The head of Ali Forney Center, a homeless shelter for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth in New York, had issued a personal call to Pope Francis for LGBTQ inclusion. Carl Siciliano, executive director of the Ali Forney Center, recently penned an open letter to Pope Francis. Siciliano, a Roman Catholic and former Benedictine monk, issued a heartfelt call for the Catholic church to reject homophobic teachings and embrace LGBTQ youth. The letter was published in the Palm Sunday edition of the New York Times and paid for by Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams Home Furnishings, according to the Washington Blade.
Siciliano reminds Pope Francis that religious rejection is a common reason why LGBTQ youth are forced out of their homes. At the root of this problem, he argues, is that many Christian churches still preach that homosexuality is sinful and disordered. These toxic teachings have a "poisonous outcome" for LGBTQ youth, yielding a "bitter harvest" for too many families.
"A teaching’s wisdom and efficacy must be judged in part by its outcome. The teaching that homosexual conduct is a sin has a poisonous outcome, bearing fruit in many Christian parents who abandon their LGBT children to homelessness and destitution. How could a good seed yield such a bitter harvest?Once ejected or driven out of their homes, LGBTQ homeless youth find themselves at the mercy of cold, hunger, and predators on the street, he writes. Confronted with ugly street realities and rejected by their families, homeless LGBTQ youth are at high risk for suicide compared to LGBTQ youth who are accepted by their loved ones.
For me this tragedy has many human faces. I see Justin, whose mother, before throwing him out of his home, summoned a priest who held him to the ground and tried to drive the devil out of the 16 year old boy. Or Terry, who was sent to a Catholic religion class where the instructor set him aside as someone “possessed by demons”. When his mother threw him out, she said that she would rather he die in the streets than live in her home if he was gay. I recall Maria, whose family drove her to a forest far from her home and abandoned her, throwing her from the car, because being a lesbian made her “evil”. I think of the boy whose name I never learned whose father was so disgusted by homosexuality that he threw his son out of his home and said he would kill him and bury him in the backyard if he tried to return."
For the sake of such youth, Siciliano urges Pope Francis to discard the Catholic teaching that homosexuality is a sin.
"The Roman Catholic Church is the largest and most influential Christian organization in the world. By teaching that homosexual conduct is a sin, and that the homosexual orientation is disordered, it influences countless parents and families in societies across the globe to reject their children. In the name of these children, and in light of the love and compassion at the heart of the message of Jesus, I ask that you end this teaching ... I ask you to recognize that the condemnation of homosexuality is also cruel and wrong, and rooted in a primitive, obsolete understanding of human sexuality. I ask you to join the growing number of church communities and religious denominations who have chosen to welcome and embrace us with love and acceptance."Finally, Siciliano invited Pope Francis to visit the Ali Forney Center and meet young people whose lives were torn asunder by religious homophobia.
"I greatly respect you as a leader who has shown deep concern for the plight of the poor. I invite you to the Ali Forney Center, to meet our abandoned youths and see for yourself how their lives have been devastated and made destitute by religious rejection. I believe that there is no more compelling witness to the harmfulness of the condemnation of homosexuality than the consequent suffering plainly visible in the eyes of our homeless LGBT youths."I applaud Siciliano, the Ali Forney Center, and Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams Home Furnishings for speaking out against religious homophobia and supporting LGBTQ youth. The compassion of Siciliano's letter contrasts sharply with the callousness and ignorance of voices from the Religious Right, who do not comprehend the suffering that homeless LGBTQ youth endure. Let's hope that Siciliano's letter has raised awareness, thereby awakening more people to their moral duty to abandon homophobia.