A day before Easter, the head of New York’s Roman Catholic archdiocese faced a challenge to his stance on gay rights: the resignation of a church charity board member who says he’s “had enough” of the cardinal’s attitude.
Joseph Amodeo told The Associated Press on Saturday that he quit the junior board of the city’s Catholic Charities after Cardinal Timothy Dolan failed to respond to a “call for help” for homeless youths who are not heterosexual.
“As someone who believes in the message of love enshrined in the teachings of Christ, I find it disheartening that a man of God would refuse to extend a pastoral arm” to such youths, Amodeo said in his letter to the charitable organization last Tuesday.
Phone and e-mail requests from the AP for comment from the archdiocese were not immediately answered on Saturday.
The conflict started with a letter to Dolan from Carl Siciliano, founder of the nonprofit Ali Forney Center that offers emergency services to homeless gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender young people. He said the cardinal’s “loud and strident voice against the acceptance of LGBT people” creates “a climate where parents turn on their own children.”
“As youths find the courage and integrity to be honest about who they are at younger ages, hundreds of thousands are being turned out of their homes and forced to survive alone on the streets by parents who cannot accept having a gay child,” Siciliano wrote in his letter, sent last week.
Siciliano, who is Catholic, said parents who are strongly religious are much more likely to reject children who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. Of the nation's homeless youths, as many as 40 percent are LGBT, studies show.
Siciliano received a response from the cardinal in a letter dated March 28.
“For you to make the allegations and insinuations you do in your letter based on my adherence to the clear teachings of the Church is not only unfair and unjust, but inflammatory,” Dolan wrote. “Neither I nor anyone in the Church would ever tolerate hatred of or prejudice towards any of the Lord’s children.”
Amodeo said the response prompted him to quit the board. The 24-year-old gay Catholic still teaches religious education to elementary school children as part of a New York archdiocese program, and he will be doing that on Easter in a parish near Manhattan's Union Square.
Amodeo was a member of the executive committee of the junior board of the New York branch of Catholic Charities, one of the largest global networks of charities, started in New Orleans in 1727 as an orphanage.
“Every Sunday, I teach second-graders to ‘love thy neighbor,’ but then, when we as a church have a teachable moment, we fail,” Amodeo told the AP in a telephone interview.
He said the cardinal “failed to respond to a call for pastoral assistance, to answer the question, ‘What can we do together as a church and as a people for youths who are homeless?’”
Dolan leads the nation's largest archdiocese – which has 2.6 million Catholics – and is president of the Washington-based U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Last summer during New York state’s same-sex marriage debate, the prelate warned that the proposed legislation – which later passed – was an “ominous threat” to society.