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Friday, December 16, 2005

Unclear Of The Concept

Andrew Sullivan doesn't know the meaning of dignity:

Two fascinating and largely positive reviews from the Catholic News Service and Christianity Today. My favorite line from CNS:

While the actions taken by Ennis and Jack cannot be endorsed, the universal themes of love and loss ring true.

Hard to summarize better the contradiction at the heart of the Church's teaching on homosexual dignity.

For those of you who brought your Bibles, turn to John 8:1-11:

But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?" They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?"

"No one, sir," she said. "Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin."

There's more to this passage than the trap (an attempt to get Jesus to openly side with Mosaic law, which stipulated capital punishment for adultery, or Roman law, which barred the Jews from employing capital punishment), the mystery of what Jesus wrote in the dirt, the divine pardon, and the myth that this passage teaches against the "throwing of stones" (the myth is most popular among non-Christians who want to be free to criticize Christianity without reaping what they sow). Jesus behaves as if he were awfully concerned with the woman's dignity. He doesn't yell "Repent, whore!" He gets rid of the bloodthirsty riffraff and sends her on her way with a gentle reprimand.

(Note that Jesus was not always a respecter of dignity.)

A relationship can be wrong on one level and right on another. The adulterous woman could have loved her liaison in the true sense of the word - love is valuing one's welfare - but acting on her sexual attraction for him, and/or giving in to his sexual attraction for her, violates a marital bond (or two - it is unclear which, if not both, of the parties was married).

The contradiction is nonexistent because love and same-sex attraction are not the same thing, and the latter does not preclude the existence of the former (to a degree). None of us loves fully; every relationship that has a degree of rightness has some level of brokenness. One can respect dignity without expecting perfection. All of us have friends who do undignified things.

Of course, Sully doesn't believe that homosexuality constitutes brokenness. But the Church (and most of modern psychiatric research since it began) disagree. He needs to start his argument there.

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