Analyzing the Homophobia Lurking Beneath Marriage Equality Opponents’ Argument

October 30, 2013

I read lots of opinion pieces for and against marriage equality from a variety of perspectives, especially from Catholic and religious positions.  I daresay that I read at least two or three a day–and could probably read a lot more if I had the time to digest all that come my way.  Because many of these pieces repeat arguments that I have heard many times before, my eyes are always attracted to ones that have a freshness to them that make me think in new ways.

Heidi Schlumpf

Such was the case when I read Heidi Schlumpf’s essay in The National Catholic Reporter last week, entitled “Gay marriage foes change their tactics, but not their tune.”   Schlumpf points out a new trend in the way that marriage equality opponents are making their case lately. Because polls continue to show that greater majorities are supporting marriage equality, opponents seem to realize that their arguments about the sinfulness of homosexuality are no longer effective, and they are using a different approach:

“. . . an increasing number of ‘traditional’ marriage supporters are taking a different tactic. They’re not talking about gay people at all — or if they are, it’s only to voice newfound support for LGBT folks.

“It’s not about gay people anymore. It’s about the children.”

Schlumpf cites the recent case of an interview with William B. May, president for Catholics for the Common Good, in which he argued against same-sex marriage, where he stated:

“This issue is not about homosexuality at all. It is about whether marriage is a reality that not only unites a man and a woman with each other, but with any children born from their union.”

Schlumpf asserts that May’s argument is “a definition of marriage that is not ‘adult-centric,’ but rather exists to unite children with their biological moms and dads.”  For her, this definition does not match the reality of her life or withstands the test of logic:

“As the parent of two children not born to me, I understandably question a definition of marriage that wouldn’t include my own union with my husband — not to mention those marriages of men and women that, for whatever reason, don’t include children at all.

“Yet when I pose this question to those who defend traditional marriage in this way, they are usually very supportive of adoptive parenting, seeing couples as almost heroic for creating families by adopting children who need parents. Straight couples, that is.

“To be honest, I find these arguments logically problematic. It seems to me that not opposing legal marriage for adoptive families (two ‘adult-centric’ folks with children not born to them) but doing so for LGBT families (two ‘adult-centric’ folks with children not born to them) reveals that the real problem for defenders of ‘traditional’ marriage is still homosexuality.

“The new ‘spin’ may be that it’s about the kids, but it’s really about homosexuality.”

Schlumpf concludes with an appeal to the new direction set by Pope Francis:

“When even the pope is encouraging Catholics to follow God and ‘endorse the existence of [gay and lesbian people] with love’ rather than ‘reject and condemn’ them, it’s clear that homophobic arguments just aren’t going to work anymore. But neither will defending marriage as an institution only for children and their biological parents.”

What I find refreshing in Schlumpf’s analysis is that she exposes the homophobia which underlies the faulty logic of an argument that on the surface denies being homophobic at all.  Such analysis is needed now more than ever, as Catholic leaders make more use of this type of argument than most religious leaders do.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Malta’s Bishops Quote the Letter, But Not the Spirit, of Pope Francis’ Words

October 18, 2013

maltaPope Francis’ positive words about lesbian and gay people in the last few months have been used by Catholic bishops in Malta recently.  Unfortunately, the bishops quoted the pope to support their opposition to that island nation’s proposed civil unions law for lesbian and gay couples.

On the positive side, the bishops used Pope Francis’ message to encourage civility in what could become a rancorous debate.   Pink News quotes a statement, the bishops:

“First of all, we should keep in mind that through this bill we are discussing persons and their lives. Consequently, in order that this may be a mature discussion, it should reflect a profound respect towards those persons. As Pope Francis recently said referring to persons with a homosexual orientation, ‘in life God accompanies persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation’.”

While the bishops’ call for civility is admirable, especially since they are following the lead from Pope Francis, it is curious that they did not follow the pope’s example of supporting civil unions when he was an archbishop in Argentina.  Instead the Maltese bishops have taken a hard-line stance, opposing their nation’s civil unions bill, not because of any sexual ethics implications, but because it would allow couples in a civil union to adopt children.   Their statement notes:

 “According to the bill, the ‘partners in a civil union’ will be given the right for child adoption. We consider such an issue of a very delicate nature similar to every issue that involves children and the child’s best interest.

“Since there are contrasting views on the issue, it seems to us that it will be wise if the legislator takes the necessary time to make the right decisions on this matter. Children should preferably be brought up by their parents, a man and a woman.

“Moreover, we ask the Members of Parliament to continue taking measures that strengthen the family built upon marriage between a man and a woman. Considering that the family constituted by the unity in the difference between a man and a woman ‘remains the first and principal builder of society’.”

In the second paragraph, the bishops seem to indicate that they recognize that this is a controversial issue, with varying opinions,  Yet, they are firmly against civil unions and they expect legislators to be so, too.   What is even more curious is that they never argue as to why and how it is better that children be raised by a heterosexual couple rather than a homosexual couple.  They state their claim as if it was accepted fact by all, which it clearly isn’t if a civil unions bill is being considered.

Helena Dalli

Helena Dalli

The bill is currently being debated by the nation’s Parliament which is also considering a bill to outlaw homophobic discrimination.  When the civil unions bill was introduced this week, Malta’s Equality Minister Helena Dalli spoke words that sound more like Pope Francis’ message than the bishops’ statement did.  Pink News reported Dalli’s comments:

“We are people before we are straight, gay, black, white or red.

“We have to move towards a society that shuns discrimination and everyone enjoys rights to live a happy life.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


Rep. Paul Ryan Endorses LGBT Adoption, While Newt Gingrich Digs In Against Equality

May 9, 2013
Paul Ryan

Paul Ryan

As marriage equality becomes law in state after state, related legal matters like adoption rights for LGBT individuals and same-gender couples are gaining public attention. Catholic public figures are reviewing long-standing positions by the hierarchy anew, with Republican Congressman Paul Ryan  endorsing equal adoption rights and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich speaking strongly against what he perceives as anti-Christian laws.

Rep. Ryan, a Catholic, spoke at a town hall in Wisconsin last week where an attendee questioned him about a poor rating with the Human Rights Campaign, specifically a 1999 vote against allowing same-gender couples in the District of Columbia to adopt. David Gibson reports on the comments at Religion News Service, quoting Rep. Ryan as saying:

“Adoption, I’d vote differently these days. That was I think a vote I took in my first term, 1999 or 2000. I do believe that if there are children who are orphans who do not have a loving person or couple, I think if a person wants to love and raise a child they ought to be able to do that. Period.”

The Wisconsin congressman’s record on LGBT rights is abysmal otherwise, having voted against the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal and the Matthew Shephard Hate Crimes Protection Act and vocally opposing marriage equality. Gibson points out that in another shift, Rep. Ryan also claimed:

“…he has “always supported” civil unions. Though there is no evidence to support that, it’s a clear sign that the politics of the issue have changed and that even the most conservative Republicans need to appear more hospitable to gays and lesbians in order to expand their voting bloc.”

You can view the town hall remarks in the YouTube video below:

Last weekend, on the television program Meet the Press, Newt Gingrich, a Catholic, reinforced his opposition to LGBT rights, including adoption by same-gender couples. Gingrich expressed an increasingly common talking point by anti-gay groups who claim that LGBT rights lead to the persecution of Christianity. The Huffington Post quotes the failed presidential hopeful:

Newt Gingrich

“‘But what I’m struck with is the one-sidedness of the desire for rights…There are no rights for Catholics to have adoption services in Massachusetts; they’re outlawed. There are no rights in D.C. for Catholics to have adoption services; they’re outlawed.

