Question:

Perhaps I can ask you about one more thing that troubles me. I have always been rooted in the mercy of Jesus and his compassion toward others. I will call attention to behaviors but do not pass judgment on others. That said,I recently came back to more fully embracing my Catholic faith. However, I get stuck on some church rules, such as celibacy requirements for priests, not elevating women to the same status as men in the church, and my biggest struggle is with the condemnation of homosexuals.

Yesterday, I read Romans 1:18-32. Paul clearly lays it all out. I am not gay, but I have met some people who report a biological disposition toward same sex attraction. I surely don't understand it and it makes sense that God would not endorse it, for our gift of sexuality is clearly to be limited to the marriage bed of a man and a woman for the purpose having children. Yet, a famous singer just came out the other day and talked about how she prayed to God to take it away. With God as our Creator and all of us being His creatures, why would He create beings who are wired this way? It seems that it would be a cruel joke to create a being with these inclinations and tell them it's okay to be the way you are just don't act on your orientation. On the other hand, I guess that could be said of all sinful inclination. This is just an area, I struggle with. I know a lesbian couple that has been together for over 20 years, and they view themselves as Christian.

I had planned to discuss this with my pastor as well as some of my other concerns with our Catholic faith. Well thanks and God bless. I really am trying to right the ship and with the grace of God will succeed.


Answer:

I'm not really the one to answer why Roman Catholicism teaches what it does. I can read the material they publish and make observations on their stances, but so you understand, I'm not a Roman Catholic. I am purely a Christian, following only what is taught in the Bible by God. As a result there are issues where I might agree with the Roman Catholic church when their stance matches the Bible and there are issues where I disagree with them because their stance is contrary to the Bible. The one thing I do is teach the Bible. "If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen" (I Peter 4:11).

So let's look at some of the issues you raised:

Celibacy of Priests

The separation of Christians into two camps: one of a priesthood and the other of laity did not start until the second century. It is not found in the Bible. Even the Catholic church admits this. "The priesthood evolved" [Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. XII, p. 406, 415]. "The Apostolic Fathers abstain from any mention of a Christian priesthood" [Catholic Dictionary, Addis and Arnold, p. 693]. In the Bible, all Christians are priests because we have direct access to the Father.

"Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (I Peter 2:4-5).

"But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy" (I Peter 2:9-10).

If you understand this, then clearly there is a problem with teaching that priests are to be celibate when all Christians are priests in God's sight. Celibacy was an innovation added late by the Roman Catholic church. "In 1079 AD celibacy was first enforced for priests and bishops by Pope Gregory VII. Before this time, they were permitted to marry" [bible.ca]. "After the Lateran Council (A.D. 1123), "... henceforth all conjugal relations on the part of the clergy ... were reduced in the eyes of Canon Law to mere concubinage"" [Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. III, p. 486]. "The Council of Trent (about A.D. 1550) affirmed as a matter of faith that it [celibacy] is holier than marriage" [Externals of the Catholic Church, Sullivan, p. 305].

In the Bible, you will find that the majority of the disciples were married. Paul was a noted exception to the general rule. "Do we have no right to take along a believing wife, as do also the other apostles, the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas?" (I Corinthians 9:5). Even though Paul did not choose to marry, he argued that he did have the right to marry just like all the other leaders in the church who were already married. In fact, Paul listed forbidding of marriage as a symptom of people falling away into apostasy. "Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth" (I Timothy 4:1-3).

The Status of Women in the Church

In the church that Christ established, all Christians are equal in the eyes of God. "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28). The reason husbands were told to treat their wives with honor is because they were traveling to heaven together. "Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered" (I Peter 3:7).

But equality in status doesn't equate to equality in the tasks assigned to men and women. My wife and I do not perform the same duties. There are things she is more suited to doing than I and there are things I'm better equipped to handle. God made men and women different and God assigned different roles to men and women based on the strengths and weaknesses given to each. Acknowledging the difference doesn't make men better or worse than women.

It was God who stated through Paul, "A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet" (I Timothy 2:10-11). It isn't a matter of whether I agree or disagree. It is a matter of accepting that God knows His business better than I do. There are reasons why God made this division, some are listed in the verses following, and it is my job to uphold the wisdom of God. God deemed that men, in general, are better suited for the leadership roles in the church.

Condemnation of Homosexuality

People have this tendency to assume things are true without asking where the idea came from. You mentioned the idea that homosexuals are "wired" for same-sex attraction. Upon what evidence is that based? Oh, I know it is claimed. I also remember in the seventies people claiming that they couldn't help stealing because they were born with a compulsion to take things that didn't belong to them. I have in my files claims of people who want to say adultery is a pre-wired disposition in some people. Surely a reasonable person understands that a claim isn't proof.

I've known people who have been drug addicts or alcoholics for twenty or more years. Does that mean drugs are harmless? Or that God made them addicts? Neither length of time nor the enjoyment of a particular practice determines whether that practice is sinful or not.

You noted correctly: people don't want to take responsibility for sinful choices so they place the blame elsewhere. It is an easy excuse to say I couldn't help sinning because I was made that way. But the reality is that the person is blaming God for making them sin. "Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone" (James 1:13). God isn't the source of sin, nor does He promote sin. God promotes righteousness. When God says something is a sin, it is because it is harmful to the individual and the people around them. As God told Israel, "And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the LORD and His statutes which I command you today for your good?" (Deuteronomy 10:12-13).

From the Bible's clear statements that homosexuality is a sin (Romans 1:26-27; I Corinthians 6:9-10; Leviticus 18:22-23), we conclude that God did not make homosexuals. People are not hardwired to sin (Joshua 24:15; Ezekiel 18:20). So when people claim they are, a lie is taking place. "But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived" (II Timothy 3:13). And the source of lies is not God (John 8:44).

What has amused me is that despite heavy efforts, there is zero scientifically reproducible evidence that there is a genetic or environmental cause to homosexuality. Everything points to it being an individual's choice, but no one wants to examine that cause.

Thank you so much for taking the time to share your knowledge of Scripture with me. At the end of the day, sin is sin, no matter what form it takes and it all hurts God. We are called to honor God by by being obedient to His will. When we disobey wehurt Him.When we turn to Him, if we are genuinely repentant, His arms will be open and through His mercy He will forgive us.

In the broadest context, the body of Christ includes all who have confessed that Jesus Christ as Lord. Within that body there are many voices and yours is now the one I am choosing to listen to as I venture forth in my own spiritual journey.I believe the Bible should be the teaching authority.I specifically did not seek answers to my questions from a priest for I have asked many priests questions throughout my life and, honestly, got different answers. As you say the Roman Catholic church does admit that they made a rule regarding celibacy.I expect to leave the Roman Catholic only to open the doors to ministry for children and perhaps my own, should the Holy Spirit work in that way. But, out of nothing more than respect, I intend to wait until myailing parents have passed as they have been model Catholics and witnesses to Christ throughout their days.I can only pray that a Pope will come to reverse this archaic rule.

After I reflected on what I said about homosexuals, it occurred to me that we sin in many ways that do not reflect the image and likeness of God in which we were created. I guess a person can follow many teachings and practices while having a strong area of sin in their life. Most of us who are in denial of our sin don't like to have it pointed out. I rarely point to the sins of others for fear of the speck in my own eye. God will be the judge. I intend to do my best to love God with my whole heart, mind and soul for the rest of my days.

Thank you once again for all of your help. I feel I have let go of the self-loathing I had been experiencing with regard to my journey into infidelity in my marriage. I know I am a good man who made a series of bad choices and turned his back onGod and doubted His enduring mercy and the truth of the resurrection. And you are right, knowing the pain I caused will serve to make me even more spiritually committed but always aware of the power of sin.

I'm glad to have been of some help and if I can further assist you on your journey, don't hesitate to write. It is always good to find people who are truly willing to listen to God's teachings. Perhaps you would be interested in the article: "Are You a Christian?"