Tag Archives: lgbt inclusion

A Theology of Gay Inclusion, Pt 1: ‘Homosexuality is Unnatural.’

In March this year, Fr Owen O’Sullivan published an article in the theological journal “Furrow” on the inclusion of gays in the Church. The CDF seem to have found this article dangerous, and have ordered him not publish anything further without prior approval. In the modern internet age, this attempted censorship simply does not work: the original article has been published on-line in a series of posts at an Australian Salvation Army blog, “Boundless Salvation”. 

Here is the first extract:

 ‘Homosexuality is unnatural.’

‘Nature’ is a loose peg on which to hang a theology of human relationships. The word has multiple meanings: the Concise Oxford Dictionary lists nine for nature and fourteen for natural. In Victorian times, Europeans spoke of Africans as ‘children of nature’, meaning they were brutal, primitive, and savage, in need of the wise, firm and civilizing hand of the colonial master; this was to justify European exploitation of Africa. For centuries, slavery was regarded as natural; it had a long and virtually universal tradition behind it, as had the subjection of women to men. It was natural, too, for gentlemen of quality to rule the lower orders. The word has been pressed into the service of several racial, political, social and cultural agenda. Today, people like food to be natural, meaning free from artificial chemicals. But mildew, ants, aphids, cockroaches and rats are natural, and will happily occupy food. Is it natural to have them on it?

Some argue that the natural purpose of sexuality is procreation, and that, since homosexual relationships are not procreative of life, they are therefore unnatural. The argument draws on teleology (ends) or finality as seen from one viewpoint, and seems to imply that since procreation is the principal purpose, then it’s the only legitimate purpose of a sexual relationship. Where does that leave non-procreative heterosexual love, or sexuality simply as play? Does it not also mean that the non-use of genital sexuality, as in celibacy, is likewise unnatural?

Is anatomical structure the determinant of what is normative in human behaviour? If the natural purpose of nipples is to give milk, why do men have them? The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) states, ‘The human person, made in the image and likeness of God, can hardly be adequately described by a reductionist reference to his or her sexual orientation.’ (Letter on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, 1 October 1986; CTS, London, n.16.) A teleological argument from biological nature is no less reductionist. Homosexuals find it natural to engage the body as it is in sexual relationships, and consider it suited for the purpose.

Throughout history, and across the globe, as art, history and literature testify, same-sex attraction and acts have been a consistent feature of human life. In that sense, they cannot be called unnatural or abnormal. Same-sex attraction is simply a facet of the human condition.

As is often the case, our use of language is not helpful. The word ‘straight’ implies that someone who does not fit that category is crooked, deformed, or queer. It’s a by-product of a culture of contempt and repression towards homosexuals on a par with calling black people niggers, and it helps perpetuate prejudice. In this article, I use the word homosexual to describe same-sex attraction, whether between women (lesbians) or men (gays). And homosexuality is not just about what goes on between the sheets, or in clubs or the ‘gay scene.’ The latter is often as far removed from a committed, loving relationship as the activities of a brothel are from a committed, loving marriage. Homosexuality is about the way human beings relate to each other in their totality.

Does homosexuality exist objectively – clear, cut-and-dried – like Plato’s forms, regardless of relationships? According to the president of the Northern Ireland Gay Rights Association, between eighty and ninety percent of Northern Ireland’s wider gay community are married with families. In Latin America, the “active” (top) male partner in sex between men is not regarded as gay, only the “passive” (bottom) partner. Gays estimate that between one-third and two-thirds of men who frequent gay clubs or bars live in a heterosexual relationship. And it is not uncommon to find lesbians who have had a child. There is some of the straight in every gay, and some of the gay in every straight. (If all the gay people in society came out, it would banish homophobia overnight.) Some of what is included in the ideas of homo- and hetero- are cultural constructs, such as our ideas of beauty, for instance. It might be nearer the truth to think of homosexuality more in terms of what one does, or how one relates, than of what one is.

The hope some people have is that a homosexual gene will be found; it would let them off the peg on which they’ve hung themselves. Homosexuality could then be considered natural. (How do you persuade people who think they have to be right in order to be credible that their credibility would be enhanced by an admission that they could be wrong?)

Is there a ‘homosexual gene’? I don’t think anyone knows. I hope not; it might lead to homosexuals being treated ‘compassionately’ as freaks. But surely the question is irrelevant. Whether a homosexual orientation is genetic or environmental, inborn or acquired, from nature or nurture, it’s there, and that’s what counts. Most homosexuals experience it as a given, no more a choice than the colour of their eyes.

A more important question is, ‘What sort of human being is this?’ ‘What sort of relationships does s/he engage in?’ And the great challenge is for people to be true to themselves.

Shakespeare wrote: –

‘This, above all,
to thine own self be true,
and it must follow,
as the night the day,
thou canst not then be false to any man.’
(Shakespeare,
Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 3, lines 78-80.)

Is homosexuality unnatural? Yes, it is – if you’re heterosexual.

LGBT Inclusion Gaining Ground – With USA EVANGELICALS!

It’s now obvious that progress to full lgbt inclusion is well under way in many mainline Protestant denominations, in both the USA and Europe.  What’s less obvious, is that the process has also begun in Evangelical circles, as Matthew Vines describes in an article at Politico. 

Vines first made an impact with his viral Youtube video on the Bible and Homosexuality, then followed it up with the launch of his “Reformation Project”, which has by now trained hundreds of fellow lgbt Christians to similarly conduct lgbt – friendly bible workshops in their own congregations. Then came his book “God and the Gay Christian”, which is now listed among the 1000 top sellers on Amazon.

vines_church_gty

Continue reading LGBT Inclusion Gaining Ground – With USA EVANGELICALS!

Germany’s Largest Lay Group’s Call for Same – Sex Blessings

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, President of the German Bishops’ Conference, has “rebuked” the country’s largest lay group, the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK), for its call for a change in Church teaching.

Stefan Vesper, General Secretary of ZdK
Stefan Vesper, General Secretary of ZdK

It will be no surprise that the call has been criticized by the German bishops.   In addition to greater acceptance of divorced and remarried Catholics, the position paper calls for Church blessings for same – sex couples. What is notable, is that the call was made in the first place, that Cardinal Marx’s rebuke includes the conciliatory statement that ““necessary theological debate” and dialogue on both subjects would be helpful”, and that Marx praised the ZdK’s position paper for its many “theological and socially significant statements on the family”.

When the Family Synod was first announced and ever since, the Vatican and others have insisted that the intention was to debate and refine pastoral practice – not to change or even discuss doctrine. It’s becoming clearer than ever though, that there is a growing awareness that the need for doctrinal change will have to be seriously addresses, whether at the synod, or later. Cardinal Marx’s acknowledgement that theological dialogue with lay people is an impressive example of that.

For a report on Cardinal Marx’s response, see The Tablet News, (25th May), or for the full German text of the position paper, see the ZdK website

LGBT Pilgrims Get VIP Seats for Papal Audience

ABC News reports:

The Vatican did something it has never done before by giving a group of U.S. gay and lesbian Catholics VIP seats at Pope Francis’ weekly general audience Wednesday.But in a sign that the welcome wasn’t all it could have been, the New Ways Ministry pilgrims were only identified on the Vatican’s list of attendees as a “group of lay people accompanied by a Sister of Loretto.”And not even that got announced: When a Vatican monsignor read out the list of the different groups of pilgrims in attendance in St. Peter’s Square, he skipped over the group altogether. Francis didn’t mention them, either.Even without a papal shout-out, New Ways Ministry officials were nevertheless pleased that they had been invited to sit up front by Monsignor Georg Gaenswein, the prefect of the papal household who dispenses the coveted reserved tickets for Francis’ audiences.

Gaenswein for years has also been the top aide to Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI. When Benedict headed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he permanently prohibited the New Ways Ministry co-founders, Sister Jeannine Gramick, and the Rev. Robert Nugent, from ministering to gays after determining in 1999 that they didn’t sufficiently adhere to church teaching on the “intrinsic evil” of homosexual acts.

Nugent abided by the directive and died last year. Gramick has continued her ministry, changing religious orders to the Sisters of Loretto, and was on hand for Wednesday’s audience.

“Pope Francis gives me hope,” she told The Associated Press. “To me, this is an example of the kind of willingness he has to welcome those on the fringes of the church back to the center of the church.”

The group’s executive director, Francis DeBernardo, said New Ways Ministry had tried unsuccessfully under the previous two popes to get VIP seats for its Rome pilgrimages.

This time, the Vatican ambassador in Washington and the archbishop of San Francisco forwarded their requests onto Rome, a sign that Francis’ call for the church to be more welcoming to gays has filtered down to local church leaders.

via Gay Catholics Get Vatican Welcome, but No Papal Shout-Out – ABC News.

Gay Catholics find a new tone under Pope Francis, and from their own bishops – Religion News Service

LGBT Catholics from Westminster diocese received a parting greeting and blessing from their cardinal Archbishop, Vincent Nichols – and across the Atlantic, a similar but larger group of Americans have found their path this year substantially easier then in previous occasions, thanks to help from some senior prelates. (Help received from Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco is particularly notable in this respect: he’s positioned himself as a leading opponent of marriage equality, and his record on gay inclusion in Church has previously been less than salutary). Continue reading Gay Catholics find a new tone under Pope Francis, and from their own bishops – Religion News Service

Archbishop on Synod “Lack of Will” to Say “Who Am I to Judge?”

In an interview with Elisabetta Piqué in the Argentine newspaper “La Nación”of October  21, Archbishop Víctor Manuel Fernández, rector of the Catholic University of Buenos Aires, brought to the synod by Pope Francis to whom he is friend and confidant, and charged with writing the final message and “Relatio,” gave this answer to a question about the paragraph on homosexuality:

“The fact that this brief paragraph did not gain a two-thirds consensus is not explained only by a negative vote of the conservative sectors, but also by a negative vote of some bishops most sensitive to this issue, who were not satisfied by the little that was said. […] Probably there was a lack of will to say, with Pope Francis: ‘Who are we to judge the gays?'”

– source Chiesa Espresso