Catholic Church and homosexuality

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The Catholic Church considers sexual activity between members of the same sex to be a sin. This teaching has developed through a number of ecumenical councils and the influence of theologians, including the Church Fathers. The Catholic Church opposes the acceptance of homosexuality within Christian society.

Contents

The church provides pastoral care for LGBT Catholics through a variety of official and unofficial channels that vary from diocese to diocese, and senior clergy and popes have recently begun to call for the church to do more. In many parts of the world, the Church is active politically on issues of LGBT rights, primarily to oppose them. The relationship between the Catholic church and the LGBT community has been a difficult one, especially during the height of the AIDS crisis. [1]

There have been notable Catholics who were gay or bisexual, including priests and bishops. Catholic dissenters from the church's teaching say that love between people of the same sex is as spiritually valuable as love between people of the opposite sex and that LGBT Catholics are as much members of the body of Christ as heterosexuals are. Catholic organizations that support the church's teaching may campaign against gay rights, or argue that gay people should be celibate or try to become heterosexual.

Church teaching

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, "homosexual acts" are "acts of grave depravity" that are "intrinsically disordered." It continues, "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. [2] [3] Regarding homosexuality as an orientation, the Catechism describes it as "objectively disordered." [4]

The Catholic Church teaches that, as a person does not choose to be either homosexual or heterosexual, being gay is not inherently sinful. [5] [6] According to the Catholic theology of sexuality, all sexual acts must be open to procreation and express the symbolism of male-female complementarity. [7] [8] Sexual acts between two members of the same gender cannot meet these standards. [9] Homosexuality thus constitutes a tendency towards this sin. [9] [7] [10] The church teaches that gay people are called to practice chastity. [11]

The church also teaches that gay people "must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity", and that "every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided." [12] [lower-alpha 1] whilst holding that discrimination in marriage, [14] [15] employment, housing, and adoption in some circumstances can be just and "obligatory." [16]

The church points to several passages in the Bible as the basis for its teachings, including Genesis 19:1-11, Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, I Corinthians 6:9, Romans 1:18-32, and I Timothy 1:10. [17] In December 2019, the Pontifical Biblical Commission published a book that included an exegesis on these and other passages. [18]

Same-sex marriage

The church opposes same-sex marriage and is active in political campaigns against it. It also opposes same-sex civil unions and does not bless them, [19] although some priests and bishops have offered blessings for same-sex couples or spoken in favor of priests being able to bless them. [20] [21] [22] [23] [24] [25] [26] [27] [28]

History

The Christian tradition has generally prohibited all sexual activities outside of sexual intercourse. [29] This includes activities engaged in by couples or individuals of either the same or different sexes. [29] The Catholic Church's position specifically on homosexuality developed from the teachings of the Church Fathers, which was in stark contrast to Greek and Roman attitudes towards same-sex relations, including pederasty. [30] [31] [32]

Canon law regarding same-sex sexual activity has been shaped through the decrees issued by a series of ecclesiastical councils. [33] Initially, canons against sodomy were aimed at ensuring clerical or monastic discipline, and were only widened in the medieval period to include laymen. [34] In the Summa Theologica , Saint Thomas Aquinas stated that "the unnatural vice" is the greatest of the sins of lust. [35] Throughout the Middle Ages, the church repeatedly condemned homosexuality, and often collaborated with civic authorities to punish gay people. Punishment of sexual "vice" as well as religious heresy was seen as strengthening the church's moral authority. [36]

The modern church

In the late 20th century, the Church has responded to gay rights movements by reiterating its condemnation of homosexuality while acknowledging the existence of gay people. In January 1976, the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith under Pope Paul VI published Persona Humana , which codified the teaching against all extra-marital sex, including gay sex. [37] The document stated that acceptance of homosexual activity runs counter to the church's teaching and morality. It drew a distinction between people who were homosexual because of "a false education," "a bad example" or other causes it described as "not incurable," and a "pathological" condition which was "incurable." [38] [39] However, it criticized those who argued that innate homosexuality justified same-sex sexual activity within loving relationships, and stated that the Bible condemned homosexual activity as depraved, "intrinsically disordered," never to be approved, and a consequence of rejecting God. [38]

Earlier, the controversially liberal 1966 Dutch Catechism, which was the first post-Vatican II Catholic catechism and which had been commissioned by the Dutch bishops, had stated that "The very sharp strictures of Scripture on homosexual practices (Gen. 1; Rom. 1) must be read in their context" as condemning a trend for homosexuality among non-gay people, implying that people who were gay were not condemned for homosexual activity. [40]

In October 1986, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith released a letter addressed to all the bishops of the Catholic Church entitled On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons . [41] This was signed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as prefect. The letter gave instructions on how the clergy should deal with, and respond to, lesbian, gay, and bisexual people. [39] Designed to remove any ambiguity about permissible tolerance of homosexual orientation resulting from the earlier Persona Humanaand prompted by the growing influence of gay-accepting groups and clergythe letter was particularly aimed at the church in the United States. [39] [42] [43] It affirmed the position that while homosexual orientation is not in itself a sin, it is nevertheless a tendency towards the "moral evil" of homosexual activity, and therefore must be considered "an objective disorder", [44] [9] :221 which moreover is "essentially self-indulgent" since homosexual sexual acts are not procreative and therefore not genuinely loving or selfless. [39] [44] :222

The letter also said that accepting homosexual acts as morally equivalent to married heterosexual acts was harmful to the family and society and warned bishops to be on guard against, and not to support, Catholic organizations not upholding the Church's doctrine on homosexualitygroups which the letter said were not really Catholic. [42] :201 [44] :223 [45] This alluded to LGBT and LGBT-accepting Catholic groups such as DignityUSA and New Ways Ministry, [42] :201 and ultimately resulted in the exclusion of Dignity from Church property. [46] [47] [48] [49] The letter condemned physical and verbal violence against gay people [39] but reiterated that this did not change its opposition to homosexuality or gay rights. [44] :222 [45] Its claims that accepting and legalizing homosexual behaviour leads to violence ("neither the Church nor society at large should be surprised" when anti-gay hate crimes increase in the wake of gay civil rights legislation) were seen as controversially blaming gay people for homophobic violence and encouraging homophobic violence. [39] [50] Referring to the AIDS epidemic, [51] [52] the letter, McNeill writes, blamed AIDS on gay rights activists and gay-accepting mental health professionals: [50] "Even when the practice of homosexuality may seriously threaten the lives and well-being of a large number of people, its advocates remain undeterred and refuse to consider the magnitude of the risks involved". [45]

In a statement released in July 1992, "Some Considerations Concerning the Catholic Response to Legislative Proposals on the Non-Discrimination of Homosexual Persons," the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith reiterated its position from "On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons," and further stated that discrimination against gay people in certain areas, such as selecting adoptive or foster parents or in hiring teachers, coaches, or military service members, is not unjust, and thus can be permitted in some circumstances. [16]

The church has also been politically active to oppose gay rights movements in the civil sphere.

Pastoral care for gay Catholics

Beginning in the 1970s, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops taught that gays "should have an active role in the Christian community" and have called on "all Christians and citizens of good will to confront their own fears about homosexuality and to curb the humor and discrimination that offend homosexual persons. We understand that having a homosexual orientation brings with it enough anxiety, pain and issues related to self-acceptance without society bringing additional prejudicial treatment." [53] In 1997, they published a letter entitled Always Our Children, as a pastoral message to parents of gay and bisexual children with guidelines for pastoral ministers. Reiterating the church's opposition to homosexuality, it told parents not to break off contact with a gay or bisexual son or daughter; they should instead look for appropriate counseling both for the child and for themselves. [54] [55] :131 Gay Catholics, the bishops said, should be allowed to participate actively in the Christian community and, if living chastely, hold leadership positions. [54] [55] :131 It also noted "an importance and urgency" to minister to those with AIDS, especially considering the impact it had on the gay community. [54] [56] [57]

Bishops around the world have held diocesan events with the goal of reaching out to gay Catholics and ministering to them, and more have spoken publicly about the need to love and welcome them into the church. Pope John Paul II asked "the bishops to support, with the means at their disposal, the development of appropriate forms of pastoral care for homosexual persons.” [58] Several assemblies of the Synod of Bishops have struck similar themes, while maintaining that same-sex sexual activity is sinful and that same-sex marriage cannot be permitted. [59] In 2018, in a move regarded as a sign of respect to the community, [59] the Vatican used the acronym LGBT for the first time in an official document. [60] Pope Francis has also spoken out about the need for pastoral care for gay Catholics, adding that God made LGBT people that way. [61] [62] [63]

The 2014 Synod on the Family and Synod on the Family in 2015 concerned themselves in part with "accepting and valuing their [gay Catholics'] sexual orientation" and place in Catholic communities, "without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony." [64] The reports of the synods were noted for their unusually mild language towards gay people, [65] [66] [67] [68] [69] such as the lack of use of phrases such as "intrinsically disordered." [70] They also reiterated the church's opposition to same-sex marriage and suggested outreach towards gay people. [71]

Beginning in the 1960s, a number of organizations have formed to minister to LGBT people. Organizations such as DignityUSA and New Ways Ministry, which advocate for the rights of LGBT Catholics, and Courage International, which encourages gay and lesbian Catholics to be chaste, were established in the United States in response to the push within the United States for greater recognition within the church for gay men and lesbian women. Courage also has a ministry geared towards the relatives and friends of gay people called Encourage. [72]

Dissent from church teaching

There have been practical and ministerial disagreements within the clergy, hierarchy, and laity of the Catholic Church concerning the church's position on homosexuality. Some Catholics and Catholic groups have sought to adopt an approach they consider to be more inclusive. [73] [74] [75] [76] Dissenters argue that the prohibition on extramarital sex emphasizes the physical dimension of the act at the expense of higher moral, personal and spiritual goals [77] and that the practice of total, lifelong sexual denial risks personal isolation. [78] Other arguments include that the teaching violates "the truth of God’s unconditional love for all people", and drives "young people away from the Church". [79] Opponents argue that it is preferable to believe that this element of church teaching is mistaken. [50] The opinion of lay Catholics tends to be more supportive of gay marriage than the hierarchy. [80]

Upwards of 70 people have been fired from jobs at Catholic schools or universities because of their marriages to partners of the same sex [59] [81] [82] [83] [84] or, in one case, support for LGBT rights campaigns. [85] [81] When one Jesuit high school refused to fire a teacher after he publicly entered into a gay marriage, the local bishop designated the school as no longer Catholic; the school has appealed his decision. [86]

In response to church policy in the area of safe-sex education, AIDS, and gay rights, some gay rights activists have protested both inside and outside of Catholic churches, sometimes disrupting Masses. This includes at the National Shrine in Washington, [87] [88] at an ordination of priests at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston, [89] [90] [91] and during Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York [88] [87] [89] where they desecrated the Eucharist. [92] [93] Others have splattered paint on churches [94] and drenched an archbishop with water. [95] In 1998, Alfredo Ormando died after setting himself on fire outside Saint Peter's Basilica to protest the church's position on homosexuality. [96]

Catholic organizations

The Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organisation, has contributed over $14 million, one of the largest amounts in the United States, to political campaigns against same-sex marriage. [97] The Catholic Medical Association of North America has stated that science "counters the myth that same-sex attraction is genetically predetermined and unchangeable, and offers hope for prevention and treatment." [98] The Church, however, teaches that sexual orientation is not a choice. [5] [6] Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, has been criticized for describing the church child sex abuse crisis as a "homosexual" problem rather than a "pedophilia" problem. [99] Donohue based his claim on the fact that most of the incidents involved sexual contact between men and boys rather than between men and girls.

Gay clergy

Homosexual clergy, and homosexual activity by clergy, are not exclusively modern phenomena, but rather date back centuries. [100] Donald Cozzens estimated the percentage of gay priests in 2000 to be 23–58%, suggesting more homosexual men (active and non-active) within the Catholic priesthood than within society at large. [101] Instructions from Vatican bodies on admitting gay men to the priesthood have varied over time. In the 1960s chaste gay men were allowed but in 2005 a new directive banned gay men "while profoundly respecting the persons in question." [102] [103]

Although homosexuality was at variance with Catholic teaching during the Middle Ages, official penalties for homosexual behavior within the clergy, both by the church and temporal authorities, were rarely codified or enforced. [104] Historian John Boswell noted that several bishops in the Middle Ages were thought by their contemporaries to have had gay relationships, and noted a potentially romantic or sexual tone to the correspondence of others with "passionate" male friends. [105] Some other historians disagree, and say that this correspondence represents friendship. [106] Although homosexual acts have been consistently condemned by the Catholic Church, some senior members of the clergy have been found or alleged to have had homosexual relationships, including Rembert Weakland, Juan Carlos Maccarone, Francisco Domingo Barbosa Da Silveira, and Keith O'Brien. [107] [108] [109] [110] Some Popes are documented to have been homosexual or to have had male sexual partners, including Pope Benedict IX, Pope Paul II, Pope Sixtus IV, Pope Leo X, Pope Julius II and Pope Julius III. [111] [112]

Political activity

The church has historically been politically active in local, national, and international fora on issues of LGBT rights, typically to oppose them in keeping with Catholic moral theology and Catholic Social Teaching.

In various countries, members of the Catholic Church have intervened on occasions both to support efforts to decriminalize homosexuality, and also to ensure it remains an offence under criminal law. The Catholic Church has been described as sending "mixed signals" regarding discrimination based on sexual orientation: [78] a 1992 teaching said that because sexuality "evokes moral concern," sexual orientation is different from qualities such as race, ethnicity, sex, or age, which do not. [16] [78] It added that efforts to "protect the common good" by limiting rights were permissible and sometimes obligatory, and did not constitute discrimination. The church therefore opposes the extension of at least some aspects of civil rights legislation, such as nondiscrimination in public housing, [113] educational or athletic employment, [113] adoption, [113] [114] or military recruitment, [113] [115] to gay men and lesbians. [29] [116] [16] [117] The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops published a statement that was characterized by two theologians as claiming that "nondiscrimination legislation protecting LGBT people promotes immoral sexual behavior, endangers our children, and threatens religious liberty." [117] It also campaigns against same-sex marriage.

Notable lesbian, gay, and bisexual Catholics

There have been notable gay Catholics throughout history. Writers such as Oscar Wilde, [118] Gerard Manley Hopkins, [118] Lord Alfred Douglas, Marc-André Raffalovich, Robert Hugh Benson, and Frederick Rolfe, [118] [119] and artists such as Robert Mapplethorpe, [120] were influenced by both their Catholicism and their homosexuality. Gay Catholic academics such as John J. McNeill [121] and John Boswell have produced work on the history and theological issues at the intersection of Christianity and homosexuality. Some notable LGBT Catholics are or were priests or nuns, such as McNeill, Virginia Apuzzo, and Jean O'Leary, who was a Roman Catholic religious sister before becoming a lesbian and gay rights activist.

See also

Notes

Related Research Articles

Christianity and homosexuality The various Christian views on homosexuality

Within Christianity, there are a variety of views on sexual orientation and homosexuality. Even within a denomination, individuals and groups may hold different views, and not all members of a denomination necessarily support their church's views on homosexuality.

Homosexuality and the Anglican Communion

Since the 1990s, the Anglican Communion has struggled with controversy regarding homosexuality in the church. In 1998, the 13th Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops passed a resolution "rejecting homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture". However, this is not legally binding. "Like all Lambeth Conference resolutions, it is not legally binding on all provinces of the Communion, including the Church of England, though it commends an essential and persuasive view of the attitude of the Communion." "Anglican national churches in Brazil, South Africa, South India, New Zealand and Canada have taken steps toward approving and celebrating same-sex relationships amid strong resistance among other national churches within the 80 million-member global body. The Episcopal Church in the U.S. has allowed gay marriage since 2015." "Church of England clergy have appeared to signal support for gay marriage after they rejected a bishops' report which said that only a man and woman could marry in church." The Church of England's General Synod is set to discuss a diocesan motion "to create a set of formal services and prayers to bless those who have had a same-sex marriage or civil partnership". At General Synod in 2019, the Church of England announced that same-gender couples may remain married and recognised as married after one spouse experiences a gender transition provided that the spouses identified as opposite genders at the time of the marriage.

Homosexual clergy in the Catholic Church Homosexuality in the Roman Catholic priesthood

The canon law of the Catholic Church requires that clerics "observe perfect and perpetual continence for the sake of the kingdom of heaven". For this reason, priests in Roman Catholic dioceses make vows of celibacy at their ordination, thereby agreeing to remain unmarried and abstinent throughout their lives. The 1961 document entitled Careful Selection and Training of Candidates for the States of Perfection and Sacred Orders stated that homosexual men should not be ordained. However, this was left to bishops to enforce and most did not, holding homosexuals to the same standards of celibate chastity as heterosexual seminarians. In 2005, the Church clarified that men with "deeply rooted homosexual tendencies" cannot be ordained. The Vatican followed up in 2008 with a directive to implement psychological screening for candidates for the priesthood. Conditions listed for exclusion from the priesthood include "uncertain sexual identity" and "deep-seated homosexual tendencies".

John J. McNeill

John J. McNeill was an American Roman Catholic priest, psychotherapist and academic theologian, with a particular reputation within the field of queer theology.

Instruction Concerning the Criteria for the Discernment of Vocations with Regard to Persons with Homosexual Tendencies in View of Their Admission to the Seminary and to Holy Orders is a document published in November 2005 by the Congregation for Catholic Education, one of the top-level offices of the Catholic Church.

Courage International

Courage International, also known as Courage Apostolate and Courage for short, is an approved apostolate of the Catholic Church that counsels "men and women with same-sex attractions in living chaste lives in fellowship, truth and love". Based on a treatment model for drug and alcohol addictions used in programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Courage runs a 12-step program aimed at helping gay people remain abstinent from sex.

New Ways Ministry is a ministry of advocacy and justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Catholics. The national organization is primarily based in the state of Maryland. It was one of the earliest groups attempting to broaden the way Catholics have traditionally dealt with LGBT issues, and was established by Sister Jeannine Gramick and Father Robert Nugent.

Jeannine Gramick is an American Roman Catholic sister and advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights as a co-founder of New Ways Ministry.

Gay bishops

This article largely discusses presence of openly gay, lesbian or bisexual bishops in churches governed under episcopal polities. The existence of homosexual bishops in the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran and other traditions is a matter of historical record, though never, until recently, considered licit by any of the main Christian denominations. Homosexual activity was engaged in secretly. When it was made public, official response ranged from suspension of sacramental duties to laicization.

Homosexuality and Methodism

Methodist viewpoints concerning homosexuality are diverse because there is no one denomination which represents all Methodists. The World Methodist Council, which represents most Methodist denominations, has no official statements regarding sexuality. British Methodism holds a variety of views, and permits ministers to bless same-gender marriages. American Methodism concentrates on the position that the same-sex relations are incompatible with "Christian teaching", but extends ministry to persons of a homosexual orientation, holding that all individuals are of sacred worth. The following denominations are members of the World Methodist Council.

