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Religious Tolerance logo

Roman Catholics and homosexuality

Years 2004 to 2006

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2005-SEP: Banning gay seminarians and their ordination:

There are substantial rumors that Pope Benedict XVI has approved a document that denies gays the opportunity to be considered for ordination. Catholic World News reported on 2005-SEP-19:

"The text, which was approved by Pope Benedict at the end of August, says that homosexual men should not be admitted to seminaries even if they are celibate, because their condition suggests a serious personality disorder which detracts from their ability to serve as ministers."

The document was expected to be made public on 2005-NOV-29, after the conclusion of the Synod of Bishops. 1 However, a copy appears to have been leaked on NOV-22 and posted on the Internet by a news agency. More details.

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2006-SEP: Bishop opposes church teaching:

Gudrun Schultz of, a Roman Catholic pro-life organization, described a speech given by Retired Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Sullivan of Brooklyn, NY to the National Association of Catholic Diocesan Lesbian and Gay Ministries in Brooklyn on 2006-SEP 21 to 24. One group represented at the meeting was  the Rainbow Sash movement -- a gay-positive organization. They request full recognition and acceptance by the Church of sexually-active Catholics. This request has been granted by some US Bishops, notably Archbishop Harry Flynn of St. Paul Minneapolis.

It is unusual to hear a bishop or other senior clergy of the church discuss the need for change in the church, because they are forbidden to do so in public. However, retaliation by the church against a retired bishop is limited.

Schultz wrote:

"Retired Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Sullivan, of Brooklyn, has called on Catholics who minister to active homosexuals to work towards bringing them into 'full participation in the life of the church,' in a call for pastoral acceptance that dismisses Church teaching opposing homosexual activity."

"... Bishop Sullivan said Catholic pastoral care towards homosexuals should be 'accepting, welcoming, encouraging,' care that does not 'reject, define and exclude,' but that 'enables, and encourages participation'."

"Bishop Sullivan also suggested Church documents opposing homosexuality should be more 'sensitively articulated'.

"The Bishop's call for acceptance of active homosexuality in the Church contradicted the Vatican directive issued to US Bishops in conflict with Rome over welcoming homosexual activists into the Church."

"Responding to the conflict in the US Church, Cardinal Francis Arinze, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, said in an interview broadcast by EWTN, 'The Catholic Church has never accepted homosexuality as normal. You read the scripture. It's very clear. What exactly are we examining? Are we going to change Divine Law, how God made us'?"

"Cardinal Arinze said members of the Rainbow Sash movement were demanding  something the Church could not offer. Referring to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, he said, 'It says it is not condemning a person for having homosexual tendency. We don't condemn anybody for that. But a person stands condemned for acting on it'."

" 'Quite another matter if a person had just the tendencies and is making [an] effort to live the Divine Law, then that's fine. So, we respect persons but be clear on the truth,' he said." 2

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2006-NOV: USA: Pastoral statements from American bishops:

The Roman Catholic bishops in the U.S. met in Baltimore, MD. On 2006-NOV-14 they issued a statement titled: "Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination: Guidelines for Pastoral Care." It explains the church's beliefs concerning homosexuality and stresses that Catholics who minister to homosexuals must firmly adhere to those beliefs:

  • "Persons with a homosexual inclination 'must be accepted with respect, caring. and sensitivity."

  • "The complementarity of man and woman as male and female is inherent within God's creative design."

  • "Homosexual acts cannot fulfill the natural ends of human sexuality"

  • "Sexual pleasure is morally disordered when sought for itself, isolated from its procreative and unitive purposes." [This seems to imply that homosexuals are driven by sexual lust only and are unable to engage in sexual activity that has a unitive purpose that enhances their committed relationship.]

  • "Homosexual acts ... violate the true purpose of sexuality." They are neither procreative nor do they reflect the complementarity of man and women.

  • "To the extent that a homosexual tendency or inclination is not subject to one's free will, one is not morally culpable for that tendency."

The Roman Catholic church typically uses terms like "homosexual tendency" and "homosexual inclination" instead of the generally accepted term "homosexual orientation." It is not obvious how the three terms differ.

Catholics with "a homosexual inclination" is to be encouraged to lead a chaste -- that is, celibate, life. It is not sufficient for them to take a position of "distant neutrality" to the church's teachings. Further, they should avoid making "general public announcements" about their sexual orientation. Bishops are to be careful

"to ensure that those carrying out the ministry of the Church not use their position of leadership to advocate positions or behaviors not in keeping with the teachings of the Church."

Bishop Arthur J. Serratelli of Paterson, NJ, as chairman of the committee on doctrine of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said that the statement on homosexuality was intended to be "positive, pastoral and welcoming." When asked by reporters how it can have such a positive tone when it compared same-sex attractions to the temptations of "envy, malice or greed," Serratelli said that "the truth is always welcoming." He added that same-sex attraction is:

"objectively disordered [because ...] they do not accord with the natural purpose of sexuality. ... simply experiencing a homosexual inclination is not in itself a sin."

He further described homosexual acts as "sinful," "never morally acceptable," and activity that does "not lead to true human happiness."

Donald W. Wuerl, Washington's new archbishop, said the statement should not be interpreted as a crack down down on pro-gay ministries. Rather, he said:

"The starting point is the church living in a culture in which these things are being promoted, and our task is to keep saying: 'Remember, here are the true teachings of the church'."

A coalition of gay-positive groups, including Call to Action, Dignity USA, and 13 other organizations denounced the statement as:  "not at all pastoral, but rather harmful." Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, a gay-positive Catholic group said:

"These guidelines try to make gay and lesbian people invisible in the church. The plan here is not to minister but to make a 'problem' disappear." 3,4

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Pope approves barring gay seminarians," Catholic World News, at:
  2. Gudrun Schultz, "Retired US Bishop Pushes Church Acceptance of Homosexuality in Opposition to Rome,", 2006-OCT-04, at:
  3. Alan Cooperman & Peter Whoriskey, "3 Christian Groups Move To Condemn Gay Sex," 2006-NOV-15, Washington Post, at:
  4. United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, "Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination: Guidelines for Pastoral Care," 2006-NOV-14, at: This is a PDF file. You may require software to read it. Software can be obtained free from: 
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Copyright © 2004 to 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2010-OCT-15
Author: B.A. Robinson

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