ONE YEAR LATER: The Advocate Publishes Positive Reviews of Pope

March 13, 2014

ONE YEAR LATER is an afternoon series focusing on the first year of Pope Francis’ papacy. Bondings 2.0 will be running this series all week.  The anniversary of his election is today, March 13th.

Pope Francis received many honors and accolades at the end of 2013, including Time‘s “Person of the Year.” Of all these, few were as notable, and surprising, as The Advocate‘s selection of the Catholic Church’s highest official for their “Person of the Year.” It seems the world’s leading LGBT magazine was not far off, as two Catholic commentators who follow LGBT issues affirm the positive steps Pope Francis has taken on gay issues.

Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, wrote an essay for the anniversary of Pope Francis’ election published in The Advocate today. In it, he writes of the strange new reality that Pope Francis’ openness has created:

“When I go to gatherings of LGBT and progressive Catholics, everyone lately is quoting the pope — in gushing terms. Friends who have been staunch anti-papists (both Catholic and non-Catholic) now use papal quotations as their authoritative justification for every argument.  It’s bizarre. I’m still not used to it…

“No one could have predicted Pope Francis. His many headline-making statements about gay and lesbian people and relationships are radically reshaping the Catholic discourse on these topics.  Even Cardinal Timothy Dolan, a staunch opponent of LGBT equality, recently echoed Pope Francis’s famous “Who am I to judge?” line…

Francis DeBernardo

Francis DeBernardo

“Some have downplayed Francis’s achievement by saying that he is all style and no substance.  While it is true that he has not made any doctrinal changes, a change in style is still very significant. The fact that Francis is the first pope to use the word ‘gay’ is a giant step forward.”

DeBernardo notes that change in the Church is an evolutionary process, not a revolutionary one. Pope Francis’ shift in practice anticipates doctrinal change in the future, as has happened many times before in church history, as he writes:

“Francis’ greatest contribution to LGBT causes may not be overturning repressive teaching, but laying the path that will allow that teaching to be overturned by a successor…

At the end of November, Pope Francis issued “The Joy of the Gospel,” in which he laid out his vision for a new church. What gives me hope from this document is humility. He called for the church to emphasize diversity and decentralization. He stressed that the opinions of laypeople and knowledge gained from science should contribute to church teaching. He called for the church to update its old traditions.

“In short, Pope Francis’s greatest contribution so far, and perhaps what will be his lasting legacy, is not what he has said, but in the fact that he wishes to listen.”

Michael O’Loughlin’s reflection on Pope Francis’ first year was also published by The Advocate. In it, O’Loughlin says the pope has opened the door slightly to LGBT people. He is mindful of the Church’s slow process of reform and the continued harm against LGBT justice inflicted by the American bishops, and writes:

“Many Catholics have been hurt by the harsh rhetoric and actions on LGBT issues from previous popes and American bishops.

“So if LGBT people are less than enthused about the pope’s gentle remarks, it’s understandable. There’s a lot of pain in this community, and it will take more than a few remarks to heal…

Michael O'Loughlin

Michael O’Loughlin

“Progress in the religious sphere must be measured differently. Religions slowly and deeply form consciences and worldviews, and they animate the actions of billions.”

Still. O’Loughlin concludes hopefully that even with shortcomings, Pope Francis is paving the way for progress by humanizing LGBT people and allowing open discussions:

“Has the pope gone far enough in welcoming LGBT people of faith into the Catholic Church? Hardly. And it’s fine to focus on his, and his church’s, shortcomings.

“But Pope Francis has cracked the door ajar, ever so slightly, an invitation for LGBT people to talk about their experiences, good and bad, joyful and painful…

“The Catholic Church has the power to mold minds in a world where it’s still illegal in over 80 countries to be gay, where suicide rates among LGBT people dwarf those of their straight counterparts, and where families still abandon LGBT children in even the most liberal enclaves.

“The pope’s opening the door for lay Catholics to reconsider their views on LGBT issues might, ultimately, usher in progress on scale with legal, political, and social victories. One year in, the door is open.”

Through this week, “One Year Later”has been exploring just how Catholics in the pews have responded and what long-term impact Pope Francis might have as he embarks on a second year. You can view the full series by clicking here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Seattle Students Continue Challenging Injustices in Catholic Education

March 13, 2014

Students & allies protest Zmuda’s firing

In Seattle, Eastside Catholic High School’s decision to fire gay administrator Mark Zmuda after marrying his husband continues to have repercussions in the Archdiocese of Seattle, as new developments appear months after the December action.

Zmuda has decided to sue the school and the Archdiocese for discrimination and wrongful termination. Meanwhile, the defense preemptively filed a motion to dismiss the suit, citing exemptions for religious institutions in state law. KING 5 provides further details about the lawsuit:

“According to a copy of the lawsuit obtained by KING 5, in January 2013, then school president Sister Mary Tracy asked Zmuda if he was gay. When he said ‘yes,’ Tracy asked him not to bring his same-sex partner to any school related events. Zmuda agreed.

“In July 2013, Zmuda married his long time partner.  In November, the lawsuit states school administrators asked Zmuda if he was gay. When he confirmed, Tracy told him the school would pay for a ‘commitment ceremony’ if Zmuda got a divorce. When Zmuda refused to get a divorce, he was fired.”

The Zmuda firing prompted a student walkout, repeated protests, a 21,000 signature petition, and nationwide Z-Day of Action in late January. This uprising also witnessed the resignation of both Eastside Catholic’s president and board chairman.

Inspired by this activism, the student government at Seattle University, a Jesuit college, released an open letter signed by more than 500 students to the Church’s hierarchy from Pope Francis down to Eastside Catholic’s trustees asking for dialogue. National Catholic Reporter details further:

“[Students] asked for ‘dialogue centered first and foremost on affirmation, inclusion and invitation to greater understanding’ in the wake of ECS’s removal of vice principal Mark Zmuda because of his same-sex marriage…

“The SU student government letter said its signers ‘respectfully challenge the decision of Eastside Catholic’s trustees not to rehire Mr. Z (nickname for Zmuda) and we contend that he poses a vital question to the church that we, the Archdiocese of Seattle, and all those engaged in debates like this around the country must answer with a spirit of love, unity and equality.’

” ‘However,’ the letter added, ‘a far more encompassing and open dialogue must follow.’ “

At a press conference announcing the letter, student government president Eric Chalmers said more ideas were developing, including collaboration with students at other Jesuit schools and hosting events at Seattle University on LGBT church worker issues.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


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