Three Years and Counting!

November 28, 2014

Today marks the third anniversary of Bondings 2.0!  Wow!  Does time fly by when you’re having fun!

When I wrote the first blog post on November 28, 2011, I truly had no idea what I was getting myself into.  I hoped that I would be able to do blog posts about three times a week.  Well, since that late November Monday, not one single day has gone by where we haven’t been able to find something worth blogging about.  That says less about our determination and more about the fact that there is so much news about Catholic LGBT issues around our country and around our world.

This past year has been particularly plentiful with news, mainly because of Pope Francis and the synod, which kept Bob Shine and me very busy for most of the month of October. We tried to provide our readers with the best of what we were reading about the synod, not just to keep you informed, but so that you could share your own ideas about the event.  Though the synod kept us busy, it was a “good” busy, and it is much more enjoyable to work late to get out good news than to get out bad news.

Unfortunately, there has been bad news this year, too.  At the top of the negative list have to be the firing of so many LGBT people and supporters from Catholic institutions, and also the increase in repressive anti-gay laws around the globe.   While we like to let our readers know about positive developments, it’s also our job to keep you informed about these troublesome events, too.

When we report bad news, we try to offer our readers some actions they can take to respond positively to such events.  This year, we have encouraged Catholics to promote the idea of employment non-discrimination policies in their schools and parishes to help end the firings of LGBT people.  We also instituted the #PopeSpeakOut campaign to encourage Pope Francis to raise his voice against repressive anti-LGBT laws.

This blog truly is social media.  It is not just a one-way flow of communication from us to you, but involves you as commenters and as action-takers, too!  And we greatly appreciate the many “tips” and “leads” that people send us about news and happenings.

We will have one more post next week about other ways that you can help to support the blog.  Hint:  the post will appear on what has become known as “Giving Tuesday.”   But donations are not the only way you will be asked to help.

So, happy birthday to us all!  And watch out for us in the coming year! Just remember how inquisitive and precocious three-year olds can be!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 


Will Bishops Elected to Synod 2015 Be Good for LGBT Issues?

November 16, 2014

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ meeting this week ended with the announcement of the names of bishops elected to represent the United States at the synod on marriage and family to be held at the Vatican in October 2015.  What will this election mean for LGBT issues?

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz

The four main delegates elected were Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston (who are, respecitvely, president and vice president of the USCCB), Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, and Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles.

Selected as alternates were Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco and Archbishop-elect Blase Cupich of Chicago.  Both Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York and Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, DC may also be attending the meeting because they are part of the synod planning committee.

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo

David Gibson of Religion News Service described the choices as a “mixed slate,” noting that it included some “outspoken culture warriors who are sometimes viewed as out of step with Pope Francis’ priorities.”

For LGBT issues, perhaps the most worrisome of these choices are Chaput, Gomez, and Cordileone.  Chaput has been a vocal opponent of this past month’s preparatory synod, saying that it caused confusion and that confusion is “of the devil.”

Gomez opposed the teaching of LGBT history in California public schools.  He also opposed the re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act because it now includes ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity’ as protected classes.

Archbishop Charles Chaput

Cordileone is the USCCB’s chairman of the Defense of Marriage Committee, and a vocal opponent of marriage equality.

Gibson quoted Fr. Thomas Reese’s comments about the election:

“ ‘If they wanted to send the people closest to the pope they would have elected Sean O’Malley and Blase Cupich. But they didn’t,’ said the Rev. Thomas Reese, an analyst for National Catholic Reporter who first reported the slate of names.

“ ‘It is just where they are right now,’ Reese said. ‘The majority of the conference doesn’t know what to do with the pope. The bishops are like deer in the headlights, and they don’t know which way to jump.’ ”

(You can read Fr. Reese’s full evaluation of the bishops’ meeting by clicking here.)

Archbishop Jose Gomez

Archbishop-elect Blase Cupich is perhaps the best choice they made in terms of LGBT issues.  He is widely viewed as a moderate, and when he was appointed as head of the Chicago archdiocese, this blog welcomed the decision as a fresh change from Cardinal Francis George who was, at times, openly antagonistic to the LGBT community.

