Homosexuality and the Catholic Church

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Homosexuality is addressed in Catholic moral theology under two forms: homosexual orientation is considered an "objective disorder" because Catholicism views it as being "ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil", but not sinful unless acted upon.[1] Homosexual sexual activity, by contrast, is viewed as a "moral disorder"[1] and "homosexual acts" are viewed as "contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity."[2]

The Catholic Church teaches that marriage can be made only between a man and a woman,[3][4] and opposes introduction of both civil and religious same-sex marriage.[5][6][7][8][9] The Church holds that same-sex unions are an unfavorable environment for children and that the legalization of such unions is harmful to society.[10]

Leading figures in the Catholic hierarchy, including cardinals and bishops, have sometimes actively campaigned against same-sex marriage[11][12][13][14][15][16][17] or have encouraged others to campaign against it,[11][12][13][14][15][16][17][18][19] and have done likewise with regard to same-sex civil unions[20][21] and adoption by same-sex couples,[10] and other LGBT rights (including non-discrimination).[22][23] Some Church leaders have opposed decriminalization of homosexual activity in certain countries, and stood against a proposed call by the United Nations for global decriminalization of homosexuality.[23][24][25][26][27][28] However, in other countries, and again at the United Nations, the church has opposed criminalization - reflecting a wide range of opinions within the global church.[29][30][31][32][33]

Despite the official position of the Catholic hierarchy on LGBT rights, in some locations, such as North America, Northern and Western Europe, support for LGBT rights (such as same-sex marriage, or protection against discrimination) is stronger among Catholics than among the general population.[note 1][34]


Church teaching[edit]

Catholic teaching condemns homosexual acts as gravely immoral, while holding that homosexual persons "must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity", and "every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided"[35] "The Catholic Church holds that, as a state beyond a person's choice, being homosexual is not wrong or sinful in itself. But just as it is objectively wrong for unmarried heterosexuals to engage in sex, so too are homosexual acts considered to be wrong."[36]

Holy See[edit]

Overview in the Catechism of the Catholic Church[edit]

The current Catechism of the Catholic Church summarizes the Church's teaching on homosexuality as follows:[37]

Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that 'homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered'. They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.[2]

The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.[38]

The earlier first provisional edition in 1992 contained the line "They do not choose their homosexual condition; for most of them it is a trial" which was changed in the 1997 definitive edition to say instead "This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial."[note 2]

Persona humana[edit]

In 1975, during the pontificate of Pope Paul VI, the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued the document Persona humana (Human Person) dealing with sexual ethics. It stated that acceptance of homosexual activity runs counter to the church's teaching and morality. While, it said, a distinction existed between people who were gay because of "a false education [...] a lack of normal sexual development", or other curable non-biological causes and people who were innately or "pathological[ly]" homosexual, it criticized those who argued that innate homosexuality justified same-sex sexual activity within loving relationships and stated that the Bible condemned homosexual activity as depraved, "intrinsically disordered", never to be approved, and a consequence of rejecting God.[39]

Critics have argued that the "negative connotations" of the language in Persona Humana—for instance, referring to homosexuality as an "anomaly" that gay people "suffer[ed]" from—contrast with more neutral and even positive interpretations of homosexual orientation over the next ten years. However, these "overly benign" interpretations were to be challenged in 1986.[40]:193

In a 2006 commentary on the document, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (subsequently Pope Benedict XVI) remarked that its description of homosexual acts as "intrinsically disordered" was misinterpreted by some as permitting the qualification of the homosexual tendency as neutral or even good, an idea rejected also in the 1986 Letter on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons.[41]

On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons[edit]

Benedict XVI, who as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was one of the signatories of the 1986 letter of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on the Pastoral Care of Homosexuals

In October 1986, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith released a letter addressed to all the bishops of the Catholic Church entitled On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons (Latin: Homosexualitatis problema).[42] This was signed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as prefect. The letter gave instructions on how the clergy should deal with, and respond to, lesbian, gay, and bisexual people.[40] Designed to remove any ambiguity about tolerance of homosexual orientation proceeding from the earlier Persona Humana—and prompted by the growing influence of gay-accepting groups and clergy—the letter was particularly aimed at the church in the United States.[40]:193[43][44]

It set out the position that while homosexual orientation is not in itself a sin, it is nevertheless a tendency towards the "moral evil" of homosexual sexual activity, and so must be considered "an objective disorder".[45]:221[note 3][note 4][46] The letter went on to say that when homosexual activity is the result of deliberate choice, it is not made inculpable by natural sexual orientation, contradicting the idea that natural orientation always rendered it totally inculpable.[47] Dempsey has suggested that the orientation diminishes a person's culpability in proportion to the force of the psychological impulse for the immoral activity.[46][48] Furthermore, the letter argues that this natural homosexual orientation is "essentially self-indulgent" since homosexual sexual acts are not genuinely loving or selfless.[40]:198[45]:222

The letter condemned physical and verbal violence against homosexual persons,[49]:195 but asserted that condemnation of violence did not mean that the homosexual orientation was good or neutral or that homosexual sexual acts should be permitted.[45]:222[47] The letter also said that accepting homosexual acts as morally equivalent to married heterosexual acts was harmful to the family and society and warned bishops to be on guard against, and not to support, Catholic organizations not upholding the Church's doctrine on homosexuality—groups which the letter said were not really Catholic.[43]:201[45]:223[47] This alluded to LGBT and LGBT-accepting Catholic groups such as DignityUSA and New Ways Ministry,[43]:201 and which ultimately resulted in the exclusion of Dignity from Church property.[50][51][52][53]

Critics have described the document as teaching "that a gay male or lesbian sexual identity is not to be celebrated, nor is it properly seen as a source of pride".[40] The claims that accepting and legalizing homosexual behaviour leads to violence were seen as controversially blaming gay people for homophobic violence and encouraging homophobic violence.[40]:195[54] Referring to the AIDS epidemic,[55][56] the letter, McNeill writes, blamed AIDS on gay rights activists and gay-accepting mental health professionals:[54] "Even when the practice of homosexuality may seriously threaten the lives and well-being of a large number of people, its advocates remain undeterred and refuse to consider the magnitude of the risks involved".[57] Andrew Sullivan called this comment "extraordinary for its lack of compassion"[58] and added that "some of [the letter's] clauses read chillingly like comparable church documents produced in Europe in the 1930s".[59]

In a statement released in July 1992, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith expanded on the letter and stated that discrimination against gay people in certain areas, such as selecting adoptive or foster parents or in hiring teachers, coaches, or military servicemembers, is not unjust.[57]

Local perspectives[edit]

The Netherlands[edit]

The Dutch Catechism, first published in 1966, was the first post-Vatican II Catholic catechism and was an expression of the magisterium of the Dutch bishops, who commissioned and authorized it. The 1973 edition, issued after a Vatican review of the original text, dealt with the issue of homosexuality: "It is not the fault of the individual if he or she is not attracted to the other sex. The causes of homosexuality are unknown ... The very sharp strictures of Scripture on homosexual practices (Gen. 1; Rom. 1) must be read in their context."

United Kingdom[edit]

Richard Scorer wrote that the leadership of the English Church has been "notably less homophobic than the Vatican", and that, in 1992, on publication of a statement by Cardinal Ratzinger, which Scorer said justified discrimination against homosexuals, Cardinal Basil Hume was said to be "appalled by the language and tone of the document" and privately distanced himself.[60]

In April 1997, Hume issued A note on the teaching of the Catholic Church concerning homosexuality. It stated that the Church recognises the dignity and right to respectful treatment of all people and does not see their "objective disorder" of homosexual people as making them wholly disordered. It also said that sexual activity ought only to take place within an opposite-sex marriage and said that the Church cannot "acknowledge amongst fundamental human rights a proposed right to acts which she teaches are morally wrong."[61]

In the early 21st century, Church of our Lady of the Assumption and St Gregory, Westminster hosted "one of the most successful LGBT Catholic parishes in the world".[62] For six years, these "Soho masses" offered twice-monthly services “particularly welcoming to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered Catholics, their parents, friends and families”.[63] In 2013, under pressure from the Vatican, they were forced to move to Church of the Immaculate Conception, Farm Street in nearby Mayfair; Archbishop Vincent Nichols attended their first mass there in 2013.[64]

United States[edit]

In 1997, the US Catholic Bishops Conference published a letter entitled "Always our children", as a pastoral message to parents of gay and bisexual children with guidelines for pastoral ministers. It told parents not to break off contact with a gay or bisexual son or daughter; they should instead look for appropriate counseling both for the child and for themselves. The letter said that, while homosexual orientation is not sinful, homosexual activity is immoral, but gay people must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity, and allowed to participate actively in the Christian community, and even, if living chastely, to hold leadership positions.[65][66][67]:131

History of the Catholic Church and homosexuality[edit]

Early Church[edit]

The Christian tradition has generally proscribed any and all noncoital genital activities, whether engaged in by couples or individuals, regardless of whether they were of the same or different sex.[40]:193 The Catholic Church's position specifically on homosexuality developed from the teachings of the Church Fathers, which was in stark contrast to Greek and Roman attitudes towards same-sex relations including the "(usually erotic) homosexual relationship between an adult male and a pubescent or adolescent male" that is called pederasty.[68][69][70]

The early 2nd century treatise, the Didache (which influenced thinking by some of the Church Fathers), includes in a list of commandments: "You shall not corrupt boys."[note 5] David F. Greenberg gives it as one example of the early Christian writings of the first two centuries that were "unequivocably opposed to male prostitution and pederasty — probably the most visible forms of homosexuality in their time".[71]

Clement of Alexandria (c. 150–c. 215) rebuked heathens for worshipping gods who indulged in debauching of boys.[72] Eusebius of Caesarea (c. 260/265–339/340) wrote of God "having forbidden all unlawful marriage, and all unseemly practice, and the union of women with women and men with men".[73]

The Apology of Aristides of Athens, presented to Emperor Hadrian around 117–138 CE, scorned the practices and acts of the Greek pagans who worshipped gods some of whom "polluted themselves by lying with males".[74][note 6][75]

Basil of Caesarea (329 or 330 – 379) was among the first to talk about penalties, advising in a letter that, "He who is guilty of unseemliness with males will be under discipline for the same time as adulterers."[76] Taking Basil's lead, Gregory of Nyssa's Canonical Letter to Letoius of Mytilene (Epist. canonica 4, 390 CE) also prescribes the same period of penance for adultery and for "craving for the male".[77]

John Chrysostom (c. 347–407), the Archbishop of Constantinople, was particularly vocal on the subject. In a discourse on Romans 1:26–27, he declared that: "All of these affections then were vile, but chiefly the mad lust after males; for the soul is more the sufferer in sins, and more dishonored than the body in diseases. ... [The men] have done an insult to nature itself. And a yet more disgraceful thing than these is it, when even the women seek after these intercourses, who ought to have more shame than men."[78]

Church councils[edit]

Canon law regarding same-sex sexual activity has mainly been shaped through the decrees issued by a number of ecclesiastical councils.[79] Initially, canons against sodomy were aimed at ensuring clerical or monastic discipline, and were only widened in the medieval period to include laymen.[80]

The early 4th-century Council of Elvira (305-306) was the first church council to deal with the issue directly, excluding from communion anyone who had sexual intercourse (stuprum) with a boy:[81][82][83]

Canons 16 and 17 of the Council of Ancyra (314), which "became the standard source for medieval ecclesiastical literature against homosexuality",[84] impose on "those who have been or who are guilty of bestial lusts" penances whose severity varies with the age and married status of the offender, allowing access to communion only at death for a married man over fifty years old (canon 16); and impose a penance also on "defilers of themselves with beasts, being also leprous, who have infected others [with the leprosy of this crime]".[85]

In Iberia, the Visigothic ruler Egica of Hispania and Septimania demanded that a church council confront the occurrence of homosexuality in the kingdom. In 693, the Sixteenth Council of Toledo issued a canon condemning guilty clergy to degradation and exile and laymen to a hundred lashes. Egica added an edict imposing the punishment of castration (as already in the secular law promulgated for his kingdom by his predecessor King Chinawith).[86][87][88]

The matter was also dealt with at the Council of Paris—in canons 34 and 69 (AD 829),[84] which went beyond Elvira and Ancyra in explicitly endorsing the death penalty for sodomy—claiming that it had led God to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah and send the Great Flood[89][note 7][90] The concern at Paris was that toleration of sodomy might provoke God to give victory to the enemies of Christianity (i.e. Islam). At about the same time, the set of forged capitularies produced by the deacon Benedict Levita implied that Charlemagne had likewise supported the death penalty. Meanwhile canon 15 of the Council of Trolsy (AD 909) warned against "pollution with men or animals".[84]

Alongside this, penances for such sexual transgressions may increasingly be found in a few of the penitential books which first emerged in the 6th century in monastic communities in Ireland (including for women having sex with other women).[84][91]

Medieval and Early Modern period[edit]

By the late Middle Ages, the term "sodomy" had come to cover copulation between males, bestiality, and non-vaginal heterosexual intercourse,[92] coitus interruptus, masturbation, fellatio and anal sex (whether heterosexual or homosexual);[93] and it increasingly began to be identified as the most heinous of sins by authorities of the Catholic Church. In Italy, Dominican monks would encourage the pious to "hunt out" sodomites and once done to hand them to the Inquisition to be dealt with accordingly: "These clerical discourses provided a language for secular authorities to condemn sodomy... By persecuting sodomites as well as heretics, the Church strengthened its authority and credibility as a moral arbiter".[94]

Klaits writes: "From the twelfth century on, outsiders came under increasing verbal and physical attack from churchmen, allied secular authorities, and, particularly in the case of Jews, from the lower strata of the population"; and among "outsiders" he considers Jews, heretics, homosexuals, and magicians as having been among the most important.[95]

Around 1051, Saint Peter Damian wrote the Liber Gomorrhianus in which he argued for stricter ecclesiastical punishment for clerics guilty of "sins against nature".[96][97]

At the same time, Hildegard of Bingen, in her book Scivias detailing her visions which she attributed to God, condemned same-sex intercourse (including lesbianism): "A man who sins with another man as if with a woman sins bitterly against God ... a woman who takes up devilish ways and plays a male role in coupling with another woman is most vile in My sight, and so is she who subjects herself to such a one in this evil deed".[98]

The Council of London in 1102 in 1102, called at the urging of Archbishop Anselm of Canterbury, explicitly denounced homosexual behavior as a sin for the first time at an English council.[99] Anselm felt that sodomy was widespread and was not condemned strongly enough or regarded with the seriousness that it should have. Confessors were urged to take account of such ignorance when hearing confessions for sodomy, and to take into account mitigating factors such as age and marital status before prescribing penance; and counselling was generally preferred to punishment. In Canons 28 and 29 the Council decreed that the people should be informed of the gravity of the sin, and their obligation to confess (particularly if they derived pleasure from it). Nevertheless, Anselm deferred publication of the proceedings, arguing further time was needed to clarify certain matters.[99] Boswell argues the decrees were never published at all.[100][101]

In 1179, Pope Alexander III presided over the Third Lateran Council which decreed (canon 11) that all those guilty of sodomy be removed from office or confined to penitential life in a monastery, if clergy; and be strictly excommunicated, if laity: "Let all who are found guilty of that unnatural vice for which the wrath of God came down upon the sons of disobedience and destroyed the five cities with fire, if they are clerics be expelled from the clergy or confined in monasteries to do penance; if they are laymen they are to incur excommunication and be completely separated from the society of the faithful."[102]

This was followed by canon 14 of the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215. This stated that if a priest suspended for unchastity of any kind—especially the vice that "on account of which the anger of God came from heaven upon the children of unbelief" (that is sodomy)—dared to celebrate Mass then he was to be deposed permanently from the priesthood.[note 8][103]

By the early 13th century (time of the Fourth Lateran Council) the Church determined that "secular authorities, as well as clergy, should be allowed to impose penalties on 'sodomites' for having had sexual relations", and by the end of this period, "Sodomites were now [regarded as] demons as well as sinners."[104] Civil authorities were in parallel trying the crime of sodomy in their own courts, although in practice applying even more severe punishments (Roman civil law had prescribed death by burning for those found guilty of sodomy).[105]

In 1232, Pope Gregory IX established the Roman Inquisition which investigated claims of sodomitical acts; in 1451, Pope Nicholas V enabled it to prosecute men who practice sodomy. Handed over to the civil authorities, those condemned were frequently burned in accordance with civil law.[105]

In the Summa Theologica, Saint Thomas Aquinas stated that "the unnatural vice" is the greatest of the sins of lust.[106] In his Summa contra Gentiles, traditionally dated to 1264, he argued against what he called "the error of those who say that there is no more sin in the emission of the semen than in the ejection of other superfluous products from the body" by saying that, after murder, which destroys an existing human being, disordinate emission of semen to the preclusion of generating a human being seems to come second.[107]

In 1424, Saint Bernardino of Siena preached for three days in Florence, Italy against homosexuality and other forms of lust, calling for sodomites to be ostracized, and these sermons alongside measures by other clergy of the time strengthened opinion against homosexuals and encouraged the authorities to increase the measures of persecution.[108]

In 1478, with the papal bull Exigit Sinceras Devotionis Affectus, Pope Sixtus IV acceded to the request of Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile, granting them exclusive authority to name the inquisitors in their kingdoms. The Spanish Inquisition thus replaced the Medieval Inquisition which had been set up under direct papal control, and transferred it in Spain to civil control. In 1482, in response to complaints by relatives of the first victims, Sixtus wrote that he had not intended his grant to be abused in that way. However, strong pressure brought to bear on him prevented him from revoking it.[109]

Tomas de Torquemada was a prominent leader of the Spanish Inquisition. 150 sodomites were executed by burning in Spain from 1570–1630.

The Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition in Spain was therefore under the control of its monarchs and the initial direction of the Dominican friar Tomas de Torquemada. At first it seems to have been reluctant to take on responsibility for trying those accused of sodomy, and that the Suprema (the governing body) ruled in 1509 that such cases were for the secular courts, which already punished sodomy with death. However, in 1524 the Suprema requested papal authorisation to prosecute sodomites. Pope Clement VII granted permission but only within the Kingdom of Aragon and on condition that trials be conducted according to the civil laws, not the standard inquisitorial procedure.[92] The Pope refused the request of King Philip II of Spain to extend the authority of the Spanish Inquisition to conducting such trials in the rest of Spain.[93]

Within Aragon and its dependent territories, the number of individuals that the Spanish Inquisition tried for sodomy,[92][93] between 1570 and 1630 was over 800[110] or nearly a thousand.[92] In Spain, those whom the Spanish Inquisition convicted and had executed "by burning without the benefit of strangulation" were about 150.[111] The Inquisition was harsh to sodomizers (more so for those committing bestiality than homosexuality), but tended to restrict death by burning only to those aged over twenty-five. Minors were normally whipped and sent to the galleys. Mildness was also shown to clergy, who were always a high proportion of those arrested.[112] In fact, conviction and execution for sodomy was easier to obtain from the civil courts in other parts of Spain than from the tribunals of the Inquisition in Aragon, and there executions for sodomy were much more numerous.[113] After 1633, where the Spanish Inquisition had jurisdiction for sodomy, it ceased treating it as requiring execution, and imposed lesser penalties in cases brought before it.[92]

The Portuguese Inquisition was established in 1536; and in 1539 Henry, Archbishop of Braga (later cardinal and king of Portugal) became Grand Inquisitor. (An earlier appointment as Portuguese Grand Inquisitor was Friar Diogo da Silva.)[114] It received 4,419 denunciations against individuals accused of sodomy, of whom 447 were subjected to a formal trial, and thirty were burnt at the stake, in accordance with the pre-1536 civil laws enacted under Kings Afonso V and Manuel I, and many others were sent to the galleys or to exile, temporary or permanent.[92]

In England, the accused were originally tried by church courts, which almost never punished homosexual behaviour.[105] This changed when Henry VIII, while still a member of the Roman Catholic Church, enacted the Buggery Act 1533, as part of his campaign to break the power of the Catholic Church in England.[115]

Although homosexuality was not directly discussed at the Council of Trent, it did commission the drawing up of a catechism (following the successful lead of some Protestants) which stated: "Neither fornicators nor adulterers, nor the effeminate nor sodomites shall possess the kingdom of God."[116]

Modern age[edit]

Neither the First Vatican Council nor the Second Vatican Council directly discussed the issue of homosexuality; but nor did they alter the judgement of earlier councils. However, homosexual activity was frequently referred to in general church documents as crimen pessimum (the worst crime).[117][118][119][120] including that codified in 1917.[121]

Pope Paul VI[edit]

In 1976 Pope Paul VI became the first pontiff in modern history to deny the accusation of homosexuality. In January 1976, he had published a homily, Persona Humana: Declaration on Certain Questions concerning Sexual Ethics, that outlawed pre or extra-marital sex, condemned homosexuality, and forbade masturbation.[122] In response, Roger Peyrefitte, who had already written in two of his books that Montini had a longtime homosexual relationship, repeated his charges in a magazine interview with a French gay magazine that, when reprinted in Italian, brought the rumors to a wider public and caused an uproar. He said that Montini was a hypocrite who had a longtime sexual relationship with a movie actor.[123][124][125] Widespread rumors identified the actor as Paolo Carlini,[126] who had a small part in the Audrey Hepburn film Roman Holiday (1953). In a brief address to a crowd of approximately 20,000 in St. Peters Square on 18 April, Montini called the charges "horrible and slanderous insinuations" and appealed for prayers on his behalf. Special prayers for Montini were said in all Italian Roman Catholic churches in "a day of consolation".[124][126][a] The charges have resurfaced periodically. In 1994, Franco Bellegrandi, a former Vatican honour chamberlain and correspondent for the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, alleged that Montini had been blackmailed and had promoted fellow homosexuals to positions of power within the Vatican.[128] In 2006, the newspaper L'Espresso confirmed the blackmail story based on the private papers of police commander General Giorgio Manes. It reported that Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro had been asked to help.[126][129]

Pope John Paul II[edit]

Pope John Paul II in Old Yankee Stadium, 1979

Homosexuality received no mention in papal encyclicals until Pope John Paul II's Veritatis Splendor of 1993, which "specifically proclaims the intrinsic evil of the homosexual condition"[43]:207 and rejected the view of some theologians who questioned the basis upon which the church condemns as morally unacceptable "direct sterilization, autoeroticism, pre-marital sexual relations, homosexual relations and artificial insemination".[130]

John Cornwell has written that the pontificate of John Paul II increasingly saw sexual morality as a paramount concern, and homosexuality, alongside contraception, divorce and illicit unions, as a dimension of "the 'culture of death' against which he taught and preached with increasing vehemence".[131]

In John Paul II's teaching, homosexual intercourse is regarded as an utilization of another's body, not a mutual self-giving in familial love, physically expressed by the masculine and feminine bodies; and such intercourse is also performed by a choice of the will, unlike homosexual orientation, which he acknowledged is usually not a matter of free choice.[132]

On 5 October 1979, John Paul praised the bishops of the United States for stating that "homosexual activity ... as distinguished from homosexual orientation, is morally wrong". He said that, instead of "[holding] out false hope" to homosexuals facing hard moral problems, they had upheld "the true dignity, the true human dignity, of those who look to Christ's Church for the guidance which comes from the light of God's word".[133]

In 2000, he criticized the inaugural WorldPride event scheduled for Rome in that year as "an affront to the Great Jubilee of the year 2000" and as "an offence to the Christian values" of Rome, and recalled the Church's teaching that homosexual acts are contrary to the natural law, while every sign of unjust discrimination against homosexuals should be avoided.[134][135][136][137]

In response, the Dutch gay magazine, Gay Krant, and its readership initiated a case against the pope in the Dutch law courts, arguing that his comment that homosexual acts are contrary to the laws of nature[138] "give rise to hatred against, and discrimination of certain groups of people" in violation of Dutch law.[139] This came to end when the court ruled that he was immune from prosecution as a head of state (the Vatican).[140]

In his last personal work, Memory and Identity, published in 2005, John Paul II he referred to the "pressures" on the European Parliament to permit "homosexual 'marriage'". He wrote: "It is legitimate and necessary to ask oneself if this is not perhaps part of a new ideology of evil, perhaps more insidious and hidden, which attempts to pit human rights against the family and against man".[141][142]

Benedict XVI[edit]

On 9 March 2012, Pope Benedict XVI, denouncing "the powerful political and cultural currents seeking to alter the legal definition of marriage", currents that the Washington Post described as a "cultural shift toward gay marriage in U.S.", told a group of United States bishops on their ad limina visit to Rome that "the Church's conscientious effort to resist this pressure calls for a reasoned defense of marriage as a natural institution consisting of a specific communion of persons, essentially rooted in the complementarity of the sexes and oriented to procreation. Sexual differences cannot be dismissed as irrelevant to the definition of marriage."[143][144]

An essay by the French Chief Rabbi Gilles Bernheim taking a clear position against gay marriage and denouncing the theory of acquired gender was quoted at length by Pope Benedict XVI in his 2012 Christmas address to the Roman Curia.[145][146]

The BBC reported that shortly before the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI in February 2013, the Italian media in particular used unsourced reports to suggest that there was a "gay lobby" of clergy inside the Vatican who had been collaborating to advance personal interests, thereby opening the Holy See to potential blackmail, and even to suggest that this may have been one of the factors influencing Benedict's decision to resign.[147]


It has been suggested that Pope Francis, when Archbishop of Buenos Aires, privately urged fellow Argentine bishops in 2010 to signal the Church's public support for civil unions, as a compromise response to calls for same-sex marriage. Fellow bishops rejected the idea.[148] This was at the time that Argentina, which already permitted civil unions, was debating a bill to allow same-sex couples to marry and adopt children. Publicly Bergoglio strongly opposed the bill, warning it could lead to a situation that could "seriously harm the family ... At stake is the identity and survival of the family: father, mother and children. At stake are the lives of many children who will be discriminated against in advance, and deprived of their human development given by a father and a mother and willed by God."[149] In a 2010 book written with Rabbi Abraham Skorka, Bergoglio also spoke of same-sex marriage as "a weakening of the institution of marriage, an institution that has existed for thousands of years and is 'forged according to nature and anthropology'."[5]

