QUOTE TO NOTE: Antonio Banderas on Homophobes and Pope Francis

June 20, 2014

computer_key_Quotation_MarksMovie star Antonio Banderas recently spoke out in support of LGBT people and about his hopes for the papacy of Pope Francis.  LatinTimes.com reported his statements:

Antonio Banderas

“To those who believe that homosexuals are sick people, I would say that the real sufferers are the homophobes. Those who judge others from an irrational and intolerant point of view are those who really have a serious problem that must be solved . In this sense, I think that homosexuals lead a much healthier life. . . .

“I think the Catholic Church more needs to pay more attention to the real needs of the people are, and hopefully the arrival of a Latin American pope will help Catholics evolve and be better connected with others.  Pope Francis helps the institution to make huge strides in this area.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


When All the World Should Be Bright and Gay

March 17, 2014

There’s a long history to the controversy between LGBT people wanting to march in St. Patrick’s Day Parades that dates back to the 1990s.  This year, the debate about LGBT participation or exclusion is being waged in the two U.S. cities with the most prominent March 17th parades:  New York and Boston.

NEW YORK

New York City’s new mayor, Bill deBlasio, won’t be marching down Fifth Avenue today in the world’s oldest and largest parade celebrating Irish culture because he disagrees with the parade organizer’s decision to continue to prohibit marchers who want to carry signs expressing LGBT pride.

Religion News Service cites deBlasio’s explanation:

“The new mayor said he will participate in other events to honor New Yorkers of Irish descent on March 17. “But I simply disagree with the organizers of that parade in their exclusion of some individuals in this city,’ he said. “

Mayor Bill deBlasio

Though deBlasio’s decision differs from his immediate predecessor, some LGBT equality organizations are disappointed that the new mayor did not take a stronger stand:

“De Blasio’s predecessor, former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, was a supporter of gay rights but marched in the St. Patrick’s Day parade. De Blasio did not march when he served as the city’s public advocate. But he said he will not stop any city employee from marching in uniform.

“Gay groups in New York City acknowledge that court rulings have established the parade as a private, religious procession that may exclude gay groups. But allowing city workers such as police officers to march in uniform violates the city’s human rights laws, they argued in an open letter to de Blasio.”

BBC.com reported on Irish reaction on both sides of the Atlantic to deBlasio’s decision:

“Cahir O’Doherty in the New York-based Irish Central website counters that it’s important for gay Irish-Americans to be able to carry a banner in the parade ‘because if you are not seen you are not heard. And when you are neither seen nor heard, bad things can happen to you without anyone noticing. Gay people know this, but apparently quite a few others need to be reminded.’

“The parade controversy is making waves across the Atlantic, as well, where Irish government officials are split on whether to participate or join Mr de Blasio’s boycott. Irish Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton, who will be in New York on St Patrick’s Day, has announced she will not march. Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny, on the other hand, has said he will travel to New York to attend.”

New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd supports deBlasio’s decision:

“It has just always seemed strange to me that gays were fighting so hard for so long to bust into such a hoary, boozy, corny tradition. Didn’t they have something more fun and cool to do? . . .

“But certainly, if gays want in, they should get in. And that’s why Mayor Bill de Blasio is right to blow off the parade in protest of the Putinesque restrictions.”

BOSTON

In Boston, a bastion of Irish-American culture and history, that city’s mayor did not march in the annual parade, which was held on Sunday, March 16th.  His decision followed weeks of negotiations and decisions by gay rights groups, the city’s mayor, and others.

The Boston parade is organized by the South Boston War Veterans Council, and this year a group of gay veterans requested to march in the parade carrying a banner from Mass Equality, the state’s LGBT rights organization.  The gay vets were members of LGBT Veterans for Equality.

Mayor Marty Walsh

Parade organizers originally denied the request, but then Boston’s Irish-American mayor, Marty Walsh, stepped into the discussion, saying that he would not march in the March 16th parade unless the gay individuals were allowed to participate. The Boston Globe reported his reason for not marching:

 “As mayor, I feel like I should use my influence. I feel the parade should be inclusive.”

Walsh tried to broker an agreement between the two groups.  At one point, there was hope that an agreement could be reached.  According to Gay Star News, the tentative agreement was that the gay vets could march, as long as they didn’t wear any signs which acknowledged their sexual orientation.

