Monsignor Is Caught in a Lie as Diocese Backs Out of Selling Property to a Gay Couple

July 31, 2012

The following story is a cautionary tale about how far some Catholic officials will go to dissociate themselves from marriage equality.  It’s also a cautionary tale about lying and diligently checking to whom you may be forwarding an email.

Oakhurst mansion

Dianne Williamson, a columnist for Massachusetts’ Worcester Telegram, reports that when a gay couple offered to buy a mansion for sale from the Diocese of Worcester, they were rejected as buyers.  A mistakenly forwarded email to the couple reveals that the diocese was concerned that the new owners might use the building to host gay weddings.  Moreover, a diocesan official has been caught in a lie to the newspaper about why the diocese refused the sale.

Williamson’s column begins:

“It’s bad enough that the Catholic Church discriminates against gay people. But it’s poor form — and possibly illegal — to document the bigotry and then mistakenly email it to the victims.

“This embarrassing etiquette lapse occurred as James Fairbanks and Alain Beret were pursuing the purchase of Oakhurst, a 44-bedroom mansion in Northbridge, owned by the Diocese of Worcester. Fairbanks and Beret had searched for two years for the perfect renovation project, and hoped to turn the run-down estate into a banquet facility. Previously, the pair had transformed mansions in Vermont and Barre into similar businesses.”

The diocese originally seemed very happy to sell the building, going so far as to suggest a lower bid because of renovations that had been done.  But after they rejected the deal which was in progress, Williamson called a diocesan official to get an explanation:

“This week, Monsignor Thomas Sullivan, who oversees the sale of diocesan property, told me the deal fell through because of financing.

“ ‘They couldn’t come up with the money,’ he said. ‘This happens all the time.’

“I told him the potential buyers believed that he rejected the deal because of their sexual orientation, or the prospect of gay marriages someday being performed at Oakhurst. Was that an issue?

“ ‘No, it wasn’t,’ Msgr. Sullivan said. ‘It was an issue of them not having the financing. That was all.’

“As noted, if you’re going to discriminate, you should cover your tracks. Inadvertently attached to the email rejecting the counter offer is an email from Msgr. Sullivan to the diocesan broker:

‘I just went down the hall and discussed it with the bishop,’ Msgr. Sullivan wrote. ‘Because of the potentiality of gay marriages there, something you shared with us yesterday, we are not interested in going forward with these buyers. I think they’re shaky anyway. So, just tell them that we will not accept their revised plan and the Diocese is making new plans for the property. You find the language.’ ”

Fairbanks and Beret are now planning to sue the diocese; in Massachusetts it is illegal to refuse to sell because of a purchaser’s sexual orientation.

An added wrinkle in this story is that the Oakhurst mansion had previously been used as a treatment center for pedophile priests, but had been closed because of allegations of sexual abuse and financial mismanagement:

“Speaking of reprehensible, Oakhurst is perhaps best known as the former House of Affirmation, a treatment home for pedophile priests, which closed amid scandal in the late 1980s. Ironically, Beret was willing to overlook that history; he’s a devout Christian who at one time studied for the priesthood.

“ ‘I have plenty of sins,’ Beret said. ‘But being gay isn’t one of them. This is not a fight I wanted to pick. But for the sake of my dignity, I’m not walking away.’ ”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Scotland Moves Toward Marriage Equality; Archbishop Causes Grief for Late MP’s Family

July 30, 2012

 

 

Last week’s Catholic LGBT news from Scotland was both good and bad, as two stories highlighted the church’s role in politics.

On the good side,  in the first story, it was announced that the Scottish parliament will introduce a bill to legalize marriage between two people of the same gender, despite pressure from Catholic officials not to do so.

BBC.co.ukreports:

“[Government] Ministers confirmed they would bring forward a bill on the issue, indicating the earliest ceremonies could take place by the start of 2015.

“Political leaders, equality organisations and some faith groups welcomed introducing same-sex marriage.

“But it was strongly opposed by the Catholic Church and Church of Scotland.”

The BBC also noted that:

” . . . [the ]government has insisted no part of the religious community would be forced to hold same-sex weddings in churches.”

Official Catholic response to the decision to go forth with the bill was negative:

“A spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland said: ‘The Scottish government is embarking on a dangerous social experiment on a massive scale.’ “

Archbishop Philip Tartaglia

On the bad side, in the second story, Archbishop Philip Tartaglia, the newly-appointed archbishop of Glasgow, Scotland, created a row by claiming that the death of a gay Member of Parliament may have been caused by his sexuality.  David Cairns, 44, a resigned Catholic priest, died of acute pancreatitis.  The BBC reports that during a question period after an address to a university audience, Tartaglia said:

“If what I have heard is true about the relationship between physical and mental health of gay men, if it is true, then society has been very quiet about it.

“Recently in Scotland there was a gay Catholic MP who died at the age of 44 or so and nobody said anything and why his body should just shut down at that age, obviously he could have had a disease which would have killed anyone, but you seem to hear so many stories about this kind of thing.

“But society won’t address it.”

Archbishop Tartaglia’s spokesperson claimed that the statements were misunderstood and that the archbishop apologized for any pain that was caused:

David Cairns

“The Archbishop-elect’s words have been taken out of context.

“They were made in answer to an audience question at a lecture he gave on religious freedom in Oxford 14 weeks ago.

 “He had no previous knowledge of the question, which was not related to his speech. In his reply he mentioned a situation he had been closely involved in, namely the funeral arrangements for the late David Cairns.

“The archbishop knew David Cairns, met him regularly at events in Inverclyde, and got on well with him, and was personally involved in his funeral arrangements. He is sorry for any hurt which has resulted, there was certainly no offence or judgement intended in his words.”

PinkNews.co.uk provides the context, along with the question that prompted Tartaglia’s response:

“An audience question was posed by Lesley Pilkington, the Christian psychotherapist who was censured by the BACP [British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy] for negligence after offering a gay man therapy to help him turn straight. She was seated next to Mike Davidson of the Core Issues Trust, a group which actively campaigns for ex-gay therapies.

“Ms Pilkington said she wanted to speak about why the ‘homosexual agenda has become so powerful’, saying it was ‘intimidating, bullying and generates fear’, and people should ‘stand against it’.

“She drew attention to the case of Bob Bergeron, a gay American self-help author who had committed suicide at 49 having written a book about happiness for gay men over 40.

“Tartaglia welcomed such an opinion coming from a psychotherapist, indicating that as a Catholic priest people would expect him to say such things, but that she brought a different ‘angle’.

“The new archbishop continued: ‘If what I have heard is true about the relationship between the physical and mental health of gay men, if it is true, then society is being very quiet about it.

“ ‘Recently in Scotland there was a gay Catholic MP who died at the age of 44 or so, and nobody said anything, and why his body should just shut down at that age? Obviously he could have had a disease that would have killed anybody.

“ ‘But you seem to hear so many stories about this kind of thing, but society won’t address it. You’re right, Lesley, thank you.’ ”

Dermot Kehoe

Dermot Kehoe, Cairns’ partner, told the BBC that the archbishop’s remarks caused added the the grief and pain of Cairns’ family. Cairns said:

” ‘The Archbishop elect brought up David Cairns himself. He wasn’t asked about him, he chose to bring him up and essentially he implied that David’s death was due in some way homosexuality and his being gay.

” ‘This is not only in complete ignorance of the facts in this case.’

“Mr Kehoe added that to take a personal tragedy and to make it political ‘was more than upsetting, it is deeply painful’.

“He went on to say: ‘This has not only upset me and David’s family, but it added to our grief and pain and he [Archbishop elect Tartaglia] hasn’t shown any contrition for doing this.’ “

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


New San Francisco Archbishop is Defender of Traditional Marriage

July 29, 2012

Bishop Salvatore Cordileone

Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Bishop Salvatore Cordileone, who has a strong record of opposition to LGBT issues, to head the Archdiocese of San Francisco, which has a strong community of LGBT Catholics.

The San Francisco Chronicle describes Cordileone this way:

“Salvatore Cordileone, 56, organized religious leaders and helped raise significant sums of money to get Proposition 8, the 2008 initiative that banned same-sex marriage in California, on the ballot and spoke forcefully in support of it. He is also chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage.

“In his first statements after the Vatican’s announcement, Cordileone, the current bishop of Oakland, touched on a range of topics, from cultural diversity to immigration reform. But reporters barraged him with questions about same-sex marriage. His response was resolute.

” ‘Marriage is the union of a man and a woman, because children can only come about with the embrace of a man and a woman together,’ he said. ‘I don’t see how that’s discriminatory against anyone.’ “

Cordileone recently required board members of the Catholic Association of Lesbian and Gay Ministries to sign a loyalty oath, but the members have refused to do so.

The Chronicle also reported reactions to the appointment:

“San Francisco is ‘one of the hearts of the gay liberation story,’ said Michael Harank, 59, a lifelong Catholic who founded an independent Catholic agency in Oakland for homeless people with HIV. “He may be pastoral, but his work as one of the financial fathers and creators of Prop. 8 is clearly a slap in the face to the gay community.” . . .

“The Rev. Thomas Reese, a senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University, said the appointments of increasingly conservative bishops in the United States started with Pope John Paul II, who served from 1978 to 2005.

“Though it would be impossible to find a Catholic bishop in favor of same-sex marriage, Reese said conservatism today includes a particular focus on marriage.

“Clearly, the pope and the Vatican are very concerned about the issue of same-sex marriage and are very opposed to it, and that’s reflected by the kinds of bishops that are being appointed in the United States,’ he said.”

The San Jose Mercury News reported another comment which highlights that this appointment was made because of LGBT issues:

“Charles Martel, president of Catholics for Marriage Equality, said Friday that he believes Cordileone was appointed to combat the acceptance of gay marriage here and abroad. ‘They see this as ground zero,’ he said.”

New Ways Ministry‘s Executive Director Francis DeBernardo released the following statement about Cordileone’s appointment:

 

“Bishop Cordileone’s record on LGBT issues has not been welcoming.  He will have to learn to be more sensitive and pastoral as he takes over in the Archdiocese of San Francisco, which has a large LGBT community, and very active and organized groups and parishes of LGBT Catholics.  The experience of working with such a vibrant and diverse community can help him to grow personally and pastorally.

 

“The Catholic Church in any community is so much more than who the local bishop is.  Lay Catholics in San Francisco will need to work with Bishop Cordileone to let them know what kind of leadership that they want from him. If he does not heed the prayerful requests of faithful Catholics there, the church in San Francisco will be greatly diminished.”

Noting Cordileone’s recent pressure on the Catholic Association of Lesbian and Gay Ministries, a blogger on San Francisco’s KQED radio station website cited Bernard Schlager, executive director of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry at the Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley:

“As Archbishop of San Francisco, Cordileone could put similar pressure on individual parishes that have welcomed gays and lesbians, Schlager said. . . .

“As archbishop, Cordileone could force priests to sermonize against gay marriage, too.

“Schlager doesn’t think he’ll do that, because it would be too controversial.

“But Thomas Sheehan, a professor of religious studies at Stanford University, isn’t so sure the archbishop will refrain from meddling in priestly business on LGBT or other issues. ‘He could well demand that priests reinforce the church’s teaching on contraception,’ Sheehan said.

“But ultimately Sheehan thinks the effects on individual Catholics will be modest. ‘I doubt it will affect how people practice,’ he said. ‘People look less and less to the hierarchy.’

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 


It’s Not Catholic for the Boy Scouts to Discriminate Against Gay People

July 28, 2012

 

During the recent news coverage of the Boy Scouts’ decision to reaffirm their ban against gay people serving as scouts or leaders, it was frequently noted that the Catholicism may have played a role in this discriminatory practice.

But is banning gay people really the Catholic thing to do?  Mary Ellen and Casey Lopata, the co-founders of Fortunate Families, a national network of Catholic parents of LGBT people, point out in an essay in The National Catholic Reporter, that such discrimination is actually counter to the best tradition of Catholic thought on LGBT matters.

The Lopatas cite several official Catholic documents which highlight that discrimination against LGBT people is actually contrary to Catholic thought:

“As early as 1976, in To Live in Christ Jesus: A Pastoral Reflection on the Moral Life, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (then known as the National Conference of Catholic Bishops) wrote that, rather than being ostracized, gays and lesbians ‘should have an active role in the Christian community.’

“The church’s hierarchy is in no way more progressive now than it was then, yet the bishops returned to this theme in their 1998 pastoral message Always Our Children:

The teachings of the Church make it clear that the fundamental human rights of homosexual persons must be defended and that all of us must strive to eliminate any forms of injustice, oppression, or violence against them (cf. The Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, 1986, no. 10). It is not sufficient only to avoid unjust discrimination. Homosexual persons “must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2358).
“The bishops solidify this theme in their recommendation to ‘Welcome homosexual persons into the faith community.’

The authors also point out that not only is the Scouts’ ban against Catholic thought, but it is also extremely harmful and dangerous to young people:

“The Boy Scouts have chosen not to accept gay boys age 11-17 with respect, compassion and sensitivity. They have chosen instead to reject them at precisely that time when gay youth need the support of their communities most.

“Peer-reviewed research establishes that LGBT youth are at far greater risk of social isolation, parental rejection, depression, verbal harassment, physical violence and suicide than their heterosexual counterparts. The leaders of any organization dedicated to young people’s well-being are familiar with this data. They know gay boys need the sort of nurturing that organizations like the Boy Scouts provide.”

If Catholic leaders are not going to provide the direction needed to support gay youth, Catholic lay people must take up that role, the Lopatas argue:

“If the scouts accepted gay boys into their troops, the reasoning goes, these churches might react negatively, leading to a significant thinning in the ranks. We can only pray that this wasn’t the case. There is nothing in official church teaching that justifies the scouts’ discriminatory policy, and it is up to us, as Catholics, to make that clear.”

The Lopatas’ organization, Fortunate Families is a member of the Equally Blessed coalition, which includes three other national Catholic groups that work for equality and justice for LGBT people in church and society:  Call To Action, DignityUSA, and New Ways Ministry.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 


Where in the World is ‘The National Catholic Reporter?’

July 27, 2012

 

While in England for World Pride conferences and celebrations earlier this month, New Ways Ministry Executive Director Francis DeBernardo (your humble blogger) had his photo snapped in front of London’s iconic Tower Bridge reading one of his favorite newspapers, The National Catholic Reporter.

This summer, The National Catholic Reporter has been requesting that its readers pose with the newspaper in front of recognizable landmarks during their travels and send the images to support@ncronline.org.  They will print as many photos as possible.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 


Archdiocese Claims Civil Union Registry Will Lead to Polygamy

July 27, 2012

The Archdiocese of Milan’s spokesperson on family issues has compared the city’s plan to establish a registry of civil unions, which would include same-gender couples,  to promoting polygamy.

According to London’s Independent newspaper, Alfonso Colzani, archdiocesan official, said:

Alfonso Calzani

” ‘”There’s the risk that giving equal status to families based on marriage with those founded on civil unions will legitimise polygamy.’

“This was, he said, because people in civil partnerships would be freer to have sexual relations with other people.

“He added: Introducing ‘a communal register of civil unions is an ineffective initiative – and maybe only a PR exercise. Instead it is the family that needs support in this time of hardship. The concept of marriage is a precise one and not to be confused with homosexual unions.’

“The Milan diocese, Italy’s biggest and richest, is headed by Cardinal Angelo Scola, who has strong links with Communion and Liberation, the ultra-conservative catholic political lobbying group. Cardinal Scola was selected for the post of Milan’s archbishop last year by Pope Benedict.”

Giuliano Pisapia

The initiative to register civil unions came from Milan’s mayor, Giuliano Pisapia, who wants to extend protections to heterosexual and same-gender couples:

“Although largely symbolic, Mr Pisapia said that his plan would provide some additional legal rights for cohabiting couples who were unable to marry.

” ‘The establishment of a register of civil unions is aimed at recognising and protecting the rights of many couples in Milan and the rest of the country, couples that have been waiting too long for legal recognition,’ he said.

“Mr Pisapia noted the key ruling earlier this year by the Supreme Court of Cassation that said same-sex couples had a ‘right to a family life’ – and by implication, the same benefits and rights as straight couples.”

Italy’s LGBT civil rights organization, Arcigay, was quick to repudiate the Milan archdiocese’s polygamy assertion:

“In a statement, Arcigay said opposition to simple civil unions shown by the church, right-wing newspapers and politicians across the political spectrum ‘showed an incredible concentration of homophobia and prejudice.’ “

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


The Catholic Dimension at the International AIDS Conference

July 26, 2012

The International AIDS Conference, the largest gathering of HIV/AIDS researchers, educators, advocates, care-givers, and pastoral workers in the world,  is meeting in Washington, DC, this week.  It is the first time in over 20 years that the United States has hosted the conference; for many years U.S. immigration policy would not admit people who were HIV+ into the country, so the meeting could not be held here.

Catholics are certainly a presence at the meeting.  Last weekend, Catholic Charities USA hosted a pre-conference three-day gathering of Catholics involved in pastoral care and social work with people who have HIV/AIDS.  Howard University Divinity School in Washington also hosted a three-day Interfaith Conference on HIV/AIDS issues and faith.

Among those attending all three events were two Catholics from the United Kingdom, Vincent Manning and Adela Mugabo.  The pair presented at the Catholic and Interfaith pre-conferences on the Catholic ministry they are doing in the UK with their organization, “Positive Catholics.”  Their presentation focused on the need to move from a model of peer support to a model of peer ministry.  In a National Catholic Reporter article about the Catholic Charities conference, Manning described this new ministry model as “a fellowship of the weak” :

Vincent Manning

Manning, of United Kingdom faith-based group Positive Catholics, said ‘stigma and fear produce a silence that isolates and excludes people,’ and the aim of the group is ‘to listen with great care – healing begins when a person feels seen and heard.’ “

The occasion of the International Conference also sparked memories of those who have gone before us and reflections on how far we have come.  Michael Sean Winters, a columnist for National Catholic Reporter offered this very poignant description as part of his blog post on the Washington meeting:

