ALL ARE WELCOME: Pope Francis’ Impact Visible During Pride Celebrations

July 1, 2014

OECTA teachers march in WorldPride 2014 held in Toronto

The ALL ARE WELCOME series is an occasional feature on this blog which highlights Catholic parishes and faith communities that support and affirm LGBT people. 

LGBT and ally Catholics appeared at Pride festivities around the world this month, visible signs of Pope Francis’ desire for a more merciful and welcoming Church. Canadians welcomed Catholics from around the world for WorldPride 2014 celebrations, while Catholics in the U.S. participated in local celebrations.

Toronto was the site for WorldPride this year. All Inclusive Ministries (AIM), based at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in that city, brought “its message of faith and love to this celebration” by welcoming Catholics from around the world to their monthly Mass and gathering. AIM began with support of the Archdiocese of Toronto in 2012 after the Jesuit parish ended its affiliation with Dignity Toronto Dignité, which now meets elsewhere. Another church, St. Joseph’s Church in Ottawa, sent a delegation to join AIM’s liturgy and march in the WorldPride parade, having witnessed in their local parade for many years.

Members of St. Clement Church in Chicago march during Pride

The Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association (OECTA) also marched in WorldPride’s parade following several months of criticism from Toronto’s cardinal and others who opposed the teachers union’s decision to march. OECTA President James Ryan told the National Post the teachers’ participation was an “internal union matter” made through a democratic process. The paper reports further:

“In March, the OECTA voted to send a contingent of more than 100 to the parade as a visible and vocal message that Catholic-school teachers in the province want students to feel supported and free from discrimination.

“OECTA is just aligning with other public unions and teachers’ unions Canada-wide, said Mr. Ryan, whether Catholic or not.

” ‘Coast to coast in Canada, pretty much every teachers’ union I know of does support LGBT rights without exception,’ [Ryan] said. ‘The Canadian Teachers Federation has been very forward with its support for LGBT rights.’ “

You can read Bondings 2.0‘s ongoing coverage of OECTA’s decision this spring by clicking here.

Boston College’s Graduate Pride Alliance marching

Catholic parishes in the U.S. marched in Pride parades in their citis, as well. In Chicago, St. Clement Church parishioners marched alongside Dignity/Chicago members for the second year in a row. The Chicago Tribune reported on the marchers:

” ‘We don’t want to be dictated to anymore,’ said Rob Svendsen, 41, a parishioner at St. Clement for nine years. ‘With the new pope, we’ve all been given a new ray of hope.’…

” ‘What St. Clement demonstrates is there are Catholics in the pews out there who think this is a time to be united and give witness to what the church’s true mission is,’ [former Dignity president Chris] Pett said. ‘We are here to advance justice. We should be a church united in justice, love and respect for one another. What’s exciting about it is they come from a very affirming community.’ “

In Boston, contingents from both Boston College and St. Anthony Shrine were present during the city’s June 14th Pride festival. For their part, the Franciscan friars from St. Anthony’s in Boston hoisted a banner with the pope’s famous “Who am I to judge?” quote in rainbow lettering.

Franciscans from St. Anthony’s staff their Pride booth in Boston.

In San Francisco, St. Agnes, Most Holy Redeemer, and other Bay Area parishes joined together to ‘show their Catholic pride‘ at the city’s parade.

Parishioners from St. Francis Xavier in Manhattan in the city’s Pride parade.

In New York City, parishioners from St. Francis Xavier Church marched, as did a collaborative contingent from various metro NYC area gay-friendly parieshes,  marching behind the banner of “LGBT Catholics and Friends.”

In London, England, members of the Archdiocese of Westminster’s pastoral outreach to LGBT people (called “Soho Masses” because of the neighborhood in which they originated) took part in that city’s pride march, complete with a giant street puppet of Jesus draped in a rainbow flag.  More photos can be found here.

London's LGBT Catholics march in Pride.

London’s LGBT Catholics march in Pride. (Photo by Martin Pendergast)

Repeatedly, Pride participants cited Pope Francis as a reason for their witness this month and also tied their actions to the Church’s standing commitment to social justice that has resulted in American Catholics’ overwhelming support for LGBT equality. Earlier this month, Bondings 2.0 suggested that marching for Pride was a key way to show solidarity for church workers under increased scrutiny for their support and involvement with marriage equality or because of their gender identity.

Additionally, many of the parishes mentioned above are on New Ways Ministry’s listing of gay-friendly Catholic parishes and communities. To find a parish near you, or to suggest a new parish for the list, please click here.

Did your parish or Catholic school participate in a Pride celebration? Let us know in the ‘Comments’ section below, so we can continue spreading the good news of an inclusive Church in the era of Pope Francis.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Catholic Pastor: ‘I am not the bedroom police.’

May 6, 2014

How do LGBT people fare in Catholic parishes?  How welcoming are Catholic communities to gay and lesbian couples in committed relationships? How important is it to offer a welcome to LGBT people?

Fr. Peter Daly

These are the types of questions that one Catholic pastor has tackled in a recent column in The National Catholic Reporter Fr. Peter Daly, pastor of St. John Vianney parish in Prince Frederick, Maryland (Archdiocese of Washington), offers a frank assessment of how his parish responds to the presence of gay and lesbian people in their midst.

While happy that gay and lesbian couples are welcomed by his community, Fr. Daly admits that the welcome may be as complete as it could be.  He describes the parish as “a fairly typical middle-class, mostly white, English-speaking, American parish.” It is located in a suburban-to-rural community not far from the Chesapeake Bay, which is predominantly politically conservative and Republican.  Yet, he notes that the topic of gay people and relationships has been coming to the surface more commonly in the past few years, due to the greater acceptance and discussion of these issues in the larger society.   Fr. Daly offers the following appraisal of how his parish has responded, noting that it is not the ideal:

“I also think it would be fair to say that our approach to same-sex couples, including marriage and adoption, is evolving. One might characterize our approach as public silence and private acceptance.

“In public, we are silent about the fact that some of our fellow parishioners are gay, even though some people are aware of their relationships.

“In private, we are accepting their relationships so long as we don’t have to acknowledge them.

“Such a modus vivendi is not really an ethical resolution to the question. In fact, it is merely a strategy for avoidance.”

Fr. Daly’s analysis sounds a little like “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the former policy of the U.S. military in regard to gay and lesbian service people.  While it allows for some acceptance, it is acceptance that is only partial, not full, and worse, it is acceptance that is only conditional.  Such conditional, partial acceptance should not be the standard for a Catholic community, and Fr. Daly is aware that while it may be the present reality, it is not a healthy one or a helpful one.

Fr. Daly has been trying to move his parish past this type of impasse. Many parishes that welcome LGBT people do so because the parish leadership has fostered a  climate of acceptance and welcome in the community.  From several opinions expressed by Father Daly in his essay, it is obvious that he has been in the forefront of setting an example of acceptance and welcome.  He states:

“The hyperbolic and harsh language of the church will have to change. It is not accurate, and it is not charitable. . . .So long as gay relationships are truly loving and committed, I cannot see how they are intrinsically disordered. . . .

“For more than 40 years, the language of the magisterium said that all same-sex acts are ‘intrinsically disordered’ and may never be approved in any way. But that certainly is not my experience as a pastor of souls.”

The priest’s approach to offering a welcome has been influenced, or perhaps “supported” is a better word, by Pope Francis’ example of first seeing the whole person, as opposed to individual personality traits.

But Fr. Daly also provides his own theory on how parishes, and particularly priests, can be more welcoming.  Of his role as pastor, he says:

“I am not the bedroom police. I do not quiz people on their private lives. I do not know who is sleeping with a boyfriend or girlfriend. I do not know who is cheating on a spouse.  But one thing I know for sure: One hundred percent of the people who come to Communion at every Mass in the history of the world are sinners; redeemed sinners.”

Whether or not individual parishioners are accepting of lesbian and gay people seem to be determined by two characteristics, according to Fr. Daly:  age and familiarity.  Younger people are more accepting than older people.  Those who count a lesbian or gay person among their friends or family are more accepting than those who think they do knot know one.

Welcoming LGBT people in a parish helps far more than only the LGBT people.  They are also sending a message to another population segment that also doesn’t always feel welcome in Catholicism:  young people. Because of the growing strong acceptance of LGBT people by the younger generation, many will not want to stay within a church that only offers condemnatory edicts.  As Fr. Daly states, for young people, welcoming LGBT people “determines whether or not they will remain Catholics.”  This issue should then become a major demographic warning for church leaders:

“As the older Catholics die off, the church will find very little acceptance of its current negative position on gay relationships. We will find ourselves culturally marginalized in countries like the United States.”

The other group that will similarly be affected are parents and family members of LGBT people.  Fr. Daly states:

“Two of my friends who go to other parishes left the Catholic church when their children came out. They simply could not accept a church that judged their children to be ‘intrinsically disordered.’ If someone is put in the position of choosing between his or her child and the church, they will obviously and quite rightly choose their child.”

Fr. Daly’s comments offer sound pastoral advice to other Catholic parishes who want to welcome LGBT people.  New Ways Ministry maintains a list of LGBT-friendly Catholic parishes around the country.  For more information on how to make a Catholic parish more LGBT-friendly, click on the “All Are Welcome” box in the “Categories” section to the right of this post.

What does your parish do to make LGBT people feel welcome?  What effect has this welcome had on the parish as a whole?   Write your responses in the “Comments” section of this blog post.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related posts about past Fr. Daly essays:

US Catholics Praise Pope Francis in Polling and Words

The Pastoral Dimension of the New Boy Scout Policy on Gay Youth

Message of Hope: ‘No one should feel excluded from God’s love. . . .Ever.’

 

 


ALL ARE WELCOME: Outreach and In-reach

February 17, 2014

The ALL ARE WELCOME series is an occasional feature  which examines how Catholic faith communities can become more inclusive of LGBT people and issues.

Parishes that want to welcome LGBT people into their communities often think of their work as “outreach.”  They consider that to bring LGBT people to their communities, they need to go outside their doors and offer a welcoming hand to the unchurched or alienated.

That’s a good strategy, but it shouldn’t be a parish’s only strategy.  In addition to looking outside their community, a parish that wants to welcome LGBT people should also look inside itself for LGBT members.

The assumption that LGBT people are always outside the church is not totally accurate.  While it is true that many LGBT folks have experienced some sort of alienation from insitutional religion, many others have not left the Catholic community and are still active members of parishes.  Parish leaders and pastoral ministers may not be aware that these parishioners are LGBT because the parishioners have decided not to make their identities known, some times out of fear that they will be ostracized.

That’s why in addition to outreach, parishes can also benefit from doing some “in-reach.”  In addition to welcoming outsiders, basically evangelical work, parishes can benefit from looking inwards to see why the LGBT people in their communities may not feel comfortable revealing their identities.

More and more LGBT people are finding it easier to be “out” in their families, neighborhoods, and workplaces, but some times, unfortunately, they do not feel comfortable being open about their identities in their faith communities.  They may feel they will be rejected outright or be denied leadership and ministry roles in the parish.

There are many ways that parishes that want to welcome LGBT people can send messages to those members of their communities that do not yet feel comfortable “coming out” :

1)   Include lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender people and their concerns in the prayers of the faithful.

2)   Mention examples of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender people in homilies to illustrate Gospel lessons, values, and virtues.

3)   Make sure your parish mission or welcome statement includes a specific mention of lesbian,gay,bisexual, transgender people.

4)  Host events specifically for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender people, their family members, and supporters.

5)  Choose a special Sunday to celebrate the gifts that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender people bring to the faith community.

6)  Adopt a non-discrimination policy for parish employment and volunteer opportunities.

7)  Make sure that visibly out lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender people have leadership roles in the community.

What has your parish done to let LGBT folks in your parish know that it would be safe and comfortable for them to “come out” in your community.  Post your suggestions and experiences in the “Comments” section of this post.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 


More and More U.S. Congregations–Including Catholic Ones–Are Welcoming LGBT People

November 17, 2013

Regular readers of Bondings 2.0 will know that we like to promote the growing trend in the Catholic Church of parishes opening their doors to LGBT people and their families.  New Ways Ministry maintains a list of gay-friendly Catholic parishes and intentional eucharistic communities which has grown from its origin in 1997 with 20 listings to currently having well over 200 listings.

A new report from Duke University’s National Congregations Study confirms that this trend of gay-friendly faith communities has been growing rapidly across denominational lines in recent years.  The Association of Religion Data Archives’ website reports on some of the major findings from the study, noting that overall the changes seem to be connected to changes in society generally:

“The massive cultural changes in attitudes toward gays and lesbians in American society are also being reflected in religious sanctuaries, the study indicates.”

Some of the major findings from the study show a definite trend in acceptance:

“Twenty-seven percent of congregations in the 2012 study allowed gays and lesbians in committed relationships to hold volunteer leadership positions, up from 19 percent in the 2006-2007 study.

