The Roman Catholic Church and homosexuality
Events from 1998 to 2001
Topics covered in this essay:
Gay murders in Italy
Arcigay, an Italian gay-rights group, estimates that 150 to 200 gay
men are known to be murdered annually in Italy because of their sexual orientation. They
suspect that the total number is much higher, because many families of origin suppress
information about the victim. Franco Grillini, psychologist and president of Arcigay
stated that Italy is "...in the face of a real and true national emergency."
He links the deaths to "social violence generated by homophobia." He
called upon the government to "end this wave of homicides and to begin seriously
removing obstacles that prevent all homosexuals from living a peaceful life in full
safety." Gay rights groups recommended a number of proposals to the Italian
government in mid-1996. One suggestion was to appoint a government minister to be a
liaison to the gay and lesbian community. This is frequently done in Northern European
countries. As of the beginning of 1998, there has been no response.
Mr. Grillini blames the Vatican and the Roman Catholic hierarchy of creating a "homophobic
atmosphere" that was "in large part responsible for this culture of
On 1998-JAN-14, a gay man doused himself with gasoline near the Bernini colonnades of
St. Peter's Square in the Vatican. This is a location that is a center of pilgrimage and
the scene of papal ceremonies. He set himself on fire and attempted to run towards the
main portals of the basilica. He collapsed unconscious before reaching the entrance. He
suffered burns to 90% of his body and was later reported in serious condition in a
Rome hospital. He had written a note before his immolation which stated that his family,
the Roman Catholic church and society did not understand the problems that he faced as a
homosexual. The Vatican has denied that the man's protest was aimed at the Roman Catholic
Church's opposition to homosexual activity.
1998 declaration by the Pontifical Council for the Family
On 1998-FEB-27, the Council issued a document called "On Decrease of Fertility
in the World." While referring to various articles of the Universal Declaration
of Human Rights (UDHR), 1 it included a passing reference to equal marriage rights for gays
"Here, great vigilance is needed. Faithfulness to the Declaration
[UDHR] implies the exclusion of all efforts which seek,
under the guide of so-called "new rights", to include abortion (cf. article 3),
to leave physical integrity unprotected (ibid.), or to undermine the heterosexual,
monogamous family (cf. article 16). Some are currently striving for these harmful goals,
seeking to deprive some human beings of their fundamental rights, and to impose upon the
weakest new forms of oppression (cf. articles 4 and 5). The lies which undergird these
efforts inevitably lead to violence and barbarity and introduce the 'culture of death'."
Here, the efforts by gays and lesbians for equal rights in the area of marriage is
interpreted as undermining heterosexual families, as harmful, and as oppressive to the
weak and as leading to death. They did not explain their reasons for these conclusions.
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of
the Faith (CDF) released a "Notification Regarding Sister Jeannine
Gramick, SSND, and Father Robert Nugent, SDS" on 1999-JUL-13. 3
In 1977, Gramick and Nugent had organized New Ways Ministry in
order to promote "justice and reconciliation between lesbian and gay
Catholics and the wider Catholic community." They had written two books
on these topics. 4,5 Because they were critical of the
Church's stand on homosexality and homosexuals, they were ordered to separate
themselves from the New Ways Ministry. They allegedly removed themselves
from leadership roles in the ministry but continued as members and continued to
promote beliefs that were contrary to the church. The CDF concluded that Gramick
and Nugent continued to disregard "the intrinsic evil of homosexual acts
and the objective disorder of the homosexual inclination" and that they
did not "faithfully convey the clear and constant teaching of the
Catholic Church in this area." 6 The CDF
ruled that they are "permanently prohibited from any pastoral work
involving homosexual persons and are ineligible, for an undetermined period, for
any office in their respective religious institutes."
Dignity/USA commented: "The work of Sister Gramick and Father Nugent
is good work; it is necessary work; it is holy work. The members of Dignity wish
them well in the long time to come. We thank them for their ministry and we pray
for them at this critical time." 7
Sex-ed in British schools:
The British conservative government introduced Section 28 of the Local
Government Act in the 1980s. It states that local school boards: "shall
not promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of
homosexuality as a pretended family relationship." The present
government is considering scrapping of the regulation. Roman Catholics and
conservative legislators are attempting to retain it.
- Conservative politicians and theologians believe that homosexual behavior
is a chosen and changeable preference; it is unnatural, abnormal and
condemned by God. Thus, any attempt to accept homosexuality as a normal,
natural orientation is not acceptable. They feel that it will have the
undesirable effect of increase the number of youth who choose
- Liberal politicians, liberal theologians, gays, lesbians, human sexuality
researchers, mental health professionals and others believe that homosexual
behavior is not chosen, not changeable; a natural, normal sexual orientation
for a minority of youth. Thus, any attempt to accept homosexuality as a
normal, natural orientation is to be supported. They feel that it would have
the desirable effect of increasing the acceptance of youth and adults who
have a homosexual orientation.
Without an agreement at a fundamental level, consensus is impossible.
On Friday, the two churches involved said nothing had been finalized, but a
reputable London newspaper reported that a deal had been struck.
On MAR-3, The Daily Telegraph said that a compromise had been reached
between the government, the Roman Catholic church and the Anglican Church.
Section 28 would be deleted; new legislation would require teachers to promote
heterosexual marriage. Teachers would also be forbidden to engage in
"inappropriate teaching." However this section would not mention
homosexuality. The churches have said that no deal has been finalized. Baroness
Young, a senior Conservative Party member of the upper House of Lords, wants to
retain Section 28. She said that the apparent compromise "Requiring
local authorities to promote marriage will not prevent them from promoting
homosexuality as well." Cardinal Winning of the Catholic Church in
Scotland is also distressed at a possible compromise, warning that: "If
we are not very, very careful, we will inadvertently promote a lifestyle for our
children which will reduce their life expectancy, increase their chances of HIV
infection and expose them to predatory and abusive relationships."
Pope verbally attacks gays and lesbians:
Pope John Paul II was distressed at the World Pride Rome 2000
celebrations which were being held in Rome during the Roman Catholic
church's Grand Jubilee year. The church successfully pressured the
Italian government into removing its support for the gay pride
celebration. However, partly because of the church's opposition, the
celebration was considered by gays and lesbians to be a great success. The
pope delivered a message to pilgrims at St. Peter's Square:
"In the name of the Church of Rome, I must express sadness
for the affront to the Grand Jubilee of the year 2000 and for the
offense to the Christian values of a city that is so dear to the hearts
of the Catholics of the world...Homosexual acts are against nature's
laws. The church cannot silence the truth, because this would not help
discern what is good from what is evil." 9
Later in his speech, he called homosexuality "objectively
The speech produced strong reactions among the homosexual community:
- Editor Michelangeo Signorile of The Advocate commented: "It
was nothing but pure, unadulterated hate speech-grade-A homophobia and
bigotry couched in religious theology in the manner of Pat Robertson
and Jerry Falwell. John Paul II has long shown his intolerance by his
repeated threatening and silencing of clergy who reach out to gay
Catholics, but by uttering these words so vehemently and so publicly,
he revealed before the whole world that he is a hateful man with
little regard for the discrimination and violence he brings upon
- Marianne Duddy, executive director of Dignity/USA, commented: "As
a Catholic, it's hard to find the pope is a hateful man. There's so
much that he does that's good. Thinking of him that way is difficult.
You want to believe that it's motivated by something less vicious than
- The Rev. Penny Nixon, of San Francisco's Metropolitan Community
Church, called the pope's words "an incredible misuse of
power" [that will result in] "beaten, bruised, and battered
Friction in British seminaries:
Mark Dowd, a former Dominican friar and a gay male, commented on a
2001-APR TV documentary "Queer and Catholic" that the
priesthood is becoming a "gay profession" like
Father Kevin Haggerty is the rector of St.
John's Seminary in Wonersh, Surrey (UK) appeared on the program. He
later told The Telegraph that: "The growing number of
homosexual men training for the Roman Catholic priesthood is creating
'divisive cliques' of gay and straight students. It would seem to me that
sub-cultures are a danger. They are inappropriate for the priesthood and
contrary to the openness required for a priest...I don't think we can
avoid the issue anymore. A lot of people's gut reactions to this issue are
not rational - they immediately think of the risk of child abuse.
Homosexuality is not a problem in itself; the important point is the
sexual maturity of the priests." 11
- The text of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is at: http://www.un.org/Overview/rights.html
- Pontifical Council for the Family, "Declaration by the
Pontifical Council for the Family on Decrease of Fertility in the World,"
1998-FEB-27, at: http://www.cin.org/docs/fertility.html
- "Notification Regarding Sister Jeannine Gramick, SSND, and Father
Robert Nugent, SDS," Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Online at: http://www.dignityusa.org/news/new-ways-cdf.html
- J. Gramick, Ed., "Voices of Hope: A Collection of Positive
Catholic Writings on Gay and Lesbian Issues," Center for Homophobia
Education, (1995) Page ix. Order
this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
- R. Nugent & G. Gramick, "Building bridges: Gay & Lesbian
reality and the Catholic Church," Twenty Third Publ., (1992) Order
- "Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics,"
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 8: AAS 68 (1976).
- "Gay Catholics dismayed and angry at Vatican authorities,"
- "UK church leaders consider homosexuality compromise," Maranatha
Christian Journal, at: http://www.mcjonline.com/news/00/20000303c.htm
- "Gay Catholics dismayed and angry at Vatican authorities,"
- The Advocate, 2000-SEP-12
- " 'Cliques of gay priests are dividing Church' says rector in
England," ReligionToday, 2001-MAY-7, at:
Copyright © 1998 to 2003 incl. by Ontario Consultants on
Latest update: 2003-AUG-1
Author: B.A. Robinson