GAY MARRIAGE: THE CATHOLIC CHURCH AND THE FRENCH REPUBLIC

This post is aimed at comparing two different opinions about homosexual marriage, the first one emerging from an inter-religious conversation between Jorge Mario Bergoglio  then-archbishop of Buenos Aires (now pope Francis), and rabbi Skorka, and also from an interview with Monsignor Juan Vicente Còrdoba, secretary of the Columbian episcopal conference, and the other coming from the legislative solutions definitively adopted, on April 23, 2013, by the French National Assembly.

The comments in square brackets used inside quotations are by the author of this post.

Bergoglio and Homosexuality

On March 13, 2013, the day of the election of Pope Bergoglio, GayProject published a letter addressed by Cardinal Bergoglio to the Buenos Aires Carmelite nuns in 2010, when the same-sex marriage law was going to be approved in Argentina. https://gayproject2.wordpress.com/2013/03/14/pope-bergoglio-and-homosexuals/ .

In 2010 a book by Jorge Mario Bergoglio and Abraham Skorka, titled “Sobre el cielo y la tierra” was published by Editorial Sudamericana, Buenos Aires.

This book is a compilation of the conversations between the then-archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now Pope Francis and Abraham Skorka, rabbi and rector of the Latin-American Rabbinic Seminary in Buenos Aires. The inter-religious conversations are about different topics, such as God, fundamentalism, atheists, death, holocaust, homosexuality and capitalism and took place alternatively in the bishop seat and in the Jewish community Benei Tivka.

In the sixteenth chapter, “Sobre el cielo y la tierra” deals with “marriage between people of the same sex”. So rabbi Skorka opens the conversation: “In my opinion, same-sex marriage has been considered in a very partial manner, compared to the depth that the topic deserves. Cohabiting same-sex couples are matter of fact and are entitled to legal solutions to problems such as pensions, inheritance etc.. (which may be part of a new juridical figure), but equating homosexual couples to heterosexual ones is something totally different. It’s not just a belief question, but we must be aware that this problem concerns one of the most delicate elements our culture is based on.”

Bergoglio replies: “Religion, being at the service of the people, in entitled to express its opinion. And if somebody asks me for advice, I have the right to give it to him. Sometimes the religious minister calls attention to certain points of the private or public life because he is the mentor of the faithful.” Up to this point we can find the usual reaffirmation of the duties and  obviously also of  the consequential rights that religions are entitled to claim, nevertheless Bergoglio introduces a new element pointing out what “is not for religious minister, as he doesn’t have the right to interfere with anybody’s private life, and that’s for sure. If, during the Creation, God faced the risk of making us free, who am I to interfere? We condemn the redundancy of spiritual influence, which occurs when a minister imposes the guideline, the behaviour to follow, depriving people of freedom”. These statements, however, are not intended for possible approval of choices different from those suggested (not imposed) by the church because Bergoglio is quick to point out that “God let us free even to commit a sin. Talking clearly about values, limits, commandments is something absolutely necessary, of course, but spiritual or pastoral interference is not allowed”.

Skorka reminds that in Judaism there are some currents in which prescriptive approaches prevail, but he underlines that in Jewish Law there’s no place for homosexuality, and he adds: “On the other hand, I respect any individual who maintains a reserved and intimate approach to the theme”, then he refers to the Argentinian law of 2010 about civil marriage between same-sex people and access to adoptions by same-sex couples; he reminds the worth that scientists like Freud or Lévi-Strauss attribute to the prohibition of incestuous relationships and to sexual ethic, and he admits to be worried about the consequences for society that laws like that approved in Argentina in 2010 can produce.

Bergoglio considers the Argentinian law approved in 2010 as an “anthropological regression”, since it weakens “an institution millennia old, created in accordance with nature and anthropology”; this way the rejection of homosexual unions considered as equivalent to marriage loses the quality of religious precept, in the name of which church is not allowed to deprive anybody of his freedom, and  assumes the meaning of safeguard of the natural law in opposition to anything unnatural, and also of safeguard of a principle of anthropology, which affirms that heterosexuality is an intrinsic characteristic of the man as such.

