Is Cordileone Fit to Serve as Archbishop of San Francisco?

August 31, 2012

Archbishop-designate Salvatore Cordileone

News of Archbishop-designate Salvatore Cordileone’s arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol has been all over the country this week.  (You can read the most up-to-date report here.)  I have been reluctant to post anything here about the case because I am trying to keep the blog focused on Catholic LGBT issues, and I’ve been debating with myself as to whether or not this story fits that category.

Certainly Bishop Cordileone is a key figure in the national Catholic debate on LGBT issues. He has made a national name for himself because of his strong and vocal opposition to marriage equality laws, serving as the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage.  He has come to be known as the architect of Proposition 8, California’s famous ballot initiative which rescinded marriage equality.  Earlier this summer, he asked board members of the Catholic Association of Lesbian and Gay Ministries to sign a loyalty oath because he did not trust their judgment in pastoral areas.

My hesitation has been two-fold:  1) Is there a connection between his irresponsible behavior and his LGBT policies?  2) Does this behavior indicate his inability to become leader of the Archdiocese of San Francisco?

In answer to the first question, I tend to think that the connection is rather slim.  Although  it would be convenient for pro-LGBT people to make a strong connection between the two, thus demonizing Cordileone, the truth is that there is no evidence that links DUI behavior with anti-LGBT attitudes.  I suspect that pro-LGBT people have also been arrested for the same offense, and this does not reflect on their attitudes and positions.

Many reactions to Cordileone’s arrest have been ad hominem attacks.  I find that most ad hominem attacks are distractions from the main points of argument.  (Not to mention that LGBT persons have been the victims of ad hominem attacks for centuries.)  Bishop Cordileone’s record on LGBT issues has been bad enough, and that record should be judged as it is, not by any additional personal faults or mishaps he may accumulate.

The answer to the second question is a bit harder to determine.  Bishop Cordileone’s behavior is certainly blameworthy.  Yet, without knowing all the facts, it is hard to determine the true seriousness of this incident and whether it indicates a pattern of poor judgment.

But this one example of drinking and driving behavior, as irresponsible and reprehensible as it is, should not become the sole focal point about whether Bishop Cordileone should lead the San Francisco Archdiocese. The main focus should remain on the fact that he would be heading the archdiocese with the nation’s largest LGBT community, and he would be bringing with him a record of strong insensitivity on LGBT issues.

So, my answer to the second question is that we have to wait and see what the facts reveal about this incident.  Let’s not forget, however, that Cordileone’s record on LGBT issues is already a serious detriment to his ability to lead the Archdiocese of San Francisco pastorally and effectively.  Indeed, even without the DUI charge, he is going to have an uphill battle to gain the respect, trust, and confidence of the Catholics in the city by the Bay.

If he becomes archbishop, he will have to build that respect, trust, and confidence by showing his resolve to be a collaborative archbishop, who consults with leaders, and who is welcoming and respectful of the LGBT community.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

For further reading:

August 30, 2012:  “Cordileone Busted for DUI,” Bay Area Reporter


State Tells Yakima Diocese Not to Collect $$$ for Anti-Equality Group

August 30, 2012

 

 

Bishop Joseph Tyson

Last week, we reported that Bishop Joseph Tyson of the Diocese of Yakima, Washington State, had instructed parishes to distribute collection envelopes in its parishes to raise money for Protect Marriage Washington, the state’s main organization working to defeat Referendum 74, a ballot initiative to uphold a law guaranteeing marriage equality.

This week, however, the Associated Press reports that the state’s Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) has ruled that for parishes to collect the envelopes would be illegal and has informed the diocese of its decision:

“. . . Lori Anderson, a spokeswoman for the state’s Public Disclosure Commission, says no organization can be an intermediary for a contribution. She says the church can hand out envelopes, but either a member of Preserve Washington has to be on hand to collect them or parishioners must send them in individually.”

The diocese appears to be ready to dispute the PDC decision. Diocesan Chief of Staff Monsignor Robert Siler claims that the procedures are not a “collection” :

” ‘As far as I know, the procedures we sent to the parishes meet the requirement of state law,’ he said, noting that the envelopes are preaddressed to the campaign.

” ‘We’re not collecting and counting money,’ he said. ‘We’re just collecting envelopes and forwarding them.’ “

KIMATV.com quotes Yakima Bishop Joseph Tyson’s comments on the PDC decision:

“Bishop Tyson says it’s just one big misunderstanding. In fact, he told KIMA that he has yet to see one of the donation envelopes.

