November 14, 2000
By Art Toalston
WASHINGTON (BP) — The same homosexual group that protested at the Southern Baptist Convention in June has gotten a frosty reaction from the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights for protesting at the Nov. 12-16 meeting of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington.
Commenting on the action by Soulforce, Catholic League President William Donohue stated that the homosexual group is using "the politics of intimidation … to get Catholics and Protestants to recognize the legitimacy of sodomy."
Donohue cited an open letter to the Catholic bishops released Nov. 9 by Soulforce, along with Dignity/USA, a Catholic fringe group, and Equal Partners in Faith, led by an individual who describes himself as an ordained Southern Baptist minister.
Soulforce’s leader, Mel White, is a former ghostwriter for Jerry Falwell and other evangelicals.
The open letter stated in part that the Catholic Church’s teachings on "sexual minorities lead to suffering and death for our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender sisters and brothers."
"They actually believe this," Donohue said in a Nov. 10 news release. "Soulforce is wrong," he continued. "Here’s why: Leather Fest 2000 is now being held at the Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center in New York City celebrating ’20 years of pain and pleasure’ by holding workshops on ‘rope bondage, mummification, fisting, flogging, and others.’
"In short, this is what kills gays, not talks on abstinence," Donohue stated. "And to top it off, on Oct. 20, HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo gave the center a check for $75,000. Now if Soulforce were rational, they would be protesting the center and Secretary Cuomo, not the bishops."
Bishop Joseph A. Fiorenza, president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and bishop of the Galveston-Houston diocese, stated in an exchange of correspondence with White:
"Surely you are aware that a variety of religious beliefs, including belief in God itself, have, throughout the ages, been distorted and turned to causes of violence among people. … However, these distortions should not be used to pressure those who believe to abandon fundamental truths of their faith."
During the bishops’ meeting, a fellow bishop, Coadjutor Bishop Joseph A. Galante of Dallas, issued a statement Nov. 14, noting, "I think it is worth our being on record that fidelity to the gospel teaching on marriage and sexuality is an essential part of our discipleship of Christ. As challenging as this teaching is and has always been, it is not a form of spiritual violence towards others. The Church stands ready to provide the pastoral assistance to help all Catholics live by it."
The Soulforce letter to the Catholic bishops had additionally contended: "You teach that homosexual orientation is ‘objectively disordered.’ In plain English you are saying that at the core of our very being we are mentally ill."
"You teach that any loving acts between us are ‘an intrinsic moral evil.’ In plain English you are saying that our moments of sexual intimacy are condemned by God and a danger to society."
"You teach that we should not be allowed to adopt, parent, teach, coach, be married, ordained, or serve in the military. In plain English you are saying that we are a threat to children, that our relationships are contemptible, that we bring down morale and undermine discipline, that even God cannot use us."
"And when you refuse to allow the openly gay and lesbian Catholics of Dignity to meet on Church property or be served by a priest, in plain English you are saying, ‘Go away! God rejects you and so do we.’ "
"If God rejects us and you reject us, is it any wonder that our families and friends reject us, that we are demeaned by our classmates, fired from our jobs, evicted from our apartments, hunted down and hounded out of the military, harassed and taunted in the streets, and even killed by teenagers with knives and baseball bats? …"
"Worse, your teaching causes lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Catholics to hate themselves. When your teachings cripple the human spirit you are guilty of spiritual violence against the very people you are called to serve."
"How many Roman Catholic gay teenagers have killed themselves (or at this very moment are considering suicide) because they think God does not love them?"
"How many Roman Catholic adults live in closets of fear and self-loathing because they know that the price of honesty is rejection by the very Church they love?"
"How many Roman Catholic priests have died from HIV/AIDS because in a moment of lonely desperation that [sic] reached out for love and found death waiting?"
"How many Roman Catholic parents have not been able to reconcile your call to love their gay children with your condemnation and rejection of those same children? …"
"Our demands are simple. We ask only that you ‘Open Wide the Doors…’ to Dignity Catholics. They are among your best and brightest and yet you reject them. Welcome them home with the Eucharist. Apologize for more than a thousand years of persecution and abuse. Appoint a committee to sit down with gay Catholics, hear their stories, share their grief, and find a way to end the suffering."
"If you refuse, we have no other choice but to warn the people of this nation that the Roman Catholic Church continues to be a primary source of misinformation about sexual and gender minorities. Vatican teachings about homosexuality lead to wasted lives, ruined relationships, discrimination, suffering, and even death. And the National Conference of Catholic Bishops refuses to even open a discussion on this issue that would once again consider the psychological, medical, scientific, historical, pastoral, and even biblical evidence that could end these tragic teachings forever."