December 12, 2000
The Honorable William Jefferson Clinton, President
United States of America
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President,
You have been a friend to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans. For all you have done in the past eight years to help advance our struggle for equal rights, we say thanks. We know it hasn’t been easy for you (as it hasn’t been easy for us) to overcome the ignorance and superstition about sexual and gender minorities that permeates the nation; especially since the misinformation continues to be pumped like toxic waste into the national discourse by Protestant and Catholic leaders.
For example, current Roman Catholic teachings declare homosexual orientation "objectively disordered" and loving intimate acts "intrinsically evil." In recent days the Vatican has declared same-sex unions "a deplorable distortion" and adoption by gay parents "a grave danger." The Vatican supports laws which deny us the right to employment, to housing, to equal government and employment benefits, to teach, to coach, to serve in the military, to adopt, to serve as foster parents or to marry the person we love. Priests who defend their gay members (or even provide them pastoral care) are being silenced and/or stripped of their ministries. While the HIV/AIDS epidemic rages, Roman Catholic teachings against safer-sex practices have become a public health hazard. The Vatican refuses members of Dignity/USA the right to meet on Church property or be served the Eucharist by a priest.
We are especially concerned about recent actions by the American Bishops to use Church funds to support ballot measures from Vermont to Hawaii that deny lesbian and gay Americans our civil rights and make us second-class-citizens in our own country. In California alone, more than $310,000 was contributed by the Roman Catholic Church to support Proposition 22. That measure, denying us the 1,047 rights and protections that go with marriage was successful.
Many believe that there is no way that American bishops could use religious funds for these political purposes if the Vatican did not give at least its tacit consent. Pope John Paul II is not just the spiritual leader of more than a billion Roman Catholics, he is also the undisputed political head-of-state of the Vatican nation. We realize that there is nothing new or scandalous about another nation seeking to influence the US Congress or the Administration. But we know of no other foreign nation that is actively pursuing legislation that would deny basic civil rights to millions of American citizens.
We ask you, a proven friend of our community, to help us bring truth to the American bishops and to their ultimate authority, the Vatican. Pope John Paul II is tragically misinformed about God’s gay and lesbian children. On December 2, for example, the Pope called the European Union’s new Charter of Fundamental Rights "godless" because, among other things, "it will cause moral and social destruction by sanctioning gay unions and gay adoption." It is bad enough for the Pope to use his powerful pulpit to stir up fear and anger against us. But it seems much worse that he is at least tacitly involved in approving the use of tithes and offerings given by the faithful in this country to support anti-gay legislation state-by-state across the nation.
We are carrying our grievances to the Vatican during the first week of the New Year, January 2-7, 2001. We will conduct candlelight vigils in front of St. Peter’s Basilica. We will tape (not nail) our case to any door we can reach. We have asked for a meeting with Cardinal Ratzinger, the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. But if no one will take our grievances seriously, we will risk an act of civil disobedience and suffer the personal consequences as a sign of our genuine concern.
Will you help us? If any other nation, large or small, were attempting to influence legislation denying civil rights for American citizens, there would be a major outcry from the public and the media. Will you discuss this matter with Roman Catholic leaders that you know and respect in America and in the Vatican? Will you use your considerable diplomatic skills to help end this attack by a foreign state on our civil rights? Will you encourage Ambassador Corinne Boggs to use her many gifts in the Holy See to help Vatican officials understand our grievances and even offer to meet with us? Will you help their Ambassador to the US, Gabiel Montalvo, see the implications of the City-State he represents using religious funds to promote political actions that would deny us our civil rights?
We thank you, again, for all the good you have done our cause. And we hope that in these last weeks of your presidency that you will help us again!
We are sincerely grateful,
Mel White, Executive Director, Soulforce
Marianne T. Duddy, Executive Director, Dignity/USA
Jimmy Creech, Board Chair, Soulforce
Mary Louise R. Cervone, President, Dignity/USA