Friday, March 25, 2011

The Catholic Vote vs. The Catholic Bishops

“The Church” is an expression often employed by people who ask me about Catholicism. A philosophy professor of mine once quipped, “You have to define your terms.” If by “the Church” you understand the pope, cardinals and bishops [in their public statements], then you would correctly deduce that “the Church” is opposed to full equality for LGBTQ persons.

However, if by “the Church” you mean the millions of Catholics who are your neighbors, co-workers and fellow voters, think again…

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

United we will win Full Equality.

Back in January/February of 2010, I was one of the founding Board Members of “Catholics For Equality.” I later resigned from the Board of Directors of that organization for several reasons. However, one of the good ideas in the nescient stage of that organization was that it would serve as a “holding company” for many and varied Catholic LGBTQ organizations. It would be able to provide a rapid response to any Anti-LGBTQ legislative/media attacks by the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. It would also be able to conduct media campaigns and coordinate legislative efforts in our quest for full equality.

This last weekend I attended several receptions for differing LGBTQ organizations in Washington DC. In a conversation with a journalist, we lamented the fact that different LGBTQ organizations often work at cross-purposes. Most recently in the legislative battle in Maryland, some LGBTQ organizations refused to share data base information with other LGBTQ organizations that were attempting to mobilize voters. If only we had a “holding company” for all the major LGBTQ organizations. Let’s call it, “Equality Now,” for the sake of convenience.

The Board of Directors of Equality Now would be comprised of the Executive Directors of the major LGBTQ organizations. The Board would meet quarterly and, although these proceedings would be confidential, transcripts would be kept and later be made public, as are done with Presidential papers. Let’s say, seven years. This would assure transparency and accountability from Board Members/Organizations for their words and actions/inaction.

The Board would also oversee particular campaigns as required by circumstances (e.g. legislative battles such as the one in Maryland, ballot initiatives in the various states, etc.). The fact that the existence of something like “Equality Now” would be publicly known, would go a long way in helping to coordinate and unite our community in the many battles yet to come. Public knowledge of this organization would also serve to lift morale and provide focus for our community, as we fight for full legal equality on the Federal level and then, later in the battles for full social inclusion.

We need to address some of the issues that have divided our community in the past and now in the present. Two comments that I have often heard are:


Some flagship LGBTQ organizations stand accused of compromising with politicians for the sake of access and the purported “influence” that such access provides. Some have gone so far as to assert that these flagship organizations’ worst nightmare would be the immediate certification/repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell [DADT], the repeal of the “so-called” Defense of Marriage Act [DOMA] and the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act [ENDA]. The rationale for such an assertion is that if we attained full legal equality today, these organizations would lose their funding and go out of business tomorrow.

President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and the NAACP did not cease to exist the next day. Sadly, long after we win full legal equality we will still have many struggles and much work to accomplish before we end social bigotry against LGBTQ people in this nation.


Years ago my niece required very delicate neurosurgery. There was a high risk that the surgery would only be partially effective and that she might lose some cognitive and speech functions. The surgeon worked for many hours and my niece came out of the surgery with her faculties intact. I do not care how much money that surgeon makes a year, in fact I hope that he is very generously paid. There is a Spanish saying, “Save on the physician, spend on the mortician.” Free/cheap is not always better and in fact can be a false economy. “You get what you pay for.” Is a good rule of thumb, provided of course, that you actually get what you pay for.

Frankly, it is irrelevant if an LGBTQ Executive Director, Development Director, Communication Director, etc, gets to work in a City bus or in a chauffer driven Bentley limousine. What is relevant is that they get to work and that work produces substantive and discernable results. Lest any eyebrows be raised here, I am a volunteer Board Member with Get Equal, I filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last year and my total cash reserves, as of this writing, are $24.19 so, this statement is in no way “self-serving.”


“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable... Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.” –Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Progress requires of us the humility to recognize that no one individual or LGBTQ organization alone will be able to “win the day.” Each individual and LGBTQ organizations possess talents, strengths, also weaknesses, and shortcomings. Together we can hold each other up and carry each other forward towards victory. Otherwise, we will become a parody of ourselves, twelve divas fighting for one spotlight. The cost of that parody does not merely entail suffering bad theater and over inflated egos, the cost will be the unnecessary and unjust postponement of full equality for us all.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A Day in Federal Court for White House 13

Yesterday the thirteen of us who handcuffed ourselves to the White House Fence on 15 November 2010 to protest DADT were arraigned in Federal Court. A short and accurate depiction of what occurred in Court can be found in an article at MetroWeekly. The action was both necessary, and subsequently proved important,in drawing attention to the policy of Don't Ask Don't Tell.

Last fall it appeared that the repeal of DADT was going to be swept under the carpet by the administration and simply ignored. Our action made national headlines and helped put a much needed spotlight on the repeal of DADT. This much needed attention helped motivate members of the US Senate to take up the matter of repeal, that thankfully concluded with the Senate approving repeal legislation and delivering it to President Obama's desk for signature. The repeal process is still not a "done-deal" certification is required by the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Secretary of Defense and the President. It appears that this process of certification will be completed sometime this summer, or fall. However, we have been let down before and pressure still needs to be kept up to make sure that we are not sold down the river in yet another "compromise."

Meanwhile, in Maryland we lost a battle for Marriage Equality. It is important to remember that we are engaged in a war for our human dignity and full Civil Rights. In any war, battles will be won and lost. Paris fell to the Nazis in May of 1940 and Hitler danced in delight. It was a battle lost, but the war continued on for many more years. Paris was liberated after the invasion of France by allied forces in 1944 and eventually the Nazis were defeated. We will ultimately triumph because both right and reason are on our side. However, many sacrifices will have to be made to secure our just victory.

One thing that we as a community must do after a defeat, such as the ones in California (with Prop 8) and most recently in Maryland, is to ask ourselves why we lost. A business CEO speaking on the BBC stated that in Corporate America no one wants to admit failure. He went on to say, we need to own our failures because, we do not learn from our successes but from our failures. We also have to look at what the forces of bigotry did and how/why they won.

Some brief observations, we need to work together. Sadly, many LGBTQ organizations view equality as their private proprietary property. We need to become focused on the mission of attaining full Civil Rights and less focused on organizational loyalty. I'm traveling at present, but will develop this more fully in another blog post.

A heartfelt thanks to all those who have worked so hard to secure our Civil Rights in Maryland, and other battle states. You have laid a foundation on which we will continue to build and together we shall overcome hate, bigotry and ignorance with love, decency and truth.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Humor & Truth

Bill Maher’s video clip is exemplary of his biting sarcastic humor, that frankly I find entertaining. I especially enjoyed his movie, Religulous; however, what is disturbing about this particular video clip is that while it does a wonderful job of attacking symptoms it fails to expose the cause of the problem of sex-abuse in the Catholic Church.

Pedophilia is an inexcusable violence and crime against children. Despite the most determined efforts of law enforcement agencies and the judicial system, such crimes will continue to occur. Just as murders, rapes, and assaults still occur despite the fact that these are criminal acts and prosecuted as such. According to the John Jay School of Law in New York City, “The 4,392 priests who were accused amount to approximately four percent of the 109,694 priests in active ministry during that time.” Logically, that means that ninety-six percent (96%) are not pedophiles. Another stereotype is that pedophiles are predominantly gay. The reality is that most pedophiles self-identify as straight (heterosexuals). A pedophile is an adult who violates children and this has nothing to do with sexual orientation; rather it is a psychological disorder.

Perhaps the reason why such false stereotypes are attractive is because, disturbingly most acts of pedophilia are incestuous. By characterizing pedophiles as Catholic priests and/or gay men, attention is drawn away from two things. First, that it is most probably a heterosexual family member, or relative who will violate your children. There is a false comfort and security in believing that pedophiles are “one of those people” and not someone seated at my family’s Thanksgiving meal. Secondly, the real scandal in the Catholic Church is not that there are pedophile priests. The real scandal is their superiors had knowledge of such crimes and failed to report them to law enforcement and District Attorneys.

Imagine if a Superintendent of a School District knowingly transferred a pedophile teacher from one school to another in the School District. Further imagine that Superintendent paying parents/guardians money to remain silent and requiring the student to sign a statement that he/she would never divulge what happened. What would happen to that School Superintendent if all of this became public?

Can you name one (1) Cardinal, Archbishop or Bishop who has faced criminal prosecution for their role, not merely in obstructing justice, but thereby actually causing new incidents of pedophilia? Visit for a detail listing of such incidents and documentation. Even more disturbing is the fact that documentation exists that links the current Pope Benedict XVI with the Cover-Up Scandal.

Focusing exclusively on the small percentage of priests who are pedophiles and alluding to pedophilia as a gay crime reinforce false stereotypes. Not only does this cause many innocent people to suffer unjustly, but these stereotypes also serve to draw attention away from the real criminals. It may sound counter-intuitive; however, I’ll bet that the Pope and Catholic bishops are very happy that comedians and the public think that the problem is bad gay priests. It is not, the problems are bad bishops and American District Attorneys who lack the political guts to go after them. One of the reasons that politicians lack the guts to do their job is because of false public (voter) perceptions regarding this issue. Bill, please do a show on the Bishops role in all of this and since you are in LA, perhaps you could invite Cardinal Roger Mahony to be your guest.

PS: Since I wrote this post, I ran across this letter from LA Times columnist Steve Lopez to the new Archbishop of LA, Jose Gomez. The letter is posted on

Monday, March 14, 2011

Words & Deeds.

My dad is an accountant, he once told me "People lie, numbers don't lie." Here are some numbers about the distribution of wealth in America.

I have received several comments asking what the bishops have said about what is happening in Wisconsin. Actually there is a wealth of statements about social justice and the rights of workers.

On May 1891, Pope Leo XIII promulgated an encyclical Rerum Novarum (On the Condition of Workers). Here are some quotes from that letter to Catholics:

If the question be asked: How ought man to use his possessions? The Church replies without hesitation: "As to this point, man ought not regard external goods as his own, but as common so that, in fact, a person should readily share them when he sees others in need.

No one, certainly, is obliged to assist others out of what is required for his own necessary use or for that of his family, . . . But when the demands of necessity and propriety have been met, it is a duty to give to the poor out of that which remains. (#35-36)

The following duties . . . concern rich men and employers: Workers are not to be treated as slaves; justice demands that the dignity of human personality be respected in them, ... gainful occupations are not a mark of shame to man, but rather of respect, as they provide him with an honorable means of supporting life.
It is shameful and inhuman, however, to use men as things for gain and to put no more value on them than what they are worth in muscle and energy. (#31)

The oppressed workers, above all, ought to be liberated from the savagery of greedy men, who inordinately use human beings as things for gain. Assuredly, neither justice nor humanity can countenance the exaction of so much work that the spirit is dulled from excessive toil and that along with it the body sinks crushed from exhaustion. The working energy of a man, like his entire nature, is circumscribed by definite limits beyond which it cannot go. (#59)

Labor which is too long and too hard and the belief that pay is inadequate not infrequently give workers cause to strike and become voluntarily idle.This evil, which is frequent and serious, ought to be remedied by public authority, because such interruption of work inflicts damage not only upon employers and upon the workers themselves, but also injures trade and commerce and the general interests of the State...(#56)

In protecting the rights of private individuals, however, special consideration must be given to the weak and the poor. For the nation, as it were, of the rich, is guarded by its own defenses and is in less need of governmental protection, whereas the suffering multitude, without the means to protect itself, relies especially on the protection of the State. Wherefore, since wage workers are numbered among the great mass of the needy, the State must include them under its special care and foresight. (#54)

In 1986, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (USA) issued a pastoral message to American Catholics. The title of that message was: Economic Justice for All. Here are some excerpts from that pastoral message:

68. Biblical justice is the goal we strive for. This rich biblical understanding portrays a just society as one marked by the fullness of love, compassion, holiness, and peace. On their path through history, however, sinful human beings need more specific guidance on how to move toward the realization of this great vision of God's Kingdom. This guidance is contained in the norms of basic or minimal justice. These norms state the minimum levels of mutual care and respect that all persons owe to each other in an imperfect world10. Catholic social teaching, like must philosophical reflection, distinguishes three dimensions of basic justice: commutative justice, distributive justice, and social justice11.

