QUOTE TO NOTE: Cardinal Basil Hume on Love

May 22, 2012

In light of the recent statement in favor of same-gender relationships made by Berlin’s Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki,  a friend provided a historical precedent by sending along this quotation, made 17 years ago by London’s Cardinal Basil Hume:

“Love between two persons, whether of the same sex or of a different sex, is to be treasured and respected… When two persons love, they experience in a limited manner in this world what will be their unending delight when one with God in the next…  To love another, whether of the same sex or of a different sex, is to have entered the area of the richest human experience…” (Cardinal Basil Hume, Note on the Teaching of the Catholic Church Concerning Homosexual People, 1995).

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


A Giant, Hopeful Step in the Direction of Full Equality

May 22, 2012

Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki

A different translation of Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki’s comments about the equality of homosexual and heterosexual relationships offers a slight shift in the understanding of the Berlin archbishop’s message reported here on May 20th, though, as far as I can understand, it is still a very hopeful message.  First, I’ll explain the translation issue and then explain why I think it is still hopeful.

Terence Weldon, who blogs at QueeringTheChurch.com, alerted me to a blog by Daniel Silliman, who posted a variation on the translation of Woelki’s comments.  Silliman’s post translates Woelki’s remarks, reported in The Deutche Presse-Agentur, the largest news organization in Germany, in this way:

“The Berlin Archbishop Rainer Maria Woelki considers it possible that the Catholic Church will soften its strict position against gays and lesbians in the long term …. It is conceivable that the criteria will be refined. He considers it is imaginable that, ‘where people take responsibility for each other, where they live and practice a longterm/permanent  homosexual relationship, that that is to be regarded in a similar way [emphasis mine] as a heterosexual relationship,’ Woelki said on Thursday at the Catholic Congress in Mannheim.
“However, no one can expect a quick change of heart from the Church on this question. There will be no quick fixes, such a process could take a long time. Above all, this would not change it, that the marriage between man and woman for the Catholic church has a special rank, emphasized Woelki. . . .
“The Magisterium of the Catholic Church must deal with such developments. Unfortunately, this often takes a long time, and would not help people living today, said Woelki.”
The biggest difference here is whether Woelki’s comparison phrase is translated “in a similar way” or “in the same way.”  While there is certainly a difference between these translations, I still believe that even if the weaker one is more correct, it is still a giant step forward from the usual absolutist approach most church leaders take that no change can ever possibly take place in the area of homosexual relationships.
What’s more important, as I pointed out the other day, is that Woelki’s acknowledgement of the possibility of change is part of a trend I’ve noticed in the last six months where prelates are finding ways to make concessions about civilly legal ways to recognize committed same-gender relationships.   These concessions are in direct contradiction to the Vatican’s 2003 document “Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons”  which stated:
“Where the government’s policy is de facto tolerance and there is no explicit legal recognition of homosexual unions, it is necessary to distinguish carefully the various aspects of the problem. Moral conscience requires that, in every occasion, Christians give witness to the whole moral truth, which is contradicted both by approval of homosexual acts and unjust discrimination against homosexual persons. Therefore, discreet and prudent actions can be effective; these might involve: unmasking the way in which such tolerance might be exploited or used in the service of ideology; stating clearly the immoral nature of these unions; reminding the government of the need to contain the phenomenon within certain limits so as to safeguard public morality and, above all, to avoid exposing young people to erroneous ideas about sexuality and marriage that would deprive them of their necessary defences and contribute to the spread of the phenomenon. Those who would move from tolerance to the legitimization of specific rights for cohabiting homosexual persons need to be reminded that the approval or legalization of evil is something far different from the toleration of evil.”
 Cardinal Woelki’s comments (even in the translation which weakens the comparison to heterosexual unions)  and the comments of the other bishops cited in my previous post ignore this document’s injunction not to approve of homosexual acts and they certainly do not state clearly “the immoral nature of these unions,” but instead do quite the opposite.
I hope that my post on May 20th did not give the impression that I believed that equality for heterosexual and homosexual relationships in the Catholic Church was just around the corner.   That was not my intention.  Even without knowing of Woelki’s comments that such a change might take a long time, I was still under the impression that such would be the case.  For example, while I rejoice that Bishop Geoffrey Robinson of Australia has called for a re-thinking of the church’s approach to sexual ethics,  I am not going to hold my breath until that happens.  Yet, it is still a giant step in the rigtht direction that a bishop has issued such a call.
The cause for rejoicing in Woelki’s statement is that a Cardinal of the Church has acknowledged goodness in same-gender relationships and has compared them to marriage–unlike comparing them to addiction, bestiality, and other human frailties or perversions, as some of his brother bishops have been known to do.  Knowing that one Cardinal–especially one who may not see full equality between heterosexual and homosexual relationships as ideal–can make such a positive comparison indicates that the hierarchy of the church can indeed work for change in this area of doctrine.
I thank Terence Weldon and Daniel Silliman for their clarifications.  I invite readers to offer their thoughts on the Cardinal’s statement, and whether or not this news is seen as a sign of hope.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Minnesota Catholics Make Beautiful Music Together–for Marriage Equality

May 21, 2012

Catholics for Marriage Equality–Minnesota turned their pro-LGBT message into song recently, when they gathered 300 singers together to do a rendition of “For the Children,” a pro-diversity anthem penned by David Lohman, who works for the Institute of Welcoming Resources, a project of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

You can listen to the fruits of their labors, along with an interview with Lohman, by watching this video:

Catholics for Marriage Equality–Minnesota is working to defeat the proposed constitutional amendment for their state which will be on the ballot in November.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


QUOTE TO NOTE: Mario Cuomo’s Religion

May 20, 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.”

MARIO CUOMO’S RELIGION

In Maureen Dowd’s New York Times column today, entitled, “Here Comes Nobody,” she laments the narrow approach that Catholic Church leaders have been taking on social and political issues.  She turned to former New York Governor Mario Cuomo for advice, and he told her:

“If the church were my religion, I would have given it up a long time ago. . . .All the mad and crazy popes we’ve had through history, decapitating the husbands of women they’d taken. All the terrible things the church has done. Christ is my religion, the church is not.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Cardinal Calls for Equality of Heterosexual and Homosexual Relationships

May 20, 2012

Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki

So far I’ve only seen one news report in English about this item, but there are several in German that are floating around the web.  It is too good not to report, even though the information is rather sparse.

Berlin’s Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki told a major Catholic conference in Germany that relationships of same-gender couples should be treated equally with heterosexual couples. An article in The Local, an English news source in Germany reports:

“He told a crowd on Thursday that the church should view long-term, faithful homosexual relationships as they do heterosexual ones.

” ‘When two homosexuals take responsibility for one another, if they deal with each other in a faithful and long-term way, then you have to see it in the same way as heterosexual relationships,’ Woelki told an astonished crowd, according to a story in the Tagesspiegel newspaper.

“Woekli acknowledged that the church saw the relationship between a man and a woman as the basis for creation, but added that it was time to think further about the church’s attitude toward same sex relationships.”

Speaking at the 98th Katholikentag (Catholic), a conference of 60,000 Catholics in Mannheim, Woelki joins a growing chorus of episcopal voices who are calling for change in the hierarchy’s traditionally absolutist refusal to acknowledge the moral goodness of lesbian and gay relationships.

Last December, London’s Archbishop Vincent Nichols made headlines by supporting civil partnerships for lesbian and gay couples in the U.K.  That same month, Fr. Frank Brennan, a Jesuit legal scholar in Australia, also called for similar recognition of same-sex relationships.   In January, Bishop Paolo Urso of Ragusa, Italy, also called for recognition of civil partnerships in his country.

March of 2012 saw an explosion of questioning from prelates of the hierarchy’s ban on marriage equality. At New Ways Ministry’s Seventh National Symposium,Bishop Geoffrey Robinson of Australia called for a total re-examination of Catholic sexual ethics to allow for, among other things, moral approval of same-sex relationships.  The Diocese of Manchester, New Hampshire, supported a bill that would legalize civil unions (albeit as a stopgap measure to prevent marriage equality).  Bishop Richard Malone of Portland, Maine, announced that the diocese would not take an active role in opposing the state’s upcoming referendum on marriage equality, as it had in 2009. In Italy, Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini of Milan stated in his book, Credere e Cognoscere (Faith and Understanding), that “I do not agree with the positions of those in the Church who takes issue with civil unions.”  You can read excerpts, in Italian,  from the book here. An English translation of a different set of excerpts, thanks to the Queering the Church blog, can be found here.

