Known for his vitriolic tone and unapologetic use of offensive language to express his extreme views, tea-party Republican New York gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino has again transcended the strictures of the appropriate and tolerable. According to a recent New York Times article, and supported by video recordings of the speech, Paladino expressed some overtly anti-gay sentiments at a gathering in Brooklyn on Sunday. Among his remarks was “that children should not be “brainwashed” into thinking that homosexuality was acceptable,” and “I didn’t march in the gay parade this year — the gay pride parade this year. My opponent did, and that’s not the example we should be showing our children.”
In the wake of recent suicides by gay teenagers as young as 13-year-old caused, in part, by discrimination, bullying and ignorance about sexual orientation, Paladino’s remarks are exceedingly inappropriate. Speaking of children, Paladino said:
“I just think my children and your children would be much better off and much more successful getting married and raising a family, and I don’t want them brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally valid and successful option — it isn’t.”
No, Carl Paladino, your children and all children would be much better off if people like you would refrain from using such inflammatory, hateful and divisive rhetoric. Furthermore, the world would be better served if Paladino and his like-minded bigots could bring themselves to be more open-minded, educated and exposed to people different than themselves. Talking about sexual orientation in the manner Paladino has is not the same as talking about a political party affiliation, state of residency, career or other selectable dimension of life. Instead, talking about sexual orientation in the manner Paladino has is akin to racial-, ethnic- and gender-based discrimination. And it should not be tolerated.
What is perhaps most detestable about the Paladino campaign’s response to criticism following these discriminatory remarks is the defense of the comments launched in the name of Mr. Paladino’s alleged Catholic Christian beliefs. The Times article explains:
His campaign manager, Michael R. Caputo, denied assertions that Mr. Paladino was antigay, and noted that he employed a gay man on his campaign staff.
“Carl Paladino is simply expressing the views that he holds in his heart as a Catholic,” Mr. Caputo said in a telephone interview. “Carl Paladino is not homophobic, and neither is the Catholic Church.”
The invocation of the Roman Catholic Church to defend such outrageously offensive and discriminatory remarks adds yet another layer of the exceptionally inappropriate nature of Paladino’s campaign. If one is interested in reading about what the official response of the Roman Catholic Church is to homosexual men and women, then look at the actual church documents. I suggest beginning with the U.S. Bishops’ 1997 document, “Always Our Children: A Pastoral Message to Parents of Homosexual Children and Suggestions for Pastoral Ministers.” Or the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s 1975 document, “Persona Humana: Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics.” Or the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s 1986 document, “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons.” And there are others.
While these documents are, in themselves, imperfect efforts to grapple with the challenges of the contemporary understanding of identity and sexuality — recall that is has only been in recent decades that much about sexual orientation has been understood according to the revisions in the DSM of the American Psychological Association — the centerpiece of EVERY Church document is love and acceptance of the human person, maintaining ALWAYS the individual’s intrinsic and unalienable dignity! Paladino’s remarks most certainly DO NOT reflect the Catholic Church’s position.
Furthermore, that Carl Paladino and his campaign staff can claim that his horrific worldview is attributable to his Catholic faith is abhorrent and a disgrace to me and my brother Franciscan Friars who, apparently, had no impact on Paladino during his education at our high school (Bishop Timon High School in Buffalo) and university (St. Bonaventure University). I am ashamed to admit that Carl Paladino is an alum of my own undergraduate alma mater, St. Bonaventure University. Neither St. Bonaventure University nor I, as a graduate of the school and a Franciscan friar, condone the type of rhetoric associated with Paladino. He does NOT represent the Catholic Church, his alma mater or, frankly, most people of good will.
Division and discrimination are not what we need today.