There May Be Brighter Days Ahead for LGBT Issues in Chicago Archdiocese

September 20, 2014

Bishop Blaise Cupich

The Archdiocese of Chicago is expected to announce its ninth archbishop at 9:30am this morning, but sources like National Catholic Reporter and Whispers in the Loggia (WITL) are reporting a name is already confirmed: Bishop Blaise Cupich of Spokane, Washington.

Given Chicago is the third largest archdiocese in the US and this “is likely to be the most significant choice for the Stateside bench Pope Francis makes during his entire pontificate,” according to  WITL’s Rocco Palmo, it is important to ask: where does Cupich stand when on LGBT issues?

His record seems fairly positive, as this blog noted when we evaluated potential USCCB presidents last autumn.

In 2012, amid Washington State’s referendum debate on marriage equality, Cupich provided a voice that was surprisingly compassionate and moderated.  Though he opposed marriage equality, he acknowledged the goodness of Catholics who supported LGBT equality. His pastoral letter on the referndum included one short section on the hierarchy’s teaching about same-gender couples, while spending extensive time respectfully laying out both sides’ views in an unsually objective way.

Earlier that year, Jesuit-run Gonzaga University in Spokane faced criticism for honoring South African’s Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu as the commencement speaker because Tutu had supported the ordination of gay clergy. Bishop Cupich stood by the University‘s decision to honor Tutu.

Regarding this October’s upcoming Synod of Bishops on marriage and family, the National Catholic Reporter quoted Cupich as saying the church “must allow the Holy Spirit to move us” and that clergy must “take seriously the ‘joys, sorrows, heartaches, and challenges of laypeople.’ “

In regards to the US bishops’ campaign against LGBT non-discrimination and healthcare laws framed as religious liberty issues, Cupich affirmed the need for bishops to be in relationship with the government “so that we’re not banging our heads between our beliefs and laws.” He has also called the apocalyptic tone of Catholic officials threatening to shut down ministries over alleged religious liberty issues “scare tactics and worst-case scenario predictions” that are “uncalled for and only unnecessarily disturb the hardworking and dedicated people who are employed by the Church.”

To read a full analysis of Bishop Cupich from Dennis Coday, editor of the National Catholic Reporter, click here.

Cupich’s style is all quite a reversal from the bombastic actions of Chicago’s outgoing prelate, Cardinal Francis George, who just a week ago compared LGBT advocates to anti-Catholic groups from US history like the Know-Nothings and Ku Klux Klan.

It appears Pope Francis might be using a major episcopal appointment to shift the American episcopacy in major ways. The following, from a speech Cupich delivered in June during a conference on economics at The Catholic University of America, Washington, DC, may indicate what the pope is attempting:

“[Pope Francis uses] as his starting point real life experience rather than competing ideas. In other words the Pope offers a different epistemology, a different approach to how we know and learn or better how we are informed…But, I think those who easily dismiss what the Pope is saying because of his turn to real life experience fail to appreciate that he is calling people to a more authentic way of knowing and learning. He is challenging them about how they are informed.  And, in fact, herein lies what I believe is how we should understand his unique contribution to the tradition of Catholic Social Teaching. Instead of approaching life from the thirty thousand feet level of ideas, he challenges policy makers and elected officials — indeed all of us —  to experience the life of everyday and real people. His pithy phrase in the Joy of the Gospel says it all: Reality is greater than ideas.  Ideas cannot be disconnected from realities; the two must be in dialogue. He is concerned that leaders and policy makers ‘are stuck in the  realm of pure ideas’ thus disconnected from realities.  Ideas are important as they can classify and define, but realities call us to action.”

Cupich follows Pope Francis by forsaking an episcopal residence and instead lives in a room at the local seminary. From what we know, he appears to have a pastorally-focused ministry which is very different from Cardinal George’s approach which has been more focused on culture wars.

I have one further hope. For decades, Catholics, because of their experiences with reality rather than ideas, have come to know, love, and advocate with LGBT people . Encountering same-gender couples and LGBT youth has been the ‘stuff’ of conversions towards inclusion and equality. Hopefully, soon-to-be Archbishop Cupich will keep up his positive record and further encounter the realities of LGBT people’s lives.  Such an approach would help him, and the bishops at large, overcome harmful policies toward LGBT people.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


How Can the Catholic Community Support LGBT Homeless Youth?

