We stand vigil today to remind you that the official teachings of the Roman Catholic Church about sexual minorities lead to suffering and death for our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender sisters and brothers.
We are grateful that you have called for “respect, compassion, and sensitivity” towards homosexual persons; but these teachings about us lead instead to fear, anger, discrimination and even violence.
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?
We know that you truly believe that upholding these Vatican teachings does not contribute to the current wave of hatred and violence against us. But we must say it again. Roman Catholic teaching helps motivate that hatred and gives license to that violence. 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 reached out for love and found death waiting?
How many Roman Catholic parents have not bee able to reconcile your call to love their gay children with your condemnation and rejection of those same children?
Do you realize how many Catholic moms and dads refuse to allow their own sons and daughters home for the holidays, cut them off from their inheritance, close the doors on their own children because they follow your example?
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.
As we stand in silent vigil, we are praying that God will change your minds and hearts. If just one American bishop would have the courage to take his stand against these tragic untruths, the Spirit of Truth could rush through that opening and bring hope and healing to the Roman Catholic Church and to millions of God,s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender children.
Until that day when you truly “open Wide the Doors” we will stand before them in silent, respectful vigil. We will fast and pray, risk misunderstanding and arrest, give our lives to see truth prevail and justice roll down like a mighty stream AT LAST.
Dr. Mel White
And the People of Soulforce
Dignity/USA and Equal Partners in Faith
A behind-the-scenes member of the evangelical Protestant movement from the 1960’s-1980’s, Rev. Mel White came out in 1994, publishing the book Stranger at the Gate: To Be Gay and Christian in America. He was awarded the ACLU’s National Civil Liberties Award in 1997 for his efforts to apply the “soul force” principles of Gandhi and King to the LGBTQI movement and founded the organization Soulforce in 1998 to continue that work.