Friday, September 27, 2013, 00:01 by Fr Colin Apap
Culturally deviant. Sick. Genetically disturbed. Biochemically imbalanced. Possessed by the devil himself (or herself!).
Throughout history, attitudes toward homosexuality have vacillated from sympathy and support to disdain and neglect.
In 1974, the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality as a pathological psychiatric condition from its authoritative Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. Moral evaluation was then also based on these ‘scientific’ findings.
Still, nowadays, one tends to quote the Bible, the Word of God, to chastise homosexuals. Forty years ago, homosexuals were persecuted, killed, ridiculed. Some countries still kill in a public square all those who say they are homosexuals; in others, the official position of the State is that they do not exist, they are a figment of the imagination. In Kenya, if one admits to being a homosexual, one is killed by one’s own family!
For some, time stops. There is no evolution of thought. Change, indeed, is very, very hard.
This is the context. And context is very important.
When we live in a homophobic society, culturally and religiously, every word is interpreted in that context. Statements, legislature, do not exist in a vacuum.
Pope Francis, my Pope, in a recent interview with the Italian Jesuits’ Civiltà Cattolica explains why context is important even with regard to homosexuals:
“I used to receive letters from homosexual persons who are ‘socially wounded’ because they tell me that they feel like the Church has always condemned them. But the Church does not want to do this.”
He goes on: “A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person… In life, God accompanies persons and we must accompany them, starting from their situation.”
Starting from their situation means that we are free from ideological positioning, a priori judgements, Bible quotes taken out of context, classifying homosexual behaviour as sin without taken into consideration the freedom of the person concerned, making him/her feel guilty and marginalized by God and His Church.
Francis says the first reform must be one of “attitude”, adding that, unless a new balance is found, “the moral edifice of the Church is likely to fall like a house of cards”.(www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/19/pope-francis-vision-new-catholic-church).
The Pope urges Catholics to show “audacity and courage” in their approach to people who, in the past, have been given short shrift by the Church, including those who “do not attend Mass, who have quit or are indifferent”.
Attitude is very important. Attitude is expressed in behavior; public, as pastoral letters on IVF, or, more so, in private conversation. Attitude is the resource of compassion. A religion without compassion is no religion at all; it’s just a precarious dangerous ideology, a source of power exerted on the feeble.
An attitude of condemnation towards people who are gay, divorcees and women who had an abortion has nothing to do with a compassionate God.
On gay Catholics, Pope Francis adds flesh to the remarks he made in July when he said he would not judge a gay person seeking God. In the latest interview, the Pope adds that “God in creation has set us free: it is not possible to interfere spiritually in the life of a person”.
Like Francis, I have this desire, this dream, even in the local Church, to find a ‘new balance’ in the Catholic Church.
Asked how he would respond to Catholics who are divorced or remarried or gay, he replies: “I have never been a right-winger.”
“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible,” the Pope said in the interview.
We have to talk about them in a context.
So, writing about gays and legislation is not just about gays and legislation. It reflects a context, an attitude, compassion.