*UPDATE: NEW HISTORY FROM MARCH 2014
UPDATE: NEW HISTORY FROM OCTOBER 2008*
Last July, Pope Francis said "Who am I to judge a gay person of goodwill who seeks the Lord? You can't marginalize these people." Last September he said that the church was too obsessed with issues such as homosexuality. These are encouraging signs, but I'm worried that they've whitewashed some of the more unfortunate statements and actions by the Catholic Church on homosexuality and LGBT issues, which I will now revisit.
Then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and Archbishop Alberto Bovone wrote "On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons", a letter explaining how to respond to LGBT issues. The letter reads:
Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.They did add this good part:
It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church's pastors wherever it occurs.But I wonder if it occurred to them that calling someone's sexuality "an objective disorder" might be an example of malice in speech. And 26 years later, the same man who wrote that would bless a supporter of killing LGBT people.
That month, in Lawrence v. Texas, the Supreme Court struck down sodomy laws nationwide, overturning its 1986 ruling in Bowers v. Hardwick. The United States Conference Of Catholic Bishops did not take kindly to the ruling:
In its decision, Lawrence vs. Texas, the Supreme Court has chosen to view homosexual behavior between consenting adults as a matter of privacy.2005 (as reported by Uganda anti-gay bill supporter Life Site News):
However, human sexuality cannot be viewed this way. Sexual activity has profound social consequences which are not limited to those immediately engaged in sexual acts. For this reason, the larger society has always shown a concern about what is and is not acceptable in sexual behavior between individuals. The very fact that this case came before the Supreme Court is evidence of that concern.
The Catholic Church teaches, in agreement with other faith traditions and with what were once the norms generally accepted by society, that sexual activity belongs to the marital relationship between one man and one woman in fidelity to each other. This relationship is the basis of the family which is the basic unit of society. Respect for the purpose of human sexuality and the family needs to be reaffirmed in our society; and anything which reduces respect for them—such as yesterday’s Supreme Court decision—is to be deplored.
Pope Benedict issued an instruction prohibiting those with homosexual inclinations to be accepted into seminaries. This instruction was preceded by a letter to bishops around the world, ordering that priests with homosexual tendencies be immediately removed from any educational functions at seminaries.October 2008
Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, the prefect of the Catholic Education Congregation, says that gay would-be clergy must not be allowed ordination, even if they are celibate, because:
Homosexuality is a deviation, an irregularity, a wound.December 2008
That month, a declaration was read out at the United Nations calling on countries that kill or imprison LGBT people to stop doing so. A fairly simple call for basic human rights, right?
Not for the Vatican. They opposed the declaration. Archbishop Celestio Migliore said that this was because the declaration would...
add new categories of those protected from discrimination.That's kind of the point, sir. It's about protecting people, and protecting their basic human rights. And the discrimination that you speak of is much worse than a business turned them away or they can't marry who they love. In some countries, sir, they are being killed. It just got worse, with Uganda and Nigeria. Your church opposed an effort to save their lives, your reasoning being that they would be protected, the implication being you don't want them protected from being killed for who they are. I guess that statement in the 1986 letter calling anti-LGBT violence "deplorable" counts for nothing.
But their twisted logic doesn't end there. Their other reason for opposing the declaration is as follows:
If adopted, they would create new and implacable discriminations. For example, states which do not recognise same-sex unions as 'matrimony' will be pilloried and made an object of pressure.The declaration had absolutely nothing to do with marriage. It did not ask countries to adopt marriage equality. Allow me to prove that the Middle East is not on a slippery slope to marriage equality:
Following the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan in late 2001, homosexual acts went from a capital crime to one punishable by long terms of imprisonment. Afghanistan is not adopting marriage equality any time soon.
To me, their attitude to that declaration sounds like they are reaching for any reason, no matter how flimsy, to oppose not just specific LGBT rights, but fundamental human rights extended to LGBT people.
