By Michael Baggot

LAS VEGAS, NV April 29, 2008 ( – A visitor to the Cathedral of Las Vegas was shocked recently to see an advertisement for the Imago Dei ministry in the cathedral bulletin. Jack Fonseca, a 3rd degree member of the Knights of Columbus, has since worked to rally other Catholics to have Bishop Joseph Anthony Pepe disband the group for its infidelity to Church teaching regarding homosexuality.

According to its official site, “Imago Dei was established to meet a need in the Church for support of gay Catholic women and men. Gay people have been made to feel that they are unwelcome in the Church and in the Heart of God.”

“We are also here for families and friends who want to understand, accept and support their loved one(s) who may be gay…especially through the light of their Catholic/Christian faith,” the site adds.

In a letter to Bishop Pepe, Fonseca wrote, “I feel I have a Catholic moral obligation to express my shock and horror at the fact that GAC’s bulletin promoted a homosexual ministry which appears to support and encourage homosexual relationships and the acceptance of homosexuality as good, natural and normal.”

Fonseca goes on to criticize the Imago Dei site for its incomplete and therefore misleading presentation of Catholic teaching on homosexuality. 

The site, notes Fonseca, emphasizes only the Church’s teaching on the dignity of persons with homosexual tendencies and the evil of hateful discrimination against them. The organization, however, assiduously avoids expressing the Church’s clear teaching that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered and gravely sinful.  In the section of their website entitled “Statements from Church Teaching” Imago Dei includes quotations from numerous Church documents. All of the quotations, without exception, relate only to how homosexuals as persons are to be accepted and loved, and none express Church teaching on the morality of homosexual acts.

The mission of the site “is not to detail every word of church teaching,” Charles O’Neill, director of Imago Dei, told The site is primarily an “advertising and evangelization tool” focused on “trying to get people in” the ministry, so that Imago Dei can share the message of God’s love, O’Neill added.

“Sex is not the topic or focus of discussion or prayer.”

The Catholic Church, however, has officially warned against giving an incomplete presentation of teaching regarding homosexuality under the pretext of pastoral care. Such an incomplete presentation, observes the Church, can be just as misleading and damaging as a forthrightly incorrect one.
“No authentic pastoral programme will include organizations in which homosexual persons associate with each other without clearly stating that homosexual activity is immoral,” stated The Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith’s (CDF) 1980 statement concerning the pastoral care of homosexual individuals. “A truly pastoral approach will appreciate the need for homosexual persons to avoid the near occasions of sin.”

“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.  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 document added.

In contrast to the selective quotations of the Imago Dei website, the Holy See-endorsed Courage ministry presents, the three main passages from the Catechism of the Catholic Church dealing with homosexuality on its website.

O’Neill also admitted to that Imago Dei does not encourage members to overcome homosexual tendencies.  He cited the 1993 English translation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which states in paragraph 2358 that men “do not choose their homosexual condition.” 

“How does one overcome something that is not chosen as the Church states?” O’Neill asked.

The current English edition, however, based upon the official 1997 Latin edition of the Catechism, removes mention of the homosexual condition not being chosen and describes homosexuality as an “inclination, which is objectively disordered.”  The earlier 1993 English translation was based upon the unofficial French edition, not the official Latin edition, which led to some confusion on the matter.

However, both translations affirm that the “psychological genesis [of homosexuality] remains largely unexplained.” (for a detailed look at the translations, see

In contrast to O’Neill’s claims, recent studies have indicated that homosexuality is not a genetically irreversible condition.

“Like most psychiatrists, I thought that homosexual behavior could be resisted, but sexual orientation could not be changed.  I now believe that’s untrue – some people can and do change,” Dr. Robert Spitzer told the American Psychiatric Association (APA) in 2001 after an extensive study.

Spitzer’s testimony is especially pertinent since in 1973 he was a key figure in convincing the APA to remove homosexuality from the diagnostic manual’s list of metal disorders.

While Imago Dei claims to “support gay Catholic men and women,” Church teaching discourages labels that reduce individuals to their sexual orientation.

“Today, the Church provides a badly needed context for the care of the human person when she refuses to consider the person as a ‘heterosexual’ or a ‘homosexual’ and insists that every person has a fundamental identity: the creature of God, and by grace, his child and heir to eternal life,” stated the 1980 CDF document.

“To say someone is ‘gay’ or ‘lesbian’ or a ‘homosexual’ is to define a whole person by just one aspect.  It can lock up a person’s identity and block further emotional growth. That’s just the sort of labeling which gives rise to prejudice and discrimination,” explained a Courage commentary on the CDF document.

O’Neill noted that Imago Dei currently receives official support from the diocese, since it is a “ministry of the cathedral” whose spiritual director is whichever priest the Bishop assigns as rector of the cathedral. 

“How can this gay lobby group call itself a ‘Catholic’ ministry when it refuses to give the full teaching of the church, to condemn homosexual acts and fails to orient those with same-sex attraction to where Holy Mother Church wants to lead them?  That is, to uniting their sufferings to the cross of Christ and either seeking recovery from their condition by the healing power of Christ and/or the grace to live a chaste Christian life, never giving in to the homosexual temptations?” asked Fonseca.

Fonseca’s letter exhorts the bishop to disband Imago Dei and to instead lend support to Courage, a ministry faithful to the whole of Church teaching that supports individuals with same-sex attractions in their efforts to overcome same-sex attractions and live lives of prayerful chastity.

Contact Bishop Pepe about Imago Dei activities in Las Vegas:

336 Cathedral Way
  Las Vegas, NV 89109
  Phone: (702) 735-3500
  Fax:       (702) 735-8941
  E-mail: [email protected]

Learn about the Courage Ministry:

Read the Vatican’s statement about the pastoral care of homosexual individuals:

Read the United States Bishops’ statement on pastoral care of individuals with homosexual inclinations:

Read about Dr. Spitzer’s changed view of homosexual orientation:

Read about the various factors involved in forming a persons sexual orientation: