Tag Archives: Catholic Church

Sex and Catholics 3: Vatican II and Modern Specialists

Chris Morely continues his guest post series on Natural Law: Part 3

Vatican II and incorporating modern specialist expertise

Part 1 dealt with the Natural Law.

In Part 2 we considered the male and female perspectives of Natural Law and the Church’s teachings on sexual morality, and recent learning from experts in evolution.

Here in Part 3, we move on to the Church’s stated position on considering outside expertise and some particular examples – insights from human psychology, secular liberal philosophy, and modern Christian moral theologians, including a Pope. We assess how well the Church’s sexual behaviour teaching copes with the various critiques and its response.

postage stamp showing Vatican 2 Council

Vatican II

The 2nd Vatican Council directed the Church to look beyond its well established traditions and scriptural interpretations and take account of the expertise available from various fields of learning in the modern world, and use these external insights to review and update its teachings of the Truth, as appropriate.

However this directive appears to be ignored more than followed.

The Church’s most recent formal statement is the 1986 letter to the bishops on the pastoral care of homosexual persons, from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

In paragraph 2, this tells us:

However, the Catholic moral viewpoint is founded on human reason illumined by faith and is consciously motivated by the desire to do the will of God our Father. The Church is thus in a position to learn from scientific discovery but also to transcend the horizons of science and to be confident that her more global vision does greater justice to the rich reality of the human person in his spiritual and physical dimensions, created by God and heir, by grace, to eternal life.

This is not a satisfactory response to the Vatican II instruction to learn from outside expertise. The key passage is: ‘we can learn from scientific discovery’ but our position means we can ‘transcend the horizons of science and .. be confident that [the Church’s] more global vision does greater justice to the rich reality of the human person in his spiritual and physical dimensions’.

In other words, we are correct already and simply don’t need to consider anything else or change our teaching as a result of any scientific discovery: “[the Church’s] more global vision does greater justice … “.

Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith office at the Vatican

Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith office at the Vatican

Unchanged since 1986 but outside expertise moves on

While the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has not changed its position on the treatment of lesbian and gay people since 1986, much new information has been gathered on the history of homosexuality, its nature and causes, biblical and theological perspectives, and from the empirical sciences.

In many areas covered by the Congregation’s pastoral guidelines, Catholic culture has made major advances (Curb & Manahan, 1985 [14]; Francoeur, 1988 [15], 1989 [16]; Gramick, 1983 [17], 1988 [18]; Nugent, 1984 [19], 1992 [20]). Those are just the first eight years worth of publications from around the time of its publication in 1986, and very much more has been published since.

The tension between the unchanging formal fixed Church view of homosexuality and the changing worldview, is evident when John R. Quinn, Archbishop of San Francisco, replied to the Curia’s 1986 letter on the pastoral care of homosexuals, with clear frustration:

We cannot fulfill our task [as pastors and bishops] simply by an uncritical application of solutions designed in past ages for problems which have qualitatively changed, or which did not exist in the past. (Quoted in Gramick & Furey, 1988, p. vii)  [13]

He was writing this from San Francisco as thousands of gay men in his city, significant numbers of whom were Catholic, already had HIV infection and were dying of AIDS, before any effective treatment was available. The world for lesbians and gay men had very significantly changed.
Project in San Francsisco to gather people's HIV stories from the last 30 years

 

No change: a comfort blanket

Plainly the field of sexual morality is one where the Church is reluctant to incorporate external expertise and the weight of modern moral theological and scriptural opinion, preferring instead to keep its comfort blanket of familiar traditions and teachings wrapped tight round its fist.

Catholic theologians are vulnerable when speaking out on these themes: some have been disciplined and others have lost their jobs. Debate and scholarly exploration of ideas is inhibited and closed down. The Church gives little sign of active, responsive listening.

It would be a firm but accurate criticism to say that the Church is being disrespectful to lesbian and gay Catholics by apparently not listening and responding to the wealth of new information and insights available in the 25 years since 1986, contrary to her own Catechism’s instruction to be ‘respectful, compassionate and sensitive’ to lesbian and gay people (in paragraph 2358).

 

Now it is time to turn our attention to some of the secular experts’ work that ought to have an impact on the Church’s thinking and teaching about sexual morality.

Psychologically natural forms of human sexual expression
Among the disregarded modern secular perspectives is that offered by Thomas Nagel ¹, who denies Aquinas’s central presupposition, that in order to discover what is natural in human sexuality we should focus on what humans and lower animals have in common. Using this approach, Aquinas concluded that the purpose of sexual activity and the sexual organs in humans was procreation, as it is in the lower animals.

bonobo couple

Aquinas considered animal behaviour so here’s a contented bonobo couple

 

Nagel, by contrast, argues that to discover what is distinctive about natural human sexuality, and so be able also to work out what is unnatural or perverted, we should focus instead on what humans and lower animals do not have in common. We should emphasize the ways in which humans are different from animals, the ways in which humans and their sexuality are special.

Thus Nagel argues that human sexuality, whether strictly procreative as required by Aquinas, or expressed in various other ways, is explained by human psychology. For it is human psychology that makes us quite different from other animals, and hence an account of natural human sexuality must acknowledge the uniqueness of human psychology. We have been created with and have evolved with proportionately massive brains compared with all other animals, and this makes us quantitatively and qualitatively different and our human psychology is expressed in distinctly human sexual behaviours.

Aquinas and the Church have ignored these brain and psychological differences from animals.

 

 

Mutual Attraction single record 45rpm

Mutual Attraction – Nagel argues that psychologically healthy sexual relations have both mutual interest and mutual arousal

Mutual sexual interest and arousal
Nagel therefore proposes that psychologically healthy natural human sexual interactions, are all those in which each person responds with sexual arousal to noticing the sexual arousal of the other person. In such an encounter, each person becomes aware of himself or herself and the other person as both the subject and the object of their joint sexual experiences. If mutual arousal and interest is not present, Nagel describes this as perverted, or in Aquinas’s terms, unnatural.

Psychology, not organs, not bodily responses
Nothing in Nagel’s psychological account of the natural and the perverted refers to bodily organs or physiological processes. That is, for a sexual encounter to be natural, it need not be procreative in form, as long as the requisite psychology of mutual recognition and arousal is present. Whether a sexual activity is natural or perverted does not depend, in Nagel’s view, on what organs are used or where they are put, but only on the character of the psychology of the sexual encounter.

Thus Nagel disagrees with Aquinas that homosexual activities, as a specific type of sexual act, are unnatural or perverted, for oral and anal sex may very well be accompanied by the mutual recognition of and response to the other’s sexual arousal.

Boswell pointing out that Thomas Aquinas was responsible for homosexuality being made a grave sinThomas Aquinas         1225 – 1274

Thomas Aquinas emphasised the sin in homosexual acts

The change from Aquinas’s judgemental natural law response to every activity that is not strictly procreational, toward an amoral psychological account such as Nagel’s, represents a more widespread modern trend. Aquinas’s moral or religious judgments are replaced by acceptance of behaviours as part of the normal range of human sexual expression, or by medical or psychiatric judgments and interventions. ²

 

There is no requirement for the Church to accept the specific sexual behaviour conclusions Nagel reaches (mutual interest leading to mutual arousal, whether married or not, followed by any consensual sexual behaviour), but there is a need to address his insight that exploring the perspective of what is different, special and unique about people compared with animals is illuminating. We have a highly intelligent human psychology not found in animal-kind. What does that mean for considering what are appropriate sexual behaviours and relationships for humans? Does it not suggest that human sexual behaviours are likely to be more complex and nuanced?

Could not Nagel’s insights be combined with the unitive, and consensual sexual behaviour be acceptable if that is within a marriage or the lesbian and gay equivalent?

 

Secular liberal sexual philosophy
Modern secular liberal sexual philosophers now emphasise the values of autonomous choice, self-determination, and pleasure in arriving at moral judgments about sexual behavior, in contrast to the Aquinas tradition that justifies highly restrictive sexual morality limits by reference to Natural Law, God and scripture as the source of those limits.

The secular liberal finds nothing morally wrong, or non-morally bad, about either masturbation or homosexual sexual activity. These might be ‘unnatural’ in the sense of being solitary or less common, but in many if not most cases, they can be carried out without harm being done either to the participants, or to anyone else.

For the secular liberal, anything done voluntarily between two or more people is generally morally permissible. A sexual act would be morally wrong if it were dishonest, coercive, or manipulative, and Natural Law theory would agree with that. However Aquinas would instead start by saying that anything that is not marital vaginal sex open to procreation is fundamentally wrong because it is ‘unnatural’ and against God’s purpose, and no amount of good intentions or other justification can ever eradicate that fatal flaw in any alternate sexual activity.

sex and power in alphabet bricks

 

Modern liberal Catholic moral theologians and others
Modern liberal Catholic moral theologians such as Todd Salzmann and Michael Lawler ³, and Sister Margaret Farley [4], and Dr James B Nickoloff [5], Bishop Geoffrey Robinson [6], James Alison [7], and Joshua Allen [8], all put a high moral value on consensual sexual activity only within committed permanent relationships, whether heterosexual marriage, lesbian and gay marriage, or lesbian and gay civil partnerships. Within such committed relationships, the emphasis is not on particular sexual acts and what body part goes where, but far more on its unitive value, consent and doing no harm.

spouse A is always for spouse B

commitment

Contemporary liberal Anglican, Episcopal and other liberal Christian moral theologians generally share this moral restriction on the use of human sexual faculties to those within committed permanent relationships.

In contrast, contemporary orthodox and evangelical Christian theologians are doctrinaire with tradition and biblical interpretations, decidedly hostile to any homosexual expression, and strict about limiting sex to within married heterosexual relationships, and they oppose adultery and divorce.

It is notable that a great deal more effort is put into condemning any homosexual activity whatsoever, than ever appears to be the case in relation to the much more frequent moral misbehaviours of heterosexuals which demonstrably harm others, such as adultery and divorce. In psychological terms this looks like a near pathological anti-homosexual obsession, scapegoating and displacement.

Oftentimes the Magisterium and others within the Catholic Church lurch into this same condemnatory response to homosexuality, forgetting their Catechism duty to treat lesbians and gay men with ‘respect, compassion and sensitivity’. Condemnatory sermonising that disregards the Catechism instructions on respect, compassion and sensitivity does not engender respect for the Church among those hurt by this. Frank acknowledgments of error and apologies for the unnecessary offence caused are decidedly rare and this is also un-Christian. Expecting lesbians and gay men to always turn the other cheek in the face of such Church misbehaviour is unreasonable. Such mistreatment, especially when repeated, is psychologically damaging to mental health and well-being.

 

Aquinas-lite, a contraception OK variant of Natural Law
Natural Law is still alive and well today among some contemporary philosophers of sex, even if the details do not exactly match Aquinas as now taught by the Church. John Finnis [9] [10] comes very close to a traditional Catholic or orthodox evangelical position. He does not require all vaginal intercourse within marriage to be open to procreation, so contraception is acceptable to Finnis.

However he invokes God and argues that only vaginal intercourse within marriage avoids ‘disintegrity’. Only in marital vaginal sex, as intended by God’s plan, do the couple attain a state of genuine unity: ‘the orgasmic union of the reproductive organs of husband and wife really unites them biologically.’ He says ‘all extramarital sexual gratification’ is morally worthless, even if it is vaginal intercourse within a committed relationship, because the body is then just a tool of sexual satisfaction and, as a result, the person undergoes ‘disintegration.’ ‘One’s choosing self [becomes] the quasi-slave of the experiencing self which is demanding gratification.’

Contraception - worth talking about

This is almost indistinguishable in practice from Aquinas. This is Aquinas-lite, ignoring Aquinas’s expectation of vaginal sex being for procreation and the contraception ban in In Humanae Vitae. Finnis appears to have conceived this framework to justify maintaining the hegemony of the current orthodox Catholic and evangelical Christian vaginal intercourse-only model for marriage. Finnis’s language is marginally different to Aquinas: ‘disintegrity’ and ‘disintegration’ being his terms to condemn all other sexual activity in place of Aquinas’s ‘unnatural’ or the 1986 letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faiths’ choice of the word ‘disordered’. It doesn’t feel any less damning to have that Finnis’s choice of words applied to you.

 

Love’s the thing
Pope John Paul II, wrote a sexual morality text book as Karol Wojtyla [11], and said that allowing oneself to be used sexually by another makes an object of oneself, and consent alone is not enough for this to be morally acceptable. ‘Only love can preclude the use of one person by another’ (p. 30), since love is a unification of persons resulting from a mutual gift exchange of their selves.

Note, however, that his idea that a unifying love is the key component that justifies sexual activity (in addition to consent) has an interesting and ironic consequence: gay and lesbian sexual relations should also be permissible if they occur within loving, monogamous homosexual marriages (which is the position advocated by the theologians Patricia Jung and Ralph Smith [12]).

I heart unifying

unifying love

However at this point in any discussion, defenders of the view that sexual activity is justifiable only within heterosexual marriage (such as Finnis and Wojtyla), commonly resort to Natural Law to rule out homosexual marriage, and to God to rule out all homosexual activity.

This only works if their Scripture interpretations are sound. Demonstrate that traditional scripture interpretations against homosexual sex are unsound, as many scholars have, and they’ll try a flip to quoting Church Tradition. But as many scholars have shown, there was no continuous Christian tradition of homosexuality being a sin, until shortly after St Thomas Aquinas arrived and made it so. The homosexuality is an ‘unnatural vice’ tradition is late (over 1200 years after Jesus) and it was invented, and it stands tottering on shaky Natural Law foundations. [There is a continuous Church tradition of some kind of sexual sin from the earliest days. Sorry I distorted what I meant to say. See Terence’s comment at the end and my response. And Part 4 includes the history of the sexual sin in some detail, and describes how Thomas reinforced this and codified it in the Church’s theology.]

 

So the holes in the Catholic Church’s defence of its current Natural Law and sexual morality teaching are becoming really obvious. When the Natural Law arguments are under significant sustained critique, they turn to what they say ‘God says’ to rescue their argument. Impasse is often reached soon after this: if you don’t believe (as a secularist), or you’re a Christian who sees the loving Jesus of the Gospels welcoming all people including lesbians and gay men especially when in committed unitive relationships in place of a punishing God, or if you don’t accept the Church’s interpretations of scripture, there is impasse.

 

Changing Church views

There are signs and sounds of creaking tectonic plates that indicate the Catholic Church is tending to be less dogmatic than it has been in the past and is edging towards finding a fresh way to represent the Truth in its teaching. Terence has posted about how the Vatican hasn’t officially repeated the ‘intrinsically disordered’ phrase recently; and about the nuanced language coming from the Archbishops of Westminster and Southwark in the pastoral letter about civil gay marriage, and in the Archbishop of Westminster’s recent reconfirmation of the Soho Masses pastoral ministry for lesbians and gay men.

Significant moral theologians of all sexualities have continued to voice concerns about the Truth of the sexual morality teaching from the Church.

1943 hanging sign in the South of the USA for the segregated waiting room for coloured people

1943 hanging sign in the South of the USA for the segregated waiting room for coloured people

Human cost of waiting

However while waiting for these tectonic plates of sexual morality teaching to shift, the human cost, which is born by lesbians and gay men and not the Church, is significant. We should remember that slaves continued to suffer too in the very slow repositioning of the Church on the slavery issue. The Church should avoid imposing a similar lengthy human cost on further generations of lesbians and gay men.

There has been around 750 years of pain so far since Thomas Aquinas facilitated the first declaration that homosexuality is a sin. The Church’s continuing strictures are significant pressures that reinforce and give authority to lesbian and gay discrimination in law and other mistreatment, they encourage the avoidable spread of HIV/AIDS, and they provoke suicides, especially among lesbian, gay and questioning teenagers.

Sinful delay

It has been suggested by theologians that the Church can sin. Sins against slaves and against lesbians and gay men, for not working with due speed to resolve these issues, should be on the Church’s and Magisterium’s conscience, as should those relating to failures to effectively address clerical child abuse. Failing to effectively address clerical child abuse scandalises the world and is a cause of further doubt to Catholics and the world that the Church is speaking the Truth about the proper expression of human sexuality, when the Magisterium’s own involvement in and response to clerical sexual abuse has been so wanting and disordered.

 

Next Time: Part 4:  More holes and weaknesses in Natural Law exposed

Next time, in the final segment, we’ll consider a further range of experts, referenced in Stanford University’s Encyclopedia of Philosophy’s chapter on Homosexuality and Natural Law. We will conclude with a detailed examination of Thomas Aquinas’s homosexual deception, where he suppressed elements from Aristotle, and mis-stated others, and became a prime cause of the Church making homosexuality a grave sin for the first time.

 

Further Reading and References

For a thorough study of the approaches to Human Sexuality by the Catholic Church, this is particularly useful: Catholic Culture and Sexuality, by Robert T Francoeur, 2005.

It contains a section ‘Dealing with Homosexuality’.
Robert T. Francoeur, PhD, is co-editor of the international award-winning Continuum Complete International Encyclopedia of Sexuality (Francoeur & Noonan, 2004a), compiled by 280 experts reporting on all aspects of sexual attitudes, values, behaviors, and relationships in 62 countries on seven continents. Trained in Catholic theology, human embryology, and sexology, Francoeur is also recent editor of the Complete Dictionary of Sexology (Francoeur, et al. 1995.and Sex, Love and Marriage in the Twenty-First Century (Francoeur, Cornog & Perper, 1999).

¹ Nagel, Thomas. “Sexual Perversion”, in Alan Soble, ed., The Philosophy of Sex, 3st edition. Lanham, Md.: Rowman and Littlefield, 1997, pp. 9-20. http://www.iep.utm.edu/sexualit/#H10

² Soble, Alan. Sexual Investigations. New York: New York University Press,1996. (chapter 4)

³ Salzmann, Todd and Lawler, Michael. “The Sexual Person: Toward a Renewed Catholic Anthropology” Georgetown University Press, 2008 http://press.georgetown.edu/book/georgetown/sexual-person

[4] Farley, Margaret. “Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics”, Continuum, 2006
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/623342.Just_Love

[5] Nickoloff, James. “ ‘Intrinsically Disordered’ :Gay People and the Holiness of the Church” Bannan Institute, Santa Clara University, 2009 http://www.scu.edu/ignatiancenter/faculty/fellowships/upload/f_09_Intrinsically-Disordered.pdf

[6] Robinson, Geoffrey. “Christian Basis for Teaching on Sex: Sexual Relationships: Where does our Morality come from?” Address to New Ways Ministry Conference, March 2012 http://www.bishopgeoffrobinson.org/Christian%20Basis%20for%20Teaching%20on%20Sex.pdf

[7] Alison, James. Theology as Survival: an interview with James Alison by Brett Salkeld, 2012 http://www.jamesalison.co.uk/texts/eng67.html

[8] Allen, Joshua. Gay Marriage, Natural Law, and Civil Law: Understanding the Locus of Debate; De Libris Arbitrium, Center for Morality in Public Life, January 2011 http://www.cfmpl.org/reviews/2011/01/20/gay-marriage-natural-law-and-civil-law-understanding-the-locus-of-debate/

[9] Finnis, John. “Law, Morality, and Sexual Orientation” Notre Dame Law Review 69:5 (1994), pp1049-76.

[10] Finnis, John and Martha Nussbaum. “Is Homosexual Conduct Wrong? A Philosophical Exchange,” in Alan Soble, ed., The Philosophy of Sex, 3rd edition. Lanham, Md.: Rowman and Littlefield, 1997, pp. 89-94.

[11] Wojtyla, Karol [Pope John Paul II]. Love and Responsibility. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1981.

[12] Jung, Patricia, and Ralph Smith. Heterosexism: An Ethical Challenge. Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 1993.

[13] Catholic Culture and Sexuality, by Robert T Francoeur, 2005.

[14] Curb, R., & Manahan, N. (Eds.). (1985). Lesbian nuns breaking silence. Tallahassee, FL: Naiad Press.

[15] Francoeur, R. T. (1988). Two different worlds, Two different moralities. In J. Gramick & P. Furey (Eds.), The Vatican and homosexuality: Reactions to the “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the pastoral care of homosexual persons.” New York: Crossroad.

[16] Francoeur, R. T. (1989). New dimensions in human sexuality. In R. H. Iles (Ed.), The Gospel imperative in the midst of AIDS: Toward a prophetic pastoral theology. Winton, CT: Morehouse Publishing.

[17] Gramick, J. (Ed.). (1983). Homosexuality and the Catholic Church. Chicago, IL: Thomas More Press.

[18] Gramick, J., & Furey, P. (Eds.). (1988). The Vatican and homosexuality: Reactions to the “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the pastoral care of homosexual persons.” New York: Crossroad.

[19] Nugent, R. (Ed.). (1984). A challenge to love: Gay and lesbian Catholics in the Church. New York: Crossroad.

[20] Nugent, R., & Gramick, J. (1992). Building bridges: Gay and lesbian reality and the Catholic Church. Mystic, CT: Twenty-Third Publications.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...Chris Morley’s complete series on natural law

Enhanced by Zemanta

British Catholics: Same-sex relationships “Not wrong at all”

In the UK, 62% of Catholics now say that same-sex relationships are “not at all wrong”.

This finding,  from the authoritative, annual British Social Attitudes Survey for 2017, is particularly dramatic when viewed over the long term, the thirty years from 1986 and 2016. This transformation in attitudes applies to all Christians, but especially to Catholics, for whom moral acceptance of same-sex relationships rose from just 9% 30 years ago, to 62% in 2016.

Continue reading British Catholics: Same-sex relationships “Not wrong at all”

Krzysztof Charamsa: “”God loves me, because I love my husband”(German Interview)

It is always worth paying close attention to press interviews with Msgr Krysztof Charamsa, the Catholic theologian at the CDF who came out as both gay and partnered, on the eve of the 2015 Synod on /marriage and family. There have been several of these, initially on the occasion of his coming out, and later with the launch of his book, in the original Italian and the later translations.  Sadly, as far as I am aware, none of these have yet appeared in English.

I therefore provide below, my own free translation (based on a modified Google translation), of his most recent (German) interview with Berliner Zeitung. In this post, I present the interview in full, without comment. My responses will follow, in a series of follow-up posts.

Openly gay Msgr Krysztof Charamsa (left), with partner

Ex-Monsignore Krzysztof Charamsa “Gott liebt mich, weil ich meinen Mann liebe”

(Translation: “God loves me, because I love my husband”)

We meet in the breakfast room of a small hotel at Hamburg main station. Krzysztof Charamsa, 44, has presented his book here. He wears a light, waisted jacket, with a blue handkerchief, if I remember correctly. A white shirt. Blue jeans. He looks very elegant. The most striking however is orange glasses. Krzysztof Charamsa laughs and loves to cry. I had not imagined the Grand Inquisitor of the Catholic Church so. Not even one of his staff. Krzysztof Charamsa is a Pole, but speaks German. Very rarely does he search for a word.




What is Spinning?

This is my sport: cycling in the gym. At the bottom I am struggling, everything is going through my head. I can think clearly.

One does not step forward. This is your favourite sport?

It is like liberation. You kick wildly into the pedals. They sweat. You are exhausted. But you do not have to worry about anything. Your head is free. It hits the spot.

That’s why you wrote a book about the “immutability of God”.

My dissertation. At that time I did not know Spinning. I was looking for security, for a solid foundation. It seemed to me to offer me a God who is self-sufficient. This was a God who does not lean toward his creature. No God of friendship, no God in the world, in history. A very sad image of God, I find today. I’ve been thinking about why we’re going to suffer during my studies. Where we have a gracious God. That was my determining question. I have no answer. But today I think it was my homosexuality, my suffering for it, which made suffering such a big subject. I did not know anything about the pleasures of love, nor of gay love.

When masturbating did you have homosexual fantasies?

Yes.

That was not nice?

I was anxious. I spent my puberty in communist Poland, in the Catholic Church. Both hyper-homophobic facilities! With whom could I have spoken? How? I had no words for it. I had feelings of guilt. I would have had them, even if I had been heterosexual. But my gay fantasies increased my insecurity.

You were ten, eleven years in Hamburg. You  must have seen homosexuals at least at the Hauptbahnhof.

I did not see them. Because I could not see them. In the world I lived in, there were no homosexuals. People just did not talk about them. They did not exist. As one says in Chechnya today: homosexuals can not be suppressed, because they do not exist. This is the way the Catholic Church behaved.

How many homosexuals are there in the Catholic Church?

Nobody can tell you. There are no surveys. I can only g. Based guess. Based on my experience. I was in priestly seminaries, I taught. I have always lived among priests. I was not a monk who lived in a single monastery. I believe that, cautiously estimated, fifty percent of the Catholic clergy is homosexual.

The total population is assumed to be 10%.

The priesthood is a fantastic space to conceal homosexuality when it is not socially accepted. For this reason the priestly life attracts many homosexuals. It does not matter that you are not interested in women. One is always in male company.

A homophobic organization of homosexuals

This is the dilemma of the Church. Hence much of the suffering and despair of the priests. Homosexuals are persecuted and at the same time homosexuality is celebrated. Aesthetic. Pope Benedict XVI has greatly aggravated the hatred of homosexuals. At the same time, however, under his pontificate, it was as gay as never before in the modern age: the red shoes, the peaks, tassels, and fringes that were on display everywhere. “Soon we will all have to wear lace underwear,” one of the papal ceremonial masters complained. See for yourself on Youtube how Ratzinger and other dignitaries of the Vatican look at the naked torsos of the brother Pellegrini! That same Ratzinger writes that homosexuals can not love. They have, he says, only this morbid desire.

Perhaps the Ratzinger’s own – deep-rooted – life experience … He is doomed to non-love.

That I do not know. But I do know that is precisely the situation in which many thousands of priests find themselves. The situation I was in, it took very long before I realized: it is not homosexuality that is sinful, but the church. Many, many homosexual priests are very good priests.

You were a member of the Congregation for the Congregation for twelve years. You persecuted the devil on behalf of the church. Then, on October 3, 2015, you publicly declared to the world : I, Krzysztof Charamsa, Catholic priest and member of the Congregation of the Faith, am gay, and this is my partner, Eduard Planas, whom I love. You changed from Saul to Paul.

I inherited the place, which became free, when Georg Gänswein became Ratzinger’s private secretary. I inherited his computer, his office, his chair. Paul followed the truth. When he persecuted the Christians, he believed that he had to do so for the sake of the truth. Then he recognized his error and became a Christian. I thought God was against my homosexuality, so I fought it. Then I discovered that God had nothing against my homosexuality. He had given something against which my love was strugling. I was an official of a truth office, a Stasi. I was perfect in this office. I put together, for every question, the views that the Church had represented over the centuries. The new knowledge of science did not matter. The church was in possession of the truth. This treasure was to be lifted. I did not do that as a cynic. I did it because I believed in it.

This was the purpose from one minute to the next.

I had nothing but a suitcase and my husband. That was a liberation. And peace. The first time: peace. A new security. I am a believing man, so I know: That was a gift from God.

You always have to get everything from the top!

Yes, yes. Of course I also have to develop energy and strength. But they also come from God. Life needs a foundation. If you have that, you can let go. This was the experience of Paul. This was also my experience. But it took me a long time to realize that the ecclesiastical texts against homosexuality speak about me. In the Catechism, for example, it says of homosexual relations: “They violate the natural law, for the transmission of life is excluded in sexual act. They do not arise from a true affective and sexual supplementary need. They are in no way to be approved.” Today I know that the catechism preaches homophobia and not the love of God. That’s why I introduced my partner at my coming out. This was a theological statement. I wanted to make it clear: I’m not looking for sex. I’m looking for love. Sex I can have anywhere. For me, it’s about love. Homosexual love.

Is the doctrine that the Father has the Son nailed to the cross in order to save mankind, not unloving?

The suffering, the self-sacrificing God – that is the mystery of religion.

This God, who always kills whole tribes of nations, would not you weep for the dead of Sodom and Gomorrah?

It is impossible to understand how God can allow this. But I believe it is his respect for human freedom. His respect for our freedom. It is the limit of the action of God.

But the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah did not perish because they were fighting each other. God eradicated them.

In the Old Testament there is this image of God. Jesus corrects this. The relationship between God, suffering and freedom is the greatest question of religion. That is their secret. I took the liberty to first acknowledge my homosexuality before God. He accepted me. When I did it before the church, she rejected me.

Sodom and Gomorrah?

When you read the text in the Old Testament, it was not about homosexuality – the later tradition shifted the emphasis to the sexual – but about xenophobia and the refusal of hospitality. Lot receives the strangers, in truth God’s angels, with friendship and is attacked by his fellow citizens. It is – in this the story is quite topical – about the correct handling of refugees and migrants. The Sodom of today is my home country Poland. No one is willing to accept refugees. There is no place for a Syrian family in all Poland. Poland is Catholic, but no one opens strangers to his house. This is just one example of the terrible confusion in the Catholic Church.

Pope Francis: “An LGBT Year in Review” at Bondings 2.0

1224pope01
Pope Francis at the Christmas liturgy in St. Peter’s Basilica

At New Ways Ministyr’s Bondings 2.0 blog, Bob Shine has a useful review of 2016 as it affects LGBT Catholics. After a factual listing of assorted features of the year, both hopeful and disappointing, he adds:

Finally, I offer a concluding note from my own consideration of Pope Francis. More and more, I read his treatment of LGBT issues within the wider context of his papacy and his vision. Pope Francis is clearly limited in his understandings of gender and sexuality, likely stemming from both his own lack of knowledge, and by relying on advisors at the Vatican with a more conservative agenda.

As many have observed, Pope Francis’ actions often speak far louder than his words. These movements to return to Jesus, in their firm commitment to more fully and fervently living out Christian discipleship, can only help the cause of LGBT equality in the long term. None of these positives, however, excuses or lessens the harmful impact of his LGBT negative comments in which he does real damage to people’s lives.

Most importantly for me, Francis has been far more faithful than his immediate predecessors to the teachings of Vatican II. He prioritizes a church of mercy and welcome, a church foremost committed to justice for marginalized and vulnerable people, and a church where honest conversation is practiced to strengthen the faithful’s unity amid tremendous diversity.

Source: – Bondings 2.0

I think Shine is absolutely correct to “read his treatment of LGBT issues within the wider context of his papacy and his vision”. Too much of the analysis of Francis and these matters, on both sides of the argument, has been hampered by looking through too narrow a prism. Stepping back to take a wider perspective is instructive. In particular, the approach at the synods and in Amoris Laetitia to those those divorced and remarried, carries much hope for LGBT Catholics, because the broad principles are the same.

In terms of actual doctrine, not much has changed – but the pastoral approach has been transformed. This is key – a distinguishing feature of his entire papacy has been a downgrading of even the importance of doctrine, with a corresponding new emphasis on the primacy of pastoral accompaniment, conscience, and discernment in the interior forum. Although there has been virtually no sign of any immediate change in doctrine, on LGBT or any other sexual issues, there have been repeated acknowledgements that doctrine can and must change over time, in response to changing conditions in the world. This is light years away from Benedict’s repeated references to “the church’s constant and unchanging tradition”.

I can live with that.

 

The Papal Apology: Keep the Conversation Going.

Reports of Pope Francis’ apology to the gay community drew extensive commentary in the press, with divided responses from LGBT sources. There many statements that this was welcome, but also many who pointed out that the statement was limited, and just didn’t go far enough.

On Sunday (3rd July) I had the privilege of participating in a live TV discussion about this, on BBC1 (available here on BBC iPlayer, at 30:41 from the start, to about 42:30).

SML

For the benefit of readers unable to access iPlayer, here’s a summary of my contributions.

My first point was that this statement needs to be seen in a broader context. Coming from the pope, this attracted the attention, but there have been other apologies before, from both Protestant and Catholic leaders. When I was in Sweden for the European Forum of Lesbian and Gay Christian organizations,  the Bishop of Gothenburg said in his address to the opening ceremony that the Church should make an act of repentance to the LGBT community, for the past harm it has done to them. At the Family Synod in Rome last October, the entire group of German speaking bishops made a collective apology to lesbian and gay Catholics.

I went on to say that this apology was just one part of a much broader interview, which could explain why it was so brief – and so disappointed some LGBT Catholics. While welcoming the apology, some said that it should also have gone into some explanation of why the apology was needed, what needs to be done to prevent future harm, and how can we begin a process of healing. However, it’s important that the apology has been made, however limited it is at the stage.

After inviting contributions from the rest of the panel, the moderator brought up the popular but mistaken idea that homosexuality is regarded as immoral in Catholic teaching, asking me directly,  “Are you immoral?” My response was to point out that there is nothing in Church teaching against homosexuality – but only a few statements opposed to homosexual acts. The Church accepts that “homosexuality” as an orientation is entirely natural, and does not endorse attempts to change it.

There is of course, a great deal more than I could have said, given more time.  Even this simple idea that homosexual genital acts are contrary to Church teaching, is not as straightforward as it seems.  In a later discussion of the Anglican synod “Shared Conversations” process, I pointed out that this is not just about discussing “what the Bible says”, as one of the panellists had claimed, but also about hearing from the lived experience of lesbian and gay people themselves. To that, she quickly interrupted to talk about her second-hand experience of a gay man she knows, who she said had come to Christ and rejected his homosexual life. I deeply regret that I was not given the chance to reply that my own experience was the exact opposite: time had run out on us. Otherwise, I would have described how my attempt to live fully within the bounds of Church teaching on sex and marriage had left me steadily drifting away from all religious practice and belief. It was only later, after I had come to terms with my sexuality as an openly gay man in a committed, stable same-sex relationship, that I was able to return to the church. Since then, I have found, like many others, that fully embracing my sexuality in fact has enhanced my faith and my spirituality.

Looking back on my experience of how time severely limits how much one can say, I have more sympathy for Pope Francis’ failure to elaborate more fully in his apology. However, he has opened up a conversation. It’s now up to the rest of us, to keep that conversation going.

Related Posts

Pope Francis’ Apology to Gay People

I’ve been expecting this for some time – I just didn’t think it would come quite so quickly, even though it is desperately overdue.

Pope Francis: Catholic Church should apologize to gay people and others it has marginalized

Pope Francis says gays — and all the other people the church has marginalized, such as the poor and the exploited — deserve an apology.Francis was asked Sunday en route home from Armenia if he agreed with one of his top advisors, German Cardinal Reinhard Marx, who told a conference in Dublin in the days after the deadly Orlando gay club attack that the church owes an apology to gays for having marginalized them.

Francis responded with a variation of his famous “Who am I to judge?” comment and a repetition of church teaching that gays must not be discriminated against but treated with respect.

He said some politicized behaviors of the homosexual community can be condemned for being “a bit offensive for others.” But he said: “Someone who has this condition, who has good will and is searching for God, who are we to judge?”

Source:  – LA Times

What grounds did I have for expecting at all?

Simply because there have now been a series of papal apologies to a wide range of groups previously attacked or persecuted by the Catholic authorities. Pope Benedict XVI apologised to Muslims for the Crusades, Pope Francis apologised  to the indigenous people of South America for “ideological colonialism” (but not the the ideological colonialism in sexual and gender norms), and more recently to Protestants. LGBT people were at the back of the queue, but their turn had to come eventually. There are other examples too, which I do not now have time to enumerate.

As others have noted, a simple apology for “harm” is not enough, on its own. There needs to be an admission of how the harm was done, and how it is inextricably linked to core sexual doctrine. We also know from the theology of the sacrament of reconciliation, that simple confessing of sins is not enough to merit full forgiveness, unless it is accompanied by appropriate restitution for the harm done. In this context, restitution to those individuals already harmed is impossible – but restitution to the community would be possible, if it included an admission that the harm is a direct result of grievously disordered sexual doctrines, which need urgent reconsideration.

Now however, is not the time to carp. Let us first, offer profound thanks that Pope Francis has gone where none of his predecessors could – he’s asked of the entire Catholic community, “Who are WE to judge?”

This alone will enrage his many detractors on the orthotoxic Catholic right to height not previously seen. Let us for now, recognise his remarkable first step – and postpone for a later date, consideration in more depth, of what issurely required next.

Related Posts

A Catholic Obligation for an LGBT Apology

A notable and extremely welcome feature of last year’s family synod was the apology offered by the entire German speaking bishops’ small group to the gay and lesbian community, for the harm done to them by the church. That call was later repeated by Bishop Doyle of Northampton, on his return to the UK.

Now, Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, who is chairman of the German Catholic Bishops’ Conference and also one of Pope Francis’ group of cardinal advisors, has repeated his belief in the church’s duty of apology.

Cardinal Reinhard Marx: told a conference held in Trinity College that until “very recently”, the church and society at large had been “very negative about gay people . . . It was the whole society. It was a scandal and terrible.” Photograph: Stefano Rellandini - Source Irish Times
Cardinal Reinhard Marx: told a conference held in Trinity College that until “very recently”, the church and society at large had been “very negative about gay people . . . It was the whole society. It was a scandal and terrible.” Photograph: Stefano Rellandini – Source Irish Times

We’re going to hear more about apologies and calls for apologies to lesbian and gay Catholics for past wrongs to lesbian and gay people. That’s good news.

The need for an apology should be obvious from just the most cursory reading of LGBT history and the Catholic church, from the active persecution and burning of (alleged) “sodomites” under the Inquition, to the virulently homophobic language used by some Catholics in opposition to marriage equality, and even to civil unions. It is very much to be welcomed that Cardinal Marx has acknowledged at least some of this harm:

Until “very recently”, the church, but also society at large, had been “very negative about gay people . . . it was the whole society. It was a scandal and terrible,” he told The Irish Times after speaking at a conference held in Trinity College.

What would be better, if we could also hear apologies the continuing harms done to LGBT people by the Church in many parts of the world in its language and in its pastoral practice – not least in Ireland, over gay marriage, and in Italy, over civil unions.

Cardinal Marx would not be drawn when asked by The Irish Times for his view on Vatican secretary of state Cardinal Parolin’s description of the marriage equality referendum result in Ireland last year as “a defeat for humanity”.

Cardinal Marx said, “I don’t comment on others because that is not good.” As an outsider in the Irish context he was “hesitant” about making a judgment, he said.

It would also be good to hear this call for an apology, include the continuing wrongs to transgender people, with the recent Catholic paranoia over “gender ideology”,  and for the continuing harms done to LGBT people by the Church by some elements of its core doctrine and language.

He (Cardinal Marx) said he had “shocked” people at the October 2014 extraordinary synod of bishops in Rome when he asked how it was possible to dismiss as worthless a same-sex relationship of years duration where both men had been faithful.

May I remind Cardinal Marx that the Catholic Church’s formal doctrine on homosexuality does not just “dismiss as worthless” committed, faithful same-sex relationships of many years, but declares them to be gravely sinful, if they include any physical expression of that love in sexual acts – which are described by the Church as “intrinsically disordered”?  Or that the primary document on pastoral care of homosexual persons dismisses all sexual activity between gay people as mere “self-gratification”, but in marked contrast consistently refers to sexual intercourse between opposite-couples as “mutual self-giving”? The truth is, that heterosexual people can be just as guilty in their sexual lives of the pursuit of simple self-gratification, and same-sex couples in enduring, faithful partnerships equally capable of “mutual self-giving”.

Related Posts

Can One Be Both Gay and Christian / Catholic?

