THIS WEEK'S pronouncement by U.S. Roman Catholic bishops on homosexuality is a cloud very much larger than a man's hand, but it does contain a silver lining. The document reiterates the church's opposition to same-sex marriage or civil unions and the adoption of children by gay or lesbian couples. With no hint of irony, the document ignores those condemnations when it laments that "more than a few persons with a homosexual inclination feel themselves to be unwelcome and rejected."
The silver lining in the document is its refusal to endorse the notion, popular among some Christians, that homosexual orientation can be "cured" with a combination of willpower and "reparative therapy." Significantly, the document says that "there is no consensus" on therapy.
Like "intelligent design," another pet theory of the religious right, reparative therapy does have adherents with scientific credentials. But the consensus among psychologists is that sexual orientation is shaped early in life, if not before birth, and is usually not amenable to re-engineering, whether or not prayer is involved.
The bishops deserve credit for affirming that gays and lesbians "are created in the image and likeness of God and thus possess an innate human dignity that must be acknowledged and respected." Yet such language undermines support for the church's uncompromising attitude toward gay and lesbian relationships.