In Minnesota and Montana Dismissals, Hypocrisy Abounds

September 25, 2014

Jamie Moore

The music director at St Victoria parish in Victoria, Minnesota, has resigned after marrying his husband last weekend, and the resignation was ordered by embattled Archbishop John Nienstedt. But as LGBT-related employment disputes top twenty in 2014 alone, are these firings and resignations making it more difficult for LGBT people and allies to remain Catholic in any capacity?

The church’s pastor, Fr. Bob White, wrote to parishioners explaining that upon hearing their music director, Jamie Moore, had entered into a same-gender marriage, the archbishop demanded his resignation and Moore complied. White added that Moore would “be sorely missed…we wish him every happiness.” The pastor said he would address the situation from a “pastoral perspective” during upcoming weekend Masses.

Nienstedt released his own statement, citing a document unusually titled “Justice in Employment” which allows church workers to be fired immediately for public conduct inconsistent with Catholic teaching. The archbishop added that his role was to make “painful and difficult” decisions to uphold Christian values.

However, St. Victoria parishioners do not quite see the archbishop’s actions in keeping with Christ’s message. Some compared this incident to the firing of Kristen Ostendorf, a lesbian teacher, from a Minnesota Cathoilc high school last year. Others like Chub Schmeig criticized the action outright, telling Fox 9 News:

” ‘I believe the church has more serious problems to be concerned with than whether a gay or lesbian person is in the church…It has lots of other issues to handle first.’ “

What might those problems be for Minnesota Catholics? Archbishop Nienstedt, a leading anti-LGBT bishop in the US, is facing increasing calls for his own resignation over his mishandling of clergy abuse that included moving a priest convicted of sexual abuse and offering secret payments to priests who admitted to the sexual abuse of children. As far as LGBT issues are concerned, Nienstedt has called marriage equality the “work of Satan” and spent tremendous resources mailing more than 400,000 DVDs during Minnesota’s debate on that matter. He has also been accused of making sexual advances on priests and seminarians, charges which he denied this summer.

And what to make of this situation, where an archbishop under pressure to resign personally forces a gay musician out? Two prominent gay Catholic writers, Frank Bruni and Andrew Sullivan, are tackling this question in the wake of so many LGBT-related employment disputes with church workers. Writing in his column for the New York Times, Bruni recalls the recent Communion denial and dismissal from volunteer services of two longtime gay parishioners in Montana, Tom Wojtowick and Paul Huff, who quietly were married. He continues:

“Such punishment has befallen many employees of Catholic schools or congregations since the legalization of same-sex marriage in many states allowed them civil weddings. Teachers long known to be gay are suddenly exiled for being gay and married, which is apparently too much commitment and accountability for the church to abide. Honesty equals expulsion. ‘I do’ means you’re done…

“The Catholic Church does incalculable good, providing immeasurable comfort — material as well as spiritual — to so many. But it contradicts and undercuts that mission when it fails to recognize what more and more parishioners do: that gay people deserve the same dignity as everyone else, certainly not what happened to the Montana couple. If Francis and his successors don’t get this right, all his other bits of progress and pretty words will be for naught.”

Andrew Sullivan of The Dish writes about how these incidents have shifted his thinking about being gay and Catholic, moving from a minor blemish amid much greater goodness to a “defining wound…[that] may slowly wreck the whole church.” Writing about the Montana couple, Sullivan says:

“It’s kinda hard to portray these two as some kind of subversive force…And the action against the men came not because they are gay but because they decided to celebrate their love and friendship with a civil marriage license. So they’re not really being targeted for sex; they are being targeted for their commitment and responsibility and honesty. And the only reason they have been excluded on those grounds is because they are gay.”

“If the church upholds this kind of decision, it is endorsing cruelty, discrimination and exclusion. Pope Francis’ view is that this is exactly the kind of thing that requires the church to exercise mercy not rigidity. But allowing a married gay couple to sing in the choir as an act of ‘mercy’ would merely further expose the fragility of the church’s thirteenth century views of human sexuality. It would put the lie to the otherness of gay people; to the notion that it is essential or even possible for a tiny minority to live entirely without intimacy or love or commitment. It also reveals that gay men have long been a part of the church – and tolerated, as long as they lied about their lives and gave others plausible deniability with respect to their sexual orientation. It is an endorsement of dishonesty.”

