Homosexuality, Scripture & tradition

Posted by Censor Librorum on Aug 22, 2007 | Categories: Lesbian in a Catholic Sort of Way

In the June 15 issue of Commonweal Luke Timothy Johnson and Eve Tushnet exchanged views on “Homosexuality & The Church.” Both provided intelligent, challenging examination of a difficult issue. This respectful discussion is what we so badly need and so rarely experience. Neither viewpoint can or should be easily dismissed by Catholics liberal or conservative. But then, Commonweal will appeal to people who value intellectual discernment over simple dogmatism.

The letters this article sparked were just as thoughtful. I plan to publish three of them today and the other three in my next blog.

“I am a gay, cradle Catholic who has tried to reconcile the church’s teachings on homosexuality with the way God made me. My homosexuality is intrinsic to me; it is there whether expressed sexually or not.”

“As both the Johnson and Tushnet articles show, responding to homosexuality in ourselves and others is a spiritual process. My spiritual journey has been powered by a life-long attempt to reconcile the irreconcilable. The church’s labeling of me as host to an “intrinsic moral disorder,” as someone who must live by the rule “thou shalt not have sex,” is inadequate guidance in discerning what love of God and love of others demand of me under the circumstances. The church’s teachings and scriptural exegesis on this topic seem to me to be singularly deficient in love. They may be spun with the “tongues of men and angels” but they strike my ear as “resounding gongs and clanking cymbals.” – Lory Manning of Arlington, VA

“Eve Tushnet correctly reminds us that Catholic moral teaching deserves great consideration. Like Luke Timothy Johnson, she examines experience concluding, “But our human experience, including our erotic experience, cannot be a replacement for the divine revelation preserved by the church.” We respect this, and we are further moved by Tushnet’s newfound love of the church, but we find Johnson’s analysis more compelling.”

“In our own consideration of the church’s stance, we found the teaching on homosexuality wrongheaded long ago. As with Johnson, however, none of our considerations has affected ur consciences and minds the way the lives of our homosexual family members have. We will not “love the sinner and hate the sin” the way some have suggested. To the best of our abilities, we will love each family member unconditionally.”

“If not for our loved ones, we might have thought we should, as Tushnet says, “accept the sacrifices of Catholic life” and try not to “wiggle” out of them. We are convinced the church has been not only wrong, but sinful. The U.S. bishops’ letter on ministering to homosexuals is a case in point. Wrapped in a gossamer of platitudes, it is a teaching that gives support to the injury, or even death, of homosexuals. In our long and painful grappling with church teaching on homosexuality, we have expressed much of what Johnson wrote. But he summarizes the case against any religious condemnation of homosexuality based upon Scripture or tradition better than anything we have ever heard or read elsewhere. We especially appreciate his case for judging homosexuals according to the same standards we apply to heterosexual morality.” – John & Judith Neff of Knoxville, Tenn.

“I find Luke Timothy Johnson’s thoughts on the scriptural basis of church homophobia particularly illuminating and useful. One does not have to be a biblical scholar to recognize the vilification of the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender community is just the latest example of Bible-based appeals to fear, ignorance, and bigotry; just ask the Jews, heretics, “heathens,” Muslims, “witches,” slaves, blacks or mixed-race couples persecuted over the years in the name of Christianity. This sordid history should give any thinking Christian pause before adding one more group to be scorned.”

“While I agree with Johnson that the scriptural issue has to be addressed, I believe that it is really about sex. Tushnet hits the nail on the head when she says, “any discussion of homosexuality taps into deep-seated fears about what it means to be a man, and whether differences between men and women are created by the culture to keep women subordinate.” One might reasonably ask if this could help explain the celibate Catholic hierarchy’s preoccupation with homosexuality and the other aspects of human sexuality, to the detriment of its leadership on other moral issues such as war and poverty.”

“One more observation: It seems to me that Johnson’s approach should apply in spades to the issue of birth control. Surely the overwhelming acceptance of contraception by both Catholics and Protestants has made clear that people do not find the church’s teaching in this area to be credible. Couldn’t a similar case be made that this voice of human experience also dictates a change?” – Joseph Spampinato of Wayne, PA


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