Press

National Religious Leadership Roundtable members issue strong reaction to United States Catholic bishops’ proposed guidelines

Date: 
October 20, 2006

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WASHINGTON, Oct. 20 — The National Religious Leadership Roundtable reacted today to reports from the Associated Press about the United States Catholic bishops’s proposed guidelines for ministry to lesbians and gay men. The guidelines, which reaffirm church opposition to same-sex marriage and adoption, will be discussed at the November meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Responses from members of the Task Force's National Religious Leadership Roundtable

“The bishops are being asked to vote on a document that is self-contradictory. It is logically and morally impossible to claim respect for lesbian and gay people and at the same time reaffirm opposition to their exercising the basic human rights of marriage and the formation of families.

“To systematically exclude from leadership those who hold enlightened, progressive views on sexuality is to deprive the Catholic community of the talents of some of its best and brightest people.

“Rather than adopt such a flawed document, the bishops would do well to convene an educational forum to learn the facts of contemporary life, including the witness of countless lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender [LGBT] Catholics who live with integrity. LGBT Catholic scholars and their colleagues stand ready to provide such resources.”

— Mary E. Hunt, Ph.D.
Co-Director
Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER)

“The guidelines offered in this draft are out of touch with the vibrant pastoral ministry with lesbian and gay people that has blossomed in parishes across the U.S. in the last 30 years. Catholic people, schools, parishes and dioceses have opened their doors to lesbian and gay people and our church has benefited greatly from this encounter. This document tries to turn back the clock three decades on Catholic acceptance of lesbian and gay people.

“The plan here is not to minister but to make a 'problem' disappear. If the guidelines are approved, they will be ignored by most Catholics because they do not reflect good science, good theology or human reality.

“If the bishops want to develop realistic guidelines, they should open a dialogue with gay and lesbian Catholics to listen to the experience of their lives, their relationships, their faith and their church. Gay ministry developed in the church by recognizing that lesbian and gay people have spiritual gifts and needs that spring from their entire lived reality, not only their sexuality. Good ministry views people as whole human beings. This document proposes that lesbian and gay people be viewed not in the entirety of their lives, but on one dimension only — the sexual dimension. No other group in the church is singled out in this way.

“Pastoral guidelines for gay ministry are surely needed in the U.S. Catholic Church, but this proposed set is certainly not the right one.”

— Francis DeBernardo
Executive Director
New Ways Ministry

“Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender [LGBT] Catholics have been looking for sensitive, respectful and compassionate leadership from their bishops for decades. Some of the more welcoming language in this new document could be interpreted as an attempt to provide that. However, every positive statement in these proposed guidelines is contradicted by the bishops’ own statements and even more by their actions.

“This document attempts to welcome gay and lesbian people into an institution that is simultaneously leading attacks on our civil rights, relationships and families all across the world. It is an invitation to collaborate in our own oppression.

“As LGBT Catholics, families and friends, we call on the U.S. bishops to listen to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholics, who will willingly tell of the gifts we have received through our God-given orientation and the blessings we know through our loving relationships — as well as of our spiritual struggles in our church. Our voices and that of the Holy Spirit speaking in and through our lives must be heard in outlining the pastoral care the church provides.”

— Sam Sinnett
President
DignityUSA

“Such hug-and-slug theology and destructive 'pastoral care' sin against lesbian and gay families and harm the church. Legalistic efforts to split body from spirit, being from living, and loving from touching violate the wholeness — the soul — of lesbian and gay persons, and, in so doing, the integrity of the church. God blesses lesbian and gay families today. Declarations denying this further alienate the disenchanted faithful from a progressively out-of-touch hierarchy.”

— Rev. Troy Plummer
Executive Director
Reconciling Ministries Network, United Methodists

“The contrast between the ministry of Jesus and the proposed guidelines by the Roman Catholic bishops is striking. At every turn, Jesus sought to dismantle the walls that society had built that labeled some insiders and some outsiders, some 'pure' and others 'impure'. The Roman Catholic bishops instead stand in the tradition of the religious authorities whom Jesus consistently challenged. They seek to make some pure and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender folk impure. They strive to label some good and others outside of goodness. As a minister of the Christian gospel, I choose to stand with Jesus, whose ministry calls us to challenge documents like the proposed guidelines.”

— Rev. Rebecca Voelkel
Program Director
Institute for Welcoming Resources

“These proposed guidelines violate the very premise that sexuality is Gods life-giving and life-fulfilling gift. All people are created in and for relationship; there can be no justification for discrimination in any faith community or in society at large on the basis of sexual orientation. Sexual difference is a blessed part of our endowment; how is it that so many religious institutions, including the Catholic Church, continue to deny their own congregants the rights to full inclusion and welcome and their right to lead lives in sacred relationships?”

— Rev. Debra W. Haffner
Director
Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing

“All persons of faith, regardless of their sexual orientation, should be able to partake in the grace of God. They should be able to fully participate in their communities of faith without being told they are fundamentally disordered. It is extremely harmful to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender [LGBT] Americans, especially LGBT youth, to perpetuate a myth that their sexual identity can be changed through therapy or any other means.”

— Harry Knox
Member
United Church of Christ

“Everything the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church knows about marriage is secondhand knowledge. None of them are, ever have been, or will be married. But at least they can claim they have spoken with and understood what was said to them by people who are, can be, and have been married. Apparently, thats as good as it gets: from what has been reported in the press, it seems that everything they know about sexual orientation, sexuality and homosexuality is thirdhand, fourthhand, or worse. That level of ignorance is very close to being willful.

“If, as the press has also reported, Limbo — a place for children who die before they can be baptized — can be suddenly determined to be no longer theologically necessary, if Limbo is not and therefore never was real, then surely it is not only possible but probable that the current policy of the Roman Catholic Church on homosexuality is a tremendous error as well. The difference is that real live practicing Christians were not harmed every day by Limbo’s existence or disappearance. It is a pity that Roman Catholic policy seems so bent on hurting and disowning faithful LGBT members. We pray for our siblings in the Catholic Church.”

— Emily Eastwood
Executive Director
Lutherans Concerned/North America

“What continues to elude the Catholic Church hierarchy is the fact that suppressing sexuality does not work. Physics tells us that energy cannot be destroyed. When we attempt to suppress sexual energy, it erupts in unhealthy and inappropriate ways, as evidenced by the Churchs ongoing priest sexual abuse cases, the Foley scandal and countless other examples. As long as the Church and other puritanical religious bodies continue to demonize sexuality, we will continue to witness its abhorrent expressions, such as rape and sexual abuse.”

— Christian de la Huerta
QSpirit

To read the Associated Press story, please visit http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/us/AP-Bishops-Gays.html.

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