NEWS NOTES: January 31, 2013

January 31, 2013

News NotesHere are links to Catholic LGBT news items that might be of interest to you:

1) Archbishop Victor Tonye Bakot of Yaounde, Cameroon called same-sex marriage a “serious crime against humanity,” according to Reuters. His comments intensify ongoing debates over legal equality in Cameroon, where youth are agitating for LGBT rights in a nation that has criminalized homosexuality.

2) The Telegraph reports that Scottish regulators recently ordered a Catholic family services agency to end discriminatory adoption practices that favored couples married for at least two years. Scotland is moving towards marriage equality, but for now the regulators gave the agency until April 22nd to end their policy.

3) Hackers downed an anti-gay Catholic blog in Italy for 25 days because it advocated a ‘cure’ to homosexuality and posted comments that blamed domestic violence victims for their abuse.  Pink Star News reports that, unfortunately, the site is now up again.

4) The Rhode Island House of Representatives passed legislation that would grant same-gender couples marriage rights and, as expected, the Catholic bishops in that state have opposed it. The Providence Journal reports that the Rhode Island Catholic Conference director claims marriage equality undermines the common good.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Catholic Support for Fired Transgender Teacher

January 31, 2013

transgender symbolAbout three weeks ago, Bondings 2.0 reported on the case of Mark Krolikowski, a Catholic high school music teacher who claims he was fired because he is transgender and had been coming to work with longer hair and manicured fingernails.

Equally Blessed, a  coalition of four national Catholic organizations that work for justice and equality  for LGBT people in church and society, has published an essay in support of Krolikowski, and all transgender people, on the Washington Post’s  “On Faith blog.”  The essay is authored by Jim FitzGerald, executive director of Call To Action, an Equally Blessed coalition partner.   The essay is worth a read not just because of its support for Krolikowski, but because it provides some good information on the life experiences of transgender people.  For example, FitzGerald states:

“In an extensive 2011 nationwide survey hosted by Penn State’s Consortium on Higher Education, 78 percent of transgender people said that they had been bullied or harassed as children. Forty one percent said they had attempted suicide. Thirty-five percent had been physically assaulted and 12 percent had been sexually assaulted.

“Discrimination against transgender people is pervasive. Like Mark, 47 percent of those who responded to the survey said that they had suffered employment discrimination. Nineteen percent had suffered housing discrimination and a similar number had been denied health care due to their gender identity.”

Some progress is being made to correct old prejudices:

“Until recently the U. S. medical establishment treated transgender people as though they were mentally ill. The fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual includes a category called “gender identity disorder,” but, in a significant breakthrough for transgender people and our society’s understanding of gender identity, the soon-to-be published fifth edition does not.”

Despite this progress in the scientific world, the religious world has a lot of catching up to do:

“As Catholics, we regret that the leaders of our church and other conservative Christian organizations are leading the fight to deny transgender people their full human dignity and equal treatment under the law. In a recent address, Pope Benedict XVI argued against the very concept of gender, saying that one’s sexual identity is determined entirely by one’s biology.”

Given the increasingly-known fact that Catholics are generally very supportive of LGBT issues such as marriage equality, it should not  come as too much of a surprise that Catholics are also supportive of transgender equality, too:

“Whatever their beliefs about human sexuality, members of the pope’s own church in this country reject discrimination against transgender people. A 2011 poll by the Public Religion Research Institute found that 93 percent of U. S. Catholics believed that transgender people deserve the same legal rights and protections as other citizens. The survey also found that approximately three-quarters of Americans-from across the political and religious spectrum-believe that Congress should pass employment nondiscrimination laws to protect transgender people. A similar majority favor Congress’s recent expansion of hate crimes legislation to protect transgender people.”

The case of Mark Krolikowski shows how strongly a wide discussion of gender and sexuality is needed in the Catholic Church.

(Equally Blessed coalition is comprised of Call To Action, DignityUSA, Fortunate Families, New Ways Ministry.)

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


QUOTE TO NOTE: Archbishop Cordileone on Male Breastfeeding

January 30, 2013

computer_key_Quotation_MarksIn a recent interview, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco continued his crusade against marriage equality by advocating that opponents use the term “gay marriage” as infrequently as possible.

