According to multiple press reports, The Boston Pilot, the oldest Roman Catholic newspaper in the country, apologized and retracted an opinion column written by Daniel Avila, policy advisor for Marriage and Family at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) suggesting the devil may be responsible for same-sex attraction.
In Avila’s apology, he admitted “his column does not represent the position of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the column was not authorized for publication as is required policy for staff of the USCCB.” Furthermore, he professes, “The church opposes, as I do too, all unjust discrimination and the violence against persons that unjust discrimination inspires. I deeply apologize for the hurt and confusion that this column has caused.”
The Rev. James Martin, S.J., culture editor for America Magazine, welcomed Avila’s apology but also commented on the original article: “Clearly Satan does not cause people to be gay, any more than Satan causes people to be straight. God creates gays and lesbians, men and women who should be loved for who they are.” Here Martin draws upon the Catechism of the Catholic Church which states that “(homosexuals) must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”
When asked about Avila’s column, GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) stated, “The retraction of Daniel Avila’s column is in line with the majority of American Catholics who are supportive of their gay and lesbian family, friends, and neighbors. We hope in the future that the Archdiocese will further messages of love and support for all members of the Church instead of such false and alienating statements.” Joseph Ward, Director, Believe Out Loud, a Christian LGBT advocacy group, adds how these comments made by a employee of the Catholic hierarchy “underscores the disconnect prevalent between the Catholic hierarchy and the Catholic community on LGBT issues.”
Bryan Cones, Managing Editor, U.S. Catholic Magazine expounds on how Avila’s position within the USCCB impacts the spiritual health of LGBT Christians:
“Gay, lesbian, and bisexual Christians have long complained of the spiritual violence’ done to them by traditional Christian attitudes toward homosexuality. The ideas expressed by Avila are justly described as spiritual violence because they call into question the fundamental dignity of God’s daughters and sons who are gay, lesbian, or bisexual. These women and men–many of whom are members of the church through their baptism–are no more in need of redemption than any other human being because of their sexual orientation, and it is time for the U.S. bishops to say so in unequivocal terms, especially now that one of their own employees has harmed lesbian, bisexual, and gay people in such a profound and shocking way.”
Marianne Duddy-Burke, Executive Director of DignityUSA, the nation’s oldest and largest organization of LGBT Catholics, expresses similar concerns that a man with such extreme beliefs remains an advisor to the U.S. bishops, and will still be permitted to write for the Pilot. According to Duddy-Burke, “This shows that Catholic officials are willing to go to extremes in their anti-gay campaign” adding that “the Archdiocese of Boston and the USCCB should immediately terminate their relationship with Mr. Avila.”
Even though Avila regrets penning this column, there is little evidence that this is not part of a pattern of belief and behavior. Wayne Besen of Truth Wins Out describes Avila’s “very aggressive and ambitions plans to use the Catholic Church to turn back the clock on LGBT equal rights.” For example, when Besen attended the 2011 Values Voters Summit, he filmed a speech by Avila on his iPhone that he believes reveals a substantial campaign being organized on his part and seemingly on behalf of the Catholic Church.
As of this writing, no formal statement has been posted on Web sites for the USCCB or the conservative Catholic League, though the majority of commentators on Glenn Beck’s The Blaze Web site appear to be in agreement with Avila’s original position.