U.S. Cardinal Calls for Removal of “Intrinsically Disordered” from Catechism

Cardinal Robert McElroy

A U.S. cardinal has called for the language of “intrinsically disordered” to be removed from the Catechism. His comment followed the publication of an article in which he sought a better, wider welcome for LGBTQ+ people in the church.*

Cardinal Robert McElroy of San Diego made his comments about church teaching on homosexuality during an interview with the podcast Jesuitical, which is produced by America Media. Asked how he would approach the question of LGBTQ+ inclusion, specifically when the language used is considered harmful by many people, the cardinal responded:

“I’ve said for some years I felt, and others have too, that the intrinsically disordered language is a disservice. The problem is, it’s used in the catechism as a philosophical term, but to us in our country and really most of the world, disorder is thought of as psychological. It’s a terrible word and it should be taken out of the catechism. On the question of the distinction between activity and orientation, the point I was trying to make in the article was God’s embrace of L.G.B.T. people, like the church’s embrace, should [not] be [based on] whether they’re [sexually] active or not; that should not determine whether we seek to include people, reach out to them, look on them as fellow strivers with strengths and weaknesses and areas where they’re doing well.”

McElroy continued by saying that differentiating between activity and orientation matters, but “shouldn’t be the foundation for how we approach L.G.B.T. people.” He concluded:

“My pastoral vision here in San Diego is to make—and it’s hard to accomplish this—to make L.G.B.T. people feel equally welcome in the life of the church as everyone else. And so how we get from here to there—it’s hard and we take steps. But that’s my goal. And I really feel that Christ would totally agree with that. That he would want every person, every L.G.B.T. person and their families, to feel equally welcomed in the church.”

More broadly in the interview, the cardinal expressed concern that the church had focused too severely on questions of sexuality, an outgrowth of the 16th century notion that “all sexual sins are mortal” which he was “challenging in the essay.” He also added that instead “judgmentalism is the worst sin in the Christian life.”

Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, February 13, 2023

*Cardinal McElroy’s interview appeared soon after he published an essay in America about radical inclusion for LGBTQ+ people and others marginalized in the church. Tomorrow, Bondings 2.0 will cover insights from the cardinal’s essay that complement his podcast comments.

7 replies
  1. Loras Michel
    Loras Michel says:

    Thank you Bishop McElroy. Words do matter and as children loved by God, we all matter. If God ever withdrew his Love even for a moment for anyone who sinned, God would be a mighty lonely Creator. God instead chooses to keep company with everyone and in doing so, allows every person the freedom to be their best self. We are all called to love and to live that responsibly toward our neighbor. L.G.B.T. persons share in that same embrace of God’s love which no man can deny, and which everyone is called to accompany one another on this life’s journey. It is not easy to establish trust for the people we accompany when the cruel words are still there on the book. Bishop McElroy is doing a remarkable service to rectify a wrong long past its prime. Perhaps L.G.B.T. persons might begin to look again. Can we blame them if this might involve a long process of discernment? Even an old dog can be kicked so much. San Diego had a horrible track record a few years back. We cannot afford to lose another generation because of this.

    On the issue of judgmentalism, there are many “busy bodies” out there reporting responsible married couples to hostile church officials resulting in their losing their livelihood in Catholic institutions. The Bishop spoke his mind wisely on this matter as well. We are grateful for your presence out here much like Fr. James Martin in NYC who is building a bridge. May these bridges connect throughout the universe.

  2. Loretta
    Loretta says:

    Please help me understand his reasoning and meaning in saying “intrinsically disordered is used in the catechism as a philosophical term.”

    Separating one’s natural orientation from a natural desire to seek emotional and physical intimacy runs counter to human experience not the least of which is the inherent inability for many celibate men to abstain from finding themselves drawn to intimate relationships and a couple’s decision to determine the size of their family. Would we tell an artist that you can’t paint? If there is an inherent characteristic of a person that is destructive then yes one has to find a way of not acting on his/her natural tendency. However, the intimate love between two people that is natural and God-given seems to me to have the same responsible and mature expectations for both heterosexual and homosexual persons.

  3. Anthony Nemger
    Anthony Nemger says:

    As an LGBTQ praticinng catholic I appaud the Cardinal’s comments. I sing in the choir at my church along with several other LGBTQ catholics. We have many other LGBTQ ministers performing in many of the different ministries in our parish. May God bless the Cardinal for being a true christian.

  4. Dana Carr
    Dana Carr says:

    This is absolutely the most incredible position paper I have ever read regarding “language”. And the fact that it is posited by an influential American cardinal who appears to have unconditional support from Pope Francis gives this aging man a hope and joy I never thought I would see in my lifetime, yet it saddens me at the same time for all the damage that has been done, generations of men and women who haven’t been able to experience the fullness of the Church. Surely, the Holy Spirit is at work.


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