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Cardinals and bishops pack the front section of St. Peter's Basilica during the opening Mass of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family on October 5, 2014.John-Henry Westen /

ROME, October 26, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) — The truth of the Catholic Church regarding homosexuality is so far removed from the mainstream media’s debates over same-sex “marriage” it is nearly impossible to achieve an accurate reading of the Synod’s final document (Relazione Finale) without an in depth understanding of the Church’s teaching in this regard.

The most essential and basic teaching is that homosexual acts are gravely sinful, which means they separate the perpetrator from God and can lead to eternal damnation. (Naturally the inclination to commit homosexual acts – popularly called a homosexual orientation – is not sinful, just as the temptation to any other serious sin is not sinful in itself.)  Every subsequent understanding of homosexuality in the Catholic Church develops from this truth – and this teaching is missing from the Synod’s only paragraph concerning homosexuality.

The Relazione Finale paragraph on homosexuality speaks first and foremost about respecting and welcoming homosexual persons and avoiding unjust discrimination toward them. It couches the issue in terms of families experiencing homosexual persons within them and calls on the Church to have special care to “accompany” such families.

This can fit into Catholic teaching with a proper understanding of what is meant.  There can be no respect or welcome for homosexual acts, there can be no encouragement of the “intrinsically disordered” acts or pride in them.  Accompanying of such families must mean a recognition of the grave danger to which the family member is susceptible.  Those clarifications come in the Catechism by way of language appropriate to the gravity of the offensiveness of homosexual acts.

“Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,” says the Catechism, “tradition has always declared that ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.’”  It adds: “They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.”

However, all of that language is missing from the Synod’s final document.  The war over language in the Synod hall was all about getting rid of clear language condemning homosexuality and other sins, and the liberals have achieved their goal in the final document.  Gone are references to even the sinfulness of homosexual acts let alone that they are “intrinsically disordered” and that the inclination even though not sinful is itself “objectively disordered.”

Surprising to many will be the fact that the Catechism never even mentions gay “marriage.”  That is simply because the opposition to it flows from those essential teachings about the gravely sinful nature of homosexual acts. Without the basic understanding that such acts are so harmful that they can lead to eternal separation from God, there is no absolute basis for opposing homosexual relationships.  And that is exactly what is missing in the Relazione Finale even though it does rule out gay “marriage.” 

After the language about respecting, welcoming and avoiding unjust discrimination, the Relazione Finale quotes another Church document saying that with regard to treating homosexual unions as equivalent to marriage, “there is no foundation whatsoever to assimilate or establish even remotely analogous between homosexual unions and God's plan for marriage and the family.”

The Church document quoted (Considerations regarding proposals to give legal recognition to unions between homosexual persons) contains all sorts of clarifying language to denote the gravity of homosexual acts:

Marriage is holy, while homosexual acts go against the natural moral law… Sacred Scripture condemns homosexual acts “as a serious depravity… (cf. Rom 1:24-27; 1 Cor 6:10; 1 Tim 1:10). This judgment of Scripture does not of course permit us to conclude that all those who suffer from this anomaly are personally responsible for it, but it does attest to the fact that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered”.(5) This same moral judgment is found in many Christian writers of the first centuries(6) and is unanimously accepted by Catholic Tradition.

None of that is quoted in the Relazione Finale.

Of note, another Church document dealing with homosexuality underlines the problem with this omission in the Synod’s final text. The 1986 Letter to the bishops of the Catholic Church on the pastoral care of homosexual persons recognizes that true mercy consists in lovingly presenting the truth. It stresses the need for “clearly stating that homosexual activity is immoral,” and adds, “we wish to make it clear that departure from the Church's teaching, or silence about it, in an effort to provide pastoral care is neither caring nor pastoral.”

Explaining how silence on the immorality of homosexual acts such as that in the Relazione Finale can be seen as “neither caring nor pastoral,” the author, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, wrote, “Only what is true can ultimately be pastoral. The neglect of the Church's position prevents homosexual men and women from receiving the care they need and deserve.”

The final document’s paragraph ends with a sentence which comes as a nod to the grievances of African bishops who have been pressured by the West to accept gay “marriage”: “The Synod believes that it is completely unacceptable that local churches suffer pressure in this matter and that international bodies make financial aid to poor countries conditioned on the introduction of laws that establish ‘marriage’ between people of the same sex.”

While in the outside world, the battle is about same-sex “marriage,” that has not yet emerged as a battle inside the Catholic Church. Although liberals within the Church may have that as their long-term goal, the first step to achieve it requires stepping away from clarity and toward ambiguity on the sin of homosexuality.  That goal is achieved in the Relazione Finale.

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John-Henry is the co-founder, CEO and editor-in-chief of He and his wife Dianne have eight children and they live in the Ottawa Valley in Ontario, Canada.

He has spoken at conferences and retreats, and appeared on radio and television throughout the world. John-Henry founded the Rome Life Forum, an annual strategy meeting for life, faith and family leaders worldwide. He is a board member of the John Paul II Academy for Human Life and the Family. He is a consultant to Canada’s largest pro-life organization Campaign Life Coalition, and serves on the executive of the Ontario branch of the organization. He has run three times for political office in the province of Ontario representing the Family Coalition Party.

John-Henry earned an MA from the University of Toronto in School and Child Clinical Psychology and an Honours BA from York University in Psychology.