Nathan Burchfiel | Staff Writer | Wednesday, November 15, 2006
During their annual meeting, the bishops issued a 26-page statement on "ministry to persons with a homosexual inclination." The statement says people with homosexual attractions "must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity" and it requires pastors to condemn hateful treatment of homosexuals.
While the statement clearly says that "homosexual inclination is not itself a sin," it also says engaging in homosexual behavior is a sin because it "violate[s] the true purpose of sexuality."
The bishops said people who experience same-sex attraction but who live "in accord with Church teaching" - who are celibate, in other words -- should be encouraged to take an active role in the life of the faith community.
"However, the Church has the right to deny roles of service to those whose behavior violates her teaching," the statement added. "Such service may seem to condone an immoral lifestyle and may even be an occasion of scandal."
The policy permits practicing homosexuals to participate in religious sacraments such as communion and it encourages pastors to offer "special encouragement and guidance" to people with homosexual urges, especially young people, to help them avoid getting involved in what the statement calls the "gay subculture."
The bishops rejected homosexual "marriage" as well as civil unions designed to resemble marriage. They said Catholic clergy may not promote or bless such unions. And they repeated the church's opposition to same-sex couples adopting children.
Jody Huckaby, executive director of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), called the statement a "message of isolation, shame, and rejection that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Catholics have been subjected to for many years."
In a news release, Huckaby said the bishops' position will "perpetuate a culture of being in the closet and of shame" because it encourages homosexual Catholics to hide their actions.
Huckaby said the Catholic Church is telling homosexuals that "unless you are straight, you are not welcome to full participation in your faith," and said the announcement "strengthens this contention that GLBT people are not welcomed to live authentically within the Catholic Church."
The Catholic bishops also had a message for straight parishioners, reminding heterosexual Catholics that they may not have sex outside of marriage and that married couples must obey the church's ban on artificial birth control.
"To be a Catholic is a challenge," the Associated Press quoted Bishop Arthur Serratelli of Paterson, N.J. as saying. "To be a Catholic requires a certain choice." Serratelli chairs the bishops' doctrine committee.
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