In a statement released Tuesday, the National Coalition of American Nuns accused the bishops of acting like “blinded Pharisees” for waging a fight against marriage equality while failing to speak out on gay teen suicides brought about by school bullying and harassment.
“More than a month has gone by since the media broke the news about a series of gay suicides,” the nuns’ statement says. “During that time, the U.S. Catholic Bishops failed to make a single statement regarding these tragic, preventable deaths.”
The statement adds, “Not one bishop’s voice was raised to condemn a culture where youths are bullied for being who God created them to be and are sometimes pushed by society’s judgments to attempt suicide.”
The Conference of Catholic Bishops, which represents Roman Catholic bishops in the U.S., held its annual fall General Assembly meeting this week in Baltimore.
Don Clemmer, a spokesperson for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., the newly elected vice president of the bishops’ conference, gave a presentation on the marriage issue before the conference’s Ad Hoc Committee on Defense of Marriage.
He said Cardinal Frances George of Chicago, the outgoing president of the conference, announced to the gathering that the ad hoc committee was being elevated to an official subcommittee of the Conference of Bishops.
Clemmer said he was not aware of any discussion or agenda items at the Baltimore meeting addressing gay teen suicide or anti-gay harassment or bullying. He said the final two days of the meeting set for Wednesday and today were closed to the public and it was possible that items not posted on the public agenda could be discussed.
“The National Coalition of Catholic Nuns calls on all U.S. Catholics to rise up and say, ‘Enough, enough!” says the nuns’ statement. “No more discriminatory rhetoric and repressive measures from men who lay heavy burdens on the shoulders of others and do not lift one finger of human kindness and compassion,” it says “We all need to work for a holy and just society and church.”
Sister Jeannine Gramick, a longtime supporter of LGBT rights from the D.C.-Baltimore area, is a board member and executive coordinator of the National Coalition of American Nuns.
In a separate statement, the LGBT-supportive group Catholics for Equality expressed concern that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops broke a long-standing tradition this week by not electing its current vice president, Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, Ariz., as the new president.
Kicanas, who Catholics for Equality describes as a “social justice champion,” was bypassed for the president’s position when the Conference of Bishops elected instead Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, an outspoken opponent of same-sex marriage equality and LGBT rights, according to Catholics for Equality.
The group noted that the bishops’ conference elected Archbishop Kurtz, the head of the Ad Hoc Committee for the Defense of Marriage, as its new vice president.
“Archbishop Kurtz … has led the Catholic hierarchy’s national campaign to deny marriage and family rights to gay and lesbian citizens,” Catholics for Equality said in a statement released Wednesday.
“That campaign has been financially assisted by the national office of the Knights of Columbus, most recently through the production of videos that demean and discredit gay and lesbian relationship, as well as single parent and extended family households,” the statement says.
“In his report from the Ad Hoc Committee for the Defense of Marriage, Archbishop Kurtz makes it clear that our bishops are waging a new political campaign to change the laws in our country,” said Ariello Alioto, a Catholics for Equality board member.