QUOTE TO NOTE: Marriage Equality is a Pro-Life Issue; Censorship

February 21, 2012

Sometimes the relevant part of a news story is simply a single quotation or two.  When that’s the case, we will share those quotes with you through this feature, “QUOTE TO NOTE.”


A Washington Post article entitled “Maryland House almost didn’t pass gay marriage bill” recounts the story of how the challenges the bill faced as it came down to the final vote.  A quote from one of the Republican Delegates who voted for the bill shows that support came from many different political perspectives:

“Friday’s tally would have fallen short without at least one Republican vote as well. After weeks of outreach, O’Malley got two: Robert A. Costa of Anne Arundel County and A. Wade Kach of Baltimore County.

“Kach told his colleagues that in January he had been certain he would vote against the bill. It wasn’t until a hearing a week before the vote that he changed his mind, after testimony from gay couples with children.

“ ‘As a pro-life Republican, I believe it’s my responsibility to make sure children are taken care of,’ he said. ‘I left that hearing a changed person.’ ”


A Philadelphia Inquirer article, “Curtains at Villanova for gay performance artist,” reports that Villanova University, an Augustinian school, has cancelled a week-long workshop by renowned performance artist, Tim Miller. In response, Miller lamented the restraints on freedom of expression:

“While the cancellation was not ‘unimaginable’, he noted that Villanova once staged Angels in America, the groundbreaking, Pulitzer Prize-winning play about the AIDS epidemic.

” ‘Times have changed,’ he said. ‘We’re in a much more coercive, censorious time.’ “

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Catholic LGBT Organization Helps Win Court Case for Internet Freedom

February 20, 2012

Students in the Cadmenton R-III school district of Missouri can now have access to information about LGBT resources on the Internet, thanks to a federal court decision last week that ordered school officials to stop censoring websites.   DignityUSA, a national Catholic organization of LGBT people, was one of several plaintiffs in the case, including PFLAG National (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), the Matthew Shepard Foundation, and Campus Pride.

The court case was raised by the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Eastern Missouri.  A Windy City Times news story quotes from the court’s opinion where the judges expressed concern that the Internet filtering system

” ‘systematically allows access to websites expressing a negative viewpoint toward LGBT individuals by categorizing them as “religion,” but filters out positive viewpoints toward LGBT issues by categorizing them as “sexuality.” ‘ Although the  [school] district argued that it would unblock individual websites upon request the court held that ‘students may be deterred from accessing websites expressing a positive view toward LGBT individuals either by the inconvenience of having to wait twenty-four hours for access or by the stigma of knowing that viewpoint has been singled out as less worthy by the school district and the community.’ “

In the same news report, an ACLU attorney praised the decision as providing constitutional freedom, while protecting students from sexually explicity sites:

” ‘The court correctly recognized the constitutional rights of all students to viewpoint-neutral access to information,’ said Joshua Block, staff attorney with the ACLU LGBT Project. ‘It is absolutely possible to protect children from sexually explicit content while also protecting their First Amendment rights. Like thousands of other school districts across the country, Camdenton R-III will now begin using a filtering system that blocks pornography without discriminating against LGBT-related content.’ “

Congratulations to DignityUSA and all the plaintiffs in this case for working towards the free flow of information–particularly for helping young people accessing reputable information about LGBT issues and reality!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Maryland’s Governor to Speak at New Ways Ministry’s National Symposium!

February 19, 2012

Governor Martin O'Malley

New Ways Ministry is proud to announce that Maryland’s Catholic Governor Martin O’Malley will be one of hundreds of Catholics participating in our Seventh National Symposium, From Water to Wine:  Lesbian/Gay Catholics and Relationships, March 15th-17th, Baltimore, Maryland!

Governor O’Malley, who has supported Maryland’s marriage equality bill, will be part of this grand gathering of pro-LGBT Catholics on Friday, March 16th. Spread the word! Bring a friend! Please note that registration for Friday only is an option.

As we have been reporting over the last two days, the latest news from Maryland is that the marriage equality bill just passed the state’s House of Delegates!  Its passage in the Senate is virtually guaranteed since it passed there last year easily, and no Senator has announced a vote change. Of course, Governor O’Malley has pledged to sign it.  For a news summary of the bill’s passage, click here. For New Ways Ministry’s response to the passage, click here.

