Bourke v. Beshear plaintiffs Michael De Leon and Greg Bourke, protesting the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in November
Bourke v. Beshear plaintiffs Michael De Leon and Greg Bourke, protesting the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in November

Despite the Boy Scouts of America recently ending its national ban on gay adult leadership, Greg Bourke of Louisville posted on his Facebook page Tuesday that the Archdiocese of Louisville has denied his application to become a member and appears likely to continue such a ban for local troops that it sponsors.

Bourke spoke with IL on Wednesday, saying that shortly after the BSA made its July 27 decision, he completed an application to reapply to his parish troop — the same one he was forced to resign from for being gay in 2012. He also sent a letter to the Archdiocese asking if it would continue banning gay adults from membership, as the BSA indicated troops sponsored by churches had the right to do so if that aligned with their religious beliefs. Asked by IL last month if it would continue a ban, the Archdiocese provided a statement clearly suggesting it would.

After having his inquiries and requests for meetings ignored by the Archdiocese, Bourke’s pastor at Our Lady of Lourdes, the Rev. Scott Wimsett, called him into a meeting Tuesday morning, telling him that he would not be permitted to return to the troop.

“He couldn’t give me more information than that,” said Bourke. “He couldn’t tell me who at the Archdiocese told him to pass on that information. He was not provided with any reason or justification, so he could not pass that along to me. He could not say I was being denied membership for a specific reason.”

Bourke — one of the plaintiffs in this summer’s Supreme Court case that legalized same-sex marriage nationally — said he felt sorry for Wimsett, as he was forced to deliver that message as part of his job. He added that his pastor has always been supportive of him and his family, dating back to when Bourke reluctantly resigned as a scout leader of the parish’s troop to prevent the BSA from revoking its charter. Bourke blames the Archdiocese of Louisville, which he says refuses to have any type of direct dialogue with him on the matter.

“The Archdiocese won’t talk with me, won’t meet with me,” said Bourke. “Last week, Chris Hartman (director of the Fairness Campaign) tried to set up a meeting with Dr. Brian Reynolds (chief administrative officer of the Archdiocese of Louisville) and me to talk about what the Archdiocese’s policy was going to be. Reynolds would not return phone calls, would not agree to have a meeting. So the Archdiocese is really not engaged in any kind of communication or dialogue about this whatsoever.”

Asked about the Archdiocese of Louisville’s decision to deny Bourke’s application, spokeswoman Cecelia Price said in an email that “we do not discuss with the media the pastoral situation of individual parishioners.”

Price also provided a statement sent to local pastors late last week, saying the Catholic Church has “both a the right and the responsibility to choose leaders whose character and conduct are consistent with Church teaching. All pastoral leaders in these ministries should be able to provide a credible and integrated witness in their lives to the teachings of the Catholic Church, including its teachings on marriage, sexuality, and chastity.”

Price also told IL that “it is important to note that the fact that individuals identify themselves as a person with same-sex orientation does not necessarily exclude them from volunteering for the Church,” but the concern is with such a person’s “ability to provide a credible witness to Church teaching.”

Asked for a specific reference in the Bible prohibiting children from being near or being taught by LGBT individuals, Price said their teachings about marriage, sexuality and chastity are “based upon both Scripture and the 2000 year+ tradition of the Church,” providing a link to sections of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz
Archbishop Joseph Kurtz

Bourke said he doesn’t have any legal recourse to contest the Archdiocese’s denial of his application, but “the thing I can do is take them to the court of public opinion, and I think he’s going to lose that battle…. Clearly we have to draw attention to the Archdiocese, and specifically Archbishop Joseph Kurtz for making this decision, which was really unnecessary and I think quite mean-spirited.”

Hartman says the Fairness Campaign and affiliated Catholics for Fairness are planning an action to protest the Archdiocese soon, saying the decision to deny Bourke’s application “wasn’t a huge surprise, but it’s always saddening.” Hartman says Kurtz has refused to meet with their groups since 2010 and is spearheading anti-LGBT policies, citing the archbishop’s recent comments that same-sex parents are an “experiment” that children should not be subjected to.

“Every step along the way, Archbishop Kurtz has had the opportunity to make an inclusive choice — one that’s pastoral, in a way that his predecessor Archbishop Thomas Kelly did,” said Hartman. “And every step he’s not only side-stepped the issue, but he’s really come down in an embarrassing way that runs contrary to what Jesus would be doing.”

Joe Sonka
Joe Sonka is a staff writer at Insider Louisville focusing on government, politics, education and public safety. He is a former news editor and staff writer at LEO Weekly and has also freelanced for The Nation and ThinkProgress. He has won first place awards from the Louisville Metro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in the categories of Health Reporting, Enterprise Reporting, Government/Politics, Minority/Women’s Affairs Reporting, Continuing Coverage and Best Blog. Email him at [email protected]