Opposing LGBT Issues Will Make the Catholic Church a ‘Shrinking Cult,’ Says Former Catholic Charities Head

September 17, 2014

High school students at Eastside Catholic rally for fired gay administrator Mark Zmuda last January

Is the Catholic Church destined to become a “shrinking cult”? That is the conjecture of Brian Cahill who wrote a challenging essay this week about just how quickly the church is becoming irrelevant to high school students, largely related to LGBT issues, specifically the firing of church workers.

In the National Catholic Reporter , Cahill, who is the former executive director of San Francisco Catholic Charities, wrote about the recent efforts of that city’s archbishop, Salvatore Cordileone, to appeal to young adults. Amid offerings of ping-pong and daily Latin Mass, Cahill writes:

“But a closer look suggests that young Catholics are increasingly turned off by the attitudes and actions of some American bishops — the failure to address the child abuse scandal, the harsh opposition to civil gay marriage, the cluelessness of church teaching on contraception, and the refusal to consider women priests.

“More recently, Catholic high school students, who can spot dishonesty and hypocrisy a mile away, are reacting with disillusion and disgust at how the church is treating some teachers in Catholic schools.”

Cahill proceeds by listing bishops, like Michael Barber of Oakland, Dennis Schnurr of Cincinnati, and Richard Lennon of Cleveland, who have implemented or support discriminatory employment policies in their dioceses. These have included LGBT-related church worker employment disputes and enhanced morality clauses in teacher contracts that explicitly prohibit support for LGBT people. He adds the embattled Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul-Minneapolis as an example of the bishops’ overly partisan involvement in the political debate about marriage equality.

In this milieu, Cahill wisely asks “How many thoughtful Catholic high school students will stick around in a church that is capable of that kind of behavior?” Indeed, in so many of the employment disputes, hundreds of students have rallied behind gay educators like Carla Hale, Mark Zmuda, and Barbara Webb.

Cahill concludes with a statement addressed to those leading Archbishop Cordileone’s outreach to young adults, but that applies to church leaders everywhere:

“God bless you. You’re going to have to work overtime and the Holy Spirit is going to have to work overtime to offset the hypocrisy, insensitivity, dishonesty and stupidity of some of your leaders, to offset their capacity, whether they intend it or not, to fan the flames of discrimination and homophobia and cause many young people struggling with their sexuality to continue to feel inferior, rejected and sometimes suicidal.

“If our church is left in the hands of these bishops, we are on track to become a shrinking, increasingly irrelevant cult — not a source of appeal for thoughtful Catholic high school students.”

Earlier this month on The Huffington Post.  Charles Reid, a law professor at the University of St. Thomas, made a similar point about the universal harm these firings cause. Referencing the recent firings of Webb, Olivia Reichert and Christina Gambaro, Reid writes:

“These annual firings are tragic, pointless, and inflict great harm. The discharged teachers, of course, are the most seriously injured, but so are all the people associated with the schools — students, graduates, parents, and staff. The Catholic school system is diminished in the eyes of the public. And the church as a whole is made to suffer.”

William Lindsey of the blog Bilgrimage makes a good point about the treatment of LGBT church workers when compared to those clergy credibly accused of abuse. Lindsey writes at PaperBlog:

“For clerics, even ones as guilty as sin of sexually abusing minors, every consideration is in order. For lay Catholics who are gay and choose to make public the details of their marital lives, no consideration at all. Instant punishment. Instant firing. Instant exclusion from the Christian community. Instant destruction of careers, of economic lives, of reputations. The disparity is glaring and obvious. And, to increasing numbers of Catholics, as well as to the public in general, it’s scandalous in the extreme.”

Finally, Heidi Schlumpf made a point in the National Catholic Reporter a few months back that bears repeating. She questioned what impact these firings, and the larger LGBT-negative attitude of the bishops, will have when it comes to the next generation of church workers. Already, young adults interested in ministry are not joining up and it is not because of the poor pay. Schlumpf argues:

“Younger Catholics still see the institutional church as an out-of-touch employer run by old men who ‘don’t get it.’ Media reports about employees having to sign “morality agreements” don’t help. Nor do ones about people getting fired for supporting gay marriage or women’s ordination — issues most younger folks believe should be already resolved…

“This is unfortunate, because the millennial generation is idealistic about service — even more so than the previous generation. It’s to bad the church may not be the beneficiary of that idealism and enthusiasm. The ‘Francis effect’ can only do so much. If younger workers want to choose a career based on their values, they are unlikely to compromise those same values to work for the church.”

