Sr. Jeannine Gramick Comments on Pope Shaking Up Bishops

December 19, 2013
Sr. Jeannine Gramick

Sr. Jeannine Gramick

Pope Francis moved to solidify his reforms in real ways this week by shaking up the Congregation for Bishops, which oversees episcopal appointments worldwide. The pope’s addition of Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, DC stood in contrast to his removal of Cardinal Raymond Burke, who has led highly conservative factions in the Church through his position at the Vatican. Given the significance of these events, it is worth asking: what could this mean for LGBT issues in the Church?

On Wednesday, Sr. Jeannine Gramick, co-founder of New Ways Ministry, spoke with MSNBC’s Tamron Hall about the new appointments and prospects for greater justice within the Church itself. When asked about LGBT people and Pope Francis, Sr. Jeannine said:

“I’ve been working in ministry on behalf of LGBT people within the Catholic Church and outside the Catholic Church since the 1970s. I never would have imagined that same-sex marriage would be on the agenda of our country, or of the world, or even of our Church.

“It is heartwarming that Francis is returning to the Gospel and saying do not be obsessed with issues like same-sex marriage or abortion or contraception. He’s telling the Congregation for Bishops that when you look for bishops, appoint bishops who smell like the sheep. In other words, he wants men, priests now, who are in the trenches with the people, who are pastoral and not people who are obsessed with cultural issues.”

You can watch the entire interview by clicking here.

In the National Catholic Reporter , John Allen explained why the Congregation for Bishops matters, and specifically what impact new American leadership could have. Allen writes:

“Under the Vatican’s process for picking bishops, the papal ambassador, or nuncio, in each country is responsible for compiling a list of names of candidates, called a terna, for openings as they arise. That terna is then submitted to the Congregation for Bishops, whose members vote on the final list to be submitted to the pope.

“Although all members vote on every nomination, observers say there’s a natural tendency within the congregation to defer to the members who come from a particular part of the world when a vacancy arises in their region. The American members, therefore, tend to be especially influential in shaping picks for the United States.

“Although in theory the pope is free to ignore the recommendations, in most cases the pope simply takes the top pick submitted by the Congregation for Bishops.”

In a separate piece, John Allen comments more specifically to analyze how the pope is setting up a new generation of “Francis Bishops.” He offers commentary on individual appointments in the piece, which are worth reading and writes:

“Putting in the moderate Wuerl and taking the strongly conservative Burke off couldn’t help but seem a signal of the kind of bishop Francis intends to elevate in the United States…

“There’s equally no doubt, however, that as of Monday, Francis shifted the center of the gravity inside the body responsible for selecting bishops towards the middle — not just with the American members, as it turns out, but across the board.”

As for LGBT issues, it seems Pope Francis wants bishops with a more pastoral and less political tone. While Wuerl has not been a strong ally for the LGBT community, he is notable for what he has not done as much as for what he has. He has not denied Communion to politicians based upon their voting records, and he has hardly been as aggressive in speech against LGBT people as his fellow American bishops.  Moreover, it was Wuerl who, in a nationally renowned news story, removed the priest who denied communion to a Catholic lesbian woman at her mother’s funeral.

When Pope Francis was selected as Person of the Year in both Time and The Advocate, critics have claimed his actions of welcome and outreach to the LGBT community were only words. This shake-up at the Vatican seems to indicate that the pope is trying to solidify words into actions.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Love Trans-Formed Over the Weekend

November 25, 2013
IMG_0701

Participants at New Ways Ministry’s “Trans-forming Love” workshop.

Love was trans-formed near Baltimore on Saturday, November 23rd, as Catholics gathered for New Ways Ministry’s workshop “Trans-forming Love”  which addressed transgender issues from a variety of perspectives. Participants from as far as Chicago and New England gathered for prayer, reflection, and education during the daylong workshop. They were parents, friends, spouses,pastoral ministers, allies, and transgender people themselves.  The workshop was held at the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart convent.

The morning began with prayer, followed by a presentation from Dr. Edgardo Menvielle, MD of Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, DC. Dr. Menvielle shared his story of how his psychiatric career migrated into the care of gender variant children. He helped participants understand terminology and concepts particular to discussions of gender identity and diversity, as well as sharing clinical insights.

Dr. Edgardo Menvielle

Dr. Edgardo Menvielle

Most pointedly, he spoke of the particular needs of gender variant children, who may or may not ultimately be transgender. Transgender youth are at increased risk of violence, depression and suicide, risky sexual behaviors, and homelessness. Peer victimization at young ages leads to lifelong problems with social acceptance and self-worth, and he continued:

“If you’ve been bullied as a child, you don’t get over it. It tends to affect people in profound ways.”

Dr. Menvielle attributes many of the challenges transgender people face to social factors, such as how one’s family, friends or co-workers might respond or how culture, philosophical, and religious factors could affect their well-being. Given these realities, it was easy for participants to extrapolate how pastoral care of transgender people in the Catholic Church is a necessary, needed step.

After a lunch break, participants heard from Hilary Howes, a transgender Catholic woman who spoke to the personal, spiritual, and religious aspects of transgender people’s lives. Howes shared her story of transitioning eighteen years ago, and then about her efforts to advocate for transgender rights. She noted that each person’s life, especially those on the margins, is a parable that instructs.

IMG_0689

Hilary Howes

Howes also discussed her participation in the Transgender Religious Roundtable which hopes to go beyond just welcoming transgender people into faith communities. Howes said of this effort:

“Our idea was: what do we bring to the party? What is it that we [transgender people] do that is unique to religious institutions? In other traditions, transgender people hold a very special place and in Western culture we needed to define that.”

Specific to the Catholic community, Howes was asked why transgender people would stay Catholic and she replied:

“I’ll have to admit that for a lot of transgender people raised in the Catholic Church they have been so harmed by the Catholic community that they have left church. I know a number of Lutherans and Episcopalians that were raised Catholic.

“The reality is that there is no teaching by the Roman Catholic Church on transgender people. There are those who make claims; there is nothing that has been substantiated. Every priest I’ve talked to and a couple of bishops have been very supportive and understanding. They have not found any incompatibility with being transgender and Catholic.

“For me, one reason I stay Catholic is the ritual. I’m deeply called to that. It’s highly symbolic to me as an artist and a creative person. There’s a convenience factor too with my wife being Catholic.”

You can read more on Howes’ blog, TogetherStyle, where she also provides resources for transgender people. There are also resources available for promoting inclusive faith communities from the Institute for Welcoming Resources.

The day concluded with a closing prayer, part of which is included below for the reflection of Bondings 2.0 readers:

“We give you thanks, O God our Creator, because you have given us life. You have made us in your image and breathed your Spirit into us. We are alive with the divinity that you manifest in us. We have been touched by you, O God.”

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


How to Offer Input for Synod on Family Is Mired in Confusion

November 12, 2013

Since the Vatican asked for Catholic input to inform next fall’s Synod of Bishops, ambiguity reigns among lay people, clergy, and, it appears, even the Vatican. Directions to disseminate it “immediately” and “as widely as possible” accompanied the Vatican’s release of the 39-question survey, but how this is incarnated is less clear and limited interpretations in the US have left many unhappy.

Officials at the Vatican seem conflicted on what exactly the Synod is asking of bishops and lay people. National Catholic Reporter notes remarks by Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri, general-secretary of the Synod, as potentially clarifying:

“Baldisseri said pastors were expected to provide summaries of the views and experiences of parishioners and that their findings would be ‘channeled’ in turn through national bishops’ conferences for ultimate consideration by the synod.

“Individual Catholics are welcome to communicate their views directly to the synod’s offices at the Vatican, Baldisseri said. His staff is preparing the synod’s working document, which should be published in May.”

Also unclear is what weight responses from non-episcopal voices will carry in the Synod, and even what the Synod’s scope will entail:

“[Archbishop Bruno] Forte said he wanted to emphasize the ‘pastoral slant’ of the theme as ‘a perspective through which the Holy Father invites us to look upon the value of the family and the challenges it faces today.’

” ‘It is not, therefore, a matter of debating doctrinal questions…But rather how to understand how to effectively proclaim the Gospel of the family in the times we are living, characterized by a clear social and spiritual crisis.’ “

As for the US bishops, their conference has closed off any broader consultation with Catholics and asks only for bishops to send their personal observations. This path has left many dissatisfied, and several bishops and past staff at the USCCB called the letters from the Vatican and the Conference conflicting messages.

Coincidentally, the Archdiocese of Detroit published a questionnaire for Catholics about the quality of parish life and local church issues which is unrelated to the upcoming synod. This survey, according to National Catholic Reporter, skips topics such as marriage equality and the archdiocese’s spokesperson went to lengths separating it from the Vatican’s request for Catholic input.

Equally dissatisfied are many American Catholics who desire their voices be heard at the Synod and question what impact this effort will actually have in reforming Church practices. Catholic Organizations for Renewal has launched its own survey, based on the Vatican’s questions, and is available to be completed by clicking here.

Linda Pinto, the facilitator of Catholic Organizations for Renewal, a leadership forum of US progressive Catholic organizations said, “U.S. Catholics have been happily surprised that the Vatican is seeking input on issues like divorce and remarriage, use of contraception, same-sex marriage, and what kind of pastoral practice is effective and appropriate. They have been disappointed that there was not a vehicle for them to give their input. That’s why we created this on-line survey. Lay Catholics have strong feelings and a great deal of experience on these matters. Our voices, along with those of our bishops, need to be heard.”

Organizational sponsors of the survey project from Catholic Organizations for Renewal (COR) include American Catholic Council, Call To Action, CORPUS, DignityUSA, Federation of Christian Ministries/Roman Catholic Faith Community Council, FutureChurch, New Ways Ministry, RAPPORT, Roman Catholic WomenPriests, Southeastern Pennsylvania Women’s Ordination Conference, Voice of the Faithful, and Women’s Ordination Conference. Other supporting organizations include Catholic Church Reform, Fortunate Families, and Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER). Additional organizations are being invited to sponsor the project, and to encourage their members to complete it.

“We want this survey to reach as many U.S. Catholics as possible,” said Pinto. “These are important issues, and our goal is that everyone who wants to have input should have that chance. How our Church ministers to people is of concern to all of us.”

Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good have also launched a survey to gather Catholic input in the US in place of the bishops’ silence.

New Ways Ministry’s Executive Director Francis DeBernardo was interviewed on MSNBC-TV’s News Nation program last week about the survey and he supported the idea of lay people providing their opinions to the synod.  “The Church teaches that lay people have a right and a duty to express their opinions to their leaders in areas in which they have competence,”  DeBernardo stated.  “Who but lay people have greater competence in the areas of sexuality, gender, and relationships, since they live those realities every day.”

NBC News  reports on several Catholic reform leaders and theologians offering their input, quoting Professor Thomas Groome of Boston College as saying:

” ‘To my knowledge, it’s the first time in the history of the magisterium have genuinely attempted to consult the laity’…

” ‘All of these things have been closed issues and you could be fired for even talking about them. Raising these questions and polling people — it at least signals something other than a closed mind. You have to thank God for small mercies.’ “

NBC News also quotes Marianne Duddy-Burke of DignityUSA:

” ‘It’s pretty astonishing…’

“I think it demonstrates a grounding in the practical realities of the world,’ Duddy-Burke said, though she cautioned that the real test is if the Vatican agrees to hear from a diverse range of families at the actual synod.

Amid this confusion, Michael O’Loughlin writes at Religion News Service about his hopes for the Synod, especially in regard to LGBT issues. He notes that, recently, the term ‘family’ is synonymous with the anti-LGBT agenda of Catholics who opposed equal rights, or worse acted harshly against gay and lesbian people. However, with Pope Francis, O’Loughlin has more positive hopes:

“Perhaps the synod will lead to divorced and remarried Catholics having access to communion. And, maybe, too, it’ll lead to the rights of all children, including those being raised by two parents of the same gender, to be baptized and to attend religious education classes and Catholic schools. Recognizing the impact of quality work on family life, perhaps the church will support the rights of LGBT people in employment law, or at least the rights to hold jobs at Catholic institutions. Parishes might consider ways to make non-traditional families feel like they are valued parts of the faith community. Or, maybe, the synod won’t address LGBT people and families at all. Which would be an improvement, too.”

Whether or not the Synod will take up LGBT family matters is, as expected, unclear. Regardless, it is important for LGBT-affirming Catholics to make their voices heard through the surveys offered by Catholic Organizations for Renewal and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


As ENDA Passes to Senate, U.S. Bishops Renew Anti-LGBT Rights Campaign

November 6, 2013

On Monday evening, the US Senate voted to move the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a bill that would provide fair hiring protections for LGBT people.  On the same day, Catholic bishops expressed their opposition to the bill and amplified their defense of ‘just’ discrimination.

In a letter to Senators, three bishops heading up the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committees on Domestic Justice and Human Development, Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, and Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty defended their opposition to a law that bans employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The bishops who signed the letter are Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, California, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, and Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore.

America Magazine explained the bishops’ letter with a summary of the bishops’ objections to non-discrimination legislation, writing:

“[The letter] notes, for example, that the bill: (1) lacks an exception for a ‘bona fide occupational qualification’…(2) lacks a distinction between homosexual inclination and conduct, thus affirming and protecting extramarital sexual conduct; (3) supports the redefinition of marriage, as state-level laws like ENDA have been invoked in state court decisions finding marriage discriminatory or irrational; (4) rejects the biological basis of gender by defining ‘gender identity’ as something people may choose at variance with their biological sex; and (5) threatens religious liberty by punishing as discrimination the religious or moral disapproval of same-sex sexual conduct, while protecting only some religious employers.”

Such arguments range from false to offensive to absurd, especially as many Catholics endorse employment, housing, and other protections for LGBT people. Journalist Michael O’Loughlin questions what positive impact opposing non-discrimination bills and policies

“What’s that now? Are US bishops taking Pope Francis’s message of focusing on poverty rather than homosexuality to heart? Are Catholic bishops going on-the-record in support of the marginalized and oppressed? Is this a sign of a new era in US Catholicism, the one heralded by lefty Catholics who have expressed unabashed hope in the new pope?

“Nah. Keep reading.

“Catholic bishops apparently feel that discriminating against LGBT people in the workplace is not only just, but in fact, not being able to do so threatens their religious liberty.”

O’Loughlin considers what might be motivating the bishops in regard to this issue:

“Catholic bishops relied on lawyers rather than pastors in their decision to come out against the bill…

“Fear is at the root of the bishops’ opposition to LGBT advances in general and ENDA in specific. Fear that society is changing so quickly. Fear that the church is losing its influence in forming morality. Fear that the church is being pushed to the margins.

“It’s remarkable to me that some bishops here have learned so little over the past 8 months. The world is hungry for moral clarity. Look how people have responded to Pope Francis. He talks morality constantly, and the world listens and reflects…If Catholic leaders here in the US feel they find themselves on the defensive, increasingly marginalized and perhaps even deemed irrelevant, at what point do they begin to reconsider their message and priorities?”

