Dominican Republic Cardinal Uses Anti-Gay Slur Against US Diplomat

July 5, 2013

Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez Rodriguez

A controversy is brewing in the Dominican Republic after President Obama’s choice of an openly gay US ambassador to that nation provoked a severe backlash from conservative Christians, including an anti-gay slur from a Catholic cardinal.

Choosing James ‘Wally’ Brewster, also a major LGBT activist and Obama campaign fundraiser, as nominee for the position is part of a series of LGBT appointments to the diplomatic corp. While equal rights are advancing domestically, critics abroad contend this is the latest efforts of the US to export LGBT rights. Among the critics are members of the Catholic hierarchy in the Dominican Republic, which is 88% Catholic and where bishops heavily influence public opinion. The Miami Herald reports:

“Monsignor Pablo Cedano, auxiliary Catholic bishop of Santo Domingo, said the appointment of Brewster showed ‘a lack of sensitivity, of respect by the United States.’

“Brewster’s position on gay rights ‘is far from our cultural reality,’ he said, adding that if he comes, ‘he’s going to suffer,’ due to the cultural differences, ‘and he’ll have to leave.’ ”

This conflict heightened after Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez Rodriguez used a homophobic slur at a press conference when commenting on the Brewster’s appointment. Daily Mail Online reports he called the nominee a ‘maricon,’ which translates as ‘faggot’ or ‘sissy.’ He continued by saying:

“If the government of Washington considers they are apt to send that kind of ambassador, let the government in Washington go ahead…”

“López warned that if Brewster is sent to the country, ‘the United States can expect anything.’ ”

The cardinal also stated the Church in the Dominican Republic would have no official position on Brewster’s nomination and the Archdiocese of Santo Domingo made no comment. Not all object to President Obama’s choice, however, including LGBT activists in the nation who welcomed the American efforts to expand equality. As The Miami Herald reports:

“It’s a great honor for our country to have someone of his prominence be named ambassador,” Estefanie Hernandez, a member of activist organization GAYP, said as she held a sign welcoming Brewster to motorists who passed a busy oceanfront drive. “To have someone from our community to serve as ambassador is a show of support.”

Supporters also include a Catholic priest, Fr. Jesus Maria Tejada, who openly defied the prelates’ offensive comments and said anti-LGBT prejudice is inappropriate and Brewster would not be discriminated against. More Catholics, clergy and laity alike in the Dominican Republic, need to speak out against this type of anti-gay slander and affirm the Catholic Church’s call to welcome all into the community with respect for each person’s dignity.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Sister Jeannine Gramick Meets Cardinal Turkson at University Conference

May 31, 2013

Editor’s Note:  Sister Jeannine Gramick will take part in a public conversation on marriage equality this evening, May 31, 2013, with Bishop Thomas Paprocki, in Phoenix, Arizona.   The following is her reflection on another recent conversation that she had with Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana.  For more information on tonight’s event, click here.

Sr. Jeannine Gramick speaking with Cardinal Turkson at The Catholic University of America

Sr. Jeannine Gramick speaking with Cardinal Turkson at The Catholic University of America

BY Sister Jeannine Gramick, SL,          Co-founder, New Ways Ministry

Last month, the Catholic University of America, Washington, DC, hosted a conference entitled Peacebuilding 2013: Pacem in Terris at 50,” as a commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Pope John XXIII’s landmark encyclical on peace.

With the hope that the ideas and spirit of “Good Pope John” and Vatican II were being rekindled in our church, I eagerly attended and was not disappointed. Attendees met leading representatives of co-sponsoring organizations, such as the peace and justice departments of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and several Catholic universities, Catholic Relief Services, Pax Christi International, Caritas Internationalis, the Sant’Egidio Community, and the U.S. Institute of Peace.

