Tag Archives: homosexuality

The Gay Closet as a Place of Sin

My colleague Advocatus Diaboli sent me a link some days ago to a post at Jesus in Love, about a new book (“Dark Knowledge“, by Kenneth Low) which argues that Jesus was homosexual and sexually active, but closeted – and that was the reason for his trial and execution. AD asked me for my opinion. Before getting to my response, I share some key extracts from Kittredge’s post:

Dark Knowledge” by Kenneth Low uses rational arguments to disprove much of the conventional wisdom about Christ. According to Low, Jesus was not heterosexual, not celibate, and not happy with his own identity.

Low presents evidence that Jesus must have been homosexual because he was an unmarried man who surrounded himself with men, including John, his beloved male disciple and sexual partner.

-Jesus in Love

 

Kittredge quotes from Low directly:

In His childhood, Jesus Christ came into His awareness of being the Son of God. His magical authority and other attributes were given to Him as His birthright. As He came into sexual awareness, He discovered Himself to be a homosexual. His awareness of being the Son of God precluded any possibility of denying His sexuality out of some external concern and He began to be sexually active. He was evidently discovered to be a homosexual by people in His hometown and He must have been sharply rebuked and ostracized. He left Galilee and wandered on an endless soulful sojourn seeking a reconciliation of His divinity with His homosexuality. (p. 276)

-Jesus in Love

Toby Johnson, the author of Gay Spirituality and Gay Perspective and a former editor of the “White Crane” journal of gay spirituality, has also written about Dark Knowledge. He summarizes the thesis proposed by Dark Knowledge:

When Low considers Jesus as homosexual, it is as secretive, shamed and closeted, what a homosexual would have thought of himself in an intensely and threateningly homophobic and misogynistic society. His townsfolk would have ignored his teachings because they knew too much about him. He’d have been an embarrassment to his family. The Apostles would have been reluctant to admit they knew him if this fact came out. In this reading of the story, Jesus’s homosexuality isn’t an item of pride, but rather the source of a spiritual crisis that forces him to develop an interpretation of virtue and goodness that isn’t just conformity with Jewish Law, since he himself can’t conform.

(In his review, Johnson praises the originality of the presentation and the  manner  in which Low re-imagines the life of Christ. He concludes by noting that he is sceptical of Low’s conclusion, but finds the book stimulating, and a good read nevertheless).

I stress that I have not read the book, and will not even attempt an assessment. However, I was interested in my own strong reaction to the book’s conclusion as presented in Kittredge’s review, and where that response led me. That reaction was  to the whole concept, that Jesus might have been actively “homosexual” – but closeted. We have virtually no real evidence on Christ’s orientation or sexual practice. There are reasonable arguments that he may have been (in modern terms) homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual or asexual in orientation, and it is possible to believe that he was sexually active, or celibate. We may speculate, but we just don’t know. I’m comfortable with any of the possibilities – homosexual and sexually active, heterosexual and sexually active – or entirely celibate. I don’t believe that it really matters. But the one possibility that I have not considered before, and immediately rejected out of hand in an instinctive, visceral reaction, is the one presented by Low: that Jesus was both homosexually active, closeted and ashamed. Why did I react so instinctively?

Somewhat surprised by the intensity of my response, I tried to dissect it. My conclusion came fairly rapidly: Low’s idea flatly contradicts a core belief of standard Christology, that although fully human, Jesus Christ was without sin. If he was without sin, what could he have to be ashamed of?

And that was where assessing my own response became really interesting to me. In going from a standard, conventional belief, that Jesus was without sin, to my conclusion, that this makes it impossible for him to have been a closeted, sexually active gay man, I had made an automatic assumption, that I was previously unaware of. That assumption, was that to be closeted and sexually active, is inherently sinful. But where is the sin? I have made it clear in numerous posts that I do not believe that homosexuality in itself is inherently sinful ( but some forms of inappropriate use of it may be). So if there is sin implied by the assumption, it must lie in the proposition that Jesus was closeted, and ashamed.

Is that a sound assumption? My short answer, which I present before the full reasoning, is yes – the closet is a place of sin (but with an important qualification, which I will get to later).

Before getting to a full consideration of just why I felt so strongly that the closet is a place of sin, I first reflected a little more on the nature of Christ. I have shared before, how my Religious Education classes at school included a lengthy period locating and memorizing Biblical texts on the theme of “God is….” (examples being “God is love”, “God is mercy”, “God is justice”, “God is light”, “God is life”, and more). A key one here, was “God is truth”.  If God is truth, and the closet is (by definition) a lie, then God/ Jesus in the closet is a logical impossibility. That doesn’t necessarily imply that there is sin in the closet, but the idea prepared the way for more, after some thought on the nature of sin.

My understanding of sin, is it is that which turns us away from God, keeps us from being the best that we can be. As John McNeill regularly reminds us in his books, St Ireneaus taught that “The glory of God is humans fully alive” – and by extension, I see sin as that which keeps us (or by our agency, others) from that glory, of being fully alive.  There is abundant evidence from academic literature, from anecdotal evidence, and from my own experience, that coming out is a process of growth, of becoming more fully alive . Remaining in the closet obstructs that growth, denying that process of growth. The closet keeps us from that – hiding us from that full glory of God.

If God / Jesus is truth, the closet is a lie. By hiding our own truth, we are denying the example of Christ.

God is love. Where is the love in the closet? “Love your neighbour as yourself” is the familiar text, but that implies that we must, indeed, love ourselves. Can we truly love ourselves, accept ourselves in all that we are, while denying an important part of who we are?

God is justice. Is there justice in the closet? Is there justice, in a situation where the 80 or 90% of adults are able to rejoice publicly in their loves, and invite friends, family and parishioners to celebrate an affirmation of those loves in church weddings – and some of us feel constrained to hide our loves, or even to avoid love altogether, out of fear?

I could go on, but you get the idea. As I explored my understanding of God, and of sin, it seemed to me clear that the closet restricts our approach to God, in these various aspects. Impeding our access to God, the closet is a place of sin.

But this was a troubling thought. I have often argued for the value of coming out, in church and in the world, but with an important qualification. This must always be only as far as we are able.  Sometimes, for personal reasons or by reason of external circumstances, we may not be able.  If the closet is a place of sin, as I concluded, what does this say of those who, for whatever reason, find that they are not able to come out?

That led me to some further thoughts on the nature of sin.

First, we must consider the particular circumstances and motivations of someone who is closeted. To take an extreme example, for most Catholic priests, coming out would be reckless, endangering their careers and ministry as priests. In such circumstances, staying within the closet in pursuit of a greater good is morally acceptable, and not sinful.

Next, we must consider that there exists both personal and social sin. If it is true that the closet is a place of sin, that does not necessarily imply that a closeted person is in a state of sin – the sin could lie in the social circumstances (of church doctrine and law, for instance, or the possibility of real and severe penalties). In that case, the sin could be social, not personal.

Now,  a little disclosure. The trigger that led to all of the above was in an email from AD, which by chance I read at 3 am one morning (no, that’s not my usual time for correspondence). The thoughts I have shared above, were buzzing around in my head for some hours later. They are based on perceptions, and half – remembered school lessons, not any deep knowledge or training in the relevant theology. The argument needs further testing and thought, but I have shared the ideas simply because they have substantially shaken me up. I am certain there will be flaws, in either the assumptions, or reasoning. I welcome responses from any one willing to pick holes in my thesis.

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Gay Bishop Charles Otis, on Homosexuality and Faith

Bishop Gene Robinson is  the best known openly gay bishop, but there are many others. Bishop Otis Charles, who came out in 1993 after his retirement from full time ministry, is one of them.  He is also legally married: he and his husband held a ceremony in San Francisco in 1993, then wed legally in California in 2008.

While still serving as Bishop of Utah, he did not disclose in own sexuality, but did advocate openly for a relaxation of the barriers to ministry in the Episcopal Church. As a result, Utah came to be seen as a relatively liberal place of refuge for gay men and lesbians in the Episcopal Church.

Otis Charles and Husband, 1993

This year’s Sundance Film Festival, features a documentary film about that other, better known gay bishop, Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.  ” Love Free or Die“, which also includes reference to Bishop Charles, will  be screened on Monday January 23rd, and preceded by a worship service on Sunday 22nd.   QSalt Lake has a piece on Bishop Charles, illustrating the dramatic contrast between the conditions for gay clergy when he was first ordained in 1951, and those prevailing today:

After 60 years in the clergy, including 40 years as an Episcopalian bishop, Otis Charles, 85, was one of three openly gay bishops within the faith, he said. Although, when he first entered seminary in the 1950s homosexuality was not talked about, let alone embraced, by many in the church.

