‘Several’ French Bishops Ask Pope to Reformulate Catholic Doctrine on Homosexuality

Following the request of an association of parents of homosexuals, these bishops expressed their wish to make the Church’s message on homosexuality ‘more audible.’

Archbishop Hervé Giraud of Sens-Auxerre
Archbishop Hervé Giraud of Sens-Auxerre (photo: Thomon / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0)

Some French bishops are “discreetly” rewriting the Catholic Church’s doctrine about homosexuality, according to a recent report by the daily newspaper La Croix, which refers to an internal movement within the local Church that wants to make “more audible” the way this topic is addressed. 

The March 3 La Croix article states that the initiative stems from the French bishops’ ad limina visit to Rome in September 2021, during which some of them questioned the then-president of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Luis Ladaria, and subsequently Pope Francis himself, about paragraphs in the Catechism of the Church that were deemed offensive by homosexual advocacy groups in the Church. 

These revelations were made to the Catholic newspaper by Archbishop Hervé Giraud of Sens-Auxerre after a Feb. 28 meeting with members of Reconnaissance, an association of Catholic parents of homosexuals. 

In March 2021, a few months before the ad limina visit, the members of Reconnaissance appealed to the bishops of France to question them about the “consideration of the dignity of their children” by the doctrine of the Catholic Church. They particularly objected to the paragraph of the Catechism that describes homosexual acts as “intrinsically disordered” (2357).

In their view, the Catechism, “published almost 30 years ago,” deals with this issue “in a few terse and confusing lines, which are of great violence to the people who read them for themselves or their loved ones.” 

“This is why a request to rewrite the paragraph dealing with this question, addressed to the competent authorities, seems necessary and urgent to us, particularly in view of the numerous and unprecedented contributions of the human sciences [over the last three decades],” they wrote. 

“On the doctrinal level,” the letter continued, “we need language appropriate to the reality of what we and our children are experiencing ... which opens paths of life instead of closing them by pushing young people to despair and parents to the rejection of what their children are.” 

The letter also asserted that the references to the Book of Leviticus in the Old Testament, or to St. Paul in the New Testament, are “inappropriate” because of the alleged lack of knowledge of the time about homosexuality, which was defined “as a sexual orientation that is imposed on the person” only in the 19th century.

On their website’s landing page, the members of the association claim that their letter found a sympathetic ear with several bishops, who responded in writing.

‘Update’ of the French Bishops’ Website

If true, this would explain the subsequent request made to the Pope in 2021, who, according to La Croix, invited the bishops to propose a new formulation of the paragraphs of the CCC dealing with homosexuality (2357-2359). However, according to Vatican sources quoted in the article, their proposal has little chance of success, because this question concerns the sexual morality of the Church as a whole.

In the meantime, the Bishops’ Conference of France, through its Family and Society Council, mandated that theologians update the sections on their website that deal with these questions in order to make them consistent with “today’s questions.” 

These theologians are being assisted in their writing by homosexual people and advocacy groups, including Reconnaissance. “A genuine dialogue has now been established and synodality is gradually being put in place,” the members of the association noted on their website.

‘Fighting Homophobia’

For his part, Archbishop Giraud published an opinion column ahead of his meeting with the association in February, calling for a change of perspective on homosexuality. Referring to Pope Francis’ various writings, the prelate invited to “abandon all temptation to judge, to replace it with an attitude of listening to people as they are without reducing them to what they do.”

The term “homophobia” is also mentioned four times in the article. Coined by American psychologist George Weinberg in the 1960s to describe the psychological aversion to homosexuality, this concept was expanded and popularized by gay and lesbian activists in the 1970s and 1980s.

“At a time when some countries are tightening their legislation [on homosexuality] … before any other consideration, it is necessary to fight against homophobia. Like all forms of hatred, it destroys and sows evil,” he wrote. “It is urgent to speak about it simply... like [Pope] Francis.”

In 2021, Archbishop Giraud told the daily newspaper Le Monde that he had received a huge number of virulent emails from Catholics for failing to sanction a famous priest of his Sens-Auxerre diocese, Father Matthieu Jasseron, who affirmed in a video on his TikTok channel (which quickly exceeded 1 million views) that homosexual acts were not sinful.

“It is not marked anywhere, neither in the Bible nor in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, that is to say the whole of the tradition, that to be homosexual or to practice homosexuality is a sin,” Father Jasseron had declared. 

In a statement in response to the outcry caused by these remarks, which are in open rupture with the doctrine of the Catholic Church, Bishop Giraud limited himself to recalling that Father Jasseron expressed himself on TikTok “in a personal capacity,” and “without having received this particular mission.” 

“It is important that his interventions be able to benefit from a wider range of expertise to be able to engage the Church,” the archbishop wrote.

Discussing the controversy on the French talk show Quelle Époque! in September 2022, Father Jasseron claimed to have received no call for correction from his superiors following his video.