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Catholic bishops call for LGBT youth support

A statement on bullying has some questioning where the church really stands

Cardinal Joseph Tobin, archbishop of Newark, N.J., who signed a recent statement in support of LGBT youth Associated Press/Photo by Julio Cortez

Catholic bishops call for LGBT youth support

A group of U.S. Catholic bishops issued a statement on Jan. 25 showing support for LGBT youth and condemning bullying against them, saying, “God is on your side.” LGBT advocates and conservative Catholics disagree over the significance of the statement and whether it represented a drift from the church’s stance on sexuality.

“All people of goodwill should help, support, and defend LGBT youth,” said the statement, which a Roman Catholic cardinal, an archbishop, and eight bishops signed. The Tyler Clementi Foundation, which was named after a Rutgers University student who committed suicide in 2010 after being filmed on a webcam kissing another man, spearheaded the effort.

The statement claimed that LGBT youth attempt suicide at higher rates, resort to homelessness because their families reject them, and experience more bullying and violent acts. It quoted the Catechism of the Catholic Church calling for LGBT people to be treated with “respect, compassion, and sensitivity.”

“We take this opportunity to say to our LGBT friends, especially young people, that we stand with you and oppose any form of violence, bullying, or harassment directed at you,” the bishops said.

The Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest who has advocated for more LGBT inclusion in the Catholic Church, called the statement a “historic step forward.” Jane Clementi, Tyler Clementi’s mother and co-founder of the foundation, told The Catholic Universe it was “a great beginning.” The foundation’s website states religious-based bullying could include “preaching at LGBTQ people and calling LGBTQ people’s sexual orientation or gender identity ‘sinful.’” Teaching outlined in the Catechism of the Catholic Church affirms Biblical norms for biological sex and sexuality, calls homosexual acts “intrinsically disordered,” and states that “under no circumstances can they be approved.” It calls people with same-sex attraction to chastity.

The Vatican in 2019 backed Biblical doctrine on gender with a statement for Catholic educators titled, “Male and Female He Created Them.” Gender fluidity is “often founded on nothing more than a confused concept of freedom in the realm of feelings and wants, or momentary desires provoked by emotional impulses and the will of the individual, as opposed to anything based on the truths of existence,” the statement declared.

Meanwhile, a 2020 documentary about Pope Francis highlighted his support for legal, civil unions for homosexual couples.

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco told the Associated Press he welcomed the bishops’ statement for its “reaffirmation of the church’s care for those struggling with sexual identity issues.” He reiterated the Catholic Church’s commitment to help them and all individuals live a life of virtue.

Cordileone has worked to defend Biblical marriage in California. He raised funds to support the campaign for Proposition 8, a 2008 ballot initiative that defined marriage as only between a man and a woman. In an email to WORLD, Cordileone said he would not have spoken favorably of the statement, which he did not sign or help craft, if it “had in any way contradicted the Catholic Church’s understanding of the truth of the human person.” He said he would have preferred a stronger and more inclusive statement that “addressed forms of bullying that other people suffer because of beliefs and expressions in the area of sexual morality, marriage, and family.”

WORLD contacted the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, a coordinating body for bishops in the country, multiple times and received no response. A recent statement from the chairmen of the conference condemned President Joe Biden’s Jan. 20 executive order on gender discrimination and equality as “misguided.”

“It threatens to infringe the rights of people who recognize the truth of sexual difference or who uphold the institution of lifelong marriage between one man and one woman,” the bishops wrote.

Mary Jackson

Mary is a book reviewer and senior writer for WORLD. She is a World Journalism Institute and Greenville University graduate who previously worked for the Lansing (Mich.) State Journal. Mary resides with her family in the San Francisco Bay area.


Thank you for your careful research and interesting presentations. —Clarke

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