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What Counts as "Unjust Discrimination"?

(This article is now featured in our collection of stories about Catholicism & Same-Sex Marriage)

Under the heading "You Shall Love Your Neighbor As Yourself," the Catechism of the Catholic Church considers homosexuality:

Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,tradition has always declared that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered." They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.(CCC 2357-8)

Clear enough, though one could quibble that "tradition" could not have "always" considered same-sex sex acts as "intrinsically disordered," since that language, as far as I know, originated with the scholastics, more than half-way into the Church's history. But I digress...

Over in Kansas City, Colleen Simon, pastoral associate at St. Francis Xavier parish, manages the food pantry that feeds 70 families a month. A few blocks away, Rev. Donna Simon, pastor of St. Mark Hope and Peace Lutheran Church, is also helping to revitalize the neighborhood

St. Mark now leads or supports ministries such as an orchard at 33rd and Forest and the Bus Stop Ministry where drinks, snacks and warm clothes are distributed weekly at the city’s second-busiest MAX transfer point at 39th and Troost.

The church houses organizations such as the Workers Organizing Committee Kansas City, which fights low pay for fast-food workers, and the Traditional Music Society, which promotes community cohesiveness through dance and music.

These good works, and those of others, are making a difference on the poorer side of Troost Ave., though "even today, the average child born west of Troost will live 16 years longer than a baby born in a neighboring ZIP code east of Troost."

Colleen Simon is married to Rev. Donna Simon. She kept what the Kansas CIty Star called a "don't ask, don't flaunt" attutude, though she was up-front about her marriage.

She said she told the pastor who hired her in July 2013 (he is no longer at the parish) of her marriage. But day to day, she avoided pronouns that would highlight it, substituting “my spouse” or “my beloved.”

Clearly, she had to go. Only a few weeks after the publication of the Kansas City Star piece describing their work, the diocese, headed by Bishop Robert Finn, insisted that she be fired. (The diocese has declined to comment.) 

Meanwhile, over at America Magazine, Rev. James Martin asks: "why do so many gay people say they feel hatred from members of the church?" He contrasts the nearly reflexive linking of gay identity to sin with Jesus' attitude toward Zaccheus the tax collector, whom Jesus simply loved. He concludes:

What might it mean for the church to love gays and lesbians more deeply? First, it would mean listening to their experiences—all their experiences, what their lives are like as a whole. Second, it would mean valuing their contributions to the church. Where would our church be without gays and lesbians—as music ministers, pastoral ministers, teachers, clergy and religious, hospital chaplains and directors of religious education? Infinitely poorer. Finally, it would mean publicly acknowledging their individual contributions: that is, saying that a particular gay Catholic has made a difference in our parish, our school, our diocese. This would help remind people that they are an important part of the body of Christ. Love means listening and respecting, but before that it means admitting that the person exists.

Francis DeBernardo at the New Ways Ministry blog agrees that it's time for LGBT people to be truly welcomed by the Church, not as "a special category of sinners, but, because they are, like most people, average, garden-variety sinners." He notes: 

for the past two years we have been witnessing dismissals of LGBT people from church employment, a total devaluing of their gifts and personhood.  Yes, this type of welcome is urgently needed, not just for a positive message, but to correct the terribly negative message that firings have sent.

It’s important, too, that LGBT people’s spiritual gifts are also acknowledged and affirmed. The particular journeys that LGBT people go on to accept, affirm, and announce their identities to others often results in incredible spiritual gifts that are not as readily attained by others.  For instance, their journeys often provide them with a strong sense about telling the truth, a deep reservoir of courage to  stand up to fear and rejection, a profound sense of God’s love, and a new respect for the primacy of their consciences. Amazing gifts that they can offer to the rest of the church!

Amen. I'd add also that listening to LGBT people might include being open to the possibility that language like "grave depravity," "intrinsic disorder," "objective disorder" and the like is in need of revision and rejection. It seems to be utterly unjust to apply such harsh and hurtful language to two women who love each other deeply and share also a profound commitment to service of the poor. They set a standard for love of neighbor that all of us--gay, straight, or whatever--would do well to emulate. 



Commenting Guidelines

@ Bob Schwartz:

1. Wholly agreed.

2. "bearing fruit" in life means a whole lot of things; "the conception of a child" is but one of many, endless possibilities -- what with nothing is impossible with God and all. 

3. A whole lot of things that humans do, willfully and knowingly, are also not congruent with nature, just as a whole lot of things that nature does defy human understanding. Who among us has not asked: If God is good and loving and merciful, how can He allow so much pain and suffering?

4. The Church's stance on homosexuality, as articulated in the current version of the Catechism, IS an attitude. At the very least, the Church needs to either be an Equal Opportunity Condemnor, or stop singling out one group of God's people simpy because they are not like the others in who they are, whom they love and how they love them.


I agree that a person's sexuality is part of who a person


This statement is problematic.  Your sex is part of your physical body.  Your sexuality is how you choose to use that God-given body in a sexual way. 

Yea, and some of the most compassionate people I know are Catholics, go figure. Funny enough for you?

Some of the most compassionate people I know are Catholic, but are so in spite of what they have heard from "the Church," i.e., the self-selecting, self-appointing arbiters of wisdom and knowledge.

When the larger percentage of Catholics reject what they have heard, be it about marriage equality, same-sex relationships, contraception, etc., one has to wonder what the teaching of "the Church" really is.

Maria's comment on "bearing fruit" is absolutely correct.  The idea of there is a potential of having children in marriages where one of the partners is sterile, impotent or infertile is a cruel attempt to make a silk purse out of cotton.  I submit that forming loving families in support of each partner and, if lucky or so chosen, children, either born to one of the partners or adopted, is indeed "bearing fruit."

I am left-handed (I think "sinister" is an expression that once was felt to describe that naturally incongruent situation) and I am not guilty of a sin by using my left hand.

"Cringe-worthy" aspects of sodomy are practiced by more than one heterosexual couple that I know.  (We do have frank conversations.)  Why is it OK for them but not for others ... or does "the Church" have a position on even that?

A considered teaching of "the Church", based on erroneous information and non-scientific facts, is an attitude no matter how you want to dress it.  Again, silt purse, but in this case, sow's ear.

"The Toll of Morals Clauses"

“Virtually all employees of Roman Catholic parishes, schools, and other institutions in the United States are working under contracts that contain morals clauses which require the employee, whether Catholic or not, to conform to the teachings of the Church and not speak out publicly against them, even in their personal lives and even when off duty. And the toll of those who have been fired or forced out for following their consciences rather than those contracts continues to grow.

For the purpose of this article, we are focusing on paid lay employees, not people who have been dismissed from volunteer positions in the Church or priests or religious.

Behind these public names are many many other Catholic church employees we will never know about. How many gay and lesbian employees are afraid to marry their loving partners because they can't afford to lose their jobs? Worse still, how many single women have terminated an unexpected pregnancy in order to keep their employment? And how many are demoralized and afraid to speak up for justice because the institutional Church, in practice, is not the liberating and merciful place Pope Francis wishes it to be? We need to work towards the day when our church workers and teachers don't have to trade their freedom of expression and association for a paycheck.

Names currently listed:

Flint Dollar Diocese: Savannah (Georgia) Date of termination: May 2014
Kathleen Purcell Diocese: Oakland (California) Date of termination: May 2014
Richard Miller Diocese: Cincinnati (Ohio) Date of termination: May 2014
Richard Hague Diocese: Cincinnati (Ohio) Date of termination: May 2014
Colleen Simon Diocese: Kansas City-St. Joseph (Missouri) Date of termination: May 2014
Molly Shumate Diocese: Cincinnati (Ohio) Date of termination: May 2014
Tarn Duff Diocese: Billings (Montana) Date of termination: February 2014
Shaela Evenson Diocese: Helena (Montana) Date of termination: January 2014
Mark Zmuda Diocese: Seattle (Washington) Date of termination: December 2013
Michael Griffin Diocese: Philadelphia (Pennsylvania) Date of termination: December 2013
Tippi McCullough Diocese: Little Rock (Arkansas) Date of termination: October 2013
Nick Johns Diocese: Atlanta (Georgia) Date of termination: Fall 2013
Mike McMahon Diocese: Arlington (Virginia) Date of termination: Summer 2013
Ken Bencomo Diocese: Los Angeles (California) Date of termination: July 2013
Carla Hale Diocese: Columbus (Ohio) Date of termination: March 2013
Mike Moroski Diocese: Cincinnati (Ohio) Date of termination: February 2013
Marla Krolikowski Diocese: Brooklyn (New York) Date of termination: October 2012
Nigel Studdart Diocese: Auckland (New Zealand) Date of termination: September 2012
Trish Cameron Diocese: Crookston (Minnesota) Date of termination: June 2012
Al Fischer Diocese: St. Louis (Missouri) Date of termination: February 2012
Steav Bates-Congdon Diocese: Charlotte (North Carolina) Date of termination: January 2012
Emily Herx Diocese: Fort Wayne-South Bend (Indiana) Date of termination: June 2011
Christa Dias Diocese: Cincinnati (Ohio) Date of termination: October 2010
Laine Tadlock Diocese: Springfield (Illinois) Date of termination: October 2010
Jodi O'Brien Diocese: Milwaukee (Wisconsin) Date of termination: May 2010
Sylvia Mulherin Diocese: Arlington (Virginia) Date of termination: January 2010
Ruth Kolpack Diocese: Madison (Wisconsin) Date of termination: March 2009
Jan Buterman Diocese: Edmonton (Canada) Date of termination: 2008  “"

Bad me!  I should have mentioned that, when you open the link to the iglesiadescalza posting you can see a brief description of the reasons that each individuals was "let go."

1.  Note that many of them are women.

2.  Note how many of them were LGBT.

I read all these comments about evolution and it strikes me that they are in complete opposition to the concept of free will.  We do have tendencies and proclivities which may have evolutionary advantages but it certainly does not follow that we do not have the ability to act in a different way. Perhaps that is where the 'life abundantly' Christ mentions is found. 


Jim - you want to see what the local pastor has posted on his personal blog:

Scroll down to his posts on May 24th - his interview with the local TV station; etc.

Read through his numerous posts - what you see is a pastor who is pre-VII; likes to do the TLM and trumpets his right under SP, and even tells a story about his own brother who married outside of the church (which, of course, was a terrible decision).

Talk about someone who sees the world as black and white; afraid of change; fearful, etc.


I opened the link:

Mercy!  I haven't see a picture of a church that has that much kitsch in quite a long time.

Not all of us old folks pine for that over-the-stop style of Catholic garishness.

Louisville has its grand old churches including, especially, Old St Martin's:



Photos (especially for McCrea --- assuming this link works):

I am left-handed

I knew there was something wrong with you! I couldn't put my finger on it, but now it's all clear. Your parents did you a disservice by not training you to use your right hand. The number of people who have deep-seated left-handed tendencies is not negligible, and we have compassion for those unfortunate creatures, but in a well-ordered society people use their right hand - that's the natural way - and you should have been educated to correct that tendency.

I do hope you are not part of the movement for left-handed scissors. That's against nature as well as potentially dangerous. As for symmetrical scissors, they obviously make no sense. The difference and natural complementarity between left and right is embedded in nature, and efforts to deny it are an abhorration.


 I am not guilty of a sin by using my left hand.

That depends :-)

JP ... I don't always and in all places think that to be a sin.  But, hey ...... sinister is sinister.

JJ --- love all the skeletons!  Gee, mommy, can we go to a church with all the creepy things all over the place?  Of course, my child; it is God's will.

Every child deserves to have one right-handed and one left-handed parent. It's right there in the Bi-- er, the Catec-- um, Aquin--, somewhere. Look it up.

Of course sex is not the whole of love, but it is part of life and for lucky people it is an expression of love. By the same reasoning, Bob Schwartz, sex can be fruitful even if it does not produce a child, fruitful in nourishing the growth and deepining of love, which is in itself a creative force. The cringe-worthy aspects of homosexual sodomy are the same as those of heteroexual sodomy, a quite popular practice, with the alleviation that it is not an alternative to vaginal intercourse, Many gay couples have no more trouble handling this kind of sex than straight couples have with vaginal intercourse, indeed possible less; puritan erotophobes tend in the end to find all sex cringeworthy, especially if it is associated with pleasure.

The trouble with the Catholic and Evangelical attitudes to gayness is that they induce softening of the brain, and waste so much of our time refuting the jejune reasonings of obscurantists.

Here on this blog and elsewhere, people seem to have settled on the new word cringeworthy to describe sexual activity that someone or other finds unappealing or disgusting. I suppose it is already too late to cancel that usage and substitute a better word, so I will only point out that a cringe is a physical reaction (an involuntary contraction of muscles or shrinking back) due to fear (or servility). So unless the speaker is really afraid that another's sodomy may splash onto him and cause an infection, there is no reason to abandon older and more accurate terms, such as repugnant, repellent, abhorrent. That is, if one feels called upon and competent to express an opinion at all about other people's—or who knows? maybe even one's own—private and legal activities.

Percy Bysshe Shelley calls anal intercourse "operose and diabolical" -- which suggests that he tried it and found it wanting...

Shelley follows closely in the footsteps of Plato both in his homoeroticism and in his homophobia. I don't mean that remark to be in any way a criticism of S's sublime intelligence and writings. 

I often find it difficult to believe that those who find gay sex "cringeworthy" have ever actually engaged in straight sex.

Isn't the essence of it that sex is wonderful if it is with someone you are truly drawn to physically, and is cringeworthy in all other circumstances? What I hate about sex scenes in movies is that they make sense only on the premiss that the participants are enjoying them, but there is no guarantee that the viewers will necessarily share the delight vicariously. Moreover, the two participants are drawn to each other but the viewer is unlikely to be drawn to both participants. But generally sex scenes in Hollywood movies are deliberately anti-erotic and pro forma (or are stuck in to make some ideological point, as in the ludicrous Brokeback Mountain), just like the mandatory "I love you, Daddy" "I love you too, son" in so many formulaic Hollywood movies.