October 10, 2000
Most Reverend Joseph A. Fiorenza, D.D.
Bishop of Galveston-Houston
President, National Conference of Catholic Bishops
3211 Fourth Street NE
Washington, DC 20017-1194
Dear Bishop Fiorenza,
Thank you for answering our letter of September 20, 2000. We are glad that you have been assured by other religious bodies that our Soulforce acts of spiritual resistance to injustice have always been conducted "in a non-violent and professional manner." That will be true again during our Soulforce vigil and direct action at the meeting of the NCCB, November 12-14, 2000. In fact, there need not be any Soulforce presence at all if we conclude our current negotiations with a few small steps towards understanding and reconciliation.
Although your letter was written to show your pastoral concern for God’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered children, we were saddened to read that your pastoral concern only applies to "unjust discrimination." Our goal is to help you and your fellow bishops to realize that all discrimination on the basis of sexual or gender orientation is unjust. We were moved by your sincere desire to provide us pastoral care, but there is no way to pastor us when your teachings and practices are at the very heart of our suffering.
We understand that you can’t ignore let alone rescind the Vatican’s teachings that our sexual orientation is "objectively disordered" and that our loving relationships are "intrinsically evil." (Even though you know in your heart that those teachings are wrong assumptions about homosexuality based upon ancient prejudice and biblical misuse that ignore all the scientific, psychological, historical, pastoral, and even biblical evidence to the contrary.)
We understand that you can’t disregard let alone confront the Vatican’s teachings that we shouldn’t be married, adopt or teach children, coach children’s teams, or serve in the military. (Even though you know in your heart that we, too, live and love with integrity; that we are excellent parents committed to our families; that we are skilled teachers and coaches who are as trustworthy with our students as are our heterosexual colleagues; and that we serve in every branch and every rank in the military with honor and courage.)
We are not asking you to stop Papal attacks on legislation that would allow us to marry and adopt children. We are not asking you to quit using millions of dollars in Church funds to underwrite legislation that denies the 1,047 rights and protections that go with marriage. We are not even asking you to help reverse the recent decision to silence Sister Jeannine Gramick or brother, Fr. Robert Nugent who have demonstrated genuine pastoral concern. We are hoping that one day the Spirit of Christ will move you to end these and other unjust and discriminatory practices. But until that day, we are only asking you to take a few small steps towards reconciliation and understanding.
You end your letter promising to be in touch with us after you have had "an opportunity to consult further" with some of your brother bishops. That gave us hope that you were considering our requests by discussing them with your colleagues. But you also reminded us that your beliefs are sincere and that you are "not interested in purchasing favorable media coverage by compromising them." You say that you cannot agree with us "about morality of homosexual activity or engage in actions which would seem to suggest that we do." Does that mean you are officially refusing our requests?
"Will you not open the Shrine to embrace Dignity on Tuesday morning, November 14, signaling the end of their expulsion from Catholic space?" Will you not appoint a bishop to celebrate that precedent-setting Dignity mass? Will you not offer an apology for the way the Roman Catholic Church has treated sexual and gender minorities through the ages? Will you not appoint a national blue ribbon committee of clergy and laity (with openly gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered Catholics, including those in loving, committed relationships) to re-examine official Church teachings against us or begin a dialogue with us that will lead to hope and healing for us all?
Perhaps you and your brother bishops are considering an alternative to our requests. You seem to be offering a joint press conference or a joint statement that condemns "…hatred and violence and unjust discrimination aimed at homosexual persons." How could we stand with you and make a statement that condemns only "unjust discrimination" and not discrimination of any kind? You are trapped by your teachings in an untenable paradox. You want with all your heart to protect us from hatred and violence and yet it is Roman Catholic teaching that helps motivate that hatred and gives license to that violence.
Whatever you decide, our Soulforce/Dignity delegation will arrive at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on Tuesday morning, November 14, at about 10AM. We would like to hold a press conference on the steps of the National Shrine to present our case to Catholics and other people of faith across the nation. If our way is blocked, we will hold our press conference on the sidewalk and then begin our walk up the driveway to the National Shrine hoping that you will change your minds and "Open Wide the Doors to Christ."
We come in His name. If you reject us, you reject Him. Like you, we are His children, loved, forgiven, accepted unconditionally by His grace. Jesus loved outcasts best. He infuriated the religious leaders of his day by extending God’s welcome to the leper, the Samaritan woman, the Centurian, the woman with flow of blood. He would be the first to extend God’s welcome to us. You break the heart of Christ when you refuse us entry to His church, when you withhold His body and His blood from His people.
We’ve waited centuries for truth to prevail and for justice to roll down like a mighty stream. Let it begin Tuesday morning, November 14. If you cannot find it in your heart to join us in seeking truth and justice, we will take our nonviolent stand in the spirit of Jesus, Gandhi and King and place our lives and our quest for justice in your hands.
Mel White, Executive Director, Soulforce
SOULFORCE, Inc., P.O. Box 4467, Laguna Beach, CA 92652
P: (949) 455-0999 F: (949) 455-0959 C: (949) 933-3592