NEWS NOTES: September 10, 2013

September 10, 2013

NewsHere are some items that you may find of interest:

1) William Hudson, who resigned his position at Totino-Grace High School, a Minneapolis Catholic school, because of his committed relationship with another man, has found a new job, reports Minnesota.cbs.local.com.  Hudson, who in the past had a top level position at the National Catholic Education Association, will become the director of institutional advancement at Mounds Park Academy, a non-denominational school in St. Paul, Minnesota.

2) New Jersey’s new law banning reparative therapy to try to change one’s homosexual orientation is being challenged in federal court by a group of Christian counselors, according to Religion News ServiceThe law was signed by N.J.’s Catholic governor, Chris Christie, who has been praised for his measure by a Catholic writer on America magazine’s blog. 

3) Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George said he doesn’t believe that it is inevitable that same-sex marriage will be legalized in Illinois, where a bill is still being considered in the state legislature.  In an interview with The Chicago Sun-TimesGeorge said he did not think that legislators had enough votes to pass the bill.   Mark Brown, the writer who interviewed the cardinal, wrote a second piece on George’s views on marriage where he included much more extensive quotes.

4) Last weekBondings 2.0 reported on Hawaii’s Bishop Larry Silva writing a strongly worded pastoral letter opposing that state’s proposed marriage equality law.   CivilBeat.com took apart the bishop’s argument, including debunking his claim that marriage equality will cause more youth suicides.  You can read their entire analysis here.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


On Gay and Lesbian Immigrants, Catholic Bishops Need to Do a Lot Better

August 6, 2013

Thje Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), the anti-poverty organization of the U.S. Bishops’ Conference, has cut off funding for an immigration rights’ group in Illinois because of their support for marriage equality.

 

Cardinal Francis George

Cardinal Francis George

Chicago.CBSLocal.com  reports that a group of Catholic elected officials have protested the move to defund the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, and Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George has defended the CCHD decision.  The news article states:

“. . . the cardinal responded to an open letter signed by a group of Catholic elected officials and community leaders, urging the church to reverse that decision.

“ ‘You can’t play off the pastoral concern of the church for the poor against the church’s teaching,’ George said. ‘That’s exactly what was done, that’s a cynical move, and I’m sorry that it was done.’ ”

The Catholic elected officials had written an open letter in which they stated that church leaders were using “immigrants and those who seek to help them as pawns in a political battle.”

The letter’s signers were Chicago Aldermen Proco Joe Moreno, Danny Solis, Patrick O’Connor, and James Cappelman; Cook County Commissioners John Fritchey and Larry Suffredin; and Chicago City Clerk Susana Mendoza.

One has to wonder why bishops continue to make marriage equality opposition a requirement for helping the poor.    It is the same strategy that many bishops have taken in terms of adoption policy where they place opposition to gay and lesbian couples above the care of children.

Earlier this spring, when immigration reform was being debated in Congress, some bishops opposed the inclusion of rights for same-gender couples in the bill. The bishops, traditionally strong supporters of immigration rights, drew the line when it came to gay and lesbian couples  Marilou Johanek, a columnist for The Toledo Blade in Ohio characterized such a stance this way:

“No one, no family, no population should be left behind — except gay and lesbian immigrants, bless their misguided souls. Leave them behind.”

Bishop Leonard Blair

Bishop Leonard Blair

Johanek goes on to quote a letter that Toledo’s Bishop Leonard Blair wrote to parishioners about the bill, in which he stated:

“ ‘Most Catholics support their Bishops’ call for the creation of an immigration system that respects basic human rights and dignity while ensuring the integrity of our borders,’ he said. Under the Senate immigration bill, he added, ‘more than 11 million undocumented persons could gain legal status in our country, and possibly citizenship.’

“The bishop instructed local parishes to publish educational material from the bishops’ conference ‘to explain why the Church is concerned about immigration from a religious, moral, and social perspective.’ So far so good.

“Then came the caveat: ‘As the legislative process moves forward, issues may emerge which could hinder USCCB support of an immigration reform bill. Chief among them would be the addition of provisions which would treat same-sex couples as if married in the conferral of immigration benefits,’ Bishop Blair wrote.

