Cardinal Says Rethinking Human Sexuality Is Important Task for the Church

Cardinal Joseph Tobin, left, with America Media editor, Fr. Matt Malone

A top U.S. cardinal has said it is “important” and “incumbent” that the church rethink human sexuality in a process of dialogue.

Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark made his remarks during an America Media-sponsored event titled “Pope Francis and the Future of the American Church.” The event was a conversation between the cardinal and America’s editor-in-chief, Fr. Matt Malone, who asked about Pope Francis’ “Who am I to judge?” comment. Tobin gave a lengthy response about pastoral accompaniment and the need for moral reflection to engage people’s lived realities, then returned back to the question with the following:

“A rethinking of the mystery of human sexuality is important, is incumbent. It’s not going to be done in a weekend. But I think we have to be able to ask questions of each other as we go forward. And listen.”

This statement from Tobin follows up May 2019 remarks in which he said the language used in church teaching on homosexuality (like intrinsically disordered) is “very unfortunate,” and he expressed hope it would be “a little less hurtful” in the future.

The cardinal has a positive record on LGBTQ issues. Last year, Tobin said the firing of LGBTQ church workers was a “very difficult question.” In 2017, he welcomed a group of LGBT pilgrims to Newark’s cathedral, a moment one participant said “felt like a miracle.” Tobin later explained his decision to provide such a welcome, saying LGBT people were entrusted to his pastoral care just like anyone else. He has endorsed Fr. James Martin, S.J.’s, book, Building a Bridge, saying it was “brave, prophetic, and inspiring.”

Cardinal Tobin joins the growing number of bishops and faithful who have called for reforms to the church’s teachings on homosexuality (For a listing of these voices from the last five years, click here.). How exactly those reforms play out is uncertain. Thankfully, Catholics have already shared a wealth of human experience and theological reflection from which to draw. But now, church leaders like Cardinal Tobin need to do more than express their desire for such reforms. They must initiate processes for the rethinking of human sexuality that is so desperately needed in the church. One starting point could be a synod on gender and sexuality.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, October 21, 2019

1 reply
  1. Deacon Thomas Smith
    Deacon Thomas Smith says:

    So proud of our local shepherd. He often reminds us, “I am your Brother Joe.” And his pastoral approach is that of a true friend. Our civil disobedience in Newark with him on Sept. 4 was a powerful experience. When I meet privately or publicly with him, I do so as an openly-gay member of his clerical team. His demeanor is inquisitive and respectful. He knows first hand how damaging current church teaching on homosexuality is. My next step might be to convince him to “disobey” the 1986 banishment of Dignity from church property, and allow our local chapter to finally “come home”. Supportive talk is important, but only concrete action will allow our spiritual wounds to heal.


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