Press

Catholic faith leaders of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community highlight inconsistencies of papal encyclical on love

Date: 
January 26, 2006

Cite recent ruling denying gay men entrance to seminaries, interference in American political process as example of pope not following own teachings

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'Pope Benedict has written a beautifully worded document on the interrelationship of love, faith and justice. Unfortunately, the Vatican has failed to live out these words fully when faced with issues concerning lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.' — Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

WASHINGTON, Jan. 26 — Pope Benedict XVI yesterday released his first encyclical letter, Deus Caritas Est, (God is Love) a reflection on the nature of human and divine love. The letter of instruction to the church begins with a statement on erotic love and reiterates the pope's belief that the only valid form of sexual expression comes in the form of monogamous marriage between a man and a woman. The pope then moves from reflection on personal love to the church's responsibility of global charity. Vatican observers are closely examining the teaching for signs about the direction the new pope's rule will take.

The following are comments from Catholic members of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's National Religious Leadership Roundtable:

Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, said that despite the poetic beauty of the pope's reflection on love, "Under Benedict's leadership, the Vatican has framed homosexuality as a malformed psychological trait or a deviant form of sexual behavior, and has downplayed the understanding of many theologians, priests, bishops, and lay people that same-sex relationships are a validly Catholic and human way that people experience the love of God."

DeBernardo cited the Vatican's recent ban on openly gay seminarians and the church's interference in the political issue of civil marriage for same-sex couples as being out of sync with the encyclical's call for charity and justice. "Catholic leaders have worked aggressively to keep same-sex couples from obtaining the freedom to marry and against laws that would protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from discrimination. These types of political activities are contrary to the Catholic tradition of equal justice and the inherent dignity of every human person."

The pope's letter attempts to distinguish among different meanings of love, including patriotism, friendship, familial love, and love of God, but then makes the statement that "one (definition of love) in particular stands out: love between man and woman, where body and soul are inseparably joined..."

"According to whom?" asks Roundtable member Mary Hunt, co-director of the Women's Alliance for Theology Ethics and Ritual. "The argument is without any reference to anthropology or social science that would make clear that love which joins the body and soul comes in many forms - monogamous heterosexual marriage is only one of them. The leap of faith and leap of logic on Benedict's part is based on a hierarchical view of the world which says that just because the pope says it, it must be so. Many Catholics will not agree."

Debbie Weill, executive director of DignityUSA, a group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholics, says, "When considering Pope Benedict's discussion of the different dimensions of the concept of love, it is striking that in so many ways the Catholic Church fails to love lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. His letter describes in considerable detail several facets of God's love, which the Church intentionally chooses not to extend to LGBT people, in direct contrast to the idea that 'Deus Caritas Est:' God is Love."

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