“This Month in Catholic LGBT History” is Bondings 2.0’s feature to educate readers of the rich history—positive and negative—that has taken place over the last four decades regarding Catholic LGBT equality issues. We hope it will show people how far our Church has come, ways that it has regressed, and how far we still have to go.
Once a month, Bondings 2.0 staff will produce a post on Catholic LGBT news events from the past 38 years. We will comb through editions of Bondings 2.0’s predecessor: Bondings, New Ways Ministry’s newsletter in paper format. We began publishing Bondings in 1978. Unfortunately, because these newsletters are only archived in hard copies, we cannot link back to the primary sources in most cases.
Hawaii Bishop Raises Funds Opposing Marriage Equality
One of the earliest U.S. cases to sue for the right of same-sex couples in Hawaii was the Baehr v. Miike case in Hawaii, which was in state courts from 1990-1999. Perhaps not surprisingly, it was also one of the first instances where a Catholic bishop became involved to prevent a marriage equality outcome.
In 1993, Baehr v. Miike was decided by a split Hawaii Supreme Court decision which sent the case back to a lower court to be retried. The Supreme Court put the burden on the state to show that it had a compelling interest in the matter of marriage rights for lesbian and gay couples.
Hawaii responded with a legislative commission to study marriage equality, and in 1995 recommended the passage of a law granting marriage rights to lesbian and gay couples.
In response, some legislators proposed a state constitutional amendment to define marriage as being only for heterosexual couples. The amendment was put on the ballot for a state-wide referendum in 1998. And that’s where the Catholic bishop of Hawaii stepped in.
A June 19, 1998, news story in The National Catholic Reporter revealed:
“In a novel move, Honolulu Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo has appealed to his mainland colleagues to urge wealthy lay Catholics to back a Hawaii lobbying group opposed to same-sex marriage.
“The Hawaii State Supreme Court’s effort to mandate same-sex marriages has to be stopped, DiLorenzo wrote last month in a letter to all U.S. bishops.
In the letter to his brother bishops, DiLorenzo warned that the Hawaii case had “implicates for all the people of the United States.”
The newspaper reported the type of donations he was seeking:
“DiLorenzo wants donations (not in excess of $1,000 per person) to go to a ‘grassroots, nonreligious, nonpartisan, non candidate political action committee, Save Traditional Marriage 98.’ DiLorenzo said at an opening fundraiser that STM needs ‘almost a million dollars.’
The Hawaii campaign against marriage equality was successful in 1998, and the constitutional amendment passed. In 1999, the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that, in light of the new constitutional amendment, their earlier decision was no longer in effect.
Hawaii passed a marriage equality bill in 2013, after the U.S. Supreme Court case United States v. Windsor invalidated the Defense of Marriage Act and similar laws.
Bishop DiLorenzo was appointed as Bishop of Richmond, Virginia, by Pope John Paul II in 2004. Marriage equality became legal in all 50 states in 2015.
Many millions and millions more dollars were spent by Catholic officials and organizations to oppose marriage equality.
—Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, June 18, 2017
Here’s what (we hope) is the final installment of immediate Catholic reactions to the Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality. Since the Catholic debate on this issue is not over yet, Bondings 2.0 will, of course, continue covering any ensuing controversies based on this decision as they develop. [All previous Bondings 2.0 Catholic reaction compilation posts can be found at the end of this post.]
Andrew Sullivan, Writer and Political Analyst, The Dish:
Sullivan, one of the first people to propose the idea of gay marriage as a serious legal possibility (and certainly the first Catholic pundit to do so), provides a poignant brief memoir of the struggle to arrive at the Obergefell v. Hodges victory. I found this to be, perhaps, his most stirring passage:
For many years, it felt like one step forward, two steps back. History is a miasma of contingency, and courage, and conviction, and chance.
But some things you know deep in your heart: that all human beings are made in the image of God; that their loves and lives are equally precious; that the pursuit of happiness promised in the Declaration of Independence has no meaning if it does not include the right to marry the person you love; and has no force if it denies that fundamental human freedom to a portion of its citizens. In the words of Hannah Arendt:
“The right to marry whoever onewishes is an elementary human right compared to which ‘the right to attend an integrated school, the right to sit where one pleases on a bus, the right to go into any hotel or recreation area or place of amusement, regardless of one’s skin or color or race’ are minor indeed. Even political rights, like the right to vote, and nearly all other rights enumerated in the Constitution, are secondary to the inalienable human rights to ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ proclaimed in the Declaration ofIndependence; and to this category the right to home and marriage unquestionably belongs.” (from a blog post on The Dish)
Matthew Boudway, Associate Editor, Commonweal:
Boudway categorizes the Obergefell v. Hodges case:
“. . . [It] was not about Constitutional theory or the burdens and perils of democracy. Nor was it about sex. It was about honoring people who promise to take care of each other and encouraging them to keep that promise.”
Yet, he disagrees with the outcome because on procedural grounds:
“Wherever possible, the Supreme Court should try to get out of the way, so that voters and their elected representatives can do the difficult work of democracy. If we want to change the definition of civil marriage so that it can accommodate gays and lesbians, there is nothing in the Constitution to prevent us, but neither is there anything to compel us. Why pretend otherwise?” (from a blog post on Commonweal)
Margery Eagan, Columnist, Cruxnow.com:
” ‘The nature of injustice is that we may not always see it in our own times,’ wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy explaining, if inadvertently, a big part of the problem for the Catholic hierarchy. They can’t recognize that injustice, even in 2015, because they live apart, isolated from, and largely ignorant of, the real, changed world.
“They do not see the gay parents chaperoning the apple-picking field trip in kindergarten. They do not see the son of those parents grow up to captain the football team and marry his college sweetheart. They do not see the life-long devotion of gay couples, in sickness and health, or in the mundane particulars of everyday life. Cooking, cleaning, planting the garden, mowing the lawn, driving the carpool, helping with the homework, wanting the best for their families, just like everybody else.” (From a column on Crux)
Bill Baird and John Kennedy, Retired Gay Catholic Married Couple in Santa Rosa, California:
” ‘It’s important to realize how many people are not happy about the decision,’ Baird said, ‘so we have to find a way to work together to promote marriage equality. . . .’
” ‘We’re lucky here in the Bay Area, but in many parts of the country you can be fired for being gay, and landlords may refuse to rent to a lesbian or gay couple,”’Baird said.
” ‘There really is a lack of protections for gay people, and while we’re delighted by the ruling, there is still a lot of education to do,’ Kennedy said.” (From a feature article in Santa Rosa Press Democrat)
Our Church teaches a preferential treatment for the marginalized. It teaches the dignity of all human beings. It teaches the primacy of conscience — the idea that it is our obligation to prayerfully consider tradition and doctrine, as well as our experience and the experience of those around us, in discerning what is moral and just.
My conscience has been formed with the help of family, friends, teachers, clergy, theologians, and strangers. Most of all, it has been formed through my relationship with God and my Church. . .
I hope and pray that Church leaders will hear and understand the majority who support those in loving same-sex relationships. Love is of God and adults who have formed their consciences in faith are very capable of making good decisions about how to express their love for other human beings. (From an op-ed essay on Philly.com)
Read more at
Archbishop Blase Cupich, Archdiocese of Chicago:
In an earlier post, we noted Archbishop Cupich’s reconciliatory statement following the Supreme Court decision. Cupich’s follow-up comments in an interview with The National Catholic Reporter about the statement are also worth noting. The archbishop stated:
“My concern is that we don’t lurch in one direction or another in terms of reaction, but that we really have a sense of serenity and maturity and keep ourselves walking together.
” ‘I think that’s the most important thing,’ the archbishop said, using the example of a family that discusses issues they face together.
” ‘When they have [a] crisis, when they have something new happening, a good, mature, serene family says, “OK, take a breath, everybody. We’re all in this together. We’re going to help each other,” ‘ he said.” (From a news story in The National Catholic Reporter)
In Boston and northern New Jersey, reporters visited local Catholic parishes to gather a wide variety of reactions which are chronicled in these two articles:
America magazine enlisted a variety of Catholic legal scholars and analysts to respond to the decision. Their opinions and topics are diverse. The legal arguments are difficult to summarize, so, instead of attempting to do so, we will just provide links to the complete essays.
On Bondings 2.0, we don’t often feature the writings of Catholics who identify as conservative or traditional. We do so when we think that their message is one which will possibly edify our readers.
Today, we are featuring a response to the U.S. Supreme Court decision on marriage equality by Patrick C. Beeman, a Catholic physician and writer from St. Louis who identifies as an orthodox Catholic. His essay, featured on The National Catholic Reporter website, has important lessons for both liberal and conservative Catholics.
Beeman’s essay focuses on the way some traditionalists have responded to the Supreme Court decision. He states that following the courts announcement:
“My social media feeds are littered with responses like ‘God have mercy on us all’ and ‘a crime against God and nature.’ How easy to forget that the tongue — and the compulsion to use one’s Twitter app — is a restless evil full of deadly poison.”
Beeman, who appears to support church teaching opposing marriage equality, is concerned about the style of argument that his fellow travelers employ. He is afraid that they will “only lend credence to the caricature of the church as a mob of narrow-minded and sour-faced doctrinaires.”
Noting that “Catholic balance” is a virtue that “lies somewhere between mercy and Christian charity on the one hand and doctrinal fidelity and truth on the other,” Beeman wonders why conservative Catholic opposition seems to forget this balance. He illustrates by noting the trend of criminalizing same-sex behavior around the globe:
“When the nonbeliever has a better track record than the believer on matters of justice, something is wrong. Shouldn’t it outrage any decent human being that in some countries, a homosexual act is a capital crime? Regardless of whether or not one believes it to be sinful, both sides should be equally opposed to the backward absurdity of a culture that would permit killing another person for a sexual sin. For my part, I am glad perfect marks in the area of sexual ethics are not a requirement for continuing. I suspect it would be ‘Game over’ for many of us if that were the case.”
And he did not forget other forms of oppression and discrimination which are closer to home:
“And what of the subtler forms of social, familial, ecclesiastical and economic discrimination that have been perpetrated against gay people and are only now beginning to dissipate? We should be unsettled when a child is kicked out of his home because he came out as gay to his father. That is not the Catholic response. That is the response of misguided fidelity to the truth — bigotry? — which can only have the effect of injuring the faith of the vulnerable. And that kind of response deserves a millstone if anything does.”
Beeman recognizes that supporting the Church’s teaching on sexual ethics does not give one license to ignore the Church’s teaching on human dignity:
“Those of us who identify as orthodox Catholics need to start making reparation for our part in alienating gay people from the church. I’m not saying we should abandon the church’s teaching on sexual ethics. But we ought to make quite certain we are applying it carefully and charitably. . . .
“Hence, if you opposed the redefinition of marriage, you must show magnanimity in defeat. But even more so: Draw a sharp distinction between the issue of gay marriage and whether or not gay people should be treated equitably in the marketplace, legal system or in society at large. The latter is a question of human dignity. If you are Catholic, it concerns you, whether you opposed gay marriage or not.”
In the essay, Beeman, who presumably disagrees with the Supreme Court’s decision, seems to be in close agreement with ideas proposed by two Catholic commentators who supported the decision and who were featured on Bondings 2.0: Father Thomas Reese, SJ, and Bob Shine. I admire Beeman’s ability not to let one disagreement on LGBT issues blind him to his obligations in other areas concerning LGBT people.
More importantly, though, I admire Beeman’s tone of moderation in this essay. Though primarily addressing his fellow conservative Catholics, I think that all Catholics can learn a lesson that though we may be passionate about a topic, even a topic laden with issues and consequences of great concern, we should never let our passion get the best of us. We should always treat our opponents with respect and Christian charity, remembering that they, too, are our neighbors.
[You can read Beeman’s full essay, which was paired with one by Arthur Fitzmaurice, Resource Director, Catholic Association for Lesbian and Gay Ministry, by clicking here.]
In Bondings 2.0’s continuing effort to try to chronicle all the key Catholic reactions to the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling, we’ve mostly been compiling snippets of responses into a series of posts [For a complete list of past reaction posts, see the bottom of this post, below my signature.]
Yet one Catholic commentator’s analytical response stands out over the rest of them for its incisive distinctions and its hopeful suggestions, and so it warrants examination in a post of its own. Jesuit Father Thomas Reese, a columnist for The National Catholic Reporter is a seasoned church observer and political analyst who has responded to the court ruling by writing a column explaining “How the bishops should respond to the same-sex marriage decision.”
