Canadian bishops to gay teens: you are more than your sexual orientation

By Marianne Medlin

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The Canadian bishops reaffirmed the Church's love and concern for young people with same sex-attraction on Monday, and condemned a societal trend that they argue reduces people to their sexual preferences.

“Those with same-sex attraction are first and foremost human beings, our brothers and sisters in Christ,” the bishops emphasized.

But although sexual identity “helps situate the person as a unique individual,” they added, “the human person can hardly be described by a reductionist reference to his or her sexual orientation.”

The Canadian bishops said in their June 27 pastoral letter that only the richness and depth of Catholic teaching on human sexuality can affirm the dignity of young people with same-sex attraction – versus the shallow “hedonism” offered by consumer culture.

They said that teens in particular have become “targets of solicitations, often through the media, which encourage them to consider sexual relations as simply another product of consumption.”

In response to society's “false” ideas of freedom, the “beauty of the Church’s teaching on human sexuality, which leads to authentic freedom, needs to be lived and convincingly preached by everyone.”

The bishops also underscored how necessary it is for Catholics to understand the pressures and struggles that teens with same-sex attraction face, such as unjust discrimination, a sense of invisibility and isolation, and cultural ignorance of their particular situation.
 
“To help them overcome this,” they said, “we ourselves must be mature in our faith and profoundly rooted in friendship with Christ.”

The pastoral letter, titled “Pastoral Ministry to Young People with Same-Sex Attraction,” explained  that sexual relations belong within a marriage covenant between a man and a woman, serve to deepen the love between spouses and to foster “the procreation and education of children.”

“Any genital act outside the covenant of marriage cannot fulfill this twofold purpose intended by the Creator and thus is morally wrong,” they wrote.

At the same time, the Canadian bishops clarified that “the Church never condemns persons with same-sex attraction.” “While homosexual acts are always objectively wrong, same-sex inclinations are not in themselves sinful or a moral failing.”

The bishops noted that everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation, is called to live the virtue of chastity, which enables people to love others with selflessness and authenticity. “Through his life of self-giving and chaste love," the letter said, "Christ has left all of us an example to follow for living our sexuality, whether as single or married persons.”

“For everyone, chastity means integrating one’s thoughts, feelings and actions in the area of human sexuality so that they reflect the moral order,” they explained. “It makes self-giving possible and is the prerequisite for generous love and true fulfillment.”

The bishops called on pastors, parents and educators to open their arms to young people with same-sex attraction and welcome them with the fullness of the Church's message on human sexuality.

“Catholics ought to be exemplary in treating persons with homosexual inclinations first and foremost as human beings created by God and worthy of respect.”

They also spoke directly to teens, reminding them that they are children “of God, embraced by his tender love,” and warning them to be vigilant against the lie that they are alone or rejected by the Church.

The bishops encouraged them to cultivate the practice of prayer and frequent reception of the sacraments, and to develop deep and lasting friendships.

“Above all, hold close to your heart that being a Christian is about a relationship with Jesus Christ, who gives your life meaning and a decisive direction.”

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