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


The Mostly Ambivalent Responses by U.S. Bishops to Pope Francis

October 8, 2013

For more than two weeks, my email inbox has been swamped with messages from folks sending me links to articles and essays responding to Pope Francis’ Jesuit magazine interview, in which he chastised church leaders for being too obsessed with gay issues.    Early on, we tried providing you with some of the best of the responses, and you can read those here, here, here, and here.

But as I sifted through all these emails, one group that has remained pretty silent on the matter have been the U.S. bishops themselves.  Now, I admit that I did not do a major web search for every U.S. bishop to see what he might have said about the interview.  Yet, their remarks did not seem prominent in most of the news stories that I saw on the topic.

What is more surprising is that while almost everyone else in the U.S., Catholic and non-Catholic alike, were pleasantly surprised and astonished by what they detected as a new tone from the papacy, the few bishops who did make public responses tended to downplay any innovation on the part of Pope Francis. Their responses reflect a strong ambivalence about the pope’s new direction.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan 3

Cardinal Timothy Dolan

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York was one of the first bishops to respond.  As president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, he is the spokesperson for the conference, and so many media outlets were interested in what he had to say.

In a New York Times  interview, he called the pope’s words “a breath of fresh air,” yet then went on to stress continuity, not change, in the papal message:

“ ‘One of the lines that nobody seems to be paying attention to was when he said I’m a loyal son of the church,’ he said. ‘He knows that the highest and most sacred responsibility is to pass on the timeless teaching of the church.’ “

What’s odd is that most people saw as more significant Pope Francis’ admission of himself as a sinner, which he described as the most “accurate” description of himself.   Furthermore, while Dolan sees the pope’s job as passing on “timeless teaching,” Pope Francis in the interview emphasized the development of church teaching through history.

And  while most commentators noted the compassionate and merciful tone in the pope’s words, Dolan seemed to see some sort of loophole for church leaders to continue to criticize:

“What he’s saying is that we have to think of a more effective way to do it, because if the church comes off as a scold, it’s counterproductive. If the church comes off as a loving, embracing mother, who periodically has to correct her children, then we will be effective.”

Dolan also tried to shift the reason why bishops speak so much about abortion and homosexuality to the media.  On Top Magazine reported that Dolan mentioned the following in a television interview, responding to a reporter’s question about whether bishops were obsessed about these topics:

“I wonder if we all spend too much time talking about that. I mean you guys would admit that’s usually the things you ask me about, right? So, I don’t know if it’s just the church that seems obsessed with those issues. It seems to be culture, society,”

Cardinal Francis George

Cardinal Francis George

Like Dolan,  Cardinal Francis George of Chicago also seemed to want to shift the cause for “obsession” to the general society, not to the bishops.  In The Chicago Tribune, he stated:

“If the society is obsessed with those issues, then the church will respond. If the society doesn’t bring them up, the church won’t respond.”

Also like Dolan, George wanted to retain some form of judgmentalism for church leaders.  He stated:

“Everybody is welcome,but not everything we do can be acceptable. Not everything I do, and not everything anybody else does. . . .

“His position was, ‘Don’t judge a person.’ It wasn’t anything about saying, ‘Don’t judge an action as moral or immoral.’ It was taken to say we shouldn’t judge the activity.”

Bishop David O'Connell

Bishop David O’Connell

Bishop David O’Connell tried to downplay any change that might be reflected in the pope’s words.   In a CNN interview, he said:

“I think it is a slight departure .  .  .  .This was an interview. This was not an instant of papal pronouncement or teaching, . . .This pope is accustomed to speak off the cuff, and to speak in a very common way with people, and I think that’s what you saw in this interview.

“He really was just sharing some of his thoughts and reflections.”

Madison, Wisconsin’s Bishop Robert Morlino offered perhaps the most stubborn refusal to recognizing any change in the papacy.  In an email sent to Channel 3000, Morlino stated:

Bishop Robert Morlino

Bishop Robert Morlino

“The Pope is clearly offering his good pastoral counsel about our being, first and foremost, ministers of Jesus’ love and mercy. This is something that every member of Christ’s Church should take to heart and make part of their evangelization efforts. Given the confusion about Pope Francis’ statements that has emerged from the media coverage to date, I think it’s inopportune to offer extensive observations which will probably be subjected to like misinterpretation. I think that, analogous to the “spirit of Vatican II”, a distorted “spirit of Pope Francis” is being concocted which is equally, if not more misleading. For me, it is not prudent to respond further to the Holy Father’s remarks at this time.”

