Because this response is well-written and deals with an issue that remains topical, I’d like to share it with readers of The Wild Reed.
New Ways Ministry’s Response to the
Vatican’s Statement on Same-Sex Marriage
Vatican’s Statement on Same-Sex Marriage
August 20, 2003
The Vatican’s opposition to same-sex marriage initiatives has been well known and longstanding. Thus, one of the most disturbing aspects of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s recent document, Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons, is that it was written at all. Instead of preventing the legal recognition of same-sex relationships, the actual effect will be greater discrimination and intolerance of lesbian/gay people because the document is based upon ill-founded knowledge of homosexuality and the relationships of lesbian/gay people.
At the outset of Considerations, the Vatican refers to homosexuality as “a troubling moral and social phenomenon.” Inaccurately characterizing a person’s basic homosexual make-up as a mere “inclination” or just “tendencies,” it repeatedly describes the orientation, with lack of pastoral sensitivity, as an “anomaly” that is “intrinsically” and “objectively disordered.”
In effect, the doctrinal Congregation blames gay/lesbian people for the deterioration of “the dignity of marriage, the foundation of the family, and the stability of society,” all of which it considers as somehow threatened by homosexual unions. It ignores the alarming divorce rate already prevalent even among many practicing Catholics. The Vatican once again negatively singles out the lesbian/gay minority within society, rather than addressing itself to widespread heterosexual behaviors that are objectionable. To uphold the permanence of heterosexual bonds in the past, Church leaders sometimes remained silent in the face of certifiable violence directed against wives and children by abusive husbands. The heterosexual couples most wronged by this document are the parents of lesbian daughters and gay sons. The Vatican seems not to realize that striking the child injuries the parent.
The Congregation disregards the findings of the human sciences when it claims that same-sex unions “create obstacles in the normal development of children” and wrongly asserts, “such unions would actually mean doing violence to them.” Studies published in reputable journals have documented that children adopted or raised by lesbian/gay couples develop in a similar way to children raised in heterosexual households.
When citing the Book of Genesis, the Vatican statement calls sexuality “something that pertains to the [heterosexual] physical-biological realm.” In condemning homosexual unions as unnatural, the document invokes the scriptural image of “sexual complementarity” between female and male as the decisive factor for “procreative” fruitfulness. However, in light of today’s understanding of human development, we must not limit our view of nature to its purely “physical-biological functions. We need to acknowledge its complex personal and psychological components, including profound attraction between individuals of the same gender, who “complement” one another on an emotional level and help each other “procreate” in intellectual and artistic ways.
The document almost implies that the first chapters of Genesis, “in which the voice of nature itself is heard,” are a biblical revelation of mandatory heterosexuality, although the latter concept has been defined only by modern science. The relevant passages (Gen. 1:26-31; 2:7, 18-25) principally reveal the creation of sexual human beings in God’s image. The divine image is neither male nor female, neither heterosexual nor homosexual, and not concerned with marriage. The divine image concerns itself with loving relationships.
The Vatican document attempts to influence not only civic governmental bodies but also all those “who believe in Christ” and everyone “committed to . . . the common good.” Yet in speaking of the “natural moral law,” the authors of the document disregard the fact that some religious denominations have blessed homosexual unions for years, without viewing such practices as contrary to scripture, nature, or moral principles.
Despite the Vatican’s persistent view that same-sex unions are “harmful to the proper development of human society,” some prominent theologians, such as Philip Keane in Sexual Morality (1977), have long suggested that the Catholic Church itself should find ways of supporting stable homosexual partnerships. In fact, according to John Boswell’s Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe (1994), historically the Church may even have blessed such relationships at certain times and places under more enlightened circumstances.
New Ways Ministry repeats its persistent call to the Vatican and the U.S. bishops to engage in a broad, diverse dialogue with theologians, social scientists, psychologists, pastoral ministers, and lesbian/gay people and their families before they issue another word on homosexuality. The Vatican document illustrates how much education Catholic Church leaders need in this area before they can speak authoritatively and persuasively.
Furthermore, New Ways Ministry calls on the Vatican to correct this pastorally egregious document by writing a subsequent statement on eliminating prejudice, discrimination, and violence that lesbian/gay people experience because of the ignorance of people in the Church and the wider society. Church teaching is clear that prejudice against lesbian/gay people is a serious moral evil, yet Vatican leaders have yet to explore this destructive social phenomenon in any sort of comprehensive and high-level document.
See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Making Love, Giving Life
The Non-Negotiables of Human Sex
Relationship: The Crucial Factor in Sexual Morality
Joan Timmerman on the “Wisdom of the Body”
The Many Manifestations of God’s Loving Embrace
Compassion, Christian Community, and Homosexuality
Celebrating and Embodying Divine Hospitality
When “Guidelines” Lack Guidance
Be Not Afraid: You Can Be Happy and Gay
Trusting God’s Generous Invitation
A Catholic’s Prayer for His Fellow Pilgrim, Benedict XVI
Sons of the Church: The Witnessing of Gay Catholic Men – A Discussion Guide
The Many Forms of Courage
One Gay Catholic Parent Who Isn’t Leaving the Church
Civil Unions and Christian Tradition
Revisiting Same-Gender Marriage