USCCB Pastoral Care, Ministry & Homosexuals

Posted by Censor Librorum on Oct 27, 2006 | Categories: Lesbian in a Catholic Sort of Way

On the agenda of the November 13-16 meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore, Maryland will be the approval of guidelines for the pastoral care of people with a homosexual inclination. “This is particularly important because more than a few persons with a homosexual inclination feel themselves unwelcome and rejected,” the draft guidelines say. “As baptised members of the Catholic community, persons with a homosexual inclination continue to look to the Church for a place where they might live in authentic human integrity and holiness of life.” The document, “Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination: Guidelines for Pastoral Care,” was prepared by the Bishops’ Committee on Doctrine.

Work on this project began in the fall of 2002. The draft was sent to four other
committees for comments and suggestions: Canonical Affairs, Catechesis, Marriage and Family Life, and Pastoral Practices.

The document says the Church teaches that persons with a homosexual inclination “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity,” and it condemns all forms of violence, scorn, and hatred, whether subtle or overt. “Those who would minister in the name of the Church must in no way contribute to such injustice,” the guidelines state.

The Church teaches there is a distinction between homosexual acts and having a homosexual orientation. “While the former is always sinful, the latter is not,” they state. “It is crucially important to understand that saying a person has a particular inclination that is disordered is not to say that the person as a whole is disordered. Nor does it mean that one has been rejected by God or the Church.”

Specific guidelines in the document address issues which arise in the areas of Church participation, catechesis, sacraments and worship, and pastoral support. Key points include:

–Persons who experience same-sex attraction and yet are living in accord with Church teaching should be encouraged to take an active role in the life of the faith community. However, the Church has a right to deny roles of service to those whose behavior violates its teaching.

–Special care must be taken to ensure those carrying out the ministry of the Church must not use their positions of leadership to advocate positions or behaviors not in keeping with the teaching of the Church. It is not sufficent for those involved in this ministry to adopt a position of distant neutrality with regard to Church teaching.

–Church policies should explicitly reject unjust discrimination and harassment. Procedures should be in place to handle complaints.

-The Church does not support same-sex marriages or anything similar, including civil unions.

-Similarly, the Church does not support the adoption of children by homosexual couples since homosexual unions are contrary to the divine plan. Nevertheless, the Church does not refuse the sacrament of baptism to these children, but there must be a well-founded hope that the children will be brought up in the Catholic religion.

The reaction to the release of this document is going to depend on each gay or lesbian Catholic’s outlook–or belief–on the evolution of the status of homosexuals in the Church. If people hear more of the same: persecution of advocates and friends; an intransigence to seeing homosexuality as anything else other than disordered; they will turn away with a grimace, and no one can blame them.

But I believe this document represents if only a small step, a step forward. It doesn’t rule out participation by partnered lesbians and gays in parish life.
It acknowledges the children of lesbian and gay couples, and expresses the wish to see them baptized and raised Catholic. That statement alone will help gay parents when they enroll their children in religious education and Catholic schools.

I plan to comment on the document. I will send my comments to the USCCB, Most Reverend William Murphy, Bishop of Rockville Centre, NY, who is my bishop, and also post them on this blog. I think it is important to praise where we can; educate and outreach when we can; and be out and faithful.

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One Response to “USCCB Pastoral Care, Ministry & Homosexuals”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    oh that white collar is so constricting – no wonder i have such a headache!

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