September 19, 2014

YesterdayBondings 2.0 highlighted the religious rejection that too often causes LGBT youth to experience homelessness, and we called on Catholics and other people of faith to participate in GLAAD’s #SpiritDay this October as a sign of love and acceptance for upwards of 400,000 LGBT youth inhabiting American streets.

Today, we take a look at the flip side of the relationship between LGBT youth homelessness and religion, specifically Catholicism.  Examples of Catholics and those rooted in the church’s tradition confronting general homelessness abound, and it is a source of comfort for me that the church has such a fervent commitment to children in poverty. But what about LGBT youth?

Carl Siciliano, once a Benedictine monk and Catholic Worker, left the church over homophobic remarks from New York’s Cardinal John O’Connor. But he did not leave the  practice of the works of mercy for those without homes, as Rolling Stone reports:

“Siciliano was working at a housing program for the homeless in the Nineties when he noticed that his clientele was getting younger and younger. Until then, he says, ‘you almost never saw kids. It was Vietnam vets, alcoholics and deinstitutionalized mentally ill people.’ But not only were more kids showing up, they were also disappearing. ‘Every couple of months one of our kids would get killed…And it would always be a gay kid.’ “

Siciliano founded the Ali Forney Center in response, a shelter in New York City devoted exclusively to LGBT kids and teens without housing. Siciliano has also become an advocate, questioning where the tax dollars are for these youth and what Pope Francis’ impact has been. The Rolling Stone articles highlights the first of these, noting a lack of government funding exacerbated by a further lack of LGBT protections to assist LGBT youth.

Of more than $5 billion in federal funding annually funneled to address homelessness, a very small percentage targets youth. The Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA), a primary source of youth funding around this issue, does not ban LGBT discrimination and it does not look likely that such a clause will be added to a new version of the Act which expired last fall. This situation leaves the US with only 4,000 beds nightly for an estimated 1.7 million homeless youth.

There are further complications when factoring in religious organizations. Because President George W. Bush channelled government funds to faith-based providers, LGBT youth may face further discrimination if they seek services at faith-based care providers who are not inclusive and do not provide for this population’s unique needs. Given the track record of local Catholic Charities affiliates when it comes to non-discrimination laws around adoption and the Hobby Lobby debacle earlier this year, would Catholic groups end social services to homeless youth if they were required to be LGBT inclusive?

There is another angle, touched upon yesterday, when it comes to Catholicism’s response to this epidemic of homeless LGBT youth and that is the pastoral care that also needs to be provided. Siciliano wrote public letter to Pope Francis published in the New York Times this spring and pleaded for the pope to act forcefully against the causes of religious rejection afflicting LGBT youth.

Indeed, though Pope Francis has not directly addressed this issue, I think he points the way forward for American Catholics. The pope’s emphasis on accompanying the poor as a mandate of faith needs no comment, aside from a reminder that he chose to dine with the homeless for his birthday, and the Jesuit church in Rome held a funeral for murdered transgender woman who had been homeless that respected her gender identity. Pope Francis chooses mercy over judgment, over caring for and including those on the margins, rather than rejecting them.

What can you do?

On a personal level, participate in #SpiritDay on October 16th to let LGBT children and teens know there are supportive people of faith in their lives in their communities. New Ways Ministry is joining with other faith-based and LGBT groups to co-sponsor #SpiritDay with GLAAD. We hope you will join us and help us spread the word! For more information, click here.

On a parish level, begin efforts to address these LGBT youth-specific injustices. Whether this means broader education efforts about sexual orientation and gender identity or augmenting existing efforts to confront homelessness by tackling the unique needs of LGBT people experiencing poverty. Do something small to start and build upon it.

On a state and national level, become involved with legislative efforts to meet the specific needs of homeless youth generally, including those needs of LGBT youth.

