Thursday, February 7, 2013

U.S. Catholic Bishops: From Boy Scouts to Immigration Reform, Intent to Target Gays Remains Constant

I'm struck by a statement Richard Land makes to Zach Wahls in this debate about lifting the ban on openly gay Boy Scouts and Scout leaders. Land is head of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. Wahls, who was raised by a lesbian couple, has become a national spokesperson for LGBT rights, though he himself is straight. The Southern Baptists are helping to lead the national fight to keep exclusion of openly gay Scouts and Scout leaders in place, and their president Fred Luter has stated that including gays in the Scouts contravenes "biblical principles."

Land tells Wahls:

If the ban were to be lifted, and they were to go to the local option, that there would be hundreds of thousands of Scouts that are sponsored by organizations like the Mormon church, like Roman Catholics, and like Baptists and other conservative faith organizations that would withdraw their sponsorship.

Like the Mormon church, like Roman Catholics, and like Baptists and other conservative faith organizations: my church, my Roman Catholic church, is now casually identified with ugly bigotry--with bigotry that flatly militates against core biblical principles and the example of Jesus--in the minds of many American citizens.  A leading anti-gay bigot, representing a church that stands openly for bigotry, can casually identify my church and me with anti-democratic, anti-inclusive, homophobic stands that in no way represent my own Catholic understanding of the world.

How have we come to this point, I wonder: like Roman Catholics and other conservative faith organizations . . . ?

Well, part of the answer to that question, very obviously, is that we've come to this point as a direct result of the leadership of the current top leaders of the Catholic church, including the current top leaders of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. As Rachel Zoll reports yesterday for ABC News, the U.S. Catholic bishops have just sent a secret letter to President Obama (they themselves are refusing to make it public), which apparently threatens to withdraw Catholic support for immigration reform unless the president drops from the immigration reform bill provisions that protect same-sex couples from discrimination in immigration decisions. The bishops' spokeswoman Sister Mary Ann Walsh states that this provision "jeopardizes passage of the bill."

As Zoll notes, in taking this step, the bishops are joining hands with other theologically conservative groups who resist the inclusion of same-sex couples in the immigration reform bill. Like other conservative faith organizations . . . . 

I've said it previously and I feel compelled to say it again: it's as if groups working on behalf of human rights for the entire human community have thrown a party, and Catholics are deciding not to attend. After decades of working to support workers' rights, the USCCB has decisively shut its mouth in the past several years as leading Republican politicians including Scott Walker in Wisconsin move against the rights of workers. After long years of supporting universal healthcare coverage in line with Catholic social teaching, the bishops shamed themselves and the entire Catholic community by attacking a healthcare act of the current administration which will bring millions of low-income Americans who lack any healthcare coverage into coverage.

And now, at this point in history, as the moral arc of history moves decisively towards including LGBT human beings as full members of the human community, the leaders of the Catholic church move in precisely the opposite direction, supporting exclusion, denigration, punishment, and condemnation for those who are gay, and colluding with faith leaders who describe this behavior as "biblical."

And as the bishops betray core Catholic principles right and left through this behavior, the powerful centrist Catholic commentariat that continues to cheerlead for them remains totally silent.

(And what's with the secret letter, bishops? When, precisely, were you anointed kingmakers who have the right to instruct the president of the United States--through secret communications--about what he should do to avoid having you boycott his decisions? I seem to have missed the announcement about your anointing.)

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