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James Martin, S.J.April 06, 2018
 Pope Francis attends an encounter marking the 25th anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church at the Vatican Oct. 11.Pope Francis attends an encounter marking the 25th anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church at the Vatican Oct. 11. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Since Building a Bridge, a book on ministering to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholics, was published, I have been asked—at Catholic parishes, retreat centers, colleges and universities and conferences—a few questions that recur over and over. The most common are: “What can we say to gay people who believe that God hates them?” “How can we help young people who feel tempted to suicide because of their sexual orientation?” And “What can we say to gay or lesbian Catholics who feel that their own church has rejected them?”

Another common question is about the church’s official teaching on homosexuality, homosexual activity and same-sex marriage. Usually these questions are asked not by Catholics who are unaware of the church’s teaching (for most Catholics know the teachings); rather they are asked by Catholics who want to understand the basis for the church’s teachings on those topics.

Building a Bridge intentionally steered clear of issues of sexual morality, since I hoped to foster dialogue by focusing on areas of possible commonality; and the church hierarchy and the majority of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholics remain far apart on these issues. It also makes little sense to begin a conversation with topics on which the two sides are the farthest apart. Overall, the book was about dialogue and prayer, rather than moral theology. (As a Catholic priest, I have also never challenged those teachings, nor will I.)

But for a meaningful encounter to occur between the church hierarchy and any community, it’s helpful if both groups understand one another as much as possible. As I mentioned in the book, good bridges take people in both directions.

So it’s important to ask: What is the church’s official teaching on these issues? As an aside, since the Catechism of the Catholic Church, a compendium of church teaching on various topics, does not address bisexual or transgender persons but rather “homosexual persons,” I’ll refer here to gay and lesbian people to be more precise.

Church teaching at the most basic level is contained in the Gospels and, even more basically, in the revelation of the Father’s love in Jesus Christ. So the most fundamental of all church teachings about gay and lesbian people is this: God loves them. They are beloved children of God, created by God and in need of God’s loving care and mercy—as all of us are.

Moreover, in his public ministry Jesus continually reached out to those who felt ignored, excluded or marginalized, which many gay and lesbian Catholics do. In fact, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Catholics are probably the most marginalized group in the church today, and so I believe that Christ loves them with a special love.

When it comes to gays and lesbians, then, the Gospel values of love, mercy and compassion are the building blocks of all church teaching.

To that end, it’s important to state that in the eyes of the church simply being gay or lesbian is not a sin—contrary to widespread belief, even among educated Catholics. That may be one of the most poorly understood of the church’s teachings. Regularly I am asked questions like, “Isn’t it a sin to be gay?” But this is not church teaching. Nowhere in the catechism does it say that simply being homosexual is a sin. As any reputable psychologist or psychiatrists will agree, people do not choose to be born with any particular sexual orientation.

But when most people ask questions about “church teaching” they are referring not to this question, but to restrictions on homosexual, or same-sex, activity as well as the prohibition on same-sex marriage. Homosexual acts are, according to the catechism, “intrinsically disordered” and “contrary to natural law.” (The bulk of the catechism’s attention to homosexuality is contained in Nos. 2357-59.) Consequently, the homosexual orientation (and by extension, any orientation other than heterosexuality) is regarded as “objectively disordered.”

Where does this teaching come from, and what does it mean? While this teaching has some biblical roots (Gn 19:1-29; Rom 1:24-27; 1 Cor 6:10; 1 Tm 1:10), we can perhaps best understand it from the church’s traditional reliance on natural law, which was itself heavily influenced by the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas (who himself drew on Aristotle).

Natural law is founded on the idea that God’s divine will and divine plan for the world and for humanity are not only revealed in the natural world but are, perhaps more important, self-evident to the human mind. During my philosophy studies, the Catholic sister who taught us medieval philosophy told us, “Aquinas wants us to see that the world makes sense.” One can understand God’s plan, says Aquinas, not only by observing nature but also by using our reason.

We can begin with the Thomistic idea that the world “makes sense.” From that starting point, Aquinas would say that it’s clear that everything is “ordered” toward something. Its Aristotelian telos, or endpoint, should be obvious both to our eyes and to our reason. For example, an acorn is quite obviously “ordered” toward becoming an oak tree. A child is “ordered” toward becoming an adult. Likewise, every act is judged according to whether it is properly oriented toward its proper end. In terms of sexuality, all sex is “ordered” toward what are called the “affective” (love) and “generative” (having children) ends, within the context of a marriage.

Consequently, according to the traditional interpretation of natural law, homosexual acts are not ordered toward those specific ends and so they are deemed “disordered.” Thus, “under no circumstances can they be approved,” as the catechism states. Consequent to that, the homosexual orientation itself is viewed as an “objective disorder” since it can lead to “disordered” acts.

Here we need to make clear that the phrase “objective disorder” does not refer to the person himself or herself but to the orientation. The term is also not a psychological description but comes from the perspective of philosophy and theology. Moreover, it does not detract from the inherent dignity of any human being, since God creates all human beings equal and good.

