Homosexuality and religion have had a brawl as old as time. Ever since organised religion took over the world, every one of them has condemned the act of homosexuality. The Catholic Church is no exception. Their primary concern was only men who have sex with men. All other bands of spectrum under the LGBT umbrella were too hidden to be an issue for the Church.
The Church and the State has long been separate. Most of the Christian-dominated countries in Europe and America have not only legalised homosexuality, but same sex marriage and adoption as well. So for the non-believers, the situation is not as difficult. The believers, however, have to face the hard choice between following their identity and following their faith.
Church and Homosexuality
The Roman Catholic Church is the largest portion of the Christian population in the world, accounting for over 1.2 billion people who subscribe to its faith. For the longest time, the Catholic Church and members of the LGBTQ+ community have seemingly been at odds with each other, just like most other religious beliefs. But is the situation changing in the 21st century?
Source: Huffington Post
There have been more and more gay-friendly churches in the last one decade or so all-over the western world. When Pope Francis, the new Pope came to lead and talked to a survivor of the Chilean Abuse Scandal, who also happened to be gay, the world was left shaken.
Why this sudden surprise? Because this was for the first time in recent memory, that a sitting Pope had spoken to a homosexuality-oriented person, and told him that he was loved, by both the Pope and God, no matter what his sexual orientation. He also went on to speak publicly in support of the gay community, saying ‘who am I to judge?’
A revolution – they all said. A radical Pop – the media started to call Pope Francis.
But in reality how radical was this? Did one act of kindness by the new Pope or the action of goodwill by a few churches undo all the years of discrimination, or did it ensure complete acceptance of the LGBT community by the church? The answer is ‘no’.
What the Church says…
Throughout history, it has been stated that the church frowns on homosexual acts while not maintaining the same strict outlook on those of homosexual orientation. The idea of same-sex relationships being immoral is one prevalent in the Catholic Church; but where they draw the line is where they state that being members of the LGBTQ is not by itself sinful.
So, in so far as to talk about homosexual orientation, the Pope had spoken and reassured the survivor while still sticking to the beliefs that have long been the pillars of the Church.
However, homosexual acts remain ‘intrinsically disordered’ by the teachings of the Church. However, the Church suggests as the practice of such activity is immoral, they can subscribe to chastity. The belief has long been that those of a homosexual orientation must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity and every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.
But as the above picture so clearly shows, the heterosexual followers of the faith are not so kind towards their homosexual co-members. So, while it is healthy to see the Pope treat a fellow human being with dignity and kindness, it in no way means that the statement made was ‘radical’.
Further, it needs to be stated that the Catholic Church by themselves do not support or recognise same-sex marriage. Just as in the case of heterosexual relationships, any sexual acts before marriage are looked upon as a sin, the same extends to homosexual relationships. Since the Church does not recognise homosexual marriages, therefore, there can be no pure sexual acts.
But just like the sun, love also finds its way to shine. The Catholic laity, the congregation of ordinary members of the Church is vocal in their support for same-sex marriage and have an active presence in many places in the LGBT movement.
Source: Huffington Post
Many churches themselves have openly declared that they love, respect and welcome anyone in their premise, irrespective of their personal choices of sexuality.
A Church in Washington D.C. (Source: Tagg Magazine)
Discrimination of the transgenders
The same cannot be said with their treatment of transgender individuals. In fact, the church has never talked about those of transgender orientation, and their doctrines only allow them to relate the birth anatomy of a child to its gender.
There is no official policy they follow when it comes to transgender individuals, although they have a recorded history of disallowing them from becoming Godparents.
In December of 2017, a shocking open letter was written by members of the Catholic Clergy with regards to being transgender. It focused on being born either male or female, and called the idea of being transgender a ‘false idea’. While there was support for the letter among the Catholic community, a large portion of the progressive Catholic Church condemned the letter.
Mark Silk, professor of religion in public life at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, talked about the letter saying the Church may have been shocked at how quickly American Catholics had come to accept the idea of same-sex marriage, and now they were opening a whole ‘new front in the gender culture wars’.
According to Silk, this approach to the issue was a way for the Catholic Church to re-establish their dominance.
However, looking at all of this from a neutral point of view gives hope, as the more progressive branches of the Catholic Church have jumped at the idea of embracing the changes in society, even though there are large branches who still hold on to the past firmly. Many churches have started hosting gay marriages as well.
The fight for acceptance of LGBTQ rights by the Catholic Church remains one that is still on-going. At this stage, the only thing that can be said is that progress is the only sign of success.