So, should we give up hope for any positive changes at next year’s synod?  No.  Certainly, not yet.  First of all, this slate must first be approved by the Vatican.  And even if it does get approved, we need to remember that the Americans will only be a tiny percentage of the other bishops there, and we don’t know yet who they will be.

This news, however, should be a wake-up call to Catholics in the U.S. who support LGBT equality.  We need to make our voices heard to our local bishops who can let these representatives know what American Catholics believe.  The church is not a democracy, but its leaders do have a responsibility to consider the opinions of the laity on matters where the laity have expertise.  Marriage, family, and sexuality are certainly within that purview.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related articles

CruxNow.com: Report: US bishops elect delegates to 2015 Synod on the Family

 

 

 


NEWS NOTES: Synod Perspectives from Catholic Writers and Commentators

October 27, 2014

News NotesContinuing to follow-through on our promise to provide links to the wealth of opinion and analysis that the synod on the family has generated, we offer these links to articles from the Catholic press or by Catholic authors and commentators:

1.  In The Washington Blade, Kathi Wolfe offers her views on the synod, noting that Catholic feminist theologian Mary Hunt pointed out an important shortcoming of the synod participants who were all celiibats men: “They don’t make the mature adult decisions that you make when you’re part of a family unit – with spouses and children.”

2.   Women-Church Convergence, a coalition of feminist Catholic groups, issued a statement affirming the holiness of all families, and criticized the synod for failing to include the voices of women in the decision-making process, saying in part: “A group of men who fail to protect the children of our Church from sexual abuse, and who repeatedly sacrifice children to shield the offenders, has no credibility saying anything about what families need. A group of men who have no need for contraception has no standing to deny women access to appropriate reproductive health services. A group of men without experience of wedded life has no right to legislate who should and should not be married. The egregious omission of women and families in forming Church policy has a devastating impact on Catholics and others worldwide.”

3.  Writing at AlJazeera.com, Nathan Schneider observes that part of the reason LGBT issues were not more positively accepted at the synod is because the call for equality still remains a Western value: “The conversation about same-sex partnerships has hardly even begun on the Catholic time scale, and in the context of a global church. Just because some of us in certain parts of the world are sold on an idea doesn’t mean we can impose it on the whole church; that’s a habit of the church’s colonizing past that needs to be put to rest. The Roman Catholic Church has stretched over the centuries to incorporate the gifts of non-European cultures, and it still has much stretching left to do.”

4.  Sister Mary Ann Walsh, a commentator for America magazine, wrote about “The Promise of Synod 2014,” pointing out a number of important contributions the synod process made, including these three:

  • “The 2014 Synod elevated the conversation. Whispered questions about why Aunt Jane never goes to Communion and why Uncle Jack never married have made it into the parlor. The presence in the church community of people who divorced and remarried without an annulment and lesbians and gays found a healthy acknowledgement. . . .
  • “The church acknowledges there may be pastoral solutions to long-standing problems. Nothing heals better than fresh air. For many, the pain silently endured by people forced to the fringes has developed individuals beloved in their families for their generosity and kindness and particular sensitivity. Now they just might receive some of the generosity, kindness and sensitivity they’ve offered others for years.
  • “There is proof that doctrine is not dead. What’s dead does not change; what is alive does. So long as doctrine addresses current reality it shows it is alive and holds meaning for people today.”

5.  At Crux.com, Michael O’Loughlin presented a variety of opinions about the synod from Catholics concerned about LGBT issues, including Deb Word, president of Fortunate Families, who said:  “The conversation that began at the Synod on the Family isn’t over — in fact it’s just beginning. . . .[P]ro-gay Catholic groups will keep reaching out to the bishops to offer suggestions about how the Catholic Church can better minister to Catholic families like mine.”

6.  Jesuit Father James Martin has been quoted widely in the religious and secular press on the synod’s report and processes.  In addition, he has written two online essays which provide insights:

  1. In an America magazine blog post, “Five Things the Synod Just Did,” Martin notes that the meeting brought a new conversation to the Church, and that the pope’s process very much reflects the Jesuit value of “discernment.”
  2. Fr. Martin elaborated on the above theme in a separate essay for Reuters.com, in which he discussed “What the Synod of Bishops that discussed divorced, LGBT Catholics did – and didn’t – do.”  In both essays he stresses the point that the real answers will be discussed at the 2015 synod.

