In a letter published by The Courier-Journal, the priests, from the Archdiocese of Louisville, say that Pope Francis’ “Who am I to judge” remark prompted them to ask:
“Can we, as Catholics, allow any of God’s children to live a life filled with judgment and discrimination?”
Joined by the Kentucky Catholics for Fairness, the priests — Fr. Joseph Fowler, Fr. James Flynn, Fr. John Burke, and Fr. Joe Mitchell, CP — are advocating for LGBT legal protections in Kentucky related to employment, housing, and public accommodations. While some communities have implemented legal rights, discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity is still mostly legal there. To combat this unjust reality, the priests extend the following invitation:
“On Sunday, Feb. 15, Kentucky Catholics for Fairness will unite in our fourth annual Pilgrimage to the Cathedral of the Assumption in support for a statewide ban on LGBT discrimination, and we hope you will join us…
“If you’re a Catholic who believes, like we do, that every person deserves a fair chance to earn a living, put a roof over their head, and eat at their favorite restaurant without the fear of being turned away just because of who they are, we ask that you join our Pilgrimage.”
In their explanation for their involvement with this justice issue, the priests argue first from liturgy, specifically the Mass, which Vatican II identifies as the “source and summit” of the church’s life. They then move into Catholic teachings about social justice. Calling Mass “the most sacred of all our prayers,” the priests write:
“The prayers of Mass repeatedly affirm our Catholic faith’s inherent belief in the dignity of all people. We pray that all of God’s creation is holy, that all human life is sacred, and that we all are created in the image of God. We pray to safeguard the dignity of human life, to be a leaven and soul of human society to transform it into a family of God, and to make the church present and active in the affairs of this age. We pray to be one family of the people, and for all to have work that begets their dignity.
“Historically, Catholics have lived out these prayers in myriad ways — by caring for the poor and infirmed, fostering the education of youth, and serving the community in hospitals and orphanages.”
They note that the church, however, has not always lived up to their ideals, citing the examples of parishes which were racially segregated, and the existing segregation of women today. The exclusion of LGBT people is a wound in the church, but these priests see “an opportunity to help the church move forward and heal” by standing for full and equal rights before the law .
Catholics for Fairness has assembled outside the Louisville cathedral for the last three years. The events have been organized by Fr. Fowler, who previously criticized Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, who is also president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, for resisting Pope Francis’ moves toward acceptance. While Pope Francis has been hedging lately on expanded LGBT legal rights (e.g. his recent remarks supporting Slovakia’s anti-gay referendum which ultimately failed), it is good to see many Catholics, including clergy, making a stand for LGBT justice and equality.
The group will assemble on Sunday, February 15 at 4:30 p.m. at the Volunteers of America of Kentucky Headquarters, 570 South Fourth St., Louisville, Kentucky. They will walk to the Cathedral of the Assumption at 433 South Fifth St. for 5:30 p.m. Mass.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry