Does the Catholic Church Need a Sexual Revolution?

Australian Bishop Geoffrey Robinson in 2008 (by Amy Elliott).
At the Seventh National Symposium on Catholicism and Homosexuality held in Baltimore on Friday, retired Australian Roman Catholic Bishop Geoffrey Robinson called for “a new study of everything to do with sexuality” — a kind of study that he predicted “would have a profound influence on church teaching concerning all sexual relationships, both heterosexual and homosexual.”

The National Catholic Reporter covered the event, quoting Bishop Robinson as saying, “If [church] teaching on homosexual acts is ever to change, the basic teaching governing all sexual acts must change.”

Robinson, a priest since 1960 and auxiliary bishop of Sydney from 1984 until his retirement in 2004, told the conference participants, sponsored by New Ways Ministry, that “because sex is so vital a way of expressing love, sex is always serious.”

In Bishop Robinson’s address Sexual Relationships: Where Does Our Morality Come From? he puts forth a thesis in three parts:

1. There is no possibility whatsoever of a change in the teaching of the Catholic Church on the subject of homosexual acts unless and until there is first a change in its teaching on heterosexual acts;
2. There is a serious need for change in the Church’s teaching on heterosexual acts;
3. If and when this change occurs, it will inevitably have its effect on teaching on homosexual acts.

And on the topic of same-sex marriage, Catholic priest Ceirion Gilbert, diocesan youth director in south Wales, wrote recently in The Tablet:

“I sense that once again, as so often on issues of sexual morality, that there is a gulf between the diktats of the institution and the “sensus fidelium”, that concept that seems to have almost disappeared in recent years for some reason from the ecclesiastical vocabulary. …

I welcome the debate on the meaning of marriage and its role and purpose in a liberal diverse society. But growing ever stronger in my mind is the fear that while as a Church we worry about language and words – Welsh or English or Latin; rock or plainsong; marriage or civil partnership – the message and meaning that we are here to proclaim is passing us by … .”

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