Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Everybody is Welcome - except the Pope

Action: complaints, please, to Bishop Hine(jhine@absouthwark.org) and to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The The Marriage and Family Life 'project' of the Bishops' Conference has produced a leaflet on how parishes should help homosexuals. It has very little content, apart from suggesting that the Church's usual response to homosexuality is callous rejection, but refers readers to four 'Church documents which describe the teaching of the Church and address the pastoral care of homosexual persons'. This list does not include the Church's primary catechetical document, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, nor any other document from Rome: all are documents from the English or US bishops conferences, Cardinal Hume or the Diocese of Westminster, one of them dating back to 1979. All are seriously defective; three of them have been subject to criticism by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. The attempt to direct Catholics away from documents giving the full story of Catholic teaching is remarkable, and the exclusion of papal teaching suggests an attitude approaching the schismatic.

The four documents listed the leaflet lists are:

1. Cherishing Life. Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. London: CTS, 2004.
2. A Note Concerning the Teaching of the Catholic Church Concerning Homosexual People. Cardinal Basil Hume. 1997.
3. Always Our Children: A Pastoral Message to Parents of Homosexual Children and Suggestions for Pastoral Ministers. USCCB 1997
4. An Introduction to the Pastoral Care of Homosexual People. CBCEW Catholic Social Welfare Commission, 1979

The first, Cherishing Life, has a short section on homosexuality (pp51-52) dominated by the strapline 'the Church teaches that homosexual people must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.' That is also its sole quotation from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The rest of the text devotes itself to playing down the notion of 'objectively disordered' ('in this precise and particular sense only') in order to assert misleadingly that 'a homosexual orientation can never be considered sinful or evil in itself.' Sins are acts, not orientations, so denying that an orientation is 'sinful' is a straw man, but in teaching that a homosexual orientation is 'intrinsically disordered' the Church is certainly saying that it is a bad thing.

The second, A Note Concerning the Teaching of the Catholic Church Concerning Homosexual People, was composed by Cardinal Hume specifically in order to 'soften the blows' of the orthodox teaching about homosexuality presented by Vatican documents (reported in an obituary here), incorporating suggestions from the dissident 'Catholic' homosexual group Quest, which rejects the Church's teaching on sexuality (see our dossier on Quest here). Quest explains:
His Observations (1993) had been sent in draft to Quest. In full, and not unpersuasive, comments, Quest urged him to give more place to aspects of the CDF's views which showed, if somewhat meagerly, some sympathy, closer to the bishops' guidelines, with the needs of homosexual people. Nor had the cardinal taken any account of the strong support given by his predecessors at Westminster, Cardinals Griffin and Godfrey, to the decriminalisation of homosexual acts between men. This deficiency was remedied with a new paragraph on social policy which reflects Quest's concern for a better Catholic attitude than the CDF had shown to civil rights legislation for homosexual people. When the Observations were revised and reissued as the more expanded Note (1995), it was not sent in draft for the same wide consultation. The introduction of new sections on friendship and human love was not at all to the mind of the CDF (where love is never confused with sex - hence a further revision of the Note two years later).(See here.)

The third, 'Always Our Children' was criticised severely when it came out (in 1998), with the remarkable statement from the orthodox Bishop Bruskewitz, bishop of Lincoln, Nebraska:
"Calamity and frightening disaster" are terms which are not too excessive to describe this document. It is my view that this document carries no weight or authority for Catholics, whom I would advise to ignore or oppose it. (See his full critique here.)

The fourth, 'An Introduction to the Pastoral Care of Homosexual People', also included suggestions from Quest. Quest itself tells us this, adding
The bishops' guidelines were not well received at the CDF where the moral basis appeared defective and some of the pastoral advice in consequence unwarranted. Accordingly, the CDF wrote more fully and instructively to bishops worldwide, correcting moral misjudgements, disallowing inappropriate pastoral methods and forbidding support of extremist homosexual organisations. On all three counts, the English and Welsh bishops had to reconsider the position of the guidelines. In consultation with Quest and others, a revised version was drafted. On two matters of crucial concern to Quest, the moral neutrality of homosexuality as a condition and the right of homosexual couples to receive the sacraments, no concession was made to the CDF. (Seehere.)

It is outrageous that the list includes neither the Catechism not the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's 'On the Pastoral Care of the Homosexual Person' (1986), pretty obviously relevant here.

The same approach can be seen with the other leaflets in the series: notably on mixed-faith marriages, and divorced Catholics.

The leaflets also promote Marriage Care (the leaflet on homosexuality wrongly calls it 'Catholic Marriage Care'), an organisation which no longer claims to be Catholic, and whose dissent from Catholic teaching has been exposed in our dossier here.

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Pope Leo XIII's Prayer to St Michael

Holy Michael, Archangel, defend us in the day of battle. Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, thrust down to Hell Satan, and all wicked spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen