Benedict and Catholic Gays and Lesbians

Some Catholics are viewing Pope Benedict's U.S. visit next week as an opportunity to remind people of his statements about gays and lesbians.

Before becoming pope, then-Cardinal Ratzinger upset many advocates of gays and lesbians with documents that came out of the orthodoxy-enforcing agency he headed: The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. One he authored was the 2003 document meant to help bishops defeat same-sex marriage and civil union laws.

It said: "Those who would move from tolerance to the legitimization of specific rights for cohabiting homosexual persons need to be reminded that the approval or legalization of evil is something far different from the toleration of evil." It also said letting same-sex couples adopt children "would actually mean doing violence to these children."

According to New Ways Ministry, a 30-year-old Catholic advocacy group, church leaders were engaged in much more open discussions about research on human sexuality and same-sex relationships until the papacy of John Paul II.

Ratzinger "was the architect of John Paul's stance on homosexuality, which had a much more negative slant than had been developing in the American church," said Francis DeBernardo, executive director of the Maryland-based ministry group, which advocates for theological discussion and tries to highlight positive teachings in Catholicism about homosexuality.

However, DeBernardo said that among the more grassroots leadership -- pastors, theologians and religious school principals - there is a "great acceptance of gays and lesbians."

"I think in many areas Catholic people are following their consciences where they verge from the church. They have come to these decisions based on careful reflection and on their faith and what the most important values in their faith are," he said.

In 1997 the group began collecting names of "gay-friendly" parishes and had 20, he said. Today the list has 200 parishes.

On Thursday the group is calling a press conference in Washington, where prominent gay and lesbian Catholics will speak about what they'd like to tell the pope if they could about their families. Among them are Maryland state Del. Heather Mizeur (20th District) and award-winning childrens' novel writer Gregory Maguire.

By Michelle Boorstein |  April 8, 2008; 9:35 AM ET
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In the past, Pope Benedict XVI has stated that homosexuality is considered a handicap, and Christians are to deal with them as Philip did with the eunich. Having to deal with handicapped persons can be burdensome. Not many people choose to work in nursing homes, rehab centers, etc. It is difficult to be surrounded by persons who are handicapped, but then, who among us does not have a handicap of some kind? In reviewing Hitler's "solution", we all need to make inner scrutiny, while admitting to imperfection. Adoptions must be made with the best interest of the child, not the desire of the imperfect adults. I believe eunichs closer to perfection then persons who have no control over sexual desire, and who try to dominate, which is not "love".

Posted by: A Barnas | April 8, 2008 10:51 AM

Hi Barnas,
Homosexuality, and other biological differences, like blue eyes, are not necessarily handicaps.
Ignorance and narrow mindedness . . . now THOSE are handicaps!

Posted by: Lu Franklin | April 8, 2008 12:42 PM

"Ignorance and narrow mindedness...now THOSE are handicaps!" - well worded Lu! Cheers to those who challenge ignorance and narrow mindedness in their own lives, as well as when they find it around them!

Posted by: Jenna | April 8, 2008 2:22 PM

It should not be surprising that Pope Benedict XVI would not support equal rights for gay and lesbian people. But it is unconscionable that he has not condemned violence against LGTB people--in fact, in 1987 as Cardinal Ratzinger, he implicitly gave cover to those who would commit violence against gay people.

Posted by: Tom Yates | April 9, 2008 5:36 AM

For Tom Yates:

Tom, you wrote: ".... in fact, in 1987, as Cardinal Ratzinger, he implicitly gave cover to those who would commit violence against gay people."

Really? I hadn't known this. Can you please provide examples that would support this "fact" (as you labeled your erroneous assertion).

I don't think you will because you can't.

Posted by: Dave | April 9, 2008 7:53 AM

Tom Y,

Can you back up your charge with a citation, one other than "I heard that..."?

Same sex attraction is not biological, it's the result of trauma in early childhood. As someone's who's has same-sex attraction I know that to be true. Most of the men with same-sex attraction who I've known also know this to be true, but the public line that we give the straight world is always this line of BS about how it's natural and biologically ordained.

I know that most in this very secular world don't understand the Church's teaching on sexuality, but perhaps a starting place would be to look around you at all the unplanned pregnancies, all the divorces and the kids who grow up with only one parent, all the lonely people who've been hurt by being involved with another too fast and too close, and ask yourself, is this way we're supposed to be?

Often, what the Church teaches gets presented to us as a series of "Thou shall not..." statements. But there a reason why the Church teaches what she does, and that is because it's what's good for us. Junk food tastes good for a short while, and there's a human weakness for it. The same is true in matters of love. We have a natural appetite for love and connection, but it tends to get out of control. Everyone, even the most secular knows this is true. The Church teaches us to have, through the grace of God, self control over our natures.

I found the modern lifestyle, and in particular, the gay subculture of it, to be an endless search for something that never comes true. I know a lot of straight friends who found the same result in their own lives of easy sex with the other gender too. I also found that my whole life is calmer, more productive and balanced under the Church's teachings. There's a deeper kind of love, one separated from sexual attraction, that can bind us together, and that is the love of each other in the body of Christ.

And when I don't manage to live the way that I want to, there's always the forgiveness of God found in confession.

God bless.

Posted by: MarkF | April 9, 2008 8:11 AM

Ratzinger as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (formerly known as the Holy Office, the historical Inquisition) wrote in October 1986 (although I don't think that it was published here until October 1987) in LETTER TO THE BISHOPS OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH ON THE PASTORAL CARE OF HOMOSEXUAL PERSONS: "...when homosexual activity is consequently condoned, or when civil legislation is introduced to protect behavior..., neither the Church nor society at large should be surprised when other distorted notions and practices gain ground, and irrational and violent reactions increase." Sounds like an excuse for gay-bashers, at least to me.

see http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_19861001_homosexual-persons_en.html for full text.

Posted by: Tom Yates | April 9, 2008 5:02 PM

Tom, did you read the whole document? This is a part of the very same document you mentioned above:

10. It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church's pastors wherever it occurs. It reveals a kind of disregard for others which endangers the most fundamental principles of a healthy society. The intrinsic dignity of each person must always be respected in word, in action and in law.

see http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_19861001_homosexual-persons_en.html for full text.

Posted by: Bento | April 10, 2008 12:04 AM

I did read it "Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church's pastors wherever it occurs." So where is this condemnation? The only condemnation I've heard from "the Church's pastors" is against same-gender marriage, against adoption by gay people, and in general against any civil laws guaranteeing equal rights and protections for gay and lesbian people.

Posted by: Tom Yates | April 10, 2008 5:30 AM

I have experienced great isolation from people as a christian lesbian. I plead to all not to judge nor discriminate others cos it is biological and not by choice

Posted by: Juliette Mahlangu | April 23, 2008 2:03 PM

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