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Dear Pope Francis, We Need to Have a Talk

Dear Pope Francis TKTK

Author and furniture magnate Mitchell Gold has a message, delivered via open letter, for the beleaguered pontiff.

Dear Pope Francis:

I have debated how to best write this letter. Should I use the formal wordings and grammar constructions most often used in addressing you? Or should I speak from my heart as I am more used to?

Please allow me to be as simple and clear as possible because writing about the lives of LGBT people, especially youth, is a life-threatening subject. I write to you as person who grew up Jewish and suffered at the hands of my Catholic neighbors' anti-Semitic harangues toward me and for now decades as a gay man being treated as a second-class citizen because the church in America has worked tirelessly to deny equal rights legislation.

For decades I've been a businessperson in America, running a manufacturing and retail home furnishings business with over 1,000 employees headquartered in rural North Carolina ... often referred to as the "buckle of the Bible Belt." I have learned and know and fear that well-meaning evangelical Christians, Mormons, and other Christian denominations and most notably the Catholic Church are at the core of causing immense harm to a vulnerable population. The most recent revelations in Pennsylvania serve as a clarion call.

This week you have called on finding the root cause of the culture that would produce such inhumanity as the church's violations of too many youth's innocence. You have called for forgiveness. Quite frankly, there can be no forgiveness until you in fact do take the actions to change the root cause of why so many in your leadership live troubled, tormented lives of mental anguish that lead to such horrific behavior. This summer and into the fall there are important Catholic Church synods or meetings dealing with youth, yet you have allowed these to ignore the plight of LGBT youth on their agenda.

Along with many others who care about the precious lives of all our youth, I call on you today to change the centuries-old harmful doctrine of the Catholic Church:

  • Welcome priests to marry. End this unrealistic call for celibacy.
  • Welcome women in every level of church leadership.
  • End the toxic teachings against LGBT people. Stop teaching being or acting upon being LGBT is a sin ... that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered." Imagine the impact of those words on a 15-year-old? I know. I once was one who contemplated suicide because I thought I was broken.

There is a mental health crisis in America and throughout the world among innocent, vulnerable lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. It is most acute among the teenage population. In America, LGBT teens are four times more likely than their heterosexual peers to suffer immense mental anguish, abuse drugs and/or alcohol for relief, contemplate suicide, or, in fact, take their lives. And if the teens come from "highly rejecting" environments -- home and/or church -- they are eight times more likely than their other LGBT peers. By and large, the church's teachings about any aspect of sexual orientation or gender identity are highly rejecting. They are clearly condemning. These statistics and my first-hand knowledge cause me grave concern.

We know without question, people do not choose to have a same-sex attraction or any form of gender identity. I know from my own experience that I did not choose to be gay. It just was who I was. So, on this very basis I believe the church must rethink how it approaches these discussions and consider a seminal change. Too many innocent, vulnerable precious lives are being lost to suicide or put through a tormented life. Too many young LGBT people see the priesthood as an option to try to live a celibate life not because they are called to, but out of desperation to make sense of their lives. Is this a reason some clergy's minds are so confused they become predators? There is an immense mental toll taken.

Various religions' teachings, including Catholic ones, have changed over the course of human kind. Most changes were to end the suffering of innocent people. There are many problems and illnesses in the world for which we have not yet found solutions. But this one, affecting millions of LGBT people, can be changed immediately. I am calling upon you to issue the appropriate statements to end the teaching that 'homosexuality is a sin' and any other teachings that negatively impact the LGBT community. We have to save these precious lives.

Eight years ago I personally delivered a copy of a book I edited to you at the Vatican: Crisis: 40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing Up Gay in America. If you have not read it or can't locate it please let me know and I'll get you another one. Vice President Joe Biden is a valued friend, and I gave a book to him and his wife. He's told me it was an important reference point to encourage him to be an active advocate for all LGBT people. I hope you will take the time to read as soon as possible. Vice President Biden is in the midst of writing you a letter as well or preparing to discuss this critical situation with you.

I would like very much to arrange a meeting with you, some young Catholics who might share their life stories in the hopes of greater understanding as well as LGBT Catholic leadership who see the urgent need to make changes in the church.

Clearly, it is time for your encouraging words to turn into concrete actions.

Thank you for your consideration.

Mitchell Gold

MITCHELL GOLD is the cofounder and chairman of Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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