At a documentary that debuted at the Rome Film Festival this week, Pope Francis released statements that sparked a global conversation among Catholics.
“Homosexual people have the right to be in a family. They are children of God. You can’t kick someone out of a family, nor make their life miserable. What we have to have is a civil union law; that way they are legally covered.”
The pontiff’s views are not new but his endorsement of civil unions during his papacy is controversial because it runs counter to a 2003 Vatican statement that “respect for homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behavior or to legal recognition of homosexual unions.”
It’s been the long-standing view of the Catholic Church that homosexuality is “intrinsically disordered” and thus “objectively immoral.”
I don’t know if homosexuality is unnatural. But I do know that human evolution is innate. Life is not living if it is static. Human beings are not human if they don’t feel, respond, engage. What separates us from the non-living is our capacity to grow, change, evolve.
My mother used to tell me that during her mother’s time, it was considered immoral for a woman to publicly show any part of her body uncovered—even her bare feet. And in her time, it was highly immoral for a woman to be alone with a man who was not her husband. All these seem quite preposterous now.
Whether we accept it or not, the concept of right and wrong does change through time—dictated not just by tradition, religion and education but also by experience, culture and norms.
Is homosexuality unnatural? Is it caused by nature or nurture? And if something is unnatural, is it necessarily evil?
Once upon a time, women who read were also considered “intrinsically disordered.” It was simply unheard of so it was deemed unnatural. Thus, they were burned at the stake. Today, witch hunts are unheard of but women are still called witches when they ask hard questions and put the fear of God into those who have to answer them.
Fear. It’s what causes people to move to condemn and crucify.
If humanity had basked in the peaceful predictability of the status quo, rejecting every new idea or thing brought forth because of the fear of exploring what lay beyond the unknown, we would not be living the lives we have today.
Discussing case studies in college, I always told my students, “This is the right answer today. But this may be the wrong answer tomorrow or 10 years from now.”
If the head of the Catholic Church can humbly endorse same-sex civil unions and call for compassion for the LGBTQI+ community, why can’t the rest of the flock come down from their moral high horse and extend to every child of God, regardless of gender, sexual identity and orientation, kindness and respect?