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Nordic bishops alert to "a secular discourse on sexuality".

The bishops of the Scandinavian Bishops' Conference, including Cardinal Arborelius of Stockholm, have outlined insights from Christian teaching on sexuality, warning of "the limits of a purely secular discourse," in a recently published pastoral letter.

Francisco Otamendi-March 28, 2023-Reading time: 4 minutes
Sexuality scandinavian bishops letter arborelius

Cardinal Arborelius with Pope Francis (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

The pastoral letter of the eight bishops, entitled "On Human Sexuality," "is intended to indicate a direction to those believers and people of good will who are troubled by an overly worldly view of the human being and his sexuality," states the scandinavian bishops' conferenceand was published on the Fifth Sunday of Lent, as a continuation of its recently concluded Spring Plenary Assembly.

"Our mission and task as bishops is to point out the peacemaking and life-giving way of Christ's commandments, which is narrow at first, but widens as we go along. We would fail you if we offered less. We were not ordained to preach our little notions".

Sign the pastoral letter Bishops Czeslaw Kozon (Copenhagen), current president; Cardinal Anders Arborelius (Stockholm), who presided over the conference from 2005 to 2015; Peter Bürcher, emeritus of Reykjavik; Bernt Eidsvig Can.Reg. (Oslo); Berislav Grgić, Tromsø; P Marco Pasinato, Ap.Adm. (Helsinki); David Tencer OFM Cap. (Reykjavik); and Erik Varden OCSO, Trondheim.

Christian teaching on sexuality

After a review of biblical images, the bishops state that "we need deep roots. Let us try, then, to appropriate the fundamental principles of Christian anthropology, approaching with friendship and respect those who feel alienated from them. We owe it to the Lord, to ourselves and to our world to give an account of what we believe and why we believe it to be true".

"Many are perplexed by traditional Christian teaching on sexuality," they add. "To these we offer friendly advice. First: try to familiarize yourself with the call and promise of Christ, to know him better through the Scriptures and in prayer, through the liturgy and the study of the whole doctrine of the Church, not just fragments taken here and there. Participate in the life of the Church. In this way you will broaden the horizon of the questions from which you started, and also your mind and your heart".

Secondly, the Nordic episcopate advises to "consider the limits of a purely secular discourse on sexuality. It has to enrich it. We need proper terms to talk about these important things. We will have a valuable contribution to make if we recover the sacramental nature of sexuality in God's plan, the beauty of Christian chastity and the joy of friendship, which shows the great liberating intimacy that can also be found in non-sexual relationships."

Complementarity of men and women

In this context, the Scandinavian bishops recall: "The image of God in human nature is manifested in the complementarity of man and woman. Man and woman are created for each other: the commandment to be fruitful depends on this reciprocity, sanctified in the nuptial union". 

They then add: "In the WritingThe marriage of man and woman becomes an image of God's communion with humanity, which will be perfect at the marriage of the Lamb at the end of history. This does not mean that such a union, for us, is easy or painless. To some it seems an impossible option. Internally, the integration of masculine and feminine characteristics can be difficult. The Church recognizes this. It wishes to embrace and comfort all those who experience this issue with difficulty."

About the LGBTQ+ movement

The Nordic bishops' pastoral letter speaks explicitly of valuing the LGBTQ+ movement "as it relates to the dignity of all people and their longing to be taken into account," the bishops' conference notes. "The Church explicitly condemns 'any kind of discrimination,' and that includes discrimination based on gender identity or orientation."

However, the bishops oppose a view of human nature "that conveys an image of humanity (...) that dissolves the bodily integrity of the person, as if biological sex were something purely accidental." In particular, they criticize that "such views are imposed on children as if they were not bold hypotheses but proven facts" and "imposed on minors as an oppressive burden of having to determine their own identity without being equipped to do so."

The body, linked to the personality

Further on, they add: "It is curious: our society, so concerned about the body, actually takes it lightly, refusing to see in the body a sign of identity, and consequently assuming that the only individuality is the one produced by subjective self-perception, constructing us in our own image". 

"When we profess that God has made us in his image, this does not only refer to the soul. Mysteriously it also refers to the body," the Scandinavian prelates add. "For us Christians, the body is intrinsically linked to the personality. We believe in the resurrection of the body. Of course, 'We will all be transformed.' What our body will be like in eternity is hard to imagine."

The bishops also write: "We believe with biblical authority, based on tradition, that the unity of mind, soul and body will last forever. In eternity we will be recognizable for what we already are, but the conflicting aspects that still impede the harmonious development of our true selves will have been resolved."

Realizing love

Finally, the bishops refer to charity, love and the paschal mysteries. "The Church's teaching does not seek to reduce love, but to realize it." "So that it may be understood that every exercise of perfect Christian virtue can only spring from love, for in love it has its ultimate end. From this love the world was made and our nature took shape. This love was manifested in the exemplarity of Christ, in his teaching, in his saving passion and in his death." 

And they conclude: "Love triumphed in his glorious resurrection, which we will celebrate with joy during the fifty days of Easter. May our multifaceted and multicolored Catholic community bear witness to this love in truth".

Cardinal Arborelius, Bishop of Stockholm, pointed out that it was "important to bring the faith of the Church to the people of today" and to do so "especially against the background of the different theories on human sexuality". And Bishop Erik Varden (Trondheim) stressed: "Our faithful ask us what the Church says about gender, and we want to respond constructively.

The authorFrancisco Otamendi

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