Roy Bourgeois: Catholic Church Must Change Its Teachings on Homosexuality

Today’s post is from guest blogger Roy Bourgeois, a former Roman Catholic priest and the author of My Journey From Silence to Solidarity.  Bourgeois is a nationally-known speaker on conscience and church reform.  He founded the School of the Americas Watch, which holds an annual protest against the training of Latin American soldiers at Ft. Benning, Georgia. He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010.

Homophobia, according to Webster’s dictionary, is “the irrational hatred or fear of homosexuals.”

Roy Bourgeois

The language we use breeds hatred and fear, which often leads to violence.  It’s time to disarm hatred and fear.  A good place to start is with church teachings.

According to the official teaching of the Catholic Church, as stated in its Catechism, section 2357:

“Basing itself on Sacred Scriptures, 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 gif of life.  They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity.  Under no circumstances can they be approved.”

This teaching instills shame and self-hatred.  It has contributed to gay people being rejected by their families, fired from their jobs, bullied, and even killed.

Throughout history, the Bible and “tradition” have been used to justify discrimination.  The Bible was used to support slavery, as it was used to oppose the right of women to vote.

Growing up in Louisiana, we used our “tradition” and the Bible to justify our segregated schools and worshiped in a Catholic Church that reserve d the last five pews for blacks.  And today, once again, we are using the Bible and tradition to discriminate against gay people.

Over the years, I have had to deal with Catholic church teachings.  I served as a priest with the Maryknoll Fathers for 40 years.  In 2012, I was expelled because of my public support for the ordination of women.

Being kicked out of the priesthood and my community of long-time friends was very painful.  However, this experience gave me a glimpse of what millions of people have gone through, on a much deeper level, because of their race, gender, or sexual orientation.

Since my expulsion from the priesthood, I have been hearing the stories and experiences of gay people  Two stand out and kept me awake at night:

  1.  Catholic parents told me about their high school son who was gay.  While they expressed unconditional love for him, he was bullied at school and did not feel welcome at their church.  Two weeks before graduation, he committed suicide.  They told me that the Catholic Church’s teaching on homosexuality contributed to the death of their son, and they left the church.
  2. On a recent human rights delegation to El Salvador, we met with LGBT people.  They told us about the danger of coming out in El Salvador and how some of their good friends were killed.  El Salvador is a very Catholic country. When asked about support from the church, they said Catholic bishops and priests were their biggest enemies.

Outside the Catholic Church, others see homosexuality differently:

  • Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, said, “I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me.”
  • In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association declared that homosexuality is a normal variation of human sexuality.
  • On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage was a constitutional right.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, “Nearly two-thirds of LGBT Americans report having experienced discrimination in their personal lives,” and  “only 19 states explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.”

Today, 25 countries have legalized gay marriage, while 75 nations treat homosexual behavior as a crime.  In 10 countries, it is punishable by death.

When we are born, we do not choose our race, gender, or sexual orientation.  No matter how hard we may try to justify discrimination against others, including using the Bible and tradition, in the end, it is not the way of a loving God who created everyone of equal worth and dignity.  There are no exceptions.

It is time for the Catholic Church and other churches to change the oppressive teachings on homosexuality.

–Roy Bourgeois

16 replies
  1. Rick
    Rick says:

    This was on point and thoughtful. Bigotry and discrimination has no place in a Church that states they uphold the dignity and respect of individuals. It is what Christ would do.

  2. Thomas
    Thomas says:

    The saddest thing here is that after 40 years as a Maryknoll priest, he was expelled for an idea : he expressed support for the ordination of women. That is an indictment of the Church and its inflexible hierarchy. If it is true that “we” are the Church, it is up to us to make it change.

  3. Friends
    Friends says:

    A fine statement by an inspiring spiritual hero and leader — and, to his naming of race, gender and sexual orientation as inherent “givens” at birth, I would also add “dominant-handedness”. You will drive a left-handed child absolutely crazy by trying to force him or her to become right-handed. It simply cannot be done. There are certain incarnational realities which defy easy explanation — and sexual orientation is clearly one of those realities. It’s high time for the Catholic Church to “wake up to reality”, and to stop oppressing — indeed torturing — some of its own beloved children.

  4. Barry Blackburn
    Barry Blackburn says:

    Thank You Roy Bourgeois for this powerful witness to both your Faith and experience with us the LGBTQ+ Community. Your insights illustrate that the Holy Spirit is active in the People of God-both in the Church and Secular Society and the Sensus Fidelium. Your specific calls for changes are not only reasonable but essential to stop the violence against us. Again THANK YOU and BRAVO!

  5. James F Moran
    James F Moran says:

    The following article from Yale Scientific, dated march 2012, indicates that homosexuality is COMMON in over 450 animal species. Since Homo Sapiens (human kind) are the only species with “free will” (meaning mankind is the only species that can make choices) that indicates that homosexuality is PART OF NATURE. That being the case, it is not sinful to be homosexual — it’s part of nature.

    Do Animals Exhibit Homosexuality?

    Arash Fereydooni
    By Arash Fereydooni
    March 14, 2012 03:54
    Recent research has found that homosexual behavior in animals may be much more common than previously thought. Although Darwin’s theory of natural selection predicts an evolutionary disadvantage for animals that fail to pass along their traits through reproduction with the opposite sex, the validity of this part of his theory has been questioned with the discoveries of homosexual behavior in more than 10% of prevailing species throughout the world.

    Currently, homosexual behavior has been documented in over 450 different animal species worldwide. For instance, observations indicate that Humboldt, King, Gentoo, and Adélie penguins of the same sex engage in “mating rituals like entwining their necks and vocalizing to one another.” In addition, male giraffes have also been observed engaging in homosexual behavior by rubbing their necks against each others’ bodies while ignoring the females. Yet another example is lizards of the genus Teiidae, which can copulate with both male and female mates.

    Biologists Nathan W. Bailey and Marlene Zuk from the University of California, Riverside have investigated the evolutionary consequences and implications of same-sex behavior, and their findings demonstrate benefits to what seems to be an evolutionary paradox. For example, their studies of the Laysan albatross show that female-female pairing can increase fitness by taking advantage of the excess of females and shortage of males in the population and provide superior care for offspring. Moreover, same-sex pairing in many species actually alleviates the likelihood of divorce and curtails the pressure on the opposite sex by allowing members to exhibit more flexibility to form partnerships, which in turn strengthens social bonds and reduces competition. Thus, not only do animals exhibit homosexuality, but the existence of this behavior is quite prevalent and may also confer certain evolutionary advantages.

  6. John Hilgeman
    John Hilgeman says:

    Roy Bourgeois, John McNeill and Jeannine Gramick. Three people I admire immensely. All three have put themselves and their careers on the line in confronting the injustice at the highest levels in leadership of the RC Church.

  7. Paula Mattras
    Paula Mattras says:

    Keep the dialog going………………….Sometimes I think people do not want to learn the truth because they fear their point of view may be found faulty. And by this time they have let so many know their “opinions” – not based on fact but opinion and cannot face the truth they could find. God help us.

  8. David
    David says:

    I think that this comment by Roy is extremely simple, understandable by anyone who wants to understand, and very helpful.
    I will save it, and use it, and it makes me proud
    To be connected to people who have not given up


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