In the past 30 days there have been two “My Turn” opinion columns asserting the Catholic Church’s teachings, especially in the area of human sexuality, are homophobic and misogynist. The author of both articles equates the Church’s teachings as the moral equivalency of racism, white supremacism and anti-Semitism. The author further accuses the Church of promoting unjust discrimination during last year’s changes to the Borough’s Equal Rights Ordinance.
Defending the Church’s beliefs and teachings in these matters is beyond the limited amount of space provided in a My Turn article. However, I wish to make three points in response to these two articles.
First, while the Catholic Church does have specific teachings and traditions that are counter cultural, especially in the areas of human sexuality and marriage, the Church is unequivocally opposed to all hatred, violence and unjust discrimination.
Second, categorizing men and women who faithfully accept the teachings and traditions of the Catholic Church as homophobes, misogynists, racists or anti-Semites is grossly demeaning and unfair.
Finally, accusing the Church of promoting unfair discrimination during last year’s changes to the Borough’s Equal Rights Ordinance is a false summary of the Church’s position. The original language contained in the ordinance provided no exemption for religious employers. This would have put the Catholic Church — and all other church employers — in the position of having to hire someone into a ministerial position whose views and beliefs were completely incompatible with that church’s teachings and traditions. The requested exemption is a constitutional right under the Establishment and Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, an issue most recently decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2012, Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Et Al. The Borough’s attorney and Assembly acknowledged religious employers have this constitutional right, and the language in the proposed ordinance was changed accordingly.
We live in a day and age where respectful discourse is rapidly disappearing from the public domain. Regrettably, the author of these articles falls into the same trap so many allow themselves to fall into today, which is to replace civil dialogue with disparagement of the character of those whose traditions and beliefs differ from their own.
It is notable that in the readings for the Sunday in which the second of the My Turn columns appeared, the scriptures call each of us to “love your neighbor as yourself.” While not all of us may be able to accept and follow what the Catholic Church believes and teaches, I pray that all of us may strive in heart and mind to follow this, the “greatest commandment” of our Lord and Savior.
• Mike Monagle is a deacon for the Diocese of Juneau.