A Catholic Conversation about Homosexuality
Please note: On November 13, 2008 Seton held a forum, "A Faith Journey to Acceptance and Inclusion", which generated many questions about gay and lesbian people, their relationships to the Catholic Church, and more. As promised, the questions are answered here.
1. Where can gays and lesbians go for counseling at our parish?
Responses to Questions Posed on November 13, 2008.
2. How should I respond when someone cites the scriptural reference in Genesis 19 in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah as the basis for condemning homosexuality?
- Pastoral Counseling and Spiritual Direction are available to anyone who contacts the parish office at 972-596-5505. You can also request to speak to one of our priests. You will be directed to the appropriate resources within our faith community.
3. How should I respond to persons within the Seton community who are adamant that the Catholic Church does not accept gays and lesbians as parishioners?
- Many contemporary scriptural scholars interpret that passage as an offense against the sacred duty of hospitality. Within the Jewish tradition, the duties of hosts and guests are clearly spelled out, and Lot was clearly ready to risk his life and the honor of his daughters rather than transgress the laws of hospitality. It is important to remember that the Bible should be read within the context of its historical and cultural background.
- Discussions about biblical injunctions against homosexuality should include the church’s teachings found in our Catechism and the Bishops’ Letter ‘Always Our Children’ where Catholic Christians are challenged to accept the same moral principles for both homosexual and heterosexual persons.
4. What can we do as a parish to enable gays to feel more welcome?
- That is a false statement. The Catholic Church teaches that “homosexual persons must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity”.
- Our faith community at Seton includes gay and lesbian parishioners, their families, and their co-workers. Our parishioners include people of all ages, ethnicities, colors, etc. We do not ask those who are called to become a member of Seton to fit any profile. We do believe, and practice “all are welcome”.
- It is also important to remember that every sign of discrimination must be avoided. Homosexual persons are also called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s cross.
- The Bishops also remind us that we are not to impose harsher sexual moral scrutiny and standards for homosexual church members than other groups in the parish, diocese, or Church.
5. Is homosexuality a sin? What about homosexual orientation?
- Whatever we do to welcome straight parishioners is also the appropriate response for homosexuals. We are an open, welcoming, and hospitable community for persons who are straight, and those characteristics that define us as a faith community also apply to homosexual persons.
- Our faith community continues to strive to be one that expresses its commitment to hospitality as we welcome all who desire to grow in their faith and participate in the life of the parish. We seek to “respond to the spiritual, educational, physical and social needs of the parish family members “ (from our Mission Statement).
- We also encourage parishioners to be sensitive to explicit or implicit ‘gay bashing’ which should never be tolerated in any context, much less within our faith community. Our bishops have called on us to ‘confront our own fears about homosexuality and to curb the humor and discrimination that offend homosexual persons’.
- The Bishops’ Letter “Always Our Children” states: “Church teaching acknowledges a distinction between a homosexual ‘tendency,’ which proves to be ‘transitory,’ and ‘homosexuals who are definitively such because of some kind of innate instinct.’
- Generally, homosexual orientation is experienced as a given, not as something freely chosen.” The Bishops also state: “By itself, therefore, a homosexual orientation cannot be considered sinful, for morality presumes the freedom to choose.”
- The Catholic Church has consistently taught that to act on homosexual inclinations, particularly to engage in homosexual genital acts, is always objectively morally wrong.
The following are the Frequently Asked Questions that were handed out at the Forum, held November 13, 2008.
1. What is sexual orientation?
2. What causes homosexuality?
- The American Bishops’ Letter Always Our Children (AOC) describes sexual orientation as a “deep-seated dimension of one’s personality. . . . Sexual identity helps to define the unique persons we are, and one component of our sexual identity is sexual orientation.”
- The American Psychological Association states: “Sexual orientation is one of the four components of sexuality and is distinguished by an enduring emotional, romantic, sexual or affectionate attraction to individuals of a particular gender.” Persons may or may not express their sexual orientation in their behaviors.
3. Is true homosexual orientation a choice?
- The Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2357, tells us that “[Homosexuality’s] psychological genesis remains largely unexplained.”
4. Is homosexuality a mental illness or an emotional problem?
- Always Our Children states: “Church teaching acknowledges a distinction between a homosexual ‘tendency,’ which proves to be ‘transitory,’ and ‘homosexuals who are definitively such because of some kind of innate instinct.’ Generally, homosexual orientation is experienced as a given, not as something freely chosen.” The Bishops also state: “By itself, therefore, a homosexual orientation cannot be considered sinful, for morality presumes the freedom to choose.”
5. Are gays and lesbians more likely to molest children than heterosexuals?
- Psychologists, psychiatrists and other mental health professionals agree that homosexuality is not an illness, mental disorder or emotional problem.
6. What is meant by coming out of the closet? Why do gay people “come out”?
- Heterosexual men commit 95% of all reported incidents of child sexual abuse. The American Psychological Association states: “There is no evidence indicating that homosexuals are more likely than heterosexuals to molest children.”
7. What is life like for gay youth?
- The closet is a metaphor for the place of truth inside a gay person which is secreted and shut away from the world. A person may be closeted completely or ‘out’ to some people and ‘in the closet’ with others. People may deny their orientation even to themselves. However, coming out of the closet almost always refers to making one’s sexual orientation known to others.” Basically, people come out because they want to be comfortable as themselves. They want to be honest with those they care about and trust.
8. What do families feel and experience when their children come out?
- Depression is very common among gay teens, and gay adolescents are two to three times more likely to attempt suicide than heterosexual young people are. It is estimated that up to 30% of the completed youth suicides are committed by lesbian and gay youth. Gay teens can feel unsafe in their own homes, with their own families, in their schools and in their communities.
9. What does the Catholic Church teach about homosexual orientation?
- When a child comes out to parents or family, it can be a numbing and shattering experience that suddenly stops life in its tracks and twists it violently in a new direction - foreign and frightening. Most, families experience considerable stress, difficulty and possible conflict. In some instances, however, the news might simply confirm what parents have secretly suspected.
- Always Our Children discusses the emotions that can be present: relief; anger; mourning; fear; guilt; shame; loneliness; parental protectiveness and pride.
10. What does the Catholic Church teach about human dignity?
- “Generally, homosexual orientation is experienced as a given, not as something freely chosen. By itself, therefore, a homosexual orientation cannot be considered sinful, for morality presumes the freedom to choose.” (Always Our Children)
11. What does the Catholic Church say about homosexual acts?
- “The intrinsic dignity of each person must always be respected in word, in action and in law.” [Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons. (CDF), 1986, #10.]
- “It is not sufficient only to avoid unjust discrimination. Homosexual persons ‘must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity.’ ” [Always Our Children]
- Homosexuals have a right to respect, friendship and justice. They should have an active role in the Christian community.” [National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB), 1976 and 1991]
- “Those who are gay or lesbian…should not be objects of discrimination, injustice or violence. All of God’s sons and daughters, all members of our society, are entitled to the recognition of their full human dignity.” [The Many Faces of AIDS: A Gospel Response, 1987, United States Catholic Conference.]
12. What does the Catholic Church teach about discrimination and social justice?
- The 1994 Catechism of the Catholic Church (section entitled Chastity and Homosexuality, #2357 – 2359) summarizes previous official church teaching on homosexuality. In addition to stating that homosexuality is presented in scripture as a “grave depravity,” that tradition declares homosexual acts as intrinsically disordered, that they are contrary to the natural law and close the sexual act to the gift of life, the Catechism also:
- Acknowledges that “the number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. They do not choose their homosexual condition.”
- Calls homosexual acts “intrinsically disordered,” but doesn’t call the orientation disordered.
- Says “everyone, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his [or her] sexual identity.” Also, “people with homosexual tendencies must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity.”
- 1997: Catechism of the Catholic Church - Definitive Latin Version
- This version states, “The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, objectively disordered, is a trial for most of them.” This wording, which now marks the homosexual orientation as well as homosexual acts “objectively disordered,” replaces the wording in the 1994 edition. ” Note the change also deletes the Catechism’s former position that “They do not choose their homosexual orientation.”
13. What does the Catholic Church say about homosexual acts?
- “Homosexual [persons] should not suffer prejudice against their basic human rights….We call on all Christian citizens of good will to confront their own fears about homosexuality and to curb the humor and discrimination that offend homosexual persons.” [NCCB, 1991]
- “The teaching of the Church makes it clear that the fundamental human rights of homosexual persons must be defended and that all of us must strive to eliminate any form of injustice, oppression, or violence against prejudicial or discriminatory attitudes and behaviors against them.” Nothing in the Bible or in Catholic teaching can be used to justify prejudicial or discriminatory attitudes and behaviors.” [Always Our Children]
14. What does the Catholic Church say about pastoral care of homosexual persons?
- Basing itself on Sacred Scriptures, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.’ They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.” [Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2357]
- “Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.” [Catechism of the Catholic Church,#2359]
15. What does the Catholic Church say about the role of conscience?
- “We would ask Bishops to support with the means at their disposal, the development of appropriate forms of pastoral care for homosexual persons. (On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, 1986)
- “Circumstances may exist…which would reduce or remove the culpability [i.e., to be held blameworthy] of the individual in a given instance.” [On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, 1986]
- “The God who is at once truth and love calls the Church to minister to every man, woman and child with the pastoral solicitude of our compassionate Lord.” [On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, 1986]
16. What do other Catholic voices say?
- “[We] are bound to follow our consciences faithfully in all our activity so that we may come to God, who is our last end. Therefore, we must not be forced to act contrary to our conscience.” [Vatican II Document: Declaration on Religious Freedom]
- “A human being must also obey the certain judgment of his conscience. If he were to deliberately act against it, he would condemn himself.” [Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1790]
- “It is the progressive revelation by the Spirit, rather than any given logion or biblical verse(s), that reminds us of what has been taught by Jesus. It is the Spirit who teaches us those things we could not bear earlier.” … Theology Professor James T. Bretzke, S.J.