Dear Pope

4.6.2010

By Mitchell Gold

It's time for the Catholic Church leadership and Catholic citizens to take stock of their faith and practices. It's time for a broader apology that includes all the youth the church has abused: sexually, emotionally, and spiritually.

Over the past several years I've spent a great deal of time with people who have suffered from the force of religion-based bigotry. It is truly a disgrace. And yet, I know it is also truly something we can and must change.

I've found many in our community have put the nightmares of their childhood behind them, and that is more than understandable -- sometimes blocking those memories feels like the only way to survive. However, now I am asking you to brave the past for just one moment and think back to some of the worst times you can remember... because today, as you read this, there are still too many kids who are going through the same thing you did. I believe, together, we have the power to help them. And if we are able, how can we not?

Now is the time for the Pope and his faithful to reevaluate their dogma. Below is a letter I hope everyone, Catholic or not, will consider sending to the Pope as well as to local bishops and priests. While it is of course important that Catholics send the letter, it is equally important that all know it is appropriate for them to send it, as well. If non-Catholics stand idly by because they don't feel they are the right messenger, then they are complicit, and that is yet another tragedy. Please join me in saving gay teens from having to face this harmful force of unacceptance alone.

Dear Pope Benedict XVI, Bishops, and Priests,

Today the Church finds itself once again issuing apologies for misconduct toward a vulnerable group of people.

Years ago the Church issued apologies to Galileo, women, and Jews. There are important lessons in these past apologies, and now is an urgent time to reflect on them. Each mistake was made based on strict adherence to dogma or doctrine that turned out to be misguided or ill-informed. Religion-based bigotry is nothing new.

Today you condemn people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT). Science and common sense educates us to understand that sexual orientation is a natural part of a human's being, not a promiscuous choice to go against God's will. It's time to let go of the dogma that causes so much emotional pain to so many, be they LGBT or their family and friends. History is on the side of this truth: LGBT people are a normal and productive part of society. They are just as good as anyone else.

Comparing LGBT people to murderers or alcoholics or the host of other bad behaviors that harm society is wrong and evil. Stop perpetuating this hoax. It's insulting to one's intelligence.

Every day young LGBT children are emotionally tortured by your words of condemnation. These words hurt children more than you have imagined. This is the root of depression, alcohol and drug abuse, and even suicide for so many gay people. And it comes from the way you treat gay people, not from the fact that they are gay. Consider this fair warning about the spiritual and emotional harm you cause. Now it is up to you to take action. Do not sweep this under the rug like you have the sexual abuse scandals. Do not transfer the problem.

End the harm.

Mitchell Gold is the author of CRISIS: 40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social and Religious Pain and Trauma Of Growing Up Gay In America.

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