Public Policy on Gays and Lesbians

As personal representative of Cardinal Roger Mahony to the lesbian and gay community, I wish to offer some clarifications regarding “ ‘Rights’ Are Not Always Trumps” (by George Weigel, Commentary, Sept. 15).

Weigel has misinterpreted both the meaning and intent of the letter issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and appears to co-opt the Roman Catholic Church with right-wing extremists on the question of homosexuality. Familiarity with the history of the Catholic Church reveals a consistent custom to avoid extremes either to the right or the left of any serious doctrinal debate. The church tends to carefully weigh the pros and cons of both sides until it arrives at some consensus that comes closest to clarifying the truths which it holds dear. And while all the faithful participate in this process, it is the office of the bishops who determine authentic doctrine.

A close study of recent church documents on homosexuality reveals the present state of the question on homosexuality. Homosexuality is a very complex issue. Homosexuality is not a sin. Homosexuality is not a choice, but an orientation one discovers in oneself. The church is silent about the origins of same-sex orientation. The church does not demand that anyone change his or her orientation. It is only within a heterosexual marital relationship that genital sexual activity is morally acceptable. Genital activity for the single, the engaged, the widow or widower, the divorced, or the bisexual or homosexual is disordered, and therefore objectively sinful. However, the moral responsibility of such activity must be judged with a degree of prudence.

The United States bishops make the following statement in their most recent document on human sexuality: “We call on all Christians and citizens of goodwill to combat their own fears about homosexuality and to curb the humor and discrimination that offends homosexual persons. We understand that having a homosexual orientation brings with it enough anxiety, pain, and issues related to self-acceptance without society adding additional prejudicial treatment.”


In summarizing church documents, it is clear that the Catholic position and ministry to gay men and women have little in common with right-wing extremists, either secular or religious.


Archdiocese of Los Angeles