Look at the rainbow, and praise its Maker; it is exceedingly beautiful in its brightness
- Ecclesiasticus 43:11
A small group of youths from various parishes gathered at the Church of the Risen Christ in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia at 2.00 pm on Saturday, August 22, 2015 for a talk by Roman Catholic priest Reverend Father Clarence Devadass. Organised by the Alive Ministry, the talk was entitled “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and was aimed at discussing the issue of “same-sex marriage and LGBT.” The word “rainbow” was incorporated into the title of the talk as the image of the rainbow is universally acknowledged as the symbol of people of diverse same-sex attractions, gender non-conformities, relationship arrangements, and sexual identities and practices, chiefly lesbian, gay, bisexual, intersex, transgender and other queer or questioning (LGBTIQ) people.[i] Yet, many people look at the rainbow with suspicion and preconceived ideas of LGBTIQ people, including the hierarchy and laity of the Roman Catholic Church.[ii] Although Devadass’ talk was aimed at challenging these suspicions and preconceived ideas, and succeeded to a certain extent, I feel that there needs to be greater reflection on the relationship between LGBTIQ Catholics and the Church.
In what follows, I weave selections from Devadass’ talk with my own theological, spiritual and pastoral and “common-sensical” reflections. My responses investigate Devadass’ position on the matter of same-sex attractions and expression on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church, including same-sex marriages.[iii] I must insist that my responses bear no desire to attack or disrespect Devadass or the Church. Instead, my intention is to provide alternative ways of thinking theologically, spiritually, pastorally, and with common sense about people with same-sex attraction and those who participate in same-sex marriages.
Setting the Tone for the Talk
In his opening remarks, Devadass admitted that the talk dealt with an exciting and controversial topic. He recognised an increase in discussions on the issue of sexual orientation and same-sex marriages both inside and outside the Church. He cited the example of how huge numbers of people “rainbowed” their Facebook profile pictures by using the rainbow filter soon after the United States announced that same-sex marriages were lawful nationwide.[iv] For Devadass, this was clear evidence that many people joined the bandwagon in supporting same-sex marriages.
I agree that many people may have “rainbowed” their Facebook profile pictures because it was a way to hop on the bandwagon of the latest trend, and that Facebook could have benefitted from “the data for marketing purposes.”[v] In other words, I believe that the Facebook rainbow filter was designed for mixed reasons, and that people “rainbowed” their profile pictures with various intentions. Yet perhaps one of the reasons was to provide an avenue for people—both LGBTIQ people and supportive allies—“to show their support of the LGBTIQ … community on Facebook.”[vi] Devadass himself acknowledged that the new media has enabled us to talk more openly and willingly about issues of sexuality in public. In other words, the media has led communities to become more aware of individual rights, to speak up and speak out for those whose rights have been denied and whose voices have been silenced. Whatever the exact reasons may have been for its existence, the Facebook rainbow filter certainly provided many users with the means to show support for, and alliance and solidarity with LGBTIQ people everywhere just with a few clicks of the keyboard.
Devadass called for the talk to be a space of discussion and reflection that would be free from disrespect, judgement and condemnation for anyone. The talk was to be based on the principle of respectful acceptance for everyone’s personal views. As such, the afternoon provided an opportunity for the participants to have a better grasp of same-sex attractions and marriages. This, in turn, would assist the participants in having a better understanding of their faith in order to grow and become better disciples of Christ and members of the Church. Hence, Devadass stated that it was important to ask and know where the Church was heading with all these developments in same-sex attractions and marriages. I am gratified that the tone which Devadass set for the talk was one of respect, acceptance and a genuine quest to understand LGBTIQ people within and outside the Church. For me, it meant that while people may not necessarily agree on an issue, they can still continue to show regard for one another, and continue talking with each other in order to understand each other better.
Same-Sex Attraction in Ancient Greece
Devadass accurately pointed out that same-sex expressions was not something new, as it had already existed in ancient Greece, and was also mentioned in the bible. He noted that the apostle Paul does not use term “homosexuality” in his letters, but instead inferred to same-sex love. Devadass rejected a perception among many that Paul was homophobic or biased against people with same-sex attraction. Instead, Devadass pointed out that Paul was talking about a certain situation in Paul’s time, in which it was not uncommon for boys or young men to be kept for the purpose of prostitution. Men used young men or boys for sexual indulgence, even if men were officially married to women.[vii]
What Devadass was referring to is pederasty, which describes “the practice in ancient Greece … of adult men forming relationships with adolescent boys [and] believed by many Greeks to be a beneficial, even character-building practice.”[viii] These ancient people believed that such relationships were crucial in helping boys mature into men. Pederasty was seen as spiritual and intellectual mentorship, and often involved sexual relations between the men and the boys. Therefore, I disagree with Devadass that such practices were purely meant for reasons of prostitution and promiscuity.
In discussing pederasty, we need to understand that the mentorship and sexual bondings of pederasty cannot be simplistically equated with contemporary LGBTIQ identities or expressions, including same-sex marriages. To do so would be to commit an injustice to both the self-understandings of the ancient Greeks and LGBTIQ people in today’s world. There may be similarities in terms of same-sex physical activity, but it would be incorrect to claim that pederasty and contemporary LGBTIQ identities and expressions are exactly the same. Instead, I suggest that pederasty serves as an indication that same-sex attractions and bondings are not something that have emerged in recent times, the “side-effect” of an increasingly globalised world, the “product of Western influence,” or a person’s rejection of God in favour of inordinate sexual pleasures. Instead, same-sex attractions and bondings appear to be commonplace features of human existence throughout the history of humankind. Nevertheless, in the twenty-first century, same-sex attraction has taken on new and diverse forms and expressions in every part of the world.
The Roman Catholic Stand on Same-Sex Attractions and Expressions
Continuing his talk on same-sex attractions, Devadass spoke of a contemporary world where the lines of morality are blurred. Situations are no longer easily identified as black or white, but grey. He drew the attention of the participants to the Church’s official stand in the Catechism of the Catholic Church that homosexual acts or same-sex expressions—which I understand as inclusive of same-sex marriages—are immoral. I have difficulty in accepting these statements. First, Devadass understands same-sex expressions as morally apprehensible. I do not see same-sex expressions as matter of morality in themselves. Instead, I believe that the measure of morality lies in the reasons behind same-sex expressions. A situation in which a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender person marries or engages in sexual activity with someone of the same sex out of love or other mutually-agreed conditions is very different from another situation in which the intention is based on revenge, jealousy, violence, manipulation or selfishness. Therefore, I reiterate my conviction that the lines of morality are not determined by same-sex expressions per se, but by the intention with which people engage in same-sex expressions.
Devadass shared the Church’s teaching that human sexuality is not a bad thing, and should not be cursed or denied. Human sexuality goes beyond physical appearance and sexual orientation, as it defines the way people think and are. God created people with their sexualities, and everything God created is good. I applaud and wholeheartedly agree with Devadass’ understanding of human sexuality as divinely created. Christian ethicist James B. Nelson sees human sexuality as a divine gift through which people “come together with each other and with God in relationships of intimacy, and celebration, of faithfulness and tenderness, of love and justice.”[ix] When people become more aware of their sexuality, they also become more aware of who they are in relation to themselves, others, and God. This is because human sexuality is the deepest part of a person which provides him or her with the capacity to connect with himself or herself, with those around him or her, and with God. Rather than being something that needs to be feared and held in suspicion, human sexuality is something that should be explored, befriended and celebrated in constructive and life-giving ways.
Nevertheless, Devadass reiterated the Church’s teaching in the Catechism that the purpose of sexual desire within human sexuality is to draw man and woman together in the bond of marriage as the ultimate goal. Therefore, sexual desire in human sexuality has two inseparable ends, which are the expression of marital love between man and woman, and the procreation and education of children.[x] The Church’s teaching is generally based on this life-giving love that God intended from the very beginning.
Here, I disagree with Devadass—and by extension, the stand of the Church on this particular interpretation of human sexuality—on two counts. First, I cannot accept the proposition that the ultimate purpose of sexual desire in human sexuality is for the purpose of a heterosexual marriage because I do not believe that all people—LGBTIQ or otherwise—are called to marriage. The real lived experiences of people show that while some may have the vocation to marry, many are coerced into marriages because of socio-cultural expectations while others prefer to remain single. Hence, I cannot believe that sexual desire in human sexuality is ordered exclusively to marital unions. Instead, I believe that sexual desire in human sexuality can be expressed in other ways that may not involve marriage, but are free from self-harm or harm to others, and based on care, support, respect, equality and mutual understanding.[xi]
Second, I disagree that sexual desire in human sexuality is limited only to love between men and women, and ordered towards procreation. John Paul II declares that “sexuality, which enriches the whole person, ‘manifests its inmost meaning in leading the person to the gift of self in love.’”[xii] He also states that “human sexuality and procreation reach their true and full significance” when “the meaning of life is found in giving and receiving love.”[xiii] Although John Paul II speaks from a perspective that supports opposite-sex marriages and the generation of children, it is evident that the basis of human sexuality for him is love. I find myself unable to accept the idea that love can only exist in heterosexual forms, or is legitimised only when it occurs within the context of marriage and offspring. To limit love within human sexuality to heteronormative contracts is to declare that God’s gift of love exists only among non-LGBTIQ people. For me, this perspective is illogical, because it is to say that God’s gift of love is only meant for straight people. Furthermore, to limit love within human sexuality to the production of children within marriage is to declare that God’s gift of love is limited only to LGBTIQ (and non-LGBTIQ) people who want to get married and have children. For me, this is another mark of discrimination and even sexual hierarchy and classicism. LGBTIQ (and non-LGBTIQ) people are able to demonstrate life-giving love in their own particular ways with or without marriage and children. The Catechism teaches that the marriage of childless couples “can radiate a fruitfulness of charity, of hospitality, and of sacrifice.” Based on this insight, I firmly belief that the love that both LGBTIQ and non-LGBTIQ people are capable of radiating this fruitfulness, according to their personal vocations to be married, unmarried, have children, not have children, are unable to have children, or whichever combination they have decided upon according to their way of life.
Devadass then repeated the Church’s stand that it can never approve of same-sex marriages, as unions between people of the same sex change and redefine the laws and structures of marriage. Devadass also mentioned less-than-ideal situation in which same-sex couples adopt children. He gave the opinion that children need both father and mother, or the complementarity of sexes in parents when they are growing up.
I find these arguments very weak. Devadass’ statement that same-sex marriages will redefine the structure of marriage presumes that societies around the world have always had a single, uniform and unchanging understanding and practice of marriage. This is certainly not the case, as marriages throughout the course of history have occurred and been lived out for various reasons that have often little or nothing to do with mutual consent or love. The idea of marrying freely for love is a relatively modern concept.[xiv] Even in the Church, the evidence of marriage as a sacrament in the Church can only be traced back to the twelfth century.[xv] Furthermore, common sense will tell us that no two couples in the world have the exact understanding, purpose and practice of marriage. Marriage has been redefined both in and outside the Church, and continues to be redefined right to this day. I do not see same-sex marriage as redefining the laws and structures of marriage. Instead, I see same-sex marriages as contributing to an evolving and expanding understanding of what marriage means for people in the particularities of their own lives.
I find it impossible to see how Devadass’ claim that children need both biological fathers and mothers for holistic growth can be based on any rational basis. I have friends who raise children as single parents, and as gay and lesbian couples, and they have no more challenges than their two-parent and heterosexual counterparts. Research has also shown that children with same-sex parents do not display any harmful psychological developments.[xvi] What fosters healthy growth in children are parents who provide a secure and loving environment at home, rather than the automatic presence of opposite-sex parents. Both same-sex and opposite-sex parents are capable of creating healthy (and unhealthy) households—it is the quality of rearing children, not the sex of the parents, that promotes healthy growth among children.
Devadass also spoke of the Church’s distinction between homosexual inclinations and homosexual acts. Thus, homosexual inclinations are not immoral per se, in contrast with homosexual acts. I have always found the Church’s distinction between homosexual inclinations and homosexual acts to be puzzling. I am confused by the Church’s definition of homosexuality in the Catechism as “relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex.”[xvii] Here, homosexual inclination is already defined by homosexual acts. Furthermore, I see little difference between homosexual inclinations as “objectively disordered”[xviii] and homosexual acts as “intrinsically disordered”[xix] and “of grave depravity.”[xx] For me, all these pronouncements are equally dismissive and condemnatory of LGBTIQ people—both in their inclinations and in their expressions. I am further confused by the idea that it is possible to realistically separate homosexual inclinations from homosexual acts.[xxi] What I am baffled by is the Church’s belief that it is just a simple matter for someone not to act on his or her sexual inclinations, even though sexual activity is important to him or her. If I were to explain what I mean by reversing the order of the sexual world, I could say that it would almost be like the Church telling heterosexual people that it is alright to be heterosexual, but never alright for them to express themselves sexually as heterosexual people, such as being involved in genital activity or entering marriage with a person of the opposite sex.[xxii] (Update, Oct 22, 2015: In the recent Family Synod 2015, some bishops called for changes to the negative ecclesiastical language that describes people with same-sex attractions, and declared that “sexuality is experienced as intrinsic to a person’s identity”)
Devadass explained that the Church relies on science in many issues, including homosexuality. As science has not been able to prove whether homosexuality is nature or nurture,[xxiii] the Church will hold on to its position that homosexual acts are immoral. In other words, until science can prove that same-sex inclinations are not due to choice but something “natural” from within, the Church will continue its disapproval of same-sex actions. I find Devadass’ proposal that the Church relies on the natural sciences to support its doctrinal stand rather questionable. It seems to me that this is an argument which the Church borrows for its own convenience, while ignoring the fact that studies in the natural sciences deny the existence of God.[xxiv]
Therefore, Devadass affirmed that the role of religion is to provide a pathway for people to follow and a compass to help navigate their lives. Although religion generally plays a role to order human lives, there are always disputes and tensions in moral issues because people have personal choice. Devadass mentioned that the Church will always look to its set of teachings called dogma, as well as to the bible. Life must conform to dogma. On the other hand, society looks to human experience, and believes that dogma must conform to life. Society expects dogma to be adapted in order to make sense to human life. Devadass understood this situation as a tension in the life of the church that exists because Church and society are not talking to each other. People believe that as long as their intentions and the outcome of their intentions are good, the means does not matter. It is a subjective mentality in which people feel that as long as they feel good or alright about something, it must be alright. Therefore, human experiences seem to be becoming more important than the objectivity of one’s life in God.
I agree with Devadass that the Church and society—understood in the context of this talk as the Church and LGBTIQ people—do not talk to each other. In fact, all the Church-sponsored talks and events on LGBTIQ issues that I am aware of in Malaysia have never invited LGBTIQ persons to be present as dialogue partners. Instead, these talks and forums have been spaces in which LGBTIQ persons are “spoken about and spoken at,”[xxv] rather than spoken with.[xxvi] I do not see the sense of holding a talk or event to discuss particular groups of people without inviting representatives of those groups to be present in order to speak for themselves. Such talks and events are, at best, theoretical exercises in which the experts of the subject matter are curiously absent. I also find myself disagreeing with Devadass’ idea of the relationship between dogma and life or human experiences. I do not see either dogma or human experiences as fixed and unchanging realities in which one party must submit to the other. Instead, I see dogma and human experiences as conversational partners that need to learn from each other with integrity, humility and honesty. The official teachings and everyday realities of Christians must look to each other for mutual enrichment. In other words, there must be ongoing dialogue between Church pronouncements on the various issues of LGBTIQ sexualities and the actual ideas, beliefs, values, worldviews and experiences of LGBTIQ people. The role of religion is not to order people’s lives if that means telling people what to do. Instead, I believe that the role of religion is to equip people with tools to make decisions about their own lives.
