As an officer of the Catholic Students Association and a regular reader of The Crimson, I was disappointed by the statement in a news article (Oct. 27) on the "ex-gay" movement that a Harvard student had "turned his back on his Catholicism because of the church's espousal that homosexuality is a sin." Certainly no one ought to remain a member of a faith community if they can no longer find any kinship between the beliefs of that community and their own beliefs; however, the statement that the church espouses the belief that homosexuality is a sin is patently false.
The Committee on Marriage and Family of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops recently stated: "[I]t seems appropriate to understand sexual orientation (heterosexual or homosexual) as a fundamental dimension of one's personality and to recognize its relative stability in a person...Generally, homosexual orientation is experienced as given, not as something freely chosen. By itself, therefore, a homosexual orientation cannot be considered sinful, for morality presumes the freedom to choose."
This statement is not a groundbreaking declaration of a new church teaching, but a clarification of a position which has been held for at least 30 years, and possibly for hundreds of years before that, depending on one's interpretation of Scripture and doctrine. In the same letter, we read, "All in all, it is essential to recall one basic truth. God loves every person as a unique individual. Sexual identity helps to define the unique persons we are...Human beings see the appearance, but the Lord looks into the heart." This last sentence quotes the first book of the prophet Samuel (16:7), written at least 2,000 years ago.
The Catholic Church recognizes that Scripture, tradition and teaching must be continually understood in ways that promote Christ-like though and belief in whatever society the Church may find itself. As a result, Catholic opinion on the ex-gay movement is likely to be much less clear-cut than the opinion of the students and student groups quoted in last Tuesday's article, and to be largely at odds with many of them, including those of Exodus and Christian Impact.
It is true that the Church's position on moral sexual behavior, for heterosexuals and homosexuals alike, is probably more conservative than the position held by the majority of Harvard students. We find this position summarized in the 1991 U.S. Catholic Conference document Human Sexuality: "Only within marriage does sexual intercourse fully symbolize the Creator's dual design, as an act of covenant love, with the potential of co-creating human life." There is a world of difference, however, in substance, derivation and application between this view and the view that one can be rendered sinful merely by existing in the way in which one is created. It is this latter position which The Crimson has falsely ascribed to the Catholic Church by matter-of-factly alluding to the church's "espousal that homosexuality is a sin."
The idea that homosexuals should "seek help or go to hell," mentioned by a former member of the ex-gay movement as part of his inspiration for trying to change his sexual identity, is completely foreign to doctrinally informed Catholic thought on homosexuality. Unfortunately, the most informed opinions are not always the loudest.
Much hurt and rejection have been caused by Catholics and Catholic leaders who fail to understand the nuances of the Church's stance. While there may be groups on this campus who believe homosexuals can and should be coerced into rejecting their sexual identity, the Catholic Church and the Harvard-Radcliffe Catholic Students Association are not among them. --Gene Civillico '98, Vice President of Communications, Catholic Students Association