In today’s New York Times, Mitchell Gold’s Faith In America and the Ali Forney Center have published a full page open letter pleading with Pope Francis to lead the Catholic Church into a new era and cease teaching that being an LGBT person is a sin. Penned by Carl Siciliano, the Roman Catholic executive director of the Ali Forney Center, it describes the very real pain caused for LGBT youth by church teachings that being gay is “intrinsically disordered” and that “homosexual conduct” is a sin. Siciliano explains that, in his capacity at the Ali Forney center, which serves homeless LGBT youth, he sees firsthand the damaging effects of religious dogma directed at these vulnerable kids:
I write to you on behalf of the homeless LGBT youths I serve. I ask you to take urgent action to protect them from the devastating consequences of religious rejection, which is the most common reason LGBT youths are driven from their homes. At the heart of the problem is that the church still teaches that homosexuality is a sin. My hope is that if you come to understand how this teaching tears families apart and causes the suffering of innocent youths, you will end this cruel teaching and prevent your bishops from fighting against the acceptance of LGBT people as equal members of society.
I hope that you will open your eyes and heart to the suffering of our youths. As LGBT youths are finding the courage to speak the truths of their hearts at younger ages, epidemic numbers are being rejected by their families, and driven to homelessness. The number of youths enduring this cruel fate is staggering; last year at least 200,000 LGBT youths experienced homelessness in the United States. LGBT youths make up 40% of the homeless youth population in this country, despite comprising only about 5% of the overall youth population.
Gold and Siciliano point out that current church teachings on sexuality are not only harmful to these kids, but they’re also far out of step with what Catholics believe. Only 33% of Catholics believe homosexuality is a sin, and 58% support full marriage equality. Parental and religious rejection are the number one culprit in statistics that show that LGBT youth are at far higher risks for homelessness, depression and suicide attempts. Siciliano describes some of these kids:
For me this tragedy has many human faces. I think of Justin, whose mother summoned her priest who held him to the ground and tried to drive the devil out of the 16 year old boy. Or Terry, who was sent to a Catholic religion class where the instructor set him aside as someone “possessed by demons”. I think of Maria, whose family drove her to a forest far from her home and tossed her from the car, because being a lesbian made her “evil”. I think of the boy whose name I never learned whose father was so disgusted by homosexuality that he threw his son out of his home and said he would kill him and bury him in the backyard if he tried to return.
“When we see young people being harmed we have a moral obligation to respond,” said Siciliano. “As a Catholic, I feel that I need to let my faith leaders know the harm I see my young people suffering because of the damaging influence of the Church’s teachings. I hope that youth who were born LGBT and are now struggling with religious rejection will see adults from every faith tradition taking a stand to protect them.”
We applaud Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams Home Furnishings, Faith In America and The Ali Forney Center for speaking out so strongly for these kids, and we stand by them every step of the way.