Catholic gathering debates role of gays, lesbians
December 6, 1997
Web posted at: 9:10 p.m. EST (0210 GMT)
From Reporter Louise Schiavone
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Roman Catholics gathered on the campus of Georgetown University Saturday to tackle a question some church leaders might wish would just go away: What role should gays and lesbians play in the church?
"The official teaching is all their sexual acts are sinful and they are separated from the spirit of God and in serious danger of losing their souls, which is a pretty heavy burden to carry," says John McNeill, a former Jesuit priest and a member of Saturday's panel.
McNeill speaks from personal experience as a gay man. He says the church first forced him to abandon his ministry to gay and lesbian Catholics and ultimately pushed him out of his religious order about a decade ago.
The Catholic church is trying to come to terms with gays and lesbians in its pews. Last month, U.S. bishops issued a statement saying that, despite the official position of disapproval, the church does not expect parents to choose between their faith and their gay and lesbian children.
"The next step for us is to just keep talking, to be tolerant of people who have a hard time tolerating us -- but to keep the dialogue going, to say to my parents 'I'm not leaving the church,'" says Linda McCullough, a pastoral counselor.
On Saturday, conservative theologians questioned the morality of certain sexual behavior. But even some of their number said that despite those questions, gays and lesbians should be allowed to have some role in the life of the church.
"If you say specifically 'What would their contribution be?,' I think the answer to that is, 'I don't know,'" said James Hannigan of Duquesne University. "Nobody knows because they haven't been given a chance yet to discover what it might be."