“Take Back the Tradition”: Why Catholic LGBT Doctrines Must Evolve.

Robert Goss some years ago edited a useful collection of essays under the title, “Take Back the Word”, on reading the bible from a gay/ lesbian or queer perspective. The value of the title lay in highlighting that the Bible is not, in fact inherently anti-gay, despite the insistence of so many hostile “Christians” who use as weapons against  us a handful of clobber texts. For decades now, biblical scholars have been demonstrating that the allegedly “traditional” interpretation is deeply flawed. However, we need to move beyond the defences against these few verses, which have left many lesbian and gay people with an unjustified suspicion on the Bible as a whole. In fact, there are numerous passages in both the Old and New Testaments, which support positive, gay – friendly reading. “Take Back the Word” presents several of these.

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As Catholics, we need to do something similar with “tradition”, which in Catholic teaching is one of the two primary sources of divine revelation, alongside the Bible itself. As gay and lesbian Catholics, we often hear (and too easily believe), that “tradition”, just like the Bible, is uniformly opposed to same – sex relationships. In fact, this is not true, at all. Just as the Bible includes numerous but unfamiliar specifically gay – supportive passages, there are also supportive but unfamiliar elements in Catholic “tradition”. Furthermore, Pope Benedict XVI, as pope and previously as Cardinal Ratzinger of the CDF, frequently spoke of the “constant and unchanging” nature of tradition – but the only feature of Catholic teaching that is truly constant, is the permanent presence of gradual change.  This is why Pope Francis, early in his papacy, said in a magazine interview, that Church teaching must, necessarily ,constantly evolve. Pope Benedict himself, much earlier in his career, had even warned that this constant evolution of teaching can be dangerous,  represented by what he called the “distorting tradition” that sometimes occurs.

Just as so many modern biblical scholars have corrected the distorted tradition on the clobber texts, and uncovered for us the many more supportive texts, we need to do something similar with “tradition”. We need to investigate, and publicize, how much of what is commonly presented as “traditional” teaching, is in fact a highly selective misrepresentation and distortion of authentically traditional teaching. In addition, we need to demonstrate that alongside the purely defensive responses, there are positively supportive elements in that tradition.

In particular, we need to demonstrate that:

  • The interpretation of Scripture on LGBT issues, is itself in conflict with the magisterial teaching on biblical hermeneutics.
  • Whereas much of the modern presentation of lgbt teaching is presented as firmly grounded in Thomas Aquinas’ theory of “Natural Law”, it is in fact in conflict with Natural Law, as applied by Aquinas himself.
  • The teaching, as set out in the Catholic Catechism, includes numerous Internal contradictions and ambiguities. Even if we wished to live in full accord with the Catechism, for lesbian and gay Catholics, this is simply not possible.
  • Formal Catholic teaching fully accepts the importance of taking into account the findings of science (both natural and social). Recently, Pope Francis has insisted on this, with respect to both evolution and climate change. However, teaching on sexuality, and homosecuality in particular, is in direct conflict with the findings of both natural and social science.a
  • Central to Catholic teaching, especially since Vatican II, is recognition of the importance of the “sensus fidelii”, or “sense of the faithful”. This is a complex area but in essence claims that any claim made by the Church and represented as Church “teaching”, but which has not been accepted or “received” by the faithful as a whole, is false – it cannot claim to be authentic. There is no evidence whatsover that Vatican doctrines on sexual matters as a whole, are in fact supported by the sensus fidelii, which calls into question the very validity of all these elements – notably including pronouncements on same – sex relationships.

Recommended Books

Boswell, John: Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People In Western Europe From The Beginning Of The Christian Era To The Fourteenth Century: Gay … of the Christian Era to the 14th Century
Moore, Gareth: A Question of Truth: Christianity and Homosexuality
Oliva, Adriano: Amours : L’église, les divorcés remariés, les couples homosexuels (French Edition)

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5 thoughts on ““Take Back the Tradition”: Why Catholic LGBT Doctrines Must Evolve.”

  1. I think this will be a very fruitful approach.

    Would like to know more about Aquinas and the natural law theory.

    God Bless

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