“‘Does [supporting LGBT rights] mean that you actually have to affirmatively eliminate any institution which does not automatically accept [homosexuality]?’”

However, another panelist on Meet the Press challenged Gingrich’s claims about Catholic Charities in Massachusetts and D.C. being forced to end their adoption services. The Huffington Post reports:

“Panelist Joy Reid, managing editor for The Grio, countered Gingrich’s argument, saying that Catholic Charities decided on its own to discontinue adoption services, rather than comply with the state’s nondiscrimination laws and provide adoptions for both heterosexual and same-sex couples.”

Pew Forum polling last year showed 55% of Catholics supported LGBT adoption rights, and it is increasingly clear to politicians this number is climbing. Recent controversies with Catholic Charities and relations to government in Palo Alto, California and Denver reiterate that the legal struggles will continue for the foreseeable future. As for the implications on Church politics, David Gibson writes:

“…Ryan, who has touted his Catholic faith as evidence of his social as well as economic conservatism…[has a] significant break with the Catholic hierarchy, which has even shut down adoption services rather than placing children with same-sex couples.

“This could spell more trouble for the Catholic bishops in their battle on gay rights; they have already been losing their own faithful, and losing political allies like Ryan is tough.

“Then again, many would say Ryan’s economic policies were hardly in line with the bishops and Catholic teaching, so there.”

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


How Cardinal Dolan Can Express His Love for LGBT People

April 6, 2013

Responses  to Cardinal Dolan’s Easter Sunday comments keep pouring in.   If nothing else, it shows how his comments struck nerves, both positively and negatively.  It shows how much affirmative words from the hierarchy are needed, and it shows how important it is that the hierarchy go beyond just words to send a positive message to LGBT people.

Jamie Manson

Jamie Manson

The National Catholic Reporter columnist Jamie Manson, says she is

“. . . getting weary of bishops and cardinals who tell me how much they love my gay and lesbian friends and I, while at the same time willfully misunderstanding us, refusing to talk to us and devaluing our relationships.”

Her analysis continues by pointing out several actions that Dolan has taken recently that emphatically do not show love for LGBT people:

  • Co-signing an anti-marriage equality document with some of the most vociferous anti-gay leaders of Evangelical churches.
  • Refusing to respond to a letter and petition written by Joseph Amodeo, a former member of the junior board of Catholic Charities of the New York archdiocese, pleading with Dolan to meet with LGBT homeless youth, many of whom were thrown out of their homes by religious parents. Amodeo later resigned from the board, without public reaction from Dolan.
  • Failing to speak out when his brother bishops and priests turn the Eucharist into a political weapon, denying communion to LGBT people and those who support marriage equality.

After reviewing similar actions and statements by San Francisco’s Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone and Pope Francis (when he was archbishop in Argentina), Manson provides an eloquent depiction of what true love is, which seems to echo St. Paul’s famous description in 1 Corinithians 13:

“While it may be true that Dolan, Cordileone and even the new pope are seeking a more pastoral approach to gays and lesbians, I really wish that they would stop calling it love.

“Love does not ignore letters pleading for dialogue and reconciliation.

“Love does not turn away spiritually hungry people from God’s Eucharistic table.

“Love does not use spiritually violent rhetoric against a marginalized community’s fight for justice.

“When we love another person, we genuinely desire to know her or him. When we love, we long to listen to the beloved and to learn his or her story. To love in this way, we must be authentically present to the beloved. This kind of love is risky because it demands vulnerability on the parts of both the lover and the beloved.

“If members of the hierarchy took the risk of truly listening to gay and lesbian couples, they might find, as the majority of U.S. Catholics have, that many of these couples equally embody the faithfulness, devotion, sacrifice and fruitfulness that characterize the best heterosexual relationships.

“They might open themselves up to the possibility that God is speaking new truths through the voices and lives of gay and lesbian couples and transgender persons. They might see that not only are same-sex couples entitled to equal rights and protection, they have as much potential to honor the institution of marriage as opposite-sex couples.”

