Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Responding to the "Continued Harm Our Bishops Cause"

Recently, while perusing the website of America Magazine, I came across the text of the May 2010 letter from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to the United States Congress. The focus of this letter is the bishops’ opposition to both the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA) and the granting of civil marriage rights to same-sex couples.

What I found most interesting were the comments by America readers to this letter. Following are those that most resonated with me, and which I feel remain very much relevant given the bishops’ ongoing anti-marriage equality activism.


The US bishops, in their continuing determination to force their view of family on everybody else, ask for special treatment under the law – or no protection from discrimination for a group most grievously discriminated against. Their protestations that they insist on treating persons with a homosexual 'inclination' with respect while arguing against protection from discrimination against 'acts' is playing with semantics.

The Church is fully entitled to 'teach', as they claim, against homosexual actions as their right. But the Church also teaches the importance of conscience, and the right and obligation at times to follow conscience before external authority. It is on precisely this principle that they argue for their own exemption from the law. To practice discrimination against those who dissent in good conscience from their proclaimed views is not only a violation of fundamental principles of civil rights, it is also a violation of the Church's own principles.

The repeated claim that discrimination against homosexual persons is not unjust because it accords with church teaching, simply provides an egregious justification for those who use pseudo-religious arguments as an excuse for going beyond discrimination to physical harassment, violence and even murder. Catholic bishops have used precisely the same arguments for opposing anti-discrimination legislation and for opposing anti-bullying legislation in schools: even though homophobic bullying, implicitly encouraged and supported by the bishops' stance, is a major factor behind teen suicides, with a rate for gay adolescents six times higher than for others.

It is high time the bishops took seriously the implications of their own words. and began to show genuine signs of the 'compassion, dignity and respect' that they speak of so glibly.

– Terence Weldon

As someone who was a cradle Catholic and is gay, though not practicing, I can only communicate my deepest moral revulsion with a church that encourages discrimination against even celibate gays not only as a "right" but a religious obligation. The creation of a class of Untouchables by religion is nothing less than pagan.

The notion of equal treatment under the law, which would require allowing gays and lesbian the same protections that Catholics enjoy under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, protections without which Catholics would have no place in the political life of a protestant and historically anti-Catholic country.

I am the nominal godfather of a Catholic niece. I had never made my opinion of the Church known to her; nor, had I discussed my sexuality with her (she's 22). However, she and her sister both rejected the Church precisely because of its ruthless persecution of even celibate gays. The Church will lose the younger generation over this issue and similar issues.

– Frank W. Elliott, Jr.

Again with the maddening exceptions only for gay people. The bishops do not seek to legally discriminate against straight people who are divorced and remarried or straight couples whose marriage would be considered invalid by canon law - only against gays and lesbians. A little consistency would go a long way in allowing people to assume the bishops' good intentions. The fact that they are not consistent rightly calls their intent into question.

– Deacon Eric Stolz

Once again I am disappointed and not surprised in the bishops of the Church. As a gay man in a 34 year committed relationship with the same man, I cannot begin to tell you what ENDA would mean for us. I do not believe that the Church I was born into is what Jesus envisioned to deliver his message of unconditional love. I am saddened by the continued harm our bishops cause.

– Pat McArron

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
In a Right Gay Tizzy: The Catholic Hierarchy's War on Gays
Responding to Bishop Tobin's Remarks on Gay Marriage
Responding to Whiny Catholic Bishops Who Cry Victim
Progressive Perspectives on Archbishop Nienstedt's Anti-Gay Activism
Persecuted "Enemies of the State"? Or Just Sore Losers?
Catholic Attitudes on Gay and Lesbian Issues: An Overview
Quote of the Day – October 26, 2011
Something to Think About – October 24, 2011
Patrick Hornbeck on Why Good Catholics Are Challenging Church Line on Homosexuality
The Minneapolis (and Online) Premiere of Catholics for Marriage Equality

Recommended Off-site Links:
Catholic Bishops Unveil New Anti-Gay Marriage Website, Promise to Pray for Marriage Inequality Measures – Igor Volsky (ThinkProgress.org, November 14, 2011).
Poll: Only 35% of US Catholics Say Opposition to Marriage Equality is Important PurpleUnions.com (November 14, 2011).

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