MassEquality Executive Director Kara Coredini

The tentative deal to allow the gay group eventually collapsed because MassEquality said it could not abide by the provision that people not be allowed to identify their sexual orientation.  According to NECN.comMassEquality Executive Director Kara Coredini said:

“LGBT people need to be able to identify themselves as LGBT people. It’s as simple as that. There’s a lot of ways that can be done, and that is a conversation we’re having now with organizers.”

So, after two weeks of negotiation, it was decided that the gay group would not march.  Not all loyal Irish Americans were happy with the decision to exclude the group.  The Boston Globe noted one man’s support for the gay veterans:

“Neil MacInnes-Barker, a former sergeant in the US Air Force, said he signed up for the march two weeks ago, as negotiations were starting. He said that normally he does not participate in the parades, including ones celebrating the gay community, but that he wanted to be present in the St. Patrick’s Day event.

“ ‘If there are people — Irish Americans — who are LGBT in South Boston, then I want to march for them,’ MacInnes-Barker said. ‘If they are afraid of being intimidated . . . then I will stand for them.’ ”

Michael O’Loughlin, writing at Advocate.com observed:

“It wasn’t long ago in this country that the Irish and Roman Catholics were both subject to extreme bigotry.

“That some in these demographic groups are in a position to be bigoted toward others is perhaps an accomplishment in itself, showing that they’ve moved up the ranks. But what a sad cycle and a shameful tradition for this great American city.”

Perhaps most significantly, the Sam Adams beer company, announced that they would be pulling out of the parade.  In a statement, quoted by The Boston Globe the company said:

“We were hopeful that both sides of this issue would be able to come to an agreement that would allow everyone, regardless of orientation, to participate in the parade. But given the current status of the negotiations, we realize this may not be possible.”

Chuck Colbert, a gay, Irish American veteran, wrote in The Boston Globe that he hoped some creative solution could be found to the impasse:

“So let me offer a suggestion: If I — or anyone — were to march in an LGBT-identified contingent, holding a small Irish tricolor and rainbow flag, would that be acceptable to parade organizers? What about green T-shirts with a rainbow flag imprinted on it? What about carrying rainbow-colored balloons or banners?

“With all the creativity among the Irish of Boston and the city’s LGBT community, surely we can move the parade to forward march for all.”

And though they won’t be carrying signs about their sexual identities, gay marchers did, in fact, take part in the parade.  According to The Boston Globe,  Randy Foster, a gay man organized a “diversity float” with his neighbors:

Organizers building the diversity float for Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day parade.

“Foster and his friends and neighbors are not marching Sunday as part of a gay organization. They are marching as South Boston residents who have coalesced around building a park in a corner of the neighborhood known as the Lower End. Many of the people working on the float just happen to be gay. And they have been embraced by the Allied War Veterans Council, the parade’s longtime sponsor.

“’They know us as their neighbors first and as gay second,’ said Foster, an Air Force veteran who served in Desert Storm and who has lived with his husband in South Boston for seven years. Of outside gay groups coming in and hoping to march, he said: ‘How in the world do you ever get compromise if the first statement out of your mouth is, “I’m different than you?” ‘

“Fact: South Boston has a substantial and growing gay population. Fact: A second neighborhood contingent with gay marchers will also be in the parade. Fact: Bill Linehan, City Council president, attacked as unfriendly to gay causes recently by some liberal activists, has been a catalyst behind the scenes to get the neighborhood groups accepted in the parade.”

So, perhaps creativity did make some advancement in the parade, which may help future possibilities for full equality on St. Patrick’s Day.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


“Philomena” Film Contains Lessons on Justice & Forgiveness for Catholics Hurt by Church

March 2, 2014

Pope Francis meeting Philomena Lee

“Philomena” is nominated for four Oscars at tonight’s Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and  has already been celebrated for its artistic accomplishments. The film, based upon a book published in 2009, details the true story of a young girl forced to give up her child to Irish nuns in the 1950s. Touching upon the abuse scandals of the Irish Church and the problems of mid-20th century Catholicism, the movie also comments on LGBT matters.

