The Year of Mercy (6): St Paul revisited

Ronald D. Witherup PSS

The author takes a closer look at the attitudes of St Paul towards women and homosexuality. Ronald D. Witherup PSS is Superior General of the Society of the Priests of Saint Sulpice.

A few months ago, as part of a series on the Year of Mercy, I proposed a brief analysis of the letters of Paul for a somewhat surprising view of mercy. At that time, I noted that one area, dealing with delicate passages concerning women or homosexuality, opened a ‘can of worms’ too complex to handle in any detail1. Subsequently, I was urged to expand on this topic, which is the purpose of the present article.

Misperceiving Paul
The impetus for my concern is a lingering attitude in the popular mind that Paul had almost irredeemably negative attitudes towards women and homosexual persons. Others imply he was obsessed with sex or perhaps was sexually repressed. From an objective biblical perspective, I view such judgments as anachronistic and lacking nuance. Moreover, I think there is an underlying crypto-fundamentalist attitude that wants to see every modern trend or tendency justified somehow in the Bible. It seems to be a way to rationalize our own modern preoccupations. While I can only break open the topic here, I hope that it might lead to further serious reflection on the part of readers of the Pastoral Review.

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