San Francisco’s Archbishop Says Dialogue with LGBT People Can “Tenderize” Us

January 15, 2014

There has been much talk about Pope Francis’ re-framing of LGBT issues in the church,  often spoken about with the hope that the new pontiff will usher in a new era of dialogue in this area.

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone

One of the more hopeful signs of such a possibility came last month from one of the most outspoken critics of marriage equality in the U.S. Catholic hiearchy.   San Francisco’s Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, who also serves as the chair of the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ Conference Sub-Committee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, gave an interview with public radio’s KQED station in the Bay Area, in which he expressed how important it is to dialogue with lesbian and gay people.

In the interview, he talked about having conversations with gay and lesbian Catholics at Most Holy Redeemer parish, in San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood.  The reporter who conducted the interview blogged about the encounter:

“ ‘When we don’t interact with each other, we can make decisions or get images based on stereotypes – that happens on both sides,’ the archbishop said.

“When asked what he’s learned from those interactions, Cordileone said he’s come to understand how gay people have ‘suffered.’

“ ‘They’ve been disowned by their families,’ he said. ‘They’ve been harmed and they want to come to a place that will accept them for who they are. And affirm them. So it tenderizes us.’ “

You can watch the entire interview below or by clicking here:

Although the reporter speculates that Cordileone is only using softer rhetoric,  I think that the change is significant.   A year ago, we would not have heard such a phrase as “tenderizes us” coming from this prelate who is known as a staunch conservative culture warrior.  The fact that he acknowledge that a personal encounter can affect one’s attitude is indeed significant.  I think it also indicates that he realized he has not been as tender as he could have tried to be.

Bay Area Reporter article about Pope Francis’ recent decision to remove a Vatican cardinal from an influential post touched on Cordileone’s remarks in the KQED interview:

“Michael Poma, parish business manager at Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in the Castro, confirmed that the archbishop twice attended the parish’s Wednesday night suppers, which is an outreach to the neighborhood’s homeless LGBT community. The soup kitchen is located underneath the parish sanctuary in Ellard Hall.

” ‘His first visit was September 18,’ Poma said in an email. ‘The visit went well as I saw it. I found him to be eager to work and happy to be there to meet people. I felt at ease enough to joke with him and tease him about not getting enough of a good thing when he came back the second time. All in all, I liked him and I feel he really liked what we’re doing here at Most Holy Redeemer.’ “

The article also quotes Dignity/San Francisco’s secretary, Ernest Camisa, who also saw some good coming from Cordileone’s remarks:

“. . . Camisa applauded Cordileone’s newfound empathy – ‘being tenderized by the reality of the people and the circumstances that he finds himself in,’ Camisa explained.

” ‘I hope in the end [Cordileone] will see that what he stood for in past years was unreasonable and heartless,’ added Camisa.”

Such steps may not be the more positive ones for which many of us still hope, and work, and pray, but I think these small moves forward still need to be noticed as indications that some things, like the attitudes and perceptions of bishops, are indeed changing in the Church.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


As ENDA Passes to Senate, U.S. Bishops Renew Anti-LGBT Rights Campaign

November 6, 2013

On Monday evening, the US Senate voted to move the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a bill that would provide fair hiring protections for LGBT people.  On the same day, Catholic bishops expressed their opposition to the bill and amplified their defense of ‘just’ discrimination.

In a letter to Senators, three bishops heading up the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committees on Domestic Justice and Human Development, Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, and Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty defended their opposition to a law that bans employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The bishops who signed the letter are Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, California, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, and Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore.

America Magazine explained the bishops’ letter with a summary of the bishops’ objections to non-discrimination legislation, writing:

“[The letter] notes, for example, that the bill: (1) lacks an exception for a ‘bona fide occupational qualification’…(2) lacks a distinction between homosexual inclination and conduct, thus affirming and protecting extramarital sexual conduct; (3) supports the redefinition of marriage, as state-level laws like ENDA have been invoked in state court decisions finding marriage discriminatory or irrational; (4) rejects the biological basis of gender by defining ‘gender identity’ as something people may choose at variance with their biological sex; and (5) threatens religious liberty by punishing as discrimination the religious or moral disapproval of same-sex sexual conduct, while protecting only some religious employers.”

Such arguments range from false to offensive to absurd, especially as many Catholics endorse employment, housing, and other protections for LGBT people. Journalist Michael O’Loughlin questions what positive impact opposing non-discrimination bills and policies

“What’s that now? Are US bishops taking Pope Francis’s message of focusing on poverty rather than homosexuality to heart? Are Catholic bishops going on-the-record in support of the marginalized and oppressed? Is this a sign of a new era in US Catholicism, the one heralded by lefty Catholics who have expressed unabashed hope in the new pope?

“Nah. Keep reading.

“Catholic bishops apparently feel that discriminating against LGBT people in the workplace is not only just, but in fact, not being able to do so threatens their religious liberty.”

O’Loughlin considers what might be motivating the bishops in regard to this issue:

“Catholic bishops relied on lawyers rather than pastors in their decision to come out against the bill…

“Fear is at the root of the bishops’ opposition to LGBT advances in general and ENDA in specific. Fear that society is changing so quickly. Fear that the church is losing its influence in forming morality. Fear that the church is being pushed to the margins.

“It’s remarkable to me that some bishops here have learned so little over the past 8 months. The world is hungry for moral clarity. Look how people have responded to Pope Francis. He talks morality constantly, and the world listens and reflects…If Catholic leaders here in the US feel they find themselves on the defensive, increasingly marginalized and perhaps even deemed irrelevant, at what point do they begin to reconsider their message and priorities?”

Equally Blessed LogoEarlier this fall, the Equally Blessed coalition spoke for Catholics who want to follow Pope Francis priorities in protecting all people and focusing on the pressing issues of these times, like poverty and immigration. Their letter to the US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions said, in part:

“We write to make it clear that the bishops do not speak for the majority of your Catholic constituents, many of whom believe, as we do, that the religious exemptions in the current draft of the legislation are not too narrow, as the bishops contend, but far too broad…

“Nor is it clear that the bishops’ views are in accord with the Pope’s. Responding in August to questions about gay priests, Pope Francis said: ‘If they accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them?’ The pope, in other words, has no plans to discriminate against the gay men who, in secular terms, might be thought of as his employees…

“Our nation’s history teaches us that sometimes the church moves a recalcitrant society toward a deeper respect for the dignity of every human being, but that sometimes those roles are reversed. Unlike our bishops, a significant majority of U.S. Catholics support legislation that guarantees LGBT people equal protection under the law.”

The Equally Blessed coalition consists of Call To Action, DignityUSA, Fortunate Families, and New Ways Ministry.

For background information on ENDA, check out the Human Rights Campaign’s information page on the bill.

ENDA’s future looks grim in the House, further raising questions about why US bishops felt the need to reaffirm their opposition to a bill which very possibly will fail. However, their letter highlights the urgent need for Catholics in the pews to pre-empt Congress and implement non-discrimination policies inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity in their Catholic schools, parishes, and other workplaces. For more information on how to accomplish this goal, please click here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Writer to Conservative Bishops: “Watch. Listen. You Might Learn Something.”

August 19, 2013

Pope Francis’ press conference on the return flight from Brazil

Last week, Bondings 2.0 reported on Catholic bishops’ varied responses to Pope Francis’ “Who am I to judge?” comment. Some welcomed the remark, others disapproved, and yet more tried to convince the world there was nothing new to it.  Michael Sean Winters comments on bishops’ responses in National Catholic Reporter with an eye towards those bishops struggling with the pope’s new leadership.

The responses of anti-LGBT Catholics caused Winters to rethink the role of and vision for bishops in our Church, as he writes:

“It would be amusing, if it were not so sad, to see many conservative Catholics attempt to qualify Pope Francis’ comment – ‘who am I to judge?’ – when asked about the circumstance of a Vatican prelate against whom charges of homosexual conduct were leveled…

“More troubling have been the reactions of some bishops. Emblematic would be the statement issued by San Francisco’s Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone

“Here is a man who clearly thinks that his primary duty as pastor is to defend the moral law. Certainly, his words do not suggest he has ever talked to gay people and acquired the ‘smell of the sheep’ from them. In an early section of the statement, in which he affirms the dignity of all people, including gay people, there is a lack of human warmth that is astounding.”

Winters points out that American bishops have reduced the moral law to sexual ethics as a sole focus, but instead of criticizing this errant narrowing he asks the larger question: are bishops first and foremost supposed to defend the moral law?

The columnist provides a brief historical rundown on morality from Scriptural roots to contemporary contexts. Of Jesus’ teachings and the first Christians, Winters writes:

“More importantly, Jesus called His disciples not just to a strict moral life, but to a prior stance towards other human beings, especially those in need, and reserved to Himself the judgment of others, a judgment He dispenses with great mercy: ‘Than neither do I condemn you,’ he said to the woman caught in the act of adultery.

“The early Church was certainly aware of the need for the moral law, but that concern did not dominate the early Church.”

Michael Sean Winters

Michael Sean Winters

Of the modern world, Winters makes two points. First, religions are forced to jettison faith and keep just their ethics when they speak publicly. When a Catholic bishop’s primary role is just a defender of the moral law not only are they ignoring the broader thoughts of early Christianity, Winters also contends they concede to negative modern trends of secularization:

“A religious leader who presents himself primarily as a defender of the moral law has accepted secular norms in restricting his ministry. The leaders of the Church must be ministers of God’s mercy as much as they are teachers of the moral law. That, it seems to me is the essence of what Pope Francis is trying to tell the entire Church, but especially the clergy. Francis is trying to re-establish the authority of Jesus by following His admonition to leave the judging to God.”

Second, Archbishop Cordileone’s statement, among others, employed the argument that Catholics judge actions, not people and this thinking furthers the modern notion that morality is an abstract exercise. Referencing the philosopher Immanuel Kant, Winters criticizes those who fail to concern themselves with the “messiness of actual moral decision-making” and “live at the level of abstract principles” alone. He quotes a priest friend who writes:

“…it was bizarre [for Cordileone] to state ‘that we don’t judge people but we judge actions. Actions are done by people so how can you not really judge an action without some of the judgment falling on the person? The pope of course did not make this distinction because he saw that mercy has to enter into the equation and also because the pope is not a Kantian…”

These realities mean a negative answer to his initial question, namely that bishops are not primarily defenders of the moral law. Bishops are more than ethical voices, they should be pastors foremost, and Winters suggests this is one of Pope Francis’ major themes for his fellow clergy. Bishops must preach about Christ first and enter into life of those whom they serve (certainly themes Pope Francis has preached heavily on). Bishops, like all clergy, should express mercy.

And Winters’ suggestion for those uncomfortable with a pope who wants bishops to show mercy and enter the messiness of real life ethics? He concludes:

“Instead of trying to parse the new pope’s words in ways that empty them of their content, I suggest that those bishops who are wrestling with how to respond to Pope Francis’ way of leading the Church be quiet for bit. Watch. Listen. You might learn something. Pope Francis is getting us back to the basics of discipleship. When he stated, ‘who am I to judge?’ he was not overturning 2,000 years of moral teaching but he was inviting Christians to place themselves in the crowd, stones in hand, gathered around the woman caught in adultery, and to listen to the words of the Master: ‘Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.’ “

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


U.S. Bishops on Pope Francis’ Gay-Positive Comments–Part 2

August 14, 2013

Yesterday, we posted comments from bishops and dioceses that tended to downplay Pope Francis’ gay-positive remarks. Today, we will look at comments from these church leaders that were either mixed in their reactions or that welcomed the difference that the pope seemed to be emphasizing.

Archbishop Michael Jackels

Archbishop Michael Jackels

Most of the comments from yesterday tended to stress that nothing had changed because of the pope’s comments.   In the category of “mixed” responses, we can see that some leaders stress continuity in substance, but acknowledge that there has been a tone shift.  Archbishop Michael Jackels of Dubuque, Iowa, stated to RadioIowa.com:

“The Holy Father made some comments that really were not terribly surprising. He just, in essence, repeated what the church taught, has taught for a long time and has written in the catechism of the Catholic Church but he put it in his own, more personal, direct manner.”

In Erie, Pennsylvania, a diocesan official also emphasized the pope’s new tone and approach, in an interview with ErieTVNews.com:

“Father Chris Singer, Chancellor of the Diocese of Erie said, ‘Pope Francis once again has challenged us in his unique refreshing style what is at the core of the church’s teaching and that is that every man and woman is made in the image of God and God meets them where they are at.’  Singer added, ‘So Pope Francis has not made a change at all, he’s just reminding us to treat all people with respect, to meet them where they are and help them to grow in holiness and that’s exactly how Jesus lived.’ “

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone

Also in the “mixed” category were those bishops who acknowledged something positive about the pope’s comments, but also seemed to want to tone down what they pope’s message was.  In The San Francisco Chronicle,  Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of that city, exemplified this well:

“First, Cordileone praised the Pope Tuesday for ‘reiterating the Church’s love and welcome to all people,’ and said the Church should be a ‘welcome’ and ‘safe’  place for people ‘who experience same sex attraction,’ (and says the Church needs to do a better job on ‘following through’ on being that welcoming place).

“But  Cordileone also wanted to clarify one point:

“ ‘While the Church does not judge individuals, the Church does judge actions,’ Cordileone said. To wit: ‘Any sexual act’ outside the boundaries of a male-female marriage, be it gay or straight, is ‘sinful.’”

While it was refreshing to see Cordileone acknowledge that the church has to do a better on welcoming LGBT people, it is disappointing that he uses “same-sex attraction” and the distinction about judging people versus judging acts.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan

Cardinal Timothy Dolan

The distinction on judging also featured prominently in the comments of Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who is president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.  On NBC’s Today show, Cardinal Dolan stated:

“It’s been a pretty clear teaching of the church based on the words of Jesus that we can’t judge people; we can judge actions.”

Dolan’s message tried to stress the positive about the papal remarks, but he also stressed the sexual ethics teaching.  On one hand, he said:

“What the pope is saying [is] don’t forget forget there is another element to God’s teaching. Namely, that we treat everybody with dignity and respect, that we don’t judge their heart and that we love and respect them.”

But on the other hand, he said:

“Homosexual people deserve love respect and dignity, while homosexual acts are immoral.

“The church’s teaching, which is based on the Bible and God’s revelation, is that sexual love is reserved only between a man and woman in the life-long, life-giving relationship of marriage and any relations outside of that, hetero or homo, would be less than God’s intention. That hasn’t changed.”

Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore also sent a mixed message about the pope’s comments.  The Washington Blade reported his comments:

“ ‘The Holy Father is not going to make up church doctrine at a news conference.’ But he added that the church teaches understanding and compassion and that the doors are open.”

Bishop Michael Sheridan

Bishop Michael Sheridan

On the more positive side were some bishops who further commented on the pope’s new approach to gay and lesbian issues. Fox21News.com, in Colorado Springs, carried comments from that city’s Bishop Michael Sheridan, which encouraged a more accepting outlook:

” ‘He speaks to individual people he speaks on a clear level, so it doesn’t surprise me he would stand strong,’ Bishop Sheridan said.

“The Pope’s words mark a sharp shift in tone, but the Bishop said it’s not a change in the church’s teaching.

” ‘Every single human being, heterosexual, homosexual, old, young, is deserving of love and of respect and all human rights, etc,’ Bishop Sheridan explained. ‘This is the clear teaching of the church.’

“Bishop Sheridan said this is how it’s been all along, just maybe not how it’s been perceived.

” ‘It’s a shame, unfortunately, some individual people, Catholics and non-Catholics, do not act that way. But that isn’t what the church says it says we owe respect and love to every human being,’ he affirmed.”

Bishop David Walkowiak

Bishop David Walkowiak

Bishop David Walkowiak of Grand Rapids, Michigan, was even stronger in mirroring the pope’s accepting words.  In an article on MLive.com, he offered encouragement to follow the pope’s lead of respecting human dignity and was not afraid to criticize the older approach to these issues:

“ ‘The church has not said much about homosexuality and when it has it’s reiterated the teachings,’ said the Most Rev. David Walkowiak, bishop of the Diocese of Grand Rapids that includes more than 180,000 Catholics in 11 West Michigan counties. ‘That is helpful. It’s true. But the tone is usually one which is not a source of encouragement or a source of support.

” ‘We’re hoping that the pope’s tone sets a hope and an attitude that if you come to the church you will be respected, you will be welcomed, you will receive the support of the sacraments. My hope would be that people with same-sex attraction would feel more encouraged to walk into a Catholic church.’

“Walkowiak said the pope’s comment responded specifically to a question about gay priests, who ‘are called to celibacy’ regardless of their sexual orientation. But the pope’s ‘sympathetic’ remarks signal a more pastoral tone on gays in general, if not a change in church doctrine on homosexuality, he said.

“ ‘Certainly, the church’s teaching is not going to change during a press conference on a trans-Atlantic flight,’ Walkowiak said. But ‘he reminded us that whomever you’re interacting with, they should be welcomed and treated with sympathy and compassion and love,’ he said.

” ‘(Practicing gays) need to be accorded respect, compassion and support,’ Walkowiak said. ‘That’s the Christian outlook of how to treat people.’ “

Bishop Howard Hubbard

Bishop Howard Hubbard

Albany, New York’s Bishop Howard Hubbard also emphasized the new pastoral tone of the papacy, in his interview with the Times-Union:

” ‘Pope Francis’ comments on homosexuality in general and specifically on accepting candidates for the priesthood who have a homosexual orientation reveal the pastoral tone and approach he has taken since assuming his responsibilities as the spiritual leader of our Roman Catholic Christian community,’ Albany Roman Catholic Bishop Howard J. Hubbard said Monday.

“Hubbard said Francis’ statements reflect the church’s teaching about the ‘sacred dignity and worth of every person, regardless of one’s sexual orientation.’ “

Bishop David Zubik

Bishop David Zubik

Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh also emphasized the new pastoral approach that Pope Francis is taking.  In the Post-Gazette, he stated:

“He is saying things that the church has already said, but he is saying them in ways that people can understand. Pope John Paul II was a philosopher. Pope Benedict XVI is a theologian. Pope Francis is a pastor. … He tells us that you have to know your people, you have to know what their struggles are.”

Reading yesterday’s and today’s posts together, you can get the impression that some bishops want things to remain the same, others are mixed, and still others are welcoming the new attitude in the church that Pope Francis seems to want.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


After SCOTUS, Shifts to State Level Struggles Begin

June 28, 2013

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, DC

Catholic responses to Wednesday’s Supreme Court decisions around marriage equality continue from politicians, pundits, and parishioners alike. Celebrations remain fervent, but much of the commentary now speculates about the future of the marriage equality struggle focused at the state level.

Fr. Gary Meier, who recently ‘came out’ as an openly gay Catholic priest, has called on Catholics to celebrate these decisions (and more so, to celebrate the couples behind them) in The Huffington Post:

“Not surprisingly, the Catholic Church has already begun to soften their position on same-sex unions…for hope’s sake, let’s celebrate. As Catholics, we can and ought to celebrate committed relationships of love between persons. We can and ought to celebrate life-giving relationships of love, physically, emotionally and spiritually between two people. And in the words of Cardinal Christopher Schonborn, we ought to ‘respect long-term, committed relationships between people of the same gender.’ “

U.S. bishops condemned rather than celebrated on Wednesday. Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, who heads up the US bishops’ committee on marriage legislation, and other diocesan officials released statements. Yesterday, Bondings 2.0 reported on the response of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. These reactions wer expected, but the Supreme Court’s rulings are causing a rethink about why and how the Catholic hierarchy’s involvement will shift on marriage equality.

Scott Alessi at U.S. Catholic questions the bishops’ objections over the Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8 rulings as nonsensical given what was really at issue in the legal cases. When the bishops claim ‘the Court got it wrong,’ Alessi asks where exactly they erred:

“Though it is the bishops’ right, and even their duty, to proclaim the church’s teachings on marriage, religious beliefs cannot be the basis on which the Supreme Court makes a decision. In fact, the ‘truth that marriage is the union of one man and one woman’ was not the question placed before the court at all.

“[United States v. Windsor] was a question of how the Constitution applies in a complex situation where the state and federal governments differ in their laws…that decision was reached without any consideration given to religious beliefs regarding marriage—just as the First Amendment’s establishment clause intended.”

Thomas Reese at the National Catholic Reporter predicts a de-centralizing effect will take place as emphasis shifts from a national campaign headed by Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York and the USCCB to state-level efforts directed by local bishops. Reese breaks down three paths he sees as possible for these leaders:

“Bishops in states that have legalized gay marriage may conclude that it is politically impossible to reverse the decision in their states and therefore admit defeat and move on.

“Bishops in red states where gay marriage is not legal may judge the fight worth making because with other allies, they have a good chance of maintaining the status quo.

“The tough call will be for bishops in blue states, where polls show growing support for gay marriage. Here they must choose between fighting gay marriage or negotiating exemptions for the church as a price for their silence. No bishop wants to talk publicly about this on the national level, but in the back rooms of state legislatures, this may be the best deal that the bishops can get.”