Reese doesn’t usually mince words, but even for him, his opening paragraph was particularly pointed:
“With the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage throughout the United States, the U.S. Catholic bishops need a new strategy going forward. The bishops’ fight against gay marriage has been a waste of time and money. The bishops should get a new set of priorities and a new set of lawyers.”
His enlightening factual account cuts through the rhetoric of some marriage equality opponents who have tried to predict a religious freedom nightmare looming:
“First, let’s make clear what the decision does not do. It does not require religious ministers to perform same-sex marriages, nor does it forbid them from speaking out against gay marriage. These rights are protected by the First Amendment. The court has also made clear that a church has complete freedom in hiring and firing ministers for any reason.”
Reese then analogizes marriage equality law with divorce law, something bishops in the past vociferously opposed, but later, after passage, have come to accept. He extends this analogy into some specific recommendations:
“Today, Catholic institutions rarely fire people when they get divorced and remarried. Divorced and remarried people are employed by church institutions, and their spouses get spousal benefits. No one is scandalized by this. No one thinks that giving spousal benefits to a remarried couple is a church endorsement of their lifestyle.
“If bishops in the past could eventually accept civil divorce as the law of the land, why can’t the current flock of bishops do the same for gay marriage? Granted all the publicity around the church’s opposition to gay marriage, no one would think they were endorsing it.”
Perhaps most importantly, Reese exposes the falsehood that religious liberty will be compromised because of marriage equality. He shows, through a number of examples, how in the past Catholic church leaders, civic leaders, and business people have accommodated themselves, in a morally justified manner, to new laws they may disagree with:
“Let’s be perfectly clear. In Catholic morality, there is nothing to prohibit a Catholic judge or clerk from performing a same-sex marriage. Nor is there any moral obligation for a Catholic businessperson to refuse to provide flowers, food, space and other services to a same-sex wedding. Because of all the controversy over these issues in the media, the bishops need to be clear that these are not moral problems for Catholic government officials or Catholic business people.
“Again, Catholic judges have performed weddings for all applicants, including Catholics who are getting married in violation of church teaching. Catholic business people have provided services to any wedding party, including those of divorced Catholics marrying outside the church. Similarly, there is no moral problem for them to do the same for gay couples.”
Yet, Reese doesn’t stop there. In addition to recommending that bishops give up their resistance to marriage equality (“It is time for the bishops to admit defeat and move on. Gay marriage is here to stay, and it is not the end of civilization as we know it.”), he also suggests that they start to be pro-active in other areas of LGBT equality. For example, Reese observes:
“Currently, there is no federal law forbidding discrimination against gay people in employment or housing, but an increasing number of states are enacting such legislation. Will the bishops fight the passage of these laws out of fear of their impact on Catholic institutions?
The better strategy for the U.S. bishops is to imitate the Mormon church that worked together with gay activists on the enactment of laws against discrimination in employment and housing in Utah. . . . John Wester, now archbishop of Santa Fe, N.M., supported this legislation when he was bishop of Salt Lake City.”
Reese’s pragmatic approach also covers possible religious freedom questions which may emerge. His principle is that gay and lesbian couples should not be treated any differently by church institutions than any other couple who does not exemplify the Church’s sexuality teaching:
“For example, Catholic colleges and universities that provide housing for married couples are undoubtedly going to be approached for housing by same-sex couples. Unless the schools can get states to carve out an exception for them in anti-discrimination legislation, they could be forced to provide such housing.
“But since they already provide housing to couples married illicitly according to the church, no one should see such housing as an endorsement of someone’s lifestyle. And granted all the sex going on at Catholic colleges and universities, giving housing to a few gay people who have permanently committed themselves to each other in marriage would hardly be considered a great scandal.”
By the same principle of equal treatment, Reese says the church could grant employee spousal benefits in the same way that they do for others couples in what the Church would call “irregular marriages.”
Towards the end of his essay, Reese tackles the complicated question of adoption by lesbian and gay couples, and he critiques the claim made by Pope Francis and other bishops that children need a mother and a father. This kind of thinking, he notes, is not valid:
First, it casts doubt on the millions of single parents who are heroically raising their children without spousal support.
“Second, it has a narrow vision of the family. The church has traditionally recognized the importance of uncles, aunts and grandparents in the raising of children. There will be other sexes in the extended families of these children.
“Third, often, same-sex couples adopt children whom no one else wants. Would these children be better off in foster homes or orphanages?
“Finally, there is no evidence that children of same-sex couples suffer as a result of their upbringing. The original study that argued that children raised by same-sex couples did not do as well as those raised by heterosexual couples has been proven faulty.”
And after noting the wealth of social scientific research on the healthy development of children raised by lesbian and gay couples, Reese states:
“Just as Pope Francis depended on scientific consensus when dealing with the environment, the church should also consult the best of social science before making sweeping assertions about children and families.” [The link in this sentence was added by Bondings 2.0, not by Reese.]
Reese concludes with a clarion call for the U.S. bishops to widen their pastoral and teaching scope beyond the area of sexuality:
“It is time for the U.S. bishops to pivot to the public policy priorities articulated by Pope Francis: care for the poor and the environment and the promotion of peace and interreligious harmony. Their fanatical opposition to the legalization of gay marriage has made young people look on the church as a bigoted institution with which they do not want to be associated. As pastors, they should be talking more about God’s compassion and love rather than trying to regulate people’s sexual conduct through laws. “
I have nothing more to add to Reese’s remarks other than to say that I think this is the best Catholic analysis I have read so far on the marriage equality ruling by the Supreme Court. If you want to read the entire essay by Reese, and I recommend that you do, click here.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry
Previous blog posts of Catholic commentary on Supreme Court marriage equality ruling:
The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality has inspired a wealth of reactions from Catholic leaders, organizations, and individuals. The sheer wealth of responses is phenomenal. Over the next few days, Bondings 2.0 will try to provide you with the ones we think are most significant. If you see a response that you like, please send the link to: info@NewWaysMinistry.org. We will try to include it. Please limit suggestions to responses from Catholics or that discuss Catholic issues. (Otherwise, there are so many more responses we could be sharing!)
MY OWN PERSONAL REACTION: New Ways Ministry’s public statement on the ruling was released two days ago. But, please allow me to add a personal note to our ministry’s official response before I list the of responses of others.
It’s now two days after the ruling, and I am still stunned by this news. It truly doesn’t seem real yet. I’m sure it is going to take a while to sink in. Many folks have told me the same has been true for them.
Yet, when I begin to get a glimmer of the enormity of the positive repercussions this ruling, I honestly get more than a little emotional. For example, I think of how this decision moves LGBT people from the margins to the mainstream, even if they do not decide to marry. I think of all the lesbian and gay young people who will now be growing up with the hope that one day they can marry, and I think of all the fear and self-hatred that will be avoided because of they can hope for that. I think of how this ruling which legally normalizes same-gender relationships will now encourage businesses and organizations that have not been welcoming (such as the Boy Scouts of America) to be open to lesbian and gay people. I think of all the lives that will not be lost to suicide, all the hopes that will be allowed to flower, all the contributions that people will be able to make to society because they are legally recognized–and I end up getting more than teary-eyed at the prospect of such a promising future.
When I think of all the good that will happen in people’s lives and in our society, I can’t help but truly see the hand of God in this ruling. Our God, who wants us to live fully and love fully, must be rejoicing, too.
The following are some of the responses we’ve been collecting over the past few days. For each excerpted response, we provide the link back to the full statement or article.
Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops:
“Regardless of what a narrow majority of the Supreme Court may declare at this moment in history, the nature of the human person and marriage remains unchanged and unchangeable. Just as Roe v. Wade did not settle the question of abortion over forty years ago, Obergefell v. Hodges does not settle the question of marriage today. Neither decision is rooted in the truth, and as a result, both will eventually fail. Today the Court is wrong again. It is profoundly immoral and unjust for the government to declare that two people of the same sex can constitute a marriage.” (From a statement)
Individual U.S. bishops and state Catholic conferences:
Many U.S. bishops and state Catholic conferences issued reaction statements to the Supreme Court decision. Since many of these statements are similar to one another, and to the one above by Archbishop Kurtz, I will not be excerpting them here. As I find some that have something unique to say, I will post excerpts in days to come.
If you are interested in what individual bishops have said, I recommend two blog posts I found which have the most exhaustive collections of excerpts from bishops’ statements, with links to original statements:
Jim FitzGerald, Executive Director, Call To Action:
“For far too long committed LGBT partners and families have endured discrimination and marginalization. This has come from many places – but none more forceful than from some members within the Catholic hierarchy. This decision, however, reverberates God’s love of everyone and celebrates the dignity and holiness of all loving families.
“The sacredness of all loving couples, together with their welcome and inclusion in all facets of faith communities, is a reality that must now be given pastoral priority. We cannot act as if the Spirit hasn’t moved us to be more loving and just.” (From a statement)
“As Catholics, we celebrate the increase in justice that this ruling ushers in. We rejoice with all of the couples and families who will be able to access the legal protections that marriage will afford them. Mostly, we are thrilled that the Supreme Court has recognized that the love and commitment of same-sex couples is absolutely equal to that of other couples.
“DignityUSA prays for consideration and solidarity as this ruling is implemented. We understand that there are many in our country, and in our church, who will be disappointed by this ruling, and urge that the sincerity of their beliefs be respected. At the same time, we expect that all people, no matter what their beliefs, abide by what the Supreme Court has affirmed as the law of the land, and treat same-sex couples and their families respectfully and in full accordance with the law.” (From a statement)
Deb Word, President, Fortunate Families:
“Fortunate Families celebrates with our LGBT children the opportunity to share in the same rights as their straight siblings. The Supreme Court decision brings legal stability to our children’s lives and security to our grandchildren. We applaud this decision and continue our work in the Catholic tradition seeking social justice for all our children, and we look forward to the next hurdle, the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.” (From a statement)
Reverend Daniel Horan, OFM, Author and Lecturer:
” ‘The joys and hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the women and men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ.’
“With this now-famous line, the Second Vatican Council opened its ‘Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World’ (1965). This passage immediately came to mind this morning as I heard of theU. S. Supreme Court decision (Obergefell v. Hodges) that upheld the constitutional right to same-sex marriage. My personal response was emotional in the way that the reaction of so many others has been in the wake of this landmark case. My reaction has been solidarity for a population of people who have indeed been ‘afflicted’ and whose experience for so long, millennia perhaps, has been more ‘grief and anxiety’ than ‘joy and hope.’ But today, at least in the United States, things appear to be changing.
“As a Christian, the ‘joys and hopes’ of the LGBT women and men who have cried out for the recognition of their human dignity and value, these are the ‘joys and hopes’ of me today.” (From an America magazine blog post )
Arthur Fitzmaurice, Resource Director for the Catholic Association for Lesbian and Gay Ministries:
“Now that [marriage equality] is the law of the land, it is going to continue to provide space for people in same-sex relationships to tell their stories. In the time ahead there is a chance for us to step away from the charged political debate to a pastoral dialogue on what it means to be LGBT and Catholic.” (From a National Catholic Reporter news story)
More reactions to follow in the coming days! Post your own reactions–personal, political, or otherwise– to the statements above or to the Supreme Court decision in the “Comments” section of this post.
The following is a statement of Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry’s Executive Director, on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to enable marriage equality to be enacted throughout the nation.
New Ways Ministry rejoices with millions of U.S. Catholics that the U.S. Supreme Court has decided in favor of marriage equality for lesbian and gay couples! On this historic day, we pray in thanksgiving that justice and mercy have prevailed and that the prayers and efforts of so many have combined to move our nation one step closer to fairness and equality for all.
With this Supreme Court victory, Catholics recommit themselves to working to make sure that all LGBT people are treated equally in both church and society. While we are delighted with this victory, there is still much work to be done to ensure those goals.
Catholics have been at the forefront of working for equal marriage rights for lesbian and gay couples. The overwhelming majority of U.S. Catholics have consistently been in favor of marriage equality, and have put their support into action in legislative, judicial, and electoral campaigns.
Their Catholic faith has inspired them to make sure that their lesbian and gay family members, friends, neighbors, and co-workers receive equal treatment by society. The Supreme Court’s decision embodies the Catholic values of human dignity, respect for differences, and the strengthening of families.
While the U.S. Catholic bishops have consistently opposed marriage equality measures on all fronts, Catholic people in the pews have had a different perspective from their leaders. The lived faith of Catholic people has taught them that love, commitment, and sacrifice are the essential building blocks of marriage and family. Their daily experiences interacting with lesbian and gay couples and their families has taught them that these relationships are identical to heterosexual marriages in terms of the essential qualities needed to build a future together, establish a family, and contribute to social stability and growth.