“Nearly half, or 48 percent, of congregations in 2012 reported that gays and lesbians in committed relationships may be full-fledged members; in the 2006-2007 study, 38 percent of congregations allowed such membership privileges.

“Seventeen percent of congregations reported having openly gay and lesbian worshipers. But those congregations were also relatively larger, so 31 percent of people in congregations are part of communities with gays and lesbians who are open about their orientation.”

The study’s director, Duke University’s Mark Chaves, a sociologist noted that the study shows that the perception that faith and LGBT equality are opposed is not, in fact, a reality:

“Chaves notes that an analysis of the 2006-2007 study found that religious communities who were politically active on the issue were about evenly split on both sides.

“And the latest study shows an increasing acceptance that is consistent with cultural changes in the nation.

“ ‘It’s not right to think of religion in an organized way … as being only on the conservative side of the gay-rights issue,’ Chaves said.”

While the study does not single out data on Catholic congregations, it’s clear that the Catholic community is definitely part of this growing trend.  Many recent studies have shown that Catholics are often ahead of the general U.S. population when it comes to societal acceptance of LGBT people (including support of marriage equality).   Hispanic Catholics, in particular, show strong acceptance.  (To learn more about these past studies, click on “Statistics”  under the “Categories” heading  in the right-hand column of this page.)

Why is Catholic acceptance so strong?  I think this has less to do with the general growing acceptance of LGBT people in the wider culture, and more to do with Catholic people living out their church’s social justice teaching with emphasizes the equality and dignity of all people, and that all people must be treated respectfully and fairly.  I think the Catholic emphasis on family also contributes to this strong acceptance.  Catholics are concerned with keeping their families together, and they want to make sure that all families are protected in society.

Whatever the reasons, it’s important to remember that the U.S. Catholic bishops, who speak strongly and loudly against LGBT equality, do not reflect the voice of the Catholic people in this matter.

If you are interested in helping your own Catholic parish or community become more LGBT-friendly, you can start by looking at the installments of Bondings 2.0′s occasional series “All Are Welcome” by clicking on that title under the “Categories” heading in the right-hand column of this page. You can also contact New Ways Ministry by phone, 301-277-5674, or email, info@NewWaysMinistry.org, to obtain additional resources and consultation.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related article

November 13, 2013:  “Gay-Friendly Churches And Houses Of Worship Growing, According To National Congregations Study” (HuffingtonPost.com)


ALL ARE WELCOME: Baltimore Pastor Defends LGBT Ministry from Pulpit

July 24, 2013
Fr. Joe Muth

Fr. Joe Muth

The ALL ARE WELCOME series is an occasional feature  which examines how Catholic faith communities can become more inclusive of LGBT people and issues.

Faced with criticism of a parish LGBT outreach ministry, Fr. Joe Muth’s homily in early Julysent a message relevant for all Catholic parishes about welcome, diversity, and the Gospel. The pastor heads up St. Matthew’s Parish, Baltimore, Maryland, which recently particiapted in their city’s Pride parade.  Fr. Muth was also recently quoted in the news for his support of gay and lesbian Catholics.

Fr. Muth drew on the readings to warn against literal interpretations of Scripture, often used in discussions of sexuality, before holding up the Gospel message for that Sunday. He uses Scripture to introduce the ministry’s place in their parish:

“Rejecting  one another is rejecting God, because we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. In the gospel today the 72 returned in jubilation not because they had divided the communities where they preached, deported all the immigrants, and discriminated against people of color, but because they preached the word of God and rid the community of demons. Our internal demons are divisive, but we have to face them and rid ourselves of them…

“Two years ago when a Gay and Lesbian Outreach group, called LEAD, started in the parish, I supported this new organization. Why? Because some Gay and Lesbian people asked me if it was ok to go to church here. Can you imagine that? They had to ask. It wasn’t obvious because of my attitude or the church attitude that they were accepted. So I told them the same thing I have told other individuals and groups who wanted to join St. Matthew, “You are welcome!” Sometimes, as soon as I talk about our Gay and Lesbian outreach group, I feel some tension in the church. I hear it and I see it.”

This localized tension around the LEAD Ministry, as the LGBT outreach group is known, is why Fr. Muth felt compelled to explain his process in allowing the ministry. He continued by explaining that if gay and lesbian parishioners are asked to leave, than so will all others who are considered “against the teachings of the church.” He asked:

“So if we lump all of these people considered immoral and against the teachings of the Church and the Will of God together, and ask them to leave….then…….Who is left?????

“Isn’t it better to reach out to people, rather than to be divisive and judgmental?? We heard in the scriptures today that the harvest is plentiful….that there is work to do. If we attempt to throw everyone out, is that our work? Is our work to throw people out?”

Answering in the negative, Fr. Muth then drew from the American bishops’ 1997 document, “Always Our Children,” to affirm the Church’s call to incorporate LGBT members into communities of faith and actively oppose discrimination. In summary, the priest asked the question many seemingly asked him – what does he want with this LGBT ministry? He answers:

“I want the children growing up in this church to hear their first words referring to Gay and Lesbian people to be words of compassion, acceptance, and kindness, not words of judgment, discrimination and hate….

“My criteria, as your Pastor, is the following: If you are human, and you want to get to know Jesus, and you want to live in a church community, and you want to learn compassion, acceptance, and kindness, and you want to share your gifts——-

“I have one thing to say———

“YOU ARE WELCOME HERE IN THIS CHURCH!!! God Bless You!!”

New Ways Ministry thanks Fr. Joe Muth and St. Matthew’s Parish for being a gay-friendly Catholic community and continuing to welcome all. It would be a pleasure to hear many more priests tackle LGBT issues from the pulpit with such Gospel-rooted calls to love inclusively.

You can read the full homily text on the St. Matthew’s Facebook page. If you have heard a welcoming homily lately, please let us know in the ‘Comments’ section below.

–Bob Shine, 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

 


ALL ARE WELCOME: Lesbian Young Adult Balances Faith and Exclusion

February 10, 2013
Kate Childs-Graham

Kate Childs Graham

The ALL ARE WELCOME series is an occasional feature  which examines how Catholic faith communities can become more inclusive of LGBT people and issues.  At the end of this posting, you can find the links to previous posts in this series.

For most Catholics, experiences of inclusion in our local parishes during liturgy or various social events are central elements tying us to the faith. A supportive, positive local community can build us up in the face of a wayward hierarchy or, alternatively, tear us down with its rejection.

Kate Childs Graham writing in National Catholic Reporter highlights the experiences of one young adult struggling to find welcome in the faith she loves. Kate narrates the story of Danielle, a college student in Texas who grew up in the same parish, St. Phillip’s, where she now mentors as a peer educator. Kate continues:

“Danielle came out of the closet at 15. The director of religious education at St. Philip’s was one of the first people to accept her.

“She told me, ‘That’s cool,’ Danielle recalled. ‘Just don’t be too gay.’

“So she continued to educate and walk with ‘her kids’ — as she calls them — in the confirmation class. But then, the parish got a new priest and a new director of religious education.

“’He said that being gay is bad,’ Danielle said. ‘I never heard any priest I knew talk like that.’”

After finding welcome, Danielle suffered rejection as a Catholic lesbian due to parish staffing changes. Motivated by fear that she would be asked to stop peer education or be unable to assume leadership of the mariachi choir her family ran since 1969, Danielle went back into the closet.

Danielle’s new personal ministry to attend Mass with LGBT young people who were thrown out of  Confirmation class for their identity, and then plays music at four separate parishes on Sundays. For now, Kate writes:

“Danielle knows the church she loves has a long way to go, but her prayer is pretty simple: ‘I just want my parish to be a bit more accepting.’”

Positive parish-level responses to LGBT individuals and families are sometimes the simplest acts with the greatest effect we can have for our communities. New Ways Ministry maintains a national Gay-Friendly Parishes and Faith Communities list in attempting to identify those communities who strive for welcome and inclusion.

Bondings 2.0 is curious about our readers’ experiences.

  • Is your Catholic parish accepting of LGBT individuals and/or families?
  • What do professional ministers and lay leaders enact that creates a better atmosphere?
  • In your experiences, what are common obstacles to changing a parish’s culture?
  • What are good strategies?

We welcome you to leave your answers to these questions and more below in the “Comments” section.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


ALL ARE WELCOME: What Is a ‘Gay-Friendly’ Parish?

September 21, 2012

The ALL ARE WELCOME series is an occasional feature  which examines how Catholic faith communities can become more inclusive of LGBT people and issues.  At the end of this posting, you can find the links to previous posts in this series.

Gay-friendly Catholic parishes and communities have sprouted up across the country over the last two decades, and New Ways Ministry has maintained a list of such places both on our website and in every edition of our tabloid newsletter, Bondings.  We began the list in 1997 with 20 parishes.  Today, the list contains well over 200 communities, and new ones are added frequently.

From time to time New Ways Ministry is asked how we decide if a parish is gay-friendly or not.  It’s a good question.  We offer some specifics in our newsletter’s introduction to the list where we note criteria:  the presence of a support or spirituality group, inclusion of LGBT people in a welcome or mission statement, parish involvement in gay community events, ministry for parents and families of LGBT people, public recognition of the presence of LGBT people in the community.

Our criteria are admittedly broad.  While all parishes will have one of these markers that they are welcoming to LGBT people, probably only a handful would have ALL of these criteria.    One unifying characteristic among all the criteria is that the parish is giving some sort of public witness to their welcome of LGBT people.  We believe that being public about support is a minimum.

One type of parish that we generally don’t include on our list is a parish whose sole criterion is that it is a place where a lot of LGBT people are known to attend, but which does not make any public acknowledgement of their presence or of an explicit welcome.  This is the case, sometimes, in urban ministry settings, or parishes that are situated in gay neighborhoods.   While these parishes may, in fact, offer a passive welcome, we believe that it is important for them to acknowledge this welcome publicly in order to be on the list.   Our rationale is that people who are seeking a gay-friendly parish are people who are seeking a place where they can, if they so choose, be public about their identity.   If a parish is unwilling to be public about its affirmation of LGBT people, we are not confident that it will be place that will welcome those who may decide that they want to be public about who they are.

Our purpose in maintaining this list is two-fold.  First, we want to be able to help people find a Catholic parish where they will be accepted.  Many times people have had bad pastoral experiences at parishes due to LGBT issues, so we want to provide a resource that people can refer to in order to find a place where they can be sure such negative experiences won’t happen.

Second, we want to show that there are indeed Catholic parishes that welcome LGBT people and are concerned about their lives and issues.  Too often, people assume that all Catholic institutions are unwelcoming of LGBT people because of negative messages which emanate from hierarchical sources or some pastoral ministers.   While these negative views often capture media attention, the reality is that the majority of Catholic lay people, and a good number of parishes, are supportive of LGBT people.  This list belies the myth that Catholics are unfriendly to LGBT issues.

How do we maintain the list?  The most productive way is by word of mouth.  People call, email, tell us in person about a parish in their region that they have experienced as gay-friendly.   We always make sure that they can verify at least one public way that the parish makes their welcome known.  Once we know that, we put the parish on the list.  To make things easier for folks, we have an online form on our website where people can inform us of parishes that are not yet listed.

Word of mouth is also how we find out if a parish on our list has stopped being gay-friendly.  This phenomenon, while relatively uncommon, can happen due to some change in the parish—usually the replacement of a pastor or pastoral minister who had been the backbone of LGBT outreach.   We appreciate hearing about this change so that we can remove such communities from the list.  So, if you have had a bad experience at any place listed, please let us know, and we will try to find out what might have caused such a change.

Of course, we are aware that this list is in no way comprehensive.  Though we do hear of many of the gay-friendly parishes around the country, we are sure that there are still many others that we don’t know of.  For one thing, many parishes continue to grow in their awareness of being welcoming of LGBT people, so the number of gay-friendly communities continues to grow with each passing year.

So, please do let us know about Catholic parishes in your area that we don’t yet have on the list.  Use our online form or simply post the name and location of such a parish in the “comments” section of this post.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

Previous posts in the ALL ARE WELCOME series:

Say the Words, December 14, 2011

All in the Family , January 2, 2012

At Notre Dame, Does Buying In Equal Selling Out? , January 25, 2012

A Priest With An Extravagant Sense of Welcome,  February 13, 2012

Going Beyond the Boundaries, April 11, 2012

St. Nicholas Parish Celebrates 10 Years of LGBT Ministry, May 24, 2012

When Homophobes Attack, June 7, 2012

An Open Door Policy for Catholic Schools, July 15, 2012

Memo to Cardinal George on How to Show Respect for LGBT People, August 4, 2012


ALL ARE WELCOME: Memo to Cardinal George on How to Show Respect for LGBT People

August 4, 2012

 

Cardinal Francis George

The ALL ARE WELCOME series is an occasional feature  which examines how Catholic faith communities can become more inclusive of LGBT people and issues.  At the end of this posting, you can find the links to previous posts in this series.

Yesterday, we posted about Chicago Cardinal Francis George’s foray into the Chick-Fil-A controversy.  In his blog post about the Chicago mayor’s comments about the fast-food chain, George made the following statement:

“Surely there must be a way to properly respect people who are gay or lesbian without using civil law to undermine the nature of marriage.”

Indeed there are.  For over three decades, New Ways Ministry has promoted the many ways that church institutions can respect LGBT people.  While supporting marriage equality laws is one such way, there are certainly lots of other things, short of supporting marriage equality, w hich church institutions can do to promote respect for LGBT people.

Here’s an initial list of some suggestions for Cardinal George and other church leaders who are serious about displaying such respect:

1) Institute anti-bullying programs  and gay-straight alliances into all Catholic schools.

2) Speak out in support of LGBT people when a hate crime occurs.

3) Establish formal dialogues with LGBT Catholics and family members of LGBT people.

4) Set up water stations for the local Gay Pride Parade at Catholic institutions along the route.

5) Better yet, march in the local Gay Pride Parade and have a welcoming booth at Gay Pride Festivals.

6) Preach positively about the lives and holiness of LGBT people.

7) Include LGBT issues in ongoing education for priests and diocesan personnel.

8) Develop an anti-discrimination policy for all parishes and diocesan institutions.

9) Set up a grievance procedure/program for LGBT who are discriminated against in Catholic institutions.

10) Visit LGBT institutions and organizations in the area  to learn about the lives and reality of LGBT people.

11) Add explicit welcomes to LGBT people in mission statements of all church institutions

12) Insert a positive segment about homosexuality and gender identity into diocesan-sponsored programs on sexuality and human development for adults and teens.

13) Make sure LGBT people and culture are part of diocesan multi-cultural and diversity programs.

14) Pray publicly for the rights, lives, and well-being of LGBT people.

15) Lobby for legislation that protects the lives and rights of LGBT people.

16) Establish a diocesan office for LGBT ministry that will develop programs and resources for LGBT people, their families, and pastoral ministers.

17) Speak out on human rights abuses against LGBT people around the world.

18) Institute support groups for LGBT priests, religious men and women, and lay pastoral workers.

19) Assist the “coming out” processes of young people by providing them with appropriate and supportive resources and materials.

20) Help all Catholics deal with homophobia and prejudice by establishing educational programs that aim to eradicate these attitudes.

Do you have any further suggestions?  Please add them in the “Comments” section for this post.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Previous posts in the ALL ARE WELCOME series:

Say the Words, December 14, 2011

All in the Family , January 2, 2012

At Notre Dame, Does Buying In Equal Selling Out? , January 25, 2012

A Priest With An Extravagant Sense of Welcome,  February 13, 2012

Going Beyond the Boundaries, April 11, 2012

St. Nicholas Parish Celebrates 10 Years of LGBT Ministry, May 24, 2012

When Homophobes Attack, June 7, 2012

An Open Door Policy for Catholic Schools, July 15, 2012

 


ALL ARE WELCOME: An Open Door Policy for Catholic Schools

July 15, 2012

The ALL ARE WELCOME series is an occasional feature  which examines how Catholic faith communities can become more inclusive of LGBT people and issues.  At the end of this posting, you can find the links to previous posts in this series.

The August issue of U.S. Catholic magazine has an essay entitled “Leave no child behind: Catholic schools should accept everyone.”  As the title suggests, the author is proposing that Catholic schools not refuse admission to anyone, including children who come from non-traditional families.

Fr. Bill Tkachuk, the author, is pastor of St. Nicholas Parish and co-pastor of Pope John XXIII School in Evanston, Illinois.  He uses as starting point the case where the Boston archdiocese overruled a parish school’s exclusion of a child because the family was headed by a lesbian couple.  Fr. Tkachuk rightly praises the archdiocese’s decision and their subsequent policy statement that “Our schools welcome and do not discriminate against or exclude any categories of students.”

The essay makes a beautiful case for inclusion, however, one of its arguments rubs the wrong way.  Fr. Tkachuk uses a Gospel example to make the case for inclusion, which, unfortunately, implies some of the judgmental attitude that he is trying to eradicate:

“The call of the apostle Matthew challenges the status quo of his time (Matt. 9:9-13). Jesus calls Matthew to follow him when he is still practicing the sinful act of collecting taxes for the Romans. Matthew responds by hosting a dinner to which he invites other practicing ‘sinners’; he then brings Jesus to meet the group he has gathered.

“When the religious authorities grumble that Jesus is associating with the ‘unclean,’ Jesus responds by clarifying the mission of God’s kingdom, saying, “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Jesus soon names Matthew (still called ‘the tax collector’) as one of the 12 apostles. In the roots of what will become the institutional church, Jesus balances the call to ongoing conversion with tolerance of imperfections.”

Fr. Tkachuk’s heart seems to be in the right place, but the use of this example seems to imply a patronizing approach toward people whose lives are not in accord with the church’s teaching.  I don’t think it is Fr. Tkachuk’s intention to label such people “sinners.”  Indeed he uses the word “sinners” in quotation marks to indicate that while they may be considered so by some people, that may not actually be the truth.  Yet his use of the scriptural example and the term can be offensive to some of his readers.

That said, I think that the main point of his essay–not to exclude any child on the basis of family background–is a good one.  His reasons include:

“Each family who becomes part of a Catholic school community, each man or woman who teaches or volunteers, and every principal or priest who serves in a Catholic school needs God’s healing in each and every moment. We strive to follow the call of Jesus, but we are imperfect witnesses to the faith. The most powerful witness that we offer our children is that we strive to grow in the understanding and practice of our faith and are willing to admit our imperfections and seek God’s grace.

“I am not suggesting that a member of a Catholic school community has the right to contradict church teaching and create disharmony or confusion. I am suggesting that any adult who supports the religious curriculum that is presented in a Catholic school is on a path to holiness, regardless of what I know or presume to know about his or her personal life.”

Importantly, Fr. Tkachuk’s argument offers a way for how church officials can deal with similar situations such as employing a person involved in a public, committed lesbian or gay relationship.  His argument shows that church leaders have to start dealing with such new realities in new ways:

“Some parents have expressed a concern that the lifestyle of a ‘non-traditional’ family will confuse their child. They have asked how to teach tolerance for others while also teaching Catholic values. I believe that learning to deal with these tensions will help in a variety of situations in which the values we teach conflict with the perceived behaviors of relatives, neighbors, friends, and public figures. This is part of being Catholic in a pluralistic culture.

“Those who would attempt to certify parents as ‘sufficiently Catholic’ based on a preconceived list of perceived faults place us all on a very slippery slope. Do we extend this judgment to our business practices, our treatment of neighbors and extended family, our stewardship of creation, our generosity to the poor, or other aspects of our behavior? If so, then who will be left in our Catholic schools?”

Accompanying Fr. Tkachuk’s essay, U.S. Catholic also published an essay by Tina Herman, a parent, describing her reasons why she belieives Catholic schools should be inclusive, including the following:

“A school that discriminates agains gays and lesbians is sending a message to the very children it serves. These are institutions that preach morality and say we’re all God’s children. What does turning away children based on something out of their control say to other kids, who very well might be gay themselves? Thankfully, the events out of Boulder and Boston are isolated incidents.

“I live in a large metropolitan city in a racially, ethnically, and economically diverse neighborhood, and I prefer my son’s future classroom to reflect that makeup. At his current day care, he hangs out with kids who are black and white, Middle Eastern and Hispanic, adopted kids and kids with two dads. That is his “normal;” it’s what he knows. We are surrounded by expensive private schools that tout academic excellence (for preschoolers), but my husband and I think it’s important for our son to be around kids who don’t necessarily look like him, have the same family makeup as he does, or even the same income. We can all learn from each other’s differences–and that’s the best education.”

Catholic schools, like Catholic parishes, should be known for their ability to welcome and accept everyone who comes to their doors.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Previous posts in the ALL ARE WELCOME series:

Say the Words, December 14, 2011

All in the Family , January 2, 2012

At Notre Dame, Does Buying In Equal Selling Out? , January 25, 2012

A Priest With An Extravagant Sense of Welcome,  February 13, 2012

Going Beyond the Boundaries, April 11, 2012

St. Nicholas Parish Celebrates 10 Years of LGBT Ministry, May 24, 2012

When Homophobes Attack, June 7, 2012

 

 


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