The official teaching of the pope and the bishops still stands: gay sexual relations are wrong. As a Catholic you should be following this teaching and not supporting gay marriage.
One way to respond to this type of statement is to highlight the following four aspects of Catholic tradition:
(i) The Primacy of Conscience. The current pope, then Cardinal Ratzinger, said that “conscience is the highest norm which [we] must follow even in opposition to authority.” [7] The Church also teaches that our consciences must be “well-formed,” i.e., formed by the Church. But we should not limit “the Church” to the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church. In its broadest and most catholic sense, the Church is the entire people of God, the whole Body of Christ. Thus in forming our consciences we should not just be open to the teachings of the Magisterium (the official teaching body of the Church) but also to the insights of theologians and the experiences of the entire people of God – known as the sensus fidelium, or, the sense of the faithful. In fact, in Catholicism, all three – the hierarchy, the theologians, and the wisdom of the laity – are recognized as the Church’s authentic sources of truth. They are the three “magisteria.” When one considers what Catholic theologians and the Catholic people are thinking and saying about the issue of homosexuality and same-sex relationships, at the very least we have to acknowledge the possibility that Vatican teaching on this issue may not actually be the Catholic teaching. An excellent example of a more recent change based on the sense of the faithful is the fact that the vast majority of married Catholics are practicing birth control in spite of the official teaching of the hierarchy. This teaching does not make good sense to the Catholic people as it does not fit with their lived experience.
(ii) The Evolving Nature of Church Teaching. The difference between what the Vatican says and what the wider Church is saying (and doing) is a clear sign that this particular issue is not yet settled. As a church, we are still grappling with this aspect of human reality. That’s okay, as it’s a sign of a living, growing church. This is how we, as a church, have always dealt with moral issues, such as the role of women in the Church, the charging of interest on loans, slavery, our relationship with other religions, etc. We have seen major changes in our understanding of these issues. Our understanding of homosexuality is also changing as we acknowledge and take into consideration the findings of science and people’s lived experience – all valid sources for theological reflection and the ongoing development of church teaching.

Related to this is the need to be aware that the “official” teaching of the Church on same-sex relationships is built on what is called “natural law.” In other Christian denominations, this particular argument against gay people and same-sex marriage is termed the “basic biology” argument. The natural law theory goes back to Thomas Aquinas and is based on the Stoic idea that everything has a proper and final purpose or “end” (telos). Official Roman Catholic teaching says that the proper (and final) purpose of sex is biological procreation. Because gay sex, masturbation and contraceptive sex are not “open” to this one and final purpose of sex, they are viewed as morally wrong. The problem for contemporary people with regards to the issue f homosexuality is threefold: 1) Unlike Aquinas and his Stoic predecessors, we readily accommodate into our thinking about sexuality the reality and the experiences of gay people. 2) We also consider, unlike Aquinas, that human sexual behavior – both straight and gay – can be morally justified as an expression of human love. In other words, homosexuality like heterosexuality is morally neutral. It’s what you do with your homosexuality or your heterosexuality that determines morality. 3) People today – including Catholics – know that sex serves more than one final “end.”

As Catholic theologian Daniel Helminiak notes:
To be sure, procreation is an inherent aspect of sexuality. But there is more to sex than that, especially when we look at sex in human beings. Procreation is an animal function. In humans sex is taken up into a new array of purposes. Human sex involves emotional bonding and the dreams and promises of lovers. That is to say, beyond the physical, human sex also involves the psychological and the spiritual... The trend of sex is toward higher things. And since the spiritual dimension of human sexual sharing is the highest and most significant, it is what determines the unique nature of human sexuality, so it is what must be preserved in every case. Not procreation, but genuine care and loving are the non-negotiables of human sex. [8]
(iii) The Relationship Between Theology and Science. The church has always held that theology is not in opposition to the sciences but that good theology must be based on good science. Because of this tenet of Catholic culture and practice, faulty teachings relating to the nature of the solar system (for which Galileo was called a heretic and imprisoned) and the role of the female ovum in reproduction, have been changed and aligned with scientific knowledge. With regards to the issue of homosexuality, such alignment with the insights of science is taking place among theologians and the Catholic people. It is yet to occur, however, at the official level of the Church.
(iv) The Catholic Teaching of Probabilism. This teaching holds that when there are good reasons and good authorities on both sides of a debate on a moral issue (in this case, homosexuality and same-sex unions), Catholics are free to make up their own minds. The magisterium of the Catholic hierarchy notwithstanding, there is debate among theologians and the faithful, the sensus fidelium, on the issue of homosexual unions.
Catholics supportive of loving gay relationships do not believe that homosexual sex is in itself a sin. We believe heterosexism (prejudice against people who are homosexual) is a sin. As Catholic theologian Maguire, Daniel says, “It is a serious sin because it violates justice, truth, and love. It also distorts the true meaning of sex and thus also harms everyone, including heterosexuals.” [9]
7 Ratzinger, J. “Conscience and Truth,” a presentation at the 10th Workshop for Bishops, February 1991, Dallas, Texas.
8 Helminiak, Daniel. Excerpted from “A New Way of Envisioning Wholeness: A Conversation with Daniel Helminiak” by Michael J. Bayly. Rainbow Spirit, Spring 2006.
9 Maguire, Daniel. A Catholic Defense of Same-Sex Marriage.
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