I chose to give this post the title “principles of (gay) secular sexual morality” putting the word gay in brackets because, although to form my opinion on the subject I have referred to my environment, that is gay people, the result of my reflection is independent of sexual orientation. The reflections are very general, I start by acknowledging a discomfort and therefore a conflict and tend to resolve it with a proposal.

Discomfort, as such, and in this case the moral distress identified as guilt, it is believed originated from an conflict inside the conscience between what you should be and what you are. According to the most common schematization, the transgression of a moral precept leads to guilt, but it is actually difficult to define both what you should be and what you are.

The real action can be more or less free, but also the moral norm with which the concrete action is compared often derives from more or less forced internalization of external regulatory assumptions on which very often it is very difficult and sometimes impossible to have any rational control. If the concepts of good and evil are defined for passive assimilation of external codes the meter itself of moral judgment falters.

In front of the definition of the criteria of moral there are two substantially different attitudes, dogmatic one for which the distinction between moral and immoral is objective and morality looks like a system formal and legalistic, and the other that focuses on the size of individual freedom and of the subjective judgment. The first trend “teaches moral norms”, the second “opens the door to the individual conscience” and of course, at least within broad areas, to the subjectivity of conscience. The moral of individual freedom is not the moral of individualism, selfishness, etc.. etc.., but the moral of the individual pursuit of the good. In this individual research, indeed, the fundamental principle is the realization of the good of the other, an altruistic principle.

Beyond the individual rules of behavior, which are left to individual freedom, what is altruistic has to be considered moral and what is egoistic has to be considered immoral. It is clear that certainly continue to exist behaviors that should be considered “objectively” immoral and must be attentively prevented and are those who are in the criminal law that punishes acts objectively detrimental to the others rights.

While the champions of the objectivity of the moral norm spread a teaching of well defined moral principles, that despite the stated objectivity are strongly characterized historically and culturally (there is no objective morality shared by all), the champions of moral freedom of individual tend to spread a pedagogy of freedom that merely indicates the pourpose (altruism) and leaves to the individual conscience the search for ways to realize it.

In a prescriptive morality, beyond the predictable statements that try to bring up the opposite, it makes no sense to distinguish between the one who commits an error and the error itself because what matters from the moral point of view is not the person but what that person does, the individual conscience is really considered a poor thing, on the contrary in a morality of freedom, except in cases of major criminal behavior, moral judgment is subjective and internal to conscience, I mean that evaluating the good and the bad outside the conscience of the individual completely loses meaning.

The society in which we live is the result of centuries of moral precepts and for this reason the prescriptive moral is generally perceived as the only possible moral. The transmission of value systems and moral codes thus tends to perpetuate the prescriptive moral from one generation to another creating the illusion that that moral is absolute and eternal.

When the moral code absorbed from the outside is not properly fitting to the life of the individual, a conflict raises up, this conflict could be resolved adjusting the individual behavior on internalized moral norm but since this method tends to reduce the freedom of the individual, it is better to look for a different way and  weaken the moral norm, its interpretation becomes flexible, and this way creates less discomfort, but in reality flexible interpretations leave survive the whole edifice of formal moral, which is the very reason for the discomfort, because the norm is imposed by forcing freedom of individual morality. In essence, the need for moral freedom almost always returns to the surface (when it has been suppressed not too violently) and internalized normative codes, without being challenged, are actually removed or weakened.

I wonder if no longer it makes sense to respect the individual moral freedom from the beginning. Doesn’t it make more sense to educate people about freedom of choice? There are some countries in which the pedagogy of freedom has existed for many years and not only did not facilitate the abuse but educated to a sense of responsibility

Let’s try to bring the theoretical discourse in practice.

A guy growing up realizes that he is gay, if he has been educated according to a prescriptive moral, he can perhaps feel in trouble, in conflict with the family, the religion and the society, and can also live very deep hardship. If he doesn’t end up giving up entirely to himself, sooner or later the individual freedom will emerge, will eventually the norm too much rigid will weaken, the guy will follow in appearance the standard behaviour in front of the family, the religious community and other public places, but sooner or later, that guy will find ways to get back his freedom.

