Roman Catholic attitudes toward gay people have made headlines this week after the Vatican issued a decree on Monday stating priests could not bless same-sex unions. The statement, made with the approval of Pope Francis, said the church “does not and cannot bless sin.”
A former Orthodox priest turned civil rights activist disagrees. He has seen one of his social media postings go viral, in which he says there is no condemnation of homosexuality in the Bible and says it’s all down to mistranslations.
Nathan Monk lives in Tennessee with his wife and three children. He is the author of the memoir Chasing The Mouse: A Memoir About Childhood Homelessness, Charity Means Love, and a novel, The Miracle.
In his Facebook posting Monk said, “Because of the recent ruling of the Vatican, many have asked me what the Bible really says about same-sex relationships. Others have questioned if it is even possible for the Church to evolve on the issue of marriage equality.
“I believe that it can. More importantly, I believe the Church has devolved on the issue and has allowed malicious translations of scripture to marginalize the LGBTQ+ communities around the world. The Church must repent of this grave error that has spanned centuries and, instead, become fully and utterly inclusive as God intended.
“The Bible does not condemn same-sex relationships. The word homosexual wasn’t added to the Bible until the 1940s. You read that right, the word didn’t appear until the 20th century. The issue officially became foggy when the scriptures were being translated from the Greek, Hebrew, and Latin into German, French, and English. But the real issue boils down to the Apostle Paul.
“Paul literally invented a word, arsenokoitai, which is a compound word derived from two Greek words meaning male (arsén) and bed (koité.) The word was an anomaly for Biblical translators and it took different forms from translation to translation. Eventually, scholars began to believe that Paul was harkening back to Leviticus 20:13 which parallels Leviticus 18:22. A simple reading of the text would imply that same-sex relationships are against the customs of God, but like most things in life, context matters.
“In Leviticus chapter 18 the verses begin with God commanding the people not to, ‘do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you.’ and in chapter 20, the preamble warns not to practice the religious customs of Molek.
“It was widely believed that Molek required child sacrifices and temple sex, specifically with temple prostitutes that were enslaved. The holiness code in Leviticus 18 and 20 is condemning of the Molek temple practices. It was not a wholesale condemnation of same-sex relationships.
“The reason that Paul was attempting to recall the verses from Leviticus the two times he used the word arsenokoitai, found in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and 1 Timothy 1:9-10, is because in his first letter to the Corinthians he was drawing parallels as the body as a Temple and in 1 Timothy he was discussing being lured away by false teachings. These verses were meant to mirror the dangers of falling into a type of false temple worship, similar to the warnings about Molek in the Old Testament.
“The other verses that are misused to condemn the LGBTQ+ community is the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. This verse has nothing to do with consensual same-sex relationships.
“The reason for the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was clearly defined in Ezekiel 26:49, ‘Behold, this was the guilt of Sodom: pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.’ The reason that Lot was spared is because he kept the custom of hospitality and invited the angels into his home and protected them from the assault of the mob. But the sin of Sodom was not consensual same-sex relationships, but their violence, greed, and inhospitable nature.
“The Bible does not, and has not, condemned same-sex relationships. What has happened is that the scriptures have been weaponized over time against the LGBTQ+ community. It is time for the Church to acknowledge these grave translational errors and step into the light of love and truth.”
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His posting has been shared over a thousand times and prompted hundreds of comments.
“Thank you for posting this very concise explanation. It out a heartbreaking what the church has done to LGBTQ people,” said one commentator.
The Vatican’s statement on Monday has upset many LGBTQ Catholics and divided many in the church. It has been criticized by some hoping the church might adopt a more welcoming approach, including Belgian Bishop Johan Bonny. He wrote an opinion piece on Wednesday saying he felt “shame for my Church” and “intellectual and moral incomprehension” at the Vatican’s statement.
Priests of the progressive, Europe-based Pfarrer-Initiative (Priests’ Initiative) released a statement on Wednesday expressing similar disappointment, saying they were “deeply appalled” and vowing they would “not reject any loving couple in the future who wants to celebrate God’s blessing.”
Meanwhile, in the Pope’s homeland of Argentina, a former priest turned LGBTQ campaigner announced he was leaving the Roman Catholic church because of the statement. Andrés Gioeni wrote in a letter to the church, “I do not want to continue being an accomplice to this institution, because I realize the harm they are doing to people.”
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