Catholics Leave Over LGBT Issues, As Bishops Redouble Anti-Equality Work

July 2, 2013

Archbishop Charles Chaput denies Communion to parish activists

A new poll conducted at a Philadelphia-area parish by Villanova University’s Center for the Study of Church Management reveals that LGBT issues are rising in prominence as a reason Catholics leave the Church. Yet, at the same time, members of the hierarchy double-down on their efforts to oppose equality for sexual minorities.

The survey asked 189 non-practicing and former Catholics about their reasons for leaving, producing instructive results for Catholic bishops and clergy struggling to retain parishioners. Scandals around sexual abuse and mishandling of cases was the primary reason, at about seventeen percent of respondents, but this does not reveal current trends. NewsWorks interviewed the poll’s director, Charles Zech of Villanova University, who said:

” ‘People who are going to leave the church over the scandal and the church’s handling of it have already left. So people leaving the church today are leaving for other reasons…A growing reason we found out was the church’s attitude toward homosexuals and gay marriage. A lot of younger people object to the church’s teaching on that.’ “

Catholic support of LGBT rights, especially for equal marriage, is well-documented, but there is little hard data on what the practical implications of this split between Catholics in the pews and their anti-gay leaders. This study suggests not only are the bishops’ policies against marriage equality and LGBT rights harming the directly affected communities, but have wider implications which undermine parish communities. Most leaving do not quit organized religion, but transfer to Protestant communities.

As this new polling is released, the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference is preparing anew to oppose anti-discrimination legislation that would include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes. Pennsylvania is the sole northeast state without LGBT protections written into law on such things as employment and housing, and equality advocates are hoping to change this legislation. NewsWorks reports that representatives of the Conference base their objections in a fear that the Catholic Church would be forced to contradict its beliefs in social services, hospitals, and other institutions.

The Villanova parish study, which will not be made public, names both local issues as well as problems with the Vatican and US bishops as reasons for leaving the Catholic church. Polling director Zech believes local changes, like improved liturgies, could stem the losses. Many troubles are occurring in Philadelphia over parish-based issues, like closures and clustering, that even lead to protests at an immigration Mass recently–and saw Archbishop Charles Chaput deny Communion to three people.

Philadelphia Catholic leadership could withdraw their opposition to simple anti-discrimination legislation that protects the rights of LGBT people to their jobs, homes, and public services. Protecting the dignity of every person, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, is well-rooted in the Catholic tradition and it is why so many Catholics support equality. It is time to focus on creating welcoming communities and building up strong parishes, instead of opposing anti-discrimination laws and denying Communion.   The new polling data show that the bishops’ current course on LGBT issues is a losing proposition.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Jason Collins Deserves Catholic Support, Says Fr. James Martin

May 1, 2013

Jason Collins

Splashed across the cover of Sports Illustrated this week is Jason Collins, the first athlete on a male professional sports team to come out as gay. Collins has been celebrated across the sports world and the internet, but he has also faced harsh criticism. Jesuit Fr. James Martin posted the Collins’ story, and then provided lengthy remarks about why Catholics should support the athlete’s coming out without reservation. Fr. Martin writes:

“There are many times that Catholics are called to support their gay brothers and sisters wholeheartedly, unreservedly and publicly. This is one of them. All of us are created by God, and all of us have an undeniable and unassailable human dignity. And part of that dignity is accepting that you are a beloved creation of God. For many gays and lesbians, however, accepting that they are beloved creations of God is a

very difficult task, made more difficult by a variety of social pressures. ‘Coming out’ is often an important step, sometimes the most important step, to a deeper relationship with God, and to spiritual wholeness…

James Martin, SJ

James Martin, SJ

“Loving means first accepting a person, in all their complexity and beauty, as God has created him or her. This kind of love precedes questions about judging the actions of any person–straight or gay. Besides, we know how Jesus felt about our judging others. Love precedes all of that. True love means loving a person as he or she is–not as we would wish them to be, or as we think they should be, or worse, as we think God should have created him or her. But as they are.

“As the Psalmist says, ‘I praise you God, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.’ We should be grateful to Mr. Collins for reminding us that all of us are indeed ‘wonderfully made.’”

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Catholics Participate in Prayer Service and Demonstration at Supreme Court

March 27, 2013
New Ways Ministry staff at the marriage equality demonstration outside the Supreme Court:  Sister Jeannine Gramick, Bob Shine, Francis DeBernardo.

New Ways Ministry staff at the marriage equality demonstration outside the Supreme Court: Sister Jeannine Gramick, Bob Shine, Francis DeBernardo.

Yesterday the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on two marriage equality cases.   The historic day began with an interfaith prayer service at the Church of the Reformation, a Lutheran congregation just behind the Supreme Court building.

The service, entitlted “A Prayer for Love and Justice,” featured prayers and rituals from a wide variety of faith traditions–Christian, Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim, pagan, Native American–were all represented as part of the service.  Catholics were represented by Sister Jeannine Gramick of New Ways Ministry and Rev. Joseph Palacios, who ministers at Dignity/Washington.   The event was organized by the United for Marriage coalition.

Rev. Joseph Palacios

Rev. Joseph Palacios

Sister Jeannine Gramick

Sister Jeannine Gramick

Following the prayer service, participants processed to the Supreme Court building and joined the demonstration of thousands of people there who support marriage equality.  Among those in the crowd were Jackie and Buzz Baetz, a Catholic couple from Monkton, Maryland, who displayed a sign showing Catholic support for marriage equality.

Jackie and Buzz Baetz proclaim their message of Catholic support for marriage equality outside the Supreme Court.

Jackie and Buzz Baetz proclaim their message of Catholic support for marriage equality outside the Supreme Court.

New Ways Ministry staff also participated in the demonstration outside the court building.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Catholics Debate Marriage Equality Bill in Illinois

January 15, 2013

Illinois, which already has a civil union law, signed by Catholic Governor Pat Quinn, will be taking up the issue of marriage equality in the legislature this year.  Catholics have already entered the debate on this topic on both sides of the question.

Cardinal Francis George

Cardinal Francis George

At the beginning of this month, Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George wrote a letter to priests asking them to urge parishioners to oppose the marriage bill.

The Chicago Sun-Times  quoted part of the letter:

“ ‘It is physically impossible for two men or two women to consummate a marriage, even when they share a deep friendship or love,’ George writes in the letter, meant for inclusion in parish bulletins to be distributed this upcoming weekend. ‘Does this mean nature is cruel or that God is unfair? No, but it does mean that marriage is what nature tells us it is and that the state cannot change natural marriage.’ ”

In this quote, we see a new trend in statements by Catholic hierarchy: they are starting to acknowledge that the relationship between two people of the same gender can be defined as a love relationship.

Rick Garcia

Rick Garcia

The cardinal’s argument did not convince Rick Garcia, a longtime Chicago advocate for LGBT issues. The Sun-Times quotes his reaction:

“ ‘How the Church — or any faith — views marriage within its own institution is one thing, but secular society treats marriage as a civil right,’ said Garcia, who described himself as a practicing Catholic. ‘No individual or church, including Cardinal George and the Catholic Church is going to be forced to perform or recognize any marriages they would not find consistent with their own beliefs. . . . What also will not change is the fact that secular society views marriage as a fundamental civil right that should be afforded to all.’ ”

A Chicago Tribune article on George’s letter notes that two prominent Illinois Catholics support the marriage bill:  Governor Pat Quinn and U.S. Senator Dick Durbin.

