Positive Catholic Statements on Gay and Lesbian Issues, 1973 – 1995

A turning point in the history of the gay and lesbian civil rights movement was an event that occurred in New York on June 29, 1969 at a Greenwich Village bar. What took place that night, commonly known as the “Stonewall Rebellion,” and its impact on liberation for gay and lesbian people is commemorated each June by parades, festivals, and other events in U.S. cities and towns and in other countries throughout the world.

It is no coincidence that one of the first positive Catholic statements supporting civil rights in the workplace for persons with a homosexual orientation came from a Catholic institution in New York. It is also no surprise that this very same Catholic institution was one of the first Catholic health-related agencies to provide services to those affected by AIDS.

Since 1973, various opinion polls have shown a steady increase of Catholic support for the civil and human rights of lesbian and gay people in the Church and in society. On October 1, 1986, the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons. After the Letter was made public on October 30, 1986, there was a significant gap in the publication of episcopal documents on homosexuality.

In 1988, we edited The Vatican and Homosexuality,(1) which was a collection of essays responding to the Vatican’s Letter. In 1989, the Working Group of Catholic Gay Pastors in the Netherlands published their pastoral letter on homosexuality, which is found in Part Two. There was a hiatus before voices of bishops were heard again, mostly in statements on local gay rights legislation or anti-gay violence. In 1990, the U.S. bishops spoke at some length about homosexuality in their document, Human Sexuality: A Catholic Perspective for Education and Lifelong Learning. The Conference’s struggle over the use of the term disorder reflected the bishops’ discomfort with that word in the pastoral area. (2)

The statements contained in Part One span more than two decades. Developments can be recognized in the use of language, the commitment to civil rights, and the continuing concern with the distinction between orientation and acts. For instance, the excerpt from the Vatican Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics recognizes the reality of a permanent constitutional homosexual orientation for some people. The U.S. Catholic bishops accept the distinction between orientation and acts but also acknowledge that the distinction is “not always clear and convincing.” (3)

Modifying the articulation of positions, clarifying doctrines, and changing harmful practices come only after long periods of time. Twenty-three years is a brief span; but in those years, new questions and situations, authoritative restatements of Church teaching on sexuality, and a gradual opening to scientific data and people’s experiences have all been evident in the Church’s handling of the topic of homosexuality.

Above all, the presence and work of the Spirit cannot be discounted.


1   Gramick, J. and Nugent, R. (Eds.). The Vatican and Homosexuality. New York: Crossroad, 1988.

2   For an account of the debate among the bishops, see Robert Nugent’s “Evolving Perspectives on Homosexuality,” The Tablet, January 26, 1991, 96-98.

3   Cf. Human Sexuality: a Catholic Perspective for Education and Lifelong Learning on page 37.


December, 1973

St. Vincent’s Hospital
New York, New York

Policy on Hiring Practices

The only criteria in all hiring are sufficient experience and proper qualifications required to perform a specific job in a specific manner. Discrimination based on the sexual preference of patients or employees is as unacceptable as any other form of discrimination.


September, 1974

National Coalition of American Nuns
Chicago, Illinois

Resolution on Civil Rights

It is immoral and should be illegal to discriminate against any person because of his or her sexual preference.

March, 1974

National Federation of Priests’ Councils
Chicago, Illinois

Resolution on Civil Rights on Homosexual Persons

Whereas a significant minority in this country is homosexual in orientation and/or behavior; and whereas gay persons have been the target of severe discrimination by society and in particular by the legal branch and other arms of the government…

Be it resolved that the National Federation of Priests’ Councils… expresses its opposition to such being the basis of discrimination in employment, governmental service, housing and child rearing involving natural or adoptive parents.

August 20, 1974

Cardinal  John Dearden
Archdiocese of Detroit, Michigan

Letter to Priests

Certainly persons with this tendency are entitled to fairness and justice in society. Arbitrary discrimination against them is unwarranted. In justice, we feel an obligation to work to safeguard the rights of others in our society. We should be concerned, too, about respect for the proper rights of the homosexual.

October 2, 1974

Bishop Thomas J. Gumbleton and Bishop Joseph L. Imesch
Archdiocese of Detroit, Michigan

Letter to Brian McNaught on the Occasion of his Fast for Gay Civil Rights

We have a serious obligation to root out structures and attitudes that discriminate against the homosexual as a person. We will exert our leadership in behalf of this effort.


December 29, 1975

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
The Vatican

Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics

… A distinction is drawn, and it seems with some reason, between homosexuals whose tendency… is transitory or at least not incurable; and homosexuals who are definitively such because of some kind of innate instinct… (n. 8)


February 11, 1976

Bishop Francis J. Mugavero
Diocese of Brooklyn, New York

“Sexuality: God’s Gift”
Pastoral Letter

Our community must explore ways to secure the legitimate rights of all our citizens, regardless of sexual orientation, while being sensitive to the understanding and hopes of all involved…

To our brothers and sisters… whose homosexual orientation is causing them pain and confusion… we pledge our willingness to help you… to try to find new ways to communicate the truth of Christ because we believe it will make you free. We respect you in your struggle…

March, 1976

Washington State Catholic Conference
Seattle, Washington

Policy Statement

The Washington State Catholic Conference recognizes the terrible impact that discriminatory patterns in society have upon both the individual and the total community. We firmly uphold the necessity of constantly motivating all people to cease and desist from discriminatory activity. We further recognize that many individuals in our society are not sufficiently motivated by moral or civic principles and must be constrained from their discriminatory patterns through restrictive legislation to protect the public order.

We also realize that many people have physiological or psychological sexual orientations which are not consonant with the majority and which are beyond their own free choice. We sincerely believe that to discriminate against this group of men and women is not only contrary to sound religious principles but in conflict with protection of basic rights in our American civic life. They should not be discriminated against merely because of the discovery of this basic sexual orientation in their lives. We are not addressing ourselves to any forms of conduct which follow from one’s sexual orientation but only to the fact of a particular orientation: that fact should not result in discrimination in employment, housing, licensing or other matters of public participation.

March 7, 1976

Bishop Walter F. Sullivan
Diocese of Richmond, Virginia

Statement in the newspaper Richmond News-Leader

The issue before our community and the commission, however, is not the morality of a person’s sexual orientation, but rather a person’s rights and protection under the law. We believe that a person’s sexual orientation, whether it is one we approve or disapprove, is not a proper ground for depriving that person of the basic rights and protections that belong to all human beings.

June, 1976

United States Catholic Conference
Department of Education
Young Adult Ministry Board
Washington, D.C.

Pastoral Statement

[The Gospel] calls us to be with gay men and women who are alienated from the community because of frequent expressions of fear and hatred based on myth and questionable Scriptural interpretations.

October 20-23, 1976

United States Catholic Conference
A Call to Action
Detroit, Michigan


… the Church should actively seek to serve the pastoral needs of those persons with a homosexual orientation; to root out those structures and attitudes which discriminate against homosexuals as persons and to join the struggle by homosexual men and women for their basic constitutional rights to employment, housing and immigration.

… that the Church fight in society and within its own structures discrimination based on “sexual orientation.”

… that the Church encourage and affirm the pastoral efforts of Dignity, the organization of gay and concerned Catholics to reconcile the Church with its homosexual brothers and sisters.

… that the Church provide pastoral care to all sexual minorities who are subjected to societal discrimination and alienation from the Church. Existing ministries of this type should receive recognition and support from Church members and leadership.

… that the Church develop a comprehensive pastoral plan with particular emphasis on the need to provide information, counseling, and support for families who have members who are part of a sexual minority.

November 11, 1976

National Conference of Catholic Bishops
Washington, D.C.

“To Live in Christ Jesus”
Pastoral Letter on Moral Values

… Some persons find themselves through no fault of their own to have a homosexual orientation. Homosexuals, like everyone else, should not suffer from prejudice against their basic human rights. They have a right to respect, friendship and justice. They should have an active role in the Christian community. Homosexual activity, however, as distinguished from homosexual orientation is morally wrong. Like heterosexual persons, homosexuals are called to give witness to chastity, avoiding, with God’s grace, behavior which is wrong for them, just as nonmarital sexual relations are wrong for heterosexuals. Nonetheless, because heterosexuals can usually look forward to marriage, and homosexuals, while their orientation continues, might not, the Christian community should provide them a special degree of pastoral understanding and care…


June 26, 1977

National Assembly of Religious Brothers
Providence, Rhode Island


Be it resolved that the National Assembly of Religious Brothers (NARB) support gay men and women in their struggle for human rights and dignity.

October 12, 1977

Commission on Social Justice
Archdiocese of San Francisco, California


Whereas the commission on Social Justice over the years has gone on record in opposition to discriminating employment policies based on sexual orientation; and

Whereas the Commission supported the California State Consenting Adult Act signed into law by Governor Brown in 1975;

We therefore resolve that the Commission on Social Justice strongly oppose:

1) All efforts to repeal established civil rights laws which protect persons from discrimination because of sexual orientation; and, specifically,

2) The Initiative measure sponsored by Senator Briggs and…

We therefore resolve that the Commission will take a responsible role in working with others to develop a city-wide educational program against violent acts to anyone, regardless of their lifestyle.

November 12, 1977

Sisters’ Council
Diocese of Rochester, New York


Be it resolved that the Diocesan Sisters’ Council urges the sisters of the diocese, in their search to understand both the unique gifts of personhood and an individual’s role in building up the Kingdom of God, to include persons of all sexual orientations; confirms the need for a continuing ministry to the homophile community of the Diocese of Rochester; encourages participation of persons of homosexual orientation in the life of the Church, the visible body of Christ on earth.


National Conference of Catholic Bishops
Washington, D.C.

“Sharing the Light of Faith”
U.S. Catechetical Directory

Other Persons with Special Needs (par. 196)

The list of groups with special needs is almost endless… the aged… young single workers… unmarried people with children… the divorced and remarried… the widowed… persons with a homosexual orientation… The Church is seriously obliged to provide catechesis suited to the special needs of these and other groups…



National Federation of Priests’ Councils
Chicago, Illinois

House of Delegates Resolution

Whereas together with the Church and the Nation, NFPC has addressed the issue of human rights as a legitimate issue in the struggle of many minorities, such as Blacks, Chicanos, women, homosexuals and migrant workers; and

Whereas the Justice and Peace Committee of the NFPC feels the necessity of alerting councils to the ongoing struggle for human rights in all of the above mentioned categories; and

Whereas statements and activities are continuing to occur across the nation which are contrary to the NFPC House of Delegates resolution of 1974 concerning the basic rights of homosexuals; and

Whereas the issue of the rights of homosexuals is often obscured by those who disregard the crucial distinction between homosexual orientation and homosexual activity;

Be it resolved that each delegate of this House of Delegates introduce the attached material regarding the civil rights of homosexuals, Addenda A, B, and C, as agenda for his respective council’s meeting for the purpose of education and discussion of this and of other pertinent material.

January, 1978

Archbishop John R. Roach
Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota

Statement Supporting Human Rights

Both the Christian tradition and our American nation are committed to the inviolable dignity of the human person. Some persons find themselves to be homosexual in orientation through no fault of their own. It is a matter of injustice when, due to prejudice, they must suffer violation of their basic human rights. Like all persons, they have a right to human respect, stable friendships, economic security, and social equality. Social isolation, ridicule and economic deprivation of homosexual behavior is not compatible with basic social justice. Consequently, both religious and civic leaders must seek ways to assure homosexuals every human and civil right which is their due as persons, without, however, neglecting the rights of the larger community…

Homosexuality represents a source of a great deal of suffering and loneliness for many good men and women who did not choose to be homosexual, and are trying as best they can to lead moral, constructive lives in their circumstances. Not being able to look to the normal means of support found in marriage, they deserve a special degree of pastoral consideration from their churches, as well as human understanding and compassion from society.

January 22, 1978

Bishop Carroll T. Dozier
Diocese of Memphis, Tennessee

Column in Common Sense,
the diocesan newspaper

It’s a human rights problem and it’s one that the community at large must face. All that the gay community, as I understand it, is asking are the things we recognize as people—that they [gays] have a personality, a humanhood that is necessary to be recognized in the community and I see nothing wrong in their position. They have a right to the dignity of a human person…

As I understand it, the thrust of the gay problem is on the rights business. It is not whether they are sitting right or wrong. It is whether they are being given their rights or being wronged…the person who is gay has the right to that dignity of the community in which he or she lives.

Summer, 1978

Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet
Los Angeles, California

General Chapter Resolution

That the provincial and vice-provincial superiors encourage the sisters to study the question of homosexuality within the context of sexuality. Ongoing personal development groups will provide suggestions for resources, books, tapes, speakers, etc.

August 10-13, 1978

National Assembly of Women Religious
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Conference Resolution


  • Members of NAWR identify with those struggling for human rights and for the recognition of the dignity of all persons;
  • Homosexual men and women are being subjected to persecution and oppression at this time in the United States;
  • Church teaching has been interpreted many times to support this oppression.

Be it resolved:

NAWR members, as persons of the Church, are resolved to commit ourselves to the struggle of people in sexual minorities who are discriminated against by society and alienated from the Church.


  1. Education—We will develop an awareness and appreciation of our own sexuality and help educate our communities and the Church in the area of sexuality by including in NAWR publications current material on the theological, psychological and social dimensions of sexuality.
  2. Support—We will endorse the efforts of groups working for gay civil rights (e.g. Catholic Coalition for Gay Civil Rights, Dignity) through direct communication with their leadership.
  3. Accountability—Individuals are invited to report on ways they have implemented this resolution.

August 25, 1978

Archbishop Raymond G. Hunthausen
Archdiocese of Seattle, Washington

Position on Initiative 13

I support the efforts of the city of Seattle to insure that the basic human rights of all its citizens are respected… I oppose Initiative 13 because I fear it will encourage discrimination… All men and women have the inherent right, under God, to live and work in a manner befitting their dignity as human beings. I am convinced that it is our duty to support the city’s ordinances which protect that right.

September 23,1978

Office of Catholic Charities
Archdiocese of Seattle, Washington


The Board of Catholic Charities states that concern is directed towards the community of all people and attention is focused on the dignity and worth of each person. Charity demands commitment to promotion of social justice as a matter of conscience… we seek to assure all persons of every orientation the minimum requirements of justice, which guarantees and promotes the basic rights of all persons.

October 3, 1978

California Conference of Catholic Charities
Sacramento, California

Position on Proposition 6
Briggs Initiative

Any attempt to make decisions by statutory categories is objectionable. Individuals should be judged and not as a group of people. This proposition suggests discriminatory and prejudicial action against certain individuals because of their sexual orientation…

All members of the teaching profession, regardless of sexual orientation, have a professional responsibility to promote the moral growth and development of their students in accordance with the value orientation of the educational institution which they serve…

Teachers should be judged on the basis of professional competence, not sexual orientation.

October 3, 1978

Bishop John S. Cummins
Diocese of Oakland, California

Position on Proposition 6
Briggs Initiative

Of importance are the issues of justice and civil rights contained in this initiative… the civil rights of homosexuals as a minority has to be a concern… the vagueness of the initiative’s language might well open the way for abuses and harassment which would jeopardize the responsible freedom of teachers, whether homosexual or heterosexual.

October 11, 1978

Archbishop John R. Quinn
Archdiocese of San Francisco, California

Position on Proposition 6
Briggs Initiative

Proposition 6 involves moral, justice and civil rights issues… the civil rights of persons who are homosexual must also be our concern. Hence, the American bishops affirmed the following principle in a national pastoral letter on moral values: ‘Homosexuals like everyone else should not suffer from prejudice against their basic human rights. They have a right to respect, friendship and justice.’ There is serious reason to believe that the proposed amendment in this initiative would tend to violate and would limit the civil rights of homosexual persons.

October 20, 1978

Bishop Juan Arzube
Archdiocese of Los Angeles, California

Position on Proposition 6
Briggs Initiative

I am opposed to Proposition 6 because it would mean that good teachers could be fired merely on the basis that they are known to be homosexual regardless of the fact that they are excellent teachers…


April 2, 1979

Priests’ Senate
Diocese of Albany, New York


…the Catholic Church strongly affirms the worth of the human person, whether the orientation be homosexual or heterosexual and regardless of causation…

Social isolation, ridicule and economic deprivation of homosexual orientation is not compatible with basic social justice. Consequently, both religious and civil leaders must seek ways to assure homosexuals every human and civil right which is their due as persons, without, however, neglecting the rights of the larger community…

We …urge our fellow priests to bear in mind the venerable tradition in the Church of courageously reaching out to the victims of injustice, of standing with them, of giving voice to their cry of distress, of seeking and applying remedies for their ills…

May 30- June 3, 1979

United States Catholic Conference
Department of Education
Young Adult Ministry Board
Washington, D.C.

Pastoral Statement

It is the dream of the Gospel which calls all people to affirm themselves and to take control of their own destiny, while at the same time, affirming all others and empowering them to be their own determiners. As Hispanic who has been raped of a heritage; as Black who has been condemned to a second-class status; as Vietnam veteran whose nights are filled with the horrors of a war that everyone else has happily forgotten; as homosexual who is forced to live in shadows… we are suffering people. Our calling as Christians is to embrace that suffering.

Recommendation: That parishes establish special ministries to the divorced, the unemployed, the homosexual, and any other group of persons who, because of societal rejection, ache for a sense of community.

June 21, 1979

Priests’ Senate
Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota


We implore all men and women to respect the rights, dignity and worth of every person, regardless of sexual orientation, race or creed.

September 22, 1979

Archdiocese of Milwaukee
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

“Responding to the Call”
Plan of Pastoral Action for Family Ministry

While recognizing the value of the nuclear family, the reality of present society has necessitated the broadening of our concept and practice of family ministry to acknowledge other lifestyles, including, but not necessarily limited to, single parent families, childless couples, the widowed, the separated, sexual minorities, and single people…

It is our prayer…(that) all people will come to see the Church as the caring and loving community it is meant to be. It is our wish that the unchurched and lukewarm will see in our efforts a genuine desire to unite once again in the true spirit of Christian unity. It is our deep desire that parents and singles; divorced and widowed; the young and the aged; the heterosexual and the homosexual; the celibate and married; the alcoholic and the drug addict; the rich and the poor will find in the family of God the love, the encouragement, the acceptance and hope we all need to live productive and fulfilling lives.


April 28, 1980

Bishop Paul F. Anderson
Diocese of Duluth, Minnesota

Position on Gay Rights Bill

To deny basic human rights to any individual is contrary to what our system stands for. No human being should be excluded from protection of human rights… It is in the spirit of the Gospel and in the tradition of the social teaching of the Catholic Church that I urge you to express concern for people who experience life on the forgotten fringes of society, and to pass this ordinance so that basic human rights will not be denied any citizen in Duluth.

July 19, 1980

Archbishop Rembert Weakland
Archdiocese of Milwaukee, Wisconsin

“Who Is Our Neighbor?”
Column in The Catholic Herald, the archdiocesan newspaper

One of the most important tasks facing us in the Church today is addressing the Gospel to various groups of people who have left the Church or who have been left out of, or denied access to, life in the Christian community. Unfortunately, as so often happens, these groups have to band together in a show of force to demand recognition. Two groups, of different nature but still needing our attention, are the divorced and Gay people. In this article I will deal only with the latter.

First, I would like to state that I do not have all the answers in this highly complex issue, but it seems to me that we should begin by approaching it with a sense of calm and prayerful searching, remembering the compassion Jesus had for people who were struggling to find the Kingdom. He saw through the labels that society pinned on Gentiles, tax-collectors, and prostitutes and recognized beneath these name-tags persons worth caring about, simply because they, too, were sons and daughters of His heavenly Father.

Second, it is important for us to know that the Bishops of the United States in a pastoral letter in 1976 called To Live in Christ Jesus officially stated that homosexuality as a condition is not sinful. This realization can be of immense help to the homosexual who thus knows that deep down there is nothing to separate him or her from God’s love and care.

It is true that both in the Old and New Testament the condemnation of acts of homosexuality is strong. Current biblical scholarship has been of tremendous help in bringing these and similar texts into a total cultural context. Homosexuality in the Old Testament was also a “national security problem” for a people constantly faced with a need for a male population sufficient to defend itself.

Jesus says nothing specific about homosexuality. But Saint Paul is quite explicit: he is indeed harsh with heterosexuals engaging in homosexual activity; he spoke out strongly against homosexual activity during his missionary journeys to those areas where such activity was associated with orgiastic pagan ritual sacrifices, as it had been, also, in Old Testament times.

All these texts do exist and cannot be taken lightly, even if our knowledge of psychology and the make-up of the human person is vastly different today from Saint Paul’s.

Theorists are divided as to the causes of a same-sex orientation. Whether it is biological or environmental, we must accept the fact that many have sincerely tried to be “healed” of their “sickness.”

Experience shows that very few, even with the best therapists, are capable of changing their sexual orientation. Many are coming to the realization that God loves them as they are and that He invites them to open out in concern for others. This movement of grace cannot be ignored or discounted. Many are seeking the opportunity to grow.

Current Church teaching which we Catholics must adhere to expects Gay people to remain celibate, a position which is difficult for them to accept, but, frankly, one which I cannot sidestep. Pope John Paul II, in his talk to the American Bishops in Chicago, after quoting the Bishops’ statement that “homosexual activity…as distinguished from homosexual orientation, is morally wrong,” then warns about holding out false hopes when confronted with such difficult moral problems. I do not take his warning to mean that such situations should not be realistically confronted nor that all hope and pastoral care are to be abandoned.

I look for more dialogue among the grass roots level, our pastoral ministers, and academic people in all fields, so that all sides can contribute to a deeper understanding of this complex moral issue.

Thirdly, the Bishops stated in that same pastoral letter: “Homosexuals, like everyone else, should not suffer from prejudice against their basic human rights. They have a right to respect, friendship, and justice. They should have an active role in the Christian community.”

We have to see Gay people then, not as an enemy to be battered down, but as persons worthy of respect and friendship. Many are sincerely seeking to experience the presence of God in their lives and long to be accepted as having something to offer to the building up of the community of believers. They too believe in Jesus but that does not alter their sexual orientation.

In justice, I would hope that we can grow beyond the myths surrounding the Gay person, myths, for example, that picture all Gays as perverters of children-–a picture that simply is not true.

We must be concerned, also, about their rights. Consequently, I cannot believe it is a Christian attitude that would block them from holding responsible positions in the community.

It seems clear to me that Gay people–like all of us–fare better when they are able to develop stable relationships, when they are not relegated to a same-sex society, when they are permitted to contribute their talents to relieving injustices in our society, when they are loved and respected as people striving to grow, humanly and spiritually.

I invite all in the Catholic community to join me in showing this kind of respect as we try to work out the rightful place of these people in Church life. I ask for calm, careful study, prayer, and reflection so that we can assist all members of society in the exercise of their rights, so that no one is treated as a second-class citizen or as somehow “contaminated.”

Come write in the sand with me. Who is going to cast the first stone?


September 30, 1981

Priests’ Senate
Diocese of Madison, Wisconsin

Resolution of the Justice and Peace Committee

The Gospel calls the church to a ministry of healing and reconciliation toward all members of the human family, especially those who are suffering. In response to requests from Integrity/Dignity of Madison, as well as clergy and others concerned, we urge that priests of the diocese be prepared to provide a ministry of knowledgeable pastoral care to homosexuals and lesbians.



Bishop Walter F. Sullivan
Diocese of Richmond, Virginia

Introduction to A Challenge to Love: Gay and Lesbian Catholics in the Church
Crossroad Publishing Co.

…we cannot remain satisfied that, once we have clearly articulated the official Church position on homosexuality, nothing else remains to be done in the area of pastoral care for homosexual people and education on this topic for the larger human community, including the families and friends of homosexual people. This is especially true in those cases where the teaching of the Church itself has been presented in such a way that it has been the source or occasion of some of the pain and alienation that many homosexual Catholics experience. We cannot overlook those injustices, including rejection, hostility, or indifference on the part of Christians, that have resulted in a denial of respect or of full participation in the community for homosexual people. We must examine our own hearts and consciences and know that each of us stands in need of real conversion in this area.

September 1, 1983

Archbishop Raymond G. Hunthausen
Archdiocese of Seattle, Washington

Archbishop Addresses Issue of Homosexuality

The following interview was conducted by Dr. Maury Sheridan, director of the Office of Communications for the Archdiocese of Seattle.


Archbishop, the subject of homosexuality has received widespread attention publicly during the past several months. Is this subject a critical concern from the point of view of the church today?

Of course… any issue that is a source of human suffering—spiritual, emotional, psychological—is a central concern to the church. And homosexuality is such an issue.

There are those who would rather it were not a central concern. But wishing it so does not make it so, nor does it alleviate the human suffering.

For a long time, homosexuality was an issue we did not discuss. We knew next to nothing about it. During our seminary training we heard very little about it—except that it was “evil; a sin against nature,” it was called. Like most of the material dealt with under the heading of sexuality, it was “not talked about.”

By its very nature, homosexuality is a sensitive and volatile subject, fraught with misunderstanding and misinformation.

In dealing with the subject, where do we start?

Homosexuality is a complex issue. We need to begin by making the distinction, I think, between “homosexual orientation,” the sexual attraction to a person of one’s own sex, and “homosexual activity,” the engagement in genital activity with a person of the same sex. It is acknowledged today that homosexual orientation is not a matter of one’s free choice (any more than the color of one’s eyes), and its causes are generally unknown. Obviously, I am not talking here about a cultivated homosexuality. Homosexual orientation does not automatically imply sexual activity. It is homosexual activity which presents a serious problem so far as the official teaching of the church is concerned.

What is the official teaching of the Catholic Church on homosexuality?

In general, the church teaches that a homosexual orientation, since it is not a matter of free choice, is morally neutral (not sinful), but that homosexual activity is objectively wrong (sinful).

In 1975, the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued the Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics, and in 1976 the American Catholic bishops published their pastoral letter To Live in Christ Jesus. The American Catholic bishops stated: “Homosexual activity … as distinguished from homosexual orientation, is morally wrong.”

Pope John Paul II, in his remarks to the bishops in Chicago during his 1979 pastoral visit to the U.S., specifically confirmed this teaching.

The American bishops went on to indicate that some persons “through no fault of their own” have a homosexual orientation, and that: “Homosexuals, like everyone else, should not suffer from prejudice against their basic human rights. They have a right to respect, friendship and justice. They should have an active role in the Christian community.”

The Vatican’s declaration on sexual ethics also acknowledges that homosexuality can be an “irreversible” condition—the implication being that such persons are not morally blameworthy for such a sexual orientation.

Do you feel this “official position” on homosexuality is likely to change?

There are credible theologians in the church who say it cannot; there are also credible theologians who believe that it can. I am not a theologian, and so must leave speculative matters to those better qualified to deal with them. As bishop it is important for me to stand clearly with the tradition of the church on this matter.

As you intimate, there are contemporary theologians who are reexamining this position. What leads them to do so?

Let me start by saying it is important to recognize that certain aspects of the church’s teaching on homosexuality have undergone development in recent years. We are coming to understand better, for instance, the important distinction between orientation and activity. The church, not unlike other institutions, draws from an increasing body of human knowledge in its reflection on the Word of God, which we call theology. An example of this is our understanding of Sacred Scripture which is constantly undergoing development that is in some ways revolutionary.

Since Divino Afflante Spiritu of Pope Pius XII, no credible Catholic scripture scholar can be content with a literal or fundamentalist approach to the interpretation of Scripture on this or any other issue.

When one adds to this new developments in the human and behavioral sciences, it is not difficult to understand why theologians are continually involved in this kind of re-examination.

I must say I await with great interest the findings of our theologians and the ensuing dialogue between them and the church’s Magisterium.

Why should the church be involved in this issue at all?

For a number of reasons, prominent among them the whole area of pastoral care. When Jesus was among us he ministered to all people in need, and the church can hardly do less today. Christ has called us to show compassion and love for one another. As Catholics and Christians we must keep in mind the fact that homosexuals are our brothers and sisters. We are all children of the same God, made in his image and likeness. We are members of the one Body of Christ.

Another reason is that while homosexuals are a minority group, they are a much larger minority than most of us are willing to admit. National statistics generally place the number at approximately 10 percent of the population. This means that one out of every four families has a member with a homosexual orientation. Put another way, these statistics tell us that significant numbers of our parishioners have, or are related to persons who have, a homosexual orientation. They are part of our community and they need our pastoral ministry.

Many of us ignore that fact. We set homosexual persons apart, label them as “different,” and thereby target them for ridicule, scorn, injustice and even violence. Not surprisingly, many of these people have left the church. As the chief pastor of this church I want to do all I can to halt this exodus.

What do you have in mind?

We can begin by acknowledging that homosexual persons are a part of our Christian community—and for some of us this is painfully hard to do—and by ministering to them in compassionate and caring and, yes, challenging ways.

… and remember, when we speak of ministry to the homosexual person we must include in that ministry the families of homosexuals: parents, brothers and sisters, and spouses—many with homosexual orientations are married persons with families.

These family members have been almost totally ignored by the church. And they undergo intense suffering from anger, confusion and often deep-seated guilt.

Are you speaking of a ministry to the homosexual that is different from the ministry to the heterosexual?

The trouble with using terms like “homosexual” and “heterosexual” is that they limit the identification of the person to the sexual component alone. The other dimensions of the human personality are eclipsed, so that the other needs of the person—including the need for spiritual growth in faith—are overlooked or ignored. Ministry to all human persons must encompass the total being. Yet, we must acknowledge in our ministry to homosexuals the scorn, the isolation, they have come to experience by virtue of their orientation. They must be recognized as full members of the church, integrated into the parish community… and that is painfully hard for many of our people to accept.

What are some other characteristics of this kind of ministry?

Like all ministry, it needs to be modeled on the ministry of Jesus as we find it in the Gospels. It must be characterized by a spirit of healing and reconciliation. It must recognize that the homosexual person has a need for self worth, for love and a sense of community, for prayer and worship—in other words for a variety of ministers and ministries.

For example, our pastoral care must recognize the intense struggle that the homosexual faces and the challenge that our church presents in its call for chastity, a challenge that our divorced and other single Catholics know so well.

Always, of course, it must be carried out within the normative teaching of the church with relation to sexual morality. There are many more aspects of this kind of pastoral ministry than I have time to enumerate here.

What does the church draw from in developing a ministry to homosexuals?

Well, first of all the church draws on scriptural witness, its lived tradition, and sound principles of pastoral theology.

Pastoral theology has the benefit today of a growing body of knowledge acquired from the social, behavioral and physical sciences. Many responsible studies and a good deal of research and dialogue on these sensitive moral and pastoral concerns are taking place within our Catholic community.

In all of this, we need to be aware of the lived experience of homosexual persons and their families. To this collective body of knowledge and experience we must bring openness of mind, critical judgment and a profound sense of charity—as well as a great deal of prayer.

Earlier you spoke of challenging the homosexual. What did you have in mind?

Maybe the best way I can respond to that is to share a quote from a pastoral statement on homosexual ministry developed by the Archdiocese of Baltimore (Feb. ’82):

Homosexuals are called to the “same challenge that Christ has laid before all of us: ‘Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.’  Not only must we demand from others respect for our dignity as human beings, we must live in such a way as to respect our own dignity. We must do justice to our personhood, for we have been created in the image and likeness of God.

Our response to Christ’s call to perfection must be total, that is, it must be made at every level of who we are as persons. Heart and mind, body and spirit, all have to be developed and integrated to the fullest of our abilities…

With regard to our sexuality, this call to perfection is a call to form our lives according to the virtue of chastity…Through chastity we strive to live our sexuality to its human potential…This call to perfection through a life of chastity is addressed to all people, whether their orientation be heterosexual or homosexual, single or married.

I guess what all of this says to me, Maury, is that in one sense the Christian with a homosexual orientation is no different from any other Christian in the eyes of God or the church.

Turning to another matter, Archbishop… as a church leader, what kind of response to the growing dialogue on homosexuality do you expect from our Catholic community?

I am certainly aware that some of our people are concerned—perhaps that’s too mild a word—about this. One thing about being a bishop, you are continually faced with issues that bring pain to someone…that cannot prevent a bishop from acting or from addressing controversial issues.

These people, these “other people” are our people. As I have said, they too are members of the Body of Christ. They have the same need for the sacraments as the rest of us. We have no right to deny them the use of our church. To do so would be to judge their standing before God.

When I was approached by the local Dignity chapter and asked whether the closing liturgy of the convention could be celebrated in St. James Cathedral, which is within walking distance of the convention hotel, I conferred with a representative group of my fellow priests, as well as with theologians and other advisors. On the basis of that consultation, I granted the request, even though I realize that some of our people might well question the decision or even misunderstand it entirely. I decided that this was a risk that ought to be taken in order to deal with this delicate and highly-charged issue in a Christian manner.

Thank you, Archbishop.


April 5, 1984

Archbishop James A. Hickey
Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.

Letter on Homosexuality
in The Catholic Standard, the archdiocesan newspaper

…a homosexual orientation is not morally wrong in and of itself…

Our homosexual brothers and sisters deserve good pastoral care based on the teaching of the Church. Our parishes need to be signs of Christ’s love, forgiveness and truth. We need to examine our attitudes and practices to dispel ignorance, discrimination or insensitivity…

We must reach out to their parents, to offer them support and guidance. Pastoral care should also be provided to the husbands and wives of homosexuals…

Each of us must respect the rights of others. Hence it is unjust when homosexuals are deprived of their basic rights as a result of prejudice or discrimination.

August 2, 1984

Archbishop John R. Quinn
San Francisco, California

Letter to the Deans of the Archdiocese

I am writing this… in light of the increasing violence against homosexual persons. I ask you to communicate to the priests and those who collaborate with them in roles of leadership and responsibility the utter incompatibility of such acts of violence with a witness to the Gospel. Nothing can justify these attacks on homosexual persons and the Church must clearly repudiate all such acts. Violence is not the way of the Gospel. Violence is not the way of the Church. Violence is not the way of Christ.


January 2, 1985

Cardinal Joseph Bernardin
Archdiocese of Chicago, Illinois

Letter to the Illinois Gay and Lesbian Task Force

…This orientation is not in itself immoral or sinful…

There is no place for arbitrary discrimination and prejudice against a person because of sexual attraction. We especially deplore violence and harassment directed against such persons. Moreover, all human persons, including those with a homosexual orientation, have a right to decent employment and housing.

April 23, 1985

Catholic Conference of Illinois
Springfield, Illinois

Statement to Illinois Legislature Regarding Amendment to the State Human Rights Act

Regarding homosexual tendencies, we hold the following basic Catholic convictions:

  1. As human persons, gays and lesbians, possess human dignity, worth, and basic rights which need to be protected. Although they are a sexual minority, they have the same human rights as the majority.
  2. It is morally wrong to ridicule, persecute, or inflict personal injury upon homosexuals. We especially deplore violence and harassment directed against them.
  3. All persons, including those with homosexual tendencies, have a right to decent employment and housing. Arbitrary restrictions in these areas are intolerable.
  4. The Church has an obligation to make a special effort to understand homosexuals and their problems as well as to help them in appropriate ways…

December 15, 1985

Bishop Michael J. Sheehan
Diocese of Lubbock, Texas


…the matter of how the Church deals with homosexuality is a sensitive and delicate question. It is one often fraught with emotion, misunderstanding and prejudice…

The Church teaching is very clear: Homosexual orientation is morally neutral, homosexual activity is sinful… I do not think that having a special Mass for persons with a homosexual or ‘gay’ orientation implies in any way an approval of homosexual activity. It is simply rooted in the understanding that gay Catholics have special needs and also require the ministry of the Church in order to live decent lives. I do not presume that homosexual Catholics are doing immoral things any more than I presume that heterosexual Catholics are involved in immoral behavior. All of us are called, according to our states in life, to control our desires and actions according to the teachings of Jesus…

We are also called to show tolerance and understanding toward those who may be different…

Our homosexual brothers and sisters deserve good pastoral care based on the teaching of the Church.


July 17, 1986

Cardinal Joseph Bernardin
Archdiocese of Chicago, Illinois

“The Truth in Christ”
Column in The Chicago Catholic, the archdiocesan newspaper, regarding Chicago’s gay rights bill

The Pastoral Dimension

…How does or should the Catholic Church minister to gays and lesbians? As with all people, the Church believes in their inherent human dignity and reaches out to them in charity. It counsels sensitivity toward the individual homosexual person. It encourages the person to live a chaste life. It holds that there is no place for discrimination and prejudice against a person because of sexual orientation…

Jesus ministered in a special way to those who lived on the fringes of society… He did so, not by separating himself from them, but by standing with them. And, in that encounter, their lives were changed. He did not overlook their sin, but neither did he condemn them because of it…


New Zealand Catholic Bishops’ Conference
New Zealand

“Dignity, Love, Life”
Statement on Homosexuality

The Rights of Homosexual Persons and of Society

Concern for the dignity of persons leads us to oppose all forms of unjust discrimination against homosexual persons. Homosexual persons have the same basic human rights as any other persons, including the right to respect, friendship and justice. Proper regard for their rights must be reflected in personal attitudes and in society’s social, economic and legal dispositions. Like all persons, they are made in the image and likeness of God, and are called to a living relationship with God as equal members of God’s people…

August 15, 1986

Pax Christi National Council
Boston, Massachusetts

“Statement on Protection of Human Rights for Persons of Homosexual Orientation”

Violence has been described as any action which reduces, or seeks to reduce, a “person” to the status of a “thing.” Thus, denial of dignity to any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, age, creed, ethnic origin, or sexual orientation constitutes an act of violence.

It also follows that both attitudes of hatred and prejudice and acts of oppression and injustice against any one person or group of persons are, in effect, forms of violence. Such attitudes and actions inflict physical, psychological and spiritual violence done in the name of God against those who are perceived as being “different.” Such is in direct conflict with the Scriptural command to “love one another” and to “judge not.”

Our experience tells us that hatred is fanned by fear and misunderstanding. Prejudice is grounded in lack of knowledge. Intolerance and condescension are often rooted in misguided and uninformed self-righteousness. Oppression and injustice inevitably result from such attitudes. Our society has consistently held such attitudes toward persons whose orientation is homosexual.

In the 1976 U.S. Bishops’ pastoral To Live in Christ Jesus, the Catholic Church made specific efforts to extend an active pastoral concern to this community. We, the members of the National Council of Pax Christi, recognize that there are moral and legal questions involved in this issue, questions which are both weighty and complex. We do not presume the competence nor do we consider it our role to propose answers to all of these questions. But we do feel it is absolutely imperative at this time to utter a word against what we sense and fear to be an increasing marginalization and oppression of men and women of homosexual orientation. Currently the aids epidemic and the fear which it engenders have focused more clearly the oppression and injustice experienced by such persons. Wherever we exploit or reject or condemn our brothers and sisters for what they are (or, more cruelly, for what we think they are), we fail in our mission as peacemakers. Therefore, Pax Christi USA is challenged to address specifically the attitudes and acts of violence directed toward women and men of homosexual orientation in our society.Men and women of homosexual orientation have been and continue to be an oppressed group in the United States. The emotional and spiritual wounds experienced by those who are thus oppressed, marginalized and/or rejected can often be more damaging than bodily wounds that are inflicted by physical violence. Such wounds are only intensified as efforts are exerted that would deny to this group of people their basic human rights. Fears resulting from the current aids crisis have exacerbated this reality.

The basic human rights of access to shelter, employment, education, health care, and freedom of movement are rights given to all by the tradition and constitution of this country. The need for human friendship and for emotional and psychological support, especially in times of crisis, are needs shared by all human beings. Opportunities for spiritual development and growth, moral guidance within a welcoming faith community are given to us as promised covenant by an all-loving God.

Recognizing the insidiousness of hatred and prejudice, and of the violence which they perpetrate, we, the members of the National Council of Pax Christi USA, resolve to work assiduously to educate and sensitize ourselves and our constituency to the reality of these evils whenever and wherever they are evidenced in ourselves and in our church and in our society.

Pax Christi USA will speak out against the evils of hatred, prejudice, oppression and injustice whenever and wherever they are evident, and will work to promote conditions in both church and society which respect the dignity of every person by assuring each of her/his basic human rights.

October 1, 1986

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
The Vatican

Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons

…It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church’s pastors wherever it occurs. It reveals a kind of disregard for others which endangers the most fundamental principles of a healthy society. The intrinsic dignity of each person must always be respected in word, in action and in law (n. 10)…

What is essential is that the fundamental liberty which characterizes the human person and gives him his dignity be recognized as belonging to the homosexual person as well (n. 11)…

The characteristic concern and good will exhibited by many clergy and religious in their pastoral care for homosexual persons is admirable and, we hope, will not diminish (n. 13)…

From this multifaceted approach there are numerous advantages to be gained, not the least of which is the realization that a homosexual person, as every human being, deeply needs to be nourished at many different levels simultaneously.

The human person, made in the image and likeness of God, can hardly be adequately described by a reductionist reference to his or her sexual orientation. Every one living on the face of the earth has personal problems and difficulties, but challenges to growth, strengths, talents and gifts as well. Today, the Church provides a badly needed context for the care of the human person when she refuses to consider the person as a “heterosexual” or a “homosexual” and insists that every person has a fundamental identity: the creature of God, and by grace, his child and heir to eternal life (n. 16)…


February 5, 1987

Bishop Joseph A. Ferrario
Diocese of Honolulu, Hawaii

Letter to Members of the Hawaii State Legislature Regarding Civil Rights

I wish to express my support of LRB-e6242, which bans discrimination because of sexual orientation in the areas of employment, housing and public accommodations.

I stand in a long tradition which has affirmed and upheld the civil rights of all people. More specifically, in 1976 the National Conference of Catholic Bishops said that whereas there has been no change in the Catholic position concerning homosexual activity which has always been considered to be morally wrong, it has also been consistent Catholic teaching that homosexuals should not be deprived of their basic human rights. For this reason, I feel that support of this bill is proper and consistent with previous positions that the Church has taken.

Every person has the right to work, to have a roof over his/her head, and food on the table. These are basic human rights that must be guaranteed by our community. Consequently, I do not believe it to be a Christian attitude that would deter people to exercise their God-given rights.


May 1, 1989

United States Catholic Conference
Department of Social Development and World Peace
Washington, D.C.

Letter to the Honorable Paul Simon from John L. Carr, Secretary of the Department, in Support of the Hate Crimes Statistics Act

On behalf of the United States Catholic Conference, the public policy agency of the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops, I write in general support of the Hate Crime Statistics Act (S 419). This bill will require the collection and publication of data about crimes that evidence prejudice within our society…

Respect for all persons, their life, dignity and human rights is the foundation of Catholic social teaching. According to the Second Vatican Council, “forms of social or cultural discrimination in basic personal rights on the grounds of sex, race, color, social conditions, language or religion, must be curbed and eradicated as incompatible with God’s design.”

I recognize that this bill will not end such behavior. It can, however, make us more aware of the nature and extent of the problems we face in combating discrimination and dealing with these crimes. We support this legislation as a small but useful step in building awareness and confronting prejudice and injustice in our society.


July 30, 1990

Bishop Michael H. Kenny
Diocese of Juneau, Alaska

Position on Proposed Ordinance in Juneau, Alaska

…Because the particular issue of sexual orientation has been singled out by some groups on moral or religious grounds, I would like to commend the proposed Ordinance for carefully specifying discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The Charter is not asking the public to make any judgments relative to sexual lifestyle. It refers solely to orientation.

…In recent times, men and women of homosexual orientation have all too often been victims of virulent and sometimes violent attack. It would be a grave mistake for the Assembly to place sexual orientation in a separate ordinance. Whatever the position or prejudices of some in our community may be, for the Assembly to single out this one group would be to send the message that persons of homosexual orientation can indeed be considered and treated apart from others…

November, 1990

National Conference of Catholic Bishops
Washington, D.C.

“Human Sexuality: A Catholic Perspective for Education and Lifelong Learning”

…Persons with a Homosexual Orientation

Sexuality, as noted earlier, is a fundamental dimension of every human being. It is reflected physiologically, psychologically, and relationally in a person’s gender identity as well as in one’s primary sexual orientation and behavior. For some young men and women, this means a discovery that one is a homosexual, that is, that one’s “sexual inclinations are oriented predominantly toward persons of the same sex.”45  Other persons experience a bisexual orientation. These orientations involve one’s feelings and sexual fantasies as well as one’s overtly sexual and genital actions.

In recent decades, a distinction has been drawn between persons whose homosexual orientation seems to be transitory—the result of education, environment, or adolescent habit—and those persons for whom homosexuality is a permanent, seemingly irreversible sexual orientation. The medical and behavioral sciences do not as yet know what causes a person to be homosexual. Whether it is related to genetics, hormones, or some variation in psychosocial upbringing, the scientific data presently seem inconclusive. There may be a combination of factors involved.

Mindful of the inherent and abiding dignity of every human person, we reaffirm what we wrote in 1976, namely, that “homosexual (persons), like everyone else, should not suffer from prejudice against their basic human rights. They have a right to respect, friendship, and justice. They should have an active role in the Christian community.”46  We echo strongly the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which, in a 1986 document stated, “It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church’s pastors wherever it occurs.”47

We call on all Christians and citizens of good will to confront their own fears about homosexuality and to curb the humor and discrimination that offend homosexual persons. We understand that having a homosexual orientation brings with it enough anxiety, pain, and issues related to self-acceptance without society adding additional prejudicial treatment.

However, we also want to express clearly the Church’s teaching that “homosexual (genital) activity, as distinguished from homosexual orientation, is morally wrong.”48  Such an orientation in itself, because not freely chosen, is not sinful.49  As we have stated several times in this document, we believe that it is only within a heterosexual marital relationship that genital sexual activity is morally acceptable. Only within marriage does sexual intercourse fully symbolize the Creator’s dual design, as an act of covenant love, with the potential of co-creating new human life. Therefore, homosexual genital activity is considered immoral. Like heterosexual persons, homosexual men and women are called to give witness to chastity, avoiding, with God’s grace, behavior that is wrong for them, just as nonmarital sexual relations are wrong for heterosexual men and women.50

In the pastoral field, we reaffirm that homosexual men and women “must certainly be treated with understanding” and sustained in Christian hope.51  Their moral responsibility ought to be judged with a degree of prudence. Parents, teachers, confessors, and the whole “Christian community should offer a special degree of pastoral understanding and care,” particularly since having a homosexual orientation generally precludes a person from entering marriage.52

Living as a chaste homosexual person is not an easy way of life, particularly if one feels drawn to live a commitment with another person. The Church challenges homosexual men and women to join “whatever sufferings and difficulties they experience in virtue of their condition to the sacrifice of the Lord’s cross.”53  This is not to be seen merely as pointless self-denial. Rather, following the way of the cross is the way of virtue, of becoming a mature, sexually appropriate, chaste person, in service to the will of God.

Educationally, homosexuality cannot and ought not to be skirted or ignored. The topic “must be faced in all objectivity by the pupil and the educator when the case presents itself.”54  First and foremost, we support modeling and teaching respect for every human person, regardless of sexual orientation. Second, a parent or teacher must also present clearly and delicately the unambiguous moral norms of the Christian tradition regarding homosexual genital activity, appropriately geared to the age   level and maturity of the learner. Finally, parents and other educators must remain open to the possibility that a particular person, whether adolescent or adult, may be struggling to accept his or her own homosexual orientation. The distinction between being homosexual and doing homosexual genital actions, while not always clear and convincing, is a helpful and important one when dealing with the complex issue of homosexuality, particularly in the educational and pastoral arena…


45 National Conference of Catholic Bishops, Principles to Guide Confessors in Questions of Homosexuality (Washington, D.C.: USCC Office for Publishing and Promotion Services, 1973), p. 3.

46 To Live in Christ Jesus, no. 52

47 Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, no. 10.

48 To Live in Christ Jesus, no. 52.

49 See Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, no. 3. “Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil, and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.” Here two things must be noted. To speak of the homosexual inclinations as “objectively disordered” does not mean that the homosexual person as such is evil or bad. Furthermore, the homosexual person is not the only one who has disordered tendencies or inclinations. All human beings are subject to some disordered tendencies.

50 See To Live in Christ Jesus, no. 52.

51 See Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics, no. 8.

52 To Live in Christ Jesus, no. 52.

53 Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, no. 12.

54 Educational Guidance in Human Love, no. 101



Diocese of Victoria
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

“Synod:  A Core Report”

Decisions for Action

[A.16]  Address the broader perspective of marginalization from the Roman Catholic community to include such groups as women, the poor, married clergy, homosexual persons…

[B.113]  Respond pastorally to the issues and needs expressed by homosexual persons…

[C. 70]  Initiate dialogue with compassion and justice regarding the issues and needs of homosexual persons.…

April 5, 1991

Archbishop John F. Whealon
Archdiocese of Hartford, Connecticut

“The Church and the Homosexual Person”
Column in The Catholic Transcript, the archdiocesan newspaper, preceding state gay rights bill

In our contemporary American society there is an intense debate over homosexuality. Hardly a day passes without stories about homosexual persons in the news media. As this topic will soon be discussed at the State Legislature I write this column. My hope is that my ideas may contribute to a discussion marked by respect for all human beings and clear moral principles.

In understanding the morality of many complex questions, the Catholic is fortunate in having the Church’s teaching. That teaching may also be found to be helpful to others who, though not Catholic, are desirous of a fuller understanding of these issues within the Catholic moral context.

What is the official teaching of the Catholic Church concerning homosexuality? We must look at the official documents.

The cornerstone of this teaching is the dignity of every human being. Every person is made in God’s image and therefore worthy of love, and must recognize in self a spiritual and mortal soul, and must regard the body as good and honorable because God has created it and will raise it up on the last day (cf. “On the Church and Modern World,” #12-14). The dignity of every son and daughter of God is basic for any Catholic in approaching this question about homosexual persons.

Throughout recorded history it has been recognized that most people have a sexual attraction to the opposite sex, but that a minority are sexually and emotionally attracted to people of the same sex. These are homosexual persons often referred to as persons who are gay and lesbian. In spite of so much publicity, there is no strong evidence that our modern American society has more homosexual persons now than in previous decades.

A generation ago the researcher, Alfred Kinsey, reported that 1 percent to 2 percent of the women and 4 percent of the men he studied were exclusively homosexual, with 13 percent of men predominantly homosexual for at least three years of their lives. A conservative estimate of the number of people exclusively homosexual in the USA is about five million. Some heterosexual people have gone through homosexual experiences but are not truly homosexual. But some are homosexual by nature or environment and cannot change.

The official teachings of the Catholic Church make a sharp distinction between homosexuality as an orientation, which is a tendency or attraction to the same sex, and homosexuality as expressing itself in sexual acts. The Church clearly teaches that homosexual men and women should not suffer from prejudice on the basis of their sexual orientation. Such discrimination is contrary to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and is always morally wrong.

The Church also consistently teaches that homosexual acts are immoral, against the natural law, and not to be practiced by any person who wants to follow God’s law.

Both of these teachings admit of no compromise and, indeed, also lead the Church to oppose all efforts to make normative a homosexual style of life. In 1986 the Vatican called attention to “pressure groups” trying to persuade people that homosexual activity is harmless or the same as heterosexual activity or a good thing.

In our permissive society the Church teaches all people to imitate Christ by living the virtue of chastity. With pastoral solicitude and a special understanding, she challenges her homosexual sons and daughters to practice this virtue as a courageous lifestyle.

The documents containing that official teaching are numerous. In 1975 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued its Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics, making the above distinction. In 1976 the u.s. bishops issued To Live in Christ Jesus, repeating the distinction and adding that the Christian community should provide a special degree of pastoral care and understanding for the special problems of the homosexual person. In 1979 the Pope spoke to the u.s. bishops in Chicago and praised their teaching on this question as exemplifying the charity of Christ by not betraying people, who because of homosexuality, are confronted with difficult moral problems.

In 1986 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith wrote its Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons. That letter said: “The intrinsic dignity of each person must always be respected in word, in action and in law.” In 1990 the National Conference of Catholic Bishops reaffirmed this teaching and added: “We call on all Christians of good will to confront homophobic fears, humor and discrimination. We understand that having a homosexual orientation brings with it enough anxiety, pain, and issues related to self-acceptance without society adding additional prejudicial treatment.”

…When parents and siblings learn that their son or daughter, brother or sister, is homosexual in orientation, often the topic is discussed in an atmosphere of fear and anger. Alienation of members of a family from one another is the result. Relatives need to show understanding and the homosexual person needs to be more perceptive of the family’s lack of understanding. Trust and openness and love are needed in every attempt at reconciliation.

To those who are burdened by the cross of homosexual self-hatred, a special message is also needed. The Church reminds them that they must accept themselves as God made them, that as persons they also are the handiwork of God, redeemed by the Blood of Christ and cherished by the Church…

August 9, 1991

Bishop Joseph A. Fiorenza
Diocese of Galveston-Houston, TX

“The Murder of Paul Broussard”
Letter in The Texas Catholic Herald, the diocesan newspaper

There are so many brutal murders in Houston that one can become immune to the horror of daily savage killings. The recent murder of 23-year-old Paul Broussard allegedly by a group of young men is, however, very different from the usual killings. Was Paul killed either for a diversion by misguided youths or because they believed that it was acceptable behavior to beat up on gays?

Perhaps there were other motives for the killing. In any case, when a human being is so wantonly beaten it is a sign of a serious moral flaw in our community. Such a tragedy is cause for us to reflect on the reasons for the escalating violence in our society. What motivates anyone to engage in such barbarism as “gay bashing”?

The moral fibre of our community depends on the strong traditional values that are fostered in our religious congregations, schools and homes. This value system should be the dominant influence on the moral behavior of young and old. It is true that these institutions are not as influential as in past generations, because the media is now a pervasive influence on the conduct of people.

Nonetheless, our traditional mediating institutions have failed society if anyone thinks “gay bashing” is an acceptable form of diversion. Or what is worse, if any member of our religious congregations and schools has developed a hatred for homosexuals.

One can disapprove the homosexual lifestyle or one can disapprove the lifestyle of others. But it is a religious truth that every person, regardless of lifestyle, is a child of God, formed in His image. The “image of God” in every person, whether a homosexual, a bisexual, or a heterosexual, is what gives dignity and worth to each individual, and is the reason that every person is the subject of human and civil rights.

To hate homosexuals is to offend God whose creative love gives life to every person and it is a violation of the Church’s teaching that every human being has immeasurable value and dignity which is to be respected by others.

The Church has always made an important and clear distinction between a homosexual orientation and homosexual genital activity. The Church has not and does not condemn those with a homosexual orientation. Furthermore, every religious faith teaches that homosexuals are to be respected and loved as brothers and sisters in the human family and any attack upon them is a violation of religious principles.

In view of the tragic death of Paul Broussard, it is timely for all faiths to recall this teaching so that it will be clearly understood and hopefully prevent a repeat of deaths resulting from “gay bashing.”

Shortly after Paul’s murder, I visited Central Europe and Berlin where I saw evidence of neo-Nazi anti-semitism. We must not forget that the demonic evil of Nazism also targeted homosexuals for the gas chambers. Hitler wanted them eliminated. God forbid that the Nazi hatred for homosexuals would ever infiltrate into our community. It is possible, however, if we are not alert to its dangers, and if we fail to teach the God-given dignity and worth of every human person.

This teaching is the best antidote to the wave of mindless violence that continually floods our community. It can be traced to the disregard of the sacredness and value of each person formed in the image of God. It is at the root of the epidemic of abortions, rapes, murders and every type of violence.

In the last issue of The Texas Catholic Herald I wrote about St. Maximilian Kolbe whose life and death taught that hatred destroys, but love alone creates. He was a victim of Nazi hatred, but he did not allow himself to hate them in return. Rather he loved them, and it was the power of love that proved stronger than Nazi hatred in the hell-hole of Auschwitz. Today we need the power of love rather than the destruction of hate.

Any hatred of homosexuals or jokes about gay bashings or calling homosexuals by common epithets is clearly a violation of our responsibility to love as Christ loves every human person. To hate or to violate another person, no matter who he or she is, continues the cycle of violence that can lead to other Paul Broussards’ being brutally killed just because they were thought to be homosexuals. Please God, this will never again happen in our community.

September 3, 1991

William J. Levada, Archbishop of Portland
Thomas J. Connolly, Bishop of Baker
Portland, Oregon

Letter to Pastors from the Oregon Catholic Conference

During the past three months, significant media attention has been paid to an initiative petition proposing a constitutional amendment addressing the issue of homosexuality and other activities.

In reviewing the text of this initiative, the Oregon Catholic Conference considered this measure at its June board meeting and consulted with its Public Policy Advisory Committee.

While the moral teaching of the Church considers homosexual activity, as distinguished from homosexual orientation, morally wrong, the Church has spoken compassionately about homosexuals in our society. In the 1976 statement of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, To Live in Christ Jesus: A Pastoral Reflection on the Moral Life, the bishops stated: “Homosexuals, like everyone else, should not suffer from prejudice against their basic human rights. They have a right to respect, friendship, and justice. They should have an active role in the Christian community.” (#52)

In examining the proposed constitutional amendment in this initiative petition, the Oregon Catholic Conference believes that the terms used in its language are overbroad, ambiguous and potentially harmful and discriminatory to homosexual citizens. Basic human rights, such as housing and employment, may very well be denied to these people if such a constitutional amendment were adopted. Given the increase in the number of hate crimes in our society, particularly those directed at homosexuals, this proposed constitutional amendment may contribute to attitudes of intolerance and hostility directed at homosexuals.

The Oregon Catholic Conference, then, finds itself in a position of opposing the proposed constitutional amendment in this initiative petition. Consequently, we request pastors to advise their parishioners of our position on this matter and to prohibit the circulation of the initiative petition for signatures on church property or in conjunction with church activities.

Two organizations may be active in soliciting the support of parishes and their members in this initiative petition drive: the Oregon Citizens Alliance and Oregon Catholics for Life, PAC. Both organizations have been advised of the Church’s opposition to this measure through previous communications on this issue. For your additional information, Oregon Catholics for Life, PAC, which works closely with the Oregon Citizens Alliance, is not associated with or endorsed by the Archdiocese of Portland or the Diocese of Baker.

Thank you for your attention and consideration of this communication. If you have questions related to this or other public policy questions, please contact the Oregon Catholic Conference staff who will be glad to assist you.

September 19, 1991

Archbishop John R. Roach
Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota

A Statement on Homosexual Persons and the Protection of Human Rights prior to St. Paul Referendum

Questions concerning homosexuality and the rights of gay persons are currently being addressed in a variety of ways. Currently there is particular attention being given to this question because of the proposed referendum in the upcoming St. Paul election. There has also been heightened awareness of the issue because of the violence against gay persons in the Twin City area.

What I propose to do in this article is to address the question of homosexuality and the rights of gay persons in what I see as my primary role as that of a teacher. It is my hope that this statement will be helpful to people as they form their position on the referendum in the November St. Paul election, but I do not see my role as taking a particular position on the referendum.

The Catholic Church recognizes and affirms the human dignity and worth of gay persons as individuals and calls for the protection of their basic human rights. At the same time, the church’s moral teaching does not sanction homosexual acts. In this statement I hope to explain the church’s teaching on these two points.

Human dignity and rights are God given; they are neither earned by our behavior, nor brought into existence by the laws of government. Some of their own. Our Catholic tradition affirms the human dignity and worth of these people and recognizes the need for the protection of their basic human rights. Like all persons, they have a right to human respect, economic and personal security and social equality.

It is a matter of injustice when they suffer violation of their basic human rights as a result of prejudice. Social isolation, ridicule and economic deprivation of homosexuals is incompatible with basic social justice. From the evidence we have seen, we judge the threats against homosexual persons to be real and unjust. There is compelling evidence of significant violence against homosexual persons solely because of their homosexual orientation. There is also evidence that a subtler kind of prejudice exists in the marketplace.

In light of this evidence, I reaffirm my earlier condemnation of all ridicule, violence and economic discrimination against such persons. In my “Statement on Homosexuality” in 1978 I said, “Both religious and civic leaders must seek ways to assure homosexuals every human and civil right which is due them as persons.” I reaffirm that position.

While upholding these rights in the human dignity of all persons, it is the Catholic Church’s teaching that sexual activity outside marriage is destructive of persons, and therefore misplaced.

Quoting again from my 1978 statement: “With regard to the moral question, leadership in the Catholic community has consistently expressed the conviction that homosexual activity, as distinguished from homosexual orientation, is wrong. The Christian position holds in high honor the sexual bond between husband and wife, even regarding it as a special expression of God’s love for his people. But homosexual behavior falls far short of this sexual and personal ideal. It lacks both the complementarity which exists between masculine and feminine personalities and the possibility of the deepening that can come through sharing the joys and burdens of parenthood and family living.”

Some would hold that the positions stated thus far are contradictory and irreconcilable. I disagree with that judgment. The application of general moral principles always involves prudential judgment. I offer the following as some specific direction for the implementation of these principles in this archdiocese.

As a local church we have a double resolve in fighting any discrimination within our own ranks.

First, we declare that homosexual orientation in itself is not reason for discrimination in the employment practices of this church or its related institutions.

Second, I remind Catholics that homosexual persons are our brothers and sisters. Prejudicial attitudes, discriminatory behavior and vicious attacks upon persons not only violate the rights of these persons; they are serious sins against the community of the church.

At the same time, the church has a right to ask its own officials and employees to live in accordance with its teaching. Any employee of an archdiocesan related institution acting in a nonprofessional manner or seeking to teach in a way contrary to Catholic morality will be subject to disciplinary action or to dismissal. This would include anyone who promotes or advocates activities which we consider immoral.

Gay people, like anyone else, have a deep need for human relationships. Although sexual activity between two members of the same sex cannot be condoned, nevertheless, the church and society must carefully avoid passing judgment on the inner moral state of any individual.

Many homosexuals experience unnecessary pain and suffering. It is the obligation of all of us to love such persons as our brothers and sisters; it is the firm intention of this local church not only to advocate for the rights of homosexual persons, but to provide competent and compassionate pastoral care for such persons.



Mary Jo Leddy, Bishop Remi J. De Roo and Douglas Roche
Harper Collins Publications

A Conversation Among Catholic Leaders
excerpted from In the Eye of the Catholic Storm: the Church Since Vatican II

Roche:  I want to pick up on your point about isolation, Mary Jo. There are a lot of people who are isolated today—or perhaps the word is marginalized—because of things relating to sexuality and marriage. There is the question of divorced persons being allowed access to communion. There are the clergy who have left the ministry and married. There are people suffering from aids. And there are those in gay and lesbian relationships.

Now, for me, the Council affirmed that we are all in the Church together. All kinds of people—no barriers, no discrimination—because of our common baptism. That’s the principle. But in fact there are barriers and there is discrimination. Let’s consider the situation of homosexuals. It’s fairly well established, as I understand it, that people do not choose their sexual orientation. And therefore homosexuals ought to be treated with the respect they deserve as persons.

The Vatican Council was silent on this question. Why the Council didn’t say anything, I don’t know. After all, there have been homosexuals since the beginning of recorded history. Perhaps it was because there was such a focus on the recovery of the idea of marriage as a covenant relationship, and so much emphasis on parenthood and the question of contraception. Perhaps it didn’t seem to be an issue then. Anyway, in latter years the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith attempted to deal with the issue, and while the Congregation professed a certain openness to homosexuals, its restrictive ruling that homosexuals could not meet on Church premises unless they accepted the judgment that homosexual acts were immoral was considered an indignity by homosexuals. The issue now seems to have slid off into one of those limbo territories where it’s not clear to anybody what the Church’s real position is. So I’m left with the definite sense that homosexuals in the Church are in a position of ambiguity and marginalization, and I feel a lot of compassion for people caught in such a situation.

De Roo:  I accept your comments, Doug. We need a pastoral outreach that reflects understanding and respect for all persons. This is not an area where the Scriptures really speak directly, nor do I think we can pretend that there is an absolutely clear scientific base on this question. For that reason, I think some of the official Church statements on homosexuality have claimed too much.

Leddy:  At the risk of repeating myself, there is a real challenge here to traditional ideas about what is natural and what is not. Most homosexuals I know are not content with statements about being treated as equals with respect. They want the Church to say that what they are doing is normal and natural. That’s where the sticking-point is really.

October 8, 1992

Bishop Jacques Gaillot
Evreux, France

Interview in the French newspaper, Gai Pied
conducted by Eric Lamien
translated by Joseph Orndorff

A Welcoming and Listening Church
Bishop Gaillot of Evreux wishes the Church to be the bearer of a message of welcome and hope for homosexual persons. Will this enthusiastic champion of respect for the rights of the individual and defender of the civil union contract be heard by the rigid Catholic Church?

In your last article published in Gai Pied, you wrote that it is important to welcome a homosexual person who asks to be listened to. Is this still your opinion?

Certainly.  Homosexual couples, both men and women, ask to meet me and sometimes they invite me to their homes. These are stable couples who are happy to be together. They appreciate the situation they created for themselves at the cost of quite a number of difficulties.

One of them, for example, was married and the father of two children. Later he realized that he was a homosexual. Another one was HIV-positive, unemployed and hadn’t the least hope to find a job. Still another one was afraid of telling his family he would go and live with a man. Indeed, he has been rejected by his family. Do people imagine the emotional isolation that results from this situation?

The correspondence I get expresses the suffering of homosexual Christians. They feel hurt, condemned by their Church, a Church, however, which they continue nevertheless to love.

One couple wrote me, “Please receive us, although we are pariahs of the Church. I’ve got AIDS. My life will soon come to an end. Therefore, we would very much like you to bless our union. It would be such a comfort.” I agreed to say a prayer, sign of welcome and understanding.

There are those who would have liked to become priests. After several years in the seminary, they were expelled. It is an ordeal they told me about.

One young man is often teased at his job because he has no girlfriend. He does the best he can to live with it. But in the long run, it is difficult. So hard that he is very depressed. He doesn’t feel normal because he can’t live like others.

One night a woman called me and said, “I just learned from my daughter that my son is a homosexual. This is a catastrophe for my husband and me. It’s our only son. He will not marry. He won’t have children. What a disaster! This weekend he’ll come home. What can we say to him?” I answered: “Just welcome him and listen to him. When you listen to him, you’ll find out what to tell him.”

What have you learned from these encounters?

A great deal. I have not read books or articles on homosexuality, but I’ve had the chance to meet homosexual people, which made me change my mind and discover situations I had never imagined existed. I’ve lost some ideas which kept me from learning from these excluded persons. They have taught me that they can love, suffer, relate with those they are close to and that they are faithful to their ideals and their faith. I’ve learned that they need to be welcomed and to be listened to.

Don’t we have to be anxious nowadays that a certain public opinion is willing to limit the rights of HIV-positive persons and this out of fear or for security reasons?

This apprehension seems to me to be well founded. There are indeed people demanding to restrict these rights. That’s why I think it is important that the Catholic Church should intervene clearly. It would fulfill its role by defending these threatened rights.

You are one of the public figures who support the project of the civil union Contract. Is this project of great importance to you?

Yes, we’ve come to a certain point where we have to look at the profound changes that happened in this society. We have to offer some guarantees to alternative lifestyles other than marriage. Without putting homosexual people in a particular category, don’t you think that it is opportune to change the law and to recognize some rights for homosexual couples? The rights of children are safe. Shouldn’t such a debate start in a country which advocates human rights? Will the Catholic Church accept this debate with the idea of welcoming and listening to people or will it do its utmost to avoid this discussion? The role of the Church is not to reinforce civil discrimination toward homosexual people but rather to bring a message of hope and happiness to all those who are feeling rejected and threatened.

What do you think of the future disappearance of our newspaper?

Your paper has a nationally and internationally well-known name, a reference. Its disappearance would be like a voice that expires, which is always a loss for democracy. For quite a number of homosexual people in the country, this newspaper is the only contact they have. So it would be an important contact that would disappear.


February 5, 1993

National Coalition of American Nuns
Chicago, Illinois

Letter to President Clinton on Gays in the Military

The National Coalition of American Nuns rejects the current ban on gay and lesbian persons in the military and urges you to end this discriminatory policy of the Department of Defense as you have proposed. We believe that discrimination toward lesbian and gay persons whether in civil, military, or ecclesiastical arenas, is contrary to the Christian Gospel.

Underlying some current arguments opposing a lifting of this ban are several misconceptions regarding homosexuality. It is alleged that there is a high degree of sexual compulsion among gay men, as if gay men are sexually attracted to all other men and cannot control their sexual attractions. We know of no empirical evidence to suggest that sexual compulsion is more prevalent among gay men than heterosexual men. Even if it were, why should all gay men be barred from the military? Sexual harassment policies exist and should be enforced equally toward homosexual and heterosexual persons alike.

Other arguments compare the situations of physical closeness involving females and males, presumably both heterosexual, with situations of physical closeness involving homosexual and heterosexual males. Such comparisons are inappropriate and misleading. The first situation contains the potential for mutual sexual attraction; the second does not. As one astute and venerable man remarked, “One is a two-way street; the other is a one-way street.”

We believe these arguments are attempts to rationalize fears and discomforts with the unfamiliar. Change may be difficult for many people. But not to change discriminatory policies in the military is to perpetuate an injustice. The current ban violates the basic rights of a large group of United States citizens.

February 8, 1993

Leadership Conference of Women Religious
Washington, D.C.

National Board Statement Concerning the Rights of Gay and Lesbian Persons

Belief in the dignity of the human person and in the solidarity which binds persons together in a common human family is fundamental to our faith. When human rights and solidarity are compromised, faith impels us to respond.

Questions related to the status and treatment of gay and lesbian persons continue to be a point of tension for the Church and for society at large. Recent Catholic documents invoke religious principles to justify discrimination against homosexual persons; through legislation, some states and municipalities have institutionalized discrimination; and the media continues to report incidents of violence against members of the gay and lesbian community.

When society, the Church or individuals deny to any person or group of persons the rights proper to their humanity, which is fashioned in the image of God, the value of all human life is diminished and the quality of the life of the community is compromised. We affirm the rights of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters to full and equal protection under law at every level in our nation; to freedom from discrimination in housing, employment, education, and social services; to security from harassment and violence. We affirm their rights, as persons, to be full, participating members of the Church and civic communities, and welcome the gifts they bring to forming and sustaining community.

Unfortunately, the statements and actions of the Church have sometimes been the cause of pain and alienation for gay and lesbian persons, their parents, families and friends. It is our hope that the charity of which St. Paul spoke, the one enduring virtue, will come to characterize us as a single Church community remarkable for promoting the human rights and dignity of all persons.

February 11, 1993

The Messenger
Belleville, Illinois

Editorial by Rafe Middeke in the diocesan newspaper on Gays in the Military
Homosexuals are not excluded from any other profession or career in our society. Why should they be excluded from the military?…

The principle of a change in policy and the process of change are, of course, two different things. Continuing the ban on principle seems morally arguable. Processing a change in policy is more political than moral, more subject to possibility than edict— a process in which all of the forces of reality, including fear, hatred, distraction and disruption, need to be reckoned with.

The difference is reflected in the attitudes of Americans. While, according to published statistics, three out of four Americans believe gays should be allowed to serve in the military, only half support President Clinton in lifting the ban…

There is also mounting evidence that gay bashing and gay assaults will increase. While some religious forces seem to foster such activity, the Catholic voice needs to be clear and unequivocal in refusing fear and hatred.

Supporting the rights of gays to serve in the military is a good way to start.

February 11, 1993

Cardinal Roger M. Mahoney
Los Angeles, California

Interview in The Los Angeles Times on Gays in the Military

I personally feel there are probably a number of areas where gays could be part of the military and their sexual orientation would have nothing to do with anything in military life…

As a lot of people have said, they have been serving for a long time…

I’ve visited bases myself, Edwards Air Force Base and other places, where you don’t have this large communal living situation but small apartments.

People won’t even know, possibly, who’s gay or straight. It’s not a big deal.

March 1, 1993

Minnesota Catholic Conference
St. Paul, Minnesota

Testimony to the State Legislature by Msgr. James D. Habinger

Archbishop Roach, as President of the Minnesota Catholic Conference, reminds Catholics that “it is a matter of injustice when they (homosexual persons) suffer violation of their basic human rights as a result of prejudice… from the evidence we have seen, we judge the threats against homosexual persons to be real and unjust. There is compelling evidence of significant violence against homosexual persons solely because of their homosexual orientation.” That is why we support the strict enforcement of the Minnesota hate crimes statute.

We have worked with the authors of this legislation in the crafting of language which we believe reflects the cares and the concerns of the whole community and is consistent with our past position. Thus we say again what was said in 1988 by fourteen religious leaders from Jewish and Christian organizations, “We recognize and affirm the human dignity of all persons created in the image of God. We further recognize that the establishment of human and civil rights within a legal framework is an important means by which society sustains and protects the dignity of all human persons.”

