A group of eight U.S. Catholic Bishops released a statement in support of LGBTQ+ people, saying that, “God created you, God loves you and God is on your side.” A ninth Bishop later signed on as well.
The group, which includes a cardinal and an archbishop, worked together with the Tyler Clementi Foundation, which fights against LGBTQ+ bullying in schools, work, and faith communities, to release the statement. The group includes Cardinal Joseph Tobin, archbishop of Newark, and Archbishop John Wester of Santa Fe.
“All people of goodwill should help, support, and defend LGBT youth; who attempt suicide at much higher rates than their straight counterparts; who are often homeless because of families who reject them; who are rejected, bullied and harassed; and who are the target of violent acts at alarming rates,” the statement reads.
It continues, saying, “the Catholic Church values the God-given dignity of all human life and we take this opportunity to say to our LGBT friends, especially young people, that we stand with you and oppose any form of violence, bullying or harassment directed at you.”
While this may not be the type of treatment LGBTQ+ people are used to getting from the Catholic Church, the bishops pointed out that in the Catechism of the Catholic church, it “teaches that LGBT people are to be treated with ‘respect, compassion, and sensitivity.’”
The Catholic Church has been attempting to reckon with its long history of homophobia, with Pope Francis saying that the church loves LGBTQ+ children “because they are children of God,” “homosexuals have the right to be in a family,” and trying to win back LGBTQ+ Catholics to the fold.
However, those who have been hurt by the church aren’t so quick to forget. The Catholic Church still teaches that same-sex relations are to be condemned, and that gender is immutable.
“We have our teachings, which we prize and cherish, but those teachings need to be understood in the proper context of love and mercy,” Archbishop Wester said to America magazine. “Sometimes people can make equivocations, ‘Well if it’s a sin to engage in a homosexual act, then I must be terrible person.’ The church doesn’t doesn’t teach that and it’s important [young people] don’t get that erroneous impression.”
He added, “I think it’s tragic that young people in the L.G.B.T. community are bullied and made fun of,” and said that it’s “another form of bigotry and prejudice that we see in our country today.”
Jane Clementi, co-founder of the Clementi Foundation, said that she hopes “that a young L.G.B.T. person will read this statement and feel supported, know they are not alone and know that there are members of their faith community that support them.”