NEWS NOTES: August 19, 2013

August 19, 2013

News NotesHere are some items that may be of interest:

1) Using hyperbolic language, the Catholic bishops in England released a document responding to that nation’s passage of marriage equality earlier this year. The document reiterated common messages from the hierarchy, while adding new concepts about Catholics being alienated in their own country because of the new law. You can read more at The Catholic Register. Marriage equality in England has at least one columnist asking if the Catholic Church should remove itself from marriage altogether.

2) Responding to the firing of educator Carla Hale this spring for marrying her wife, one set of Catholic parents began wondering about a Catholic burial for their gay son. While several Catholic officials and funeral directors assured them the institution denies a Catholic burial in only the most extreme instances, these parents remain dissatisfied. Alternatively, one gay Catholic man told The Columbus Dispatch: ” ‘One place the Catholic Church is really, really, really nice about is death.’ “

3)In the African nation of Cameroon, more anti-gay prosecutions and the seeming assassination of prominent advocate Eric Lembembe caused LGBT rights organizations to demand better conditions from the civil and religious authorities in Cameroon who support homophobic language and acts. LGBT advocates said in a statement reported by France 24: ” ‘The religious authorities, the Cameroonian Roman Catholic Church in particular, take a position on homosexuality in order to incite violence,’ ” Cameroon, where about a quarter of the population are Catholic, is one of the worst nations for LGBT rights.

4) A Michigan high school student won a lawsuit in which he claimed his First Amendment rights were violated during a 2010 classroom interaction. The student claimed his Catholic faith did not allow him to accept LGBT people, and was then written up by his teacher for disruptive behavior. Some observers in Education Week believe this case could have broader implications in the tension over free speech in schools and anti-bullying policies that seek to protect sexual orientation and gender identity.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


NEWS NOTES: August 15, 2013

August 15, 2013

News NotesHere are some items you might find of interest:

1) The principal of a Canadian Catholic high school which used discriminatory language against gay and lesbian students on its website, among other offenses, will not be returning this fall. CBC News also reports a gay-straight alliance has now been formed at the school. These changes began after a high school student spoke out about the anti-LGBT policy, yet another reminder of the impact a single voice can have.

2) Mexican voters elected the nation’s first openly gay mayor on July 7th. Benjamin Medrano’s political career comes at a precarious moment for LGBT equality in Mexico where homophobia is still publicly acceptable in political campaigns for some areas, but public opinions and legal structures are rapidly changing. Medrano is a Roman Catholic, and while he supports equal rights, he also claims that the highly religious nation is not prepared for widespread marriage rights or other LGBT movement demands. You can read more in The Wisconsin Gazette.

3) The Dominican Republic’s leading church official helped trigger anti-LGBT protests after he used an anti-gay slur and threatening language against President Obama’s nominee for US ambassador to the island nation earlier this summer. The Advocate reports that follwing Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez’s press conference, religious leaders organized “Black Monday” protests to rouse popular support against an openly gay US diplomat. Meanwhile, the Cardinal is also mired in a sexual abuse scandal after a Polish priest under his charge may have escaped prosecution by fleeing the country with two minors.

4) A church in Denmark has been allowed to hire a gay man as its organist after the local bishop withdrew objections, reports The Copenhagen Post. Ole Knudsen is legally married to his husband, but says they live in a platonic relationship and that may have impacted the bishop’s decision.

Bonus: In case you missed it, LGBT advocates in Sweden develop a most creative (and colorful) way to protest new anti-gay laws in Russia. You can see a picture at the New Ways Ministry’s Pinterest page.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


As England Passes Equal Marriage, Catholic Church Given Opportunity to Grow

July 18, 2013

A rainbow double-decker bus passes by London’s Parliament.

Marriage equality is finally legal in the United Kingdom after receiving ‘Royal Assent’ from Queen Elizabeth yesterday, making it the 18th nation to enact equal marriage rights. Now, it will be up to the British public and their religious leaders to implement the new law without further conflict — and perhaps the Catholic Church can seize this opportunity to improve relations with the LGBT community there.

After final approval from the two legislative chambers then the queen, same-gender couples will be able to marry starting next summer. The Huffington Post reports that several British politicians spoke to the importance of this legislation for LGBT people in their nation, including Culture Secretary Maria Miller:

“[She] said ‘marriage is the bedrock of our society and now irrespective of sexuality everyone in British society can make that commitment’.

” ‘It is a wonderful achievement and whilst this legislation may be about marriage, its impact is so much wider. Making marriage available to all couples demonstrates our society’s respect for all individuals regardless of their sexuality’…

” ‘It demonstrates the importance we attach to being able to live freely. It says so much about the society that we are and the society that we want to live in.’ “

Also championing the new law are LGBT advocates like Stonewall UK’s director Ben Summerskill, who are sensitive to the religious issues at play. Summerskill gave an extended interview to The Catholic Herald, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Westminster (London) recently where he spoke positively of religion’s relationship in society and in regards to LGBT equality. He calls himself a “critical friend” of Christian churches, not an opponent and continues:

“ ‘I think that one thing the Roman Catholic Church has not been good at is wrestling with these sorts of issues in a constructive and supportive way. Lesbians and gay people in the Church of England might be dissatisfied with what it’s done, but it’s a church that wrestled with these issues. For a gay Roman Catholic, there is no acknowledgment that there is a community of interest within the Church.’…

“ ‘I think it’s difficult to escape the conclusion that many denominations have been insufficiently energetic in addressing some of the hatred and prejudice…Well, there’s no doubt some of them have encouraged it. But I’m wary of caricaturing a whole denomination. Of course there are good things [in the Catholic Church]. There are good things in all churches that bring people together. We now work directly with 500 schools, with a third of local authorities, on dealing with homophobic bullying. And those include Roman Catholic faith schools, which take the issue incredibly seriously. They are exemplary in the way they deal with these issues.’ “

In the United Kingdom, examples of Catholics positively engaging LGBT issues, as one London school did, are contrasted with hyperbolic statements from the Catholic bishops who previously threatened to stop performing marriages if the nation legalized equal marriage rights. Now that the law is in effect, the example of Ben Summerskill and other ‘critical friends’ of the Catholic Church should be guiding influences so that all families are provided for and welcomed by their parishes as same-gender Catholic couples begin to marry.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Cardinal O’Brien’s Resignation Highlights Increasing Problems for Anti-LGBT Hierarchy

February 26, 2013

Cardinal O’Brien greeting Pope Benedict XVI

Scotland’s Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the leading Catholic prelate in the United Kingdom, announced on Monday that he was resigning as archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh and that he will not attend the upcoming papal conclave as an elector. The cardinal, one of the UK’s most visible opponents of LGBT equality, is accused of improper conduct by four priests dating back nearly three decades.

While O’Brien denies claims published in a British newspaper on Sunday that he initiated inappropriate contact, this controversial Catholic has quickly removed himself from the public eye. Andrew Brown writing at The Guardian sees the accelerated pace of Cardinal’s resignation as progress in handling sexual abuse claims, but mulls deeper over the issues of homosexuality and forced celibacy in this scandal:

“.  . . [T]he story illustrates the grotesque and humiliating difficulties that the Roman Catholic church has knotted itself into where sex and gay people are concerned…

“Of course, the real problem is that the Roman Catholic church expects an entirely unrealistic standard of continence from its priesthood. Some priests can manage celibacy. The evidence from all around the world is that most can’t…In countries where that isn’t an available alternative, the priesthood becomes a refuge for gay men – especially in societies where homophobia is the public norm.

“This fact adds irony to O’Brien’s denunciations of gay marriage. You can’t really expect better from a church that still hasn’t come to terms properly with heterosexual marriage…And a church that can’t treat women as equals is certainly not going to be realistic about marriage between two men.”

Cardinal O’Brien’s legacy will be multi-faceted, but decidedly anti-LGBT given his repeated assaults on both legal rights and pastoral concerns. Bondings 2.0 reported stories throughout last year about O’Brien, including being named ‘Bigot of the Year’ by UK-charity Stonewall.

In 2012 alone, he referred to same-gender marriage a “grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right,” claimed legalizing it would be similar to instituting slavery anew, and expressed concerns that school libraries might circulate “homosexual fairy stories” as a result. O’Brien has lead Catholic efforts to block legislation granting equal marriage, through sizeable financial commitments and a failed attempt to hold a referendum on the issue in Scotland.