“Memory sears. It is painful. It is grounded in experience and, just so, less easily shared. Those of us who lived through the HIV crisis before there was treatment look back on that time with pained hearts. It is as Augustine wrote about the death of his childhood friend: our tears have taken the place of our friends. The emptiness of life without so many friends and colleagues who once filled our lives but died too early from this dread disease, that emptiness remains. At Mass on Sundays, during the Eucharistic prayer, the priest calls us to pray for those who have gone before us, and he usually pauses. I pray first for my Mom, then for my uncles and aunts, and my grandparents, for Fr. Kugler and Msgr. Ellis, and then I start down the list of those lost to AIDS: David, always first because he was my best friend and nary a day has passed since his death that I do not miss his wit and wisdom, Stephen, Damien, Nalty, Bryan, Hooper, Robert, the customer whose name I have forgotten who always had a coterie of friends with him when he came into the restaurant where I worked. I never seem to have time to mention them all before the priest continues with the prayer. As the priest continues, the very next lines in the Roman Canon recall apostles and martyrs: John the Baptist, Stephen, Mathias, Barnabas, Ignatius….The list of my friends who have died, which I am still muttering silently, blends in to naming of the saints. I like that.”

Winters’ post goes on to challenge the gay community, who he feels has re-shuffled their priorities away from HIV/AIDS to political causes such as marriage equality and the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”   He observes:

“With limited resources, financial and political, it seems to me that the fight against HIV, especially because it now disproportionately affects minority populations, should still be the top priority for gay rights groups.  One cannot marry if one is dead. One cannot serve openly in the armed forces if one is dead.”

His concluding challenge is to ALL Catholics to continue working for people with HIV/AIDS:

“As Catholics, we cannot abandon the fight against HIV, still less our compassion for those who acquire the disease. As Catholics, we must fight the stigmatization that comes with the disease. As Catholics, our conscience and our attention must be pricked when we see a disease begin to disproportionately affect minority populations. As Catholics, we must fight to preserve the Affordable Care Act which will help make high-quality care available to everyone, not just the rich. As Catholics, called to love of neighbor, and assured that we will be judged by how we respond to the hungry, the stranger, the thirsty, and the ill, we cannot turn our eyes away from this still pernicious epidemic and all the socio-cultural sins it makes manifest.”

Another set of memories comes from an Oxford University Press blog post by Richard Giannone, a retired Fordham University professor who has recently authored a memoir, Hidden: Reflections on Gay Life, AIDS, and Spiritual Desire. Giannone recalls the early days of the epidemic, and its effect on one New York City Catholic parish:

“Though the Catholic church hadn’t been mother to her gay children, some came anyway to the 5:30 afternoon Mass at St. Joseph’s Church in Greenwich Village. Clothes drooped on emaciated men in their mid-twenties to early forties. Pustules rutted the withered flesh of several. Some sported baseball caps to keep facial lesions shaded out of sight of onlookers. A few men used make-up to screen darkened facial spots. But nothing covered the bones of suffering or muted the sound of sickness from the pews punctuating the words of God from the altar.

“Living in wrack and ruin, these men brought life back into a church that left them for dead. They walked to the Lord’s Table for sustenance, more life. The vitality of their appeal stood out in sharp relief against the lifeless Christianity that vilified their gayness. Such spiritual defiance taught me what I needed to know and need to remember.

“AIDS was our passion. Its agony thrust gay life into the vortex of twentieth-century history. This previously censored truthfulness came to rest in rows of church benches for all to bear gayness in mind as part of providential history. Their perseverance asked me to trust the body. I did.

“At the liturgy, persons with HIV were not seen as the reviled carriers of plague rejected by society. Bodies that were hosts for infections sought the host of sacred healing. Their return to the home that spurned them showed that the divine spirit was far beyond any barrier of separation that humans erected for themselves. The love that dare not say its name howled out from its heart with what voice it had left to reclaim its place in God’s plan. Worship modeled a church and society to which I felt I could belong.”

May such memories, as well as the present witness of those who continue to struggle with the disease, as well as those who work to prevent and cure, as well as care for those affected, spur us on to greater resolve to end the epidemic.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


Catholics Among Christian Leaders Supporting LGBT Rights in Uganda

July 25, 2012

The Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights has released an open letter by American Christian leaders expressing solidarity with LGBT Ugandans as their that nation continues to consider anti-gay legislation. Among the 46 signatories are 28  who are connected with Catholic institutions (see below).

The announcement on the Kennedy Center’s website states:

“Washington — July 24, 2012 Today, a group of 46 American Christian leaders issued an open letter expressing solidarity with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Ugandans in the face of “increased bigotry and hatred.” The letter, coordinated by Faith in Public Life, Human Rights First and the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, comes as a new Political Research Associates report released today accuses, among others, evangelicals such as Pat Robertson, Catholics and Mormons of setting up campaigns and fronts in Africa designed to press for anti-gay laws. . . .

” ‘It’s important for Ugandans to know that not all Evangelical and Catholic leaders think LGBT people should be criminals,’ says Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda and the 2011 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award laureate, ‘This letter from prominent American Christians is a crucial step in our efforts to introduce Ugandans to more positive and loving Christian messages in contrast to the harmful rhetoric from our own pastors that only leads to more violence and hate.’ “

In part, the text of the letter reads:

“Regardless of the diverse theological views of our religious traditions regarding the morality of homosexuality, the criminalization of homosexuality, along with the violence and discrimination against LGBT people that inevitably follows, is incompatible with the teachings of our faith.

“As American Christians we recognize that groups and leaders within our own country have been implicated in efforts to spread prejudice and discrimination in Uganda. We urge our Christian brothers and sisters in Uganda to resist the false arguments, debunked long ago, that LGBT people pose an inherent threat to our children and our societies. LGBT people exist in every country and culture, and we must learn to live in peace together to ensure the freedom of all, especially when we may disagree. We condemn misguided actions that have led to increased bigotry and hatred of LGBT people in Uganda that debases the inherent dignity of all humans created in the image of our Maker. Such treatment degrades the human family, threatens the common good, and defies the teachings of our Lord – wherever it occurs.”

“We condemn misguided actions that have led to increased bigotry and hatred of LGBT people in Uganda that debases the inherent dignity of all humans created in the image of our Maker. Such treatment degrades the human family, threatens the common good, and defies the teachings of our Lord – wherever it occurs.”

To read the full text of this letter and to see the full list of signatories, click here.

The signatories associated with Catholic institutions are:

Ambassador Thomas P. Melady
Former U.S. Ambassador to Uganda and the Vatican

Gerald J. Beyer, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Christian Social Ethics Department of Theology and Religious Studies, Saint Joseph’s University

Nicholas P. Cafardi
Dean Emeritus and Professor of Law, Duquesne University

M. Shawn Copeland
Associate Professor of Systematic Theology, Boston College

Rev. Paul Crowley, S.J.
Santa Clara Jesuit Community Professor, Religious Studies Department, Santa Clara University

Nancy Dallavalle, Ph.D.
Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Religious Studies, Fairfield University

Francis Schüssler Fiorenza
Stillman Professor for Roman Catholic Theological Studies, Harvard Divinity School

Jeannine Hill Fletcher
Associate Professor of Theology, Fordham University

Sister Mary Ann Hinsdale, IHM, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Theology, Boston College

Bradford E. Hinze, Ph.D.
Professor of Theology, Fordham University

Rev. James Hug, S.J.
President, Center of Concern

John Inglis
Chair and Professor, Department of Philosophy, Cross-appointed to Department of Religious Studies, University of Dayton

Reverend Raymond B. Kemp
Senior Fellow, Woodstock Theological Center, Center for Social Justice DC Community Fellow, Georgetown University

Paul Lakeland
Aloysius P. Kelley S.J. Professor of Catholic Studies, Director, Center for Catholic Studies, Fairfield University

Rev. John Langan S.J.
Joseph Cardinal Bernardin Professor of Catholic Social Thought, Georgetown University

Rev. Bryan N. Massingale, S.T.D.
Professor of Theological Ethics, Marquette University

Joseph A. McCartin
Associate Professor of History, Director, Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor, Georgetown University

Alex Mikulich
Loyola University, New Orleans

David J. O’Brien, Ph.D.
University Professor of Faith and Culture, University of Dayton

Christopher Pramuk
Associate Professor of Theology, Xavier University, Cincinnati, OH

Thomas J. Reese, S.J.
Senior Fellow, Woodstock Theological Center, Georgetown University

Stephen F. Schneck, Ph.D.
Director, Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies, The Catholic University of America

Sister Nancy Sylvester,IHM
President, Institute for Communal Contemplation and Dialogue

Terrence W. Tilley
Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J., Professor of Catholic Theology Chair, Theology Department, Fordham University

Edward Vacek, S.J.
Boston College

Todd Whitmore
Associate Professor of Christian Ethics, University of Notre Dame

Tobias Winright, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Theological Ethics, Saint Louis University

Sandra Yocum, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Religious Studies Department, University of Dayton

Almost 42% of Uganda’s population is Catholic, the largest denomination in this predominantly Christian nation.   As Bondings 2.0 has reported before, Catholic opposition to anti-gay legislation is critical to insure that LGBT people there are protected.  You can read about the importance of such support here and here and here and here.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


New Report Identifies Catholic Suppport for Africa’s Anti-Gay Movement

July 25, 2012

A new report from a Boston-based political research group identifies the key conservative U.S.-based Christian organizations that are supporting the anti-gay movement in Africa, including the “Kill the Gays” bill in Uganda.

Political Research Associates yesterday released their report, “Colonizing African Values: How the U.S. Christian Right is Transforming Sexual Politics in Africa,” and identifies a key Catholic organization, Human Life International, as one of the key players in supporting anti-gay activity.

