The following is a statement from Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry’s Executive Director, in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on Title VII that bars discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Title VII decision protecting LGBTQ people from workplace discrimination is a reason for all Catholics to celebrate. While pro-LGBTQ Catholics, who are the overwhelming majority in the U.S. church, will obviously applaud this decision, even Catholics who take a negative stance toward LGBTQ people should welcome this decision because it is absolutely in agreement with Catholic teachings about the human dignity of LGBTQ people, anti-discrimination, and respect for workers’ rights.
Unfortunately, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops does not agree. Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles denounced the decision in a statement, saying, in part:
“I am deeply concerned that the U.S. Supreme Court has effectively redefined the legal meaning of ‘sex’ in our nation’s civil rights law. This is an injustice that will have implications in many areas of life. . . . No one can find true happiness by pursuing a path that is contrary to God’s plan.
“Every human person is made in the image and likeness of God and, without exception, must be treated with dignity, compassion, and respect. Protecting our neighbors from unjust discrimination does not require redefining human nature.”
What Gomez doesn’t realize is that such a “legal redefinition” actually helps in the goal of “Protecting our neighbors from unjust discrimination. . . .” He commits the error that the bishops conference has continually made by viewing all LGBTQ issues through the lens of sexuality instead of through the more basic and correct lens of human rights and dignity.
Moreover, for decades upon decades, and with increasingly mounting scientific and social scientific evidence, the bishops have been exhorted to listen to the voices of LGBTQ people so that they can learn how these individuals experience and discern “God’s plan” for themselves, instead of being constrained by an abstract philosophical model.
Even Catholics opposed to marriage equality for lesbian and gay couples should be rejoicing that the Court’s decision is in line with Catholic teaching on homosexual people that “Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2358).
Even Catholics who do not support transgender people should be rejoicing that their dignity and humanity are upheld by this ruling. As the U.S. bishops have stated: “Human personhood must be respected with a reverence that is religious. When we deal with each other, we should do so with the sense of awe that arises in the presence of something holy and sacred. For that is what human beings are: we are created in the image of God.” (Economic Justice for All, 28)
As Pope Paul VI said, “All people have the right to work, to a chance to develop their qualities and their personalities in the exercise of their professions, to equitable remuneration which will enable them and their families “to lead a worthy life on the material, social, cultural and spiritual level. . .” (Octogesima Adveniens, 14)
Unfortunately, it is unlikely that this decision will protect the rights of LGBTQ workers employed in church institutions. Church agencies often hide behind religious exemptions to discriminate against LGBTQ workers in their employ. It is shameful that Catholic bishops and administrators do not themselves live up to their own teachings in regard to LGBTQ non-discrimination and workers’ rights.
As with other LGBTQ issues, it is sad that the Supreme Court is ahead of the Catholic Church when it comes to employment non-discrimination—a policy which should Catholic teaching speaks of eloquently in its words, but fails miserably in putting into practice.
So, while Catholics of all political persuasions can rejoice that the U.S. Supreme Court supported LGBTQ workers in a manner consonant with Catholic teaching, the work for justice and equality inside the Church will continue.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, June 16, 2020