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Church of England new variance with Pope

In January 2023, the Church of England declared that although it still would not solemnise same-sex marriages, it would now bless them. Many critics regarded this change as arising from the Church trying to “meet everyone half-way” amidst some holding to Biblical teaching about marriage, while others claimed the traditional position was unloving towards gays and lesbians.

Their new position differed from the Pope. A 2021 decree from the Vatican’s doctrine office stated that the church cannot bless same-sex unions “because God cannot bless sin.”


A Critique of the Wijngaards Institute’s paper – Christian Objections to Same Sex Relationships: An Academic Assessment

This is my review of –
Christian Objections to Same Sex Relationships: An Academic Assessment. The interim research report by Luca Badini Confalonieri (Wijngaards Institute) et al, 2022.

The report is 81 pages in length, written in academic style, by academics, and it critiques the official Catholic perspective on whether sex relationships are immoral. It has a principle author and 19 additional “contributing authors” from across the English-speaking world, all of whom are listed as having PhDs, and many of whom are from well known and respected universities, and several of whom have the surname Wijngaards. It’s branded as being from the “Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research” and is framed toward a Catholic audience, using arguments that a Catholic audience are likely to respect, eg Catholic apocrypha.

Overall the paper includes what seem to be some valuable insights and good arguments, some of which are common in LGBT advocacy propaganda, and others seem fairly unique. It makes some claims which seem to be based on poor logic or a closed mind, and numerous claims without good substantiation, as though seeking to make an argument from academic authority, and overall it is LGBT advocacy rather than dispassionate objective analysis. As such, although the content carrys an intellectual tone, it is not reflective of the title of the paper, if you believe that academics should seek to be objective.

Other than the introduction, summary, recommendations and bibliography, it’s comprised of 4 main sections, as provided in its table of contents;

  1. Summary of Catholic Teaching on Homosexuality
  2. Scientific Evidence on Sexual Orientation
  3. The Natural Law Argument
  4. The Bible and Homosexuality

NB Im not an ideal person to review this paper, because I have never been Catholic, and dont know the intricacies of Catholic doctine and practise.

Key Flaws in the Paper

The Introduction talks of harm to LGBT people arising from Christian teaching and it downplays what the Bible says on the topic, stating “only six short passages have been identified as potentially referring to consensual same-sex behaviour …”. In reality, 6 condemnations is a lot, and some of those condemnations convey a height of severity. EG in the Old Testament, it’s illustrated as warranting the death penalty. In the New Testament it’s associated with an understanding of damnation.
The paper refers to these Bible passages not as a ‘foundation’ for what Catholics beleive on the topic, but as being what is used by the Church as “biblical justification”, as though the Church uses the passages as an excuse. The introduction goes on to mention the infamous Dr Laura confrontation from TV’s The West Wing, which critiqued Levitical laws, and ultimately mocked adherance to the Old Testament, describing the anti-biblical episode as “powerful” and “popular”, yet making no mention that Christians have offered refutations of it or found fault with it.

Page 14 is illustrative of the poor logic found scattered throughout the paper. It talks of whether sexual orientations are chosen by each individual, then states “Rather, as the evidence suggests, we are born with them.” IE the author takes what the evidence merely ‘suggests’ and turns it into a definite. That sounds unscholarly. The paper even contradicts itself on this point. On the same page it states “… sexual orientation is largely established at the time of birth …”

On p. 26 the following exists as a paragraph –
“If sexual intercourse in general is a good thing in itself, idependently of the concurrent existence of either a biological capacity or the agents’ intention to procreate, then the same moral judgement must apply to same-sex intercourse.”
Imagine applying that reasoning, to sex with non-adults or non-human beings.

The lack of objectivity of the paper, is well illustrated by the final paragraph of its section 4.6.1. Apparently referencing Gen 1:27-28, the paper states “An alternative, more superficial interpretation sees the associations of those two statements as implying that the primary purpose of sexual differentiation is reproduction, or that marriage can only be between two heterosexual people. However those verses do not say that, nor can that conclusion be logically deduced from what they do affirm.” The verses do imply it’s the norm though! It would be appropriate for a balanced assessment to acknowledge that.

Section 5.1 claims “… it is unlikely [the Biblical authors] were aware that some people had what today is referred as “same-sex orientation,” namely an inborn, exlusive and permanent sexual attraction to the same sex.” The paper goes on to acknowledge “…in Plato’s Symposium, Aristophanes offers a mythological explanation for the existence of womean and men attracted to the same sex, in a way apparently exclusive and permanent. … However there is no conclusive evidence that Paul, or any other Biblical author for that matter, knew that some people were sexually attracted exclusively to members of the same sex.” This leaves the authors of the paper sounding very closed minded. How likely is it that Paul wasnt aware that some people are exclusively attracted to members of the same sex?

And the authors set the bar too high, quoting William Loader saying “Lifelong, exclusive, equal same-sex partnerships are virtually unknown to human history and anthropology outside the comtemporary West.” Well so what, they are rare in the comtemporary West too! I mean, lifelong?? On the next page, they even state “…life-long same-sex relationships … are the object of this research report.”

As section 5.1 (about the cultural background to same-sex behaviour in the Ancient Near East) draws to a close, the authors write “… the above makes it virtually impossible that any biblical text refers to permanent, faithful, stable same-sex relationships …” Biblical text might not refer specifically to such types of relationships, but do the biblical texts refer to all same-sex relationships, including relationships that fit that criteria? I think so. The authors also write “there is no absolute certainty as to the meaning of any of the biblical verses traditionally understood as condemning homosexual relationships.” But the collective weight is heavy, so the claim of the authors of this paper, is obfuscation.

Section 5.4, examinging Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, quotes extensively from “OT scholar Bruce Wells” and concludes that “Those verses likely condemned incest and adultery between males, rather than male homosexuality itself. Male with male sex outside the forbidden categories was neither forbidden nor condemned.” Section 5.4 is an interesting study in how theory may be presented as fact. At one point, it says that “Well’s research suggests …” but by the end of section 5.4, what was “suggested” is presented instead as plain fact. At another point, the paper cites Wells as saying one of the verses is “unintelligable” yet later in section 5.4 it confidently tells us what the verses do and do not mean! How contradictory! What’s not examined is the fact that to this day many Jews say their religious text presents LGBT behaviour as an abomination, yet Bruce Wells, doesnt sound like he practises Judaism (confirmming this, isnt easy but his bios show he attended Christian universities), meaning he would lack some authority in determining what Jewish scripture means. Scholars who agree with Wells or partially agree with him, are also quoted, but a sense of propaganda again appears, due to the lack of citations of those who disagree with him.

Section 5.5, which examines 1 Cor 6:9-10, affirms the orthodox belief that the verses condemn sex between men, but the paper argues that it may only condemn exploitative sex between men, eg a dominant male exploiting an inferrior male. The paper raises the common theory that the theme of the passage is justice, meaning it only condemns unjust arsenokoites, but the paper ignores that the same Greek term, arsenokoites is used in 1 Tim 1:10 where the theme is clearly not justice (see section 5.6), thereby undermining this theory. In fact on p. 52 where the word is examined again, the implication is that ‘arsenokoites’ relates to fornication, which undermines this argument further. However the paper presents its argument about the theme of justice, wording it as though it is factual. In section 5.5, the paper talks of what is “possible” in terms of the meaning of the Scripture, whereas in section 5.4 they take the angle of what is “likely”. This inconsistency also speaks to the biased nature of the paper; using varying approaches to advance an ideology.

Section 5.6 examines 1 Timothy 1:9-10, where the argument comes down to the meaning of the Greek word ‘arsenokoites’. The paper makes the basically unsubstantiated claim that for these verses “The biblical author is not referring here to stable, faithful, permanent male same-sex partnerships.” Yet on the following page says “… the general principle applies that “Historical reconstruction of meaning is about degrees of probability,” as it is often impossible to reach certainty about such a reconstruction.” But if it’s impossible to reach certainty, how can the paper make the above statement of certainty about what 1 Tim 1:9-10 doesnt say? The author is being illogical. Section 5.6 also makes the claim that the Bible verses that use the Greek words ‘arsenokoitai’ and ‘malakoi’ “does not entail a condemnation of free, faithful, and lifelong male same-sex relationships, because such a referent did not exist in the Greco-Roman culture of the time.” This is of course poor logic, irrespective of whether evidence remains of such a specific category of relationship having happened at that time. An analogy might be to claim that when the Bible says not to murder, it does not entail condemnation of deliberately driving over people in your car, because such a referent did not exist in the Greco-Roman culture of the time. Of course the definition of murder would include cases of killing people by driving over them.

Section 5.7, which examines Romans 1:26-27, points to “recent research” that claims that verse 26 is likely a reference to women who slept with angelic beings before the Noahic Flood, and that verse 27 refers to homosexual behaviour in the town of Sodom, rather than a universal condemnation of consensual, permanent male same-sex relationships. But this theory has flaws. EG they write of the male rape in Sodom of having been perpetrated by “presumably by and large heterosexual men”, which ignores how Rom 1:27 talks of homosexual lust. Verses 26-27 are probably a condemnation of all sex between males. And they claim that “there is no evidence either than Paul interpreted Lev 18:22 and 20:13 as a condemnation of male-male penetration …” but analysis of ‘arsenokoites’ in light of the parallels in wording in the Old Testament, does seem like a good argument, at least to some of us. Section 5.7 says the traditional interpretation of verses 26-27 “would also be at odds with the tolerance of consensual homosexual behaviour implicit in the lack of such a condemnation anywhere else in the bible.” “lack of such a condemnation”? Where did this confidence come from? Back in section 5.4 they were talking of what was ‘likely’ and in section 5.6 they talk of what is ‘possible’ but in hindsight they talk of certainty? then in section 5.8 they talk of uncertainty of meaning in 1 Cor 6:9-10 and 1 Time 1:9-10, so the authors are very inconsistent.

In section 5.8 the paper argues that “If there is no certainty as to what kind of male homosexual acts Paul was referring to – whether consensual or abusive – it is likewise impossible to draw absolutely certain ethical norms from it …” but if apply that approach widely, would we have any ethical norms at all? Probably not. This section also states “It is highly likely that both in 1 Cor 6:9-10 and 1 Tim 1:9:10 [sic] Paul (or the author) was referring to the sort of exploitative male homosexual relationships which were dominant and virtually exclusive cultural referent.” But were they the virtually exclusive cultural referent? Symposium would suggest otherwise. Leviticus would suggest otherwise. Romans 1 would suggest otherwise. The section continues “it may be impossible to determine with certainty whether Paul was referring to consensual or exploitative relationships. The latter were by far the most widespread, and so the likelihood is that they are the object of Paul’s condemnation.” Notice how in the first sentence, the paper does not pose the possibility that Paul is referring to both! This section also quotes another author; “nothing in 1 Corinthians, or for that matter in any other biblical writing, speaks directly of the biological or psychological condition of homosexuality or homosexual orientation as this is understood today and as it concerns believing Christian gay persons intent on worshipping and serving God.” But Romans 1 talks of men lusting after men, which DOES speak to homosexual orientation as understood today, and applies to Christian persons.

The Summary adds that “In the world inhabited by the biblical authors, male same-sex sexual activity was expressed through relationships that were ordinarily temporary … and even exploitative due to imbalances of age, status and power. Therefore, no biblical passage condeming male same-sex sexual activity is relevant for morally evaluating free and faithful male same-sex relationships.” However, this isnt reflective of the relevant Bible passages, which dont portray same-sex relationships as generally exploitative, and if anything, imply that the only factor of difference is the gender mix (see Leviticus 20:13 and Romans 1:27 which if anything seem to imply mutuality, and note that Leviticus 20:13 prescribes equally severe punishment to both parties, which would be odd if only one party is the oppressor.) The Academic Statement takes a creative approach to logic when it evaluates the Natural Law argument, claiming that because heterosexual intercourse often doesnt result in procreation, “In practise, this means that the vast majority of acts of heterosexual intercourse have neither a biological capacity nor a finality for procreation and, in that respect, they are identical to non-heterosexual sexual acts.” Yes it really claims that! The Conclusion ends with “The Bible contains no prohibition or condemnation of free, faithful, and lifelong same-sex relationships.” which is … balongna.

ADDITIONAL ANALYSIS OF MINE, FOR THOSE WANTING MORE DETAILS –

INTRODUCTION

Their Introduction, which is dated at May 2021, begins with a quote that paints Catholic moral teaching in contrast with science and lived experience. The next paragraph includes a quote that talks of the “homophobia” of the Catholic Church, giving the reader early indication of the political and biased tone of the paper. The Introduction proceeds to talk of “papal assumptions” in contrast to the progress of science, and at one point states that “the bible remains one of the key obstacles to reform”, as though the Bible is the enemy.

The final page of the Introduction states that “… biblical research has recently produced ground-breaking findings … [which] finally make it possible to confirm that … Leviticus – and, more generally, the entire Hebrew Bible – do not prohibit, much less condemn, free and faithful same-sex relationships. And they also allow a similar degree of confidence with regard to all three passages from the apostle Paul. … much of that crucial research has only been published in over the last two years …” The Introduction finishes by noting that “the report will remain open to updates should new evidence emerge.”

