There's been much bloviating and positive spin in the main stream media about Pope Francis setting the Roman Catholic Church on a new course, yet nothing has actually changed. As for his comment on gays "who am I to judge," I view the statement as savvy media spin. The Church's institutionalized homophobia and support of "conversion therapy" remains unchanged. Indeed a recent blow up in St. Louis, Missouri after the Archdiocese of St. Louis shut down an attempt at Nerinx Hall Catholic High School to establish a gay-straight alliance underscores that the denigration of and discrimination against LGBT individuals is all too alive and well. Having been raised Catholic myself, in my view the best thing a gay Catholic can do is to walk away. Both the Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America provide a far better option for those who want to remain affiliated with a liturgical church. A piece in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch looks at the controversy. Here are highlights:
The leader of an independent Roman Catholic high school fueled widespread confusion Tuesday after he said the Archdiocese of St. Louis had directed his school to bar students from establishing a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender recognition club, unless the club included conversion therapy.
The archdiocese flatly denies that it requires conversion therapy of any such organization. Nerinx Hall Catholic High School President John Gabriel, who wrote that claim in a letter to an alumna, later said he had used the term in error.
Students at the all-girls school in Webster Groves recently asked school leadership to start a gay-straight alliance club. They did not receive permission to do so.
When alumna Jill Allen heard about this, she questioned Gabriel. In response, he wrote back that the archdiocese — which does not directly operate or provide funds to Nerinx Hall — has requested that no Catholic school allow such a club unless it followed “a carefully charted course of action that includes conversion therapy.”
Conversion therapy is the practice of trying to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity through psychological or other kinds of interventions. It is extremely controversial and has been denounced by human rights groups and medical associations for its idea that homosexuality is a disorder and an expression of moral weakness.
In February of last year, the archdiocese published a document called “Hope and Holiness” outlining guidance for ministry to LGBT people.
In one section, the document says that Catholic schools should not establish a LGBT support club without consulting the archdiocese. Archdiocese spokesman Gabe Jones said that meant that a club must conform to the Catholic church’s teachings on homosexuality, which include that marriage is defined as being between a man and a woman and that acting upon homosexual inclinations is sinful.
“Hope and Holiness” does not mention whether such LGBT clubs should be formed or not. It says that although these groups can provide emotional support to individuals, there is also a “danger” in such groups’ encouraging the labeling of sexuality and gender identity. It also says that “adolescents are apt to suffer in a particular way from labeling themselves as gay.” Gabriel’s letter has generated a firestorm online among Nerinx Hall alumnae. A Facebook group of more than 600 people has already formed in the past day about the issue. Alumnae say this isn’t the first time students have tried and failed to form a LGBT club at Nerinx Hall.
As I said, if you are LGBT and Catholic, the best solution from both a spiritual and mental health perspective is to leave Catholicism as soon as possible. Leaving the Catholic Church was one of the most positive things I have ever done. Not only have I found self-acceptance, but I am no longer complicit in the continuing sexual abuse of children and youth by Catholic clergy around the globe.