Is Pope Francis Shaping a More Positive Catholic Discourse on LGBT Issues?

June 18, 2013

Pope Francis’ views on marriage equality made headlines this past weekend, giving a clearer view of his position on this matter, and also a little insight on how he may be shaping a more positive Catholic discourse about LGBT issues for the future.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Pope Francis

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Pope Francis

During Francis’ visit with Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby at the Vatican,   the two spoke about many issues including ecumenical relations and global poverty, but it was their conversation about marriage equality which captured most  headlines.   Archbishop Welby has spoken out against the marriage equality bill in the United Kingdom which is still being considered by legislators there.

London’s Daily Mail noted that their views on marriage was a point of agreement that two shared:

“The meeting of minds on the controversial issue is a rare moment of agreement between the two churches amid strained relations.

“The Pope praised the Archbishop for ‘recalling the value of marriage’.

“He said: ‘ Particularly important is our witness to the reference to God and the promotion of Christian values in a world that seems at times to call into question some of the foundations of society, such as respect for the sacredness of human life or the importance of the institution of the family built on marriage, a value that you yourself have had occasion to recall recently.’”

London’s Telegraph also highlighted another important point of commonality:

Archbishop Welby said afterwards: ‘Our experience in the UK with [Roman Catholic] Archbishop Vincent [Nichols] and in our conversation today with the Pope is that we are absolutely at one on issues and equally we are at one in our condemnation of homophobic behaviour.’ ”

GayStarNews.com, not noted for praising the pope, had a favorable assessment of Francis’ statement to Archbishop Welby:

“Pope Francis has surprised in gay marriage talks by proving he is a more diplomatic figure than his predecessors.

“The leader of the Catholic Church deftly avoided speaking against gay rights while speaking to the head of the Anglican Church, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. . . .

“Most importantly, Francis did not say marriage should be based on a union between a man and a woman, which is how Benedict XVI and John Paul II repeatedly defined marriage.

“Vatican officials have said the talks were a diplomatic attempt to make his point without saying, for example, gay people were a ‘defection of human nature’.

“It is believed Francis has not made any headline-making statements on homosexuality and same-sex marriage due to the divisive, violent nature of the debates in France, which has seen widespread protests. “

Pope Francis also addressed French legislators at a Vatican meeting, and some of his comments have been interpreted as referring to France’s new marriage equality law.   OnTopMag.com reported:

“Speaking to members of the French Senate and Assembly at the Vatican, Francis told lawmakers that their ‘duty … involves proposing, amending and abolishing legislation.’

“ ‘However, it is also necessary to instill something extra in them, I would say a spirit, a soul, that does not limit itself to reflecting the modalities and ideas of the moment, but which also confers upon them the indispensable quality that elevates and dignifies the human person,’ Francis said, according to a transcript provided by Vatican Radio.”

Reuters also viewed these remarks as referring to France’s marriage equality law:

“Pope Francis urged a delegation of French lawmakers on Saturday to avoid following only ‘fashions and ideas of the moment,’ when legislating, in an apparent reference to the country’s legalisation of gay marriage last month.”

Gay commentator Michelangelo Signorile sees Pope Francis views on marriage equality as significantly different than his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI.   In a Huffington Post  essay entitled “Is Pope Francis Waving a White Flag on Gay Marriage?, Signorile compares these recent statements of Francis with Benedict’s involvement on the issue:

“Let’s put all of this in some perspective. In the time since Francis became pope, France became the largest predominantly Catholic country to pass marriage equality, right in the Vatican’s backyard. In the U.S., three states, including Rhode Island, which has the highest percentage of Catholics in the country, passed marriage equality. Predominantly Catholic Mexico continues to move forward on the issue in the courts, and Brazil’s National Council of Justice green-lighted gay marriage in that country, which would become the largest country in South America and the largest predominantly Catholic country in the world to allow gay marriage. Another Latin American country near the Argentine pope’s old stomping grounds, Uruguay, passed marriage equality in recent months, as did New Zealand.

“And Pope Francis had nothing publicly to say about any of it. Zero. Zilch. Nada. He was busy washing the feet of the poor and tweeting about how selflessness is a virtue. Go figure.

