The National Catholic Review

The following is the text of a letter sent to members of Congress on May 19, from the USCCB, on the topic of the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA) and, in relation to that, same-sex marriage.

May 19, 2010

Dear Member of Congress:

We write to you regarding the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA), H.R. 3017, and Senate (S. 1584). Our purpose is to outline the serious concerns we have with these bills in their current form and why we cannot maintain the position of neutrality we held in 2007.

For the sake of clarity, permit us first to state two basic tenets of Catholic Church teaching on this issue. First, persons with a homosexual inclination “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity,” and second “[u]nder no circumstances can [homosexual acts] be approved.” Catechism of the Catholic Church (“CCC”), nos. 2357-58.

Catholic teaching states that all people are created in the image and likeness of God and thus possess an innate human dignity that must be acknowledged and respected, by other persons and by law. We recognize that no one should be an object of scorn, hatred, or violence for any reason, including sexual inclination. The Church affords special concern and pastoral attention to those who experience a homosexual inclination and stands committed to avoid “[e]very sign of unjust discrimination in their regard.” CCC, no. 2358.

The Catholic Church makes an important distinction between actions and inclination. While the Church is ardently opposed to all unjust discrimination on the grounds of sexual inclination, whether homosexual or heterosexual, it does teach that all sexual acts outside of a marriage between one man and one woman are morally wrong. The Catholic Church’s teaching cannot, therefore, be equated with “unjust discrimination,” because it is based on fundamental truths about the human person and personal conduct. Homosexual conduct is categorically closed to the transmission of life, and does not reflect or respect the personal complementarity of man and woman. In contrast to sexual conduct within marriage between one man and one woman—which does serve both the good of each married person and the good of society— heterosexual and homosexual conduct outside of marriage has no claim to special protection bythe state.

Just as every other group in our society, the Catholic Church enjoys the same rights to hold to its beliefs, organize itself around them, and argue for them in the public square. This is guaranteed by our Constitution. This includes the right to teach what it holds to be the truth concerning homosexual conduct—and to act as an employer consistent with that truth—without the threat of government sanction.

The USCCB continues to oppose “unjust discrimination” against people with a homosexual inclination, but we cannot support a bill – such as ENDA in its current form – that would legally affirm and specially protect any sexual conduct outside of marriage.

Moreover, because the passage of such a bill could be used to punish as discrimination what the Catholic Church teaches, the USCCB has always sought as comprehensive a religious exemption as is achievable, in order to protect the religious freedom of the Church, and of all others who hold similar views. One partial solution to this problem is to apply Title VII’s prohibition on religious discrimination, which is already incorporated in the current version of the bill.

But this is insufficient alone, as the Title VII protection does not cover all religious employers, and recent experience teaches that even covered institutions may face government retaliation for relying on such exemptions. Without such additional protection, ENDA would be applied to jeopardize our religious freedom to live our faith and moral tenets in today’s society.

The movement to redefine marriage to include two persons of the same sex (a.k.a. same-sex “marriage”) has changed the law substantially toward that end, at both the state and federal level, and it has become increasingly clear that laws like ENDA have been instrumental to those changes.

For example, we have seen state Supreme Courts repeatedly rely on state-level ENDAs as a basis for creating a state constitutional right to same-sex “marriage.” We consider it very likely that ENDA, despite referencing DOMA, could be used for similar purposes at the federal level. The highest courts of California, Connecticut, and Iowa have declared that the traditional definition of marriage is “discriminatory” and lacking any “rational basis,” and so violates the constitutions of their respective states. Cases are now being brought in order to create a federal constitutional right to same-sex “marriage”—whether by striking down federal DOMA, or by striking down California’s Proposition 8 in federal court. If ENDA were to pass, we would expect lawyers to invoke it in federal court under the federal constitution, just as they invoked analogous state laws in state constitutional litigation. If this strategy were to succeed, it would represent a legal and moral disaster comparable in many ways to Roe v. Wade. As leaders of the Catholic Church, we have a moral obligation to oppose any law that would clearly contribute to this outcome.

These rulings also reflect a legal strategy that gay rights advocates have repeatedly andpublicly explained in scholarly articles and other media—first, secure the passage of sexual orientation antidiscrimination laws, such as ENDA, and then invoke the principle embedded within those laws as a basis for same-sex “marriage.”

In addition to ENDA’s protection of same-sex conduct, its threat to religious liberty, and its contribution to the cause of same-sex “marriage,” there are other obstacles to its passage. The bill’s treatment of “gender identity,” which was not in the 2007 bill, would have an adverse effect on privacy and associational rights of others. The bill also lacks an exemption for a “bona fide occupational qualification” (BFOQ), for those cases where it is neither unjust nor inappropriate to consider an applicant’s sexual inclination.

While we regret we cannot support ENDA for the above stated reasons, the Conference would, however, be interested in discussing legislation that would protect persons with a homosexual inclination from unjust discrimination, without protecting homosexual conduct. We therefore invite further discussion with you and your staff on how ENDA might be amended to correct the various flaws discussed in this letter.



Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, Archbishop of Louisville

Chairman, Ad Hoc Committee for the Defense of Marriage

Most Reverend William F. Murphy

Chairman, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development

Most Reverend Donald W. Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington

Chairman, Committee on Doctrine

Show Comments (53)

Comments (hide)

Patrick McArron | 6/7/2010 - 12:01am
Once again I am disappointed and not surprised in the bishops of the Church.
As a gay man in a 34 year commited relationship with the sam man I cannot begin to tell you what ENDA would mean for us.
I do not believe that the Church I was born into is what Jesus envisioned to deliver his message of unconditional love.
I am saddened by the continued harm our bishops cause.
PATRICK LANNAN | 6/4/2010 - 1:38am
The bishops argument here seems oddly similar to that used to discriminate against Jewish people before the French Revolution.
What happened to Dignitatis humanae? Will those who disagree in conscience with the Church's moral teaching no longer enjoy equal protection under the law? 
Frank Elliott, Jr. | 6/4/2010 - 12:46am
Mr. Phelan, keep your own odious brand of Christian Fascism to yourself.  There are causes for which I would die, but there is only one cause for which I would unapologetically kill and that is the prevention of theocracy in my country.
I warn you that if Christians here seek to impose the death penalty for homosexuality as they are trying to do in Uganda, I won't limit myself to an eye for an eye.
Frank Elliott, Jr. | 6/4/2010 - 12:41am
As someone who was a cradle Catholic and is gay, though not practicing, I can only communicate my depeest moral revulsion with a church that encourages discrimination against even celibate gays not only as a "right" but a religious obligation.  The creation of a class of Untouchables by religion is nothing less than pagan.
The notion of equal treatment under the law, which would require allowing gays and lesbian the same protections that Catholics enjoy under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, protections without which Catholics would have no place in the political life of a protestant and historically anti-Catholic country.
I am the nominal godfather of a Catholic niece.  i had never made my opinion of the Church known to her; nor, had I discussed my sexuality with her (she's 22).  However, she and her sister both rejected the Church precisely because of its ruthless persecution of even celibate gays.  The Church will lose the younger generation over this issue and similar issues.
Anonymous | 5/27/2010 - 9:35pm
Stephen Phelan: Ahhh...when you run out of arguments you start resorting to typos =) Maybe you missed my links that prove that homosexuality is not a sin.
There is plenty of debate, and there are many churches that support that view. Btw that includes the Episcopal Church, United Church of Christ, Metropolitan Community Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Unitarian Universalist Church, Reform Judaism, all want to marry same gender couples now, among many others.
And notice how you could not refute anything in there, nor the interpretations i presented earlier that debunks all of the commonly pulled out passages that people misinterpret. And speaking of history, a lot of the history during the Biblical times is mentioned in there. Also, if you want, i also have numerous book sources =)
Sorry, but you are on the wrong side of history. =) More and more churches are following this view. They realize that the old view was simply wrong in a historical context, in context of the whole bible, and in context of the OT and NT. It was similar a few hundred years back when people commonly misinterpreted the Bible to keep black people enslaved and segregated, using the biblical line that they were "curses" to be enslaved. =)
Steve Phelan | 5/27/2010 - 9:31am
Mr. McCrea:
You can give whatever benefits you want to whomever you want for whatever reason, as long as it's your company or organization. Keep your radical secular religion out of my State, forcing your definition of "marriage" through law on those of us who disagree with you, and forcing us to hire people who completely disagree with our mission and fundamental principles. If you don't, I and people like me will fight you tooth and nail.
Read ENDA.
And God bless you!
Steve Phelan | 5/27/2010 - 9:27am
Oops... "Pat Buchanan" was the beginning of a tangent I decided to avoid, but lazily left it in.
Steve Phelan | 5/27/2010 - 9:24am
Shadowman: I'm not sure what "theogicans" are, but you're welcome to cite them if you feel it helps your argument. I referred to "theologians" and the fact that there is no debate among mainstream theologians, whether they agree with the position or not, about whether homosexuality was condemned in the Bible. You're making the radical claim that it is not condemned and you cite no one, you simply impute wisdom and rigor to those you agree with (the side that, in your world, "wins out") and error to those with whom you do not agree. This isn't really an argument so much as a polemic, which you're welcome to make, just don't be hurt when someone points that out and fails to be converted by your overwhelming case.
I could make an argument that Hitler really didn't hate Jews, by doing all sorts of analysis, historical comparisons, selective quotes, etc. Pat Buchanan Even better, I could go on a blog and pretend as if it was a fact and simply refer in the abstract to such a work and pretend like I'm making an argument. It wouldn't make it true, but I'm free to do so.
Anonymous | 5/26/2010 - 7:47pm
Stephen Phelan: The problem is, your only argument against those views was "homosexual theogicans", yet you fail to prove logically or with any proof at all how their views are wrong. I have examined both sides of the issue and can confidentally say this:
-One side (the anti-gay side) cherry-picks lines, takes them out of context, and just says it's wrong with no evidence. They even added the word "homosexual," a word that wasn't even used this way till the 1800's.-The other side (the pro-gay side) actually looks at and relates the historical times, provides plenty of evidence using the Bible itself, looks at the Bible as a whole, relates the context to other lines and passages, interprets them properly, doesn't distort their meaning, translates the Greek words properly and sees how they are used in various locations of the Bible to get a clear definition, and provides sufficient evidence.
It's easy to see why the latter wins out.
Vince Killoran | 5/26/2010 - 9:57am
p.s. Actually, your recent posts have taken me to your Human Life International page where I find press releases exclusively dealing with contraception and abortion.  Besides the usual boiling down of "pro-life" to these two issues, there is a release lamenting Ted Kennedy's church funeral, HLI director's on-air questioning of Sean Hannity's Catholicism (!), and, of course, several denunciations of President Obama.
My argument is that this is exactly the wrong kind of approach to participating in American politics.
Steve Phelan | 5/26/2010 - 8:52am
Mr. Hayes
