Contemporary Theological Reflections on Same-Gender Relationships

John McNeill

Through the lenses of scriptural interpretation and psychological insight, McNeill argues that, in justice, the Church needed to abandon its traditional opposition to committed, sexually active lesbian or gay relationships. He proposes that “The same moral norms should be applied in judging the sexual behavior of a true homosexual as we ordinarily apply to heterosexual activity.” Additionally, he argues that “there is the possibility of morally good homosexual relationships and that the love which unites the partners in such a relationship, rather than alienating them from God, can be judged as uniting them more closely.”

Charles Curran

Curran argues that the Church should not morally disapprove of loving, committed, sexual relationships between two people of the same sex. Curran sees this as a compromise position, because he views the heterosexual orientation as the ideal for human beings. The Church, however, needs to make allowances for those who do not meet the heterosexual norm. Curran has also pointed out that the procreative element of marriage has been eroded by Church teaching itself. With the allowance of natural family planning methods in Humanae Vitae, the Church has not kept procreation as an indispensable requirement of all sexual activity. By allowing heterosexual couples to regulate their sexual activity with their fertility cycles, Catholic teaching, in fact, has acknowledged that the reproductive element is not as important as it once was.

Rosemary Radford Ruether

Through feminist analysis, Ruether points out that the idea of complementarity, key to the Church’s teaching on marriage and sexuality, is based on the idea that men and women have distinct “essences” and that they need each other for completion. Complementarity “demands the continued dependency and underdevelopment of women in order to validate the thesis that two kinds of personalities exist by nature in males and females and which are each partial expressions of some larger whole. Such a view can allow neither men nor women to be whole persons who can develop both their active and their affective sides.”

Sister Margaret Farley, RSM

Farley observes that the church’s teaching on sexuality is based in an act-centered morality (i.e., what is judged good or bad is an activity). She proposes that the church adopt a relationship-centered morality (i.e. what is judged good or bad is the quality of the relationship between people). Principles such as free consent of the partners, equality between partners, a sense of commitment, and permanency, she argues, provide a better basis for evaluating the good in a partnership than the Church’s current teaching with its heavy biological emphasis. (For a summary of Farley’s principles, click here.)

Patricia Beattie Jung

From a feminist perspective, Jung notes that the magisterium’s view of the intimate connection between sexual activity and pro-creation only takes male biology into account. Additionally, she argues that the change in gender roles that has taken place in society and in the Church needs to be taken into account when discussing sexual morality. Mutuality, rather than complementarity, stresses equality between partners, each one sharing the gifts they have received as individuals.

Bishop Geoffrey Robinson

Robinson asks two critical questions: 1) Why are sexual sins considered offenses against God and not against people? 2) Why does the Church’s sexual morality have such little Biblical, and specifically New Testament, support? He proposes that the Church could develop a new sexual ethic from the Gospels by looking at the principles that Jesus taught about how people should treat one another. (From: Confronting Power And Sex In The Catholic Church: Reclaiming the Spirit of Jesus )