A New Generation of Bishops?

July 27, 2014
Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki

Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki

As we approach the one year anniversary of Pope Francis’ famous “Who am I to judge?” remark,  we are looking to see what signs of change there might be in the rest of the church.  Yesterday, we looked at how some U.S. bishops have not been following Francis’ lead.  Today we look at how Francis has made an epsicopal change which is more in line with his apparent new outreach model.

Pope Francis’ welcoming tone has ignited hope for change in the Church, but many observers believe it will be be his episcopal appointments, and not any words or acts, that will leave the most lasting impression. One recent appointment is being celebrated as a sign that bishops more in line with Pope Francis are entering the hierarchy.

Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki of Berlin is being moved to Germany’s largest and wealthiest archdiocese, Cologne. Berlin’s Tagesspiegel newspaper said of this development:

“Woelki represents the prototype of a new generation of bishops who will set the tone in the coming decades. You are no longer cranky and dogmatic wrongheaded as it was Joachim Meisner in office the Cardinal of Cologne. The new men speak of mercy and mean it that way. Go to people – in moderation even their critics – and have a heart for the socially disadvantaged. Theologically conservative they are anyway. The human part of Turned and Social comes in the public good, the theological conservatives holding things together.This is the line that pretends Francis. Cardinal Woelki fits in Bergoglio’s vacancy.”

Woelki was considered conservative when appointed to Berlin, but surprised many LGBT advocates with his positive statements that the Church must “rethink” its approach to gay couples and find a way to treat them similarly to heterosexual couples. The cardinal has also endorsed civil unions for same-gender couples. For all this, he was offered the Respect Prize by Berlin’s Alliance Against Homophobia, though Woelki declined, saying it should be normative for Christians to be respectful of everyone.

The German Church overall is showing signs of openness. Earlier this year, leading German theologians responded to the Vatican questionnaire in preparation for this fall’s Synod on marriage and family life, calling for a “fundamental, new evaluation” of sexual ethics. German bishops, after evaluating responses from lay Catholics and others to that same questionnaire, said the Church’s sexual teachings were unrealistic and ‘merciless.‘ Most recently, Bishop Stephan Ackermann of Trier reiterated these calls for new ways of thinking about sexuality and said the Church must “respect their decisions of conscience.”

What do you think? Is Cardinal Woelki’s appointment a sign of progress to come or simply an anomaly? Let us know your thoughts in the ‘Comments’ section below.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


QUOTE TO NOTE: Elton John ‘Excited’ by Pope Francis’ New Approach to Church

June 30, 2014

computer_key_Quotation_MarksMusician Elton John is the latest celebrity to talk about Pope Francis’ approach to LGBT issues.  Amid Pride celebrations in his home country of Britain this month, the gay pop music superstar spoke in heavily Catholic language about the situation globally for LGBT people . John told Sky News, as reported by So So Gay:

” ‘If Jesus Christ was alive today, I cannot see him, as the Christian person that he was and the great person that he was, saying this could not happen. He was all about love and compassion and forgiveness and trying to bring people together and that’s what the church should be about.’

Elton John

” ‘The new Pope has been wonderful, he’s excited me so much. He’s stripped it [the Church] down to the bare bones and said it’s all basically about love.

” ‘The great tragedy is that as thousands freely take to the streets on Saturday celebrating Pride parades around Britain, the position has never been worse for gay men, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people in so many other countries around the world…The persecution continues… [and Catholic and Anglican churches] actively support intolerance.’ “

John added that the solution to international LGBT oppression is to enact a vision of love and compassion, so that the “most vulnerable” are not left behind. Perhaps he should join Catholics and people of faith worldwide in the #PopeSpeakOut campaign by asking Pope Francis to condemn clearly anti-gay laws like Uganda’s as inconsistent with Christian faith.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


QUOTE TO NOTE: Austria’s Cardinal Christoph Schönborn: ‘Not everyone who is born male feels he is a man and the same applies to women’

May 22, 2014
computer_key_Quotation_Marks

Cardinal Christoph Schonborn

Cardinal Christoph Schonborn

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna has weighed in on the Eurovision Song Contest, making approving remarks about the cross-dressing winner, Conchita Wurst. Wurst is the drag persona of gay man, Tom Neuwirth, who won the continent-wide competition singing “Rise Like a Phoenix” while representing Austria. The Tablet reports further of the cardinal’s remarks:

” ‘I am glad that Tom Neuwirth had such success with his artistic creation Conchita Wurst and I will pray for him…As we all know, there is multicoloured variety in God’s garden. Not everyone who is born male feels he is a man and the same applies to women. Such people deserve the same respect that we all have a right to as human beings.’

Conchita Wurst

“The issue of tolerance, to which the singer said her performance was dedicated, was a ‘very real and major issue’, the cardinal said, adding that people like Tom Neuwirth had been exposed to ridicule, nastiness and intolerance. Tolerance meant ‘respecting someone even if one does not share his or her views,’ Schönborn emphasised.”

Schönborn’s comments follow controversies about Wurst’s appearance, which prompted a petition against the performer in Austria, as well as attempts at censoring her in nations like Belarus and Russia.

The cardinal has previously endorsed civil unions for same-gender couples and urged the Church to rethink teachings on marriage. He was also considered a papal candidate during the conclave which elected Pope Francis.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


QUOTE TO NOTE: Pope Francis on Overcoming Prejudice

March 24, 2014

computer_key_Quotation_MarksAt the Angelus service at the Vatican on Sunday, March 23rd, Pope Francis spoke eloquently about overcoming prejudice.  His words will surely ring loudly for those who work for LGBT equality.  Thanks to Martin Pendergast in England for alerting me to this text in English.  You can read an English-language news story of the talk here. You can read the entire text in Italian here.  You can view a video of the talk here.  The following are excerpts relevant to the topic of prejudice:

“Today’s Gospel presents us with the meeting between Jesus and the Samaritan woman in [the Samaritan town of] Sychar near an ancient well where the woman had come to draw water. Jesus found himself seated at the well that day “tired from his journey” (John 4:6). He immediately says: “Give me to drink” (4:7). In this way he overcomes the barriers of hostility that existed between Jews and Samaritans and the mentality of prejudiced mentality toward women. Jesus’ simple request is the beginning of a frank dialogue through which, with great delicacy, he enters into the interior world of a person to whom, according to the social norms, he should not have even spoken a word.But Jesus does it! Jesus is not afraid. Jesus, when he sees a person, goes forward, because he loves. He loves us all. Prejudice does not hinder his contact with a person. Jesus places the person before his [the person’s] situation, not judging him but making him feel appreciated, recognized and in this way awakens in him the desire to move beyond his daily routine. . . .

“The Gospel tells us that the disciples were astonished that their Master spoke with that woman. But the Lord is greater than prejudices; this is why he was not afraid to engage with the Samaritan woman. Mercy is greater than prejudice. This we must learn well! Mercy is greater than prejudice, and Jesus is very merciful, very! . . . .

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


QUOTE TO NOTE: On the Passing of Fred Phelps

March 23, 2014

computer_key_Quotation_MarksFred Phelps, the founder of the virulently anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church, died this past week.   The National Catholic Reporter posted an article on Phelps’ history, which began in Topeka, Kansas, and then gained a national profile.

LGBT religious groups responded to his demise with compassion for the human sorrow that death brings and with calls to end the religiously-based anti-gay rhetoric that Phelps personified.  On the CNN Religion BlogJim Smith, DignityUSA‘s Associate Director, had this to say:

“There is a sadness as deep as the Grand Canyon over the harm that he has unleashed in our country, a sadness that can’t be quantified. But that still doesn’t mean I delight in his death. I’d delight in the end of the Westboro [Baptist Church] mission.”

To Smith’s sentiments, we say, “Amen!”

