Homosexuality within the church is a controversial matter that is threatening to break apart the over 20-century-old institution of the church. This paper sets out to demonstrate that, Homosexuality within the church and the society is a controversial matter that is yet to be resolved. With particular emphasis with the teachings of the Catholic tradition on Homosexuality, the paper seeks to analyze how Homosexuality has for the entire history of the Catholic tradition threatened to divide the church.
The paper also will take a view of Homosexuality in today’s society in a bid to compare and contrast how modern society views on Homosexuality differ from the teachings of the church and the reasons behind the church’s rather conservative approach to the Homosexuality issue. The Catholic church was founded around 2nd century at a time when church and state were inseparable and the church yielded much influence over state affairs and governance.
With particular reference to Roman empire, the Catholic church in Rome came to be so powerful that church law determined state’s laws and the papacy was responsible for the running of not only the church affairs, but also of the state affairs. So much was the influence of the Catholic Church leadership on state governance that, church leaders were powerful and revered because they could exert political and religious authority.
The issue of Homosexuality within the Catholic Church is not new and as early as the 5th century, there is evidence to the fact that, the issue had come up often in church doctrine and it had been discussed at the highest level of the church. Homosexuality according to the Catholic tradition is evil and not permissible. Indeed, the Catholic tradition holds that those who engage in Homosexuality should be excommunicated from the church, a punishment that is not revertible and rarely does the church leadership give audience to those viewed to be disobedient to the Catholic stance on Homosexuality.
According to Catholic tradition, a union between a man and a man or between a woman and a woman is seen and therefore, it is contravention to the church teachings. As a result of the position the church has maintained for centuries, the issue of Homosexuality in the church continues to elicit emotional debates and is currently one of the most controversial issues in the Catholic Church especially the Catholic Church in USA.
Rather than amend the existing church doctrine, to reflect modern society, and particularly the newfound freedom amongst the youth in America, the church continues to make key amendments to its dogmatic teachings, which continue to depict the church as old-fashioned, insensitive and non-responsive to modernity. The number of youth attending church in the USA has been found to have declined by upto 30% in the past few decades.
This is reflected by the fact that, there are fewer Americans willing to take up leadership positions in the church causing a major shortage of father, nuns, etc. in the church. Although Homosexuality as an issue is not solely to blame for the current standoff, it is evidently a contributing factor to the leadership crisis the church is facing and the inability of the church to attract young people to participate in church leadership.
Their lax evidence and substantial research in the causes of the church’s conservative position, which inspite of being challenged by scholars in the church and the faithfuls has remained perpetually undeterred and continues to maintain the hard position it has taken for the past centuries. In sharp contrast to the position taken by the clergy, there is growing evidence that a gay culture is slowly gaining root amongst the clergy something, which is proving to be magnanimous and one of the latest scandal in the Catholic church .
This has had an impact on values that the church has continued to teach including family values that the church bases as its key argument against ratification of Homosexuality within the church. Although it is hard to say for sure how many Catholic clergy are involved in Homosexuality, going by the number of those who come out in the open and defiantly state their support of Homosexuality, it is clear that there are significant numbers of clergy engaging in Homosexual practices, promoting Homosexuality as well as openly or silently advocating for Homosexuality .
This has left the church leadership in a dilemma as it has become very difficult for a common ground to be struck between proponents and opponents of Homosexuality in the church. What started as deliberations to examine how the church could respond to Homosexuality and its growing influence in the face of organized homosexual groups, which started getting rights to marriage as well as other rights, guarding from discrimination has put the Catholic church especially in the USA at crossroads.
As a result of the raging debate, the media sought to focus attention on the issue of Homosexuality and how the church was responding to it leading to numerous reports accusing cardinals in the USA of engaging in Homosexuality. This has further been complicated by the fact that whenever Homosexuality debate has come up, the issue of pedophilia has come up . This has further complicated the Homosexual debate in that it gives the Homosexual debate a negative image in the public given that pedophilia is a sensitive issue equitable to crime.
Homosexuality in the Catholic Church is so complex that, the independence given to cardinals has made it virtually impossible even for victims of Homosexuality perpetrated by the clergy to successfully wage complaints. For instance, clergy collaborate with their superiors to perpetrate Homosexual behaviour to young boys and instead of such clergy being punished when the matter comes out in the open, it is often the victims and their families who suffer most. Indeed, in many cases, members of the church are more likely to quit church because the only way out is to avoid confrontation with the church.
This has further been complicated by the fact that, the church has been rather unwilling to acknowledge that Homosexuality is a problem within the church something which means that whenever such accusations are raised against the church leadership, the church is less willing or not devoted to dealing with the problem of Homosexuality. In most cases, the ‘offenders’ receive light punishments such as transfer and rarely has any meaningful punishment been referred against clergy by the church.
This indifference from the church leadership has continued to taint the church’s image especially considering that there is a general lack of understanding and appreciation of Homosexuality amongst church faithfuls. That the Catholic Church traditionally believes Homosexuality is a sin, is evidenced by the constant pleas and calls for repentance the church sends out to self-confessed Homosexuals. Indeed, there is a clear difference between Homosexuality as practiced in the church and Homosexuality as practiced in the society.
The matter is further complicated by the fact that, traditional Catholic beliefs do not allow members of clergy to marry or engage in sexual intercourse leave alone Homosexuality. Therefore, Homosexuality in the church circles is viewed as clerical abuse and is treated as such. There is enough evidence towards the fact that, the church is willing to fight on and totally ban Homosexuality in the church and especially within the clergy. However, the church is faced with a dilemma in that, it does not support the concept of Homosexuality.
As such, the church leadership is in a state of denial, which seeks to present the church as devoid of Homosexuality but at the same time, wants to fight incidences of Homosexuality if and when reported. Although in some cases those accused of Homosexuality have been forced to resign, such calls come from the faithful and tend to be grounded on threats of charges and not as a contradiction of traditional teachings or church dogma considering that the church is reluctant to acknowledge that even within its clergy the problem of Homosexuality is rife.
Outside the US, resistance to Homosexuality in the church is higher compared to US where in some cases, some archdioceses have the leeway to choose whether to work with Homosexuals or not. This is bringing a new dimension into the Homosexuality debate in regard to celibacy and a call for further scholarly interpretation of celibacy as understood in the Catholic Church . It is not surprising that the issue of Homosexuality in the church has never been comprehensively dealt with despite the fact that, Homosexuality in the church has been practiced since the 1970s upto present and evidently with the knowledge of the church leadership .
Another dimension that the Homosexuality debate has taken in the church is questioning of how effectively Homosexual clergy are capable of guiding the faithful. The fact that Homosexuality is still considered by many Catholics as sin and violation of their traditional beliefs brings a dilemma to the clergy who are Homosexuals and is a common cause of conflicts. This has led many to question the ability of those who violate church teachings to lead the faithfuls who hold different points of view on Homosexuality.
Indeed, this has brought about an ethical dimension to the Homosexuality debate in the church. While the proponents of Homosexuality call for relaxation of traditional teachings on celibacy, opponents of Homosexuality call for chastity and upholding of traditional teachings on sexuality as handed down by generations . Evidently, Homosexuality in the church has started to take a new dimension, that of civil liberties and civil rights.
In this regard, there are those who want to bring the human rights issue into the Homosexuality debate and look at the church’s stance on Homosexuality as a violation of civil liberties and civil rights. This dimension has been criticized due to the fact that, the church is an independent institution whose doctrine is out of state control and therefore, compelling the church to accept Homosexuality as an attempt to guarantee civil liberties and civil rights, has in the past failed to yield into results.
Therefore, while some liberals view Homosexuality as an orientation and something to be left to the choice of an individual, others view the church and indeed the Christian faith as dominant when it comes to individual choices and therefore, this implies that once one accepts membership into the church, individualism is less important and collectivity is emphasized.
If what is happening in other denominations such as Evangelicals and Anglicans is anything to go by, Homosexuality in the church will continue to be a contentious issue and the solution lies in the granting of independence to churches to make individual decisions on how to conduct the Homosexuality debate. Indeed, nothing has in the recent history of the church been so hard to strike a common position on, as has been with the case of Homosexuality.
Efforts by the church to transform Homosexuals through methods such as therapy in form of Bible teachings, have failed and that too has been considered as interference in civil liberties and civil rights of individuals. Therefore, asking homosexuals to change their sexual orientation has greatly failed and it seems that the homosexuals are gaining ground in the church and are swelling in numbers.
If current estimates of homosexuals in the church today are anything to go by, the Catholic Church may find it difficult to contain the ‘homosexual movement’ and it is the high time that a multidimensional approach to the Homosexual debate is adapted with an aim of bringing together conservatives and liberals to strike a common ground. Even the involvement of scriptural interpretation has failed to yield into meaningful results as different groups have interpreted the issue differently.
Therefore, the Biblical standpoint has ceased to be what guides the debate on Homosexuality and the church and evidently civil rights and civil liberties dimension together with emotive dimension is what is taking prominence in the debate about Homosexuality in the church. In conclusion, the view of Homosexuality in the contemporary society is as controversial as it is the case in the church.
However, since the moral standards in the contemporary society compared to the moral standards set by the church are significantly different, homosexuals have received insignificant resistance in the civil society than has been the case in the church. That modernity has influenced the way modern society has welcomed Homosexuality is for sure but the teachings of the church have failed to incorporate the views of the same society that it purports to serve.
This has resulted into a conflict that persists between the church and the modern society something, which will be resolved when the church will amend its teachings to reflect the modern society standpoint. There is a need for more scholarly studies geared towards establishing a common ground between opponents and proponents of Homosexuality with a view of diffusing the standoff between those who support a more tolerant church position on Homosexuality and those who are opposed to a more inclusive position on Homosexuality in connection to the church.
There is a need for the Catholic Church to review its training programs for clergies in a bid to deal with the problem of clergy engaging in abusive behaviour that has resulted into conflict of interest and lack of harmony in the church. It is no doubt that, the society expects the church to be a model in as far as moral standards are concerned, and therefore, when clergy are accused of engaging in Homosexuality, which is in the first place against the official position of the church, doubts arise about the church’s teachings on Homosexuality.
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