Catholic bishops vote to support gay parishioners
Trying to narrow the gap between ministry and strict core beliefs, the nation's Roman Catholic bishops Tuesday affirmed the need to make parishes more welcoming to gay men and lesbians but said people who engage in homosexual activity should refr...
Trying to narrow the gap between ministry and strict core beliefs, the nation's Roman Catholic bishops Tuesday affirmed the need to make parishes more welcoming to gay men and lesbians but said people who engage in homosexual activity should refrain from receiving Communion.
The guidelines overwhelmingly approved by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops meeting in Baltimore sought to create a framework for being more supportive of homosexual parishioners.
But critics said the guidelines convey a mixed message. "I think it's a shame," said Mariette Sawchuk, of Los Angeles, a practicing Catholic and active member of a group called Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. "[Jesus] always went out of his way to support the marginalized, and I think He would want us Catholics to do the same."
Also Tuesday, the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, the nation's second-largest association of Baptist churches, voted to cut its ties with congregations that approve of homosexuality, adopting a policy that allows the group to investigate whether member churches are "gay friendly."
"It's not something we wanted to do, but homosexuality is the only sin that has its own advocacy group," Convention spokesman Norman Jameson said in a statement. "Those advocacy groups are pushing us into this stance. Other denominations that waffle and waver on the issue are getting torn apart."
R. Scott Appleby, a professor of Catholic history at Notre Dame University, summed up the conundrum facing the bishops.
"As pastors they wish to be as compassionate, warm and loving, but as teachers they are also required to teach church doctrine as thoughtfully as they can," Appleby said. The bishops' actions show they view homosexual orientation as "disordered but not sinful," he said.
In a secret ballot, the bishops voted 194 to 37, with one abstention, to adopt a document called "Ministry to Persons with Homosexual Inclination: Guidelines for Pastoral Care," which was four years in the making.
Written by Bishop Arthur J. Serratelli of Patterson, N.J., chairman of the bishops doctrine committee, the document teaches that persons with "a homosexual inclination" must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity, and it condemns violence, scorn and hatred.
It also underlines the faith's teaching that although homosexual leanings are not necessarily "rejected by God or the Church," engaging in homosexual activity is inherently sinful and contrary to the divine plan.