Given the general principles of Church teaching just enunciated, the following guidelines for pastoral care emerge.
- As baptized members of the Catholic community, persons with a
homosexual inclination continue to look to the Church for a place where
they may live in authentic human integrity and holiness of life. Being
welcomed into and participating in their local faith community is the
foundation of spiritual support that the Church offers to them. Full and
active participation is encouraged.35 Participation in a worshiping
Catholic community is a support for living a life of chastity and
integrity and an encouragement to an ongoing personal conversion.
to the success of ministry to persons with a homosexual inclination
will be the support and leadership of the bishop and other pastoral
leaders. A welcoming stance of Christian love by the leadership and the
community as a whole is essential for this important work. This is
particularly important because more than a few persons with a homosexual
inclination feel themselves to be unwelcome and rejected.
who experience same-sex attraction and yet are living in accord with
Church teaching should be encouraged to take an active role in the life
of the faith community. However, the Church has a right to deny roles of
service to those whose behavior violates her teaching. Such service may
seem to condone an immoral lifestyle and may even be an occasion of
- Special care ought to be taken to ensure that those
carrying out the ministry of the Church not use their position of
leadership to advocate positions or behaviors not in keeping with the
teachings of the Church. They must not belong to groups that oppose
Church teaching. It is not sufficient for those involved in this
ministry to adopt a position of distant neutrality with regard to Church
- For some persons, revealing their homosexual
tendencies to certain close friends, family members, a spiritual
director, confessor, or members of a Church support group may provide
some spiritual and emotional help and aid them in their growth in the
Christian life. In the context of parish life, however, general public
self- disclosures are not helpful and should not be encouraged.
to say, there are many persons with a homosexual inclination who feel
alienated from the Church. Outreach programs and evangelization efforts
ought to be mindful of such persons. In areas where there are larger
concentrations of homosexual persons, individuals may profitably be
dedicated solely to outreach ministry to them; in other areas, ministry
to persons with a homosexual inclination should be included as part of
overall evangelization efforts.
- Church policies should
explicitly reject unjust discrimination and harassment of any persons,
including those with a homosexual inclination. Procedures should be in
place to handle complaints.
Sacraments and Worship
- Catechesis ought to reflect the fullness of the Church’s
teaching on human sexuality in general, and homosexuality in particular.
“Moral conscience requires that, in every occasion, Christians give
witness to the whole moral truth, which is contradicted both by approval
of homosexual acts and unjust discrimination against homosexual
persons.”37 In tone, catechesis ought to be welcoming yet challenging,
charitable but firm in the truth.
- The work of catechesis is
exercised first in the family by parents of children. The Church should
assist parents as the first teachers of their children regarding sexual
and affective development as well as their children’s understanding of
divine and natural law in matters of human sexuality.
starts with the formation of those who so generously engage in this
essential ministry. Care should be taken in their selection and
training; individuals who do not support Church teaching should not
serve in this ministry. Sponsoring training days and days of reflection
conducted by theologically sound and pastorally wise ministers is an
important component of this formation.
- Moral choices ought to be
based on sound moral teachings. Ongoing catechesis and conscience
formation for persons who experience same-sex attraction should be an
important part of this Catholic ministry, counteracting some prevalent
societal mores and providing the basis for making informed moral
- The Church’s teaching in its fullness ought to be
presented by the clergy especially from the pulpit and in other
appropriate venues. Catechesis should also involve the entire parish
community. Ignorance of the fullness of Church teaching is often the
greatest barrier to an effective ministry to persons with a homosexual
inclination. Catechesis in the parish should also teach the virtues that
are needed to live out the call to chastity, e.g., selfless love,
fortitude, temperance, etc.
- Catechesis for the community ought
to denounce unjustly discriminatory and violent behaviors against
homosexual persons and to seek to correct misinformation that can lead
to these behaviors. Parish social justice ministries integrally formed
in the moral and social teachings of the Church may be one venue for
promoting just behaviors and opposing unjust discrimination towards
persons with a homosexual inclination.
- Local bishops should
oversee material used for catechesis to ensure that the information
contained is accurate and that nothing is contrary to Church teaching.
especially for young people, should explain the true nature and purpose
of human sexuality and should promote the virtue of chastity, which has
been both little understood and little valued in contemporary
who are living in accord with the Church’s moral teachings are invited
and encouraged to participate fully and regularly in the sacramental
life of the Church. The importance of frequent reception of the
sacraments, especially the Eucharist, for one’s ongoing strengthening
and sanctification should be emphasized.
- The Christian life is a
progressive journey toward a deepening of one’s discipleship of Christ.
People do not all move forward at the same pace, nor do they always
proceed in a direct line toward their goal. Those who stumble along the
way should be encouraged to remain in the community and to continue to
strive for holiness through conversion of life. In this regard, frequent
reception of the Sacrament of Penance is of great importance. Ongoing,
sound spiritual direction is of significant help.
- The Church
recognizes that “marriage exists solely between a man and a woman, who
by mutual personal gift, proper and exclusive to themselves, tend toward
the communion of their persons. In this way, they mutually perfect each
other, in order to cooperate with God in the procreation and upbringing
of new human lives.”39 Consequently, the Church does not support
so-called same-sex “marriages” or any semblance thereof, including civil
unions that give the appearance of a marriage. Church ministers may not
bless such unions or promote them in any way, directly or indirectly.
the Church does not support the adoption of children by same-sex
couples since homosexual unions are contrary to the divine plan.40
of children in the care of same-sex couples presents a serious pastoral
concern. Nevertheless, the Church does not refuse the Sacrament of
Baptism to these children, but there must be a well founded hope that
the children will be brought up in the Catholic religion.41 In those
cases where Baptism is permitted, pastoral ministers should exercise
prudential judgment when preparing baptismal ceremonies. Also, in
preparing the baptismal record, a distinction should be made between
natural parents and adoptive parents.42
- Many virtuous people who experience same-sex attraction are
ardently striving to live their faith within the Catholic community so
as not to fall into the lifestyle and values of a “gay subculture.” The
Church’s ministries are to encourage them to persevere in their efforts
through teaching, guidance, and fellowship. Primary among these is
spiritual direction from a priest.
- Young people, in particular,
need special encouragement and guidance, since the best way of helping
young people is to aid them in not getting involved in homosexual
relations or in the subculture in the first place, since these
experiences create further obstacles.
- There are particular
temptations for those who experience homosexual attractions. For some,
these attractions may be short-lived or situational, but for others,
they may be part of a lifelong experience.43 Pastoral support and
counseling services ought to be made readily available for persons who
experience such attractions and for the families to which they belong.
can be helpful for persons who find themselves with homosexual
attractions to gather together in mutual understanding and support. This
can be particularly the case because persons with a homosexual
inclination may feel “different,” which can lead to isolation and
alienation, which are risk factors for an unhealthy life, including
unchaste behaviors. Support groups, noted for their adherence to Church
teaching, for persons who experience same-sex attraction continue to be
an important part of Church ministries and are to be encouraged.44
Persons with a homosexual inclination should not be encouraged to define
themselves primarily in terms of their sexual inclination, however, or
to participate in “gay subcultures,” which often tend to promote immoral
lifestyles. Rather, they should be encouraged to form relationships
with the wider community.
- Pastoral and psychological care for
adolescents who struggle with sexual attraction issues is of particular
importance. Adolescents with homosexual attractions can be at serious
risk for personal difficulties, including suicidal tendencies and
attempts as well as enticements to promiscuity and exploitation by
adults. Every effort should be made to ensure that adolescents have
access to age-appropriate professional counseling services that respect
Church teaching in matters of human sexuality.
providing counseling services for persons who experience same-sex
attraction and the families to which they belong should be chosen
carefully to ensure that they uphold the Church’s understanding of the
human person. Efforts should be made to identify and publicize those
services that conduct their work in a manner that accords with Church
- Pastoral support should include care for people who become ill with sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS.
discovery that a family member has homosexual tendencies can pose a
serious concern for parents, siblings, and spouses. The Church reaches
out to them, seeking to help ensure that the bonds of love among the
family members remain intact. A helpful way of addressing this issue is
through the formation of support groups for individuals and families,
where they can also learn the full truth of the Church’s teaching
regarding the human dignity of persons with a homosexual inclination and
the moral principles regarding chastity that lead to the fullness of
authentic human living.
- Other organizations in our society
devoted to persons with a homosexual inclination can be of support—or a
hindrance—in living a chaste and holy life. Each should be evaluated on
its own merits using Church teachings as a guide and participation
should be encouraged or discouraged accordingly, as appropriate.