Bishop Thomas Tobin

Bishop Thomas Tobin

Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island, was enthusiastic in his praise for the pope’s comments, though some wondered about the sincerity of his praise since only a short time before the papal interview, he had written in his diocesan newspaper that he was “a little bit disappointed” in the new pope for not mentioning abortion enough.  Tobin told The Providence Journal:

“I enthusiastically welcome the balanced and inclusive approach our Holy Father is bringing to the pastoral ministry of the church. . . .

“Being a Catholic does not mean having to choose between doctrine and charity, between truth and love. It includes both.”

Archbishop William Lori

Archbishop William Lori

Perhaps the most genuine response from a bishop came from Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, Maryland.  Lori, an ardent and vocal opponent of marriage equalitly, who is also the U.S. bishops’ point person on religious liberty, told the Associated Press:

“Every time I make a statement about one of these things, I will certainly take another look at it and ask, ‘Does this really lead people back to the heart of the Gospel?’ “

I consider this response most “genuine” because it alone acknowledges that bishops may not have been considering this question about the gospel before uttering statements in the past.

John Allen, a Vatican analyst for The National Catholic Reporter, recently commented on why it might take a while before Pope Francis’ “imprint” will be seen among the American bishops.  He posits that Pope Francis seems to be taking his time making changes in the Vatican administration, which could influence the type of bishops appointed.  Additionally, since few American bishops are at or near retirement age of 75, it might take a while before Pope Francis has an opportunity to replace them.

–Francis DeBernardo, 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


Are LGBT Catholics At Home In the Church?

May 27, 2013
David Gibson of Religion News Service

This spring, several Catholic bishops made positive comments about LGBT people within Catholicism, including remarks by Cardinal Timothy Dolan on Easter and several Vatican officials endorsing civil unions.

In light of actions contradicting the welcoming message, David Gibson of Religion News Service poses an interesting question to several Catholics in recent headlines, “Can gay Catholics find a home in the Catholic Church?” He writes of the tensions:

“It’s still not clear what the second step [after Dolan's positive remarks] in this fraught process might be, or even if there is a second step. And there are signs that things may only get more complicated…

“Moreover, as Americans — and American Catholics — grow increasingly accepting of homosexuality, and as foes of gay rights grow increasingly determined, conflict at the parish level seems inevitable. The uneasy ‘Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell’ policy that once allowed gay and lesbian Catholics to take church positions is clashing with their increasing visibility in the form of marriage licenses or wedding announcements.”

Francis DeBernardo
Francis DeBernardo

Gibson details the firings of Nicholas Coppola and Carla Hale, while Bondings 2.0 has reported on these and several other cases in recent months that are making LGBT-Catholic relations strained. Gibson quotes Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, who questions how these actions fit with other Catholic principles about justice.

“’How just is it to fire someone whose life or practices are not in accord with official church teaching?’…

“’Where do you draw the line?…Do you get fired if you have remarried without an annulment? Do you get fired if you don’t attend Mass on Sunday regularly? Do you get fired because you are a Protestant who does not recognize the Catholic hierarchical structure?’”

Yet, not only are LGBT advocates within the Catholic Church worried, priests and others in ministry recognize the increasing frequency of these conflicts at local levels:

“’The fact is that it is going to get worse,’ said the pastor of a large Midwest parish who has had to fend off complaints about a lesbian member of his staff. As critics become more insistent, and as gay and lesbian Catholics become more public, he fears the resulting controversies will take a serious toll on the church.

“’We have to come to some kind of pastoral accommodation,’ he said.

Fr. Joe Muth

New Ways Ministry hosts a listing of gay-friendly parishes, which has grown to over 200 from just 20 a decade ago that are making pastoral accommodations. One parish with extensive experience doing LGBT ministry is St. Matthew’s in Baltimore, led by Fr. Joe Muth

“Gays and lesbians ‘just move into the regular life of the church’ at St. Matthew’s, Muth said, as he believes is perfectly normal.

“But he also said they are aware of the ‘sensitivity’ of their presence, so they have made a concerted effort to reach out to other groups in the parish, and the parish has also made sure to include one of Baltimore’s bishops in meetings.

“That dialogue has been invaluable, he said, and he has received few complaints or protests.”

Fr. Muth acknowledges that the framework is troubled, and limitations on engaging marriage equality or having LGBT ministers in public relations remain due to the bishops’ pressure. Gibson continues:

“In fact, the patchwork nature of the responses is part of the problem, say gay advocates. ‘It’s not that there is a witch hunt out there,’ said DeBernardo. ‘But there are witch hunters. … For the most part I don’t think bishops go after these folks. They don’t create controversy; they only respond to controversy.’

“At the moment, there are no guidelines to help pastors and parishioners deal with these issues, and there doesn’t seem to be an effort to develop anything comprehensive’…

“’Right now it’s a step-by-step process of helping people to be church,’ said Muth, of St. Matthew’s in Baltimore. ‘That’s the way I see it.’”

This piecemeal approach to solving the increasing number of parish conflicts does not seem sufficient to some, and leaves us asking LGBT Catholics, family, friends, and allies the very same question with which Gibson titled his article: Can gay Catholics find a home in the Catholic Church?

Share your thoughts in the ‘Comments’ section below about if it is possible, and how you remain Catholic.

–Bob Shine, 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


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


MD Catholics Light Up Marriage Equality Message at Basilica & in Newspapers; Baltimore Pastor’s Pro-Equality Sermon Is Removed from the Web

November 5, 2012

Maryland Catholics who support marriage equality had a busy weekend showing their support for their state’s referendum on the issue which will be on the ballot tomorrow.

Catholics for Marriage Equality vigil outside Baltimore’s Basilica of the Assumption.

On Saturday evening, November 3rd, about 40 Catholics in the state stood outside the Archdiocese of Baltimore’s Basilica of the Assumption holding lighted signs which read “Catholics for Marriage Equality.”

On Friday, November 2nd, a half-page ad appeared in The Baltimore Sun signed by over 340 Catholics expressing their support for the state’s Question 6, which will ratify the marriage equality law passed in the spring.   The same ad appeared in The Star Democrat, a newspaper on the state’s Delmarva peninsula.  The ad’s statement read:

“As Catholics, we believe that all God’s children are created equal and have inherent dignity. We believe every member of our family and our community should enjoy the same opportunities, freedom, and fairness in life. Therefore, we support the Civil Marriage Protection Act signed into state law on March 1, 2012. The Civil Marriage Protection Act preserves religious freedom and protects civil liberties in a manner that respects the diversity of our great state.

“As Catholics, we will follow our consciences and vote FOR Question 6 on November 6, 2012 to support the Civil Marriage Protection Act.”

The statement was a condensed version of a pledge to support marriage equality.  The full text of the pledge can be found on the Catholics for Marriage Equality Maryland website.  You can visit the website to make a donation to the Catholic campaign to support marriage equality.

A news story on Washington DC’s Metro Weekly website quoted two of the ad’s organizers:

” ‘Catholic lay people in Maryland are voting their consciences to make sure that our state’s laws treat all people equally and fairly, and that all families in Maryland are strengthened and protected,’ said Francis DeBernardo, a spokesman for the coalition and the executive director of New Ways Ministry, a coalition partner, in a statement announcing the ad.

“The statement also quoted Ryan Sattler, one of the ad’s signatories: ‘While we respect our church’s leaders, we disagree with them about this issue of public policy. Our Catholic faith impels us to work for justice and dignity for all people, and supporting marriage equality is the right way to secure those values, and that is why as Catholics we are proud to be voting for Question 6.’ “

This weekend it also became known that the online video and audio recordings of a Baltimore Catholic pastor who preached in support of marriage equality had been taken down.

Who withdrew the video and audio recordings of Father Richard Lawrence’s October 28th sermon at St. Vincent dePaul parish?  Dan Rodricks, a Baltimore Sun reporter has a theory:

I inquired about what had happened, but the pastor declined to comment and I haven’t heard back from St. Vincent’s. I assume Lawrence’s superiors might have had something to do with the removal of the video. The same day it disappeared, a message about “the teaching role of priests” appeared on the archdiocesan web site. “

As part of that statement, Archbishop William Lori said:

“Preaching the word of God requires subordination of personal views to the word of God as taught by the Catholic Church. This was my promise when I became a priest, as it is the promise of every priest at his ordination. … No bishop, priest or deacon has the right to use the pulpit to advance his personal opinions. … May all priests, including myself, be mindful of their obligation to preach the Gospel even when it is unpopular with prevailing culture.”

Rodricks commented:

“None of this surprised me — not Father Lawrence’s courage in speaking from conscience, not the church’s predictable position against such a challenging expression from the pulpit. The church feels empowered to press its views about a civil matter, to lobby and to influence representatives, to campaign, to be a player in the democratic process that culminates in Tuesday’s election. And yet the church is itself no democracy; it refuses to hear dissent, even from one of its most eloquent and faithful servants speaking about a matter of civil justice.”

The actions of Maryland Catholics described at the beginning of the post, and the fact that Fr. Lawrence had received a standing ovation from his congregation, reveals that the laity do not agree with suppressing discussion of this issue in the church.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 

 


Baltimore Catholic Pastor Preaches in Support of Marriage Equality and Conscience

October 29, 2012

Fr. Richard Lawrence

Father Richard Lawrence of St. Vincent dePaul parish in Baltimore, Maryland, preached yesterday about supporting marriage equality in the upcoming referendum on the issue in the state.  While Baltimore Archbishop William Lori asked pastors to read a letter opposing marriage equality, Father Lawrence did so, but then added his own view on the matter.

You can watch the 17 -minute homily by clicking here.

You can also listen to just the audio of the homily by clicking here, and then clicking on “October 28.”

You can read a National Catholic Reporter news story of the homily by clicking here.

Here’s a summary of his remarks:

Fr. Lawrence transitions from reading Archbishop Lori’s letter by stating that it cannot be ignored by faithful Catholics. He also states that in his homily, he will provide “some other thoughts that might be considered in your process of conscience formation.”

He makes the following points:

1) There is a separation between religious law and civil law.  While there are some civil laws we cannot accept, there are others than we can accept, even if we disagree with them.  He makes the case that Catholic institutions (parishes, schools, hospitals) hire and provide benefits to people whose marriages are not canonically valid.  We may not agree with the civil law in this regard, but, as Catholics, we support that law.

2) Fr. Lawrence states that “personally, we can go further than that,” as he explains a hope for the eventual change in church teaching regarding same-sex relationships. Citing Vatican II’s change in theology of sacramental marriage by making the procreation of children an equal function to the mutual support and common life of the couple, he notes that both became primary functions of marriage.

Developing this idea, he notes that the church marries elderly couples who cannot procreate because they are able to exemplify this other function of mutual support and common life.  The same, he says, can be done for gay and lesbian couples, for whom reproduction is not possible, but mutual support and common life is.

3)  If it is possible for church teaching on marriage to change, than why can’t civil law on marriage change, he asks.

4)  He notes that Genesis his two different verses which are used to define marriage:  “Be fruitful and multiply” and finding “a suitable partner or helpmate” for the human being.  A suitable partner for a heterosexual person is someone of the other gender, while a suitable partner for a gay or lesbian person is someone of the same gender.

Fr. Lawrence concludes by urging parishioners to develop and follow their consciences.

He received thunderous applause and a standing ovation at the conclusion of homily.  New Ways Ministry adds our own applause to that of his parishioners!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Maryland Catholics Spread Marriage Equality Message

September 29, 2012

Maryland Catholic parents and the state’s Catholic governor are spreading their message of support for marriage equality in the state’s upcoming referendum via the traditional press and YouTube.

Erma Durkin

Erma Durkin, who describes herself as an 83-year old “cradle Catholic” penned an op-ed piece published in The Baltimore Sun, in which she cites her Catholic faith as the reason she is voting for question #6 in the fall:

“We should be acknowledging in everyone — including my gay son — the inherent dignity and fairness due them as human beings. As a cradle Catholic, my parents and my church taught me to treat everyone as I wanted to be treated. I have tried to live according to this teaching. . . .

“Both my head and my heart tell me that each child in our family should enjoy the same opportunity to be married. It is only right to treat everyone fairly and equally in the public square. I cannot understand how my gay son getting married to the person he loves can do harm to anyone else’s marriage.”

Ms. Durkin, who is a regular reader and frequent commenter to the Bondings 2.0 blog, acknowledges that for some, acceptance of marriage equality is a journey, but she is hopeful that others will arrive at the same place that she is:

“I do understand that, for many people, to come to a point where they can say they support marriage for gay couples will be a journey. And there are many lay Catholics on this journey now. In fact, a majority of Catholics in pews across the country support marriage equality. But we all come to this issue at our own pace, and that’s fine. . . .

“I hope Catholics in this great state vote their conscience on election day and support Question 6.”

Pat and Jenny Nugent, of Cambridge, Maryland (who are also frequent readers and contributors to this blog), are featured in a two-and-a-half minute video, explaining how their Catholic faith, plus the experience of having a gay son, have motivated to support this issue of justice and equality.

The Nugents, who have been married 48 years, and have seven children and eleven grandchildren, relate their moving story of how their faith and family experience molded their views.  You can view the entire video here:

In the video, Jenny states:

“I want him to have the same sense of security and fidelity in a relationship, where you know there’s one person you can always rely on.

“I also want for him to be able to say, to the world, this is who I love, this is who I’m committed to, and this is who is committed to me. And that they can do that publicly, like all of our other kids.”

And Pat adds:

“I’m going to vote my conscience and vote for QuestionNo. 6 in November.”

Another Maryland Catholic, Governor Martin O’Malley, was the subject of a ReligionDispatches. org essay this week, and author Peter Montgomery highlighted the governor’s argument about the strong religious protections in the law:

“Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who is actively campaigning for voter approval of a marriage equality law he signed earlier this year, said Monday night that his support for equality under the law is “very much informed” by his Catholic faith and his commitment to protecting the human dignity of every person in Maryland. . . .

“O’Malley said that expansive religious freedom language in the law was important to its passage and in keeping with the traditions of the state of Maryland. The referendum language makes clear that the law protects clergy from having to perform any ceremony that violates their beliefs, guarantees each faith control over its marriage doctrine, and ‘provides that religious organizations and certain related entities are not required to provide goods, services, or benefits to an individual related to the celebration or promotion of marriage in violation of their religious beliefs.’ ”

You can watch a video of O’Malley’s other comments here:

Baltimore’s Archbishop William Lori also spoke out about marriage equality this week,  opposing the referendum question.  His comments are not available, however, since the event at which he spoke was closed to the media.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


U.S. Bishops Launch Campaign to Bolster Idea that Religious Liberty Is at Stake

June 22, 2012

N.Y.’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan supporting the Fortnight for Freedom

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have launched their “Fortnight for Freedom,” a two-week campaign that will include prayer vigils, rallies, and media activity designed to send a message that religious freedom is under attack in the United States.

Support for marriage equality among many voters, states, and the federal government is cited as one of the reasons the bishops designed this project.  According to an Associated Press article in The Washington Post:

“While the religious freedom campaign includes protests against state laws and policies, the bishops’ immediate target is the mandate President Barack Obama announced in January that most employers provide health insurance that covers birth control. Federal officials said the rule was critical to women’s health by helping them space out pregnancies.

“Critics have accused the bishops of organizing the campaign as a partisan assault on Obama in an election year. But church leaders insist they have no partisan agenda and blame the timing on when federal officials approved the rule.

“ ‘In only the past few years, we’ve experienced rampant disregard for religious beliefs in this country,’ wrote New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, in an e-book released for the ‘Fortnight’ effort. Among the examples he cites are approval for embryonic stem cell research, legal justification for torturing prisoners and support for same-sex marriage.”

According to an article in USA Today:

“The target audience is as much within the church as outside it, says political scientist and Jesuit priest Thomas Reese. Although bishops can call on every priest in every diocese to participate in Fortnight events, ‘those priests who agree and who don’t like Obama will preach on it every Sunday. And the ones who don’t agree will throw (the bishops’ materials) in the circular file.’ “

“Sister Pat McCann, blogging for the Sisters of Mercy, said, ‘Churches legitimately influence public debate and help to shape policy by raising a significant voice about moral implications of issues which beset us, but no church gets to establish policy one hundred per cent its own way.’ “

“Reese said Catholics are ‘voting with their cars’ by driving off to a church where they’re not ‘harangue’” on issues that make them uncomfortable.”