On the contrary If that guy had been educated from the beginning to the moral freedom there would be nothing with which to come into conflict and he would wonder how to live responsibly his homosexuality, that guy must be aware of some objective limits that cannot be eliminated and that while leaving freedom on how to implement the welfare of others, however, requires not to damage them in any way. In this case the first moral duty is the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases. It is clear that the first postulate of morality is “objectively do not harm others.”

How may that guy trying to do right, realize what is the good of the other? The answer is quite simple, he has to try to see situations from the point of view of the other, it is certainly not easy to try to evaluate  the effect of our actions as they appear in the eyes of the other. Good and evil are not measured on the intentions of the agent but from the point of view of the persons to whom actions are addressed. In this sense, no behavior in the context of moral freedom is good or bad in itself because the assessment can be given only by to those who act trying to understand the effects of what they do (principle of responsibility).

Let’s go to a concrete example: sex yes or no? The answer is obtained immediately starting from the point of view of the other. No sex if sexual contact is not wanted by the other, or if it may cause him, later, remorse or situations of discomfort; sex, yes, if your personal desire meets the one of the other in a free and spontaneous. And if things are not very clear? Here, too, the answer is simple, the solutions to the questions must be seek in two, the other is not only the recipient of our assessments, but chooses with us and sharing doubts and uncertainties helps prevent misjudgements. On the other hand among people accustomed to moral freedom, the judgment about a man depends on his honesty, on his lack of ulterior motives, on the consistency of the manner of his speaking with his way of being and on his willingness to get involved on equal terms with other persons.

From this discussion we arrive at a necessary conclusion: the basis of sexuality education and, I might add, of all forms of education should be the education for freedom. Our freedom and that of others form the foundation of morality and our happiness and that of others constitute its purpose.


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St. Pius V, Antonio Ghisleri (1504-1572) (Michael his name in religion) entered the Dominicans very young, right after having ruled several Dominican convents and churches, according with his request he was appointed inquisitor of Como (a little town in the Northern Italy), then he was called to the Roman Inquisition and became Commissioner-General of the Inquisition, in 1558 he was appointed Grand Inquisitor.

At the time that Ghisleri was Commissioner-General of the Inquisition two Dominicans, Valerio Malverni and Alfonso Urbino, inquisitors of Calabria, took care of the Waldensian communities settled in Calabria, in a mountainous region of the Kingdom of Naples . The interests of the Inquisition and those of the Kingdom of Naples, also the economic ones, where mingled with the repression of heresy pursued with the use of violence.

The Holy Office (i.e. the Roman Inquisition) issued on February 9, 1561 some ordinances intended to regulate the lives of the Waldenses of Calabria, usually called “ultramontani”. Were prohibited meetings of more than six people, the use of their language, the Occitan, the marriage between two of them for the next 25 years, “ultramontane” where only allowed to marry ‘Italians’. The children were to be instructed in the Catholic doctrine, everyone had to hear Mass every morning, to confess and to take communion every holiday. Men were forced to wear the “sambenito” also called yellow “abitello” (a sort of yellow blouse with a red cross of St. Andrew on both the front and back just like the one that was imposed by the Inquisitors to the heretics who had expressed remorse after conviction or in front of the fire. Women were forced to wear a “penaglio” a sort of hat saddle-shaped, considered a sign of penance, that was to be worn also at night and tore the hair of women making them bald. The doors of the houses on the Waldenses (at that time, in that place consisted of a single room) were modified by inserting a peephole, which could only be opened from the outside to allow anyone to check what was happening inside. Ghisleri (St. Pius V) was in correspondence with Melverni and approved his work, it is known that, when he became Pope, he was going to appoint him bishop of any diocese of the Kingdom of Naples, which was not the case for the opposition of Cardinal Santori.

When Malverni and Urbino proposed the Waldensians a choice between apostasy and death, Waldensians went into hiding, and around Guardia Fuscalda, San Sisto dei Valdesi, Montalto, San Vincenzo, Argentina, Vaccarizzo e Piano dei Rossi, was organized a colossal hunting to capture the Waldensians. 2200 men, women and children were slaughtered in a gruesome manner, other 1600 were captured. All this was the work of the Inquisition in defense of the faith, but there are also other considerable things.

Paul IV Carafa (also an Inquisitor as Pope St. Pius V) two months after ascending to the papacy in 1555, with the Bull “Cum Nimis Absurdum” established ghettos for Jews with a number of restrictions and harassments that gave the first impulse the escape of the Jews from the Papal States, it is basically a law clearly discriminatory and anti-Semitic. His successor, Pius IV, tried to mitigate and limit the weight of anti-Semitic policies of Paul IV but St. Pius V Ghisleri in 1566 with the Bull Romanus Pontifex restored the anti-Jewish legislation of Pope Paul IV Carafa, St. Pius V had a high opinion of Pope Paul IV because both came from the ranks of the Inquisition.

The Bull of St. Pius V “Hebraeorum gens” of February 26, 1569 decreed the expulsion of the Jews from the Papal States with the only exception of residents in the ghettos of Rome and Ancona, but beyond the mandatory content the Bull is a true manifesto of anti-Semitism. The Pope criticizes the “perfidious Jews” accusing them of having fallen out of favor of God because of their sins, that’s why they were condemned to continue wandering without a homeland.

Eventually Christian piety, pitying their sad fate, tolerated the presence of the Jews but they, however, with their wickedness and their perfidy have pushed the situation to such an extent that the Pope felt compelled, for the salvation of Christians, to curb the violence of such a disease.

The Pope accuses the Jews of being usurers and to exploit the poor Christians, of being thieves and fences, of being pimps and magicians dedicated to evil satanic tricks that lead to believe them to be able to see the future or to find treasures. The Pope then raises his voice against this scourge that causes enormous damage every day to the Christians, and decrees that all Jews must to go out of the Papal State within three months, after that term, if a Jew will be found still on the papal territory, his property will be confiscated and he will be reduced in a state of perpetual servitude. This is basically a form of racism mixed with religious intolerance.

After having considered this background we are going to analyze the position of St. Pius V against homosexuals. Following are two Constitutions that define the question. The documents use the “pluralis maiestatis” that is the Pope, referring to himself never says “I” but always “We” because of his majesty role.

St. Pius V, Constitution “Cum primum” of 1 April 1566.
Rules regarding the observance of divine worship in the churches, and the observance of holidays, and also against simony, blasphemers, sodomites and concubines.
Pius bishop servant of the servants of God, for an everlasting memory

As soon as we received the apostolic office entrusted to us by divine disposition, soon we focused all our attention and all our meditation on the salvation of the Lord’s flock entrusted to our faithfulness and settled, with the help of God, to lead the faithful of Christ so that, abstaining from vices and sins, they will follow the path that leads to eternal life.

[The reason for this decision]
1. After facing the sharpness of our mind to remove all the things that might in any way offend the Divine Majesty, first we decided to amend without delay what may displease God to the maximum degree and could cause his anger, so as the Scriptures teach us giving also very serious examples: certainly the divine worship neglected, the scourge of simony, the crime of blasphemy and abominable vice of lust against nature, it’s just because of such things that peoples and nations are often affected for just revenge of God by calamities of war, famine and pestilence. Even if against those who have confessed so terrible crimes, have been issued by our predecessors many measures, however, since it is a small thing to issue laws if there are not those who make them effective in due course:

[Reaffirmation of the old sanctions against disobedience to this decree]
2. So that does not happen that someone dares to hope impunity by virtue of tolerance, we, knowing that most people are used to keep away from the will to sin much more due to the severity of the penalties that the fear of God, confirm all of the individual judgments the claims and the penalties that have been imposed on those who had committed these crimes and in fact, with our apostolic authority, we renew and in no way diminish their rigor, and warn those who have not been afraid to commit these crimes that they will not only be subject to the penalties as are prescribed by the sacred canons, but also will be subject to those civil laws set according to what the discretion of our decision will establish in relation to the quality of the people.

