US Catholic bishops announce new gay guidelines

Anthony Cuesta | October 23, 2006

BALTIMORE — The nation's Roman Catholic bishops said this week that new guidelines for ministry to gays are being developed that will reaffirm church opposition to same-sex marriage and adoption by the couples, while condemning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

The Associated Press reports that the draft document encourages parishes to make gays feel welcome and provide them pastoral support, and notes that many "are ardently striving to live their faith within the Catholic community so as not to fall into the lifestyle and values of a `gay subculture.'"

But the authors repeatedly state that any such ministries must be led by people who uphold church teaching on sexuality, and assert that Catholic leaders have a right to �deny roles of service� in the church to people who violate that teaching, according to the AP.

"It is not sufficient for those involved in this ministry to adopt a position of distant neutrality with regard to Church teaching," according to the document, reports the AP. "Love and truth go together."

According to the Boston Globe, the document is intended to guide bishops in assessing ministries to gays and lesbians. Those outreach programs, which are present in multiple parishes and dioceses, are often the target of criticism by conservatives. In 1999, Pope John Paul II barred a US priest, the Rev. Robert Nugent , and nun, Sister Jeannine Gramick, from �any pastoral work involving homosexual persons,� declaring that they had refused to communicate the church's teaching about �the intrinsic evil of homosexual acts and the objective disorder of the homosexual inclination.�

The proposed guidelines, in development since 2002, will be put to a vote and possibly amended by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops when they meet Nov. 13-16 in Baltimore, reports the AP.

Last year, the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education issued an "instruction" stating men with "deep-seated" homosexual attraction should not be ordained. This latest U.S. bishops' proposal focuses on support for gay Catholics, not whether they should become priests.

The document explains the Catholic view of same-sex attraction as "disordered," emphasizing that sexuality was given as a gift from God to draw men and women together to marry and have children, reports the AP. Gay relationships "violate the true purpose of sexuality," as does adultery and contraception, the authors wrote.

Initial reaction, according to the Globe, was mixed Wednesday. Two Boston coordinators of Catholic outreach to gays and lesbians highlighted what they viewed as positive elements of the document.

�Anything that puts the fundamental dignity of lesbian and gay persons into the forefront of the church's ministry is welcome, particularly the document's statement that all violence against them, subtle or overt, is to be condemned,� said Brian P. Flanagan, coordinator of the LGBT and Friends Group at the Paulist Center, to the Globe.

Jackie Stewart, director of evangelization at the St. Anthony Shrine, told the Globe, �What is more explicit here is a generosity of welcome to our homosexually inclined sisters and brothers into the faith community and injunction against injustice towards them, especially on the part of church ministers.� – Issued by Gay Link Content

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