I must admit, I was more than a bit baffled, if not befuddled to hear that the Roman Catholic pontiff, Pope Francis signed on to a statement this week indicating that the Catholic Church would not bless same-sex unions, which supporters of the sexual revolution said would threaten to widen the chasm between the church and much of the LGBTQ community.
Explaining their decision in a lengthy note, the ‘Holy See’ referred to homosexuality as a “choice,” described it as sinful and said it “cannot be recognized as objectively ordered” to God’s plans.
That stance – surprisingly as Biblical as it is coming from the Vatican, is certain to disappoint millions of “gay and lesbian Catholics” around the world.
Officially, “The blessing of homosexual unions cannot be considered licit,” the Vatican’s top doctrinal office, wrote in the statement. God “does not and cannot bless sin.”
This is a massively important and shocking statement coming from Pope Francis, who has frequently been praised by mainstream media for his welcoming tone towards LGBTQ people both within and outside their Church.
In fact, Francis made earlier declarations approving of legislation which legalized same-sex unions, as in cohabitating households, that are not technically marriages, which allowed for the Pope to straddle both sides of the theological and cultural fence that he has been wont to do.
Strangely enough, this new announcement from Francis comes on the heels of recent comments encouraging the Catholic Church to be more welcoming toward LGBTQ people on the grounds of ‘pastoral care’.
In the document, the Vatican said it had received questions about blessing such unions sacramentally over recent years. A Reverend James Martin, also a prominent Catholic advocate of LGBTQ issues, said the statement was likely in response to conversations within the German church about celibacy, contraception, and homosexuality – three issues in which the sexual revolution is at odds with Roman Catholic dogma.
The decision is a setback for Catholics who had hoped the institution would ‘modernize’ its approach to homosexuality. Dozens of countries, including the U.S. and many in western Europe, have legalized same-sex marriages, and the Catholic Church’s reticence to fully embrace the LGBTQ community has long held the potential to alienate it from younger followers.
Lest we get too carried away though, with the notion that the Vatican may be approaching true and comprehensive, biblical and Christian orthodoxy, the statement also says that gays and lesbians, as individuals, may receive a blessing if they live according to Church teaching.
Implicitly, the Catholic ban is really about preserving their sacrament of marriage – one of seven sacraments in which Roman Catholics must adhere to in order to procure or preserve God’s grace.
As the statement added, “… “there are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family… The declaration of the unlawfulness of blessings of unions between persons of the same sex is not therefore, and is not intended to be, a form of unjust discrimination, but rather a reminder of the truth of the liturgical rite and of the very nature of the sacramentals, as the Church understands them.”
In other words, Rome seems to imply that homosexuality as an orientation and individual way of life may be consistent with a view of Christianity, so far as same-sex marriage is not included as a threat to one of its sacred sacraments. Never mess with the tradition!
Consistency in doctrine and the source of its revelation has always posed a problem for anyone analyzing the veracity of the Roman Catholic faith.
A typical Catholic capitulation to compromise was evident in another portion of the statement, which read:
The Christian community and its Pastors are called to welcome with respect and sensitivity persons with homosexual inclinations, and will know how to find the most appropriate ways, consistent with Church teaching, to proclaim to them the Gospel in its fullness.
At the same time, they should recognize the genuine nearness of the Church – which prays for them, accompanies them and shares their journey of Christian faith – and receive the teachings with sincere openness.
Note that while on the one hand, the Vatican wants to minister the gospel (their interpretation of it) to people of homosexual “inclination,” they want to share their “journey of Christian faith,” implying that avowed homosexuals are Christians- redeemed by faith in Christ. Which one is it? Do they need the gospel or not? Or maybe just a better fellowship group?
But then again, professing protestant Christians- individual and corporate have their own issues in struggling with the sexual revolution.
Bethany Christian Services, the country’s largest “evangelical” adoption and foster-care agency has abandoned its previous stance on biblical morality and says it will now place children with openly gay and transgender couples.
According to The New York Times, the Michigan-based organization announced the change this past week, in the familiar clarion call of the revolution’s influence on the faith, saying, “We will now offer services with the love and compassion of Jesus to the many types of families who exist in our world today.”
A Bethany executive told the Times that their current board of directors includes members with “diverse personal views on sexuality.”
Such statements contradict its organization’s prior position statement declaring that “God’s design for the family is a covenant and lifelong marriage of one man and one woman.” But that policy statement was removed by the group’s board this past January. What changed theologically? Nothing of course.
But the new policy states that “Christians of mutual good faith can reasonably disagree on various doctrinal issues, about which Bethany does not maintain an organizational position.”
Ah, really? Then on what basis does Bethany identify as Christian?
These verbal gymnastics from both the Catholic and Protestant side, are symptoms of how one responds to the culture’s pressure from the sexual revolution with a ‘low view of scripture.’
A low view of scripture is opposed of course to true, biblical evangelicalism’s ‘high view of scripture.’
That simply means that a high view of scripture holds that the Bible, being God’s special and specific revelation to man, is inerrant, infallible and verbally inspired (Psa. 19:7-9; 119:11-6; 2 Pet. 1:20-21), making it all-credible, all-sufficient (2 Tim. 3:16-17), authoritative and necessary.
In contrast, the low-view of scripture held by the mainline and the more liberal factions and denominations of professing Christianity, oppose the above and learn towards the Bible being more of a collection of humanely and therefore fallibly produced books containing some nice moral and ethical teaching, which must be interpreted through a culturally and politically post-modern lens, which can bend if not break to cultural mores- like say, the sexual revolution.
A high view of scripture means that a clear, natural and face value understanding of God’s Word shows that homosexuality- both in inclination and conduct is sin – antithetical and an abnormal perversion of God’s created order for sexuality (Gen. 19:1–13; Lev. 18:22; 20:13; Ro. 1:26–27; 1 Cor 6:9; 1 Tim 1:10) and marriage (Matt. 19:5-6).
Therefore, the low view of scripture – unable to acknowledge the authority of it, negates the Bible’s plain teaching on sexuality, and claims to either ignore it’s clear intent or misinterpret it as being a mere outdated, cultural construct of antiquity. Take your side and make your choice.
The Vatican and its Pope, long time proponents of church tradition, equaling if not surpassing scripture as the final authority of the faith and practice of Christianity, just took a more principled approach than many of its professing protestant adherents to the subject of same-sex marriage.
Now if Roman Catholicism could just get the gospel right and get on board with the ‘solas’ of the reformation, they might just get somewhere. Oh, like the kingdom and heaven.