Catholic Officials Appeal to Congress for Nullification of D.C. Human Rights Laws

The D.C. flag combined with the Rainbow flag.


With the support of Catholic officials, two U.S. Senators introduced legislation to repeal human rights amendments passed by the District of Columbia earlier this year, including one protective of LGBT student rights.

Senators Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and James Lankford (R-Oklahoma) co-sponsored the disapproval resolutions, as these bills are known when they attempt to override local decisions made by D.C. city government. Because Washington, DC is not a state, Congress has the ability to repeal any of the laws passed by the District’s Council.

These senators are seeking to nullify the Human Rights Amendment Act of 2014 and the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act of 2014 which both limit religious liberty claims in cases of discrimination. Of the former, The Washington Post explains:

“[T]he Human Rights Amendment Act of 2014 repeals a longstanding, congressionally imposed measure exempting religiously affiliated educational institutions from the city’s gay nondiscrimination law.”

This measure, commonly known as the “Armstrong Amendment,” was implemented after Georgetown University lost a 1980s lawsuit and was forced to recognize the campus LGBTQ student group under the D.C. Human Rights Act. It has also legally justified The Catholic University of America in denying such a student group until it was repealed.

Since its repeal, anti-LGBT groups and Catholic organizations, including the Archdiocese of Washington, The Catholic University of America, and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, have called for congressional intervention.

In response, The Washington Blade reports that 58 LGBT, civil liberties, and pro-choice groups released a joint statement asking Congress to respect D.C. city government’s new laws. They said, in part:

” ‘Unsurprisingly, opponents of these bills have unfairly mischaracterized them as ‘”unprecedented assaults” on religious liberty…Nothing could be further from the truth.’ ”

” ‘Religious liberty is a fundamental American value. It guarantees us the freedom to hold any belief we choose and the right to act on our religious beliefs, but it does not allow us to discriminate against or otherwise harm others.’ “

Commenting in a three part series on these ongoing controversies around LGBT rights and religious liberty, Michael Sean Winters of the National Catholic Reporter writes on the situations in D.C. and elsewhere. While I disagree with his legal analysis, I think he is right in his criticism of Catholic leaders who so vocally and vociferously strive to enshrine the right to discriminate against LGBT people into law. In part one, he writes:

“As gay groups move from the fight for legalized same sex marriage to the fight for non-discrimination laws, the Catholic bishops need to ask themselves what it means to be an employer in a culture that shuns discrimination of any kind. This almost reflexive opposition to discrimination is especially prominent among our young people and they are not wrong. Discrimination is an ugly thing and, in the case of gay people, it has been all too real. The Church must devise a better response than more litigation, more culture war, more reduction of the Church’s identity to a few hot button sexual issues.”

In part three (links to all three columns are in the ‘Related Articles’ below), Winters adds:

“I also think we cannot overstate the degree to which the Church’s often inflammatory opposition to the efforts of the LGBT community to secure its human rights has harmed the Church too…It is not only that abusing those who are suffering so terribly is rightly considered obscene, it is that something deep in the Christian imagination reminds us that suffering is a mark of God’s special favor: Those who are broken-hearted, He will save. The culture warriors missed this, but the rest of us did not.”

According to The Washington Post, Cruz and Lankford’s disapproval resolutions are pure politics and stand little chance of either passing Congress or being signed by President Obama.

But setting aside the legal and legislative questions, Winters is asking the right questions about the real harm done in many directions when Catholic officials spend so much time, energy, wealth, and social capital in their attempts to deny all people equality and justice before civil society. The bishops lost their battle over LGBT rights. It is time to move on and focus on real, pressing issues like economic justice and immigration reform, which are the actual work of the Gospel.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Related articles:

Michael Sean Winters, The National Catholic Reporter: “Catholic Mission, Religious Freedom & LGBT Rights: Part I

Michael Sean Winters, The National Catholic Reporter: “Catholic Mission, Religious Freedom & LGBT Rights, Part II

Michael Sean Winters, The National Catholic Reporter:  “Catholic Mission, Religious Freedom & LGBT Rights: Part III

On Religious Liberty and LGBT Rights, Catholics Must Pursue Third Way

Gov. Mike Pence signing Indiana’s “right to discriminate” law, surrounded by religious leaders

Legislative developments in Indiana and other states, as well as the District of Columbia, are seemingly pitting LGBT rights against religious liberty. This binary is, however, false and Catholics must pursue a third way which upholds justice for all people while respecting real religious liberty.

First, a bit of context. Last week, Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed a law which could legalize anti-gay discrimination by prohibiting “state and local laws that ‘substantially burden’ the ability of people, businesses and associations to follow their religious beliefs,”reports Crux. This was one of more than a dozen similar bills introduced in state legislatures this year, and many LGBT advocates consider it among the most extreme, triggering calls for a boycott of the state from business leaders and celebrities. Ongoing updates about such bills are available at Crux.

Writing at the blog Catholic Moral Theology, Thomas Bushlack highlights that Indiana’s law and those like it are undergirded by “bad jurisprudence and bad theology.” Bushlack states:

“This bill strikes me as one of the most ironic and perverse applications of religious liberty imaginable: a fundamental principle of the United States’ Bill of Rights, enshrined in the First Amendment non-establishment clause, is now being used to sanction discrimination.  The ironies of history and politics know no bounds.”

Critiquing a photo from Pence’s signing ceremony, where Catholic religious are prominently displayed, Bushlack adds:

“Is this really the way in which religious leaders, including members of the Catholic Church such as those represented in this photo, want to stand up in defense of religious liberty?  Do we want to use the fundamental tenet of American democracy as an excuse to discriminate against our own citizens, against our own brothers and sisters in Christ?  I submit that this is not the face of religious liberty that we need to defend in America today.”

It is tragic that Catholics, including church leaders, are among those working so actively to enshrine a right to discriminate against LGBT people into law. More than 40 church workers have lost their jobs over LGBT issues since 2008 and, in almost every case, church officials appealed to religious identities and ministerial exemptions in legally justifying their actions. The immorality of expelling these workers, however, is quite clear.

As LGBT rights progress in the United States, it is time for Catholics, regardless of their views on homosexuality or gender, to pursue a third way which protects the rights of all people and respects religious liberty, properly understood. Instead of pursuing legalized discrimination and endless litigation, perhaps an example from Utah illustrates how the Catholic Church might proceed.

Senate Bill 296 became law earlier this month, banning discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in housing and employment while concurrently strengthening religious liberty. What is remarkable is that both pro- and anti-LGBT organizations have welcomed the law,including the Diocese of Salt Lake City reports Fox 13. LGBT advocates praised it, according to Religion News Service:

“Sarah Warbelow, legal director of the Human Rights Campaign, said the law will have a  “dramatically positive effect on the LGBT youth of Utah,” because it dramatizes to Mormon parents that their church accepts the dignity of LGBT people.

“Clifford Rosky, professor of law at the University of Utah and board chairman of Equality Utah, said adding bans on discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity to the state’s anti-discrimination measures was a critical first step. Rosky also cited the new speech protections for employees outside the workplace.”

The press conference announcing the law included LGBT advocates standing next to Mormon leaders. For Utah, which is ranked by Gallup as the fourth most conservative state in America, expanding LGBT equality was enacted by a remarkable political process.  Although the process was imperfect, according to all sides, the dialogue and compromise Utahans performed exhibited a satisfactory step forward.  A columnist in the The Star Press expands on this idea, writing:

“The precise language of the Utah’s law, of course, is not a one-size-fits-all solution readily transferable to other states. Existing civil rights laws and religious freedom exemptions vary from state to state, so any recipe for compromise in other places will require a somewhat different mix of protections and exemptions.

“Despite these caveats and remaining disagreements, the spirit of the Utah agreement — the willingness to seek a balance between nondiscrimination and religious freedom acceptable to people on all sides — can, and should be replicated elsewhere.”

Religious liberty discussions can be misleading, for adjudicating religious liberty and LGBT equality is not a zero-sum game. Treating it as such only hurts the common good. For the Christian, protecting religious liberty is one and the same with advancing LGBT rights as matters of justice and equality for all God’s people. In future disputes about religious liberty, Catholics must position themselves as bridge-builders for divided interests.  A third way approach, like we saw in Utah rather, is so much more preferable than our church’s leaders lending their voices to those who desire to discriminate.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Related Articles

National Catholic Reporter, “Catholic Mission, Religious Freedom, & LGBT Rights”

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

When Life’s Journey Is Not What You Expected It to Be

On the Sundays of Lent, Bondings 2.0 will feature reflections by New Ways Ministry staff members. The liturgical readings for Palm Sunday are: Isaiah 50:4-7; Psalm 22:8-9, 17-20, 23-24; Philippians 2:6-11; Mark 4:1-15:47. You can access the texts of these readings by clicking here.
Have you ever been traveling and things didn’t go according to your plan?  We’ve all experienced minor inconveniences like travel delays, missing reservations, or bad directions.  But have you ever had a trip go fantastically and catastrophically wrong?  If so, Simon of Cyrene might be your patron saint.
“Simon of Cyrene Helps Christ” by David O’Connell

We don’t know much about Simon, but it’s an understatement to say that he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.  The Gospel writer says only that “they pressed into service a passer-by, Simon, a Cyrenian, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry [Jesus’] cross.”  Perhaps we should consider Simon’s story for a couple of moments–the story that the Gospel writer left out.

Simon was probably a pilgrim who visited Jerusalem for the Passover.  He traveled a long way (Cyrene was located in what is now Libya) and spent a lot of money to make this spiritual journey.  I am sure it involved a lot of planning and not a little risk.  So I can only imagine the hot mix of anger, fear, and resentment that Simon might have felt when his plans were upended violently and he was forced by random chance and Roman hands to become an unwilling participant in the unfolding drama of Jesus’ death.  I can almost hear Simon ask bitterly, “Why me?  Why the heck am I stuck with this man’s burden? Why do I deserve this?”  And then, just as abruptly as he appeared, Simon vanished from the Gospel narrative; we do not know what happened to him.

I think LGBT Catholics have a lot in common with Simon of Cyrene.  Most LGBT Catholics are born into the church, which means we are born into a faith community that doesn’t necessarily understand or accept us.  We are born into a faith community that is being pulled in two directions by those who affirm and those who reject LGBT rights.  It’s an uncomfortable position in which to find ourselves — a position that seems to demand everyday that we justify our identities, feelings, and relationships to our fellow Catholics.  I think that pressure to validate our existence and our rights is why so many LGBT people leave the church.  Similar to Simon, they ask, “Why me? Why am I stuck with the burden of other people’s ignorance and malice? Why do I deserve this?”  Hurt and frustrated, it’s understandable why some LGBT Catholics choose to leave.

However, just as Simon’s story didn’t end with his carrying Jesus’ cross, I don’t think the story of LGBT Catholics inevitably ends with a possible departure from the church–and it doesn’t even end if we decide to stay in the church. One of the things the Passion narrative teaches us is that the Christian calling is difficult and involves challenges not of our own choosing.  It sometimes makes us ask the “why me?” questions.

But to be able to experience the joys of the resurrection, one must follow Jesus through his suffering and death.  For LGBT Catholics, I think this might mean staying with the church and doing the hard work of education and bridge-building within Catholic institutions. It might mean suffering the burdens of other people’s ignorance and malice.  It’s not always fun or pretty, but through that effort, I believe we will experience some of the joy of Jesus’ resurrection by knowing that we are making the church a more inclusive and just place for all God’s children.

–Matthew Myers, New Ways Ministry

Religious Superiors Call for Rethinking about Gay Couples; Cardinal Burke Calls Them ‘Murderers’

Cardinal Raymond Burke

Germany’s religious superiors of men’s and women’s communities released a statement that calls for a more expansive understanding of sexuality and, specifically, a rethinking of the church’s treatment of same-gender couples. Meanwhile, the U.S.’s Cardinal Raymond Burke compared these couples to “kind murderers” in his most recent interview.

The German Conference of Religious Superiors prepared the eight-page statement for that nation’s bishops as part of their broader preparations for the upcoming Synod of Bishops. In it, the 430 superiors, who represent the country’s 22,800 religious, note that most lesbian and gay people feel unwelcome. The National Catholic Reporter quoted from the document:

” ‘Christians of homosexual orientation talk to us quite openly about how they feel that they are just not accepted,’ the statement said.

“Many gay people aspire to a Christian lifestyle and to lifelong, faithful partnerships, but they cannot accept that the church requires them to remain celibate. More and more Catholics in city parishes no longer think that blessing gay partnerships would push Christian marriage into the closet, the statement said. They deplore that so many gay people are leaving or have long since left the church because they feel unaccepted, it continued.”

