KAMPALA – In a documentary film which premiered at the Roma Film Festival last week, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church made remarks that seem to support the creation of laws that cover same sex civil unions.
The Pope’s remarks immediately sparked off a stream of contrasting responses among the Christian laity, the clerics and in the universal church, and set in motion a debate about whether and how the church could change its posture towards gay people without altering it’s doctrine that declares marriage to be between a man and a woman.
The Conservatives who believe same sex acts to be mortal sins leading those involved to hell have condemned the remarks while the gays were pleased by St. Francis’s stance.
As a Christian politician and an active member of the International Catholic Legislators Network (ICLN), I sought clarification about the matter. The president of the body, Prof. Christiaan Alting, said the Holy Father did not endorse directly or indirectly the redefinition of sacramental marriage, and did not advocate that the church’s definition or practice of marriage as the union between one man and one woman be changed.
What has become increasingly clear now is that the documentary film was specifically edited and cut in such a way as to create a misleading context that the Pope has approved homosexual unions.
Church teaching on homosexuality
Officially, the church teaches that homosexual sex acts are disordered. Pope Francis’s predecessor Benedict XVI called homosexuality an intrinsic moral evil. In 2003, under Pope John Paul II, the Church, through the Vatican’s Doctrinal office, said that legal recognition of sexual unions or placing them on the same level as marriage would amount to the approval of deviant behaviour.
Church doctrine also explicitly states that marriage is between a man and a woman, a teaching Pope Francis unwaveringly supports. Therefore, it would be a pervasive principle of inclusion to try to get gay people back into the church without condemning their deviant behaviour of homosexual acts. The Church cannot in any way be one that approves and condones homosexual behavior or its legal recognition.
It’s understandable that in a bid to get more people into the church, some clerics are increasingly being swayed to accept gays into the church unconditionally. Yet giving in to such temptation is contrary to the logic of the gospel which invites but also challenges us to live in accordance with Biblical convictions. Church leaders must be alert not to gobble up a twisted interpretation of what the Holy Father said lest they mislead their flock.
Spiritual hospital; hate the sin not the sinner.
It’s not fair to accuse the Church as out of touch with modern life when it declines to give in to the pressures of secular cultural agenda. We are in different times but the institution of church must remain a defender of doctrine and the immutable laws of God. As Prof. Alting aptly noted, “Theologically, neither the Pope or the church or the state has the authority or the ability to change God’s law, the moral law as handed down through scripture. We can rest fully assured of that.” Therefore there can be no confusion between the heterosexual marriage wanted by God and any other type of union. The uniqueness and beauty of marriage, which the Creator gifted us is to build life giving families and schools of life that are the cornerstones of society.
The only way for the church is to hate the sin but love the sinner. This calls for an approach that constitutes both love and doctrine. The church is a spiritual hospital where shackles and yokes are broken, therefore it should not leave out anyone in the cold. It should open its doors to prodigals and seek to heal them. But it cannot do that by adulterating its teachings and contradicting Biblical doctrine. Medicine is bitter but it gets you better when you follow the doctor’s orders. Likewise church must practice tough love; welcome the homosexuals but correct their wrong with a prescriptive blend of moral doctrine and agape love.
In a nutshell, doctrine is ordained by God and non-negotiable. The Church should be a rigid enforcer of divine doctrine. It should not represent homosexual unions as a good and desirable thing or actively promote them under any circumstances.
The writer Mr. Thomas Tayebwa is MP for Ruhinda North in the Parliament of Uganda, and is a member of the International Catholic Legislators Network (ICLN).