Theologian Challenges Pax Christi to Embrace LGBT Equality and Justice

June 20, 2013

This past weekend, my New Ways Ministry colleague Bob Shine and I attended the national conference of Pax Christi USA, the Catholic organization which promotes peace, justice, and non-violence.  We had an exhibit booth there for New Ways Ministry, distributing our materials about LGBT ministry and equality.

Father Bryan Massingale

Father Bryan Massingale

With Bishop Thomas Gumbleton as the opening keynoter and Father Bryan Massingale, a Marquette University theologian who specializes in social ethics, as the closing plenary speaker, the three days of meetings were book-ended by great inspiration.

For me, and for many of the participants, the highlight of the weekend came during Fr. Massingale’s talk in which he laid out a number of ways that Pax Christi USA can become more relevant to today’s Catholics, and more effective in church and society.  His final recommendation was that Pax Christi USA needed to start addressing LGBT equality and justice if they want to remain a credible and vibrant voice for peace and justice.  He stated:

“If Pax Christi USA is to remain relevant and on the frontier as a Catholic movement of peacemaking with justice, it must intentionally welcome people of all gender identities and sexual orientations.”

Massingale acknowledged that this might be a “neuralgic and sensitive” issue for some in the organization, but he offered two reasons why he recommended it.  The first was demographics:

“For the young people I teach, equality for gays and lesbians is their civil rights issue.”

He noted a survey of young people from 2009 in which the four top descriptors of religious institutions were:  “intolerant,” “judgmental,” “hypocritical,” and “homophobic.”   He added:

“For young people, the litmus test of the credibility of a religious institution is their stances on LGBT rights.”

The second reason, Massingale suggested, was the justice and human rights argument:

“Around the world, people are humiliated, tortured, raped, exiled, imprisoned, and executed for who they are and how they love.  The most notorious case is going on in Uganda with the so-called ‘Kill the Gays’ bill. . . In South Africa, women who identify as lesbian are subjected to a practice called  ‘corrective rape’ where they are gang raped by men in order to change them from their ‘sinful tendencies.’ “

Massingale added that “we don’t need to go overseas,” mentioning the series of murders classified as gay hate crimes in New York City during May 2013.  He noted mournfully:

“And these hate crimes, these brutal murders were met by a deafening, appalling silence from Catholic leaders.”

Massingale summed up this section of his talk with moral principles that are deep in Catholic theology:

“Whatever disagreements one may have with someone’s conduct, their fundamental human rights are inalienable and God-given.

“These human rights must be protected and defended without compromise or ambiguity.  This is not political correctness.  This is the Gospel.”

An audio recording of Fr. Massingale’s entire talk is available on the Pax Christi USA website.  A news story about the entire conference can be found on The National Catholic Reporter website.

My experience at the weekend conference tells me that Pax Christi members were well-disposed to receive Fr. Massingale’s challenge.  The part of his talk that dealt with LGBT issues was interrupted several times by loud, approving applause.   At New Ways Ministry’s exhibit table, we were busy all weekend talking with Pax Christi members who are extremely supportive of LGBT issues.  Indeed, we returned home practically empty-handed, having distributed almost all of our materials.  We were afraid we would run-out!

Pax Christi USA already has a precedent for taking on LGBT issues.  In 1998, the organization partnered with New Ways Ministry to produce a full-page signature advertisement in the New York Times, in response to the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard, a young gay man in Wyoming.  Close to 2,000 Catholics, including nine bishops, signed the statement entitled, “A Catholic Pledged to End Violence Against Lesbian and Gay People.”

But, of course, Fr. Massingale’s message is one that not only needed to be delivered to Pax Christi, but to the entire church.

New Ways Ministry thanks PaxChristiUSA for hosting us at their conference and for providing a platform for Fr. Bryan Massingale’s passionate and prophetic talk.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 

 


Dignity/Detroit Celebrates 39th Anniversary Amid Protests

May 7, 2013

The same weekend Catholic parents held vigil in Detroit to affirm their LGBT children’s place in the Church, an anti-gay organization protested Dignity/Detroit’s 39th anniversary celebrations at Marygrove College, Detroit.

Only about twenty protestors showed up to oppose the anniversary Mass.  They were upset that the Catholic college granted permission for Dignity/Detroit to hold a liturgy on its campus. Protesters gathered at the edge of Marygrove College, where they claimed to defend ‘traditional marriage’ and Archbishop Allen Vigneron’s assertion that pro-LGBT Catholics should not receive Communion.

However, the minor protest did not impede the Mass and the Detroit Free Press reports:

“A group of gay rights advocates staged a counter-demonstration on the other side of the college entrance, carrying a large rainbow flag. One attendant of the mass came out and challenged the protestors.

“‘The message of Jesus is love and acceptance,’ said Rick Gillon of Detroit. He said as church attendance across Christian denominations is falling, Christians should welcome people through church doors rather than push them away.”

Bishop Thomas Gumbleton

Bishop Thomas Gumbleton

The Mass was presided over by Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, who recently said all are welcome in the Catholic community in response to the archbishop’s exclusionary statements, along with other priests who minister with Dignity/Detroit. He received two standing ovations during the liturgy. One of the preacher’s at the Mass spoke about the protests:

“Justin Kelly, an associate professor of religious studies at the University of Detroit Mercy, said he was one of many preachers speaking at the evening mass. He said the protestors had every right to be there, but that he had no issue ministering to gay and lesbian parishioners.

“’They’re fellow Christians and I believe it would not be following the example of Jesus to exclude them,’ he said.”

For it’s part, the Archdiocese of Detroit remained neutral on the matter of Marygrove College hosting Dignity/Detroit’s Masses, saying through a spokesperson to CBS Detroit:

“‘There are hundreds of Masses celebrated in the Detroit archdiocese every weekend…It’s always Archbishop Vigneron’s expectation that these liturgies are conducted in full conformity with the Catholic Church’s teachings and practices.’”

Marianne Duddy-Burke

Marianne Duddy-Burke

Marianne Duddy-Burke of Dignity/USA responded to the Detroit controversies with this statement:

“Our faith is very important to us…Most Catholics would be appalled to know that fellow Catholics cannot easily access our sacraments, have a Mass. We also believe we are all children of a loving God and should be able to worship in peace.”

The matter of LGBT Catholics finding communities to worship has been highlighted in recent weeks, with comments by Archbishop Vigneron and Cardinal Timothy Dolan sparking demonstrations and outcry. Bondings 2.0 previously reported on the New York City Catholics threatened with arrest for entering St. Patrick’s Cathedral with ‘dirty hands.’

As American bishops continue closing church doors in the face of LGBT Catholics, their families, and their allies, Pope Francis preaches instead on being a church of ‘yes’ that welcomes all. During Mass last week, the new pope said:

“We ask the Lord that the Holy Spirit help us always to become a community of love, of love for Jesus who loved us so much. A community of this ‘yes’…A community of open doors. And it defends us from the temptation…to seek a para-evangelical purity, from being a community of ‘no’.”


Perhaps the American hierarchy should take a cue from Rome and try opening church doors, instead of literally closing them — modeling their efforts after the many gay–friendly parishes, Dignity chapters, including Detroit, gay-friendly Catholic colleges, and intentional Eucharistic communities– all who have decades of positive ministry could be a good start.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Catholic Parents Protest at Detroit Archdiocese in Communion Debate

May 5, 2013
Catholic parents protesting at the headquarters of the Archdiocese of Detroit.

Catholic parents protesting at the headquarters of the Archdiocese of Detroit.

Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron’s suggestion that Catholics who support marriage equality in  his diocese should not receive communion has sparked a protest led by Catholic parents of LGBT people.

The Detroit Free Press reports that

“. . . supporters of gay Catholics gathered for a prayer vigil in front of the Archdiocese of Detroit’s chancery headquarters. . . .

“About 25 people sang, ‘All are welcome in this place,’ and marched with rainbow flags in front of the downtown chancery building, saying they had gay relatives and friends.

“Artemae Anderson, 69, of Detroit said she attends mass regularly, receives communion and supports gay marriage. ‘It’s very hurtful,’ Anderson said of Vigneron’s comments. ‘If we just follow the gospel message of Jesus, we’ll be OK.’ “

The demonstration was organized by Linda Karle-Nelson, president of Fortunate Families, a national network of Catholic parents of LGBT people, and her husband, Thomas Nelson. Another Free Press article quotes their thoughts on the protest:

Linda Karle-Nelson and Thomas Nelson

Linda Karle-Nelson and Thomas Nelson

“ ‘He’s [Vigneron] not going to keep me from the Eucharist,’ said Nelson, 83, a retired engineer from Farmington Hills. ‘Somebody’s got to stand up and say, “Enough.” ‘

“ ‘We’re not going to change churches,’ said [Linda] Karle-Nelson, 72, a speech pathologist. ‘We can plant seeds. Our theme has been sharing stories, and sharing stories is a way of changing hearts.’ ”

A local Catholic pastor noted the ridiculousness of Vigneron’s suggestion:

“The Rev. Norman Thomas, who is a pastor of Detroit parishes Sacred Heart and St. Elizabeth, said Vigneron’s statement ‘was kind of insensitive.’

“ ‘Are people expected to exempt themselves, or is there going to be a check-off right there at the (communion) line?’ Thomas said.”

The Huffington Post  quoted one of the founders of Fortunate Families responding to protest:

“Mary Ellen Lopata, who is the co-founder and on the board of directors of Fortunate Families, said it’s a ‘sad situation’ that many children have left the Catholic church over its lack of acceptance of gays and lesbians.

” ‘We encourage people to speak up, because the bishops don’t know our children and they need to hear our children, and understand that our children are every bit as whole and holy,’ Lopata said.

” ‘We’re starting to see tiny glimmers of hope that pastors and members of the hierarchy might be willing to talk,’ Lopata said. ‘We do believe that if they would just talk to us and talk to children and listen to what they would have to say, their hearts would be changed.’ “

Parents of LGBT people are some of the strongest justice and equality advocates in the Catholic Church.  They love both their children and the church, and they are not willing to let their be animosity between these groups. Catholic parents of LGBT people have had to go on a journey of understanding, acceptance, and love, and, as a result, they have a LOT that they can teach the rest of the church about understanding, accepting, and loving LGBT people.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related Posts

April 27, 2013: Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson Chastises Archbishop on Communion Issue

April 19, 2013: Bishop Gumbleton Preaches on Christ’s Radical Welcome for All

April 12, 2013: Gumbleton to Pro-Marriage Equality Catholics: ‘Don’t Stop Going to Communion’


Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson Chastises Archbishop on Communion Issue

April 27, 2013
Bishop Gene Robinson

Bishop Gene Robinson

Bishop Gene Robinson, the Episcopal Church’s first openly gay bishop, has criticized Archbishop Allen Vigneron, the Roman Catholic head of the Archdiocese of Detroit, for the recent comments had made suggesting that Catholics who support marriage equality should not receive communion.  Bondings 2.0 reported earlier on Vigneron’s statement, as well as two responses from Detroit’s retired Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Gumbleton.  You can read Bishop Gumbleton’s responses, which contradict Vigneron, here and here.

In an essay on the Washington Post’s “On Faith” blog, Robinson provides Vigneron with a theology lesson on the Eucharist:

“I believe that using Communion as such a manipulative tool surely profanes the sacrament. Perhaps these Catholic leaders should revisit their church’s theology of the Eucharist. Reception of the body and blood of Christ at Communion is God’s gift to God’s people, not a reward for right behavior. We receive Communion not because we are worthy of it, but because God’s offers us the body and blood of Christ despite our unworthiness.”

Robinson points out that excluding people from communion seems be based on arbitrary judgments:

“While some are seeking to withhold Communion from pro-choice and pro-marriage-equality Catholics, I have heard no call to withhold Communion from priests and bishops who have engaged in horrific sexual abuse against vulnerable children, nor their enablers. Bernard Cardinal Law, whose administration actively facilitated the moving around of known pedophile priests to other unsuspecting parishes, has not been denied Communion, but instead been rewarded with a prestigious church in Rome.”

The Catholic hierarchy is dangerously pursuing a path which separates them further and further from the faith-experience of Catholics:

“American Catholics have a long and honorable history of discerning their own consciences in matters of human life and dignity. For instance, 98 percent of Catholic women have gone against church law and used birth control. Indeed, individual conscience is a core value in Catholic teaching. It seems that Catholic laity are refusing to be treated like morally ignorant children who cannot think for themselves. At a very minimum, Catholic laity (and many of their local clergy) know that these issues should be discussed in an open and faithful way. They also know that people of faith will disagree on some of the ramifications of trying to live out the Gospel.”

Robinson concludes with an important reminder for bishops and laity alike:

“If those who have fallen short of God’s moral desires for humankind are to be denied Communion, then none of us can in good conscience receive the body and blood of Christ. The good news message of Jesus Christ is that despite our failure to be all that God would want us to be, we are all welcome at the Lord’s Table anyway. Until the Roman Catholic hierarchy gets that right, they might prayerfully consider quieting their judgmental rhetoric and contemplating the humility Jesus suggested as a value to be lived by all.”

The Archdiocese of Detroit had no comment on Robinson’s essay.  According to the Detroit Free Press:

“Asked for a response and to describe the reaction that Vigneron experienced in the wake of his comments, an Archdiocese spokesman Wednesday declined giving details.

“ ‘With respect, we’ll not be offering a response to the op-ed or discuss the responses people have given to us,’ said spokesman Joe Kohn. ‘We don’t really keep a scorecard of those types of things anyhow. Any individual who has a specific concern or question, we just try to answer as best we can.’ ”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Bishop Gumbleton Preaches on Christ’s Radical Welcome for All

April 19, 2013
Bishop Thomas Gumbleton

Bishop Thomas Gumbleton

Responding to statements by Detroit’s Archbishop Allen Vigneron suggesting pro-marriage equality Catholics  refrain from  Communion, Bishop Thomas Gumbleton instead told Catholics last week, “Don’t stop coming to Communion.” He expanded that message of inclusivity in his weekly National Catholic Reporter column, “The Peace Pulpit,” and in an extensive interview with Democracy Now.

Writing in the National Catholic Reporter, Bishop Gumbleton reflected on last Sunday’s Gospel reading (John 21:1-19) and the implications for how we form a church after Jesus appears post-Resurrection to the disciples. He concludes that the church is a place where all, without condition or exception, are welcomed:

“As we go on in what happens on this occasion, we discover a couple of things about that mission. One is how it has to be totally inclusive. You don’t push anybody out of the community. You draw everybody in, until you have — in John’s Gospel, he often uses large numbers to make a point by exaggeration. Back when he changed water into wine, when Jesus did that, John said, ‘There were six jugs of water with thirty gallons of each,’ he’s making a point. Thirty gallons in six jugs, that’s a lot of wine, but they certainly didn’t drink it all on that occasion. John is simply making a point: there’s no limit to what God can do. So this occasion, when they’re fishing, the net is bulging with fish, bulging, but it doesn’t break. See, everybody can come in…

“It’s something we need to remember, that we’re not to push people away from the church. We’re supposed to draw them in. We want everyone to be part of this community of the disciples of Jesus.”

Bishop Gumbleton also notes the Gospel teaches us about community leadership and inclusivity:

“Again, I want to emphasize that the disciples were just learning this, how to be the community of disciples, how to be the church. There wasn’t a predetermined plan with institutional guidelines and laws developed and so on. No, none of that. They had to struggle to understand how to be the community of disciples of Jesus…

“But here, right at the beginning, it’s altogether different. It’s to be a leadership of love…

“That’s the kind of church we have to be working toward becoming part of — following that leadership of love, not a leadership of power and authority and penances and penalties and exclusions and so on, but a leadership that says love.

“Love is the only thing that really counts in this community of disciples of Jesus; love and leadership of the church throughout all the members of the church. The whole community would be a community of disciples who love one another and who proclaim that love to the world around us and who carry out the mission of Jesus by drawing all into this community of disciples.

