WASHINGTON (November 12, 2000) -- Saying that people who oppose homosexual activity on religious grounds have also been subjected to hatred and violence, Galveston-Houston Bishop Joseph A. Fiorenza, president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops/U. S. Catholic Conference, called on Soulforce to help persuade those "tempted to hate" people who believe that homosexual activity is immoral that "the way of hate ought not to be anyone's way."
Soulforce is an organization whose purpose includes stopping "spiritual violence against sexual and gender minorities." It plans to demonstrate at the Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception during the Bishops' meeting this week, along with Dignity/USA.
Soulforce's executive director, Mel White, wrote to Bishop Fiorenza on September 20, 2000, detailing the organization's plans, and Bishop Fiorenza responded on September 22.
In his reply Bishop Fiorenza confirmed that "the Catholic Church teaches that, while the homosexual orientation is not in itself sinful, `homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered,'" because such activity "cannot fulfill the twofold purpose of sexuality in the God-given order of creation -- to build up the community of love between a wife and husband and to enable them to be co-creators with Him in bringing children into the world."
However, Bishop Fiorenza, pointed out that "the Catholic Church also teaches that homosexual persons `must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided,'" as stated in The Cathechism of the Catholic Church ( paragraph 2358).
"Catholics who do not observe this teaching are not in accord with the mind and the heart of the Church," he added.
Bishop Fiorenza also said that "the Church wishes to be pastorally aware and sensitive in dealing with individuals who come for counseling about sexual concerns."
"Our contemporary culture is skeptical of absolute truth. We feel that we have been the subject even of hatred and violence, such as the disruption of the Eucharist in St. Patrick's Cathedral, New York, and the `celebration' of that action in the documentary `Stop the Church' in which the late Cardinal John O'Connor was spoken of in terms of hate," he pointed out.
Bishop Fiorenza said that the Bishops' Conference "cannot agree with you about the morality of homosexual activity or engage in actions which seem to suggest that we do" since on this matter, the Conference and Soulforce are "simply are not together."
"However, together, we can condemn hatred and violence and unjust discrimination aimed at homosexual persons. Together, we can persuade those tempted to hate religious people, because we believe as we do, that the way of hate ought not to be anyone's way. I think more can be accomplished in this way than in any other fashion," Bishop Fiorenza added.
Responding to a second letter from Soulforce, Bishop Fiorenza said after his explanation that the Catholic Church teaches that homosexual persons "must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity," he regretted that Soulforce continues to say that "it is Roman Catholic teaching that helps motivate that hatred and gives license to that violence" to which persons of homosexual orientation have been subjected.
Bishop Fiorenza pointed that "a variety of religious beliefs, including belief in God itself" have been "distorted and turned to causes of violence among people."
"However, these distortions should not be used to pressure those who believe to abandon fundamental truths of their faith," he wrote.
Bishop Fiorenza affirmed once again that the Catholic Church "rejects attitudes leading to violence and hatred as inappropriate to belief in God and unworthy of the dignity of the human person."
"Wherever the expression of our religious belief is distorted by individuals into a rationale to hurt or injure people, we condemn that distortion and that behavior," he added.
Pointing out that "Catholics are no strangers to hatred and discrimination," Bishop Fiorenza once again stated that the Bishops "join in condemning not only hatred, violence, and unjust discrimination but also the lack of sensitivity toward persons of homosexual orientation that can be the source of dangerous attitudes and actions."
He urged Soulforce as well "not to use language ... that calls into question the integrity of our religious beliefs or our obligation to carry out pastoral care in accord with those beliefs."