To celebrate Pride month, the New Orleans Saints football team posted a photo of their stadium lit up in rainbow colors–and they were sharply criticized by Our Lady of Lourdes Roman Catholic Church, Erath, Louisiana. And after a backlash from LGBTQ+ and allied Catholics, Bishop Douglas Deshotel, Lafayette, Louisiana, reaffirmed the church’s stance with a public statement.
In a post on the parish’s Facebook page, the following message was posted:
“Come on NOLA Saints. We want to support you. But this kinda of [sic] stunt hurts society and souls. Don’t bow down to these pressure groups. Kids have rights. Children deserve to have a dad and a mom. Plz don’t support immorality. Cancel the PC Culture.”
In an official response to the local news station KATC 3, Bishop Deshotel did not express an opinion, but instead quoted Section 2358 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church: The number of men and women who have deep seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. They do not choose their homosexual condition; for most of them it is a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.”
The parish later issued a video statement with a fuller message about homosexuality. The video, narrated by an unnamed speaker, begins with a prayer and a commentary, spoken with an image of the Sacred Heart on the screen. The speaker then defends a negative view of homosexuality, opposing LGBTQ+ rights, and ends with an encouragement for anyone who believes otherwise to “agree to disagree” and then pray to find “the truth.” The speaker criticizes those who believe the church is “full of hate,” and argues that all teaching is grounded in love, as quoted by KATC 3:
“We don’t hate you, we love you. That’s why we preach what we do. It’s not about exclusions, it’s about saving souls,” he says, again with the core explicit messaging that sexual expression in any context other than heterosexual marriage is to put a soul at risk.”
More than 600 people commented on the original Facebook post, many of these expressing frustration and disappointment in the parish’s messaging. Commenter Danny Lynn says that the church should be “ashamed:”
“I’m so glad that my family supports my wife and myself as a married couple. I’m so disappointed in the church. That’s why I don’t go to church because all they do is judge people. And it’s sad because I used to go to church growing up. By why go to a very big judgemental place. It’s sad because we are Catholics and can’t even go to church. Last time I checked, my God doesn’t judge.”
Another response came from the Lafayette chapter of Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG). In reference to the post’s stated concern for children’s rights, chapter president Matt Humphrey said that the church would:
“…do well with minding the plank in their church’s eye where it concerns children before concerning themselves with specks in others…children deserve a loving family, regardless of the number, gender, or sexual orientation of their parent or parents. To suggest otherwise is not only hurtful to children…but is also scientifically wrong. The quality of the relationship and not the parents’ sexual orientation is what matters.’”
Parishioner Ashlie Langlinais told KLFY TV news that the Facebook post and response has made her family reevaluate where they will attend mass. She says, “What I feel like isn’t talked about enough is the environment it created for bullying. People were attacked. There was no attempt at moderation or bringing people together.”
Langlinais says that parishioners have started a petition asking the diocese to take action against the parish’s statement. She commented: “The post was pretty upsetting but for me the apology video was more upsetting. It doubled down on what was said. There was no apology, no contrition.”
The initial Facebook post by Our Lady of Lourdes Church was harmful, the bishop’s response was vague, and video message appears to have made matters worse. The parish’s actions are causing members of this church community and beyond to be increasingly alienated.
Kudos to those members of the Lafayette Diocese who continue to speak out and pray that all LGBTQ+ members of this church community may one day find a home that meets them in their fullness.
—Catherine Buck, New Ways Ministry, July 24, 2020