An invigorated inquisition appears to be under way in the Catholic Church, with some Church leaders and homilists finding renewed license to speak their minds condemning LGBTQ people by referencing Pope Françis’s latest document, Amoris Laetitia. The following recent news reports are evidence that the pope’s plea to his bishops to reach out to LGBTQ parishioners and communities with mercy and tolerance are simply being ignored in blatant preference for those passage in the papal document which support discriminatory stances and views…
Spanish Cardinal Antonio Cañizares gave a mass and homily at the University of Valencia—a Catholic University—during commencement ceremonies in which he stated that the family as a social institution is under grave threat “shaken to its foundations” by LGBTQ and feminist organizations. “The family is haunted today, in our culture, by an endless threat of serious difficulties, and this is not hidden from anyone,” Cañizares said. “[W]e have legislation contrary to the family, the action of political and social forces, with added movements and actions of the gay empire, of ideas such as radical feminism, or the most insidious of all, gender theory.”
Soon after Cañizares’s remarks, several pro-LGTB and feminist organizations, such as Lambda, the LGBT collective of Valencia, the Collective for the Sexual-Affective Diversity and the Association of Families with Transsexual Minors announced they were going to file an official complaint. Spain, generally considered one of the world’s most gay-friendly nations, has had anti-discrimination laws including penalties for “hate speech” since 1996. The charge threatened to be brought against Cañizares is a Spanish law against the fomenting, encouraging, or defending of a criminal act.
Defenders of Cardinal Antonio Cañizares of Valencia, however, are quoting Pope Francis’ latest document on the family, Amoris Laetitia, which also defends traditional marriage and criticizes gender theory, with the unspoken implication apparently being that if the Spanish prelate is “homophobic,” then so is the pope.
Further, in response to the criticism of his homily, Archbishop Cañizares antagonistically published the homily, posing the question, “Is it homophobic to defend the family?” He also immediately claimed “religious freedom” to defend his actions, invoking memories of the Franco regime, insinuating that LGBT and feminist groups were guilty of the dictator’s culture of censorship.
As the controversy has mounted, Bishop Esteban Escudero, an auxiliary of Valencia, released a statement supporting the cardinal, also quoting Françis’s recent document Amoris Laetitia, on love in the family, released earlier in the year. The incident has been reported by Crux, an online Catholic news magazine. For an analysis of the ongoing incident, feel free to read an analysis by New Ways Ministry president, Francis DeBernardo.
Ironically, at the end of his message, Cardinal Cañizares stressed that the “culture of the Eucharist promotes a culture of dialogue…” It is rather unfortunate, therefore, that Cañizares is determined to ignore dialogue in favor of confrontation and belittlement, forcing those against whom he discriminates to resort to legal avenues. The cardinal should be told that a “dialogue” is not possible from a pulpit.
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Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), has appointed a task group to “furthering the reception and implementation” of the papal exhortation Amoris Laetitia in the United States. A USCCB statement listed three tasks for the working group: assisting bishops with the positive reception and implementation of it, learn about local initiatives towards this end, and provide a report to the Vatican on these efforts.
It seems rather ominous, therefore, that Kurtz should have consolidated a team of four bishops who from their positions of power have an egregious track record vilifying LGBTQ people. Statements by some of the bishops since the release of the exhortation have done nothing to provide hope that their derogatory rhetoric should have changed…
The four appointed bishops are Bishop Michael Burbidge of Raleigh, North Carolina; Bishop Richard Malone of Buffalo, New York; Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit; and Archbishop Bernard Hebda of St. Paul-Minneapolis. All but Hebda have records of speaking out strongly and negatively about LGBT issues.
As part of North Carolina’s Catholic Conference, Burbidge initially supported North Carolina’s anti-transgender HB-2 law. The conference said the law “yielded a favorable outcome.” Burbidge later cowardly distanced himself from the law after it received international criticism. The bishop also withdrew his diocese from the North Carolina Council of Churches in 2013 over marriage equality.
Malone, on the USCCB’s behalf, described recent federal directives to protect transgender students as “deeply disturbing,” and he cited Amoris Laetitia in his condemnation. In the same capacity, he also said that President Barack Obama’s executive order protecting LGBT employees of federal contractors “implements discrimination” against religious organizations. Locally, he forced a Catholic parish to remove a sign about Jesus’ two dads and expressed gratitude that a Catholic high school rejected a lesbian alumna’s wedding announcement.
Archbishop Vigneron has said breaking up same-gender relationships is similar to Moses leading the Hebrew people out of Egypt, that Catholics supporting marriage equality should not receive Communion, and banned a Fortunate Families parents’ group from a local parish because it was hosting a speaker from [the gay-positive Catholic organization] New Ways Ministry.
As for Chaput himself, the record is longer. The National Catholic Reporter noted that Chaput responded to Amoris Laetitia by claiming the pope had clearly rejected “gender ideology and the sexual identity confusion it promotes” and wrote further, “It would be a mistake to misread the compassionate spirit of Amoris Laetitia as a license to ignore Christian truth on matters of substance.” [Chaput, I should add, of course, intends for “matters of substance” to refer to the opinions of the religious conservative institutionalization that maintains its right to use doctrinal foundations for the purposes of discrimination against minorities.]
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An astute reader and post responder in the comment section of another website stated, “Marking out one group as different—and inviting others to judge and dismiss that group because of its differences—encourages hatred. And, in its worst iteration, violent acts.” It should be evident to everyone that it’s not just Catholic and spiritual leaders who foment such hatred by identifying segregating differences among the population. We are witnessing a real-time, hyper-escalating example in the rhetoric of political candidates (one in-particular) and the violence that erupts at political rallies (from those dismissive of “different” citizens, as well as from those who feel the sting from being dismissed and discriminated against).
But we hold our spiritual leaders to a higher standard. Hell…they have the example, the stories, and words of their Christian protagonist. Priests, bishops, cardinals, the Curia…they’re human; they’re allowed to be fallible. But the rhetoric of exclusion and the accentuation of difference that seems to reign…is hardly the way of the Christ that is sought to be followed.
As I stated in this previous blog, if anyone doubts that the conservative right will “spin” the pope’s highly contradictory and cryptic written words into a diatribe of self-affirming justification for discrimination…
…just keep reading the news.
*Kudos to New Ways Ministry’s blog Bondings 2.0 for keeping an ear to the beat and keeping the world apprised of injustice.