This past Sunday’s op-ed by Archbishop Sheehan reiterated the “love the sinner, hate the sin” mantra that has been spread amongst a number of religious leaders for many years. Sadly, this is often used to disguise and excuse discrimination and bigotry against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.
The views he expressed are not only outdated; they are also inconsistent with what many within the Catholic faith have expressed. According to a Pew Research Survey in late 2014, 70 percent of Catholics of all ages believe that homosexuality should be “accepted.” Across the nation—and here in New Mexico—there are people of faith who have been outspoken in their love and support of the LGBT community, and I express my gratitude and respect to them for being willing to take their own views on such an important topic. These are the individuals who recognize that LGBT individuals are more than our orientations, and they are more than their religions. Additionally, many LGBT people are people of faith. With such recognition in mind, this is not to bash religion; instead, it is simply of great importance to raise our voices when those who are in such positions of authority use their positions to perpetuate discrimination.
He describes “homosexual acts” as “sin.” While that may be his personal opinion, nearly 140 faith leaders from across New Mexico openly supported same sex relationships and marriage just before the State Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality in December 2013. (View the list here). The supporting faith leaders did not voice their support with conditions or limitations, as the Archbishop did in his op-ed suggesting celibacy in the place of relationships for the LGBT community; instead, they voiced support for acceptance and love.
While I am not here to call out the church as a whole, the LGBT community has, indeed, felt the pain of leaders within the church for decades. This oppression and prejudice has taken many forms at the hands of religion leaders—from prohibiting same sex marriage to utilizing damaging practices such as “conversion therapy.”
While support for same sex marriage is at an all time high, and conversion therapy bans are being passed throughout the country (President Obama has recently called for a ban of the practice, and Exodus International recently closed their doors), the type of dialogue presented by Archbishop Sheehan is still harmful. He states, “we teach that we accept gay people with respect, compassion and sensitivity,” but such levels of respect cannot be accomplished while alienating the LGBT community and propagating the conversation that our natural inclinations and our way of expressing love within a relationship is sinful.
In a clear attempt to widen the audience, the Archbishop added a brief statement about how it’s a sin for anyone to have sex outside of marriage. However, this does not disguise the hypocrisy of singling out one “sin” to write about, as there is a long list of sins that, according to the Bible, could also warrant an op-ed of similar fashion. A short list of these includes: getting divorced, eating shellfish, cutting your hair, trimming your beard, lying, cheating, and having a child out of wedlock, just to name a few.
Where are those op-eds from the Archbishop? Considering the relatively small population of LGBT people as compared to the entire population, basic math would show that everything I listed above happens way more often than two men or two women sharing a loving bond. With only an estimated 10-20 percent of the population identifying as LGBT, this seems to be a targeted attack, and is not the type of segregation we need to move forward and strengthen our communities.
Thirty-seven states currently recognize and allow same sex marriage, and we are moving toward becoming a nation of acceptance and love. Arguments such as this one from the Archbishop, suggesting that LGBT individuals must suppress one of the most perfect expressions of love, pleasure, and connection also suggest that we are not worthy of it. Such suggestions are detrimental to the strides we have made as a society toward equality and acceptance for all.
As we reflect upon Archbishop Sheehan’s op-ed, we recognize that everyone has an opinion. Some will agree with him, and some will not. The same is true of what we value and work toward at EQNM. As a result, this commentary is to say “thank you” to our friends in the faith community who have raised their voices in solidarity and to all who welcome the LGBT community. There are many proclaimed “gay-friendly” churches in New Mexico alone. There is also a thriving LGBT community who deserves to be recognized not as “sinful,” but as what they are—daughters, sons, brothers, sisters, moms, dads, students, professionals, etc. LGBT individuals are more than their sexual orientation, and it is our hope at EQNM that the religious community will not take the lead of Archbishop Sheehan, and instead be more than their religion.