At their annual fall meeting held this past week, one of the major documents the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops was titled “Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination: Guidelines for Pastoral Care” [PDF] The blogger CourageMan has written two excellent posts this week relating to the document. (CourageMan’s nom de plume derives from Courage, an apostolate that the bishops specifically endorsed in this document as one that offers guidance to individuals with same-sex attraction in their efforts to live chastely in accordance with the teachings of the Catholic Church.) The bishops’ document notes:
It is crucially important to understand that saying a person has a particular inclination that is disordered is not to say that the person as a whole is disordered. Nor does it mean that one has been rejected by God or the Church. Sometimes the Church is misinterpreted or misrepresented as teaching that persons with homosexual inclinations are objectively disordered, as if everything about them were disordered or rendered morally defective by this inclination. Rather, the disorder is in that particular inclination, which is not ordered toward the fulfillment of the natural ends of human sexuality. Because of this, acting in accord with such an inclination simply cannot contribute to the true good of the human person. Nevertheless, while the particular inclination to homosexual acts is disordered, the person retains his or her intrinsic human dignity and value.
I can’t tell you how annoying it is to listen to pro-gay folks ignorantly (on this subject, that’s an objective fact) saying “the church says I am intrinsically evil” or “I’m not objectively disordered,” etc. No. It. Doesn’t. The distinction is right there. Reject it if you like, but don’t lie about what the Church teaches in order to boost up your Right-to-a-Hissy-Fit quotient.
The bishops’ document also says:
One way in which the Church can aid persons with a homosexual inclination is by nurturing the bonds of friendship among people. In their analysis of human nature, the ancient philosophers recognized that friendship is absolutely essential for the good life, for true happiness. Friendships of various kinds are necessary for a full human life, and they are likewise necessary for those attempting to live chastely in the world. There can be little hope of living a healthy, chaste life without nurturing human bonds. Living in isolation can ultimately exacerbate oneâ€™s disordered tendencies and undermine the practice of chastity. It would not be wise for persons with a homosexual inclination to seek friendship exclusively among persons with the same inclination. They should seek to form stable friendships among both homosexuals and heterosexuals. . . . A homosexual person can have an abiding relationship with another homosexual without genital sexual expression. Indeed the deeper need of any human is for friendship rather than genital expression.
If you love someone of the same sex, nobody is saying that you cannot or should cease to love them. In fact, you can love them without sex (more authentically the Church teaches, but set that aside for now). If the gay-rights folks refuse to give up sex, it’s an indication that sex is what they truly love. Functionally-speaking, it is their god. But they’ll define it as the sine qua non of their loving relationships and saying “you can’t criticize our sex without criticizing our love.”
In the second of the two posts, CM notes that the bishops dealt wisely with an enormously controversial — and, in my opinion, very often misunderstood — issue:
One part of the Bishops’ doc sure to cause controversy is this one about the possibility of “changing” sexual “orientation.” Its cautious wording is important: A considerable number of people who experience same-sex attraction experience it as an inclination that they did not choose. Many of these speak of their homosexual attractions as an unwanted burden. This raises the question of whether or not a homosexual inclination can be changed with the help of some kind of therapeutic intervention. There is currently no scientific consensus on the cause of the homosexual inclination. There is no consensus on therapy. Some have found therapy helpful. Catholics who experience homosexual tendencies and who wish to explore therapy should seek out the counsel and assistance of a qualified professional who has preparation and competence in psychological counseling and who understands and supports the Churchâ€™s teaching on homosexuality. They should also seek out the guidance of a confessor and spiritual director who will support their quest to live a chaste life. This strikes every note. There is no scientific consensus on the question of change, properly understood, because there is no scientific consensus on the cause of homosexuality beyond the obvious — that the cause is complex and the result of the interaction of a bunch of factors…
Some other key points on the possibility of orientation change:
The church leaves open the possibility of “changing,” and makes the noncommitally bland statement “some have found [it] helpful.” That “change” is *possible* is something all but rigidly blinded ideologues know upon reflection (though it does require getting beyond the whole “gay-straight” discourse). But the USCCB doesn’t hold out too much hope (as it shouldn’t in fact, and would be beyond its competence in any event).
The USCCB document, which I think could have been written by a well-formed Courage member, pretty clearly indicates from space and rhetoric that “orientation change” is a small part of the Church teaching and not a big priority compared with a much broader orientation change that all need. In fact, here is how it transitions into the next segment after its “Therapy for Homosexual Inclinations?” segment. There is another kind of â€œtherapyâ€ or healing of which we all stand in need, regardless of whether one is attracted to the same or the opposite sex: Every person needs training in the virtues… To acquire a virtueâ€”to become temperate, brave, just, or prudentâ€”we must repeatedly perform acts that embody that virtue, acts that we accomplish with the help of the Holy Spirit and with the guidance and encouragement of our teachers in virtue. … The acquisition of virtues requires a sustained effort and repeated actions. As the ancient philosophers recognized, the more one repeats good actions, the more oneâ€™s passions (such as love, anger, and fear) become shaped in accord with good action.
Amen to that. HT: Amy Welborn