ONE YEAR LATER: Sr. Jeannine Gramick Assesses Pope Francis’ 1st Year

March 10, 2014

ONE YEAR LATER is an afternoon series focusing on the first year of Pope Francis’ papacy. Bondings 2.0 will be running this series all week.  The anniversary of his election is Thursday, March 13th.

A group of Catholic church reform organizations have banded together to organize a website/blog about the pope’s first year:  PopeFrancis365.orgIn addition to LGBT topics, the site includes resources on a variety of issues:  women’s ordination, non-violence, divorce and re-marriage, worker justice, church governance, to name a few.

New Ways Ministry’s Sister Jeannine Gramick, SL, wrote the website’s section on Pope Francis and LGBT issues.  You can link to the website by clicking here.  Below is the main portion of the text, but you need to go to the website to see action items and other resources.


By Sister Jeannine Gramick, SL, New Ways Ministry


Like the shot heard round the world, “Who am I to judge?” has, without doubt, come to define Pope Francis. His answer to a question about gay priests, asked by a reporter during a press conference on the plane ride back to Rome from World Youth Day celebrations in July 2013, was reprinted in headlines all over the globe. These five words represent an unambiguous departure from the harsh language of his predecessors, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, toward LGBT persons.

A mere nine months after his election to the papacy, Time magazine named Pope Francis its Person of the Year, in part for his welcome of LGBT people. The Advocate, the leading LGBT magazine, chose him as the single most influential person of 2013 for LGBT people, claiming that, because of Francis, “a significant and unprecedented shift took place this year in how LGBT people are considered by one of the world’s largest faith communities.” Pope Francis is turning into a rock star pontiff as he takes his place on the cover of the Rolling Stone magazine alongside other pop icons of American culture.

Equally Blessed, a coalition of four Catholic groups (Call to Action, Dignity, Fortunate Families, and New Ways Ministry) with a special outreach to LGBT persons and their allies, stated that the pope’s statements are “like rain on a parched land” for their constituents.

Pope Francis has given courage to thousands of Catholics who have been ministering with LGBT persons, many of whom have been penalized by church authorities who do not share Pope Francis’ welcoming vision. For LGBT advocates, Pope Francis is reinvigorating the Spirit called forth by Pope John XXIII and the Second Vatican Council.

The First Year

Pope Francis is the first pope to publicly use the word “gay.” And this, in his first year in 2013! He spoke directly about lesbian and gay persons on his return flight from World Youth Day in July. In August, he gave a lengthy three-part interview to Antonio Spadaro, SJ, the Editor-in-Chief of La Civilta Cattolica in Rome at the request of all the editors of Jesuit magazines worldwide. In this interview Pope Francis elaborated on his remarks about lesbian and gay people. In November in Rome, he addressed the Union of Superiors General, an organization of the heads of religious congregations of men and spoke of new kinds of families, some headed by same-gender couples. Children in these situations present new educational challenges for the Church, he said .

In his famous “Who am I to Judge” statement on the plane from Rio, reporters asked about Italian news reports on a “gay lobby” of clerics at the Vatican, blackmailing each other about sexual exploits. Pope Francis joked that he had never seen the word gay on a Vatican identity card, but in seriousness said there is a distinction between the “fact of a person being gay” and “the fact of a lobby.” “Lobbies are not good,” he said, implying that being gay is good. There was public speculation that Francis was affirming only gay celibate priests, not all gay and lesbian people. He contradicted this theory in the coming months.

“During the return flight from Rio de Janeiro I said that if a homosexual person is of good will and is in search of God, I am no one to judge. By saying this, I said what the catechism says. Religion has the right to express its opinion in the service of the people, but God in creation has set us free: it is not possible to interfere spiritually in the life of a person.”

In the quote cited above, Pope Francis spoke about freedom and respect for the spiritual life of each person—all in the context of LGBT people. His words, spoken in this context, affirm the decision that most lesbian and gay Catholics have made to follow their conscience regarding sexuality, knowing in their hearts that they are at peace with God. It is particularly reassuring for them to hear such affirmation from the highest authority of our Church.

A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person. Here we enter into the mystery of the human being.

In this quote, Francis reiterated his belief that the heart of the Gospel, and therefore the Church’s primary message, is God’s love for the person, not the repetition or enforcement of sterile doctrines about sexuality. His obvious intent is to by-pass offensive words like “intrinsically disordered” and “objectively immoral.” Francis is telling us to think of lesbian and gay individuals as human beings, as persons, instead of associating them with sexual activity.

We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context… The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.

Pope Francis’ above quote seems to be directly aimed at members of the hierarchy who are obsessed with cultural wars and the hot-button issues of abortion, gay marriage, and contraception. Time magazine pointed out, ”That might not seem like significant progress in the U.S. and other developed nations. But the Pope’s sensitivity to sexual orientation has a different impact in many developing countries, where homo­phobia is institutionalized, widespread and sanctioned.”

What’s Ahead

LGBT Catholics and their advocates are looking ahead for Pope Francis’ leadership in at least two specific areas: anti-discrimination laws and pastoral outreach to same-sex couples.

1.  Non-discrimination 

Uganda’s Parliament recently criminalized homosexuality, including life imprisonment for repeat offenders. Similar persecution of LGBT persons is occurring in Nigeria, Zambia, India, Russia, Croatia, and Jamaica, to name but a few nation states. Catholics and people of faith worldwide are calling on Pope Francis to condemn anti-LGBT laws implemented in several nations recently in a campaign called No More Triangle Nations.

The campaign, organized by New Ways Ministry and Fellowship Global, is a coalition of groups, including some COR groups. It encourages people to contact Pope Francis to urge him to speak out against repressive laws. People can tweet at the Pope (@Pontifex), send him an email (, or write him a letter (His Holiness Pope Francis, Apostolic Palace, Vatican City State, 00120).

2.  Same-Sex Couples

In a speech to the Union of Superiors General in November 2013, Pope Francis described families headed by same-gender couples as one of the new educational challenges facing the Church.

Pope Francis has publicly advocated civil unions, but not gay marriage, for same-sex couples. From this speech, it is difficult to ascertain the extent of his sympathy for gay couples. He cast same-sex couples in a negative light by recalling sadly that a little girl told her teacher, “My mother’s girlfriend doesn’t love me.” However, he showed concern that we not give these children “a vaccine against faith” by showing hostility to their parents.

If the pope is serious about “proclaiming Christ to a generation that is changing,” as he said in this speech, he needs to listen humbly to those in the changing generation. His solicitation of input from the laity for the 2014 Synod on the Family is a good first start, but more needs to be done. For example, he could speak about workers’ rights, particularly the injustice of firing someone in a same-sex relationship, for issues unrelated to job performance.


Pope Francis has provided unexpected exhilaration for LGBT advocates. As Mark Segal, a leading gay activist, observed, “The actual doctrine of the church has not changed, but the message that Pope Francis is sending is more powerful than the doctrines themselves. Francis seems to understand that messages can create instant change, while doctrine can take years. He performs simple gestures as a priest looking after his flock.”

      The Advocate succinctly concluded, “Pope Francis is still not pro-gay by today’s standard…But what Francis does say about LGBT people has already caused reflection and consternation within his church.” His example has made a difference. The pope’s influence is not in making policy changes, but in setting the tone that will enable change to bubble up from below.


–Post by Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Oregon Catholics Begin Lent by Showing Support for Marriage Equality

March 8, 2014

As Lent began this week, Catholic marriage equality supporters in Oregon took the opportunity to offer their fasting and prayers for the success of a November referendum to decide whether the state should rescind its 2004 ban on same-gender marriage.

On Ash Wednesday, Catholic Oregonians for Marriage Equality met outside Portland’s St. Mary’s Cathedral to demonstrate that their faith compels them to work for equality for lesbian and gay couples.  About twenty members went to the Cathedral’s prayer service wearing badges which indicated their support for marriage equality.

KATU-TV quoted Jackie Yerby, the group’s spokesperson, explaining why they were there:

“Treating people differently because of who they are and who they love is discrimination. . . .

“I am here today because I love God and I want to do all I can so that all Oregonians can live in a state free from discrimination of any kind.”

Catholic Oregonians for Marriage Equality outside St. Mary’s Cathedral, Portland, on Ash Wednesday

The Los Angeles Times, in an extensive article on how people of faith are divided on the marriage question, noted that the archbishop of Portland has stated that he will be encouraging Catholics to uphold the ban on same-gender marriage:

“Just three weeks ago, Portland Archbishop Andrew K. Sample told his staff via email that the Roman Catholic Church in the state would be joining a coalition called Protect Marriage Oregon to fight the effort to legalize same-sex marriage here.”

KATU-TV quoted the archbishop’s words:

“ ‘As the chief shepherd of this local flock it is my intention to commit the energies of the Church to help defeat this initiative,’ the archbishop wrote.

“He also asked staff to make defeating the measure a ‘top pastoral priority.’ ” has provided a copy of the full-text of the archbishop’s letter.

But, as polls continue to show, the majority of Catholics support marriage equality, and many recent efforts by bishops to oppose measures that would extend marriage to lesbian and gay couples have failed.

Jackie Yerby

Ms. Yerby, who was a board member of Catholic Charities Portland for six years, explained that the position of Catholic Oregonians for Marriage Equality is not just a political one, but a faith decision.  The Los Angeles Times quotes her:

“The newly formed group wants to show that ‘just because we’re Catholic doesn’t mean we don’t support same-sex marriage,’ said Yerby. . . .’We support same-sex marriage because we are Catholic.’ “

For more information on Catholic Oregonians for Marriage Equality, check out their Facebook page.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Arizona Anti-Gay Law Criticized from All Quarters of Catholicism

March 3, 2014

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer’s veto of an anti-gay discrimination bill was cause for celebration last week, but the trend of legislation targeting LGBT people is growing in the US and abroad spurred on, in part, by Catholics. But, some commentators are rightly questioning how Catholics can aid attempts to criminalize homosexuality or allow discrimination based upon sexual orientation, given that these actions are inconsistent with Catholic teaching and may even harm legitimate religious liberty concerns.

In Arizona, SB 1062 would have allowed businesses to refuse services to gay and lesbian people under the premise of religious liberty. Though major corporations, Arizona’s Senators, and even leading Republicans like Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich knew how erroneous such a law would be, the Arizona Catholic Conference actively supported the bill by requesting Catholics contact Governor Brewer to sign the bill. Similar bills have either been introduced in considered in at least ten other states, including Kansas, where the Catholic bishops there also voiced support for anti-gay discrimination.

In response, Catholics with varying views on homosexuality are unified in their condemnation of laws targeting LGBT people. Before th Arizona law was vetoed, Michael Sean Winters wrote in the National Catholic Reporter:

“This law has not been advanced at this moment to remedy a constitutional infirmity. It has been advanced by those who oppose gay marriage…The text of the law may not target gays. The political intent clearly does. And, that is why it was a mistake for the Arizona bishops to voice their support for it.

“The question for the Arizona bishops is not simply if this is a good law or not. The question is: Should people be allowed to discriminate against gays? Why did the statement from the Arizona Catholic Conference not affirm that Church’s clear opposition to any unjust discrimination against gay people?…Do the Arizona bishops really think it is a good idea to encourage discrimination in the commercial world?”

After the veto, Winters followed up with another piece expanding his reflections to the American bishops at large:

“The Catholic bishops of the United States also need to ask some searching questions about their stance on the religious liberty issue in recent years. To the extent they look at our culture solely through this lens, they will get a distorted vision. To the extent they do not have actual conversations with actual gay people, they will get a distorted vision. To the extent that they demonize those who balance the various interests as political enemies, rather than people with whom we disagree, they will get a distorted vision…

“When people bring their faith into the public square, as I believe we Catholics must, we must do so with some measure of sensitivity that many of those we encounter in that public square do not share our views or our values, and that they will not likely respond to our natural law syllogisms. We are right to worry about a set of circumstances that could lead to the public square becoming hostile to religion. I think we should be more worried about the public square becoming indifferent to religion.”

EJ Dionne writes in The Washington Post that, beyond the basic denial of human rights, such targeted laws actually undermine genuine religious liberty, which marriage equality advocates have sought to respect in states passing new marriage laws:

“Those who cherish religious faith ought to be heartsick that it is so often invoked not to advance compassion and understanding but rather to justify discrimination and even bigotry. This is doing serious harm to our religious traditions, particularly among the young…

“For both pragmatic and principled reasons, supporters of marriage equality have already gone out of their way to respect the objections of many faiths to blessing homosexual unions.

“In November 2012, Maryland’s voters approved gay marriage by a majority of 52 percent to 48 percent. Key to this victory (and to victories elsewhere) was the willingness of marriage equality’s supporters to acknowledge the freedom of religious institutions to run their own affairs.”

Both Winters and Dionne also note troubling effects for the Church which stem from the bishops’ support for discrimination of LGBT people, namely that young people leave in hordes over this matter. They write:

Dionne: “The millennials are more detached from organized religion than any earlier cohort of young Americans since polling began: Roughly one-third rejects formal religious affiliation. Many scholars — notably Robert Putnam and David Campbell, whose ‘American Grace’ is the definitive book on the United States’ religious landscape — attribute this to the hyper-politicization of faith on the right.”

Winters: “Instead, once again, we have aligned our preaching of the Gospel with a political agenda that is championed by hateful bigots. And, then we wonder why young people want nothing to do with us? When bishops gather to bemoan the secularization of our society, they should start by looking in the mirror. If the face of Christianity is an angry hotelier who wants to place a ‘straights only’ sign outside his inn, then we have no one but ourselves to blame for the decline of Christian faith.”

