Catholic–And Cosmopolitan–Responses to the Pope’s Gay Statement

July 31, 2013
Pope Francis

Pope Francis

Since starting this blog over 18 months ago, I have never had such a hard time keeping up with Catholic LGBT news and commentary than in the last two days as articles keep popping up about Pope Francis’ statement which was heard around the gay and Catholic world.  Not even the Supreme Court’s marriage decisions in June generated this much electronic “ink.”

Yesterday, we supplied you with the first round of comments from Catholic writers and organizations.  Today we will try to continue that sampling from some of the best that we have seen from Catholics–and one “cosmopolitan” response that you will have to read to the end to discover!

Like yesterday, you will probably notice a range of opinions, though mostly people are positive.  Let us and others know what you think by posting your thoughts in the “Comments” section of this post.

Richard Galliardetz

Richard Galliardetz

One of the common themes of the commentary I read was whether Francis’ change in tone is really significant?  Professor Richard Galliardetz of Boston College, who this year serves as President of the Catholic Theological Society of America,  answered both of those quandaries in a Religion News Service article:

‘This may be a matter of “style” in some sense, but in this case style matters,’ Gaillardetz explained in a statement that echoed the poet Robert Frost. ‘One can appeal to our doctrinal tradition in order to justify moral rigidity and exclusionary attitudes or one can appeal to our doctrinal tradition as a call to be instruments of mercy and compassion. Francis has chosen the latter course and it has made all the difference!’ ”

Mary Hunt

Mary Hunt

Catholic lesbian theologian Mary Hunt was more guarded in her praise of Pope Francis’ comments, noting particularly that the interview in which he made the statement about gay priests also contained a strong denial of the possibility of ordaining women to the Catholic priesthood.  Hunt’s conclusion in a Religion Dispatches essay:

“The proof of whether this off the cuff press conference, following a well-staged week in Brazil, signals real change will unfold in the months ahead. Will there be stirrings of democracy, a Vatican spring complete with líos [translated: "mess," referring to the pope's statement to young people to "go, make a mess" in the world] in every diocese capable of upending a kyriarchal church and letting a mature, diverse community emerge? Will women finally and definitively share power with men in a democratic church? Or, will there simply be a little tweaking of the rules to make sure that a few favored sons who happen to be gay can remain in power?”

One person who is uniquely qualified to comment on the pope’s comment is Fr. Gary Meier, a St. Louis Archdiocese priest, who came out publicly as gay earlier this spring.  In a CNN blog post, Fr. Meier expressed cautious optimism about the news:

Father Gary Meier

Father Gary Meier

“I am optimistic, that our Pope’s comments can lead to greater love and acceptance of the LGBT community. And at the same time, I am cautious – cautious that the change in tone and attitude represented by the Pope’s statement will not lead to a change in theology and doctrine which so desperately needs to change.

“My prayer for the church is that we might take this opportunity to stop causing harm, to stop being judgmental and to become more welcoming; more inviting; more loving towards all people, especially those who are marginalized and ostracized.”

Mary Ellen and Casey Lopata

Mary Ellen and Casey Lopata

Speaking from the perspective of parents of LGBT people, Casey and Mary Ellen Lopata of Fortunate Families welcomed the pope’s statement.  A WHEC.com news story noted:

“Casey Lopata said, ‘This has opened a door. It seems to signal a willingness to dialogue.’

“Casey Lopata says it is reminiscent of something that happened in Rochester 16 years ago.

“ ‘Back in 1997, here in Rochester, Bishop Clark said a mass with gay and lesbian people, family and friends at the time a lot of people weren’t very happy with it and he later wrote an article in the Catholic Courier and title of the article said, ‘Listen, leave the judgment to God’ and that’s exactly what Pope Francis said today.’”

Mary Ellen was quoted in an NBCNews.com story:

“I sense what he is saying is that we are all children of God and we need to treat each other that way regardless of our sexual orientation,” she said. “If that is indeed what he is saying, I think that is a good step forward for reconciling with gay and lesbian people around the world, and also their families.

“Much that’s been said in past years by church leaders has been very hurtful not only to gay and lesbian people but to their families as well.”

Marianne Duddy-Burke

Marianne Duddy-Burke

That same NBCNews.com story also provided the perspective of LGBT Catholics themselves through the voice of Marianne Duddy-Burke, Executive Director of DignityUSA.  Beginning with a quote from Francis’ statement, Duddy-Burke said:

“ ‘If someone loves the Lord and has goodwill’ [Francis' statement] — the reality of that describes an awful lot of LGBT people,’ she said. ‘There are a lot of LGBT people of faith who are working very hard to hold onto their faith and I think it would be important for us to bring our stories to the pope and other church leaders to move this conversation forward.’

“A key step would be bridging the gap between some church leaders who engage in anti-gay rhetoric and their parishioners, many whom support LGBT rights, Duddy-Burke said. Fifty-four percent of Catholics support same-sex marriage, according to a Pew Forum poll released earlier this year.

“ ‘If Francis can be an instrument in healing that divide, we would certainly welcome that and are happy to partner with him,” she said, while noting that only time would tell what impact his remarks would have on daily life.’ “

Sister Marian Durkin

Sister Marian Durkin

The perspective of a pastoral minister who works with lesbian and gay Catholics was offered by Sister Marian Durkin, CSA, in The Cleveland Plain Dealer:

” ‘I appreciate Pope Francis’ compassionate look at homosexuality in the church,’ said Sister Marian Durkin of the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine. ‘There are gay men in the priesthood, there always have been. And they serve God’s people with great integrity and love.’

“Durkin has worked in a local outreach ministry for gay Catholics for 20 years. She holds an annual retreat for homosexual Catholics and their parents at the Jesuit Retreat House in Parma.

“ ‘I’m delighted whenever there’s good press about gays and lesbians,’ she said. ‘Francis is a breath of fresh air.’ ”

Stephen Pope

Stephen Pope

Portland, Maine’s Press Herald offered the perspective of a theologian who notes the pragmatic effect the pope’s statement can have:

“Stephen Pope, professor of theology at Boston College, said Francis’ comments were consistent with his other efforts to address declining church membership by reaching out to a more diverse audience.

“That approach stands in stark contrast to that of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, he said.

” ‘I think Pope Benedict’s philosophy was to say, “Let them go. We’ll have a smaller church but more pure,” ‘ Pope said. “Pope Francis has sort of adopted this strategy of meeting people where they are and looking for commonality.’ “

Chad Pecknold

Chad Pecknold

Chad Pecknold, a theology professor at Catholic University of America, Washington, DC, noted, in a Baltimore Sun article, that the pope’s statement was not really “off the cuff,” and was, in fact, an invitation to dialogue:

” ‘The message of mercy, I think, is one he is sounding out on every single issue that the culture has identified as one it rejects the church’s teachings on,’ Pecknold said. ‘What Francis wants to say is, “Let’s talk.” ‘

“The pope offered his thoughts in a remarkably open news conference in response to questions about rumors of a ‘lobby’ of gay priests seeking to influence the Vatican. He said he disapproved of any such lobby or influence, but distinguished influence-seekers from priests who might happen to be gay.

“Pecknold said it was important to consider that context when reading the pope’s comments, but he also said the pontiff would have been aware that his comments to international journalists about homosexuality would have been viewed in a broader context.

” ‘We’re going to hear this over and over and over again,’ Pecknold said. ‘The way in which Francis wants to initiate a conversation, the way in which he wants to invite a conversation, is through this message of mercy.’ “

James Salt

James Salt

The youth perspective was offered by James Salt of Catholics United, a political organizing group, in an Agence France-Presse article:

“. . . Catholics United, which has been very critical of Church leadership, said Francis’ comments ‘speak to what every young person knows: God loves gay people, and so should the Catholic Church.’

” ‘Pope Francis’ call for the acceptance of gay priests is a direct repudiation of the backward beliefs of many ultra-conservative ideologues in the Church,’ the group’s leader James Salt said in a statement.

” ‘This statement on gay people, while largely symbolic, is a big step in the right way.’ “

CosmopolitanAnd we close out with a decidedly non-Catholic perspective: Michelle Ruiz, a blogger at Cosmpolitan magazine:

“A lot of arguments against gay marriage and even homosexuality in general point to religion: ‘The Bible says God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve,’ anti-gay groups have been known to say. But now the leader of the Catholic church himself, Pope Francis, is coming out in support of gays. Can we get a Hallelujah?

” ‘If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?’ Francis told reporters yesterday while on an overnight flight from Brazil (for his first foreign trip) back to Rome.

“Francis was responding directly to a question about gay Catholic priests, and his answer is groundbreaking because his more conservative predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, was so against gay clergy, he signed an official document in 2005 saying homosexual men should not be allowed to serve the church.

“So if Francis is cool with gay priests, perhaps gay marriage has a prayer in the church? “

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


CAMPUS CHRONICLES: ‘Being Gay at a Catholic University’

June 21, 2013

collegeIn the past decade, whenever people ask me where I see the most hopeful situations for LGBT people in the Catholic Church, I have consistently answered, “Catholic colleges and universities.”  More than any other sector in the Catholic world, these institutions have established solid practices, programs, and policies which recognize the equality of LGBT students, faculty and staff.  New Ways Ministry has tried to document the growth of this pro-LGBT movement on Catholic campuses by maintaining a list of gay-friendly Catholic schools.  We also try to update our supporters by the posts we run on this blog entitled “Campus Chronicles.”  Throughout the year, we are frequently in touch with personnel from Catholic campuses, offering them advice, resources, and information.

The movement for gay-friendly Catholic colleges and universities received a major boost this week with the publication of an article entitled “Being Gay at a Catholic University” on ReligionandPolitics.org.   Authored by Michael O’Loughlin, himself a graduate of a Catholic college which wrestled with how to welcome LGBT people, the essay is a wonderful snapshot of the diversity of approaches that schools are taking to respond to the new needs.

Michael O'Loughlin

Michael O’Loughlin

The essay is a wonderful read, and I recommend viewing the entire text.  Below I will provide some germane excerpts with commentary.

O’Loughlin’s  essay is more than just a survey of representative Catholic schools.  He delves into some of the more important questions that the presence of gay-friendly schools implies for the future of Catholicism.  In his introduction he lays out several:

 What do the future lay leaders of the Catholic Church, still one of the most politically potent institutions in the U.S., believe about gay rights? How do their schools shape their views? And how will they shape the Catholic Church?”

One of the school’s he visited was DePaul University, Chicago, the largest Catholic university in the nation, and the only one that has an LGBTQ Studies minor, in addition to many other supportive programs.  DePaul, like other gay-friendly schools, sometimes gets criticized for not being truly Catholic.  Religious Studies Professor and Chair James Halstead offered a pertinent answer:

“When I asked what he thought about the critics who questioned DePaul’s Catholic identity because of the minor and various LGBT student groups, Halstead lamented that Catholic universities are subjected to charges of being ‘un-Catholic’ or ‘not Catholic enough’ because of issues of sex and sexuality—a charge, he said, that comes from both the left and right. ‘To measure the Catholic identity of a university by asking if it has a LGBT program or not, Jesus, help us all. Do people really think that’s at the heart of Catholic Christianity? To me, it’s just not.’ Instead, he wishes that Catholic schools were judged on how well students answer the deep questions’ such as where they come from and what it means to be human, all in the search for truth. ‘Truth really is a process of emerging, in goodness and beauty, friendship and love,’ he said. ‘Rational people can figure this stuff out. Reason, enriched by faith, is going to reveal truth.’”

Indeed,  when O’Loughlin visited the Jesuit-run Santa Clara University, California, he discovered that far from diluting Catholic identity, being LGBT-friendly was an enhancement to the faith life of students.  He describes a conversation with Max Silva, a student:

“Silva, a rising junior, came out in high school in Santa Barbara. Raised nominally Catholic, he didn’t dive into his faith until he enrolled at Santa Clara, exploring what it meant to be gay and Catholic. He leads a group called GASPED (Gay and Straight People for the Education of Diversity), which he views as a sort of social justice ministry, offering diversity education to the campus community. Of being out at a Jesuit school, he said, ‘It really does come down to the school’s Jesuit philosophy and its Jesuit ideals. It focuses on Catholic social teaching, especially the social justice aspect, instead of focusing on the sexual ethics and homosexuality aspect.’ The school, he said, approaches these issues from the ‘very Jesuit idea of educating the whole person, discerning your experience of Catholicism in an educated way.’ ”

At St. Anselm College, New Hampshire, creating a welcoming environment for LGBT students provided an opportunity for religious renewal for the campus, as described by Sue Gabert, the director of campus ministry:

Gabert. . .explained that the college had conducted a community-wide survey about diversity and discrimination shortly after students organized back in 2005. The students, faculty, and staff who identified as gay reported the campus environment to be unwelcoming and even abusive. So the school hosted a forum to talk about the issues. ‘There was so much respect and care for people’s stories. It was one of my most graced moments at the college. What we heard most is that people were happy we were talking about these issues. It was something that some people felt was taboo, so the fact that we were talking about the challenges we face as a Catholic institution and welcoming all people in a fair and inclusive way was good,’ she said.

At New Ways Ministry, we have heard similar things from parishes who welcome LGBT people.  The experience turns out to be a re-evangelization of the entire parish community, not just an outreach to LGBT people.

Not all the Catholic schools O’Loughlin visited were gay-friendly.  One notable exception was Catholic University of America, Washington, DC, for which O’Loughlin lists a series of repealed gay-friendly policies over the past three decades, and which this year, once again, rejected a student proposal to establish a gay-straight alliance.   The juxtaposition of Catholic University’s retrograde policies with other campuses’ more progressive experiences offers an important example:

“The contrast of resources available to students at DePaul and CUA is exemplary of a polarized U.S. Catholic Church, especially as it grapples with LGBT issues. By some estimations, nearly a quarter of the funding used to campaign against marriage equality efforts in the 2012 election came from official Catholic sources, including various dioceses, Catholic state conferences and lobbying groups, as well as the Knights of Columbus. . . .

“Just like the generational divide in the general population on issues of LGBT rights, the laity and the bishops appear to be separated by an expanding chasm, one that one that seems poised to widen in years to come.”

In other words, what is happening on campuses mirrors the experience of the entire American church generally.

For those who strive for equality and justice for LGBT people in the Catholic Church, the concluding paragraph of the essay offers amazing hope:

“The future laity of the Catholic Church is still being educated at Catholic colleges and universities. The Catholic laity as a whole is already in favor of same-sex marriage and is accepting of their gay family and friends. It seems this trend will only accelerate further as graduates of Catholic schools mature into adults. Some say that bishops, by leading the fight against same-sex marriage, are widening the gap between themselves and their flock. But on Catholic campuses, gay students are carving out spaces for themselves, and finding allies not only among their peers, but also in professors and priests alike.”

O’Loughlin, who blogs at Religion News Service, added a post on the day his article was published which contains the entire text of his interview with Systematic Theology Professor Paul Crowley, SJ.  It’s definitely worth a read, too.    Both the essay and the extended interview are wonderful contributions to the ever-growing conversation on LGBT issues and the Catholic Church.

–Francis DeBernardo, 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.


Catholic Bishops Are Opposing Immigration Reform That Would Aid Same-Gender Couples

February 7, 2013

immigrationNews earlier this week that President Obama and many Hispanic political organizations were backing an immigration reform proposal that would grant visas to same-gender partners of American citizens offered hope that this long hoped for change would become law.

The U.S. Catholic bishops, along with Evangelical leaders, are dropping a monkey wrench into the works, however, by opposing such a measure.  The Associated Press reports:

“The nation’s Roman Catholic bishops are in a difficult position as the debate over immigration reform gets underway: The immigrant-built American church, known for advocating a broad welcome for migrants and refugees, could end up opposing reform because it would recognize same-sex partners. . . .

“. . . Catholic bishops, with the support of evangelicals and other theological conservatives, have sent a letter to Obama protesting his proposal. In a sign of the sensitivity of the issue, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops would not provide a copy of the statement, saying the signatories agreed not to make the letter public. Sister Mary Ann Walsh, a spokeswoman for the bishops, would say only that recognition of gay couples in the president’s reform proposals ‘jeopardizes passage of the bill.’ “

What is remarkable in this opposition is that the bishops seem willing to forego real immigration reform because of their opposition to supporting lesbian and gay couples in committed relationships.   Similar to many diocese’s decisions to forego all adoption services rather than use gay and lesbian couples as potential parents, the US bishops’ seem intent on following a scorched earth policy on immigration.

The Associated Press report points out what most Catholics already know:  that progressive immigration policy has long been supported by US bishops.  Key to this support has been the idea of keeping families intact.  The news story states:

“Americans church leaders have spent decades lobbying for revisions that would keep families together and fulfill what the church considers the duty of all countries, especially wealthier ones, to do as much as possible to help the poor and persecuted. The church and Catholic groups run a network of aid programs for migrants, refugees and illegal immigrants, taking positions that recognize the country’s right to protect its borders, but that still fall ‘to the left of the Democratic Party,’ [Stephen] Schneck [a political science professor at The Catholic University of America] said. . . .

“In a 2003 joint plea for immigration reform, called ‘Strangers No Longer,’ U.S. and Mexican bishops stated, ‘Regardless of their legal status, migrants, like all persons, possess inherent human dignity that should be respected.’

