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Once again, many gay men and even lesbians find themselves jeopardized by their sexual orientation in the eyes of the state and the churches. It is no wonder that many homosexual men and women are once again troubled deeply by a sense of guilt or rejection, isolated from their families and religion, and cautious in the work place and community because of their sexuality. Not a few live in quiet but constant fear of exposure, ridicule, and condemnation.
This book is not so much about homosexuality as it is for homosexual men and women, especially those who are not out. It is also for their relatives, friends, and associates - people who care about gays and lesbians, whether as teachers, pastors, counsellors, co-workers, or just neighbours. It is also for the curious, ambivalent, fearful, and hostile - if only as a tender of hope and an invitation to care and compassion.( page 9)
For the most part in our culture, people have considered gay men and lesbians to be sick, immoral, and predatory misfits worthy of neither pity nor pardon. They have bee n shunned, hounded, ridiculed, denounced from the pulpit and platform and legislated against. Those convicted of sodomy and other felonious and unspeakable crimes against God and nature were often executed, even in recent times, or were given long prison sentences. Some men were mercifully allowed to submit to castration to escape decades of imprisonment. Others were forcibly emasculated. Blackmail is still a threat and sometimes an actual occurrence. (page 13/14)
However understandable....... discrimination may have been in past ages, it was still inexcusable for any Christian or, for that matter, any civilised person. It is far more so today. Quite simply, I am convinced that the traditional civil and religious prejudice against homosexuality, based as it was largely on ignorance, fear , and fantasy, is to that extent now untenable. It is ungodly, inhuman, and destructive of individual rights and dignity as well as of the common welfare.
I am further convinced that, as a human condition, homosexuality should not be (as it increasingly is not) considered a disease, personal defect, or an emotional disorder in itself. Hence it is incorrect, misleading, and degrading to speak of homosexuality as curable. It is no less wrong for religious people to label homosexual behaviour a curse, an affliction, or a depravity. Nor should all homosexual behaviour be indiscriminately condemned in advance as invariably and gravely sinful without much further and more careful study of scripture as well as the many varieties of homosexual experience, attitudes, and activities. (page 14).
For other Christians, a gay spirituality represents an impossibility, either because homosexuality is considered an intrinsic disorder, something to be cured or at least to conceal, or, conversely, because it is considered an area of life (like sexuality in general) divorced from spiritual concern.
Segregating sexuality from spirituality either by suppression or by fission is injurious, however, both to the individual whose life is thus fragmented and to the church itself, which is impoverished by being forced to ignore an important aspect of human experience. If a gay spirituality is possible, it is necessary.
Further, a gay spirituality cannot be redundant, for explicitly or implicitly straight spiritualities fail gay men and women precisely where the difference becomes crucial. Despite large areas of mutual concern and actual congruence, gay and straight experiences are simply not identical. To the extent that gay experience is distinctive, a gay spirituality is warranted. (page 120).
from the Preface
After more than twenty-five years of ministry with lesbian and gay persons, as both priest and psychotherapist, I am convinced that a unique spirituality, special and vibrant, is springing up in the gay community. It is a spiritually totally compatible with a life of gay sexual love and intimacy. Gods special presence to the gay community and the unique graces which are enabling gays and lesbians to build a vibrant and mature, autonomous spirituality are not just gifts meant for the gay community alone. When God pours out special blessings on one segment of the community, those blessings are meant to flow out and be shared by the human community at large. (page xiii)
In 1997, I was ordered to silence by the Vatican on the issue of homosexuality. This order came as the result of my book The Church and the Homosexual, which argued that loving gay or lesbian relationships between consenting adults should be acceptable in the Church. Since I was given that order formally under the vow of obedience to which I had freely committed myself on entering the Society of Jesus, all my spiritual training led me to accept that order and obey. And for almost a decade, I did my best to abide by that order to silence. I did not speak publicly or write anything concerning homosexuality. I was allowed, however, to continue my ministry to lesbians and gays, preaching, giving retreats and workshops, as long as that did not involve challenging Catholic Church teaching in the public media. (page 39)
Whenever I prayed over the possibility of obeying the order I received from Rome to give up all ministry to lesbians and gays, my spirit was troubled and I had a strong feeling that I did not have the right in conscience to abandon the gay community which had turned to me for help and guidance. In the course of my ten years silence in obedience to Rome, my understanding of how to discern the will of God changed, I hope, for the better. It had grown and matured under the constant pressure of trying to do Gods will within the confines of restrictive directives from Rome. (page 45)
Finally it was clear to me what my decision must be. I wrote to my religious superior in 1985 : God has called me to a ministry of compassion to gay people and I cannot in conscience renounce that ministry.
That refusal to obey the Vaticans latest order brought with it a rather surprising grace of real peace and joy. I had struggled for nine years to discern whether my silence was following the will of God according to my vows as a Jesuit, or if it were instead cowardice and fear of the consequences of disobedience. I also was not certain that my decision to speak out and disobey my orders was not influenced by pure egoism and a desire to be in the limelight. But I hoped and prayed that God was calling me to speak out an accept the consequences of being separated from my religious family and from my legal right to exercise my priesthood..
