National Catholic Committee on Scouting Supports Boy Scouts’ Inclusive Policy

May 31, 2013

National Catholic Committee on ScoutingThe National Catholic Committee on Scouting (NCCS) has announced that it will support the Boy Scouts of America’s new policy to allow gay youth to become scouts.

Religion News Service (RNS)  reports on a letter that NCCS Chairman Edward P. Martin sent to Catholic scout leaders in which he said that his committee found no contradiction between the Scouts’ new policy and church teaching:

“ ‘We should be encouraged that the change in BSA’s youth membership standard is not in conflict with Catholic teaching,’ Martin said, asking that ‘Catholic Scouters and chartered organization heads not rush to judgment.’ ”

RNS also described a bit of the process that NCCS went through to arrive at this conclusion:

“Martin said that in the week following the vote, he and his colleagues consulted with the BSA, with other faith-based Scouting groups and with Catholic experts, and weighed feedback on social media before declaring themselves satisfied that the new policy would not conflict with Catholic teaching.

“One of the experts Martin cited was Edward Peters, a canon lawyer popular with church conservatives who wrote that while he disliked the new policy it was not contrary to church doctrine.”

Bondings 2.0 readers may remember that Peters was involved with Detroit Archbishops Vigneron’s statement that Catholics who support marriage equality should not present themselves for communion.

The NCCS letter details their understanding of what the new policy means

 

  • “A youth will not be prevented from receiving a rank award or religious emblem simply for being gay.
  • “A youth will not need to hide the fact that he is gay if he doesn’t want to.
  • “A youth thinking or knowing he is gay should not be afraid that he will be bullied or expelled by the Scouting community by disclosing his sexual orientation.”

There had already been some discussion about whether Catholic dioceses would support the new policy, with different statements made by different places.  One pastor in Bremerton, Washington. had already announced that it would cancel Scouting programs in the parish.

The NCCS’s support is not binding on local bishops who can decide on their own policy.  Accoring to RNS:

“Each bishop can decide whether the new membership policy is acceptable. Guglielmone has written to every U.S. bishop, and Martin said the NCCS would develop a plan to ensure ‘a consistent message is delivered to dioceses, parishes, Catholic Scouters and the media’ on the church’s views about allowing gay Scouts.”

New Ways Ministry applauds the NCCS statement of support, and particularly the fact that they were able to elicit endorsement from one of the country’s most conservative canon law scholars.  We urge all Catholic dioceses to support the Boy Scouts’ new policy, and we hope and pray that very soon the Scouting organization will also allow gay men to be scout leaders, which the new policy did not cover.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related posts:

May 30, 2013: Anti-Gay Letter from Catholic Priest Is Inadequate Response for Boy Scouts

May 24, 2013: National Committee and Local Dioceses Begin to React Boy Scouts’ Decision

May 24, 2013: Catholic Bishops Should Go At Least As Far As Mormons Have on Gay Scouting Policy

May 23, 2013: Why the U.S. Catholic Bishops Should Support Gay Boy Scouts

May 18, 2013: Boy Scouts’ Proposed Change Finds Catholics on Both Sides of the Debate

 


NEWS NOTES: May 31, 2013

May 31, 2013

News NotesHere are some items that you may find of interest:

1) Bishop Gabriel Malzaire, of Dominica, a Carribean island nation, has called for the decriminalization of homosexuality there, and issued a call to end all forms of violence to gay and lesbian people, reports Gay Star News.  While supporting decriminalization, the bishop also stated that homosexual activity  can lead to “adultery, fornication, orgies, calumny, deep-seated hatred” saying it can lead to “spiritual death.”

2) The heavily Catholic nation of Croatia witnessed its first same-sex marriage demonstration recently, with hundreds of people marching in the capital city of Zagreb, reports France24.com. The demonstration comes a week after a Catholic Church-backed group reported they had 500,000 signatures on a petition to have a referendum designed to outlaw same-sex marriage.