At the Symposium, Governor O’Malley will be joining a stellar line-up of other Catholic national and international speakers on LGBT issues.

Don’t miss the chance to celebrate Maryland’s becoming the eighth state to enact marriage equality with our state’s Catholic governor at the Symposium!

Because of the postal holiday for Presidents’ Day, the regular registration fee has been extended to the following day, February 21st. You can view symposium details and registration materials by clicking here .

Don’t miss this historic opportunity to meet and thank Governor O’Malley, to network with other pro-LGBT Catholics, to hear dynamic and inspiring speakers, and to celebrate LGBT equality!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Good News in Maryland, Bad News in New Jersey

February 18, 2012

Governor Martin O'Malley is congratulated by Maryland Delegates after the historic marriage equality vote. (NY Times photo)

Yesterday, the Maryland House of Delegates approved a marriage equality bill, virtually guaranteeing it would become law, since the bill is likely to pass the Senate, and Governor Martin O’Malley, a Catholic, has promised to sign it.

Yesterday in New Jersey, however, Governor Chris Christie, a Catholic, vetoed that state’s marriage equality bill which had passed both Assembly and Senate.  The legislature has until January 2014 to override the veto.


The Baltimore Sun report rightly noted O’Malley’s role in the bill’s success in Maryland, and quoted him saying:

“We are a good people. We all want the same things for our kids.”

The Washington Blade’s story carried a quote from O’Malley that reflected the Catholic social teaching principle behind the issue of marriage equality:

“Today, the House of Delegates voted for human dignity.”

Earlier this week, The Baltimore Sun carried a news report on a talk O’Malley gave in which he described the evolution of his thinking on marriage equality.  New Ways Ministry’s Sister Jeannine Gramick is quoted in that article about her thoughts to O’Malley’s support of the issue. Sister Gramick said:

“I’m proud of him for being a Catholic and for witnessing real Catholic values. … I’m so glad he’s supporting the marriage equality bill.”

Last night, Bondings 2.0 posted New Ways Ministry’s response to the vote, along with a link to The Washington Post article about the news.

Even after the bill would become a law, the struggle would still not be over, as opponents have promised to mount a referendum campaign


Governor Chris Christie (NY Times Photo)

In The New York Times account of Christie’s veto, they explain that

“The governor’s veto was conditional, asking the State Legislature to amend the bill, so that rather than legalizing same-sex marriages, it would establish an overseer to handle complaints that the state’s five-year-old civil union law did not provide gay and lesbian couples the same protections that marriage would.

“Mr. Christie also affirmed his call for the Legislature to put a referendum on same-sex marriage on the ballot in November. . . .

“At the same time, Mr. Christie repeated what the State Supreme Court said in 2006 — that same-sex couples deserve the same benefits enjoyed by married couples. Answering testimony that same-sex couples in civil unions had more trouble than married couples in matters like obtaining mortgages and making health care decisions, the governor said he wanted to set up a new ombudsman to make sure gay and lesbian couples did not suffer discrimination.”

Steven Goldstein, chairman of Garden State Equality, responded in the Times story to the ombudsman idea by calling it

““the equivalent of gold-plating a separate water fountain for a specific class of people.”

In a posting two days ago, Bondings 2.0 noted that Washington State’s Catholic governor Christine Gregoire, who this week signed a marriage equality bill into law, sent a letter to fellow Catholic Christie, offering to discuss her evolution on the issue. Christie had not responded.

In their editorial column, the Times opined about “Governor Christie’s Misguided and Intolerant Veto,”

“Sadly, there was no surprise to Gov. Chris Christie’s veto on Friday of the same-sex marriage bill that cleared New Jersey’s Assembly and Senate this week. Mr. Christie had said all along that he would block the measure as soon as it reached his desk. That does not change the message of intolerance or lessen the pain for gay residents and their families. Mr. Christie compounded the insult when he dismissed the Legislature’s support for the rights of gay people as merely ‘an exercise in theater.’ The only one who deserves that accusation is Governor Christie, who is clearly pandering to his own conservative base. . . .

“This isn’t about theater and shouldn’t be about politics. Marriage equality is a basic right.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Maryland House Passes Marriage Equality Bill

February 17, 2012

For information on the vote, click here.

Statement of  Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director, New Ways Ministry

New Ways Ministry thanks and congratulates Maryland’s House of Delegates for passing marriage equality legislation today, insuring that human dignity is honored, discrimination is eradicated, and ALL Maryland families are protected.

“Throughout the years of debate on this bill, New Ways Ministry has maintained, along with the majority of Catholics, that marriage equality for lesbian and gay couples is the proper Catholic thing to do.  It is a simple matter of social justice, which is one of the highest values that our faith professes.  We were proud to publicly testify for this bill in legislative hearings.

“The bill in Maryland still has to be voted on by the state Senate, where it was passed last year.  No senator has said that he or she will be changing a vote from last year.

“Martin O’Malley, the state’s Catholic governor, has vowed to sign the bill.  Mr. O’Malley has worked ardently for the bill’s passage. We are proud that this man of faith has stood up to do the right thing for our lesbian and gay brothers and sisters. We hope that his witness emboldens other Catholic lawmakers to follow his path of courage.

“Please keep Maryland in your prayers, as the bill takes its final steps to becoming a law, which will make Maryland the eighth state (plus the District of Columbia) to enact marriage equality.”

New Ways Ministry is a 35-year old national Catholic ministry of justice and reconciliation for lesbian/gay Catholics and the wider church and civil communities.  For more information, visit: http://www.NewWaysMinistry.org

Who’s to Blame if Gay Priests Arranged for Hitmen to Kill Them?

February 17, 2012

Rev. Rafael Reatiga and Rev. Richard Piffano

The Associated Press reported an unusual story out of Colombia, South America, as allegations arose this week that two gay priests there who were killed last year were not the victims of a robbery, but had hired the gunmen to kill the both of them.

The strange details of the case suggest that suicide may have been the motive:

“Rev. Rafael Reatiga asked his parishioners to pray for him and gave the choirmaster a list of songs for his funeral shortly before he was found shot to death together with another Roman Catholic priest, a Colombian prosecutor said Tuesday.

“Authorities initially suspected robbery when Reatiga’s body was found along with that of Rev. Richard Piffano, 37, in a car in southern Bogota on Jan. 27, 2011.

“But on Tuesday prosecutor Ana Patricia Larrota said investigators had determined that it was suicide by hitmen in the year-old case: the two priests hired gunmen to kill them after Reatiga discovered he had AIDS.

“The priests gave members of a criminal gang the equivalent of $8,500, said the chief investigator of the prosecutor’s office, Maritza Gonzalez, as two of the four alleged assassins appeared before a judge for processing.”

Reatiga also supposedly had syphilis, and witnesses say that he was often seen in gay establishments in Bogota, the capital city.

This story, whether true, false, or somewhere in between, is doubly tragic.  The deaths of the priests are one tragedy.  The second tragedy is that gay priests must continue to hide their sexual orientation due to official pressure from Catholic officials.

In 2005, when the Vatican issued an instruction to bishops around the world not to admit gay men to ordination or the seminary, many commentators, including New Ways Ministry, said that the effect of this rule would be to force gay candidates and priests further into the closet.  Instead of preventing gay men from becoming priests, this instruction would have the dangerous and damaging effect of forcing them to lie about their sexuality, prevent them from integrating their sexuality into their  spiritual and personal lives in holy and healthy ways, and result in significant personal damage to these men, the people they serve, and the entire church.

If indeed the allegations that one of these priests had sexually transmitted diseases, that the two maintained a clandestine social life, and that in desperation they ordered their own deaths, prove to be true, then church leaders who promote homophobia in the clerical life share a large portion of the responsibility for these tragedies.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Chris, Chris, and Mario: Catholic Governors, Faith, and Politics

February 16, 2012

Chris Gregoire

Chris Christie

On opposite coasts of our nation, two Catholic governors both named “Chris” are taking opposite approaches to marriage equality legislation in their respective states.

Governor Chris(tine) Gregoire in Washington State has just signed her state’s legislation into law, while Governor Chris Christie in New Jersey has vowed to veto the legislation in his state.

Governor Gregoire has generously offered to discuss her decision, including her faith journey on this issue, with Governor Christie, but so far, he has not responded to her offer.  You can read the text of her letter in a blog post by Michael O’Loughlin on America magazine’s In All Things blog.  O’Loughlin observes that Catholic governors have been tremendously supportive of marriage equality legislation. He observes that four of the five legislative initiatives

“were signed by Catholic governors: John Baldacci in Maine; John Lynch in New Hampshire; Andrew Cuomo in New York; and now Gregoire in Washington.”

