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Catholics Stand in Solidarity with Washington DC’s Gay and Lesbian Community

November 20, 2009

This week, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops released a pastoral letter on marriage that reiterated its opposition to any legislative changes that would extend marriage to couples that are not composed of one man and one woman. Archbishop Wuerl of Washington, DC, is also involved in a battle against same-sex marriage in the District of Columbia. The archdiocese has threatened to withdraw from providing social service in the District if a proposed same-sex marriage bill passes.

Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice, wrote this week to members of the city council in Washington, DC, praising their “courageous support of the rights of the residents of the District of Columbia in the face of strident opposition by officials of the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington.”

The letter continued:

“I appreciate that your position is often difficult as you attempt to balance competing interests and strive to provide essential supports for our fellow citizens. It is troubling then, when individuals in our faith community politicize their own moral viewpoints and threaten to punish District residents if the Council does not reject legislation that is not acceptable to them. The Archdiocese of Washington is making exactly this demand as you consider the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act of 2009 (18-482).

“The threat of removal of social services currently provided by an agency overseen by the archdiocese is a blatant attempt by their officials to strong arm the City Council into legislating a narrow view of morality. At the very least, they are demanding an exemption that amounts to asking for permission to discriminate against a group of District citizens. Not only is this an inappropriate demand by an organization that benefits greatly from District tax dollars, it is a mischaracterization of the Catholic church’s position on supporting members of the LGBTQ community, Catholic and non-Catholic alike.

“The archdiocese’s extreme stance is even in contradiction to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ statement on respect for people regardless of their sexual orientation. The USCCB says that “the teachings of the Church make it clear that the fundamental human rights of homosexual persons must be defended and that all of us must strive to eliminate any forms of injustice against them.” (Always Our Children: A Pastoral Message to Parents of Homosexual Children and Suggestions for Pastoral Ministers. National Conference of Catholic Bishops, 1997)

“The archdiocesan officials also do not speak for Catholics, in Washington or across the country. Members of the Catholic church hierarchy do not represent voters views on this. We know that Catholics support social justice for all; we need policymakers and community leaders like you to stand up and speak out against all forms of discrimination. Promoting and preserving social justice is a vital element in improving the quality of life for all District citizens, be they in traditional or non-traditional families.”

Catholics support equal rights for gay and lesbian communities, and support the provision of social services for all residents. Catholics for Choice also signed onto a statement this week with DignityUSA, CORPUS, Call to Action and other Catholic reform organizations decrying the pastoral statement from the USCCB.