“I never would have imagined how far we’ve come – in the church and in general. It’s a different world. I never would have imagined, when I was first entering seminary, that I would be able to be married to my husband and enjoy all the benefits that come with that,” Charles said. “In my lifetime I’ve seen the onward movement from being outside of the movement into the ongoing life of the community in ways that I never would have imagined.”

–  QSaltLake

We must remember though, that we have not arrived at this place of moderate tolerance without a great deal of preparatory work, by a great number of people. Bishop Charles was one of the pioneers:

The path to arrive as a happily married, accepted bishop was more than three decades in the making; the issue of openly gay clergy members was first raised in 1976 during a general assembly where Charles testified about the need to accept gay clergy members, although he was not open about his own sexuality. In 1979 he was a member of a coalition of leaders who signed a letter in opposition to the newly enacted policy prohibiting gays and lesbians from being ordained into the ministry.

Charles, along with eight members from the Utah delegation, opposed the church’s new position, which led to Utah having a liberal reputation.

“We were kind of a place of refuge for gay or lesbian individuals who wanted to be ordained and their home bishop wouldn’t accept them or recognize them,” Charles said. “The authorities in the diocese of Utah supported more than one such person. And so the dioceses in Utah have a spirit of openness for a long time.”

–  QSaltLake

There also, quite obviously, many barriers to overcome, especially in the Catholic Church – but I will leave those out of this post. For now, let us simply celebrate Bishop Charles, Bishop Robinson, and the other pioneers on the road to LGBT inclusion in church. I look forward to this documentary film becoming more widely disseminated.

Bishop Gene Robinson (right), Mark Andrew at their civil union, 2008

[Correction:

An earlier version of this post stated that the documentary film “Love Free or Die” is about Bishop Otis Charles, but in fact it is primarily about Bishop Gene Robinson].

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Homosexuals and the Catechism

Many people believe that the Catechism teaching on homosexuality is well known: in effect, you can be gay, just don’t do gay (which makes as much sense as saying you can be left-handed, just don’t write left-handed – but I’m not getting into that, today).

 2357 Homosexuality ……. has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” They are 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. Under no circumstances can they be approved

What those “many people” overlook, is another, equally important line in the Catechism, which has been far too frequently ignored by people who should know better, such as some of the  Catholic bishops and Vatican bureaucracy). That line demands that we must be accepted with “respect, compassion, and sensitivity”.

2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. ……

Lesbian and gay Catholics would do well to take careful note of this line, memorise it, and quote it every time they encounter hostile, orthotoxic Catholics quoting the previous line. There are good grounds for challenging the statements and conclusions in the hostile line (the claims about Scripture are disputed by many modern Bible scholars, the claim from “natural law” debatable), but no grounds that I am aware of for challenging the line on respect, compassion and sensitivity.

Even where lip-service is paid to this important Catholic teaching, the full implications are often ignored.  At America blog last week,  Fr James Martin SJ expanded on the significance of the line, and what it implies, in a lengthy and valuable post.Even before he gets to the important part, he makes a welcome observation about some more familiar words – in which the Catechism describes the inclination as a “trial”. This is usually presented as a trial which is intrinsic to the condition, for which the proposed remedy is to endure it with fortitude, to “unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition”. But the experience of gay men and lesbians is that the difficulties do not arise from the orientation itself, but from the hostility of the church, and heteronormative social conditions. (For some people, the oppression also arises from internalized homophobia, induced by external oppression).

…..while some gays and lesbians may not appreciate having their situation described as a “trial,” the Catechism reminds Catholics that being a homosexual in many modern cultures is still fraught with difficulty.  It can be a painful struggle for a gay person to accept himself or herself as someone loved by God.  As most of us know, bullying, beatings and, in rare cases, murder, is often part of being a gay or lesbian teen.  As a result, the rate of suicides among gay teens is significantly higher than it is for straight teens in our country.  In other parts of the world the situation is more dire: in some countries homosexual activity can bring imprisonment or execution. 

