My Take: Why good Catholics are challenging church line on homosexuality
A series of recent conferences have cast a light on gay Catholics and their families.
November 8th, 2011
12:22 PM ET

My Take: Why good Catholics are challenging church line on homosexuality

Editor's Note: Patrick Hornbeck is an assistant professor and associate chair for undergraduate studies at Fordham University.

By Patrick Hornbeck , Special to CNN

The Roman Catholic Church has long been a reliable source for one-dimensional storylines: Victims of sexual abuse call for justice. Parishes close as numbers of clergy plummet. Rosary-clad Catholics protest outside abortion clinics.

Perhaps nowhere has the storyline seemed more clear-cut than with regard to the church’s treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and their relationships.

Official Catholic teachings describe gay or lesbian orientation as “an objective disorder” and tell those who love their same-sex partners that they possess a “tendency… toward an intrinsic moral evil.”

Catholic bishops have been public advocates for laws banning same-sex marriage, and some have sought to prevent LGBT Catholics and their allies from fully participating in the Church’s rituals and activities

But neither formal teachings nor bishops’ statements tell the whole story.

A series of recent conferences at American colleges reveals the breadth of Catholic approaches to issues of sexual diversity.

The conferences, part of an effort called More than a Monologue, have happened at two Catholic universities and two non-denominational divinity schools

The events conclusively show that American Catholics are hardly of one mind, nor in lockstep with their bishops, when it comes to same-sex marriage; to rights for LGBT people at home, at work, and in church; or to the ongoing campaign against anti-gay bullying in schools.

At Fordham University in New York, a Catholic school, a proud mother of a grown gay son drew a standing ovation when she told a story about discovering the effect of church teachings on her child.

Here’s that mother, Deb Word, who has founded a group Fortunate Families to help Catholic families with lesbian daughters and gay sons, in her own words:

Fast forward to a family vacation in the Gulf. There were five of us floating—Sean and his wife, Chris, and his dad and me, holding onto each other’s rafts. And I said, ‘I think this is what Heaven is like.’ And Christopher said quietly, “except I won’t be there with you.” “Son, where do you get this stuff?” “Mom, it’s your club. You know the rules.”

And if my cradle Catholic child, growing up in a loving family, got this message, then what does Catholic mean in more conservative homes? … And I wonder, why do I stay in a club that my son says is dangerous to his soul?”

Another panelist at the event described the freedom she feels as a result of living, within the church’s rules, as a celibate lesbian.

A third, a physician in New York City, praised the Catholic tradition for its emphasis on human dignity and social justice, but added: “I am troubled by the fact that I find greater acceptance of myself as a whole person in my professional community as a physician, than I do in the official hierarchy of the church of my family, my childhood, and my life.”
Nationally syndicated columnist Dan Savage may be better known for his very public critiques of Catholic leaders than for the year he spent in a high school seminary, or for his Catholic deacon father, or for the baptism he and his husband sought for their son.
But speaking recently at New York’s Union Theological Seminary, Savage described his Catholic family and upbringing, celebrating parts of his Catholic experience.

At the same time, he refused to let the church off the hook for the part he accuses it of playing in tacitly condoning the bullying of LGBT youth.

Last month, at Yale University, a Catholic layman who teaches psychiatry spoke movingly of his attempt to offer church leaders the wisdom of his scientific field, and of his bitter disappointment when his offers were met with silence.

And at Connecticut ’s Fairfield University, scholars, clergy, and lay Catholics recently discussed the implications for the church of having many gay and lesbian people, both in and out of the closet, in roles as priests and ministers.

These public events have brought into the light the struggles, compromises and choices about meaning and love that many Catholics experience daily.

Poll numbers show that while many of their bishops have been stepping up their rhetoric on the issue, only one-in-three American Catholics describe opposition to same-sex marriage as “very important.” Seventy percent support legal recognition for same-sex couples.

All of us, Catholic or not, LGBT or not, owe it to ourselves and our fellow citizens to keep these new conversations going. Let’s not to settle for only part of the story.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Patrick Hornbeck.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Bishops • Catholic Church • Homosexuality • Opinion

soundoff (2,880 Responses)
  1. Nacho1

    This is a disgusting photo........children may see it and think it is good and proper. What the hell is wrong with the mentality of CNN? Are they trying to spread disgust because they themselves are disgusting?

