NEWS NOTES: January 26, 2012

January 26, 2012

Here are links to some articles you might find of interest:

1) Let us keep LGBT people in Uganda in our prayers today, the first anniversary of the murder of activist David Kato.  In “Uganda: Murdered Gay Activist David Kato ‘Lives On,’ ” the International Business Times reports that among Ugandan gay activists “a commitment to fight for equal rights in Africa has lost none of its force.”

2) Dignity/Chicago and the Rainbow Sash Movement are two of the sponsors of a Sunday, February 12th, 10:30 a.m. protest outside of the Windy City’s Holy Name Catholic Cathedral.  LezGetReal.com reports the details and reasoning behind the protest in “Holy Name Cathedral Protest Set for 12 February.”

3) PinkNews.co.uk reports that the province of Queensland, Australia, has agreed to a Catholic priest’s 25,000-signature petition to eliminate the “gay panic” defense from the law.  For details on the decision, read “Catholic priest wins ‘gay panic’ defence fight.”  Bondings 2.0 blogged about Fr. Paul Kelly’s signature collecting efforts in our January 2, 2012, post “Catholic Priest Speaks Out for Equality in the Law.”

4) The New York Times carries an Associated Press story, “Gay Marriage Returns to the Political Spotlight,” which is a good round-up of upcoming marriage equality battles in seven states.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Meet Marc Mutty

January 26, 2012

Marc Mutty

Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of the name “Marc Mutty” before.  I hadn’t heard of  him until yesterday when several news items about him flashed across my computer desktop.  He’s sort of a cross between Daniel Avila, the advisor to the U.S. bishops who last year created an uproar when he claimed that the devil caused homosexuality, and Cardinal George,  who earlier this month apologized for comparing the LGBT movement to the Ku Klux Klan.

I first saw his name in the lead paragraphs of an article about Maine’s anti-bullying bill being approved by a legislative committee:

“After the Legislature’s Education Committee voted unanimously to pass a new anti-bullying bill, Marc Mutty of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland reached out and shook the hand of the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Terry Morrison, D-South Portland.

“It was a brief exchange, an easily overlooked moment.

“But to Morrison, who is openly gay, the handshake with Mutty, who has worked on campaigns to oppose same-sex marriage, was a big deal.

I was touched by this gesture, and the fact that it signified that a Catholic official was supportive of a law that would help LGBT young people.  It made me think kindly towards Marc Mutty. Since I was curious about who he was, I did what any self-respecting 21st century hipster would do:  I googled him.

What I learned was that Mutty was, in fact, the Director of Public Affairs for the Catholic Diocese of Portland, Maine.  A little further digging revealed that he had also been the Chair of “Yes on 1,” the organization which led the fight to block the extension of civil marriage rights to lesbian/gay couples in Maine’s 2009 referendum. Now I was not thinking so kindly towards him.

Further digging revealed that a new documentary film shows that Mutty actually regretted a lot of the anti-gay rhetoric that he promoted during the 2009 campaign, even acknowledging that some of it was blatantly untrue.  According to a Portland Press Herald April 17, 2011, article, the documentary contains interviews of Mutty acknowledging that  his words were sometimes false:

” ‘We use a lot of hyperbole and I think that’s always dangerous,’ says Mutty during a Yes on 1 strategy session, at the time on leave from his job as public affairs director for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Maine.

” ‘You know, we say things like “Teachers will be forced to (teach same-sex marriage in schools)!” ‘ he continues. ‘Well, that’s not a completely accurate statement and we all know it isn’t,you know?’”

At this point, my feelings turn to anger that someone in a responsible position, someone who holds a leadership role in the Catholic Church, would spread knowingly misinformation about LGBT people.

The article goes on to describe Mutty’s shame and regret:

“At another point, he laments, ‘I fear I’ll be remembered for the work I did on this campaign.’

“He even goes so far as to plead ‘for forgiveness for the ways in which I might have betrayed my own self in this endeavor.’ “

Now, my feelings for him turned to sadness.   It must be very hard to promote ideas that one doesn’t believe and that one knows to be untrue.  It must be even harder to do so, if one reflects on the harm that such words and ideas can cause to people.  Like Daniel Avila and Cardinal George, with whom I have compared him, Mutty seems to have got caught up in his own rhetoric and extrapolated it to its own false conclusions. It seems that when he heard himself speak those conclusions he realized how wrong he was, but by this point, he had painted himself into a corner of his own words and could not find a way out.

I decided to write about Marc Mutty because he is like many people that I have met during my work in the church: people who become so blinded by their ideology that they find it difficult to speak the truth.   He is like the many people I have met who actually do not believe the anti-gay messages that they promote, but who continue to promote them because of fear of losing their positions and prestige or who get blinded by their own rhetoric.   Their actions cause damage to others, for sure.  Equally as sure, however, is that their duplicity causes harm to themselves.

At the risk of sounding pious, we need to pray for people like Marc Mutty.  I think people who work for LGBT equality need to make safe spaces for people like him to admit their errors, free of judgment.

In his case, let’s hope and pray that his handshake on the anti-bullying bill is a step towards integrity for him and justice for LGBT people.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


NEWS NOTES: January 25, 2012

January 25, 2012

Here are links to some articles you might find of interest:

1) In a Washington Blade article, Maryland’s Catholic Governor Martin “O’Malley says marriage bill brings dignity, religious freedom.”  In attendance at the Governor’s prayer breakfast, and quoted in this article in support of marriage equality, is New Ways Ministry’s co-founder, Sister Jeannine Gramick.

2) Announcing that he will veto New Jersey’s marriage equality bill and prefers a referendum on the issue,  Catholic Governor Chris “Christie Wants Voters to Decide on Gay Marriage” reports the New York Times.

3) Both Pope Benedict XVI and John Boswell, the late Catholic gay historian, are quoted in “The ‘Art’ and Rhetoric of Stereotyping and Scapegoating LGBT People,” published on HuffingtonPost.com.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


ALL ARE WELCOME: At Notre Dame, Does Buying In Equal Selling Out?

January 25, 2012

The ALL ARE WELCOME series is an occasional feature  which examines how Catholic faith communities can become more inclusive of LGBT people and issues.  This is the third installment.  The first one can be accessed here; the second one can be accessed here.

Catholic colleges over the past decade have struggled with how to accommodate LGBT students and faculty.  Many have done excellent work in this regard, developing innovative and pastorally sensitive programs and policies.  Some have even gone so far as to provide partner benefits for faculty. (New Ways Ministry maintains a list of gay-friendly Catholic college campuses which can be accessed here.)

This week, the The Observer, the student newspaper at the University of Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s College, South Bend, Indiana, reports on a Campus Life Council discussion on there about developing a gay-straight alliance.  One of the questions they are trying to answer is: Would a gay-straight alliance fare better as an institutional structure or as a student run group?

In the article, Sister Sue Dunn, assistant vice-president for student affairs, explains that all LGBT programs are run by the Core Council for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Questioning Students, described as:

” ‘. . . a blend of students and administrative types. We have someone representing Student Affairs, the Gender Relations Center, the Counseling Center and Campus Ministry,’  she said. ‘We also have eight students, most of whom identify as GLBT and some heterosexual allies, who build a network and programs.’ “

According to the article, Sister Dunn acknowledges that “many students perceive the Core Council as directly aligned with Notre Dame’s administration,” which, she states, has at times been “a tension.”

At least one student expressed a differing opinion on whether the gay straight alliance should be institutional or independent:

“Diversity Council representative Alexa Arastoo said she would not want to see a gay-straight alliance become a part of Core Council. She said a completely student-run organization would allow more opportunities for leadership, and would allow the group to branch out more.

” ‘Having a club on the student level changes the culture. It’s where we get involved and know what’s going on,’ Arastoo said. ‘This isn’t just a tutoring or interest club, it’s part of their person.’ “

It’s an age-old question:  does becoming part of an institutional structure create more advantages or disadvantages?  Does remaining independent and grassroots-oriented mean trading access and support for honesty and integrity?

These are questions that not only Notre Dame students must resolve for their gay-straight alliance, but that many folks involved in LGBT ministry in the Catholic Church face every day.

I don’t think there are any simple answers to these questions.  It would be great to hear what blog readers think. Please share your thoughts in the “Comments” section.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


NEWS NOTES: January 24, 2012

January 24, 2012

Here are links to some items you might find of interest:

1) In an announcement in all parish bulletins this past weekend, Seattle’s Archbishop Peter Satrain called on Catholics to contact their state legislators to oppose the marriage equality bill there.  Details can be found in a Seattle Post-Intelligencer  blog post,  “Archbishop Sartrain: ‘Protect Marriage.’ “

2) The Seattle Post Intelligencer reports “In Haugen casts key marriage equality vote” that Washington State’s marriage equality bill has received the 25 needed votes for passage in the Senate.  Passage in the state’s House is expected, and Catholic Governor Christine Gregoire has pledged to sign the bill.

3) Governor Martin O’Malley of Maryland, a Catholic, has introduced a marriage equality bill to the state legislature, reports the Baltimore Sun in “O’Malley introduces same-sex marriage bill.”  Strengthened exemptions for religious institutions distinguish it from last year’s bill, which was tabled.  The Sun also reports that “O’Malley will back transgender rights bill,”  too.

4) The first gay man nominated to the New Jersey Supreme Court was named by Governor Chris Christie, a Catholic.   In “Christie Names a Gay Man and an Asian for the Top Court,” the New York Times reports that Christie, who has opposed marriage equality in his state denied that this pro-gay appointment is any indication that he will support marriage equality in this legislative session.

5) The Catholic Catechism’s directive that lesbian/gay people ‘must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity’ is cited in a Malta Times article, “NGOs call for ‘hate crime’ to also cover anti-gay acts.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


A Habit of LGBT Equality

January 24, 2012

Over the past three years, nuns’ communities in the US have been “visited” by a Vatican appointee to assess their lives and missions.  Though the Vatican said that the reason for this visitation was the welfare of the sisters, Mary Johnson, a writer for Bloomberg.com and a former nun,  has another theory:  “American nuns frighten them.”

In an article entitled “Nuns in Street Clothing Shouldn’t Frighten Vatican,”Johnson examines how and why American nuns have been in the forefront of justice issues in society and in the church.  Singled out for special mention is a nun very dear to New Ways Ministry:

Sister Jeannine Gramick

“Liberal American sisters are courageous women. Sister Jeannine Gramick, co-founder of New Ways Ministry, continues to advocate for gay rights despite official church efforts to silence her.”

It’s no secret–though it’s not well-known, either–that high on the list of Catholic supporters of LGBT equality are nuns.  Communities of women religious have consistently been supportive of education, dialogue, and justice activities for LGBT people since the late 1970s.

After Vatican II, when nuns’ communities re-evaluated their charisms and ministries, they quickly realized that the church had long neglected lesbian/gay rights and that this was an issue that cried for justice.  They responded positively and actively.

Johnson’s article  highlights the reason that nuns can be so steadfast:

“American nuns don’t want to fight the official church, but neither are they likely to sacrifice the integrity of their consciences for the sake of peace.”

At New Ways Ministry,  we are indebted to our Sisters for financial, spiritual, and practical support over our 35 year history.  More New Ways Ministry programs have been held in convents and motherhouses than in any other type of Catholic facility by far.

Their support continues. For our upcoming Seventh National Symposium, 23 women’s religious groups have publicly endorsed the program.  20 more have provided financial and practical support for the program.  The success of the Symposium is always due to the great publicity and promotion of the event that sisters’ communities do for it. For all of our programs, the largest number of participants tend to be nuns.

The Catholic LGBT community–and New Ways Ministry, in particular–is deeply indebted to the Sisters of the church.  We should repay them with our undying support and with the greatest gift with which they have blessed us:  their unceasing prayer.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


A Civil Discussion on Civil Marriage

January 23, 2012

Catholicism plays heavily in the marriage equality debate in Minnesota. The state will have a referendum vote in November on whether or not to accept a constitutional ban against same-sex marriage. We’ve already reported on some of the ways that Catholics–both those for and those against marriage equality–have tried to sway the vote’s outcome:  mailing 400, 000 anti-marriage equality DVDs,  providing pro-marriage equality DVDs to all interested, offering prayers both for and against marriage equality, the archbishop silencing priests from supporting marriage equality, one brave priest who has ignored the archbishop’s gag order.  As the year progresses, we are sure to see more actions from both sides.

Gail Rosenblum of the Minneapolis Star Tribune tells a different story of two Catholic Minnesotans who are on opposite sides of the marriage debate, Denny Smith and Tom Struthers.  Instead or arguing, however, these two men have decided to sit down and hear each other out.

Rosenblum describes the men this way:

“They have a lot in common. Both were raised Catholic. Both are happily married; Smith for 43 years, Struthers for 23 years. Both are fathers. Struthers’ children are 19 and 16. Smith’s three kids are grown. One of them is gay. That son, Kyle, and Kyle’s partner of 17 years, Joe, can’t live together in the United States because Joe is from the Philippines. When Joe’s student visa expired, he was forced to leave the United States, which wouldn’t have happened if they could marry. “

Rosenblum’s article relates the conversation that these two men had together when she and they decided to have a conversation over a cup of coffee.  It is definitely worth reading the entire article  to learn about the real human concerns that people have in this debate.  It’s a helpful reminder, too,  about how much education is needed for people on issues of homosexuality and LGBT issues–especially for Catholics.

The article’s most amazing insight is the description of  their main area of agreement:

” ‘I don’t know all the answers,’  Smith said. ‘No matter what, compassion is the way to go.’

“Struthers nodded. ‘Compassion is trying to understand another’s point of view. If people can come together with diverse opinions and there is a change, that’s among the richest of human experiences. I either am changed or, at least, I see his side of the story. Religious faiths will be examined on this issue,’ Struthers said. “

This passage serves as a reminder that the real goal of dialogue may not be to just change minds, but to change hearts.

It was refreshing to learn that real conversation is going on, and I hope that more people–in Minnesota and everywhere–use this strategy of simple civil conversation to work through this issue.

As the year progresses, we will try to keep you informed about the marriage equality debates around the country. A good source of information on the Minnesota debate is www.theprogressivecatholicvoice.blogspot.com.

UPDATE:  Commenter Jim Smith of DignityUSA, who lives in Minnesota, has offered two additional websites for news about Catholics and marriage equality in that state: http://www.c4me.org and its accompanying blog “Sensus Fidelium” at http://www.c4me-mn.blogspot.com .

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Marriage Equality Gaining Momentum in Two States with Catholic Governors (and Among Catholic Mayors, too)

January 22, 2012

New Jersey and Washington State both have Catholic governors, and both states will be considering marriage equality bills this legislative session.  The news from both states is that both bills are gaining a lot of momentum for passage.

On a Wall Street Journal politics blog, Heather Haddon reports that both the Senate and Assembly of New Jersey are very close to having enough votes to override any potential veto of the marriage bill which may come from Catholic governor Chris Christie:

“State Sen. Raymond Lesniak, one of the bill’s sponsors, estimated the chamber had between 24 and 27 supporters for legislation to allow for same-sex marriage in New Jersey. It takes 27 votes in the 40-member state senate to override a governor’s veto. . .  .

“Assembly Speaker Shelia Oliver, a Democrat, has said that she has majority support for same-sex marriage legislation, and that she would work to garner the 54 votes necessary for a veto override in the 80-member Assembly.”

A veto override may not even be necessary.  The CBS affiliate in the NY-NJ region reports signs of indecision about vetoing the bill from Governor Christie, who previously had been adamantly opposed to marriage equality:

“A day after   of the State address, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was non-committal on whether he would veto a same-sex marriage bill in the Garden State.

“Speaking with WCBS 880 anchors Wayne Cabot and Steve Scott, Christie said, ‘we’ll see what happens’ when directly asked if he would reject a gay marriage bill.”

In Washington State, the Senate is only one vote short of passing the bill, and there are enough supporters in the House and promised public support from Governor Christine Gregoire to make it law.  The Seattle Times reports:

“State Sen. Jim Kastama, D-Puyallup, on Thursday announced he’ll support legislation legalizing gay marriage.

“Kastama’s support means there are 24 state senators — 22 Democrats and two Republicans — who’ve said they’ll vote for Senate Bill 6239. That’s one short of the 25 needed for passage.

“The state House already has enough lawmakers in support of the measure to approve it. Gov. Chris Gregoire backs the bill as well.”

Maryland, the only other state considering a marriage equality bill this session, also has a Catholic governor, Martin O’Malley, who has pledged his full support.

Meanwhile, close to 80 mayors from across the US have pledged to work for marriage equality. The Washington Post‘s report  notes that New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, one of the organizers of this mayoral coalition, specifically noted:

“It is also not about what organized religion should or should not do. This is a civil rights issue.”

Two of the five mayors who chair this project–Thomas Menino of  Boston and Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles–are Catholic.  A complete list of the mayors who support marriage equality can be found here.  Please let us know if you know if any of the other mayors on the list are Catholic. (New Ways Ministry is attempting to develop a list of Catholic government leaders who support LGBT equality initiatives.  You can read more about this project here.)

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Steps Forward for Transgender Equality

January 21, 2012

Within the space of one week, on opposite coasts of our nation, transgender equality has taken several steps forward.

Two transgender equality laws went into effect in California on January 12, 2012.  The bills were signed last year by Governor Jerry Brown, a Catholic and former seminarian.

According the San Francisco Times, the Gender Nondiscrimination Act clarifies existing employment, housing, and other civil rights protections.   The Vital Statistics Modernization Act makes it easier to obtain and update birth certificates.

One week later,  in heavily Catholic Massachusetts, Governor Patrick Deval hosted  a ceremonial signing into law of that state’s  Transgender Equal Rights Bill, according to WWLP.com. The new law protects transgender citizens from discrimination in housing, employment, credit, and offers protections in the areas of civil rights and hate crimes.

Not included in the Massachusetts law was the area of public accommodation, and at the ceremony LGBT activist Danica Ali noted that it “must be added to the bill.”  As the WWLP.com story notes,  “Public accommodation refers to the right to stay at a hotel, ride a bus, or even use a bathroom without being discriminated against.”

Meanwhile, in Maryland this past week, the Baltimore County Council began public hearings on a transgender equality bill they are considering, according to The Baltimore Sun.  Opponents of the bill have spread rumors that a similar bill in Maryland’s Montgomery County have led to bathroom rapes by men dressed as women.  The Baltimore Sun also reported that the Montgomery County Chief of Police Thomas Manger has said these rumors are false.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


NEWS NOTES: January 20, 2011

January 20, 2012

Here are links to some items you might find of interest:

1) FOLLOW-UP TO RECENT POSTS:

a) We posted earlier this week about Catholic University students protesting   a campus visit by Cardinal George.   MetroWeekly.com, a Washington, DC, gay newspaper, has provided further detail about the action in a story entitled “Protesting Through Prayer:  Catholic University’s LGBT students, allies protest Cardinal George’s comments on homosexuality.”

b) Yesterday we posted about Fr. Mike Tegeder, “A Priest of Integrity,” who is speaking out for marriage equality in Minnesota, despite a gag order on priests from the archbishop.  Tom Roberts, editor of The National Catholic Reporter, supports Fr. Tegeder in his column, “Despite threat, pastor holds his ground over marriage amendment.”

2)  The website OpposingViews.com offers a column: “Most Catholics Support Same-Sex Marriage, While Church Stifles Dissent.”

3) As background for Maryland’s debate about marriage equality, The Washington Blade, D.C.’s gay newspaper,  interviews Delegate Peter Murphy, an openly gay man who identifies as Catholic:  “Md. gay delegate speaks out on marriage, family.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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