Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Courage Orientation Seminar

This is an open invitation to everyone who is struggling with same-sex attractions. If you feel confused about your struggles (many of us are), lost, alone, or maybe just plain curious and has a lot of questions regarding the issue of homosexuality, this is your opportunity to ask those questions and be rightfully informed about what the Church teaches on this topic and how you can respond to God's call to live a chaste life despite the struggle. Contact Bro. Edwin at 0916-3137249 or e-mail him at edwin.courageous@gmail.com for more info.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

How the Divine Mercy Helps Me in My Struggles with Same Sex Attraction

This is a two-part testimony of a fellow Courage brother a.k.a Joseph Anthony of the Sacred Heart on the power of the devotion to the Divine Mercy in his spiritual life. This Sunday, April 12, is the Feast of the Divine Mercy. Please take time to read about the great promise of our Lord on that day here. Take advantage of this feast. Jesus desires to enfold all sinners in His Great Mercy no matter how great our sins are. He only asks that we place our trust in Him completely. Let us all pray the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy often and perform deeds of mercy everywhere and at all times.

Part 1

In 2006, when I was 33 years old, I was fortunate to have been given a chance to travel to Rome. A tour of the Vatican City was of course included. During that time, St. John Paul II just recently passed away and my friends and I asked to see his tomb. It was at the basement of St. Peter’s Cathedral at that time and so we went. In front of his tomb, I did a typical Filipino custom of “bulong”, that is, mentioning a wish to a dead person to carry it with them to Heaven. My wish to St. John Paul II was for him to take away my homosexuality.

My job then required me to travel a lot. And aside from the business portion of the trips, I try to make it a point to have casual sexual encounters for every foreign destination I get to by going to bath houses, to cruising places or hooking up via the net. This trip to Rome included a trip to Amsterdam, one of the gay capitals of the world. Engaging on a homosexual encounter there would be a sure highlight. But somehow, I did not feel like having a homosexual encounter in this trip. It must have been the grace of the Church via the Vatican that was preventing me.

Fast forward to Dec 2013, when I was 40 years old. In a family reunion during the Christmas holidays, a cousin of mine gave me a prayer booklet on the Divine Mercy. She explains that she has been a recent devotee and would like to spread the devotion to the Divine Mercy. I found it interesting but I just left it in my car to pray it whenever I remember to. I never did.

On Jan 2014, I attended my annual retreat and during Spiritual Direction with the Priest Retreat Master, who I had as retreat master too a year prior and who already knew of my same sex attraction struggles from last year, suggested that maybe I need a support group for my struggles. It was he who introduced me to Courage. At first, I was surprised to find out that there actually is a support group and a Catholic one at that. So after the retreat, I set out to contact Courage and found out more about it through this blogspot. I sent an email and I got a reply after a few days. We exchanged our contact numbers via email and set up a meeting. Our first meet-up was on Valentine’s day, Feb 14. Picture that: two men with same sex attraction meeting up on a Starbucks on Valentine’s day! My old self would have called this a classic EB; but God has a way of renewing things.

Joining Courage made me realize in a substantial way that I am not alone with my struggles. I have a lot of gay friends but all of them seem to not be bothered with pursuing the homosexual lifestyle. I was well adjusted to my condition, i.e., I did not hate it, but an overwhelming feeling that I was not doing God’s will was ever pressing as I have always been prayerful and pious. Courage also increased in me the desire to pray more. The more I know about my condition, the more I realize that there is much more to be done, and the more graces I will need to call upon, so I pray some more. I decided to commit to one hour a week Blessed Sacrament Adoration as part of this deepening prayer life. I have attempted this so many times before but the one hour was just too much for me. This time, I decided to use the Divine Mercy prayer booklet that my cousin gave me as my starting point of the adoration. Suddenly, by God’s grace, since then, one hour was a breeze.

Much more than that, the weekly adorations were blessed with so much revelations and enlightenment. Praying to the Divine Mercy, Jesus said that His Divine Mercy seeks homosexual sinners. I asked how. He answered that He wants to use me. Then He made me look back at all the many homosexual encounters I had in the past. My guess estimate is that I have had sex with about 700 men. I felt much shame and sorrow with how I have defiled all these souls and I am forever connected to them because of my homosexuality. I had a strong urge to make atonements for each of these souls that I have defiled; to heal our vicious relationship. Then the Divine Mercy told me to receive one Eucharist for each of the souls that I have defiled as atonement. It was then I understood how he wants to use my weakness for His glory. I am forever connected to each of these souls because of my homosexual acts with them and Jesus wants to use all these connections to reach them too and heal all of us. Jesus’ words: “My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor 12: 9) became flesh for me.

I have been a regular mass goer for some years now (Sunday and weekdays). So this instruction in my mind was doable. Still, it was two years’ worth! But I said yes. A few days later, while reflecting on May as the month of Mary I was made to realize that I was actually skipping Saturday in my daily mass. (Please note that the exchanges with the Divine Mercy summarized above was a series of weekly adorations and did not necessarily occur on one session. As is typical with a dialogue with the Lord, it is not time bound as we understand time to be.). I found this silly especially because Saturday is a special day dedicated to the Blessed Mother. So, starting that month, I decided to also hear mass on Saturdays as proof of my devotion to the Blessed Mother. Since then, by God’s grace, I have been a daily communicant. It is very interesting to see this interplay between Jesus and His Mother Mary. And how when Jesus asks you to do something, He also sends the means to do it, in this case, His beloved Mother. This made real for me: “for my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” (Mt 11: 30)

Being a daily communicant was a most powerful grace. I consider that a major turning point in my redemption. Graces, mercies, understanding, consolation, and deepening of virtues came successively since then. Whereas I would often lose in my same sex struggles before, I was winning more and more frequently now because of the Eucharist. What I would like to point out though is that some days / weeks prior to becoming a daily communicant, towards the end of April that year, St. John Paul II was canonized together with St. John XXIII, during Divine Mercy Sunday. I read some more on St. John Paul II and found out that he was a Divine Mercy advocate. He has heard my “bulong” 7 years prior and sought the Divine Mercy to help me. It is also during his visit on World Youth Day 1995 that he emphasizes: “Do not be afraid.” Which is courage actually phrased differently that is quoted on the Courage shirt. Divine Mercy, I trust in You.

Part 2

One of the activities that Courage does, and which I enjoy, is doing mission work with some kids in Antipolo through the Missionaries of Charity. These kids come from poor neighborhoods which the Missionaries of Charity sisters regularly visit. They saw that these kids, mostly teenagers, are already manifesting homosexual behavior…they were boys wearing make-up and blouses and acted flamboyantly. They will gather them once a month at the Missionaries of Charity house in Antipolo and will invite Courage members to meet with them. We are now giving them catechism classes and more importantly, developing friendships with them.

Then, on another occasion, the Missionaries of Charity house in Tayuman invited us to give a talk on homosexuality there too. During this activity, some of us were discussing and wondering in amazement how come the Missionaries of Charity has been helping us tremendously in our apostolate. Their dedication to this apostolate was a mystery to us.

(Witnessing or apostolate is the fifth goal of Courage. As I am being slowly enlightened, it is an integral part of our healing.)

