“I come to gather nations of every language.” Is 66:18
The weekend of Aug 24 saw the commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech and the March on Washington. That pivotal event helped move politicians to begin breaking down the barriers that kept African Americans from enjoying full equality. At Masses the same weekend here in Hawaii, parishioners heard from Bishop Larry Silva who urged them to do all they can to keep LGBT couples and families from realizing their dreams of full equality.
His arguments in the letter that went out to all parishes and was also posted on the diocesan website spring from his faith. It’s a faith based on an astonishingly literal reading of the Bible that I do not recognize as my faith or my understanding of the Gospel. It’s a faith that leaves LGBT couples, parents, children of LGBT parents and the long list of children waiting for a happy home, out in the cold. Despite the recent Supreme Court ruling striking down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), Bishop Silva would like Catholics to urge legislators to not pass same sex marriage laws in Hawaii. Apparently, it’s better to deny the children waiting to be adopted the chance of a happy home than allow adoption by gay parents.
This we are told, is “just discrimination” because “marriage is a special societal bond that assures the continuation of the race in the context of raising children in the loving environment that appreciates the complementary nature of male and female.”
I have been happily married for 18 years and my husband and I have not ensured the “continuation of the race” through our union. Are we therefore any less married? Should older people who marry after their child-bearing years be subject to “just discrimination?”
Bishop Silva paints a picture of “more poverty, more social ills, more juvenile suicides, and more problems than we can imagine” if children are “deprived of being raised in a loving home by a mother and father who loves them and whose love cooperated with God’s plan in creating them.” The good news is we do not have to imagine.
Expert opinion from the fields of medicine and psychology and every serious study attest to the fact that children of gay parents are just as healthy and well-adjusted as children from heterosexual families. The Child Welfare League of America, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Psychological Association have all issued policies opposing restrictions on lesbian and gay parenting.
Courts have ruled that any argument restricting gay parenting “flies in the face of the scientific evidence about the suitability of lesbian and gay people as foster parents. “(ACLU “Too High a Price: The Case Against Restricting Gay Parenting.”)
The same might be said of Bishop Silva’s letter to Catholic parishes urging them to oppose same sex marriage because of the imagined impact on our children: it flies in the face of what we know to be demonstrably true. It also flies in the face of the painful statistics on the bullying of LGBT youth, suicides, drug use, homelessness and depression. These very real problems should be addressed, not aggravated by promoting “just” discrimination as dogma.
Who are we to judge?
If Isaiah could defy conventional wisdom and tell those who considered themselves the Chosen People that “nations of every language” were to be gathered into the circle of God’s grace, Catholics must surely do as much to articulate anew that prophetic voice. Our call today is to help dismantle the fables that enable continuing discrimination, in God’s name, against our friends and neighbors, our colleagues and family members, because of their sexual orientation or gender-identity.
Our society is far from perfect. But the courts have shown the truth of MLK’s conviction that the arc of the moral universe bends towards justice in ending oppressive, discriminatory practices in the places we live and work and play. Shouldn’t what we hear from the pulpit support the effort to bend the arc even further? Instead of working against the rights of others, it would be infinitely more responsive to the teachings of Jesus, more catholic–and more 21st century– to take our cue from Pope Francis: “Who am I to judge?
A slightly adapted version of this post was first published in the Star Advertiser 9/1/2013 http://www.staradvertiser.com/editorialspremium/20130901__Bishop_Silva_offers_unjust_advice_on_gays.html?id=221891531&c=n