Documentation: Hickey: Elders’ Views are ‘Destructive’

On March 21, 1994, Washington Archbishop James Cardinal Hickey sent the following letter to President Clinton

My dear Mr. President,

I must take strong exception to the recent remarks of the Surgeon General, Joycelyn Elders, advocating homosexual behavior and expressing support for adoption by so-called homosexual couples. Furthermore, I deeply regret her apparent intolerance of people whose religious faith and moral values collide with her own ill-considered views.

The Surgeon General irresponsibly accuses religious leaders of holding that human sexuality is solely for procreation. Her words are a misleading caricature. In our Catholic tradition the two fundamental purposes of human sexuality—the expression of the committed love of husband and wife and openness to new human life—are linked together. Human sexuality is a great gift from God which enables couples to express their love for one another and, in the context of that love, to create and care for a family. Such a view is supported both by faith and reason; it does not involve the suppression of human sexuality but rather its right use for the good of individuals and society.

The strength of our country, Mr. President, has always been in the vitality of our families, not in the might of our weapons. By contrast, the breakdown of the family has been the root of so many of the social problems which, as a nation, we now struggle to overcome. The comments of Surgeon General Elders are destructive of a true understanding of family life. It is one thing to defend the human rights of homosexual men and women; it is quite another to encourage, as she does, a lifestyle which puts so-called homosexual unions on a par with marriage and family and condones homosexual behavior among young people.

Mr. President, I strongly urge you to take responsibility for the Surgeon General’s harmful and offensive remarks and publicly to disavow them. Respectfully I ask that you urge Dr. Elders to be more tolerant of religious teachings with respect to human sexuality. Whether she knows it or not, the religious teachings, leaders, and institutions which her remarks attack are vitally important to solving many of our nation’s social ills.

Sincerely in Christ,
James Cardinal Hickey
Archbishop of Washington

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