More generally, the statement appeals to church leaders to trust the faithful, who understand sexuality as “important and precious” while jettisoning unhealthy ideals from the past. The superiors state:

” ‘The faithful in the core sectors of our communities specifically appeal to those responsible in the church to put greater trust in them…They would certainly welcome more help in decisions of conscience but are critical of pastors who interfere with a heavy hand’. . .

” ‘Our church must be an inviting church. Public interest in the questions of marriage, family and sexuality have been aroused by the Episcopal Synod’s dialogue process. Let us humbly and courageously use this opportunity to find new, long overdue answers to these questions together…This is a good pastoral chance to do so — let us use it with the strength that God gives us!’ “

Directly challenging the more progressive and inclusive views of the German leaders is Cardinal Raymond Burke, formerly of St. Louis. In his recent interview with a conservative Catholic news outlet, Burke spoke about the discussions around marriage and family arising around the synod process. Burke, who was removed by Pope Francis from a high-ranking Vatican position last year, expressed lament at the “confusion” created by these discussions and the fact that situations, like Bishop Johann Bonny’s call for the church to bless same-sex unions, have gone “undisciplined.”

At one point, he denigrated faithful same-gender partners, people who are divorced and remarried, and non-married cohabiting couples.  When the interviewer mentioned that such people sometimes display kindness, generosity, and dedication, Burke responded:

“It’s like the person who murders someone and yet is kind to other people.”

Michael Sean Winters of the National Catholic Reporter took Burke to task:

“No, Your Eminence, it is NOT like that. A person who is gay and tries to find a companion with whom to live life, or a woman whose first marriage failed and she is trying to make a new life, these people are not like a murderer. And, in +Burke’s twisted view of the world, it is the murderer who can confess her sins and be re-admitted to communion…It is twisted.”

Mark Silk of Religion News Service notes that it is unlikely Burke will be welcomed to participate in this October’s Synod and is stuck lobbing criticisms from outside the walls through his ceremonial post with the Order of Malta.

These widely divergent statements from the Germans and Burke indicate the growing tension among church leaders on sexuality issues. There are those, like the German religious superiors, capable of admitting the church’s past and present failures in pastoral care; they desire new ways of being church and being ministers emphasizing welcome and mercy. Then there are those like Cardinal Burke clinging to outdated, indeed harmful, theologies, and more appropriately at times, ideologies, which fail to account for the dignity of every person, the goodness of all families, and modern thought.

For the former group, LGBT advocates should give thanks and build upon this new openness. For the latter, we must pray that God’s Spirit imbues them with the humility and courage called for by the German superiors to enter a new age of confidence in the People of God.

While it is easy, and admittedly quite tempting, to write off Cardinal Burke’s extremist rhetoric, we must remember he and those who follow his leadership are members of our church, too. If we pray that all may be truly welcome, our prayer must include Burke and his followers, even when they carry a damaging extremism. This does not excuse their prejudice, but rather, it should encourage us to re-double our efforts to educate those who are harmed and stunted by homophobia and other damaging prejudices.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Related Articles

Crux: Cardinal Burke: Gays, remarried Catholics, and murderers are all the same

Synod Data Collection Is Slow, Uneven, and Complex in U.S. Dioceses

They Synod on Marriage and the Family which will take place in October 2015 at the Vatican will be as strongly debated as the extraordinary synod on the same topic which took place last year, according to John Allen, veteran Vatican observer, who writes at Crux

Allen predicted that lesbian and gay family issues will be one of three hot-button topics, along with discussions of co-habitating couples, and divorced and remarried people.  Allen’s analysis provides detailed insights into a large number of the bishops and cardinals who will be delegates there, noting who is progressive, who is conservative, and who is in-between.  His descriptions read like a “scorecard” for the various “players” who will be in attendance.  You can read his entire essay by clicking here.

One somewhat hopeful sign for the question of lesbian and gay couples will be the presence of Santiago, Chile’s Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati Andrello, who, while not supporting marriage equality, does support civil unions for same-gender couples. Not ideal, but at least there’s indication that these questions will continue to be debated.

