Church teaching and sexuality: What “no longer” holds?

For the past three years, the emphasis of Pope Francis and those close to him has been on “respect” and “listening”, with little or no reference to holiness, chastity, or the objective truth about sexual morality.

The parish program for the 2018 World Meeting of Families, to be held in Dublin in August, includes a photo of a lesbian couple embracing. (Images: and

The effect of Pope Francis’ Amoris Laetitia on divorce, remarriage, and reception of the Eucharist has been profound.  Bishops of Malta, Sicily, and Buenos Aires have decided that the divorced and remarried may receive Communion.  But do the principles upon which those decisions were made apply to other areas of sexual morality, and specifically to homosexual unions and relationships?

Indeed, in Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis himself said that “I am not speaking only of the divorced and remarried but of everyone, in whatever situation they find themselves.” (297).  And he then goes on to say that “it can no longer simply be said that all those in any ‘irregular’ situation are living in a state of mortal sin and deprived of sanctifying grace.” (301). And “an objective situation of sin” “may not be subjectively culpable, or fully such.” And the “Church’s help” can “in certain cases” “can include the help of the sacraments.” (305, and footnote 351.)  And “individual conscience needs to be incorporated into the Church’s praxis in certain situations which do not objectively embody our understanding of marriage.” (303).

And: “This offers a framework and a setting which help us avoid a cold bureaucratic morality in dealing with more sensitive issues.” (312).

Concerning co-habitation, Francis says in Amoris that “respect can be shown for those signs of love which in some way reflect God’s own love,” (294).  Quoting the final document, Relatio Finalis, of the 2015 Synod on the Family, he points out about civil marriage and co-habitation, “when such unions attain a particular stability, legally recognized, are characterized by deep affection and responsibility for their offspring,” they can lead to “the eventual celebration of the sacrament of marriage.” (293).

Concerning homosexuality and homosexual acts and relationships, there are only two passages in Amoris.  Neither refers to doctrine or moral theology.  In a sort of sociological observation, Pope Francis says that “de facto or same-sex unions” are not “beneficial” to society. (52).  As for “persons who experience same-sex attraction,” Francis holds that they “ought to be respected in his or her dignity and treated with consideration, while ‘every sign of unjust discrimination’ [citing the Catechism]is to be carefully avoided.” (276). He goes on quote the “Synod Fathers” that homosexual unions “are not remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family.” (251).

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, there are three consecutive paragraphs dealing with homosexuality (2357-59).  The first paragraph, rarely cited in contemporary Church discourse, describes homosexual acts as “intrinsically disordered.”  The third paragraph, likewise rarely referred to, summons homosexual persons to “chastity.”  The second paragraph repeats language about the disorder, but its emphasis is that persons of “homosexual tendencies” must “be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.”  Those three words are the dominant theme of Building A Bridge, published this summer by Jesuit priest James Martin.  They are the “three pillars of the Catechism’s approach to LGBT ministry,” Martin says.

In one of the two chapters on “respect,” he says about “LGBT Catholics” that “respect means calling a group what it asks to be called.” (emphasis in original).  He points out that Pope Francis has used the term “gay.”  He also argues—convincingly, in this writer’s opinion—that LGBT Catholics should not be “selectively” fired from Catholic employment, when those who are divorced and re-married, co-habitees, and parents of children out of wedlock are not similarly fired.

Under “compassion,” Fr. Martin says that the Church should “listen” to LGBT Catholics, make public “statements specifically in support of our LGBT brothers and sisters,” and be “joyful with” and “rejoice in the gifts and talents” of LGBT (or LGBTQ) Catholics.

Under “sensitivity,” he laments that many Church leaders do not know “on a personal level, LGBT people who are public about their sexuality.”  He maintains that Jesus’ message was always about “inclusion” and “community” first, and “conversion second.” (emphasis in original).  Sensitivity means, Martin says, “heightened awareness of what might hurt or offend someone,” as, for example, the phrase “objectively disordered.”

In probably the most emphatic passage of the book, Fr. Martin quotes Pope Francis in Amoris Laetitia: “We would like before all else to reaffirm that every person, regardless of sexual orientation, ought to be respected is his or her dignity and treated with consideration.”  “Before all else” (emphasis in original) is an “immense statement.” Fr. Marin argues.  He points out that nowhere in Amoris Laetitia does the pope “mention anything about an ‘objective disorder.’”

Nowhere is his book does Fr. Martin speak of chastity.  At one point, he does refer to “objectively disordered” but not to “intrinsically disordered”. He claims that “some bishops have already called for the church to set aside the phrase ‘objectively disordered.’” To label “the deepest parts of a person – the part that gives and receives love” as “disordered” is “needlessly hurtful,” says Fr. Martin. It is “needlessly cruel.”

In a response to criticism of his book by Cardinal Robert Sarah, Fr. Martin said in August: “Cardinal Sarah’s op-ed inaccurately states that my book is critical of church teaching, which it is not. Nor am I.”

All three American cardinals appointed by Pope Francis—namely, Cardinals Cupich, Farrell, and Tobin—have strongly endorsed Fr. Martin’s book. Included on the dust jacket of the book itself is the statement of  Cardinal Keven Farrell says that the book will help “church leaders more compassionately minister to the LGBT community.”  Likewise on the jacket, Cardinal Joseph Tobin states that “LGBT people have been made to feel unwelcome, excluded, and even shamed” and calls Fr. Martin’s book “brave, prophetic, and inspiring.”  When Fr. Martin was recently disinvited to a couple of events after the publication of his book, Cardinal Cupich defended him and “affirmed what he was doing . . . I support him.”

In another included endorsement of the book, San Diego Bishop Robert W. McElroy asserts that “The Gospel demands that LGBT Catholics must be genuinely loved and treasured in the life of the church.  They are not.” And in a September article in the Jesuit magazine America, Bishop McElroy vouches for Fr. Martin as a “distinguished Jesuit author” and engages in an extended ad hominem attack on “those” critics of Fr. Martin who are acting out of “long-standing bigotry” and a “cancer of vilification.”  In his article, Bishop McElroy says in defense of Fr. Martin’s book that “chastity is not the central virtue in the Christian moral life.”  Chastity does not have “a singularly powerful role in determining our moral character or our relationship with God.”  To think that it does is “a distortion of Catholic moral theology.”

Thus, Fr. Martin, himself using the phrase “LGBTQ” as well as “LGBT Catholics,” says in Building A Bridge that “respect means calling a group what it asks to be called,” and Cardinals Farrell and Tobin and Bishop McElroy, in endorsing the book, have specifically used the phrase “LGBT Catholics.”

Then, in August, the National Catholic Reporter, in an editorial, thanked Fr. Martin for his book and fully endorsed changing moral doctrine:

Inescapable in this bridge-building project, however, are deeper questions that cannot go unexamined. Can dialogue be enough to achieve a truly inclusive church? Without a change in the church’s teaching on sex and sexuality, can LGBT people ever hope to be treated with equality and justice by the hierarchy?

The editorial urged the Church “to continue the work of developing the doctrine of sexuality that began in Vatican II.”

At the October conference at Boston College convened by Cardinal Cupich and Jesuit Fr. James Keenan, papal advisor and confidant Jesuit Fr. Anthony Spadaro stated that “It is no longer possible to judge people on the basis of a norm that stands above all.”  He said that “the pope realizes that one can no longer speaker of an abstract category of persons and . . . [a] praxis of integration in a rule that is absolutely to be followed in every instance.”

In a current lawsuit filed against the Diocese of Charlotte, North Carolina, by a teacher at a Catholic high school who was fired for entering into a same-sex marriage, an extended op-ed article by a staff writer for the Charlotte Observer went into detail citing Fr. Martin’s book and especially noted Fr. Martin’s point that the Church does not fire other employees for transgressing other sexual teachings of the Church.  The article also mentioned the recent Pew Research poll showing that two-thirds of Catholics support “same-sex marriage”.

We have been emphatically told that old understandings and practices “no longer” hold. So, it is now a question of what “before all else” governs the moral teaching and practice of homosexuality in the Church.

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About Thomas R. Ascik 21 Articles
Thomas R. Ascik is a retired attorney who has written on a variety of legal and constitutional issues.


  1. The pictures at the top of the article are instructive. They come from proparatory meetings for the World Meeting of Families that will take place in Ireland. Howeever these materials seem to be much more problematic than people realize. They seem to think that the Homosexual meeting of Families will take place. The very first picture shown in the document shows two men holding hands with a spangly heart. Later one, the picture of two lesbians is prominent. But less obvious is the rainbow border at the bottom of every page. In addition, many pages have rainbow colored text for no appearnt raason. Mysteriously, the first paragraph is green, the second red, the third blue, the fourth purple and so on. The rainbow them repeats over and over again in the document. Some pages feature gigantic quotation marks, again in the rainbow colors. This is not by happenstance. You do not start out a Catholic document with a picture of two men holding hands without some sort of bizarre homosexual twist.

    See for yourself.

    • I would also add that there is not a single photo of a clearly intact family. That is, there is not a photo featuring a mother, father, and children in the same shot.

      • All these observations are right on, but that’s not to speak of the ‘Amoris’ logo at the top of this page. Where did they get that ‘logo’ pray tell? Did anyone notice that those ‘twirly swirls’ are actually 6’s? And there are 3 of them. 666 all intertwined……interesting.

    • Thank you for the link it was very informative. As I was reading it, I did not see anything that would offend, and I do not know why those pictures are even there as the subject of SSM, SSR, were not discussed. If I missed something please respond. I did like the picture of the guy doing laundry though and the accompanying text of share responsibility in creating a home. I wonder if they are going to live stream this event, or post the videos indicated in days discussions.

      • missed the one where the woman was cleaning the gutters and changing the oil in the car, but I guess it was buried somewhere ’cause what we really need the church to do is further the feminization of men and the masculinization of women for the good of the family.

  2. Dismal. Depressing. A dark night of the soul.

    Desire before truth. Christ talked of false teachers and wolves in the appearance of sheep.

    And in the highest echelons of the Catholic Church.

    I still believe in Christ’s promise and in the workings of the Holy Spirit.

    But this is going to end badly. Worse than the Arian crisis.

  3. yes, it is clear. Francis has so far been a disaster of biblical proportions.

    Who would have thought, even a few years ago, we’d be looking for excuses to say that the most horrible sins are actually signs of God’s love?

  4. This is the final evidence against Team Francis and “their pontiff.”

    They are now publishing sex abuse material to destroy the sexual identity of God’s children.

    They are waging civil against the Catholic faith, and they must be fought on every battlefield.

  5. “In a current lawsuit filed against the Diocese of Charlotte, North Carolina, by a teacher at a Catholic high school who was fired for entering into a same-sex marriage, an extended op-ed article by a staff writer for the Charlotte Observer went into detail citing Fr. Martin’s book and especially noted Fr. Martin’s point that the Church does not fire other employees for transgressing other sexual teachings of the Church.”

    From the 11 January 2017 Charlotte Observer article concerning Lonnie Billard’s lawsuit against the Diocese of Charlotte comes the REAL scandal of the situation:

    “Billard, after a career in banking, became a full-time faculty member at Charlotte Catholic in 2001, the same year he became involved with Donhan. A year later, he became the school’s theater teacher and Donham and he began living together, the lawsuit says. Billard was named the school’s Teacher of the Year in 2012. At that time, he was told by then Principal Jerry Healy that he had been the only teacher nominated every year the award had been in place, according to the suit.

    “He retired after the 2012 school year, but continued working at the school as a substitute teacher. He says he never tried to hide the fact that he was gay, adding that Donham often accompanied him to school events and was well-known to the Charlotte Catholic students, teachers, parents and administrators.”

    The scandals of his sexual preference and his relationship status were overt and widely known, and yet he remained employed at the school for 11 years full-time and almost 2 and a half years more as a substitute. The high school’s administration, faculty, parents, and students who enabled this scandal to persist (and to be celebrated, even) bear a share of the blame for a situation which should have resulted in Billard’s termination in 2002 or 2003, rather than persisting as a cancer on the school for almost 13 and a half years.

    What part of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the Hosanna Tabor case doesn’t Mr. Billard and his “innamorata” understand?

  6. And btw, it is no surprise that Team Francis chose Ireland-laid-waste to trot out its abomination of sexuality.

    The same country where the Church had its primary seminary, Maynooth, led by a madman, Michael Ledwith, for some 25 years.

