A new exhaustive report from Catholic theologians and other scholars denounces the Church’s negative doctrine on homosexuality with the aim of helping “end this cruel and false teaching.”
The Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research, a U.K.-based think tank, issued the report, titled “Christian Objections to Same-Sex Relationship: An Academic Assessment,” after more than two years of research and preparation.
A foreword to the report, entitled “Academic Statement on the Ethics of Free and Faithful Same-Sex Relationships,” offers a summary of the doc ument.
A press statement summarized this interdisciplinary initiative:
“In this new report, theologians have joined forces to prove there is no warrant for the official Catholic Church’s vilification of same-sex unions. . .The Vatican as well as most other Christian Churches bear responsibility for continuing discrimination against people in same-sex relationships by asserting biblical grounds to justify their condemnation. Our report intends to help end this cruel and false teaching. . .
“The research report is a critical assessment of current papal teaching which bleakly condemns same-sex acts and relationships. We want to draw the attention of Vatican authorities and bishops worldwide to the disconnect between papal teaching and academic scholarship and compel them to review and change their outdated and cruel teaching. We also want to help all Christian communities by offering robust academic support to their initiatives to resolve divisions and make Churches fully inclusive of people in same-sex relationships. We aim to end discrimination dressed up as doctrine.”
With definitive findings, the report intends to “serve as the final nail in the coffin of biblical arguments justifying homophobia.” While previous scholarship has debunked some of the biblical and theological reasons why homosexuality is disapproved of in Catholic teaching, the press statement continued:
“This is the first such report to bring together and assess the most recent peer-reviewed research on the biblical passages used to condemn same-sex relationships. Much of that crucial research has only been published as recently as March 2020 and so is still only known within academic circles.”
Led by Luca Badini Confalonieri of the Wijngaards Institute, 19 other scholars are listed as contributing authors. Theologians from the United States include Sr. Jeannine Gramick, co-founder of New Ways Ministry, Cristina Traina, a professor at Fordham University and contributor to Bondings 2.0, Sr. Margaret Farley of Yale Divinity School, Todd Salzman and Michael Lawler, both of Creighton University, and Hille Haker of Loyola University Chicago. International authors included Michael Brinkschröder of Germany, Sharon A. Bong of Malaysia, Aloysius Lopez Cartagenas of the Philippines, Irina Pollard of Australia, and John Wijngaards of the United Kingdom, from where several other contributors came.
The foreword to the report, which summarizes the report’s larger findings, was written by Krzysztof Charamsa, a gay theologian who formerly worked for the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith before coming out in 2014 ahead of the Synod on the Family. His text says, in part:
“A message of hope in an hour of wavering certainties: This Academic Statement is a gift and a commitment to the Church. Theologians, aware of their scientific and Christian responsibility, address themselves to helping the judgment of the Church to mature… By presenting the progress of the humanities and biblical sciences, the signatories perform an act of intellectual honesty and trust in the Church.”
More than 60 scholars have affirmed the foreword. Among the notable signatories include Lisa Sowle Cahill, Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, Ivone Gabera, and Mary McAleese. (To view the full list of signatories, click here.)
McAleese, who is the former president of Ireland, a canonist, and a vocal critic of the hierarchy’s LGBTQ record, commented:
“This international collaborative research project is the first serious attempt to use the tools of interdisciplinary scholarship to challenge, probe and interrogate church teaching in the area of homosexuality. The People of God have needed this to help convince a blinkered magisterium to open its eyes and ears, to see and hear the damage inflicted on good people young and old by teachings that run counter to science and counter to the love of the Creator.”
In March, the Vatican did tremendous damage when it banned same-gender blessings. That decision’s reasoning was exemplary in showing how cruel and how false the church’s teachings on homosexuality can be. Now, backed by contemporary research from several field-defining scholars, the Wijngaards Institute’s initiative offers a powerful rebuttal to such negative church teachings about LGBQ people. The report makes clear there is no biblical basis for such teachings, and in its interdisciplinary approach, likewise makes clear there is no basis in the contemporary sciences either.
Many bishops and thousands of other church leaders are beginning to recognize that church teaching on homosexuality needs to develop. The question before us is how much damage will be done along the way before we get there. Coupled together, the Wijngaards’ report and the Vatican’s ban offer the church a unique inflection point this year to stop the harm and embrace all love.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, May 6, 2021