The statement laments the long history of “unspeakable acts of hatred and violence that have devastated [gay people’s] lives and, in countless instances, lead to their deaths.”
It also declares that “the trust that God has given to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender daughters and sons has not been misplaced, and this is evidenced by their unfailing witness of love [in the world]. By their fruits, we know them. They have continued to love us, even we didn’t love them, and their labors have led only to a deeper understanding of love, strengthened and expanded communities, reconciliation among the faithful, and a world in which it is easier to love. To neither cherish nor express our gratitude for this blessing is a desecration of God’s love and therefore a sin.”
In the April 2009 edition of the Des Moines Catholic Worker newspaper, the following was shared about the specific recent events that led to the issuing of this call for repentance:
In December, 2008, a number of cruel and ignorant public statements regarding same-sex relationships were made by church leadership that weighed heavily on the hearts in our community.
After prayer and reflection, our souls insisted that we publicly confess and repent our sins of heterosexism and call others to do the same.
Following is the full text of the Des Moines Catholic Worker Community’s statement.
A Call for the Repentance
We are past and present Catholic Workers who come together to speak in support of the United Nations Declaration on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity presented to the United Nations General Assembly on December 18, 2008. The declaration condemns violence, harassment, discrimination, exclusion, stigmatization, and prejudice based on sexual orientation and gender identity. It also condemns killing and executions, torture, arbitrary arrest, and deprivation of economic, social, and cultural rights on those grounds.
For nearly a millennium, millions of our sisters and brothers who have been, or were perceived to have been lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender have endured unspeakable acts of hatred and violence that have devastated their lives and, in countless instances, lead to their deaths. Today, 77 nations still criminalize these children of God based on their sexual orientation and gender identity, and in seven nations these “crimes” are punishable by death. As recently as 2003, the United States of America still had such laws in effect in several states.
Throughout the history of the Catholic Worker movement, these brothers and sisters have stood with us, praying together, performing works of mercy together, witnessing for justice together, being arrested together, and sitting in jail together. They have stood with us even though we have often denied and mistreated them. We have done those things we have done together because we shared a common belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ that the greatest commandment is that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves and that our love is measured by what we do for the least of these.
The sanctity of romantic and filial love inherent in this commandment is self-evident. The clear God-given blessing of these expressions of love inspire us to care for one another as much as we care for ourselves and lead us to form families and communities to more closely express, as Jesus taught, that God is love.
When there is no greater love that that love for which one would lay down one’s life for a friend, love so expressed can only come from God. Where there is love so compelling that one will stay true to that love even when it calls one to leave one’s father and mother and all that was treasured before that love was known, that love can only come from God. When a love triumphs over grave after grave after grave, that love can only come from God. To confess rather than deny before the world the love placed in one’s heart by God though others revile you, persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you for its sake is striking and irrefutable evidence of God and that the words of Jesus are lasting and true.
The trust that God has given to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender daughters and sons has not been misplaced, and this is evidenced by their unfailing witness of love so described. By their fruits, we know them. They have continued to love us, even we didn’t love them, and their labors have led only to a deeper understanding of love, strengthened and expanded communities, reconciliation among the faithful, and a world in which it is easier to love.
To neither cherish nor express our gratitude for this blessing is a desecration of God’s love and therefore a sin. This sin is not ameliorated by abstractions or by hiding behind the parsing of terminology or other deviations that serve to rationalize sin. Exposing sin, however controversial, does not derail nor shrink any other concern for peace and justice on our path. We know that fearing to take this position now will.
Because historic and contemporary acceptance and practice of a sin does not diminish the obligation of a contrite heart to confess it, we choose to repent. Furthermore, we hold that heterosexist bigotry is not based in nor supported by the gospels but is a human invention wrought by fear, ignorance, and greed. Therefore, now and forever, we confess all our sins of heterosexism against our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender brothers and sisters within and outside the Catholic Worker Movement; we ask these sisters and brothers and God to forgive us our sins against them, and we pledge our best efforts to go and sin no more.
As part of our penance, we call upon all nations, in particular the United States of America, all organized entities, and people of faith to join us in repentance and to:
Endorse enthusiastically and without equivocation the 2008 United Nations Declaration on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity as well as any such future declarations.
Renounce all public remarks made regarding lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people that serve to demean, degrade, or foment hostility toward and discrimination against them such as, but not limited to, those comments made by religious leaders comparing them to pedophiles or saying they are more threatening than global warming. Moreover we ask those who have made such ascription to confess the cruelty of these words and to recant them.
While we pray and wait for these things, we join hands with our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender brothers and sisters willing and prepared to share any slight, bear any burden, and suffer any affliction with them until the day they are regarded by all humankind as worthy and equal to us all, as they have always been held in the eyes of God.
Respectfully submitted March 1, 2009
The Des Moines Catholic Worker Community