Catholic Bishops Issue Guidelines for Ministry to Gays

New York Times is reporting that these guidelines will be voted upon in mid-November. Judging from who opposes them, they are likely to be a centrist document. I have not seen them, however. Some who have indicate that reorientation therapy is not recommended nor condemned.

13 thoughts on “Catholic Bishops Issue Guidelines for Ministry to Gays”

  1. Timothy: I have yet to see the actual guidelines but from what I have seen reported, I think you are correct that there is an effort to balance doctrine with justice. I sense this tension throughout conservative Christianity.

  2. Jim: I believe you’re correct in general that for Catholic believers the traditions of the church rise to the level of revelation. For Protestants who consider the doctrine of Sola Scriptura to be guidance, the issue is not how something feels or what church leaders say but what the Bible teaches. Hence, the issue within those circles is one of hermaneutics (interpretation).

  3. I don’t think the Church’s teaching can be so easily divided between the “justice” and “obedience” camps. We have a tendency to want to create discrete categories — left vs. right, lib’ral vs. conservative — but Catholic teachings really defy such easy pigeon-holing.

    One thing about Catholic theology that makes it so compelling to me (even as the disaffected Catholic that I am) is its remarkable seamlessness, which rests not so much on obedience and justice, but life and the inherent dignity and worth of each individual.

    Yes, I know that when it comes to gays in the church, that sense of dignity appears to vanish in a flash. It can be quite startling in fact. I could be the picture-perfect Catholic if it weren’t for the whole “intrinsically disordered” mess. But there it is. Suddenly the church becomes utterly incapable of seeing the inherent dignity and worth of gay individuals. And that refusal is quite alienating, for me at least, an alienation has become quite concrete.

    The church describes celibacy as a gift to those who are called to celibacy. But for gay Christians, celibacy is the prescription — or the punishment. It was hardly a gift for me. It was a curse, and it led me to wonder why God would curse me in such a cruel manner.

    The fact is, we were created in love — to love and serve God and our neighbors. We are called to love God with all our heart, soul, and might, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. And while love takes many forms, the most precious, the most gift-like, is that special love we reserve for the one whom we love as God loves Israel in the Song of Solomon.

    What a precious gift that is! And how lucky we are to experience it! Can I then believe that God expects me to suppress that gift and hide it under a bushel? According to the Church, the answer is yes.

    P.S. Re: “For Christianity that takes the Bible as God’s Word, it comes down to what does It teach?”

    For what its worth, Catholic Christianity sees the Bible as figuratively God’s Word, not literally. The Church recognizes the historical process in which Scriptures came into being as a product of the Holy Spirit through the instrument of the early Church. Inspiration and guidance comes from scripture and tradition both, since, according to the Church, each informs the other. And while the Church holds that there are no further revelations, there is a recognition that the *understanding* of revelation can continue to evolve.

    So yes, it comes down to what does it (the Church) teach?

  4. “For Christianity that takes the Bible as God’s Word, it comes down to what does It teach?”

    I wonder how the idea of the Bible being the “Word of God” got started. It’s pretty clear from the first chapter of John that the Bible is not the Word, but Christ is the Word. I worry that conflating Christ and the Scripture tends to deify the Bible so that ultimately we worship the book rather than the God that the book tells us about.

    Nonetheless, you make a good point. It all comes down to how you understand what Scripture tells us about God.

    Those who think God is concerned with holiness and obedience tend to find any expression of same-sex attraction unacceptable for themselves (and usually others as well). Those who think God is concerned with justice and mercy are more inclined to apply the principles of opposite-sex relationships to same-sex ones.

    Of course it isn’t quite that simple but that seems to be the language of the two primary opposing views.

    The Catholic Church is interesting in that it incorporates segments of both camps into its doctrines. The Church’s opposition to the death penalty and their championing of labor and emigrants would fall into the “justice” camp while their opposition to contraception falls into the “obedience” camp. On gay equality issues they try to make demands of obedience couched in words of the justice camp. Which is probably why it sounds particularly callous and hollow to gay Catholics.

