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Christianity and Homosexuality

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In Roman Catholicism, homosexual acts are considered contrary to natural law and sinful, while homosexual desires are considered "disordered" but not themselves sinful. The Roman Catholic Church considers human sexual behavior to be sacred, when properly expressed. Anal intercourse and homogenital acts are considered sinful because sexual acts, by their nature, are thought to be both unitive and procreative (mirroring God's inner Trinitarian life). The Church also believes the complementarity of the sexes to be part of God's plan. Same-gender sexual acts are thought to be incompatible with this framework:

[H]omosexual acts 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.[1]
These teachings are not limited to the issue of homosexuality, but form the philosophical underpinning for the Catholic teachings against, for example, fornication, all other forms of sodomy, as well as contraception, pornography, and masturbation.

Compassion for those with "disordered" attractions

The Church has stated that homosexual desires or attractions themselves are not necessarily sinful. They are said to be "disordered" in the sense that they tempt one to do something that is sinful (i.e., the homosexual act), but temptations beyond one's control are not considered sinful in and of themselves. For this reason, while the Church does oppose attempts to legitimize same-gender sexual acts, it also urges respect and love for those who do experience same-sex attractions; thus the Catholic Church is also opposed to persecutions and violence against persons with same-sex attractions:

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. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.[2]

The church has also issued a statement that "urges States to do away with criminal penalties against [homosexual persons],"[3] calling it "grave violations of human rights." It opposes all forms of violence against homosexual people and believes it should be confronted at all levels, but especially at the state level.[4]

For those who do experience same-sex attractions and identify themselves with a homosexual orientation, the Catholic Church offers the following counsel:

Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection [5].
The Church considers this call to chastity to be universal to all persons according to their state in life, whether having same-sex or opposite-sex attractions.

Chastity-promoting ministries

Terence Cardinal Cooke of New York City saw a need for a ministry which would assist LGBT Catholics to adhere to Holy See directives on sexual behaviour. Cooke invited John Harvey to New York to begin the work of Courage International with Benedict Groeschel, of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. The first meeting was held in September 1980 at the Shrine of Mother Seton in South Ferry.

The Catholic Medical Association has stated that same-sex attractions are preventable and a symptom of other issues. The goal of therapy should be "freedom to live chastely according to one's state in life."[6]

Dissent from official position

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The Church's official teachings regarding homosexuality have been disputed by some lay Catholics, theologians, and ordained clergymen. Some individuals promoting a form of dissent or disagreement with the magisterial teachings of the Church have been removed from positions of influence. There is considerable debate within the Roman Catholic Church regarding the teachings on homosexuality, some seeking to change it, others seeking to preserve it. However, since it is a magisterial dogma of the Church, it is considered definitive and unchangeable.[7][8][9][10]

In an official brief called Rescriptum ex audientia of May 19, 2008 made by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone the Cardinal Secretary of State reaffirmed once again the norms established by the Congregation for Catholic Education in the 2005 document as of universal value and without exceptions.[11]

Several individuals have challenged the Church's position or promoted different understandings of the compatibility of the Roman Catholic faith and homosexuality. Notable examples of theologians who have been sharply critical of the Church's proclamations regarding homosexuality include the ex-priest Professor Charles Curran, who was subsequently removed from the faculty at the Catholic University of America. Curran contended that it was inappropriate to analyze the morality of actions from a physical perspective, writing that:

I had come to accept the moral legitimacy of a union of two gay men or lesbians... I rejected, as not going far enough, the pastoral understanding of something being objectively wrong but not subjectively sinful.[12]

Curran also comments that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith systematically attempted to silence authors also critical of teachings on homosexuality, citing the "highlighting" of errors in Dr. John J. McNeill's The Church and the Homosexual.

Roman Catholic priest Dr. James Alison argues that the understanding proposed by (then) Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger in On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons is "incompatible with the Gospel" and summarizes that "it cannot in fact be the teaching of the Church", expanding upon his view Alison contends that

This teaching is interposing itself between the regard of Christ and our own sense of being, in a way which tends to pervert the simple regard of one [God] who loves us as we are, and as loved we will find ourselves becoming someone different. It is teaching us instead that God will only love us if we start from somewhere else.[13]

Furthermore, in a Question of Truth, the Dominican priest Gareth Moore criticises the Church for obsessing over sexual matters and their supposed moral "meaning", arguing that it can actually mean what we want it to. Moore concludes that: "... there are no good arguments, from either Scripture or natural law, against what have come to be known as homosexual relationships. The arguments put forward to show that such relationships are immoral are bad."[14]

As well as academic disagreement within the Church, there have also been practical and ministerial disagreements within the clergy and hierarchy of the Church. One notable example of ordained Catholics who have attracted controversy because of their actions and ministry to homosexuals is that of Fr. Robert Nugent and Dr. Jeannine Grammick who established New Ways Ministry, and were both disciplined by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith because of their dissent from magisterial Church teaching, even misleading homosexual individuals to believe homosexual acts were compatible with Catholic teaching.

Similarly, the American Bishops Thomas Gumbleton of Detroit and Matthew Clark of Rochester, New York were criticized for their association with New Ways Ministry, and their distortion of the theological concept of the Primacy of Conscience as an alternative to the actual teaching of the Church.[15] Furthermore, the insistence of Bishop Jacques Gaillot to preach a message about homosexuality contrary to that of the official stance of the Church, is largely considered to be one of the factors that led to him being removed from his See.[16]

Dr. Robert Zollitsch, the Archbishop of Freiburg im Breisgau and Chairman of the Conference of German Bishops said in an article with the German magazine Der Spiegel, that he accepts civil unions by states but he is against same-sex marriage.[17] Likewise, Dr. Diarmuid Martin the Archbishop of Dublin has promoted similar viewpoints following calls for the introduction of civil unions in the Republic of Ireland.[18]

Defense of official position

Some bishops have obtained a reputation for an impassioned defence of Church teaching regarding homosexuality. Two notable examples would be George Cardinal Pell and Francis Cardinal Arinze, who have insisted that the family as a unit is "mocked by homosexuality" and "sabotaged by irregular unions".[19]

After Pope Benedict XVI was elected pope, the Congregation for Catholic Education issued an "instruction" prohibiting any individual who has "present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called 'gay culture'", or any individual having had such "tendencies" within the past three years, from entry to seminary, and thus from joining the priesthood.[20]

See also


  1. Catechism of the Catholic Church, para. 2357 Catholic Church
  2. ibid., para. 2358
  4. Holy See reiterates opposition to violation of homosexual persons’ human rights
  5. ibid., para. 2359
  6. "Homosexuality and Hope". Catholic Medical Association. Retrieved 2007-11-29. 
  11. Vatican says prohibition against gays in seminaries is universal
  12. Loyal Dissent, (Curran, 2006) pg. 72
  13. On Being Liked, (Alison, 2003) pp. 106 - 106
  14. a Question of Truth, (Moore, 2003)
  15. Bishops Lead Assault on Church Teaching, (Catholic World News, 20 March, 1997)
  16. Bishop's gay conference ban, (BBC News, 2 July, 2000)
  17. Spiegel: Es wäre eine Revolution (german)
  18. Archbishop backs legal rights for gay couples, (The Independent, 16 November 2004)
  19. Arinze Address Provokes Faculty Reaction, (The Hoya, 24 October, 2003)
  20. Instruction Concerning the Criteria for the Discernment of Vocations with regard to Persons with Homosexual Tendencies in view of their Admission to the Seminary and to Holy Orders, (Vatican Website, 4 November, 2005)


  • Atila Silke GUIMARÃES - The Catholic Church and Homosexuality, Tan Books & Publishers, Charlotte (1999) ISBN 0-895-55651-0

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