The U.S. bishops now need to reconcile themselves to the new social reality of marriage equality, as it is poised to spread to all 50 states. They can do so by entering into a dialogue with lesbian and gay Catholics to learn more about the reality of their lives and how their faith inspires their relationships. The bishops should declare a moratorium on firing lesbian and gay church employees who have married legally. These firings have been a scandalous trend with effects that are harmful not only to the people involved, but to the life of the Church.
Today begins a time for Catholic supporters and Catholic opponents of marriage equality to reconcile with one another and work to build up their local faith communities so that together they can work for a world Pope Francis envisions: one of justice and mercy.
An important Catholic dimension to the upcoming U.S. Supreme Court case which could legalize same-gender marriage across the nation has just emerged in an article on The Huffington Post.
The news organization reported that the lead plaintiffs in one of the four cases that will have their oral arguments next week, with a decision expected by the end of June, are a Catholic gay couple, who are active parishioners at Our Lady of Lourdes parish, Louisville, Kentucky.
Michael DeLeon and Greg Bourke have been together for 33 years, and they have two children: Bella, 16, and Isaiah, 17. They married in 2004, in Niagara Falls, Canada. The article says that at the parish they “are just like any other family.”
Indeed, the pastor at O.L. of Lourdes praised their involvement and their acceptance by parishioners:
” ‘I’ve been here almost four years, and there might be a handful of people who are uncomfortable,’ said Father Scott Wimsett, the pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes. ‘But [Bourke and DeLeon] are loved and respected and people call them. They’re involved, and you see how they fit in.’
” ‘They’re just good people,’ Wimsett went on. ‘And that’s kind of what it’s all about, isn’t it?’ “
The article described the legal and social dilemma that the couple are in because marriage equality is not yet legal in their home state of Kentucky:
“[T]hat’s the issue bringing them to the Supreme Court: Does the 14th Amendment require a state to recognize same-sex marriages that were lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state?
“While they wait, they still have to deal with the very real consequences of having a marriage that’s recognized by the federal government but not by their own state. For example, only DeLeon is listed as the legal parent of Bella and Isaiah.
“Their Supreme Court brief argues that if ‘Michael dies, Greg’s lack of a permanent parent/child relationship with the children would threaten the stability of the surviving family.’
“That legal distinction makes itself felt in day-to-day life in unexpected ways. For example, if Bella and Isaiah need passports, DeLeon will be the one to go with them, because in the eyes of the law, he’s their only parent.”
This is not the first time that the couple has been in the spotlight because of gay issues. In 2012, Bourke was expelled from his position as the leader of a Boy Scout troop by the leadership of the local Scout Council. The local community, including the parish and the pastor, came to his support during this crisis:
“[T]he community rallied behind Bourke. His troop and Wimsett, his pastor, stood up for him and refused to make him leave.
” ‘The Boy Scouts did the one thing they could do that was left in their arsenal… Our troop charter would have been revoked if I didn’t leave,’ said Bourke. ‘So because I love the troop and I love the boys and I love scouting… I resigned reluctantly.’ “
Ann Russo, a parishioner at O.L of Lourdes who is the leader of the Girl Scout troop offered her reflections on Bourke and DeLeon’s relationship:
” ‘I have a lot of admiration for Greg and Michael,’ said Russo. ‘They’re probably one of the first gay couples that I’ve gotten to know personally. And the fact that they’ve been together for so long just — I mean, they were just meant to be together. It’s been fun watching them post on Facebook — their anniversaries and birthdays and things like that.’
“She said she was proud to be a member of the parish when Wimsett stood behind Bourke and disagreed with the Boy Scouts’ policy.
” ‘I think that any of us, as parents, want to be involved with our kids,’ she said. ‘As a Girl Scout leader, I don’t talk about my sex life with any other leaders, much less children. That would never have come up.’ “
Bourke and DeLeon, like many Catholic gay and lesbian couples, are leading dedicated lives of faith and service in a way that is both remarkable and ordinary. But it sounds like the support of their pastor and parish are extraordinary in their support for this loving Catholic family.