US Catholic bishops and employment discrimination

The Catholic Bishops say they are against employment discrimination. They say that they would like to protect gays from persecution and violence. But they want to continue to discriminate against gays in employment in Catholic institutions because they are opposed to gays acting on their sexuality in any way.

Andrew Sullivan points out that they don't mind hiring straight people who are divorced or who might use contraception or masturbate or who in other ways might violate Roman Catholic Church teaching, but they do want to discriminate against gays.

So the church that emerged from a man who preached the story of the good Samaritan, is now in the business of identifying Samaritans and ensuring they remain the targets of discrimination in the workplace. It does not matter whether they are good at their job; their orientation, even if no one even knows it results in sodomy, is sufficient to allow them to be fired and no law be broken.

The Bishops also argue against non-discrimination laws for gays because the laws imply that gay people are equal citizens and if they are equal citizens, the right to civil marriage will not be far behind.

And so we have a prudential political argument in defense of an obvious evil - persecuting people for something that they cannot change. The bishops say they'd like to protect gay people, but only if they can be seen as in no way endorsing sexual acts. But you can't do that. You can't enact a law protecting some gays from discrimination while omitting others, the distinction being whether they are engaged in non-procreative acts. It would be unenforceable, as the Bishops seem to imply.

And so they have a choice: favoring a civil society to protect individuals from unjust discrimination or not. When it comes to gays - and only gays - the Bishops have taken a stand. It is a de facto endorsement of obvious injustice. It is a profound betrayal of the core message of Jesus: that the already despised should be embraced not stigmatized, that the victims of discrimination be protected not marginalized.

Here is a portion of the letter from USCCB to members of Congress concerning the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (EDNA):

Just as every other group in our society, the Catholic Church enjoys the same rights to hold to its beliefs, organize itself around them, and argue for them in the public square. This is guaranteed by our Constitution. This includes the right to teach what it holds to be the truth concerning homosexual conduct—and to act as an employer consistent with that truth—without the threat of government sanction.

The USCCB continues to oppose “unjust discrimination” against people with a homosexual inclination, but we cannot support a bill – such as ENDA in its current form – that would legally affirm and specially protect any sexual conduct outside of marriage....

...While we regret we cannot support ENDA for the above stated reasons, the Conference would, however, be interested in discussing legislation that would protect persons with a homosexual inclination from unjust discrimination, without protecting homosexual conduct. We therefore invite further discussion with you and your staff on how ENDA might be amended to correct the various flaws discussed in this letter.

Comments (7)

If you read the whole letter, they go on to say that if the Supreme Court were to approve civil marriage for gays and lesbians, it would be a "moral and legal disaster comparable in many ways to Row vs. Wade."

If you accept the Catholic Bishop's contention that abortion is tantamount to murder (which I don't, but that's another conversation), this is a pretty shocking contention. Allowing same sex couples to file joint tax returns, automatically inherit property, make medical decisions for each other and enjoy the other benefits of civil marriage is comparable to the deaths of millions of innocent children? That's a pretty shocking statement.

Their single-minded focus on sexuality, especially homosexuality, in light of all the truly pressing moral crises of the world is saddening. Of course, on that point we in the worldwide Anglican communion should perhaps remove the log from own eyes on that one . . .

(Editor's note: thanks for the comment. We need your full name next time.)

Why does this site-- isn't it still an official organ of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington?-- persist in attacking the Catholic Church? I note that you do not regularly feature matters that are problematic in the UCC, UMC or PCUSA such as their deficient sacramental theologies or their lack of apostolic succession. Even the Southern Baptist Convention, that old whipping boy for Episcopal snobs gets a pass on these pages. Nor, do I see you much rail about Islam and the abuses its adherents visit on Christian, Jewish and other religious minorities and of course its religiously sanctioned real persecution of women -- and homosexuals.

No, you use this organ of our Church
to repeatedly hammer away at the Catholics. Well, at least you are following a long standing Anglican Protestant tradition: The Tudors, Oliver Cromwell and our own Know Nothings would be proud.

Why don't you give them a break? Maybe just until the Episcopal Church equals them in corporate works of mercy-- let's say in operating hospitals or schools for kids from poor and working class families?

God bless the USCCB for not responding to your incessant baiting.
Then again, they probably haven't noticed.

Bill Ledbetter

Bill, the Cafe has been independent of the Diocese of Washington since December. We write negatively about the Catholic hierarchy with some frequency because we deplore child rape and bigotry. You should, too.


Everybody deplores child rape, whether it is by Catholic or Episcopal clergy. You are naive if you think that a lot of sexual misbehavior, including abuse of minors, was not also part of our church's legacy during roughly the same period as most of the Catholic incidences.

The "bigotry" you point to in employment is not prevalent. Really, do you think that gays are not employed by Catholic institutions? If you are involved in ecumenical affairs at all, you know some yourself. You may call that "don't ask, don't tell", but try to open your mind to the idea that the Catholic Church while maintaining its Christian moral theology is also pastoral. Why don't you try to understand the "living into the tension"? How Establishment of you to demand that not only must your position be accommodated, but dissenters must be smashed by force of law.

No, the bigotry I oppose on this site, both before and after your funding got cut by your diocese, is anti-Catholicism. It is the oldest Anglo-American prejudice and it seems to be the last one that is completely acceptable in the WASP mainline.

It is especially galling considering how many Catholics bend over backwards to be nice to Episcopalians. Read the archdiocesan paper here in Los Angeles for one example: if Episcopalians are mentioned at all, it is positively. I don't remember them trumpeting when the news came out about the Episcopal bishop covering up for his priest brother raping the youth group girls and then getting passed on to another wealthy parish to repeat his behavior. Not to mention they have a regular column by an Episcopal priest.

Just go on doing what your doing, then complain when ecumenical relations hit a low.

Bill Ledbetter

None of the religious bodies mentioned in the comment above have the political power and wealth of the Roman Catholic Church. Maybe that's why the demand to make their policies a matter of law in this country are particularly disturbing to those of us who don't share their views.

Bill, you should not speak so much about what you don't know. If you search the site using the word Bennison, you will find our coverage of the incident you mention. It is extensive. Ann Fontaine recently wrote an essay for Daily Episcopalian about our church's shortcomings in handling of sexual abuse cases. We've also covered a case involving a school in Texas. We have covered sex abuse in the Episcopal Church. And, indeed, if there were evidence of a widespread cover up of abuse implicating an ever expanding number of our bishops--as there is in the Catholic Church--we'd be all over it.

Another thing you speak about without the required knowledge: The Cafe didn't have its budget cut. We haven't had a budget in three years, but we did have a relationship with the diocese that ended when I stopped working there.

Finally, there is a distinction, which I wouldn't have thought was hard to grasp between opposing the public policy statements made by the leaders of an organization and hating its members. There is also a difference, which, again, I don't think is hard to grasp, between disagreeing with someone and advocating that due to your disagreement they be denied rights that one claims for one's self.

This is not Anti-Catholicism. Criticism of the Catholic hierarchy is a pastime of Catholics and non-Catholics alike, and for my part I know so many fabulous Catholics that I KNOW the Roman Church has the kind of reasonable, loving Christians in the pews EVERY SUNDAY--and for the most part at the Altar every Sunday--that are far better than the lockstep yes men who have been appointed to the hierarchy in these latter days during and since JPII. These people know better and expect better than what the USCCB has been giving them on a number of issues, but they keep getting junk like this.
Unfortunately they have a hard time being heard, but as Episcopalians there are no threats that the Roman Bishops can lob at us that will stick or coerce us into silence. So keep on keepin' on, Jim.

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