In the popular mind, there is a great deal of confusion about what the Catholic Church actually teaches about gay and lesbian people. This is hardly surprising – the teaching itself is confused and confusing, and even many bishops seem oblivious of a clear directive in the Catechism and elsewhere that gay people should be treated with “respect, compassion, and sensitivity”. (There is none of that on display in recent declarations that the Irish referendum result approving gay marriage is a “defeat for humanity”). Nor is there any shown in the Vatican documents’ language of “gravely disordered”, which is widely understood to mean that gay people are themselves disordered. That this is not the actual meaning of the words is not the point: the failure to anticipate that they would be so understood, represents a serious failure of sensitivity.
More serious though, is that there is a central contradiction at the heart of Church teaching on actual sexual behaviour, for gay men and lesbians. On the one hand, we are told in the Catechism that our sexuality must be accepted and integrated into our personality – on the other, that it must be suppressed. We are told that our sexuality must be acknowledged honestly – and also that it must be hidden, safely tucked away in the closet. Continue reading Chastity, Integrity, and the Catechism
Crux reports that at the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ mid-year assembly in St. Louis, there’s been some questioning whether their priorities reflect those of Pope Francis.
Archbishop Blase Cupich noted the effort US bishops have made on behalf of “individual employers, secular employers,” with religious objections to some laws. He argued Church leaders should give equal ranking to changing US immigration policy in their planning for the years ahead.
But Archbishop Lori explained that actually, the bishops really are helping the poor – by opposing gay marriage.
Archbishop William Lori, who spearheads the bishops’ religious freedom advocacy, said in an interview he found the discussion Thursday “helpful.” Lori said there is a link between religious liberty and the Church’s mission on behalf of the poor. If the US Supreme Court legalizes gay marriage in its ruling this month, Lori said the Church’s social service agencies, which employ thousands of workers and provide them benefits, may not be able to continue operating if they are compelled to recognize same-sex couples.
“In the crosshairs is the ability of the Church to serve,” Lori said. “We need the freedom to do this according to our teachings.”
A facebook post at LGBT et catholicisme, un lieu d’échange et de dialogue has drawn my attention to an interesting example of sensitive LGBT ministry in the French diocese of Créteil. What I particularly like about this initiative:
- Incorporating the rainbow flag into its logo, on a Catholic diocesan website
- the clearly non-judgemental approach, with an emphasis on listening and prayer
- the collaboration with two organisations outside the diocesan structure, which each have an explicit welcome to LGBT Christians, their friends and their families (and yes, the “T” here is specifically spelt out).
For lesbian and gay Catholics, there is dynamite in Cardinal Walter Kasper’s expectations for the October Synod. Recall, that he has form in this. Addressing the 2014 consistory of cardinals, his reflections on more sympathetic pastoral response to divorced and remarried Catholic gave advance notice that would be a major them of the initial, extraordinary synod. So it proved. Now, he has given notice of a different them that could be a major focus of this years synod: same -sex couples and recognition of their unions. (Lifesite News agrees with my interpretation, greeting the news with horror. What distresses Lifesite usually pleases me).
Cardinal Parolin’s stupid and insensitive claim that the Irish referendum result is a “defeat for humaniy” has been widely reported in the English press. There’s been less coverage to rather more encouraging responses by others in the Vatican. Italian and French media have also reported on more encouraging responses by Cardinals Bagnasco and especially by Cardinal Kasper, who will have an influential role in October’s family synod. In an interview with the Italian daily Corriere della Sera he acknowledges that the Church must recognize the democratic decisions of voters, says that “now is the time to discuss” these things, and that the Church must find a “new language” in doing so, avoiding the hurtful language and discrimination that have been common in the past. These sentiments will be especially important for bishops in Italy in the months leading up to the synod, as the country faces its own prospect of civil unions.
The Irish result has galvanized Italian politicians, who have promised a civil unions bill “soon”. The political debate is likely to be played out precisely during, or immediately before, the October family synod. There will certainly not be any approval given to gay marriage, and even support for civil unions is unlikely, but we know that the possibility of some – form of recognition or valuing of same – sex couples has at least been discussed, for example by the gathering in Rome of bishops and theologians from Germany, Switzerland and France, called by the presidents of the respective bishops’ conferences. Coupled with the new emphasis on respectful dialogue, and the Kasper’s admission that democratic decisions must be respected, it seems probable that after the synod, responses to same – sex couples and their relationships will be substantially changed, in practice if not (yet) in actual teaching.
Unfortunately, the Corriere interview is behind a paywall. However, at the French LGBT Christian facebook page LGBT et catholicisme, un lieu d’échange et de dialogue, there is an image of the front page.
I’ve been also been able to locate reports on it from the French La Croix, and also from a secondary Italian source (for which I’ve stupidly not noted the link), which with the help of Google, I’ve been able to translate.
First, the report from La Croix, in the original French, interspersed with my English translation. Thereafter, the Italian text and its translation:
Le cardinal Kasper affirme que des éléments de bien peuvent exister dans une union homosexuelle
Cardinal Kasper says that positive elements may exist in a homosexual union
Le président émérite du Conseil pontifical pour la promotion de l’unité des chrétiens s’exprimait mercredi 27 mai dans une interview au quotidien italien Corriere della Sera.
The President Emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity was speaking Wednesday, May 27 in an interview with Italian daily Corriere della Sera.
« S’il existe une union stable (dans un couple homosexuel, NDLR), des éléments de bien existent sans aucun doute et il faut les reconnaître », affirme le cardinal Walter Kasper dans le quotidien italien Corriere della Sera mercredi 27 mai.
“If there is a stable union (in a homosexual couple, Ed), positive elements undoubtedly exist and must be recognized” says Cardinal Walter Kasper in the Italian daily Corriere della Sera Wednesday, May 27
« Mais nous ne pouvons pas comparer cela (avec le mariage, NDLR), poursuit cependant le président émérite du Conseil pontifical pour la promotion de l’unité des chrétiens en assurant que « la famille formée d’un homme et d’une femme et ouverte à la procréation est la cellule fondamentale de la société ».
“But we can not compare it (with marriage, Ed), however, the president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity continues, ensuring that “the family formed of a man and a woman and open to procreation is the fundamental unit of society.”
« ATTENTION À NE PAS UTILISER DES EXPRESSIONS QUI PEUVENT PARAÎTRE BLESSANTES »
“BE CAREFUL NOT TO USE EXPRESSIONS WHICH MAY APPEAR HURTFUL”
Interrogé sur l’expression « inclination objectivement désordonnée » pour qualifier la seule tendance homosexuelle, utilisée par la Congrégation pour la doctrine de la foi en 1986, le cardinal confie qu’il faut « faire attention à ne pas utiliser des expressions qui peuvent paraître blessantes, sans pour autant dissimuler la vérité ». « Nous devons dépasser la discrimination qui a une longue tradition dans notre culture », ajoute le théologien allemand connu pour son ouverture en faveur d’un meilleur accueil des personnes homosexuelles ou encore des couples divorcés remariés dans l’Église.
When asked about the term “objectively disordered inclination” used by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1986 to describe the homosexual tendency,the Cardinal says we must “be careful not to use expressions that may seem offensive, without concealing the truth”. “We must overcome the discrimination that has a long tradition in our culture,” added the German theologian, known for his openness to a better reception in the Church for homosexuals or divorced and remarried couples.
Now, the Italian source:
Cardinale Kasper: “è il momento di discutere”
Cardinal Kasper: “It is time to discuss”
Più aperta invece, sembra la posizione del Cardinale Kasper, il quale ha affermato al Corriere della Sera che “uno Stato democratico deve rispettare la volontà popolare, mi pare chiaro, se la maggioranza del popolo vuole queste unioni civili è un dovere dello Stato riconoscere tali diritti”, sottolineando però che “una legislazione simile, pur distinguendo fra il matrimonio e le unioni omosessuali, arriva a riconoscere a tali unioni più o meno gli stessi diritti delle famiglie formate da uomo e donna” – e “per la Chiesa diventa ancora più difficile spiegare la differenza”. Nella Chiesa “si è taciuto troppo su questi temi. Adesso è il momento di discuterne”. L’occasione potrà essere il Sinodo di ottobre. Kasper ha poi precisato: “io non posso immaginare un cambiamento fondamentale nella posizione della Chiesa. È chiara la Genesi, è chiaro il Vangelo. Ma le formule tradizionali con le quali abbiamo cercato di spiegare, evidentemente, non raggiungono più la mente e il cuore della gente. Ora non si tratta di fare le barricate. Dobbiamo piuttosto trovare un nuovo linguaggio che arrivi «soprattutto ai giovani”.
