30 January, 2010

"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and the Church-- It's time to act!

By now most people realize that President Obama briefly mentioned the fact that he will implement actions to reverse the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy of the U.S. Military against LGBT individuals serving in the active forces, the reserves, the National Guard and the U.S. Coast Guard. This is a promise still unfulfilled from the campaign. Now is the time for the President, for the Congress, and for the Church to support this change.

Now is the time for the Catholic bishops to speak out formally and clearly that they support elimination of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. The statement and use of this law and policy is inherently discriminatory. The Church accepts, as a fact, that much, if not all homosexuality exists in the very make-up of gays. Yes, it does hold that homosexual behavior is forbidden under all circumstances (as is true of masturbation, and heterosexual fornication). But just as clearly, the Church teaches that homosexual persons must not be discriminated against or be treated with disrespect. The position of the Church is clear, as stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible... They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives.... (Emphasis added).

When the Vatican, and later the Ugandan bishops, spoke out in opposition to capital punishment for gays, they also said clearly that discrimination against gays is intolerable. In November 2009 when Mexican Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan said publicly that, "trans [sexuals] and homosexuals will never get to the kingdom of heaven and it's not me saying it, but St. Paul," Jesuit Fr. Frederico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, simply re-stated  # 2358 from the Catechism (see above).

It seems to me that there are only three possible reasons that might  lead the American bishops to remain  silent on this important moral and human issue.

First, the bishops might claim that "Don't ask, Don't Tell is an example of  "just discrimination." If they believe that is the case, they have a serious responsibility to explain their reasoning because the vast majority of Catholics and others will, first of all, wonder what they mean by "just discrimination." Second, I believe most will be hard to convince that kicking gays out of the military is "just."

A second reason the bishops could give for not supporting elimination of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy is the slippery slope argument, that is, that supporting elimination of the policy would /could increase the amount of intimate same-sex behavior among gays or, at the very least, could "send a signal" and seem to "legitimate" that behavior. But remember what we are speaking of here is not sexual behavior, but very real job discrimination with dire consequences for a person's life or, more accurately, a violation of human rights. Even if there is a "slippery slope," (which is impossible to demonstrate), that is not a valid reason to deny this right because of what might happen in the future.

Finally, the bishops might not oppose elimination of  "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" out of fear: fear of reactions and negative sanctions from elements in the Vatican or fear of their brother bishops or fear of very conservative elements among some of the Catholic population, such as Opus Dei and Mother Angelica-types, or fear based on their personal inability to see the issue clearly and speak boldly or their own hang-ups over sexuality in general or homosexuality in particular.

All I know is that this is a golden opportunity for the American Bishops to speak publicly to this issue by means of a strong reiteration of the official Church teaching that LGTB people must not be discriminated against and, in deed, must be treated with compassion.

I encourage you, Blog Buddies, to share your thoughts here about this issue, whether pro or con. So the questions:
     Should the Catholic Bishops speak out for the elimination of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell?"
     Of what significance or importance might such a statement be?


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