Catholic Leaders Pledge Support for LGBTQ Nondiscrimination Protections

Gramick and Francis DeBernardo pose in front of St. Peter’s Square
Sister Jeannine Gramick and Francis DeBernardo of New Ways Ministry call for religious leaders to support LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections.
REUTERS/Giampiero Sposito

More than 250 Catholic leaders are stepping up to express unequivocal support for comprehensive nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ individuals.

New Ways Ministry — a group dedicated to LGBTQ Catholics — spearheaded a letter signed by prominent Catholic officials to condemn the homophobic views of many church leaders and emphasize the need for legislation that protects the LGBTQ community.

“We affirm that Catholic teaching should not be used to further oppress LGBTQ people by denying rights rooted in their inherent human dignity and in the church’s call for social equality,” noted the letter, which was signed by influential leaders such as Mary McAleese, a Catholic academic and former president of Ireland, and Mary Novak, executive director of NETWORK, a national Catholic social justice lobbying group in Washington, DC.

The letter continued, “Society’s failure to protect LGBTQ people has left them crying out for justice. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we too must hear and respond to this cry by pursuing policies and laws that remedy such grave injustices. To do any less would abdicate our responsibility as Christians to live the Gospel in public life by advancing the good of all people, especially those on the margins.”

The push for non-discrimination protections comes at a time when the Equality Act, a federal bill that would solidify comprehensive protections for LGBTQ individuals, hangs in the balance due a divided US Senate.

“LGBTQ non-discrimination is being debated at all levels in our society, and the Catholic perspective on this issue is often misrepresented, even by some church leaders,” Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry’s executive director, said in a written statement. “Catholics who have studied and reflected deeply on this topic agree that non-discrimination is the most authentic Catholic position.”

The letter stressed that anti-LGBTQ statements go against Catholic Social Teaching, which promotes equality for all individuals regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Pope Francis endorsed civil unions last year, saying LGBTQ folks are “children of God” and “have a right to family.” But earlier this year, he and the Catholic Church came under fire for doubling down on their opposition of same-sex marriage. In an explanation approved by Pope Francis, the Church said God “does not and cannot bless sin.”

The letter further ripped Catholic leaders for using homophobia and transphobia to back their outdated and discriminatory beliefs.

“The relationship between the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church and the community of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) persons has long been fraught with tensions, negative emotions, and confusion,” the group wrote in a letter. “Harsh statements from high-ranking church leaders against LGBTQ equality initiatives in the civil arena have often succeeded in limiting the rights of LGBTQ people, causing great offense and allowing great social and personal harm to befall this marginalized community.”

The group’s calls to support LGBTQ rights comes during another year of ongoing anti-trans legislation in the US, where some states have passed laws banning transgender people from participating on school sports teams and accessing public bathrooms. In a press release, New Ways Ministry said they asked 26 US bishops to endorse the statement, but only garnered the support of retired Bishop Thomas J. Gumbleton of Detroit.

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