A Catholic archbishop’s call for religion to stop getting so hung up on sex – in 1966

One Mag Vol 14 Issue 11

Magazine cover courtesy of ONE Archives Foundation

In honor of LGBTQ History Month, we’re taking a deep dive look-back at the first gay publication in America—ONE magazine. Launched in Los Angeles in 1953, ONE was published by One, Inc., which grew from The Mattachine Society, the seminal gay-rights group founded by Harry Hay. Its editorial founders were Martin Block, Don Slater, and Dale Jennings. Produced on a shoestring and sold for 25 cents, ONE began to change the course of history with an unapologetic exploration of homosexuality and the largely unexamined societal taboo against it. 

This is the eighth in our series of ONE magazine cover stories.

Volume 14, Issue 11: What Is Religion?

It’s not so surprising that the first gay publication should explore the topic of religion: After all, where does homophobia originate if not in the pages of the Old Testament and the pews of so many churches to this day?

What’s surprising is that a Catholic Archbishop — Rev. Geoffrey Peter Thomas Paget King (an archbishop-sounding name if there ever was one) should participate in the conversation, and issue a call for inclusion way back in 1966.

Paget King’s essay, “The Church and the Homosexual,” outlines what many of us have since come to understand about the biblical injunction against same-sex relations: It was written in a time when the Jewish nation desperately needed to bolster its numbers, a time of sexual chaos in general. Thus, any act of non-procreative sex was frowned on. Paget King freely admits his own church’s mistakes through the millennia, and candidly admits the hypocritical thrust of its obsession with sex:

By now the religious leaders were going to war with their brethren, amassing wealth, claiming usury, and generally committing most of the sins condemned by Christ. Lest their followers should criticize them for this, it was essential to divert their attention from these things by fulminating against their sins — and from then on any sexual sin was utterly condemned; sexual sins, in fact, became almost the only sins.

Paget King thinks anger, hatred, and malice are much more serious “sins” than the sexual variety, yet he goes on to make a supremely rational argument that relations between two consenting, same-sex adults, when done with love, should be much less of an issue for the church than heterosexual adultery, or even masturbation(!). He’s making a point, and it was a revolutionary one in 1966. Gay people exist. Quite a few of them want to come to church. They should come, and be welcome with love, just like all the other “sinners.”

Now, a good half dozen mainline Protestant denominations not only accept LGBTQ parishioners — they ordain them. That number can only grow. One day, even Paget King’s strict Catholic Church will have no choice but to follow along.

Thanks to ONE Archives Foundation for making this series possible. ONE Archives Foundation provides access to original source material at the ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives at the University of Southern California Libraries—the largest such collection in the world.