Miami Archbishop Criticizes Those Who Blame Orlando on Catholic LGBT Teaching

In the name of “religious freedom,”  Miami’s Archbishop Thomas Wenski has criticized commentators, including one of his brother bishops, who have pointed out that religious leaders and institutions have fueled the hateful attitudes that resulted in the Orlando shooting at a gay nightclub earlier this month.

Archbishop Thomas Wenski

During an archdiocesan Mass opening the “Fortnight for Freedom,” a two-week campaign by U.S. bishops to promote their view of religious liberty, Wenski said in his homily that “Christians who support traditional marriage did not kill 49 people. Omar Mateen did.” Mateen was the Orlando shooter who died at the scene of the massacre. [You can read Wenski’s full homily by clicking here.]

Wenski went on to say “one bishop who should know better even opined, and I quote: ‘It is religion, including our own which targets…and often breeds contempt for gays, lesbians and transgendered people.’  The quotation is from Bishop Robert Lynch, head of the neighboring Florida diocese of St. Petersburg, who after the Orlando shooting gave one of the more powerful statements by a U.S. prelate, acknowledging the religious roots of homophobia.

Wesnki disputed Lynch’s approach:

“Where in our faith, where in our teachings — I ask you — do we target and breed contempt for any group of people? In today’s second reading, St. Paul teaches us: ‘Through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus. There is neither Jew nor Greek… there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.’ Our faith, our religion gives no comfort, no sanction to a racist, or a misogynist, or a homophobe.”

Clearly, the Miami archbishop does not know the impact that the hierarchy’s negative teaching, messages, and language about LGBT people have had on society.  It is naive of him not to see that some people have seen the hierarchy’s condemnation of marriage equality and other civil rights as permission to further discriminate against and even harm LGBT people.   His claim of innocence rings hollow when for decades, a number of bishops, including Vatican-level members of the hierarchy, have used such strong and ultimate language to decry same-sex relationships and gender transitions.   Does he not see how such negativity and condemnation can infect the minds of people who already have a prejudiced view of LGBT people?    Does he not see that even his own omission of naming the LGBT character of the Orlando event sends a message of invisibility about the group of people targeted?

I do not believe that church teaching was written with the intention of harming LGBT people.  But as an editor and former writing instructor, I know very well that language does not always reflect all of the author’s intentions, and that sometimes the words used can have a detrimental effect, even when no such effect was intended.  Church language about homosexual people, same sex relationships, gender identity and transition is not good writing or communication.  The harsh and negative words that are used instill values which promote discrimination and prejudice.  As was noted, many times at the 2015 synod, the language of church teaching needs to be revised.

Call To Action, a U.S. Catholic justice organization, has organized a petition to ask the church hierarchy to change its language about LGBT people, especially the damaging terms “objectively disordered” and ‘intrinsically evil.”  New Ways Ministry encourages you to sign the petition by clicking here.

Reforming language is only the first step, though.  Theologically, magisterial documents about LGBT people need to be updated in light of new understandings of gender, sexuality, and human relationships.

Another important change that needs to happen is for bishops like Wenski to come to realize that when people criticize church language and teaching, they are not hampering the church’s freedom or the liberty of believers to practice their faith.  Many of these critics are indeed faithful Catholics whose faith instructs them to work for the safety, dignity, and equality of their LGBT friends and family.  Instead of claiming to be the victim, Wenski needs to come to realize that the real victims are those people who suffer because church language and teaching propagates hateful attitudes.  49 of those people died in Orlando two weeks ago.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry



14 replies
  1. John Hilgeman
    John Hilgeman says:

    ““Where in our faith, where in our teachings — I ask you — do we target and breed contempt for any group of people?” For starters, the teaching that gay couples can’t really love. And then the claim that marriage equality is a threat to families and marriages and the children that gay and lesbian couples raise.

    And then there is the support given to the National Organization of Marriage – an organization that lies about LGBT people. And the denial that there are really gay people – only people with “same sex attractions.” and the denial that transgender people exist. And there is also the teaching that there is just discrimination against gay people, and that legal protections for the employment, access to public accommodations, and relationship recognition of gay people are to be opposed.

    And there is the opposition to anti-bullying projects that include LGBT people, and the support for laws that allow discrimination against LGBT people in public accommodations.

    Of course there is also the matter of the teaching that it is God’s will that women – by virtue of their anatomy – are incapable of being priests, and the teaching and practice that only men can speak for God and only men can have ultimate positions of authority in the church. I could go on and on, but that is a start.

    The blindness of some of the members of the RC hierarchy about the demeaning qualities of their teachings and behaviors toward LGBT people and women as well, is astounding, inexcusable, and outrageous.

  2. Will
    Will says:

    There seem to be so many of these Bishops who simply don’t get it. I commented in an earlier post about the USCB issuing a rallying call for Catholics to attend the National Organisation for Marriage March in Washington DC yesterday. The total attendance of that march has been counted by hand at 237, including reporters and a few bemused passers-by.

    Wenski et al should realise that no one is listening anymore – or, if they are, they disagree. Francis DeBernardo, you continue to be so generous and understanding, looking for the best motives etc. I admire your good heart! But sadly I think we have reached the stage where many of these dim Bishops are just talking to themselves and the rest of the Church has stayed at home or gone to the funfair instead. Let’s hope Cardinal Marx gets some traction in the Church.

  3. Thomas
    Thomas says:

    Wenski is disappointing and disingenuous . The Church has lobbied against marriage equality and has condemned LGBT people on numerous occasions. Wenski can contrast that with the gospel which says NOTHING about homosexuals. Technically, the gospel is loving and all encompassing, but what church leaders opine from the pulpit after a gospel reading, or in interviews with the media is something altogether different. It wasn’t gay people who coined the term “intrinsically disordered”. I would have been pleased if Wenski credited Bishop Lynch with insight and compassion. I have met both these men in person. They are poles apart.

  4. Magna Carta
    Magna Carta says:

    Archbishop Wenski did not make a great choice in Thomas More as an example of heroic fidelity to Christ…to the Church, yes; to Christ, no.

    More was sadistically intolerant of dissenters, some of whom he had tortured and then burned alive.

    The cruel death meted out to More by King Henry V111was the kind of death he had already meted out to others.

    More was never a model of tolerance and inclusion…much like Archbishop Wenski himself

  5. Friends
    Friends says:

    What John and Will just said! It’s a comprehensive catalogue of the anti-pastoral contempt that an often-closeted clergy cohort heaps upon our GLBT communities. The question is, as always: short of migrating to the Episcopal Church, and leaving these clueless clerics to stew in their own ignorance (and often their own downright hatefulness), how can the problem be fixed? A changing of generations may result in a “natural selection” answer, since Catholic young people are having none of this bigotry. They simply won’t put up with it any longer. A New Reformation within the Church is truly the only remedy, if we have any hope of holding on to the next few generations, at least here in the Western world. What happens to the Church in Asia and Africa is another discussion entirely — and a rather complicated one, because of the extreme social and political conservatism which still keeps a lock on many of those countries.

  6. Martin Zatsick
    Martin Zatsick says:

    Thank You for all your up-dates and great reflections. I did sign the petition yesterday to have the hurtful language changed.I am hopeful.Wishing you Peace. Blessings, Martin

  7. Tom Bower
    Tom Bower says:

    The bishop asks for a source of condemnation of LGBT people from the Church. He only needs to go to Cardinal Ratsass’s (later unfortunately Pope Benedict XV!) October 1986 statement about homosexuals that labeled us disordered and went on for pages of denigration and insult. This has not been contradicted by Pope Francis it should be noted and is reflected in every negative statement to come from the vast majority of cardinals’, bishops’, and priests’ statements about the issue for the last 30 years. Should the bishop ask why so many school and parish staff members have been fired for publicly letting it be known that they have married their same sex partners? Will the bishop not be happy until he has public burnings in front of his cathedral to see that the Church is the source of .damage to LGBT people.

  8. Barry Blackburn
    Barry Blackburn says:

    Just this past week I was blocked by a bishop on facebook because I called him out to speak specifically in solidarity with our lgbtq brothers and sisters after Orlando. (his initial statement of solidarity used vague generalities). I was partly to blame for being blocked because the site I chose was inappropriate for the message and my words too harsh perhaps. In any case I apologized for the misuse of the site not my message. I received no acknowledgement. Thanks for this article Francis. Words do have power to comfort or to hurt.

  9. Irene
    Irene says:

    “Christians who support traditional marriage did not kill 49 people. Omar Mateen did.”

    He means like, “Guns don’t kill people, people do”?



Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] wedding, and has been quite critical of LGBT rights. This summer, Wenski even so far as to attack publicly his brother bishop, Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg, for saying the church’s rhetoric had a […]

  2. […] acknowledged that less than ten U.S. bishops identified the Orlando victims as predominantly LGBT people. Of these, only a few challenged […]

  3. […] not every bishop shares Bishop Lynch’s sentiments, and herein lies the cause for real lament: that we as church […]

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