In Orlando’s Wake, Catholic Ministry Calls on Church Leaders to Condemn Anti-LGBT Violence
The following is a statement of Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry’s Executive Director, released on June 12, 2016, in response to the mass shooting at a gay and lesbian nightclub in Orlando, Florida, earlier that day.
Words truly cannot express the horror, anguish, anger, and revulsion at the news of the mass murder of at least 50 people at a gay and lesbian nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Such an action should instill in all people around the globe a commitment to end gun violence and to protect the lives of LGBT people.
Adding to the anguish of this tragedy is the response of most Catholic leaders. The Vatican’s initial statement expressed sorrow and condemnation, and hope “that ways may be found, as soon as possible, to effectively identify and contrast the causes of such terrible and absurd violence . . .” But the Vatican did not refer to the fact that this violence was directed at the LGBT community.
Similarly, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, made no direct reference to the LGBT community in his statement, noting only that the incident should call people to “ever greater resolve in protecting the life and dignity of every single person.”
While individual bishops have reacted publicly to the violence, the only statement thus far from a Catholic leader which mentions the gay and lesbian community is Chicago’s Archbishop Blase Cupich. In sympathy, Archbishop Cupich stated that “our prayers and hearts are with. . . our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.” Such simple words should not be difficult for Catholic leaders to mention in the face of such vicious horror. Archbishop Cupich is to be praised for being a light in the darkness.
Clearly the targeting of a gay nightclub shows that, homophobia is a major factor which causes “terrible and absurd violence.” This attack highlights the fact that around the globe, every day, LGBT people face oppression, intimidation, and violence. Homophobic and transphobic attitudes and behaviors are carried out all-too-commonly in the form of discriminatory practices, verbal abuse, bullying, imprisonment, physical and sexual abuse, torture, and death. In many cases, this brutality is sanctioned by governments and religious leaders who propagate homophobic and transphobic messages. The Vatican and other church leaders have yet to speak clearly and definitively on these contemporary issues despite the fact that official church teaching would support condemnations of these hate-filled messages, practices, and laws.
As we pray for an end to gun violence and an end to violence directed against LGBT people, we also include in our prayers the hope that Muslim people will not become victims of a backlash against them because of the shooter’s religious background. Such a response is as vicious and senseless as the violence perpetrated against the nightclub victims.
The Orlando murders should move all Catholic leaders to reflect on how their silence about homophobic and transphobic attitudes and violence contributes to behaviors which treat LGBT people as less than human and deserving of punishment. This sad moment in our history should become a time when Catholic leaders speak loudly and clearly, with one voice, that attacks on LGBT people must stop.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry
I believe that it is no longer enough for the USCCB to simply condemn the violence against the LGBTQ community. The bishops must, in addition, make a firm resolve to enter into active dialogue with the LGBTQ community, and reject their tired, passé rhetoric around sexual issues. And I would strongly recommend that all clergy, at whatever level, be required to undergo sensitivity training. Our lesbian gay, bisexual, and transgendered brothers and sisters must be welcomed to full, active inclusion in every parish. In the language of business consultant Joel Barker, the bishops are caught up in paradigm paralysis, a paralysis that can only be broken by a paradigm pioneer, someone who has the courage to challenge his or her own paradigms, and is open enough to recognize the Spirit moving us into a new direction. Maybe that paradigm pioneer is Archbishop Cupich. Whoever it is, the time is now!
Of course you’re absolutely correct! Wouldn’t it be wise to perhaps place Archbishop Cupich in charge of organizing such training for clergy everywhere, certainly in our country, and by extension throughout the world. At least there were no (that I know of) negative or blaming responses from clergy. Thank God for that!
Thank you Frank. As we pray here
In terms of the Church’s own teaching, Catholic leaders have an obligation to speak up and condemn anti-gay violence:
“10. It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church’s pastors wherever it occurs. It reveals a kind of disregard for others which endangers the most fundamental principles of a healthy society. The intrinsic dignity of each person must always be respected in word, in action and in law.
