Archbishop William Lori (http://www.archbalt.org)

Archbishop William Lori (http://www.archbalt.org)

Three prominent Catholic prelates—Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, CA, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, and Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore—have made it known that they plan to “work with leaders and all people of good will to end all forms of unjust discrimination, including against those who experience same sex attraction.” This they said in a letter mailed to US senators.

What’s that now? Are US bishops taking Pope Francis’s message of focusing on poverty rather than homosexuality to heart? Are Catholic bishops going on-the-record in support of the marginalized and oppressed? Is this a sign of a new era in US Catholicism, the one heralded by lefty Catholics who have expressed unabashed hope in the new pope?

Nah. Keep reading.

Catholic bishops apparently feel that discriminating against LGBT people in the workplace is not only just, but in fact, not being able to do so threatens their religious liberty. So the USCCB is appealing to lawmakers to vote against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).

The LGBT advocacy group Freedom to Work explains that ENDA “will make it illegal throughout the entire country for an employer to fire, refuse to hire, refuse to promote, or severely harass an employee simply based on his or her sexual orientation or gender identity.” Further, they explain, “ENDA exempts churches, religious organizations and religious schools.”

In their letter, Catholic bishops relied on lawyers rather than pastors in their decision to come out against the bill. They write that they fear ENDA “threatens religious liberty by punishing as discrimination the religious or moral disapproval of same-sex sexual conduct.” There’s lots more fear, too, including the fear that ENDA would protect “extramarital sexual conduct” and the fear that it “rejects the biological basis of gender by defining ‘gender identity’ as something people may choose at variance with their biological sex.”

Fear is at the root of the bishops’ opposition to LGBT advances in general and ENDA in specific. Fear that society is changing so quickly. Fear that the church is losing its influence in forming morality. Fear that the church is being pushed to the margins.

It’s remarkable to me that some bishops here have learned so little over the past 8 months. The world is hungry for moral clarity. Look how people have responded to Pope Francis. He talks morality constantly, and the world listens and reflects. When someone is on the right side of justice, no matter how challenging the message, the world pays attention. If Catholic leaders here in the US feel they find themselves on the defensive, increasingly marginalized and perhaps even deemed irrelevant, at what point do they begin to reconsider their message and priorities?

They write that they want to “work with leaders and all people of good will to end all forms of unjust discrimination.” Imagine if they had started there and left it at that.

Categories: Beliefs

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Michael J. O'Loughlin

Michael J. O'Loughlin

Michael J. O’Loughlin writes about religion and politics from Washington, D.C., paying close attention to the role of the Catholic Church in public life. His writing has appeared in Religion & Politics, the Jesuit magazine America, on BustedHalo.com, and in Duke Divinity School’s Faith & Leadership.

32 Comments

  1. The Bishops are correct. They may well lose in the end, (just as American Christianity itself is losing and may soon drop past the point of no return), but at least they are making an effort. They are not waiting on Pope Francis to do the right thing; they’re doing the right thing themselves.

    • The Bishops are trying to pretend there is an inherent right to use one’s bigotry to deny people work and marginalize others in society. They have come up with their own definition of “religious freedom” to mean letting them dictate how civil society runs to the detriment of anyone else. Its a load of crap. One’s right to religious free exercise has always ended where it causes harm to others.

      It is not intolerance and bigotry to criticize speech and actions which intentionally discriminate and marginalize people on the basis of what they are. It is just speaking truth to power.

      The Bishops are going to lose on this because they fully embrace mendacity and bullying over love of God and humanity.

  2. to accept Homosexuality as a church leader like a bishop is heresy and those that accwept this God will shurely punish, homoseuxalitty is sin in Gods eyes and all that accept this are condemmed to Hell by committing wickedness in the name of God

  3. Thank you, Michael, for your profound article. The bishops are more and more running into the ghetto. As a faithful Catholic I support marriage equality!

  4. Get your religion, and its ancient ignorance out of our government! This is discrimination, pure and simple, perpetrated against 10-15 percent of the population. This is an abomination! Let freedom ring!

  5. I don’t ask this rhetorically: have the bishops ever supported a piece of legislation that had the express purpose of protecting or advancing the rights and dignity of LGBT Americans?

  6. Nanabedokw'môlsem

    At the root, the continuing hassle over the question LGBT has to do with the nature of the sexual orientation in question. If we were to accept that the orientation is merely a matter of choice, which some comments already received seem to reflect, then sexual conduct under the orientation is a sin. If we were to accept that sexual orientation is hardwired in the human being, and no way a matter of free choice, which some comments already received seem to reflect, then it would be sinful of us to discriminate.
    Church policy seems to be the former for a very, very long time, indeed for such a long time as to be a habit since times pre-science, pre-psychology, pre-psychiatry.
    Definitive mental health and biological research is desperately needed.

    • No whether its a choice or born that way, it is still a sin. People have genetic causes of alcoholism but no one would ever say that alcoholism is good.

  7. Michael,

    Well thought out post. If the Bishops claim to want to help end all discrimination, well do that. That doesn’t preclude church teachings on sexual ethics. Jesus didn’t discriminate, but he said plenty of things about sexual ethics. If it’s good enough for Jesus, why isn’t it good enough for us…unless some think they are better than Jesus, especially those that proclaim judgement as if they know who will or will not be condemned to hell.

    • Jesus actually didn’t say much of anything on the subject of sexual ethics. Certainly nothing useful in modern society.

      As for being good enough for Jesus, well that’s nice but we don’t run our government that way. We are not a theocracy beholden to any Christian clergy’s notion of laws.

        • Frank, how the hell would you know? Nothing you post shows a glimmer of intelligence devoted to a subject.

          Jesus blessed a gay couple.
          http://www.wouldjesusdiscriminate.org/biblical_evidence/gay_couple.html

          • Actually, Jesus blessed some of the ancient Corinthian homosexuals…by saving them, cleansing them and freeing them from homosexuality! (1 Cor.6:9-11)

          • At Doc Anthony. Actually your citation is BS. It says nothing about “curing homosexuality”. If you had a legitimate point to make you would not have lied so badly and obviously. =)

  8. Jesus condemns sin and converts the sinner! This was the message of the Good News. Forgiveness and Conversion. Jesus forgave the prostitute caught in action, the thief on the cross, the ones who mocked, spit, pierced his side and crucified Him on the Cross of Calvary. What man is above Jesus?

  9. Religious liberty can be awfully vague, especially when people want to excuse prejudicial behavior. I’m a Protestant. Are the bishops going to support me if I start discriminating against Catholics as an “expression of my religious liberty”?

    • If you were a Catholic bishop, the answer is yes. Or at least it would be if they were being honest about their POV.

      The laws are pretty damn clear on the subject. Religious liberty is not an excuse to ignore civil laws which regulate something the government has a legitimate interest in. Even Antonin Scalia thought so.
      “the right of free exercise does not relieve an individual of the obligation to comply with a valid and neutral law of general applicability on the ground that the law proscribes (or prescribes) conduct that his religion prescribes (or proscribes).”
      http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/historics/USSC_CR_0494_0872_ZO.html

  10. The Bishops have the right and the duty to fire anyone working for them who is not willing to toe the line of Catholic moral principles. The Catholic Church will never legitimize homosexual acts come what may. if it is the catacombs again; then we are ready. COME LORD JESUS!

    • No, not really. Only if the job involves the running of a church. Employers in any other kind of workplace have no business whatsoever forcing employees to tow religious dogmatic lines.

      Since the RCC has its hands in a lot of other pies such as hospitals, commercial property and other civil concerns, it has to abide by the same rules as everyone else who runs such things.

      By all means go back to the catacombs and bunkers. Stay the hell out of our government, commercial and civil institutions.

    • The Non-Satanic Frank

      Being Catholic, self-righteous , and congenitally thick does not legitimize your persecution of others with no evidence of transgression. you are no better than the savage with the bone through his nose who kills babies born during thunderstorms because his benighted superstition dictates it.

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