Detroit Archbishop Bans Parents’ Group Because of Speaker Choice

November 22, 2014

Francis DeBernardo, left, at World Pride 2012 in London. British Catholic gay advocate Martin Pendergast, right, helps him carry the New Ways Ministry banner.

Michigan LGBT advocates will proceed with a planned meeting for Catholic parents of LGBT children today after being barred from the Catholic parish that was set to host it.

Archbishop Allen Vigneron banned Christ the King parish in northwest Detroit from hosting the Fortunate Families support group because Francis DeBernardo of New Ways Ministry is scheduled to speak. According to organizer Linda Karle-Nelson, the parish hosted a similar gathering last year and this change of venue greatly disrupts the event. She told The Detroit Free Press:

” ‘It’s really been a problem trying to get the information out to people who have registered and those who might want to walk in…The reason we invited Frank DeBernardo, is he just returned from Rome and the Synod on the family, and he was going to share his perspective and where do we go from here…The pope has asked for reactions and to weigh in.’ “

DeBernardo, who heads New Ways Ministry, noted how far Vigneron’s action is from Pope Francis’ welcoming style and added:

” ‘I feel bad for the message that it sends to Catholics that there can’t be discussion of an issue of great importance to them and their families — how to stay in better communication with their church and their gay and lesbian children.’ “

Linda Karle-Nelson and Thomas Nelson

Christ the King’s pastor, Fr. Victor Clore, is also baffled by the archbishop’s decision, telling the Free Press:

” ‘I’ll give you a quote from one of my parishioners, who said: “It amazes me how Pope Francis eagerly and happily engages those who openly deny the divinity of Christ, yet (New Ways) DeBernardo is deemed unworthy to enter our church’…

” ‘That’s pretty much my feeling, too…It’s treating people as if they were children.’ “

Archbishop Vigneron’s record on LGBT issues has not been positive. In the past, he has warned that pro-marriage equality Catholics should not receive Communion (though his auxiliary Bishop Thomas Gumbleton thought otherwise) and is on record saying Pope Francis “didn’t say anything different” on homosexuality.

In contrast, Karle-Nelson and her husband, Tom, were awarded by PFLAG for their pastoral efforts within the church through Fortunate Families. They have led protests at the Detroit chancery and stood by Dignity/Detroit when its 39th anniversary celebrations came under fire from the archdiocese.

Fox 2 News of Detroit quoted DeBernardo explaining a bit about the content of his talk:

“Pope Francis has demonstrated openness on these issues and he has called for greater discussion of them as we saw in the synod at the Vatican last month. I wish the Archdiocese of Detroit had inquired more deeply about the substance of my talk. They would have found that it is very Catholic on its content.”

His talk is about how the recent synod on marriage and the family discussed gay and lesbian people.  In the talk, he quotes almost entirely from bishops and cardinals, as well as the pope.

Please keep the Fortunate Families group in your prayers today as they meet at an alternate location. These dedicated parents and family members are answering Pope Francis’ call to create a church that is “home for all” through dialogue and welcome.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Catholic Social Worker Bridges Gaps Between Religious Parents and LGBT Youth

October 29, 2014

Though our society has made great strides towards greater acceptance of LGBT people, it can’t be forgotten that there are still many places where people who are coming to self-awareness and self-acceptance face great struggles.  The wider discussion of LGBT issues in our culture is helping people come out at younger ages because they are more knowledgeable about sexual orientation and gender identity questions than other generations were able to be. But this also means that young LGBT people are facing more family pressures at ages when they are more vulnerable than people in years past who came out when they were more established in their lives.

Caitlin Ryan

Perhaps no one knows more about what theses family pressures are than Caitlin Ryan, PhD, a social worker and researcher, who started the Family Acceptance Project (FAP) at San Francisco State University. The Project, according to their website is “a research, intervention, education and policy initiative that works to prevent health and mental health risks for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) children and youth, including suicide, homelessness and HIV – in the context of their families.”

Through her research, Ryan, a lesbian woman and a Catholic, has identified scores of responses that families give to their young LGBT members, and shows how the negative responses put these youth at greater risk for poor sexual health, HIV infection, substance use, depression, suicide, and low self-esteem.  Perhaps more importantly, she also shows how specific family accepting reactions protect against risk and promote self-esteem and well-being.

In a New York Times profile about her work, Ryan explained that principles from her Catholic upbringing helped to shape the way she approaches her research.  The article describes her early work with HIV patients, and how that opened her eyes and heart to the important work of human reconciliation that needed to be done:

“ ‘I saw something very few people saw,’ Dr. Ryan recalled. ‘This deep, profound connection that superseded dogma and doctrine. I saw the language of the heart.’