(CDF, Letter to the Bishops on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, 1986)”
Thank you for that quote! It’s a very important reminder!
Farm Street Jesuit Parish, here in London, responded promptly in prayer, as the LGBT Catholic Community gathered for its regular 2nd Sunday Mass: “We pray for the 50 people who lost their lives this morning in the terror attack on the gay night-club in Florida, for the injured, and for their families and loved ones.”
Reblogged this on Dawn Morais and commented:
Today at Mass the homily referenced the Orlando killings without any mention of the targetting of the LGBTQ community or of the need to address the easy access to guns and the violence it helps fuel. Our response we were told should be to work for the greater glory of God. But there is no glory to God and much to be ashamed of in the bishops’ silence on the escalating rhetoric of hate in the public square and the kind of violence that was unleashed today. To the silence after Stonewall do we now add the silence after Orlando? And do the Bishops have nothing to say about how today will escalate xenophobia and encourage reprisals against genuine Muslims? What kind of witness to Christ are people in the pews, and the general public to read in the lack of a forceful Catholic response from those who hold institutional power and can command media attention?
Thank you for that call to love, Francis. Acts of hatred must be condemned especially by the church. Many of us around the world stand in solidarity and love with our LGBTQ brothers and sisters, sons and daughters.
I have to believe that this horrific intentional violence by a person filled with hate against the innocence of this LGBT+ community will cause some if not many to stand with us for the first time. When the white folks on the sidelines saw the same horrific violence to the Freedom Riders it roused them to action that previously never entered their minds or hearts. Our faith begins on Good Friday, at the cross. But it does not end there; the resurrection is the story, the victory.. As for the clergy and hierarchy, their silence will condemn them.
I have a “No Hate in My State” from HRC. I didn’t display it because I don’t believe that hate is what motivates those who misunderstand the HB2 bill. However, the bumper sticker is going on my car today because this violence was motivated by hate. What else can we do to speak our outrage and fear that this could happen to our sons and daughters and that they can kill our body but not our soul. Let us wear the colors today, tomorrow, from this day forth at Mass, work, schools especially for those of us who are employed by the Church. Let them see our rainbow colors from their position on the altar. Let them dare to restrain us.
Thank you, Frank, for that fine article.
The silence from RC leaders about anti-LGBT violence has been deep for decades. The noise of condemnation for laws extending civil rights protections and condemning sexual behavior has been deafening. I guess I will never understand the deep homophobia and sexism of RC leaders. But I appreciate this article. An editorial in the Detroit Free Press sums up the actions and atmosphere that RC leaders have been complicit in nurturing:
“LGBT Americans have fought long and hard for equality, earning a major victory last year when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down prohibitions against same-sex marriage. Almost immediately, the right wing responded with a slew of laws designed to carve out exemptions to marriage equality, most often via state-level religious freedoms laws that would provide cover for discrimination. Here in Michigan, the state Legislature approved a law last year allowing adoption agencies to refuse to adopt to same-sex couples.
“The Legislature has repeatedly failed to extend the protection of the state’s civil rights law to LGBT Michiganders. And now, as the state board of education is working to develop a set of voluntary guidelines for schools to provide a safe environment for LGBT kids, some state lawmakers are working diligently to demonize LGBT Michiganders.
Make no mistake: The violent acts in Orlando are rooted in this rhetoric.
Marking out one group as different — and inviting others to judge and dismiss that group because of its differences — encourages hatred. And, in its worst iteration, violent acts.”
Perhaps this would be a good time to realize that there are types of violence against LGBT! persons other than the horrific gun violence in Orlando this past weekend. These people are still having socio-economic violence committed against them regularly, sometimes by the church. It is only in regard to homosexual persons and relationships that the catechism uses the modifier “unjust” for discrimination. So, as long as there are “just” forms of discrimination, and perpetrations of violence that are not necessarily physical or fatal, the official ecclesial pronouncements don’t carry as much weight as they could.