Archbishop Kurtz Has An Opportunity to Back His Words With Action

February 23, 2012

Photo Tom Wright, U.S. Catholic

U.S. Catholic magazine’s newest issue is running a major story on lesbian and gay Catholics, entitled “Pride and Prejudice: The uneasy relationship between gays and lesbians and their church.” 

Writer Kristen Hannum does an excellent job of analyzing many of the important issues that affect lesbian and gay Catholics, and she even-handedly allows all parts of the Catholic debate on these issues to speak. (Stay tuned:  in the coming days, we will report on two sidebar articles that accompany this comprehensive piece.)

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz

One of those quoted in the article, Louisville’s Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, has a prime opportunity to back up his words with actions.  Hannum quotes him expressing strong support for Catholic teaching on respecting human dignity:

“ ‘Every conversation should emphasize dignity,’ says Kurtz, past chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for the Defense of Marriage. The archbishop praises the USCCB’s Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination, which begins with general principles, the first of which is respecting human dignity, that (quoting from the Catechism) ‘persons with a homosexual inclination must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.’ ”

Archbishop Kurtz has a wonderful opportunity to put that quote into action right in his own backyard.   Louisville’s Courier-Journal newspaper carries a story about a protest this past Sunday at the city’s Catholic Cathedral:

“The event was organized by the Fairness Campaign, a gay-rights group. The legislation it supports would ban discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations but would not legalize gay marriage, said Fairness Campaign director Chris Hartman. . . .

“Supporters of the legislation are seeking the backing of Louisville Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, whom they met with about a year ago to discuss the issue, Hartman said.”

The bill needs greater support from city leaders, and Archbishop Kurtz now has an opportunity to stand up for the church’s teaching on human dignity.  When he was the chair of the Ad Hoc Committee for the Defense of Marriage, he spoke up a lot about the church’s teaching on sexuality as it applied to lesbian and gay people.  In the U.S. Catholic  article he says that both teachings need to be expounded:

“ ‘Both are to be emphasized, the dignity and the Catholic vision for sexuality,’ says Kurtz.”

If he needs assistance in formulating his position, he can turn to one of his priests, who presides at liturgy in the diocesan cathedral.  According to the Courier-Journal:

“The Rev. Joseph Fowler, a retired priest in the Archdiocese of Louisville, participated in the Fairness Campaign event before helping officiate at the Mass at the cathedral.

“He said he supports the anti-discrimination legislation because ‘there is a dignity to each person that we recognize.’

“Asked how he reconciles his support with Catholic teaching, Fowler said, ‘The church does not say it’s wrong to be a homosexual.’ ”

Let’s hope and pray that Archbishop Kurtz speaks up for human dignity with strong passion.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


A Civil Discussion on Civil Marriage

January 23, 2012

Catholicism plays heavily in the marriage equality debate in Minnesota. The state will have a referendum vote in November on whether or not to accept a constitutional ban against same-sex marriage. We’ve already reported on some of the ways that Catholics–both those for and those against marriage equality–have tried to sway the vote’s outcome:  mailing 400, 000 anti-marriage equality DVDs,  providing pro-marriage equality DVDs to all interested, offering prayers both for and against marriage equality, the archbishop silencing priests from supporting marriage equality, one brave priest who has ignored the archbishop’s gag order.  As the year progresses, we are sure to see more actions from both sides.

Gail Rosenblum of the Minneapolis Star Tribune tells a different story of two Catholic Minnesotans who are on opposite sides of the marriage debate, Denny Smith and Tom Struthers.  Instead or arguing, however, these two men have decided to sit down and hear each other out.

Rosenblum describes the men this way:

“They have a lot in common. Both were raised Catholic. Both are happily married; Smith for 43 years, Struthers for 23 years. Both are fathers. Struthers’ children are 19 and 16. Smith’s three kids are grown. One of them is gay. That son, Kyle, and Kyle’s partner of 17 years, Joe, can’t live together in the United States because Joe is from the Philippines. When Joe’s student visa expired, he was forced to leave the United States, which wouldn’t have happened if they could marry. “

Rosenblum’s article relates the conversation that these two men had together when she and they decided to have a conversation over a cup of coffee.  It is definitely worth reading the entire article  to learn about the real human concerns that people have in this debate.  It’s a helpful reminder, too,  about how much education is needed for people on issues of homosexuality and LGBT issues–especially for Catholics.

The article’s most amazing insight is the description of  their main area of agreement:

” ‘I don’t know all the answers,’  Smith said. ‘No matter what, compassion is the way to go.’

“Struthers nodded. ‘Compassion is trying to understand another’s point of view. If people can come together with diverse opinions and there is a change, that’s among the richest of human experiences. I either am changed or, at least, I see his side of the story. Religious faiths will be examined on this issue,’ Struthers said. “

This passage serves as a reminder that the real goal of dialogue may not be to just change minds, but to change hearts.

It was refreshing to learn that real conversation is going on, and I hope that more people–in Minnesota and everywhere–use this strategy of simple civil conversation to work through this issue.

As the year progresses, we will try to keep you informed about the marriage equality debates around the country. A good source of information on the Minnesota debate is www.theprogressivecatholicvoice.blogspot.com.

UPDATE:  Commenter Jim Smith of DignityUSA, who lives in Minnesota, has offered two additional websites for news about Catholics and marriage equality in that state: http://www.c4me.org and its accompanying blog “Sensus Fidelium” at http://www.c4me-mn.blogspot.com .

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


A Priest of Integrity

January 19, 2012

Fr. Mike Tegeder

We already reported on the news that Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul, Minnesota, is requiring the archdiocesan priests not to speak out in support of marriage equality.   A news story in this past weekend’s Minneapolis Star Tribune uses Nienstedt’s directive as its lead, but it goes a little further than that by telling the story of one courageous priest who is speaking out, despite the archbishop’s gag order:

“One vocal critic of Nienstedt is the Rev. Mike Tegeder, who spoke against the amendment at a priests’ meeting with Nienstedt in October.

“In November, Tegeder received a letter stating that if he did not end his public opposition, Nienstedt would suspend his “faculties to exercise ministry” and remove him from his “ministerial assignments.”

“Marking the first clear standoff over the church’s role in the amendment, Tegeder is not backing down.

“He said he believes the church is being too political and contends that it’s inappropriate for its leaders to campaign in support of the amendment.

” ‘That’s not the way to support marriage,’ said Tegeder, pastor at both St. Frances Cabrini and Gichitwaa Kateri churches in Minneapolis. ‘If we want to support marriage, there are wonderful things we can do as Catholic churches and ministers. We should not be focused on beating up a small number of people who have this desire to have committed relationships.’ “

You can read more about Fr. Tegeder in a National Catholic Reporter article from October 2010, when he first spoke out against the anti-marriage equality DVD campaign which Nienstedt led.

During a very critical time in the church in Minnesota, Fr. Tegeder exemplifies the best of prophetic witness.  He deserves our prayers and support.  I hope that his example will encourage other priests and church leaders to speak of their support for marriage equality.  Silencing has no place in a church whose founder and model is described as the Word of God.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Silencing Discussion Is Not the Archbishop’s Only Error

January 6, 2012

The Progressive Catholic Voice has published a letter from Archbishop John Nienstedt which orders priests and deacons of the Archdiocese of St. Paul to be silent if they disagree with the hierarchy’s opposition to marriage equality.  In November of this year, Minnesotans will be voting in a referendum on whether they should adopt a constitutional amendment banning marriage between lesbian and gay couples.

Silencing discussion is a terrible option, and church officials should remove such a recourse from their possible responses to situations.  U.S. bishops should have learned a lesson from the sex abuse crisis that silence protects nobody and ultimately fails as a method to protect the church.  New Ways Ministry has  long called for more discussion and dialogue in the church on LGBT issues, including marriage equality.  We believe that through discussion and debate truth will be found and relationships strengthened.

Silencing his priests and deacons is what will be making headlines, but it is not the archbishop’s only error in this letter.  He also wrongfully speculates on the motivations of those who support marriage equality, and he does so in an illogical manner:

“The end game of those who oppose the marriage amendment that we support is not just to secure certain benefits for a particular minority, but, I believe, to eliminate the need for marriage altogether.”

First of all, he offers no evidence for such a claim, and it is difficult to imagine what such evidence might even be.  Such a claim is unfounded.  Why would the archbishop make such a claim if he is not willing to offer any evidence to support it?

More importantly, the claim is illogical.  Does he want us to believe that the people who are working and organizing to extend marriage rights to more people are actually really trying to end the institution that they are trying to extend?

Later in the letter, he states:

“. . . we must never vilify or caricaturize those who argue [in support of marriage equality]. . . “

Yet, isn’t that what he just did by speculating, with neither evidence nor logic, on the motives of those who oppose the constitutional ban?

One of the reasons that we need discussion, and not silence, on these issues is because without the free interchange of ideas, people become so solidified in their positions that they do not realize what they are saying sometimes, and they can often work against their own best ideals.

The folks at The Progressive Catholic Voice should be applauded for making this letter available to all.  You can read their full press release here and a shorter explanation introduces the archbishop’s speech here.  In noting why they decided to publish it, they offer an image and an ideal towards which we should tirelessly work:

“. . .we at The Progressive Catholic Voice believe it is important to model a way of being church that is open, honest, transparent and participatory.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


NEWS NOTES: January 4, 2012

January 4, 2012

Here are some links to articles that may be of interest:

1) Vanessa De La Torre reports in the Hartford Courant that the local “Archdiocese Planning to Offer Pro-Abstinence Group for Gays, Lesbians”.

2) In The American Prospect magazine, E.J. Graff writes  in “Catholic Bishops versus Tolerance” that children are the victims of bishops closing adoption agencies.

3) Chicago Alderman Tom Tunney, a gay Catholic man, has been asked to join in a demonstration at the city’s Holy Name Cathedral to protest Cardinal Francis George’s KKK comments.  See the Chicago.GoPride.com article, “Tunney Asked to Join LGBT Catholics in Demonstration Against Cardinal George.”

4) The Vatican has established a special Ordinariate for Episcopalians who want to join the Catholic church–many of whom are leaving because of their opposition to marriage equality and the ordination of  lesbian/gay people.  See the LA Times Blog post for details.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


NEWS NOTES: A New Feature

January 3, 2012

Sometimes the news and information on Catholic LGBT issues comes in faster than we can keep up with!  Some days, we find that we just don’t have time to comment on everything that passes across our desktops.    To help our readers be up-to-date on as much of the latest information possible, we are instituting a new occasional feature called “NEWS NOTES.”

When you see the header “NEWS NOTES”  and the logo at the right, you will find a link or list of links to news articles or opinion pieces on Catholic LGBT issues and related topics.  In this way, you won’t miss a beat of the latest information.

Here’s our first installment:

1) In response to Minnesota Archbishop Nienstedt’s prayer for heterosexual marriage, Bernard Schlager, director of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry, asks on HuffingtonPost.com: “How About A Prayer for All Marriages?”

2) On ReligionDispatches.org, Sarah Posner asserts “In 2012 Bishops Join Fight to Repackage Discrimination as ‘Religious Freedom.’ “

3) Austin Considine of the New York Times takes a bittersweet look at how “Gay Marriage Victory Still Shadowed By AIDS.”

Let us know what you think of these articles, and if you find this feature helpful.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


The Best of 2011: The Year in Review, Part 2

December 31, 2011

Yesterday, we posted “The Worst of 2011,” listing the worst of the negative LGBT Catholic news from the past year.  As promised, today we offer the “The Best of 2011″ for the same topic.

As you will see when you compare these lists, the “best” outweigh the “worst,” making 2011 a pretty good year for LGBT Catholics and those who support them.

The Best of 2011 in LGBT Catholic News

1)  According to a Public Religion Research Institute report, the majority of  U.S. Catholics support justice and equality initiatives for LGBT people, including legal rights for lesbian/gay committed couples.

2) Marriage equality becomes law in New York, the largest state yet to make marriage legal for lesbian/gay couples.  Passage of the law is credited to Catholic Governor Andrew Cuomo, who strongly supported the bill despite strong opposition from the state’s Catholic hierarchy.

3) Equally Blessed, a coalition of four Catholic organizations that work for LGBT justice and equality (Call To Action, DignityUSA, Fortunate Families, New Ways Ministry), sponsors the first-ever Congressional briefing on Catholic support for LGBT issues.  Scores of congressional staffers attend the event on Capitol Hill, Washington, DC.

4) Bishop Joseph Sullivan of Brooklyn, NY, publishes an op-ed essay in the Buffalo News on Catholic outreach to LGBT  people.

5) The “More Than A Monologue: Sexual Diversity and the Catholic Church” conference series is held four different college campuses, two of them Catholic:  Fordham University, Union Theological Seminary, Yale University, Fairfield University.

6) Georgetown University’s LGBTQ Resource Center receives a $1 million donation from former National Football League Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and his wife, Chandler.

7) The students at DePaul University, the largest Catholic university in the nation, elect their first openly gay student body president, Anthony Alfano.

8) When a Boston-area parish elementary school bars admission to the child of a lesbian couple, the Boston archdiocese overturns this decision and institutes a non-discrimination policy.

9) Marquette University institutes domestic partner benefits for faculty and staff.

10) A report on the sexual abuse crisis from John Jay College states that gay priests were not the cause of the crisis, and that homosexuality is not linked to pedophilia.

11) The Los Angeles Archdiocese celebrates 25 years of its Ministry with Lesbian and Gay Catholics program.

12) The Bishops of England and Wales support civil partnership laws for lesbian/gay couples.

13) Bishop Raul Vera of Saltillo, Mexico, vows to continue his LGBT outreach after he was called to the Vatican to discuss his program.

14) Though marriage equality does not pass in Maryland, the bill is introduced by Catholic Senator Robert Garagiola, is supported by numerous Catholic legislators and the Catholic Governor Martin O’Malley.  When it is announced that the bill will be introduced again in the next session, O’Malley plans to work harder for its passage.

15)  DignityUSA hosts its biennial convention, featuring television personality Phil Donahue as a speaker.

16) New Ways Ministry publishes a new book, Marriage Equality: A Positive of  Catholic Approach, and quickly runs out of its first printing.   New Ways also sponsors a conference day in Maryland on marriage equality.  Later in the year, New Ways Ministry institutes a blog to cover LGBT Catholic news, Bondings 2.0  (you’re reading it now!)

Some analysis

2011 may well be seen as a turning point year in the Catholic LGBT movement due to the many positive things that have occurred.

A definite trend to watch is how much positive movement there is on Catholic college campuses in this area.  As we know, young people are much more inclined to accept LGBT people, so campuses are responding in the same spirit.

Another trend I notice is that politicians, even Catholic ones, no longer fear the wrath of the hierarchy on issues like marriage equality.  One reason for this is probably that political leaders are becoming aware that Catholic are more positive on LGBT issues.  Another reason that is true for Catholic politicians, though, is that they are starting to support marriage equality because of their Catholic faith, not in spite of it.  Many of their statements use Catholic social justice teaching to back up their pro-marriage equality positions.

