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From Mr Sebastian Sandys

Sir: Seen together, Cardinal Hume's statement on homosexual love and Bishop Rawcliffe's public declaration of his own homosexuality show a marked shift in the long-standing debate within mainstream churches of this contentious subject. Your well-considered leader (9 March), despite its reference to Bishop Rawcliffe's action as an "admission" of homosexuality, adds to the sensible way in which this debate has been revived.

Of the two developments this week, Bishop Rawcliffe's "coming out" is by far the most positive and encouraging. While I do not accept the arguments used against "outing", it is self- evident that frank and honest declarations such as his are preferable to Outrage or others doing his outing for him. Bishop Rawcliffe has shown the way, and it can only be hoped that many of the still-closeted homosexuals in the church hierarchy will follow his lead.

Cardinal Hume's statement, on the other hand, for all its genuine compassion and humanity, still reaffirms the Catholic church's prejudices and misconceptions about homosexuals. That the cardinal still persists in making the clear distinction between orientation and practice is damaging to those homosexuals seeking to make sense of their desire to love and their faith. This attitude of "loving the sinner and hating the sin" mitigates against any attempts at wholeness and integrity. Cardinal Hume also asserts that it is right to discriminate against homosexuals in cases of fostering and adoption, perpetuating the myth for which there is no evidence, that homosexuals present a particular risk to children and young people.

Despite these reservations, the events of this week are encouraging, and we must now look to other church leaders to show similar tolerance and honesty. Their silence is no longer acceptable.

Yours faithfully,


London, E1

9 March