Catholics Try to Help Catholics with SSA

From the NY Times:

Bishops Adopt Gay Outreach Guidelines

Filed at 5:37 a.m. ET

BALTIMORE (AP) — The nation’s Roman Catholic bishops adopted new guidelines for gay outreach Tuesday that are meant to be welcoming, while also telling gays to be celibate since the church considers their sexuality ”disordered.”

Gay Catholic activists said the approach was so contorted and flawed that it would alienate the very people it was trying to reach.

The statement, ”Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination,” was adopted by a 194-37 vote, with one abstention, at a meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The bishops also overwhelmingly adopted separate statements encouraging Catholics to obey the church’s widely ignored ban on artificial contraception, and directing parishioners to examine their consciences to decide if they are worthy of receiving Holy Communion.

Anyone who knowingly persists in sinful behavior, such as gay sex or using artificial birth control, should refrain from taking Communion, the bishops said.

”To be a Catholic is a challenge,” said Bishop Arthur Serratelli of Paterson, N.J., chairman of the bishops’ doctrine committee. ”To be a Catholic requires a certain choice.”

Presenting the gay ministry document at the meeting, Serratelli acknowledged that gay and lesbian Catholics ”have a difficult task in this world, but this task is necessary and good.”

”The tone of the document is positive, pastoral and welcoming,” Serratelli said. ”Its starting point is the intrinsic human dignity of every person and God’s love for every person.”

But gay Catholic groups thought the bishops’ approach was flat-out wrong.

Francisco DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, an independent outreach to Catholic gays that has run afoul of some church leaders, said the guidelines ”do not reflect good science, good theology or human reality.”

”This document proposes that lesbian and gay people be viewed not in the entirety of their lives, but in one dimension only — the sexual dimension,” DeBernardo said. ”No other group in the church is singled out in this way.”

The guidelines condemn discrimination against gays and say it’s not a sin to be attracted to someone of the same sex — only to act on those feelings.

The bishops also underscore Catholic opposition to gay marriage and adoption by gay and lesbian couples, but also say children of gay Catholics can be baptized if they are being raised in the faith.

Under the guidelines, parishes are instructed to help Catholics avoid ”the lifestyle and values of a ‘gay subculture.”’ Gays also are discouraged from telling anyone about their sexual orientation outside a close circle of friends and supporters in the church.

On the subject of therapy to change same-sex attraction, the bishops said there is no scientific consensus on whether it can succeed. But church leaders say gays are free to seek counseling to help them live a chaste life.

Sam Sinnett, president of DignityUSA, an advocacy group for gay Catholics, said the document is damaging because it recommends that gays ”stay emotionally and spiritually in the closet.”

Separately, the bishops voted to restructure the conference’s Washington headquarters, so American dioceses would send less money to the conference, which would in turn cut jobs and committees.

Bishops have complained for years that the funds they turn over for conference work are badly needed in their home dioceses. The bishops are trying to streamline their agenda, focusing on support for married couples, an increase in the number of candidates for the priesthood and better educating Catholics on church teaching.

Join me on the flip for my thoughts on this news.

I don’t doubt that anti-ex-gay organizations are going to jump on this one.  Every time the Catholic Church makes a proclamation concerning their members’ sexuality, a bunch of people end up screaming about control and inflexibility and unchanging rigidity.  There’s some truth to that.

But the larger problem I see in American Christianity today (and whether or not you include Catholicism in that is entirely up to you) is that people will do anything to have their way.  We are all engaged, in some fashion or another, in doubt, idolatry and rebellion.  We don’t want the Bible to be as strong as it is against our sin and failure.  We want to do what or who we want to do and we want God’s approval.  We end up like spiritual lawyers dissecting the Word like a bunch of corporate lawyers over a binding contract, and we interpret.  Certainly the story of Lot in Sodom and Gomorrah wasn’t about homosexuality — it was about rape.  Or inhospitality.  (Inhospitality.  Sweet Moses, give me a break.  Leave it to gays to worry about people who don’t make life a party.  Feh.)

I think there is much here that deserves to be examined.  I suspect there is even hope here for people who want to be free from this desire.  I’m a bit concerned that this program is aimed towards living a totally chaste life.  That tells me that there is a danger that they don’t believe that a man or woman can change their sexual orientation.  I don’t believe that one’s sexual orientation is hardwired biologically.  It may seem like it.  It certainly is difficult to change.  But much of our sexuality is based on our environment.  Our upbringing.  Consider people who are bound in pornography.  Not only does pornography continually re-enforced the homosexual “label,” but when a man or woman masterbates to pornography, there is a biochemical reaction that binds whatever happens at the moment of orgasm to memory.  It’s a strong memory too; much like hardprogramming on a computer chip.  With that much going on, it’s incredibly difficult to change. 

But not impossible.  Not at all.  And I suspect that the mission statement for this change depends on one’s view of God.  Is God all-powerful?  Does He have soverignty over your biology?  Your sexuality?  Or are we looking to religious programming to make that change?  Are we depending solely on men and women to help us change?  Are we looking to Christ as the loving Heavenly Father who wants complete and total healing in our lives?  Are we looking to Christ who may want to do more than change our sexuality, but to deal with the pain that is generally at the heart of such distorted longing?

I guess without reading the document in question, it’s hard to comment on the program they’ve agreed on.  (But for those anti-ex-gay blogs, not impossible.)  But from this initial reading, it sounds like they would do well to hire someone who struggles with this program to put a human face and a human life on the teaching they offer.

What do you think?

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~ by WriterRand on November 16, 2006.

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