Archbishop Chaput’s Synod Comment on LGBTQ People Explains Why Catholic Church Is in So Much Trouble

Archbishop Charles Chaput’s statement about LGBT Catholics at the synod on youth yesterday is a perfect example of how some church leaders have been so blinded by ideological homophobia and transphobia that they cannot perceive plain human facts accurately.  His comments reflect the dangerous avoidance mentality that is the cause of the clergy sexual abuse scandal and so many of the ills which plague the Catholic Church today. (For a news article about Chaput’s statement, see The National Catholic Reporter.)

Archbishop Charles Chaput

The Catholic Herald carried the full text of Chaput’s talk.  The passage that is so dangerous is:

“There is no such thing as an ‘LGBTQ Catholic’ or a ‘transgender Catholic’ or a ‘heterosexual Catholic,’ as if our sexual appetites defined who we are; as if these designations described discrete communities of differing but equal integrity within the real ecclesial community, the body of Jesus Christ. This has never been true in the life of the Church, and is not true now. It follows that ‘LGBTQ’ and similar language should not be used in Church documents, because using it suggests that these are real, autonomous groups, and the Church simply doesn’t categorize people that way.”

Of course, there are LGBTQ Catholics and transgender Catholics and heterosexual Catholics, just as there are Italian Catholics, elderly Catholics, disabled Catholics, Latin American Catholics, traditionalist Catholics, poor Catholics, educated Catholics, and so many other distinct groups within our big tent church.  LGBTQ Catholics are just as real as all these other groups in our church.  This identity doesn’t divide LGBTQ people from the rest of the church, just as other categories of Catholics are not separate from the Body of Christ.  Time and again, our tradition and our Scriptures praise diversity.  These faith sources do not try to erase all differences, but instead they celebrate these differences as part of the wonderful creation God has made.

Chaput falls into the trap that so many other church leaders have fallen into.  They interpret a simple descriptive adjective as a political statement that is loaded with ideology.  When people describe themselves or others as LGBTQ, it does not mean that they consider sexual orientation or gender identity the dominant marker of themselves, any more than referring to themselves as Italian or elderly makes that attribute their dominant marker.  “LGBTQ” does not refer to any particular political ideology.  LGBTQ people represent the whole spectrum of political positions–even in regard to LGBTQ issues themselves.

If Chaput interprets LGBTQ as a sinister designation that must be expunged, the responsibility for such an interpretation is his own fault and a result of his own ignorance to better understand the reality of LGBTQ Catholic people.

Chaput’s statement looks like he is trying to make LGBTQ people invisible in the church by pretending that they don’t exist.  Furthermore, the statement threatens to silence not only individuals, but it attempts to silence any church discussion of LGBTQ issues, which are so widely acknowledged by people across the globe.  Debates about LGBTQ identity, relationships, family life, and human rights have been consuming so much of the energy of people around the globe.  Why does Chaput want the church to ignore these facts and act as if these are not topics of the church’s concern?

One of the central messages of the Second Vatican Council is for church people to read “the signs of the times.”  What is easily obvious to every person on the planet is that LGBTQ people and issues are very much part of the signs of our times.   Is Chaput so closed off from the realities of the world that he is not aware that this discussion has been going on for decades and is now a major part of the world conversation?

Chaput’s statement is an example of the kind of dangerous thinking that has brought the Catholic Church to its current crisis situation.  Avoiding reality is what fueled the clergy sex abuse crisis.  Chaput’s attitude is the kind of avoidance thinking that caused so many bishops to pretend that a serious issue did not exist, or that the problem would just go away if they didn’t speak about it.

On a pastoral level, Chaput’s comment will do great harm pastorally.  Telling a group of people that they don’t exist is not the way to welcome them to the church or to accompany them spiritually.  Such a negative message coming from a high-ranking church official will also further encourage people to perform fanatical acts, such as the burning of a rainbow church banner by a Chicago priest as a way to oppose LGBT ministry and outreach.

Chaput has a long history of reacting in extreme ways to LGBT issues and people.  Fortunately,  not all synod delegates think as he does.  Let’s hope and pray that cooler and more sensible minds hold sway during the upcoming month as the bishop discuss youth issues at the synod.

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, October 5, 2018







11 replies
  1. Kris
    Kris says:

    Chaput: called out, and critiqued with irrefutable flair.

    Well done, Francis.

    There’s an old Jewish proverb, which goes something like this: When six people tell you that you are sick, lie down.

    Lie down, Charles Chaput.

  2. Christine Zuba
    Christine Zuba says:

    If there is ‘no such thing’ as “us”, then why the discrimination vs a group, that in his words,
    does not exist ?

    • Paula Mattras
      Paula Mattras says:

      Christine, I love your logic! I am 80 years old now and have to say that when my son came out I had to educate myself – reading, talking with priests, interviewing many gays themselves. I was overwhelmed by their honesty and goodness – and surprised to learn several friends were in that group – outstanding, contributing, intelligent, kind. Yes, they exist, and thank you, God, for this beautiful contribution to our world.

  3. Tom Bower
    Tom Bower says:

    Such stupid double talk. I think it is time everyone in the Church including Cardinals goes back and reads the hateful obscene Ratzinger letter on the care of homosexuals from 1986 where, contrary to Chaput. LGBT people are specifically defined as a group with multiple denigrating lashes made against us. Is this no longer binding? Are we just like all other Catholics. If the Cardinal is going to put curses on us he should at least get his facts right. The Church is universal not all old ill informed white men,

    DON E SIEGAL says:

    Archbishop Charles Chaput: “There is no such thing as an ‘LGBTQ Catholic’…”
    Fr James Martin in the first part of his essay: Building a Bridge, addressed this problem directly.
    “First of all, respect means, at the very least, recognizing that the LGBT community exists, and extending to it the same recognition that any community desires and deserves because of its presence among us.”

  5. Deacon Thomas Smith
    Deacon Thomas Smith says:

    When I’m accused of brining my “gay agenda” to church, I simply reply that civil rights (and spiritual rights) are the CHRSITIAN agenda! I’ll bring Chaput’s statement with me when sit with Cardinal Tobin. The revulsion I feel when reading his arrogant remarks is similar to that I’ve felt lately with the Senate hearings. I will “vote” with Tobin and allow the insiders to stand up to the vulgarity of ignorance, rather than allowing it to steal my peace.

  6. Friends
    Friends says:

    Francis’ eloquent statement of rebuttal against Chaput’s rank bigotry is a slam dunk! Francis writes: “Of course, there are LGBTQ Catholics and transgender Catholics and heterosexual Catholics, just as there are Italian Catholics, elderly Catholics, disabled Catholics, Latin American Catholics, traditionalist Catholics, poor Catholics, educated Catholics, and so many other distinct groups within our big tent church.” Indeed it’s absolutely true — just as we also have obese Catholics, bald Catholics, left-handed Catholics (who once were known as “sinister” Catholics!), myopic Catholics (lots of those, especially among the “Red Hats”), tall Catholics, midget Catholics, vision-impaired Catholics, and so many other incarnational variations. Chaput is apparently a grouch, or a grinch, or some combination of such unpleasant human traits, revealing a complete lack of caritas toward his brother and sister Christians. The man clearly needs therapeutic emotional healing. Let us all pray for him to obtain it.


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  1. […] ideological homophobia and transphobia that they cannot perceive plain human facts accurately,’ wrote Francis DeBernardo of LGBTI Catholic advocacy group New Ways […]

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