Some weeks after that discussion re the generous help given by the Missionaries of Charity, while surfing Facebook, I chanced upon a video posted by the Marian Fathers of the US on a lecture on the Divine Mercy. It was about an hour long but since I had this growing devotion to the Divine Mercy, I wanted to know more. The priest speaker was talking how the devotion to the Divine Mercy can be summarized in the acronym FINCH --- feast, image, novena, chaplet, and hour. Then he proceeded explaining each. When he got to “image”, he explained its background and how it is printed in their office by themselves to manage the cost. Then he shares that part of the proceeds of the sale of the image goes to the funding of their seminary. He goes on saying that a tenth of the images printed are sent as donation to the poor through the Missionaries of Charity. When it got to this part, I cried uncontrollably. I cried because I suddenly felt the weight of the seriousness of His intent that He wants His Divine Mercy to reach homosexual sinners. I cried because this was the answer to the mystery on why the Missionaries of Charity are helping us in our apostolate. The Marian Fathers are doing a charitable thing to the Missionaries of Charity in the US. Somewhere miles away, in another part of the globe, the Missionaries of Charity in turn are helping us reach homosexual sinners so that all of them will experience and encounter His Divine Mercy.

We do our best to be faithful with our monthly commitment to visit the kids of Antipolo. Since then, by God’s grace, He has been showing to us His hand of Mercy transforming them. The heavy make-up has been replaced with face powder; the blouses with regular shirts. Sure, the flamboyance is still there, but their sharing sessions and their Gospel and teaching reflections are showing a deepening of faith that surprises us including the Missionaries of Charity sisters.

This month, the schedule we have with them is on Apr 12, the Divine Mercy Sunday. The plan is to talk to them about the devotion to the Divine Mercy. Of course, there is nothing else that would be appropriate to teach the kids that day; this is expected. But, judging from the providential turn of events, it looks like we are in for something wonderfully unexpected. Divine Mercy, we trust in You.

"Souls who spread the honor of My mercy I shield through their entire life as a tender mother her infant, and at the hour of death I will not be a judge for them, but the Merciful Savior. At that last hour, a soul has nothing with which to defend itself except My mercy. Happy is the soul that during its lifetime immersed itself in the Fountain of Mercy, because justice will have no hold over it." (Diary, 1075)

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Position Paper Against the Divorce Bill & Decriminalization of Adultery and Concubinage

Every time a survey comes out claiming that the majority of Filipinos favor divorce (or any anti-life issues for that matter), you can expect a bunch of lawmakers throwing their support behind the survey, as if life issues like divorce, euthanasia, abortion, reproductive health, and same-sex marriage are just a matter of popular opinion and public perception. A maleficent/malevolent lady senator recently expressed her support behind the divorce bill, saying that the absence of such law in this country is not something we should be proud of. Well I guess the feeling is mutual. I certainly am not proud of you and the likes of you who introduce immoral laws in this country like the RH law. Shame on you.

Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (I Peter 5:8)


One senator of the Republic was recently quoted as saying that the fact that the Philippines is the only country without a divorce law is not something we should necessarily be proud of. To that, I hasten to add: Neither is it something for which we should be apologetic!

That all countries of the world save ours have it is no compelling reason to have it. Ours is the only Constitution in the world that includes the non-juridical word “love”. That is no reason to expunge it from our fundamental law!

The reasons thus far advanced for a divorce law fail to convince! Divorce, its advocates argue, is a solution to failed, if not oppressive and dehumanizing unions. The terms are powerful, but they invite visceral, rather than rational reactions.

A failed marriage is not an argument for divorce. It is rather proof of the necessity that only mature people enter into it. It proves the wisdom of the judiciousness of the Church in its conduct of pre-Cana and canonical inquiries. It proves the woeful inadequacy of the present system under Philippine law that makes the issuance by the civil registrar of a marriage license and attendance at a government-delivered seminar on family planning the sufficient conditions for marriage!

If indeed a spouse proves not only to be overbearing but oppressive and cruel, there are sufficient provisions in the Family Code, specifically those that provide for the legal separation of the spouses, and, in some cases, even annulment of voidable marriages. There are furthermore the salutary provisions of Republic Act No. 9262, the Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children act for the protection of women and their children.

If, on the other hand, one spouse finds the other – or himself or herself – psychologically incapable of fulfilling the obligations of marriage, the much-abused Art. 36 of the Family Code on psychological incapacity, ironically patterned after a similar canonical provision, is available.

In other words, the supposed suffering that a spouse must bear owing to a failed marriage is more imagined than real, and comes only upon one who does not make use of the remedies already available under existing law.

So, why then would one want divorce if legal separation, annulment and declarations of nullity are juridical options already available? The answer is simple: Divorce allows an already married person to have another go at it, despite failing at the first.

While one can reasonably test-drive a car and replace it with a better one should the test-drive prove unsatisfactory, it is plainly dehumanizing to both spouses to allow for a test-run, through a first marriage, and then grant the possibility of a replacement of spouses should the test fail. It is ironic that those most vocal in their support for divorce also hold themselves out as champions of human rights – and there can be no violation of human rights more egregious than to treat human persons the same way that you treat vehicles and appliances!

Divorce is a deterrent to working on differences. Marriage is and ought to be a work in progress. There is no such thing except in the limp imagination of mediocre, starry-eyed writers of romance novels as “a couple meant for each other” or a man and a woman who are a “perfect match”. Matches are worked out on earth, not pre-fabricated in heaven! When the expedient of divorce is readily available, a couple will be less likely to work on differences, dialogue and reasonably work out solutions because there is a quick fix to “incompatibilities”. While the blending of different tempers, attitudes and perspective should be enriching, although a challenge of harmonize, a token effort at ‘making the marriage work’ is all that can be expected when the possibility of ending the union by divorce is offered by the State!

Logically, divorce puts its advocates in the dilemma of choosing between making of marriage a mockery and being arbitrary. A divorce law will either grant divorce on any ground – in which case marriage becomes a mockery – or on some grounds. But if it is granted on some grounds, irreconcilable differences, for example, who is to say that a person is more greatly challenged by irreconcilable differences than by the snoring of a spouse at night? Setting forth grounds for divorce is always tricky business, if not downright whimsical, because it assumes that one is in a position to grade degrees of misery or difficulty, and to say of some that they are worthy of the ‘relief’ of divorce while others are not. But how does one construct a hierarchy of miseries?

Divorce victimizes children. The separation of parents is already traumatic on the children who must choose between mother and father when custodial rights are judicially resolved. Visitation rights are a poor substitute for living with one’s parents. Divorce however compounds the trauma by allowing a total stranger to the children to enter into their lives – the new spouse.

Society should be able to count on some promises as irrevocable. The promise of a physician to serve life and not to destroy it, the promise of a public official to serve and defend the Constitution, the promise of spouses to be faithful to each other, the promise of a priest to mirror to the world the care of the Good Shepherd – all these are promises that society has a right to rely on and that those who so promise have no right to renege on. If you cannot keep the promise, do not make it all. Do not claim its privileges while refusing to own up to its demands!

