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Sexual ethics?

25 November 2008

Hat-tip to the Stroppy Rabbit for the link to this chart on religion and sexual ethics, and for providing a pagan view in addition to the original chart, which is said to have appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle in December 1994. It was compiled, according to them, “based on official reports and expert advice.”

It recorded the views of Baptists, Buddhists, Catholics, Methodists, Mormons, Muslims and Jews on various issues relating to sexual ethics. No Orthodox Christians.

I won’t attempt, like the Stroppy Rabbit, to add Orthodox views to the chart itself, but will confine myself to remarking on some anomalies in the chart itself.

The chart ranges from “Blessed”, through “Morally acceptable in most cases”, “Neutral”, “Morally unacceptable in most cases” to “Condemned”.

Some of the classifications are questionable. For instance, it lists teenage sex as “condemned” by Catholics. Now I’m not a fundi on Catholic canon law, so please correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that according to Catholic canon law boys may marry at 14 and girls at 12 (secular law may be different in many countries), and sex within marriage is blessed, for teenagers as well as anyone else. Only 13-year-old boys are excluded from this.

A more serious anomaly is what the chart includes and excludes.

It includes married clergy, female clergy and homosexual orientation. These are not really ethical or moral issues at all. They are rather doctrinal, disciplinary or ontological issues.

And while abortion is indeed an ethical issue, it’s a moot point whether it is a sexual one. The moral issue with abortion is the taking of human life. I don’t believe it is any more a sexual issue than infanticide or capital punishment.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Matt K permalink
    25 November 2008 6:22 am

    The link to the chart is broken.

  2. 25 November 2008 8:10 am


    Thanks, fixed now (I hope).

  3. 25 November 2008 9:00 pm

    It just goes to show that what Jesus prayed in John 17:21 – 23 will be the undoing of what most call the church and religion.
    When a chart like this one lines up completely, watch out!

  4. 26 November 2008 12:28 am

    An amendment to the Catholic list: masturbation is always unacceptable, not sometimes acceptable, as on the list, and homosexual orientation is ‘disordered,’ not neutral (while homosexual acts are always condemned, as stated). Regarding homosexual orientation, the list-maker perhaps confuses the charity always owed to anyone with any moral disorder who shows repentence for acts.

    It is interesting to me that all is blessed with Buddhism. In the scale of who is saved, the Roman Catholic Church teaches (although not at the level of infallibility) that one may be saved without the sacrament of baptism, through the imperfect baptism of desire (which does not confer the mark of baptism on the soul), if one believes in one God who rewards (that is, who hears us, sees us, cares about us). This is not a belief of buddhism, and it is interesting how consistently it plays out in the moral field. On the other hand, I would challenge the list-maker on his assertions about Islam–they better ‘believe’ in teenage sex, given the marriage choices of the prophet, and the list-maker’s call on Muslim beliefs about abortion do not match up with my experience doing pro-life work. If Islam doesn’t teach this, the Muslim women I know think it does.

    I am reading a very good book on baptism of desire, if anyone would like a reference.

  5. 29 November 2008 7:25 am

    As a Baptist I have to question some of what it says about Baptists.

    Firstly, the Baptist Union of Australia has a neutral position on female clergy. It leaves churches to decide the question for themselves. It does not consider it “Baptist essential” for Union membership. Thus, while infrequent, ordination of women does occur. A female friend of mine is in fact seeking ordination next year. I am not sure how Southern Baptists and other Baptists communities decide this in America but the bottom line is its not uniform.

    Secondly, my understanding is that contraception is blessed or at least morally acceptable in most cases. I have never heard it spoken against in a baptist church or raised as a moral concern.

  6. 29 November 2008 8:49 am


    It makes you wonder how many more inaccuracies there are, then. I wouldn’t regard female clergy as a question of sexual ethics at all, and most of the groups listed have widely differing ideas of what constitutes “clergy”, if they have them at all.

  7. Bill permalink
    19 December 2008 8:41 pm

    This chart is inaccurate enough to undermine its credibility. A lot of nonesense. Even the source (SF Chronicle) appears to be mistakenly attributed.

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