NEWS NOTES: May 17, 2012

May 17, 2012

News on Catholic LGBT issues has been coming in so quickly lately that it has been hard to keep up with “News Notes.”  So, here’s a long list of  links to some items you might find of interest:

NATIONAL

1) “Do you think it’s appropriate for the Catholic Church to promote petitions for anti-gay marriage Referendum 74?” is the question that a Washington State newspaper asked its readers in reference to the ballot initiative to repeal the state’s newly-minted marriage equality law.  You can get a flavor of the 5,400 responses by reading The National Catholic Reporter’s blog post entitled “Washington newspaper readers split on church’s role in same-sex marriage petition.”

2) The Columbus Dispatch (Ohio) reports that when a lesbian couple were barred from their Lexington, Kentucky, Catholic high school’s prom, they threw an alternative prom in the school’s parking lot, enjoyed by many students.  Read about it in “Barred from prom, gay couple come out(side).”

3) In Minnesota, the Council for the Baptized, which is described as a “collegial voice for Catholics in the Archdiocese of St.Paul/Minneapolis,” has issued a statement of “Opposition to Marriage Amendment,” explaining why they oppose the state’s proposed constitutional amendment against marriage equality.  You can read the full statement here.

INTERNATIONAL

1) The Constitutional Court of Colombia has awarded pension benefits to the male partner of  a deceased Catholic priest.  Read the PinkNews article “Colombia: Partner of gay Catholic priest wins pension rights.”

2) The Associated Press says that the heavily-Catholic country of Argentina is now the world’s leader in transgender rights and equality, with the passage of a new law “giving people the freedom to change their legal and physical gender identity simply because they want to, without having to undergo judicial, psychiatric and medical procedures beforehand.” NPR.com carries the full AP story entitled “Argentina Gender Rights Law: A New World Standard.”

3) In “Catholic bishops denounce threats to religious freedom,” CBC.com (Canada’s public radio) reports that Canadian bishops have issued a pastoral letter which encourages “civil disobedience in cases where public policy runs afoul of private morality on questions such as abortion, contraception and gay marriage.”

4) When an Australian former judge says he is a ‘second-class citizen’ because he cannot marry” at a recent senate inquiry on legalizing same-sex marriage, a Catholic MP there relied on her faith as her reason for supporting the legislation:   “Catholics have a responsibility to form their conscience. . . . A Catholic who has formed their conscience cannot be compelled to act contrary to it.”  GayStarNews.com carries the full story.

5) The Church’s role in marriage equality debates in heavily-Catholic countries such as Italy, France, and Portugal is examined in GayStarNews.com’s article “Why same-sex marriage is spreading in Europe.”

6) Ireland’s Association of Catholic Priests has been working for reform in many areas of church life.  A recent survey they commissioned shows that 60% of  Ireland’s Catholics disagreed with Church teaching that same-sex  relationships were immoral.  Read about the ACP’s work in the BBC’s report “Association of Catholic Priests discuss Church’s future.”

7) A “Filipino lawmaker urges colleagues to fight homophobia” by coming out of the closet in this heavily Catholic nation.  Read the whole story on AllVoices.com.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


Three Italian Cardinals Support Prayer Vigils for International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia

May 17, 2012

Today, May 17th, is the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, and it will be marked around the world with commemorations in scores of countries.

In Italy this year, the Catholic LGBT organization Gionata (translated “Jonathan”) will host prayer vigils around their country.  Three of those vigils will be supported by the local Catholic Cardinal in each location.

GayStarNews reports:

“Three Italian Catholic cardinals have agreed to prayer vigils held by the religious group Gionata for the victims of gay hate and discrimination for the first time.

“LGBT groups will pray for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Milan, Florence and Palermo, in Sicily as part of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) to be celebrated . . . in an estimated 100 countries around the world. . . .

“Cardinal Paolo Romeo, in Palermo, . . . [has] backed it, even though he banned the vigil last year. The liturgy there will be celebrated at 9pm . . . in the San Gabriele Arcangelo church.”

The cardinal in Milan is Cardinal Angelo Scola; in Florence, it is Cardinal Giuseppe Bettori.

Let us keep in prayer today all the victims and perpetrators of homophobia and transphobia.  Let us pray, also,  in thanksgiving for these three Catholic Cardinals who are supporting these prayer vigils.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Commencement Ceremonies Show the Hope and Struggle of LGBT Issues at Catholic Schools

May 17, 2012

Three recent commencement at Catholic schools show how LGBT issues have become flashpoints of hope and struggle for Catholic educational institutions.

Cardinal Francis George

At St. Norbert College, Wisconsin, three-quarters of the faculty and students at commencement donned rainbow ribbons as a sign of protest against the school’s selection of Cardinal Francis George of Chicago as the commencement speaker.  George made headlines in December when he compared the LGBT rights movement to the KKK.  Over two weeks later, he apologized for the comments.

According to a WTAQ.com article:

“George did not address the controversy during his talk, and he did not speak with reporters. But the student speaker, Joanna Holzhaeuser of Ashland, told the grads to include people of different sexual orientations, gender, and race – and to avoid apathy in their human interactions.”

At the University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Indiana, controversies at commencement time are not uncommon.  The most recent controversy occurred in 2009 when bishops across the country protested the school’s choice of President Barack Obama as commencement speaker.  This year, the LGBT commencement controversy centers on the school’s selection of Kevin Hasson, founder and president of the Beckett Fund for Religious Liberty, as a recipient of an honorary degree.  A Windy City Times article notes:

“The anti-gay Beckett Fund defended Illinois Catholic Charities over its discriminatory policies in refusing to provide adoption and foster-care services to same-sex couples.”

Dr. Tom Dooley

The article also notes that graduating seniors who are members of the campus’ “4 to 5 Movement,” a pro-gay student mobilization, plan to wear buttons displaying their support of LGBT equality during the ceremonies.   (The Windy City Times article continues with a fascinating analysis of the current state of LGBT issues on Notre Dame’s campus, as well as background on famous gay Notre Dame alumni such as the revered Dr. Tom Dooley and retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Victor Fehrenbach.)

At Sacred Heart Academy, Mount Pleasant, Michigan, gay alumnus Dominic Sheahan-Stahl was disinvited as commencement speaker when it was learned that he planned to marry his partner in New York.  An alternative venue, Central Michigan University, was found for him to deliver his address, following the commencement ceremony. CM-Life.com reports on  preparation for the speech later this week, and quotes Sheahan-Stahl:

“My speech that I was going to give had nothing to do with being gay or homosexuality whatsoever. . . .It was about fear and facing those fears. This one is going to be about fear and not letting anything stand in the way of achieving your dreams.”

Arranging the speech’s alternative venue was family friend, Anne Groves:

“She said it was God’s providence that Warriner Hall was available for Sheahan-Stahl to speak on the same day of the graduation.

Dominic Sheahan-Stahl

“ ‘It’s really special that it’s Sunday because the seniors have so dearly wanted to keep Dominic (as part) of their graduation day,’ Groves said. ‘Doing it this way, they can go to mass, go to hear Dominic at 1 p.m., then go back to their school at 3 p.m. to graduate. So in their own way they can stand their ground.’ ”

(A complete interview with Anne Groves about the support that she and other Sacred Heart parents are providing to Sheahan-Stahl can be found here.  Sheahan-Stahl’s open letter to the local bishops can be read here.)

As far as I’m concerned, Sheahan-Stahl’s example shows exactly why Catholic commencement ceremonies should invite LGBT speakers.  No one can better give the graduates one of life’s most important lessons: to be true to oneself, despite fear and opposition.

The students’ responses of speaking out for equality in all three ceremonies show that they have already learned that important lesson, and that they are already teaching it to the rest of the church.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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