In the mid-1970s, the Vatican recognized the difference between being homosexual and engaging in homogenital (same-sex) acts. Catholic teaching holds that, as a state beyond a person’s choice, being homosexual is not wrong. But just as it is wrong for unmarried heterosexuals to engage in sex, so, too, homogenital acts are wrong.
The Church also teaches understanding and compassion toward gay and lesbian people. In their 1976 statement, To Live in Christ Jesus, the American bishops wrote, “Some persons find themselves through no fault of their own to have a homosexual orientation. Homosexuals, like everyone else, should not suffer from prejudice against their basic human rights. They have a right to respect, friendship, and justice. They should have an active role in the Christian community.… The Christian community should provide them a special degree of pastoral understanding and care.” In 1990, in their instruction, Human Sexuality, the Catholic Bishops repeated this teaching, which is also in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
In 1997, the U.S. Catholic Bishops published Always Our Children: A Pastoral Message to Parents of Homosexual Children and Suggestions for Pastoral Ministers. Addressing lesbians and gay men, the bishops said, “In you God’s love is revealed.” The bishops encouraged families to remain connected when a member revealed his or her homosexuality and called for the establishment of ministries sensitive to the needs of gay and lesbian Catholics and their families.