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Roman Catholics and homosexuality

Years 2002 and 2003

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2002: The sexual child abuse scandal:

Investigators had known for many years that a massive child abuse scandal was brewing in the Roman Catholic Church. However, accounts in the media were typically related only to isolated instances of abuse around the U.S.  Few realized how widespread the problem was. In the year 2000, author Donald Cozzens reported that "by the end of the mid 1990s, it was estimated that some six hundred priests had been named in abuse cases and more than half a billion dollars had been paid in jury awards, settlements and legal fees." 1 The amount grew to about one billion dollars by 2002. A major moral panic started surfaced first in the Boston MA diocese where reports emerged that abusive priests had been shuffled among parishes for decades, and that a massive cover-up had been organized. The story expanded geographically across the entire U.S.

Many media accounts gave the impression that a large percentage of priests were abusive pedophiles, molesting young children. In fact, it is almost certain that over 95% of Roman Catholic clergy have not physically mistreated children. Also, it is estimated that 90 to 95% of the abuse that does occur is by abusive hebephiles -- priests who victimize post-pubertal near adults, often 16 and 17 years of age. More details

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2002: Church expectations of Catholic lawmakers, and other citizens:

The Roman Curia's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith" issued a document on 2002-NOV-24 called: "Doctrinal Note on some questions regarding the participation of Catholics in political life." 2 The main thrust of the document is to inform individual Roman Catholics including legislators, that they are not free to vote for parties or laws which deviate from the Church's teachings. Some points raised in this note are:

bullet An atmosphere of cultural relativism exists in many democratic countries. But the concept of pluralism which accepts all systems of morality as equally valid must be rejected. Only the moral and ethical systems taught by the church are correct. That is because the Church's "...ethical precepts are rooted in human nature itself and belong to the natural moral law."

bullet "...citizens claim complete autonomy with regard to their moral choices, and lawmakers maintain that they are respecting this freedom of choice by enacting laws which ignore the principles of natural ethics and yield to ephemeral cultural and moral trends, as if every possible outlook on life were of equal value."

bullet Roman Catholic citizens, including legislators, are only free to "choose among the various political opinions that are compatible" with the church's faith and natural moral law. They are not free to develop an opinion which is based on secular beliefs or on another religion's teachings, if the conflict with Catholic principles.

bullet "Democracy must be based on the true and solid foundation of non-negotiable ethical principles, which are the underpinning of life in society."

bullet The church "has reiterated many times that those who are directly involved in lawmaking bodies have a 'grave and clear obligation to oppose' any law that attacks human life. For them, as for every Catholic, it is impossible to promote such laws or to vote for them." Laws must protect "the basic right to life from conception to natural death."

bullet "...a well-formed Christian conscience does not permit one to vote for a political program or an individual law which contradicts the fundamental contents of faith and morals" as taught by the Catholic church."

bullet The principle of separation of church and state does not apply in matters of morality: "For Catholic moral doctrine, the rightful autonomy of the political or civil sphere from that of religion and the Church – but not from that of morality -- is a value that has been attained and recognized by the Catholic Church and belongs to inheritance of contemporary civilization."

bullet Lawmakers cannot create a wall of separation between their religious life and their political life. They cannot behave as Catholics part of the time, and as secularists for the rest of the time. "There cannot be two parallel lives in their existence: on the one hand, the so-called 'spiritual life', with its values and demands; and on the other, the so-called 'secular' life, that is, life in a family, at work, in social responsibilities, in the responsibilities of public life and in culture." 2

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2003: About same-sex marriage:

The Vatican's "Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith released a document titled "Considerations regarding proposals to give legal recognition to unions between homosexual persons." 2 It had been approved by Pope John Paul II on MAR-28, and released to the bishops on JUN-3. However, it was only made public on 2003-JUL-31.

The anonymous author stresses that there is really nothing new in the document. Rather it is a reiteration of principles and doctrine that have been taught in the past.

Some of the points raised in this document are:

bullet "Since this question relates to the natural moral law, the arguments that follow are addressed not only to those who believe in Christ, but to all persons committed to promoting and defending the common good of society." The Church teaches that its concept of natural law is an absolute truth Further, they believe that many other moral and ethical systems which are not based on the church's concept of natural law and which are derived by other faith and secular groups, are in serious error.

bullet "Homosexuality is a troubling moral and social phenomenon, even in those countries where it does not present significant legal issues. It gives rise to greater concern in those countries that have granted or intend to grant – legal recognition to homosexual unions, which may include the possibility of adopting children."

bullet Marriage was established by God. "No ideology can erase from the human spirit the certainty that marriage exists solely between a man and a woman, who by mutual personal gift, proper and exclusive to themselves, tend toward the communion of their persons. In this way, they mutually perfect each other, in order to cooperate with God in the procreation and upbringing of new human lives." This would seem to imply that same-sex couples cannot develop an enriching relationship, or morally build a lesbian-led family using artificial insemination, or a male gay-led couple who adopt children.

bullet "There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God's plan for marriage and family. Marriage is holy, while homosexual acts go against the natural moral law. Homosexual acts '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'."

bullet "Sacred Scripture condemns homosexual acts 'as a serious depravity'." "...homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered."

bullet "The homosexual inclination is ...'objectively disordered' and homosexual practices are 'sins gravely contrary to chastity'."

