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Michael J. O’LoughlinFebruary 04, 2009

To mark the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights this past December, the European Union delegation to the United Nations, led by France, introduced a declaration condemning the criminalization of same-sex relations. Homosexual activity is illegal in over 80 countries, concentrated in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia, with punishments ranging from imprisonment to torture, and in at least six countries, execution. Before this non-binding legislation was submitted, the Vatican officially objected, claiming that the declaration could harm traditional marriage by eventually being interpreted in a way that would call for the decriminalization of same-sex unions.

With this latest proclamation from the Vatican, it seems that gay and lesbian people are becoming ever more marginalized, and many of them feel that they are being pushed out of the Catholic Church.

During the past few years, some church leaders have used gay men as a scapegoat for the priest sex abuse scandal; claimed that humanity needed to be saved from homosexuality in the same way that the rainforest must be saved from destruction; spent millions of dollars to rescind civil marriage rights; and have tried to ally the church with Russia, China, Iran, and other infamous human-rights abusers by objecting to the anti-discrimination measure that may save lives.

There are millions of gay and lesbian Catholics in this country and around the world, and rather than seeing the church as a spiritual sanctuary, they often see the church instead as emblematic of the hostility that they face each day in their lives. Imagine the powerful message of Christ’s love for all people that would have been manifested had the Catholic representative to the UN supported the EU declaration. Imagine if instead of pouring millions of dollars into the fight against same-sex marriage, Catholics had spent that money to care for gay and lesbian teens made homeless by non-accepting families. The church is consistently a tireless advocate for human rights, unless, it now appears, those rights are to be extended to this increasingly marginalized group of people.

Indeed, the Catholic Church’s record on gay and lesbian issues has been such that even the smallest acts of charity would be interpreted as momentous gestures of love. The church has made clear its stance on the “objectively disordered” nature of gays and lesbians, while at the same time calling on Catholics to affirm their dignity and to treat them with love and respect. Imagine the possibilities for radical demonstrations of God’s love if the church spent more time and energy on the latter.

The anger and hurt that felt by gay and lesbian people in the church is very real and understandable. Yet if the church is willing to offer an embrace to these wounded people and their families, it can continue to be the authentic, worldwide advocate for the protection of human dignity.

Michael O’Loughlin


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14 years 10 months ago
The position of the Church can be used to highlight the differences between conservative and liberal visions of morality. The conservative version of morality has, in the background, the belief that we are responsible for the morality of others. Indeed, if society is not moral, it will be punished. An objective order must be enforced by sound moral teaching. The sacrifice of Jesus was bloody vengence to satisfy the demands of that order. Right-wingers believe that if they accept gays, indeed, if they fail to persecute them into salvation, God will instead punish them. The liberal version of morality disagrees. Morality is a gift from God for human happiness and well being. God has no personal stake in human morality. Rather, morality and the sabbath are for man, not man for the sabbath. Jesus sufferred on the Cross to identify with the anguish of mankind in its separation from God (My God, my God, why have You forsaken me), reenacting that sacrifice in the Eucharist (I thirst!).
14 years 10 months ago
O'Loughlin's challenge to the church to be more attentive to her mandate to "affirm the dignity" of gays and lesbians and to "treat them with love and respect" reminds me what a great opportunity the church has in this moment to model Christ's reconciling love, especially with regard to glbt folks, and simultaneously fills me with dismay that the church has also completely failed to take that part of the conversation seriously. The argument that to support decriminalization of relationshops somehow weakens traditional marriage is nothing more than a smokescreen and it rings thin.
14 years 10 months ago
Here in London UK, the Church is trying to do just what you suggest. While many have been wounded by their past experience of Church,this is not everyone's experience. In March 2009, the Soho Masses LGBT community marks its 2nd anniversary using the Parish Church of Our Lady of the Assumption & St. Gregory for Masses welcoming LGBT Catholics, their parents, families and friends. In April 2009, we mark the 10th anniversary of the Masses being inaugurated in a Catholic convent chapel. It was the convent's closure which necessitated our transfer to Soho in 2001. Offered hospitality by Soho's Anglican Parish Church, in 2006 we began to outgrow the space available, coinciding with Cardinal Cormac Murphy- O'Connor inviting us to engage in a consultation, leading to a move to the Church of the Assumption. We're aware that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith followed the dialogue with Diocesan representatives, albeit from a Roman distance! Over this period we have welcomed some seeking full communion with the Church, as well as many Catholics, returning to participate in the Church community. We are now a highly international, regular congregation of around 100-20 persons on 1st & 3rd Sundays. Overall, we estimate we have contact with between 250-300 people, coming from quite a wide area of London and Southern England. We have just started a Younger Adults Group, and we plan a Pastoral Planning Away-day for the whole community on 28 February. We believe we are in the process of creating something new, with no detailed blue-print, but rather a road-map inspired by faith, hope, love, and integrity. We don't get everything right all the time, but we are intent on building up a sense of communion with both the local Church and that world-wide. For more details, please see our website. Visitors are always welcome. Martin
14 years 10 months ago
As someone who prayerfully struggles with same-sex attraction, I found in the Church's consistent teaching on human sexuality precisely the spiritual sanctuary I needed from a culture that aggressively and openly embraces the mythology of hostile LGBT activists. Imagine if, instead of pouring millions of dollars into the fight for same-sex marriage, my fellow Catholics suffering with our disordered desires spent that energy heeding the pastoral wisdom and seeking the spiritual sanctuary of the Church. Imagine if we surrendered ourselves to the Love and Mercy of God and committed ourselves to chaste living. Imagine if we were more accepting of the Pope and the family of God, the Church, whose laws are written out of Love for each one of us.
14 years 10 months ago
Its a shame that the Vatican sided with Iran and Syria to stop UN condemnation of Iranian EXECUTIONS of Gays and imprisonment of Gay people, simply because they are Gay. So much for being pro-life. The Vatican argued that it opposes the criminalization of Gay people, but that the UN statement was poorly worded. Unfortunately, the Vatican couldn't keep up that lie for even three weeks. Less than three weeks after the Vatican statement, the Catholic Bishop of Ethiopia demanded legislation to imprison all Gay Ethiopians. I haven't seen any retraction or PUBLIC condemnation and discipline of the Ethiopian Catholic leader by the Vatican.
14 years 10 months ago
Thank you, Michael, for this heartening post. I appreciate the way it calls the Church to consistency with its own higher ethic of social justice in light of God's image in all people. One question: I heard recently that due to protest from Catholics around the world, the Vatican switched from opposing to instead supporting the UN's declaration. Is that correct?
14 years 10 months ago
I want to thank Michael O'L and Michael B for what they have written. I am a 64 year old, gay, Catholic man. I have had the same partner for over 42 years. It is scandalous that the Catholic Church did not sign the declaration condemning the criminalization of same-sex relations. It might not be scandalous to Rome but it is scandlous to many people. Perhaps because I am gay, I learned early in my life that the church of Jesus Christ needs to be a liberating church for all so that nobody is deprived of what God intends for them. Also I learned early in my life that morality does not exist for the benefit of God. Morality exists for the benefit women, men, children and creation. Perhaps with time we will all learn how lucky we are to have tumbled into God's creation.
14 years 10 months ago
Not only psychic wounds, but physical wounds that can and do kill... Joseph was too kind and tender-hearted a man to allow his betrothed to be stoned to death, an act that would have killed her, and her child of an unknown father. That child grew up to be a man with a heart of human kindness even greater than that of his human father. He was unwilling to see a woman caught in adultery( whom he didn't know or love yet in a personal, human way) suffer the same fate that Joseph saved Mary from. Refusing to condemn is not the same thing as agreeing to condone. Jesus certainly made plain that truth in his Gospel actions. Has our sense of morality really failed to advance since the time of Christ? Isn't stoning a heterosexual adulterer now seen as an unthinkable way of preserving the sanctity of marriage? Yet we (the Church)can choose not to condemn the equallly brutal punishment afforded in some societies to those found "guilty" of homosexual acts??? because any failure of condemnation risks being construed as our Church's acceptance of same-sex marriage? God of Love, have mercy on us all. And keep us ever in your protective care.
14 years 9 months ago
unconditional love is just that ''unconditional'' ...

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