The bishops of the Philippines, in their exercise of pastoral leadership issue a pastoral response to the acceptance of homosexual lifestyle and legalization of homosexual unions. In the spirit of dialogue, the bishops present the church’s position and invite people to a deeper appreciation of the Catholic position. A set of questions (understanding and application) is prepared to help focus on the “essentials” of the pastoral letter as well as draw people to “circles of discernment” that the Catholic faithful and men & women of goodwill may come together to discuss together, to discern together, to decide together and to act together that the truth may prevail.
The Nature of Marriage in the Divine Plan
Questions for Understanding
- What is the testimony of Sacred Scriptures regarding the nobility of marriage?
The creation narratives at the beginning of Sacred Scripture reveal that God made human beings in His image and likeness. He created them male and female, equal in dignity but not identical nor interchangeable.
- How do sexual complimentarity and fruitfulness express the nobility of marriage?
This complementarity between man and woman, as St. Pope John Paul II has pointed out, is observed and affirmed at the biological, emotional, psychological, and spiritual levels. But it is most manifest primarily in and through the union of two complementary bodies, male and female.
- How does the Church understand marriage?
The Catholic Church teaches that marriage is the institution established by God for the foundation of the family: “The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament.”
Questions for application
- Do I appreciate the teaching of the Church on marriage as a sacrament and an institution?
- How does marriage challenge my assumptions about inter-personal relationships?
- What are the various opinions of people regarding marriage? How can you challenge their opinions in light of marriage as part of God’s plan?
The Nature of Homosexuality in the Created order
Questions for understanding
- What is homosexuality? What does the statement “homosexuality is objectively disordered” mean? 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. Sexual attraction towards the same sex is not a sin. But it 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.
- How does the Church acknowledge men and women who have homosexual tendencies? How does the church’s position on homosexuality flow from a Christian vision of personhood and sexuality? The Catholic Church acknowledges that the number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies could be more than we think and that this inclination “constitutes for most of them, a trial.”
The Catholic Church looks at her children who have deep seated homosexual attraction with motherly compassion and paternal love, even as she reminds them that in cultures that have lost sight of the richness and diversity of friendships that enhance the human condition, those who struggle with homosexuality are called to witness to the life-giving nature of virtue-based friendships not ordered to sexual acts.
Questions for Application?
- What does it mean for homosexual persons to develop chaste friendships?
- How does the church position regarding homosexual relationships promote a value laden, virtue-directed and growth-oriented perspective?
Social Reality of Homosexual Unions
Questions for Understanding
- Why is a homosexual union never to be considered as marriage understood in light of the Church’s teaching?
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. A homosexual union is not and can never be a marriage as properly understood and so-called.
- What are the ways proposed by the Church to engage in the pastoral care of homosexual persons? Unmasking the way in which such tolerance of homosexual unions might be exploited or used in the service of ideology;
Stating clearly the immoral nature of these unions;
Reminding the government of the need to contain the phenomenon within certain limits so as to safeguard public morality and, above all, to avoid exposing young people to erroneous ideas about sexuality and marriage that would deprive them of their necessary defenses and contribute to the spread of the phenomenon. 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.
They are at the same time called, perhaps even more so in societies that legally recognize homosexual unions, to be charitable to every single homosexual person they know.
In particular, families with members who struggle with homosexuality are called to love them unconditionally, thereby outlasting all their other same-sex loves. This love, however, must be a love in truth that avoids praising, consenting to, or defending the so-called “homosexual lifestyle.”
Questions for Application
- Is it sometimes difficult to present the church’s position regarding homosexual persons and homosexual unions? What can you do to appreciate better the Church’s teaching and position regarding homosexual persons and unions?
- What are some of the common misinterpretations of the position of the Church in homosexual person? What are the most difficult to counter or respond to? Why? Propose suggestions for a better understanding of and approach to the pastoral care of homosexual persons.
Arguments against the Legalization of Homosexual Unions
Question for Understanding
1. What is the main point why the church is against the legalization of homosexual unions?
Homosexual unions do not have the basic biological and anthropological elements of marriage and family. They are not able to contribute in a proper way to the procreation and survival of the human race(16) , and thus it would be an injustice to grant them legal recognition along with the same benefits and privileges accorded to marriage.
