Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Pope's "Scandalous" Stance on Homosexuality

The following comment was recently left by biblical scholar Vincent M. Smiles on the website of Commonweal magazine.(Thanks to Fr. Joseph S. O’Leary for bringing it to my attention via his post, “Yet Another Vatican Gay Furore.”)


I find the Pope’s stance on homosexuality (and the same has to be said of numerous Vatican statements going back to Persona Humana – 1975) scandalous in the full theological sense of the term (“stumbling block” to faith).

Gaudium Et Spes (1965 - #62) requires that “in pastoral care, sufficient use must be made not only of theological principles, but also of the findings of the secular sciences, especially of psychology and sociology,” but this principle is utterly ignored in Vatican pronouncements regarding GLBT people; there is not even an attempt to engage the evidence or to show some hesitation or humility in face of its challenges. This doctrine against GLBT people is offered as though there were nothing in Catholic tradition that might give us pause on this crucial matter, and yet, for instance, the Vatican’s use of the Bible is embarrassingly simplistic and fundamentalist.

We need to recover the resources of our tradition that enable an alternative view to that of Benedict XVI. We might, for instance, resurrect the care-full response of the CTSA to Persona Humana, which was published in 1979, titled Human Sexuality. It warns against “citing verses from the Bible outside of their historical context and then blithely applying them to homosexuals today.” Such (ab)use of the Bible “does grave injustice both to Scripture and to people who have already suffered a great deal from the travesty of Biblical interpretation.” It counsels pastors to leave in peace homosexuals who are in stable, loving relationships, and it even goes on to say that “prayer, even communal prayer, for two [homosexual] people … incarnating the values of fidelity, truth, and love, is not beyond the pastoral possibilities of a Church whose ritual tradition includes a rich variety of blessings.” The study is sadly aware, however, that “social repercussions” might make such “blessings” inadvisable.

The scandal of Benedict’s stance is that he speaks as though faith provided a certainty that is simply not available, and in doing so his pronouncements are cruelly misleading and unjust.

To read Vincent Smiles’ November 2005 commentary on the Bible and homosexuality, click here.

See also the related Wild Reed posts:
How Times Have Changed
And a Merry Christmas to You Too, Papa
A Catholic’s Prayer for His Fellow Pilgrim, Benedict XVI
The Many Manifestations of God’s Loving Embrace
Making Love, Giving Life
Listen Up, Papa!
What the Vatican Can Learn from the X-Men

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