The National Catholic Review

Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, a Mexican cardinal and emeritus president of the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Health (1996-2009), has said in an interview with Pontifex, that homosexuals and transvestites "will never enter into the reign of God," appealing to St. Paul.  "[T]rans e omosessuali non entreranno mai nel Regno dei Cieli, e non lo dico io, ma San Paolo."  Later in the interview he says that he believes homosexuals are not born that way but become that. 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, however, begs to differ, offering gays and lesbians who live chastely the hope of "Christian perfection." (2359) "By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection."  

Comments

S Bond | 12/7/2009 - 10:49pm
Joann, I'm glad I came back and checked this thread.  You write with great compassion and sense.
I'm still praying that the Catholic hierarchy come out against the pending legislation in Uganda.  The silence is unreal to me - and as I asked in another thread, are we a pro-life people or not?  How can we tolerate this population being targeted by execution laws?  Especially bizarre in a country with a large Catholic population.
I was thinking tonight - do folks suppose that when Jesus wrote in the dirt, as the crowd was getting ready to stone that woman, he was writing, ''She's not gay, so let her live''?
We will pay for our sins against gay and transgender people.
Joann Prinzivalli | 12/4/2009 - 3:32pm
Joe Right (#31): Look to the context.  Paul was being critical of pagan fertility (goddess cult) and Bacchanalic orgiastic practices, which led persons of a heterosexual nature to practice in their religious ecstasy behaviors that are against their natures as God created them.  If one assumes a homosexual nature in those created by God with such a nature to be ''natural'' for that minority of God's creation, the passage could well be read as implying that we should not act against our nature as we are created. 
An example: Jim, a gay Catholic striving to overcome his nature, marries Mary.  He tries very hard to act against his nature, they even have children, but the marriage ends in divorce (and an annulment is granted) because his attempt to be ''straight'' has caused him to have psychiatric issues.  Everyone has been hurt because Jim tried, but failed, to act against his nature.  Indeed, had he gone into the marriage knowing his nature was homosexual (rather than buying into the idea that he could change his nature), one can argue that his getting married to Mary would be sinful.
Counseling gays into reparative therapy to make them try to act against their nature as they were created, is is not a good idea.  Celibacy as an obligation for all who have a homosexual orientation is needlessly cruel and I would think it flies in the face of 1Cor.7:8-9.  Paul indicates that celibacy is only for those Christians who can contain themselves sufficiently to live in continence.  Those who cannot should marry rather than to fall into sinful behaviors. (Of course, that raises the issue of whether the Church should consider whether gays in monagamous relationships should be viewed as acting sinfully - I would think that God des not require us to do the impossible, and it is clear than not all are called to celibacy.)
This commentary of mine, of course, is not anything other than a criticism of the current teaching of the magisterium.
Joann Prinzivalli | 12/4/2009 - 3:11pm
Brian (#30): Indeed, God worked the ''play-doh'' - but there is a difference between an Aristotelian-based understanding of biology parsed through a scriptural lens, and the actual biological reality of God's creation.  Biological sex in reality is not as simple as looking at the gross shape of the 23rd chromosome pair.  If one delves into the genetic blueprint, everyone is created ''male *and* female'' which one can also see stated in Gen.1:27.  Developmentally, we usually end up with one or the other sex, and this works with over 99% of human beings.  The other less-than-1% have biology that does not easily fit into one or the other of the sex designations.  It is the height of human folly to arbitrarily limit God.  Transsexual and other intersex people were created to be different.  It is not their choice to be created the way they were, and I suspect that we exist as examples of the diversity of creation.  The theories of John Money as to the malleability of sex identity were discredited by Milton Diamond, not by John McHugh, who misadvised the Vatican on transsexuality leading to my frustration with the sub secretum pronouncement from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2000.  We are indeed as God created us, but for those who are transsexual or intersex, that is ''other'' or ''both'' rather than ''either'' or ''or.'' (This also addresses Steph #28).
Rabbi Mark Sameth of Pleasantville, New York, wrote something recently on a surprising disclosure of an aspect of the nature of God found by studying the Tetragrammaton, which dovetails nicely with Gen.1:27 - read YHWH backward and one gets HWHY, which reads (in English) as ''he/she'' - an epithet usually hurled at persons who are visibly different, but who are special to God (Is.56:5).
Joe Right | 12/4/2009 - 10:37am
Romans, Ch 1, vv. 26-32
26 For this cause God delivered them up to shameful affections. For their women have changed the natural use into that use which is against nature. 27 And, in like manner, the men also, leaving the natural use of the women, have burned in their lusts one towards another, men with men working that which is filthy, and receiving in themselves the recompense which was due to their error. 28 And as they liked not to have God in their knowledge, God delivered them up to a reprobate sense, to do those things which are not convenient; 29 Being filled with all iniquity, malice, fornication, avarice, wickedness, full of envy, murder, contention, deceit, malignity, whisperers, 30 Detractors, hateful to God, contumelious, proud, haughty, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,

31 Foolish, dissolute, without affection, without fidelity, without mercy. 32 Who, having known the justice of God, did not understand that they who do such things, are worthy of death; and not only they that do them, but they also that consent to them that do them.
Brian Killian | 12/3/2009 - 8:03pm
William,
 
And I like to wonder how we arrived at of a view sex and gender that I call the play-doh view of sexuality. This is the view that sex and gender are just like blobs of play-doh that we can play with and shape and mold into whatever shapes we like. But the problem with this view is that it's not how reality works.
 
Creation has already happened, the play-doh (the nature of things) has already been played with by the Creator. His imagination already thought up all the shapes and forms. And these forms too are part of revelation, they are the first revelation. The Church's stance on sexuality is not based on something as fluid as mere gender roles. It's based on something much more static - biological fact. The biological purpose of sex is reproduction. 
 
Now of course, there is a personal, spiritual, and symbolic level to sex too. To deny this would be biologistic. This is what was wrong with some of the natural law reasoning regarding sexuality that led Pope John Paul to work on a more personalist understanding. You don't discover the full human meaning of something by stopping at the biological purpose. You must look at the larger context of the person. However, these higher level meanings are based on the biological order. They are not in conflict with the biological level. 
 
This is how the evolution of creation takes place. The higher springs from the lower, and transcends it, but it is also built on it and dependent on it. Are living things separable from the non-living stuff of nature? Is the intelligence of human beings independent from our animal and living natural foundations? Does metaphor live a separate life from the literal? Is it arbitrary that we describe God as the ''most high'' instead of the ''most low''? Can water just as well be used for the Eucharist as for baptism?
 
No, the spiritual meaning of sexuality is surely based on the biological. This is the reality of things, the 'static' theory of sexual complimetarity is verified, the play-doh theory is not supported by nature. I will continue to think concepts like ''lust'' and ''chastity'' are meaningful as opposed to the play-doh theory which can't accommodate such ideas. 
William Lindsey | 12/3/2009 - 7:05pm
Steph, I don't think it's "left field" at all to ask how intersexed individuals fit into God's divine plan for creation.  In fact, I think it's important that we ask such questions.  When our schemas are so neat that they fit only by excluding groups of people and the troubling questions their existence raises, perhaps something is wrong with our schemas.
 
The fact that God creates individuals whose gender is indeterminate, somewhere in between our neat categories and all the assumptions we make based on those categories, suggests to me that God may delight in diversity.  And in overturning our certainties.  And in challenging the prejudices we build around our certainty that everyone ought to fit into the categories we imagine are necessary to fit people into, or everything will fall apart.
 
I'm glad you're asking such questions.  Moral theology that imposes rational constructs on human experience and on scientific data, without consulting that experience and those data, is not very convincing - not, that is, in a religious tradition that values both faith and reason and sees them operating in tandem.
JIM MCCREA | 12/2/2009 - 4:23pm
Never ascribe to malice what can be sufficiently explained by stupidity.  Mark Twain
 
Once a fixed idea of duty gets inside a narrow mind, it can never get out.
 
