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Catholic Church and homosexuality

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Homosexuality is addressed in Catholic moral theology under two forms: homosexual orientation is considered an "objective disorder" because Catholicism views it as being "ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil", but not sinful unless acted upon.[1] Homosexual sexual activity, by contrast, is viewed as a "moral disorder"[1] and "homosexual acts" are viewed as "contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity."[2] Nevertheless, all those with "homosexual tendencies" must be accepted with "respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided."[3]

The Catholic Church teaches that marriage can be made only between a man and a woman,[4][5] and opposes introduction of both civil and religious same-sex marriage.[6][7][8][9][10] The Church holds that same-sex unions are an unfavorable environment for children and that the legalization of such unions is harmful to society.[11]

Leading figures in the Catholic hierarchy, including cardinals and bishops, have sometimes actively campaigned against same-sex marriage[12][13][14][15][16][17][18] or have encouraged others to campaign against it,[12][13][14][15][16][17][18][19][20][excessive citations] and have done likewise with regard to same-sex civil unions[21][22] and adoption by same-sex couples,[11] and other LGBT rights (including non-discrimination).[23][24] Some Church leaders have opposed decriminalization of homosexual activity in certain countries, and stood against a proposed call by the United Nations for global decriminalization of homosexuality.[24][25][26][27][28][29] However, in other countries, and again at the United Nations, the church has opposed criminalization - reflecting a wide range of opinions within the global church.[30][31][32][33][34]

Despite the official position of the Catholic hierarchy on LGBT rights, in some locations, such as North America, Northern and Western Europe, support for LGBT rights (such as same-sex marriage, or protection against discrimination) is stronger among Catholics than among the general population.[note 1][35]


Official Church TeachingEdit

Catholic teaching condemns homosexual acts as gravely immoral, while holding that gay people "must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity", and "every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided"[36] "The Catholic Church holds that, as a state beyond a person's choice, being homosexual is not wrong or sinful in itself. But just as it is objectively wrong for unmarried heterosexuals to engage in sex, so too are homosexual acts considered to be wrong."[37]

History of the Catholic Church and homosexualityEdit

Early ChurchEdit

The Christian tradition has generally proscribed any and all noncoital genital activities, whether engaged in by couples or individuals, regardless of whether they were of the same or different sex.[38]:193 The Catholic Church's position specifically on homosexuality developed from the teachings of the Church Fathers, which was in stark contrast to Greek and Roman attitudes towards same-sex relations including the "(usually erotic) homosexual relationship between an adult male and a pubescent or adolescent male" that is called pederasty.[39][40][41]

The early 2nd century treatise, the Didache (which influenced thinking by some of the Church Fathers), includes in a list of commandments: "You shall not corrupt boys."[note 2] David F. Greenberg gives it as one example of the early Christian writings of the first two centuries that were "unequivocably opposed to male prostitution and pederasty — probably the most visible forms of homosexuality in their time".[42]

Clement of Alexandria (c. 150–c. 215) rebuked heathens for worshipping gods who indulged in debauching of boys.[43] Eusebius of Caesarea (c. 260/265–339/340) wrote of God "having forbidden all unlawful marriage, and all unseemly practice, and the union of women with women and men with men".[44]

The Apology of Aristides of Athens, presented to Emperor Hadrian around 117–138 CE, scorned the practices and acts of the Greek pagans who worshipped gods some of whom "polluted themselves by lying with males".[45][note 3][46]

Basil of Caesarea (329 or 330 – 379) was among the first to talk about penalties, advising in a letter that, "He who is guilty of unseemliness with males will be under discipline for the same time as adulterers."[47] Taking Basil's lead, Gregory of Nyssa's Canonical Letter to Letoius of Mytilene (Epist. canonica 4, 390 CE) also prescribes the same period of penance for adultery and for "craving for the male".[48]

John Chrysostom (c. 347–407), the Archbishop of Constantinople, was particularly vocal on the subject. In a discourse on Romans 1:26–27, he declared that: "All of these affections then were vile, but chiefly the mad lust after males; for the soul is more the sufferer in sins, and more dishonored than the body in diseases. ... [The men] have done an insult to nature itself. And a yet more disgraceful thing than these is it, when even the women seek after these intercourses, who ought to have more shame than men."[49]

Church councilsEdit

Canon law regarding same-sex sexual activity has mainly been shaped through the decrees issued by a number of ecclesiastical councils.[50] Initially, canons against sodomy were aimed at ensuring clerical or monastic discipline, and were only widened in the medieval period to include laymen.[51]

The early 4th-century Council of Elvira (305-306) was the first church council to deal with the issue directly, excluding from communion anyone who had sexual intercourse (stuprum) with a boy:[52][53][54]

Canons 16 and 17 of the Council of Ancyra (314), which "became the standard source for medieval ecclesiastical literature against homosexuality",[55] impose on "those who have been or who are guilty of bestial lusts" penances whose severity varies with the age and married status of the offender, allowing access to communion only at death for a married man over fifty years old (canon 16); and impose a penance also on "defilers of themselves with beasts, being also leprous, who have infected others [with the leprosy of this crime]".[56]

In the sixth century, the Greek chronicler John Malalas wrote about Isaiah, Bishop of Rhodes and Alexander, Bishop of Diospolis who had been punished by the Prefect of Thrace (Victor) for "homosexual practices". Isaiah was tortured severely and exiled, while Alexander had his genitals amputated and was subsequently paraded around the city on a litter. As a result the Christian Emperor Justinian (c.e 482 – 565) decreed that all caught for pederasty should have their genitals amputated. Many homosexual men were arrested in the wake of this, and died from their injuries. An atmosphere of fear followed.[57]

In Iberia, the Visigothic ruler Egica of Hispania and Septimania demanded that a church council confront the occurrence of homosexuality in the kingdom. In 693, the Sixteenth Council of Toledo issued a canon condemning guilty clergy to degradation and exile and laymen to a hundred lashes. Egica added an edict imposing the punishment of castration (as already in the secular law promulgated for his kingdom by his predecessor King Chinawith).[58][59][60]

The matter was also dealt with at the Council of Paris—in canons 34 and 69 (AD 829),[55] which went beyond Elvira and Ancyra in explicitly endorsing the death penalty for sodomy—claiming that it had led God to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah and send the Great Flood[61][note 4][62] The concern at Paris was that toleration of sodomy might provoke God to give victory to the enemies of Christianity (i.e. Islam). At about the same time, the set of forged capitularies produced by the deacon Benedict Levita implied that Charlemagne had likewise supported the death penalty. Meanwhile canon 15 of the Council of Trolsy (AD 909) warned against "pollution with men or animals".[55]

Alongside this, penances for such sexual transgressions may increasingly be found in a few of the penitential books which first emerged in the 6th century in monastic communities in Ireland (including for women having sex with other women).[55][63]

Medieval and Early Modern periodEdit

By the late Middle Ages, the term "sodomy" had come to cover copulation between males, bestiality, and non-vaginal heterosexual intercourse,[64] coitus interruptus, masturbation, fellatio and anal sex (whether heterosexual or homosexual);[65] and it increasingly began to be identified as the most heinous of sins by authorities of the Catholic Church. In Italy, Dominican monks would encourage the pious to "hunt out" sodomites and once done to hand them to the Inquisition to be dealt with accordingly: "These clerical discourses provided a language for secular authorities to condemn sodomy... By persecuting sodomites as well as heretics, the Church strengthened its authority and credibility as a moral arbiter".[66]

Klaits writes: "From the twelfth century on, outsiders came under increasing verbal and physical attack from churchmen, allied secular authorities, and, particularly in the case of Jews, from the lower strata of the population"; and among "outsiders" he considers Jews, heretics, homosexuals, and magicians as having been among the most important.[67]

Around 1051, Saint Peter Damian wrote the Liber Gomorrhianus in which he argued for stricter ecclesiastical punishment for clerics guilty of "sins against nature".[68][69]

At the same time, Hildegard of Bingen, in her book Scivias detailing her visions which she attributed to God, condemned same-sex intercourse (including lesbianism): "A man who sins with another man as if with a woman sins bitterly against God ... a woman who takes up devilish ways and plays a male role in coupling with another woman is most vile in My sight, and so is she who subjects herself to such a one in this evil deed".[70]

The Council of London in 1102 in 1102, called at the urging of Archbishop Anselm of Canterbury, explicitly denounced homosexual behavior as a sin for the first time at an English council.[71] Anselm felt that sodomy was widespread and was not condemned strongly enough or regarded with the seriousness that it should have. Confessors were urged to take account of such ignorance when hearing confessions for sodomy, and to take into account mitigating factors such as age and marital status before prescribing penance; and counselling was generally preferred to punishment. In Canons 28 and 29 the Council decreed that the people should be informed of the gravity of the sin, and their obligation to confess (particularly if they derived pleasure from it). Nevertheless, Anselm deferred publication of the proceedings, arguing further time was needed to clarify certain matters.[71] Boswell argues the decrees were never published at all.[72][73]

In 1179, Pope Alexander III presided over the Third Lateran Council which decreed (canon 11) that all those guilty of sodomy be removed from office or confined to penitential life in a monastery, if clergy; and be strictly excommunicated, if laity: "Let all who are found guilty of that unnatural vice for which the wrath of God came down upon the sons of disobedience and destroyed the five cities with fire, if they are clerics be expelled from the clergy or confined in monasteries to do penance; if they are laymen they are to incur excommunication and be completely separated from the society of the faithful."[74]

This was followed by canon 14 of the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215. This stated that if a priest suspended for unchastity of any kind—especially the vice that "on account of which the anger of God came from heaven upon the children of unbelief" (that is sodomy)—dared to celebrate Mass then he was to be deposed permanently from the priesthood.[note 5][75]

By the early 13th century (time of the Fourth Lateran Council) the Church determined that "secular authorities, as well as clergy, should be allowed to impose penalties on 'sodomites' for having had sexual relations", and by the end of this period, "Sodomites were now [regarded as] demons as well as sinners."[76] Civil authorities were in parallel trying the crime of sodomy in their own courts, although in practice applying even more severe punishments (Roman civil law had prescribed death by burning for those found guilty of sodomy).[77]

In 1232, Pope Gregory IX established the Roman Inquisition which investigated claims of sodomitical acts; in 1451, Pope Nicholas V enabled it to prosecute men who practice sodomy. Handed over to the civil authorities, those condemned were frequently burned in accordance with civil law.[77]

In the Summa Theologica, Saint Thomas Aquinas stated that "the unnatural vice" is the greatest of the sins of lust.[78] In his Summa contra Gentiles, traditionally dated to 1264, he argued against what he called "the error of those who say that there is no more sin in the emission of the semen than in the ejection of other superfluous products from the body" by saying that, after murder, which destroys an existing human being, disordinate emission of semen to the preclusion of generating a human being seems to come second.[79]

In 1424, Saint Bernardino of Siena preached for three days in Florence, Italy against homosexuality and other forms of lust, calling for sodomites to be ostracized, and these sermons alongside measures by other clergy of the time strengthened opinion against homosexuals and encouraged the authorities to increase the measures of persecution.[80]

In 1478, with the papal bull Exigit Sinceras Devotionis Affectus, Pope Sixtus IV acceded to the request of Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile, granting them exclusive authority to name the inquisitors in their kingdoms. The Spanish Inquisition thus replaced the Medieval Inquisition which had been set up under direct papal control, and transferred it in Spain to civil control. In 1482, in response to complaints by relatives of the first victims, Sixtus wrote that he had not intended his grant to be abused in that way. However, strong pressure brought to bear on him prevented him from revoking it.[81]

Tomas de Torquemada was a prominent leader of the Spanish Inquisition. 150 sodomites were executed by burning in Spain from 1570–1630.

The Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition in Spain was therefore under the control of its monarchs and the initial direction of the Dominican friar Tomas de Torquemada. At first it seems to have been reluctant to take on responsibility for trying those accused of sodomy, and that the Suprema (the governing body) ruled in 1509 that such cases were for the secular courts, which already punished sodomy with death. However, in 1524 the Suprema requested papal authorisation to prosecute sodomites. Pope Clement VII granted permission but only within the Kingdom of Aragon and on condition that trials be conducted according to the civil laws, not the standard inquisitorial procedure.[64] The Pope refused the request of King Philip II of Spain to extend the authority of the Spanish Inquisition to conducting such trials in the rest of Spain.[65]

Within Aragon and its dependent territories, the number of individuals that the Spanish Inquisition tried for sodomy,[64][65] between 1570 and 1630 was over 800[82] or nearly a thousand.[64] In Spain, those whom the Spanish Inquisition convicted and had executed "by burning without the benefit of strangulation" were about 150.[83] The Inquisition was harsh to sodomizers (more so for those committing bestiality than homosexuality), but tended to restrict death by burning only to those aged over twenty-five. Minors were normally whipped and sent to the galleys. Mildness was also shown to clergy, who were always a high proportion of those arrested.[84] In fact, conviction and execution for sodomy was easier to obtain from the civil courts in other parts of Spain than from the tribunals of the Inquisition in Aragon, and there executions for sodomy were much more numerous.[85] After 1633, where the Spanish Inquisition had jurisdiction for sodomy, it ceased treating it as requiring execution, and imposed lesser penalties in cases brought before it.[64]

The Portuguese Inquisition was established in 1536; and in 1539 Henry, Archbishop of Braga (later cardinal and king of Portugal) became Grand Inquisitor. (An earlier appointment as Portuguese Grand Inquisitor was Friar Diogo da Silva.)[86] It received 4,419 denunciations against individuals accused of sodomy, of whom 447 were subjected to a formal trial, and thirty were burnt at the stake, in accordance with the pre-1536 civil laws enacted under Kings Afonso V and Manuel I, and many others were sent to the galleys or to exile, temporary or permanent.[64]

In England, the accused were originally tried by church courts, which almost never punished homosexual behaviour.[77] This changed when Henry VIII, while still a member of the Roman Catholic Church, enacted the Buggery Act 1533, as part of his campaign to break the power of the Catholic Church in England.[87]

Although homosexuality was not directly discussed at the Council of Trent, it did commission the drawing up of a catechism (following the successful lead of some Protestants) which stated: "Neither fornicators nor adulterers, nor the effeminate nor sodomites shall possess the kingdom of God."[88]

Modern ageEdit

Neither the First Vatican Council nor the Second Vatican Council directly discussed the issue of homosexuality; but nor did they alter the judgement of earlier councils. However, homosexual activity was frequently referred to in general church documents as crimen pessimum (the worst crime).[89][90][91][92] including that codified in 1917.[93]

Pope Paul VIEdit

In 1976 Pope Paul VI became the first pontiff in modern history to deny the accusation of homosexuality. In January 1976, he had published a homily, Persona Humana: Declaration on Certain Questions concerning Sexual Ethics, that outlawed pre or extra-marital sex, condemned homosexuality, and forbade masturbation.[94] In response, Roger Peyrefitte, who had already written in two of his books that Montini had a longtime homosexual relationship, repeated his charges in a magazine interview with a French gay magazine that, when reprinted in Italian, brought the rumors to a wider public and caused an uproar. He said that Montini was a hypocrite who had a longtime sexual relationship with a movie actor.[95][96][97] Widespread rumors identified the actor as Paolo Carlini,[98] who had a small part in the Audrey Hepburn film Roman Holiday (1953). In a brief address to a crowd of approximately 20,000 in St. Peters Square on 18 April, Montini called the charges "horrible and slanderous insinuations" and appealed for prayers on his behalf. Special prayers for Montini were said in all Italian Roman Catholic churches in "a day of consolation".[96][98][a] The charges have resurfaced periodically. In 1994, Franco Bellegrandi, a former Vatican honour chamberlain and correspondent for the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, alleged that Montini had been blackmailed and had promoted fellow homosexuals to positions of power within the Vatican.[100] In 2006, the newspaper L'Espresso confirmed the blackmail story based on the private papers of police commander General Giorgio Manes. It reported that Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro had been asked to help.[98][101]

Pope John Paul IIEdit

Pope John Paul II in Old Yankee Stadium, 1979

Homosexuality received no mention in papal encyclicals until Pope John Paul II's Veritatis Splendor of 1993, which "specifically proclaims the intrinsic evil of the homosexual condition"[102]:207 and rejected the view of some theologians who questioned the basis upon which the church condemns as morally unacceptable "direct sterilization, autoeroticism, pre-marital sexual relations, homosexual relations and artificial insemination".[103]

John Cornwell has written that the pontificate of John Paul II increasingly saw sexual morality as a paramount concern, and homosexuality, alongside contraception, divorce and illicit unions, as a dimension of "the 'culture of death' against which he taught and preached with increasing vehemence".[104]

In John Paul II's teaching, homosexual intercourse is regarded as an utilization of another's body, not a mutual self-giving in familial love, physically expressed by the masculine and feminine bodies; and such intercourse is also performed by a choice of the will, unlike homosexual orientation, which he acknowledged is usually not a matter of free choice.[105]

On 5 October 1979, John Paul praised the bishops of the United States for stating that "homosexual activity ... as distinguished from homosexual orientation, is morally wrong". He said that, instead of "[holding] out false hope" to homosexuals facing hard moral problems, they had upheld "the true dignity, the true human dignity, of those who look to Christ's Church for the guidance which comes from the light of God's word".[106]

In 2000, he criticized the inaugural WorldPride event scheduled for Rome in that year as "an affront to the Great Jubilee of the year 2000" and as "an offence to the Christian values" of Rome, and recalled the Church's teaching that homosexual acts are contrary to the natural law, while every sign of unjust discrimination against homosexuals should be avoided.[107][108][109][110]

In response, the Dutch gay magazine, Gay Krant, and its readership initiated a case against the pope in the Dutch law courts, arguing that his comment that homosexual acts are contrary to the laws of nature[111] "give rise to hatred against, and discrimination of certain groups of people" in violation of Dutch law.[112] This came to end when the court ruled that he was immune from prosecution as a head of state (the Vatican).[113]

In his last personal work, Memory and Identity, published in 2005, John Paul II he referred to the "pressures" on the European Parliament to permit "homosexual 'marriage'". He wrote: "It is legitimate and necessary to ask oneself if this is not perhaps part of a new ideology of evil, perhaps more insidious and hidden, which attempts to pit human rights against the family and against man".[114][115]

Benedict XVIEdit

On 9 March 2012, Pope Benedict XVI, denouncing "the powerful political and cultural currents seeking to alter the legal definition of marriage", currents that the Washington Post described as a "cultural shift toward gay marriage in U.S.", told a group of United States bishops on their ad limina visit to Rome that "the Church's conscientious effort to resist this pressure calls for a reasoned defense of marriage as a natural institution consisting of a specific communion of persons, essentially rooted in the complementarity of the sexes and oriented to procreation. Sexual differences cannot be dismissed as irrelevant to the definition of marriage."[116][117]

An essay by the French Chief Rabbi Gilles Bernheim taking a clear position against gay marriage and denouncing the theory of acquired gender was quoted at length by Pope Benedict XVI in his 2012 Christmas address to the Roman Curia.[118][119]

The BBC reported that shortly before the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI in February 2013, the Italian media in particular used unsourced reports to suggest that there was a "gay lobby" of clergy inside the Vatican who had been collaborating to advance personal interests, thereby opening the Holy See to potential blackmail, and even to suggest that this may have been one of the factors influencing Benedict's decision to resign.[120]



It has been suggested that Pope Francis, when Archbishop of Buenos Aires, privately urged fellow Argentine bishops in 2010 to signal the Church's public support for civil unions, as a compromise response to calls for same-sex marriage. Fellow bishops rejected the idea.[121] This was at the time that Argentina, which already permitted civil unions, was debating a bill to allow same-sex couples to marry and adopt children.