7.  In a National Catholic Reporter blog post which carries the opinions about the synod from three Catholic academics, Julie Hanlon Rubio of St. Louis University, author of Family Ethics: Practices for Christians, stated: “The major shifts I see at work in the document released today are these: a willingness to see the diversity of Catholic families and listen to their ideas, a desire to find creative pastoral solutions that allow the church to welcome everyone, and a willingness to see good in the imperfect. All of shifts seem rooted in a more fundamental move to imitate Jesus, especially embracing his call for mercy.”

8.  The Baltimore Sun reported on a group of about 30 Catholic LGBT advocates who held a prayer vigil at the city’s Basilica of the Assumption of the BVM on the day that the synod’s final report was issued.  The event was organized by the Human Rights Campaign and Call To Action.

9.  During the synod, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) ran a series of blog posts written by Catholic leaders about their hopes for the meeting and the future of the Church.  These posts were written by HRC’s Lisbeth Melendez Rivera,  the Pacific School of Religion’s Bernard Schlager, DignityUSA’s Jim Smith, Call To Action’s Ellen Euclide, transgender leader Hilary Howes, Cincinnati’s Anna Brown, and  New Ways Ministry’s Francis DeBernardo.

10.  In a National Catholic Reporter blog post.  Sister Christine Schenck, CSJ, former executive director of FutureChurch, offered this suggestion: “It is my sincere hope that church leaders will actively seek out the lived experiences of divorced and remarried and gay and lesbian Catholics before making any decisions about pastoral practice. They should also listen carefully to Catholic parents using unapproved methods of family planning.”

11. Catholics in San Antonio, Texas, responded to the synod in an article in The San Antonio Express-News.  Members of the local Dignity chapter expressed their views, and Fr. Stephen Bernal, a local pastor offered the hope:  “We believe the Holy Father is very simply wanting us to look at all people the way God looks at them — with love and understanding and compassion — that everyone is a precious gift.”

12. In a very tongue-in-cheek essay on Philly.com, Orlando Barone says that the synod’s unfinished business leaves him in a quandary about whether or not he should invite lesbian/gay people and divorced/remarried Catholics to his Thanksgiving dinner.  He ends, however, on a very serious note:  “My imagination falters in its efforts to conjure anything more awful than lifting the Bread of Life and turning it into a rock to throw at the lost sheep, the prodigal son, the woman caught in adultery. I could never allow such a horrible thing to happen at my Thanksgiving table. I pray the church, following its pope’s lead, will not allow such a thing to happen at its Thanksgiving table, the Table of Jesus, the Bread of Life.”

13. Fordham University theology professor Patrick Hornbeck penned a CNN.com essay in which he explains that neither the first draft nor the final report of the synod went far enough in dealing with LGBT issues.  He concluded:  “Many believe that the synod reversed course with regard to LGBT people and same-sex unions. But that reversal seems much less dramatic when one considers the full implications of the synod’s much-celebrated initial document. Far from accepting and celebrating same-sex relationships as the signs of divine and human love that so many people — gay, straight, Catholic, non-Catholic — are finding in them, that document actually charted a path where those relationships could at best have only been tolerated in the church. It is clear that by avoiding a more searching examination of the presumptions about gender and sexuality that Catholic theology has inherited, the synod members did not fully confront the truly seismic anthropological, cultural and theological shifts that have occurred in the past few decades.”

14. In an essay on NJLive.com, Father Alexander Santora, a pastor in Hoboken, praised the synod’s attempts to affirm LGBT people, and noted that though a rocky road is still ahead, there is reason for hope:  “. . . [T]his process is filled with land mines, most notably some conservative prelates, even in the Vatican curia, who do not want any change in tone, theology or teaching. But that also happened at the Second Vatican Council and St. John XXIII dispatched them graciously. Francis has been compared to John and some see his two-year synod process as almost important as the teachings that emanated from Vatican II.”

15. Dignity/New York voices were featured in a CBSNews.com report on synod reactions, including the opinion of longtime member Brendan Fay, who said: “We may not personally need the affirmation [of Vatican bishops] because we have found that among ourselves.”

16. Though much of the synod headlines focused on LGBT issues and divorce, National Catholic Reporter columnist, Jamie Manson, a Catholic lesbian, asks the question: “Why isn’t anyone talking about the synod’s paragraphs on contraception?”

17.  Gay Catholic blogger Terence Weldon, who posts at  QueeringTheChurch.com, summed up the synod with the headline: “For Gay Catholics, Nothing Has Changed – Everything Is Changing.”  At the conclusion, he notes: “Above all, what has changed is the simple fact that what for so long was presented as “constant and unchanging tradition”, delivered from on high to a meek and acquiescent laity, is now firmly up for frank discussion. That has already occurred at the synod in a manner that would have been unthinkable under the previous two popes, and will now be starting worldwide, at all levels of the Church.”

18. USA Today queried college students about the synod in an article entitled “New Vatican document stirs discussion and hope among Catholic students” and found that they welcomed the meeting and its open discussion.
19.  New Ways Ministry’s Francis DeBernardo and DignityUSA’s Marianne Duddy-Burke gave their responses to the synod’s final document in an article by The Advocate entitled “After Catholic Synod: Disappointment, Yet Hope Remains.”
20. New Ways Ministry’s Francis DeBernardo gave further reactions to the synod when he appeared on MSNBC’s News Nation with Tamron Hall.  You can view that segment by clicking here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

 


SYNOD: London Cardinal Voted Against Synod’s Gay Paragraphs Because Welcome Was Absent

October 20, 2014
Cardinal-elect Vincent Nichols

Cardinal-elect Vincent Nichols

Was the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops a win, a loss, or something in the middle? In the day or so since the final report was released, LGBT advocates and Catholic commentators have prolifically tried to discern just what to make of these last two weeks. Bondings 2.0 offers a first round-up of reactions today, with links provided for further reading.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster (London) made news in a post-synod interview, claiming some bishops voted against the paragraphs on welcoming lesbian and gay people because they were not inclusive and welcoming enough. Queering the Church reports:

“Vincent says he can’t remember how he voted (there were 60 votes in under an hour), but that – reflecting the policy in his own diocese of Westminster – he felt the wording didn’t go far enough, because the key words ‘welcome’, ‘respect’ and ‘value’ were missing. The cardinal hopes the next stage of the Synod will encourage a more welcoming attitude to LGBT people.”

Equally Blessed LogoStill, LGBT advocates inside and outside the church expressed their overall disappointment about the synod’s final report.

Equally Blessed, a coalition of Fortunate Families, DignityUSA, Call to Action, and New Ways Ministry that advocates for LGBT justice and equality in the church, said in a statement that the synod was evidence that “it is past time for the church to reconcile with faithful LGBT Catholics.” The coalition also expressed disappointment at the final report with Fortunate Families President Deb Word saying, in part:

” ‘For Catholics in the pews, LGBT people aren’t just an issue to be discussed and argued over. They are our family members and our friends. They are faithful Catholics who we worship alongside each Sunday…Our church will continue to be broken until we can welcome her lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender children as God made them, in His image and likeness.’ “

Jim FitzGeraldCall to Action highlighted the “missed opportunities” at the synod, with executive director Jim FitzGerald telling Religion News Service:

” ‘It’s disappointing that some in the institutional church are not yet ready to welcome all God’s children to the table.’ “

Marianne Duddy-Burke

Marianne Duddy-Burke

DignityUSA executive director Marianne Duddy-Burke released a statement, saying in part:

“What we saw through the Synod process is that there are deep divisions in what the Catholics bishops think about LGBT people, even at the highest levels of leadership…We anticipate that significant dialogue and debate at all levels of the Church will continue for the year leading up to the Synod in October 2015.”

The Human Rights Campaign criticized the final document for withdrawing more positive language about LGBT people found in the mid-synod report as “many in the U.S. Catholic hierarchy continue to use heartless and derogatory language in referring to the LGBT faithful.”

Christopher Lamb

Yet, others within the church remain hopeful that this synod was progress and the positive momentum will continue in the coming year. Christopher Lamb of The Tablet said the synod was a “huge achievement in itself” and said further, according to the BBC:

” ‘We have now got an acceptance that we need a new language in the Church when talking about gay couples and homosexuality in general.’ “

Father Thomas Reese, SJ

Father Thomas Reese, SJ

Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese wrote in the National Catholic Reporter that “there is a danger of missing the forest for the trees,” even while changes in language and practice did not transpire. Reese’ evaluation of the synod was more positive than most others:

“The synod was a victory for openness and discussion in the church and the final document is an invitation for everyone in the church to join that discussion. This is exactly what Pope Francis wanted…

“Unlike we journalists, he has not obsessed over the language of the report but has been much more focused on the process. He set the tone at the beginning by encouraging the bishops to speak freely. At the end, in summing up the synod, he showed that he had been listening carefully, and like a good Jesuit discerning the Spirit in the process…The synod was a big win for openness and for Francis.”

Reese also noted that change was evident, like Nigerian Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama’s clear opposition towards criminalizing homosexuality of which Reese writes, “In Africa, that matters.”

Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich, who affirmed that doctrine develops and refused to depict same-sex relationships as a black and white issue during the synod, told media: “There have been two steps forward, there may be one step backwards, but certainly not two.”

Adolfo Nicolas, superior general of the Jesuits, told media to “watch for a possible ‘revolution’ a year from now,’ according to Australian outlet 9News.

John Allen

John Allen of Crux looks further out, to the expected apostolic exhortation from Pope Francis after next year’s synod concludes this process, writing:

“At the end of the day, therefore, the only question that really matters is: When this extraordinary two-year process of reflection ends, what will Pope Francis do?”

Bondings 2.0 will continue reporting on the many reactions to Extraordinary Synod of Bishops this week. In addition, we welcome (and not simply provide for, a la the Synod’s language choices) your thoughts in the ‘Comments’ section below.

You can access New Ways Ministry’s statement by clicking here and executive director Francis DeBernardo’s reflection on the synod here. To read Bondings 2.0‘s full coverage from the synod, click the ‘Synod 2014‘ category to the right or click here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


NEWS NOTES: Synod Week in Review

October 17, 2014

News NotesSynod news, particularly in regard to lesbian and gay issues, has been fast and furious this week.  Here are some articles that you might find of interest:

1. The International Business Times captured reactions to the synod’s working paper which affirms lesbian and gay people.  The report focuses on comments from Nicholas Coppola, who was dismissed from his parish’s volunteer ministries because he legally married a man in New York state.

2. New Ways Ministry’s Sister Jeannine Gramick is interviewed by Al-Jazeera about the Church’s new approach to lesbian and gay people.

3. The Daily Beast’s Barbie Latza Nadeau notes that this synod may have included voices of lay Catholics, but the real question is whether the “men of the cloth are listening.” She comments on several LGBT-related synod events.

4. While the synod was happening in Rome, LGBT Catholics met in Portugal to start the first World Organization of Homosexual Catholic Associations, and they planned to send a message to the synod to be more open to their groups and their people.

5. Jesuit Father Thomas Reese noted this little gem in a National Catholic Reporter synod analysis: “Meanwhile, during the press conference the Italian-to-English translator translated “intrinsically disordered’ as ‘intrinsically messy,’ which will undoubtedly lead to a new line of T-shirts.”

5. Charisma News asks if Pope Francis’ famous “Who am I to judge statement?” will sway the bishops in the synod to a more favorable approach to LGBT and other issues.

6. “A Small Step for the Vatican, a Giant Leap for Gays” is the title of New Ways Ministry’s Executive Director Francis DeBernardo’s op-ed on Advocate.com. 

7. “Vatican mystery: Where did ‘welcoming gays’ language come from?”  That’s the question Associated Press reporter Nicole Winfield tries to answer.

8. London’s Daily Mail sees the synod’s mid-term statement as offering a “massive shift” in the Church’s approach to LGBT issues.

9. The Huffington Post reported on how various Catholics of different stripes reacted to the relatio’s release this week.

10.  The National Catholic Reporter’s  Michael Sean Winters reviews the synod so far, and asks the question: “Why is it so important to hold on to the two words ‘intrinsically disordered’? Isn’t there something juvenile in this need to put ourselves above others, those intrinsically disordered people.”

11. “Pope Francis won’t be officiating same sex marriages any time soon,” writes veteran Catholic observer Tom Roberts in The New Republic, but he still is changing the Church by taking “the weapons out of the hands of the hierarchical culture warriors.”

12. The family of DignityUSA’s Marianne Duddy-Burke is profiled in a Crux.com article about LGBT hopes for the synod.

13. The Associated Press offered a wide-range of opinions from Catholics and others on how the synod has been discussing LGBT issues.

14. The Washington Post notes that Catholics and gay rights organizations are welcoming the new tone in the Vatican on LGBT issues.

15.  New Ways Ministry’s Francis DeBernardo is profiled in an article about the synod in The Global Post

16. “The Catholic church still needs to move on several fundamental human rights issues, including the full participation of women and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in church and society. Those of us who are working and waiting for these changes are not going to be jumping up and down with glee over moderate pastoral suggestions that, quite frankly, should have been implemented years ago,” observed Heidi Schlumpf in a National Catholic Reporter commentary on what the synod is not doing.

17. Conservative Catholics are strongly opposed to the approach that the synod is taking on many family issues.  Religion News Service  offers a review of their opinions.

18. New Ways Ministry’s presence in Rome for the synod was noted by Crux.com in an article describing some of the details of the meeting.

19. Gay issues are front and center in the synod on the family, and everyone has an opinion about them, notes a Religion News Service article.

20. The synod’s report, in other words, is an invitation to reform the likes of which we have not seen for half a century,” notes Charles Reid in a Huffington Post op-ed.

21. In The Tablet, gay Catholic journalist Mark Dowd discusses his own coming out process, and makes this observation about the synod and change in the Church:  “What’s at stake is nothing less than the truth. And at last, I think the Magisterium is now curious and less fearful to learn that truth.”

22.  Gay Catholic writer Andrew Sullivan commented on the synod’s interim report, saying “Yes, This Is A Pastoral Revolution,” and noting that it was ” a thorough repudiation of the last two papacies.” He ended his Daily Beast blog post with the words: “It is like a long, dark night suddenly seeing a crack of daylight. Or rather it is like the final breaking of bread within me, a sacrament of love being released within, of a faith made more whole, of a home finally found. Know hope. Know joy.”

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

 


SYNOD: We Can Hope for Some Change, But Let’s Hope It’s More Courageous Than Nigerian Archbishop

October 9, 2014

ROME, Italy–This has certainly been an exciting week for the Catholic Church!  Sometimes, I have to pinch myself to make sure that what I am reading is really happening.  For many decades Catholics have been calling on the hierarchy to at least have a dialogue about sexuality, marriage, and family issues, and it seems that the dialogue has begun.  No doubt, it is imperfect.  There are certainly not the dialogue members that need to be there–especially LGBT people and their families.  But it is a first step, and that is good.

Of course, I have to also be on guard against getting caught up in some of the sensational headlines, tweets, and Facebook posts that I have seen.  Many people, including press representatives, seem caught up in the euphoria of the moment and are heralding changes in Catholic teaching, when such is not the case.  We have indeed seen an important opening in the discussion these last few days, with bishops sharing their ideas about marriage and family, and listening to at least some of the laity on this matter.  We haven’t seen discussion like that among church leaders at all in my lifetime–and I’m in my mid-50s.  But the beginning of a discussion does not equal change.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols

According to Vatican Radio, Cardinal Vincent Nichols of London, England, welcomed the new atmosphere of discussion:

“Cardinal Nichols pointed out it’s too early to draw any conclusions from these first sessions, yet it does seem clear that this first Synod of Francis’ pontificate is shaping up for a much more honest and down-to-earth discussion than most bishops have experienced here in the Vatican over recent decades.”

One thing, perhaps that we can hope for, is a change in language.  On Tuesday, at a press briefing, Basilian Father Thomas Rosica told reporters that bishops had discussed language about sexuality used in church discourse:

“Language such as ‘living in sin,’ ‘intrinsically disordered,’ or ‘contraceptive mentality’ are not necessarily words that invite people to draw closer to Christ and the Church.”

So many Catholics have been asking for almost 30 years for the terms “intrinsically disordered” and “objective disorder,” which refer primarily to homosexuality, to be changed.  Terencce Weldon, at Queering The Church, commented:

“For lesbian and gay people, this is nothing new, but it is something that the bishops needed to hear. Indeed, even some of those who are already aware of the harmful effects and warning against them, may not realize the depth of the damage that is done. They may understand that it is one of the factors that turns many our community away from the Catholic Church, as noted in the press briefing – but do they understand that it is also quite literally, destructive of lives, especially young lives?”

There was also a glimmer that there may be openness to recognizing value in relationships that are not legally or ecclesiastically considered “married.”  According to Vatican Radio:

“Fr Lombardi used an analogy from the Second Vatican Council which led to profound changes in the Catholic Church’s relations with other Christians and people of other religious traditions. During the Council, bishops agreed that while the fullness of Christ’s Church “subsists” only in the Catholic Church, important elements of truth and holiness also exist in other churches and faith communities. In a similar way, he said, valid and important elements of true love and holiness can also exist in a relationship that does not conform to the full vision of an ideal Catholic marriage.”

Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama

On Wednesday, Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos, Nigeria, offered the following explanation of what the synod might and might not do. The National Catholic Reporter quotes his reflections at a press conference:

“What we are trying to examine is the pastoral approach that could be done differently. The doctrines remain the same. We are not going to invent new doctrines … or suppress doctrines that the church has practiced for years.”

Kaigama is probably right, but that doesn’t mean that doctrine won’t eventually change.  In the church, a change in pastoral practice usually leads toward a change in doctrine, and not the other way around.

Kaigama himself showed the possibility of change.  On Wednesday, he told a synod press briefing that the Catholic Church in his country did not support the law applying harsh penalties to people convicted of homosexuality.  This is a reversal of his opinions at the time the law was being enacted.  The Tablet reports Kaigama’s statements:

“ ‘We are not supporting the criminalisation of people with different sexual orientations,’ Archbishop Kaigama stressed. ‘We would defend any person with homosexual orientation who is being harassed, who is being imprisoned, who is being punished.’

“He added: ‘The Government may want to punish them – we don’t. In fact we will tell the Government to stop punishing those with different orientations.’ ”

This is a surprising change given that some months back the news about his stance was much different:

From Bondings 2.0, on March 7, 2014, quoting a Religion News Service story:

 “In a January letter on behalf of the Catholic hierarchy of Nigeria, Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos praised Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan for his ‘courageous and wise decision’ in signing the legislation. Kaigama said it would protect Nigeria ‘against the conspiracy of the developed world to make our country and continent, the dumping ground for the promotion of all immoral practices.’ “

From Bondings 2.0, on February 13, 2014, quoting an Advocate.com story:

“Ignatius Kaigama, archbishop of the Middle Belt region of Jos, told SaharaTV that Catholic bishops in Nigeria ‘thank God that this bill was passed,’ and in a letter sent to Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, called the law ‘a courageous one and a clear indication of the ability of our great country to stand shoulders high in the protection of our Nigerian and African most valued cultures of the institution of marriage.’ ”

At the synod press conference, Kaigama defended his record, saying that he only meant to support the law’s opposition to marriage for same-gender couples.  The Tablet reports:

“. . . the archbishop said the Church only supported the elements of the law that set out that marriage is between a man and a woman. He added that there had been a “gross misinterpretation” of this by the media.”

Perhaps that is true, but the archbishop must take responsibility for the fact that in a volatile political debate, his supposedly nuanced comments are insufficient and ineffective.  Why didn’t he speak out clearly and strongly against the portions of the bill that imposed harsh penalties for orientation?  If indeed he did not support the bill in its entirety, why did he only praise the parts he liked and not condemn the parts he did not like?  This example shows how silence on the part of church leaders is often complicity in the homophobia which fuels repression and violence.

The synod will surely hold many more surprises.  Let’s hope that most of them are more edifying than the much delayed “clarification”of the Nigerian archbishop.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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


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