THE BODY OF THE PAPER

The paper speaks trustingly of the findings of science, but refers to a Catholic encyclical as being ‘contradictory’ (p. 18) and of it having a “crucial mistake” (p. 21).

On P. 29, the authors begin to critique the papal interpretation of Genesis 1:27. The authors wrote “This [verse] is interpreted by papal teaching as meaning that, in humans, sexual differentiation is for procreation. In contrast, a careful analysis of the entire story shows a somewhat different insight …” And what is that insight? The authors consume 2 pages on this topic, firstly pointing out that reproductive capacity is built-in to human beings, and that the context (vv 11-25) is about reproduction, before concluding that the verse teaches that sexual differentiation “to underline that the biological capacity to “be fruitful and multiply”, while given and blessed by God, is constituative of human nature” and “… relates only to the blessing of fertility …”. So the papal interpretation of ‘procreation’ is wrong, firstly because the correct interpretation is about reproduction and fertility? Forgive me I fail to see a difference! The authors also cite a source to argue that a careful analysis of Gen 1:27 finds that the capacity for reproduction is “not dependent on subsequent ries or petitions for its effect”. But Genesis 1 doesnt seem to say that, so the argument, while possible, is mere conjecture.

In section 4.6.3, they write “The papal interpretation of Gen 1:27-28 as entailing that sex must always be open to procreation is contradicted by the seminal biblical texts directly addressing the meaning and purpose of sexuality and marriage.” But while there are Biblical texts which illustrate additional benefits from sexuality and marriage, I dont see the claimed contradiction.

In section 5.1, the authors claim “Homosexual behavior is a very minor concern in the Bible.” This is not a balanced claim. Homosexual behavior is mentioned around half a dozen times, and in several of those, it’s referred to as a grave problem. EG in the Old Testament, it’s illustrated as warranting the death penalty. In the New Testament it’s associated with an understanding of damnation.

Section 5.2 examining the Genesis statement on God bringing man and woman together, offers what are effectively arguments from authority, since the source material they cite does not provide sufficient substantation for the claims made, so their argument may be fallacious. EG they cite an author who claims that Genesis 2:24 does not offer a normative statement about the institution of heterosexual marriage. At one point, the authors of the paper wrote “While lack of space makes it difficult to summarise here evidence here …” but it’s a PDF of over 80 pages in length, so how is there a lack of space??

Section 5.3 examining the story of Sodom & Gomorrah, claims that prior to the male rape event of Genesis 19, God had already decided to destroy Sodom & Gomorrah in Genesis 18. But Genesis 18 does NOT state that God had made a decision about that; merely that he was considering it.

Towards the end of the paper is a ten page “Academic Statement on the Ethics of Free and Faithful Same-sex Relationships”, which is comprised of a “Summary of Findings” and “Recommendations” and finally “Assessment of the Official Papal Arguments against Same-sex Relationships”. They re-raise a superficially valid point that if homosexual relationships are intrinsically evil because they are not open to procreation, what about opposite sex couples who are infertile? However the paper seems to reword the Catholic position, which is initially quoted as regarding homosexuality as “intrinsically disordered” rather than “intrinsically evil”. The Summary of Findings, summarizes the body of the paper. It claims that the Bible verses that are commonly cited as opposing same-sex relations, “only refer to specific kinds of male same-sex sexual activity and none of them condemns male same-sex relationships in general …” Neither of these claims are well substantiated in the paper.


Circular Referencing and Misinformation

https://bbc.in/3geulw9


Autistic People Are More Likely to be LGBT

https://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/autistic-individuals-are-more-likely-to-be-lgbtq


Church Attendees Are More Educated

The following findings, about Australia, would surprise many atheists –

https://www.eternitynews.com.au/australia/education-gap-making-churches-too-middle-class/


Mercury Pollution Increases Ibis Homosexuality

https://www.nature.com/articles/news.2010.641


Critiquing Rainbow language

Prepping Your Kids for Pride Month


Are Side A and Side B Intellectually Equivalent?

Christianity is complicated. Those who call themselves Christians, vary greatly, with some believing the opposite of other Christians, on what they regard as important things. Increasingly this century, one of the points of contention, is homosexuality.

Some Christians say that homosexual sex is inherently sinful, and some say it isnt. These contrasting views are known by many as the Side A perspective (who believe it’s not inherently sinful) and the Side B perspective (who believe it is inherently sinful – the position taken by this blog). Others prefer different nomenclature, such as Progressive and Traditional, or revisionist and orthodox, or affirming and non-affirming. And different corners of Christianity take different positions or different mixtures of positions on it. Roman Catholics and various others, officially take the traditional perspective, while some priests and many in the pews openly state they are Progressives who disagree. Some Anglicans and the ELCA denomination officially try to accommodate both views, but unofficially some of them, and others, are very unaccommodating of one or the other belief.