From high school students to newly-graduated divinity students, it seems Catholic youth and young adults are tiring of a church where LGBT people are routinely fired and where there are still too few public policy goals of the bishops outside of opposing same-sex marriages. Brian Cahill’s diagnosis that the church is becoming a “shrinking cult” may be bleak, and it should be a wake-up call to church leaders concerned about the future.

Hopefully more church leaders will wake up to this reality and, like Cardinal Sean O’Malley, identify the LGBT-related employment disputes as a situation that urgently “needs to be rectified.

For Bondings 2.0‘s full coverage of ‘Employment Issues,’ click the category to the right. For a full listing of LGBT-related firings, with links to further information, click here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Boston’s Cardinal O’Malley: LGBT Church Worker Firings “Need to be Rectified”

September 15, 2014

Cardinal Sean O’Malley seated among other panelists at Crux event. (photo credit: The Boston Globe)

In a one-to-one conversation following a public speaking engagement, Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley said that the firing of church workers because of LGBT issues is a situation that “needs to be rectified,” becoming the first prelate to speak against this trend.

Earlier in the evening, the cardinal publicly spoke positively of the need to include and minister to the LGBT community in light of Pope Francis’ new vision for the church.

O’Malley’s public appearance on Thursday, September 11th, was at a launch event for Crux, the Boston Globe’s new website for “all things Catholic.” The program was held at the Jesuit-run Boston College. O’Malley was part of a panel of experts discussing the papacy of Pope Francis.

At the end of the event, after the crowd had dissipated, I had the opportunity to thank Cardinal O’Malley one-on-one for his compassionate remarks earlier in the evening about the LGBT community.

As we spoke, the cardinal told me that we must first convince people we love them before talking about the Ten Commandments. I pointed out that it has been hard to convince LGBT Catholics and their allies of this love when so many church workers have had LGBT-related employ-ment disputes with Catholic schools and parishes. Responding to my comment, Cardinal O’Malley said this trend was a situation that “needs to be rectified.”

O’Malley also indicated that not all church positions require a Catholic marriage.  Most of the employment disputes involved same-sex couples legally marrying, announcing an intention to marry, or publicly acknowledging a long-term committed relationship.

Earlier, in a period when panelists answered audience questions, Cardinal O’Malley answered a question which I had submitted:

Given Pope Francis’ emphasis on mercy and welcome, can we expect improved pastoral care and inclusion for those who are LGBT, especially when almost 20 US church workers have been fired in 2014 for their sexual orientation, gender, or marital status?

The cardinal’s answer is in full below, and you can also watch it at Crux by clicking here and starting the video at 1:29:00:

“I think the Holy Father’s notion of mercy and inclusion is going to make a big difference in the way that the church responds to and ministers to people of homosexual orientation. The Holy Father is talking about reaching out to the periphery and very often this is a group that is on the periphery. It is not necessarily that the church is going to change doctrine, but, as somebody said, the Holy Father hasn’t changed the lyrics, but he’s changed the melody. I think the context of love and mercy and community is the context in which all of the church’s teachings must be presented, including the more difficult ones. The same could be said about abortion and so many others. It is only when people realize that we love them that they will be open to hear the truth we want to share with them.”

You can read a full account of the event from Michael O’Loughlin of Crux found by clicking here. Other panelists that evening were Hosffman Espino of Boston College’s School of Theology and Ministry, John Allen, Jr. of Crux, Mary Ann Glendon of Harvard University, and Robert Christian of Millennial.

Cardinal O’Malley’s inclusive statements are typical of his merciful leadership style in Boston, leadership which led Pope Francis to appoint him to to a unique papal advisory council of eight cardinals, positioning him as the American prelate closest to the pope. O’Malley himself was considered to be a papal candidate before Francis’ election, and one resigned Catholic priest listed Boston’s cardinal as the most gay-friendly of the candidates.

