Bishop John Stowe of the Diocese of Lexington in Kentucky is scheduled to speak at New Ways Ministry’s symposium April 28–30 in Chicago. The event is titled: “Justice and Mercy Shall Kiss: LGBT Catholics in the Age of Pope Francis.”
Predictably, Lifesite “News” and the even crazier Church Militant website are apoplectic that the bishop is daring to even speak to an LGBT ministry group, misrepresenting this as “US Bishop rips Church teaching on homosexuality” (Lifesite).
As usual, much of what these orthotoxic commenters most object to, should in fact cause for celebration. Take a look at some of what Bishop Stowe actually said, as reported by these two sources:
“I think Pope Francis has signalled that we need to take another look at those things (homosexuality) and I think that Pope Francis has also given us the example, that is, the Church doctrine, the Church teaching has not changed, but the way we approach it has to be merciful,” he said.
After presenting a lengthy tirade against New Ways Ministry, Lifesite continued with this quote:
“I have come to know individuals who are associated with New Ways Ministry…and every one of them I have spoken to are genuine, sincere people of faith who are trying to reconcile their own sexual orientation with the Church that they love and that they have been raised in,” he said.
On the language of “disordered”:
“I think it’s fair to say that the language is not helpful,” he said. “We live in an age of sound bites, and to hear just that phrase is tantamount to hearing an outright rejection.”
“That can’t be the message of the gospel,” he insisted. “That was not Jesus’ approach.”
On the prospects for change in Church teaching:
He put forth the possibility that Church doctrine could change with regard to homosexuality, bringing up the example of Her evolving teaching on usury and slavery.
“Change does come over a long period of time in the way that the Church approaches a number of issues,” he said. “We cannot hide ourselves by excluding ourselves from scientific research and from the development of human knowledge.”
“I think the area where we can grow in understanding,” he continued later, “is the area of … whether homosexuality is a question of nature or nurture.”
On natural law:
When asked what it means to be merciful to practising homosexuals in respect to natural law and the purpose of sexuality, Stowe replied that natural law is only one “framework” among many that could be used to dialogue with believers and unbelievers about sexuality. He suggested that natural law has more to say about homosexual acts than Catholics might think.
“There could be a whole realm of argument [about] what does natural law actually teach us about same-sex behavior. If you find it naturally occurring in the animal world, if you find it naturally occurring among certain species, it both can be clarifying but it also raises other questions,” he said.
Notwithstanding the horror professed by Lifesite and Church Militant, there is absolutely nothing in any of this that is in any way in conflict with authoritative Church teaching. On the contrary, it is completely consistent with both the general guidelines for the Church presented by the Second Vatican Council, and the more specific, sentiments widely shared at the two Family Synods of 2014 and 2015, and the guidelines on pastoral ministry contained in the important Apostolic Exhortation “Amoris Laetitia”.