As the LGBTQ+ community continues grieving the Club Q mass shooting in Colorado Springs last month, U.S. Catholic published a piece by Alex Gruber that honored the victims and acknowledged the depth of the tragedy.
The article urges Catholics to open their eyes to the “inherent dignity” of LGBTQ+ individuals, specifically when it comes to language and rhetoric:
“Assaults on our God-given human dignity can occur through words and actions. Often, the words we hear and say, especially those we repeat day after day, shape how we act, including how we listen to or ignore other people’s voices and see or overlook their dignity.”
“If we remark that a person or group is sinful, sick, or unnatural every time they come up in conversation and never mention their inherent dignity in God’s eyes, we can easily shrug our shoulders when they are belittled or assaulted. We may even see this verbal or physical violence as excusable, a “natural” result of their “unnatural” identity. Such fixation on sinfulness, sickness, and unnaturalness at the expense of fundamental sanctity occurs routinely in the language of many Christian groups and individuals, including the Catholic Church, about LGBTQ people.”
Unfortunately, this type of rhetoric can be difficult to change, especially when Catholic institutions have historically believed that queerness is wrong. But, such harmful rhetoric towards LGBTQ+ individuals is contrary to the teachings of the gospels.
While some Catholic groups have taken positive steps in solidarity with LGBTQ+ people, there is still a lack of recognition and care for this community. After the Club Q shooting, the Catholic Church was accused of not doing enough to address the tragedy. Rather than verbally supporting the LGBTQ+ community through a difficult time, many Catholic leaders instead resorted to silence. Gruber states:
“Silence from Catholic leaders in the wake of attacks like the Club Q shooting reveals a failure to recognize the role of Christians in degrading and dehumanizing LGBTQ people. Reiteration of LGBTQ identities as inherently disordered, unnatural, or evil—even when cloaked in words that seek to console the victims but not “condone” their “lifestyles”—justifies and reinforces the attitudes of homophobia and transphobia that inspire and fuel assaults on the LGBTQ community in general.”
“The Catholic Church, especially its leadership, must take further steps to make it clear that neither it nor God condones or desires violence against LGBTQ people and that, in fact, both stand firmly against it. Neither the Colorado bishops nor the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a collective statement condemning the shooting at Club Q as an act of anti-LGBTQ violence. The lack of strong language by the hierarchy opposing this attack and every attack on LGBTQ people and affirming their fundamental dignity can excuse Catholics across the nation from knowing and caring about the Club Q shooting and anti-LGBTQ violence in general.”
Gruber concludes by arguing that while prayers for victims and their families may be helpful, there must be larger conversations on the harm Catholic rhetoric causes to LGBTQ+ people. Gruber writes:
“This Advent and beyond, I pray that all of us in the Catholic Church wake up to the real connection between anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and physical anti-LGBTQ attacks.”
—Sarah Cassidy (she/her), New Ways Ministry, December 8, 2022