A Plea to Pope Francis: Release LGBT People Imprisoned by the Church

Eric Fought

Pope Francis’ calls to save migrants’ lives and his visits to prisons are well-known; indeed, they have become almost routine two years into his papacy. Yet for all his positive remarks on LGBT issues, Francis has not yet made the connection that sexual and gender diverse persons are also an “imprisoned” group in need of liberation.

In a post on his personal blog, Eric Fought, a Catholic pastoral minister and organizer in Minnesota, has called on the pope to correct this oversight.

Writing in response to Pope Francis’ lunch with 90 inmates, some of whom were LGBT person and those with HIV/AIDS, Fought notes how this outreach is not typical of others in the worldwide church. He continues:

“Rather, the Church openly and aggressively persecutes gay lesbian, bisexual and transgender Catholics in its midst. We’re all prisoners in the Catholic Church of today, and most of us have done absolutely nothing wrong.

“Thus, those of us who are attempting to live authentic lives as openly gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Catholics—in other words, living the lives the Creator intended for us—are stuck in a prison of fear, doubt, repression and direct marginalization.”

Fought adds that though bishops and other church leaders publicly state they respect LGBT people’s dignity, the hierarchy’s message is more clearly stated as “but, we will continue to discriminate whenever and wherever we please.” This discrimination comes in many forms, though he highlights the church worker and volunteer firings which have been on the rise. Of the more than 50 church workers who lost their jobs over LGBT issues, Fought writes:

“. . . [W]e are regularly forced to resign from positions we are highly qualified to perform in ministry and service to the broader community. We are fired for refusing to remain in the closets of our sacristies and schools, let go for being part of relationships that give us life and honor God’s love for us. And when we dare to question these actions, our integrity and faith are regularly called into question.”

Yet, Fought sees hope because “God has heard our cries and we will soon be liberated.” This liberation will be the fruit of the faithful, LGBT and allies, joining together to take responsibility for the church’s future. He ends with an additional call to Pope Francis, asking the pontiff to include those LGBT people imprisoned by the church among the communities for which he prays and on behalf of whom he advocates. Fought writes:

“Pope Francis…we ask for your direct intervention. Know that we are in deep pain and stand ready to experience the freedom promised in the Gospel we all are called to preach and live out…As you rightly chastise the greed and corruption of politicians, economies and governments, continue your work to clean up our own house. And as you highlight the dangers of slavery’s many present forms, free your LGBT brothers and sisters from the prisons of your own Church.”

Pope Francis continues to capture the world’s attention, experiencing extremely high approval ratings among Catholics and those of other religious traditions. A recent Pew survey, reported on by the National Catholic Reporter, reports 95% of U.S. Catholics who regularly attend Mass give a “favorable” appraisal of Francis. That is even somewhat higher than Pope John Paul II’s approval ratings during his 1996 visit to the United States.

I am reminded of an important truism which comes from a seemingly innocuous source of my childhood: the Spiderman comics.   The character Uncle Ben was fond of saying: “With great power comes great responsibility.” Pope Francis’ high approval numbers and media dominance mean his failure to act weighs as heavily as when he does act. It is time for the pope, in conjunction with the People of God, to responsibly use the power God has given us on behalf of those the church itself imprisons within its walls.

To read Eric Fought’s post in full, which I recommend, click here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry.

4 replies
  1. amagjuka
    amagjuka says:

    It is not only LGBT Catholics who are imprisoned, it is all Catholics of conscience who cannot abide the discrimination that the hierarchy is enacting in the name of the faith we all hold dear. This is not a small matter–it is central to our faith that we love justice and equality. The faithful must speak up and say we will not sit silent and watch our LGBT brothers and sisters be fired, marginalized, bullied, and dehumanized by the capricious acts of some of our church leaders. Most Catholics do not want to be party to any of this. We do love Pope Francis, and he has spoken out on so many important issues. This is THE issue. The marginalizing and mistreatment of a group of people is wrong. It is sinful. It is not of Christ. Eric Fought and others who tell their truths give us all an opportunity to act as Christ demands. We must welcome all with a loving embrace.

  2. Kat
    Kat says:

    Catholics who are never blessed to know or to love an lgbt person, are more likely to be prisoners than I am. As a cradel Catholic and the mother of two wonderful sons, one gay and one straight, I left the false security of the Church because of its hardness of heart against my gay son and because I found no place under the grand tent of the Roman Catholic Church that welcomes us as a family to minister to other families who thirst for acceptance and equality for gay members of their families. I struggled for a long time it seems to loosen the invisible Catholic grip holding me so tightly with its teachings of sin and one true Church. Slowly but surely as I learned more about what the Church is doing and not doing to undue the great harm it continues to cause homosexual people, in good conscience and with great faith in the one true living God, I was able to escape the elaborate trappings of the Roman tent. Free from the shackles of instituionalized religion, my great escape has given me a renewed sense of purpose. I can only do my part to help end religious discrimination against our sons and daughters through faith in God alone. We only have to look to Jesus who lights our paths toward freedom and justice.

  3. amagjuka
    amagjuka says:

    Kat, God bless you on your spiritual journey, and blessings to both of you beloved sons. Know that the Eucharist is always there for you and that Christ would never, ever discriminate or harm your sons. If you ever have the inclination or energy, come back and share your stories with Catholics. The Holy Spirit is strong and at work in the hearts of Catholics who hear testimony about the pain their LGBT brothers and sisters experience in the church. The faithful by in large does not want to be a party to this and once they know what is happening, will speak up and refuse to participate in the bullying, firing, isolating, and discrimination. Soon our voices will be one big voice and the hierarchy will have to change. But I understand why you left. Thank you for posting.

    • Kat
      Kat says:

      Hi Amagjuka. I don’t want you to think I left the church in both body and spirit. I just can’t sit in the pews for now, but am always Catholic in the Spirit. I am in close touch with Fortunate Families and hope to start a new chapter in the Houston area. Yesterday, I went with a friend to the Dignity office in town to meet the new President of the chapter and learned about what they do and how we can work together. I wrote an emotional appeal to Cardinal Dinardo pleading for a voice to reach out to other parents like me and our sons and daughters. I will try to place an add in our local church bulletins as a point of light for others to find a supportive Catholic network. You are right, we all have to speak to injustice and discrimination because it is the way of Christ. Thank you too very much for caring.


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