Notably, Governor Pat Quinn of Illinois, a Catholic, cited the rulings as evidence his state must pursue equal marriage rights again after a failed attempt this spring, as reported at BND.com:

” ‘Today the Supreme Court took a historic step by providing equal access to more than 1,100 federal rights and benefits for same-sex couples. Members of the Illinois House now have more than 1,100 new reasons to make marriage equality the law in Illinois…’

” ‘The opportunity to guarantee equal rights and benefits to all citizens — under both state and federal law — is one we must seize here in the Land of Lincoln without delay. Now is the time for all to put differences aside, band together and redouble our efforts to make it happen.’ “

The Supreme Court’s decisions are victories rightfully celebrated, but the state level struggles are just beginning as only 13 US states and the District of Columbia have marriage equality. It will be interesting to watch how this plays out for Catholics, and Bondings 2.0 will update our readers with all the latest in these ongoing campaigns for legal LGBT equality.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Archbishop and Columnist Speak Out Against Pro-LGBT Immigration Law

May 16, 2013
Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone

Two recent items about immigration reform from prominent Catholics–one an archbishop and one a columnist for The National Catholic Reporter–merit some commentary.

San Francisco’s Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone spoke out in favor of the immigration reform bill, which would allow immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally a path to a green card and citizenship.  However, he also spoke out against an addition to that bill which would allow members of same-sex couples to legally sponsor their foreign partners for entrance into the U.S.

Speaking at a press conference at Mission Dolores this week, Cordileone’s statements seemed somewhat contradictory.  According to KCBS-TV,  he offered his support of the bill by stating:

“One concern for us is to keep families together, so it fits in very highly with our overall priorities.”

Yet, later, in discussing the provision for same-sex partners, he stated:

“We couldn’t support something like that. We’re willing to debate the issue, but it should be debated on its own merits, not as a part of another issue where we’re actually beginning to attain some national unity.”

The contradiction lies in the fact that the provision for same-sex partners indeed fits very well with the archbishop’s concern for keeping families together.  The provision would keep all families together, not just those who have heterosexual partners in them.

Furthermore, Cordileone seems to want to extract the debate about legal recognition of same-gender partners from the social realities that such couples face.  His comment that legal recognition of partners should be “debated on its own merits”  misses the point entirely.  It is precisely for access to social goods such as residency and citizenship that advocates for marriage equality work.  The issues are not separate.  They are intimately intertwined.

MissionLocal.org also covered the press conference, and they quoted a different, but similar statement from Cordileone:

“ ‘It’s an unrelated issue,’ he said of same-sex partnerships. ‘Let’s just focus on immigration reform in this bill.’  If the bill failed because of a controversial same-sex partnership amendment, he added, ‘it would be a tragedy.’ ”

Again, Cordileone misses the point.  This bill should be about comprehensive immigration reform, not just immigration reform for heterosexual people.  And the real tragedy would be that a bill gets passed that doesn’t protect everyone.

Michael Sean Winters

Michael Sean Winters

Recently, Michael Sean Winters, a columnist for The National Catholic Reporter wrote about the politics of the immigration bill.  Winters supports the idea of including lesbian and gay couples in the bill in principle.  He even goes so far as to say:

“I wish that conservative Republicans and the religious groups backing immigration reform, including the USCCB, did not view the inclusion of same sex couples as a deal-breaker. I think they are wrong on the merits. . . “

But Winters ultimately feels that political reality necessitates excluding same-gender couples  this time around so that the bill can pass with less controversy.  His reasoning:

” . . . the Republicans in Congress, living as they do in gerrymandered districts, are probably right on the politics: Voting for immigration reform will be enough to earn some of them a primary challenge. Voting for immigration reform that includes back door recognition of same-sex marriage guarantees a primary challenger who will likely win. We can wish it were otherwise, but it isn’t. In addition to Hispanic Democrats, Republicans who are supportive of gay rights must also make the case to the gay rights lobby that immigration reform is tough enough already, and that this is not the issue on which to make a stand.”

Winters explains the reason why he doesn’t blame the Republicans, though:

“This is politics and if you don’t want to consider politics, you should not be in the game. Which is why my anger is not directed at the conservative Republicans. My anger is directed at the gay rights lobby. They are not being asked to abandon their cause or sacrifice their dignity. They are being asked for a bit of patience. Anyone can look at polling on the issue of same sex marriage and conclude that the issue will become a non-issue within a matter of years. There will be front door federal recognition of same sex marriage within my lifetime. I do not doubt it. But, when trying to get back door recognition of same sex marriage threatens to derail the best shot we have at immigration reform in years, shame on the gay rights lobby.”

So much wrong in this previous quotation.  For instance, doesn’t it seem like a big sacrifice of dignity to be forced to acquiesce in the wrong idea that one’s family commitment does not matter?  Is it true that they are only being asked for patience?  How long have same-gender couples already waited patiently?  And why does Winters characterize the inclusion of lesbian and gay couples in the bill as “back door recognition of same sex marriage” instead of what it truly is: a quest for justice and equality.

Winters also wants gay and lesbian people to wait on immigration reform because he sees them as a powerful lobby group who will eventually be able to get what they want:

“There was a time when gay rights groups had the moral stature of speaking for a group of people who were marginalized. Surely, today, in Washington, LGBT groups have political clout far beyond their numbers. . . . In Washington today, however, two days after the President of the United States called Jason Collins to compliment him on coming out of the closet, and overstays his press conference to praise Collins, well, the idea that gays lack clout is a bit far-fetched.”

I would love to ask Winters:  If you think that lesbian and gay people are so politically influential, then why are their political “friends” willing to sacrifice them in this immigration debate.  A truly powerful political lobby would never have to worry about such a thing happening.

Both Winters and Cordileone see lesbian and gay people as added baggage to this bill.  Were they to walk in the shoes of a same-sex couple who is separated by national boundaries and ignorant laws, they might think differently.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Catholic Bishops Oppose Violence Against Women Act Because of LGBT Protections

March 8, 2013

After a lengthy political battle centered around specific LGBT, American Indian and migrant protection, President Barack Obama finally signed the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act yesterday, but not before five Catholic bishops announced their opposition to the legislation in a statement released Wednesday.

Lauren Markoe writes in The Washington Post about the bishops’ rejection of this legislation that strengthens and funds federal initiatives to further protect domestic violence and human trafficking victims. The 2013 re-authorization added explicit protections for victims regardless of their “sexual orientation” and “gender identity,” which is the source of Republican legislators, as well as the bishops’, concerns. Markoe writes:

“[The bishops] are opposing the newly authorized Violence Against Women Act for fear it will subvert traditional views of marriage and gender, and compromise the religious freedom of groups that aid victims of human trafficking…

“That language disturbs several bishops who head key committees within the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that deal with, among other issues, marriage, the laity, youth and religious liberty.”

The bishops signing the statement include Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, and Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles. Several of these bishops previously opposed marriage equality and LGBT civil rights in prominent ways, making this letter only the latest in the narrative against full equality.

In 2010, during the last re-authorization vote in the Violence Against Women Act, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops supported the legislation as an effective measure to reduce gender-based violence. At that time,  emphasis on Catholic teachings around human dignity, justice, and non-violence played a central role in the decision to support the legislation. The recent action of these five bishops re-orients episcopal judgement on the bill to sexual ethics exclusively.

Will the bishops continue to make their view on sexual ethics the only litmus test for all social policy?  Such a position would be socially disastrous.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


What Will Be Archbishop Cordileone’s Legacy in San Francisco?

January 24, 2013
Credit: Dustin Aksland

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone was recently profiled in San Francisco Magazine as he completes his first months as a radically traditionalist leader amid one of America’s most inclusive cities. The long-form piece reported on many areas of Cordileone’s life, none more so than his vigorous opposition to gay and lesbian equality, especially marriage rights.

Cordileone’s prominence in the marriage equality debate emerged from his pivotal leadership in the passage of Proposition 8 in California that limited marriage rights to heterosexual couples. Now, San Francisco Magazine reports on both the archbishop’s past and his potential future regarding marriage:

“He leads the powerful U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, making him the church’s go-to guy in battling the cresting gay marriage tide…

“There are larger national struggles afoot…Conventional wisdom among conservatives has it that the church must work against more electoral wins for gay marriage. And yet, cautions [Executive Director of New Ways Ministry, Francis] DeBernardo, ‘the polls show that more and more Catholics support marriage equality. It’s a losing battle. At this point, our political campaigns are just speeding up history.’”

To many involved in Catholic ministry, Cordileone’s actions are not surprising and are not limited to marriage rights.

During his tenure as bishop of Oakland, he scrutinized the Catholic Association for Lesbian and Gay Ministry (CALGM) over whether they were ‘authentically Catholic.’ His repeated attempts to control were met with good faith responses from CALGM. For instance, they reviewed their use of the words “gay” and “lesbian” in light of his preferred “homosexual.” Eventually, he asked for even more restrictions on their decision-making:

“Cordileone then broadened his demands, asking CALGM board members to sign an eight-page loyalty oath that stressed keeping gays and lesbians from communion and holding them to chastity, along with statements supporting ‘traditional’ marriage and condemning cloning. When the board didn’t sign, Cordileone threatened ‘public action.’”

San Franciscan Catholics now attempt to read Cordileone for how he will act in their inclusive diocese, including Most Holy Redeemer parish in the Castro that is a nationally-recognized gay-friendly parish. Opinions from residents are mixed, with some seeing positive common ground with which to build relationships with Cordileone and others writing him off already:

Roz Gallo

“Roz Gallo, a San Francisco Catholic who married her female partner of 20-plus years in 2008, hopes for common ground. When she heard about Cordileone’s appointment, her first thought was to welcome him. ‘There’s room for dialogue,’ says Gallo, an office manager at a Peninsula law firm. ‘Immigration, social justice, those are my concerns, too. I’m also Sicilian and raised in Southern California. Perhaps I’m Polly-annaish, but I think that if [the archbishop and I] met, if he heard my views, we could change his mind’…

Hugh Mallaney

Hugh Mallaney

“It’s simple, said Hugh Mallaney, a 60-year-old openly gay member of Most Holy Redeemer, sitting at a round table crowded with friends. ‘He does his thing, we do ours.’ After a pause, he added, ‘I mean, the church is for us, too. We’ve built this community, and I feel more at home here than anywhere. Someone can try and come in and change that. But we will outlast them.’”

