A pamphlet on sexual orientation issued by the Catholic bishops of England and Wales has won praise from a prominent U.K. homosexual rights activist who claims the pamphlet flies in the face of the “uncompromising homophobia” of the Vatican. However, Bishop John Hine, who chairs the bishops’ Marriage and Family Life committee, emphasized to CNA that the documents are “clearly not teaching documents but aids for pastoral reflection.”
The pamphlet, published by the Marriage and Family Life Project Office of the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales, is titled “What is life like if you or someone in your family is gay or lesbian in their sexual orientation?”
Its title page continues by quoting the 1979 Catholic Social Welfare Commission which wrote that “the homosexual community” is “a group that has suffered more than its share of oppression and contempt” and has “a particular claim on the concern of the church.”
It advises readers to be welcoming towards people who feel marginalized within the Church and not to assume everyone is heterosexual or that all homosexual persons are sexually active.
The pamphlet further counsels readers to post information on “appropriate local help and support services” and informing the parish about Church teachings and Catholic writing on the subject.
It quotes from people claiming the Church has been “very intolerant” of homosexual family members.
One person, a man with a homosexual son, claimed that a parishioner made “extremely hostile, disparaging remarks” when he tried to talk about the matter. He accused the parish priest of reacting in a “similarly prejudiced way.”
“It’s always important to provide information about opportunities in the local area for moral and spiritual support for homosexual Catholics and their families,” the pamphlet says, adding “Homilies and bidding prayers are excellent opportunities to demonstrate awareness and compassion and express appreciation for the gifts that homosexual Catholics bring to their faith community.”
Peter Tatchell, leader of the U.K. homosexual activist group OutRage!, praised the pamphlet, believing it ran counter to official Catholic teaching.
“This leaflet is a welcome, positive initiative which will bring great comfort to gay Catholics and their families. Its sympathetic, understanding message is a big improvement on the stern, uncompromising homophobia of most Vatican pronouncements on homosexuality”
“Its liberal stance has provoked condemnation from traditionalist, conservative Catholics,” he claimed. “They denounce the leaflet as a maverick, renegade move by the English and Welsh Catholic Church, acting in defiance of Vatican orthodoxy.”
Tatchell argued the pamphlet’s broader dissemination would counteract what he called “ignorance and prejudice” among the Catholic laity, but he asserted that its tone is undermined by “the homophobic content of the Catholic Catechism.”
The Bishops’ Marriage and Family Life Office explained to CNA that parishes are not required to use the pamphlets and that the “Catechism and Bishops’ documents are clear on Church teaching about sexuality and this leaflet is not a commentary on that teaching. The leaflet merely offers pastoral advice on making everyone welcome to their parish.”
Auxiliary Bishop of Southwark John Hine, who chairs the Bishops’ Conference Marriage and Family Life Committee, explained the situation to CNA:
“These leaflets were published and made available over a year ago, and are being used effectively in parishes. They are clearly not teaching documents but aids for pastoral reflection. While focusing on the aspect of welcome, great care was taken to ensure that nothing in these leaflets in any way compromises our Catholic teaching.”
CNA also contacted Dr. Phillip Mango, a licensed psychotherapist in New York and a founding member of the New York-based St. Michael's Institute of the Psychological Sciences.
Though he did not address the pamphlet specifically, Dr. Mango offered general comments on how the Church and society should approach homosexuality.
He emphasized the need for a scientific approach to the phenomenon.
“There is actually no solid evidence that people are born homosexual. There is no scientific evidence anywhere,” he told CNA on Wednesday.
He cited the opinion of Dr. Robert Spitzer, MD, the Columbia University researcher who originally removed homosexuality from the DSM-IV manual used in diagnosing psychological problems.
Spitzer has since changed his view and now considers homosexuality a treatable condition.
“After seeing 200 ex-gays, he was astounded,” Dr. Mango said, mentioning that “voluminous research” supports this position but is not widely reported.
He also criticized the use of the concept “homophobia,” which many blame for the problems homosexuals suffer.
Mango explained that research in the major journal “Psychiatry,” a publication which Mango characterized as “the most open and welcome to homosexuals,” examined homosexuals in “the most quote ‘non-judgmental’ place, the Netherlands.”
“They found a higher incidence of psychopathology among homosexuals, anxiety, depression, all sorts of things,” Dr. Mango reported. “The idea that it is homophobia for homosexuals causing this, it’s really false. Even the secular psychologists know this.”
Dr. Mango suggested further resources for accurate approaches to homosexuality.
He praised the Catholic Medical Association document “Homosexuality and Hope” as “a very in-depth, authentically Catholic explanation of the causes of homosexuality, how homosexuals should be treated, and how they are being cared for.”
He recommended the work of Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, head of the National Alliance for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality. He further mentioned Exodus International as another resource.
Dr. Mango also emphasized that the testimonies of former homosexuals who are now “happily heterosexual” should be taken into account, since they are rarely presented in the media. On this topic, he recommended the website www.PeopleCanChange.com
He compared the treatment of homosexuals to the treatment of women who have undergone an abortion but cannot find professionals who can respond to this element of their past.
“They are ignored by my profession. Nobody knows what to do with them. They’re really untreatable until they find themselves in a healing community of Evangelicals and Catholics.”
“Ultimately, it’s about prayer and just speaking the truth,” Dr. Mango concluded.