Letter to Bishop Fiorenza

September 19, 2001

Dear Bishop Fiorenza:

In the spirit of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., Soulforce is committed to continuing the dialogue that we began last September with you and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. As you may already be aware, we have decided not to conduct any civil disobedience during your November meeting. Instead, while you are gathered in Washington, we will stand in silent vigil and pray that you will meet with us and hear our stories.

Much has happened since we vigiled and were arrested at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception last November during our protest of Roman Catholic policy on homosexuality. In January, we took our petition to end to the anti-gay policies to the Vatican for the Feast of the Epiphany. As the doors to St. Peter’s were closed at the end of Jubilee year, we stood in St. Peter’s Square protesting the ongoing anti-gay teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. We understood, sadly, that those doors being closed had never been open to Catholics who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. The Catholic Church, unfortunately, has continued its discriminatory policies that cause Catholics who are gay lesbian, bisexual and transgender to doubt God’s grace and love.

Some particularly painful experiences we have recently endured include the following:

  • The Maryland Catholic Conference, which prominently displayed copies of petitions and other information about efforts to repeal the Anti-Discrimination Act of 2001, has taken the lead in the attempt to reverse the civil rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in that state.

  • The Roman Catholic Church continues to deny the sacramental life of the Church to Catholics who are in committed same-gender relationships. In the Sacramento Diocese, numerous young people have been told in the confessional not to return until they’ve left their partners, and that while they may continue to attend Mass and tithe to their churches, they will be refused the Eucharist should they attempt to receive it.

  • During the recent special session on AIDS at the United Nations, the Vatican successfully teamed with the fundamentalist Islamic bloc to remove a passage from a U.N. document that would have stated that "homosexuals, prostitutes and drug-users were worthy of special attention because they were particularly vulnerable to contracting and spreading the disease." The message here is loud and clear, that although gays have been severely affected by this epidemic we merit no concern on the part of the Church.

  • Dignity remains an "exiled community of faith" from the Church it loves so dearly.

In our first letter of September 20, 2000, we stated that there is no way to make the Roman Catholic Church a safe place until the teachings are ended that declare homosexual orientation "objectively disordered" and homosexual acts of intimacy "intrinsically evil." These words, which may denote a specific meaning to those familiar with Catholic theological teachings, create an atmosphere of spiritual violence, promoting intolerance and discrimination.

We again ask the Bishops to create and publicly announce the appointment of a national "blue ribbon" committee of clergy and laity to re-examine the Church’s teachings on homosexuality. This committee must include Catholics who are openly gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender, both those who are single and those in loving, committed relationships. Our voices and our stories must be heard. As Cardinal Henry Newman and Eugene Kennedy have both so eloquently expressed, "The authority to speak arises from the capacity to listen." To date, Catholic authorities have not taken the time to listen and learn from the life-stories and the tremendous suffering of Catholics who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender.

With the assistance of a number of respected Catholic theologians, Soulforce is in the process of creating a critique of Roman Catholic theology concerning gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. The theologians who will help to create this critique find themselves in the position of being afraid to sign their names to the document, however, due to the climate of fear that is so prevalent within the Roman Catholic Church today. Recalling I John 4:18, it is clear to us that fear and love cannot coincide in the life of the Church.

As William Sloan Coffin said in his open letter to the bishops last year, it’s time for the Roman Catholic Church to stop "looking at gays and lesbians from the perspective of Catholic theology … and look at Catholic theology from the perspective of gays and lesbians." He went on to ask, "Shouldn’t a Christian sexual ethic focus on personal relationships and social justice rather than the particular sexual actions, particularly when evidence increasingly emerges that homosexuality is a natural biological variation?"

We ask you to speak with the courage of Sr. Christine Vladimiroff, OSB, the Benedictine prioress, when she chose to follow her conscience rather than to silence Sr. Joan Chittister. Meet with us while you gather in Washington for your conference in November. Enter into dialogue with us. Hear our stories. Get to know us. You’ll find that Roman Catholic leaders and Roman Catholics who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender have much in common: All of us seek God’s will for our lives and love the Roman Catholic Church.

Finally, we again urge you to appoint a blue ribbon committee to study Catholic policy on homosexuality. Encourage the committee to examine the current medical, scientific and biblical evidence. Examine the consequences of the policy and the language used. These are actions that already have been too long delayed. With these actions, you would begin the spiritual healing of Catholics who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender and their families, who love the church but who are suffering as a result of its policy.

Sincerely,

The Rev. Dr. Mel White, Co-Founder, Soulforce
Karen Weldin, Director of Operations
Kara Speltz, Catholic CoChair
Richard Murphy, Catholic CoChair

Jerry Falwell Blames Gays/Others For Terrorist Attack

September 14, 2002

A Soulforce Response: Once Again, Jerry Falwell Advances Our Cause
Mel White, Executive Director, Soulforce, Inc.

(Laguna Beach, CA) This morning, before sunrise, our 800 line lit up with calls wanting a Soulforce response to Jerry Falwell’s comments blaming gays and lesbians for the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C. Immediately, I checked the Washington Blade web page for more information.

Apparently, on Thursday morning, September 13, in one of his rare guest appearances on Pat Robertson’s 700 Club, Falwell placed "…a lot of the blame [for the destructive hijackings]" on the Federal Courts "for throwing God out of the public square" and on his usual list of those "who have tried to secularize America: pagans, abortionists, feminists, gays and lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, and People for the American Way."

With Pat Robertson nodding his ascent, Jerry Falwell explained the tragedies in New York City and Washington, D.C., as proof that "God continues to lift the curtain and allow the enemies of America to give us probably what we deserve."

After his comments came under fire, the Washington Post called Falwell who placed "…all the blame legally and morally on the actions of the terrorist…" but he explained that America’s "…secular and anti-Christian environment left us open to our Lord’s [decision] not to protect. When a nation deserts God and expels God from the culture…the result is not good."

Later in the day, on a CNN talk show, Jerry Falwell apologized for his remarks. Apologize or not, before we waste too much anger on the words of Jerry or Pat, let’s consider the probable consequences of their politics of blame.

First, it was gratifying to learn that the White House immediately issued a statement calling Falwell’s remarks "inappropriate" with a clear advisory that the "The President does not share those views." By frustrating the President’s call for national unity during these most difficult days, Jerry and Pat have lost even more political clout and public credibility. And I am grateful every time the President has cause to distance himself from leaders of the extremist right.

Second, I’m guessing that in the next few weeks, clergy and lay leaders alike from every faith tradition will distance themselves from Jerry and Pat’s unwise and untimely dialogue increasing their isolation from the mainstream Christian community as well.

Third, many of our families and friends who are still confused by Jerry, Pat, and others who misuse the "clobber passages" to caricature and condemn us, will be shocked by this theological premise that God, let alone God’s gay and lesbian children, could have anything at all to do with the terrorist’s despicable acts. A member of my own family, with deep religious roots called Jerry’s remarks, "The most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard."

Every time Fred Phelps and his family appear at one of our Soulforce Direct Actions carrying his "GOD HATES FAGS" signs, I am grateful. Once again, Jerry and Pat have joined Fred on the frontlines of ignorance and bigotry and I’m convinced that their words will help our cause.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that Jerry and Pat genuinely believe that the acceptance of sexual and gender minorities will lead to God’s judgment and wrath against our nation.

Jerry and Pat are not phony. They are fundamentalist Christians and like fundamentalist Muslims, Hindus, and Jews, fundamentalist Christians are known by their "urge to purge." They believe they are called to "cleanse" society of all they find "unclean" and by cleansing society they will "save it."

Osama bin Laden is a Muslim fundamentalist. He believes that Allah wills him to destroy America, "the Great Satan." He is convinced that his war against our nation is Jihad ("holy war"). The terrorists who hijacked the planes and flew them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were convinced that Allah will reward them for their sacrifice.

Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell are fundamentalist Christians. They believe that they are called by God to cleanse this nation of sexual minorities (and pagans, feminists, abortionists, etc.) and thus to save it. They believe that those who advocate the acceptance of sexual minorities (and other liberal causes) are an "abomination in God’s sight" and must be converted or purged. And though Pat and Jerry have never called for violence against these "enemies of God" at least one of the biblical verses they misuse regularly to condemn sexual minorities states clearly that we are "…worthy of death and should be executed, (Leviticus 20)."

And though I am convinced that their extremist remarks are isolating them from the American mainstream, I am still deeply concerned about the consequences of the antigay jihad or holy war that Robertson, Falwell and the other spiritual extremists (terrorists) are waging against us. Their daily misuse of a handful of Biblical verses to condemn sexual and gender minorities still confuses good people of faith across the nation. Those good people of faith who have been convinced that homosexuality is a sickness, a sin, and a threat to the nation, are now waging war against us in and through their mainstream Roman Catholic and Protestant churches to deny us our religious and our political rights and protections.

Following the guidelines of relentless nonviolent resistance (as taught by Gandhi and King), Soulforce volunteers are committed to taking our stand against the untruth that leads to suffering and death for God’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender children. And though we are convinced that the extremist language of Pat and Jerry and the others will eventually turn the entire nation against them, we are determined to confront their untruth relentlessly with the truth that God created His lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender children and loves them exactly as they were created.

Soulforce, P.O. Box 4467, Laguna Beach, CA 92652
Toll Free: (877) 705-6393
Email: info@soulforce.org

Soulforce Alert: Disciplined and Relentless Soulforce Vigiling and Continued Dialogue Planned for U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (UCCB)

Soulforce Witness to take place in Washington DC November 11 – 15, 2001

As Soulforce responds to the dynamic and flowing process involved in negotiations and dialogue with the Roman Catholics, our commitment to the principles of relentless non-violence is continually re-affirmed and our plans take shape and unfold.

To this end, Soulforce is continuing our negotiations with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and will further show our commitment to the process of relentless non-violence by conducting prayerful vigils during this event in Washington, DC on November 12 – 15, 2001.

Last year, by standing vigil outside the Bishops’ gathering, we gave a face and a name to the suffering of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals both inside and outside the Catholic Church.

This year, we will do the same, taking upon ourselves the suffering caused by the Catholic Church’s discriminatory and hostile teachings and policies against GLBT individuals by conducting a 4-1/2 day prayerful witness and vigiling.

But our action at the UCCB will be different from direct actions we have conducted in the past. There will be no civil disobedience. There will be no arrests. There will be no ongoing training, just relentless vigiling for 4-1/2 days.

You will be expected to provide all your own meals, stand for long hours at a time, and suffer voluntarily in the cold winds of mid-November. In return, we promise your spirit will be renewed, your soul refreshed and your friendships revitalized, as we continue the process of transforming the hearts and minds of our adversary.

You are invited to stand with us at the UCCB, if:

  1. You have previously participated in a Soulforce direct action and non-violent training; and,
  2. You are willing to dialogue with the bishop in your area either by mail or in person, or continue the dialogue started at last year’s action with your previously assigned bishop. (Please send us any letters you’ve written, or a summary of any discussions you’ve had) and,
  3. You pre-register no later than November 1, 2001 at http://www.soulforce.org (absolute deadline; no registrations accepted after this date); and,
  4. You can arrive in Washington D.C. by Sunday afternoon, November 11, for important spiritual preparation.

You are vitally important to this work. Thank you for your commitment to the cause and for your continued support of Soulforce and the principles of non-violence.

Rev. Mel White, Executive Director
Rev. Jimmy Creech, Board Chair
Karen Weldin, Director of Operations

PS – Thank you for considering taking part in this crucial action to transform the hearts and minds of the Roman Catholics.