By Kathleen Gilbert

LONG BEACH, CA, September 29, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Coadjutor Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento shocked his unsuspecting audience at the National Association of Catholic Diocesan Lesbian and Gay Ministries conference with a keynote speech that gently but firmly condemned the homosexual lifestyle as sinful, and celebrated extra-marital chastity, according to the California Catholic Daily.

"Sexual relations between people of the same sex can be alluring for homosexuals," Bishop Soto told the conference, "but it deviates from the true meaning of the act and distracts them from the true nature of love to which God has called us all. For this reason, it is sinful." Bishop Soto also urged Catholics to support Proposition 8, a ballot measure to protect marriage as a sacred covenant between a man and a woman. 

At least five people left during the bishop’s speech, according to witnesses.

The bishop drew praise and allayed the fears of faithful Catholics, who had expressed concern when Soto first agreed to attend the conference.  On its website, NACDLGM advertises its goal "to welcome gay and lesbian Catholics into the Church" while condoning an actively homosexual lifestyle.  But neither Sacramento Catholics nor conference attendees had anticipated that the bishop, who is expected to take over the diocese of Sacramento at the end of November, would eschew the usual tone of the conference in such a dramatic fashion.  

Bishop Soto began his speech with a meditation on Jesus as he is frequently portrayed in modernity - the compassionate, lenient benefactor found in the Gospel miracle accounts.  "This can oftentimes lead us to the conclusion that Jesus always said ‘yes.’ He always gave people what they wanted. He was an agreeable person," said the bishop. This, however, is not the complete Gospel picture of Jesus, he warned. 

The bishop recalled how Jesus rebuked Peter for trying to dissuade him from the suffering of the Cross.  "Jesus does not give in to the expectations of Peter or the expectations of others," said the bishop.  "He has firmly planted in his heart the expectations and desires of his Father in heaven. He says ‘no’ to Peter and challenges Peter to take up a greater ‘yes,’ to take up his cross and follow him."

Bishop Soto emphasized Paul’s injunction "do not conform yourselves to this age," observing that it may be particularly tempting to deviate from one’s faith in the area of sexuality, due to the fact that "the nature of love has been distorted" in modern times.

"If you cannot have sex then you cannot love. This is the message. Even more destructive is the prevailing notion that sex is not an expression of love. Sex is love."  This view, says the bishop, "robs the human person of the possibility of ever knowing real love.

"Sexual intercourse between a man and a woman in the covenant of Marriage is one expression of love to which the human person can aspire, but we are all called to love. ... The human desire to love must lead us to the divine."  The path to the highest love, said the bishop, "is the path of chastity." 

The bishop said, "Love leads us to ecstasy, not as a moment of intoxication but rather as a journey" to God and oneself through self-gift. "Desire tempered and tested by ‘renunciation, purification, and healing’ can lead us to God’s design."

Only then, well past the halfway-point of the speech, did Bishop Soto first utter the word "homosexual."

"This is true for all of us. It is also true for men and women who are homosexual. We are called to live and love in a manner that brings us into respectful, chaste relationships with one another and an intimate relationship with God. We should be an instrument of God’s love for one another.

"Let me be clear here," said the bishop.  "Sexual intercourse, outside of the marriage covenant between a man and a woman, can be alluring and intoxicating but it will not lead to that liberating journey of true self-discovery and an authentic discovery of God. For that reason, it is sinful.

"Sexual relations between people of the same sex can be alluring for homosexuals but it deviates from the true meaning of the act and distracts them from the true nature of love to which God has called us all. For this reason, it is sinful." (To read Bishop Soto’s speech in its entirety, visit: http://www.calcatholic.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?id=4897fa56-4e58-4169-9be5-96840ef31505)

After Bishop Soto finished, the room sat in stunned silence, other than a smattering of applause, two audience members told California Catholic.

Many took to the microphone to express their dissatisfaction at the bishop’s words, and anger that the bishop did not focus on "the value of our lived experience" as homosexuals.  Two of the speakers, a man and a woman, thanked the bishop and agreed with his statements.

The bishop, though urged by the chairman that he was free to leave, stayed on to listen to conference attendees who wanted to respond to his speech individually. 

"On behalf of the board, I apologize," said a board member of the association to one of the tables, reports California Catholic.  "We had no idea Bishop Soto was going to say what he said."

To contact the bishop:

Bishop Jaime Soto
  Pastoral Center
  2110 Broadway
  Sacramento, CA 95818-2518
  (916) 733-0100
MSteense@diocese-sacramento.org