Dear Archbishop Wuerl

Archbishop Donald Wuerl

By: Rebecca Fullan

In case you haven’t heard, the archdiocese in Washington, D.C., is threatening to cut all support for city-based social services programs because of a recently passed marriage equality bill.  Kate Averett posted about this earlier, and I mentioned it in my piece for Patheos.  I wrote a letter to Archbishop Wuerl today about it.

December 15, 2009

Dear Archbishop Wuerl:

I am Catholic, and bisexual. While I do struggle with the Church’s teaching on sexuality, I have always been extremely proud of the Church’s teachings on social justice issues, and these have often strengthened my faith and challenged me to care for others. When I heard about the threat to pull out of city-supported social services in D.C., it felt like a very personal blow.

The message I heard was, “As representatives of the Church, we would rather let people suffer and take away needed services for hungry and homeless people– we would rather not feed people, not clothe them– than even remotely recognize your experience of sacred, sexual love.” I heard that my experience of love was so unworthy and disgusting to you that, if I happened to live in D.C. and work for a Catholic organization, you would rather take away services people need than give health insurance to my partner.

Your Grace, what does this accomplish? We may disagree strongly on the moral status of homosexual relationships, but surely the kind of benefits you might be required to provide to homosexual couples are only the sorts of things that all people should have, such as health care and financial security for loved ones. I cannot imagine that it would ever dissuade someone from entering a homosexual relationship to know that he or she could not receive spousal benefits from Catholic places of employment, so I am not sure what kind of message it is you hope to send.

Looking at the Pastoral Letter “Always Our Children,” I am struck by how very disowned this action you propose makes me feel, and I want you, as a bishop who is pledged to care for all the faithful, to understand the depth of that experience. Jesus said, “Feed my lambs,” not “Feed my lambs as long as the government you happen to be working within does not recognize any sexually immoral relationships.”

As a matter of carefully examined conscience, I do not believe all homosexual sexual acts to be immoral, but even if they are, cutting off funding for social services in response to them seems to me the opposite of any message of Jesus.

He ate with sinners, as I’m sure you recall. What will you do? Send sinners and saints alike away hungry because some of those sinners might get some piece of your banquet?

In this Advent season, I ask for your prayers that I find God’s path for me, and have the courage to listen to God’s voice. I hope you will pray that I find some way to reconcile this anger in my heart, for I know that even if I hate what you are doing, we are part of one body through baptism, and so your prayers are the prayers of a brother.

I will pray the same for you, and I ask you from my heart to listen and hear the voices of your GLBT sisters and brothers– we will not be silenced, and this Church is our church too.

The idea of cutting D.C. Catholic Charities’ social service programs because of marriage equality legislation will wound everyone it touches– the people who need the services, the workers and volunteers who give, Catholic and non-Catholic GLBT people, as well as heterosexual people– everyone. Please do not do it.

In Christ,

Rebecca L. Fullan

Please take a moment to defend the poor of Washington, D.C., and to speak out for LGBT Catholics. I hope you all are having a blessed Advent!

In case you all would like to write too, here’s his address:
Most Reverend Donald W. Wuerl
P.O. Box 29260
Washington, D.C. 20017-0260
(301) 853-4500


8 Responses

  1. I’d be interested if you get a response…

  2. Rebecca,

    Erudite, eloquent, and right on the mark. As a practicing Catholic, most of the time, let me associate myself with all of your remarks.

    If one is poor they can be a Catholic.
    If one is or either political party, they can be a Catholic.
    If one is from another religionand wishes to convert they can be a Catholic…

    But if one wishes to celebrate the sanctity of the sacrament of marriage with the person they love, my goodness, can’t have that.

    If the Archbishiop wants a separation of church and state that will make sure there are no recognized marriages of same sex couples? Let him. If he wants to punish all for his narrowmindedness, then so be it.

    What say he then to the Congress rescinding all of the tax breaks for Churches, Missions and other related religious orders and use that money to fill in the void of his selfishness?

    I am not so much angered with the Archbishop as I am disappointed that he chooses to interpet God’s will in this way.

    It is unworthy of a man in his position. Next thing you know there will be literacy tests at the homeless shelters.

  3. Thank you for posting this.

    I think that wonderfully insightful letters such as this are a sign that the Holy Spirit is still alive and at work in the world today!

    God bless!

  4. Thank you, Jeff and Mike! (and hello to Mike, since I have not met you before). Your words put hope in my heart. 🙂

  5. You wrote a beautiful, thought out, respectful and prayer filled response. This is difficult to do even when the issue is less emotional. I sincerely hope that the Bishop will realize that it would be Christ like to offer benefits to partners of employees that are GLBT. Helping the poor was a cornerstone of Jesus’ life and has to be one of the main works that the Church is involved in. I heard; but will have to check it out in depth, that the work with the poor in the D.C. area will continue but possibly without Federal funds. Always remain hopeful. Mike is right the Holy Spirit is at work in the word today. Each day of since your birth, I have seen the Holy Spirit working through you. God be with you always! I love you!

  6. Hi folks,

    I did receive a reply from the archbishop’s office today. It was not from him personally, but it was a personal response, at least in part, to the things that I wrote. I found it respectful and polite, and careful above all… the language didn’t clarify exactly what is going on with this situation, but basically worded things in the opposite way from the original statement I’d heard (i.e., he said that the church was being forced to have less money for the services, rather than threatening to withdraw support). The person writing did address specifically several things that I said, and suggested that I look into Courage (the Catholic organization for non-straight people trying to live according to the official teachings), etc., without ever specifically speaking against my sexuality as such.

    There was much in the letter that was personal and kind, and much that was politic, and some that was certainly part of a standard rhetoric of response. I also got some form materials about why D.C. Catholics should care about same-sex marriage, which were a little surreal in the context of the letter, because they were also politic, but speaking to a very different audience.

    I felt like I sort of wanted to be pleased about getting a personal response, and sort of wanted to be mad about some of it, so…

    I don’t really know what I think about it yet. But I wanted to let those of you who were interested know that I did get a response. I’m happy to share the actual letter and other materials I received with whomever is interested, and to discuss the matter further.

    Happy New Year to everybody reading! I hope 2010 is off to a good start for you.

  7. […] may remember that Archbishop Wuerl and I have had some words before, so I was not pleased to see him again in this way, again snipping away at the shape of me […]

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