[Full text of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) President’s Pastoral Moral Guidance, sent to Catholic in Asia March 3, 2015.]
Congress of the Philippines is poised to pass into law that 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.
In 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
+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan