Catholic School Board in Canada Allows Gay-Straight Alliances

August 21, 2012

The Windsor-Essex Catholic School Board, Ontario, Canada, has relented and agreed to allow gay-straight alliances use the name “gay-straight alliance”  in state-supported Catholic schools.  The decision comes after over a year of wrangling with government officials about the use of the name.  The provincial government passed Bill 13 in the spring requiring that a gay-straight alliance be established if a student requests one.

The Windsor Star reports:

“The Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board has backed off its hardline stance against allowing gay-straight alliances now that the province has made accepting them law as part of Bill 13, passed in June.

“Secondary school principals and vice-principals will be undergoing training later this month on how to implement and structure such clubs, which will only be formed when a student asks for one.

” ‘We fully understand what the law says and we’ll be compliant with the law,’ said superintendent of education Mike Seguin.

” ‘So we’re prepared to do everything we can to make sure we have a safe and inclusive environment in that context.’

“In May the board said it would not heed the wishes of Premier Dalton McGuinty and allow the clubs to be called gay-straight alliances. Instead, board chairwoman Barbara Holland maintained the clubs would be called social justice equity clubs unless a law deemed otherwise.

“But with the passage of Bill 13, ‘An Act to amend the Education Act with respect to bullying and other matters,’ on June 5, the province made law the allowance of clubs to call themselves gay-straight alliances in all school boards.”

The Catholic school board will also continue with its social justice equity clubs, according to Seguin:

“We decided to make social justice equity clubs mandatory in all of our secondary schools. And we did that by policy over a year ago. Those will continue because it’s our view that it’s better to address the needs of all people who are marginalized in different ways. Whether it’s people based on body type or special needs and so forth because we see bullying takes on a face that is very complex.”

Dallas Mahaney

The decision was met with excitement and enthusiasm from students eager to form gay -straight alliances.  CBC.ca reports:

” ‘There’s a lot of homophobia at our school and I think it would benefit our school a lot to have a safe environment for everyone,’ said Dallas Mahaney.

“The 16-year-old Saint Thomas of Villanova Catholic High School said he’s comfortable with being gay. He hopes the alliance will help destroy homophobia.”

According to a separate Windsor Star article, one student hailed the move as a way to end the interminable bullying she has received:

For several months almost daily at school, Adriana Unis endured bullying for who she is.

“I was in one class where they told me to kill myself,” the 15-year-old St. Joseph’s high school student said Wednesday about the taunts of a couple of boys last semester. “It was because I was gay. They were saying because I was a lesbian my parents should have killed me.”

Adriana Unis and Jouvon Evans

Unis said she had heard insults before, but those words hurt.

“I’m kind of used to it, I guess, but it was still upsetting,” she said.

Unis did not know what to do. She vaguely told a teacher about it, saying only that she was having some problems with kids, but nothing much was done.

That’s why she’s thrilled the provincial government has passed Bill 13, Ontario’s antibullying legislation, which requires schools to create gaystraight alliance clubs if a student requests one.

And one person with great experience with gay-straight alliances is looking forward to the establishment of these clubs:

“Jouvon Evans, who facilitates Windsor Pride’s School’s Out program, mentoring about 15 high school students on how best to run gay-straight alliances, said interest is increasing with such clubs.

“She said Bill 13 will go a long way to helping reduce bullying and promoting self-confidence.

” ‘People know there’s a comfortable space where they can turn to,” Evans said. “And they can rely on the teachers and the administration.’

“Though Evans said there can sometimes be a temporary spike in bullying when gay-straight alliances are created, she said homophobia soon drops after such clubs are launched with the backing of the school.”

Knowing the benefits that such a club can provide, one has to wonder why all Catholic schools, in all of Canada and the U.S., too, don’t establish such clubs.  Their presence in a school environment, where both homophobia and sexual identity questions run high, is a perfect way to enact Catholic teaching about the dignity of sexual minorities and about the need to eradicate prejudicial attitudes and behaviors.  Let’s hope and pray that Ontario’s example will lead the way!

–Francis DeBernardo–New Ways Ministry

Most recent  Bondings 2.0 posts on this topic:

June 14, 2012:  Follow-up on New Ontario Law Allowing GSAs in Catholic Schools

June 6, 2012:  Ontario Legislature Passes Gay-Straight Alliance Law Despite Catholic Pressure

May 26, 2012:  Majority Favors Gay-Straight Alliances in Ontario’s Catholic Schools

April 28, 2012:  Catholic Support for Gay-Straight Alliances: ‘It’s what our faith calls us to do.’

For additional articles on the topic, search the category “Canada” .


Cameroon Archbishop Issues Inflammatory Anti-Gay Statement

August 20, 2012

 

Archbishop Simon-Victor Tonye Bakot

The Catholic archbishop of Yaounde, Cameroon, has made anti-gay statements just the week before the African nation stages a national anti-gay rallying day.

Gay Star News reports that Archbishop Simon-Victor Tonye Bakot made his comments last week:

“The Catholic Archbishop of Yaoundé stated last weekthat he believes homosexuality is opposed to the ideal of human reproduction and is a danger to the family unit, ‘an affront to the family, enemy of women and creation.’

“He argued that the Catholic Church preaches the virtues of tolerance towards gay people, paedophiles, bestiality and other perversions, which he lumps together.

“But he says: ‘This does not mean that Catholic morality endorse homosexual behaviour and the life style that it inspires.’

“For him homosexuality is ‘shameful, a disrespectful criticism of God who has chosen to create man and woman’.

The original French-language news report upon which the Gay Star News account is based can be accessed here.

The archbishop’s comments come as the nation anticipates a national rally in Cameroon designed to promote anti-gay sentiment on August 21st.  A separate Gay Star News story describes the event:

“The Rassemblement de la Jeunesse Camerounaise association (Cameroonian Youth Rally, or RJC) announced that it will ‘celebrate’ a gay hate day. . .

“The association doesn’t want to hear about gay pride, instead it announced on Thursday (12 July) that 21 August will be ‘celebrated’ as the national anti-gay day of Cameroon. . .

The existence and combat of the alleged ‘gay mafia’ is one of the principal concerns of the RJC which proudly announces its homophobia publicly.

“The association promises that 21 August, will be celebrated yearly, stating it aims to glorify homophobia with a parade to take place through the Yaoundé, Cameroon’s capital city.

“During a recent televised debate, Sismondi Barlev Bidjocka, spokesperson for the RJC, stated that ‘homosexuality is a crime against humanity.’

“There are no official association to help LGBT people in Cameroon, which has one of Africa’s most severe anti-gay laws.”

Vatican officials are quick to correct bishops and other church leaders when they present a “too liberal” view of church teaching on homosexuality.  The pope should at least be equally strict in correcting this archbishop, whose rhetoric distorts church teaching and has the potential for promoting violence in such an inflammatory situation.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


Catholic Gay Leader is Forced Out of the Boy Scouts

August 20, 2012

Catholic leaders in the  Archdiocese of Louisville are in involved in a case of a Boy Scout leader being forced out of his Scoutmaster role in a Catholic parish because he is gay.

Greg Bourke

The Courier-Journal newspaper reports that Greg Bourke, the adoptive father of a son and a daughter, and a parishioner at Our Lady of Lourdes parish, Louisville,

“was forced to resign last week, about three months after he wrote to Boy Scouts of America executives, told them he was an ‘openly gay person’ and asked, ‘Am I welcome or not?’

“Bourke, who has lived with his partner for 30 years and has worked 18 years as a systems analyst for Humana Inc., had to resign under a Boy Scouts policy, enacted in 1991 and reaffirmed last month, that bars gays from being Scout leaders or members.”

Bourke recentkly informed the local Scout Council of his orientation:

He also said he and his partner attend Our Lady of Lourdes and it is widely known that they are gay.

“He contacted Scouting officials in part, he said, because he was no longer comfortable hiding his sexual preference in his role with the Boy Scouts when he was open about it everywhere else, including at Humana, where he has been involved in an organization of gay and lesbian employees.

‘I am finding it increasingly difficult to keep a low profile and stay ‘in the closet’ with the Boy Scouts,’ he said in a June 22 letter. . .”

Catholic officials initially refused to request Bourke’s resignation.  Our Lady of Lourdes pastor Fr. Scott  Wimsett and archdiocesan Scouting liasion Fr. Jeff Gatlin both supported Bourke’s disclosure of his orientation.  Later, however, higher archdiocesan officials decided to support the Boy Scouts’ anti-gay policy:

“In a statement,[Cecelia Price, archdiocesan spokesperson] confirmed that the Boy Scouts contacted Wimsett and Gatlin and that both responded that they believed it was up to the Boy Scouts to enforce its policies.

“Price said the archdiocese later concluded that the charters signed by church pastors require them to conduct Scouting programs according to policies set by the Boy Scouts of America, as well as Catholic Church policies.

“Her statement also said that ‘it is the expectation of the Church that adult leaders — whether heterosexual or with same-sex attraction — in any ministry strive to lead chaste lives and seek to both accept and witness to the full teachings of the Church on chastity and charity, including teachings on the sanctity of marriage.’ ”

Bourke stated that he decided to resign to protect his parish’s Scouting charter:

“Bourke, who initially refused to quit, said in an interview that he decided he had no choice after the . . .  pastor at Our Lady of Lourdes, told him Thursday that the parish might lose its Scouting charter unless he left.

“Bourke, who has been a registered Scout volunteer for five years and an assistant troop leader since 2009, said he thinks the Boy Scouts’ policy is ‘hateful’ and ‘outdated,’ but he didn’t want to put the church’s charter at risk.”

Interestingly, Bourke will remain a leader in his daughter’s Girl Scouts’ troop since the Girl Scouts of America do not have a parallel anti-gay policy.  Local Girl Scouts’ leaders condemned the Boy Scouts’ decision:

Co-leader Kim Haydon said in a July 23 email to [Boy Scouts officials] Mazzuca and Oxley that to ‘discount all that he has done for our youth only because he is gay is absurd. Shame on you and your small mindedness.’ ”

Other local leaders also supported Bourke:

“ ‘He upheld the highest ideals of Scouting,’ said Donald E. Overton, a fellow assistant Scoutmaster in Boy Scout Troop 325 and an Episcopal priest.

“Rick Tonini, chairman of the St. Matthews Fire Protection District, described Bourke as ‘a dignified leader and role model’ who led troop members door to door each year helping the fire department raise money for the WHAS Crusade for Children.

“And Brooke Hinkle, whose son, Seth, was in Bourke’s Cub Scout pack and Boy Scout troop, said, ‘Greg made Seth the person he is,’ teaching him responsibility. . . .

“Tom Clark, who leads [Our Lady of Lourdes'] Cub Scout pack and earned his Eagle Scout badge in 1974 as a member of Troop 325, said in an Aug. 9 email to Oxley that ‘if you continue to pursue your efforts to remove Greg Bourke, you can expect my Eagle Scout badge to be returned to you and my resignation as an adult scouter.’ ”

“Clark also said he would ‘welcome the opportunity for my son to be associated with Greg Bourke.’ ”

“Hinkle said her son, a freshman at Trinity High School, was angry and disappointed when he found out why Bourke was on the way out, asking, ‘Why do I want to be a part of this program?’

“ ‘To him,’ she said, ‘Greg is a leader.’ ”

With testimony like that, one wonders how much reason is guiding the Boy Scouts’ policy.  Kudos to the two priests who refused to participate in this policy’s enforcement.  Their actions are a testimony to the fact that such decisions should be made at a local level, and not by some higher authority.  This is the Catholic social justice principle of subsidiarity which says that decisions should be made at the most appropriate local level.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Radio Series Explores LGBT Issues from a Range of Religious Traditions

August 19, 2012

A unique and comprehensive series on a public radio program is exploring LGBT issues from a variety of faith traditions.

Interfaith Voiceshosted by Loretto Sister Maureen Fiedler, is offering “Gay in the Eyes of God:  How 12 Traditions View Gay and Lesbian People,”  a 12-part look at theology, spirituality, and lived reality of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people and issues.

Sister Fiedler describes the program on a National Catholic Reporter  blog:

Sister Maureen Fiedler

“Public opinion about homosexuality is changing rapidly, and civil law is not far behind. Gays and lesbians are increasingly open about their relationships and accepted. In some states, they now can marry legally and adopt children.

“But among those who are people of faith — with a few exceptions — gay men and lesbians wrestle with how to be faithful to their religious traditions while living fully the human reality in which they discover themselves. . . .

“This series offers much more than scriptural or theological conversations, although those are included. We hear the often poignant stories of gay and lesbian people struggling with who they are as they try to stay faithful to their respective traditions.”

Catholics are represented by four different people and perspectives:

Celestine and Hilary Ranney-Howes

“When we deal with Catholicism, we hear the story of Hilary and Celestine Ranney-Howes. This couple was heterosexually married — one man and one woman. . .  [Hilary, who married as a man, came to understand her] true identity was female, and she became a transsexual woman. Normally, such a change would lead to divorce, but Hilary’s wife, Celestine, realized she loved the person, not the gender, so they stayed together as a lesbian couple. Today, they worship in an “intentional eucharistic community” in the Washington, D.C., area where they feel accepted. [Hilary and Celestine led a focus session at New Ways Ministry's Seventh National Symposium in Baltimore this past March; some of their interview was conducted at that conference.]

Sister Jeannine Gramick

Eve Tushnet

“For our Catholic segment, I also interviewed Loretto Sr. Jeannine Gramick, a founder of New Ways Ministry, and Eve Tushnet, a young lesbian who believes she must remain celibate to be a faithful Catholic. Gramick explained the range of Catholic theological views on this subject, including the official view, and Tushnet said that she turned to works of Catholic mysticism for support in her lifestyle. Gramick noted that change is possible in Catholicism, but she does not expect it any time soon.”

The series also includes segments on evangelicalism (airing this week), the Black Church,Islam, Judaism, origins of the LGBT religious movement, Eastern religions, and other topics.

The series, which was made possible by a grant from the Arcus Foundation, began earlier this summer.  Each installment can be listened to on the radio show’s website.  Additional installments will be added to the archive as the series progresses.

Interfaith Voices is heard on 62 public radio stations across the nation, so check your local listings for when the program airs in your area.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Catholics Sing “For All the Children” and for Marriage Equality

August 18, 2012

Catholics for Marriage Equality Minnesota released a music video this week of “For All the Children,” a song with a message of inclusvity and equality by David Lohman.

The video features over 300 Catholics and friends singing the piece.  You can view the video here:

And that’s not all! In true 21st century fashion, they have also produced a “Making Of” video which gives you “behind the scenes” views!  You can watch that here.

Kudos to all involved for a wonderful, powerful, and entertaining way to get the message out that Catholics support marriage equality!  Spread the word about this video so that it can go viral!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Australian Priest Meets With Attorney General to End “Gay Panic” Defense

August 17, 2012

An Australian priest who is leading a campaign to eliminate the “gay panic” defense from his province’s law has met with the provincial attorney general to discussion his request.

Fr. Paul Kelly

Fr. Paul Kelly of Maryborough met with Jarrod Bleijie, Queensland attorney general, to talk about ending the troublesome defense plea which allows defendants to seek clemency by claiming that  unwanted homosexual advances were a provocation for violent crime.

The attorney general is not inclined to change the law.  According to The Australian newspaper:

“The previous state government had accepted a recommendation from a committee appointed by the former attorney-general to amend the laws, but current Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie confirmed in a statement . . .that he would not proceed with the change.

“Mr Bleijie said the most recent amendments to the laws, which took effect last year, had not been examined in a courtroom.”

Bondings 2.0 had earlier reported on Fr. Kelly’s online petition to amend the law.  He has collected close to 206,000 signatures from Australia and around the world.  Fr. Kelly commented:

“The international attention on this archaic and discriminatory law is most welcome. . . .Queenslanders don’t want it, Australians don’t want it, and now we can see the world doesn’t want it.”

Fr. Kelly became involved in this issue because of a homicide which took place on the grounds of his parish:

“Richard John Meerdink and Jason Andrew Pearce were jailed for the manslaughter of Wayne Robert Ruks in the grounds of Maryborough’s St Mary’s Church in 2008.

“The court did not accept their defence that Mr Ruks had followed them to the church and tried to grab Pearce’s crotch before he was punched and kicked to death.”

Fr. Kelly was cautiously hopeful after his meeting with Bleijie.  According to Gay News Network, Fr. Kelly commented:

“He acknowledged there was a lot of community support for a change in the law and he invited me to continue to press my case.

“While the Attorney-General expressed serious reservations about many aspects of my call to reform this law, he made it clear to me that he had not made a final decision on the issue.

“I got the impression he was leaving the door open for reform of this law, but that he was still, unfortunately, a long way from being convinced.”

The priest plans to continue his campaign, despite negative messages coming from government officials:

“Father Kelly said though he believed the ‘overwhelming’ weight of support would eventually see a change in the law, he was left dismayed Premier Campbell Newman was still denying the use of the ‘gay panic’ defence in criminal cases.

“ ‘The gay panic defence doesn’t exist. There is no law that says it is okay to beat someone up or murder them because of their sexuality. It simply doesn’t exist!’ a spokesperson for Newman wrote on his official Facebook page on Monday, July 30.

“ ‘The man [Pearce] you refer to received a sentence of 9 years imprisonment, but the parole board decided to grant him parole on July 9 this year. The key factor in determining this man’s sentence was that he was found guilty of manslaughter, not murder, because the prosecution could not prove he intended to murder the victim.’

“Father Kelly said such claims were ludicrous.

“ ‘The defence isn’t just theoretical – it has been brought up as the reason in two separate court cases in Queensland in the past few years,’ Father Kelly said.

“ ‘For Mr Newman and his Attorney-General to deny that it exists is astounding.’ ”

Our prayers and support go to Fr. Kelly for this campaign.  May he be successful in correcting this injustice!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Drag Queen Ban Lifted and New Ban Imposed

August 16, 2012

Just a week ago, we reported that Most Holy Redeemer parish in the Castro neighborhood of San Francisco had banned an annual fundraising event because it featured drag queens.

The San Francisco Examiner is now reporting that the ban on drag queens has been lifted:

“Although a gay-friendly Catholic church in The City’s Castro neighborhood is receiving heat for allegedly banning drag queens from all future events on its premises, church officials are saying that while they opposed the idea at first, they quickly changed their minds.”

The event is a fundraiser for the Castro Country Club, a neighborhood 12-step recovery organization, which has used the church’s hall for several years.

The news report suggests that the new pastor received some education about drag queens before announcing the new decision:

“. . . “[C]hurch Business Manager Michael Poma acknowledged that Pastor Brian Costello did tell members of the Castro Country Club that they could not hold their event if drag queens were scheduled to attend, Poma said he quickly reversed his decision.

“ ‘Father Brian wasn’t educated about the importance of drag queens in the gay community,’ Poma said. ‘Once it was explained to him, he said they were welcome to attend as long as their behavior was church-appropriate.’ ”

Most Holy Redeemer says that there was a different reason for the ban:

“Church officials now say the new policy is not a prohibition against drag queens, but rather an end to all one-time events that do not originate at the church. Poma said the ban applies to all outside events — gay or straight — including weddings, parties or fundraisers. The church is still planning to hold its own events, including 12-step programs, suppers for the homeless and AIDS support groups.

“ ‘This is not a ban on drag queens or an insult to the gay community whatsoever,’ Poma said. ‘In the church hall there have been issues with weddings and other groups, so we decided to put an end to them altogether. We are part of the community here and to think that we’re banning drag queens is obnoxious and ridiculous.’ ”

Additionally, there is some discrepancy about when the ban on outside groups was to be implemented, and the role that the Archdiocese of San Francisco did or did not play in the original decision:

“The ban on outside events was scheduled to go into effect at the end of September, but was pushed forward after the church consulted with the San Francisco Archdiocese. Although the Bay Area Reporter suggested Salvatore Cordileone, who is set to be the next archbishop, made the decision, the archdiocese insists it was completely up to the parish.”

The Bay Area Reporter article from last week reported:

” ‘I am the new pastor,’ [Fr.]Costello added. ‘There is a new archbishop. The archdiocese told me straight out, “No drag queens.” ‘ “

KQED Radio’s Laird Harrison interviewed George Wesolek, the Archdiocese of San Francisco’s spokesperson, about the chancery’s involvement in the decision, and he printed the following account on the radio station’s news blog:

“Returning my call, archdiocese spokesperson George Wesolek told me the church did not ban cross-dressing, it simply closed its facilities to groups not affiliated with the church. The change took place about two months ago and it had nothing to do with the appointment of the new archbishop, who doesn’t take office until Oct. 4, Wesolek said. He added that many parishes have similar policies for many reasons.

“Here’s our conversation, edited for brevity:

“George Wesolek: One example is that sometimes an outside group will come in and perhaps do something of a political nature. That can be disadvantageous to us because we are not supposed to be doing any kind of political activity with candidates. We can with issues, but not with candidates. So that is a somewhat usual policy for parishes.

“Laird Harrison: So there was no connection with the appointment of the new archbishop?

“George Wesolek: I know for a fact there is no connection at all. I would be very surprised if the new archbishop knew anything about this.

“Laird Harrison: Then why would Costello have attributed the change to the archdiocese?

“George Wesolek: He’s new there and I’m not quite sure what he had meant about that. He may have talked to someone at the archdiocese — in the legal team for example — and he was talking about a way of instituting a policy or was trying to understand the policy because it was in place before he came.

“Laird Harrison: Does the archdiocese have any sort of policy about drag queens?

“George Wesolek: We would pretty much leave that up to the parish. I would think that most parishes would not consider that appropriate.”

It is good to have a positive statement about the presence of drag queens coming from the pastor.  It is even better that the parish acknowledged his willingness to be educated about the issue.   Yet, what remains troubling is that there are still unanswered questions about how the decision was made and why is it only now that the parish is saying that this was a general ban against renting the space to outside groups.

There is no word if the originally banned show will now go on as planned.

We will keep you posted if this story develops or if  further explanations are given .

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Catholics for Marriage Equality Events in Three Separate States

August 15, 2012

 

In the fall of this year, four states across the nation–Minnesota, Washington State, Maryland, Maine–voters will participate in ballot initiatives concerning marriage equality this fall.  Catholic voters will play a key role in each of these contests.

Catholics supportive of marriage equality initiatives–which we know is the majority of Catholics–can participate in several upcoming events in three of those individual states:  Minnesota, Washington State, Maryland.

MINNESOTA

Catholics for Marriage Equality–Minnesota is sponsoring a gathering on Wednesday evening, August 15, 2012, 7:00-8:30 pm to celebrate the Feast of the Assumption and to inspire Catholics to speak the primacy of their conscience.   The gathering will take place in Loring Park, 1382 Willow St., Minneapolis, Minnesota 55403. The event will premiere a music video in which over 300 Catholics and friends sing a “For All the Children,” a hymn of love and inclusivity written by David Lohman.   More information can be found on the event’s Facebook page. (DignityUSA is a partner for this event.)
WASHINGTON STATE

Sister Jeannine Gramick

New Ways Ministry’s Sister Jeannine Gramick, co-founder, and Francis DeBernardo, executive director, will be speaking at two separate events to promote Catholic support for marriage equality.

The first event will be held on Tuesday, August 21, 2012,  7:00-9:00 pm, The United Churches of Olympia, 110 – 11th Avenue SE, Olympia, Washington, 98501.  This event is co-sponsored by Call To Action–Western Washington and The United Churches of Olympia.
The second event , sponsored by Call To Action–Western Washington, will be held on Wednesday, August 22, 2012, 7:00-8:30 pm,  St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral (Bloedel Hall), 1245 10th Avenue East,  Seattle, Washington 98102.  Washington State Senator Ed Murray, a Catholic will join them at this  event.
Complimentary copies of New Ways Ministry’s book, Marriage Equality: A Positive Catholic Approach, will be available at each event.
MARYLAND

Heather Mizeur

Catholics for Marriage Equality–Maryland is sponsoring a voter education program and two community forums.

The voter education program will take place on Sunday, August 26, 2012, St. Matthew Parish, 6:00-8:00 pm, 5401 Loch Raven Boulevard  Baltimore, Maryland 21239. Maryland State Delegate Heather Mizeur, a Catholic, is a speaker at this event.
The first community forum will be held Saturday, September 29, 2012, 10:00 am-1:00 pm, Greenbelt Community Church, corner of Crescent and Hillside Roads, Greenbelt, Maryland 20770.
The second community forum will be held Saturday, October 6, 2012, 10:00 am-1:00 pm, Montgomery County Executive Office Building, 101 Monroe Street, Greenbelt, Maryland 2085o.  Maryland State Delegate Heather Mizeur, a Catholic, is the featured speaker at this event.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry
 

 


No Gay-Straight Alliance for DeSales University

August 14, 2012

DeSales University, a Catholic campus in Eastern Pennsylvania, is rejecting a request by an alumnus to start a gay-straight alliance (GSA) at the school.

According to the Upper Saucon Patch, Tim Gallagher, the alumnus, had circulated a petition on Change.orgafter several unsuccessful attempts to persuade the school’s administration to approve a GSA.  The petition states:

“Each student at DeSales University is told repeatedly to ‘be who you are and be that well’ [part of the school's motto] per the direction of St. Francis de Sales. This is a wonderful motto but currently excludes LGBT students and alumni. The university has repeatedly denied requests to allow a Gay Straight Alliance on campus and has even turned down an application for a PRIDE DSU club which sought to celebrate diversity on campus.Meanwhile, 16 Catholic Colleges in Pennsylvaniahave officially recognized pro-homosexual clubs, LGBTQ Resource Centers, or student organizations according to a recent poll.

“IT IS TIME that we stand up for our fellow bulldogs [school mascot] and allow each person to live out the Salesian motto and ‘Be who you are and be that well’ without threat of persecution or harassment.”

The petition came as a result of a campus incident where an anti-gay slur was written on a student’s dorm room door. Repeated earlier attempts to establish campus support networks for LGBT students had been rejected also.

In a follow-up Patch story, Dr. Jerry Joyce, DeSales’ vice president for student affairs, disputed the use of the campus’ motto to support the proposal for a GSA:

” ‘The full quote is “Let us be what we are and be that well, in order to bring honor to the Master Craftsman whose handiwork we are,” ‘ said Dr. Jerry Joyce, vice president for student affairs at DeSales. ‘Just like the quote says, if we are staying true to the teachings of the Catholic faith, it would be hypocritical to allow a club that would celebrate a LGBT lifestyle.’ “

With all due respect to Dr. Joyce, the quotation does not say anything about the teachings of the Catholic faith or LGBT persons.

According to Patch, Joyce said the campus decision to deny clubs for LGBT students had to do with the “exclusive” nature of such organizations:

“Joyce also confirmed a meeting with a member of the student body about forming a LGBT club, and again cited the exclusive nature of the club as the reason the student was denied.

” ‘The way [the group] was presenting themselves was as an exclusive club, and we don’t do exclusive groups at DeSales. We use student activity fees to fund [student organizations], which would mean students wouldn’t be able to get into a club they were paying for.’ “

It is puzzling to see the “exclusive” nature of a gay-straight alliance.  It’s very title and mission is inclusive.