“Back when Spain passed marriage equality in 2005, Pope Benedict whirled himself into a frenzy, railing against it regularly. He told Catholic officials there that any support of the law would cost them their jobs and told secular public servants who are Catholic to flout the law and refuse to marry gays. He traveled to Spain and railed some more, oblivious toprotests of his trip. From then on, he regularly attacked gay marriage, even calling it a ‘threat to the future of humanity.’ “

Signorile’s conclusion on Francis:

“. . . having harshly railed against gay marriage back when he was in Argentina, only to lose that battle, he may be seeing that the handwriting is on the wall and that he’s got better things to do with his time.”

My own assessment of these statements is that Pope Francis realizes that the heavy-handed approach of his predecessor was causing too much pastoral damage to the church.  Time after time, Benedict’s statements caused more and more Catholics to be alienated from the institution.  Pope Francis’ approach, though not as positive as I would hope it to be, is a giant step forward for Catholic discourse about LGBT issues.  His more moderate and pastoral example will surely influence bishops around the world.  And when more bishops end their strident rhetoric against LGBT issues, we will see a reduction in homophobic attitudes and actions among Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 


NEWS NOTES: May 31, 2013

May 31, 2013

News NotesHere are some items that you may find of interest:

1) Bishop Gabriel Malzaire, of Dominica, a Carribean island nation, has called for the decriminalization of homosexuality there, and issued a call to end all forms of violence to gay and lesbian people, reports Gay Star News.  While supporting decriminalization, the bishop also stated that homosexual activity  can lead to “adultery, fornication, orgies, calumny, deep-seated hatred” saying it can lead to “spiritual death.”

2) The heavily Catholic nation of Croatia witnessed its first same-sex marriage demonstration recently, with hundreds of people marching in the capital city of Zagreb, reports France24.com. The demonstration comes a week after a Catholic Church-backed group reported they had 500,000 signatures on a petition to have a referendum designed to outlaw same-sex marriage.

3) Eve Tushet, a Catholic lesbian woman committed to following the Church’s teaching on celibacy, has written an essay in The Atlantic as to why she remains Catholic, why she supports celibacy, and the problems that she has with the way Catholic leaders deal with homosexuality.

4) Robert Gilligan, executive director of the Illinois Catholic Conference wrote a lengthy letter to the editor of The Chicago Tribune complaining that the current marriage equality bill in that state does not offer enough religious protections.

5) Amazon.com has removed the book, Priesthood in Crisis, by Fr. Matthew Despard, a Scottish priest, which makes a number of claims about how gay clergy have bullied others in the priesthood, and also about how church leaders have covered up homosexual cliques among priests.  The UK’s The Daily Record reports that Amazon. com said the book did not meet its guidelines which prohibits ” pornography, offensive material, stolen goods and items that infringe upon a person’s privacy.”

6) Vincent Autin and Bruno Boileau became the first same-gender couple to marry under France’s new marriage equality law, reports BBC.co.uk.   The wedding comes after a week that saw a major protest against the new law, which was opposed by the Catholic hierarchy in this heavily Catholic nation.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


NEWS NOTES: May 23, 2013

May 23, 2013

NewsHere are some items that you might find of interest:

1) Tonight, two Toronto Catholic District School Board trustees are proposing to banish gay-straight alliances from Catholic schools in the city, reports The Globe and MailCatholic schools are funded by the Ontario provincial government, which last year required all schools to institute gay-straight alliances if a student makes a request.

2) An ultra-traditionalist French Catholic professor committed suicide by shooting himself in Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral after writing a blog post in which he lamented France’s new marriage equality law, according to The Independent.

3) The Czech Republic’s President Milos Zeman has refused to approve the appointment of a Catholic gay man to a professorship at the nation’s Charles University, Prague, reports Agence France PresseZeman explained that he refused to approve Martin C. Putna’s appointment because Putna marched at a gay-rights rally with a sign which contained an anti-gay slur.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 


NEWS NOTES: May 9, 2013

May 9, 2013

News NotesHere are some items that may be of interest to you:

1) Ireland’s Constitutional Convention, which proposes changes to the nation’s constitution, voted 79% in favor of enacting marriage equality in the heavily Catholic country, reports The Christian Science Monitor.  The next step is a national referendum, which may take up to two years to be held.

2) In the Central American nation of Belize, Caleb Orozco is challenging the country’s anti-sodomy laws in court this week, while those defending the laws are being supported by Catholic, Anglican, and Evangelical leaders, reports the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper.

3) In Northern Ireland, an extremely unlikely alliance between Catholic and Protestant groups has developed to oppose a marriage equality bill there.  LezGetReal.com notes:

“The Ulster Unionists and the Democratic Unionists sided with the Roman Catholic Church to block a marriage equality bill pushed by Sinn Fein, the SDLP, Alliance and the Green Party.

“The UUP and DUP have been strong opponents of Catholicism for quite some time.”

4) Scotland’s Cardinal Keith O’Brien, who resigned after acknowledging inappropriate sexual conduct with seminarians, has been told by the Vatican not to reside in Scotland, reports Glasgow’s Herald newspaper.  The Vatican’s directive came after Catholics in that country appealed to the Vatican, noting that the Cardinal’s presence would continue to cause church division.

5) Thierry Speitel, the mayor of the French town Sigolsheim, who happens to be both gay and Catholic, was sent a death threat recently, in the form of bullets being sent to him in the mail along with a note containing homophobic comments. TheLocal.fr in Paris reports:

“The threat comes after Speitel gave a recent interview to the local newspaper Derniers Nouvelles d’Alsace in which he talked about the probability he would marry his partner and the prospect of them adopting children.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Marriage Equality Continues Spreading in the U.S. and France

April 25, 2013

As legislature after legislature pass marriage equality laws, in the United States and abroad, legal recognition of same-gender couples increasingly becomes an aside in the news rather than headlines. These victories bear the fruits of decades of LGBT equality advocacy and bitter disputes about the relationship between religious doctrine and secular governance, and continually marriage equality is won in jurisdictions with large Catholic demographics. Bondings 2.0 provides a run down of this week’s news.

Rhode Island

The most densely Catholic state in America has passed marriage equality, with only procedural steps left until the bill becomes law. Rhode Island will become the 10th state in the US (plus the District of Columbia), and the final one in New England, to extend marriage rights. ABC News reports that Catholic legislators were central to the bill’s passage, admitting their personal struggles with same-gender marriage but ultimately voting in favor:

“Sen. Maryellen Goodwin, D-Providence, said she lost sleep over her vote but decided, despite opposition from the Catholic Church, to vote ‘on the side of love.’

“‘I’m a practicing Catholic. I’m proud to be a Catholic,’ she said, adding that it was the personal stories of gays, lesbians and their families in her district who convinced her. ‘I struggled with this for days, for weeks. It’s certainly not an easy vote.’”

Rhode Island had been a hold out in an otherwise LGBT-supportive region, and it is clear that the power of personal narratives from same-gender couples and their families is continuing to shape legislative struggles. Marriage licenses could be issued as early as August 1st.

France

After months of heated, and even violent, demonstrations about marriage, the National Assembly legalized recognition for same-gender couples last Tuesday and France became the 14th nation globally to have marriage equality. Opposition leaders promised a judicial appeal to the nation’s Constitutional Council, according to a report on The Atlantic  website that also credits this issue with reinvigorating a waning conservative movement in France.

Conservative Catholic lay movements backed anti-equality efforts since mid-2012, largely focused on their claims that adopted children’s health is harmed when placed with LGBT parents. The Catholic bishops’ comments seem confused, as an earlier document affirmed same-gender relationships while recent comments seem to warn about violence that will erupt if LGBT rights progress.  Think Progress reports that, even amid the wonderful news that France passed marriage laws, a troubling backlash may result:

“The advancement of same-sex marriage and adoption in France has been very contentious, with opponents promising retaliatory violence for the law’s passage. Indeed, violent hate crimes against gay French citizens have increased in recent weeks…death threats were sent to lawmakers because of their intention to support marriage equality. In the lead up to today’s vote, the hashtag #IlFautTuerLesHomosexuels, or “Homosexuals must be killed,” has been trending on Twitter.”

The French Catholic bishops should now focus on  the potential for violence in France. They need to defend each person’s life and dignity, especially those of LGBT persons.

Delaware

Delaware progressed closer to marriage equality after the state House passed a bill in a 23 to 18 vote, sending the bill to the Senate. CBS Philly reports that if the Senate passes the bill, Delaware’s governor has promised to sign it and marriage licenses could commence as early as July 1, 2013. Delaware previously allowed civil unions for same-gender couples, and these previously granted licenses would automatically be converted to marriages with the passage of the bill.

Nevada

After the emotional appeals of many, including a gay Catholic state senator reported on yesterday in Bondings 2.0, the Nevada Senate took first steps towards legalizing marriage equality by repealing legislation that defined marriage heteronormatively and replacing it with a bill to open marriage regardless of gender. USA Today reports that if the state Assembly passes it, and then both legislatures again in 2015 the final step would be a referendum in 2016.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Minisry


Catholic Leaders Should Oppose Violence, not Marriage Equality, in France

April 20, 2013

Though debates about marriage equality here in the United States can become quite heated at times, in France the discussion of this topic has inspired warnings about violence, threats of violence, and violence itself.

Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois

The latest episode in this regard has been the Archbishop Of Paris’ warning that if marriage equality becomes law,  society may erupt with violent protests.  According to a Reuters news report:

“Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois told a meeting of French bishops the planned marriage reform, which the government has speeded up amid mounting pressure from opponents, was a sign that society had lost its capacity to integrate different views. . . .

” ‘This is the way a violent society develops,’ he told the spring meeting of the French bishops’ conference. ‘Society has lost its capacity of integration and especially its ability to blend differences in a common project.’ “

Unfortunately, the cardinal’s argument contains something of a paradox.  While he complains about marriage equality causing a loss of integration and the blending of differences, he fails to realize that by not providing marriage for gay and lesbian couples, the nation already severely hampers integration and blending of differences.

On the secular side, a leader of the anti-marriage equality movement also warned of violence this week.  LGBTQNation reports that Frigide Barjot, a French comic who is a leader in the movement against marriage equality commented on the French Senate’s passage of the bill and the decision to now move the debate to the National Assembly:

“This is a disgrace. The French people don’t want this law, and what do they do? They speed up its passage. (French President Francois) Hollande wants blood, and he will get it. We live in a dictatorship. The President of the Republic has guillotined us.”

Such rhetoric only incites the already violent motivations of some protesters.  PinkNews.co.uk reports:

“On Wednesday thousands of protesters swarmed in Paris to voice their opposition to the bill, with some attacking cars and public property, and lashing out at police and journalists, reports France24.

“11 people from the protest were detained for questioning, while 24 pro-equal marriage counter-protesters were arrested, according to police.

During the night four men were detained after they attacked a gay bar in Lille, injuring the manager and causing property damage.

Similarly, LGBTQNation.com reports:

“Earlier in the week, gay rights activists pointed to last weekend’s attack on a gay couple in Paris as evidence of their claim that homophobic acts have tripled nationwide over opposition to the marriage equality law.

“Wilfred De Bruijn was beaten unconscious near his home early Sunday in central Paris, sustaining five fractures in his head and face, abrasions and a lost tooth.”

Catholic leaders in France would do better to forthrightly condemn such acts of violence, instead of simply warning that violence may be an outcome.  Warning about violence seems designed to inspire fear about the marriage equality bill, which the French bishops oppose.  But warning about possible future violence is a weak response if there is no condemnation of the violence which is already occurring during this debate.  Catholic leaders should be peacemakers, not fear-mongers.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Equal Marriage Rights Progress Around the World–Especially in Catholic Nations

April 16, 2013

As marriage equality legislation increases in the United States, there is also progress being made in several nations around the world, including notably Catholic ones. Bondings 2.0 provides brief updates on five nations that are moving towards greater LGBT rights, and we encourage readers to use the provided links for more information.

Uruguay

In this predominantly Catholic nation, 71 of 92 deputies in Congress voted for marriage equality sending the legislation to the pro-LGBT president, Jose Mujica, for his signature within weeks. BBC News reports that Uruguay becomes the second Latin American country to pass full marriage equality, after Argentina. In both cases institutional Catholic opposition was strong. Bondings 2.0 reported on the Uruguayan Senate’s passage of a similar bill last week. The legislation also allows for positive changes in same-gender adoption regulations.

Italy

A leading judiciary figure in Italy has called for equality in one of the final European nations without legal recognition for same-gender relationships, and one of the most Catholic. The Sacramento Bee reports on both the Italian judge’s statements and the Vatican’s stance on Italian law:

“President Franco Gallo said the Italian Constitutional Court has ‘ruled out the constitutional illegitimacy’ of laws limiting marriage to heterosexual couples.

“‘At the same time, the Court has stated that two people of the same sex still have the fundamental right to obtain legal recognition of their stable union, with attached rights and obligations,’ he said…

“In February, the Vatican’s top official on family matters, Monsignor Vincenzo Paglia, said: ‘gay marriage is one thing, and our position on that is well known, while discrimination is another matter.’

“‘Individual rights must be guaranteed’ through ‘private law,’ including for same-sex couples, Paglia said, referring to ‘patrimonial’ aspects. He stated that it was ‘time for lawmakers to worry’ about the issue.”

France

The French Senate passed legislation allowing same-gender marriages and extending adoption rights to lebian and gay couples. The National Assembly passed similar legislation in February. The debate over marriage equality in France inspired massive demonstrations and heated exchanges in the past year, reported here and here on Bondings 2.0. France is a historically Catholic nation, and it has been Catholic lay movements and French bishops leading opposition to LGBT rights. Bloomberg BusinessWeek provides further details, as France is now just months away from full marriage and adoption rights being passed.

Ireland

Members of a Constitutional Convention voted on April 14 in favor of a national referendum on equal marriage rights, with 78% seeking an amendment with language directly enacting same-gender marriage and another 17% for language that allows the government to do so. The Irish Times reports on the way forward as government officials take up the Convention’s recommendations:

“The Government was committed to holding a discussion on the report of the Constitutional Convention, [Minister for Justice Alan Shatter] said. ‘The issue of a constitutional referendum will thereafter be considered by Cabinet,’ he said. It was for the Cabinet to decide on the holding and the timing of the referendum, he added…

“The members of the Convention also voted yesterday in favour of recommending that the State pass laws ‘incorporating changed arrangements in regard to the parentage, guardianship and the upbringing of children’.

“’I think there would be a great deal of wisdom in that legislation being progressed and published before we go to a constitutional referendum,’ Mr Shatter told RTÉ today. The issue was omitted from the 2010 Act legalising civil partnership for same-sex couples, he said. Mr Shatter is due to publish details of a Family Relationships and Children’s Bill to address such issues in the coming months.”

Ireland is considered one the world’s most Catholic nations, and the bishops there have already threatened to cease issuing marriage licenses if marriage equality becomes legal. The next steps will be for the Irish government to take up the Convention’s recommendations and enact legislation, either for constitutional changes or changes in the law under existing constitutional strictures.

New Zealand

Legislators will expand same-gender rights in New Zealand, where civil unions currently exist, as a full equal marriage bill receives a final vote tomorrow. On Top Magazine reports:

“Big crowds are expected to be on hand to witness Labour MP Louisa Wall’s marriage equality member’s bill receive its third reading in Parliament.

“The measure received overwhelming approval at its committee stages last month. Wednesday’s final vote is considered a formality. Bills are rarely rejected at this stage…

“If the bill is approved, it is expected to take effect in August.”

As always, Bondings 2.0 will update our readers as progress for full LGBT rights proceeds in these nations and others. If you have not done so, use the ‘Follow’ box in the upper right hand corner of this page to receive daily email updates.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Pope Francis’ Support of Civil Unions Is Part of a Growing Trend in Catholic Church

March 22, 2013

News reports that Pope Francis supported civil unions as a compromise strategy when he was archbishop in Argentina have given hope to LGBT-affirming Catholics that he may be a pope who will be willing to soften the hard line that the Vatican has taken on the issue of marriage equality and same-gender relationships under the papacies of John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

If Pope Francis does institute the same policy as pope that he promoted in Argentina,  he will be in good company with other bishops around the globe on this matter.  As Bondings 2.0 has been reporting over the last year or so,  there has been a growing trend of more openness to same-gender relationships, including civil union support, by a number of bishops and church leader from various nations.

Archbishop Vincent Nichols

Archbishop Vincent Nichols

Bondings 2.0 has been taking note of this trend since December 2011, when Archbishop Vincent Nichols, president of the bishops’ conference of England and Wales, supported the idea of civil unions in the United Kingdom’s marriage equality debate.   At about the same time, Fr. Frank Brennan, a Jesuit law professor in Australia, wrote an essay supporting the idea of civil unions, too.  Just last month, the bishops of England and Wales, in commenting on the marriage bill there, praised same-gender parents:

 “We recognise that many same sex couples raise children in loving and caring homes.”

Bishop Pa0lo Urso, of Ragusa, Italy, also gave de facto support for civil unions in January 2013 when he stated:

“When two people, even if they’re the same sex, decide to live together, it’s important for the State to recognize this fact. But it must be called something different from marriage.”

Bishop Giuseppe Fiorini Morosini

Bishop Giuseppe Fiorini Morosini

Just over a year later, he was joined by Bishop Giuseppe Fiorini Morosini, in nearby Calabria, Italy, who supported legal protections for gay and lesbian couples, as long as the word “marriage” wasn’t used.

In the United States, the Diocese of Manchester, New Hampshire, supported a civil unions bill in March 2012, as a way to forestall marriage equality.   In their statement, the diocese said:

“The Diocese of Manchester consistently has opposed legislation that would establish civil unions. However, the proposed amendment to HB 437 falls into a category of legislation which the US Bishops have previously considered: bills in civil law which may not reflect the fullness of the Church’s teaching, but which nonetheless provide an “incremental improvement” in the current law and a “step toward full restoration of justice.” (USCCB, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, 32)”

Archbishop Vincent Paglia

Archbishop Vincent Paglia

Most recently, Archbishop Vincent Paglia, head of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Family, also supported legal protections short of marriage for gay and lesbian couples.  A news report stated:

“In his first Vatican press conference since his appointment as the Catholic church’s “minister” for family, Paglia conceded that there are several kinds of ‘cohabitation forms that do not constitute a family,’ and that their number is growing.

“Paglia suggested that nations could find ‘private law solutions’ to help individuals who live in non-matrimonial relations, ‘to prevent injustice and make their life easier.’ “

Though some claim that Paglia later backtracked from these statements, it seems that his later comments were simply a criticism of news reports which tried to make it sound like he had supported marriage equality, which it was clear he had not done.

Related to this trend of supporting civil unions as a political strategy is a newer trend by some bishops in speaking positively about gay and lesbian relationships.   This recent trend began in May 2012 when Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki of Berlin, Germany, addressed a national gathering of Catholics, stating:

“When two homosexuals take responsibility for one another, if they deal with each other in a faithful and long-term way, then you have to see it in the same way as heterosexual relationships.”

Cardinal rainer maria woelki

Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki

Woelki re-affirmed his position in an interview with Die Zeit magazine, in which he stated:

“ ‘Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided,’ the Catechism says about people with homosexual tendencies. If I take that seriously, I can’t merely see homosexual relationships as a ‘violation of natural law,’ as the Catechism puts it. I should also try to perceive it as people permanently taking  responsibility for one another, being loyal and willing to take care of each other, even if I can’t agree with such a lifestyle.”

Early in 2013,  the French bishops conference went public with a statement opposing marriage equality, but which spoke very favorably of gay and lesbian relationships.  For example, they stated:

“The diversity of homosexual practices must not hinder us from taking seriously the aspirations of those men and women who wish to engage in a stable bond. . . .

“The Catholic Church calls the faithful to live such a relationship in chastity but she recognizes, beyond the one sexual aspect, the value of solidarity, of the attention and care of the other which can manifest itself in a lasting affective relationship.”

You can read relevant excerpts from this document provided in English translation here, thanks to Bondings 2.0 reader Tom Luce.

Bishop Scicluna

Bishop Charles Scicluna

Bishop Charles Scicluna of Malta spoke in a similar vein about same gender relationships in February 2012. The bishop made his remarks in response to an anti-gay letter written to him by a Mr. Joe Zammit:

“Bishop Scicluna maintained that ‘Gay people are not called to marriage which is the permanent union between one man and one woman open to the gift of parenthood,’ but then added, ‘they are indeed called to chaste friendship and chaste friendship is chaste love.’

“ ‘To say, as Mr Zammit keeps harping, that “there can never be love but only lust between homosexuals” is to deny the truth of what the Church teaches.’ . . .

You can find a video of Bishop Scicluna’s comments here.

All of  these items indicate a definite trend toward a more positive approach on same-gender marriage that is percolating among the hierarchy.  Although none oppose the traditional teaching on marriage, these moves indicate a willingness to move away from harsh rhetoric, as well as looking for ways to accommodate legal protections for families headed by same-gender couples.

The recent report that Cardinal Bergoglio had supported civil unions can offer some hope that now as pope he will do the same.  I would be more hope-filled if his statements reflected some of the more positive messages that some of the bishops reported on above had made about the goodness of gay and lesbian relationships.  The report of his proposed compromise makes me wonder if he was motivated by political pragmatism in an effort to prevent marriage equality or a moral duty to protect lesbian and gay couples.  I think the hope for the future may be in the fact that the trend among bishops for a  more positive framing of lesbian and gay relationships will flourish more openly under a pope who, for whatever reason, has already been willing to drop the traditional hard line.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


France and Britain Make Significant Progress Towards Marriage Equality

February 7, 2013

French legislators play Scrabble

Legislators in Britain and France made significant gains towards legalizing marriage equality this week, passing parliamentary tests that nearly ensure full victory later this year.

The British House of Commons concluded six hours of intense debate by approving a marriage equality bill’s second reading in a 400-175 vote. The bill now enters committee for review and amendments before the House of Commons will likely approve it in a third reading and send it to the House of Lords for their vote, where it is expected to pass later this year.

The New York Times reports on the debate in Parliament, noting the lackluster efforts of an opposition who knows they are defeated:

“By comparison [to the debate in France], the debate in the House of Commons was mostly understated, with a strong undercurrent of realism among lawmakers who oppose gay marriage but sensed that the battle was already lost, not only in the crushing parliamentary majority favoring change but in a wide variety of opinion polls that have shown strong public support.”

However, given recent efforts by the Catholic bishops in England reported by Bondings 2.0 (view links below), it seems likely that anti-equality opposition will continue trying to defeat the legislation.

Across the English Channel, the French National Assembly, in a 249-97 vote, passed a vital article that defines marriage as a contract between two individuals without reference to their gender. The margin of victory is a positive sign that a law will be fully passed by mid-2013, even as assembly members continued debate over adoption rights and other amendments this week.

Attaining legal equality for same-gender couples and their families has been a hallmark initiative of the left led by President Francois Hollande, although the BBC reports French citizens are split with only about 60% supporting equal marriage rights.

Catholic right organizations have led the campaign against equal rights through massive demonstrations, with both sides acting extremely in preceding months. Bondings 2.0 has reported on these protests, along with more positive language from the French bishops that recognizes the goodness of same-gender relationships. Links to these are provided below.

On a lighter note, the Daily Mail shows two French assemblymen playing Scrabble during the proceedings – with fully commentary on their word choices, if you are interested.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Recent Posts on Britain

February 5, 2013:  Marriage Equality a Closer Reality in Britain, But What Will the Consequences Be?

January 14, 2013: Extreme Protests from Both Sides of the Catholic Marriage Equality Debate

January 10, 2013: Bishops in United Kingdom Attack Marriage Equality on Several Fronts

Recent Posts on France

January 30, 2013: Excerpts from French Bishops’ Document Which Affirms Same-Gender Relationships

January 25, 2013: Bishops in France Release Hopeful Statement on Same-Sex Relationships

January 16, 2013:  Catholic Anti-Equality Protesters March in Paris, Fail to Reverse French Government’s Plans

 


Excerpts from French Bishops’ Document Which Affirms Same-Gender Relationships

January 30, 2013
French bishops

French bishops

Thanks to Bondings 2.0 reader Tom Luce, we are able to post excerpts from his translation of the French bishops’ document on same-gender marriage that we announced a few days ago.  As we mentioned, this document contained several unusually positive reflections about respect for gay and lesbian relationships, and the need to have civil and open discussion on the matter of marriage.  No U.S. bishops’ document even comes close to the content and tone of this document which was issued by the Family and Society Council of the French bishops’ conference.

To make sure that we are not giving the wrong impression, let me be clear that the document does not in any way support the legalization of marriage equality.  Still, the strong call for respecting gay and lesbian relationships is a giant step forward in hierarchical discourse, and it should be celebrated.

Below are excerpts from some of the more positive sections of this document which is entitled “Expand Marriage to Persons of the Same Sex?  Let’s Open the Debate!”  If you can read French, you can find the original text here.

I have not excerpted any of the sections which argue against marriage equality, since they are basically the same ones that have been used many times before.  The document is seven pages, single-spaced, in length, so it would be cumbersome to reproduce it here.  Again, our thanks go to Tom Luce for translating this document.  Tom blogs at leastharm.weebly.com.

Excerpts from 

“Expand Marriage to Persons of the Same Sex?  

Let’s Open the Debate!”

“Our society is facing a new situation, unexplored. Homosexuality has always existed, but until recently there had never been a claim on the part of homosexual persons to give a legal framework to a relationship to be entered into an historical
record, or to be seen as endowed with parental authority. It belongs to political authorities to listen to this request and make the most appropriate response. This response, then, is a political choice. The opening of marriage to same-sex persons is neither imposed by European law nor by any international convention. It is a policy option among others and a true democratic debate is needed to develop the best solution in the interest of everyone. . . .

“In order for this debate to be undertaken it is important first of all to recognize the conflict that exists between the meaning of heterosexual marriage and the contemporary homosexual experience. Without being aware of the issues within these divisions and differences, any real political work is impossible.1 It is a matter of respecting all the players in this debate and to allow each one to reflect more profoundly and to freely express ones convictions. If every reluctance or questioning of this reform of the law of the family is qualified a priori as “homophobic”, there can be had no deep debate. It’s the same when the request of homosexual persons is disqualified a priori. . . .

“The respect of all the players in the debate implies a common listening, a disposition to understand the arguments expressed and a search for shared language. This search for shared language takes for granted, on the part of Catholics, to translate the arguments drawn from Revelation into a language accessible to every open mind. In the same way in this debate which concerns the meaning of civil marriage, there is no place for discussing religious marriage, nor at the outset the connections between civil and religious marriage. It is not a matter of Catholics imposing a religious point of view, but to bring their contribution to this debate as citizens, basing themselves on anthropological and legal arguments. . . .

“If respect for the person is then clearly affirmed, it must also be admitted that homophobia by no means has disappeared from our society. For homosexual persons, the discovery and acceptance of their homosexuality often sets up a complex process. It isn’t always easy to assume the acceptance of one’s homosexuality in his/her professional circles or in his/her family circles. The victims of prejudice have a hard life and attitudes only change slowly, including within our Catholic communities and families. They are, however, called to be at the stage of welcoming every person, whatever may be his/her place on the path of life as child of God. So that which founds, for us Christians, our identity and equality among people is the fact that we are all sons and daughters of God. Unconditional welcoming of persons does not entail approval of all their acts, on the contrary, it recognizes that the human being is bigger than his/her acts. The rejection of homophobia and the welcoming of homosexual persons, such as they are, make up necessary conditions to be able to leave behind superficial reactions and enter into a calm debate around the demand of homosexual persons. . . .

“The diversity of homosexual practices must not hinder us from taking seriously the aspirations of those men and women who wish to engage in a stable bond. The respect and recognition of every person takes on henceforth a primary importance in our society. The discussions about multiculturalism, racism, feminism, and homophobia are underpinned by this demand for recognition which is expressed today in terms of equality. The non-recognition is experienced as oppression or discrimination. . . .

“Society, as well as the Church in her own domain, hears this demand on the part of homosexual persons and can seek an answer. All the while affirming the importance of the difference in sexes and the fact that homosexual partners are different from heterosexual couples because of the impossibility to procreate naturally, we are able to appreciate the desire for a commitment to fidelity in a love relationship: of a sincere attachment, of a deep caring, one for the other, and of a lasting bond that goes far beyond the putdown of homosexual relationships as a simple erotic involvement. . . .

“The Catholic Church calls the faithful to live such a relationship in chastity but she recognizes, beyond the one sexual aspect, the value of solidarity, of the attention and care of the other which can manifest itself in a lasting affective relationship. The Church wants to be welcoming toward homosexual persons and will continue to bring its contribution to the fight against every form of homophobia and discrimination. . . .

“An evolution of the law of family is always possible. But rather than to give in to the pressure of different groups, France would do honor to itself by setting up a true debate in society and by looking for an original solution which would do right to the demand for recognition of homosexual persons without however infringing upon the anthropological foundations of society.”

Can it be that the positive tone in this document is simply a persuasive strategy so that the bishops do not sound so harsh?  Perhaps.  I prefer to take them at their word–and I hope and pray that people will hold them to their word, too, so that these positive attitudes will be backed up by actions.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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