“Most Catholics (57 percent), like most Americans (68 percent), don’t buy the bishops’ case that the right of religious liberty is under threat, said a March survey of 1,007 adults by the Public Religion Research Institute.”

According to a Religion News Service article in The Houston Chronicle, the complex funding mechanism the U.S. bishops have used to pay for the “Fortnight for Freedom” campaign.  Cited in the article, criticizing the bishops is Steve Schneck, director of the Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies at the Catholic University of America in Washington:

“ ‘The Knights of Columbus are clearly one of the major sources of funding (against the mandate), as well as other fraternal organizations,’ Schneck said.

“The Knights of Columbus, a Catholic charitable group based in New Haven, Conn., says it’s the world’s largest lay Catholic organization. Knights of Columbus life insurance sales neared $8 billion in 2010, and last year, it contributed $158 million to charity. In the last decade, the Knights have donated more than $1 billion to charity.

“The group’s 2010 tax forms show that the Knights gave more than $3 million to the Vatican that year, nearly $2 million to the U.S. bishops conference and $25,000 to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which has guided much of the legal action against the contraception mandate.

“The group must disclose more recent donations in its 2011 tax forms. But Andrew Walther, a Knights of Columbus spokesman, said the group has asked for an extension in filing the documents, making them unavailable until the fall.

“In 2010, the Knights were also generous with their contributions to individual bishops, doling out nearly $350,000 for a variety of programs in various dioceses. Of that, $248,700, or 71 percent, went to Lori’s former Diocese of Bridgeport.

“Lori — who is the man most directly in charge of the Fortnight for Freedom campaign — has been the Supreme Chaplain of the Knights of Columbus since 2005.

“The Knights did not respond to requests for an interview about the organization’s involvement with the bishops’ campaign, but the organization has dedicated recent issues of its monthly magazine to the topic of religious liberty.

“John Gehring, Catholic program director at Faith in Public Life, a liberal advocacy group in Washington, said while the Knights’ charitable works was ‘commendable … its leadership has steered a fraternal organization into political waters in ways that should raise questions.’

“Asked by reporters in Atlanta last week if the Knights’ involvement in the religious liberty campaign introduces at least the perception of partisanship, Lori said no. Other groups have contributed to the campaign, he said, mentioning Our Sunday Visitor and the Order of Malta.

“ ‘Think of what the Knights of Columbus does for the Catholic Church and for many other humanitarian causes,’ he said. ‘To try to say that is in some way partisan is … an injustice.’ ”

National Public Radio interviewed some lay Catholics in the Washington, DC region and found a number of them opposed to the Fortnight for Freedom:

“Marion McCartney, who attends the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Washington, D.C., opposes the bishops’ campaign. She’s part of a group, Blessed Sacrament Families United in Faith and Action, that wrote a letter to its pastor, saying the partisan nature of the campaign is ‘a step too far.’

” ‘Nobody’s religious freedom is at stake. That’s just ridiculous!’ McCartney says. Is ‘[Health and Human Services Secretary] Kathleen Sebelius going to come and close all the church doors? I mean, it’s just foolishness.’

A”nother member of that group is Jim Zogby, who has worked on human-rights issues overseas. He says the U.S. bishops were spoiling for a fight over social issues with the Obama administration.

” ‘They declared war on the administration, and we the faithful are paying the price for it,’ Zogby says. ‘Our religious freedom, our ability to simply go to church, worship, feel a community, feel safe in that community’ has been compromised

” ‘We’re now being put in the middle of a partisan fight, and that’s wrong.’

“His wife, Eileen, says Blessed Sacrament, with its mix of liberals and conservatives, has always put politics aside. Not now. At a recent parish meeting about religious freedom, people began attacking President Obama, she says, getting more and more heated.

” ‘Until finally one person leaned forward and he said, “Well, I have seen cars in our parking lot with Obama stickers on them, and they are complicit in all of this.” And I thought, “Well I guess I’m not welcome here, because I have an Obama sticker on my car.” ‘ “

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry



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