In a May 13 post on his blog, Archbishop Timothy Dolan was less than honest with the thousands of adherents who live in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York. As New Yorkers, and plenty of folks who live outside the state, are contesting an effort to enact same sex marriage here, Dolan weighed in. He recalled encountering a protest when he was the archbishop in Milwaukee.
“This frenzied group, taunting the people as they left Mass, were rabid in criticizing the Catholic Church, especially her bishops, for our teaching that homosexuals deserve dignity and respect,” Dolan wrote. “They waved placards explicitly quoting and condemning #2358 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which affirms the dignity of those with same-sex attraction, and warns against any form of prejudice, hatred, or unjust discrimination against them, and insists that homosexual acts, not persons, are not in conformity with God’s design.”
This tale was meant to present Dolan and the Roman Catholic Church as respecting and defending homosexuals. Unfortunately for Dolan, #2358 does not say what he claims it says. Here is the catechism in its entirety.
“The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.”
The observation that homosexuality is “objectively disordered” refers to the 1986 “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons,” a document issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a Vatican office that was headed at that time by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI. That document said that homosexuality was “a more or less strong tendency toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.”
Ratzinger did write that violence against “homosexual persons” is “deplorable,” but he was just as clear about who was ultimately responsible for that violence -- gay men and lesbians.
“But the proper reaction to crimes committed against homosexual persons should not be to claim that the homosexual condition is not disordered,” Ratzinger wrote. “When such a claim is made and when homosexual activity is consequently condoned, or when civil legislation is introduced to protect behavior to which no one has any conceivable right, neither the Church nor society at large should be surprised when other distorted notions and practices gain ground, and irrational and violent reactions increase.”
The Ratzinger letter cited the 1975 “Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics,” which described homosexuality as “intrinsically disordered.”
The Roman Catholic Church, like many on the right, has found that the harsh rhetoric its leadership once used when discussing the lesbian and gay community is deemed objectionable by much of the public. Dolan is necessarily forced to spin, but in his church what the Vatican orders is the law. Dolan cannot believe what he wrote on May 13.