Fortunate Families: The New Blog on the Block

April 30, 2013

fortunate_families2Bondings 2.0 welcomes a new friend to the blogosphere: the Fortunate Families Blog! This new internet resource is a new online community for the Fortunate Families (FF) network, which brings together Catholic parents of LGBT people for mutual support and advocacy for equality.

The two editors are FF board members Deb Word and Tony Garascia.  In their first post, they describe the blog’s mission and scope:

“We hope to use this blog to keep you up to date with what’s going on at Fortunate Families and to give Catholic Parents of lgbtq kids a place to interact. Share this space with your family and friends and PLEASE comment.  We want this page to be interactive, and we hope to have a new post each week!”

The blog has gotten off to a great start.  For example, one post lists the signs of hope that Catholic parents are seeing in the area of LGBT issues.  Here’s a few from their list:

  • Young people, young people, young people.  The fact that so many young adults are open and affirming of the LGBT community.
  • Change happens over time, this is hopeful.  We hold the tension of being urgent and patient at the same time.  Requires a deeper spirituality to do that.
  •  Many more Catholic parishes are now hosting groups for LGBT ministry.
  • New, younger parents of LGBT children are getting involved.
  • More people of other faiths are getting involved in LGBT issues and equality.
  • Even though many of us have been singing the same song of openness and affirmation for a long time there seems to be a lot more people singing with us.

Another post offers a profile of Joan Abele, who is one of FF’s Listening Parents Network, a group of Catholic parents who have been trained to be listeners and accompaniers of parents who may just be learning they have an LGBT child or who may be experiencing a special challenge with their faith or family.

This blog looks like it will be a great addition to the already flourishing online conversations taking place for those interested in different aspects of the Catholic LGBT world.  Check out Bondings 2.0’s blogroll, in the column to the right of this post, for a variety of Catholic websites and blogs on LGBT and other church reform issues.   To learn more about Fortunate Families as an organization, you can visit their website.

Remember, too, that blogs–whether the Fortunate Families one, Bondings 2.0, or any other one–are social media.  As such, they are not just providers of information, but opportunities for discussion.  So, you are encouraged when visiting any blog site, including this one, to make your opinions and reactions known by posting in the “Comments” section provided for each post.

Welcome to the blogosphere, Fortunate Families blog!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


El Salvador Hosts First National Conference on LGBT Human Rights

April 29, 2013

On Palm SundayBondings 2.0 promised a full report on the recently held first national conference on LGBT human rights in El Salvador.   New Ways Ministry’s Sister Jeannine Gramick, co-founder, and Francis DeBernardo, executive director, participated as speakers on faith issues.

This week, The National Catholic Reporter printed an essay by DeBernardo, reporting on his impressions of this historic meeting.  He begins by describing the mood at the event:

Nelson Pineda, a volunteer from Aspidh Arcoiris Trans de El Salvador, speaks with conference attendees in front of a memorial to trans women who have been murdered in El Salvador in the past decade. Aspidh Arcoiris is a Salvadoran non-profit organization that works primarily with transgender, transsexual and transvestite individuals in the areas of human rights and HIV prevention. (Courtesy of ALDES El Salvador)

Nelson Pineda, a volunteer from Aspidh Arcoiris Trans de El Salvador, speaks with conference attendees in front of a memorial to trans women who have been murdered in El Salvador in the past decade. Aspidh Arcoiris is a Salvadoran non-profit organization that works primarily with transgender, transsexual and transvestite individuals in the areas of human rights and HIV prevention. (Courtesy of ALDES El Salvador)

“On the day after the first Jesuit and the first Latin American was elected pope, I was fortunate to be on the University of Central America campus, a Jesuit school in El Salvador. The excitement on campus that day was electric and the student body was abuzz with energy.

“But the excitement was not about the new pope. That news seemed like an afterthought compared to the event beginning that day on campus.

Gathered in the school’s Segundo Montes, SJ, Auditorium (named for one of the six Salvadoran Jesuit martyrs assassinated at the school in 1989), some 350 people took part in El Salvador’s first national conference on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender human rights. The March 14-15 conference, “Felicidad y Diversidad Sexual como Derechos Humanos” (“Happiness and Sexual Diversity as Human Rights”), was sponsored by ALDES El Salvador (Asistencia Legal para la Diversidad Sexual de El Salvador). It brought together lawyers, legal scholars, politicians, faith leaders and LGBT advocates to move forward El Salvador’s burgeoning LGBT human rights movement. By the end of the second day, more than 1,000 people had participated in this meeting in San Salvador, the nation’s capital. My colleague, longtime Catholic LGBT advocate Loretto Sr. Jeannine Gramick, and I were part of the program, presenting the topic of “Faith Communities as Promoters of Human Rights.”

“That first morning, the atrium echoed with voices filled with enthusiasm to begin the two days of meetings. The registration line snaked around the reception area and the aisles in the auditorium were filled with people sitting on the steps. Strangers welcomed one another, eager to meet the people with whom they would be sharing this event. In Spanish and English, people greeted each other, not letting even language become a barrier to the camaraderie.”

The conference organization was a joint effort between U.S. and El Salvador personnel, and it was significant that it was being hosted by a Catholic campus:

“The conference was a joint effort between activists and legal specialists in the United States and El Salvador. Ana Montano, a Salvadoran woman who is an immigration and LGBT rights lawyer in San Francisco, was aided in conference preparation by John Marrin and Danielle Mackey, two organizers from the United States who live in El Salvador. Lawyers and legal scholars from both nations presented at the meeting, discussing ways that professionals in both countries could help one another.

“Though faith was only a small segment of the conference’s program, the participants were keenly aware that the nation’s leading Catholic university was hosting the event. Omar Serrano, the campus’ vice rector for social outreach, welcomed the conference, saying that it was “an honor” to host the program, and acknowledged that church institutions could do more for LGBT rights, including “asking forgiveness” for previous inaction. All attendees were keenly aware of how faith groups have helped to spread homophobia; being welcomed to a Catholic campus was an important positive sign that was not lost on the participants.”

DeBernardo describes the human rights situation for LGBT people  in El Salvador:

At a conference prayer service, Sister Jeannine Gramick lights candles in memory of LGBT people murdered in El Salvador.

At a conference prayer service, Sister Jeannine Gramick lights candles in memory of LGBT people murdered in El Salvador.

“The human rights situation for LGBT people in El Salvador is as bleak as it was in the United States 40 years ago. Violence, murder, ostracism and economic deprivation are all too common for those who choose to be public about their sexuality and gender identity. The ‘machismo’ factor in Latin culture augments the repression sexual minorities experience.

Because people are fearful of coming forward after a violation of their rights, cases do not get prosecuted, and statistics reflect this underreporting. That the atmosphere is still so repressive made the fact that the conference was happening all the more remarkable. And the courage of the presenters to discuss their work and personal stories publicly was all the more inspiring. An American participant told me, ‘People in El Salvador ‘come out’ at the risk of their own lives. In the U.S., we ‘come out’ at the risk of temporary hurt feelings.’ “

“Though the social atmosphere may seem to someone from the United States as if El Salvador were ‘behind the times,’ in some ways it is way ahead of its large and liberal Northern neighbor. For example, transgender issues were front and center at this conference, definitely a main part of the agenda. When I attend conferences in the U.S. on LGBT topics, transgender issues often feel like an afterthought. Similarly, intersex people (those born with genitalia and secondary characteristics of both genders) were also well-represented — something that I have seen only once at meetings in the U.S.”

And the conference ended on a joyful and optimistic note:

“By the end of the conference, Montano, the emcee, joyously announced that during the two days, the first Salvadoran lawyer agreeing to work on LGBT rights cases on a pro bono basis came forward — a necessity given the economic challenges of the populace. Montano was optimistic that this lawyer would be the first of many more. She was also optimistic about the future of the conference. Her words of farewell to participants: ‘Hasta el año próximo’ — ‘Until next year.’ “

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


‘Known Lesbian’ Reaches Out to Cardinal Without LGBT Friends

April 28, 2013

In mid-April, Bondings 2.0 reported on a South African cardinal who claimed to know of no LGBT individuals personally, and thus rejected any claims he could be homophobic. Now, a self-ascribed “known lesbian” has written to Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier to challenge his statements, and, in between, presents a novel argument for why Catholic prelates fight so fiercely to deny LGBT equality.

