John Nienstedt, the Minnesota Archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis, told a mother who asked him for acceptance for her gay child, that she might go to hell if she does not embrace the Roman Catholic Church’s teachings on homosexuality.
“Your eternal salvation may well depend upon a conversation of heart on this topic,” Nienstedt told the mother via a letter. “Catholics are bound in conscience to believe in this teaching. Those who do not cannot consider themselves to be Catholic and ought not to participate in the sacramental life of the Church.”
The Star-Tribune profiled the anti-gay marriage debate in Minnesota, one of four states that will have marriage on the ballot in November. Minnesota is the only state seeking to ban same-sex marriage in its constitution, whereas Washington, Maine, and Maryland are seeking to legalize marriage equality.
“Nienstedt is not a new disciple to the traditional marriage campaign,” the Star-Tribune reports:
In 2006, as bishop of the diocese of New Ulm, he mobilized Catholics to send postcards to lawmakers urging them to support a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.
Not long after he was promoted to archbishop in 2008, Nienstedt ordered an end to the gay pride prayer service at St. Joan of Arc Church in Minneapolis. Before the 2010 election, he led a move to send DVDs opposing same-sex marriage to 400,000 Catholics in Minnesota, in which he gave a six-minute introduction.
“It is appalling that Archbishop Nienstedt chose to issue such an un-Christian response to a vulnerable member of his flock who came to him seeking help,” said Truth Wins Out (TWO) Executive Director Wayne Besen, via a statement in response to Archbishop Nienstedt’s letter:
“The archbishop’s letter shows just how deeply held his anti-gay views are.”
In the letter, Nienstedt wrote that Catholics are obligated to believe the Church’s official teachings on homosexuality, and that “those who do not… ought not to participate in the sacramental life of the Church.” He exhorted the recipient to reconsider her inclusive spiritual beliefs, saying that “[her] eternal salvation may well depend on a conversation of heart on this topic.”
“Telling the parent of an LGBT child that she ‘ought not to participate in the sacramental life of the Church’ unless she renounces her pro-equality views – and that her ‘eternal salvation may well depend upon’ her willingness to accept the Catholic Church’s anti-gay teachings – is spiritual bullying of the highest order and utterly reprehensible,” added John Becker, Director of Communications & Development for Truth Wins Out. “What kind of spiritual leader demands that a mother reject her child in order to save her soul?”
Such rejection can have devastating consequences for LGBT youth: according to a 2009 study conducted by San Francisco State University researcher Caitlin Ryan and published in the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, LGBT teens who experienced negative feedback from their families were 8 times more likely to have attempted suicide, 6 times more vulnerable to severe depression, and 3 times more likely to use drugs than teens who did not experience negative feedback.
Earlier this year, a Catholic priest under Nienstedt leadership hosted a mandatory assembly at a Minneapolis high school where seniors were told gay marriage is akin to bestiality, and adopted children are not normal.
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