Between the Two Extremes: As with Immigration, There's Little Balance in Discussions of Homosexuality

By McBrien, Richard P. | National Catholic Reporter, July 20, 2007 | Go to article overview

Between the Two Extremes: As with Immigration, There's Little Balance in Discussions of Homosexuality


McBrien, Richard P., National Catholic Reporter


No matter how many times church authorities address the matter of homosexuality and ministry to gays and lesbians, it never seems to come out right.

Ultraconservatives are satisfied with nothing less than absolute condemnation, exclusion of gays from seminaries, and, if they had the means, expulsion of gays from the priesthood and the hierarchy.

Those on the extreme left are satisfied with nothing less than a moral embrace of homosexuality as some thing as "normal" as heterosexuality and a condemnation of anything other than that embrace as a virulent form of homophobia.

The debate between the two sides closely resembles the recent debate over immigration reform in the United States.

One extreme opposes all forms of "amnesty" under whatever guise and favors--without offering a practical means of implementation--the expulsion of the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants.

The other extreme favors the immediate legalization of the 12 million but offers no practical solution to the problem of the seemingly endless flow of illegal immigrants into the country.

If some compromise is created eventually on immigration reform legislation, those involved in the parallel debate about homosexuality ought to take notice. In the meantime, we have to do the best we can.

Even when some of our bishops who are unencumbered by rigid ideology attempt to address this thorny issue, their statements are usually filed away, never to surface again.

Two years ago I did a column in praise of Bishop J. Terry Steib of Memphis, Tenn., who had announced in his diocesan newspaper that he was inaugurating a new ministry to gay and lesbian Catholics "to be sure that we do not leave anyone behind," and to make clear that "all are welcome in their own home."

"It is no secret," I wrote in my column, "that any discussion of homosexuality--particularly one without the standard condemnations--makes many people uncomfortable, inside and outside the church. It is also no secret that those who write and speak as Bishop Terry Steib has done are perceived by many others as a threat to the faith itself.

"In fact, Bishop Steib's initiative was viewed as so much of a threat that the editor of the weekly paper in a nearby diocese was explicitly forbidden by his own bishop to publish anything about Bishop Steib's column and his inauguration of a diocesan ministry of outreach to gay and lesbian Catholics. …

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