A letter I wrote to the Catholic Stuff You Should Know podcast people

Hey guys,

I’ve been listening to Catholic Stuff You Should Know for a couple weeks now, because I’m interested in different religions and the way people think. I usually try to be pretty objective about things, but the [Four Approaches to] Politics podcast made me mad.

I’m sure you get emails like this every day, but bear with me.

Help me understand how someone can believe in Separation of Church and State, and Religious Liberty, and still feel that their own religion should set the rules for an entire country not explicitly governed by that religion. It seems contradictory. I know that you believe there are universal truths, and so do I. Still, the idea that one religion’s rules can dictate an entire country is foreign to me. I’m Jewish, and in Judaism there is a pretty extensive set of rules. No Jew would expect a non-Jew to follow all these rules…even the seemingly innocuous “moral” ones! That doesn’t make the rules any less universal or true. After all, how could Jews expect someone to, say, keep the sabbath, if they don’t understand why or how? That doesn’t make keeping the sabbath any less important. It’s not the Jew’s job to impose either his ideas or religious rules on anyone else.

That being said, I know you believe in universal truths. So do I. But you’re Catholic, and I’m Jewish, and these don’t exactly look the same.

For instance, you mentioned abortion. For Catholics, abortion is never an option, am I correct? In Judaism, abortion is an option if the mother’s life is in danger. This is our law. I completely understand prohibiting abortion for Catholics, or even in Christian hospitals…but on the other hand, trying to prohibit abortion throughout the entire country would violate my religion.

You also mentioned same-sex marriage. (I would be interested to know the Catholic view on homosexuality, by the way.) Same-sex marriage is also antithetical to Jewish law. But I don’t find it contradictory to say that it’s prohibited for Jews under Jewish law, but to have secular marriages legal. A gay couple could be married civilly, and still not be recognized under Jewish law. Judaism has basically the same conception of marriage as does Catholicism, but we also know that it makes no sense to try to govern non-Jews under Jewish law! Why can’t it be the same in Catholicism? To use one example, the fact that divorce is legal in the US doesn’t make divorce any less “wrong” in Catholicism. (And outlawing divorce in the US would violate my religion, because divorce isn’t prohibited in Judaism!)

Isn’t it our job to help people see why we disagree with abortion or divorce, rather than imposing our will on them with hardly an explanation?

There’s a saying in Judaism: “Worry about your friend’s physical well-being, and your own spirituality.”

Thanks for your time,


Dec. 24, 2012: Response!

Hi Laura

Thanks for your email and my apologies on the delay.  I appreciate that you listen to the podcast and are from a Jewish perspective.
Let’s set “faith” aside for a second.  There are a set of philosophical principles that unlay any just society, that help human beings flourish according to the common good.  These principles can be known by the light of human reason.  My arguments for the podcast are that to hold that a respect for life, freedom for religious liberty, and the preservation of marriage as it actually is (one man, one woman) need not have anything to do with faith.  To lose these principles would be destructive to society.
Maybe another example would be helpful.  Let’s say politicians want to legalize rape – that men can rape women whenever they want.  But because rape is against my faith, I can’t impose my belief on the society I live in and say that is wrong?  According to your logic, I cannot speak up against this without “imposing my faith on others.”
Just because God reinforces by Revelation the truths we can know by nature to form a just society (cf. Aristotle, Politics), does not justify the absolute lose of credibility and objective content to my natural moral claims as a man of faith.
Thanks again for listening.

9 thoughts on “A letter I wrote to the Catholic Stuff You Should Know podcast people

  1. Yeah, I’m sure they got many questions after that podcast. I’d love to see a follow up once you hear back?

    Also, you said you were interested to know the Catholic view on homosexuality. I copied a few sections from the Catechism of the Catholic Church below (the Catechism is basically the encyclopedia on the Catholic faith). I’m not sure if this is what you meant but just in case! Looking forward to hearing the podcasters’ response as well!

    2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

    2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

    2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.


  2. sorry for the comment bombing, but I’ve realized I know little to nothing about the Jewish view on homosexuality. Can you give a short overview (I know it’s probably pretty complicated). Thanks!

  3. I’d love to see a follow up once you hear back?

    Sure thing. They probably get a lot of emails, though.

    Actually, what you showed me sounds a lot like the Orthodox position, too. Basically, the main prooftext is Lev. 18:22, but it only applies to men. I’m not sure if there’s an official source for women, but the details can be found here. The main prooftext is Talmudic. In any case, the practical “solution” for both is celibacy.


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