DignityUSA, based out of Boston and “the leading organization of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Catholics,” is disappointed by the Vatican’s confirmation that Pope Francis had met with Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis while visiting Washington DC last week.
“The news that Pope Francis met with Kim Davis while failing to respond to repeated requests for dialogue with LGBT Catholics and their families will be deeply disappointing to many Catholics, gay, trans, and straight alike,” said DignityUSA Executive Director Marianne Duddy-Burke in a statement. “It may be seen as putting the weight of the Vatican behind the US Catholic bishops’ claims of victimization, and to support those who want to make it more difficult for same-sex couples to exercise their civil right to marriage. This encounter could, in many people’s minds, transform the pope’s US trip from a largely successful pastoral visit to the endorsement of an exclusionary political agenda.
“I fear that this meeting and claims that the Pope told Ms. Davis to ‘stand strong’ will embolden the many US bishops and others who continue to try to turn back support for LGBT people. It will make even more of us feel like the Pope’s message of mercy and love was not meant for LGBT people and families. It points again to the deep divide between Catholics who affirm and support their LGBT family members and friends, and the hierarchy, which is tragically out of touch.”
I was in Philadelphia during the Pope’s visit, and I can confirm the profound sense of disappointment LGBTQ Catholics and their families were feeling at being so cavalierly ignored by Pope Francis. The Pope was in town for the “World Conference of Families” but the term “family” was narrowly defined in a conservative Catholic, anti-LGBTQ fashion. Only one gay man was officially allowed to speak at the conference, and he is celibate.
Because of the Catholic church’s exclusion, a series of LGBTQ events was held in Philadelphia but outside the conference. I reported on the Transforming Love forum that featured transgendered and intersex persons describing their lives and their deep desire to be included in the Catholic church. But the issue goes deeper than how some LGBTQ people define themselves religiously. For many people, the official stance of the Catholic Church is a matter of life and death.
“Whenever a religious leader spoke out against sexual diversity, or even against abortion, a transgendered woman is killed.“
At the Transforming Love forum Nicole Santamaria, an intersex woman from El Salvador said, “I came here to the World Meeting of Families with Pope Francis, to speak for the voices that were silenced by those who will torture them, by those who will kill them. And the voices that were silenced already by people who feel they have permission and they have the obligation to murder us, to exterminate us, to persecute us, because their religion told them that it is okay to kill a person that is different.
“Whenever a religious leader spoke out against sexual diversity, or even against abortion, a transgendered woman is killed. Every time those kind of things are heard, that means death. Whenever this is reported in the media, you can read the comments from the people, and the comments are, They deserve it, they are abominations, God doesn’t love them, it is okay.”
At another event in Philadelphia that same day, that I was blocked from getting to because of the excessive security brought to bear upon the pope’s arrival, a picnic was held for 14 Catholic LGBT families. These families were not granted official status by the World Meeting of Families conference. Instead, they secured a location off site. Equally Blessed, a coalition of four Catholic LGBT groups (of which DignityUSA is a part) sent a letter to Pope Francis inviting him to their picnic.
The letter went unanswered, and of course Pope Francis declined to visit with these families.
But he did make time to visit with Kim Davis in Washington.
“We still believe that for the Pope to hear the stories of LGBT Catholics and our families would be a key step in reversing the official Church teachings that damage so many people,” said Duddy-Burke in her statement, “In fact, his meeting with Ms. Davis makes this even more urgent. We have people in Rome right now, on the eve of the Synod of the Family reconvening, who would be happy to talk with the Pope if he’s willing to take a small step towards righting this injustice.”
It is telling that Pope Francis is more interested in secret meetings with people like Kim Davis, who would subvert the very meaning of freedom of conscience, than he is in openly meeting with LGBTQ Catholics and their families who have decided to follow theirs.
Pope Francis wants to be the new face of a better brighter Catholicism, but underneath his benign mask is the leader of a bigoted, morally bankrupt institution responsible for far more harm than good in this world.