Special Report — Bishops’ Pastoral Letter on Homosexuality: An Appeal Concerning Always Our Children

Lumen Gentium teaches us that there are times when lay Catholics are “obliged to express [their] opinion on things which concern the good of the Church.” We believe this is just such an occasion. The Marriage and Family Committee of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops has just issued a statement entitled Always Our Children that is so seriously flawed that it threatens to mislead the faithful about the morality of homosexuality and the duty of parents to love and protect their children.

The Church’s authentic teachings on those subjects are set forth in Holy Scripture, in the definitive edition of the Catechism, and in the papally approved Letter on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons (PCHP) issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on October 1, 1986. Always Our Children conflicts with those teachings in at least three crucial respects.

Homosexual activity

In the earliest days of the Church, St. Paul minced no words in condemning homosexual activity as a mortally sinful vice, comparable to adultery as an offense against chastity, and comparable to alcohol abuse as a self-destructive addiction (1 Cor. 6: 9-10; Rom. 1: 26-27). Similarly, paragraph 2357 of the Catechism describes such conduct as “contrary to the natural law,” and section three of the PCHP pronounces it “an intrinsic moral evil.” By contrast, Always Our Children takes the bizarre position that even though homogenital behavior is unquestionably immoral, priests and other pastoral ministers should “avoid . . . condemnations.” In effect, this amounts to a suggestion that the Church should reject the example of St. Paul, when he warned the faithful that sodomy is a sin that could cost them their souls.

Attractions to homosexual activity

Although the Church does not regard unconsummated homosexual inclinations as sinful, it does regard them as directed toward an intrinsic moral evil; and, consequently, it rejects the notion that they should be accepted and insists instead that they must be resisted (paragraphs 2358 and 2359 of the Catechism; sections three and eight of the PCHP). Moreover, the Church teaches that, even when homosexual inclinations are extremely deep-seated, they can always be overcome with God’s grace. As St. Paul put it in an epistle addressed to a community that included men who had been active homosexuals before he converted them to Christianity, “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may endure it” (1 Cor. 10:13).

Always Our Children undercuts these vitally important Church teachings by repeatedly suggesting that persons who have homosexual inclinations should “accept” them as a “fundamental dimension” of their personality. Even more regrettably, it tries to support this thesis by misleadingly implying that paragraph 2333 of the Catechism treats homosexuality as a basic sexual identity that “Everyone . . . should acknowledge and accept.” The truth, of course, is just the opposite. What that paragraph actually says is: “Everyone, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity. Physical, moral, and spiritual difference and complementarily are oriented toward the goods of marriage and the flourishing of family life. The harmony of the couple and of society depends in part on the way in which the complementarity, needs, and mutual support between the sexes are lived out” (emphasis added).

Parental duties toward homosexual children

Parents who learn that their child is attracted to homosexual activity have two basic Christian duties: One is to show their love for the child by doing everything they can to protect the child’s health, and the other is to show their love for the child by doing everything they can to save the child’s soul.

To its credit, Always Our Children points out that neither of these obligations can be fulfilled if the parents’ reaction to learning of their child’s homosexuality is to reject them and break off all family contact. However, it never tells parents how important it is for them to determine whether their child has been sexually exploited by an older person. If such abuse has occurred, the child might well be HIV-infected and/or prone to suicide, and the parents would not only be obliged to see to it that the child receives proper medical and psychiatric attention, but also would be obliged to notify the appropriate legal authorities.

Always Our Children

In a similar vein, Always Our Children correctly points out that the parents should do whatever they can to protect their child against persecution. But it completely ignores the example set by Jesus when he encountered a mob about to stone a woman to death because she had committed adultery. He saved the woman from stoning, but he didn’t “accept” her inclination to commit adultery. Quite to the contrary, he told the woman: “Go and and do not sin again” (Jn . 8 : 1 1). Always Our Children never calls on parents to speak to their children with equal force or clarity. Instead, it limits itself to the lame suggestion that parents of a homosexual child “may need to challenge certain aspects of a lifestyle which [they] find objectionable.” Worse yet, it actually suggests that parents of a child who is “experimenting with some homosexual behaviors” might be better advised to adopt a “wait and see” approach than to raise any objections at all.

That simply won’t do. Experimenting with homosexuality can be every bit as harmful as experimenting with drugs. What the Church should be telling parents in this situation is that they should make sure their child understands that homosexual activity is lethally dangerous as well as gravely sinful, do everything they can to encourage their child to accept God’s grace and live chastely, and never waver in their love and compassion while their child is struggling to follow that counsel.

In sum, what these times call for is a ringing reaffirmation of the teachings of Jesus and St. Paul, and an emphatic rejection of the pernicious notion that homosexual inclinations should be “accepted.”

This appeal was respectfully submitted to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith by the Catholic laymen and laywomen listed below.

William Bentley Ball, Esq.

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

Linda Chavez

Syndicated columnist

Bethesda, Maryland

Mary A. Cummins

Family Defense Council

Queens, New York

Arthur J. Delaney

 Voices for the Unborn

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Richard Fitzgibbons, M.D.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Prof. Richard Alan Gordon

Georgetown University Law Center

Washington, D.C.

John P. Hale, Esq.

New York, New York

John D. Hartigan, Esq.

Rye, New York

Helen Hull Hitchcock

Women for Faith and Family

St. Louis, Missouri

Deal W. Hudson, Ph.D.


Washington, D.C.

Mary Ann Kreitzer

Women of Truth

Alexandria, Virginia

Kathleen S. McCreary, Esq.

Scarsdale, New York

Ralph Mclnerny, Ph.D.

Jacques Maritain Institute

South Bend, Indiana

Joseph Nicolosi, Ph.D.

Thomas Aquinas Psychological Clinic

Encino, California

Michael Novak

American Enterprise Institute

Washington, D.C.

 Ann Sheridan

Georgetown Ignatian Society

Washington, D.C.

Edward J. Sheridan, M.D., F.A.P.A.

Washington, D.C.

Kathleen Sullivan

Project Reality

Chicago, Illinois

Michael M. Uhlmann, Esq.

Ethics and Public Policy Center

Washington, D.C.

Paul C. Vitz, Ph.D.

New York University

New York, New York

Evelyn Birge Vitz, Ph.D.

New York University

New York, New York

Christopher Wolfe, Ph.D.

Marquette University

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

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