Sullivan goes on to point out that these dismissals and firings are inconsistent with Catholic moral teachings on compassion, mercy, inclusion, and fairness — and that young Catholics view this “as barbaric and inhuman.” He concludes:

“There is only so much inhumanity that a church can be seen to represent before its own members lose faith in it. I recall the feelings of my own niece and nephew who lost a huge amount of respect for the church when they heard a homily denouncing the civil marriage of their own uncle. I notice the outcry among Catholic high school students when a teacher was fired for the very same reason. When a church responds to an act of love and commitment not by celebration but by ostracism, it is not just attacking a couple’s human dignity; it is also attacking itself.”

One final note is that Sullivan captures the hypocrisy in these situations perfectly when he writes: “Yes, the church is now in favor of divorce as a condition for being a Catholic!”  (Divorce is required of the Montana couple to be allowed to return to communion.) Indeed, there is neither logic nor just cause for these dismissals.

As Pope Francis calls for greater mercy and his top US adviser, Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley, says these employment disputes “need to be rectified,” the hypocrisy inherent in denying Communion to LGBT people or forcing church workers out for their sexual orientation, marital status, or personal views only becomes more fully on display. I reiterate the prediction of former San Francisco Catholic Charities director Brian Cahill that these disputes will cause the church to become a ‘shrinking cult.’

For the sake of LGBT Catholics, their allies, and the good of the whole church, let us pray and act so this hypocrisy will end.  Please consider beginning a discussion in your parish to enact employment non-discrimination policies.  You can find out how to do that by clicking here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


New Australian Archbishop Needs to Replace “Logic” With a Dose of Reality

September 24, 2014

The headline in Australia’s Star-Gazette newspaper was intriguing:  “No place for bigotry against gays in Catholic Church, says Sydney’s new archbishop.”  I was ready for some really good news, but my hope was dashed somewhat when I read the story.  I didn’t need to read very far.  The first sentence hurt enough:

“Sydney’s next top Catholic has told the Star Observer he will not stand for homophobia in the church, but he stopped short of distancing himself from comments made two years ago when he said same sex marriage would lead to polygamy.”

Archbishop-elect Anthony Fisher

It might seem that Archbishop-elect Anthony Fisher is a lot better than his predecessor, Cardinal George Pell, who in 2011, according to the newspaper, “compared homosexuality to the ‘flaw’ in a carpet maker’s otherwise perfect carpet.”  It is not so much Farmatta’s opposition to marriage equality which is so surprising or outrageous, but the way that he argues the case is disrespectful to gay and lesbian couples.

In a 2012 essay on same-sex marriage, Fisher raised the specter that marriage equality for lesbian and gay couples will bring about polygamy:

“Now the social engineers have their sights set on removing the ‘man and woman’ part of marriage as well. All that will be left is marriage as an emotional union: it’s enough, as they say, that people love each other. But if marriage is just about feelings and promises, it obviously can’t be limited to a man and a woman: two men or two women might love each other. But on the same logic so might more than two.”

But he didn’t stop there, and he also predicted other travesties:

“If polygamy is irresistible on the ‘all that matters is that they love each other’ line, so is marriage between siblings or between a parents and their (adult) child. Once again this is not just ‘slippery slope’ pessimism: it simply reflects the fact that the advocates of SSM [same-sex marriage] give no account of marriage that would exclude such intimate partnerships from being deemed marriages. Only marriage understood as the kind of comprehensive union I have outlined can resist such ‘morphing.’ “

The simplest answer to this illogical thinking is:  “No one is asking for polygamous or incestuous relationships to be recognized.”   The marriage equality movement arose because there is a natural equality between the love that a gay or lesbian couple share and the love of a heterosexual couple.  The social goods from such love are also the same in both types of couples.  No one is saying the same thing about polygamous or incestuous relationships.  To make the comparison is not a logical argument, but fear-mongering.

But where the archbishop-elect’s line of thinking is most disrespectful by the fact that he sees the advent of marriage equality as a result of the sexual revolution, and not as a question of justice and liberation, as more and more Catholics have begun to see it. Embedded in this line of thinking is that all that matters to gay and lesbian people is to have their sexual relationship recognized.  That is simply not the case.  What they want recognized and protected is their love and commitment to one another, so that their partnership, which might include a family, can develop strongly, can protect their emotional and personal needs, and can contribute to the common good.

The Star-Gazette news article quoted Fisher’s statement on abhorring discrimination:

“Fisher added that he would not tolerate discrimination: ‘The Catholic Church teaches that God is love and that all He has created is good, God loves everyone and there is no place for hatred and bigotry in His Church towards people with same sex attraction.’ ”

Yet, in this very statement he shows, again, disrespect by using the term “same sex attraction” and not “gay and lesbian” which is how the overwhelming majority of such people identify.   If he wants to show that he is concerned about this community, the first thing he should do is to respect their self-identification.  Even Pope Francis uses the word “gay.”

Fisher, like many other members of the hierarchy, needs to learn that if he really wants to welcome LGBT people to the church, he needs to become more knowledgeable about their lives, the nature of their relationships, and about the real forms of injustice and inequality that they experience.  Too often such bishops think that they are being “compassionate,” when in fact, they are being unjust.

Fisher needs to replace his “logic” with a dose of reality.  His first line of business as archbishop should be to open a dialogue with LGBT Catholics to learn about their faith journeys and their gifts.  I don’t think that someone like him is unreformable, but I think he needs to see how his “logical” arguments are, in fact, pastorally and personally harmful.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 

 

 

 


Montana Bishop’s Divided Thinking in Communion Denial Case

September 23, 2014

When the pastor of St. Leo parish in Lewiston, Montana, found out that a gay couple there had been joined in a civil marriage, his response was to tell them they were not longer welcome at communion or to participate in any of the parish’s volunteer ministries, even though both had been actively involved in many of them for a number of years.

Paul Huff and Tom Wojtowick

In the Great Falls TribuneRev. Samuel Spiering acknowledged he had learned about the relationship of Paul Huff, 73, and Tom Wojtowick, 66, through a rumor, though the couple did confirm it.  To make matters worse, Spiering offered a resolution which requires the couple to deny their commitment to one another.  The Tribune states:

“Huff and Wojtowick were also told that to regain full privileges within St. Leo’s, they must first obtain a divorce, cease living together and write a statement renouncing their prior marriage.”

Bishop Michael Warfel of the Great Falls-Billings diocese supported the pastor’s decision, noting, in The Billings Gazette:

“Warfel said he knows Wojtowick and Huff ‘to be good people.’

“ ‘This is not animus against someone who happens to be a homosexual; this issue is the same-sex marriage,’ he said. ‘A lot of people put those two together, and obviously there’s a connection, but it’s not the same thing.’

“Warfel called same-sex marriage ‘the issue of our era,’ acknowledging that in the U.S., polls show that support for it has edged higher than those who oppose it. But the fact remains that stands in conflict with Catholic teachings.

“ ‘As a Catholic bishop I have a responsibility to uphold our teaching of marriage between one man and one woman,’ Warfel said. . . .

“ ‘Either I uphold what Catholic teachings are or, by ignoring it or permitting it, I’m saying I disagree with what I’m ordained to uphold,’ Warfel said.”

For me, the bishop’s statements very clearly show the problem with this kind of thinking. While on the one hand, he knows, in reality, that these men are “good people,”  his theoretical ideas about what are the proper uses of sexuality force him to reject them.  His heart tells him one thing, but his head tells him something else.  I hope that he would use this opportunity to discern a little deeper how to resolve that dividing of responses.

Although he claims to want to uphold church teaching, he seems intent on only upholding the church’s teaching on marriage, not any teachings on effective pastoral ministry, the human dignity of gay and lesbian people, the respect for people’s conscience decisions.  When and why did the teaching on marriage trump all other teachings?  When and why does church teaching ask the bishop to deny what he knows from his own experience that these two men are “good people” ?

As in similar cases of dismissal, many people in the parish have come to the support of this couple.  Over the weekend, Warfel had a meeting with parishioners to discuss the situation, but according to The Great Falls Tribune“No substantive changes have resulted.”

The dismissal occurred even though the couple had explained that their marriage was not intended as a challenge to church teaching.  According to the Associated Press:

“Wojtowick said the men married in Seattle in May 2013 so they could make medical and financial decisions for each other.

“During an Aug. 25 conference call with Spiering, Warfel and other diocesan officials, Huff and Wojtowick agreed to write a restoration statement that, in part, would support the concept of marriage being between a man and a woman, Huff said.”

Others have joined in support of Huff and Wojtowick.  Patheos blogger John Shore thinks that Pope Francis should be involved in this situation:

“ ‘Love the sinner, hate the sin.’ Which means, of course, ‘Homosexuality is an abominable offense to God.’

“Which is a morally reprehensible thing to say—especially, of course, to a gay person—and especially to a gay person who has given their life to honoring the very God they’re now being told—and being told by His authorities on earth, no less—finds them, purely by virtue of them being the person they were created to be, repugnant to Him.

“Please, please join me in calling upon the good Pope Francis, in his role as defender of the weak and champion of the oppressed, to recognize the moral travesty being visited upon Paul Huff and Tom Wojtowick, of the tiny parish of St. Leo in Lewistown, MT, as an absolutely stupendous opportunity for the Catholic Church to once and for all come down unequivocally on the right and just side of the homosexual issue.”

Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA points out a list of injustices evident in the pastor’s decision:

  • It is unjust for Church leaders to ban people from the Eucharist because of who they are or whom they love.
  • It is unjust for Church leaders to single out LGBT people for dismissal from ministry and leadership roles, when others who disagree with Church teaching do not suffer the same penalties.
  • It is unjust for Church leaders to bar LGBT people from exercising their civil rights.
  • It is unjust for Church leaders to demand that a couple separate and divorce.

As our church leaders prepare to begin discussing marriage and family issues in the upcoming synod, one topic that appears to be attracting a lot of attention is doing away with the ban on divorced and remarried people from receiving the Eucharist.  That would be a welcome change which would bring pastoral comfort to so many individuals and families.

Church leaders should also offer similar attention to gay and lesbian couples who choose to marry civilly.  They, too, should not be denied access to the Eucharistic table.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related article:

Queering the Church:  “When a Priest DEMANDS that a Couple Divorce!”

 

 

 


SYNOD: Great Expectations Loom for Upcoming Marriage and Family Meeting

September 22, 2014

Over the next few weeks, Bondings 2.0 will be preparing a number of posts related to the upcoming extraordinary Synod on Marriage and the Family, to be held at the Vatican, October 5-19, 2014.  This post is the first in the series.  Future posts in this series will be identified by the word “SYNOD” in the headline.

I sense that the general mood about the upcoming Vatican Synod on Marriage and the Family, October 5-19, 2014, in Rome, is summed up best by the title of John Wilkins’ Commonweal article about the meeting:  “Great Expectations.”

There is a strong feeling among a lot of Catholics I meet, especially those who work for LGBT equality in the Church, that this meeting could be a turning point for a welcoming and just ministry.  The expectations are understandably high:  Pope Francis, who called the meeting is certainly the most gay-friendly pope of modern times; the Vatican asked bishops to consult with the laity in their dioceses about various topics concerning marriage and the family, including pastoral outreach to families headed by same-gender couples; many bishops and church officials have already made many statements about their new openness to same-gender couples; some of these more gay-friendly bishops, in fact, have been appointed as synod participants.

I acknowledge that I often have those same great expectations, but in other moments, I remind myself that change in the Church happens slowly, and that perhaps the best thing to hope from the Synod is one more further step down the road to full equality.  And by the way,  this synod is, in fact, an extraordinary synod, which is in preparation for a proper synod on these topics to be held October 4-25, 2015, where many more bishops will be participating and where all the real decisions will be made.

Pat Perriello, in The National Catholic Reporter, offers the following suggestion about what to expect from this year’s synod:

“Although it is true that no definitive answers will come out of the October session of the synod, it is still critically important. October will set the tone of whether the bishops are inclined to move forward or to stand still. It will take a supreme effort by Pope Francis and his allies to move this lumbering giant of the church. It will also take the work of the Holy Spirit.”

