Because the U.S. Catholic hierarchy strongly opposes legislation that would grant lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people fuller equality, Catholics can be forgiven for assuming that church teaching always supports one particular “side” in our country’s culture wars.
The Boy Scouts of America, for instance, have recently reaffirmed their policy of excluding gay boys and gay leaders from that organization. At first blush, the scouts’ position might seem consistent with our bishops’ increasingly hard line on LGBT issues, but we believe a closer reading of the church’s teaching should lead Catholics to resist this wrongheaded and wrong-hearted policy.
As early as 1976, in To Live in Christ Jesus: A Pastoral Reflection on the Moral Life, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (then known as the National Conference of Catholic Bishops) wrote that, rather than being ostracized, gays and lesbians “should have an active role in the Christian community.”
The church’s hierarchy is in no way more progressive now than it was then, yet the bishops returned to this theme in their 1998 pastoral message Always Our Children:
The teachings of the Church make it clear that the fundamental human rights of homosexual persons must be defended and that all of us must strive to eliminate any forms of injustice, oppression, or violence against them (cf. The Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, 1986, no. 10). It is not sufficient only to avoid unjust discrimination. Homosexual persons “must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2358).