Cardinal Timothy Dolan to LGBT people: I love you, and God loves you

On Easter morning, Cardinal Timothy Dolan appeared for an interview on This Week with George Stephanopoulos. George Stephanopoulos asked the New York City Archbishop and Chair of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops about the antagonistic relationship between the Roman Catholic hierarchy and LGBT people. Stephanopoulos noted that this week has been a very big week for gay and lesbian people, referring to the Supreme Court hearings on the discriminatory ‘Defense of Marriage Act’ and California’s Proposition 8.

There are a few items that are important to note about this exchange.

First, Cardinal Dolan actually said that God loves gay people. This is not something that we hear from the man. More often, we hear words of condemnation. He called the 2011 bill for New York marriage equality “ominous.” He said that LGBT people are not “qualified” to marry. In the same interview, he compared marriage equality to attempting to marry his mother. Cardinal Dolan called a plea for attention to the plight of homeless LGBT youth who have been kicked out of his home a personal attack.  Yes, throwing in a “God loves you, and I love you too” is too little, too late from a man who has vilified the LGBT community while smiling in front of the media. However, he hasn’t (from my quick search) ever actually uttered those words publically before. This is significant, and should not be missed.

Second, Cardinal Dolan is beloved by the media. He’s smiling. He’s effable. It seems that he knows the reporters intimately well (I once watched an interview in which he said he was looking forward to the host’s home cooking again). Stephanopoulos pushes back on Dolan's statements about the relationship between the Roman Catholic hierarchy, but only so far. He acknowledges the thousands of gay and lesbian couples who wish to raise a family, and hopefully raise them within the Roman Catholic Church. He also challenges Dolan to name specific ways that the hierarchy could improve relations with LGBT people. Stephanopoulos wants to get further than “we have to do better at that.”

Still, Stephanopoulos could have pushed more. He could have asked why nearly three-quarters of American Catholics support marriage equality, despite the opposition of the hierarchy. He could have asked why LGBT affirming parishes, like Most Holy Redeemer in the Castro neighborhood of San Francisco, or even St. Francis Xavier in his own New York City, face such public and decisive crackdown. He could have asked if the Roman Catholic hierarchy has more to offer LGBT Catholics besides the celibacy (and practically ex-gay group) Courage. He could have asked why the US Conference of Catholic Bishops has been so public about their campaign on so-called ‘religious liberty’ while continuing to bully and persecute its own flock when the flock disagrees with the hierarchy.

A final note on this Easter morning. Early on in the interview, Dolan refers to his desire to talk to the LGBT people who don't feel comfortable in the Roman Catholic Church. GLAAD reminds Cardinal Dolan that there are hundreds of Catholics, who are parts of several organizations that want to be in conversation with the Roman Catholic hierarchy. If Cardinal Dolan really wants to have such a dialog, he should be in contact with Dignity, New Ways Ministry, Fortunate Families, Call to Action, Rainbow Sash, or several of the other LGBT Catholic organizations who have been excluded from the leadership of the church. Dolan could also help the church to address LGBT youth homelessness, working with shelters like the Ali Forney Center. There are many actions that Cardinal Dolan could take, and there will be LGBT and Catholic organizations that are open to conversation and cooperation with him.

"We recognize that while some may feel Dolan's words ring hollow, for many Catholics this is the first time a high-ranking church official has echoed their own sentiments about God loving their LGBT friends, family and neighbors," said GLAAD's Director of News and Faith Initiatives. "Recognition of that love is a necessary first step on the road to supporting equality because of faith, not in spite of it, and it's a step that a majority of Catholics have taken already."