The Best of 2013 in Catholic LGBT News

December 31, 2013

Yesterday, we posted our list of the worst of 2013 in Catholic LGBT news.  Today, as promised, we end the year on a positive note by presenting our list of the BEST of the previous year.  It has been quite a good year for Catholic LGBT issues, on all levels of the church.  From a pope who is setting a more positive tone to Catholics in the pews organizing to support marriage equality, we have seen positive movement this year on all levels of the church.  As we noted yesterday, when we drew up our list of  “nominees,” it was hard to come up with 20 serious negative stories from last year, and it was just as hard to limit the positive stories to only 20.

If you’d like  further testimony to the positive movement this year in regard to Catholic LGBT issue, you might want to take a look at Michael O’Loughlin’s essay entitled “For Gay Catholics, 2013 Was A Banner Year. Will It Continue?   It was published on the WBUR website, Boston’s public radio station.

Thanks to the 286 of you who voted in our poll to determine the selection and ranking of these best news stories.  The percentage following each story is the percentage of people who chose this item as one of their top five.

The Top Eleven  (It would have been the top ten, but we had a number of ties) :

1. Pope Francis, in word and action, begins moving the worldwide Catholic Church towards a more accepting and pastoral approach towards LGBT people. 22%

2 and 3 (TIE).  Catholics play a major positive role in the legalization of marriage equality for lesbian and gay couples in Rhode Island, New Jersey, Delaware, Minnesota, Illinois, Hawaii, France, and Great Britain.  11%

  The Vatican asks for input from lay Catholics around the globe for its upcoming Synod on Marriage and the Family, including questions about pastoral care of families headed by same-gender couples.  11%

4 and 5 (TIE). Catholic high school students and alumni organize in cities around the U.S. to protest decisions by their schools to fire LGBT personnel. 6%

The Vatican presents a top science award to a young gay high school student in Maryland. 6%

6, 7, 8 (TIE).   Cardinals and bishops around the world, including at least two Vatican officials, endorse the idea of legalizing civil unions for lesbian and gay couples. 5%

New Ways Ministry’s Sister Jeannine Gramick debates Springfield, Illinois’ Bishop Thomas Paprocki on marriage equality, and the audience supports the pro-marriage equality arguments. 5%

Catholic leaders and commentators welcome the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of the Defense of Marriage Act, despite criticism of the decision from the U.S. bishops.  5%

9,10,11 (TIE). Catholic parishes in Baltimore, Portland, Oregon, Seattle, and Minneapolis/St. Paul march publicly in Gay Pride parades. 4%

The president of McQuaid H.S., Rochester, N.Y., allows two male students to attend the junior prom as a couple. 4%

Fr. Gary Meier, St. Louis Archdiocese priest, comes out as a gay man and reaches out to LGBT Catholics.  4%

Other Items which garnered votes:

Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, India, speaks out against his nation’s court decision to allow for the re-criminalization of homosexuality.  3%

The National Catholic Committee on Scouting supports the Boy Scouts of America’s decision to lift the ban against young gay men joining the organization. 3%

Two Catholic hospitals are given national honors for their employment and patient care standards in regard to LGBT equality. 2%

Theologian Bryan Massingale challenges justice and peace Catholics to embrace LGBT issues as part of their social agenda. 2%

Santa Rosa, California’s Bishop Robert Vasa withdraws an orthodoxy oath for church ministers after lay people protest such a measure. 1%

Linda Karle-Nelson and Thomas Nelson, Catholic parents, are presented with PFLAG’s highest honor for LGBT family outreach and advocacy. 1%

LGBT young adults from the Equally Blessed coalition travel to World Youth Day in Brazil to spread the message of inclusion and equality. 1%

Write-in:

One respondent wrote in what he/she considered to be one of the best Catholic LGBT stories of 2013:

“Francis is elected pope, and says with regard to gay people, ‘Who am I to judge?’ “

All in all, it has been a very good year!    Bondings 2.0 and New Ways Ministry looks forward to even greater strides for LGBT equality and justice in 2014!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 


