Catholics Reject U.S. Bishops’ Condemnation of Supreme Court Title VII Ruling

Archbishop José Gomez

Catholics are celebrating the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on Monday that federal law prohibits employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. But many of the faithful have also sharply criticized the U.S. bishops’  reaction that condemns the 6-3 ruling in favor of LGBTQ rights.

In a statement, Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), said he was “deeply concerned” with a ruling that is “an injustice that will have implications in many areas of life.” He continued:

“By erasing the beautiful differences and complementary relationship between man and woman, we ignore the glory of God’s creation and harm the human family, the first building block of society. Our sex, whether we are male or female, is part of God’s plan for creation and for our lives. As Pope Francis has taught with such sensitivity, to live in the truth with God’s intended gifts in our lives requires that we receive our bodily and sexual identity with gratitude from our Creator. No one can find true happiness by pursuing a path that is contrary to God’s plan.”

Gomez further claimed that stopping “unjust discrimination does not require redefining human nature.”

New Ways Ministry criticized the archbishop’s statement as one more instance of “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.” For New Ways Ministry’s full statement on the Supreme Court’s ruling and why it is an occasion for all Catholics to celebrate, click here.

Michael Sean Winters, a columnist for the National Catholic Reporter whose record on LGBTQ issues has been mixed, criticized the USCCB’s response as “unsurprisingly, shrill and hysterical.” He added:

“But I worry that the U.S. bishops’ conference will decide to support another round of litigation, based on the premise that they are not firing this person or that because he or she is gay, but because that person entered into a gay marriage. I hope they resist that temptation. I fear they won’t. The conference is still so removed from the concerns of the average person in the pew, they do not see that for every loud, obnoxious anti-gay letter from a culture warrior Catholic they fret over, five other Catholics are walking out the door because they are tired of the culture wars being preached from the pulpit.”

Other Catholics highlighted the difference between the USCCB’s responses to the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer and to the Supreme Court ruling. Olga Marina Segura, who is writing a book on Catholics and Black Lives Matter, tweeted:

“Haven’t forgotten that Gomez: -was also on that Trump call; -released a statement on Floyd’s death six days late, which said that ‘riots are the language of the unheard’ but ‘nothing is gained by violence”; -is pres of USCCB, which has not released #BlackLivesMatter statement.”

Natalia Imperatori-Lee, a theology professor at Manhattan College, elliptically tweeted  about the speed with which the bishops responded, compared with their responses on other topics:

“The speed at which they respond to this. The languid response on racism, discrimination, and hate. [Emoji of someone throwing trash away]”

Agreeing with Imperatori-Lee was Michael Bayer, a pastoral minister in Chicago, who tweeted:

“It took the @USCCB President, Archbishop Gomez, a week to respond to the murder of George Floyd. . .It took them about 4 hours to get a statement on today’s LGBTQ+ rights Supreme Court case. Priorities.”

Finally, Pam Karlan, a law professor at Stanford who argued one of the Title VII cases, pointed out on National Public Radio what an outlier the U.S. bishops really are when it comes to employment discrimination:

“We didn’t see really anybody other than the Conference of Catholic Bishops come in and make an argument that there are large numbers of employers who refuse as a blanket matter to hire people who are lesbian, who are gay or bisexual or who are transgender.”

But other Catholics reacted positively to the court’s ruling, welcoming the ban on anti-LGBTQ employment discrimination as consistent with their faith.

Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, commented in a statement:

“As Catholics, we also hope that the Supreme Court’s ruling will extend to faith-based employers, particularly those that receive public funding for their non-religious activities. Schools, health care organizations, and social service providers affiliated with a number of faith groups have been among the most discriminatory employers for decades, causing tremendous suffering for thousands of individuals, families, and communities. We hope they will be held to the same standards of justice as other employers.”

Fr. James Martin, SJ, posted on social media that Catholics could “rejoice” over the decision, writing:

“What kind of Catholic would want their brother or sister, or friend or neighbor, who is gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, to be denied an interview, turned down for a job, passed over for a promotion, or fired from their current position, simply because they were LGBTQ? . . .

“And arguments about the Court ‘redefining sex’ are beside the point. These are real-life protections against the real-life dangers that real-life plaintiffs faced because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. In other words, they encountered what the Catechism called ‘unjust discrimination.'”

J.R. Zerkowski, executive director of Fortunate Families, posted on Facebook, “[w]e rejoice and thank God for this ruling” even while the group works to end the firing of LGBTQ church workers.

The Supreme Court’s decision to make anti-LGBTQ employment discrimination illegal is indeed a cause for Catholics to celebrate. What the majority opinion explicitly noted was that how the ruling will impact religious employers given complicating factors like the ministerial exception will be determined in future cases. This reality means that Catholics, even while celebrating, must continue advocating our bishops to adopt less confrontational, LGBTQ-negative stances and instead embrace non-discrimination as a Catholic value.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, June 18, 2020

8 replies
  1. Thomas Ellison
    Thomas Ellison says:

    This ruling is finally shining a bright light onto an undeniable fact. Some people / religious groups do , in fact, want to be able to discriminate based upon their rigid belief systems. Mr Winters of The Catholic Reporter has some good points here but rather than those five people walking out of church in disgust, what if they stayed? Eventually, pressure will be great enough that a critical re examination (of conscience) may have to occur. The Episcopalian approach could be a goal. And, with all due respect for James Martin S.J., unfortunately there are people who do not care at all or even think it is acceptable to discriminate against someone solely because they are LGBT. We see the seamy side of our society every day on the non stop news. As for the USCCB and their lack of compassion, it strikes me rather odd because it is certain that every single priest, bishop or Cardinal knows at least one gay cleric. The ones I know are wonderful priests . God calls everyone . He doesn’t ask qualifying questions first.

    Reply
  2. Tom Bower
    Tom Bower says:

    Much to my surprise I agree with some of what Bishop Gomez says, but not in the way he intends it. Who could not agree with “As Pope Francis has taught with such sensitivity, to live in the truth with God’s intended gifts in our lives requires that we receive our bodily and sexual identity with gratitude from our Creator. No one can find true happiness by pursuing a path that is contrary to God’s plan.” As every out LGBT individual knows we are living our lives based on the our “bodily and sexual identity with gratitude from our Creator.” God made us according to Her/His image, to deny our gifts would be an insult to the Creator. So Bishop Gomez thank you for validating that the LGBT community is worth of love and support from the Church.

    Reply
    • Don Siegal
      Don Siegal says:

      “As Pope Francis has taught with such sensitivity, to live in the truth with God’s intended gifts in our lives requires that we receive our bodily and sexual identity with gratitude from our Creator. No one can find true happiness by pursuing a path that is contrary to God’s plan.”

      I would have to respectfully disagree with you. As with many of Pope Francis’ statements, this statement has both a complimentary meaning which is how you are contextually using it. But taking the context of Archbishop Gomez’s statement, he clearing is using the derogatory meaning of Pope Francis’ statement. That is in its hetero-normative sense.

      Reply
  3. Loretta
    Loretta says:

    I think Sean Winters is correct in stating for every one anti-gay Catholic there are five that leave. I read Dolan’s letter which not only did not acknowledge Black Lives Matter, but relegated systemic racism to just a few bad cops. He didn’t even address this until asking for money for the church.
    The Church has a better track record of protecting pedophiles than Black and LGBT lives. Pitiful.

    Reply
  4. Susan Hynes Rohrer
    Susan Hynes Rohrer says:

    I am a committed life-long Catholic, and so happy about the Supreme Court ruling. I believe our founder, Jesus, would only be a a proponent of fairness and good treatment to all humans. I am happy that many Catholics are in agreement. Keep up your wonderful work promoting fairness and justice. Susan Rohrer, Beltsville, Md.

    Reply
  5. Mark Clark
    Mark Clark says:

    Thank God that Gomez, despite his title, speaks for only a tiny fraction of the faithful. He is one of the rebels who at any moment might create a schism in the American Catholic church.

    Reply
  6. Dr. Aaron Milavec
    Dr. Aaron Milavec says:

    I am a cradle-Catholic and am proud that my Church emphasized that Jesus distinguished himself by interpreting Torah with compassion and love. Now I am confronted by Catholic bishops who have no compassion for the LGBTQ followers of Jesus who are struggling to live a life of holiness by finding their “life companion” using the innate skills that our Father in heaven created for them. I want to say to our bishops, “Complain against God, if you have to, but don’t you dare imagine that you are following in the footsteps of Jesus by refusing legitimate civil protections to our LGBTQ Brothers and Sisters.” This is the ugly underbelly of homophobia speaking. Jesus says to our bishops, “Truly I tell you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me” (Matt 25:45).
    Fraternally,
    Dr. Aaron Milavec

    Reply

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