3) Eve Tushet, a Catholic lesbian woman committed to following the Church’s teaching on celibacy, has written an essay in The Atlantic as to why she remains Catholic, why she supports celibacy, and the problems that she has with the way Catholic leaders deal with homosexuality.

4) Robert Gilligan, executive director of the Illinois Catholic Conference wrote a lengthy letter to the editor of The Chicago Tribune complaining that the current marriage equality bill in that state does not offer enough religious protections.

5) Amazon.com has removed the book, Priesthood in Crisis, by Fr. Matthew Despard, a Scottish priest, which makes a number of claims about how gay clergy have bullied others in the priesthood, and also about how church leaders have covered up homosexual cliques among priests.  The UK’s The Daily Record reports that Amazon. com said the book did not meet its guidelines which prohibits ” pornography, offensive material, stolen goods and items that infringe upon a person’s privacy.”

6) Vincent Autin and Bruno Boileau became the first same-gender couple to marry under France’s new marriage equality law, reports BBC.co.uk.   The wedding comes after a week that saw a major protest against the new law, which was opposed by the Catholic hierarchy in this heavily Catholic nation.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Sister Jeannine Gramick Meets Cardinal Turkson at University Conference

May 31, 2013

Editor’s Note:  Sister Jeannine Gramick will take part in a public conversation on marriage equality this evening, May 31, 2013, with Bishop Thomas Paprocki, in Phoenix, Arizona.   The following is her reflection on another recent conversation that she had with Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana.  For more information on tonight’s event, click here.

Sr. Jeannine Gramick speaking with Cardinal Turkson at The Catholic University of America

Sr. Jeannine Gramick speaking with Cardinal Turkson at The Catholic University of America

BY Sister Jeannine Gramick, SL,          Co-founder, New Ways Ministry

Last month, the Catholic University of America, Washington, DC, hosted a conference entitled Peacebuilding 2013: Pacem in Terris at 50,” as a commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Pope John XXIII’s landmark encyclical on peace.

With the hope that the ideas and spirit of “Good Pope John” and Vatican II were being rekindled in our church, I eagerly attended and was not disappointed. Attendees met leading representatives of co-sponsoring organizations, such as the peace and justice departments of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and several Catholic universities, Catholic Relief Services, Pax Christi International, Caritas Internationalis, the Sant’Egidio Community, and the U.S. Institute of Peace.

More than 200 attendees listened to presentations from such well-known Catholic leaders as Fr. Bryan Hehir, John Carr, Drew Christiansen SJ, and Scott Appleby. One speaker I was particularly interested in hearing was Cardinal Peter Turkson from the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

Among LGBT advocates, Cardinal Turkson is known for his anti-gay remarks. For example, in 2012 when the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on African nations to repeal laws that criminalize homosexuality, Cardinal Turkson responded, “…when you’re talking about what’s called ‘an alternative lifestyle,’ are those human rights? … there’s a subtle distinction between morality and human rights, and that’s what needs to be clarified.”

Cardinal Turkson of Ghana

Cardinal Turkson of Ghana

Cardinal Turkson did not entertain questions after his hour long presentation, so I wended my way to the front of the auditorium and, after much picture-taking of various Catholic University officials with the Cardinal, I was poised to ask him my question privately.

“Thank you, Cardinal,” I began, “for emphasizing throughout your talk that the underlying principle of Pacem in Terris is the basic dignity of the human person.

“I was pleased that you gave a few concrete examples of how you used your influence in Ghana to resolve some disputed situations by showing the parties that the basic issue involved was the dignity of the human person. In the situation of gay and lesbian people…”

I got no further with my question. The Cardinal quickly interrupted me, maintaining that the press greatly misunderstood what he meant. He was merely saying that “this” (using the pronoun, without saying the word “homosexuality” or “gay” or “lesbian”) was not acceptable in his culture. He repeated his defense a few times before someone came to whisk him off to lunch.

After lunch, Karen, another conference attendee I met, engaged him in conversation on the same topic. Once again, Cardinal Turkson defended his remarks, asserting he was misquoted. It was clear, Karen said, that he did not wish to say more about the matter. Karen later spoke with a priest from Ghana, who had worked with the Cardinal. The priest maintained that Turkson would never endorse a bill to kill homosexuals but would acknowledge that the culture viewed homosexuality as an aberration that would not be tolerated.

Whether or not Cardinal Turkson was misquoted, the fact remains that he failed to denounce a cultural norm that violates basic human dignity. Perhaps being confronted by some Catholics at a U.S. peace conference may induce him to reexamine his views about the human rights of LGBT people and to respond more thoughtfully to the press in the future. Such face-to-face encounters, coupled with the political wind-change of recent positive remarks on gay civil unions by some Vatican officials, may spur him to understand that those human rights, as Pope John XXIII told the world 50 years ago in Pacem in Terris, are based on the dignity of the human person.


Anti-Gay Letter from Catholic Priest Is Inadequate Response for Boy Scouts

May 30, 2013

Fr. Derek Lappe

A Catholic pastor in Bremerton, Washington, has closed the parish’s scouting program in the wake of the Boy Scouts of America’s decision to accept gay youth.  His decision, which he announced in a searing letter to parishioners, contradicts much of the Catholic hierarchy’s response so far.

Fr. Derek Lappe released the charged letter last Sunday to explain his actions and offer a  his views on homosexuality. He accuses the Boy Scouts of conceding to political correctness, strangely refers to the organization as the “New Boy Scouts,” and lists debunked pseudo-science to explain LGBT sexuality including a “Dislike of team sports” or “Lack of hand/eye coordination.”

Relying heavily on writings of the anti-gay Catholic Medical Association, Lappe’s screed continues in an emotional and disparate manner until it ends with this:

“To me it is cruel, and abusive and absolutely contrary to the Gospel to in any way confirm a teenager in the confusion of same-sex attraction, which is what the New Boy Scout policy will do.

And so, we are going to redouble our efforts to create a community that is supportive of happy, healthy, holy marriages. In our marriage preparation we are going to try to get women to stop marrying such loser men who will never be capable of being good dads and husbands, and vice versa…

“We are going to provide youth activities for any and all youth…Our current Fraternus andFidelis programs are well equipped to help cultivate authentically masculine and feminine identities.”

Reporting on Fr. Lappe’s letter, Seattle Post-Intelligencer notes that this letter “is the most hard-line anti-gay statement to come from anywhere in Washington’s three Catholic diocese over the past year,” which included anti-marriage equality campaigning last year before that state’s referendum.

KING 5 reports that a local chapter of Scouts For Equality will help relocate every scout in the Our Lady Star of the Sea parish’s troop to continue with the Boy Scouts, if they choose to do so.

Positive reactions from Catholics is more common than Fr. Lappe’s homophobic one. Dioceses and parishes in Grand Forks, Madison, Rochester and elsewhere are either welcoming the continuation of Catholic scouting or delaying comment until they can consider it further. The National Catholic Committee on Scouting released a statement that it will study the Boy Scouts’ decision, and nothing from the USCCB has been released yet.

The pastor’s letter is retrograde, perpetuating myths about LGBT people and promoting intolerance among youth in those very moments in life where love and affirmation are needed most. Fr. Lappe must apologize in good faith for the harmful act he undertook writing this anti-gay letter, and work now to foster a welcoming community for all his parishioners.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


In Wave of Anti-LGBT Hate Crimes, Cardinal Dolan Essentially Silent

May 30, 2013

New Yorkers stand up against recent hate crimes in rallies around the city

More than two dozen anti-LGBT hate crimes have plagued New York City this spring, including the murder of a young gay man Mark Carson. As residents unite to demand safe communities, many Catholics are questioning the near silence of Cardinal Timothy Dolan on this wave of anti-gay violence after his positive comments at Easter that the Church must reach out to LGBT people.

The New Civil Rights Movement reports that Cardinal Dolan spoke for only nineteen seconds on the matter at the end of his weekly radio show. His remarks are quoted in full:

“’You look at even the violence in our own city with some homosexuals who have recently been beaten and killed…I mean that’s just awful, that flies in the face of divine justice. Every human life deserves dignity and respect, right? Anytime life is attacked we all suffer.'”

His comments came after public questions from LGBT advocates about why the cardinal remained silent on the increasing violence, and instead pushed for anti-marriage equality sermons this past Sunday. These voices included Joseph Amodeo at The Huffington Post who notes solidarity statements from Catholic parishes in the NYC area. Even the National Organization on Marriage condemned the violence. Amodeo writes:

“In the absence of a clear and unconditional condemnation of these hate crimes, Cardinal Dolan’s silence is symptomatic of the culture of silence that continues to plague the hierarchy of the Catholic Church…

“If Cardinal Dolan truly wants to express the message that “all are welcome,” then he must break this dangerous silence, condemn these acts of hate, and stand in solidarity with gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people in the face of prejudice. Passive homophobia can no longer be accepted as the status quo in our churches, because conditional statements of welcome…provide a breeding ground for intolerance.”

As for Cardinal Dolan’s spot on the radio show, Amodeo spoke critically of the passing comment by the cardinal as an insufficient response to injustice and hopes it is only the beginning of greater solidarity from the hierarchy with the LGBT community. Recent activity on Cardinal Dolan’s Facebook reveal New Yorkers are dissatisfied with what amounts to continued silence weeks into this uptick in hate crimes. Many are questioning if the cardinal is paying attention to Pope Francis’ welcoming messaging in Rome, which will be the topic of an upcoming blog post.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Sr. Jeannine Gramick & Bishop Paprocki Present Catholic Views on Marriage

May 29, 2013
Sister Jeannine Gramick

Sister Jeannine Gramick

Bishop Thomas Paprocki

Bishop Thomas Paprocki

Sister Jeannine Gramick, SL,  co-founder of New Ways Ministry and longtime Catholic advocate for LGBT equality, will engage in a conversation about marriage equality with Bishop Thomas Paprocki, of Springfield, Illinois, on Friday, May 31, 2013, in Phoenix, Arizona.

Entitled “Two Catholic Views on Marriage,” the event is sponsored by the Jesuit Alumni of Arizona organization, and will be moderated by journalist and author Robert Blair Kaiser.  The program is scheduled for 6:00 p.m., at Shadow Rock United Church of Christ Church, 12861 North 8th Street Phoenix, Arizona 85029.

New Ways Ministry encourages all who are able to attend this event.  You can purchase tickets for the event here.   It promises to be an evening of serious education and reflection.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


CAMPUS CHRONICLES: First Out Gay Student College Athlete Is at Catholic School

May 29, 2013

It seems as if the floodgates are opening for gay athletes.  We had Jason Collins’ announcement a few weeks back, and Robbie Rogers’ announcement just recently, both of which broke the ice for professional gay athletes.

Jallen Messersmith

Jallen Messersmith

Now, we have the announcement that the first college athlete has come out as gay, and he is a player at a Catholic college.  Jallen Messersmith is a guard on the basketball team at Benedictine College, Atchison, Kansas, and he came out in an interview with Outsports.comThe 6 foot 8, 215 pound athlete, who was raised Mormon, has been accepted by both his teammates and the Catholic school’s administration:

” ‘He’s a very outgoing player and if you need an example of a hustler, it’s him,’ said Benedictine guard Brett Fisher, Messersmith’s teammate and best friend. ‘He’s doing the dirty work for the team. He’s getting the blocks on defense, he’s getting every rebound. We like him on the team.’ “

Messersmith was fourth in the nation in his division for blocked shots this past season.

According to Kansas.com, the school’s leader was also very supportive of the athlete:

School president Steve Minnis said he doesn’t expect anything to change on campus, where he says Messersmith is well-liked.

“ ‘I’ve had conversations with the coaches to make sure he was being treated with respect and sensitivity,’ Minnis said. ‘Our position always has been with Jallen is we love him as one of God’s children, and we want to make sure everything is positive for him.’

“ ‘We are a Catholic college, and we take our mission and values seriously,’ Minnis said. ‘Our duty as Catholics, straight from the church, is to treat everybody with respect and accept them for who they are.’ ”

Messersmith on the court.

Messersmith had support from his team leadership since 2012 when he told his coach that he was gay.  Outsports.com reports:

“Messersmith decided to first tell his coach, Ryan Moody, at the start of fall semester 2012. ‘It was hard,’ he recalls of the conversation with his coach. Moody, however, took it in stride and offered unconditional support. The next day, Messersmith met with Moody and his two assistants.

” ‘They were there 100% for me,’ Messersmith said. ‘They said it would not make any difference in the way the team was run. And they wanted to make sure it wouldn’t change my experience at the school. That was awesome. After that, I felt like I could do anything.’ “

Outsports.com notes that Messersmith had already decided to go public even before Jason Collins’ historic announcement:

“Messersmith contacted Outsports about telling his coming out story prior to NBA player Jason Collins declaring he is gay (‘I think that’s awesome,’ he said about Collins). He appears to be the first gay men’s college basketball player to come out while still playing; Villanova’s Will Sheridan came out after he graduated. ‘When I came out, there was nobody in my sport I could’ relate to, Messersmith said about why he agreed to share his story. ‘I always wanted to put it out there and I had a great experience with it and I wanted to show people it could be fine.’ “

Messersmith is casual about being a celebrity, and offers advice to others considering coming out:

” ‘You’ve just got to be comfortable with yourself,’ he said. ‘I wasn’t very comfortable with myself for a long time and then when I was, if you put off the confidence and you are 100% comfortable when you tell someone, they will support you. They can’t, as much as they can try, drag you down. It’s all about you. It’s what you think. If you are comfortable with yourself, you can do anything.’

” ‘I’m definitely happy and content where I am right now. It’s awesome that I have the team support I do. It’s awesome that no one has said anything [negative] and I haven’t had anything change. I just feel really comfortable and it’s really nice.’ “

New Ways Ministry congratulates Jallen Messersmith for his courage and honesty, and we congratulate Benedictine College for standing up for the best ideals of the Catholic tradition by supporting their student-athlete.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 


Robbie Rogers: Soccer Star, Devout Catholic, and Now Openly Gay

May 29, 2013

Robbie Rogers

Robbie Rogers was at the apex of a professional soccer career when he came out last February as a gay man and simultaneously retired from the sport he loved. Now, this self-described devout Catholic is returning to the pitch, and may make LGBT sports history here in America.

Major League Soccer’s Los Angeles Galaxy signed Rogers over the weekend, and an article in The Nation reports on the significance:

“Robbie Rogers has officially un-retired and will become the first openly gay male North American athlete to take the field in one of the ‘big five’ sports…Rogers’s return is a testament to how much has changed since NBA player Jason Collins came out last month. Rogers saw how much support Collins received and was moved from his previous pessimism that he would never be accepted…

“But just as Collins’s announcement made it easier for Robbie Rogers, this latest news will make it easier for the next person to be honest and public about who they are…It will continue to develop until, in a not-to-distant future, the issue of having a gay teammate simply won’t be an issue at all.”

As with Jason Collins, who noted the central and affirming role Christian faith played in his life, Rogers publicly speaks about his Catholic identity as affirming this decision to ‘come out:’

“Another sign of the times is that Rogers was raised in a very religious home and still considers himself a devout Catholic. As he said, ‘Being Catholic—and people may disagree—but we are called to love everyone. Be honest. Be true in your relationship with God. I’ve always lived that way.'”

The theme of honesty, especially in a religious sense with regards to God, was evident from the start of Rogers’ coming out, as he wrote in a blog post last February:

“People love to preach about honesty, how honesty is so plain and simple. Try explaining to your loved ones after 25 years you are gay. Try convincing yourself that your creator has the most wonderful purpose for you even though you were taught differently…

“Life is so full of amazing things. I realized I could only truly enjoy my life once I was honest.  My secret is gone, I am a free man, I can move on and live my life as my creator intended.”

The advancements in sports for LGBT people should not be understated, but from my perspective both Robbie Rogers and Jason Collins reveal a far great development in the struggle for equality. In coming out, these athletes acknowledged the important role faith plays in their lives — and the harmony they find between faith and sexuality. Although Catholic bishops and other religious leaders often are the loudest voices against LGBT rights, Rogers’ story reveals just how deeply and broadly the pro-equality gospel message has spread.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Father Gary Meier, In His Own Words

May 28, 2013

Father Gary Meier

Father Gary Meier

Last week, we reported on the story of Fr. Gary Meier, a St. Louis archdiocese priest who came out as gay by publishing a memoir, Hidden Voices: Reflections of a Gay, Catholic Priest. 

Since that post, Fr. Gary has published a reflection on HuffingtonPost.com, which explains his decision to come out at this time.  He has also appeared on HuffPost Live.  

In addition, Bondings 2.0 asked Fr. Gary to answer questions about his experience, and he has responded affirmatively.  The exclusive interview follows.

The Interview:  Father Gary Meier

What is different about your life now that you are known publicly as a gay priest?

Being known as a gay priest is not that much different than when I wasn’t known as such.  What’s different is the response I’m getting from all over.  My story has gone viral on the Huffington Post and the attention that story created is different for sure.  I’ve been hearing from people all over who have been suffering in silence and who feel rejected.  They feel betrayed by a church they have supported for years – a church that will not support them – it is so incredibly sad.    

How did you come to the decision about coming out? Why did you decide to do this at this particular point in your life?

The decision to come out was made through years of prayer, spiritual direction and reflection.  It was not an easy or short process.  Why now?  As I told a reporter recently, “Why not now?”  Saint Catherine of Siena once said, “Speak the truth as if you had a thousand voices.  It is silence that kills the world.”  So, why not now?  I do feel some shame and embarrassment that I didn’t speak sooner.

How have fellow priests responded to your decision? How have lay people responded?

Both lay people and priests have been incredibly supportive of my decisions and actions.  It is amazing.  In the first few days, I received more than a hundred communications – all of which were supportive with the exception of two – just two!  That’s insane!  I realize that this has only just begun, but I didn’t expect such an outpouring of support.  The emails and communications that have come to me directly have been overwhelmingly supportive. 

 What has been the biggest surprise or most unexpected thing to happen to you since making your announcement?

The fact that this story is viral on the Huffington Post has surprised me.  But to me, that simply affirms that because our church is unwilling to have a discussion about this topic, when someone starts a conversation, people want to be heard.  The other surprise has been some of the emails I’ve gotten.  The atmosphere of silence and shame that our church has created regarding homosexuality is bigger than I thought and the pain we have caused is real.

What can lay people do to help more gay priests come out of the closet?

Let them know they are loved and supported.  It has been truly a blessing to have had so many lay people I’ve ministered to in the past 15 years be so incredibly supportive.  We don’t have to make this journey alone.  There are lots of people who will support us and stand with us.

Do you expect any retribution to come from your announcement?

I keep getting the question, “what do you expect?”  And to be honest with you, I don’t have any expectations.  I know I am not willing to ‘recant’ my position or my beliefs.  I suppose we have to wait and see.

If you had the opportunity to advise the pope about gay priests, what would you tell him?

We are here!  We’ve always been here and it’s time to for a new understanding regarding homosexuality and what it means to love and to be loved.

How do you think our church would change if more gay priests came out? How do you think your personal ministry will change?

The church will dramatically change if every gay priest came out.  But I’ve also come to understand that coming out as ‘gay’ is one thing.  Coming out as gay and pro-gay is another.  While I don’t know where my personal ministry is going to take me, I do know that advocacy for the LGBT community will be part of it. 

Do you plan to be more involved with Catholic LGBT issues?

Yes

How can people get a copy of your book?

You can find the book on amazon.com and kindle.  You can also borrow the book through kindle.  Or, go to my website www.fathergary.com and click on the amazon logo. Or click the following link: http://www.amazon.com/Hidden-Voices-Reflections-Catholic-Priest/dp/1484106792/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1369340840&sr=8-1&keywords=gary+meier .

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Are LGBT Catholics At Home In the Church?

May 27, 2013
David Gibson of Religion News Service

This spring, several Catholic bishops made positive comments about LGBT people within Catholicism, including remarks by Cardinal Timothy Dolan on Easter and several Vatican officials endorsing civil unions.

In light of actions contradicting the welcoming message, David Gibson of Religion News Service poses an interesting question to several Catholics in recent headlines, “Can gay Catholics find a home in the Catholic Church?” He writes of the tensions:

“It’s still not clear what the second step [after Dolan's positive remarks] in this fraught process might be, or even if there is a second step. And there are signs that things may only get more complicated…

“Moreover, as Americans — and American Catholics — grow increasingly accepting of homosexuality, and as foes of gay rights grow increasingly determined, conflict at the parish level seems inevitable. The uneasy ‘Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell’ policy that once allowed gay and lesbian Catholics to take church positions is clashing with their increasing visibility in the form of marriage licenses or wedding announcements.”

Francis DeBernardo
Francis DeBernardo

Gibson details the firings of Nicholas Coppola and Carla Hale, while Bondings 2.0 has reported on these and several other cases in recent months that are making LGBT-Catholic relations strained. Gibson quotes Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, who questions how these actions fit with other Catholic principles about justice.

“’How just is it to fire someone whose life or practices are not in accord with official church teaching?’…

“’Where do you draw the line?…Do you get fired if you have remarried without an annulment? Do you get fired if you don’t attend Mass on Sunday regularly? Do you get fired because you are a Protestant who does not recognize the Catholic hierarchical structure?’”

Yet, not only are LGBT advocates within the Catholic Church worried, priests and others in ministry recognize the increasing frequency of these conflicts at local levels:

“’The fact is that it is going to get worse,’ said the pastor of a large Midwest parish who has had to fend off complaints about a lesbian member of his staff. As critics become more insistent, and as gay and lesbian Catholics become more public, he fears the resulting controversies will take a serious toll on the church.

“’We have to come to some kind of pastoral accommodation,’ he said.

Fr. Joe Muth

New Ways Ministry hosts a listing of gay-friendly parishes, which has grown to over 200 from just 20 a decade ago that are making pastoral accommodations. One parish with extensive experience doing LGBT ministry is St. Matthew’s in Baltimore, led by Fr. Joe Muth

“Gays and lesbians ‘just move into the regular life of the church’ at St. Matthew’s, Muth said, as he believes is perfectly normal.

“But he also said they are aware of the ‘sensitivity’ of their presence, so they have made a concerted effort to reach out to other groups in the parish, and the parish has also made sure to include one of Baltimore’s bishops in meetings.

“That dialogue has been invaluable, he said, and he has received few complaints or protests.”

Fr. Muth acknowledges that the framework is troubled, and limitations on engaging marriage equality or having LGBT ministers in public relations remain due to the bishops’ pressure. Gibson continues:

“In fact, the patchwork nature of the responses is part of the problem, say gay advocates. ‘It’s not that there is a witch hunt out there,’ said DeBernardo. ‘But there are witch hunters. … For the most part I don’t think bishops go after these folks. They don’t create controversy; they only respond to controversy.’

“At the moment, there are no guidelines to help pastors and parishioners deal with these issues, and there doesn’t seem to be an effort to develop anything comprehensive’…

“’Right now it’s a step-by-step process of helping people to be church,’ said Muth, of St. Matthew’s in Baltimore. ‘That’s the way I see it.’”

This piecemeal approach to solving the increasing number of parish conflicts does not seem sufficient to some, and leaves us asking LGBT Catholics, family, friends, and allies the very same question with which Gibson titled his article: Can gay Catholics find a home in the Catholic Church?

Share your thoughts in the ‘Comments’ section below about if it is possible, and how you remain Catholic.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


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