Jesuit Church Hosts Funeral for Murdered Transgender Woman

December 30, 2013

Andrea Quintero

A transgender woman was beaten to death in the streets of Rome: an act of anti-trans violence that is all too common in 0ur world. Andrea Quintero was homeless and battled addictions before she was found dead alongside railroad tracks in the city’s main train station. John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter reports on what came next:

“If anyone wants an example of what the emphasis on mercy under Pope Francis looks like in action, they’ll find one this afternoon in Rome at the Church of the Gesù, the mother church of the pope’s Jesuit order, where a funeral will be celebrated for a Colombian transgendered and homeless person beaten to death five months ago…

“The delay in organizing a funeral, according to news reports, was due to the fact that Quintero’s family never made a request for his remains or provided any instructions about how they wanted him memorialized.

“Eventually the Jesuit-run Centro Astalli, dedicated to aiding refugees, in combination with the local branch of Caritas and civic officials, stepped in to organize a funeral service.”

[Editor's note:  Bondings 2.0 uses the gender pronoun that we believe a transgender person prefers.  If a person is living as a woman, we use "she."  If a person is living as a man, we use "he."    If someone we quote does not follow this guideline, we report the quotation as it was written, though we may disagree with the pronoun usage, as in the case of Mr. Allen using "he" to refer to Andrea Quintero in the passage above.]

Beyond commemorating Quintero’s death, the head of Centro Astalli spoke to the wider significance of the church providing a funeral to someone on the margins, saying:

” ‘[It's] a signal for the entire Roman community that’s distracted in the face so many people who face discrimination, and who live their difficulties to the indifference of our city.’ “

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


The Worst of 2013 in Catholic LGBT News

December 30, 2013

As the year 2013 winds to a close, it’s time to review the news of the Catholic LGBT world of the past 12 months. In today’s post, we will look at the  stories of the worst happenings of the past year, and in tomorrow’s post, we will look at the best stories.  Bondings 2.0 asked you for your feedback on what the worst and best news stories of the past year were, so the ranking of these stories is based on your responses.  The percentage following each story is the percentage of people who chose this item as one of their top five. Thank you to all who participated.

One comment before we get to the list.  As we prepared the list of 20 “nominees” for the top 10 worst stories, we were struck by the fact that it was difficult to find 20 big stories to fit the bill.  As you will note, many of the “nominees” were reports of one-time statements by bishops.  Though many of these stories reveal that much work remains to be done in terms of educating the hierarchy and other church leaders about LGBT issues, we thought it was remarkable that there were really only a handful of negative stories that maintained any “staying power”  this year.

Conversely, we found it difficult to keep the list of “nominees” for the “Best” list to only 20.  We’ll see the results of that survey tomorrow,  but on the whole, it looks like 2013 has had more good than bad happen for those interested in Catholic LGBT issues!

The Top 10 Worst Stories:

1. On the day that Illinois’ marriage equality bill is signed into law by its Catholic governor, Springfield’s Bishop Thomas Paprocki holds a public prayer service, including the rite of exorcism, against the new legal reality.   15%

2. The trend of firing LGBT teachers and church workers from Catholic institutions grows markedly in 2013. 13%

3. The U.S. Catholic bishops oppose the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, provisions in the immigration reform bill, and portions of the Violence Against Women Act—all because they would provide equality for LGBT people.  11%

4. Pope Benedict XVI opens the year with a New Year’s Day message on peace which says, in part. that allowing same-gender couples to marry is “an offence against the truth of the human person, with serious harm to justice and peace.  9%

5. The Parliament of the heavily Catholic nation of Uganda passes its infamous bill to impose life sentences and other severe penalties on those convicted of homosexual acts.  8%

6. New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan says that asking lesbian and gay people to follow official church teaching on sexual expression is no different than asking dinner guests to wash their dirty hands. 7%

7.  Detroit’s Archbishop Allen Vigneron states that Catholics who support marriage equality should not present themselves for Communion. 5%

8, 9, 10 (TIE).   Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Archdiocese of Military Services writes a letter to chaplains discouraging them from ministering to lesbian and gay couples.  4%