Bergoglio then states something apparently open-minded: “Fifty years ago, co-living before marriage was not as common as nowadays. It was something degrading. Then things changed. Today, co-living before marriage, although it’s not right from a religious point of view, does not have any more the extremely negative social weight it had fifty years ago. It’s a sociological fact that clearly is not comparable to the completeness and  greatness of marriage, an institution millennia old that has to be defended. […] We too consider very important what you have just highlighted, that is the base of the Natural Law mentioned by the Bible: the union between a man and a woman”. Shorly, Bergoglio underlines that Bible recognizes the “real” Nature Law, which is identified, in sexual matter, as heterosexuality.

Bergoglio continues: “homosexuality has always existed. The island of Lesbos, for example, was well known for having homosexual women. But it had never happened in history that somebody tried to give it the same status as marriage. It was tolerated or not tolerated, it was appreciated or not appreciated, but never considered equal.” Bergoglio doesn’t even conceive that homosexuality can be considered equated with heterosexuality, because he said it doesn’t embody the Natural Law (strange concept of nature!).

Bergoglio continues with a statement: “We know that during some epochal evolutions the phenomenon of homosexuality sensibly increased”. Actually, in those periods of changing the repressive power of some institutions like Catholic Church weakened, that’s why homosexuality became more visible.

Bergoglio adds: “But in our age, it is the first time we face the problem of assimilating it to marriage, and I consider this as a bad value and an anthropological regression”.

Immediately after, Bergoglio presents the most convincing argument, according to him,: “A private union doesn’t hurt anybody nor the society. Instead, if this union is considered under the category of marriage and the right of adoption is allowed, there is the risk of damaging children. Each individual needs a male father and a female mother who help him shaping his own identity”. The idea of homo-parenthood as something dangerous is taken for granted, though many serious studies about the issue have demonstrated that those are only prejudices.

Bergoglio adds: “I insist: our opinion on marriage of same-sex people does not have a religious basis but anthropological”, and for this reason the limitation of the sphere of the individual freedom would be justified as well as the non-equalization of homosexuals with heterosexuals.

Bergoglio reminds that, for the first time after 18 years of being bishop, he had to draw the attention of a public officer when the major of Buenos Aires, Mauricio Macri, refused to appeal against a first grade judgement that had authorized a homosexual marriage. But Bergoglio points out, twice, that he never talked about homosexuals or used derogatory terms against homosexuals and remarks that he confined himself to the legal issue.

Skorka then widens the subject on the natural law and he reminds that “in the discussion before the approval of the law, somebody invoked the “natural law” thanks to which Nature has in itself the rule leading the human behaviour. So, God himself infused this rule in the Creation. Now, a homosexual may rightly object it was God or Nature that made him that way. On the other hand, somebody declared that love between homosexual people has a multiple nature, because female love and male love co-exist together, although this does not implies a suitable condition to create a family”. These last statements of the rabbi, related to a generic “somebody”, are in fact quite curious.

Skorka introduces the question of the parental figures in the educative field and Bergoglio answers that “generally, people say that it would be better for a kid to be grown by a same-sex couple rather than living in an orphanage or in an institute for minors. Of course, neither of these situations is optimal”.

Bergoglio searches for a different solution which could allow to avoid adoption by same-sex couples. He states that “the problem is that the State does not do what it should, […] We have to consider the situations od children who live in public structures or institutes where everything is done but recover those children. NGOs, the different religious confessions or other kinds of organisations should take care of those minors”, but Bergoglio concludes: “a mistake from the State’s side [the excess of bureaucracy and corruption] does not justify another mistake by the same State [the legitimation of adoptions for same-sex couples]”. In this sense, if regulations and procedures for the adoptions were speeded up and bureaucratic rules “whose actual application encourages corruption” were eliminated, there would be no justification for adoptions by same-sex couples.

Skorka goes on quoting Bible and Maimonides, looking for images that compare the relationship between God and men to the matrimonial relationship between a man and a woman, then he concludes: “A homosexual person loves somebody he knows, a fellow. It is easy for a man to know another man, on the contrary it is much more difficult to know a woman, because he needs to decode her. A man perfectly knows what another man feels, and a woman perfectly knows what happens in the body and in the mind of another woman. Discovering the other sex, instead, is a true challenge”.

Bergoglio ends up this way: “Usually, in the homily for a marriage I tell the groom he must make her more woman, and I tell the bride she must make him more man”.

