NEWS NOTES: April 19, 2014

April 19, 2014

NewsHere are some items that you might find of interest:

1)  The Montana Standard reported that Shaela Evenson, a lesbian teacher who was fired from a Butte, Montana Catholic school because she became pregnant while unmarried, has given birth to a baby boy.  Both the school superintendent and Evenson’s lawyer agree that it was the pregnancy and marital status, not sexual orientation, which was the cause of the firing.  Evenson, who lives with her partner Marilyn Tobin, has filed a discrimination case with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

2) Michael Coren, a columnist for Canada’s The Toronto Sun reported that the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association has decided to march in Toronto’s World Pride parade in June.  The organization 45,000 teachers.

3) The Boston Globe reported that Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley filed a brief against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Worcester in the discrimination suit brought against them by a married gay couple who said the diocese refused to sell them a real estate property because of the couple’s sexual orientation.

4) Insight Newspaper reported that Archbishop Lewis Zeigler of Monrovia, Liberia, has told Catholics in that African nation not to support same-sex marriage.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


NEWS NOTES: April 18, 2014

April 18, 2014

NewsHere are some follow-up news items to previous posts:

1)  The Tablet reported that Conor Burns, a Catholic member of the British Parliament, said he does not feel welcome to receive communion in his diocese because his bishop  had suggested that Catholic Members of Parliament who voted for last year’s marriage equality law should not be allowed to receive communion.  Though Bishop Philip Egan had suggested banning these Catholic politicians from communion, the Catholic Conference of England said they have no plans to follow such a policy, according to Gay Star News.

2)  Following a heated meeting of parents who were upset that a nun with an anti-gay message was allowed to speak at an assembly at Charlotte Catholic High School, North Carolina, Bishop Peter Jugis of the Charlotte Diocese has written a letter “to express my support and encouragement for all the parents, students, staff and faculty at the high school.”   A copy of his letter is available on the WSOC-TV website, which reported this development. 

2)  The San Gabriel Valley Tribune reported that Ken Bencomo, who was fired from his teaching position at St. Lucy’s Priory H.S. in Glendora, California, for marrying his husband, is suing the school for ” wrongful termination in violation of public policy, violation of the state Labor Code and breach of contract.”

3) Though publicly-identified LGBT groups were not allowed to march in Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade last month, the central Massachusetts city of Holyoke welcomed Mass Equality, the state’s LGBT rights organization to march in its parade in honor of the Irish saint, reported WGGB-TV.  The Holyoke High School Gay/Straight Alliance, also marched.  Mayor Alex Morse said it was the first time in memory that LGBT groups participated in the parade.

4) TheSpec.com reported that Christopher Karas, a Catholic high school student in Mississauga, Canada, who had been told earlier this year that he could not use a quotation from Harvey Milk on a school poster advertising the students’ gay/straight alliance,  has now filed a complaint with Ontario’s human rights tribunal, accusing the school of systemic homophobia.  His complaint extends beyond the incident with the poster, and includes a history of incidents that Karas said he has experienced at the school.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

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Good Friday: Oppressed, Condemned, Taken Away

April 18, 2014

Though he was harshly treated, he submitted
and opened not his mouth;
like a lamb led to the slaughter
or a sheep before the shearers,
he was silent and opened not his mouth.
Oppressed and condemned, he was taken away,
and who would have thought any more of his destiny?
When he was cut off from the land of the living,
and smitten for the sin of his people,
a grave was assigned him among the wicked
and a burial place with evildoers,
though he had done no wrong
nor spoken any falsehood. . . .

Because of his affliction
he shall see the light in fullness of days;
through his suffering, my servant shall justify many,
and their guilt he shall bear.
Therefore I will give him his portion among the great,
and he shall divide the spoils with the mighty,
because he surrendered himself to death
and was counted among the wicked;
and he shall take away the sins of many,
and win pardon for their offenses.

