On November 14th, 2009, Canada’s first openly gay Catholic priest, Father Karl Clemens, married his long time partner in Toronto, Ontario. Clemens, who is close to seventy, retired from the Kingston, Ontario diocese after 33 years of service and moved to Toronto to advocate for the city’s gay village. Clemens stated that he was as prepared to handle the inevitable backlash from the Church and some of its followers as he was when he declared his sexual orientation in 2005, and strongly believes that homosexuals deserve to exercise their right to enter into same-sex marriage. Weese) It is currently estimated that 1 to 3% of the population engage in homosexual acts, however, it was previously suggested that at least 10% of the population was of homosexual orientation. Unfortunately, these studies were flawed indefinitely. (Jones, 249) Topics in this essay will include: the historical views of homosexuality including what Biblical texts state regarding this issue, as well as specific documentation from the Vatican pertaining to this subject.
Furthermore, I will discuss former Pope John Paul II and current Pope Benedict XVI’s position on homosexuality, as well as homosexuality within the clergy of the Catholic Church. I will then examine specific literature criticizing the Church’s teachings on homosexuality, and finally gay and lesbian Catholics who are subjected to discrimination within the Church for their sexual preference.
Although there has been a growing acceptance among certain Christian denominations regarding homosexuality in modern society, the Catholic Church holds a firm position on this subject that is, “Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder. ” (Baird, 204) It is evident then that although the Catholic Church does not condemn homosexual orientation, it also does not condone homosexual activity.
Homosexuality in Biblical Text The Bible has always been an important resource in Christian moral thinking. For some, it has been the source of morality as well as principle; for others rather, it has been an aid to moral judgment. Among Catholics, the picture is more mixed. More recently, accompanying the revival of biblical studies in the Catholic Church, there has been a renewed emphasis on the Bible as the basis of morality. The relation between the Bible and homosexual activity are presented in the following texts which explicitly condemn these acts.
Old Testament In Genesis 19: 1-11, the deterioration due to sin continues in the story of the men of Sodom. It is here that readers, including those in positions of authority in the Church have seen a reference to homosexuality: the men of Sodom want to have sexual relations with the two visitors, who are themselves, men. The men of Sodom, are, it is claimed, expressing homosexual desire, and it is for this that they and the city of Sodom, as well as the neighbouring city of Gomorrah, are destroyed.
There can be no doubt of the moral judgement made here against homosexual relations. (Moore, 69) Leviticus 18:22 says, “With a male you shall not lie the lyings of a woman; it is an abomination. ” In Leviticus 20:13, the condemnation is repeated in another form, “A man who lies with a male the lyings of a woman, they have done an abomination, the two of them. They shall be put to death; their blood is upon them. ” Biblical scholars agree that the meanings of these passages are obvious: they condemn homosexual activity. Moore, 74) New Testament In Romans 1:26-7, St. Paul paints a very unflattering picture of Gentile society, including the alleged fact that, … their females exchanged the natural use for that which is against nature, and the males likewise abandoned the natural of the female and burned their desire for each other, males committing what is shameful with males and receiving among themselves the due rewards for their delusion. St. Paul is concerned with both male and female homosexuality equally, even speaking of women first.
Compare this to the Old Testament texts that are concerned exclusively with the sexual conduct of men. St. Paul categorizes as we do, in terms of the sameness or difference of sex of the sexual partners. Even if he does not have the words, he thinks in terms of heterosexuality and homosexuality- clearly condemning the latter. (Moore, 86-87) In 1 Corinthians 6: 9-10, St. Paul presents a list of those who will not enter the Kingdom of God, Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit the kingdom of God?
Do not be deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor malakoi, nor arsenokoitai, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor slanderers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God. The term malakoi simply means ‘soft’, however when applying it to people St. Paul uses the term to describe ‘soft men’ implying effeminate women or homosexuals. The term arsenokoitai was coined by St. Paul and pertains to those who perform the activity or activities he understands to be banned- sexual activity between males. Moore, 106-109) Finally, in 1 Timothy. 1:10, St. Paul gives another list, this time of people against whom the law is intended. It is laid down, “not for the just, but for the lawless and disobedient, the impious and sinners, for the irreligious and godless, for parricides and matricides, for murderers, fornicators, arsenokoitai, slave traders, liars, perjurers, what whatever else is contrary to sound teaching. ” The term arsenokoitai is once again stated, a reason why this text is sometimes cited as a condemnation of homosexual activity.
In this context Paul might well have has in mind when speaking of arsenokoitai clients of brothels who brought the sexual services of boy slaves. (Moore, 112-113) Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons The issue of homosexuality and the moral evaluation of homosexual acts have increasingly become a matter of public debate. Since this advances arguments and makes assertions inconsistent with the teaching of the Catholic Church, it is quite rightly a cause for concern to all engaged in the pastoral ministry.
In response, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, currently known as Pope Benedict XVI, published this letter as it is known to be of sufficiently critical and widespread importance to address to the bishops of the Catholic Church on this important issue. The phenomenon of homosexuality, as complex as it is, is a proper focus for the Church’s pastoral care. It requires ministers’ attentive study, active concern and honest, theologically well-balanced guidance. The letter states that “homosexuals should not suffer from prejudice against their basic human rights.
They have a right to respect, friendship and justice and should have an active role in the Christian community” (Ratzinger, 205) It should be noted that, in the presence of such remarkable diversity, there is nevertheless a clear consistency within the Scriptures themselves on the moral issue of homosexual behaviour. It is essential to recognize that the Scriptures are not properly understood when they are interpreted in a way which contradicts the Church’s living tradition. The Church encourages the bishops, then, to rovide pastoral care in full accord with the teaching of the Church for homosexual persons of their dioceses. (Ratzinger, 207) Ratizenger then states that, “no authentic pastoral program will include organizations in which homosexual persons associate with each other without clearly stating that homosexual activity is immoral. ” (Ratzinger, 209) The Church asks the bishops to support the development of appropriate forms of pastoral care for homosexual persons, which would include the assistance of the psychological, sociological, and medical sciences, in full accord with the teaching of the Church. Ratzinger, 210) Catechism of the Catholic Church The Catechism of the Catholic Church is an official exposition of the teachings of the Catholic Church and was issued by Pope John Paul II on October 11th, 1992. (Catechism, Preface) 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 complementarily.
Under no circumstances can they be approved. ” (Catechism, 502) The number of men and women who have deep-seeded homosexual tendencies is of great importance. 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. Catechism, 504-505) It is written that 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. ” (Catechism, 506) Pope John Paul II and his views on Homosexuality Pope John Paul II’s first major statement on homosexuality was not made until 1986 when he approved Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons stating that ven if homosexuality is not freely chosen by each individual, is nevertheless inherently and objectively wrong. (Curran, 162) John Paul II and the Vatican’s attack on homosexuals in the United States in 1992 began when gay rights initiatives began to appear on ballots in several states. The Pope voiced that “such initiatives, even where they seem more directed toward support of basic civil rights than condonement of homosexual activity or a homosexual lifestyle, may in fact have a negative impact on the family and society. (Curran, 167) Pope Benedict XVI and his views on Homosexuality During the Pope’s time as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he made several efforts to tackle the issue of homosexuality within the Church on a global scale. In 1992, he issued the Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons declaring that homosexual inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder, and extended this principle to civil law.
Sexual orientation, the document stated, was not equivalent to race or ethnicity, and it declared that it was not unjust discrimination to take sexual orientation into account (Quinn, 212) Pope Benedict also addressed the issue of homosexuality during a year end message to the Roman Curia in which he talked about gender and the important distinction between men and women. (Williams) The Pope stated that the Church viewed the distinction as central to human nature, and asked that it be respected as it was set down by creation.
He further characterized gender roles which deviated from his view of what gender roles should be as a violation of the natural order, and the Church should protect man from the destruction of himself. Many LGBT groups were offended by his comments calling them homophobic (Williams) Mark D. Jordan: Clerical Homosexuality in Modern Catholicism Roman Catholic priests take a vow of celibacy at their ordinations and are called to refrain from all sexual activity.
The “secret” of clerical homosexuality in the Catholic Church is not a code of practices or a particular set of facts that can be discovered but he urgent anxiety that there is something unknown, something frightening that must be kept hidden. No one can know the extent of homosexual acts or desires within the Catholic clergy. This limitation applies not only to an outsider, but also the Pope. (Jordan, 86-87) Homosexual clergy are often more zealous in keeping their lives secret from their superiors or colleagues than from nyone else. The reverse is also true. Many superiors do not want to know about the homosexual lives of their subordinates; for fear that they would have to act on the knowledge. Jordan argues that secrets can be best kept by compartmentalization, deniability, and hysteria which mostly characterize the sexual lives of most Catholic clergymen of whatever orientation; however, compartmentalization is particularly strict when it comes to homosexual relations. Jordan, 90) Jordan further argues that “in the empire of closets that is the modern Catholic Church, no one knows more than a few of the compartments- the church is not one big ‘closet’. ” (Jordan, 91) Sexual activities are dispersed, so an informant cannot betray the entire group and exposure of any individual or group of individuals no matter how highly placed can be dismissed as an isolated personal failure. No matter how many witnesses are brought forth they can be dismissed as anomalies because the Church itself officially condemns homosexual acts, especially in clergyman who are all obliged to be celibate anyways.
Finally, hysteria, although less visible, sustains secrecy by distorting any language we might use to talk about the small truths, the individual closets of clerical homosexuality. (Jordan, 95) The clerical closet is not just a shield of silence that prevents those outside it from hearing, but also prevents those around it from speaking. The Catholic Church is by no means the only institution in society that wants to prevent people from speaking seriously about lesbian and gay life.
The Church lends rhetorical strategies to other institutions and borrows from them, but the Church is an institution with long experience in these strategies and a very high stake in their success. (Jordan, 105) Jordan concludes that the best response to the dilemmas of panic surrounding clerical homosexuality is not to fall silent, “we need to look again at the medieval and early modern attacks on clerical sodomites. We can learn from our efforts to speak about history- and not at least about our compulsion to find one. (Jordan, 112) Gareth Moore: A Question of Truth Gareth Moore, a Dominican priest, challenges the teachings of the Catholic Church on its own grounds. Moore states that, “There are no good arguments, from either Scripture or natural law, against what have come to be known as homosexual relationships. The arguments put forward show that such relationships are immoral and bad” (Moore, 10) He subjects the Church’s belief to a scholarly and detailed examination and scrutinizes its arguments which are based on both the Bible and natural law, finding them insufficient.
Moore further criticizes the Church for obsessing over sexual matters and their supposed moral ‘meaning’ arguing that it can actually mean what we want it to. (Moore, 13) John J. McNeill: The Church and the Homosexual McNeill is an ordained priest and practicing psychotherapist, was expelled from the Society of Jesus in 1987 for refusing to cease his ministry to gay men and lesbians. (McNeill, Preface) He argues that the Bible does not condemn homosexuality and calls on the Vatican to make a public act of repentance for its homophobia.
Firstly, McNeill opposes the view that God intends all human beings to be heterosexual, and that homosexuality therefore represents a deviation from God’s divine plan. (McNeill, 167) Based on years of intensive research and modern biblical scholarship, he demonstrates that there is no clear condemnation of loving homosexual relationships in Scripture. As McNeill explains, “Homosexual orientation has no necessary connection with sin, sickness, or failure; rather it is a gift from God to be accepted and lived out with gratitude.
Human beings do not choose their sexual orientation; they discover it as something given. ” (McNeill, 170) McNeill further states that homosexuals, rather being a threat to the values of society and the family, have special gifts and qualities and a very positive contribution as a part of God’s creative plan for the development of society, “Indeed, if lesbians and gay men were to disappear, the further development of society toward greater humaneness would be seriously endangered. (McNeill, 180) Finally, McNeill argues that the love between two lesbians or gay men, assuming that it is a constructive human love, is not in fact sinful, it can be a holy love, mediating God’s presence in the human community as effectively as heterosexual love. (McNeill, 191) Elizabeth Stuart: Gay and Lesbian Theologies Elizabeth Stuart is one of the most prominent gay and lesbian theologians and argues that this theology has revealed itself to be bankrupt.
It is incapable of providing universally convincing reasons for the inclusion of lesbian and gay people and their relationships in the Church and unable to deal with the defining experience of lesbian and gay communities in the late twentieth century. (Stuart, 89) Gay and lesbian theologians managed to take a dominant Christian discourse which rendered them sinful, sick, and harmful to the common good and transform it into a theology which argued that a person’s sexuality provided the point of contact between God and themselves. Stuart, 92) Stuart concludes that lesbian and gay people and their opponents in the Church have too easily bought into modern constructions of sexual identity and cut themselves off from a queer Christian tradition which teaches that in the end gender and sexual identities have no ultimate importance (Stuart, 98) Lesbian Women and the Church Societal attitudes towards lesbianism are marked by widespread, almost universal intolerance. If women have felt marginalized, ignored, or underpowered in social and ecclesial environments, then lesbian women feel the oppression in multiple measures.
As one of the largest minorities, lesbian women across the globe number upwards of 140 million. (Gramick, 65) A group of lesbian women formed the Conference for Catholic Lesbians in 1983 and during this decade the Conference was invited to join the Women-Church Convergence, a coalition of progressive Catholic women’s groups (Gramick, 70) The Catholic Social Welfare Commission (1981) of the Bishops of England and Wales published a booklet that acknowledged that lesbianism differs substantially from male homosexuality.
After the Commission met with the Catholic Lesbian Sisterhood to discuss this concept, the Sisterhood agreed to publically welcome the guidelines discussed in the booklet. The fact that church representatives repeatedly treat homosexuality as a male phenomenon is an insult to lesbian women. Their lack of attention to lesbian women is not excused by the possibility that there may be more gay men than lesbian women, but can be more properly explained by the church’s unwillingness to take women as seriously as men. Jung, pg 289) Because lesbian women bear the double social disadvantage of being female and homosexual in patriarchal, heterosexist institutions, they must constantly struggle to maintain the Church allegiance and to challenge its persistent blindness to lesbianism. The author concludes that official church response to lesbianism can be best described as denial and neglect. (Gramick, pg 75) Dignity The first recognition of the need for Christian support of homosexuals was in 1969 when an organization called ‘Dignity’ was created.
By the mid-seventies, Dignity grew to strength of 5000 members in the United States (Gramick, pg 69) Dignity is an organization to unite all gay and lesbian Catholics, to develop leadership and to be an instrument through which gay and lesbian Catholics may be heard by the Church and society. (Dignity Canada) Dignity is concerned with the Church’s sexual theology, particularly as it pertains to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered persons. Dignity works in collaboration with other Catholic organizations seeking reform in the Church’s leadership and teachings.
Dignity argues that they are informed and faithful Catholics and urges Church leaders to consider modern scientific and political understandings of sexual orientation and gender equality. (Dignity Canada) Most members of Dignity were raised in the Roman Catholic tradition and have come to feel betrayed by Church leaders, particularly the Canadian Conference of Canadian Bishops, who unceasingly denigrate them and oppose their efforts to achieve civil rights and protections. (Dignity Canada)
There has been a significant amount of literature presented discussing the subject of homosexuality and the Catholic Church and while some authors have criticized its view of homosexuality, the Church and its followers continue to demonstrate a firm belief of the immorality associated with this particular sexual orientation. Further research concerning this controversial subject needs to shed more light on the gay and lesbian Catholics currently living with the idea that they have some moral ‘disorder’ that needs to be fixed.
The Catholic Church cannot ignore the increasing acceptance of homosexuality among other Christian denominations like the United Church of Christ and the United Church of Canada, and their recognition that sexual orientation does not negatively affect one’s own morality. Word Count: 3,407 Work Cited Catechism of the Catholic Church. London, England: Burns ;amp; Oates, 1999. Print Curran, Charles E. The moral theology of Pope John Paul II. Washington, D. C. Georgetown University Press, 2005. Print Dignity Canada Dignite n. d. Web. 25 Nov. 2009. ;lt;http://www. dignitycanada. org;gt; Jones, Stanton L. “The Loving Opposition. Homosexuality: Debating the Issues. Ed. Robert M. Baird and Katherine Baird. Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books, 1995. 243-253. Print Jordan, Mark D. The Silence of Sodom: Homosexuality in Modern Catholicism. Chicago, Illinois: Chicago University Press, 2000. Print. Jung, Patricia B, and Joseph A. Coray. Sexual diversity and Catholicism : toward the development of moral theology. Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 2001. Print McNeill, John J. The Church and the Homosexual. 4th. Boston, Massachusetts: Beacon Press, 1993. Print. Moore, Gareth. A Question of Truth: Christianity and Homosexuality.
London; New York: Continuum, 1993. Print. Nugent, Robert and Jeannine Gramick. Building Bridges: Gay and Lesbian Reality and the Catholic Church. Mystic, Connecticut: Twenty-Third Publications, 1992. Print Quinn, John R. “Toward an Understanding of the Letter ‘On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons. ’” Homosexuality: Debating the Issues. Ed. Robert M. Baird and Katherine Baird. Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books, 1995. 211-217. Print Ratzinger, Joseph. “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons. ” Homosexuality: Debating the Issues. Ed. Robert M. Baird and Katherine Baird.
Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books, 1995. 203-210. Print Stuart, Elizabeth. Gay and Lesbian Theologies: Repetitions with Critical Difference. Hampshire, England; Burlington, Vermont: Ashgate, 2003. Print. Weese, Bryan. “Gay Catholic priest getting married” Edmonton Sun 12 Nov. 2009. www. edmontonsun. com 27 Nov. 2009 ;lt;http://www. edmontonsun. com/news/canada/2009/11/12/11718161-sun. html;gt;. Williams, Daniel. “New Rules Affirm Pope Benedict’s Stance Against Gays” The Washington Post 8 Oct. 2005. www. thewashingtonpost. com 29 Nov. 2009 ;lt;http://www. washingtonpost. com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/10/07/AR2005100701844. html;gt;.