70. Distributive justice requires that the allocation of income, wealth, and power in society be evaluated in light of its effects on persons whose basic material needs are unmet. The Second Vatican Council stated: "The right to have a share of earthly goods sufficient for oneself and one's family belongs to everyone. The fathers and doctors of the Church held this view, teaching that we are obliged to come to the relief of the poor and to do so not merely out of our superfluous goods"13. Minimum material resources are an absolute necessity for human life. If persons are to be recognized as members of the human community, then the community has an obligation to help fulfill these basic needs unless an absolute scarcity of resources makes this strictly impossible. No such scarcity exists in the United States today.

89. In summary, the norms of love, basic justice, and human rights imply that personal decisions, social policies, and economic institutions should be governed by several key priorities. These priorities do not specify everything that must be considered in economic decision-making. They do indicate the most fundamental and urgent objectives.

90. a. The fulfillment of the basic needs of the poor is of the highest priority. Personal decisions, policies of private and public bodies, and power relationships must be all evaluated by their effects on those who lack the minimum necessities of nutrition, housing, education, and health care. In particular, this principle recognizes that meeting fundamental human needs must come before the fulfillment of desires for luxury consumer goods, for profits not conducive to the common good, and for unnecessary military hardware.

Two personal observations about all the foregoing documents, it has been said that the best way to keep something secret from people is to publish it in print. Recently I was watching a television comedy series in which the father took his son to a public library. “What’s this place?” the boy asked his dad. “This is where homeless people come to sleep,” came the response from the dad. Winston Churchill quipped “The only thing new in the world is the history that you have not read.”

Secondly, several readers have asked “Why don’t the bishops speak about health care, or what is happening in Wisconsin to workers?” As you can see from the documents re-printed above, they have spoken. Having said that, it is also important to ask, “How have they acted?” Read this excerpt from the National Catholic Reporter commenting on the public position taken by bishops in Wisconsin.

Morlino, writing in his diocesan newspaper, The Catholic Herald, said he and the statewide Wisconsin Catholic Conference were neutral, even though the Catholic Church has long sided with the rights of unionized workers.

“The question to which the dilemma boils down is rather simple on its face: Is the sacrifice which union members, including school teachers, are called upon to make proportionate to the relative sacrifice called for from all in difficult economic times?” Morlino wrote.

“The teaching of the church allows for persons of good will to disagree as to which horn of this dilemma should be chosen because there would be reasonable justification available for either alternative.”

To be sure, Morlino has emerged as a hero of the Catholic right. In the heat of the 2008 campaign, he blasted vice presidential nominee Joe Biden and then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi for “stepping on the pope’s turf—and mine” in appealing to church fathers for their support of abortion rights.

Do Catholic bishops apply what they preach to the secular world in their own relationships with their employees? Specifically, “What are the salary/benefits packages in my (Arch) Diocese for teachers, office staff, janitorial staff, etc?” “What are the salaries for priests, deacons, religious (i.e. brothers and nuns)?”

I was horrified to discover that the parish secretary and her dependants were not covered by our diocesan health insurance plan. Workers had to purchase this out of pocket; this effectively priced them out of health insurance. I was also shocked to discover that a woman who had worked all of her life as a housekeeper in a rectory was given a monthly pension of only $121.00

Bishops often sign these beautiful declarations about human dignity and rights, but fail to implement them in their own house. As long as they can convince the public that morality is primarily, if not exclusively, about what happens south of the belt they should be fine. If by some fluke the little people should actually prevail as they did in Egypt, then they can always point to all of these beautiful official documents and to the nuns and simple priests who worked with the poor as proof that they were always on the right side.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

"Go and learn the meaning of the words, 'It is mercy and not sacrifice I desire."

Forget about giving up chocolate for Lent. Here are two suggestions of what you can do this Lent to grow spiritually.

First, watch this video:

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

If, as Michael Moore requested, you are able to participate in a protest on behalf of working Americans, do so. Benjamin Franklin when leaving the Continental Congress was asked, “Do we have a Monarchy or a Republic?” He answered, “A Republic, for as long as you can keep it.”

“This one dealt craftily with our people and oppressed them.” [Acts 7: 19]

The second thing you can do this Lent is to learn. Learn how oppressors operate so that we as a people can effectively stop oppression. An extremely insightful book on this subject is:

“The Secret History of the American Empire” by John Perkins.

ISBN 978-0-452-28957-4

Sunday, March 6, 2011

400 Americans have more wealth than 155,000,000 Americans combined!

400 people in America have more wealth than one half of the entire population of the United States of America. Those 400 individuals have more wealth than 155,000,000 people do. Please take a few moments and watch this speech from Madison, Wisconsin.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Bishops' Statements and the Erosion of the Family

Last night I had a long drive from a speaking engagement in Central California. As I drove I, thought again about the statement issued by Cardinal Wuerl, Archbishop O’Brien and Bishop Malooly to the voters of Maryland. Specifically the passage in their directive to voters that states, “We believe such a change would lead to the erosion of the family, our society’s most valued and important social unit.”

Aside from the fact that these religious leaders fail to offer any argument or, evidence whatsoever to support such an accusation, the reality is that their allegation actually inflicts the very harm they claim to oppose. Let me explain how:

The American Psychological Association states, “Human beings cannot choose to be either gay or straight. For most people, sexual orientation emerges in early adolescence without any prior sexual experience. Although we can choose whether to act on our feelings, psychologist do not consider sexual orientation to be a conscious choice that can be voluntarily changed.” What happens in a real family with a child who discovers that he/she is gay or lesbian?

If the parents ignore the research and findings of psychology and listen instead to the unsubstantiated claims of these three bishops, they will attempt to coerce their lesbian/gay child to becoming “straight.” Human beings want to love and be loved, and as a child, we especially prize and seek the love of our parents. Gay and lesbian children that are told they are morally disordered by their parents (who acting on bad pastoral advice) are apt to believe this and attempt to change, or at least repress their orientation. As the APA states, “Although we can choose whether to act on our feelings..”

Ultimately they will be unable to accomplish this “change” as the APA has stated based on their clinical research and findings. The results? We saw the consequence of such irresponsible “pastoral” advice last year with a series of teenage suicides. The Center for Disease Control stated in their “Youth at Risk” study of 1999 that one-third of gay adolescents will attempt suicide. Not reflected in that study are the vast numbers of LGBTQ youth who become alcoholics or addicted to drugs in an impossible attempt to change their sexual orientation.

Many parents are counseled by religious authorities to employ “tough-love” with their LGBTQ children. If you drive to one of America’s large cities, you will find some these young people selling themselves on the streets as prostitutes in an attempt to support themselves financially. “Friends are the new family” is an expression that finds wide usage among LGBTQ young people. They are not welcomed or loved by their families unless they change. A change that psychology informs us is impossible.

All of this done in the Name of God by religious authorities, calls to mind the words of Jesus speaking of the religious authorities of his day, “Their words are bold but their deeds are few. They bind up heavy loads, hard to carry, to lay on other men’s shoulders, while they themselves will not lift a finger to budge them.” [Matthew 23: 4].

If these bishops were ignorant of the findings of psychology that sexual orientation is not chosen, if they were ignorant of the Roman Catholic Church’s statement in the 1975 Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics, that there are “homosexuals who are such because of some kind of innate instinct.” Then, these bishops might be acting in good faith; however, their words would still gravely contribute to the erosion of the family, that they themselves decry.