–Isaiah 53:7-9, 10-12

 

 

 

 


NEWS NOTES: April 17, 2014

April 17, 2014

NewsHere are some items that you might find of interest:

1) The Catholic island nation of Malta passed legislation approving civil unions for same-gender couples, according to Gay Star News.  Auxiliary Bishop Charles Scicluna, a Maltese Catholic bishop, who had at one time spoke favorably about same-gender relationships, was one of the prime spokesperson’s for the local Catholic hierarchy opposing the new law.

2) Catholics in Spain are strongly in support of that nation’s marriage equality law, which was enacted in 2005, according to a new survey.  West-Info.eu  reported on the survey which also noted that in two Catholic nations where same-gender marriage is not legal, the majority of believers oppose such a policy:  in Italy, 66%;  in Poland, 78%.

Mother Teresa

3) Mother Teresa is featured on the website for the United Nations’ Free and Equal program which supports non-discrimination for LGBT people around the globe.  When one clicks on her image on the homepage, one is brought to a photo of Mother Teresa under the headline “Mother Teresa Helps Us to Remember What’s Important.”   Superimposed over her photo is a quote from the universally-revered champion of the poor:  “What can you do to promote world peace?  Go home and love your family.”  The photo with the quotation can be shared on Facebook and other social media platforms.

4) The National Catholic Reporter noted that the Vatican has appointed a bishop to investigate the sexual abuse allegations against Cardinal Keith O’Brien, formerly the primate of Scotland, who resigned last year when he acknowledged sexual liaisons with men who became priests in his diocese.  O’Brien made headlines for speaking out strongly against marriage equality in Scotland.  The bishop who will be leading the investigation is Maltese Bishop Charles Scicluna, mentioned in the first news note above.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


Holy Thursday: What We Have Received from Jesus

April 17, 2014

Brothers and sisters:
I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you,
that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over,
took bread, and, after he had given thanks,
broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you.
Do this in remembrance of me.”
In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying,
“This cup is the new covenant in my blood.
Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup,
you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.

–1 Corinithians 11:23-26


CAMPUS CHRONICLES: USD Drag Show Draws Fire, But Is Really a Moment for Encounter

April 16, 2014

University of San Diego students at the drag show.

The decision by the University of San Diego (USD), a Catholic school, to host a drag show was controversial, catching even the Vatican’s eye. However, one professor there says there is much more to this drag show than critics understand and it should be a moment for learning.

“Supreme Drag Superstar III” was the third annual drag show at USD, hosted by the campus’ LGBT group called PRIDE and promoted as a “celebration of gender expression.” According to U-T San Diego, the show features “a brief academic talk on the history cross-dressing and information booths,” in addition to the costumed musical performances.

Two local attorneys, Charles LiMandri and Thomas McKenna, protested the drag show by writing to the Diocese of San Diego and the Congregation for Catholic Education at the Vatican. The Diocese refused to comment and the Congregation turned down their complaint as it “lacks standing” for action against the University.

For its part, the University of San Diego has defended the show. Tim O’Malley, a spokesperson, said nothing about it violates Catholic teaching and stated further:

“We do not mean to demean our critics. Gender expression and identity, for some people, is not an area to be explored. For some people, that simply is wrong…However, the law of the church is silent on cross dressing. There no evidence that cross dressing is inherently homosexual.”

Emily Reimer-Barry, a theology and religious studies professor at USD, wrote about drag shows and transgender people in a post on the blog Catholic Moral Theology. She explains that each semester she invites a trans person to speak to undergraduate courses in sexual ethics in an effort to complicate and humanize what students preconceptions about the transgender community. While the post includes helpful definitions and suggestions, she also makes clear the importance of events like USD’s drag show, relating it to a transgender friend of hers, Jackie:

“Each time I hear Jackie’s personal story, I realize that Catholic parishes and Catholic institutions (like hospitals and universities) have a long way to go before all transgendered people will feel welcomed and included. I’m proud that at the University of San Diego we are trying to raise awareness of these issues in events like last night’s PRIDE’s Celebration of Gender Expression Supreme Drag Superstar. The drag show is fun as well as educational, and it helps students on my campus think more concretely and creatively about sexuality, gender, inclusion, and justice…

“For those who find such an event to be inconsistent with the Catholic identity of the university, I would suggest that to be church in our world today means engaging with the full reality of human experiences. It is a problem that so few people are aware of the terminology and basic facts about diverse expressions of gender identity.”

Furthermore, Reimer-Barry believes the drag show allows for self-reflection on how each person performs a gender identity and how we relate to our self in terms of sexuality and gender. This reflection helps with how we view the experiences of others, and “learn more about the diversity of God’s creation.” To conclude, she appeals to Pope Francis’ witness, writing:

“Pope Francis wrote in Evangelii Gaudium: ‘Whenever we encounter another person in love, we learn something new about God’ (no. 272). The pope reminds us that ‘A Church which goes forth is a Church whose doors are open. Going out to others in order to reach the fringes of humanity does not mean rushing out aimlessly into the world. Often it is better simply to slow down, to put aside our eagerness in order to see and listen to others.’ (no. 46). What powerful words in this context– What would it mean to have the doors of the church open to the transgender community? What would it mean to walk with students who are questioning their gender identity?…if the drag show helps GLBTQ students and their allies at my school to know that they are loved, supported, and included in this community, then we are doing something good and something special.

“I believe we need a much deeper theo-ethical engagement on these issues. The natural law tradition of Catholic theology invites us to reflect on human experience in order to draw norms about what promotes human flourishing; yet theologians sometimes collapse or confuse sex and gender, or we fail to include the life experiences of GLBTQ persons in our methodologies…We may think we have a long way to go, but a framework of listening and learning from the experiences of others will help us achieve much. This theology of accompaniment, like the drag show, can be a fun learning experience. And we can realize together that in the eyes of God each one of us is fabulous.”

Drag shows have previously caused controversies at Catholic schools and parishes, including in San Francisco and in New York. Thankfully, the University has defended the student-led drag show to promote awareness of the complexities surrounding gender and sexuality. What if other Catholic institutions, often so quick to shut down such initiatives, thought like Reimer-Barry and saw drag shows as an opportunity to see God in new ways and offer support to LGBT people?

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


EXCLUSIVE: Why Catholics Should Affirm Civil Marriage Equality

April 15, 2014
Professor Lisa Fullam

Professor Lisa Fullam

A new theological argument in favor of Catholic support for civil same-sex marriage is being published today on Bondings 2.0.  The article is written by Professor Lisa Fullam, an associate professor of moral theology at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley, California.   You can access the full text of the article on its own page by clicking here.

Entitled “Civil Same-Sex Marriage:  A Catholic Affirmation,” Prof. Fullam’s essay uses the Catholic intellectual tradition to argue that support for civil marriage for lesbian and gay couples is in line with our church’s best ideas about marriage, civil society, and church-state relations.  It deserves a full and thoughtful reading by all who are concerned with these issues.

The problem with the current Catholic debate on civil marriage, according to Fullam, is that it is both too broad and too narrow. In the article’s abstract, she states:

“Too broad: civil same-sex marriage is sometimes described as parallel to same-sex marriage in the Church. Too narrow: some Catholic contributions to the discussion have centered on reproductive capacity, ignoring Catholicism’s rich tradition which values marriage beyond procreation.”

The essay is divided into three sections:

  1. a discussion of how Catholic thought understands civil law;
  2. a critique of magisterial statements in the public debate about marriage;
  3. an enumeration or reasons why Catholics might work for marriage equality.

Fullam’s essay is both theologically rich and relevant to contemporary lives. For example, her working definition of the traditional concept of  “natural law” begins with a full accounting of human nature, which she defines as:

“. . . the capacities and potential excellences of the human creature, seen in the light of the best knowledge available to us—biological, psychological, sociological, philosophical (including theological,) spiritual, artistic, historic (including personal experience), etc. Natural law is sometimes confused with the biological functions of human bodies, but this misunderstanding fails to consider human nature in this fuller sense, that we are rational and creative discerners of meaning, seeking to grow in virtue, aided by the grace of God. To see how the natural law guides us in a given situation is to think deeply about how the question before us is best resolved for the flourishing of ourselves and our societies. “

Among the most thought-provoking part of the essay is her critique of magisterial arguments against same-sex marriage, including those from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Pope John Paul  II’s “Theology of the Body.”   By basing her argument in the Vatican II document Gaudium et Spes, which acknowledged that marriages served both unitive and procreative ends, Fullam shows how leaders like the U.S. bishops have narrowed down the Council’s teaching on marriage:

“According to the bishops, the ‘communion of persons’ of Gaudium et Spes is revealed in the procreative capacity of couples: while the Council taught that non-procreative marriages are still marriages, the USCCB roots the unitive end of marriage in the procreative possibility of heterosexual marriage.”

In the last section, Fullam shows how the magisterium’s focus on procreation leads to many inconsistencies in their approach to civil marriage and family life.  For example, she notes the situation of adoption:

“Those who raise children not biologically their own are reaching beyond a reproductive imperative to a spiritually-resonant act of profound devotion. They make a great contribution to the common good. To base the social value of marriage on the potential for biological procreation would be to ignore the generosity of adoptive parents, and to render their families somehow unnatural or second-class. This would be a fundamental injustice to those families, and an odd reversal of Christian tradition that emphasizes caring for those in need. “

And she ponders what other civil laws might be needed if a view of marriage that has procreation as its definition were to take hold in secular society:

“Unless we are willing to redefine civil marriage in reproductive terms–perhaps automatically divorcing couples who do not reproduce in a reasonable amount of time, for instance, or denying marriage to women of a certain age or those who are sterile by choice or by happenstance–in denying civil marriage to same-sex couples, we discriminate against them precisely because they are homosexual, a form of unjustifiable discrimination that is contrary to Catholic social teaching.”

Fullam’s essay gives solid, theological underpinnings to the hopes of so many Catholics whose consciences have told them that marriage equality for lesbian and gay couples is a matter of justice.  By grounding her thought in both Thomas Aquinas and the Second Vatican Council, Fullam shows just how Catholic an argument for marriage equality can be.  Reading through this essay will help all those who often find themselves challenged by Catholic opponents to marriage equality.  And it will also give them a deeper understanding and appreciation of our Catholic faith and intellectual tradition.

You can read the entire essay on Bondings 2.0 by clicking here.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Homelessness Advocate Asks Pope Francis to Protect LGBT Youth

April 14, 2014

Siciliano’s letter as printed in the New York Times

The head of the largest shelter i the U.S.  for homeless  LGBT youth has written an open letter to Pope Francis asking for his support for these teens.

Carl Siciliano’s letter, published as a full-page ad in The New York Times, asks the pope to counter the religious rejection of LGBT youth by their families which is so often the cause of homelessness. Siciliano is founder and executive director of the Ali Forney Center in New York City, and also a former Benedictine monk and gay Catholic man.

In the letter reported on by LGBTQ Nation, he urges Pope Francis to reverse the hierarchy’s teaching that homogenital acts are wrong and that a homosexual orientation is disordered, writing:

“I ask you to take urgent action to protect them from the devastating consequences of religious rejection, which is the most common reason LGBT youths are driven from their homes. At the heart of the problem is that the church still teaches that homosexual conduct is a sin, and that being gay is disordered. I hope that if you understand how this teaching tears families apart and brings suffering to innocent youths, you will end this teaching and prevent your bishops from fighting against the acceptance of LGBT people as equal members of society…

“What these youths endure is horrific. They endure the torment of being unloved and unwanted by their parents, combined with the ordeals of hunger, cold and sexual exploitation while homeless. LGBT youths who are rejected by their families are eight times more likely to attempt suicide than LGBT youths whose parents accept them…

“A teaching’s wisdom and efficacy must be judged in part by its outcome. The teaching that homosexual conduct is a sin has a poisonous outcome, bearing fruit in many Christian parents who abandon their LGBT children to homelessness and destitution. How could a good seed yield such a bitter harvest?”

