CAMPUS CHRONICLES: Students Question Notre Dame’s Commitment to LGBT Inclusion

April 24, 2014

University of Notre Dame

For decades, University of Notre Dame students and alumni advocated to implement more inclusive campus policies towards LGBTQ people at the school. Many believed the 2012 pastoral plan, “Beloved Friends and Allies,” was a step forward, but now the University’s commitment is being called into question as a new, constroversial student organization, Students for Child-Oriented Policy (SCOP), has emerged.

The campus debate over SCOP began when the nascent student group launched a petition and hosted two events calling for the University to defend heterosexual marriage more explicitly.

In mid-March, SCOP co-hosted a panel discussion called “Marriage, the Church, and the Common Good.” It featured leading anti-marriage equality speakers, including Jennifer Roback Morse of the Ruth Institute and Ryan Anderson of the Heritage Foundation. In April, the student group held a daylong conference to organize student leaders who oppose LGBT rights in Indiana and again included speakers from institutions such as the Family Research Council and the Ruth Institute.

However, students from both sides of the marriage equality debate have reacted negatively to SCOP’s presence on campus.  These students launched a petition which explainins their nuanced opposition to SCOP.  In essence, they state that they are more against the organization’s attack on LGBT people, especially in terms of parenting, than SCOP’s beliefs about marriage. The petition authors write:

“As a Catholic university, we acknowledge and uphold the church’s teaching that is not in favor of same-sex marriage. However, SCOP does not reject same-sex marriage on moral or religious grounds in their club petition; rather, this petition takes issue with the University’s formal recognition of SCOP as a club due to the following: 1) SCOP’s incorrect implications that same-sex parenting is damaging to children – this blatantly ignores all empirical data in this field of the social sciences (summarized below) that actually indicates the opposite is true. 2) In ignoring this data, SCOP’s policy discriminates against all non-traditional family structures in a way that is in direct opposition of the university policy on diversity inclusion and message of love and acceptance…

By endorsing the SCOP as a club under it’s current specifications the University is sending the message that it is ignorant of the facts surrounding same-sex parenting and that it tolerates discrimination based on sexual orientation, not that we, as a community, embrace all people as created with dignity in the loving image of God.”

PrismND, the LGBT student organization started as part of the University’s pastoral plan, also opposes SCOP, and they released a letter which was published in campus newspaper, The Observer. Concurring with the petition that discussion over marriage is expected at a Catholic college, these students also object to SCOP’s perceived failure to respect the LGBT community.

About SCOP’s April conference, the PrismND letter noted that one speaker, Evangelical Bishop Harry Jackson Jr., commented that being gay is “becoming almost, if I can use the phrase, the flavor of the week.” He concurred with materials from sponsoring organizations that sexual orientation is a choice, one which he views as harmful. The Family Research Council’s materials insinuated that homosexuality is linked to child abuse, mental illness, and substance issues, and advocated reparative therapy, according to PrismND’s letter. PrismND leaders write:

“When the University of Notre Dame released its official statement ‘Beloved Friends and Allies’ more than a year ago…It called for ‘a safe and supportive environment for all members of the Notre Dame community’ and said that ‘the University deplores any offenses against that fundamental human dignity and calls for an abiding spirit of inclusion within the Notre Dame community.’…

“SCOP’s sponsorship of these [anti-gay] views during the conference stands in sharp contrast to the mission of the University and the Catholic Church to provide pastoral care to GLBTQ individuals. We maintain that the inclusion of these positions at the conference by SCOP is harmful to GLBTQ students and Notre Dame’s commitment to them.”

It is worth noting that SCOP’s introduction this spring came at the same time Indiana’s legislature was considering a constitutional amendment to ban marriage equality, and this assuredly will not be the final battle over LGBT rights there.

Having attended a Catholic university where monitoring of speakers limited academic freedom and free expression, I am always wary of any attempt to curtail campus initiatives. At dozens of Catholic colleges in the US, LGBT groups and events are denied recognition because they do not conform to a specific and selective view of Catholic teaching. As a Church and as educators, it seems prudent to move away from linking every speaker, group, and event as an endorsement from the hosting institution. The University should eliminate anything which is overtly violent or hateful, but allow that which is distasteful or even offensive to both sides of a debate. Doing so would enable freer thought from students, which could foster more fruitful and open dialogue overall on a range of issues. And in an open dialogue, PrismND and their allies would defeat opponents of LGBT justice with their ideas. For surely the ideals of love and justice, of human dignity and civil rights, are far more persuasive than those used to defend discrimination and denial.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Ugandan Bishops Support Anti-Gay Law, While Others Call Pope to Condemn It

April 23, 2014

Over the past few weeks, news about Catholic reaction to Uganda’s newly-enacted anti-gay law has shown how insidious homophobia can be within a culture.  The most recent story that caught my attention because is horrific, if true.  I make the qualification “if true” because I have only seen one report about it, which is from an independent blogger, not a professional news source.

Bishop Charles Wamika

The O-blog-dee-O-blog-da site, maintained by Melanie Nathan, a respected lawyer, LGBT advocate, and journalist, reports  that on Easter Sunday, Bishop Charles Wamika of the Jinja Diocese in Uganda

“called for a blessing for Uganda’s Christians who worked so hard to ‘free the land of gays.’  The Bishop also asked for parents to hand over their gay children to authorities, so they would be rewarded in heaven.”

Nathan cites an anonymous Ugandan gay man in hiding with reporting on Wamika’s statements.

A Ugandan newspaper, The Daily Monitor did not mention Wamika in its report of Easter Sunday messages, but it did note that other Catholic bishops in that country also supported the new anti-gay law on Easter Sunday.  The paper reported on the statement of Bishop Augustine Salimo of the Sebei Diocese:

In reference to the Anti-Homosexual Act, he also urged the government not to back down but to continue the right path pursued to protect values of Ugandans.

And a third bishop also praised the new law:

“In Tororo District, Bishop Emmanuel Obbo, the Archbishop of Tororo Archdiocese, urged every citizen who supported the anti-homosexuality law to lay down greed, corruption and ‘put them to death and let generosity rise up within us and flow out in abundance.

“ ‘In Christ, we have victory over dysfunctional relationships, bad habits, painful experiences, sexual temptation and devastating circumstances,’ he said.”

These statements show that Uganda’s bishops’ minds have been clouded by homophobia to the point that they ignore basic Catholic teaching on the human dignity of all persons–including towards LGBT people.

Catholic hospitals in Uganda are maintaining a non-discrimination policy toward lesbian and gay people, The Observer reported, though the attitude of the hospital’s administrator indicates a negative bias against them.  The news story stated:

“Dr Sam Orach, the executive secretary of Uganda Catholic Medical Bureau (UCMB), yesterday said although AHA [Anti-Homosexuality Act] criminalises homosexuality, which is also considered a sin in the Church, homosexuals would not be locked out of Catholic hospitals.

“ ‘In the current context of the aftermath of the anti-homosexuality law, no health worker in our facilities has expressed concern that service provision is being affected. That is what we believe as UCMB. We equate this to the post-abortion care we provide to a sick woman who has otherwise criminally and immorally committed abortion.

“We distinguish between a crime or a sin and the disease. Catholic health services are, therefore, non- discriminatory,’ Orach said at the opening of UCMB’s hospital managers’ workshop in Kampala.”

Meanwhile, around the globe, more and more commentators have been calling upon Pope Francis to make a clear statement condemning Uganda’s law and other laws like it that have been appearing in other countries.

National Catholic Reporter columnist Jamie Manson cited the #PopeSpeakOut campaign as a way to encourage the pope to make a statement against these laws.  Manson wrote:

“Anti-homosexuality legislation is quickly becoming a global threat to human dignity. These laws do not simply violate human rights; they foster a climate of rage, scapegoating, and violence against LGBT people.

“This situation brings to the forefront the ongoing debate among progressive Catholics about the efficacy of the Pope Francis’ kinder, gentler papacy. Some believe Francis’ expressions of compassion will eventually lead to greater inclusion for LGBT Catholics while others argue that Francis’ words are not substantive enough to amount to real change.

“These repressive laws offer an opportunity for the pope’s now-legendary ‘Who am I to judge?’ comment to actually translate into action. No one is asking Pope Francis to change doctrine or create a revolution. We are only asking him to honor the catechism’s teaching that gays and lesbians should be ‘accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.’ “

And in Australia, the head of Rainbow Sash, a Catholic LGBT organization, last week called on Pope Francis to use Easter as the occasion to speak out against anti-LGBT laws. The Star Observer quotes Michael Kelly as saying:

“The whole experience of Easter is about moving from slavery to freedom for persecuted people.

“It would be the perfect time for Pope Francis to make a statement that could be heard around the world about justice for people being persecuted right now in Africa. . . .”

“You can see the seeds of what could be genocide so people abroad have to stand up.”

Ugandan religious leaders thank President Museveni (far right) for signing the nation’s anti-gay law. Catholic Archbishop Charles Lwanga stands next to Museveni.