This leads to the church’s official teaching on chastity for “homosexual persons.” Since homosexual activity is not approved, the person may not engage in any sort of sexual activity: “Homosexual persons are called to chastity.” Here the catechism means celibate chastity, since every person is called to the chaste expression of love—even married couples. (Broadly speaking, chastity, in Catholic teaching, is the proper use of our sexuality.)

The Catechism of the Catholic Church also states that gays and lesbians can and should approach “Christian perfection” through chastity, with such supports as “the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace.” In other words, gays and lesbians, the catechism states, can live holy lives.

Needless to say, all these considerations rule out same-sex marriage. Indeed, official church teaching rules out any sort of sexual activity outside the marriage of a man and a woman—thus the church’s prohibitions on activities like premarital sex, adultery and masturbation.

But there is more to the church’s teaching on this topic in the catechism. Perhaps mindful of the specialized philosophical and theological language, the church teaches that “every sign of unjust discrimination” against gays and lesbians (again, here “homosexual persons”) must be avoided, and gays and lesbians must be treated with the virtues of “respect, compassion and sensitivity.” In my experience, this is the section of the catechism’s teaching on homosexuality that is the least known by most Catholics.

Beyond the catechism, in his recent apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia,” Pope Francis made three points related to the issue of homosexuality. First, the pope reiterated the church’s opposition to equating same-sex marriage with traditional marriage between a man and a woman. Second, he repeated the prohibition against “unjust discrimination.”

The third point Pope Francis makes is representative of his approach to pastoral practice and moral guidance. Francis notes that we must recognize the good at work in every person, even in situations that fall short of what the church proposes as the fullness of Gospel living. He says that Jesus expects us to enter into the reality of people’s lives; “accompanying” them as we can, helping to form their consciences, the final arbiter of moral decision-making; and encouraging them to lead faithful and holy lives.

Part of that accompaniment is dialogue. That is one reason that it’s important for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people to understand the church’s teaching in its totality—the Gospels, the tradition of natural law and its roots in Thomistic and Aristotelian reasoning, the catechism, “Amoris Laetitia” and other documents—in their desire to become good Catholics.

As Building a Bridge mentions, it is important for the institutional church to understand the lived experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholics. It is also important for this group of Catholics to understand what the church believes and teaches.

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David Sharples
4 years 2 months ago

We have the constant Teaching of the Church, and the Saints.

Rhett Segall
4 years 2 months ago

Fr., I'm not sure what you mean by this statement: " As any reputable psychologist or psychiatrists will agree, people do not choose to be born with any particular sexual orientation." Are you saying that one's sexual orientation is given at birth (conception)? Is it the same as saying people do not choose to be born male or female but their gender is a given? Is the desire to be polygamous a given at birth? Doesn't it make sense to say that social and cultural factors can orient a person's self identity towards homosexuality and that social and cultural factors can foster a person to experiment in this area when they are very young and thus develop habits which cement that orientation and make it hard to resist and then justify that non-resistance by saying "God made me this way?" My fundamental point is that I don't think scientists have established that there is a biological determinism for a minority of humans to be born gay.

Robert Lewis
4 years 2 months ago

The honest testimony of most gay folk is that they are surprised, at a certain age, by feelings they never remember "choosing." What kind of "choice" is unconscious?
But I have another bone to pick with what Fr. Martin calls the Church's "natural law" definition of "chastity"--which I had thought was a SPIRITUAL virtue, and not one susceptible of being defined in a way that is simply operose:

'Here the catechism means celibate chastity, since every person is called to the chaste expression of love—even married couples. (Broadly speaking, chastity, in Catholic teaching, is the proper use of our sexuality.)
The Catechism of the Catholic Church also states that gays and lesbians can and should approach “Christian perfection” through chastity, with such supports as “the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace.” In other words, gays and lesbians, the catechism states, can live holy lives.'

I have always defined "chastity" for myself as refraining from the use of ANYBODY'S body, including a spouse's, for the mere gratification of pleasure. To me, "chastity" has a self-sacrificial aspect, and I could imagine the expression of "same-sex" love to have--albeit rarely--a self-sacrificial aspect. Increasingly, however, I have come to believe that folk--particularly male folk--of that orientation should seek to replace the love of corporeal beings with spiritual love of Jesus Christ. And, perhaps, with an affective inclination that is not entirely spiritual, since Jesus Christ is also a man, since "friendship" is never purely "disinterested" and is also "ordered" toward love. It may be that homosexual folk--and, again, particularly male folk--might have a special charism that enables them to feel that way toward the Savior. That's the feeling I get from the later poetry of Michelangelo Buonarotti, the major poems of Hopkins and the mystical writings of John of the Cross.
Also, I suspect that gay males should be taught by the Church that their "vocation" or purpose in life is to be the friend and helpmate of bridegrooms, and, especially, to THE "Bridegroom, " since they all come themselves from families, and families are good things in the natural world.
In general, the Aristotelian and Thomist definitions of "natural law" are not scientific and should be deemed archaic and "passe"--which doesn't prevent the Church from inventing new definitions of "natural law" that are oriented more toward a "disinterested" definition of love that includes the love of "friends" and the love of "bridegrooms."
These thoughts are prompted by a close reading of Brad Pitre's book, "Christ the Bridegroom," which I recommend to everybody, but, especially to gay folk trying to figure out what to do with their lives.

