On Palm Sunday, an open letter appeared in the New York Times calling on Pope Francis to stop church teaching labeling being gay as "intrinsically disordered" and categorizing "homosexual conduct" as a sin, citing statistics and numerous stories about LGBT young people who have faced violence, parental rejection, homelessness and other devastating losses because of the teachings. The letter comes before Pope Francis holds a global meeting of bishops in October 2014 to focus on "Pastoral challenges to the family in the context of evangelization."
Faith in America, an organization that educates the public about the immense harm caused by religion-based stigma and hostility, and Carl Siciliano, the Executive Director of the Ali Forney Center, an organization serving homeless lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth in New York City, penned the letter to Pope Francis and published it in a full page ad in the front page section of The New York Times.
The full letter is available here.
Faith In America has also launched a Change.org petition where supporters can send a message to Pope Francis. Click here to add your name.
Siciliano, a Roman Catholic who lived in two Benedictine monasteries and has spent over 30 years serving the homeless, also invited Pope Francis to the Ali Forney Center to meet LGBT young people who were abandoned and had their lives devastated because of their parent's religious beliefs influenced by the Church's harsh stands and teachings against being gay. In 2012, Siciliano invited Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, to meet LGBT youth at the Ali Forney Center. Dolan, however, replied to the letter and did not accept the invitation to meet some of his young constituents.
In today's letter, Siciliano writes:
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.
The ad in The New York Times was paid for by Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams Home Furnishings. Mr. Gold has been an outspoken advocate for vulnerable youth for over a decade and has published a book, Youth In Crisis, about growing up gay in America.
”Critics might wrongfully assume that we are attacking religion when in fact we are merely appealing to religious values of universal human dignity and asking Pope Francis to extend a hand and an embrace to all of his followers, including LGBT youth," said Brent Childers, Executive Director of Faith in America. "Pope Francis has the opportunity to lead faith communities around the world in gifting parents of LGBT youth with an unconditional spiritual embrace, a gift which most surely will bring peace to these lives and these families."
President and CEO of GLAAD, Sarah Kate Ellis, responded to the letter: "As a mother whose family has been involved in our church, I have seen religion’s tremendous power for good, for building community, and for strengthening support networks.” She continued, “LGBT kids and teens that are confronted with rejection from their family especially need a space where they can feel safe and loved. Pope Francis has an incredible opportunity to help LGBT youth build themselves back up, to know what love feels like, and—most important—to prevent LGBT youth homelessness.”