It All Fits
by Abbot Joseph
[You can read this at Word Incarnate or continue below]
The revelation of God, and the teachings of the Church which are derived from it, cannot be adopted a la carte. Everything fits together according to divine design, and you can’t add or subtract anything without somehow distorting the whole. If some structural element of a building, for example, is left out, it is likely to collapse eventually, or at least to lose something of its physical integrity and strength.
All this came to mind as I read the recent statements of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, in support of “gay marriage.” His “20 years of study and prayer” brought him to a “definitive conclusion” which is contrary to the entire Christian tradition and the teachings of Scripture and all the Apostolic Churches (to whom, then, was he praying?). He thinks that homosexual activity can “reflect the love of God”—even though God Himself has condemned it repeatedly in Sacred Scripture. But the good archbishop has an answer for that. You know all those texts in Scripture that prohibit homosexual activity as an abomination before God? Guess what—they were not addressed to homosexuals! How foolish we all were to think so! No, the archbishop enlightens us to the fact that these misinterpreted texts were actually addressed to “heterosexuals looking for sexual variety.” Well, I’m glad he cleared that up. We had been deluded for millennia in thinking that it was homosexuals who were forbidden their unnatural sort of sexual expression. Now we know that those prohibitions apply only to heterosexuals looking to spice up their sex lives! How have we survived thus far without the wisdom of such spiritual giants as Rowan Williams?
But that is not even the main point. There’s something else he said which got me to thinking about how the whole of Christian doctrine fits together, and what havoc is wrought when one tries to delete parts of it, or rearrange it in such a way that it suddenly means other than what it has always meant.
The Church has always condemned both homosexual activity and artificial contraception. The prohibition of both is part of the integral moral teaching of Christianity. The Anglican Church was among the first to break with the teaching on contraception in the 1930s, and many other denominations fell like dominoes. But not the Catholic Church. Anyway, here’s how the good archbishop links the two: “In his 1989 essay ‘The Body’s Grace,’ Dr Williams argued that the Church’s acceptance of contraception meant that it acknowledged the validity of non-procreative sex. This could be taken as a green light for gay sex.” See what happens? When you tear the fabric of the seamless garment of the Church’s moral teachings, the tear only gets larger and larger, until the garment is in shreds.
There are other, and weightier, arguments which the Church uses to support her teaching on contraception besides its relation to homosexual behavior. That is not the main one, but it is—especially in today’s changeable moral climate—an important corollary. In Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI warned about the evil consequences, like abortion, that would follow from the use of contraception and the adoption of the mentality that justifies it. I don’t think he mentioned the issue of using the acceptance of contraception as grounds for validating homosexual activity, but we see today that this argument is in fact being used—and by a man who is supposed to be speaking for God! He links the issues by implying that since contraception is OK, then “gay sex” is OK. But the proper and traditionally Christian linkage is that since contraception is not OK, homosexual activity is also not OK (though of course, there are other serious reasons why it’s not OK—its condemnation by the word of God being a rather significant example).
The world seems to be willfully descending into a kind of moral chaos, where good is evil and evil is good, where you can use the Bible to justify sin by grossly misinterpreting it, and where those who are supposed to be shepherds of the flock are mere hirelings who care little for the salvation of the sheep. Archbishop Williams has practically publicly confessed that he is a hypocrite. After advancing his bizarre beliefs about what the biblical passages on homosexuality mean, and saying that this was his definitive conclusion, he goes on to say that as a bishop, he must teach the traditional view. So he’s flat-out saying that he does not believe what the Church teaches on homosexuality, but a man of his rank still has some responsibility to the tradition. What is it to teach one thing and believe another—especially when what you actually believe is broadcast in public statements, even though kept out of the pulpit? Who can take him seriously when he does present the traditional teaching, after he has already publicly proclaimed that he himself doesn’t buy it?
This is what happens when people don’t respect the divine design of things in Scripture and the Tradition of the Church. It doesn’t fit anymore, and you have to keep re-arranging or deleting things to try to regain some coherence, but it gets more unwieldy and unbalanced until it all finally collapses.
I do have to thank the archbishop, though, for directing us to the connection between contraception and homosexual activity. Though this wasn’t his intention, it confirms us in our faith that the Church has been right all along.