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CHURCH TEACHING
ON HOMOSEXUALITY

The Catholic Church's teaching on homosexuality is often widely misunderstood by the general public, even though it has been clearly explained in the Pastoral Letter to Homosexuals, published in 1986 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, and in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, in paragraphs 2357 to 235. This is due, it seems, to the interpretation given to the Church's statement that homosexual acts are "intrinsically disordered."

 One must note that the Church's concern rests on freely consensual acts and not on a tendency or inclination. To have a tendency or inclination does not involve the moral order. It is neither morally good nor morally wrong.

As for the word disordered, which is borrowed from classical morality, it is used to describe a general behaviour held to be deviant in relation to the moral norm. The norm considered here is that sexual relations are carried out by two people of opposite sex. Therefore when the Church speaks about homosexuality as an "objective disorder", it is speaking not of the tendency but of genital acts between people of the same sex.

 The church recognizes the dignity of all persons and neither defines nor catalogues them according to their sexual orientation. As the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith mentions, "every person has a fundamental identity: the creature of God, and by grace his child and heir to eternal life." All human beings are precious in God's eyes. The love that one person has for another is a gift from God and implies observance of his law by all people regardless of their sexual orientation. Everyone must move towards an ideal, even if it is only gradually attained. (Cf. Familiaris Consortio, 34).

The Church is consistent with its doctrine in affirming the dignity of homosexuals. The Church has always taught that the sexual (genital) expression of love is found, according to God's plan of creation, uniquely in marriage, that is, in the permanent union between a man and a woman. Consequently, the Church can in no way put a homosexual partnership on the same footing as a heterosexual marriage. Finally, the sexual (genital) expression of love must allow for the eventual creation of new life. For these reasons, the Church does not approve of homosexual genital acts.

 By its mission, the Catholic Church is called to present in every age a demanding vision and ethic of marriage and sexuality. The Church is however conscious that its teaching can sometimes be difficult to put into practise. Also, when faced with failures, the Church must exercise its pastoral sense: it cannot reject those who are confronted with failures, but should help bring them to a better understanding and acceptance of the doctrine given to it by God.

 The church recognizes and defends the human rights of each person. However, it cannot recognize as part of these rights the fulfilment of acts that are morally wrong. All persons have the basic human right to be treated by individuals and society with dignity, respect and justice regardless of their behaviour. For sure, the homosexual community is not an exception to this; it has a particular right to pastoral care from the Church.





Sept 99
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