Brazilian Bishops Endorse Legal Equality, Promise to Accompany LGBT Community

May 24, 2014

Dom Leonardo Steiner

Brazil is the world’s largest Catholic nation, containing an estimated 123 million Catholics which is about one-tenth of the global Church overall. When its Church leaders speak, their words can have a profound impact on the life of their local Church  and increasingly in the age of Pope Francis, abroad as well.

This week, a top Brazilian bishop endorsed legal rights for same-gender couples and cited the pope in so doing. His words follow-up on the Archdiocese of  São Paulo’s positive statement to that city’s Pride Parade participants in early May that promised the Church’s solidarity to Brazil’s LGBT community who face daily violence. 

Dom (Bishop) Leonardo Steiner is general secretary of the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil (CNBB) and an auxiliary bishop of Brasilia, the capital city. He was recently interviewed by GLOBO where he made the gay-positive comments, which Bondings 2.0 makes available via a translation from Iglesia Descalza.

While Steiner endorsed civil unions, saying same-gender couples “need a legal protection in society,” his focus in the interview was on how the Church can support lesbian and gay people. Referencing Pope Francis, Steiner tells the interviewer:

” ‘You could say that the Pope is echoing what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says about gay people: “They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.” It’s understood that accepting them with respect, compassion and sensitivity means walking and being with the homosexual person and helping them understand, deepen and guide their condition as a son or daughter of God’ …

” ‘Acceptance and walking with them are necessary to reflect on what fits or doesn’t fit the reality experienced by homosexual people and what, in fact, is rightfully theirs, for their own good and that of society.’ “

Finally, when asked about the possibility of change in the Church, the bishop said:

” ‘The Church isn’t the same through the ages. It seeks answers for the present time, using the Gospel as the illuminating force of its action…The Church is always seeking to read the signs of the times, to see what must or must not change. The truths of faith don’t change.’ “

Dom Steiner’s remarks echo tue positive statement made by the Archdiocese of São Paulo’s Justice and Peace Committee in April, released in anticipation of the city’s 18th Pride Parade, which took place on May 4th.  The statement positioned the Catholic Church as an advocate for LGBT rights. Bondings 2.0 obtained a rough translation, in which the Committee writes:

“We can not remain silent in the face of the reality experienced by this population that is the target of prejudice and victim of systematic violation of their fundamental rights, such as health, education, work , housing, culture, among others…[LGBT people] face unbearable daily verbal and physical violence, culminating in murders that are true hate crimes…

“[P]eople of good will, and in particular all Christians, reflect on this deeply unfair reality of LGBT people and to actively engage in their overcoming it, guided by the supreme principle of human dignity.”

The statement quotes the opening of Gaudium et spes, a Vatican II document, linking “the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties” of LGBT people with those of the Church. Strengthening this connection, the Committee’s director, Geraldo Magela Tardelli, told Estadao:

” ‘The committee has a mission, according to D. Paulo Evaristo Ars [the cardinal archbishop emeritus of Sao Paulo]: ‘we have to give voice to those who have no voice.’ Right now, what we are finding is that there is an increase of violence against homosexuals, so we can not overlook this violation of human rights…

” ‘We are engaged in upholding human rights and do not agree with violence, regardless of the color and the sexual orientation of people.’ “

These statements of solidarity, and the further endorsement of legal rights, are important in Brazil where more than 300 LGBT people are murdered annually in hate crimes. Let us hope such positive words from Catholic bishops, and more so their commitment to be among those who are marginalized for their sexual orientation or gender identity, will spread throughout Brazil and beyond its borders.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Do Bishops or Politicians Know More About Catholics and LGBT Issues?

May 21, 2014

A couple in Malta celebrates new national progress on LGBT equality.

Recent news out of Malta concerning Catholics and sexuality/gender issues seems to contradict information released by the nation’s Catholic bishops about the opinions of Catholics there on marriage and family topics.

This tiny, heavily-Catholic island nation has witnessed some important progressive political developments lately in terms of LGBT issues and Catholicism, yet the bishops report seems to indicate that Catholics are satisfied with traditional church teaching in these arenas.

Last month, we reported that this country approved civil unions for lesbian and gay couples, including the right to adopt, though the Catholic bishops there strongly opposed the measure.   Furthermore, Malta also made history in the area of transgender equality by becoming the first nation in Europe to protect transgender people in a constitution.  Malta Today reported:

“Malta has become the first European state to have gender identity in its constitution following the proposed amendment that was approved yesterday evening in parliament.”

