Friday, May 28, 2010

An in-depth analysis of the Catholic Bishops' lying ENDA letter

In a recent brief essay on this blog, I blasted the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops for their recent letter to members of Congress opposing the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Here is the entire letter – and my interspersed commentary:

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.

JP: This is a tension in Roman Catholic teaching that sometimes causes an almost schizophrenic reaction whenever the hierarchy ever addresses the issue of homosexuality. Let’s look at the actual Catechism provisions:

2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered." They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. 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 and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

Unlike many fundamentalist Christianists who also misinterpret sacred scripture to condem homosexuality, the Roman Church hierarchy leaves itself open to the notion that to have a homosexual sexual orientation is not a conscious act of sinfully rejecting God’s love. The Church hierarchy retreats from a proclamation of sinfulness to a pseudo-psychological reliance on “natural law” as understood by Aristotle and brought into the Church as an advance into a more scientific view by Thomas Aquinas. In the 13th Century, Thomism was perhaps the key philosophical advance that allowed Western Civilization to embrace a scientific renaissance, just as a previously advanced Islamic Civilization, which had preserved Aristotle through the West’s Dark Ages, was about to retreat into a fundamentalist trap from which it has not recovered.

In the 21st Century, an Aristotelian view of “natural law” has been shown to be no reflection of the diversity of nature as it actually exists, but of nature as seen through the prism of the eyes of heterosexist cissexist natural philosophers and theologians, and their binary assumptions. Internal observer prejudices have been shown to have affected scientific reports of observation and interpretation of natural phenomena. Perhaps the best example of an expose of this is found in the early chapters of the wonderful book Evolution's Rainbow: Diversity, Gender, and Sexuality in Nature and People , written by Dr. Joan Roughgarden.

The idea that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered” – has been placed in the scientific trash can when the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of disorders of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) in 1973. It was never a disorder in the first place (juat as transsexuality, still in the DSM, really is not a disorder either). As it was with Copernican theory at the time of the Galileo trial, the Catholic Church is somewhat slow in recognizing advances in scientific understanding and what natural law is really all about.

Still, since there is such a thing as freedom of religious belief in the United States, the Catholic Church has the freedom to reject natural law and science, and continue to declare homosexual acts to be “intrinsically disordered.” However, the Church’s Catechism is more positive in its view of a homosexual orientation – read clause 2358 very carefully – it says:

They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.
Let’s be clear about it – in this letter, the Catholic hierarchy in the United States is clearly turning its back on these two doctrinal sentences. If the heresiarchs in control of the Church stopped to truly reflect on the evil of their position, they would change it. However, let’s examine what they have to say and how they twist their own already bad teaching to suit a purely evil end.


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.

JP: In the above paragraph they set up the situation, even partially quoting the Catechism paragraphs I have fully reproduced above.


The Catholic Church makes an important distinction between actions and inclination.

JP: We can't see that from the contents of this letter.

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.

JP: The Church has the power to declare, for its adherents, that eating meat on Ash Wednesday or Good Friday is a sin (at one time, it was every Friday), so its power to establish a moral code for Roman Catholics, at least those Roman Catholics who can accept the teachings as a matter of moral conscience, even if they are intrinsically immoral teachings, as these are in relation to persons with a homosexual orientation.


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.

JP: The fundamental truth is that there is no “fundamental truth”about the Catholic Church’s arbitrary declaration that homosexuality goes against the natural order. A homosexual orientation is perfectly natural for those who have such an orientation, and homosexual activity for those with such an orientation cannot be sinful, even if the parties are not married, because the Church unjustly closes the Sacrament of Matrimony to those with such an orientation.

It is not that I would demand that the Church change its teachings, as erroneous as they are. However, the immoral teachings of the Catholic Church that go against the real natural order of things, should have no influence on civil legislation that is applicable to all Americans, regardless of the religious bigotry to which they may subscribe.

Clearly, the Church heresiarchs are trying to treat orientation as the same as activity in order to avoid their own Catechism. They would be mort honest if they just removed the positive language from the Catechism, clearly sealing the bigotry in place rather than continuing to experience the schizophrenia of pretending to be respectful while preaching intolerance and disrespect.

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 by the state.

JP: The Catholic hierarchy’s position is categorically closed to the diversity of nature, and does not respect or reflect the individual rights of persons with a homosexual orientation to respect and fair treatment under the law. The hierarchy’s appeal this “complementarity” issue is a misunderstanding of the meaning of Genesis 1:27.

I thoroughly explored the meaning of Genesis 1:27 in my October 24, 2007 blog essay entitled.
In the Image and Likeness of God

In brief, it is clear that human beings were created “male-and-female” and not “male-or-female” – and God’s image and likeness is not of one or the other, but as both, together. If one wants a more interesting ancient mythological source for an understanding of the “complementarity” of human beings, we find that Aristophanes, as reported in Plato’s Symposium, relates a creation story with a more tolerant view of complementarity that is more reflective of the diversity of nature than the Genesis story as misinterpreted by the Catholic heresiarchs.

An English translation is found at:

It’s worth a read, especially right after reading the story about how Adam (male-and-female as created by God) was divided into two in Genesis.


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.

JP: False, False, False. The Catholic Church may certainly teach that sacred scripture approves of slavery, and even to lobby for laws to reinstate the involuntary servitude to those they may regard as “Children of Ham,” but the Church is not permitted a religious exemption that would allow it to violate civil laws against slavery – the Church cannot abduct African-Americans, even Catholic African-Americans, to work as slaves in the vineyards of the Lord.

The Church could, if its teachings could justify it, refuse the sacrament of matrimony to African-Americans as a part of their punishment for the actions of their presumed ancestor, Ham in laughing about viewing a drunken Noah’s nakedness (much as the Church requires baptism to cleanse the soul of an inherited “original sin” from Adam). It could declare sexual relations between African Americans to be sinful. But it cannot be permitted to discriminate in employment of African Americans, or deny them employment benefits they would give to married Catholic employees, if they were civilly married.

Indeed, the Church raises a false note here – providing partner benefits for married gay employees is not a condonation of their sexual activity, nor does it imply a blessing of their marriage. It only provides for a level playing field in the area of employment rights – something clearly coming under the rule of Catechism section 2358 that relate to:

They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.


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.

JP: The above paragraph is the one I quoted in my last blog essay. It is so amazingly false and twisted that it should be obvious to anyone with a shred of a moral compass. I challenged the USCCB to point out exactly where ENDA would “legally affirm and specially protect any sexual conduct” at all.

As I wrote then, they can’t, and they know they can’t. But let’s see what they actually put in their letter.


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.

JP: The exemptions in Title VII are intended to be narrow. They provide just enough condonation of religious bigotry to permit those with bigoted religious beliefs as to racial discrimination, to keep their practices pure within the religious world, but not in the public square. Indeed, sex segregation in Orthodox Jewish schools, for orthodox Jewish children, is still permitted. The Catholic Church would not be required to bless a gay marriage. So, what’s insufficient?


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.

JP: This is totally untrue. The law would only prohibit unjust discrimination. If a non-exempt Catholic employer wanted to not provide equal benefits for married gay employees, it could deny married benefits to all employees (for example, only providing medical coverage for the employee and not for any family members, or permitting family members to be covered only if they pay separately).

In the meantime, ENDA would not force Catholic employers to sanctify married gay employees, but only to provide them with fair, equal and respectful treatment, regardless of their sexual orientation. Let’s see, the Catechism provides:

They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of
unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.

What part of “respect, compassion, and sensitivity” don’t the heresiarchs understand? How can they advocate for “unjust discrimination” by falsely asserting something they know is untrue – that is, that equal treatment under the law involves a condonation of sexual activity.

ENDA would not require the Church to give communion to gay Catholics who are married outside the Church, just as current laws do not require the Church to allow communion to divorced Catholics who remarry without an annulment (though the Church will condone those divorced Catholics who openly “shack up” with a member of the opposite sex without openly getting married. I remember being at a Church music and liturgy conference from which one of the former “St. Louis Jesuits” had been disinvited because he had married the woman he had been living with, Such is the Church’s idea of “creating a scandal in the Church,” a warped doctrine that also led to the horrible revolving-door pedophile problem the Church hid for decades.


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.

JP: Oh my. Yet another canard from the heresiarchs. ENDA and marriage are both good things – and neither one has an impact on the Catholic Sacrament of Matrimony.


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.

JP: That is hogwash and the good old boys at USCCB know that they are lying. They have to lie because that is what the Vatican has told them to do, As far as I understand, no state, not even Massachusetts, has forced Catholic priests to perform gay weddings.

Not one.


These rulings also reflect a legal strategy that gay rights advocates have repeatedly and publicly 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.”

JP: The arc of history bends toward justice. Is there a surprise at that? The Married Women’s Property Acts of 1848 and 1860 in New York, and in other states, eventually paved the way for a constitutional amendment permitting women the right to vote. The Emancipation Proclamation led to the adoption of the 14th, 15th and 16th Amendments, and ultimately to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act. When it comes to fair treatment and justice for gay and transgender Americans, the Catholic Church should be rallying support around a comprehensive amendment to the entire Civil Rights Law and not just a law applying to employment.

This would not be inconsistent with the Church’s erroneous position on homosexuality, or the Church’s position on sexual complementarity, or the Church’s exclusion of gay couples from the Sacrament of Matrimony – these are all the sorts of teachings that would not be affected by civil marriage, ENDA or a full-blown Civil Rights Act.

Indeed, why doesn’t the Church assert a right to deny spousal benefits to non-Catholic heterosexual married employees, or to Catholic employees only civilly married, or Catholic employees who are divorced and remarried without an annulment? They don’t seem to be able to see that this sort of illogic is being aimed at gay employees. It is solely because the Church chooses to ignore its own teaching that:

They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of
unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.


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.

JP: So far, that’s a trifecta of absurdity, since ENDA would not protect same-sex "conduct," it doesn't threaten religious liberty (and in fact opposition to ENDa and civil marriage are the true threats to religious liberty), and as to its contribution to the cause of same-sex marriage, if true, that would be a good thing. Certainly, the New York Court of Appeals never bothered to use that in its awful decision refusing to recognize a constitutional right to equal marriage rights – let’s see what other lies and half-truths the heresiarchs have cobbled together.


The bill’s treatment of “gender identity,” which was not in the 2007 bill, . . .

JP: A lie. It was in the original bill, and then the bill was split in two. An amendment to re-include it was offered, debated and withdrawn. Then it was passed only by the House of Representatives.

Tell the truth, lying bishops. And you know, bashing transgender people is so un-Jesuslike. One would think that the heresiarchs could read and understand Isaiah 56, Matthew 19:12, and Acts 8.

If this was a WWJD moment, Jesus would almost certainly be on the side of the oppressed transgender people, and against the Scribes, Pharisees and hypocrites wearing fancy bishop's robes.

But expecting the heresiarchs to read and understand sacred scripture with regard to transgender people would be implying to them an ability to read and understand that one can't really expect from heresiarchs who can’t even understand the true meaning of the story of Sodom, or the meaning of 1 Samuel 18.


. . .would have an adverse effect on privacy and associational rights of others.

JP: Really? I see. So if the Church were to have a “Children of Ham” thing going, it would support racially segregated bathrooms. Transgender women are woman.

Transgender men are men. Bathrooms that are segregated on the basis of gender have stalls which are the level at which privacy can be enforced.

As to showers and locker rooms, and the impact of pre-op or non-op transgender people in places like these where public nudity is required or expected, there are ways to deal with this on the basis of “reasonable accommodation” such as time-slicing, providing appropriate privacy (perhaps in a manner such as the approach taken by the Americans with Disabilities Act). But do we see strong advocacy from the hierarchy in this regard?

No, only bigotry and prejudice.


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.

JP: Finally, something. This is an interesting idea – what sort of an example would the heresiarchs provide for a BFOQ? I can imagine – day care workers screened on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

That wouldn’t be bona fide.

I can see only one bona fide and legitimate Roman Catholic BFOQ category – and that would be for Catholic clergy and members of religious orders. The Church position on this is that transgender people are not permitted to be ordained or to be members of religious orders because we are “objectively disordered.” Priests who are already ordained but have SRS are likely to be allowed to be laicized, or at least will have their faculties for celebrating sacraments set aside. Men-born-transsexual (a/k/a FTMs) will still be barred from the priesthood. I am sure that if that is so important to be spelled out, the bill could be amended to take that into consideration –but do we see any advocacy or even suggested bill language in this letter? No we don’t.


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.

JP: Interesting. Well, essentially, since none of their objections actually make any sense and only one of their ideas might be worth considering (a BFOQ for clergy and religious), one might fairly interpret this letter as support for ENDA, since it clearly is :

“legislation that would protect persons with a homosexual inclination from
unjust discrimination, without protecting homosexual conduct”

which is in line with the Catechism’s rule that I've been quoting again and again in this response:

They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of
unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.

But we’re not supposed to be able to read between the lines.



JP: Clearly, the letter was not intended as sincere. It is perhaps the most insincere sort of panegyric ode to bigotry since, perhaps, the Manhattan Declaration. But there have been some other things in recent months, such as the hysterical Vatican condemnations of Portugal’s adoption of marriage equality, that give this tripe a run for the money.

I should leave the USCCB with the thought:

When Jesus, in Jon 21, asks Simon Peter if he loves him, the first two times, Jesus used the word "agape."

Peter could only answer with "philia."

It was only the third time, that Jesus asked with "philia."

For the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy to, like Francis Bernadone, hug the leper of today's society, it must find a way to actually accept and love gay and transgender people, and to reject the theology of bigotry, and the schizophrenic approach to acceptance based on its misunderstanding of both scripture and natural law.

But Jesus knew that Simon Peter was not ready for agape. Today, the Roman heresiarchs are not ready for agape, either. The Catechism requires a philia of respect and just treatment that the hierarchy is also willing to ignore and twist so that it is a tool of bigotry. It is as if Simon Peter were to have repeated the denials he made before Jesus was crucified, and to have responded to Jesus questions with a denial.

Remember, false priests, what you do to the least of God's people, you do to God - and your rejection is not only a failure of agape, it is a failure of philia as well.


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

JP: And as to my commentary, I remain,

Sincerely, in agápe et pacem,

Joann Marie Prinzivalli
Serva Servarum deae

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