At Fall Assembly, U.S. Bishops Vote to Double-Down on LGBTQ-Negative Agenda

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

7 replies
  1. Richard Rosendall
    Richard Rosendall says:

    I am lying here in the dark, my brain storming, contemplating the moral bankruptcy of the episcopacy. What is the point of having a Church at all if it is going to look like this?

    I know, the Church is a community of believers, not its buildings nor its hierarchy. That effectively means that I must find community away from the Church’s buildings and hierarchy. I have been exiled from the church for nearly half a century because its leaders continually insisted that I be a sheep instead of a human being. That never appealed to me in the slightest, in fact I resent those to whom it does appeal. We are not sheep. We should not want to be sheep. It is a betrayal of our humanity to aspire to sheephood. If that is required for comfort, then I am against comfort. Enormous crimes have been facilitated by people behaving like sheep.

    The bishops expect us to be like sheep. They are no-goodniks, to quote a bossy old professor I found amusing. He was a highly opinionated Croatian whose dogmatism was leavened by an entertaining personality. He would be 110 by now, but he was the sort of character who would be fun to meet over drinks.

    So I have memorable people like that, and organ concerts, and choirs, and the Nuns on the Bus, and a beautiful campus that I miss, and the phrase “On Church Index” typed in red on card catalog entries in Falvey Library for books that were nonetheless on the shelves. And dissidents. And a beautiful boy of 20, now 62, whose sunflower simply was not made to turn my way, but who turns out still to be following my writing.

    There is the Church: moments of grace, undeserved, unexpected, unauthorized, sometimes glimpsed in our first South American pope, whom so many of the bishops deplore and resist. He has his flaws, such as his ignorance of the science of gender identity, which includes brain chemistry.

    Telescopes and microscopes have always vexed the bossy old men of the Church. Now I am old. Last night I walked up to my roof with a thermos of tea and a candle and matches, and I lit my candle in the cold autumn night for trans women murdered by ignorance and hate, and for moments of grace such as I myself have been blessed to witness.

  2. Thomas Ellison
    Thomas Ellison says:

    Sadly, the bishops have aligned themselves more with a political agenda than a spiritual one. This is what promotes schism.

  3. James Hickey
    James Hickey says:

    I have 2 lesbian daughters and a transgender grand daughter. I have met and been helped by some priests and bishops that supported a ministry to the LGBT community. However when are the rest of these so called shepherds going to follow Jesus call to accept the outcasts. They are all God’s children. We need to stop singing “All are welcome in this house”, because they are not all welcome!

    • Loretta
      Loretta says:

      I’m reading Jim Wallis’s‘s book, Christ in crisis; reclaiming the teachings of Jesus. I recommend it. He makes clear the teachings of Jesus. For me, I’m done going to Liturgy and watching us go through the motions without any real transformation (and the priests try). The blindness of too many Catholics to take seriously the words of Jesus, and the hierarchy’s stance has finally led me away from Catholic worship. As Mr. Rosendall said, I have to find a faith community elsewhere. I am grateful for my spiritual friendships.


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  1. […] Articles at the New Ways Ministry blog are routinely posted at night. It is good to have company in my wakefulness, albeit virtual. An hour before dawn I reached for my tablet and found an entry titled, “At Fall Assembly, U.S. Bishops Vote to Double-Down on LGBTQ-Negative Agenda.” […]

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