Decriminalizing Adultery and Concubinage?

The State sends a signal to the public and educates its citizens by the incentives it offers as well as the matters it penalizes. By penalizing offensive conduct, the State signals its ideal of social cohesion and of living together. Article II of the Constitution reads:

“Section 12. The State recognizes the sanctity of family life and shall protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution.”

Adultery and concubinage have been in our penal code for not only decades but centuries now. Striking them off the catalogue of crimes – will this not send the message to Philippine society that now, sexual liaisons and dalliances with persons other than with one’s spouse are now allowed? How can such a legislative proposal “protect and strengthen the family as a basic social institution”? While it is true that Article II is a set of non-self-executory principles and policies, the provisions give direction to legislation and shape jurisprudence. Otherwise they would have no place in the Constitution at all.

Under our VAWC law – passed as domestic legislation in response to international covenants, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, as well as the Covenant on the Rights of the Child among them – we consider violence not only physical but psychological cruelty. What can be more cruel for a spouse than to have the other sexually engaged with another and entering into intimate liaisons with another? How can it serve legal coherence for us to de-criminalize under one title what we consider criminal cruelty and violence under another?

What can be done though is to eliminate the discriminatory distinction between adultery and concubinage, for it has long been observed that limiting the applicability of adultery provisions only to women is in fact discriminatory. Concubinage – the crime for which a husband with extra-marital affairs can be charged – is more difficult to prove because its elements are “cohabitation with another under scandalous circumstances” while all it takes to commit adultery is one act of sexual intercourse with a man other than one’s husband! It is this asymmetry that should be rectified.

We have taken tremendous strides in the direction of protecting women and children. The proposal to pass a divorce law and to decriminalize adultery and concubinage go in the opposite direction. We should not lend to support to such moral and juridical incoherence!

Let the Word of God guide us.

The Pharisees approached and asked, “Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?” They were testing him. He said to them in reply, “What did Moses command you?” They replied, “Moses permitted him to write a bill of divorce and dismiss her.” But Jesus told them, “Because of the hardness of your hearts he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” (Matthew 10:2-9).

From the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, March 25, 2015, Solemnity of the Annunciation

Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
CBCP President

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Titles and Glories of St. Joseph

As we celebrate today the holy feast day of St. Joseph, let us contemplate on the many titles and honors that have been bestowed upon him and may all of us be the more inspired to turn to him in our needs and imitate his excellent virtues. This excerpt was taken from the book Saint Joseph As Seen by Mystics and Historians.

Sacred Scripture is the principal foundation for devotion to Saint Joseph under the various patronages the Church has accorded to him. The slowness of the development of his devotion throughout history is traceable to the predominance of the non-scriptural, false images of him presented by the apocryphal writings. Joseph serves today as a patron and model for all people in general, and for many individual groups in particular. This chapter ends by listing some of the lights in which he may be seen, as grounded directly in Scripture, or as extrapolated from the Scriptural data and suggested for contemporary society.

1) Model disciple, dedicating his whole life to the interests of Jesus. - Joseph is an example of faith, righteousness, trust in God's providence, and prompt obedience to God's call.

2) Patron of the Church. - This title results from a combination of various elements: a) Paul's theology of the Church as an extension of Christ, the mystical body; b) an extension of John's and Luke's type of theology by which Mary, the Mother of Jesus, also in some sense becomes Mother of the Church; c) the Apostles' Creed's doctrine of the "communion of the saints," understood to mean that the deceased and saved continue to pray for their fellow Christians on earth.

As Joseph protected the physical body of the Child Jesus on earth, so does he continue to protect, through his intercessory prayer from Heaven, the mystical body of Christ, the Church. As the Mother of Christ is called Mother of the Church, so also Her husband, the guardian of Christ, is called the Protector of the Church.

3) Patron of Husbands and of the Engaged. - Joseph exhibits the deepest love for his Fiancee and Wife, and the highest respect for women. He in no way seeks to use Mary, but rather to give himself to Her in accord with his God-given vocation. His call to live a virginal relationship with Her does not deter him from immediately and wholeheartedly taking Her as his Wife.

He is an example of true spousal love. For fiances, he is an example of sexual respect during engagement. For the married, who for a good reason must postpone another pregnancy, he is a model of the loving abstinence they must exercise during the fertile times, in order to practice natural family planning, rather than have recourse to artificial contraceptives, which may be easier but which are not in harmony with their commitment in Christ.

His virginal relationship to Mary, however, does not indicate a lack of openness to offspring; Joseph is a model of acceptance of children in marriage, in his quick response to do so when so told by the angel. Mary and Joseph have a unique vocation to virginal marriage, because their love is already blessed with the greatest of offspring, the Son of God, with which no number of other children could ever compare.

4) Patron of Fathers. - Joseph models total self-sacrificing concern to provide for, protect, raise, educate, and be an example to the Child entrusted to him. He shows that authentic fatherhood consists in much more than physical generation. He constantly recognizes the subordination of his role to the primordial Fatherhood of God, always cooperating and never interfering with His designs.

5) Patron of Family Life. - With Jesus and Mary, Joseph is a model of unity, love, and shared faith, showing the priority of family life over one's individual interests, and also the necessity of family life as a basis for learning to form community as Church.

6) Protector of the Unborn and of Pregnant Mothers. - After Mary, no one appreciates life in the womb more than St. Joseph. In faith, he recognized the Baby in Mary's womb as the Incarnate God, and was willing to make any sacrifice to care for that Life, and for the Mother called to bear It. In our age of rampant abortion, Joseph calls us as a society and as individuals to recognize the divine source of life and to always respect and defend it.

7) Model of Workers. - Joseph the Carpenter, who teaches his profession to Jesus, shows the dignity of work, which is measured not by earning power or prestige, but by the love and motivation with which it is done daily.

8) Patron of the Marginalized, Emigrants, Refugees, and Those Discriminated Against. - The father of Jesus experienced all these hardships in the persecution by Herod, and in the attitude of the ruling Judean authorities towards people from Galilee. He shows that one's dignity does not consist in social, political, or economic standing, but in one's inner integrity in being true to one's own calling. God favors and protects the lowly.

9) Model of Humility, the Hidden Life, and the Sanctification of the Ordinary. - Joseph's great sanctity is accompanied by no great words or deeds. The details of his life remain lost to history. Jesus' first 30 years belong to the "hidden life" at Nazareth. Joseph teaches us that holiness need not catch the world's attention. It consists, rather, in being lovingly faithful to the ordinary: family, work, religious observance, the indications of circumstances, and God's revelation.

10) Model of Contemplative Union with Christ. - Besides Joseph's total availability to God's will, his daily life is dedicated to union with Christ. He is known as the "saint of silence," because no word of his has been preserved (except the name "Jesus," which he gave the Child). He is thus a model of the interior life and contemplative prayer.

11) Patron of Apostles. - Joseph's role, in large part, is to prepare Jesus for His life and ministry. All involved in apostolic ministry may learn from him those attitudes and virtues needed to bring Christ to others.

