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The Roman Catholic Church and Homosexuality

Introduction

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Catholic statements: 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church contains three statements -- Sections 2357 to 2359 inclusive -- that deal with homosexuality. They are grouped under the topic: "Chastity and homosexuality:"

§2357: Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, [Cf. Gen 19:1-29; Rom 1:24-27; 1 Cor 6:10; 1 Tim 1:10] tradition has always declared that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered." [CDF, Persona humana 8] 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.

Our comments: "CDF" refers to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a group whose Prefect was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI. The Catholic Church regards all same-gender sexual behavior as profoundly depraved, intrinsically disordered, and contrary to natural law. Many more liberal Christian denominations accept the near consensus of human sexuality researchers that all three sexual orientations -- heterosexual, homosexual and bisexual -- are normal, natural, and well ordered. Many religious liberals and secularists view the Catholic Church as confusing the most common form of love and sexual intimacy -- that between a man and a woman -- with the only allowable form of love and intimacy that is accepted by God and endorsed by the Bible.

Like most conservative faith groups, the Catholic Church defines "homosexuality" in terms of sexual behavior, not feelings of sexual attraction. They include some sexually active persons with a bisexual orientation under their definition of "homosexual." In contrast, others define homosexuality in terms of feelings of sexual attraction, and consider homosexual and bisexual orientations to be different orientations. This lack of agreement on definitions generates much confusion, and makes dialogue very difficult.

§2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. 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.

Our comments: Catholic documents rarely use the term "sexual orientation." They prefer to use terms like "sexual attraction" "tendencies" and "inclination." Many if not most persons with a homosexual orientation feel that their main difficulty is not with their orientation but with homophobia as expressed by many conservative and mainline religious groups.

A key word in this section is "unjust." The word implies that there are just forms of discrimination against persons with a homosexual orientation. The Church expresses discrimination in many ways, ranging from financing anti-same-sex marriage campaigns to prohibiting high school students from organizing gay-straight alliances to reduce levels of hatred and homophobia in schools.

§2359 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. [2347]

Our comments: By expecting persons with a homosexual orientation to be chaste, the Church is sentencing them to a lifetime of loneliness without a spouse or other significant other in their life. This is a violation of Genesis 2:18 which states "And the LORD God said, 'It is not good that the man should be alone'."

The church hierarchy speaks with a single voice. Priests, bishops, archbishops and cardinals are in fact prohibited from publicly expressing views contrary to the church's current official viewpoints on theological matters. They are even prohibited from suggesting that any church policies need to be changed. This assures that it is mainly official church pronouncements, and statements that are in agreement with the church's beliefs, that reach the public.

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Comparing Catholic homosexual beliefs with those of other faith groups:

Catholic beliefs about homosexuality are grounded in their concept of natural law as well as on their interpretation of the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures (Old and New Testament).

The church once taught that the sole purpose of sex -- and marriage -- was procreation. They have modified this stance in recent decades by admitting that also has a unitive function -- it bonds loving committed couples closer together and strengthens their relationship. But, since the Church still regards the main purpose of sex to be procreation, they insist that any sexual act that is not open to conception or that is engaged in outside of marriage is profoundly immoral. On this basis, they forbid the use of artificial methods of birth control, and consider sexual intercourse other than that between a husband and wife to be a grave mortal sin. Forbidden practices include masturbation, pre-marital sex, post-marital sex, extra-marital sex and all same-sex behaviors.

In contrast, most other conservative Christian and Jewish faith groups base their rejection of same-sex behavior on a their interpretation of a few negative passages in their Scriptures. Bah'ai, Jewish, Muslim to this as well with their Holy texts.

Most conservative Protestant denominations and other conservative groups teach that homosexuality is a chosen, changeable, and addictive behavior. However, the Roman Catholic church accepts the findings of almost all human sexuality researchers and mental health therapists that a minority of humans have a homosexual orientation that is discovered -- often after puberty. It is not chosen, and is always, or almost always, not changeable.