Publicly, Bergoglio strongly opposed the bill, warning it could lead to a situation that could "seriously harm the family ... At stake is the identity and survival of the family: father, mother and children. At stake are the lives of many children who will be discriminated against in advance, and deprived of their human development given by a father and a mother and willed by God."[122] In a 2010 book written with Rabbi Abraham Skorka, Bergoglio also spoke of same-sex marriage as "a weakening of the institution of marriage, an institution that has existed for thousands of years and is 'forged according to nature and anthropology'."[6]

On the need to welcome gays into the churchEdit

Pope Francis has repeatedly spoke about the need for the church to welcome and love all people, regardless of their sexual orientation. Speaking about gay people in 2013, he said that "the key is for the church to welcome, not exclude and show mercy, not condemnation."[123] In July of that year, he said "If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?" "The problem", he said, "is not having this orientation. We must be brothers."[124][125] In October 2016, Francis said that "When a person (who is gay) arrives before Jesus, Jesus certainly will not say, 'Go away because you are homosexual'".[126]

Several LGBT groups welcomed the comments, noting that this was the first time a pope had used the word "gay" in public, and had also accepted the existence of gay people as a recognizable part of the Catholic Church community.[127] The Pope's attitude towards homosexuality earned him a place on the cover of the US gay news magazine The Advocate.[128]

Francis has also spoken of the importance of education in the context of the difficulties now facing children, indicating that the Church had a challenge in not being welcoming enough of children brought up in a multiplicity of household arrangements, specifically including the children of gay couples.[129] He mentioned as an example a case of a child with a mother living in a lesbian relationship:

"I remember the case of a very sad little girl who finally confided to her teacher the reason for her state of mind: 'my mother's fiancée doesn't like me'.... How can we proclaim Christ to these boys and girls? How can we proclaim Christ to a generation that is changing? We must be careful not to administer a vaccine against faith to them."[130][131]

After Italian media suggested his comments indicated a shift towards accepting civil unions for gay couples, the Director of the Holy See Press Office said the pope was talking only about the difficulties of children, not making a declaration on the debate in Italy concerning gay unions.[132] In relation to reports that a Vatican official whom he had recently promoted had had a homosexual relationship, the pope drew a distinction between sins, which can be forgiven if repented of, and crimes, such as sexual abuse of minors.[124][125]

Teaching on gay marriageEdit

Francis has taught that "Marriage is between a man and a woman. Secular states want to justify civil unions to regulate different situations of cohabitation, pushed by the demand to regulate economic aspects between persons, such as ensuring health care. It is about pacts of cohabitating of various natures, of which I wouldn't know how to list the different ways. One needs to see the different cases and evaluate them in their variety."[133] Some interpreted this as suggesting that the Catholic Church could tolerate some types of non-marital civil unions, but the Vatican later clarified that was not Francis' intention.[134][135]

In February 2015, Francis encouraged people in Slovakia, who were considering limiting marriage to opposite ex couples, to "continue their efforts in defense of the family, the vital cell of society."[136] At the start of 2014, Bishop Charles J. Scicluna of Malta reported that in a private conversation held with Pope Francis in December 2013, the pope said that gay marriage was "an anthropological regression".[6]

Synod on the FamilyEdit

Francis presided over the 2014 Synod of Bishops, the first assembly of the Synod to explicitly examine the issue of pastoral care for people in same-sex civil unions and marriages.[137][138] The synod's working document called for less judgment towards people that are gay and more understanding towards same-sex couples in civil unions or marriages, as well as an equal welcome for children of such couples (including conferring baptism), while still rejecting the validity of same-sex marriage itself.[139][140] However, the final report failed to contain the proposed language as it did not receive the necessary two-thirds support of attending bishops'.[141]

In the post-synodal apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, issued in 2016, Francis encouraged better understanding from all members of the church on the acceptance of gay people, without suggesting any specific doctrinal changes. Instead, he reiterated the need for every person to be respected regardless of their sexual orientation, and to be free from threats of aggression and violence. He avoided any recognition of unions between same sex couples, but rather maintained that these were not equal to heterosexual unions. Some parts of the media interpreted his remarks as more moderate on the issue of homosexuality than that taken by church leaders in previous years.[142]

Other issuesEdit

During his 2015 visit to the United States, Francis held a private meeting with Kim Davis, a county clerk from Kentucky who had gained international attention after defying a federal court order requiring that she issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.[143][144][145][146][147] The Vatican press office shortly after issued a statement saying that the pope was unaware of her situation and the meeting was not to be considered an endorsement.[148][149] The only audience given by Francis while in Washington was with an Argentine former student Yayo Grassi, who is openly gay, and his same-sex partner of 19 years.[149][150][151]

He acknowledged the existence of a "gay lobby" within the Vatican in remarks during a meeting held in private with Catholic religious from Latin America. He was reported to have promised to see what could be done to address the issue.[120]

Pastoral care for gay CatholicsEdit

In the 1980s Cardinal Terence Cooke of New York City saw a need for a ministry which would assist gay Catholics to be celibate. Cooke invited John Harvey to New York to begin the work of Courage International with Benedict Groeschel, of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. The first meeting was held in September 1980 at the Shrine of Mother Seton in South Ferry, and chapters have been established in other countries. The group generally consists of laymen and laywomen usually under anonymous discretion, together with a priest, to encourage its members to abstain from acting on their sexual desires and to live chastely according to the Catholic Church's teachings on homosexuality".[152]

In October 2016, Robert W. McElroy, the Bishop of San Diego held a diocesan synod on the family that called for improved ministry toward gay and lesbian Catholics. In 2017 the diocese of Jefferson City, Missouri said it would permit transgender students in its Catholic schools.[citation needed]

In June 2017, Cardinal Joseph Tobin, Archbishop of Newark in the USA, held a "Pilgrimage" Mass specifically for LGBT Catholics from around New York and the five dioceses in New Jersey at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart. Many of the attendees were married to same-sex spouses, and participated in the Sacrament of Holy Communion. It was reported, however, that Tobin subsequently received an amount of hate-mail from Catholics opposed to the move. The director of New Ways Ministry indicated that this was a positive first step, contrasting with a church leadership that has for decades "been so silent, and unwilling to dialogue, and unwilling to pray with L.G.B.T. Catholics". The event was organized by gay ministries within the Church of the Sacred Heart in South Plainfield, New Jersey, and the Church of the Precious Blood in Monmouth Beach.[153] Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago has also suggested that the Catholic Church should respect and use words such as "gay" and "lesbian" as a way of more effectively reaching out to the LGBT community.[154]

In May 2014, Bishop Charles Scicluna of Malta attended an event organised by the Maltese Catholic gay rights group Drachma to mark International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.[155] In Ireland, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin reacted to concerns over anti-gay comments in the media by saying that "anybody who doesn't show love towards gay and lesbian people is insulting God. They are not just homophobic if they do that — they are actually Godophobic because God loves every one of those people."[156]

However, the influence of Francis as Pope over recent years has seen a gradual shift in the treatment of LGBT worshippers towards a more welcoming stance in some dioceses. For example, in the US in April 2016 the Bishop of Lexington in Kentucky, John Stowe, spoke at a New Ways Ministry national conference and indicated that he admired and respected LGBT people who remained steadfast to the church even though the church had not always been as welcoming.[citation needed]

In 2017, Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest in the US published "Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the L.G.B.T. Community Can Enter Into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion and Sensitivity." In the book, Martin outlines several ways each side can treat the other more charitably:[157] for example, calling on church leaders to use terms like "gay" and "L.G.B.T.," instead of phrases like "afflicted with same-sex attraction." He also argued that to expect a sinless lifestyle from gay Catholics, but not from any other group, is a form of "unjust discrimination" and that gay people should not be fired for marrying a same-sex spouse. Cardinal Joseph Tobin and Cardinal Kevin Farrell contributed blurbs to the book.[153] However, a number of Catholic institutes, including The Theological College in Washington, The Order of the Holy Sepulchre in New York, and Cafod in the UK subsequently cancelled events at which Martin was due to speak after pressure from conservative Catholics who threatened to withhold funding. Robert McElroy, the Bishop of San Diego, rallied to support Martin and criticized those that had tried to vilify him and distort his writings.[158][159]

Differences from official Church teachingEdit

A rainbow flag of the LGBT movement

There have a number of practical and ministerial disagreements within the clergy and hierarchy of the Catholic Church concerning the Church's position on homosexuality. A number of Catholics and Catholic groups have sought to adopt a more inclusive approach.[160][161][162][163]

Such individuals and groups make the general argument that the Catholic Church's line on homosexuality emphasises the physical dimension of the act at the expense of higher moral, personal and spiritual goals.[164] Gay and lesbian Catholics also feel that the practice of total, life-long sexual denial risks personal isolation.[38]:194 John J. McNeill writes that since gay people experience their sexual orientation as innately created, to believe that it is therefore a tendency towards evil would require believing in a sadistic God; and that it is preferable to believe that this element of Church teaching is mistaken in arguing that God would behave in such a way.[165]

In several cases, clergy or laypeople have been fired from jobs at Catholic schools or universities because of their support for LGBT rights campaigns[166][167] or their marriages to partners of the same sex.[167][168][169] In the United States, more than 50 people have reported losing their jobs at Catholic institutions since 2010 over their sexual orientation or identity, according to New Ways Ministries[170]


One of the first priests to publicly come out as gay was the Jesuit Robert Carter, when he helped to establish the National Gay Task Force in New York in 1973. Carter remained a priest and was never formerly disciplined. He had also helped to found the New York chapter of DignityUSA, alongside the Rev. John McNeill. By 1985 he was counseling AIDS patients at Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx, and later became a supervisor of the outpatient AIDS program at the Bellevue Hospital Center in Manhattan.[171]

In 1976, John J. McNeill, an American Jesuit and co-founder of Dignity, published The Church and the Homosexual, which challenged the Church's prohibition of same-sex activity. It argued for a change in Church teaching and that homosexual relationships should be judged by the same standard as heterosexual ones. The work had received permission from McNeill's Jesuit superiors prior to printing. In 1977, the permission was retracted at the order of the Vatican, and McNeill was ordered by Cardinal Franjo Šeper not to write or speak publicly about homosexuality. In a statement McNeill responded that "gay men most likely to act out their sexual needs in a unsafe, compulsive way, and therefore expose themselves to the HIV virus, are precisely those who have internalised the self-hatred that their religions impose on them." In 1986, the Society of Jesus subsequently dismissed him for "pertinacious disobedience" from the order. He remained a priest until his death but was not permitted to say Mass.[102]:200[172]

In 1977, a collective theological study on human sexuality was published, after being commissioned in 1972 by the Catholic Theological Society of America.[173] The Society, however, did not approve the study after members of its board of directors criticized its scholarship.[174][175] In his Breaking Faith: The Pope, the People and the Fate of Catholicism, John Cornwell says the theology contained within the work extended the Vatican II focus on the procreative and unitive purposes of marital sexuality, to emphasise the creative and integrative aspects.[176] He criticized the "oversimplification of the natural law theory of St. Thomas," and argued that "Homosexuals enjoy the same rights and incur the same obligations as the heterosexual majority."[176]:129 The book showed that dissent from the Church's teaching on sexuality was common among United States theologians. Reaction to its publication showed that the dissent was not unanimous, even within the Catholic Theological Society of America itself.[174][175]

Two of the best-known advocates for a more accepting position on homosexuality within the Catholic fold have been the Salvatorian priest Robert Nugent and the School Sister of Notre Dame nun Jeannine Gramick, who established New Ways Ministry in 1977.[177] This was in response to Bishop Francis Mugavero of Brooklyn who had invited them to reach out in "new ways" to lesbian and gay Catholics. As early as February 1976, Mugavero issued a pastoral letter entitled "Sexuality: God's Gift", defending the legitimate rights of all people, including those who were gay and lesbian. He said that they had been "subject to misunderstanding and at times unjust discrimination".[178] In addition to gay and lesbian Catholics, the letter also spoke to the widowed, adolescents, the divorced, and those having sexual relations outside of marriage, stating: "we pledge our willingness to help you try to find new ways to communicate the truth of Christ because we believe it will make you free."[179] These sentiments inspired the pastoral efforts by the co-founders to build bridges between differing constituencies in Catholicism.[180]


In 1981, New Ways Ministry held its first national symposium on homosexuality and the Catholic Church, but Archbishop James Hickey of Washington, D.C. wrote to Catholic bishops and communities, asking them not to support the event. Despite this, more than fifty Catholic groups endorsed the program. In 1983 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith attempted unsuccessfully to block publication of Nugent's book, A Challenge to Love: Gay and Lesbian Catholics in the Church, although Cardinal Ratzinger did succeed in forcing Bishop Walter Sullivan of Richmond to remove his name from it.[102]:200 In May 1999, both Nugent and Grammick were formally disciplined when the Congregation imposed lifetime bans on any pastoral work involving gay people, declaring that the positions they advanced "do not faithfully convey the clear and constant teaching of the Catholic Church" and "have caused confusion among the Catholic people".[181] The Vatican move made Nugent and Gramick "folk heroes in liberal circles", where official teaching is seen as outdated and lacking compassion.[177]

Similarly, the American bishops Thomas Gumbleton of Detroit and Matthew Clark of Rochester, New York were criticized for their association with New Ways Ministry, and their distortion of the theological concept of the "Primacy of Conscience" as an alternative to the actual teaching of the Catholic Church.[182]

In 1984, Cardinal Ratzinger asked Archbishop Gerety of Newark to withdraw his imprimatur from Sexual Morality by Philip S. Keane, and the Paulist Press ceased its publication. Keane had stated that homosexuality should not be considered absolutely immoral but only "if the act was placed without proportionate reason". The Catholic tradition had suffered "historical distortions", Keane argued, and should be "ever open to better expressions".[102]:200

In a letter of 25 July 1986, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith rebuked moral theologian Charles Curran for his published work and informed the Catholic University of America in Washington that he would "no longer be considered suitable nor eligible to exercise the function of a professor of Catholic theology". Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Prefect of the Congregation, expressed the hope that "this regrettable, but necessary, outcome to the Congregation's study might move you to reconsider your dissenting positions and to accept in its fullness the teaching of the Catholic Church".[183] Curran had been critical of a number of the Catholic Church's teachings, including his contention that homosexual acts in the context of a committed relationship were good for homosexual people. This event "widened the gulf" between the Catholic episcopacy and academia in the United States.[104][184][185][186]

Also in 1986, Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen of Seattle was required to transfer authority concerning ministry to homosexuals to his auxiliary bishop. Hunthausen had earlier been investigated by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for allowing Dignity, the association for gay Catholics, to hold Mass in Seattle cathedral on the grounds that: "They're Catholics too. They need a place to pray". As a result, according to John L. Allen, "bishops had been put on notice that pastoral ministry to homosexuals, unless it is based on clear condemnation of homosexual conduct, invites serious trouble with Rome".[102]:201 In the same year Cardinal Ratzinger wrote to Bishop Matthew Clark of Rochester, instructing him to remove his imprimatur from a book aimed at parents talking to children, Parents Talk Love: A Catholic Handbook on Sexuality written by Father Matthew Kawiak and Susan Sullivan, and which included information on homosexuality.[102]:200


In January 1998, 39-year-old Alfredo Ormando set fire to himself in St Peter's Square, Vatican City as a political protest against the Catholic Church's condemnation of homosexuality. He died shortly after from his injuries.


In 2013 in England and Wales, 27 prominent Catholics (mainly theologians and clergy) issued a public letter supporting the government's move to introduce same-sex civil marriage. The group included James Alison, Tina Beattie, and Kevin T. Kelly.[187]

In January 2018 German bishop Franz-Josef Bode of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Osnabrück said in an interwiev with German journalists that blessing of same-sex unions in Roman Catholic churches in Germany is possible,[188] as did German Cardinal Reinhard Marx in February 2018.[189][190]

Former clergyEdit

In 2006, Father Bernard Lynch became the first Catholic priest to undertake a civil partnership in the Republic of Ireland. He had previously had his relationship blessed in a ceremony in 1998 by an American Cistercian monk.[191] He was subsequently expelled from his religious order in 2011 and legally wed his husband in 2016.[192]

In 2012, a group of sixty-three former Catholic priests in the USA publicly announced their support for Referendum 74, which would make Washington the nation's seventh state to legalize marriage between same-sex couples. In a statement, they said: "We are uneasy with the aggressive efforts of Catholic bishops to oppose R-74 and want to support the 71 percent of Catholics (Public Religion Research Institute) who support civil marriage for gays as a valid Catholic position."[193]

In October 2014, Wendelin Bucheli, a priest in Bürglen in the west of Switzerland was removed from his diocese by the local bishop after performing a blessing for a lesbian couple. He said he had discussed it with other members of the clergy before making the decision to acknowledge the relationship.[194]

James Alison, a priest formerly a member of the Dominican Order and in the United Kingdom, has also argued that the teaching of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons regarding gay people is incompatible with the Gospel, and states that "it cannot in fact be the teaching of the Church."[195][196] In A Question of Truth, the Dominican priest Gareth Moore states that "there are no good arguments, from either Scripture or natural law, against what have come to be known as homosexual relationships. The arguments put forward to show that such relationships are immoral are bad."[197]

Lay opinionEdit


The United States has the fourth largest Catholic population in the world.[198] Catholic support for gay rights in the country is higher than that of other Christian groups and of the general population.[199][200] A spokesperson for DignityUSA suggested that Catholic support for gay rights was due to the religion's tradition of social justice, the importance of the family, and better education.[201]

In 2003, fewer than 35% of American Catholics supported same-sex marriage. However, a report by the Public Religion Research Institute on the situation in 2013 found that during that decade support for same-sex marriage has risen 22 percentage points among Catholics to 57%: 58% among white Catholics, 56% among Hispanic, with white Catholics more likely to offer "strong" support. Among Catholics who were regular churchgoers, 50% supported, 45% opposed.[202][203]

A 2011 report by the same organisation found that 73% of American Catholics favoured anti-discrimination laws, 63% supported the right of gay people to serve openly in the military, and 60% favoured allowing same-sex couples to adopt children. The report also found Catholics to be more critical than other religious groups about how their church is handling the issue.[35][199]

In June 2015, data from Pew Research suggested that 66% of American Catholics think it is acceptable for children to be brought up by with gay parents. More generally, 70% thought it acceptable for a gay couple to cohabit. Less than half believed that homosexuality should be regarded as a sin (44% of Catholics compared to 62% of Protestants); and a majority would like the church to be more flexible toward those who are in same-sex relationships, including the right to have marriages recognised.[204]

In August 2015, a poll jointly commissioned by the Public Religion Research Institute and the Religion News Service was released suggesting that on issues such as LGBT rights there is "a widening ideological gulf between Catholic leadership and people in the pews", as well as a more progressive attitude among Catholics compared to the US population more generally. 60% of Catholics favour allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally, compared to 55% of Americans as a whole. Most Catholics (53%) said they did not believe same-sex marriage violated their religious beliefs. 76% of Catholics also said that they favoured laws that would protect LGBT people from discrimination (alongside 70% of Americans overall). Finally, around 65% of Catholics oppose policies which permit business owners the right to refuse service to customers who are LGBT by citing religious concerns (compared to 57% of Americans).[205]


A 2014 poll commissioned by the US Spanish-language network Univision of more than 2,000 Catholics in 12 countries (Uganda, Spain, the US, Brazil, Argentina, France, Mexico, Italy, Colombia, Poland, the Philippines, and the DRC) found that two thirds of respondents were opposed to the idea of civil same-sex marriage, and around one third was in favor. However, the level of resistance varied between economically developing and developed countries, with 99% of respondents opposed in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo; but a majority in favour in Spain (63%) and the US (54%). Additionally, in all countries a majority of those polled said they did not think the Catholic Church should perform marriages between two people of the same sex—although the results again ranged with support strongest in Spain (43% in favour) to Uganda (99% against).[206][207]

In January 2014 the former president of Ireland, Mary McAleese, strongly criticized the Catholic Church's approach to homosexuality in a lecture to the Royal Society of Edinburgh: "I don't like my church's attitude to gay people. I don't like 'love the sinner, hate the sin'. If you are the so-called sinner, who likes to be called that?" Her comments were welcomed by the Irish Association of Catholic Priests.[208]

The German bishops conference reported in February 2014 that in Germany "the Church's statements on premarital sexual relations, homosexuality, on those divorced and remarried, and on birth control ... are virtually never accepted, or are expressly rejected in the vast majority of cases"; and that there was "a 'marked tendency' among Catholics to accept legal recognition of same-sex unions as 'a commandment of justice' and they felt the Church should bless them, although most did not want gay marriage to be legalised".[209]

A YouGov poll held in the United Kingdom in 2015 found that Catholics had a more liberal attitude towards gay marriage than Protestants, although both groups are less accepting on the issues than the public as a whole. 50% of Catholics support gay marriage (compared to 45% of Protestants, and 66% of people in the UK as a whole).[210]

World Values SurveyEdit

Using data from the World Values Survey, Austrian political scientist Arno Tausch examined the opinions on homosexuality of respondents who identified as "practising" Roman Catholics (attending Mass at least once a week).[211] He found that homosexuality is broadly tolerated much more in developed than in developing countries, with the former Communist countries of Eastern Europe in a middle position)

The majority of practising Roman Catholics (i.e., more than 50%, in descending order of acceptance) in Andorra, Netherlands, Guatemala, New Zealand, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Italy, United States, Australia, Singapore, Spain, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Argentina, Uruguay, Great Britain, Colombia, Switzerland, Vietnam, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Mexico, South Africa, France, Chile, Dominican Republic, and Trinidad and Tobago would accept a homosexual neighbor. Similarly, a majority (i.e., more than 50%, in descending order) of practising Roman Catholics in the Netherlands, Andorra, Germany, Canada, Czech Republic, France, Philippines, United States, Great Britain, Singapore, Australia, Slovakia, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain, Guatemala, Lebanon, Bosnia, Switzerland, Uruguay, Brazil, Malaysia, Chile, and the Dominican Republic also reject the opinion that homosexuality can never be justified.

Tausch concluded that in a number of countries the rejection of homosexuality among practising Roman Catholics is weaker than the societies in which they live (Bosnia, South Africa, Singapore, Indonesia, Nigeria, Guatemala, Lebanon, Dominican Republic, Malaysia, United States, Philippines, Ghana, Romania, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, El Salvador, South Korea, and Zambia) and that the strong statistical relationship between the rejection of homosexuality and an open and liberal society suggests that the Catholic Church should reconsider its position on the issue as it is out of line with its adherants.


DignityUSA was founded in the United States in 1969 as the first group for gay and lesbian Catholics shortly after the Stonewall riots. It developed from the ministry of Father Patrick Xavier Nidorf, an Augustinian priest. It believes that gay Catholics can "express our sexuality physically, in a unitive manner that is loving, life-giving, and life-affirming". It also seeks to "work for the development of sexual theology leading to the reform of [the church's] teachings and practices regarding human sexuality, and for the acceptance of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender peoples as full and equal members of the one Christ".[212] In 1980, the Association of Priests in the Archdiocese of Chicago honored the Chicago branch of Dignity as the organization of the year. Meetings were initially held in San Diego and Los Angeles, before the organization ultimately became headquartered in Boston. It later spread to Canada. With the publication in 1987 of "On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons", which instructed bishops not to provide facilities for organizations that did not uphold Catholic teaching on homosexuality, Catholic bishops in Atlanta, Buffalo, Brooklyn, Pensacola and Vancouver immediately excluded Dignity chapters, and "within a few months the organization was unwelcome on church property anywhere".[102]

Following a conference in Detroit in 1976 a group called Call to Action (CTA) was established is to advocate a variety of changes in the Catholic Church, including in the church's teaching on sexual matters such as homosexuality.[213] The bishop of Lincoln subsequently placed the group under the ban of excommunication within his diocese. Several other bishops have censured the organization. The excommunications were affirmed by the Congregation for Bishops in 2006.[214] Nevertheless, the organization has continued with a wide range of activities including annual conferences and regional groups, and in 2013 it attempted to broaden its appeal under the tagline "Inspire Catholics, Transform Church".[215]

The Rainbow Sash itself is a strip of a rainbow colored fabric which is worn over the left shoulder and is put on at the beginning of the Liturgy. The members go up to receive Eucharist

The Rainbow Sash Movement covers two separate organizations created by and advanced by practicing LGBT Catholics who believe they should be able to receive Holy Communion.[216][217][218] It has been most active in the United States, England, and Australia. The Rainbow Sash itself is a strip of a rainbow colored fabric which is worn over the left shoulder and is put on at the beginning of the Liturgy. The members go up to receive Eucharist.[219] If denied, they go back to pews and remain standing,[218] but if the Eucharist is received then they go back to the pew and kneel in the traditional way.[220][221] Cardinal Francis Arinze, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, said that members of the Rainbow Sash Movement disqualified themselves from Communion by making reception of it a display of opposition to the Church's teaching,[222] while Archbishop Harry Joseph Flynn, when head of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, said that the decision to take Communion lay with individual Catholics as to their state of grace and freedom from mortal sin, but that receiving Communion should not be used as a protest.[223] The movement in Illinois also planned to hold in a cathedral prayer for legalization of same-sex marriage, an initiative that Bishop Paprocki of Springfield called blasphemous.[224][225]

In the United Kingdom, Quest is a group for lesbian, gay and bisexual Catholics with a purpose to "proclaim the gospel ... so as to sustain and increase Christian belief among homosexual men and women." It was established and is led by lay Catholics.[226] It was, however, taken out of the Catholic Directory because of its refusal to make clear its dissociation from active gay sexuality.[176]:128

There are other groups operating around the world. many organising prayer meetings and retreats and making common cause in their desire to maintain their Catholic faith without hiding their sexuality. Some have called for official recognition of permanent partnerships as an effective way to curb homosexual promiscuity. In Germany there is "Homosexuelle und Kirche" (HuK); in France, "David et Jonathan" (with 25 local branches); in Spain, "Coorinadora Gai-Lesbiana"; in Italy there are a number of groups based in different parts of the country—"Davide e Gionata" (Turin), "Il Guado" (Milan), "La Parola" (Vicenza), "L'Incontro" (Padua), "Chiara e Francesco" (Udine), "L'Archipelago" (Reggio Emilia), "Il Gruppo" (Florence), "Nuova Proposta" (Rome), and "Fratelli dell' Elpis" (Catanaia); in the Netherlands, "Stichting Dignity Nederland"; in Mexico, "Ottra Ovejas"; and in South Africa, "Pilgrims".[176]:128

Defenders of traditional Church teachingEdit

Knights of ColumbusEdit

The Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organisation, have also been active in political campaigns across the United States in the area of same-sex marriage. The Order contributed over $14 million to help maintain the legal definition of marriage as one man and one woman in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington. Darren Hurwitz (a same-sex marriage proponent) has claimed that the Knights of Columbus has now become "one of the nation's largest funders of discrimination against gays and lesbians."[227]

Catholic Medical AssociationEdit

The Catholic Medical Association of North America claims that science "counters the myth that same-sex attraction is genetically predetermined and unchangeable, and offers hope for prevention and treatment."[228] In their official journal, a peer-reviewed academic journal focusing on bioethics, homosexuality has been variously defined as "same-sex attraction disorder",[229] a "psychological and behavioral condition for which people seek professional care",[230] and "neurotic character syndrome", characterised by "personality immaturity, self-victimization, and self-centeredness".[231] "MSM" (men who have sex with men) are claimed to have "a high rate of substance abuse problems and psychological disorders, and a significant percentage... have experienced childhood sexual abuse and other adverse events".[232]

Catholic LeagueEdit

The Catholic League, a Catholic anti-defamation and civil rights organization, has frequently opposed LGBT policies and positive depictions of gay men and women. Its president, Bill Donohue has described the Church child sex abuse crisis as a "homosexual" problem rather than a "pedophilia" problem since most of the incidents involved sex between men and boys rather than girls.[233] Donohue has repeatedly opposed the inclusion of LGBT groups in St Patrick's Day Marches across the US. After organizers of the NYC St. Patrick's Day parade announced in 2015 that they were ending the ban and allowing a gay group to march under its own banner for the first time, Donohue announced that the League would not march in the parade. He also indicated his belief that 'Corporate America' was lined up with the gay rights movement: "It's not a secret. And they've done the same thing here."[234]

In 2016 the Catholic League publicly supported the cancellation of the gay-themed sitcom, The Real O'Neals, which had been loosely based on the life of columnist Dan Savage and dealt with his conservative Catholic mother's reaction to his sexuality.[235]

Homosexuality and Catholic clergyEdit

Homosexual clergy, and homosexual activity by clergy, are not exclusively modern phenomena, but rather date back centuries.[236] Estimates presented in Donald B. Cozzens' book The Changing Face of the Priesthood of the percentage of contemporary gay priests range from 23–58%, suggesting a higher than average numbers of homosexual men (active and non-active) within the Catholic priesthood.[237]

A 1961 instruction from the Sacred Congregation for Religious on selecting men for the priesthood gave bishops discretion to allow gay men, but held them to the same standards of chastity as straight men.[238] In 1997, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments issued further guidelines for candidates for the seminary, stipulating "sufficient affective maturity and a clearly masculine sexual identity." In 2002 it said that admitting gay men would be inadvisable and imprudent.[239]

In November 2005, the Congregation for Catholic Education stated that "the Church, while profoundly respecting the persons in question, cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practise homosexuality."[240] In May 2008, Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone, acting on behalf of Pope Benedict XVI, confirmed that the 2005 declaration applied to all Catholic seminaries everywhere.[241][242][243]

In October 2015, on the day before the second round of the Synod on the Family, a senior Polish priest working in the Vatican, Krzysztof Charamsa, stated publicly in Italy's Corriere della Sera newspaper that he was gay and had a partner.[244] He said he had intended to draw attention to the Church's current attitude towards gay Catholics which he described as "backwards".

Homosexuality and the episcopacyEdit

The existence of gay bishops in the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran and other traditions is a matter of historical record, though never, until recently, considered licit by any of the main Christian denominations.[245] Homosexual activity was engaged in secretly. When it was made public, official response ranged from inaction to expulsion from Holy Orders.[246] As far back as the eleventh century, Ralph, Archbishop of Tours had his lover installed as Bishop of Orléans, yet neither Pope Urban II, nor his successor Paschal II took action to depose either man.[246]

Although homosexual sexual acts have been consistently condemned by the Catholic Church, a number of senior members of the clergy have been found to have had homosexual relationships.[247][248][249][250] A number of Popes were rumored to have been homosexual or to have had male sexual partners,[251][252] including Pope Benedict IX, Pope Paul II, Pope Sixtus IV, Pope Leo X, Pope Julius II and Pope Julius III.

Political activityEdit

Decriminalization of homosexualityEdit

National levelEdit

In various countries, members of the Catholic Church have intervened on occasions both to both support efforts to decriminalize homosexuality, and also to ensure it remains an offence under criminal law.

In the 1960s, the Catholic Church supported the call of the Wolfenden report to introduce legislation to decriminalise homosexual acts in England and Wales.[32] In Australia, Cardinal Archbishop Norman Thomas Gilroy supported efforts begun in the 1970s to likewise change the law.[33] In the United States the Catholic National Federation of Priests' Councils declared their opposition to "all civil laws which make consensual homosexual acts between adults a crime."[253]

In the 1970s and 1980s in Malta,[25] Belize,[28] and India,[254] the local churches opposed the decriminalization of homosexual acts. In New Zealand in the 1980s, although the Church declined to submit a formal response to the parliamentary enquiry on decriminalization, Cardinal Williams did issue a statement opposing homosexual law reform.[255] Cardinal Oswald Gracias, a President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India and one of the eight members of Pope Francis's Council of Cardinal Advisers, declared it wrong to make gay people criminals, since the Catholic Church "teaches that homosexuals have the same dignity of every human being and condemns all forms of unjust discrimination, harassment or abuse".[34]

In Nigeria,[256] a number of senior bishops (including Cardinal John Onaiyekan, and Ignatius Ayau Kaigama (Archbishop of Jos) supported legislation making homosexual activity a crime. At least one bishop who was initially supportive later went on to argue that the Catholic Church would "defend any person with a homosexual orientation who is being harassed, who is being imprisoned, who is being punished". Reports suggested that the influence of Pope Francis may have led to him modifying his initial rhetoric.[257]

Days later a editorial in "The Southern Cross" (a newspaper run jointly by the bishops of South Africa, Botswana and Swaziland) criticised the new Nigerian law, calling on the Catholic Church in Africa to stand with the powerless and "sound the alarm at the advance throughout Africa of draconian legislation aimed at criminalizing homosexuals." It noted the "deep-seated sense of homophobia" in Africa and said the Catholic church had too often been "silent, in some cases even quietly complicit" in the face of the new anti-gay measures.[156]

In Uganda, Catholic bishops (including Archbishop Cyprian Kizito Lwanga) urged Parliament to pass the anti-homosexuality bill,[24] and joined other religious leaders in calling on parliamentarians to make progress in enacting legislation that would broaden criminalisation of same-sex relations.[29] In 2015, Bishop Giuseppe Franzelli in the diocese of Lira, denied that the Catholic Church in Uganda is institutionally behind any push towards anti-gay legislation, and called for "respect and love". Rather he blamed fundamentalist US Christian groups as well as "individual Catholics, including some bishops" for encouraging greater criminal sanctions.[258] The Papal Nuncio to Uganda, Archbishop Michael Blume, voiced concern and shock at the bill.[259]

Global levelEdit

In 2008, the Holy See, as an observer at the United Nations, opposed a proposed declaration opposing human rights violations based on sexual orientation or gender identity, such as criminalization, violence, and discrimination, and affirming the principles of human rights without regard to sexual orientation or gender identity.[30][260][261]

Speaking on the floor of the General Assembly, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Holy See's representative at the United Nations General Assembly, said: "The Holy See appreciates the attempts made [in the draft declaration] to condemn all forms of violence against homosexual persons as well as urge States to take necessary measures to put an end to all criminal penalties against them", but added that its failure to define the terms "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" would produce "serious uncertainty" and "undermine the ability of States to enter into and enforce new and existing human rights conventions and standards".[30][31] He added in an interview that the proposed declaration would put pressure on countries to enact gay marriage and allow gay couples to adopt children.[26][27][262]

During discussion at the 16th session of the UN Human Rights Council in 2011 of a Joint Statement on Ending Violence and Related Human Rights Violations Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, the Holy See's representative, Archbishop Silvano Maria Tomasi, stated: "A state should never punish a person, or deprive a person of the enjoyment of any human right, based just on the person's feelings and thoughts, including sexual thoughts and feelings. But states can, and must, regulate behaviors, including various sexual behaviors. Throughout the world, there is a consensus between societies that certain kinds of sexual behaviors must be forbidden by law. Pedophilia and incest are two examples."[263] He later said of that resolution that recognizing gay rights would cause discrimination against religious leaders and that there was concern lest consequent legislation would lead to "natural marriages and families" being "socially downgraded".[23]

On 28 January 2012, the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, gave a speech calling on African nations to repeal laws that place sanctions on homosexual conduct. Speaking to a journalist, African Cardinal Robert Sarah, president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, called the speech stupid. He added: 'Poor countries like Africa just accept it because it's imposed upon them through money, through being tied to aid.'" He said that African bishops must react against this move against African culture.[264] Meanwhile, Cardinal Peter Turkson, while recognising that some of the sanctions imposed on homosexuals in Africa are an "exaggeration", stated that the "intensity of the reaction is probably commensurate with tradition". "Just as there's a sense of a call for rights, there's also a call to respect culture, of all kinds of people", he said. "So, if it's being stigmatized, in fairness, it's probably right to find out why it is being stigmatized." He also called for distinction to be made between human rights and moral issues.[265]

Discrimination against gay men and womenEdit

The Catholic Church has been described as sending "mixed signals" regarding discrimination based on sexual orientation. It does not regard such an orientation as comparable to gender or race differentiation, and so actively opposes the extension of at least some aspects of civil rights legislation to gay men and lesbians.[38]:194 The Vatican therefore holds that there are areas in which it is not unjust discrimination to take sexual orientation into account.[38]:193[266]

In 1992, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published a statement under the title "Some Considerations Concerning the Catholic Response to Legislative Proposals on the Non-Discrimination of Homosexual Persons". The statement declared that, because of the moral concern that sexual orientation raises, it is different from qualities such as race, ethnicity, sex or age, and therefore "there are areas where it is not unjust discrimination to take sexual orientation into account, for example, in the placement of children for adoption or foster care, in employment of teachers or athletic coaches, and in military recruitment", as well as in public housing. It said that such a limitation of rights is permissible, and sometimes even obligatory, to "protect the common good".[267]

In 2014 the United Nation's Committee on the Rights of the Child expressed concern in a report about the Holy See's past statements and declarations on homosexuality which it said "contribute to the social stigmatization of and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender adolescents and children raised by same sex couples". The Committee urged the Holy See to "make full use of its moral authority to condemn all forms of harassment, discrimination or violence against children based on their sexual orientation or the sexual orientation of their parents and to support efforts at international level for the decriminalisation of homosexuality."[268][269]

Europe and AustraliaEdit

In 1995, Catholic bishops in Poland were successful in resisting the introduction of provisions into the country's constitution that would bar discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation[270] In 2010, the European Union reprimanded schools and colleges owned by the Catholic Church for refusing to employ staff that were openly gay.[271]