12) Patron of a Happy Death. - Total lack of mention of Joseph during Jesus' public ministry, even when Mary is present, leads to the assumption that he had already died. His acceptance of this death would be consistent with his quiet fulfillment of his role, followed by a gentle fading from the scene so as not to interfere with Jesus' proclamation of His Divine Sonship. His death in the arms of Jesus and Mary is the envy of every true Christian believer.

Joseph's role in the Scriptures will always be important for the life to the Church, because with him we celebrate our earliest origins as a Christian community. His union with Mary and Christ in the Mystery of the Incarnation means that he can never be far from us, Christ's Body.

What contrasts are found in Joseph! He is the patron of celibates and those who are fathers of families; he is likewise the patron of the laity and of contemplatives, and patron of priests as well as businessmen. Over the centuries, Joseph has shown himself to be an advocate of the world's needy.

To the thousands of men deprived of a healthy relationship with their fathers: Go to St. Joseph! To those seeking to overcome a negative father image: seek not further than St. Joseph for a potent cure. To the millions of children in fatherless families: Go to St. Joseph! You will find an earthly father who, like the Heavenly Father, is a father of the fatherless. The Heavenly Father has provided a link to Himself through the fatherhood of St. Joseph over the whole Family of God.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Pastoral Moral Guidance on the Anti-Discrimination Bill

Our good friend and spiritual father in Courage, Bishop Gilbert Garcera, wishes this document to be spread to as many people as possible on the issue of anti-discrimination bill. May we all be enlightened.

Congress of the Philippines is poised to pass into law what was earlier known as the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Bill, which is now more generally referred to as the Anti-Discrimination Bill. We are grateful that the CBCP was earlier asked by the relevant committees of the houses of Congress to submit its comments, and we did so. But now, we deem it opportune to express ourselves collectively on the matter.

Non-Discrimination is a Christian Imperative

If discrimination means that certain individuals, because of sexual orientation or gender identity, are systematically denied fundamental human rights, then any measure that counters discrimination of this kind is a gesture of charity, one that reaches out to all and recognizes them in their inherent dignity as sons and daughters of God, called to new life in Jesus Christ.

This then is also the propitious time for us to call on all pastors throughout the country to be as solicitous of the pastoral welfare of all our brothers and sisters regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity. Their exclusion from the life of the Church, their treatment as outcasts, their relegation to the category of inferior members of the Church worthy only of derision and scorn certainly does not conform to Pope Francis' vision of the Church as the sacrament of Divine mercy and compassion.

In this regard, the Church has much to contribute towards the education of Catholics to be more accepting of others and to see through appearances the Lord present in each brother and sister. There can therefore be no more approval of parents who imbue in their children the loathing and disgust for persons with a different sexual orientation or with gender identity issues. In Catholic institutions, there should be zero-tolerance for the bullying and badgering of persons in such personal situations.

Christian Anthropology and Consequences for Pastoral Care

The Church remains firm in its teaching, however, that reason discerns in the process of human evolution, the perpetuation of humankind, and the complementarity of the sexes, as well as from the very nature of sexuality itself that God's image and likeness is found in either man or woman. The Church therefore compassionately reaches out to persons with orientation and gender identity issues so that they may clearly discern, with a well-formed conscience, and in the light of the Divine plan for humankind, how they ought to live their lives.

In this regard, a common fallacy has to be contested. Today, it is not uncommon to hear the assertion that the way a person chooses to live his or her life and with which gender to identify is purely a matter of personal sovereignty and choice. Much is left to choice, but much is also a matter of human given-ness, a matter of human facticity. From the perspective of Divine Revelation, much is not of the person's doing but must be counted as God's gift. Among these are sexuality and gender.

While contemporary psychology and psychiatry are far from unanimous on the causes of orientation and identity issues, it is as clear that the individual is not helpless in this regard. There are decisions a person can and must make. There are mind-sets a person must either acquire or discard.

On the basis of its understanding of the human condition, the Church cannot encourage persons to “choose” their gender, orientation, and sexual identity as if these were matters at the free disposal of choice. The Church therefore looks to mature parents, school counselors, community workers, professional psychologists and personality experts, as well as to her own priests engaged in pastoral counseling, to help in the resolution of what, it must be admitted, are very difficult personal issues, always with understanding, compassion, acceptance of the inherent worth of the human person and attentiveness to what has been revealed to us about the human person.

We must also insist on the distinction between “orientation” and overt acts. No one may be excluded from the life of the Church and its sacraments merely because of avowed orientation or identity. However, the disapproval of homosexual acts remains part of the Church's moral teaching, a consequence in fact of its understanding of human dignity. If “gay rights” movements, for instance, encourage free and unbridled sexual relations between persons of the same sex, the Church cannot lend its support, for in its view, they ultimately do a disservice to our brothers and sisters. What gay rights can legitimately champion is justice for all, fairness that must extend to all persons regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The Proposed Law

Before anything else, CBCP must ask whether or not the proposed non-discrimination bill is itself a manifestation of that pernicious form of “colonization” to which Pope Francis referred in his recent visit to the Philippines. Is this the “importation” into our country of values, behavioral norms and attitudes that the West has championed and peddled?

To the legislators who consider through future legislative initiatives giving legal recognition to same sex unions, the Church declares there is no equivalence or even any remote analogy whatsoever between marriage between a man and woman as planned by God and the so-called same sex unions.

Insofar as the proposed piece of legislation renders illegitimate the relegation of persons with sexual orientation and gender identity issues to citizens of a lower category enjoying fewer rights, the CBCP cannot but lend its support to this proposed legislative measure.

However, there are certain matters that the Church considers to be within its exclusive sphere of competence such as determining who should be admitted to priestly or religious formation, who should be ordained and received into Holy Order, or who should be professed as members of religious communities and orders. The Church asserts its exclusive right to determine its own criteria and to exclude even on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity if it finds these to be hindrances to the fidelity that is expected of ordained or consecrated persons. We believe that the Constitution of the Republic guarantees this under the “free exercise” clause of the fundamental law of the land.

With respect to Catholic schools and the guidance and counseling that it extends to its students, the CBCP herewith expresses its position that our Catholic schools remain at liberty to determine their own admission and retention policies on the basis of the manner in which the Supreme Court of the Philippines has developed the constitutional guarantee of academic freedom. We must, however, reiterate that none must be demeaned, embarrassed, or humiliated for reasons of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Persons with homosexual orientation are sons and daughters of God; no less than any of us is. Discrimination against them is contrary to the Gospel spirit. Verbal and physical violence against them is an offense against the good Lord Himself. Through honest dialogue and pastoral accompaniment, it should be our goal to assist them to respond to the demands of chastity and that purity of body and heart that Jesus, in the Gospels, calls 'blessed'. When they wish to make an offering to the life of the Church according to their talents, abilities and gifts, the Church as mother provides for them.


We foresee that CBCP will be reproved for not going “all out” in its approval of homosexual and transsexual orientation and identity. But we pray that all will understand that the deposit of faith is not owed to us, nor is it something we are free to modify or tailor to suit fad and fancy.

We conclude by reiterating our position that your bishops and priests welcome all of God's sons and daughters, that there is room in the Church for all, whatever our personal conditions, gifts as well as burdens might be, and the Church will be tireless in extending its support and care for those in the midst of personal conflict who must make crucial decisions for themselves in the light of the new life Christ offers us all!