Siciliano cites shocking statistics that while LGBT youth only make up 5% of the youth population, they comprise 40% 0f homeless youth. That’s a minimum of 200,000 homeless LGBT youth last year in the US alone. He ties this to Pope Francis’ obvious love for the poor, and writes further:

“Jesus Christ is never recorded as having said a word in judgment or condemnation of homosexuality or of LGBT people. He spoke of a loving, compassionate God, and commanded his followers to act with love and compassion. Jesus spoke of God as a loving parent who would never abandon his children.”

The letter’s appearance in the Times was funded by Faith in America, which educates about the harm caused by religious-based stigma. Brent Childers, who heads up the organization, said in a press statement:

“Pope Francis has the opportunity to lead faith communities around the world in gifting parents of LGBT youth with an unconditional spiritual embrace, a gift which most surely will bring peace to these lives and these families.”

The letter was accompanied by a new Facebook page and Change.org petition. This  initiative ties LGBT justice to Pope Francis’ existing concern for the homeless and those experiencing poverty. Hopefully, Siciliano’s letter and the surrounding efforts will open the pope’s eyes to how disproportionately these issues affect LGBT youth.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Palm Sunday: Are We More Like Judas Than We Care to Admit?

April 13, 2014

Periodically in Lent, Bondings 2.0 will feature reflections by two New Ways Ministry staff members:  Matthew Myers, Associate Director, and Sister Jeannine Gramick, Co-Founder. The liturgical readings for Palm Sunday are: Isaiah 50:4-7; Psalm 22:8-9, 17-20, 23-24; Philippians 2:6-11; Matthew 26:14-27:66.

judas - last supper“He went off and hanged himself.”

These are the last words recorded by the Gospel writer about Judas Iscariot.  How did it come to this?  Why did Judas meet such a tragic end?

Judas was no casual acquaintance of Jesus.  He was an apostle, a member of Jesus’ closest circle of friends and followers.  Judas walked the long, dusty roads of Palestine with Jesus and shared his message of God’s tender love for every person.  They shared meals and idle time with each other.  They were more like brothers than friends.  But somehow things went bad.

Jesus tells his disciples fifteen times in the Gospels to not be afraid.  By the standard of sheer repetition, this message must have been very important to Jesus and the God he proclaimed.  And the problem with Judas was that he was terribly afraid.

Judas was afraid that his trust in Jesus was misplaced — that the reign of God as Jesus described it was not enough for him anymore — so Judas approached Jesus’ enemies and offered to hand him over for a paltry sum of silver.  Judas was afraid to acknowledge the truth of his betrayal, so he lied to Jesus (and perhaps to himself) during the Last Supper.  Judas was afraid that his betrayal put him outside God’s mercy and love, so he hanged himself from a tree.

Fear led Judas to his tragic end.

I do not think Judas was a traitor worthy of scorn and damnation, but a fallible human compelled by fear who made a series of very grave mistakes.  He is worthy of our compassion, particularly since we who are LGBT Catholics and allies may be a bit more like Judas than we want to admit.  I do not suggest that we betray Jesus anew in our own day and time, but that sometimes our choices are compelled by fear rather than love.  Let me explain.

Many of us experience a certain degree of fear when considering whether or not to say or do something about LGBT justice in our church.  Many “what if” questions emerge, and we quickly imagine the worst possible consequences to our actions.  For example, “what if my fellow parishioners reject me when I share that I’m gay?”  Or, “what if my pastor denies me communion because I want to civilly marry my same-gender partner?”  Or, “what if the bishop finds out about our welcoming LGBT parish ministry and forces us to close it?”  The questions are many and varied.  But instead of responding to each concern with thoughtful and life-giving discernment, we are tempted to let fear cripple us into inaction.  Unfortunately, similar to Judas, that fear leads us away from building the reign of God and toward our own emotional and spiritual death.

