Former president of Ireland Mary McAleese is among a number of prominent Catholic theologians backing a new academic study that takes issue with the recent ruling against blessing same-sex relationships.
Organised by liberal Catholic think-tank the Wijngaards Institute, the “academic assessment” sets out to disprove Christian objections to same-sex relationships.
“We are calling for an urgent change in Roman Catholic teaching based on these academic findings which should serve as the final nail in the coffin of biblical and other arguments justifying homophobia,” the authors say.
The Wijngaards Institute’s study comes after the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith’s Responsum barring the blessing of same sex unions that stated: “You cannot bless sin.”
The instutute said: “This reinstated the decades-old papal teaching vilifying same-sex attraction as ‘disordered’, which has been causing untold harm worldwide. No kind words or ‘pastoral’ gestures can heal that wound: only a change in teaching will. And in light of the deeply flawed arguments behind that stance, such a change is long overdue.”
The Wijngaards study, iendorsed by more than sixty prominent scholars, calls on the competent authorities in the Catholic Church to set up a transparent, independent consultation process on these findings.
“The absolute condemnation of same-sex relationships as ‘intrinsically disordered’ is not shared by most Roman Catholics worldwide. But it is still papal teaching: all CDF documents only have authority because they are endorsed by the Pope,” the institute said. “Therefore, in virtue of Pope Francis’ position, and in light of his record of welcoming words and pastoral attitude towards gay people, he has a unique duty and responsibility to kick-start such an independent study to revisit the teaching he has inherited from his predecessors.”
One of the signatories of the report, Professor Mary McAleese, wrote: “This international collaborative research project is the first serious attempt to use the tools of interdisciplinary scholarship to challenge, probe and interrogate church teaching in the area of homosexuality. The people of God have needed this to help convince a blinkered magisterium to open its eyes and ears, to see and hear the damage inflicted on good people young and old by teachings that run counter to science and counter to the love of the Creator. The scholarly work of brings hope where it is needed.”
The study describes the 20th century understand of sexuality as a “Copernican revolution” which compels Catholics to shift their understanding of the natural order of the world as surely as the discoveries of Galileo or Darwin.
It says: “In the twentieth century, scientific research brought about a third epochal revolution, which no longer concerned the space of the universe, nor the history of humankind, but our most intimate dimension: sexuality.
“The shift in thinking now involves the construction and understanding of the persons themselves, their identity and dignity as sexual beings marked by a diversity of sexual orientations. Facing this new challenge is probably even more difficult than the two previous revolutions, because it questions something central to being human: namely, being both an ‘individual’ and ‘in relationships with others’.
“Once again, the age-old certainties and the hitherto unquestioned constants of our understanding of reality tremble before the challenge of discovery, with the mind of some Christians taking refuge more often than not in the rejection of developments in human knowledge.”
In his forward to the statement, Dr Krzysztof Charamsa, a former official of the CDF, said: “A message of hope in an hour of wavering certainties, this academic statement is a gift and a commitment to the Church. Theologians, aware of their scientific and Christian responsibility, address themselves to helping the judgment of the Church to mature… By presenting the progress of the humanities and biblical sciences, the signatories perform an act of intellectual honesty and trust in the Church.”
Quest, the pastoral support group for LGBT+ Catholics, endorsed the report. Chairman Gerard Swann said: “Quest endorses the report’s call for an urgent change in teaching based on these definite findings which are intended to serve as the final nail in the coffin of biblical arguments justifying homophobia. And in welcoming the report we join in the call for change, and ask our brothers within the hierarchy, those called to best serve us, to be courageous and to find their voices.”