Monday, June 13, 2016

Two Powerful Calls for the Catholic Hierarchy to Fully Acknowledge the LGBT Victims of Anti-LGBT Violence

Above: The victims of the June 12 Orlando gay nightclub shooting. At the end of this post is another collage of images, along with the names and ages of all those killed by Omar Mateen in the deadliest mass shooting by a single gunman and the deadliest incident of violence against LGBT people in U.S. history.

Two leading LGBT Catholic figures have issued strong statements in response to the June 12 mass shooting at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in which 49 people were killed and 53 injured by a lone gunman. Both call on the church's clerical leadership to end its silence on the LGBT dimension of the lives lost in Orlando and the anti-LGBT prejudices that undergird the long history of violence against LGBT people.

Michael Bernard Kelly's call has been expressed via a number of statements shared on his Facebook page. Kelly is internationally renowned for his work in integrating Christian spirituality and gay experience, and the first of his statements is an excerpt from his 2007 book, Seduced by Grace: Contemporary Spirituality, Gay Experience and Christian Faith:

You cannot repeatedly, and in the name of God, present a group of people as unnatural, disordered, oriented towards evil, depraved, and a danger to society and family, and not expect that violence will break out a against them sooner or later. Church leaders must have the moral courage to face the destructive results of teachings they claim are the Word of God. They must also examine their own words.

In direct response to the Orlando massacre, Kelly initially posted the following:

To every politician, and every civic or religious leader, including the Pope, who expressed sorrow and outrage at the Orlando shootings, but so very carefully avoided mentioning Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer people – YOU are part of the problem. Your words are empty and your hearts are hollow. Get back to us when you are ready to put yourself on the line to support and affirm US in the face of hatred and violence. Till then, hang your head in shame and repent of all that your past bigotry and current silence has spawned.

Kelly's next statement was issued in response to one made by Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney in which no mention whatsoever was made of the LGBT identities of the victims.

Archbishop, as you know, the victims were overwhelmingly LGBT people. They were shot in an LGBT venue by a man who had previously stated his disgust at affection between gay men. Your failure to refer in any way at all to these realities is shameful and cowardly. Your failure to express sympathy, compassion and solidarity towards the LGBT community is shameful. Your failure to quote Catholic teaching that violence against LGBT people must be condemned by the church's pastors wherever it occurs, is shameful. Your failure to insist that our country remain a safe and welcoming place for LGBT people, and to condemn violence in words and actions against us, here in Australia, is shameful. You know better. You have failed in your duty of Christian leadership. Your refusal to name the reality of these victims lives as LGBT people is itself part of the problem. Read the words of Archbishop Blasé Cupich of Chicago if you want a model for how a true Catholic pastor should respond at such a time. When will YOU hold a mass of outreach to the LGBT community? You should be ashamed of yourself. You add insult to injury.

Above: Caleb McGrew, 36, right, wipes tears as he stands with his partner Yosniel Delgado Giniebra, 37, during a vigil in memory of the victims of the Orlando mass shooting. (Photo: Associated Press)

Meanwhile, Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, released the following statement in the wake of the Orlando tragedy. In this statement, DeBernardo highlights in detail the positive example of Archbishop Blasé Cupich mentioned by Kelly.

Words truly cannot express the horror, anguish, anger, and revulsion at the news of the mass murder of at least 50 people at a gay and lesbian nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Such an action should instill in all people around the globe a commitment to end gun violence and to protect the lives of LGBT people.

Adding to the anguish of this tragedy is the response of most Catholic leaders. The Vatican’s initial statement expressed sorrow and condemnation, and hope “that ways may be found, as soon as possible, to effectively identify and contrast the causes of such terrible and absurd violence . . .” But the Vatican did not refer to the fact that this violence was directed at the LGBT community.

Similarly, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, made no direct reference to the LGBT community in his statement, noting only that the incident should call people to “ever greater resolve in protecting the life and dignity of every single person.”

While individual bishops have reacted publicly to the violence, the only statement thus far from a Catholic leader which mentions the gay and lesbian community is Chicago’s Archbishop Blase Cupich. In sympathy, Archbishop Cupich stated that “our prayers and hearts are with. . . our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.” Such simple words should not be difficult for Catholic leaders to mention in the face of such vicious horror. Archbishop Cupich is to be praised for being a light in the darkness.

Clearly the targeting of a gay nightclub shows that homophobia is a major factor which causes “terrible and absurd violence.” This attack highlights the fact that around the globe, every day, LGBT people face oppression, intimidation, and violence. Homophobic and transphobic attitudes and behaviors are carried out all-too-commonly in the form of discriminatory practices, verbal abuse, bullying, imprisonment, physical and sexual abuse, torture, and death. In many cases, this brutality is sanctioned by governments and religious leaders who propagate homophobic and transphobic messages. The Vatican and other church leaders have yet to speak clearly and definitively on these contemporary issues despite the fact that official church teaching would support condemnations of these hate-filled messages, practices, and laws.

As we pray for an end to gun violence and an end to violence directed against LGBT people, we also include in our prayers the hope that Muslim people will not become victims of a backlash against them because of the shooter’s religious background. Such a response is as vicious and senseless as the violence perpetrated against the nightclub victims.

The Orlando murders should move all Catholic leaders to reflect on how their silence about homophobic and transphobic attitudes and violence contributes to behaviors which treat LGBT people as less than human and deserving of punishment. This sad moment in our history should become a time when Catholic leaders speak loudly and clearly, with one voice, that attacks on LGBT people must stop.

Heartfelt thanks to both Michael Bernard Kelly and Francis DeBernardo for their powerful statements.

For DeBernardo's follow-up piece, "Why Can't Catholic Bishops Say "Gay"?, click here.


Above: Forty-six of the 49 victims of the Orlando gay nightclub shooting. (Note: Two of the victims in this collage from BuzzFeed News are pictured twice.) For The Guardian newspaper's compilation of personal profiles of each victim, click here.

Top row: Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24; Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24; Martin Benitez Torres, 33; Angel Candelario, 28; Oscar A Aracena-Montero, 26; Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31; Jerald Arthur Wright, 31; Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22.

Second row: Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25; Akyra Monet Murray, 18; Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20; Enrique L. Rios Jr., 25; Anthony Luis Laureano Disla, 25; Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35; Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37; Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36.

Third row: Paul Terrell Henry, 41; Frank Hernandez Escalante, 27; Antonio Davon Brown, 29; Miguel Angel Honorato, 30; Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40; Jean C. Nives Rodriguez, 27; Amanda Alvear, 25; Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32.

Fourth row: Darryl Roman Burt II, 29; Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24; Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30; Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22; Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32; Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25; Luis Vielma, 22; Kimberly J. Morris, 37.

Fifth row: Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33; Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50; Christopher “Drew” Leinonen, 32; Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26; Cory Connell, 21; Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25; a second image of Luis Vielma, 22; a second image of Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20.

Sixth row: Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, 25; Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37, and Luis Conde, 39; Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35; Brenda McCool, 49; Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34; Tevin Crosby, 25; Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33.

Above right: Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19.

Left: Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21.

NOTE: For The Guardian newspaper's compilation of personal profiles of the victims of the Orlando massacre, click here.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Catholic Church Can Overcome Fear of LGBT People
The Blood-Soaked Thread
"I Pray, I Pray"
Quote of the Day – June 12, 2016
The Ashes of Our Martyrs
Catholic Theologian: "Heterosexism, Not Homosexuality, is the Problem"
Discerning and Embodying Sacred Presence in Times of Violence and Strife

Related Off-site Links:
Orlando Shooting: What It Means to Ignore the LGBT Identity of the Victims – Amy Coopes (Daily Life, June 13, 2016).
Journalist Walks Off TV Show When It Won’t Address Real Cause Of Orlando Shooting – Cavan Sieczkowski (HuffPost Queer Voices, June 13, 2016).
On Sky News Last Night, I Realized How Far Some Will Go to Ignore Homophobia – Owen Jones (The Guardian, June 13, 2016).
Are We Witnessing 'Straightsplaining' of the Orlando Massacre? – David Braniff-Herbert (The Independent, June 13, 2016).
Can We Please Stop Pretending This Massacre Wasn’t About Homophobia? – James Michael Nichols (The Huffington Post, June 13, 2016).
Orlando Is an Extension of Right-wing Christianity's Marriage Battle and Bathroom Wars – Kristen Becker (The Advocate via Common Dreams, June 13, 2016).
Orlando: Religion and Homophobia – Terence Weldon (Queering the Church, June 13, 2016).
These Are the Victims of the Orlando Massacre – Jack Mirkinson and Casey Tolan (Fusion, June 12, 2016).
This Couple Killed in the Orlando Shooting Hoped to Get Married. Now They Will Have a Joint Funeral – Melissa Chan (Time, June 12, 2016).
The Long, Tragic History of Violence at LGBTQ Bars and Clubs in America – Mark Joseph Stern (Slate, June 12, 2016).

UPDATES: U.S. Catholic Bishops' Silence on Guns and Gays – Patricia Miller (Religion Dispatches, June 17, 2016).
Why Conservatives Won’t Identify the Orlando Shooting Victims as LGBT – Zack Ford (Think Progress, June 17, 2016).
Orlando Hospitals Are Going to Waive Pulse Survivors' Medical BillsVice (August 25, 2016).


Beth in MN said...

Thanks for collecting these thoughts and articles Michael.

Michael J. Bayly said...

The U.S. Catholic journal Commonweal has a blog posting about Orlando. It contains not a single reference to the fact that those killed in this act of mass murder were mostly LGBTQ people at a gay bar.

Here's how one reader, Jack Marth, responds:

"I am dismayed that a blog posting on this site with the headline 'Orlando' not 'Orlando and Guns' (the first posting on this topic, btw) fails to even mention that this act of gun violence was directed at the LGBTQ community. Given the need for our Church to repent of the sin of homophobia and atone for our Church's responsibility for creating a climate of hatred it is hard not to label this posting as oblivious. It is easy for Catholics to be self-righteous about gun issues. Our Church and its leaders are actually generally on target on this issue. When gun violence was directed at people because of their race, our leaders were not at all hesitant to speak of racism. Kudos. But for a few exceptions (Cupich, Lynch and McElroy are the ones I am familiar with), our Church leaders have ignored the fact that LGBTQ people were the targets of the Orlando violence or have used offensive terms like 'personal lifestyle' (Cordileone) to describe our LGBTQ brothers and sisters. Catholics don't need to prove they are pro-life about gun violence right now – we need to prove that we stand in full solidarity with the LGBTQ community."

Richard G Evans said...

Thanks indeed. Where is Archbishop Hebda? And for that matter the Holy Father? All that is on the Archdiocese of St Paul website is a less than satisfactory (and second hand) quote from Pope Francis, given through Federico Lombardi. Perhaps more will be said by both--I certainly pray so. All of this distresses me greatly but the silence of those two men of God most of all. I expected more.