Around this time, Uganda's anti-gay bill (now law) had just been introduced to their parliament, and at the time, it contained a provision with the death penalty. That didn't stop Pope Benedict XVI from receiving the Ugandan ambassador to the Vatican and praising Uganda, saying:
The climate of freedom and respect in your nation towards the Catholic Church has allowed her to be faithful to her proper mission. The fruits of cooperation between the Church and the State, especially in areas related to development, education and healthcare, are widely recognized.March 2010
The Sacred Heart of Jesus school in Boulder, a Catholic school, expelled a four-year-old and a five-year-old because their parents are lesbians. Not much more is needed to be said about that.
The Vatican sent a diplomat, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, to the United Nations to complain that homophobes are being persecuted. Tomasi said:
People are being attacked for taking positions that do not support sexual behaviour between people of the same sex. When they express their moral beliefs or beliefs about human nature ... they are stigmatised, and worse -- they are vilified, and prosecuted. These attacks are violations of fundamental human rights and cannot be justified under any circumstances.First of all, that's an absolute lie. Nothing of the sort is happening. All that's happening is that it's become less acceptable to have that view, and rightly so. Expressing those viewpoints is criticized more now than it has been for. It's just that religious conservatives think that anything less than freedom from criticism for their bigotry means that they're being persecuted, as we saw with Kirk Cameron and Phil Robertson.
Secondly, it's a pity that the Vatican couldn't have been as outspoken about real violence, like the violence LGBT people face around the world, by supporting the 2008 UN declaration.
But Tomasi didn't stop there. He made the case for criminalizing homosexuality by comparing it to incest and pedophilia:
States can and must regulate behaviors, including various sexual behaviors. Throughout the world, there is a consensus between societies that certain kinds of sexual behaviour must be forbidden by law. Paedophilia and incest are two examples.April 2012
In early 2012, the anti-bullying group the Eychaner Foundation awarded a scholarship worth $40,000 to a student at the Prince of Peace Catholic school in Davenport. The plan was for the group to come to the school and present the scholarship at a ceremony. But after agreeing to this, the school reneged, following intervention from the Diocese of Davenport. The reason the diocese intervened to prevent the group from attending the school is this:
We cannot allow anyone or any organization which promotes a position that is contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church to present at a diocesan institution.This is offensive on two levels. First of all, this was a group that dealt with bullying in general, not just anti-LGBT bullying. There was little connection to LGBT issues at all with this presentation, other than the fact that the scholarship was named after Matthew Shepard. If that's the only thing that set the diocese off, then it would appear that they can't even accept the commemoration of a gay man who was murdered.
The second thing is what the diocese believes is "contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church". The Eychaner Foundation's stated mission is...
to promote tolerance, understanding and anti-bullying policies. We help students survive and work to prevent teen suicide.If that's "contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church", then the Catholic Church is against tolerance and understanding, is pro-bullying, and works to kill students and cause teen suicide.
That month, Rebecca Kadaga, the speaker of Uganda's parliament and a strong supporter of the anti-gay bill, attended the seventh Consultative Assembly of Parliamentarians for the International Criminal Court and the World Parliamentary Conference on Human Rights at the Vatican. Pope Benedict XVI blessed her.
From 2009 to 2011, nine students in Minnesota's Anoka-Hennepin school district committed suicide after being bullied, many of whom were gay or perceived to be gay. Minnesota's anti-bullying law, at only 37 words, was one of the weakest in the country. The Safe and Supportive Schools Act would strengthen it, but it ran into opposition from the Minnesota Catholic Conference. Executive Director Jason Adkins explained some reasonable concerns with the bill. But he also explained a position specific to anti-LGBT bullying that could apply to any bullying law:
The redefinition of marriage should not be seen as a stand-alone act. It is the harbinger of broader social change aimed at creating gender and sexual ‘freedom’ and breaking down the supposedly repressive social norm of heterosexual monogamy. And it is accompanied by other significant pieces of legislation working their way through Minnesota’s Legislature that should be resisted just as vigorously as same-sex ‘marriage.’This is the obsession with marriage equality Pope Francis was talking about last September. They are so paranoid about it that they think any effort to protect LGBT students from bullying also needs to be opposed. Adkins would still hold the position stated above even if his reasonable concerns with the bill were addressed. And as for "coercion of silence entering the legal sphere" against opponents of marriage equality, Adkins has apparently forgotten that the First Amendment prohibits punishing people for speech in opposition to marriage equality. There is no threat to free speech.