According to an Associated Press report in The Boston Herald:

“The report’s main author, the Rev. Kapya Kaoma, said that while such evangelical groups are in the minority in the United States, they are able to punch way above their weight in Africa, where many oppose homosexuality. Here, many believe the religious right’s contentions that gay men are ‘recruiting’ in schools, Kaoma said.

” ‘Those kind of lies, when presented in Africa, become factual, so we need to worry that they are misleading people with these lies,’ Kaoma, an Anglican priest from Zambia, said in a telephone interview from Boston.

“And conservative groups have access to powerful politicians, including the presidents of many countries.

“Kaoma’s report identifies groups belonging to a loose network of right-wing charismatic Christians. They include Pat Robertson’s American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), the Catholic Church’s Human Life International (HLI) and the Mormon-led Family Watch International. All have launched or expanded offices in Africa over the past five years. . . .

Rev. Kapya Kaoma

” ‘By hiring locals as office staff, ACLJ and HLI in particular hide an American-based agenda behind African faces, giving the Christian Right room to attack gender justice and (the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual people) as a neocolonial enterprise imposed on Africans and obstructing meaningful critique of the U.S. right’s activities,’ the report said.

“Anti-gay laws passed in Burundi in 2009, Malawi in 2010 and Nigeria in 2011.

“Uganda’s so-called ‘Kill the Gays’ law, which would levy the death penalty for ‘aggravated homosexuality,’ was thought to have been defeated after Kaoma and Political Research Associates exposed the legislation’s American instigators in 2009. But it was reintroduced in Uganda’s Parliament this February.”

Bondings 2.0 attended a teleconference yesterday with Rev. Kaoma and Frank Mugisha, the Executive Director of Sexual Minorities Uganda and the recipient of the 2011 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award.   Kaoma and Mugisha elaborated on the role of the Catholic church in these activities.

“It’s not true that they [Roman Catholics] are not involved,” said Rev. Kaoma, noting that Human Life International has good relationships with the Catholic hierarchy. “Together with Anglican archbishops, certain Roman Catholics demanded the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda be passed.”

Frank Mugisha

Mugisha noted that the Catholic archbishop in Uganda did ask that the death penalty be removed from the bill, but that the Catholic Church still has not taken an official position on whether the bill should be passed.

“In Uganda, they [Roman Catholic Institution] haven’t stepped up to say anything or challenge the bill,” Mugisha said.  He added that in fact, the Catholic bishops have joined with other Christian groups to support the bill.

Rev. Kaoma also noted that the Ugandan Catholic bishops had a hand in inviting Ed Silvoso of the International Transformation Network, a reparative therapy group, to speak at a conference in Africa.

At the conclusion of the teleconference, it was suggested that the best way that people of faith in Western countries can help the African situation is to ask their church’s leaders to make public statements against the anti-gay legislation.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

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Previous Bondings 2.0 posts on Uganda:

June 15, 2012: More Details on Catholic Support for Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill

June 11. 2012: Uganda’s Catholic Bishops Reverse Their Stance to Support Anti-Homosexual Bill

March 29, 2012: Kathleen Kennedy Townsend’s ‘Case for Gay Acceptance in the Catholic Church’

March 4, 2012: When Will the Pope Speak Out, Too?

December 26, 2011: Breaking the Catholic Silence on LGBT Human Rights Violations

December 23, 2011: A Gay Catholic in Uganda Speaks; Cardinal George Should Listen

 

 

 


Should Catholic Dioceses Lose Their Tax Exempt Status Because of Political Involvement?

July 24, 2012

A law professor at Duquesne University, a Catholic campus in Pittsburgh, is arguing that certain bishops have overstepped the boundaries of their tax exempt status and entered the world of politics in their zeal for opposing the Health and Human Services mandate on contraception and a marriage equality initiative.

In an essay in America magazine, Nicholas P. Cafardi explains his case:

“During a sermon in the cathedral church of St. Mary’s in Peoria, Ill., on April 14, Bishop Daniel Jenky compared what he called the “extreme secularist agenda” of President Obama with the anti-Catholic programs of, among others, Hitler and Stalin, two of the 20th century’s worst mass murderers. In the same month, Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle, Wash., launched a signature drive in every parish of his archdiocese to put Referendum 74 on the statewide ballot. The referendum would repeal Washing-ton’s new same-sex marriage law.

“What Bishop Jenky did is called ‘electioneering.’ He intervened in a political campaign in opposition to one of the candidates. What Archbishop Sartain did is called “lobbying.” He intervened in an attempt to pass legislation. Both men did so using their episcopal office. Bishop Jenky spoke from the pulpit of his cathedral during Mass. Archbishop Sartain sent his Referendum 74 letter out on archdiocesan stationery. There is no doubt that both men were acting in their official capacities on behalf of the church and not as Citizen Jenky and Citizen Sartain.

“Why does that make a difference? Quite simply because tax-exempt churches—on whose behalf Bishop Jenky and Archbishop Sartain were acting—are under serious legal restrictions when it comes to electioneering and lobbying activities. Churches cannot electioneer at all. The prohibition is absolute. They may not intervene in any way in a campaign for political office either in favor of a candidate or in opposition to one. With lobbying, an attempt to influence legislation, there is some wiggle room. There the law allows churches to lobby, but only to an ‘insubstantial’ degree.”

Cafardi goes on to explain, in lay people’s terms,  the origin of the Internal Revenue Service tax code which prohibits such activity, and then explains the difficulty of pinning such violations on bishops and dioceses:

“Churches can certainly advocate on social issues they perceive to have a moral component without violating the tax code. But once a church’s advocacy goes beyond issues and, without a legitimizing invitation from the legislature itself, addresses a pending law—urging voters directly (called grassroots lobbying) or urging legislators to act (called direct lobbying)—a line has been crossed. Advocacy for or against pending laws and referendums is lobbying, pure and simple, and tax-exempt churches may not use tax-exempt dollars to affect the legislative process, except ‘insubstantially.’

“There is the rub for Archbishop Sartain. Depending upon how many church resources he is using (staff time, church publications, advertisements and so on, backed by tax-exempt church dollars) to get Referendum 74 on the statewide ballot, what he is doing may or may not be considered ‘substantial’ lobbying. Using even one tax-exempt church dollar, though, to stir up opposition to the legally recognized civil rights of others is objectionable, no matter what the tax code says about it.”

Nicholas Cafardi

What’s more, Cafardi points out, is the difficulty in assigning a penalty to such violations:

“A practical problem with our bishops’ violating the tax code’s restrictions on political activities is that the Internal Revenue Service has only limited means to stop them. The I.R.S. can either use the nuclear option and revoke the archdiocese’s tax exemption, which is so drastic as to be unthinkable, or it can use the fly-swatter option and fine the diocese for the amount it spent on the prohibited political activity under Section 4955 of the tax code. For example, what was the cost to the Diocese of Peoria of Bishop Jenky’s political homily? The cost of opening up the cathedral that day? The utility costs? A prorated portion of the bishop’s salary? We are talking about a small amount, hardly the kind of fine that hurts. So legal penalties do not work in such cases. Most Americans might think the simple fact that this is the law would restrain politically overzealous bishops, but that has not worked either.”

But Cafardi suggests that the bishops might be applying their own penalty to themselves with their political involvement because polls continually show that most Catholics, particularly young Catholics, are increasingly alienated from the church when the bishops speak and act politically:

“In a survey conducted among 16- to 29-year-olds by the Barna Group in 2007, nine of this age cohort’s top 12 perceptions of Christianity were not good ones. They found Christianity to be judgmental (87 percent), hypocritical (85 percent) and too involved in politics (75 percent). That is some troika.

“In another 2012 survey of college-age millennials (18- to 24-year-olds) conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute and Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs, it was found that 64 percent think that ‘anti-gay’ is an accurate description of Christianity today. An almost equal portion in this survey, 62 percent, also find modern Christianity to be ‘judgmental.’ Now some readers might opine that religion is supposed to be judgmental; it is supposed to distinguish right from wrong and that these surveys reveal only that young people prefer the relativism of their own generation to the church’s rules. Maybe. But perhaps we should also recall that we worship a Lord who said, ‘Do not judge, so that you may not be judged’ (Mt 7:1).

“In 2008, during the last presidential election, the Pew Research Center conducted a study on church endorsement of candidates for political office. The results are revealing. When asked if churches should endorse one candidate over another, the Pew poll found that in the total population of those polled, 29 percent said yes, but 66 percent said no. When the breakdown was by faiths, among all Catholics, 30 percent said yes and 67 percent said no. Among white, non-Hispanic Catholics, 26 percent said yes and 70 percent said no. Those are rather overwhelming numbers, indicating that bishops who intervene in politics are working against their own interests. Their people are not going to hear them.

“If the bishops’ politics are keeping people, especially young people, out of the pews, then perhaps they need to ask themselves a critical question: What is more important to them, political goals or the salvation of souls? If our bishops choose to ignore the law’s restrictions on their political activity, they should at least listen to the Lord, who talked about leaving the 99 sheep to go find the lost one (Lk 15:5). In the final analysis, our bishops will not be judged on how many presidents they helped to elect or how many laws they helped to pass, but on how many of those lost sheep they rescued.”

What is even more troubling has been that the response of many bishops to such questions about their tax-exempt status has been to grandstand that their religious liberty is being attacked.  As the statistics Cafardi notes show, it’s time that bishops worry less about religious liberty and more about the crumbling faith of the next generation.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 

 


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