Sometimes homophobia makes us wince. Sometimes it can bring tears to our eyes. And sometimes it makes us want to grab the bat from the basher. This is one of those moments.
The recent comments from a Vatican official deflecting attention from the Church's complicity in child sexual abuse by linking homosexuality to pedophilia has us on a bit of a rampage. A homophobic institution that failed to protect children from sexual abuse is under fire and is turning around and blaming LGBT people. The Vatican leadership is not examining the Church's hypocritical and outdated views of sex. They're not opening up dialogue about changing their view about celibacy. They're not demanding that the Pope resign. What are they doing? They're using their bully pulpit to unleash fear of gay people.
And sadly, even the LGBT movement is largely silent on the issue. Yesterday, as the Vatican statement hit the news, among major US-based LGBT organizations, only the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) had any statement on the issue. The headline on their website: "HRC Refutes Vatican Official's Statement on Pedophilia and Sexual Orientation." This statement fails on several levels. First, they broke a cardinal rule of communication – don't repeat your opponent's offending statement. Second, they fail to express outrage or to characterize the Vatican's statement as homophobic and offensive. And third, their statement is not linked to a concrete call to action. That said, at least HRC was paying attention enough to issue a "refutation." Surprisingly, the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission, Lambda Legal Defense Fund, Equality California and the National Center for Lesbian Rights were all silent. (Today, GLAAD responded with a tame request for journalists to "scrutinize the Vatican's comments.")
There is opportunity written all over this situation for the LGBT movement. The Roman Catholic Church, one of the leading global opponents of LGBT rights is under siege due to their complicity in the sexual abuse of children. Every day, the Church leadership suffers another blow. In their desperation, they drew parallels between their recent sufferings and the Holocaust. Their moral standing to attack the LGBT community has never been weaker and yet, they continue to shift blame as they fan the flames of homophobia. We need to appeal to the humanity and morality of Catholics, other people of faith, and anyone who cares about human dignity – now, while we have their attention. Our response needs to be immediate, focused, and sustained.
Criticizing the powerful institution that is the Roman Catholic Church can be intimidating and risky. Silence is not an option. Courage is.
We challenge LGBT donors and activists and our allies to take up this cause. Let's not forget that we lost marriage rights in California because of millions of Mormon dollars and that American evangelicals are promoting the death penalty for gay people in Uganda. We need to force our movement's institutions to take head-on the self-serving homophobia of religious institutions.
The National Equality March, a Tides project, shined the light on the gap between the increasing isolation of national LGBT institutions and the grassroots. That gap is evident once more. Maybe it's time for a new organization. Give us a call. Tides is ready for you.