Bishops Oppose Trans-Inclusive Athletic Policy While H.S. Student Supports It

December 19, 2014

Opposing voices who attended the early December board meeting

High school athletics in Minnesota became more transgender-inclusive last week despite opposition from the Minnesota Catholic Conference and other groups.  Yet, a brave student at a Catholic high school in the Twin Cities editorialized in the school paper in favor of the new policy.

The board of the Minnesota State High School League voted 18-2 for a new student policy that makes trans women eligible for female athletics at almost 500 schools in the state. Guided by a “consistent or sincerely held gender-related identity, the policy sets forth a process for determining a given student’s eligibility and adds appropriate language to existing eligibility policies. This policy is being lauded by LGBT organizations, according to the Star Tribune:

“Monica Meyer, executive director at OutFront Minnesota, which advocates for transgender issues, said, ‘All students want is a safe place to just be who they are. That includes in the classroom, on the court or field.’…

“OutFront Minnesota Communications Director Jean Heyer said, ‘We have heard trans kids are playing sports right now, and we have heard that there are kids who will try out now that the policy is in place.’ “

However, religiously-affiliated schools are exempt from the new policy and Christian groups led opposition to the anti-discrimination measure. The Minnesota Catholic Conference teamed up with the Minnesota Family Council and others in a campaign, claiming the policy would cause great harm to students and athletic competition. There were also ads employing the now-common tactic of discussing restroom use. One email from the Minnesota Catholic Conference, reported by The Column said:

” ‘The Policy will potentially cause more harm to the very students it purports to help because it enables a false understanding of gender that does not promote physical or psychological well-being.’ “

In further letters from the Catholic Conference to the Minnesota State High School League board, executive director Jason Adkins said the now-approved policy supports “gender confusion” and because it is not required by state or federal law, is really “propaganda” for a “harmful ideology.”

Parker Breza, the In-Depth Editor of The Knight Errant, the student newspaper of Benilde-St. Margaret’s High School, St. Louis Park, Minnesota, wrote an essay for the paper supporting the new policy. Breza explained the problems that trans students experience in school:

“Transgender and gender nonconforming students are faced with a binary––a male/female gender spectrum––defined world every second of everyday. For the majority of students, this is not an issue: this two-sided way of thinking has been ingrained in us from a young age, leading us to accept it without much thought. For some, however, being forced to conform to the gender binary, or not allowing them to identify where they actually belong, causes stress, anxiety, depression, and sometimes, much more.

“But this is such a small minority of individuals, so many do not even pause to think about the consequences of an unwelcome environment for trans* (the asterisk denotes the vast spectrum of terms and identities that fall under the trans* umbrella) identified students.”

Breza goes on to make an important Catholic argument in support of the new policy:

“As a Catholic school, we know the importance of breaking down systems of oppression and fighting the marginalization of historically underrepresented groups. No matter how small a group, no community deserves to be subjected to exclusion, harassment, or violence. By not taking a stand for trans* students and their rights, you are condoning trans*phobia.”

That Catholic officials in Minnesota are disappointing in their public advocacy is not new, given the 2012 referendum around marriage equality. Their arguments rely on debunked science, while ignoring or even attacking the real experiences of transgender people and their allies. Their campaigns against equality under the law rely on fear rather than truth, turning to anti-LGBT agendas rather than the Gospel to inform their efforts.

As more trans youth are liberated to come out and live authentically, Catholic leaders at all levels should forgo the political fights and instead figure out how the church’s schools can provide welcome and inclusion for all.  Catholic leaders need to listen to students like Parker Breza, whose faith defines a path of acceptance, justice, and equality.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Just How Controversial Are Celibate Gay and Lesbian People?

December 18, 2014

This past Sunday, The Washington Post printed a story about the growing movement of celibate lesbian and gay Christians.  One of the leaders of this movement is Eve Tushnet, a convert to Catholicism who recently published a book on celibacy and friendship entitled Gay and Catholic.

Eve Tushnet

For the record, I have not read Tushnet’s book yet, but I have read other things that she has written and heard her speak. In some ways, I find her to be a very credible spokesperson for celibacy because, while embracing the orthodox Catholic position for lesbian and gay people, she never insists that everyone embrace this option.  She remains non-judgmental about lesbian and gay people who choose to be part of a committed sexual relationship.  Her primary form of argument is to explain why celibacy is a life-giving option for herself.  I applaud both her free decision to choose celibacy and the first-person way in which she addresses the topic.

The Post article seemed to be trying to search for a controversy in this topic.  For example, the reporter, Michelle Boorstein, seems to want to make it seem that celibate gay and lesbian people are not accepted by non-celibate ones.  She writes:

“. . . [T]hey are also met with criticism from many quarters, including from other gays and lesbians who say celibacy is both untenable and a denial of equality.

“ ‘We’ve been told for so long that there’s something wrong with us,’ said Arthur Fitzmaurice, resource director of the Catholic Association for Lesbian and Gay Ministry. Acceptance in exchange for celibacy ‘is not sufficient,’ he said. ‘There’s a perception that [LGBT] people who choose celibacy are not living authentic lives.’ ”

I have been working in the field of LGBT Catholic ministry for over 20 years, and I honestly do not ever remember anyone ever disparaging someone’s free choice for celibacy.  I disagree that a perception exists that those “who choose celibacy are not living authentic lives.”   It is true that many Catholics–gay, lesbian, heterosexual–perceive forced celibacy as a person’s only moral option to be not just inauthentic, but potentially damaging.  But that is different from people who freely choose celibacy as the way that will bring them most happiness and deepest connection to others and God.

Fitzmaurice’s statement that acceptance in exchange for celibacy is not sufficient is, however, a very important idea.  Celibacy should never be seen as something required for adults, and it certainly shouldn’t be an “admission ticket” for church participation.  I don’t disagree with Fitzmaurice here, but I do disagree with Boorstein seeing this part of his statement as an indication that celibacy is controversial.

Commenting on Boorstein’s article, Autumn Kunkel, writing at TheBGNews.com criticized this notion of celibacy as a requirement for acceptance into a faith community:

“. . . [T]here is absolutely nothing tolerant about someone saying, ‘I accept gays and lesbians as members of the Christian faith as long as they don’t have sex.’

‘This ideal, in and of itself, is homophobic and prejudiced. It’s dehumanizing.

‘It’s saying, ‘You can be an active member of this faith as long as you abide by special rules which no one else is required to follow.’

‘People who are born a certain way shouldn’t have to follow special rules just to be accepted. If they do, then they’re not really being accepted, are they?”

The controversy about celibate gay and lesbian Christians seems to come not from progressive Christians rejecting them but with conservative Christians being uncomfortable with their sexual orientation.   Boorstein quotes Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, who while praising the option of celibacy, also is leery of self-identified gay and lesbian people:

“. . . Mohler said he believes that sexual orientation can change ‘by the power of the Gospel.’ He said he is not comfortable with the way in which some celibate gay Christians proudly label themselves as gay or queer.”

The article notes that there has been more opportunity for people to come out as gay and lesbian people in their faith communities, and that this new social phenomenon has encouraged those who are celibate to be a part of those revelations.

Billy Hallowell, writing about Boorstein’s article at TheBlaze.comsees that the celibate Christian movement forces people to rethink their ideas:

“Consider that embracing celibate gays forces some to concede that homosexuality might not be a choice after all; likewise, it also forces some critics to abandon the notion that it’s possible to change one’s sexuality.”

Hallowell, however, also oversteps the evidence and tries to make it seem that sexually active gay and lesbian people are at odds with those who are celibate:

“The dynamic tends to also frustrate gays and lesbians who are fighting for a level of marriage equality that would allow them to be in same-sex relationships, while also participating in church communities. To these people, celibacy simply isn’t an option.”

Again,  I don’t know any gay or lesbian people who feel that sexual activity is compulsory.  Quite the opposite.  Having been castigated so long for their sexuality, lesbian and gay people are usually more accepting than others of a person’s freedom to live a sexual life that is most life-giving for the individual.

Celibacy, like homosexuality, is not something that a majority of people experience.  As a result, like homosexuality, it can often be misunderstood, and even railed against.  Let’s pray for a day when all people are comfortable expressing their sexual identities and life choices in both church and society.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related posts

Bondings 2.0: Is Celibacy the New Form of Reparative Therapy for Lesbians and Gays?

Bondings 2.0: Mandating Celibacy for Gay People Reveals Deep Incoherence in Church’s Teachings

 


Gay Veterans to March in Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parade Next Year

December 17, 2014

OUTVETS marching in Boston’s 2014 Veterans Day Parade

Exactly three months from today, St. Patrick’s Day in Boston will be a little more bright and gay with the inclusion of an explicitly LGBT group in that city’s parade for the first time.

A participation application was filed by OUTVETS, a new group highlighting LGBT veterans. It was narrowly approved by the Allied War Veterans Council in a 5-4 vote. OUTVETS was established this fall “as a nonpolitical outfit created to honor the contributions and sacrifices of LGBT veterans,” according to the Boston Globe, and welcomes all.

The vote reverses a long-standing ban on gay participants, a Veterans Council policy which was upheld in a 1992 US Supreme Court decision that said the right to discriminate was protected by the First Amendment. However, recent pressures like Boston Mayor Marty Walsh’s refusal to participate in the 2014 parade and the pulling of major beer sponsorships may have given parade organizers pause.

Veterans Council commander Brian Mahoney affirmed the decision in an interview with the Globe:

” ‘To other people, it will be a big thing…But to us, it’s a group of veterans that wanted to march and deserved to be honored…We weren’t thrilled last year that the mayor didn’t march…But we always kept open a courteous conversation.’ “

The Globe also noted that though OUTVOTE is the first explicitly LGBT group to march, two contingents last year were LGBT-themed while ostensibly marching as community groups from South Boston.

GLAAD’s blog also noted that this decision comes the same year as changes in New York’s parade are occuring:

“As of September, however, organizers of the NYC event announced that for the first time in its 253-year history, an LGBT organization would be allowed to participate in the parade. The new policy will go into effect in 2015 with OUT@NBCUniversal, a group for LGBT employees with the broadcast company.”

In recent years, these St. Patrick’s Day parades and other Catholic-affiliated civic events have drawn increased attention for their inclusion or lack thereof of LGBT representation. It is good to see parade organizers recognizing what the vast majority of American Catholics know: that people of all gender identities and sexual orientations should be fully welcomed and accepted.

For Bondings 2.0‘s full coverage of the parade controversies, click here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


New Ways Ministry Builds Bridges with Archbishop Cordileone

December 16, 2014
Sister Jeannine Gramick, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, Francis DeBernardo at New Ways Ministry

Sister Jeannine Gramick, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, Francis DeBernardo at New Ways Ministry

Fulfilling a promise he made last summer, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco met with New Ways Ministry’s Francis DeBernardo and Sister Jeannine Gramick on Monday, December 15, 2014, to help enrich understanding of each other’s approaches to marriage equality and LGBT issues.

In June of 2015, New Ways Ministry joined a group of LGBT equality organizations in an open letter asking Cordileone, who heads the U.S. bishops’ committee on the Promotion and Defense of Marriage,  not to speak at the March for Marriage rally in Washington, DC, organized by groups which oppose marriage equality, some of which were known to have a strong record of statements and actions that were harmful to LGBT people.  In response, Cordileone issued an open letter explaining why he would speak, and also agreed to meet with any of the signers of the original letter as a way to better understand one another.

Two groups took Cordileone up on his offer for a personal meeting: New Ways Ministry and DignityUSA. Earlier this autumn, Cordileone met in San Francisco with representatives from Dignity. New Ways Ministry’s meeting occurred on December 15th at our offices in Mount Rainier, Maryland, while the Archbishop was in the Washington, DC area on other church business.

DeBernardo met Cordileone and drove him to our offices. Gramick introduced herself, while Matt Myers and Bob Shine, two New Ways Ministry staff members, were also on hand to greet the archbishop and serve a light lunch of sandwiches. After the archbishop opened with a prayer, Cordileone, DeBernardo, and Gramick shared some of their life stories and experiences. Both Cordileone and DeBernardo have similar backgrounds, sharing an Italian heritage, and having attended public schools while being very much involved with the Catholic Church. Gramick talked about her Polish roots as an only child in a non-practicing Catholic family, but surrounded by Catholics until graduate school when she was first introduced to the gay community.

As the conversation progressed, they discussed how Catholic groups with opposing views on marriage can better understand and speak with one another. Cordileone mentioned Pope Francis’ idea of “encounter,” of meeting people where they are and beginning a dialogue with them. Cordileone stressed the importance of breaking down stereotypes on each side of the issue. He noted that both groups sometimes say things that cause harm to the other side, and that the harm is often not intended.

New Ways Ministry asked for advice on how LGBT Catholics and their families can initiate dialogues with their local bishops.  He noted that bishops often have many demands on their time and many requests for appointments.  A more practical route may be for people to request meetings with directors of diocesan ministries, such as family life, or with other chancery officials.

New Ways Ministry asked how a lesbian or gay person could speak to the U.S. bishops at one of their meetings. Cordileone mentioned that a member of the Courage ministry group, which promotes celibacy for lesbian and gay Catholics, has spoken to the bishops’ conference in the past. New Ways Ministry asked if other lesbian and gay persons could speak to the bishops. He considered this and seemed receptive to hearing the perspectives of gay and lesbian parish members.  Cordileone also noted that there is a great need to find ways to reach out to lesbian and gay people who are not close to the Church, including those who have been alienated from the institution.

New Ways Ministry spoke about six Catholic parents who met with Archbishop Chaput in Philadelphia in April to tell their stories about their gay and lesbian children. The parents were enthused and delighted with Archbishop Chaput’s warm reception and invitation to meet again. Cordileone was interested in learning more about the meeting from Chaput.

Gramick mentioned that, although she and Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois, differed on the issue of same-sex marriage, she and Paprocki had a delightful luncheon together as they shared their common ethnic backgrounds. She asked Cordelione to give her warm regards to Paprocki when they next meet.

Cordileone expressed genuine concern for how to speak about lesbian and gay people in ways that would not compromise his concern for church teaching or would harm lesbian and gay people. New Ways Ministry suggested that he elaborate more on church teaching concerning the human dignity of LGBT people and to show interest in their lives beyond the question of sexual ethics.  DeBernardo and Gramick shared a list of suggestions that were published on Bondings 2.0 in the summer of 2012.

Knowing that he often serves meals as part of the supper ministry of Most Holy Redeemer parish, a gay-friendly church in San Francisco, New Ways Ministry encouraged him to celebrate liturgy with the community, too, and he responded positively.  We also discussed with him some of the other ways that gay-friendly parishes across the nation are reaching out to LGBT people.

The hour-and-a-half meeting was very warm and friendly, and personal respect for one another was very evident throughout the time together. New Ways Ministry appreciated the opportunity to dialogue with Archbishop Cordileone.

The meeting shows that dialogue can happen in our church when both sides are willing to speak with one another honestly and respectfully.  We were edified by this personal encounter which revealed a man who seeks to learn how the Gospel can be proclaimed more effectively. May more bishops follow his lead in personally learning more about Catholic LGBT people and advocates.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


LGBT Homes Should Open Their Doors to the World Meeting of Families

December 15, 2014

The World Meeting of Families, an international Catholic gathering focused on family life which will be held in Philadelphia in September 2015, has already caused some controversy concerning LGBT issues.

7f826-archbcharleschaputArchbishop Charles Chaput of the Philadelphia Archdiocese said that everyone would be welcome to the meeting, but he also announced that “neuralgic sexual issues that seem to dominate the American media” would not be on the agenda.  Many people interpreted this to mean that questions about same-gender marriage would be avoided.

Additionally, advance materials for the Meeting seem to indicate that where LGBT issues are noted, they are done so in basically negative language.

Two Philadelphia area commentators recently called on Chaput to be more open in his approach to LGBT issues at the upcoming meeting, at which Pope Francis will be making a visit.

In a short essay on Philly.com, Mark Segal, publisher of Philadelphia Gay News noted the different approaches that Chaput and Pope Francis seem to be taking toward LGBT issues. Remarking on the pope’s recent interview in which he supported families with LGBT members, Segal wrote:

“The pontiff’s comments came a day after he urged church officials to pay attention to the ‘signs of the times.’ This is groundbreaking, especially since he was speaking in regard to a meeting of American bishops, who, to say the least, have not been so kind to LGBT Catholics. And sadly enough, while other bishops see a church attempting to join the 21st century, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput now seems to be leading a campaign of opposition.

“While the pope noted it is important to welcome gay Catholics, he still is opposed to same-sex marriage. But he said his views on LGBT youth were in part formed from personal experiences.

“ ‘We come across this reality all the time in the confessional: a father and a mother whose son or daughter is in that situation. This happened to me several times in Buenos Aires…. We have to find a way to help that father or that mother to stand by their son or daughter,’ he said in an interview with Argentina’s La Nación.”

Segal offered a practical suggestion to help fix the discrepancy between Pope Francis’ view and Chaput who seems to oppose him:

“. . . [W]e need to help U.S. bishops learn more about our community. Chaput will be among the hosts of the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia next fall, which Pope Francis will attend. Chaput has stated that thousands of Catholic households should offer to house some of the visitors who will be coming from around the globe. With that in mind, I’d like to suggest that LGBT Catholic families meet that calling and call the Archdiocese to offer their homes. Let us help His Holiness with his mission.”

