Wednesday, June 29, 2011

CCCB pastoral letter on same-sex attraction

"Cultivate virtuous friendships"

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops' (CCCB) Commission for Doctrine recently released a pastoral letter titled "Pastoral Ministry to Young People with Same-Sex Attraction."

"As Bishops, we wish to address the pastoral needs of adolescents and young adults who question
their sexual identity or experience feelings of same-sex attraction," the letter states.

The letter covers topics that include human sexuality in God's plan, fostering chastity, distinguishing inclinations from actions, cultivating virtuous friendships, as well as advice to pastors, parents, and educators.

The end of the document also letter lists some several Church documents on same-sex attraction, which are all available at the Vatican website.

Please see the B.C. Catholic website for a story on the pastoral letter as well as upcoming related stories.


  1. Because you did not elaborate on the Pastoral Letter on Same-Sex Marriage I took the liberty to submit this alternate view on the matter. It is only through honest dialogue that the possibility of real transformation can be achieved.
    I will totally respect your right to remove the comments in my blog as follows: or you may respond to

  2. Dear Trebert:

    Thank you for your comment on the Canadian bishops’ new pastoral letter on same-sex attraction.  You’re right that through honest dialogue real transformation can be achieved, although let’s not discount what can be accomplished outside normal channels through God’s grace and the work of the Holy Spirit. (St. Paul’s conversion comes to mind.)

    Unfortunately, your “alternate view” of the same-sex attraction issue isn't a valid starting point for the dialogue you propose. If we truly want to communicate with each other, we first need to find an agreed-upon vocabulary and principles that we hold in common. When the Vatican starts official dialogue with atheists, other faiths, or other Christians, it doesn’t start the conversation with issues like euthanasia, abortion, or marriage. The best starting point is where there is consensus or common agreement with the other party. Otherwise the “honest dialogue” is likely to be an exercise in futility.

    So let’s start by assuming you don’t agree with how the Church’s teachings on human sexuality are presented. Can we at least agree that the teachings themselves are correct? Failing that, would you acknowledge that the Church has a unique and authoritative teaching role that is long established through Tradition and Scripture? Or that God uses the Church and Scripture to help us understand His will? Or that Scripture is inerrant and that the Church is a reasonably good interpreter of it? Or that the criticisms being raised today have come up again and again over 2,000 years and the Church has lots of experience examining them?

    Any of these might be a reasonable starting point for dialogue. But if none of the above, then it’s hard to know where to start our discussion.

    I look forward to hearing back from you.

  3. Paul

    You covered quite a large area - so at this time I will merely try to address some of your questions contained in your last paragraph. Hopefully my responses will reveal where I stand and encourage you toward further challenging dialogue.

    The Church has a unique and authoritative teaching role that is long established through Tradition and Scripture.
    - Tradition, Scripture and nature are intended to reveal God to humankind. As a unique creation you will therefore gradually learn to experience and understand God in a manner that is also unique. Someone else's view is no substitute for own experience – it will merely reflect their opinion.

    God uses the Church and Scripture to help us understand His will.
    - As a follower of Christ your will and God’s will are probably not that different. You are his unique creation and there will never be a duplicate. We can only know God’s will through listening and trusting in our heart – not our ego. When was the last time you heard a homily on Trusting in God’s divine indwelling?

    Scripture is inerrant and that the Church is a reasonably good interpreter of it.
    - We must learn to rely and trust in the Holy Spirit’s gift of discernment.

    and lastly,

    The Church’s teachings are correct.
    - At times but certainly not always

    Perhaps you would be willing to read my recent blog on 'evangelization' see below

  4. Thanks, Trebert. I read your blog on evangelization and I think there are a couple of things we agree on that can serve as starting points for our dialogue.

    We agree that God wants to reveal Himself to us and uses Tradition, Scripture and Nature to do so.
    We agree that the Holy Spirit helps us discern God's will.

    If we begin at these foundational issues, perhaps we can work toward the hot button topics. I think we can both learn and benefit from this experience. What do you think?

  5. Just came across this video about St. Ignatius of Loyola, reminding me that we can find God "in all things." It reminded me of your comment about finding God in nature.

    It seems our discussion is already bearing fruit!

    More on this Ignatian concept:

  6. Paul
    My wife and I took part in numerous Ignatian retreats years ago and often reflect on them for the treasures they were and remain. The Jesuit priests there were as sensitive as they were outspoken but always in a gentle way. Those were exiting years because they challenged us to embrace the bigger picture of an unconditionally loving God. It was here that we were first introduced to the teachings of Fr. Anthony de Mello, S.J. (1931-1987). This awesome author, retreat master & teacher was able to convey truths, using short stories or parables, that continue to challenge Christians to the core. Something he was silenced for briefly by the Church (after his untimely death). Jesus also challenged his listeners, particularly the religious leaders of his time, because the Christian message was and remains dynamic. If our faith doesn’t challenge us – we probably haven’t heard it!
    Another dynamic Catholic today is Fr. Richard Rohr a Franciscan who can help listeners to find God through one of the greatest nature lovers in Catholic history – St. Francis of Assisi. I have no doubt where Rohr stands today with respect to the challenges facing the Church at this time.
    I have had the pleasure and honour of offering numerous retreats featuring both individuals much to the delight of the assembled audience. But be warned these Catholic teachers provide a radical approach to what it means to be follower of the radical figure of Christ.
    Now I am not saying that de Mello or Rohr offer the only way to discover the Christ within. There are many paths. For some it is Catholicism, for others it may be Islam or Judaism, etc., however the common ground will always require 'the way of love'. Not one way is perfect and not without error. ‘The Catholic Church does not have the corner on the faith market’ I was told, more than 25 years ago, by the priest who guided me through my conversion. This generous attitude has changed significantly for the poorer since that time.

  7. I think we're getting into the meat of things now.

    You cite the need to challenge and to be challenged. Indeed, our Catholic faith is a challenge. It challenges us daily to love God and love our neighbour as ourselves. Living the Good News is an immense challenge.

    Today’s culture often misinterprets challenge as confrontation, which frequently is translated into opposing what the Church teaches. This is the very opposite of what Christ did in challenging the religious leaders of His day. He went after the Pharisees not for their teaching the commandments, but for hypocrisy, for burdening others, and for self-righteousness.

    Wouldn’t it be a fatal mistake, however, to compare ourselves to Jesus and suggest we are doing His will if we challenge the very Church that He founded.

    Clearly Jesus did establish a Church – “on this rock I will build my Church.” Then he gave it authority – “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."

    We were then sent the Holy Spirit, which was called the Spirit of Truth and which is inseparable from the Father and the Son.

    Over the millennia, Christians throughout the world, guided by the Holy Spirit, arrived at truths that challenged the wisdom of the world.

    Councils of bishops, guided by the Holy Spirit, affirmed these truths which became teachings.

    If, as you seem to suggest, we are now called to challenge the teachings of the Church, then what was the reason Christ established it?

    As important, why did St. Paul refer to the Church as “the pillar and foundation” of truth if the things it taught were wrong, or if what was truth yesterday could change tomorrow?

    You and I are in agreement that we search for truth today – hopefully guided by the Holy Spirit. A thorny problem comes up, however, when my neighbour and I, both of us guided by the Spirit, arrive at two opposite conclusions on, say, the Church’s teachings on marriage and sexuality. Which one is God's will?

    G.K. Chesterton surmised that, “We do not really want a religion that is right where we are right. What we want is a religion that is right where we are wrong."

    I think there’s a lot of truth in that. As St. Augustine said, “If you believe what you like in the Gospel, and reject what you don't like, it is not the Gospel you believe, but yourself.”

  8. BTW, it doesn't help us in our debate to cite Fathers de Mello or Rohr since they both hold positions that are incompatible with the Catholic faith.

    If we're trying to find truth and establish whether what the Church teaches is true, we have to go back to first principles, not writers whose writings have already made clear their views on the topic.

  9. Paul:
    Do you only want me to share what the Church teaches? (for that we could simply read the Catechism).
    I’m interested to hear from you how de Mello’s and Rohr’s views/writings are incompatible with Catholic teachings? (I have never understood the reasons behind de Mello’s temporary silencing or where Rohr has challenged Church teachings except on homosexuality perhaps. More importantly has our Catholic faith become so arbitrary and exclusive to reject its own? There are unfortunately some Catholics today who believe that if they disobey Church teachings that are disobeying God.
    Do you perhaps think that all Church teachings are infallible and have remained constant throughout history? Have you forgotten the heated discussions that took place between Peter and Paul about certain religious teachings, and especially those at the Second Vatican Council? Dividing people into opposing camps has become a favourite tactic of conservative commentators and some bishops.
    You must know that many Saints challenged Church teachings through the ages – especially St. Francis. Are you trying to defend a belief system or the Church? Faith is a gift from God – not the Church. Belief systems are something we cling too when we trust our religion more than God. Faith calls on letting go of some of our belief systems – I too find that incredibly difficult at times, but this is the challenge Jesus now calls us to.
    As for the personal points of view that I have presented to you – you are totally free to accept or reject any. Debates always call for opposing views – this is how most of us learn. Discussion is always better than throwing bricks. This exchange is merely an opportunity (like Peter and Paul) to interact and learn from each other. I’m sure you do not find it realistic to expect two people to have identical views on any subject including Church teachings. That is exactly the reason why the Vatican II fathers recognized that obedience to a higher norm takes precedence over worldly authority as follows:

    "Deep within their consciences men and women discover a law that they have not laid upon themselves but which they must obey. Its voice, ever calling them to love and to do what is good and to avoid what is evil, tells them inwardly at the right moment: do this, shun that. For they have in their hearts a law inscribed by God. Their dignity lies in observing this law, and by it they will be judged . . . By conscience that law is made known in a wonderful that is fulfilled in love for God and for one's neighbour. Through loyalty to conscience Christians are joined to others in the search for truth and for the right solution to so many moral problems that arise both in the lives of individuals and in social relationships." - Pastoral Constitution on the Modern World

  10. My dear friend Paul

    You are probably not going to like this but Jesus did not found the Church or any other religious institution.
    There are today very few theologians, even Catholic, who would deny this fact. The reasons will be quite easy to understand when you read my blog on this very topic:
    This understanding reflects the Good News (Gospel) announced by Jesus which was to establish his kingdom, here on earth, for ALL humankind regardless of the race, colour or creed. It is in this context that we can now better understand the universality of Jesus’ message.
    I have absolutely no desire to undermine your beliefs or that of the Church. In the meantime our search for truth will hopefully continue through discussions like these and not cease until we die. Don’t forget there are many other religious institutions that claim that they only possess the ultimate truth or truths about God. History is filled with many stories of much bloodshed, pain and suffering because we seemed to think we somehow had to defend our God.

  11. Dear Trebert:
    Why suddenly am I hearing in the background that old Dave Mason song with the chorus that goes: “there ain’t no good guys, there ain’t no bad guys, there’s only you and me and we just disagree.”

    Where to start…

    When I said at the outset of our discussion that we should go back to first principles, I wasn’t expecting to go back to the foundations of the Church! I assumed by your commenting on a Catholic blog that you were Catholic. Yet you deny the origin of the Church and the authority and teachings of the Church. You describe a Jesus who is clearly not the Jesus of Scripture. You suggest that everyone can decide for themselves what is right and wrong and interpret God’s will because conscience is supreme. You posit that Jesus simply offers us “the way” to live in perfect peace and harmony, that He came to establish His kingdom here on earth, and that one can disobey Church teachings without disobeying God.

    Trebert, I believe you are a sincere Christian searching for truth. In our first exchange, we agreed that God wants to reveal Himself to us and uses Tradition, Scripture and Nature to do so. We agreed that the Holy Spirit helps us discern God's will.

    But I’m failing to see where you arrive at any truth outside of a vague supremacy of conscience, and even your quotation from Gaudium et Spes was selective. The constitution actually says we must always be governed “according to a conscience dutifully conformed to the divine law itself, and should be submissive toward the Church's teaching office, which authentically interprets that law in the light of the Gospel.”

    Please don’t worry about undermining my beliefs or the Church’s. Let’s tackle the challenge of faith we both agree exists. Let me give three examples of where it seems you’re turning a blind eye to truth clearly being offered by the Holy Spirit:

    1) Scripture: Nowhere in Scripture does a happy face Jesus come to establish His kingdom here on earth so we can all live happily and in peace. Very much the opposite, He references hell more than heaven and says He came with a sword to divide. He taught that "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you." This doesn’t mean there is no salvation for non-Catholics, but it does mean these are hard teachings, and He was willing to lose disciples over His adamancy. Martyrs have given their lives over the centuries rather than deny these truths.
    2) Tradition: You give little weight to the early Church, which acknowledged Peter’s authority from the first apostles through the early Church Fathers. (Peter and Paul arguing over food and circumcision hardly undermines papal authority. As you point out, the Church councils have been all about argument and disagreement, but in the end they arrive at truths – ensured by the Holy Spirit.)
    3) Nature: Simply look around and see a world that already believes in following its imperfectly formed conscience. With God, religion and faith removed, relativism reigns. Everyone falls back on personal conscience to justify whatever they want, with people no longer believing in right, wrong, or truth.

    I surmise that we’re still a long way from a starting point on a very difficult journey. What began as a disagreement over a document released by the Canadian bishops actually turns out to be disunity with the Church at almost every level.