Equally Blessed LogoEarlier this fall, the Equally Blessed coalition spoke for Catholics who want to follow Pope Francis priorities in protecting all people and focusing on the pressing issues of these times, like poverty and immigration. Their letter to the US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions said, in part:

“We write to make it clear that the bishops do not speak for the majority of your Catholic constituents, many of whom believe, as we do, that the religious exemptions in the current draft of the legislation are not too narrow, as the bishops contend, but far too broad…

“Nor is it clear that the bishops’ views are in accord with the Pope’s. Responding in August to questions about gay priests, Pope Francis said: ‘If they accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them?’ The pope, in other words, has no plans to discriminate against the gay men who, in secular terms, might be thought of as his employees…

“Our nation’s history teaches us that sometimes the church moves a recalcitrant society toward a deeper respect for the dignity of every human being, but that sometimes those roles are reversed. Unlike our bishops, a significant majority of U.S. Catholics support legislation that guarantees LGBT people equal protection under the law.”

The Equally Blessed coalition consists of Call To Action, DignityUSA, Fortunate Families, and New Ways Ministry.

For background information on ENDA, check out the Human Rights Campaign’s information page on the bill.

ENDA’s future looks grim in the House, further raising questions about why US bishops felt the need to reaffirm their opposition to a bill which very possibly will fail. However, their letter highlights the urgent need for Catholics in the pews to pre-empt Congress and implement non-discrimination policies inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity in their Catholic schools, parishes, and other workplaces. For more information on how to accomplish this goal, please click here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


LGBT Issues Pervade 2013 Call to Action Conference

November 4, 2013

Call To Action 2013 Plenary Session

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

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

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

Jamie Manson

Jamie Manson

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

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

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

World Youth Day participants from Equally Blessed

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

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

Loretto Volunteers helping with marriage equality in Maryland

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

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

Marianne Duddy-Burke

Marianne Duddy-Burke

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

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

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


USCCB To Elect New President: What Could This Mean for LGBT Issues?

November 3, 2013

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) upcoming fall assembly starts next week, and the bishops will elect a new president and vice-president.  It’s always important to watch who they will elect, but this year there is more curiosity than usual for it’s the first time they’ll be making such a choice under Pope Francis. The Conference released the ten candidates’ names recently, leading to speculation about who will be elected and what this will mean for the American Church. Bondings 2.0 offers brief commentaries on several candidates below, along with provided links for you to read more.

Archbishop Gregory Aymond

Archbishop Gregory Aymond

Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond of New Orleans made headlines in October for new initiatives aimed at welcoming those on the margins in his diocese. These include greater outreach to LGBT Catholics, as well as blessing a new center to assist transient populations.  According to The Advocate, (archdiocesan newspaper), when he blessed the new facility he said: “ ‘This is an opportunity for us as a church to open wide our arms and our hearts and say all are welcome…Part of respecting people is respecting their freedom.’ ” In June, Aymond apologized to the LGBT community for the Church’s silence in 1973 after 32 people were killed and dozens wounded in an arson fire at a New Orleans gay bar.

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, OFM Cap., of Philadelphia has a less positive record on LGBT issues. He is noted for ejecting children with same-gender parents access

Archbishop Charles Chaput

from Catholic school and voicing the antipathy of right-wing Catholics towards Pope Francis’ more welcoming style, even as a Villanova University study (in his own archdiocese) identified LGBT issues as a leading cause of declining Church attendance. Chaput is known to deny Communion.

Bishop Blase J. Cupich of Spokane, Washington led in more open ways around the often controversial issues of commencements speakers and marriage

Bishop Blaise Cupich

Bishop Blaise Cupich

equality. When other bishops cancelled and censored speakers at Catholic colleges, Cupich supported Gonzaga University’s decision to honor Archbishop Desmond Tutu for his anti-apartheid work, even while he endorses marriage equality. When Washington State was debating a referendum on marriage equality in 2012, the bishop called for a more civil and honest conversation about Catholic positions on equality. While not perfect, he was praised for advocating a compassionate and civil tone in what can otherwise be harmful debates.

Archbishop Jose Gomez

Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles is a leading Hispanic Catholic figure and presides over one of the US’ largest archdioceses.  Gomez opposed the teaching of LGBT history in California state education and signed onto a letter by several bishops opposing the re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act because it now includes ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity’ as protected classes.

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky has sometimes said the right things, but is hindered by a lack of action backing up his words. Earlier this year, he called for a greater respect in how the Church speaks about LGBT people, even as he reaffirmed the bishops’ anti-marriage equality stance as a former chairman of their Ad Hoc

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz

Committee for the Defense of Marriage. His outreach to gay and lesbian people has been to welcome a Louisville chapter of Courage, instead of reaching out to the city’s several gay-friendly parishes.

Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore has been a leading opponent of equal rights for LGBT among the Catholic hierarchy. Lori led the USCCB’s “Fortnight for Freedom” in 2012, which claimed the Catholic Church’s freedom was being attacked in part because of expanding LGBT equality, and he continues to chair the Conference’s committee on religious liberty. After moving to Baltimore, he opposed marriage equality in Maryland.  After the state’s voters confirmed the new law through a referendum (in part due to

Archbishop William Lori

Archbishop William Lori

Catholics), he called for a doubling down in opposing this new reality. On Pope Francis, he initially tried to downplay gay-friendly comments, but in a hopeful sign said he will now rethink statements on LGBT and other controversial matters to see if they truly bring people to the Gospel.

Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit was mentioned in the Detroit Free Press earlier this year for his comments about pro-LGBT Catholics refraining from Communion. In

Archbishop Allen Vigneron

Archbishop Allen Vigneron

April, the archbishop stirred up controversy when he said Catholics who support marriage equality should refrain from presenting themselves for Communion, though he did not ban them outright.  His comments prompted outcry from Catholic parents in Michigan, and from Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Gumbleton (links here and here) and Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson.

Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami authored a letter to Catholics in which he opposed marriage equality by saying that it would open  up the path to polygamy.  Prior to being made archbishop of Miami, he was bishop of Orlando, Florida, where he closed down a well-established diocesan ministry to lesbian and gay people.

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston offered non-committal words about gay people this past summer after Pope Francis’ “Who am I to judge?” interview.  The Associated Press  reported:

“The cardinal says all persons are children of God and must be afforded respect, dignity and love as a person created in the image and likeness of god.  This applies equally to persons of same sex orientation.”
Back in 2009, DiNardo was one of a number of U.S. prelates who opposed the University of Notre Dame’s invitation to President Barack Obama as its commencement speaker.

Archbishop Dennis Schnurr

Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr of Cincinnati was the USCCB General Secretary in 1997 when the U.S. bishops published Always Our Children, their landmark document on ministry to families with lesbian and gay daughters and sons.  This past summer, he wrote an op-ed for Cincinnati.com, opposing the Supreme Court decisions upholding marriage equality.  In that essay, he put quotation marks around “marriage” whenever it referred to same-sex marriage.

–Bob Shine and Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

New Jersey Legalizes Marriage Equality, as Catholics Rejoice

October 24, 2013

New Jersey became the 14th state to legalize marriage equality on Monday, and it appears marriages will continue unhindered by further legal challenges. The road to this victory was paved by Catholics on both sides, and could be indicative of  future Catholic influences.

Governor Chris Christie, a Catholic, ended his appeal in the state’s Supreme Court against the late September ruling by Judge Mary Jacobson, also a Catholic, that legalized same-gender marriages. According to Christie, the Court’s previous denial of his request to forestall marriage licenses until the appeal was heard was evidence enough that marriage equality would be upheld on appeal.

While the governor promised to uphold the law, he also criticized the judicial means through which the state achieved equal marriage rights. As Bondings 2.0 previously noted, Christie is a 2016 presidential hopeful and is walking the Republican tight-rope around marriage equality. He emphasized the issue should still be put to New Jersey voters.