Monsignor Juan Vicente Còrdoba and the adoptions by homosexual people

Here below you can read, translated into English, an article appeared on the Columbian newspaper “El Tiempo”. The article is titled: “Monsignor Juan Vicente Còrdoba thinks that entrusting two boys to a homosexual man was a mistake”. http://m.eltiempo.com/gente/iglesia-rechaza-adopcin-de-homosexuales/10913132

The secretary of the [Columbian] Episcopal Conference, Juan Vicente Còrdoba, a professional psychologist, questioned the adoption of two little brothers authorized by the Columbian Institute for Family Wellness (ICBF) to an American homosexual man. It’s the case of the journalist Chandler Burr, who has taken back with him the two brothers after a long dispute, consequent to the fact that the adoption had been suspended when his sexual orientation was known.

What do you think about this case?

“I don’t want to judge that man or the ICBF, and I imagine there was a good intention behind. But what kind of investigation was carried out on the personality of the future dad? You have to be sure the adopters are a couple, a man and a woman, or a single man or a single woman with a stable psychology, if you want to entrust a child to somebody”.

Is homosexuality a psychological problem?

“It is not an illness, but a gender identity disease, about the identification of the gender. This is what universal psychiatry says”. [Homosexuality objectively has nothing to do with diseases or with gender identity problems, as World Health Organization confirmed many times.]

What do you know about Chandler Burr?

“I don’t know him and I’m not accusing him of anything, but one thing is clear: he has a homosexual tendency and a ten-year old boy and a thirteen-year old boy will be entrusted to him, among them there is a father-son relationship, they entrust him two boys of an age in which they can be attractive for him and so they can be a temptation”.

Do the children risk something?

“One says: why not giving him two girls? Why right two boys to a homosexual man? He wouldn’t feel any attraction towards two girls, if heterosexual fathers abuse of their daughters and even of their sons, then there’s more to worry about a homosexual man. It would have been better to give the children a father and a mother”.

So a homosexual man can’t house an orphan?

“He can, but he has to be a person with an internalized ability of controlling his tendency, his drives, his passions. It’s very hard not to fall in temptation if somebody has diabetes and he lives in a candy shop”.

What is you proposal?

“I believe that things have been made in a hurry, but it is possible to invert the trial as there was a fundamental fact nobody knew. Thus, revising the trial and bringing it back to a previous phase is something absolutely necessary. It will be very difficult for this man to be impartial and give a pure and transparent affection. Colombia cannot supply its citizens to another country like if they were just goods”.

The Prosecutor’s office investigates Chandler Burr’s couple life. The control authority expressed a negative opinion on Burr’s case, “especially about the psychological valuation test, according to which there are some evident inconsistencies about the existence of relationships with same-sex people”.

The control authority confirmed its request to ICBF for obtaining the revision of the adoption requests by mono-parental families or singles and announced that the case will be followed and this proceeding of adoption will be contested.

The choices of the French Republic

On March 24, 2013, Gay Project published an article: GAY MARRIAGE IN FRANCE AND STATE SECULARITY

https://gayproject2.wordpress.com/2013/03/23/gay-marriage-in-france-and-state-secularity/

The French law has finally closed the phase of the double track: marriage only for heterosexuals and other forms of cohabitation also for homosexuals. Without giving any “definition of marriage” was adopted simply a new text of art. 143 of the Civil Code which now reads:

“Art 143 – Marriage is contracted by two persons of different or of the same sex.”

All contrary provisions must therefore be considered amended accordingly. So the secular France has honoured the principles of liberty, equality and fraternity.

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GAYS AND SEXUALITY EDUCATION

In recent days I have had the opportunity to carefully examine a very interesting document of the Regional Office for Europe of the World Health Organization (Federal Centre for Health Education), entitled STANDARDS FOR SEXUALITY EDUCATION IN EUROPE.

The document was published in 2010 and, after presenting an overview of sex education in Europe, defines the standards that should be followed for sexuality education as they went through the maturing of sex education activities already in operation in Europe and throughout the scientific contributions of the many disciplines involved.

Reading this document has led me to reflect on the enormous need for sexuality education and the response of public institutions, essentially nothing, at least in Italy. Sexuality education is effectively delegated to the peer group, religious institutions, and even now on a large scale, to pornography.

A serious sexuality education, built on the basis of information coming from specialists in various disciplines, independent from religious teachings and respecting sexual rights of people is one of the pillars for the improvement not only in the situation of homosexuals but for the increase in personal and collective well-being of all. I emphasize that sexuality education should be compulsory and independent from religious teachings, in the sense that parents should not be allowed for any reason to ask for exemption of children from participation in educational activities, because this would be a violation of the rights of children in the name of parents’ convictions.

Many young guys, gay guys and not only ,have got to experience the absolute lack of preparation of teachers in imparting a serious sex education and even the presence of prejudices and discriminatory attitudes. Contents of sexuality education are often conveyed through other disciplines on the basis of personal feelings of teachers and with no scientific basis, many have found that religion classes often result in areas of indirect sexuality education. A serious sexuality education could have a strong social impact, not only in reducing sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies and teenage bullying, but in improving the sexual and emotional relatedness of people in enabling them to make their own choices on the basis of objective scientific information, promoting an attitude of serenity toward sexual pleasure, to increase self-esteem and sense of responsibility. The fact that sexuality becomes, for groups of teenagers and sometimes also adults, an object of ridicule and jokes is a sign of immaturity in dealing with these issues.

The document to which I have referred, precisely because it is open to all, prepares a draft of a general nature.

This post is a concrete proposal. I invite you to read the document and report your past and present need for sex education. You can add a comment to this post or send a mail to gayproject@ymail.com

In particular, I invite you to report on:

1) the sexuality education you received and from what sources.

2) the sexuality education ay school.

3) what did you miss most in terms of sexual education.

Of course you can write what you think better even beyond these indications. I will try to summarize what gradually emerges from the discussion to define guidelines for sexuality education useful to non-heterosexual and to avoid discrimination.

The intention is to define standards for sexuality education related to non-straight people.

As a first contribution, I reproduce below the cap. 2 of the mentioned document, from which I extract three definitions that can be the basis for the next job.

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2. SEXUALITY. SEXUAL HEALTH AND SEXUALITY EDUCATION – DEFINITIONS AND CONCEPTS

The concepts of sex, sexuality, sexual health and rights, and directly related concepts are to some extent interpreted differently in different countries or cultures. If translated into other languages, they may again be understood differently. Some clarification of the way these concepts are used here is therefore needed.

In January 2002, the World Health Organization convened a technical consultation meeting as part of a more comprehensive initiative, which aimed at defining some of those concepts, because there were no internationally agreed definitions. This resulted in working definitions of the concepts of sex, sexuality, sexual health and sexual rights.

Although these definitions have not yet become official WHO definitions, they are available at the WHO website, and they are increasingly being used. In this document, they are likewise used as working definitions.

“Sex” refers to biological characteristics that define humans generally as female or male, although in ordinary language the word is often interpreted as referring to sexual activity.

“Sexuality” – as a broad concept, “sexuality” is defined in accordance with the WHO working definitions as follows:

“Human sexuality is a natural part of human development through every phase of life and includes physical, psychological and social components […]”.

A more comprehensive definition suggested by WHO reads as follows.

“Sexuality is a central aspect of being human throughout life and encompasses sex, gender identities and roles, sexual orientation, eroticism, pleasure, intimacy and reproduction. Sexuality is experienced and expressed in thoughts, fantasies, desires, beliefs, attitudes, values, behaviours, practices, roles and relationships. While sexuality can include all of these dimensions, not all of them are always experienced or expressed. Sexuality is influenced by the interaction of biological, psychological, social, economic, political, ethical, legal, historical, religious and spiritual factors.”

For a number of reasons, this definition is very useful. It stresses that sexuality is central to being human; it is not limited to certain age groups; it is closely related to gender; it includes various sexual orientations, and it is much wider than reproduction. It also makes clear that “sexuality” encompasses more than just behavioural elements and that it may vary strongly, depending on a wide variety of influences. The definition indirectly indicates that sexuality education should also be interpreted as covering a much wider and much more diverse area than “education on sexual behaviour”, for which it is unfortunately sometimes mistaken.

“Sexual health” was initially defined by WHO in a 1972 technical meeting, and reads as follows:

“Sexual health is the integration of the somatic, emotional, intellectual and social aspects of sexual being in ways that are positively enriching and that enhance personality, communication and love”.

Although this definition is rather outdated, it is still often used.

During the WHO technical consultation in 2002, a new draft definition of sexual health was agreed upon. This new 2002 draft definition reads:

“Sexual health is a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality; it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity. Sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence. For sexual health to be attained and maintained, the sexual rights of all persons must be respected, protected and fulfilled.”

