A letter in todays Irish Independent does quite an excellent job of illustrating a problem which I had already been considering writing on. Jim Ryan of Co Kilkenny takes issue with an article by Billy Keane in which it is claimed that homosexuality is still a sin in the eyes of the Roman Catholic Church. Ryan argues that, because of the seventh commandment, adultery is a sin whether it consists of heterosexual or homosexual intercourse and therefore the Church is not discriminatory. I hardly need to point out the idiocy of this argument when gay marriage is not recognized by the Church or indeed by the Irish state. What is particularly relevant however, is that Ryan is wrong. 100% wrong. Homosexuality, in and of itself, is indeed listed as a sin in the Bible. Perhaps he requires a lesson in scripture, so I will list every verse in which this is directly stated (All quotes are from the King James Version)-
- Leviticus 18:22 ‘Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is an abomination.’
- Leviticus 20:13 ‘If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them’
- Romans 1:26-27 ‘Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.
It is clear that Jim Ryan, despite calling upon the Bible to support his views, has actually read relatively little of it. And this is a major problem in Irish society today- many of the people who describe themselves as Catholic’s or more generally as Christians have very little idea what these terms mean, or what it is that they are supposed to believe in. To a large extent this is actively the result of the education given in Catholic-managed schools which, although keen to indoctrinate children into their faith, were not so keen on filling us in on some of the more bizarre or backward beliefs which were supposed to be held by all Catholics. I often recall being told ‘Jesus died for your sins’ but why or how was never clarified. The doctrine of transubstantiation was never adequately explained, and despite repeated references to the Virgin Mary it took many years for an adult to explain what a virgin was. Although I’m an atheist I’ve since filled these gaps in my knowledge because I have a longstanding interest in religion of any kind (The thesis I’m currently working on largely deals with the history of religion in Ireland). The problem is that many people who believe themselves to be Catholics are in fact woefully ignorant of the Catholic Church’s doctrines and of the principles of Christianity as a whole. In particular, I find that many people who make reformist demands of the Catholic Church appear to be under the delusion that Jesus was a nice man and that all of the negative aspects of Christianity were later additions by the Church hierarchy( Billy Keane implies as such in the above article). This is entirely untrue. Although many controversial doctrines such as the requirement of celibacy for clerics or the prohibition of artificial contraception are indeed complete inventions of the Catholic Church, many others are not. I always find it laughable when people demand that women should be allowed to become priests. According to the Bible, women may not even speak in church- Corinthians 14: 34-35. I’m not saying this view is correct- it’s horribly sexist and is the remnant of a bygone age. But this is entirely my point- if you wish to be a tolerant person who does not subscribe to sexist or homophobic beliefs then you cannot hold on to the beliefs of the Bible. There is modernity and there is Christianity- the only middle ground is hypocrisy.