Michael Sean Winters

Michael Sean Winters

Michael Sean Winters, columnist for The National Catholic Reporter, recently did a four-part series of essays on the upcoming synod, and devoted the second part to gay and lesbian issues.  In one sense, he offers his own “great expectations”:

“The Synod cannot be silent on an issue like pastoral care for gays and lesbians. But, I hope that whatever comes from the Synod does not to read like it was written by an anti-gay bigot. I hope that the thoroughly misunderstood language about “intrinsically disordered” will be dropped as counter-productive and offensive. I hope the Synod will, without qualification, affirm the innate human dignity of all God’s children, including His gay and lesbian children. I also hope that on this issue, as on others, the Synod will help reawaken a less act-centered understanding of human sinfulness, that isolates certain actions, usually violations of the sixth and ninth commandments, while neglecting all else. I hope they will abandon the idea that the Church should oppose gay rights in civil legislation – it is time to disentangle the Sacrament of Matrimony from civil marriage. And, most importantly, I hope the Synod will follow the Holy Father’s lead and ask itself how it can bring the great news of God’s mercy to those Catholics who are gay and lesbian. For any of this to happen, the Synod Fathers must be attuned to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, whose presence was vouchsafed to the Church by Jesus Christ. Then, and only then, will the Synod bear fruit, on this issue and any other. “

As he arrives at this conclusion, Winters makes some interesting points about the Church’s relationship with lesbian and gay people:

“In the history of the Church, no group of people, except the Jews, have been treated worse than gays and lesbians. And, like the Church’s treatment of the Jews, it is sometimes difficult to discern whether the Church was merely reflecting cultural biases extant at the time, or generating the animus on its own, or, more often, a mix of both. . . . [T]he dominant story of how gays and lesbians have been treated in Western culture is framed by a singular fact that turns out to be wrong. For centuries, people, including churchmen, believed that gay acts were the result of an aberrant choice, an instance of a heterosexual person engaged in a perverse act. We now know that a certain segment of the population, probably no more than three or four percent, experience homosexuality not as a choice but as a given, and for them, acting on their desire is not aberrant. That may not fit our moral categories, but there is no denying the fact that our cultural and ecclesial understanding of homosexuality has been distorted by a factual mistake for a very long time.”

And as for the U.S. bishops, Winters states:

” . . . [N]othing excuses their response to the same-sex marriage phenomenon. It has been pathetic. If you know this one discrete thing about a person – he or she is gay – then, well, I am not going to bake her wedding cake and I am not going to allow his partner to get health care benefits. The response from the bishops is all the more remarkable because they certainly were less combative when the states began enacting no-fault divorce laws in the late 60s and early 70s. The issue of homosexuality seems to have hit a nerve.”

Jamie Manson

Jamie Manson

Columnist Jamie Manson is not quite optimistic about the Synod, noting that no LGBT people are among the lay people who have been invited as observers, and that many of the others are people with strong track records defending natural family planning.  But Manson offers a corrective from moral theologian Sister Margaret Farley, RSM, about how synod participants might conduct themselves:

“Farley coined the phrase ‘the grace of self-doubt’ as a way for religious people to resist the temptations of self-righteousness and certitude. The grace of self-doubt is essential for individual and ethical discernment because it recognizes that our moral theories often prove limited when applied to real-life circumstances.

“It is grace, she writes, that ‘allows us to listen to the experience of others, take seriously reasons that are alternative to our own, rethink our own last word.’

“Farley believes that the laity, clergy, theologians and church leaders should participate in a shared search for moral insight. ‘The voice of the church is muted,’ she explains, when ‘it does not represent the wisdom of a genuine discerning church.’ “

Cardinal Walter Kasper

I consider this to be very wise counsel.  I think should be coupled with the advice of Cardinal Walter Kasper.  The German cardinal had been invited by Pope Francis to address a February 2014 consistory of cardinals in preparation for the synod.  Entitled “The Gospel of the Family,” Kasper’s talk urged the cardinals to be open to modern realities and cautioned them against retrenchment.  In his Commonweal  essay,John Wilkins cites a part of Kasper’s talk, which I hope all synod participants will take to heart:

“[Kasper] reminded them that there were ‘great expectations’ in the church—and also, he might have added, in the world. If the church did not take steps but stayed where it was, it would cause ‘terrible disappointment.’ As ‘witnesses of hope,’ they must not be led by fear of change. Let them show ‘courage’ and ‘above all biblical candor.’ He warned: ‘If we don’t want that, then we should not hold a synod on this topic, because then the situation would be worse afterwards than before.’ ”

Let us keep the synod bishops our prayers that they may be open to the possibility of change.

What are your expectations of the Synod?  What would you like to see happen?  What do you think might be possible to happen? What do you think will happen?  Post your reflections in the “Comments” section of this post.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Archdiocesan Reaction Is Insufficient in Philadelphia Hate Crime

September 21, 2014

Surveillance footage of those accused of attacking a gay couple in Philadelphia

Alumni from a Philadelphia Catholic high school were allegedly involved in a hate crime last week, accused of attacking a gay couple on the street that left one victim with a wired jaw and broken eye socket, and the other one badly bruised.

In the aftermath, a school coach has resigned but reactions to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s statements are mixed. Ultimately, the response has been insufficient and this is a missed opportunity.

Fran McGlinn coached basketball at Archbishop Wood High School, in the Philadelphia suburb of Warminster, from which several of the assailants including McGlinn had graduated. Archdiocesan spokesperson Kenneth Gavin confirmed the assistant coach’s resignation on Wednesday, saying he was further banned from employment at archdiocesan schools. The identities of McGlinn and the others became known after social media users viewed surveillance footage which was made public to find the assailants.

In a statement reported by the Bucks County Courier Times, the Archdiocese also said:

“This afternoon, administrators communicated with the entire Archbishop Wood school community to make it emphatically clear that the school does not, under any circumstances, tolerate or condone the violent and hateful behavior displayed by those who took part in this senseless attack.

“Administration also stressed that Catholic schools are centers of learning where students are expected to treat each other in a Christ-like manner at all times and that everyone deserves to be treated with respect and dignity. The actions of those who took part in the attack are reprehensible and entirely unacceptable.”

 Archbishop Charles Chaput also commented on the September 11th assault, saying in a statement:

“A key part of a Catholic education is forming students to respect the dignity of every human person whether we agree with them or not. What students do with that formation when they enter the adult world determines their own maturity and dignity, or their lack of it. Violence against anyone, simply because of who they are, is inexcusable and alien to what it means to be a Christian. A recent beating incident in Center City allegedly involved, in some way, a part-time coach at Archbishop Wood High School. After inquiries by school leadership, the coach was contacted regarding the matter and he resigned. Archbishop Wood’s handling of the matter was appropriate, and I support their efforts to ensure that Catholic convictions guide the behavior of their whole school community, including their staff.”

First, Archbishop Wood administrators are to be commended for quickly dealing with McGlinn’s employment when his involvement in hate crime became apparent. In twenty LGBT-related employment incidents at Catholic institutions this year, this is the first resulting from a church worker’s actual failure to uphold human dignity and the common good.

However, both Chaput and the Archdiocese’s statements fail to recognize openly the specific nature of this attack. Reports claim the assailants asked the couple if they were boyfriends and yelled homophobic remarks while beating the two men. Though Pennsylvania hate crime laws may not be LGBT-inclusive, in this incident it is essential for Catholic officials to acknowledge the homophobia seemingly at the core of the attack.

Yet, neither the word “gay” nor any variation is used in the statements which simply condemn violence. One interesting note is that the archbishop said no one should be attacked “simply for who they are,” a possible shift from the language of same-sex attractions in vogue with American bishops back to language of sexual orientation. This, however, does not directly name what happened as a hate crime specifically targeting a gay couple and is therefore insufficient.

Archbishop Chaput has a record of acting against LGBT people. He is known for expelling a child of a lesbian couple from Catholic school and denying Communion to LGBT advocates. Chaput recently aided efforts by the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference opposing a non-discrimination bill that would make sexual orientation and gender identity protected classes.

Further, this incident is a missed opportunity for Archbishop Chaput and archdiocesan officials to make an unequivocal statement in support of LGBT people who face discrimination and violence. Though Chaput was critical of Pope Francis in the past, this incident could have provided a moment for the archbishop to change his tone and implement a more pastoral approach when dealing with the LGBT community. Catholics United has called on him to do as much when it comes to Philadelphia’s transgender community. Why not use a moment of horrendous tragedy to build a bridge and reach out with love for lesbian and gay Philadelphians as well?

Thankfully, the story is still in the news and there is time for Archbishop Chaput and Archbishop Wood H.S. officials to make a more explicitly LGBT-focused condemnation of this attack. Let us pray they will finally feel the ‘Francis Effect’ now spreading in the US and do the right thing.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


There May Be Brighter Days Ahead for LGBT Issues in Chicago Archdiocese

September 20, 2014

Bishop Blaise Cupich

The Archdiocese of Chicago is expected to announce its ninth archbishop at 9:30am this morning, but sources like National Catholic Reporter and Whispers in the Loggia (WITL) are reporting a name is already confirmed: Bishop Blaise Cupich of Spokane, Washington.

Given Chicago is the third largest archdiocese in the US and this “is likely to be the most significant choice for the Stateside bench Pope Francis makes during his entire pontificate,” according to  WITL’s Rocco Palmo, it is important to ask: where does Cupich stand when on LGBT issues?

His record seems fairly positive, as this blog noted when we evaluated potential USCCB presidents last autumn.

In 2012, amid Washington State’s referendum debate on marriage equality, Cupich provided a voice that was surprisingly compassionate and moderated.  Though he opposed marriage equality, he acknowledged the goodness of Catholics who supported LGBT equality. His pastoral letter on the referndum included one short section on the hierarchy’s teaching about same-gender couples, while spending extensive time respectfully laying out both sides’ views in an unsually objective way.

Earlier that year, Jesuit-run Gonzaga University in Spokane faced criticism for honoring South African’s Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu as the commencement speaker because Tutu had supported the ordination of gay clergy. Bishop Cupich stood by the University‘s decision to honor Tutu.

Regarding this October’s upcoming Synod of Bishops on marriage and family, the National Catholic Reporter quoted Cupich as saying the church “must allow the Holy Spirit to move us” and that clergy must “take seriously the ‘joys, sorrows, heartaches, and challenges of laypeople.’ “

In regards to the US bishops’ campaign against LGBT non-discrimination and healthcare laws framed as religious liberty issues, Cupich affirmed the need for bishops to be in relationship with the government “so that we’re not banging our heads between our beliefs and laws.” He has also called the apocalyptic tone of Catholic officials threatening to shut down ministries over alleged religious liberty issues “scare tactics and worst-case scenario predictions” that are “uncalled for and only unnecessarily disturb the hardworking and dedicated people who are employed by the Church.”

To read a full analysis of Bishop Cupich from Dennis Coday, editor of the National Catholic Reporter, click here.

Cupich’s style is all quite a reversal from the bombastic actions of Chicago’s outgoing prelate, Cardinal Francis George, who just a week ago compared LGBT advocates to anti-Catholic groups from US history like the Know-Nothings and Ku Klux Klan.

It appears Pope Francis might be using a major episcopal appointment to shift the American episcopacy in major ways. The following, from a speech Cupich delivered in June during a conference on economics at The Catholic University of America, Washington, DC, may indicate what the pope is attempting:

“[Pope Francis uses] as his starting point real life experience rather than competing ideas. In other words the Pope offers a different epistemology, a different approach to how we know and learn or better how we are informed…But, I think those who easily dismiss what the Pope is saying because of his turn to real life experience fail to appreciate that he is calling people to a more authentic way of knowing and learning. He is challenging them about how they are informed.  And, in fact, herein lies what I believe is how we should understand his unique contribution to the tradition of Catholic Social Teaching. Instead of approaching life from the thirty thousand feet level of ideas, he challenges policy makers and elected officials — indeed all of us —  to experience the life of everyday and real people. His pithy phrase in the Joy of the Gospel says it all: Reality is greater than ideas.  Ideas cannot be disconnected from realities; the two must be in dialogue. He is concerned that leaders and policy makers ‘are stuck in the  realm of pure ideas’ thus disconnected from realities.  Ideas are important as they can classify and define, but realities call us to action.”

Cupich follows Pope Francis by forsaking an episcopal residence and instead lives in a room at the local seminary. From what we know, he appears to have a pastorally-focused ministry which is very different from Cardinal George’s approach which has been more focused on culture wars.

I have one further hope. For decades, Catholics, because of their experiences with reality rather than ideas, have come to know, love, and advocate with LGBT people . Encountering same-gender couples and LGBT youth has been the ‘stuff’ of conversions towards inclusion and equality. Hopefully, soon-to-be Archbishop Cupich will keep up his positive record and further encounter the realities of LGBT people’s lives.  Such an approach would help him, and the bishops at large, overcome harmful policies toward LGBT people.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


How Can the Catholic Community Support LGBT Homeless Youth?

September 19, 2014

YesterdayBondings 2.0 highlighted the religious rejection that too often causes LGBT youth to experience homelessness, and we called on Catholics and other people of faith to participate in GLAAD’s #SpiritDay this October as a sign of love and acceptance for upwards of 400,000 LGBT youth inhabiting American streets.

Today, we take a look at the flip side of the relationship between LGBT youth homelessness and religion, specifically Catholicism.  Examples of Catholics and those rooted in the church’s tradition confronting general homelessness abound, and it is a source of comfort for me that the church has such a fervent commitment to children in poverty. But what about LGBT youth?

Carl Siciliano, once a Benedictine monk and Catholic Worker, left the church over homophobic remarks from New York’s Cardinal John O’Connor. But he did not leave the  practice of the works of mercy for those without homes, as Rolling Stone reports:

“Siciliano was working at a housing program for the homeless in the Nineties when he noticed that his clientele was getting younger and younger. Until then, he says, ‘you almost never saw kids. It was Vietnam vets, alcoholics and deinstitutionalized mentally ill people.’ But not only were more kids showing up, they were also disappearing. ‘Every couple of months one of our kids would get killed…And it would always be a gay kid.’ “

Siciliano founded the Ali Forney Center in response, a shelter in New York City devoted exclusively to LGBT kids and teens without housing. Siciliano has also become an advocate, questioning where the tax dollars are for these youth and what Pope Francis’ impact has been. The Rolling Stone articles highlights the first of these, noting a lack of government funding exacerbated by a further lack of LGBT protections to assist LGBT youth.

Of more than $5 billion in federal funding annually funneled to address homelessness, a very small percentage targets youth. The Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA), a primary source of youth funding around this issue, does not ban LGBT discrimination and it does not look likely that such a clause will be added to a new version of the Act which expired last fall. This situation leaves the US with only 4,000 beds nightly for an estimated 1.7 million homeless youth.

There are further complications when factoring in religious organizations. Because President George W. Bush channelled government funds to faith-based providers, LGBT youth may face further discrimination if they seek services at faith-based care providers who are not inclusive and do not provide for this population’s unique needs. Given the track record of local Catholic Charities affiliates when it comes to non-discrimination laws around adoption and the Hobby Lobby debacle earlier this year, would Catholic groups end social services to homeless youth if they were required to be LGBT inclusive?

There is another angle, touched upon yesterday, when it comes to Catholicism’s response to this epidemic of homeless LGBT youth and that is the pastoral care that also needs to be provided. Siciliano wrote public letter to Pope Francis published in the New York Times this spring and pleaded for the pope to act forcefully against the causes of religious rejection afflicting LGBT youth.

Indeed, though Pope Francis has not directly addressed this issue, I think he points the way forward for American Catholics. The pope’s emphasis on accompanying the poor as a mandate of faith needs no comment, aside from a reminder that he chose to dine with the homeless for his birthday, and the Jesuit church in Rome held a funeral for murdered transgender woman who had been homeless that respected her gender identity. Pope Francis chooses mercy over judgment, over caring for and including those on the margins, rather than rejecting them.

What can you do?

On a personal level, participate in #SpiritDay on October 16th to let LGBT children and teens know there are supportive people of faith in their lives in their communities. New Ways Ministry is joining with other faith-based and LGBT groups to co-sponsor #SpiritDay with GLAAD. We hope you will join us and help us spread the word! For more information, click here.

On a parish level, begin efforts to address these LGBT youth-specific injustices. Whether this means broader education efforts about sexual orientation and gender identity or augmenting existing efforts to confront homelessness by tackling the unique needs of LGBT people experiencing poverty. Do something small to start and build upon it.

On a state and national level, become involved with legislative efforts to meet the specific needs of homeless youth generally, including those needs of LGBT youth.

Homelessness among LGBT youth is not simply a Catholic or faith problem, for there are a myriad of other factors influencing each person’s life. But Catholics have both a mandate from Christ to care for those least among us and a faith responsibility to combat negative religious beliefs that result in rejected youths.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


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