QUOTE TO NOTE: Ricky Martin for Pope?

May 31, 2012

In an essay on reviving the Vatican II style of church, Australian writer Will Day discusses how an encounter with LGBT issues helped solidify his resolve for working for better ecclesial leadership.  He offers an interesting example of the type of leadership that he would like to see:

Ricky Martin

“Latin American pop star Ricky Martin [who is gay], alive to the horror of certain church teachings, appeared on talk shows in the US last year, looking straight at the camera and telling gay kids, ”I want you to know there is nothing wrong with you, and I love you!” There’s a role model for a decent pope or bishop!”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


“Don’t Tell the Cathedral” Syndrome Is a Detriment to Our Church

May 31, 2012

Generally, I don’t like laments.  Their emphasis on the absent pass seems non-productive and backward-thinking.  A recent lament in an Australian newspaper deserves notice, however, because while it mourns the passing of the past, it makes a passionate plea to revive it as well.

The “past” I’m talking about, and which is the subject of Will Day’s essay, “Don’t Tell the Cathedral,” is the Vatican-II era of reform in the church.  The title comes from the fact that in order to accomplish ministry with people, so many church ministers have had shield their work from church authorities, or not tell the bishop, chancery, or cathedral what is being done.  Day states:

“It stopped me in my tracks recently when I realised that most of those varied Catholic environments [where he found sustenance and healing] had wanted to distance themselves from central church authorities, or had indicated that aspects of what goes on in their place (the caring, innovative, daring, human work) would probably not be approved of by those authorities. The comment that rang in my ears was: ‘We have to be a bit careful.’ “

Day praises the ministry of Vatican II church ministers who strive to bring the Gospel into dialogue with real world  situations.  Specifically, he praises:

“the exciting and cutting-edge work done by nuns, priests, brothers and lay Catholics all over this country. We see it in the fields of education, community health, death and dying, homelessness, refugee advocacy, environmental management, spirituality, and in fact anywhere where there is a need.

“The reason this work is cutting edge is often precisely because it is informed and energised by a renewed Catholicism, often at odds with aspects of the official Vatican line. The best of this work is not about ”preaching” or seeking to convert but is simply an attempt to let oneself be guided and inspired by love, acceptance and a deep and very human wisdom grounded in one’s personal faith.”

But the “Don’t Tell the Cathedral” syndrome, unfortunately, is alive and well, even among the most ardent proponents of Vatican II.  While Day shows sympathy for this syndrome, he also acknowledges that it was LGBT issues which moved him past this syndrome.  This long passage is, for me, the heart of the essay:

“. . . there is a long-standing Catholic tradition of exercising a grumbling patience in relation to injustices within the church itself. This stands in stark contrast to the vigorous response of Catholic workers and activists to injustices in the wider community. Within the church there is a tendency to trust that the Spirit will work at its own pace and in its own time – usually slowly. It is an unusual and courageous priest or nun who stands up to address church authorities, crying; ‘Hey, you can’t do that!’ in public. I imagine the reasons for this are complex: religious, ideological, political and probably often very personal.

“Certainly to speak out may draw onerous sanctions, may threaten one’s job security, housing security, financial security and social standing. One might be sacked and ousted, or shunted off to a disheartening gig in the middle of nowhere.

“Many Catholics believe the old church is dying anyway and will eventually crumble into the mulch. But I fear our patience with that process can be a way of abnegating responsibility for the present, for the agonies, injustices and deaths being fostered by official church teachings and attitudes today.

“I was a child of the tradition of grumbling patience, but something happened to change my tune. A teenage boy came into the social circle of a friend of mine and his wife. My friend became aware the boy was struggling with his emerging homosexuality in the context of a conservative religious family and church community. It was a delicate matter and my friend, a generous and compassionate man, tried unsuccessfully to find the right moment to offer some reassurance. Tragically, the boy eventually took his own life.

“Studies indicate same-sex-attracted young people may be several times more likely than heterosexual young people to attempt suicide. Let’s change this! It strikes me as obvious that church teachings on sexuality are wildly complicit in this shocking statistic.

“The Catholic Church teaches that homosexuality is ”objectively disordered”, that homosexual acts are unnatural and sinful. Since for most of us sexuality is inseparable from the essence of who we are, the church is teaching adolescents (at a time when their self-image may be particularly vulnerable) that they are in some way rotten at the core. The church’s unhealthy, misguided teachings and attitudes infiltrate and stain families and communities, conjuring up ancient, ignorant prejudices within us and validating them.”

Day offers hope for the future, not just a lament for the past in his essay.  As he concludes, he offers the following hope for the church, and in particular, for the church’s approach to LGBT issues:

“In my dreaming I wonder what would happen if the full force of the wisdom and expertise of the healthy, renewed church with its unsurpassed social justice credentials, organisational skills, sophistication and know-how were turned back on the messy old institution itself. Imagine if all the energy being held under by that tradition of grumbling patience, and exhausting discretion, were to emerge and be transformed into public, collective acts of reform. Thomas Merton, the renowned Catholic writer and monk, once prayed: ‘Teach me to take all grace and spring it into blades of act.’  ”

“Imagine if every priest and bishop in Australia who believed that official church teaching on homosexuality was wrong stood at the pulpit one Sunday and said as much. The landscape would powerfully change for the adolescent boys and girls in the congregation to whom the official church was teaching that their emerging sexual orientation was a ‘disorder’. The landscape would also change for the countless older queer folk in the congregation and within the priesthood.”

Such a dream can be realized if, one by one, little by little, Catholic people–in the pews, in the convents, and in the pulpits–start to publicly express their faith and convictions publicly.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 


Message of Hope: ‘No one should feel excluded from God’s love. . . .Ever.’

May 30, 2012

Vigil honoring LGBT victims of suicide.

Intrepid United Kingdom blogger Terence Weldon of QueeringTheChurch.com alerted me to a column with a positive Catholic LGBT message which appeared in the Archdiocese of San Francisco’s newspaper, Catholic San Francisco.

The column, entitled “Reminding those in despair of God’s love,” is written by Fr. Peter J. Daly.  While the message in this essay is powerful, important, and newsworthy, the source of the message is equally noteworthy:  Fr. Peter J. Daly is a syndicated columnist with Catholic News Service, which is run by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.  (Clicking on the column’s title in the first sentence of this paragraph will bring you to a PDF of the entire issue in which the column appeared;  this particular column can be found by scrolling down to page 16.)

Daly’s column is a plea to church leaders and people to assist LGBT youth who are at risk of suicide, often as the result of bullying.  He begins by describing a ministry experience he had:

“The young man began to cry. I asked him why he was so unhappy. He said it was because his family would not accept him. I asked why they would not accept him. He answered, ‘Because I am gay. They are very Catholic.’ I started to cry, too.

“Three times in 25 years of ministry I have sat across the room from young men who have attempted suicide because they were gay or feared they were gay. Several other times, especially when I was in campus ministry at The Catholic University of America, I talked with young people despondent over their gay sexual identity.

“I have talked with people who cut or disfigured themselves because they had such a deep self-loathing because they were gay. According to a study done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which was released last year, gay and lesbian youth are much more likely than their heterosexual peers to have thought about suicide or to have attempted suicide.”

Bravo to Fr. Daly for writing so personally about this issue.  Much too much silence–which is literally deadly–exists in our church about this issue.  Two years ago, when LGBT teen suicide made national headlines because of the publicized trend that was erupting, religious leaders across the country were speaking out in support of youth, yet the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops did not breathe a word.  Another example is that New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan has yet to respond to the plea of a young N.Y. Catholic man who publicly asked the cardinal to meet with LGBT youth.  Let’s hope that Cardinal Dolan and all U.S. bishops read Fr. Daly’s column in their own news service and take heed of his message.

Another group that should heed Fr. Daly’s message are his former employers: the administrators of Catholic University of America.  Bondings 2.0 has been reporting about the efforts this year by students to get official recognition for a gay-straight alliance, CUAllies.  Led by sophomore Ryan Fecteau, the efforts have been strong and respectful, yet the administration has been curiously silent.

Indeed, all Catholic college administrators should heed Fr. Daly’s message.  Readers of this blog will remember that the University of Notre Dame has also been seeking recognition of AllianceND, a gay-straight support group.  Led by sophomore Alex Coccia, their efforts ended in an “incomplete” in the spring, when a decision was  deferred until the fall.

What is the message that Fr. Daly’s column offers?  It is one of the most basic principles of Catholic theology which he presents in three simple sentences of the closing paragraph:

” No one should feel excluded from God’s love. No one should ever be driven to despair. Ever.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Transgender Beauty Contestant Visits Canadian Catholic School

May 29, 2012

Jenna Talackova

Contestants in the Miss Universe Canada pageant recently visited St. John Vianney Catholic school in Toronto, Canada.  Included among the contestants was Jenna Talackova, the first transgendered contestant.  The Globe and Mail newspaper hosts a news video clip of the visit on its website, which can be viewed by clicking here.

Vince Moretti, principal of the school commented on the visit:

“We are a Catholic, all-inclusive school, so we do respect everyone. So that’s not really an issue for us. We are a welcoming community and we are a Catholic community.  We welcome everyone.”

Among Talackova’s statements in the interview:

“We were born crying.  Does that mean we’re going to be a crybaby all of our lives?  No. You develop your inner self, your inner soul.  To embrace your individuality is what I want to give to this world.”

Congratulations and best wishes to Jenna, as she goes on to the competition!  Congratulations to St. John Vianney school for being a witness to Gospel inclusiveness and welcome!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 


Support Our Sisters: Pray at a Vigil!

May 28, 2012

Tuesday, May 29th, will be marked by prayer vigils across the nation in support of religious communities of Sisters, as their Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) face sanctions from the Vatican, announced last month.  Since support of LGBT issues, particularly support of New Ways Ministry’s programs, were a main factor in the Vatican’s sanctions, Bondings 2.0 is strongly encouraging people to attend.

Waterloo, Iowa, vigil, May 22, 2012

NunJustice.org, a website dedicated to actions in support of the Sisters, has a complete list of vigils, along with times, locations, and contact information.  Please check the dates as many of the vigils have been taking place throughout May, and although most of the locations will be culminating in a final vigil on May 29th, not all will.    The website’s description of the vigils:

“Stand in solidarity with those who acknowledge women religious as pioneers of social justice, advocates for peace, and women of dignity. “

NunJustice.org also suggests other actions people can take to support the Sisters: Petition, Write, Share Photos, Pledge.

In addition, New Ways Ministry has also suggested writing letters of encouragement to women’s communities.

According to the schedule on NunJustice.org, the following cities will be hosting vigils on May 29th:

Albany, NY

Anchorage, AK

Austin, TX

Bardstown, KY

Boston, MA

Claremont, CA

Cincinnati, OH

Chicago, IL

Clovis, CA

Columbus, OH

Hebron, CT

Indianapolis, IN

Lansing, MI

Little Falls, MN

Louisville, KY

Los Angeles, CA

Mt. Prospect, IL

New York, NY

Oakland, CA

Omaha, NE

Pittsford, NY

Portland, OR

Providence, RI

Raleigh, NC

Rockford, IL

Roseville, MI

Sacramento, CA

San Diego, CA

San Francisco, CA

San Juan, TX

Santa Rosa, CA

Seattle, WA

Sedona, Arizona

St. Louis, MO

Stockton, CA

Tempe, AZ

Toledo, OH

Washington, DC

Waterloo, IA

 

The following cities will have vigils later in the week:

May 30th    Bloomington, IN

May 30th    Cleveland, OH

May 31st       Sedona, AZ

June 3rd       St. Cloud, MN

 

Whether you can attend a vigil or not, please keep the Sisters in your prayers during this critical time in their lives and in the life of the Church.

–Francis DeBernardo

 

 

 


LCWR and Girl Scouts Investigations Are Part of the “War on Women”

May 27, 2012

LGBT issues have been an important factor in what has been dubbed “the war on women” taking place in society. “War on women” refers to the political trend to dis-empower females in society, particularly in regard to health care and sexuality.  The “war on women” has been playing out in the Catholic Church in the recent investigation of the Leaderships Conference of Women Religious (LCWR, the leading organization of heads of religious communities of nuns) and the Girl Scouts of America.

Two recent commentators have provided insight on these two topics:  Ted Frier, on Slate.com, tackles the LCWR case, while Marianne Duddy-Burke looks at the Girl Scouts story.

Sister Joan Chittister

In his article, “Catholic on Catholic civil war brewing,”  Frier focuses on Sister Joan Chittister’s response to the Vatican’s investigation of LCWR, and his insight into Chittister’s response follows her example of not mincing words:

“The question is. . .where has all this energy for empirical destruction come from in a Church now projecting its own serious problems with sexual issues onto everything that moves?”

Chittister’s analysis goes beyond the immediate issues at hand and tackles the larger question of how the church is governed:

“Sister Chittister is directly attacking the authoritarianism at the heart of the current political campaign by the Pope and US bishops to impose dogmatic conformity on American Catholics. She even goes so far as to excavate unflattering Church history in order to warn of the dangers of neo-fascist tendencies which inherently lurk within an institution that operates in secret and is led by an all-male hierarchy that occasionally claims it possesses powers of absolute infallibility.

“Chittister concedes that it is not easy to run a ‘universal’ church which must take account of so many different cultures. But the Vatican needs to try harder, she says.

“The Catholic leadership must have sympathy and respect for the national cultures and traditions and values where it is attempting to evangelize, she says, and for the workings of the society itself. And for American bishops, says Chittister, that means appreciating that ‘The American tradition comes out of a commitment to freedom of speech, freedom of thought and democratic participation in the political process.’

“But this is exactly where the Church falls short, since it is America’s democratic traditions which Chittister says ‘the Vatican has always suspected and indeed has never liked.’ “

Her solution to current problems honors the response of New Ways Ministry’s co-founder, Sister Jeannine Gramick, during her own run-in with the Vatican:

“Chittister’s response to the Vatican’s crack-down was roughly the same as that of Sister Jeannine Gramick of the New Ways Ministry when her group was told to cease writing or speaking about homosexuality or advocating on behalf of gays and lesbians in the Church: ‘I do not choose to collaborate in my own oppression.’

“Chittister has suggested the LCWR follow the example of Gramick’s much smaller New Ways Ministry and simply disband in order to reconstitute itself as a non-canonical institution outside the Vatican’s purview. . .”

In “Is the Catholic Church sending a message to women?,”WashingtonPost.com On Faith commentary on the investigation of the Girl Scouts by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Marianne Duddy-Burke, DignityUSA executive director and a partner in the Equally Blessed coalition, notes:

“It is tempting to laugh off this news as further evidence of how profoundly out of touch many of our bishops are with the lives and concerns of the people who fill their pews. But the hierarchy’s attempt to exert pressure on an organization that has helped millions of girls grow into strong, self-reliant and public-spirited women is only the most recent episode in an increasingly troubling sequence of events.”

She then enumerates the recent cases which make up the “war on women:  the USCCB investigation of theologian Sister Elizabeth Johnson, Susan G. Komen Foundation’s attempt to de-fund Planned Parenthood, the contraception issue in the healthcare debate, and, of course, the LCWR case.  Her conclusion:

“The bishops may not acknowledge it, but our church’s moral authority has been weakened by their pursuit of an agenda that demonstrates a passion for power, rather than for service, and a willingness to put women’s lives and ministries at risk to achieve their political ends. At first glance it may seem that the hierarchy’s investigation of the Girl Scouts provides an opportunity to have a good laugh at the bishops’ expense. But it is women and girls who are paying the price.”

In the past, many have noted that homophobia is intimately linked to misogynist tendencies.  In the LCWR case, the nuns’ support of LGBT issues–particularly New Ways Ministry’s programs–was an explicit factor in the Vatican’s investigation of them.  In the Girl Scouts’ story, a number or reporters noted that the a Denver Girl Scouts’ troop had recently accepted a transgender child as a member.  One is reminded of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous line from his 1963 Letter from a Birmingham Jail: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Majority Favors Gay-Straight Alliances in Ontario’s Catholic Schools

May 26, 2012

While Ontario’s debate about establishing student clubs with the name “gay-straight alliances”  in  state-funded Catholic schools continues, a new poll shows that a majority of citizens there favor such organizations.   Meanwhile, one Catholic school in the province is a shining example of LGBT acceptance for the rest of the church educational system.

According to an article in Toronto’s The Star newspaper,

“Ontarians favour the right of students to form gay-straight alliance clubs in Catholic schools by a margin of almost two to one, a new poll suggests.

“Fifty-one per cent agreed that students in publicly funded Catholic schools should be allowed to form clubs under that sometimes contentious name with 28 per cent opposed and 21 per cent undecided.

“ ‘Now that people are more familiar with them, there’s more support for them,’ Forum president Lorne Bozinoff told the Star on Tuesday.”

As previous reports of this issue have shown,

“While Catholic teachers have generally been supportive of the alliances, trustees and many parents have opposed them as not being in accordance with church teachings.”

St. Mary’s High School in Kitchener, Ontario, however, has had no problem with establishing a gay-straight alliance there, and, in fact, it is a thriving part of student life.   The school’s vice-prinicipal, no doubt, had a major impact in this area, according to a MetroNews.ca story:

“For Joan Grundy, vice-principal at St. Mary’s High School in Kitchener, standing up for youth who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender is her job.

“ ‘It’s a no-brainer to me as a Catholic educator to do this work … Catholic teaching calls you to live out the gospel with integrity,’’ Grundy said.

“ ‘Jesus modeled a life of love, understanding and compassion. It’s not just tolerating people, but celebrating them,’ she said.

“Even as controversy recently erupted over the suggestion of creating gay-straight alliances in local Catholic schools, St. Mary’s was way ahead of everyone else. “

Indeed, the school’s support group, called PRISM — Pride and Respect for Individuals of a Sexual Minority, sponsored programs for the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia last week, highlighting ‘coming out’ stories from various personnel. Another MetroNews.ca story carried some of the personal tales.  For example, one parent told how his daughter’s journey changed his attitude:

“Wayne Ernst said he was always the first person to make the homophobic joke and didn’t care if he hurt people’s feelings.

“ ‘I was a bit of bigot. I was the Archie Bunker,’ said Ernst, who’s been on his own personal journey since his daughter came out as a lesbian. Now, the two have a close parental bond.

“ ‘I told her you will always be my daughter, nothing less,’ he said in an interview.”

Catholic officials should be flocking to St. Mary’s to see what they could learn from the teachers, students, and parents there.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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