Catholic Pastor: ‘I am not the bedroom police.’

May 6, 2014

How do LGBT people fare in Catholic parishes?  How welcoming are Catholic communities to gay and lesbian couples in committed relationships? How important is it to offer a welcome to LGBT people?

Fr. Peter Daly

These are the types of questions that one Catholic pastor has tackled in a recent column in The National Catholic Reporter Fr. Peter Daly, pastor of St. John Vianney parish in Prince Frederick, Maryland (Archdiocese of Washington), offers a frank assessment of how his parish responds to the presence of gay and lesbian people in their midst.

While happy that gay and lesbian couples are welcomed by his community, Fr. Daly admits that the welcome may be as complete as it could be.  He describes the parish as “a fairly typical middle-class, mostly white, English-speaking, American parish.” It is located in a suburban-to-rural community not far from the Chesapeake Bay, which is predominantly politically conservative and Republican.  Yet, he notes that the topic of gay people and relationships has been coming to the surface more commonly in the past few years, due to the greater acceptance and discussion of these issues in the larger society.   Fr. Daly offers the following appraisal of how his parish has responded, noting that it is not the ideal:

“I also think it would be fair to say that our approach to same-sex couples, including marriage and adoption, is evolving. One might characterize our approach as public silence and private acceptance.

“In public, we are silent about the fact that some of our fellow parishioners are gay, even though some people are aware of their relationships.

“In private, we are accepting their relationships so long as we don’t have to acknowledge them.

“Such a modus vivendi is not really an ethical resolution to the question. In fact, it is merely a strategy for avoidance.”

Fr. Daly’s analysis sounds a little like “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the former policy of the U.S. military in regard to gay and lesbian service people.  While it allows for some acceptance, it is acceptance that is only partial, not full, and worse, it is acceptance that is only conditional.  Such conditional, partial acceptance should not be the standard for a Catholic community, and Fr. Daly is aware that while it may be the present reality, it is not a healthy one or a helpful one.

Fr. Daly has been trying to move his parish past this type of impasse. Many parishes that welcome LGBT people do so because the parish leadership has fostered a  climate of acceptance and welcome in the community.  From several opinions expressed by Father Daly in his essay, it is obvious that he has been in the forefront of setting an example of acceptance and welcome.  He states:

“The hyperbolic and harsh language of the church will have to change. It is not accurate, and it is not charitable. . . .So long as gay relationships are truly loving and committed, I cannot see how they are intrinsically disordered. . . .

“For more than 40 years, the language of the magisterium said that all same-sex acts are ‘intrinsically disordered’ and may never be approved in any way. But that certainly is not my experience as a pastor of souls.”

The priest’s approach to offering a welcome has been influenced, or perhaps “supported” is a better word, by Pope Francis’ example of first seeing the whole person, as opposed to individual personality traits.

But Fr. Daly also provides his own theory on how parishes, and particularly priests, can be more welcoming.  Of his role as pastor, he says:

“I am not the bedroom police. I do not quiz people on their private lives. I do not know who is sleeping with a boyfriend or girlfriend. I do not know who is cheating on a spouse.  But one thing I know for sure: One hundred percent of the people who come to Communion at every Mass in the history of the world are sinners; redeemed sinners.”

Whether or not individual parishioners are accepting of lesbian and gay people seem to be determined by two characteristics, according to Fr. Daly:  age and familiarity.  Younger people are more accepting than older people.  Those who count a lesbian or gay person among their friends or family are more accepting than those who think they do knot know one.

Welcoming LGBT people in a parish helps far more than only the LGBT people.  They are also sending a message to another population segment that also doesn’t always feel welcome in Catholicism:  young people. Because of the growing strong acceptance of LGBT people by the younger generation, many will not want to stay within a church that only offers condemnatory edicts.  As Fr. Daly states, for young people, welcoming LGBT people “determines whether or not they will remain Catholics.”  This issue should then become a major demographic warning for church leaders:

“As the older Catholics die off, the church will find very little acceptance of its current negative position on gay relationships. We will find ourselves culturally marginalized in countries like the United States.”

The other group that will similarly be affected are parents and family members of LGBT people.  Fr. Daly states:

“Two of my friends who go to other parishes left the Catholic church when their children came out. They simply could not accept a church that judged their children to be ‘intrinsically disordered.’ If someone is put in the position of choosing between his or her child and the church, they will obviously and quite rightly choose their child.”

Fr. Daly’s comments offer sound pastoral advice to other Catholic parishes who want to welcome LGBT people.  New Ways Ministry maintains a list of LGBT-friendly Catholic parishes around the country.  For more information on how to make a Catholic parish more LGBT-friendly, click on the “All Are Welcome” box in the “Categories” section to the right of this post.