These numbers increase when you add Governor Pat Quinn of Illinois who signed a civil unions bill into law in his state against the strong public appeals by Illinois’ Catholic hierarchy.

Mario Cuomo

The Catholic governors who support marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples are following sound ethical principles of another great Catholic governor:  Mario Cuomo from New York.  In a landmark 1984 speech at the University of Notre Dame entitled “Religious Belief and Public Morality: A Catholic Governor’s Perspective,” the elder Cuomo laid out some important principles to guide Catholic government leaders.

One principle was pragmatic:  “The Catholic public official lives the political truth most Catholics through most of American history have accepted and insisted on: the truth that to assure our freedom we must allow others the same freedom.”

Another principle was a realistic observation:  “. . . on divorce and birth control, without changing its moral teaching, the Church abides the civil law as it now stands, thereby accepting-without making much of a point of it-that in our pluralistic society we are not required to insist that all our religious values be the law of the land.”

A third principle was that of prudence and conscience:  “While we always owe our bishops’ words respectful attention and careful consideration, the question whether to engage the political system in a struggle to have it adopt certain articles of our belief as part of public morality is not a matter of doctrine: it is a matter of prudential political judgment. . . .My church does not order me-under pain of sin or expulsion-to pursue my salvific mission according to a precisely defined political plan.”

Whether consciously or not, this new generation of Catholic governors have imbibed Cuomo’s wisdom and are exercising sound religious and political judgment.

An analysis of Cuomo’s comments can be found in chapter 10 of New Ways Ministry’s publication Marriage Equality: A Positive Catholic Approach.  The chapter’s title is “What is the moral responsibility of a Catholic legislator?”  You can order free hard copies of the book or download a free PDF of it by clicking here.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Catholic Case for Same-Sex Marriage Is Part of Religion’s Next Great Awakening

February 15, 2012

Last week, we reported how statistical research continues to show that people of faith across the country, especially Catholics, are supporting marriage equality initiatives in great numbers.  That message is getting across to lawmakers and opinion leaders and is starting to re-shape the debate about marriage in our nation.

In a blog post on the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) website, Dr. Sharon Groves, Director of HRC’s Religion and Faith Program, likens this movement to the next Great Awakening for religion:

“Faithful people have been wrestling for decades with their faith and their lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, neighbors, or fellow congregants.  But just as Jacob found a deep love for his estranged brother Esau after wrestling with God, when people of faith soulfully and honestly look to their spiritual roots for guidance they are joining in larger and larger numbers the chorus of religious voices supporting marriage equality throughout the country. For people of faith, this movement feels sometimes like the next great awakening!”

Catholics are in the forefront of this movement.  The statistics show that Catholics poll higher than any other Christian denomination in their support for marriage equality.  As in the other denominations and faiths, Catholics are supporting marriage equality not in spite of their faith, but because of their faith.  As evidence of this trend is an op-ed essay on the Washington Post’s website entitled “A Catholic case for same-sex marriage,” by New Ways Ministry’s Sister Jeannine Gramick and Francis DeBernardo.  The essay is written in the name of the Equally Blessed Coalition, of which New Ways Ministry is a member, along with Call To Action, DignityUSA, and Fortunate Families.

Among their arguments, they use traditional Catholic reasoning to support marriage equality for lesbian and gay couples:

“Catholic thinking dictates that we should use the evidence we find in the natural world to help us reach our conclusions. Many Catholics have reflected on the scientific evidence that homosexuality is a natural variant in human sexuality, and understand that lesbian and gay love is as natural as heterosexual love.

“In forming our consciences, Catholics also consult scripture and our theological tradition. Here, again, there is little firm reason to oppose marriage equality. The Bible presents us with a marital landscape that includes polygamy, concubinage, temple prostitution and Levirate marriages (in which a man is bound to marry his brother’s widow.) Jesus disputed the Mosaic law on divorce, saying that what God has joined man must not separate, but this dictum was modified in the letters of St. Paul.”

Moreover, they find support for marriage equality in the Catholic social justice tradition:

“Catholic social teaching requires that all people be treated with dignity, regardless of their state in life or their beliefs. It upholds the importance of access to health-care benefits, the protection of children, dignity in end of life choices, and, most importantly, the promotion of stable family units. Marriage equality legislation would be an obvious boon to same-sex couples and their children in each of these areas, yet the bishops are spending millions of dollars opposing it.”

You can watch and listen to the great diversity of religious leaders, including Sister Jeannine Gramick, who are speaking out for marriage equality because of their faith, on this short video made by Marylanders for Marriage Equality:


–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

NEWS NOTES: February 14, 2012

February 14, 2012

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

1) Just in time for St. Valentine’s Day, marriage equality has become the law of the land in Washington State, the seventh state (plus the District of Columbia) to enact such a law.  Catholic Governor Christine Gregoire signed the bill on February 13th. The Chicago Tribune ran a Reuters story, “Washington governor signs gay marriage law,” which notes Gregoire’s faith. Equally Blessed, the coalition of Catholic organizations which work for LGBT justice and equality (of which New Ways Ministry is a member) issued a statement affirming Governor Gregoire’s action.

2) Two Catholic “coming out” stories appeared on the web recently.  The Quinnipiac Chronicle carries “The Pride Inside,” an article about college student Michael Castro’s experience.  Posterous Spaces carries “Coming to terms with my homosexuality at the University of Notre Dame,” by Tanya Barrios, an alumna.

3) Maggie Gallagher, of the National Organization for Marriage, a Catholic who works against marriage equality is profiled in Salon.com article, “The making of gay marriage’s top foe.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Storm Brews Around Religiously-Themed Play

February 14, 2012

Does the thought of portraying Mary, the Blessed Mother, as a lesbian offend you?

A new play being produced in Charlotte, North Carolina does just that.  According to a report in theThe Charlotte Observer:

“The play is “The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told,” an off-Broadway hit comedy written by Paul Rudnick. It opened Thursday night in Charlotte and is being staged through Feb. 18 by the Queen City Theatre Company.”

Some Catholics there have staged protests at the theatre, and the bishop of Charlotte, Bishop Bishop Peter Jugis, who, according to a Catholic News Service story in The Georgia Bulletin, said in a letter to the performing arts company:

” ‘The implication that the Blessed Virgin Mary is a lesbian is gravely offensive to Catholics and to all Christians, who hold Mary in the highest regard as the mother of the Savior. . . .Please do not allow this play to be performed. Please cancel these performances out of consideration for the religious sensibilities of Christians and all people of good will.’ “

For several reasons the protest may be somewhat overblown.

First, inThe Charlotte Observeraccount, the theater claims that the play, in fact, does not depict the Blessed Mother:

” ‘It is obvious that (people who make that claim) have not read nor have they seen the play. (The character) Mabel is Mabel. She is not The Virgin Mary. She is a woman, whether gay, straight, or whatever, that is experiencing the divine gift and miracle of a child.’ “

I can’t judge whether that statement is accurate or not because I have not seen the play.  Which is exactly the point.  It is impossible to judge an artistic project without experiencing it first hand.

Let’s assume for a moment, however, that the play does make strong allusions to the Blessed Mother, and that that character is also a lesbian.  Is that offensive to people of faith?

Clearly, there is no evidence in any of the gospels or Christian tradition to indicate Mary’s sexual orientation.  To portray her as a lesbian is obviously poetic  license, not a historical theory.  It would seem to be designed to perhaps shock people, perhaps to make them think, and perhaps to make a point about our assumptions about religion and sexuality.

One assumption that the Catholic protest exposes is that there is something wrong with being a lesbian.  Why else would it be offensive to think of Mary in that way?

In 1998, a New York theater staged Terrence McNally’s play Corpus Christi, which portrayed Jesus and his apostles as gay men.  Major protest erupted, including death threats against the playwright.  Metal detectors were set up at the theater’s entrance.

I went to see the play, and found it inspiring.  The way the drama worked, the audience came away less with any ideas about the  facts of Jesus’ and the apostles’ sexuality, but with a deeper sense of what it means to be gay and to face religious bigotry.  The play was making a contemporary message, not a historical or theological one.

In a case like this, threats of censorship by the bishop and Catholics do nothing more than encourage more people to attend the play to see what the fuss is all about.

Despite the protests, the theater company has promised that the show will go on.  The production, they say will

” ‘celebrate love, faith, belief, God, and the right to question why we exist and why are on this earth. This production will not be stopped out of fear or pressure.’ “

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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