Illusory LGBT “Civil Rights” vs. Catholic Truth

The recent April 26 Religion News Service commentary by Fordham University’s Fr. Bryan Massingale is titled “As a Catholic priest, I am against an executive order on religious liberty.” I found it to be breathtaking—in much the same way as a steel-tipped boot can take your breath away as it lands in your gut.

The author tells us that:

  • Religious conservatives and Republicans are urging the president to issue a religious liberty executive order that “most likely will threaten the rights of LGBT persons.”
  • The leaked draft of the order “will be read by many as a broad assault upon LGBT rights and a license to deny basic services to same-sex couples.”
  • “Despite the rhetoric of persecution embraced by some, Christians are not under attack in this country.”
  • Due to what the author calls “papal encouragement,” he seeks a “better path forward” and thus is a featured speaker at an April 28 conference, “LGBT Catholics in the Age of Pope Francis,” held by the pro-gay-identity, pro-gay-sex, pro-gay-“marriage” group “New Ways Ministry,” which itself was condemned by the US Bishops in 2010—facts Massingale never mentions in his commentary.

Such a commentary may not seem like anything new, in itself, but there continues to be a cumulative effect of utter and absolute neglect of the truth regarding what the Church really teaches about the ideology of orientation, the reality of unjust discrimination, and the place of the Church in dealing with the illusion—yes, the illusion—of specialized civil rights that adhere to “LGBT persons.”

And that truly breathtaking neglect is at the core of the RNS commentary I reference above.

Not Once, But Twice—Anybody Listening?
Before all else, Catholics have to find their way off of the well-travelled slippery slope that claims “orientation” somehow creates a “minority” class deserving special status under the law. Unfortunately, many Catholics, including clergy, seem very unaware that the Church’s magisterium has already given us clear and comprehensive guidance on this exact issue. Twice, in fact.

On July 24, 1992, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith released “Some Considerations Concerning the Response to Legislative Proposals on the Non-Discrimination of Homosexual Persons,” and on July 31, 2003, it also published “Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons.” In these two texts, the faithful Catholic can find everything needed to avoid unjust discrimination of people with same-sex attraction while also properly avoiding the illusion of special “LGBT rights.”

The 1992 text begins by acknowledging that many countries are facing anti-discrimination legislation proposals based on sexual orientation, but that these initiatives, “even where they seem more directed toward support of basic civil rights than condonement of homosexual activity or a homosexual lifestyle, may in fact have a negative impact on the family and society.” Thus, the CDF text “will try to identify some principles and distinctions of a general nature” that all of us—including “Church authority”—should take into consideration when confronting these issues.

After nine paragraphs citing “relevant passages from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons” of 1986,” we get to practical applications. Here are the highlights:

  • “Sexual orientation” does not constitute a quality comparable to race, ethnic background, etc. in respect to non-discrimination. Unlike these, homosexual orientation is an objective disorder (cf. Letter, no. 3) and evokes moral concern.
  • There are areas in which it is not unjust discrimination to take sexual orientation into account, for example, in the placement of children for adoption or foster care, in employment of teachers or athletic coaches, and in military recruitment.
  • Homosexual persons, as human persons, have the same rights as all persons including the right of not being treated in a manner which offends their personal dignity (cf. no. 10). Among other rights, all persons have the right to work, to housing, etc. Nevertheless, these rights are not absolute. They can be legitimately limited for objectively disordered external conduct. This is sometimes not only licit but obligatory.
  • Including “homosexual orientation” among the considerations on the basis of which it is illegal to discriminate can easily lead to regarding homosexuality as a positive source of human rights, for example, in respect to so-called affirmative action or preferential treatment in hiring practices. This is all the more deleterious since there is no right to homosexuality (cf. no. 10), which therefore should not form the basis for judicial claims.
  • The passage from the recognition of homosexuality as a factor on which basis it is illegal to discriminate can easily lead, if not automatically, to the legislative protection and promotion of homosexuality. A person’s homosexuality would be invoked in opposition to alleged discrimination, and thus the exercise of rights would be defended precisely via the affirmation of the homosexual condition instead of in terms of a violation of basic human rights.
  • Homosexual persons who assert their homosexuality tend to be precisely those who judge homosexual behavior or lifestyle to be “either completely harmless, if not an entirely good thing” (cf. no. 3), and hence worthy of public approval. It is from this quarter that one is more likely to find those who seek to “manipulate the Church by gaining the often well-intentioned support of her pastors with a view to changing civil statutes and laws” (cf. no. 5), those who use the tactic of protesting that “any and all criticism of or reservations about homosexual people… are simply diverse forms of unjust discrimination” (cf. no. 9).
  • The Church has the responsibility to promote family life and the public morality of the entire civil society on the basis of fundamental moral values, not simply to protect herself from the application of harmful laws (cf. no. 17).