Pope Francis speaking about gay people said in 2013 that "the key is for the church to welcome, not exclude and show mercy, not condemnation. Religion has the right to express its opinion in the service of the people but God in creation has set us free: it is not possible to interfere spiritually in the life of a person."[150] In relation to reports that a Vatican official whom he had recently promoted had had a homosexual relationship, the pope drew a distinction between sins, which can be forgiven if repented of, and crimes, such as sexual abuse of minors.[151][152]

He acknowledged the existence of a "gay lobby" within the Vatican in remarks during a meeting held in private with Catholic religious from Latin America. He was reported to have promised to see what could be done to address the issue.[147] In July 2013, he responded directly to journalists' questions. He notably drew a distinction between the problem of lobbying and the sexual orientation of people: "If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?" "The problem", he said, "is not having this orientation. We must be brothers. The problem is lobbying by this orientation, or lobbies of greedy people, political lobbies, Masonic lobbies, so many lobbies. This is the worse problem."[151][152]

Several LGBT groups welcomed the comments, noting that this was the first time a pope had used the word "gay" in public, and had also accepted the existence of gay people as a recognisable part of the Catholic Church community.[153] The Pope's attitude towards homosexuality earned him a place on the cover of the US gay news magazine The Advocate.[154]

At the start of 2014, Bishop Charles J. Scicluna of Malta reported that in a private conversation held with Pope Francis in December 2013, the pope repeated the phrase about same-sex marriage used in the earlier Argentine letter—that it was "an anthropological regression".[5]

But, later that month during a conversation with leaders of religious orders, Francis spoke of the importance of education in the context of the difficulties now facing children, indicating that the Church had a challenge in not being welcoming enough of children brought up in a multiplicity of household arrangements—specifically including the children of gay couples.[155] He mentioned as an example a case of a child with a mother living in a lesbian relationship:

"I remember the case of a very sad little girl who finally confided to her teacher the reason for her state of mind: 'my mother's fiancée doesn't like me'.... How can we proclaim Christ to these boys and girls? How can we proclaim Christ to a generation that is changing? We must be careful not to administer a vaccine against faith to them."[156][157]

Italian media suggested his comments indicated a shift towards accepting civil unions for gay couples; but the Director of the Holy See Press Office argued that this conclusion was erroneous, saying that the pope was talking only about the difficulties of children, not making a declaration on the debate in Italy concerning gay unions.[158]

On 5 March 2014, in an interview with the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, Francis said: "Marriage is between a man and a woman. Secular states want to justify civil unions to regulate different situations of cohabitation, pushed by the demand to regulate economic aspects between persons, such as ensuring health care. It is about pacts of cohabitating of various natures, of which I wouldn’t know how to list the different ways. One needs to see the different cases and evaluate them in their variety."[159] Some, including Catholic News Service, interpreted this as suggesting that the Catholic Church could tolerate some types of non-marital civil unions as a practical measure for the purposes indicated.[160] However, the Holy See Press Office stated that "civil unions" is a term that in Italy refers to non-religious marriages by the state, and that, in using it, "Pope Francis spoke in very general terms, and did not specifically refer to same-sex marriage as a civil union".[161]

In autumn 2014, Francis presided over the 2014 Synod of Bishops. This was the first Church Synod to explicitly examine the issue of pastoral care for people in same-sex civil unions and marriages, identifying it as one of several concerns which were unheard of until a few years ago.[162][163] The synod's working document called for less judgment towards people that are gay and more understanding towards same-sex couples in civil unions or marriages, as well as an equal welcome for children of such couples (including conferring baptism), while still rejecting the validity of same-sex marriage itself.[164][165] However, when the synod convened to discuss the issue, the final report failed to contain the proposed language as it did not manage to receive the necessary two-thirds support of attending bishops' support.[166]

Francis intervened in the national referendum in Slovakia on whether or not to allow same-sex marriage and adoption. In February 2015, he spoke about "encouraging everyone to continue their efforts in defense of the family, the vital cell of society."[167] This was interpreted by some as an encouragement to vote in favour of the referendum limiting rights.[167] In December he told Slovenian pilgrims to "back the family as the structural reference point for the life of society". Voters in the subsequent referendum approved repealing the right to same-sex marriage previously approved by the country's parliament.[168]

On a visit to the United States in September 2015, Francis was reported as having held a private meeting with Kim Davis - a county clerk from Kentucky who had gained international attention after defying a federal court order requiring that she issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.[169] According to Davis' lawyer, he told her to "stay strong" and gave her two rosaries.[170][171][172][173] But, the Vatican press office shortly after issued a statement saying that: "The Pope did not enter into the details of the situation of Mrs. Davis and his meeting with her should not be considered a form of support of her position in all of its particular and complex aspects."[174][175] The only audience given by Francis while in Washington was with an Argentine former student Yayo Grassi, who is openly gay, and his same-sex partner of 19 years.[175][176][177]

In the papal document Amoris Laetitia, issued in 2016, Francis encouraged better understanding from all members of the church on the acceptance of gay people, without suggesting any specific doctrinal changes. Instead, he reiterated the need for every person to be respected regardless of their sexual orientation, and to be free from threats of aggression and violence. He avoided any recognition of unions between same sex couples, but rather maintained that these were not equal to heterosexual unions. Some parts of the media interpreted his remarks as more moderate on the issue of homosexuality than that taken by church leaders in previous years.[178]

In October 2016, Francis told a group of reporters that gay men and women should be accepted and embraced by the Catholic Church - "Each case must be welcomed, accompanied, studied, discerned and integrated. When a person (who is gay) arrives before Jesus, Jesus certainly will not say, 'Go away because you are homosexual'". However, at the same time he expressed disagreement with the "gender theory" being taught in schools.[179]

Differences from official Church teaching[edit]

A rainbow flag of the LGBT movement

A number of Catholics and Catholic groups oppose the traditional position of the Catholic Church and seek to adopt a more inclusive approach.[180][181][182][183]

Such individuals and groups make the general argument that the Catholic Church's line on homosexuality emphasises the physical dimension of the act at the expense of higher moral, personal and spiritual goals.[184] Gay and lesbian Catholics also feel that the practice of total, life-long sexual denial risks personal isolation.[40]:194 John J. McNeill writes that since gay people experience their sexual orientation as innately created, to believe that it is therefore a tendency towards evil would require believing in a sadistic God; and that it is preferable to believe that this element of Church teaching is mistaken in arguing that God would behave in such a way.[54]

In January 1998, 39-year-old Alfredo Ormando set fire to himself in St Peter's Square, Vatican City as a political protest against the Catholic Church's condemnation of homosexuality. He died shortly after from his injuries.

In several cases, clergy or laypeople have been fired from jobs at Catholic schools or universities because of their support for LGBT rights campaigns[185][186] or their marriages to partners of the same sex.[186][187][188] In the United States, more than 50 people have reported losing their jobs at Catholic institutions since 2010 over their sexual orientation or identity, according to New Ways Ministries[189]


There have a number of practical and ministerial disagreements within the clergy and hierarchy of the Catholic Church concerning the Church's position on homosexuality.

One of the first priests to publicly come out as gay was the Jesuit Robert Carter, when he helped to establish the National Gay Task Force in New York in 1973. Carter remained a priest and was never formerly disciplined. He had also helped to found the New York chapter of DignityUSA, alongside the Rev. John McNeill. By 1985 he was counseling AIDS patients at Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx, and later became a supervisor of the outpatient AIDS program at the Bellevue Hospital Center in Manhattan.[190]

In 1976, John J. McNeill, an American Jesuit and co-founder of Dignity, published The Church and the Homosexual, which challenged the Church's prohibition of same-sex activity. It argued for a change in Church teaching and that homosexual relationships should be judged by the same standard as heterosexual ones. The work had received permission from McNeill's Jesuit superiors prior to printing. In 1977, the permission was retracted at the order of the Vatican, and McNeill was ordered by Cardinal Franjo Šeper not to write or speak publicly about homosexuality. In a statement McNeill responded that "gay men most likely to act out their sexual needs in a unsafe, compulsive way, and therefore expose themselves to the HIV virus, are precisely those who have internalised the self-hatred that their religions impose on them." In 1986, the Society of Jesus subsequently dismissed him for "pertinacious disobedience" from the order. He remained a priest until his death but was not permitted to say Mass.[43]:200[191]

In 1977, a collective theological study on human sexuality was published,[192] after being commissioned in 1972 by the Catholic Theological Society of America, which however did not approve the study, after members of its board of directors criticized its scholarship.[193][194] In his Breaking Faith: The Pope, the People and the Fate of Catholicism, John Cornwell says the theology contained within the work extended the Vatican II focus on the procreative and unitive purposes of marital sexuality, to emphasise the creative and integrative aspects; and that it criticised the "oversimplification of the natural law theory of St. Thomas", and argued that "Homosexuals enjoy the same rights and incur the same obligations as the heterosexual majority".[67]:129 The book showed that dissent from the Church's teaching on sexuality was common among United States theologians. Reaction to its publication showed that the dissent was not unanimous, even within the Catholic Theological Society of America itself.[193][194]

Two of the best-known advocates for a more accepting position on homosexuality within the Catholic fold have been the Salvatorian priest Robert Nugent and the School Sister of Notre Dame nun Jeannine Gramick, who established New Ways Ministry in 1977.[195] This was in response to Bishop Francis Mugavero of Brooklyn who had invited them to reach out in "new ways" to lesbian and gay Catholics. As early as February 1976, Mugavero issued a pastoral letter entitled "Sexuality: God's Gift", defending the legitimate rights of all people, including those who were gay and lesbian. He said that they had been "subject to misunderstanding and at times unjust discrimination".[196]

In 1981, New Ways Ministry held its first national symposium on homosexuality and the Catholic Church, but Archbishop James Hickey of Washington, D.C. wrote to Catholic bishops and communities, asking them not to support the event. Despite this, more than fifty Catholic groups endorsed the program. In 1983 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith attempted unsuccessfully to block publication of Nugent's book, A Challenge to Love: Gay and Lesbian Catholics in the Church, although Cardinal Ratzinger did succeed in forcing Bishop Walter Sullivan of Richmond to remove his name from it.[43]:200 In May 1999 both Nugent and Grammick were formally disciplined when the Congregation imposed lifetime bans on any pastoral work involving gay people, declaring that the positions they advanced "do not faithfully convey the clear and constant teaching of the Catholic Church" and "have caused confusion among the Catholic people".[197] The Vatican move made Nugent and Gramick "folk heroes in liberal circles", where official teaching is seen as outdated and lacking compassion.[195]

Similarly, the American bishops Thomas Gumbleton of Detroit and Matthew Clark of Rochester, New York were criticized for their association with New Ways Ministry, and their distortion of the theological concept of the "Primacy of Conscience" as an alternative to the actual teaching of the Catholic Church.[198]

In 1984, Cardinal Ratzinger asked Archbishop Gerety of Newark to withdraw his imprimatur from Sexual Morality by Philip S. Keane, and the Paulist Press ceased its publication. Keane had stated that homosexuality should not be considered absolutely immoral but only "if the act was placed without proportionate reason". The Catholic tradition had suffered "historical distortions", and should be "ever open to better expressions".[43]:200

In a letter of 25 July 1986 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith rebuked moral theologian Charles Curran for his published work and informed the Catholic University of America in Washington that he would "no longer be considered suitable nor eligible to exercise the function of a professor of Catholic theology". Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Prefect of the Congregation, expressed the hope that "this regrettable, but necessary, outcome to the Congregation's study might move you to reconsider your dissenting positions and to accept in its fullness the teaching of the Catholic Church".[199] Curran had been critical of a number of the Catholic Church's teachings, including his contention that homosexual acts in the context of a committed relationship were good for homosexual people. This event "widened the gulf" between the Catholic episcopacy and academia in the United States.[131][200][201][202]

Also in 1986 Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen of Seattle was required to transfer authority concerning ministry to homosexuals to his auxiliary bishop. Hunthausen had earlier been investigated by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for allowing Dignity, the association for gay Catholics, to hold Mass in Seattle cathedral on the grounds that: "They're Catholics too. They need a place to pray". "Bishops had been put on notice that pastoral ministry to homosexuals, unless it is based on clear condemnation of homosexual conduct, invites serious trouble with Rome".[43]:201 In the same year Cardinal Ratzinger wrote to Bishop Matthew Clark of Rochester, in the US instructing him to remove his imprimatur from a book aimed at parents talking to children, Parents Talk Love: A Catholic Handbook on Sexuality written by Father Matthew Kawiak and Susan Sullivan, and which included information on homosexuality.[43]:200

James Alison, a priest formerly a member of the Dominican Order and in the United Kingdom, has also argued that the teaching of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons regarding gay people is incompatible with the Gospel, and states that "it cannot in fact be the teaching of the Church."[203][204] In A Question of Truth, the Dominican priest Gareth Moore states that "there are no good arguments, from either Scripture or natural law, against what have come to be known as homosexual relationships. The arguments put forward to show that such relationships are immoral are bad."[205]

In 2006, Father Bernard Lynch became the first Catholic priest to undertake a civil partnership in the Republic of Ireland. He had previously had his relationship blessed in a ceremony in 1998 by an American Cistercian monk.[206]) He was subsequently expelled from his religious order in 2011 and legally wed his husband in 2016.[207]

In 2012, a group of sixty-three former Catholic priests in the USA publicly announced their support for Referendum 74, which would make Washington the nation's seventh state to legalize marriage between same-sex couples. In a statement, they said: "We are uneasy with the aggressive efforts of Catholic bishops to oppose R-74 and want to support the 71 percent of Catholics (Public Religion Research Institute) who support civil marriage for gays as a valid Catholic position."[208]

In 2013 in England and Wales, 27 prominent Catholics (mainly theologians and clergy) issued a public letter supporting the government's move to introduce same-sex civil marriage. The group included James Alison, Tina Beattie, and Kevin T. Kelly.[209]

In October 2014, Wendelin Bucheli, a priest in Bürglen in the west of Switzerland was removed from his diocese by the local bishop after performing a blessing for a lesbian couple. He said he had discussed it with other members of the clergy before making the decision to acknowledge the relationship.[210]

In 2017, Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest in the US published “Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the L.G.B.T. Community Can Enter Into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion and Sensitivity.” This called on church leaders to show respect by using terms like “gay” and “L.G.B.T.,” instead of phrases like “afflicted with same-sex attraction.” He also argued that to expect a sinless lifestyle from gay Catholics, but not from any other group, is a form of “unjust discrimination” and that gay people should not be fired for marrying a same-sex spouse. Cardinal Joseph Tobin and Cardinal Kevin Farrell contributed blurbs to the book. [211] However, a number of Catholic institutes, including The Theological College in Washington, The Order of the Holy Sepulchre in New York, and Cafod in the UK subsequently cancelled events at which Martin was due to speak after pressure from conservative Catholics who threatened to withhold funding. Robert McElroy, the Bishop of San Diego, rallied to support Martin - criticising those that had tried to vilify him and distort his writings.[212][213]

Lay opinion[edit]


The United States has the fourth largest Catholic population in the world.[214] Catholic support for gay rights in the country is higher than that of other Christian groups and of the general population.[215][216] A spokesperson for DignityUSA suggested that Catholic support for gay rights was due to the religion's tradition of social justice, the importance of the family, and better education.[217]

In 2003, fewer than 35% of American Catholics supported same-sex marriage. However, a report by the Public Religion Research Institute on the situation in 2013 found that during that decade support for same-sex marriage has risen 22 percentage points among Catholics to 57%: 58% among white Catholics, 56% among Hispanic, with white Catholics more likely to offer "strong" support. Among Catholics who were regular churchgoers, 50% supported, 45% opposed.[218][219]

A 2011 report by the same organisation found that 73% of American Catholics favoured anti-discrimination laws, 63% supported the right of gay people to serve openly in the military, and 60% favoured allowing same-sex couples to adopt children. The report also found Catholics to be more critical than other religious groups about how their church is handling the issue.[34][215]

In June 2015, data from Pew Research suggested that 66% of American Catholics think it is acceptable for children to be brought up by with gay parents. More generally, 70% thought it acceptable for a gay couple to cohabit. Less than half believed that homosexuality should be regarded as a sin (44% of Catholics compared to 62% of Protestants); and a majority would like the church to be more flexible toward those who are in same-sex relationships, including the right to have marriages recognised.[220]

In August 2015, a poll jointly commissioned by the Public Religion Research Institute and the Religion News Service was released suggesting that on issues such as LGBT rights there is "a widening ideological gulf between Catholic leadership and people in the pews", as well as a more progressive attitude among Catholics compared to the US population more generally. 60% of Catholics favour allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally, compared to 55% of Americans as a whole. Most Catholics (53%) said they did not believe same-sex marriage violated their religious beliefs. 76% of Catholics also said that they favoured laws that would protect LGBT people from discrimination (alongside 70% of Americans overall). Finally, around 65% of Catholics oppose policies which permit business owners the right to refuse service to customers who are LGBT by citing religious concerns (compared to 57% of Americans).[221]


A 2014 poll commissioned by the US Spanish-language network Univision of more than 2,000 Catholics in 12 countries (Uganda, Spain, the US, Brazil, Argentina, France, Mexico, Italy, Colombia, Poland, the Philippines, and the DRC) found that two thirds of respondents were opposed to the idea of civil same-sex marriage, and around one third was in favor. However, the level of resistance varied between economically developing and developed countries, with 99% of respondents opposed in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo; but a majority in favour in Spain (63%) and the US (54%). Additionally, in all countries a majority of those polled said they did not think the Catholic Church should perform marriages between two people of the same sex—although the results again ranged with support strongest in Spain (43% in favour) to Uganda (99% against).[222][223]

In January 2014 the former president of Ireland, Mary McAleese, strongly criticized the Catholic Church's approach to homosexuality in a lecture to the Royal Society of Edinburgh: "I don't like my church's attitude to gay people. I don't like 'love the sinner, hate the sin'. If you are the so-called sinner, who likes to be called that?" Her comments were welcomed by the Irish Association of Catholic Priests.[224]

The German bishops conference reported in February 2014 that in Germany "the Church's statements on premarital sexual relations, homosexuality, on those divorced and remarried, and on birth control ... are virtually never accepted, or are expressly rejected in the vast majority of cases"; and that there was "a 'marked tendency' among Catholics to accept legal recognition of same-sex unions as 'a commandment of justice' and they felt the Church should bless them, although most did not want gay marriage to be legalised".[225]

A YouGov poll held in the United Kingdom in 2015 found that Catholics had a more liberal attitude towards gay marriage than Protestants, although both groups are less accepting on the issues than the public as a whole. 50% of Catholics support gay marriage (compared to 45% of Protestants, and 66% of people in the UK as a whole).[226]

World Values Survey[edit]

Using data from the World Values Survey, Austrian political scientist Arno Tausch examined the opinions on homosexuality of respondents who identified as "practising" Roman Catholics (attending Mass at least once a week).[227] He found that homosexuality is broadly tolerated much more in developed than in developing countries, with the former Communist countries of Eastern Europe in a middle position)

The majority of practising Roman Catholics (i.e., more than 50%, in descending order of acceptance) in Andorra, Netherlands, Guatemala, New Zealand, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Italy, United States, Australia, Singapore, Spain, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Argentina, Uruguay, Great Britain, Colombia, Switzerland, Vietnam, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Mexico, South Africa, France, Chile, Dominican Republic, and Trinidad and Tobago would accept a homosexual neighbor. Similarly, a majority (i.e., more than 50%, in descending order) of practising Roman Catholics in the Netherlands, Andorra, Germany, Canada, Czech Republic, France, Philippines, United States, Great Britain, Singapore, Australia, Slovakia, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain, Guatemala, Lebanon, Bosnia, Switzerland, Uruguay, Brazil, Malaysia, Chile, and the Dominican Republic also reject the opinion that homosexuality can never be justified.

Tausch concluded that in a number of countries the rejection of homosexuality among practising Roman Catholics is weaker than the societies in which they live (Bosnia, South Africa, Singapore, Indonesia, Nigeria, Guatemala, Lebanon, Dominican Republic, Malaysia, United States, Philippines, Ghana, Romania, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, El Salvador, South Korea, and Zambia) and that the strong statistical relationship between the rejection of homosexuality and an open and liberal society suggests that the Catholic Church should reconsider its position on the issue as it is out of line with its adherants.


DignityUSA was founded in the United States in 1969 as the first group for gay and lesbian Catholics shortly after the Stonewall riots. It developed from the ministry of Father Patrick Xavier Nidorf, an Augustinian priest. It believes that gay Catholics can "express our sexuality physically, in a unitive manner that is loving, life-giving, and life-affirming". It also seeks to "work for the development of sexual theology leading to the reform of [the church's] teachings and practices regarding human sexuality, and for the acceptance of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender peoples as full and equal members of the one Christ".[228] In 1980, the Association of Priests in the Archdiocese of Chicago honored the Chicago branch of Dignity as the organization of the year. Meetings were initially held in San Diego and Los Angeles, before the organization ultimately became headquartered in Boston. It later spread to Canada. With the publication in 1987 of "On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons", which instructed bishops not to provide facilities for organizations that did not uphold Catholic teaching on homosexuality, Catholic bishops in Atlanta, Buffalo, Brooklyn, Pensacola and Vancouver immediately excluded Dignity chapters, and "within a few months the organization was unwelcome on church property anywhere".[43]

Following a conference in Detroit in 1976 a group called Call to Action (CTA) was established is to advocate a variety of changes in the Catholic Church, including in the church's teaching on sexual matters such as homosexuality.[229] The bishop of Lincoln subsequently placed the group under the ban of excommunication within his diocese. Several other bishops have censured the organization. The excommunications were affirmed by the Congregation for Bishops in 2006.[230] Nevertheless, the organization has continued with a wide range of activities including annual conferences and regional groups, and in 2013 it attempted to broaden its appeal under the tagline "Inspire Catholics, Transform Church".[231]

The Rainbow Sash itself is a strip of a rainbow colored fabric which is worn over the left shoulder and is put on at the beginning of the Liturgy. The members go up to receive Eucharist

The Rainbow Sash Movement covers two separate organizations created by and advanced by practicing LGBT Catholics who believe they should be able to receive Holy Communion.[232][233][234] It has been most active in the United States, England, and Australia. The Rainbow Sash itself is a strip of a rainbow colored fabric which is worn over the left shoulder and is put on at the beginning of the Liturgy. The members go up to receive Eucharist.[235] If denied, they go back to pews and remain standing,[234] but if the Eucharist is received then they go back to the pew and kneel in the traditional way.[236][237] Cardinal Francis Arinze, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, said that members of the Rainbow Sash Movement disqualified themselves from Communion by making reception of it a display of opposition to the Church's teaching,[238] while Archbishop Harry Joseph Flynn, when head of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, said that the decision to take Communion lay with individual Catholics as to their state of grace and freedom from mortal sin, but that receiving Communion should not be used as a protest.[239] The movement in Illinois also planned to hold in a cathedral prayer for legalization of same-sex marriage, an initiative that Bishop Paprocki of Springfield called blasphemous.[240][241]

In the United Kingdom, Quest is a group for lesbian, gay and bisexual Catholics with a purpose to "proclaim the gospel ... so as to sustain and increase Christian belief among homosexual men and women." It was established and is led by lay Catholics.[242] It was, however, taken out of the Catholic Directory because of its refusal to make clear its dissociation from active gay sexuality.[67]:128

There are other groups operating around the world. many organising prayer meetings and retreats and making common cause in their desire to maintain their Catholic faith without hiding their sexuality. Some have called for official recognition of permanent partnerships as an effective way to curb homosexual promiscuity. In Germany there is "Homosexuelle und Kirche" (HuK); in France, "David et Jonathan" (with 25 local branches); in Spain, "Coorinadora Gai-Lesbiana"; in Italy there are a number of groups based in different parts of the country—"Davide e Gionata" (Turin), "Il Guado" (Milan), "La Parola" (Vicenza), "L'Incontro" (Padua), "Chiara e Francesco" (Udine), "L'Archipelago" (Reggio Emilia), "Il Gruppo" (Florence), "Nuova Proposta" (Rome), and "Fratelli dell' Elpis" (Catanaia); in the Netherlands, "Stichting Dignity Nederland"; in Mexico, "Ottra Ovejas"; and in South Africa, "Pilgrims".[67]:128

Defenders of traditional Church teaching[edit]

Knights of Columbus[edit]

The Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organisation, have also been active in political campaigns across the United States in the area of same-sex marriage. The Order contributed over $14 million to help maintain the legal definition of marriage as one man and one woman in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington. Darren Hurwitz (a same-sex marriage proponent) has claimed that the Knights of Columbus has now become "one of the nation's largest funders of discrimination against gays and lesbians."[243]

Catholic Medical Association[edit]

The Catholic Medical Association of North America claims that science "counters the myth that same-sex attraction is genetically predetermined and unchangeable, and offers hope for prevention and treatment."[244] In their official journal, a peer-reviewed academic journal focusing on bioethics, homosexuality has been variously defined as "same-sex attraction disorder",[245] a "psychological and behavioral condition for which people seek professional care",[246] and "neurotic character syndrome", characterised by "personality immaturity, self-victimization, and self-centeredness".[247] "MSM" (men who have sex with men) are claimed to have "a high rate of substance abuse problems and psychological disorders, and a significant percentage... have experienced childhood sexual abuse and other adverse events".[248]

Catholic League[edit]

The Catholic League, a Catholic anti-defamation and civil rights organization, has frequently opposed LGBT policies and positive depictions of gay men and women. Its president, Bill Donohue has described the Church child sex abuse crisis as a "homosexual" problem rather than a "pedophilia" problem since most of the incidents involved sex between men and boys rather than girls.[249] Donohue has repeatedly opposed the inclusion of LGBT groups in St Patrick’s Day Marches across the US. After organizers of the NYC St. Patrick’s Day parade announced in 2015 that they were ending the ban and allowing a gay group to march under its own banner for the first time, Donohue announced that the League would not march in the parade. He also indicated his belief that 'Corporate America' was lined up with the gay rights movement: “It’s not a secret. And they’ve done the same thing here.[250]