The really important part of the post, is where he digs into the line on respect, compassion and sensitivity, to explore what a genuine observance of this would mean. I share some extracts below (only extracts. Read the full article at America blog)

Respect

There is more to respect, he reminds us, than just the negative sense of refraining from denigrating them, or treating them as second-class citizens, or even just acceptance. These, he says, are the bare minimum. (And even that low bar, I suggest, is one that some Catholics and Catholic bishops fail to meet).

So, what is really required by “respect”?

One of the hallmarks of respecting a person, for example, is listening to him or her.  If a child interrupts an adult, or fails to listen to a teacher, the child may be told, “Show some respect.”  You would scarcely say that you respected a person if you showed no real concern for what they said, or, likewise, for their personal experiences.  So, to show real respect Catholics need to listen carefully to the experiences of gays and lesbians.  Indeed, I think one reason for the fraught nature of the church’s relations with gays and lesbians is an absence of listening.  (On both sides.)

 What would it mean for the church to listen to the experiences of gays and lesbians?  First, it would mean willingly and honestly listening to what it is like to grow up as a homosexual child and adolescent.  It would mean paying attention to the voices of young people who feel persecuted or who are bullied.  It would mean taking seriously the heightened threat of suicides among gay and lesbian youth, which is, after all, a “life issue.” It would also mean listening to what it is like to be an adult gay or lesbian, particularly within the church.  That would mean another, more difficult, kind of listening: trying to understand the widespread feeling among many gay and lesbian Catholics that their own church doesn’t “respect” them.  Then it would mean asking the difficult question: “Why is this?” 

 Compassion

We may think we know what is meant by compassion, but Martin points out that in its scriptural usage and etymology, the meaning is far stronger than everyday use. From the

To suffer with gays means to be with them, and to stand with them, in solidarity.  It means to be, and to be seen to be, on their side, battling “every sign of unjust discrimination.”  It means sticking up for them when others mock or belittle them.  It means reaching out in ways that might move us beyond our comfort zones.  It might mean finding ourselves mocked as a result.  It means aligning ourselves with them. That’s what Jesus did, after all.  Even more than that, it means showing the kind of love that Jesus shows for those on the margins—a special kind of love.

It’s hardly necessary to point out that the extraordinary efforts of some Catholic bishops to oppose marriage equality, are in direct contradiction to standing “in solidarity” with us.

Sensitivity

For Martin, this requires that in dealing with gay and lesbian people, the Church must recognize that our experience has often left us feeling hurt and scarred. This requires going out of our way to listen, and to take great care in the presentation of overall teaching. There is an imbalance, he observes, in the way that teaching on homosexuality is often presented only in terms of “thou shalt not” (the hostility of line 2358), but not the “thou shalt” – to say nothing of the careless speech like that of Cardinal George, and the Ku Klux Klan. What is important, is not only what is said, but how it will be heard.

This imbalanced is not matched in dealing with other groups, and applicable (equally disordered) sexual teaching:

This way of proceeding has always struck me as surprising.  It would be as if the first thing that a priest said to a group of married Catholic couples at a retreat was not “Welcome,” but “No extramarital sex!” Or if a group of Catholic business leaders was greeted at a luncheon by a bishop who said, “No unfair wages!”  Or if a group of Catholic physicians was told at the beginning of a conference, “No abortions!”  Gay people sometimes feel as if the “thou shalt nots” are the entirety of the church’s teaching on who they are.  Because sometimes that’s all they hear. 

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Trouble in Adelaide over Anglican gay clergy.

For months, there have been simmering tensions in Adelaide’s Anglican Church community over the unresolved matter of gay and lesbian clergy. A newly appointed bishop says that he has no problem with homosexual priests – as long as they don’t engage in homosexual activity.
This is the formally proclaimed policy of his church, but it is untenable – it makes no more sense than to say “It’s all right to be left-handed, just don’t write left-handed”. (Left-handedness is in fact a good analogy to homosexual orientation. Both are entirely natural, regularly occurring, non-pathological conditions affecting a small but significant minority of people).

ADELAIDE’S new Anglican Bishop supports homosexual clergy as long as they follow church guidelines that forbid gay sex.

The Venerable Dr Tim Harris will be ordained tomorrow as Bishop for Mission and Evangelism at St Peter’s Cathedral.