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Advocacy of discrimination against homosexuals:

They teach that

"...men and women with homosexual tendencies 'must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided'." (Our emphasis) 3

The church teaches that there are some forms of discrimination against gays and lesbians that are just. Access to marriage and the formation of sexually active committed non-marital relationships are not options that they believe should be open to gays and lesbians. The church teaches that persons with a homosexual orientation "are called, like other Christians, to live the virtue of chastity." To gays and lesbians, this means a lack of sexual intimacy and a life of loneliness. 3

The church made an official statement barring ordination "to those who are afflicted with evil tendencies to homosexuality or pederasty, since for them the common life and the priestly ministry would constitute serious dangers." 7 Unfortunately, it is not clear whether the term "homosexuality" refers to a candidate's orientation or behavior. The wording would seem to imply the latter. Apparently most North American seminaries consider the applicant's ability to live a life of celibacy to be of prime importance. The candidate's actual sexual orientation (homosexual, homosexual or bisexual) is of lesser concern.  More details.

Estimates of the percentage of Roman Catholic priests in North America who have a homosexual orientation range from about 30% to 50%.

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Homosexual laity and clergy in the church:

A single homosexual who confessed to a priest the instances of promiscuity could receive absolution and be allowed to receive communion. However, if she/he had become involved in a permanent, committed, sexually active, loving partnership with a person of the same sex, they would be denied both absolution and the sacraments unless the relationship is terminated. That is because absolution is dependent upon the individual being committed to not repeat the mortal sin. Unless they are willing to abandon the relationship or continue to live together without sexual activity, their confession would be invalid.

In early 2002, the media started to publish reports of children having been sexually abused by priests. The abuse often happened two to three decades in the past. The initial stories originated in the Boston, MA area. However, reports soon spread nation-wide. Past cover-ups by diocesan officials became public knowledge. Although much of the public thought in terms of pedophile priests molesting and sexually abusing small children, it appears that 90 to 95% of the mistreatment involved hebephile priests with a homosexual orientation who abused post-pubescent boys. The victims were often 16 or 17 years of age. Lost in the barrage of media reports was the fact that the vast majority of priests are totally innocent of child abuse.

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Beliefs of the laity:

A 2011 survey revealed very high support among Catholic laity for same-sex marriage and civil unions. This implies a rejection by three out of four Catholics of the hierarchy's position:

The New York Times reported on a national survey by Public Religion Research Institute on marriage and civil unions for same-sex couples. They found that: 74% of American Catholics favored state recognition of same-sex relationships by allowing either same-sex marriage or civil unions with the same state rights as marriage. This compares to 40% support among white evangelical Christians and 67% among the general American adult population.

3,000 adults were sampled. Essentially all of the leaders in evangelical Christian and Catholic denominations are unalterably opposed to any form of recognition of same-sex relationships. When two out of three adults favor some form of recognition, legislators may suffer voter support if they don't act. When about three in four Catholics abandon the teachings of their church leaders, the latter's credibility will suffer. 13

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References:

  1. Dignity/USA has a web site at: http://www.dignityusa.org/index.html. Dignity Canada Dignité is at: http://www.dignitycanada.org
  2. Courage has a English/Spanish web site at  http://couragerc.net/
  3. EnCourage has a web site at: http://world.std.com/~courage/encourag.htm  
  4. "Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons,", written by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (1986)
  5. "Some Considerations Concerning the Catholic Response to Legislative Proposals on the Non-Discrimination of Homosexual Persons,", written by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and secretly distributed to US bishops. (1992-JUL-23) It was made public by "New Ways Ministry.
  6. Robert Broderick, Ed., "Catholic Encyclopedia: Revised and updated edition," Nelson, (1987), Page 272.  Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
  7. "Careful Selection And Training Of Candidates For The States Of Perfection And Sacred Orders: (S. C. Rel., 2 Feb., 1961)." Online at: http://www.rcf.org/
  8. Extraordinary Synod of Bishops 1985, Final Report II B a, 4.
  9. "Article 6: The Sixth Commandment," Catechism of the Catholic Church, at: http://www.christusrex.org/
  10. "The five goals," Courage (2000), at: http://www.couragerc.net/
  11. "Yes, you can be out and a Catholic!," Dignity USA, at: http://www.dignityusa.org/
  12. "Solidarity Sunday," Dignity USA, at: http://www.dignityusa.org
  13. Austin Considine, "For Catholics, open attitudes on gay issues," New York Times, 2011-APR-22, at: http://www.nytimes.com/
  14. "Article 6: The sixth commandment," Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1997, Catholic Doors Ministry, at: http://www.catholicdoors.com/

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Copyright © 1997 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2011-APR-30
Author: B.A. Robinson
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