A Response to the USCCB’s Dangerous Twitter Thread

A Response to the USCCB’s Dangerous Twitter Thread February 28, 2021

 

 

I want to say a few words about The Equality Act, and about the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ reaction to it.

The Equality Act is a bill that’s up for a vote in Congress. You can read the whole thing yourself; it’s not long. It is, essentially, an attempt to insert “or sexual orientation or gender” into the anti-discrimination laws our country has already, right after “on the basis of sex or race.” It’s an attempt to ensure that LGBTQ people are protected from discrimination and abuse. This is right in line with the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which states in Paragraph 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.”

I happen to be bisexual and a Catholic, myself. I am monogamous with my husband. I’m equally likely to be attracted to men or women, and if I were to sexually objectify a man or a woman in my thoughts that would be a sin, so I pray for the grace of God not to do that and I repent whenever I fail. I suppose that if I were heterosexual, I would only ever be tempted to sexually objectify men and would have perfectly chaste, virtuous and respectful relationships with all women. It must be nice. I know a lot of other LGBTQ people who live in obedience to the teachings of the Catholic Church, no matter how hard it gets for them. And I also know LGBTQ people who have left the Church because they have been abused, humiliated and told that they’re dangerous or evil for having a desire. If you’ve never been told that, I can’t describe for you how damaging it is.

As an LGBTQ Catholic who has stayed in communion, I’d like to point out that we frequently get reminded that the Church forbids homosexual intercourse and teaches that marriage is between a man and a woman. That’s something nearly everyone knows about the Church. But for some reason, very few people are so eager to recite Paragraph 2358 and remind their fellow Catholics that we are called to follow God’s will just as much as they are and that they ought to avoid all unjust discrimination against us.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops seems to have forgotten Paragraph 2358 entirely. This week their official Twitter account tweeted a thread of objections to the Equality Act which I can only describe as slanderous, abusive scaremongering. They repeat the standard conservative scare tactics against LGBTQ people and especially my brothers and sisters who are transgender. They are concerned for everybody else’s right to do exactly as they please even if it violates Paragraph 2358, but have no concern whatsoever for protecting LGBTQ people from unjust discrimination. Only once do they approach a good point, but they do so in a way that seems calculated to hurt as many people as possible.

I want to take a moment to dialogue with their thread point by point.

The USCCB writes:

“The #EqualityAct would discriminate against people of faith rather than affirm human dignity in ways that meaningfully exceed existing practical protection. #Congress is imposing novel and divisive viewpoints regarding “gender” on individuals and organizations. It would also inflict numerous legal and social harms on Americans of any faith or none. If passed, this legislation would: 1) punish faith-based charities because of their beliefs on marriage and sexuality.

I am trying to imagine a faith-based charity that would be punished under this law and how they’d get themselves into this situation. A soup kitchen that demanded a maidenhead check before giving the poor supplicant any food? A parish clothing drive that performed surprise home visits to make sure that the recipients of clothing packages weren’t living in sin? Why can’t we just give generously to all who ask of us as the Gospel demands? Why do we have to meddle in other people’s business to make sure they don’t sin differently than we do? Wouldn’t that be the best witness of Christian love if we really did think they needed to repent? That’s what you want, isn’t it? For people to repent of their sins and be charitable to one another?
2) hinder quality health care by forcing health care professionals, against their best medical judgment, to support treatments and procedures associated with “gender transition.”
That’s not how gender transition works. I’m not saying you have to agree with what transgender people do. I’m just saying that only very specific doctors specialize in transitioning and they train for this on purpose. The most a doctor will do for a person’s transition if they’re not that kind of specialist is refer the patient to a psychiatrist who may or may not refer the patient to an endocrinologist. It takes years and years for a transgender person to complete a transition. Nice old Dr. Jones the pediatrician is not going to be handcuffed inside of an operating theater and forced to perform a bottom surgery against his will– first of all because he does not have the skills to do that. Only people who train to do it because they want to have those skills. Secondly because trans people are already afraid enough of being abused by doctors and would be even more wary of getting a procedure from a doctor who didn’t believe in transitioning than you’d imagine they’d be. Thirdly because doctors can always refuse to perform a procedure or prescribe a medicine they don’t think is in the patient’s best interest.  And indeed, actual doctors were trying to tell the USCCB this in the comment section on Twitter, but I don’t think the bishops were listening at that point.
This also seems awfully rich when we consider how many Americans, including American Catholics don’t have quality healthcare in the first place. I have not seen the USCCB loudly decrying the estimated forty-five thousand people who die per year because they can’t afford health insurance. Paragraph 2288 of the Catechism states that “Concern for the health of its citizens requires that society help in the attainment of living-conditions that allow them to grow and reach maturity: food and clothing, housing, health care, basic education, employment, and social assistance.” It would seem to me to be an important use of the USCCB’s time to use their platform to make sure poor Americans have all these things. But the first two bullet points of this Twitter thread seem to want to hinder them.
3) force religiously operated spaces and establishments (i.e., church halls) to either host functions that violate their beliefs or close their doors to their communities.
Oh, you mean like all the Catholic churches who were forced to perform weddings and hold wedding parties back when gay marriage was legalized?
What, that didn’t happen?
You’re right, it didn’t. We were warned by conservative scaremongers that the government was going to force priests to somehow give the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony to same-sex couples, but they weren’t. That dire warning did not come true. For one thing, it turns out that same-sex couples don’t really want to have their wedding celebrated in a place that doesn’t believe they can be married. For another, churches are private property. The Equality Act doesn’t have to do with private property. The bill is demanding non-discrimination in public places, and a church and its social hall isn’t public. The establishments mentioned are “any establishment that provides a good, service, or program, including a store, shopping center, online retailer or service provider, salon, bank, gas station, food bank, service or care center, shelter, travel agency, or funeral parlor, or establishment that provides health care, accounting, or legal services,” and later “any train service, bus service, car service, taxi service, airline service, station, depot, or other place of or establishment that provides transportation service.” Churches, synagogues and the like aren’t on that list. They’ve always been governed by separate rules in the United States and this will continue to be the case. They have nothing to fear, but the USCCB wants them to be afraid.
4) require women to compete against men and boys in sports, and to share locker rooms and shower facilities with men and boys.
Well, I’m glad the USCCB finally cares about the sexual safety of boys.
In all seriousness, this is the one bullet point where I think the USCCB approaches a valid question. For one thing, people who are naturally bigger and more muscular could potentially really hurt somebody on a sports team, especially in children’s sports where bodies develop at different speeds– you could have someone with a body that was more or less an adult body playing against someone much shorter and less developed, even though they’re the same age. And this question has come up in adult sports as well already because occasionally, women and intersex people do have an xy chromosome combination most often found only in males. That combination sometimes gives women an edge in athletic competitions, and there are controversies as to what to do about it. We ought to be having this discussion with or without the discussion about transgender people. Maybe the answer is to stop dividing sports according to male or female athletes, and start doing it according to weight division or some kind of skill level. I don’t know enough about sports to have an expert opinion on that, it just seems like it would work to me.

And as for locker rooms and showers, I’m also concerned that this is a danger. Not, as the USCCB seems to be worried, because some man in a wig is going to claim to be transgender and try to shower with women. I’m concerned because transgender people actually do face a lot of danger and harassment when they use a public bathroom or locker room. So do many other people, LGBTQ or not. Think of the bullying that goes on in schools. Think how often a group of children mutually decide to bully an unpopular classmate by making up rumors that they’re gay. Now put them in a locker room together. This does happen. It’s also the case that women are assaulted in public bathrooms already, by other women or by men, without bringing the transgender issue into it. They’re not very secure places. Not to mention, having a men’s bathroom and a women’s bathroom with flimsy stalls is a real pain to disabled people and their families. My friend used to have to take her seventeen-year-old son with physical and developmental disabilities into the restroom and coach him through a bowel movement. It was inconvenient, awkward, and subjected them to harassment whether she went to the men’s or the women’s.

In my opinion, we ought to be fixing up our backward and insecure public bathrooms and locker rooms in the United States to be more like the ones my friends in Europe are accustomed to: an actual private room rather than a stall, with a good secure door and the sink right there in it. This would be better for everyone and a good way to put all our concerns to rest, without putting vulnerable people in any more danger. But vulnerable people aren’t whom the USCCB are scared of, they’re scared of my LGBTQ friends and me.
 Anyway, that was the last vestige of a good point that the USCCB had, because their last bullet point is just a lie:
5) jeopardize existing prohibitions on the use of federal taxpayer funds for abortion.
I read the whole law and there’s nothing whatsoever about abortion in it. Not a word.  It has nothing to do with abortion.
I am dismayed that the USCCB has opted to sin against the eighth commandment by slandering LGBTQ people and fighting so hard to prevent us from being protected by our own government.
 I hope that other Catholics will not be misled by their lies. May the Holy Ghost inspire us to love one another as Christ has loved us.

Image via Pixabay

Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.

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