The leader of a group that advocates for gays and lesbians within the Catholic church took issue this week with Cardinal Walter Kasper’s speech before Anglican church leaders July 31 in which he reasserted the church’s view that homosexual behavior is “disordered.” Casper sought a similar condemnation from the Anglican church.
Francis DeBernardo, director of New Ways Ministry, a group that describes itself as a “gay-positive ministry of advocacy and justice for lesbian and gay Catholics,” said the cardinal’s remarks ignored certain elements of evolution in church thinking on homosexuality and the possibility that the thinking might develop further.
Kasper, in his remarks to the Anglican bishops, drew attention to an earlier document that had been a product of dialogue between the two denominations “where it was noted that Anglicans agree with Catholics that homosexual activity is disordered, but that we might differ in the moral and pastoral advice we would offer to those seeking our counsel."
In his speech to the Lambeth Conference in England, the once-a-decade gathering of Anglican leaders, Kasper, head of the pontifical council for promoting Christian unity, also said that the Catholic church’s teaching on homosexuality “is well founded in the Old and in the New Testament, and therefore that faithfulness to the Scriptures and to apostolic tradition is at stake.”
The worldwide Anglican communion is torn over the issue of homosexuality and the ordination of homosexuals.
In the 1970s, said DeBernardo in an interview with NCR, the teaching against homosexual activity was based on natural law theory. “It wasn’t until 1986 that the Vatican introduced scriptural arguments to support this teaching. So the idea that upholding this teaching is necessary to be faithful to Scripture does not hold true.”
He added that the Vatican’s view would uphold only “a particular interpretation of those texts which supports the Catholic teaching. Many scripture scholars, Catholic and Protestant, find that those texts do not refer to our contemporary understanding of homosexuality or to the concept of a loving committed relationship. The texts only refer to abusive sexual activity.”
As for the claim of apostolic tradition, he said that tradition “has been evolving constantly over the centuries, even in regard to homosexuality.” In an earlier era, he said, the church did not claim, as it now does, that homosexual persons “had to be respected because of their intrinsic human dignity. That was an evolution in the tradition.”
If that sort of evolution can occur, he asks, “why can’t it also change in the area of sexual activity in the context of a committed relationship?”
Roberts can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.