A Catholic deacon with bisexual and transgender children has called for Catholics to work actively for non-discrimination protections that cover LGBTQ workers.
Deacon Ray Dever begins his commentary in the August 2019 U.S. Catholic (available online now) by recalling New Ways Ministry’s Eighth National Symposium where he presented with his trans daughter in 2017. Dever writes about how heartbreaking it was “to listen to her tell her story and to relive difficult aspects of her journey—all the discrimination and hatred she has endured, the depression and suicide attempts.” He acknowledges that most LGBTQ people face such difficulties, especially when there are no federal and only some state-level non-discrimination protections for things such as housing, employment, and healthcare, and comments:
“For Catholics, whose faith is based on the fundamental belief in the value and dignity of every human being and whose church has consistently called for the just treatment of workers, a clear moral obligation to actively support efforts to eliminate these kinds of discrimination would seem obvious.”
Most Catholics in the U.S. recognize the need for such support; in Dever’s words, the sensus fidelium (sense of the faithful) is clear on the need for change. But the institutional church remains opposed, “dragged down into the weeds of this highly polarized debate about religious liberty protections” such that “it has lost sight of its role in the big picture” of protecting LGBTQ people. Dever notes the bishops’ opposition to both the federal Equality Act, which U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops leadership described as “a detriment to society as a whole,” and to state-level measures. He asks:
“As I follow church statements on this topic, I wonder what has happened to the church’s belief in the value and dignity of every human being as divinely revealed in the gospels. What has happened to the church’s long-standing teachings on social justice and equal economic opportunity, teachings that apply without exception to all individuals? Shouldn’t those core beliefs be the starting point and guiding principles in any discussion of discrimination and human rights with respect to economic matters? . . .
“That is the Catholic Church I love. That is the Catholic Church whose moral theology flows from the parable of the final judgment in Chapter 25 of Matthew’s gospel, where Jesus tells us that whatever we do to the least among us, we do to him.
“But when it comes to the LGBTQ community, it seems there are more important concerns to many in the church than the human dignity of a gay or transgender person or their right to life in a just society with equal economic opportunity. If people of faith and goodwill are truly committed to the just treatment of all people—which is entirely consistent with and mandated by Catholic teaching—then we should be working together to pass equality legislation, not finding excuses to oppose it and allow discrimination to continue.”
Dever concludes by urging Catholics to get involved with efforts for non-discrimination laws that protect LGBTQ workers. For those who remain opposed to such protections, he presents a thought experiment:
“Consider how you would explain to a gay or transgender person why you oppose LGBTQ nondiscrimination legislation when the church believes in the value and dignity of all human beings and has fought for the basic human rights of all other people without exceptions. I want you to think about what you would say if you had to sit down with my transgender daughter, look her in the eyes, and explain to her why you think she shouldn’t have the same legally protected human rights and opportunities in life as other people.
“And while you’re at it, you might want to give some thought as to what you would say if that were your own son or daughter sitting across the table from you.”
Dever has spoken out for LGBTQ equality as a part of his diaconal ministry which has included serving with Cardinal Kevin Farrell at the World Meeting of Families 2018’s closing Mass. But he speaks foremost and powerfully as a Catholic parent loving his LGBTQ children. In the midst of sharp debates over religious liberty and non-discrimination laws, Deacon Ray Dever reminds us not to lose sight of the very personal stakes involved and to live the fullness of Catholic social teaching.
So to flip Dever’s question a little for Bondings 2.0 readers, what would you say about why you as a Catholic support anti-LGBTQ non-discrimination protections? Leave your thoughts in the “Comments” section below.
Related Posts by Deacon Ray Dever
“The Vatican’s New Document on Gender: Is There Hope?” (June 13, 2019)
“Home for the Holidays?” (November 11, 2018)
“Gender Ideology, Transgender Reality: A Deacon Parent’s Perspective” (September 18, 2017)
“Let’s Have a World Meeting of ALL Families” (August 28, 2015)
“LGBTQ Children in Catholic Families: A Deacon’s View of Holy Family Sunday” (December 28, 2014)
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, July 23, 2019