    At this point perhaps we should call on the intercession of the saintly, though not sainted, C.S. Lewis, who as an orthodox Anglican would write at the end of his letters Oremus pro invicem (Let us pray for one another).

  12. Paul

    Before I go any further please understand, I'm primarily interested in your story - not so much that of the Church. Your blog does not contain your profile, so I know little about your background. Would you be willing to provide as much as you feel comfortable (bearing in mind your blog is open to other readers).
    BTW how is this blog connected to the BC Catholic newspaper?
    Many thanks in advance for your kind consideration and understanding.

  13. On Freedom of Religion/Conscience:
    Catholic people must be taught to develop an informed conscience through prayer and trust in the Holy Spirit. For most Catholics an informed conscience will probably be based on Church teachings. The final decision however rests with the responsible individual. Freedom of conscience has been a hard fought issue within the Church. Some Catholics unfortunately still believe that to contradict church teachings is cause for excommunication. This simply cannot be true. To quote the well known Catholic ethicist Daniel Maguire “If conscience is the conscious moral self, contradicting it in behaviour would violate one’s own identity and integrity. If we are conscientiously convinced that something is wrong, we should avoid it or we would be assaulting our own convictions. This would create that painful fissure within the personality that goes by the name of guilt [a well known Catholic trait]. From this point of view, then, the answer must be that it is always right to follow one’s conscience.”
    The Church, like any parent cannot and must not continue to force its authority on individuals once they have gained maturity and achieved adulthood. Perhaps more importantly how else can they, as adults, learn to trust in God? The Vatican after all does not provide a 1-800 number for those moral decisions we need to make in an instance. Accordingly, our God given freedom of conscience in harmony with the Holy Spirit can indeed give primacy over Church teachings. We or the Church can never know the ‘heart’ of the individual that is a matter between God and the individual.

    Jesus’ promise of the Kingdom:
    I have met many Catholics who believe that the reference to the Kingdom has to do strictly with heaven. Thank God, this is not so. Remember Jesus said this about children “they are already in the Kingdom”! About 70 % of Jesus’ parables teach us how to experience live living in the Kingdom. When Jesus spoke to Peter “upon this rock I build my church” he directly referred to the spiritual foundation outlined in his parables on which we are to become Kingdom people. It is here that we will find AND share his gift of salvation.
    Jesus said “I have come so that you may have life and have it more abundantly.” John 10:10. This is indeed an incredible promise of peace and prosperity. Just try to think about the many blessings he has given you throughout your lifetime thus far. Try to focus on the many people who have come into your life and enriched it to overflowing. And if you are worried about tomorrow allow that quote to boost your spirit and bring you hope beyond your wildest imagination.

    Jesus on Hell or Gehenna:
    Paul, I challenge you to outline where Jesus spoke more about hell than heaven. That claim is simply not supported anywhere in the Gospels. The real figures are probably more like 100 to 1. In any case the Catholic Church needs to do a much better job on its teachings about hell or more specifically Gehenna where it involves quotes from Jesus in that regard. At the same time I challenge our Church to become more focused on our blessings than our sins. For a healthy understanding of hell I recommend the writings from the popular Catholic teachers Dennis, Sheila (Fabricant) and Matthew Linn ‘Good Goats – Healing Our Image of God.

    Tradition and the Catholic Church, Nature and Relativism:

    I would like to save these interesting topics for a later discussion.

  14. Dear Paul

    Here follow my responses on the question of Relativity and Tradition.

    On Relativism
    Benedict XVI has repeatedly warned that If natural law is not respected, then life, family and society become victims of ethical relativism. INFORMED Catholics now need to ask “can all ethical questions involving life’s circumstances be so easily determined or understood that they can be divided into black and white”?
    One saint and Church doctor did not seem to think so. “Human actions,” to quote Thomas Aquinas, “are good or bad according to their circumstances.” What is moral for one person may be immoral for another because of the diversity of circumstances. And to quote another ‘expert’ “the moral meaning of behaviour depends on circumstances and how those circumstances relate to one another. It may seem morally uncompromising to put a bullet through the head of a man unless it is the only way to stop that man from gunning down a schoolyard of children. In those circumstances, with no other alternative available, that lethal act is moral and good. Tragic? Yes. But because of the circumstantiality that is our moral lot, the act is ethically defensible. The tragic is not always wicked. Thus relativism No, Relational Yes”!
    A rigid attitude about such sensitive matters as abortion, contraception, etc., has caused some bishops to judge people in absolute terms. However, we all know that life just isn’t that simple or black and white. It simply doesn’t help anyone to reduce this problem by stating “under relativism people will just do whatever they want to do”. Remember I’m talking about an informed conscience – one that is in unison with the Spirit. Catholics are a lot more informed than some bishops seem to think. God meets us where we are – not where others would have us be.

    On Tradition
    At the conclusion of Mass one Sunday morning the congregation lustily accompanied our pianist to the old favourite hymn ‘Faith of our Fathers’. As people left the church I asked our pianist “is there a coupled that celebrates the ‘Faith of our Mothers’? Let’s consider an even more penetrating scenario. The people have all gathered for the beginning of Mass and Father’s opening words are simply this: “Why have you come here, and what would you like to do”?

  15. This Blog is part of The B.C. Catholic newspaper's overall media structure.

    You and "Paul" are commenting. It is not Paul's blog.

    Malin Jordan
    The B.C. Catholic

  16. Well, we’re not making much progress, I’m afraid.

    Trebert, your replies are nicely written but they’re hardly persuasive if we’re trying to establish truth. By quoting people who dissent from what the Church believes, you’re simply reiterating what you wish were true.

    In fact most of what you write is heavily subjective. Take a look at your first paragraph alone:

    “Catholic people must be taught to develop an informed conscience through prayer and trust in the Holy Spirit. For most Catholics an informed conscience will probably be based on Church teachings. The final decision however rests with the responsible individual. Freedom of conscience has been a hard fought issue within the Church. Some Catholics unfortunately still believe that to contradict church teachings is cause for excommunication. This simply cannot be true.”

    What you, I, or anyone else believe about abortion, marriage, or social justice is irrelevant if it’s simply based on our opinion and a hope that the Holy Spirit led us to that conclusion.

    By the way, I wouldn’t quote Daniel Maguire’s opinion on any issue more substantial than Justin Bieber's hair. Maguire’s views on abortion, contraception, same-sex marriage and even China’s one-child policy are beyond the pale. Here is an on-line reply to Maguire on some of his malignant views, and it saves me the time of having to write something similar.

    Trebert, if you read nothing else of this article by Father Matthew Habiger, read the following paragraph, which I think somewhat describes your approach to determining moral and ethical truth:

    “Maguire claims that no one in the Catholic Church holds a privileged position in teaching morality. For him, one's position depends entirely upon the validity of one's arguments. Thus morality is a sophisticated guessing game, like economics and politics. He uses consequentialism and proportionalism for his moral reasoning. These allow no room for moral absolutes, but do allow for attacks upon any human good for alleged greater benefits. He is accustomed to juggling goods and bads so that ‘more good than harm results.’”

    I am willing to concede one point with you. Perhaps Jesus didn’t reference hell more than heaven; it’s a commonly held view, but if you say He didn’t, then fine. I do know He spoke about it an awful lot, and He must have done so for a reason.

    I also agree with you that His primary message is of God and love of neighbour. You and I would agree that we love God when we honour Him and do His will. We love our neighbour when we love him as we love ourselves.

    But the devil is in the details...are we loving God and neighbour when we do things that we think are OK, but others do not? Do others love God and neighbour when they behave in ways we think are abominable?

    I want to know, and God wants us to know. That’s why he gave us certain means to know. And that’s the Church.

  17. Paul what I have been trying to convey is basically this: it is not about a religious institution, nor about your neighbour, not about me, and not really about you either- this is simply about forming a direct relationship with God; or more precisely - discovering the God within. For most of us that goal is not only scary but perhaps beyond our immediate imagination.
    In order to develop that relationship and trust we need to let go of all our usual support systems most manifest in our ego. Think of it in these terms. You enter a forest to find God. You set out with a group of trusted friends armed with a book of instructions on how to survive in the woods, and knowledge gained from innumerable lessons previously provided in the in the event you should lose your way. On the third day of your journey you wake up in the middle of the night, from a deep sleep, at your campsite only to discover that everyone is gone. You are completely alone and everything you need to survive has been taken. What will you do? How will you find your way home?
    You will now have to make decisions based on your own judgment – but without the help of others. At this point the advice others have given you, in good faith and to the best of their ability, could prove to be valuable but also useless – now you alone must decide. What will give you the strength to carry on and find your way back home?
    I’m sure you will immediately grasp the fundamental truth in this simple analogy.
    And here’s the Good News - we will all find God. But we will also know that he found us first and that it had nothing to do with the morality of your neighbour; what the religious leaders or the church told you, or all of the issues facing the world today, such as abortion, contraception, same-sex marriage, etc. etc., God will always reach beyond all our expectations and assumptions and he/she will never leave us orphans.


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