Pastoral Letter on Homosexuality
PASTORAL LETTER ON HOMOSEXUALITY
Bishop Thomas Daily
My Dear Brothers and Sisters in the Lord:
It is evident that the pastoral care of our homosexual brothers and sisters is increasingly becoming a matter of urgency in our society. Almost every day, through the media and other sources of public information, we learn of various homosexual groups who are seeking recognition and an acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle. Various forms of legislation are being proposed and enacted which seek to protect homosexual activity and the homosexual lifestyle as acceptable alternatives to marriage. Our institutes of education, even those entrusted with the formation of young children, are being asked to instill in various curricula an acceptance of homosexuality as a normal variation of the human condition. Our society, which is being overwhelmed by a misguided understanding of sexuality in general, must listen to the wisdom of the Church on this matter as her teaching deals not only with divine revelation, but affirms the value and dignity of what is human and in conformity with nature.
The pastoral solicitude of the Church deals with each and every person as an individual human being. No matter what situations individuals may find themselves in and no matter what their response to the prompting of grace may be, they are always worthy of the Church's care and love which first and foremost make known the truth of Christ. It is the truth which brings true freedom to the human person and the truth which enlightens the dignity of every individual. Our Lord Himself emphasized: "you will know the truth and the truth will set you free." There can be no true pastoral care of the homosexual person unless there is a clear presentation of the Church's teaching which she professes in love. The essence of pastoral solicitude for the homosexual person is reflected in the words of our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, when in 1979, he stated to the American bishops:
In the clarity of this truth, you exemplified the real charity of Christ, you did not betray those people who, because of homosexuality, are confronted with difficult moral problems, as would have happened if, in the name of understanding and compassion, or for any other reason, you had held out false hope to any brother or sister. Rather, by your witness to the truth of humanity in God's plan, you effectively manifold fraternal love upholding the true dignity, the true human dignity, of those who also look to Christ's Church for guidance which comes from the light of God's word.
It is my intention, in issuing this pastoral letter, to offer pastoral solicitude to the homosexual person, and indeed to all persons, by following the Holy Father's words and giving witness to the truth of humanity God's plan. "Only on this solid foundation can other means of care and assistance be offered to our brothers arid sisters who, whether they recognize it or not, are experiencing; pain and confusion due to a homosexual orientation. Such witness must also be seen as an expression of care for others who likewise are experiencing the confusion which is prevalent in our society due to an exaggerated on sexuality in general.
The Church's teaching on the wonderful gift of sexuality is based on the principles of natural law which are common to all men and women and are not the exclusive possession of the Catholic Church. The Second Vatican Council did not hesitate to accept the understanding of natural law as expounded by St. Thomas Aquinas.
This understanding includes the fact that God created the universe with a wise and loving plan for His creation. God's plan is the eternal law insofar as it is what God has determined and willed to bring about in creating. Natural law is part of the eternal law by way of the creation of human bergs who have intelligence and freedom and can cooperate in freely carrying out God's plan. Natural law is a "participation in the eternal law by the rational creature.". Natural law "is also an expression of the will of God" even though it is independent of any divine revelation. Revelation includes the truths of the natural law and only when one reflects on the Church's teaching on sexuality as "a teaching founded on the natural law, illuminated and enriched by divine revelation," does one perceive its full beauty.
The Book of Genesis teaches that God created the human person in His own image and likeness and created the human person as male and female. "Human beings, therefore, are nothing less that the work of God Himself; and in the complementarity of the sexes, they are called to reflect the inner unity of the Creator." This most ancient revelation manifests the mystery that the human person, having been created in the image of God, is given the ability, through his or her sexuality, to cooperate with God in creation by being fruitful and filling the earth. It is part at God's plan that sexuality as a gift constitutes the human person in a manner that is life-giving. The ultimate fruit of sexuality is the creation of human life through acts proper to a man and woman in marriage. The laws of nature so ordained by God dictate that there is a natural psychological and physical complementarity between man and woman which is ordered toward exclusivity in marriage where the man and woman mutually support each other and find their crowning glory in procreation.
With the creation of man and women in His own image and likeness, God crowns and brings to perfection the work of His hands. He calls them to a special sharing in His love and in His power as creator and Father through their free and responsible cooperation in transmitting the gift of life.
One of the most energetic proponents of the sanctity of human sexuality has been Pope John Paul II, who, in a series at weekly audiences given over six years (1979-1984), dealt with the basic reality of masculinity and femininity as manifestations of human sexuality and with the model of unity that is presented in the husband-wife relationship of the Book of Genesis. His explanation of the Church's teaching is based on the uniqueness and unrepeatability of every human being which are dependent on the natural law, The Holy Father's teaching is essential to a true understanding of the nature of sexuality which seeks to integrate the proper order of existence and respect for the person.
Revelation has illuminated the natural law in regard to the meaning of sexuality and the natural complementarity between man and woman which is fulfilled in marriage. However, revelation also teaches that disorder, both moral and physical, entered the world through original sin. Although redeemed by Christ, the human person is no longer in the original human condition. The original unity between man and woman and their original ability to be a perfect gift for each other, cooperating in the work of creation, have been marred by sin. The disorder caused by original sin affects the gift of sexuality in many ways especially by introducing lust into the world.
The disorder of using the sexual faculty apart from it's intended purpose use as order by God and the inclination to act contrary to nature are the result of original sin.
As with all sexual disorders the condition of homosexuality is the result of original sin. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith made clear that "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 this the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder." The homosexual orientation violates a person's natural harmony in regard to the proper purpose of his or her sexually and inclines the person toward "acts which are contrary to the natural law" The medical and behavioral sciences have not been able to determine what factors of genetics, hormones or variation in psychosocial upbringing cause a person to be homosexual. It is not my intention to enter into this complex area but to emphasize that the condition is ultimately the result of original sin, not normative, and may not be acted upon in the moral order.
As I mentioned previously, a great deal of pressure is being exerted by many sectors of society to accept the homosexual condition as though it were not disordered and to condone homosexual activity as an accepted alternative to marriage. Such pressure is brought to the Church and depicts the Church's teaching as erroneous, lacking understanding and even arbitrary. While the Church is subject to such unfounded criticism, it is the Church which is striving to protect the true dignity of the homosexual person as well as the good of society in general. Through the articulation of her teaching, founded on the natural law illuminated by revelation, the Church exercises true pastoral care for the homosexual person by proclaiming the truth in love.
I, again, stress that our Holy Father has encouraged the American bishops to give true pastoral care to homosexual men and women. during his pastoral visit in 1987, he urged:
I wish to en courage you also in the pastoral care that you give to homosexual persons. This includes a clear explanation of the Church's teaching, which by Its very nature is unpopular. Nevertheless, your own pastoral experience confirms the fact that the truth, however difficult to accept, brings grace and often leads to inner conversion.
It is my earnest intention to offer this pastoral care to all homosexual persons in our diocese always with the conviction that only the truth will bring true freedom. I call upon all the faithful to listen to the truth and, professing it with love, act with a Christ-like attitude toward our homosexual brothers and sisters.
I cannot overstress that while an objective disorder, a homosexual orientation is not morally wrong in and of itself. It is deliberate homosexual desires and acts that are gravely evil and immoral. The homosexual person, striving to live a chaste life, is no different than any other human person and is to be afforded the same respect, Christian love and dignity. In a society which generally is experiencing a disordered attitude toward the natural meaning of sexuality, homosexual men and women must avoid identifying their personhood and indeed their sexuality with their sexual orientation.
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. Everyone 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.
It is deplorable when homosexual persons are the object of malice in speech or in action or when they are deprived of their basic human rights. Prejudice and discrimination against homosexual persons are not only uncharitable, they are unjust. However, in seeking to protect the rights of ail persons, legislation can never be enacted which seeks to legitimate homosexual activity or even gives the impression of doing so. Such legislation is of itself immoral and an injustice is the natural rights of all men and women. Likewise,: any educational curriculum which seeks to instill in our children the belief that the homosexual lifestyle is acceptable is to be considered as an immoral affront to the natural rights and dignity of our children.
The actions and attitudes of society which seek to condone and promote homosexual activity are ultimately a form of injustice and harm to the homosexual and to all human persons. While striving to be truly just and compassionate to the homosexual person, we must never defer to the appearance of justice and compassion which is a deception and an opposition to the truth.
I urge homosexual men and women to have recourse to the Church, prayer and the means of grace which will strengthen their resolve to live chaste lives. The support of the Christian community and the sacraments are sources of primary pastoral care for the homosexual person. We can never underestimate the power of these supernatural means in the life of the homosexual person and, indeed, of any person. Likewise, we must always remember that homosexual persons striving to live chaste lives are an essential part of the Body of Christ. Through the heroic acceptance of their own sufferings, they are a witness to chastity and, in a manner proper to them, "fill up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ for the sake of His body, the Church."
I am particularly encouraged by the work of Courage in our Diocese. This group, which meets as a support for homosexuals who are striving to live chaste Catholic lives in accord with the natural law, has been of tremendous spiritual benefit to its members. I urge all the faithful to be supportive of Courage and especially recommend it to Catholic men and women with a homosexual orientation.
Finally, I refer to the Christian concept of self-denial. Pastoral care for the homosexual person cannot be complete without constant recourse to sacrifice and what our Holy Father refers to as "self-mastery". It is self-mastery which controls the disorder caused by original sin. By responding to self-mastery the human person experiences true dignity and participates in the freedom of the gift which is sexuality.
Just as the cross was central to the expression of God's redemptive love for us in Jesus, so the conformity of the self-denial of homosexual men and women with the sacrifice of the Lord will constitute for them a source of self-giving which will save them from a way of life which constantly threatens to destroy them.
My purpose in writing this pastoral letter has been to "profess the truth in love" because it is the truth which brings true freedom and offers the homosexual person real pastoral solicitude. It is Jesus Christ who is always our supreme model and guide. In Him the natural law is most perfectly revealed. In Christ we learn what natural law is and how any Christian, heterosexual or homosexual, should live. In this vein I would like to conclude this letter by quoting Cardinal Humberto Medeiros whom I was privileged to serve in the Archdiocese of Boston. Also writing on the pastoral care of the homosexual, he beautifully stated:
If we model our approach on Christ Jesus, we will be moved to share in His compassion and understanding, while remaining firm in our adherence to the Church's teaching despite pressures to the contrary... In doing so, we are accepting a homosexual man or woman as a full member of the Church arid of society. When we to this, we are calling this person to that same life of chastity which we try to live. We are calling and helping the person to the same virtue of chastity to which we are encouraging married persons or single members of our flock We are giving them their full place in the Church. We refuse to relegate them to a 'separate but equal' category which ultimately denies them their basic human dignity and Christian nobility.
May Mary, ever virgin and patroness of our Diocese, lead us to the truth of her divine Son so that we may praise His truth in love for the good of all men and women made in God's image.
Faithfully yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Thomas V. Daily, D. D. Bishop of Brooklyn
Feast of the Queenship of Mary, August 22, 1993