Catholics Seek Legal Rights, Pastoral Welcome for All Families

August 10, 2014

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

Adoption Rights

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

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

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

Parents Speak Out

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baptisms

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

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

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

Pope Francis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Abusive Parents in UK “Frightened” That Gay Couple Will Raise Children

June 4, 2014

Catholic birth parents in the United Kingdom lost a court battle over plans by a gay couple to adopt two of their children, in the latest Catholic adoption controversy.

More than a year ago, the two boys in question, now ages two and four, were removed from the Slovakian birth parents’ custody due to neglect. According to Pink News, the father admitted to beating them and the young children were not adequately supervised or cared for.

Two organizations, Christian Concern and Children Belong to Parents, supported the birth parents’ challenge to the planned adoption, arguing that removing them from Catholicism and placing them with same-gender parents would cause psychological damage.

They lost their case in the UK’s High Court last week. Lucie Boddington, head of Children Belong to Parents, told The Tablet the birth parents “feel horrible” and are “frightened” that a gay couple would adopt the boys. The birth parents now plan to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. Responding to these claims, Sir James Munby, senior judge of the Family Court, said the adoption case was adjudicated according to standards “of reasonable men and women in contemporary English society.”

In a related note, news broke recently that St. Margaret’s Children and Family Care Society, a Catholic adoption agency in Scotland, successfully appealed a ruling which had deemed it discriminatory to withhold adoptions from same-gender couples. The Scottish Charity Appeals Panel restored the Society’s charitable standing, even as the Society’s chairman is on the record as describing gay couples’ parenting as a “terrible social experiment.”

Legalizing marriage equality in the United Kingdom and elsewhere has meant anti-LGBT activists have taken a different route, and unfortunately adoption equality is a new chosen target. In Scotland, Malta, France, and elsewhere, adoptions by same-gender couples have been flash points. In several locales in the US, Catholic Charities has stopped all adoption services rather than place children with married gay couples.

As was noted on this blog several years ago, and as many experts have indicated, it is essential when discussing adoption and LGBT people that the well-being of children be the foremost concern, and not any discriminatory agenda by the anti-gay activists. Perhaps the Catholic parents in this story’s first court case could be comforted by the fact that the judge has placed their children in what is known to be a loving and supportive home.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


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


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