Badpuppy Gay Today

Thursday, 02 October 1997


Announcement Seemingly Contradicts Recent Vatican Prejudices

By Jack Nichols


A groundbreaking statement by U.S. Catholic Bishops advises that the parents of gay males and lesbians place familial love and support for their children ahead of anti-gay church doctrine.

Chicago's William B. Kelley, a pioneer of the gay movement, told GayToday that although he himself is not a Roman Catholic he sees the bishops' statement as hopeful. Kelley predicts that "this action by the bishops will have (or can be used to produce) a big impact on public attitudes even though ostensibly the Church isn't easing its stand on how gay sex is immoral."

The bishops' statement, titled Always Our Children, was made in the form of a pastoral letter. It emphasized that homosexual desire is not produced because of an individual's free choice. This stance conflicts sharply with recent religious fundamentalist propaganda emphasized in "ex-gay" heterosexual recruiting ministries.

The pastoral letter reads: "All in all, it is essential to recall one basic truth. God loves every person as a unique individual. Sexual identity helps to define the unique person we are…God does not love someone any less simply because he or she is homosexual."

It is unclear as yet how the Vatican will react to this latest departure from papal dogmatism. During the past two decades Pope John Paul II, an ultraconservative in collusion with Protestant fundamentalists, has worked to deny citizens access to life-saving condoms and has condemned civil rights activities on behalf of persons attracted to their same-sex.

A letter from the Vatican, intercepted and published in The Washington Post, (November 1, 1992) ordered American bishops to oppose legislation that promotes civil rights for gay men and lesbians, labeling homosexuality, in opposition to the American Psychiatric Association's policies, "an objective disorder."

The Post said that the Roman Catholic Church declared its support "for discrimination against gay people in such areas as public housing, family health benefits, and the hiring of teachers, coaches and military personnel." The Vatican, it reported, insinuates that homosexuals are mentally ill and insists that the denial of rights to gays will promote family values.

"The church has the responsibility," said the Vatican letter, "to promote public morality of the entire civil society on the basis of fundamental moral values." The rights to even housing and employment, continues the Holy See's missive, are not absolute, and employment security, it says curiously, is "a privilege."

Civilized European governments evoked the pope's ire by ignoring his ploys. John Paul II upped the ante in his war on gay men and lesbians in a 1994 homily marked by fury, attacking the European Parliament for its non-binding resolution recommending that gay and lesbian couples be granted marriage and adoption rights. The resolution, in spite of the pope's previous warnings, had been passed 159-96 on February 8, 1994. It inappropriately conferred, said the pope, "institutional value on deviant behavior."

Though Vatican attacks on political bodies are rare, the pontiff departed from his prepared text and, his voice rising in alarm, pontificated thusly: "A relationship between two men or two women cannot make up a real family!"

Vatican disciplinary measures were instituted against two American clerics in the 1980s. Seattle Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen was upbraided for allowing a group of gay Catholics to meet at St. James Cathedral, while Catholic University (Washington, D.C.) revoked Father Charles Curran's license to teach moral theology because he'd said that homosexual acts "are sometimes morally acceptable."

In contrast to anti-gay Vatican propaganda, a group of American bishops—responding to the anguish caused to Roman Catholic parents with gay children, requested, in 1992, guidance from their Committee on Marriage and Family.

The result, the newly published pastoral letter, describes mothers and fathers suffering guilt, shame and loneliness due to the Church's stances. "A shocking number of youths," says the letter, are rejected by their families and sent into the streets. Such parental rejection has led to young gays and lesbians succumbing to suicidal tendencies, drug abuse, and disease.

Bishop Joseph Imesch, chair of the Committee on Pastoral Practices, explained that the American bishops had produced their pastoral letter to urge parents to "accept the fact that their son or daughter is gay or lesbian," and that their children are not "damned forever."

The pastoral letter insists that the bishops, in making their statement, intend no abandonment of Roman Catholic doctrine. Genital sexual activity remains immoral conduct, according to that doctrine, and the bishops do not wish to be misunderstood as condoning "a homosexual lifestyle." The letter, in spite of its finer points, retains the church's distinction-making between an individual's sexual orientation and any sexual behaviors emerging from that orientation.

The bishops do urge parents to encourage their gay children to live celibate lives and to challenge any aspects of those lives they find unacceptable by church standards. There is no need, however, say the bishops, to enforce rules at the expense of their child.

"First, don't break off contact, don't reject your child," say the bishops, suggesting the creation of a home atmosphere in which the closet is no longer an option. Create an atmosphere, they urge, in which a child becomes willing to discuss his or her orientation.

Demonstrating love for gay and lesbian children must be a priority among Roman Catholic parents, says Always Our Children. The bishops' statement also suggests the formation of parents' support groups and the welcoming of gay children into church settings. Chaste homosexuals, they say, should be allowed church leadership positions.

"Generally, homosexual orientation is experienced as a given, not as something freely chosen," the bishops announced, "By itself, therefore, a homosexual orientation cannot be considered sinful, for morality presumes the freedom to choose."

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