- 24 Aug 18
Is gay sex a sin? Are people who declare as LGBTQ+, and who engage in sex on that basis, equal in every respect with those who declare as heterosexual? These are questions that Pope Francis should be able to answer without sophistry or evasion, when he meets the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in Dublin
On the run-up to the visit of Pope Francis to Dublin, writing for Hot Press, Kevin Worrall asked a series of questions of the Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmaid Martin, in relation to the Church’s attitude to homosexuality. So far no answers have been provided by the Archbishop or his representatives.
What we asked were simple, direct questions which aim to get to the heart, in ordinary, straightforward language, of the Roman Catholic Church’s teachings on homosexuality.
Most people will agree, when they read the questions, that there is really no reason whatsoever for any delay in providing answers. Unless, of course, there is something here for the hierarchy of the Church to hide. I don’t think it is unkind to say of the Church historically: “They are good at that."
Ultimately it comes down to the fundamental issue of equality. Are LGBTQ+ people equal in the eyes of the Roman Catholic Church to those who are not LGBTQ+ – or are they seen as inferior, as people who have strayed from the assumed ‘rightness' of the heterosexual ‘norm’ and who might be ‘corrected’ back into the ‘ideal’ shape?
To be clear about it, as we know, LGBTQ+ people have always been treated as inferior by the Church. They have always been categorised as sinners. They have always been told that what they do sexually is wrong. That it is an aberration. That they should not do it. That to continue to do it is not just wrong, it is disgusting, an abomination, to be reviled. That they should get themselves somehow reorganised or reorientated, so that they ‘become' heterosexual.
Which is why there were laws in so called Christian countries which meant that anyone caught and accused of engaging in homosexual sex could end up behind bars. This was serious stuff. Very serious. And it all originated with religion, and with the 'teachings' of the Judeo-Christian God.
Those teachings have recently been in evidence in a very practical way. As we know, the Roman Catholic Church opposed the introduction of Same Sex Marriage in Ireland. Why?
No one is denying any individual, or indeed any institution the right to take a position on an issue of this kind. The Roman Catholic Church is perfectly free to say that “Yes, our position is that marriage between two men or two women is fundamentally inferior to marriage between heterosexual couples and therefore we still oppose Same Sex Marriage and would like to see it struck off the statute books in Ireland.”
That is what many Roman Catholic activists feel. It is what many lay Catholic activists want to achieve. It is what they are secretly – and perhaps even not so secretly – already campaigning for.
In a Hot Press interview, in 2016, the Primate of Alll Ireland, Eamon Martin, told Hot Press that it is not a sin to ‘be’ homosexual, but that it is as sin to engage in ‘homosexual acts’. We believe that this is piece of ludicrous sophistry, unbecoming of any intelligent person. And it is no longer enough as an answer. We need to know more. We need the truth.
As it was free to take a hostile position on Same Sex Marriage, the Roman Catholic Church is also perfectly free to say, “Yes, we do believe that it is wrong in the eyes of God, and it is sinful, for two men or two women to have sex together, to fuck one another, or to bring one another to orgasm. After all, as we have always said, the purpose of sex is pro-creation, and there is no possibility of that in a homosexual sex act. So it is wrong. It is sinful. And to do it again and again over the course of a lifetime is wrong and sinful again and again and again.”
But what it is not entitled to do, especially having been complicit – indeed having been active – in the persecution of homosexuals (which was standard until relatively recently in countries dominated by Christianity, and by Roman Catholicism, and still is in many predominantly Islamic countries), is to obfuscate, or to provide no answers at all to simple questions concerning what is a basic issue of human rights.
Which is why we believe the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar should ask these same simple questions of Pope Francis when he meets him, during the course of his visit to Ireland.
The fact that Leo himself is gay might give the questions an added edge, but it is irrelevant to the core issue. Does the Roman Catholic Church accept that LGBTQ+ people are fully equal or does it not?
This is a hugely important question, not least given the extent to which Roman Catholicism still has its hands on the levers of power in relation to education in Ireland. The schools they have a say in running – and that means the vast majority at primary level for a start – are in the business still of inculcating so called 'Catholic values'. If these values include the ongoing denigration of LGBTQ+ people, we must be told. If these values include even an implied discrimination against LGBTQ+ people, we must also be told.
It is the duty of the Irish State to cherish and to protect all of its children equally. By leaving any part of education in the hands of an institution that promotes discrimination, the State is failing in that fundamental duty.
Which is why we need answers, and the Taoiseach might just be able to assist us in getting them.
For the Taoiseach’s reference, here is the full list of questions already asked by Hot Press...
1. The Bible clearly condemns homosexuality. However, it also says women who commit adultery should be stoned to death. Why believe the first of these two positions still applies, and not the second?
2. Why is homosexuality considered a sin by the Roman Catholic Church?
3. You say 'love the sinner and hate the sin'. Is it your view, or the Roman Catholic Church’s view, that homosexuals must repress their sexual urges to avoid repeatedly committing sins?
4. Can "practising homosexuals" be fully accepted members of the Roman Catholic Church completely free of the taint of being judged as committing a sin, every time they have sex with their same-sex partner or partners?
5. If an opposite sex couple entered a Church and walked up the centre casually holding hands, no one would think twice. Would it be acceptable to you, as an Archbishop, if a same sex couple, did exactly that while you were in the church?
6. What if a same sex couple wanted to get married in your church – would you agree to it happening? If not, why not?
7. If a same sex couple wanted to baptise their child, would you turn them away – and if so, why?
8. You say same sex couples are welcome to come to the so called World Meeting of Families. Is this an unequivocal statement by you that same sex couples are fully equal to families involving heterosexual couples – and no less ‘right' in what they do sexually?
9. Is there not an issue here of you, and the Church, in saying same sex families are ‘welcome’, trying to have it both ways?
10. In the end, does it not come down to something very simple: either homosexual acts between consenting adults are a sin or they are not?
11. Can you please explain what exactly it is that is wrong about one man making another have an orgasm?
12. Or what exactly is wrong with one woman making another woman have an orgasm?
13. If you have said something already that makes the question redundant, then apologies, but – assuming not – why do you personally find it so hard to acknowledge the the lived reality of hundreds of million people all over the world, and probably hundreds of thousands here in Ireland, that there is nothing whatsoever wrong or ‘sinful' about two women or two men having sex with one another?
14. Are you not really saying to gays and lesbians: what you do with your genitals is wrong, and an offence against the Lord God Almighty – but sure come anyway, you never know what might happen... you could even decide never to have gay sex ever again?
15. Bishop Kevin Doran said that if someone voted yes to repealing the 8th Amendment to the Constitution of Ireland, they are sinners and should repent. Is he correct in saying this?