† Homosexuality

 

What the Catechism of the Catholic Church says about Homosexuality

1986 • Extracts from Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, LETTER TO THE BISHOPS OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH ON THE PASTORAL CARE OF HOMOSEXUAL PERSONS

Note on Church Teaching Concerning Homosexual People


What the Catechism of the Catholic Church says about Homosexuality

2357. "Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,[Cf. Gen 191-29 ; Rom 124-27 ; 1 Cor 6:10 ; 1 Tim 1:10 .] tradition has always declared that 'homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.'[CDF, Persona humana 8.] 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."

2358. "The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. They do not choose their homosexual condition; for most of them it is a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition. "

2359. "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. "

2396. "Among the sins gravely contrary to chastity are masturbation, fornication, pornography, and homosexual practices. "


1986 • Extracts from Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, LETTER TO THE BISHOPS OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH ON THE PASTORAL CARE OF HOMOSEXUAL PERSONS

3. ... an overly benign interpretation was given to the homosexual condition itself, some going so far as to call it neutral, or even good. Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.

Therefore special concern and pastoral attention should be directed toward those who have this condition, lest they be led to believe that the living out of this orientation in homosexual activity is a morally acceptable option. It is not.

7. The Church, obedient to the Lord who founded her and gave to her the sacramental life, celebrates the divine plan of the loving and live-giving union of men and women in the sacrament of marriage. It is only in the marital relationship that the use of the sexual faculty can be morally good. A person engaging in homosexual behaviour therefore acts immorally.

9. The movement within the Church, which takes the form of pressure groups of various names and sizes, attempts to give the impression that it represents all homosexual persons who are Catholics. As a matter of fact, its membership is by and large restricted to those who either ignore the teaching of the Church or seek somehow to undermine it. It brings together under the aegis of Catholicism homosexual persons who have no intention of abandoning their homosexual behaviour. One tactic used is to protest that any and all criticism of or reservations about homosexual people, their activity and lifestyle, are simply diverse forms of unjust discrimination.

There is an effort in some countries to manipulate the Church by gaining the often well-intentioned support of her pastors with a view to changing civil-statutes and laws. This is done in order to conform to these pressure groups' concept that homosexuality is at least a completely harmless, if not an entirely good, thing. Even when the practice of homosexuality may seriously threaten the lives and well-being of a large number of people, its advocates remain undeterred and refuse to consider the magnitude of the risks involved.

The Church can never be so callous. It is true that her clear position cannot be revised by pressure from civil legislation or the trend of the moment. But she is really concerned about the many who are not represented by the pro-homosexual movement and about those who may have been tempted to believe its deceitful propaganda. She is also aware that the view that homosexual activity is equivalent to, or as acceptable as, the sexual expression of conjugal love has a direct impact on society's understanding of the nature and rights of the family and puts them in jeopardy.

10. It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church's pastors wherever it occurs. It reveals a kind of disregard for others which endangers the most fundamental principles of a healthy society. The intrinsic dignity of each person must always be respected in word, in action and in law.

But the proper reaction to crimes committed against homosexual persons should not be to claim that the homosexual condition is not disordered. When such a claim is made and when homosexual activity is consequently condoned, or when civil legislation is introduced to protect behavior to which no one has any conceivable right, neither the Church nor society at large should be surprised when other distorted notions and practices gain ground, and irrational and violent reactions increase.

15. We encourage the Bishops, then, to provide pastoral care in full accord with the teaching of the Church for homosexual persons of their dioceses. No authentic pastoral programme will include organizations in which homosexual persons associate with each other without clearly stating that homosexual activity is immoral. A truly pastoral approach will appreciate the need for homosexual persons to avoid the near occasions of sin.

17. In bringing this entire matter to the Bishops' attention, this Congregation wishes to support their efforts to assure that the teaching of the Lord and his Church on this important question be communicated fully to all the faithful.

.... They are encouraged to call on the assistance of all Catholic theologians who, by teaching what the Church teaches, and by deepening their reflections on the true meaning of human sexuality and Christian marriage with the virtues it engenders, will make an important contribution in this particular area of pastoral care.

..... All support should be withdrawn from any organizations which seek to undermine the teaching of the Church, which are ambiguous about it, or which neglect it entirely. Such support, or even the semblance of such support, can be gravely misinterpreted. Special attention should be given to the practice of scheduling religious services and to the use of Church buildings by these groups, including the facilities of Catholic schools and colleges. To some, such permission to use Church property may seem only just and charitable; but in reality it is contradictory to the purpose for which these institutions were founded, it is misleading and often scandalous.

In assessing proposed legislation, the Bishops should keep as their uppermost concern the responsibility to defend and promote family life. (During an audience granted to the undersigned Prefect, His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, approved this Letter, adopted in an ordinary session of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and ordered it to be published.)


Cardinal Basil Hume OSB

Note on Church Teaching Concerning Homosexual People

[Origins Introduction] APRIL 27, 1995, VOL. 24: NO. 45, 765-769

"'Homophobia should have no place among Catholics. Catholic teaching on homosexuality is not founded on, and can never be used to justify 'homophobic' attitudes, ' Cardinal George Basil Hume of Westminster, England, said March 6 in "A Note on the Teaching of the Catholic Church Concerning Homosexual People." The note discussed the pastoral care of homosexual people, examined the meaning of the term "disordered" in reference to homosexual activity and assessed the value of friendship and love in a homosexual person's life. The note addressed the church's stance toward civil legislation regarding homosexual people. Also, the note said, "The church condemns violence of speech or action against homosexual people." Hume commented that 'love between two persons, whether of the same sex or of a different sex, is to be treasured and respected." But, he said, the "experience of love is spoiled, whether it is in marriage or in friendship, when we do not think and act as God wills us to think and act." Hume analyzed the meaning of terminology used by the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which said in 1986 that the inclination toward homosexual actions is objectively disordered. Though that sounds harsh in English, Hume said that this terminology - "objective disorder belongs to the vocabulary of traditional Catholic moral theology and philosophy" and is "used to describe an, inclination which is a departure from what is generally regarded as the norm." Hume stressed that being a homosexual person is "neither morally good nor morally bad: it is homosexual genital acts that are morally wrong. " His text follows.

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1. Three years ago background advice was offered by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to bishops in the United States about how to assess the impact of legislative proposals concerning homosexual people and their housing and employment rights. Some of the expressions used in the subsequently published note of this advice and quoted without context caused distress and anger, together with misunderstanding of where the church stands. Two years ago I prepared "Some observations on the teaching of the Catholic Church concerning homosexual people," which was sent to certain organizations and individuals.

2. Since then I have been approached by a number of these groups and individuals seeking further clarification on the church's teaching on homosexuality, and I have continued to reflect on a bishop's pastoral responsibility in this area, I have now concluded that it might be helpful to publish this expanded note. It incorporates the main points made in the earlier "observations" document.

3. In what follows I quote on a number of occasions from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's "Letter oil the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons," published in 1986 (PC). I also quote from "An Introduction to the Pastoral Care of Homosexual People," prepared by the Catholic Social Welfare Commission of our bishops' conference in 1979 (IH).

PRINCIPLES

Dignity of the Human Person

4. The church recognizes the dignity of all people and does not define or label them in terms of their sexual orientation. "The pastor and counselor must see all people, irrespective of their sexuality, as children of God and destined for eternal life" (IH, p. IO). The congregation states this even more fully:

"The human person, made in the image and likeness of God, can hardly be adequately described by a reductional reference to his or her sexual orientation. Everyone living on the face of the earth has personal problems and difficulties, but has challenges to growth, strengths, talents and gifts as well. Today the church provides a badly needed context for the care of the human person when she refuses to consider the person as heterosexual or homosexual and insists that every person has a fundamental identity: a creature of God, and by grace, his child and heir to eternal life" (PC, 16).

Sexuality and Marriage

5. In upholding the dignity of people who are homosexual, the church is being consistent to its teaching. There are two fundamental principles which determine the Catholic Church's teaching on sexual matters. First, the church has always taught that the sexual (genital) expression of love is intended by God's plan of creation to find its place exclusively within marriage between a man and a woman. The church therefore cannot in any way equate a homosexual partnership with a heterosexual marriage. Second, the sexual (genital) expression of love must be open to the possible transmission of new life. For these two reasons the church does not approve of homosexual genital acts. When the church describes such acts as "intrinsically disordered" (PC, 3), it means that these acts are not consistent with the two fundamental principles mentioned above. It is in this sense that the church teaches that there can be no moral right to homosexual acts, even though they are no longer held to be criminal in many secular legal systems. No individual, bishop, priest or layperson is in a position to change the teaching of the church, which she considers to be God-given.

FURTHER CONSIDERATIONS

Homosexual Orientation

6. It is necessary to distinguish between sexual orientation or inclination, and engaging in sexual (genital) activity, heterosexual or homosexual. Neither a homosexual nor a heterosexual orientation leads inevitably to sexual activity. Furthermore, an individual's sexual orientation can be unclear, even complex. Also, it may vary over the years.

Meaning of "Objectively Disordered"

7. The particular orientation or inclination of tile homosexual person is not a moral failing. An inclination is not a sin. An inclination toward acts which are contrary to the teaching of the church has, however, been described as "objectively disordered." The word disordered is harsh one in our English language. It immediately suggests a sinful situation or at least implies a demeaning of the person or even a sickness. It should not be so interpreted.

First, the word is a term belonging to the vocabulary of traditional Catholic moral theology and philosophy. It is used to describe an inclination which is a departure from what is generally regarded to be the norm. The norm consists of an inclination toward a sexual relationship with a person of the opposite sex and not between persons of the same sex. Being a homosexual person is, then, neither morally good nor morally bad; it is homosexual genital acts that are morally wrong.

Second, when the church speaks of the inclination to homosexuality as being "an objective disorder" (PC, 3), the church can be thinking only of the inclination toward homosexual genital acts. The church does not consider the whole personality and character of the individual to be thereby disordered. Homosexual people, as well as heterosexual people, can and often do give a fine example of friendship and the art of chaste loving.

Friendship

8. Friendship is a gift from God. Friendship is a way of loving. Friendship is necessary for every person. To equate friendship and full sexual involvement with another is to distort the very concept of friendship. Sexual loving presupposes friendship, but friendship does not require full sexual involvement. It is a mistake to say or think or presume that if two persons of the same or different sexes enjoy a deep and lasting friendship then they must be sexually involved.

Human Love

9. Love between two persons, whether of tile same sex or of a different sex, is to be treasured and respected. "Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus," we read (Jn. 11:5). When two persons love, they experience in a limited manner in this world what will be their unending delight when one with God in the next. To love another is in fact to reach out to God, who shares his lovableness with the one we love. To be loved is to receive a sign or share of God's unconditional love.

10. To love another, whether of the same sex or of a different sex, is to have entered the area of the richest human experience. But that experience of love is spoiled, whether it is in marriage or in friendship, when we do not think and act as God wills us to think and act. Human loving is precarious, for human nature is wounded and frail. Thus marriage and friendship will never be easy to handle. We shall often fail, but the ideal remains.

RESPONSE OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

11. The Catholic Church is called to present to all ages a demanding understanding and ethic of marriage and sexuality, one that is often difficult to realize in practice but which all Should continually strive to make their own. The church is also aware that people may fail to live consistently what she teaches. Pastoral understanding is brought to bear on such failure; the church does not reject such people, but wishes to walk with them in order to guide them to a fuller understanding and realization of the teaching she holds to be God-given.

Defense of Human Rights

12. The Catholic Church advocates and defends the fundamental human rights of every person. The church cannot, however, acknowledge among fundamental human rights a proposed right to acts which she teaches are morally wrong. Nevertheless, it is a fundamental human right of every person, irrespective of sexual orientation, to be treated by individuals and by society with dignity, respect and fairness. The document produced by the Social Welfare Commission for the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales in 1979 (IH) summed up the Church's obligations in this country in words which apply equally today:

'The church has a serious responsibility to work for the elimination of any injustices perpetrated on homosexuals by society. As a group that has suffered more than its share of oppression and contempt, the homosexual community has particular claim upon the concern of the church" (IH, p. 13).

Social Policy

13. Given the complexity of the issues of social policy which can arise, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has indicated that judgments about legislation and responses which may be made by the church can be left to the bishops of the country concerned (L'Osservatore Romano, July 29, 1992). The church does have a duty to oppose discrimination in all circumstances where a person's sexual orientation or activity cannot reasonably be regarded as relevant. However, in making any response to proposed changes in the law which are designed to eliminate injustices against homosexual people, there are a number of criteria which have to be kept in mind. Among the most important are the following:

-Are there reasonable grounds for judging that the institution of marriage and the family could, and would, be undermined by a change in the law?

-Would society's rejection of a proposed change in the law be more harmful to the common good than the acceptance of such a change?

-Does a person's sexual orientation or activity constitute, in specific circumstances, a sufficient and relevant reason for treating that person in any way differently front other citizens?

These are matters of practical judgment and assessment of social consequences, and thus must be considered case by case - and this without prejudice to Catholic teaching concerning homosexual acts. It may well be, however, that Catholics will reach diverse conclusions about particular legislative proposals even taking into account these criteria.

Condemnation of Violence

14. The church condemns violence of speech or action against homosexual people. This was made very clear in the first part of Paragraph 10 of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith's 1986 letter which dealt with this specific issue:

"It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violence in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the church's pastors wherever it occurs. It reveals a kind of disregard for others which endangers the most fundamental principles of a healthy society. The intrinsic dignity of each person must always be respected in word, in action and in law" (PC, 10).

Any systematic failure to respect that dignity needs to be tackled, if necessary by appropriate legislation.

15. Nothing in the church's teaching can be said to support or sanction even implicitly the victimization of homosexual men and women. Furthermore, "homophobia" should have no place among Catholics. Catholic teaching on homoosexuality is not founded on and can never be used to justify "homophobic" attitudes. Even if homosexual people are unwisely tempted to act in a provocative or destructive manner, this does not justify "homophobic" attitudes or reactions.

Pastoral Response

16. The church's pastoral response to homosexuial people will involve a respectful attitude and a sympathetic understanding of their situation, in addition to sacramental life, prayer, counsel and individual care, so that the "whole Christian community can come to recognize its own call to assist its brothers and sisters, without deluding them or isolating them" (PC, 15). The church acknowledges that a "homosexual person, as every human being, deeply needs to be nourished at many different levels simultaneously" (PC, 16). Furthermore the church in this country has stressed that homosexuals have a right to enlightened and effective pastoral care with pastoral ministers who are properly trained to meet their pastoral needs" (IH, p. !3).

Those who exercise pastoral care recognize that human nature is frail and subject to temptation. They are particularly concerned to be understanding and to help those who find it hard to live in accordance with the church's teaching. Furthermore, although homosexual genital acts are objectively wrong, nonetheless the church warns against generalizations in attributing culpability in individual cases (PC, I 1).

Conclusion

17. All are precious in the eyes of God. The love which one person can have for and receive from another is a gift from God. Nonetheless, God expects homosexual people, as indeed he does heterosexual people, to keep his law and to work toward achieving a difficult ideal, even if this will only be achieved gradually (cf. Familiaris Consortio, 34). God has a love for every person which is greater than any love which one human being could have for another. In all the circumstances and situations of life, God calls each person, whatever his or her sexual orientation, to fulfill that part of his created design which only that person can fulfill.


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