Professor Gerald Schlabach of the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota recently published a piece for The Christian Century utilizing the writing of St. Paul to create an argument legitimizing acceptance of same-sex marriage. In light of Schlabach’s article, The Cardinal Newman Society interviewed a theologian from Walsh University in order to glean a theologically sound interpretation of the writings of St. Paul.
The passage in question, 1 Corinthians 7: 8-9, reads: “To the unmarried, and to the widows, I would say that they will do well to remain in the same state as myself, but if they have not the gift of continence, let them marry; better to marry than to feel the heat of passion.”
Schlabach, who holds a Ph.D. in theology and ethics from Notre Dame, argued in his article that St. Paul’s approach “offers a path out of our impasse and toward broader churchwide consensus concerning marriage,” and that “recognizing lifelong [same-sex] unions fully as marriage could allow the church to speak all the more clearly to what deeply and rightly concerns those who seek to uphold the sanctity of marriage.”
Schlabach quoted New York Times columnist David Brooks, who proposed in a 2003 piece that society “shouldn’t just allow gay marriage. We should insist on gay marriage. We should regard it as scandalous that two people could claim to love each other and not want to sanctify their love with marriage and fidelity.”
“Some of the best reasons to support same-sex marriage turn out to be deeply conservative ones,” Schlabach continued. “Paul’s remark requires… opponents of same-sex marriage to do some uncomfortable rethinking,” he claimed, adding that “they will have to take seriously the argument that the Bible never considered the prospect of monogamous covenanted same-sex relationships.”
Schlabach argued in his article that a “grand compromise” could open up “equal access to marriage and acknowledge the need to correct for limited understandings of the nature of same-sex orientation. It acknowledges the painful injustices. Then it welcomes the opportunity for all to thrive, not as gay or straight, ‘queer’ or ‘normal,’ but as human beings who need to find life-giving forms of personal intimacy.”
“Christians will be better able to speak clearly and work energetically because together we’ll affirm that marriage is good—for everyone,” Schlabach wrote.
Dr. Chris Seeman, associate professor of theology at Walsh University—which is recommended in The Newman Guide for faithful Catholic identity—told the Newman Society that “there’s certainly no exegetical unclarity as to the meaning of Paul’s statement.” In fact, “Paul’s advice to those lacking in sexual self-control is directed at heterosexual couples,” Seeman explained. “This is both stated and assumed throughout the chapter. It is clear from Romans 1: 18-27 that this concessive statement would not apply to same-sex couples.”
Seeman clarified that the main pastoral theme of this chapter “is the value of chastity in general, and of celibacy over marriage in particular.”
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In the USCCB’s “Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination: Pastoral Care,” chastity is described as “a particular virtue that requires special effort” and clarifies that “all people, whether married or single, are called to chaste living. Chaste living overcomes disordered human desires such as lust and results in the expression of one’s sexual desires in harmony with God’s will.”
Seeman told the Society that “the deeper hermeneutical problem with citing Scripture for or against contemporary issues surrounding sexual orientation is that the biblical authors are unaware of the existence of sexual orientation, itself a modern way of classifying people that is only about a century old.” Schlabach’s argument is indicative of this, as his intention to utilize Paul’s statements as a defense of same-sex marriage cannot work “since Paul never addressed, nor could he have addressed, the issue of same-sex marriage.”
“Advocates of the practice who seek Scriptural justification are forced to take statements out of context,” said Seeman.
Reprinted with permission from The Cardinal Newman Society