A Reading From the First Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians

The body is not meant for fornication; it is for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. God who raised the Lord from the dead, will by his power raise us up too. You know, surely, that your bodies are members making up the body of Christ; anyone who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with him. 

Keep away from fornication. All other sins are committed outside the body; but to fornicate is to sin against your own body. Your body, you know, is the temply of the Holy Spirit who is in you since you received him from God. You are not your own property; you have been bought and paid for. That’s why you should use your body for the glory of God. (1 Cor 6:13-15. 17-20)

This was the second reading for yesterday’s mass. I didn’t attend said mass, but my father reads in the Church and his number had come up. He was looking over the two readings before leaving and told me that he was going to suggest that they only read the first. Obviously, I can see where he’s coming from, I wouldn’t choose to stand up in front of my local community and tell them they’d been sold into slavery either. Thankfully for my Dad, the parish priest agreed with him; “we’re just doing one reading, we’re not going to do that stuff.”

Now, obviously I agree with them both. This spiteful message from St. Paul is abhorrent, it’s the perfect illustration of religion hating people. By seizing control of sexuality, an innate and enriching part of human experience, by twisting it and contorting it into sin, the Catholic Church has warped our relationships with ourselves and with others for centuries.

However, not reading it in mass doesn’t make it go away. The Church is an absolute monarchy under the Pope. There is no room to pick and mix. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (John 1.1). If you choose to reject the Word, you express a disbelief in God. The Pope is infallible, the Word is infallible.

If you don’t buy a Sunday reading, if you choose to ignore it because it doesn’t fit with your beliefs then you are not a Catholic, however many times you call yourself one.

I think that this cognitive dissonance that exists within the grassroots of the Church is a serious problem. People choose ‘a la carte’ Catholicism and, in the West, the Church facilitates it. In twenty years of mass attendance, I scarcely if ever heard sermons on abortion, on homosexuality, on contraception, on pre-marital sex, on impure thoughts. Why? Because they know they can’t get away with it any more. All people want to hear about is love, peace and charity. And on the ground, if not in Rome, the Church has capitulated. Because it keeps bums on seats and that’s what gives Catholicism its power.

Those of us with attachments to the Church have a duty to recognise that it is still a spiteful institution, built around exclusion, guilt and repression of basic human instinct. When we buy into any of it we buy into all of it. By our presence we give the Church its power.

It still uses that power to exert a stranglehold in the areas where it still can. In the parts of Africa where it wilfully facilitates the spread of HIV AIDS, in the conservative communities where it still encourages hatred for gay people, for single mothers, for victims of suicide, inside the high walls of Vatican City, where the Pope can rail on about how “policies which undermine the family threaten human dignity and the future of humanity itself.”

If you read through this blog you’ll recognise that I feel an attachment to and a belief in elements of the message of Christ and I hope that one day that message will be able to exert its influence in a purer, healthier form.

However, as long as that message is polluted by corrupt religious organisations, it’s not enough to just leave out the bits we don’t like. We have to cut off their air supply, by completely cutting off our support.

If thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee (Matthew 5:30)

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One thought on “A Reading From the First Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians

  1. You have changed your views a lot on this over the past couple of years, I still remember laughing when you emailed me saying you wanted to speak against the catholic church in the Hist’s debate and then felt the need to reiterate it in brakes lest I think you’d made a mistake (which had done until I saw the brackets). This is very good and I mainly agree with you. I wouldn’t go as far as to call myself a Christian, but I have not and probably will never rule out the possibility of a god or some sort of deity existing and many of the churches messages are good. Lots of that fluffy peace and charity stuff existed long before the church felt the need to be popular; the Jesuit priest in my school was a really stellar guy as is Trinity chaplain and people like Dermot Martin who give me hope in the church’s future. But there are many parts that like you I can’t stand, a clip on the news of a Dublin bishop attacking civil partnerships was what turned me fully against the church, but their attitudes in Africa, the fact that when John Paul II’s two musicals are found they will almost certainly have taken place in the enveloping world just seems fake and annoying and a tacit recognition that even
    they know what they’re selling is not true and all of the numerous times the church puts its members second and the church first, most notably with child abuse scandals, like you I could never be a signed up member of the church as it is, though unlike you I never have been, I was even born to two atheists out of wedlock, though weirdly my dad is a former Christian Brother. About a year ago I read about a growing number of people who see themselves as catholic and pray and will do spiritual retreats and climb Croke Patrick but who don’t go to mass or want anything to do with the church (they probably should more accurately fall under the heading Christian or possibly protestant) but its intereating cause I think you can chose not to be an actual catholic but take the good that comes with it as there are many positive messages there. What are your views of the few protestant church, who don’t take the same anti gay or anti women stances as the Catholic Church but still hold many of the same values. People leave the Church of England for Catholicism in droves every time they try to modernise (lots left in 1994 when they allowed women to become vicars and the Catholic church actually started a campaign to win disaffected members over in 2008 when the CoE was debating allowing openly homosexual vicars have relationships)
    and yet liberal Catholics don’t go the other way when the catholic church is makes repeated attempts to hold our society in the past and marginalise those many who it sees as immoral.

    Interestingly I am in teaching a Catholic school here, in a predominantly catholic area (or possibly was by the time I send this as am moving school hopefully this weekend) and in order to explain what Mecca was to a class (it came up in a history lesson) I asked if they knew what the Vatican was, 80 pupils in a Catholic school and not one of them had heard of it, I was shocked.

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