“There is no heresy or no philosophy which is so abhorrent to the church as a human being.”
 Letter to Augusta Gregory (1902-11-22), from James Joyce by Richard Ellmann (1959) [Oxford University Press, 1983 edition, ISBN 0-195-03381-7] (p. 107) 
 
Anonymous | 12/2/2009 - 4:15pm
Where is mercy ?
Andy Buechel | 12/2/2009 - 3:23pm
I agree whole-heartedly with A Andreassi.  It's hard to take a condemnation of transvestites seriously from a guy wearing a dress.
Aaron Cohen | 12/2/2009 - 3:20pm
I'm trying to remember when I "became" homosexual. 
Winifred Holloway | 12/2/2009 - 3:12pm
 If a Catholic today intends to stay within the institutionlal church, h/she needs a strong stomach, a fierce faith and a high tolerance for the foolish statements of too many of the hierarchy.  What does it take to be appointed a Cardinal?  Does no one check their SAT's?
Pinter Neesbak | 12/2/2009 - 2:56pm
The [Cardinal] doth protest too much, methinks.
S Bond | 12/2/2009 - 1:47pm
I always learned that God gets to decide who goes to Heaven.  In fact, just the other week my pastor said that he would never presume to say who is saved after death and who isn't.  I guess I'll have to let him know that he's wrong - this Cardinal has the inside scoop.
 
There are days when it is so very, very, very hard to stay in the church. 
William Lindsey | 12/3/2009 - 11:54am
Thanks for your reply, Brian.  I'm sorry you can't see what is obvious to many of us who are LGBT Catholics, and to millions of other Catholics who stand in solidarity with us.  But as I noted in my previous response to you, perhaps your own experience of privilege - as distinguished from the LGBT experience of exclusion and oppression within the church - makes you view things differently.
 
As to your argument that changing the "thread" of teaching about homosexuality will cause the whole garment to unravel, I am unconvinced.  This is a version of a slippery slope argument that has been applied in the past to other groups asking the church to reconsider aspects of its teaching that were untenable, in light of the general moral development of culture and/or new scientific findings.
 
There were similar apocalyptic arguments in the past, for instance, about women and what would happen if women were treated as fully human, with a humanity equal to that of men.  The world did not fall apart when women achieved full personhood, though it certainly fell apart for men (and women) who hinged all of Christian faith on the perdurance of patriarchy.
 
Nor will it fall apart as LGBT people are accepted as fully human.  The question that really intrigues me here is why some Christians today want to develop an entirely unprecedented interpretation of the entire system of Christian faith that hinges around gender and gender roles.  As if everything in the world hinges on gender.  And as if the gospel is all about conformity to biological norms and the gender roles thought to be inherent in those norms.
 
It seems noteworthy - and, frankly, strange - to me that some Christians seem to have so much invested in maintaining "traditional" gender roles, that they regard any changes in that area, or any critical questions in that area, as the beginning of the end for orthodoxy, morality, and Christian civilization.
 
I don't read the gospels this way, to be honest.  And I wonder how we have arrived at this point at which we read them to be all about gender and maintaining roles premised on a static, biologistic understanding of gender.
Brendan McGrath | 12/2/2009 - 1:16pm
One is reminded of Hillaire Belloc's description of the Church as ''an institution run with such knavish imbecility that were it not the work of God it would not last a fortnight.''  That, and that line attributed to a pope in an exchange either with Napoleon or with Kruschev (I've heard it both ways) - basically, ''you won't succeed in destroying the Church; our priests have been trying to do it for neary 2000 years, and they haven't been able to do it,'' etc. 
What on earth is wrong with that cardinal?  I mean, there are a couple of ways he could have meant this, but whatever he meant, it was horribly worded, and probably should never have been said to begin with.  Regardless of how one feels about the Church's teaching on this issue, this is not going to help the Church.  But anyway, he could have meant one of the following:  1) ''People with a homosexual orientation will never enter Heaven / the Reign of God.''  2) ''People will never enter Heaven with a homosexual orientation (i.e., they will be ''healed'' of it, or whatever, similar to the way you might say nobody will enter Heaven with a stomach ache).''  3) ''People who engage in homosexual activity and do not repent before death will never enter Heaven.''
Statement #1 is contrary to Catholic doctrine (one might almost call it heretical), #2 is theologically debateable, and #3 loses sight of the conditions necessary for subjective mortal sin - i.e., grave matter, sufficient knowledge/reflection, and full consent of the will.  One could certainly say that many engaging in homosexual activity may not have sufficient knowledge/reflection or full consent of the will; one might even attempt to argue over grave matter, though that'd be more difficult.  And of course many would question the Church's teaching on the morality of homsexual activity to begin with, and/or question whether such moral teachings are taught infallibily - it's doubtful that they are, other than by that whole catch-all ordinary magisterium thing about all the bishops everywhere having taught always taught it or whatever.  In any case, doesn't canon law state that something should't be presumed to be infallible unless it's clearly identified as such? 
How are we supposed to keep Catholics from leaving the Church when cardinals like this keep driving them away?  Again, this is the case regardless of how you feel about the Church's teaching on the issue - evangelizing / catechizing / etc. is like fishing; if you pull too hard too soon, you're going to lose them.  We don't need to have every little thing in the attic of Catholic doctrine splattered on the front of the newspapers.  I mean, ''cast not your pearls before swine'' - hello?! 
Why can't the hierarchy start spouting condemnations of Baianism or Monothelitism or something?  Wouldn't that be funny?  We should have fundraisers in support of referenda on the nature and grace disputes.  Why can't they get worked up about something from the good old days?  Let's revive the De Auxiliis controversy; anything would be better than this!
Pearce Shea | 12/2/2009 - 1:04pm
David - I agree with Brian Thompson and Michael Bindener's assessments: the Reign of God =/= Heaven. I certainly think the good Cardinal could use some nuance here: "people actively engaged in homosexual activities or lifestyle cannot enter the Kingdom of God." All of which is to say that "because homosexual activity is outside of the confines of healthy human activity envisioned for us by our Creator, His Kingdom will have no place for people who wish to engage in that sort of activity."
David Patrick | 12/2/2009 - 12:44pm
There's nothing outrageous or laughable about his comments. It would be embarrassing if he had said something other than what the Church teaches.
His point is pretty clear, that nothing impure will enter the Kingdom, and that goes for all disordered behaviour.
David Patrick | 12/2/2009 - 2:50pm
 The more joyous the Cardinal, the better.
Michael Bindner | 12/2/2009 - 12:40pm
The Cardinal seems to confuse the Reign of God with Heaven. The Reign of God has more to do with bringing God's charity and forgiveness to this world - and it seems the Cardinal knows little about that from his statements.
Brian Thompson | 12/2/2009 - 12:38pm
Having a disorder does not condemn you. Only a free decsion to reject good and choose evil can condemn a man. Now, some are weaker to different temptations, sure, but simply being afflicted with a weakness or a disordered passion does not mean someone is irrevocably on the road to perdition.
ANTHONY ANDREASSI | 12/2/2009 - 2:32pm
I wonder if gay cardinals make it in.  I am sure the good Lord wouldn't have the bad manners to condemn a prince of the church, especially ones who wear watered silk and ermine
James Lington | 12/2/2009 - 12:31pm
So outrageous it's laughable. How embarrassing! Why are fools like this allowed to speak?
S Bond | 12/3/2009 - 4:14pm
As a Catholic with a gay brother, this issue is near and dear to me, generally.
Sometimes my mind flies to the extreme cases.  What about those who are intersex, like the individuals who have XY sex chromosomes but who have an insensitivity to androgen.  They look female on the outside, but they have testes internally, and no ovaries.  They can't bear children.
Where does the church place them?  Can they marry men if they want to, since they look female?  If so, then it seems like the teaching is based on appearances rather than reality.  (They are XY, after all.)  Can they marry women, since they are male chromosomally?  Are they called to celibacy because they cannot produce children?  That seems unfair as heterosexuals aren't barred from marriage simply for being infertile.  So...what's the position?
I guess in the old days these folks would never have known about their genetic makeup and would have lived as females and would never have known why they were infertile.  But today they likely know the situation.  If one approached the church and asked, ''How am I to live,'' what would the church's answer be?  And how would the church support its position?
This is sort of left field...but then again, it's all part of the mix. 
Brian Killian | 12/3/2009 - 10:50am
Hi William,
 