He reasons if “gay marriage” is spoken, people may view it as a reality and not an impossibility. Cordileone clarifies his thoughts with this helpful comparison:

“Legislating for the right for people of the same sex to marry is like legalising male breastfeeding…”

National Catholic Reporter reported the full story here and Bondings 2.0 recently covered an in-depth profile of Archbishop Cordileone’s relationship with the LGBT community in San Francisco here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Excerpts from French Bishops’ Document Which Affirms Same-Gender Relationships

January 30, 2013
French bishops

French bishops

Thanks to Bondings 2.0 reader Tom Luce, we are able to post excerpts from his translation of the French bishops’ document on same-gender marriage that we announced a few days ago.  As we mentioned, this document contained several unusually positive reflections about respect for gay and lesbian relationships, and the need to have civil and open discussion on the matter of marriage.  No U.S. bishops’ document even comes close to the content and tone of this document which was issued by the Family and Society Council of the French bishops’ conference.

To make sure that we are not giving the wrong impression, let me be clear that the document does not in any way support the legalization of marriage equality.  Still, the strong call for respecting gay and lesbian relationships is a giant step forward in hierarchical discourse, and it should be celebrated.

Below are excerpts from some of the more positive sections of this document which is entitled “Expand Marriage to Persons of the Same Sex?  Let’s Open the Debate!”  If you can read French, you can find the original text here.

I have not excerpted any of the sections which argue against marriage equality, since they are basically the same ones that have been used many times before.  The document is seven pages, single-spaced, in length, so it would be cumbersome to reproduce it here.  Again, our thanks go to Tom Luce for translating this document.  Tom blogs at leastharm.weebly.com.

Excerpts from 

“Expand Marriage to Persons of the Same Sex?  

Let’s Open the Debate!”

“Our society is facing a new situation, unexplored. Homosexuality has always existed, but until recently there had never been a claim on the part of homosexual persons to give a legal framework to a relationship to be entered into an historical
record, or to be seen as endowed with parental authority. It belongs to political authorities to listen to this request and make the most appropriate response. This response, then, is a political choice. The opening of marriage to same-sex persons is neither imposed by European law nor by any international convention. It is a policy option among others and a true democratic debate is needed to develop the best solution in the interest of everyone. . . .

“In order for this debate to be undertaken it is important first of all to recognize the conflict that exists between the meaning of heterosexual marriage and the contemporary homosexual experience. Without being aware of the issues within these divisions and differences, any real political work is impossible.1 It is a matter of respecting all the players in this debate and to allow each one to reflect more profoundly and to freely express ones convictions. If every reluctance or questioning of this reform of the law of the family is qualified a priori as “homophobic”, there can be had no deep debate. It’s the same when the request of homosexual persons is disqualified a priori. . . .

“The respect of all the players in the debate implies a common listening, a disposition to understand the arguments expressed and a search for shared language. This search for shared language takes for granted, on the part of Catholics, to translate the arguments drawn from Revelation into a language accessible to every open mind. In the same way in this debate which concerns the meaning of civil marriage, there is no place for discussing religious marriage, nor at the outset the connections between civil and religious marriage. It is not a matter of Catholics imposing a religious point of view, but to bring their contribution to this debate as citizens, basing themselves on anthropological and legal arguments. . . .

“If respect for the person is then clearly affirmed, it must also be admitted that homophobia by no means has disappeared from our society. For homosexual persons, the discovery and acceptance of their homosexuality often sets up a complex process. It isn’t always easy to assume the acceptance of one’s homosexuality in his/her professional circles or in his/her family circles. The victims of prejudice have a hard life and attitudes only change slowly, including within our Catholic communities and families. They are, however, called to be at the stage of welcoming every person, whatever may be his/her place on the path of life as child of God. So that which founds, for us Christians, our identity and equality among people is the fact that we are all sons and daughters of God. Unconditional welcoming of persons does not entail approval of all their acts, on the contrary, it recognizes that the human being is bigger than his/her acts. The rejection of homophobia and the welcoming of homosexual persons, such as they are, make up necessary conditions to be able to leave behind superficial reactions and enter into a calm debate around the demand of homosexual persons. . . .

“The diversity of homosexual practices must not hinder us from taking seriously the aspirations of those men and women who wish to engage in a stable bond. The respect and recognition of every person takes on henceforth a primary importance in our society. The discussions about multiculturalism, racism, feminism, and homophobia are underpinned by this demand for recognition which is expressed today in terms of equality. The non-recognition is experienced as oppression or discrimination. . . .

