Philadelphia Roman Catholic Archbishop Charles Chaput, one of the more anti-LGBTQ voices in American Catholicism, says the church should avoid using term “LGBTQ” in official documents — and he blames liberal beliefs about sexuality for the church’s abuse crisis.
“There is no such thing as an ‘LGBTQ Catholic’ or a ‘transgender Catholic’ or a ‘heterosexual Catholic,’ as if our sexual appetites defined who we are; as if these designations described discrete communities of differing but equal integrity within the real ecclesial community, the body of Jesus Christ,” Chaput said in a Thursday speech at the church’s Youth Synod in Rome. The text of his speech was published online by the U.K.’s Catholic Herald.
Chaput objected to the fact that the working document for the synod said, “Some LGBT youths, through various contributions that were received by the General Secretariat of the Synod, wish to ‘benefit from greater closeness’ and experience greater care by the Church.”
“‘LGBTQ’ and similar language should not be used in church documents, because using it suggests that these are real, autonomous groups, and the church simply doesn’t categorize people that way,” he said. “Explaining why Catholic teaching about human sexuality is true, and why it’s ennobling and merciful, seems crucial to any discussion of anthropological issues. Yet it’s regrettably missing from this chapter and this document. I hope revisions by the Synod Fathers can address that.”
The Catholic teaching is that sex is reserved for married heterosexual couples. Faithful Catholics are expected to refrain from same-sex relationships. The church also opposes gender transition.
Chaput said young people are being shaped “by a culture that is both deeply appealing and essentially atheist.” He went on to blame contemporary culture for the church’s sexual abuse crisis. “The clergy sexual abuse crisis is precisely a result of the self-indulgence and confusion introduced into the church in my lifetime, even among those tasked with teaching and leading,” he said. “And minors — our young people — have paid the price for it.” His admonition to avoid using “LGBTQ” and similar language came after that, so it wasn’t clear if he was specifically blaming gay people for the crisis or sexual liberalism in general.
Chaput was chosen by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to represent the group at the synod. He is a member of the synod’s permanent council as well. This year’s synod opened Wednesday and runs through October 28.
Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, which advocates for LGBTQ equality within the church, denounced Chaput’s message. It “is a perfect example of how some church leaders have been so blinded by ideological homophobia and transphobia that they cannot perceive plain human facts accurately,” he wrote in an online essay published Friday. “His comments reflect the dangerous avoidance mentality that is the cause of the clergy sexual abuse scandal and so many of the ills which plague the Catholic Church today.”
“There are LGBTQ Catholics and transgender Catholics and heterosexual Catholics, just as there are Italian Catholics, elderly Catholics, disabled Catholics, Latin American Catholics, traditionalist Catholics, poor Catholics, educated Catholics, and so many other distinct groups within our big tent church,” DeBernardo wrote. It appears that Chaput “is trying to make LGBTQ people invisible in the church by pretending that they don’t exist,” he continued.
“If Chaput interprets LGBTQ as a sinister designation that must be expunged, the responsibility for such an interpretation is his own fault and a result of his own ignorance to better understand the reality of LGBTQ Catholic people,” he added.
Chaput, who has a long history of anti-LGBTQ stances, was named archbishop of Philadelphia in 2011, having previously led the archdiocese of Denver. In Colorado, he supported the decision by a Catholic school in Boulder not to reenroll a lesbian couple’s child, and he used his regular column in Denver’s Catholic newspaper to celebrate the defeat of legislation that would have established civil unions for same-sex couples in the state. He further called same-sex marriage “the issue of our time.”
In 2016, with same-sex marriage legalized nationwide by the Supreme Court the previous year, he announced that people in “irregular” relationships, including same-sex ones, must refrain from sex if they are to receive communion or participate in certain other church activities. There have been other instances of partnered gay and lesbian Catholics being denied communion because of the church’s teaching on their relationships, but many Catholic leaders take a more liberal stance.