By Meg Jalsevac

WASHINGTON, October 19, 2006 ( – In their semi-annual meeting held in Baltimore in November of this year, the American bishops will be voting on a new document meant to help clarify the Catholic Church’s teaching on homosexuality and “those with the homosexual inclination.” The document is entitled “Ministry to Persons With a Homosexual Inclination: Guidelines for Pastoral Care”

Catholic News Service reports that the document condemns homosexual activity of any sort but is careful to reinforce the necessity of treating those individuals with a homosexual inclination with “respect, compassion and sensitivity.” A similar document was released by the Vatican in 1986.Â

The current document was authored by the Committee on Doctrine, a sub-committee within the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Bill Ryan in the Communications Department of the USCCB told that the document will be debated and possibly revised at the November meeting before it is voted on. 2/3 of the bishops in the USCCB must vote in favor for the document to be accepted and made public.Â

The document condemns homosexual acts of any kind. It says, “Homosexual acts also violate the true purpose of sexuality. They are sexual acts that cannot be open to life. Nor do they reflect the complementarity of man and woman that is an integral part of God’s design for human sexuality.”

The document goes on to clearly state that homosexual unions cannot be recognized under any form – either as ‘same-sex marriage’ or civil unions. Marriage is clearly defined as the union of one man and one woman, “a bond that is directed toward two inseparable ends: the expression of marital love and the procreation and education of children.” The document reiterates the Church’s teaching that any sexual activity, homosexual or heterosexual, outside of marriage is morally wrong.Â

The document also reaffirms the Church’s forbiddance of homosexual couples adopting children. However, it does say that the baptism of such children is a matter of pastoral concern and can only happen if there is a “well-founded hope” that the children will be raised Catholic.Â

The document forcibly distinguishes between homosexual acts and those who have homosexual inclinations.“While the former is always sinful, the latter is not. To the extent that a homosexual tendency or inclination is not subject to one’s free will, one is not morally culpable for that tendency,” it says.

The document does explain that homosexual tendencies are, of themselves, objectively disordered but says that having a disordered tendency does not make the homosexual himself objectively disordered. It clarifies Catholic teaching by saying, “the inclination to homosexual acts, like every inclination to sin, is disordered, [but a person with homosexual inclinations] retains his or her intrinsic human dignity and value”.

The document gives careful guidelines for persons in authority in pastoral situations. Homosexuals striving to live a chaste life are to be encouraged in their healthy relationships with those around them but most importantly in holiness which is, “fostering the greatest possible friendship with God”. Regular reception of the sacraments and spiritual direction is especially encouraged.Â

The document stresses that homosexuals are not to be given positions of authority or opportunity as a catechetic in the Church if their “behavior violates her teaching.”

The document addresses the fact that America is suffering from “moral relativism in our society” and a “widespread tendency toward hedonism” which makes the Church’s teaching on homosexuality difficult for some to hear. Harry Knox of the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights advocacy group, said in regards to the new document, “It’s dangerous and immoral for the church to make the kinds of statements that they are thinking about making.”

The timing of this pastoral letter is especially poignant as the Church in America is still recovering from the homosexual clergy scandal. An investigation into homosexual activity in American seminaries has just been completed and a recent document from the Vatican forbad homosexuals from being rectors or professors at Catholic seminaries.Â

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