Sister Jeannine Gramick Featured in Nine Short Videos on “The Daily Beast”

June 20, 2012

Sister Jeannine Gramick

Andrew Sullivan’s blog, The Dish, housed at The DailyBeast.com is running a series of nine short videos with Sister Jeannine Gramick, New Ways Ministry’s co-founder, on a variety of questions concerning LGBT issues, Catholic church and U.S. politics, and the LCWR crisis and American nuns.   The videos are running every day from June 18-24, and then two more on June 30 and July1.  The video for the day is posted at 12 noon, Eastern Time.

So far, two of nine questions for Sister Jeannine have been posted there.  You can view the video by clicking on each of these two questions:

What do you consider to be the most powerful scriptural basis for LGBT equal rights?

Do you think civil marriage should be available for gay and lesbian couples?

The blog offers the following short bio of Sister Jeannine:

“Sister Jeannine Gramick is a Roman Catholic religious sister and a co-founder of the activist organization New Ways Ministry, a Catholic social justice center working for justice and reconciliation of lesbian and gay people with the institutional Catholic Church. After a review of her public activities on behalf of the Church that concluded in a finding of grave doctrinal error, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) declared in 1999 that she should no longer be engaged in pastoral work with lesbian and gay persons. In 2000, her congregation, in an attempt to thwart further conflict with the Vatican, commanded her not to speak publicly about homosexuality. She responded by saying, ‘I choose not to collaborate in my own oppression by restricting a basic human right [to speak]. To me this is a matter of conscience.’ “

As always is the case when listening to Sister Jeannine, you should find the video interviews informative, respectful, forthright, and inspiring.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


QUOTE TO NOTE: Fr. Fred Daley on the Blessing of GLBT Gifts and Talents

June 19, 2012

An article entitled “Syracuse Gay Pride parade celebrates diversity” on Syracuse.com quotes Fr. Fred Daley, pastor of All Saints Parish in this upstate New York city.  Fr. Daley, an out gay priest who recently led a focus session on gay priests at New Ways Ministry’s Seventh National Symposium, stated:

Rev. Fred Daley

“There’s so much ignorance around the issue of orientation. As church, it’s our responsibility to proclaim the truth. No one chooses their orientation. It’s set before you’re four years old. We as a parish are so enriched by the presence and involvement of the GLBT community. How blessed we are to celebrate their gifts and talents.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Greetings from London and World Pride!

June 19, 2012

By the time you read this post, I will have made myself “across the pond,” and be firmly settled in London, England, for a three-and-a half week trip to the United Kingdom for World Pride and to visit with a variety of church reform and LGBT organizations.  Oh, and also to do some sightseeing, too!

As I mentioned here previously, I will be participating on a panel at a multi-national, ecumenical conference as part of World Pride, a two-week gathering of LGBT people from around the globe, as well as conducting New Ways Ministry’s popular “Next Steps: Developing Catholic LGBT Ministry” program. I will also be networking with British and international organizations who are working for equality and justice for LGBT people in church and society. I can’t wait to let them know about the great work that Catholics are doing for LGBT issues and the Catholic church in “the colonies.”

Throughout my stay, I intend to keep on blogging, so I do not expect to pass any day without posting something here.  Because my schedule will not be as regular as usual, some days the posts may appear later than usual. However, because of the time difference (I’m five hours ahead of the U.S. Eastern Time Zone), many times the posts will appear earlier.  Don’t be surprised if there’s an occasional “electronic postcard” as a post–photos from various places that I travel to that I think may be of interest to people who are concerned with Catholic LGBT issues.

I’m open to any suggestions of places to visit that blog readers may have for me while I’m here.  My “home base” will be in London, but I have a BritRail pass and plan to visit a wide-range of places throughout England.  If any readers will be here in London for World Pride, please be in touch so we can say “hello.”

So, the blog will go on while I’m traveling!  It just may be a little different than the regular news and opinion that you may have become used to.  I hope you will enjoy the change. Cheerio!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


A Father’s Love for His Gay Son and for the Catholic Church

June 18, 2012

Two days ago, we praised the fact that Catholic parishes in Maine would NOT be participating in an effort among some of the state’s churches to raise funds to defeat marriage equality in an upcoming referendum.

Portland, Maine’s Press Herald newspaper carried an op-ed piece by David Flynn of Lyman, Maine, the Catholic father of a gay son, who also had praise for Catholic refusal to participate in this campaign.  The essay is moving in the way that only a parent’s love can effect, and it was appropriate that it was printed on Father’s Day, the day that other churches began their fundraising effort.  I suggest you read the entire essay to get the personal background of Flynn’s story.  I found this excerpt to be most salient:

“On Father’s Day, many Maine churches will be participating in a special “second collection.” This second collection won’t be used to fund a mission trip to Africa or to help feed Portland’s homeless. Rather, these churches will use this money to fight civil same-sex marriage rights for my son.

“While this is an unfortunate, anti-family move on the part of certain religious denominations, I am proud to say Maine’s Catholic leadership has opted to avoid the divisiveness of this issue.

“The fact that these other churches would participate in such activity is disappointing. More than wanting my son to be able to marry the person he loves, I want my son, and every father’s son in Maine, to be proud of their faith traditions.

“My father raised me in the Catholic faith that taught lessons about justice and the common good. He taught me that as a Catholic, I can be part of a powerful, positive force in the world. He taught me that God’s greatest gift is love. And I passed these values on to my children.

“By avoiding the divisive politics of this election year, Maine’s Catholic Church has seemingly learned from past mistakes. In 2009, more than 140 churches across Maine took a second collection to oppose marriage equality for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

“When this happened, many people stood up and walked out of church. Sadly, many have never come back. In fact, according to a study by the Pew Research Center, one in three Catholics born into the faith have stopped calling themselves Catholic.

“They leave because Catholics want their faith known for its ability to inspire a culture, not for the political activities of its leaders.

“I believe that engaging in the politics of fighting secular laws regarding civil same-sex marriage is wrong for any church. And a review of public opinion polls illustrates that the strong majority of Catholics agree with me.

“According to a public opinion survey conducted in March by the Public Religion Research Institute, nearly 60 percent of adult American Catholics support civil marriage for same-sex couples. This is a higher rate of support than among the general public or members of other Christian denominations.

“It would seem the Catholic Church in Maine is listening to the voices of the faithful in choosing not to promote discrimination. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Maine has signaled that it will not actively campaign against this November’s ballot question allowing civil marriage for same-sex couples. The diocese’s decision to “take a pass” on the second collection is a good indication that it will keep that promise.

“Because Father’s Day is about love, respect and commitment, I’m one Maine father who’s proud of my son and my church.”

I can’t imagine anyone saying it better.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry.


Ireland’s Priests Challenge Cardinal Dolan’s Report on ‘Gay-Friendly’ Seminary in Rome

June 17, 2012

Cardinal Timothy Dolan

New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan has come under fire from a major association of priests in Ireland for the way he handled an investigation of the Irish College in Rome, a seminary, which he said had a reputation for being “gay-friendly.”

Dublin’s Independent newspaper reports that Ireland’s Association of Catholic Priests(ACP) has charged:

” ‘It is unacceptable that a report to the Pope, on a sensitive issue, should be conducted in such an incompetent fashion,’ the group said. ‘No court of law would treat people in such a way.’

“The report was carried out by Cardinal Dolan as part of the apostolic visitation into some dioceses, seminaries and religious institutions last year.

“It criticised the four archbishops — Cardinal Sean Brady, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop Michael Neary and Archbishop Dermot Clifford.

“It is alleged that they were disengaged from college governance, with irregular meetings, minutes and agenda. . . .

” ‘Cardinal Dolan’s report not only undermines the reputation of priests who have not been given a right of reply, it also undermines the credibility of the whole visitation process,’ the ACP said.

” ‘It would appear that, in undertaking this particular visitation, conclusions were effectively drawn beforehand and then evidence to support them was actively sought,’ [the ACP said].”

The Irish Times’ account of the story states:

“What [the ACP] found ‘disturbing, indeed frightening’, was ‘what a draft response from the four Irish archbishops called “a deep prejudice” appears to have “coloured the visitation’ from the outset and ‘led to the hostile tone and content of the report”.’

“The judgment of the four archbishops seemed “vindicated in the clear efforts made by Cardinal Dolan’s team to find evidence to support the college’s ‘gay-friendly’ reputation.

“While the report failed to find such evidence, it still persisted in giving a detailed account of specific allegations and then went on to state that it did not find any evidence to support same.

“It begged ‘the question as to why such detail is included in the report’.

“Cardinal Dolan’s conclusion that ‘the overwhelming majority of the seminarians are committed to a faithful, chaste lifestyle’ did ‘not justify the detailed, even prurient reporting and naming of individuals and accusations.’ “

“If the accusations were not substantiated, ‘why not just say so? Is this just incompetence or perhaps homophobia?

“ ‘A charge of the latter could easily be justified as a result of the “coloured: thinking that produced this report.’

It was ‘very disappointing, on a number of levels, to have to conclude (as the evidence of this report suggests) that the Apostolic Visitation had very little to do with child protection but was effectively part of an ongoing process of remaking the church in accordance with current Vatican thinking.’ “

Cardinal Dolan has not commented on the ACP’s acccusations, the Independent report stated.

An editorial in The Irish Times makes the important connection between this investigation and another recent important investigation which touched on gay issues.  The editors state:

“Whether or not the Irish College was indeed a hotbed of liberal subversive methods – a notion difficult to reconcile with its distinctly unradical patrons’, the four Irish archbishops – it has become an unfortunate pawn in the church’s internal war for orthodoxy. Other examples include those Irish priests recently muzzled and the US Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which represents most of America’s 57,000 nuns, now placed under theological receivership.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


Maine’s Catholic Parishes Won’t Raise Funds for Marriage Equality Opponents

June 16, 2012

On Father’s Day, June 17th, the Christian Civic League of Maine, a political action committee in Maine whose goal is to defeat marriage equality in that state’s upcoming referendum, will be collecting money in approximately 200 churches, according to a report from USNEWS.MSNBC.MSN.com.  Notably and thankfully absent from the fundraising effort will be Catholic churches.  The report states:

“The Catholic Church won’t be joining the alliance, but participants include Methodist, Baptist, Pentecostal, Nazarene, Church of God, Wesleyan, Evangelical Free, Advent Christian and other denominations, the league stated.

“While churches and other nonprofits may not raise money for candidates to office, they may raise money for issues important to their members.

“Father’s Day, June 17, seemed appropriate for a special church collection because of the day’s focus on family, league Director Carroll Conley Jr told the AP. Additional collections are expected in the months ahead.”

Earlier this year, Bishop Richard Malone of the Catholic diocese of Portland, Maine (which includes the entire state), said that the diocese would not be taking an active part in the referendum campaign this year, as they had in 2009 when the issue was last on the ballot.  By not participating in the fundraising effort, Bishop Malone is keeping true to his word.

The faith organizing to support marriage equality in Maine’s referendum is being led by the Religious Coalition Against Discrimination.  Catholic involvement in the coalition is represented by Catholics for Marriage Equality, which is housed in Maine.

The Catholics for Marriage Equality website contains the text of a declaration for which they are collecting signatures.  You can sign the declaration by clicking here. Since the declaration sums up Catholic pro-equality sentiments so well, it is reprinted in its entirety:

The Catholics for Marriage Equality Declaration

As faithful Roman Catholics we believe that the constitutional right to practice freedom of religion is based on respect for the dignity of each individual. We must guard against, not promote, the domination of one religious tradition over others in our civic life. Making respect for the dignity of all people not only an ideal but a living truth, we affirm civil marriage for same-sex couples throughout the United States. Our declaration of conscience is based on the following:

  • The American principle of the separation of Church and State was enshrined in the Constitution to ensure that no particular religious perspective would be imposed on our pluralistic society.
  • Catholic teaching on social justice has been central to the building of a just society, creating awareness of diversity in the human family, calling us to lives of respect, not simply tolerance, for one another.
  • We remember that Roman Catholics were once denied civil rights, treated with suspicion, ridiculed because of our sacred rituals, and questioned as to our allegiance to “foreign authorities.” Memory challenges us to remain vigilant whenever bigotry and injustice enters into public discourse.
  • Same-sex civil marriage does not in any way coerce any religious faith or tradition to change its beliefs or doctrine or alter its traditional marriage practices.

We know that God is a most gracious and wonderful Creator. Many of us have gay and lesbian relatives and friends. We value the love and commitment we witness in their relationships; their devotion to each other and their children. Civil marriage bestows the dignity and equality called for in our nation’s highest ideals, “the inherent natural rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

As Roman Catholics, we differentiate between sacramental marriage and civil marriage.Therefore, we perceive that same-sex civil marriage poses no threat to our Church. While we respect the authority and integrity of the Church in matters of faith, our prayers and discernment have brought us to a new openness on this issue. We do not ask the Church to perform same-sex marriages. We do implore the Church to honor the States’ prerogative to authorize civil marriages for our gay and lesbian family and friends. Grateful for the gift of our faith and the ways that we have been nourished by faith throughout our lives, and also grateful for our citizenship in America and in our particular state, we sign this statement as Roman Catholic citizens of the United States of America.

Catholics for Marriage Equality

For those interested in learning more about Catholic perspectives supportive of marriage equality, New Ways Ministry offers a short book, Marriage Equality: A Positive Catholic Approach.  The book is available at no cost.  It can be downloaded in PDF format from New Ways Ministry’s website.  You can also order hard copies of the book on the website (no cost for the book; postage and handling fees apply).

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


More Details on Catholic Support for Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill

June 15, 2012

Earlier this week, we reported on a statement released by the Uganda Joint Christian Council (UJCC), an ecumenical group which includes Catholic Church officials, in which they expressed support for that country’s notorious legislation which proposes severe criminal penalties for homosexuality.   At that time, there were scant details about the present incarnation of the bill, which in the past had included the death penalty as a punishment.

ReligionDispatches.com has published an essay by Peter Montgomery, their associate editor and Senior Fellow at People For the American Way, which offers a few more details. Montgomery confirms that the news of the UJCC’s support

“is especially noteworthy since Roman Catholic Bishop of Uganda Cyprian Lwanga previously denounced the bill’s death penalty and imprisonment provisions as contrary to ‘a Christian caring approach to this issue,’ though he also said ‘We, the Catholic Bishops of Uganda, appreciate and applaud the Government’s effort to protect the traditional family and its values.’ “

You can view video of Lwanga’s earlier (2009) denouncing of the bill here, and you can read the text of that earlier statement here.  Around the same time, the Vatican made oblique reference to the bill in a statement denouncing anti-gay violence to the United Nations, which you can read here.

Montgomery offers some insight into the recent confusion about whether or not the death penalty is included in the current version of the bill which Lwanga and the UJCC now support:

“The Anti-Homosexuality Bill was shelved last year, but reintroduced this February by its sponsor, Member of Parliament David Bahati (the same month the government shut down a conference of LGBT activists). Some news reports at the time said the death penalty had been removed from the bill. But Warren Throckmorton noted that the death penalty in fact remained.

“A BBC report quoted Bahati saying the original bill was reintroduced for procedural reasons, and that the death penalty would be removed in committee. ‘However,’ notes a commentary on Care2.com, ‘readers familiar with the legislation’s history will know that such assurances have been made before only for the bill to go to the voting stage intact and without the death sentence deleted.’ ”

Montgomery also notes that the bill still includes:

  • A 7-year jail sentence for consenting adults who have gay sex;
  • A life sentence for people in same-sex marriages;
  • Extradition and prosecution of LGBT Ugandans living abroad;
  • The death penalty for adults who have gay sex with minors or people with disabilities, consensual or no, or who communicate HIV via gay sex, regardless of condom usage or consent;
  • Jail for anyone who doesn’t report suspected gay people within 24 hours;
  • A ban on the “promotion” of homosexuality so open-ended that it would endanger HIV/AIDS treatment and sexual health clinics in the country and could effectively exclude gay people from petitioning the courts by making those representing them liable for criminal action;
  • A mandate to break all ties with international commitments and laws opposing the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

Since about 42% of Uganda’s population is Catholic (the largest denomination in the country), the influence of Catholicism can be very strong there.

The story of Archbishops Lwanga’s reversal of stance on this bill highlights how dangerous it is when Catholic leaders do not take seriously the church’s condemnation of discrimination and violence against LGBT people.  A commenter on Twitter noted that perhaps Lwanga’s support may be intended to prevent the more draconian aspects of the bill. Even if that were the case, such an ambiguous position is irresponsible in such a highly volatile and dangerous political situation.  Moreover,  Lwanga’s “defense of traditional family and values” rhetoric certainly makes it difficult to interpret his message in a way that is other than anti-gay.

When it comes to condemning same-sex relationships and marriage equality proposals, Catholic bishops often claim that they must be clear, strong, and consistent in the denouncements.  Why doesn’t the same clarity, strength, and consistency apply to their denouncements of proposed legislation which is such a gross violation of the human rights of LGBT people?

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


Follow-up on New Ontario Law Allowing GSAs in Catholic Schools

June 14, 2012

Last week, we reported that the Ontario Parliament passed Bill 13 into law which allows students at the state-funded Catholic schools there to form gay-straight alliances (GSAs).