In 2016 the Catholic League publicly supported the cancellation of the gay-themed sitcom, The Real O’Neals, which had been loosely based on the life of columnist Dan Savage and dealt with his conservative Catholic mother’s reaction to his sexuality.[251]

Courage International[edit]

Terence Cardinal Cooke of New York City saw a need for a ministry which would assist gay Catholics to adhere to Catholic teaching on sexual behaviour. Cooke invited John Harvey to New York to begin the work of Courage International with Benedict Groeschel, of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. The first meeting was held in September 1980 at the Shrine of Mother Seton in South Ferry. The group consists of laymen and laywomen usually under anonymous discretion, together with a priest, to encourage its members to abstain from acting on their sexual desires and to live chastely according to the Catholic Church's teachings on homosexuality".[252]

Homosexuality and Catholic clergy[edit]

Homosexual clergy, and homosexual activity by clergy, are not exclusively modern phenomena. In response to scandals among ordinary clergy, Saint Peter Damian wrote his Liber Gomorrhianus (1050), which denounced, in ascending order of gravity, four varieties of sexual practice: masturbation, mutual masturbation, interfemoral intercourse, and anal intercourse.[253]

Estimates presented in Donald B. Cozzens' book The Changing Face of the Priesthood of the percentage of gay priests range from 23–58%; suggesting a higher than average numbers of homosexual men (active and non-active) within the Catholic priesthood and higher orders.[254]

The 1961 Instruction issued by the Sacred Congregation for Religious, Careful Selection And Training Of Candidates For The States Of Perfection And Sacred Orders (Religiosorum institutio),[255] stated that "Advantage [sic] to religious vows and ordination should be barred to those who are afflicted with evil tendencies to homosexuality or pederasty, since for them the common life and the priestly ministry would constitute serious dangers." Bishops had discretion in allowing the further instruction of offending but penitent seminarians, and held homosexuals to the same standards of celibate chastity as heterosexual seminarians.

In 1997, the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments issued a letter to the world's bishops giving guidelines for candidates for the seminary, stipulating "sufficient affective maturity and a clearly masculine sexual identity." It reiterated the policy in 2002: "Ordination to the diaconate and the priesthood of homosexual men or men with homosexual tendencies is absolutely inadvisable and imprudent and, from the pastoral point of view, very risky. A homosexual person, or one with a homosexual tendency is not, therefore, fit to receive the sacrament of Holy Orders."[256]

In November 2005, the Congregation for Catholic Education under the direction of John Paul II, issued a document entitled an Instruction Concerning the Criteria for the Discernment of Vocations with regard to Persons with Homosexual Tendencies in view of their Admission to the Seminary and to Holy Orders. It stated that "the Church, while profoundly respecting the persons in question, cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practise homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called 'gay culture'". Under the policy, men with "transitory" homosexual tendencies may be ordained deacons following three years of prayer and chastity, but men with "deeply rooted homosexual tendencies" may never be ordained.[60] While not a new moral teaching, the document enhanced vigilance in barring homosexuals from seminaries, and from the priesthood. While the preparation for this document had started 10 years before its publication,[257] this instruction was seen at the time as an official "answer" by the Catholic Church to several sex scandals involving priests in the late 20th/early 21st century, including the American Roman Catholic sex abuse cases and a 2004 sex scandal in a seminary at St. Pölten (Austria).[258][259] There were some questions on how distinctions between deep-seated and transient homosexuality, as proposed by the document, will be applied in practice: the actual distinction that is made might be between those who abuse, and those who do not.[260] However, by distinguishing between homosexual orientation and homosexual acts, the Vatican directive was technically according to Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York "not tout court a no-gays policy".[60] The National Association of Catholic Diocesan Lesbian and Gay Ministries criticized the document for implying that homosexuality was the cause of the sexual abuse crisis and was associated with pedophilia.[261]

In May 2008, Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone, acting on behalf of Pope Benedict XVI, confirmed as applying to all Catholic seminaries everywhere the 2005 declaration[262] that "the Church, while profoundly respecting the persons in question, cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practise homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called 'gay culture'."[263][264] Subsequently in 2010, Bertone, commenting publicly on the clerical abuse crisis, said that "many psychologists and psychiatrists have demonstrated that there is no relation between celibacy and pedophilia". He said they do believe, however, "that there is a relation between homosexuality and pedophilia". "That is true. ... That is the problem."[265] In fact, academic literature supports no link between homosexuality and child abuse, within the clergy or not.[60] The secretary-general of the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales, Father Aloysius Stock, commented: "There is no empirical data which concludes that sexual orientation is connected to sexual abuse".[266] A study by Tallon and Terry examining the evidence on clergy abusers in the USA concluded that where priests had multiple victims, fewer than half of them had repeatedly abused victims of the same age and gender. While a further study by John Jay suggested that in fact "the abuse decreased as more gay priests began serving in the church".[267] The gay rights activist Peter Tatchell has argued that "Scapegoating gay people within the Church is both a way for the Vatican to wash its hands of responsibility for the clerical abuse that has taken place and also a way to further demonise gay people and justify the church's anti-gay policies". Furthermore, "Many gay clergy have entrenched the homophobia of the Vatican. They espouse it with great enthusiasm, seeking to atone for their own homosexuality by being ever more homophobic".[60]

In October 2015, on the day before the second round of the Synod on the Family, a senior Polish priest working in the Vatican, Krzysztof Charamsa, stated publicly in Italy's Corriere della Sera newspaper that he was gay and had a partner.[268] He said he had intended to draw attention to the Church's current attitude towards gay Catholics which he described as "backwards". In his resignation letter to Pope Francis he thanked him for some of his words and gestures towards gay people. However, he criticised the Catholic Church for being "frequently violently homophobic" and "insensitive, unfair and brutal" towards people that are gay. This is despite the fact that he claimed there are significant numbers of gay men and all levels within the Church—including the cardinalate. He called for all statements from the Holy See that are offensive and violent against gay people to be withdrawn, citing Benedict XVI's signature of the 2005 document that forbids men with deep-rooted homosexual tendencies from becoming priests as particularly "diabolical".[269]

Homosexuality and the episcopacy[edit]

The existence of gay bishops in the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran and other traditions is a matter of historical record, though never, until recently, considered licit by any of the main Christian denominations.[270] Homosexual activity was engaged in secretly. When it was made public, official response ranged from inaction to expulsion from Holy Orders.[271] As far back as the eleventh century, Ralph, Archbishop of Tours had his lover installed as Bishop of Orléans, yet neither Pope Urban II, nor his successor Paschal II took action to depose either man.[271]

Although homosexual sexual acts have been consistently condemned by the Catholic Church, a number of senior members of the clergy have been found to have had homosexual relationships. Archbishop Rembert Weakland, who retired in 2002, was alleged to have been in a relationship with a former graduate student;[272] Juan Carlos Maccarone, the Bishop of Santiago del Estero in Argentina, retired after video surfaced showing him engaged in homosexual acts;[273] and Francisco Domingo Barbosa Da Silveira, the Bishop of Minas in Uruguay, resigned in 2009 after it was alleged that he had broken his vow of celibacy.[274] In 2012, Cardinal Keith O'Brien, described as the Catholic Primate of Scotland, was forced to retire prematurely because of complaints that he had made "inappropriate approaches" or "inappropriate contacts" of a homosexual character.[275] In the United States, Catholic priest Donald Cozzens quoted figures from 23 percent to 58 percent of homosexual priests, with a higher percentage among younger priests.[276]

A number of Popes were rumored to have been homosexual or to have had male sexual partners.[277][278] In the 11th century, Pope Benedict IX (1044–1048) was forced out of the papacy amidst a series of scandals, including his sexual orientation toward men. Pope Paul II (1417–1471) was said by detractors to have died while being sodomised by a page boy. Pope Sixtus IV (1414–1484) was called a "lover of boys and sodomites". Pope Leo X (1475–1521) was believed to have engaged in "unnatural vice". Despite having fathered a daughter, there were contemporary suggestions that Pope Julius II (1443–1513) was homosexual. The reputation of Pope Julius III (1487–1555), and that of the Catholic Church, were greatly harmed by his scandal-ridden relationship with his adopted nephew.

Political activity[edit]

Decriminalization of homosexuality[edit]

National level[edit]

The Catholic church has intervened on occasions both to support efforts to decriminalize homosexuality, but also conversely to ensure it remains an offence under criminal law.

In the 1960s, the Catholic Church supported the call of the Wolfenden report to introduce legislation to decriminalise homosexual acts in England and Wales.[31] In Australia, Cardinal Archbishop Norman Thomas Gilroy supported efforts begun in the 1970s to likewise change the law.[32] In the United States the Catholic National Federation of Priests' Councils declared their opposition to "all civil laws which make consensual homosexual acts between adults a crime".[279]

In Malta, however, Catholic bishops opposed efforts to remove homosexual acts from the criminal code; something which was finally done in 1973.[24] In New Zealand, Cardinal Williams issued in 1985 a statement opposing homosexual law reform, arguing that "to decriminalize homosexuality could suggest to some people that it was morally and socially permissible"; but the Church there declined to submit a formal response to the parliamentary enquiry.[280] In later years, the local Catholic Church opposed or took action against decriminalization of homosexuality in Belize.[27] In India, too, the Kerala Catholic Bishops' Council opposed decriminalisation,[281] but Cardinal Oswald Gracias, a President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India and one of the eight members of Pope Francis's Council of Cardinal Advisers, declared it wrong to make gay people criminals, since the Catholic Church "teaches that homosexuals have the same dignity of every human being and condemns all forms of unjust discrimination, harassment or abuse".[33] Homosexuality remains illegal in India, but in 2016 Belize decriminalized homosexuality through a court ruling.[282]

In Nigeria, Cardinal John Onaiyekan was thought to have tacitly approved of a May 2013 bill criminalizing same-sex relationships and participation in gay rights organizations.[283] Ignatius Ayau Kaigama, the Archbishop of Jos described the same law as "courageous" when first signed, praising the Government's action "against the conspiracy of the developed world to make our country and continent, the dumping ground for the promotion of all immoral practices." However, shortly after he went on to argue that the Catholic Church would "defend any person with a homosexual orientation who is being harassed, who is being imprisoned, who is being punished". Reports suggested that the influence of Pope Francis may have led to him modifying his initial rhetoric.[284] Days later a editorial in "The Southern Cross" (a newspaper run jointly by the bishops of South Africa, Botswana and Swaziland) criticised the new Nigerian law, calling on the Catholic Church in Africa to stand with the powerless and "sound the alarm at the advance throughout Africa of draconian legislation aimed at criminalizing homosexuals." It noted the "deep-seated sense of homophobia" in Africa and said the Catholic church had too often been "silent, in some cases even quietly complicit" in the face of the new anti-gay measures.[285]

In June 2012, Catholic bishops in Uganda, a country where 42% of the population is Catholic, participated in a joint Christian urging of Parliament to pass the anti-homosexuality bill,[23] which originally (in 2009) proposed the death penalty for "aggravated homosexuality".[28][286] In that declaration, Archbishop Cyprian Kizito Lwanga joined other religious leaders calling on parliamentarians to make progress in enacting legislation that would broaden criminalisation of same-sex relations. They asked Ugandan Christians "to remain steadfast in opposing the phenomena of homosexuality, lesbianism and same-sex union".[28] This contrasted with an earlier statement tabled in 2009 by the Ugandan Bishop's Conference which said the Bill did not "pass the test of a caring Christian approach to the issue" and that "the targeting of the sinner, not the sin, is the core flaw of the proposed Bill. The introduction of the death penalty and imprisonment for homosexual acts targets people rather than seeking to counsel and to reach out in compassion to those who need conversion, repentance, support, and hope."[287] It contrasted also with reaction to the passage of the bill in December 2013, with imprisonment for life as the maximum punishment instead of the death penalty, and its signing into law by President Museveni in February 2014. The Papal Nuncio to Uganda, Archbishop Michael Blume, voiced concern and shock at the bill,[287] and Cardinal Peter Turkson, President of the Holy See's Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, stated that "homosexuals are not criminals" and should not be sent to prison for life. At the same time he called on the international community to continue providing aid to Uganda.[288] In 2015, Bishop Giuseppe Franzelli in the diocese of Lira, denied that the Catholic Church in Uganda is institutionally behind any push towards anti-gay legislation, and called for "respect and love". Rather he blamed fundamentalist US Christian groups as well as "individual Catholics, including some bishops" for encouraging greater criminal sanctions.[289]

Global level[edit]