While there is a some evidence that many dioceses have been collecting input from Catholics in the pew, the statistics are not remarkable, and, as one analyst has shown, they don’t show the full picture. In February, The National Catholic Reporter (NCR)surveyed the websites of 178 U.S. dioceses and archdioceses and found that 52% (93) of them have been collecting information in some fashion.

Of the six bishop-delegates and two alternates to the synod, six of them have shown evidence of collecting data.  No evidence of collection was available for Galveston-Houston’s Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, a delegate, and Chicago’s Archbishop Blase Cupich, an alternate.

But NCR Editor Dennis Coday observed, the data collection time period for a number of dioceses was very short, and in some cases, the input was asked only from a select group of Catholics.  For example, he cited “parish council members in Stockton, Calif., or ‘pastors, parochial administrators, and parochial vicars’ in Venice, Fla.”

Other Catholic groups have stepped up to fill in this void.  “Strong Catholic Families,” a coalition of four national Catholic associations, has made their own survey available online, noting that not only were many dioceses not collecting data, but of those that were, the questionnaires were often long, complex, and difficult to understand.   One official of the coalition spoke to the NCR:

” ‘It became pretty frustrating for me, even as a church leader, to read [the official synod surveys] and think of the people who had to respond to them, and how difficult it is to both understand and respond pastorally to those kinds of questions,” said Michael Theisen, director of Ministry Formation at the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry, part of Strong Catholic Families”

The other three organizations that are part of this coalition are the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership, the National Association of Catholic Family Life Ministers, and the National Catholic Educational Association.

Additionally, the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) has sent out the Vatican survey to their membership, but did not ask them to answer the questions.  Instead, they asked them to rank the questions in order of importance.

Fr. Bernard Survil, an (ACP) board member, told the NCR:

“We want to let our delegates know … that this is what you should be focusing on.”

The ACP acknowledged the same problem with the Vatican survey that Strong Catholic Families noted: difficulty of answering it.  NCR reported:

“Part of the reason the priests association chose not to have priests answer the synod questions was the time associated with completing such a task. A priest from the Cheyenne, Mont., diocese told Survilthat it took him five hours to answer all 46 questions. In the instructions for its online survey, the Charlotte, N.C., diocese estimated two hours to complete.”

Perhaps the best data collection method is the simplest one, which was employed by Bishop William Medley of Owensboro, Kentucky: he listened.   He held four public town hall meetings for Catholics in his diocese to express their views.

The Bowling Green Daily News noted the bishop’s motivation, which he spoke at the beginning of one meeting that the newspaper attended:

“When the pope said, ‘You need to listen,’ I tried to take him seriously. My job here tonight is to listen to what you have to say.”

And the people responded, the newspaper observed:

“Dozens of people spoke during the meeting, sharing their thoughts on how the church can more effectively address topics such as annulment, the sanctity of life and homosexuality. Many people shared personal stories, including their struggle to get an annulment and the challenges of making their children see church as a priority.”

Not surprisingly, the issue of homosexuality became a heated one.  When one woman spoke up expressing her thoughts along the line of “Love the sinner, hate the sin,” the mother of a gay son rose to refute such thinking:

“Donna Lauth, a Holy Spirit member whose son is gay, said homosexuality is not a condition.

“ ‘My son was born that way,’ she said. . . .

“Lauth said the church should ‘either accept everybody and love them the way God would, or don’t even bother at all.’

“She was glad for the chance to express her views to church leaders.

“ ‘They need to listen to us,’ she said. ‘Listening to us and getting some ideas, maybe there will be a change. You can only hope.’ ”

At the end of the meeting, Bishop Medley summed up his feelings about the evening’s wide-ranging discussion and debate:

“ ‘This is the church. It’s messy. It’s confusing,’ he said. ‘It’s a complex world and it’s a complex church, but it’s a church I love. (We’re trying to) be the best church we can be. In the end, it’s going to be an imperfect church.’ ”

While it is true that the church will always be in need of reform,  I believe that we should still strive for getting a number of things somewhere near right, at least.  Yes, we will be imperfect, but we can still begin to take a few steps closer to perfection.  It’s because of our imperfection, that we need much more debate and dialogue at all levels on so many issues.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related posts:

Bondings 2.0: New Video Focuses on LGBT Catholics ‘Owning Our Faith‘ ”

Bondings 2.0: “WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE? Widen the Synod Circle with Diverse Voices

Bondings 2.0: SYNOD 2015: Preparations Begin with Key Questions About Collecting Data and the Goal of Church Ministry

For all Bondings 2.0 posts on Synod 2015, click here.


