In 2003, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said that “in those situations where homosexual unions have been legally recognized or have been given the legal status and rights belonging to marriage, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty.”
“One must refrain from any kind of formal cooperation in the enactment or application of such gravely unjust laws and, as far as possible, from material cooperation on the level of their application. In this area, everyone can exercise the right to conscientious objection,” the CDF added.
According to Pham, more basic issues are likely to be the clinic’s focus.
“For us, it's more about how people are discriminated against. So in places of employment, housing, bank loans— you know, they won't give a loan to a couple because they're a same-sex union— so those are really basic human issues,” the priest said.
Pham said his main concern is people’s assumptions that the clinic will advocate for positions contrary to Church teaching.
"My concern is people jumping to conclusions, and just looking at the name of the clinic, and then making an assumption about it,” Pham commented.
“This is something that we're aware of, when we were thinking about doing this clinic. We are a Catholic Jesuit school, our foundation is within Catholic social teaching, so I think my main concern is people hearing about this and often jumping to conclusions without finding out.”
Pham said the university uses a 1997 document from the United State Conference of Catholic Bishops, “Always Our Children,” as a guide for how “we work with our students and with community members who are of that community."
“Always Our Children” was, at the time of its release, criticized by groups who say they are faithful to Church teaching, such as Courage. It was largely embraced by groups critical of Catholic doctrine, such as DignityUSA. The document was not voted on by the full body of bishops, nor even discussed by them before its issuance, according to the National Catholic Register.
“Always Our Children” was revised and reissued in 1998, again, without a full vote of the U.S. bishops. One of the changes was the addition of a footnote to a 1992 letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith regarding legislative proposals to address discrimination against people who identify as gay.
“There are areas in which it is not unjust discrimination to take sexual orientation into account,” the document says, “for example, in the placement of children for adoption or foster care, in employment of teachers or athletic coaches, and in military recruitment.”
“‘Sexual orientation’ does not constitute a quality comparable to race, ethnic background, etc., in respect to nondiscrimination,” the document continued.
“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 or preferential treatment in hiring practices.”
In 2006, the USCCB issued an new document, Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination. That document, which was approved by a vote of the bishops, cited the CDF’s 1992 letter more explicitly.
“As human persons, persons with a homosexual inclination have the same basic rights as all people, including the right to be treated with dignity. Nevertheless “‘sexual orientation’ does not constitute a quality comparable to race, ethnic background, etc., in respect to nondiscrimination,” the 2006 document said.
“Therefore, it is not unjust, for example, to limit the bond of marriage to the union of a woman and a man. It is not unjust to oppose granting to homosexual couples benefits that in justice should belong to marriage alone,” the document continued.
The Catholic Church teaches that while homosexual inclinations are not sinful, homosexual acts “are contrary to the natural law...under no circumstances can they be approved.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that people with “deep-seated homosexual tendencies” should be “accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”
For its part, the Diocese of Spokane said it will approach talks with Gonzaga with hope for a positive resolution to points of disagreement.
“Bishop Daly is a strong supporter of Catholic education and hopes that Gonzaga will continue to be a partner in the Catholic mission of faithful education in the Church,” the diocese said.