In the Bondings 2.0 post on July 19, 2015, we described a communion denial near Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and in the course of the story, we provided a link to the Archdiocese of New Orleans’ webpage of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on LGBT issues and the Catholic Church. We commented that it was one of the best resources on LGBT issues coming from a website of the institutional Church.
One of our readers, however, informed us that by the afternoon of July 19th, the FAQ webpage was no longer active. Indeed, the entire webpage for the LGBT ministry that the archdiocese had set up was also taken down.
Bondings 2.0 was able to obtain a copy of the page’s text from the morning of July 19th, and it contained a wealth of information from authoritative Catholic sources on issues directly affecting LGBT ministry, presented in a pastorally sensitive way, which is why we had recommended it. You can read the material by clicking here.
Today, the Archdiocese of New Orleans posted the following statement on their main website concerning why the LGBT webpage was deactivated:
“The website and Facebook page for the Pastoral Care of Persons with Same-Sex Orientation, also known as LGBT, have been deactivated. An unauthorized person was able to access the website and post information that contradicts the teaching of the Catholic Church. We deeply regret that this has happened and are taking steps to secure the websites. Our mission is to represent accurately the teaching of the Bible and the Catholic Church and to provide ministry with integrity.
“We are very sorry that this misleading information has been posted and has caused confusion.”
The mystery of this story lies in what the definition of “unauthorized person” is. Does this mean that someone hacked into the website? Or does it mean that someone from the archdiocese had posted the information without getting clearance from higher sources?
It’s very sad that this information has been taken down because it actually explained the full teaching of the Catholic Church on lesbian and gay issues, including teaching on conscience, biblical interpretation, the evaluation of the sinfulness of sexual activity, civil rights, and the development of doctrine.
The archdiocese has said that it is unknown as to when the webpages will become active again.
It will be interesting to see which of the explanations that were on the site on the morning of July 19th will re-appear when the page comes up–particularly those sections which come from authoritative church documents and leaders.
For example, in answer to the question “What about conscience?” the webpage yesterday included the following quotations:
- “A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his [sic] conscience. If he were to deliberately act against it, he would condemn himself.” Catechism of the Catholic Church, # 1790
- “If a man [sic] is admonished by his own conscience—even an erroneous conscience, but one whose voice appears to him as unquestionable—he must always listen to it. What is not permissible is that he culpably indulge in error without trying to reach the truth.” John Paul II, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, 1994, p. 191
- “Deep within a person’s conscience one discovers a law which one has not laid upon one’s self but which one must obey. Its voice, ever calling the person to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, sounds in that person’s heart at the right moment. . . . For one has in his or her heart a law inscribed by God. . . . One’s conscience is one’s most secret core and one’s sanctuary. There one is alone with God whose voice echoes in that person’s depths.” Gaudium et spes, par 16; also Catholic Catechism, #1776
- “Above the pope as an expression of the binding claim of Church authority, stands one’s own conscience, which has to be obeyed first of all, if need be against the demands of Church authority.” Fr. Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI); from a commentary on “Gaudium et Spes” (“The Church in the Modern World”); Published in Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II (Vorgrimler, Herbert – Ed, Burns and Oats, 1969), p. 134.
It will be a shame if this sound Catholic doctrine on conscience is not included in the new page. It should be included in every discussion about LGBT issues.
On the topic of development of doctrine, the page contained opinions of some leading theologians and church figures, as well as this excerpt from the Code of Canon Law:
- No doctrine is understood to be infallibly defined unless it is clearly defined as such. Code of Canon Law, 1983, Canon 749 §3.
In the section on the evaluation of sexual sins, a passage from an official document from the Bishops of England and Wales was cited:
- Pastoral care does not consist simply in the rigid and automatic application of objective moral norms. It considers the individual in his (or her) actual situation, with all his (or her) strengths and weaknesses. The decision of conscience… can only be made after prudent consideration of the real situation as well as the moral norm… the pastoral counselling of homophile persons cannot ignore the objective morality of homosexual genital acts, but it is important to interpret them, to understand the pattern of life in which they take place, to appreciate the personal meaning which these acts have for different people…” Catholic Bishops of England and Wales Catholic Social Welfare Commission, An Introduction to the Pastoral Care of Homosexual People, 1979.
Too often, people think of Church teaching on LGBT issues as narrowly focused on sexual matters. They also forget that teachings on conscience and evaluation of any act’s morality must also be considered in these discussions. Let’s pray that the new webpage will keep these important topics as part of their explanation of the Catholic Church’s view on LGBT topics.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry