Dear Parishioners of Our Lady Star of the Sea,
As we know, the topic of homosexuality is a controversial one that affects the personal lives of many. From some of the responses I have received regarding the decision of this parish to end its affiliation with the Boy Scouts of America, it seems important to clarify some relevant points.
I understand that some people thought that the tone in my previous letter came across as sounding insensitive, harsh, or judgmental. I would be particularly troubled if anyone felt rejected. In my efforts to preach the truth in love, that certainly is never my intention and I am sorry if there was any ambiguity which allowed my words to be heard in that way.
Some respondents also expressed concern that my position did not adequately reflect the teaching of the Church. Therefore, I thought it would be helpful simply to present some basic points regarding the Church’s teaching on homosexuality:
From the Catechism of the Catholic Church #2358:
- 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.
And from #2359:
- Homosexual persons are called to chastity.
- By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops offers a pastoral application of these principles in the document Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination: Guidelines for Pastoral Care (2006). Two points seemed particularly relevant for this decision:
“In the context of parish life, however, general public self- disclosures are not helpful and should not be encouraged.”
“Persons with a homosexual inclination should not be encouraged to define themselves primarily in terms of their sexual inclination, however, or to participate in ‘gay subcultures,’ which often tend to promote immoral lifestyles.”
These points indicate that pastorally it would be a disservice to encourage the practice of making publicly known a homosexual inclination or reducing one’s identity to their sexual attraction. In regard to the new BSA Membership Standards for youth this would be especially true as it concerns a time when youth are still developing and discovering their true identity.
I also think it is important to reiterate that all people are welcome in our parish programs because, as the pastor, I can diligently work within that context to ensure that the Catholic teaching on human sexuality will be presented integrally and in its entirety, and that those seeking healing and holiness may receive all the means of grace found in the Catholic Church in the loving and supportive environment of this parish.
The decision to end our parish affiliation with the BSA was made in consultation with the Scoutmasters from the Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts, who approved the decision to discontinue the parish relationship with the BSA. The actual sponsoring organization, our local Knights of Columbus Council #1379, also voted to no longer charter Boy Scout Troop 1501. We are making every effort to ensure that those families and youth who would like to continue in Scouting are aware of the other local troops that they can join.
As we look toward the future, the Knights of Columbus, the Scoutmasters and I are considering other options that are already available and are now forming so as to continue the great legacy of Scouting in a way that is in accord with our consciences.
Finally, I would like to express my gratitude to many of you who have offered helpful advice, support and prayer in this decision.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Fr. Derek Lappe
For those who would like to deepen their knowledge of the Church’s teaching on the topic of homosexuality, I am happy to provide the following links, which will take you to the relevant documents. I would encourage all of us to be well informed on this important issue.
- Catechism of the Catholic Church - 2357-2359
- Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons - Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (1986)
- Some Considerations Concerning the Response to Legislative Proposals on the Non-Discrimination of Homosexual Persons - Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (1992)
- Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination: Guidelines for Pastoral Care - United States Conference of Catholic Bishop (2006)