Christmas. It’s the time of love, good will and John Lewis adverts. But lest we forget, for millions of Christians, it’s also the birthday of Jesus Christ.

Which segues us quite nicely into lifting the lid off of one of the biggest debates in modern times. Can you be gay and live within the teachings and values of Christianity?

Framing this a debate, they have published the responses of Rev Jeremy Pemberton, an openly gay, married Anglican priest, and of Matthew Parris, gay columnist, former MP, and self-proclaimed committed atheist.
Unfortunately, both these good men have it right in part – and completely miss the point Of course you can be both gay and Christian – as countless numbers of openly gay and lesbian Christians demonstrate. And of course, if one does believe in God, it’s more important to pay attention to what God wants of me, than to what I want of God.
 
What neither of these have pointed out, is that for one who is naturally gay – that is precisely what God wants. On the one hand, ideas of radical inclusion, justice and equality are at the core of the Christian gospels. So too, are ideas of honesty and personal integrity. The Catholic Church formal teaching accepts, for instance, that a same-sex orientation is entirey natural, and discourages attempts to change it. The Catholic Catechism also states clearly, that each of us should “accept” our sexual identity, and integrate it into our personality. Hence, if our natural orientation is towards the same sex, if we are in fact gay or lesbian, even the Catholic Church teaches that we should accept this – and furthermore, that others should, too. Catholics are officially told to treat gay and lesbian people with “respect, sensitivity, and compassion”, and should avoid any malice in speech or in words, or any form of unjust discrimination.
 
That is not of course, the end of it. The Church also teaches that while to BE gay is OK, to act on this in sexual expression is not – thereby contravening its own insistence on non-discrimination and the rest. It raises the alternative question, not “can one be gay and Christian”, but “can one be gay and celibate?”, Clearly, within the framework of Catholicisma and other mainstream Christian denominations, once can certainly be gay – as long as one refrains from sexual activity. I suspect that Matthew Parris (and many others) who believe that one cannot be both gay and Christian, really meant that one who is sexually abstinent, cannot be considered truly “gay”.
 
I’m not goning to go into that question, how do we define “gay”. Instead, I will pursue the much more controversial topic, can one be Christian, gay and also sexually active? I have no doubt at all that the answer is absolutely, yes.
 
There is nothing in either the Christian or Jewish scriptures that says anything at all against “homosexuality”, not even a single word – for the simple reason that neither the word nor the concept existed in Biblical times. At best, there are no more than half a dozen isolated verses which, taken out of context, appear to oppose sexual acts between men. Closer inspection shows that even these few texts may have been badly mistranslated, misinterpreted or incorrectly applied, and have no relevance at all to loving, committed sexual relationships.
 
Furthermore, although it is certainly true that formal Catholic teaching today, and that of most other denominations, is that any sexual acts between men are inherently sinful, this was not always so, and is probably the result of what Pope Benedict once described as the “distorted tradition” in Christian history, against which we must be always on our guard. It is more likely that the original proscription was not against relationships based on equality between the partners, but against exploitative sexual acts, in which a powerful man took advantage of his superior position to assuage his lusts on his social inferiors.
 
Finally and above all, even if we accept the dubious proposition that Church opposition to same-sex relationships may be justified by scripture and tradition, we must always bear in mind that the sexual rules are only one small part of Catholic teaching – and in the hierarchy of “levels” of Church teaching, occupy the bottom rung, which does not require assent. Catholic teaching has always insisted on the primacy of conscience, and accepts that a Catholic may in good conscience, simply disagree with the teaching on sexual rules, and ignore it. Other denominations demonstrate this respect for conscience even more explicitly, in the increasing acceptance of openly gay or lesbian, partnered pastors, bishops and moderators.
 
Parris is absolutely right in saying that Christians should be asking what does God want of us? It is in fact a commonplace in Christian theology, that what God wants of us, is precisely what is best for us. For gay and lesbian Christians, that must include accepting our sexual identity, exercising it responsibly, and living lives of integrity and honesty.
 
The really important question for Christians, gay or otherwise and for gay people, Christian or otherwise, is not can one have a sexual life with integrity – but what does that mean? Does responsible sexual ethics require that we restrict sexual activity to expression within loving and committed, mutually faithful monogamous partnerships? Is there a place for sex during courtship, before making a permanet commitment, or for simple recreational sex? If so, how do we guard against harmless but regular recreational sex crossing over to irresponsible sexual addiction?
 
These are the really important questions that should be occupying us – not the simplistic non-question of “can one be gay and Christian?”

Italian Bishops’ (de facto) Acceptance of Civil Unions.

For years, Italy has been a major, conspicuous anomaly on the Wikipedia map of same-sex unions in Europe: the only country of Western Europe to have neither same-sex marriage, nor any other legal recognition for same-sex couples. Up to now, this has come about with the implacable opposition of the Italian bishops to any form of legal recognition.

With the passage this week of a civil unions bill in the Italian senate, by a comfortable majority, that’s about to change. More remarkably, this has come about with the de facto acquiescence of the Italian bishops. This is a truly remarkable turnaround, in just a few years!

Screenshot 2016-02-27 at 09.38.36 - Edited

Continue reading Italian Bishops’ (de facto) Acceptance of Civil Unions.

Senior African Cardinal: “Homosexuals Cannot be Criminalized.”

Cardinal Turkson, head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace:

Homosexuals cannot be criminalized.

and

We are all growing in this regard.

These are important statements, coming from one of the two most senior African officials at the Vatican, Cardinal Turkson made them in an interview with Frank DeBenardo of New Ways Ministry, who is in Rome for the Family Assembly of the Synod of Bishops.

They are important in themselves, and also for the lessons they hold about the importance of LGBT engagement with Catholic bishops. There’s some useful background to this. Continue reading Senior African Cardinal: “Homosexuals Cannot be Criminalized.”