As is well known, the Roman Catholic church considers that sexual acts between two people of the same sex is sinful. This teaching is based on tradition, much of which is based on the teachings of the early church fathers such as St Augustine and St Thomas Aquinas . Ultimately, the church claims the authority of certain passages in the Bible for this teaching.
Roman Catholics who form lesbian or gay relationships are often asked how they can continue to identify as Roman Catholic since they have adopted a lifestyle which is contrary to the official teaching of the church. It is also commonly believed that all Roman Catholics are by definition opposed to lesbian, gay and bisexual lifestyles and thus cannot be supportive of other gay and lesbian relationships or support legal recognition of same sex couples (as exists in the United Kingdom in the form of civil partnership).
The reality is that the church does not, and never has, insisted that faithful Roman Catholics assent to every one of its teachings. Although Roman Catholics are united in our faith in such matters as the resurrection of Christ and certain particular dogmas of the church (such as Catholic teaching on the eucharist) individual Catholics can and do take a dissenting line on matters of ethical teaching if they feel on conscientious grounds that they cannot accept the teaching as it stands.
For example, in Western Europe it is so common that married couples choose to use artificial birth control, on conscientious grounds and contrary to official church teaching, that this has become the norm rather than the exception.
Lesbian, gay and bisexual Roman Catholics who choose to be sexually active on conscientious grounds are in a similar position to heterosexual Roman Catholics who choose to use artificial means to control their fertility. Not only is this position commonly taken, but the church teaching on both issues is essentially the same: it is based on the principle which states that sexual activity is sinful unless conducted in the context of sacramental marriage with an openness to procreation.
It is an individual responsibility of every Roman Catholic to inform her or his conscience over such matters. What follows is a summary of the basis of Roman Catholic teaching and the criticisms commonly levelled at it by dissenting members of the church and other commentators. Clearly these arguments are not meant to be exhaustive and views differ considerably amongst the faithful and other experts. Much of the work of the Caucus involves stimulating discussion around this subject.
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