Friday, 30 March 2012

Times: Solid reasons for Church positions
Sunday, March 11, 2012, by Fr Alfred Micallef, SJ

The fact that the majority judges an issue one way rather than another is no guarantee that the majority has judged correctly.

As was predicted by some, the divorce issue is being followed by the desire of acknowledging the right of homosexuals to marry. This issue needs a lot of thinking even though some countries are already legalising in this direction.
Something is not wrong simply because the Church says so
- Fr Alfred Micallef, SJ
The question of marriage between homosexuals should be resolved only after a deep reflection on, and an adequate understand-ing of the nature of homosexuality.
I would like to comment on a statement by the proponent of this legislation, namely, that “the only reason many are averse to the idea of gay marriage is simply a misguided one based on religious beliefs”.
This is not the first time such a statement has been made. There are quite a few people who feel we are being kept in the dark ages by the religious beliefs propounded by the Church, especially in Malta, and that we need to free ourselves of these shackles so as to live the fullness of our human rights and freedom.
Although it is difficult to guess what is in people’s minds, judging from the way they express themselves, it seems that they believe that the Church – or maybe a God they do not believe in – imposes laws and rules capriciously.
After all, it was God who ‘imposed’ the Com­mandments on Moses and the people, although Hammurabi, the king of Babylonia, seemed to have liked the idea and, in like manner, inscribed his code on stone tablets.
The idea that the Church decides what is good and what isn’t needs correcting. Even for believers, something is not wrong simply because the Church says so; they understand that the Church says something is wrong because, in the mind of the Church, it is not conducive to growth in love but, rather, the contrary.
The Church arrives at moral conclusions basing itself on natural law and does this in the light of the Gospel.
Natural law also sounds old-fashioned in some quarters. Yet, the very human rights which are so often exalted – and, alas, so often respected selectively – are built on natural law. Some use the term ‘logical’ but they mean the same thing.
The possibility that the Church’s understanding may not be totally correct exists, as it exists for everybody else. However, one thing is certain, the Church – or God, for that matter – is never whimsical in her moral teaching.
The alternative to this way of proceeding is to choose our laws democratically through an election or a referendum. We tend to forget that democracy as practised in the west is based on the principle that quality equals quantity.
However, the fact that the majority judges an issue one way rather than another is no guarantee that the majority has judged correctly.
The Church talks to all those who are willing to listen to what it has to say, independently of whether they are believers or not, although believers listen to the Church with a different attitude. People may be convinced but they are free not to. The Church does this everywhere and on various levels.
Those who a year ago followed the discussion on the legislation about the marriage of homosexuals in the state of New York would know what an active part the Church played in that discussion.
In the end, the people chose in a different way than that proposed by the Church, in the same way that in Malta, people decided not to follow the position of the Church on the issue of divorce. Whether they will be better off or not as a community remains to be seen.
Conscious of its political role, the Church should make it a point to explain its position in the most coherent, clear and rational manner possible. The Church should not expect people to follow it simply because ‘the Church says so’.
In a secular society people would follow the Church only if it gives solid reasons for its position.

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times'  website.]

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