Religion and non-normative sexuality / Religia i nienormatywnosc seksualna/plciowa: dyskursywne sploty

March 29, 2018

The fifth public seminar organized by the Polish CRUSEV team was held at the University of Warsaw on Wednesday, March 7, 2018. Our guest was Dr. Dorota Hall.

Dorota Hall discussed her extended study of LGBT Christians, encompassing an ethnographic study of a church-based Wiara i Tecza (Faith and Rainbow) group, interviews with members of the group and with other LGBT Christians, and an analysis of public discourse, including some teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. Although she spoke about Christians of different denominations, Roman Catholics are by far the most numerous in Poland and most of her subjects were Roman Catholic. Moreover, most Protestant churches in Poland have avoided addressing LGBT issues, falling in line with the country’s deep-seated conservatism without offering a clear alternative to religiously inclined LGBT subjects.

Hall argued that during the 1970s the Roman Catholic Church in Poland was relatively silent on the issue of homosexuality and almost entirely silent on bisexuality and transgenderism despite pastoral documents such as Persona Humana (1975). While many LGBT subjects may have internalized the proscription of same-sex activities and desires, these points were rarely addressed in sermons or in other public contexts. The 1970s and the early 1980s thus saw an erasure of homosexuality from the Church’s preaching in a way that reflected a larger erasure of homosexuality in other areas of public discourse.

The silence began to lift with the arrival of HIV/AIDS and of more outspoken LGBT politics. Brochures warning boys about being seduced by older men were circulated in some parishes in the late 1980s. But a more radical shift occurred only post-2000, as Poland was preparing for EU accession, when the perceived threat of LGBT rights being recognized proved deeply polarizing. In 2002, the Roman Catholic Church in Poland went through its first public sexual scandal with Juliusz Paetz, the archbishop of Poznan, being accused of molesting some young clerics. Homosexuality was thus out of the closet also within the Church.

Hall addressed some ways in which the pastoral care of LGBT Christians overlapped with reparative therapy advocated by some would-be progressive Catholics. Despite the method’s discredited premises and doubtful effectiveness, these forms of therapy may have helped some queer subjects recognize and address their sexuality, especially as other forms of therapy were not available to them.