Stephen Seufert, the state director of Keystone Catholics, a new social-justice advocacy organization in Pennsylvania dedicated to promoting the common good, penned an essay in Philadelphia Gay News, in which he criticized Chaput’s approach to marriage, while arguing for the benefits that families headed by lesbian and gay couples offer society:

“Chaput, like many other traditionalist Catholics, seems to have a ‘Leave It to Beaver’ mentality of the family. He believes any marriage not between one man and one woman is evil and sinful. Trying to define marriage and the family in such limited terms makes the church seem obtuse to a diverse and complicated world. . . .

“Opponents of same-sex marriage argue that, because LGBT couples can’t procreate, they’re not equal to heterosexual couples. I completely reject that argument. LGBT people promote life by caring for and loving those around them, whether it be family, friends or coworkers. Too often, marriage-equality opponents forget about the life and dignity of an LGBT person.”

Segal’s proposal for LGBT families to open their doors to World Meeting of Families participants is a wonderful, grassroots idea that would promote understanding on a very personal and basic level. It would probably work best if parents of LGBT people would offer such hospitality since many participants might be reluctant, unfortunately, to stay in the home of a gay or lesbian couple.  And New Ways Ministry knows that the Catholic parents of LGBT people in the Philadelphia area are a strong, welcoming, and committed group!

The best way for people to learn about LGBT issues is through one-on-one conversations.  Even though the World Meeting of Families won’t be addressing LGBT issues positively, let’s hope and pray that there will be many opportunities for participants to witness the loving and live-giving qualities that LGBT families offer the world and the church.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 


John the Baptist’s Humble Example for LGBT Folks

December 14, 2014

For the four Sundays of Advent, Bondings 2.0 will feature reflections on the day’s Scripture readings by two New Ways Ministry staff members:  Matthew Myers, Associate Director, and Sister Jeannine Gramick, Co-Founder.  The liturgical readings for the Third Sunday of Advent are Isaiah 61:1-2, 10-11; Luke 1:46-50, 53-54; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24; John 1:6-8, 19-28.  You can read the texts by clicking here.

St. John the Baptist

I always imagined John the Baptist as a rather strident and coarse fellow, complete with his camel hair clothing, locust diet, apocalyptic message, and his uneasy relationship with authority (things didn’t end well with Herod).  I can’t imagine John being a person with whom I’d like to have coffee and a chat.  But, unpleasant or not, today’s Gospel presents John as a profoundly humble person who was deeply aware of his own identity and mission.  And I think we can learn a lot from him in this regard.

John the Baptist was an itinerant preacher who became famous enough for the Jewish authorities in Jerusalem to take notice and send priests to find and listen to him.  He was a celebrity.  So when the priests asked “Who are you?”, John demonstrated profound humility and integrity when he replied that he was not the Christ, Elijah, or the Prophet, but simply a voice crying in the desert. John could have easily claimed the mantle of any of these very important persons and thereby increase his own celebrity among the people.  Can you imagine the flocks of would-be followers if he said (or even obliquely suggested) that he was Elijah or the Messiah? Perhaps that might have been a fleeting temptation for him.  But John chose to remain faithful to his own identity and to speak his own truth as he understood it.

I think John’s example to us, particularly for LGBT folks and those who advocate for them, is “I am my own person, with my own truth to proclaim in this world.  My story may be quite different from others,  but it is mine, and I must live it with integrity.”  Thomas Merton wrote a powerful reflection on this theme:

“A tree gives glory to God by being a tree… The more a tree is like itself, the more it is like [God]… This particular tree will give glory to God by spreading out its roots in the earth and raising its branches into the air and the light in a way that no other tree before or after it ever did or will do.”

We have many reasons to rejoice on this Third Advent Sunday, known as Gaudete (Rejoice) Sunday, not least of which is the mystery of God becoming human in the person of Jesus. But I suggest we also take time to revel in our own uniqueness, the knowledge that each of us is utterly special in this world because no one can witness to God’s love in quite the same way.  Each of us can contribute to a more humane and compassionate world, not by living by the narratives of others, but by sharing our own unique stories, just as John the Baptist did.  By leading lives of integrity and openness, LGBT folks can give glory to God as only we can — and we should rejoice for the opportunity!

–Matthew Myers, New Ways Ministry


Was Synod 2014 a “Turning Point” or “Clash of Factions”? What Will Synod 2015 Be?

December 13, 2014

The upcoming synod on marriage and family to take place at the Vatican in 2015 was in the news this week because the discussion document was released, and bishops around the world were once again asked to consult with the laity about matters pertaining to the synod’s topic.

Pope Francis

But this week there was also a looking back towards the October 2014 synod.  At his general audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis spoke about the recent meeting and said that the meeting did not include a “clash of factions,” as media reports indicated.  Religion News Service provided excerpts from the pope’s comments on the past synod:

“ ‘Some of you have asked me if the synod fathers fought,’ Francis said. ‘I don’t know if they “fought,” but they spoke forcefully. This is freedom. This is just the kind of freedom that there is in the church.’

“In a bid to set the record straight, the pope acknowledged the extensive media coverage of the global gathering in October and likened it to ‘sports or political coverage.’

“ ‘They often spoke of two teams, pro and con, conservatives and liberals,’ the pope told thousands of pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square.

“ ‘There was no clash between factions … but a dialogue between the bishops, which came after a long process of preparation and now continues, for the good of the family, the church and society. It’s a process.’ ”

Jesuit commentator Father Thomas Reese had a different interpretation of the meeting.  He stated that differences of opinion clearly existed among the synod participants, making this synod very different from those in recent memory.  Reese said:

“Rather than advising the pope, these earlier synods often simply quoted the pope to himself. They were a way of bishops showing their loyalty. Francis gave the bishops freedom to speak.”

Indeed, in the document that was released this week, that landmark meeting in October was described as a pastoral “turning point” for the Church, the Associated Press noted.

Both New Ways Ministry and DignityUSA criticized this week’s document because of using the term “homosexual tendencies,” and because of lack of focus on families headed by gay and lesbian couples. In addition to each group’s statements, an Advocate.com article contained additional comments from the leaders of these two organizations.

 

Ryan Denson, writing at AddictingInfo.com has a different point of view, though, about the document and the upcoming synod.  He sees the identification of a “turning point” as significant, and that the Catholic Church may be on the road to becoming more open to LGBT people and those who are divorced and remarried.  Denson wrote:

“Baby steps are turning into leaps as Pope Francis and the Vatican urge the world’s bishops to be guided, not just by doctrine, but by the Pope’s compassionate message which includes a ‘turning point’ inspired by meetings at the Vatican. The new message seeks to provide better pastoral care for gays and divorcees across the globe . . . .

“[I]n other words, the Vatican is asking the bishops and other clergy members to act like Jesus, who loves and respects all, and not act like arrogant, judgmental religious zealots. Instead of focusing on outdated dogma, Pope Francis is truly teaching the Gospels, and with the ousting of several prominent homophobic priests, the Vatican is starting to realize that he means business.

“The bottom line is this: the Pope is currently facing vocal opposition from those who view the church as an exclusive club where the unsaved and unworthy are not welcomed. He wants to change this. And he has made it very obvious that he does.”

ThinkProgress.com also looked on a more positive side to the survey released.  They quoted several progressive Catholic leaders, who have a more optimistic view of the synod, the questionnaire, and the process.  Bob Shine of New Ways Ministry was one of those more optimistic voices:

“ ‘Language about tendencies is problematic,’ Shine, who oversees young adult ministries for New Ways, told ThinkProgress in an email. ‘That said, I think the intentions of reaching out to and providing pastorally for LGBT people and their families is what is really guiding this process … Pope Francis has encouraged genuine dialogue during this whole synodal process.’ ”

Other Catholic leaders said likewise:

“ ‘Regardless of the wording, the survey itself is a step in the right direction towards providing better pastoral care of LGBT people, as is the Vatican asking for wider inputs from ‘all levels’ for the 2015 synod on the family,’ Stephen Seufert, state director of the progressive Catholic group Keystone Catholics, told ThinkProgress. ‘Both the survey and the Vatican document released yesterday relating to the 2015 synod are indications of a church that wants to focus less on rigid, uncompromising doctrine and more on providing greater pastoral care.’

“James Salt, executive director of the left-leaning advocacy group Catholics United, echoed Seufert.

“ ‘The fact that they are explicitly asking this question is a sign of progress,’ he said. ‘Rather than retreating to a position of doctrine, they are reflecting the changing world that we live in.’ ”

Clearly, marriage and family are high on Pope Francis’ agenda.  This week, he announced that he will be speaking on these topics in a series of talks at his weekly general audiences at the Vatican.  Bondings 2.0 will keep an eye on important messages, especially those relating to LGBT people.

So, what do you think?  Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the upcoming 2015 synod?  What did you think of the document that was released this week?  Are you surprised to hear Pope Francis say that the 2014 synod was not a contentious discussion?  Leave your thoughts in the “Comments” section of this post.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


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