With all the craziness in the Canadian Church in the last couple weeks, perhaps the news about the homosexual altar server who has been barred from serving at Mass has not made many headlines south of the border. The gist of the story is this: Jim Corcoran served his parish in Ontario as an altar server. A group of a dozen parishioners complained to the bishop and had him removed from this position due to the fact that he is in a committed relationship with another man.
Now, while this might be controversial to those (both inside and outside the Church) who disagree with Church teaching on homosexuality in general, to those who support Church teaching in this area the case seems cut and dried. A man living in manifest contradiction to the teaching of the Church is removed from a public position to avoid scandal.
But there’s a catch. Corcoran claims, and I have no reason to suspect him of lying, that he supports Church teaching on homosexuality and is living in a chaste relationship. And, by “chaste,” he doesn’t just mean faithful to one partner. He means that the relationship is not sexual in nature.
This, to me, is extremely interesting. I think that in the standard discourse we are basically given to believe that this sort of arrangement is impossible.
When someone wants to challenge the teaching of the Church on the issue of homosexuality they will often ask me, “What would you do if your son or daughter was gay?” I have to admit that, when this question is posed to me, the idea of a committed but chaste relationship has entered my mind.I have my own nascent ideas about this, but I have seen absolutely nothing written about this possibility from the perspective of Catholic ethics. So, my question is twofold. First, and rather less interestingly, “Do you know of any works that treat of this question?” and second, and very interestingly, “What do you think about this possibility?”
[I want to indicate right at the start that I am not interested in debating the Church’s position on homosexuality and homosexual acts in this thread. This can be a nightmare, and one that will distract us from what I think is a very important question. It is not that I think that such discussion should never be had, but simply that I will not allow it to happen here. I do not want us to get distracted from the issue I have flagged here: presuming the position of the Church on homosexuality and homosexual acts is correct, what do Catholics think of the idea of chaste homosexual relationships?]
Brett Salkeld is a doctoral student in theology at Regis College in Toronto. He is a father of two (so far) and husband of one.