- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 14, 2006

BALTIMORE — Catholic bishops yesterday approved three documents hammering home essential Catholic doctrines on sexuality and the Holy Communion, repeating basic church teachings that broke no new doctrinal ground.

The documents, worded to not stir up conflicts, provided guidance for the pastoral care of homosexuals, explained the church’s continued ban on artificial contraception and outlined how Catholics should receive Holy Communion.

“We’ve a responsibility to teach people about these things that are difficult for them because of the culture,” Kansas City Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann said during the bishops’ annual fall business meeting at the Waterfront Marriott.

“We have not been clear enough or effective enough as teachers,” he added.

The “Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination: Guidelines for Pastoral Care” avoided endorsing any therapy geared to change homosexuals’ orientation, but it called the orientation “disordered.”

The document lumped in homosexuality with other sexual acts, such as adultery, fornication, masturbation and contraception as sins that “violate the proper ends of human sexuality.” It passed on a 194-37 vote with one abstention.

Bishops argued about whether to endorse the New York-based group Courage, a support group for homosexuals that adheres to church teachings on staying celibate.

“My own experience with Courage over many years is that persons involved with this group are filled with hope and joy in leading a chaste life,” St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke told bishops.

Chicago Cardinal Francis George, who noted that Courage often has been “unjustly attacked and falsely misrepresented,” called the group “holy people.”

Other bishops argued that they wanted to keep the statement generic. A majority voted not to mention Courage in the body of the text but in a footnote.

“At least we made the footnote,” said a Courage spokesman, who would identify himself only as “Ken.” There are 75 chapters nationwide.

The Catholic homosexual caucus Dignity called the document “deeply flawed.”

“We are deeply disappointed the bishops did all the work on this document behind closed doors without even consulting homosexual Catholics,” said Sam Sinnett, Dignity’s president.

Bishops also argued over whether to single out liberal Catholic politicians in the Communion statement, “Happy are Those who are Called to His Supper.” About a dozen bishops during the 2004 elections said pro-choice politicians would be turned away at altars in their dioceses.

“We cannot leave this unaddressed,” said Archbishop Burke. “There is a clear presence of scandal. When one of these politicians who are immoral [are shown] in Time magazine receiving Holy Communion or whatever, this is an affront to the church.”

But Archbishop Burke’s amendment calling on bishops to issue a “formal canonical response” to persons “in diminished communion with the church” — which would presumably include pro-choice politicians — failed overwhelmingly.

The document does call on Catholics to refrain from Communion if they “reject the defined doctrines of the Church.”

Even though bishops said only 4 percent of all Catholics abstain from artificial contraception, the document specified its use is “objectively immoral.” The document passed on a 220-11 vote.

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