The Church and ‘LGBT discrimination’
In recent months a lot of discussion has swirled around the issue of alleged “discrimination” against “transgenders” and members of the “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex” (“LGBTQI”) community. Due to the bathroom brouhaha stirred up by Greg Martin Diez – who now goes by the name Gretchen Diez – the issue was catapulted to the forefront of the nation’s attention, as if far more important than truly pressing matters such as the plight of our farmers, the actual state of our national sovereignty, corruption and law enforcement issues needing urgent attention, and the horrendous traffic situation in NCR. Although the situation has quieted a bit, the battle over “discrimination” is far from over. At present three different but very similar “Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity or Expression” (SOGIE) bills have been filed by Senators Risa Hontiveros, Imee Marcos and Francis Pangilinan. These bills seek to do away – if not to punish – “any form of discrimination” especially with regards to “sexual orientation or gender identity”. This goal raises a lot of concern for faithful Catholics, given that merely speaking of homosexual acts as a sin is already considered by “LGBTQI” activists as a form of unacceptable “discrimination”; indeed it has been said that what many such activists want is nothing more than to force everyone to approve of their lifestyles, and to crush any opposition, any “wrongthink” that is premised on homosexual acts being sinful.
Now, some might want to respond: “but does not the Catholic Church also oppose discrimination against LGBTQI”? I answer: what the Catholic Church exactly teaches is that we must oppose unjust discrimination against men and women with homosexual tendencies. The rest of this column will be an exploration of what that means.
First, let us look briefly at what the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches regarding those with homosexual tendencies.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that men and women
“with deep-seated homosexual tendencies” should be “accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity” and that “(e)very sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided” (CCC # 2358, with my emphasis in bold). Many Catholics look at these passages in isolation and so end up supporting the “LGBTQI” lobby’s crusade against everything that they claim to be discriminatory, unfortunately overlooking the entire context in which this teaching against unjust discrimination is placed. The CCC, in fact, declares that “(b)asing 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.” (CCC # 2357). It goes on to clarify that the homosexual inclination is “objectively disordered” and that those who have this inclination “are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition” (CCC # 2358). From the CCC we can see that the Church loves and has compassion for those with homosexual tendencies, but cannot approve of homosexual acts, and cannot act as if the homosexual inclination is something that is normal (much less something to be celebrated). Homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered, while the homosexual inclination is objectively disordered. These formulae summarize what the Catholic Church has always taught about homosexuality, and she cannot do otherwise except to continue teaching her perennial doctrine.
Now we come to what the Church really teaches about “discrimination” pertaining to “LGBTQI”.
What the Catholic Church means by “unjust discrimination” was developed at length in the document “Some considerations concerning the response to legislative proposals on the non-discrimination of homosexual persons” published by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on July 24, 1992. This document has not been reversed or revoked in any way, and so continues to represent the official teaching of the Catholic Church when it comes to the issue of “non-discrimination” towards those who claim to be members of the LGBTQI community.
This document states that “‘Sexual orientation’ does not constitute a quality comparable to race, ethnic background, etc. in respect to non-discrimination … homosexual orientation is an objective disorder and evokes moral concern” (no. 10); “There are areas in which it is not unjust discrimination to take sexual orientation into account, for example, in the placement of children for adoption or foster care, in employment of teachers or athletic coaches, and in military recruitment” (no. 11); “Homosexual persons, as human persons, have the same rights as all persons including the right of not being treated in a manner which offends their personal dignity. Among other rights, all persons have the right to work, to housing, etc. Nevertheless, these rights are not absolute. They can be legitimately limited for objectively disordered external conduct. This is sometimes not only licit but obligatory” (no. 12); “Including ‘homosexual orientation’ among the considerations on the basis of which it is illegal to discriminate can easily lead to regarding homosexuality as a positive source of human rights, for example, in respect to so-called affirmative action or preferential treatment in hiring practices. This is all the more deleterious since there is no right to homosexuality which therefore should not form the basis for judicial claims. The passage from the recognition of homosexuality as a factor on which basis it is illegal to discriminate can easily lead, if not automatically, to the legislative protection and promotion of homosexuality. A person’s homosexuality would be invoked in opposition to alleged discrimination, and thus the exercise of rights would be defended precisely via the affirmation of the homosexual condition instead of in terms of a violation of basic human rights (no. 13); “The ‘sexual orientation’ of a person is not comparable to race, sex, age, etc. also for another reason than that given above which warrants attention. An individual’s sexual orientation is generally not known to others unless he publicly identifies himself as having this orientation or unless some overt behavior manifests it. … Homosexual persons who assert their homosexuality tend to be precisely those who judge homosexual behavior or lifestyle to be ‘either completely harmless, if not an entirely good thing’ and hence worthy of public approval. It is from this quarter that one is more likely to find those who seek to ‘manipulate the Church by gaining the often well-intentioned support of her pastors with a view to changing civil statutes and laws’, those who use the tactic of protesting that ‘any and all criticism of or reservations about homosexual people… are simply diverse forms of unjust discrimination (no. 14).