What does your parish do to make LGBT people feel welcome?  What effect has this welcome had on the parish as a whole?   Write your responses in the “Comments” section of this blog post.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related posts about past Fr. Daly essays:

US Catholics Praise Pope Francis in Polling and Words

The Pastoral Dimension of the New Boy Scout Policy on Gay Youth

Message of Hope: ‘No one should feel excluded from God’s love. . . .Ever.’

 

 


Let Us Know: What Qualities Do You Seek in the Next Pope?

February 21, 2013

A week from today, Pope Benedict XVI will resign. Already speculators have saturated Catholic conversations with who the next pope will be. Bondings 2.0 wants to know what qualities, visions, and backgrounds our readers desire in this person. For your reflection, we’ve excerpted from pieces by Catholic writers on their ideas about the next pope. After reading, we hope you will add your thoughts in the comments section below.

Sr. Maureen Fiedler, host of the radio program Interfaith Voices, writes at National Catholic Reporter:

“We also need someone who accepts and preaches the Gospel value of human equality for women and men, people of all races and ethnicities, and people of all sexual orientations.

“So we need a ‘gutsy’ pope: someone who would open up all roles in the church to anyone who qualifies spiritually and would not rule anyone out based on gender, race, ethnicity or sexual orientation. Such changes would likely mean standing up to lots of Vatican bureaucrats…

“But you know, most of all, we need someone who can relate to people so well that he is willing to host a picnic in Vatican Square, or maybe a potluck somewhere. I’d bring some great hors d’oeuvres.”

Maryland parish priest, Fr. Peter Daly, also writing at National Catholic Reporter about his desire for a pope with experience as a parish priest:

“The Benedictines have a saying about the selection of a new abbot: The abbot should be ne numis sapiens, ne nimis sanctus, et ne nimis sanus — not too healthy, not too wise and not too holy. In other words, they should select a regular guy. That’s what I hope for: a regular guy…

“I hope he has a lot of nieces and nephews who have challenged him around the dinner table and in family gatherings…Perhaps one of those nieces and nephews has come out to him as gay and he has had to love them still.

“I hope we get somebody who is in touch with his own humanity. It would be nice if he was a man who admits that he, too, is a sexual being who has struggled with human desires and impulses like everybody else.”

Lastly, E.J. Dionne writing in The Washington Post calls for a nun to be elected pope (and we at New Ways Ministry heartily echo his sentiments):

“It is time to elect a nun as the next pontiff…

“Matthew 25:40 contains what may be the most constructive words ever written: ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these my brethren, you did for me.’ More than any other group in the church, the sisters have been at the heart of its work on behalf of compassion and justice…

“The church needs a leader who has worked closely with the poor and the outcast, who understands that battling over doctrine is less important for the church’s future than modeling Christian behavior — and who sees that the proper Christian attitude toward the modern world is not fear but hope.”

What do you seek in the next pope? What qualities does that person need to lead the Catholic Church forward on LGBT issues?  Is there a particular person who models for you what a good pope should be?  Who would be your choice from the current College of Cardinals? Please leave your thoughts, idealistic ones and practical ones alike, in the ‘Comments’ section of this post.  We will try to follow-up on  our readers’ input in a future post.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


CAMPUS CHRONICLES: Responses to LGBT Decisions at UND and CUA

January 8, 2013

Administrators at the University of Notre Dame (UND) and The Catholic University of America (CUA) arrived at opposite decisions in December about  supporting LGBT students on their campuses:  UND accepted a student-run gay-straight alliance as part of a comprehensive pastoral plan, while CUA rjected a proposal for a gay-straight alliance.  Bondings 2.0 previously covered the decisions here for CUA and here for Notre Dame.

Members of Notre Dame’s 4 to 5 Movement

Notre Dame’s release of the pastoral plan, Beloved Friends and Allies, received widespread praise from students and Catholics nationwide alike. Alex Coccia, student leader of the 4 to 5 Movement that had spearheaded the push for an LGBT group, wrote in the University’s student newspaper, The Observer:

“This plan is an enormous accomplishment for the entire Notre Dame family. We would like to thank the students, faculty, staff and administrators who have been an integral part of the 4 to 5 Movement through their involvement and support. Now, as students, we have the responsibility to remain dedicated through the implementation process in order to utilize the full potential of this pastoral plan. Though we remain fully committed to these efforts, today we celebrate this achievement for our community.”

National Catholic Reporter editorialized its support of the decision to recognize and support LGBT students, saying:

“Indeed, what is most noteworthy about the announcement is that it properly recognized that it is not contrary to Catholic teaching to engage in pastoral ministry to any group or to teach and promote tolerance, love and respect for the dignity of every individual. Yes, we all know what the church teaches about same-sex activity. But the church also teaches that all human beings have innate dignity and worth, that they are loved by God and are to be treated with respect. The church teaches that any human community, and any Catholic community worthy of the name, must enflesh this respect for human dignity in the way it treats all of its members.”

Student leaders of CUAllies with Fr. Peter Daly

Student leaders of CUAllies with Fr. Peter Daly

In contrast, The Catholic University of America denied an application for CUAllies, an LGBTQ and Ally student organization, after nearly ten months of dialogue under claims it could too easily become an advocacy group for the “homosexual lifestyle.” In a column in National Catholic Reporter, Fr. Peter Daly described just how troubling  the situation for LGBTQ students is at CUA:

“I had been asked to speak to them because of an article I wrote for Catholic News Service recounting my experiences in dealing with gay young people who were suicidal. I concluded the article with the simple observation that no one should ever feel excluded from God’s love and no one should be driven to despair. Evidently, they were surprised to hear that from a Catholic priest, so they asked me to speak to their group.

“CUAllies is not an officially recognized student group at Catholic University…Lack of university recognition means the group cannot reserve rooms, publicize their meetings, receive student funds or be listed in the student directory. They still manage to meet, however. Students use social media, like Twitter, to communicate, just like the pope.”

Bondings 2.o spoke with the student leadership of CUAllies, who stated their re-commitment to establishing a “safe, welcoming, and affirming” campus and identified 2013 as a crucial year for their movement. On January 14th, the first day of classes, students will be launching a 30 Days of Action campaign to build support as further dialogue begins with the administration in the wake of a harsh denial.

Additionally, concerned alumni, parents, and Catholic LGBT supporters nationwide began organizing under the title “Friends of CUAllies” with a solidarity pledge campaign that has gained nearly 650 signatures in an effort to pressure the administration to listen to students.

New Ways Ministry encourages all to assist these students at CUA in their ongoing struggle to provide a safe and welcoming campus for LGBTQ students by signing the pledge here and ‘Liking’ their Facebook group here.

-Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Message of Hope: ‘No one should feel excluded from God’s love. . . .Ever.’

May 30, 2012

Vigil honoring LGBT victims of suicide.

Intrepid United Kingdom blogger Terence Weldon of QueeringTheChurch.com alerted me to a column with a positive Catholic LGBT message which appeared in the Archdiocese of San Francisco’s newspaper, Catholic San Francisco.

The column, entitled “Reminding those in despair of God’s love,” is written by Fr. Peter J. Daly.  While the message in this essay is powerful, important, and newsworthy, the source of the message is equally noteworthy:  Fr. Peter J. Daly is a syndicated columnist with Catholic News Service, which is run by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.  (Clicking on the column’s title in the first sentence of this paragraph will bring you to a PDF of the entire issue in which the column appeared;  this particular column can be found by scrolling down to page 16.)

Daly’s column is a plea to church leaders and people to assist LGBT youth who are at risk of suicide, often as the result of bullying.  He begins by describing a ministry experience he had:

“The young man began to cry. I asked him why he was so unhappy. He said it was because his family would not accept him. I asked why they would not accept him. He answered, ‘Because I am gay. They are very Catholic.’ I started to cry, too.

“Three times in 25 years of ministry I have sat across the room from young men who have attempted suicide because they were gay or feared they were gay. Several other times, especially when I was in campus ministry at The Catholic University of America, I talked with young people despondent over their gay sexual identity.

“I have talked with people who cut or disfigured themselves because they had such a deep self-loathing because they were gay. According to a study done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which was released last year, gay and lesbian youth are much more likely than their heterosexual peers to have thought about suicide or to have attempted suicide.”

Bravo to Fr. Daly for writing so personally about this issue.  Much too much silence–which is literally deadly–exists in our church about this issue.  Two years ago, when LGBT teen suicide made national headlines because of the publicized trend that was erupting, religious leaders across the country were speaking out in support of youth, yet the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops did not breathe a word.  Another example is that New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan has yet to respond to the plea of a young N.Y. Catholic man who publicly asked the cardinal to meet with LGBT youth.  Let’s hope that Cardinal Dolan and all U.S. bishops read Fr. Daly’s column in their own news service and take heed of his message.

Another group that should heed Fr. Daly’s message are his former employers: the administrators of Catholic University of America.  Bondings 2.0 has been reporting about the efforts this year by students to get official recognition for a gay-straight alliance, CUAllies.  Led by sophomore Ryan Fecteau, the efforts have been strong and respectful, yet the administration has been curiously silent.

Indeed, all Catholic college administrators should heed Fr. Daly’s message.  Readers of this blog will remember that the University of Notre Dame has also been seeking recognition of AllianceND, a gay-straight support group.  Led by sophomore Alex Coccia, their efforts ended in an “incomplete” in the spring, when a decision was  deferred until the fall.

What is the message that Fr. Daly’s column offers?  It is one of the most basic principles of Catholic theology which he presents in three simple sentences of the closing paragraph:

” No one should feel excluded from God’s love. No one should ever be driven to despair. Ever.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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