A Synopsis of Current Roman Catholic Teaching on Homosexuality
[Compiled from Voices of Hope, Jeannine Gramick & Robert Nugent, CHE, 1995]
The most authoritative teaching of the Catholic Church on homosexuality is contained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (# 2357 and # 2358) first published in 1992 and revised in 1997 with a definitive Latin edition.
This teaching, representing all the bishops of the universal church, is normative for and takes precedence over all other documents from Vatican offices, national conferences of bishops and individual bishops.
The Catechism makes the following points:
- Homosexuality refers to men and women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction towards the same sex.
- Homosexuality has taken various historical and cultural forms and its cause remains largely unexplained.
- Homosexual people must be treated with respect, compassion and sensitivity.
- All unjust discrimination toward them should be avoided.
- The homosexual inclination is "objectively disordered."
- Homosexual acts are portrayed in Scripture as a "grave depravity;" tradition has always declared them "intrinsically disordered" and contrary to the natural law because they are (1) closed to the gift of life and (2) do not proceed from genuine male/female complementarity. They can never be approved.
Another contemporary church document dealing with homosexuality in the social and cultural context of the US is the 1997 (revised 1998) pastoral statement, Always Our Children, from the U. S. Catholic bishops.
Always Our Children makes the following points:
- Sexuality is a gift of God. Everyone should acknowledge and accept [his] sexual identity. Sexual identity helps us define the unique persons we are.
One component of our sexual identity is sexual orientation. Church teaching acknowledges a distinction between a transitory homosexual tendency and those who are definitely homosexual because of some kind of "innate instinct."
- Homosexual people are children of God, gifted and called for a purpose in God's design.
- Homosexual orientation is a deep-seated, relatively stable, dimension of one's personality experienced as a given, not something freely chosen. It shapes a person's way of thinking, feeling, perceiving and responding.
- Parents must remain open to the possibility that a child is struggling to understand and accept a basic homosexual orientation.
- Given the present state of medical knowledge, there is no guarantee that orientation change therapy will succeed.
- Nothing in the Bible or Catholic teaching can be used to justify prejudicial or discriminatory attitudes and behaviors towards homosexual persons.
- The fundamental human rights of homosexual persons must be defended and all of us must strive to eliminate any form of injustice, oppression or violence against them.
- We call upon all Christians to confront their own fears about homosexuality and to curb the humor and discrimination that offend homosexual persons.
- It is not sufficient only to avoid unjust discrimination. All homosexual persons have a right to be welcomed into the community, to hear the word of God and to receive pastoral care.
- Homosexual people should have an active role in the Christian community; homosexual persons who are leading chaste lives should have opportunities to lead and serve the community.
- Pastoral ministers should learn about homosexuality and church teaching so that their preaching, teaching and counseling will be informed and effective; they should use words like "gay," "lesbian" and "homosexual" in honest and accurate ways.
- It is God's plan that sexual intercourse occur only within marriage between a man and a woman. Every act of intercourse must be open to the possible creation of a new human life. The Church teaches that homogenital behavior is objectively immoral while making the distinction between this behavior and a homosexual orientation which is not immoral in itself.
- Though you are discouraged, hurt or angry do not walk away from the Christian community. In you God's love is revealed. You are always our children.