In February 2018 the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference publicly intervened to call for a religious freedom act which it argued would protect protect religious exemptions to discrimination law in a submission to the Ruddock religious freedom review. It argues the right not to have to employ LGB staff or teachers if doing so would undermine Church teaching and risk their contribution as role models to students.[272]

United StatesEdit

In 2013, the United States Conference of Bishops opposed bill that would prohibit discrimination in hiring and employment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity by civilian, nonreligious employers with at least 15 employees.[273] While they expressed their belief that "no one should be an object of scorn, hatred, or violence for any reason, including sexual inclination," the bishops declared: "We have a moral obligation to oppose any law that would be so likely to contribute to legal attempts to redefine marriage".[274]

The U.S Conference of Catholic Bishops intervened in 2017 in the Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case being considered by the US Supreme Court. It filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the baker who had refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple. It was joined by other Catholic organisations including the Colorado Catholic Conference, Catholic Bar Association, Catholic Medical Association, National Association of Catholic Nurses-USA and National Catholic Bioethics Centre.[275]

Courts have upheld the dismissal of church employees for entering into same sex marriages.[276] DignityUSA reports that more than 100 employees of Catholic institutions across the US have lost their posts from 2014-17 for being gay or for marrying a same-sex spouse.[277] In 2016, Fabian Bruskewitz argued that the acceptance of homosexuality in the US had been "devastating" for society, and as bishop had threatened automatic excommunication to any Catholics who became members of Call to Action.[278][279][280][281]

Campaign against same-sex marriage and civil unionsEdit

In recent years, the Catholic Church has intervened in national political discourse to resist legislative efforts by secular governments to give equal rights to gay men and women through the establishment of either civil unions or same-sex marriage.

On 3 June 2003, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published "Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons" opposing same-sex marriage. This document made clear that "legal recognition of homosexual unions or placing them on the same level as marriage would mean not only the approval of deviant behaviour... but would also obscure basic values which belong to the common inheritance of humanity". Catholic legislators were instructed that supporting such recognition would be "gravely immoral", and that they must do all they could do actively oppose it, bearing in mind that "the approval or legalisation of evil is something far different from the toleration of evil". The document said that allowing children to be adopted by people living in homosexual union would actually mean doing violence to them, and stated: "There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God's plan for marriage and family. Marriage is holy, while homosexual acts go against the natural moral law."[282]

In October 2015, bishops attending the Fourteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in Rome agreed a final document which reiterated that while homosexuals should not be discriminated against unjustly, the Church was clear that same-sex marriage is "not even remotely analogous" to heterosexual marriage. They also argued that local churches should not face pressure to recognise or support legislation that introduces same-sex marriage, nor should international bodies put conditions on financial aid to developing countries to force the introduction of laws that establish same-sex marriage.[283][284]

North AmericaEdit

In the United States, the leadership of the Catholic Church has taken an active and financial role in political campaigns across all states regarding same-sex marriage.[19][285] Human Rights Campaign said that the church spent nearly $2 million in 2012 toward unsuccessful campaigns against gay marriage in four states, representing a significant share of the contributions used to fund anti-gay marriage campaigns.[286] A 2012 Pew Research Center poll indicated that Catholics in the United States who generally who support gay marriage outnumber those who oppose it at 52 percent to 37 percent.[286] Catholic bishops issued pastoral statements and DVDs articulating the Catholic vision of marriage and urging parishioners to reject efforts to extend marriage to same-sex couples.[193][287]

In July 2003, the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in Canada, the country's plurality religion, protested the Chrétien government's plans to include same-sex couples in civil marriage. The church criticisms were accompanied by Vatican claims that Catholic politicians should vote according to their personal beliefs rather than the policy of the government. In late 2004, Frederick Henry, Bishop of Calgary, wrote a pastoral letter saying "Since homosexuality, adultery, prostitution and pornography undermine the foundations of the family, the basis of society, then the State must use its coercive power to proscribe or curtail them in the interests of the common good."[288][288]

In 2004, George Hugh Niederauer, as Bishop of Salt Lake City, who opposed same-sex marriage, spoke against a proposal to include a ban against it in the Utah state constitution, saying that prohibition by law was sufficient.[289] But in 2008, as Archbishop of San Francisco, he campaigned in favor of California's Proposition 8, a ballot measure to constitutionally recognize heterosexual marriage as the only valid marriage within California.[290] Campaign finance records show he personally gave at least $6,000 to back the voter-approved ban[291] and was instrumental in raising $1.5 million to put the proposition on the ballot.[292] Subsequently he called for an amendment to the US Constitution as "the only remedy in law against judicial activism" following the striking down of a number of state same-sex marriage bans by federal judges.

In 2010, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) clarified the criteria for the funding of community development programs by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. One criterion was exclusion of organizations advancing activities that run counter to Catholic teaching, examples of which included those that support or promote same-sex marriage.[293][294] In 2016, the President and the Chair of USCCB denounced US Vice President Joe Biden for officiating at the wedding of a same-sex couple, arguing that Catholic politicians should only do what is expressly in line with Catholic Church teaching.[295]

Some bishops have called for Catholic politicians who have been involved in making gay marriage legal to be denied Holy Communion, and some have instructed priests not to allow church funerals for those in gay relationships to avoid giving the appearance that the Church approved of such unions.[296][297]


The First same-sex marriage in Spain officially took place in 1901 between Marcela Gracia Ibeas and Elisa Sanchez Loriga and was held in the Catholic Church of St.Jorge; but without the evident awareness of the priest.

Catholic Church figures have also criticized attempts to legalize same-sex marriage in Europe. Pope John Paul II criticized same-sex marriage when it was introduced in the Netherlands in 2001,[298] and cardinals in Scotland and France said that it was a danger to society.[12][20] In Spain and Portugal, Catholic leaders led the opposition to same-sex marriage, urging their followers to vote against it or to refuse to implement the marriages should they become legal.[15] In May 2010, during an official visit to Portugal four days before the ratification of the law, Pope Benedict XVI, affirmed his opposition by describing it as "insidious and dangerous".[299]

In 2010 in Ireland, Sean Brady, the Archbishop of Armagh, unsuccessfully asked Irish Catholics to resist government proposals for same-sex civil partnerships, and the Irish episcopal conference said that they discriminated against people in non-sexual relationships.[22] In April 2013, when the legalization of same-sex marriage was being discussed, the Irish Bishops Conference stated in their submission to a constitutional convention that, if the civil definition of marriage was changed to include same-sex marriage, so that it differed from the church's own definition, they could no longer perform civil functions at weddings.[16][17]

In the predominantly Catholic countries of Italy and Croatia, the Catholic Church has been the main opponent to either the introduction of civil unions or marriage for same-sex-couples.[21] In July 2013, 750,000 petition signatures were collected by the conservative group "In the Name of the Family", strongly supported by Catholic church leaders. This directly led to the 2013 referendum whereby the constitution was amended to state that marriage is only a union between a man and a woman.[18] In February 2016 the Italian Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, rejected the Catholic Church's interference in a parliamentary debate to introduce civil unions and adoption rights for same-sex partners. This followed Bagnasco's (Archbishop of Genoa) attempt to get the Italian Senate to carry-out a secret ballot in the hope it would make it easier for lawmakers to follow their conscience, rather than the party line.[300] Bagnasco had compared the idea of recognizing same-sex unions directly with state recognition for incest and pedophilia.[301][302]

Likewise in Slovenia, the Archbishop of Ljubljana, Stanislav Zore, publicly gave his support to establish a referendum vote aimed at changing the country's constitution so that marriage would be defined as being between a man and a woman. The referendum was subsequently passed and the earlier legislative vote to legalise same-sex marriage was nullified.[303] In January 2013, Catholic bishops publicly thanked members of parliament in Poland for voting down a bill which would have permitted same-sex civil partnerships.[271] In response to the legalisation of gay marriage in Austria in 2017, the president of the Austrian bishop's conference, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn denounced the move, arguing that marriage is a male-female relationship intended for "producing, nurturing and raising children, thus ensuring the succession of generations."[304]

South AmericaEdit

In response to efforts to introduce same-sex marriage in Uruguay in 2013, Pablo Galimberti, the Bishop of Salto, on behalf of the Uruguayan Bishops Council, said that marriage was "an institution that is already so injured" and that the proposed law would "confuse more than clarify". The proposal nevertheless became law, with strong public support.[305]


In Cameroon, Victor Tonye Bakot, the Archbishop of Yaounde, reflected a particularly hostile attitude by the Church in Cameroon, with such interventions prompting the national press to allege the existence of a homosexual "mafia" with a witch-hunt against prominent individuals.[24][306] In 2013 and 2016, the National Episcopal Conference of Cameroon followed this up by issuing a public statement urging "all believers and people of good will" to oppose gay marriage and the decriminalization of homosexuality.[13][306]

In 2014, the Catholic Bishops Conference in Nigeria welcomed legislation passed by the government to make participation in a same-sex marriage a crime punishable by 14 years imprisonment. It noted the move as a "courageous act" and a "step in the right direction". The Archbishop of Jos, Ignatius Ayau Kaigama, argued that the action was "in line with the moral and ethical values of the Nigerian and African cultures", and blessed President Goodluck Jonathan in not bowing to international pressure.[14]


In the Philippines, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines has been increasingly vocal in its opposition to legal recognition of same-sex relationships, coinciding with a legal challenge to the ban on same-sex marriage in the Family Code being raised in the Philippines Supreme Court.[307] In August 2015, Archbishop Socrates Villegas told Filipino Catholics that they "cannot participate in any way or even attend religious or legal ceremonies that celebrate and legitimize homosexual unions".[308]

In Hong Kong, Cardinal John Tong Hon, has used pastoral letters on two occasions to criticise proposals to legislate for same-sex marriage, most recently in 2015.[309][310][311] He urged Catholics to consider this when voting in the district council elections. Several pan-democratic parties criticised Tong's remarks.[312][313]


In 2015, the Archbishop of Hobart, Julian Porteous, with the support of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference distributed a booklet to 12,000 families with children in Catholic schools across Tasmania entitled "Don't Mess With Marriage" - describing relationships between gay couples as "pretended marriage". Porteous was subsequently referred to the Australian Anti-Discrimination Commissioner.[314] The complaint was withdrawn without a finding.

