In a disappointing move, the U.S. Catholic bishops announced that they have drafted new guidelines for ministry to gay people. The bishops’ document affirms church teaching on same-sex relationships, marriages, adoptions by gay couples, but encourages parishes to reach out to gay Catholics who feel alienated by their church.
The document is a lot of nothing, and will do more harm than good.
It says that gay people may benefit from revealing their “tendencies” to friends, family and their priest, but should not make “general public announcements” about it in the parish. We wouldn’t, after all, want good Catholics to know there were people in the parish with “tendencies.”
The New York Times reports that the guidelines recommend baptizing the adopted children of same-sex couples as long as the children will be raised Catholic. However, these same same-sex couples should be denied any type of leadership or ministry positions in the church because their behavior “violates” church teaching. Rev. Thomas G. Weinandy, who worked on the draft, is quoted as saying, “The bishops would like people with homosexual inclinations to really participate in the church, but they don’t want to ‘give scandal.’ If you knew a heterosexual couple were just cohabitating and not married, you wouldn’t let them be eucharistic ministers either.”
True, but the heterosexual couple, or, those with heterosexual tendencies, would have the option to marry.
The document, boldly entitled, “Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination: Guidelines for Pastoral Care,” will be voted on when the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops meets Nov. 13-16 in Baltimore.
Bishop Arthur J. Serratelli of Paterson, N.J., the chairman of the bishops doctrine committee, which wrote the new guidelines, predicts that the document would pass, “My sense is that the bishops will readily embrace it.”
Gay Catholic leaders have their concerns. Sam Sinnett, president of DignityUSA, an organization for gay Catholics, says that there is some “lovely language” in the document, but it essentially repeats all of the “spiritually violent things” the bishops have said in the past that has alienated gay Catholics, “that we are ‘objectively disordered’ and our relationships are intrinsically evil.”
Rev. James Martin, editor of the Jesuit magazine America, said, ““The document expresses the tension in the church between a sincere desire to minister to gays and lesbians, and the reality that many gays and lesbians feel unwelcome in the church by virtue of the church’s teaching.”
The Times article goes on to summarize the bishops’ statements from the past couple of years regarding homosexuality, many of them made in the wake of the pedophilia scandal:
The bishops have issued statements in recent years condemning gay marriage, gay adoption and benefits for gay partners. They have historically been more attuned to gay issues, however, than some of their colleagues overseas. Last year, the Vatican issued an “instruction” saying that men with “deep-seated” homosexual attraction should not be ordained. In its wake, some American bishops commented in their diocesan newspapers or privately to their priests that they did not regard this as a ban on ordaining gay men, and would continue to accept gay candidates on a case-by-case basis.
It would appear the bishops tended to blame gay priests for the abuse of children, and their own inadequate leadership in dealing with pedophile priests throughout history.
The Times article does not mention, nor does it appear the reporter ever asked, how many United States Catholic bishops who would be voting on this document have heterosexual “tendencies,” and how many of these men have homosexual “tendencies.”
This will probably drive more people out of the church. I’ve heard that Pope Benedict is resigned to a “smaller, more faithful (read orthodox) church.” He’ll probably get it. I can tell you of 3 people who have left the Catholic church and committed to the Episcopal church in the last 18 months over this very issue. That’s in my very limited orbit. Imagine the figures in the entire country.