Q: Are homosexuals welcome in the Church?
— Erin Bush, senior, Notre Dame Jr./Sr. High School, Burlington
A. Thanks for your great question. I know this is a question that many young and older people are asking themselves these days.
Homosexuality is one of the “hot-button” issues in Church and society today. Gay-rights advocates and activists are pushing a strong political agenda from the left — job benefits for domestic partners, civil recognition for gay marriages, the right to bear one’s own children via reproductive technologies, equal access to adoption, anti-discrimination statutes, etc.
For a pastoral response, I encourage you to read and discuss the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) document, “Always Our Children: A Pastoral Message to Parents of Homosexual Children and Suggestions for Pastoral Ministers.” It is a statement of the NCCB Committee on Marriage and Family, approved by the Administrative Committee on Sept. 10, 1997. Here’s the link for a copy: http://www.smhs.org/ourpages/auto/2010/9/27/39598022/AlwaysOurChildren.pdf.
All of the quotations used in this article are from this document.
“In this pastoral message, we draw upon the gift of faith as well as the sound teaching and pastoral practice of the Church to offer loving support, reliable guidance, and recommendations for ministries suited to your needs and to those of your child. Our message speaks of accepting yourself, your beliefs and values, your questions, and all you may be struggling with at this moment; accepting and loving your child as a gift of God; and accepting the full truth of God’s revelation about the dignity of the human person and the meaning of human sexuality. Within the Catholic moral vision there is no contradiction among these levels of acceptance, for truth and love are not opposed. They are inseparably joined and rooted in one person, Jesus Christ, who reveals God to be ultimate truth and saving love.
“We address our message also to the wider Church community, and especially to priests and other pastoral ministers, asking that our words be translated into attitudes and actions that follow the way of love, as Christ has taught. It is through the community of his faithful that Jesus offers you hope, help, and healing, so your whole family might continue to grow into the intimate community of life and love that God intends.”
From these words it would seem that all of us are called upon to welcome our sisters and brothers who are homosexuals and treat them with love and respect. We must always remember that having a homosexual orientation does not necessarily mean a person will engage in homosexual activity.
“There seems to be no single cause of a homosexual orientation. A common opinion of experts is that there are multiple factors — genetic, hormonal, psychological — that may give rise to it.
Generally, homosexual orientation is experienced as a given, not as something freely chosen. By itself, therefore, a homosexual orientation cannot be considered sinful, for morality presumes the freedom to choose.”
We must always remember what St. Thomas Aquinas said: God, in love, has willed each of us into existence. We are made in his image and likeness. And in return we are to will the good of each other. That doesn’t mean we have to like someone, but we must love that person.
This is in part what the “Always Our Children” document says about us, who are ministers in the Church:
1. Be available to parents and families who ask for your pastoral help, spiritual guidance and prayer.
2. Welcome homosexual persons into the faith community, and seek out those on the margins. Avoid stereotyping and condemning. Strive first to listen. Do not presume that all homosexual persons are sexually active.
3. Learn more about homosexuality and Church teaching so that preaching, teaching and counseling will be informed and effective.
4. When speaking publicly, use the words “homosexual,” “gay,” and “lesbian” in honest and accurate ways.
5. Maintain a list of agencies, community groups and counselors or other experts to whom you can refer homosexual persons or their parents and family members when they ask you for specialized assistance. Recommend agencies that operate in a manner consistent with Catholic teaching.
6. Help to establish or promote support groups for parents and family members.
Now, you have asked me the question. I will ask you: are homosexual friends welcome in the church/parish? Are they welcome at your school or faith formation program? This is the question we need to ask of our pastors, school/faith formation administrators, faculty, catechists and students.
St. Paul tells us that love is the greatest of spiritual gifts and St. John considers love to be the most certain sign of God’s presence. Now we ask ourselves what Jesus would do. He proposes love as the basis of his two great commandments, which fulfill all the law and the prophets. Remember that Jesus ate with the outcasts of his time: prostitutes, tax collectors and sinners. Are these welcome at the table?
My hope and prayer is that all are welcomed. Perhaps the next time we sing this song at our Sunday Mass, we can reflect upon the words of the Marty Haugen song “All Are Welcome.”
— Mary Wieser, director of Faith Formation for the Diocese of Davenport
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