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Some considerations concerning the Catholic response to legislative proposals on the non-discrimination of homosexual persons.

Foreword

Recently, legislation had been proposed in some American states which would make discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation illegal. In some Italian cities, municipal authorities have made public housing available to homosexual (and unmarried heterosexual) couples. Such initiatives, even where they seem more directed toward support of basic civil rights than condonement of homosexual activity or a homosexual lifestyle, may in fact have a negative impact on the family and society. Such things as the adoption of children, the hiring and firing of teachers, the housing needs of genuine families, landlords' legitimate concerns in screening potential tenants, for example, are often implicated.

While it would be impossible to foresee and respond to every eventuality in respect to legislative proposals in this area, these observations will try to identify some principles and distinctions of a general nature which should be taken into consideration by the conscientious Catholic legislator, voter, or Church authority who is confronted with such issues. The first section will recall relevant passages from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons of 1986. The second section will deal with the applications.

I. Relevant Passages from the CDF's "Letter"

I. The Letter recalls that the CDF's Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics of 1975 "took note of the distinction commonly drawn between the homosexual condition or tendency and individual homosexual actions," the latter which are "intrinsically disordered" and "in no case to be approved of."

2. Since "[i]n the discussion which followed the publication of the (abovementioned) Declaration ..., an overly benign interpretation was given to the homosexual condition itself, some going so far as to call it neutral, or even good," the Letter goes on to clarify: "Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder. Therefore special concern and pastoral attention should be directed toward those who have this condition, lest they be led to believe that the living out of this orientation in homosexual activity is a morally acceptable option. It is not".

3. "As in every moral disorder, homosexual activity prevents one's own fulfillment and happiness by acting contrary to the creative wisdom of God. The Church, in rejecting erroneous opinions regarding homosexuality, does not limit but rather defends personal freedom and dignity realistically and authentically understood".

4. In reference to the homosexual movement, the Letter states: "One tactic used is to protest that any and all criticism of or reservations about homosexual people, their activity and lifestyle, are simply diverse forms of unjust discrimination".

5. "There is an effort in some countries to manipulate the Church by gaining the often well-intentioned support of her pastors with a view to changing civil statutes and laws. This is done in order to conform to these pressure groups' concept that homosexuality is at least a completely harmless, if not an entirely good, thing. Even when the practice of homosexuality may seriously threaten the lives and well-being of a large number of people, its advocates remain undeterred and refuse to consider the magnitude of the risks involved".

6. "She (the Church) is also aware that the view that homosexual activity is equivalent to, or as acceptable as, the sexual expression of conjugal love has a direct impact on society's understanding of the nature and rights of the family and puts them in jeopardy".

7. "It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church's pastors wherever it occurs. It reveals a kind of disregard for others which endangers the most fundamental principles of a healthy society. The intrinsic dignity of each person must always be respected in word, in action and in law. But the proper reaction to crimes committed against homosexual persons should not be to claim that the homosexual condition is not disordered. When such a claim is made and when homosexual activity is consequently condoned, or when civil legislation is introduced to protect behaviour to which no one has any conceivable right, neither the Church nor society at large should be surprised when other distorted notions and practices gain ground, and irrational and violent reactions increase".

8. "What is at all costs to be avoided is the unfounded and demeaning assumption that the sexual behavior of homosexual persons is always and totally compulsive and therefore inculpable. What is essential is that the fundamental liberty which characterizes the human person and gives him his dignity be recognized as belonging to the homosexual person as well".

9. "In assessing proposed legislation, the Bishops should keep as their uppermost concern the responsibility to defend and promote family life".

II. Applications

10. "Sexual orientation" does not constitute a quality comparable to race, ethnic background, etc. in respect to non-discrimination. Unlike these, homosexual orientation is an objective disorder.

11. There are areas in which it is not unjust discrimination to take sexual orientation into account, for example, in the consignment of children to adoption or foster care, in employment of teachers or coaches, and in military recruitment.

12. Homosexual persons, as human persons, have the same rights as all persons including that of not being treated in a manner which offends their personal dignity. Among other rights, all persons have the right to work, to housing, etc. Nevertheless, these rights are not absolute. They can be legitimately limited for objectively disordered external conduct. This is sometimes not only licit but obligatory. This would obtain moreover not only in the case of culpable behaviour but even in the case of actions of the physically or mentally ill. Thus it is accepted that the state may restrict the exercise of rights, for example, in the case of contagious or mentally ill persons, in order to protect the common good.

13. Including "homosexual orientation" among the considerations on the basis of which it is illegal to discriminate can easily lead to regarding homosexuality as a positive source of human rights, for example, in respect to so-called affirmative action, the filling of quotas in hiring practices. This is all the more mistaken since there is no right to homosexuality which therefore should not form the judicial basis for claims. The passage from the recognition of homosexuality as a factor on which basis it is illegal to discriminate can easily lead, if not automatically, to the legislative protection of homosexuality. A person's homosexuality would be invoked in opposition to alleged discrimination and thus the exercise of rights would be defended precisely via the affirmation of the homosexual condition instead of in terms of a violation of basic human rights.

14. The "sexual orientation" of a person is not comparable to race, sex, age, etc. also for another reason than that given above which warrants attention. An individual's sexual orientation is generally not known to others unless he publicly identifies himself as having this orientation or unless some overt behaviour manifests it. As a rule, the majority of homosexually oriented persons who seek to lead chaste lives do not want or see no reason for their sexual orientation to become public knowledge. Hence the problem of discrimination in terms of employment, housing, etc. does not arise.

Homosexual persons who assert their homosexuality tend to be precisely those who judge homosexual behaviour or lifestyle to be "either completely harmless, if not an entirely good thing", and hence worthy of public approval. It is from this quarter that one is more likely to find those who seek to "manipulate the Church by gaining the often well-intentioned support of her pastors with a view to changing civil statutes and laws", those who use the tactic of protesting that "any and all criticism of or reservations about homosexual people ... are simply diverse forms of unjust discrimination".

15. Since in assessing proposed legislation uppermost concern should be given to the responsibility to defend and promote family life, most careful attention should be paid to the single provisions of proposed measures. How would they effect [sic] adoption or foster care? Would they protect homosexual acts, public or private? Do they confer equivalent family status on homosexual unions, for example, in respect to public housing or by entitling the homosexual partner to the privileges of employment which might include "family" participation in the health benefits given to employees?

16. Finally, since a matter of the common good is concerned, it is inappropriate for Church authorities to endorse or remain neutral toward adverse legislation even if it grants exceptions to Church organizations and institutions. The Church has the responsibility to promote the public morality of the entire civil society on the basis of fundamental moral values, not simply to protect herself from the application of harmful laws.

Introduction

Legislation based on sexual orientation could well be wrong and harmful, says the Vatican in a letter to American bishops. The letter was dated July 23, 1992, and issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). While addressed to the American bishops, its teaching is meant for the entire Church.

Defence of the family

The letter comes in the context of the Church's continuing defence of the family and the moral order, against the anti-family and anti-life thrusts of contraception, sterilization, divorce, homosexuality and, above all, abortion. The crime of abortion is distinguished in degree and kind from the other attacks on human life because it also involves the killing of an innocent human being, the baby.

Advice

The letter is entitled Some Considerations Concerning the Response to Legislative Proposals on the Non-Discrimination of Homosexual Persons.

For those who have opposed the folly of protecting and promoting the "gay" drive for acceptance and equality, the Vatican document is re-assuring and comforting and to be received with gratitude. It is of immediate practical value in countering the current drive to make sexual orientation the basis for judicial claims.

Highlights

First the letter recalls some recent history.

In 1975 the CDF (Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) noted the distinction between the homosexual condition and homosexual activity, declaring the latter to be "intrinsically disordered."

This led some Catholics to promote the view that while homosexual acts may be sinful, there is nothing wrong with being a homosexual.

In 1986 the CDF pointed out the contradictory nature of the argument that the act is sinful but the condition which gives rise to the act is perfectly fine or, at worst, neutral. The homosexual tendency itself, it declared, is ordered "toward an intrinsic moral evil" and therefore, it is in itself "an objective disorder."

In the same 1986 document the CDF noted

* the current tactic of lumping all criticism of homosexuality under the title "discrimination;"

* the bad effects on society and the status of the family of the false argument that homosexual acts are legitimate and acceptable;

* the promotion of the demeaning argument that homosexual behaviour is "totally compulsive" and therefore inculpable, that is, not blameworthy of the person involved.

True liberty and respect for the human person, the CDF states, is not found in the above-mentioned arguments but in the teaching of the Church. While all violence against homosexuals is to be condemned and deplored, nothing is to be gained and much is to be lost by claiming that the homosexual condition is normal and acceptable.

Application

Therefore in defence of society it must be pointed out that:

* sexual orientation is not comparable to race, gender, age, etc. Unlike these qualities, homosexual orientation is objectively disordered and evokes moral concern.

* discrimination against "sexual orientation" may be both just and necessary in specific cases.

* inclusion of sexual orientation in human rights legislation can easily lead to:

* legislative promotion of homosexuality;

* erroneous affirmative policies on behalf of homosexuals who falsely claim homosexual behaviour is worthy of public approval;

* misleading homosexually-oriented persons who seek to live chaste lives, into abandoning this goal.

The document concludes by noting that church authorities should not allow themselves to be bribed by accepting an exemption for themselves. Instead they must promote family life and the public morality "of the entire civil society on the basis of fundamental moral values."

Please order from Life Ethics Centre 104 Bond St., 3rd Floor Toronto, ON M5B 1X9

100 for $10.00 plus shipping and handling.

Also available 1986 booklet The Pastoral Care of Homosexuals combined with the 1992 Letter for $0.65
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Title Annotation:Unjust & Just Discrimination
Publication:Catholic Insight
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2005
Words:2092
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