“Gravely flawed” – that’s the dire warning of medical experts who have seen copies of the proposed guidelines for “Ministry to Persons with Homosexual Inclinations,” to be released by the Catholic Bishops of the United States at their annual conference in Baltimore next week.
Catholic psychiatrists and physicians have quietly sent selected bishops detailed memos outlining their objections to the document in advance of the Nov. 13-16 meeting. Among the chief objections to the document, the critique notes, is that a truly charitable ministry includes “the truths that medical/psychological science has discovered about homosexuality … In particular, the health risks inherent in the lifestyle and the real grounds for hope of recovery and healing are never mentioned in the [proposed] document.”
The memo summarizes key points from medical and psychological literature on homosexuality that these experts had hoped the bishops would acknowledge, including:
no genetic basis [for same-sex attraction] was found in last year’s [human]genome study
fluidity of sexual attractions, with people spontaneously moving out of the lifestyle
inability to maintain commitment
Richard Fitzgibbons, M.D., a contributor to the Catholic Medical Association’s statement
on “Homosexuality and Hope,” was explicit: “Persons with SSA (Same-Sex Attraction) suffer real physical and emotional physical illness in this lifestyle. There is no mention [in the document] of the deleterious effects of homosexual behavior on the person; the abuse, the diseases and the psychological pain that accompanies that lifestyle.”
The document describes its intent to “assist bishops in evaluating existing or proposed programs and ministerial efforts” for those with same-sex attraction disorder. Yet, critics note a serious lack of information about the disorder, and in its place a sentimental invitation to live chastely and join parish activities.
Critics who have reviewed the text say this new document reveals that the bishops have little understanding of the disorder. As Dr. Edward Sheridan told WND, “There is a drivenness to much homosexual behavior, not simply a lust dynamism. A compulsive drive to be happy – somehow – to be “gay”; a yearning, a longing to get out of abject loneliness. … And this is the characteristic compulsive promiscuity you see. Even 25 years ago we had reliable studies that showed by age 33 the average homosexual man had had 1,031 separate persons with whom they had engaged in sexual activity.”
The text does include a call to virtue, including chastity for all who are unmarried, and reiterates the Church’s official teaching that although a homosexual attraction is not immoral, any homosexual act is immoral and objectively disordered. But the document casts those with same-sex attraction as victims of the culture, of “scorn, hated and even violence in some sectors of our society.”
As one Catholic high school volunteer responded to that charge: “That’s a fabrication. The greater danger from violence to any gay person is from his or her partner.” FBI statistics bear out the charge. Violent crimes against gays by heterosexuals are just .0001 percent of cases. As for homosexual abuse of other homosexuals, Fitzgibbons cites a recent study in the American Journal of Public Health that reports, “39 percent of males with same-sex attraction have been abused by other males with same-sex attraction.”
Lay people “will resent this document because it attempts to blame so-called ‘hate-crimes’ as the source of the homosexual person’s unhappiness and anger,” said one researcher. “This document suggests that our lack of ‘welcoming’ toward a homosexual parishioner or – God forbid – a priest, is somehow more grievous than the sorrow and hurt that homosexuals have caused hundreds of us. If the bishops could bring themselves to be honest, they would define a homosexual assault on a pubertal boy as a true ‘hate crime.’”
Another said, “Let’s be real here. We are not the problem. Most people do not reject homosexual persons or mistreat them.”
Sheridan admits that negative language is one of the flaws of the document. He said the document ought to “use only positive language that exhibits a capacity for caring for all human beings All means everyone, i.e., no soul left behind from God’s love. There is a pastoral responsibility for caring for all involved.” Others point out that no legitimate ministry to those with homosexual inclinations can avoid the necessity for homosexual persons to make amends to those they have harmed.
“When you go to confession and admit that you have gossiped, the priest instructs you to go make amends to the person you were gossiping about,” said a parent who requested anonymity. “Gays are no less in need of making amends for their sins than anyone else. We cannot create a special category for certain sins in the name of ‘ministry.’”
Because the document fails to address real medical and psychosocial aspects of same-sex attraction and the homosexual lifestyle, some have questioned the document’s real purpose. Observers have expressed serious concern that while this new document is cloaked in snippets of official Church teaching, it is functionally a rebuke aimed at those within the Church who supposedly harbor “disguised forms of hatred” toward persons of homosexual inclinations.
Dominic Bettinelli Jr., former editor of Catholic World Report, said of the proposed document: “Unfortunately, what I see here is an attempt to ‘get out in front’ of this issue by partisans hoping to push the pro-gay point of view in the “Always Our Children” mold.”
“Always Our Children” was a 1998 letter from the U.S. bishops on care for homosexual persons. Some bishops who protested its contents and the method of its release rejected it. It was written by a committee within the bishop’s conference and not seen or voted on by the entire conference of bishops. Furthermore, “consulters” to that internal committee were self-professed homosexuals. Eventually the Vatican forced a revision of “Always Our Children.” Observers wonder if a similar process will be required to address the flaws in this new document. One reason for that revision might be that despite the proposed guidelines’ statement that “the Church has a right to deny roles of service to those whose behavior violates her teaching,” it then offers an undefined “active role” to some.
“People with homosexual tendencies should not in general get prominent roles and functions in the Church, and certainly not in case they are known in the community as homosexuals,” advised Gerard J. M. van den Aardweg, a Dutch psychologist. “The same applies to pedophiles or other persons with sexual aberrations, just as to persons suffering from other forms of psychopathology. Functions and roles in the Church should be exercised by normal, balanced persons, and many homosexuals cannot be regarded as such,” wrote van den Aardweg.