By Virginia Saldanha
While there was widespread rejoicing over the reading down of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that decriminalized sexual acts between two consenting adults of any gender, there appeared a damper for Catholic LGBT persons.
A statement issued by the secretary to the Indian bishops’ office for justice, peace and development said that homosexual behavior is morally unacceptable because “it violates the purpose of human sexuality, which is procreation … This is the moral stand of the Catholic Church.” Ironically it went on to say that the Church “respects the dignity of homosexuals as persons and human rights flowing from human dignity and personhood, just as the church stands for the same for all without exclusion or discrimination.”
Is the right to express sexual love not a human right?
Here are some statements made by the Justices on the bench of the Supreme Court:
“Sexual orientation is innate to a human being. It is an important attribute of one’s personality and identity. Homosexuality and bisexuality are natural variants of human sexuality. LGBT persons have little or no choice over their sexual orientation.”
“Sexual orientation is one of the many biological phenomena which is natural and inherent in an individual and is controlled by neurological and biological factors. The science of sexuality has theorized that an individual exerts little or no control over who he/she gets attracted to. Any discrimination on the basis of one’s sexual orientation would entail a violation of the fundamental right of freedom of expression.”
“The choice of whom to partner, the ability to find fulfilment in sexual intimacies and the right not to be subjected to discriminatory behavior are intrinsic to the constitutional protection of sexual orientation.”
Every human person is created in the image and likeness of God (Gen.1:27). From there flows our human dignity and all human rights. Surely members of the LGBTI communities are also made in the image of God.
Thoreau poignantly points out “If I am not I, who will be?” LGBT persons are forced to live a life of confusion and find their balance in a normal that is imposed upon them.
In the context of all the research done into human sexuality, it is an utter injustice to all LGBTI persons when they continue to be denied the free expression of sexual love and intimacy. This brings pain to the parents as well who suffer tremendously from the moment they have an indication that their children may not fit into the gender binary set out by society.
The claim that homosexuality is a choice was debunked by the American Anthropological Association, the world’s largest organization studying culture, in their 2004 “Statement on Marriage and the Family.”
It said, “The results of more than a century of anthropological research on households, kinship relationships, and families, across cultures and through time, provide no support whatsoever for the view that either civilization or viable social orders depend upon marriage as an exclusively heterosexual institution. Rather, anthropological research supports the conclusion that a vast array of family types, including families built upon same sex partnerships can contribute to stable and humane societies. “The Association strongly opposed a US constitutional amendment limiting marriage to heterosexual couples.”
Cultural views about marriage have changed. Marriage formerly prohibited between people of other faiths; other regions, communities and castes are now allowed. With the increase of knowledge and understanding of human behaviour, people have changed their views on various aspects of marriage.
Views on homosexuality are changing in society, why is the Church not willing to be a true “mother” and understand the reality of LGBTI persons. A soul stirring speech made by a couple at the Extraordinary Synod on the Family 2013, pointed out that sexual intimacy distinguishes the marriage relationship from other relationships. Can this intimacy be denied to LGBTI persons made in the image of God who is the embodiment of love? Hence God can be, to quote Jamie Manson, “as fully present in the relationships of same-sex couples as God can be in opposite-sex couples.”
From the earliest times, the Church has been uncomfortable with the issue of sex possibly through the influence of Greek Manichaeism. Pre Vatican II times advocated that the only goal of the sexual act was procreation, not an expression of human love. Notwithstanding the extensive scientific research into human sexuality and genetics, the Church’s view reinforces their stand on the illegitimacy of same sex relations and routinely reject efforts of Catholic theologians to introduce a more pastoral moral theology.
The gospels illustrate that the life in abundance and redemptive reality of which Jesus spoke is seen to be understood as embodied in every aspect of one’s human nature, therefore it needs to be seen in the area of gender and sexuality. Repression and persecution in these areas of life are therefore not in accordance with a gospel of abundance and liberation.
Will the Catholic Church have the courage to be inclusive like Jesus, and like Pope Francis say “who are we to judge” and allow homosexuals the opportunity to live their lives in freedom and truth?