(CNSNews.com) – A Catholic priest who works with a group that advocates "full equality" of homosexuals would not say whether he agrees with the Catholic Church’s teaching on homosexuality.
Equally Blessed, which describes itself as “a coalition of faithful Catholics who support full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people both in the church and in civil society,” held a Mar. 30 briefing on Capitol Hill.
At that briefing, the group focused on recent polls showing increased tolerance by Catholic parishioners for homosexuals and their behavior, including issues such as gays adopting children and same-sex marriage.
Rev. Bryan Massingale, a priest with the archdiocese of Milwaukee and an associate professor of moral theology at Marquette University, a Catholic institution, and Sr. Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK, a national Catholic social justice lobby, spoke at the briefing.
CNSNews.com asked Rev. Massingale, “Section 2357 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church says that ‘homosexual acts are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.’ That’s a quote. So, from your presence here today, is it safe to say that both of you disagree with this portion of Catholic law?”
Rev. Massingale said, “First, we have to become clear about, that it’s not Catholic law, it’s a Catholic teaching. It’s a distinction and a difference there. So let’s phrase your question more precisely –” at which point CNSNews.com asked, “Do you disagree with Catholic teaching on that?”
Rev. Massingale then said, “I would be much more nuanced instead of saying agree or not because I think the issue before us right now as Congress, or as a body, is this: Regardless of human behavior, what is our stance regarding the protection of fundamental human dignity? -- which is the reason why I phrased my intervention the way I did.”
“If we look at the numbers that were just given, that 64 percent of Catholics who attend Mass weekly or more, favor some form of recognition of same-sex relationships of some kind,” said Rev. Massingale. “It says to me that they’re not necessarily saying that they’re approving of conduct. I think that for a Congress is -- to get into the issue of conduct or not, that’s an issue for intra-Catholic debate and reform. But I think the issue before us as a nation is how do we ensure the protection of human rights regardless of behavior?”
“So, for example, I as a Catholic can say that I disagree profoundly with murder,” said Rev. Massingale. “However, I also still want to be in favor of the fair treatment of felons. So I think that regardless of one’s stance on behavior -- and that is the discussion that’s going on in church, indeed to enter into Congress’ purview. I think that the fundamental thing that I want to emphasize is the need to respect the human dignity of people regardless of our moral judgments on behavior.”
When asked by a moderator if she wanted to add anything to Rev. Massingale’s remarks, Sr. Campbell said, “Amen. I’m a civil lawyer but church teaching certainly speaks to my heart, that it’s about the protection of rights, separation of behavior.”
Further inquiries by e-mail from CNSNews.com to Rev. Massingale to clarify clearly whether he agrees with the Catechism's teaching on homosexual behavior, were not answered.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church is the official text of the entire theological and moral teachings of the Catholic Church. The event with Equally Blessed was sponsored by Rep. Loretta Sanchez (R-Calif.), Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Mike Doyle(D-Penn.), all three of whom are Catholics.
In a Sept. 21, 2006 commentary published in the Catholic Herald, Rev. Massingale argued for voting against a measure to amend the Wisconsin constitution to define marriage as the union between one man and one woman because the amendment also stated that “a legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized in this state.”
Massingale said he thought the latter point could endanger health care benefits for people in unmarried households. “Voting ‘yes,’ on the marriage amendment,” wrote Massingale, “risks harming children and families. Therefore, voting ‘no’ on the marriage amendment, in my judgment, is the best way to respect all of our Catholic beliefs and values.”
The archdiocese of Milwaukee is headed by Archbishop Jerome Listecki, who was appointed to that position in 2009, replacing Arbp. Timothy Dolan, the current archbishop of New York.