reprinted from IN TOUCH WITH CHURCH AND FAITH #170, a Jescom publication.
Catholic bishops are appealing for funds to cover the cost of translation into Ndebele and Shona of their most recent pastoral letter, “Proclaiming a Gospel of Life.” The letter released on March 13 deals with human life from the moment of conception until natural death (abortion), the death penalty and same-sex unions (homosexuality). All these issues have come up in the debate about a new constitution for Zimbabwe.
‘Among the many topics that have arisen in discussion in recent months have been issues surrounding capital punishment, abortion and same sex unions, these are all matters that touch the very core of our Christian values. We believe as Catholics that each person has been created in the image of God (Gen1:26f). It is therefore the responsibility of every society to ensure that every human life is protected and respected from the moment of conception until natural death. This is a basic principle of Catholic social teaching and so this is an opportune moment for us to reflect on what the Catholic Church teaches about the value and dignity of human life.’
‘If we proclaim Jesus? respect for life then we do not have the right to deny life to anyone. This is why the Catholic Church speaks out in defence of the sacredness of human life from the moment of conception until natural death. Capital punishment should be abolished because it is God alone who can give and take away life. By standing for the abolition of the death penalty in our country we are not unaware of the need to offer sympathy and support to victims of violent crime and their families. We know that reform of our prison system is not an easy task but we are convinced that it is necessary so that we can become agents of genuine reform and rehabilitation of convicted criminals. Rather than maintaining the death penalty let us look towards a more creative and pastoraly fruitful way of empowering people to choose to live life in the way God intends.’
The Bishops speak at some length on the difficult subject of homosexuality and more especially of same-sex unions. Here the final paragraph summing up the Church’s teaching on this issue:
‘True sexual union is union between a man and a woman, a union that is open to the possibility of children. It is simply impossible for members of the same sex to engage in the kind of sexual act that God had in mind. Homosexuals are to be treated justly but the Catholic Church could never sanction a legal category such as „same sex marriage?. This would be a contradiction, as marriage can only be between a man and woman.
People struggle with same-sex attraction and while we must never do anything that contributes to their being alienated or discriminated against, we must do everything in our power to help them, and ourselves, work towards a true redemption of our human sexuality in conformity to Christ. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is clear, chastity is the only acceptable expression of love for those who experience themselves as homosexual. Abstaining from our disordered sexual desires is the true path to justice, peace and reconciliation for all of us no matter what our sexual orientation.’
This Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference pastoral letter still has to be translated into Ndebele and Shona and printed for distribution to all parishes.