Equally Blessed LogoEqually Blessed‘s Marianne Duddy-Burke and Mary Ellen Lopata, in an on-line New York Times op-ed, offer some suggetions to Cardinal Dolan to how he could back up his words of welcome with real actions. Among the items they suggest for the bishops are:

  • Dropping opposition to immigration reform that would allow partners in same-sex couples to enter the U.S. legally
  • Adopting anti-bullying programs in Catholic schools
  • Changing to more pastoral tone and content when referring to LGBT people
  • Dissociate the U.S. hierarchy from the National Organization for Marriage
  • Abandon opposition to allowing lesbian and gay couples to adopting children.

They conclude their list with:

“Perhaps most important, the bishops should stop hiding from us. There is no reason the bishops, priests and deacons of every diocese in the United States cannot hold regular meetings with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholics and their families to allow them to speak honestly about their experiences within the church. The result might not always be agreement, but at least it could be a spirit of respect and openness.

“We suspect that some of these recommendations will be received more warmly than others. But having them received at all would be progress for which we might one day have Cardinal Dolan to thank.”

(Equally Blessed is a coaltion of four national Catholic organizations which work for justice and equality for LGBT people in church and society.  The four organizations are Call To Action, DignityUSA, Fortunate Families, and New Ways Ministry.)

glaadIn a similar vein, Ross Murray of GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) in an online Washington Post op-ed, suggests three ways for Cardinal Dolan to back up his Easter Sunday message:

“1.Cardinal Dolan needs to stop talking about LGBT people and spend more time listening to them.”

“2.If Cardinal Dolan cannot talk about LGBT people without uttering words of condemnation, he should simply stop talking about LGBT people in general.”

“3.Cardinal Dolan could turn his stated love into tangible action that would help real LGBT people in their day-to-day lives.”

Murray elaborates on each of these three points in his essay, and he concludes with:

“God’s love is felt, not simply stated. When Cardinal Dolan makes such blatant attacks on LGBT people, it makes his ‘I love you and God loves you’ in front of the media ring hollow. Such expressions of love need to be backed up with tangible action. Do something that demonstrates that church leaders view LGBT people as more than a threat or a curse.

“Cardinal Dolan can keep saying that he loves us and God does too, but until he turns away from the camera to actually listen to the stories of our lives, these words will have no meaning.”

Clearly, Cardinal Dolan has his work cut out for him.  The challenge to him is the challenge that all Christians face: to make the Gospel incarnate in the world.  With all of the commentary and suggestions and support offered to him to do something tangible, Cardinal Dolan should have an easier time deciding what to do next.  The ball is in his court.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Pope Francis Has Mixed LGBT Legacy As Archbishop in Argentina

March 15, 2013

Pope Francis

As Pope Francis settles in after initial celebrations, onlookers from all perspectives and places begin to dissect his legacy in Argentina to derive how he may lead from Rome. Bondings 2.0 will provide readers with a variety of commentary and information on Pope Francis as his papacy commences, starting today with an examination of his record on LGBT issues while archbishop.

Most notably, Cardinal Bergoglio presided over the Argentine Church in its failed attempt to stop marriage equality legislation in 2010 when equal rights for marriage were extended to all couples. The then-cardinal spoke of marriage equality in apocalyptic language. He perceived equal rights as a threat to existing families and used the term “war” when referring to the nation’s marriage equality debate.

Katie McDonough at Salon compiled some of Pope Francis’ sharpest critiques of marriage equality, which speak for themselves and include:

“‘Let’s not be naïve, we’re not talking about a simple political battle; it is a destructive pretension against the plan of God. We are not talking about a mere bill, but rather a machination of the Father of Lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God’…

“Look at San Jose, Maria, Child and ask them [to] fervently defend Argentina’s family at this time. [Be reminded] what God told his people in a time of great anguish: “This war is not yours but God’s.” May they succor, defend and join God in this war.’”

Pope Francis, as archbishop in Argentina, also spoke strongly against the adoption of children by same-gender couples, which he labeled a form of discrimination and abuse:

“‘At stake are the lives of many children who will be discriminated against in advance, and deprived of their human development given by a father and a mother and willed by God. At stake is the total rejection of God’s law engraved in our hearts.’”

On a positive note, Pope Francis is widely revered for his commitment to the marginalized in society. National Catholic Reporter reveals that as Cardinal Bergoglio, he kissed and washed the feet of twelve AIDS patients in 2001 as a show of his “deep compassion for the victims of HIV-AIDS.”

As mixed as this record may be, not all view his record Argentina as the final word now that Cardinal Bergoglio is Pope Francis. Writing in Time, Tim Padgett is keeping his hopes up:

“I want to believe that his history as an advocate for the poor will bring him to see that today’s church is spending an inordinate amount of time, energy and ultimately moral credibility persecuting homosexuals, feminists and other “heretics” while it’s de-prioritizing, at least in the public’s eye, its core Christian (and human) mission of compassion and redemption.”

Whether Pope Francis will experience a shift as he assumes the papacy is known to God alone, but many in the LGBT community hold out for positive movement now that the former pope, Benedict XVI, has retired. Bondings 2.0 will report more thoroughly on signs of hope over the weekend, and further reactions from the Catholic LGBT community and organizations.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Denver Catholic Charities Will Not Let Same-Gender Couples Adopt

January 29, 2013

Catholic Charities Archdiocese of DenverIf a civil unions bill becomes law this year in Colorado (and it looks likely that it will), the Archdiocese of Denver’s Catholic Charities has said that it will not place children available for adoption in families headed by same-sex couples.  9News.com reports the statements of two Catholic officials on the matter:

” ‘Our desire is to provide them [children] with a safe and stable environment,’ Tracy Murphy with Catholic Charities of Denver said.

“The debate begins when you examine what the Catholic church means by that.

” ‘The Catholic church understands the best foundation for a child’s life is to be in the home of a father and a mother that is going to raise them in a family environment that is a strong, healthy marriage,’ said Monsignor Tom Fryar, who serves as pastor for the Denver Cathedral.

“By dictionary definition, the church does discriminate when it comes to adoptions– not just against gays but also against single people.

“They only let married couples adopt. Even if the laws change, the church won’t.

” ‘We cannot,’ Fryar said. ‘It goes against our faith.’ “

Catholics who oppose the civil unions law are trying to get a “conscience clause,  which is explained by 9News.com’s  report:

“Last year’s bill contained the words: ‘This article shall not be interpreted to require a child placement agency to place a child for adoption with a couple that has entered into a civil union.’

“Supporters of civil unions begrudgingly included the clause last year, hoping it would help get the bill through the GOP-controlled House. Now that Democrats are in control, they are less inclined to accommodate religious organizations who opposed civil unions when the bill did have the clause.”

Putting the politics aside, it is amazing that Msgr. Fryar would say that adoption policy “goes against our faith.”  This is not a faith issue. Our faith does not say anything about what an ideal family would be for a particular child.  One need only look at Scripture, Catholic history, and the lives of the saints to know that there are many models of families and forms of childcare other than relying on a heterosexual standard.  Furthermore, the children and the parents involved may not necessarily be Catholic.

A Colorado lawmaker commented on the adoption controversy by making reference to segregation laws:

” ‘It sounds like, “we have our water fountains, and there are other water fountains for you,” ‘ Sen. Jessie Ulibarri (D-Commerce City) said.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Extreme Protests from Both Sides of the Catholic Marriage Equality Debate

January 14, 2013

Two protests occurred in Europe over the weekend regarding Catholic involvement in the question of marriage equality.  One protest was for marriage equality and one was against it. Both were extreme.

article-protest4-0113The pro-marriage equality protest took place in St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City,  when four women went topless to demonstrate against the Catholic hierarchy’s opposition to marriage for lesbian and gay couples and adoption of children by same-gender couples.

