Prominent Catholic leaders join with HRC to condemn trans discrimination

transgender pride flag
transgender pride flag

Trans folks are in need of additional support from the religious community

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation has been joined by Archbishop John Wester, Bishop John Stowe, The Association of U.S. Catholic Priests and other Catholic leaders, in releasing a letter disavowing discrimination and violence against the transgender community. The letter goes on to affirm that Catholic teachings command that all people are to be treated with dignity and respect.

“The life-threatening violence against the transgender community, spurred by discrimination and hate, is a moral issue and one in which the voices of Catholic leaders are critical to the safety of our transgender siblings,” said Alphonso David, President of the HRC. “This is a critical moment to come together united, propelled by our faith, and lift our voices to unequivocally say that transgender rights are human rights, and they must be protected.”

The letter notes the urgency to end the epidemic of violence against the transgender community, particularly affecting transgender women of color. It goes on to say that as Catholic leaders, it is their duty to uphold every person’s humanity, and never tolerate unjust discrimination.

In 2020, the Human Rights Campaign tracked at least 44 deaths of transgender and gender non-conforming people, of which the majority of victims were Black or Brown. HRC recorded more violent deaths of transgender and gender non-conforming people last year than in any year since tracking began in 2013. HRC says more than 200 deaths have been recorded since tracking began. Of these victims, 78% have been transgender women of color and 85% have been transgender and gender non-conforming people of color.

Since the start of 2021, HRC has tracked 12 more known deaths of transgender or non-binary people—making the start of this year unprecedently violent. In the face of this escalation of violence, HRC said it is more critical for people of all faiths to join and declare that discrimination against the transgender community must immediately stop.

The letter reads in full:

Noting with urgency the words of St. John Paul II in Evangelium Vitae that, “every individual, precisely by reason of the mystery of the Word of God who was made flesh, is entrusted to the maternal care of the Church. Therefore every threat to human dignity and life must necessarily be felt in the Church’s very heart; it cannot but affect her at the core of her faith in the Redemptive Incarnation of the Son of God, and engage her in her mission of proclaiming the Gospel of life in all the world and to every creature,” (Evangelium Vitae 3) we, Bishops, religious and lay leaders of the Roman Catholic Church join with the Human Rights Campaign in calling for an end to the epidemic of violence against transgender individuals.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “every sign of unjust discrimination” against LGBTQ people “should be avoided.” We are commanded to respect the full dignity and humanity in every individual, and to be people of justice, mercy and compassion. That we might not understand an individual’s experience, does not mean we are to discriminate against them, nor tolerate any form of discrimination they might endure. We are never commanded, neither in Sacred Scripture nor in Sacred Tradition, to discriminate against anyone, but instead to be stewards of justice and mercy.

It should alarm all Catholics that individuals who are transgender experience disproportionate rates of discrimination, harrassment and violence—violence that is often fatal, and that overwhelming affects Black and Brown individuals. Last year, at least 44 people in the United States were the victims of this fatal violence. It is critical that we as Catholic leaders and lay people, do everything we can to prevent any further discrimination or harm. This must start with more Catholic leaders underscoring the humanity of our dear neighbors.

The defense of human dignity is one of our highest callings of our baptism, and we we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to do all that is necessary to end discrimination and violence.

The Holy Father, Pope Francis, writes that, “we cannot be indifferent to suffering; we cannot allow anyone to go through life as an outcast. Instead, we should feel indignant, challenged to emerge from our comfortable isolation and to be changed by our contact with human suffering.” (Fratelli Tutti 68). It is our Catholic duty to affirm the dignity of transgender people and to defend them from harm.

St. Bonaventure wrote that, “we are led to contemplate God in [all creation].” This is no less true of our transgender siblings. Transgender people have always been members of our local parishes and the witness of their lives has leads us to greater contemplation of God and the mystery of our faith. To our transgender siblings, may you always know that the Image of God resides in you, and that God loves you.

Faithfully yours,

Individual Signatories

  • Archbishop John Wester, Archdiocese of Santa Fe, NM
  • Bishop John Stowe, O.F.M. Conv., Diocese of Lexington, KY
  • Fr. Michael Garanzini, SJ, President, Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities
  • Tom Chabollah, President, Jesuit Volunteer Corps
  • Fr. Bob Bonnot, Executive Director, AUSCP
  • Fr. Louis Arcenaeaux, C.M., Secretary, AUSCP
  • Fr. Neil Pezzulo, H.J.D.
  • Fr. Daniel P. Horan, OFM, Duns Scotus Professor of Spirituality, Catholic Theological Union, Chicago
  • Fr. Bryan Massingale, Professor of Theology, Fordham University

Organizational Signatories

  • Association of U.S. Catholic Priests
  • Jesuit Volunteer Corps