    Ledwith ran the seminary at Maynooth, and was billed as “a rising star” in the (spiritually impoverished) Irish Church, until he was uncovered as a homosexual predator, and voluntarily resigned. He was later laicized by the Church.

    Now Ledwith lectures (no kidding) for “The Ancient School of Ramtha,” a “church” in Arizona which is run by a woman who “channels” the teaching of Ramtha, an alien intelligence that speaks through her.

    So now this is what Team Francis cooks up! I guess Phase I was to invade and destroy the priesthood in Ireland. Now that the he faith is utterly pulverized, they will go in and teach the children to destroy their sexual identity as children of God.

    This “Counterfeit World Meeting of Families” is pure evil – the spawn of 50 years of “progressive” pollution.

    Shame on every Bishop and priest and parent that remains silent and condones this crime against children and young people.

    Anti-Christ has arrived.

  7. We can pray for the Pope. If the Holy Spirit can deliver us Americans from having to pay for abortions and contraceptives through our tax dollars a way will be shown for all American Catholics to see that the person behind the rallying call for LGBTQ equality and waiving the rainbow flag in defiance…is Satan himself.

  8. And still there are people in denial there is something seriously wrong under this pontificate and claim it is all in people’s minds. And one of their latest attempts is to accuse people of pointing out the problems as being the dissenters, of trying to make a parallel magisterium! I think that is bordering on the diabolical.

  9. Regarding the “Joy of Love’ parish discussion program, I’m so weary of countless “faith-sharing” programs that invite me to experience how my fellow parishioners interpret family life, rather than a catechetical program that teaches about family life from Sacred Tradition.

  10. Who can fail to see that the occasional orthodox exclamations are camouflage to cover the heterodoxy. The evil spreads. Spent a wonderful moment in very Catholic Ireland returning from Africa in the Seventies. Darkness is covering the planet. We must steel our souls and engage in spiritual warfare.

  11. Now it’s been “outed”. Two out of three Catholics accept “same-sex marriage”. (Internal survey details needed, though.)

    Let’s say the internals hold up: two-thirds of fairly faithful mass-going Catholics have chosen not to distinguish themselves from the culture. Yet what’s captured in the survey is in no way static or isolated. The identified (new norm) Catholic “value” clearly indicates that the same percentage of Catholics (faithful!) holds similar positions on abortion (obviously), contraception (of course) – the whole bullet point list of obligatory (please don’t call me a racist, homophobe, islamophobe, transphobe) convictions and proper social stances.

    Can this ever be stanched, let alone reversed. If not, this two-thirds majority of moral/heresy Catholics will generate a two/thirds cohort of theological/heresy Catholic – if it has not already. Catholics who believe there are a myriad ways to accept the Real Presence, for instance, or the Trinity – or, none at all.

    The alarming tone about the present papacy is the Catholic ether we breathe and float within – that everything is up for grabs, subject to redefinition.

    Frankly, I don’t see a resolution. Not even the cross-one’s-fingers that the next papacy will set things aright. The correction will need to be massive: global, deep, and painful. Apparently, two-thirds of (faithful!) mass-going Catholics will resist.

  12. By his writings and words, Pope Francis has done more to relativize and scandalize the Church than any Pope I know. I pray he will resign SOON and that Cardinal Robert Sarah of Guinea, a papabili extrordinaire, will assume the Chair of Peter. The Bark of Peter is listing badly. Cardinal Sarah knows how to return the church to the Catholic Church.

    Due to his frequent inconsistencies and ignoring of Church teachings, I’ve tuned Pope Francis completely out. After a brilliant Pope Benedict XVI, I’m on solid ground. Francis is all over the place and does not think of the implications before he talks. He is not serious about serious matters.

  13. It certainly did not take long to go from asking for respect as persons to demanding approval of a “no matter what” lifestyle. Would have been better had these paragons of moral rectitude simply confined themselves to the demonstrable fact that the LGBTQ community is objectively disordered by definition and cited the necessity of all to lead a moral life and leave it at that. The tendency to seek ways around unpleasant facts should be eschewed by those whose job it is to point to the way of righteousness, not simply a means of a self indulgent existance.

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