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


Parish Bulletin Tells the Story of a Lesbian Couple’s Commitment

August 25, 2014

Parish bulletins often tell a person a lot about the atmosphere of a Catholic community.  Even in many gay-friendly parishes, pastors and lay leaders are sometimes reluctant to mention, in print, their welcome of LGBT people. A recent example shows how one parish is working at breaking that wall of silence.

St. Francis Xavier Parish, Manhattan, N.Y., has long been known as a welcoming and affirming community.  They have marched in NYC’s Pride Parade many times, and they have two strong spirituality programs in the parish, one for gay men and one for lesbian woman.  LGBT people are integrated intimately in all aspects of parish life.

Earlier this summer, in the June 22nd, 2014 bulletin of St. Francis Xavier parish, a lesbian couple told the story of their relationship over the course of more than four decades.  Entitled “Forty-Four Years of Love and Commitment,” the short piece by Maria Formoso and Joan O’Brien, describes the difficult early years of their closeted relationship:

“We had the lucky fortune to meet in 1968 when we were employed as teachers in a Catholic high school in New York City. We became a couple in 1970 but we never disclosed it to our parents. It was difficult enough for ourselves to accept this relationship since we had been brought up Roman Catholic in Pre-Vatican II. We tried hard to reconcile our faith and our sexuality.

“Other people whom we suspected were gay were secretive and closeted as well, but we were eager to meet folks with whom we could openly share our lives and our values.”

Little by little, they began to reach out to others for support, including other Catholics:

“. . . at Dignity New York, we met Karen Doherty and Christine Nusse, who started the Conference for Catholic Lesbians in 1983. We were astonished and astounded to meet people from all over the United States who were struggling just like us to live their lives as Catholic lesbians.”

After praising a number of Catholic leaders including Sister Jeannine Gramick, Mary Hunt, Sister Theresa Kane, Father John McNeill, Barbara Zanotti, for their assistance in helping them to reconcile their lesbian and Catholic identities, the couple ended their essay with praise for St. Francis Xavier parish:

“Finally, Christmas Eve 1994, we, accompanied by Maria’s brother José, who also was gay, went to the Church of St.
Francis Xavier. Our good friends Anne and Frank Sheridan invited us. We had not attended mass in a number of years because, as lesbians, we did not feel welcome. The church was packed with people, many standing in the back. Sister Honora Nicholson came to our rescue, and we found ourselves seated on the left side of the altar. The service was beautiful. We were home! “

It was so refreshing to read such a positive piece about a lesbian relationship in a parish bulletin.  It’s quite an example of acceptance and affirmation, and also a wonderful way to educate the entire community about the lived reality of lesbian lives.  It’s a perfect way to let the rest of the parish benefit from the spiritual journey of two of their parishioners.

May other parishes do likewise!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


Gay Coach Will Keep His Job at Catholic High School

August 14, 2014

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Last Saturday, Bondings 2.0 reported on the coming out of Nate Alfson, coach at a South Dakota Catholic high school, and raised the question of whether the school administrators would allow him to remain employed. Now it is clear that St. Mary’s High School will welcome the newly-out Alfson with open arms.

After coming out in an article for OutSports, Alfson, who coaches volleyball and baseball, met Tuesday with administrators. It was in this meeting Alfson was told he could keep his job, of which the Argus Leader reports the coach saying:

” ‘We talked about being on the same page as each other and that they were willing to walk through this with me and support me…They want me to be their volleyball coach again and that I was a great role model to the athletes.’ …

” ‘I couldn’t be happier that they are supportive and want me to be a part of the coaching team…It’s a sense of relief to be able to move forward and focus on volleyball and the girls. This season is about them and the hard work they put in. The support has been amazing and I can’t wait to live a free life.’ “

School administrators did not comment, though the Diocese of Sioux Falls released a statement saying gay church workers are welcome to work as long as their lifestyles were deemed chaste, the same expectations made of heterosexual workers.  (Though the definitions of chastity are different for these two groups.)

Alfson’s decision to come out publicly was a courageous one, especially with so many recent instances of LGBT church workers being fired for telling the truth about their lives. New Ways Ministry tracks the firing and resignations of LGBT and ally church workers. Fourteen people have been forced out this year alone. I was worried that after writing about Alfson’s deeply personal and wise article, I would shortly be writing the story about his firing too. That St. Mary’s administrators are willing to stand by Alfson and foremost follow Catholic teachings on the dignity of each person and social justice, especially relating to labor issues, is a hopeful sign.

This development comes in the same week that news broke that a high school run by the Sisters of Mercy dedicated their athletic field to alumna Abby Wamback, an internationally famous athlete who is also a married lesbian.

Now, it is essential for Catholic schools to keep this momentum going. The last two weeks, staff members from New Ways Ministry have attended annual meetings for the Conference of Major Superiors of Men and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the two separate organizations of the leaders of men’s and women’s religious communities in the U.S. While at these meetings, New Ways Ministry is asking these leaders  to implement LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination policies at their schools and institutions.   At our exhibit table, we are distributing a brochure explaining how such policies can be adopted.  While non-committal, the leaders’ responses have been positive to this idea.

Additionally, you can advocate for LGBT and ally church workers by raising the issue of non-discrimination policies within their your local parish or Catholic school. Below are suggestions for how you can make a difference:

1. Educate Yourself. Learn more about the current challenges LGBT church workers face, including firings, by reading Francis DeBernardo’s essay in Conscience magazine. You can find that by clicking hereBondings 2.0 also lists every LGBT-related public firing at a Catholic institution since 2008 on our “Catholicism, Employment, and LGBT Issues” page. There you will find further information about each case. Finally, you can read Bondings 2.0‘s full coverage by checking out the ‘Employment Issues‘ category to the right and to receive the latest updates enter your email in the “Subscribe” box in the upper right hand of this page.”

2. Take Action. Adding a sufficient non-discrimination policy at your local Catholic institution could be as simple as adding the following: “(Name of parish, school, or institution) will not discriminate in employment practices on the basis of marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, and personal support for marriage equality.” For more tips on establishing LGBT-inclusive policies, click here.

3. Connect. If you want help with adopting a non-discrimination policy or anything related to Catholic LGBT employment issues, you can contact New Ways Ministry by emailing info@newwaysministry.org or calling (301) 277-5674 for further resources and information.

Now that Nate Alfson is proudly out and ready to return to coaching, he told reporters: “I can breath, I can smile, and I’m not afraid to cry, and I’m not afraid to feel what I’m feeling.” It is past time to make this sense of freedom and authenticity normative for every teacher, student, administrator, parent, and alumni involved with Catholic education. What difference will you make this fall?

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Minneapolis Archbishop Nienstedt: “I’m not gay…I’m not anti-gay.”

August 11, 2014
Archbishop John Nienstedt

Archbishop John Nienstedt

Archbishop John Nienstedt of Minneapolis-St. Paul denied suggestions that he was gay or could be considered anti-gay in recent media blitz intended to confront intensifying calls for his resignation. He also spoke about a failed 2012 campaign to ban marriage equality, archdiocesan financial difficulties, and clergy sexual abuse of minors.

Controversy has surrounded the archbishop for more than a year, with concurrent claims that he mishandled clergy sexual abuse claims and made advances on other men, including priests and seminarians in the diocese. Nienstedt also possesses a strong anti-LGBT record that many church justice advocates have criticized.

However, Nienstedt said he would not resign unless asked to do so by the papal nuncio because he is confident the archdiocese was “in a much better place” now.

Regarding allegations of sexual misconduct against priests and seminarians, Nienstedt ordered an independent investigation that has produced a report now under review by church officials. The Star Tribune reported the archbishop denies any misconduct and blames ‘enemies’ for the allegations:

“Nienstedt said he believed that the investigation involved five allegations of sexual impropriety, including from the time he served in the Detroit Archdiocese in the 1990s. . .The allegations were made by priests and seminarians.

“When asked why Catholic priests and seminarians alleged he had same-sex attraction, Nienstedt responded, ‘I have no idea.’

” ‘But I made a lot of enemies by the stands I’ve taken in Detroit and here,’ he said. ‘I assume it feeds into that.’ “

In a separate interview with KCCO, video of which is available at The Advocate, Nienstedt was asked directly if he was gay  and responded:

” ‘No, I’m not gay. But I also want to say, as it was quoted in the paper this morning, I’m not anti-gay either. At the time of the marriage amendment, a lot of people said I was bigoted, that I was homophobic and I’m not.’ “

Nienstedt spoke about that 2012 campaign for an amendment banning marriage equality, for which he mailed more than 400,000 DVDs to Catholics, had anti-marriage equality prayers inserted into the liturgy, and told the mother of a gay son that acceptance of her son might imperil salvation. Administratively, Nienstedt banned priests from endorsing marriage equality or opposing the proposed ban — though this did not stop several courageous priests from speaking out and donating to pro-LGBT causes. In the end, Catholics in Minnesota played a crucial role in defeating the ban and stood on the side of LGBT justice.

Whereas Nienstedt  once said that “marriage equality is the work of Satan,” the archbishop now says he was “not against gays” and “didn’t fight gay marriage.” Instead, he was positively advancing a ‘traditional’ understanding of marriage and clarifying Catholic teaching on homosexuality. An attempt by the archbishop to explain these teachings came up short when pressed by reporter Tom Lyden:

“[Lyden]: Okay. What about homosexuals?

“[Nienstedt]: Homosexuals need to lead chaste lives.

“L: They need to lead celibate lives?

“N: Well, yes.

“L: Okay. Does that seem reasonable to you, that we should all lead the lives of priests?

“N: Well… um…

“L: Tell me, archbishop, why should I lead the life of a priest?

“A: Because it is of your nature to, um, express yourself sexually through a committed relationship.

“L: I am. I’ve been with the same partner and husband now for 21 years.”

You can view the full 30-minute Fox interview at The New Civil Rights Movement

Archbishop Nienstedt’s history in the Twin Cities is deeply troubled, but these interviews make clear he is not planning on resigning.  The allegations of personal misconduct proving true would only add to this tragedy, as Francis DeBernardo wrote on this blog in July. I reiterate DeBernardo’s concluding words about Nienstedt:

“I am angry at the harm he has caused others, but I find myself strangely sympathetic towards him if it turns out that he caused even greater harm to himself.”

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Catholics Seek Legal Rights, Pastoral Welcome for All Families

August 10, 2014

Advancing LGBT rights in the U.S. is increasingly a struggle about supporting families, both in the church and under the law. Below are several stories in which Catholics are standing up for just civil laws and inclusive pastoral care.

Adoption Rights

New legislation, known as the Inclusion Act, has been introduced in the U.S. Congress that would allow religiously-based agencies receiving government funds to refuse same-gender couples access to foster care and adoption services. This act has received the support of at least three Catholic bishops, but Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA criticized it in an essay on  The Huffington Post. She also happens to be the adoptive parent, with her wife ,of two girls.  She wrote:

“In almost every case, [same-sex couples] have given their kids an abundance of love and stability. The intentionality with which they chose to parent is carried forward into their raising of their daughters and sons. They have done all the things that other parents do, often while facing stigma and a lack of legal stability for their families…

“The so-called Inclusion Act does nothing to protect children. To the contrary, it could continue depriving children of potentially loving, stable homes. And it does nothing to protect religious liberty. If there are agencies that truly believe they have a religious mandate to place children only with married, opposite-sex parents, and that there are parents wanting to place children for adoption clamoring for such agencies, then let them manage that service with private funding.”

Parents Speak Out

Parents, adoptive and biological, have long spoken out for their LGBT children, and in the Catholic Church, they have some of the most active advocates for inclusion. Patrick Nugent, the parent of a gay son and an adoptive parent, recently wrote to Catholic Charities of the USA (CCUSA) about President Obama’s executive order barring LGBT non-discrimination by federal contractors.

Concerned that CCUSA CEO Larry Snyder had joined a letter of religious leaders asking the president to expand religious exemptions, Nugent asked Norbertine Brother Steve Herro, manager of mission and ministry at CCUSA, about how Catholic Charities would treat LGBT employees. Nugent writes:

“Why did [Snyder] not ask for exemption from the Civil Rights Act as well, there is no difference…Snyder’s effort to essentially codify continuing discrimination against LGBT people casts a pall on all the activities of CCUSA.  Do you refuse service to LGBT people?  Do you refuse service to African-American people?  Do you refuse service to handicapped people?  I trust the answer to all those questions is ‘No’.  So then why refuse them employment?”

Nugent and his wife, both Catholics for more than 70 years, adopted two children through Catholic Charities of Washington, DC. He adds that this would no longer be possible because foster care and adoption services have been shuttered by the Archdiocese of Washington for fear same-gender couples might adopt the children. This father and LGBT advocte concludes:

“In the future I will read of the accomplishments of CCUSA and its affiliates with two reserve questions:  what did they not do because of Larry Snyder’s gender based discrimination, and what faithful, practicing Catholics were not permitted to participate due to Snyder’s gender-based hiring practices…I will pray that CCUSA will one day embrace traditional Catholic Social Teaching and truly respect the dignity of all people.”

You can read Patrick Nugent’s full letter, and find more information about Catholic parents efforts on behalf of their LGBT children at the Fortunate Families blog. You can also read the inspiring words of Erma Durkin, a longtime LGBT advocate and mother, who was recently interviewed by the National Catholic Reporter.

In a hopeful sign, Larry Snyder said that Catholic Charities was “pleased” with President Obama’s executive order and would continue working with the federal government.

Baptisms

Finally, a new policy in the Diocese of Madison centralizing approval for baptism is again drawing fire and raising questions of whether the sacrament will be dispensed in a spirit of love or according to the letter of the law. A 20,000-plus petition sponsored by Faithful America was delivered to the chancery at the end of July asking Bishop Robert Morlino to affirm that such children can indeed be baptized, according to WKOW.

Critics say the policy is an attempt to prevent same-gender couples from having their children welcomed into the church. Francis DeBernardo of New Ways Ministry explained that Morlino has a “strong record against supporting lesbian and gay people” and could easily be more restrictive in allowing baptisms than a pastorally-inclined parish priest might be.

While the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops stated in 2006 that children of same-gender couples should be welcomed to baptism if there is sufficient hope they will be brought up in the Catholic faith, the matter remains a lingering question as more couples legally marry and gain adoption rights.

Pope Francis

Though not directly addressing the civil and canonical matters in question in the U.S., Pope Francis offered fruitful words about family in his message to the First Latin American Congress on the Pastoral Care of the Family in Panama. The pope said, in part:

” ‘What is the family? Beyond its more pressing problems and its most urgent needs, the family is a “centre of love,” where reigns the law of respect and communion, able to withstand the attacks of manipulation and dominance of the  worldly “centres of power “. In the home, the person is integrated in a natural and harmonious way in a human group, overcoming the false opposition between the individual and society. Within the family, no one is discarded: both the elder and child are welcome. The culture of encounter and dialogue, openness to solidarity and transcendence have it in its cradle.’ “

Terence Weldon of Queering the Church posted the text, noting that nothing in it excludes families led by same-gender parents. He comments:

“Take a closer look at the portion of Francis’ message quoted above, at the important sentence, ‘Within the family, no one is discarded: both the elder and child are welcome’. Indeed, within authentic Catholic families, all are fully included, the old and the young, the strong and the weak, the straight and the gay.

“The Church sometimes likes to present itself as an example of the human family on a grand scale, with itself as mother. By extension of the above, the Church needs to remember and practice the Pope’s message–within the family of the Church, just as in the domestic family–no-one should be discarded.”

Only months away from October’s Synod on marriage and family life, LGBT people and their parents are offering bright examples of what it means to form homes where all are welcome and where no one is discarded. Now it is time for Catholic officials to learn from these courageous lay voices.

You can view Bondings 2.0‘s continuing coverage of the Synod by clicking here or the ‘Synod 2014‘ category to the right.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


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