Catholic education supports non-discrimination against LGBTQ community, statement says

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(Unsplash / Delia Giandeini)

Catholic social education provides “a clear basis” for church leaders to support non-discrimination protections for the LGBTQ community, according to a statement by an LBGTQ advocacy group signed by more than 250 of leading theologians, leaders of church, academics and Catholic writers across the country.

“A Home for All: A Catholic Call for LGBTQ Non-Discrimination,” published Aug. 9 by New Ways Ministry, argues that Catholic doctrine “presents a positive argument to end discrimination against LGBTQ people,” despite the strong opposition expressed by some of the outspoken senior conservative church leaders.

“We affirm that Catholic education should not be used to further oppress LGBTQ people by denying their rights rooted in their inherent human dignity and in the church’s call for social equality,” it reads in part. in the 2,285 word document.

Thomas Gumbleton, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Detroit, was the only bishop to sign the declaration on August 7. New Ways Ministry had invited 26 bishops considered favorable to the cause to sign, said Francis DeBernardo, executive director of the organization. Fans will be able to add their names once the statement is made public, he said.

Other notable signatories include Sr. Helen Prejean, sister of Saint Joseph de Médaille and longtime opponent of the death penalty; Bro. Bryan Massingale of Fordham University; Mr. Shawn Copeland, Emeritus Professor of Systematic Theology at Boston College; Sr. Elizabeth Johnson, Emeritus Professor of Theology at Fordham University; Mary McAleese, former President of Ireland; Miguel Diaz, former US Ambassador to the Holy See; Mary Novak, executive director of the Network Catholic Social Justice Lobby; and Sr Simone Campbell, former Executive Director of the Network.

Prominent Catholic writers who signed the document include Richard Rodriguez, author of Memory hunger; Garry Wills, author of Why i am catholic; Ron Hansen, author of Mariette in ecstasy; Mary Gordon, author of Of men and angels; and Gregory Maguire, author of Bad.

Despite legal and social advances in recent years, including the right to marry, the statement notes that LGBTQ people in the United States still face significant discrimination in the areas of health care, housing, employment, foster families, adoption, interactions with the police, access to credit and public housing. This discrimination is compounded when other factors such as race, class and religion are taken into account.

Discrimination, not to mention the lingering stigma and risks of rejection from family members and close friends, contributes to mental health crises among LGBTQ youth. Last fall, the US Congress passed the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act to establish a toll-free number to help people with mental health crises. As NCR previously reported, US bishops quietly lobbied against the legislation because it contained special funding for LGBTQ support.

Over the past 10 years, the bishops’ conference, citing religious freedom grounds, has opposed other bills on Capitol Hill that would ban discrimination in hiring and employment because of sexual orientation or gender identity. The bishops even opposed a compromise bill called the “Fairness for All Act”. which sought to prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ people in most areas of housing, employment, access to credit and social services while preserving existing protections of conscience in the Restoration of Liberty Act religious.

In a letter sent to the main sponsor of the Fairness for All ActU.S. Representative Chris Stewart, a Republican from Utah, the bishops said the bill would establish “gender ideologies as the basis of federal laws, relegating basic truths about biology and marriage to often narrow exemptions. prescribed ”.

The bishops’ uncompromising stance on non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people has shaped the country’s Catholic discourse on LGBTQ issues, according to the New Ways ministry statement.

Rather than involving LGBTQ people through the Catholic principle of social justice to protect their human dignity, several bishops and church leaders have emphasized sexual morality and the magisterial condemnation of sexual activity between people of the same sex.

“Non-discrimination has been such an urgent subject,” said DeBernardo, who added that New Ways Ministry has reacted “strongly” to some bishops and other Catholic leaders who “continue to insist that it is a legitimate Catholic position ”to oppose non-discrimination laws for LGBTQ people.

“Our reading of Catholic doctrine says Catholics should support non-discrimination, and it seems so clear in all of the church’s documents on human dignity, equality, respect and social justice,” said DeBernardo. “The Catholic position is that it means everyone, no matter what that person’s life is, and if it includes everyone, then it includes LGBT people. It is not a ‘choice and choice’ situation. . It must be universal. “

María Teresa Dávila, professor of religious and theological studies at Merrimack College in North Andover, Massachusetts, told NCR that the New Ways ministry statement opens an important and necessary conversation based on the principle of human dignity.

“It is based on Catholic social teaching. It honors the church as an institution that is true for so many and holds the truth about Christ and salvation for so many. The statement honors all of this,” said Dávila, who signed the declaration.

“Our reading of Catholic doctrine says Catholics should support non-discrimination.”

– Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director of New Ways Ministry

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Massimo Faggioli, Church historian and professor of theology and religious studies at Villanova University in Philadelphia, also signed the document. Faggioli told NCR he found the statement “very balanced”.

“I think this is the start of a very long road. I don’t think it will be resolved in a few weeks, months or even years, but the premise is certainly completely correct,” said Faggioli. “There has to be a conversion in terms of the methods we use to discuss these issues.”

Such a conversation is essential to “the cultural and intellectual survival of the Catholic Church, especially in the United States,” he said.

“Here I think the most important step is to get out of the ideology that only sexual issues matter, because it has done enormous damage to sexual issues and everyone else,” Faggioli said.

Steven Millies, director of the Bernardin Center at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, told NCR that the statement addresses the larger question of how the church functions as it relates to civil law and the secular world.

“What, in my opinion, really stands out from this statement is how carefully it is argued to make a very narrow but very important point since civil law is not necessarily the place to argue. the Christian position on human anthropology, ”he said.

“I think it has a lot of parallels with other issues that we have,” he said. “It is certain that the Church can and must express a point of view on political and social questions, but it is also true that in the end, the civil forum is not really the same as the ecclesiastical forum, it is neither must be. And we know the church doesn’t want it to be that way because every call for religious freedom is a call to separate the ecclesiastical forum from the civil forum. “

Among the dozens of religious orders, individual parishes and other Catholic organizations that approved the declaration are the Association of Catholic Priests of the United States; Pax Christi United States; the American Federation of Sisters of Saint Joseph; the Tyler Clementi Foundation; and the Society of the Divine Savior, Province of the United States.

The statement will serve as the basis for an educational brochure that New Ways Ministry will release this fall for parishes, schools and other Catholic institutions to use as a tool for education and discussion, DeBernardo said.

The statement reflects Catholic values ​​and Catholic principles, he said. “He supports non-discrimination because of Catholicism, not in spite of Catholicism. But these Catholic values ​​are often overlooked and overshadowed by anything to do with sexuality.”

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