Catholic Church and homosexuality
The Catholic Church prohibits sexual activity between members of the same sex. This teaching has developed through a number of ecumenical councils and the influence of theologians, including the Church Fathers. Historically, the Catholic Church has resisted the acceptance of homosexuality within Christian society and has on occasions punished those who have transgressed.
While varying from diocese to diocese, the Church also provides pastoral care for LGBT Catholics through a variety of official and unofficial channels. In many parts of the world, the Church is active politically against LGBT rights. The opinion of lay Catholics tends to be more supportive of gay marriage than the hierarchy. There have been a number of notable Catholics who have been gay or bisexual, including priests and bishops. There are groups, individuals, and ministries who support the Church's teaching, although LGBT activists and supporters around the world have protested against Church teaching and policy.
The church teaches that, as one does not choose to be either homo- or heterosexual, being gay is not inherently sinful. In Catholic theology of sexuality, all sexual acts must be open to procreation and express the symbolism of male-female complementarity. As sexual acts between two members of the same gender cannot meet these standards, those acts are considered sinful, and thus homosexuality constitutes a tendency towards this sin. Specifically, the Church teaches that homosexual activity is a sin against chastity and an expression of lust, and that gay people are called to practice chastity. The Church also teaches that that gay people "must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity," and that "every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided."
The Christian tradition has generally prohibited any and all noncoital genital activities, whether engaged in by couples or individuals, regardless of whether they were of the same or different sex. 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.
Canon law regarding same-sex sexual activity has mainly been shaped through the decrees issued by a number of ecclesiastical councils. Initially, canons against sodomy were aimed at ensuring clerical or monastic discipline, and were only widened in the medieval period to include laymen.
In the Summa Theologica, Saint Thomas Aquinas stated that "the unnatural vice" is the greatest of the sins of lust. In January 1976, Pope Paul VI published a homily, Persona Humana: Declaration on Certain Questions concerning Sexual Ethics, that outlawed extra-marital sex, including gay sex, but homosexuality received no mention in papal encyclicals until Pope John Paul II's Veritatis Splendor of 1993. In John Paul II's teaching, homosexual intercourse is performed by a choice of the will, unlike homosexual orientation, which he acknowledged is usually not a matter of free choice.
Pastoral care for gay CatholicsEdit
In response to the push within the United States for greater recognition within the Church for gay men and lesbian women, Courage International was established in New York City in September 1980. Chapters have subsequently been established around the world. Courage also has a ministry geared towards the relatives and friends of gay people called Encourage.
Beginning in the 1970s, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have taught that gays "should have an active role in the Christian community" and have called on "all Christians and citizens of good will to confront their own fears about homosexuality and to curb the humor and discrimination that offend homosexual persons. We understand that having a homosexual orientation brings with it enough anxiety, pain and issues related to self-acceptance without society bringing additional prejudicial treatment."
A number of individual bishops around the world have held diocesan events with the goal of reaching out to gay Catholics and ministering to them, and more have spoken publicly about the need to love and welcome them into the church. Several assemblies of the Synod of Bishops have struck similar themes while maintaining that same-sex sexual activity is sinful. Pope Francis has also spoken out about the need for pastoral care for gay and transgender Catholics, and has said that God made LGBT people that way.
In 2018, the Vatican used the acronym LGBT for the first time ever in an official document, in a paper which stated, “some LGBT youth” wanted to “benefit from greater closeness and experience greater care by the church.” This move was regarded as intending a sign of respect to the community.
On 26 August 2018, while in Ireland, Pope Francis said that homosexual people existed in the whole history of humankind. He also said Catholic parents should talk with their homosexual children, that they shouldn't be "thrown out" of the family, and clarified his belief that homosexuality is not an illness.
Dissent from Church teachingEdit
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 an approach they consider to be more inclusive.
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. Many gay and lesbian Catholics also feel that the practice of total, lifelong sexual denial risks personal isolation. 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.
In several cases, clergy or laypeople have been fired from jobs at Catholic schools or universities because of their support for LGBT rights campaigns or their marriages to partners of the same sex. 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.
In response to Church policy in the area of safe-sex education, AIDS, and gay rights, some gay rights activists have protested both inside and outside of Catholic churches in the United States, sometimes disrupting masses. This includes at the National Shrine in Washington, and during mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York where they desecrated a communion wafer. They have also held a protest outside an ordination of priests at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston. Others have splattered paint on four churches in Los Angeles. Outside of the United States, a number of activists for gay rights and women's rights drenched an archbishop with water. In 1998, Alfredo Ormando died after setting himself on fire to protest the church's position on homosexuality.
Defense of Church teachingEdit
The Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organisation, have also been active in political campaigns across the United States to oppose the legal introduction of same-sex marriage. The Order contributed over $14 million, one of the largest amounts nationwide, to help maintain the legal definition of marriage as one man and one woman in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington. 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."
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. 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." 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.
The Youth Ministry organization Life Teen has a series of blog posts written on the topic of the love God has for LGBT people, explaining the Church's teaching, and offering advice on how LGBT people can live in harmony with the Church's teaching. It also features a number of entries written by gay and transgender Catholics.
Homosexual clergy, and homosexual activity by clergy, are not exclusively modern phenomena, but rather date back centuries. 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. Instructions from Vatican bodies on admitting gay men to the priesthood have varied over time. In the 1960s chaste gay men were allowed but in 2005 a new directive banned gay men "while profoundly respecting the persons in question."
The existence of gay bishops is a matter of historical record. Homosexual activity was engaged in secretly. When it was made public, official response ranged from inaction to expulsion from Holy Orders. Although homosexual sexual acts have been consistently condemned by the Catholic Church, a number of senior members of the clergy have been found or alleged to have had homosexual relationships - including Rembert Weakland, Juan Carlos Maccarone, Francisco Domingo Barbosa Da Silveira, and Keith O'Brien. A number of Popes were thought to have been homosexual or to have had male sexual partners - including Pope Benedict IX, Pope Paul II, Pope Sixtus IV, Pope Leo X, Pope Julius II and Pope Julius III.
The Church supports legislation that conforms with Catholic moral theology and Catholic Social Teaching surrounding issues of importance to LGBT peoples. The Church condemns all forms of violence against LGBT people and all criminal penalties against them, and also supports legally defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. The Church is active in local, national, and international forums.
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. The Catholic Church has been described as sending "mixed signals" regarding discrimination based on sexual orientation. It holds that because of "moral concern," sexual orientation is different from qualities such as race, ethnicity, sex, or age, and therefore it actively opposes the extension of at least some aspects of civil rights legislation, such as nondiscrimination in public housing, educational or athletic employment, adoption, or military recruitment, to gay men and lesbians. It said that such a limitation of rights is permissible, and sometimes even obligatory, to "protect the common good," and does not constitute unjust discrimination.
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, Virginia Apuzzo or Jean O'Leary, who was a Roman Catholic Religious Sister before becoming a lesbian and gay rights activist.
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