In calling the “outing” of LGBT church workers so that they will be fired a replay of the McCarthy witch hunts of the 1950s, The National Catholic Reporter’s columnist Michael Sean Winters may have launched the strongest statement yet opposing these tactics used by conservative Catholic organizations and the bishops who listen to their complaints.
Noting that we are approaching the 62nd anniversary of Joseph Nye Welch’s famous retort to Senator Joseph McCarthy’s badgering of Welch’s colleagues–“Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”–Winters has resurrected this powerful response to bullying tactics to discuss the U.S. Catholic Church’s ongoing scourge of firing LGBT church workers, of whom a number had been living quiet lives until conservative groups reported them to bishops.
“I bring Welch’s famous and unsordid intervention up this morning because yesterday LifeSiteNews published a story about yet another “report” from the Lepanto Institute, charging two employees of Catholic organizations, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops [USCCB] and Catholic Relief Services [CRS], with supporting gay rights in their social media usage. I shall not link to the story nor shall I mention the names of the two employees: They have been victimized too much already. I will denounce both the “report” at Lepanto and their hand-in-glove relationship with LifeSiteNews for perpetrating this witch hunt.”
The statement of Joseph Nye Welch, chief counsel of the U.S. Army, can be viewed here:
Winters calls on the bishops to end the terror wrought by these groups:
“I do not know what will happen to the two latest victims of these attacks, but I do know what should happen. The leadership of the USCCB and of CRS should publicly condemn these attacks and let the employees in question know that their jobs are secure. Otherwise, the witch hunts will continue. Being a bystander or a collaborator is, or should be, a crime too, not just being the principal perpetrator.”
He even offers the bishops a concession, noting that the “outings” and firings are doing great damage to the bishops’ policies:
“Even if some bishops are sympathetic with the idea that promoting gay rights in one’s private time is an offense worthy of terminating employment, the bishops should at least recognize that they cannot tolerate these attacks and also make the claim that their opposition to gay rights is not bigoted. Whatever your thoughts on gay marriage or gay rights, no one can justify the kind of social and cultural climate that demanded gay people be closeted, and these outings are precisely an attempt to recreate that climate. What is more, the issue of religious liberty has moved on from the fight over contraception insurance to the fight over gay rights. If you really want to lose that fight, then fire these two employees and send the signal that you are willing to do the bidding of the Lepanto Institute and LifeSiteNews.”
Winters recounted President Dwight Eisenhower’s great error in refusing to confront McCarthy, reminding the bishops that they risk the same grievous error that Ike made:
“Whether Ike did the politically necessary thing, he did the morally corrupt thing, and the leadership of the USCCB and CRS both know enough moral theology to know that they should not do the morally corrupt thing, especially when it is also a politically stupid thing. Archbishop Kurtz [USCCB president] and Dr. Woo [CRS president] need to step up to the plate and confront this witch hunt. Both Archbishop Kurtz and Dr. Woo are rightly held in high esteem, but they did not liberate Europe, and failure to act will cost them much of that esteem in which they are held. They need to have a Joseph Welch moment now and if they fail to do so, their colleagues need to disassociate themselves from complicity in these McCarthyite tactics. The indecency of Lepanto and LifeSiteNews is there for all to see. They are willing to destroy other people’s lives. There is no concern for human dignity in these outings. Will the bishops and their organizations be complicit in these indecencies or not?”
This essay plainly names the tactics of these two conservative organizations use against LGBT church employees: bullying. Even more so, though, these organizations are also bullying the bishops into acting against not only Catholic moral teaching regarding human dignity and the meaningfulness of work, but also plain human decency.
The bishops’ ability to be effective, credible church leaders is at stake if they follow the path of witch hunts and bullying.
Thank you, Michael Sean Winters, for bringing these fear-mongering tactics into bold relief.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry