Guidelines Aim to Help Those Homosexually Inclined
U.S. Bishops to Discuss Draft of Pastoral Document
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WASHINGTON, D.C., OCT. 23, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Approval of guidelines for the pastoral care of people with a homosexual inclination will be on the agenda of the fall meeting of the U.S. bishops' conference.
The guidelines say that the support and leadership of bishops and other pastoral leaders is essential to the success of this ministry.
"This is particularly important because more than a few persons with a homosexual inclination feel themselves to be unwelcome and rejected," the draft guidelines say. "As baptized 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 in response to questions which were raised about the suitability of these ministries in some instances.
Work on the 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 is intended for bishops, in order to assist them in evaluating existing or proposed ministerial efforts, and for those engaged in this ministry, in order to provide them with guidance.
The guidelines begin with a statement of general principles, including the fundamental dignity of each person as created by God.
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. "They should prayerfully examine their own hearts in order to discern any thoughts or feelings that might stand in need of purification."
The guidelines state that while the Church teaches that homosexual acts are immoral, there is a distinction between engaging in 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 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. They must not belong to groups that oppose Church teaching. It is not sufficient 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 so-called same-sex marriages or anything similar, including civil unions that give the appearance of a marriage. Church ministers may not bless such unions or promote them in any way, directly or indirectly.
-- Similarly, the Church does not support the adoption of children by homosexual couples since homosexual unions are contrary to the divine plan. For this reason, baptism of children adopted by such couples presents a pastoral concern. 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 bishops will meet Nov. 13-16 in Baltimore, Maryland.