“The issue is of special historic importance to the American Catholic church, which was built by waves of Irish, Italians, Poles and others. The immigrant presence in the pews is now growing as American-born white Catholics drop out in significant numbers. Researchers estimate that a third of the 66 million U.S. Catholics are Latino.

” ‘This is an issue that has been a huge priority for the church for a really long time,’ said Kristin Heyer, a professor at Santa Clara University in California who studies immigration and Catholic social thought. ‘The wider Catholic community, in addition to the bishops, has mobilized in a major way.’ “

To correct the bishops’ policy direction, lay Catholics now need to mobilize to let the hierarchy know that Catholics believe ALL families should be protected by immigration law.  Contact your bishop and let him know that you believe that respecting human dignity applies to ALL immigrants, not just heterosexual ones.  Contact your federal legislators too, and let them know that your Catholic faith motivates you to support inclusive immigration reform that President Obama has proposed.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


The Worst of 2012 in Catholic LGBT News

December 30, 2012

thumbs downAs the year 2012 winds to a close, it’s time to review the news of the Catholic LGBT world of the past 12 months. In today’s post, we will look at the  stories of the worst happenings of the past year, and in tomorrow’s post, we will look at the best stories.  Bondings 2.0 asked you for your feedback on what the worst and best news stories of the past year were, so the ranking of these stories is based on your responses.  The percentage following each story is the percentage of people who chose this item as one of their top five. Thank you to all 311 of you who participated.

The Top Ten

1. The Parliament in Uganda, a pre-dominantly Catholic nation, re-introduces a bill to make the death penalty a possible sentence for lesbian and gay people.  16.34%

2. The Vatican censures the Leadership Conference of Women Religious for, among other things, their support of LGBT issues and New Ways Ministry. 15.69%

3. Pope Benedict opens the year by stating that new models of family are a threat to “human dignity and the future of humanity.” 14.05%

4. The Knights of Columbus have contributed $6.5 million to oppose marriage equality over the past seven years, according to an Equally Blessed report. 12.09%

5. A Catholic lesbian woman in Maryland is denied communion at her mother’s funeral Mass. 10.13% 

6. The Vatican censures Sister Margaret Farley, a theologian who has supported the moral goodness of gay and lesbian relationships. 6.86%  

7. U.S. bishops attempt to make religious liberty an issue as a way to defeat marriage equality initiatives. 6.54%

8. Minnesota teen is denied confirmation for supporting marriage equality. 4.9%

9 & 10. TIE:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The Catholic University of America again denies a request for recognition of a gay-straight alliance on campus. 2.29%                               Several Catholic church employees are fired because of their support of marriage equality. 2.29%

Other items:

In several cases, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development withdraws funding from organizations which support LGBT equality. 1.96% 

Catholic theologian Tina Beattie is disinvited from a fellowship appointment at the University of San Diego because of her support of marriage equality. 1.63%  

The U.S. Catholic bishops investigate the Girl Scouts of America for connections to liberal causes, including LGBT equality. 1.63%  

Minnesota’s Archbishop John Nienstedt instructs his priests not to speak publicly in support of marriage equality. 1.63%

A Catholic high school in Indianapolis refuses to call a female-to-male transgender student by his male name. 0.98%

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


CAMPUS CHRONICLES: The Catholic University of America Rejects LGBTQ Student Group

December 14, 2012

429985_363436760354988_1880879171_n (2)The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. rejected a proposed LGBTQ student organization last week less than a day after the University of Notre Dame released its comprehensive pastoral plan to address student concerns over sexual orientation on campus.

CUAllies, the unofficial organization that received the denial in a private meeting with University President John Garvey, released a statement that read, in part:

“CUAllies aims to foster a safe, welcoming, and affirming outlet to students that identify as LGBTQ in the particular Catholic setting of the University. The proposal submitted a new vision, tone, and willingness to fully embrace Catholic identity, while supporting a marginalized community, and has hosted speakers, service projects, and prayer vigils in its unofficial position. The group undoubtedly brought those who identify as LGBT to a place where they could participate in the Catholic faith.”

Administrators cited fears  that CUAllies could instead become an “advocacy” organization contradicting Catholic teaching, surprising student leaders who conscientiously demonstrated the pastoral and personal nature of the organization since its inception in 2011.

