The Vatican <> Issued July 22, 1992


Recently, legislation has been proposed in various places which would make discrimination based on alleged sexual behavioral choices illegal. In some cities, municipal authorities have made public housing, otherwise reserved for families, available to homosexuals and unmarried couples. Such initiatives, even where they seem more directed toward support of basic civil rights than approval of biologically aberrant sexual behavioral choices, have in fact a negative impact on the family and society. Such things as the adoption of abandoned or orphaned children, the employment of teachers, the housing needs of genuine families, landlords’ legitimate con­cerns in screening potential tenants, for example, are often implicated.

While it is impossible to anticipate every effect of these legislative proposals, these observations will try to identify some principles and distinctions of a general nature that should be taken into consideration by cons­cientious legislators, voters, or Church authority who is confronted with such issues.

The first section will recall relevant passages from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexuals of 1986. The second section will deal with their application.


1. The letter recalls that the CDF’s Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics of 1975 “took note of the distinction commonly drawn be­tween the homosexual condition or tendency and individual homosexual conduct”; the latter is “intrin­sically disordered” and “in no case to be approved of.” (No. 3)

2. Since “[i]n the discussion which followed the publication of the (aforementioned) declaration …, an overly benign interpretation was given to the homo­sexual problem itself, some going so far as to call it “neutral or even good,” the Letter goes on to clarify: “Although the particular inclination of the homosexual 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 problem, lest they be led to believe that the living out their inclination for homosexual behavioral choices is a morally accep­t­able option. It is not.” (No. 3)

3. “As in every moral disorder, homosexual conduct prevents one’s own fulfillment and happiness by acting contrary to Nature and the creative wisdom of God. The Church, in rejecting erroneous opinions regarding biologically aberrant sexual behavioral choices, does not limit but rather defends per­sonal freedom and dignity realistically and authen­tically understood.” (No. 7)

4. In reference to homosexualist ideological groups, the letter states: “One tactic used is to protest that any and all criticism of or reservations about homosexuals, their activities and conduct, are simply diverse forms of unjust discrimination.” (No. 9)

5. “There is an effort in some countries to manipulate the Church by gaining the often well-intentioned support of her pastors to change civil statutes and laws. This is done to appease these pressure groups’ belief that aberrant sexual behavioral choices are completely harmless, if not entirely good. Even when these sexual behavioral choices seriously threaten the lives and well-being of large numbers of people, homosexualist ideologues remain undeterred and refuse to consider the mag­nitude of the risks involved.” (No. 9)

6. “She (the Church) is also aware that the false opinion that aberrant sexual behavior is equivalent to or as acceptable as the natural 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.”  (No. 9)

7. “It is deplorable that those that engage in aberrant sexual behaviors have been or are the object of violence. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church’s pastors wherever it occurs. It shows a disregard for others that endangers the 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 response to alleged crimes against homosexuals is not to claim that homosexual behavior is not disordered. Neither the Church nor society at large should be surprised that such a claim and consequently, the condoning of homosexual behavior, or introducing civil legislation protecting sexual behavioral choices to which no one has any conceivable right, merely advance other distorted notions and practices that provoke irrational and violent reactions.” (No. 10)

8. “What is to be avoided at all costs is the unfounded and demeaning assumption that aberrant sexual behavioral choices are compulsive and therefore non-culpable. It is essential that the fundamental liberty which characterizes the human person and gives him his dignity be recognized as belonging to homosexuals as well.” (No. 11)

9. “In assessing proposed legislation, the bishops should keep as their uppermost concern the responsibility to defend and promote family life.” (No. 17)


10. With respect to nondiscrimination, homo­sexual sexual behavioral choices are never comparable to race, ethnic background, sex, etc. Unlike these, homo­sexual behavioral choices are an objective disorder (cf. Letter, No. 3) and give rise to legitimate grave moral concern.

11. There are areas in which it is not unjust discrimination to take aberrant sexual behavioral choices into account, for example, in the placement of abandoned or orphaned children for adoption or foster care, in employment of teachers or athletic coaches, and in military recruitment.

12. Homosexuals already enjoy the same rights as everyone else, including the right to not be treated in a manner which offends their per­sonal dignity. (cf. No. 10) Among other rights, everyone has the right to work, to housing, etc. Never­theless, these rights are not absolute. They can be legitimately limited for objectively disordered external con­duct. This is sometimes not only licit but obligatory. This is required, moreover, not only in the case of culpable behavior, but also in the case of the physically or mentally ill. Thus it is accepted that the state may restrict the exercise of rights, for example, in the case of contagious or mentally ill persons, in order to protect the common good.

13. Including homosexual behavior to the list of categories protected from illegal discrimination can easily lead to erroneously seeing this behavior as a positive source of human rights, for example, in respect to affirmative action or preferential treatment in hiring practices. This is all the more deleterious since there is absolutely no right to engage in homo­se­xual behavior. (cf. No. 10) And this behavior, therefore, should never be the basis of a legal “right,” benefit, or protection. Making homosexualism a legally protected class can easily, if not automa­tically, lead to the legislative protection and promotion of this aberrant sexual behavioral choices. Homosexualism could then be invoked to oppose alleged dis­cri­mination, and thus the exercise of human and civil rights would be defended pre­cisely by affirming the alleged homo­sexual behavior in­stead of in terms of a violation of basic human rights.

14. A person’s sexual behavioral choices, “identities,” or “expressions” are not comparable to race, sex, age, etc., for another important rea­son than that given above. Not being a physical characteristic, an individual’s sexual behavioral choices are not generally known to others unless he publicly makes known that he engages in this behavior or unless some overt behavior reveals it. As a rule, many homo­sexually troubled persons seek to lead chaste lives and do not publicize their sexual behavioral choice. Hence the problem of discrimination in terms of employment, housing, etc., does not usually arise.

Homosexuals who assert their aberrant behavioral choice tend to be those who think homo­sexual behavior is “either completely harmless, if not an entirely good thing,” (cf. No. 3) and hence worthy of public approval. It is from this group that one is more likely to find those seeking to “manipulate the Church by gaining the often well-intentioned support of her pastors with a view to changing civil statutes and laws;” (cf. No. 5) those who use the dishonest tactic of protesting that “any and all criticism of or reservations about homosexuals … are sim­ply diverse forms of unjust discrimination.” (cf. No. 9)

In addition, there is a danger that laws making homosexual behavior the basis for entitlements will actually encourage those with a homosexual inclination to declare their homosexualism or seek a partner with whom to exploit the provisions of the law.

15. In assessing proposed legis­­lation top concern should be given to the res­pon­­sibility to defend and promote family life; (cf. No. 17) strict attention should be paid to the single provisions of proposed measures. How will they affect adop­tion or foster care? Will they protect homo­sexual behavioral choices, public or private? Do they confer equiva­lent fa­mi­ly status on homosexual relationships, for example, in res­pect to public housing or entitle a homosexual partner to employment privileges that include such things as “family” healthcare coverage given to employees? (cf. No. 9)

16. Finally, where a matter of the common good is concerned, it is inappropriate for Church authorities to endorse or remain neutral toward adverse legislation even if it grants exceptions to Church organizations and institutions. The Church has the responsibility to promote family life and the public wellbeing of civil society as a whole on the basis of fundamental moral values, not simply to protect herself from the application of harmful and unjust laws. (cf. No. 17)

  • Published in the L’Osservatore Romano, 24 July 1992 – CCF Translation.

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