Why Do Catholics Support LGBTQ Non-Discrimination?

Additional Testimonies for “A Home for All”

A Home for All contains testimonies from Catholic individuals and organizations about why they support non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people. The 24 testimonies are from church leaders, people in the pews, scholars, bishops, cardinals—even Pope Francis.

The following are additional Catholic testimonies which express how faith motivates people to work for justice.

Brother Joseph Bach, OSF, Director of Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation, Franciscan Brothers of Brooklyn, New York

“I often find myself asking how discrimination of any kind is found in the Catholic Church. After spending more than 25 years in Catholic education as a teacher and a principal, I have seen many LGBTQ young people and adults suffer discrimination within our Church.

“As a Franciscan Brother, I feel called to work to protect the value, dignity, and worth of each person whom I encounter in whatever way I am able, as St. Francis of Assisi did with those who were marginalized in his time. As I always told my students, ‘You are made in the image and likeness of God and therefore good! Don’t ever let anyone tell you that there is something wrong with you because you are exactly as God created you to be.’

“We should be able to look at others and tell them, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression, that, when they look in the mirror, they should be able to smile and say, ‘Wow, God! Thanks! You did a great job, I am exactly as you intended me to be! Thanks!’ After all, isn’t this what the Gospel calls us to do? We must create a space of welcome and embrace that celebrates the gifts that all of our siblings bring to our Church.”

Rita Cotterly, PhD, Founder, Sexuality Education Center, Fort Worth, Texas

I began attending Dignity Masses with the LGBTQ community on a “fact finding mission.” Who and what are “they?” I learned. They are my friends, my siblings, my fellow travelers, and members of the same Body of Christ as I am. They are created in God’s image and likeness just as I—a heterosexual, Catholic woman whose life has been blessed by their presence—am.

I have learned that being gay or transgender is not a choice, illness, sin or phase. Consequently, LGBTQ individuals should be treated with the same rights as their heterosexual friends. LGBTQ individuals realize that they are “different” at an early age but it takes time and effort for them to discover their authentic self. A visit to a botanical garden, a zoo, a busy mall, or a careful reading of the Gospels illustrates God’s enjoyment and intention of uniqueness and variety.

My years of attending Dignity Masses resulted in a “conversion experience.” I am so grateful to the LGBTQ community as I witnessed them integrating their spirituality and sexuality, relating to women as equals, living the Gospel by feeding the poor, visiting the sick and by celebrating who we all are – the image of God, the body of Christ, the Spirit in our world.

Sister Ilia Delio, OSF, Josephine C. Connelly Endowed Chair in Theology, Villanova University

A church grounded in the core reality of God’s love must be a church living from the center of that love, which is why the church can survive into the future only if it opens wide its doors to all those it currently excludes: women, laity, gay, non-binary, transgendered, divorced, and remarried.  Love does not fixate on doctrines and canon laws, but is ‘patient and kind,’ as St. Paul wrote.

(Source: Birth of a Dancing Star: My Journey from Cradle Catholic to Cyborg Christian, Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 2019)

Lisa Fullam, D.V.M., Th.D. Professor of Moral Theology, Jesuit School of Theology at Santa Clara University

In a time in which the Church is hemorrhaging members–and who knows how the Covid-19 lockdowns will affect membership in the future?—and with more than 70% of US Catholics (and majorities of all US religious groups) in favor of nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people, shouldn’t Church leaders look again at where they stand on civil rights? Catholic Social Teaching should inspire Church leaders to err on the side of employees, on the side of human dignity, and on the side of this week’s historic decision.

(Source: Bondings 2.0)

Linda Karle-Nelson, President, Families With Dignity, Detroit, Michigan

A friend of mine, Jane, is a “cradle Catholic” whose past experience with the Church was quite positive. Her years attending a Catholic grade school were happy ones. She eventually married another woman in whom she found a “soul mate.” Along with Jane’s 10-year old daughter, the couple have formed a beautiful, loving family together. Jane is a longtime member of a Catholic parish in a conservative small town community and her young daughter attends the parish school.  Soon after the couple were married, the bishop of their diocese gave a very negative homily at their parish about “gay marriage.” Furthermore, the bishop had recently issued an order prohibiting LGBTQ people from receiving the sacraments.

Since then Jane has endured inappropriate questions from fellow parishioners about her relationship with her wife.  She is questioning whether she will be able to return to the Catholic Church in her diocese because of the bishop’s order.

But changes are bubbling up in Germany: Cardinal Reinhard Marx has blessed the unions of same sex couples and called for a change in Catholic teaching on homosexuality. Our country has made civil marriage equality a reality for LGBTQ people. May our Church also open its eyes to equal treatment of LGBTQ individuals who seek a path to a blessed marriage in the Catholic Church. Catholics need to work for non-discrimination in both church and society.

Jeannie Kirkhope, Coordinator, Catholic Committee of Appalachia

I have spent my 52 years immersed in Catholic schools, communities, and careers. It was a decision first made by my parents, in part, to provide a safe environment for me. For them, ‘safe’ meant white, patriarchal, upper-middle class, straight, and cisgender.

In college, I sought out anyone different from me to better understand the world into which I would be catapulted in four short years. That openness drew me to my two best friends who, sadly, remained closeted during college, even from me, for their own safety. While I found our good times and late night discussions so formative, they knew their chance to grow wouldn’t begin until graduation. Yet, once our caps flew, instead of abandoning me, they sat me down and courageously came out. I was completely blindsided. Patiently, for hours, they answered every question and let me absorb it. Then, we left campus together and hit the bars to celebrate!

Jesus embraced all those considered unsafe. Because of these friends, my decision to stay Catholic has been to make the Church as welcoming as possible for all people considered unsafe. Of a church that doesn’t preach, practice or act for non-discrimination, St. Oscar Romero would say, “What kind of gospel is that?”

Sister Anna Koop, SL, Founder, Denver Catholic Worker

I am a Sister of Loretto, and I have been part of the Catholic Worker movement for more than four decades. I am currently focused on systemic change through localization. The evolving politics in the U.S. have me especially concerned about the rights of LGBTQ persons.

I feel distressed over the unjust firings of LGBTQ employees in many Catholic institutions across the United States. Catholics should know that the principles of human dignity and justice in employment toward all persons are embedded in the Gospels, the papal encyclicals since Pope Leo XIII, and the social justice teachings of our Church.

At our General Assembly in 2015, the Loretto Community reaffirmed our stance of non-discrimination toward lesbian and gay persons and added non-discrimination based on “gender identity, marital status, or personal support for marriage equality” to our employment policy. I am proud that the Loretto Community has been a safe haven for LGBTQ persons.

Ish Ruiz, Ph.D., Post Doctoral Fellow of Catholic Studies, Emory University

I am a practicing Catholic, a theologian, and a religious studies educator in San Francisco. For the past six years, I have had the blessing of working directly with a group of queer educators in Catholic schools. These educators are able to model real commitment in the face of risk, can provide comfort to members of the Church who feel they do not belong (especially LGBTQ+ students), understand the meaning of justice and reconciliation, and have a unique perspective on community despite constant rejection.Anyone  thinking about abandoning Catholicism might benefit from hearing from LGBTQ+ educators who have many reasons to leave yet choose to stay.

For all of these reasons, I believe LGBTQ+ educators are indispensable to Catholic education and are, in many ways, here to save Catholic schools through the educators’ inspiring life witness. As the Scriptures say, “the stone that has been rejected has become the cornerstone” (Ps. 118:22). This is why I support nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ employees in Catholic schools.