There’s no doubt that the Bible takes a dim view of homosexual acts. The Book of Leviticus lays it on the line:
Also, there’s no doubt that when it comes to deciding what represents truth, the Bible is the last word for most Christians. This is what lies at the heart of the concern expressed by various Christian figures over recognition of same sex couples.Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.
There are a number of points to be made here:
(a) It would be unreasonable to expect Christians to ignore a part of the Bible and turn a millennia-old tenet of their beliefs on its head. So no-one should expect the Roman Catholic Church to suddenly do a volte-face and declare that homosexual acts are actually fine. Also, the RC Church is by no means the most homophobic of the Christian Churches.
(b) Nevertheless, what the Bible urges is that each person should abstain from these acts – nothing more than that. In their opposition to gayness, Roman Catholicism goes well beyond this position.
(c) Up until 1986, the position of the Vatican was that homosexual acts were "intrinsically disordered". However, in October of that year, the then Cardinal Ratzinger (now the retired Benedict XVI Emeritus) - in his role as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith - went much further. In his Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, Ratzinger declared that "Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder."
(d) So there you have it. Everyone is supposdly born with original sin, we're told: but gay people get an extra moral ball and chain, an "objective disorder" which inclines them strongly towards "intrinsic moral evil". Wow. Why God in his Infinite Wisdom would afflict some people with this (and not most people) is something that Ratzinger didn't explain - a curious omission for a chap who loves his theology.
(e) The Christian Scriptures condemn homosexual acts but they condemn other acts too; acts about which Christian leaders tend not to be so concerned. The following table lists some of these.
Eating shellfish (Leviticus 11:10)
Eating pork (Leviticus 11:8)
Having one’s hair cut (Leviticus 19:27)
People with physical/visual impairments going to church (Leviticus 21:16-23)
Planting two different crops in the same field (Leviticus 19:19)
Wearing clothes made of different types of material (Leviticus 19:19)
Eating meat (Genesis 1:29)
The list is by no means exhaustive but it’s sufficient to illustrate that if Christian leaders were to be consistent in seeking to condemn in such strong terms everything else that the Bible prohibits, it would impact greatly on the values and behaviours of modern society. It might even impact on their own behaviour.
As more and more countries recognise gay relationships, what is being recognised is simply the relationship – the love between two men or two women. Is this love really wrong? Would those who oppose the gayness prefer it if a gay couple didn’t love each other? Is it possible that in their view of Christian ethics, it’s better that two gay people hate each other?
Surely it wouldn't it be such an about-turn for Catholicism to recognise that love between two people is always a good thing even if they’re the same gender – and not an “intrinsical moral evil” as the Vatican would have us believe? Surely such an attitude would be closer to the ideals of Christianity than the blanket condemnation that the gay community currently faces.
It's time for the Vatican to disavow Ratzinger's letter of 1986. There is nothing in the Bible that condemns love between two men or two women. Indeed, there is every reason why such a love should be celebrated. That could be framed in provisos that what is being celebrated is the love itself whilst not implying any blanket acceptance of whatever they get up to in the bedroom. That's not rowing back on core teachings - it's rowing back on the legacy of a Pontiff who, whilst being undoubtedly sincere in his intentions, has been a highly polarising and divisive leader.
1. Pope’s views against gays are long and detailed
2. Church’s teaching on homosexuality needs re-evaluation. Association of Catholic Priests