368: We need an honest, joyful, fact-based coming to terms with all forms of human sexuality.
Day 368: Friday, March 19th, 2021
So much has been made of sex that it sometimes seems to overwhelm the center of our faith – the transcendent love of the Divine, the hope in humankind and the creation of a single, fully human, Beloved Community.
I’ve been reading about the Church’s tortured history with sex, sexuality, marriage, divorce, contraception, homosexuality and celibacy. All of it so negative. So much has been made of sex that it sometimes seems to overwhelm the center of our faith – the transcendent love of the Divine, the hope in humankind and the creation of a single, fully human, Beloved Community.
“What is the Church’s problem with human sexuality? Why, since the beginning of Christianity, has the church been so fixated on controlling people’s sexual behavior, often to traumatic ends?” The negative impression of sex didn’t start with St. Augustine but he invented the concept of original sin. His example forces us to examine his life. Augustine was married, took a mistress and then dropped them both to become a priest. His personal experience of lust and sex led him to believe there is something deeply, essentially wrong with us right from birth. Our whole species is what Augustine called a massa peccati, a mass of sins.
Poor, tortured Augustine
Pelagius, a British born monk and his followers were much more optimistic about the human family. Pelagius lived at the same time as Augustine and opposed his idea of original sin. Pelagius believed human beings are born innocent writing “Infants do not enter the world with a special endowment of virtue, but neither do they carry the innate stain of vice.” Looking at my own experience of having 3 boys and now twin grandsons I can attest that Pelagius has it right. These babies are children of God with a bright Divine spark. It's obvious.
Unfortunately, the Roman Church’s concept of sexuality (and leadership) has been formed more by Augustine than Pelagius. We are all sinners, says Augustine but women, by their very natures, starting with the temptation of Eve, seem to entice men who simply can’t help themselves. Poor men.
I think what we need is an honest coming to terms with all forms of human sexuality. How do we create a mature viewpoint that embraces our sexuality as the intimate part of whom we are? How do we create space, honor and celebrate those who differ from us? After all, we are all in kinship - no one left out.
The answer about the negativity to sex starts with a look back into history, to the early days of Middle Eastern civilization and the Hittite Empire of the second millennium BCE. (Imagine - 2,000 years before Christ). The Hittites were generally open about sexual activity, but they also believed that it made a person ritually unclean and that the Hittite gods were “fussy” about that, to use the Hittite scholar Trevor Bryce’s term; he describes how a Hittite priest who had sex with his wife and presented himself to the gods without spending the night purifying himself first would forfeit his life.” Purify or die. Hittite gods were truly unforgiving. Hittite priests needed to be pure when they met their gods. The idea of purity and sex diverged very early on. Enter shame, guilt and temptation...
I usually don’t go in for angry reflections but here’s one from Matthew Fox that is pretty bitter – with reason.
"Yesterday we learned ponded to the shocking news that today’s Vatican cannot break from Augustine’s ignorant and dangerous teachings about the "sin of homosexuality." Has the Vatican learned nothing about sexuality in the last 1600 years?
My Bible says that ‘God is love,’ not just heterosexual love. From the 1970s on, science has made clear that 8-10% of any human population anywhere is going to be gay. It took the church 450 years to apologize for its opposition to Galileo. Must we wait 450 years for this apology also?
I know very few gay couples willing to postpone their weddings for 450 years. Do you?
(Sister Jose Hobday)
Many years ago, Sister Jose Hobday, a Franciscan sister who was also a Native American Seneca woman took me aside and said to me:
“What is it with white people who condemn homosexuals? People like myself who know our traditions before the white people came to our shores know that all the spiritual directors to our great chiefs were gay. We know that gay people bring more spirituality to a community than straight people do. When I do retreats with only gays and lesbians we go deeper much faster than when I lead retreats for general audiences.”
I have researched this subject and found similar teachings among Celtic peoples and African peoples as well. This is just one reason why gay and lesbian people are drawn to religious ministries. It follows that a society or community that worships a homophobic Deity is shooting itself in the foot because they are losing lots of spiritual energy.
And, of course, hypocrisy reigns in such a sad situation. Read Frederic Martel’s book, In the Closet of the Vatican: Power, Homosexuality, Hypocrisy or my lengthy review of it HERE to see the sadness and hypocrisy at work.
I find it amazing that conscience is so compromised at the Vatican that there appears to be no sign of shame on the part of the law-makers there even after the revelations in Martel’s book. How deeply self-hatred lies in the gay hierarchy who rant against gays and want all gays to live celibate lives apparently–unlike a high percentage of them who actually take vows of celibacy!
Jesus called religious hypocrites "blind guides" who ignore the weightier issues of "justice, mercy and good faith." And "whitewashed tombs that look handsome on the outside but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of corruption."
Again, "serpents, brood of vipers, [who cannot] escape being condemned to hell" who "load on men burdens that are unendurable." (see Mt. 23: 26-39; Lk 11:36)
A poem entitled "Pater Noster," written early in the twentieth century by a Celtic poet, pictures the Roman Catholic church as a giant sailing vessel that sailed for many centuries over treacherous seas through storm, gale and hurricanes weathering it all. Then, in the twentieth century, it crashed against a giant rock, splintered into pieces and sank. And the name of the rock was: Sex."
PS: As a person who used birth control and has a vasectomy I'm probably excommunicated. But I continue to be in communion with all of us in the Emmaus family and the wider circle of humanity. I hope we can all enjoy the fullness of being human. That, after all, is Divine.