Chris Pett

Chris Pett

Dignity/Chicago President Chris Pett also criticized the cardinal’s statement. Pett noted that

“. . . the cardinal might have had pastoral intentions, but he missed an opportunity to call for dialogue and engage with the gay community. Instead, the cardinal made it clear that the church would fight marriage equality ‘until the bitter end.’ “

David Gibson, a long-time observer of the Catholic Church, notes in a USA Today article that George’s comments may not have the power to stop the bill from becoming law:

“It’s unclear what, if any, influence George may have. Similar attempts by influential cardinals to stop same-sex marriage in Massachusetts, New York, Washington, D.C., and Maryland have all failed.”

Cardinal George is not the only Illinois prelate who has entered the debate.  Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfiled and  Bishop David Malloy of Rockford also issued similar letters to the Catholics in their dioceses.

Robert McClory

Robert McClory

But support for the bill is also strong from Catholic lay leaders.  Chicagoan Robert McClory, an astute commentator on Catholic issues wrote a column in The National Catholic Reporter criticizing George’s stand.  After noting the shift in Catholic teaching at Vatican II, which  elevated love and companionship of the couple to an equal status with procreation as primary functions of marriage,  McClory notes that another important shift has also taken place:

“Meanwhile, we are adjusting to an evolutionary shift in society: the recognition that sexual orientation is not exclusively what one chooses but what one is. For centuries, it was assumed (certainly by the church) that all males are sexually oriented to females and all females oriented to males, no exceptions; therefore, homosexual relationships and homosexual activity were seen as contrary to nature, disordered and sinful. Now society, prompted by the research of psychologists, psychiatrists and other scientists vigorously questions those presumptions about orientation. And the questioning increases as LGBT people emerge from their closets. For the first time, straight people are seeing daughters, sons, uncles, co-workers, neighbors, teammates and others who are not only ‘out,’ but living happy lives, contributing to society, even contributing in creative ways to the multiplication of the race. That’s why so many people react angrily and resentfully in the face of unremitting negativity from church leaders.

“The question now is why these people in committed gay relationships should not be eligible for the same benefits society grants to those in committed straight relationships? And why should this relationship not be called marriage — a different kind of marriage, for sure, but a union that serves society’s needs in practical and useful ways? And why should the church be so uptight about what’s happening? Gay Catholic couples are daily fulfilling that central requirement of Christian marriage, love and fidelity. Would it kill the hierarchy to at least acknowledge these facts? George and other prelates and priests who cling to a failing theology and an outmoded anthropology are only further degrading their authority.”

Charles Martel

Charles Martel

Similarly, Charles G. Martel, writing in The Windy City Times observes that we have already had marriage equality for almost a decade in Massachusetts, and that other states have followed suit, and none of the social disasters predicted have happened:

“There were those who feared that somehow the granting of these rights to same sex couples would diminish our understanding of marriage, or that it would it reduce the specialness of such a pledge, one to another. Some worried that this was a ‘dangerous social experiment,’ that instead of seeing this as a matter of fairness to same-sex couples, it would introduce chaos into the social fabric, creating confusion. This has not happened.

“There were those who were afraid that this legal right would infringe on the rights of religious denominations to decide what constituted for them a sacramental marriage, that somehow they would be forced by the government to officiate at weddings they did not wish to bless.

“None of this has come to pass, but rather the laws in each state protect the rights of each religious denomination to determine whom they choose to marry, as has always been the case. Religious liberty has been preserved. Religious denominations that wish to bless same sex couples are free to do so, and those who choose not to, do not have to.”

Indeed, with each state that passes marriage equality, the fear-based arguments will soon begin to lose any remaining power that they may have.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


New Film Explores Life of Pioneering Gay Catholic Theologian John McNeill

June 11, 2012

Taking a Chance on God, a new documentary on the life of pioneering Catholic gay theologian, John McNeill, will have its New York debut on Saturday, June 16th, 7:00 p.m., at the School of Visual Arts Theatre, 333 West 23rd St., Manhattan, NY.