Several Australian bishops publicly supported the "no" vote in the referendum on gay marriage.[315][316] In August 2017, Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher argued that religious schools, charities, and hospitals could be coerced to comply with the "new view of marriage" if the majority of Australians opted for a change in legislation, raising fears that teachers would not be free to follow the traditional church teaching on marriage, but instead be forced to teach a more 'politically correct' curriculum.[315] He went on to claim that religious believers would be vulnerable to discrimination suits and could even lose their jobs if same-sex marriage were to be legalised.[317] The Archbishop of Brisbane, Mark Coleridge, also intervened in the referendum debate to say that, like love shared between family members, love shared between gay people "is love and it is valuable but it’s not and it can’t be the kind of love that we call marriage."[318]

Acceptance of civil unionsEdit

Former Cardinal Archbishop of Milan Carlo Maria Martini said: "I disagree with the positions of those in the Church, that take issue with civil unions ...[but] the homosexual couple, as such, can never be totally equated to a marriage."

There has been some dissent expressed in recent years by senior and notable figures in the Catholic Church on whether support should be given for homosexual civil unions.

The insistence of Bishop Jacques Gaillot to preach a message about homosexuality contrary to that of the official church teaching is largely considered to be one of the factors that led to him being removed from his See of Evraux, France, in 1995. While bishop he had blessed a homosexual union in a "service of welcoming", after the couple requested it in view of their imminent death from AIDS. [319]

In his book Credere e conoscere, published shortly before his death, Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, the former Archbishop of Milan, supported civil unions, though stated they could not be considered the equivilant of heterosexual marriages. He also said he understood the need for gay self-affirmation.[320][321] Cardinal Ruben Salazar Gomez of Bogota and Archbishop Piero Marini have both expressed support for civil unions,[322][323] while Godfried Danneels, Archbishop Emeritus of Brussels, has called the legalisation of same-sex civil marriage.

The Bishop of Antwerp, Johan Bonny, called in 2016 for the Church to devise a blessing for homosexual couples that would recognize the "exclusiveness and stability" of such unions.[324] German cardinal Reinhard Marx and Bishop Franz-Josef Bode have both opined that the blessing of same-sex unions would be possible in Catholic churches in Germany.[189][190][188] In Austria the blessing of same sex unions are allowed in at least two churches,[325] both located in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Linz.[326]

In the Roman Catholic Diocese of Aachen in Germany, five same-sex unions received a blessing from the local priest in the German town of Mönchengladbach.[327] Additionally, in 2007, one same-sex union received a blessing in the German town of Wetzlar in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Limburg.[328] A blessing of a same-sex union, equivalent to marriage except name, was made by a Catholic Dominican priest in Malta in 2015. He was not publicly censured by his local bishop.[329][330][331]

Cardinal Rainer Woelki, the Archbishop of Berlin,[note 6] and the Archbishop of Hamburg, Stefan Heße,[332] have both noted the values of fidelity and reliability found in gay relationships. At the 2015 Synod of Bishops in Rome, Cardinal Reinhard Marx urged his fellow bishops that "We must make it clear that we do not only judge people according to their sexual orientation ... If a same-sex couple are faithful, care for one another and intend to stay together for life God won't say 'All that doesn't interest me, I'm only interested in your sexual orientation.'" [333]

Over 260 Catholic theologians, particularly from Germany, Switzerland and Austria, signed in January and February 2011 a memorandum, called Church 2011, which said that the Church's esteem for marriage and celibacy "does not require the exclusion of people who responsibly live out love, faithfulness, and mutual care in same-sex partnerships or in a remarriage after divorce".[334]

Diplomatic disagreementsEdit

In January 2015, the French government announced that it was proposing Laurent Stefanini (fr) as its ambassador to the Holy See. Stefanini was chief of protocol for President François Hollande and had served as France's Head of Mission to the Vatican from 2001 to 2005. Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, Archbishop of Paris, sent a letter to Pope Francis in support of Stefanini,[335] a practicing Roman Catholic who is reported to be gay, but has not spoken publicly of his sexuality, nor entered into a legal same-sex relationship. He publicly supported the legalization of same-sex marriage in France in 2013.[336] The Pope met with Stefanini for forty minutes on 17 April.[337] By October the Vatican had neither accepted nor rejected the appointment, and press speculation blamed either Stefanini's sexual orientation, France's recent legalization of same-sex marriage, or Vatican displeasure with the fact that the nomination was leaked for political reasons.[338][339] France named Stefanini its ambassador to UNESCO in April 2016.[340]

Gay activists demonstrationsEdit

On December 10, 1989, the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) demonstrated both inside and outside of St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York while Cardinal John Joseph O'Connor was celebrating a Mass attended by Mayor Edward I. Koch.[341] ACT UP, which has a history of occupying and shutting down institutions and buildings as a form of protest, disagreed with O'Connor and the Church's view on several issues, including homosexuality. A group of 4,500 protesters gathered at the cathedral, and a few dozen activists entered the cathedral, interrupted Mass, chanted slogans, blowed whistles, and laid down in the aisles.[342] Others chained themselves to pews.[343] One protester desecrated the Eucharist by breaking it and throwing it to the floor.[341][342] One-hundred and eleven protesters were arrested, including 43 inside the church.[343][344] Only minor charges were filed, punished primarily by community service sentences; some protestors who refused the sentences were tried, but did not serve jail time.[345]

In Los Angeles the same year, gay activists splattered bright red paint on four churches to protest Archbishop Roger M. Mahony and the US Bishops Conference's condemnation of condoms to fight AIDS.[346] They also pasted posted of Mahoney calling him a murderer.[346] A pastor of one of the vandalized churches, who said about 1/3 of the congregation was gay, discussed the vandalism in his homily saying, "we should ask for more understanding, more tolerance and more compassion of each other."[346]

During an ordination of priests in Boston in 1990, ACT UP chanted and protested outside during the entire service loud enough to be heard inside.[347] Among others, the group chanted "If I can't have sex, no one else will either."[348] In Belgium in 2013, four topless women from FEMEN drenched archbishop André-Joseph Léonard with water during a public event to protest the Church's position on homosexuality.[349]

The annual meeting of the bishops of the United States in 2000, including a Mass, was interrupted by a series of protests by gay activists from Soulforce, the Rainbow Sash, and others.[350] The protests came at the end of a year of protests for Soulforce, several of which resulted in arrests,[350] including 104 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.[351]

Notable lesbian, gay and bisexual CatholicsEdit

There have been a number of notable gay Catholics throughout history. Writers such as Oscar Wilde, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Lord Alfred Douglas, Marc-André Raffalovich, Robert Hugh Benson, Frederick Rolfe, and John Gray, and artists such as Robert Mapplethorpe, were influenced by both their Catholicism and their homosexuality, via the physicality and eroticism of the image of Christ and the idea of a relationship with him. Gay Catholic academics such as John J. McNeill and John Boswell have produced work on the history and theological issues at the intersection of Christianity and homosexuality. Some notable LGBT Catholics are or were priests or nuns, such as McNeill or Jean O'Leary, who was a Roman Catholic Religious Sister before becoming a lesbian and gay rights activist.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ See
  2. ^ The literal Greek phrase is "ou paidophthorēseis", which means,"You shall not corrupt boys.
  3. ^ Robert Grant in The Anchor Bible Dictionary argues that the language in the Syriac version against homosexuality is stronger, probably because it was presented to Antoninus Pius rather than the homosexual Hadrian.
  4. ^ (John Boswell has called the canons a forgery in John Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality (University of Chicago Press 2009 ISBN 978-0-22606714-8), P. 177 arguing in fact that "attitudes towards homosexuality grew steadily more tolerant in the early Middle Ages").
  5. ^ "That the morals and general conduct of clerics may be better let all strive to live chastely and virtuously, particularly those in sacred orders, guarding against every vice of desire, especially, so that in the sight of Almighty God they may perform their duties with a pure heart and chaste body. But lest the facility to obtain pardon be an incentive to do wrong, we decree that whoever shall be found to indulge in the vice of incontinence, shall, in proportion to the gravity of his sin, be punished in accordance with the canonical statutes, which we command to be strictly and rigorously observed, so that he whom divine fear does not restrain from evil, may at least be withheld from sin by a temporal penalty. If therefore anyone suspended for this reason shall presume to celebrate the divine mysteries, let him not only be deprived of his ecclesiastical benefices but for this twofold offense let him be forever deposed."
  6. ^ "Erzbischof Woelki möchte Homosexuelle 'nicht diskriminieren'". (in German). 18 May 2012. Retrieved 22 May 2016. Wenn zwei Homosexuelle Verantwortung füreinander übernehmen, wenn sie dauerhaft und treu miteinander umgehen, muss man das in ähnlicher Weise sehen wie heterosexuelle Beziehungen. 
  1. ^ In 1984, Paul Hofmann, a former correspondent for the New York Times, repeated the allegations.[99]


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  3. ^ "CCC, 2358". Retrieved 8 March 2018. 
  4. ^ Reason, Marriage Unique for a. "Marriage FAQ's - Marriage Unique for a Reason". 
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