He Who is without Sin: On Being Gay and Catholic

Things like <a href="http://www.pamshouseblend.com/diary/15251/intersection-between-christian-beliefs-and-junk-science-is-a-dangerous-location">this</a> are dishearting.


This is crossposted from my blog, <a href="http://rayrandomly.blogspot.com/">Randomly Ray.</a> No offense is intended.

<blockquote>" 'God has not made such things.
'God has made everything.'
-Jeanette Winterson, <i>Art & Lies</i></blockquote>
<blockquote>"We live as angels among the Sodomites."
-Jamie O'Neill, <i>At Swim, Two Boys</i></blockquote>

Gay activists <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-met-gay-liberation-church-protest-20100214,0,4025343.story">protested Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago</a> during the Valentine's Day Mass to protest the Churches opposition to gay marriage as well as other positions by the Church against the LGBT community.

I have often <a href="http://www.bilerico.com/2007/08/i_have_the_strangest_conversations_with.php">been asked</a> how I could be gay and Catholic, the two seeming irreconcilable and any attempt at reconciliation seeming hypocritical and a sign of self-loathing. How can one accept the tenants of a Church so clearly at odds (to put it mildly) with one's views if not one's very identity?

I do not claim to have an answer, nor do I claim to be wholly reconciled. I claim simply to have a faith seeking understanding. The same is true of many Catholics in regard to many issues where <a href="http://www.religiousconsultation.org/Catholic_defense_of_same_sex_marriage.htm">the Church teaching or the dictates of the Pope are clearly wrong.</a> For example, as Prof. Daniel C. Maguire attests the Church, its hierarchy, and theologians at one time condoned slavery and taught that anti-Semitism was not a sin. Clearly, they were wrong and in time their views changed due in no small part to the activities and influence of the Laity. As Maguire notes, <blockquote>"The Church consists of more than the pope and the bishops. In Catholicism there are three sources of truth, (or three "magisteria"): the hierarchy, the theologians, and the wisdom and experience of the laity (called in Latin sensus fidelium). In Catholic history, each of these sources of truth has at times been right and each of them has at times been wrong."</blockquote> The Church, its hierarchy, and theologians are often woefully out of step with the changing times even in the face of stark, factual evidence and are regrettably slow to admit error or to change. Galileo, after all, was condemned to heresy in the 17th century and the Church did not admit its error and mishandlings until 1992! The Laity, for their part, are often ignorant of their history, blind in their faith, and misguided in their trust. Maguire gives the example of same sex unions which were at one time accepted by the Church. Novelist Jeanette Winterson, in her novel <i>Art & Lies</i> asserts that abortion was at one time permissible if the mother was in mortal danger, the Church acknowledging the difference between Foetus Inanimatus and Foetus Animatus and allowing abortion up to the eightieth day. (Pope Sixtus V declared abortion homicide no matter the stage of pregnancy and Pope Piux IX declared in 1869 that every fetus had a soul (Foetus Animatus) from the moment of conception). The Catholic Laity, like many other Christians, are also prone to pick and choose which passages in the Bible are to be taken literally and which are more nuanced. Given that the Bible is a multi-genre text, this reading is, in fact, correct if problematic. Hence, the argument over the sinfulness of homosexuality and the moral objection to homosexuals and to gay marriage will likely continue <i>ad nauseum</i> with no clear conclusion. The Bible, for example, <a href="http://rayrandomly.blogspot.com/2008/02/what-mike-saysthe-bible-says-and-what.html">has much to say on the institution of marriage,</a> much more than is narrowly observed by many Christian followers. But as Maguire notes, <blockquote>"The Church…learned that these texts <i>described</i> the way life was lived at that time but did not <i>prescribe</i> that we should live that way…When we come to the biblical texts on homosexuality we see right away that we could never treat them as rules for our day."</blockquote> Further, when moral questions are not clearly answered in the Bible, <blockquote>"What Catholic and other Christian and Jewish scholars do is to take the main principles of justice, compassion, respect and love for persons as God created (both heterosexuals and homosexuals are created in God's image) and apply these principles to today's moral issues such as homosexuality and same-sex marriage. That is why Catholic and other Christian and Jewish theologians defend same sex marriages today. They say that denying all homosexual persons the expression of their sexuality is unjust and sinful,"</blockquote> writes Maguire.

Not all Catholics, he notes, have heard the Biblical teaching that <blockquote>"we have no right to declare unclean anything that God has made (Acts of the Apostles 10:15). To do so, in fact, is a sin."</blockquote> All Christians, it seems, have lost sight of what a truly radical religion and social vision Christianity was, is and can be.

Turn the other cheek?

Love your enemies?

The meek shall inherit the Earth?

Blessed are the poor, for they shall be fed?

Do not worry about food or money or clothes or shelter or the future. Ask, and you shall receive?

Be still, and know that I am God?

Christians, ironically, forget that Christ was a Jew and <i>they</i> were the unclean who were permitted into his Church out of his sheer compassion and defiance of tradition and Law. He cleansed the Temple, turned out the Pharisees and set a new standard for his followers that in effect inverted many of the old Laws. Christ came not to fulfill the Law, but to undo it.

Likewise, all have lost sight of how truly subversive the Christian view of gender and sexuality was, is and can be: <blockquote>"We traveled by gondola from church to church, leaving votive candles to the Madonna, our Madonna, Madonna of the Womb and Phallus, the boy-woman who needed no man to make her complete. Heresy? Certainly it was, but no stranger in its reading than the premise of the Old Testament that woman was born of man. The male mother and the woman father. It has a completion. The Old Covenant and the New Covenant. Read together, and strictly speaking, the two covenants ought to be read together…it is not surprising that the Church has chosen to ignore it. In Christ there is neither male nor female. Male and Female he created Them. And in His image."-Jeanette Winterson, <i>Art & Lies</i></blockquote>

Pity that a potentially progressive social vision has been thwarted as a means of maintaining the status quo.

How, then, are Catholics to reconcile the problem? According to Maguire,<blockquote>"In an old Catholic teaching called Probabilism we find the answer for Catholics. When there is a debate on a moral issue (in this case same sex unions), where there are good reasons and good authorities on both sides of the debate, Catholics are free to make up their own minds.

This means that Catholic same-sex couples are perfectly free to practice their Catholic faith, receive the sacraments, and never feel that God forbids their union-or that their faithful, sexual union is anything but holy.

The view that homosexual people are condemned to involuntary celibacy for life is as cruel as it is absurd. Jesus said of celibacy: 'Let those accept it who can' (Matthew 19:12). Voluntary celibacy for a good cause is something some can do but it is seen as a special talent, a special gift that not all have. The Vatican council called it "a precious gift of divine grace which the Father gives to some persons," but not to all. Abstaining from all sexual activity is seen by the Council as something 'unique.' You can not demand from all homosexual people that which is 'unique.' "</blockquote>

Maguire contends that this demonstrates the difference between "Vatican Theology," and "Catholic Theology." It is "Catholic Theology," a faith seeking understanding that I and most Catholics practice.

<img src="http://pewresearch.org/assets/publications/1375-3.gif">
A recent study by the <a href="http://people-press.org/report/553/same-sex-marriage">Pew Research Center</a> showed that there are clear distinctions among Catholics on the issue of homosexuality, gay marriage and civil unions. Those who were younger favored gay marriage (the percentages growing smaller as the age of participants increased) as did those who attended religious services less frequently or not at all (54%). Those who attended religious services weekly were less inclined to favor gay marriage (30%).

<img src="http://pewresearch.org/assets/publications/1375-5.gif">
More supported civil unions (62% as opposed to 45% who supported marriage). In fact, according to Pew Research, <blockquote>"Overall support for civil unions has grown over the past year among those who oppose same-sex marriage. There has been a six-point increase in support for civil unions (from 24% to 30%) among same-sex marriage opponents, while the figure among those in favor of same-sex marriage has not changed substantially."</blockquote>

The generational divide seems only logical. What is distressing is the fall in support by those who attend church more often. One reason may be that such issues are rarely discussed during church services; the Catholic Mass is very ceremonial and focuses almost exclusively on the Liturgy and Readings and rarely diverts outside that focus. There is something to be said for that, but there is also a danger. Such devotion can often lead to religious lethargy. Such blind faith rarely seeks further understanding.

It is clear, however, that the views toward gays and gay marriage among the Catholic Laity are changing. It is a matter of time before the Church catches up. Catholics and Christiand might do well, however, to remind themselves of Christ's warning in the Book of Revelations: <blockquote>"I know your works, and your toil and perseverance, and that you can't tolerate evil men, and have tested those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and found them false.

You have perseverance and have endured for my name's sake, and have not grown weary.

But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had. (Rev. 2:2-2:4)</blockquote>

In the meantime, while gay activists are rightfully and justifiably angry with the Pope and the Church, they might do well to remind Catholics and Christians what Christianity was, is and can be.