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Obstacles to the Kingdom

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Again, I break my rule of trying not to be interested in what the CofE is up to. It’s because the problems that the CofE are having are pervasive through Society and I live in Society albeit reluctantly. The question of Inclusivity has caused problems in the CofE Diocese of Oxford in which a hundred clergy have expressed their concern over the bishops’ ad clerum on same-sex relations. The tension that is building between the Evangelicals and the Liberals is becoming more and more visible.

Really the tension in the CofE lies between dogmatic theology and pastoral theology – it’s almost a head-heart problem. In many ways, I sympathise and do recognise that people are trying to preach the Gospel in a practical manner. This isn’t easy when the Gospel is being interpreted in the exclusive light of modernity rather than according to the whole Church – the true definition of what it means to be Catholic.

The problem is very simple: how is the Church to respond to those who suffer from Same-Sex attraction?

The Church’s doctrine from Tradition is very clear. Sexual activity is only morally acceptable within the bounds of Christian marriage and Christian marriage is exclusively between a man and a woman. Therefore, sexual activity between people of the same sex is sinful.

The logic is sound and utterly indifferent to the loneliness of those afflicted in this way. Perhaps that’s the problem – the doctrine is so cold that it seems to lack any warmth of humanity about it. In this short doctrine, the sufferer from SSA appears to be condemned to a life without intimacy, without companionship and without tenderness.

We do have to cut through some of the emotive language here. What has really been forbidden? The answer is sexual activity. That’s the only thing off the table here. I’ve said it before that the monastery is a place where a community of people of the same sex can be convened in love, that’s true love – agape – and companionship – that’s philia. Eros is not allowed because it is not holy in such a set up. The Biblical record is very clear on that and academics such as Dr Robert Gagnon have written so much in order to clarify something that is very clear. The disease does not come from the human desire for love, affection, affinity and closeness, but from the notion that love must be able to be expressed physically. It’s a form of materialistic nihilism and it can be found in the corruption of Society.

This is why the Church has to be so careful when dealing with those who do suffer from SSA. There is an underlying assumption that the Catholic Church hates gay people. Given the way that many Christians seem to act when faced with SSA issues, it is not surprising when gay people feel vilified after having Leviticus xviii.22 is rammed down their throats. However, it is also problematic when that sensation of vilification comes from the brokenness of human nature.

Society is bent on teaching everyone that gay sex is permissible. Thus the SSA-afflicted will naturally feel spurned when the Church tells them that it isn’t. The feel rejected because Society tells them that they have been rejected. Society tells them that their homosexuality is a defining part of them and that to be denied the intimate caresses of someone of the same sex is a rejection of them as human beings.

But we are not defined by our sexuality.

Why not?

We know that in Heaven there is no marriage. Our Lord refutes the Sadducees on the relationship between marriage and the Resurrection in Matthew xxii.30-32:
For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage , but are as the angels of God in heaven. But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.
Thus the whole need for sexuality is done away in the Resurrection. Fornication – extramarital activity – is a sin and there is no sin at the Resurrection when we are perfected in Christ. If there is no marriage, then there is no sexuality. If we are saved in Christ, then we must be prepared to lose our sexuality now for this loss will be part of our perfection. Marriage is necessary now because of the fact that we die, and we die because human nature is infected with sin. Thus, our desire for sex is something that will pass away for everyone.

The temptation is to cling on to it. To cling on to sin in the face of God is practically suicidal because where God is, sin cannot be. Thus, as soap clings onto dirt and is borne away with it in the cleansing current of water, thus those who cling onto sin threaten their destiny to dwell eternally in the presence of God.

The trouble with having a fractured nature is that we get used to the cracks and come to see them as part of us. The worry is that if these cracks are removed we will somehow cease really to be ourselves. Each one of us is afflicted in the same way and there will be aspects of who we think we are that will vanish when we are perfected. The act of perfection will be painful: this is the Purgatory that I believe in and why I pray for the Dead so that I can be in solidarity with all of fractured humanity in agony as its bones are broken and reset so it can live again.

It’s not the Church that’s the problem, it’s the infected society in which we live that is driving those with SSA into believing that they have a right to be physically with someone of the same sex and saturating every experience of life with sexual provocation. No wonder people with SSA think that they are well and healthy – they are being told that by a humanity that is sick at heart!

Yet, we Christians, too, live in the same Society and are infected in much the same way. Our duty then, is to participate actively in our purification and in the purification of humanity. It is in the name of the Lord Jesus that we are washed and so we must seek Him out actively for that ongoing purification.

In an article by the Rev Marcus Green we see him take to task these Oxford Evangelicals when they say, “advocacy of same-sex sexual intimacy is either an expression of the love of God or it creates an obstacle to people entering the kingdom of God. It cannot be both.” I can certainly see his point. When we accept God as king over our lives – and thus become part of His kingdom – then we do so as broken, fallible and imperfect beings yearning for our perfection in God. Our entry into this kingdom is not prevented by being in an intimate homosexual relationship. If God offers His grace then we may receive it as we are. Given, however, that once we accept the kingdom of God we have to be active in our faith and accept His purification as it is, we will have to renounce our worldliness and the demands of Society in order for the grace that we receive to transform our lives. It is the love of God that prevents Him from forcing His purification upon us. He awaits our consent. The task we face in living is to bend our will to His and render our consent as full as Our Lady’s “yes” to the Incarnation.

In his letter to the people in Corinth, we see St Paul’s injunction that we cannot continue in the Kingdom of God if we embrace sin:
Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed , but ye are sanctified , but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. (I Cor vi.9-11)
Notice that it applies to other sins, not just sins of intimacy. Exactly the same argument applies to adulterers and that includes not only those who do the deed, but also the divorced and remarried AND those who look at a woman with lust in their heart. Those are Christ’s words.

While we may never be free from these sins and weaknesses in our lives, we must at least be praying for our purification from them. We need to recognise that we cannot hope to find holiness if we’re habitually drunk, nor forcing people to work for a pittance. Homosexual intimacy is equivalent to these. Thus, if we condemn those who do enjoy homosexual sex and, in ignorance, permit deprived children sewing trainers together for a fraction of a grain of rice, then we condemn ourselves. This is what Christ means when he says that we can cast the first stone only if we are without sin.

Nonetheless, Church doctrine still stands. St Paul’s words are part of that doctrine. Homosexual intimacy is not ever to be acceptable to the Church and thus it stands as a challenge to Society’s corruption of its members. Doctrine also tells us that the Church possesses only the keys to Heaven. While the Church has to reject Society’s decision that marriage can happen between homosexual couples, it is by no means against the individuals themselves, but rather seeks their eternal Good, their eternal joy, their complete, unmitigated perfection as Church members in the face of God Himself.

The Church seeks to wrench people out of the curse of being defined by their sexuality so that they can see themselves as more than that. And I pray that it will always do so.

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