"Can you be gay and Catholic?" (I Go Head to head with "Catholic Voices")

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Terry Weldon
Some time ago, I described how Catholic Voices arranged a supposedly public discussion on how Catholics should respond to the political debates on same – sex marriage – but when I and a friend attempted to register for the event, we found that at a Catholic Voices discussion about Catholics and gay marriage, gay Catholics were not welcome. I was therefore interested when I was contacted by the BBC religious affairs department recently, about participating in an email debate with a representative of the orthodox Catholic view, on that very subject. The original intention was for the discussion to be completed for publication on the BBC website for Sunday 10th, last week – but it seemed to take the producer a remarkably long time to track down someone willing to debate that topic with me. By the time he did have a volunteer (in the end, representing Catholic Voices), it was too late for publication last week, and the topic had somehow transformed into the more general one – “Can you be gay and Catholic?”
It’s been a busy week for my broadcasting career: earlier, I was briefly on the Graham Torrington late night show at BBC West Midlands, with a discussion that was supposed to have been writing a job description for the new pope. That got a little derailed though, when Torrington asked me first, if I would like to see a black pope, and then “How about a gay pope?” That was just the opportunity I needed, to point out that a gay pope would not be anything new, at all. There’ve been several in the course of church history, already (if one makes due allowance for the obvious anachronism of using the word “gay”, with all its very modern connotations, to refer simply to popes who are known to have had sex with men).
I also have an appointment next week with a television broadcaster, to record my first ever video interview (also about my hopes for the new pope). More on that, later – once the screening date has been confirmed
The email correspondence on being gay and Catholic is up now on the religion page at the BBC website, but comments will be open only on Sunday. The producer has asked me to publicize the conversation – and to encourage people to participate in the comments, when they open.
Here’s the opening of the conversation:

“What is a gay Catholic to do?”

Terry: A few years ago, the Jesuit priest James Martin put an important question at America magazine:

“What,” he asked, “Is a gay Catholic to do?”

Introducing his question, Fr Martin began by observing five actions that most people would regard as standard life experiences or choices, but which are prohibited to gay Catholics if they wish to conform to standard Church teaching.

Briefly, these actions are:

  • To experience romantic, sexual love;
  • to get married;
  • to adopt children;
  • to seek ordination;
  • to take employment with the Church or its agencies.

I’d be interested in your response to his question – what is a gay Catholic to do?

Joe: The short answer is that they can do pretty much what every other Catholic can do; build bridges, run banks or oil companies, collect bins, be plumbers or doctors or lawyers, or whatever their skills allow them. Humans have many ways of defining and expressing themselves, and the Church encourages them to explore all facets of their existence, not just their sexuality.

We are asked to control our sexuality and not be dominated by it (or by any other part of our personality). This is as true for heterosexuality as for homosexuality. Any man that can show he has a commitment to celibacy, of either inclination, would be acceptable for ordination.

Terry: In Genesis 2, the Lord says, “It is not good for man to be alone. I will make him a companion”. St Paul writes, “It is better for a man to marry, than to burn”. So, it is good to share our lives with another. Neither of these says “But not if he’s gay”. How then, do you suggest a gay man or woman should live in loving companionship with another?

Blessed single life

Joe: Paul in that passage makes it quite clear that there are many ways a man can be fulfilled apart from marriage. He also shows that there are trials and difficulties in all states. Life is not easy which ever path we’re on. We’re asked make the best of where we are and who we are, to channel our passions and energies to the benefit of our communities.

There are many ways of living in companionship and community that are fulfilling and worthwhile. When I was a young man, I was to some extent lonely, but found community and brotherhood with friends. For some that is a permanent way of life that is valued just as much as marriage.

Not all paths are open to everyone, but we flourish best when we maximise the potential we can achieve, not what might have been.

Terry: Are you suggesting then, that for a young man bursting with hormones, brought up and socially conditioned to believe that the natural course of human happiness is to marry and have children, he should be content to live alone and seek solace in “friends”?

That’s not very helpful.

When I was young, fresh out of Catholic school, I simply assumed that I was obliged to follow (or attempt to follow) Catholic doctrines in every respect.

The result was that at a far too early age, I married a good Catholic woman with whom I had a strong emotional and intellectual connection – but no sexual spark at all. As it turned out, this was totally unfair on her.

-continue reading at BBC Religion & Ethics, “Perspectives

Then- go ahead and add your comments, Sunday.


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