From Italy, An Open Letter Calls for Catholic Welcome to LGBT People

September 30, 2012

Three Italian priests and one nun in have sent an open letter to the Archbishop of Florence, Italy, to call for more open dialogue on the issue of homosexuality and the Catholic church.   Their letter, which should be read in its entirety, is a call to the church to exhibit an extravagant sense of hospitality and welcome to all.  (Clicking on either of the links above will bring you to the letter. Scroll down the page halfway to find the complete text.)

Fr. Fabio Masi

Fathers Fabio Masi,  Alessandro Santoro, Giacomo Stinghi, and  Sister Stefania Baldini wrote the letter to critique a collection of articles and letters in a Catholic newspaper, Toscana Oggi, which covered homosexual and heterosexual civil unions, but which did not present any views opposed to official Catholic thought.  The letter, which has been made public by the Italian Catholic LGBT group “Progetto Gionata” (“Jonathan Project”), states:

“We believe that the articles printed in the Diocesan weekly publication (Toscana Oggi) do nothing but repeat existing ecclesiastical positions on homosexuality, without providing any insight on a topic that has been considerably developed and explained in recent years, and which requires more research.
Our letter testifies to the fact that there is diversity of positions regarding this issue today, both in secular thought and in our churches themselves. We, along with various theologians, bishops and Christian laypeople, do not see our viewpoints represented in Toscana Oggi’s treatment of this issue through its articles.”

Fr. Alessandro Santoro

The pastoral leaders call for the church’s magisterium to update its views on homosexuality in light of the significant research progress made in this area:

“It is important for the Church to recognize the progress made in the science of understanding humanity in a positive manner and to refrain from making absolute declarations which she will then have to admit are mistaken, as has happened in the past. These developments lead us to see homosexuality in a new light and to deal with it under a different moral perspective. On this topic, the Bible does not, nor could it, say anything, simply because it was not known, just as it says nothing about ecology or use of the atomic bomb.”

Sr. Stefania Baldini

The authors go on to diminish the requirement of procreation in sexuality and to propose that the church should welcome all people:

“Regarding the issue of being procreative or sterile, Jesus said that it is the heart which must be fruitful and Paul says that one joins God’s people through faith, not by heredity right. In this sense, who can honestly define themselves fruitful? Who can become judge of their own fruitfulness or that of others? Sterility can befall anyone.

“This way of profoundly welcoming the life of each and every human being, this is something we learned from the Church! For disciples of Jesus, it is not so much about defending principles, rigorously guarding them, like angels with a sword of fire before the tree of life; rather, it is about ‘looking into’ the lives of women and men of our times, in order for them to progress towards fullness. It does not entail being faithful to a God who is known and possessed, but to a God who ‘is coming’. Jesus said: ‘Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you do not know how to interpret this present time?’ (Luke 12:56)”

Fr. Giacomo Stinghi

The Catholic Church, they say, should be leaders in the work of welcoming and accepting lesbian and gay people:

“It seems to us that it should be from the (Catholic) Church should itself that a new way of understanding homosexuality come, with a sign of welcoming and profound respect for the love felt by people who personally live out this orientation. Two people who love each other are not an attack on society nor are they a betrayal of the Gospel. Scandals should be looked for elsewhere!

“Referring partly to these Biblical sources and partly to the human experience we know as we live out every day with these people, we feel that it is a natural and Christian response to welcome these different forms of love in full communion. We feel that they are an integral part of our journey of life and faith, and that with them, as with all others, we can participate in sacramental Communion and community life.”

Many thanks to these courageous pastoral leaders for so boldly speaking the truth in love to their archbishop.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Maryland Catholics Spread Marriage Equality Message

September 29, 2012

Maryland Catholic parents and the state’s Catholic governor are spreading their message of support for marriage equality in the state’s upcoming referendum via the traditional press and YouTube.

Erma Durkin

Erma Durkin, who describes herself as an 83-year old “cradle Catholic” penned an op-ed piece published in The Baltimore Sun, in which she cites her Catholic faith as the reason she is voting for question #6 in the fall:

“We should be acknowledging in everyone — including my gay son — the inherent dignity and fairness due them as human beings. As a cradle Catholic, my parents and my church taught me to treat everyone as I wanted to be treated. I have tried to live according to this teaching. . . .

“Both my head and my heart tell me that each child in our family should enjoy the same opportunity to be married. It is only right to treat everyone fairly and equally in the public square. I cannot understand how my gay son getting married to the person he loves can do harm to anyone else’s marriage.”

Ms. Durkin, who is a regular reader and frequent commenter to the Bondings 2.0 blog, acknowledges that for some, acceptance of marriage equality is a journey, but she is hopeful that others will arrive at the same place that she is:

“I do understand that, for many people, to come to a point where they can say they support marriage for gay couples will be a journey. And there are many lay Catholics on this journey now. In fact, a majority of Catholics in pews across the country support marriage equality. But we all come to this issue at our own pace, and that’s fine. . . .

“I hope Catholics in this great state vote their conscience on election day and support Question 6.”

Pat and Jenny Nugent, of Cambridge, Maryland (who are also frequent readers and contributors to this blog), are featured in a two-and-a-half minute video, explaining how their Catholic faith, plus the experience of having a gay son, have motivated to support this issue of justice and equality.

The Nugents, who have been married 48 years, and have seven children and eleven grandchildren, relate their moving story of how their faith and family experience molded their views.  You can view the entire video here:

In the video, Jenny states:

“I want him to have the same sense of security and fidelity in a relationship, where you know there’s one person you can always rely on.

“I also want for him to be able to say, to the world, this is who I love, this is who I’m committed to, and this is who is committed to me. And that they can do that publicly, like all of our other kids.”

And Pat adds:

“I’m going to vote my conscience and vote for QuestionNo. 6 in November.”

Another Maryland Catholic, Governor Martin O’Malley, was the subject of a ReligionDispatches. org essay this week, and author Peter Montgomery highlighted the governor’s argument about the strong religious protections in the law:

“Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who is actively campaigning for voter approval of a marriage equality law he signed earlier this year, said Monday night that his support for equality under the law is “very much informed” by his Catholic faith and his commitment to protecting the human dignity of every person in Maryland. . . .

“O’Malley said that expansive religious freedom language in the law was important to its passage and in keeping with the traditions of the state of Maryland. The referendum language makes clear that the law protects clergy from having to perform any ceremony that violates their beliefs, guarantees each faith control over its marriage doctrine, and ‘provides that religious organizations and certain related entities are not required to provide goods, services, or benefits to an individual related to the celebration or promotion of marriage in violation of their religious beliefs.’ ”

You can watch a video of O’Malley’s other comments here:

Baltimore’s Archbishop William Lori also spoke out about marriage equality this week,  opposing the referendum question.  His comments are not available, however, since the event at which he spoke was closed to the media.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


CAMPUS CHRONICLES: Stonehill College Students Win Improved Non-Discrimination Statement

September 28, 2012

Students during the September 21st walkout

The Board of Trustees of Stonehill College, a  Catholic college in Easton, Massachusetts, approved a new non-discrimination statement last week that now lists sexual orientation among the protected categories.

In a release by President Mark Cregan, the Board’s decision was announced after consultation at their most recent meeting and with outside counsel. The new statement will read in part:

“Therefore, Stonehill College prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, gender, disability, age, marital status, religion, color, sexual orientation, or national origin in admission to, access to, treatment in or employment in its programs and activities, except where such conditions may constitute bona fide qualifications for the programs or activities in question.

“Nothing in this statement shall require Stonehill College to act in a manner contrary to the beliefs and teachings of the Catholic Church.”

Stonehill College is operated by the Congregation of the Holy Cross, the same religious community which operates the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, which is also debating a non-discrimination policy.

Students, faculty, and staff began advocating for the inclusion of sexual orientation in 1997 with the recognition of Stonehill’s first gay-straight alliance, PRIDE. Bondings 2.0 spoke yesterday with 2012 graduate Ashley Trebisacci, who wrote her thesis on the fifteen year movement.

Trebisacci detailed the multiple interactions students had with the college’s administration and Board of Trustees since 1997, and the responses students received that entailed a document called ‘Spirit of Inclusion’ in 1998 and several presentations to the Board.

In 2012, several Stonehill students began organizing again for sexual orientation in the non-discrimination policy and released their own ‘It Needs To Get Better Video’ coinciding with an online petition and alumni pressure.

The Taunton Daily Gazette reported student reactions to the new policy:

“For the students, the issue was always one of equality and fairness.

“‘I’ve never felt prouder to be a Stonehill student,”’said junior Kristen Bailey. ‘It was a great day.’”

Bondings 2.0 contacted the current student leadership about the Board’s decision. This most recent iteration of the ‘It Needs to Get Better’ movement continues today and is responsible, with the support of faculty, staff, and alumni, for this most recent victory.

Senior Amanda Macchi, one of the leaders, detailed September 21, 2012’s events. At 9:30am that day, over 185 members of the Stonehill Community staged a ‘walkout’ and went to Alumni Hall where the Board of Trustees was meeting in a show of solidarity and to reinforce that Stonehill cares deeply about this issue.

Supporters make their presence known to the Board

Macchi noted that the Board’s statement does not constitute a change in the College’s non-discrimination policy:

“It’s a non-discrimination statement that the Board of Trustees make and their statement influences and guides all the school’s policies. So when the policies come up they will be revised to add sexual orientation.

“We’re very excited. This is a huge step forward and we’re relishing in that. We’ll keep track of changing all the policies. The next step is to ensure that everyone is equal…to have further discussion about what this truly means and ensure everyone is protected.”

Sean Borger, a leader in the ‘It Needs To Get Better’ movement as well as an on-campus LGBTQ discussion group, spoke to the heart of Stonehill’s needs in the future:

“When I spoke with them [the discussion group] last year more generally on the campus climate, it wasn’t that they didn’t feel safe. They didn’t feel they could be open…My hope is that with this change in statement, which hopefully our campus policies will reflect eventually, they will feel more comfortable expressing themselves.”

The student leadership spoke warmly of the overall campus atmosphere for LGBT community, but remains committed to continuing the work of inclusion and safety. Ashley Trebisacci summarized this:

“Being at a Catholic college presents problems for LGBTQ students that they may not encounter at colleges that aren’t religiously affiliated.

“Overall, we are blessed with a progressive, caring, and open faculty and staff, which in both this campaign and in general makes it a great place to be. The group of students as well are great and now, in part because of this activism and other activism in the past, the groups on campus are much more engaged and passionate about what they do.”

New Ways Ministry congratulates the Stonehill College community, especially the student leadership behind this movement, for moving towards a more inclusive campus.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


QUOTE TO NOTE: Lady Gaga Vs. The Pope

September 27, 2012

Lady Gaga

Pope Benedict XVI

Lady Gaga made headlines around the globe this week by criticizing Pope Benedict XVI’s comments against marriage equality initiatives in France.

According to MTV.co.uk:

“Pope Benedict XVIhad told French bishops: ‘Marriage and the family are institutions that must be promoted and defended from every possible misrepresentation of their true nature, since whatever is injurious to them is injurious to society itself.’

“But GaGa was having none of that, and retorted: ‘I think that gay marriage is going to happen. It must. We are not actually equal humanity if we are not allowed to freely love one another.

” ‘What the Pope thinks of being gay does not matter to the world. It matters to the people who like the Pope and follow the Pope. It is not a reflection of all religious people.”

“And The Mirror quoted her as saying: ‘This is not what Christians believe, those who believe in something, that have a religion.

” ‘It is the point of view of one person.’

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Bishops on the Offensive in Chicago, San Francisco, Newark, and Minnesota

September 27, 2012

Fighting marriage equality has been on the agenda for several bishops across the U.S. this week.  Three different bishops had strong words against marriage equality, and a fourth launched a fund-raising campaign to broadcast advertisements designed to ban marriage equality in his state.

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS

Cardinal Francis George

Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George used the occasion of a Mass celebrating the golden anniversaries of 400 married couples to issue a not-so-veiled statement against marriage equality.

Chicago.CBSLocal.com reports:

“Without mentioning gay marriage specifically, George also spoke briefly about the Catholic Church’s opposition to legalizing same-sex marriage, saying the institution of marriage is something that ‘comes to us from God,’ not from the church or from the government.”

Addressing the married couples whose anniversaries were being celebrated, George mad an even stronger condemnatory statement:

“There must surely be ways in our civil society, where we can honor friendships, where we can respect other people, without destroying the nature of marriage. It is very important, for your whole lives, give witness to what marriage truly means. And while civil laws might change – if they do – then society will be the worse for it.”

When he made a similar statement earlier this summer during the Chik-Fil-A controversy, Bondings 2.0 offered a long list of ways that Cardinal George could begin to honor LGBT people and their relationships.

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA

Bishop Salvatore Cordileone

San Francisco’s Archbishop-designate Salvatore Cordileone’s Los Angeles Times interview went viral this week, particularly because of his comment that gay and lesbian people in relationships should not receive communion:

“During a July news conference, Cordileone was circumspect when discussing the ‘cultural challenges’ his new diocese would present — which he said revolved around ‘issues of family life and, essentially, come down to our understanding of the human person, the purpose of our human sexuality, what God calls us to do and how he calls us to live and how he calls us to love.’

“But in a recent interview at the headquarters of the Oakland diocese, where he has served as bishop for three years, Cordileone was more direct: Gays and lesbians who are in sexual relationships of any kind, he said, should not receive the sacrament of Holy Communion, the central ritual of Catholic life.

” ‘If we misuse the gift of sexuality, we’re going to suffer the consequences,’ he said, ‘and I firmly believe we are suffering the consequences.’ “

NEWARK, NEW JERSEY

Archbishop John Myers

As if taking a cue from the same playbook as Cordileone, Newark’s Archbishop John Myers also used non-participation in communion as a way to promote his anti-marriage equality position.

This week, Myers issued a pastoral letter urging Catholics to vote against marriage equality.  A NorthJersey.com article provides details of the letter, which included a directive not to receive communion addressed to any Catholic who does not support the hierarchy’s view on marriage.   You can read the full text of Myers’ letter here.  The relevant excerpt on communion:

“It is my duty as your Archbishop to remind you that Catholics who do not accept the teaching of the Church on marriage and family (especially those who teach or act in private or public life contrary to the Church’s received tradition on marriage and family) by their own choice seriously harm their communion with Christ and His Church. I urge those not in communion with the Church regarding her teaching on marriage and family (or any other grave matter of faith) sincerely to re-examine their consciences, asking God for the grace of the Holy Spirit which ‘guide [us] to all truth’ (John 16:13). If they continue to be unable to assent to or live the Church’s teaching in these matters, they must in all honesty and humility refrain from receiving Holy Communion until they can do so with integrity; to continue to receive Holy Communion while so dissenting would be objectively dishonest.”

In a separate NorthJersey.com article on reactions from Catholics to Myers’ statement, a number of Catholics disagreed with him, especially young people:

“. . .[T]he reactions on Tuesday of students at Seton Hall University, the state’s largest Catholic college, reflected a recent Pew Research Center poll showing that a majority of lay Catholics — 53 percent — support gay marriage and that the number rises to 72 percent among Catholics between the ages of 18 and 34.

