Rome bars neutral moral line on homosexuality
by Peter Stanford THE VATICAN's latest pronouncement on homosexuality, which labels it "a moral disorder", "evil" and "self-indulgent", has been greeted with angry protests in America.
Demonstrators representing various Catholic homosexual groups in the United States gathered outside the residence of the papal pro-nuncio, Archbishop Pio Laghi, on Washington's Massachusetts Avenue on Saturday. They asked for a meeting with the nuncio in order to express their "anger and pain" at the tone of the document—a "Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons".
Archbishop Laghi was not available to meet the protestors and his staff suggested that they should write to arrange an appointment.
Represented were the Catholic Coalition for Gay Civil Rights, the National Coalition of American Nuns, the New Ways Ministry, and Dignity, one of America's largest Catholic homosexual organisations with over 5,000 members in 100 groups nationwide.
One fear that was expressed was that organisations such as Dignity would be refused use of Catholic premises in line with the instructions in the letter.
No American bishop has spoken on the "Letter" although it is expected to be discussed at the bishops' conference annual meeting next week.
The document, prepared by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and signed by its prefect, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, was released in Rome last week. It arose, it states, out of concern at "an overly benign interpretation" of the 1975 Vatican "Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics". This document, which noted the distinction between homosexual tendency and actions, had been misinterpreted according to the letter so as to present homosexuality as "neutral or even good".
The letter dismisses this stance out of hand. "Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered towards an intrinsic moral evil: and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder".
The Letter examined page three The letter then goes on to quote scriptural backing for its position, arguing that the Church's doctrine on this issue "is not based on isolated phrases for facile theological argument, but on the solid foundation of a constant Biblical testimony".
God's aim for mankind was "the transmission of life by a mutual donation of the self to the other", and by choosing a
partner of the same sex, homosexuals were anulling "the rich symbolism and meaning of the Creator's sexual designs" according to the letter. Homosexuality is thus "a disordered sexual inclination which is essentially selfindulgent", and which is tied up with "a materialistic ideology which denies the transcendent nature of the human person".
Condemning' violent malice in speech or in action" against homosexuals, the Vatican text nonetheless warns that certain groupings of homosexuals which reject official teaching on the issue are seeking to exploit the Church to further their campaigns. Therefore, the letter advises all bishops, when instituting pastoral programmes for the care of homosexuals, to ensure that they do not "include organisations in which homosexual persons associate with each other without clearly stating that homosexual activity is immoral". Furthermore, the letter adds, "a truly pastoral approach will appreciate the need for homosexual persons to avoid the near occasions of sin."
In ministering to the homosexual community, the Vatican advises bishops to use catechesis and reflections to deepen their knowledge of "the true meaning of human sexuality and Christian marriage".
All church support should be withdrawn from organisations that reject the Church's teaching on this matter, the congregation emphasises. "Special attention should be given to the practice of scheduling religious services and the use of church buildings. To some such permission may seem only just and charitable, but in reality it is contradictory to the purpose for which these institutions were founded, it is misleading and often scandalous".
• Bishop Hugh Lindsay of Hexham and Newcastle moved this week to scotch suggestions by the Northern Echo, in a front page story, that one of his priests was denying homosexuals the sacraments. Fr Noel Donelan had merely answered a question from a reporter and his answer had been taken out of all context, and certainly did not constitute a ban, the bishop said,