LGBT groups protest Catholic hierarchy, seek lay support
When Chicago’s Gay Liberation Network picketed outside the city’s Holy Name Cathedral on Valentine’s Day, 2010, out of indignation at Cardinal Francis George’s and other Catholic leadership’s frequent opposition to LGBT equality, social conservative groups criticized the action as "angry" and "misguided."
So it should come as no surprise that when GLN repeated the effort this year as a way to highlight the Illinois Catholic Conference of Bishop’s pronounced opposition to the state’s recently signed civil unions law, the action was again criticized-this time by the cardinal himself.
"Some members of the Gay Liberation Network demonstrated in front of Holy Name Cathedral on Sunday, Feb. 13, protesting against Catholic Church teaching on the immorality of homosexual genital relations and opposition to so called ’gay marriage,’ wrote George. "No matter the issue, Catholics should be able to worship in peace, without fear of harassment."
The protest has also been criticized by some Catholics who are working for progress on LGBT issues and other civil rights concerns. Bishop James Alan Wilkowski of the Evangelical Catholic Church’s Northwest Diocese told EDGE that GLN’s protest "cheapened the movement." Wilkowski’s denomination has recognized "gender common" marriages for more than 20 years.
"I really found what they did and how they did it to be extremely unseemly," said Wilkowski. "I think that protesting in front of churches is not the answer. In fact, I think the backlash that Sunday’s event will cause will cause more harm and will slow the process for building on the successes that have been made in the area of civil rights."
He further noted many other religious denominations in Illinois and elsewhere have also led anti-LGBT campaigns. "You can’t meddle within and tell a religious body what they can or cannot do," added Wilkowski. "It just doesn’t work."
GLN co-founder and protest organizer Andy Thayer stressed the demonstration was directed toward the Church and not Catholic laity, who increasingly support marriage equality. A Pew Research Center poll conducted late last year found 49 percent of respondents supported nuptials for gays and lesbians, and other polls put this figure over 50 percent. A 1996 Pew poll found only an estimated 27 percent of Catholics supported marriage equality.
Thayer hopes lay Catholics would begin to assert themselves in pushing back against their church’s leadership’s stance on the issue.
"We’re seeing this increasingly from anti-gay forces who portray themselves as the victims of discrimination," said Thayer. "But any leader, regardless of religious denomination, who lobbies against our rights the way Cardinal George has done is, frankly, an enemy of the LGBT community and it’s about time we start treating them as such. Our protest is the kind of shaking things up that’s needed."