Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput has rejected the possibility that LGBTQ Catholics exist. The Catholic Church’s position on sexuality “is the only real path to joy and wholeness,” he insisted, even if young people see it as a barrier to connecting with the Church.
Chaput made the comments earlier this month as part of the Church’s Synod 2018 on Young People, The Faith and Vocational Discernment, a global assembly of bishops occurring all month. It was among the objections he voiced regarding how the synod was catering to the perspectives of young people (ages 18-29), insisting that if they feel disconnected from the Church, then the Church must redouble its efforts, rather than change to accommodate them.
A presentation at the pre-synodal meeting earlier this year included a reference to “LGBT youth” who wish to feel more closeness with the Church, including support from it. Though that language appears to have been removed from the subsequent documents, Chaput still objected that it had ever been used at all.
“There is no such thing as an ‘LGBTQ Catholic’ or a ‘transgender Catholic’ or a ‘heterosexual Catholic,’ as if our sexual appetites defined who we are,” he said in his response, “as if these designations described discrete communities of differing but equal integrity within the real ecclesial community, the body of Jesus Christ. This has never been true in the life of the Church, and is not true now.”
Chaput asserted that language like “LGBTQ” should never be used in Church documents, because “it suggests that these are real, autonomous groups, and the Church simply doesn’t categorize people that way.”
Acknowledging the existence of LGBTQ people was only one of Chaput’s objections to the language coming out of the Synod. The Instrumentum Laboris, the working document for the Synod, describes young people as “watchmen and seismographs of every age,” but Chaput called this description “false flattery” that masks how others have come to doubt the Church’s beliefs. “The truth of the Gospel” must be passed down without being watered down, he explained, and too many leaders have abdicated that responsibility “out of a combination of ignorance, cowardice, and laziness.”
Indeed, Chaput goes so far as to describe the Church’s sexual abuse crisis as “precisely a result of the self-indulgence and confusion introduced into the Church in my lifetime, even among those tasked with teaching and leading.” He seems to think it’s a uniquely modern phenomenon that could have been avoided if the Catholic Church did more to shield young people from “a culture that is both deeply appealing and essentially atheist.”
After the release last August of a Pennsylvania grand jury report detailing hundreds of cases of sexual abuse, Chaput warned that “rage risks wounding the innocent along with the guilty, and it rarely accomplishes anything good.”
Contrary to Chaput’s assertion, LGBTQ Catholics are most definitely a “real” thing. Many organizations exist to celebrate the intersection of these two identities, such as DignityUSA and New Ways Ministry. Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, condemned Chaput’s comments as “a perfect example of how some church leaders have been so blinded by ideological homophobia and transphobia that they cannot perceive plain human facts accurately.”
As The Advocate notes, Chaput has a long history of making anti-LGBTQ remarks. Back when he was archbishop of Denver, he was a strong opponent of civil union legislation in Colorado and defended a Catholic school in Boulder that refused to enroll a lesbian couple’s child. In 2016, he issued rules for the Philadelphia archdiocese, stating that unwed and same-sex couples were not welcome to receive Communion.