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Inside the stained-glass closet: exploring holy homophobia

Pope Francis made conciliatory overtures to gay Catholics in a wide-ranging press conference on Monday. His comments made headlines around the world and indicate a change in attitude to closeted priests…

Historically, the Church provided a safe-haven for same-sex attracted men. Victor van der Horst

Pope Francis made conciliatory overtures to gay Catholics in a wide-ranging press conference on Monday. His comments made headlines around the world and indicate a change in attitude to closeted priests in the Vatican. They did not, however, address the root causes of religious homophobia.

The 80-minute press conference took place on the Pope’s flight home from Brazil and surprised the accompanying press corps. Their discussion covered topics as diverse as the “Vatileaks” scandal, women’s role in the Church, his relationship with the pope emeritus, and the contents of his briefcase.

Dismissing rumours of a “gay lobby” in the Vatican, he said (in Italian):

If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has goodwill, who am I to judge?

The Pope did not signal a reversal of the Church’s understanding of homosexuality as “intrinsically disordered” or gay sex as sinful. But he did appear to revise his predecessor’s harsh stance opposing the ordination of homosexual priests.

“The catechism of the Catholic Church explains this very well,” he said. Gay people “should not be marginalised because of this [orientation], they must be integrated into society.”

Snowballing scandals

Pope Francis’s more open attitude towards gay priests may help to resolve tensions surrounding the issue within the Vatican. Pope Benedict’s last year in office was plagued by gay sex scandals, with claims of a gay lobby in the curia, and the expansion of the ongoing “Vatileaks” affair in March 2013 because of allegations of a gay sex ring in the Vatican.

The Vatileaks scandal emerged in January 2012 after pope Benedict’s butler leaked documents that suggested serious financial misconduct in the Vatican. The pope emeritus appointed a commission of cardinals to investigate the scandal in March 2012.

Pope Francis appears to be revising his predecessor’s opposition to the ordination of homosexual priests. EPA/LUCA ZENNARO

Reporting on December 17 last year, the commission revealed a network of gay prelates involved in homosexual orgies at various locations in Rome. Italian newspaper La Republica claimed it was this report that triggered the pope’s resignation.

On the heels of the Vatileaks sex scandal, Scottish cardinal Keith O’Brien was forced to resign after revelations of sexual misconduct with junior priests in the 1980s.

Journalists and commentators did not hold back pointing out the irony of the situation. The Roman Catholic Church, one of the most vocal opponents of gay rights, was exposed as being full of men having sex with men.

How can we explain this holy homophobia?

A different history

Historically, the Church provided a safe-haven for same-sex attracted men. Religious celibacy enabled gay men to perform a respected social role free from the demands of a heterosexual family. It also provided a space for same-sex friendship and intimacy.

Religious language and context sanctified the expression of love between men. This religious context was distinct from the carnal “love that dare not speak its name”. The Church also developed its own incipient “camp culture” in parallel to mainstream gay subcultures.

Camp Catholic culture was at its height at the very moment when secular sexologists were coining the terms in which same-sex acts and identity are now framed. Ironically, this naming of homosexual desire led to the need to conceal it – in the closet.

Over time, religious and scientific understandings of same-sex desire became integrated. By the early 20th century, the churches came to understand homosexuality, or sexual “inversion”, as part of a person’s nature.

This led to more pastoral responses to gay men, including the promotion of the decriminalisation of sex between men in the 1950s.

The 40th anniversary celebrations of the 1969 Stonewall riots, which marked the beginning of gay liberation. Dan Nguyen

Another outcome was the explicit acknowledgement of the social needs of homosexual men in the Church. At a time when gay men in broader society were retreating into the closet, Catholicism provided a “stained glass closet”, a space of tacit acceptance where “inverts”, as they were known, could find community and status.

Behind the translucent coloured glass of the ecclesiastical closet doors, the Christian invert was more visible and more comfortable than his secular equivalent.

Winds of change

All this started to change in the 1960s. The decriminalisation of sex between men in Britain in 1967 and the Stonewall riots in New York in 1969 marked the beginning of gay liberation.

The growing acceptance of homosexuality in secular society enabled gays and lesbians to come out of the closet and live openly.

Catholic sexual doctrines did not change at the sexual revolution. Gay priests, bishops and cardinals were thus not able to come out.

Indeed, in order to maintain their status and privileged position in a Church not open to sexual change, they are forced to continue to proclaim the heteronormative values of their tradition.

So we are presented with the paradoxical situation of a Church that was once a safe-haven for same-sex attracted men and women in a homophobic society, becoming the main proponent of homophobia in a sexually liberalising society.

While Pope Francis may have revised the harsh tone of his predecessor, the paradox remains.