The Pew Research Center released a report that the overwhelming majority of LGBT people find organized religions “unfriendly,” with the Catholic Church coming in third place behind Islam and the Mormons.  4%

San Francisco’s Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, who is also the chair of the U.S. bishops’ Committee for the Defense of Marriage, states “Legislating for the right for people of the same sex to marry is like legalizing male breastfeeding.”  4%

Other Items which garnered votes:

Catholic Campaign for Human Development in Illinois cuts funds from an immigrants’ rights organization because of the group’s tenuous ties to organizations which support marriage equality.   3%

The Dominican Republic’s Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez Rodriguez uses an anti-gay slur to refer to James Brewster, President Obama’s choice to become U.S. Ambassador to that island nation.  3%

Kenya’s Cardinal John Njue criticizes President Barack Obama for speaking out against the criminalization of homosexuality in Africa.  2%

South Africa’s Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier declares “I can’t be accused of homophobia because I don’t know any homosexuals.” 1%

Archbishop Oscar Cruz of the Philippines approves the idea of gay men and lesbian women marrying each other because “The anatomy is there. The possibility of conception is there.”  1%

In Croatia, the Catholic Church hierarchy leads a successful campaign to constitutionally ban marriage equality.  1%

Write-in:

One respondent wrote in what he/she considered to be one of the worst Catholic LGBT stories of 2013:

“U.S. bishops withhold survey, answer it themselves.”

This is in reference to the reluctance on the part of many U.S. bishops to solicit feedback from the laity on marriage and family matters, as requested by the Vatican to help bishops prepare for the upcoming synod on marriage and the family.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 


What Makes a Family Holy?

December 29, 2013

The Feast of the Holy Family, celebrated today,  focuses our Christmas celebrations around three people. United under unorthodox conditions, Mary, Joseph, and their child, Jesus, became a family, and one venerated for centuries now. Lately, “family” has been in the news for Catholics as marriage equality expands, and Pope Francis calls for an examination on family life during next fall’s Synod of Bishops. With all this in mind, what can the Holy Family say to LGBT people and their families today?

Writing at Believe Out Loud, Rev. Kittredge Cherry wonders how “queering” the Nativity could change the way the Holy Family is thought of, and in doing so, how family life today is understood. She previously displayed scenes with two Marys or two Josephs, and writes of these changes:

“Obviously this is not about historical accuracy, but I believe my nativity scenes are true to the spirit of the Christmas story in the Bible: God’s child conceived in an extraordinary way and born into disreputable circumstances…

“Love makes a family—including the Holy Family…

“Everyone should be able to see themselves in the Christmas story, including the growing number of LGBT parents and their children.”

Other insights come for Sr. Laurie Brink writing at U.S. Catholic who questions idyllic family depictions that dominate culture. Speaking from her own experiences, she asks what makes a family a family? Her conclusion is that family “has less to do with the accident of biology and much more to do with the choice to love.” Sr. Brinks continues:

“What makes the holy family holy? Some might say the presence of the divine child Jesus. But I think holy is also an attribute of Mary and of Joseph. Both are given—and both accept—the opportunity to be conduits of divine action and love. Luke and Matthew both paint remarkably similar portraits of God’s invitation to Mary and to Joseph in which both make the choice to become an unconventional, ‘good enough’ family. God holds out the same invitation to us. Are we willing to accept that our own ‘good enough’ families can also be holy?”

For decades now, same-gender couples have chosen to build families that are precisely these “conduits of divine action and love,” even if the broader society (and, more slowly, some of the leaders in the Church) is just recognizing this reality. Marriage equality is one tangible sign that the goodness of families led by LGBT people and those that have LGBT members is increasingly affirmed and equal to other family structures. Rapidly growing acceptance of children or siblings who come out as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender is one way. The witness of couples who remain together after a partner undergoes a gender transition, or who remain supportive of one each other, is yet another way.

