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  Home :: 2006 November :: Catholic edict keeps gays in the closet
Catholic edict keeps gays in the closet Here's what U.S. bishops in the Catholic Church, my church, told gays and lesbians recently:

Sexualityfinds its proper place in marriage. Proper marriage is solely between aman and a woman. We don't support gay marriages or civil unions. Soeven if you're in a committed, long-term relationship, you shouldn'thave sex.

Gays shouldn't tell anyone - outside of close friends,relatives and supporters in the church - about their sexualorientation. In other words, deny who you are to the wider world.

Andgay couples who want to adopt children? Don't, because homosexualunions "are contrary to the divine plan." Just forget about childrenwho need a loving home.

One more thing: The Church supports you. And it condemns all forms of violence and hate directed at you.

That's one convoluted, contradictory message.

Yetthat's what the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, voting 194-37,approved at a meeting in Baltimore. In updating guidelines to ministerto gays, they adopted a 26-page document titled "Ministry to PersonsWith a Homosexual Inclination." (Were they afraid to use "homosexual"as a noun?) The words I wrote above might not have been in the documentverbatim, but those sentiments sure were.

The guidelines arehurtful and a slap in the face of gays. While they acknowledge thatbeing homosexual is not a choice, the guidelines tell gays and lesbiansto not act, sexually at least, as if they're gay or lesbian. And theyimplicitly suggest that they are "less than" heterosexuals.

'I am what he (God) made me"

Thatattitude bothers a man I'll call Matthew, who's 57 and attends aCatholic church in South Hampton Roads. He's gay, but only a handful ofpeople know it. I'm not using his real name because he's not completely"out."

"If we are all God's creation, I am what he made," Matthew said. "If he made me with these feelings, who am I to question?"

"OnJudgment Day, it's just him and me," he said, adding later: "God is notmaking these rules" about homosexuals that the bishops just approved.

Thoughhe's been estranged from the church in the past, Matthew said he cameback because he wanted the spirituality there. A "cradle Catholic," healso felt that, though struggling with HIV for nearly two decades, Godmust have a purpose for him because he's still here while many of hisfriends have died.

Yet, he's disappointed by the Catholic Church's attitude toward homosexuals: "There always has to be a scapegoat."

Suchedicts also trouble Thomas Long, a former pastor at Christ the King inNorfolk. Long, who's gay, left the priesthood in 1988.

It's notsmart to tell gays to be discreet about their orientation, he contends."The Catholic Church has suffered enough from secrecy regardingsexuality," he said, alluding to clergy sex abuse scandal.

"It'sthe secrets that destroy us spiritually," said Long, who's now anEnglish professor at Thomas Nelson Community College. But he was quickto add that the Church "does seem to get it ... that sexual orientationis an orientation, unlike some fundamentalist churches."

Limited outreach

Andin the Richmond diocese, which covers Hampton Roads, there is someoutreach, though it's limited. The diocese has an HIV/AIDS task force,for example. St. Nicholas Church in Virginia Beach has a support groupfor gays and their caregivers.

And St. Michael Church insuburban Richmond has just started a support group for gays andlesbians in that parish, though it hasn't met yet. "We're very excitedabout it," said church Deacon Andy Ferguson. "We're all trying to liveout our lives as Catholic Christians. Some people have more barriersthan others."

Indeed. But the bishops' document probably didn'tlower those barriers much, if any, for the gays and lesbians who soughtthe Catholic Church's embrace.

Roger Chesley is associate editor of The Virginian-Pilot's editorial page in Norfolk, Va. Reach him at

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Pedophilia and sexual abuse of children in Australia