Yes, that’s a somewhat snarky headline. And, yes, it plays on the common (and not entirely incorrect) notion that Catholics tend to be rather lacking in their knowledge of Sacred Scripture. Of course, Catholics should read and know the Bible. And many do.
It reminds me of when, as a young Evangelical Protestant, I began to seriously study Catholic theology, teaching, and history. My parents, concerned for my salvation, send me a box full of tracts, books, and tapes explaining why Catholicism is misleading, false, and even anti-Christian. One particular tract set out to show that Catholics are not allowed to read or study the Bible—and thus they must not be really Christian. Another tract focused on how Pope Leo XIII, in Providentissimus Deus, had encouraged Catholics to read the Bible, and yet Catholics (the tract asserted) fail or even refuse to do so. Together, the tracts made for a handy example of “damned if you do, damned if you don’t”. I pointed out the obvious contradiction to my parents, but to no avail: my mother insisted that I immedately start studying the New Testament in Greek, apparently forgetting that I had taken Koine Greek in Bible college, thank you very much!
Back to Senator Kaine, the Democratic Party’s Vice-Presidential candidate and, the Associated Press tells us, a “devout Roman Catholic”:
Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine is predicting that the Roman Catholic Church may eventually change its opposition to gay marriage.
Kaine is a devout Roman Catholic as well as a U.S. senator from Virginia and a former governor of that state. He told the Human Rights Campaign during its national dinner Saturday in Washington that he had changed his mind about gay marriage and that his church may follow suit one day.
“I think it’s going to change because my church also teaches me about a creator who, in the first chapter of Genesis, surveyed the entire world, including mankind, and said, ‘It is very good,'” Kaine said. He then recalled Pope Francis’ remark that “who am I to judge?” in reference to gay people.
“I want to add: Who am I to challenge God for the beautiful diversity of the human family? I think we’re supposed to celebrate it, not challenge it,” Kaine said.
There is so much wrong with these short but loaded remarks; here are six things that jump out at me:
1) The Catholic Church is not “my church”; it is Christ’s Church. Now, I understand that Kaine likely meant “the church I belong to”, and yet anyone who has been paying attention to Kaine’s remarks about his faith can easily get the impression that Kaine really does think he knows better than Christ’s Church and the Pope when it comes to settled matters of faith and morals. Last year, for instance, Kaine insisted that Pope Francis needs to allow women to be ordained as priests, saying, “There is nothing this Pope could do that would improve the world as much as putting the Church on a path to ordain women.” (Nothing? Really?) To bolster his “case”, he quoted the Apostle Paul: “What I hope to hear from the Pope is an opening for the universal church to finally and fully embrace Galatians 3:28 – ‘There is neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male nor female; all are one in Jesus Christ.'” Apparently his flippant misuse of Scripture is supposed to be impressive; for those of us who know a little about Scripture and Catholic teaching, it is not. Anyhow, the point is that if the Catholic Church really is Christ’s Church, then it behooves devout Catholics to understand the nature of authority within the Church, especially in regards to matters of faith and morals.
2) This is all the more annoying because Kaine speaks of “his church” teaching him about the nature of God as Creator. There is, simply put, a glaring lack of consistency here: he wants to cite the Church’s teaching about the nature of God as something he accepts without question, but he then wishes to reject the Church’s teaching about the nature of marriage because he simply knows better. How so? On what basis does he accept the early chapters of Genesis, but then reject passages such as Romans 1, which clearly state that homosexuality is objectively sinful, or Matthew 19, where Jesus Christ clearly teaches that marriage is between a man and a woman?
3) All that said, the most obvious problem with Kaine’s remark is that Genesis 1:31—”And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good”—in no way supports the ridiculous assertion that a man can marry a man, or a woman can marry a woman. There’s not even an argument being made; rather, Kaine is simply preaching the “gospel” of another faith—and it isn’t the Catholic Faith.
4) But, lest I appear too dismissive, consider two other passages from Genesis. The first is Genesis 2:24: “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.” God, of course, created Adam and Eve—not Adam and Steve, nor Jane and Jill. Scripture assumes throughout (in many ways, which I won’t get into here) that marriage is between man and a woman, simply because it makes sense; even more, it understands marriage to be a reflection, or even icon, of the relationship between Christ and his Church (not “my church”):
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. (Eph 5:25-33)
5) The second passage is Genesis 3:6: “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, and he ate.” Kaine apparently thinks that because God saw that creation as good, this means that homosexuality is good. But what Genesis 3 teaches is that things which are good must be treated and handled carefully, and according to their real nature. Sexuality is good—indeed, is a gift from God—but it belongs in its proper place, which is marriage between a man and a woman. Being attracted to another person can be good, but it must handled and manifested in the proper way. There are serious consequences to breaking the bounds that God has placed around good things
6) Finally, if we take up the “logic” used by Kaine, we can go to some very disturbing places. For instance, what would keep someone from using this same logic to insist that a brother and sister be allowed to be married? Or a mother and son? Surely those are examples of “diversity”, right?
One of the hallmarks of secular liberalism is presenting perversity as diversity and discord as unity. But rather than dismiss religion, many secularists try to use the lingo of “celebration” and “tolerance” as a means to reinterpreting the meaning of Scripture and the Faith. Thus, Kaine insists, “I think we’re supposed to celebrate it, not challenge it.”
In this way, he fulfills the description uttered decades ago by Fulton Sheen of many moderns: “We fit a creed to the way we live, rather than the way we live to a creed; we suit religion to our actions, rather than actions to religion. We try to keep religion on a speculative basis in order to avoid moral reproaches on our conduct. We sit at the piano of life and insist that every note we strike is right – because we struck it.” Senator Kaine would do well to set aside “my church” and ponder instead the teachings of Christ’s Church.