“In the letter, where the Bishop specifically asked parish staff not to open the donation envelopes, but instead place them into the addressed security envelope and mail them directly to Preserve Marriage Washington. It says the collection is supposed to take place September 8th and 9th.

“ ‘It’s not our collection, we’re not collecting the money, it’s not our envelope. We’re not banking the money, we’re not rolling the money, we’re not collecting the money and we’re not taking the money. Preserve Marriage Washington is doing that…we’re going to follow the state law and I’m going to make sure that we’re doing that,’ said Bishop Tyson”

Catholics for Marriage Equality Washington State, the statewide Catholic organization working to support marriage equality in the referendum, praised the PDC’s decision.  Spokesperson Barbara Guzzo said:

“We are delighted by this ruling because we represent so many Catholics in those pews who not only find political fund raising inappropriate for their Sunday services, but also strongly disagree with the Bishop’s stance.

“We believe we should all be able to practice our faith without pressure from our Bishop or our parish priests to support an effort we oppose. “

Legal questions aside, the moral question remains:  why are church institutions raising money for a political organization?

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 


Finding Hope in Challenging Times

August 29, 2012

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts on Sunday and Monday,  Sister Jeannine Gramick and I were in Washington State last week making presentations about Catholic support for marriage equality there.  The state legalized marriage equality in February of this year, the bill being signed into law by the Catholic governor, Christine Gregoire, but now it is being challenged in a referendum on election day in November.

During the Q and A at one of those gatherings, a questioner asked what is probably the most common question that I get asked:  “How do you maintain hope for justice for LGBT people in the face of so many challenges?”  I wish I had a simple and easy answer for that one.  I have no magic pill or easy fix to these challenges.  They must be faced and responded to, time and again.

Some things, however, have worked effectively over the years, and I shared some with the questioner and folks that night.  I thought I’d share them here, too, with the hope that in the “Comments” section of this post, readers will contribute their own processes for maintaining hope.

Most important for me is looking toward the positive that has occurred and is occurring.  In the gospels, Jesus declared the reign of God is already here, despite all appearances to the contrary.  I think one of our challenges as followers of Christ is to look for the signs of God’s reign of justice in the world in which we live.  It may be difficult to do so, especially at first, but, with practice, it becomes easier to do.  Just like any form of prayer.

The purpose of this exercise is not to look at the world with rose-colored glasses, but to provide a reality check on the world around us.  When bad news happens, it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that ONLY bad news happens, when, of course, that is not the case.  Stopping to look for God’s reign of justice in our world serves as a good reminder against our penchant to catastrophize.

More importantly, this exercise also serves as a reminder to me that God is actually the one in charge, not me.  I’m reminded that God operates on a separate clock and calendar than I do, and that there is a time and a season for God’s actions in the world.  I’m reminded that any good that happens comes from God, not from my actions, and that anything that is seemingly bad is an opportunity to look for a way to “birth” Christ into our world.

I feel that often times I have a privileged position in regard for this kind of thinking.  People tend to think that since I work at New Ways Ministry, I am barraged daily by negative messages from the church hierarchy and from homophobes in the secular world.

The exact opposite is true.  My work at New Ways Ministry brings me into contact with thousands of  Catholics who are working to make God’s reign of justice and equality a reality in their parishes and communities.    Instead of seeing negative things happening in the church, I am privileged to see Catholics who work tirelessly and courageously to make that LGBT people are welcomed, accepted, loved, and included.

This experience of seeing so many Catholics do so much good helps me to remember that the church truly is ALL the people of God, not just the hierarchy and the clergy.

Again, I stress that all of these exercises take time, practice, and patience, but I think they are all things that people can easily do to maintain hope in our precarious and challenging times.

How do you maintain hope?  What inspires you to keep on working for justice despite so many challenges?  Maybe you get hope from a Scripture passage, a book you read, a person you know, a community you belong to.  Please add your thoughts to the “Comments” section of this post.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Scottish Priests Read Letter Denouncing Marriage Equality Legislation

August 28, 2012

 

Sunday, August 26th, was declared National Marriage Day by the Catholic hierarchy in Scotland, and a letter denouncing the country’s proposed marriage equality legislation was read aloud in the 500 Catholic parishes there.