Jesus offers us an alternative to fear and death.  He says, “Take courage; it is I, do not be afraid.”  The bold and prophetic example of Jesus helps to free us from fear, from all that holds us back from working for LGBT justice in our church.  Instead of giving into our fears like Judas, may we have courage to live and share our own truths with one another.

–Matthew Myers, New Ways Ministry


Pope Francis Needs to Speak Clearly on LGBT Issues

April 12, 2014

Pope Francis

Pope Francis has made his most specific and critical statement about families headed by same-gender couples by stating that children should be raised “in the complementarity of the masculinity and femininity of a father and a mother.”

The Advocate’s Michael O’Loughlin reported that the remarks were made in the context of an address to a delegation from the International Catholic Child Bureau.  The pope’s comments, in context, were:

“it is necessary to emphasize the right of children to grow up within a family, with a father and a mother able to create a suitable environment for their development and emotional maturity. Continuing to mature in the relationship, in the complementarity of the masculinity and femininity of a father and a mother, and thus preparing the way for emotional maturity.”

Pope Francis further stated:

“Working for human rights presupposes keeping anthropological formation alive, being well-prepared regarding the reality of the human person, and knowing how to respond to the problems and challenges posed by contemporary cultures and mentalities that are spread by the mass media. . . .

“At times it is necessary to flee; at times it is necessary to stop to protect oneself; and at times one must fight. But always with tenderness.”

For those who have been lifted up by the pope’s more positive remarks on LGBT issues, these new words will come as a shock.  Though the pontiff has been developing a reputation as being progressive, many have warned all along that his thinking on women and gender have needed development.  Since the heart of these remarks focus on the outdated concept of “gender complementarity,” it seems reasonable to attribute these remarks, in part, to this blind spot of his.

Regardless of its origin in the pope’s thinking, this remark shows that Francis still needs to learn a lot about LGBT people and their families.  That’s the bad news.  The good news is that he seems open to learning more about sexuality and gender issues, witnessed in his call for lay people to provide their opinions on marriage and family issues in anticipation of the October 2014 synod on those topics.

This new statement seems to be stated in the typical style that Pope Francis has used over the past year: while he expresses support for heterosexual marriage and family structures, he definitely avoids any direct attacks against LGBT people and relationships.  It sometimes seemed that his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, went out of his way to criticize and condemn LGBT issues.  That is not Pope Francis’ style.  In a recent general audience he spoke about the beauty of heterosexual marriage, but did not use the praise of that institution as an occasion to explicitly disparage same-gender relationships.  Here’s what he said at the Vatican on April 2nd, according to Religion News Service:

“When a man and a woman celebrate the sacrament of marriage, God is reflected in them. . . .

“As ‘one flesh’, they become living icons of God’s love in our world, building up the Church in unity and fidelity. The image of God is the married couple — not just the man, not just the woman, but both.”

He appears to be using the same strategy in the new example of praising families about headed by heterosexual couples.  We don’t see him using accusations that children raised by same-gender couples experience “violence,” as Benedict often said.   Instead, Francis remains silent on the topic.

While silence is not ideal, it is a welcome relief, and a good first step.  But it is also not enough.  While Francis has made some exciting and encouraging statements, some of them have been ambiguous, allowing some to develop strange interpretations, and sometimes forcing people to guess at what he meant.

Pope Francis could clear this up by making a clear, strongly positive statement on LGBT issues which will clear up any doubt about where he stands on these matters.  Of course, we would most like him to speak clearly and forcefully against anti-LGBT laws that are being enacted around the globe.  Or he could support employment rights for LGBT people working in Catholic institutions.  A statement of support to LGBT youth who experience bullying and other forms of violence would also be helpful.  (What kind of statement would you want the pope to make?  Write your thoughts in a “Comment” to this post.)

If he needs any help formulating such statements, we are glad to help him. He can just give us a phone call–something that we know he likes to do!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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