Ministry to Persons with Homosexual Approved by Catholic Bishops
WASHINGTON (November 16, 2006)—Approval of guidelines for
the pastoral care of persons with a homosexual inclination will
be on the agenda of the fall meeting of the United States Conference
of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
The bishops will meet at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront, November
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
“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 guidelines say. “Being welcomed into and
participating in their local faith community is the foundation of
spiritual support that the Church offers to them. Full and active
participation is encouraged. Participation in a worshipping Catholic
community can be a support for living a life of integrity and an
encouragement to an ongoing personal conversion.”
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. Those who minister are also called to their own ongoing
conversion. In fact, the work of spreading the Good News involves
an ever-increasing love for those to whom one is ministering.”
Stating that the phenomenon of homosexuality poses challenges that
can only be met with the help of a clear understanding of the place
of sexuality within God’s plan for humanity, the document
says: “By its very nature, human sexuality finds its proper
fulfillment in the marital bond. Any sexual act that takes place
outside the indissoluble and lifelong bond of marriage does not
fulfill the proper ends of human sexuality. It is not directed toward
the expression of marital love with an openness to new life. It
is disordered in that it is not in accord with this twofold end
and is thus morally wrong.”
“Because of both Original Sin and personal sin, moral disorder
is all too common in our world today, among both heterosexual and
homosexual persons,” the document says.
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.”
“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.”
Given that a considerable number of people experience same-sex
attraction as an inclination they did not choose raises the question
of whether or not this situation can be changed with the help of
some kind of clinical intervention, or therapy, the guidelines state.
“There is currently no scientific consensus on the cause
of the homosexual inclination,” the document asserts “There
is no consensus on therapy. Some have found therapy helpful. There
is, however, no moral obligation to attempt it.”
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
* 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
* Church policies should explicitly reject unjust discrimination
and harassment…procedures should be in place to handle complaints.
* The Christian life is a progressive journey toward a deepening
of one’s discipleship of Christ…Those who stumble along
the way should be encouraged to remain in the community and to continue
to strive for holiness. In this regard, frequent reception of the
Sacrament of Reconciliation is of great importance.
* The Church does not support so-called same-sex “marriages”
or any semblance thereof, 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.
In the document’s conclusion, the bishops express thanks
to all who have labored faithfully in this pastoral ministry and
outreach. “They have done so at times under adverse and difficult
conditions,” the bishops say. “They have set an example
for this important service to the Church.”
More information on the November meeting can be found on