May your Christmas be Catholic and gay

The repeal of the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) provision for the U.S. armed forces was welcomed by a majority … Continued

The repeal of the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) provision for the U.S. armed forces was welcomed by a majority of the American public, and in this season of family Christmas celebrations, the change in social attitudes towards gays and lesbians will pose some important choices for America’s Catholics sitting around the holiday table.

If there are ten people in a home celebrating the birth of the Savior, chances are at least one gay or lesbian is participating in the festivities, since homosexuals account for about 10% of the population. In the past, families like mine excused homosexuality as long as it was hidden, our own form of DADT. Of course, there were always some who considered exclusion of gays and lesbians from the family home to be a virtuous practice of religion.

Exclusion was not limited to sexual orientation. The coldness was often shown to divorced Catholics or those married outside the Church. It was not just Catholics either. The Broadway piece, “Fiddler on the Roof” renders a Jewish milkman dickering with God about when to bend and when not to break with tradition. Many of today’s Muslims are undergoing similar conflicts with the old ways and the new demands.

But if families back then anguished over whether or not a ne’er do well nephew was invited to dinner because his relationship to his “girl-friend” was considered scandalous, the debate would have ended if the name of his partner was “Charles” and not “Charlene.”

Even so, Catholic teaching on homosexuality is not as far-right as for some Evangelical denominations. It is not the condition of “being gay” that is sinful in our faith: it is the practice of homosexual acts outside of marriage that is condemned (for heterosexuals too, but then they can marry in the Church). But while that distinction between “being” and “doing” separates Catholics from some, Church teaching does not allow us to join with other faiths that see no fault at all in homosexual activity.

We Catholics view our ethics through the prism of the natural law. The Vatican has classified homosexuality as “objective disorder” on the natural law premise that sex is supposed to be used for procreation; when it is not, states the Vatican, the disorder is “objective.” (This is shaky logic since obligatory celibacy would then also become an “objective disorder” since it does not allow sexuality to be used for procreation…but this is another long-debated issue in Catholic apologetics.)

Ironically, along with changing cultural views of homosexuality, science is now suggesting that there is a “gender orientation gene” that makes homosexuality the result of nature and not just a personal choice. Such an interpretation would reverse the theology of homosexuality today, much as Jesus reversed the belief that blindness was a punishment for sin (Jn. 9:1-3)

Most of Catholic America will not be entering into theological arguments about homosexuality or divorce this Christmas as we sit alongside family members. We will soon be aware of which relatives are happy and which are depressed. I remember my joy upon seeing that a family member finally abandoned an unhappy marriage and found someone new. This feeling is based on love for the person rather than intellectual reasoning about Church law. Sometimes, I think, we should not pose as judges over other peoples’ morality.

Many Catholics accept divorced and remarried relatives at a Catholic Christmas celebration, because “…at least they are happy again.” I can’t understand how this compassion would not be extended to gays and lesbians who “come out.” I see no virtue in using the Christmas dinner to denounce human happiness.

I am not arguing for repeal of Catholic teaching: but only for remembering the Christmas message. If the Baby Jesus was honored with the presence of rough shepherds, pagan Magi, dumb oxen and foul-smelling asses, surely we ought not refuse to put up with our relatives for a few hours – even if they happen to belong to another political ideology, religious leaning or sexual orientation. Instead of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” a Catholic Christmas rejoices to be loved by Love Himself.

About

Anthony M. Stevens-Arroyo Anthony M. Stevens-Arroyo is Professor Emeritus of Puerto Rican and Latino Studies at Brooklyn College and Distinguished Scholar of the City University of New York.
  • slowe111

    I don’t understand why any gay or lesbian would continue to be a Christian, catholic or not.

  • PolishBear1

    “COMING OUT FOR CHRISTMAS”I intend to drop a bombFirst I`ll get their full attention.Oh say can you see it nowThen they’ll say “We always guessed.Coming out to everyoneMake the choice! Damn consequence!(Words by Craig Sturgis, 1992)

  • FarnazMansouri2

    All of this hatred in the name of religions….Catholicism has a problem that neither Judaism nor Islam nor Hinduism has and that is the Vatican.Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, and Jewish Renewal ordain gay rabbis. The rabbi at the synagogue we occasionally attend is headed by a brilliant lesbian. Her congregation comprises a very diverse bunch–elderly, middle-aged, families with young children, mainly straight but with a significant gay presence. Most are of European origin, but occasional Mizrahis like us wander in. The rabbi is much loved because she is so learned. Traditional and modern Orthodox and Haredi have not caught up, but since they are making progress in other domains, one holds out hope for them.Some Protestant denominations have gained tremendous ground.Hindus and Muslims are struggling with the question, but they have no central authority to look to and this should help them as it has helped with the Protestants and Jews.I deeply hope that the Catholic powers that be reconsider their position. It creates so much pain and confusion, and, surely, that is not what Catholicism or any religion should be about.

  • thebump

    The author’s idiotic commentaries invariably are near occasions of sin, eliciting as they do the most uncharitable reactions. Here goes…One, the claim that as many one in ten people are primarily same-sex oriented is utterly preposterous, purely ideological cant.Two, the discovery of a “gene” would have no impact on the moral equation, which takes as a given that erotic impulses are essentially involuntary. Identifying a specific gene for same-sex attraction, however, would open up the possibility of a permanent cure for this abnormality. Of course then the author would have to move on to some other chic, politically correct obsession.

