The head of the largest shelter i the U.S. for homeless LGBT youth has written an open letter to Pope Francis asking for his support for these teens.
Carl Siciliano’s letter, published as a full-page ad in The New York Times, asks the pope to counter the religious rejection of LGBT youth by their families which is so often the cause of homelessness. Siciliano is founder and executive director of the Ali Forney Center in New York City, and also a former Benedictine monk and gay Catholic man.
“I ask you to take urgent action to protect them from the devastating consequences of religious rejection, which is the most common reason LGBT youths are driven from their homes. At the heart of the problem is that the church still teaches that homosexual conduct is a sin, and that being gay is disordered. I hope that if you understand how this teaching tears families apart and brings suffering to innocent youths, you will end this teaching and prevent your bishops from fighting against the acceptance of LGBT people as equal members of society…
“What these youths endure is horrific. They endure the torment of being unloved and unwanted by their parents, combined with the ordeals of hunger, cold and sexual exploitation while homeless. LGBT youths who are rejected by their families are eight times more likely to attempt suicide than LGBT youths whose parents accept them…
“A teaching’s wisdom and efficacy must be judged in part by its outcome. The teaching that homosexual conduct is a sin has a poisonous outcome, bearing fruit in many Christian parents who abandon their LGBT children to homelessness and destitution. How could a good seed yield such a bitter harvest?”
Siciliano cites shocking statistics that while LGBT youth only make up 5% of the youth population, they comprise 40% 0f homeless youth. That’s a minimum of 200,000 homeless LGBT youth last year in the US alone. He ties this to Pope Francis’ obvious love for the poor, and writes further:
“Jesus Christ is never recorded as having said a word in judgment or condemnation of homosexuality or of LGBT people. He spoke of a loving, compassionate God, and commanded his followers to act with love and compassion. Jesus spoke of God as a loving parent who would never abandon his children.”
The letter’s appearance in the Times was funded by Faith in America, which educates about the harm caused by religious-based stigma. Brent Childers, who heads up the organization, said in a press statement:
“Pope Francis has the opportunity to lead faith communities around the world in gifting parents of LGBT youth with an unconditional spiritual embrace, a gift which most surely will bring peace to these lives and these families.”
The letter was accompanied by a new Facebook page and Change.org petition. This initiative ties LGBT justice to Pope Francis’ existing concern for the homeless and those experiencing poverty. Hopefully, Siciliano’s letter and the surrounding efforts will open the pope’s eyes to how disproportionately these issues affect LGBT youth.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry