On Monday we reported that Daniel Avila, the Catholic bishops’ “marriage guy,” had written a remarkable column in The Pilot, the official newspaper of the Archdioecese of Boston, claiming that Satan, “the evil one,” was responsible for turning people gay when they were in their mothers’ wombs. Talking about gays as devil-spawned “natural disasters” struck us as something more likely to come from anti-gay conservative evangelicals than from a policy advisor to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage.
Just a couple of days after the column appeared, it was yanked from the Pilot website and replaced with a double-barrelled retraction and apology: one from Avila saying his column did not reflect church policy and apologizing for the “hurt and confusion” it had caused; and one from the paper’s editors for “for having failed to recognize the theological error in the column before publication.” (Avila’s not did not say that he personally has abandoned his Satan-Makes-You-Gay theory.)
Journalist Chuck Colbert sheds light on what may have led to the rare retraction and apology, in an article documenting a range of outraged responses to the column from Avila’s fellow Catholics. Among the most striking is a letter written by a group of staff members at the Paulist Center, a religious community in Boston:
In a note to community members, staffers shared the contents of their letter to The Pilot. “We feel compelled to express our dismay,” they wrote.
“Beyond the highly questionable theology of this writer, pastoral ministry and care for GLBTQ Catholics, for any human person, requires first preserving their dignity as children of God. Our shared mission of outreach and pastoral care prohibits inflicting harm and pain on any human person,” the staff added.
Staffers continued, “This article directly and intentionally causes pain for gay Catholics, their families, especially their mothers, their friends and their worship communities,” adding, “The article has no scriptural basis, vague Catholic theological constructs, and no connection with the Gospel of Christ.”
Colbert notes that some Catholic activists say that this is not the first editorial misjudgment the Pilot has made regarding articles about LGBT people, and some are calling for the editor to resign.
If you missed Avila’s devil-blaming column before it was pulled from the Pilot’s site, you can read it here thanks to the folks at the Religion News Service.