In the U.S., today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a national holiday commemorating the birth of the great civil rights leader and apostle of non-violent resistance. Those of us in the Catholic LGBT and allies community have a lot to learn from this great man and his legacy of peacefully creating social change. His steadfastness and resolve not to sink to the tactics of his oppressors are shining examples for us.
For Christmas, I received as a gift a copy of Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi. I just started reading it, but so far it a real eye-opener to the ways that oppressive racist ideas have been justified by seemingly rational ideas throughout the history of the U.S.
A sentence from the prologue of the book jumped out at me last week as I was reading. It’s a simple sentence, but one that has stayed with me and caused me to reflect on how it applies to Catholic LGBT issues:
“. . . [T]o say something is wrong with a group is to say something is inferior about a group.”
In the context of the book’s argument, this sentence occurs in a section discussing how people convince themselves they are nonracist, while holding on, however sympathetically, to a belief that Black people are inferior.
The logic behind the sentence quoted above is the logic of all of us who think that Catholic magisterial language about lesbian and gay people having an “objective disorder” or participating in “intrinsically evil” acts simply does not jive with Catholic magisterial thought that lesbian and gay people need to be welcomed and affirmed and that their human rights and dignity must be protected.
Because “objective disorder” and “intrinsically evil” denote that there is something wrong with a group of people, the implicit message is that there is obviously something inferior about the same group.
So, when bishops criticize initiatives like marriage equality, arguing for the special place that heterosexual marriage has in society, they often add the proviso that lesbian and gay people must be respected. Such statements always ring hollow for those who believe that LGBT people have a right to equality because such statements imply that something is wrong with lesbian and gay people, and therefore something is inferior about them. Bishops would do better not even to add the proviso because it only makes them sound insincere.
The other day, Bondings 2.0 reported that a leading German bishop has called for a debate in the church about marriage equality. While that debate will certainly involve the definition of marriage, it must also involve this illogical disconnect in church teaching about lesbian and gay people. The teaching cannot simultaneously use language like “objective disorder” while also saying that lesbian and gay people are equal in human dignity. Something has to change.
—Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, January 15, 2018