Christians and homosexuality
Madam, - Fr Joseph O'Leary's warning about the "ideology of biblical fundamentalism" (August 22nd) is a prophetic call to all Christians, including our Catholic Church. While in recent times (only) it has begun to warn against the harassment and persecution of homosexual people, its official teaching still describes their condition as "intrinsically disordered", naturally inclined towards immoral acts that are selfish and depraved.
The church has no objective reason for this teaching except four texts of scripture understood literally, without any reference to the fact that any word of God can only come to us in human words, and these are always culturally conditioned. The bible decrees the death penalty for a disobedient son, and the stoning to death of a wife found not to be a virgin. It condemns intercourse during menstruation but permits behaviour that today we condemn as immoral: prostitution, polygamy, concubinage, sex with slaves and treating women as simply property of father or husband, without reference to their personal dignity.
Old Testament writers - and even St Paul - saw homosexuals simply as perverts (as indeed some of them were, just like many heterosexuals in their abuse of God's beautiful gift of sexuality). But they were totally ignorant that the homosexual condition is no more personally chosen by individuals than heterosexuality. Both are facts of nature, and in Christian theology God is the author of nature.
The question is: what is God's will in this area? Does the Church have a convincing answer? If it is so clear and convinced in its "teaching", why not answer the simple question: Why did God create so many millions of homosexual people? Nobody chooses to be homosexual. The Church has never even tried to explain, but it could be a little more humble in looking at the facts. It is a fact that at least 5 per cent and possibly 10 per cent of men throughout the world are homosexual, with a lower percentage for women.
There is a vast amount of knowledge now available on this subject from anthropology, sociology, psychology and sexuality, and we should remember the wise words of the Second Vatican Council: "By the very circumstances of their being created, all things are endowed with their own stability, truth, goodness, proper laws and order. We need to respect these. . .for earthly matters and the concerns of faith derive from the same God." (Church in the Modern World, n. 36).
Another fact is that human beings have a basic need to love and be loved. Nobody grows alone. People need people. We are what our relationships enable us to be. This is true of both homosexual and heterosexual people. These orientations are simply different ways of being human sexual persons, not two separate sexes. Both were created by God.
The moral obligation for all of us is responsibility - to be responsible in our loving and in our relationships, respecting each other in our human dignity, in our commitments (vows of marriage or religious life), in all the circumstances of our lives. Many gay and lesbian couples have 30 to 40 years' experience of committed love relationships which compare with the best of marriages; but this in no way threatens or lessens the special dignity of marriage. - Yours, etc,
Fr SEAN FAGAN SM, Lower Leeson Street, Dublin 2.
Madam, - Rev Joseph S. O'Leary writes in support of the liberal Anglican view on same-sex relations by claiming that "the poisoned ideology of biblical fundamentalism" contributes to homophobic violence and also that "a consistent scriptural hermeneutics cannot adopt liberal attitudes on women and illiberal ones on gays".
He conflates two distinct issues into one: violence against any group of human beings (homosexuals, Christians, young children, etc) and a consistently Christian theology of sexuality. It is simply un-Christian to keep silent about violence perpetrated against gay people, whether such violence occurs in Iran or any African country. Yet it is simply uncritical to assume this point alone ought to form a theology of sexuality.
The aim of scripture scholarship is not to project liberal or post-modern attitudes simpliciter on to to the text, but to uncover as best we can a consistently Christian theology and spirituality, a theology and spirituality which on some issues may be considered liberal and on some others conservative: truth does not necessarily subscribe to the politics of the Enlightenment era.
Such a hermeneutics reveals plenty of support for both gender equality (women are invariably the strongest characters in the Gospel narratives) and the view that at the heart of a consistent theology of sexuality are men and women totally committed to each other and open to giving the gift of life to a new generation. This latter view acknowledges the complementary nature of male-female relationships on the biological, emotional and psychological levels. It also acknowledges the right of every child to a father and mother.
Biblical fundamentalism can indeed legitimate violence against vulnerable human beings, but its post-modern version is equally capable of impoverishing an authentic understanding of sexuality. - Yours, etc,
TOM FINEGAN, Navan,Co Meath.