CARDINAL Basil Hume, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, has indicated that the Church will probably not oppose a lowering of the homosexual age of consent.
In a statement prepared with the help of prominent Roman Catholic homosexuals, the Cardinal reiterates the Vatican condemnation of homosexual acts as 'objectively wrong' and of homosexual inclinations as 'objectively disordered'.
However, he says that 'people who know themselves to be homosexual must not for that reason develop a sense of guilt or think of themselves as unpleasing to God. On the contrary, they are precious to God.
'None the less, God expects homosexual people, as indeed he does heterosexual people, to keep his law and to work towards achieving a difficult idea, even if this will only be achieved gradually.
'The church is aware that people may fail to live consistently what she teaches. Pastoral understanding is brought to bear on such failure: the church does not reject such people but wishes to walk with them in order to guide them to a fuller understanding and realisation of the teaching she holds to be God-given.'
Dr Elizabeth Stuart, the editor of a gay and lesbian prayer book, said: 'The Cardinal could not have gone further to meet us.'
She greeted the statement as a sign of hope for Catholic homosexuals. 'The Bishops of England and Wales are some of the most well-informed and educated on this issue in the Catholic Church. A lot of people will be very grateful and relieved that they have not bowed to Vatican pressure.'
The statement was attacked, however, by Peter Tatchell of the pressure group Outrage, who said: 'Cardinal Hume describes physical homosexual love using offensive terms such as 'objective disorder', and 'failure'.'
Asked whether the Cardinal would approve of a lowering of the homosexual age of consent, the Catholic Media Office said: 'There's an opening to that possibility. He's treading a delicate line.'
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