Since that time, there has been some interesting response and commentary, which I would like to summarize here.

Perhaps most importantly, Toronto’s Cardinal Thomas Collins released a statement calling on Catholic schools to respect the new law.  Such a statement is newsworthy because Collins and others in the Canadian hierarchy had strongly opposed the bill. U.S. Catholic quoted the statement, in part:

“The Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario has expressed serious concerns regarding certain aspects of this legislation, as have numerous other individual citizens and groups.

“Recognizing that the Accepting Schools Act is now the law, Catholic partners will seek, as we have always done, in a way that is in accord with our faith, to foster safe and welcoming school communities.

“Bullying, in any form, is unacceptable. At the core of our Catholic Christian beliefs is the command to welcome every person with love and respect.”

Collins’ statement surprised some because the week before the law was passed, he was referring to it as an infringement on religious freedom.

Commentator Michael McGough, in a Los Angeles Times op-ed, noted how vastly different Collins’ approach is compared to how the U.S. bishops have been responding:

“At a time when U.S. Catholic bishops are crying foul — or crying wolf? — about intolerable intrusion on their religious liberty in the form of ‘Obamacare’ regulations, it’s interesting to speculate how they would react to a law like Ontario’s GSA requirement. . . .

“Canada and the U.S. have much in common, but I can’t imagine this country’s assertive Catholic hierarchy humbly acknowledging that an unwelcome enactment ‘is the law.’ ”

McGough’s argument is too complicated to be summarized here, but if you want to learn his reasoning for such a claim, I suggest you read the entire essay.

While the trustees who administer the schools have opposed the bill, great support for the new law has come from the Catholic teachers’ association. The Globe and Mail reports:

“Catholic teachers in Ontario are calling on school administrators to embrace the province’s new anti-bullying legislation allowing students to form gay-straight alliances, even as pro-life activists push for a constitutional challenge.

“Kevin O’Dwyer, president of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association, said his 43,000 members welcome the legislation, which passed third and final reading on Tuesday, because it allows schools to protect students from homophobia and other forms of discrimination.

“ ‘I think it’s going to be a positive experience for students to engage those clubs, whatever name they choose,’ Mr. O’Dwyer said in an interview.

“He is hoping that Catholic school trustees can overcome their objections to legislation that they argue contradicts church doctrine condemning homosexual activity.”

As an aside, I must interject that it defies logic to wonder how administrators can think that supporting GSA’s condones homosexual activity.  Would they say that any support group that includes heterosexual students condones heterosexual activity?

Not all Canadian Catholics, however, support the new law.  MetroNews.ca reports that the Campaign Life Coalition is calling for a court challenge.  A statement from the group said:

“ ‘This legislation now puts a radical homosexual agenda in every publicly-funded, Catholic and Public school across Ontario, under the guise of “bullying prevention,” ‘ said the pro-life group Campaign Life Coalition in a statement released after the bill passed third reading Tuesday. It urged all taxpayers and Catholic School Boards to fight the law in court.

But The Globe and Mail article quotes a political expert who says that such a challenge may end up ringing hollow since so many Catholics support the new policy:

“Frank Peters, a professor at the University of Alberta and an expert in education policy, said the Catholic educational community has not been well served by this kind of forceful opposition. ‘I think there’s a fairly strong segment within the Catholic church who wonder just exactly how this is in contravention of Catholic teaching.’ “

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Catholic Priest Tells Minnesotans Why They Can Vote Against Proposed Marriage Equality Ban

June 13, 2012

An out gay Catholic priest addressed a gathering of 200 Catholics in Edina, Minnesota, on Sunday to explain why, as good Catholics, they could vote “no” in that state’s ballot measure to amend their constitution to ban marriage equality for lesbian and gay couples.

Benedictine Father Robert Pierson, OSB, gave a ten-minute talk to the gathering of Catholics co-sponsored by Catholics for Marriage Equality MN, Minnesotans United for All Families,  Call to Action MN, Catholic Coalition for Church Reform and Dignity Twin Cities. The Sensus Fidelium blog carries a full text of Fr. Pierson’s remarks, which you can read here. You can also watch the ten-minute YouTube video of his talk here:

My favorite part of the talk is this excerpt:

“My conscience tells me to vote NO on the amendment because I have yet to hear a convincing reason why we need such an amendment to our state constitution. In fact, I believe that the church does not have the right to force its moral teaching on others outside our fold. When the religious beliefs of any particular religious group become the law of the land, we run the risk of violating everyone’s freedom to believe and their freedom of conscience. Allow me to mention three examples of where I see the church ‘fudging’ the facts.