More than 200 attendees listened to presentations from such well-known Catholic leaders as Fr. Bryan Hehir, John Carr, Drew Christiansen SJ, and Scott Appleby. One speaker I was particularly interested in hearing was Cardinal Peter Turkson from the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

Among LGBT advocates, Cardinal Turkson is known for his anti-gay remarks. For example, in 2012 when the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on African nations to repeal laws that criminalize homosexuality, Cardinal Turkson responded, “…when you’re talking about what’s called ‘an alternative lifestyle,’ are those human rights? … there’s a subtle distinction between morality and human rights, and that’s what needs to be clarified.”

Cardinal Turkson of Ghana

Cardinal Turkson of Ghana

Cardinal Turkson did not entertain questions after his hour long presentation, so I wended my way to the front of the auditorium and, after much picture-taking of various Catholic University officials with the Cardinal, I was poised to ask him my question privately.

“Thank you, Cardinal,” I began, “for emphasizing throughout your talk that the underlying principle of Pacem in Terris is the basic dignity of the human person.

“I was pleased that you gave a few concrete examples of how you used your influence in Ghana to resolve some disputed situations by showing the parties that the basic issue involved was the dignity of the human person. In the situation of gay and lesbian people…”

I got no further with my question. The Cardinal quickly interrupted me, maintaining that the press greatly misunderstood what he meant. He was merely saying that “this” (using the pronoun, without saying the word “homosexuality” or “gay” or “lesbian”) was not acceptable in his culture. He repeated his defense a few times before someone came to whisk him off to lunch.

After lunch, Karen, another conference attendee I met, engaged him in conversation on the same topic. Once again, Cardinal Turkson defended his remarks, asserting he was misquoted. It was clear, Karen said, that he did not wish to say more about the matter. Karen later spoke with a priest from Ghana, who had worked with the Cardinal. The priest maintained that Turkson would never endorse a bill to kill homosexuals but would acknowledge that the culture viewed homosexuality as an aberration that would not be tolerated.

Whether or not Cardinal Turkson was misquoted, the fact remains that he failed to denounce a cultural norm that violates basic human dignity. Perhaps being confronted by some Catholics at a U.S. peace conference may induce him to reexamine his views about the human rights of LGBT people and to respond more thoughtfully to the press in the future. Such face-to-face encounters, coupled with the political wind-change of recent positive remarks on gay civil unions by some Vatican officials, may spur him to understand that those human rights, as Pope John XXIII told the world 50 years ago in Pacem in Terris, are based on the dignity of the human person.


With Dirty Hands, NY Catholics Stand Witness Against Cardinal’s False Welcome

May 3, 2013
St. Patrick's Cathedral

St. Patrick’s Cathedral

New York-area Catholics who support LGBT-inclusion in the Catholic Church are meeting at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Fifth Avenue, Manhattan, this Sunday, May 5, 2013, to attend the 10:15 Mass with dirty hands.

The silent vigil is in response to New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s blog post from a week ago in which he compared lesbian and gay people coming to church to children showing up to dinner with dirty hands.    He used this analogy to say that it was permissible for church leaders to welcome lesbian and gay people to church, but that the leaders needed to remind them that they needed to clean themselves up.   You can read Bondings 2.0′s commentary on Dolan’s blog post here.

Joseph Amodeo, the organizer of this vigil, offers the following explanation and logistical information:

“This Sunday, we’ll respond to Cardinal Dolan’s article that called upon gay people to wash their hands before entering the church. We’ll be attending 10:15am Mass with charcoaled hands, so as to stand in solidarity with LGBT people. This will not be a protest, it will be a silent and powerful witness to our belief that God welcomes all. We’ll meet in front of Barnes & Noble on 5th Ave and 46 St. We’ll distribute charcoal there and then proceed as a group to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. All people are welcome to join us in this act of solidarity. Please be sure to arrive on time at 9am at Barnes & Noble. If you have questions, email me at joseph.amodeo@gmail.com.”

Amodeo has set up a Facebook event for this vigil which can be viewed here.

New Ways Ministry encourages all in the New York metropolitan area who support LGBT Catholics to show up to this event.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 


EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Nicholas Coppola In His Own Words

May 2, 2013
Nicholas Coppola

Nicholas Coppola

Bondings 2.0 has been covering the story of Nicholas Coppola, a gay Catholic volunteer lay minister at a parish on Long Island, N.Y., who was dismissed from his parish ministries because an anonymous letter-writer alerted the pastor that Coppola married his long-time partner.   We reported on the announcement of his dismissal, we reported on his collection of over 18,000 signatures on a petition for his re-instatement, and we reported on the bizarre response he received from his bishop to that petition.

Today we feature a Bondings 2.0 exclusive interview with Mr. Coppola on what the experience of his dismissal has been like, as well as how he has responded to the amazing outpouring of support he has received from Catholics all over the country.  The interview gives a personal insight into this faith-filled man.

Coppola has also initiated another petition, this one to New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan, asking the prelate to break bread with Coppola and his family.  You can sign that petition here.

The Interview:  Nicholas Coppola

How did you come to your decision to publicly announce that the pastor had dismissed you from parish ministries?
It was a very difficult decision. At first, I thought I could meet with Bishop Murphy and have a dialogue about my removal. I was hopeful that if Bishop Murphy took the time to get to know me and David, it might soften his heart and realize that gay married couples are the same as any other loving couple. After two meetings with Auxiliary Bishop Brennan, his response was that “his hands are tied.” Then, after hearing Cardinal Dolan’s comments on Easter Sunday about the Catholic Church needing to do a better job with expressing their welcome to gay and lesbian people, I knew my story needed to be told.

Have you had any interaction with the pastor since your story made news?
I see Fr. Nicholas Lombardi on a regular basis as I have in the past. This is due to the fact that my attendance at Mass has not changed and St. Anthony’s parishioners continue to welcome and support us.

Are you still a parishioner at the parish? How are other parishioners reacting to your dismissal?
I will remain a parishioner as long as I have the support of other parishioners, and they have been incredibly supportive. Even as things in the public arena have quieted down, the parishioners are still asking for answers to their questions. They have written letters and have made phone calls to both the Pastor and Bishop William Murphy. I believe this has actually brought the St. Anthony’s Community closer together.

Did you ever think of leaving Catholicism because of being dismissed?
No. The Catholic Church is my foundation, how I was raised by my parents.

What has sustained you spiritually as you have been going through this ordeal?
I described it to a group of people the other day as becoming “spiritually independent.” I don’t rely on the brick and mortar of the church to maintain my relationship with God. I am so thankful to the Jesuits for the blessing of learning Ignatian spirituality: “Find God in all things.” I did the Jesuit spiritual exercises several years ago, and it was an incredible experience.

If you had an opportunity to meet with Bishop Murphy and/or Cardinal Dolan, what would you tell them?
I would start by telling them our story. They need to know who we are and who our families are. I will not be telling them anything that they don’t already know: that there are many gay and lesbian people and their families who are a vibrant part of the Catholic Church. I would want them to know how much we love our Church.

You collected 18,000 signatures on a petition to be re-instated. I imagine the overwhelming support that you have received has strengthened you. Can you tell us a little bit about what that experience has felt like?
The experience of support is not realized until after it happened. Reading some of the comments people wrote about what my story meant to them, hearing people’s stories of struggle and joy was all amazing. They asked me to continue on in my search for justice.

We have seen a number of stories recently of gay and lesbian church workers and volunteers being dismissed from their jobs and ministries. What advice do you have for LGBT people working in the church?
It is our Church. Nobody can remove you from your faith. Share your story.

What have you learned from this experience?
God’s Love for all is real and unconditional.

What are your hopes for the future?
My hopes are that gay and lesbian people, married or not, are loved, accepted, and respected in the church. We are past needing the support from people in the pews. We have it. We now need it from the hierarchy. My short term hope is to have a meeting with Cardinal Dolan to help him welcome lesbian gay people in the church.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Two More Cardinals on the Record Endorsing Civil Unions

April 12, 2013

The number of cardinals endorsing civil unions for lesbian and gay couples continues to grow.

Cardinal Christoph Schonborn

Cardinal Christoph Schonborn

Thanks to QueeringTheChurch.com, we have this report from London’s The Tablet magazine:

“A leading cardinal has said that same-sex relationships should be respected and recognised in law amid signs of a change in church thinking on the subject.

“Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, the Archbishop of Vienna, made the remarks in a lecture at the National Gallery evening titled “Christianity: Alien Presence or Foundation of the West?” on Monday.

“ ‘There can be same-sex partnerships and they need respect, and even civil law protection. Yes, but please keep it away from the notion of marriage. Because the definition of marriage is the stable union between a man and a woman open to life,’ Cardinal Schönborn said.

“ ‘We should be clear about terms and respect the needs of people living in a partnership together. They deserve respect,’ he added.

“Two other cardinals, Colombian Ruben Salazar and Theodore McCarrick have recently suggested the Church should not oppose same-sex civil unions.”

Bondings 2.0 had already reported about Cardinal McCarrick’s comments.  You can read the blog post about them here.

Cardinal Ruben Salazar

Cardinal Ruben Salazar

We had not heard of Cardinal Salazar’s support for civil unions before this news, and a web search revealed that his comments were only minimally noted in the Spanish-language press. Colombia’s El Tiempo reports that his support for civil unions was stated in the context of declaring that the term “family” can only be used by heterosexually-headed households.  What follows is a translation from the original Spanish text:

“There can be no true marriage but between a man and a woman, and only on this basis can there be a real family,” said Salazar, President of the [Colombian]Episcopal Conference, who said that it is not a personal position but of vision of the universal Church, reflected also in the Constitution. . . .

” ‘The other unions have a right to exist; no one can ask them not to exist, but they should not try to equate themselves with the family.  They should not not assume the role of the family within the state, that’s where it starts to subvert the social order,’  Archbishop of Bogota also said and cautioned that these statements are not looking to attack the country’s gay community, much less violate their rights.”

Cardinal Salazar was elevated to the College of Cardinals by Pope Benedict XVI in November 2012, during the pope’s last consistory of naming cardinals.

Over the past year,  more and more cardinals and bishops have been speaking positively about either the need for civil unions or for greater respect for lesbian and gay couples.  A recent survey of many of these endorsements can be found here.

Cardinal Schonborn, who was often spoken of as a papal candidate,  made headlines last year when he reinstated an openly gay man to a parish council after the local pastor had removed him.

While it is disappointing that many of these church leaders  support civil unions out of a a desire to reserve marriage for only heterosexual couples, I think we need to keep this step forward in perspective.  We need to see it for what it is:  a step forward that was unthinkable a year ago.  More importantly, the fact this this strategy of supporting civil unions was also endorsed by Pope Francis when he was Cardinal Bergoglio in Argentina makes it even more possible that this strategy can develop.

Is hierarchical support for civil unions ideal?  No, especially not when it is a stopgap measure against marriage.  But none of us know how the Holy Spirit works, other than that even our imperfect ways can some times be used for good purposes.  Who knows what the Holy Spirit has in mind with this new trend?

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Cardinal Dolan to Lesbian and Gay Catholics: “I love you, too. And God loves you.”

March 31, 2013
Cardinal Timothy Dolan

Cardinal Timothy Dolan

George Stephanopoulos

George Stephanopoulos

Thanks to GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) for making available a transcript of today’s interview between ABC-TV’s George Stephanopoulus and New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan on This Week with George Stephanopoulus in which Dolan speaks positively of gay and lesbian people.  The entire section on gay and lesbian people is available here.  The following is an important excerpt:

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And you know, especially this week – because it’s been at the top of the news – for many gay and lesbian Americans –

CARDINAL DOLAN: Uh-huh.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: – gay and lesbian Catholics, they feel unwelcome –

CARDINAL DOLAN: They do.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: – in the Church. And what do you say as a minister, as a pastor – to a gay couple that comes to you and say, “We love God. We love the Church. But we also love each other, and we –

CARDINAL DOLAN: Uh-huh.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: – want to raise a family in faith.”

CARDINAL DOLAN: Sure.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: What do you say to them?

CARDINAL DOLAN: Well, the first thing I’d say to them is, “I love you, too. And God loves you. And you are made in God’s image and likeness. And – and we – we want your happiness. But – and you’re entitled to friendship.” But we also know that God has told us that the way to happiness, that – especially when it comes to sexual love – that is intended only for a man and woman in marriage, where children can come about naturally.

We gotta be – we gotta do better to see that our defense of marriage is not reduced to an attack on gay people. And I admit, we haven’t been too good at that. We try our darndest to make sure we’re not an anti-anybody. We’re in the defense of what God has taught us about – about marriage. And it’s one man, one woman, forever, to bring about new life. We gotta do better to try to dis – take that away from being anti-anybody. And – and I admit –

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: How do you do that?

CARDINAL DOLAN: We haven’t been too good –

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Yeah, how do you do that?

CARDINAL DOLAN: Well, I don’t know. We’re still – we’re – we’re tryin’. We’re tryin’ our best to do it. We gotta listen to people, like the couple that you just described – that say, “We don’t feel comfortable here.”

Jesus died on the cross for them as much as he did for me. But you got a point. Sometimes we’re not as successful or as effective as we can be in translating that warm embrace into also teaching what God has told us about the way He wants us –

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And that challenge –

CARDINAL DOLAN: – to live.

Congratulations to Mr. Stephanopoulos for asking these tough questions and eliciting such a positive response.  Thank you to Cardinal Dolan for finally speaking positively about gay and lesbian Catholics and admitting that the church can do better in their regard.  Many thanks to GLAAD for making this transcript available.

This is the first time that the cardinal has made such a positive statement about God’s love for lesbian and gay people.  Such a statement is a refreshing change from the usual harsh rhetoric that the church hierarchy uses when discussing LGBT issues.  It is a significant sign of welcome and outreach.  Cardinal Dolan’s statement is nothing short of an Easter miracle.

Cardinal Dolan now has to back up these words with actions.  Later in the interview he said that church leaders “gotta listen to people,” referring to lesbian and gay persons.  If Dolan meant what he said, he should open a dialogue with lesbian and gay people, especially Catholics, to learn more about their pain and struggle , but also about their joy and faith.  New Ways Ministry stands ready to help Dolan identify people with whom he can begin to dialogue.

It is no accident that such a positive message comes with the beginning of the new papacy of Pope Francis.  He has set a new tone of humility and reconciliation in the church which did not exist under Benedict XVI.  We hope and pray that the new pope’s example will continue to inspire other church leaders to seek out those on the margins and welcome them into the fold.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Papabile Rumors and Keeping Perspective About the Conclave

March 12, 2013

The Conclave of 115 cardinal electors has begun, and profiles of papabile abound reviewing old records and future visions of those rumored to be candidates for the next pope. LGBT issues hold a central place when commentators reflect on each front runner’s strengths and weaknesses, signalling a changing consciousness in the Church.

Pink News, a European-based LGBT news outlet, profiled the varied elements in the legacies of leading cardinals. For instance, they note Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet has been a strong opponent of LGBT rights, but who also once surprised the LGBT world:

Cardinal Marc Ouellet

“In 2005, he declared that the Catholic Church in Quebec would not baptise the babies of gay couples, despite baptism being a requirement of Catholic canon law.

“In 2007, he wrote an unexpected apology on behalf of the Catholic Church in which he wrote ‘humbly ask[ed] forgiveness’ for historic attitudes which had allowed for discrimination against gay people.

“This was largely dismissed by gay rights campaigners. Activist Laurent McCutcheon said the apology did nothing to make up for Cardinal Ouellet’s long opposition to same-sex marriage, or his ‘disparaging and hurtful’ comments about gay people.”

As for Cardinal Angelo Scola,  the Archbishop of Milan, Pink News reports:

Cardinal Angelo Scola

“Cardinal Scola is known as a scholar of human sexuality, having written extensively on the subject of the divine source of the ‘complementary nature of the two sexes’.

“Perhaps unsurprisingly, his views on gay partnerships are that ‘Italy needs families based on the marriage of one man and one woman.’

“He is, at least, open to debate: ‘I can propose my beliefs, you propose yours,’ he said at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart last year. ‘Then we find out what the prevalent opinion is.’

“In 2012, Cardinal Scola surprised activists by allowing Catholic LGBT group Gionata to hold a prayer vigil for the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO), which was able to take place in Milan for the first time.”

Cardinal Peter Turkson

Cardinal Peter Turkson

Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana is touted as a very real possibility, coming out of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, but his record on LGBT is one that denies condoms to help stymie HIV in Africa and, reportedly, he speaks favorably of “Kill the Gays” legislation in Uganda.

Resigned Catholic priest, Tony Adams, in the South Florida Gay News, shudders at the prospect of Cardinal Turkson’s election, while at the same time commenting on those papabile who would be better, though likely not good, on LGBT issues:

“Turkson sees cultural issues in primary and sometimes false colors. He confuses pedophilia and homosexuality which he thinks does not exist in Africa as it does elsewhere. If the cardinals elect a naïve soul like Turkson, they will be doing him a great disservice. He will be eaten alive.”

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn

Adams’ top five listing of gay-friendly papabile is Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri of Argentina, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi of Italy, and Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Austria. Of this last prospect, he writes that this cardinal “walks the line between honoring real Christian love and traditional Catholic teachings.”  Adams points to a YouTube interview as evidence of Schonborn’s mixed record:

“There are many discussions about the reasons of same-sex attractions…One thing is certain, there is a great desire a great need of friendship. My experience is that if a person with same-sex attraction discovers true friendship this can be a real way out, a real way out of a situation that is very often a dramatic destruction of the person…there are some movements that foster the discovery of true friendship to overcome a gay lifestyle that is finally humanly, spiritually destructive.”

Few developments will emerge from the conclave until a new pope is presented to the world, but as rumors and rhetoric around the papabile swirls, it is essential that LGBT advocates maintain perspective. Eugene Cullen Kennedy writes in National Catholic Reporter:

“[The real church of ‘the faithful’] are so busy living their faith that, though they hope for the best, they are essentially uninvolved in papal politics or even in who will be elected pope or, for that matter, who their bishops are and what they may say in the letters read at Sunday Masses. These Catholics love their priests because, despite the sex abuse scandals, they have known too many good ones to be totally dismayed at the failures of some troubled ones and, despite the financial and sexual scandals, they keep supporting the church that understands, at its best moments, their suffering and longing, their hopes and their disappointments, and helps them, if they fall one way or other, to get up and keep going. These are the people who live in favor of life, who prize and nourish it and understand that religion does not pose implausible riddles to them but celebrates and supports them through the mysterium tremendum et fascinans, the great and gripping mystery, that is life itself.”

Whomever emerges after the white smoke and bells will be faced with a Church that must confront LGBT issues, internally and in conversation with the world. Let us never forget though, that the pope is only one person and the hierarchy are only several thousand among more than a billion Catholics living their faith as the People of God.

-Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Cardinal O’Brien’s Resignation Highlights Increasing Problems for Anti-LGBT Hierarchy

February 26, 2013

Cardinal O’Brien greeting Pope Benedict XVI

Scotland’s Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the leading Catholic prelate in the United Kingdom, announced on Monday that he was resigning as archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh and that he will not attend the upcoming papal conclave as an elector. The cardinal, one of the UK’s most visible opponents of LGBT equality, is accused of improper conduct by four priests dating back nearly three decades.

While O’Brien denies claims published in a British newspaper on Sunday that he initiated inappropriate contact, this controversial Catholic has quickly removed himself from the public eye. Andrew Brown writing at The Guardian sees the accelerated pace of Cardinal’s resignation as progress in handling sexual abuse claims, but mulls deeper over the issues of homosexuality and forced celibacy in this scandal:

“.  . . [T]he story illustrates the grotesque and humiliating difficulties that the Roman Catholic church has knotted itself into where sex and gay people are concerned…

“Of course, the real problem is that the Roman Catholic church expects an entirely unrealistic standard of continence from its priesthood. Some priests can manage celibacy. The evidence from all around the world is that most can’t…In countries where that isn’t an available alternative, the priesthood becomes a refuge for gay men – especially in societies where homophobia is the public norm.

“This fact adds irony to O’Brien’s denunciations of gay marriage. You can’t really expect better from a church that still hasn’t come to terms properly with heterosexual marriage…And a church that can’t treat women as equals is certainly not going to be realistic about marriage between two men.”

Cardinal O’Brien’s legacy will be multi-faceted, but decidedly anti-LGBT given his repeated assaults on both legal rights and pastoral concerns. Bondings 2.0 reported stories throughout last year about O’Brien, including being named ‘Bigot of the Year’ by UK-charity Stonewall.

In 2012 alone, he referred to same-gender marriage a “grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right,” claimed legalizing it would be similar to instituting slavery anew, and expressed concerns that school libraries might circulate “homosexual fairy stories” as a result. O’Brien has lead Catholic efforts to block legislation granting equal marriage, through sizeable financial commitments and a failed attempt to hold a referendum on the issue in Scotland.

The realities of gay priests were further elucidated by Peter Stanford at The Telegraph in an article titled, “Too many priests preach truth, but live a lie”:

“…I’ve met many clerics. Many are openly gay. Or so open when not saying Mass that it is easy to forget I’m not meant to remember it when they are.

“In general, such double standards don’t overly concern me. Like the rest of us, priests, monks, bishops and even cardinals are as God made them. Whatever inner tension they struggle with as leaders in a Church that teaches that to be gay is – and I am quoting a document sent out by the soon-to-retire Pope when he was Cardinal Ratzinger – ‘a strong tendency towards an intrinsic moral evil,’ that is a matter for their own conscience.

“Tolerance wears a bit thin, however, when they start attacking gay marriage in such strident terms from the pulpit, and even signing letters en masse in protest at the Government’s proposals. It is getting dangerously close to hypocrisy.”

Not all critics focus on the visceral efforts that Cardinal O’Brien led as one of many outwardly anti-LGBT clergymen who secretly struggle with their sexuality. Instead, LGBT advocates in some quarters express hope for change in this transitory period. Pink News reports on reactions from pro-LGBT organizations, including that of Tom French of Scotland’s Equality Network:

“‘It would be inappropriate for us to comment on the allegations made against Cardinal O’Brien. Of course we hope that the Catholic Church in Scotland will use the opportunity new leadership brings to reassess its opposition to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality.’

“‘The Catholic Church does a huge amount of good work on issues like poverty, and it’s a shame that this important work is so often overshadowed by its position on issues of sexuality.’”

Sexual abuse claims laid against homophobic leadership detracts from the Church’s truest work of justice, and undermines the more progressive policies of those like Cardinal O’Brien, who just recently proposed a renewed discussion around married Catholic clergy. In this period of episcopal transitions worldwide, perhaps the hierarchy will critically address the sexual ethics it promotes instead of doubling-down on its anti-LGBT policies.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Related articles: BBC.co.uk:  “Cardinal Keith O’Brien resigns as Archbishop”

                                      The Guardian:  “What lies behind religious homophobia”


Berlin Cardinal Re-Affirms His Support for Lesbian and Gay Relationships

July 10, 2012

Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki

Cardinal Rainer Woelki of Berlin has re-affirmed his support for same-sex relationships which he made at a German conference of Catholic lay people back in May.

London’s Tablet magazine, an international Catholic periodical, reports:

“The Church must rethink its approach to remarried divorcees and gay relationships, the world’s youngest cardinal has said.

“Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, 55, made his comments in an interview with the German weekly Die Zeit and said that while the Orthodox Church considers only the first marriage sacramentally valid, divorce and a second marriage is tolerated. Asked whether this could be a model for the Catholic Church, he replied that the Church should talk about it.

Commenting on gay men in relationships he said he tried not to see them as just violating natural law but as people trying to take responsibility for each other in lasting partnerships. ‘We must find a way of allowing people to live without going against church teaching,’ he said.”

Mark deVries, a Dutchman who blogs at In  Caelo et in Terra (In Heaven and on Earth), has translated the relevant passage into English:

“ ‘Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided,’ the Catechism says about people with homosexual tendencies. If I take that seriously, I can’t merely see homosexual relationships as a ‘violation of natural law,’ as the Catechism puts it. I should also try to perceive it as people permanently taking  responsibility for one another, being loyal and willing to take care of each other, even if I can’t agree with such a lifestyle. The lifestyle that we, as the Catholic Church, stand for, is the sacramental marriage between one man and one woman, open to the transmission of life. I have also said this at the Catholic Day in Mannheim, immediately before the passage you quoted.”

deVries disagrees that this statement is an endorsement of lesbian and gay relationships.  He states:

“Reading this, I think it is unfair to see Cardinal Woelki’s earlier statement as an acceptance or even endorsement of homosexual relationships. He says clearly that he is unable to agree with this lifestyle. But, and this is the key, he does emphasise an important element of our dealings with people or situations that we don’t agree with. This element is love, as the catechism quote also hints at. Through love, we can see the good in situations which are “intrinsically disordered”, meaning that in their nature they are contrary to natural law. But, as Jesus has shown us, love trumps all, so even in these situations, love can shine through. Does that mean that homosexual acts and relations cease to be disordered? No, they don’t. But, as the Catechism and the cardinal indicate, we must acknowledge the fact that love, loyalty, responsibility and care can be present in this lifestyle.”

I think that deVries’ argument actually makes the point that Woelki does endorse same-gender relationships.  By noting that the love relationship matters more than sexual activity, deVries is pointing out that Woelki’s thinking is more in line with theologians, like the recently censured Sr. Margaret Farley, who argue that the quality of a relationship and the presence of love in a relationship should be our standards for moral judgement.

As we stated previously, Cardinal Woelki’s comments are a breath of fresh air and part of a growing trend to give some positive acknowledgment of  same-gender relationships from some high-ranking clerics in the church.  May the discussion continue in this vein.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways  Ministry


QUOTE TO NOTE: Cardinal Basil Hume on Love

May 22, 2012

In light of the recent statement in favor of same-gender relationships made by Berlin’s Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki,  a friend provided a historical precedent by sending along this quotation, made 17 years ago by London’s Cardinal Basil Hume:

“Love between two persons, whether of the same sex or of a different sex, is to be treasured and respected… When two persons love, they experience in a limited manner in this world what will be their unending delight when one with God in the next…  To love another, whether of the same sex or of a different sex, is to have entered the area of the richest human experience…” (Cardinal Basil Hume, Note on the Teaching of the Catholic Church Concerning Homosexual People, 1995).

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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