09 January 2015, The Tablet

Our bishop’s views aren’t Catholic

by Katelijne Uytterhoeven

We are one of the oldest student associations of Belgium, the Flemish Catholic Students Union. In the Antwerp branch, we have around 15 members and there are plenty of old students who are still active or supportive. A week ago we sent a letter to the Flemish press about some comments our bishop, Johan Bonny, made concerning homosexual couples and their place in the Church. Bishop Bonny proposes that the Church should recognise homosexual and bisexual relationships. We responded.

Bishop Bonny presupposes there is no place for homosexuals in the Catholic Church. On the contrary, everyone is welcome and called by God to take part in it.

However there are universal rules, structures and traditions in the Church, applying to every Catholic. One of them is the sacrament of marriage, which is founded by Christ, made for one man and one woman, entered into out of free will.

According to the Church sexual activity cannot take place outside marriage, and is ultimately meant for procreation and founding a family. This ultimate goal cannot be achieved with two people of the same sex. ?But God is merciful. He has given us the sacrament of confession, which leads every Catholic to a renewal of his spiritual life, because mistakes are human.

Bishop Bonny does not just ask for a place for homosexuals in the Church. (They already have one, like everyone). Instead he expects the Church to allow and bless Catholics who want to experience a sexual relationship outside marriage. ?As a Catholic union we cannot agree with the views of Bishop Bonny, because, well, they just are not Catholic.

Katelijne Uytterhoeven, Catholic Flemish Students Union, Antwerp branch

What do you think?


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User comments (19)

Comment by: Lejeune
Posted: 24/01/2015 09:44:52

I just do not see the pint of Katelijne. Bishop Bonny does not say Gays have no place in the Church, he simply says a way has to be found for them to have a place. The role of a Bishop is to guide and open dialogue. Why blatantly calling Bishop Bonny as "non-catholic" when he is trying to make us all understand a bit better what the situation is today! Chaxa in an earlier comment stated that God is love incarnate! Should we not have the same attitude towards others and I believe Bishop Bonny is just trying to do that.

Comment by: Chaxa
Posted: 18/01/2015 19:39:18

I’m struck by the certainties of Katelijne Uytterhoeven’s statements about God’s purposes. I try not to make judgements about the rights and wrongs of behaviour in other people who are not like me, unless they are clearly damaging others. (I don’t always succeed in this.) But I have quite a backlog of my own confusions and mistakes, so why should I think that those of other people are easier to define and solve than my own?
I’ve had decades to grow and learn, and I still don’t have many absolute answers. But I do have one which seems to give me the grace to live hopefully whether or not I deserve to – the belief that God is love incarnate. And that God loves and joys in everything God has made: God does not make mistakes. Whenever I manage to apply that perspective (which I’m afraid is not always), it seems to me that for a time I become aware that all manner of things will be well, however uncontrollable and destructive they may seem from my current perspective.
I appreciate Katelijne’s sincere desire for a better world, but I respectfully suggest that rules that simply scrutinise behaviours don’t create the same opportunities for growth as care-fully looking first to see whether love exists in both situation and observer. Because if there’s love, surely God is already at work in both?

Comment by: John Picton
Posted: 16/01/2015 21:53:04

The Catholic tradition wherein genital sex is good and right between one man and one woman, married, and directed to the procreation and raising of children was, in its inception in Roman licentiousness, progressive as well as simple and clear. Of course it's not easy; of course we fail; but that does not negate the tradition; and those that do fail still deserve our love and care. We should not be so arrogant as to think we know better than those early Christians and their strict moral purity.

Comment by: Anon
Posted: 16/01/2015 17:06:05

I think Katelijne's comment that 'According to the Church sexual activity cannot take place outside marriage' is inaccurate.

Think about it. . . It seems to me that an awful lot of sexual activity takes place outside marriage!

Comment by: Charlie S
Posted: 16/01/2015 16:14:59

Yes, homosexual people are "welcome" in the Catholic Church – but only if they leave out the "sexual" part. They are still considered "ordered" to acts that are regarded as sinful. They can "be" homosexual but if they have sex with a partner of the same gender, that is not acceptable.

Whether the Church ever can or will "bless" or accept such sexual behavior, I won't even attempt to predict. It would not be a "Sacramental" blessing I presume. That is – not a marriage Sacrament.

Big enough problem to even accept that a homosexual couple can be granted the civil rights that hetero-sexual couples have. Simplest way is just to call it "civil 'marriage' ". Even if that word does introduce ambiguity between a civil marriage and a Sacramental Church marriage.

Comment by: mamamia
Posted: 15/01/2015 18:09:12

The silence of the Church is deafening, despite loads of complaints made against this man. The people of his diocese should write to the Pope requesting that he NOT be made a Cardinal and, in fact, that he be barred from talking to the press.

Comment by: GeorgeS
Posted: 15/01/2015 11:00:13

Re Katalijne Uytternhoeven's comment re Bishop Bonny's plea for church acceptance of same sex marriage. The Anglicans bishops have accepted same sex marriage for some time now. This has not stopped the emptying of their Churches. If we're not careful Catholic Churches will soon be empty like the Anglican ones. Keep chipping away!

Comment by: Love
Posted: 15/01/2015 10:57:24

Correspondents talk about sexual attraction and same sex marriage as "love". This is not love but Sexual gratification. Holy marriage is not based on sexual gratification. It is only part of marriage. Marriage is based on the willingness to sacrifice for the other "in sickness and in health" etc.

Postponing sexual gratification until the wedding day is the best preparation for a successful marriage. Resisting one night stands with work colleagues also is an act of love towards the respective partners.

Sexual gratification without respect for Moral law is the reason for so many divorces, abortions, murders, and general unhappiness in the community today.

Comment by: Cushnan
Posted: 14/01/2015 17:08:07

Well said, Katelijne.

Comment by: martin
Posted: 13/01/2015 14:55:52

Bishop Bonny is one of those bishops who has responded clearly to the call of Pope Francis to get 'the smell of the sheep'. It's a pity that these students prefer to discern the experience of lesbian and gay Catholics through their own narrow prism of gender and sexuality, rather than that of those who in same-sex relationships or not. As the late Cardinal Hume wrote: "In whatever context it arises, and always respecting the appropriate manner of its expression, love between two persons, whether of the same sex or of a different sex, is to be treasured and respected...... To love another is to
have entered the area of the richest human experience, whether that love is between persons of the same sex or of a different sex....... God calls each person, whatever his or her sexual orientation, to fulfil that part of his created design which only that person can fulfil. "

Comment by: Jim McCrea
Posted: 12/01/2015 22:44:25

Gay and Lesbian marriages exist. They are recognized and legally validated by secular governments in 19 countries the world (http://www.pewforum.org/2013/12/19/gay-marriage-around-the-world-2013/#allow), with overwhelming success in the United States. Forty states plus the District of Columbia allow marriage equality or comparable status (civil unions and domestic partnerships), and recognition of other states’ marriages, and represent 91% (287 million)of the total US population of 316 million and 78% of the states plus D.C.

Whether or not this church chooses to recognize these marriages is rather irrelevant to those people who have experienced the civil rights, benefits and responsibilities of secular/civil marriage.

Comment by: Brian
Posted: 11/01/2015 18:42:53

In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus taught us to pray that his Father’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven. He also unequivocally taught that from the beginning, God’s unchanging will is that marriage is an exclusive and indissoluble union between a man and a woman (Mt 19:4). In the interests of equality, some Christian politicians now tell us God’s definition is too narrow. Therefore, they must introduce revised legislation to reflect modern thinking. How long after that before a further demand that the Lord’s Prayer not be publicly recited - on grounds that its third petition no longer accords with equal rights?

Comment by: Paul Heiland
Posted: 11/01/2015 16:29:40


remember Paul's injunction, "Love is the fulfilment of the law". The legal niceties of, say, the sabbath (plucking ears of corn) or marriage (who should throw the first stone) are to be seen through the filter of love. And in loving another human, we accept and indeed also love their brokenness. God has not appointed us to sit in judgement over others, farmore He has enjoined us to find our love for them. It is difficult to see how loving another can involve restricting their personal development.

Comment by: Paul Heiland
Posted: 11/01/2015 16:18:16


ontologically speaking, and remaining within the bounds of validity, God both changes and he/she doesn't change. Moving over to an epistemological view, and remaining within the bounds of validity, what we know of God now is what mankind knew of God two millennia ago. That's nearer to your statement. But you cannot infer out of that that what mankind now knows about itself is what it knew two millennia ago. The statement that we know more now would seem uncontroversial. And in the eyes of God (we are God's children) as revealed in the scriptures, it seems right to make use of our greater knowledge in our church teaching, for example through theological study. The church recognises this in the motto "ecclesia semper reformanda". Maybe this helps.

Comment by: Jeyaraj
Posted: 10/01/2015 17:42:17

Bold views and counter views expressed. Is there a way the Catholic church can embrace gays and lesbians as her children too. Jesus would certainly. Every human person is a child of God, no matter what is your sexual orientation ! Two same sexed people can love each other and live in mature relationship, as life supporters, partners, companions. Church needs to find a way to accept and recognise their relationship, whether thru marriage or some other form..! Excluding them is no solution ! Negating their relationship or partnership is not Catholic and Christian either. jeyaraj

Comment by: luis
Posted: 10/01/2015 16:19:33

God does not change; God is in a place with no time nor space, therefore nothing ever changes. It's only heretics who want to 'reform' the church, a word always used by those who seek to destroy catholicism !!!

Comment by: Olivier Lins
Posted: 10/01/2015 12:55:49

Bishop Johan Bonny never spoke about enlargement of the sacrament of marriage, neither the blessing of homosexual relations. He didn't speak about sexuality in homosexual relations, as a bishop and shepherd he only spoke about family and relations, where the church should search for a new language towards homosexual believers living in a stable relationship based on the principles of fidelity, care and love, starting from the Gospel, a message of love and salvation for everyone. Why ? Because people expect this from the church. You should read the text written by Bishop Bonny in preparation of the Family Synod in Rome in September 2014. Olivier Lins, Antwerp Diocese

Comment by: rdp46
Posted: 09/01/2015 21:10:46

Bishop Bonny indeed is catholic! His ideas are to stop discrimination in the RCC, the same church that used to accept slavery and preached that the sun orbits the earth. The same church that practices misogyny and does not look to what science has discovered about life, birth and stem cells. It is the false doctrines that must and will change. We must not wait 300 words this time.

Comment by: Bob Hayes
Posted: 09/01/2015 15:00:38

Thank you Katelijne for a succinct reminder of the teaching of Christ on the Sacrament of Matrimony.

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