These are all direct quotes from the text.

Where Is All the “Emphatic Opposition”?
Let’s fast-forward to the 2003 document, addressed not only to legislators, or Catholics, but to all people “committed to promoting and defending the common good of society.” It then details the truth about marriage, which “no ideology can erase from the human spirit.” It adds, “There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family. Marriage is holy, while homosexual acts go against the natural moral law.”

Regarding discrimination, the CDF says, “Nonetheless, according to the teaching of the Church, men and women with homosexual tendencies ‘must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.’” Yet, please take note—acceptance of the person is the Church’s teaching, not acceptance of same-sex “couples” or the agenda-driven “LGBT community.” Our focus is the person.

When confronting the issue of legalized so-called same-sex “marriage,” the document says something crucially significant:

In those situations where homosexual unions have been legally recognized or have been given the legal status and rights belonging to marriage, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty. One must refrain from any kind of formal cooperation in the enactment or application of such gravely unjust laws and, as far as possible, from material cooperation on the level of their application. In this area, everyone can exercise the right to conscientious objection.

Indeed, the text makes clear that a civil law not grounded in right reason cannot bind our conscience, and that legalized same-sex “marriage” is contrary both to right reason and the common good; it obscures authentic morality; and it devalues real marriage. It states that same-sex adoptions are “gravely immoral” and is a form of “violence” toward children.

Contrary to what some Catholic priests (and many others) are telling us, this magisterial text also confirms:

The principles of respect and non-discrimination cannot be invoked to support legal recognition of homosexual unions. Differentiating between persons or refusing social recognition or benefits is unacceptable only when it is contrary to justice. The denial of the social and legal status of marriage to forms of cohabitation that are not and cannot be marital is not opposed to justice; on the contrary, justice requires it.

The CDF also maintains that appeals to individual autonomy to justify toleration of same-sex unions are erroneous. “On the contrary, there are good reasons for holding that such unions are harmful to the proper development of human society, especially if their impact on society were to increase.”

Given that the 2003 text offers its own elegant and eloquent conclusion, I wish to give the final word to the illustrious magisterial authors who penned it. However, let’s first make no mistake about the less satisfying words of Fr. Massingale’s commentary—sexual orientation is not a source of special “LGBT rights.” Catholics are not called to accept same-sex coupling, same-sex “marriage,” or orientation ideology. Rather, we are called to emphatically oppose and avoid cooperating either materially or remotely in the unjust laws that confront us, even as we show respect, compassion, and sensitivity to every person with same-sex attraction.

The Church teaches that respect for homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behavior or to legal recognition of homosexual unions. The common good requires that laws recognize, promote and protect marriage as the basis of the family, the primary unit of society. Legal recognition of homosexual unions or placing them on the same level as marriage would mean not only the approval of deviant behavior, with the consequence of making it a model in present-day society, but would also obscure basic values which belong to the common inheritance of humanity. The Church cannot fail to defend these values, for the good of men and women and for the good of society itself. (No. 11)


Jim Russell lives in St. Louis, Missouri. He writes on a variety of topics related to the Catholic faith, including natural law, liturgy, theology of the body, and sexuality. He is on Twitter at @DJimRussell and can be reached by email at [email protected]

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