These guidelines are excerpts from the document "Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination: Guidelines for Pastoral Care" developed by the Committee on Doctrine of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. It was approved for publication by the full body of bishops at its November 2006 General Meeting. Those interested in reading the full text can find it at http://www.nccbuscc.org/dpp/Ministry.pdf.
- Welcome persons with a homosexual inclination into local church community and encourage their full and active participation.
- Support and encouragement by the bishop, pastoral leaders and the community as a whole is essential because more than a few persons with a homosexual inclination feel themselves to be unwelcome and rejected.
- Persons who experience same-sex attraction and yet are living in accord with church teaching should be encouraged to take an active role in the life of the faith community. However, the church has a right to deny roles of service to those whose behaviour violates her teaching. Such service may seem to condone an immoral lifestyle and may even be an occasion of scandal.
- Special care ought to be taken to ensure that those carrying out the ministry of the church not use their position of leadership to advocate positions or behaviours not in keeping with the teachings of the church.
- For some persons, revealing their homosexual tendencies to certain close friends, family members, a spiritual director, confessor, or members of a church support group may provide some spiritual and emotional help and aid them in their growth in the Christian life. In the context of parish life, however, general public self disclosures are not helpful and should not be encouraged.
- Sad to say, there are many persons with a homosexual inclination who feel alienated from the church. Outreach programmes and evangelization efforts ought to be mindful of such persons.
- Church policies should explicitly reject unjust discrimination and harassment of any persons, including those with a homosexual inclination.
- Catechesis ought to reflect the fullness of the church's teaching on human sexuality in general, and homosexuality in particular. In tone, catechesis ought to be welcoming yet challenging, charitable but firm in the truth.
- The church should assist parents as the first teachers of their children.
- Catechesis starts with the formation of those engaged in this essential ministry.
- Ongoing catechesis and conscience formation for persons who experience same-sex attraction should be an important part of this Catholic ministry,counteracting some prevalent societal mores and providing the basis for making informed moral judgements.
- The church's teaching in its fullness ought to be presented by the clergy especially from the pulpit and in other appropriate venues. Catechesis should also involve the entire parish community.
- Catechesis for the community ought to denounce unjustly discriminatory and violent behaviours against homosexual persons and to seek to correct misinformation that can lead to these behaviours. Parish social justice ministries integrally formed in the moral and social teachings of the church may be one venue for promoting just behaviours and opposing unjust discrimination towards persons with a homosexual inclination.
- Catechesis, especially for young people, should explain the true nature and purpose of human sexuality and should promote the virtue of chastity, which has been both little understood and little valued in contemporary society.
Sacraments and worship
- Catholics who are living in accord with the church's moral teachings are invited and encouraged to participate fully and regularly in the sacramental life of the church. The importance of frequent reception of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, for one's ongoing strengthening and sanctification should be emphasized.
- The Christian life is a progressive journey toward a deepening of one's discipleship of Christ.People do not all move forward at the same pace, nor do they always proceed in a direct line toward their goal. Those who stumble along the way should be encouraged to remain in the community and to continue to strive for holiness through conversion of life. In this regard, frequent reception of the Sacrament of Penance is of great importance. Ongoing, sound spiritual direction is of significant help.
- Many virtuous people who experience same-sex attraction are ardently striving to live their faith within the Catholic community so as not to fall into the lifestyle and values of a "gay subculture". The church's ministries are to encourage them to persevere in their efforts through teaching, guidance, and fellowship. Primary among these is spiritual direction from a priest.
- Young people, in particular, need special encouragement and guidance, since the best way of helping young people is to aid them in not getting involved in homosexual relations or in the subculture in the first place, since these experiences create further obstacles.
- There are particular temptations for those who experience homosexual attractions. For some, these attractions may be short-lived or situational, but for others, they may be part of a lifelong experience. Pastoral support and counselling services ought to be made readily available for persons who experience such attractions and for the families to which they belong.
- It can be helpful for persons who find themselves with homosexual attractions to gather together in mutual understanding and support. This can be particularly the case because persons with a homosexual inclination may feel "different", which can lead to isolation and alienation, which are risk factors for an unhealthy life, including unchaste behaviours. Support groups, noted for their adherence to church teaching, for persons who experience same-sex attraction continue to be an important part of church ministries and are to be encouraged. Persons with a homosexual inclination should not be encouraged to define themselves primarily in terms of their sexual inclination, however, or to participate in "gay subcultures", which often tend to promote immoral lifestyles. Rather, they should be encouraged to form relationships with the wider community.
- Pastoral and psychological care for adolescents who struggle with sexual attraction issues is of particular importance. Adolescents with homosexual attractions can be at serious risk for personal difficulties, including suicidal tendencies and attempts as well as enticements to promiscuity and exploitation by adults. Every effort should be made to ensure that adolescents have access to age- appropriate professional counselling services that respect church teaching in matters of human sexuality.
- Professionals providing counselling services for persons who experience same-sex attraction and the families to which they belong should be chosen carefully to ensure that they uphold the church's understanding of the human person. Efforts should be made to identify and publicize those services that conduct their work in a manner that accords with church teaching.
- Pastoral support should include care for people who become ill with sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS.
- The discovery that a family member has homosexual tendencies can pose a serious concern for parents, siblings, and spouses. The church reaches out to them, seeking to help ensure that the bonds of love among the family members remain intact. A helpful way of addressing this issue is through the formation of support groups for individuals and families, where they can also learn the full truth of the church's teaching regarding the human dignity of persons with a homosexual inclination and the moral principles regarding chastity that lead to the fullness of authentic human living.
- Other organizations in our society devoted to persons with a homosexual inclination can be of support-or a hindrance-in living a chaste and holy life. Each should be evaluated on its own merits using church teachings as a guide and participation should be encouraged or discouraged accordingly, as appropriate.
A respectful dialogue
The pervasive influence of contemporary culture creates, at times, significant difficulties for the reception of Catholic teaching on homosexuality. In this context, there is need of a special effort to help persons with a homosexual inclination understand church teaching. At the same time, it is important that church ministers listen to the experiences, needs, and hopes of the persons with a homosexual inclination to whom and with whom they minister. Dialogue provides an exchange of information, and also communicates a respect for the innate dignity of other persons and a respect for their consciences. Authentic dialogue, therefore, is aimed above all at the rebirth of individuals through interior conversion and repentance, but always with profound respect for consciences and with patience and at the step-by-step pace indispensable for modern conditions. Such dialogue facilitates an ongoing, interior conversion for all parties truly engaged in the exchange.
Our communion in Christ
The church is charged with the mission of preaching Christ in order that all people may be saved. In her ministry, the church preaches the Good News of Jesus. This message provides the foundation for all her ministries. In the measure that we authentically preach Christ, we will build a healthy and holy communion of sisters and brothers, diverse in gifts but one in the Spirit. As Jesus Christ came and died for us in order "to gather into one the dispersed children of God" (Jn 11:52), so we must all work for unity among God's people, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace.