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.