This draft definition emphasizes not only the need for a positive approach, the essential aspect of pleasure, and the notion that sexual health encompasses not just physical, but also emotional, mental and social aspects. It also alerts the user to potentially negative elements, and for the first time it mentions the existence of “sexual rights” – two issues which were almost absent in the 1972 definition. Also, those potentially negative elements are not focused upon as is often the case in HIV and AIDS literature on the subject. In short, it is a balanced definition.

Sexual health is one of five core aspects of the WHO global Reproductive health strategy approved by the World Health Assembly in 2004. It should be stressed that WHO has, since the early 1950s, defined and approached “health” in a very broad and positive manner, referring to it as a “human potential” and not merely the absence of disease, and including not only physical, but also emotional, mental, social and other aspects. For these latter reasons, it is felt that the WHO definitions are acceptable and useful starting points for discussing sexuality education. Thus in this document the term “sexual health” is used, but this includes the meaning and notion of ”sexual well-being”. Sexual health is not only influenced by personal factors, but also by social and cultural ones.

Sexual rights – embracing especially the right to information and education. As mentioned before, the 2002 WHO meeting also came up with a draft definition of sexual rights, which reads as follows.

“Sexual rights embrace human rights that are already recognized in national laws, international human rights documents and other consensus statements. They include the right of all persons, free of coercion, discrimination and violence, to:

 the highest attainable standard of sexual health, including access to sexual and reproductive health care services;

 seek, receive and impart information related to sexuality;

 sexuality education;

 respect for bodily integrity;

 choose their partner;

 decide to be sexually active or not;

 consensual sexual relations;

 consensual marriage;

 decide whether or not, and when, to have children; and

 pursue a satisfying, safe and pleasurable sexual life.

The responsible exercise of human rights requires that all persons respect the rights of others.”

Although this is only a draft definition, it is used as a starting point in this document, because it is felt that the elements included here have a broad support base throughout Europe. Furthermore, it is important to note that in this definition the right to information and education is explicitly included.

A note of caution is needed here, however. Clearly, some of the rights mentioned have been conceived with adult persons as the point of reference. This means that not all of those rights are automatically applicable to children and adolescents. For example, it is clear that issues like consensual marriage or right to decide on childbearing do not yet apply to children or young adolescents.

The right of the child to information has also been acknowledged by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which was conceived in 1989 and has since been ratified by the vast majority of States. It clearly states the right to freedom of expression and the freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds (Article 13); Article 19 refers to States’ obligation to provide children with educational measures to protect them, inter alia, from sexual abuse.

__________

In summary, we can adopt the following definitions that conform to the recommendations of the World Health Organization:

DEFINITIONS OF KEY TERMS

“Sex” refers to biological characteristics that define humans generally as female or male, although in ordinary language the word is often interpreted as referring to sexual activity.

“Human sexuality is a natural part of human development through every phase of life and includes physical, psychological and social components […]”.

“Sexuality is a central aspect of being human throughout life and encompasses sex, gender identities and roles, sexual orientation, eroticism, pleasure, intimacy and reproduction. Sexuality is experienced and expressed in thoughts, fantasies, desires, beliefs, attitudes, values, behaviours, practices, roles and relationships. While sexuality can include all of these dimensions, not all of them are always experienced or expressed. Sexuality is influenced by the interaction of biological, psychological, social, economic, political, ethical, legal, historical, religious and spiritual factors.”

“Sexual health is the integration of the somatic, emotional, intellectual and social aspects of sexual being in ways that are positively enriching and that enhance personality, communication and love”.

“Sexual health is a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality; it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity. Sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence. For sexual health to be attained and maintained, the sexual rights of all persons must be respected, protected and fulfilled.”

“Sexual rights embrace human rights that are already recognized in national laws, international human rights documents and other consensus statements. They include the right of all persons, free of coercion, discrimination and violence, to:

the highest attainable standard of sexual health, including access to sexual and reproductive health care services;

 seek, receive and impart information related to sexuality;

 sexuality education;

 respect for bodily integrity;

 choose their partner;

 decide to be sexually active or not;

 consensual sexual relations;

 consensual marriage;

 decide whether or not, and when, to have children; and

 pursue a satisfying, safe and pleasurable sexual life.

The responsible exercise of human rights requires that all persons respect the rights of others.”

__________

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