Homelessness among LGBT youth is not simply a Catholic or faith problem, for there are a myriad of other factors influencing each person’s life. But Catholics have both a mandate from Christ to care for those least among us and a faith responsibility to combat negative religious beliefs that result in rejected youths.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Homeless LGBT Youth Need Your Support This #SpiritDay

September 18, 2014

In a month from now, October 16th, millions of people nationwide will don purple clothing and take to social media in what has become an annual display of love and support for LGBT youth called #SpiritDay. In past years’, Bondings 2.0 has marked this event by highlighting the bullying of LGBT youth and Catholic responses  to this problem.

Today, we highlight the tremendous problem of LGBT youth homelessness, suicide, and related pastoral concerns in the hopes you will add your voice to #SpiritDay on October 16th. Tomorrow, Bondings 2.0 will look at the other side of this problem–how religious social service providers are impacting LGBT youth experiencing homelessness.  #SpiritDay is sponsored by GLAAD, and you can find out how you and your company, school, church, organization can participate by clicking here.

Rolling Stone magazine took up LGBT youth homelessness in their September 11th issue, mixing hard data with anecdotes from four LGBT youth to tell this tragic story. To set the scene, the article cites Center for American Progress numbers that between 320,000 and 400,000 LGBT youth experience homelessness in the United States and this is approximately 40 percent of the homeless youth population overall.

The causes of LGBT youth homelessness are varied. The average coming out age has dropped to 16, when most youth are still dependent on their parents, and more youth may be coming out following legal victories for LGBT equality.

Research also shows that almost 40 percent of LGBT youth experiencing homelessness are on the streets because of family rejection, primarily rooted in religious concerns. The Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State published data showing a distinct correlation between highly religious parents and the rejection of their LGBT children in comparison to those parents considered less religious. Two of the four youth who shared their stories in the Rolling Stone article came from families identifying as Catholic.

Jackie was raised in Idaho amid an upper-middle class family. She succeeded academically and socially, pushed on by traditionally Catholic parents. It took until college for Jackie to realize she was gay, coming out sophomore year over the phone to her mother. The article reports:

“So while Jackie hoped for the best, she knew the call she was making had the potential to not end well. ‘You can’t hate me after I say this,’ she pleaded when, alarmed to be receiving a call in the middle of the night, her mom picked up the phone.

” ‘Oh, my God, you’re pregnant’ was her mom’s first response, before running through a litany of parental fears. ‘Are you in jail? Did you get expelled? Are you in trouble? What happened? What did you do?’ Suddenly her mom’s silence matched Jackie’s own. ‘Oh, my God,’ she murmured in disbelief. ‘Are you gay?’

‘Yeah,’ Jackie forced herself to say.”

Her mother hung up after using a slur against Jackie and questioning what she, as a mother, had done “for God to have given us a [gay] as a child.” Jackie’s parents cut her off financially, kicked her out of their house, and broke contact with their daughter. They mentioned later that Jackie, who experienced homelessness while still pursuing her college education, could get their financial support if she enrolled in “ex-gay therapy.” Of this, Jackie says:

” ‘I wanted to be their kid, but I couldn’t change. Everyone I’d ever known my whole life cut ties with me. But this was who I am.’ “

James was a raised in the Midwest, in a highly religious town where there was a church “on every street corner.” His mother, once Catholic, experimented with evangelically-oriented Christian traditions before returning to her original church. James, who had heard his mother rail against homosexuality, started quietly dating a co-worker. He was forced to come out after his mother found a picture of him with his boyfriend on James’ phone. Upon graduating high school, he was kicked out and, after a month of hitchhiking, ended up in Atlanta at a shelter for LGBT youth, called Lost-n-Found Youth.

One additional note is that LGBT youth who are kicked out experience higher rates of violence, sexual assault, HIV/AIDS, and prostitution than averages for youth experiencing homelessness. These can lead or exacerbate existing substance abuse and mental health issues, and in too many cases lead to suicide.

Jesuit Jason Welle questions the acts of Catholic parents and family members who would reject an LGBT child or sibling, commenting on its inconsistency with teachings of Jesus. He writes at The Jesuit Post:

“And this kind of rejection is shameful and heartbreaking because, really, our faith tradition should teach us that rejecting our children is a rejection of the promises we make in Baptism, namely that when a Catholic parent has their child baptized, the priest or deacon instructs them to teach their child to keep God’s commandments as Christ taught us, by loving God and our neighbor, and then asks pointedly, ‘Do you clearly understand what you are undertaking?’

“The thing is, before you bring a child into the world no one asks you if you know what you’re getting into. But when a Catholic parent baptizes that child, they must respond directly to this question first. It leaves me crying out: what part of throwing a gay or lesbian child out of the home shows our love of God and neighbor?”

Beyond the family, there is still the matter of the Catholic community. San Francisco social worker Kelley Cutler wrote a blog post at Patheos with questions for this fall’s Synod of Bishops tackling marriage and family life. Cutler asks the right questions, I think, for the church at large presently faced with all of the above:

“How can the Church follow Christ’s example? What do queer people want and need to feel welcomed and supported in the Church where they may find him? How can the Church support queer people already in the pews, let alone the many on the street? What do they hope for from the Church, and how is the Church failing those hopes, thus contributing to a sense of hopelessness?”

Cutler points out that community and a sense of belonging, as well as spiritual care are essential components in helping marginalized communities — and what the church can offer to LGBT youth. She concludes:

“It takes a genuine connection to make the vulnerable feel truly safe, and truly seen…if we truly want to outreach to queer people, we need to do more, starting with real dialogue. Without being defensive, we need to see queer people through Jesus’ eyes, understand why they feel like outcasts, and then ask what we as a community can do to bring them home.

“If we listen, we will hear that we all share the same desires: for connection; for community; for hope; for love; for a place where we may safely graze.”

Making public your support as a Catholic or person of faith for LGBT youth this #SpiritDay will let them know there is a supportive community out there. New Ways Ministry is joining with other faith-based and LGBT groups to co-sponsor #SpiritDay with GLAAD. We hope you will join us and help us spread the word! For more information, click here.

Tomorrow, Bondings 2.0 will follow-up this post by looking at the impact faith-based social service providers have had in confronting LGBT youth homelessness.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Opposing LGBT Issues Will Make the Catholic Church a ‘Shrinking Cult,’ Says Former Catholic Charities Head

September 17, 2014

High school students at Eastside Catholic rally for fired gay administrator Mark Zmuda last January

Is the Catholic Church destined to become a “shrinking cult”? That is the conjecture of Brian Cahill who wrote a challenging essay this week about just how quickly the church is becoming irrelevant to high school students, largely related to LGBT issues, specifically the firing of church workers.

In the National Catholic Reporter , Cahill, who is the former executive director of San Francisco Catholic Charities, wrote about the recent efforts of that city’s archbishop, Salvatore Cordileone, to appeal to young adults. Amid offerings of ping-pong and daily Latin Mass, Cahill writes:

“But a closer look suggests that young Catholics are increasingly turned off by the attitudes and actions of some American bishops — the failure to address the child abuse scandal, the harsh opposition to civil gay marriage, the cluelessness of church teaching on contraception, and the refusal to consider women priests.

“More recently, Catholic high school students, who can spot dishonesty and hypocrisy a mile away, are reacting with disillusion and disgust at how the church is treating some teachers in Catholic schools.”

Cahill proceeds by listing bishops, like Michael Barber of Oakland, Dennis Schnurr of Cincinnati, and Richard Lennon of Cleveland, who have implemented or support discriminatory employment policies in their dioceses. These have included LGBT-related church worker employment disputes and enhanced morality clauses in teacher contracts that explicitly prohibit support for LGBT people. He adds the embattled Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul-Minneapolis as an example of the bishops’ overly partisan involvement in the political debate about marriage equality.

In this milieu, Cahill wisely asks “How many thoughtful Catholic high school students will stick around in a church that is capable of that kind of behavior?” Indeed, in so many of the employment disputes, hundreds of students have rallied behind gay educators like Carla Hale, Mark Zmuda, and Barbara Webb.

Cahill concludes with a statement addressed to those leading Archbishop Cordileone’s outreach to young adults, but that applies to church leaders everywhere:

“God bless you. You’re going to have to work overtime and the Holy Spirit is going to have to work overtime to offset the hypocrisy, insensitivity, dishonesty and stupidity of some of your leaders, to offset their capacity, whether they intend it or not, to fan the flames of discrimination and homophobia and cause many young people struggling with their sexuality to continue to feel inferior, rejected and sometimes suicidal.

“If our church is left in the hands of these bishops, we are on track to become a shrinking, increasingly irrelevant cult — not a source of appeal for thoughtful Catholic high school students.”

Earlier this month on The Huffington Post.  Charles Reid, a law professor at the University of St. Thomas, made a similar point about the universal harm these firings cause. Referencing the recent firings of Webb, Olivia Reichert and Christina Gambaro, Reid writes:

“These annual firings are tragic, pointless, and inflict great harm. The discharged teachers, of course, are the most seriously injured, but so are all the people associated with the schools — students, graduates, parents, and staff. The Catholic school system is diminished in the eyes of the public. And the church as a whole is made to suffer.”

William Lindsey of the blog Bilgrimage makes a good point about the treatment of LGBT church workers when compared to those clergy credibly accused of abuse. Lindsey writes at PaperBlog:

“For clerics, even ones as guilty as sin of sexually abusing minors, every consideration is in order. For lay Catholics who are gay and choose to make public the details of their marital lives, no consideration at all. Instant punishment. Instant firing. Instant exclusion from the Christian community. Instant destruction of careers, of economic lives, of reputations. The disparity is glaring and obvious. And, to increasing numbers of Catholics, as well as to the public in general, it’s scandalous in the extreme.”

Finally, Heidi Schlumpf made a point in the National Catholic Reporter a few months back that bears repeating. She questioned what impact these firings, and the larger LGBT-negative attitude of the bishops, will have when it comes to the next generation of church workers. Already, young adults interested in ministry are not joining up and it is not because of the poor pay. Schlumpf argues:

“Younger Catholics still see the institutional church as an out-of-touch employer run by old men who ‘don’t get it.’ Media reports about employees having to sign “morality agreements” don’t help. Nor do ones about people getting fired for supporting gay marriage or women’s ordination — issues most younger folks believe should be already resolved…

“This is unfortunate, because the millennial generation is idealistic about service — even more so than the previous generation. It’s to bad the church may not be the beneficiary of that idealism and enthusiasm. The ‘Francis effect’ can only do so much. If younger workers want to choose a career based on their values, they are unlikely to compromise those same values to work for the church.”

From high school students to newly-graduated divinity students, it seems Catholic youth and young adults are tiring of a church where LGBT people are routinely fired and where there are still too few public policy goals of the bishops outside of opposing same-sex marriages. Brian Cahill’s diagnosis that the church is becoming a “shrinking cult” may be bleak, and it should be a wake-up call to church leaders concerned about the future.

Hopefully more church leaders will wake up to this reality and, like Cardinal Sean O’Malley, identify the LGBT-related employment disputes as a situation that urgently “needs to be rectified.

For Bondings 2.0‘s full coverage of ‘Employment Issues,’ click the category to the right. For a full listing of LGBT-related firings, with links to further information, click here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Why Did Catholic Numbers on LGBT Acceptance Dip So Much In Recent Study?

September 16, 2014

On this blog, we are always very excited to report on statistics and surveys which show that Catholic lay people’s support of LGBT people and issues continues to grow. We also like to report on the many ways that Catholic parishes are welcoming and including LGBT people as full members of their communities.  But last week, a Duke University report showed that while in most Christian denominations acceptance of LGBT people is on the rise, the only group which the study said showed a decrease is Catholicism. What gives?

An Associated Press article describes the good news and the bad news in Duke University’s National Congregations Study:

“Overall, the study found acceptance of gay and lesbian members in American congregations increased from 37 percent to 48 percent over the six-year period. Acceptance of gays and lesbians as volunteer leaders increased from 18 percent to 26 percent. . . .

“Perhaps surprisingly, given the support for gays and lesbians among Catholics in general, representatives of the Catholic churches surveyed expressed less acceptance of gay and lesbian members in 2012 than in 2006. Interview subjects were asked specifically whether openly gay or lesbian couples in committed relationships would be permitted to be full-fledged members of the congregation.

“In 2006, 74 percent of those surveyed said yes. That number decreased to 53 percent in 2012. While the decrease is large, the rate of acceptance still remains higher than that for all congregations surveyed, 48 percent.

“Asked whether the same couples would be permitted to hold any volunteer leadership position that was open to other members, 39 percent of Catholic respondents said yes in 2006 but only 26 percent said the same in 2012. That is the same as the number for all congregations surveyed.”

So, while Catholics still are more accepting than all other Christian denominations surveyed, the statistics seem to show that acceptance is dwindling.

Or is it?

The news story provided some interpretations of the data from several Catholic scholars and analysts:

“Thomas Reese, a senior analyst with the National Catholic Reporter, thought it might reflect the fact that younger Catholic clergy tend to be more conservative than their older counterparts. Mary Ellen Konieczny, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Notre Dame, suggested the change might reflect a growing emphasis by the bishops on issues of homosexuality over that period.

“Both agreed that those attitudes were not indicative of what people sitting in the pews think.

“Konieczny and others said they thought the answers might be significantly different if the same questions were asked today.

“The survey was taken ‘before Francis got into the papacy, and I believe he would have made a difference,’ said William D’Antonio, a senior fellow at Catholic University of America’s Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies. ‘Francis has lowered the focus on sexual matters and increased the concern for the poor and needy.’ “

A Religion News Service story adds another voice which offers similar analysis:

“The Rev. James Martin, editor at large for the Jesuit magazine America, observed, ‘During those years, U.S. bishops were much more vocal against gay marriage. It’s only been in the last year or two — since the election of Pope Francis — that the church has begun opening up on this.’ ”

The Huffington Post’s Antonia Blumeberg offers a comparative analysis for why Catholic numbers are going down while other Christian churches’ numbers are going up:

“While the Catholic Church’s stance on homosexuality remains seated in the somewhat vague but hopeful words of Pope Francis, ‘Who am I to judge?’, other church bodies have taken more definitive action to promote LGBT equality. In June the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted in a landmark decision to allow same-sex marriages, following in the footsteps of the U.S. Episcopal Church which made the same decision two years prior.”

In an interview with London’s Daily MailMark Chaves, the author of the study, provided his own interpretation for the decline in Catholic numbers:

“Chaves suggested this may be due in part to fallout from the child sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic church, which some associate with homosexuality.”

But, perhaps the most important reason for the change is in how the data was collected. Ned Flaherty, a writer in Boston, provided the following information:

“The National Congregation Study data were collected 2 to 2.5 years ago, in 50-minute interviews with each congregation’s key clergyperson. Roman Catholic rules, including LGBT acceptance, are set by the Vatican, regardless of local public policy. Therefore, the answers from the Roman Catholic clergy reflected Vatican rules, whereas the answers from other clergy reflected local democratic policy.

“Consequently, the very low acceptance rate for LGBT worshipers reported by Roman Catholic clergy would be very high if reported by Roman Catholic congregants.

“The survey’s apparent discrepancy arises only because the interviewers didn’t adjust the survey to accommodate the uniquely Catholic gap between what clergy dictate vs. what congregants believe. Other faiths don’t have this gap.

So, while the Catholic statistics appear sobering, there does seem to be some explanation for them, and they may not accurately paint the full picture of the Catholic community.  Still, even though the report reflects only Catholic leadership’s views,  that is evidence that there is still work to be done with Catholics, especially their leaders.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 


Boston’s Cardinal O’Malley: LGBT Church Worker Firings “Need to be Rectified”

September 15, 2014

Cardinal Sean O’Malley seated among other panelists at Crux event. (photo credit: The Boston Globe)

In a one-to-one conversation following a public speaking engagement, Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley said that the firing of church workers because of LGBT issues is a situation that “needs to be rectified,” becoming the first prelate to speak against this trend.

Earlier in the evening, the cardinal publicly spoke positively of the need to include and minister to the LGBT community in light of Pope Francis’ new vision for the church.

O’Malley’s public appearance on Thursday, September 11th, was at a launch event for Crux, the Boston Globe’s new website for “all things Catholic.” The program was held at the Jesuit-run Boston College. O’Malley was part of a panel of experts discussing the papacy of Pope Francis.

At the end of the event, after the crowd had dissipated, I had the opportunity to thank Cardinal O’Malley one-on-one for his compassionate remarks earlier in the evening about the LGBT community.

As we spoke, the cardinal told me that we must first convince people we love them before talking about the Ten Commandments. I pointed out that it has been hard to convince LGBT Catholics and their allies of this love when so many church workers have had LGBT-related employ-ment disputes with Catholic schools and parishes. Responding to my comment, Cardinal O’Malley said this trend was a situation that “needs to be rectified.”

O’Malley also indicated that not all church positions require a Catholic marriage.  Most of the employment disputes involved same-sex couples legally marrying, announcing an intention to marry, or publicly acknowledging a long-term committed relationship.

Earlier, in a period when panelists answered audience questions, Cardinal O’Malley answered a question which I had submitted:

Given Pope Francis’ emphasis on mercy and welcome, can we expect improved pastoral care and inclusion for those who are LGBT, especially when almost 20 US church workers have been fired in 2014 for their sexual orientation, gender, or marital status?

The cardinal’s answer is in full below, and you can also watch it at Crux by clicking here and starting the video at 1:29:00:

“I think the Holy Father’s notion of mercy and inclusion is going to make a big difference in the way that the church responds to and ministers to people of homosexual orientation. The Holy Father is talking about reaching out to the periphery and very often this is a group that is on the periphery. It is not necessarily that the church is going to change doctrine, but, as somebody said, the Holy Father hasn’t changed the lyrics, but he’s changed the melody. I think the context of love and mercy and community is the context in which all of the church’s teachings must be presented, including the more difficult ones. The same could be said about abortion and so many others. It is only when people realize that we love them that they will be open to hear the truth we want to share with them.”

You can read a full account of the event from Michael O’Loughlin of Crux found by clicking here. Other panelists that evening were Hosffman Espino of Boston College’s School of Theology and Ministry, John Allen, Jr. of Crux, Mary Ann Glendon of Harvard University, and Robert Christian of Millennial.

Cardinal O’Malley’s inclusive statements are typical of his merciful leadership style in Boston, leadership which led Pope Francis to appoint him to to a unique papal advisory council of eight cardinals, positioning him as the American prelate closest to the pope. O’Malley himself was considered to be a papal candidate before Francis’ election, and one resigned Catholic priest listed Boston’s cardinal as the most gay-friendly of the candidates.

What struck me most last Thursday was the cardinal’s willing admission that terminating church workers due to their sexual orientation or marital status is indeed problematic.  Catholic prelates have, at best, remained silent, and, at worst, supported discriminatory actions, in the more than forty public instances where a church employee left over LGBT issues. Cardinal O’Malley’s statement that these firings “need to be rectified” is an episcopal echo of the tens of thousands of Catholics and people of faith who have long stood by mistreated LGBT and ally church workers. Regular readers of Bondings 2.0 will recognize that even as the resignations and firings increase, so too do the rallies, petitions, and online outreach in solidarity with fired teachers like Barb Webb, Olivia Reichert and Christina Gambaro.

I hope Cardinal O’Malley will use his prominent position to help end situations where LGBT and ally church workers face discrimination and exclusion. It could be a major step in incarnating a church where all are truly welcome. As it is, the cardinal’s kind words and frank admission are a wonderful start — and for them, I am most grateful.

Cardinal O’Malley is the first bishop to acknowledge that these employment actions are a problem.  Let’s hope and pray that he will not be the last.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Catholic Communities Stand Beside Fired Lesbian Teachers

September 14, 2014

Supporters of Barbara Webb from around the world show their support

Supporters of two fired church workers have continued their ongoing protests in Michigan and Missouri, responding to the latest in at least twenty employment disputes at Catholic institutions in 2014 that have been related to LGBT issues.

Marian High School

Community members at Marian High School, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, are standing by Barbara Webb, the lesbian chemistry teacher and coach fired in August for becoming pregnant outside marriage. More than 100 school community members have twice rallied at the school’s entrance and plan to do the same today. Online, a Facebook page called “I Stand with Barb Webb” has gained nearly 5,000 followers, a Change.org petition has gained more than 34,000 signatures, and there is a website, www.standwithbarb.com.