This leads to difficult questions about how to treat those on the other side. A conservative reading of the Bible, depicts God as regarding homosexual sex as a serious sin, and that God would judge a church that permits a belief that it’s not a serious sin. A Progressive perspective focuses on a need to love everyone, and regards the idea of homosexual sex being sinful, as hateful and abhorrent in light of the high rate of gay suicide. But there are people on both sides of the debate who seem to be reasonable people. Some are somewhat uneducated about what the Bible says about homosexuality, even if they are regular church attenders. And to be fair in light of left wing conspiracy theories, there is a lot to know and cut through. And others are somewhat uneducated about homosexuality in terms of whether people choose to be homosexual etc. So each side has limited tolerance of the other.

Some try to take a so-called ‘balanced’ or “sensible middle” road, sometimes claiming each side of the argument is equally moral, Biblically-based or sensible. EG I came across this post on Facebook today –

And to a small degree, it’s accurate. All Christians interpret the Bible based on their own experience, concluding that an author of the Bible meant this or that, based on what they see as important. And yes there are some who call themselves Christian, but who basically dont believe much of what’s in the Bible.

But ultimately I dont regard the above post as a balanced representation. Generally side B folk place far more weight on the Bible than side A folk. Granted there are side B folk who are firstly conservative, and whose beliefs flow primarily from that, and who may quote the Bible as more of an excuse. Just as there are side A folk who are firstly humanists and whose beliefs flow primarily from that, and who may quote the Bible as more of an excuse. But of those who have put a lot of effort into choosing which side they take, generally side B folk place far more weight on the Bible than side A folk, who place weight on contemporary human experience. I say this based on my own extensive research of the relevant Biblical passages, alongside watching many homosexuals who were outspoken and strongly committed to side B, talk of how very poor mental health or even a same-sex love affair led them to shift to side A. Im thinking Julie Rogers, McKrae Game, Vicky Beeching and others who are less well known. And those who move from side B to side A tend to become less evangelical and more liberal or even agnostic.


When gay men beat up other gay men

Most people are familiar with the concept of gay people suffering from anti-gay violence. But today I was reminded of the phenomenon of gay people suffering violence from other gay people. And Im not talking domestic violence.

It’s not the first time Id heard of it. Around the turn of the century, there was a TV show named Queer as Folk, which had a UK version and a US version. In the UK version at least, one of the central characters, Nathan, was a high school student, and seduced another male student, who then became his tormentor at school. I think the premise was that the other student was bisexual and/or uncomfortable with having engaged in a gay act, and then hated Nathan with a passion. All of which reminds me of the reality of the surprisingly high rate of rape of men, especially of gay men.

Today I heard a very mature gay man (in his 70s) talk of how on several occasions in his younger years, he picked up men, often in public places like on a train ride home, had consensual sex with them, eg at their home, and then they immediately beat him, eg punching him in the face and knocking teeth out. Sobering. My source of this was the podcast The Greatest Menace, episode 5. A similar case, is the death of Scott Johnson.


Another reason for skepticism of scientists; Dr Harry Bailey

Dr Harry Bailey was an Australian psychiatrist from the 1950s to the 1970s. He was eventually found guilty of huge malpractice. Dozens of his patients died, and more committed suicide and allegedly “Bailey had doctored many of the death certificates to avoid arousing suspicion.” In court proceedings he was described as two-faced, devious, dissembling, unprincipled and of brining the profession of psychiatry into disrepute. He also “exploited the vulnerabilities of those in his care, having sexual relationships with a number of female patients and some employees.” –

https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/bailey-harry-richard-12162

https://chelmsfordblog.wordpress.com/

https://daily.jstor.org/the-unproven-deadly-common-cure-for-schizophrenia/

https://www.madinamerica.com/2020/08/deep-sleep-therapy-australia/

https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg12917500-400-nightmare-on-chelmsford-sydney/

https://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/sydneys-shameful-asylums-the-silent-houses-of-pain-where-inmates-were-chained-and-sadists-reigned/news-story/b4205dc9a17e8ee0763711d93d720d04

How did he get away with it? The cloak of protection of being a well respected medical expert. According to the above report in The Daily Telegraph “They were the days when nurses were not expected to question doctors — the doctors were always right.”