Catholic teachings on homosexuality are homophobic. It’s that simple.
Whenever I enter into a discussion about the Catholic Church’s stance on homosexuality its apologists usually greet me with the same tired defense of “ethos”, “religious freedom”, “conscience” etc. to justify a position which I deem homophobic and discriminatory. They seem to be believe that as it is a religious belief it is therefore exempt from the usual ethics governing discrimination. However, they fail to realise the consequences of such logic. If Catholics are permitted to discriminate against homosexuals solely based on the theology of their religion then why can’t other religions discriminate against people based on race or sex if their religion permits? To further explore religiously permitted discrimination I will draw comparisons between the Catholic Church’s position on homosexuality and the Mormon Church’s racist stance which it held prior to 1978.
For much of its history the Mormon Church had openly racist policies which discriminated against its black members. They were barred from the priesthood and from certain temple ordinances. Although never banned, interracial marriage was discouraged and was looked upon negatively. Black members were often shunned and white Mormons refused to sit with them, shake their hand, or sleep under the same roof. This was simply because Mormons believed people of African descent were under the curse of Cain. Cain being the the son of Adam and Eve who killed his brother Abel and was cursed by god by being marked. This mark, Mormons believed, was black skin. Although the Mormon Church repudiated the ban in 1978, unless one is a moral relativist, the ban and the treatment of blacks by Mormons was racist and immoral regardless if they felt it was morally and theologically acceptable or not. The reason why it is racism is quite obvious: it was a policy which targeted a fundamental part of an individual and treated them as inferior and defective because of it. The Mormon Church had no rationale for such a racist policy other than theology, which, as we shall see, is also the sole justification for the Catholic Church’s policy on homosexuals.
The Catholic Church’s position on homosexuality is outlined in the Catechism 2357-2359;
Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.
The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.
Homosexual persons are called to chastity. 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.
As stated above by the Church itself, its position is based solely on Sacred Scripture i.e. the Bible, the same source used by the Mormons to excuse their racist doctrine. Just as the Mormons made erroneous claims regarding skin colour, here too, Catholic doctrine makes widely inaccurate claims about homosexuality: that it’s intrinsically disordered, a grave depravity, contrary to natural law. None of these claims are objectively true and they hold as much credence as the claim that skin colour is the mark of a curse: none. The Catholic Church uses this doctrine to actively discriminate against homosexuals. Such as campaigning against marriage equality, same-sex parenting, and criminalising homosexual activity.
The similarities between the two policies are numerous. Both target an immutable, fundamental characteristic of an individual, both treat this characteristic as inferior and defective, both rationalise discriminatory practices due to this characteristic, and, most importantly, both solely rely on theological justifications. Discrimination on the grounds of race and gender orientation are irrational and harmful. To call homosexuality a sin or immoral when it harms nobody is simply absurd. Homosexuality has been observed in hundreds of different species and has been a constant throughout human history. It was embraced in many cultures including pre-Christian Europe, the Americas, and Asia.
The question Catholics must ask themselves is, if it is permissible for them to discriminate against homosexuals in the interest of freedom of religion and conscience, then is it not also permissible for Mormons to discriminate against blacks? If Catholics wish to refuse to give homosexuals accommodation at a B&B or access to relationship counseling, then should Mormons not be allowed to refuse blacks access to the priesthood and have separate seating? If theological reasoning isn’t sufficient to allow Mormons to actively discriminate against black people as the rights of blacks trump any notion of religious freedom then theological reasoning isn’t sufficient to allow Catholics to discriminate against homosexuals. It’s is unethical to impinge upon the rights of individuals to simply satisfy theological prejudices. Especially when the persons who want to limit their civil rights would be wholly unaffected should the minority group attain equality.
It is quite evident that for Catholics to continue to push “religious freedom”, “conscience”, and “ethos” to justify their discriminatory practices then they must accept the consequences of such logic and allow other religions to discriminate based on their religious ethos. This could mean that racism and sexism are perfectly permissible if they have a doctrinal foundation. If, on the other hand, Catholics believe things such as racism and sexism are immoral and no amount of theological excuses will trump the civil rights of individuals then they must extend this to homosexuals and their religious beliefs regarding homosexuality must defer to the civil rights of homosexuals.