    November 9, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
    • HAHAHA

      "This is a disgusting photo........children may see it and think it is good and proper"

      Because it is good and normal.

      November 9, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
    • DownToEarth8

      Its good that children see it and think its good and proper you nitwit.

      November 9, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
    • Chris Hakata

      You're really funny. Sorry, it's not going anywhere. Get over yourself. This comment actually made my day. Children, this IS true!!! This is the real world, not a fantasy of 'perfection'. I seriously cannot stop laughing.

      November 9, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
    • Wyatt

      Burning the images of a fearful Hell into the children's minds is more psychologically damaging than teaching them tolerance and understanding of basic human rights that the US has so far been very much so lacking in. Some American dream, eh?

      November 9, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
    • Doobie Wah

      Children should see this.
      Its perfectly normal.
      I would rather see two men kissing than watch a movie full of violence
      and blood.

      November 9, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
  2. starr

    oh my friken god these two guys are kissing ugh that makes me sick! being gay is AGAINST god!!!!!!!!! i bet many people agree with me.

    November 9, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
    • Sharon

      God created gay people so the prejudice and bigotry that has filled his churches could be revealed. You know nothing about the true meaning of love.

      November 9, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
    • Fookin' Prawn

      I suppose we can look forward to you posting that over and over, since this is your second iteration. And, fyi, God doesn't like it when you use 'fricken' in front of His name. Tool.

      November 9, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
    • Wyatt

      Those who hate have no room to be happy. It's sad that all the promises given to you by the church aren't fulfilled. I'm sorry you have to fear hell and fear it for others because they're being who they were born and happy with their lives. It's a real pity you're indoctrinated into the hate and fear you deny you have when it's so obviously clear how strong it is.

      November 9, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
    • mbb1

      Starr, you are a hater. Get over yourself and keep your bigoted comments to yourself. Just because you think something is against god, doesn't mean it is. Live and let live.

      November 9, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
  3. joe

    What gays do in their own bedroom is their own business, but get that photo out of my face!

    November 9, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
    • Get Real

      Yes... pictures of 20 to 40 year-old beautiful females and good-looking males only, please!

      November 9, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
  4. DownToEarth8

    Everybody here who uses the minor details of the bible to rail against gays better pay as much attention to the bible's other little details: I hope that they don't eat shellfish, wear more than one piece of clothing at a time, have tattoos, or work on the sabbath...Because the bible says they should die or be stoned in public for those offenses. Man, I guess NFL fans better start bringing bags of rocks to stadiums, cause those football players definitely break most of those rules of "Gods Law" all at once. Poor Tim Tebow.

    November 9, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
    • catholic engineer

      The Biblical Person I've been following said something like this to the Pharasees: " If you have an ox that falls into a pit on the Sabbath, wouldn't you pull it out?" DownToEarth8, lots of religious progress has been made over the centuries with the help of JC.

      November 9, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
    • DownToEarth8

      So where is that religious progress in regards to gay people?

      November 9, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
    • DownToEarth8

      If people are gonna follow certain parts of the bible word for word then they should do so with the rest of the bible. And also, aren't people syaing that being gay is a sin? Well don't we have original sin and aren't we forgiven for our sins if we accept God? Why can people be forgiven for murder and not be forgiven for kissing a dude?

      November 9, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
  5. bendover

    robertinatlanta...do what you wish but dont wave your beliefs in other peoples faces...if you want to be a gay...good...be gay and shut the f-up.

    November 9, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
    • John Gabriel

      Bendover: Or else what?

      November 9, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
    • jr

      No need for name calling

      November 9, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
    • DownToEarth8

      Sooo....let me get this straight...You're saying GAYS are the ones throwing their beliefs in other peoples faces?

      November 9, 2011 at 12:39 pm |
    • sane

      I get it, you're Catholic, now please stop all Christmas, Easter, St. Patrick's Day celebrations. Are they really necessary? Do I care what your religion is? NO. Keep it to yourself.

      November 9, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
    • Doobie Wah

      If you are seven years old, shouldnt you be in school ??

      November 9, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
  6. Checkers

    Please lets focus on the Children that are getting abused by " Straigh" Men. Or how about the people who are starving in our country "USA" Raised a Catholic and choose to be a christin. LOL !

    November 9, 2011 at 12:35 pm |
  7. pasta

    I love the picture – I'd rather be gay and have a wonderful relationship than be straight and be in a terrible abusive relationship. All you posting about this picture and this subject must be pretty abusive and be terrible partners!!

    November 9, 2011 at 12:34 pm |
    • tati

      Sure, if those are the only choices.

      November 9, 2011 at 12:35 pm |
    • John Gabriel

      It really shouldn't matter if they were two women, two men or a man and a woman. Religion is the opiate of the masses.

      November 9, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
  8. David O. McCall

    Differences are neither good nor bad – just different. The picture is wonderful – tender and expressive. Thank you for using it in the story.

    November 9, 2011 at 12:34 pm |
  9. tiffanie

    All of these pseudo-Christian people need to stop judging others and put that energy into their own relationships with God. How you judge other people is how God will judge you. HE is the only judge – so get over yourselves!!

    November 9, 2011 at 12:34 pm |
    • pirate

      "HE" is a figment of your imagination. There is no invisible man in the sky, religion is a construct of man designed to control other people, and as long as it lasts, thats all it will accomplish. All hail the Great Hadron Collider!

      November 9, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
  10. makeussick

    did you really have to show this disgusting photo????

    November 9, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
    • John Gabriel

      Did you really have to click on it?

      November 9, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
    • HAHAHA

      "did you really have to show this disgusting photo????"

      So you find love disgusting, that's pathetic.

      November 9, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
    • OH.

      You mean the writer's photo? Ok, so it looks a little like a middle school picture, but it's not THAT bad!

      November 9, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
    • Sam

      Perverse at best.

      November 9, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
  11. Jim

    ".... and they let their world fall after they forget about the children..."

    November 9, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
  12. asdf

    I never understood how Catholics would tolerate this. Their spiritual overlords say that if they start picking and choosing the things to believe in the bible, then it all falls apart. This is absolutely true. One cannot be catholic, and just reject all the things they don't like.

    If you don't think that being gay is morally and spiritually wrong, then guess what: you are not a catholic. period. You might as well say that you don't think Jesus is the son of god, because the same factual basis exists for both of these arguments.

    Stop marginalizing yourself by trying to smash these two conflicting ideologies together. You have to chose to either be gay or be catholic, and since you obviously can't chose not to be gay then your options are limited. Sorry. But on a positive note, there are religions out there that won't treat you like dirt.

    November 9, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
    • claybigsby

      "You have to chose to either be gay or be catholic"

      being gay is not a choice....being catholic unfortunately is...

      November 9, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
    • dgatwood

      *sarcasm* I never understood how Catholics could tolerate this.... If you don't think that wearing clothing made of two different kinds of cloth is morally and spiritually wrong, then guess what: you are not a Catholic. Period. You might as well say that it's okay to be gay, because the same bit of scripture negates both of these arguments.

      Stop marginalizing yourself by trying to smash these two conflicting ideologies together. You have to chose to either wear cotton-poly blends or be Catholic, and since it's almost impossible to find single-fiber fabrics these days, your options are limited. Sorry.

      But on a positive note, there are people out there who understand the difference between the Old and New Testaments....*/sarcasm*

      November 9, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
    • Robert in Atl

      So asdf, you don't pick and choose? Really? Then, let's see, that means that according to Leviticus and Deuteronomy you practice the death penalty for the following: eating shrimp, wearing cotton/synthetic blended clothing, children cursing at their parents, etc? Do you keep your women carefully segregated days after menstruation? Cause you know they are unclean and you can't go near. Oh, and you must have no problem selling your daughters as slaves, or keeping slaves yourself. Cause all that is sanctioned.

      What's that? You DON'T believe in those things??? Why, dear heart, that means YOU are the one "picking and choosing." Choosing your own special bigotry and looking for an iron-age text to make it "right."

      LOOK IT UP!

