In an open letter, Father Philip Bochanski, Executive Director of Courage International, implores Cardinals Jean-Claude Hollerich and Reinhard Marx: “Your Eminences, please be faithful to your oath.
Editor’s note: Two of Europe’s most influential Catholic prelates have publicly pleaded in recent months for the Church to change its teaching on homosexuality.
In February, the Jesuit Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, Archbishop of Luxembourg who is President of the Commission of Episcopal Conferences of the European Union and General Rapporteur of the Synod on Synodality in Rome, said in an interview that the Church’s teaching that homosexual sex is a sin was “wrong”, arguing that “the sociological and scientific basis of this teaching is no longer correct”. More recently, in an interview published on March 31, German Cardinal Reinhard Marx, talk about the same issuesstated that the Catechism of the Catholic Church is “not set in stone” and “it is also permissible to doubt what it says”.
The following “open letter” to Cardinals Hollerich and Marx was written by Father Philip Bochanski, Executive Director of Courage Internationala Catholic apostolate for those who experience same-sex attraction and seek to live a chaste and faithful life.
As a priest who has been involved for many years in pastoral ministry to people who experience same-sex attractions, I have read with deep concern your recent public comments on Catholic teaching on homosexual acts.
You suggested, Cardinal Hollerich, that “the sociological and scientific basis of” the Catholic doctrine that homosexual acts are immoral “is no longer correct”, and you called for “a fundamental revision of the teaching of Church” and “a change of doctrine”. You took the same position on this issue, Cardinal Marx, and justified your position by noting that “the Catechism is not set in stone” and that “one can also question what it says on this important moral teaching.
Yet the paragraph of the Catechism to which you refer presents this teaching in a remarkably firm way. That is, he notes that the teaching is clearly based on Holy Scripture and consistently taught by Church tradition (2357). This invocation of Scripture and Tradition is unusual in the Catechism, but often appears when the Church explains the charism of infallibility. Its use here clearly means that this teaching, which derives from the anthropological fact of the nature of sexualized human bodies, is an infallible teaching of the ordinary universal magisterium.
When each of us was preparing for ordination, like all our brother deacons, priests and bishops, we made a public profession of faith and took an oath of fidelity. When we took this oath, we swore, with regard to these teachings, that we would “hold firmly” to the doctrine of the Church, “that we would transmit and explain it faithfully, and[…]that we would avoid any teaching to the contrary”. We invoked the Holy Trinity and the Holy Gospels to testify to our honesty and sincerity.
Eminences, please be faithful to your oath.
Violating your oath on this teaching would do great harm to the very people you sincerely want to help. “The neglect of Church teaching prevents ‘these brothers and sisters’ from receiving the help they need and deserve”, as the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith wrote in 1986. that this definitive teaching can change raises false hopes among our brothers and sisters, and is sure to leave them feeling more neglected and resentful each time the Church faithfully reaffirms it. By reinforcing this misunderstanding of the divine order of sexuality, you encourage them to seek happiness in relationships that ultimately cannot satisfy, rather than seeking fulfillment in chaste friendships.
Violating your oath would also hurt our brothers and sisters who strive to live chastely in harmony with Church teaching, or encourage their loved ones to do so, at great personal sacrifice. They look to the bishops of the Church as their spiritual fathers and seek from you affirmation and support for the commitments of chastity they have made as faithful Catholics. When they hear you suggest that such commitments are unnecessary, they feel invisible and looked down upon by the very people whose love and care they seek most.
Violating your oath would certainly damage the moral credibility of the Church, in the eyes of the faithful and in the opinion of the world. On the eve of his passion, Our Lord’s sincere prayer was for unity among his apostles, “so that the world may believe” (John 17:21). You stand in the place of these apostles and have assumed the formidable responsibility of closely advising the successor of Saint Peter. Your public disapproval of Church teaching can only create confusion and division among the faithful, and be an outrage to the secular world.
I’m afraid that breaking your oath will cause you great harm as well. As a brother priest and collaborator in the sacred ministry, may I have the audacity to remind you, with great respect and fraternal solicitude, of the solemn significance of the oath we have taken? To break an oath is to commit the sin of perjury, and to deliberately persist in such a grievous sin jeopardizes one’s eternal salvation.
It has been my privilege for almost half of my life to serve the Church of Christ as a priest, and an immense joy for more than half of my priesthood to serve Catholics who experience same-sex attractions and their relatives. It is a great consolation to exercise this ministry with the support and encouragement of the universal Church and its eminent pastors.
Eminences, please be faithful to your oath.
With sincere respect,
Father Philip G. Bochanski
Executive Director, Courage International