The Corner

Kinder, Gentler Cardinal

Cardinal Gustaaf Joos of Belgium made a comment to a weekly magazine

that will probably get an intense negative reaction: “Of all those who call themselves lesbian or gay, a maximum of five to 10 percent are effectively lesbian or gay . . . All the rest are just sexual perverts.” The use of the harsh word “perverts” will offend people who have no moral objection to homosexuality, and also those who might have a moral objection to it but believe it should nonetheless be considered normalized by society. But there are couple of other things about Cardinal Joos’s comment that deserve attention. First, it is effectively a softening of the Catholic doctrine on homosexuality, because it implies a moral distinction between “authentically” gay people and libertine dabblers; not all, evidently, are equally “disordered.” (Whether it’s a good idea to define people by their sexual preferences, “authentic” or not, is another question; I personally believe this is harmful, a symptom of the oversexualization of our society.) Second, Joos went on to say some important things that will be predictably be ignored by activists and journalists: “If [gays] make a mistake they will be forgiven. We have to help these people and not judge them. . . . The Church . . . rejects homosexuality, not the homosexual.” How literally the Biblical prohibition against homosexual behavior is to be taken remains a debated question; but Joos’s comments underline the broader Christian mandate–for forgiveness, charity, and nonjudgmentalism. These values may not always be politically correct, but they are undeniably Biblical.