NEWS NOTES: October 23, 2013

October 23, 2013

News NotesHere are some items you might find of interest:

(1) The Archbishop of Lima, Peru, has publicly implied a legislator in that country is gay. Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne was speaking on a radio program when he attacked the Carlos Bruce, who is the legislator behind a bill legalizing civil unions. Gay Star News quotes the cardinal as saying, “If a person has made some alternate choices, that’s their problem and he can do whatever he wants on his own.” Bruce chose not to reply to the comment.

(2) As marriage equality becomes law in Scotland, the Catholic hierarchy is warning it may imitate the French model and separate sacramental marriages from civil licensing. Archbishop Leo Cushley and the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland said legal concerns are to blame, as they fear priests could be liable if they refuse to marry a same-gender couple. Pro-LGBT groups claim this is just politicking, and the Scottish government confirmed religious institutions would not be forced to provide same-gender marriages, according to The Scotsman.

(3) Bishops in Nigeria issued a statement at the conclusion of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Nigeria meetings that decried foreign organizations who are promoting marriage equality, along with condemning condom usage. Gay Star News reports that anti-gay legislation is increasing in the nation which has passed a “Jail All the Gays” law and banned diplomats with same-gender partners.

(4) Rosario Crocetta is seeking to clean up waste and corruption in Sicily, which is languishing amid debt and the Mafia. The New York Times offers an in-depth profile of this Italian politician who is the region’s leader, and who also happens to be a gay Catholic, in which he discusses faith, sexuality, and conflicts with local clergy.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Malta’s Bishops Quote the Letter, But Not the Spirit, of Pope Francis’ Words

October 18, 2013

maltaPope Francis’ positive words about lesbian and gay people in the last few months have been used by Catholic bishops in Malta recently.  Unfortunately, the bishops quoted the pope to support their opposition to that island nation’s proposed civil unions law for lesbian and gay couples.

On the positive side, the bishops used Pope Francis’ message to encourage civility in what could become a rancorous debate.   Pink News quotes a statement, the bishops:

“First of all, we should keep in mind that through this bill we are discussing persons and their lives. Consequently, in order that this may be a mature discussion, it should reflect a profound respect towards those persons. As Pope Francis recently said referring to persons with a homosexual orientation, ‘in life God accompanies persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation’.”

While the bishops’ call for civility is admirable, especially since they are following the lead from Pope Francis, it is curious that they did not follow the pope’s example of supporting civil unions when he was an archbishop in Argentina.  Instead the Maltese bishops have taken a hard-line stance, opposing their nation’s civil unions bill, not because of any sexual ethics implications, but because it would allow couples in a civil union to adopt children.   Their statement notes:

 “According to the bill, the ‘partners in a civil union’ will be given the right for child adoption. We consider such an issue of a very delicate nature similar to every issue that involves children and the child’s best interest.

“Since there are contrasting views on the issue, it seems to us that it will be wise if the legislator takes the necessary time to make the right decisions on this matter. Children should preferably be brought up by their parents, a man and a woman.

“Moreover, we ask the Members of Parliament to continue taking measures that strengthen the family built upon marriage between a man and a woman. Considering that the family constituted by the unity in the difference between a man and a woman ‘remains the first and principal builder of society’.”

In the second paragraph, the bishops seem to indicate that they recognize that this is a controversial issue, with varying opinions,  Yet, they are firmly against civil unions and they expect legislators to be so, too.   What is even more curious is that they never argue as to why and how it is better that children be raised by a heterosexual couple rather than a homosexual couple.  They state their claim as if it was accepted fact by all, which it clearly isn’t if a civil unions bill is being considered.

Helena Dalli

Helena Dalli

The bill is currently being debated by the nation’s Parliament which is also considering a bill to outlaw homophobic discrimination.  When the civil unions bill was introduced this week, Malta’s Equality Minister Helena Dalli spoke words that sound more like Pope Francis’ message than the bishops’ statement did.  Pink News reported Dalli’s comments:

“We are people before we are straight, gay, black, white or red.

“We have to move towards a society that shuns discrimination and everyone enjoys rights to live a happy life.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


Separating Civil and Sacramental Marriage–Part 1

July 20, 2013

It’s always curious to me when similar arguments appear in the writings of people whose views on a topic are opposed.   I’ve pointed this out in two other instances, and you can read about them here and here.

The latest example comes from two sides in the marriage equality debate. Both writers are Catholic priests–one supports and the other opposes marriage equality.  Yet they agree on the fact that the institution of secular marriage and sacramental marriage need to be separated.  Today’s post will examine the essay from the priest supporting marriage equality, and tomorrow’s post will examine the essay from the one who opposes it.

Father Frank Brennan, SJ

Father Frank Brennan, SJ

Fr. Frank Brennan, SJ, a professor of law at Australian Catholic University, in an essay on EurekaStreet.com entitled “It’s time to recognise secular same sex marriage,” wrote about his nation’s marriage equality debate.  Over a year ago, he had written in support of legalizing civil unions, but he has now changed his mind to support marriage rights.  In his current essay, he suggested:

“It is high time to draw a distinction between a marriage recognised by civil law and a sacramental marriage. In deciding whether to expand civil marriage to the union of two persons of the same gender, legislators should have regard not just for the wellbeing of same sex couples and the children already part of their family units, but also for the wellbeing of all future children who may be affected, as well as the common good of society in setting appropriate contours for legally recognised relationships.”

Brennan has some exceptions to his support for same-sex marriage:

“Same sex couples wanting to create their own children may in the forseeable future be able to use only their own genetic material, precluding the possibility that such children will have a biological father and a biological mother. Whether or not we legislate for same sex marriage, we should restrict artificial reproduction of children such that they will have a biological father and a biological mother, and hopefully able to be known by them.

“Legislators making laws regarding adoption ought be able to demand that adoption agencies continue to consider the best interests of the child. In the case of a child unrelated to any prospective adopting couple, the adoption agency ought be able to have regard to the desirability of a child being brought up in a family with an adult male and an adult female.

“If these concerns were met or at least weighed in the balance against the claims of children already in same sex families deserving respect and nurture by the state and society, society could properly move to recognition of civil unions or same sex marriage if and when the overwhelming majority of the population (including those who are presently married civilly) supported such change.”

His conclusion in support of marriage equality, however, is very strong:

“It would be just and a service to the common good for the State to give some recognition and support to committed, faithful, long-term relationships between gay couples deserving dignity, being able to love and support each other in sickness and in health, until death they do part.”

He notes, too, that Pope Francis has taken a different approach to gay and lesbian couples than Pope Benedict XVI did.  Pope Francis, while archbishop in Argentina, supported civil unions.  Brennan notes his agreement with the new pontiff, but goes a little further:

“I am with Francis on civil unions but, unlike him, I now accept that we can probably no longer draw a line between civil unions and same sex marriage.”

Check out tomorrow’s blog post to see how a priest who opposes marriage equality also seeks to separate secular marriage from sacramental marriage.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


QUOTE TO NOTE: Vatican Official on Civil Unions

May 14, 2013

computer_key_Quotation_MarksArchbishop Vincent Paglia, the head of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council on the Family, was recently interviewed by National Catholic Reporter’s  John Allen, who asked the prelate to clarify his recent statements which supported civil unions for lesbian and gay couples.  Though some commentators felt that Paglia had retracted his support,  his comments in the Allen interview indicate that he continues to back civil unions. Here’s the relevant excerpt:

“ALLEN: Speaking of private law, you recently created a small media frenzy by suggesting that nations could find “private law solutions” to protect the rights of unmarried couples, potentially including gays and lesbians. In some quarters, that was seen as softening the Vatican’s line on gay marriage at a time when bishops in various countries are trying to resist a push for it. Did you learn anything from that episode?

“PAGLIA: Yes, that I have to be more careful in how I talk about these things, and more aware that words can be derailed. You may think they’re going to take you to the station, but in reality they can carry you to the edge of a cliff! But to make clear to you what I actually meant at the time, I proposed what the church has maintained: it is a matter of [protecting] individual rights. Facing the explosion in various forms of living together today, I simply called on states to find solutions which help people and avoid abuses.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


‘Known Lesbian’ Reaches Out to Cardinal Without LGBT Friends

April 28, 2013

In mid-April, Bondings 2.0 reported on a South African cardinal who claimed to know of no LGBT individuals personally, and thus rejected any claims he could be homophobic. Now, a self-ascribed “known lesbian” has written to Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier to challenge his statements, and, in between, presents a novel argument for why Catholic prelates fight so fiercely to deny LGBT equality.

Melanie Judge’s piece was published in the Mail & Guardian, a leading African paper, under the title, “Hi, Cardinal Napier. I’m lesbian.” She begins by questioning the cardinal’s involvement on issues of sexuality if he knows of no LGBT individuals:

“For someone who doesn’t know any homosexuals, you’ve spent a considerable amount of time concerning yourself with the lives of lesbian and gay people – specifically our rights to equality and protection under the law.

“If you don’t know us, and then by implication there aren’t any of us in your church, it seems queer that you would assume such an active position in denying us our right to rights.”

Ms. Judge is not content to say that Napier is simply anti-gay.   Instead, she believes his staunch opposition to South African legislation that would legalize civil unions is merely an attempt to preserve his power, and the power of the Catholic Church, that

“…entrenches a version of social relations and human sexuality based on male supremacy, the subordination of women, and the abjection of homosexuality….Perhaps your investment in the lives of sinful others is driven by an interest in protecting that power and the ideology that props it up. If so, I can understand why you’d rail against gays, lesbians and women who challenge your ideology.”

She continues by shedding light on Napier’s attempt to make LGBT people invisible, which contradicts the Church’s call to acknowledge, welcome, and include LGBT people:

“As you would know, a powerful way to neutralise nonconforming people whose very existence challenges your church’s prescription for human interaction is to make them invisible. To deny the very existence of gay and lesbian people is to render them unknowable and unseeable. Excluding people in this way sends a message to lesbian and gay people in your church (many of whom I know and see, and I’m not even Catholic) that they will be not be acknowledged by your leadership. To deny recognition is to deny human dignity, a strategy at the heart of homophobia.”

Ms. Judge’s comments examine the desperate attempts by Catholic bishops to maintain their privilege in a society structured around heterosexual relationships and male dominance, adding the unique perspective of a South African to her critique of oppression:

“Sexuality and gender were heavily regulated and constrained under apartheid and colonialism. Women and queers ‘knew their place’ and ‘suffered’ quietly and invisibly. Now we see a burgeoning of sexual and gender diversity – it’s exciting stuff, Cardinal. It’s a sign of a plural and democratising society in which ­difference is no longer synonymous with dysfunction.

“Shunning difference and enforcing conformity is how the church has asserted its control over populations for centuries. But this unchecked grip on power has been slipping in the face of democratic pressures. I feel for you, Cardinal; it’s hard to compete with the divine prospect of freedom and equality…

“Queers and women are laying claim to the resources, recognition and representations of citizenship – both inside and outside the church. It’s the stuff of democracy and of human rights. Still, none so blind as those who will not see.”

Melanie Judge respectfully confronts Cardinal Napier for both the ignorance his statement contains and the the underlying causes driving his anti-LGBT efforts.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Two More Cardinals on the Record Endorsing Civil Unions

April 12, 2013

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

Cardinal Christoph Schonborn

Cardinal Christoph Schonborn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cardinal Ruben Salazar

Cardinal Ruben Salazar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Denver Catholic Charities Will Not Let Same-Gender Couples Adopt

January 29, 2013

Catholic Charities Archdiocese of DenverIf a civil unions bill becomes law this year in Colorado (and it looks likely that it will), the Archdiocese of Denver’s Catholic Charities has said that it will not place children available for adoption in families headed by same-sex couples.  9News.com reports the statements of two Catholic officials on the matter:

” ‘Our desire is to provide them [children] with a safe and stable environment,’ Tracy Murphy with Catholic Charities of Denver said.

“The debate begins when you examine what the Catholic church means by that.

” ‘The Catholic church understands the best foundation for a child’s life is to be in the home of a father and a mother that is going to raise them in a family environment that is a strong, healthy marriage,’ said Monsignor Tom Fryar, who serves as pastor for the Denver Cathedral.

“By dictionary definition, the church does discriminate when it comes to adoptions– not just against gays but also against single people.

“They only let married couples adopt. Even if the laws change, the church won’t.

” ‘We cannot,’ Fryar said. ‘It goes against our faith.’ “

Catholics who oppose the civil unions law are trying to get a “conscience clause,  which is explained by 9News.com’s  report:

“Last year’s bill contained the words: ‘This article shall not be interpreted to require a child placement agency to place a child for adoption with a couple that has entered into a civil union.’

“Supporters of civil unions begrudgingly included the clause last year, hoping it would help get the bill through the GOP-controlled House. Now that Democrats are in control, they are less inclined to accommodate religious organizations who opposed civil unions when the bill did have the clause.”

Putting the politics aside, it is amazing that Msgr. Fryar would say that adoption policy “goes against our faith.”  This is not a faith issue. Our faith does not say anything about what an ideal family would be for a particular child.  One need only look at Scripture, Catholic history, and the lives of the saints to know that there are many models of families and forms of childcare other than relying on a heterosexual standard.  Furthermore, the children and the parents involved may not necessarily be Catholic.

A Colorado lawmaker commented on the adoption controversy by making reference to segregation laws:

” ‘It sounds like, “we have our water fountains, and there are other water fountains for you,” ‘ Sen. Jessie Ulibarri (D-Commerce City) said.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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