The Pastoral Approach of the Roman Catholic Church
Continuing his talk, Devadass emphasised the fact although the Church will always look to dogma and the bible in its stand on same-sex expressions and marriages, the Church also has a pastoral character. Unfortunately, people tend to overemphasise the former. He further explained that the Church’s teachings are meant to reach out to all people, and to include each person in the care of God. People with same-sex attractions are not excluded. On the contrary, they are still part of the Church. Many people with same-sex inclinations have the impression that they are not part of the community of the Church because of the Church’s official teaching on homosexuality. Consequently, they believe that the Church does not understand them, and is subtly persecuting them. This, according to Devadass, is not the case. From the very beginning, the Church has always insisted on teachings and pastoral care. Therefore, while it may teach that homosexual acts are immoral, it still considers people with same-sex attractions as an integral part of itself.
Devadass underscored the reality that many Catholics with same-sex inclinations feel that the Church persecutes them because of the biases, stereotyping and “holier-than-thou” attitudes of their fellow Catholics. These Catholics thus become a kind of “moral police” of the Church. Consequently, LGBTIQ Catholics tend to gather among themselves because they feel that non-LGBTIQ Catholics do not understand them. For Devadass, the challenge is for Catholics to rid themselves of their biases, stereotyping and judgements. Non-LGBTIQ Catholics must be the face of Christ to LGBTIQ Christians, and show that them that they are part of the family of God.
Devadass’ claim that the Church has always insisted on teachings and pastoral care is slightly inaccurate, particularly in terms of the institutional Church treatment of certain groups of people in history. Policy theorist David Levine notes that “toward the end of the twelfth century there was a change from toleration to surveillance and persecution which was paralleled in the Church’s attitude toward gays, heretics, infidels, lepers, prostitutes, usurers, and witches.”[xxvii] The fact that the secular and religious realms were both involved in the persecution of certain types of people debunks the naïve idea that the Church “has always” been pastoral towards people with same-sex attraction.
I find myself agreeing with Devadass that many zealous, well-meaning Catholics feel an overwhelming responsibility to enforce the letter of the law in relation to LGBTIQ issues without being guided by the core considerations of inclusion and pastoral care. I also agree that LGBTIQ Catholics need to remember that despite the Church’s official disapproval of same-sex attraction and expressions, and its denouncement of same-sex marriages, they are still full members of the Church community by virtue of their baptism. At the same time, I wonder how comfortable LGBTIQ Catholics would feel within an institution that has already officially and unyieldingly labelled them as perpetrators of acts that constitute “grave depravity,”[xxviii] and are “intrinsically disordered,”[xxix] “contrary to the natural law,”[xxx] closed to “the sexual act to the gift of life”[xxxi] and “do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity.”[xxxii] I wonder how LGBTIQ Catholics negotiate mixed messages of being told that they are welcome as full yet “faulty” members of an institution who can never fully express their human sexuality. I wonder how LGBTIQ Catholics feel as full members of a Church that welcomes them pastorally but rejects them doctrinally (officially).[xxxiii]
To illustrate his point of inclusion and pastoral care, Devadass cited the story of the woman who was caught in adultery, and who was then brought to Jesus. Although Jesus did not change the teaching, he was pastoral in his approach and refused to exclude her. Devadass asked the participants how they would adopt the approach of Jesus in issues of same-sex attraction. He reminded them that they were reflections of the Church on earth. They must demonstrate compassion, understanding, mercy, forgiveness and love.