The realities of gay priests were further elucidated by Peter Stanford at The Telegraph in an article titled, “Too many priests preach truth, but live a lie”:

“…I’ve met many clerics. Many are openly gay. Or so open when not saying Mass that it is easy to forget I’m not meant to remember it when they are.

“In general, such double standards don’t overly concern me. Like the rest of us, priests, monks, bishops and even cardinals are as God made them. Whatever inner tension they struggle with as leaders in a Church that teaches that to be gay is – and I am quoting a document sent out by the soon-to-retire Pope when he was Cardinal Ratzinger – ‘a strong tendency towards an intrinsic moral evil,’ that is a matter for their own conscience.

“Tolerance wears a bit thin, however, when they start attacking gay marriage in such strident terms from the pulpit, and even signing letters en masse in protest at the Government’s proposals. It is getting dangerously close to hypocrisy.”

Not all critics focus on the visceral efforts that Cardinal O’Brien led as one of many outwardly anti-LGBT clergymen who secretly struggle with their sexuality. Instead, LGBT advocates in some quarters express hope for change in this transitory period. Pink News reports on reactions from pro-LGBT organizations, including that of Tom French of Scotland’s Equality Network:

“‘It would be inappropriate for us to comment on the allegations made against Cardinal O’Brien. Of course we hope that the Catholic Church in Scotland will use the opportunity new leadership brings to reassess its opposition to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality.’

“‘The Catholic Church does a huge amount of good work on issues like poverty, and it’s a shame that this important work is so often overshadowed by its position on issues of sexuality.’”

Sexual abuse claims laid against homophobic leadership detracts from the Church’s truest work of justice, and undermines the more progressive policies of those like Cardinal O’Brien, who just recently proposed a renewed discussion around married Catholic clergy. In this period of episcopal transitions worldwide, perhaps the hierarchy will critically address the sexual ethics it promotes instead of doubling-down on its anti-LGBT policies.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Related articles: BBC.co.uk:  “Cardinal Keith O’Brien resigns as Archbishop”

                                      The Guardian:  “What lies behind religious homophobia”


Catholics Have Played Significant Role in Britain’s Marriage Equality Successes

February 17, 2013

While it is well-known that England and Wales are drawing closer to legalizing marriage equality, what is less well-known is the role that Catholics have been playing in bringing about this reality.

When Parliament’s House of Commons last week overwhelmingly voted to approve marriage equality, another strong statistic that emerged was that the majority of Catholic Members of Parliament (MP) also voted for the measure.  London’s Tablet magazine reports:

“Out of the 82 Catholic MPs, 47 – almost 60 per cent – were in favour of same-sex marriage. Of these, 32 are Labour, 12 Conservative, two Liberal Democrat and one SDLP. . . .

“Twenty-eight Catholic MPs voted against the bill including Sarah Teather, the Liberal Democrat former children’s minister. She said: ‘It was one of the most difficult decisions I have ever taken.’ “

St. Thomas More

St. Thomas More

One of those 82 Catholic MPs is Damian Collins, a Conservative who voted for marriage equality, and, interestingly, used St. Thomas More as his model for doing so.  In an essay in The Guardian, he stated:

“Saint Thomas More, Henry VIII’s Lord Chancellor and a former speaker of the House of Commons is famous for the moral stand he took against his King, even though it cost him his life. . . . Thomas More is particularly remembered because he could not in conscience swear an oath recognising the Succession to the Crown Act 1533 which had the effect of annulling one of Henry VIII’s marriages and therefore changing the royal succession. He could not swear the oath because, although he would abide by the Act’s content, he could not in conscience say that he agreed with it. Parliament, he said, had the right to decide matters of marriage, and had the right to require all subjects, including Catholics, to abide by its laws, but it could not have the right to require Catholics in conscience to agree with them. As a result he was imprisoned in the Tower of London and then executed.

Damian Collins

Damian Collins

“Last month press reports of a letter signed by a large number of Catholic clergy who opposed the Same Sex Marriage Bill asserted that if it passed that this could be seen as a return to the persecution that Catholics experienced during the English Reformation, because they would be required to acknowledge equal rights to marriage, against the teaching of the Church. I’m not sure that Thomas More would agree with this, and nor for that matter do I.