While opposition to marriage equality from the hierarchy, especially in the United States, is still massive and strong, it is significant that these recent statements are all developing a similar theme of at least some recognition of the intrinsic value of lesbian and gay relationships, as well as the need for civil protection of them.  May this trend continue and grow.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 


Catholic Organizations Support Girl Scouts in Face of USSCB Investigation

May 20, 2012

Sixteen Catholic justice and church reform groups in the U.S.  have expressed their support for the Girl Scouts of America (GSA) who are undergoing an investigation by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

The investigation was prompted by complaints that the GSA is connected to liberal organizations and issues.  The Christian Science Monitor reports that

“Last year, the Scouts angered some conservatives by accepting into a Colorado troop a 7-year-old transgender child who was born a boy but was being raised as a girl.”

The 16 groups, members of the Catholic Organizations for Renewal, criticize the USCCB investigation, which will be conducted by the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, as

“the most recent episode in an increasingly troubling sequence of attacks against women and girls, both inside and outside the Church.”

The entire text of the statement, along with the names of the organizations which signed it,  follows:

Catholics Come Out in Support of Girl Scouts

 As Catholic organizations we congratulate the Girl Scouts on their 100th year anniversary and thank them for modeling the best of what girls can be: strong, bold, value-based young women.  What a shame that Catholic officials cannot see these young women for the gift they are to the church and world.

 The Bishops’ attempt to exert pressure on the Girl Scouts is the most recent episode in an increasingly troubling sequence of attacks against women and girls, both inside and outside the Church.  From the hierarchy’s mandate against the nuns to its most recent heavy-handed inquiry into the Girl Scouts, the Bishops’ actions not only reveal the growing gap between the hierarchy and the faithful, but also sends harmful messages about womanhood to our daughters in faith.  We urge the Bishops to cease the investigations.

 As Catholic organizations that seek a more just and inclusive church, we stand in solidarity with the 59 million women and girls who have been a part of the Girl Scouts.  We thank these women and girls—our sisters— for their witness of what it means to be a woman who knows her own giftedness in the face of a religion or society that too often undervalues  her self-worth.

 We invite those who would like to thank the Girl Scouts for their contribution to the church and society to join us in our Twitter campaign #GodLovesTheGirlScouts.

The Girl Scouts mission states that it “builds girls of courage, confidence and character” and for that we are grateful. These are exactly the type of young women needed in the Church today: those who know their self-worth goes beyond that which is measured by the Bishops’ investigation, but that is rooted in the simple fact that they are beloved children of God.

Signed by representatives from:

Call To Action, Catholics for Choice,  CORPUS,  DignityUSA,  Faithful of Southern Illinois,  Federation of Christian Ministries–Roman Catholic Faith Community Council,  Greater Cincinnati Women-Church,  National Coalition of American Nuns,  New Ways Ministry,  RAPPORT,  Roman Catholic Womenpriests–USA,  San Francisco Bay Area Women-Church,  Southeastern Pennsylvania Women’s Ordination Conference,  Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual,  Women-Church Baltimore,  Women’s Ordination Conference.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


QUOTE TO NOTE: The Laity’s Solid Faith

May 18, 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.”

THE LAITY’S SOLID FAITH

In a posting entitled “Is the church corrupt?” on his Washington Post blog “Catholic America,” Anthony M. Stevens-Arroyo writes about the faith of the church’s lay people–a faith born in experience, and which is strong, complex, and trustworthy:

“The Catholic commitment to social justice is indelible in our consciences, even if we differ about how government tax money is used for the poor. We oppose abortion as a “method of birth control,” but think changing the social environment that leads women to abortion is more effective than changing Supreme Court justices. Almost all of us know someone among family or friends who is gay, and we are more interested in seeing them live happily than punishing them with restrictive laws. . . .

“Catholics are loyal enough to Jesus and to each other to prevail against the Gates of Hell that now besmirch the institutional church.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Resigned and Retired Priests Strengthen Hope and Courage of Minnesota Catholics

May 18, 2012

Two stories should strengthen the hope and courage of Minnesota Catholics who are working to defeat the state’s proposed constitutional amendment to outlaw marriage equality which will be on the ballot there in November.

In the first instance, a group of resigned Catholic priests in the state have joined together to encourage Catholics to oppose the amendment, which is being supported by the state’s Catholic bishops. A Minnesota Public Radio report states:

Ed Flavahan

“As Minnesota voters prepare to go to the polls this fall, the Catholic Church has mounted a major effort to convince them to approve a constitutional amendment that would only allow marriage between men and women.

“But Catholics are not united behind the church’s official position, a point made clear today, when a group representing 80 former Catholic priests spoke out against the marriage amendment. They said the amendment violates Christian principles of love and justice.”

The Progressive Catholic Voice blog cites the group’s statement read at a press conference on May 17th:

“As former Catholic priests who collectively devoted more than 1,000 years of service to the Church, we strongly oppose the proposed marriage amendment to the Minnesota State Constitution. Free to express our opinions openly, we call on all people of good will to exercise their fundamental right to follow their consciences and to resist discrimination against any of God’s children.

“We encourage Minnesotans to base their vote on principles of justice and love. the proposed amendment, in violation of those principles, would deprive an individual of his or her right to marry the person he or she loves. Therefore, as former priests, we encourage all Minnesotans to vote “NO” on the marriage amendment.”

 

Sensus Fidelium, the blog of Catholics for Marriage Equality–Minnesota, carries the text of the statement of one of those 80 priests, Ed Flavahan, which recounts his journey of how his own homophobia became eradicated through personal interaction with lesbian and gay people.

A CBS news report quoted Flavahan’s criticism of the large amount of money spent by the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis to support the amendment:

“ ‘I was outraged to learn that the archdiocese spent $650,000 last year in 2011 to promote this divisive initiative, while its own Catholic Charities are being forced to curtail their good and necessary work,’ said Flahavan.

“St. Paul-Minneapolis Diocese spokesperson Dennis McGrath disputed the claim that Catholic Charities donations had been cut. He said the amount of donations had increased in 2011.

“McGrath also said that the $650,000 spent to promote the initiative came from money accrued through interest from the Archdiocese’s holdings, not from donations.”

MinnPost.com quoted another resigned priest on how the amendment is damaging to all:

“John Estrem, a former rector at the Cathedral of St. Paul who went on to head Catholic Charities, said the Church he knows is about love and inclusion. ‘As a Catholic and former priest, I encourage all to vote no on this amendment,’ Estrem said. ‘Enshrining discrimination does not promote marriage. It simply diminishes us all.’ ”

Fr. John Brandes, Fr. Timothy Power, and Fr. Thomas Garvey

In addition to the statement of these 80 resigned priests, three retired priests–John Brandes, Tom Garvey, Tim Power–submitted a letter to the editor  to Minneapolis’ Star Tribune (which ultimately was not printed) which began”

“Catholics of Minnesota you have a choice! . . .There is not just one way for Catholics to vote in November.”

The letter encourages Catholics to defeat the amendment.  In an interview with Minnesota Public Radio, they note the climate of fear among priests that has been propagated by St. Paul-Minneapolis’ Archbishop John Nienstedt:

“The men say they know many other priests — retirees and those in active priesthood — who support their position but are either too prudent or fearful to speak out.

“Last year, Archbishop Nienstedt sent a letter to all priests in the diocese calling the charge to defend traditional marriage ‘one of the greatest challenges of our times.’ He reminded them of the vow they took on their ordination day to promote and defend the church’s teachings and warned, ‘There ought not to be open dissension on this issue. If any have personal reservations, I do not wish that they be shared publicly.’

“The three retired priests received the letter.

“In his 55 years of being a priest, Garvey said he can’t remember a similar warning.

” ‘That was a terrible thing, such an injustice to us to say you cannot disagree with me on this matter,’ he said. ‘And it’s just not true.’ “

Hope and courage are contagious and infectious.  The hope and courage that these resigned and retired priests have displayed will surely spread to the general Catholic population.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


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


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