While the call to be compassionate and non-judgemental is praiseworthy, I do not think that Devadass’ reference to John 8:1-11 is appropriate. It is true that the narrative of the woman who was caught in adultery exhibits Jesus’ sense of inclusion, pastoral care and non-judgement. What Devadass has overlooked is that this story also bears strong allusions to the notions of sin and forgiveness. To make use of this biblical reference for LGBTIQ Catholics is to suggest that the Church welcomes LGBT people despite their sinfulness. In other words, it is already to mark LGBTIQ people as sinful. It presumes that LGBTIQ Catholics are in need of mercy, forgiveness and understanding because of their sinfulness as LGBTIQ people. As mentioned earlier, I strongly disagree that sin can be applied to LGBTIQ people simply by virtue of their identities or expressions. Instead, it is the reasons behind what LGBTIQ (as well as non-LGBTIQ) people choose to do with their sexual identities that determine if the expressions following these sexual identities are sinful or otherwise.
I admit that I feel ambivalent about Devadass’ call for all Catholics to be compassionate, understanding, merciful, forgiving and loving towards LGBTIQ people. On the one hand, Devadass has tried to “work within the system” by providing a pastoral way of approaching LGBTIQ people without going against Church doctrine. He has spoken against the discrimination, injustice and violence that many LGBTIQ people experience on a daily basis in Malaysia. For this, I am grateful. On the other hand, such a call seems a little condescending to me. LGBTIQ people become unfortunate, pitiable and pathologised beings who are in need of compassion, understanding, mercy, forgiveness and love. In my opinion, what LGBTIQ people really need from the Church is to be treated with dignity, justice and equality. Furthermore, I wonder why one needs to “work within the system” if one can “work against the system” in the name of justice, equality and the celebration of diversity, especially if one chooses to remain within the Church.[xxxiv] Why do those who “work within the system” not challenge the system, especially when it is obvious that the system does not work? Why retain a system that has negative effects on the actual lives of LGBTIQ people? I believe that at the end of the day, one has to ask the rather cliché but important question of how Jesus would treat LGBTIQ people today if he were present in human form. My suspicion is that Jesus’ attitudes would be significantly different from the Church’s.
[i] Inside/Out Youth Services, ‘Talking the Talk: LGBTIQ Terms’, Be Yourself, 2014, https://www.insideoutys.org/programs/resources/talking-talk-lgbtiq-terms/.
[ii] Hereafter, I will use the term “Catholic” in reference to Roman Catholicism, and “the Church” to refer to the Roman Catholic institution.
[iii] It is important to note that Pope Francis’ off-the-cuff remark to reporters, “If someone is gay and is searching for the Lord and has good will, then who am I to judge him?” is primarily in response to questions on same-sex scandals in the Vatican, and not to LGBTIQ people in general. Francis, ‘Press Conference of Pope Francis during the Return Flight’, Apostolic Journey to Rio de Janeiro on the Occasion of the XXVII World Youth Day, 28 July 2013, http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/speeches/2013/july/documents/papa-francesco_20130728_gmg-conferenza-stampa.html; Francis’ remark is not to be confused with the official stand of the Church in regard to same-sex attractions and expressions, which remains unchanged. See John Paul II, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed (E-Book) (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), sec. 2357–2359, http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/what-we-believe/catechism/catechism-of-the-catholic-church/epub/index.cfm.
[iv] News.com.au, ‘Gay Marriage: 26 Million Facebook Users Change to Rainbow Profile Pics’, News.com.au, 1 July 2015, http://www.news.com.au/technology/online/more-than-26-million-facebook-users-turn-profile-pics-rainbow-to-support-gay-marriage/story-fnjwnhzf-1227422418700.
[vii] There are many interpretations for same-sex references in the writings of Paul. For a commentary, see Joseph N. Goh, ‘The Shameless Act of Doing Harm: Reading Romans 1: 16-32 in Light of Luke 6: 27-31’, Queer Asian Spirit E-Zine, 2014, http://www.queerasianspirit.org/43.html.
[viii] Steve Hogan and Lee Hudson, Completely Queer: The Gay and Lesbian Encyclopedia, 1st ed (New York, NY: Henry Holt, 1998), s.v. ‘pederasty’.
