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

“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.


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. 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.


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.’ “


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 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 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.”


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

Fired New Zealand Teacher’s Final and Most Powerful Lesson

September 25, 2012

Nigel Studdart

A science teacher at a Catholic high school in New Zealand has been fired because of criticizing the school principal’s remarks against gay parents.  Though fired, the teacher has taught his students a remarkable lesson about standing up for one’s beliefs.

According to New Zealand’s Northern Advocate newspaper:

“Three weeks after being suspended for speaking out against what he called discriminatory comments by the Pompallier Catholic College [high school] principal, science teacher Nigel Studdart has been sacked.

“The school board’s decision to end his tenure came as no surprise to the teacher, who has many students as well as gay rights groups speaking in support of him.”

In August, the principal, Richard Stanton, wrote an essay in the school’s newsletter, decrying efforts in New Zealand to legalize marriage equality, which stated, in part:

“Same sex couples will almost inevitably argue for the ‘right’ to children. Such a voice is heard now and my fear is that we are moving towards a society where children become an ‘entitlement’ or ‘right’ and are therefore commodities, or possessions to be acquired, rather than a gift to be received. I  acknowledge that possessive parents are not exclusively found in same sex relationships, but I contend that such relationships may be more disposed towards such a mind-set.

“Parents who see their children as gifts bring a very different mind-set from those who see children as an entitlement. They tend to be more open to the flowering of their child in whatever direction they venture. This tends to encourage children to be more confident and open to the world around them.”

According to, Studdart criticized the principal’s remarks:

“Mr Studdart said he thought the comments were prejudicial toward gay parents and potentially harmful to gay students or the children of gay people.

“The principal’s inference that gay people were inferior parents was ‘untenable,’ he said.”

Additionally, Studdart supported a student-led protest of the principal’s remarks.

In his comments to the Northern Advocate after learning of the decision, Studdart offered a powerful lesson in the power of conscience:

“I’m not sorry I spoke out. I couldn’t have done anything else. The issue has led to a lot of debate about homosexuality which is irrelevant, really.

“The issue raised in the school newsletter and what I stood up over was discriminatory and prejudicial and has no rightful place in a decent society.

“I slept well last night [after being officially dismissed] with a clear conscience and I will face my tomorrows in the knowledge that I could not in all conscience have acted any differently.”

In firing Studdart, the school board acknowledged his fine teaching record.  So it is no surprise that his students have been strongly supportive of him during this ordeal.   According to the New Zealand Herald:

“Several students have left messages on the popular science teacher’s Facebook page disappointed with the school’s decision.

“i cant believe it, just like that my favourite teacher is gone,” Leshego Mpe wrote.

“There goes the best teacher in the school ='( good luck with whatever you plan to do now,” Nikki Bedford added.

“The whole family is outraged by this. The whole family are supporting you with any decision you make.

Thanks to you I felt so confident in my chem and bio paper today! You were the best teacher!” Zoe Pearse said.
Parents have been equally upset, some threatening to remove their children from the school.  Sharon Teh, a parent, said:
“Pompallier has lost one of the best teachers they have and we are seriously considering moving our son to a different school – we have no faith in Pompallier College at all. As well as a fantastic teacher, you are a wonderful man – you aren’t the one who should be leaving that school.”

Studdart has been praised by other New Zealand religious leaders.  According to, Rev. Glynn Cardy, of Auckland’s St. Matthew’s-in-the-City Anglican Church, praised the example that Studdart offers students:

“It is this sort of courageous example that our young people need. . . .Your action also sends a wonderfully encouraging message to the many LGBT youth across New Zealand that discrimination is wrong, that some teachers are not prepared to be privately supportive but publically silent, and that there are people of religious faith who believe that the sacrament of marriage should be available to gay and lesbian couples.”

Cardy also offered a word of caution to New Zealand’s Catholic leaders:

“Cardy says he understands the position of New Zealand’s Catholic Bishops on the Marriage Amendment Bill, and that principal Richard Stanton might want to endorse that in his position as the leader of a Catholic school.

“ ‘However by stopping the expression of contrary opinions, and in particular by going to the extraordinary length of dismissing a popular and competent teacher, you are sending out a message that the school is not a place where robust debate can happen, and is not a place that can manage and appreciate diverse views,’ Cardy says.

“ ‘This seeming fear of difference is at odds with the best of Roman Catholicism’s social practice in New Zealand, a practice marked by tolerance and compassion.”

We pray that Cardy’s words will be heeded. And we pray in gratitude for Mr. Studdart’s courageous example.  He has turned what could have been a personal tragedy for him into a powerful teaching moment.

–Francis DeBernardo

Emmy Winner ‘Modern Family’ Leads the Way in Catholic Values

September 24, 2012

ABC’s comedy series, Modern Family, won four Emmy Awards last night:  best comedy series, best director (Steve Levitan), best supporting actress (Julie Bowen), and best supporting actor (Eric Stonestreet).

The series, which features the experiences of an extended family which includes a gay couple who’ve adopted a baby girl, was honored earlier this year by the Catholics in Media Associates, which noted that the show

“. . . remains far and away the best prime-time sitcom: crisp and farcical, but very kind. This fast-paced mockumentary perfectly captures the experience of parenthood.”

In anticipation of the Emmy Awards, Sister Rose Pacatte, offered her own analysis of her favorite shows in a National Catholic Reporter blog post which included her take on Modern Family:

“Jay’s [the show's patriarch] family represents the new reality of today’s American family (Catholic or otherwise), though it is not divorce and remarriage, but the gay couple with a child is what upsets many viewers. Certainly many families may not have gay or divorced and remarried members, but the reality is, many do. They always did, but we didn’t see them in the comforting idealistic television of the ’50s, ’60s and into the ’70s. Some viewers may not approve of the gay couple or the gay couple adopting a child on a mainstream network television show. The Catechism of the Catholic Church has clear teaching about homosexuality and clear teaching on how to treat homosexual persons, that they “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.” This is how I interpret “Modern Family.” After all, Thanksgiving dinner comes to all of us, when family members gather from far and wide, and “Modern Family” offers a way of being. When from one year to the next, you have no idea who will show up at the table, who they will bring along, if they will be the same gender as the year before — and if they are moving back to the neighborhood and may be in your life every day. Television is entertainment and not Sunday school (the film critic Roger Ebert said this about film, but the same goes for television), and you do not have to condone homosexuality to find seeds of the consistent paradox that is the Gospel in “Modern Family.” Yes, television does normalize behaviors and flattens values into a smorgasbord. But television is an opportunity for people of faith because it forms a metaphorical table around which we can gather and talk about things that matter.”

Modern Family does indeed present the gay couple, Cameron and Mitchell, with “respect, compassion, and sensitivity”–probably more so than any other gay characters have ever been presented on television.  It would be hard for even the most virulent anti-gay person watching the show to be too critical of Cameron and Mitchell because they are presented in such a loving fashion.  As Sister Rose states:

“I remain astonished at the writers, who are able to get so many layers of humanity into 21 minutes.”

Besides being entertaining, such authentic and human presentation of not only gay people, but the other characters in this contemporary family, can only help our society grow in understanding diversity.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Progress Arrives in a Small, Quiet Way

September 23, 2012

Progress on LGBT issues is sometimes announced in bold headlines:  “Repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ ”  “Same-sex Marriage Law Passes,”  “First Lesbian Wins State Election,” and other such important milestones.

Sometimes progress is shown in small, quiet ways, too, however.  Such is the case in a National Catholic Reporter online column which appeared this week.  Mercy Sister Camille D’Arienzo does a bi-weekly interview, exploring how relationships, experiences, faith, and spirituality take shape in an individual’s life.  They are powerful reading due to the immediacy and simplicity of the Q and A format, but also because Sister Camille, a seasoned journalist, knows how to ask penetrating questions that get to the heart of the matter.

Michael Moran and Hiroshi Okamoto

In this week’s installment, Sister Camille interviews Michael Moran, a gay man whose life has been spent in service to others, most frequently to the poor and dispossessed.  One thing that struck me as I read it was that this is an interview with a gay man in a Catholic publication, and yet his sexual orientation was not the focus of the story.  It was simply another facet of who he was.  The interview mentions his partner in the same way that heterosexually married spouses are mentioned in such interviews.

The casual treatment of a gay person’s sexuality in a national Catholic periodical was an inspiring milestone.  It signaled an acceptance and matter-of-factness that was refreshing to read.  Progress had been made in a small, quiet way.

Reading the interview was like a foretaste of the future:  when all will be accepted in our church, and where a person’s relationship with God and acts toward others will be the hallmark of a faith-filled life, not whether the person is male or female, gay or straight.

If you’d like to read the entire interview–and I recommend that you do–you can access it by clicking here.  I offer some excerpts to give you a flavor of this inspiring life story and to illustrate how naturally orientation are treated:

Sister Camille: Although you left the Franciscans, you seem to have carried their values with you through a series of professions. Please trace that journey.

Michael Moran: I was a teacher, guidance counselor, school psychologist, high school principal, campus minister, administrator in agencies serving homeless persons and people living with HIV/AIDS, and a hospital chaplain. I retired in July 2010 when I was 67.

Your impressive academic record cites four universities that prepared you for each of these important works. Is there anyone who shares your life?

I have a partner with whom I am celebrating 20 years of life together. He is Japanese, a former sushi chef who is now a caregiver. He’s a real introvert who balances my off-the-wall extroversion. His calm personality balances my sometimes frenetic activity. We seem to complement one another nicely.

. . . .

What is your favorite scripture passage?

Matthew 25:35-45

Does this passage, Jesus’ blueprint of how to care for our neighbor’s needs, make a difference in your life?

It means everything. I consider it my vocation — a blueprint for how I try to live my life.

What is your image of God?

Jesus on the breadline. I draw it from a Catholic Worker lithograph by artist Fritz Eichenberg. I see God as personally connected to my life and the life of the worlds he identifies with the marginalized and rejected.

. . . .

Michael, what do you want from the church?

Openness and inclusion. More dialogue between hierarchy and the rest of us. Openness to the ordination of women and same-sex marriage; more preaching on topics of social justice; compassion and justice for immigrants. I am concerned about the move away from Vatican II. I am very dismayed by the conflict between the bishops and the LCWR. I believe the sisters are our contemporary prophets and the best hope for the church. They should never compromise their rich values. What would our church be without their dedication? We should not allow the hierarchy to hijack our church.

What would prevent that?

Greater dialogue on all sides, open ears and hearts. I believe our church is missing out on the great contributions and gifts of laypeople and could benefit from encouraging these treasures. I would ordain women and gay people and highlights the leadership of laypeople.

What causes you joy?

That so many talented, sincere Catholics have not abandoned our church, but hang in there and do what they can to reinvent it.

What gives you hope?

Every year, I attend the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress with at least 30,000 other people, many of whom are young Latinos/Latinas. To be present at the rich liturgies, the marvelous keynote address and workshops, to experience the warm camaraderie — this is an experience of church I hope for in the wider church community.

Is there something you wish I had asked?

“Why haven’t you become Episcopalian?” My roots are too deep in Catholicism. My parents would turn over in their graves and my good friends, Patrick and Mary Ellen, would feel abandoned. I still have hope that things will change in our dear church.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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