Church’s teaching on homosexuality needs re-evaluation
On a recent Frontline programme in answer to Pat Kenny, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin seemed hesitant to accept the current Pope’s contention that ‘ Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency towards an intrinsic moral evil ; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as a moral disorder’ and that ‘ homosexuality must be seen as an objective disorder’ . In a sense you wouldn’t blame the Archbishop at being taken aback when this statement was read out to him . The sentence is taken from a letter entitled ‘Homosexualitatis Problema’ that was sent to all the Bishops of the Catholic Church from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on 1st October 1986, signed by the then Prefect, Cardinal Ratzinger and its secretary Archbishop Bovone and subsequently approved by the then Pope John Paul II who ordered it to be published.
The Ratzinger letter was in response to an earlier Vatican declaration in 1975 which noted the distinction drawn between the homosexual condition or tendency and homosexual activity which was described as ‘intrinsically disordered’. However, in the discussion that followed this 1975 Vatican declaration, Ratzinger complained that ‘an overly benign interpretation was given to the homosexual condition itself, ,some going so far as to call it neutral or even good’. So the 1986 C.D.F. letter penned by Ratzinger was a strong reaction to the positive development of the understanding of homosexuality on psychological, sociological and theological levels within the Church . As in so much Roman theology tendencies, inclinations, activities are seen as ends in themselves and not part of the human person and a means of the perfection of the human person. While parts of Ratzinger’s letter is pastoral, the overall tone is very condemnatory. Especially reprehensible is his comments in Section 10 that ‘when such a claim that the homosexual condition is not disordered is made and when homosexual activity is consequently condoned or when civil legislation is introduced to protect behaviour to which no one has any conceivable right, neither the Church nor society should be surprised when other distorted notions and practices gain ground , and irrational and violent reactions increase.’ For the then Cardinal Ratzinger it seems that homosexuality is the harbinger of ‘distorted notions and practices ‘ and increased violent and irrational behaviour in society.
It is time for a thorough theological root and branch re-evaluation of being gay, lesbian or trans –gender in the Catholic Church of today .
However, the Vatican and Pope Benedict are not for turning. On January 3rd the Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols under pressure from the Vatican has ordered the ending of the ‘Soho Masses’ that were set up by his predecessor to provide for the pastoral care of gay Catholics and their families and to rub salt into the wound of intolerance the Archbishop has given over the Soho Church to the Ordinariate which was set up by Pope Benedict for Anglicans who have left their Church of England because they refused to accept gay clergy !
Is there any hope for those of us who believe that change is essential in our Church that ‘semper reformanda est ‘?