Are you Catholic or are you Gay, Can you be Both?
Can you be Catholic, and can you be gay at the same time? As Catholics we are supposed to do what the Bible teaches, which is to have a male and female relationship. If you have a man on man or woman on woman relationship as long as you do not participate in the act of sex you are okay. However, once the relationship becomes physical and intimate you go against God’s will. This has caused a lot of Catholics who turn out to be gay or lesbians to have mixed feelings about the Church. Some go to church but are afraid to show their sexual orientation. Others just leave the Church all together due to their sexual orientation. Research evidence suggests that gay people demonstrate a higher degree of stress and anxiety about their sexuality. Researchers also conclude that the religious gays have the tendency to reject organized religion and embrace individualized spiritualties as we shall see below. (Yip166)
Sexuality in general has long been contested in the Catholic Church, with heated debates erupting in the twentieth century about whether all sexual acts must be procreative. These debates led to the of?cial ban on arti?cial contraception enunciated in Pope Paul VI’s encyclical, Humane Vitae. (Ellsworth 294)
While still arguing that homosexual acts are sinful, the bishops emphasized pastoral care for gay and lesbian Catholics that includes respect for their dignity as human beings created by God. In fact, when asked about homosexuality by a reporter early in his papacy, Pope Francis famously replied, “Who am I to judge?” (Ellsworth 294-5)
Catholics are not always aware of of?cial Church teachings, and variation therefore exists even from one Catholic university to another. As one research noted that in interviews conducted with Catholic college students many did not seem to care about of?cial Church teachings about sex: “The average Catholic student that was interviewed was either clueless about Catholicism’s teachings about sex or didn’t care.” In the interviews, not a single student with a Catholic background mentioned a Vatican or Catholic teaching document. Compared to the interviews described by researchers, interviewees’ knowledge of Catholic teachings stood out. Our respondents at St. Agatha appeared to be well informed about Church doctrine as compared to other Catholic youth of similar ages. (Ellsworth 296)
The Roman Catholic Church issued its first official statement on homosexuality in 1975 with the publication of Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics. Homosexuality and prohibition against it were briefly mentioned alongside other issues such as masturbation, marriage, and sex before marriage. However, it is the publication of the Letter on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons that proved to be the most widely debated and controversial. The controversy primarily surrounds the terminology used in the statement, that being the labelling of the homosexual orientation and same-sex genital acts.
The homosexual orientation or inclination is labeled as an “objective disorder. The paper says: Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus, the inclination itself must be an objective disorder.
Genital acts between members of the same sex, on the other hand, are labelled “intrinsically disordered” primarily because they contradict the perceived prohibition against such acts in the Old Testament. It is also argued that same-sex genital acts are contradictory to two fundamental principles of the Roman Catholic Church. The paper says: A person engaging in homosexual behavior therefor acts immorally. To choose someone of the same sex for one’s sexual activities is to annul the rich symbolism and meaning, not to mention the goals, of the creator’s sexual design. Homosexual activity is not complementary union, able to transmit life; and so it thwarts the call to a life of that form of self-giving which the Gospel says is the essence of Christian living…When they engage in homosexual activities they confirm within themselves a disorder, homosexual activities prevent one’s own fulfillment and happiness by acting contrary to the creative wisdom of God. (Yip 169) Apparently the Catholic Church believes that because you are not able to reproduce life in a homosexual manner, because genital sex is taboo we will discourage you from having sex at all. But the Catholic Church welcomes all no matter what your sexual orientation is.
Participants in a study felt that although the Catholic Church of?cially does not condemn homosexuals as people, intimate behavior with same-sex partners was regarded as a sin against God. (Pietkiewicz 1573) When a college student was asked what this meant her reply was “Basically, it says we should be treated with respect and that we can be active in the Church. But we just can’t have sex.” (Ellsworth 296). Yet another respondent offered that “God created man kind in his own image,” then being attracted to the same sex must also have a Divine aspect and should be acceptable. (Pietkewicz 1580)
Personal experiences of lesbians and gay Christian have testified that one goes through a long journey of negotiation and struggle in developing a positive self-image. (Yip 171) On the other hand, some gay and lesbian Catholics up the “theology of friendship” which encourages, among other things, “inclusiveness.” Such inclusiveness might lead to sexual non-exclusivity within a partnership, with consent from the parties involved. (Yip 173)
There is a spectrum in which gays and lesbian fall into in the Catholic Church. At one end of the spectrum, some align themselves with the teachings of the Catholic Church and on the other end of the spectrum are those who reject the teachings of the Catholic Church and resort to the exploration of a new set of ethics. Standing in between these extremes are those who believe sexuality involving genital acts is acceptable only within a relationship context. (Yip 174)
There are four main identities into which Catholic gays and lesbians fall. The Integrated Identity, is the one in which Catholics sexual orientation and religious identity do not conflict. They find a way to integrate both identities and are optimistic about both. The ability to achieve integrated religious and sexual identities is in a large part function of personal decision on the interpretation of Church Doctrine in a way that is accepting but also affirming of the sexual minority. (Ellsworth 300)
The Liberated Identity broadly speaking is that their sexual and religious identities are not compatible so they abandon their religious identity. The gays and lesbians in this group arrived at the rejection of religion in favor of sexual identity by interpreting Church Doctrine as unaccepting of LGBTQ person and thus something to be opposed. (Ellsworth 303)
The Embattled Identity are those who suppress and hide their sexual identity while continuing to embrace their religious identity. These labels were chosen because of the strong tension between two conflicting identities vying for an expression. (Ellsworth 305-6)
The Disillusioned Identity was named to identify those lesbians and gays who try to navigate experiences of their religious and sexual identities. Rather than abandon one to embrace the other they come to a place of disillusionment. Many of these listlessly explained their dif?culties with religion. Yet, after struggling with their identities for so long, and devoid of a support network in which they could discuss and seek to verify their competing identities, disillusioned respondents often withdrew into silence about each identity in their daily lives. Disillusioned poll participants had no sense of community in regards to either their religious or sexual identities, and as such were the least engaged group observed. (Ellsworth 307-8)
However, there is very little information on how people perceive the costs of repressing either the spiritual or sexual parts of their identity. (Pietkewicz 1574) It is felt by some that we should educate and then encourage the local parish priest to meet and talk with lesbian and gay parishioners both those who have left and those who are attending a service regularly. Spiritual guidance offered by priests who express positive attitudes toward gays and lesbians should be encouraged. Clergy should be educated about the potentially devastating effects of openly expressing prejudice against the LGBT community by people who represent authority. Therapists, on the other hand, are encouraged to explore spiritual con?icts with their clients, and analyze meanings ascribed to being gay, with reference to religion. They should also encourage clients to explore their spirituality by examining their religious beliefs from different reference points (e.g., cultural, political), and seek religious support groups for sexual minorities. (Pietkewicz 1584)