The film’s screening, sponsored by Dignity/New York, in honor of their 40th anniversary, will feature a panel of distinguished speakers that includes: McNeill himself and his lifelong partner, Charles Chiarelli, Mary Hunt,  James Bernauer SJ,  Bishop Gene Robinson, Kate Clinton, Ginny Apuzzo, Andy Humm, Fr. Dan McCarthy, Fr. Bernard Lynch, Ken Gomolka, Rev. Nancy Wilson.  McNeill is one of the founders of Dignity/New York.  Tickets for the screening are available at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/246908

Brendan Fay and John McNeill

The film’s publicity materials describe the documentary as:

“An inspiring portrait of a pioneer gay priest, Taking a Chance on God follows the extraordinary life of 86-year-old John McNeill from his Buffalo boyhood through his experiences as a POW in Nazi Germany, Vietnam peace promoter, leading gay rights advocate, and loving partner of forty-six years to Charles Chiarelli. McNeill – the author of groundbreaking works of gay spirituality, a founder of the LGBT Catholic group Dignity/New York, and a gay community leader during the AIDS crisis of the 1980s – refused to be silenced by the Vatican on LGBT issues, which resulted in his expulsion from the Jesuit priesthood. Chronicling McNeill’s love for the Catholic Church, the LGBT community, his Jesuit brothers, and his partner, Taking a Chance on God is a powerful story of faith, love and perseverance in the face of oppression and rejection.”

Taking a Chance on God was produced by Brendan Fay, who is also the producer of  The Saint of 9/11, a documentary on Fr. Mychal Judge, OFM, the gay NYC fire department chaplain who is died ministering to people in the attack on the World Trade Center.

In an interview with The Miami Herald, Mc Neill describes the film this way:

 “This film is about my partner Charlie and our 46-year love affair. . . . The message is that God loves gay lovers and approves of them. . . . I don’t want any part of the church’s homophobia. . . .I was bringing a message that God brought to me. God’s love is universal and includes both gay and straight people.”

In the same interview, Fay comments on why he made the film:

“John became a hero to me the way Harvey Milk and other pioneers of the gay liberation movement had. . . .John is often a hidden figure. An unknown pioneer. There are not many who are aware of the dramatic impact and significance he had on the movement for change in society and the church in the early ‘70s.”

McNeill is best known for his ground-breaking theological work, The Church and the Homosexual, published in 1976.  In 2008, New Ways Ministry presented him with the Bridge Building Award for his life-long contributions to scholarship and pastoral work with LGBT people. You can read his award acceptance speech, which sums up his mission and ministry, here.

Kingston, N.Y.’s Daily Freeman interviewed McNeill and Chiarelli when then documentary was screened in the Woodstock, N.Y. film festival in September 2011.  In that interview, McNeill sums up his life work this way:

“I wanted to take away the guilt and self-hatred of gay Catholics who believed the church’s position on homosexuality.”

For a full listing of upcoming screenings, visit the documentary’s website, www.takingachanceongod.com.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 

 

 


LGBT Catholics Tell Youth: “It Gets Better”

April 14, 2012

Congratulations and many thanks to the good folks at Dignity/Washington who this week launched an “It Gets Better” video on YouTube.  Dignity/Washington is a community of LGBT Catholics and other Christians, their families and friends.   The “It Gets Better” project shows young LGBT people how life does indeed become better as one matures through the teen years into adulthood.  It was designed to help prevent LGBT teen depression and suicide over sexual and gender identity issues.  The Dignity/Washington video tells stoires of how Catholic LGBT adults dealt with these issues in the context of their faith, and it offers encouragement to young people who are struggling with the same topics.

Wouldn’t it be great for more Catholic communities to launch similar videos and to spread the message that “It Gets Better” to LGBT youth through other forms of witness and faith expression.

You can watch the Dignity/Washington video  here:

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


Barbara Johnson to Address New Ways Ministry Symposium!

March 10, 2012

Barbara Johnson

New Ways Ministry’s Seventh National Symposium, From Water to Wine:  Lesbian/Gay Catholics and Relationships, will have the distinct honor of a visit from Barbara Johnson, the Catholic lesbian woman denied communion at her mother’s funeral, whose story made national headlines.

Ms. Johnson will visit the Symposium with her partner on Saturday, March 17, 2012, to address the assembled meeting participants about her recent experiences.  Immediately following her remarks, the participants will confer a blessing upon Ms. Johnson, her partner, and their entire family.

“Barbara Johnson’s faith witness has been strong throughout this whole ugly incident,” said Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry’s Executive Director. “We are honored and humbled that she will be with us for the Symposium, and we are sure that all will benefit greatly from her presence.”

The Seventh National Symposium takes place March 15-17, 2012, at the Renaissance Baltimore Innerharbor Hotel, 202 East Pratt Street, Baltimore, Maryland.  Other major speakers are: Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley; former Maryland lieutenant governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend; Catholic Bishop Geoffrey Robinson of Australia; Richard Rodriguez, Pulitzer-nominated writer and commentator; Catholic theologians Patricia Beattie Jung and Luke Timothy Johnson.  For more information and to register, please click here.

You can refresh yourself on the details of Ms. Johnson’s story by reading Bondings 2.0‘s three reports about the event; you can access those posts, in chronological order, here, here, and here.  Ms. Johnson’s experience continues to make headlines.  Just this week, Allen Rose, president of Dignity/Washington, published an essay in DC’s Metro Weekly, a gay news magazine, which touched on this case to call on the Archdiocese of Washington to provide better pastoral care for LGBT people:

Allen Rose

“I believe that all of the national and international attention currently focused on the correct pastoral approach to LGBT Catholics in the Archdiocese of Washington might create a grace-filled, teachable moment for this area’s LGBT Catholics, their bishops and priests.”

In calling for dialogue between LGBT Catholics and the archdiocesan administration, Rose suggests a variety of important and urgent topics that could be readily discussed:

“The following could be discussed: developing strategies to prevent bullying and anti-gay violence in Catholic schools, exploring ways to strengthen and expand the HIV/AIDS ministry, and forming a ministry throughout the archdiocese to support families with LGBT members.

“These and other pastoral questions demonstrate the systemic nature of the solutions that are required regarding pastoral care for LGBT Catholics. This would not be a forum to discus politics.”

New Ways Ministry has long-supported the idea of dialogue between church officials and LGBT Catholics, and we think that Rose’s proposal at this crucial time can turn a painful event into a turning point for good.  In addition to LGBT Catholics, we think this dialogue should also include parents of LGBT people and pastoral professionals involved in this ministry.  The time for such a dialogue is way overdue, and the story of Ms. Johnson’s painful experience has illustrated to the world the harmful results that delaying such a dialogue is causing.  We repeat what we and so many others have said about Ms. Johnson’s case: “Never again.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Catholics Out in Full Force to Support Maryland’s Marriage Equality Bill

February 11, 2012

The House of Delegates joint-committee hearings for Maryland’s marriage equality bill went on until 11:40 p.m. yesterday, February 10, 2012. Catholics were prominent in the discussion, including New Ways Ministry’s Sister Jeannine Gramick, Co-Founder, Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director, and Dignity/Washington’s Allen Rose, President.  The transcripts of their testimony appear below.

Martin O'Malley

The first speaker in defense of the bill was Governor Martin O’Malley, a Catholic.  A good summary of his comments can be found in the Washington Blade’s report of the proceedings.  O’Malley’s comments stressed the religious exemptions and religious liberty protections that the bill contains.  (A report on O’Malley’s earlier testimony to the Senate committee hearings can be found by clicking here.)

Heather Mizeur

Maryland Delegate Heather Mizeur, along with her wife, Deborah Mizeur,  also gave testimony, and each touched on how their faith lives of Catholics were intimately connected to their lesbian identities.  The Washington Post‘s account of the hearings cites Heather Mizeur as a nationally recognized leader on the question of marriage equality. The Baltimore Sun’s report of the proceedings leads with a note about Delegate Mizeur’s emotional testimony. (You can watch video of Heather’s debate on marriage equality with another Catholic delegate by clicking here.)

