Tuesday, April 7, 2015

New Ways Ministry on Catholics Responding to Anti-Gay "Religious Freedom" Laws: Bishops Continue Advocating for "Right to Discriminate" Laws

At the New Ways Ministry blog, Bondings 2.0, today, Bob Shine summarizes various Catholic responses to the anti-gay "religious freedom" laws in Indiana and Arkansas:

While initially calling for dialogue and mutual respect, Indiana’s five bishops clarified their position in a second statement about the changes to RFRA. These changes, which added sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes when it comes to spheres like housing and employment, make the bishops wonder that the revised law “may undermine religious freedom.” It is worth noting that Indiana’s bishops endorsed the original RFRA bill in February. 
Weighing in during morning shows on Easter Sunday, Cardinals Timothy Dolan of New York and Donald Wuerl of Washington both advocated for "right to discriminate" laws, reports The Washington Post.


Archbishops William Lori of Baltimore and Charles Chaput of Philadelphia attacked the “acrimony and lies” they believe characterizes those criticizing Indiana’s originally-worded law. In a joint piece with Southern Baptist leaders published by an anti-gay organization, the archbishops lashed out at those who claim religiously motivated opposition to marriage equality is bigoted or discriminatory.

As Bob Shine notes, National Catholic Reporter has editorialized about the laws, seeking to walk some kind of middle ground (my phrase, not Bob Shine's) by noting that they support religious freedom laws (as if those criticizing the way the religious right and U.S. bishops have turned those laws upside down to attack gay folks are attacking the notion of religious freedom), but also maintaining that such laws cannot be used for the purpose of discriminating against minority groups.

He also notes that Notre Dame University (which is Indiana) has made no statement about the Indiana laws, but did announce last fall that it will extend employee benefits to same-sex partners and has stated that it has been developing a pastoral plan for the university's LGBT community since 2012. As Shine also indicates, Sherman Alexie, a writer and filmmaker, has recently cancelled an appearance at Notre Dame until Indiana fully protects LGBT human beings from discrimination.

Bob Shine points out, too, that Dan Eisner, president of Indianapolis's Marian University, has issued a statement which says,

We also believe in the dignity and civil rights of every person regardless of race, religion, age, disability, ethnic heritage or sexual orientation. We support the action called for by the CEOs of nine major Indiana corporations asking the governor and the legislature to ‘make it clear that Indiana is the welcoming state we all believe it to be’ and to ‘take immediate action to ensure that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act will not sanction or encourage discrimination against any residents or visitors to our state by anyone.

And so the rebranding process — the Catholic community as a faith community standing on the side of anti-gay discrimination — continues with leading U.S. Catholic bishops, while the mushy middle, the soft center represented by the Catholic media and academy, continue their waffling, hemming, hawing and implicit siding with the bishops, as a few courageous voices speak out for human decency and the longstanding Catholic tradition of respecting the human rights of those shoved to the margins of society.

The bishops, and the community they lead, should be very ashamed of themselves. But something  (see: abuse crisis and cover-up of said abuse) tells me they've long since ditched that capacity for shame. 

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