.”

To catch all of Bishop Robinson’s nuances, examples, and explanations, I urge all who are interested in this topic to read his entire text which can be found on the conference’s website.  You will be enriched by reading all of Bishop Robinson’s nuances, examples, and explanations, as well as additional arguments.

Synod reveals openness and dialogue

Synod reveals openness and dialogue

by Deborah Rose-Milavec of FutureChurch

The Roman Catholic Church is shifting – moving toward change.  If you listen you can hear the sounds.  It is like watching a beloved (if, at times, stubborn) child grow and learn to form new words in her or his mouth. Parents, with their proclivity for seeing every great possibility in their children know this.  They know how small, sometimes partial words and incomplete gestures cause the heart to leap with joy for what just happened, but also for what is to come.

That is the spirit here at the synod as the first week comes to a close.  As FutureChurch heads back home, we know that the Holy Spirit is alive and well here in the synod hall.  Even the proclamations of things unalterable are slowly being drowned out in this new life-giving wind of change.

While all the bishops and cardinals more or less assent to the daily mantra, “doctrine cannot be changed,” more and more are proposing creative pathways around that obstacle as they feel a new openness to speak freely under Francis.

SynodDewArchbishop John Dew of Wellington of New Zealand, a veteran who has attended five synods, attests to the difference Pope Francis is making at the synod.  He said Pope Francis, “is just there wondering around and talking to people. He’s very serious about collegiality. People feel freer and you can sense that in the atmosphere.”
On Thursday, the head of the Canadian Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Paul-André Durocher spoke of a major shift, a new starting place for theological reflection by bishops at the synod; the same starting place espoused for decades by mujerista, womanist, feminist and liberation theologians around the world.

“What’s happening within the Synod is we are seeing a more inductive way of reflecting; starting from the true situation of people and trying to figure out, ‘what is going on here?'”, said Durocher.  “We are finding that the lived experience of people is also a theological source…a place for theological reflection.”

Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster said at the Tuesday Press Briefing that the experience of married couples is being heard first, before prelates speak. And this is new according to Nichols. He noted that many “positive suggestions being put forward,” and that “we have to approach the social reality of marriage in a friendly dialogue.”  Nichols asserted that equality, rejection of violence and the dignity of children were strands found in western culture that “we can befriend.”

What couples had to say this week

If experience is central to this synod of bishops and the experience of people is  a starting place for theological reflection, what are married couples who get the floor at the synod saying?  It’s a mix, but below are some of the salient points they made.

SynodPirolaRon and Mavis Pirola of Australia shared a story of friends who have a gay son who wanted to bring his partner home for Christmas. The couple’s love for their son took paramount importance over Church teaching saying, “he is our son.”  Using this example, the Pirolas explained how the Church might benefit.

“In our experience, families, the domestic churches, are often the natural models of the open doors for churches of which Evangelii Gaudium speaks”  While acknowledging families could benefit from better teaching and programs, they stressed that “more than anything, they [those who are seen as outside orthodoxy] need to be accompanied on their journey, welcomed, have their stories listened to, and above all, affirmed.” 

Even more pointed, they said that the clergy could become better prepared in presenting Church teachings by “learning from the domestic church.”   The Pirolas believe that this demands a new mindset for lay people.  “They must no longer be viewed as collaborators of the clergy, but truly recognized as co-responsible for the Church’s being and action.”

George and Cynthia Campos of the Philippines told the story of failure in reaching out to Catholics living in “irregular situations.”  Reflecting on why their ministry failed, they suggested that “an enlightened pastoral charity inaugurating innovative forms of ‘accompaniment’ of conjugal spirituality formation and of inclusionary participation in church life leading to full communion needs promotion and enactment by our ordained ministers.”

Jeffrey and Alice Heinzen of the USA framed the crisis in the Church as the result of “the age of the diminished family structure.”  Upholding a more orthodox framework for analyzing the problems facing families, they asked how Catholics can, “effectively share what we know to be true in practical, simple and convincing ways so that all men and women are challenged and supported to live life-long marriages and build homes that reflect the domestic Church?”

Stephen and Sandra Conway of South Africa shared their experience and work in a program for couples whose marriages are in crisis as a way of proposing greater openness by the Church. Citing the story of a couple who had joined the RCIA program but who could not get a first marriage annulled, the Conways called for more openness on the part of the Church.  They said, “If God is the ultimate forgiver and full of compassion then these couples should be forgiven for previous mistakes, how ever, they believe that they are constantly reminded and guilty of these past relationships or mistakes by not being able to partake in communion.”

Arturo and Hermelinda Zamberline of Brazil were inspired by the leadership of Fr. Henri Caffarel who taught that couples should not deliberately close themselves off from having children. They asked the synod leaders to quickly make clear the teaching of Humanae Vitae so Catholics could more readily comply.

Promoting the natural family planning method they also admitted that “many Catholic couples, even those seriously seeking to live their marriage, do not feel obligated to use only natural methods.”

They go on to say that although natural methods for planning the family are good, they may not be practical for many.  Citing the pace of life for many young Catholics and the learning curve for success using natural family planning, “the majority of Catholic couples” are not using natural methods.

Olivier and Xristilla Roussy of France told the story of wanting a big family, learning the methods of natural family planning, deciding to try birth control pills, and, even though it meant an unplanned pregnancy, their returned to natural family planning as the best path toward holiness.

They also stated that mercy was central, not just to others, but for the life of the Church.  “We are called to love people and walk with them rather than judge their actions; to be witnesses to mercy not ignoring the realities they face.  Only this attitude of the heart can prevent us from becoming small communities; narrow, controlled and ultimately dying.”

Even the most orthodox couples, expressed the need for better pastoral care this week.  Some of them reflected what   Fr. Thomas Rosica heard synod leaders say, “The Eucharist is a sacrament that supersedes all sacraments.  Jesus is present in the Eucharist and we must allow Jesus to do his work in the Eucharist.  The Eucharist is left for us sinners and we should not portray a church mentality which places limits on God’s love.”

Archbishop Durocher on Thursday sums up best how the diverse hopes expressed by the synod couples can come together when he said the Church must strive for “a marriage of justice and mercy.”

To read the couples testimonies go to the Vatican Press office website   (source=FutureChurch).

Charlie Curran’s Right to Dissent

Facing An Ultimatum from Rome, Curran Fights for his Right to Dissent

ChasCurranThe letter from the Vatican’s Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger carried an ultimatum: Recant or lose your status as a Catholic theologian. Once again the Rev. Charles E. Curran—known to almost everyone as “Charlie”—had caught lightning. As a tenured professor of moral theology at Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., Curran has kept up a spirited dissent from church teaching on birth control, masturbation, premarital sex, homosexuality, divorce, abortion and euthanasia, arguing that in some cases they may not be absolutely wrong. Now, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith wants to silence the turbulent priest, and Curran is fighting back. “I continue to hold my basic position that dissent from authoritative, noninfallible church teaching is possible and in certain cases is justified,” he told a press conference called to answer the warning from Rome. “My position is in keeping with a long-standing tradition. I cannot and do not retract it.” (The Pope is infallible on faith and morals only when speaking ex cathedra. Since Vatican I in 1869-70, this has occurred only once, in 1950, when Pius XII issued a decree on the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.)

The controversial Curran has gone head-to-head with church authorities twice before. In 1967, when Catholic University’s board of trustees decided—with no explanation—not to renew his contract, a strike by students and faculty convinced the board to keep him on and promote him to associate professor. In 1968 he spearheaded U.S. Catholic resistance to Pope Paul VI’s reaffirmation of the church ban on artificial contraception, organizing some 600 theologians and other academics who declared that Catholic couples could in good conscience practice birth control. His continuing dissent on issues of human sexuality has earned him the ire of American Catholic conservatives, who have bombarded the Vatican with complaints about his views. In 1979, as part of Pope John Paul II’s drive for orthodoxy, the Congregation launched an investigation of Curran that has culminated in the Vatican’s latest threat. “This is much more serious than 1968,” says Curran. “This is intervention by the Holy See.” If he loses his status as a Catholic theologian, he says, “I won’t be able to teach theology at any Catholic school in the country.”

Many feel that would be a great loss. Tall and slim, easygoing with a ready sense of humor, the 52-year-old teacher is as beloved of his students as he is of controversy. Shunning clerical garb, he prefers to wear a coat and tie. When California Republican Congressman Robert Dornan, a Catholic conservative, asked him why he dressed in civvies and let people call him by his first name, the priest replied, ” ‘Cause Jesus did.”

But Curran, who lives in a two-room suite above the theology department offices, is no self-styled radical guru. He teaches only graduate courses, mostly to students in their 30s and 40s, and is known for assigning a grueling work load. “He presents Roman Catholic teaching clearly, fairly and objectively,” says Sister Sally McReynolds, 47, who studied under Curran and is now a Ph.D. candidate in systematic theology. “He emphasizes the strengths and the weaknesses, but he emphasizes the strengths more.”

Curran maintains that his differences with church teachings on sexuality fall well within the mainstream of Catholic theology. The great majority of Catholics in this country reject the birth control ban, Catholics are divorced in the same proportion as the general population, and a recent Gallup poll found that 58 percent of Catholics do not believe premarital sex is morally wrong. Ratzinger nevertheless cites four major issues on which Curran departs from church doctrine:

•The church teaches that artificial contraception and sterilization are intrinsically wrong. Says Curran: “I’ve maintained that these actions are not intrinsically evil but can be good or evil insofar as they’re governed by the principles of responsible parenthood and stewardship.”

•Ratzinger says, “Every true Catholic must hold that abortion and euthanasia are unspeakable crimes.” Curran argues that “truly individual” human life does not occur until the second and third week after conception. “One can be justified in taking truly individual human life,” he adds, “only for the sake of the life of the mother or for a value commensurate with life itself.” Curran tentatively proposes a case for euthanasia: “When the dying process begins there seems to be no difference between the act of omission [not using extraordinary means to prolong life] and the positive act of bringing about death.”

•Ratzinger terms masturbation, premarital intercourse and homosexual acts “intrinsically immoral.” Curran says that while masturbation “falls short of the full meaning of human sexuality and should not generally be seen as entirely good or praiseworthy, it is not normally a serious issue…. For an irreversible, constitutional or genuine homosexual, homosexual acts in the context of a loving relationship striving for permanency can in a certain sense be objectively morally acceptable. The full meaning of human sexuality involves a permanent commitment of love between a man and a woman. Pastoral practice here requires prudence in dealing with people who do not accept such an understanding in practice…. Only in very rare and comparatively few situations would I justify premarital sexuality.”

•Ratzinger says marriage is “an indissoluble bond.” Curran replies, “The Catholic Church should change its teachings on indissolubility and allow divorce in certain circumstances.”

Because the teachings he questions are not declared “infallible,” Curran argues that his caveats fall within the bounds of permissible dissent under church law. “Infallibility is like pregnancy,” he says. “Either you are or you aren’t. It is unjust to single me out for disciplinary action of any type when so many other Catholic theologians hold the same position.”

Curran, born the son of an insurance adjuster (and leading Democrat) in Rochester, N.Y., is what seminarians call a “womb-to-tomber.” He entered St. Andrew’s Minor Seminary at 13 and eventually took his two doctorates in Rome before returning to his home diocese to teach at St. Bernard’s Seminary. He moved on to Catholic University in 1965, when it became clear his opinions on birth control were not welcome in Rochester. “One thing I’ve inherited from my father is cynicism,” he once said. “If you’re cynical enough, you don’t fall for everything that comes down the pike. And I never fell for all the folderol [in Rome].”

This time, however, Rome means business, and the current attempt to rein in Curran has divided the American church. “I welcome the action,” declares Auxiliary Bishop Austin Vaughan of New York. But nine former presidents of the Catholic Theological Society of America support Curran and have circulated a statement—already signed by more than 600 Catholic theologians—challenging the Vatican position. Curran’s home bishop, Matthew Clark of Rochester, says that questioning Curran’s status as a theologian is “a serious setback to Catholic education.” Chicago’s Joseph Cardinal Bernardin has urged Ratzinger to accept a compromise suggested by Curran that would point out the theologian’s errors but allow him to continue teaching. But Ratzinger appears unswayed.

Though 300 students turned out at a rally to support Curran, he can’t count on Catholic U. to go on strike this time. “While the contributions Father Curran has made to this community cannot be ignored,” editorialized the student newspaper, The Tower, “the right of the church to protect faithfully her teachings and guide those who would teach as Catholic theologians is paramount.” Curran chooses to see the controversy as an educational opportunity. “No matter what happens,” he says, “I want to make this a teaching moment.”  (source)

  • Contributors:
  • Jim Castelli

Who Eats at the Lord’s Table?

Who Eats at the Lord’s Table?

 

Dear Cardinal Pell,

peterdayIn the lead-up to next month’s Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family you and a number of your confreres are re-asserting the church’s longstanding exclusion of divorced and remarried people from communion.

Your foreword to The Gospel of the Family appears to leave us with little doubt: outsiders are not welcome.

As you have said, “The sooner the wounded, the lukewarm, and the outsiders realise that substantial doctrinal and pastoral changes are impossible, the more the hostile disappointment (which must follow the reassertion of doctrine) will be anticipated and dissipated.”

Respectfully, I have a number of questions I’d like to consider with you; conscious, of course, that neither of us in our grappling can claim to really know the mind of Christ.

So, what was it that our Lord had in mind when he instituted the Eucharist with these self-emptying words, “This is my body, this is my blood?” Whose hunger was he responding to? Who was welcome? And what are the implications for our Sunday worship and beyond? 

Well, we do know this: The tax collectors and sinners were all crowding round to listen to him, and the Pharisees and scribes complained saying, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them …’ (Lk 15:2-3) 

And this: It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. Go and learn the meaning of the words: ‘Mercy is what pleases me, not sacrifice.’ And indeed I came to call not the upright, but sinners. (Mt 9:12-13)

And this: Let anyone who is thirsty come to me!

Let anyone who believes in me come to drink! (Jn 7:38)

And this: When he arrived at the Pharisee’s house and took his place at table, suddenly a woman came in, who had a bad name in the town … She covered his feet with kisses and anointed him … the Pharisee said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would know … what sort of person [was] touching him and what a bad name she has …’ (Lk 7:36-39)

And this: They were at supper … and he got up from table, removed his outer garments … and began to wash his disciples’ feet(Jn 13:2, 4, 5) 

And this: Peter said …‘You know it is forbidden for Jews to mix with people of another race or visit them; but God has made it clear to me that I must not call anyone profane or unclean … God has no favourites … and who am I to stand in God’s way?’ (Acts 10:28, 34 & 11:17)

Could it be, given the exclusivity of our Communion, that when we proclaim these words we are potentially condemning ourselves as well?

Just think: Jesus, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of sinners (Lk 7:34), real and present in our Breaking of Bread. Wow. Extraordinary. Out of this world. We actually believe this … don’t we?

If we answer in the affirmative, there are profound consequences: are we not also compelled to look beyond the in-crowd and welcome outsiders; are we not also compelled to take risks: like the risk of being labelled and pilloried for sharing our table with those we are not supposed to; for doing something that is forbidden by law. I am not thinking here of people who do not care. I am concerned for those who are hungry for love and long to share even the crumbs from the table.

Can any of us truly look at our Lord and Master and say without a profound sense of foreboding: ‘Yes, I am a follower; but you must understand there are rules …’

His disciples were hungry and began to pick ears of corn and eat them. The Pharisees noticed it and said to him, ‘Look, your disciples are doing something that is forbidden on the Sabbath’. (Mt 12:1-2)

If the Eucharist is essentially an encounter with the real presence, rather than essentially an institutional-cum-cultic event, then surely the Master’s social interactions make it abundantly clear: hunger, not worthiness underpins Table Fellowship. To allow the law, cultic statutes, and theology to take precedence over mercy and love and encounter, is tantamount to perpetuating the hard line rigour of those Pharisees who complained bitterly and moralised pompously about so many things.

Their approach fostered a cold, superficial temple-based religion. But Jesus invited his followers to a change of heart, a heart oriented to the one called, Abba – Father : a relational, God-based faith.

Indeed, if Jesus himself was bound by the strictures of his religious tribe and the social mores of his day, he would never have encountered the woman at the well because ‘Jews, of course, do not associate with Samaritans’ (Jn 4:10). Thankfully, he was not. Thus, a women consigned to the margins, and thirsting for love, was afforded one-on-one time with the One who risked everything to offer her living water.

Yet, despite the extraordinary inclusiveness and openness of our foot washing Master; not to mention the accusations his behaviour attracted – blasphemy, law-breaking, ‘prince of devils’ – there are still those who insist that the meal instituted by him who emptied himself, taking the form of a slave (Phil 2:7) be an exclusive, High Church event with all the accoutrements, pomp and ceremony, do’s and don’ts, and rules about who’s in and who’s out, as if the Holy One needs protection and distancing from an encounter with the great unwashed.

If this non-relational Temple-centred worship takes hold, then we too leave ourselves open to the criticism:

Now here, I tell you, is something greater than the Temple. And if you had understood the meaning of the words: ‘Mercy is what pleases me, not sacrifice’, you would have not condemned the blameless. For the Son of Man is master of the Sabbath. (Mt 12:5-8)

And if, in the depth of our being, we believe Jesus is real and present at the breaking of bread, then how do we justify the exclusion of so many? Can we in good conscience continue to turn away those longing to drink from the well-of-life because Catholics, of course, do not break bread with …? 

There can be neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither slave nor freeman, there can neither be male nor female – for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal 3:28-29)

I do not presume to know the mind of Pope Francis either, but his musings on spiritual worldliness seem especially apt:

[There] are those who ultimately trust only in their own powers and feel superior to others because they observe certain rules or remain intransigently faithful to a particular Catholic style from the past. A supposed soundness of doctrine or discipline leads to a narcissistic and authoritarian elitism, whereby instead of evangelising, one analyses and classifies others, and instead of opening the door of grace, one exhausts his or her energies in inspecting and verifying. (Evangelii Gaudium #94) 

In some people we see an ostentatious preoccupation for the liturgy, for doctrine and for the Church’s prestige, but without any concern that the Gospel have a real impact on God’s faithful people and the concrete needs of the present time. In this way, the life of the Church turns into a museum piece or something which is the property of a select few … The mark of Christ, incarnate, crucified and risen, is not present; closed and elite groups are formed, and no effort is made to go forth and seek out those who are distant or the immense multitudes who thirst for Christ. (Evangelii Gaudium #95)

It prompts the question: has a simple, inclusive and profound ‘family’ meal been overwhelmed by an impersonal and, often times, sterile institutional sacrifice; one that tends towards mass exclusion?

Peace and regards,

Fr Peter Day, Parish Priest, Corpus Christi  (source)

Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn, Australia

Homosexuality and Isaiah

Homosexuality and the Message of Isaiah

by Frederick J. Gaiser

Frederick J. GaiserFrederick J. Gaiser teaches Old Testament at Luther Seminary in St. Paul. This article appeared in The Christian Century, May 2, 2006. pp. 26f. Copyright by the Christian Century Foundation; used by permission.

If those in the church who are in favor of changing long-held attitudes and ordinances relating to homosexuals were merely cultural relativists with no regard for the Bible or tradition, the debate would be easier. The same would be true, of course, if those wishing to retain those attitudes and ordinances were merely diehard homophobes who used the Bible selectively to their own ends. But neither is the case. Though there may be some people who more or less fit those categories, the hard truth is that Christians of good will — more, Christians of good faith — for whom the Bible remains the source and norm of faith and life sincerely disagree about whether or how biblical passages regarding homosexual behavior relate to the current situation. In other words, exegesis — important as it is — will not solve the problem.

What then to do? There are many responsible ways to carry on this discussion. One way is to seek help from a somewhat parallel situation in the Bible itself.

The situation I have in mind is the one Israel faced following the exile. The question for Israel was how it should reconstitute itself. With all preexilic institutions shattered, what would mark the way forward? Was this the time to circle the wagons and defend past traditions in the face of the chaotic conditions that came with being a province of Persia, subject to dangerous foreign influences? Some said yes, and found solid biblical warrant for their stance in the many parts of God’s law that call for purity, holiness and separation from the world. Others thought this might be a time to welcome the stranger and open the doors to new possibilities. Those who made this argument pointed to God’s call to be a city on the hill and a blessing to the nations. Both sides could claim fidelity and find good biblical support.

Enter the prophet of Isaiah 56. Speaking for God, he announced: “Do not let the foreigner joined to the LORD say, ‘The LORD will surely separate me from his people’; and do not let the eunuch say, ‘I am just a dry tree.’ For thus says the LORD: To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths . . . I will give, in my house and within my walls, a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off. And the foreigners who. . . hold fast my covenant — these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer. . .for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples” (56:1-7).

Throw open the doors, said the prophet. In saying this, he set himself against biblical legislation that clearly argued otherwise. It says in the book of Deuteronomy, “No one whose testicles are crushed or whose penis is cut off shall be admitted to the assembly of the Lord” (23:1). A similar passage in Leviticus declares that “no one who has a blemish shall draw near” the sanctuary, including one with “crushed testicles” (21:18-20).

Some biblical scholars see this development in Isaiah as an Old Testament instance of the sort of radical reinterpretation or even abrogation of a previous divine word that marks Jesus’ own ministry (“You have heard . . . but l say to you. . .”) How is such a thing possible?

The prophet, like Jesus, claims to speak as “one with authority” — that is, precisely as a prophet, one who brings from God a new and life-giving word. But the old words, barring eunuchs from the assembly and limiting the access of foreigners, claimed authority too. Does the prophet simply promote chaos by urging folks to do their own thing? By no means. The promise, in its radicality, remains fully within God’s established covenant with Israel.

“Maintain justice, and do what is right,” says Isaiah (56:1 — keep the sabbath and hold fast the covenant. Foreigners and eunuchs are called to observe Torah and confess their faith just as do other Israelites. The inclusivity proclaimed in Isaiah 56:1-8 is not an ideology that simply proclaims acceptance, disallowing claims to truth and differentiation. Those eunuchs and foreigners are welcomed who confess Yahweh and give themselves to the demands of the covenant.

Further, the promise comes not by right but as gift. A conversation about human rights is always in order, to be sure — particularly in regard to issues of human sexuality — but Isaiah is speaking of the remarkable generosity of God, who “will give an everlasting name” to the eunuchs, precisely those who could establish no name for themselves by the normal processes of procreation.

The text moves beyond legalities and orders and speaks from the perspective of a divine grace that changes everything. It does so, in part, by seeing the present in the light of God’s future. A new salvation is on the horizon, one that, like the old, will be “good news to the oppressed” and “liberty to the captives”(61:1). New life will be possible even in the midst of unfulfilled political hopes. In Isaiah’s language, God is “about to do a new thing” (43:19) — or, in more modern parlance, God is going where no one has gone before.

Finally, in the eyes of the prophet, it is not a matter of eunuchs and foreigners being “allowed” into a community that is whole in itself and that now condescends to let in some who, alas, are not like them. Rather, God is gathering “others” to “the outcasts of Israel” that God has “already gathered” (56:8). The people of Israel can accept the inclusion of others because they know themselves to be outcasts and sinners, welcome in God’s house because of who God is and what God has done, not because of their own righteousness. There is no “we” who magnanimously admit “them”; there is a community of outcasts who together recognize their common need of undeserved grace.

What might this mean for the present discussion about the place in the church of homosexually oriented believers? Might the contemporary church hear itself and its situation addressed by a surprising prophetic word that, in the name of God, calls previous words of God into question? That is to say, might God be calling the church to a “new thing” in which not even earlier words of God — good and proper for their own time — can stand in the way of the broader community God now has in mind?

An assenting response will not be universal, of course, just as it was not in the time of the prophet. Was the prophet’s new word canonical? Will the people of God now understand God to be up to something new? Time (and the Spirit) will tell, and prayer will be in order.

At the same time, the conversation about the inclusion of “others” might find a way to uphold the prophet’s insistence that all — insiders and former outsiders alike — are called to “maintain justice and do what is right,” to “keep the sabbath” and “hold fast to the covenant.” Again, “anything goes” is not the prophet’s theme.

What will it mean for homosexual unions (or heterosexual ones, in our difficult times) to “keep the sabbath”? What will it mean for both sides in this debate — at least as it takes place among believers, in and for the church — to move beyond political ideologies and culture wars and stand together under God’s word of law and gospel? Once more, the conclusion of such a process will hardly be foregone, but God might again do surprising things among people who give themselves to God’s living word.

Standing under the word in prayer while waiting for the clarification of the Spirit will satisfy neither those who argue for “justice now” nor those for whom the faith itself is at stake in this issue — and those people will necessarily continue their professions and protestations. But such waiting might prevent rending of the body of Christ and might finally allow a contemporary understanding that, like the biblical canon, retains a place for both tradition and renewal, the old and the new.   (source)

 

THE MARRIAGE COVENANT: A BIBLICAL STUDY ON MARRIAGE

 THE MARRIAGE COVENANT: A BIBLICAL STUDY ON MARRIAGE

Samuele Bacchiocchi, Ph. D., Andrews University

Samuele BacchiocchiDuring much of Christian history, sex in marriage has been condoned as a necessary evil for producing children. Before the sexual revolution of our times, calling a lady “sexy” would have been insulting. Nowadays many ladies would accept that adjective as a prized compliment. “The Victorian person,” writes Rollo May, “sought to have love without falling into sex; the modern person seeks to have sex without falling into love.”1

The attitude of society toward sex has truly swung from one extreme to another. From the Puritan view of sex as a necessary evil for procreation, we have come to the popular Playboy view of sex as a necessary thing for recreation. From the age of warning “Beware of sex,” we have come to the age of shouting “Hurrah for sex.” Homo sapiens has become homo sexualis, packed with sexual drives and techniques.

Both extremes are wrong and fail to fulfill God’s intended function of sex. The past negative view of sex made married people feel guilty about their sexual relations; the present permissive view of sex turns people into robots, capable of engaging in much sex but with little meaning or even fun in it. In spite of the increasing number of books on the techniques of love-making, more and more people are telling marriage counselors: “We make much love, but it isn’t much good. We find little meaning or even fun in it!”

Objective of the Chapter. This chapter examines the Biblical view of sex. We shall consider various aspects of sex within and without marriage in the light of the Biblical teaching. The chapter is divided into three parts. The first part surveys the past attitudes toward sex, from ancient Israel to modern times. The second part examines the Biblical view of the nature and function of sex. Attention will also be given to the morality or immorality of contraception. The third part addresses the question of whether or not there will be marital relationships in the world to come. The overall objective of the chapter is to counteract the secular and hedonistic view of sex by helping Christians understand and experience sex as God intended it to be.

PART I: PAST ATTITUDES TOWARD SEX

Ancient Israel. The Hebrew people understood and interpreted human sexuality as a positive gift from God. They were not affected by the later Greek dualism between spirit and matter which considered sexual intercourse and evil “fleshy” activity to be shunned if possible. Such thinking was foreign to the Hebrews who saw sex within marriage as beautiful and enjoyable. A wedding was a time of great celebration, partly because it marked the beginning of the sexual life of the couple.

The bridal pair retired to a nuptial tent or chamber at the end of the wedding festivities to make love together while lying on a clean, white sheet. Blood on the sheet indicated that the bride had been a virgin and provided evidence of the consummation of marriage (Deut 22:13-19). A newly betrothed man was even excused from participating in war in order to be able to enjoy his bride (Deut 20:7)!

This indicates that the ancient Hebrews had a healthy attitude toward sex. They saw it as a divine gift which gave pleasure to the persons involved while providing the means for the propagation of the race. The classic example of the exaltation of human sexuality is found in the Song of Songs. This book has often been a source of embarrassment to Jews and Christians alike. Some interpreters, like Sebastian Castellio, have viewed the Song of Songs as an obscene description of human love which does not belong in the Biblical canon. Others, like Calvin, have defended the inclusion of the book in the canon by interpreting it as an allegory symbolizing the love of God for His people. The book, however, is not an allegory. It is a romantic celebration of human sexuality. According to some traditions, portions of the book were sung during wedding processionals and wedding feasts.

When the Hebrews came to the land of Canaan, they were exposed to the evil and excesses of the fertility cults associated with the worship of Baal, which included sacred prostitution. To correct these evils, several regulations were given. There were strict prohibitions, for example, against revealing in public one’s “private parts” (Gen 9:21; 2 Sam 6:20), incest (Lev 18:6-18; 20:11-12,14, 20; Deut 27:20,22), bestiality (Lev 18:23; 20:15-16), homosexuality (Lev 18:22; 20:13), and various kinds of sexual “irregularities” (Ex 22:16; Lev 19:20,29; 15:24; 18:19; 20:18; Deut 25:11). Overall, however, the Jews had a healthy view of sex, although they saw it primarily in terms of its reproductive function.

New Testament Times. In New Testament times, we find the beginning of two extreme attitudes toward sex: licentiousness and celibacy. Some interpreted the freedom of the Gospel as freedom to engage freely in sexual relations outside marriage. Jude speaks of “ungodly persons who pervert the grace of our God into licentiousness” (Jude 4). Peter warns against the enticement of false teachers who had “eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin” (2 Pet 2:14). The problem of sexual permissiveness and perversion had become so noticeable in the Corinthian church that Paul openly rebuked those who engaged in incestuous and adulterous sexual relations (1 Cor 5:1, 6:16-18).

Other Christians were influenced by Greek philosophical ideas which viewed anything related to the physical aspect of life as evil. Since the sexual act involves “fleshly” contact and pleasure, it was viewed as inherently evil. This thinking prevailed in the Greco-Roman world, and exercised considerable influence among some Christians. In Corinth, for example, there were some Christians who maintained that unmarried people should remain single and those who were married should refrain from sexual activity (1 Cor 7:1-5, 8-11, 25-28).

Paul responded to these “ascetic” believers by affirming that it was right and proper for married persons to engage in sexual activities: “The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. . . . Do not refuse one another except perhaps by agreement for a season . . . lest Satan tempt you through lack of self-control” (1 Cor 7:3,5). Paul counsels unmarried and the widows to remain single (1 Cor 7:8, 25-26). His reason, however, is based not on theological but on practical considerations, namely, on the need to avoid the added burdens of a family during the end-time persecution which Paul believed would soon break out (1 Cor 7:26-31). Paul’s counsel does not reflect a negative view of sexuality because his advice was predicated solely on practical considerations. This is indicated by his counsel, “It is better to marry than to be aflame with passion. . . . if you marry, you do not sin, and if a girl marries she does not sin” (1 Cor 7:9, 28).

Christian Church. The negative view of sexuality, already present in embryonic form during apostolic times among some Christians, developed fully during the early church, shaping the sexual attitudes of Christians up to modern times. This view can be traced back to Greek philosophy, especially to Platonic thought, which saw man as having two parts: the soul, which is good, and the body, which is bad. Such dualistic thinking influenced Christianity through a movement known as Gnosticism. This heretical movement taught that all matter, including the human body, was evil. Only the spark of the divine in man (soul) is good and through special knowledge (gnosis) such a spark could be released from the human body and returned to the divine realm. Thus, salvation was perceived as the liberation of the soul from the prison-house of the body.

This dualistic teaching greatly influenced Christian thought through the centuries to the point that many Christians gradually abandoned the Biblical view of the resurrection of the body, replacing it with the Greek concept of the immortality of the soul. The fundamental error of this view, which an increasing number of scholars are rejecting as unBiblical, is its assumption that matter is evil and must be destroyed. Such a view is clearly discredited by those Biblical texts which teach that matter, including the human body, is the product of God’s good creation (Gen 1:4, 10 12, 18, 21, 25, 31). The Psalmist declares: “For thou didst form my inward parts, thou didst knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise thee, for thou art fearful and wonderful. Wonderful are thy works” (Psalm 139:13-14).

The adoption of the unBiblical Greek notion of the human body as intrinsically evil has led many Christians through the centuries into a warped attitude toward sex. Its effect still lingers, as many today are still uneasy about their marital sexual relations, viewing them as something tainted with sin.

Augustine’s Role. The church father who has molded the negative Christian attitudes toward sex more than any other person is Augustine (354-430).2 He regarded the sexual drives and excitement which cannot always be rationally controlled as the result of sin. He speculated that if sin had not come in, marital intercourse would be without the excitement of sexual desire. The male semen could be introduced into the womb of the wife without the heat of passion, in a natural way similar to the natural menstrual flow of blood emitted from the womb.

As a result of sin, the sexual act is now accompanied by powerful drives which Augustine called concupiscence, or lust. The satisfaction of lust through intercourse, was for him, a necessary evil to bring children into this world.

In effect, Augustine equated original sin with the sexual act and its lustful desires since the act is the channel through which he thought the guilt of Adam’s first transgression is transmitted from parent to child. By making the sexual act the means whereby original sin is transmitted, Augustine made sex for pleasure a sinful activity. This view necessitated the administration of baptism immediately after birth to remove the stain of the original sin from the soul of the new born baby.

The major fallacy of this view is its reduction of original sin to a biological factor which can be transmitted like an infectious disease through sexual intercourse. In Scripture, however, sin is volational and not biological. It is a willful transgression of a divine moral principle (1 John 3:4), and not a biological infection transmitted through sexual contact.

What can be transmitted is not the guilt of sin, as Augustine believed, but its punishment. Guilt is the personal transgression of a divine principle, which cannot be imputed upon a third party. The punishment of our wrong doings, however, can be passed on in terms of sickness and/or evil hereditary tendencies. Scripture tells us that God visits “the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children, to the third and fourth generation” (Ex 34:7). In the case of Adam’s sin, what has been passed on to mankind are the consequences of its punishment, which include evil inclinations and death. These consequences cannot be mechanically removed through infant baptism.

Original Sin. The notion of original sin is derived primarily from Romans 5:12 where Paul says that “sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned.” In this statement the apostle simply affirms the fact that mankind shares in Adam’s sin and death. He makes no attempt to explain how this happens. He makes no allusion to sexual procreation as the channel through which mankind has become partakers of Adam’s sin and death. The context clearly indicates that Paul’s concern is to affirm the fundamental truth that Adam’s disobedience has made us sinners and Christ’s obedience has made us righteous: “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous” (Rom 5:19).

The concept to which Paul alludes to establish the connection between the sin of Adam and that of mankind is not that of biological transmission of sin through sexual procreation, but that of corporate solidarity. As Achan’s sin became the sin of his household because its members shared in a corporate solidarity with him (Josh 7:24), so Adam’s sin has become the sin of mankind because its members share in a corporate solidarity with him. This Pauline argument provides no support to the Augustinian attempt to equate original sin with sexual excitement and intercourse.

Augustine’s association of original sin with sex has been widely accepted throughout Christian history, conditioning the sexual attitudes not only of Roman Catholics but also of Christians in general. As Derrick Baily notes, “Augustine must bear no small measure of responsibility for the insinuation into our culture of the idea, still widely current, that Christianity regards sexuality as something peculiarly tainted with evil.”3

Partly as a reaction to this negative view of sex as a necessary evil for the propagation of the human race, a completely different and pleasure oriented (hedonistic) view of sex has emerged. The sexual revolution of our time has glamorized sexual profligacy and prowess, ridiculing sexual chastity as a prudish superstition. The catastrophic consequences of the sexual revolution can be seen in the ever-increasing number of divorces, abortions, incidents of incest, sexual abuse of children, and the loss of the true meaning and function of sex. In the light of this painful reality, it is imperative for Christians to understand and experience the Biblical meaning and function of sex.

PART II: THE BIBLICAL VIEW OF SEX

Image of God. The book of Genesis is the logical starting point for our quest into the Biblical view of sex. The first statement relating to human sexuality is found in Genesis 1:27: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” It is noteworthy that while after every previous act of creation, Scripture says that God saw that “it was good” (Gen 1:12,18,21,25), after the creation of mankind as male and female, it says that God saw that “it was very good” (Gen 1:31). This initial divine appraisal of human sexuality as “very good” shows that Scripture sees the male/female sexual distinction as part of the goodness and perfection of God’s original creation. . . .

Becoming “One Flesh”. The oneness of intimate fellowship between a man and a woman is expressed in Genesis 2:24 by the phrase “one flesh:” “Therefore a man leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.” The phrase “one flesh,” as already shown in chapter 1, refers to the total union of body, soul, and spirit between marital partners. This total union can be experienced especially through sexual intercourse when the act is the expression of genuine love, respect, and commitment. The physical or sexual meaning of the phrase “one flesh” is clearly found in 1 Corinthians 6:16 where Paul applies it to the sexual intercourse between a man and a harlot.

The phrase becoming one flesh sheds considerable light on God’s estimate of sex within a marital relationship. It tells us that God sees sex as a means through which a husband and a wife can achieve a new unity. It is noteworthy that the “one flesh” imagery is never used to describe a child’s relationship to his father and mother. A man must “leave” his father and mother to become “one flesh” with his wife. His relationship to his wife transcends the one to his parents because it consists of a new oneness consummated by the sexual union.

Becoming one flesh also implies that the purpose of the sexual act is not only procreational, that is, to produce children, but also psychological, that is, the emotional need to consummate a new oneness-relationship. Oneness implies the willingness to reveal one’s most intimate physical, emotional and intellectual self to the other. As they come to know each other in the most intimate way, the couple experiences the meaning of becoming one flesh. Sexual intercourse does not automatically ensure this oneness intimacy. Rather it consummates the intimacy of perfect sharing which has already developed.

Sex as “Knowing”. Sexual relations within marriage enable a couple to come to know each other in a way which cannot be experienced in any other way. To participate in sexual intercourse means not only to uncover one’s body but also one’s inner being to another. This is why Scripture often describes sexual intercourse as “knowing,” the same verb used in Hebrews to refer to knowing God. Genesis 4:1 says: “And Adam knew Eve his wife and she conceived.”5

Obviously Adam had come to know Eve before their sexual intercourse, but through the latter he came to know her more intimately than ever before. Dwight H. Small aptly remarks: “Self-disclosure through sexual intercourse invites self-disclosure at all levels of personal existence. This is an exclusive revelation unique to the couple. They know each other as they know no other person. This unique knowledge is tantamount to laying claim to another in genuine belonging . . . the nakedness and physical coupling is symbolic of the fact that nothing is hidden or withheld between them.”6

The process which leads to sexual intercourse is one of growing knowledge. From the initial casual acquaintance to dating, courtship, marriage, and sexual intercourse, the couple grows in the knowledge of each other and this makes greater intimacy possible. Sexual intercourse represents the culmination of this growth in reciprocal knowledge and intimacy. As Elizabeth Achtemeier puts it: “We feel as if the most hidden inner depths of our beings are brought to the surface and revealed and offered to each other as the most intimate expression of our love.”7

Sex as Pleasure. A revolution has taken place in Christian thinking about sex within the last hundred years. Until the beginning of our century, Christians generally believed that the primary function of sex was procreative, that is, to produce children. Other considerations, such as the unitive, relational and pleasurable aspects of sex were seen as secondary and usually tainted with sin. In the twentieth century the order has been reversed. Christians place the relational and pleasurable aspects of sex first and the conception of children last.

From a Biblical perspective, sexual activity is both unitive and procreative, or we might say, recreative and reproductive. God’s command, “Be fruitful and multiply” (Gen 1:28), is a command to be sexual. When we obey it, we fulfill God’s purpose by becoming one flesh and producing children. So sex in marriage is both unitive and procreative. “During the Middle Ages,” writes David Phypers, “Christians stressed the procreative aspect of sex while neglecting and sometimes despising its unitive purpose. Today, we stress its unitive role, and may ignore the command to be fruitful and increase in number.”8

As Christians we need to recover and maintain the Biblical balance between the relational and procreational functions of sex. Sexual intercourse is a relational act of perfect sharing that engenders a sense of oneness while offering the possibility of bringing a new life into this world. We need to recognize that sex is a divine gift that can be legitimately enjoyed within marriage. Like all other divine gifts, sex is to be partaken of with thankfulness and moderation.

Sex as a Divine Gift. It is noteworthy that the wise man Solomon mentions together bread, wine, clothing and marital love as the good gifts that God has approved for our enjoyment: “Go, eat your bread with enjoyment, and drink your wine with a merry heart; for God has already approved what you do. Let your garments be always white; let not oil be lacking on your head. Enjoy life with the wife whom you love,all the days of your life which He has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun” (Eccl 9:7-9).

Sexual activity is generally more important to humans than it is to animals. It is significant that among the mammals, only the human female is capable of enjoying sexual orgasm as well as the male. It is recognized that this experience binds a woman to her partner emotionally as well as physically. The fact that both the human male and female can share together in the pleasure of sexual intercourse indicates that God intended marital sex to be enjoyed by both partners.

In the Song of Songs, the celebration of sexual love between the bride and bridegroom is expressed in suggestive romantic words: “I am my beloved’s, and his desire is for me. Come, my beloved, let us go forth into the fields and lodge in the villages; let us go out early to the vineyards . . . There I will give you my love” (Song of Songs 7:10-12).

The same positive view of marital sex is found in the New Testament. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul urges husbands and wives to fulfill their marital duties together, because their bodies do not belong to themselves alone but to each other. Therefore they should not deprive each other of sex, except by mutual agreement for a time to devote themselves to prayer. Then they should come together again lest Satan tempt them through lack of self-control (1 Cor 7:2-5).

In Ephesians Paul speaks of the physical union of a man and a woman as a profound “mystery” reflecting Christ’s love for His church. Therefore, we should not be uneasy about marital sex, because when we come together we are experiencing something of the mysterious redemptive love of Christ for the world.

The author of Hebrews admonishes that “Marriage should be honoured by all, and the marriage bed kept pure” (Heb 13:4 NIV). Here, marital sex is extolled as honorable, something not to be embarrassed about. But the same writer adds, “God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral” (Heb 13:4 NIV).

Bible writers are unanimous in commending sex within marriage and in condemning all forms of sexual activity outside marriage. Paul warns the Corinthians, “Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral . . . nor adulterers, nor male prostitutes, nor homosexual offenders . . . will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9,10 NIV). The book of Revelation places the “fornicators” among those whose “lot shall be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur” (Rev 21:8).

Sex as Procreation. In the Bible the function of sex, as noted earlier, is not only unitive but also procreative. It not only serves to engender a mysterious oneness of spirit, but it also offers the possibility of bringing children into this world. God’s command “Be fruitful and multiply” (Gen 1:28) expresses God’s original intent for the purpose of sex. Through marital sex and the birth of children, God enables men and women to reflect His image by sharing in His creative activity. This means that sex in marriage without the intention of having children fails to fulfill a fundamental divine purpose for sex. The lengths to which some married couples will go in order to have children reveals the deep creative urge God has placed within us.

Of course, not all couples are able to have or are justified in having children. Old age, infertility, and genetic diseases are but some of the factors that make childbearing impossible or inadvisable. For the vast majority of couples, however, sex in marriage should include the desire to have children. As sex consummates the act of marriage, so children consummate the sexual act. This does not mean that every act of sexual union should result in conception, but rather that the desire for having children should be part of the overall intent of sexual relations.

Various contraceptive techniques make it possible today to separate sexual activity from childbearing. A growing number of couples choose to enjoy a lifetime of sexual activity without desiring or planning for children. They are not simply concerned about delaying their arrival but in avoiding them altogether. Children are seen as a threat to their high standards of living associated with two incomes and two careers.   [!Danger!  This is a judgmental and demeaning statement.  Today there are valid genetic, cultural, financial, ecological reasons for delaying or entirely sacrificing the yearning to procreate.]

“We are not meant to separate sex from childbearing” writes David Phypers, “and those who do, totally and finally, purely for personal reasons, are surely falling short of God’s purpose for their lives. They run the risk that their marriage and sexual activity may become self-indulgent. They will only look inwards to their own self-satisfaction, rather than outwards to the creative experiences of bringing new life into the world and nurturing it to maturity.”9

The life-begetting function of sex enables a married couple to further God’s creative work by becoming procreators with Him. It is altogether consistent with God’s creative work that the sexual life-begetting experience should be joyous. Did not God’s angels shout for joy at His first creation (Job 38:7)? Bringing into life a new person in God’s image is a joyful and solemn privilege delegated by God to married couples. In this sense, they become workers together with God in furthering His creation.

Importance of Children. Children are [generally but not always] a fundamental part of our marriage and sexual relationships. They represent God’s blessings upon the marital union. The Psalmist expresses this truth, saying: “Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from Him. Like the arrows in the hands of a warrior are the sons born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them” (Ps 127:3-5 NIV [sexist orientation]).

The population explosion has not rescinded God’s command to be fruitful and multiply. World famine is not so much the result of too many people [???] as much as the result of greed, exploitation, irresponsible governments, misuse of natural resources, and unwillingness to adopt more effective methods of agriculture and to teach people responsible family planning. While a number of developing countries are facing population explosions, most Western countries are experiencing population stagnation or decline. Western societies are aging, and unless the current trend is reversed, it will soon become increasingly difficult for them to support their ever-growing numbers of elderly people.

We no longer need large families, but we still need families. The church needs Christian families that can share with the world the love of God experienced in the home. Society needs the service and moral influence of Christian families. Most Western societies live today in what social analysts call the “Post-Christian era.” This is the era in which social values and practices are influenced no longer by Christian principles but rather by humanistic ideologies. The latter promote a secular view of marriage and a hedonistic view of sex. Marriage has become a dissolvable social contract rather than a permanent sacred covenant, and sex is regarded primarily as a recreational activity rather than as a procreational responsibility.

As Christians, we are called not to conform to the world (Rom 12:2) but to transform the world through God’s given principles and power. In the area of marriage and sex, we must show to the world that we obey God’s command to “Be fruitful and multiply” (Gen 1:22) and not to “put asunder what God has united” (Matt 19:6).

The Use of Contraception. It is a fact that today most couples in the Western world use contraceptives to delay the start of their families, to space the arrival of subsequent children, and to limit their numbers. This practice is followed by most Christians, often unthinkingly. Is this right? Does Scripture allow us to limit and time our children’s births? Or does the command to be fruitful and multiply mean that we should leave the issue of family planning to the mercies of God? No explicit answer can be found in the Bible because the subject of contraception was not an issue in Bible times. In those days, larger families were needed and welcomed to meet the demand for helping hands in that agricultural society.

In seeking for Biblical guidance on the subject of contraception, we need to ask two fundamental questions: (1) What is the purpose of sexual intercourse? and (2) Do we have the right to interfere with the reproductive cycle established by God?

We have discussed earlier, at great length, the first question. We have seen that the function of sexual intercourse is both relational and procreational. It is a relational act of perfect sharing that engenders a mysterious sense of oneness and offers the possibility of bringing children into this world. The fact that the function of sex in marriage is not only to produce children but also to express and experience mutual love and commitment, implies the need for certain limitations on the reproductive function of sex. If a couple were to risk a new conception each time they made love, they would soon forfeit sexual intercourse as a means of giving themselves totally to each other. This means that the relational function of sex can only remain a viable dynamic experience if its reproductive function is controlled.

Natural or “Unnatural” Contraception? This leads us to consider the manner of controlling the reproductive cycle. This issue is addressed by the second question, namely, do we have the right to interfere with the reproductive cycle established by God? The historic answer of the Roman Catholic Church has been a resounding “NO!” In December 1930, Pius XI reaffirmed the traditional Catholic position against contraceptives in his encyclical Casti Connubii: “Since therefore the conjugal act is destined primarily by nature for the begetting of children, those who in exercising it [contraception] deliberately frustrate its natural effect and purpose, sin against nature, and commit a deed which is shameful and intrinsically vicious.”10

The unyielding historical Catholic position has been tempered by Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae (July 29, 1968) which acknowledges the morality of the sexual union between husband and wife, even if not directed to the procreation of children.11 Moreover, the encyclical, while condemning artificial contraceptives, allows for a natural method of birth control, known as the “rhythm method.” This method consists of confining intercourse to the infertile periods in the wife’s menstrual cycle.12

The attempt of Humanae Vitae to distinguish between “artificial” and “natural” contraceptives, making the former immoral and the latter moral, smacks of artificiality. Why is it “artificial” to block the flow of the sperm in the uterus and yet not “artificial” to time the placement of the sperm so that it does not fertilize an egg? In either case, the fertilization of the egg is prevented by human intelligence. Moreover, to reject as immoral the use of artificial contraceptives can lead to rejecting as immoral the use of any artificial vaccine, hormone or medication which is not produced naturally by the human body.

The morality or immorality of contraception is determined not by the kinds of contraceptives we use, but by the reasons for their use. “Like most other human inventions,” writes David Phypers, “contraception is morally neutral; it is what we do with it that counts. If we use it to practice sex outside marriage or selfishly within marriage, or if through it we invade the privacy of others’ marriages, we may indeed be guilty of disobeying the will of God and of distorting the marriage relationship. But if we use it with a proper regard for the health and well-being of our partners and our families, then it can enhance and strengthen our marriages. Through contraception we can protect our marriage from the physical, emotional, economic, and psychological strains they might suffer through further pregnancies, while at the same time we can use the act of marriage, reverently and lovingly, as it was intended, to bind us together in lasting union.”13

Contraception and Sin. To ban contraception, as the Catholic Church has done historically, means to ignore the effects of sin on marriage, sex and childbirth. If sin had not entered into this world, there would have been no need for contraception. The menstrual cycle and the fertility rate would have been regular in all women. Childbirth would have been easy and painless. The abundant provisions of the earth would have amply satisfied the need for food and shelter. The socio-political structures of a perfect society would have provided to any child unlimited educational and professional opportunities.

But sin has spoiled our world. Both the human and sub-human creation has been marred by sin. Some women are very fertile while others totally infertile. Childbirth is a great source of pain to most women. Thorns, thistles, pests, and droughts destroy our crops. The socio-political systems of many developing countries are unable to provide adequate housing, education, employment, and medial services to most members of their societies. Christians are not spared the results of sin. Christian mothers may not be able to give birth without caesarean delivery, or many suffer from various health problems. These and many other reasons may cause couples to delay, to space, or to limit the size of their families. In situations such as the ones mentioned above, contraception becomes a responsible way to respect human life and resources.

It is significant to note that the command, “Be fruitful and multiply” (Gen 1:28), is immediately followed by the command to subdue and have domination “over every living thing.” This implies that God is calling us to be responsible stewards of His creation, controlling any destablizing factor such as the threat of population explosion.

To be responsible stewards of God’s creation means that as Christians we have no right [save in special circumstances] to avoid children altogether  by using natural or “unnatural” means of contraception. We have a duty before God to become responsible parents, by bringing up children in the love, “discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6:4). The way we fulfill this duty will vary from couple to couple as we prayerfully seek divine guidance regarding the timing of our children’s births and the methods we use to this end.

Sex Outside Marriage. Nowhere has Christian morality come under greater attack than in the whole area of sex outside marriage. The Biblical teaching that sex is only for marriage does not even enter the thinking of most people today. The Biblical condemnation of illicit sexual acts has become for many a license for sexual experimentation.

The popular acceptance of sexual permissiveness is evidenced by the introduction and use of “softer terms.” Fornication, for example, is referred to as “pre-marital sex” with the accent on the “pre” rather than on the “marital.” Adultery is now called “extra-marital sex,” implying an additional experience like some extra-professional activities. Homosexuality has gradually been softened from serious perversion through “deviation” to “gay variation.” Pornographic literature and films are now available to “mature audiences” or “adults.”

More and more, Christians are giving in to the specious argument that “Love makes it right.” If a man and a woman are deeply and genuinely in love, they have the right to express their love through sexual union without marriage. Some contend that pre-marital sex releases people from their inhibitions and moral hangups, giving them a sense of emotional freedom. The truth of the matter is that pre-marital sex adds emotional pressure because it reduces sexual love to a purely physical level without the total commitment of two married people.  [Uck!  Sexual love, both inside and outside of marriage, is always more than “purely physical.”  Consider, e.g., the case of Tamar (Gen 38:12-26). ]

Biblical Condemnation. The Biblical condemnation of sexual relations before or outside marriage is abundantly clear. Adultery, or sexual intercourse between married women or married men and someone other than their marital partners, is condemned as a serious sin. [Needs contextualization here.] Not only is adultery forbidden in both versions of the Decalogue (Ex 20:14; Deut 5:18), but it was also punishable by death in ancient Israel: “If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall be put to death” (Lev 20:10; cf. 18:20; Deut 22:22-24). The same punishment was meted out to a man or a woman who engaged in pre-marital sex (Deut 22:13-21, 23-27).

The New Testament goes beyond the Old Testament by internalizing the whole sexuality of a person and placing it within the context of motivation. Jesus emphasized that to entertain lustful desires toward a person of the opposite sex outside marriage means to be guilty of adultery (Matt 5:27-28). The reason for this is that defilement comes not only from outward acts but also from inward thoughts, which in Biblical symbology derive from the heart: “Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a man” (Matt 15:19-20).

Sexual laxness was pervasive in the Greco-Roman world of New Testament times. Hence, one of the conditions the Jerusalem council made for the inclusion of the Gentiles in the Christian Church was that they should abstain from all forms of “unchastity” (Acts 15:20, 29).

Paul’s letters reveal the difficulties the apostle had in leading Gentile converts away from sexual immorality. To the Thessalonians, he wrote: “For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from unchastity; that each of you know how to take a wife for himself in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like heathen who do not know God” (1 Thess 4:2-5). Here Paul admonishes those who had sexual urges to satisfy them by entering not into temporary relationships “in the passion of lust like the heathen who do not know God,” but into permanent marital relationships. Such relationships are to be characterized by “holiness and honor.”

Paul is most explicit in his condemnation of prostitution. He asks the Corinthians who lived in the celebrated sex center of the Mediterranean world: “Do you now know that he who joins himself to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, ‘The two shall become one flesh.’ But he who is unified to the Lord becomes one spirit with Him. Shun immorality. Every other sin which a man commits is outside the body; but the immoral man sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Cor 6:16-20).

Reasons for Condemnation. In this passage, Paul helps us to see why the Bible strongly condemns sex outside marriage. Sex represents the most intimate of all interpersonal relationships, expressing a “one-flesh” unity of total commitment  Such a unity of commitment cannot be expressed or experienced in a casual sexual union with a prostitute where the concern is purely commercial and recreational. The only [???] oneness experienced in such sexual unions is the oneness of sexual immorality.

Sexual immorality is serious because it affects the individual more deeply and permanently than any other sin. Paul describes it as a sin committed inside the body: “Every other sin which a man commits is outside the body; but the immoral man sins against his own body” (1 Cor 6:18). It might be objected that all sins of sensuality such as gluttony or drunkenness affect a person inside the body. Yet they do not have the same permanent effect on the personality as the sin of fornication. Indulgence in eating or drinking can be overcome, stolen goods can be returned, lies can be retracted and replaced by the truth. But the sexual act, once committed with another person, cannot be undone. A radical change has taken place in the interpersonal relationship of the couple involved that can never be undone. Something indelible has stamped on them both forever. Even with a prostitute, sexual union leaves its permanent mark. It is a spot in the consciousness that cannot be removed.

“The immoral man sins against his own body.” This truth is openly rejected by those who regard pre-marital sex not as sinful, but as helpful to a satisfactory sexual adjustment in marriage. Some even believe that sexual relations with the person one intends to marry are necessary to guarantee sexual compatibility. Such attitudes fail to recognize that sexual intercourse before marriage is the worst possible preparation for marriage. The reasons for this are not difficult to discover.