Former Director of CUAllies, Ryan Fecteau was quoted in a National Catholic Reporter  story, describing the faith-oriented perspective that CUAllies members hold:

“If any university in the United States should understand and act to ensure that people participate in Catholicism and feel comfortable doing so, it should be The Catholic University of America. In essence, yesterday, Catholic University denied CUAllies and LGBT students communion. They said to us that we are not valued enough to participate in this community of faith…We have worked on this for nine long months…This denial is not only coming from the University that we love; it also comes from the Church that we cherish and contribute to.

“I am hopeful that students who identify as LGBT will feel not only feel welcomed as a students, but as a participants in God’s love through our Catholic Church. This means every facet at CUA must take a proactive approach towards fostering such a community…”

Student leadership of CUAllies expects to continue the pastoral dialogues, social events, service projects, and prayer opportunities in its continued unofficial capacity next semester. According to Fecteau,  Garvey said more discussion on LGBT issues on campus is needed. There is speculation that student government will host a campus-wide referendum over the matter as well.

New Ways Ministry staff member, Robert Shine, who is also a 2012 theology alumus from The Catholic University of America noted in the CUAllies press statement how the school’s decision diminishes not only LGBT students’ faith, but the life of the campus:

“In my daily experience supporting LGBT-positive efforts on Catholic campuses, I am inspired by the sacrificial love and integration of faith and sexuality that students express where campuses focus on inclusion. My alma mater’s persistent rejection of my friends and peers falls gravely short of Christ’s witness that abundant love always trumps doctrine. This decision rejects pastoral considerations for political gamesmanship, but more importantly the University and the Catholic Church lose out on the necessary and life-giving contributions made by LGBT students, faculty, staff, and administrators.”

Now, Friends of CUAllies, an organization formed to support LGBTQ efforts at CUA, is campaigning with a simple pledge to:

“Support LGBTQ students by fostering a safe and welcoming campus at The Catholic University of America, so that the dignity and goodness of each person as made in God’s image is unquestionably affirmed.”

If you want to nourish, support, and sustain this important student-driven mission, please sign the pledge here and visit Friends of CUAllies’ website here for further information and involvement

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

For New Ways Ministry’s listing of gay-friendly Catholic colleges and universities, visitnewwaysministry.org/gfc.

For further information on New Ways Ministry’s efforts in Catholic higher education and to get involved, contact youngadults@newwaysministry.org.


Spirit Day Supported by Catholics Across the USA

October 22, 2012

Spirit Day, a national event to raise awareness about the problem of bullying directed against LGBT youth, was held on Friday, October 19th, sponsored by GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation).  People were asked to wear purple on that day as a sign of solidarity with LGBT youth who’ve experienced bullying or violence.

Catholic individuals and parishes played a prominent role in promoting the event, including: Dignity USA, New Ways Ministry, Fortunate Families, the Los Angeles Archdiocese Ministry with Lesbian and Gay Catholics and the Catholic Association for Lesbian and Gay Ministry.

National Catholic Reporter columnist Jamie Manson notes that one long time Catholic justice advocate who took part in the event explained her reason for doing so:

Sister Alice Zachmann, SSND

“Sr. Alice Zachmann signed onto Catholics for Spirit Day. She is a well-respected voice throughout the American Roman Catholic Church, and also in Rome. Zachmann is also a recipient of the Catholic University of America’s highest honor — the James Cardinal Gibbons Award. In responding to why she’s signing the statement, she wrote: ‘The issue is one of justice concerning young people who are being bullied because of their sexual orientation.’ “

[Editor's Note:  Sister Alice is also a regular reader of Bondings 2.0.]

You can view (and post) photos of Spirit Day activities by clicking here.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


CAMPUS CHRONICLES: Catholic University Students Document Struggles of Campus Gay-Straight Alliance

September 16, 2012

A documentary about CUAllies, the unofficial gay-straight alliance at The Catholic University of America (CUA) in Washington, D.C., was released this week by two recent alumnae.

Andrea Mineo and Heidi Green, both class of 2012, released the short film originally created for a media studies course in April. Mineo’s and Green’s documentary is the latest in a series of student-produced films about CUAllies since students began seeking official recognition in 2009.

You can view the video here: 

The documentary captures the students’ ongoing struggle, noting the challenges of attending a religiously-affiliated university where official Church doctrine seems unsettled by a group of people or an idea. It highlights support from students at CUA for a recognized gay-straight alliance, many of whom believe CUAllies’ purpose aligns perfectly with the Catholic identity and mission of the University.

At present, CUAllies awaits a response on their proposal for official recogniton, submitted seven months ago. Provost James Brennan, who assumed charge of student life this fall, will make the final decision, which could be several months away. CUAllies is a student movement at Catholic University to create a safe, welcoming, and affirming environment on campus for LGBT students that does not presently exist.Previously, the Organization for Gay and Lesbian Rights was disbanded by former President Fr. David O’Connell for being ‘political’ in 2002 and sexual orientation was removed from the University’s non-discrimination clause in 2006.

Bondings 2.0 contacted the new leadership for comment on their vision and hopes for CUAllies this year, along with responses to the documentary.

CUAllies Communications Director Chelsea Schoen said: “The documentary was truly well-done and offered beautiful images of community, as well as demonstrated the wide array of support of our movement throughout campus. We are the same as any other student organization: a group of like-minded students seeking to share in fellowship and commonality….we are a group of students striving to create a safe and welcoming environment on campus, working as one to live out the virtue of love.”

CUAllies Deputy Director Travis Dichoso said: “I think this year I would like to focus on solidifying our mission and raising awareness of our mission. I would like to say that we are trying to take the approach of working with CUA’s administration rather than against it. We want to create a group which helps to integrate GLBT students into CUA’s community in a way that is respectful to the mission of the University.”

Speaker of the Student Government Ryan Fecteau, formerly a co-director of CUAllies, released the following statement: “The Student Association made a commitment to support our LGBT brothers and sisters last semester by approving a 20-3 resolution that encourages the administration’s approval of CUAllies. It is clear from my discussions with students on campus…that CUAllies embodies the spirit of our University’s mission. No one should be excluded and a community of love and safety should be fostered for all students. This is our obligation.”

The CUAllies Executive Board recently stated the only agenda of the group is love and safety, which will manifest itself in ‘community’ and ‘safety’ being the primary focuses for the 2012-13 academic year.

For further information, visit CUAllies Facebook page, Twitter account, and YouTube channel.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Message of Hope: ‘No one should feel excluded from God’s love. . . .Ever.’

May 30, 2012

Vigil honoring LGBT victims of suicide.

Intrepid United Kingdom blogger Terence Weldon of QueeringTheChurch.com alerted me to a column with a positive Catholic LGBT message which appeared in the Archdiocese of San Francisco’s newspaper, Catholic San Francisco.

The column, entitled “Reminding those in despair of God’s love,” is written by Fr. Peter J. Daly.  While the message in this essay is powerful, important, and newsworthy, the source of the message is equally noteworthy:  Fr. Peter J. Daly is a syndicated columnist with Catholic News Service, which is run by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.  (Clicking on the column’s title in the first sentence of this paragraph will bring you to a PDF of the entire issue in which the column appeared;  this particular column can be found by scrolling down to page 16.)

Daly’s column is a plea to church leaders and people to assist LGBT youth who are at risk of suicide, often as the result of bullying.  He begins by describing a ministry experience he had:

“The young man began to cry. I asked him why he was so unhappy. He said it was because his family would not accept him. I asked why they would not accept him. He answered, ‘Because I am gay. They are very Catholic.’ I started to cry, too.

“Three times in 25 years of ministry I have sat across the room from young men who have attempted suicide because they were gay or feared they were gay. Several other times, especially when I was in campus ministry at The Catholic University of America, I talked with young people despondent over their gay sexual identity.

“I have talked with people who cut or disfigured themselves because they had such a deep self-loathing because they were gay. According to a study done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which was released last year, gay and lesbian youth are much more likely than their heterosexual peers to have thought about suicide or to have attempted suicide.”

Bravo to Fr. Daly for writing so personally about this issue.  Much too much silence–which is literally deadly–exists in our church about this issue.  Two years ago, when LGBT teen suicide made national headlines because of the publicized trend that was erupting, religious leaders across the country were speaking out in support of youth, yet the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops did not breathe a word.  Another example is that New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan has yet to respond to the plea of a young N.Y. Catholic man who publicly asked the cardinal to meet with LGBT youth.  Let’s hope that Cardinal Dolan and all U.S. bishops read Fr. Daly’s column in their own news service and take heed of his message.

Another group that should heed Fr. Daly’s message are his former employers: the administrators of Catholic University of America.  Bondings 2.0 has been reporting about the efforts this year by students to get official recognition for a gay-straight alliance, CUAllies.  Led by sophomore Ryan Fecteau, the efforts have been strong and respectful, yet the administration has been curiously silent.

Indeed, all Catholic college administrators should heed Fr. Daly’s message.  Readers of this blog will remember that the University of Notre Dame has also been seeking recognition of AllianceND, a gay-straight support group.  Led by sophomore Alex Coccia, their efforts ended in an “incomplete” in the spring, when a decision was  deferred until the fall.

What is the message that Fr. Daly’s column offers?  It is one of the most basic principles of Catholic theology which he presents in three simple sentences of the closing paragraph:

” No one should feel excluded from God’s love. No one should ever be driven to despair. Ever.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Movement Toward Equality on Two Catholic Campuses

May 4, 2012

Some movement occurred this week on getting gay-straight alliances recognized on two of the nation’s premier Catholic campuses: University of Notre Dame (UND) and Catholic University of America (CUA).

At UND in South Bend, Indiana, the campus administration announced that it would postpone a decision about official recognition for AllianceND until the fall semester.  According to an article in the student newspaper, The Observer :

“Director of Student Activities for Programming Peggy Hnatusko sent an email to the co-presidents of AllianceND, the gay-straight alliance that applied for club status, notifying them of the deferral.

“ ‘The University intends to review the breadth of structures and services currently provided to LGBTQ students and their allies by the University in the hopes of making the best decisions possible to support our students and the University community, all within the context of Catholic teaching,’  she stated in the email. ‘I will review AllianceND’s application in the course of those discussions.’

“In her 15 years as director, Hnatusko said this is the first year she has deferred a decision about a club’s status.

“ ‘I just wanted a little bit more time to look at the proposal, look at what the University offered,’ she said. ‘There has been a lot going on and I wanted to give everyone the fairest chance possible.’ “

Bondings 2.0 was able to get reaction to the deferral decision from Alex Coccia, a UND sophomore who is a co-president of AllianceND:

“I am encouraged because the dialogue surrounding the GSA and inclusion generally has become much more honest and open.  The commitment to a broader examination, I believe, reflects the student voices that have been expressed in the last week and over the whole semester.  All of the students must be very proud of the work that they have done.
“We have begun to collect personal testimonials that are reflections on personal experiences as well as reactions about the events of the past week.  We hope that this collection of testimonials, as well as the voices that have been expressed in the last week, will be the guiding influences for the ultimate decision regarding the GSA.  We also encourage that students start the conversation in their own hometowns with friends and alumni/ae.
“In the past two days, faculty and alumni have written in support, and over 2000 students have signed a commitment statement to inclusion.
“Students will certainly be involved in the conversation directly with Student Activities when the fall semester begins and throughout the summer. “
On CUA’s campus in Washington, DC, the campus community has been celebrating the school’s 125th anniversary.  Two leaders from CUAllies, the gay-straight alliance seeking official recognition, took the occasion to publicly reflect in the student newspaper on the campus’ approach to LGBT issues.
In op-ed piece entitled “Reaffirming CUA’s Mission at 125 Years,” students Robert Shine and Ryan Fecteau recount the many achievements the campus has witnessed, but also note a glaring omission:

“At present, this campus does not present a safe, welcoming, and affirming environment for LGBTQ students and their allies. There is hostility de jure in the policies (or lack thereof) of the University and de facto in the opinions and actions of many at this University concerning gay and lesbian community members.

“Now, members are seeking to change that in the finest of the Catholic tradition that celebrates dignity and justice. CUAllies, the unofficial LGBTQ/Ally student organization, has a proposal for official recognition in the Office of Campus Activities that has gone unanswered for months now.

“We must look forward as a University to the type of community we wish to establish for the future. In the tradition of Jesus’ table ministry, we must invite all members of The Catholic University of America community who wish to join the conversation and respond effectively.

“To quote a submission CUAllies received from a student on campus: ‘Love, simply love; above all else, love. That is what Christ instructed us to do…I cannot consciously tell someone that they have no place in the Church and have nothing to contribute to the community. If CUAllies were to be rejected as an organization, the University would essentially be doing just that. They would refuse to recognize a group of persons, with inherent dignity, to formally assemble as an organization and therefore effectively conclude that these people have nothing to contribute to the CUA community as an organization.’

“Reading the signs of our times, cognizant of the historical moment in which we participate in the University’s life, we now echo the voices of hundreds in calling for the recognition of CUAllies, by the administration.

“If we are to go forward in improving CUA, we must ensure that the community represents and values each person, according to his or her divinely granted dignity.”

The faith and persistence of these Catholic students on both campuses offers bright hope for the future of the acceptance of LGBT issues within Catholic institutions.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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