“Right then, she recognized her calling: to enable those reconciliations during life rather than at the portal of death. As Dr. Ryan received her validation the way scholars do — publication in peer-reviewed journals, six-figure grants as a principal investigator on research projects, a faculty position at San Francisco State University — she conducted extensive field work among homeless gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender teenagers in the Bay Area, as well as with parents of gay children. She and her academic colleagues documented a strong correlation between rejection by families and such dangerous youthful behaviors as drug abuse, unprotected sex and suicide attempts.”

Ryan’s research, educational efforts, and family intervention work now extend to specialized resource materials for families from particular faith backgrounds.  As she describes her work, she recognized that though some religious parents may have moral objections to a child’s sexual orientation or gender identity, almost all parents want what is good for their children, and do not want harm to come to them.  Her work builds on this common ground and helps parents to avoid family rejecting behaviors that can result in harmful outcomes for their children (such as an 8-times greater likelihood of attempted suicide), and to engage in supportive behaviors that strengthen families and increase their LGBT children’s self-esteem, self-worth and well-being.

Her research and family intervention work foster reconciliation and help people, regardless of their morality, to protect young people and support their overall health and wellness.  Indeed, Ryan sees the spiritual side to her work, and self-effacingly noted in the Times profile:

“ ‘I’m still a Catholic schoolgirl,’ said Dr. Ryan, who regularly attends church to this day. ‘Modesty and humility were values that were instilled in me. I don’t feel right taking credit. It’s not my work. It’s a spiritual practice and a sacred trust.’ ”

Ryan is a featured speaker at this year’s Call To Action conference in Memphis, November 7th to 9th.  Along with Fortunate Families President Deb Word, she will be conducting a day-long program entitled “Parent Day of Advocacy, Support, and Reflection.”  The conference brochure offers this description:

“This pre-session day will be spent with parents and families of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender children and is also open to those who advocate for LGBTQ persons. Education and prayerful reflection the morning session will include a presentation by Dr. Caitlin Ryan on the Family Acceptance Project’s award winning Best Practices approach to prevent suicide and homelessness for LGBTQ youth. The afternoon will concentrate on parent stories, shared reflections and spiritual direction.”

For more information about the day, click here.

Caitlin Ryan’s work is life-saving.  The fact that she can work with parents who would usually be described as “homophobic” or “transphobic” and can help them to follow their hearts to do what is best for their child’s well-being is a blessing for all. It forces me to wonder:  Wouldn’t it be great if such a program existed for Catholic Church leaders to deal in healthy ways with the LGBT people in their congregations?

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Edie Windsor Is “Thrilled” with Pope Francis’ Famous Comment

June 9, 2014

 

Edie Windsor

Edie Windsor, the lesbian woman who was the plaintiff in the 2013 U.S. Supreme Court case which struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, has made a statement that she is “thrilled” with Pope Francis’ famous “Who am I to judge?”

Gay Star News reported on Windsor’s comments:

‘ ‘His bully pulpit has a great deal of meaning,’ Windsor said this week in an interview with HuffPost Live.

“‘I was in Provincetown, (Massachusetts), the day the papers said the quote of the Pope as saying, “Who am I to judge?” I went around people’s tables at the breakfast saying, “Did you see this? Will you imagine this?”‘ “

Windsor was especially touched by how the pope’s comments will affect parents of LGBT people:

” ‘Right now, it thrills me,’ Windsor said of the Pope’s words. ‘I think of all the serious Catholic mothers who felt freed when he said that – free to love their kids.’ “

Windsor is both wrong and right.   While it is true that the pope’s comments will help many Catholic parents and families,  there have been many such families who have already accepted and loved their LGBT children.  The work of the Fortunate Families ministry has been supporting, instructing, and encouraging Catholic parents for over ten years now.  Indeed, as we’ve noted before, Catholic parents of LGBT people are already some of the strongest advocates for LGBT justice and equality in church and society.

Where Windsor is very right, though, is in the fact that Pope Francis’ comment, as simple and offhand as it was, can have tremendous impact on the church.  In addition to Catholic parents who may be confused about what their religion might say about LGBT people, many others in the church have been powerfully moved by the pope’s remarks.  Back in the fall of 2013, we commented on how even though his statement did not change doctrine about same-gender relationships, it does have an impact on the tone of church leaders and can strongly affect attitudes of church people, which in turn will affect practice, and in turn, again, eventually affect doctrine.

What we do hope and pray for, though, is that Pope Francis will make clearer and more explicit welcoming statements about LGBT issues, and that he will encourage some of the U.S. bishops to do likewise.   The October Vatican Synod on Marriage and Family is one step that has great potential for the pope to be more affirming.  The World Meeting of Families, sponsored by the Vatican and taking place in Philadelphia in September 2015, will also be another one.  If you are interested in joining pro-LGBT Catholic families as pilgrims to this event, click here, to see what the Equally Blessed coalition (of which New Ways Ministry is a member)  is planning.

Most importantly,  Pope Francis could do the church a great favor by speaking out right now against discriminatory employment contracts that several U.S. dioceses are enacting that negatively impact LGBT people and allies.   And, as we’ve been encouraging for months now, he needs to speak out about the enactment of laws which criminalize homosexuality, which have been legislated in several countries around the globe and contemplated by others.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related post

March 28, 2013:Catholic Activists Helped Bring Marriage Equality Case to the Supreme Court”

 


Praying for All Marriages During National Marriage Week

February 9, 2014

LoveIsLoveToday is “National Marriage Day,” part of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ National Marriage Week which spans from last Friday through next Friday, St. Valentine’s Day.

While the bishops have asked Catholics to participate in support of their anti-marriage equality campaign, other Catholics are affirming the goodness of marriage — and that means all marriages, which deserve equal recognition and dignity.

The Equally Blessed coalition, which consists of  Call to ActionFortunate FamiliesDignityUSA, and New Ways Ministry, has released a statement further explaining these events:

“The National Marriage Week campaign’s limited scope creates an unwelcoming Church for the thousands of US Catholics in same-sex marriages who live their lives as shining examples of love in the face of discrimination. By encouraging local parishes to observe ‘National Marriage Day’ during Sunday mass, the bishops are once again using the liturgy as a weapon to further alienate LGBT Catholics and their supporters.

“This campaign only serves to show how out of touch the bishops are with the values of everyday Catholics. While the bishops continue to abuse their power by pouring money and effort into thinly veiled anti-equality campaigns like National Marriage Week, the majority of US Catholics continue to support equality for LGBT families. Catholics know that all marriages based on love and respect are sacred and we implore the bishops to follow the laity’s lead and cease this attack on LGBT families.”

Equally Blessed, has prepared a “Prayer for All Marriages” which LGBT-affirming Catholics are being asked to pray today and throughout the week with their family, parishes, and local communities. You’re encouraged to show your support through stories and photos of how you have prayed and emailing these to coordinator@equally-blessed.org. You can find more resources by clicking here and the prayer is provided below:

Loving God, 
You who created each of us in Your own image 
and who called us together in community, 
 
We give You thanks for the gift of marriage 
and for the many couples 
whose love and commitment to each other reminds us 
of Your never-ending love for humanity. 
 
We thank You for all the different types of marriages in our world: 
young couples beginning a life together, 
 as well as couples celebrating decades of love, 
re-married couples and those who found each other later in life, 
couples whose marriages are recognized by our state and our Church, 
and same-sex couples who are denied that recognition 
but who continue to bravely model love and commitment in the face of discrimination. 
 
We thank You for the many kinds of families 
 that are strengthened by these marriages: 
families of biological children and adopted children, 
blended families and families of choice, 
as well as couples without children who work together 
 to nurture communities of love and justice. 
 
This week, as many are observing National Marriage Week, 
we ask You to pour Your blessings onto every marriage 
regardless of gender or sexual orientation. 
Make each marriage one of love, respect and peace. 
Guide each couple as they strive to be an example of your love in the world 
and surround them with family and friends 
 who honor and celebrate their commitment. 
 
Help us support marriage and family in all of its diversity 
and guide us as we speak out against oppression in our Church. 
Lead us toward the day when all loving unions will be seen as sacred 
and all couples will have the support and recognition of their faith communities. 
 
We pray this in the name of Jesus, who called us to love one another as we love You, 
Amen

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Catholic Gatherings Demonstrate Parental Love for LGBT Children

November 23, 2013

The role that Catholic parents of LGBT people play in advancing justice and equality in the church is a critical one.  Parents are often the natural “bridge-builders” between their LGBT children and the institutional structures of Catholicism.  It is parents’ natural unconditional love for their children which is the model of acceptance that the entire church needs to emulate and learn.

Fortunate Families, a national network of Catholic parents of LGBT people, has been providing support and encouragement to parents, as well as inspiring advocacy for equality, since 2004.  In the past year, the organization has been hosting a series of regional gatherings around the U.S. for parents to meet with one another and learn from one another.

A recent post on the organization’s blog gives an account of some of these meetings.  Of a gathering in the Detroit, Michigan, metropolitan area, convener Linda Karle-Nelson described how that gathering revealed how much change has happened for parents over the last decade:

“Six years ago a similar gathering drew only 14 parents; at the November 9 event there 41 folks who joined together to pray and share stories and discuss how they could advocate for equality for their LGBT daughters and sons.
“The biggest differences in the two gatherings were not just the numbers, but the nature of the stories the parents told and the forward looking outcome of the day.
“Many had gone through the personal struggles of learning about their child’s orientation and finding their path to understanding that they now knew their children in a more complete way and that this was a blessing. Others had ‘known all along’ and had waited for their child to come out to them. Still others expressed their disappointment in extended family members who were not accepting and rejected them as well as their sons and daughters.  Parents in their 30’s and early 40’s (the young’uns!) received the news of their teen-age child’s coming out much earlier in their lives (and perhaps much easier!) than those of us of an older generation.”

On the same day, a similar gathering was held in Atlanta, Georgia, for Catholic parents.  Deb Word, the current board president of Fortunate Families, reported on the diversity of people that attended, though united for a common cause:

“Our group ran the gamut from folks who were there ready to start parish outreach to those who had yet to share with family members that their children had married.
“A small table was set up in the beginning with photos of our children and simple votive candles. They were never far from our minds as we listened, shared and strategized about making our church more welcoming, ourselves more open, and our families more loving.”
These two events had been preceded this past year with events in Flagler Beach, Florida, Pleasanton, California, and Cincinnati, Ohio.  Karle-Nelson noted the importance of such meetings for parents:
“A unique result of the gathering was one that we were not ready for a few years ago, i. e., the desire of the parents to take action to share their stories in order to persuade their fellow parishioners, their pastors,  their bishop, and even Pope Francis that our LGBT children are whole and holy children of God who deserve equality in our Church.
“These parents expressed a desire to meet again and again, and each time they meet they will be building a community of people who are dedicated to bringing a new vision of LGBT people to the heart of the Church. . . .”
Plans are in the works for a 2014 gathering in Minnesota.  To keep informed about these and other events and programs for Catholic parents of LGBT people, visit the Fortunate Families website.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


U.S. Catholic Bishops Invited to New Dialogue on LGBT Issues

November 14, 2013

Equally Blessed LogoThe U.S. Catholic bishops have been invited to open a new and more positive chapter in their relationships with LGBT Catholics and and their supporters.  The invitation came in the form of a letter from the leaders of Equally Blessed, a coalition of four national Catholic organizations (Call To Action, DignityUSA, Fortunate Families, New Ways Ministry) that work for justice and equality for LGBT people.

The letter, addressed to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, who have been meeting in Baltimore this week, invites the church’s leaders to put past events behind them and start a forward-thinking dialogue with LGBT people and supporters. The Equally Blessed leaders wrote:

“Now is the time for us all to adopt a new approach in dealing with issues of human sexuality, especially in dealing with LGBT people, as Pope Francis seems to be calling us to do. It will take time to rebuild trust between members of the Conference and those who have been damaged by its past policies. But, if Jesus came that we all might be one, then healing must begin. So we implore you to sit down with us, to listen to voices from the margins of the Church, and to speak with us candidly about your own concerns. We offer an outstretched hand of invitation.”

The letter writers suggested several areas of common-ground where the bishops can collaborate with them:

“The bishops and LGBT Catholics and their allies have many opportunities to show where our Church is united in its commitment to the dignity of the human person. The bishops have many opportunities to reach out to LGBT persons without violating Church teaching. The USCCB could issue an unambiguous statement declaring that bullying children because of their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity is unacceptable. Parishes and diocesan offices could be encouraged to make concerted efforts to include LGBT people in their outreach ministries and other agendas.  The Church could make an effort to create pastorally sensitive ministries that would deal with the problem of LGBT youth homelessness and suicide. Together, we are sure we can find other ways to send out positive and mercy-filled messages.”

The Equally Blessed leaders stressed that this is an opportune time for such a dialogue:

“At this pivotal moment in the life of our church, we, the leaders of the Equally Blessed coalition, invite you into a deeper relationship with LGBT Catholics, their families and their friends. We seek, first of all, simple conversation with you. Rather than speaking about LGBT people, or, worse yet, against LGBT people, we urge you to sit down and speak with LGBT people. We ask you to convene local and national conversations in which lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholics, their families and their friends can tell you about their faith and their commitment to the Church.  The spirit of respect and openness that these conversations could foster would be balm on the wounds of LGBT Catholics and those who love them.”

Invoking the spirit of the new papacy, the LGBT equality leaders stressed that it’s time for a different way for the bishops to approach the topic of sexuality:

“At a time when Pope Francis is urging the church to move beyond what he calls its “obsession” with sexual issues, we, faithful Catholics committed to equality and justice within the Church we love, pray that you will hear our voices and respond with mercy.”

The letter was signed by the following organizational representatives:  Call To Action: Jim FitzGerald, Executive Director; DignityUSA: Marianne Duddy-Burke, Executive Director; Fortunate Families: Casey Lopata, Co-Founder, Deb Word, President; New Ways Ministry: Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director, Sister Jeannine Gramick, Co-Founder.

–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


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