Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Times: Christian beliefs and sexuality [2 letters]

Tuesday, 13th July 2010 by Christopher F. Bezzina, Lija

With reference to the article Muslims And Catholics Unite Against Gay Marriage But Disagree On Divorce (June 25), allow me to say that Imam Muhammed el Sadi's reproved argument that homosexuality is unnatural, immoral, unhealthy and fruitless is totally senseless and can lead to violence if taken seriously.

Scientific and social science research has proven that gays and lesbians are healthy human beings and very much a product of healthy families. Let us not forget that a tree is judged by the fruit that it makes.

Shall we widen this argument of Imam el Sadi and conclude that the families who have a gay son or a lesbian daughter are unhealthy and fruitless families? Is it so difficult to comprehend that gays and lesbians are a gift from our families (I would even say a gift from God) to society?

Gays and lesbians, like heterosexuals, are the same in their nature and desires to relate, to love and be loved. The religious institutions cannot control this because it goes against God himself and His creation. Yet, today we still hear of gay people being prosecuted and persecuted in Islamic countries. Does Imam el Sadi suggest we should use such measures to control and protect the "traditional" family?

The real factors that are leading to the destruction of the family should not be directed at and scapegoated on gays and lesbians. Gays and lesbians believe in traditional family models but also embrace diverse forms of families because gays and lesbians go beyond a face-value interpretation of the allegorical story of Adam and Eve.

The factors which are leading to the destruction of families are ample: poverty, violence, abuse and religious fundamentalism.

I remind Archbishop Paul Cremona that most couples that choose to get married civilly do so because the Catholic Church institution has proven through the years that it is no longer credible. Sometimes, the Catholic Church institution itself is a major social factor to the destruction of families. Let us not forget the child abuse cases by priests and religious. Let us not forget the promotion of passivity by the Church institution on women who were victims of domestic violence.

Before we can speak of families, we need to truly believe that every person has the right to love and be loved. Families are based on their members who should believe in love and respect for one another. Gays and lesbians believe in love and respect for each other and it is not surprising that gays and lesbians wish to have the right to marry because they understand this treasure of marriage more than those who have it and waste it. The Catholic Church institution needs to be reminded that, like the Christian community, they are on a journey of discovering the truth as revealed in experience and history. The Catholic Church institution does not hold the truth with regard to gays and lesbians but is on a journey of discovering it through experience. There are so many theologians who provide a bit of fresh air with regard to sexuality and homosexuality, such as Margaret A. Farley, John J. McNeil and James Alison. Such theologians teach us that we should go beyond the form but focus on the essence of relationships! The essence should be Christ, based on charity and justice!
The Catholic Church institution needs to go beyond seeing sexuality as simply an instrument of producing children. Sexuality is more than that, it is also a human desire to relate with others. The more the Catholic Church institution holds a negative interpretation of sexuality, the more its members (both heterosexual and homosexual) will end up in dangerous and destructive sexual behaviour towards themselves and others.

For the gay people who are struggling to find a balance between their Christian beliefs and their sexuality, my suggestion is to put your faith in Christ, not just the Catholic Church institution. Do not be afraid, this was the message of Pope Benedict XVI to the youth in Malta. Indeed, do not be afraid; out there are priests and people who go beyond devotion and a morality based on a lack of spirituality.
There are others who are more open-minded in embracing everyone as they really are and are promoting the well-being of everyone.

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments at timeofmalta.com]

Tuesday, 13th July 2010 by Alexander Vella Gregory, Swatar

With reference to the article Muslims And Catholics Unite Against Gay Marriage But Disagree On Divorce (June 25), I find it extremely sad and hypocritical that two religions which have been at each other's throats for the past two millennia should come together in their mutual hate for a minority.

While understanding the fact that the Catholic Church has its own set of values, I fail to see how this policy of targeting anyone who disagrees even marginally with the Church tallies with the dictum "love thy neighbour".

First and foremost, if the Church wants to salvage its last remaining shreds of credibility, it cannot keep on discussing such issues as homosexuality, divorce and abortion as one argument. They are all separate issues which have nothing to do with each other.

The Church has also had 2,000 years to convince us that the family structure it is proposing is the ideal model. Anyone with even the slightest anthropological sensibility knows that family models change over time. Even in Malta, the traditional extended family has long since disappeared, before anyone had even started discussing such issues as divorce.

As we stand, divorce is illegal and gay rights almost non-existent, therefore the Church cannot blame either for the perceived decline in the traditional family. A great number of "broken" families have also undergone the supposedly rigorous marriage preparation courses, necessary before getting married in church. Therefore, if something is not working, it is clearly within the structure of the Church itself. If the flock is abandoning its shepherds, the Church had better start admitting its own failures now before it finds itself devoid of sheep altogether.

The Church is also not in a position to complain that the media are not giving it its due share. The Church itself has its own media organisations with which it can promulgate its message. Apart from that, there is an almost daily mention of Church-related news in the independent media. To try and force journalists to include only whatever the Church deems acceptable is a serious breach of fundamental human rights.
As far as Islam is concerned, if the Catholic Church really believes that it has so much in common, maybe they should consider a merger of sorts. Otherwise, it should refrain from using Islam for its own ends. Such behaviour is an insult to both religions.

As for the Imam's views, may I remind him that most catastrophe and violence in the world lies not within secularised Europe but within areas where thinking such as his is prevalent, particularly in the Middle East.

It is also interesting to note that the discussions were held behind closed doors and by leading theologians only. If both parties are so convinced of the validity of their argument, what are they afraid of? Why not include others whose opinion differs?

As for the "perfection" of the laws of God, I can cite several examples where the "laws of God" have been conveniently changed by the Church to suit its needs. Take celibacy, for example, which was only condemned by the Universal Church in the 12th century, 1,000 years after the emergence of Christianity as a religion. There is also a long list of laws entrenched in the Bible which are no longer observed, including laws regarding slavery, unclean food and sexual conduct between a married couple. And, yet, the Church sees it fit to use the Bible to justify its position regarding homosexuality and divorce.

I do not ask for, nor need, the Church's approval on how to conduct my life. If the Church really and truly believes that God has created us free, then it is up to the individual to decide how to live his or her life. If the Church does not want to accept homosexuals, divorcees, cohabiting couples and the greater part of our polyglot society, then so be it. But the Church has no right, divine or otherwise, to interfere with whom and when I fall in love. And, quite frankly, I refuse to take counsel on matters of the heart from men who spend their lives with other men and have never experienced the trials and tribulations of living with a partner of one's choice.

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on timesofmalta.com]

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