In 2008, the Holy See, as an observer at the United Nations, opposed[29][290] a proposed declaration opposing human rights violations based on sexual orientation or gender identity, such as criminalization (including the death penalty), violence, and discrimination, and affirming the principles of human rights without regard to sexual orientation or gender identity.[291] In an interview published on 1 December 2008, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Holy See's representative at the United Nations General Assembly, said of the proposed declaration that it "asked for the addition of new categories to be protected against discrimination without taking into account that, if adopted, these would create terrible new discriminations" such as, he said, pillorying and pressuring of states that do not recognize as marriage a union between persons of the same sex[25][26] or to provide adoption rights to gays and lesbians.[292] Speaking on the floor of the General Assembly on 18 December 2008, he said: "The Holy See appreciates the attempts made [in the draft declaration] to condemn all forms of violence against homosexual persons as well as urge States to take necessary measures to put an end to all criminal penalties against them", but added that its failure to define the terms "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" would produce "serious uncertainty" and "undermine the ability of States to enter into and enforce new and existing human rights conventions and standards".[29][30] In Italy, the gay association Arcigay and the newspaper La Repubblica decried the stance of the Holy See. An editorial in La Stampa, a general circulation newspaper, said the Vatican's reasoning was "grotesque".[290][293]

During discussion at the 16th session of the UN Human Rights Council in 2011 of a Joint Statement on Ending Violence and Related Human Rights Violations Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, the Holy See's representative, Archbishop Silvano Maria Tomasi, stated: "A state should never punish a person, or deprive a person of the enjoyment of any human right, based just on the person's feelings and thoughts, including sexual thoughts and feelings. But states can, and must, regulate behaviors, including various sexual behaviors. Throughout the world, there is a consensus between societies that certain kinds of sexual behaviors must be forbidden by law. Pedophilia and incest are two examples."[294] He later said of that resolution that recognizing gay rights would cause discrimination against religious leaders and that there was concern lest consequent legislation would lead to "natural marriages and families" being "socially downgraded".[22]

On 28 January 2012, the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, gave a speech calling on African nations to repeal laws that place sanctions on homosexual conduct. Speaking to a journalist, African Cardinal Robert Sarah, president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, called the speech stupid. The journalist reported: "Asked if Ban Ki-moon was overstepping his responsibilities, Cardinal Sarah replied: 'Sure, you cannot impose something stupid like that.' He added: 'Poor countries like Africa just accept it because it's imposed upon them through money, through being tied to aid.'" He said that African bishops must react against this move against African culture.[295] Meanwhile, Cardinal Peter Turkson, while recognising that some of the sanctions imposed on homosexuals in Africa are an "exaggeration", stated that the "intensity of the reaction is probably commensurate with tradition". "Just as there's a sense of a call for rights, there's also a call to respect culture, of all kinds of people", he said. "So, if it's being stigmatized, in fairness, it's probably right to find out why it is being stigmatized." He also called for distinction to be made between human rights and moral issues.[296]

Discrimination against homosexuals[edit]

The Catholic Church has been described as sending "mixed signals" regarding discrimination based on sexual orientation. It does not regard such an orientation as comparable to gender or race differentiation, and so actively opposes the extension of at least some aspects of civil rights legislation to gay men and lesbians.[40]:194 The Vatican therefore holds that there are areas in which it is not unjust discrimination to take sexual orientation into account.[40]:193[297]

In 1992, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published a statement under the title "Some Considerations Concerning the Catholic Response to Legislative Proposals on the Non-Discrimination of Homosexual Persons". It commented that some "municipal authorities made public housing, otherwise reserved for families, available to homosexual (and unmarried heterosexual) couples" and said that "such initiatives ... may in fact have a negative impact on the family and society", affecting "such things as the adoption of children, the employment of teachers, the housing needs of genuine families, landlords' legitimate concerns in screening potential tenants". After recalling what it had already stated in its 1986 letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the pastoral care of homosexual persons, it declared that, because of the moral concern that sexual orientation raises, it is different from qualities such as race, ethnicity, sex or age, and therefore "there are areas where it is not unjust discrimination to take sexual orientation into account, for example, in the placement of children for adoption or foster care, in employment of teachers or athletic coaches, and in military recruitment". Limitation of rights is permissible, and sometimes even obligatory, in cases of "objectively disordered external conduct", even if the conduct is not culpable, as in the case of "contagious or mentally ill persons", the exercise of whose rights can justly, for the sake of the common good, be restricted.[57]

In 2014 the United Nation's Committee on the Rights of the Child expressed concern in a report about the Holy See's past statements and declarations on homosexuality which it said "contribute to the social stigmatization of and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender adolescents and children raised by same sex couples". The Committee urged the Holy See to "make full use of its moral authority to condemn all forms of harassment, discrimination or violence against children based on their sexual orientation or the sexual orientation of their parents and to support efforts at international level for the decriminalisation of homosexuality."[298][299]


In 1995, Catholic bishops in Poland were successful in resisting the introduction of provisions into the country's constitution that would bar discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation[300] In 2010, the European Union reprimanded schools and colleges owned by the Catholic Church for refusing to employ staff that were openly gay.[301]

In 2012, the Catholic Church directly intervened in government plans in Croatia to introduce sex education teaching in schools (including the topic of homosexuality). Several parishes distributed leaflets at local Mass asking: "Parents, do you care about the fact that your child will have to learn that a homosexual act is as natural and valuable as a sexual act between a man and a woman?" Subsequently the teaching was suspended by Constitutional Court on the grounds that parents had the right to freely decide about the education of their children.

In contrast, in May 2014, Bishop Charles Scicluna of Malta attended an event organised by the Maltese Catholic gay rights group Drachma to mark International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.[302] In Ireland, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin reacted to concerns over anti-gay comments in the media by saying that "anybody who doesn't show love towards gay and lesbian people is insulting God. They are not just homophobic if they do that — they are actually Godophobic because God loves every one of those people."[285]

South America[edit]

In July 2013, Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez referred to President Obama's nominee for Dominican Republic's ambassador (Wally Brewster) by the anti-gay slur maricón.[23] In 2011 a Catholic bishop in Peru, Luis Bambarén, was forced to apologize for using the same word in commenting, when answering journalists' questions on plans to legalise same-sex marriage, on the use in Spanish of the English word "gay": "I do not know why we talk about Gays. Let's speak in Creole or Castilian: They're faggots. That's how you say it, right?" He later apologized, saying: "It is an offensive word, and [homosexuals] deserve respect."[303] However, in December 2015 Rodríguez again insulted Brewster who he said was abusing his role by speaking out against corruption: "That man needs to go back to his embassy. Let him focus on housework, since he's the wife to a man." The remark received criticism from the US State Department, and Senator, Dick Durbin asked Pope Francis to intervene and reprimand Rodriguez.[304]


In May 2014 Lewis Zeigler, the Archbishop of Monrovia, Liberia, was reported as saying against the backdrop of the Ebola outbreak that "one of the major transgressions against God for which He may be punishing Liberia is the act of homosexuality".[305]

In 2015, at the Synod on the Family in Rome Cardinal Robert Sarah of Guinea compared the promotion of equal rights for gay people as akin to support for totalitarian regimes such as Nazism: "We need to be inclusive and welcoming to all that is human; but what comes from the Enemy cannot and must not be assimilated. You cannot join Christ and Belial. What Nazi-Fascism and Communism were in the 20th century, Western homosexual and abortion Ideologies and Islamic Fanaticism are today."[306]

United States[edit]

In the United States, the trustees of the University of Notre Dame, a Catholic university, rejected a proposal in 1999 to amend their antidiscrimination clause to include sexual orientation along with characteristics such as race, color, and gender.[307] In 2013, the United States Conference of Bishops wrote to all members of the Senate Committee for Health, Education, Labour and Pensions to register its opposition to a proposed Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).[308] The proposed legislation would prohibit discrimination in hiring and employment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity by civilian, nonreligious employers with at least 15 employees. While they expressed their belief that "no one should be an object of scorn, hatred, or violence for any reason, including sexual inclination", the bishops declared: "We have a moral obligation to oppose any law that would be so likely to contribute to legal attempts to redefine marriage".[309] In this way the Archdiocese of Chicago was able to fire Colin Collette from playing music at church services at a local church after he entered into a same-sex marriage. In April 2017 the federal courts upheld the church decision. The Archbishop of Newark, John J. Myers, also supported the dismissal of a dean of a Catholic high school in Paramus, New Jersey, in 2016 for marrying her lesbian partner.[310] DignityUSA reports that more than 100 employees of Catholic institutions across the US have lost their posts from 2014-17 for being gay or for marrying a same-sex spouse.[311]

In 2016, Fabian Bruskewitz (formerly Bishop of Lincoln) argued that the acceptance of homosexuality in the US had been "devastating" for society, and that Catholics who refused to "capitulate" to the LGBT agenda faced up-coming persecution. He called homosexuality a "perversion that is repulsive to normal human beings" and a type of "degeneration" determined to destroy Christianity.[312] As Bishop (in 1996) he had threatened automatic excommunication to any Catholics who became members of Call to Action - an organization advocates a variety of changes in the Catholic Church including greater understanding around homosexuality.[313][314][315]

However, the influence of Francis as Pope over recent years has seen a gradual shift in the treatment of LGBT worshippers towards a more welcoming stance in some dioceses. For example, in the US in April 2016 the Bishop of Lexington in Kentucky, John Stowe, spoke at a New Ways Ministry national conference and indicated that he admired and respected LGBT people who remained steadfast to the church even though the church had not always been as welcoming. In October 2016, Robert McElroy the Bishop of San Diego held a diocesan synod on the family that called for improved ministry toward gay and lesbian Catholics. In 2017 the diocese of Jefferson City, Missouri said it would permit transgender students in its Catholic schools.

In June 2017 Cardinal Joseph Tobin, Archbishop of Newark in the USA, held a "Pilgrimage" Mass specifically for LGBT Catholics from around New York and the five dioceses in New Jersey at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart. Many of the attendees were married to same-sex spouses, and participated in the Sacrament of Holy Communion. It was reported, however, that Tobin subsequently received an amount of hate-mail from Catholics opposed to the move. The director of New Ways Ministry indicated that this was a positive first step, contrasting with a church leadership that has for decades "been so silent, and unwilling to dialogue, and unwilling to pray with L.G.B.T. Catholics". The event was organized by gay ministries within the Church of the Sacred Heart in South Plainfield, New Jersey, and the Church of the Precious Blood in Monmouth Beach.[211] Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago has also suggested that the Catholic Church should respect and use words such as "gay" and "lesbian" as a way of more effectively reaching out to the LGBT community.[316]

In contrast in October of the same year, the Archbishop of New York Timothy Dolan intervened to force out The International Human Rights Art Festival from performing at one of the churches in his diocese, because of its gay and transgender content. The Church offered to host the event if these specific acts were rejected, but the director of the festival declined.[317][318]

The U.S Conference of Catholic Bishops intervened in 2017 in the Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case being considered by the US Supreme Court. It filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the baker who had refused to make a cake for a gay couple that wanted to get wed. It was joined by other Catholic organisations including the Colorado Catholic Conference, Catholic Bar Association, Catholic Medical Association, National Association of Catholic Nurses-USA and National Catholic Bioethics Centre. [319]

Campaign against same-sex marriage and civil unions[edit]

In recent years, the Catholic Church has intervened in national political discourse to resist legislative efforts by secular governments to give equal rights to gay men and women through the establishment of either civil unions or same-sex marriage.

On 3 June 2003, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published a document with the agreement of Pope John Paul II called "Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons" opposing the very idea of same-sex marriage. This document made clear that "legal recognition of homosexual unions or placing them on the same level as marriage would mean not only the approval of deviant behaviour ... but would also obscure basic values which belong to the common inheritance of humanity". Catholic legislators were instructed that supporting such recognition would be "gravely immoral", and that they must do all they could do actively oppose it, bearing in mind that "the approval or legalisation of evil is something far different from the toleration of evil". The document said that allowing children to be adopted by people living in homosexual union would actually mean doing violence to them, and stated: "There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God's plan for marriage and family. Marriage is holy, while homosexual acts go against the natural moral law."[320]

In an April 2007 address to chaplains, Archbishop Angelo Amato (Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith), denounced same-sex marriage and criticized the Italian media's coverage of them, saying that they are evils "that remain almost invisible" due to media presentation of them as an "expression of human progress."[321]

In October 2015, bishops attending the Fourteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in Rome agreed a final document which reiterated that while homosexuals should not be discriminated against unjustly, the Church was clear that same-sex marriage is "not even remotely analogous" to heterosexual marriage. They also argued that local churches should not face pressure to recognise or support legislation that introduces same-sex marriage, nor should international bodies put conditions on financial aid to developing countries to force the introduction of laws that establish same-sex marriage.[322][323]

North America[edit]

In the United States, the leadership of the Catholic Church has taken an active and financial role in political campaigns across all states regarding same-sex marriage.[18][324] Human Rights Campaign said that the church spent nearly $2 million in 2012 toward unsuccessful campaigns against gay marriage in four states (Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington), representing a significant share of the contributions used to fund anti-gay marriage campaigns,[325] although a 2012 Pew Research Center poll indicated that Catholics in the United States generally who support gay marriage outnumber those who oppose it at 52 percent to 37 percent[325]

In addition to financially supporting political campaigns against same-sex marriage, the church has also urged its followers to campaign and vote against it, distributing anti-gay-marriage DVDs and asking parishioners to write to lawmakers and urge them to oppose the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act.[326] In Washington State, for example, the four Catholic bishops were reported as "intensifying a campaign of pastoral statements and videos urging parishioners to vote against marriage equality" under Referendum 74.[208]

Bishops and archbishops have described same-sex marriage as against nature and a risk to spiritual well-being and discouraged Catholics from attending same-sex weddings, as well as from taking communion if they supported same-sex marriage.[326][327]

In July 2003, the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in Canada, the country's plurality religion, protested the Chrétien government's plans to include same-sex couples in civil marriage. The church criticisms were accompanied by Vatican claims that Catholic politicians should vote according to their personal beliefs rather than the policy of the government. Amid a subsequent backlash in opinion, the church remained quiet on the subject until late 2004, when the Bishop of Calgary, Frederick Henry, wrote a pastoral letter calling homosexual behaviour "an evil act"[328] and seeming to call for its outlaw by the government, saying "Since homosexuality, adultery, prostitution and pornography undermine the foundations of the family, the basis of society, then the State must use its coercive power to proscribe or curtail them in the interests of the common good."[328]

In 2004, George Hugh Niederauer, as Bishop of Salt Lake City, who opposed same-sex marriage, spoke against a proposal to include a ban against it in the Utah state constitution, saying that he feared it excluded unions other than marriage and that the prohibition by law was sufficient[329] But in 2008, as Archbishop of San Francisco, he campaigned in favor of California's Proposition 8, a ballot measure to recognize heterosexual marriage constitutionally as the only valid marriage within California, and was said to have been instrumental in forging alliances between Catholics and Mormons to support the measure.[330] His successor, Salvatore Cordileone, had been instrumental in devising the initiative. Campaign finance records show he personally gave at least $6,000 to back the voter-approved ban[331] and was instrumental in raising $1.5 million to put the proposition on the ballot.[332] Subsequently, as Cardinal Archbishop of San Francisco, he called for an amendment to the US Constitution as "the only remedy in law against judicial activism" following the striking down of a number of state same-sex marriage bans by federal judges. He also attended and addressed the audience at the "March for Marriage", a rally opposing marriage for same-sex couples, in Washington, D.C. in June 2014, in spite of being warned by Nancy Pelosi against doing so.[333]

In 2010, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) clarified the criteria for the funding of community development programs by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. One criterion was exclusion of organizations advancing activities that run counter to Catholic teaching, examples of which included those that support or promote same-sex marriage or discrimination.[334][335] In 2016, the President and the Chair of USCCB denounced US Vice President Joe Biden for officiating at the wedding of a same-sex couple, arguing that Catholic politicians should only do what is expressly in line with Catholic Church teaching.[336]

In 2016, the Bishop of Springfield, Illinois, Thomas Paprocki, stated publicly his belief that Catholic politicians who have been involved in making gay marriage legal in the United States should be denied Holy Communion until they had sought forgiveness in the confessional. he had previously issued a decree to priests and employees of his diocese to avoid facilitating same-sex marriages, to deny Communion to any parishioners in a same-sex union, and to deny funeral rites or a church funeral for "unrepentant homosexuals".[337]


The First same-sex marriage in Spain officially took place in 1901 between Marcela Gracia Ibeas and Elisa Sanchez Loriga and was held in the Catholic Church of St.Jorge; but without the evident awareness of the priest.

Catholic Church figures have also criticized attempts to legalize same-sex marriage in Europe. Pope John Paul II criticized same-sex marriage when it was introduced in the Netherlands in 2001,[338] and cardinals in Scotland and France said that it was a danger to society.[11][19]

In Spain and Portugal, Catholic leaders led the opposition to same-sex marriage, urging their followers to vote against it or to refuse to implement the marriages should they become legal.[14] In May 2010, during an official visit to Portugal four days before the ratification of the law, Pope Benedict XVI, affirmed his opposition by describing it as "insidious and dangerous".[339]

In 2010 in Ireland, Sean Brady, the Archbishop of Armagh, unsuccessfully asked Irish Catholics to resist government proposals for same-sex civil partnerships, and the Irish episcopal conference said that they discriminated against people in non-sexual relationships.[21] In April 2013, when the legalization of same-sex marriage was being discussed, the Irish Bishops Conference stated in their submission to a constitutional convention that, if the civil definition of marriage was changed to include same-sex marriage, so that it differed from the church's own definition, they could no longer perform civil functions at weddings.[15][16]

In the predominantly Catholic countries of Italy and Croatia the Catholic Church has been the main opponent to either the introduction of civil unions or marriage for same-sex-couples.[20] In July 2013, 750,000 petition signatures were collected by the conservative pressure group "In the Name of the Family", strongly supported by Catholic church leaders. This directly led to the 2013 referendum whereby the constitution was amended to state that marriage is only a union between a man and a woman (aimed at prohibiting same-sex marriage).[17] In 2007, Angelo Bagnasco, the Archbishop of Genoa, was criticized by a minister in the Italian government for comparing the idea of recognizing same-sex unions directly with state recognition for incest and pedophilia.[340][341] In February 2016 the Italian Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, rejected the Catholic Church's interference in a parliamentary debate to introduce civil unions and adoption rights for same-sex partners. This followed Bagnasco's attempt to get the Italian Senate to carry-out a secret ballot in the hope it would make it easier for lawmakers to follow their conscience, rather than the party line.[342]

Likewise in Slovenia, the Archbishop of Ljubljana, Stanislav Zore, publicly gave his support to establish a referendum vote aimed at changing the country's constitution so that marriage would be defined as being between a man and a woman. The referendum was subsequently passed and the earlier legislative vote to legalise same-sex marriage was nullified, stripping gay couples of their right to marry.[343]

In January 2013, Catholic bishops publicly thanked members of parliament in Poland for voting down a bill which would have permitted same-sex civil partnerships.[301]

South America[edit]

In response to efforts to introduce same-sex marriage in Uruguay in 2013, Pablo Galimberti, the Bishop of Salto, on behalf of the Uruguayan Bishops Council, said that marriage was "an institution that is already so injured" and that the proposed law would "confuse more than clarify". The proposal nevertheless became law, with strong public support.[344]


In Cameroon, Victor Tonye Bakot, the Archbishop of Yaounde, urged parishioners in 2012 that "Marriage of persons of the same sex is a serious crime against humanity. We need to stand up to combat it with all our energy".[23] He went on to state, "Gays are the enemy of creation". This reflected a particular hostile attitude by the Church in Cameroon, and such interventions prompted the national press to allege the existence of a homosexual "mafia" with a witch-hunt against prominent individuals.[345] At the start of 2013 the National Episcopal Conference of Cameroon followed this up by issuing a public statement urging "all believers and people of good will to reject homosexuality and so-called 'gay marriage'".[12] The Conference again released a statement in February 2016 calling for "zero tolerance" of homosexuality and rejecting any suggestion of decriminalization, arguing that "this abominable thing that goes against nature risks becoming a social outbreak".[345]

In 2014, the Catholic Bishops Conference in Nigeria welcomed legislation passed by the government to make participation in a same-sex marriage a crime punishable by 14 years imprisonment. It noted the move as a "courageous act" and a "step in the right direction". The Archbishop of Jos, Ignatius Ayau Kaigama, argued that the action was "in line with the moral and ethical values of the Nigerian and African cultures", and blessed President Goodluck Jonathan in not bowing to international pressure: "To protect you and your administration against the conspiracy of the developed world to make our country and continent, the dumping ground for the promotion of immoral practices".[13]


In the Philippines, the Catholic Church has been increasingly vocal in its opposition to legal recognition of same-sex relationships, coinciding with a legal challenge to the ban on same-sex marriage in the Family Code being raised in the Philippines Supreme Court. The ban on gay marriage can be challenged via public petition.[346] The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, however, is opposed to the idea, to the extent of even stating that "same-sex marriage" and "falling for the same sex is wrong".[347] In August 2015, Archbishop Socrates Villegas told Filipino Catholics that they "cannot participate in any way or even attend religious or legal ceremonies that celebrate and legitimize homosexual unions".[348]

In Hong Kong, Cardinal John Tong Hon, has used pastoral letters on two occasions to criticise proposals to legislate for same-sex marriage, most recently in 2015. He has argued publicly that the gay rights movement is "challenging and twisting" core values on marriage and family, and attempts to introduce gay marriage along with the Sexual Orientation Discrimination Ordinance had "shaken society to its core", adding: "In recent years, social trends and political movements, such as extreme libertarian attitudes, individualism, the 'Sex Liberation Movement' and the 'Gay Movement' under the guise of equality and the fight against discrimination, have all along been advocating the enactment of a Sexual Orientation Discrimination Ordinance in Hong Kong and the recognition of same-sex marriages."[349][350][351] He urged Catholics to consider this when voting in the district council elections. Several pan-democratic parties criticised Tong's remarks. Raymond Chan Chi-chuen said it "reflected a backward view of social movements", while a spokesman for the Labour Party said Tong's view was "obviously different" from the remarks of Pope Francis.[352][353]


In 2015 the Archbishop of Hobart, Julian Porteous, with the support of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference distributed a booklet to 12,000 families with children in Catholic schools across Tasmania entitled “Don’t Mess With Marriage”. The booklet argued of gay men and women that "pretending that their relationships are ‘marriages’ is not fair or just to them." Porteous was subsequently referred to the Australian Anti-Discrimination Commissioner; however the complaint was withdrawn without a finding.[354]

The Archbishop of Sydney, Anthony Fisher, has intervened in the political debate to determine whether Australia should introduce same-sex marriage - publicly supporting the "no" vote in the referendum to decide its introduction. In August 2017 he argued that religious schools, charities and hospitals could be coerced to comply with the "new view of marriage" if the majority of Australians opted for a change in legislation - raising his fear that teachers would not be free to follow the traditional church teaching on marriage, but instead be forced to teach a more 'politically correct' curriculum.[355] He went on to claim that religious believers would be vulnerable to discrimination suits and could even lose their jobs if same-sex marriage is legalised.[356]

The Archbishop of Brisbane, Mark Coleridge, also intervened in the referendum debate to argue that same-sex marriage would be equivalent to legislating for incest.[357]

Acceptance of civil unions[edit]

Former Cardinal Archbishop of Milan Carlo Maria Martini said: "I disagree with the positions of those in the Church, that take issue with civil unions ...[but] the homosexual couple, as such, can never be totally equated to a marriage."

There has been some dissent expressed in recent years by senior and notable figures in the Catholic Church on whether support should be given for homosexual civil unions.

The insistence of Bishop Jacques Gaillot to preach a message about homosexuality contrary to that of the official church teaching is largely considered to be one of the factors that led to him being removed from his See of Evraux, France, in 1995. While bishop he had blessed a homosexual union in a "service of welcoming", after the couple requested it in view of their imminent death from AIDS. [358]

In his book Credere e conoscere, published shortly before his death, Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, the former Archbishop of Milan, set out his disagreement with opposition by Catholics to homosexual civil unions: "I disagree with the positions of those in the Church, that take issue with civil unions ... It is not bad, instead of casual sex between men, that two people have a certain stability". He said that the "state could recognize them". Although he stated his belief that "the homosexual couple, as such, can never be totally equated to a marriage", he also said that he could understand (although not necessarily approve of) gay pride parades when they support the need for self-affirmation.[359][360]

In 2006 Thedore McCarrick, as Archbishop of Washington, indicated an acceptance for such unions.[citation needed] In 2013 Christoph Schonborn, the Cardinal Archbishop of Vienna, stated: "There can be same-sex partnerships and they need respect, and even civil law protection." Cardinal Ruben Salazar Gomez of Bogota has said: "Other unions have the right to exist, no one can ask them not to, but they should not be equated to marriage".[361] The former Papal Master of Ceremonies, Archbishop Piero Marini, has said: "Church and state should not be enemies to one another. In these discussions, it's necessary, for instance, to recognize the union of persons of the same sex, because there are many couples that suffer because their civil rights aren't recognized."[362] Godfried Danneels, Archbishop Emeritus of Brussels, has called the legalisation of same-sex civil marriage "a positive evolution", and added that the Church has nothing to say about whether states can legalise civil marriage for gay people[363] Cardinal Rainer Woelki the Archbishop of Berlin has also stated: "If two homosexuals take responsibility for each other when they are in a stable and faithful relationship, you have to see it in a similar way to heterosexual relationships."[note 9]

Over 260 Catholic theologians, particularly from Germany, Switzerland and Austria (including Hans Küng), signed in January and February 2011 a memorandum, called Church 2011, which said that the Church's esteem for marriage and celibacy "does not require the exclusion of people who responsibly live out love, faithfulness, and mutual care in same-sex partnerships or in a remarriage after divorce".[364]

In the Roman Catholic Diocese of Aachen in Germany, five same-sex unions received a blessing from the local priest in the German town of Mönchengladbach.[365] Additionally, in 2007, one same-sex union received a blessing in the German town of Wetzlar in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Limburg.[366]

A blessing of a same-sex union, equivalent to marriage except name, was made by a Catholic Dominican priest in Malta in 2015. He was not censured by his local bishop.[367][368][369]