Join the conversation

89 Comments sorted by

  1. Stephen Ralph

    carer at n/a

    Religion (in general) has had a huge influence on homosexuality over the centuries, and still is responsible for negative and hostile reactions.

    Even though we may live in secular countries (in the West at least), religious thought and instruction still pervades those who profess to be non-practicing or even atheists/agnostics.

    The negative thought is often sub-conscious based on inculcated moral judgements over a lifetime.

    Too often people who argue vehemently against homophobia use religion as the catalyst - unnatural, against god, perverted etc. The hypocrisy is that they choose a random piece of religious text on which to base their prejudices, but in terms of their own lifestyles and actions, conveniently overlook any religious text that may judge THEM.

    I'm only interested in what popes and clerics from all religions have to say, in that it influences so much of the thoughts and views of billions of others.

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  2. Kenneth Mazzarol
    Kenneth Mazzarol is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Retired Auto Engineer and teacher

    Never mind the gays, what about the church admitting that priests have belly buttons like everyone else so they must have been entered the world through a woman. It would be nice if the church began apologizing to women for burning millions of them at the stake and treating them like shit just for being the caring people they are.

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    1. Dianna Arthur

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      Mr R

      At least his Popiness has left a door open for gays (do you think he was thinking of lesbians as well?), for he has shut the door on half the world's population - no women priests.

      Just sayin'.

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    2. David Paton

      Statistician

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      Actually, there are women priests, Dianna.

      They are referred to by the term "nuns".

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    3. Dianna Arthur

      Environmentalist

      In reply to David Paton

      Nuns are not priests. They are the female equivalent to monks.

      The door remains shut to female priests AND Cardinals.

      Therefore, my point remains.

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    4. David Paton

      Statistician

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      You greatly underestimate the esteem within which nuns are held. You might just as well argue there are no male nuns as argue there are no female priests.

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  3. Clive Bond

    logged in via Facebook

    Thankfully the Roman Catholic Church is being shown for the hypocritical organisation that it is. Set up by a despotic Roman emperor. The sheer hypocrisy of it is mind blowing. Hopefully after the australian Royal Commission it will disappear. I see that russia's Putin has taken a leaf out of the emperor Constantine's book and protected 'his' church. Control the church and you control its followers. I'm sure there are some good priests ( somewhere) who abhor the churches actions or inactions re pedophilia and also treatment of women. However watching the nsw commission into the churches dealings with pedophiles I don't see them around. I was at the opera house recently listening to a father Brannigan say something like this.." I would rather go to jail than reveal a pedophiles confession". They place themselves above the law. Well, we'll see about that.

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    1. Stephen Ralph

      carer at n/a

      In reply to Clive Bond

      Unfortunately too often in history they WERE the law, and they refuse to get over it.

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  4. Janeen Harris

    chef

    If priests sexuality is such an issue, why don't they allow marriage within the clergy? Far more likely to get sane, reliable people that way. Celebacy is obviously a problem for them. How can they judge anyone or anything when you look at the catholic trackrecord for abuse? And what is a supposedly christian church doing running a bank, and a dodgy one at that?I

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    1. Stephen Ralph

      carer at n/a

      In reply to Janeen Harris

      Hi...don't know if you meant it, but your comment does hint that single men (perhaps gay single men) are not sane and reliable.

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    2. Janeen Harris

      chef

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      Definitely not. The catholic priest, in my opinion, whether gay or straight, is expected to live in a way that many are not able to live up to. It causes deceit, guilt, abuse and mental imbalance. If a man is going to work effectively you want him balanced and sane, not living a lie.

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  5. Michael Cook

    Editor at MercatorNet

    I am rather surprised that this has been published on an academic website. No evidence is provided for the existence of gay-friendly, orthodox, tolerated sub-culture within the pre-Vatican II Catholic Church. The only reference is to the author’s article on homosexuality and celibacy in the Church of England to 1955. This is not a good guide to attitudes within the Catholic Church.

    The Pope does not make authoritative pronouncements in airplane press conferences, so it is unlikely that his reported…

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    1. Stephen Ralph

      carer at n/a

      In reply to Michael Cook

      So in essence what you're saying the pope is saying, you can be gay and we'll accept you, but you can;t really be one of us.

      Ans don't bother asking for acceptance because we'll only obfuscate and tell you you one thing whilst believing another.

      I think I get it - more hypocrisy.

