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The Roman Catholic Church and Homosexuality

Statements and events prior to 1997

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  • 1975: The Vatican said that homosexual orientation (feelings) were not wrong, because one's orientation is not a matter of choice; it is something that one is born with. However, they stated that to act upon one's feelings by engaging in a homosexual act is a sin, whether it be in a casual or committed relationship.
  • 1976: The National Conference of Catholic Bishops (in the US) stated that "homosexuals...should not suffer prejudice against their basic human rights. They have the right to respect, friendship and justice." Needless to say, basic human rights for homosexuals do not include the right to marry the same-sexperson with whom one has developed a committed relationship.
  • 1976: Bishop Francis Mugavero (Brooklyn, NY) spoke on homosexuality, stating:
    • Gays and Lesbians are called to a celibate life; to act out their feelings of love towards another person is a sin analogous to a heterosexual person engaging in pre-marital sex or adultery.
    • The Church should give homosexuals greater "pastoral understanding and care", because, if they follow Church teachings, they cannot look forward to an intimate relationship with another person.
  • 1990: Robert Broderick, author of the Catholic Encyclopedia, quoted the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). The congregation concluded that homosexual behavior is caused by an individual's rejection of God.
    "In the pastoral field, these homosexuals must certainly be treated with understanding and sustained in the hope of overcoming their personal difficulties and their inability to fit into society....no pastoral method can be employed which would give moral justification to these acts on the grounds that they would be consonant with the condition of such people. For, according to the objective moral order, homosexual relations are acts which lack an essential and indispensable finality. In Sacred Scripture they are condemned as a serious depravity and even presented as the consequence of rejecting God." 1
  • 1992: Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, then Prefect for the CDF and now Pope Benedict XVI sent a letter to the Bishops of the church. 2 He condemned gay-bashing. But he also appeared to blame anti-gay violence on the victims themselves because they seek equal rights; the perpetrators of the violent behavior are not regarded as responsible for the violence. Item 12 in his letter stated: "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."

    The CDF appeared to modify the church's 1975 position, 3 saying, in a secret document:
    • that both homosexual inclination and acts "must be seen as an objective disorder. ...the living out of this orientation is [not] a morally acceptable option."
    • Homosexual acts are "contrary to the creative wisdom of God".
    • Discrimination against homosexuals is justifiable in areas of adoption, foster care, and employment of teachers, athletic coaches, and soldiers. Sexual orientation "does not constitute a quality comparable to race, ethnic background, etc. in respect to non-discrimination."
    • Homosexual relationships jeopardize the rights of traditional (heterosexual, married) families. [This opinion is simply stated in the document; the authors apparently consider it to be self-evident; they provide no evidence that gays and lesbians represent a threat.]
    • Some discrimination against gays and lesbians is morally permissible and is justified, because of the threat that homosexuals may pose to "genuine families", and to "protect the common good"
    • Homosexuals who remain in the closet and celibate do not need human rights protection equal to other groups who are commonly targeted for discrimination on the basis of race, gender, religion, nationality etc. [This would seem to condemn openly gay and lesbian individuals to continued discrimination by others. It would also condemn homosexuals who attempt to stay in the closet, but are exposed by others to be discriminated against.]
    This paper by the CDF represents a major departure from traditional Roman Catholic teaching. It appears to require its members to perform a direct evil (discrimination against ) without having first having established a justification.

    On the other hand, also in 1992, the Vatican issued a new Catechism for the church. It states that homosexuality is not a matter of choice. "They [homosexuals] do not choose their homosexual condition; for most of them it is a trial...One must avoid all unjust discrimination against them." The church believes that there are both just and unjust forms of discrimination against gays and lesbians.


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References used:

  1. Robert Broderick, Ed., "Catholic Encyclopedia: Revised and updated edition," Nelson, (1987), Page 272.  Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
  2. "Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons,", written by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (1986)
  3. "Some Considerations Concerning the Catholic Response to Legislative Proposals on the Non-Discrimination of Homosexual Persons," written by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and secretly distributed to US bishops. (1992-JUL-23) It was made public by "New Ways Ministry.

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or Home > Christianity > Denominations > Catholicism > Homosexuality > here

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Copyright © 1997 to 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2008-JUL-25
Author: B.A. Robinson

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