Chuck Anziulewicz
4 years 2 months ago

I’m reminded of a commentator on a Southern Baptist website who wrote, “I can’t reconcile how someone could feel he or she was born with strong homosexual feelings, love Christ and yet take on the limitations of what seem to me to be straightforward biblical teachings. That’s agonizing, and I don’t really understand it.”

And this is the weird thing: “Straightforward biblical teachings” should at least be understandable to the average person. So often I hear it said, “OUR ways are not GOD’s ways,” as if God was some sort of inscrutable alien being.

Consider The Golden Rule: We do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Put all the religious dogma and ritual aside, and this is what our laws boil down to. We don’t lie or bear false witness because we won’t want people to lie to us. We don’t steal from other people because we do not want people stealing from us. We don’t betray the trust of our spouses because we wouldn’t want them doing the same to us. Same goes for killing and a variety of other “bad” behaviors.

And yet somehow there seems to be this sheepish adherence to a double standard for Gay and Straight people. If you’re Straight, it’s all so wonderful to be able to find a compatible person of the opposite sex, court and get engaged and marry and live happily ever after. But if you’re Gay, all of that is completely out of the question. Don’t even bother trying to find a compatible person. Lesbians and Gay men are precluded from any hope for romance or commitment. Gay people are simply told: “Gosh, sorry about that. You make us uncomfortable; acknowledging your existence means we might have to revise what we’ve been teaching all these years – meaning, Whoops! No infallible Magisterium or “literal” Bible… so you’ll just have to sacrifice your life and any hope of finding somebody to love. Tough luck, kid. God said it, I don’t necessarily understand it, but there it is.” How could this be considered a good value judgment?

Fortunately, the reason increasing numbers of Americans support marriage equality is because they have learned to make better value judgments. The reason couples choose to marry is to make a solemn declaration before friends and family members that they wish to make a commitment to one another’s happiness, health, and well-being, to the exclusion of all others. Those friends and family members will subsequently act as a force of encouragement for that couple to hold fast to their vows. THAT’S what makes marriage a good thing, whether the couple in question is Straight OR Gay.

Robert Lewis
4 years 2 months ago

I firmly agree with you, but with this caveat: we must not let this new (and probably scientifically accurate) perspective on the etiology of homosexuality, cause us to walk away from Jesus Christ and his "synagogue"; it would be disastrous--like throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

Mike Theman
4 years 2 months ago

I stopped reading after Mr. Martin introduces the topic as "What the Church teaches about homosexuality," then immediately dispenses with the exact phrases that the Church uses - "homosexual acts" and "homosexual tendencies" - and use the words "gay" and "lesbian," which Mr. Martin deceivingly claims to be more precise but which are, in fact, words that conflate homosexual acts and tendencies. Dispensing with that most important of distinctions is the very basis for Mr. Martin's success in persuading readers of his book that the Church's current teaching is wrong. Make no mistake, Mr. Martin is lying when he says that he supports the Church's teaching on the matter.

The distinction between homosexual tendencies (same-sex attraction) and homosexual acts is the most important part of the Church's teaching on the matter. Why? Because those terms represent the difference between temptation and sin, respectively.

Deception is how the Devil, not the Church and not God, works. Antichrist.

Robert Lewis
4 years 2 months ago

Obfuscation, equivocation, pharisaical legalism--all motivated by the most vicious homophobia--it's all there in your comment, once again. But the blatant lie is HERE: "...words that conflate homosexual acts and tendencies..."

Matthew Northenscold
4 years 2 months ago

Mike, it is a pity you stopped reading so soon. If you had finished the article, you would have found a perfectly competent, clear, and orthodox explanation of the distinction between acts and inclinations, which you are so concerned about. I'll quote it for you here:
"In terms of sexuality, all sex is “ordered” toward what are called the “affective” (love) and “generative” (having children) ends, within the context of a marriage. Consequently, according to the traditional interpretation of natural law, homosexual acts are not ordered toward those specific ends and so they are deemed “disordered.” Thus, “under no circumstances can they be approved,” as the catechism states. Consequent to that, the homosexual orientation itself is viewed as an “objective disorder” since it can lead to “disordered” acts. Here we need to make clear that the phrase “objective disorder” does not refer to the person himself or herself but to the orientation."

I think that gets all of the necessary points about the distinction on the table, in about as concise, accessible, and clear way as I have seen (and I am a Catholic priest, so I have done a fair bit of reading on the subject). I don't agree with you that this distinction is the MOST important part of church teaching on homosexuality, but I think Fr. Martin's explanation gets the job done. Thanks, Fr. Martin.

In other notes, deliberately using "Mr." instead of "Fr." or "Reverend", and blatantly accusing Fr. Martin of lying, does no one any good - you least of all.

Jill Caldwell
4 years 2 months ago

Thanks, Father Jim. This is an excellent addition to the new release of your book. May the Lord let us all keep the lines of communication open. God bless your ministry.

MAUREEN O'RIORDAN LUNDY
4 years 2 months ago

Building a Bridge was for me just that - a way of touching base with the humanity of all our brothers and sisters and reinforcing the obligation to acknowledge the dignity of all God's children and love each one.
I am further grateful to Fr. Martin for clearly establishing his commitment to Church teaching and for articulating it simply for the reader.
Sincere thanks

Tim O'Leary
4 years 2 months ago

Fr. Martin - I find this article a much better starting point for a dialogue on this issue than other approaches you have taken, in your book, in podcasts, lectures and interviews. It is more complete about what the Church teaches and I particularly like your promise, as a Catholic priest, to never depart from the Church's teaching on this aspect of (infallible) moral theology.

I do wish you would have avoided using certain rhetorical devices (3 mentioned below) and presented more fully the Church's self-understanding of God's plan for humanity, made male and female. There is much beauty and love in Catholic anthropology and it is a great antidote to the loneliness and psychological & spiritual suffering related to sexual entitlement and gender confusion all around us. Anthony Esolen is great on this, and has suffered academically because of it. His piece in Crisis this week is marvelous: "Why Private Sexual Vice is a Public Concern."

The first rhetorical device you use is to give the impression that the Church is the aggressor in present disputes (why does the Church reject gays, why does God hate gays, etc.), when it is actually the one under attack. For centuries, across cultures, races and religions, the traditional family was considered paramount to a healthy, happy, holy and moral society and was universally understood as a life-long bond between one man and one woman, for the primary purpose of having and raising children. All Christian Churches believed that masturbation, contraception, fornication, adultery, abortion, divorce, polygamy, polyamory, homosexuality, pornography, etc. were contrary to God's plan for us. In truth, the truth has not changed. But, the aggression of those attacking that truth has increased, so that it is hard to distinguish dialogue from appeasement. Sexual self-actualization has become the primary freedom in the Western world. It has consumed most of academia, whole political parties, the global legal system, most of the titans of industry, a voracious media, and many Christian denominations. People do not get arrested for being homosexual or for having abortions. They get arrested for speaking up for the unborn, or for not supporting gay marriage. One is lionized for coming out sexually, and parading pride in one's new found sexual libertinism. A priest who advocates for LGBT acceptance and approval is not pilloried by the Church, but is praised by the public. What happened in Providence College a couple of weeks ago is a prime example of standard fare today. The Church is attacked and rejected for not going along, but for preserving its true teaching.

The second rhetorical device is to demand as an entry charge for dialogue that the terms of discussion be only those created by the sexual revolutionaries. You use homophobia all too readily (not here, thankfully), for anyone who doesn't accept the terms of the revolutionaries. Many think the words of Scripture and the Catechism are "homophobic" in their plain meaning. But words matter, in all debates. Homophobia should be reserved for those who have an irrational hate for homosexuals, and not for those who want to follow the second commandment and want them to be saved and go to heaven. Even you are regularly caught on the defensive with your words (apologizing), as a term conceded one day is not acceptable the next. LGBT letters double about as fast as Moore's Law for semiconductors. Some of the terms do not distinguish desire from action, which is critical to a correct understanding of morality. Gay and lesbian and bisexual and gay marriage all imply activity and not just desire or temptation. Pride parades have sexual activity front and center. The Church uses same-sex attraction or homosexual attraction, tendencies in its documents to make the all-important distinction between right/wrong desire and right/wrong action, between temptation and sin.

The third rhetorical device is to say the science is settled ("as any reputable... will agree"). Biological science clearly supports the binary complementary male and female sexes (as does Scripture "male and female He made them"), with reproducible objective tests. This is surely not the case if one means the LGBTQIA identifications or the world of psychology/psychiatry, where there is no test, genetic, hormonal, or otherwise that does not end by giving priority to self-identification. Moreover, many public figures announce their discovery of their sexuality well into adulthood, often after years of sexual activity and even several progeny (Senator Wofford, Cynthia Nixon, Caitlin Jenner, Maria Bello...). On the other side, many admit to experiencing homosexual urges in their teenage years but live fully happy healthy heterosexual lives later on. The influence of youth abuse/sexual activity/pornography seems to be profound and destabilizing on sexual orientation. Hence the danger of ideological adoptions and gender indoctrination in public schools. The sexual revolutionaries are departing from this ideology in any case, moving to a more gender fluid approach, the more to increase sexual experimentation (all bisexuals, Clive Davis, Marlon Brando, Megan Fox, Kristen Stewart...). Here is the Catechism on the science: "It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained."?

There is great suffering related to sexual identity and sexual experimentation, including loneliness, abuse, self-hate and suicide. But, the Church is surely not the chief cause of this. In today's world it teaches the only possible remedy. You have a platform and can be part of the solution. But, you must teach the beauty and full truth of the Church's anthropology, like Cardinal Sarah and Anthony Esolen, like Pope John Pail II and Pope Francis.

Robert Lewis
4 years 2 months ago

I like the full clarity of your exposition of doctrinaire moral theology. However, it doesn't take away from the fact that your science is wrong and that your dogmatic approach to moral theology, though in line with "traditional Church teachings" on sexual morality, is cruelly doctrinaire, pharisaical and against the more basic message of Jesus Christ's mercy, as exposed in the New Testament. You also are somehow incapable of accepting the FACT that moral theology (not basic dogma) can be and always has been "developed" by the institutional Church, which is given the prerogative of "binding" and "loosing." The Church Fathers and Gospel writers apparently had no formal knowledge of congenital homosexual orientation, and believed that the "practice" of what we call "gay sex" was a willfully sinful deviation from a person's natural heterosexual inclination--or that it was a part of pagan temple-worship. Your obvious supposition that a homosexual orientation is a choice is in clear contradiction of common sense, because almost all gay folk know that their discovery of their God-given erotic nature came as a shock or a surprise to them in early adolescence, and that they are not conscious of ever having "chosen" it; It doesn't take scientific research to learn this; all anyone has to do is what Father Martin is suggesting--that we LISTEN to their testimony, to their honest explanations of where they're coming from, which you, with your heart of stone, refuse to do.

Tim O'Leary
4 years 2 months ago

Robert - you really are a nasty person, and you are seemingly incapable of making a counter argument without descending into Pharisaical or homophobic name-calling. You don't seem to be sufficiently interested in science to even know what scientific evidence would look like or even how a scientific question should be constructed. Your view of congenital homosexual orientation is so rigid, it allows for no space for those who discover homoerotic desires later in life. Here are some public people who are invisible to your theories:

1. Harris Wofford, (NYT 4/23/16) Ex-US Senator, announced that he, 90, was marrying Matthew Charlton, 40. The two met in Florida five years after the death of Clare Wofford, Harris Wofford's wife of 48 years. Wofford was 75; Charlton 25. "Too often, our society seeks to label people by pinning them on the wall -- straight, gay or in between. I don't categorize myself based on the gender of those I love. I had a half-century of marriage with a wonderful woman, and now am lucky for a second time to have found happiness.”

2. Cynthia Nixon (NYT 1/12/12), age 45, 2 children, split from their father Daniel Mozes in 2003, a year later began a relationship with Christine Marinoni, who, with the help of a male friend Nixon will not identify, conceived a son (born Feb-2011). “Nixon…has less tolerance for the skepticism she says her relationship has sparked among some gay activists who find her midlife switch in sexual orientation disingenuous. “I totally reject that,” she said heatedly. “I gave a speech recently, an empowerment speech to a gay audience, and it included the line ‘I’ve been straight and I’ve been gay, and gay is better.’ And they tried to get me to change it, because they said it implies that homosexuality can be a choice. And for me, it is a choice…. and you don’t get to define my gayness for me.

3. Maria Bello (Time 12/2/13) “describes having had past romantic relationships with men and another woman. In her final paragraph, Bello declares herself not a gay woman or lesbian or bisexual but, instead, “whatever.” That lack of a label, she decides, is what “modern” love looks like.

4. Kevin Spacey, 58, on twitter (10/20/17): “In my life I have had relationships with both men and women. I have loved and had romantic encounters with men throughout my life, and I choose now to live as a gay man.”

Robert Lewis
4 years 2 months ago

I am not in the least interested in whether or not you consider me a "nasty" person, and I intend to continue to call you out regarding your wretched homophobia. I'm quite sure that these individuals you cite were also, at some point, surprised or shocked to discover their true sexual orientation--which may have been bisexual, rather than homosexual. However, I think that anyone who has the capacity to father a family and raise children, and who chooses not to is being extremely selfish. Christ says, in the Scripture, that "some are born 'eunuchs' [i.e. homosexual or sexless], some are made 'eunuchs' [i.e. castrated], and some are 'eunuchs' for the Kingdom's sake." Right there, you have acknowledgement by the Savior Himself, of "gender fluidity," or the homosexual orientation. Did it ever occur to you that the true etiology of homosexuality might lie in the INABILITY to be attracted to the opposite sex--a naturally-occurring, genetically-caused aversion that no "therapy," no "moral theology" can do anything about?--that this may be precisely what Christ was talking about? Your adamant refusal to consider any mitigation of a cruel (and, nowadays, ignorant) teaching regarding these innocent people is what, to my mind, characterizes you as one of those "whitened sepulchres" Jesus spoke against.

Tim O'Leary
4 years 2 months ago

Robert - I don't know whether to cry or to laugh. A few days ago, you flirted with Hopkins attraction to boys and young men as you recommended a "A Queer Chivalry", and blamed the closet for gay priests "stumbling into pederastry." In this combox, you say 1) homosexuality might be a genetic inborn error, 2) bisexuals are selfish, 3) Church teaching is cruel, 4) homosexual love affairs necessarily become "vicious," 5) and religious homoeroticism might be a special charism (not unlike Prof. Tat-Siong Benny Liew's theories at Holy Cross). I suppose I should just shrug my shoulders and forget you are trying to be serious. It's just crazy-man-Lewis at it again.

Robert Lewis
4 years 2 months ago

You can't read, apparently; my definition of "vicious" is not yours, which would be obvious, if you COULD read. (It's something that must be hidden.) I never said or implied that "homosexuality is a genetic inborn 'error'"--in fact, although I think it most probably IS "inborn," I suspect it could be extraordinarily beneficial to character formation, if it is accepted as an opportunity to bear a "cross," and to accept the Church's charge to be chaste. I think that all gay folk should come out of the closet, and be PUBLICLY embraced by the Roman Catholic Church and be given a religious and ritual embrace that should include a "sacramental" proclamation of acceptance of their relationships, so long as they are chaste. This would be to repeat a practice that is actually historical in the Church's tradition, as Alan Bray proved, through his research.
You distort, you lie, you obfuscate, you deliberately misrepresent your interlocutor, in order to peddle your homophobic drivel, which helps me to understand that, rather than being a follower of Jesus Christ, you are an idolator of the Church--which is the classic definition of a pharisee!

Tim O'Leary
4 years 2 months ago

Crazy man Lewis off on a rant again. The highest density insult generator in the combox.

Matthew Northenscold
4 years 2 months ago

Fr. Martin, thank you for clearly and compassionately presenting the Church's teaching.

Casey Karbowski
4 years 2 months ago

Thanks you and God bless you for the clarity Fr. James Martin! I pray you will continue to reach out about these difficult issues with compassion and pastoral sensitivity, and that in doing so will bring healing and reconciliation to the Church to so many who face so much difficulty in their lives. I hope to meet you in person someday.

Carl Kuss
4 years 2 months ago

I don't think that this quite does justice to the Church's teaching in this area.

To understand what the Church teaches regarding the Sixth Commandment one has to begin with what the Church teaches regarding marriage. The various ways of offending against the Sixth Commandment offend against the Sixth Commandment because they offend against marriage. When one understands the value of marriage one understands the evil of the sins which constitute the adultery which the Sixth Commandment proscribes.

The Church does not see marriage in a narrow and legalistic way. She sees marriage as a familiaris consortio.

Marriage makes of humanity a family in which every person has his space and is protected and allowed to be who he is. This includes homosexual persons.

But the Church does not regard marriage as a merely natural reality. Man is not a merely natural being. Man is ordered to God by his very creation. Marriage also is ordered to God from the very beginning.

When the Church condemns homosexual acts as disordered she is not talking about a supposed merely natural order of nature taken as touchstone and measure of all things. That misrepresents the Catholic teaching about Natural Law.

The teaching of the Church regarding marriage and regarding the Sixth Commandment goes far beyond the legalism of "certain things are permitted, certain things are not permitted." The Divine Commandments cannot be reduced to mere rules.

Morality is about human acts, and not about merely physical things. This is why homosexual persons are not to reject the way that God has made them, but to form their consciences to walk with God, discerning a path that must respect each and every divine commandment.

Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.

This word of Our Lord keeps us from obsessing about sexual matters, and from seeing the Commandments as mere rules that intrude upon our interior freedom.

Robert Lewis
4 years 2 months ago

This is a very good exposition of the REAL "moral theology" behind the teachings about marriage. May I recommend Brad Pitre's book "Christ the Bridegroom" to you? I think it supports what you are saying here.

Tim O'Leary
4 years 2 months ago

Carl - this Divine Mercy Sunday includes the following readings
From reading 1 John 5: Beloved: Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is begotten by God, and everyone who loves the Father loves also the one begotten by him. In this way we know that we love the children of God when we love God and obey his commandments. For the love of God is this, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, for whoever is begotten by God conquers the world."

And the Gospel (from John 20): "Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained." Later on "Thomas answered and said to him, "My Lord and my God!"
Jesus said to him, "Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed."

This to me means:. 1) The Catholic Church teaches the truth, in season and out - it is protected by Jesus & the Holy Spirit from incorrectly interpreting Scripture and from teaching error in faith or morals (all historical interpretations to the contrary are necessarily false); 2) our personal theories come and go - they are conjectures and are not protected from error; 3) The Church is the place for mercy and forgiveness for everyone - we only have to repent and ask for mercy to receive it.

jerry lawler
4 years 2 months ago

I was so glad to see Fr. Martin finally become clear on this and good for him for having the courage to state clearly the Church's position. Of course, all Catholics should love and welcome the sinner and condemn the sin. While I understand the strategy of not starting a conversation with a topic that will immediately end it, I also worry about a stance of too much welcoming and too much silence on the behavior. You cannot not communicate and the conspicuous silence on the topic of what gay people do in the bedroom can easily be interpreted as condoning the behavior. Somehow we need to find that right balance.

