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

December 13, 2014

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

Pope Francis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Catholic leaders said likewise:

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

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

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

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

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

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


NEWS NOTES: September 2, 2014

September 2, 2014

News NotesHere are some items that you might find of interest:

1) Catholics United, a faith-based political organization, has called on Archbishop Charles Chaput to do more to show support for transgender people in the wake of the suicide of a transgender young man, Riley Moscatel, in Philadelphia.   Moscatel was raised Catholic and had a Catholic funeral.

2) In Alberta, Canada,  St. Albert Catholic High alumnus Brent Saccucci is one of 10 recipients of the University of Alberta’s 2014 Peter Lougheed Scholarship, according to The St. Albert Gazette.  Saccuci, a gay man, studies education, and he is active in addressing inequities in schools, especially around young students of colour and those who are LGBTQ.

3)  Elliot Wehrle, a student at Mother Teresa Catholic High School in Ottawa, Canada, was the youth marshal for Ottawa Pride this past month.  Wehrle wrote Break Before Bend, a musical about coming out, which was performed at the school in March.

4) In the heavily Catholic nation of Ecuador, President Rafael Correa, has allowed same-sex couples in civil unions to list their status on their national identification cards, similar to the way marital status is listed.  Same-sex marriage is not legal in the country.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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


Catholic Responses to Supreme Court Decisions Continue to Pour In

June 27, 2013

The euphoria over yesterday’s Supreme Court decisions on marriage equality is continuing unabated by Catholics and LGBT advocates.

Justice Anthony Kennedy

Justice Anthony Kennedy

Perhaps the most amazingly Catholic quotation from the decisions was the phrase written by Catholic Justice Anthony Kennedy in striking down the Defense of Marriage Act:

“The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity.”

Equally Blessed, a Catholic coalition that works for equality and justice for LGBT people in church and society, released the following statement yesterday:

 

Equally Blessed Logo“As members of the Catholic Church and citizens of the United States, we are elated that the U. S. Supreme Court has both struck down the Defense of Marriage Act and cleared the way for marriage equality in the state of California. We are especially pleased to see that Justice Anthony Kennedy, a Catholic, wrote the opinion striking down DOMA, and that Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who is also a Catholic, concurred in this historic decision.

“While we would have preferred the Court to find the California law prohibiting same-sex marriage to be clearly unconstitutional, in dismissing the case, the Court has cleared the way for same-sex couples to be legally married in that state.

“Catholics around the country have worked hard to pass legislation that permits same-sex couples to marry, and protects lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from discrimination. They have done so not in spite of their faith, but because of it, knowing that every human being is created in the image and likeness of God, and that all of God’s children must be treated with dignity, compassion and respect.

“The court today has removed two obstacles blocking the path to justice for same-sex couples, but that path must still be walked. So today we celebrate and offer prayers of thanksgiving, and tomorrow we invite our fellow Catholics to join us in working to bring marriage equality to the states in which it has not yet been written into law.”

The member organizations of Equally Blessed are Call To Action, DignityUSA, Fortunate Families, New Ways Ministry.

Both the National Catholic Reporter and Whispers In the Loggia reported on reactions from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and other marriage equality opponents.

Bryan Cones, on U.S. Catholic’s blog wondered if the Supreme Court decisions will persuade the bishops to tone down their campaign against marriage equality and instead engage in dialogue with LGBT people:

Bryan Cones

Bryan Cones

“I for one would hope for a kind of pause on the bishops’ approach to this question: It should be obvious now that, on the civil side of things, same-sex couples have convinced Americans that they deserve access to the civil benefits of marriage. We in the church need to be having our own conversations about the religious institution of marriage and the religious meaning of human sexuality–long a monologue from the hierarchy that has not included the voices of lay people, married, single, gay, bisexual, or straight. Our own deliberations may lead us to new conclusions, or it may lead to a reaffirmation of old ones. But the signs of the times, today’s rulings included, demand our common discernment. “

Catholics United’s blog, Our Daily Threadcarried a post by Daniel Byrne in which he challenged the USCCB’s characterization of the decisions as “tragic”:

“It further upsets me that you call these decisions “tragic.” What’s tragic is that 23% of children live in poverty. What’s tragic are the natural disasters occurring because of climate change. What’s tragic is that Guantanamo Bay is still open (thanks to Bishop Pates for hisstatement, by the way). Providing equal rights for same-sex spouses is not tragic.

“Let’s be clear, this is a civil rights issue. No longer will same-sex spouses be turned away from seeing their partner in a hospital. No longer will binational couples be separated because their marriage isn’t recognized in the US. No longer will another 1,100 rights be denied same-sex spouses.”

Jamie Manson, writing on HuffingtonPost.com, tells the story of a group of Catholic LGBT advocates from Dignity/New York, who helped bring the DOMA case to court by supporting the plaintiff, Edith Windsor:

Edith Windsor

Edith Windsor

“As millions celebrate today the Supreme Court’s striking down of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), many will be giving thanks to Edie Windsor, the 83-year-old plaintiff in the case, and her lawyer, Roberta Kaplan.

“What most people will not know, however, is the instrumental role that a few members of the New York City chapter of DignityUSA played in this historic moment.”

You can read the inspiring story here.  Or you can see a synopsis and link to an earlier version of this story from The National Catholic Reporter by clicking here.

Manson concludes her essay with some hopeful words, which reflect the mood of yesterday’s and today’s exuberance:

“To paraphrase Margaret Mead’s oft-quoted aphorism, never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed Catholics can change the world.”

–Francis DeBernardo and Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

 

 


QUOTE TO NOTE: What Jesus Said About Condemning Gays

April 5, 2013

computer_key_Quotation_MarksIn the context of the Supreme Court’s recent hearing of oral arguments in the two marriage equality cases, James Salt, executive director of Catholics United, a political organization, had this to say:

“Christ did indeed say many things, but let’s face it: not one of them was about condemning gay people. It’s troubling that so many people who claim to follow his word have such difficulty understanding his real message. Christ’s message was to bring good news to the poor, not to ostracize gays, inflame phobias or create division.”

You can read the full article in which this excerpt was quoted in The Vindicator, a newspaper from Liberty County, Texas.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Petition Asks Knights of Columbus to End Work Against Marriage Equality

November 24, 2012

Catholics United, a religious political organization, delivered a petition with 7,500 signatures to the headquarters of the Knights of Columbus, asking the fraternal organization to stop funding activities to oppose marriage equality.

According to the New Haven Register, two members of Catholics United delivered the signed petition to the  Knights’ New Haven offices just two days before Thanksgiving, noting that the Knights are out of step with mainstream Catholicism:

“The Knights of Columbus has done a lot of wonderful things over the years, but many Catholics across the country believe the Knights of Columbus has just become a wing of the Republican Party,” said Patrick Carolan, 58, of Stratford [Connecticut]. . . .

” ‘While they’re spending money to defeat gay marriage, well, that’s money that could be helping people around the world,’ Carolan said.”

The article contains a video interview with Mr. Carolan and Traugott Lawler of Hamden, a 75-year-old retired English professor from Yale University, as they delivered the petition.

The news article cited the report released earlier this year by Equally Blessed which detailed the Knights’ massive spending on marriage equality opposition over the past several years:

“The Knights have contributed at least $6.25 million to anti-gay marriage initiatives since 2005, federal income tax and campaign documents show. According to a report by the group Equally Blessed, the Knights gave $600,000 during the 2012 election cycle.”

Equally Blessed is a coalition of four Catholic organizations–Call To Action, DignityUSA, Fortunate Families, New Ways Ministry–which work for justice and equality for LGBT people in church and society.

An Associated Press story noted a statement by the head of Catholics United, the organization which collected the signatures on the petition:

” ‘As a young Catholic, I want my church to focus on serving the marginalized, not fighting for far-right political issues,’ said James Salt, executive director of Catholics United.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Catholic Campaigns for Marriage Equality in Maine and Maryland Intensify

October 20, 2012

Seventeen days remain until voters in four states will cast ballots regarding marriage equality’s future in their respective states. In Maine and Maryland, Catholic leaders on each side of the ballot questions are intensifying their efforts to turn Catholics out.  New Ways Ministry had public roles in the campaigns in both states this week.

In Maine, where a third of the population are Catholic, former Governor John Baldacci hosted a spaghetti dinner fundraiser in conjunction with Catholics for Marriage Equality to urge Mainers to vote Yes on Question One.

Governor John Baldacci (center) with New Ways Ministry’s Francis DeBernardo and Sister Jeannine Gramick.

Catholics for Marriage Equality, the Religious Coalition Against Discrimination, and Catholics United invited New Ways Ministry co-founder, Sr. Jeannine Gramick, and Executive Director, Francis DeBernardo, to speak at the dinner. The dinner also fundraised for a local homeless shelter defunded by the US bishops’ Catholic Campaign for Human Development after the shelter came out in support for equality in 2009.

Sr. Gramick told those gathered:

“It is not just a vote for lesbian and gay couples and their right, because they do have the right to get married. It is a vote to support families. You can be a good Catholic and vote with your conscience and vote for marriage equality.”

You can watch a news video of the event, including interviews with Governor Baldacci and Sister Gramick by clicking here.

One priest in Maine has recently noted how hard it is for Catholics to speak together about marriage equality.  Fr. Seamus Griesbach of Bangor referenced the emotional damage caused by a 2009 Catholic bishops’ campaign against gay marriage that saw significant financial and staff investments. Fr. Griesbach told National Public Radio:

” ‘We have both perspectives in the church, and they’re very inclined to really get pretty nasty,’ says Griesbach. ‘So I think the church said, wait a minute, we cannot allow the Gospel to be limited to some kind of slogan.’ “

Sister Jeannine speaks at the Maryland press conference.

Meanwhile, Maryland Catholics joined with other faith communities in encouraging residents to vote for Question 6 and uphold a pre-existing marriage equality law. Religious leaders,  including Sr. Jeannine Gramick, gathered on Thursday, October 18th at an interfaith press conference to express their support for Question 6.

Sister Jeannine spoke at the conference and was quoted in the Washington Blade :

“As we grow in the moral right, we sometimes have to make conscience decisions that are at odds with the leaders of our religious denomination…I do respect the position of the Catholic bishops on this question, but I disagree with them and I disagree with them because my conscience tells me so. My conscience tells me that social justice teaching in my church… supports equality and dignity for every individual. And so I can apply that social justice teaching of my church to the question of civil marriage for lesbian and gay people. This is not a question of church doctrine. It’s a question of public policy. And in this area of public policy I respectfully disagree with the bishops of my church.’”

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


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