Tagged: USCCB

Catholic Bishops Becoming Increasingly Hysterical in Opposition to Marriage Equality

With the U.S. Supreme Court poised to rule on the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8 in June, and two new states enacting same-sex marriage legislation in the first few months of 2013 (with another potentially on the way), marriage equality in the United States is on the move.

RainbowCatholicWhile this is welcome news to equality-minded folks across the country, it’s decidedly bad news for America’s Catholic bishops, who are leading the crusade to exclude same-sex couples from legal civil marriage. It’s a battle they’re clearly losing, but as the bishops’ struggle against the tide of history becomes ever more exhausting, they’re taking a cue from their Anglican counterparts: their opposition is becoming increasingly hysterical.

In their latest anti-equality attack, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has prepared an insert that Catholic parishes across the country will place in their bulletins in May and June. They warn that a pro-fairness Supreme Court ruling (a broad negative ruling,” as they call it) could “redefine marriage in the law throughout the entire country, becoming the ‘Roe v. Wade’ of marriage.” [emphasis theirs] Continue reading

Bishops Tell Catholics to Celebrate Holy Week by Attending Anti-Gay March

For Western Christians, Catholic and Protestant, the seven days between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday are the most solemn and sacred days of the entire liturgical year. In fact, that week is so sacred that it’s been known as Holy Week since the third century and is commemorated by fasting and solemn prayer.

This year, however, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is encouraging Catholics all across the country to add one more activity to that list. In addition to fasting, praying, and preparing for Easter, the bishops are asking their flock to take time out of their Holy Week observances, travel to Washington, D.C., and participate in a march and rally to protest the possibility that loving and committed same-sex couples might be granted the freedom to marry.

The events are scheduled for Tuesday, March 26, the day the Supreme Court will consider Hollingsworth v. Perry, the challenge to Proposition 8. (The Court will hear United States v. Windsor, the challenge to the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act,” the following day.) It’s being organized by the National Organization for Marriage, a blatantly partisan special interest group (which infamously plotted to fragment the Democratic Party coalition by “[driving] a wedge between gays and blacks”).

None of this appears to matter to the bishops, though. They’re even promoting NOM’s march on the USCCB Facebook page:

usccb_NOM_march

Using Christianity’s most sacred time of the year to promote homophobic bigotry and malicious discrimination? That’s utterly contemptible. Every time I think the U.S. Catholic bishops can’t possibly sink any lower into the cesspool of anti-gay bigotry, they find a new way to do exactly that.

Jesus wept.

h/t: Jeremy Hooper

Catholic Bishops Decry Expanded Military Benefits for Gay Couples

timothy_broglioProving once again that the Catholic Church will stop at nothing in their crusade against LGBT rights and their attempt to force civil marriage law to reflect Catholic Church law, two U.S. Catholic archbishops are voicing their opposition to a new Pentagon policy that expands the range of benefits offered to same-sex spouses of active-duty military personnel.

While the so-called Defense of Marriage Act prohibits such spouses from receiving the full range of benefits, including health care and housing allowances, that their straight counterparts are given, last week’s policy change extended a wide range of valuable benefits previously unavailable to same-sex military spouses including hospital visitation, emergency leave, child care, ID cards, legal assistance, and family support programs such as family readiness groups.

But Archbishops Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services (above) and Salvatore Cordileone of the Archdiocese of San Francisco (below) are speaking out in opposition to the new benefits, saying that providing basic protections for gay and lesbian soldiers, their spouses, and their children — protections that families headed by opposite-sex couples take for granted – amounts to a barely-concealed attack on marriage itself.

“This new policy under the guise of ‘equal benefits’ undermines marriage as the union of one man and one woman because it treats two persons of the same sex as spouses,” Abp. Broglio said in a statement released by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

cordileoneThe notoriously homophobic Abp. Cordileone, who leads the USCCB’s fight against marriage equality as chairman of the bishops’ “Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage,” agreed. “There is no question that all service members should be treated equally, but it is not discrimination to treat different things differently,” he said. “For the sake of our nation, and especially for the sake of our children, marriage should be promoted and protected at every opportunity, never undermined.”

This is what hatred looks like, folks. Sure, it comes in the form of well-packaged and seemingly innocuous sound bites, wrapped up in the language of religious freedom and liberty, and evoking false concern for preserving diversity and protecting children. Hell, it even comes wearing a skullcap, cassock, and pectoral cross! But don’t be fooled: opposing even basic recognition and protections for LGBT servicemembers, their spouses, and their families – even as those families sacrifice for our country and face the often unbearable pressures of military life — is hate, pure and simple.

