Homosexuality: Can the Catholic Church Accept LGBT People

The subject of homosexuality has been slowly progressing throughout the modern day. Not too long-ago same sex marriage was not legal anywhere and before that being gay was universally unaccepted and seen as shameful. However, in the modern day 2018, the LGBTQ+ community is much more accepted and embraced, especially in the United States. Modern societies have eliminated their stigmas and restrictions concerning homophobia. The Catholic Church has made notable progress in moving towards more acceptance, but still has a long way to come to continue to be relevant in modern day society.

Homophobia is the prejudice and dislike against those of homosexual orientation. In the United States homophobia was very common several years ago and although it is not completely terminated in modern day, it is very reduced. The thought of a person romantically being with someone of the same gender was seen as disgusting, wrong, and immoral. The Catholic Church was especially prone to preaching against the idea of homosexuality. Homosexuality was seen as a sin and being a homosexual was seen as a way of going against the church and its beliefs. Homophobia is a part of the culture in the Catholic church. The church’s ideas can be passed down from parent to child and therefore creating these ideas in the innocent minds of children.

Especially if a priest, who can be important role model for some children in the church, speaks out negatively about homosexuality. Babies are not born homophobic, they must be raised on the idea that homosexuality is sin. Children who grow up in a homophobic society will pick up on homophobic languages and practices and begin following them (Loughlin par. 3). This homophobia was expected behavior, and due to this Loughlin of Catholic Homophobia discusses people who are established in the church and whether they are homophobic or not, saying “Catholic homophobia is now the set of practices by which the human person as such is established” (Loughlin par. 4). This means that the Catholic Church preaches the belief that to be homosexual is a sin. Since being a Catholic requires believing in everything the church believes in, then it is expected that you believe homosexuality is sinful. However, if you do not believe that being gay wrong, you are technically going against the church’s beliefs, which is also a sin.

In 1986 a letter was written regarding the pastoral care of homosexuals. There was a big belief that homosexuals were more likely to have a moral evil (Loughlin par. 5). However, this evil was not necessarily specified. This letter was accepted throughout the Catholic church and it considered homosexuals as individuals. Homosexuals were seen not only as a group that is oriented to sin, but a specific sin, the sin that is against nature (Loughlin par. 5). The letter also told about violence and homosexuality.

Violence against homosexuals was valid, and despite it being said that there should be no violence against homosexuals, it is admitted that there was no surprise in the increase of violence in response to homosexuals’ rights (Loughlin par. 10). Therefore, Loughlin discusses the issue that despite homosexuals being seen as individuals, they do not deserve the same human rights as everyone else. This idea of seeing homosexuals as being inferior to humanity justified the violence most likely expected towards homosexuals, saying “the letter establishes the homosexual as uniquely oriented to sin, as a personage who endangers family and society and who should not be granted full human rights” (Loughlin par. 10). Homosexuals were no longer being treated as humans with basic human rights. Instead they were being physically and emotionally abused because of their sexual orientation. They were seen as lesser then everyone else, heterosexuals were the superior.

In Robert Rakestraw’s article “Gay Sex and Grace: What Does Grace Have to Do with Homosexual Practices”, he discusses the bible in relationship to homosexuality. Many people use the Bible and scriptures as evidence to claim that homosexuality is a sin and the Bible even says so. Rakestraw defends the idea of homosexuality by claiming that it is impossible to rely on the word of the Bible, which was written thousands of years ago, because homosexuality was not a big topic during those days, saying, “The relatively recent (in human history) research and findings regarding the homosexual orientation and loving, homosexual unions were not available to the Scripture writers, so obviously they could not have had such knowledge in mind as they wrote against homosexual practices. Two biblical passages that reference the negativity surrounding homosexuality are Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13. In Leviticus 18:22 it is stated “Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable” while in Leviticus 20:13 it is stated “If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable” (Rakestraw 25). Both these scriptures emphasize that homosexual relations are forbidden, and it is certain that there are more scriptures that preach this same message including Romans 1:26-28, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, and Timothy 1: 9-11. Many advocates for gay theology argue that these biblical scriptures refer to selfish, immoral, or abusive practices (Rakestraw 27).

The Bible does not specifically condemn those who are homosexual, those who are looking for love in the same gender as them, instead the Bible is only condemning reckless, lustful sex with children or sex that goes against one’s sexual orientation (Rakestraw 27). Therefore, regarding the Bible, the writers showed ignorance towards homosexuals, saying nothing against gay sexual activities within a loving, typical union, it can be concluded that these homosexual behaviors do not go against God’s moral law (Rakestraw 27). Jesus never mentioned homosexuality, instead he taught love for God and for others, therefore Catholics today should be welcoming of homosexuals. The writers are not addressing homosexuality as a sexual orientation, but instead as a behavior, and so it is inapplicable in modern day.

Despite homophobia being ingrained into the Catholic culture, many leaders in the church are speaking out against these ideas. The modern-day church is beginning to change its previous harsh ideas and it all begins with one man, Pope Francis. The Church has made action to become more accepting towards the LGBT+ community, especially compared to only twenty years ago. The church allows for homosexuals to enter the church, some parishes even welcome them with open arms.

Pope Francis has many instances in which he publicly declared respect towards the LGBT community. On July 29, 2013, Pope Francis made one of his most famous remarks about homosexuality while on an interview in a plane. When an interviewer asked Pope Francis about gay priests, Francis simply replied, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” (Debernardo Par. 3). This was a pivotal moment in the church for homosexuals because the head of the church was not speaking bad on these individuals, but instead accepting them. However, Pope Francis spoke out in 2014 about marriage being between a man and woman only, and these marriages are necessary in order for children to be raised properly.

As the years have gone by, he has continued to speak out about respecting homosexuals in the Catholic church, but remains firm on the idea of same-sex marriage going against the Catholic church. One of his most recent and powerful statements occurred when he was talking to a survivor of the sex abuse scandals in the church. The Pope spoke to Juan Carlos, a gay man, and assured him that it is okay that he is gay, saying “Juan Carlos, that you are gay does not matter. God made you like this and loves you like this and I don’t care. The pope loves you like this. You have to be happy with who you are.” (DeBernardo par. 53).

The modern-day church is slowly becoming more accepting of the LGBTQ+ community. The Pope has encouraged others to love everyone no matter their sexual orientation. The church has become more understanding and tolerant of homosexual persons. However, the church still has a far way to come in order to support the LGBTQ+ community fully, meaning homosexuals in the church itself. The modern-day church still follows the rule of marriage only being between a man and a woman. Despite the United States finally legalizing gay marriage in all fifty states, it is still not allowed in the Catholic church. In Manila in 2015, Pope Francis condemned movements that “attempt and recognize same-sex unions as marriage and thereby confuse ‘sexuality, marriage, and the family’’’ (Coleman 32).

The bible believes that the preference for marriage stay between the relatedness of the masculine and feminine sexes, as well as the normative for the sexual behavior of Christians (Lienemann par. 22). The church preaches that they are willing to show non-discrimination against homosexuals, but in return homosexuals must be prepared to live a life of celibacy, a life without sex. This way they are renouncing the exercise of their sexuality. The Roman Catholic Church demands this in regard to all of its homosexual members.

Homosexuals are also not permitted to marry heterosexuals because that would be unfair, therefore sexual abstinence can be expected or even demanded in reference to homosexual members in the Catholic church. Regarding same-sex marriage, it is argued that marriage in a biblical form can be upheld by homosexual structures of a definite non-marital partnership (Lienemann Par. 24). This means that those in the LGBTQ+ community will not be able to have the same kind of marriage as heterosexuals, but the church does allow a legally regulated form of a non-marital partnership.

Now what the Church must ask itself is, “What more can we do?” or, “How can we show more acceptance for the LGBT+ community?” Many parishes are stuck on how to welcome members of the LGBT+ community or families with LGBT+ members into the church. Many people in the LGBT+ community have felt excluded from the church due the church’s harsh beliefs in the past. There have been thousands of stories about members of the Catholic church being unwelcoming and even homophobic to members of the LGBT+ community. These occurrences have created a divide between the LGBT+ community and Catholics. Father James Martin in, “How parishes can welcome L.G.B.T. Catholics” tells a story of how a woman contacted him in search of a compassionate priest and when he questioned her why, she explained that the local parish priest refused to anoint a dying Catholic patient because he was gay. He tells another story from a mother’s point of view in which her son, who is homosexual, decided to finally return to the church after feeling that the church was against him for so many years. She was so excited, but her joy did not last long.

The priest began to preach on the evils of homosexuality in the church, causing her son to promptly get up and walk out of that church. With these and so many similar stories out there, it is not surprising that majority of LGBT+ members feel unwelcomed in the church. The church also has stories full of grace and love. This time, Father James Martin tells a story of grace. A student came up to Father Martin once and told him about the first person he came out to, a priest. Instead of the priest shutting him down, the priest said to him “God loves you, and the church accepts you” (Martin par. 5). Where you live can play a major role in the open-mindedness of the church and the acceptance people will therefore receive. These real stories from a priest itself show the good and bad of the church today. The fact that a priest is even writing this kind of article shows how much more accepting the church has become in the past years. However, the issue that must be tackled is what are ways in which more LGBT+ members can be included, welcomed, and accepted into a church in which they feel safe in.

There are many ways in which the church itself can become a more welcoming place to people in the LGBT+ community. Father James Martin, a priest at St. Paul the Apostle Church in New York, tells how his ministry is successfully one of the most active LGBT+ programs in the world. He discusses that there are several areas that must be addressed with becoming an openminded, accepting catholic parish. These areas include, remembering that the LGBT+ member are already Catholic and not to try to make them Catholic, but instead to welcome them. Another area is to remember that these people in the LGBT+ community have not chosen their sexual orientation or identity, they were born with it.

The third thing to remember is that homosexuals have been mistreated by the church, and to be sensitive to that. members. Members of the church should be aware that many if not majority of these people have gone through judgement, mistreatment, shame, and even trauma. It is also important to recognize that supportive parents of LGBT children have faced similar pain such as backlash from the church, which may result in shame. It is also important to recognize that these people are loved by God, and we should love all of God’s creations ( ). These are several things Catholics need to remember I order to understand the people in the LGBT+ community.

In order to become more accepting, parish members need to do some work to be welcoming to homosexuals in the church. Father James Martin shares a list of ways in which the Catholic church can show its support and be more welcoming of LGBT+ Catholics. One of these actions include analyzing your own personal actions and beliefs towards the LGBT+ community. If you have a negative viewpoint, be honest with yourself, but also do research and get scientific facts. Learn about sexualities and identities instead of just trusting what you have been taught in the church. Another thing members of the church can do is listen to these LGBT+ Catholics with an open-mind. Ask them questions if there is confusion, but really try to listen to them with no judgement. Another important thing is to not focus solely on the sexuality part of homosexuals.

The church seems to focus on that aspect of it, but it is important to remember that these homosexuals are people and they have just as many positive and negative things going on in their lives, so ask about those things. Ask about their jobs, their families, their lives in general. An important item is to have more events or some type of outreach program in which helps them feel part of the church. Father James Martin talks about having a program for LGBT+ members in his church. The ministry, called Out, has many activities from Bible study to social events. There is a weekly announcement in which a LGBT+ member of the church gets up, introduces themselves, and then welcomes everyone in the parish to join in upcoming events that week. One of the last and most important thing the church and the members within it can help support LGBT+ members is to advocate for them. There are still many countries around the world in which homosexuality is illegal and people are being punished, put into jail, and even killed for being gay. It is important for the church to support the LGBT+ communities in these times.

Homosexuality is a very popular subject in the modern-world today. Society’s ideas and views surrounding the LGBTQ+ community has grown to be much more open-minded and accepting of everyone. There are many brave people in the media coming out as LGBT+, from Olympic athletes to singers. The Catholic church, known for its unacceptance towards homosexuality in the past, has worked to become much more accepting towards the LGBTQ+. Some ways the church has done this is through the work of Pope Francis and his famous remarks, such as “who am I to judge,” as well as priests preaching acceptance of homosexuals. Despite this, the Church still has a long way to go in order to be fully supportive of the LGBT+ community. Some examples of how it can be more accepting is to support same-sex marriage and well as teaching other Catholics to be supportive, remember no one can choose their sexuality or sexual identity, and to stand with the LGBTQ+ community against homophobia. With the help of Pope Francis and the other members of the Catholic church, members of the LGBTQ+ community can feel safe and welcome in the house of God.

Works Cited

  1. DeBernardo, Francis, and Cristina Traina. “Pope Francis on LGBT Issues: A Chronology.” New Ways Ministry, 19 Nov. 2018, www.newwaysministry.org/resources/pope-francis-lgbt-issues/.
  2. Lienemann, Wolfgang. ‘Churches and homosexuality: an overview of recent official church statements on sexual orientation.’ The Ecumenical Review, vol. 50, no. 1, 1998, p. 7+. Academic OneFile, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A20344098/AONE?u=loyoland_main&sid=AONE&xid=906edd96. Accessed 5 Oct. 2018.
  3. Loughlin, Gerard. “Catholic Homophobia.” Theology, vol. 121, no. 3, 2018, pp. 188–196., doi:10.1177/0040571x177491c47
  4. Martin , James. “Father James Martin: How Parishes Can Welcome L.G.B.T. Catholics.” America Magazine, 27 Sept. 2018, www.americamagazine.org/faith/2018/08/23/father-james-martin-how-parishes-can-welcome-lgbt-catholics.
  5. Rakestraw, Robert V. “Gay Sex and Grace: What Does Grace Have to Do with Homosexual Practices?” Southwestern Journal of Theology, vol. 59, no. 1, 2016, pp. 19–39., web.a.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=4&[email protected]