I would have preferred the editorial team of zuntier.com to choose a less controversial theme for the first month of the year. Nonetheless, this would probably be an issue in the upcoming general elections and so it is likely to be discussed in the public square very soon.
From the outset, I would like to state that I appreciate the fact that LGBT Malta is very articulate in the advocacy of its cause, and albeit with little resources, it manages to punch above its weight. What I do not like, though, is the radicalization of the arguments it sometimes proposes. By this I mean, you either agree with it or you are a discriminating or homophobic person. In a dialogue, parties tend to listen to each other to understand each other better but may not necessarily converge or agree on all points. I also do not like the fact that it holds political parties to ransom on these issues. An important theme such as human sexuality should not be decided by political lobbying. On the other hand, LGBT persons have been underground, neglected, abused, or just ignored so often that I surmise this is a legitimate reaction. I still believe that the right balance needs to be yet found.
Having stated where I am coming from, I am grateful for LGBT Malta for the fact that they have made us understand better the complex issues involved in homosexual orientation: social, psychological, legal, religious, spiritual, sexual, etc. I think they have managed to gradually change Maltese culture in this regard.As regards the Church and LGBT, I think we are still far from the ideal situation. It seems to me that Church people immediately associate LGBT with homosexual marriage, the morality of homosexual actions, etc. Probably, this message is overtly or covertly transmitted and LGBT persons feel judged, not accepted or perhaps condemned. Recently, in my pastoral work I have met a gay person who told me that a priest had told him that he is gay by his own choice. This betrays ignorance of reality and does not help either the Church or the gay person.
Before writing this blog, I was researching the subject and came across a paper by Dan Kimball, an evangelical pastor, called the Homophobic Church (cfr. www.churchleaders.com). In this paper, Dan expounds various examples of this approach. He suggests that Church leaders should be more in touch with the emerging generation in order to dialogue effectively with it. He also gives voice to the experience of gay persons since the personal stories makes one understand better. His claim that at times Church leaders consider homosexual persons as inanimate referring to them solely as homosexuals thus dehumanizing them, warrants serious reflection. He also underlines the importance that homosexual persons are not outside the Church but are also inside the Church and homilists and preachers should use sensitive language that transpires compassion, love and care.
Now coming to the contentious issues where the Church and LGBT persons differ, namely the issue of sexual ethics and homosexual marriage, I think both parties need to understand each other better although they will still remain apart. The Church’s position on sexual morality is pretty known. The Church teaches that legitimate expression of sexuality is to be had only in marriage with a view to forming a family and expressing one’s love in the complementarity of the sexes. All other expressions: cohabiting persons, sex before or outside marriage, solitary sex, homosexual sex, contraceptive sex, are not legitimate and considered sinful i.e. against God’s law as taught by the Church. It is a very radical position and many people walk away from it. The Church knows this but feels bound by its interpretation of Holy Scriptures and holds to it in fidelity and truth. There are many writings of revisionist theologians who insist on the primacy of relationships and committed love to legitimize many situations outside the official framework, but these positions have not yet been accepted as official teaching. Theologians, confessors, and many pastors also respect the primacy of conscience in particular cases they encounter on the field.
As concerns, homosexual marriage, the issue is not with homosexuality but with the defence of the natural meaning of marriage i.e. between one man and one woman for life. The Church goes against the grain to defend her understanding of marriage e.g. She is against divorce since this eliminates indissolubility from a marriage. It is against a redefinition of marriage to include same sex marriage since this would eliminate the complementarity of sexes from the meaning of marriage. The Church considers marriage and the family to be the basic cell of society where the offspring are born and bred in a supportive network of care and wherein the socialization and the transmission of culture, education, and life occur. Redefining marriage at will jeopardizes the very foundations of humanity. The actual context seems to be just doing that. We wait and see whether the latter assertion materializes in fact or is just unfounded fear. The Church does not think so!
I only hope that we might discuss, disagree, take positions, but always respect each other and each person with dignity, love and care. To conclude, I quote Karen, a lesbian, as quoted by Dan Kimball:
“The Church must be full of love and grace, but it must be a place that upholds truth. Too often, Church leaders seem apologetic for having to tell a person that homosexuality is wrong. The church cannot value the approval of society more that the approval of God. In Scripture, true righteousness (not legalism) is associated with well-being, joy, glory, life, and all that is good. It is described as putting on a clean, refreshing garment. When the Church does not uphold the truth about righteousness, it robs people of the peace that comes only from following the ways of God. The truth does set people free, and we must use it not to beat people down but to open the gates and release the prisoners. It is hard enough for me to be faithful in following God on the issue of homosexuality without having to watch Church leaders shrink back and Christian friends waffle on truth. Stand up for your brothers and sisters who struggle, and don’t be ashamed of the ways of God. If we truly believe and trust that God’s ways are best and life-giving, then we are selfish and cruel not to stand firm.”