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Friday, 9 March 2012

My Lords, we're ready for that pastoral letter on the homosexual condition now

The Catholic Church in the USA has recently been embroiled in disputes over the Health Care Bill and has woken up to the importance of defending Catholic teaching on the wrongfulness of artificial methods of birth control. Some faithful Catholics have been surprised to hear their first sermon in a generation that explicitly defends Humanae Vitae. (See especially Jennifer Fullweiler’s post, Father, We're Ready for that Homily on Contraception Now)

If the US government is to mandate all Catholic charities to provide insurance that covers contraception, people need to understand why we would oppose that. The defence against this move needs to be more than an assertion of religious freedom. People need to know why we think that contraception is wrong – and that we do not see this simply as a “Catholic issue.”

Here on our side of the pond, the current controversy is over the proposed legalisation of gay marriage. We also need to explain the fundamental reason for our opposition (and why it is not simply a Catholic issue): this is not being done. We can expatiate about the sanctity and value of marriage, the meaning of the word marriage, the way in which the Government is proposing to re-define marriage, the fact that marriage predates any state or government, and so on... But we also need to say why homosexual marriage is wrong, and indeed why homosexual civil unions are immoral. See, for example, the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the CDF document Considerations regarding proposals to give legal recognition to unions between homosexual persons (2003). In summary:
  1. Homosexual acts are gravely sinful and can never be approved. (CCC 2357)
  2. The homosexual inclination is objectively disordered (CCC 2358)
  3. Civil unions have an immoral nature (CDF op cit n.5)
In stating these truths, we must also give due prominence to the Catechism’s teaching that people with homosexual tendencies must be accepted with compassion and sensitivity. (CCC 2358) That is a genuine concern when we meet with people struggling with same sex attraction who are trying to live a chaste life in accord with the teaching of the Catholic Church. In many encounters over the years with good people involved in this struggle, I sincerely affirm that their insight, courage, and holiness has often inspired me.

But we need not fool ourselves that this any of this will cut much ice with the militant gay lobby. To say that we should have compassion upon someone implies that there is something wrong – “disordered” in the careful expression of holy mother Church. If, on the other hand, in the words of Nick Clegg, homosexuality should be considered “normal and harmless”, there is no place for compassion, only for recognition and acceptance. If someone told me that they accepted me as a Catholic with compassion and sensitivity, I would not regard it as a compliment. Those who consider that same sex attraction is a good thing, will have a similar reaction. We need to explain and defend the teaching of the Church that same sex attraction is not a good thing in itself but a disorder; not necessarily culpable, but not of its nature a good thing.

My Lords, we're ready for that pastoral letter on the Catholic Church's teaching on the homosexual condition now.
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