April 25, 2012

Most Rev. Richard Smith
Archbishop of Edmonton
Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops
2500 Don Reid Drive
Ottawa, Ontario K1H 2J2

Dear Archbishop Smith:

On behalf of Dignity Canada Dignité (DCD), I wanted to notify you of a document which we posted on our website a few months back.  It is entitled “Pastoral Ministry to Young Persons: Two Perspectives”  and can be found at http://dignitycanada.org/

In the paper, we present excerpts from the “'Pastoral Ministry to Young People with Same-sex Attraction” letter published last June by the CCCB. (We also provide links to the complete document.)  We then present our considered views on the topic.

We commend the CCCB for pointing out the inherent dignity of all persons, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons.  We agree that "… those exercising a ministry in the Church or working in the pastoral care of young persons shall be especially careful not to perpetuate injustice, hatred or malice in speech or action – unfortunately still too common among us - against [LGBT] persons." (page 2).

At the same time, we respectfully disagree with the teachings presented in the CCCB letter concerning homosexual behaviours.  They are not properly nuanced and do not differentiate between loving relationships vs. manipulative ones, between consensual vs. violent acts, between emotionally enhancing vs. destructive acts, and other differences of intention and behaviour.  For a description of our thoughts, please see the document at http://dignitycanada.org/pastoral-ministry-to-young-people.html.  It is based largely on the lives and loves of many LGBT persons, as well as the views of reputable theologians.

Finally, one thing that is not discussed on the website but which I would like to draw to your attention is the “Study Guide: Pastoral Ministry to Young People with Same-sex Attraction” prepared with the assistance of Salt + Light Television.  A useful section is the list of questions for reflection under “Words of Encouragement to Young People” on page 14 of the Study Guide. 

However, several other sections of the Guide are troubling.  To suggest that “Persons who engage in homosexual activity need to feel guilty …” (page 12) is objectionable because it does not recognize or encourage the emotional, psychological and spiritual growth of the person that can occur in a consensual, loving sexual relationship.  That is the precise situation in which we often discover and know the Love of God.  For educators, counsellors or pastoral workers to try to get young persons to associate guilt or shame with all homosexual activity – including that in an intimate, loving relationship – is a denial of the Love of God.

Another weak section in the Guide is “Gay Rights” (page 14) and its equivocation on the etiology of sexual orientation.  In one sentence it notes that “Some people experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction to members of their own sex through no choice of their own.”  Later in the same paragraph, we read that “… one does not necessarily choose same-sex attraction ….”  In fact, studies have concluded that sexual orientation is inborn and relationships with the opposite sex do not significantly impact it.  Stated theologically, sexual orientation is God-given.  It is now up to the individual and the Church to decide how to handle this realization.

A DCD member has recently brought something to my attention which is relevant to this discussion and that I would like to share with you.  He points out that when Christ lived on earth, the Jewish people were occupied by the Romans among whom homosexuality was quite open regardless of how it was understood or experienced.  When Jesus preached to the crowds and multitudes, did he warn them against such behaviour by the Romans?  Not at all.  So, if Jesus did not raise the issue of homosexual behaviour, why do our Catholic leaders repeatedly do so?  And why don't they understand that neither in the Old or New Testament is there any commandment whatsoever that sex is meant for procreation only.  Of course, many of us already know that sex can be used for procreation under the proper circumstances, but not limited to it.  When Jesus invited us to “...Love one another", He simply left it up to us to discover for ourselves where that love might lead us.

In closing, I extend the invitation to the CCCB and its member bishops to dialogue with its LGBT members in the development of a sound theology and pastoral guidelines based on the life of Jesus, and the lives and loves of its LGBT members.  Perhaps we could meet for lunch.

Yours truly,

[original signed and mailed on April 25th ,2012] 

Frank Testin
Dignity Canada Dignité


cc Msgr. Patrick Powers
General Secretary, CCCB

Dignity Canada Dignité is Canada's organization of Roman Catholics who are concerned about our church's sexual theology, particularly as it pertains to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered persons. We work in collaboration with other Catholic organizations seeking reform in our church's leadership and teachings.