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Catholic Outreach to Gays With a Catch: Celibacy

Catholic Outreach to Gays With a Catch: Celibacy


Like the recent Southern Baptist conference, the Notre Dame event reflects denomination leaders shifting their tone toward LGBT people without becoming affirming.

Last weekend's "Gay in Christ" conference at Notre Dame bore a friendlier name than the recent Southern Baptist conference, "The Gospel, Homosexuality, and the Future of Marriage." Yet as both Catholics and Southern Baptists continue conversations about LGBT people --a nd as both denominations undergo a shift in tone -- neither event could be construed as affirming.

Advocate contributor Eliel Cruz, reporting on the Notre Dame conference for Religion News Service, noted that the conference's use of the terms "gay" and "lesbian" -- rather than referring to people as "same-sex attracted" -- is itself a mark of progress.

However, acknowledging the identity of LGBT people didn't lead presenters to support equality; instead there was a focus on calling for gays and lesbians to remain celibate.

"While the conference presenters stressed the importance of seeing LGBT people as individuals with experiences with gifts they could offer the church, the statements always seemed to come with a catch -- 'as long as they don't have sex,'" Cruz wrote.

The reference to "gifts" echoes the language that was stripped from the recent report from a meeting of bishops at the Vatican. An interim report from the synod referred to "gifts and qualities" of gay people and to "precious support" people in same-sex relationships offer their partners. That language was cut from the final report.

Pope Francis has made other apparent overtures to LGBT people but has also made remarks critical of nontraditional families, even saying that the Christian family is under attack. With the Vatican's plans to host an interfaith "Colloquium on the Complementarity of Man and Woman" this month, more anti-LGBT rhetoric from religious leaders seems inevitable.

Notre Dame, a Catholic institution in a marriage equality state (Indiana), recently announced that it will extend benefits to same-sex spouses of its employees, though it did so with the note that it still opposes the right of same-sex couples to wed.

If messages from the Catholic Church are mixed, so too are those from the Southern Baptist Convention. Its recent conference in Nashville also included some interestingly juxtaposed thoughts about LGBT people. For instance, Russell Moore -- the president of the denomination's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, which sponsored the event -- renounced ex-gay therapy. Yet the event website includes the bio for a woman who "[walked] away" from a "lifestyle of ... homosexuality."

ThinkProgressrounded up the cognitive dissonance that came out of the event. Here's an excerpt:

"Even if these tropes are framed in the ERLC's new context that sexual orientation is not a choice, not something that can be changed, and not something that families should reject, that doesn't mean its message that gay people's only life choice is celibacy isn't still harmful. The gay celibacy movement has largely been celebrated as an improvement over the ex-gay movement, but most of the messages as to why gay people should be celibate are carbon-copied from the same harmful shame that motivated ex-gay therapy. ...

"At the end of the day, the message to gay people hasn't really changed ... The theology declaring that homosexuality is sinful and transgender identities are an affront to God, is still the guiding force for everything else."
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