From the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, March 3, 2015

Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
President, CBCP

Monday, March 9, 2015

On Gay Religious and Priests

It is appalling to think that within the hierarchy of the Catholic Church are religious men leading scandalous lives. This video narrates in particular a former Jesuit's experience while he was in seminary formation. To say it is shocking is an understatement.

To all practicing gay men in the priesthood or the seminary I have two words for you - GET. OUT.

And for those future gay seminarians who have plans of hiding behind the veil of religious life their deep seated same-sex struggle with no intentions whatsoever to divulge their condition to their superiors or seek help to reform their lives, I also have two words for you - STAY. OUT.

Or better yet join us in Courage. Frankly, we don't need gay men in the priesthood. We need real men who are fully capable of fulfilling the role of spiritual fathers to us, the flock. We have had enough of the sex abuse scandals in the Church.

May this video be an eye opener to all of us.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Prayer: A Dialogue of Love

Forwarded invitation.

Congress on Prayer in Celebration of the 5th Birth Centenary of St. Teresa of Avila


2015. 50 years of Vatican Council II. 500 years of the birth of St. Teresa of Avila, Daughter and Doctor of the Church. The congruence of St. Teresa’s vision of a renewed Carmel for the sake of the Church and the Council’s vision of a renewed Church is no mere coincidence. It is co-mutual.The paths to holiness which is the foundation where all pastoral initiatives must be set are personal and call for a genuine ‘training in holiness’ adapted to people’s needs. This training, calls for a Christian life distinguished above all in the art of prayer.


We can show what depths a friendly relationship with Jesus can lead. We can share how prayer can progress as a genuine “What kind of love would not feel the need to speak of the Beloved, to point him out, to make him known? Celebrating Saint Teresa of Avila’s 5th birth centenary by way of a Congress on Prayer on March 15, 2015 is a providential opportunity for the entire Carmelite Family to share with everyone the way of prayer from the school of the first woman Doctor of the Church. It is programmed to facilitate encounter with Christ through liturgical and contemplative prayer by way of the Liturgy of the Hours; chants; silent prayer; presentations on the prayer of Christ and the Church, Teresian prayer from the point of attraction to intimate friendship, and, tracking St. Teresa’s way of life; capped by the Eucharistic celebration. The prayerful nature of the Congress encourages all attendees to be generous by way of their active and passive participation.



8:00 – 8:05
National Anthem

8:05 – 8:10
Welcome Remarks
Very Reverend Reynaldo Sotelo, OCD
Commissar, Order of Discalced Carmelites
Philippines-Vietnam Circumscription

8:10 – 8:30
Procession / Enthronement

8:30 – 9:00
Liturgy of the Hours

9:00 – 9:10

9:15 –10:00
1st Presentation
His Excellency Bishop Mylo Hubert C. Vergara, DD

10:00 –10:30

10:30 –11:30
2nd Presentation
Ms. Imelda D. Ramos, OCDS
President, Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites in the Philippines

11:30 –11:35

11:35 –11:45
Production Number

11:45 –11:50

11:50 – 1:00

1:00 – 1:10
Production Number

1:15 – 2:15
3rd Presentation
Fr. Mariano Agruda III, OCD
Prior, Our Lady’s Hill Center for Spirituality

2:15 – 2:20

2:20 – 2:40
4th Presentation
On the Tracks of St. Teresa: Her Way, Our Way
Sr. May Catherine Salvatierra, OCD
President, Association of Discalced Carmelite Nuns in the Philippines

2:40 – 2:45

2:45 – 3:15

3:15 – 3:30

3:30 – 5:00
Presider: His Eminence Luis Antonio G. Cardinal Tagle

Closing Remarks
Fr. Danilo D. Lim, OCD
Chairman, National Commission



Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What is this Congress on Prayer all about, and when and where will it take place?
A:It is called “Prayer, A Dialogue of Love,” to be held from 8AM to 5PM, on March 15, 2015, that’s a Sunday, at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.  It is being held to celebrate the 500th birth anniversary of St. Teresa of Avila, which is on March 28, 2015.

Q2. Briefly, who is St. Teresa of Avila?
A:St. Teresa of Avila, also known by her religious name, Teresa of Jesus, is a Spanish Saint and mystic who was hailed as a Teacher of Prayer and the first woman Doctor of the Church (in 1970 when all of the 30 Doctors of the Church were male).

Q3. St. Teresa of Avila doesn’t seem to be that known in the Philippines.  Is she the one who carries roses and a crucifix?
A. No, that pretty saint with the roses is St. Therese of Lisieux, or St. Therese of the Child Jesus, who is widely popular in the Philippines. If St. Teresa of Avila were a mother, St. Therese of Lisieux who is 358 years younger would be her great greatgreatgreatgreat granddaughter.  You do the math.  Therese entered the Order of Discalced Carmelites 306 years after its founder St. Teresa died. Now that the Church is celebrating St. Teresa’s 500th  birth anniversary, it’s the perfect time to make her spirituality better known to the Filipinos.

Q4. How relevant would St. Teresa of Avila’s spirituality be, after all—you know—she’s five centuries old?
A.It’s easy to see how the contribution of this Doctor of the Church fits into our world.  She asks of us to see that the relativism prevalent in the West is now increasingly becoming a global reality.  Our world now is pretty much like in St. Teresa’s time, and as Pope Francis’ EvangeliiGaudium says: “If something should rightly disturb us and trouble our consciences, it is the fact that so many of our brothers and sisters are living without the strength, light and consolation born of friendship with Jesus Christ … THE CHURCH URGENTLY NEEDS THE DEEP BREATH OF PRAYER.”

Q5. I see you quoted from a Church document.  How does St. Teresa’s teaching sync with that?
A.To help us re-evaluate human dignity, which is threatened by today’s culture, we have St. Teresa’s vision of the human person as the dwelling place of God, open to communion with Him as a friend, able to welcome Him at the center of his soul.  Continuing with EvangeliiGaudium, Pope Francis says: “I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting Him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, since no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord.”  Marvelous, isn’t it?  “Evangeliigaudium” is Latin for “joy of the Gospel.”  Now, it’s time for St. Teresa’s children in Carmel to go and deliver this invitation to joy!

Q6. What is the objective then of your Congress on Prayer?
A.  The central objective is TO HERALD PRAYER AS AN EXPERIENCE OF FRIENDSHIP AND A DEEPENING ENCOUNTER WITH CHRIST.  That’s why we’ve called it “Prayer: A Dialogue of Love”—focusing on a relationship which is that personal.

Q7. So it’s a whole day affair.  Who may participate in it?  Is it open to everybody?
A.   Much as we wish to, we can’t make it a “General Patronage” thing like in the movies where everyone aged 1-100 is welcome.  This Congress on Prayer would be appreciated by—and therefore welcomes—those aged sixteen (16) and above, AND (this is important) IS INTERESTED TO BEGIN AND MATURE in a life of prayer. 

Q8. Hmmm, sounds like it’s only for nuns and priests…?
A.  Certainly not, in fact, laypersons might benefit most from it.  Although it is an initiative of the Order of Discalced Carmelite friars, nuns and seculars, priests, nuns and seminarians of various Religious Orders welcome it as a response to a great need in the Church.  The Congress on Prayer is open to laypeople like professionals and college students, lay associations, parish mandated organizations, parish pastoral council members and commissioned ministers, and transparochial communities.

Q9. Wow, that’s a lot!  And what would it cost someone to attend the Congress?
A.   The good news is, admission is free, but with MoA Arena issued tickets.  For the welfare of the participants, MoA imposes a No-Ticket-No-Entry policy, so do take note, don’t come empty-handed!

Q10. And how does one get tickets?
A.  Attendees have to fill out Registration Forms, whether they belong to big groups or small groups or wish to attend as individuals.

The registration form is downloadable from our website, www.teresa500philippines.com  You may also register through Facebook, teresaofjesus500@gmail.com

Registration Forms for Ticket Reservations may also be obtained from the Congress on Prayer Secretariat with contact details: Telephone numbers: (02) 722-4667; (02) 721-4252; (02) 710-2641; 0939-9207365; 0906-5732305. You may also email us for additional information: teresa500philippines@gmail.com

Q11. Since it’s going to be a whole-day event, may we bring along food?
A.  So sorry but that’s another policy that MoA management strictly imposes on attendees: “No bringing in of food.”  Snacks, however, will be available at Php 80.00 and lunch at Php 100.00 through the Arena concessionaires.  Persons with health conditions that require them to nibble at crackers or candy at prescribed hours may be allowed to bring in a packet or two, but please don’t try to smuggle in a whole carton for the whole barangay!

Q12. Could you give us an idea of what the program will contain more or less?
A.  Well, celebrating Saint Teresa of Avila’s 5th birth centenary through a Congress on Prayer is a providential opportunity for the entire Carmelite Family to share with everyone the way of prayer from the school of the first woman Doctor of the Church. The prayerful nature of the Congress should facilitate encounter with Christ through a program that includes liturgical and contemplative prayer through the Liturgy of the Hours; chants; silent prayer; presentations on the prayer of Christ and the Church, Teresian prayer from the point of attraction to intimate friendship, and, tracking St. Teresa’s way of life.  The day will be capped by the Eucharistic celebration with His Eminence Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle as Presider.

Q13. That sounds promising, but can ordinary people like us digest that?  May we know who the speakers are?

A.  We assure you of very substantial but highly digestible inputs.  We have as first speaker His Excellency Bishop Mylo Hubert C. Vergara, DD, presenting “PRAYER OF JESUS, PRAYER OF THE CHURCH.”  Then we have Ms. Imelda D. Ramos, OCDS, President, Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites in the Philippines, with her piece, “SPIRITUAL LIFE: THE POINT OF ATTRACTION.”  This is followed by Fr. Mariano Agruda III, OCD, Prior of Our Lady’s Hill Center for Spirituality presenting “SPIRITUAL LIFE: WHEN THE WORD OF MY FRIEND PREVAILS.”  Finally we have “On the Tracks of St. Teresa: Her Way, Our Way” by Sr. May Catherine Salvatierra, OCD, President of the Association of Discalced Carmelite Nuns in the Philippines

Q14. If the Congress on Prayer is to be summed up in 50 words or less, what would its essence be?

A.  The Congress’ name, “A Dialogue of Love” should give you a clue.  St. Teresa defines prayer as “Nothing else than an intimate sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with Him who we know loves us.”  That quote contains only 23 words—but that should give you an idea what to expect on March 15, Mall of Asia Arena.  See you there! 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


As we enter the season of Lent once again, let us redouble our efforts in living out the Christian practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving by incorporating the activities suggested above in our daily routine. May we all have a fruitful and meaningful celebration of Lent.

*Note:  Ash Wednesday is a day of fasting and abstinence.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons

This was a letter issued by then Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger and now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. It is good to be reminded of this my dear brothers and sisters, clergy and laity alike, because of the growing misunderstanding and confusion on how to deal with the issue of homosexuality from a Christian perspective. On this feast of the Angelic Doctor St. Thomas Aquinas I hope you will find time to peruse this very timely and relevant scholarly work of our beloved Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

1. The issue of homosexuality and the moral evaluation of homosexual acts have increasingly become a matter of public debate, even in Catholic circles. Since this debate often advances arguments and makes assertions inconsistent with the teaching of the Catholic Church, it is quite rightly a cause for concern to all engaged in the pastoral ministry, and this Congregation has judged it to be of sufficiently grave and widespread importance to address to the Bishops of the Catholic Church this Letter on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons.

2. Naturally, an exhaustive treatment of this complex issue cannot be attempted here, but we will focus our reflection within the distinctive context of the Catholic moral perspective. It is a perspective which finds support in the more secure findings of the natural sciences, which have their own legitimate and proper methodology and field of inquiry.

However, the Catholic moral viewpoint is founded on human reason illumined by faith and is consciously motivated by the desire to do the will of God our Father. The Church is thus in a position to learn from scientific discovery but also to transcend the horizons of science and to be confident that her more global vision does greater justice to the rich reality of the human person in his spiritual and physical dimensions, created by God and heir, by grace, to eternal life.

It is within this context, then, that it can be clearly seen that the phenomenon of homosexuality, complex as it is, and with its many consequences for society and ecclesial life, is a proper focus for the Church's pastoral care. It thus requires of her ministers attentive study, active concern and honest, theologically well-balanced counsel.

3. Explicit treatment of the problem was given in this Congregation's "Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics" of December 29, 1975. That document stressed the duty of trying to understand the homosexual condition and noted that culpability for homosexual acts should only be judged with prudence. At the same time the Congregation took note of the distinction commonly drawn between the homosexual condition or tendency and individual homosexual actions. These were described as deprived of their essential and indispensable finality, as being "intrinsically disordered", and able in no case to be approved of (cf. n. 8, $4).

In the discussion which followed the publication of the Declaration, however, an overly benign interpretation was given to the homosexual condition itself, some going so far as to call it neutral, or even good. Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.

Therefore special concern and pastoral attention should be directed toward those who have this condition, lest they be led to believe that the living out of this orientation in homosexual activity is a morally acceptable option. It is not.

4. An essential dimension of authentic pastoral care is the identification of causes of confusion regarding the Church's teaching. One is a new exegesis of Sacred Scripture which claims variously that Scripture has nothing to say on the subject of homosexuality, or that it somehow tacitly approves of it, or that all of its moral injunctions are so culture-bound that they are no longer applicable to contemporary life. These views are gravely erroneous and call for particular attention here.

5. It is quite true that the Biblical literature owes to the different epochs in which it was written a good deal of its varied patterns of thought and expression (Dei Verbum 12). The Church today addresses the Gospel to a world which differs in many ways from ancient days. But the world in which the New Testament was written was already quite diverse from the situation in which the Sacred Scriptures of the Hebrew People had been written or compiled, for example.

What should be noticed is that, in the presence of such remarkable diversity, there is nevertheless a clear consistency within the Scriptures themselves on the moral issue of homosexual behaviour. The Church's doctrine regarding this issue is thus based, not on isolated phrases for facile theological argument, but on the solid foundation of a constant Biblical testimony. The community of faith today, in unbroken continuity with the Jewish and Christian communities within which the ancient Scriptures were written, continues to be nourished by those same Scriptures and by the Spirit of Truth whose Word they are. It is likewise essential to recognize that the Scriptures are not properly understood when they are interpreted in a way which contradicts the Church's living Tradition. To be correct, the interpretation of Scripture must be in substantial accord with that Tradition.

The Vatican Council II in Dei Verbum 10, put it this way: "It is clear, therefore, that in the supremely wise arrangement of God, sacred Tradition, sacred Scripture, and the Magisterium of the Church are so connected and associated that one of them cannot stand without the others. Working together, each in its own way under the action of the one Holy Spirit, they all contribute effectively to the salvation of souls". In that spirit we wish to outline briefly the Biblical teaching here.

6. Providing a basic plan for understanding this entire discussion of homosexuality is the theology of creation we find in Genesis. God, in his infinite wisdom and love, brings into existence all of reality as a reflection of his goodness. He fashions mankind, male and female, in his own image and likeness. Human beings, therefore, are nothing less than the work of God himself; and in the complementarity of the sexes, they are called to reflect the inner unity of the Creator. They do this in a striking way in their cooperation with him in the transmission of life by a mutual donation of the self to the other.

In Genesis 3, we find that this truth about persons being an image of God has been obscured by original sin. There inevitably follows a loss of awareness of the covenantal character of the union these persons had with God and with each other. The human body retains its "spousal significance" but this is now clouded by sin. Thus, in Genesis 19:1-11, the deterioration due to sin continues in the story of the men of Sodom. There can be no doubt of the moral judgement made there against homosexual relations. In Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, in the course of describing the conditions necessary for belonging to the Chosen People, the author excludes from the People of God those who behave in a homosexual fashion.

Against the background of this exposition of theocratic law, an eschatological perspective is developed by St. Paul when, in I Cor 6:9, he proposes the same doctrine and lists those who behave in a homosexual fashion among those who shall not enter the Kingdom of God.

In Romans 1:18-32, still building on the moral traditions of his forebears, but in the new context of the confrontation between Christianity and the pagan society of his day, Paul uses homosexual behaviour as an example of the blindness which has overcome humankind. Instead of the original harmony between Creator and creatures, the acute distortion of idolatry has led to all kinds of moral excess. Paul is at a loss to find a clearer example of this disharmony than homosexual relations. Finally, 1 Tim. 1, in full continuity with the Biblical position, singles out those who spread wrong doctrine and in v. 10 explicitly names as sinners those who engage in homosexual acts.

7. The Church, obedient to the Lord who founded her and gave to her the sacramental life, celebrates the divine plan of the loving and live-giving union of men and women in the sacrament of marriage. It is only in the marital relationship that the use of the sexual faculty can be morally good. A person engaging in homosexual behaviour therefore acts immorally.

To chose someone of the same sex for one's sexual activity is to annul the rich symbolism and meaning, not to mention the goals, of the Creator's sexual design. Homosexual activity is not a complementary union, able to transmit life; and so it thwarts the call to a life of that form of self-giving which the Gospel says is the essence of Christian living. This does not mean that homosexual persons are not often generous and giving of themselves; but when they engage in homosexual activity they confirm within themselves a disordered sexual inclination which is essentially self-indulgent.

As in every moral disorder, homosexual activity prevents one's own fulfillment and happiness by acting contrary to the creative wisdom of God. The Church, in rejecting erroneous opinions regarding homosexuality, does not limit but rather defends personal freedom and dignity realistically and authentically understood.

8. Thus, the Church's teaching today is in organic continuity with the Scriptural perspective and with her own constant Tradition. Though today's world is in many ways quite new, the Christian community senses the profound and lasting bonds which join us to those generations who have gone before us, "marked with the sign of faith".

Nevertheless, increasing numbers of people today, even within the Church, are bringing enormous pressure to bear on the Church to accept the homosexual condition as though it were not disordered and to condone homosexual activity. Those within the Church who argue in this fashion often have close ties with those with similar views outside it. These latter groups are guided by a vision opposed to the truth about the human person, which is fully disclosed in the mystery of Christ. They reflect, even if not entirely consciously, a materialistic ideology which denies the transcendent nature of the human person as well as the supernatural vocation of every individual.

The Church's ministers must ensure that homosexual persons in their care will not be misled by this point of view, so profoundly opposed to the teaching of the Church. But the risk is great and there are many who seek to create confusion regarding the Church's position, and then to use that confusion to their own advantage.

9. The movement within the Church, which takes the form of pressure groups of various names and sizes, attempts to give the impression that it represents all homosexual persons who are Catholics. As a matter of fact, its membership is by and large restricted to those who either ignore the teaching of the Church or seek somehow to undermine it. It brings together under the aegis of Catholicism homosexual persons who have no intention of abandoning their homosexual behaviour. One tactic used is to protest that any and all criticism of or reservations about homosexual people, their activity and lifestyle, are simply diverse forms of unjust discrimination.

There is an effort in some countries to manipulate the Church by gaining the often well-intentioned support of her pastors with a view to changing civil-statutes and laws. This is done in order to conform to these pressure groups' concept that homosexuality is at least a completely harmless, if not an entirely good, thing. Even when the practice of homosexuality may seriously threaten the lives and well-being of a large number of people, its advocates remain undeterred and refuse to consider the magnitude of the risks involved.

The Church can never be so callous. It is true that her clear position cannot be revised by pressure from civil legislation or the trend of the moment. But she is really concerned about the many who are not represented by the pro-homosexual movement and about those who may have been tempted to believe its deceitful propaganda. She is also aware that the view that homosexual activity is equivalent to, or as acceptable as, the sexual expression of conjugal love has a direct impact on society's understanding of the nature and rights of the family and puts them in jeopardy.

10. It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church's pastors wherever it occurs. It reveals a kind of disregard for others which endangers the most fundamental principles of a healthy society. The intrinsic dignity of each person must always be respected in word, in action and in law.

But the proper reaction to crimes committed against homosexual persons should not be to claim that the homosexual condition is not disordered. 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.

11. It has been argued that the homosexual orientation in certain cases is not the result of deliberate choice; and so the homosexual person would then have no choice but to behave in a homosexual fashion. Lacking freedom, such a person, even if engaged in homosexual activity, would not be culpable.

Here, the Church's wise moral tradition is necessary since it warns against generalizations in judging individual cases. In fact, circumstances may exist, or may have existed in the past, which would reduce or remove the culpability of the individual in a given instance; or other circumstances may increase it. What is at all costs to be avoided is the unfounded and demeaning assumption that the sexual behaviour of homosexual persons is always and totally compulsive and therefore inculpable. What is essential is that the fundamental liberty which characterizes the human person and gives him his dignity be recognized as belonging to the homosexual person as well. As in every conversion from evil, the abandonment of homosexual activity will require a profound collaboration of the individual with God's liberating grace.

12. What, then, are homosexual persons to do who seek to follow the Lord? Fundamentally, they are called to enact the will of God in their life by joining whatever sufferings and difficulties they experience in virtue of their condition to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross. That Cross, for the believer, is a fruitful sacrifice since from that death come life and redemption. While any call to carry the cross or to understand a Christian's suffering in this way will predictably be met with bitter ridicule by some, it should be remembered that this is the way to eternal life for all who follow Christ.

It is, in effect, none other than the teaching of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians when he says that the Spirit produces in the lives of the faithful "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control" (5:22) and further (v. 24), "You cannot belong to Christ unless you crucify all self-indulgent passions and desires."

It is easily misunderstood, however, if it is merely seen as a pointless effort at self-denial. The Cross is a denial of self, but in service to the will of God himself who makes life come from death and empowers those who trust in him to practise virtue in place of vice.

To celebrate the Paschal Mystery, it is necessary to let that Mystery become imprinted in the fabric of daily life. To refuse to sacrifice one's own will in obedience to the will of the Lord is effectively to prevent salvation. Just as the Cross was central to the expression of God's redemptive love for us in Jesus, so the conformity of the self-denial of homosexual men and women with the sacrifice of the Lord will constitute for them a source of self-giving which will save them from a way of life which constantly threatens to destroy them.

Christians who are homosexual are called, as all of us are, to a chaste life. As they dedicate their lives to understanding the nature of God's personal call to them, they will be able to celebrate the Sacrament of Penance more faithfully and receive the Lord's grace so freely offered there in order to convert their lives more fully to his Way.

13. We recognize, of course, that in great measure the clear and successful communication of the Church's teaching to all the faithful, and to society at large, depends on the correct instruction and fidelity of her pastoral ministers. The Bishops have the particularly grave responsibility to see to it that their assistants in the ministry, above all the priests, are rightly informed and personally disposed to bring the teaching of the Church in its integrity to everyone.

The characteristic concern and good will exhibited by many clergy and religious in their pastoral care for homosexual persons is admirable, and, we hope, will not diminish. Such devoted ministers should have the confidence that they are faithfully following the will of the Lord by encouraging the homosexual person to lead a chaste life and by affirming that person's God-given dignity and worth.

14. With this in mind, this Congregation wishes to ask the Bishops to be especially cautious of any programmes which may seek to pressure the Church to change her teaching, even while claiming not to do so. A careful examination of their public statements and the activities they promote reveals a studied ambiguity by which they attempt to mislead the pastors and the faithful. For example, they may present the teaching of the Magisterium, but only as if it were an optional source for the formation of one's conscience. Its specific authority is not recognized. Some of these groups will use the word "Catholic" to describe either the organization or its intended members, yet they do not defend and promote the teaching of the Magisterium; indeed, they even openly attack it. While their members may claim a desire to conform their lives to the teaching of Jesus, in fact they abandon the teaching of his Church. This contradictory action should not have the support of the Bishops in any way.

15. We encourage the Bishops, then, to provide pastoral care in full accord with the teaching of the Church for homosexual persons of their dioceses. No authentic pastoral programme will include organizations in which homosexual persons associate with each other without clearly stating that homosexual activity is immoral. A truly pastoral approach will appreciate the need for homosexual persons to avoid the near occasions of sin.

We would heartily encourage programmes where these dangers are avoided. But we wish to make it clear that departure from the Church's teaching, or silence about it, in an effort to provide pastoral care is neither caring nor pastoral. Only what is true can ultimately be pastoral. The neglect of the Church's position prevents homosexual men and women from receiving the care they need and deserve.

An authentic pastoral programme will assist homosexual persons at all levels of the spiritual life: through the sacraments, and in particular through the frequent and sincere use of the sacrament of Reconciliation, through prayer, witness, counsel and individual care. In such a way, the entire Christian community can come to recognize its own call to assist its brothers and sisters, without deluding them or isolating them.

16. From this multi-faceted approach there are numerous advantages to be gained, not the least of which is the realization that a homosexual person, as every human being, deeply needs to be nourished at many different levels simultaneously.

The human person, made in the image and likeness of God, can hardly be adequately described by a reductionist reference to his or her sexual orientation. Every one living on the face of the earth has personal problems and difficulties, but challenges to growth, strengths, talents and gifts as well. Today, the Church provides a badly needed context for the care of the human person when she refuses to consider the person as a "heterosexual" or a "homosexual" and insists that every person has a fundamental Identity: the creature of God, and by grace, his child and heir to eternal life.

17. In bringing this entire matter to the Bishops' attention, this Congregation wishes to support their efforts to assure that the teaching of the Lord and his Church on this important question be communicated fully to all the faithful.

In light of the points made above, they should decide for their own dioceses the extent to which an intervention on their part is indicated. In addition, should they consider it helpful, further coordinated action at the level of their National Bishops' Conference may be envisioned.

In a particular way, we would ask the Bishops to support, with the means at their disposal, the development of appropriate forms of pastoral care for homosexual persons. These would include the assistance of the psychological, sociological and medical sciences, in full accord with the teaching of the Church.

They are encouraged to call on the assistance of all Catholic theologians who, by teaching what the Church teaches, and by deepening their reflections on the true meaning of human sexuality and Christian marriage with the virtues it engenders, will make an important contribution in this particular area of pastoral care.

The Bishops are asked to exercise special care in the selection of pastoral ministers so that by their own high degree of spiritual and personal maturity and by their fidelity to the Magisterium, they may be of real service to homosexual persons, promoting their health and well-being in the fullest sense. Such ministers will reject theological opinions which dissent from the teaching of the Church and which, therefore, cannot be used as guidelines for pastoral care.

We encourage the Bishops to promote appropriate catechetical programmes based on the truth about human sexuality in its relationship to the family as taught by the Church. Such programmes should provide a good context within which to deal with the question of homosexuality.

This catechesis would also assist those families of homosexual persons to deal with this problem which affects them so deeply.

All support should be withdrawn from any organizations which seek to undermine the teaching of the Church, which are ambiguous about it, or which neglect it entirely. Such support, or even the semblance of such support, can be gravely misinterpreted. Special attention should be given to the practice of scheduling religious services and to the use of Church buildings by these groups, including the facilities of Catholic schools and colleges. To some, such permission to use Church property may seem only just and charitable; but in reality it is contradictory to the purpose for which these institutions were founded, it is misleading and often scandalous.

In assessing proposed legislation, the Bishops should keep as their uppermost concern the responsibility to defend and promote family life.

18. The Lord Jesus promised, "You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free" (Jn. 8:32). Scripture bids us speak the truth in love (cf. Eph. 4:15). The God who is at once truth and love calls the Church to minister to every man, woman and child with the pastoral solicitude of our compassionate Lord. It is in this spirit that we have addressed this Letter to the Bishops of the Church, with the hope that it will be of some help as they care for those whose suffering can only be intensified by error and lightened by truth.

(During an audience granted to the undersigned Prefect, His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, approved this Letter, adopted in an ordinary session of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and ordered it to be published.)

Given at Rome, 1 October 1986.


Titular Archbishop of Caesarea in Numidia