“In an informal survey, 15 of 21 students said they are not opposed to gay marriage. Several said they go to church and would continue to accept Holy Communion despite their disagreement with the church hierarchy on the matter. ‘I think that’s outrageous,’ said Kristina Ripp, 18, a freshman from Wood-Ridge, when told about parts of the statement. ‘Our generation is more accepting. I think it’s going to make people quit the faith. They might not want to go back to church because they won’t feel accepted.’

“Ripp and more than a half-dozen other young Catholics said they would continue to go to church but questioned whether other young people might be alienated by the apparent gulf between young Catholics and church leaders.”

MINNESOTA

The bishops of Minnesota have involved themselves even further into the political debate about marriage equality in their state by initiating a fund-raising campaign for advertisements.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports:

“Minnesota Roman Catholics will receive a letter this week from the state’s bishops, urging them to donate money for television ads asking voters to say yes to a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

“For many of the more than 400,000 Catholic households expected to get the letter, it marks the first time they’ve been asked by church leadership to make a financial donation to Minnesota for Marriage, the chief group campaigning for passage of the marriage amendment Nov. 6.”

A political scientist noted that such an effort by the bishops is extraordinary:

“In trying to reach every Catholic household in Minnesota, the mailing is ‘unusual’ compared to Catholics’ roles in marriage amendment campaigns in other states, said John Green, a political science professor at the University of Akron (Ohio), who studies politics and religion.

” ‘I can’t think of anything as direct and as explicit,’ Green said. ‘I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with it legally, but certainly I’m sure it’s very controversial. Catholic leaders have been involved in fundraising. I know of examples where they have reached out to parishioners, but I’ve never heard of anything quite this comprehensive.’ “

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Who Does Your Marriage Influence?

September 26, 2012

 

Kevin Fisher-Paulson

The Archdiocese of San Francisco has instituted a series of radio advertisements promoting marriage.  Part of the advertisements’ message asked married couples how many people are influenced by their marriages.

In a commentary on KQED radio, Kevin Fisher-Paulson, who is a captain with the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department, felt that this is exactly the type of question that needs to be asked:

“You know what? They got this right. Lots of people are affected by my marriage.

“I’m not talking about Catholic marriage, where 40 percent end in divorce. I’m talking about my own gay marriage.”

Kevin, who married his partner, Brian, in California in 2008 during the short period of time when marriage equality existed in the state, provided an interesting answer to the question:

“Brian and I got married, without blessing of either church or law, 25 years ago this month. And in those years, we have fostered medically at risk triplets, nursed friends dying of AIDS, helped friends detox from heroin, taken in rescue dogs and adopted drug-exposed, multi-racial foster children. None of my or Brian’s brothers is still with his first wife, but Brian and I have stood together, for richer and poorer, in sickness and in health. And that has affected the way that our friends look at gay men and their ability to commit.”

Kevin, like many Catholics, hopes for the day when both state and church recognize the commitments of lesbian and gay couples.  He states:

“In the meantime, my husband and I attend Most Holy Redeemer, that gay-friendly church in the Castro, so the rest of the Church can see how many people are affected by our marriage.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


QUOTE TO NOTE: Comparing Contraception and Marriage Equality

September 25, 2012

The marriage equality debate in Minnesota hit the small town of Morris, where a Catholic citizen, Michael Lackey, recently penned an op-ed in the Sun Tribune, puzzling over why some folks continue to oppose allowing lesbian and gay couples to marry.  As part of that essay, he offers the following comparison:

“I genuinely do not understand why so many people oppose gay marriage. I was raised in a Catholic family, and some members of my family believe that contraception is immoral. They believe that it does not respect the sanctity of life, and that those who use contraception, even if they oppose a woman’s right to choose, are ultimately anti-life. As conservative as these relatives are, they would never say that the United States should outlaw contraception, because they know that there are many Christian traditions that permit the use of contraception and that the government cannot base its laws on the doctrines of a particular religious tradition, or any religious tradition.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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