Sometimes people will quote scripture with regard to the penal laws in the old-testament, punishing people’s sins that are quite common-today. Amongst them is homosexual acts. Secularists and progressive Christians will point to the apparent hypocrisy of a Church that calls those living according to their sexual desires that do not follow the order of God’s design to repentance, while not also calling those who break other laws in the old testament that seem trivial today. As a result of such arm-chair theologians we get seemingly ironic yet ignorant memes such as the one in this blog-post.
Part of the theological problem is people have too few categories to assess the law and to understand it. Such an over-simplistic (dumbed-down faith) results from not catechizing people of common-sense distinctions with regard to the moral law and the juridical precepts which St. Thomas Aquinas and the Church clearly indicate were not intended to be perpetual, while the natural law is immutable. That is to say some laws were given by God for a time, and others are immutable. In the old-testament, often this distinction is not being clearly made, as the author lists the punishment for disobedience to all laws in general.
Thanks be to God, for the non-fundamentalist tradition of the Catholic Church. The Church makes the distinction between the Natural Moral Law and various juridical precepts. The natural-moral law is engraved into the very nature of man, and is immutable, while various juridical laws that were meant to maintain the integrity of the Jewish people as a distinct civilization were conditioned upon the time and circumstance, yet nonetheless willed by God.
The problem that I run into is that you will rarely find people that are willing to take the time to understand this distinction. Firstly because their interest is in supporting a conclusion by whatever means necessary, including a straw-man argument. Secondly, because so few teachers of the faith are able to articulate the distinction well enough for people. Thirdly and most importantly, most people have a post-modern understanding of law, where they understand Law in general to be an imposition upon nature, rather than something flowing out of nature itself. That is to say, too often people perceive God’s moral law, (Divine or Natural) to be a “positive-law” that is arbitrarily imposed upon man, rather than for the objective purpose of helping man flourish.
Those who seek to do away with the law because they feel as if our modern era has progressed beyond it have likely bought into this notion of a “positive-moral law” given to us by God. The irony is that such people claim to be following the “spirit of the law.” When in reality, to gaze upon the moral law as if it is something imposed upon nature, rather than flowing out of it, for its own fulfillment and flourishing indicates the very opposite truth: a failure to internalize the spirit of the moral law. That is to say, in deeply penetrating the nature of God’s law as pointing towards true fulfillment in the divine design and nature of man, we now live in accord to the Spirit. As a result we will look upon the natural moral law as immutable and the juridical laws as changeable.
But if we view God’s moral law as a positive law that constantly changes, then you must also ascribe to the notion that God is violently at work against us, to supress and repress our nature as such, rather than to heal it. Yes, it is true that our nature is fallen, and God does seek to tell us to avoid that irrational disorder within us all (concupiscence), but He also seeks to restore us to our true nature, and to never repress or supress this divine design within us. We give great glory and praise to God when we compliment Him on His wonderful design, and we bear grave insult to Him when we try to refashion it according to our own ignorance and disordered desires.
As Pope Francis put it at the end of the synod on Families:
Indeed, it means upholding all the more the laws and commandments which were made for man and not vice versa (cf. Mk 2:27).
In this sense, the necessary human repentance, works and efforts take on a deeper meaning, not as the price of that salvation freely won for us by Christ on the cross, but as a response to the One who loved us first and saved us at the cost of his innocent blood, while we were still sinners (cf. Rom 5:6).
The Church’s first duty is not to hand down condemnations or anathemas, but to proclaim God’s mercy, to call to conversion, and to lead all men and women to salvation in the Lord (cf. Jn 12:44-50).”
The Church is not so much condemning a person when it uses the language “disordered” to describe the attractions that a person has. In fact, it is being consistent since every single human being is afflicted with concupiscence, and therefore all people have a variety of disordered desires. The person themselves is not a disorder, but the person “has” a disorder. So what? Everyone has an inclination to sin. The path to a fruitful and joyful life is not to be enslaved to irrational desires. Rather it is to be who you are: male or female and all that implies. It is not up to us to change the grand design of God, nor to throw away those whose carnal desires do not line up to their design. Furthermore, it is harmful to us to act contrary to who we are or to say that we are our desires. Rather we are to call everyone to make a great sacrifice to say “no” to themselves so that they can say “yes” to what real love looks like. It is ironic that in the world today the Church is told it does not accept these people. But in reality, we are the only ones truly accepting who they are, even while some such persons reject who they are objectively because of how they feel. It is emotivism.
This true-acceptance of the person is impossible for legalists, even if they are “progressive” or “traditional.” By the way it isn’t “traditional” to break with the Spirit of the Law, nor do we make any progress when we do this…. Whatever side we fall on, treating God’s moral law as anything but what comes natural to us according to our design leads to legalism. And from legalism we get harsh, angry bigots or lawless, angry dissenters. Both are to be rejected. Capiche?