January 20, 2011
The Gazette’s editorial board is 100 percent in favor of gay rights. This column has repeatedly defended the rights of same-sex couples to wed, and to take advantage of all benefits extended to heterosexual couples. That’s because The Gazette’s limited-government philosophy holds that rights are endowed upon individuals by a creator, not by government authority. If emancipated adults choose to wed, it should be up to the individuals involved. Government should never have the power to interfere in such personal decisions.
The Gazette neither condones nor condemns same-sex couples or other relationships. It’s about making certain that individuals have more rights and authority than government. If they don’t, guillotines will rule the day.
Just as strongly as The Gazette supports the rights of same-sex couples, it supports the rights of religious organizations to denounce same-sex sexual activity, or even same-sex attraction, as sinful.
Most religious organizations consider same-sex sexual relations to be sinful, and some consider mere attraction a sin. In some Muslim countries, same-sex couples are punished by death.
But this is the United States, where religious organizations have no authority that isn’t granted by individuals who choose to obey. When the Catholic Diocese of Colorado Springs calls same-sex sexual relations sinful, it merely espouses a belief that any listener is free to embrace or dismiss. The church may not punish those who disobey, beyond denying them sacraments that should have no value to anyone who disrespects the church. The only right that must be defended in that circumstance is the right of Catholic officials to declare homosexual relations, or other human activity, as sinful.
The church has a right to make declarations of sin that fly in the face of conventional contemporary behavior. In less liberated countries, the church would have no such right. Here, it’s a right that men and women have given their lives to defend.
The issue arose this month when the diocese announced a new 12-step program that offers pastoral care and support for people with same-sex attractions. The church has long welcomed gays, lesbians and transgendered people into its pews, its choirs and its ministries, while telling them they sin by engaging in same-sex sexual relations.
Attraction is OK by church standards; sex is not. It’s no different than the message they give to unmarried heterosexuals, who are told that sex outside of marriage is sinful.
The 12-step program and the message of sin is predictably insulting to a lot of people, Catholic and otherwise. Many consider it unnatural to deny themselves sexual relations in situations involving mutual attraction and love.
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“It restricts people’s freedom to be the kind of person they were created to be,” said Jim Fitzgerald, executive director of the progressive Call to Action Catholic organization, in an interview with Gazette religion reporter Mark Barna.
Fitzgerald is wrong about that. The Catholic hierarchy’s view on homosexual activity has absolutely no bearing whatsoever on any person’s “freedom” to live as he or she chooses.
Fitzgerald’s concern would have merit if emancipated citizens had some legal obligation to belong to a church. In this country, no adult must belong to the Catholic church or any church at all. The First Amendment protects our right to take or leave religion.
Even among those who choose to belong to the Catholic church, an alarming number openly defy its moral teachings regarding contraception, premarital sex and the need to confess all sins.
If we are to respect and protect rights in this free country, we must never confuse rights with religious disciplines. Churches give us moral guidance. Rights allow us to follow that advice or denounce it. The founders called it freedom. It was created by God, who called it free will.