I don't see any special privations, strictures, and censures that are targeted at 'gay' Catholics. What I see is the Church teaching that sexual activity is prohibited except for that which is connected with procreation through sexual union. When the Church says "NO" to sexual activity that is unconnected with procreation, it is not making any distinction between gays and other people. The same privations, strictures, and censures apply to everyone without distinction.
 
Why should you get any special treatment that married people using contraception don't get? Should you be treated differently than married people or unmarried non-gay people who want to engage in other kinds of genital activity unconnected with procreation? I'm assuming your answer is no, there should be no special treatment. But the solution proposed is not that gays should be held to the same standard as everyone else, but that everyone else should be set free of those censures and strictures. And so the Church is is held to be wrong, not just about homosexuality, but also about masturbation, contraception, oral sex, etc.
 
Since the Church's teaching on sexuality is all of a piece, you cant pull out the thread of homosexuality without the whole garment unraveling. And it doesn't stop there. The thread would continue pulling at the scriptures and all of Christian revelation itself, even to creation. It's all wrong, we are supposed to believe.
 
But I don't believe it.
Joann Prinzivalli | 12/3/2009 - 10:42am
Cardinal Barragan seems to have failed a test.  For the Cardinal, trans people, gays and lesbians are the same sort of obstacle to salvation that confronted Saint Francis before he overcame his prejudices and hugged the leper.  The Cardinal has allowed his personal prejudices to overcome his thinking.  He runs the danger that on the day of Judgment, he may be numbered among the goats (Mt. 25).
Sadly, he is not alone: the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church relating to homosexual and transsexual people (the latter available only in a sub secretum document issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2000, leaked to CNS in 2003) are not firmly rooted in sacred scripture, and the ''science'' used to depict these different people as ''disordered'' is junk science.
Before his papacy, Pope Benedict himself dismissively cited the story of Sodom and Gommorrah as follows ''Thus, in Genesis 19:1-11, the deterioration due to sin continues in the story of the men of Sodom. There can be no doubt of the moral judgement made there against homosexual relations.''*-*LETTER TO THE BISHOPS OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH ON THE PASTORAL CARE OF HOMOSEXUAL PERSONS – Homosexualitatis problema (Epistula de pastorali personarum homosexualium cura), October 1st, 1986, §6, par. 2- The Pope sees a different story than that written in the Book of Genesis. The story I read involves the suspicious, inhospitable men of Sodom, whose disapproval of and lack of hospitality for strangers from outside the city translated into a desire to gang-rape them and throw them out of town, the ancient equivalent of tarring, feathering and riding out of town on a rail.This was a very macho thing – to show strangers that the men of Sodom were ''real men'' and the visitors were ''less than women.''This misogynistic mistrust of people who are different, strangers in our midst, is not a characteristic of gay people, but of those who condemn them as ''sodomites'' – who are themselves the real sodomites!
Mark Herlong | 12/3/2009 - 10:06am
"Hell is paved with the skulls of priests" - St. John Chrysostom
William Lindsey | 12/3/2009 - 9:35am
Nancy D., your comment follows mine, so I assume it is, in some way, a response to what I posted previously?
 
If so, I have to tell you, your reply leaves me confused.  Can you please tell me why you chose to introduce the topic of the "sin of adultery" into this discussion?
 
I don't like to leave people's words hanging in the air, because - this is my personal penchant, based on my own formative cultural and religious experiences, I think - to me, doing so implies that the person who has spoken is not worth hearing.
 
I'd like to hear your point and respond to it.  I just don't quite understand it - particularly the reference to adultery.  Would you be willing to explain this more?  Thank you.
Anne Danielson | 12/3/2009 - 9:14am
"Gay" is not a person, "Gay" is a relationship. We are called to develop Holy relationships and friendships with one another in communion with God, respecting all of God's Commandments, including His Commandment regarding the sin of adultery.
William Lindsey | 12/3/2009 - 8:39am
Brian, you ask, "So, gay Catholics are called to chastity and self-mastery just like everyone else?"
 
Actually, no.  And that's a point that deserves consideration, surely.
 
We who are gay are called by the church to lifelong celibacy.  We're told that we have no hope of or option to fall in love and marry. 
 
You, as a heterosexual man, are told to remain celibate as long as circumstances require that (unless your vocation happens to be lifelong celibacy).  You're told that you should hope to fall in love and marry.  You're encouraged even to celebrate your erotic attraction to women as a quasi-mystical experience that in some way transcending rational thought prefigures the reign of God. 
 
I'd conclude that gay and lesbian persons are very much a "special group" in the church.  Perhaps you aren't recognizing this because you yourself aren't subject the same privations, strictures, and censures that those of us who are gay contend with?
Brian Killian | 12/3/2009 - 8:12am
So, gay Catholics are called to chastity and self-mastery just like everyone else? They are not some special group that alone is being treated unjustly by having celibacy imposed on them? They are not entitled, unlike anyone else, to engage in erotic activity that has no connection with procreation? I sense a clash between what is implied by this portion of the Catechism, and what was implied by Fr. Martin's previous post on gay Catholics.
Carolyn Disco | 12/2/2009 - 9:40pm
Time again for one of my favorite Merton quotes:
 
“Authority has simply been abused too long in the Catholic Church and for many people it just becomes utterly stupid and intolerable to have to put up with the kind of jackassing around that is posed in God’s name. It is an insult to God Himself and in the end it can only discredit all idea of authority and obedience. There comes a point where they simply forfeit the right to be listened to” (HGL, 230).
 
Barragan would be but a humorous buffoon, if only his words did not cause so much pain.
 
Helena Loflin | 12/2/2009 - 7:50pm
The Church once believed that the earth was the center of our solar system.
 
Today, the Church still believes that homosexuality is a chosen disorder leading to behavior that is an abomination.
 
This too shall pass.  And not soon enough.
 
Joseph Kalwinski | 12/2/2009 - 6:02pm
ROME (Reuters) - A Roman Catholic Cardinal told homosexuals and transsexuals on Wednesday they would never get into heaven, prompting a rebuke from the Vatican itself.
"Transsexuals and homosexuals will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven, it's not me who says it but St. Paul," said Mexican Cardinal Javier Barragan, a former Vatican official who recently retired, referring to one of St. Paul's epistles.
Asked if people were born homosexual Barragan, whose comments were posted on a conservative Catholic website called www.pontifex.roma, was quoted as saying:
"One is not born homosexual but they become that way. This is for various reasons: education, for not having developed their identity during their adolescence, maybe they are not guilty but by going against the dignity of the body they certainly will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven."
"Everything that goes against nature and against the dignity of the body offends God," he added.
Aurelio Mancuso, president of Italy's main gay rights group, Arcigay, said Barragan's remarks were part of the Church's "ridiculous theories about sexuality and the dignity of the person."
The Vatican distanced itself from the comments in a statement that was highly unusual because it indirectly criticized a top Church official.
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the website should not be considered an authority on Catholic thinking "on complex and delicate issues such as homosexuality."
Lombardi quoted from the official Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church, which says homosexual acts are a "disorder" but acknowledges that many people have "innate homosexual tendencies" and should be treated with respect and not be subject to discrimination.
The Catholic Church teaches that homosexual acts are sinful but homosexuality in itself is not.
Jeffrey Miller | 12/2/2009 - 5:49pm
So Father Martin do you really think there is no chance of a media slice and dice on the Cardinal's remarks?  Especially since he also said ""Homosexuality is therefore a sin, but this does not justify any form of discrimination. God alone has the right to judge,"
Homosexually acts are indeed gravely sinful, though it is for God alone to judge culpability.
Isn't this a case that anybody who persists in manifest grave sin and never repents is not going to Heaven?  I think your concentration in the headline is less than charitable and not properly showing the caveats.