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    2. Clive Bond

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Michael Cook

      Dont you read the press! "The Italian weekly L'Espresso said prelate Battista Ricca had gay relationships during his time at the Vatican embassy of Montevideo in Uruguay as well as an affair with a Swiss guard which ultimately saw him sent back to Rome in disgrace.
      Vatican expert for L'Espresso Sandro Magister said Mr Ricca provided lodgings and a paycheque for captain Patrick Haari in 1999 and was once left badly beaten after trawling notorious gay hangouts before his behaviour saw him transferred out of Montevideo in 2000.
      An internal bid to protect him and cover up the scandal meant Francis apparently had no idea about Mr Ricca's past before he appointed him as his personal representative at the scandal-hit bank this year."

      Read more: http://www.news.com.au/world-news/prelate-battista-riccas-gay-romance-rocks-vatican/story-fndir2ev-1226682266943#ixzz2alXNzLKg

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    3. Timothy Jones
      Timothy Jones is a Friend of The Conversation.

      ARC DECRA Research Fellow at La Trobe University

      In reply to Michael Cook

      Thanks for your comment Michael. You are correct to point out that the Pope's comments do not indicate a change in teaching.

      He did indicate a shift from the previous Pope's opposition to gay men becoming priests though. The shift is about an increasing tolerance of same-sex attracted men within the priesthood, not an acceptance of gay rights, or gay politics. At most it is a return to what I have called the stained-glass closet.

      Historian John Boswell and literary scholar Frederick Roden have written about the existence of homoerotic and camp subcultures within the pre-Vatican II Catholic Church if you would like further references.

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    4. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Timothy Jones

      Timothy, you need to be very careful if you want to use John Boswell as an historian, especially on subjects, such as the extent of pre-modern same-sex relationships. His credibility diminishes rapidly the further back he goes. Boswell was a brilliant guy, whose best work of history was on Islamic communities in medieval Spain. Unfortunately, he lost all judgment when he turned to topics so crucial to his own fragile identity - being gay and a rabid Roman Catholic. I am not aware of any scholars, who now twenty to thirty years later take seriously anything of historical intent Boswell argued about both ancient Greek male same-sex relationships, nor has anyone become more agreeable to his wildly tenuous connection of the most fragmentary evidentiary traces to gay marriage-like rituals both among churchmen within the church, but also blessed by the church. Boswell let his very intense advocacy zeal trump scholarly probity.

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  6. Mike Swinbourne

    logged in via Facebook

    There is an obvious solution to this. Leave the bloody church!

    If you don't agree with the teachings or practices of the church, do what millions are doing every year - stop going to church or stating that you are catholic.

    To be frank, who really cares what a bunch of geriatric fools in frocks have to say? This isn't the fifteenth century any more - they have no power over your life if you choose to ignore them.

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    1. Stephen Ralph

      carer at n/a

      In reply to Mike Swinbourne

      If only it were that easy (I'm an athiest btw).

      Several thousands of years of teaching, proselytizing and inculcation have left an indelible mark on Western civilisation whether or not a person is catholic or calithumpian.

      Western values have been based on christian teaching - like it or not, so it's hard to get rid of bits and pieces of the whole of those moral teachings that annoy the bejesus out of many.

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    2. Mike Swinbourne

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      Stephen

      I don't disagree that western culture has been strongly influenced by the christian church. But that doesn't mean that the catholic church in particular has to have any hold over an individual.

      I am an atheist as well, but I haven't always been. And even if you want to stay within a church environment and accept jesus etc, there are plenty of other christian churches around that are more open to gays and have different doctrines to the catholic church.

      So yeah, it may not be easy to change your church. But in the end, if you don't agree with the rules of the club to which you belong, it is entirely within your right (and I would argue your responsibility) to either change those rules or go somewhere else.

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    3. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Mike Swinbourne

      Michael, it was Christianity which was the glue that formed Europe in the first place. And through that shared religion, the two basic separate peoples of the Latins and the Teutonics increasingly united into Europeans. The Latins who evolved into the French, Italian, and Spanish, while the Teutons evolved into the Germans, English, and Scandinavian.

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    4. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to David Thompson

      Still I'm with you. I'll give some gay Catholic about 15 minutes of mewling time over the unfairness of it all, before telling him to go to a different church, and stop whining.

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  7. David Paton

    Statistician

    Oh wow!!!! Yet ANOTHER Conversation article attacking the Catholic Church!!!

    What is your paranoia? Why do you keep doing this? Is it fear?

    When was the last time The Conversation attacked other churches? When was the last time The Conversation published an article actually crediting the Catholic Church for all the good it does around the world?

    I won't be holding my breath waiting.

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    1. Clive Bond

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to David Paton

      It's because the Roman Catholic church is the major offender with pedophilia. The crime is with the hierarchy moving pedophiles to other areas where they can re offend. There is a Royal Commission into this and also a NSW commission. That's why!

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    2. Terry Goulden

      Retired

      In reply to David Paton

      I don't know why you have this reaction David. The Pope makes a statement at a press conference which is of interest to a certain group of people. A Research Fellow feels strongly enough about the subject to make some interesting and cogent points about the statement and all of a sudden it is a paranoiac attack on the whole institution. what i find interesting is that no-one to my knowledge ever addresses the elephant in the room in all this. That is does the catholic church still have a moral…

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    3. Terry Goulden

      Retired

      In reply to Terry Goulden

      Sorry David I also meant to answer your question about good work. Obviously you are a catholic apologist so perhaps you can give me the formula for offsetting good works against child abuse. Is it one, two , three good works to every child abused or maybe given the lack of moral compass it is two or three children to every good work. Perhaps you can refer it to the Pope for a compassionate and caring non answer.

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    4. David Paton

      Statistician

      In reply to Clive Bond

      This article is nothing to do with pedophilia though, so why bring that into it?

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    5. David Paton

      Statistician

      In reply to Terry Goulden

      My point as you well know, Terry, is that The conversation has developed from an interesting current affairs bulletin into an anti Catholic propaganda newsletter.

      If it were in any way balanced, then offsetting the anti-Catholic agenda would articles pointing out all the good works that are done by the church and the Catholic community.

      And just as an aside, the forerunner to the abuse within the Catholic church was in fact abuse within the Anglican church....or have you forgotten the nineties? Yet i dont recall any anti-Anglican missives. Perhaps the student who wrote this article is too young to recall that period.

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    6. Clive Bond

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to David Paton

      "Yet i dont recall any anti-Anglican missives. " there has been media reports on the Anglican church. However the RC church is the main offender by far. I suggest you take your blinkers off and see the reality of this world wide abuse.

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    7. Terry Goulden

      Retired

      In reply to David Paton

      And my point is the lack of moral compass within the catholic church and your cavalier dismissal of my use of pedophilia as an example is actually evidence of that lack.

      I did not use the Anglican church as this article was about the Pope and I believe that he is actually catholic not Anglican. The Anglican church lost its moral compass a long time ago but that is another story.

      It is hard to give balance to the churches story at present and as I was trying to point out good works never really offset evil.

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    8. Clive Bond

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Terry Goulden

      "Evil" is right. David Paton should read the transcript of nsw commission into child abuse held in Newcastle. If that doesn't make him want to vomit, nothing will. The evasion of questions, the loss of memory by bishops and priests is truly sickening.

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    9. Terry Goulden

      Retired

      In reply to Terry Goulden

      Perhaps we can take another example of lack of moral compass. what about the good christian catholic who physically attacked the mother of an abuse survivor in her suburban supermarket because they were in denial about clerical child abuse.

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    10. David Paton

      Statistician

      In reply to Clive Bond

      Oh i read and here about the abuse, Clive, but that is not what this article is about and it is not the point i am making.

      As you well know.

      As for media reports on Anglican sins, my comment is not criticism of the media, it is criticism of The Conversation

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    11. David Paton

      Statistician

      In reply to Terry Goulden

      Terry, you are bringing a completely separate and irrelevant issue into discussion in response to my initial comment.

      My completely accurate comment highlighted an unfair bias The Conversation has against the Catholic church. It wasnt defending nor attacking anything the church has done or hasnt done, merely pointing out that amidst all the criticism the church actually has quite a prevalent strong side.

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    12. David Paton

      Statistician

      In reply to Clive Bond

      Did it make you want to vomit, Clive? Why would you want to read something like that? How perverse.

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    13. David Paton

      Statistician

      In reply to Terry Goulden

      Ooh yes!!!! Great point Terry. (Though i confess i know absolutely nothing of that specific incident)

      Lets not forget that Hitler was apparently Catholic too.

      Bloody Catholics eh? Should exterminate them all dont you think?

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    14. Clive Bond

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to David Paton

      Unlike you David Paton, I don't select what suits me. I read the front page of the Newcastle News and I try to reason with it. The evidence of catholic wrongdoing is overwhelming. Yes it makes me physically ill. I read it not because I am perverse as you state, but to endeavour to understand and agitate for change. It is evident that some catholic officials have turned a blind eye to the plight of little kids. That is perverse..can you understand that?!

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    15. David Paton

      Statistician

      In reply to Clive Bond

      So just to clarify, Clive, you havent read the transcript either. How can you then comment on it?

      FWIW, yes the whole sick episode disgusts me and many, if not all, in the church. It is indefensible. Unfortunately people such as yourself condemn the whole church and not just the perpetrators and the leaders who hid the abuse.

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    16. Clive Bond

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to David Paton

      "FWIW, yes the whole sick episode disgusts me and many, if not all, in the church. It is indefensible. Unfortunately people such as yourself condemn the whole church and not just the perpetrators and the leaders who hid the abuse." David..at last you admit that the leaders who hid the crimes over decades in many countries, i.e. usa, ireland, australia are party to a 'sick' episode. I dont condemn the whole church as you say..just the leaders involved and according to Geoffrey Robertson(A case of the Pope) in his book, that goes right to the top. I have first hand knowledge of the terrible destruction sexual abuse has on the lives of children. I have no more to say.

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  8. Peter Wilkin

    Australian Realist

    I care what pope says about as much as I care what the ayatollah Khomeini used to say, whatever that was.

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    1. David Paton

      Statistician

      In reply to Peter Wilkin

      Why comment on an article about what the pope says then, Peter? Or do you go through every article that you aren't interested in and post similar "don't care" comments?

      Oh....the penny just dropped... You wanted to share with the world your anti-catholicism.

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    2. Peter Wilkin

      Australian Realist

      In reply to David Paton

      Well yes David that's the reason. I'm gay you see. I'm jealous of all those Catholics who will gloat down upon me from heaven while I'm frying miserably down below because their God is obsessed with what I do with my willy. I just want to get in a few good snipes before I go is that such a CRIME?

      Why don't you address the issue that I presented, namely why anyone would listen to a Pope in preference to an Ayatollah... Or a Rajneesh for that matter or a Rabbi, or any number of other opportunistic shysters whose nick-picky world views are based on the niggling prejudices of the beard-wearing desert-dwelling long-dead?

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    3. David Paton

      Statistician

      In reply to Peter Wilkin

      "Why dont you address the issue that i presented....." Actually the issue you raised was that you dont care what the pope says and thats fair enough.

      What i still dont understand is why you would bother reading and commenting on a commentary "on what the pope says" when you dont care about it.

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    4. Peter Wilkin

      Australian Realist

      In reply to David Paton

      I thought I gave you that on a plate.

      I pretty much admitted that yes the whole reason I said that was an opportunity to snipe which by obvious implication is also an admission of my loathing for Catholicism. I even gave you a good reason for why I would loathe Catholicism.

      You on the other hand have been nothing but evasive. I suppose it's a tactic that has served you well and will continue to do so... Be like that then.

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  9. Kenneth Mazzarol
    Kenneth Mazzarol is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Retired Auto Engineer and teacher

    If I could only find a way of discrediting this ethereal essence credited with creating it all, it might bring an end to this continuous religious upheaval which has gone a long way to destroy man's faith in themselves and each other. Does anyone know of any lying or bullying that can used? The Old Testament is actually a blood bath. I've read it a couple of times.

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    1. David Paton

      Statistician

      In reply to Kenneth Mazzarol

      Actually, even as a practicing Catholic, there are many many parts of the old testament i struggle to accept in any way. Much of it i do believe and can accept but some it is beyond credibility. From memory, Leviticus is full of weird stuff.

      I've often thought that something must have been lost in translation, or perhaps we are guilty of taking literally passages which were written metaphorically.

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  10. Andrew Amos

    logged in via LinkedIn

    My understanding (as a non Catholic) of what the Pope was saying was that if a person who had same sex attraction, "searches for the Lord", that is, they decided to conform to the Lord's standard that sex should only be expressed in the context of (heterosexual) marriage, then he would not judge them.

    That doesn't seem to be departing from what Catholics have always said, and is consistent with Jesus' promise to forgive all who turn from their rebellion against him and ask for his mercy.

    It is not the Pope's position to judge those who Jesus has forgiven.

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    1. Stephen Ralph

      carer at n/a

      In reply to Andrew Amos

      He said he would not judge them, presumably he'll leave it to god and let him judge - which in the catholic framework means HELL.

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    2. David Paton

      Statistician

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      Completely wrong on this point, Stephen. God being judge does not mean hell at all.

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  11. David Thompson

    Marketing Research

    "Camp Catholic culture was at its height at the very moment when secular sexologists were coining the terms in which same-sex acts and identity are now framed."
    Actually, the acts had been named way more than 500 years before Jesus was even born, let alone the formation of the Roman Catholic Church. And Jesus, the Apostles, and the church fathers, would all have been very familiar with all those names, and most likely their translation into several languages. The "identity" stuff has been of relatively…

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    1. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Timothy Jones

      Tim, I had a quick skim, and I couldn't see any evidence the author had considered these fundamental issues. Maybe, I skimmed too much, or he simply does not think they are issues at all.

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  12. Michael Leonard Furtado

    Doctor at University of Queensland

    The author makes much of a somewhat superficial analysis of the Pope's comments. As a gay Catholic and cultural theorist (post-Vatican II and disaffected, though not specifically on grounds of the politics of gender, and with an active, critical, social-justice orientated and involved faith life) I can truly say that I grew up with European priests and brothers who, if anything, were much more aggressively male than the somewhat more feminised constructions of maleness that dominated my native and…

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    1. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      Michael, my impressions of European male Roman Catholic church culture was very similar yours. Admittedly, most of my knowledge comes from university study, but all the opportunities I have to probe these images through travel, and friendships close to such circles, institutions, and circles.
      To be frank, when I read the phrase "camp catholic culture", I no longer thought this was a subject the author was familiar with. Then claiming that 'culture' had peaked in the 19th century meant all bets were off. These are the guys who produced Scholasticsm not Priscilla.
      In fact, two threads of monastic gay activity I was privy to gossip about was a group who were leather queens into S&M.

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    2. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      The whole issue which so separates the Anglicans (especially the English) from non-English Roman Catholics is that upper middle and upper class English men are all born two glasses of sherry from getting their drag bag out and breaking into song tunes.

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    3. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      This masculinity is also being and more reconfirmed by late antiquity and medieval scholars reviewing new evidence, which overwhelmingly confirms the thriving masculine cultures of clerical life during that period as well.

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    4. Dianna Arthur

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      Michael

      " I am inclined to believe that religion and spirituality play an indispensable part in negotiating the turbulent waters of living a moral life"

      Of course.

      How I, a mere heathen, manage to restrain myself from raping and pillaging remains a conundrum.

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    5. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      Good question there, Di, but its a logical fallacy. If you check carefully I was discussing gay persons, who are far too easily portrayed as atheistic or agnostic, when clearly some, like me, are not.

      I don't know if you are gay and by deduction I clearly believe that some straight people also have high morals and no religion while others don't. Heck, like you, I even know people who rant on and on (as is evident from Tom Hennessy's and Michel Syna Rahme's fundamentalist diatribes) and who have religion but no evident sense of 'other-regarding' morals, except in relation to what the Old Testament is literally supposed to have instructed them.

      We're all to be found on these pages, bless us, and long may it continue! I chose to exclude no one: my closest confrere and moral hero here is Patrick Stokes, who, as far as I can tell is an agnostic...and straight! (Damn ;))

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    6. Dianna Arthur

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      Michael

      I was being far more inclusive, my question applied to all people LGBTI or even straight.

      Now I will zoom in for a tight focus; Michael, could you not be a ethical person without a religion? Would save a grand amount of time trying to pick out the good bits from the bad in any testament.

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    7. Brendan Smith

      Masters of Sustainability student at Monash Universiy

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      Just wanted to follow up from the other article since it closed...

      Sorry if my writing is confusing but what I was trying to get at is that people here and abroad have their own cultural perspectives which affects how they see each other. To me this is the problem here.. to alleviate this refugee angst we need to create a more equal society BUT how do we bring all these cultures together within our borders to create what needs to be a single identifiable culture? I do not identify with the white…

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    8. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to David Thompson

      Thanks, David. I'm glad there are some things we can agree on. I laughed out loud at the sherry remark. At Oxford every enterprising divinity tutor I had began their tutorial with a sherry. My Irish Catholic friends could never understand why they never finished the bottle and thought being limited to a snifter or two as culturally strange and somewhat stingy. The Anglicans and the Catholics...God love them both, and whether from the Reformed or Roman Catholic traditions, there'd be no availing Christian virtues across most of the globe without them! I even know some Gay Irish Christians - women and men - of both traditions and, by God, they are some of the most spiritual, insightful and loving people that I know.

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    9. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      And the answer is "Absolutely and Unreservedly", which helps explain why I share a common moral platform on asylum seeker issues with you, Patrick, Peter and Mike. Indeed, my sense of right and wrong is strengthened by involvement in these columns with the four of you.

      Its also that I find that my own morals are mediated strongly by my experience of my Catholicism. To take Andrew Amos's example: when Francis says "Let God be the judge", in the Catholic tradition it doesn't mean "Go to Hell…

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    10. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      Dianna, when others describe you as a heathen, all they are doing is trying to defining what THEY want to think THEY are. Your own actual religious/spiritual proclivities remain untouched by their name-calling.

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    11. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to Brendan Smith

      Dear Brendan

      You raise many interesting questions, some of which I do not have the answers to. I wouldn't for instance conflate the refugee and multicultural questions, since many Australian citizens come from cultures beyond the Anglo-Celtic mainstream.

      For instance, we don't talk about assimilation anymore, as some people do on this topic, but integration and inclusion...the discourse has moved on and you may wish to follow it by googling Ruth Levitas, who is a major contributor to the discourse…

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  14. Michel Syna Rahme

    logged in via email @hotmail.com

    Amazing that no one is really concentrating on the words:

    "If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has goodwill, who am I to judge?"

    To me, as a heterosexual male, that statement means if 'you' are gay and completely suppress yourself - 'goodwill' - by not externalising your gayness then you are ok by me - 'the pope' - and 'God'. Or perhaps, if now and then you falter, and have sex with another man (or child) but it doesn't cause any embarrassment to the Church and I 'the Pope' do no find out, that might be acceptable as well, if you confess your sins and seek forgiveness from 'God'. God?

    The Bible is clear on homosexuality and its surprising how the media and vast swathes of 'followers' are lapping up this PR stunt.

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    1. Tom Hennessy

      Retired

      In reply to Michel Syna Rahme

      "The Bible is clear on homosexuality"

      According to the Seventh Day Adventists homosexuality is referred to, but not to any great length , admittingly not one of the ten. It is referred to more in the terms of a medical anomaly , much like a two--headed child , an abomination , if I remember correctly. The mistake Christianity is making is that they are being forced to accept homosexuality as normal , not what it was / is , a medical misadventure , an anomaly , and rather than a 'sin' , to be 'shunned' , it is a medical anomaly , not to be accepted , but one that is acknowledged , and spoken to. It has only been the last forty years the 'question' of same-sex was allowed / became legal / 'normal' and so now the question of it ever being a sin becomes debatable, spurred on by atheists , intellectuals and the LBGTQ community. Imho.

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    2. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Michel Syna Rahme

      Michel, I am an atheist, and no biblical scholar. But I have studied The Bible from an historian's perspective. Even when I try my hardest to construct arguments for arguments sake, I cannot see any evidence that Jesus Christ, or even Christianity contains a green light for the abominable attitude to gays, and even worse treatment and expectations of its own clergy. They have never, ever had to go down that road that has led them here.

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    3. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Michel Syna Rahme

      "The Bible is clear on homosexuality and its surprising how the media and vast swathes of 'followers' are lapping up this PR stunt."
      This is without fear of contradiction sheer nonsense.

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    4. David Paton

      Statistician

      In reply to David Thompson

      A quite serious question......

      What is the passage in the bible that actually denounces homosexuality?

      The only one i can recall goes something like " a man should not lie with another man in the same way in which he would lie with a woman". Or words similar. I dont know the passage reference though.

      Are there other references? Something more specific?

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    5. Clive Bond

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to David Paton

      David Paton..you forgot the juicy bit. Leviticus."20:13 If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them." David, it seems to me you have a selective point of view. You cherrypick..but thats typical of religious people.

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    6. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to Clive Bond

      Clive, mate; I know you feel strongly about this and, while I don't agree with you, I respect your passion and the zealotry with which you argue your case.

      I appreciate too that you can quote chapter and verse from Scripture, but if you read Leviticus in its entirety you'd easily understand why the ancients settled on the ten Commandments and Jesus on just 'love God and love your neighbour as yourself".

      Everybody engages in selective amnesia on matters of morality that don't immediately lend themselves to black and white application . And where exegetical interpretation provides the moral standard, 'De gustibus non disputandum est' is the recommended principle ('In matters of taste, neither disgust nor dispute': uncertain scholastic origin though used in his Summa Theological by St Thomas Aquinas, medieval moral philospher).

      Maybe take a little R & R today (Sunday) with that attractive companion on your shoulder and top up that cheeky wee Beaujolais ;)

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    7. David Paton

      Statistician

      In reply to Clive Bond

      No Clive i'm not cherry picking. It was a genuine question, As i said in the above post. Asking questions is typical of religious people too.

      Clever people ask questions too you know.

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    8. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Clive Bond

      Clive, I think you are quoting the same bit as DP. Did your really read only that one sentence from that whole book, thinking you'd be able understand anything white extracting one sentence, and that sentence only from a large ancient text. Maybe you lived, read, and studied The Bible starting as a kid. But even when I started uni, I knew nothing about it. I was raised in an atheist milieu, so when I got to uni, I was determined to become more religion-literate as I'd worked out the vast majority…

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    9. Clive Bond

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      Michael mate. My 'passion' comes from being very close to people who were abused in childhood. I have seen first hand the damage it has caused. One in particular was hounded from court to court by nuns and their law team who were protecting the defendant. The bullying by the catholic hierarchy was designed to do one thing..wear the victim down and protect the church. I have no more to say.

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    10. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to Clive Bond

      Clive, my friend, I too have seen the dark side of the Catholic Church, otherwise I'd still be working for it. However, my faith life and interiority does not depend on institutional attachment and membership anymore. In fact, my view is that to be a good Catholic or at least a faith-filled one these days is to be a rebel.

