May 10, 2012

It is a widely accepted norm of moral theology that the Church should not expect the civil law of a secular state to approximate in every particular the content of the moral law, stricto sensu. Prudential judgment about what the Church should advocate is needed in every particular case of divergence between the two. Relevant to such judgment is consideration of the degree to which what the Church teaches on the matter is likely to prove comprehensible to the locals. In the America of our day, it is about as difficult (or as easy) to make what the Church teaches about marriage comprehensible and convincing (the latter more difficult than the former) to the educated locals as it is to make the doctrines of the Immaculate Conception or the Real Presence so.

If that empirical claim is right… , then the conclusion strongly suggested by it is that the Church should not, at the moment, oppose legal recognition of same-sex unions. Those who have undergone a profoundly pagan catechesis on these questions will believe and behave as pagans do; it would be good for them and for the Church if the Church were not to attempt to constrain them by advocating positions in public policy based upon the view that what she teaches resonates in all human hearts—because it doesn’t, true though it is.

What the pagans need on this matter is conversion, not argument; and what the Church ought do to encourage that is to burnish the practice of marriage by Catholics until its radiance dazzles the pagan eye.

Paul Griffiths (from his old blog). I recalled this post after hearing the remarks on same-sex marriage that President Obama made yesterday. Griffiths’ stance is the sort of position that will satisfy almost no one, on the left or the right. Nonetheless, I think it’s worthy of careful consideration, if for no other reason than that it highlights the role traditional Christians’ own practice contributes, in large measure, to the implausibility of traditional Christian sexual ethics in the public square.
My name is Wesley Hill. I am an assistant professor of New Testament at Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, Pennsylvania.

This is my commonplace book and sometime-journal.

I blog at

My book is here: Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality.

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