Catholic Bishops Won’t Support Immigration Reform if it’s LGBT-Inclusive

immigration_equalityWhoa. Proving again that the leaders of the Catholic Church will stop at literally nothing to hurt LGBT people, couples, and families — however and wherever they can, regardless of who they may hurt or what deeply-held principles they have to ignore in the process — the Associated Press is reporting that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have sent a strongly-worded letter to President Obama about his plans to provide a much-needed overhaul to the country’s immigration system, going so far as to threaten to oppose the President’s proposal and “[jeopardize] passage of the bill.”

Why would the Catholic Church, a longtime advocate for immigrant rights and a staunch proponent of a fairer immigration system, suddenly threaten to oppose reform? You guessed it: because the proposals from the President and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus have the nerve to recognize and include LGBT people:

Proposals by President Barack Obama and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus include the same-sex partners of Americans among those who would be eligible for visas. The Human Rights Campaign and other gay advocates welcomed the recognition, arguing current laws unfairly treat people in gay or lesbian relationships “as strangers.” The idea has the backing of the National Council de la Raza and other liberal Latino groups.

But Catholic bishops, with the support of evangelicals and other theological conservatives, have sent a letter to Obama protesting his proposal. In a sign of the sensitivity of the issue, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops would not provide a copy of the statement, saying the signatories agreed not to make the letter public. Sister Mary Ann Walsh, a spokeswoman for the bishops, would say only that recognition of gay couples in the president’s reform proposals “jeopardizes passage of the bill.”

Unless you're gay, that is.
Unless you’re gay, that is.

You read that correctly. The Catholic Church is willing to throw the eleven million undocumented immigrants in this country under the bus unless the Obama administration is willing to degrade and exclude binational LGBT families.

What a disgrace. Is there no limit to the Catholic Church’s malicious, spiteful, hateful anti-gay bigotry?

 

Catholic Bishops Politicize the Pulpit Ahead of Election

Over the last several months, America’s Catholic bishops have noticeably stepped up their efforts to get Catholic souls to the polls for next week’s election. Those efforts, though, have hardly been bipartisan. Despite the Catholic Church’s status as a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) religious group, the bishops have made it abundantly clear that they want their flock to vote Republican, and they’ve shown themselves more than willing to Thumbnail image for separation_church_state.jpgresort to spiritual blackmail and hysterical rhetoric to convince Catholics to do just that.

The most recent example is Daniel Jenky, Bishop of Peoria, Illinois. Earlier this year he delivered a homily in which he compared President Obama to Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler and accused him of pushing a “radical, pro-abortion and extreme secularist agenda.” Yesterday, Jenky’s office issued a letter claiming that Catholics who “callously enable the destruction of innocent human life in the womb” (i.e. vote for political candidates who believe that women have a right to make reproductive decisions for themselves, rather than their churches or their governments deciding for them) are “[rejecting] Jesus as their Lord” and “objectively guilty of grave sin.”

And he commanded his letter to be read at Mass this weekend by every priest in every parish in the Diocese of Peoria, calling upon the priests’ vow of obedience to him in order to compel them to do so.

Hmmmm, I wonder whether Daniel Jenky wants the Catholics of central Illinois to vote Democratic or Republican?

Bishop David Laurin Ricken entered the fray last week, informing the over 300,000 members of the Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin that voting for candidates whose positions contradict any so-called “non-negotiables” of Catholic teaching (including abortion rights and marriage equality) “could put [one's] soul in jeopardy.” Like Jenky, Ricken ordered churches to distribute his message, but he arguably tiptoed even further towards an overt GOP endorsement.

The prelate wrote [pdf]:

Some candidates and one party have even chosen some of these as their party’s or their personal political platform. To vote for someone in favor of these positions means that you could be morally “complicit” with these choices which are intrinsically evil. This could put your own soul in jeopardy.

Three items on Ricken’s list of so-called “non-negotiables” – reproductive choice, stem cell research, and marriage equality – can be found in the official 2012 Democratic Party Platform. Hmmmm, I wonder whether David Ricken wants the Catholics of northeastern Wisconsin to vote Democratic or Republican?

Bishop Thomas Paprocki, a neighbor of Jenky’s in the Diocese of Springfield, Illinois, also joined the ecclesiastical chorus, recording a video message in which he specifically pointed out what he called the “intrinsic evils” in the Democratic Party platform – you guessed it: choice and marriage equality – and then implied, in language remarkably similar to Ricken’s, that casting one’s vote for a Democratic candidate threatens one’s eternal soul:

“…a vote for a candidate who promotes actions or behaviors that are intrinsically evil and gravely sinful makes you morally complicit and places the eternal salvation of your own soul in serious jeopardy.”

Hmmmm, which party do you think Paprocki wants his flock to vote for?

For the record, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has strongly condemned the Paul Ryan budget – which passed the Republican-controlled House earlier this year – as a moral failure. But never mind that. Policing women’s uteri and excluding loving same-sex couples from marriage is clearly more important.

Speaking of marriage, bishops in states voting on marriage next week have spiritually bullied their congregants every bit as shamelessly as their brothers.

Perhaps the most notorious example is Twin Cities Archbishop John Nienstedt, who has campaigned vigorously for the passage of a constitutional marriage discrimination amendment in Minnesota. He injected a prayer for marriage discrimination into the Mass, ordered his priests to organize grassroots political committees in their parishes – at parish expense – for the express purpose of drumming up support for the amendment, attempted to silence any dissenters within the clerical ranks, mandated marriage discrimination lectures in Catholic schools across the archdiocese, and caused pro-equality lay employees to fear for their jobs.

Nienstedt’s colleague in Seattle, Archbishop Peter Sartain, recently posted a video message in which he ominously warned that society “would be harmed beyond repair” if the people of Washington vote to uphold the state’s marriage equality law. And some Catholic bishops extend their anti-LGBT attacks far beyond marriage – Omaha, Nebraska Archbishop George Lucas is leading the charge to repeal the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance, and the Diocese of Worcester, Massachusetts, backed out of a real estate agreement this summer after it found out the buyers were a gay couple, possibly violating state law in the process. (For a more exhaustive list of anti-gay activities from U.S. Catholic leaders, please refer to this list I compiled last month.)

It should be noted, however, that most rank-and-file Catholics hold very different opinions on women’s rights and LGBT rights than the ones pushed by their leaders. Nearly three-fourths of them support civil marriage equality for same-sex couples. Over 80 percent of American Catholics believe birth control is morally acceptable, and a clear majority say that religiously affiliated colleges and hospitals should be required to provide contraception coverage in employee health insurance plans.

But none of that appears to matter very much to America’s Catholic bishops, because they’re practically tripping over themselves to crawl into bed with the GOP. Why, you ask?

Well, it probably has something to do with the fact that the 2012 Republican Party platform is the most right-wing, anti-woman, anti-LGBT platform in modern history. Because if we know one thing, it’s that the leadership of the Catholic Church will stop at nothing to block the rights of women and LGBT people, even if it means harming the poor, labor unions, and the environment in the process.

How profoundly sad.

Originally posted at the Bilerico Project.

Maryland Cardinal Mandates Marriage Discrimination Letter Be Read Aloud at Mass

Is it just me, or are these news items becoming a daily occurrence?

Here’s the latest, courtesy of Joe.My.God: the office of Baltimore Cardinal Edwin O’Brien is requiring that a pro-marriage discrimination letter, authored by the cardinal himself, be read aloud at Mass as part of a weekend petition drive to collect the signatures needed to ensure that a statewide referendum to overturn Maryland’s new marriage equality law makes it onto the ballot in November.

The cardinal addresses Catholics directly in the letter: “Today after Mass, you will have the opportunity to sign this [marriage discrimination] petition, and I strongly encourage you to do so.” Later, he falls back on the anti-LGBT fear-mongering that seems to have become priority #1 for Catholic leaders, saying that the “Church’s understanding about marriage” is being “deeply threatened” by the specter of marriage equality. (Funny, I thought the only thing being threatened by marriage equality was the ability of churches to write their religious dogmas into civil law, but I must have missed something…)

And just in case there are any rogue priests who would rather not use the Mass as a pretext to stir up division and hatred against LGBT people — or simply wish to respect the consciences of the 71% of Catholics who support marriage equality — the heading on the cardinal’s letter leaves no room for interpretation: “To be read at Masses the weekend of the petition drive.”

That’s not a request, that’s an order.
MarylandLetter

Gay Teacher Fired from St. Louis Catholic School on His Wedding Day

As we all know, the leaders of the American Roman Catholic Church are engaging in an all-out campaign of spiritual bullying and religion-based bigotry against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, couples, and families. Fighting back against this extremism has been a major focus of my efforts here at TWO. Notable examples of anti-gay bigotry from the Catholic hierarchy include:

  • New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, recently elevated to the rank of cardinal, made the (ultimately unsuccessful) fight against marriage equality in New York state a top priority of his episcopate.
  • When he United States Conference of Catholic Bishops — of which Dolan is president — met in Baltimore in November, the issue to which they devoted the bulk of their discussion was that of marriage equality and how they could stop it from spreading across the country.
  • Also in November, Dan Avila, then serving as the USCCB’s “Policy Advisor for Marriage and Family,”resigned in disgrace after TWO and many other groups condemned him for writing that homosexuality was caused by Satan entering the wombs of pregnant mothers and messing with their hormones.
  • Early this year, Chicago Cardinal Francis George apologized after an uproar surrounding remarks he made comparing the LGBT movement to the Ku Klux Klan.
  • Minnesota’s Catholic bishops have diverted tax-exempt church resources to push for the passage of a constitutional marriage discrimination amendment in that state, silencing dissent in the clergy, injecting a prayer for marriage discrimination into the Catholic Mass itself, and embracing “ex-gay” propaganda in their efforts to oppose marriage equality.
  • And just yesterday, we heard about a Maryland lesbian who gave her deceased mother a Catholic funeral according to her final wishes, only to be denied communion by the priest. Fr. Marcel Guarnizo also refused to deliver the final blessing at the woman’s grave.

And now, this: Al Fischer, a popular, openly gay music teacher at a St. Louis-area Catholic school, was fired earlier this month after an archdiocesan official overheard him talking with co-workers about his upcoming plans to marry his longtime partner in New York. a popular and openly gay music teacher at a St. Louis-area Catholic school who was fired in February when an archdiocesan official overheard him talking with co-workers about his upcoming New York wedding to his same-sex partner of nearly 20 years. Fischer’s firing was fast-tracked last month when his partner posted the news on Facebook, but it was originally scheduled to take effect on March 9, one week from today — the day of the couple’s 20th anniversary and their wedding day.

al_fischerThe report from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch makes it clear that Fischer’s sexual orientation was no secret at St. Ann Parish. Fischer directs the local gay men’s chorus. His partner, Charlie Robin, noted that the two attend school functions like concerts and staff parties as a couple. In a letter he emailed to the school’s parents shortly after receiving his pink slip, Fischer wrote: ”I think the word has been well spread that this is not the fault of St. Ann School or its leadership, and I want to emphasize that I get that, too.” He said further that the school principal and parish priest “are still there for me in a big way.” Parents at the school are said to be very upset.

In the midst of all of this, Mr. Fischer is taking the high road and doing what a good teacher does: thinking not about himself, but about how his very public firing will impact the children he teaches. His letter encouraged parents to talk to their kids, to make sure that they don’t let what’s happened to him make them scared to be themselves. ”A family conversation about whether or not justice was served here could be a great thing. I do not want the lesson from this for the kids to be, ‘Keep your mouth shut, hide who you are or what you think if it will get you in trouble.’”

Stories like these are intensely personal for me. I’m a musician and former Catholic who, like Fischer, was dismissed for (in my case) being married to my soulmate — simply because that person is another man. I know dozens of wonderful, dedicated, talented LGBT musicians serving the Catholic Church as organists, music directors, liturgists, cantors, choir members, and teachers. Al Fischer’s story could happen tomorrow to any one of them. I also know dozens more kind, compassionate gay priests who understand that their church is out of touch and protect their LGBT employees as best they can, as the priest at St. Ann Parish appears to have done.

Unfortunately, many pro-LGBT Catholics do not speak out when people like Fischer are attacked because they don’t think they have the authority to challenge their bigoted bishops. Gay and pro-LGBT priests often cannot stand up against these injustices unless they are prepared to face the very real risk of being silenced, fired, or moved by their bosses, the bishops (who also control their retirement plans, by the way).

But until more lay Catholics, priests, and even bishops start to stand up and speak out against the Catholic hierarchy and its persecution of LGBT people, the bullying, oppression, and repression will continue unabated, and we’ll continue to hear more sad stories like that of Al Fischer.

** Photo of Al Fischer by Brandon Krepel