Change in the church is as difficult as change in society – it comes slowly based on new knowledge and new understandings about religion, the bible and science. New knowledge and understandings in the area of homosexuality and church teaching include all these. The idea of diverse sexual identities as we now experience and know it scientifically is very recent.
Still today there are many countries where being gay or engaging in gay relationships is illegal with penalties including incarceration and death. When church people interpret certain bible texts inaccurately it can lead to vilification of one’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Church teaching based on poor biblical interpretation and unscientific anthropology has led to interpretations of church teaching that have harmed, disadvantaged and justified discrimination against LGBTIQA+ people.
Where science, good theology and accurate biblical interpretation are respected, church teaching particularly in the area of morals, can be interpreted in an inclusive way. Just as other church moral teachings have been adjusted to meet current reality, such as the death penalty, war ethics and slavery, so has church teaching on homosexuality and gender diversity.
But it is new and emerging and, in some church statements, there is still some work to do. Those who find this emerging theology around gender and sexual diversity difficult can be caught in an undignified cultural war that demeans LGBTIQA+ people unjustifiably. Thus, at this time of change we have differing views. This is unfortunately at all levels of church life.
We encourage conversation and dialogue especially at the level of experience and pastoral practice. Often the view of those wedded to no change remains at an academic level. They are seemingly unconcerned about the clear church teaching that LGBTIQA+ people must be treated with “respect, compassion, and sensitivity” (Catholic Catechism 2358). They are unaware or unconcerned about the harm their view may do.
Views can change especially through meeting and sharing faith, ministry, and life with LGBTIQA+ people. Austrian Cardinal Christopher Schönborn, Editorial Secretary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church at one time, was opposed to a more liberal view until he was confronted with the fact that a gay man in a gay relationship was voted onto the parish council his diocese. The parish priest sacked him because of his relationship status. Cardinal Schönborn had a meal with this man and his partner and reinstated him to the parish council.
This pastoral approach is the one Pope Francis uses and recommends.
The Catholic Herald (UK) reported in 2015 that after Cardinal Schönborn saw a friend who had many short-lived relationships finally be in a stable relationship and seeing his friend grow – he said that “It is an improvement. They share a life, they share their joys and sufferings, they help one another. It must be recognised that this person took an important step for his own good and the good of others…”
“We are not at risk of diluting the clarity [of Church teaching] while walking with people because we are called to walk in the faith,” he said.
In 2021, Cardinal Schönborn said that the Church should not refuse same-sex blessings.
Also in 2021, German priests dedicated a whole day to same-sex relationship blessings despite a Vatican ban.
Despite this, Pope Francis has voiced his support for same-sex civil unions. He also encourages people in religious life who have often been vilified for helping LGBTIQA+ people to keep up the good work. You can find out more about this at:
- How Pope Francis is changing the Vatican’s tone on LGBT people
- Pope Francis encourages nun helping trans community in Argentina
- At Easter, Pope Francis invited transgender group to Vatican to receive coronavirus vaccine
- Pope Francis thanks New Ways Ministry in recent correspondence
- Pope Francis praises Sister Jeannine Gramick’s 50 years of L.G.B.T. ministry in handwritten letter
- Interview: Sister Jeannine Gramick on being censured by the Vatican, 50 years of ministry and her hopes for LGBT Catholics
In Australia, bishops support LGBT pastoral care in various ways.
- In the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle an official LGBTIQ group has been established as part of its social justice outreach.
- Paramatta Diocese supports LGBTIQA+ Catholics through a working group and in Catholic Schools Paramatta where pastoral care for LGBT students has a high priority.
There are many other positive expressions of good pastoral support in the Catholic Church worldwide.
Acceptance Perth follows this model of positive non-judgemental journeying with LGBTIQA+ Catholics and allies. If you would like to join us or find out more, please contact us.