Jacobson’s was the first state court ruling to legalize same-sex marriage after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act in June. The move extended hundreds of tax, medical and other legal benefits to same-sex couples, but only in states that provided them “lawful marriages.” As a state which had civil unions but not full marriage for same-gender couples, New Jersey was left out of reaping these benefits, the Supreme Court ruled.

New Ways Ministry‘s supporters in New Jersey have welcomed the news of marriage equality coming to the state. Melina Waldo, the mother of a gay son, stated:

Melina Waldo

“Marriage equality has triumphed in New Jersey after many years of hard work by gay and lesbian people and their supporters.  We suffered defeats and disappointments along the way and strong opposition from the Catholic hierarchy as well as a veto by governor Christie.  Although the bishops did their utmost to hold back the tide of equality, the Catholic people never wavered in their support.  In fact, the percentage of Catholic people who support marriage equality has risen steadily as the years went by.  Not an insignificant factor in heavily Catholic New Jersey.

“I am so happy for all our gay and lesbian residents of New Jersey, particularly for young people like my friend John who testified at the state senate at least twice.   His testimony ended with the lament that he felt like a second-class citizen in his own state.

“For me the journey to marriage equality began years ago when my friends Diane Marini and Marilyn Maneeley  asked me to accompany them to the Borough Hall in our town where they were going to apply for a marriage license.  They were among seven couples chosen by Lambda Legal to sue the state of New Jersey for the right to marry.  When the clerk politely refused their request, we walked out and the lawsuit began.

“So for us it is a time to rejoice but a sad time as well because Marilyn did not live to see the results of her courageous effort to reach this happy conclusion.  She would be so pleased for all those who will benefit in the future. “

Dugan McGinley

Dugan McGinley, a lecturer in Catholic Studies at Rutgers University and the author of  Acts of Faith, Acts of Love: Gay Catholic Autobiographies as Sacred Textssaid:

“I am awestruck when I think how far we have come in such a short amount of time. When we were organizing to make LGBT Catholic concerns visible during the papal visit to Denver 20 years ago, who would have thought that by 2013, fourteen states would have legalized same-sex marriage?!

“It is gratifying to be receiving congratulatory notes from friends on this occasion, but we have all played a role in this success. I am grateful to every LGBT person who has had the courage to be open with someone else about their identity. The biggest difference we all can make is being visible so that people see that laws and theology about sex and gender affect real people.”

While it is already known that large majorities of US Catholics support marriage equality, of note in New Jersey is the respectful acceptance even Catholics opposed to LGBT rights have shown.  It is clear that Catholics in government, like Judge Jacobson and Governor Christie, are acting in a spirit of authentic religious liberty by separating their personal views from those demands required of them by civil law. In addition, fellow parishioners at Judge Jacobson’s parish spoke to NJ.com with a moderated opposition:

“McKillup and several other St. Mary parishioners interviewed after Mass said they believed in the separation of church and state, and that it was understandable Jacobson might view an issue differently from the bench than from a pew…

“St. Mary’s parishioner and choir member Barbara Paige said she shared the Catholic Church’s official view that marriage is between a man and a woman. But putting herself in Jacobson’s shoes, Paige said she did not fault the judge for ruling in favor of marriage equality…

“Another parishioner at St. Mary, Ben Barsolona, said he was opposed to same-sex marriage. But Barsolona, 55, said he did not fault Jacobson for the ruling, and he sympathized with gay couples and individuals.”

With New Jersey, one-third of US states now have equal marriage rights and this number should grow soon. Personal opposition remains in many Catholics, but perhaps beliefs promoted by the bishops that marriage equality will create social ills or threaten the Church’s well-being are being discarded as they are proven false. While work remains in the Church to create broader acceptance of LGBT people and their families, could New Jersey signal an ending to Catholic political opposition against equal rights?

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,132 other followers