In August 2015 the Archbishop of Hamburg, Stefan Heße, called upon the Church to have more realism with regard to its teaching on sexuality. This included gay couples where he argued the Church should more clearly cherish the values of fidelity and reliability found in such relationships: "But when these people seek to be close to us, then we as Church are there for them. What else?"[370]

At the 2015 Synod of Bishops in Rome, Cardinal Reinhard Marx urged his fellow bishops that "We must make it clear that we do not only judge people according to their sexual orientation ... If a same-sex couple are faithful, care for one another and intend to stay together for life God won't say 'All that doesn't interest me, I'm only interested in your sexual orientation.'" [371]

The Bishop of Antwerp, Johan Bonny, called in 2016 for the Church to devise a blessing for homosexual couples that would recognize the "exclusiveness and stability" of such unions.[372]

Diplomatic disagreements[edit]

In January 2015, the French government announced that it was proposing Laurent Stefanini (fr) as its ambassador to the Holy See. Stefanini was chief of protocol for President François Hollande and had served as France's Head of Mission to the Vatican from 2001 to 2005. Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, Archbishop of Paris, sent a letter to Pope Francis in support of Stefanini,[373] a practicing Roman Catholic who is reported to be gay, but has not spoken publicly of his sexuality, nor entered into a legal same-sex relationship. He publicly supported the legalization of same-sex marriage in France in 2013.[374] The Pope met with Stefanini for forty minutes on 17 April.[375] By October the Vatican had neither accepted nor rejected the appointment, and press speculation blamed either Stefanini's sexual orientation, France's recent legalization of same-sex marriage, or Vatican displeasure with the fact that the nomination was leaked for political reasons,[376].[377] France named Stefanini its ambassador to UNESCO in April 2016.[378]

Notable lesbian, gay and bisexual Catholics[edit]



Andy Warhol, who was gay, was an active Catholic

Politicians, military leaders, and royalty[edit]

  • The military commander of the Catholic Imperial forces in the Holy Roman Empire, Prince Eugene of Savoy (1663 – 1736) was predominantly homosexual[390]
  • Christina, Queen of Sweden (1626 – 1689) reigned from 1632 before her abdication in 1654. Modern biographers generally consider her to have been a lesbian, and her affairs with women were noted during her lifetime.[391] She was a prominent convert to Catholicism in 1654, and is the only woman to be buried in the crypt of St. Peters Basilica in Rome.
  • Ludwig II (1845 – 1886) was King of the Catholic Kingdom of Bavaria from 1864 until his death; it is known from his diary and private letters that he had strong homosexual desires which he tried to suppress.[392] He remained a devout Catholic throughout his life and attended services regularly; building chapels for prayer within his castles, and commissioning religious art.[393]
  • Albert Augustine Edwards (1888–1963) was a member of the South Australian House of Assembly.[394] He was a great benefactor of Catholic charitable work among the poor of Adelaide; and a regular attendee of services at Adelaide cathedral, where his funeral was ultimately held.[395]
  • Ruth Hunt (b. 1980) is Chief Executive of leading UK-based lesbian, gay and bisexual equality organisation Stonewall,[396] the largest gay equality body in Europe.[397] She was formerly President of the Oxford University Student Union.[398] Hunt is a practicing Roman Catholic and has spoken out in favour of bridging the gap between faith leaders and LGBT communities.[399]
  • Stefan Kaufmann (born 1969) is a German politician and member of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU). He is openly gay,[400] and a devout practising catholic.[401]

Clergy and religious[edit]

  • John J. McNeill (1924 - 2015) was ordained as a Jesuit priest[402] in 1959. He was gay and worked as a psychotherapist and an academic theologian with a particular reputation within the field of Queer Theology.[403]
  • Benedetta Carlini (1591-1660) was the abbess of the Convent of the Mother of God in Pescia, who shared her cell with Sister Bartolomea. When the two nuns made love, Sister Benedetta said she experienced mystical visions and angelic possession. The church authorities investigated the mystical experiences and, upon discovering her lesbian sexuality, stripped Carlini of her position as abbess and held her under guard for the remainder of her life.[404]
  • Henry Benedict Stuart was a Roman Catholic cardinal, as well as the fourth and final Jacobite heir to publicly claim the thrones of England, Scotland, France and Ireland. Several contemporaries strongly suggested he was homosexual (although chaste).[405]
  • Antonio Barberini (1607 - 1671) was an Italian Catholic cardinal, Archbishop of Reims, military leader, patron of the arts and a prominent member of the House of Barberini. He was bisexual.[406]


Oscar Wilde, convicted by Britain for homosexual acts, converted to Catholicism on his deathbed
  • In Britain, a number of late 19th-century authors who converted to Catholicism were gay or bisexual, among them Oscar Wilde, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Lord Alfred Douglas, Marc-André Raffalovich, Robert Hugh Benson, Frederick Rolfe[407][408] and John Gray.[409] These male writers sometimes found, in their Catholicism, a means of writing about their attraction to and desire for relationships with other men. Wilde had Catholic tendencies throughout his life and converted on his deathbed. He wrote about himself in De Profundis, during his imprisonment and hard labor, as akin to Christ embodying suffering, and invoked Christ's transformative power for the oppressed.[410] Wilde's sometime lover, the poet John Gray, was Catholic. Raffalovich compared the physicality and the ecstasy of devotion to Christ to same-sex erotic desire.[411] Hopkins's work was strongly marked by physicality and eroticism in its religious references, and the poet, who was reminded of Christ by other men whom he found beautiful, dwelt on the physicality of Christ's body and intimacy of his comfort and love.[407][412]
  • Radclyffe Hall, author of The Well of Loneliness, was also a convert to Catholicism. Joanne Glasgow writes that for Hall and other lesbians of the early twentieth century, such as Alice B. Toklas, the church's erasure of female sexuality offered a cover for lesbianism.[413]
  • Marcel Proust was one of the first European novelists to feature homosexuality openly and at length in his writings; and was considered to have been homosexual.[414]
  • Tennessee Williams was an American playwright who created many works that have become stage classics.[415] He believed that his work was full of deep Christian symbolism, and admitted loving "the beauty of the ritual in the Mass"; yet nevertheless thought the tenets of the Roman Catholic church to be "ridiculous".[416]
  • David Berger (b. 1968) is a German theologian, author and gay activist. He taught as a professor at the Pontifical Academy of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome.[417] However, since May 2013 he has been editor-in-chief of German gay lifestyle-magazine MÄNNER (Berlin).
  • Eve Tushnet is a lesbian Catholic author and blogger.[418] She converted to Catholicism in 1998, and chooses to be celibate in accordance with the Catholic Church's ban on sex outside heterosexual marriage.[419]
  • Milo Yiannopoulos is a British political commentator, media personality, blogger, journalist and author associated politically with the alt-right. He is a practicing Catholic and sexually active gay man.[420]


Singers and musicians[edit]

Josephine Baker, bisexual singer and convert to Catholicism
  • Jeanine Deckers (d. 1985) was known as The Singing Nun or Sœur Sourire. She was a Belgian singer-songwriter and was at one time a member of the Dominican Order. After leaving the order, she remained a practicing Catholic. Some 14 years later, she began a lesbian relationship with a lifelong friend.[423]
  • Vaslav Nijinsky was a Russian ballet dancer and choreographer of Polish descent, cited as the greatest male dancer of the early 20th century. He was romantically involved with Sergei Diaghilev.[424][425]
  • The pianist and entertainer Liberace was recognized during his career with two Emmy Awards, six gold albums and two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He had a four-year relationship with Scott Thorson. Described as a devout Catholic, he was received in a private audience by Pope Pius XII.[426]
  • Josephine Baker was the first black woman to star in a major motion picture, or to become a world-famous entertainer.[427] She was bisexual, having had relationships with men and women.[428] In her later years, Baker converted to Roman Catholicism.[429]
  • Francis Poulenc was a French composer and pianist. He was predominantly gay, yet struggled with his sexuality.[430] Following the death of a close friend in the 1930s, he rediscovered his Roman Catholic faith and replaced the ironic nature of neo-classicism with a new-found spiritual depth.[431]
  • The musician Ricky Martin has sold over 70 million albums and has had 95 platinum records.[432]
  • The Lebanese-British singer-songwriter Mika has acknowledged his Catholic upbringing but has written about his conflicting relationship with the Catholic Church and its stance on homosexuality in his music. He still considers himself Roman Catholic, and has indicated that his song "The Origin of Love" is about religion. "It's about the Roman Catholic Church, which I love dearly – even though I’m not a bigot and I’m not in denial of the human condition. Yet, at the same time, it's a very strange thing, ’cause I’m very respectful of that world."[433]
  • American country music singer Steve Grand is openly gay and a practicing Catholic.[434]

Actors and directors[edit]

  • Jean Cocteau was a celebrated French writer, designer, playwright, artist and filmmaker.[435] After a long absence from the Church, he returned to practicing his Catholic faith in his later years; he was known to be very devout. He designed and painted murals for the Church of Notre Dame de France in London.[436]
  • Pier Paolo Pasolini (1922 – 1975) was an Italian film director, poet, writer and intellectual. He was openly gay.[437] He described himself as a "Catholic Marxist"; although elsewhere insisted he was an atheist. His film The Gospel According to St. Matthew, an account of the New Testament story, part-financed by the Catholic Church, and dedicated to "the dear, joyous, familiar memory of Pope John XXIII".[438] It portrayed Jesus as a barefoot peasant of the people. The film won the Grand Prize at the International Catholic Film Office.[439]
  • Lucio Dalla was a popular Italian singer-songwriter, musician and actor.[440] He was outed as gay after his death (having had a long-term partner, Marco Alemanno).[441] He was a practicing Roman Catholic, and was given a funeral mass in the cathedral at Bologna.[442]
  • Franco Zeffirelli is an Italian director and producer of films and television.[443] He is a practicing Catholic who believes that "Catholicism is the only [religion] that comprehensively meets the needs of mankind." He has spoken about the making of the film Jesus of Nazareth as representing an important turning point - giving him "the opportunity to draw closer to the mystery of Christ".[444]
  • Pedro Almodóvar (b.1949) is a Spanish film director, screenwriter, producer and former actor who was reared as Catholic. He is openly gay.[445] Many of his films contain strong Catholic imagery. His film Dark Habits (1993) features a mother superior in a convent who is also a lesbian. The 2004 film Bad Education deals with the theme of the sexual abuse of children at the hands of Catholic priests.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ See
  2. ^ Originally published in French in Catéchisme de l'Église Catholique. Tours/Paris: Mame/Plon. 1992. p. 584. ISBN 2-266-00585-5. Ils ne choisissent pas leur condition homosexuelle; elle constitue pour la plupart d'entre eux une épreuve  See "Modifications from the Edito Typica". Saint Charles Borromeo Catholic Church website/Amministrazione Del Patrimonio Della Sede Apostolica. 2009. Retrieved 11 May 2012.  and James Martin, S.J. (12 January 2012). "Respect, Compassion and Sensitivity". blog. America. Retrieved 11 May 2012. 
  3. ^ By "disordered", the letter means that homosexuality is a departure from the norm and not, as usage in English could suggest, sinful, demeaning or sickly. (O'Rourke, Kevin D. (1999). Medical Ethics. Georgetown University Press. p. 199. ISBN 978-0-87840722-4. )
  4. ^ What it says of homosexual orientation has also been described as on the lines of what can be said of kleptomania, which is not in itself sinful, but is an objective disorder in that it leads to an immoral activity.
  5. ^ The literal Greek phrase is "ou paidophthorēseis", which means,"You shall not corrupt boys.
  6. ^ Robert Grant in The Anchor Bible Dictionary argues that the language in the Syriac version against homosexuality is stronger, probably because it was presented to Antoninus Pius rather than the homosexual Hadrian.
  7. ^ (John Boswell has called the canons a forgery in John Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality (University of Chicago Press 2009 ISBN 978-0-22606714-8), P. 177 arguing in fact that "attitudes towards homosexuality grew steadily more tolerant in the early Middle Ages").
  8. ^ "That the morals and general conduct of clerics may be better let all strive to live chastely and virtuously, particularly those in sacred orders, guarding against every vice of desire, especially, so that in the sight of Almighty God they may perform their duties with a pure heart and chaste body. But lest the facility to obtain pardon be an incentive to do wrong, we decree that whoever shall be found to indulge in the vice of incontinence, shall, in proportion to the gravity of his sin, be punished in accordance with the canonical statutes, which we command to be strictly and rigorously observed, so that he whom divine fear does not restrain from evil, may at least be withheld from sin by a temporal penalty. If therefore anyone suspended for this reason shall presume to celebrate the divine mysteries, let him not only be deprived of his ecclesiastical benefices but for this twofold offense let him be forever deposed."
  9. ^ "Erzbischof Woelki möchte Homosexuelle 'nicht diskriminieren'". kath.net (in German). 18 May 2012. Retrieved 22 May 2016. Wenn zwei Homosexuelle Verantwortung füreinander übernehmen, wenn sie dauerhaft und treu miteinander umgehen, muss man das in ähnlicher Weise sehen wie heterosexuelle Beziehungen. 
  1. ^ In 1984, Paul Hofmann, a former correspondent for the New York Times, repeated the allegations.[127]


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