November 18, 2010 at 12:05 am EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Nuns blast bishops over gay teen suicide

An organization of American Catholic nuns has denounced the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for reiterating its opposition to legalizing same-sex marriage at its annual meeting in Baltimore this week while remaining silent on anti-gay bullying and gay teen suicide.

In a statement released Tuesday, the National Coalition of American Nuns accused the bishops of acting like “blinded Pharisees” for waging a fight against marriage equality while failing to speak out on gay teen suicides brought about by school bullying and harassment.

“More than a month has gone by since the media broke the news about a series of gay suicides,” the nuns’ statement says. “During that time, the U.S. Catholic Bishops failed to make a single statement regarding these tragic, preventable deaths.”

The statement adds, “Not one bishop’s voice was raised to condemn a culture where youths are bullied for being who God created them to be and are sometimes pushed by society’s judgments to attempt suicide.”

The Conference of Catholic Bishops, which represents Roman Catholic bishops in the U.S., held its annual fall General Assembly meeting this week in Baltimore.

Don Clemmer, a spokesperson for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., the newly elected vice president of the bishops’ conference, gave a presentation on the marriage issue before the conference’s Ad Hoc Committee on Defense of Marriage.

He said Cardinal Frances George of Chicago, the outgoing president of the conference, announced to the gathering that the ad hoc committee was being elevated to an official subcommittee of the Conference of Bishops.

Clemmer said he was not aware of any discussion or agenda items at the Baltimore meeting addressing gay teen suicide or anti-gay harassment or bullying. He said the final two days of the meeting set for Wednesday and today were closed to the public and it was possible that items not posted on the public agenda could be discussed.

“The National Coalition of Catholic Nuns calls on all U.S. Catholics to rise up and say, ‘Enough, enough!” says the nuns’ statement. “No more discriminatory rhetoric and repressive measures from men who lay heavy burdens on the shoulders of others and do not lift one finger of human kindness and compassion,” it says “We all need to work for a holy and just society and church.”

Sister Jeannine Gramick, a longtime supporter of LGBT rights from the D.C.-Baltimore area, is a board member and executive coordinator of the National Coalition of American Nuns.

In a separate statement, the LGBT-supportive group Catholics for Equality expressed concern that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops broke a long-standing tradition this week by not electing its current vice president, Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, Ariz., as the new president.

Kicanas, who Catholics for Equality describes as a “social justice champion,” was bypassed for the president’s position when the Conference of Bishops elected instead Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, an outspoken opponent of same-sex marriage equality and LGBT rights, according to Catholics for Equality.

The group noted that the bishops’ conference elected Archbishop Kurtz, the head of the Ad Hoc Committee for the Defense of Marriage, as its new vice president.

“Archbishop Kurtz … has led the Catholic hierarchy’s national campaign to deny marriage and family rights to gay and lesbian citizens,” Catholics for Equality said in a statement released Wednesday.

“That campaign has been financially assisted by the national office of the Knights of Columbus, most recently through the production of videos that demean and discredit gay and lesbian relationship, as well as single parent and extended family households,” the statement says.

“In his report from the Ad Hoc Committee for the Defense of Marriage, Archbishop Kurtz makes it clear that our bishops are waging a new political campaign to change the laws in our country,” said Ariello Alioto, a Catholics for Equality board member.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

  • Did you ever notice that women of the world most always seem to get it right?

    First they say there is 0% child abuse in the households of Lesbian parents and now this…

    You go ladies!

  • The National Coalition of Catholic Nuns shows outstanding courage in coming out against the Bishops’ stand. The are to be commended and supported for their stand on teen suicides and bullying. Opposing the official position of the Catholic Church will surely bring them under fire by the Vatican and others who are still lviing with their heads buried in the sand.

  • Dear Nuns, thanks for your half way effort, but the bishops didn’t address gay suicide because it aligns with their message of intolerance. According to them, teaching of tolerance will lead to gay marriage, so they don’t have any interest, whatsoever, in gay suicide.

    If the bishops did pretend like they gave a damn about gay suicide, it would be a huge contradiction with their anti-gay marriage bigotry that is central to the existence of the catholic church.

    If you support the marriage bans, you cannot be considered a serious advocate for young gays who are troubled, and you shot at a target that requires an elephant gun with a bb gun.

    • I agree. The only way the Catholic church will ever listen to the people is when the people have simply had enough and just walk out. If the people continue to put up with a few bishops’ rule, the Church will never change.

  • This is all so wonderful, it gives me shivers. You go girls!

  • The silence of the American Catholic Bishops is nothing short of cooperation with the bullies who foster the environment that results in gay youth killing themselves. It is scandalous that not ONE bishop spoke out against this shame. These nuns are very brave women and will, most probably, be investigated by the Vatican.

    Instead below, you will find the link to a wonderful “It Gets Better” video by Bishop Mark Hanson, Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. You’ve got to watch this (2:33 min). It made my heart happy.

  • Those nuns r a buch of LOOSERS!

  • Wow :D They GET it!! *sniff sniff* so cool. But— I really like that Scissor Sisters song “Fight Fire with Fire”. So, da “church” produces videos that demean and discredit gay and lesbian relationships? We produce videos that demean and discredit your farcical “authority” which you pretend to have in this world. “God” gives you power? Ha! Hahahaha – no.. I know he & she gives US power. You think people will keep following you and your hate? No, I say people will start to follow US and OUR message– of Love… remember that message? Didn’t think so…

    Suffer the little children unto me, he said?? Well, to Jesus maybe, but the “church”? No, little children, stay far far far away from da church. Turn away, turn away, if you want TRUE salvation, cultivate faith in what your heart tells you is true. This will make you strong. Have faith! :-*

  • No wonder the vatican is investigating the sisters of this nation…they are a disgrace, with the exception of those in convents.

  • Fighting bullying is something the Church has done for all persons being bullied, not only the Homosexuals. Can the dear sisters suggest additional techniques for preventing bullying? Those dear sisters end their involvement with finger pointing. Perhaps they can go out into the streets and “clubs” to exercise their brand of social justice.

  • These ‘nuns’ should have the courage to come out themselves. Come out as liberal protestants that is.
    The bishops won’t say anything about gay suicide and bullying because they are are concerned about spiritual suicide of the souls of gay people. One would think that nuns might be as aware of the spiritual life and superiority thereof.

  • These nuns are a wonderful example of a prophetic voice in a challenging time. The bishops’ silence is the real scandal and certainly not the example of the Jesus in the Gospels who stood firmly with the downtrodden, and the marginalized.

  • The male Catholic hierarchy were silent about the Shoah and are silent about their fellow believers driving homosexuals to kill themselves. I think their silence is testimony to their eliminationist Christian agenda. Had they learned the lessons of the Second World War or the Rwandan genocide they would have spoken out. Their silence speaks volumes about their real beliefs and their callous, eliminationist agenda.

  • Although I am not Catholic, nor inclined toward supporting religious entities, I am appreciative of the Nuns’ statement and I will be making a contribution conveying my sentiments.

  • Why are people on here so critical of these Nuns. Their heart is in the right place and they seem to be making steps in the right direction. They have a powerful voice inside the organization. If they dont do it perfectly they get slammed

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