However, the position of Cardinal Kasper seems to be more open. He said to the Corriere della Sera that “a democratic state must respect the will of the people, it seems clear, though the majority of the people want these civil unions is a duty of the state to recognize these rights, “stressing that” similar legislation, while distinguishing between marriage and homosexual unions, comes to recognize in such unions more or less the same rights as families formed by man and woman”- and “for the Church becomes even more difficult to explain the difference.” In the Church “has been silent on these issues too. Now is the time to discuss it.” The occasion will be the Synod of October. Kasper then stated: “I can not imagine a fundamental change in the position of the Church. It is clear in Genesis, it is clear in the Gospel. But the traditional formulas with which we tried to explain, clearly, no longer reach the minds and hearts of the people. Now this is not to the barricades. Rather, we must find a new language that comes through “especially to young people.”
At last a conservative Catholic source has admitted what I and others have often pointed out: same – sex marriage is not, after all, new, and legal recognition is not “redefining” it.
Under the heading Gay Marriage—Nothing New Under the Sun, Benjamin Wiker writes:
Gay marriage was—surprise!—alive and well in Rome, celebrated even and especially by select emperors, a spin-off of the general cultural affirmation of Roman homosexuality. Gay marriage was, along with homosexuality, something the first Christians faced as part of the pagan moral darkness of their time.
What Christians are fighting against today, then, is not yet another sexual innovation peculiar to our “enlightened age,” but the return to pre-Christian, pagan sexual morality.
So, what was happening in ancient Rome? Homosexuality was just as widespread among the Romans as it was among the Greeks (a sign of which is that it was condoned even by the stolid Stoics). The Romans had adopted the pederasty of the Greeks (aimed, generally, at boys between the ages of 12 to 18). There was nothing shameful about such sexual relations among Romans, if the boy was not freeborn. Slaves, both male and female, were considered property, and that included sexual property.
But the Romans also extended homosexuality to adult men, even adult free men. And it is likely that this crossing of the line from child to adult, unfree to free—not homosexuality as such—was what affronted the more austere of the Roman moralists.
Wiker is of course, opposed to marriage equality, and so continues to quote Roman sources to prove that even they were disgusted by the practice. The examples he quotes deserve close attention, because there’s an important point he misses (or avoids), one which clarifies for me the real lesson behind the apparent condemnation of same – sex relationships in Paul’s letter to the Romans.
I was moderately pleased by Archbishop Martin’s observation that the comfortable win for marriage equality showed that the Church needs a “reality check”, but concerned by what he seemed to think this would involve.
It does not appear that he was facing the obvious conclusion that Vatican teaching itself does not mesh too well with reality, but simply that “reality” indicates that the Church has not communicated its message effectively. There seems to be a problem, he was saying, with a failure of Catholic education in this overwhelmingly Catholic country. My reaction was rather different. Based on my own experience of Catholic education in a country rife with injustice, I saw the Irish result as a triumph for Catholic education. The heart of Catholic belief goes way beyond rigid rules about sex, and much more about the fundamental importance of family values – however those families happen to be constituted. It is less about slavish adherence to authoritarian rules, whether made by state or church, than about adherence to the Gospels. It is not about protecting privilege, but about protecting the weak and marginalized.
I was delighted to come across this commentary by Morrisey, who is clearly thinking along similar lines:
Because the Irish have been brought up by the Catholic Church to view marriage as a sacrament is the reason they can shift sideways to see a same-sex relationship in the same God-blessed way. Because marriage is a beautiful commitment of love, taught to them by the Church, is why the Irish can make the connection to two people of the same sex loving each other with a similar commitment. It is the love commitment they value, and have come to see in their friends and family members who are gay and lesbian as well. Love conquers. The Irish are lovers. It doesn’t matter who the partners are — “I promise to love you all the days of my life, so help me God.”
via USA TODAY