“The Same Sex Marriage Bill is not seeking to tell the different churches and religions what they should believe, or to restrict them practicing their beliefs as the do now. Churches will not be required to conduct same sex marriage ceremonies if they do not want to. The Catholic Church will remain free to teach that marriage is a sacrament of the Church, it is between a man and a woman, that its purpose is for the procreation of children, and that it is for life. . . .

“The Bill is an attempt to strengthen equality in our society, without compromising religious freedom. I believe that Thomas More would have understood this distinction, and regardless of how he would have voted (I would not seek to presume on a matter of conscience like this) I think he would have agreed that this was something that Parliament had the right to do.”

Conor Burns

Conor Burns

Another Catholic MP is Conor Burns, a Tory who is also an openly gay man. PinkNews.co.uk notes that while Burns originally did not feel that the marriage bill should be considered, he has come to support it:

“He said he did not think there was a clamour for the gay marriage proposal but added: ‘That said, it’s being presented as bringing greater equality and as a gay man I don’t see how I can vote against something that’s presented as bringing greater equality.’ ”

Burns also added that he opponents of the bill strongly lobbied him to vote against it, and that he was shocked at the manner of presentation:

“ ‘The lobbying that has been undertaken by those against this bill has been some of the most unpleasant spiteful, hateful things that I’ve ever known,’ he said.

“ ‘Some of my constituents have written in opposing it. I don’t know what sort of relationship they have with their God but he’s not the God of compassion that I recognise. They’ve been hateful.’ “

Archbishop Peter Smith

Archbishop Peter Smith

Not surprisingly, Catholic leadership in Britain have opposed the marriage equality bill. One British bishop, however, has already admitted defeat in the matter.  PinkNews.co.uk repots:

“The Archbishop of Southwark has said he has accepted defeat and same-sex marriage will become law in England and Wales.

“Peter Smith, who is also vice-president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, said he has reluctantly accepted the government proposals.”

Catholic British theologian Tina Beattie argued for marriage equality in the pages of The Guardian, handily debunking one of the greatest myths used against such proposals:

Tina Beattie

Tina Beattie

“I have never been able to understand the argument that same-sex marriage threatens marriage as we know it. Marriage is far more threatened by a consumerist culture in which the demand for instant gratification is worth the sacrifice of any relationship or responsibility which involves commitment and struggle, and by an ethos of sexual libertarianism which so easily mutates into predatory and exploitative relationships involving young and vulnerable people, and which fosters unrealistically high expectations of sexual performance among adults who ought to know better.

“In this context, society stands to benefit from any move towards a deeper understanding of the value of ‘lifelong fidelity and commitment’ between two people, whether of the same sex or of different sexes, as a basic building block for community and family life.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Marriage Equality a Closer Reality in Britain, But What Will the Consequences Be?

February 5, 2013

British House of Commons

A first vote on Britain’s “Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill” could occur as early as today. In recent weeks, the nation’s Catholic bishops, who oppose the bill, have also been raising questions about what a successful vote extending civil marriage rights would mean for the Catholic Church.

As part of their opposition strategy, the British Catholic hierarchy distributed a million postcards at Masses last weekend in hopes that parishioners would express their anti-equality opposition to Members of Parliament. The Telegraph reports Catholic bishops are hopeful they can inspire opposition because each of Britain’s three main political parties promised a “free vote”, meaning members are able to vote outside of the party line.

The bishops also also released a document to Parliament condemning marriage equality and detailing the, by now, usual list of threats that equal rights are supposed to pose to society. Pink News reports the inclusion of more positive language on the part of the bishops, hinting as well that progress by the hierarchy is possible given changes in their past positions:

“The Catholic Church in England and Wales has made a surprising acknowledgement that same-sex couples make good parents…

“The document says: ‘We recognise that many same sex couples raise children in loving and caring homes…’

“The Catholic Church opposed the introduction of same-sex civil partnerships but it seems now to support the maintenance of a separate relationships system for same-sex couples.”

On the other hand, the bishops’ more positive message has been weakened by their predictions for the future. If the marriage equality bill is successful, the Catholic hierarchy promises devastating consequences for the rights of same-gender couples. A recent booklet affirms that educators and administrators not adhering to the hierarchy’s teaching on marriage could suffer consequences for continued employment in church institutions. Pink News reports on the booklet’s details:

“The guidance, sanctioned by the Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, says that teachers in Catholic schools should not marry divorcees, marry in registry offices or in other civil ceremonies (such as civil partnerships) that do not meet the Catholic Church’s approval.

“[The booklet] says that senior teachers in “a partnership of intimacy with another person, outside a form of marriage approved by the church…can be removed from office.”

The relationship between Catholic education and the British government is a point of contention for both sides. While British law protects employees from discrimination based upon sexual orientation, which has stopped previous diocesan firings of gay employees, religious exemptions also exist.

If marriage equality becomes legalized, England will experience an interesting tension between the rights of religions and the rights of individuals. Relevant organizations are not waiting for the results of this marriage battle to express their criticisms. In addition to the bishops arguing from the political right, some on the political left question how the new law would fit with existing British law:

“The European Commission is already considering whether British laws governing faith schools breach European education directives.

“Commenting on the [bishops'] booklet, the Department for Education said: ‘This is a matter for schools and their governors. Faith schools can consider whether a person’s conduct is in line with their religious values when dismissing teachers. However schools must also comply with employment law.’”

Bondings 2.0 will continue to update our readers as the British bill proceeds.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


International Round-up of Catholic LGBT News

November 18, 2012

Some brief news items from around the globe:

SCOTLAND:

Scotland’s Cardinal Keith O’Brien was named “bigot of the year” by Stonewall, an LGBT charity organization in the United Kingdom, reports MSN.com:

“The charity said the move was voted for by 10,000 supporters and came after the cardinal went ‘well beyond what any normal person would call a decent level of public discourse’ over the last year, which has seen heated debate over plans to introduce gay marriage in Scotland. “

In a Guardian news article, a Catholic spokesperson criticized Stonewall for the decision:

“A church spokesman said the award showed Stonewall was intolerant of its critics. ‘Stonewall and others have promoted terms like “bigot” and “homophobe” relentlessly, in order to intimidate and vilify anyone who dares oppose their agenda,’ he said.”

Stonewall’s director, Colin McFarlane, offered a defense:

 “We’ve never called anyone a bigot just because they don’t agree with us. But in just the past 12 months, the cardinal has gone well beyond what any normal person would call a decent level of public discourse.”

“The people that were nominated for bigot of the year have this year called gay people Nazis, they have compared them to bestialists and to paedophiles, and one of the nominees suggested that gay people should be put in front of a firing squad and shot dead.

“So I think what we are doing is highlighting the very cruel, very nasty, very pernicious language that is being used by some people – and in particular by the cardinal, who won.”

FRANCE:

The leader of France’s Catholic bishops has vowed to fight a proposed bill which would legalize marriage equality in that nation.   According to a news article in Catholic San Francisco, Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, archbishop of Paris, addressed a conference of France’s bishops, stating:

“Numerous initiatives are already being taken by citizens, believers or not, to oppose this government bill – many Catholics are engaging with people of other ways of thinking and other religions.

“Let this country’s Catholics know their bishops are encouraging them to speak, write, act and demonstrate. They have a right to testify to what, in the light of faith and the logic of reason and good sense, seems essential to them.”

ENGLAND:

A high court in England has determined that a Catholic adoption agency must consider same-gender couples as possible placements if it wants to maintain its status as a charity.

The BBC reports that the judge determined that Catholic Care, an agency in the Diocese of Leeds, failed to give convincing reasons why it should be exempt from the nation’s equality laws passed in 2007.

In a statement Catholic Care indicated that it may close down, rather than follow the law:

“Without the constitutional restriction for which it applied, Catholic Care will be forced to close its adoption service.

“The reason for this is that the service permitted by the current constitution is in conflict with the aims of the charity.

“It is Catholic Care’s view that this will reduce the number of adoptive parents available and the number of children left waiting for adoptive parents will continue to increase.

“Catholic Care will now take time to consider the decision in detail and decide on its next steps.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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