LGBT clergy in Christianity Christian clergy who are LGBT

The ordination of lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender (LGBT) clergy who are open about their sexuality, are sexually active if lesbian, gay, or bisexual, or are in committed same-sex relationships is a debated practice within some contemporary Christian Church communities.

The relationship between religion and LGBT people can vary greatly across time and place, within and between different religions and sects, and regarding different forms of homosexuality, bisexuality, and transgender identity.

The debate on the causes of clerical child abuse is a major aspect of the academic literature surrounding Catholic sex abuse cases.

Vincent Long Van Nguyen

Vincent Nguyễn Văn Long O.F.M. Conv. is a Vietnamese Australian prelate of the Catholic Church. He was appointed the fourth Bishop of Parramatta, Australia, by Pope Francis on 5 May 2016. He has been a bishop since 2011 after serving for several years in the leadership of the Franciscans, first in Australia and later in Rome. He is Australia's first Asian-born bishop and the first Vietnamese-born bishop to head a diocese outside of Vietnam.

History of the Catholic Church and homosexuality

The Christian tradition has generally proscribed any and all noncoital genital activities, whether engaged in by couples or individuals, regardless of whether they were of the same or different sex. The position of the Roman Catholic Church with regards to homosexuality developed from the writings of Paul the Apostle and the teachings of the Church Fathers. These were in stark contrast to contemporary Greek and Roman attitudes towards same-sex relations which were more relaxed.

Pastoral care for gay Catholics

Pastoral care for gay Catholics consists of the ministry and outreach the Catholic Church provides to LGBT Catholics.

Dissent from Catholic teaching on homosexuality

Dissent from the Catholic Church's teaching on homosexuality has come in a number of practical and ministerial arguments from both the clergy and the laity of the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church teaches that while being gay is not a sin in and of itself, any sex outside of marriage, including between same-sex partners, is sinful, and therefore being gay makes one inclined towards this particular sin.

Political activity of the Catholic Church on LGBT issues

The political activity of the Catholic Church on LGBT issues consists of efforts made by the Roman Catholic Church to support or oppose civil government legislation on the basis of Catholic moral theology and Catholic Social Teaching surrounding issues of importance to LGBT people. The Church generally condemns all forms of violence against gay and lesbian people and all criminal penalties against them. However, the Church in certain countries has on occasion actively resisted efforts to decriminalize homosexuality or to introduce measures to tackle discrimination. The Catholic Church also supports legally defining marriage in civil legislation as the union of one man and one woman, therefore generally opposing efforts to introduce gay civil unions and gay marriage – although some clergymen have expressed support for same-sex unions. The Church teaches that not all discrimination is "unjust," and that sometimes the rights of individuals, including gay men and women, can be limited. The Church is active in local, national, and international forums.

Before his election as Pope, Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio strongly opposed same-sex marriage and the same-sex marriage bill that Argentina senate debated in 2010. As Pope Francis, after his election in 2013, he has repeatedly spoken about the need for the Catholic Church to welcome and love all people regardless of sexual orientation. However, Pope Francis has also had gestures in the opposite direction, such as blessing a gay couple in July 2015 to later have Ciro Benedettini, the Vatican Spokesperson, asserting that in no way is the letter “meant to endorse behaviors and teachings unfit to the Gospel”. Pope Francis also met with Kim Davis, to which later the Vatican clarified that this meeting "does not endorse Davis’s views." Speaking about gay people in 2013, Pope Francis said, "the key is for the church to welcome, not exclude, and show mercy, not condemnation." He said, "If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?" "The problem," he continued, "is not having this orientation. We must be brothers." The pope has reiterated the Catholic Church's teaching on homosexuality, including its position on marriage. Those who act on their homosexuality are in direct conflict with Christian teaching. He has also been outspoken on the need to be compassionate towards LGBT+ people, and was named the Person of the Year by the LGBT magazine The Advocate. In 2019, Pope Francis reiterated that Catholic teaching states that homosexual tendencies "are not a sin”, but acting upon it is a sin.

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Works cited

Further reading