By Father RJ
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines released a pastoral letter last August 28, 2015 entitled “The dignity and vocation of homosexual persons” and subtitled “A Pastoral Response to the Acceptance of Homosexual Lifestyle and the Legalization of Homosexual Unions”.
I love our Holy Mother Church and I love our bishops so much. I also love my fellow LGBTs so much, especially the young and vulnerable LGBTs. That is why I feel moved to lovingly point out to our bishops that this pastoral letter is wrong and hurtful and a far cry from the Gospel.
Enumerated below are most if not all of the problematic and wrong statements contained in this pastoral letter, followed by a short comment or response from me:
1. [Homosexuality] is, in the light of our understanding of marriage, objectively disordered – in the sense that it is not ordered towards the union of male and female in a relationship of natural complementarity.
Just because something is less common does not make it objectively disordered. Just because a couple do not have children or are unable to have children does not make them objectively disordered. By the same wrong argument that the bishops are using, celibacy or remaining unmarried should also be considered objectively disordered because it is not ordered towards the union of male and female in a relationship of natural complementarity.
2. Homosexual acts or practices are “contrary to the natural law”. Hence, they are, from the perspective of natural law, gravely disordered and considered “sins gravely contrary to chastity”.
The bishops in the very same pastoral letter admit that “There are some men and women, however, often through no fault of their own, who find themselves sexually attracted to individuals of the same sex… [Research] indicate that male and female homosexuality… have both biological and environmental causes.” If homosexuality is not a choice and if it has biological and environmental causes, then it is therefore natural. Just because something is less common does not make it unnatural.
3. …those who struggle with homosexuality are called to witness to the life-giving nature of virtue-based friendships not ordered to sexual acts.
Some LGBTs like me are called to celibacy. As a Catholic priest, it is a vocation I have responded to and embraced. However, to say that all LGBTs are called to abstinence from sexual intimacy has no basis in the Bible and no basis from reason. It is like saying that all LGBTs are called to become priests and nuns.
4. In our understanding of God’s creation of man and woman in complementarity and in His establishment of marriage, however, there are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and the family.
Human beings, limited as we are, have this sad tendency to misunderstand God’s plan for His creation. The good news is that we can also learn from our mistakes and correct our past errors. Homophobia and discrimination against LGBTs is one area where we have gravely misunderstood God’s plan. The truth is that God created LGBTs and God has a beautiful place for LGBT persons and LGBT families in His loving plan.
5. Catholics are called to resist all attempts to normalize homosexual behavior and homosexual unions in their culture.
Catholics are called to resist equality and social justice for LGBTs? Sorry, this is not what Jesus taught. Jesus was always on the side of the marginalized. Jesus was always on the side of human rights and human dignity.
6. Catholics are called to oppose all gravely unjust laws that contravene both divine law and natural law – including all laws that legalize homosexual unions – because these unjust laws pervert and undermine the common good.
Same sex marriage is now legal in many countries and, so far, none of these countries have collapsed and fallen into ruin. I challenge any bishop to look an LGBT couple in the eye and prove to them that their marriage perverts and undermines the common good. The reality is that the legalization of same sex marriage enhances human rights and social justice. The United Nations itself has spoken out against all forms of discrimination against LGBTs including “the denial of legal recognition of same-sex relationships”.
7. Homosexual unions, on the other hand, do not have the basic biological and anthropological elements of marriage and family.
The Catholic Bishops of England and Wales disprove the above statement when they admitted: “We recognise that many same sex couples raise children in loving and caring homes.”
8. [Homosexual] unions are not equivalent to marriage because they cannot give society what marriages can give.
Just because something is different or uncommon does not mean that it should not be given legal recognition and legal protection.
9. [Homosexual unions] harm the common good… [Homosexual unions] do not and cannot contribute to the common good in the same way that marriages do.