  • thatcatdavid

    The author is truely foolish and his comments are false. The Catechism of the Catholic Church doesn’t say that homosexuality is an “objectice disorder” it says that it is an “intrinsic disorder’. Jesus said that those who want to save their lives will lose it and people like the author feel that they cannot continue without being politically correct towards homosexuals. Homosexuals are anti-Christ, they are vampires and any one who sides with them is against God.

  • gladerunner

    Thatcatdavid:

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    ThebumpThere is nothing wrong with being gay, except for people like you, who don’t like gay people because they are gay. If you would go away, that would solve the problem just as easily as if gay people would go away.I believe that the latest from the Vatican is that gay people are “intrinsically disordered.”All of this is legalistic non-sense, purposefully designed to hop-scotch around the truth that there is nothing wrong with being gay and nothing wrong with gay people.To say that you have nothing against gay people, but only with the practice of homosexuality, is mean-spirited and hypocritial. This is a position of conscious and premediated insincerity, since the very nature and defining quality of the person whom you say you love is what you actually hate.Catholic legalistic game-playing is tiresome. The Pope may think he is fooling the people, but does he really think that God buys into all of this baloney?How dumb does he think God is?

  • feetxxxl1

    its interesting that the catholic church no where in their discussion of homosexuality do they bring up the godlove(love one another as i have loved you) of the 2nd commandment(love your neighbor as yourself), which both romans and galatians say is the summation of all…..all…..all new covenant law. in other words it is not church doctrine or belief system that is the summation of all new covenant law, but love.(anything without love is nothing or gains nothing 1cor13).being homosexual does not come against this love. the fullness of this love can be lived out in being homosexual in the the same way it can be lived out being heterosexual.

  • detroitblkmale30

    the author mistakenly distinguishes between catholic and many evangelicals in that being gay and practicing differentiate between sins. Many evangelicals hold that view as well. Which is why those who argue against such views are mistaken when they claim love is not being taken into account. It is quite possible for christians to love everyone, including homosexuals, they do not however have to love the behavior.I can love my “brother” without loving everything he does, especially those things which are sinful.

  • detroitblkmale30

    I don’t understand why any gay or lesbian would continue to be a Christian, catholic or not.

  • feetxxxl1

    its interesting that catholics no where in their discussion of homosexuality do they bring up the godlove(love one another as i have loved you) of the 2nd commandment(love your neighbor as yourself), which both romans and galatians say is the summation of all…..all…..all new covenant law. in other words it is not church doctrine or belief system that is the summation of all new covenant law, but love.(anything without love is nothing or gains nothing 1cor13).being homosexual does not come against this love. the fullness of this love can be lived out in being homosexual in the the same way it can be lived out being heterosexual.

  • detroitblkmale30

    feetxxxl1 : pasting it twice doesnt make it anymore true lol

  • feetxxxl1

    the point is that those who hold an interpretation that says that being homosexual is against god, cannot explain how being homosexual comes against the love of the 2nd and 3rd commandments.

  • detroitblkmale30

    feetxxxl1: of course we can. Homosexuality is against God. Anything that goes against his Holy Scriptures, is against him. His scriptures in both old and new testament call it a sin. Ergo, it is against him.Jesus upheld and taught the Mosaic laws as he said in Matthew 5:17. It doesnt get any more plain than that. Stop it with the all that matters is love perversion of Christianity.Yes love is a central theme in Christianity and God does require us to love him and each other, BUT and you consistently miss this point, he ALSO requires us to keep his commandments, not just TWO of them.

  • celtive

    The article & many of the commentaries critical to Catholic tradition I find amazingly immature/almost infantile. Sure, we must become as children in humility before the expansive goodness & love of God, but LOVE also means respect for TRUTH. I am an adult. I want a religious tradition that treats me like an adult & encourages a reflection of the struggle between love & reason.

  • MarkfromPA

    ThatCatDavid, you called people vampires and said that whoever sided with them is against God. I hope that you are not Catholic because your comments are surely not Catholic in any sense. Yeah, we get that you hate gays but “vampires”? Now, really. The Bump, I disagree with you. This is an excellent article.

  • beautiful-mind

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  • garoth

    Just a couple of notes. First, I thank the author for a fine article. He is more charitable than the church, which often not only rejects the “sin” but the “sinner.” Many RC bishops, in particular, continue to demonize gays, not just because of “gay” lifestyles, but because of their orientation. As to the blogger that declares the “one out of ten” to be bogus, that figure is an old one, but one that has held up rather well in studies over the years, which have generally held between six and ten percent of the population to be homosexual. The difference has to do with the nature of sexuality – it is not an “either/or,” but a continuum. Some define what constitutes being “gay” differently than others. The six percent figures generally define it as those who are interested only in same sex relations, and who have – or had – same-sex partners. The ten percent figure represents those who understand themselves to be oriented primarily or only toward those of the same sex.A note on the Pope’s sermon this Christmas – if he wished to be more like Jesus, perhaps he should include please for those who are not just Jewish or Christian. A plea for tolerance and love for all would be more in keeping with Jesus’ message, and not one directed more toward the protection of Christians alone. He singles out Iraqui and Palestinian Christians, but what about the many others who are subjected to discrimination because of their beliefs – including Muslims in our own country? I think Jesus would be interested in mentioning that they are also loved by God, and obje3cts of his concern. Again, thanks for your article. Would that the “Christmas spirit” were more present everywhere.

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