      For a while I read your posts as vitriolic and drew a picture of you in my mind as an anti-Catholic, probably of Northern Irish background, where mutual suspicion and hatred…

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    11. Clive Bond

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      Michael, thank you for your kind thoughts. Yes, you were wrong..I am not homophobic. A "christian fundamentalist"... Absolutely not. In fact I am an atheist and have been one since the age of twelve, except for a very very brief time when I was swept along with Billy Grahams nonsense. I understand that some need a sense of ritual and belonging etc,. I am not one of those. One of my dearest friends of fifty years standing is a practising catholic. I respect that. He's irish and therefore cant help…

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    12. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to Clive Bond

      Good on you, Clive!

      Here's a global petition, in case you're interested in reading it, on power and sex abuse in the Catholic Church. The petition was started by three Catholic Bishops who are 'on the outer' in Australia, for standing up to and condemning various abuse practices within the Church. They are Geoff Robinson (Sydney), Pat Power (Canberra) and Bill Morris (Toowoomba). The petition is downloadable on the following website:

      http://www.change.org/en-AU/petitions/pope-francis-the-vatican-for-christ-s-sake-stop-sexual-abuse-for-good

      Maintain the rage, mate! Its the only way the Church will learn!

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  15. Jeremy cavanagh

    Engineer

    The author makes the mistake in thinking that biblical teaching separates out gay sex from other sex. As far as the bible is concerned sex outside marraige is not is something wanted by God whether same sex or not. Aside from that the article is built on rumour, suppsition etc and so will most probably just be ignored by people within the catholic hcurch, gay or not, who are seeking to establish the best way to relate and deal with sexuality that seeks to serve God, however imperfectly.

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    1. Stephen Ralph

      carer at n/a

      In reply to Jeremy cavanagh

      Your point neatly exposes the hypocrisy of the Christian (and other) religions.......homosexuality has been roundly condemned, and gays persecuted and hounded, yet those millions of supposedly "christian" heterosexuals who have sex outside of marriage (along with a whole host of other things), get no sanction - except to pray for forgiveness time after time.

      A double-standard par excellence.

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    2. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      Not so, Stephen John! Like you, I am gay, but I have not found the Catholic Church condemnatory, persecuting and hounding of me. Nor indeed the more liberal Anglican and the Uniting Churches. Wherever the Christian Churches produced good Scripture scholars the narrow fundamentalist prescriptions that you properly reject do not apply!

      Indeed I have sought and discharged influential office in the Catholic Church (in social justice education) from time to time on the understanding that the 'flawed…

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  16. Jena Zelezny

    research for second PhD in Humanities and Social Sciences (Performance Studies/Theatre & Drama/Dramatic Literature/Visual Arts) at La Trobe University

    I suggest that the church has attempted to make the pleasures of the sex act an exclusive province confined to marriage. In the propaganda of the church, the power of sexuality is such that it needs some sort of restraint and the best way to do that is to set boundaries around who can have sex, who cannot/should not and in what circumstances/context. The church as moral arbiter could not/can not condone pleasure for the sake of pleasure so it connected the act to reproduction and thus marriage, sex, pleasure and reproduction became inextricably linked.

    Homosexuality is not primarily about reproduction. Child bearing is not compulsory, nor is marriage and guess what the church can no longer be inextricably associated with integrity, honesty and the concept of goodness. Freedom from the church and from its hypocrisy is a great feeling.

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    1. Dianna Arthur

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Jena Zelezny

      Jena

      Dictating terms of human relationships has been a successful method of control - until now.

      Collectively people are better educated than they have been since, well, ever. Educated people question things, questions bring answers that may/do not fit within doctrine. It is a more scientific method; which means attitudes change as more is understood.

      The church only has itself to blame for its continued spiral away from the ever mutable collective of knowledge. I have no sympathy for an exclusively male contingent telling others how to live.

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    2. Jena Zelezny

      research for second PhD in Humanities and Social Sciences (Performance Studies/Theatre & Drama/Dramatic Literature/Visual Arts) at La Trobe University

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      Yes, but you are speaking from a white, euro-centric position and science, particularly medical science (especially psychiatry) and disciplines such as anthropology have tried to establish normative modes and differentiate between heterosexuality and so-called deviance.

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    3. Dianna Arthur

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Jena Zelezny

      Jena

      Point taken regarding science being utilised for nefarious reasons. However that was not the point, I (unsuccessfully) was trying to make. Plenty has been used and abused by those using Darwin's Theory of Evolutio; 'the survival of the fittest' has been reinterpreted as survival of the biggest or baddest or whatever instead of the most adaptable.

      I was simply trying to make the case for evidence based reason. This is something that religion, in particular Abrahamic based religions (which…

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