“Come Out”, Do Not Be Ashamed, Filipino Archbishops Tell Gay Catholics

The website of the Filipino television station GMA News has an intriguing report that two Archbishops, Paciano Aniceto pf San Fernando and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz have urged to “come out in the open”, because they have nothing to be ashamed of.

Their full message does not depart from the formal position of Vatican doctrine, as it repeats the standard distinction between “homosexual persons” and  “homosexual acts”, and repeats the warning that these “acts” because they are “contrary to natural law”, and do not flow from “natural complementarity”. In this respect, they are as offensive as many other utterances from our bishops and the Vatican. (The occasion for this remarks was the Philippines launch of the book ”  ” by Fr John Harvey, the founder of Courage).   Nevertheless, I see some good news in this report, supporting my belief that there is a gradual and welcome shift of emphasis underway. There are two elements of this shift evident in the bishops’ message.

Image via Wikipedia

First, is the suggestion I have put into the headline, that they are encouraging us to come out and be open – including, presumably, open and out in church.  This is significant: the implicit message up to now has been to remain firmly closeted. The CDF argues that there is no need for legal provision to protect us from homophobic discrimination, because the safest way to avoid discrimination is simply to hide our sexuality. There is also an often repeated claim that by coming out we are “identifying” with the gay lifestyle, and so should be discouraged. The simple fact that these two archbishops are now recommending that we should be open is a major new development, which I would like to see more widely endorsed, and followed. If many more gay men and lesbians were to come out in church, it could have significant impact in contributing to understanding and more general acceptance. (There is no need, in being more open, to go so far as to start disclosing details of sexual practice – but that applies equally to all, of any orientation).

The second important feature is less remarkable, having been made with increasing frequency in recent years by others. This is the reminder of the neglected part of the Catechism on homosexuality – that we “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity”. This is as much a part of official doctrine as the better known insistence that homosexual acts are sinful- but has not hitherto been heard often enough, and in practice has been widely ignored by many people who really should know better. To my mind, the insistence on “sensitivity” is particularly important. It is impossible to be truly sensitive to marginalized people unless we make a determined effort to understand them. That in turn requires something that has been almost totally absent in the response of the institutional church response to LGBT people up to now – genuine listening to us, as we talk about our lives, experiences, perceptions and expectations. If other Catholics really did attempt to live according to this part of the Catechism as assiduously as they insist we live according to the teachings on the dreaded “acts” themselves, the listening process that would ensue would inevitably also contribute to a softening of the traditional hostility – just as it has already done in the other denominations that have applied formal listening and study processes.

Related Posts:

The Transformation of Christian Response to Homoerotic Love

Pope Benedict, and the Queer Lessons in the Church’s Martyrdom of St Joan

Catholic Revolution Gaining Momentum: Germany, Ireland

Theologians’ Revolt Deepening, Widening

2 Responses to ““Come Out”, Do Not Be Ashamed, Filipino Archbishops Tell Gay Catholics”

  1. Eman Says:

    Sir, let me kindly correct you that GMA News (http://www.gmanews.tv) is not a Filipino gay website. It is the online site of a television network here in the Philippines. While I’m happy to come across this blog, which presents LGBT issues and concerns from the viewpoint of spiritually enlightened LGBTs, I’m afraid I do not share the same optimism that you drew from the two Filipino archbishops’ call for gays to out themselves.

    A careful reading of the double-edged statements made by the resource persons during that book launch unmasks the Catholic Church hierarchy’s unabashed bigotry against LGBTs. Why should we be happy about this call, when the bottom-line is for the “sinners” to submit themselves to spiritual “re-engineering” through prayers and counseling? They are telling LGBTs not to be afraid to “come out” and then subject them to spiritual “guilt-trips” afterwards? Doesn’t that smack of downright hypocrisy?

    The Filipino Catholic Church hierarchy has retained the same feudal-patriarchal views it has inherited from our Spanish colonizers more than three centuries ago. It is simply changing tack to make itself appear relevant to the times…

    SEE: http://www.cathnewsphil.com/2011/03/02/church-leaders-urge-gays-to-%E2%80%98come-out%E2%80%99/

    • Terence Weldon Says:

      Many thanks for your correction concerning GMA News. I shall immediately change my original post to reflect this.

      I agree with you that the statements are indeed double-edged, and repeat the disordered teachings of the Vatican on the nature of homoerotic teaching. I also have grave reservations about the content of the book they were promoting, Fr John Harvey’s Catholicism and Homosexuality. This book is based on fundamentally flawed
      assumptions about the nature of sexuality, which the bishops repeated in their statement (and I deliberately ignored in my post). I had reservations about writing a post that appeared to endorse the statement as a whole, which I do not, and am considering balancing it with a follow-up piece on the flaws in Harvey’s assumptions. On balance, I thought it was worth drawing attention to the (limited) positive content in the statement, which is important in itself.

      My interest in their statement was simply that it is another instance of what I believe is a continuing series of indications of a gradual shift of emphasis from several bishops. These are small crumbs of comfort, but recognizing that change in the Catholic Church is always gradual, this is worth noting.

      I also believe firmly that actions have unintended consequences. The archbishops may be asking us to come out, but to live in chastity. In practice, the simple act of coming out in our parishes, with full participation in parish life and activities (especially in small groups for faith sharing or bible study) will inevitably have a huge impact in changing the perceptions of our co-parishioners.

      In the long run, it is the thinking of these ordinary Catholics, and not that of the bishops, which will matter. There is already a huge disconnect globally between the formal doctrine of the Vatican and lay Catholics, local pastors, and even the trained theologians, on the whole range of sexual ethics. Historically, when the Church has changed its teaching, it has always been to follow the changes that have already taken place in the minds of the faithful. It will be the same on this issue. Sooner or later, the CDF will recognize what the majority of Catholics and a substantial, growing number of moral theologians already know: there is nothing intrinsically sinful in loving, homoerotic relationships – only in some of the misuses of our sexuality in which some people indulge – exactly comparable to the case of heterosexuals.

      Until they do, we as LGBT Catholics must continue to present our case, and insist on the accepted teaching on the supremacy of conscience – as articulated, for example, by Pope Benedict himself.

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