Yet, according to data released recently by the Maltese Catholic bishops, the Catholic community in this country responded in a very traditional way to the survey about marriage and family issues in anticipation of the upcoming world synod on these topics.  According to The National Catholic Reporter here are some of the results:

  • Nearly 50 percent of Maltese accept and live by the church’s teaching on birth control, and nearly 20 percent said they ignored the church’s teaching on birth control.
  • 62.5 percent agreed that marriage is the indissoluble union between a man and a woman that has children as a goal; 3.8 percent disagreed with this statement and 5.8 percent was unsure; 25.4 percent didn’t answer.
  • 43 percent said not allowing divorced and remarried couples to receive the sacraments was a cause of pain, and 14.7 percent said they have felt this pain; 17.2 percent said divorced or remarried couples should be allowed to receive Communion.

The Maltese survey statistics are one of the few sets of data that bishops around the globe have released that show that Catholics in the pews seem to support church teaching.  Almost every other set showed great dissatisfaction by the laity in the areas of teaching about marriage and family.  (For more information about other survey results, click on the “Synod 2014″ link under the “Categories” heading in the column at the right of this page.)

So what can count for this difference between political reality in this nation which is 98% Catholic and the responses given to the survey by Catholics?  Perhaps the bishops did not get a random sample of Catholics responding to their questionnaire.  Perhaps people responded in a “false positive” sort of way because they did not want to appear to be dissenting from church teaching.  Perhaps people are happy for their government to be more progressive about marriage and sexuality, but they do not want their church to be so.

So, while the news report noted that the Maltese bishops were “surprised but reassured by the findings of the survey,” perhaps they need to do some serious soul-searching.  One other possibility for the discrepancy highlights a possible serious pastoral problem.  Perhaps many of the nation’s Catholics are disaffected or alienated from the church, and did not receive the survey.   

This possibility raises an important concern for bishops not only in Malta, but worldwide. As they gather for the synod, they need to take into account not only the opinions of Catholics in the pews, but also those who have left the pews because they found church teachings on marriage and family life not consistent with what their consciences were telling them.

Malta had a powerful glimmer of hope in this regard this past week. Auxiliary Bishop Charles Scicluna, who was the prominent spokesperson for the hierarchy’s opposition to the civil unions bill, took a more reconciliatory step by meeting with members of Drachma, the Catholic LGBT group in Malta.

Pink News reported that Scicluna took part in an event for the International Day Against Homophobia, which was celebrated world-wide on May 17th.   The bishop, who during the civil unions debate had declared such recognition as a “grave moral act” was not the only Maltese Catholic leader who showed up for the event.  Pink News reported:

“Bishop Scicluna along with a number of other priests were joined by dignitaries from Maltese political parties in support of Drachma and their work with LGBT people.”

Such a gesture of reconciliation with the LGBT community is very much in line with what Jesuit Father James Martin called for in a recent article in America magazine.   More gestures of outreach and reconciliation are needed in our church.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 


‘Year of Lady Gaga,’ IDAHOT, & Other Events Show Catholic High Schools’ Progress

May 17, 2014

Canadian student paints mural to celebrate IDAHOT

Catholic colleges have long modeled LGBT acceptance for the wider Church, offering student organizations and offices tasked with fostering a welcoming campus for all. Lately, it seems Catholic high schools, too, are more and more responding to students’ expectations for equality and striving for more inclusive classrooms.

As LGBT advocates worldwide act for the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT) today, let’s look at some of the positive steps being taken in Catholic high schools.

Members of Blessed Pope John Paul II Catholic Secondary School in Toronto celebrated their first Pride Week this past week, linked to today’s IDAHOT. Students involved with the school’s gay-straight alliance spent this week painting a mural which was unveiled yesterday (see photo for detail). Junior Maneesa Sotheedwaran said of the mural, according to DailyXtra:

” ‘Our mural is a picture of an eye, and it’s black and white because we don’t want to choose an ethnicity or gender, so it’s sort of our GSA’s vision of seeing the colours unite and promoting the colours that the Pride flag represents,” Sotheedwaran says, noting that when it’s finished, the mural will say ‘love is love’ above the eye and ‘gay straight alliance’ below.”

Other events during the week included a film and discussion on homophobia, a fitting end to the GSA’s first year after Ontario’s government mandated that Catholic schools receiving public funding allow for the establishment of  LGBT groups. Sotheedwaran, who helped found the group, says of the process:

” ‘The principal we had at the time was completely supportive of it…He actually got really emotional and told me about his own experiences in his family, and he was very interested in having this happen. He thought it was very important.’

” ‘It’s important for a school to say that and accept all students because, whether or not you’re going to join because you’re gay or bisexual or whatever, knowing that your school has a GSA and that environment is there is like a sort of validation.’ “

(As an aside, in Italy, many Catholic churches are hosting prayer vigils for IDAHOT celebrations this year.  For a complete list, click here, and scroll down to the middle of the page.)

Lady Gaga

Across the border in Amsterdam, New York (near Albany), Fr. John Medwid of St. Mary’s Catholic Church, and the attached St. Mary’s Institute (SMI), explained his remarks that this was “going to be the Year of Lady Gaga at SMI.” The priest’s comments about Lady Gaga, a strong supporter of LGBT equality, were first made at the school’s opening Mass in September, but Edge on the Net reports Medwid followed-up this spring saying:

” ‘…many people may not realize that Lady Gaga is the product of Catholic education…she was someone who followed her own path…It takes a great deal of courage especially for young people to blaze their own trails in life!’ “

In Ireland, Catholic schools will participate in the government’s anti-bullying campaign that specifically addresses LGBT topics. The nation’s Department of Education released specific steps schools will take to curtail homophobic and transphobic bullying, including posters, participation in “Stand Up! Awareness Week,” and additional resources for educators’ use.

The Independent reports these reforms are a response to a book released last winter, Bullying In Irish Education, writing:

“It was reported that almost six in 10 LGBT people, and more than half of current schoolgoers, suffered homophobic bullying in school.

“Over 50 per cent said they had been called names because of their sexual orientation and a startling eight per cent were even taunted by members of school staff.”

“Research reported high levels of depression and self-harm, with increasing risks of suicide among those who were affected.”

It is a hopeful sign that Catholic high schools are responding to not only a changing culture, but to their students’ LGBT-inclusive demands. Emerging generations of Catholics and those educated in the Church’s school systems will not tolerate anti-gay discrimination. They reject disrespectful and fallacious remarks from authority figures,  as in the incident in North Carolina several weeks ago. Yet, more hopeful is their engagement in the work of building up local communities through education and dialogue that receive blessings from their educators and administrators.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Are Catholic Nations Friendlier for LGBT People?

May 9, 2014
Top 10 nations which view homosexuality as morally acceptable. (Source:

Top 10 nations which view homosexuality as morally acceptable. (Source: Pew Research Center)

Is it possible that religious, and specifically Catholic, nations are more LGBT-friendly than others? Data from the Pew Research Center’s Global Views on Morality survey seems to suggest so, but questions have been raised about just what that means in practice or if it is even true.

The poll released in April shows a strong correlation between nations that are predominantly Catholic and those which view homosexuality as morally acceptable or not a moral issue altogether. Eight of ten nations whose respondents affirmed homosexuality are either majority Catholic or have large Catholic populations, including the Czech Republic and Spain in the number one and two slots. Nations like France, Italy, and Poland led among nations whose respondents largely view the issue amorally.  The poll confirms findings of a similar survey done in 2013.

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Top 10 nations which view homosexuality as not a moral issue. (Source: Pew Research Center)

The data revealed highly religious nations to be more accepting of homosexuality overall, but religious nations also led the list of least accepting places. Nations with large Catholic populations like Uganda and El Salvador were among those nations whose citizens overwhelmingly viewed homosexuality as morally unacceptable. In the United States, the percentages for the general population broke down as follows: 37% viewed homosexuality as immoral, 23% moral, 35% amoral.

That’s the facts according to Pew. The reality in these nations and how religion has influenced LGBT-inclusion practically might be different. HuffPost Live hosted a segment which asked, “Why are Religious Places the Most LGBT-Friendly?” It featured two LGBT people from Brazil, Nathalie Vassallo, a blogger, and Thiago Araujo, a journalist with the Brasil Post.