Sex without Commitment. To begin with, sex before marriage is sex without [complete] commitment. If we do not like our partners, we can change and find somebody else. Such casual relationships destroy the integrity of the person by reducing it to an object to be used for personal gratification. Some, who feel hurt and used after sexual encounters, may withdraw altogether from sexual activity for fear of being used again or may decide to use their bodies selfishly, without regard to the feeling of others. Either way, our sexuality is distorted because it destroys the possibility of using it to relate genuinely and intimately toward the one we love. Sex cannot be used as a means for fun with one partner at one time and as a way to express genuine love and commitment with another partner at another time. Those who become accustomed to a variety of sexual partners will find it difficult, if not impossible, to express through sex their total commitment and final intimacy to their marital partners.

Engaged couples will probably deny that when they sleep together they are not expressing genuine commitment to one another. But if they were fully and finally committed to each other, they would be married. Engagement is the preparation for marriage, but it is not marriage. Until the wedding vows are taken, the possibility of breaking up a relationship exists. If a couple has had intercourse together, they have compromised their relationship. Any subsequent break up will leave permanent emotional scars. It is only when we are willing to become one, not only verbally but also legally by assuming responsibility for our partners, that we can seal our relationships through sexual intercourse. In this setting, sex fittingly expresses the ultimate commitment and the final intimacy. . . .

Marriage licenses and wedding ceremonies are not mere formalities but serve to formalize the marriage commitment. As Elizabeth Achtemeier explains: “Just the fact that such young people [living together] are hesitant legally to seal their union is evidence that their commitment to one another is not total. Marriage licenses and ceremonies are not only legal formalities; they are also symbols of responsibility. They say publicly, what is affirmed privately, without reservation, that I am responsible for my mate—responsible not only in all those lovely emotional and spiritual areas of married life, but responsible also in the down-to-earth areas that have to do with grubby things like money, health insurance, and property. For example, two people just living together have no obligation for each other when the tax form comes up for an audit, or the other is involved in a car accident and legal suit; but persons holding a marriage license do have such responsibility, and commitment to a marriage involves accepting that public responsibility too. It is a matter of accepting the full obligations that society imposes on its adult members in order to ensure the common good.”14

PART III: MARRIAGE IN THE WORLD TO COME

Will there be marital relations in the world to come? The answer of many sincere Christians is “NO!” They believe that at the resurrection the redeemed will receive some kind of “unisex” spiritual bodies which will replace our present physical and heterosexual bodies . Their belief is derived primarily from a misunderstanding of the words of Jesus found in Matthew 22:30: “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage but are like angels in heaven.” Does this text imply that at the resurrection all sexual distinctions will be abolished and that our bodies will no longer be physical? If this interpretation were correct, it would mean that, contrary to what the Scripture says, the original creation of humanity as physical, heterosexual beings was not really “very good”(Gen 1:31). To remove the “bugs” from His original creation, God would find it necessary in the new world to create a new type of human being, presumably made up of “non-physical, unisex” bodies.

Change Implies Imperfection. To say the least, this reasoning is absurd for anyone who believes in God’s omniscience and immutability. It is normal for human beings to introduce new models and structures to eliminate existing deficiencies. For God, however, this would be abnormal and incoherent since He knows the end from the beginning.

If at the resurrection God were to change our present physical, heterosexual bodies into “non-physical, unisex” bodies, then as Anthony A. Hoekema rightly observes: “The devil would have won a great victory since God would then have been compelled to change human beings with physical bodies such as he had created into creatures of a different sort, without physical bodies (like the angels). Then it would indeed seem that matter had become intrinsically evil so that it had to be banished. And then, in a sense, the Greek philosophers would have been proved right. But matter is not evil; it is part of God’s good creation.”15

Like Angels. A study of Jesus’ statement in its own context provides no support to the view that at the resurrection the redeemed will receive non-physical, unisex, angelic bodies. The context is a hypothetical situation created by the Sadducees in which six brothers married in succession the widow of their brother. The purpose of such successive, levirate marriages was not relational but procreational, namely to “raise up children for his [their] brother” (Matt 22:24). The testing question posed by the Sadducees was, “In the resurrection to which of the seven will she be wife?” (Matt 22:28).

In answering this hypothetical situation, Jesus affirmed, “You are wrong, because you know neither the scripture nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven” (Matt 22:30). In the context of the hypothetical situation of seven brothers marrying the same woman to give her an offspring, Christ’s reference to not marrying or giving in marriage but being like angels, most likely means that marriage as a means of procreation will no longer exist in the world to come. It is evident that if no new children are born, there will be no possibility of marrying a son or of giving a daughter in marriage. The cessation of the procreational function of marriage will make the redeemed “like angels” who do not reproduce after their own likeness.

In His answer, Jesus did not deal with the immediate question of the marital status of a woman married seven times, but with the larger question of the procreational function of marriage, which, after all, was the reason the seven brothers married the same woman. This indirect method of answering questions is not unusual in the teachings of Jesus. For example, when asked by the Pharisees, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” (Mark 10:2), Jesus chose to ignore the immediate question, emphasizing instead the original creational design for marriage to be a lifelong commitment, without divorce (Mark 10:5-9).

Single in Heaven? Does the cessation of the procreational function of marriage imply the termination also of its relational function? Not necessarily so. If God created human beings at the beginning as male and female, with the capacity to experience a oneness of intimate fellowship, there is no reason to suppose that He will recreate them at the end as unisex beings, who will live as single persons without the capacity to experience the oneness of fellowship existing in a man/woman relationship.

The doctrine of the First Things, known as etiology, should illuminate the doctrine of the Last Things, known as escatology. If God found His creation of human beings as male and female very good (Gen 1:31) at the beginning, would He discover it to be not so good at the end? We have reason to believe that what was “very good” for God at the beginning will also be “very good” for Him at the end. . . .

CONCLUSION

Sex is seen in the Bible as part of God’s good creation. Its function is both unitive and procreative. It serves to engender a mysterious oneness of body, mind, and spirit between husband and wife while offering them the possibility of bringing children into this world.

Scripture strongly condemns sex outside marriage because it is a sin affecting a person more deeply and permanently than other sins (1 Cor 6:18). It leaves a permanent mark in the consciousness that cannot be removed. Sex outside of marriage is sin because it is sex without commitment. It reduces a person to an object to be used for personal gratification. Such a selfish use of sex impairs, if not totally destroys, the possibility of using it to express and experience genuine love and commitment toward one’s marital partner. At a time when sexual permissiveness and promiscuity prevails, it is imperative for Christians to reaffirm their commitment to the Biblical view of sex as a divine gift to be enjoyed only within marriage.

NOTES ON CHAPTER III

1. Rollo May, “Reflecting on the New Puritanism,” in Sex Thoughts for Contemporary Christians, ed. Michael J. Taylor, S.J. (New York, 1972), p.171.

2. For a discussion of the attitude toward sex of the early church, including Augustine, see Derrick Sherwin Bailey, Common Sense About Sexual Ethics: A Christian View (New York, 1962); Donald F. Winslow, “Sex and Anti-sex in the Early Church Fathers,” in Male and Female: Christian Approaches Sexuality, eds. Ruth Tiffany Barnhouse and Urban T. Holmes III (New York, 1956).

3. As quoted by William E. Phipps, Was Jesus Married? (New York, 1970), p.175.

4. Paul Jewett, Man as Male and Female (Grand Rapids, 1975), p.261.

5. See also Genesis 4:17, 25.

6. Dwight H. Small, Christian: Celebrate Your Sexuality (Old Tappan, New Jersey, 1974), p. 186.

7. Elizabeth Achtemeier, The Committed Marriage (Philadelphia, 1976), p. 162.

8. David Phypers, Christian Marriage in Crisis (Kent, England, 1986), p. 38.

9. Ibid., p. 39

10. Cited in Norman St. John-Stevas, The Agonizing Choice: Birth Control, Religion and Law (Bloomington, Indiana, 1971), p.84.

11. Humanae Vitae, paragraph 11.

12. Humanae Vitae, paragraph 10.

13. David Phypers (n. 8), p. 44.

14. Elizabeth Achtemeier (n. 7), p. 40.

15. A. A. Hoekema, The Bible and the Future (Grand Rapids, 1979), p. 250.

source=http://www.biblicalperspectives.com/books/marriage/3.html