On February 13, 2016, the Rev. Vincent Pizzuto, Associate Professor of New Testament Studies at the University of San Fracisco, Episcopal priest, and founder and vicar of New Skellig Christian Community, will speak at Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in the Castro District of San Francisco. Pizzuto, who is openly “gay,” was raised a Roman Catholic, but left the Church over his disagreement with Magisterial teachings on homosexuality; Pizzuto is honest about his current aims: he recently described efforts to change the Church’s teachings as a “battle very much under way” and said that “the Bible, as we understand it really does not address current issues…what we need to change is not so much the scriptures, which of course we cannot change, but the interpretation that has been given to them.” Over the years, Pizzuto has presided at same-sex weddings, and his published works —including “God Has Made it Plain to Them: An Indictment of Rome’s Hermeneutic of Homophobia,” in the Winter 2008 edition of Biblical Theology Bulletin—is explicitly critical of Catholic teachings. In a discussion, “Is it Ethical to be Catholic? – Queer Perspectives,” given at Most Holy Redeemer Church in San Francisco in 2006, Pizzuto said that ethical questions have “driven faithful Catholics beyond the confines of the Roman church where they might more faithfully live out their catholic faith elsewhere. And I count myself among them.” He continued: “On this at least (homosexuality) the teaching authority of the Church is given no credence by so many gay men and lesbians because it does not demonstrate its own credibility. To the contrary, its teachings on homosexuality are so disengaged from reality as to render them utterly ridiculous.”
According to his Church’s web-site, under the header – The Celtic Christian Church/Supporting Document on Homosexuality, Pizzutio writes:
- “…taking a stand on the issue of homosexuality is not just about who we are as a church, rooted solidly in past Tradition, but moreover, how we are also called to break with entrenched prejudices and oppressive structures in Christian ‘traditionalism,’ in order to put an end to an unjust and unsupportable discrimination.
“It is impossible to separate an acceptance and validation of an individual homosexual person from an acceptance and validation of their primary relationships.
- “Once again, therefore, the text betrays the idea that that for a man to engage in homosexual activity, he is being denigrated to the socially inferior status of a woman…Again, the entrenched patriarchalism found within much of our biblical literature must be recognized here, and contextualized historically-critically. In doing so, we are better able to clarify that a hermeneutic which embraces the ‘normativity of the future,’ relies on the very ethical demand of the Scriptures to call us beyond the social-historical limitations which they, themselves, contain.”
- “…having rejected the reason for which homogenital acts were condemned in the OT Holiness Code (i.e., ritual purity), it stands to reason that if the issue of homosexuality were of particular concern to Jesus or the primitive church, we should expect to find in the gospels either an alternative reason for condemning homosexuality, or an attempt to demonstrate why these acts are wrong in themselves. Neither is the case.”
- “…on the question of the ethical implications of homosexual relationships in the contemporary church, Paul’s statements in Rom 1:26-27 are inconclusive because the cultural assumptions upon which he bases them have been proven false. Like so many other instances where cultural trappings and historical limitations have been weaved into our Sacred Scriptures, proper exegesis of any given text demands that we critically discern that which is divinely inspired and therefore, universally true, as opposed to that which is a product of human shortsightedness, and therefore subject to ‘the law of diminishing relevancy.’”
- “The recognition of the nature of ‘sexual orientation,’ arrived at through modern sciences, confirms the falsity of these ancient cultural presumptions hinted at within this passage, and conversely, suggests a surprising affirmation for the homosexual community. Namely, that homosexuals are ethically bound not to act contrary to their nature as homosexuals. Or, to state this more positively, the ethics of homosexuality begins with an honest recognition, admission and integration of one’s God-given homosexual orientation, and results in a life lived in gratitude for, and loving expression of one’s sexuality.”
- “By way of conclusion then, we note several points, implied by the exegetical analysis in this document:” Homosexuality as a perceived “orientation” is only recently understood and is, thus part of the historical limitations of the world behind the biblical text.
It is essential to stress that the Bible offers no condemnation of homosexuality expressed within loving, committed unions. We need not look very far into Scripture to find affirmations of love, faithfulness, and community which all speak to the reality toward which Christian same-sex couples attempt to strive. It is part of the historical limitations of the world behind the biblical text that is responsible for the lack of understanding of a sexual “orientation,” and thus, sexual condemnation in the Bible never involves two people expressing a mutual bond of love. However, we do find condemnation of rape, sexual abuse and exploitation, idolatry, hypocrisy, and oppression; all of which are clearly contrary to the Christian gospel and none of which have any relation to loving, committed relationships. We must, therefore, never allow any Church teaching to reduce gay relationships to matters of sexuality apart from the context of love. It is not sex, but love that most centrally defines the Christian homosexual union.
To continue to ignore advances in human sciences regarding human sexuality inevitably results in an inadequate interpretation of references to homosexuality in the Bible, which in view of modern science can only be seen as two-dimensional, inadequate and ultimately oppressive.
In many areas of faith and morals the world projected by the Bible (i.e., The Kingdom of God), demands that we surpass its own historical limitations in working toward the Kingdom of God. This is not unique to the question of homosexuality, but rather places this issue in line with a host of others that have already been recognized (i.e., patriarchy, sexism, anti-Semitism, slavery, etc).
Excerpts from the “Statement of the Celtic Christian Church on Homosexuality and Same-Sex Relationships:”
- “…the prohibitions against male, same-sex relations are not moral or ethical in nature, but rather religious and cultural. The references to them as ‘abominations,’ then, have nothing to do with the sexual acts in themselves, but rather with their specific religious context within ancient Israelite culture, as acts of ritual impurity.
- “…it stands to reason that if the issue of homosexuality were of particular concern to Jesus or the primitive church, we should expect to find in the Gospels either an alternative reason for condemning it, or an attempt to demonstrate why these acts are wrong in themselves. Neither is the case. However, there are New Testament texts outside of the Gospels which are relevant to this issue, and these must be addressed in their own historical and cultural context if they are to be properly understood and interpreted for the contemporary church.”
- “To ignore the advances in the human sciences regarding human sexuality inevitably results in an inadequate, and ultimately oppressive, interpretation of the references to homosexuality in the Bible. This is not unique to the question of homosexuality. A host of other practices, such as patriarchy, sexism, anti-Semitism, slavery, and so on, have been defended by means of biblical texts.
- “During the Middle Ages, throughout the Christian world and particularly in Europe, there were Christian ceremonies solemnizing same-sex unions. These were at first only sets of prayers, but by the time of the much fuller development of liturgical marriage ceremonies in the twelfth century, they had become a complete office which included, among other elements, the lighting of candles, the placing of both persons’ hands on the Gospel, the joining of their right hands (the basic symbol of marriage in Antiquity and in the Middle Ages), the Lord’s Prayer, Eucharistic communion, and a kiss. These were ceremonies of personal commitment, and they were religious ceremonies, expressing a commitment that was blessed by a priest.”
- “…the Celtic Christian Church relates to homosexual persons in the following ways…Homosexual persons need and want intimate human relationships, as do heterosexuals. It is though such relationships, as described above, that human persons reach the full development of their personality. Such relationships between homosexual persons are to be honored and supported, and the Church’s ministry is present to help them become and be life-giving. If a homosexual couple wishes to make a public commitment to each other, the Church blesses such a desire and celebrates it by means of a marriage ceremony presided over by one of its clergypersons. Since the Celtic Christian Church is a fully sacramental church, such a marriage is a sacrament.”
To contact the Archdiocese of San Francisco about the Reverend Pizzuto being given a teaching forum in a Catholic parish: Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, 415-614-5500.