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.”

–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


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


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,092 other followers