      November 9, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
    • Jeff

      I respectfully disagree. I reserve the right to call myself a Christian if I believe in living my life in a Christ-like manner, but I don't believe the guy was the son of God. But that's my personal belief. It's what I label myself. There are others who would disagree with me, but they cannot change what I call myself. Even if you're excommunicated and you still believe you're fundamentally Catholic I think you're still Catholic. You should be able to explain why, but still. Gay folks who commit themselves to one another with vows are married, because their definition of the arrangement is the only one that counts. Definitions are changed by common use, not the wishes of those wish things were otherwise. Like it or not, and whether it makes sense or not to us, we cannot control others who pick and choose definitions and experiences to build who they are. We all do it. And really, anyone who is not doing that isn't thinking for themselves anyway. 🙂

      November 9, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
    • pirate

      claybigsby: I beg to differ, being catholic being a choice allowed me not to be a lemming!

      November 9, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
  13. jason

    you people are crazy! it's just two people kissing. if it were a man and a woman you wouldn't be all up in arms. who cares? do you kiss your father or brother, guys? YOU people are disgusting with your utter hatred of other people for no reason. it's bigotry disguised as religion. you can wrap up a piece of feces in a pretty box and a pretty bow, but it's still poop. and you can pretend that your bigotry is part of your religion, but its still bigotry.

    November 9, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
    • Ike

      Jason, you are so right. This is just two people kissing. I mean it could be an adult and a six year old kissing and people would still judge or a man and a cow and people would still judge or four women and a man and people would still judge. People get over it.

      November 9, 2011 at 12:39 pm |
    • jason

      edit: it's just consenting adults kissing!

      are you people really so thick that you can't differentiate between someone who can consent to be in a physical relationship and someone who cant?

      November 9, 2011 at 12:40 pm |
    • Jeff

      yes Ike, don't you think you're being a bit hyperbolic?

      November 9, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
  14. ElvlS

    Hi, you all get trolled way too easily.

    Thank you.

    November 9, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
    • asdf

      The really sad thing is that most of the crazies on here posting about the pic probably aren't trolling.

      November 9, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
  15. Robert in Atl

    Good article, even better pic. Forces all the bigots out there to confront their nasty little reactions.

    Did you ever wonder that maybe gay people get grossed out having to deal with the obligatory deep throat kisses between stars and starlets in every Hollywood production? Well, got news for you, sometimes we do. Get used to it.

    November 9, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
    • John Gabriel

      Lol. My sentiments exactly.

      November 9, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
    • steelerguin

      Stop going to straight movies then. I choose not to watch gay films because they gross me out.

      November 9, 2011 at 12:40 pm |
  16. vtskivt

    They just keep throwing it in our face. I don't care what people do behind closed doors, but I am getting to the point that I have had enough of this in you face s**T.

    November 9, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
    • claybigsby

      nothing is being thrown in your face...you chose to click on the article...now live with that choice and STFU

      November 9, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
    • ggillis

      "you" people stick your religous crap in all of our faces on a daily basis. Now sit down, and shut up! You need to figure out that you are quickly becoming obsolete in your thinking and just go away.

      November 9, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
  17. sl

    CNN, please don't post this picture on your home page. It is very inappropriate and offensive to many people.

    November 9, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
    • Checkers

      Would it be less if it were a man and a woman? Hmmm I think not!

      November 9, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
    • no

      HAHA! It is SO funny that you are offended!

      November 9, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
    • CNN

      Feel free to go to Fox News.

      November 9, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
  18. Laura

    If the pic at the top of the article bothers you...then you're lame. Love is love and comes in many forms. Personally seeing two guys, or two girls kissing is not shocking or odd to me. More power to them!!!

    November 9, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
    • Jim

      You are insensitive and wrong.

      November 9, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
    • aghast

      In your view love is what Sandusky showed to the children of second mile

      November 9, 2011 at 12:34 pm |
  19. ART

    The Catholic church is full of hypocrites gay is bad but the priest have no problem messing with little boys.All a bunch of perverts just like Herman Cain

    November 9, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
    • Jim

      Yes...let's just dig the hole even deeper

      November 9, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
  20. Tom

    Actually, the catechism DOES tell the whole story. The notion that the church is going to abandon the truth if enough people disagree with it is wrong. The church doesn't change. It will never change on this issue.

    November 9, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
    • HAHAHA

      "The church doesn't change. It will never change on this issue."

      That's why it changed its mind based on the science and now state that just being gay is not a sin. LMAO!

      November 9, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
    • CNN

      So how do you explain divorce ?

      November 9, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
    • Tom

      The church doesn't recognize divorce and it never will.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.