Responses to the USCCB Proposed Guidelines

As mentioned above, the USCCB proposed guidelines have drawn a fair amount of media coverage. What follows in this section of the DATELINE are various responses, including comments from Sam Sinnett, President, DignityUSA.

In concluding paragraphs of the article “Bishops Form Rules for Ministry to Gays,” by Rachell Zoll, AP Religion Writer, 10/18/2006, Sam Sinnett said it was clear the document was prepared “by none of us for whom it is intended.” “They speak in willful ignorance about people in same-gender families. They speak in willful ignorance about homosexuality — sexuality in general,” Sinnett said. “They are continuing to discriminate against us.”

In a Boston Globe article, “Catholic bishops to define gay stance: Proposal would condemn “hatred” but reject unions,” by Michael Paulson, October 19, 2006, Sam Sinnett said the document “will be discussed entirely by celibate males, and their viewpoint is more concerned with keeping their jobs than being pastoral leaders.”

Responses from members of the Task Force’s National Religious Leadership Roundtable

Reprinted with permission of National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

Immediately below are responses by organizations within the Roman Catholic tradition. These and additional responses will be found at

“The bishops are being asked to vote on a document that is self-contradictory. It is logically and morally impossible to claim respect for lesbian and gay people and at the same time reaffirm opposition to their exercising the basic human rights of marriage and the formation of families.

“To systematically exclude from leadership those who hold enlightened, progressive views on sexuality is to deprive the Catholic community of the talents of some of its best and brightest people.

“Rather than adopt such a flawed document, the bishops would do well to convene an educational forum to learn the facts of contemporary life, including the witness of countless lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender [LGBT] Catholics who live with integrity. LGBT Catholic scholars and their colleagues stand ready to provide such resources.”

Mary E. Hunt, Ph.D.
Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER)

“The guidelines offered in this draft are out of touch with the vibrant pastoral ministry with lesbian and gay people that has blossomed in parishes across the U.S. in the last 30 years. Catholic people, schools, parishes and dioceses have opened their doors to lesbian and gay people and our church has benefited greatly from this encounter. This document tries to turn back the clock three decades on Catholic acceptance of lesbian and gay people.

“The plan here is not to minister but to make a 'problem' disappear. If the guidelines are approved, they will be ignored by most Catholics because they do not reflect good science, good theology or human reality.

“If the bishops want to develop realistic guidelines, they should open a dialogue with gay and lesbian Catholics to listen to the experience of their lives, their relationships, their faith and their church. Gay ministry developed in the church by recognizing that lesbian and gay people have spiritual gifts and needs that spring from their entire lived reality, not only their sexuality. Good ministry views people as whole human beings. This document proposes that lesbian and gay people be viewed not in the entirety of their lives, but on one dimension only — the sexual dimension. No other group in the church is singled out in this way.

“Pastoral guidelines for gay ministry are surely needed in the U.S. Catholic Church, but this proposed set is certainly not the right one.”

Francis DeBernardo
Executive Director
New Ways Ministry

“Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender [LGBT] Catholics have been looking for sensitive, respectful and compassionate leadership from their bishops for decades. Some of the more welcoming language in this new document could be interpreted as an attempt to provide that. However, every positive statement in these proposed guidelines is contradicted by the bishops’ own statements and even more by their actions.

“This document attempts to welcome gay and lesbian people into an institution that is simultaneously leading attacks on our civil rights, relationships and families all across the world. It is an invitation to collaborate in our own oppression.

“As LGBT Catholics, families and friends, we call on the U.S. bishops to listen to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholics, who will willingly tell of the gifts we have received through our God-given orientation and the blessings we know through our loving relationships — as well as of our spiritual struggles in our church. Our voices and that of the Holy Spirit speaking in and through our lives must be heard in outlining the pastoral care the church provides.”

Sam Sinnett

Statement from Matt Foreman, Executive Director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

Reprinted with permission

“There’s plenty to be offended by in the new Catholic Church guidelines titled Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination, but a few things stand out. First, the bishops tried to sound more compassionate by writing that even though the Catholic Church believes ‘the homosexual orientation is objectively disordered,’ that doesn’t mean ‘the person as a whole is disordered.’ However, they also stated that ‘other inclinations can likewise be disordered, such as those that lead to envy, malice or greed.’ Sorry, but it’s still an insult to compare an orientation that leads to love to ‘inclinations’ that lead to harm.

“Second, the guidelines state that ‘no scientific consensus has been reached regarding the effectiveness of various therapies’ to change one’s sexual orientation. The authors probably saw this as a major concession to science. However, all medical and mental health professional associations do have consensus in warning of the dangers of so-called ‘conversion therapy’ programs. No scientific studies have found these programs to be effective. To the contrary, a growing body of research shows that they can cause profound psychological damage.

“Third, the guidelines say the Church should take action to keep people who experience same-sex attraction from falling ‘into the lifestyles and values of a gay subculture.' Much of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community is working to protect our fam ilies, to be protected from discrimination and violence, and to have the freedom to serve in the U.S. military. So much for the ‘immoral lifestyles’ we are supposedly creating.”