There is a lot to unpack in these passages. With regards to the implications of these passages regarding the idea of fighting “all forms of discrimination” against “LGBTQI” I will – for now — limit myself to these two points:
FIRSTLY: in Catholic schools, teachers are expected, at a minimum, to show respect for the moral teachings of the Catholic Church, and not to behave against these teachings in a scandalous manner. After all they are in a CATHOLIC school. Indeed as I have shown above, the Church teaches that it is not unjust discrimination to take sexual orientation into account, for example … in employment of teachers or athletic coaches, and in military recruitment. … all persons have the right to work, to housing, etc. Nevertheless, these rights are not absolute. They can be legitimately limited for objectively disordered external conduct. This is sometimes not only licit but obligatory.” (See nos. 11 and 12 cited above.) Unfortunately, the various SOGIE Bills will likely force Catholic schools (for example) to hire teachers who are openly and actively homosexual or transgendered, thus forcing Catholic schools to act against the beliefs of the Church they belong to. It will also mean the forcible introduction into Catholic schools of teachers whose lifestyles openly flaunt and disregard the teaching of the Church. It might be objected that some Catholic schools already do this. However, just because some Catholic schools, for their own reasons, admit openly and actively “LGBTQI” teachers does not justify the state in legislating that all Catholic schools be open to doing the same.
SECONDLY: The various SOGIE Bills hang a veritable “Sword of Damocles” above the right of Catholic bishops, priests and faithful to echo the teachings of their Church regarding the sinfulness of homosexual acts and the disordered character of homosexual inclinations themselves. It is no secret that in much of the developed world, especially in the West, militant “gay” activists have used the law to try to silence and muzzle those who continue to preach these doctrines; for these activists, any and all criticism of homosexual acts and of the homosexual tendency is by definition “discrimination” and should be attacked. We do not want such tyranny to extend to the historically Catholic Philippines.
Any attempt to forbid everything that is perceived as “discrimination” without qualifier, is ultimately impossible, for in this imperfect world there will always be disagreements over the way that groups of, and individual, men and women, should relate to each other. Some people will always be dissatisfied with how they are treated by others. This is why the Catholic Church opposes not merely “discrimination” without any and all qualifiers, but unjust discrimination. Even in matters not pertaining to morality, it is a wise and judicious qualification, for what can be perceived by one party as “discrimination” might in fact be nothing more than the other party’s exercise of its proper rights, or might simply be the other party’s exercise of a particular choice attached to the values and beliefs that it holds.
In concrete terms pertaining to gender and sexual expression, however, attempts at outlawing “all forms of discrimination” (as the SOGIE Bills say) will simply lead to a situation where those who have the loudest megaphone and the most overwhelming media support – in our case, the militant “gay” or “LGBTQI” community – will use the law to silence and intimidate individuals and institutions that do not consider their lifestyle and sexual orientation to be correct and proper.
I hope that the Senate of the Philippines as a whole will choose to stand on the side of the traditional religious and cultural values of our people, and will reject the “SOGIE Bills” as an unwarranted attack on the traditional beliefs of the Filipino people regarding sexual identity and orientation.