[ix] James B. Nelson, Body Theology (Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox, 1992), 71.
[x] John Paul II, Catechism, sec. 1643 and 1652.
[xi] For some interesting insights in this regard, see Margaret A. Farley, Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics (London, UK: Continuum, 2008). While I do not totally agree with Farley, I find many of her arguments refreshing and fair.
[xii] John Paul II, ‘The Gospel of Life’, 1995, 97, http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_25031995_evangelium-vitae.html.
[xiii] Ibid., para. 81.
[xiv] Consult Anthony Giddens, The Transformation of Intimacy: Sexuality, Love, and Eroticism in Modern Societies, 1st ed. (Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 1992).
[xv] Kenan B. Osborne, Christian Sacraments in a Postmodern World: A Theology for the Third Millennium (New York, NY: Paulist Press, 1999), 9.
[xvi] N. Gartrell and H. Bos, ‘US National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study: Psychological Adjustment of 17-Year-Old Adolescents’, Pediatrics 126, no. 1 (July 2010): 28–36, doi:10.1542/peds.2009-3153.
[xvii] John Paul II, Catechism, para. 2357.
[xix] Ibid., 2357.
[xxi] Here, I am not discounting the possibility and reality that some LGBTIQ people live lives that do not involve sexual activity, although I have yet to come across any such people.
[xxii] See the section on “God’s Gift” in Joseph N. Goh, ‘Celebrating LGBTQ Identities, Attractions and Expressions in God: A Response to Pastor Edmund Smith’, Blog, Queer Eye for God’s World, (14 April 2014), http://josephgoh.org/?p=133.
[xxiii] This is an ongoing debate between some who believe that same-sex inclinations are ‘natural’ and biological, while others say that it is ‘unnatural’ because it is acquired and constructed through social influence.
[xxiv] Interestingly, some studies indicate that same-sex attraction is genetic, although this claim has not been conclusively proven. See Joe Morgan, ‘This Study Has Made a “Giant Leap Forward” in Solving the Gay Nature vs Nurture Debate’, Gay Star News, 17 November 2014, http://www.gaystarnews.com/article/study-has-made-giant-leap-forward-solving-gay-nature-vs-nurture-debate171114/. Personally, and putting it in a very simplistic way, I believe that same-sex attraction is more than just a question of nature and nurture.
[xxv] Joseph N. Goh, ‘Reclaiming Vision and Voice: A Queer-Feminist-Liberation Reading of Mark 10: 46-52 in Relation to Non-Heteronormative Malaysians’, In God’s Image 33, no. 1 (June 2014): 44. Emphasis in the original.
[xxvi] See my reports in Joseph N. Goh, ‘Repent or Believe in the Closet: When Pastoral Care Is Anything But’, Blog, Queer Eye for God’s World, (16 November 2013), http://josephgoh.org/?p=125; Joseph N. Goh, ‘Reflections on the Play “The Third Way: Same Sex Attraction and the Catholic Church” at Holy Family Church, Kajang’, Blog, Queer Eye for God’s World, (11 April 2015), http://josephgoh.org/?cat=17.
[xxvii] David Levine, At the Dawn of Modernity: Biology, Culture, and Material Life in Europe after the Year 1000 (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2001), 101.
[xxviii] John Paul II, Catechism, para. 2357.
[xxix] Ibid., 2357.
[xxx] Ibid., para. 2357.
[xxxiii] My friend Randy Newswanger from the Mennonite Church wrote a beautiful sermon that parallels church acceptance of LGBTIQ people with family acceptance. See Randy Newswanger, ‘Hiya! Hiya! Come On In!: Sermon Text at Community Mennonite Church of Lancaster’, Brethren Mennonite Council for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Interests, 5 May 2013, http://www.bmclgbt.org/hiyahiyacomeonin.shtml.
[xxxiv] For example, see New Ways Ministry, ‘New Ways Ministry’, accessed 14 October 2015, http://www.newwaysministry.org/.
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