During the recent news coverage of the Boy Scouts’ decision to reaffirm their ban against gay people serving as scouts or leaders, it was frequently noted that the Catholicism may have played a role in this discriminatory practice.
But is banning gay people really the Catholic thing to do? Mary Ellen and Casey Lopata, the co-founders of Fortunate Families, a national network of Catholic parents of LGBT people, point out in an essay in The National Catholic Reporter, that such discrimination is actually counter to the best tradition of Catholic thought on LGBT matters.
The Lopatas cite several official Catholic documents which highlight that discrimination against LGBT people is actually contrary to Catholic thought:
“As early as 1976, in To Live in Christ Jesus: A Pastoral Reflection on the Moral Life, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (then known as the National Conference of Catholic Bishops) wrote that, rather than being ostracized, gays and lesbians ‘should have an active role in the Christian community.’
“The church’s hierarchy is in no way more progressive now than it was then, yet the bishops returned to this theme in their 1998 pastoral message Always Our Children:
“The bishops solidify this theme in their recommendation to ‘Welcome homosexual persons into the faith community.’
The authors also point out that not only is the Scouts’ ban against Catholic thought, but it is also extremely harmful and dangerous to young people:
“The Boy Scouts have chosen not to accept gay boys age 11-17 with respect, compassion and sensitivity. They have chosen instead to reject them at precisely that time when gay youth need the support of their communities most.
“Peer-reviewed research establishes that LGBT youth are at far greater risk of social isolation, parental rejection, depression, verbal harassment, physical violence and suicide than their heterosexual counterparts. The leaders of any organization dedicated to young people’s well-being are familiar with this data. They know gay boys need the sort of nurturing that organizations like the Boy Scouts provide.”
If Catholic leaders are not going to provide the direction needed to support gay youth, Catholic lay people must take up that role, the Lopatas argue:
“If the scouts accepted gay boys into their troops, the reasoning goes, these churches might react negatively, leading to a significant thinning in the ranks. We can only pray that this wasn’t the case. There is nothing in official church teaching that justifies the scouts’ discriminatory policy, and it is up to us, as Catholics, to make that clear.”
The Lopatas’ organization, Fortunate Families is a member of the Equally Blessed coalition, which includes three other national Catholic groups that work for equality and justice for LGBT people in church and society: Call To Action, DignityUSA, and New Ways Ministry.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry