Welcoming the pope without condoning discrimination

Welcoming the pope without condoning discrimination

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A large national Catholic coalition will not be allowed to congregate in the parish they had long been promised during the World Meeting of Families happening in Philadelphia next week. It was not a logistical screw-up. The group of LGBT families was forced from that and all other Catholic parishes in the area because of whom they love.


As a lifelong Catholic, I am furious at my Church. But, for a moment, let’s temporarily disregard the argument about how fundamentally flawed the Catholic Church’s position on LGBT individuals is. That topic has been well written on by others. Instead, let’s discuss what cities like Philadelphia can do in the future to ensure that momentous events like a papal visit will not be stained by discrimination.

It is true that the city cannot demand that a parish admit LGBT families. However, the host city asserts significant sway over with whom the pope interacts. Extensive preparations, for example, are being made to ensure that homeless Philadelphians are not being displaced by the pope’s visit. Can arrangements not also be made to ensure LGBT individuals are not ostracized? 

During his trip to Philadelphia, the pope will visit a prison, Independence Hall and the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, in addition to attending a number of private receptions. The city could certainly facilitate an opportunity at any one of those events, public or private, for LGBT Catholics to speak to the pope and make their case for inclusion. 

Alternatively, the city could borrow a play from President Obama’s recent trip to Kenya, in which he condemned the government for their treatment of LGBT citizens during a press conference with the country’s leadership. Philadelphia’s Mayor Nutter and the pope will no doubt have public or at least private face time. I urge the mayor to use that as an opportunity to make a stand on behalf of the LGBT Philadelphians who elected him.

It’s important to clarify that Philadelphia’s city government should be praised for attracting this once-in-a-lifetime event. Despite being the fifth-largest city in the country, Philadelphia has been too often relegated to second-tier status by national observers. 

With the pope’s visit this month and the DNC Convention in 2016, that assumption is being challenged in no small part because of the efforts and achievements of the Nutter administration. However, as the mayor well knows, our principles do not need to be sacrificed for the limelight.

As the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection, Philadelphia should send a signal that discrimination has no place in our borders. Being a good host doesn’t require being a doormat and, more importantly, being a good elected official means fighting for the rights of everyone you represent.


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