March 3, 1993

Florida Catholic Conference
Tallahassee, Florida

Policy on Discrimination on the Basis of Sexual Orientation

Controversies have arisen regarding discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in housing, employment and public accommodations and regarding laws to prohibit or regulate such discrimination. There are also proposals to recognize “domestic partners” as legal relationship equivalent to that of husband and wife, and to provide school curriculum guides concerning these matters. With respect to these areas of concern, the following principles apply:

…with respect to the fundamental rights of the person, every type of discrimination, whether social or cultural, whether based on sex, race, color, social condition, language, or religion, is to be overcome and eradicated as contrary to God’s intent. Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (n. 29), Vatican Council II.

Homosexuals, like everyone else, should not suffer from prejudice against their basic human rights. They have a right to respect, friendship and justice…Homosexual activity, however, as distinguished from homosexual orientation, is morally wrong. To Live in Christ Jesus (n. 52), 1976, National Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Human dignity and human rights are God-given; they are not earned nor are they legislated. Our tradition affirms these rights, seeking human respect, economic and personal security, and social equality for all people…

Legislation must not make homosexual behavior or lifestyle a protected or approved activity, but rather prohibit discrimination against persons. It should not seek to equate legal marriage and homosexual relationships.

Based on these principles, the Florida Catholic Conference will continue 1) to affirm and defend the human and civil rights of homosexual persons, as well as all others; 2) to oppose discrimination against such persons; 3) to affirm and defend the church’s teaching on marriage and the family; 4) to maintain the distinction between sexual orientation and sexual activity; and 5) to make sure that society’s concern for the family, for parental rights and for the personal freedom of all citizens are protected in any proposed legislation.

July 22, 1993

Cardinal Basil Hume
Westminster, London, England

“Some Observations on the Teaching of the Catholic Church Concerning Homosexual People”

…In accordance with her teaching, the Roman Catholic Church advocates and defends the fundamental human rights of every person. The church also opposes discrimination in all circumstances where a person’s sexual orientation or activity cannot reasonably be regarded as relevant factors…

Given the complexity of the issues of social policy which can arise, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has indicated that judgments about legislation and responses which may be made by the church can be left to the bishops of the country concerned.

August 11, 1993

New Ways Ministry
Mt. Rainier, Maryland

“Respect for Lesbian and Gay Persons”
An Open Letter in The Denver Post to Pope John Paul II
This letter was signed by 911 Catholics, including four bishops: Juan Arzube of Los Angeles, California; Charles Buswell of Pueblo, Colorado; Thomas Gumbleton of Detroit, Michigan; and John Fitzpatrick of Brownsville, Texas.

We wish to welcome you to Denver for the celebration of World Youth Day, August 11-15, 1993, as well as the related International Youth Forum, August 7-11, 1993.

In addressing this special audience, we ask you to reiterate the social teachings of the Church regarding respect and dignity for lesbian and gay persons. One study conducted recently among Confirmation candidates in a Mid-Western u.s. diocese showed that Catholic teenagers are either ignorant of, or disagree with, the Church’s teaching on homosexuality. For example, about one third of the young men believed that physical violence against lesbian and gay persons was acceptable.

We ask you to be mindful that some of the young people you address will be gay or lesbian. Because of social pressures, many of them are denying or hiding their sexual orientation from parents and friends, resulting in division and alienation in family life or even suicidal feelings. We ask you to speak words of encouragement and healing to these young people.

We ask you to condemn bigotry and discrimination against gay and lesbian persons as contrary to the spirit of Jesus and the Gospel. Catholics have often heard about the wrongness of homosexual acts; but much more needs to be said by Church leaders about the dignity of gay and lesbian persons and the need to rid ourselves of prejudice against them. This overemphasis on “acts” has contributed to a confusion of Church teaching and, we believe, to physical and psychological violence toward lesbian and gay people. We saw this in November, 1992, when the voters of the State of Colorado passed Amendment 2, which prohibits local and state governments from adopting legislation to protect lesbian and gay people from unjust discrimination.

In your remarks to the young adults in Denver, we ask you to speak out for the human and civil rights of lesbian and gay persons who are part of the oppressed peoples of our land.

September 13, 1993

Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk
Archdiocese of Cincinnati, Ohio

Statement Opposing an Anti-Gay Referendum in Cincinnati

…It is not right to mistreat persons or to be legally able to mistreat persons on the basis of their homosexual orientation. All human beings have certain basic human rights apart from any accidental differences between them. To provide by law for the potential violation of these rights because of someone’s sexual orientation is simply unjust.



The Holy See
The Vatican

Catechism of the Catholic Church

Paragraph 2358

The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. They do not choose their homosexual condition… They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.

April 18, 1994

Washington State Catholic Conference
Seattle, Washington

Statement on Initiatives 608 and 610

The Washington State Catholic Conference does not support Initiatives 608 and 610. These two initiatives could foster discrimination against homosexual persons. Actions and laws that promote prejudice and bigotry diminish our civil and religious communities. The Washington State Catholic Conference shares the following religious principles which underlie our opposition to these initiatives.

-Each individual is made in God’s image with basic human rights which must not be denied.

-We are called to respect and care for each other as a sign to the world of God’s love for us.

-Singling out a particular group of people for discrimination based on who they are is morally wrong.

We call on faithful people in our Church and all people of good will to prayerfully reflect on these principles, and apply them to these proposed initiatives. We invite you to join us in opposing initiatives 608 and 610.

July, 1994

Bishop Tod Brown
Diocese of Boise, Idaho

Diocesan Press Release on Idaho Citizens’ Alliance Initiative
Idaho Catholic Bishop Tod Brown issued a statement today saying he cannot support the Idaho Citizens’ Alliance initiative of gay rights that will be on the ballot this fall.

He said he believes the initiative, as written, “would contribute to attitudes of intolerance and hostility in Idaho directed at homosexual citizens and is potentially discriminatory…

Catholics, and many other people, believe that all human beings are created in the image and likeness of God,” Bishop Brown said.

“This fundamental truth condemns hatred, bigotry, and discrimination as contrary to human and religious values and morally wrong,’ said Bishop Brown. “the source of human dignity and human rights is God. Individuals or groups do not earn such human rights, nor do legislatures confer them

“Our religious tradition affirms these rights and condemns prejudice as a violation of this gift from God,” he said. “Civil rights, which are granted by law, belong to every person by virtue of citizenship…”

October 8, 1994

Benedictine Sisters of St. Margaret Convent
Cottonwood, Idaho

Statement on Proposition One, an Anti-Gay Initiative

We are called to respond from a contemplative stance to the significant needs of the times in a spirit of hospitality, simplicity, and peace.

…Proposition (One) should not be passed because it fosters an attitude of hatred, bigotry and discrimination and lays a basis for denying to homosexuals basic civil rights that should be assured to all citizens. Among these are the right to have a job, to rent a place to live, and to use publicly-funded facilities.

The community also opposes the proposition because it infringes on freedom of speech and academic freedom…

In deciding to take this stand, the 92 member community joins its name with Tod David Brown, Catholic Bishop of Boise, and 115 other Idaho religious leaders and 21 candidates for public offices in Idaho who have publicly stated their opposition to Proposition One…

Sister Mary Kay Henry, leader of the Idaho Benedictine Sisters, believes that “it is a greater privilege and a noble challenge to live in a state within a country whose insignia include the motto ‘E Pluribus Unum’–one out of many, or unity amid diversity. That is our task–to stay with the dialogue, the respect, the creativity needed to insure that within a great diversity of worldviews each citizen is guaranteed his/her rights, and is challenged to contribute his/her talents to build up the common good. Proposition One is antithetical to that task.”

October 26, 1994

Oregon Catholic Conference
Portland, Oregon

Statement on Measure 13

…In 1992 we made a lengthy statement in which we urged a “no” vote on Measure 9 because of its overbroad and ambiguous language, which we believed could be potentially discriminatory toward homosexual citizens. With Measure 13 in 1994, we are faced with another initiative sponsored by the same group which addresses issues of homosexuality and government policy in more moderate terms than before, yet still containing language which would preclude anti-discrimination statutes.

In 1991 the Bishops of Oregon asked their Catholic parishes not to participate in a signature-gathering campaign for Ballot Measure 9; this policy continued in effect for Ballot Measure 13. In June of 1993 Archbishop Levada participated in an Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon Board resolution urging member congregations not to sign petitions for this initiative, and urging Oregonians not to support it. After Measure 13 finally qualified for the November 8 ballot, we have heard from many individuals and groups urging us to support or oppose it, and we have undertaken an analysis of Measure 13 as time permitted.

…While we do not believe that sexual orientation should be classified as a “civil right” category in federal or state law, we are also convinced that circumstances could indicate the need to provide appropriate protection and redress in specific situations where discrimination has been shown to be present. Insofar as Measure 13 would preclude such avenues of protection and redress, we are convinced that it is not a proper vehicle to achieve its other legitimate ends and we are unable to support it.


March 6, 1995

Cardinal Basil Hume
Westminster, London, England

A Note on the Teaching of the Catholic Church Concerning Homosexual People

Human Love

Love between two persons, whether of the same sex or of a different sex, is to be treasured and respected. “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus,” we read (John 11:5). When two persons love, they experience in a limited manner in this world what will be their unending delight when one with God in the next. To love another is in fact to reach out to God who shares his lovableness with the one we love. To be loved is to receive a sign, or a share,, of God’s unconditional love.

To love another, whether of the same sex or of a different sex, is to have entered the area of the richest human experience…

Defense of Human Rights

…it is a fundamental human right of every person, irrespective of sexual orientation, to be treated by individuals and by society with dignity, respect, and fairness. The document produced by the Social Welfare Commission for the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales in 1979 summed up the Church’s obligations in this country in words which apply equally today:

“The Church has a serious responsibility to work for the elimination of any injustices perpetrated on homosexuals by society. As a group that has suffered more than its share of oppression and contempt, the homosexual community has particular claim upon the concern of the Church.”

Condemnation of  Violence

…Nothing in the Church’s teaching can be said to support or sanction, even implicitly, the victimization of homosexual men and women. Furthermore, homophobia should have no place among Catholics. Catholic teaching on homosexuality is not founded on, and can never be used to justify, homophobic attitudes…


…God has a love for every person which is greater than any love which one human being could have for another. In all the circumstances and situations of life, God calls each person, whatever his or her sexual orientation, to fulfill that part of his created design which only that person can fulfill.