bullet "Catholics must 'witness to the whole moral truth, which is contradicted both by approval of homosexual acts and unjust discrimination against homosexual persons'." This statement implies that there are just forms of discrimination against gays and lesbians -- for example prohibiting them from marrying.

bullet "Allowing children to be adopted by persons living in such unions would actually mean doing violence to these children." The document does not necessarily refer to children born of one spouse in a lesbian family using artificial insemination.

bullet "When legislation in favour of the recognition of homosexual unions is proposed for the first time in a legislative assembly, the Catholic law-maker has a moral duty to express his opposition clearly and publicly and to vote against it. To vote in favour of a law so harmful to the common good is gravely immoral." 3 This implies that a Catholic legislator must follow the teachings of the church even if she or he must vote against the wishes of their constituents or even vote against the requirement of the consitution.

This document generated considerable controversy in Canada where two senior provincial courts have ordered their governments to start issuing marriage licenses and registering the marriages of same-sex couples. The ruling Liberal party has created legislation to expand marriage across Canada to include all committed, loving couples, whether same or opposite gender.

Some reactions in Canada:

bullet The present prime minister, Jean Chrétien, is a Roman Catholic. Thoren Hudyma, spokesperson for Jean Chrétien, said that: "Everybody knows the Prime Minister is a Roman Catholic, so he obviously has respect for the church. However, it's also common knowledge that the Prime Minister has said on several occasions that it's important that there is a separation between church and state."

bulletPaul Martin who replaced Prime Minister Chrétien, said that his responsibilities as a Member of Parliament take priority over his personal religious beliefs on same-sex marriage. 4 This may have been a reference to the oath of office that all MP's must take; they promise to uphold the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms -- Canada's constitution. Three senior provincial courts have ruled that the Charter guarantees same-sex couples the right to marry. Members of Parliament are caught in a squeeze between competing obligations:
bullet To vote against the enabling legislation would violate their oath of office.

bullet For Roman Catholics, to vote for the bill would contradict the Church's expectations and teachings.

bullet Some MPs regard their role as to accurately reflect the wishes of their constituency. Polls have indicated that most Canadian adults support same-sex marriage.
bullet The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Toronto, Aloysius Cardinal Ambrozic, sent a letter to all 223 parishes in the archdiocese stating that it is "imperative" that priests speak publicly about same-sex marriage. He ordered an insert into all church bulleting which says:

"Marriage is a union between a man and a woman. They can, and usually do, conceive and bear children, whom they have the joy and responsibility of nurturing and educating to adulthood."

"All persons deserve respect in accord with their human dignity. Trying to rename other kinds of relationships to call them 'marriage' however is inaccurate." 5

bullet The Reuters News Agency interpreted the comments of an Alberta bishop as threatening the Prime Minister with eternity burning in Hell if he makes same-sex marriage legal in Canada. Bishop Fred Henry of Calgary is quoted as saying that Prime Minister Chrétien "...doesn't understand what it means to be a good Catholic....He's putting at risk his eternal salvation. I pray for the Prime Minister because I think his eternal salvation is in jeopardy. He is making a morally grave error and he's not being accountable to God." 5

Some reactions elsewhere in the world:

bullet The Massachusetts Family Institute, a fundamentalist Christian group, said: "We applaud this clear statement at this time as our state Legislators are considering the Marriage Affirmation and Protection Amendment, which will be addressed on November 12 at a joint Constitutional Convention." 6

bullet Roman Catholic Bishop Stanislaw Stefanek of Poland, referring to same-sex marriage, said: "The idea is immoral and hurting to families and marriages. We strongly object to it." He did not indicate how same-sex marriages harms opposite-sex marriages.

bullet Volker Beck, spokesperson for Germany's Green party is reported as saying: "The new statement by the Vatican on same-sex partnerships is a sad document of close-minded fanaticism."

bullet Marianne Duddy, executive director of Dignity USA -- a gay-positive group for Roman Catholics -- said: "This new document is intended to intimidate public officials across the globe into doing what the Vatican has not been able to do on its own: stem the growing tide for justice." 5

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The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Donald B. Cozzens, "The changing face of the priesthood: A reflection on the priest's crisis of soul," Liturgical Press, (2000). Chapter 8, "Betraying Our Young" Page 125. Read reviews or order this book safely from online book store
  2. "Doctrinal Note on some questions regarding the participation of Catholics in political life," Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 2002-NOV-24, at:
  3. "Considerations regarding proposals to give legal recognition to unions between homosexual persons," Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 2003-JUN-3. Released 2003-JUL-31. See:
  4. Patricia Orwen & Valerie Lawton, "MPs reject Vatican's pitch. Church doesn't speak for all citizens, they say. Wants politicians to speak out on gay marriage," The Toronto Star, 2003-AUG-1, Page A23.
  5. Estelle Shirbon, "Ban gay marriages: Pope," Reuters News Agency, 2003-AUG-1, The Toronto Star, Page A1 (the lead article on the front page) and A23.
  6. "Vatican issues dramatic world-wide statement on homosexuality and marriage," Massachusetts Family Institute, MFI E-Alert, 2003-AUG-1.

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Copyright © 2002 to 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2012-FEB-04
Author: B.A. Robinson
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