The archbishop of Washington won't directly weigh in on Congress' decision to repeal the military's don't ask, don't tell rule, but in an interview that aired on "Fox News Sunday," he said sexuality is always discussed in the Catholic religion within the confines of traditional marriage.
Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who was elevated to the College of Cardinals last month, said the church is often viewed as an "opposition voice" in the debate on gay rights because society is more fixated "on the pleasures of life" than personal responsibility.
And while the Catholic church is not in a position to evaluate the impact of openly gay service members on military readiness directly, Wuerl suggested it wouldn't be the church's first choice.
"That is a question that has to be worked out politically. And there isn't a specific Catholic Church position," he said, "but whatever happens, it has to be seen in terms of the church's teaching position. And that is, human sexuality is something that is supposed to be exercised responsibly and within the context of marriage."
Wuerl said the church believes every human being deserves to be treated "with fairness," even if marriage can only be sanctified as a union between a man and a woman.
"What the church is concerned about and what it brings to this debate, this discussion, are two realities. One, the understanding the long, long teaching of the church that every human being is worthy of respect," Wuerl said. "Then you also have to take the rest of the Gospel message, the rest of Jesus's message that human sexuality has a purpose. And this is not for simply personal satisfaction. Human sexuality has to be seen in the context of the great gift of love, marriage, family."
That context forced the church to take another "anti-gay" position earlier this year. In February, the D.C. archdiocese ended its 80-year foster program in the nation's capital because the city's legalization of gay marriage meant that the church couldn't say no to placing foster children with legally married gay couples.
Wuerl said Catholic social services will minister to everyone regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation or otherwise, but "some things we can't do."
"We want to be able to work with everybody and to continue to serve as we do, everybody," Wuerl said. "And so when we are asked to redefine marriage, we can't do that. ... If you change that definition and then insist that we now follow a new definition, we're going to be limited. And that is what happened."