Just as the Holy Family, in their unorthodox arrangement, witnessed to God’s inclusive and diverse kingdom, so too do the many families who include LGBT people living prophetically. The hope now is that Church leaders will listen to Catholic voices and begin to receive gratefully the gifts such families offer our world.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Papal Nuncio Responds to American’s Concern About Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill

December 28, 2013

Archbishop Michael Blume

After learning the terrible news last week that the Ugandan Parliament passed a bill imposing heavy penalties, including life imprisonment, on anyone convicted of homosexual activity, a New Ways Ministry friend wrote to the papal nuncio (Vatican’s representative) to that nation.

On December 21st, Brother Brian McLauchlin sent an email to Archbishop Michael Blume, asking him to speak with the Ugandan bishops and Pope Francis about this abuse of human rights.  McLauchlin received a positive response from Blume the same  day, assuring him that his office is concerned about the situation, and that he would be working with Uganda’s Catholic bishops on the matter.

Blume’s message discusses the confusion which exists in Uganda about the bill:

“It was only this morning that I found out about the action of the Parliament. In fact the whole business caught many of us, including the bishops’ conference, by surprise as there had been no hints of it in the press nor on the site of the Parliament, which indicates legislation being discussed. The bill had been put on hold last February and seemed forgotten, but … You can view some articles on it from the government press (www.newvision.co.ug) and the opposition (www.monitor.co.ug). That the Prime Minister speaks about further consultation needed is something important to note. The Monitor also points out a problem of the quorum at the session that passed the law — without clearly stating whether it existed or not.”

Blume also noted that the Ugandan bishops had spoken out against an earlier version of this bill in 2009:

The bishops had pronounced on the bill already in 2009. Here’s just the paragraph that is a kind of résumé:

“The recent tabled Anti-Homosexuality Bill does not pass a test of a Christian caring approach to this issue. The targeting of the sinner, not the sin, is the core flaw of the proposed Bill. The introduction of the death penalty and imprisonment for homosexual acts targets people rather than seeking to counsel and to reach out in compassion to those who need conversion, repentance, support, and hope. The Bible says in Luke 6:36-37 ‘Be merciful just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge and you will not be judged. Do not condemn and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven.’     (complete statement at http://www.uecon.org/Publication.html , towards the bottom of the page).”

The papal nuncio also noted that he would be working with the bishops as they comment on the bill:

“It’s the general policy for nuncios to work together with the bishops conferences on questions of national interest. For that reason I was already in contact with the Secretary General this morning. . . . I’m sure there will be a lot of movement between the bishops’ conference and various institutions of the country. The bill will die if the President does not sign it within thirty days. We pray the Holy Spirit to give him wisdom.”

McLauchlin’s letter to the nuncio follows:

“Your Excellency:

“I am writing to you about a grave matter in terms of human rights abuses towards LGBT persons in Uganda. As you are probably aware, Uganda’s Parliament recently passed a bill calling for tougher punishments for homosexual acts, including life
imprisonment for those considered ‘repeat offenders.’ In addition, this bill also criminalizes the public promotion of homosexuality. Once the President of Uganda signs the legislation, it will become law.

“I am gravely concerned that a number of human rights violations will occur if the President signs this bill. Although the
Catholic Hierarchy may not approve of same-sex relationships or a homosexual lifestyle, I believe the Hierarchy would agree
that everyone has the right to be treated with dignity and respect. Imprisoning someone for life would clearly constitute
an abuse of his/her rights.

“The largest single denomination in Uganda is Roman Catholic. I ask that you use your influence as Papal Nuncio to get the bishops to speak out against this bill. When you speak with Pope Francis please inform him of this situation. I do believe he would want to see the dignity and respect of all people honored and kept sacred.

“I sincerely thank you for your attention to this important matter.”

Last week, when Bondings 2.0 reported the Ugandan news, we asked our readers to write to Pope Francis asking him to speak out against this bill.   We repeat that request now, and we also encourage readers to write to the Archbishop Blume.    His address is:

Archbishop Michael Blume
Apostolic Nunciature
P.O. Box 7177
Chwa II Road, Mbuya Hill
Kampala, UGANDA

email: nuntius@infocom.co.ug

It is so important to write  letters to both the pope and the papal nuncio.  Although Archbishop Blume is optimistic about working with the Ugandan bishops on this matter, it is very important that the pope and the nuncio hear from Catholics.  Though the Ugandan bishops spoke out against the bill in 2009, and although the portion quoted above is hopeful, the rest of their statement presents a very negative attitude toward homosexuality. Last year, there was a report that the bishops had reversed their opposition to the bill, though, because they have not spoken about it clearly, it is difficult to know where they stand currently.  It is hopeful that the papal nuncio supports their 2009 opposition to the bill, an indication that he may feel the same way.   Still, because the Ugandan bishops’ current position is unclear, it’s important that the pope and the papal nuncio hear from Catholics that they want church teaching on human dignity and respect to be upheld in this matter.

New Ways Ministry applauds Brian McLauchlin for his swift, passionate, and courageous correspondence.  We are so proud of his witness. We hope that many of you will use his letter as a model or will craft one of your own to send.  Lesbian and gay Ugandans are counting on us at this time to speak courageously and forthrightly.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


CAMPUS CHRONICLES: Pride Group & Campus Ministry Teaming Up at Georgetown University

December 27, 2013

Liturgy at Georgetown University

Students at Georgetown University attend one of the  leading LGBT-friendly Catholic colleges in the U.S., and Bondings 2.0 has previously covered previously efforts by the University in this regard, including welcoming two openly transgender students this fall. In another hopeful sign, Campus Ministry will now officially partner with GU Pride, the campus’ LGBTQ student group, to ensure the spiritual needs of all students are being met.

Tim Rosenberger, a sophomore, highlighted this new collaboration in Georgetown’s newspaper, The Hoya. He is an openly gay student writing about his experiences:

“Most Georgetown students won’t be surprised to hear that the LGBTQ experience on the Hilltop [G.U. campus nickname] is a uniquely uplifting one, but few may realize how many of their classmates have directly experienced the ill effects of a less inclusive theology. When I came to Georgetown last year, I was utterly unprepared for the warm and welcoming religious community that embraced me. My senior year of high school had provided me with some interesting reflections on my faith that had left me somewhat soured on Christianity…

“Coming to Georgetown provided me with a completely new context for spirituality in which members of my community celebrated difference and strengthened one another through our different ways of relating to God.”

Rosenberger believes Georgetown has room to grow, and he reports on a positive step in that direction:

“We should engage [LGBTQ] issues in theology classes and not shy away from difficult discussions merely to avoid awkward confrontations and political incorrectness. We should be leaders in the ongoing debate regarding inclusion within the Church’s worldwide body…In our own community, we can continue to make ministry resources accessible for students that do not actively seek them out.

“In partnering with GU Pride, campus ministry is boldly reaffirming its commitment to ministering to the spiritual needs of all students…GU Pride leaders, exhibiting the same boldness, overlooked the somewhat shaky reputation that religious organizations have on LGBTQ issues in order to form a meaningful partnership. From leading prayer groups for gay students to providing opportunities for Bible study and participation in religious services, campus ministry has done a great deal to make LGBTQ students feel they have a place within the religious community at Georgetown.”

Too often, LGBT students struggle to harmonize their faith identity with their sexual orientation or gender identity. While campuses host LGBT groups for students, there is still some times a division between these organizations and the faith-based ones. Georgetown University’s outreach by Campus Ministry to meet students where they are and seek to minister as needed is a hopeful sign that these divisions can be healed. The fact that they consulted and partnered with the campus LGBT group bodes well for the success of their future outreach. Hopefully, more Catholic colleges and universities will follow this lead and offer LGBT-affirming spiritual initiatives in 2014.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Help Us Determine the Worst and the Best of 2013!

December 26, 2013


On the last two days of the year, Bondings 2.0 will review the news of the past year in the Catholic LGBT world by posting “The Worst of 2013″ and “The Best of 2013.”

Please help us prepare for these posts by taking a moment to take the two one-question surveys below.  You can choose up to FIVE responses to each question.  One of those responses can be “Other” where you can write-in your own selection.  Please respond by the end of the day, Sunday, December 29th,12 midnight, Eastern Standard Time.

If you would like to refresh your memory of what happened this past year, just use the tools in the right hand column of this blog to find stories that have been reported on here.  You can search by clicking on a category, by using a search term, or by reviewing posts by month.

Thanks for your help with this project!  We look forward to reading your responses!


Merry Christmas! Are We Ready to Become Light?

December 25, 2013

“The Nativity” by Jean Bourdichon France, 1499

 We are God’s creative works in process. God alone knows what we shall become. What might God have in store in the fullness of our time?

In the beginning, God created Light.
In Mary, God became flesh.
What will God become in us?

Is there room in us for God’s seed
to take root and grow?
God has visited us with grace and favor.
Are we ready to become Light?

—Thomas Hoffman
A Child in Winter

Christmas Blessings to all
from New Ways Ministry!

Magazine Responds to Critics about Pope Francis as Person of the Year

December 24, 2013

The Advocate announced Pope Francis as its “Person of the Year” last week, prompting celebration from some quarters and harsh criticism from others.  The magazine responded in a column rounding-up reactions, both positive and negative, from the diverse voices who have weighed in on its decision. Citing the international media coverage and responses from faith leaders, media personalities, LGBT advocates, conservative pundits, and assorted others, the editors note:

“We knew that naming Pope Francis The Advocate‘s Person of the Year would spark conversation both within and outside our readership. And judging by the international discussion we’ve seen since the pick was announced on Monday, that’s exactly what the decision did.”

Of the positive reactions, The Advocate highlighted a few people including Jesuit Fr. James Martin who said on MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell Show:

” ‘He’s drawing people to the Church, more importantly, he’s drawing people to God…I think it’s fantastic. And if The Advocate puts him on the cover, and Time magazine, if that draws more people to him and to God, great.’ “

Evan Hurst, associate director of Truth Wins Out, called it the right choice because a tone has shifted, even if doctrine has not. He points out:

” ‘And in this case, the tone perhaps matters the most…The doctrine hasn’t changed, but the leading anti-gay Catholic voices in the West are now playing defense….For the first time in many, many years, the head of the Catholic Church is a man who seems to most people, Catholic or non-, to be an all around good guy who wants to lead the Church away from being known primarily as an anti-gay, anti-woman institution.’ “

The Advocate also highlighted those more critical of The Advocate’s selection of Pope Francis.   Surprisingly, two groups that are usually opposed to one another–LGBT advocates and conservative religious and political leaders (including Rush Limbaugh)–found common ground in their disapproval of the magazine’s choice.  Some in the LGBT press called the choice “a mistake” and ” a deeply silly choice.” Michaelangelo Signorile, editor at The Huffington Post’s Gay Voices section, went so far as to call it “idiotic,” writing:

” ‘But mostly, this was idiotic…Pope Francis is a lot of things to many people in the world. But he is not our hero of the LGBT community in 2013. Can we please get a grip, folks? Are we that starved for validation? ‘ “

In a tacit acknowledgement by The Advocate that, despite Pope Francis’ outreach, not all is well in the Catholic Church, the magazine also released “9 Catholics Who Need to Listen to the Pope.” Topping the list were Cardinal Timothy Dolan of the New York, the Knights of Columbus, and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. They also included Catholic school administrators who have fired LGBT educators at an alarming rate this year, including recent incidents near Philadelphia and Seattle.

One last note is that Pope Francis made The New Yorker‘s “Top Ten Gay-Rights Heroes of 2013” as well, with the magazine writing of the pope in their number two spot:

“In July, when a reporter asked Pope Francis about allegations of a ‘gay lobby’ inside the Vatican, his straightforward answer, with the five words that made headlines around the world—’Who am I to judge?’—was what gay Catholics, and many others, had long been waiting to hear. While the Church has not formally shifted any of its positions on homosexuality, and it remains to be seen whether Catholic institutions will become more welcoming toward gays and lesbians… the new Pope’s language was a stark departure from that of earlier Catholic leaders, who characterized homosexuality as morally wrong and often evil. It is clear that Francis has decided to set a different tone…”

As 2013 draws to a close, and Pope Francis continues receiving accolades from Catholics and others worldwide, the coming year’s challenge will be whether his change of tone can be translated into concrete, lasting actions in the global and local communities.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Does Opposing Marriage Equality Mean A Person Is Anti-Gay Too?

December 23, 2013

Brandon Ambrosino

After Cardinal Timothy Dolan claimed the Church was not anti-gay even if the bishops opposed marriage equality, critics rejected this assertion on the basis you cannot separate marriage and LGBT prejudice. Now, Brandon Ambrosino writes in The Atlantic trying to parse out more precisely the key question: “Does being against gay marriage make someone anti-gay?”

Ambrosino identifies himself as a gay man and proponent of marriage equality, but rejects the notion that opposing equal marriage means someone is anti-gay. Trying to clarify what exactly is meant by terms like “anti-gay” or “homophobic,” he writes:

“I would argue that an essential feature of the term ‘homophobia’ must include personal animus or malice toward the gay community. Simply having reservations about gay marriage might be anti-gay marriage, but if the reservations are articulated in a respectful way, I see no reason to dismiss the person holding those reservations as anti-gay people. In other words, I think it’s quite possible for marriage-equality opponents to have flawed reasoning without necessarily having flawed character…”

Ambrosino admits that marriage equality is a “no-brainer” for him, but millions of Americans are currently challenged by the issue and reflecting on it alongside their professed values. Instead of stifling thought and discussion, LGBT advocates should be encouraging it in respectful ways for the following reason:

“It’s true that as an LGBT person, I am Otherized against the sexual norm. But at the same time, I have an ethical obligation to my Other—the people unlike me—as well. On this issue, my Others include conservatives, fundamentalists, and more than a few folks from the square states. If my primary ethical obligation to my neighbor is to allow and affirm his moral agency, so long as it does not lead him to commit acts of violence, then what happens when I take away his right to peacefully disagree with me?”

I attended a more traditional Catholic college, so much of my social network consists of conservative-leaning peers. In the same evening, I have attended prayer vigils for marriage rights in Maryland and met up for drinks with staffers at organizations actively working against LGBT rights. This week, friends have shared Ambrosino’s article extensively on Facebook, which has caused me to wonder why it resonated with those younger Catholics who oppose marriage rights.

First, being labeled as prejudiced is highly undesirable. Just as the bishops and others are rightly criticized for their hyperbolic and harmful remarks, I suggest both sides of the marriage debate are tired of highly-charged, partisan language. More practically, blanketing anti-marriage equality people with the “anti-gay” label can lead to unnecessary barriers when the issue is discussed and stifle progress.

Second, many people who do not support marriage equality do support LGBT people in other ways. So much of the LGBT movement’s success has been from personal relationships and stories which reveal God’s love and grace, shattering pre-existing prejudices. Young adult Catholics who oppose equal marriage are often completely accepting of their family members’ and friends’ sexual orientations, and in many cases even of same-gender relationships. Opposing marriage rights does not preclude support for non-discrimination laws, and these friends have joined me in advocating for acceptance of LGBT people within Catholic communities.

Third, the motivations of many younger opponents of marriage equality often do not have anything to do with same gender couples. While admittedly their efforts help stop same-gender marriage rights, some younger and conservative Catholics are really focused on repairing families and marriages. Opposing marriage equality, a subset of the wider agenda, gets tacked on. They do not yet see the powerful witness same-gender couples and their families have in this movement, but that does not mean that God’s love will not shatter their misconceptions soon. Certainly, their reasoning is far more about rational thinking than personal animus towards gay people as Ambrosino pointed out above.

Having written previously that bishops should ask themselves how much damage they wish to cause as marriage equality inevitably spreads, the same question could be posed to those LGBT advocates who use harmful terms like “homophobic” or “anti-gay” for people undeserving of such names. We all should turn to Pope Francis in asking ourselves: who are we to judge?

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


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