“We establish the church by doing this promulgation of love wherever we go, not just by our words, but by our actions. When we become that kind of a church, from the Pope right through the whole community, then that’s when we’ll be a sign to the world that will draw the world to enter into the reign of God and bring fullness of God’s reign into reality — a reign of love, a reign that will be peace and justice for all.”

Bishop Gumbleton is a long-standing advocate for welcoming the LGBT community within the Catholic Church, and he spoke for nearly an hour with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now last week about many issues of justice, church reform, and his personal journey. Within that, Bishop Gumbleton noted the importance of conscience in the Church’s relationship with gay and lesbian individuals:

“No one can judge the conscience of any other person. And homosexual people have to deal with who they are, how they express intimacy and love. And I am sure, based on the teaching of the church, also that, before anything else, a person’s own individual conscience gives guidance to how that person must act, and no one can interfere with that. And that’s teaching that goes right back to the beginning of the church…That’s their conscience decision, and it’s between each person and God. And that’s church teaching. And so, how individuals deal with their homosexuality is something that we have to respect.”

In Bishop Gumbleton’s wisdom, a clear plan for clergy in reaching out to the LGBT community is available in this model of radical inclusivity. Cardinal Dolan recently remarked about the need for improved relations between the church and LGBT people. He would do well to listen his fellow bishop who preaches Christ’s radical inclusivity, the primacy of conscience, and most of all, love.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


LGBT Advocates React to Election of Pope Francis

March 16, 2013
Bishop Thomas Gumbleton

Bishop Thomas Gumbleton

Seemingly everyone has posted their thoughts about Pope Francis since his election last Wednesday evening, discussing everything from his country of origin, how the conclave played out, and where he may lead the Church. Prominently featured in these discussions is the new pope’s previous views on Catholic LGBT issues, sparking reactions from relevant organizations and commentators. Bondings 2.0 provides a sampling below.

Outspoken LGBT advocate and New Ways Ministry friend, Bishop Thomas Gumbleton told the Detroit Free Press that Pope Francis seems promising:

“‘It sounds like to me he’ll be open to the dialogue. He seems to have rapport with the people in his diocese…It seems to be the right direction.’

“Gumbleton said Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio brings to mind the papacy of John XXIII, which ushered in the Second Vatican Council, modernizing Catholic services and promoting the use of more laypeople in parish life…

“’St. Francis tried to live the radical gospel view of Jesus — simplicity, poverty — and he didn’t want a hierarchy. All of those signs look very promising,’ he said.”

Professor Tina Beattie

Joshua McElwee at National Catholic Reporter provides insights from leading Catholic theologians across the world on the election, with many perceiving a willingness to listen to and respect the laity’s role in the Church. From Tina Beattie, a professor at the University of Roehampton:

“For me this morning, if this man remains as attentive as he has been to the voice of the poor, if he makes it a listening as well as a teaching Church, a Church of the people rather than of the Curia, then I for one will keep quietly cheering and thanking God.”

Fr. Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator

From Fr. Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator, a Jesuit provincial in East Africa and theologian, believes that this new papacy will be marked by a refocusing on the People of God and not just the pope as those responsible for the well-being and growth of the Church:

“I want to believe that considering the humble and down-to-earth background of Pope Francis I the church is in capable hands — not just the pope’s alone, but the hands of the entire people of God across the globe.

“Francis’s first gesture of asking the people to pray to God for him may signal the beginning of a more authentic and humble recognition of the priesthood of the people of God and the responsibility we all bear for the church of God in the world.”

Many organizations released statements as well in the wake of Pope Francis’ election, which were compiled by Windy City Times. DignityUSA released a statement by Executive Director Marianne Duddy-Burke expressing cautious encouragement given the cardinals’ choice:

Marianne Duddy-Burke

“‘We recognize that sometimes this new job on which he embarks can change the man called to it…We invite him to take the time to learn about our lives [of LGBT individuals, their loved ones, and families], our faith, and our families before he makes any papal pronouncements about us, and we stand ready to enter into dialogue with him at any time.’”

The Human Rights Campaign called for the new pope to join the existing reality of American Catholics’ efforts for LGBT equality:

“’We hope the new Pope understands the time for religious-based bigotry is not only over, but must be denounced. Demonizing LGBT people and their families from this powerful platform not only fails to keep faith…but it does real psychological damage to millions of LGBT people around the world.’”

Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director of New Ways Ministry, was quoted in The Baltimore Sun:

Francis DeBernardo

Francis DeBernardo

“[Francis DeBernardo] said in a statement that he hopes the change in the church’s leadership will bring about a change in approach. Many have left the church over its harsh rhetoric toward gays and lesbians…

“‘Pope Francis has the opportunity to repair much of this hurt and alienation by offering sincere pastoral outreach to LGBT people and their families,’ DeBernardo, who was traveling in El Salvador, said in a prepared statement. ‘A welcoming gesture from the new pope in the first month of his papacy can go a long way to express God’s love for all humanity.’”

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


LGBT Injustices Central at Loretto Community 200th Jubilee Celebration in DC

September 19, 2012

Loretto Sisters, Co-members and Friends at the USCCB

LGBT issues were front and center when 40 people gathered in Washington, D.C. to celebrate the Loretto Community’s 200th Jubilee.

Planned on the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, the DC gathering included visits to seven sights of injustice where the group prayed and sang a litany of saints and heroes. Sites visited were the US Supreme Court, the US Capitol, the DC Jail, the Vietnam War Memorial, the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, the Vatican Embassy, and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) headquarters.

Sr. Jeannine Gramick, a Sister of Loretto and co-founder of New Ways Ministry, and Matthew Myers, a co-member of Loretto who currently chairs New Ways Ministry’s Board of Directors, joined Sr. Maureen Fiedler of the Sisters of Loretto and Eileen Harrington, a co-member, in leading the afternoon’s celebrations.

Amongst the injustices called to mind were those committed against the LGBT community. These included the exclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons from equal protections under the law at the Supreme Court and the campaign against marriage equality launched by Catholic bishops that makes LGBT persons objects of discrimination.

Sr. Jeannine Gramick of New Ways Ministry and Sr. Maureen Fiedler

In the Loretto tradition of  ‘working for justice and acting for peace,’ the saints and heroes who struggle for equality and conscience were called to mind as well.

In the political and legal realm, those gathered sang the names of John Lawrence, plaintiff in the case that decriminalized same-gender consensual sex, as well as President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder, who have refused to enforce the Defense of Marriage Act.

In the ecclesiastical realm, theologians Hans Kung, Charles Curran, and Margaret Farley were sung at the Vatican Embassy for their progressive views on human sexuality and the Vatican censures that followed. Bishop Thomas Gumbleton was intoned at the USCCB for his outspoken voice for LGBT rights within the Catholic Church.

Fittingly, Sr. Jeannine was included in the litany, along with several other women religious. The program described Sr. Jeannine in the following way:

“Loretto Sister who advocates for LGBT persons in the face of continual Vatican opposition.”

In 1992, after the Vatican had directed U.S. bishops to pull back from their support of civil rights’ legislation for lesbian and gay people, the Loretto General Assembly issued a statement in support of lesbian and gay civil rights which included the following:

“. . . as U.S. citizens, we believe that our constitutional tradition–properly understood and interpreted–ought to guarantee basic civil rights and equal protection of our laws to all citizens regardless of sexual orientation. It saddens us that the Vatican would enter the U.S. political arena by encouraging a departure from the finest ideals of our political tradition, ideals which promote equality and basic civil rights for everyone.
“Consequently, we call upon our political leaders to guarantee the civil rights of lesbian and gay persons in the law of our land. We call upon the U.S. Catholic Bishops to support such legislation as an authentic expression of the gospel call to respect the intrinsic human rights and dignity of all persons.”

New Ways Ministry applauds Loretto for 200 years of powerful witness to working for justice and acting for peace because of the Gospel’s urgent call.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


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