Roman Catholics and homosexuality
Years 2002 and 2003
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
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:
||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."
||"...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."
||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.
||"Democracy must be based on the true and solid foundation of
non-negotiable ethical principles, which are the underpinning of life in
||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."
||"...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
||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
||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."
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:
||"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.
||"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."
||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
||"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'."
||"Sacred Scripture condemns
homosexual acts 'as a serious depravity'." "...homosexual acts are
||"The homosexual inclination is ...'objectively disordered' and
homosexual practices are 'sins gravely contrary to chastity'."
||"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.
||"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.
"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:
||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."|
|Paul 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:
||To vote against the enabling legislation would violate their oath of
||For Roman Catholics, to vote for the bill would contradict the
Church's expectations and teachings.
||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.
||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
||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:
||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
||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.
||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."
||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."
The following information sources
were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not
necessarily still active today.
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 Amazon.com online book store
"Doctrinal Note on some questions regarding the participation of
Catholics in political life," Congregation for the Doctrine of the
Faith, 2002-NOV-24, at:
"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:
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.
Estelle Shirbon, "Ban gay marriages: Pope," Reuters News Agency,
2003-AUG-1, The Toronto Star, Page A1 (the lead article on the front page)
"Vatican issues dramatic world-wide statement on homosexuality and
marriage," Massachusetts Family Institute, MFI E-Alert, 2003-AUG-1.