The U.K.’s Daily Mail quoted the letter in part:

“The church’s teaching on marriage is unequivocal: It is uniquely the union of a man and a woman and it is wrong that governments, politicians or parliaments should seek to alter or destroy that reality.”

The newspaper also reported the government’s response:

“The Scottish government later issued a statement reiterating its intentions to legalise same sex marriage and religious ceremonies for civil partnerships – because ‘it is the right thing to do’.

“However it was quick to stress that no clergy would be forced to carry out the ceremonies in a church. The issue remains under consultation in England and Wales.

“A government spokesman said: ‘We are equally committed to protecting religious freedom and freedom of expression, and ensuring that religious celebrants opposed to same-sex marriage do not have to solemnise same-sex ceremonies.’ “

 

Cardinal Keith O’Brien

The Washington Post reports that Scotland’s Cardinal Keith O’Brien had strong words about marriage equality:

“Last week, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, who heads the Catholic Church in Scotland, described same-sex marriage as a ‘grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right.’ ”

“At the same time, O’Brien broke off talks over the issue with First Minister Alex Salmond, Scotland’s political chief.”

Tom French

The BBC carried reaction from a top gay leader in Scotland:

“The Equality Network, which is campaigning in support of same-sex marriage in Scotland, said politicians should stand firm over the plans.

“Tom French, the charity’s policy co-ordinator, said: ‘It is increasingly clear that the Church has an anti-gay agenda that it wants to impose on the rest of society.’

” ‘We urge the Scottish government to stand firm on plans to introduce equal marriage and not give in to demands that would discriminate against LGBT people.’ “

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 


Washington State Catholic Pastors’ Refusal Continues to Inspire

August 27, 2012

While we were in Washington State last week doing educational programs on Catholic support for marriage equality in anticipation of that state’s referendum on the issue in November,  Sister Jeannine Gramick, co-founder of New Ways Ministry, and I met with several pastors and parish leaders who earlier this year had refused the local archbishop’s request to use their parishes to collect signatures for petitions  to put the new marriage law to a ballot test.

Our discussion was lively and encouraging.  For one thing, we learned that there were many more parishes that had refused to collect signatures than had made the news accounts back in April.  We knew about a handful, but it turns out there were probably close to twenty that abstained from the collection.  In fact in one deanery (a geographic division) of the diocese, the pastors of all twelve parishes had met and agreed corporately not to allow signature collection.

The pastors we met  said they mostly had two reasons for their refusal:  1) they believed that collecting signatures would cause great divisions in the parishes; 2) many of the parishes have an explicit welcome to LGBT parishioners and their families, and they felt that collecting signatures would be a sign of inhospitality.

Response from parishioners has been universally positive about the decision not to support the signature campaign.  A number of the priests said that the announcements of the decision received standing ovations from their congregations.  The few parishioners who disagreed expressed their thoughts quietly and respectfully, and the priests felt that the decision helped to open up avenues of dialogue.

Fr. John Whitney, SJ

During our discussion, we learned about one pastor, in particular, who has been very public and vocal about not supporting measures to defeat marriage equality.  Fr. John Whitney, SJ, of St. Joseph Parish, Seattle, has added a section to the parish’s website about the upcoming referendum.  In that section, he includes a letter describing his decision as well as his perspective on Referendum 74.    He begins:

“Many of you may have read in the media that St. Joseph, among other parishes, has decided not to allow the gathering of signatures for Referendum 74, which aims at repealing the marriage equality bill passed by the State of Washington. This referendum is supported by the Archdiocese of Seattle, who has asked the Knights of Columbus to collect signatures at various parishes. Although many of you have offered support for the decision not to allow signature gathering here, I believe all of you deserve an explanation of the reasoning behind the decision.

“The primary reason for not allowing this petition is the nature of the worshipping assembly. Women and men of all opinions, orientations, backgrounds, and motivations are welcomed at this altar, and are encouraged to pray for wisdom and unity, even as we all work to create social policies that respect our faith and support each other. The Church should not be a place of coercion, but of discernment, as each member of the Church (as well as each citizen), decides whether a proposal such as Referendum 74 makes us more or less like the Kingdom described by Jesus. To have petitioners at the doors seems to me inappropriately coercive and contrary to the mission of the Church, especially in the Sunday assembly.”

