The Orthodox Respond

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Thanks to Canonist for calling attention to the Orthodox institutions that responded to last week’s decision by (some in) the Conservative movement to accept a more permissive approach to homosexuality.

The Rabbinical Council of America issued a press release on the issue:

The Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) has, with great sadness, taken note of this week’s decision of the Rabbinical Assembly to allow for the ordination of gays and lesbians, as well as permission to officiate at so-called same-sex “commitment ceremonies.”

The (online) release also reiterates the RCA’s statement of principles on same-sex marriage originally written in 2004. The statement has some interesting phrasing in it:

The only legitimate form of sexual behavior is that which takes place between adult men and women, within the sacred institution of marriage, as traditionally defined and permitted.

The use of the word “legitimate” seems noteworthy to me. I would have expected it to say: “The only permissible form of sexual behavior….”

The oddness of the word is perhaps most obvious when you use it in a comparable sentence and add the negative, as in: “That’s not legitimate sexual behavior.” What would that mean?

Perhaps I’m reading too closely here, but I’d say the use of the word “legitimate” accomplishes two thing. (1) It references the notion of an illegitimate child; (2) And this is more important: It has certain connotations of authenticity.

Another interesting point in the RCA statement:

The institution of marriage, and family life, as defined and practiced for thousands of years as between a man and a women, a father and a mother, respectively, is far too important and essential to the bedrock of society and civilization as we know it, to be thus undermined by those who presume to redefine its essence.

The inclusion of “family life” and “a father and a mother” here is fascinating, as it seems to say that procreation and (heterosexual) parenthood is an essential part of the definition of marriage.

It should be noted that the statement also includes a sincerely welcoming attitude toward gay individuals:

At the same time we reaffirm that those who, in spite of their acceptance of these principles, have difficulty in living up to these standards, should be treated with compassion, sensitivity, and understanding, in our synagogues, in the Jewish community, and in society at large.

Posted on December 14, 2006

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