“The letter said the bishops’ conference ‘is working to ensure that these provisions are not included in any final legislation.’

In responding to Pope Francis’ positive comments about gay people last week, many bishops and dioceses expressed surprise that people did not know that the Catholic Catechism urged respect for the human dignity of lesbian and gay people.  When bishops offer statements and examples such as the ones by Cardinal George and Bishop Blair above, is it any wonder that people don’t know about that aspect of the church’s teaching?

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Group Asks Cardinal Not to Say Mass for Catholic Conference

July 25, 2013

A controversy is brewing in Chicago this week, as the annual national conference of the Courage ministry opens today.  Courage is a Catholic ministry to lesbian and gay people which stresses celibacy, and which sometimes has been accused of encouraging reparative therapy to change sexual orientation.

Cardinal Francis George

Cardinal Francis George

The controversy this week focuses on Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George, who is scheduled to preside at Mass for the gathering.  Faithful America, an organization that describes itself as “a fast-growing online community dedicated to reclaiming Christianity from the religious right and putting faith into action for social justice,” has launched a petition campaign to ask Cardinal George not to preside at Mass because of Courage’s associations with reparative therapy.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports Faithful America’s Executive Director Michael Sherrad explained that the Courage program includes  two speakers who are identified with the reparative therapy movement:

“. . . the forum includes Dr. Timothy Lock and Dr. William Consiglio, who is described on the conference website as a part-time ‘Christian Psychotherapist,’ specializing in the area of Sexual Orientation Resolution Therapy.

‘Consiglio also is the author of the book “Homosexual No More.” Lock’s presence at the conference is being highlighted on the website of the controversial organization National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality [NARTH], which identifies Lock as a member.

“The association’s website says ‘clients have the right to diminish their homosexuality and to develop their heterosexual potential. The right to seek therapy to change one’s sexual adaptation should be considered self-evident and inalienable.’ ”

Courage’s leader has denied that his group has any connection with reparative therapy:

“Executive Director Father Paul Check says the organization provides spiritual support for Catholic men and women with ‘same-sex attractions’ who desire to live chaste lives in accordance with the Roman Catholic Church’s teaching on homosexuality.

“The conference plans to hold a ‘Therapist Seminar’ scheduled for Friday. But Check said while the Courage community has members of the mental health profession, ‘their work for us and with us is not directed towards a change of sexual inclination or desire’ and emphasized that’s not the organization’s mission.”

Sherrad feels that Cardinal George’s appearance at the conference gives credence to reparative therapy:

“. . . priests and therapists will be trained in dangerous and debunked techniques that don’t cure homosexuality but do contribute to suicide and depression.

“By appearing at this conference and celebrating mass there, Cardinal George is implicitly endorsing practices that cost the lives of gay and lesbian youth.”

Sister Maureen Fiedler

Sister Maureen Fiedler

Faithful America is not the only entity opposing the cardinal’s appearance at the meeting.  Sister Maureen Fiedler, SL, who blogs at The National Catholic Reporter, wrote last week:

“Regardless of the Roman Catholic hierarchy’s teachings on homosexuality, Cardinal George should dissociate himself from these bogus and harmful medical techniques.

“In fact, he might tell Courage to get some real courage and cancel the speakers from NARTH.”

In response to the controversy,  Cardinal George sent an email to the Sun-Times, explaining his decision:

 “Courage is an organization of homosexually-oriented Catholics who support one another in their quest for holiness as homosexuals. I haven’t seen their program, but their literature speaks only of spirituality, not of therapy.

“When national Catholic organizations meet, the local Bishop is often asked to offer Mass for them. That’s the only reason I’ll be there. (It’s called loving your neighbor.)”

Cardinal George routinely goes to great lengths to distance himself from any group that supports marriage equality, because, he says, of his adherence to Catholic principles about sexuality.  Since reparative therapy is not endorsed by the Catholic hierarchy or the Catholic laity, he should either avoid this conference or be willing to appear at Catholic conferences whose organizations support marriage equality.  If “loving your neighbor” is what is motivating him to attend this conference, he should show the same love to those who approach LGBT issues from a more progressive perspective.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Columnist and Activist Both Criticize Cardinal George on LGBT Issues

June 23, 2013
Cardinal Francis George

Cardinal Francis George

Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George has been in the news lately not only for his vocal opposition to Illinois’ marriage equality bill, but because he recently denied communion to a gay Catholic activist at a Mass celebrating the Archdiocesan Gay and Lesbian Outreach in his city.

Robert McClory, a columnist for The National Catholic Reporter, took apart an essay about marriage equality written by George in the Chicago archdiocesan newspaper.  McClory exposes some of George’s fear-mongering rhetoric, not only on marriage equality, but also on the issue of religious liberty, which seems to be one of George’s main purposes in writing the column.

For example, McClory is justifiably incredulous at George’s depiction of how secular society is “marginalizing” Catholics. McClory writes:

“George then launches out into the deep about the separation of religious faith from public life. He blames John F. Kennedy for starting a roll down the slippery slope and worries Catholics will be eventually barred from federal judgeships, medical schools, editorial offices at major newspapers, the entertainment world and university faculties.

” ‘If Catholics are to be closeted and marginalized in a secularized society, Catholic parents should prepare their children to be farmers, carpenters and craftsmen, small business people and workers in service industries,’ occupations that ‘do not immediately impact public opinion.’ What?”

McClory hits the nail on the head in his concluding paragraph which points out George’s true blindspot:

“Unfortunately, what Cardinal George cannot consider is the possibility that Catholics at the grass-roots level are coming to understand new and different ways to welcome to the table those previously excluded. Many, including not a few theologians, propose that the essence of marriage is the love and permanent commitment of two persons to one another — period. As that conviction matures in time, I believe the church will have to make accommodations with its implications, just as Christians in the time of Galileo had to reinterpret so much they and their ancestors had taken for granted as irreversibly, dogmatically true: the movement of the earth, the sun, moon and stars. It was for many a painful, revolutionary process. And the one believing Christians face now will be for some no less painful and revolutionary. But it must be done, lest the Catholic church disintegrate into a closed, inconsequential cult.”

McClory doesn’t comment on what I consider George’s greatest errors in his essay.  Speaking of marriage equality advocates, George states:

“Further, the claim that one is not equal under law is powerful in our society; it makes one a victim. And the claim that one is being demeaned and personally wounded is even more powerful evidence of victimization.  “

Yet, isn’t that what so many Catholic bishops are doing when they claim that their religious liberty is being curtailed because of pro-LGBT laws?  Aren’t they claiming “victim” status?  Isn’t George guilty of exactly the thing he accuses his opponents of doing?

The cardinal presided at the 25th anniversary Mass for Chicago’s Archdiocesan Gay and Lesbian Outreach (AGLO), and he was greeted by about 25 protesters from the Gay Liberation Network and the Rainbow Sash Movement (RSM).  The latter group is composed of Catholics who present themselves for communion while wearing a rainbow sash, indicating that they believe in the full equality of LGBT people and that they disagree with the hierarchy’s prohibition of sexual activity between person’s of the same gender.  When the RSM’s director, Joe Murray, went to the cardinal for communion, he was refused.

Joe Murray

Joe Murray

The Windy City Times reported:

“Murray stood up with his back to Cardinal George during parts of the Mass, and then he went up with the estimated 200 others in attendance to receive communion. George refused him, and Murray walked away with his hands open and empty, showing the congregants that he had been denied.

“But in an emotional show of solidarity, Brenna C. Cronin, who had already received her communion as part of the church choir, went back up and took another communion wafer (called a Host) and brought it to Murray herself.

” ‘One of my brothers, a member of my community, who is a full and equal member of the body of Christ, was denied communion. So I got back in line and I brought him communion, as I would for anyone else,’ Cronin told Windy City Times after the Mass. Cronin, who is a lesbian, has been involved with AGLO for two years and is also a cantor.

” ‘I was denied communion by the Cardinal,’ Murray said after. ‘I turned to Christ, I walked back open handed, and showed the community that I was denied communion, and Christ, in his mercy, sent me a priest [Cronin] to give me communion.’ “

The news story indicates that some in the congregation supported Murray’s action, while others were critical of it.  You can read the entire news account here.  It contains additional comments from both George and Murray.

What do you think?  Was George right in denying communion?  Was Murray right in presenting himself for communion?  Was the anniversary Mass an appropriate time for LGBT activists to protest George’s positions on LGBT issues?   Please make your thoughts known in the “Comments” section of this post.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related article:

May 1, 2013:  “Tension Emerges as AGLO Marks 25 Years”  Windy City Times


NEWS NOTES: April 15, 2013

April 15, 2013

News NotesHere are some links to articles you may find of interest:

1) A federal court has supported a pregnant lesbian woman’s right to a trial after she was fired from her jobs at two Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati when it became known that she became pregnant by artificial insemination, reports the LGBT Bar Association of  Greater New York.

2) Scranton, Pennsylvania’s Bishop Joseph Bambera has criticized U.S. Senator Bob Casey, a member of his diocese, for reversing his position to support marriage equality and calling for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The York Daily Record reports that Casey “had decided over time that the Defense of Marriage Act – the federal law that defines marriage as one man and one woman – should be repealed, and determined that such a belief could not be separate from the overall question of gay marriage.”

3) Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George joined with African-American church leaders in his city to speak out against the “redefinition of marriage,” reports The Chicago Tribune.

4) Fr. Jose Nicholas Alessio, a priest of the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires, Argentina (Pope Francis’ former diocese) has been expelled from the priesthood for his continued support of marriage equality.  PinkNews.com reports that Fr. Alessio had been suspended in 2010, and had been offered an opportunity to retract his support, but he refused to do so.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


Catholics Debate Marriage Equality Bill in Illinois

January 15, 2013

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

Cardinal Francis George

Cardinal Francis George

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

The Chicago Sun-Times  quoted part of the letter:

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

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

Rick Garcia

Rick Garcia

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

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

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

Chris Pett

Chris Pett

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

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

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

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

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

Robert McClory

Robert McClory

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

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

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

Charles Martel

Charles Martel

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

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

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

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

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

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


ALL ARE WELCOME: Memo to Cardinal George on How to Show Respect for LGBT People

August 4, 2012

 

Cardinal Francis George

The ALL ARE WELCOME series is an occasional feature  which examines how Catholic faith communities can become more inclusive of LGBT people and issues.  At the end of this posting, you can find the links to previous posts in this series.

Yesterday, we posted about Chicago Cardinal Francis George’s foray into the Chick-Fil-A controversy.  In his blog post about the Chicago mayor’s comments about the fast-food chain, George made the following statement:

“Surely there must be a way to properly respect people who are gay or lesbian without using civil law to undermine the nature of marriage.”

Indeed there are.  For over three decades, New Ways Ministry has promoted the many ways that church institutions can respect LGBT people.  While supporting marriage equality laws is one such way, there are certainly lots of other things, short of supporting marriage equality, w hich church institutions can do to promote respect for LGBT people.

Here’s an initial list of some suggestions for Cardinal George and other church leaders who are serious about displaying such respect:

1) Institute anti-bullying programs  and gay-straight alliances into all Catholic schools.

2) Speak out in support of LGBT people when a hate crime occurs.

3) Establish formal dialogues with LGBT Catholics and family members of LGBT people.

4) Set up water stations for the local Gay Pride Parade at Catholic institutions along the route.

5) Better yet, march in the local Gay Pride Parade and have a welcoming booth at Gay Pride Festivals.

6) Preach positively about the lives and holiness of LGBT people.

7) Include LGBT issues in ongoing education for priests and diocesan personnel.

8) Develop an anti-discrimination policy for all parishes and diocesan institutions.

9) Set up a grievance procedure/program for LGBT who are discriminated against in Catholic institutions.

10) Visit LGBT institutions and organizations in the area  to learn about the lives and reality of LGBT people.

11) Add explicit welcomes to LGBT people in mission statements of all church institutions

12) Insert a positive segment about homosexuality and gender identity into diocesan-sponsored programs on sexuality and human development for adults and teens.

13) Make sure LGBT people and culture are part of diocesan multi-cultural and diversity programs.

14) Pray publicly for the rights, lives, and well-being of LGBT people.

15) Lobby for legislation that protects the lives and rights of LGBT people.

16) Establish a diocesan office for LGBT ministry that will develop programs and resources for LGBT people, their families, and pastoral ministers.

17) Speak out on human rights abuses against LGBT people around the world.

18) Institute support groups for LGBT priests, religious men and women, and lay pastoral workers.

19) Assist the “coming out” processes of young people by providing them with appropriate and supportive resources and materials.

20) Help all Catholics deal with homophobia and prejudice by establishing educational programs that aim to eradicate these attitudes.

Do you have any further suggestions?  Please add them in the “Comments” section for this post.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Previous posts in the ALL ARE WELCOME series:

Say the Words, December 14, 2011

All in the Family , January 2, 2012

At Notre Dame, Does Buying In Equal Selling Out? , January 25, 2012

A Priest With An Extravagant Sense of Welcome,  February 13, 2012

Going Beyond the Boundaries, April 11, 2012

St. Nicholas Parish Celebrates 10 Years of LGBT Ministry, May 24, 2012

When Homophobes Attack, June 7, 2012

An Open Door Policy for Catholic Schools, July 15, 2012

 


Chicago’s Cardinal Becomes Embroiled in Chick-Fil-A Controversy

August 3, 2012

 

The controversy over Chick-Fil-A President Dan Cathy’s public remarks against marriage equality have spilled over into the Catholic Church.  When Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel commented that the fast food chain’s values are not Chicago values, the city’s Cardinal Francis George, responded with criticism of these comments.

The Chicago Tribune reports on George’s words:

“ ‘Recent comments by those who administer our city seem to assume that the city government can decide for everyone what are the “values” that must be held by citizens of Chicago,’ George wrote on the Archdiocese of Chicago’sblog Sunday. ‘I was born and raised here, and my understanding of being a Chicagoan never included submitting my value system to the government for approval. Must those whose personal values do not conform to those of the government of the day move from the city?’

George went on to write: ‘Approval of state-sponsored homosexual unions has very quickly become a litmus test for bigotry. … Surely there must be a way to properly respect people who are gay or lesbian without using civil law to undermine the nature of marriage.’ “

Clearly, George has twisted the mayor’s words.  It is certainly within a mayor’s prerogative to identify a city’s values.  Nothing in Emanuel’s statement indicated that he was requiring all citizens to adopt those values, as George suggests.

Coming to Emanuel’s defense in this argument was Catholic Chicago Alderman Nick Moreno, who plans to prevent the fast food chain from opening a second store in Chicago.  He was sharply critical of George’s comments:

“ ‘It’s unfortunate that the cardinal, as often happens, picks parts of the Bible and not other parts,’ said Moreno, who added that he was raised Catholic in western Illinois, attended a Catholic grade school and was an altar boy. Moreno said he now occasionally attends church.

“ ‘The Bible says many things,’ Moreno said. ‘For the cardinal to say that Jesus believes in this, and therefore we all must believe in this, I think is just disingenuous and irresponsible. The God I believe in is one about equal rights, and to not give equal rights to those that want to marry, is in my opinion un-Christian.’ ”

“Moreno also called the cardinal’s reference in the blog to a fictional Council Committee on Un-Chicagoan Activities ‘hyperbole and rhetoric.’

“Moreno noted the church scandal surrounding pedophilia among priests, questioning George’s right to the ‘moral high ground on equal rights.’ ”

“Moreno, who has called gay marriage the civil rights issue of our time, also said the mayor and he are not trying to force their values on anyone, but rather to ensure equal rights.”

While Moreno’s remarks about George’s comments are spot on,and while his support of marriage equality is admirable, unfortunately, he is pursuing a misguided direction by trying to prevent Chick-Fil-A from opening a second store in Chicago. Free speech and free enterprise are dearly held American values, and no one should be punished by the government because of expressing an opinion, regardless how odious such an opinion may be.  Such punitive behavior is as wrong as when Church officials fire employees for expressing opinions that disagree with the church’s hierarchy.

Instead of regulating the company punitively, people who disagree with Chick-Fil-A’s president’s remarks on marriage equality would do better to express their dissatisfaction by boycotting the franchise.

The same punitive theme was expressed by Washington, DC’s Mayor Vincent Gray.  The Globe and Mail, a Canadian newspaper reports:

“Not to be outdone, Washington DC’s mayor Vincent Gray said Chick-fil-A was hawking ‘hate chicken.’

“Mr. Gray, under investigation for election irregularities, said he would try and block further Chick-fil-A outlets in the nation’s capital. “

Interestingly, the only Chick-Fil-A restaurant currently in DC is on the campus of Catholic University of America.  When students return it to campus at the end of the summer, it will be interesting to see if they choose to boycott this restaurant or not.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 


Commencement Ceremonies Show the Hope and Struggle of LGBT Issues at Catholic Schools

May 17, 2012

Three recent commencement at Catholic schools show how LGBT issues have become flashpoints of hope and struggle for Catholic educational institutions.

Cardinal Francis George

At St. Norbert College, Wisconsin, three-quarters of the faculty and students at commencement donned rainbow ribbons as a sign of protest against the school’s selection of Cardinal Francis George of Chicago as the commencement speaker.  George made headlines in December when he compared the LGBT rights movement to the KKK.  Over two weeks later, he apologized for the comments.

According to a WTAQ.com article:

“George did not address the controversy during his talk, and he did not speak with reporters. But the student speaker, Joanna Holzhaeuser of Ashland, told the grads to include people of different sexual orientations, gender, and race – and to avoid apathy in their human interactions.”

At the University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Indiana, controversies at commencement time are not uncommon.  The most recent controversy occurred in 2009 when bishops across the country protested the school’s choice of President Barack Obama as commencement speaker.  This year, the LGBT commencement controversy centers on the school’s selection of Kevin Hasson, founder and president of the Beckett Fund for Religious Liberty, as a recipient of an honorary degree.  A Windy City Times article notes:

“The anti-gay Beckett Fund defended Illinois Catholic Charities over its discriminatory policies in refusing to provide adoption and foster-care services to same-sex couples.”

Dr. Tom Dooley

The article also notes that graduating seniors who are members of the campus’ “4 to 5 Movement,” a pro-gay student mobilization, plan to wear buttons displaying their support of LGBT equality during the ceremonies.   (The Windy City Times article continues with a fascinating analysis of the current state of LGBT issues on Notre Dame’s campus, as well as background on famous gay Notre Dame alumni such as the revered Dr. Tom Dooley and retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Victor Fehrenbach.)

At Sacred Heart Academy, Mount Pleasant, Michigan, gay alumnus Dominic Sheahan-Stahl was disinvited as commencement speaker when it was learned that he planned to marry his partner in New York.  An alternative venue, Central Michigan University, was found for him to deliver his address, following the commencement ceremony. CM-Life.com reports on  preparation for the speech later this week, and quotes Sheahan-Stahl:

“My speech that I was going to give had nothing to do with being gay or homosexuality whatsoever. . . .It was about fear and facing those fears. This one is going to be about fear and not letting anything stand in the way of achieving your dreams.”

Arranging the speech’s alternative venue was family friend, Anne Groves:

“She said it was God’s providence that Warriner Hall was available for Sheahan-Stahl to speak on the same day of the graduation.

Dominic Sheahan-Stahl

“ ‘It’s really special that it’s Sunday because the seniors have so dearly wanted to keep Dominic (as part) of their graduation day,’ Groves said. ‘Doing it this way, they can go to mass, go to hear Dominic at 1 p.m., then go back to their school at 3 p.m. to graduate. So in their own way they can stand their ground.’ ”

(A complete interview with Anne Groves about the support that she and other Sacred Heart parents are providing to Sheahan-Stahl can be found here.  Sheahan-Stahl’s open letter to the local bishops can be read here.)

As far as I’m concerned, Sheahan-Stahl’s example shows exactly why Catholic commencement ceremonies should invite LGBT speakers.  No one can better give the graduates one of life’s most important lessons: to be true to oneself, despite fear and opposition.

The students’ responses of speaking out for equality in all three ceremonies show that they have already learned that important lesson, and that they are already teaching it to the rest of the church.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Meet Marc Mutty

January 26, 2012

Marc Mutty

Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of the name “Marc Mutty” before.  I hadn’t heard of  him until yesterday when several news items about him flashed across my computer desktop.  He’s sort of a cross between Daniel Avila, the advisor to the U.S. bishops who last year created an uproar when he claimed that the devil caused homosexuality, and Cardinal George,  who earlier this month apologized for comparing the LGBT movement to the Ku Klux Klan.

I first saw his name in the lead paragraphs of an article about Maine’s anti-bullying bill being approved by a legislative committee:

“After the Legislature’s Education Committee voted unanimously to pass a new anti-bullying bill, Marc Mutty of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland reached out and shook the hand of the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Terry Morrison, D-South Portland.

“It was a brief exchange, an easily overlooked moment.

“But to Morrison, who is openly gay, the handshake with Mutty, who has worked on campaigns to oppose same-sex marriage, was a big deal.

I was touched by this gesture, and the fact that it signified that a Catholic official was supportive of a law that would help LGBT young people.  It made me think kindly towards Marc Mutty. Since I was curious about who he was, I did what any self-respecting 21st century hipster would do:  I googled him.

What I learned was that Mutty was, in fact, the Director of Public Affairs for the Catholic Diocese of Portland, Maine.  A little further digging revealed that he had also been the Chair of “Yes on 1,” the organization which led the fight to block the extension of civil marriage rights to lesbian/gay couples in Maine’s 2009 referendum. Now I was not thinking so kindly towards him.

Further digging revealed that a new documentary film shows that Mutty actually regretted a lot of the anti-gay rhetoric that he promoted during the 2009 campaign, even acknowledging that some of it was blatantly untrue.  According to a Portland Press Herald April 17, 2011, article, the documentary contains interviews of Mutty acknowledging that  his words were sometimes false:

” ‘We use a lot of hyperbole and I think that’s always dangerous,’ says Mutty during a Yes on 1 strategy session, at the time on leave from his job as public affairs director for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Maine.

” ‘You know, we say things like “Teachers will be forced to (teach same-sex marriage in schools)!” ‘ he continues. ‘Well, that’s not a completely accurate statement and we all know it isn’t,you know?'”

At this point, my feelings turn to anger that someone in a responsible position, someone who holds a leadership role in the Catholic Church, would spread knowingly misinformation about LGBT people.

The article goes on to describe Mutty’s shame and regret:

“At another point, he laments, ‘I fear I’ll be remembered for the work I did on this campaign.’

“He even goes so far as to plead ‘for forgiveness for the ways in which I might have betrayed my own self in this endeavor.’ “

Now, my feelings for him turned to sadness.   It must be very hard to promote ideas that one doesn’t believe and that one knows to be untrue.  It must be even harder to do so, if one reflects on the harm that such words and ideas can cause to people.  Like Daniel Avila and Cardinal George, with whom I have compared him, Mutty seems to have got caught up in his own rhetoric and extrapolated it to its own false conclusions. It seems that when he heard himself speak those conclusions he realized how wrong he was, but by this point, he had painted himself into a corner of his own words and could not find a way out.

I decided to write about Marc Mutty because he is like many people that I have met during my work in the church: people who become so blinded by their ideology that they find it difficult to speak the truth.   He is like the many people I have met who actually do not believe the anti-gay messages that they promote, but who continue to promote them because of fear of losing their positions and prestige or who get blinded by their own rhetoric.   Their actions cause damage to others, for sure.  Equally as sure, however, is that their duplicity causes harm to themselves.

At the risk of sounding pious, we need to pray for people like Marc Mutty.  I think people who work for LGBT equality need to make safe spaces for people like him to admit their errors, free of judgment.

In his case, let’s hope and pray that his handshake on the anti-bullying bill is a step towards integrity for him and justice for LGBT people.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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