The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) met in Baltimore last week where they held a number of direction-setting votes that re-emphasized their work to stymie LGBTQ equality.
First, the bishops approved strategic priorities for 2021-2024 that would likely be implemented following next fall’s assembly, reported the National Catholic Reporter. The plan is divided into four priorities: evangelization, life and dignity of the human person, protect and heal God’s children, and vocations.
Two emphases under the second priority about life and human dignity will continue the Conference’s efforts against LGBTQ equality. These are “Defend and secure religious liberty and freedom of association” and “Articulate a convincing anthropology of the human person, male and female, as proclaimed by faith and affirmed by science and right reason,” the latter of which could lead to intensified efforts specifically targeting transgender rights.
The bishops elected new leadership for the Conference and its committees, reported America. Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles was, as expected, elected to be the USCCB’s new president from a ballot on which a majority of candidates were highly LGBTQ-negative.
Gomez, who previously served as vice-president, has a mixed record on LGBTQ issues. A member of the hyper-traditionalist Opus Dei movement, he has opposed the teaching of LGBT history in California public schools. He also opposed the re-authorization of the federal Violence Against Women Act because it included ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity’ as protected classes. However, Gomez has let the archdiocese’s Catholic Ministry with Lesbian and Gay Persons continue, and allowed LGBTQ-related sessions at the Religious Education Congress sponsored each year by the archdiocese. The archbishop was elected by his fellow bishops to represent the U.S. at the the Vatican’s 2015 Synod on the Family. The archbishop’s full record on LGBT issues as reported by Bondings 2.0 can be found here.
Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit was elected to be USCCB’s new vice-president. Vigneron is quite LGBTQ-negative. He has compared breaking up same-gender relationships to the Exodus story of the Hebrews’ journey to freedom. In 2015, he attempted to ban Catholics who support marriage equality from Communion which prompted outcry from Catholic parents in Michigan, and from Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Gumbleton (links here and here) and Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson. He also banned Fortunate Families from using church property because Francis DeBernardo of New Ways Ministry was the program’s speaker.
Youngstown’s Bishop George Murry, SJ, was elected over Miami’s Archbishop Thomas Wenski for chair of the USCCB’s Committee on Religious Liberty (in a tie vote that led to Murry’s election because he is older in age). Both bishops are LGBTQ-negative. In 2017, Murry signed a joint letter with Philadelphia’s Archbishop Charles Chaput saying they were “grateful” that the Trump administration had revoked Obama-era guidelines aimed at supporting transgender students. That same year, he signed a letter that claimed laws aimed at non-discrimination protections LGBTQ people are an attack on religious freedom.
The bishops have again kept their voting guide “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” which was last updated four years ago, adding only an introductory letter and four videos as supplements. Critics, including bishops, have argued it is outdated and does not reflect the pastoral priorities and magisterial teachings of Pope Francis. Mirroring the strategic priorities, the introductory letter included the line, “It is also essential to affirm the nature of the human person as male and female, to protect the family based on marriage between a man and a woman, and to uphold the rights of children in that regard.” The 2015 text includes criticism of marriage equality, a defense of religious social service providers’ ability to discriminate against LGBTQ adoptive and foster parents, the claim that the institutional church’s religious freedom is threatened because it opposed equal marriage rights, and a condemnation of alleged gender ideology.
Overall, the USCCB proceedings last week did nothing good for the U.S. church’s relationship with LGBTQ people. The proceedings revealed a national episcopal conference still deeply entrenched against Pope Francis and his shift towards a more welcoming and pastoral church focused on real issues like climate change and migration. Despite efforts by some Francis-aligned bishops to move the conference forward, most bishops’ desire to prioritize their fight against LGBTQ equality won the day.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, November 21, 2019