Was Synod 2014 a “Turning Point” or “Clash of Factions”? What Will Synod 2015 Be?

December 13, 2014

The upcoming synod on marriage and family to take place at the Vatican in 2015 was in the news this week because the discussion document was released, and bishops around the world were once again asked to consult with the laity about matters pertaining to the synod’s topic.

Pope Francis

But this week there was also a looking back towards the October 2014 synod.  At his general audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis spoke about the recent meeting and said that the meeting did not include a “clash of factions,” as media reports indicated.  Religion News Service provided excerpts from the pope’s comments on the past synod:

“ ‘Some of you have asked me if the synod fathers fought,’ Francis said. ‘I don’t know if they “fought,” but they spoke forcefully. This is freedom. This is just the kind of freedom that there is in the church.’

“In a bid to set the record straight, the pope acknowledged the extensive media coverage of the global gathering in October and likened it to ‘sports or political coverage.’

“ ‘They often spoke of two teams, pro and con, conservatives and liberals,’ the pope told thousands of pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square.

“ ‘There was no clash between factions … but a dialogue between the bishops, which came after a long process of preparation and now continues, for the good of the family, the church and society. It’s a process.’ ”

Jesuit commentator Father Thomas Reese had a different interpretation of the meeting.  He stated that differences of opinion clearly existed among the synod participants, making this synod very different from those in recent memory.  Reese said:

“Rather than advising the pope, these earlier synods often simply quoted the pope to himself. They were a way of bishops showing their loyalty. Francis gave the bishops freedom to speak.”

Indeed, in the document that was released this week, that landmark meeting in October was described as a pastoral “turning point” for the Church, the Associated Press noted.

Both New Ways Ministry and DignityUSA criticized this week’s document because of using the term “homosexual tendencies,” and because of lack of focus on families headed by gay and lesbian couples. In addition to each group’s statements, an Advocate.com article contained additional comments from the leaders of these two organizations.

 

Ryan Denson, writing at AddictingInfo.com has a different point of view, though, about the document and the upcoming synod.  He sees the identification of a “turning point” as significant, and that the Catholic Church may be on the road to becoming more open to LGBT people and those who are divorced and remarried.  Denson wrote:

“Baby steps are turning into leaps as Pope Francis and the Vatican urge the world’s bishops to be guided, not just by doctrine, but by the Pope’s compassionate message which includes a ‘turning point’ inspired by meetings at the Vatican. The new message seeks to provide better pastoral care for gays and divorcees across the globe . . . .

“[I]n other words, the Vatican is asking the bishops and other clergy members to act like Jesus, who loves and respects all, and not act like arrogant, judgmental religious zealots. Instead of focusing on outdated dogma, Pope Francis is truly teaching the Gospels, and with the ousting of several prominent homophobic priests, the Vatican is starting to realize that he means business.

“The bottom line is this: the Pope is currently facing vocal opposition from those who view the church as an exclusive club where the unsaved and unworthy are not welcomed. He wants to change this. And he has made it very obvious that he does.”

ThinkProgress.com also looked on a more positive side to the survey released.  They quoted several progressive Catholic leaders, who have a more optimistic view of the synod, the questionnaire, and the process.  Bob Shine of New Ways Ministry was one of those more optimistic voices:

“ ‘Language about tendencies is problematic,’ Shine, who oversees young adult ministries for New Ways, told ThinkProgress in an email. ‘That said, I think the intentions of reaching out to and providing pastorally for LGBT people and their families is what is really guiding this process … Pope Francis has encouraged genuine dialogue during this whole synodal process.’ ”

Other Catholic leaders said likewise:

“ ‘Regardless of the wording, the survey itself is a step in the right direction towards providing better pastoral care of LGBT people, as is the Vatican asking for wider inputs from ‘all levels’ for the 2015 synod on the family,’ Stephen Seufert, state director of the progressive Catholic group Keystone Catholics, told ThinkProgress. ‘Both the survey and the Vatican document released yesterday relating to the 2015 synod are indications of a church that wants to focus less on rigid, uncompromising doctrine and more on providing greater pastoral care.’

“James Salt, executive director of the left-leaning advocacy group Catholics United, echoed Seufert.

“ ‘The fact that they are explicitly asking this question is a sign of progress,’ he said. ‘Rather than retreating to a position of doctrine, they are reflecting the changing world that we live in.’ ”

Clearly, marriage and family are high on Pope Francis’ agenda.  This week, he announced that he will be speaking on these topics in a series of talks at his weekly general audiences at the Vatican.  Bondings 2.0 will keep an eye on important messages, especially those relating to LGBT people.

So, what do you think?  Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the upcoming 2015 synod?  What did you think of the document that was released this week?  Are you surprised to hear Pope Francis say that the 2014 synod was not a contentious discussion?  Leave your thoughts in the “Comments” section of this post.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


LGBT Issues Pervade 2013 Call to Action Conference

November 4, 2013

Call To Action 2013 Plenary Session

LGBT Catholic issues pervaded Call to Action’s 2013 conference this past weekend as progressive Catholics gathered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to organize for a more justice and inclusive Church and society. Bondings 2.0 offers a round-up from the weekend to show how central acceptance, welcome, and justice for all sexual orientations and gender identities is in broader efforts for Church renewal.

On Friday, New Ways Ministry co-founder Jeannine Gramick, SL joined other prophetic voices in a daylong reflection on conscience, sponsored by the 8th Day Center for Justice. Gramick spoke about her four decades in ministry among the LGBT community and her struggles with the institutional Church that resulted from this work.

A La Familia also hosted a seminar on the same day focusing on acceptance within Latino families of LGBTQ members, which was hosted by Lisbeth Melendez Rivera and Rose Manriquez.

Jamie Manson

Jamie Manson

Saturday’s plenary session featured writer and LGBT advocate Jamie Manson, a Catholic lesbian woman whose reflections on intergenerational companionship this blog recently profiled. She joined a panel on the future of Catholic ministry, and when speaking on inclusivity, Manson said:

“It used to be prophetic to include women and LGBT people. For the new generation, it’s not prophetic. It’s just common sense.”

Manson also spoke of the many young adults who are educated in theology and ministry, but unable to answer their call to leadership in the Church because of, among other obstacles, their sexual orientations and gender identities. Roy Bourgeois, a former Maryknoll priest forced out of his community for supporting women’s ordination, echoed these sentiments, saying the Church’s many years of prayers for more vocations would be answered if only those who want to serve as priests were allowed entry.

World Youth Day participants from Equally Blessed

Saturday also featured several workshops highlighting the need for LGBT justice in Catholic and civil communities. These included:

  • “Why the Church, for its Own Salvation, Needs Our Queer Sisters and Brothers” led by Miguel De La Torre;
  • “Same-Sex Marriage and Beyond: The Catholic Imperative for LGBT Equality” led by Marianne Duddy-Burke;
  • “Sharing the Message of Equally Blessed: Stories from the Pilgrimage to World Youth Day, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil” led by members of CTA 20/30 and Dignity Young Adult Caucus;
  • “LGBT Catholics Standing Together: Intergenerational Issues” led by Jeannine Gramick, SL and Bob Shine;
  • Caucuses by Fortunate Families for parents of LGBT children and by Catholics for Marriage Equality for those in Illinois, and Equally Blessed.

Loretto Volunteers helping with marriage equality in Maryland

On Sunday morning, Call to Action’s Leadership Award was granted to the Loretto Volunteers, a program of the Loretto Community that offers a year of service for young adults in an LGBT-affirming atmosphere rooted in the Catholic tradition. New Ways Ministry is one of the host sites for the Loretto Volunteers.

Following that, Marianne Duddy-Burke of Dignity USA offered a homily during the conference’s closing liturgy. Speaking on the story of Zacchaeus, she proposed modern exclusionary labels equivalent to “taxpayer” that included gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and the parent of an LGBT child.

Marianne Duddy-Burke

Marianne Duddy-Burke

Flipping the narrative, Duddy-Burke asked attendees to place themselves in the position of Jesus, who called Zacchaeus out of the tree and into life. Jesus saw Zacchaeus as a human being with a profound need and engaged that alone, thus Catholics must do the same no matter how different or unlikable people crying out may be.  In conclusion, she envisioned a Church where the only label that makes a difference is beloved Child of God.

Given these speakers and workshops, there is not only widespread need, but also excitement around building up inclusive Catholic communities where LGBT people, their loved ones, families, friends, and allies are all welcomed. You can check out Call to Action’s website for more information on several of these programs described. For further reflections from Jeannine Gramick and Bob Shine on how diverse generations engaged around LGBT issues, check Bondings 2.0 later this week.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Catholics Participate in Prayer Service and Demonstration at Supreme Court

March 27, 2013
New Ways Ministry staff at the marriage equality demonstration outside the Supreme Court:  Sister Jeannine Gramick, Bob Shine, Francis DeBernardo.

New Ways Ministry staff at the marriage equality demonstration outside the Supreme Court: Sister Jeannine Gramick, Bob Shine, Francis DeBernardo.

Yesterday the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on two marriage equality cases.   The historic day began with an interfaith prayer service at the Church of the Reformation, a Lutheran congregation just behind the Supreme Court building.

The service, entitlted “A Prayer for Love and Justice,” featured prayers and rituals from a wide variety of faith traditions–Christian, Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim, pagan, Native American–were all represented as part of the service.  Catholics were represented by Sister Jeannine Gramick of New Ways Ministry and Rev. Joseph Palacios, who ministers at Dignity/Washington.   The event was organized by the United for Marriage coalition.

Rev. Joseph Palacios

Rev. Joseph Palacios

Sister Jeannine Gramick

Sister Jeannine Gramick

Following the prayer service, participants processed to the Supreme Court building and joined the demonstration of thousands of people there who support marriage equality.  Among those in the crowd were Jackie and Buzz Baetz, a Catholic couple from Monkton, Maryland, who displayed a sign showing Catholic support for marriage equality.

Jackie and Buzz Baetz proclaim their message of Catholic support for marriage equality outside the Supreme Court.

Jackie and Buzz Baetz proclaim their message of Catholic support for marriage equality outside the Supreme Court.

New Ways Ministry staff also participated in the demonstration outside the court building.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


New Ways Ministry Hosts Dialogue With LGBT Advocates from Belarus

February 8, 2013

Back row, left to right: Patrick Wojahn, Aliaksandr Paluyan, Kiryl Prasniakov, Irina Solomatina, Bob Shine
Front row, left to right: Sr. Jeanne Gramick, FrancisDeBernardo, Natallia Mankouskaya

New Ways Ministry welcomed a delegation of LGBT advocates from Belarus yesterday who are currently touring the United States to learn about LGBT leadership in this nation.  They visited New Ways Ministry’s office in Maryland because they wanted to connect with a religious organization that works for LGBT equality.

Staff members Francis DeBernardo and Bob Shine joined co-founder Sr. Jeannine Gramick and supporter Patrick Wojahn in explaining the ministry’s purpose and programs. The New Ways Ministry representatives set the work within the broader context of LGBT rights advocacy, giving particular emphasis to the role that Catholics have been playing in marriage equality victories in recent years.

Kiryl Prasniakov, Aliaksandr Paluyan, Natallia Mankouskaya, and Irina Solomatina then explained their struggles in Belarus to support the LGBT community. Free speech and assembly rights are severely limited with public demonstrations frequently leading to arrests and police brutality. Police have raided four gay clubs in the last two months and travel restrictions imposed by the government have limited international fact-finding delegations.  However, all spoke positively of progress being made, and they remain optimistic and undaunted by their struggles.

Belarus is a less religious nation than the US.  Eastern Orthodox Christians are the dominant denomination, and this church has close ties to the government. The delegation seemed curious that US Catholics so freely speak their minds.  They were particularly intrigued that US Catholics speak earnestly with their bishops and clergy about supporting the LGBT community.

Sister Jeannine said of the morning meeting: “I was delighted to know that the women in the delegation were strong feminists and were glad American Catholic women were likewise. That was a highlight for me that they really perked up over feminism.”

Bob Shine commented: “The dangers these human rights activists confront daily gives me a helpful perspective for our work in the United States. While the challenges from the Catholic hierarchy and anti-equality activists in this nation are frustrating, the freedom we have to dialogue openly and honestly cannot be understated.”

Francis DeBernardo observed:  “I was amazed at their courage in working under such a harsh and oppressive legal system.  These men and women are doing important and heroic work, and it was an honor to meet with them and be inspired by their example.”

The Belarusian delegation will be hosted at the White House this week before traveling to California, Texas, Alabama, and New York through February. LGBT advocates, like these from Belarus, are sponsored through a newly-implemented leadership program administered by the US State Department.

New Ways Ministry sends our new friends many blessings as they continue their travels and for the work that lies ahead of them in their homeland!

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Bondings 2.0 and New Ways Ministry In the News

January 13, 2013

newsBondings 2.0  and New Ways Ministry have been in the news three times this past week.

1. Praise from “Across the Pond”

QueeringTheChurch.com, the premier Catholic LGBT blog in the United Kingdom, noted Bondings 2.0’s 500th post milestone with a post of their own commending us for our own blog work.  Editor Terence Weldon offered this evaluation:

“I began following Frank’s blog [Bondings 2.0] soon after [it launched]. Although its focus is heavily on the American church, I still found much of interest and value.”

Coming from Mr. Weldon, one of the pioneers of Catholic LGBT blogging, this praise makes us blush a bit!

He continues by noting the joint effort between New Ways Ministry and London area Catholic LGBT folks in the summer of 2012, when I conducted a “Next Steps” workshop in the UK.  Weldon adds that he continues to discern his next steps with regard to Catholic LGBT ministry:

“I have been contemplating going from a narrow focus on blogging, to a greater emphasis on direct face – to – face work, promoting the Next Steps workshops, and perhaps adopting and adapting some of the other New Ways methods.”

We are very honored that our model of ministry may be replicated somewhat by our friends in the UK.

2.  Bob “Shines” on Another Blog

Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry’s Young Adult and Social Media Coordinator, and a regular contributor to Bondings 2.0, had an essay appear on Catholics United’s young adult blog, OurDailyThread.com.

Shine’s post, entitled “Correcting the Bishops’ Course in 2013,” is a summary of U.S. Catholic bishops’ political involvement in 2012, while it also offers a new course for the coming year:

“The bishops can continue to have their identity be defined by the partisanship, ecclesial legalism, and aberrant traditionalism or they can prepare the way of God anew.”

Among the many topics that Shine covers is the bishops’ campaigns to prevent marriage equality from becoming law in several states.  He notes that the widening gap between the bishops and the Catholic laity and the American electorate on questions of sexual justice hamper the bishops’ ability to speak out on other issues of the day:

“Taken together, the bishops’ deep political investments that failed are deeper losses for their credibility and relevancy in American society. Without swift, major, and lasting course corrections, the bishops will not even be a part of conversations around political matters of great importance. “

Congratulations and thanks to Bob Shine for offering this insightful post on the future of the bishops’  political profile.

3. New Ways Ministry on HuffPostLive

New Ways Ministry’s Co-founder Sister Jeannine Gramick and Executive Director Francis DeBernardo were guests on a segment of HuffPostLive this past week.  The topic of of this online talk show was the ordination of women in the Catholic Church.  Both Sister Gramick and DeBernardo spoke in favor of ordaining women.

You can watch the segment by clicking here.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 

 


CAMPUS CHRONICLES: Responses to LGBT Decisions at UND and CUA

January 8, 2013

Administrators at the University of Notre Dame (UND) and The Catholic University of America (CUA) arrived at opposite decisions in December about  supporting LGBT students on their campuses:  UND accepted a student-run gay-straight alliance as part of a comprehensive pastoral plan, while CUA rjected a proposal for a gay-straight alliance.  Bondings 2.0 previously covered the decisions here for CUA and here for Notre Dame.

Members of Notre Dame’s 4 to 5 Movement

Notre Dame’s release of the pastoral plan, Beloved Friends and Allies, received widespread praise from students and Catholics nationwide alike. Alex Coccia, student leader of the 4 to 5 Movement that had spearheaded the push for an LGBT group, wrote in the University’s student newspaper, The Observer:

“This plan is an enormous accomplishment for the entire Notre Dame family. We would like to thank the students, faculty, staff and administrators who have been an integral part of the 4 to 5 Movement through their involvement and support. Now, as students, we have the responsibility to remain dedicated through the implementation process in order to utilize the full potential of this pastoral plan. Though we remain fully committed to these efforts, today we celebrate this achievement for our community.”

National Catholic Reporter editorialized its support of the decision to recognize and support LGBT students, saying:

“Indeed, what is most noteworthy about the announcement is that it properly recognized that it is not contrary to Catholic teaching to engage in pastoral ministry to any group or to teach and promote tolerance, love and respect for the dignity of every individual. Yes, we all know what the church teaches about same-sex activity. But the church also teaches that all human beings have innate dignity and worth, that they are loved by God and are to be treated with respect. The church teaches that any human community, and any Catholic community worthy of the name, must enflesh this respect for human dignity in the way it treats all of its members.”

Student leaders of CUAllies with Fr. Peter Daly

Student leaders of CUAllies with Fr. Peter Daly

In contrast, The Catholic University of America denied an application for CUAllies, an LGBTQ and Ally student organization, after nearly ten months of dialogue under claims it could too easily become an advocacy group for the “homosexual lifestyle.” In a column in National Catholic Reporter, Fr. Peter Daly described just how troubling  the situation for LGBTQ students is at CUA:

“I had been asked to speak to them because of an article I wrote for Catholic News Service recounting my experiences in dealing with gay young people who were suicidal. I concluded the article with the simple observation that no one should ever feel excluded from God’s love and no one should be driven to despair. Evidently, they were surprised to hear that from a Catholic priest, so they asked me to speak to their group.

“CUAllies is not an officially recognized student group at Catholic University…Lack of university recognition means the group cannot reserve rooms, publicize their meetings, receive student funds or be listed in the student directory. They still manage to meet, however. Students use social media, like Twitter, to communicate, just like the pope.”

Bondings 2.o spoke with the student leadership of CUAllies, who stated their re-commitment to establishing a “safe, welcoming, and affirming” campus and identified 2013 as a crucial year for their movement. On January 14th, the first day of classes, students will be launching a 30 Days of Action campaign to build support as further dialogue begins with the administration in the wake of a harsh denial.

Additionally, concerned alumni, parents, and Catholic LGBT supporters nationwide began organizing under the title “Friends of CUAllies” with a solidarity pledge campaign that has gained nearly 650 signatures in an effort to pressure the administration to listen to students.

New Ways Ministry encourages all to assist these students at CUA in their ongoing struggle to provide a safe and welcoming campus for LGBTQ students by signing the pledge here and ‘Liking’ their Facebook group here.

-Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Resolutions and Hopes for the New Year!

January 1, 2013

new yearA happy and blessed new year to all of New Ways Ministry’s friends and supporters!

January 1st is a time for resolutions and hopes for the future.    The following are some of  the resolutions and hopes for the Catholic LGBT world from New Ways Ministry’s personnel.  What are your resolutions and hopes?  Add them in the “Comments” section of this post.

Sister Jeannine Gramick, Co-Founder:

Resolution: A number of folks in our LGBT family have asked about a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. My resolution in 2013 is to plan this pilgrimage so that the pilgrims can both walk in the footsteps of Jesus and also see the reality of the present-day Palestinian/Israeli situation.

Hope: That marriage equality will become a reality in more states in the U.S. and other nations throughout the world.

Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director:

Resolution: To remember that God has a plan for everything, especially for equality and justice for LGBT people.

Hope:  That more Catholic parishes will open their doors to LGBT people and their families.

Bob Shine, Young Adult and Social Media Coordinator:

Resolution: Find new ways to spread the gospel of equality and justice through social media, including Facebook, Twitter, and Bondings 2.0.

Hope:  That the hierarchy’s rhetoric around marriage will be less hyperbolic to allow for an open and good faith conversation on the issue of equality.

Matthew Myers, Chair, Board of Directors:

Resolution:  To name one thing every day for which I am thankful.

Hope:  That 2013, as the “Year of Faith” proclaimed by the Pope, will be an opportunity for sincere dialogue and genuine communion among members of our church.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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