The New York Daily News reports

“While the pope was giving his weekly address on Sunday, four women from the Ukrainian Femen group who were in the crowd, pulled off their T-shirts to reveal the slogan ‘In Gay we Trust’ painted over their bodies.”

The same Femen group staged a protest appearing as topless nuns in Paris a few months ago, which erupted in a violent clash between two demonstrating groups.

An Italian court had recently issued a ruling allowing for a mother and her female partner to maintain custody of a son, depsite the father’s protest against such an arrangement:

“The Court of Cassation ruled it was ‘mere prejudice’ to assume that living with a homosexual couple could be detrimental for a child’s development

“While gay rights group Arcigay called it a ‘historic ruling’ for Italy, where it is illegal for gay couples to adopt, Catholic leaders were quick to defend the traditional family unit.”

In the United Kingdom, 1,054 Roman Catholic priests and 13 bishops and abbots signed a public letter protesting the move in that nation toward legalizing marriage equality.  The Daily Telegraph reports:

“More than 1,000 priests have signed a letter voicing alarm that same-sex marriage could threaten religious freedom in a way last seen during ‘centuries of persecution’ of Roman Catholics in England.

“They even liken David Cameron’s moves to redefine marriage to those of Henry VIII, whose efforts to secure a divorce from Katherine of Aragon triggered centuries of bloody upheaval between church and state.”

The news report notes that the signers account for one-quarter of  all the Catholic priests in England and Wales.  Of course, that means that three-quarters of the priests did not sign the statement.

Both cases illustrate a minority of the people who promote or oppose marriage equality, and their extreme actions and rhetoric add nothing to the debate, but simply inflame passions.

See also: Gay Star News:  Italian Catholic Church likens gay parenting to selling children.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


International Round-up of Catholic LGBT News

November 18, 2012

Some brief news items from around the globe:

SCOTLAND:

Scotland’s Cardinal Keith O’Brien was named “bigot of the year” by Stonewall, an LGBT charity organization in the United Kingdom, reports MSN.com:

“The charity said the move was voted for by 10,000 supporters and came after the cardinal went ‘well beyond what any normal person would call a decent level of public discourse’ over the last year, which has seen heated debate over plans to introduce gay marriage in Scotland. “

In a Guardian news article, a Catholic spokesperson criticized Stonewall for the decision:

“A church spokesman said the award showed Stonewall was intolerant of its critics. ‘Stonewall and others have promoted terms like “bigot” and “homophobe” relentlessly, in order to intimidate and vilify anyone who dares oppose their agenda,’ he said.”

Stonewall’s director, Colin McFarlane, offered a defense:

 “We’ve never called anyone a bigot just because they don’t agree with us. But in just the past 12 months, the cardinal has gone well beyond what any normal person would call a decent level of public discourse.”

“The people that were nominated for bigot of the year have this year called gay people Nazis, they have compared them to bestialists and to paedophiles, and one of the nominees suggested that gay people should be put in front of a firing squad and shot dead.

“So I think what we are doing is highlighting the very cruel, very nasty, very pernicious language that is being used by some people – and in particular by the cardinal, who won.”

FRANCE:

The leader of France’s Catholic bishops has vowed to fight a proposed bill which would legalize marriage equality in that nation.   According to a news article in Catholic San Francisco, Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, archbishop of Paris, addressed a conference of France’s bishops, stating:

“Numerous initiatives are already being taken by citizens, believers or not, to oppose this government bill – many Catholics are engaging with people of other ways of thinking and other religions.

“Let this country’s Catholics know their bishops are encouraging them to speak, write, act and demonstrate. They have a right to testify to what, in the light of faith and the logic of reason and good sense, seems essential to them.”

ENGLAND:

A high court in England has determined that a Catholic adoption agency must consider same-gender couples as possible placements if it wants to maintain its status as a charity.

The BBC reports that the judge determined that Catholic Care, an agency in the Diocese of Leeds, failed to give convincing reasons why it should be exempt from the nation’s equality laws passed in 2007.

In a statement Catholic Care indicated that it may close down, rather than follow the law:

“Without the constitutional restriction for which it applied, Catholic Care will be forced to close its adoption service.

“The reason for this is that the service permitted by the current constitution is in conflict with the aims of the charity.

“It is Catholic Care’s view that this will reduce the number of adoptive parents available and the number of children left waiting for adoptive parents will continue to increase.

“Catholic Care will now take time to consider the decision in detail and decide on its next steps.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Does the BVM Want France to Oppose Marriage and Adoption Equality?

August 10, 2012

French Catholic bishops are reviving a 17th-century “prayer for France” and updating it to include a reference to oppose same-sex marriage which that nation is considering legalizing, as well as to oppose adoption by same-gender couples which will be legalized next year.

Reuters reported this week that the prayer is to be read in all Catholic churches in France on August 15th, the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  The French language version of the prayer can be read here. The Reuters report contains the relevant excerpts from the prayer in English:

“In the text, Catholics will pray for newly elected officials ‘so that their sense of the common good will overcome special demands.’ This would include support for traditional families ‘throughout their lives, especially in painful moments.’ “

“Opposing gay adoption, it says children should ‘cease to be objects of the desires and conflicts of adults and fully benefit from the love of a father and a mother.’ “

“The prayer is unusual for French bishops, who usually keep a low political profile. Church spokesman Monsignor Bernard Podvin said they wanted to ‘raise the consciousness of public opinion about grave social choices.’ “

On a Salon.com blog, Judy Mandelbaum reports the reaction to the proposed prayer from one French politician:

“Nadine Morano, a Catholic and pro-gay marriage politician and former family minister for the conservative UMP party, told journalists this morning that ‘the Church is acting within its role when it defends values, particularly those of marriage… But the Virgin Mary, to whom I am very much attached, does not reject any of her children.’ Morano pointed out that blindly praising the two-parent model ‘simply means ignoring the fact that 85% of violence done to children occurs within traditional families.’ She will be boycotting the event.”

The Reuters report provides some background on the history of the prayer:

“King Louis XIII decreed in 1638 that all churches would pray on Aug 15, the day Catholics believe the Virgin Mary was assumed bodily into Heaven, for the good of the country. The annual practice fell into disuse after World War Two.”

Mandelbaum offers the following comment on the prayer’s history:

“The revived prayer seems like an odd way to snipe at gay marriage and adoption. In 1637, desperate to have a son after twenty-three years of marriage to Anne of Austria, Louis had promised to dedicate his kingdom to the Virgin Mary and order annual prayers to be spoken in her name if she would only give him a male heir. The next year, Louis XIV – the famous Sun King – was born, and the rest is history.”

Prayers required by the hierarchy are one thing.  Let’s remember, however, that an important part of the Eucharistic liturgy is that the faithful are encouraged to offer their own prayers of petition, thanks, and praise.  I suspect that the French prayers of the faithful,  probably mostly silent, will be offered in support of marriage equality and adoption by lesbian and gay couples.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


How Threatened Is Religious Liberty?

April 13, 2012

LGBT issues are central to the campaign that the U.S. bishops have been mounting to “protect” and “defend” religious liberty.  One example is their argument that laws requiring legal recognition of lesbian and gay couples impinge upon the religious liberty of our church.  One important effect of this religious freedom argument has been that some bishops have closed down adoption services because they claim their faith does not allow them to place children with families headed by a lesbian or gay couple.   Clearly, a scorched earth policy.

Catholics concerned about LGBT equality will be interested to learn that yesterday the U.S. bishops stepped up their campaign about religious liberty, as reported in a New York Times article:

‘The nation’s Roman Catholic bishops issued a proclamation on Thursday calling for every priest, parish and layperson to participate in ‘great national campaign’ to defend religious liberty, which they said is ‘under attack, both at home and abroad.’

“In particular they urged every diocese to hold a ‘Fortnight for Freedom’ during the two weeks leading up to the Fourth of July, for parishioners to study, pray and take public action to fight what they see as the government’s attempts to curtail religious freedom.’

“ ‘To be Catholic and American should mean not having to choose one over the other,’ said the statement, issued by the bishops ad hoc committee on religious freedom. “

The bishops fail to recognize, however, that many, many Catholics have no problem with integrating their faith and national identities, and that they disagree strongly with the bishops’ positions on the so-called “religious liberty” issues such as LGBT equality and access to birth control.

You can read the entire text of the bishops’ statement, entitled “Our First, Most Cherished Liberty” by clicking on the title.

What I found most troublesome was the bishops’ attempt to identify themselves with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s civil disobedience movement:

“In his famous ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail’ in 1963, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. boldly said, ‘The goal of America is freedom.’ As a Christian pastor, he argued that to call America to the full measure of that freedom was the specific contribution Christians are obliged to make. He rooted his legal and constitutional arguments about justice in the long Christian tradition:

I would agree with Saint Augustine that “An unjust law is no law at all.” Now what is the difference between the two? How does one determine when a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of Saint Thomas Aquinas, an unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law.

“It is a sobering thing to contemplate our government enacting an unjust law. An unjust law cannot be obeyed. In the face of an unjust law, an accommodation is not to be sought, especially by resorting to equivocal words and deceptive practices. If we face today the prospect of unjust laws, then Catholics in America, in solidarity with our fellow citizens, must have the courage not to obey them. No American desires this. No Catholic welcomes it. But if it should fall upon us, we must discharge it as a duty of citizenship and an obligation of faith.”

What is troublesome about this passage is that the bishops themselves have often not allowed any discussion of unjust laws the church maintains.  Their comparison to Dr. King rings hollow and degrades his memory.

An interesting analysis of the bishops’ statement comes from an editorial published by Commonweal magazine within hours of the statement’s release.  What makes this editorial so interesting is that the editors agree that the bishops should be concerned about religious liberty, however, they view their tactics as alarmist, misguided, and potentially perceived as partisan:

“The bishops are right to call for vigilance on behalf of religious liberty. There are influential currents of opinion today that advocate restricting the presence of religion in public life and would reduce religious liberty to the freedom of individuals or congregations to worship as they please. That is not the American way. There should be considerable room for government to cooperate with religious groups as with other non-governmental bodies in serving the common good. Unfortunately, the argument made by the bishops as well as their proposed tactics for public action undermine their case. Worse, the tenor of the bishops’ statement runs the risk of making this into a partisan issue during a presidential election in which the leaders of one party have made outlandish claims about a ‘war on religion’ or a ‘war against the Catholic Church.’

“The USCCB’s statement vastly exaggerates the extent to which American freedoms of all sorts and of religious freedom in particular are threatened. Church-state relations are complicated, requiring the careful weighing of competing moral claims. The USCCB’s statement fails to acknowledge that fact. Worse, strangely absent from the list of examples provided by the bishops is the best-documented case of growing hostility to religious presence in the United States: hostility to Islam. Unless the bishops correct that oversight, their statement will only feed the impression that this ‘campaign’ for religious freedom has been politically tailored. This silence is especially striking in view of the parallels between anti-Muslim sentiment today and the prejudice encountered by Catholic immigrants in the nineteenth century. If religious freedom becomes a partisan issue, its future is sure to grow dimmer, not brighter.  Religious liberty, absolutely. Partisan politics, no.”

Let’s pray that the bishops soon recognize that this type of campaign, in which they portray themselves as victims, is not only unpersuasive, but it further erodes their moral authority and the credibility of all Catholics.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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