Vassallo rejected Pew’s findings that Brazil was a positive place for LGBT people, which was confirmed by Araujo. She questioned the survey’s wording and asked “What does it mean to be an accepting country?” Government policies which protect gay people do not necessarily mean there is cultural acceptance, and even respondents who said homosexuality was morally acceptable would be uncomfortable with a family member coming out to them. Even though Brazil scored highly in the Pew data, it may not be a truly LGBT-affirming nation.

And what role has religion played in cultural and societal acceptance or rejection? Araujo said he would feel more comfortable walking into a Catholic church than a Protestant one, but that neither would be truly comfortable and safe places. Addressing Catholicism in the segment was gay priest Gary Meier of St. Louis, who said the following of the Pew data:

“I don’t think it was anything that I was surprised to find out. I’ve known for a some time and a lot of folks have known that the people in Church, in the pews are predominantly supporting LGBT issues…

“The hierarchy in the Catholic Church has been very vocal about condemning homosexuality, homosexual acts, and things like that. But the people from the pews, and again the poll reflects that, the people in Spain were folks that are predominantly Catholic, they’re from the pews…the voices from the pews are quite different than from the pulpit…

“The Church is the People of God and the People of God are very clear that homosexuality is not a moral issue. It just isn’t. And we need to grow in acceptance and love and tolerance for all people, regardless of who they love.”

Meier was hopeful at how Pope Francis has softened the institutional tone around LGBT issues, while reminding viewers that a change in Church teaching is probably not imminent. He said further:

“That tone is rooted in the teaching. We’ve got to change the teaching. We’ve got to get this out of the realm of morality. Homosexuality is not a moral issue. You’re gay or you’re not gay. You’re bisexual or you’re not bisexual. We don’t go around asking people if heterosexual people are morally correct…

“If anyone can move that forward it’s somebody like Pope Francis, but he’s got a lot of opposition in the hierarchy putting pressure on him to not move this issue too far, too fast…In the end, I’m confident that the truth will win out and the truth will be told that all people are created in the image and likeness of God for love.”

The truth about the Pew data and Catholic nations’ acceptance of LGBT people seems to be found somewhere in the middle of all this. It is certainly true that predominantly Catholic nations, and Catholic states within the US, have been at the forefront of passing laws and policies protecting LGBT equality. It is also true that support for laws does not eliminate internalized homophobia and transphobia, meaning cultural change is ongoing. Finally, there is the sad truth that in places like Uganda, the Catholic faith is being used to propagate anti-LGBT discrimination and hatred.

What do you think? Are nations with large Catholic populations generally friendlier places for LGBT people or is the Pew data incorrect?

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

 


When Catholics Are a Cause of Anti-Gay Discrimination, How Can the Church Respond?

May 4, 2014

Martin DublinThe criminalization of homosexuality has been a disturbing trend around the globe, as nations strengthen or add new laws discriminating against LGBT people. For Catholics worldwide, there is the concurrent reality that prominent Church leaders and Catholic politicians have openly supported, or even actively pursued anti-gay legislation.

Incidents in Liberia and Zimbabwe further raise these concerns, and are evidence of why it is so important for Pope Francis to defend LGBT human rights explicitly.

A bishop in Uganda was not the only clergyman who used Easter to condemn LGBT people. A report from The Advocate says a priest in Liberia priest used the feast day to attack marriage equality and the nation’s president, who has not denounced same-gender marriage. Fr. Ambrose Kroma said President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s silence on the marriage issue, which is illegal in Liberia along with homosexuality in general, is evidence of her support for LGBT rights. His comments follow-up on Archbishop Lewis Zeigler of Monrovia’s comments against same-gender marriage in April.

In Zimbabwe, President Robert Mugabe, who is Catholic, called homosexuality “inhuman” at an event celebrating Zimbabwe’s independence, according to New Zimbabwe. He also threatened organizations seeking LGBT equality in the country and said he would expel foreigners supportive of gay rights, adding to his viciously anti-LGBT record. In his comments, he appeals to God and Christian faith as justifications for his opposition to homosexuality.

According to the Washington Blade, groups in Zimbabwe claim the dictator uses anti-LGBT rhetoric to shore up political supportWith news that Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni has gained popularity since passing that nation’s harsh anti-gay law, it seems likely that scapegoating LGBT people is a successful political tactic into which Mugabe is tapping.

These are troubling developments, but not isolated incidents, as regular readers of Bondings 2.0 are aware. In light of Pope Francis’ more welcoming tone towards LGBT people, CNN columnist LZ Granderson asks the key question for the rest of us: “will Christians condemn the persecution of gays?” He writes:

“Pope Francis sent shock waves around the globe last July when in addressing the issue of gays in the church, he opted not to remind his 1.6 billion followers about the fiery pits of hell but instead posed a question: ‘Who am I to judge?’ …

“Many followers of Christ may find silence on this topic easier, not noticing silence is being interpreted as endorsement — whether they agree with the anti-gay rhetoric or not. For each time “Who am I to judge?” is asked, an anti-gay quote from the Catholic League’s Bill Donahue is there to answer…

“It was in such silence that laws in Uganda were originally drafted to make being gay punishable by death. Laws that found validation from the ties some Ugandan politicians had to well-known U.S. evangelicals who regularly visited the country. The evangelicals have since distanced themselves from the anti-gay politics of Uganda. Not because of some moral stirring within their soul but because they were called out on it.”

Granderson’s response is simple, yet challenging, and calls on Catholics to end the silence of church leaders. He writes:

“To move Pope Francis’ question from a global headline to global change, Christians must stop allowing silence to be the de facto weapon of choice against the senseless persecution of gay people.”

A good first step is participating in the #PopeSpeakOut campaign, to make your voice heard in Rome and elsewhere for Pope Francis to clearly condemn laws which encourage discrimination and violence against LGBT people. You can find more information on how to take action by clicking here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Ontario Teachers’ Decision to March in WorldPride Parade Draws Criticism

April 25, 2014

Catholic educators in Ontario are planning to march in the WorldPride 2014 parade in Toronto, a decision which has drawn criticism from some parents and the local cardinal.

The Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association (OECTA), a union which represents teachers in Ontario’s Catholic schools, will participate in the June parade as an act of solidarity with the LGBT community. James Ryan, the union’s president, made clear this action was not a protest and said of the teachers’ involvement:

” ‘It was in support of those members in the community who identity as LGBT, to be free from all forms of hatred and discrimination and that alone is what it is for…Our marching is purely on the basis of support in solidarity for people to be free from discrimination.’ “

OECTA represents 45,000 educators in the province’s Catholic schools which receive public funds. The union released a statement on their website that echoed Ryan’s remarks but was more critical of Catholic institutions, saying further:

“There is no doubt that students and teachers in Catholic schools, like other publicly funded schools in Ontario, face bullying and discrimination that sometimes has fatal consequences. Few in our society would disagree that more must be done to change the culture of our schools in order to allow individuals, without exception, to lead healthy lives free of harassment and prejudice

“OECTA believes that taking the public stand of marching in the WorldPride Parade 2014 will provide comfort and support to our students and teachers who frequently struggle in a hostile environment that does not offer them the support and protection they are owed as citizens of Ontario and Canada.”

In response, a group called Parents As First Educators (PAFE) has been gathering signatures to protest OECTA’s participation in WorldPride events. The petition was launched Easter Monday, directed at the Ontario Catholic school trustees who are asked to use their power against OECTA, according to the Toronto Sun.

Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto also criticized the teachers’ attendance in the parade. Michael O’Loughlin of The Advocate reports the cardinal called the teachers attendance in the parade “wrong” and said “OECTA leadership have an inadequate and mistaken understanding of their faith.”

What Cardinal Collins and other critics seem to miss, but what the teachers clearly understand, is that Catholic schools are not harmed, but thrive when they are fully inclusive of LGBT people.  In previous years, the OECTA voiced their support for gay LGBT issues but never formally participated in an event. When the union’s assembly voted this year to ramp up support for WorldPride and march in the parade,  they did this “in solidarity with one of most marginalized groups in Catholic community” according to their website.

These teachers know firsthand the suffering of students who are LGBT and the hardships of their LGBT peers, like transgender educator Jan Buterman who was fired from a Catholic school last year. Catholics everywhere would do well to learn from the witness of these teachers in Ontario.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


NEWS NOTES: April 19, 2014

April 19, 2014

NewsHere are some items that you might find of interest:

1)  The Montana Standard reported that Shaela Evenson, a lesbian teacher who was fired from a Butte, Montana Catholic school because she became pregnant while unmarried, has given birth to a baby boy.  Both the school superintendent and Evenson’s lawyer agree that it was the pregnancy and marital status, not sexual orientation, which was the cause of the firing.  Evenson, who lives with her partner Marilyn Tobin, has filed a discrimination case with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

2) Michael Coren, a columnist for Canada’s The Toronto Sun reported that the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association has decided to march in Toronto’s World Pride parade in June.  The organization 45,000 teachers.

3) The Boston Globe reported that Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley filed a brief against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Worcester in the discrimination suit brought against them by a married gay couple who said the diocese refused to sell them a real estate property because of the couple’s sexual orientation.

4) Insight Newspaper reported that Archbishop Lewis Zeigler of Monrovia, Liberia, has told Catholics in that African nation not to support same-sex marriage.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


NEWS NOTES: April 18, 2014

April 18, 2014

NewsHere are some follow-up news items to previous posts:

1)  The Tablet reported that Conor Burns, a Catholic member of the British Parliament, said he does not feel welcome to receive communion in his diocese because his bishop  had suggested that Catholic Members of Parliament who voted for last year’s marriage equality law should not be allowed to receive communion.  Though Bishop Philip Egan had suggested banning these Catholic politicians from communion, the Catholic Conference of England said they have no plans to follow such a policy, according to Gay Star News.

2)  Following a heated meeting of parents who were upset that a nun with an anti-gay message was allowed to speak at an assembly at Charlotte Catholic High School, North Carolina, Bishop Peter Jugis of the Charlotte Diocese has written a letter “to express my support and encouragement for all the parents, students, staff and faculty at the high school.”   A copy of his letter is available on the WSOC-TV website, which reported this development. 

2)  The San Gabriel Valley Tribune reported that Ken Bencomo, who was fired from his teaching position at St. Lucy’s Priory H.S. in Glendora, California, for marrying his husband, is suing the school for ” wrongful termination in violation of public policy, violation of the state Labor Code and breach of contract.”

3) Though publicly-identified LGBT groups were not allowed to march in Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade last month, the central Massachusetts city of Holyoke welcomed Mass Equality, the state’s LGBT rights organization to march in its parade in honor of the Irish saint, reported WGGB-TV.  The Holyoke High School Gay/Straight Alliance, also marched.  Mayor Alex Morse said it was the first time in memory that LGBT groups participated in the parade.

4) TheSpec.com reported that Christopher Karas, a Catholic high school student in Mississauga, Canada, who had been told earlier this year that he could not use a quotation from Harvey Milk on a school poster advertising the students’ gay/straight alliance,  has now filed a complaint with Ontario’s human rights tribunal, accusing the school of systemic homophobia.  His complaint extends beyond the incident with the poster, and includes a history of incidents that Karas said he has experienced at the school.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

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NEWS NOTES: April 17, 2014

April 17, 2014

NewsHere are some items that you might find of interest:

1) The Catholic island nation of Malta passed legislation approving civil unions for same-gender couples, according to Gay Star News.  Auxiliary Bishop Charles Scicluna, a Maltese Catholic bishop, who had at one time spoke favorably about same-gender relationships, was one of the prime spokesperson’s for the local Catholic hierarchy opposing the new law.

2) Catholics in Spain are strongly in support of that nation’s marriage equality law, which was enacted in 2005, according to a new survey.  West-Info.eu  reported on the survey which also noted that in two Catholic nations where same-gender marriage is not legal, the majority of believers oppose such a policy:  in Italy, 66%;  in Poland, 78%.

Mother Teresa

3) Mother Teresa is featured on the website for the United Nations’ Free and Equal program which supports non-discrimination for LGBT people around the globe.  When one clicks on her image on the homepage, one is brought to a photo of Mother Teresa under the headline “Mother Teresa Helps Us to Remember What’s Important.”   Superimposed over her photo is a quote from the universally-revered champion of the poor:  “What can you do to promote world peace?  Go home and love your family.”  The photo with the quotation can be shared on Facebook and other social media platforms.

4) The National Catholic Reporter noted that the Vatican has appointed a bishop to investigate the sexual abuse allegations against Cardinal Keith O’Brien, formerly the primate of Scotland, who resigned last year when he acknowledged sexual liaisons with men who became priests in his diocese.  O’Brien made headlines for speaking out strongly against marriage equality in Scotland.  The bishop who will be leading the investigation is Maltese Bishop Charles Scicluna, mentioned in the first news note above.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


Under Pope Francis, Italian Gay Catholics See Signs of Hope — and Resistance

April 9, 2014

Whether a ‘Francis effect’ exists and just what it might be are questions which have dominated media coverage of Pope Francis’ first year. Now, the Washington Post profiles gay Italian Catholics who very much believe  ‘l’effetto Francesco’ or ‘Francis effect’ is positively influencing not just the Church, but their nation as well. The article begins by setting the Italian context:

Giulia Masieri is given Communion during the Mass held by Don Andrea Bigalli in the Church of Sant’Andrea in Florence, Italy. The parish welcomes gay Catholics.

“But for the pope, perhaps no one issue illustrates his divergence from tradition more than early signs of rapprochement between the church and gay Catholics.

“Francis’s shift so far has been one of style over substance; nothing in the church’s teachings on homosexuality has changed, and conservative clerics remain deeply skeptical of any radical move toward broad acceptance. But few places offer a better snapshot of the church’s evolving relationship with its gay flock than here in Italy, the host of Vatican City and where Roman Catholicism wields outsize influence.”

Italy, long influenced by the Catholic Church, is a holdout among European nations on LGBT rights. The nation’s bishops have helped stop even civil union-type legislation and, of the so-called ‘social issues,’ the Post writes that “homosexuality remains the last taboo.” LGBT advocates do not expect legal recognition of same-gender partners any time soon, even as Italian politicians begin to more publicly endorse gay equality. And yet, the Post notes:

“…the influence on the ground of Francis’s words and deeds — including a recent suggestion that the church may look more closely at the issue of civil unions — has begun to create what gay Catholics here describe as a burgeoning spirit of acceptance in pockets of the church’s grass roots.

“In Florence, a local parish council this month permitted a group of gay Catholics to hold their first public prayer session inside a Roman Catholic church. In Rome, a parish run by Jesuit priests announced a special service scheduled for April that, also for the first time in recent memory, is openly reaching out to gay as well as divorced Catholics. A leaflet for the service depicts Francis on the cover and reads: ‘The Church wants to be home. For everybody.’

“Prompted by a new Vatican questionnaire seeking views on family issues including same-sex couples, a representative of the Diocese of Padua held a landmark meeting in December with a gay Catholic group. Luigi Pescina, a spokesman for the group, said members were told that local church officials would now aim to ‘strip ourselves of prejudice and fear’ and ‘open up a relationship of exchange and enrichment’ with local gay Catholics.”

Elsewhere, Catholic priests and politicians who are already LGBT-affirming are pushing the boundaries and citing Pope Francis when doing so. Kairos, an existing gay Catholic group who received a personal response from Pope Francis last fall, may now hold public liturgies and be affiliated with the parish which had been hosting it. The group’s coordinator Innocenzo Pontillo and others said of these steps:

” ‘It may seem small, but for us, this is important…It is like feeling the light on your face. These are things which I feel would have been impossible before Pope Francis.’

“New members of the group, like Anna Maria — a 35-year-old lesbian who was too afraid of being ‘outed’ to give her last name — have come to consider the pope’s comments on homosexuality last July as a personal turning point.

“She said her devoutly Catholic mother called her after hearing the pope’s declaration. The two of them had grown distant since Anna Maria had told her mother years earlier that she was a lesbian. ‘But when she called me, she said, “If the pope is not judging you, then who am I to judge you either?” ‘ “

Yet, LGBT advocates are warning of claiming too much, too soon, as positive as Pope Francis’ first year has been. They point to continued examples of priests condemning gay and lesbian people.  And sustained cultural change will be needed if Pope Francis’ welcoming tone is to have a lasting impact.

There are also those in the Catholic hierarchy working against LGBT inclusion, including Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, the head of Italy’s conference of bishops. In a speech, Bagnasco urged parents to oppose an anti-bullying campaign launched by the Italian government to stop violence against and suicides by gay people.

The cardinal used harsh language, saying schools were becoming “indoctrination and re-education camps” in a “totalitarian dictatorship” and attacked what he termed “gender ideology.” According to The New Civil Rights Movement, outcry from Catholic bishops has now caused the government to postpone rolling out the anti-bullying program.

Italy’s situation is a reminder for the universal Church that while Pope Francis is opening doors to LGBT people, lasting change will only come as a result of cultural transformation and we have much to do. Still, the ‘Francis effect’ seems helpful along this path to a more just Church.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


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