Dana Jens
4 years 2 months ago

with 3.8 identifying as LGBT and other various forms of sexualtiy - pansexual - asexual - questioning - statistics do not bear out that what and numbers do not lie has to be a fairly small group -our Catholic Church does not require one divulge their sexual orientation - Fellowship is lacking in the entire Church - seriously wake up and smell the starbucks - Catholics seem to hate other Catholics - My Family growing up experienced hostility - our children have not found friends in the Church as nothing save for a 2 wk vacation bible school is offered - coffee and donuts - wow - No my Husband and I are alone and elderly now - no one cares - no one visits - we have difficulty getting to Mass - our Children have grown and live in other States busy with their lives - We feel alone - marginalized - unwanted - a "die already" feeling - or condescending politeness - my husband is depressed and going downhill as he is social - we try to make it to bunko - there are many memories of being with our once intact family that are painful too - The Church cares nothing about us - you demoralize us - we are confused by many issues - we are told not to complain and if we are not able to walk well not to participate - we are very unwanted - and you I understand are reaching sixty years - you will begin to see how the attitude changes towards one as they age - it is a young person's world - it always has been -The Head of Church in Rome has gone mad it appears - We do not understand why Saint Peter's Square is empty and his ideas and his hatred for Americans - no this group lgbt is not suffering as we are I guarantee that and none of them have reached out to us either - not to help me up the stairs or even smile - we receive no acts of kindness or conversation - sorry the elderly are really suffering physically and emotionally and we will continue to be ignored and casted aside

Robert Lewis
4 years 2 months ago

I sympathize because I am growing old, too, but let me suggest something to you: go find ANY marginalized group--a poor black church or parish, a homeless shelter, a halfway house, a Dignity or Courage chapter for lgbt folk, a children's hospital, or simply an underfunded public school in a ghetto. Bake them some cookies, offer to tutor a child or two. You will be absolutely amazed at the reception you'll get. You'll never again be alone in your life, if you keep coming back! I know, I've had the experience: NOBODY responds more positively to love and affection than folks who've suffered.

Tim O'Leary
4 years 2 months ago

Dear Dana - I am sorry to hear of your troubles, with the parish community and with life and society in general. But, I hope you have a good prayer life. If the politics and disputes unsettle you, I recommend you stop reading about them. There are many lies and spins and controversies on the internet, and fake news and bias is everywhere. I think Pope Francis is a good man, and loves God. I assure you that he does not hate Americans, even if he doesn't understand us. When I saw him in Philadelphia in 2015, I only saw love for Americans.

Jesus is closer to you than the internet and is eagerly awaiting your prayers. I understand transportation can sometimes be hard, but I suggest you call your local parish and ask for the Eucharist to be brought to you. I think it will provide great comfort and might turn around your emotional and spiritual suffering. God bless you.

Arnoldo Miranda
4 years 2 months ago

Fr. James Martin, please link this article to your Facebook page and Twitter feed so that your followers may read it. Disseminate it as you do when you publicize your speaking engagements regarding your upcoming meetings concerning LGBT topics. People don't read America magazine but follow your Facebook page and Twitter feed.

Lisa Weber
4 years 2 months ago

Father Martin - Thank you for an interesting article about church teaching on gay/lesbian issues. I am not a student of natural law, but I do think it leads to idiotic conclusions. The primary example would be the ban on contraception.

An additional thought is that all of the actions Jesus took toward sexuality were to make it private. It would be wonderful if the church would follow his example in that. Personally, I am tired of the emotion directed toward the issues of contraception, abortion, and gay marriage.

Rhett Segall
4 years 2 months ago

Ms. Weber, it's wrong to place abortion within the category of contraception and gay relations. It is sui generis, an issue of taking human life. Last night "60 Minutes" profiled the wanton lynching of thousands of blacks since the Civil War. The disturbing photos of the smiling faces of the white lynchers reminds us of the radical insensitivity people can take to the value of human life. The dehumanization of the blacks is not unconnected with the dehumanization of the unborn. I know abortion isn't the theme of this thread but I could not let your reference to it go without responding. Speaking publicly on behalf of those dehumanized and who often can't speak for themselves, whether Blacks, Jews, the unborn, or anyone, is very much a public matter.

Lisa Weber
4 years 2 months ago

In my second paragraph, I was only commenting on the fact that the issue of abortion consumes so much of our energy and dialogue in the church. I was not commenting on the pros and cons of any of the arguments about it. When we allow our church dialogue to become fixated on issues related to sexuality - and abortion is related to sexuality - we soon have no room for anything else. Most of the discussions about sexuality are, to one degree or another, futile. These futile discussions also prevent us from offering any wisdom about sexuality. We could spend our time more fruitfully. I think Jesus avoided endless discussions about sexuality because he would not have gotten anything else done if he had become engaged in those discussions.

Vincent Gaglione
4 years 2 months ago

After reading the article and then the comments here, I wondered if anyone really paid attention to what Father Martin was saying. I am happy for those who now believe that Father Martin is an orthodox Catholic. I never had any doubts about that. I am sad for those who have never had any homosexual family members or friends in their lives to understand that they are real human beings with real feelings and real-life problems just like the rest of us.

I spent 14 years of my formative life in Catholic schools. Some of the teachers and administrators - either clerical or consecrated – were the most rigid, unbending, cruel people that I have ever met in my life. Others were some of the most generous, caring, and flexible people in my life.

Then I became a public-school teacher. And I readily learned that rigidity, inflexibility, and cruelty to children is no way to win either respect or compliance. I wasn’t perfect to be sure. But the experiences reminded me of what those generous, flexible, and caring priests and nuns had taught me – to accept people as they are, to help them as best I can in their life, and to be there for them whatever the issues.

Regarding Catholic homosexuals, for that matter Catholic transgenders, etc, we need a little more generosity of spirit towards them, that’s what Father Martin is saying.

After composing the above and before moving to post it, I happened to read the article about Pope Francis’ latest apostolic exhortation, “Gaudete et Exsultate.” Francis says it better than I do. He would be pleased no doubt with Father Martin.

Robert Lewis
4 years 2 months ago

You know, Mr. Gaglione, the reason that I think hysteria-inducing homophobia is at the root of opposition not just to "gay marriage" (which I oppose, too), but also to public and ritual embrace of the "same-sex-attracted" (or, basically, to ANYTHING that permits the young to understand that homosexuality is natural, ever occurring, and never "intrinsically disordered," but, rather, a "cross" of great spiritual advantage) is that, objectively-speaking, its prohibition in the Old and New Testaments is no more set in stone (and no more rigid) than tolerance and even approval of slavery, than support for legalized murder (aka "capital punishment"), than the celibate priesthood, than the taking of usury, than the prosecution of "just wars," etc. etc. And this is especially true when you understand that the idea of a congenital orientation of exclusive affectivity toward one's same sex was beyond the cultural understandings of ancient peoples. The cause of this hysterical homophobia is not to be found in the sophisticated, humanitarian and elegantly "developed" theology of the most intellectually respectable of Christian sects; it is not to be found in the dialectical hermeneutics of Catholic Scriptural interpretation; it is given absolutely NO support in the mystical writings of certain saints, male and female, who use an erotic discourse to describe their love of the Savior or of His Mother. It is rooted, instead, in an irrational fear that is very similar to the horrified misogyny of ancient monotheists. I think it would be beneficial and salutary for our gay brothers and sisters to share their childhood fear of the bodies and the erotics of the opposite sex, and than have them tell us how they overcame that fear--through friendship, and love, and respect.

Theodore Seeber
4 years 2 months ago

" And this is especially true when you understand that the idea of a congenital orientation of exclusive affectivity toward one's same sex was beyond the cultural understandings of ancient peoples. "

There is a name for that- false.

Mike Theman
4 years 2 months ago

Notice that Mr. Martin does not say that he agrees with what the Church teaches. Consider what he means when he encourages "dialogue," when the Church's position is that those who accept and engage in same-sex acts must repent for their sin. What's the purpose of the dialogue, then? To change the Church's teaching. Clearly where Mr. Martin is going in all of this is to attack natural law - notice that he skips the Biblical foundations of the Church's teaching on homosexual tendencies and acts - so as to chip away at what the Church teaches.

Mr. Martin is a clever writer, and he pulls on the emotional strings of his reader while carefully choosing his words to sound as if he's providing facts whereas he is lying - yes, lying (e.g., gays and lesbians are sinners because they accept and/or engage in homosexual acts by definition) and laying a foundation not to merely promote understanding between the Church and homosexuals, but to attack the Church's teaching.

Robert Lewis
4 years 2 months ago

Lies, nothing here but outright lies. It's very hard to follow America's editors' directive to be "charitable," when one is reading lies, obfuscations and deliberate twisting of the truth. Do you know the meaning of the word "libel," Mr. Theman?

Mike Theman
4 years 2 months ago

Yes, I do know the meaning of libel: I'm a lawyer. You, obviously, are not.

Robert Lewis
4 years 2 months ago

Ah, yes--which means that you will know how to commit libel, whilst technically avoiding prosecution for it!

Matthew Kilburn
4 years 2 months ago

Here is my question: does this "dialogue" or "bridge-building" or "understanding" sincerely begin with the objective of affirming Catholic teachings and correcting the sinful conduct on the part of those who identify as LGBTQetc?

Too often, I'm afraid, it does not. Instead it is used as a way of beating around the bush, looking the other way, or somehow else marginalizing - rather than enforcing or affirming - the church teachings on sexual morality. And to that extent, it comes from the "evil one", not God.

Of course this is not a problem unique to homosexuality - in fact it is common to the left-wing approach to virtually all topics of sexual morality. And, again, it comes from the evil one.

Theodore Seeber
4 years 2 months ago

The problem with aberrant sexuality (LGBT being only a minority example, the same catechism in surrounding paragraphs on sins against chastity contains many heterosexual examples as well!), is that it is primarily abusive. It is not possible to have a non-celibate extramarital relationship without abuse.

Jaroslav Lunda
4 years 2 months ago

One can understand it in terms of bodily salvation: Sticking to bodily salvation prevents aberrant sexuality.
Goal of such aberrant sexuality is non-bodily: "higher spiritualness", "freedom from the fallen body", etc.
Great example is postmodern pornography: 20 min. rituals based on destroying of bodies as means of liberation.

Theodore Seeber
4 years 2 months ago

Interesting Point

Jaroslav Lunda
4 years 2 months ago

There is subtle "omission" in the article: unjust discrimination.
Unjust discrimination is weaker term than plain discrimination. So one can be objectively disordered but chaste and yet JUSTLY DISCRIMINATED for example from being hired as a teacher.

Theodore Seeber
4 years 2 months ago

A hugely important question for any Jesuit to answer:
"If there is a teaching on the reception of church teaching, and we haven't received this teaching on the reception of church teaching yet, then where are we?"

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