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allison - `But the Bible says A Catholic reading of Romans...

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Romans 1:26 1 But the Bible says . .. ’? A Catholic reading of Romans 1 by James Alison A talk prepared for Mount Saint Agnes Theological Center for Women, Baltimore, and given there on 12 January 2004. This evening’s talk has a very odd title. One of the reasons it is odd is that few Catholics are likely to interrupt a theological discussion with the phrase: ‘But the Bible says . .. ‘ And this is not so much the result of the famed stereotype concerning Catholic ignorance of the Scriptures but because in a Catholic discussion, it is unlikely that an appeal to authority would take the form of an appeal to the Bible. It is more probable that an appeal to authority would take the form ‘But the Holy Father says . .. ‘ or ‘But it’s in the Catechism’. So why bother people by attempting a Catholic reading of Romans 1? What has pushed me in the direction of offering this reading is really two things: in the first place, I was brought up Evangelical Protestant, and this text, Romans 1, was really a text of terror for me, a text in some way associated with a deep emotional and spiritual annihilation, something inflicting paralysis. So, finding myself ever freer of that terror, it seems proper to try and offer a road map to others who, whatever their ecclesial belonging, may suffer from the same binding of conscience that a certain received reading of this text has seemed to impose. But there is a second reason, no less important to my mind: owing to arguments surrounding Episcopal appointments in the Anglican Church on both sides of the Atlantic, a huge amount of press has been generated in which it has been repeated ad nauseam that ‘The Bible is quite clear . .. ‘ about this or that. Furthermore we are told time and again that those who think either that gay people should be allowed to marry, or that being gay should be no bar to Episcopal consecration, are in some way repudiating an obvious written sacred injunction. The impression that ‘the Bible is quite clear’ has passed largely unchallenged in the media, which has found it easiest to present the argument as being between conservative people who take the Bible seriously (and are thus against gay people) and liberal people who don’t (and thus aren’t against gay people). Well, what is being treated to public travesty here is the Bible. Indeed it seems to me that if anything, the truth is closer to being exactly the other way round: you need a very modern liberal reading of the Bible in order to make it a weapon against gay people, and those who refuse to do this are, by and large, much more traditional in their Biblical reading habits. But this sounds so counterintuitive in our world that I’d like to take time to show that there is at least one perfectly respectable Catholic way to read this text which enables us to see it in quite a different light. Before actually reading the text I’d like to make two points as a build-up. If any of us is faced
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allison - `But the Bible says A Catholic reading of Romans...

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