If marriage is redefined, the coercion of silence will enter the legal sphere, where real penalties will befall those so-called ‘bigots’ who ‘discriminate’ by clinging to the traditional definition of marriage. The schools are the ideal place to foster this new regime of ‘tolerance,’ and forcefully suppress any bad thoughts or ‘hate’ speech that may emerge.
Now we move to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a federal law which would ban employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity by employers with at least 15 employees. In July of 2013, the USCCB published a letter explaining their opposition to the bill.
We cannot support a bill, like ENDA, that would legally affirm and specially protect any sexual conduct outside of marriage.ENDA does not discuss sexual conduct, only sexual orientation. The Catholic Church even makes the same point, that homosexual inclination is not sinful. Saying that ENDA affirms a certain type of sexual conduct is false. It affirms all people of all sexual orientations, gay, straight, bi, none of the three, whatever, but it does not mention sexual conduct.
Because ENDA, if enacted, could be used to punish as discrimination what the Catholic Church teaches, the USCCB has always sought as comprehensive a religious exemption as is achievable, in order to protect the religious freedom of the Church, and of all others who hold similar views. One partial solution to this problem is to apply Title VII’s prohibition on religious discrimination, which is already incorporated in the current version of the bill. But this is insufficient alone, as the Title VII protection covers only a subset of religious employers, and recent experience shows that even covered employers may face government retaliation for relying on such exemptions. Without such additional protection, ENDA would be applied to jeopardize our religious freedom to live our faith and moral tenets in today’s society.As noted by PolitiFact, ENDA has a broad religious exemption, broader than that of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act:
Nelson Tebbe, a professor at Brooklyn Law School who specializes in religious liberty, said ENDA’s religious exemption exceeds Title VII’s."Churches, church-run initiatives and other religious businesses" are exempt. Neither the Catholic Church, nor any institute it operates, will be forced to hire anyone who is LGBT.
"It’s broader because the religious exemption in Title VII only allows religious organizations to discriminate on the basis of religion," he said. But it doesn’t allow religious groups to discriminate based on factors like an employee’s gender or race.
So by permitting religious organizations to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, ENDA allows them more flexibility than Title VII.
The bill’s religious exemption indicates that churches, church-run initiatives and other religious businesses need not comply by employing people of all sexualities and gender identities.
We are also concerned that ENDA may be invoked by federal courts to support the claim that, as a matter of federal constitutional right, marriage must be redefined to include two persons of the same sex. We have already seen state Supreme Courts repeatedly rely on state-level ENDAs as a basis for creating a state constitutional right to same-sex “marriage.” For example, the highest courts of California, Connecticut, and Iowa have declared that the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman is “discriminatory” and lacking any “rational basis,” based in part on the existence of ENDA-like laws in their respective states. Indeed, these rulings reflect a legal strategy that gay rights advocates have repeatedly and publicly explained in scholarly articles and other media—first, secure the passage of sexual orientation antidiscrimination laws, such as ENDA, and then invoke the principle embedded within those laws as a basis for same-sex “marriage.” Particularly in the wake of United States v. Windsor, which is virtually certain to prompt additional federal constitutional challenges to the definition of marriage, the risk that ENDA could be invoked for similar purposes is simply too great. As leaders of the Catholic Church, we have a moral obligation to oppose any law that would be so likely to contribute to legal attempts to redefine marriage.From In re Marriage Cases, the May 2008 California Supreme Court decision that temporarily legalized same-sex marriage in that state:
The right to marry is not properly viewed simply as a benefit or privilege that a government may establish or abolish as it sees fit, but rather that the right constitutes a basic civil or human right of all people.The Court made that decision not because of non-discrimination laws, but because marriage is a fundamental right.
In October 2008, in Kerrigan v. Commissioner of Public Health, the Connecticut Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in that state. The Boston Globe explains why here:
The case, Kerrigan v. the state Commissioner of Public Health, was brought by eight same-sex couples who were denied marriage licenses by the Madison town clerk. They argued that the state's civil union law was discriminatory and unconstitutional because it established a separate and therefore inherently unequal institution for a minority group. Citing equal protection under the law, the state Supreme Court agreed.The Court made its decision not because of non-discrimination laws, but because of the constitutional guarantees of equal protection.
"In accordance with these state constitutional requirements, same sex couples cannot be denied the freedom to marry," said the majority opinion, which was written by Justice Richard N. Palmer.
In April 2009, the Iowa Supreme Court, in Varnum v. Brien, legalized same-sex marriage in that state. The Court said:
Our responsibility, however, is to protect constitutional rights of individuals from legislative enactments that have denied those rights, even when the rights have not yet been broadly accepted, were at one time unimagined, or challenge a deeply ingrained practice or law viewed to be impervious to the passage of time.The Court made its decision not because of non-discrimination laws, but because of the constitutional right to marriage.
I would like to address another part of the USCCB's statement. Regarding ENDA and marriage equality, they said that the strategy of LGBT rights activists is "first, secure the passage of sexual orientation antidiscrimination laws, such as ENDA, and then invoke the principle embedded within those laws as a basis for same-sex “marriage.” They also said that "we have a moral obligation to oppose any law that would be so likely to contribute to legal attempts to redefine marriage."
Take note of their statement about all sexual orientation antidiscrimination laws. They say that these laws contribute to marriage equality. Now take note of their statement that they must oppose any laws that could contribute to marriage equality. Therefore, they must oppose all sexual orientation antidiscrimination laws, not just ENDA. From this we can infer that the definition of "unjust discrimination" is quite narrow, and that there are many forms of "just discrimination" that they would support.
Their last reason for opposing ENDA is this:
The bill’s treatment of “gender identity,” which was not in some previous iterations of the bill, would have an adverse effect on privacy and associational rights of others. The bill also lacks an exemption for a “bona fide occupational qualification” (BFOQ), for those cases where it is neither unjust nor inappropriate to consider an applicant’s sexual inclination.This just appears to be a restatement of the religious freedom argument. I've already pointed out that even under ENDA, the Catholic Church and church-run businesses will be under no obligation to hire LGBT people.
Let's move on from ENDA.
In this month, Spanish Archbishop Fernando Sebastián Aguilar, who had been appointed to be a Cardinal by Pope Francis, said that:
Homosexuality is a defective manner of expressing sexuality, because [sex] has a structure and a purpose, which is procreation. A homosexual who can’t achieve procreation is failing. Our bodies have many defects. I have high blood pressure, a defect I have to try and correct in whatever way I can. To say that homosexuality is a defect is not an insult. It helps because in many cases of homosexuality it is possible to recover and become normal with the right treatment.Even a Cardinal-appointee by a very liberal pope is still making homophobic comments.
Still in January 2014, Nigeria passed an anti-gay law which outlaws performing same-sex marriages and goes as far as to prohibit gay couples from showing affection. The bill was heavily criticized by at least two Anglican Archbishops in the UK, but the Catholic Cardinal of Abuja praised it:
The church accepts people as they are, we condemn homosexuality, Nigeria is an independent country and we do not beg for food. We have every right to order our social life in any way we think it should go. Our social life should not be organised on the basis of what others think. On this note, I commend our National Assembly and Mr President for resisting all the pressures and enacting a law against homosexuality.March 2014
After years of rejecting the requests, the organizers of the St. Patrick's Day Parade in Boston accepted the request of the gay rights group MassEquality to march in the parade. In response, The Immaculate Heart of Mary School in Harvard announced that it would be boycotting the parade.
Brother Thomas Dalton, the principal of the school, explained the decision here:
The familiar scene of Saint Patrick joyfully giving his blessing to the crowds has, sad to say, come to an end. In the footsteps of Saint Patrick, IHM does not condone and will not appear to condone the homosexual lifestyle. Homosexual acts are gravely immoral and are not to be promoted in any way. We must stand firm with the Church which states in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, promulgated by Pope John Paul II, that ‘homosexual acts are acts of grave depravity’ and ‘are intrinsically disordered… Under no circumstances can they be approved.’Pope Francis' comments last July and September were pleasing, but the Catholic Church's statement's and actions against LGBT people in the modern era have been going on since at least 1986, and have continued to the present day, despite the Pope being a more liberal pontiff with a more welcoming tone. The Church has a long way to go on this issue, and I'm not confident that it'll get very far.