Adrian Shanker, president of Equality Pennsylvania, commented in an op-ed on the DeSales controversy:

“. . .DeSales University is more interested in preserving an antiquated Church doctrine than they are in creating an inclusive campus community for the people they are hired to serve, their students — and what a message to send to current and prospective students.”

Gallagher explained his motivation for starting the petition to institute a GSA:

“I love DeSales, it’s an amazing university with fabulous faculty, staff, and students. But it’s time for DeSales to live up to it’s motto and help students thrive.”

New Ways Ministry supports the movement for a GSA on DeSales’ campus, and on all Catholic campuses.  We are happy and proud that our website’s gay-friendly college list has assisted Mr. Gallagher in his quest for such an organization.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


British Catholic Leaders Support Marriage Equality Legislation

August 13, 2012

The Times of London, England, has published a letter to the editor today from 27 prominent British Catholics expressing support for the United Kingdom’s proposed legislation to legalize same-gender marriage.  (It is not possible to link to the text on the Times’ website because a subscription is required to access letters to the editor.)

The 27 signatories include James Alison (theologian & priest), Tina Beattie (theologian), Mary Grey (theologian), Bernard Lynch (priest), Martin Pendergast (Chair, Centre for the Study of Christianity & Sexuality).

The text of the letter reads:

“Sir,  Not all Catholics share their hierarchy’s stated views against proposals to extend civil marriage to same-sex couples. Nevertheless, the submission by the Catholic Bishops of England & Wales  to the Government’s equal civil marriage consultation indicates a growing understanding about legislating for same-sex unions, compared with its 2003 position, when it firmly opposed civil partnerships.

“It seems  to us, as Catholic laity, theologians and clergy, important to uphold some key pastoral care principles used by the Catholic Church in England & Wales. Its 1979 guidelines stated that the Church has a serious responsibility to work towards the elimination of any injustices perpetrated on homosexuals by society.

“In 1997 Cardinal Hume wrote that love between two persons, whether of the same sex, or of a different sex, is to be treasured and respected. This respect demands that such loving relationships be afforded social recognition according to social justice principles. He proposed three criteria for considering issues of social policy: are there reasonable grounds for judging that the institution of marriage and the family could, and would be undermined by a change in law? Would society’s rejection of a proposed change be more harmful to the common good than the acceptance of such a change? Does a person’s sexual orientation or activity constitute, in specific circumstances, a sufficient reason for treating that person in any way differently from other citizens? We suggest that it is perfectly proper for Catholics, using fully informed consciences, to support the legal extension of civil marriage to same-sex couples.”

The full list of signers:

James Alison, Theologian & priest
Ruby Almeida, Chair of Quest (LGBT Catholics)
Tina Beattie, Theologian  
Mike Castelli, Educationalist
Mark Dowd, Journalist
Michael Egan, Chair, Lesbian & Gay Christian Movement
Maria ExallChair, Trade Unions Congress LGBT Committee
John Falcone, Theologian
Eileen Fitzpatrick, Educationalist
Kieran Fitszimons, Priest
Mary Grey, Theologian
Kevin Kelly, Theologian & priest
Ted Le Riche, Retired educationalist
Bernard Lynch, Priest
Gerard Loughlin, Theologian
Francis McDonagh, Lay-person
Patrick McLoughlin, Priest
Anthony Maggs, Priest
Lorraine Milford, Lay-person
Frank Nally, Priest                                                                                                                                                                                                       Martin Pendergast, Chair, Centre for the Study of Christianity & Sexuality                                                                                         Sophie Stanes, Lay-person                                                                                                                                                                                       Joe Stanley, Lay-person                                                                                                                                                                                   Valerie Stroud, Chair, Catholics for a Changing Church                                                                                                                                Terry Weldon, Editor, Queering the Church                                                                                                                                            Matias Wibowo, Lay-person                                                                                                                                                                           Deborah Woodman, Clinical Psychologist

Congratulations and many thanks for this thoughtful piece.  Let’s hope and pray that Catholic leaders in other countries, particularly the United States, will speak out as clearly and forthrightly.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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