Neither can this injustice be mitigated by allowing homosexual couples to either adopt children or use artificial reproductive technologies to engender them. Such actions would intentionally deprive these children of the experience of fatherhood or of motherhood that they would need to develop and flourish, not only as human persons, but as persons living in a gendered society where socialization involves the learning of gendered social norms.
Questions for Application
- What are some of the different opinions regarding the legalization of homosexual persons in our country? Why are some of their opinions appealing to people?
- How does one reconcile their opinion with the Church’s position re: arguments against the legalization of homosexual unions?
- Comment on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in relation with homosexual unions: “the best interest of the child as the weaker and more vulnerable party are to be the paramount consideration in every case”.
Responding to Arguments for the Legalization of Homosexual Unions Questions for Understanding
1. What are the four major arguments that are advanced by sectors for the legalization of homosexual union? Does the Church address these arguments properly? Can you contribute to a deeper understanding and appreciation of the Church’s position?
- To deny homosexual unions the legal status of marriage is to unjustly discriminate against homosexual persons who simply wish to express their love and commitment to their same-sex partners as heterosexual spouses do.
- Homosexual unions should be legally recognized because individuals, whether they are heterosexual or homosexual, should have the right to do whatever they want to, if doing so does not hurt or impinge upon the freedom of others.
- Homosexual unions should be legally recognized because they are 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.
- Marriage as a social institution has evolved and changed numerous times over the course of human history to accommodate the needs of a particular society and culture. Thus, marriage should evolve once more to accommodate our contemporary notions of human sexuality that recognize the fluidity not only of gender identities but also of sexual orientations.
2. Enumerate the principles set by the Church to respond to the arguments for the legalization of homosexual unions. Are these principles shared by other faith-based communities? By other Christian denominations? By other religions?
1.1. Distinguishing between persons or refusing social recognition or benefits to specific individuals or groups of individuals is immoral only when it is contrary to justice. Marriage is more than just the mutual affirmation one’s love and commitment to a beloved. This is why the state regulates and licenses marriage in a way that it does not regulate other types of friendship, which to some degree, all involve the mutual affirmation of love and commitment between and among friends – because only marriage can naturally and directly contribute children and a stable environment for the raising of those children, to the common good.
Denying homosexual unions the social and legal status of marriage simply affirms that these unions, as well as other non-marital unions similar to them, are not equivalent to marriage because they cannot give society what marriages can give. This is not opposed to justice. On the contrary, justice demands it.
2.1. As the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith explains, it is one thing for individual persons to freely engage in their private activities, and another very different thing for them to demand that the state sanction these activities, especially when they would harm the common good. This would be the case if homosexual unions were legally recognized.
3.1. It may be true that homosexual unions, in certain cases, may be occasions for the growth of imperfect natural virtue. However, this alone would not be a reason for granting them the legal status of marriage, because they still do not and cannot contribute to the common good in the same way that marriages do.
Moreover, 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.
4.1. 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. However, given fallen human nature, especially given the interior disarray of our carnal desires that obscures our intellect, it is a truth that is often hard to grasp, and only after a long time, and with the admixture of many errors.
Not surprisingly, therefore, there has been and will continue to be throughout history, much confusion about the nature of marriage. Nonetheless, error is not a reason to abandon truth.
Questions for Application
- How do the arguments presented by the bishops challenge my understanding of the situation favored by homosexual persons that I know?
- What difficulties can you encounter in dialogue with homosexual persons proposing the legalization of homosexual unions?
A Pastoral Response to the Legalization of Homosexual Unions
Question for Understanding
1. What are various approaches proposed by the pastoral letter to respond pastorally to the legalization of homosexual union?
In societies that have legalized homosexual unions and in societies that are inclined to grant homosexual unions legal status, the Catholic Church is called, like her Lord did in his own time, to preach the good and saving news of marriage, by turning once again to God’s plan “in the beginning,” especially as it has been taught in the papal magisterium of Pope St. John Paul II in his Theology of the Body.
Questions for Application
- How can I better appreciate the Church’s pastoral approach to homosexual persons?
- What are other ways to care pastorally for homosexual persons? Propose concrete suggestions for church programs and approaches.
- Does the pastoral response to the legalization of homosexual union sufficiently address the difficulties faced by homosexual persons? If not, why?