It appears, as Cordileone often works, that traditionalist changes will be implemented subtly and indirectly. Already, the new priest at Most Holy Redeemer restricted use of parish facilities and made controversial decisions about parish-hosted drag shows. These potentially signal restrictions related to the new archbishop’s arrival, reported in the piece:

“…some congregants and longtime observers of Most Holy Redeemer say that the new archbishop’s presence and his investigation of CALGM have further sent a chill. ‘He’s not going to swoop down to the Holy Redeemer and yell, “Stop your gay outreach!”’ says DeBernardo of New Ways Ministry. ‘It’s far more nuanced than that. People might censor themselves, modify things a bit.’”

Francis DeBernardo continues more hopefully that Cordileone’s history of anti-LGBT efforts need not dictate his future in San Francisco:

“‘We’re at a point in the church where bishops want to stick to their guns on this issue. It’s the tenor of the episcopacy…But maybe Cordileone could surprise us. Perhaps he will imitate Jesus Christ, who bore the brunt of being ostracized for associating with people whom the religious institutions of his day didn’t consider desirable.’”

Perhaps ministering in a diocese that welcomes all will draw Archbishop Cordileone away from his Roman-inculcated beliefs into a more pastoral and loving ministry, perhaps not. Either way, Bondings 2.0 will continue updating our readers on developments in the Bay Area.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Catholics Respond to USCCB’s Plan to Continue Opposing Marriage Equality

November 13, 2012

We’ve heard from the individual bishops involved in last week’s U.S. marriage equality ballot initiatives, and we’ve heard from the Vatican, too, on these matters.  Today the news is of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) response to the four marriage equality electoral victories which they worked so strongly to oppose.  It looks like the bishops are planning more of the same.

An Associated Press story opens with the paragraph:

“A subdued U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops acknowledged Monday that voters rejected the stands they took against gay marriage and birth control, but church leaders gave no sign they would change their strategy ahead.”

At a press conference at the annual USCCB’s fall meeting in Baltimore, one spokesperson offered his view as to why the bishops lost these ballot contests:

“Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, the newly installed leader of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, said gay marriage opponents were outspent by gay rights groups, and bishops are grappling with how they can be more persuasive. Surveys by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life have found that the number of Americans who say they have no religion is at a high of 20 percent, while the number of former Catholics is so large that ex-Catholics collectively include more people than many denominations.

” ‘The election is a symptom of a much larger problem,’ Cordileone said. ‘Most people don’t understand what marriage is.’ “

Equally Blessed–the Catholic coalition of Call To Action, DignityUSA, Fortunate Families, New Ways Ministry–responded to the bishops’ statements:

“We regret the decision of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to continue the costly and futile campaign against marriage equality that has alienated so many faithful Catholics.

“Less that a week ago, Catholics in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington ignored the high-pressure tactics of these same bishops, voted their consciences and moved our country one step down the path toward justice. We had hoped that lay Catholics’ ringing endorsement of marriage equality might drive home the need for the bishops to take seriously the concerns of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholics and their families, and are profoundly disappointed that it has not.

“The bishops continue to look without for faults that are within. Their penchant for threatening Catholics who follow their own consciences in the voting booth is both theologically suspect and obviously ineffective. The millions of dollars that the USCCB and the Knights of Columbus spent attempting to crush the hopes of LGBT Catholics and their families could have been better spent to achieve more Christian ends. Additionally, the bishops’ ongoing relationship with the National Organization for Marriage, even after its deliberate attempts to divide the electorate on racial grounds, is a scandal for which they have yet to answer.

“We pray for the day when the USCCB understands the damage its intransigence is doing to LGBT Catholics and to the credibility of the church.”

In a post on America magazine’s “In All Things” blog, Michael O’Loughlin quotes further from Archbishop Cordileone’s press conference statements:

“When asked if the church would change its tactics given its apparent defeat, Cordileone balked, saying that the ‘good of society depends on [marriage].’ He said, ‘bishops are open dialogue partners with those who disagree with us on a whole range of issues’ and that opponents of same-sex marriage ‘try to be sensitive’ to marriage equality proponents, though claimed ‘many people have suffered a lot of violence from those who disagree’ with the church on marriage.”

Were I at the press conference I would have liked to press Archbishop Cordileone to cite specific instances of “violence” that marriage equality opponents have experienced.  None have been reported in the news.  I would have also liked to ask him why the bishops have yet to issue any kind of statement about the real violence that LGBT youth face daily in the form of bullying.

I hope and pray that Archbishop Cordileone lives up to his promises of dialogue and sensitivity on the marriage equality issue.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Bishops and Vatican React to This Week’s Marriage Equality Electoral Victories

November 10, 2012

It is understandable that certain Catholic bishops would be disappointed in Tuesday’s ballot victories for marriage equality in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington State.  All the bishops in those particular states were vocal in trying to defeat marriage equality initiatives.

Bishop Richard Malone

In Maine, Bishop Richard Malone attempted to be reconciliatory in his statement following the vote.  While noting that he was “disappointed” in the outcome, he also showed some awareness that Catholics who supported marriage equality did so out of a sense of justice, though he disagreed with their motivation:

“I trust that those who voted for such a radical change did so out of concern for our brothers and sisters who struggle with same-sex attraction. Respect and acceptance of all people regardless of sexual orientation is not a point of controversy. It is a teaching of the Church, but so is the authentic meaning and definition of marriage. That is why the Catholic Church will continue its commitment to work for the basic human rights to which all people are entitled, while remaining devoted to preserving and strengthening the precious gift of marriage.”

Although Bishop Malone needs to learn that not all gay and lesbian people “struggle” with their sexuality–indeed, many see it as a gift from God and celebrate it as such–it is commendable that in this statement he reaffirms his dedication to human rights.

Archbishop William Lori

In Maryland, Archbishop William Lori responded to the vote for marriage equality in his state by continuing to speak as if the campaign were still ongoing, instead of a settled affair.  In The Catholic Review, the archdiocesan newspaper, quotes from Archbishop Lori’s response:

“ ‘I think that vote will prove not to have been for the common good of our state,’ Archbishop Lori said. . . .

“The election results on same-sex marriage should serve as a ‘wake up call’ for Catholics, Archbishop Lori said, demonstrating ‘our need to redouble our efforts to defend marriage, to preach about what marriage is, and to help people understand it as a unique relationship that does not discriminate against anyone, but is for the good of children and for the good of our society.’ ”

Lori’s comments differed greatly from those of Ryan Sattler, a Catholic layman who was profiled by The National Catholic Reporter for his work on marriage equality in the state, and who was sought for his reaction to the election’s outcome.  Sattler stated simply:

“On Election Day, Maryland voters chose justice. They chose equality. They chose love.”

Similarly, Karin Quimby, deputy faith director of Marylanders for Marriage Equality, praised the work of Maryland Catholics like Sattler:

“I think the work of Catholics on Question 6 here in Maryland shows that the social justice teaching in the Catholic church is alive and well. Lay leaders did a great job at the grassroots level, making their voices heard, and their fellow Catholics responded. Catholics clearly believe, very strongly, that every person has dignity, every person should be treated fairly, and every person deserves the same rights.”

Archbishop John Nienstedt

In Minnesota, the Archdiocese of St. Paul, led by Archbishop John Nienstedt, also emphasized the idea that it is time to move forward from the rancor of debate:

“Although the defeat of the amendment is a very serious concern to us, it will not deter us from continuing to serve this community and the whole state in pursuit of the common good.”

Father Michael Tegeder, who publicly opposed Archbishop Nienstedt during the marriage debate, called for the Ordinary’s resignation in a letter to the Star Tribune:

“As a priest of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, I would ask our archbishop, John Nienstedt, to prayerfully consider stepping down from his office. It would be healing for our state and our church and would show some magnanimity on his part. His misguided crusade to change our Constitution, spending more than a million dollars and, more importantly, much goodwill, has been rejected. Elections have consequences.”

Archbishop Peter Sartain

In Washington State, Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle also seemed prepared to continue the debate about marriage.  In a statement, he said:

“I am disappointed that so many voters failed to recognize marriage between a man and a woman as the natural institution for the permanent, faithful covenant of love for a couple, for bringing children into the world, and for nurturing and educating those children. This change in civil law is not in the best interest of children or society.”

More joyous in response was Washington State’s Catholic Govern Christine Gregoire, who had signed the marriage equality legislation into law.  The Seattle Post-Intelligencer quoted her reaction to the vote:

“ ‘Washington has made history and I couldn’t be prouder,’ said Gregoire.  ‘Voters stood up for what is right and what is just and said that all Washington families are equal under the law . . .

“ ‘This is a day history will look back on as a turning point for equality.  It is a day I will look back on as Washington state leading the nation.  And it is a day that I will carry with me forever.’ ”

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone

Commenting on all four successful votes, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, who is chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, also seemed intent on putting a negative spin on the outcomes in his statement:

“Yesterday, November 6, was a disappointing day for marriage, as the effort to preserve the unique meaning of marriage in the law lost by only a narrow margin in four states, even though vastly outspent by those who promote the redefinition of marriage.

“The meaning of marriage, though, cannot be redefined because it lies within our very nature. No matter what policy, law or judicial decision is put into place, marriage is the only institution that unites a man and a woman to each other and to any children born of their union. It is either this, or it is nothing at all. In view of the fact that every child has a mother and a father, our society either respects the basic right of every child to be raised by his or her mother and father together and so supports the true and unique meaning of marriage for the good of children, or it does not. In a society marked by increasing poverty and family fragmentation, marriage needs to be strengthened, promoted, and defended, not redefined. I hope and pray that political leaders, judges, and all people will seek to honor this foundational and common sense truth of marriage.”

In L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican’s newspaper, tried to place the Catholic hierarchy’s position in a positive cast, even in the face of such resounding defeats.  A Religion News Service story offers the following summary:

” ‘You could say that the church, on this level, is bound to lose,’ writes [Lucetta] Scaraffia. ‘But this is not the case.’

“According to the historian, the church’s fight on moral issues such as gay marriage and abortion has drawn support and admiration’ from many non-Catholics.

“By opposing legislation allowing gay couples to adopt in the United Kingdom or fighting the birth control mandate in the U.S., the church ‘made it clear for everyone that this is not about progress’ but about ‘the loss of one of the founding freedoms of the modern State, religious liberty.’ “

In all these cases, where Catholics have been working on both sides of the marriage question, it will be incumbent on the local bishops to work toward reconciling these factions in the church so that there are no lingering senses of animosity or alienation.  This will be particularly important where the bishops have been particularly politically involved on the marriage question, and thus have risked alienating marriage equality supporters.  Now that the electorates have spoken for justice and equality, the work of reconciliation must begin in earnest.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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