The negative impact of supporting anti-gay laws are plentiful: the denial of LGBT people’s dignity, undermining authentic religious liberty, an indifference to religion appearing especially among younger Catholics.

Yet, there are signs of hope. Several outlets, including Tikkun, The Atlantic, and Talking Points Memo, have published articles claiming this wave of anti-gay discrimination laws is merely the final breaths of a dying extreme right based in religion. Elsewhere, Pope Francis has laid out his vision for more pastoral bishops. Catholic leaders and organizations condemned Uganda’s harsh anti-gay law passed last week, while in the US there is rapidly strengthening resistance to the firing of LGBT church workers.

Share this graphic on Facebook by clicking here.

Share this graphic on Facebook by clicking here.

Whether anti-gay laws signal an approaching civil victory in full or merely the next step in an ongoing struggle for equality is unclear. What is clear is that Catholics, regardless of their views on homosexuality and sexual ethics, must stand together for the human rights and dignity of every person–or as Jesuit priest James Martin said:

“Every Catholic, every Christian, every person, should oppose these laws. Every Catholic, every Christian, every person is called to love their brothers and sisters–straight or gay. Period.”

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

“Philomena” Film Contains Lessons on Justice & Forgiveness for Catholics Hurt by Church

March 2, 2014

Pope Francis meeting Philomena Lee

“Philomena” is nominated for four Oscars at tonight’s Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and  has already been celebrated for its artistic accomplishments. The film, based upon a book published in 2009, details the true story of a young girl forced to give up her child to Irish nuns in the 1950s. Touching upon the abuse scandals of the Irish Church and the problems of mid-20th century Catholicism, the movie also comments on LGBT matters.

Jamie Manson wrote a review last fall for the National Catholic Reporter viewed from the lens of a progressive Catholic, and highlighted lessons the film might offer to the Church today. She writes:

“What appears from the ads as a middlebrow, sentimental comedy about a quirky Irish lady and a slightly exasperated English writer on a road trip is in fact a study in the gift of fortitude, an exploration of a dark chapter in the history of the Catholic church in Ireland and, in the end, a meditation on power of mercy in the face of an unconscionable abuse of power.”

Philomena Lee (played by Judi Dench) was sent to one of Ireland’s infamous ‘Magdalene Laundry’ establishments after becoming pregnant at 18. The Catholic nuns administering the laundry forced her to allow her son, Anthony, to be adopted by an American couple and it was not until 2004 that Philomena broke her silence about this child. The film details her search to find Anthony, aided by Jane (Anna Maxwell Martin), her daughter, and, Martin (Steve Coogan), a journalist who have a far more critical view of the Church than Philomena. They learn that Anthony, who was gay, has died of AIDS before Philomena was able reconnect with him, but the story doesn’t end there.

The film’s producers had hoped Pope Francis would view it and offer a nuanced perspective against those who had deemed it as ‘anti-Catholic.’ Speaking to both the issues of corruption and abuse, as well as the LGBT component, New Ways Ministry’s co-founder, Loretto Sr. Jeannine Gramick, and executive director, Francis DeBernardo, spoke to The Huffington Post:

” [Sr. Gramick:] ‘I think ‘Philomena’ is a sensitive portrayal of a woman whose deep love for her son impels her to search for him across the ocean to another continent…As a woman religious, I was ashamed of the behavior of the nuns in charge of the Catholic institution in which she was placed. Not only did they snatch her child and put him up for adoption, but they also refused to help her trace him years later. [Lee's] lack of bitterness and pardon toward those who wronged her is an example of the kind of forgiveness Jesus spoke of in the Gospel. I think Pope Francis would like this film because it shows how Christians should, and should not, act.’…

“[DeBernardo:] ‘I found the depiction of Philomena Lee’s Catholicism to be very accurate…Philomena reminded me of many of the Catholic parents of LGBT people I have met over the years who have both a deep love for their faith and for their children. And they find no contradiction in these two loves. Their strong faith even allows them to love the institutional church which has often been so negative and harmful towards them and their children.’ “

Lee, like many parents and Catholics, transformed her pain into constructive action and co-founded The Philomena Project, which attempts to make public information about the more 60,000 women separated from their children by the Church and the Irish government. And though he did not view the film, Pope Francis met Lee on February 5th during a private audience. Her wisdom reported by Religion News Service is relevant for all Catholics, especially those harmed by the Church, to pause and reflect upon:

“Asked if she felt resentment against the church, Lee said, ‘You can’t go through life being so unyielding; you’ve got to forgive.’…

” ‘I have always put great faith in the church and the goodwill to put the wrongs of the past right…I hope and believe that his Holiness Pope Francis joins me in the fight to help the thousands of mothers and children who need closure on their own stories.’ “

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Ugandan Catholic Bishops Are Mum on New Law; CAFOD Speaks Out Against It

February 28, 2014

Since news of the Ugandan law which criminalizes homosexuality made headlines in December when it was passed by parliament, people have been waiting to hear what that nation’s Catholic bishops thought of the measure.  Now that this week the law was signed by the country’s president, the Catholic bishops’ conference has spoken out against homosexuality, but have made no comment about the new law.

Monsignor John Baptist Kauta

Catholic News Service article published by the National Catholic Reporter notes:

” ‘Our reaction from the church is very clear, we don’t support homosexuality,’ Msgr. John Baptist Kauta, secretary-general of the Uganda Episcopal Conference, told Catholic News Service by phone Feb. 26.

“He said that when the anti-gay bill was first discussed, the country’s bishops had been against the harsh penalties it involved for homosexual acts, including the death penalty.

” ‘The bishops were not in favor of that,’ he said. ‘We were for compassion, and we believe (homosexuals) can change.’

“He said Uganda’s bishops were in a retreat and would not be available to comment on the new law until early March.

” ‘We normally don’t want to overreact,’ he said.”

What is most disturbing about the statement from the bishops’ representative is the mistaken view that someone’s sexual orientation can be changed.  It is tragically remarkable that church leaders would still hold such a position, given that so much has been written to the contrary over the past few decades.  Even the Catholic Catechism acknowledges that sexual orientation is not a choice.  Are these bishops ignorant not only of scientific knowledge but of their own catechism, as well?

As Bondings 2.0 reported in December, there has been hope that Archbishop Michael Blume, the papal nuncio to Uganda might influence that country’s bishops to speak out against the law, as they had done in year’s past when the death penalty was a part of it. Uganda’s population is 40% Catholic, the largest denomination in the country.

The news story also noted that a Vatican official has already stated his opposition to this type of law:

“Earlier in February, . . . the president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, said that the church’s affirmation of the full dignity of all human beings led him to oppose laws that outlaw homosexuality.”

Because there seems to be some momentum to oppose such laws from Vatican officials, New Ways Ministry suggests that people send tweets to Pope Francis to encourage him to speak out against Uganda’s law, and other nations’ anti-gay bills and laws, as well.   The #PopeSpeakOut Twitter campaign resource page has sample tweets you can send.   In addition to sending tweets, we as that you promote this campaign on all your social media and email networks.

On a more positive note regarding Uganda, Independent Catholic News reports that the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD) has strongly condemned the new law:

“In a statement today CAFOD said: ‘Every human person has a fundamental dignity, as created by God, and each person is precious in God’s eyes. CAFOD therefore opposes all forms of discrimination, whether based on race, religion, gender or sexuality.

” ‘As was made clear by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in their 1986 letter to Bishops all over the world: “It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church’s pastors wherever it occurs. It reveals a kind of disregard for others which endangers the most fundamental principles of a healthy society. The intrinsic dignity of each person must always be respected in word, in action and in law.”.’

“A spokesperson said parts of Ugandan society was already very hostile to homosexuality and she feared the new law will lead to increased violent attacks on people who are gay, or even suspected of being gay.”

CAFOD has strong connections with international development offices at the Vatican.  Let’s hope and pray that CAFOD will be able to use their influence to get the Vatican and the Ugandan bishops to condemn this heinous law.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry






Catholics Condemn Uganda’s Anti-Gay Law As Discrimination Intensifies

February 26, 2014

MartinUganda_FinalLess than a day after Uganda criminalized homosexuality, a newspaper has already published the names and photos of 200 “top homosexuals” and President Yoweri Museveni repeatedly called gay people “disgusting” in an interview with CNN. This deteriorating situation has captured the attention of Christians speaking out against LGBT discrimination worldwide through the lens of Uganda.

America released this week’s editorial early under the title “When the Law is a Crime,” specifically addressing Uganda’s anti-gay law. Referencing Pope Francis’ famous statement “Who am I to judge?” in light of the violence and discrimination that inevitably results when such laws emerge, the editors write:

“It is especially disturbing that such legislation is immensely popular in predominately Christian countries like Uganda, where 40 percent of the population is Roman Catholic and the Catholic bishops have sent mixed signals about the legislation. When the bill was first considered in 2009, Archbishop Cyprian Lwanga of Kampala, speaking on behalf of the Catholic bishops’ conference, said it was ‘at odds with the core values’ of Christianity. When the bill was reintroduced in 2012, however, the Uganda Joint Christian Council, which includes Catholic, Anglican and Orthodox bishops, expressed support for the bill…

“The church’s vigorous support for traditional marriage, moreover, must be accompanied by advocacy for the human rights of gays and lesbians in equal measure. This is required by the church’s own teaching. Indeed, a growing number of Catholic leaders have offered unqualified support for the decriminalization of homosexuality…

“We add our voice to this swelling chorus. Pope Francis has described gay people as ‘socially wounded’ because ‘they feel like the church has always condemned them.’ Catholics must examine how we contribute, perhaps even inadvertently, to a culture of fear and shame…The church must oppose violence against gay persons and should strongly advocate for the decriminalization of homosexuality. No one should be subject to a criminal penalty simply for being gay. If laws like these do not constitute the ‘unjust discrimination’ against gay people that the church rightly denounces, then what possibly could?”

Jesuit priest James Martin added his own commentary on Facebook, accompanying a graphic from AllOut. He spent time working in East Africa, visiting Uganda, and speaks highly of the people there. Still, he remains clear that these laws are intolerable:

“These new laws are part of a general pattern of oppression in Africa today, where in 38 countries homosexual activity is a criminal offense…The Catholic church in Africa has so far done little so far to protect their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters from violence…

“Archbishop Desmond Tutu has rightly compared these laws and these attitudes to early anti-Jewish laws in Nazi Germany. They can also be compared to the kind of dehumanizing rhetoric that precedes and accompanies war and genocide. (During the Second World War, the Japanese were called ‘vermin’ by many Americans, and in the Rwandan genocide, Hutus were ‘cockroaches’ by many Tutsi.)

“Every Catholic, every Christian, every person, should oppose these laws. Every Catholic, every Christian, every person is called to love their brothers and sisters–straight or gay. Period.”

Expanding on this idea, Rev. Paul Raushenbush, a Baptist minister who is a senior religion editor at The Huffington Postclaims that precisely because Christians have contributed to LGBT oppression, either through action or indifference, we must be part of the liberation now. This extends beyond Uganda’s borders, and he notes the common thread from Uganda to Kansas to Russia is “Christian complicity.” He writes:

“Those of us who are Christian have to add to and embolden these voices with our own. Christians should make sure that their churches, friends and denominational leaders have a chance to meet and talk to LGBT people and understand how being targeted by these laws makes us feel. Christians should take to their own Facebook pages and other social media and stand with LGBT people.

“Religious leaders on every level must directly speak out against the complicity of Catholics, Orthodox and Protestant Christians in the targeting of God’s LGBT children. Pope Francis, I’m talking to you. It is time for you to use your prophetic voice and speak out against use of violence and for the full equality of LGBT people. All of those on Twitter should reach out to @Pontifex using #PopeSpeakOut

“Recent events around the world show us that sitting on the sidelines is no longer permissible — especially for Christians. We cannot let others speak for Jesus. Our faith is being used to do serious harm to LGBT people. Showing love for our neighbor today, as commanded by Jesus, means stepping up and standing in solidarity with our LGBT sisters and brothers around the world.”

In a statement reported on the GLAAD blog, DignityUSA’s executive director Marianne Duddy-Burke said:

“Our hearts and souls are joined with the people of Uganda, especially those whose lives and liberty are threatened by this horrific injustice. We pray that the majority of people, law enforcers, and those in government will continue to live in the recognition that all people embody the Divine, and pledge renewed vigor in working to overturn such discrimination. We call on the people and officials of the Catholic Church worldwide to recognize that such laws perpetrate violence on the entire body of Christ, and to lead efforts to repeal this and similar laws.”

Even National Catholic Reporter‘s Michael Sean Winters, who is sometimes critical of LGBT political issues, is strongly condemning Uganda’s law:

“It is a measure of a humane and Christian civilization that small minority groups have their human dignity protected. There is no straight line from Uganda to the death camps [of the Holocaust]. There is no line at all, just as the situation in Arizona is not like that in Uganda. But, what unites them is this: The Christian Church must learn how to promote family life without attacking the human dignity of gay men and women. That is foundational. It is a sin to do otherwise. The gravity of that sin differs from culture to culture. I do not expect Africa to embrace Upper West Side values tomorrow or anytime. But, the Church must proclaim the dignity of each and every human person in all places and at all times if we are to be true to our most basic dogmatic beliefs.”

If you’re looking to raise your own voice, please participate in #PopeSpeakOut. Send an email or a tweet to Pope Francis and encourage him to condemn Uganda’s anti-gay law and all efforts to criminalize homosexuality worldwide. You can find more information by clicking here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Japanese Bishops Strikingly Honest in Report on Family & Marriage

February 23, 2014

Yet more bishops’ conferences are releasing the results of surveys and consultations made in preparations for next fall’s Synod on Marriage and Family Life. Bondings 2.0 provides another round-up of these releases below and you can read about previous coverage of other nations in the ‘Related Posts’ section at the bottom of this page.


Approaching the survey from a non-European perspective, the Japanese bishops have been bluntly critical in their responses to the survey results and of the survey itself. National Catholic Reporter states:

“…church teachings are not known in their country and the Vatican’s Europe-centric view hampers efforts at evangelization in places where Catholics represent a small minority of the population.

“In a sometimes pointed 15-page report issued in preparation for an October meeting of the world’s bishops, known as a synod, the Japanese state the church ‘often falls short’ by ‘presenting a high threshold for entry and lacking hospitality and practical kindness.’…

” ‘It is necessary to go beyond merely saying to men and women who do not follow Church norms that they are separated from the community and actively provide them with opportunities to encounter the Christian community,’ the Japanese state.”

In their report ( official English translation, available here), the Japanese bishops were limited in what they said on LGBT matters. Addressing mostly marriage rights for same-gender couples, the bishops state it is not a prevalent topic in Japanese society at large and may grow in prominence as toleration of gay and lesbian people grows. Of note, the Japanese bishops observe  that transgender people are being granted marriage rights legally. Their responses in the section “On Unions of Persons of the Same Sex” were all limited to single sentences, and lack of detail is most telling, as they write:

“b) What is the attitude of the local and particular Churches towards both the State as the

promoter of civil unions between persons of the same sex and the people involved in this type
of union?

“1. The State does not promote such marriages and the Church has not developed a
particular attitude toward the possibility of eventual change.

“c) What pastoral attention can be given to people who have chosen to live in these types of

“1. There is as yet no special pastoral attention.

“d) ) In the case of unions of persons of the same sex who have adopted children, what can be
done pastorally in light of transmitting the faith?

“1. So far, there have been no cases of this in Japan.”


Following their English counterparts, Ireland’s bishops are refusing to release details about their information gathering efforts, with a conference spokesperson stating any release would “undermine the integrity of the information collection process,” according to UCA News.


The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops is remaining quiet as well. Even as they forgo a public release of survey results, comments by the president, Archbishop Paul-André Durocher, are revealing about both the results and what this leading prelate imagines the Synod to be. The Star reports:

“In Canada, engagement with the survey was mixed. The Archdiocese of Toronto simply linked to the survey on its website and anyone who wanted to respond did so directly with the conference of bishops. But in Gatineau, where Durocher is the archbishop, priests in the Quebec diocese were asked to engage parishioners on five questions of their choice.

“Durocher doesn’t expect doctrinal change from the synods. He describes the survey as the church facing reality: Whether it likes it or not, Catholics are divorcing and Catholic gay couples are adopting babies. How then should the church care for them?

“He gives the example of a gay couple who want their adopted child baptized. Before that can happen for any child, there must be a ‘grounded hope’ the child will be raised as a Catholic. How does a priest determine that when the child’s parents, as a married gay couple, have violated church doctrine? Is it best to wait until the child can decide for him or herself? Such are the kind of guidelines Durocher hopes the synods will provide.”

Combined with reports from Germany’s bishops and those of other European nations, it appears bishops are finally openly admitting the hierarchy’s positions on sexuality, marriage, and family life are out of touch on a number of levels. What happens when they meet in October remains an open question, but check back tomorrow for further commentary on what else could impact the Synod’s outcomes.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry 

Related Posts

1,000th Post: Photos from the Holy Land

February 22, 2014

Yesterday, we posted our 1,000th blog post!  When we marked our 500th blog post a little over a year ago, we took a pause for some levity, so we thought we would do the same to mark this milestone.

As we mentioned last week, this week New Ways Ministry is sponsoring a pilgrimage of LGBT Catholics and Allies to the Holy Land shrines of Israel and the Palestinian Territories.  Sister Jeannine Gramick, our co-founder is the spiritual leader of the journey.

So, to celebrate our 1,000th post, here are two humorous photos from our travels,  both involving a camel we met in Jericho, at the base of the Mountain of Temptation, the traditional site where Jesus was tempted in the desert.


Francis DeBernardo feeds pomegranate to a camel

Sister Jeannine Gramick takes a ride on Jaguar, the camel.

Sister Jeannine Gramick takes a ride on Jaguar, the camel.

Critics Question Inclusion of LGBT Recommendations in UN Sexual Abuse Report

February 16, 2014

Pope Francis with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon

A United Nations committee’s decision to include recommendations regarding LGBT matters and other social issues in a report on how the Vatican has handled child sexual abuse has caused controversy in Catholic circles, most of which has been negative, even as the reasons differ.

The report was released by the Committee on the Convention of the Rights of a Child, which monitors protections for children globally according to the 1989 Convention. You can read Bondings 2.0’s earlier post with details about what was specifically included in the report’s recommendation by clicking here.

Fr. Thomas Reese, who is positive on matters of LGBT justice, is concerned that the inclusion of tangential issues places the report’s credibility in question on the pressing issue of child abuse by clergy. He writes at the National Catholic Reporter 

“The U.N. committee report on the Vatican’s role in sexual abuse was a missed opportunity. It could have played an important role in improving the church’s handling of sexual abuse; instead, it was an editorial screed…

“The U.N. committee’s 16-page report is too easy to dismiss because it was poorly done. It even told the church it should use its power to stop Catholic parents from spanking their children or from not listening to them. By getting into issues like abortion, birth control and homosexuality, the report only helps those in the church who oppose dealing with this crisis…

“Acknowledging improvements does not excuse the past, nor does it mean that continued vigilance is no longer necessary. I was fooled too many times in the past by assurances that the church had this under control. But to move forward now requires better analysis and better recommendations than were in the U.N. committee report.”

John Allen, now writing for the Boston Globe, agreed with this assessment:

“There’s a strong possibility the fusillade from the UN panel may backfire, however, by blurring the cause of child protection with the culture wars over sexual mores…

“The danger is that when Catholic leaders such as [Bishop Nunzio] Galantino read the UN report and stumble over the parts on the culture wars, they may be tempted to file the whole thing under the usual secular axe-grinding. That drumbeat has already started, as the Vatican’s envoy to Geneva today suggested in an interview with Vatican Radio that liberal NGOs in the UN system ‘reinforced an ideological line’ in the drafting of the report.”

Elsewhere, Mark Silk of Religion News Service called the report a “lost opportunity” as well. Noting problems with the report’s understanding of the Catholic Church’s structure and the nature of the Holy See as an international body, Silk offers insight for what should have happened instead:

“Rather than try to get the Vatican to adapt longstanding and deeply held doctrines to the secular norms of the Convention, the Committee should have focused exclusively on the need for church institutions to treat accusations of sexual abuse in precisely the same way as secular institutions are required to treat them.”

However, an article at Slate offers a defense of the report for prioritizing the human rights of all, especially children, and sets the social issue recommendations within context:

“While it’s true that the report did take a (welcome) wide view of the sex-abuse scandal, the problem, if you want to call it a ‘problem,’ is not that it’s biased against the church. It’s that it’s biased in favor of human rights and the well-being of adolescents and children. This is a human rights committee. When Catholic doctrine comes into conflict with human rights, it is the U.N.’s job to prioritize human rights…

“While it may not be initially obvious why the U.N. recommended things like sex education, ending corporal punishment, or destigmatizing homosexuality, reading the entire report definitely helps clear things up. The point is to build a culture of respect for children that allows children to report sex abuse without fear of being punished or having their abusers protected. Beyond just a general cultural thing, there are direct pragmatic issues at stake. When gay kids, children of gay parents, and children of single mothers are considered less worthy than other children, you might as well paint a target on their back that says, ‘Child abusers, pick this one.’ Gay kids may be in particular danger of same-sex child abuse, as some researchers have hypothesized that the social isolation of being gay in a homophobic environment may make kids more vulnerable to the manipulations of an abuser.’ “

What do you think of the UN report and the response of various voices in the Catholic Church? Is it a positive step for LGBT justice? Does including justice issues, which are important in their own right, detract from the childhood sexual abuse at the center of the report?

Leave your thoughts in the ‘Comments’ section below, by commenting on our Facebook page, or by sending us a tweet at @NewWaysMinistry.

—Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Related Articles:

UN Report on Vatican Draws Fire in Turn,” America Magazine

Catholics Tweet Their Support for Mike Sam

February 12, 2014

Michael Sam

Michael Sam’s decision to come out as a gay man, just as he is potentially drafted as the NFL’s first openly gay player, has been lauded by commentators from all corners. Column inches have been filled with discussions about homophobia in sports, and a Missouri legislator introduced anti-discrimination legislation protecting gay and lesbian people , as a response to Sam’s announcement.

Included among these congratulations have been several high profile Catholics, including tweets from Vice President Joe Biden and Jesuit Fr. James Martin which we included below:

Screen Shot 2014-02-12 at 12.20.10 PM

Screen Shot 2014-02-12 at 12.27.31 PM

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


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