Puerto Rico’s Archbishop Calls for Referendum As Marriage Law Is Ignored

Puerto Rico will no longer uphold its defense of marriage law which only permits heterosexual couples to marry and will not recognize same-gender marriages from other jurisdictions.  But the archbishop of San Juan was not happy with the decision and has called on the island’s government to hold a referendum on same-sex unions

Archbishop Roberto Gonzalez Nieves

According to Latino. FoxNews.comArchbishop Roberto Gonzalez Nieves responded strongly to the decision by Justice Secretary César Miranda, stating:

“We urge our people to launch a process so that a decision of such historical magnitude and significance can be decided through a referendum in which (voters) can express themselves. If not, this would be a dictatorial imposition by the government.”

Gonzalez Nieves called the decision “”very regrettable and disconcerting.”

Miranda, on the other hand, views the decision as a victory for human rights. According to a Reuters article, the Justice Secretary said:

“The decision recognizes that all human beings are equal before the law. We believe in an equal society in which everyone enjoys the same rights.”

Miranda’s decision was announced just before the deadline for the Puerto Rican government to respond to a Court of Appeals case, being heard in Boston, in which five same-sex couples were challenging the prohibitive law.  The jurisdiction of the Boston court also includes five states where same-sex marriage is legal.

Ricky Martin

Other prominent Puerto Ricans applauded the government’s decision, including openly gay singer Ricky Martin, who stated, in Spanish, on social media:

“My thanks to Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla for demonstrating that he is a leader who is not afraid of the challenges of the present. His support for the determination of the Boston Court on marriage equality does justice to equality. My appreciation to Senators and Representatives and my sisters and brothers who joined this struggle for equality and human rights.”

“Today is a great day for my island, my heart beats fast in my chest. How proud I am to live in a country of equality. I love you Puerto Rico.”

In a statement quoted by Reuters, Governor Padilla pointed to the changing attitudes in the United States, of which Puerto Rico is a territory, stating that there was an

“undeniable consensus that does not allow discriminatory distinctions as that contained in our Civil Code with respect to the rights of same sex couples.”

Padilla, a 43-year old practicing Catholic, who in the past had supported the law, added:

“Everyone knows my religious beliefs but political leaders should not impose their beliefs.”

Though not a state, Puerto Rico has enormous cultural exchange with the United States.  It will be interesting to see if this Latin island nation, where 56% of the population is Roman Catholic, will follow the tide of growing acceptance of same-sex marriage both in the U.S. and Latin America.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry



Filipino Bishops Reverse Position on LGBT Non-Discrimination Bill

Archbishop Socrates Villegas in preparations for the papal visit

In a reversal from their earlier position, the Catholic bishops of the Philippines have endorsed an LGBT non-discrimination bill, with only one reservation.

Earlier this month, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines sent a pastoral guidance letter to dioceses endorsing non-discrimination as a “Christian imperative,” reports Gay Star News. Archbishop Socrates Villegas, the conference’s president, said further:

” ‘Insofar as the proposed piece of legislation renders illegitimate the relegation of persons with sexual orientation and gender identity issues to citizens of a lower category enjoying fewer rights, the CBCP cannot but lend its support to this proposed legislative measure.’

” ‘We must however reiterate that none must be demeaned, embarrassed, or humiliated for reasons of sexual orientation and gender identity.’ “

This support comes as legislators are about to pass a Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity bill, which the bishops opposed in 2011. During a committee hearing earlier this year, a representative of the conference actually opposed this current bill saying some forms of discrimination were acceptable. The only caveat desired by the bishops now is that they retain full control of who is admitted into the priesthood, reserving the right to discriminate including due to sexual orientation.

The bishops’ initial opposition to protecting the rights of all people has clearly changed.  Perhaps it is due to Pope Francis’ recent visit and his ongoing emphasis on mercy and the dignity of all persons: the Francis Effect. Now, Archbishop Villegas is telling Filipino Catholics that sexual orientation and gender identity are gifts from God and, as such, are not chosen. What other fruits can we expect for LGBT equality in this heavily Catholic nation?

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry