Anybody paying attention to press reports of Catholic Bishops’ public pronouncements, could be forgiven for thinking that the most important parts of Catholic identity, and of the Gospel message, is an obsession with sex (especially of the same – sex type, including gay marriage). The reality is quite different.
Today’s lectionary readings put things into clear perspective. Take this verse from Paul, for instance (as presented in the missal translation for the church in England and Wales):
That is why you must kill everything that is in you that belongs to earthly life: fornication, impurity, guilty passion, evil desires, and especially greed, which is the same thing as worshiping false gods.
Sexual sin is certainly in there, but note that fornication does not refer to sex per se, but to the trivialization or commercialization of sex. Impurity and guilty passions, evil desires can all be interpreted as referring to sex – but only to inappropriate sex. Sex is not necessarily impure,guilty, or evil. In the right context, it can equally well be healthy, life – giving, and an experience of the divine. It all depends on the context, on the quality of the relationship, and on the attitude underlying the experience. It is hard, however, to imagine any circumstance in which simple greed is good, as we are reminded in the Gospel.
Watch, and be on your guard against avarice of any kind, for a man’s life is not made secure by what he owns, even when he has more than he needs.
– Luke 12:15
For LGBT Christians of any denomination, it’s important to keep this in perspective. Although we are often told that homosexuality is “obviously” contrary to scripture, this is simply not true. Christ himself had nothing at all to say in opposition to same – sex relationships, and little enough on any kind of sexual matters, but a great deal to say, as here, on the evils of greed ( Think of the rich man told to sell all his goods to follow him, or the aphorism that it easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than to enter the kingdom of heaven, or the instruction to consider the birds of the air, and the lilies of the field). In the entire Bible, there are only a handful of texts, of dubious relevance, that even appear to condemn same – sex relationships, but many, many more that strongly condemn greed.
Even the infamous story of Sodom, so often used to support claims of biblical opposition, and which gives its name to the legal offence of sodomy, has nothing at all to do with sex. Instead, the bible is clear elsewhere, on the nature of the sin of Sodom:
Ez 16: 49-50
Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom; pride, fullness of bread, and prosperous ease…..;
“prosperous ease” : again, too much obsession with material comfort, not sexual sin.
This does not let gay people off the hook. It’s an uncomfortable fact of gay reality, that for too many of us, once we find some personal peace with our orientation and come out as gay, we slip from one closet into another. Rejecting the perceived hostility of conventional religion, we may reject religion altogether. Rejecting the conventional norms of suburban family life, we may enter instead a ghetto, geographic or mental, of the urban gay stereotype – obsessed with the socially approved fashions, home decor, and gourmet foods – to say nothing of clubs, pubs and designer drugs.
Gay men in particular should take comfort in today’s readings, in the reminder that their sexual lives are not implicitly the great sinful evil that the popular imagination presents. But we must also guard against the very real danger of the sin of greed, and preoccupation with material comfort and pleasure, at the expense of more spiritual lives.