Bishop’s Response to Letter of September 20

September 22, 2000

Dear Reverend White,

Thank you for your letter of September 20, 2000, introducing Soulforce and the plans your organization has in conjunction with the General Meeting of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in November. We have heard from other religious bodies at whose general meetings you have protested that you acted in a nonviolent and professional manner, and we hope that will be true in connection with the meeting of the NCCB.

As you indicate in your letter, the Catholic Church teaches that, while the homosexual orientation is not in itself sinful, "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered." We believe this is so, since such activity cannot fulfill the twofold purpose of sexuality in the God-given order of creation – to build up the community of love between a wife and husband and to enable them to be co-creators with Him in bringing children into the world.

However, the Catholic Church also teaches that homosexual persons "must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided" (The Cathecism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 2358). Catholics who do not observe this teaching are not in accord with the mind and heart of the Church. They are in need of repentance and a conversion of heart by which they will come to see all of God’s sons and daughters as equally worthy of love and respect, since all are loved by God. Certainly the Church can do more by way of education to fully explicate her teaching.

In addition, the Catholic Church has though seriously about the matter and does not make assumptions about homosexuality beyond the bounds of her own competence. As the Catechism says, homosexuality’s "psychological genesis remains largely unexplained." A series of articles in the Holy See’s newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, dealt extensively with the issues surrounding homosexuality. I enclose a copy, because I think it demonstrates that the Church wishes to be pastorally aware and sensitive in dealing with individuals who come for counseling about sexual concerns.

At the same time, those of us who believe that we are bound by the teaching about homosexuality which we find in Scripture and constant Church teaching often feel that it is we who are demeaned and looked down upon. Our contemporary culture is skeptical of absolute truth. We feel that we have been the subject even of hatred and violence, such as the disruption of the Eucharist in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, New York, and the "celebration" of that action in the documentary "Stop the Church" in which the late Cadinal John O’Connor was spoken of in terms of hate.

I know that you understand the sincerity of our beliefs and that we are not interested in such things as purchasing favorable media coverage by compromising them. We cannot agree with you about morality of homosexual activity or engage in actions which would seem to suggest that we do. In these matters, we simply are not together. However, together, we can condemn hatred and violence and unjust discrimination aimed at homosexual persons. Together, we can persuade those tempted to hate religious people because we believe as we do that the way of hate ought not to be anyone’s way. I think more can be accomplished in this way than in any other fashion.

I too will not release this letter until next week. I will be in touch with you after I have had an opportunity to consult further with some of my brother bishops.

Sincerely yours in Christ

Josep A Fiorenza

Read the first letter to the Bishop.
Read the second letter to the Bishop.