A separate Baltimore Sun preview report of the hearings which appeared on February 9, notes that the fate of the bill rests in a handful of undecided delegates.  This report quotes Catholic Delegate Pam Beidle, who describes that she is torn between the testimony she hears from parents of lesbian and gay people in support of the bill and messages she receives from Archbishop Edwin O’Brien of Baltimore to oppose the bill:

“Beidle finds that her meetings with the parents of same-sex couples are persuasive. ‘If I had a child who was gay, who had a lifelong partner, I’d want them to be happy,’ she said. ‘It is not my job to judge someone else’s moral decision.’

“At the same time, Beidle, a practicing Roman Catholic, says she hears from Cardinal-elect Edwin F. O’Brien, who opposes the bill. He stresses to Beidle the significance of marriage to their shared religious community and the extent to which he believes O’Malley’s bill would undermine that institution.

” ‘This is a difficult issue,’ Beidle said. ‘It is truly fifty-fifty.’ “

Also testifying in favor of the bill were Fr. Joseph Palacios, an adjunct professor of sociology at Georgetown University, and Phil Attey, Executive Director of Catholics for Equality.  Speaking against the bill was Mary Ellen Russell, Executive Director of the Maryland Catholic Conference.

What follows are the transcripts of the testimony of three Catholic leaders who spoke in favor of the bill:  New Ways Ministry’s Sister Jeannine Gramick, Co-Founder, Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director, and Dignity/Washington’s Allen Rose, President.  (Both New Ways Ministry and Dignity are members of the Equally Blessed coalition.)

SISTER JEANNINE GRAMICK, Co-Founder, New Ways Ministry

Sister Jeannine Gramick

 In 1971, while I was doing graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in preparation to teach at the College of Notre Dame of Maryland, I met many gay people at the University. I particularly recall one lesbian couple, who were raising two children from one of the couple’s previous heterosexual marriage. I remember the love and concern they had for those children, how their schedules and decisions revolved around what would be best for their son and daughter. I thought that their affection and devotion for these children was surely as strong as the care received by children in heterosexual households.

 This experience made me think. It made me question. It made me change my view of lesbian and gay people. It made me recognize that I could enlarge my understanding of what was “normal.” I began to expand my insights about what really constituted a family. I began to see that it was love, care, and concern that mattered, not gender.

  I speak here today on behalf of the National Coalition of American Nuns and the majority of U.S. Catholics who favor legal marriage for same-sex couples.*   We have changed our views about lesbian and gay people and about marriage. We have expanded our positions to include Marriage Equality, which encourages and supports committed relationships and families. Marriage equality fundamentally strengthens our Catholic values by supporting all our families. Our values are based on Catholic social justice teaching which directs us to work for laws and policies that support human dignity and that nurture the capacity of individuals and families to grow in community. 

I feel sad that some Church leaders, including my own, claim that marriage must be only between one man and one woman, even though many people of faith and a majority of lay Catholics feel differently. Some churches have opened their doors to include lesbian and gay couples in the sacred rite of marriage. Some have not. We are not here to ask churches to change their theology of marriage. No religious leader will ever be forced to choose who can and who cannot be married.  Such interference in religious matters is beyond the reach of the law. 

We are here today to ask the state of Maryland to expand civil marriage for all our families, so that many of the lesbian and gay people I serve, often very religious people, have the opportunity to commit their love to each other and are able to fully support and care for their families. 

I am here today as a Catholic nun, as a person of deep faith, to proudly say that I support HB 438, the Civil Marriage Protection Act and oppose any effort that would alter the Maryland constitution to deny marriage equality.   Thank you.

*Public Religion Research Institute . http://www.publicreligion.org

(You can also watch video of Sister Jeannine’s remarks at a marriage equality prayer breakfast press conference by clicking here.

FRANCIS DeBERNARDO, Executive Director, New Ways Ministry

Francis DeBernardo

A while ago, I worked with a Catholic parish here in Maryland that wanted to welcome lesbian and gay people. They began with a short program of reading and discussion.  One gentleman in the group was not as convinced as the others about this outreach.  After several months of deep conversation where he learned about gay and lesbian families, he had a change of heart.  He learned how gay and lesbian  lives had been affected by unjust laws, oppressive stereotypes, and harmful cultural practices. And he saw how he himself had often been the perpetrator of those offenses, sometimes knowingly and sometimes unknowingly.  He said to me, “You know, when we started this lesbian and gay welcome project, I thought we were doing this for other people, but now I realize that we HAD to do it for ourselves, so that we can be free of prejudices and biases that we don’t even realize we have.” He said that in doing this project, “We’re not just helping others, we’re helping ourselves.”

In this same vein, I encourage you to enact this law, not just for gay and lesbian couples, but for yourselves and for the wellbeing of all in our state.  Passing this law will help us to become a more just community and will create a more stable society where ALL families are protected.  

Marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples is, in the end, about honoring the love and commitment shared between two people and supporting their families.  That is why the majority of Catholics support marriage equality laws.  Even though the Catholic hierarchy, who we respect,  may not support marriage equality, we know our faith teaches that where there is love, there is God. And where there is love, there is the basis for a more healthy and more just society.

Thank you.

ALLEN ROSE, President, Dignity/Washington

Allen Rose

My name is Allen Rose.  I am the president of Dignity/Washington.  25% of our members live in Maryland.  We are a community of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Catholics, our families and friends.  Dignity/Washington serves the spiritual and religious needs of LGBT Catholics in a manner that affirms God’s love for LGBT people, by providing a variety of activities, including a Gay-affirming Catholic Mass every Sunday.  

  I am here today to testify on behalf of the 45 Dignity/Washington members who are citizens of Maryland who are currently unable to marry the person they love.  Some of our members have been in committed relationships for 15 or 20 years, and see in this legislation the opportunity to receive the same rights, benefits and recognition of their relationship that their parents, married siblings and married friends in opposite-sex relationships were easily granted when they decided to marry.   I look forward to the day when any of these 45 citizens who so choose, will be able to marry the person of their choice just like any other loving couple.  Our members in Maryland live in Takoma Park, Baltimore, the Eastern Shore and many other places around the state.

Since I am here representing a community of LGBT Catholics, I want to speak in support of civil marriage equality from a Catholic Perspective.   We are disappointed that the Catholic bishops of Maryland are opposed to this legislation, We know they do not speak for all of the Roman Catholics in Maryland.  As a matter of fact, on this issue, they do not even speak for most of the Catholics in Maryland.  More Catholics support marriage equality than oppose it. 

For an ordained Catholics to speak in favor of this legislation carries professional risks.  Therefore, it is generally up to those of us who have no ordained standing within the Church, but who claim our Catholicism by virtue of our baptism, and who draw strength and support from Catholic traditions and practices, to do our best to attempt to represent those many Catholics who support marriage equality.  A large majority of American and Maryland Catholics now see marriage equality as an issue of social justice.

Since I have been speaking as a Catholic in support of civil marriage equality, I have been talking freely about religion and religious belief. This bill, however, is about civil marriage, not religious marriage.  This bill has strong provisions that protect religions, so that clergy are not required to marry same gender couples.  We at Dignity/Washington agree with, and strongly support this provision of the bill.  This provision further protects private church ceremonies and practices.

Part of our mission at Dignity/Washington is to speak truth to power by giving prophetic witness to the truth that we are all born in the image and likeness of a loving God, and that Gay men and Lesbians are a natural part of God’s plan for humanity.  We preach this message to our own church’s leaders and to society at large.

Dignity/Washington urges the members of these committees, and all of your colleagues in the House of Delegates, to support The Civil Marriage Protection Act of  2012.  It is right and just.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


‘I Was Thirsty and You Gave Me Drink’: A Suggestion for Cardinal George

December 27, 2011

Cardinal George

Since Cardinal George’s insensitive comments comparing the LGBT movement to the Ku Klux Klan occurred just days before Christmas,  it has been difficult to keep up with all the commentary occurring about this matter.   Three responses are very much worth noting.

Dignity/Chicago, the local chapter of DignityUSA in the Windy City, released a statement calling on Cardinal George to clarify and apologize for his comments.  Chapter President Chris Pett noted,

“The fact is the LGBT community is not the enemy nor have we called the Catholic Church our enemy. This is another attempt to make the church appear to be the victim when so many LGBT people and youths have been victimized by the church’s exclusion and intolerance. As LGBT Catholics, we at Dignity/Chicago have experienced both great love and acceptance in the Catholic Church, but also dishonesty and condemnation from many of our churches leaders.”

More importantly, Pett instructs the Cardinal what a true Christian response should be to any perceived animosity the prelate may feel:

“If there is hostility in the gay community toward the Church, then the remedy from the Church is love.”

At America magazine’s blog , a post by  Kevin Clarke  also noted the issue of hostility:  the potential for hostility in the future, specifically at Gay Pride in Chicago next year.  (You may recall that the controversy which was the occasion for Cardinal George’s statements is that the Gay Pride parade will be passing by Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish at the time when the parish has its scheduled Sunday liturgy;  crowds and noise from the parade are expected to hamper parishioners from getting to the church building and praying peacefully.):

“If George was worried that something worse might be in the offing at Mt. Carmel [parish] by way of expression of antipathy to the church from gay priders turned protestors, his unfortunate comparison seems likely to assure such a confrontation now.”

Fortunately, as Clarke points out, not all Chicago Catholic leaders feel the way that Cardinal George does.  In fact. Fr. Thomas Srenn, the pastor at Our Lady of Mount Carmel, posted  a statement on the parish website explaining the issue and hoping for an agreeable outcome for all.  The following are excerpts:

“Our Lady of Mt. Carmel has been part of the East Lakeview neighborhood for 125 years. From its founding as an immigrant parish until today, our parish has witnessed many demographic changes. Parishioners, indeed, are proud of their local history and particularly proud of the current diversity that exists in our church and school communities.comments seem to assure….

“The annual Pride Parade is one of the hallmarks that make Lakeview unique and we in no way wish to diminish its place in the community. The petition simply asks the City and the Chicago Pride Parade planners to consider our concern that the impact of the new route and time would have on the ability of people to participate at Sunday morning Masses

“Attempts to provide other access to our church will in no way enable our parishioners to navigate the anticipated crowds or to be able to celebrate Mass in the reflective, contemplative atmosphere that is so important to us.

“Parishioners, the residents of our diverse community, the many visitors who will enjoy our neighborhood that weekend, all want to have a safe, peaceful and enjoyable Pride Sunday.”

Chicago city officials and Pride parade organizers have worked out a compromise to start the parade later so as not to interfere with the parish’s Mass and other church services along the route.    Here’s an additional suggestion:  Wouldn’t it be great if Our Lady of Mount Carmel parishioners were outside their church building to greet parade participants and offer them cups or water?

The third response is from Cardinal George himself.   Towleroad.com carries a video from WABC-TV which shows the cardinal making the following clarification on Christmas Day:

” ‘Obviously, it’s absurd to say the gay and lesbian community are the Ku Klux Klan, but if you organize a parade that looks like parades that we’ve had in our past because it stops us from worshipping God, well then that’s the comparison, but it’s not with people and people – it’s parade-parade,’ said George.”

Unfortunately, that doesn’t sound like an apology or a clarification which ameliorates the situation.  Cardinal George will need to do better.  Here’s another suggestion:  Wouldn’t it be even greater if Cardinal George greeted parade marchers and handed out water to them, too?

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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