Homosexualiy and the Catholic Church Essay

This essay has a total of 1954 words and 10 pages.

Homosexualiy and the Catholic Church

For us in Scotland homosexuality is one of the most prominent issues in Church and society
today. Gay-rights advocates and activists are pushing a strong political agenda from the
left—job benefits for domestic partners, civil recognition for gay marriages, the
right to bear one’s own children via reproductive technologies, equal access to
adoption, anti-discrimination statutes. At the same time, the government has changed
legislation regarding the teaching about homosexuality in Schools.

Sir Elton John made a public attack on Scotland’s Cardinal Thomas Winning, accusing
him of “ignorance” regarding homosexuality. Writing in the June issue of the
Spectator, the flamboyant performer said the cardinal’s views were
“outdated,” and that they would cause people to desert the Church. His
outburst followed Cardinal Winning’s comments that “gay sex is wrong, because
such behaviour is not good for the human person,” and that homosexuality is “a
lifestyle that can never respond to the deepest longings of the human heart.” But
Sir Elton, who is openly homosexual, dismissed the views as “ill informed.”
“Cardinal Winning, and his ignorance, is totally representative of why people are
turning away from the Church,” he said. “I am astonished to be told by
Cardinal Winning that my sexuality is not good for me. As a gay man I am perfectly happy
with my sexuality and my life. I can honestly say that the deepest longings of my heart
are satisfied.” A spokesman for Cardinal Winning told the BBC: “We would say
that Sir Elton’s views are eminently predictable. The cardinal would not wish to
dignify them with a response.”

The Catholic bishops in the United States noted in their 1990 document Human Sexuality:
"The distinction between being homosexual, and doing homosexual genital actions, while not
always clear and convincing, is a helpful and important one when dealing with the complex
issue of homosexuality, particularly in the educational and pastoral arena" . In brief,
evidence indicates that being homosexual—that is, "experiencing an exclusive or
predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex"—is most often an
experience that is discovered, not freely chosen . With the onset of puberty, and its
associated hormonal changes, every adolescent boy and girl begins to discover sexual
attractions, desires, fantasies and feelings.

For the majority of people, this attraction is primarily focused toward members of the
opposite sex. Thus, their orientation is termed "heterosexual." But for a relatively small
but significant percentage of the population, homosexual persons, this attraction or
orientation is primarily toward their own gender. Bisexual persons seem to be somewhat
equally drawn to members of both sexes. While having a homosexual (or even a bisexual)
orientation is not typical, it is not in itself morally wrong or sinful. Since in most
cases it is discerned or discovered, not freely chosen, it is not automatically
blameworthy . Thus the Church has taken a fairly benign or accepting stance toward
homosexual persons—who discover their desires and inclinations (i.e., orientation)
toward same-sex sexual activity. Yet the Church has consistently taught that to act on
these inclinations, particularly to engage in homosexual genital acts, is always
objectively morally wrong.

Here the Church attempts to be true to the core premises of our Catholic sexual-ethics
tradition, while at the same time fostering basic human respect, justice and pastoral care
toward gay and lesbian persons. Accept the orientation, not the actions. As the Catholic
bishops state it: "We believe that it is only within a heterosexual marital relationship
that genital sexual activity is morally acceptable. Only within marriage does sexual
intercourse fully symbolize the Creator’s dual design, as an act of covenant love,
with the potential of co-creating new human life. Therefore, homosexual genital activity
is considered immoral" . In somewhat less pastoral, more philosophical terms, Vatican
documents use the phrase "intrinsically disordered" when referring to homosexual genital

The Church calls all homosexual persons, like their single heterosexual counterparts, to
be chaste, that is, sexually appropriate for their uncommitted, unmarried state in life.
Various Church documents acknowledge that this may be a difficult challenge, even a
lifelong cross to carry. This is particularly true since heterosexual couples may
anticipate marriage-to-come, while for gay or lesbian couples such a future sacramental
union is not available. The Vatican as well as Catholic bishops promise that the
Church’s ministers will not be lacking in compassion. They counsel a measure of
prudence in the confessional setting as well as a special degree of pastoral care .

Church teaching shows a special concern regarding prejudice shown to homosexual persons.
"Mindful of the inherent and abiding dignity of every human person" the Catholic bishops
reaffirm that "homosexual persons, like everyone else, should not suffer from prejudice
against their basic human rights. They have a right to respect, friendship and justice.
They should have an active role in the Christian community" The Catechism of the Catholic
Church goes on to state: "Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be
avoided" . In an even more sharply worded statement from the Vatican’s Congregation
for the Doctrine of the Faith we read: "It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been
and are the object of violent malice in speech, or in action. Such treatment deserves
condemnation from the Church’s pastors wherever it occurs"

Thus, the Church challenges homosexual persons concerning their discovered orientation and
its implication in terms of sexual action choices. At the same time, the Church’s
leaders challenge the so-called "straight" or heterosexual majority to take its own moral
pulse, to remove the plank of prejudice and/or self-righteousness from our own eyes. In an
eloquent summary of the latter notion, the Catholic bishops in the United States offer a
challenge: "We call 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 adding additional prejudicial

‘Always our children’ In October 1997, the U.S. bishops’ Committee on
Marriage and Family published Always Our Children: A Pastoral Message to Parents of
Homosexual Children and Suggestions for Pastoral Ministers. Many who emphasize the
Church’s official teaching against homosexual sex feared that the document was too
lenient, too pastoral, not clear enough about the Catholic prohibition of homosexual
genital sex. Others, conversely, were concerned that the document didn’t go far
enough or that its focus on parents and family might leave homosexual persons themselves
feeling left out or talked about, but not dealt with directly.
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