(Washington, DC) – The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in November approved a document condemning loving relationships between people of the same gender, and defining marriage as “between a man and a woman.” The document, entitled Between Man and Woman: Questions and Answers about Marriage and Same-Sex Unions, is intended to be made into a pamphlet and circulated among Catholic parishes and parishioners.
Soulforce, a national interfaith movement committed to ending spiritual violence perpetuated by religious policies and teachings against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) people, denounced the document as confusing, harmful, and spiritually violent. Soulforce has been seeking to dialogue with the Bishops and vigiling outside of the USCCB meetings for the past 4 years.
This document is being released at a time when the country is divided over the issue of civil marriage rights for same-gender couples and the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA), which seeks to amend the U.S. Constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman, thereby codifying discrimination against GLBT individuals, unmarried couples, and their families. Although the Catholic document does not mention the FMA, Soulforce believes it is meant to influence Catholics to support it.
“The Catholic Church has always been free to decide which marriages it will or will not recognize,” said Kara Speltz, grandmother, lifelong Catholic, and Soulforce Catholic Denominational Team leader. “However, it is painful and morally wrong that the bishops of my church have set aside their role as shepherds to try to influence parishioners and the government to discriminate against me and my family.”
The document states that Christians should “oppose as immoral both homosexual acts and unjust discrimination against homosexual persons,” then goes on to say that “the state has the obligation to promote family,” and that it would be “wrong to redefine marriage for the sake of providing benefits to those who cannot rightfully claim marriage.”
Additionally, the Catholic document does not address the difference between the more than a thousand rights granted though civil marriage versus the religious ritual of marriage, nor does it site specific examples of how granting the rights of civil marriage to couples of the same gender will harm the institution of marriage.
“This document is not only discriminatory, harmful, and confusing, it is a thinly veiled attempt to influence Catholics to support the proposed anti-family Federal Marriage Amendment by inserting their politics into a religious document,” declared Laura Montgomery Rutt, spokesperson for Soulforce.
“Although the Catholic Church is free to discriminate against whoever they choose,” Montgomery Rutt continued, “the U.S. government has a higher obligation to Americans to insure equal rights and protections to all individual, couples, and families – to do less is not only discriminatory, it is anti-family and un-American.”
“How dare the Catholic Church attempt to install their anti-gay teachings into the US Constitution that would make second class citizens of millions of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals,” stated Rev. Mel White, co-founder and executive director of Soulforce. “When will the Catholic Church learn that this kind of spiritual violence leads to great pain, suffering and even death for GLBT people.”
Activist and ally Laura Montgomery (Rutt) Williams has served as executive director of Equal Partners in Faith, communications and media coordinator for Soulforce, and media, publicity and logistics coordinator for the United Methodist Church trial of Rev. Jimmy Creech, who was defrocked in 1999 for marrying same-sex couples. She is also co-founder of the National Religious Leadership Roundtable for LGBT Equality.