Now that the main points have been conceded: the health bill will fund abortion with federal dollars despite what the president, the HHS, and many other progressive ''catholics'' think; and you don't so much have a problem with people being forced to do anything, as long as it's the Church that is BEING forced; we'll proceed to your next question. I strive to be in complete conformity with Catholic teaching, and I owe deference to our bishops when they teach the unerring truths of the Faith. But I owe them no such deference in policy prescription matters, even though I respect their position. We Catholics aren't supposed to stop thinking, we are supposed to do the best we can in applying the unchanging and unerring central teachings of the Faith to the practical situations we encounter personally and as a society. Many bishop hold a statist position on health care (even several the bishops disagree about this, to emphasize the point where disagreement is allowed) which, to my view, defies the Catholic social teaching principle of subsidiarity, and has resulted in huge and growing problems in, for example, the UK, the Netherlands (most notably), and other countries that have given up on market solutions to health care.
John Hayes | 5/25/2010 - 5:51pm
To avoid confusion, I need to point out that there should have been quotation marks at the end of the first and third paragraphs of my post to mark the ends of the quotes from Mr. Phelan. Paragraphs 2, 4 and 5 are by me, not Mr. Phelan. 
Steve Phelan | 5/25/2010 - 3:51pm
One wonders why people like Terence miss the irony of their own claims. Our government is considering legislation that will open up the door to persecution of the Church for its failure to yield to the homosexualist zeitgeist. Yet Terence claims that the Church is trying "to force their view of family on everybody else".
Terence, show me exactly how the Church is "forcing" its view in this letter or anywhere else. They are responding to the very real threat of being forced to act against their rights and conscience by eschewing their own beliefs in deciding who they can hire. It is the state that is forcing this radical homosexualist agenda. The Church is forcing nothing.
You also bizarrely, and again with no apparent sense of irony, claim that homosexuals are "a group most grievously discriminated against". I can show you hundreds of stories in mainstream media that erroneously bash the Church, and vicious columns by openly anti-Catholic "haters" - again in reputable, mainstream media outlets. Can you provide any examples of similarly vicious attacks on homosexuals in the mainstream press? I don't mean things that make homosexuals uncomfortable, but are actually quite benign, but vicious screeds like those targeting the Church from such popular writers as Hitchens and Dawkins.
No, you can't. No go look up the definition of irony in the dictionary and try posting again without being ridiculous.
Jim McCrea | 5/26/2010 - 5:39pm
Any religious group can define to whom/how/when they bestow whatever spiritual/religious ceremonies/benefits they choose.
Secular benefits come from the STATE, not the religious group.  Keep your religious hands off of my secular benefits and I won't give two hoots in hades who you choose to recognize as being married in a religious sense.  But if you continue to impose your religious proscriptions on my ability to have secular benefits, then I and people like me will continue to fight you tooth and nail. 
And be sure and have a real nice day, too.
Steve Phelan | 5/26/2010 - 5:33pm
Mr. Killoran:
Thanks for the clarification. I still think it's odd that you would find lamentable the fact that the bishops have cut themselves off from LCCR, but not find lamentable the fact that LCCR now openly campaigns for same-sex marriage and abortion "rights". A Catholic way of seeing this would be to lament that the break was made necessary by the indefensible positions of LCCR on a Catholic view. We can fight alongside LCCR when they are on the right side of a social justice issue, and not align ourselves with them uncritically or without qualification. Would you agree? And if you agree, does your position not require modification?
Mr. Kurtz:
Again, your understanding of the facts of the case and the bishop's position is so seriously lacking that I'm not sure it's worth engaging with you on this. The Church's position, which used to be less controversial, is that it is not ok to kill an innocent person in order to save the life of another. It's really that simple. In similar cases what one normally does to save the life of the mother is monitor her health closely while the child develops to the point of viability. This often works in such cases. If it is determined that the mother's health is in imminent danger, the doctor is to save her life while doing everything he can to save the life of her child as well. If the child dies as an indirect result of the operation, if everything has been done that could be done to save his life, then that is not murder - the direct killing of a human being.
Bishop Olmsted has not in any way scandalized the faithful, he has scandalized the unfaithful, which he can't worry about.
William Kurtz | 5/26/2010 - 1:45pm
Yes, sometimes the bishops can scandalize the faithful, for example, Bishop Olmsted. In Palestine 2,000 years ago, the chief priests and pharisees said, "it is better that one die, than the whole nation perish." In Phoenix 2010, the bishop says it's better to have two die than one, lest there be any confusion on abortion.
Vince Killoran | 5/26/2010 - 1:27pm
Relax Stephen-it's a blog: people are allowed to disagree with each other.
My point in writing about the USCCB quitting the LCCR was to lament their breaking with an historically important coalition and to argue that the bishops approach to politics in this great republic of ours is faulty, i.e, moving away from broad coalition-building, zeroing in on legislation dealing with gay rights and reproduction and then throwing their  weight-sometimes in a ham handed way-into the lobbying process with a partisan agenda.  I think it's bad style and the substance of what they have been doing isn't great either.
You want to butt heads on specific positions.  All I was doing was pointing to the wrong approach the USCCB have been taking in our democratic, diverse nation.
John Hayes | 5/26/2010 - 12:47pm
Stephan Phelan says: "Now that the main points have been conceded: the health bill will fund abortion with federal dollars despite what the president, the HHS, and many other progressive ''catholics'' think; and you don't so much have a problem with people being forced to do anything, as long as it's the Church that is BEING forced; we'll proceed to your next question"
Just to keep the record straight, I have not agreed with those statements, so I'm not sure what you mean when you say they "have been conceded"
The post that started these comments is on ENDA, not the health care bill.  If you would like to discuss the health care bill in detail, I recommend this May 24th post on Commonweal as a starting point.
Stephen O'Brien | 5/26/2010 - 12:04pm
At times, the bishops scandalize the faithful by action and omission.  For example, Cardinal Sean O’Malley’s granting of a Catholic burial to Senator Edward Kennedy is a terrible impediment to legally protecting the lives of unborn children from abortion, which, as Pope John Paul II affirmed, is murder (Evangelium vitae 58).  Moreover, the hierarchy’s refusal to excommunicate politicians who support legalization of this kind of murder makes it extremely difficult for the Church to persuade both Catholics and non-Catholics to take abortion seriously as a momentous moral issue.  Then, too, the bishops, largely ignoring Jesus’s warning about being drowned with a millstone tied around one’s neck (Mt 18:5-7), have failed to take adequate measures to protect minors from sexual abuse.
Despite the foregoing, when the bishops act as official teachers in continuity with Scripture and two thousand years of Catholic tradition, and in line with the Magisterial teachings of the successors of Peter, they perform an outstanding service for all Catholics and everyone else.  An example of this service is the May 19, 2010, letter from the U.S. hierarchy to Congress on the relationship between the Employment Nondiscrimination Act and legal recognition of same-sex unions.  This letter is a model for a principled, intelligent approach to this issue in the light of all the points made by official Catholic teaching.  This document should be studied and implemented by everyone who wishes to be considered a Catholic.
Steve Phelan | 5/26/2010 - 11:27am
Mr. Killoran:
Again, you're characterizing the bishops' positions and methods very harshly, and in a way that I doubt you'd apply to organizations that you happen to agree with. Please be more specific about how the bishops are being "heavy-handed". Everything they have written about health care, or about the issue which this thread is ostensibly about, has been very charitable, affirming the goods that all people seem to agree upon and re-stating in clear terms why they support or protest a particular issue. What is heavy handed about this? Even the individual bishops who write commentaries are very careful.
If only more organizations would approach issues this way, the political conversation in this country. You say that their role was "inappropriate". Again, other than its inconvenience for the Left, how was what they did inappropriate? They have a right and indeed an obligation to defend the most vulnerable in our society whenever they are threatened - whether we're talking about threats to the elderly, health care workers and the unborn in health care or immigrants.
Unless you're suggesting that the bishops should keep their mouths shut, unless they are affirming the positions and groups of the Left... that's a ridiculous position, but at least it is a position, and it is more honest about what the bishops actually say and how they say it.
And are you suggesting with your "go it alone" comment that no organization should speak up unless it is in a coalition of sorts? And they're far from "alone" on this... really, what are you trying to say? These just sound like Democratic party talking points.
Then you infer that they are "just another lobbying group in D.C."... again, how this is not an idiotic and unfair view of what the bishops actually do, I'm not sure. No serious person would say this - it just sounds like a Leftist talking point.
If you'd like to discuss HLI's positions, let's do so. But I can't be the only one who is tired of people who make baseless claim after claim, then change the subject when you call them on it. I'm trying to be respectful here, but you have to give me something to respect and I don't see it yet.
Conor Reidy | 5/26/2010 - 9:32am
A reminder to our new correspondents (Brandon, shadow man) that America requires all comments to be signed with a full name.
Vince Killoran | 5/26/2010 - 9:30am
No Stephen, they are not. But the bishop's approach to politics in the last several years have become heavy-handed.  They have taken a "go-it-alone" mentality that is not befitting a religious organization that exist in a diverse, democratic society. I thought their role in the health care legislation process was inappropriate.
This is what makes their leaving a coalition after nearly six decades disappointing. They should offer a full explanation, and maybe discuss how they see their place as just another lobbying group in Washington,D.C.
Steve Phelan | 5/26/2010 - 9:05am
Mr. Killoran:
Just to make sure I understand your position: when the bishops collaborated with LCCR, they were doing so for principled reasons having to do with peace and justice; but when they left LCCR after many years of its advocacy for abortion and homosexualist rights, they did so because they are "political hacks"?
Is everyone who agrees with you principled, while everyone who disagrees with you a political hack? Respectfully, I'd just like to see which principle you're applying, and how you justify your baseless accusation against the bishops.
Steve Phelan | 5/26/2010 - 9:01am
Shadow man:
If by "being gay", you mean experiencing homosexual attraction, then you're right - this is not condemned in the Bible and still is not condemned today by the Church. People can't help experiencing this attraction, thus it isn't "chosen", like acts are. But to say that the Bible doesn't condemn homosexual acts takes a bit of interpretation that is in no way mainstream, but has been propogated by homosexualist theologians. It's actually pretty clear that homosexual acts condemned, and the fact that such condemnations happened in certain biblical narrative situations in no way requires that the condemnations only apply to those situations. This is a logical fallacy and repeating it doesn't make it any more true.
Mr. Gleason:
If you spent 50 years in marriage ministry in the Church and still cannot understand Church teaching on the nature of marriage and the human person, then unfortunately I think that helps explain why the state of marriage in the Church is so confused, and thus has so many problems that non-Catholics do with divorce, homosexuality, cohabitation, and so on. That you were counseling engaged couples in the Church is very troubling to me, as it should be to any priests you were working with.
And Mr. McGrath:
You make some good points but you strangely think that the Church is "fixated" on the issue of homosexuality. The Church is in no way fixated on it (check out, for example, Pope B16's encyclicals and letters) but has to confront it because it is under attack for its stance. If the issue died in public discourse, the Church wouldn't need to defend its position so often and so publicly.
Anonymous | 5/26/2010 - 4:24am
Vince Killoran: Yes, but sex and sexual orientation are two different things. But the fact is, neither being gay nor homosexual sex is ever condemned in the Bible. What was condemned was homosexual sex being used to worship other God's (idolatry/fertility rituals) that were widespread during that era.
Brendan McGrath | 5/26/2010 - 12:03am
This is an issue on which I tend to be more liberal, though in recent years I've come to think that the Church's teaching may have more wisdom to it than I used to think.  I wonder sometimes if the causes of homosexuality and various other differences in sexuality might be more complicated than we realize, and also if even "normal" heteroexuality may have some sources or fuels that aren't so beautiful.  To put it another way: sex and sexuality, like humanity in general, is beautiful and a gift from God, etc., but humanity is also fallen and wounded by original sin (for my understanding of original sin, see Teilhard, who preserves its cosmic dimensions), and so perhaps our sexuality (or sexualities) are fallen and darkened (though still fundamentally good.  To what extent is our sexuality infected with drives for domination, or attraction to those are are dominant rather than gentle?  Anyway, it's hard to explain, but my point is that given a lot of this, I wonder if there's some truth in the Church's teaching.  In the end, I think we just need to have more compassion, more gentleness, more love towards those who experience homosexual desires. 
HOWEVER - like others who have posted here, I am always frustrated to see Church leaders fixating on this issue, and treating it differently than other things that it teaches are sinful.  E.g., if we want same-sex marriage banned, then why not ban contraception, or divorce and remarriage, etc.?  Why focus on this so much?  As I've said this before, and I actually am somewhat serious about it, why aren't bishops concerned about stamping out things like Baianism?  Why don't we get up in arms about Catholic colleges having commencement speakers who deny the Immaculate Conception (e.g., Protestants)?  Have we just decided to trust that invincible ignorance, baptism of desire, etc. will protect those who reject that doctrine?
Shadow Man - You wrote, "To those of you using the Bible as a weapon against homosexuality, you are wrong."  Unless I missed something, I don't think anyone mentioned the Bible.  We're Catholic.  Also, I don't think anybody spoke of a homosexual orientation as something chosen.  In fact, even the first edition of the Catechism from the early '90s had a line that said, "They do not choose their orientation."  Michael Brooks did use the term "lifestyle," but not in the sense that the orientation is a choice.  We don't choose our sexual orientation, but surely you'd agree that we can choose what sexual activity we do or do not engange in. 
Brandon - I don't think using the sort of tone and language you've used helps invite people to reconsider the issue or explore ways in which the Church could take a fresh look at certain aspects of its teaching.   To speak of "your church's consistent refusal" to do this or that, or "the comfortable confines of his well-guarded ecclesiastical walls," or "laughable and sickening presuppositions about how the world should be" makes it sound like you are hostile to the Church, and just speaking from my own experiences, even though I'm relatively liberal on various things, when I encounter such hostility to the Church, it makes me want to defend the Church - i.e., I take the side of the Church.  I think this is a tendency in many Catholics, even in those who are lapsed to one degree or another: it's the "nobody makes fun of my brother except me" phenomenon.  I think the Church's position on issues of homosexuality would be softened more if there were less criticism or hostility to the Church.  I.e., the best thing "pro-gay activists," etc. could do to influence Church teaching would be to go to Mass all the time, loudly encourage recitation of the rosary, advocate against abortion, and basically out-Catholic everyone else.
Vince Killoran | 5/25/2010 - 9:32pm
Sorry to hear that the USCB have withdrawn from the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, ending an association of 60 years. If you ever get a chance to read the LCCR papers housed at the Library of Congress you can read how our bishops were once engaged in the great causes of equality & justice.
Now they are a bunch of political hacks-and not very good ones at that.
Anonymous | 5/25/2010 - 9:26pm
After spending over 50  years as leaders in Catholic marriage ministry with my wife, in CFM, EE, ME RETRO, Marriage prep, etc we came to this conclusion about same sex marriage.   We gave up caring or thinking it is any of our concern what happens in the basement of City halls marriage licence bureaus.  Same sex ,different sex who cares?  ...when for a really long time, hetro couples have been married for up to 10+ times each  by an Elvis impersonator at City hall  and no bishop we ever met, ever  complained or wrote a letter about that. Yes, and we met many,many bishops and a Pope too. Our Church  now has a huge number and percentage of hetro Catholic couples NOT having a sacramental marriage. they too are lining up at city hall or the beach/park..  Bishops.... start pulling the weeds in your OWN yard,,
John Hayes | 5/25/2010 - 9:00pm
Stephan Phelan said "And here's another dizzyingly detailed analysis from the bishops, who, to my dismay, repeatedly said that they would support nationalize health care, as long as it didn't fund abortion"
If the bishops supported the plan, why would you be dismayed?
Brandon Kemp | 5/25/2010 - 8:20pm
"I think it's a shame that so many parents must suffer the heartache of having children who are homosexual, never to have their children bond with an opposite sex partner and have their own children, at high risk for HIV, exposed to a self-destructive lifestyle, self-absorbed and resistant to even trying to fight their homosexual inclinations."
I think it's a shame that so many parents care so little about the quality of the relationship and instead care more for antiquated, ignorant philosophies characterized by an unhealthy preoccupation with the mechanics of sex. (Last time I checked, the body accomodates diversity in sexual expression, which is part of its beauty, its grace.) And gay men are at higher risk of contracting HIV, but lesbian woman at a lower risk than straight men and women. Straight men and women are more likely than either to get unwanted pregnancies and to seek out abortion as a result. Tsk, tsk. A self-destructive lifestyle? You mean one characterized by love and commitment? Or were you referring to the "self-destructive" habits reinfornced by your church's consistent refusal to condone and promote monogamous same-sex love as the valid and beautiful thing that it is and can be? Self-absorbed? Listen to you. Your views are self-absorbed and narcissistic, a pitiful cry from someone unwilling to consider things past the comfortable confines of his well-guarded ecclesiastical walls, his advantaged position as a straight (probably white) male, and pleading for individuals to fight their innate propensity to love just to satisfy his own laughable and sickening presuppositions about how the world should be.
Your comment is revolting.
Steve Phelan | 5/25/2010 - 6:03pm
Mr. Hayes,
If you don't think it is morally impermissable to restrict the Catholic Church's ability to hire only people who agree with its key tenets - a wholly reasonable desire that wouldn't, and shouldn't be denied the Church any more than the NAACP or the Democratic Party - then I'm not sure we can progress much in that discussion.
You also ducked the point that you, without proof, suggest that opposition to the bill is merely political. This is extremely unfair to the bishops.
And you have to do better than a Leftist columnist who cites Obama and Pelosi, among others, as claiming that the bill does not fund abortion. Here is PP President Cecile Richards: "“As a result of this historic expansion of health care coverage to more than 30 million Americans, the doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals who work for Planned Parenthood health centers will be providing care to many  more women, men, and families who will be seeking primary and preventive care." Full statement here: Apparently PP didn't get the memo that they were excluded from funding, despite their many visits and consultations with the bill's authors and the president.
And here's another dizzyingly detailed analysis from the bishops, who, to my dismay, repeatedly said that they would support nationalize health care, as long as it didn't fund abortion:
John Hayes | 5/25/2010 - 5:58pm
Bill Kurtz says: "It should be noted on this blog that at about the same time this letter was sent, the bishops announced their withdrawl from the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, ending an association of 60 years. "
The only specific issue the USCCB announcement mentions is that the Leadership Conference endorsed Elena Kagan for the Supreme Court.
jerry hernandez | 5/25/2010 - 5:56pm
The American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and the National Association of Social Workers state:"There is no scientific basis for distinguishing between same-sex couples and heterosexual couples with respect to the legal rights, obligations, benefits, and burdens conferred by civil marriage.", mental health professionals and researchers have long recognized that being homosexual poses no inherent obstacle to leading a happy, healthy, and productive life, and that the vast majority of gay and lesbian people function well in the full array of social institutions and interpersonal relationships. research and clinical literature demonstrate that same-sex sexual and romantic attractions, feelings, and behaviors are normal and positive variations of human sexuality. longstanding consensus of the behavioral and social sciences and the health and mental health professions is that homosexuality per se is a normal and positive variation of human sexual orientation.
jerry hernandez | 5/25/2010 - 5:54pm
This was taken from another poster that shows why we need to legalize gay marriage. If you don't feel for this person after reading it, you simply aren't human."I am not sure what our President thinks of this dicission but coming from a poor family and knowing what discrimination is all about I would assume he would not care if "Gays" have equal rights. The whole reason why they are asking for rights to be considered married is from the same reason why I would be for it. My own life partner commited suicide in our home with a gun to his heart. After a 28 year union I was deprived to even go his funeral. We had two plots next to each other. But because we did not have a marriage cirtificate "(Legal Document)" of our union his mother had him cremated and his ashes taken back to Missouri where we came from. That is only one example how painful it is. His suicide tramatized me so much and her disregard for my feelings only added to my heartach. That happened on March 21 of 2007 and I still cannot type this without crying for the trauma I have to endure each day. Oh did I mention I am in an electric wheelchair for life? Yes I am and it is very diffacult to find another mate when you are 58 and in a wheelchair. "
jerry hernandez | 5/25/2010 - 5:54pm
The National Library of Medicine pubs confirm that sexual orientation is natural, biologically induced in the first trimester of pregnancy, morally neutral, immutable, neither contagious nor learned, bearing no relation to an individuals ability to form deep and lasting relationships, to parent children, to work or to contribute to society.From the American Psychological Association: homosexuality is normal; homosexual relationships are normal.The American Academy of Pediatrics, American Psychological Asociation and American Psychiatric Asociation have endorsed civil marriage for same-sex couples because marriage strengthens mental and physical health and longevity of couples, and provides greater legal and financial security for children, parents and seniors.America's premier child/mental health associations endorse marriage equality.
jerry hernandez | 5/25/2010 - 5:54pm
For those of you claiming homosexuality is a "lifestyle", that is a false and ignorant statement. Homosexuality is not a choice.  Just like you don't choose the color of your skin, you cannot choose whom you are sexually attracted to. If you can, sorry, but you are not heterosexual, you are bi-sexual. Virtually all major psychological and medical experts agree that sexual orientation is NOT a choice. Most gay people will tell you its not a choice. Common sense will tell you its not a choice. While science is relatively new to studying homosexuality, studies tend to indicate that its biological., Straight Men's Brain Responses Differ,2933,155990,00.html is overwhelming scientific evidence that homosexuality is not a choice. Sexual orientation is generally a biological trait that is determined pre-natally, although there is no one certain thing that explains all of the cases. "Nurture" may have some effect, but for the most part it is biological.
jerry hernandez | 5/25/2010 - 5:53pm
To those of you using the Bible as a weapon against homosexuality, you are wrong. Homosexuality is not a sin. The Bible is constantly being taken out of context to support anti-gay views. Scholars who have studied the Bible in context of the times and in relation to other passages have shown those passages (Leviticus, Corinthians, Romans, etc) have nothing to do with homosexuality. These passages often cherry-picked while ignoring the rest of the Bible. The sins theses passages are referring to are idolatry, Greek temple sex worship, prostitution, pederasty with teen boys, and rape, not homosexuality or two loving consenting adults.
John Hayes | 5/25/2010 - 5:33pm
Stephen Phelan says: "Are you suggesting that opposition to ENDA is merely political, but one can support it based on principle?
I don't see any action authorized by the bill that is morally impermissable. If it exists, the bishops have not identified it.  
Stephen Phelan says: "are you saying that the fact that it [health care bill] sets aside 7 billion dollars for "community health care centers", including Planned Parenthood, with funds without Hyde restrictions, is really just speculation? 
"The federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has also said that none of the health centers are abortion providers, and none of them are operated by Planned Parenthood." 
Please see the above link for a more detailed response regarding the health care bill issues. 
Steve Phelan | 5/25/2010 - 3:58pm
Mr. Hayes,
Are you suggesting that opposition to ENDA is merely political, but one can support it based on principle? Or should no group have any position on it? That's nonsense, but that seems to be your assumption. And your invocation of the bishops' position on health care legislation is odd - are you saying that the fact that it sets aside 7 billion dollars for "community health care centers", including Planned Parenthood, with funds without Hyde restrictions, is really just speculation? Even Planned Parenthood claimed victory after the fact. Are they mistaken?
And Mr. Kurtz,
You should explain why the bishops cutting off ties with an openly pro-abortion and pro-homosexualist group should be problematic for Catholics.
John Hayes | 5/25/2010 - 3:50pm
When I saw "Our purpose is to outline the serious concerns we have with these bills in their current form and why we cannot maintain the position of neutrality we held in 2007." I expected to find an explanation of what was different about these bills that raised new moral issues. I didn't find that explanation in the article - nor did I find obvious differences in a quick look at the 2007 and 2009 versions of the bills. 
Instead, the issue seems to be political, not moral. "If ENDA were to pass, we would expect lawyers to invoke it in federal court under the federal constitution [in support of same-sex marriage], just as they invoked analogous state laws in state constitutional litigation."
Like the Bishop's opposition to the health care bill, The opposition seems to be based on speculation about what might possibly happen in the future, rather than the provisions of the bill itself.
I hope that we do not start hearing claims from bishops that no Catholic legislator can support this bill. That will further undercut their credibility that is already tattered after the health care debacle. 
William Kurtz | 5/25/2010 - 3:46pm
It should be noted on this blog that at about the same time this letter was sent, the bishops announced their withdrawl from the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights,
ending an association of 60 years.
I wonder how soon the USCCB will instead join the weekly get-togethers that Grover Norquist organized years ago- the ones that include National Right to Life, the National Rifle Association, and numerous business, anti-tax, and religious right "pro-family" groups.
James Lindsay | 5/25/2010 - 3:29pm
The Church's teaching on homosexuality need not impact how it behaves as an employer. It must be respectful toward its employees rights - it need not celebrate their unions or affirm their sexual practices.

There should be no more an exception here than for race. While Catholics may not seek a religious exemption for race, many evangelical churches are divided upon racial lines and such division should not be affirmed by religious exemptions to ENDA.

The function of marriage in civil society (and indeed in religion as well) is to make official the separation of a person from their family of origin and to recognize their freely chosen union with a spouse. As such, it dissolves rights for some and creates rights for others. There is no rational basis for denying such ability to rearrange one's family affairs for gay family members when it is automatic for straight family members. It has nothing to do with sexuality and everything to do with the right of association at the most intimate level. It is also why objections to redefining marriage to include a brother or mother carry no weight, as such relations are already existent in the law. Marriage severs the primacy of these relations and gives them to the spouse.

The Federal case on proposition 8 actually show that ENDA will not be necessary, since it will be overturned without it because it was motivated by animus for a class worthy of protection. It is interesting that Roe is mentioned and it shows that whoever drafted this letter does not understand Roe and why it was decided - or that the primacy of individual rights over state majorities actually protects the Church in places where Catholics are rare - Alabama and Mississippi come to mind (places where pluralities believe the Pope is the antichrist). As for the associational rights of others, there is no right to discrimate from moral scorn, nor should there be, within the freedoms of either religion or association.

This letter is a disappointment, but my response will make a nice entry on my blog.
David Nickol | 5/25/2010 - 3:24pm
The bishops say, ''While we regret we cannot support ENDA for the above stated reasons, the Conference would, however, be interested in discussing legislation that would protect persons with a homosexual inclination from unjust discrimination, without protecting homosexual conduct.'' My understanding of the previous Catholic position was that legal protections for those with a homosexual inclination were at best unnecessary, and probably harmful to society, since such an inclination can and should be kept a secret. Why are the bishops even willing to discuss legal protections for those with a homosexual inclination? 
The CDF has said, ''There are areas in which it is not unjust discrimination to take sexual orientation into account, for example, in the placement of children for adoption or foster care, in employment of teachers or athletic coaches, and in military recruitment.'' If the bishops' offer to discuss the matter further is accepted, will they help to codify in the law what is just and unjust discrimination? 
Let us hope and pray the bishops are as successful in influencing congress on the matter of nondiscrimination against homosexuals as they were in determining the outcome of health care reform. 
William Lindsey | 5/25/2010 - 3:04pm
Thanks for your reply, Michael. 
Yes, you've spoken of agendas before.
And your love is duly noted.
And important to note, as well, since love is the agenda by which the church claims to live, and for which it claims to exist.
At any point in history (and there have been many of these) at which the church has acted in a way that departs from and obscures that agenda, it has made itself the counter-sign to God's salvific love in the world.  In doing so, it has undercut its most basic proclamations about itself.  It has then had to confess its failure to be what it was founded to be, and has had to reform itself.
And so it is important for us constantly to call the church back to the agenda for which it exists and was founded: to love.  To live as a sacramental sign of love in the world.
I'm grateful, therefore, to hear that what you hear first and foremost in this pastoral statement is love.  That's what ought always to be at the center.
Anonymous | 5/25/2010 - 2:52pm
William -

If I hadn't made it clear in prior comments, I believe that any post that addresses the forced acceptance of homosexuality in a specific context opens the door to discussion of the broader effect of such forced acceptance as part of a larger agenda.

That said, if you insist that I have digressed too far beyond the scope of the post, then let me just say that I LOVE this letter from the USCCB.
Eric Stoltz | 5/25/2010 - 2:48pm
Again with the maddening exceptions only for gay people. The bishops do not seek to legally discriminate against straight people who are divorced and remarried or straight couples whose marriage would be considered invalid by canon law - only against gays and lesbians. A little consistency would go a long way in allowing people to assume the bishops' good intentions. The fact that they are not consistent rightly calls their intent into question.
Anonymous | 5/25/2010 - 2:35pm
"The US bishops, in their continuing determination to force their view of family on everybody else, ask for special treatment under the law - or no protection from discrimination for a group most grievously discriminated against."
You are a member (I assume) of an apostolic Church; among other things, this means that ordained bishops are entitled to teach the faith.  Ergo, by exercising their authority (I know, a scary word) to teach in this letter, you are bound to give heed and careful consideration to their teaching.  they are not, as you so glibly put it, "forcing their view of family on everybody else."  What else, pray tell, does it mean to be Catholic?
William Lindsey | 5/25/2010 - 2:21pm
I speak of love not to accuse you of hating, Michael.
I speak of love because that's the heart of the matter, in any discussion of the Christian life and of Christian ethics.
I speak of love because, if we intend to shift the subject, it should always be shifted to love in discussions of ethical issues in the Christian context.
Anonymous | 5/25/2010 - 2:10pm
William -

I don't know where you're getting a sense of hate from me. Yet another ploy by those propmoting the homosesxual agenda is to call anyone who does not support their demands such things as "haters," hateros," and bigots.

Contrary to how you'd like to label me, I don't hate homosexuals; I love that God created men and women to procreate and I would love for homosexuals to share in that special gift to all of us from God. I love children, and I think they all deserve to be brought up by their moms and dads. I think it's a shame that so many parents must suffer the heartache of having children who are homosexual, never to have their children bond with an opposite sex partner and have their own children, at high risk for HIV, exposed to a self-destructive lifestyle, self-absorbed and resistant to even trying to fight their homosexual inclinations.

William Lindsey | 5/25/2010 - 1:40pm
Again, sorry for a typo (and for sloppy proofing):
There should be a close-parenthesis sign in this sentence in my preceding posting: Perhaps they did so to remind us (as they state explicitly in their statement) . . . .