What struck me most last Thursday was the cardinal’s willing admission that terminating church workers due to their sexual orientation or marital status is indeed problematic.  Catholic prelates have, at best, remained silent, and, at worst, supported discriminatory actions, in the more than forty public instances where a church employee left over LGBT issues. Cardinal O’Malley’s statement that these firings “need to be rectified” is an episcopal echo of the tens of thousands of Catholics and people of faith who have long stood by mistreated LGBT and ally church workers. Regular readers of Bondings 2.0 will recognize that even as the resignations and firings increase, so too do the rallies, petitions, and online outreach in solidarity with fired teachers like Barb Webb, Olivia Reichert and Christina Gambaro.

I hope Cardinal O’Malley will use his prominent position to help end situations where LGBT and ally church workers face discrimination and exclusion. It could be a major step in incarnating a church where all are truly welcome. As it is, the cardinal’s kind words and frank admission are a wonderful start — and for them, I am most grateful.

Cardinal O’Malley is the first bishop to acknowledge that these employment actions are a problem.  Let’s hope and pray that he will not be the last.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Fired Gay Musician’s Meeting with Cardinal Shows Catholic Split on LGBT Issues

September 12, 2014

Supporters pray over Colin Collette during a vigil

Fired church worker Colin Collette will not be returning to his job, even after meeting with Cardinal Francis George of Chicago this week and ongoing protests from parishioners demand that he be rehired.

A subplot to this story, however, is how fractured the American bishops can often be when it comes to LGBT issues.

Collette asked for the meeting to discuss his dismissal as Holy Family Church’s choir director, which came about after Collette posted on social media about his engagement to William Nifong. Collette has previously expressed his desire to return to the staff of Holy Family, where he had worked for more than seventeen years and was loved by the community. A statement on the Cardinal George meeting from the former church employee reported by the Chicago Tribune was positive and quotes him as saying:

” ‘I was incredibly grateful to the cardinal for meeting with me. This is an incredibly difficult time for him [as George is undergoing cancer treatment]…I was moved beyond words that he would meet with me.We prayed together. He was wonderful. He was very pastoral.’ “

Though the cardinal willingly met with Collette, Michael O’Loughlin of Crux reports George placed blame for the “crisis” on the employee and said Collette’s choice to marry now makes working in a Catholic parish “impossible.”

Meanwhile, parishioners at Holy Family continue to demand justice for Collette. The Sunday before Collette’s meeting with the cardinal, supporters held a prayer vigil outside the church. In August, more than 700 people attended an August town hall called by the pastor, Fr. Terry Keehan, and support for Collette was overwhelming. Additionally, music ministers like Kevin Keane have resigned in protest and parishioners like Bill Leece have written to the media demanding an apology from Catholic leadership. One parishioner framed the new reality as, “Everybody was welcome…That’s become a lie.”

While Collette described the meeting with Cardinal George as pastoral, Chicago Catholics saw a different side to the prelate in his weekly column which viciously attacked marriage equality’s progress.

Highlighting the real, but bygone reality of anti-Catholicism in US history, George identifies LGBT advocates as imposing their views on society and anyone who objects “places their citizenship in danger.” Those who consider themselves “progressive” are, for George, the inheritors of the anti-Catholic of the nativists, the Know-Nothings, or the Ku Klux Klan. All of this results in a “crisis of belief” for Catholics, says the cardinal when American society becomes intolerant of those cannot continue discriminating. He sees the situation as comparable to Islam’s Sharia law.

Cardinal George’s arguments are flawed because there is neither a persecution of Catholics in the US nor does he seem to understand Sharia or LGBT issues.

What is notable is the contrast between Cardinal George’s interpersonal behavior, for I do not doubt Collette’s account that he was pastoral, and Cardinal George’s public persona which is harsh and embittered. How does this split develop and why can the cardinal not see that writing the column is pastorally damaging? Doesn’t he see thatLGBT people and their allies are indeed human persons worthy of his respect and compassion?

This fractured behavior, of personally being pastoral while publicly being partisan, is not unique to Cardinal George and by many accounts a few of the most anti-gay bishops are indeed quite compassionate people during personal encounters. As civil marriage equality progresses, church leaders need to address this dissonance that leads to so much damage, including the firing of LGBT church workers.

A new integrated approach is necessary when speaking with and about people who are in same-gender marriages. New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond’s pastorally-inclined response to a Louisiana court’s ruling that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage rights could be one model of moving forward. Francis DeBernardo noted that the archbishop used minimalist language when discussing the marriage case, and shifted the emphasis to his renewed commitment to help LGBT Catholics and their families through pastoral outreach. While not perfect, Aymond’s example could be a way forward in rediscovering the “respect, compassion, and sensitivity” due to the LGBT community by church officials.

At the very least, leaning toward the pastoral could mean an end to the firing of LGBT church workers, many of whom could repeat Colin Collette’s words that “my whole life has been the church. It’s my love. It’s my passion, and I pray for the opportunity to [minister again].”

For Bondings 2.0‘s full coverage of ‘Employment Issues,’ click the category to the right. For a full listing of LGBT-related firings, with links for further information, click here. And if you are interested in helping protect LGBT and ally church workers by implementing an inclusive non-discrimination policy at your local parish or Catholic school, more information on how to do this is available by clicking here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


St. Louis School Fires Lesbian Couple Over Joint Mortgage Application

September 4, 2014

Back to school this fall has meant more LGBT church worker firings, bringing to 19 the number of employment issues in 2014 alone. The latest action happened at a Missouri Catholic school which fired two lesbian women, a teacher and a coach, after their relationship became public via a mortgage application.

Olivia Reichert and Christina Gambaro both worked at Cor Jesu Academy, an all-girls high school in St. Louis, before being asked to resign and then fired in July. Reichert and Gambaro were in a relationship unknown to co-workers or students and attained a civil union earlier this year in New York.

LGBTQ Nation reports that Cor Jesu Academy administrators received a copy of the couple’s mortgage application and decided to fire the two women for violating a so-called ‘morality clause’ in their contracts that requires church workers to abide by the hierarchy’s teachings. Though sexual orientation is not a protected class under Missouri law, Reichert and Gambaro are claiming discrimination, saying in a statement:

“We understand that, as a Catholic institution, Cor Jesu has an obligation to ensure that its employees serve as Christian role models…However, because they do not enforce the witness statement in any other way, this is a blatant case of discrimination.”

The two educators are ready to move on, however, and spoke positively about the school community, saying many school associates had privately expressed their discontent to the administration through letters and the withholding of donations before the story went public. Vital Voice reports:

“Gambaro says students and parents have sent many supportive messages and have congratulated her and her partner on their marriage. She also says that not going public was a tough decision.

” ‘When it came down to it, we still have to find new jobs, support ourselves and essentially start over…The stress of any negative responses to our story would have made moving on that much harder. And when it was all finished, the impact would have been minimal to say the least. The law is not on our side, nor is the church, so we have no ground to stand on. If we seriously thought it would make a difference, we would have taken a different approach.’ “

The school has refused to comment, saying it is a personnel matter.

Meanwhile, the wider Cor Jesu community, specifically alumnae, continue expressing their outrage over the firings and are seeking constructive responses. A private Facebook group has gained more than 2,000 members, and at least one alumna has expressed concern for LGBT students who may read the message they are not welcomed at the school. Another alumna, Mary Mcdetmott Benoist, invoking Pope Francis‘ message of mercy and inclusion, told Vital Voice:

” ‘I am sad to learn of CJA’s decision in light of what our Catholic leader, the Pope, teaches us about acceptance of all people…We need to hire teaches who are great at their jobs and set aside their personal lives.’ “

Perhaps most hopeful is the thought being circulated that alumnae and benefactors may withhold contributions to the school’s “One Heart, One Spirit, One Vision” capital campaign because of the firing of Reichert and Gambaro. The latter said of this effort:

” ‘You might not think this is much, but it has made enough of an impact that the administration has had to address the dip in support. That, to us, is a victory.’ “

In addition, Missouri State Representative Genise Montecillo, whose district includes Cor Jesu Academy, hopes to use the firings as a jumping off point for non-discrimination laws that include sexual orientation.

Gambaro, who noted there is no recourse under Missouri or canon law to challenge these firings, also expressed  that terminating talented and committed educators over their sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, or political views defies God’s law. In just the last few weeks, Bondings 2.0 has covered:

  • the firing of at least two lesbian women let go for becoming pregnant outside of marriages, even though they cannot legally attain marriages or have Catholic institutions recognize them;
  • a former Jesuit’s letter to Pope Francis pleading for help to save his vocation and create more LGBT inclusion for religious communities;
  • the firing of a Chicago-area parish’s beloved gay music director after he became engaged.

Though every firing of an LGBT church worker is a tragedy, this story out of Missouri is heartbreaking because the couple remained quiet as best they could and still ended up being fired.

For Bondings 2.0‘s full coverage of ‘Employment Issues,’ click the category to the right. For a full listing of LGBT-related firings, with links for further information, click here. And if you are interested in helping protect LGBT and ally church workers by implementing an inclusive non-discrimination policy at your local parish or Catholic school, more information on how to do this is available by clicking here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Labor Day Prayer for LGBT Workers in the Catholic Church

September 1, 2014

As the United States celebrates Labor Day, a time to honor workers, we take a moment to remember LGBT people who work in Catholic institutions, such as schools, parishes, hospitals, and social service agencies.  Many have faced extreme discrimination lately, as witnessed by the terrible trend of unjust firings and establishment of repressive contract clauses.

So, today, we take a moment to remember them in prayer:

Loving God,

From age to age, you call many to serve your people by working as professionals in Catholic workplaces.   In Your wisdom, you have included in that call LGBT people, whose lives and faith are a gift to our Church.

We thank you for this gift, and we remember the countless LGBT people who serve selflessly in parishes, schools, hospitals, offices, social service agencies, retreat centers.  They serve those in need and they build up your reign of justice and peace.

We know that many serve despite having to be guarded about their lives.  We know that many have lost their jobs because of who they are or whom they love.  Unjust attitudes, policies, and behaviors motivate these wrongdoings, but we remember St. Paul’s words:

“God is not unjust; God will not forget your work and the love you have shown as you have helped God’s people and continue to help them.”  (Hebrews 6:10)

We know that LGBT workers who serve the Church do so out of a strong love for You and for Your people. We are grieved when we have learned that many are dismissed because they chose to live lives of authenticity, integrity, and commitment.  Such unjust actions by employers go against the attitude expressed about work in Your Scriptures:

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”  (2 Timothy 2:15)

We share the pain of those who are fired and we pray that our support will be a sign of hope. We offer these words of encouragement to them and to ourselves as a reminder of Your love, even in difficult times–especially in difficult times:

“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.”  (2 Corinthians 4:8-9)

We ask for Your wisdom and guidance,  Loving God, so that we can know best how to support our LGBT brothers and sisters and how to build up a church community that values and respects the many different ways that You have created love.   Grant us patience and creativity as we search for ways to bring about Your justice and love in our Church institutions. Help us to remember that You keep us all in Your care, and that You will never abandon us.  

Amen.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


Catholic Pastoral Committee Closes Its Doors, Though Work Continues

August 29, 2014

The Twin Cities’ Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities (CPCSM) has been one of the oldest and most effective regional LGBT ministries in our Church since it first began its work in 1980.  Because this Minnesota group has a long and valued history, it was with more than a little sadness that I learned this week that they were closing up shop.  My sadness was ameliorated somewhat, though, when I learned that the Committee’s work will be continued by two other organizations.

