At their recent meeting in Baltimore in November, the U.S. bishops once again remained silent on the issue of bullying and violence directed against LGBT people. For the second year in a row, the USCCB could not find any word to speak on this devastating problem to which our nation has alerted since Fall of 2010 when the suicides of teenagers who had been bullied because of the sexual or gender identity made major headlines.
The bishops remained silent despite the fact that they received a petition from over 1,700 Catholics asking for moral leadership on this topic from the hierarchy. The petition was sponsored by Equally Blessed, a coalition of four national Catholic organizations, one of which is New Ways Ministry.
Sadly and tragically, the bishops have painted themselves into a corner on LGBT issues, and now they seem unable to speak against such a blatant disregard for human dignity as bullying is. Instead, the bishops used their annual moment in the media spotlight to present themselves as victims by claiming that their religious liberty is being denied because of the growing social and legal acceptance of equal marriage rights for lesbian and gay couples.
Among the commentary on the religious liberty topic is an essay by John Mattras which explains in the plainest possible way the contradictions of such an argument. The essay is titled, “Do Unto Others–US Bishops, Religious Liberty and Gay Americans’ Tax Dollars.” Take a look at it, and let us know what you think.
On November 10, 2011, one week before the U.S. bishops’ meeting, the Maryland Catholic Conference issued a statement on religious freedom, which also purported that this cherished value is at risk. About the Maryland statement, New Ways Ministry had this to say:
“In issuing their statement,“The Most Sacred of All Property: Religious Freedom and the People of Maryland, ” the Maryland Catholic Conference inserted a “red herring” into the debate on marriage equality occurring in the Free State. The bishops have re-framed themselves as victims of secular government, when, in fact, they are opposing the religious liberty of other churches, the will of the majority of Catholics, and civil rights for all.
“The title of the bill to be passed is the “Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act” to emphasize that religious institutions will retain their freedom to choose who they would like to marry. A number of churches already marry same-gender couples, so when the bishops oppose marriage equality legislation, they are, in fact, curtailing the religious freedom of these other churches to have their marriages fully recognized.
“In 2010, the Archdiocese of Washington closed its adoption services rather than minister to same-gender couples by their own choice. The Catholic bishops could have relied on their own mandate to protect equality and human dignity. This second option would have been more in line with the majority of US Catholics. In 2011, the Public Religion Research Institute issued a statistical report which noted that 74% of US Catholics support civil legislation for same-gender couples. Protecting the children of same-gender couples is a major motivation for Catholics wanting such measures.
“Why do the bishops want to enshrine into law a teaching about marriage which even their fellow Catholics do not accept and which curtails the religious freedom of other churches?”
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry