Typical Pastoral Guidelines For Ministry to Homosexuals
This essay takes a typical Catholic parish and presents the guidelines used by this parish in the treatment of gay/les types. The guidelines illustrate the welcoming attitude of this church toward gays.
The guidelines are pastoral in character, intended to help priests and parish ministers meet their obligation to serve kindly and conscientiously all who turn to the Church with real needs and honest hope. They do not presume any particular social or psychological analysis of sexuality in our society, except for a generally accepted premise that individuals do choose and can change their sexual orientation and must understand it and integrate it into their life of faith and conscience.
The guidelines accept, without elaborating, the perennial teaching of the Catholic Church on sexual morality, conscience, and personal sin. Deeper probing of the ground of this teaching and the contemporary challenges to it must be left to the educational efforts proposed in these guidelines.
The guidelines also accept the teaching of the Catholic Church on social ethics but do not propose a social action agenda. When the voice or action of the Church is needed in the religious or secular forum, appropriate agents of the parish and diocese will be informed and enlisted to uphold basic human and civil rights against social or legal discrimination, harassment, intimidation, or violence.
The guidelines do not resolve the dilemma surrounding terminology. "Homosexual" seems clear and objective but has come to be regarded by some as too clinical and impersonal, with unwarranted implications of pathology, inferiority, or alienation. "Gay" and "lesbian" are terms perceived by others as associated with political factions or particular lifestyles. These guidelines adopt "homosexual" without prejudice to any individuals or groups or to their right to call themselves "gay men" or "lesbian women."
These guidelines have been prompted and guided by clear evidence of pastoral needs in the local Church for ministry to homosexuals that is genuinely "pastoral," "special" and "official."
The need for a "pastoral" ministry requires the embrace of the Church to be the same as that of Christ himself, open to all, excluding none. Hence it obligates the Church's ministers to respond without prejudice or condition to all who turn to the Church for support, counsel, reconciliation, solace or sacraments. All the baptized, regardless of sexual orientation or social attitudes, have an equal claim on this pastoral service.
The need for a "special" ministry arises from widespread attitudes and actions in our society, and too often in our Church, that have made homosexual orientation the basis for discrimination and rejection or isolation of individuals and groups. This fact affects the needs of individuals and requires in ministers a special...