Fr. Whitney goes on to describe why he feels the church is not the place to debate the referendum:

“Further, the nature of the piece of legislation makes it inappropriate to be brought into the context of our worship, I believe, since Referendum 74—like the marriage equality act it seeks to overturn—concerns civil marriage, not the covenant of Catholic marriage, which is a matter of faith and exists in the Church through the ministry of every couple. Although the Archbishop has the right and responsibility to speak and educate the community about legislation, I believe that this level of involvement around the issue of civil marriage is ill-considered, and risks placing the Church on the side of injustice and the denial of civil rights. Thus, I cannot in conscience allow such signature gathering at St. Joseph. I am not telling others how to vote, but I think that a Catholic, in good conscience, can oppose this referendum and should not be pressured to support it in the context of Sunday mass.”

In addition to his statement on the parish website, the pastor also posted Archbishop Peter Sartain’s letter requesting signatures,  and an FAQ sheet from the  Washington State Catholic Conference on why Catholics should oppose marriage equality.  Fr. Whitney explained his approach:

“Finally, I want to be clear that the Archbishop empowered pastors to make the decision about whether or not to allow signature gathering, and that we are not acting in opposition to his leadership. I am committed to offering his words directly to this community, when that is requested, and to encourage all members of the community to read them respectfully and thoughtfully, as part of the formation of conscience for any Catholic. In those rare situations where I may disagree with the Archbishop’s conclusions, I do not intend to use the pulpit or bulletin to debate, since that is not the place. As I have said, I think such debates belong outside the Church.”

He closes with a hope and prayer for unity among Catholics, even those divided by the marriage equality issue:

“It is of primary importance in all this, however, that we know we can be one community, united in heart and mind, only if we believe that every person is loved by God and valued in his or her humanity. We must listen to one another with respect—to the reality of our experiences and the grace of our call, in Christ. Hearing and loving each other is the root to true discernment, for it is in this communion that the Spirit is present and the Church—the true Church, for whom Christ was crucified and to whom he gave his body and blood—made flesh.

“May we hear God in our midst and always live to do God’s will in our world.”

On the website, Fr. Whitney provided a link for people to easily respond to him and/or to the archbishop.

We need more pastors like Father Whitney who speak forthrightly and who encourage respectful dialogue among their parishioners and between parishioners and their pastoral leaders.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


New Ways Ministry Supports Marriage Equality Efforts in Washington State

August 26, 2012

 

Francis DeBernardo and Jeannine Gramick in Seattle.

During the past week, Sister Jeannine Gramick, New Ways Ministry’s co-founder, and I were in Washington State to present presentations about Catholic support for marriage equality.  The state legalized marriage equality in February of this year, the bill being signed into law by the Catholic governor, Christine Gregoire, but now it is being challenged in a referendum on election day in November. (Over the next week, I hope to post several times about situation here in Washington State.)

In Seattle, the presentation was sponsored by Call To Action–Western Washington, and it was covered by the Seattle Gay News

” ‘Catholics are more supportive of marriage equality than any other denomination in the country,’ said [Francis] DeBernardo.

” Citing polls from the Public Religion Research Institute, DeBernardo said only 22% of Catholics oppose same-sex marriage and 71% are in favor of same-sex civil marriage. According to DeBernardo, the reason these numbers are surprising to many people is because the leadership of the Catholic Church is so outspokenly against marriage equality.  .  . .

” ‘That’s what’s causing that perception problem,’ said DeBernardo. ‘The people with the microphones are giving those negative messages, not the people in the pews.’ “

Additionally, the speaker listed why Catholics are so supportive of equal marriage rights:

“1) What matters is love, not gender. Love is what makes a family. The quality of a relationship is what Catholics should call moral or immoral.

“2) Not supporting same-sex marriage is discriminatory, and the Catholic faith tells its adherents not to discriminate.

“3) Catholics want to protect children. All children, regardless of what kind of family they live in, should have the same support and benefits.

“4) Likewise, same-sex couples deserve equal protection, with the same societal and social rights of straight couples.

“5) Marriage equality helps develop strong families and thus makes society stronger. The Catholic faith tells adherents that they should work for the common good of all people and the progressive development of society.

“6) The church should not dictate public policy for all people.