Jamie Manson wrote a review last fall for the National Catholic Reporter viewed from the lens of a progressive Catholic, and highlighted lessons the film might offer to the Church today. She writes:

“What appears from the ads as a middlebrow, sentimental comedy about a quirky Irish lady and a slightly exasperated English writer on a road trip is in fact a study in the gift of fortitude, an exploration of a dark chapter in the history of the Catholic church in Ireland and, in the end, a meditation on power of mercy in the face of an unconscionable abuse of power.”

Philomena Lee (played by Judi Dench) was sent to one of Ireland’s infamous ‘Magdalene Laundry’ establishments after becoming pregnant at 18. The Catholic nuns administering the laundry forced her to allow her son, Anthony, to be adopted by an American couple and it was not until 2004 that Philomena broke her silence about this child. The film details her search to find Anthony, aided by Jane (Anna Maxwell Martin), her daughter, and, Martin (Steve Coogan), a journalist who have a far more critical view of the Church than Philomena. They learn that Anthony, who was gay, has died of AIDS before Philomena was able reconnect with him, but the story doesn’t end there.

The film’s producers had hoped Pope Francis would view it and offer a nuanced perspective against those who had deemed it as ‘anti-Catholic.’ Speaking to both the issues of corruption and abuse, as well as the LGBT component, New Ways Ministry’s co-founder, Loretto Sr. Jeannine Gramick, and executive director, Francis DeBernardo, spoke to The Huffington Post:

” [Sr. Gramick:] ‘I think ‘Philomena’ is a sensitive portrayal of a woman whose deep love for her son impels her to search for him across the ocean to another continent…As a woman religious, I was ashamed of the behavior of the nuns in charge of the Catholic institution in which she was placed. Not only did they snatch her child and put him up for adoption, but they also refused to help her trace him years later. [Lee's] lack of bitterness and pardon toward those who wronged her is an example of the kind of forgiveness Jesus spoke of in the Gospel. I think Pope Francis would like this film because it shows how Christians should, and should not, act.’…

“[DeBernardo:] ‘I found the depiction of Philomena Lee’s Catholicism to be very accurate…Philomena reminded me of many of the Catholic parents of LGBT people I have met over the years who have both a deep love for their faith and for their children. And they find no contradiction in these two loves. Their strong faith even allows them to love the institutional church which has often been so negative and harmful towards them and their children.’ “

Lee, like many parents and Catholics, transformed her pain into constructive action and co-founded The Philomena Project, which attempts to make public information about the more 60,000 women separated from their children by the Church and the Irish government. And though he did not view the film, Pope Francis met Lee on February 5th during a private audience. Her wisdom reported by Religion News Service is relevant for all Catholics, especially those harmed by the Church, to pause and reflect upon:

“Asked if she felt resentment against the church, Lee said, ‘You can’t go through life being so unyielding; you’ve got to forgive.’…

” ‘I have always put great faith in the church and the goodwill to put the wrongs of the past right…I hope and believe that his Holiness Pope Francis joins me in the fight to help the thousands of mothers and children who need closure on their own stories.’ “

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Catholics Tweet Their Support for Mike Sam

February 12, 2014

Michael Sam

Michael Sam’s decision to come out as a gay man, just as he is potentially drafted as the NFL’s first openly gay player, has been lauded by commentators from all corners. Column inches have been filled with discussions about homophobia in sports, and a Missouri legislator introduced anti-discrimination legislation protecting gay and lesbian people , as a response to Sam’s announcement.

Included among these congratulations have been several high profile Catholics, including tweets from Vice President Joe Biden and Jesuit Fr. James Martin which we included below:

Screen Shot 2014-02-12 at 12.20.10 PM

Screen Shot 2014-02-12 at 12.27.31 PM

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Bob Newhart Cancels Appearance at Anti-Gay Catholic Organization’s Conference

December 21, 2013

Bob Newhart

Nationally-renowned comedian and actor Bob Newhart has bowed out of headlining at the conference of an anti-gay, conservative Catholic organization’s conference, after a campaign launched by GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) and Faithful America requested that he do so.

Newhart, who is a lifelong Catholic who has been supportive of LGBT people,  posted the following on his Twitter account on December 18th:

“Upcoming Bob Newhart Tour Date Change — Bob will not be performing at the Legatus Summit in Orlando FL on February 6th, 2014″

GLAAD had made its request to Mr. Newhart in a blog post which recounted many of the anti-gay initiatives that Legatus has performed.  Here’s a sample from GLAAD’s post:

“On November 1, 2012, Legatus magazine, the print publication of the conservative Catholic organization of the same name, listed five “non-negotiables” for voters about to head to the polls.  Marriage equality (which the magazine labeled homosexual “marriage,” smear quotes and all) was one of the five listed items, with the staff writer instructing Catholics “to avoid voting for candidates who endorse or promote policies that provide for any of these acts and to vote instead for those who promote policies in keeping with moral law.”  The phrase “intrinsic evil” was used seven times.

“Although this organization’s insistence that civil marriage equality is one of God’s major unacceptables shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, considering Legatus pushes the idea that homosexuality itself is a “disorder” from which one must be “cured.”  I’m not exaggerating when I say that.  In a 2011 Legatus piece, Legate John Haas (whose family has close ties to the National Organization for Marriage, by the way) called for our “curing” in the clearest of language:

There are many reasons why people suffer from SSA [same-sex attraction] disorder. Some “discover” this tendency within them. Others grow into it through pursuits of pleasure or experimentation. Some use it to punish themselves or others. Whether the disorder has some deep, unknown roots over which one has virtually no control, or whether it’s a developed disorder resulting from bad choices, it leaves an individual disposed toward activities and a lifestyle that are dangerous — physically, emotionally and spiritually. 

“Fortunately there is hope for those who suffer from the disorder. The National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality reports that significant numbers of homosexual persons have undergone treatment and had their sexual drives properly ordered. These findings are a beacon of hope to those suffering from SSA, as well as for their family and friends who desire their happiness and good health. Finally, for those who for whatever reason cannot be cured, there is a support group known as Courage to help them live safe, moral, chaste lives. Those who continue to suffer from this disorder can find true help through an orientation toward their Savior and Redeemer, “the Orient from on High,” and the life that He offers them in Himself. “

According to the Legatus website, the group, founded by Domino’s Pizza magnate Tom Monaghan in 1987, is described as:

“an international organization of practicing Catholic laymen and laywomen, comprised of CEOs, Presidents, Managing Partners and Business Owners, with their spouses, from the business community and professional enterprises.”

The organization’s website says that its mission is:

“To study, live and spread the Catholic faith in our business, professional and personal lives.”

In GLAAD’s blog post alerting Bob Newhart and the world to the anti-gay positions that Legatus has taken, blogger Jeremy Hooper noted the following:

“Personally, I’m choosing to believe that he just doesn’t know and that this booking is the result of bad advice.  I’m looking at this post as an opportunity to fill in the missing details so that Mr. Newhart makes a more informed choice rather than presuming to know his intent.  That’s the only way I know to approach it, since I can’t stand to think that this man who I admire is actually supportive of the truly shocking ideas that I showed you at the beginning of this post.  As a kid who stayed up late to watch Nick at Nite reruns of multiple Newhart shows, I have to believe that this is an act of ignorance, not malice.  I have to believe that he simply doesn’t know.

“GLAAD is reaching out to Mr. Newhart’s representatives to let them know how, exactly, an appearance at this event will come across to LGBT people and allied voices.  I am hoping that I am right, and Mr. Newhart doesn’t want to go down that path. He can still express his Catholic faith in a way more consistent with the rest of American Catholics, by loving and supporting his LGBT friends and family. GLAAD is urging him to do the right thing.”

In GLAAD’s follow-up blog post, announcing Newhart’s decision to bow out of the event, Ross Murray noted the actor/comedian’s long record of supporting LGBT people in the media:

“Bob Newhart is a lifelong Catholic. He also has a history of working with LGBT people and storylines. In 1976 The Bob Newhart Show featured an episode with an openly gay character. It was remarkably groundbreaking for its time.

“Newhart also was in the film In & Out, in which he played a principal dealing (not so well, but very comically) with the coming out of one of his teachers, played by Kevin Kline. Most recently, Newhart won an Emmy Award for his guest appearances on Big Bang Theory, opposite of openly gay actor, Jim Parsons.”

GLAAD also noted that Faithful America collected approximately 17,000 signatures on a petition asking Newhart not to attend the conference.

Though Newhart has not explained his reason to step down, the likelihood that this campaign has influenced him is very likely.  There seem to be no other reasons why he would do so.    New Ways Ministry congratulates GLAAD and Faithful America on their powerful action, and we agree with GLAAD’s Vice President of Communications Rich Ferraro when he stated:

“Newhart is merely siding with the majority of fair-minded Americans who do not support the anti-LGBT agenda of organizations like Legatus. “These groups constantly struggle to find high-profile people of faith to speak at their events, but at a time when more and more people of faith are accepting of LGBT people, they will continue to be left to choose between increasingly fringe figures.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Young Gay Scientist Awarded by Vatican

November 24, 2013

Jack Andraka

Maryland’s Jack Andraka is only 16 years old, but already he has broken ground in cancer research — and Catholic culture.

The Vatican recently awarded him for scientific efforts, but others, including Andraka, note the importance of this award, given that this prodigy is also openly gay.

Andraka received the International Giuseppe Sciacca Award for developing a pancreatic cancer early-detection test. The award is presented in Rome to young people who have made outstanding progress in their given field, and is named after an architecture student who died at 26.

The Advocate reports on Andraka’s cancer research for which the young man has won many other awards and media appearances:

“Andraka’s test for pancreatic cancer is significant because this is one of the deadliest forms of the disease, difficult to detect before it has affected other organs. He is in negotiations with a couple of biotech firms to refine and market the test, which would likely be available to the public in five to 10 years.”

In an interview with a Baltimore-area radio station, Andraka, a native of Anne Arundel County, spoke more about the cultural step that has been taken by the Vatican awarding a young gay man. He is quoted by WBAL as saying:

” ‘It’s really amazing to be recognized by the Vatican, especially as a gay scientist. I mean this would be unheard of just a few years ago. To be part of this bridge of progress is really amazing…’ “

“It just shows how much the world has grown to accept people that are gay and are LGBT. It’s really amazing.”

Andraka not only advocates for more LGBT inclusion in the Church, but in scientific fields as well where he claims diversity in sexual orientation and gender identity is lacking. To hear Andraka speak about LGBT inclusion, among several other topics, you can watch a video interview with him here.

Pope Francis has asked for open doors to the LGBT community. The Vatican’s recognition that LGBT people contribute countless gifts to our world when it comes to Andraka should be followed up with more positive outreach and dialogue. Hopefully, this one award foreshadows many good developments to come.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


World Youth Day Pilgrims Kick Off “Queer Catholic Faith” Season

October 9, 2013

DignityUSA, a national organization for LGBT Catholics and supporters, is hosting their third season of Queer Catholic Faith, a webinar series featuring distinguished and interesting speakers on LGBT Catholic topics.

The webinars are live one-hour web-interviews with featured guests and real-time questions and conversation from participants who connect through their computers.

World Youth Day pilgrims on Copacabana beach.

World Youth Day pilgrims on Copacabana beach.

The first installment, on Tuesday, October 22, 2013, 9:00 p.m., Eastern time, will feature three of the six young Equally Blessed pilgrims who promoted LGBT equality and justice at World Youth Day in Brazil this past summer.   The promotional material describes these young people’s experiences which they will share during the webinar:

“Wearing your rainbow colors, your smile and carrying your banner that reads “Faithful Catholics committed to full equality of LGBT persons”, you walk into a crowd of Catholics you presume to be generally unsupportive of LGBT rights and dignity. What happens next? Six young adults did just that for an entire week during World Youth Day celebrations. What they encountered may greatly surprise you. DignityUSA is
thrilled to host three of these pilgrims on it’s premier webshow of the third season of Queer Catholic Faith. Join us for a taste of Catholicism among young people empowered with compassion and justice.”

Participation is free.  You can register for the October 22nd webinar by clicking here.

The monthly series is scheduled for Tuesday evenings at 9:00 p.m., Eastern time.  The remaining episodes feature the following people and topics:

Richard Galliardetz

Richard Galliardetz

November 26, 2013: Dr. Richard Gaillardetz, President of the Catholic Theological Society
of America, Professor of Catholic Systematic Theology at Boston College and father of a
gay son. Register here.

December 17, 2013: Dignity Alive! A look at a thriving Dignity chapter community in San Diego, CA. with three SD guests: Brian, Roxanne and Al.  Register here.

January 21, 2014: Joe Gentilini, Dignity/Columbus member and author of the new memoir, Hounded By God: A Gay Man’s Journey to Self-Acceptance, Love, and Relationship.  Register here.

Thelathia 'Nikki' Young

Thelathia ‘Nikki’ Young

February 18, 2014: Thelathia ‘Nikki’ Young,  a star attraction at Dignity’s 2013 Convention. Nikki will show how our own stories can bring others to deeper understanding and acceptance. Register here.

March 18, 2014: Mateo Williamson, a young trans man from Arizona who will engage you with his curious mind and joyful Catholic faith.  Register here.

April 22, 2014: Dignity Prays! Discover the diversity and richness of Dignity worship in this interview with three persons from Dignity communities across the nation. Register here.

Webinars for May and June have yet to be announced.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


NEWS NOTES: October 1, 2013

October 1, 2013

News NotesHere are some items you might find of interest:

1) Marianne Duddy-Burke, DignityUSA’s executive director, has penned a beautiful, reflective Huffington Post essay on 15-year Catholic marriage to Becky Duddy-Burke.

2) Joseph Gentilini, whose new book Hounded By God: A Gay Man’s Journey to Self-Acceptance, Love, and Relationship, is interviewed about the connections between sexuality and spirituality in The Columbus Dispatch.

3) Maurice Monette’s new book, Confessions of a Gay Married Priest: A Spiritual Journeyhas won the 2013 Global Ebook Award for best LGBT nonfiction, reports IndyBay.org

4) Croatia, a largely Catholic European nation, is poised to institute civil unions for lesbian and gay couples, reports Gay Star News.  Catholic church officials had organized a 750,000 signature petition to constitutionally ban same-gender marriage, though there were reports that some of these signatures were not collected fairly.

5) The Ukranian Catholic Church’s hierarchy is among many religious leaders in that nation to reject the European Union’s demands for new gay rights laws, reports London’s Catholic Herald.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Photos of Kisses Banned from Rome Gallery Due to Vatican Intervention

September 30, 2013
Two men kissing in St. Peter's Basilica, Rome

Two men kissing in St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome

Had the Vatican not intervened in getting a photo exhibition removed from a Rome gallery,  few outside the Eternal City would probably have heard of it.  But opposition to the exhibit, which features 16 pictures of same-gender couples kissing in churches, has now catapulted the exhibit to the world of international headlines and internet sensations.

Spanish artist Gonzalo Orquin’s exhibit, which was to open on September 25th in Rome’s Galleria L’Opera, was cancelled when the Vatican’s Vicariate of Rome (the office which oversees the Diocese of Rome) threatened legal action. You can view a slideshow of the photos here, thanks to Huffington Post UK.  According to TheLocal.it:

“ ‘A letter arrived from the Vicariate of Rome, an organization that is part of the Vatican, which said the church is against the exhibition. I spoke to lawyers and for security reasons we decided not to show the photos,’ Orquín told The Local.

“The Vicariate, an organization that helps the Pope carry out his functions as Bishop of Rome, confirmed it had sent the letter threatening legal action and said the photographs ‘could harm the religious sentiment of the faithful.’ “

Italian law, it seems, has a different concept of free expression than United States law:

“Speaking to The Local, Vicariate Spokesman Claudio Tanturri said the photographs are in breach the Italian constitution.

“ ‘Italian constitutional law safeguards an individual’s religious feeling and the function of places of worship.

“ ‘Therefore photos that are not suitable and do not conform to the spirituality of the place offend and infringe upon the advancement of man in the particular place for the expression of faith.’ ”

According to New York’s Daily News, the artist’s position on the exhibit was consonant with religious sentiment:

“ ‘I am a Catholic. I believe in God deeply,’ Orquin told The News in an email. ‘I think if you look closely at my pictures no one can find blasphemy or sacrilege. A kiss is a gesture of love, of tenderness between human beings.’ ”

Flavio Romani, president of Arcigay,Italy’s leading gay rights organization,  agreed with the artist and said that the Vatican’s reaction is a different interpretation than the one he has of the exhibit.  In The Local he stated:

“In the images in which the church has seen provocation, I see an exchange of love, a type of public worship that creates harmony not contrast.”

covered photos

Facebook photo of covered images

In response to the cancellation, the artist has posted a photo on Facebook of the 16 photos covered up, according to Huffington Post UK.   He is hopeful that the exhibit will be displayed elsewhere.  It seems that the notoriety gained by the Vatican’s intervention guarantees that another, perhaps more prominent, venue will be found for the photos.

If the Vatican wants to start living up to the ideals expressed by Pope Francis, interventions such as this one will have to stop.  Such an action doesn’t even serve their own misguided purposes well, as it only brings further exposure and publicity to the exhibit.  Worse yet, it sets up a dichotomy that buildings are more important than people.

The images themselves are not disrespectful.  And like all art, the statement they make probably depends more upon the viewer of them, not the creator of them.  Such images may offend some people, but more likely they will challenge many others, and cause even more people to think about the connections between love and religion.  Art should always get people thinking and discussing.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


First Openly Gay Male Country Musician Applauded in Catholic Church

September 10, 2013

Steve Grand on right, in a screenshot from his music video

Singer Steve Grand is described as “the first openly gay male country star” and is growing in fame. He is also a committed Catholic who openly shares his faith. Yet, what has made Grand’s music and persona stand out is how little those three identities conflict in the public sphere, and the warm reception he has received.

The musician’s rise began with Grand’s participation in his parish’s music ministry, rooted in his “coming out” as a teenager. He claims none of the performers there were “out,” leading Grand to doubt what his priest said about all people being welcomed in the Catholic Church. He also struggled with his parents, who sent him to ‘ex-gay therapy’ when they discovered Grand’s sexual orientation and closely monitored him in high school. Music became Grand’s outlet as he struggled with relationships in his family and with himself.

Grand’s music blossomed in the summer of 2013 when he released  an independent music video on YouTube: “All-American Boy.” It was a wild success. Even though he had been “out” for years, the video placed Grand in a spotlight before family, friends, his parish, and the world. Buzzfeed reports:

“The video wasn’t necessarily Grand’s coming out. He’d done that officially years earlier, but doing this was a terrifying act of vulnerability. ‘It’s me coming out as totally myself and just standing naked before the world,’ he says.

“Despite the risk and fear, Grand says it was something he felt compelled to do. ‘I think that we’re at a time now where there’s no room to be anything but totally honest and totally who you are…I decided this is who I’m gonna be to the world. Just my true, raw self. I’m putting it all out there.’…

“ ‘I couldn’t live with myself if I wasn’t true and honest…That’s what people deserve. People don’t deserve a lie. We have a whole new generation that’s counting on us to be brave and to not be afraid of pigeonholing ourselves. People need to be brave for the world to change. If it puts me in a hole, I’ll accept that. But I did what I needed to do.’ “

Grand’s anxiety ceded to overwhelming displays of support from YouTube viewers and peers, and even within his family. The Huffington Post also reports his fellow Catholics are making their support known:

“Many church members have commended Grand for his courage to openly sing about his sexuality, and his priest has held him up as a model Catholic.

“Father Kurt Boras, the priest at Grand’s church, said that Grand has greatly impacted the community.

” ‘I think he’s changing our community, he’s changing us’…Boras watched the video with some of the church staff, and any concerns were about the whiskey and beer consumption in the video, not Grand’s sexuality, he said…

” ‘I’ve never seen this before. It’s opened up conversations with me that are unbelievable, really…A lot of folks have come to me and said, “I have a gay daughter, a gay son.” This young man has really opened up some conversations that maybe I would never have had as a pastor and they’re coming and saying, “Can we talk to you?” ‘

“Boras said that he has not heard a single negative thing from anyone at his church about Grand or the video. He attributes part of this to Grand himself, whom he describes as “charismatic, humble and warm.” But part of it, he believes, is also due to Pope Francis…He said, “Who am I to judge?” and that one statement, I’m telling you, has opened up conversations for me as a pastor that I could never have imagined before. It’s a new kind of era.’ “

Given the increasing demands on Grand, he resigned from his parish’s music ministry. During his final appearance at Mass, the parishioners applauded him with three standing ovations and other signs of support. Steve Grand’s contributions over the years are not diminished for his fellow Catholics, but only amplified as he preaches a message of authenticity that is warmly received. This can surely be read as a positive sign of the times. It is also a positive sign that Catholics who gain fame can use it to promote LGBT equality, as was reported about the hip hop artist Macklemore earlier this year.

You can view his songs on YouTube, “All-American Boy” and “Stay” (please note, if you are not accustomed to music videos, you may echo the priest’s concerns with drinking and smoking).

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


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