Imagining Hope

President Obama delivering his inaugural address.

President Obama delivering his inaugural address.

Inauguration times are truly times of hope and joy.   Yesterday, I was down on the National Mall in Washington, DC, to see President Barack Obama and Vice President Joseph Biden take the oaths of office once again.

The hope and joy in the crowd was palpable.  Bursts of applause broke out after every few sentences during the President’s inaugural address.   Perhaps no applause was greater (especially from me) especially when Obama uttered the following words:

“We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall.”

I have been working in the field of Catholic LGBT ministry for over 20 years, and it dawned on me yesterday, that 20 years ago, even in my wildest dreams, I would never have guessed or even hoped  that I would hear a reference to Stonewall in a presidential inaugural address.  But, there it was: the first time ever that LGBT people or issues were mentioned in such a speech.

But it got better.

A short time after the Stonewall reference, Obama added the following words:

“It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began … Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law — for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.”

Not only a second reference to LGBT equality, but a specific, supportive message of marriage equality!  I could hardly believe my ears.

All of this was on top of the well-publicized fact before the inauguration that Richard Blanco, the poet chosen to write verse for the occasion, is an openly gay man.

As I reflected last night on the day’s events,  I thought of how much hope such milestones provide.   What is most important for me is that such moments help to fill our imaginations with hope.  As Catholics who work for LGBT justice and equality, it may seem far-fetched to imagine a bishop or the pope saying such things as Obama did yesterday.  But 20 years ago, it was equally unimaginable that we would hear what we heard yesterday.  And 40 years ago, one would have probably been thought insane to imagine such a prospect.

So, let’s pray in gratitude today for the hope that Obama’s message gives us as Catholic advocates for LGBT people.  Let’s give our hope a chance to be renewed and provide our imaginations a chance to be expanded to include impossible dreams.  And let’s pray for the courage to work to make those impossible dreams come true.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

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10 Responses to Imagining Hope

  1. Judith E. Navetta says:

    I am so proud that President Obama had the courage to do the correct thing and speak out for my daughter and all of the LGBT community!

  2. Lori Judkins says:

    I would love to know how you do it. I have only really been in the fight for 1 1/2 yrs and am feeling downtrodden. I’m not sure how to keep a stiff upper lip. It does help to read this blog everyday. Thank you!

    • I feel that I am in a very fortunate position, and I thank God for it every day. My job at New Ways Ministry allows me to see a LOT of good that is happening at the grassroots and middle manager levels in the church. This perspective helps to keep me optimistic, because I see so much GOOD change there. I know that my position is unique, but it is what gives me a good outlook.

      Francis DeBernardo

  3. wmfcblog says:

    As we listened to President Obama’s address, as he spoke of marriage equality for all, my husband and I turned to each other in shock. “Did he really just say that?”, we said to each other simultaneously. I am so proud of our President, and the people of my state, and the people of this country for coming out in support of justice and equality for everyone.

  4. Linda Karle-Nelson says:

    What a singular, significant moment in the struggle for LGBT equality! As a mother of a gay man, I am thrilled to have heard those words of our President making history and moving us forward toward a world that is changing more quickly than we had dared to hope.

  5. ermadurk says:

    “We the people…” many of us have been inspired, but all of us citizens have certainly been challenged. Political discourse in the market-place is too often marked by extremism, ignorance of facts, fear of others because of race, creed o…See more

  6. Casey Lopata says:

    Nothing inspires hope more than reviewing the amazing history of progress for LGBT equality in this country, both in society and in lay Catholic support. Well said, Frank!

  7. Tom Luce says:

    Yes, historic, uniting the causes of women, Blacks, and LGBTQ’s by citing their cornerstones in our landscape, Pres. Obama has marked his/our places in history. Wow!

    Now Francis, I have to beg your indulgence, that of New Ways Ministry certainly, for using this venue to be working out the yanking of my conscience for an internal awakening to dissenting within the Catholic church in a 21st century style revolution. The history of Paul dissenting with Peter, the laity with the hierarchy regarding the Nicene creed, and all the other dissensions down the ages like Galileo to mention only one certainly does not have to be repeated. I’m talking about the hate, the physical violence, killings, crusades, every manner of way to silence dissent. We have learned better certainly. We actually have learned to sit down with other religions better than we sit down with each other within the Catholic church.

    Yes, a large percentage of Catholics understand, if not agree with the LGBTQ truths. And in any number of local parishes we see same gender couples even with children being welcomed. But we still have the “intrinsically disordered”, the “depraved act” language in the catechism and other writings officially endorsed. And I for one cannot rest until all that is changed. O.K. in the meantime what do we do? I say we find ways just as the ecumenical movement developed in the 60’s with Cardinal Bea and John XXIII–“do the least harm.” No more crusades, killings. Embrace one another in love.

    No, love doesn’t require silence –you know the three things we keep silent about around the family table, politics, religion and sex. Silence is tantamount to killing when it comes to truth seeking. In any given parish on a Sunday it should be clear who is LGBTQ and our allies, not because we wear rainbow sashes or post placards on the doors or do marches. But because our loving community/communion has worked out a way for people with conscientious convictions to be able to prayerfully agree to one another’s truth and continue to lovingly participate in the church’s mission of truth and justice for all.

    Why should my priest classmates who are now retired have to keep silent about their convictions concerning LGBTQ at the risk of losing their pensions, their health care? I lost mine immediately in 1968 when I simply wrote out my conviction that for pastoral integrity the church should have married men as priests. No discussion, no seeking to salvage the training, the commitment of a lifetime of service from someone like me. I wasn’t condemning celibacy. I was pulling sexuality into the circle of holiness. O.K. I’m a bit slow because I wasn’t calling for women yet… I was “laicized” (a purely legal fiction about the nature of the sacrament of ordination) against my will and relegated along with thousands of others to the sorry lot of those who couldn’t control our sexuality, or as some apologists say, “simply because they fell in love.”

    What I’m in the process of exploring isn’t any theology of sexuality–that is being done magnificently by so many other great minds and institutions. I’m just looking for a way to draw the heroism out of us pew Catholics to stand up (or sit as the case may be) for our consciences. Not a truce of silence, but a positive movement to do the least harm to one another. There is Jesus’ own non-violent witness to begin with. And yes we will have to invent ways to show in our faces and bodies and with our mouths that we do accept those who are convinced we are one of the scourges of the planet. We need to be confident that we have every right/responsibility to remain in communion with Jesus, avoiding costly wasteful schisms.

    Thank God we have the movement leaders and multitudes that brought Barack Obama to be a milestone president. Can’t we do something within our church that will stop the ongoing hatred in places like Uganda, in the blogsites of those identified as Catholic where such vituperation in the name of salvation is written against us? Or can’t we bear witness to the harm of scathing pronouncements by Pope Benedict XVI? One innocent child or inquiring adult is one too many to add to the list of victims of this dissent of ours.

    Note: Francis, can’t you allow my blogsite address to be available here to those who want to chat about “the least harm”? – leastharmDOTweeblyDOTcom

    • Terence says:

      Thanks, Tom. I’ve deciphered and followed your link – with great interest. We share many of the same concerns. I’d like to see myself as one of your “allies beyond Oakland” – and across the pond. I’d like to stay in touch. Write to me if you like at terence@queerchurch.com (my own site is http://queeringthechurch.com ).

      I’ll also be in touch through Least Harm. Right now, from a South African in Surrey, UK, at 4:45am – good night.

  8. Sharon Brady says:

    Thanks for a beautiful message, Frank. This really adds to HOPE!

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