The news was announced on The Wild Reed blog, which is maintained by Michael Bayly, who for many years was the executive coordinator of the group, which offered programs and resources to LGBT Catholics, their families, and pastoral ministers.  Bayly notes that members of CPCSM determined that their work was completed–and that includes a very impressive list of accomplishments which helped transform the Catholic LGBT landscape in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.  Bayly wrote:

“Basically, the board feels that CPCSM . . . has run its course. We’ve accomplished some incredible things in our 33-year history, including groundbreaking LGBT sensitivity training in local parishes in the 1980s; safe staff training in eight of the eleven Catholic high schools in the 1990s; publication of the first (and to date only) safe staff training manual for Catholic high schools in 2007; and the forming of Catholics for Marriage Equality MN initiative in 2010, which played an important role in defeating the anti-marriage equality amendment of 2012,  paving the way formarriage equality in Minnesota in 2013. There’s still work to be done, but we’re confident that both Dignity Twin Cities and the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (which CPCSM helped co-found in 2009) are more than able to carry forward many aspects of CPCSM’s mission and work.”

The CPCSM has had a distinctly Catholic vision of their identity and mission.  On their web page, they state:

“. . . [L]ike many Catholics, we believe the hallmark of our Catholic faith is a trusting openness and loving response to the presence and action of God within all of creation, including the vast and diverse arena of human life and relationships. We see this “trusting openness and loving response” as a profoundly catholic (i.e., universal) endeavor. We work toward recognizing and celebrating a catholicity of life, by which we mean the discovery and celebration of God as creator and lover of all humanity, a God who desires all people to experience both personal and communal flourishing.”

Michael Bayly and David McCaffrey

CPCSM began officially in 1980 by a group of people from Dignity/Twin Cities and pastoral ministers who worked in the local archdiocese.  In another Wild Reed blog post, the early history was remembered:

“[The founders were] David McCaffrey, who at that time was serving as Dignity Twin Cities’ pastoral coordinator (1980-1981); Bill Kummer, Dignity’s pastoral coordinator and outreach director from 1977 to 1980; Father Herb Hayek, OP, a Dignity Twin Cities co-founder ans regular Mass presider; Cindy Scott, then a staff member of the Archdiocesan Urban Affairs Commission and later an editor and writer for various local LGBT and women’s publications; Donna Kurimay, then vice-president of the local chapter of the Association of Pastoral Ministers; and Karen Chicoine, then an administrative assistant in the Archdiocesan Catholic Education Center and a former religious for 15 years.

“It should also be noted that the first stirrings of CPCSM’s outreach and pastoral efforts predate its May 9, 1980 founding by almost two years. In the fall of 1978, in an attempt to help educate ministers working in parishes, Bill Kummer, David McCaffrey, and a number of other members of Dignity Twin Cities began a series of monthly speaker-luncheons. Over the next two years, these meetings were held at various parishes, usually hosted by a local pastor whom Dignity had contacted and who, in turn, invited other priests who were known to be hospitable to LGBT persons and sensitive to their pastoral needs.

“Initially, 20-30 priests attended these monthly events where they would listen to a local professional speak on some aspect of the lives, needs, and gifts of LGBT people. Seated among the priests. Dignity members attempted to make their guests feel welcome as they chatted with them over lunch. More than a few priests remarked that this was the first time they had met psychologically and spiritually healthy gay men and lesbians. Most of their previous encounters had been either in the confessional or in a counseling situation.

“Eventually the speaker-luncheons were expanded to include the non-ordained Catholic pastoral professionals in the archdiocese. “

Archbishop John Roach and Bill Kummer

This same blog post also recounts a productive meeting the leaders had with Archbishop John Roach, who led the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis at the time, and was also president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. (For a series of Wild Reed blog posts exploring the history of CPCSM’s relationship with the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, see the Related articles section at the end of this post.)

Last year, CPCSM conducted a survey at the Twin Cities’ Gay Pride Festival, and one of the top issues people wanted to see the group work on was anti-bullying programs.  While CPCSM had already made great headway in that area by publishing Creating Safe Environments for LGBT Students:  A Catholic Schools Perspective, edited by Michael Bayly.  Bayly noted that the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform, which is one of the groups that will continue CPCSM’s work in this area.

One CPCSM achievement that was not mentioned in Bayly’s blog post is the fact that this group represented a model of regional coalition work that can be replicated in other areas of the nation.  It is so important for Catholic parishes and individuals to support one another in LGBT ministry because the work can sometimes seem daunting.   In the New York metropolitan area, a number of gay-friendly Catholic parishes meet regularly to support, encourage, and learn from one another.

While it is sad to see CPCSM close, it is comforting to know that their agenda has been taken up by the broader Catholic Church reform movement in the Twin Cities area.  More importantly, the good work that CPCSM has done over the decades will live on in the many lives and institutions which they have touched and transformed.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related articles

The Wild Reed:  CPCSM and the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis (Part 1)

The Wild Reed:  CPCSM and the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis (Part 2)

The Wild Reed:  CPCSM and the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis (Part 3)

The Wild Reed:  CPCSM and the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis (Part 4)


Cardinal Close to Pope Calls for Openness to Gay & Lesbian Couples

August 27, 2014

Cardinal Claudio Hummes

Another cardinal has expressed openness to lesbian and gay couples, and once again, the positive remarks come from someone who is very close to Pope Francis.

In a recent interview with the newspaper Zero Hora, Cardinal Cláudio Hummes, the retired archbishop of São Paulo, Brazil, gave the following answer to the reporter who asked “If Jesus were alive today, would He be in favor of gay marriage?”:

“I do not know. I make no assumptions about it. The Church as a whole should answer that. We must take care not to be raising questions as individuals, because it ends up creating more trouble to get a conclusion that is valid. I think we have to get together, listen to the people, those who are involved in the issue. It is the Church that must indicate the paths, and there must be way for everyone.”

(Original Portugese: “Não sei, não faço nenhuma hipótese sobre isso. Quem deve responder isso é a Igreja em seu conjunto. Temos que cuidar para não ficar levantando questões individualmente, porque isso acaba criando mais dificuldades para a gente chegar numa conclusão que seja válida. Acho que a gente tem que se reunir, ouvir as pessoas, os próprios em jogo, os bispos. É a Igreja que deve indicar os caminhos, e deve haver caminho para todos.”)

Pope Francis, in his first appearance on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica, following his election. Cardinal Claudio Hummes is at the far right of the photograph.

Hummes’ statement is important because he is a close friend of Pope Francis. In the conclave, Hummes sat next to the future pope, and is reputed to have had a hand in encouraging his election.  When Francis first appeared as pope to the crowds in St. Peter’s Square immediately following his election, Cardinal Hummes stood next to him. This accompaniment to the balcony was a break with tradition, as the new pope usually appears by himself.

Such a statement takes on more significance since the upcoming Synod on Marriage and Family in October will be examining the question of pastoral care for families headed by same-gender couples, and already a number of bishops have indicated that there must be more openness in this regard.

In the same interview, Hummes also affirmed the right of children of gay and lesbian couples to be baptized and the right of  gay and lesbian people to be godparents at baptism:

“The godfather is one that should help educate the child religiously, and a person who has a [homo]sexual orientation can be a saint. If he lives the gospel within its conditions, he can be a saint.”

It is interesting that the cardinal emphasized the duty to “live the Gospel,” and not “church teaching,”  which has been the phrase more often used in previous eras.

Hummes, who like the pope is a strong advocate of social justice, also served as the head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy.  When the reporter asked him what proposal he would make to the pope to renew the church, his answer was:

“Decentralization is key, in fact, to renew the Church.”

Next Magazine, which reported on the interview in English, editorialized about Hummes’ remarks:

“It’s probably unrealistic to hope the church really will be changing its stance that far. But taken together, Hummes’ and Francis’ remarks can be seen as at least an indication that the Vatican may be signaling that the overblown rhetoric from Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George, who compared the city’s Pride marchers to the Ku Klux Klan and Scotland’s Cardinal Keith O’Brien, who compared same-sex marriage to slavery and child abuse.”

I may be more hopeful than Next Magazine.  As I’ve noted before, I think these statements are like “test balloons,” and the fact that now so many cardinals and bishops are making them seems to indicate that something is brewing.  I’m not sure it will be a big change, but I think it will be a step in the right direction.

As Next Magazine pointed out, the change in rhetoric is already a major step forward!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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