Letter from Bishop Fiorenza to Rev. Mel White, refusing to help arrange a meeting with Cardinal Ratzinger

December 7, 2000

Reverend Mel White
PO Box 4467
Laguna Beach, CA 92652

Dear Reverend White,

Although I do not agree that your demonstrations are an effective tactic, I am happy that they occur in a spirit of non-violence, as they did last month at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. I firmly believe that prayer and meditation on God’s Word are the surer ways for us to come to know His Will and avoid malice in speech and action which should not be directed at either persons of homosexual orientation or those who believe that homosexual activity is not in accord with God’s plan for creation revealed in the Book of Genesis, which Jesus Christ took as the basis of His own teaching on sexuality.

It is because I believe, along with my brother Bishops, that this teaching is founded on the Scriptures, and does not "originate" in Rome, that I cannot take any steps which would seem to endorse this latter view. We Catholics believe that Successor of Peter strengthens his brothers in the faith. He does not impose on us beliefs which we do not ourselves understand as coming to us from the deposit of faith left to us by Christ and his Apostles.

If I receive any inquiries from the Holy See about your plans, I will certainly reply that you conducted yourselves in a non-violent way. However, to help arrange a meeting with Cardinal Ratzinger would seem to me to encourage a misunderstanding that we are dealing with matters which are at the disposal of Church authorities to uphold or to change as they see fit. Neither Cardinal Ratzinger nor the Holy Father himself have it within their authority to alter the constant teaching of the Church. I do not see the purpose of putting the Holy See in the position of being asked to do what cannot be done.

You may feel sincerely that "it is Roman Catholic teaching that helps motivate that hatred and gives license to that violence" to which persons of homosexual orientation have been subjected. However, we believe sincerely that sexual activity is not to occur outside of the marriage of one man and one woman for life. This is a challenge and even a burden at times, as it was most memorably in the life of St. Augustine, but it has also been the way to sanctity for those who undertake it, relying on the Lord.

In previous letters, I have tried to make it clear that to use this teaching as an excuse for hatred and violence is a distortion of our teaching. Nor should sexual orientation be a cause of abandoning one’s own family members or instilling in them an attitude of self-hatred, matters which were addressed in "Always Our Children". The Church is committed to a caring pastoral response to those to whom she ministers, including those with sexual questions and anxieties. I must confess a concern that your rhetoric about "spiritual violence" may persuade some who might otherwise turn to the Church from doing so, and thus they will not receive the help they seek. I doubt that you intend to stop those freely seeking solace from the church from doing so, therefore, I hope you consider this consequence in speaking of our faith convictions.

With the assurance of my prayers, I am

Sincerely yours,

Joseph A. Fiorenza

Most Reverend Joseph A. Fiorenza
Bishop of Galveston-Houston

National Conference of Catholic Bishops
Office of the President
3211 Forth Street, NE
Washington, DC 20017-1194

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