Earlier this week, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal law that prohibits employers from discriminating against their employees because of sex also prevents them from discriminating against employees because of sexual orientation and gender identity.
In response to that ruling a few Catholic bishops in the US, including Archbishop Gomez the president of the USCCB and my own bishop, released statements expressing their disappointment and concern saying that the Supreme Court has redefined the legal meaning of sex. I don’t really know anything about the legal precedent here, but I do know that Pope Francis has made similar comments expressing concern about a “gender ideology” that muddies the differences and complementary of women and men and falsely presumes that through force of will and technology humanity can be masters of nature instead of stewards.
I also know that when this Supreme Court decision was first made many of my LGBT social media friends, including Catholics, were really excited about it. Some of them expressed instances where they had been discriminated against because of who they were as LGBT persons and that this ruling makes them more safe from these blatantly unjust actions. Their stories deeply resonate with the Church’s teaching that “access to employment and to professions must be open to all without unjust discrimination” and that “every sign of unjust discrimination” towards gay persons “should be avoided” (Catechism 2433 and 2358). Any Catholic who unjustly discriminates against LGBT persons has placed themselves outside the bounds of the Church’s teaching and mission.
With that in mind, what I would like to add to the Catholic discussions about this Supreme Court decision is that there is a difference between a gender ideology which must be opposed and LGBT persons who must always be respected and loved. The Church opposes this ideology but the Church does not in any way condone discrimination of LGBT persons. This distinction between ideas and persons can be complicated, but it’s something that Pope Francis models for us. For example, even though the pope has spoken very harshly against gender ideology (even calling it a form of “ideological colonization”), the Holy Father is very gracious and loving towards LGBT persons and at times has even gone out of his way to point out instances where he has called trans persons by their preferred pronouns regardless of their biological sex.
Today Catholics are celebrating the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. About this devotion, Catechism teaches:
“Jesus knew and loved us each and all during his life, his agony and his Passion, and gave himself up for each one of us: ‘The Son of God. . . loved me and gave himself for me.’ He has loved us all with a human heart. For this reason, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, pierced by our sins and for our salvation, ‘is quite rightly considered the chief sign and symbol of that. . . love with which the divine Redeemer continually loves the eternal Father and all human beings’ without exception” (Catechism 478).
Without exception, LGBT persons are infinitely loved by God, so much so that he bled and died on a cross so that they might receive his divine life. Without exception, Mary loves every LGBT person as her child. Without exception, Holy Mother Church desires for every LGBT person to join her ranks as priests, prophets, and kings. Without exception, Jesus wants every LGBT person to receive his grace and experience his healing and transformation. Without exception, every LGBT person has a God-given mission to help make the world a more just and loving place. This is the good news of Jesus Christ.
All of the LGBT Catholics I’ve talked with about their faith have shared stories of times when lay Catholics and priests have not only failed to share this good news but have rather shared an anti-gospel of fear and prejudice. It is often these moments that have driven them away from the Church.
Catholics, I think this feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is an invitation to take the bold step of asking the Holy Spirit to show us where our hearts hold fear and prejudice towards our LGBT neighbors and then ask Jesus to heal us of those sins and transform our stony hearts into something more like his Sacred Heart.
Photo Credit: Jerod D on flickr – Creative Commons License: Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0).