I became convinced that gay people needed a spokesperson and defender in the Catholic Church who from personal experience could fearlessly speak the truth about gayness. (page 47)
Gay men and lesbians face a unique challenge to their ability to trust creation. Since we do not choose our sexual orientation, we experience it as a given, a part of our created reality, in fact, the most important part, since it influences our ability to give and receive love and to experience intimacy. As we grow up in a homophobic culture and a homophobic church, we are told that there is something wrong with the way we were created, that our very being, as a recent Vatican document phrased it, is an orientation to evil.
Insofar as our culture leads us to experience our sexual orientation as negative, and we see ourselves as sinful, sick, or evil, we will necessarily experience a deep crisis in our ability to trust the creator. Consequently, if gay men or lesbian women take this church teaching seriously and identify with it, they must see themselves as created by God with an orientation to evil. This would make God totally unworthy of trust. Scripture says, if anyone loves they know God, because God is love. But we are told : If you gay men and lesbian women follow your natural inclinations to love, you will know evil and be eternally separated from God. A God who would create us with an intrinsic orientation to evil would be a sadistic God, a God who inspires fear, mistrust, and hatred, a God totally unworthy of our hope and trust, not a loving God. (page 103).
.....today, I believe, the gay spiritual movement has emerged out of the heart of the world to play a decisive role in overcoming this final division. Again, let us remember that Scripture says that the stone that was rejected will become the cornerstone. The gay spiritual communities are being called by God to play this cornerstone role. The only way, however, that gays can play that role is to overcome their fears and have the courage to come out of the closet. Gays must model in a very public way their ability to balance the masculine and feminine dimensions with themselves, their ability to put together genuine gay human love for each other with a deep spiritual life, and their deep awareness of the presence of the Holy Spirit in their life. They must become, therefore, candles on the hilltop for everyone to see. (page 192/3)
The cornerstone role is a real challenge. But you can be certain that if you are gay or lesbian the Holy Spirit is calling you to take some steps in that direction, to be more open about your gayness, to be more open about the depth of your spiritual life. We must seek Gods grace because a cornerstone, after all, is a small, if essential, part of a building, the entirety of which is the work of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit waits on our freedom to invite her in to make use of our gifts and talents in bringing about the reign of God, a reign of justice and peace, a reign where Gods glory is achieved through the fullness of life that all humans share, gay and straight alike. (page 193).
I think God would ask of the homosexual relationship exactly what God asks of the heterosexual relationship : truth, faithfulness, long-suffering, and the continuing forgiveness of the other. Against these there is no law! (Gal. 5.23) Its amazing how we are willing to avoid modelling and living these demanding virtues in favour of judgments about mere physicality that we can more easily measure, punish, and mandate. As others have said, the church continually slips into spiritual materialism while calling materialism a sin in others. (page 85)
The Achilles heel of the official Catholic position is necessitated by its own theology. Cardinal Ratzinger says that we do not consider the state of homosexuality a sin (this is actually quite an advancement in our thinking and implies that homosexuality is probably seen as an un-chosen condition), but only acting accordingly. Apart from the inconsistency with the theory of natural law (things must act according to their nature), this thinking proposes a second impossibility - to mandate a charism which is by definition a free gift. You cannot possibly order someone to have a charism, the gift of celibacy for example. It is an oxymoron and an insult to our theology of grace and gift. I have no doubt that we can and will do much better in the future. (page 86)
If this were cheap liberalism, I would be merely arguing for personal rights, economic justice, or sexual freedom. If this were mere ideology, I would need to line up my credible arguments and proofs. I have very few. I, like many of you, am only a disciple of the poor man of Nazareth. He has made me content with mystery. He has made me less afraid of chaos. He has told me that control is not my task. He, like the cosmos itself, is about two things : diversity and communion. The whole creation cannot by lying. (page 88).
from the Preface
While argument remains a central concern to me I have almost exclusively limited myself to such arguments as are current in the Roman Catholic Church. I have paid particular attention to the document Homosexualitatis Problema (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith 1986). (page ix).
The general thesis of the book, towards which the various subsidiary arguments are supposed to tend, can be stated briefly. It is 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.(page x).
If most of the Christian anti-homosexual arguments are bad, this is not only because their authors make factual or logical errors; it is also partly because they do not concern themselves with the social context of sexual relationships. As a result, they fail to ask pertinent and important questions. Indeed, many Christian authors seem unaware that such questions are there to be asked. But the important point is that Christian moralists cannot go on writing as if a great deal of work had not already been done outside Christian circles on the social and other aspects of sexuality. (page x).
If we summarize the results of our investigation, the conclusions are simple to state and substantiate the thesis put forward in the preface: if we look for cogent biblical or natural-law arguments against homosexual relationships and acts in general, we will not find them: there arent any. There are plenty which look faithful to Scripture and compelling in their logic, but none which actually are.
The conclusion of this book is, therefore, not that it is good to be gay, but that it is irrational for serious, reflective Christians.......to accept church teaching on homosexuality. This is a serious conclusion, for there are clearly many such Christians; that is why the debate exists within the churches in the first place.. The only rational course at the moment for such Christians is to continue to believe in the possible goodness of homosexual relationships. This is not a matter of dissent or materialism; it is simply that the church at the moment produces no good arguments to assent to. Regrettably, in this area, the church teaches badly. (page 282).
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