Friday, February 5, 2016
Jorge Costadoat, SJ: "The Pope will have to say something about the homosexuality issue"
February 1, 2016
The homosexuality issue is new in Latin America. It's about one decade old, two at the most. But the reality is ancient, maybe as much, maybe not, as its censure. Religious censure has been cruel with respect to it. So Pope Francis' mere phrase, "Who am I to judge gays?", has been liberating.
Certainly, raising the subject has been uncomfortable for the older generation in some countries. In other parts of the world there is concern too. In some Protestant churches, it has been accepted that ministers of religion have a gay partner. But in others, there have been furious reactions to this, and against the possibility of legalizing homosexual unions and marriages.
In the Catholic camp, the same tensions are being experienced. Churches in the developed countries expected that some type of recognition would be given to homosexual couples at the Synod on the Family. But the churches of Africa, it is said, would not hear of it. The final text appears to reflect the latter position. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, meanwhile, slams the brakes on this possibility. It doesn't view homosexuality as a perversion, but treats it as an "objectively disordered" inclination (Catechism, 2357). Homosexual people should live out their condition with religious resignation.
However, the openness-oriented Catholics believe they see something like a crack in the wall in the Synod document. The Synod calls for respect for the dignity of homosexual persons. But, moreover, it demands that "specific attention [be] given to guiding families with homosexual members." (76). Who? Homosexual sons and daughters? We think so, obviously. It isn't obvious, however, but neither does the text exclude it, that the indication would apply to potential gay parents.
Was this careless or deliberately ambiguous wording? Advanced moralists also note that the Synod didn't explicitely condemn "homosexual acts", as the Catechism does strongly. Finally, the Pope will have to say something about this issue, the most important one for the Church in the USA and for many European ones. During 2016, an apostolic exhortation should come out in which Francis will give a final word of guidance on these matters of family, marriage and sexual morality.
We have before our eyes a rare situation. Here is a question that was closed to discussion, that the Pope then opened, but that Francis himself will have to close shortly. The Church, enlightened by its faith, has the duty ahead of thinking about a human reality that, having been cruelly buried for generations, has emerged in our time with a struggle to open a space within a culture that has opposed it, as a demand for love and justice that deserves to be known thoroughly and allowed to open our hearts, change our attitudes, and refine our criteria to make this demand our own demand.
I'm allowing myself a theological reflection here, because we have to dismantle old unjust mistreatment that has a religious aspect. Theology, concerning the issue of homosexuality, has to offer arguments to update in the most humanizing way possible, the revelation of God that happened in Christ, the paradigm of Christian humanity (Gaudium et Spes 22). What does theology say about homosexual people themselves, independent of their acts? What are they? Did God conceive of them that way?
It becomes necessary, therefore, to relate the Magisterial arguments on revelation which have been developed over two thousand years, to contemporary scientific arguments, since in both types of argument, there are reasons and convictions that, to the extent they're correct, the Church should consider as coming from God Himself. The Church, because of believing in the Creator of humankind, is obliged to make science and the ethical convictions of the culture in which it fulfills its mission, its own when it can be seen that these achievements are making human life happier. If God doesn't want anything but the triumph of humanity over itself, it would be absurd for the Church to oppose His will.
The fact is that science has given important fruits. Today we are told that homosexuality is not a perversion. No one chooses to be homosexual. One becomes one for biological reasons (genetic load) and/or biographical reasons (personal history). Homosexuality is a pre-moral reality. One is free as to the way of living out one's homosexuality, but not as to whether or not to be so. Another important scientific result is that, as the World Health Organization has maintained (1990), it's not a disease either, but a variant of human sexuality. For the time being, medical efforts to cure it have been disastrous.
Said in harsh terms: if homosexuals are innocent of their condition, this is a "sin" of God. Said in soft terms: God is responsible for human sexuality in all its versions, and if we have a hard time understanding how, we must strive again to enter into the mystery of God's love. Homosexuality is a work of God. It is not a human creation. Homosexual people are creatures of God, of His love, and therefore the only thing that could frustrate its existence is not loving their neighbor as God loves them. The homosexual person is a "gift" from God for themselves, but also a "gift" for others, since it is inherent to the gift to be given and not be selfishly withheld from others.
So we end up with two questions: What should a homosexual person do to love themselves as God loves them? This is a whole program of life. It is -- and equally importantly-- for heterosexual people too. Second question: How can a homosexual person be a gift for others? This is the more difficult point theologically. One homosexual friend asks me, "How could God give homosexuals the condition, but deny them its practice?". The question is difficult because the Church itself knows and teaches that the only thing that really ruins people is selfishness and indifference to the suffering of one's neighbor.