His newly created role is essentially to help recruit and retain worshippers and establish new parishes in the Diocese of Adelaide.

The appointment comes in a period of unrest for the church. Reverend Ali Wurm, an openly gay priest from St Bede’s parish at Semaphore, quit her post in June after ongoing “persecution” from within the church about her sexuality. Days earlier the first female Dean of Adelaide, Sarah Macneil, resigned less than two years after taking up the post.

The resignations came amid tensions in the diocese on how to respond to a global moratorium imposed by the church on same-sex unions and the ordination of clergy in same-sex relationships.”

Earlier, two priests had resigned, with claims of harassment on the grounds of orientation.

The resignation of Semaphore’s St Bede’s Reverend Ali Wurm comes as the Dean of Adelaide, Sarah Macneil, also announced she would step down.


Tensions within the Diocese of Adelaide about how to respond to a global moratorium imposed by the church on same-sex unions and the ordination of clergy in same-sex relationships – as well as the handling of the turmoil by Archbishop Jeffrey Driver – are believed to be factors in the women’s departures.
All Souls of St Peters’ Reverend Andy Wurm, Ms Wurm’s brother, confirmed pressure over many years about her former same-sex relationship was a key factor.
“A major reason for her resignation was the persecution she felt as a result of her living arrangements and sexual orientation,” Rev Wurm said.

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A Silver Lining to Avila’s Nonsense on “Satanic” Origins of Same-sex Orientation.

The extraordinary fiasco over comments by an advisor to the US bishops’ anti-gay-marriage initiative would be the stuff of high comedy, if it were not so tragic. (Indeed, much of the commentary from the secular LGBT blogosphere has been hilarity at the nonsensical nature of his claim that homosexual orientation has a Satanic origin).

The tragedy is that someone so appallingly ignorant on both the scientific evidence, and on orthodox Vatican teaching, should have been formally employed by Church bodies in the first place. The scientific evidence is overwhelming that the orientation is entirely natural, regularly recurring in both humans and the animal world, and is entirely non-pathological. The Vatican accepts this, and also states clearly that the condition is in no way sinful, and that the Church deplores violence or malice directed at those with a homosexual inclination, in either speech or action. Instead, we should be treated with dignity, understanding and respect.

Avila’s theology is deeply flawed, an several useful on-line commentaries point out. (See Bill Lindsey for instance at Bilgrimage, with an extensive set of important links, and valuable commentary of his own, on the outdated and damaging views expressed by Avila – and expressed in marginally less offensive manner by some bishops themselves. Personally, I could not face wading deeply into the depths of Avila’s idiocy – but I am fascinated by the aftermath.

The silver lining in the tragedy is more interesting: the remarkably swift response by the Church, both at diocesan and national level. The archdiocese of Boston was the first to response, withdrawing the offending article from the publication in which it first appeared. Now, he has resigned from his position as adviser to the USCCB sub-committee on marriage. This swift response mirrors earlier corrective action by bishops in Canada and Texas to homophobic speech and actions by priests. Together with other indications from different regions and sectors of the Church, I believe the conclusion is now inescapable: the Catholic Church is undergoing a fundamental change in stance on homosexuality and gay relationships.

(I would stress here the change is on of stance, not position. Church teaching remains unchanged:  orientation is morally neutral, genital acts are sinful. What has changed, is a shift in emphasis, from an obsession with the acts, to greater emphasis on the pastoral response, to avoiding offensive speech, and a corresponding increase in priority for the “dignity, respect and understanding”, which has been so badly neglected until recently).

Among several news reports on Avila’s sudden resignation, the best I have found is from the Washington Post.  Here are some extracts:

A policy adviser to the U.S. Catholic bishops’ anti-gay-marriage initiative resigned on Friday (Nov. 4), a week after writing a column that blamed Satan for homosexuality.

Daniel Avila had been an on-staff adviser to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage since June.

Unofficially, Avila referred to himself as the “bishops’ marriage guy” and represented the USCCB’s stance on marriage in Washington.

Avila also apologized in a statement on Wednesday. “The teaching of Sacred Scripture and of the Catechism of the Catholic Church make it clear that all persons are created in the image and likeness of God and have inviolable dignity,” he said.

“I deeply apologize for the hurt and confusion that this column has caused,” Avila added. Avila also said that his column did not reflect the opinion of the Catholic bishops and was not authorized before publication. The USCCB has not taken an official position on the causes of homosexuality, Walsh said.

Among the interesting items in Bill Lindsey’s piece, are some suggestions that the swift ecclesiastical response has been triggered in part by the work of progressive activists groups and writers.  Perhaps the bishops are finally beginning to take note of the polling evidence that shows how far they are out of step with the Church on issues of human sexuality. It may not always seem like it, but queer Catholics are slowly gaining influence in the Church. (Avila’s resignation came swiftly after gay rights groups had called for Avila’s ouster. Coincidence?).  In the Washpost article, I particularly liked the response by  Marianne Duddy-Burke, of Dignity:

“I think it’s appropriate that he has resigned,” said Marianne Duddy-Burke executive director of DignityUSA, which advocates for gays and lesbians in the Catholic Church.

“I would hope that the bishops will follow it up with some significant action of repentance to demonstrate that they understand the harm that he has done to LGBT people and our families.”

 The Washington Post.

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Separation of church and state in marriage?

“It isn’t exactly a movement — more of a blogosphere hubbub.
In solidarity with his gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, one well-known evangelical pastor in Minneapolis is taking a stand. As long as his state won’t confer upon homosexuals the legal right to marry, Tony Jones won’t sign a marriage license. He will officiate at a Christian ceremony, what he calls the “sacramental” part of marriage. But he refuses to act as an agent of the state.
“Will you join me,” he asked colleagues online last year, “and refuse to legally marry people?”
In July, Jones made his point personally. He remarried, but this time only sacramentally. “I consider my marriage 100 percent valid,” he told me.

-read the full report at  The Washington Post

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"Come Out", Do Not Be Ashamed, Filipino Archbishops Tell Gay Catholics

The Filipino website GMA News has an intriguing report that two Archbishops, Paciano Aniceto of San Fernando and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz have urged to “come out in the open”, because they have nothing to be ashamed of.

Their full message does not depart from the formal position of Vatican doctrine, as it repeats the standard distinction between “homosexual persons” and  “homosexual acts”, and repeats the warning that these “acts” because they are “contrary to natural law”, and do not flow from “natural complementarity”. In this respect, they are as offensive as many other utterances from our bishops and the Vatican. (The occasion for this remarks was the Philippines launch of the book ”  ” by Fr John Harvey, the founder of Courage).   Nevertheless, I see some good news in this report, supporting my belief that there is a gradual and welcome shift of emphasis underway. There are two elements of this shift evident in the bishops’ message.

First, is the suggestion I have put into the headline, that they are encouraging us to come out and be open – including, presumably, open and out in church.  This is significant: the implicit message up to now has been to remain firmly closeted. The CDF argues that there is no need for legal provision to protect us from homophobic discrimination, because the safest way to avoid discrimination is simply to hide our sexuality. There is also an often repeated claim that by coming out we are “identifying” with the gay lifestyle, and so should be discouraged. The simple fact that these two archbishops are now recommending that we should be open is a major new development, which I would like to see more widely endorsed, and followed. If many more gay men and lesbians were to come out in church, it could have significant impact in contributing to understanding and more general acceptance. (There is no need, in being more open, to go so far as to start disclosing details of sexual practice – but that applies equally to all, of any orientation).
The second important feature is less remarkable, having been made with increasing frequency in recent years by others. This is the reminder of the neglected part of the Catechism on homosexuality – that we “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity”. This is as much a part of official doctrine as the better known insistence that homosexual acts are sinful- but has not hitherto been heard often enough, and in practice has been widely ignored by many people who really should know better. To my mind, the insistence on “sensitivity” is particularly important. It is impossible to be truly sensitive to marginalized people unless we make a determined effort to understand them. That in turn requires something that has been almost totally absent in the response of the institutional church response to LGBT people up to now – genuine listening to us, as we talk about our lives, experiences, perceptions and expectations. If other Catholics really did attempt to live according to this part of the Catechism as assiduously as they insist we live according to the teachings on the dreaded “acts” themselves, the listening process that would ensue would inevitably also contribute to a softening of the traditional hostility – just as it has already done in the other denominations that have applied formal listening and study processes.

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