Writing in The Atlantic Matt Ford pointed out that Arcbhisop Charles Lwanga of Kampala, the head of the Catholic Church in Uganda, offered a closing prayer at a rally staged by the country’s President Yoweri Museveni to celebrate the signing of the anti-gay law. Many other national religious leaders took part in the event, even giving a plaque to the president to thank him for support of the law.

Yet, Ford also notes that, significantly, Pope Francis has turned down an invitation to visit Uganda to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the canonization of the Ugandan Martyrs, who resisted a native king’s homosexual advances.   Perhaps it was good that Pope Francis rejected the invitation to the event since it could easily have been used to suggest his support for the new law.  But, as Ford points out, Francis can not be silent forever:

“This time around, it seems, Pope Francis is not taking Uganda’s Catholic leaders up on their invitation to visit the shrine—at least not yet. But regardless of whether he travels to the country, will he take a public position on the debate over homosexuality in Uganda—and similar debates taking place elsewhere in the world?

“The pontiff’s tenure, now in its second year, has so far been characterized by two themes: greater compassion on social issues in the developed world, and greater outreach to and inclusion of the developing world. Until now, these goals have rarely clashed. How he bridges the divide between the two in Uganda, if he chooses to try, will be one of the great challenges of his papacy.”

You can help urge Pope Francis to speak out by participating in the #PopeSpeakOut campaign.  Send him an email or a tweet today!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


Catholic Mother Shares Her Journey of Loving LGBT Family Members

April 22, 2014

Rosa Manriquez

An LGBT storytelling project recently profiled Rosa Manriquez, a Catholic mother and church justice advocate, as she tells the story about the LGBT people in her family. In the seven-minute video, she discusses the coming out experiences of her former husband and daughter — and how her Catholic faith and Latina identity have shaped the journey.

Manriquez says she refuses to be identified by her sexuality, but says she is a mother and a grandmother foremost. She is also an associate member of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Sisters Community. Raised Catholic, she attended Catholic schools and was planning to enter religious life before meeting her former husband, Enrique. She says of this first relationship:

“Enrique was gay. He never came out of the closet but the signs were all there. Being a good Mexican wife I refused to see those signs. I just figured I could carry the family by doing what I had been taught to do. One morning he came home and told me I can’t do this anymore, and he abandoned the family. And I found things like pictures and love letters and the like. And at that point for me the face of “gay” was Enrique. And I really hated him. And it followed that I hated anyone who was gay. His lovers and anyone else. And I honestly believed that anyone who was gay should go to hell. I was upset because my heart had been broken, I was abandoned with two little daughters, two infants, I had debt all the way through the roof. And it was really a difficult time for me but having my background, my up-raising, being raised Catholic and being devout, I realized that I couldn’t let a lie be the basis of my life, including the lie that he was all bad.”

In the midst of this, Manriquez looked to prayer and the support of others for guidance. Years later, her youngest daughter, Cecilia, came out in high school as a lesbian woman. She says of this moment:

“And she came up to me and she said, ‘Mom, I’ve got something to tell you but don’t get mad…Mom, don’t hate me. I date girls. I like girls. Don’t hate me.’ And that was pretty hard because for me I would do anything for my kids…But she was afraid of me, believing with all her heart that I was going to hate her. We talked. I told her, ‘Mija, I love you now the way I loved you before you told me, the way I’ll love you until I die. You’re my jewel, you’re my gift from God.’ “

The project which shared Manriquez’s story is  I’m From Driftwood, which “aims to help LGBTQ people learn more about their community, straight people learn more about their neighbors, and everyone learn more about themselves through the power of storytelling and story sharing.” It was begun by Nathan Manske, inspired by a photo of Harvey Milk, which made Manske realize there are LGBTQ people everywhere in the world. To read more about I’m From Driftwood, click here.

There is no agenda tp the project besides furthering understanding and empathy for LGBTQ people and their allies through storytelling.  Manriquez’ final words of her story make clear how important understanding and empathy are:

“I counseled [Cecilia] on love and commitment and trust and having self-respect for herself and all of these things you’re supposed to tell your children, and I think I did okay except for one thing that I told her, and that was, ‘Careful who you tell.’ And I feel badly for telling her ‘Careful who you tell.’ I told her out of fear but there’s something wrong with that, something very wrong. If she had been straight, I never would have told my daughter ‘Careful who you tell.’ And it’s got to change. We can’t be worried that our kids are going to be harmed because of who they love.”

To watch the video in full, see below or click here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


SYNOD SHORTS: Vatican Censorship? Theory-Practice Gap? Fragmentation? Western Bias?

April 21, 2014

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin

SYNOD SHORTS is a new, occasional series designed to bring you news about the upcoming Vatican Synod on Marriage and Family, scheduled for October 2014.  Since so much news is generated about this meeting, we hope that this feature will help keep you informed, particularly on news relating to LGBT issues and the synod.

Was England Silenced by the Vatican?

The Tablet reported that the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales has cited the Vatican as their reason not to publish findings from an online survey designed to elicit lay opinion on marriage and family which they made available last fall. The bishops were hailed at the time for posting the Vatican’s questionnaire online and 16,600 responses were received. When called upon by Catholics to release the results, a conference spokesperson said the synod’s secretary general, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, told Cardinal Vincent Nichols that responses should be kept private.

The spokesperson for the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales also stated that the Vatican’s request was that all episcopal conferences withhold results , though this is unconfirmed and already bishops in Germany, Austria, and elsewhere have made the questionnaire responses public.

A church reform group known as “A Call to Action” (ACTA) wrote a letter to the British bishops’ conference that quoted Baldisseri as saying the very opposite of what Nichols has stated.  ACTA stated:

“[Baldisseri] has said the results of the questionnaire show the ‘urgency of recognising the lived reality of the people and of beginning a pastoral dialogue with those who have distanced themselves from the Church.’ The letter, which praises the bishops’ decision to publish the survey online, then states: ‘Withholding the results cannot be a promising way to begin that pastoral dialogue.’ “

Cardinal Baldisseri has also engaged in this participatory process himself, hosting a forum in early April called “Listening to the family. Uncertainty and expectations.” According to Joshua McElwee of the National Catholic Reporter, the forum held at the Pontifical Gregorian University  in Rome focused on issues related to family life, and it included scholars and married people sharing their wisdom through small group discussions.

Outside of England, the decision is mixed on whether to release findings from the questionnaire responses or keep them for bishops alone. Irish and some American bishops have been more open, while Canadian bishops are remaining quiet.

In Ireland, a theory-practice gap

The Irish Times reports that Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin called Catholic teaching on sexuality and family life, including same-gender relationships, “disconnected from real life experiences of families — and not just be younger people.” He said it was “poorly understood…[and] accepted,” saying there was a “theory-practice gap” between what the Church teaches and how it is lived out. The Times reports further:

“On same sex relations ‘some saw the church’s position as being purely negative and judgemental…Many felt that there should be some way of civilly recognising stable same-sex unions, but there was a clear hesitancy, uneasiness and opposition with regard to marriage for same sex unions,’ he said.”

Martin has previously spoken strongly in favor of the dignity of lesbian and gay people. Earlier this year, he said that to be anti-gay was to be anti-God and has called for a more respectful tone in the debate over marriage rights. The Irish bishops reversed a March decision to withhold the results and made them public. In a statement reported on by the National Catholic Reporter, they said:

” ‘The church’s teaching in these sensitive areas [of sexuality and family life] is often not experienced as realistic, compassionate, or life-enhancing.’ “

Canadian Fragmentation

Canadian bishops followed a plan similar to the Americans by leaving the decision to engage lay consultation up to each bishop, creating a fragmented situation. Only 13 of 73 diocese made it available online, which, according to president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops Archbishop Paul -André Durocher, gave the country’s prelates a “good read” of the pastoral situation.

Critique from India

Dr. Astrid Lobo Gajiwala, a lay woman in India, is voicing concerns that the Synod of Bishops is not sufficiently global and is concerned with Western problems. She writes in UCA News:

“My own reading of the questionnaire found two critical lacunae. As a woman functioning in an interfaith family for the past 25 years in a subcontinent where women form the anawim - or ‘poor ones’ – vulnerable, exploited, marginalized, I felt excluded. I found no attempt to elicit information about the status of women in the family, a factor so crucial to the health of the family.

“Interfaith marriages were another silent zone in the questionnaire…Unfortunately the focus of the questionnaire was on divorced Catholics and same-sex unions. I wish there had been more sensitivity to the concerns of Asia.”

Her comments echo those of the Japanese bishops, who earlier this year wrote about the Vatican’s questionnaire being irrelevant to their pastoral reality. Rethinking marriage and family must entail the wisdom of a global Catholic community. For a thoughtful analysis of the global community’s challenge to Catholicism, read Jesuit Jeremy Zipple’s analysis at The Jesuit Post.

Check Bondings 2.0 regularly for more updates on the Synod or enter your email in the upper right hand corner to subscribe to the blog for daily posts delivered to your email. For our previous posts on the Synod, click on “Synod 2014″ in the “Categories” list to the right.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Easter Sunday: Life Beyond Suffering and Wickedness

April 20, 2014

Throughout Lent, Bondings 2.0 has featured reflections by two New Ways Ministry staff members:  Matthew Myers, Associate Director, and Sister Jeannine Gramick, Co-Founder. This series closes today with the reflection below. The liturgical readings for Easter Sunday are Acts 10:34a, 37-43; 1 Corinthians 5:6b-8; John 20:1-9.

“The Resurrection” by Otto Dix

In pre-Vatican II days, I was a child in a Catholic grade school in Philadelphia. Every year toward the end of Lent, on the day before the Easter recess, the sisters would usher their classes down to the school’s big auditorium. There in the dark, cavernous room a feature length, silent movie about the passion of Christ would be projected onto a giant screen. I can still remember the black and white images of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, before Caiphas and Annas, being scourged and crowned with thorns, carrying and being nailed to the cross. This was a much more gruesome and shocking movie than even Mel Gibson could imagine.

I cried and cried each year that I saw the movie. My idea of Easter was suffering and death. In those days, the Easter Vigil was a quiet Saturday morning liturgy that not many people attended. Easter Sunday Mass seemed also subdued. The Resurrection appeared as an afterthought. No wonder that I felt Christmas was the happiest day of the liturgical year.

In the very early Church, there were no crosses to signify Christianity. The fish was the Christian symbol and the fish, not the cross, was the icon that St. Augustine used. Historians claim that only six crosses, without a corpus, have been unearthed that date back to the time of Augustine.

I thank God for Vatican II, the renewal of the liturgy, and theological developments—all of which my parched and Jansenistic spirituality drank in. I now understand that Christ’s passion, death, and Resurrection are all one fabric in the Paschal mystery.

The Resurrection is God’s response to the cruel and immoral deeds of those who wanted to do away with Jesus, stop his healings, and silence his voice for a more just world. Jesus’ Resurrection means that life will be victorious over death, goodness will triumph over evil, peace and joy will replace pain and suffering. Jesus did indeed suffer and die for us—in order to show us how to live.

Jesus never promised that he would put a stop to sickness or tragedy or pain—ours or any one else’s. Jesus did promise that he could take those circumstances and mysteriously draw life out of them. His goodness is stronger than any wickedness or evil. Jesus is that good.

To follow the crucified Christ until the Resurrection means that we try to stop grumbling, criticizing, and finding fault so much. It means that we cease lamenting the injustices in the world and in the church, but start trying to correct them. It means that we stop feeling so sorry for ourselves. It means that we will seek to give our time, our energy, our struggles, our very existence for the sake of love. We will know injury, exhaustion, and sorrow, but hope in Christ’s Resurrection will sustain us because Christ’s goodness is stronger than any wickedness or evil. Jesus is that good.

–Sister Jeannine Gramick, SL, New Ways Ministry

 


NEWS NOTES: April 19, 2014

April 19, 2014

NewsHere are some items that you might find of interest:

1)  The Montana Standard reported that Shaela Evenson, a lesbian teacher who was fired from a Butte, Montana Catholic school because she became pregnant while unmarried, has given birth to a baby boy.  Both the school superintendent and Evenson’s lawyer agree that it was the pregnancy and marital status, not sexual orientation, which was the cause of the firing.  Evenson, who lives with her partner Marilyn Tobin, has filed a discrimination case with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

2) Michael Coren, a columnist for Canada’s The Toronto Sun reported that the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association has decided to march in Toronto’s World Pride parade in June.  The organization 45,000 teachers.

3) The Boston Globe reported that Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley filed a brief against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Worcester in the discrimination suit brought against them by a married gay couple who said the diocese refused to sell them a real estate property because of the couple’s sexual orientation.

4) Insight Newspaper reported that Archbishop Lewis Zeigler of Monrovia, Liberia, has told Catholics in that African nation not to support same-sex marriage.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Holy Saturday: You Will Not Abandon Me to the Realm of the Dead

April 19, 2014

“Jesus in the Tomb” by Jean-Jacques Henner

Keep me safe, my God,
for in you I take refuge.

I say to God, “You are my God;
apart from you I have no good thing.”
I say of the holy people who are in the land,
“They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.”
Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more.
I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods
or take up their names on my lips.

God, you alone are my portion and my cup;
you make my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.
I will praise God, who counsels me;
even at night my heart instructs me.
I keep my eyes always on God.
With God at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure,
because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
nor will you let your faithful one see decay.
You make known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

–Psalm 16


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