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    October 29, 2006

    Compassionate Catholicism, take number 2,489

    Posted by: Chris

    Give the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops some credit.  They keep trying to convert what is essentially a heartless, morally bankrupt Vatican doctrine on homosexuality and put a kind face on it. 

    CatholicbishopsAfter four years of study on how best to minister to homosexuals, the bishops are expected adopt a draft document in Baltimore next month that reaches the remarkably unremarkable conclusion that children adopted by same-sex couples are worthy of baptism. It apparently has taken until now for this pastoral-minded group to realize that whatever the church view about the parents, the children shouldn't be punished through exclusion from church sacraments. Perhaps next the bishops will remind each other not to refuse a Catholic burial to a parishioner engaged in a gay-related business.

    Other kindly nuggets include a recognition that it might be good for gay Catholics — whose homosexual "tendencies" are objectively disordered, even if they as homosexuals are not — to tell a few friends and their priest about their sexual orientation. But they shouldn't go shouting it from the mountaintops: "general public announcements" within the parish are frowned upon.

    Additional, snail's pace movement comes on the issue of therapy, reparative and otherwise. In the new document, the bishops acknowledge that gay Catholics have "no moral obligation to attempt therapy" because while "some have found therapy helpful," the bishops claim there's "no scientific consensus" on therapy or the causes of homosexuality.

    In fact, there is scientific consensus on reparative therapy.  The American Psychological Association concluded in 1990 "that scientific evidence does not show that conversion therapy works and it can do more harm than good." The American Medical Association concluded "aversion therapy is no longer recommended for gay men and lesbians." The American Counseling Association, American Psychoanalytic Association, National Association of Social Workers, and American Academy of Pediatrics have reached similar conclusions, as the gay group Truth Wins Out has documented. Of course, it took 359 years for the Vatican to acknowledge "scientific consensus" and admit it had been wrong to condemn as heresy Galileo's claim that the Earth revolves around the sun.

    I'm waiting to see a copy of the full draft of the new document, but from the description offered by the bishops themselves, these "pastoral guidelines" remain strikingly cold-hearted. Keep in mind that the bishops have previously acknowledged that "a considerable number of people experience same-sex attraction as an inclination they did not choose." Yet they still conclude that acting on that natural inclination is "always sinful," as is any sex "not directed toward the expression of marital love with an openness to new life."  (Take note, non-procreating married couples and sexually active heterosexuals!)

    But since the bishops also oppose "so-called same-sex 'marriages' or any semblance thereof, including civil unions that give the appearance of a marriage," gay Catholics are given no path on which they can live a full, rewarding life. Either they deny their natural "inclination" and marry someone of the opposite sex, with whom they are permitted procreational sex (that runs counter to their natural inclination), or they are condemned to a life of complete chastity, devoid of any romantic relationships that form such a core part of what it means to be human. At least priests and nuns, who take a similar vow, are married to the church. No such luck for the solitary homosexual.

    An even more bitter pill to swallow is the fact that this cold-hearted document issues forth from men — and an institution — who have absolutely no moral ground (high or otherwise) from which to make pronouncements on any matter relating to sex. The incidence of grotesque abuse by Catholic priests of children and youths under their "pastoral care" is dramatically higher than in the general public — more than 12,000 in the U.S. alone, according to figures compiled by the conference — hardly an aggressive benchmark for those who would condemn the sexual activity of others. And the church hierarchy, including the bishops, played a well-documented role in facilitating and covering up the abuse.

    At least on questions of human sexuality, about which these bishops would have to violate their vows  to have any firsthand knowledge, the current generation of Catholic clergy would be better served by "a life of prayer and penance" than issuing pronouncements. That admonishment, by the way, was the only major abuse penalty handed down thus far by Pope Benedict XVI, after he was confronted with evidence that the elderly founder of the conservative order Legionaires of Christ had sexually abused seminarians.



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