The movement to expel LGBT church workers from their jobs has reached a new low as a pastoral minister in San Diego was forced to resign from his job because of fear for his safety.
A few days ago, Bondings 2.0 reported on the case of Aaron Bianco, a gay married man, who has been part of the pastoral team at St. John the Evangelist parish in the gay neighborhood of Hillcrest in San Diego. After a year and a half of harassment by anti-LGBT people who identify as Catholics, Bianco arrived to the parish one recent morning to find the message “No Fags” spray-painted on the side of a building. At the time, Bianco said he was considering resigning.
His decision became definite, when after this incident, Bianco received even more personal attacks. In an email to friends and associates, he wrote:
“As most of you know, I have endured physical and emotional violence from groups like Church Militant and LifeSite News for the past year and a half. As I wrote earlier in the week, they have slashed my tires, left me death threats, physically attacked me outside of mass and sent hundreds of letters, phone calls and emails. This past week they took it to another level. They broke into the office/rectory and spray painted “no fags” on the conference room wall. Then, on Wednesday, LifeSite News and the Lepanto Institute published an article about me. This was the final straw. They posted pictures of my family, including a photo of my deceased mother, stated where I live, and went back years to try and find anything on me.” [You can read a National Catholic Reporter news story about Bianco’s decision to resign, as well as his full statement announcing the decision by clicking here.]
Bianco compared these tactics to those used by “organized crime.” That’s true. I think that another description is also apt here: these are acts of terrorism.
Let’s be clear: These are not acts of terror simply because they are anti-LGBT. Many people who hold such views have been involved in civil and respectful debates to present their strongly-held opinions about sexual ethics. However, when argument and persuasion are no longer involved, when threats of violence and acts of vandalism are used, when an individual is targeted and exposed, when a campaign of fear and intimidation becomes so intense that it extends to a person’s family members, the only apt description of such acts is that they are terrorism. Their perpetrators attempt to achieve their goals by causing fear.
We have seen these tactics used before when anti-abortion groups targeted doctors who perform abortions for public shaming. And we know the outcome of many of those campaigns: doctors were shot and killed by people who professed to be “pro-life.”
The National Catholic Reporter’s article about Bianco’s resignation said that the law enforcement officials provided him with the application for a concealed carry permit for a firearm for his protection. Bianco completed and submitted it–a sign of the realistic threat he has experienced. Let’s pray that he doesn’t have use the permit.
How did things get to this point and how can they be reversed?
The terror tactics of Church Militant, LifeSite News, and the Lepanto Institute have gone unchecked by U.S. Catholic bishops, save one: Bishop McElroy of San Diego, who has supported Bianco 100% throughout this ordeal, including these final acts. These are the same groups who have targeted Father James Martin, several theologians, New Ways Ministry, and many other church renewal organizations. Astoundingly, instead of condemning the terrorist tactics, bishops and other church leaders have submitted to the perpetrator’s demands. Such submission only encourages further terrorism.
The U.S. bishops must speak forcefully to condemn this terrorist rhetoric. The time of appeasement has passed. Similarly, the U.S. bishops have to take their blinders off and acknowledge that marriage equality is the law of the land and need to develop a policy that protects married lesbian and gay church workers from employment discrimination, just as the German bishops have done. The U.S. bishops have to preach and teach church doctrine on respecting LGBT people with the same strength and resources that they used to try to stop marriage equality. To remain silent at this point will make the bishops complicit in condoning the un-Christian treatment that Aaron Bianco has experienced. Will it take a death before the bishops work to end what McElroy called a “cancer of vilification seeping into the institutional life of the church” ?
Over a year ago, Bishop McElroy said these kind of vicious attacks by conservative websites should be a “wake-up call” to the U.S. bishops. Why haven’t the bishops become woke?
—Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, October 20, 2018