Melanie Judge’s piece was published in the Mail & Guardian, a leading African paper, under the title, “Hi, Cardinal Napier. I’m lesbian.” She begins by questioning the cardinal’s involvement on issues of sexuality if he knows of no LGBT individuals:

“For someone who doesn’t know any homosexuals, you’ve spent a considerable amount of time concerning yourself with the lives of lesbian and gay people – specifically our rights to equality and protection under the law.

“If you don’t know us, and then by implication there aren’t any of us in your church, it seems queer that you would assume such an active position in denying us our right to rights.”

Ms. Judge is not content to say that Napier is simply anti-gay.   Instead, she believes his staunch opposition to South African legislation that would legalize civil unions is merely an attempt to preserve his power, and the power of the Catholic Church, that

“…entrenches a version of social relations and human sexuality based on male supremacy, the subordination of women, and the abjection of homosexuality….Perhaps your investment in the lives of sinful others is driven by an interest in protecting that power and the ideology that props it up. If so, I can understand why you’d rail against gays, lesbians and women who challenge your ideology.”

She continues by shedding light on Napier’s attempt to make LGBT people invisible, which contradicts the Church’s call to acknowledge, welcome, and include LGBT people:

“As you would know, a powerful way to neutralise nonconforming people whose very existence challenges your church’s prescription for human interaction is to make them invisible. To deny the very existence of gay and lesbian people is to render them unknowable and unseeable. Excluding people in this way sends a message to lesbian and gay people in your church (many of whom I know and see, and I’m not even Catholic) that they will be not be acknowledged by your leadership. To deny recognition is to deny human dignity, a strategy at the heart of homophobia.”

Ms. Judge’s comments examine the desperate attempts by Catholic bishops to maintain their privilege in a society structured around heterosexual relationships and male dominance, adding the unique perspective of a South African to her critique of oppression:

“Sexuality and gender were heavily regulated and constrained under apartheid and colonialism. Women and queers ‘knew their place’ and ‘suffered’ quietly and invisibly. Now we see a burgeoning of sexual and gender diversity – it’s exciting stuff, Cardinal. It’s a sign of a plural and democratising society in which ­difference is no longer synonymous with dysfunction.

“Shunning difference and enforcing conformity is how the church has asserted its control over populations for centuries. But this unchecked grip on power has been slipping in the face of democratic pressures. I feel for you, Cardinal; it’s hard to compete with the divine prospect of freedom and equality…

“Queers and women are laying claim to the resources, recognition and representations of citizenship – both inside and outside the church. It’s the stuff of democracy and of human rights. Still, none so blind as those who will not see.”

Melanie Judge respectfully confronts Cardinal Napier for both the ignorance his statement contains and the the underlying causes driving his anti-LGBT efforts.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson Chastises Archbishop on Communion Issue

April 27, 2013
Bishop Gene Robinson

Bishop Gene Robinson

Bishop Gene Robinson, the Episcopal Church’s first openly gay bishop, has criticized Archbishop Allen Vigneron, the Roman Catholic head of the Archdiocese of Detroit, for the recent comments had made suggesting that Catholics who support marriage equality should not receive communion.  Bondings 2.0 reported earlier on Vigneron’s statement, as well as two responses from Detroit’s retired Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Gumbleton.  You can read Bishop Gumbleton’s responses, which contradict Vigneron, here and here.

In an essay on the Washington Post’s “On Faith” blog, Robinson provides Vigneron with a theology lesson on the Eucharist:

“I believe that using Communion as such a manipulative tool surely profanes the sacrament. Perhaps these Catholic leaders should revisit their church’s theology of the Eucharist. Reception of the body and blood of Christ at Communion is God’s gift to God’s people, not a reward for right behavior. We receive Communion not because we are worthy of it, but because God’s offers us the body and blood of Christ despite our unworthiness.”