As one of our readers (Tal) commented, “The problem is a church hierarchy that has come to value conformity and obedience over conscience, and that fails to draw a distinction between a Supreme Pontiff's personal demons and prejudices and the objective reality of the Church as the People of God.”

Ever increasing numbers of lay Catholics are realizing this and correctly choosing to selectively disregard their bishops. In theology, this is called the sensus fidelium (sense of the faithful). This concept means that, if Catholic laity dissent from the Catholic hierarchy, it may be that the laity are in fact following the correct and "true" Catholic line while the Catholic leaders are in error. American Catholics increasingly call this common sense.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

When bishops play politics.

Maryland is on the verge of joining a growing list of states that grant same-sex couples the right to a Civil Marriage license. The three Catholic bishops who have ecclesial jurisdiction in Maryland have issued a statement against allowing same-sex couples that civil right, “We urge Maryland Catholics throughout the state to act at once to make your voices heard.”

Let us consider the arguments the bishops posit against same-sex Civil Marriage. They state, “We believe such a change would lead to the erosion of the family, our society's most valued and important social unit.” The rejoinder to this “belief” is the question, “How?” The bishops fail to explain how same-sex marriage will “erode” the family.

They go on to state, “The measure would dismantle our state's legal recognition of the true procreative nature of marriage,” again, how? Not all heterosexual marriages result in procreation. No post-menopausal woman could legally marry, if the bishop's argument was taken to its logical conclusion.

In Catholic theology, there are TWO ends to marriage: 1) Unitive and 2) Procreative. The unitive end of marriage is simply a union of love and life. The Procreative end is, of course, to create new life. It is important to understand that the unitive end of marriage is sufficient for a valid marriage. The Church sanctions, and considers a sacrament, the marriage of elderly heterosexual couples that are biologically incapable of reproduction. So, if two people of different genders who are incapable of reproduction can enter into a valid marriage, then why can’t two people of the same gender?

The bishops go on to state, “As a result, the measure would jeopardize the religious freedom of all those who cannot in good conscience recognize marriages that conflict with their sincerely held religious beliefs.”

This statement is false. Maryland, like all the fifty states recognizes a couple’s legal right to obtain a divorce and then to remarry. Legal divorce and remarriage is against the teaching of the Catholic Church. Divorced and remarried couples are believed to be living in adulterous relationships by the very bishops who make this statement. The fact that there is legal divorce in all fifty states, with a right to a second, third, fourth, etc Civil Marriage, is not viewed as an attack on religious freedom by Catholic bishops. Why then, are Same-sex marriages singled out as an “attack on religious freedom” while divorce and remarriage (i.e. adulterous marriages) are not?

The Governor of Maryland, Martin O’Malley, is a Catholic and has said that he will sign the bill into law when it reaches his desk. House Speaker Michael Busch, also a Catholic, is planning to vote for the bill and Senate President Thomas Miller a Catholic, held off a filibuster that would have effectively killed the bill.

The issue here is not morality; but rather, power. The bishops are attempting to flex their political muscle and intimidate politicians. The problem for the bishops is that according to Gallup Poll, 62% of Catholics recognize same-sex relationships as morally valid. Then again, the overwhelming majority of Catholics have no problem with using artificial birth control, despite the bishop’s prohibition of such practices. One can only hope that these Catholics heed their bishop’s advice and make their voices heard on this issue “at once.” Although I think the bishops may not like what they hear.

It is time for the bishops to move away from a model of Church focused on political, economic and social power. When the Vatican pressured the Cardinal Archbishop of Lisbon, Portugal to oppose Same-sex Civil Marriage in that country, he answered that it was a matter of Civil Law and not Church Law.

This is the central point here. We live in a pluralistic society. Not everyone is required to share the same religious beliefs or, views. The Founders deliberately did not establish a State Religion for the United States of America. That does not endanger religious freedom it protects it.