One theologian used the U.S. Supreme Court ruling earlier this year that allows Catholic Social Services to discriminate against same-gender couples as an opportunity to criticize the theology of that nation’s bishops.
In June 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Catholic Social Services’ (CSS) policy that denies same-gender couples from being adoptive and foster parents. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops was one of the groups which filed an amicus brief in support of CSS.
In light of the court ruling, openly gay theologian Craig A. Ford, Jr., who teaches at St. Norbert College, Wisconsin, penned a column for the National Catholic Reporter examining the theology which drives U.S. bishops and other Catholic organizations to discriminate against LGBTQ couples.
The hierarchy’s understanding of “scandal” helps them to justify such discrimination, a position with which Ford disagrees. Ford turns the tables on scandal:
“The scandal in the American Catholic Church right now is the position of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that seeks to expel lesbian and gay people in same-sex relationships from Catholic institutions. Indeed, what we are witnessing in that position is the separation of lesbian and gay couples from Catholic life unless they are willing to abandon their committed relationships, which is a form of homophobia.”
He elaborates with two more reasons why the U.S. bishops’ theology is scandalous. First, “it causes needless and avoidable harm to same-sex couples who would like to support Catholic institutions” and second, “it perpetuates social inequalities that — in view of the emerging scientific consensus — are needless and, therefore, unjust.”
With regards to the foster care system, the U.S. bishops claim that sexual complementarity is needed for a child’s development, meaning that a child must have heterosexual parents for a proper upbringing. But Ford points out, “In the face of emerging scientific consensus that same-sex couples are equally qualified to be foster parents, the theology that discriminates against them loses its basis both in reason and in reality.” He continues:
“When Catholic moral theology loses its basis in reality, it also loses its ability to invoke the natural law — the moral framework famously used by Thomas Aquinas — in its defense. The theology of the bishops, in other words, gives scandal because its theology harms for no good reason same-sex couples who would seek to adopt from Catholic agencies by depriving them of consideration simply because of their relationship status.”
Ford quotes Gaudium et Spes, Vatican II’s document on the church in the modern world, to support his charges about scandal:
“Excessive economic and social disparity between individuals and peoples of the one human race is a source of scandal and militates against social justice, equity, human dignity, as well as social and international peace.”
Ford concludes his critique by challenging the U.S. bishops to focus their theology on justice and human dignity when it comes to LGBTQ issues.
The bishops’ opposition to same-gender couples becoming adoptive or foster parents perpetuates social disparity and actively works against human dignity. Keeping couples from building family and community and keeping vulnerable children from love and care strongly violates the church’s social teaching.
—Elise Dubravec, New Ways Ministry, October 2, 2021