Bishops’ straight talk

  • June 28, 2011

Finally, some straight talk from the Church about same-sex attraction.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops should be commended for releasing an overdue but welcomed pastoral letter on same-sex attraction. The letter from the bishops’ Commission of Doctrine clearly enunciates Church teachings on this contentious topic while offering frank advice to priests, parents and educators on how to support young people who may be troubled by society’s mixed messages on this difficult issue.

In recent years, the topic of same-sex relations has become a lightning rod of criticism for the Church. By not endorsing the so-called “gay culture,” the Church is repeatedly and unfairly branded as hateful and intolerant. The bishops’ letter answers those smears as it promotes the human dignity of all people and affirms Church teaching that homosexuals must be accorded respect, compassion, sensitivity and never be subjected to “injustice, hatred or malice.”

The bishops also emphasize an important distinction between a person’s inclinations and actions. “The Church never condemns persons with same-sex attraction,” it said. “While homosexual acts are always objectively wrong, same-sex inclinations are not in themselves sinful or a moral failing.”

Viewed through the lens of a hedonistic, secular culture, the Church’s teaching on sexuality can appear “bizarre, out of touch and even intolerant,” the bishops acknowledge. Society too often values pleasure and consumerism above morality and faith. So there is an immense challenge to counteract these false, media-driven ideas by actively demonstrating and candidly explaining to youth the Church’s teaching on sexuality.

For priests and pastoral workers, that means creating an inviting, respectful parish community that encourages active participation for all followers of Christ while avoiding language and attitudes that, even inadvertently, could convey an unwelcoming tone for youth with same-sex attractions.

For parents, that means creating a loving, accepting, faithful home that offers family support or, if required for a young person in distress, professional help from someone respectful of Church teaching on homosexuality and chastity.

For educators, that means respecting the role of parents as the principal guardians of their children on matters of sexuality and providing classroom instruction that will “present in a firm but charitable way” the Church’s teaching on sexuality.

The bishops’ words for educators are particularly poignant. At a time when Church teaching in schools is under attack from proponents of a modernist view of homosexuality, educators are told to promote chastity, speak frankly about the morality of homosexuality and avoid “watering down” Church teaching.  

Such bluntness from Canada’s bishops is unusual, but welcomed. Their letter should be required reading for all.

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