Amid Marriage Uproar, Where’s Catholic Outrage Over GITMO?

Catholic hierarchs have begun  expressing outrage that the Supreme Court rulings advanced marriage rights for same-gender couples. Their position is well-defined, well-funded, and opposing marriage equality is a top priority for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

At the same moment as the decisions were handed down yesterday, over 130 detainees held under US captivity entered their 140th day of a hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay – including 43 being brutally force fed. The response of Catholics generally to these ongoing injustices is meager at best, silent at its worst. It is time to reverse that trend.

Catholic teaching is clear about torture – it is never morally permissible under any circumstances. There is no debate on torture in principle, and in practice it is clear that the US government has tortured some of these men. Arguably, the force feeding carried out is torture – and at the least strikingly inhumane. A full account of this practice is available from Al Jazeera.

The Church is similarly a champion of human rights, due process, and the rule of law – all of which are absent in the moral stain that is Guantanamo Bay. Bishop Richard Pates asked Secretary of Defense Hagel to conduct a review of how detainees are treated, and work for the release of those already declared innocent. Where is our response as a community witnessing the Gospels to back Bishop Pates’ call?

Please consider becoming involved, especially by combining a spiritual practice like fasting with actions that give Guantanamo detainees and their families a voice through us to the US government. I have fasted several days over these last few months, providing ample opportunity at meal times to instead pray and contact legislators, the White House, and the Pentagon.

Write, speak out, attend vigils, demonstrate. At the very least, we must be present and accompany these detainees in their suffering as we would Christ. If there is to be a Catholic uproar, let us make it about saving the lives of unjustly detained men rather than prohibiting the love between two men (or women).

Our Catholic Church’s silence for these years of injustice around Guantanamo Bay must end, and as with marriage equality, the laity need to step up and lead. While Bishop Pates is speaking out, we cannot depend on the bishops to enact political change – but the very lives of these hunger-striking detainees depend on us, the laity, raising our voices for justice.

For more information. visit CloseGitmo.net.

-Bob

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