“7) Even if a Catholic disagrees with homosexuality, Catholics believe in equality and fairness for all. “

Sister Jeannine offered a brief history of the evolution of marriage in regard to whether it is controlled by the church or state:

“Gramick, a co-founder of New Ways Ministry and member of the Sisters of Loretto, an order of nuns deeply concerned with social justice, gave an overview of the history of Christian-era marriage in relation to the church and society, in an effort to dispel myths and empower the audience to do the same in conversations with other Catholics.

“She detailed how marriage evolved from a private affair between families, with no civil or religious significance.

” ‘They [marriages] gradually became civil ceremonies, as civil arrangements were made to define the right and responsibilities that people had in marriage, like to manage property and inheritance,’ said Gramick. ‘But it grew from a private family affair.’

“‘In fact,’ Gramick continued, ‘Some early Christian writers said that the church should not be involved in the institution of marriage at all. ‘Leave it to the state [they said], because it inevitably involves sexual intercourse, and that’s a little dirty.’ “

Francis DeBernardo, Senator Ed Murray, Sister Jeannine Gramick

Attending the program was Washington State Senator Ed Murray, the Catholic gay representative who introduced the marriage equality bill and who fought tirelessly for its passage:

“DeBernardo, who is New Ways Ministry’s executive director, said he wanted to acknowledge a very special local Catholic in the audience that night – State Sen. Ed Murray, who, along with the state’s Catholic governor, Christine Gregoire, have made same-sex marriage a potential reality here in Washington.

“DeBernardo said Murray was ‘instrumental’ in the fight to achieve marriage equality in the state, and that ‘he is really the hero of this campaign.’

“Murray received a standing ovation from everyone in the room.

“‘Were going to have to show them that enthusiasm in November and all the way through to November,’ added DeBernardo after the applause died down. “

Special thanks to Barbara Monda and Betty and Tom Hill of Call To Action–Western Washington for organizing this event.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 


Lesbian Couple Settles Suit With Catholic Couple Over Wedding Reception

August 25, 2012

A lesbian couple has settled a suit against a Catholic couple who refused to contract with the women to host their wedding reception at a resort owned by the Catholics.  The lesbian couple claimed that they were victims of sexual orientation discrimination.

The Burlington Free Press reports the details of the settlement:

“The settlement calls for the Wildflower Inn in Lyndonville to pay $10,000 to the Vermont Human Rights Commission as a civil penalty for violating Vermont’s Fair Housing and Public Accommodations Act, as well as $20,000 in a charitable trust to be disbursed by the couple, according to the Vermont Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.”

The owners of the Inn, Jim and Mary O’Reilly, will no longer host weddings there.  In a statement, Jim O’Reilly said:

“The Wildflower Inn has always served — and will continue to serve — everyone in our community. But no one can force us to abandon our deeply held beliefs about marriage.”

Ming and Kate Linsley

The lawsuit was filed in July 2011 by the Vermont Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of Kate and Ming Linsley of New York state.

In a statement at the time the lawsuit was filed, the O’Reillys said they could not “offer our services wholeheartedly to celebrate the marriage between same-sex couples because it goes against everything that we as Catholics believe in.”

They claimed that applying Vermont’ s Fair Housing and Public Accommodations Act–prohibits public accommodations from denying  customers because of sexual orientation–would be a violation of their free speech and freedom of association rights.

The Free Press  article carries reactions from both parties:

“In a statement Thursday, the O’Reillys said they agreed to the settlement ‘to end this ordeal and the threat that the litigation posed’ to the business.

“ ‘We did not bring this lawsuit in order to punish the Wildflower Inn or to collect money,’ said Kate Linsley, in a statement released by the ACLU. ‘We brought this lawsuit because we wanted people to know that what the Wildflower Inn did was illegal. We didn’t want to stay quiet and allow businesses to continue to think they can discriminate.’ ”

An article on LezGetReal.com notes that the Wildflower Inn was being used only as the reception location, not for the actual wedding ceremony itself:

“The Linsleys had planned on having their wedding ceremony at a Buddhist retreat near the inn. When Ming Linsley’s mother Channie Peters tried to book with the Inn, she was informed via email that the inn did not accept same-sex marriage receptions.”

LezGetReal.com also cited Ming Lingsley’s additional reaction to the settlement:

“We’re glad that the Wildflower Inn has recognized that the way we were treated was wrong and that no other family will have to experience what we did. All families should feel welcome at any resort that’s open to the public.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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