Both alumnae and students are appealing to the Catholic social justice tradition ingrained in them by Marian as the reason for their actions, reports the Detroit Free Press:

“Amber Mazza Cunnings, a 2001 Marian graduate, said the movement is about bringing light to a social injustice she said the school teaches its students to confront.

” ‘Marian teaches us about social justice in profound ways…This is a human rights issue. There’s a mother and a child involved. (Standing up for them) is what we were taught to do.’

“Brigid Johnson, 17, a senior at Marian, said the teacher’s absence was not explained to students. Teachers have told students they are forbidden to speak about it, she said.

” ‘I was just really kind of disappointed…We’re taught, as Christians and Catholics, about love and forgiveness and acceptance. So the first thing that came to mind was, “What could we do?” ‘ ”

Speaking with Michigan Radio, Johnson said that firing a pregnant mother “does not seem to be supporting life, or anyone’s life,” a nod to the school’s pro-life identity. Another student has commented, “After all, Marian was named after a woman with a nontraditional pregnancy.”

A Marian employee, speaking anonymously to WZZM 13, said faculty are supportive of Webb and some have even offered to resign in protest. The employee also expressed concern for students, who are “visibly upset” and yet unable to discuss Webb’s firing per school officials’ orders. Senior Brigid Johnson commented on the situation for students as well, saying:

” ‘Lower classmen … don’t know what’s happening right now just because they’re new, and no one’s talking about it. So I hope we can bring it to light and teach these younger students that we are accepting and we are loving and you’re safe here.’ “

Marian president Sister Lenore Pochelski is still declining to comment beyond confirming Webb is no longer employed, though this incident has received widespread international and media attention.

This is not the first time Marian High School has fired a lesbian employee. Charlene Genther was let go in 2006 after coming at as gay in a book she authored, and said Webb had been supportive then and that the two speak daily now.

Barbara Webb has said she would not return to Marian if offered her job back, but identified this movement around the firing as something bigger with import for the school community, and especially LGBT students:

” ‘It’s not about me anymore…Really, it never was. It’s time for the students at Marian to have an outlet. There’s no (Gay-Straight Alliance) club for students to express themselves. It’s time to change the outlook for the future.’ “

To add your voice in support of Barbara Webb, you can sign the petition at Change.org or connect through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. More information is available on the movement’s website.

Cor Jesu Academy

Members of the Cor Jesu Academy community, St. Louis, Missouri, are similarly protesting after two educators were fired from the chool. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, dozens rallied last week for Olivia Reichert and Christina Gambaro who lost their jobs due to their same-sex relationship. Those attending included LGBT advocates and other Christian groups who expressed solidarity with students at Cor Jesu who identify as LGBT.

Rev. Wes Mullins of the Metropolitan Community Church cited Pope Francis in her explanation:

” ‘If the pope says that, what is Cor Jesu doing?…Where is their message of Jesus’ love and grace in their actions? Because we don’t see it.’

” ‘If you’re a student there, do you really feel safe talking to any of the teachers now?…Are you going to talk to a principal now? I wouldn’t.’ “

A letter to the editor from a gay Catholic, Andrew Brown, sets the Cor Jesu firings in the larger context of LGBT discrimination. Brown uses his faith and these firings to call for legislative action in Missouri:

“As a graduate student at the Brown School of Social Work, I am passionate about ending all injustices, including discrimination for being gay. As a gay Catholic, it deeply hurts me to see a school that represents my church discriminating against someone who is gay just like me…

“LGBT people face similar discrimination in nonreligious workplaces throughout Missouri. One way to improve this situation is the passage of legislation that protects LGBT people from discrimination. The Missouri Nondiscrimination Act, which would supply basic protections in workplaces across Missouri, must be passed in order to ensure equality for all citizens.”

Non-discrimination laws would help protect LGBT workers, but these have often contained religious exemptions allowing faith-based institutions leniency. One way to make an impact at Catholic institutions would be implementing an inclusive non-discrimination policy at your local parish or Catholic school. More information on how to do this is available through New Ways Ministry by clicking here.

For Bondings 2.0‘s full coverage of ‘Employment Issues,’ click the category to the right. For a full listing of LGBT-related firings, with links to further information, click here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


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