  5. If one is truly interested in establishing “guidelines for ministry to gays” it is essential that we start with some definitions. The answer to the question “can gays change?” depends entirely on what you mean by “gay” and what you mean by “change”.

    Here are some terms and phrases that need CLEAR definitions:

    Gay identity, formerly gay identified, former homosexual, ex-gay, change, gay lifestyle, etc.

    There are many others, but this list would be a good start. If we don’t define terms, we’re arguing nonsense. We might as well be talking pig-latin to aborigines.

    As John Boswell pointed out so well:

    “Words are fundamental to Christianity. They are a basic means of expressing faith, and, as I pointed out, this is peculiarly characteristic of the Christian religion. You will now be able to see, if you think about it, that words can conceal as muich as they reveal. In the Christian moral tradition, great difficulty has been occasioned by inattention to words and their precise meanings.”

    Robbi Kenney, one of EXODUS’s founders, admitted: “EXODUS has always had a problem with definitions…”

  6. “I know there is no comparison, but what about guys like Ted Bundy and BTK also had sexual desires that were strange?”

    Those desires weren’t just “strange” — they violated another child of God’s right to LIFE. Kissing my lover goodnight is hardly in the same category.

  7. Anon at 11:11pm

    I thought twice about approving your comment but did so because I wanted to respond to it. You say: “I know there is no comparison, but what about guys like Ted Bundy and BTK also had sexual desires that were strange?”

    You are right, there is no comparison to TB and BTK. People who want to make homosexuality wrong because it seems unnatural (to them) should recall that SSA feels quite natural to those who experience it. And for some percentage of gay folk, there has never been attractions to the opposite sex. Catholics who have SSA must make some sense of this.

    Your point that having desires does not require their completion is certainly accurate. I suspect many gays and lesbians put that into practice daily.

    For Christianity that takes the Bible as God’s Word, it comes down to what does It teach? Pure and simple. I am not a big fan of natural law arguments because what seems natural to one might not seem natural to another and we are left with subjectivism. The issue among Christians is a religious and textual one.

  8. To those who think that the Catholic Church ought to accept same sex sex as normal and natural, what other unusual sexual practices ought to be acceptable as well? Should we all just assume that every type of sexual desire we have is natural and from God? And are we compelled to act on such desires? Are we really less of a person if we control our desires and live within a moral code. I know there is no comparison, but what about guys like Ted Bundy and BTK also had sexual desires that were strange? No one disagrees that they ought to have controlled themselves and attempted to live in comformity with outside values.

  9. Sure, boo, or even think a little broader.

    We could also do a little painting or sculpting (da Vinci, Michaelangelo), invent the computer (Turing), establish the philosophy on which Western society is based (Socrates), organize a march on Washington (Rustin), write a book (Capote, Forster, Cather, Lawrence) or a poem (Whitman, Byron, Stein) or a play (Wilde, Williams) or a song (John, Smith, Porter), and in our spare time conquer the world (Alexander).

    And the Church is fine with all of that (they’ll even commission the art) provided that you just don’t make “general public announcements” about it in the parish.

  10. Taking care of all musical and social functions while everyone pretends you aren’t what they know you are, like always silly!

  11. So what are gays supposed to do? Has anyone come up with any practical and compassionate “solutions” for gays? We aren’t supposed to form gay relationships. We are not supposed to settle down and “marry” our partners. We are not supposed to engage in gay sex. We should hide our homosexualiry. There is no good scientific evidence that any sort of reparative therapy actually changes us to straight. Reparative therapy may actually do harm. Some even suggest that celibacy is a sin. What’s left?

  12. The guidelines “affirm church teaching against same-sex relationships, marriages and adoptions by gay couples, yet encourage parishes to reach out to gay Catholics who feel alienated by their church.”

    The guildenlines also suggest that homosexuals are “disordered” and should stay in the closet.

    Let’s see, no gay realtionships or marriages, no adoptions, accept that I am disordered and should remain closeted. Hmmm….

    Sounds real welcoming to me. Why would a gay Catholic person feel “alientated” from such a church?

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