Fred Phelps

Taking a different perspective was a Kansas Catholic Church official,  who claimed that Phelps’ extremism harmed people who oppose marriage equality and other pro-LGBT issues. Jacksonville.com reported :

“Michael Schuttloffel, executive director of the Kansas Catholic Conference, said Phelps and his congregation still represent ‘an easy device’ for gay-marriage supporters to “short-circuit the conversation” on that and related issues in recent years.

” ‘People were justifiably, appropriately outraged by the things that they did,’ Schuttloffel said of Phelps and his church. ‘As soon as someone, then, is able to tar you as being related to them or thinking the same way as them, right away you’re starting behind the eight ball.’

So sad that Mr. Schuttloffel turned this occasion into a statement about marriage.  So sad that a Catholic official does not recognize the pain and harm that Phleps caused so many.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


QUOTE TO NOTE: Cardinal Dolan, Michael Sam, Civil Unions, and Pope Francis

March 11, 2014

computer_key_Quotation_MarksOn Sunday, New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan was interviewed on Meet The Press, and he made two quotes worth noting related to LGBT issues.  One quote indicates that Pope Francis seems to be having an influence on the cardinal’s language concerning LGBT issues, but the second one shows that there might be disagreement between these church leaders.

When host David Gregory asked him to respond to Michael Sam, the NFL draft prospect who recently came out,  the cardinal had this to say:

Michael Sam

“Good for him. I would have no sense of judgment on him. God bless ya. . . . look the same Bible that tells us, that teaches us well about the virtues of chastity and the virtue of fidelity and marriage also tells us not to judge people. So I would say, ‘Bravo.’ “

Gay Star News reported this information. Dolan’s quote seems to echo Pope Francis’ famous “Who am I to judge?” line.

In the same interview, Cardinal Dolan indicated that he believes Pope Francis is interested in exploring the issue of civil unions.  According to Religion News Service, Dolan answered a question about  pope’s recent interview with an Italian newspaper by saying that he thought

Cardinal Timothy Dolan

“. . .Francis was telling Catholics that ‘we need to think about that and look into it and see the reasons that have driven’ the public to accept them.”

“ ‘It wasn’t as if he came out and approved them,’ said Dolan, the nation’s most prominent Catholic bishop and the former president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. ‘But Francis was instead saying, “Rather than quickly condemn them … let’s just ask the questions as to why that has appealed to certain people.” ‘ “

But Dolan and Pope Francis might not see eye to eye on this issue:

“When host David Gregory asked Dolan if accepting civil unions would make him ‘uncomfortable,’ Dolan said it would because it could ‘water down’ the traditional religious view of marriage.”

Pope Francis

Pope Francis

In last week’s blog post about Pope Francis’ interview, we noted that there seemed to be reasons to doubt whether the pope was speaking about same-gender civil unions when he made his remarks.  He was, at best, ambiguous.  It is significant that as prominent a church leader as Cardinal Dolan has interpreted the pope’s comments as indicating interest in same-gender unions–perhaps a sign that discussions of supporting lesbian and gay relationships are on the agendas of church leaders.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related article:

The Telegraph: Pope says Catholic Church should not dismiss gay marriage


QUOTE TO NOTE: Pope Francis’ Vision for Bishops

February 28, 2014

computer_key_Quotation_MarksPope Francis addressed the Congregation for Bishops yesterday, laying out his vision for what qualities a bishop should possess and how the congregation must now go about appointing bishops. In a partial statement posted by News.va, the pope is quoted as saying:

“[W]e need someone who looks upon us with the breadth of heart of God; we do not need a manager, a company administrator…We need someone who knows how to raise himself to the height of God’s gaze above us in order to guide us towards Him…

Pope Francis

Pope Francis

“Since faith comes from proclamation we need kerygmatic bishops…Men who are guardians of doctrine, not so as as [sic] to measure how far the world is from doctrinal truth, but in order to fascinate the world…with the beauty of love, with the freedom offered by the Gospel. The Church does not need apologists for her causes or crusaders for her battles, but humble and trusting sowers of the truth, who know that it is always given to them anew and trust in its power. Men who are patient men as they know that the weeds will never fill the field…

“May bishops be shepherds, close to the people; fathers and brothers, may they be gentle, patient and merciful; may they love poverty, interior poverty, as freedom for the Lord, and exterior poverty, as well as simplicity and a modest lifestyle; may they not have the mindset of ‘princes’. Be careful that they are not ambitious, that they are not in quest of the episcopate, that they are espoused to the Church, without constantly seeking another; this is called adultery. May they be overseers of the flock that has been entrusted to them, to take care of everything that is needed to keep it united.”

Pope Francis also expressed a desire for bishops who can be in dialogue with the culture around them, and ordered a document reiterating the Council of Trent’s requirement that bishops be physically present in their dioceses.

While not directly related to LGBT matters, many have speculated that Pope Francis’ deepest legacy may come from his episcopal appointments. History has shown that bishops chosen for their pastoral nature, attentive to the reality of Catholics’ lives, are far more welcoming and accepting of LGBT people and their families. The appointments under Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI focused on other criteria, creating an episcopate filled with culture warriors who often lacked pastoral instincts. It is early to know what effect this new pope will have, but Francis’ vision for bishops, and those in religious life generally, is quite hopeful.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


QUOTE TO NOTE: Seattle Catholic H.S. Student Reflects on Firing of Gay Educator

January 31, 2014

computer_key_Quotation_MarksToday is ZDay in Seattle and across the nation.   Catholic high school students from Eastside Catholic Prep organized the event as an expression of solidarity with the Mark Zmuda, the former vice principal of the school who was fired in December for marrying his husband.

Believe Out Loud‘s blog carried an essay by Zeena Rivera, a student at Seattle’s Holy Names Academy who has been active in the inter-varsity demonstrations that Catholic high school students have been conducting to support the fired teacher over the last month.  In the essay, Ms. Rivera, who is founder and editor of  Be!Magazinean online publication for LGBTQ youth, reflected on how her Catholic faith has informed her decision to oppose the firing of Zmuda:

“I am Catholic. By May, I’ll have gone to Catholic schools for 13 years and there’s a good chance that I’ll be spending another 4 years in a Catholic school. I go to Mass every Sunday, work at a Catholic food bank during the summer, and am in a leadership position in my school’s campus ministry.

“It would be a lie to say that my moral compass hasn’t been touched by Catholic virtues.

“Furthermore, in my experience as a Catholic school student in Seattle, I know that my religion classes never taught discrimination. I was taught to live a loving life. I have learned that you’re supposed to stand up in solidarity and help create positive action when someone is being treated unfairly. We’re supposed to protect the rights and dignity of workers, not being the ones taking them away.”

You can read her entire essay here.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Jesuit Priest Endorses Students ‘Making a Mess’ in Seattle

January 18, 2014
Fr. John Whitney, SJ

Fr. John Whitney, SJ

#KeepMrZ2013 is a movement of high school students in Seattle organizing for their gay vice principal fired for marrying his husband.  Now one more voice is speaking out in support of these youth. Father John Whitney, SJ, pastor of St. Joseph’s Parish in Seattle, spoke about the students from Eastside Catholic High School in his homily earlier this week.  He begins by describing the conflict in early Christianity about whether to accept Gentiles as members or only Jews, and he reflects on how this controversy was resolved:

“We must imagine the scene: the Church, still subject to occasional bouts of persecution and yet growing feverishly among both Jews and Gentiles alike, faces a great conflict—how are Gentiles to be admitted into the community?…

“What is most amazing about this moment in the Church is how the community comes to decide, together, what is to be done. There is debate and disruption, but it is not seen as division; rather, it is the way the Holy Spirit is working within the community. Further, this debate is grounded on human experience, and not on tradition or on the power of office. Rather than beginning with Scripture—with the Torah or the Prophets—the community begins with the experience of the faithful: with the testimony of Peter, Paul, and Barnabas—none of whom claim special authority in the face of the communal discernment, but all of whom, instead, simply testify to the way in which they have seen the Gentiles touched and filled with the grace of the Holy Spirit….Here is diversity without division, complexity with separation, debate and dissent without the need for punishment or condemnation. In listening for the living Spirit of Christ Jesus, the Church begins by listening to the sinners and seekers who are his body in the world.

“I have thought often of this scene in Acts, over the last year, and especially as I have listened to Pope Francis speak of the need for “uproar” by religious, or call young people to make “a mess” in their dioceses. Like many, I have been refreshed and renewed not by some great doctrinal changes, but by the absence of fear expressed in the words of the Holy Father; by his trust in the workings of the Holy Spirit and his passion for courageous acts of faith—even acts that risk error or end in failure. For Francis, it seems, the timidity of tightly held borders, the safe-harbor of accepted opinion and doctrinal purity risks a greater sin—a greater loss to the Church—than the dangerous paths of love and welcome….

“In the last few weeks, the students of Eastside Catholic High School, and their companions from other schools in the area, have given us an example of the kind of passionate discernment, motivated by the Gospel, that characterizes an important dimension of Catholic education—and, indeed, should characterize our faith both in and out of school. Regardless of the particulars of this situation (and personnel issues may have complexities I do not know), these students have spoken up as products of Catholic education, as women and men motivated by the Spirit and by their own experience of grace. Though it is a painful time, their teachers and their parents should be proud of the Gospel spirit that has been planted in these young hearts. Likewise, we in the broader Church should be grateful for the mess these young people bring, and should listen with compassion and openness to the Spirit that moves within them. Their love, their gentleness, their quest to make of the Church “the home of all, not a small chapel that can hold only a small group of selected people,” demands more than the silence of authority; it demands communion and engagement with the Church—i.e., education, direction, dialogue—since their spirit is a sign of the Church and is life-blood for the Church. May we engage, with fearless love, at the side of our younger sisters and brothers; and may trust in the God whose Church we are all becoming.”

You can read the reflection in full by clicking here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Related posts:

January 17, 2014: Seattle Archdiocese Responds As Students Keep Fighting Unjust Firing

January 10, 2014: Anti-LGBT Policies Create Vaccines Against Faith in Catholic Schools

January 7, 2014: Love Always Wins: Students Inspire Hope with Their Defense of Fired Gay Teacher

December 20, 2013: Catholic Students Protest Firings in Seattle and Philly; What You Can Do to Help


QUOTE TO NOTE: Bishop Speaks Truthfully About Catholics & LGBT Families

December 17, 2013

computer_key_Quotation_MarksBishop Michael Putney of Townsville, Australia has been preparing for next fall’s Synod of Bishops that will focus on family life, and in doing so spoke realistically about the lives of Catholics in his diocese when it comes to marriage.

While affirming the hierarchy’s negative view of same-gender marriage, Putney also spoke positively about pastoral outreach and other matters relating to LGBT people in the Church, saying:

“This present pope does want it to be more merciful and more sympathetic and to really understand the sufferings of people and to show [people] love above all…You get questions about how do you pastorally look after the children of, say, gay couples? He does want them to be cared for. How do you reach out to gay couples?

“I do find a great deal of sympathy for [LGBT] people. There’s no family that doesn’t have a gay member. There’s no circle of friends that we have that doesn’t contain gay people. This is true of bishops and priests and every Catholic. They must know first of all that we love and accept them.

“We do have a teaching about marriage and family life and so on…but that doesn’t mean we treat them badly or speak badly against them or have bad attitudes agains them or treat their children badly. That’s always been my attitude and I’m glad Pope Francis is saying that loud and clear every chance he gets.”

You can listen to the entire interview at ABC Brisbane.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 965 other followers