“We have heard it said that civil marriage for committed, same-sex couples ‘will destroy the sanctity of the Sacrament of Matrimony.’ But the truth is, until now the church has not concerned itself with civil marriage. The church does not recognize the civil marriage of its members. If a Catholic is married in a civil ceremony, they are said to be married “outside of the Church” and the marriage is not recognized as a sacrament due to ‘lack of canonical form.; Civil marriage for committed, same-sex couples is not the Sacrament of Matrimony, and the government cannot tell churches who they may or may not marry.”

In describing Fr. Pierson’s talk, Fr. James Martin, SJ, provides a succinct background bio of the speaker, on America magazine’s “In All Things” blog:

“Father Pierson, who had worked in campus ministry at St. John’s University and is currently the director of the Spiritual Life Program at St. John’s Abbey, speaks of his own homosexuality, his experience in ministering to gay and lesbian students, and then describes why he bas concluded that a Minnesota Catholic may vote “no” on a proposed state amendment that would prevent same-sex marriages.  In 2005, Father Pierson had resigned from his post as director of campus ministry after the Vatican officially barred men with ‘deep-seated homosexual tendencies’ from ordination, and because of broader issues in the church’s teaching.  ‘Because I can no longer honestly represent, explain and defend the church’s teaching on homosexuality, I feel I must resign,’ he said at the time.”

Fr. Martin also provides some context as to why Fr. Pierson’s remarks are so courageous and prophetic:

“Needless to say, his comments on same-sex marriage are in direct opposition to the U.S. Catholic bishops, including Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis, who has vigorously supported the amendment (that is, opposing same-sex marriage) and asked parishioners in his archdiocese to recite a ‘A Prayer for Marriage‘ as part of the Prayers of the Faithful (petitionary prayers) at Masses.  The bishops could not be clearer in their opposition, which rests primarily on the Christian tradition of marriage as between a man and a woman (as well as on the church’s opposition to homosexual activity).  Father Pierson’s appeal is primarily to freedom of conscience, and on that topic he quotes both the Catechism and Pope Benedict XVI. ‘Our Holy Father taught in 1967 that we must obey our own conscience, even if it puts us at odds with the Pope. I doubt that he knew that he was going to be Pope when he said that.’ “

Terence Weldon, who blogs at QueeringTheChurch.comprovided another political context for Fr. Pierson’s remarks. Weldon recounts his own personal experience with a conscience decision on an issue of justice:

“For half a century in South Africa, my education in Catholic schools, and decades of parish life thereafter, firmly imprinted on me that we have not only the right but the obligation to follow conscience before the law, especially if those laws areunjust – as many so clearly were under apartheid. In company with countless other South African Catholics, I took this to heart, and did what I could in my small way to make a contribution to justice, including at times knowingly and deliberately breaking some laws when my conscience dictated I do so.

“As an openly gay Catholic, I fail to see why the principle of compliance with conscience rather than with unjust laws should not apply equallly when the injustice is perpetrated by Catholic bishops, and not secular authority.”

LaDonna Hoy

The Sensus Fidelium blog post notes describing the Minnesota gathering notes that LaDonna Hoy, a parishioner at St. Bartholomew’s church in Wayzata, MN, offered remarks that complemented Fr. Pierson’s:

“As a Catholic I would also ask: How then can it be right for a particular faith tradition–for us–to support legislation that defines marriage in a way that removes the rights and limits the freedoms of all Minnesotans regardless of their beliefs or lived experience? We are called as Catholics to bring forth a kingdom of love and justice in our midst. What is core to our tradition and its teachings is that the intrinsic dignity of each person must be respected in word, in action, and in law.

“I pray that we become that church. . . . A church that upholds the sacredness of marriage and its commitments for all people and that is open and informed by the insights and wisdom of the lived experience of its people. A church where inclusive love is once again our guiding principle and justice lights our way.”

I have only two words to add to all these speakers and commenters: “Bravo!” and “Amen!”

May their examples be multiplied.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


Report on LCWR Meeting With the CDF at the Vatican

June 12, 2012

Sister Pat Farrell

The president and executive director of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) met with a Vatican official and an American archbishop in Rome this week to see if they could resolve differences in perspectives that resulted from the Vatican’s demand that the leadership group reform itself.  The nuns’ support of LGBT issues, including New Ways Ministry particularly, were part of the Vatican’s critique of the organization.

Sister Pat Farrell, president, and Sister Janet Mock, executive director, met with Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), and Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle, who was appointed to direct the LCWR’s reform.

Sister Janet Mock

According to LCWR’s statement after the meeting, the nuns stated that they were able to communicate their message:

“ ‘It was an open meeting and we were able to directly express our concerns to Cardinal Levada and Archbishop Sartain,’ said Sister Pat Farrell.”

The National Catholic Reporter article on the meeting quotes from the Vatican’s statement, which seems to indicate that Rome has not backed down on any of its original demands:

Archbishop Peter Sartain

“According to canon law, the Vatican said, the LCWR ‘is constituted by and remains under the supreme direction of the Holy See in order to promote common efforts” and cooperation.

” ‘The purpose of the doctrinal assessment is to assist the LCWR in this important mission by promoting a vision of ecclesial communion founded on faith in Jesus Christ and the teachings of the church as faithfully taught through the ages under the guidance of the magisterium,’  the Vatican said.”

Cardinal William Levada

The NCR article quotes Sister Farrell as saying:

“We are grateful for the opportunity for open dialogue, and now we will return to our members to see about the next step.”

The meeting comes after almost a month of discussion and commentary on the issue, as well as an outpouring of support for the nuns from Catholics across the U.S.

Last week, the first religious community of men, the Franciscan in the U.S., issued a statement of support for the sisters. In an open letter to the nuns, the Franciscans said:

“We write. . . as a public sign of our solidarity with you as you endure this very difficult moment.  We are privileged to share with you the journey of religious life.  Like you, we strive in all that we do to build up the People of God. . . .

“. . .your gift to the Church is not only one of service, but also one of courageous discernment.  The late 20th century and the beginning of this century have been times of great social, political and cultural upheaval and change.  Such contextual changes require us, as faithful members of the Church, to pose questions that at first may appear to be controversial or even unfaithful, but in fact are asked precisely so that we might live authentically the charisms we have received, even as we respond to the “signs of the times.”  This is the charge that we as religious have received through the “Decree on the Renewal of Religious Life” from the Second Vatican Council and subsequent statements of the Church on religious life.  We believe that your willingness to reflect on many of the questions faced by contemporary society is an expression of your determination to be faithful to the Gospel, the Church, the invitation from Vatican II and your own religious charisms.  We remain thankful for and edified by your courage to engage in such reflection despite the ever-present risk of misunderstanding.

St. Francis

“Moreover, we are concerned that the tone and direction set forth in the Doctrinal Assessment of LCWR are excessive, given the evidence raised.  The efforts of LCWR to facilitate honest and faithful dialogue on critical issues of our times must not result in a level of ecclesial oversight that could, in effect, quash all further discernment.  Further, questioning your adherence to Church teaching by your “remaining silent” on certain ethical issues seems to us a charge that could be leveled against many groups in the Church, and fails to appreciate both the larger cultural context and the particular parameters of expertise within which we all operate.  Finally, when there appears to be honest disagreement on the application of moral principles to public policy, it is not equivalent to questioning the authority of the Church’s magisterium.  Although the Catholic moral tradition speaks of agreement regarding moral principles, it also – from the Middle Ages through today – speaks of appropriate disagreement regarding specific application of these principles.”

Sister Simone Campbell

One of LCWR’s greatest supporters has been Sister Simone Campbell, SSS, the executive director of NETWORK, a Catholic social justice lobby.  In an article in Canada’s National Post, Sister Campbell identifies what she sees as the biggest difference between the Vatican and U.S. nuns:

“It’s a clash of monarchy versus democracy. It’s not about faith. It’s culture.”

But her analysis doesn’t stop there.  She also points out some other important differences which may be causing the rift:

“We’re a bit more vibrant than the European folks. . .

“I don’t know anything the bishops are saying is true. I don’t think we’re radical feminists. We now have advanced degrees, often more education than the bishops have, which makes the bishops nervous.

“What irks the bishops is that ordinary people look to Catholic sisters for their moral perspectives and find us credible teachers. We understand the complexity of life. When you can live in the Vatican without engaging in real people in pastoral settings it’s way easier to be black and white.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 963 other followers