November 30, 2005

Open Letter to the News Industry on the Coverage of Gay Priests in the Catholic Church

U.S. Newswire

WASHINGTON, Nov. 29 /U.S. Newswire/ -- The following is a letter fromAbuse Tracker Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association President Eric Hegedus, and Executive Director Pamela Strother:

Dear Fellow Journalists:

Today, Tuesday, November 29th, the Vatican issued new guidance to its dioceses on the role of gay men in the Catholic Church. Members of theAbuse Tracker Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA) have noticed a number of inaccurate and unfair portrayals of gay men in the reporting of this document, which has been widely leaked in advance of today's release date. Some of those reports have included references to sexual "preferences," and reporting without verification parishioner statements that most of the priests involved in the Church's sex-abuse scandal were gay. Also, factually incorrect opinions that assert a cause-and- effect link between gay men and pedophilia are being reported without challenge.

As journalists and leaders of NLGJA, we acknowledge our job to report assertions by Catholic officials that the presence of gay clergy has resulted in sexual abuse cases, and even stated beliefs that link pedophilia and gay men. However, if similar statements were made about other minority and stigmatized groups, reporters and editors would feel obliged to find sources to challenge those allegations, and to otherwise provide factual information to do so. NLGJA urges that the same professional standards be applied to stories concerning lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

In addition, it's important to point out that the term "sexual preference" implies that sexuality -- whether heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual -- is the result of a conscious choice. That is a politically charged suggestion. In order to be accurate and neutral, journalists should use terms such as "sexual orientation," "sexuality" or "sexual identity" as appropriate.

Posted by kshaw at November 30, 2005 10:46 AM