[Order to perform these provisions]
3. We order that Bishops and Governors in office of the cities and places of our ecclesiastical state, Bishops under pain of removal from ecclesiastical offices and Governors under pain of immediate and automatic excommunication, care to capture those who didn’t worship to God in churches with established rite or had been found guilty of heinous crimes, to condemn them to the established pains. Then the judges themselves must keep in mind that if after this our decree they will be negligent in punishing crimes of this magnitude, first of all they will be punished by the judgment of God and then they will also face our indignation.

11. If someone has committed a heinous crime against nature, because of which the wrath of God came upon the sons of perdition, he will be delivered to the secular court to be punished, and if he is a cleric, he will be deprived of holy orders and will be subject to same penalty.

13. And to enable judges to obtain very easily notice about aforementioned crimes of simony, blasphemy and rape nefarious, we want that they can proceed in every case if they are competent in jurisdiction or by reason of the type of crime or of the people, not only for prosecution and inquisition but also as a result of a simple secret complaint , in order to create among those men space for the prevention.

14. However, we warn each and every of you, so that keeping before your eyes only the fear of God and not driven by other bad affections of the soul, you will accuse only the guilty man and never the innocent one. Therefore, if it is discovered that someone accused another so libelous, we will and command that he must be subject to the rule of retaliation.

St. Pius V, Constitution “Horrendum illud scelus” of August 30, 1568.
Against any clergy, both secular and regular, guilty of the heinous crime.
Pius bishop servant of the servants of God, for an everlasting memory

The horrible crime that soiled and contaminated the cities to the point that they were scorched by the terrible judgment of God with fierce pain assails us and severely disrupts our heart so that we concentrate all our efforts to suppress it as much as possible.

[Statements of the Lateran Council]
1. It is certainly well known the decree of the Lateran Council, according to which all clerics who were surprised involved in incontinence which is against nature and for which the wrath of God came upon the sons of perdition, must be expelled from the clergy or be forced into monasteries to do penance.

[The cause of this new decision]
2. But, in order to stop the contagion of such a disaster avoiding it to strengthen becoming more and more brazen in the hope of impunity which is the strongest incentive to sin, we have determined that clerics guilty of this heinous crime should be punished so heavy that they who are not scared by the death of the soul will remain terrified by the avenging sword of secular civil laws.

[Imposition of the death penalty]
3. So we want now pursue more comprehensively and strongly what at the very beginning of our pontificate we decreed upon these things, that’s why with the authority of this canon, we deprive of any clerical privilege and any office, dignity or ecclesiastical benefit each and every priest or other secular cleric of any degree of dignity who put into practice such a heinous wickedness, so that degraded by an ecclesiastical judge, he will be immediately delivered to the secular justice, to undergo the same punishment that is established for the laymen by the legitimate legal rules.

St. Pius V, with the criteria of a modern international criminal court, could be accused of serious human rights violations and also of crimes against mankind, but he is still often cited as a moral teacher and a typical restorer of ecclesiastical costumes of the Counter-Reformation. His condemnation of homosexuality is considered an example of the doctrine of the Church, and I think that, unfortunately, it is the case. I want to emphasize that this is St. Pius V, a man raised to the honors of the altars and presented as an example to the churchgoers.


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On April 18, 2005, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, in the Homily for the Mass for the election of the Roman Pontiff that preceded the opening of the conclave in which, the day after, he was elected pope, said:

“Every day new sects spring up, and what St Paul says about human deception and the trickery that strives to entice people into error (cf. Eph 4: 14) comes true.

Today, having a clear faith based on the Creed of the Church is often labeled as fundamentalism. Whereas relativism, that is, letting oneself be “tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine”, seems the only attitude that can cope with modern times. We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one’s own ego and desires”.

This sentence opens ideally the pontificate of Benedict XVI in the sign of contrast against relativism. According to the future Pontiff the relativism is “letting oneself be tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine” and its “ultimate goal consists solely of one’s own ego and desires. “

The positions of the pope on gay rights are well known. I will just mention an article in English, published on the blog Gay Project January 18, 2013 .

I don’t enter into the merits of the statements of the pope. I would just like to mention and to develop an Indian legend told by Max Scheler in the first part of “Formalism in ethics and the ethics of material values” an extremely interesting book, published exactly 100 years ago, in 1913, which was intended to clarify what is relativism by treating the matter very seriously. The work is in German, but the Protestant and Jewish cultural influences, perhaps even more than the contents of the book itself, does not make it enjoyable in Catholic circles.

Max Scheler alludes to an Indian legend that I have to expand because it has a considerable explanatory meaning.

Many years ago, in India, a group of blind “wise men” were allowed to approach an elephant and they were told that it was an elephant, each of them touched the elephant only for a few seconds, then they were asked what an elephant was: one said it was a hard object such as marble, because he had only touched a tusk, another said it was like a very big snake capable of writhing in coils, because he had only touched the trunk, and another said it was a big paw.

According to the metaphor it’s obvious that each of the blind “wise men” realized that his point of view was relative and that to better understand what an elephant is it’s necessary to know and understand what others deduced from their own point of view. The truly wise men understand that relativism is not exceeded with the apodictic affirmation of a single point of view but only with a collaborative vision that enriches everyone and allows a better understanding of reality and at least a relative overcoming of the initial relativism. So far Max Scheler and I would say that it is already an illuminating metaphor.

Now let assume that among those blind wise men there was one that had got to stay a long time with other elephants, that certainly would have had a much better knowledge of what an elephant is, certainly a relative knowledge but much less relative than that of those who had could touch the elephant just for a minute, and the wise men, to understand what is really an elephant, would certainly be listening to those who had more experience about elephants.

Obviously if those same blind men were then taken next to a turtle and none of them had ever had contact with other turtles, none of them could have helped “a priori” to understand more and better than others what a turtle really is.

It wouldn’t certainly occur to me, since I’ve never ridden a horse, to explain to an experienced rider which positions are more “natural” to stay in the saddle, because talking about what you do not know means only show your ignorance of that topic, so anyone who is not gay, and does not live being gay from inside, should realize that he has a concept of being gay comparable with the idea of an elephant that can have a blind man who has approached an elephant only for a minute.

Mine is not a defense of relativism and I make explicit reference to Max Scheler if you want to get something serious about these topics.

Strongly assertive and dogmatic positions are supported not by their greater reliability derived from more experience or more rationality but only by a principle of authority. The concepts of “God’s law” or “natural law” are also presumptions, i.e. acts of faith, certainly respectable in themselves, but that in no case can be the basis of visions involving the devaluation of other points of view, or worse the restriction of the freedom of others. This would be like trying to impose the view that the elephant is a huge tusk because one of the blind men, particularly influential, has only touched the tusk (assuming that he has really touched it). If those blind men submit to the authority of one of them, they would not be wise because they would reject the idea of working for a better understanding of the things, that is not compatible with the idea that someone is right by definition. This is not like the Pope says “the dictatorship of relativism” but an elementary principle of common sense for which freedom is not compatible with any ideological dictatorship.

Gay men know the reality of their lives and yet have to see every day, imposed by the violent force of law, as is happening in Russia, or by the abuse of the name of God, as the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church usually do, the points of view of those who does not know what they are talking about.

It is not the relativism reductively understood, according to the words of the Pope, the basis of democracy that must form the foundation of the States, but the principle of mutual respect and collaboration, to guarantee the higher level of awareness for all, assuming that everyone is free to judge as he wants but if the judgment is not based on a real knowledge of the topics but on a mere prejudice, no one can claim in the name of that prejudice to limit the freedom or the rights of others.

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