“Society, as well as the Church in her own domain, hears this demand on the part of homosexual persons and can seek an answer. All the while affirming the importance of the difference in sexes and the fact that homosexual partners are different from heterosexual couples because of the impossibility to procreate naturally, we are able to appreciate the desire for a commitment to fidelity in a love relationship: of a sincere attachment, of a deep caring, one for the other, and of a lasting bond that goes far beyond the putdown of homosexual relationships as a simple erotic involvement. . . .

“The Catholic Church calls the faithful to live such a relationship in chastity but she recognizes, beyond the one sexual aspect, the value of solidarity, of the attention and care of the other which can manifest itself in a lasting affective relationship. The Church wants to be welcoming toward homosexual persons and will continue to bring its contribution to the fight against every form of homophobia and discrimination. . . .

“An evolution of the law of family is always possible. But rather than to give in to the pressure of different groups, France would do honor to itself by setting up a true debate in society and by looking for an original solution which would do right to the demand for recognition of homosexual persons without however infringing upon the anthropological foundations of society.”

Can it be that the positive tone in this document is simply a persuasive strategy so that the bishops do not sound so harsh?  Perhaps.  I prefer to take them at their word–and I hope and pray that people will hold them to their word, too, so that these positive attitudes will be backed up by actions.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Denver Catholic Charities Will Not Let Same-Gender Couples Adopt

January 29, 2013

Catholic Charities Archdiocese of DenverIf a civil unions bill becomes law this year in Colorado (and it looks likely that it will), the Archdiocese of Denver’s Catholic Charities has said that it will not place children available for adoption in families headed by same-sex couples.  9News.com reports the statements of two Catholic officials on the matter:

” ‘Our desire is to provide them [children] with a safe and stable environment,’ Tracy Murphy with Catholic Charities of Denver said.

“The debate begins when you examine what the Catholic church means by that.

” ‘The Catholic church understands the best foundation for a child’s life is to be in the home of a father and a mother that is going to raise them in a family environment that is a strong, healthy marriage,’ said Monsignor Tom Fryar, who serves as pastor for the Denver Cathedral.

“By dictionary definition, the church does discriminate when it comes to adoptions– not just against gays but also against single people.

“They only let married couples adopt. Even if the laws change, the church won’t.

” ‘We cannot,’ Fryar said. ‘It goes against our faith.’ “

Catholics who oppose the civil unions law are trying to get a “conscience clause,  which is explained by 9News.com’s  report:

“Last year’s bill contained the words: ‘This article shall not be interpreted to require a child placement agency to place a child for adoption with a couple that has entered into a civil union.’

“Supporters of civil unions begrudgingly included the clause last year, hoping it would help get the bill through the GOP-controlled House. Now that Democrats are in control, they are less inclined to accommodate religious organizations who opposed civil unions when the bill did have the clause.”

Putting the politics aside, it is amazing that Msgr. Fryar would say that adoption policy “goes against our faith.”  This is not a faith issue. Our faith does not say anything about what an ideal family would be for a particular child.  One need only look at Scripture, Catholic history, and the lives of the saints to know that there are many models of families and forms of childcare other than relying on a heterosexual standard.  Furthermore, the children and the parents involved may not necessarily be Catholic.

A Colorado lawmaker commented on the adoption controversy by making reference to segregation laws:

” ‘It sounds like, “we have our water fountains, and there are other water fountains for you,” ‘ Sen. Jessie Ulibarri (D-Commerce City) said.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


New Ways Ministry Is Honored by Brother, Help Thyself

January 28, 2013

Brother, Help Thyself,”  a fund-raising coalition of LGBT groups in the Baltimore-Washington,DC area   distributed their annual grants this past weekend, and New Ways Ministry was the grateful recipient of a generous grant of $8,125.

The money will be used for two upcoming projects and a new piece of office equipment:

1)  a workshop day in the Baltimore-Washington area on transgender issues;

2) a retreat day in the Baltimore-Washington area for people living with HIV/AIDS and people who minister with them;

3) a new photocopy machine to replace our cranky 16-year old one.

Mark Clark (left) presents the Billy Collison Award to New Ways Ministry's Sister Jeannine Gramick and Francis DeBernardo.

Mark Clark (left) presents the Billy Collison Award to New Ways Ministry’s Sister Jeannine Gramick and Francis DeBernardo.

During the ceremony, New Ways Ministry was surprised to learn that we also received “Brother, Help Thyself’s” (BHT) cherished “Billy Collison Award.”  The award, named in memory of a BHT volunteer who served in a variety of leadership positions for the group, as well as being an active volunteer in the DC area.  The award is given “For representing the LGBTQ community so well and with so little, thus truly embodying Bill Collison, a true champion of the underdog.”

In presenting the award to New Ways Ministry’s Co-Founder, Sister Jeannine Gramick, and Executive Director Francis DeBernardo, BHT Treasurer Mark Clark said:

“New Ways Ministry does what some might assume cannot be done–build bridges between the official Roman Catholic church hierarchy and the LGBT community, training people to minister to those who want to be fully themselves in their spiritual tradition and in their sexuality.”

Mark Clark accepting the Anthony J. Bacharach Award.

Mark Clark accepting the Anthony J. Bacharach Award.

In accepting the award, DeBernardo said he was “dumbfounded, humbled, and honored,” and that New Ways Ministry pledged to keep the spirit of Billy Collison’s altruism for the underdog alive.

At the close of the day, BHT Treasurer Mark Clark was himself the recipient of the Anthony J. Bacharach Award for distinguished volunteer service to BHT and several other DC-based LGBT organizations, including New Ways Ministry and Dignity.

New Ways Ministry is so grateful to the tireless work of the members of Brother, Help Thyself.  Their unrelenting generosity is helping so many LGBT organizations in the Baltimore-Washington area.  The work they do benefits so many and makes our world a better place.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


CAMPUS CHRONICLES: MLK Day Marred by Anti-Gay Vandalism at Boston College Law

January 27, 2013

Members of the Lambda Law Students Association at Boston College returned to their organization’s office after the Martin Luther King holiday to find that the place had been vandalized and the walls painted with homophobic slurs. The law students’ discovery triggered an  investigation, still ongoing, by the campus police at the Jesuit school. It is unknown who committed the vandalism or why, but students involved with Lambda are now attempting to create a positive outcome from this chilling incident.

A student leader 0f Lambda Law, an organization working on LGBT advocacy in the legal system, was shocked by the incident, but had high praise for the school’s response to the situation.  The Boston Globe reported:

“Jason Triplett, a Lambda co-chair said he never thought something like this would happen at BC Law School, and that he has always felt safe on campus.

“‘No one can believe that it’s someone at BC law, we believe it was a BC outsider who was looking for some trouble,’ he said.

“Triplett said Vincent Rougeau, dean of the BC Law School, left a faculty meeting the moment he was notified about the graffiti. By lunchtime, the dean had written a letter to the community. And by the afternoon he had consulted with students from Lambda to see how they were doing.

“‘The administration responded immediately,’ he said. ‘Everyone involved is really shocked by this.’”

Triplett went on to question whether this was a targeted attack and doubted anyone in the BC Law community committed it, noting that the law school’s campus shared space with undergraduate freshmen at the institution. Even amid the shock and questions, the leadership of Lambda Law Student Association is already acting to redefine this vandalism. Above the Law , a news service for the legal world, reports on a statement released from the organization (warning: the linked article includes a photo of the graffiti, much of which is vulgar, offensive, and sexually explicit, which may be upsetting to some readers):

“The BC Law community has been overwhelmingly supportive in the wake of this act. An act like this is shocking because EVERYONE at BC law, from fellow students to professors and the administration, has been so inclusive and supportive of our organization and the individuals in our group. Our group is taking this and turning it into a positive thing. We don’t want the person who did this to get attention for her or his negative act. We have asked the administration to not remove the hateful graffiti yet; instead, we are holding a meeting to solicit ideas about how we can turn this into a positive thing for BC Law and the LGBT members of Lambda Law.

“Just as an example, one of the ideas we have already been given by one of our members is to use the words as a backdrop for a dedication to the gay rights movement… posting articles, pictures, and quotes on top of them that show our fight for equal rights from Stonewall to the President’s historic inclusion of gay rights in her inauguration speech yesterday… to show where we have come from and yet how far we still have to go.”

New Ways Ministry applauds the resolve of the students at Boston College, who are fostering community in the wake of this hate crime, and the Boston College Law School administration, whose decisive actions have helped to sustain an LGBT-friendly campus in a trying moment.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


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