Yesterday I pointed out that all the items on the “worst” list involved bishops.  What I noticed as I put together this “best” list is that bishops figure prominently in some of these events, signaling that there is hope for change in the hierarchy of the Catholic church.

What do you think?  Did we miss some positive events that you thought worthy of the list?  Do you notice any other trends in the past year?

Here are some other year-end round-ups that, while not on LGBT  Catholic issues, might be of interest:

Advocate.com: 14 Reasons That Made 2011 Great for Trans People

New York Times Blog: In California, 2011 Was a Good Year for Causes of Gays

HuffingtonPost.com: Pro-LGBT Christian Voices Take Center Stage in 2011: The Top 10 (though I have to wonder why, given the wealth of stories listed above, that no Catholic story made this list)

WashingtonPost.com On Faith Blog: The 11 Most Important Religion and Politics Findings of 2011

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


The Worst of 2011: Year in Review, Part 1

December 30, 2011

2011 is coming to a close, so it’s proper that we should look back over the past to review what has happened in LGBT Catholic news.  Two weeks ago, we asked for your votes for the best and worst news stories of the year.  Thank you to all who submitted entries.  Today we will list the stories that fall in the “worst” category, and tomorrow we will post the list of the best.

The Worst of 2011 in LGBT Catholic News

1) Daniel Avila, a marriage adviser to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, writes a column in Boston’s archdiocesan newspaper, The Pilot, in which he claims that the devil is the cause of homosexuality.  After much outcry, the paper pulls the column and Avila resigns as an adviser to the bishops.

2) Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George compares the LGBT movement to the Ku Klux Klan.  Given three opportunities to clarify his comments, the cardinal persists in applying the analogy, though, he says he was not talking about people but only about the similarity between parades of the two groups.  This story is still ongoing.

3) Six dioceses in Illinois close down adoption services rather than adhere to a state law which recognizes civil unions of lesbian/gay couples.    The same response had been taken by bishops in Massachusetts and the District of Columbia when those jurisdictions legalized marriage for lesbian/gay couples.

4) Los Angeles’ Archbishop Jose Gomez protests the inclusion of LGBT history in the state’s education curriculum.  The inclusive curriculum is instituted.

5) New York’s Archbishop Timothy Dolan, in an interview, refers to lesbian/gay people in this way: “we’re going to be booed if we don’t hire these people.”

6) Boston Archdiocese cancels Pride Mass at St. Cecelia’s parish.  Silver Lining:  Mass goes on one month later with strong message of welcome from the pastor.

7) Bishops in New York, Rhode Island, Maryland, and Minnesota mount major campaigns to prevent marriage equality from becoming the law of the land.Marriage bills are defeated in Maryland and Rhode Island.  Gender non-discrimination bill is defeaed in Maryland.

8) The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops initiates a campaign to defend religious liberty, claiming that religious institutions and people are suffering because lesbian/gay people are acquiring more rights.

Some Analysis

In compiling this list I’ve noticed two important trends.

The first finding is that all of these negative items involve bishops.  While the one at the top of the list, Daniel Avila’s comment about the devil, was not perpetrated by a bishop, Mr. Avila was an adviser to the bishops, which is what made this story all the more egregious.

This trend shows what we have long known and what statistical researchers are starting to prove:  Catholic lay people are much more supportive of LGBT people and issues than the bishop Catholic bishops are.

The second finding is that it was actually difficult to find negative stories that occurred this year.  I used readers’ comments, and I reviewed the past issues of our print newsletter, Bondings, and the positive stories way outnumbered the negative ones.   This trend shows that things are, in fact, getting better.  I think you’ll see that tomorrow, when we post the best of 2011 list.

Do you agree with this list? With these trends? What stories have we missed? What trends do you see?

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Cardinal George, LGBT People, and the Klan

December 22, 2011

Description: A Ku Klux Klan meeting in Gainesv...

The Catholic hierarchy are starting to let their claws and teeth show.

Fox-TV News in Chicago reports today that Cardinal Francis George of Chicago has compared the gay liberation movement to the Ku Klux Klan.   A story and video of the interview is available on their website.

The Huffington Post report of this incident has the text of the Cardinal’s explanation of his analogy:

“You don’t want the gay liberation movement to morph into something like the Klu Klux Klan, demonstrating in the streets against Catholicism.”

When the Fox host pointed out that George’s comparison was “a little strong,” the cardinal stood by his statement.

“It is, but you take a look at the rhetoric,” he continued. “The rhetoric of the Klu Klux Klan, the rhetoric of some of the gay liberation people. Who is the enemy? Who is the enemy? The Catholic Church.”

This comes on the heels of last month’s statement by Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, where he said, in reference to lesbian and gay people:

“We said the next thing will be we’ll be sued if we don’t do marriage, we’re going to be harassed if we don’t do receptions, we’re going to be penalized if we don’t allow adoption, we’re going to be booed if we don’t hire these people.”

The sheer ridiculousness and callousness of these comments show not only  ignorance of the LGBT movement, but also bespeak an irrational fear.

What else can account for such vicious responses?  Part of the fear may be due to the fact that the hierarchy senses they are losing the argument on LGBT equality.  I do not think that these men are evil.  I believe them to be motivated by good and trying to do good, but that pressure is getting  the best of them and making them act in irrational ways.  I am not excusing their behavior or statements at all, but I think it is important to understand what may be behind these statements.

Regardless of the motivation, an apology is needed in both cases.

I first learned of  Cardinal George’s  statement from our friends at the Unitarian Universalist website, www.standingonthesideoflove.org/blog.  I agree with their call to action:

“Get in touch with Cardinal George. Ask him to reconsider his comments and issue an apology. Above all else, approach this conversation with the greatest amount of love you can muster, lest we give credence to his beliefs that “the gay liberation movement” is full of angry hate-mongers. Our issue isn’t with Catholics — it’s with those leaders who use divisive, incendiary language and tactics to suppress an entire group of people and our families.

“You can leave a message for Cardinal George through his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/FrancisCardinalGeorgeOMI

“Or try the Diocese Catholic Information Line: 312-534-8204.”

Equally Blessed, the coalition of faithful Catholics who work for LGBT equality and justice (of which New Ways Ministry is a member), has released this statement in response to Cardinal George’s comment.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


A Tale of Two Prayers

December 19, 2011

For Catholics in Minnesota, the debate over a proposed state constitutional amendment to prohibit marriage for lesbian/gay couples has become “a tale of two prayers.”

Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul sent out “A Prayer for Marriage” to all the parishes in the archdiocese, which he said is

“meant for use within the Holy Mass as part of the Prayer of the Faithful. In addition, I would encourage the posting of the prayer within Eucharistic Adoration chapels, along with an encouragement to adorers to pray for the success of the amendment and all efforts to strengthen marriage.”

You can read his letter to parishes and read the full text of the prayer here.

The natural question that comes to mind in response to this prayer is why is the archbishop offering a “prayer of the faithful” to the faithful?  Shouldn’t “prayers of the faithful” come from the laity, not the hierarchy?

Well, the faithful have issued a prayer for marriage.  Catholics for Marriage Equality-MN published a prayer on their website, c4me-mn.blogspot.com, which supports marriage equality for lesbian/gay couples.  Written by Chris Wogaman, the prayer asks God for healthy and holy approaches to relationships and also

“God, we ask that you bring peace to the hearts of those who are troubled about the love that some people have for one another. Calm our defensiveness with your comforting Spirit, and enlarge our vision, for we can but see through a glass, darkly, the miracles of love you have empowered among us.”

You can read the entire text of this prayer here.

Since polls keep showing that lay Catholics are more supportive of marriage equality than the bishops are, we suspect that the prayer from Catholics for Marriage Equality-MN will be the one that is prayed more often in Minnesota.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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