The bishops contradict themselves on these points because in the same pastoral letter they admit that homosexual unions could be occasions for virtue, “and as such, are good for society. There are many instances where same-sex couples have clearly grown in virtue, for example, the virtues of patience, forgiveness, and generosity, in and through their efforts to build a life together.”
10. …the Catholic Church has the obligation to remind same-sex couples that natural virtue is insufficient for salvation and for the eternal beatitude to which everyone is called. Only the supernatural virtues are salvific.
Supernatural virtues are called supernatural because they come from God. Bishops do not get to decide who will receive and who will not receive supernatural virtues. God is the one who generously and lovingly distributes supernatural virtues and divine graces to all people, including to LGBTs, LGBT couples, and LGBT families.
11. The truth about marriage, i.e., that it is a social institution ordered towards the life-long union of a man and a woman and the procreation and education of their children, is attainable by human reason.
As human civilization advances and as our understanding of human rights progresses, it is time to let go of past errors in the same way that the Church today no longer approves of the Crusades, the Inquisition, and slavery. We continue to value marriage between a man and a woman without getting imprisoned by a restricted definition of marriage which marginalizes a significant portion of the population who are only demanding to be given equal rights and equal protection under the law.
12. To families with members who struggle with homosexuality and who are tempted to ostracize their sons and daughters, the Catholic Church is called to preach mercy as her Lord did, without forgetting that the mercy of Jesus is always accompanied by his challenge to the woman caught in adultery that “from now on, do not sin again” (Jn. 8:11).
The Church herself is a family. This pastoral letter ostracizes the Church’s LGBT sons and daughters. This pastoral letter does not preach mercy. Instead, this pastoral letter preaches discrimination and injustice. I believe Jesus would side with LGBTs and I believe Jesus challenges the Church to repent and to seek conversion from the real sin, the sin of homophobia.
13. For the Filipino people, we the Catholic bishops consider addressing the familial shame that is experienced by Filipino families touched by homosexuality. It is a shame that needs to be redeemed in Christ through the intercession of Mary, the Mother of God.
This pastoral letter aggravates the shame that LGBT persons are being made to feel. Mama Mary loves her LGBT children and embraces LGBTs with unconditional love. I believe this pastoral letter saddens Mama Mary because it hurts and it shames many of her children.
The 1993 Catechism of the Catholic Church itself contains problematic statements against LGBTs. For instance, the catechism also uses the phrase “objectively disordered” to describe the homosexual inclination, a phrase which is disappointingly being parroted by the Philippine bishops in this pastoral letter. However, it is troubling that not once in the entire pastoral letter did the bishops quote the most important and the most correct statement in the catechism about homosexuality: “[Homosexuals] must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.” This pastoral letter clearly fails in expressing acceptance, respect, compassion, or sensitivity for LGBTs.
Our beloved Pope Francis is famously quoted for having said, “If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge? The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this very well. It says they should not be marginalised because of this but that they must be integrated into society.” This pastoral letter is very judgmental, and it also marginalizes LGBTs. Legalizing same sex marriage is an important and necessary means of integrating LGBTs into society.
This pastoral letter not only violates the teaching of the catechism about accepting and respecting LGBTs, it further violates Pope Francis’ teaching against judging and marginalizing LGBTs. Sorry, my dear Philippine bishops, your pastoral letter cannot contradict the catechism and papal teaching. More importantly, no pastoral letter, no catechism, and no papal teaching can contradict the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Gospel is about human rights, and equality, and about love. Instead of opposing equal rights for LGBTs, Holy Mother Church should be at the forefront of defending and protecting LGBTs persons, LGBT couples, and LGBT families. For this I hope, and for this I pray. In Jesus and Mary. Amen.
 PinkNews (2013, January 29). Catholic Church: ‘We recognise that gay couples make loving parents but they must be banned from marriage’.
 Libreria Editrice Vaticana (1993). Catechism of the Catholic Church. Paragraph Number 2358.