Bishop's Insensible Remarks Reveal the Great Need for LGBT Dialogue

The greatest evidence that bishops need to have more dialogues with LGBT people is in the insensible remarks these prelates make regarding sexuality.

Last week, we pointed out how Ireland’s Bishop Kevin Doran made an uneducated remark about how gay people can already get married–just not to each other.   This week, Bishop Doran, of the Elphin Diocese, made an equally uninformed statement when he compared homosexuality to Down’s Syndrome or spina bifida.

Doran was a guest on Ireland’s NewsTalk Breakfast radio program discussing the nation’s upcoming referendum on marriage equality. captured part of the dialogue:

“The radio host asked the bishop people being born gay was ‘as God intended.’

“ ‘That would be to suggest that some people are born with Down’s syndrome or spina bifida, that that was what God intended,’ Doran opined. ‘The thing about it is, I can’t see it in the mind of God.’

“ ‘The things you mentioned are disabilities,’ the host pointed out. ‘Your sexual orientation is not a disability.’

“ ‘Well, I’m not entering into that,’ Doran replied. ‘I’m just saying it would be wrong to suggest that everything that happens, happens because God intended it. If that were the case, we’d be talking about a very different kind of God.’ “

[You can listen to the interview by clicking here.]

It is somewhat embarrassing for Catholics to have to have a radio interviewer point out to a bishop that his analogy is incorrect. Moreover, Doran’s remark seems predicated on the premise that people with Down’s Syndrome or spina bifida are somehow “less than” other people.  I don’t know people with spina bifida, or their friends and family members, react to this.  As someone who has a Down’s Syndrome relative, I know that he was sent to us by God.

Furthermore, the bishop fails to see that the magisterium’s approach to homosexuality codes it as a moral category, not simply a biological one.  That is not something it does with other biological manifestations. If homosexuality and Down’s Syndrome or spina bifida were truly comparable, then why doesn’t the magisterium remove the moral shadow it places over people’s attractions to those of their gender.

Most egregious in Doran’s comments, though, is the implication that he is somehow able to understand what God intends for a person.  I think that understanding God’s intentions for the life of a person is something that borders on mystery. Or, at the very least,  it is something which can be understood only by the person, through prayer and discernment, not by an outsider.

That is where dialogue comes into play.  Open, honest, candid conversations between bishops and LGBT people would help bishops better appreciate what many LGBT people understand so intimately: that they have been wonderfully made by God; that they experience their sexuality as a way of drawing into more intimate relationship with another human being and with the Source of Life and Love; that their gender identity allows them to see the world, other people, and God in new and life-giving ways.

Bishops will not learn about such realities from a book.  They will only learn about it from faith-filled discussions with real people.

Bishop Doran should start such conversations before he says another word about marriage equality or LGBT people.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


10 replies
  1. terryweldon
    terryweldon says:

    Yes, this clearly illustrates the dire need for bishops to talk to real life lgbt people and get to know them. (We know that makes a difference). It also illustrates more – the need for bishops to fully understand the implications of the Church’s own teaching (which claims that we must pay proper attention to the findings of science, for example), and the clear message of scripture – which tells us right up front, “It is not good for man (or woman) to be alone”.

  2. Tim MacGeorge
    Tim MacGeorge says:

    I haven’t yet listened to the Bishop’s full remarks, but if the reporting is accurate, then what is just as offensive as his statements about LGBT persons is his implication for those born with Down’s Syndrom, Spina Bifida, or any other condition that — in the Bishop’s mind, apparently — somehow makes them “less than” and not what God intended. If I were the parent of a child with Down’s Syndrome or any other congenital condition, I would be horribly offended. Such a perspective flies totally in the face of the well-accepted Catholic position that ALL children are gifts from God “just as they are.” The Bishop’s words are actually helpful to those who support LGBT rights within the Church in that they betray the inherent illogic and inconsistencies of some of the the Church’s “official” position on LGBT persons.

  3. amagjuka
    amagjuka says:

    I heard someone say that we have a “middle management problem” in the Catholic church. I could not agree more! These comments are ignorant on every level, and reflect on Bishop Doran and HIS level of Christian love, not the beliefs of most Catholics. When we Catholics hear bishops and others in power saying ridiculous things like this we must say NO! This is not what we are called to do! We want our LGBT brothers and sisters with us, equal in every way! NO! We are Catholics who will not listen to hate, discrimination, or name-calling. NO! Bullies bully. That’s what they do until everyone says NO. NO, no, no. Most Catholics know that LGBT people are sent by God to be our beloved brothers and sisters. We are to love them and support them (what we would have for ourselves) not isolate them, fire them from their jobs, or marginalize them.

  4. Ruth Mallery
    Ruth Mallery says:

    There also exists a huge need for dialogue with people who are disabled. WE are being excluded from the synod also…as a lesbian, I am tired of asking for opportunities to dialogue….the bishops know where to find us now, or should. I will still ask, because silence implies consent, and I do not consent to being bullied. I am who I am. As a person with a disability, This bishop needs to read the (woefully inadequate) pastoral letter on people with disabilities being included in the full life of the church as well. And then, may I suggest he come join the current century.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] March 10: “Bishop’s Insensible Remarks Reveal the Great Need for LGBT Dialogue” […]

  2. […] leaders such as Fr. John Britto or Bishop Kevin Doran, who said gay couples were not parents and compared homosexuality to Down syndrome, is enormous. Catholic clergy would do well to temper their anti-LGBT viewpoints, which are […]

  3. […] apology is in order, similar to one made by an Irish bishop recently for his insensible statements about gay parents and comparing a homosexual orientation to […]

  4. […] are a stark contrast to comments by an Irish bishop who compared homosexuality to Down’s Syndrome and spina bifida, saying God did not intend gay people to be born with their […]

  5. […] 2.0 reported on Doran’s comments on Down’s Syndrome and spina bifida, we were not, at the time, aware of his comments on parenting.  What follows is the transcript of […]

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