QUEST and the Catholic Lesbian Sisterhood, the two groups for Catholic homosexuals, gave a warm welcome this week to the Social Welfare Commission's long-awaited report on the pastoral care of homosexuals.
They both praised the "informed insights and sensitive leads" that the report offered to priests and hoped that it would be widely studied at all levels within the Church.
The Commission says that the Church has a special responsibility to help eliminate the injustice perpetrated on homosexuals by society. But it upholds the traditional Catholic teaching that homosexual acts are wrong.
Consequently the report warns priests to be careful about advising homosexuals to join societies set up specifically for theyn because of the possible moral dangers.
It says: "The goodwill of these societies must not be automatically questioned especially because their very existence may be due to the insensitivity of the general public. On the other hand there are obvious dangers.
"Moral support may easily be turned to moral danger and the pastor must encourage the person who seeks his advice to face up to this real possibility."
The report was published yesterday, two years after it had been requested by the National Conference of Priests. It is intended only as "an introduction to a complex subject" and contains few surprises. In a foreword Bishop Augustine Harris, president of the Social Welfare Commission, urged "sensitive and serious study".
On homosexual acts, it says that scripture and Christian tradition make it clear that these are immoral: although Christ emphasised love as the great commandment he did not set aside the traditional commandments.
In that it is less revolutionary than two reports published earlier this year by working parties of the Anglican and Methodist C hurches.
However, in its 16 "pastoral guidelines", it calls for greater knowledge and understanding of homosexuality and says: "Unconscious prejudice resulting from a biased social tradition does injustice to the homosexual and renders effective counselling impossible."
Mr Michael Stephens. chairman of Quest, said: "The Commission has evidently used as its main sources a wide range of people and personal experience. We would hope that the appeal for serious study will be taken up at every level of the Church." *An Introduction to the Pastoral Care of Homosexual People is available from Catholic Information Services, 74 Gallows Bill Lane, Abbots Langky. Hens, price 25p.