Homoseksualiteit in katholiek Nederland: Een sociale geschiedenis 1900-1970

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This sociohistorical study is about the way in which homosexuality became an object for pastoral, medical and mental health care and was dealt with as a moral as well as a health problem in the Dutch catholic community. The confrontation between a moral-religious approach and the professional (medical and psychological) treatment of homosexuality is the central issue. Using several sources, among others a collection of 166 files of a catholic institution for mental health care, the historical development of catholic attitudes on and changing definitions of homosexuality in the 20th century has been analysed. Homosexuality was transformed from a concept of sin and pathology into a mental health and social problem, during a continuing dialogue and a process of changing power relations between priests, pastoral theologians, physicians, psychiatrists, psychologists and pedagogues as well as catholic homosexuals themselves.
In the first half of this century, catholic priests and psychiatrists continually referred to the immoral behaviour of various people. From the 1930's onwards, by using terminology such as 'psychopathology', 'psychological deficiency' and 'fateful destiny', the moral approach was confronted by the idea that homosexuality manifested a condition of a fixed minority that was successively organic, psychosomatic, psychological and social in nature and that was to be differentiated from the condition of heterosexuals. Around 1960 attention shifted to homosexual relationships which were not perceived as a relationship on its own terrain, but rather were to be judged according to the same standards as marriage. While in the 1930's and 1940's most Catholics still denounced homosexuality as a sin, a crime and an illness, at the end of the 1950's and the beginning of the 1960's some leading clergymen and psychiatrists stood in the forefront to give support to homosexuals by accepting their orientation and promoting stable, lasting friendships. Promoting a notion of homosexuality that had an admixture of religious as well as psychological connotations, some catholic priests and professionals have contributed to the integration of homosexuals into Dutch society.
The changing attitudes of Catholics towards homosexuality can be explained to a large extent by the chan¬ging relations between religion on the one hand and medical and mental health care on the other hand. Current viewpoints resulting from socio-histori¬cal studies on the development of the medical and welfare profes¬sions have concluded that reli¬gion lost impor¬tance in this century because physicians, psychiatrists, psycho-therapists and social workers not only created new areas of intervention in people's private lives, but also took over the traditional tasks of the church in the field of charity and pastoral care. According to Foucault and others medical anamnesis, psychoana¬lysis and psychotherapy took the place of confession and pastoral care, and remission of sins and redemption were replaced by health and welfare. However, especially in the case of the development of the Dutch welfare state, there was a more complicated interplay between changing religious values and professional strategies. Religious grounds had a large impact on the way professional health care and welfare institutions were organi¬zed and it is difficult to make a clear differentiation between religious and moral discourses on the one hand and medical and psychological ones on the other hand. Moreover, medical and psychological inter¬ventions did not take the place of pastoral care; it appe¬ars that pastoral care for homosexuals gained ground and was intensified after medical and psycholo¬gical definiti¬ons of homosexuality had found acceptance in the catholic community. Professional medical and psychological strategies did not supersede religion, but rather contributed to a moral re-orientation and a new pattern of Christian values and appreci¬ations in the field of sexuality.
Original languageDutch
Place of PublicationAmsterdam
ISBN (Print)9062222250
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1992

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