Robinson points out that excluding people from communion seems be based on arbitrary judgments:

“While some are seeking to withhold Communion from pro-choice and pro-marriage-equality Catholics, I have heard no call to withhold Communion from priests and bishops who have engaged in horrific sexual abuse against vulnerable children, nor their enablers. Bernard Cardinal Law, whose administration actively facilitated the moving around of known pedophile priests to other unsuspecting parishes, has not been denied Communion, but instead been rewarded with a prestigious church in Rome.”

The Catholic hierarchy is dangerously pursuing a path which separates them further and further from the faith-experience of Catholics:

“American Catholics have a long and honorable history of discerning their own consciences in matters of human life and dignity. For instance, 98 percent of Catholic women have gone against church law and used birth control. Indeed, individual conscience is a core value in Catholic teaching. It seems that Catholic laity are refusing to be treated like morally ignorant children who cannot think for themselves. At a very minimum, Catholic laity (and many of their local clergy) know that these issues should be discussed in an open and faithful way. They also know that people of faith will disagree on some of the ramifications of trying to live out the Gospel.”

Robinson concludes with an important reminder for bishops and laity alike:

“If those who have fallen short of God’s moral desires for humankind are to be denied Communion, then none of us can in good conscience receive the body and blood of Christ. The good news message of Jesus Christ is that despite our failure to be all that God would want us to be, we are all welcome at the Lord’s Table anyway. Until the Roman Catholic hierarchy gets that right, they might prayerfully consider quieting their judgmental rhetoric and contemplating the humility Jesus suggested as a value to be lived by all.”

The Archdiocese of Detroit had no comment on Robinson’s essay.  According to the Detroit Free Press:

“Asked for a response and to describe the reaction that Vigneron experienced in the wake of his comments, an Archdiocese spokesman Wednesday declined giving details.

“ ‘With respect, we’ll not be offering a response to the op-ed or discuss the responses people have given to us,’ said spokesman Joe Kohn. ‘We don’t really keep a scorecard of those types of things anyhow. Any individual who has a specific concern or question, we just try to answer as best we can.’ ”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Cardinal Dolan: All Are Welcome, But. . .

April 26, 2013
Cardinal Timothy Dolan

Cardinal Timothy Dolan

Cardinal Timothy Dolan made headlines at the beginning of April because he acknowledged that the church could do better in terms of outreach to lesbian and gay people.   Commentators all over the U.S. offered him suggestions as to how he could begin better outreach. A month later, though, and Dolan has not shown any evidence of following any of this advice.  Instead, he  has offered a blog post on hospitality which offers, quite frankly, a bizarre notion of welcome, and he particularly mentions lesbian and gay people in this unusual message.

On his personal blog, Dolan recounts a story from his childhood when his playmate, Freddie, was invited to dinner, but first admonished to wash his hands before eating.   While he claims that as a child he was excited that his friend was welcome, he also notes that he learned the lesson that “All are welcome, but. . . .”  And he thinks that is a good lesson to learn.  His words:

“Simple enough . . . common sense . . . you are a most welcome and respected member now of our table, our household, dad was saying, but, there are a few very natural expectations this family has.  Like, wash your hands!…

“So it is with the supernatural family we call the Church:all are welcome!

“But, welcome to what?  To a community that will love and respect you, but which has rather clear expectations defining it, revealed by God in the Bible, through His Son, Jesus, instilled in the human heart, and taught by His Church.”

I don’t know about you, but I don’t find this notion to be welcoming at all.  I find it condescending.  Dolan continues:

“We love and respect everyone . . . but that doesn’t necessarily mean we love and respect their actions.

“Who  a person is?  We love and respect him or her . . .

“What a person does?  Truth may require that we tell the person we love that such actions are not consonant with what God has revealed.

“We can never judge a person . . . but, we can judge a person’s actions.”

So, Dolan wants an escape clause:  he still wants to be able to sit in judgment about something.  Humans judge.  It’s part of our condition.  But when we are trying to offer a welcome, we do best to check our judgments, and instead observe and listen in holy dialogue.  We do best to take off our shoes on the holy ground of someone else’s life and experiences.

Dolan doesn’t see it this way.  In his view, he has the right to tell people that they are dirty, and then the presumption of calling that a welcome:

“Freddie and I were loved and welcomed at our family table, but the clear expectation was, no dirty hands!”

And then, most stingingly, Dolan offers examples of people that the church wants to welcome while at the same time standing in judgment of :  alcoholics,  greedy businessmen, exploitative capitalists, women who’ve had an abortion, and. . . . lesbian and gay people.    Does he not see how offensive that notion is to include lesbian and gay people with those who are physically challenged or who have moral choices to make?  Being gay or lesbian is not an activity or an action or a choice one makes.

Another offensive angle on this commentary is the Scripture story that Dolan uses to justify his prejudice–the woman caught in adultery (John 8: 1-11):

Jesus did it best.  Remember the woman caught in adultery?  The elders were going to stone her.  At the words of Jesus, they walked away.

“Is there no one left to condemn you?”  the Lord tenderly asked the accused woman.

“No one, Sir,” she whispered.

“Neither do I condemn you,” Jesus concluded.  “Now go, but sin no more.”

Hate the sin; love the sinner . . .

Another lesson to be learned from this story is that religious people can often let their penchant for judgment get the better of them and forget that love and welcome are more important than judgment.  And also that Jesus does not condemn her, even before he knows whether or not she will continue her patterns.

I recommend to Dolan (and to others) to read the ground-breaking book, Jesus, An Historical Approximation (Convivium Press, 2009), in which Spanish theologian Jose Pagola, proves the idea that Jesus’ model of ministry was to welcome all people–even those the religious authorities called sinners–and tell them that they are loved by an all-gracious God, regardless of whether or not they will decide to refrain from what others might consider sin.   That  is what welcome is all about.  Welcome with no “buts” or conditions.

Cardinal Dolan has a long way to go to learn about welcoming not only LGBT people, but all people, too.  We all have to continually learn this lesson for ourselves, and practice it fearlessly and generously.

New Ways Ministry repeats its offer to meet with Cardinal Dolan to help him understand effective ways of pastoral outreach to LGBT people.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


In Strange Move, Bishop Returns Petitions to Ousted Gay Catholic

April 26, 2013
Nicholas Coppola holding a copy of the petition.

Nicholas Coppola holding a copy of the petition.

This is the story of one of the strangest moves that I’ve ever heard of coming from a bishop.  A little over a week ago, we reported that Nicholas Coppola, a gay man who had been dismissed from his volunteer ministries at a Catholic parish on Long Island because he married his partner, delivered a petition with over 18,000 signatures to Bishop William Murphy of the Rockville Centre diocese, asking to be re-instated.

This week, we’ve learned that Bishop Murphy has returned the petition and signatures, with a cover letter which simply stated:  “From your faithful Roman Catholic bishop.”  A copy of the letter can be viewed here.

GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) reported this development on their blog  this week.  They quote Coppola’s reaction to this latest development:

Bishop William Murphy

Bishop William Murphy

“I really don’t understand what sort of message Bishop Murphy is trying to send. Is he no longer listening to the voices of the faithful? I have more questions than anything now.”

The strangeness of the note baffles the mind.  Is the bishop being vindictive?  Pretentious? Humorous? Sarcastic?  The move is certainly unprofessional, and clearly not pastoral.  The message it sends is an authoritarian one, not one of responding to human needs or concerns.

The Washington Post notes that the diocese confirmed that the letter did indeed come from the bishop:

“Sean Dolan, a spokesperson for Murphy, on Thursday confirmed that the bishop had sent the 300 sheets of paper with the signatures back to Coppola.

“In a statement, Dolan said the petition and the way its delivery was staged for the media ‘was designed to misinform the press and the intended recipient,’ and was ‘only designed to promote the organizations behind this spectacle.’

“ ‘All legitimate correspondence sent to the Office of the Bishop either by email or regular U.S. Mail is responded to,’ Dolan said in a statement. ‘Online petitions of this nature lack legitimacy (and) are not considered correspondence and therefore do not warrant a response.’ “

On-line petitions are a new form of media and expression, but they are now ubiquitous, and certainly a legitimate form of communication.  The diocese disregards such communications at its peril, and will continue to be out of touch with the real world.

GLAAD points out an interesting church law fact about the diocese’ response:

“According to canon law, the bishops must respond to letters that have been delivered. Later the same day that Nicholas delivered the petitions, the diocese issued a media statement reaffirming Nicholas’ ouster. It is unclear if returning the petition is the official response, per canon law.”

U.S. Catholic magazine has opined on the serious pastoral error that Murphy has made:

“Whether or not Coppola should have been removed from ministry, and whether Catholics who enter into a civil union or same-sex marriage with their partner should be allowed to participate in the life of a parish, are questions that will surely get a lot of arguments on both sides. But the fact that many Catholics were upset with the way Coppola was treated isn’t something that should just be ignored–a good bishop should at least engage with his flock and, if not to debate the decisions he’s made, should at the very least be open to explaining his reasoning in a pastoral manner. If nothing else, the bishop should see it as a teachable moment rather than something to turn away from and refuse to acknowledge.”

Coppola has a second petition campaign going in which he asks New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan to have a meal with his family.  On Easter Sunday, Dolan stated on a television talk show that the church needs to do better outreach to gay and lesbian people.  You can sign the petition here.

GLAAD’s Ross Murray, director of news and faith initiatives, stressed the importance of this second petition:

“Nicholas Coppola is a faithful Catholic who loves his church, and he is now being treated like a threat by his own bishop. Now more than ever, it is vital that Cardinal Dolan break bread with Nicholas to hear how he is being treated by the church that he loves so much.”

New Ways Ministry urges you to sign this petition.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


In the Wake of Discrimination, Carla Hale Hopes Students See Love & Support

April 26, 2013

Carla Hale

After continued rejection from high school administrators, Carla Hale is speaking directly to her increasing supporters and to those student whom she seeks to support. Bondings 2.0 previously reported on Ms. Hale’s firing after a female partner was listed in her mother’s obituary, and on the growing pressure from many quarters on Bishop Watterson High School to reinstate the 19-year veteran educator.

The teacher spoke at a press conference, responding to Principal Marian Hutson’s denial on Tuesday of Hale’s request to return to the high school, which was reported on by The Columbus Dispatch. Of the firing, she said:

“’I was informed that I was not terminated because I was gay, but … the spousal relationship that was publicized in the newspaper, which happened to be an obituary, is against church teaching,’ she said. Her attorney, Thomas Tootle, said he sees little distinction between the two.

“Hale also will file a complaint with the Columbus Community Relations Commission under a city ordinance that makes it a crime for employers to discriminate based on sexual orientation.”

Hale is appealing to the Catholic teachers’ union as well, but her message extends beyond her desire to resume teaching at Bishop Watterson. LGBTQ Nation reports:

“Hale said the negative message of her firing has been outweighed many times over by the positive outpouring that followed. She urged LGBT kids to focus instead on what has happened afterward in Columbus and around the nation.

“’I’m hoping that, possibly for the first time in many of their lives, they actually see the love and support that’s being generated,’ Hale said.

“’It’s one of those subjects that can’t ever be discussed (in Catholic schools), but I’m hoping now they can actually see what this whole situation has created, that there is a lot more support out there than they could have even imagined,’ she said.

“’Hopefully that’s what stays and that’s what endures and continues on from this whole situation.’”

A Change.org petition has garnered over 60,000 signatures, supporters have a dedicated hashtag on Twitter, #halestorm, and it is reported that the high school’s faculty are fully in support of Hale. Bondings 2.0 will continue updating on this story as Carla Hale struggles as a church worker to be treated justly by the Church.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


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