On Gay and Lesbian Immigrants, Catholic Bishops Need to Do a Lot Better

Thje Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), the anti-poverty organization of the U.S. Bishops’ Conference, has cut off funding for an immigration rights’ group in Illinois because of their support for marriage equality.


Cardinal Francis George

Cardinal Francis George

Chicago.CBSLocal.com  reports that a group of Catholic elected officials have protested the move to defund the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, and Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George has defended the CCHD decision.  The news article states:

“. . . the cardinal responded to an open letter signed by a group of Catholic elected officials and community leaders, urging the church to reverse that decision.

“ ‘You can’t play off the pastoral concern of the church for the poor against the church’s teaching,’ George said. ‘That’s exactly what was done, that’s a cynical move, and I’m sorry that it was done.’ ”

The Catholic elected officials had written an open letter in which they stated that church leaders were using “immigrants and those who seek to help them as pawns in a political battle.”

The letter’s signers were Chicago Aldermen Proco Joe Moreno, Danny Solis, Patrick O’Connor, and James Cappelman; Cook County Commissioners John Fritchey and Larry Suffredin; and Chicago City Clerk Susana Mendoza.

One has to wonder why bishops continue to make marriage equality opposition a requirement for helping the poor.    It is the same strategy that many bishops have taken in terms of adoption policy where they place opposition to gay and lesbian couples above the care of children.

Earlier this spring, when immigration reform was being debated in Congress, some bishops opposed the inclusion of rights for same-gender couples in the bill. The bishops, traditionally strong supporters of immigration rights, drew the line when it came to gay and lesbian couples  Marilou Johanek, a columnist for The Toledo Blade in Ohio characterized such a stance this way:

“No one, no family, no population should be left behind — except gay and lesbian immigrants, bless their misguided souls. Leave them behind.”

Bishop Leonard Blair

Bishop Leonard Blair

Johanek goes on to quote a letter that Toledo’s Bishop Leonard Blair wrote to parishioners about the bill, in which he stated:

“ ‘Most Catholics support their Bishops’ call for the creation of an immigration system that respects basic human rights and dignity while ensuring the integrity of our borders,’ he said. Under the Senate immigration bill, he added, ‘more than 11 million undocumented persons could gain legal status in our country, and possibly citizenship.’

“The bishop instructed local parishes to publish educational material from the bishops’ conference ‘to explain why the Church is concerned about immigration from a religious, moral, and social perspective.’ So far so good.

“Then came the caveat: ‘As the legislative process moves forward, issues may emerge which could hinder USCCB support of an immigration reform bill. Chief among them would be the addition of provisions which would treat same-sex couples as if married in the conferral of immigration benefits,’ Bishop Blair wrote.

“The letter said the bishops’ conference ‘is working to ensure that these provisions are not included in any final legislation.’

In responding to Pope Francis’ positive comments about gay people last week, many bishops and dioceses expressed surprise that people did not know that the Catholic Catechism urged respect for the human dignity of lesbian and gay people.  When bishops offer statements and examples such as the ones by Cardinal George and Bishop Blair above, is it any wonder that people don’t know about that aspect of the church’s teaching?

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

9 replies
  1. David Kiester
    David Kiester says:

    For years, I attempted to reconcile my sexual orientation with my acceptance and active involvement within the Roman Catholic Church community. It didn’t really take much reflection to recognize that I was a child of God – created by Him and loved just the way He created me. Turning the other cheek to the bigoted, militant and unnecessarily hurtful criticism; accepting the rejection, denigration and marginalization by the leadership of the Church; its condemnation of my aspirations for loving and being loved; rejection for lay ministry after years of selfless service, I could no longer tolerate the insults nor hold out a reasonable hope for change. I have found a wonderfully welcoming, charitable, Biblical comunity in an Episcopal community. I don’t find any diffrence in my theological beliefs, only a change in how the Gospel message is lived on a daily basis in the Episcopal Church. I regret I was forced to leave a Church where I had been raised and received my faith – a faith of love which I still deeply respect and try to practice. I cannot understand the Bishops’ militancy against us who have been created with a different orientation from the majority. I have to suspect that it arises from a deeply seated psychological insecurity. I applaud those who are young enough with enough vitaliy to continue to work for change in the RC Church. I am exhausted from the fight. I needed to find a “green pasture, to lie down” at this time in my life.

  2. Babs
    Babs says:

    There has been so much written by Catholic leadership in favor of LGBT rights: One called for a Vatican III on Sex which would truly be welcomed by the laity and should be welcomed by the priesthood. ALSO I have recently read that we should change the language to distinguish Same-Sex Marriage Civil Ceremonies and Holy Matrimony which would give a choice about acknowledgement of a Union. I have not lost my Religious Freedom by anything the USCCB has “declared” for years, I have made choices through prayer and study of both the Biblical Jesus and what he commanded “Love One Another” and the many, many theologians and Bible scholars who have helped me see the Incarnate Jesus in partnership with the Transcendent Jesus. The rest is man-made directive keeping the faithful in fear, guilt and ignorance. I’m hanging in with the Catholic Church but only by a very thin thread, hoping those in the pews will reject their apathy about speaking out for their rights to choose. In prayer.

  3. Bishop James Alan Wilkowski
    Bishop James Alan Wilkowski says:

    With all due respect to those who desire to be benefactors for just and noble causes, may I suggest that rather than giving your money to others to disburse at their convenience or whim – please make your donations directly to these causes.

    When you give your money to another institution for later distribution that money sits in their bank account collecting interest for the money holder. Also how can one be sure that 100% of your money is actually being distributed to worthy causes and if so when?

    When you find a just cause you wish to support, do so directly.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] couples. A number of individual bishops, like Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco and Bishop Leonard Blair of Toledo, Ohio, reiterated this threat to stop supporting comprehensive legislation because of […]

  2. […] August 6, 2013: “On Gay and Lesbian Immigrants, Catholic Bishops Need to Do a Lot Better“ […]

  3. […] Catholic Campaign for Human Development in Illinois cuts funds from an immigrants’ rights organization because of the group’s tenuous ties to organizations which support marriage equality.   3% […]

  4. […] months ago, immigrants’ rights organizations in Chicago lost funding from the US bishops over their support of marriage equality. Now, the National Catholic Reporter reveals an impressive […]

  5. […]  At least that is the impression given when some Catholic organizations and bishops keep de-funding and criticizing other Catholic groups because they associate with those who support marriage […]

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