Real Guidelines for Pastoral Care

You may recall that the Catholic bishops of the U.S. issued a document last year (November 2006) entitled, “Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination: Guidelines for Pastoral Care.” The document was not well-received, most especially because of the patronizing process by which these guidelines were developed — a process which excluded the very people it claimed to be about.

In response, the gay Catholic group DignityUSA has produced its own “Letter on the Pastoral Care of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) People 2007.” Though not yet published on its Web site, the brief letter should be read by every bishop, priest, deacon and pastoral minister.

I found the following paragraph particularly well-written, addressing head-on one of the main objections often heard by those who “don’t believe in homosexuality”:

“A revised theology of sexuality must acknowledge that many intimate relationships express unitive love, even in the absence of possible procreation. This must be affirmed as an expression of divine love. The church has long acknowledged that one of the primary functions of the sexual relationship within marriage is the unitive function, which facilitates the development of a bond of love and intimacy between partners. Furthermore, the church sanctions marriage between men and women who have no possibility of procreating, whether by reason of age or infertility. Sexually intimate relationships between same-gender couples must be affirmed as having the same potential for holiness as those between opposite-gender married couples. Guidelines for ethical expression of sexuality are welcome, to the extent that they promote respect, freedom from exploitation, honesty and mature love between partners. It is critical for church ministers, counselors and religious professionals to receive training and theological updating regarding the nature, purpose and development of the sexual relationships of LGBT people.”

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