Praying for Synod and for New Ways Ministry’s Presence in Rome and Portugal

September 28, 2014

One week from today, Pope Francis will open the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops to discuss the topic, The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization.  For Catholic LGBT advocates, there has been great anticipation of the event, perhaps mainly because Pope Francis asked the bishops of the world to consult the laity on marriage and family topics, and, even more so, because pastoral care of families headed by same-gender couples was one of the areas for which input was sought.

Today has been set aside as a day of prayer for the Synod, and Pope Francis has composed a Prayer to the Holy Family for the Synod.   You can access this prayer, and other prayer intentions for the Synod, by clicking here.   Of course, we ask that you include in your prayer for the Synod that the concerns of families with LGBT members or those headed by same-gender couples will be heard and responded to pastorally by the bishops.

When the Synod opens on Sunday, October 5th, New Ways Ministry representatives will be in Rome.  Both Sister Jeannine Gramick, Co-Founder, and Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director, will be traveling there to participate in several events surrounding the Synod, and also with the hope that they will be able to provide a pro-LGBT voice in the public discussions of the Synod that the media will offer.  In addition, DeBernardo will travel to Portugal for the first international meeting of Catholic LGBT groups.

Joining them, too, in Rome will be Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, retired auxiliary bishop of Sydney, Australia.  Bishop Robinson spoke at New Ways Ministry’s Seventh National Symposium in 2012, where he called for a total re-vamping of the Church’s system of sexual ethics.

The following are the various events that these three people will participate in:

  • “The Ways of Love: International Conference on pastoral care with homosexual and trans people,” Friday October 3, 2014, at the Waldensian Faculty of Theology, Aula Magna, via Pietro Cossa 40, Rome.  For more information, and to see the line-up of speakers, click here.    (For a previous blog post about this event, click here.)
  • “Lets’s witness our hope,”  a forum for Italian Christian LGBT groups, Saturday and Sunday, October 4-5, 2014, at Centro Pellegrini Santa Teresa Couderc, Via Vincenzo Ambrosio 9, Rome.  For more information about this event, click here.
  • “The Path from the 2014 Synod to the 2015 Synod: The Pastoral Challenges for Welcoming LGBT people,” a lecture by Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, Wednesday, October 8, 2014,  Via Marianna Dionigi, 59, Rome.  This lecture is sponsored by Nuova Proposta, a Christian LGBT organization in Rome.  For more information, click here.
  • “When Identity Becomes a Crime: Criminalization of Homosexuality Globally,” an international conference, Saturday, October 11, 2014, 4:30-6:3o pm, at the Capitoline Museum, Sala Pietro da’ Cortona, piazza del Campidoglio 1, Rome. The speakers will be Frank Mugisha, a Ugandan LGBT activist, Jules Eloundou, a human rights defender from Cameroon, André du Plessis, UN program and advocacy director for ILGA World, and Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry’s executive director. Dr. Michael Brinkschröder, a co-president of the European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups, will moderate.  Bishops participating in the Synod are invited to attend.   The event is sponsored by the City of Rome and Dutch Ministry’s Department of Education, Science & Culture.

While in Europe, New Ways Ministry’s Francis DeBernardo will also travel to Portugal to attend a meeting of Catholic LGBT groups from around the globe who are gathering to discuss the inauguration of a world-wide association for those who work for LGBT equality in the Church.  The meeting will be held in the city of Portimão on October 6-8, 2014.

28 organizations from 16 different countries will be attending this first World Congress of Catholic Homosexual Associations.   Organized by Rumos Novos,  a Portugese Catholic gay and lesbian group (whose name, incidentally, translates as “New Ways”), this meeting’s theme will be “Building Bridges.”  According to the meeting’s website:

“This congress invites us to look with serenity and deepness towards our Church and our life, allowing that on ‘both sides of the bridge’ light can brighten the view of all, often distorted  by prejudices, fears and sorrows.”

DeBernardo will be a speaker at the conference, addressing the topic of the gifts that LGBT people bring to the Church.

José Leote, the coordinator of the conference, in an interview with Algarve Daily News, said the meeting’s participants will send a letter to Pope Francis.  They will ask the pope, among other things, that gay and lesbian people will experience “integration at all levels of the Church and the possibility of working in parishes without the stigma of sexual orientation.”

The Portugal News described the two-pronged parts of this meeting:

“The congress will take part in two phases, the first being a public phase and open to anyone interested, and a second part reserved for representatives of the associations in which the basis of the future World Organisation is to be set.”

While New Ways Ministry asks for your prayers for the Synod, especially that LGBT concerns will be heard, we also ask your prayers for Sister Jeannine and Francis DeBernardo, as they journey to these events.  Please pray that God will bless them with wisdom, courage, and fortitude during these important events.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

 

 


Uganda Passes Anti-Gay Bill; Pope Francis Must Speak Out Against It

December 20, 2013

Uganda’s Parliament has passed a bill calling for tougher punishments for homosexual acts, including life imprisonment for those considered repeat offenders.   It remains for the president of Uganda to sign it into law.

Sky News reported that the death penalty, which had been in the original draft of the bill in 2010, was not included in the final version.  The bill also criminalizes the public promotion of homosexuality.

The news article reports that David Bahati, the lawmaker who initiated the bill, used religious language to praise the bill’s passage.  Bahati stated:

“This is victory for Uganda. I am glad the parliament has voted against evil.”

“Because we are a God-fearing nation, we value life in a holistic way.

“It is because of those values that members of parliament passed this bill regardless of what the outside world thinks.”

Frank Mugisha, the leading Ugandan gay activist, who is a Catholic, criticized the Parliament’s action, saying:

“I am officially illegal.”

Frank Mugisha

Because Catholics are the largest denomination in Uganda, making up over 40% of the population, it is imperative that Pope Francis speak out against this terrible human rights development.   Uganda’s Catholic bishops have been ambivalent about the bill, sometimes supporting it, sometimes speaking weakly against it.  So, it will take Pope Francis’ strong moral leadership to make any kind of impact on this very Catholic nation.  We need Pope Francis’ voice to stop the punitive measures against LGBT people in Nigeria, India, and other nations, too.

While it is a busy time of year for all, please consider taking a moment to write to the Pope to ask him to speak out against this bill.  His mailing address is:

His Holiness Pope Francis,  Apostolic Palace, Vatican City 11020

Please keep Uganda’s gay and lesbian people in your prayers during this holy season.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related posts

July 25, 2012: Catholics Among Christian Leaders Supporting LGBT Rights in Uganda

August 13, 2012: Former Ambassador to the Vatican Speaks Out Against Ugandan Discrimination

November 14, 2012: Catholic Leaders Must Speak Out Against Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” Bill

December 6, 2012: Catholic Coalition Urges Bishops to Speak Out on Uganda’s Controversial Bill


Uganda’s ‘Kill the Gays’ Bill Is Postponed

December 14, 2012

The Ugandan Parliament closed its session today without taking action on the controversial proposed “Kill the Gays” bill, which would have imposed severe sentences, including the death penalty, for lesbian and gay people in that African nation.

The Montreal Gazette reports the reaction of one of Uganda’s LGBT leaders:

Frank Mugisha

Frank Mugisha

“ ‘This bill won’t stop us,’ said Frank Mugisha, Executive Director of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), . . . . ‘We will continue to fight until we are free of this legislation. We cannot have oppression forever.’ ”

According to blogger Warren Throckmorton:

“. . . the Anti-Homosexuality Bill will not have a second reading until at least February of next year.”

So the good news is that the bill has been forestalled.  The bad news is that the fight to prevent it from becoming law must still continue.

New Ways Ministry continues to ask you to write to your bishop to ask him to try to persuade the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Vatican to speak against this bill.  The Ugandan bishops, whose record on this bill has been ambiguous, still have on their website a statement against the bill from 2009, when it was first introduced.   Though they oppose the bill, the language and argument of their statement is extremely negative toward homosexuality.

Please continue your prayers and advocacy on this important issue into the new year.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 


New Report Identifies Catholic Suppport for Africa’s Anti-Gay Movement

July 25, 2012

A new report from a Boston-based political research group identifies the key conservative U.S.-based Christian organizations that are supporting the anti-gay movement in Africa, including the “Kill the Gays” bill in Uganda.

Political Research Associates yesterday released their report, “Colonizing African Values: How the U.S. Christian Right is Transforming Sexual Politics in Africa,” and identifies a key Catholic organization, Human Life International, as one of the key players in supporting anti-gay activity.

According to an Associated Press report in The Boston Herald:

“The report’s main author, the Rev. Kapya Kaoma, said that while such evangelical groups are in the minority in the United States, they are able to punch way above their weight in Africa, where many oppose homosexuality. Here, many believe the religious right’s contentions that gay men are ‘recruiting’ in schools, Kaoma said.

” ‘Those kind of lies, when presented in Africa, become factual, so we need to worry that they are misleading people with these lies,’ Kaoma, an Anglican priest from Zambia, said in a telephone interview from Boston.

“And conservative groups have access to powerful politicians, including the presidents of many countries.

“Kaoma’s report identifies groups belonging to a loose network of right-wing charismatic Christians. They include Pat Robertson’s American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), the Catholic Church’s Human Life International (HLI) and the Mormon-led Family Watch International. All have launched or expanded offices in Africa over the past five years. . . .

Rev. Kapya Kaoma

” ‘By hiring locals as office staff, ACLJ and HLI in particular hide an American-based agenda behind African faces, giving the Christian Right room to attack gender justice and (the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual people) as a neocolonial enterprise imposed on Africans and obstructing meaningful critique of the U.S. right’s activities,’ the report said.

“Anti-gay laws passed in Burundi in 2009, Malawi in 2010 and Nigeria in 2011.

“Uganda’s so-called ‘Kill the Gays’ law, which would levy the death penalty for ‘aggravated homosexuality,’ was thought to have been defeated after Kaoma and Political Research Associates exposed the legislation’s American instigators in 2009. But it was reintroduced in Uganda’s Parliament this February.”

Bondings 2.0 attended a teleconference yesterday with Rev. Kaoma and Frank Mugisha, the Executive Director of Sexual Minorities Uganda and the recipient of the 2011 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award.   Kaoma and Mugisha elaborated on the role of the Catholic church in these activities.

“It’s not true that they [Roman Catholics] are not involved,” said Rev. Kaoma, noting that Human Life International has good relationships with the Catholic hierarchy. “Together with Anglican archbishops, certain Roman Catholics demanded the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda be passed.”

Frank Mugisha

Mugisha noted that the Catholic archbishop in Uganda did ask that the death penalty be removed from the bill, but that the Catholic Church still has not taken an official position on whether the bill should be passed.

“In Uganda, they [Roman Catholic Institution] haven’t stepped up to say anything or challenge the bill,” Mugisha said.  He added that in fact, the Catholic bishops have joined with other Christian groups to support the bill.

Rev. Kaoma also noted that the Ugandan Catholic bishops had a hand in inviting Ed Silvoso of the International Transformation Network, a reparative therapy group, to speak at a conference in Africa.

At the conclusion of the teleconference, it was suggested that the best way that people of faith in Western countries can help the African situation is to ask their church’s leaders to make public statements against the anti-gay legislation.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

—————————————————————————-

Previous Bondings 2.0 posts on Uganda:

June 15, 2012: More Details on Catholic Support for Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill

June 11. 2012: Uganda’s Catholic Bishops Reverse Their Stance to Support Anti-Homosexual Bill

March 29, 2012: Kathleen Kennedy Townsend’s ‘Case for Gay Acceptance in the Catholic Church’

March 4, 2012: When Will the Pope Speak Out, Too?

December 26, 2011: Breaking the Catholic Silence on LGBT Human Rights Violations

December 23, 2011: A Gay Catholic in Uganda Speaks; Cardinal George Should Listen

 

 

 


Kathleen Kennedy Townsend’s ‘Case for Gay Acceptance in the Catholic Church’

March 29, 2012

Two plenary speakers from New Ways Ministry’s Seventh National Symposium once again made headlines in national publications, spreading their message of the Catholic call for LGBT equality to a wider and broader audience.

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend speaking at New Ways Ministry's Seventh National Symposium. (Deborah Winarski Photo)

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, whose Symposium talk was a rousing inspiration at the end of the meeting, condensed her themes into an essay entitled “The Case for Gay Acceptance in the Catholic Church” for The Atlantic magazine.  After describing her experience of meeting Catholics of all stripes at the New Ways Ministry Symposium, Kennedy Townsend introduces the main point of her argument:

“New Ways Ministry has a critical mission, since changing the Church will help those who suffer from ill treatment not only here in the United States but around the world, where the Church has so much clout. The Church has millions of members in Africa and South America, where being gay or lesbian can lead to a death sentence.

“Worse, the Church’s own teaching encourages bigotry and harm. Just last year, my father’s memorial, the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, gave its human rights award to Frank Mugisha, a gay activist in Uganda whose good friend had just been brutally killed in his own home. American missionaries have encouraged the discrimination Mugisha suffers. Refuting their religious arguments is critical, and so is making a moral and religious case for gays. What we need is a transformation of hearts and minds, not merely a change of laws.

“The Catholic Church’s attitude towards homosexuality is at odds with its tradition of tolerance and understanding. The actual practice of the Church is true to this tradition. What other institution separates men and women and encourages them to live together in monasteries and convents where they can develop deep relationships with those who share their kind of love?

“The fight for the dignity of the LGBT community is a fight for the soul of today’s Church. “

Kennedy’s argument is spot on.  Catholics who support LGBT rights are doing so not in spite of being Catholic, but because of being Catholic.  They are doing so not to destroy their church, but to build it up.

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (center) with New Ways Ministry's Francis DeBernardo and Sister Jeannine Gramick. (Deborah Winarski Photo)

As the daughter of the late Senator Robert Kennedy, one of America’s greatest Catholic civil rights leaders,  Kennedy Townsend knows how important the role of religion is in the struggle for the expansion of justice:

“My father grasped, as did John Kennedy and Martin Luther King, that in America the leader who wishes to enlarge freedom’s sphere must appeal to an audience’s religious beliefs as well as to their understanding of American liberty.”

A decade later, however, things had changed:

“. . . in the 1970s, feminists and gay rights activists did not adopt the same strategy and tactics. I think this happened because their movement grew out of the non-religious part of the civil rights movement. Recall that the civil rights movement was split between the followers of Reverend Martin Luther King on the one hand and Stokely Carmichael and the Black Panthers on the other. The latter group felt that religion was weak. Why turn the other cheek? Why not fight back? This secular strain also attracted many intellectuals who were, to put it bluntly, uncomfortable with religion.”

I’m glad to note here that those 1970s attitudes have been eroding in recent years. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD),  and Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) have recognized the role that religion must play in the secular and political debates about LGBT rights.   All these national organizations have developed very strong programs to amplify religious voices on LGBT issues: HRC’s program can be accessed here; The Task Force’s program can be accessed here; GLAAD’s program can be accessed here; PFLAG’s program can be accessed here.

Kennedy Townsend notes that while some progress has been made on women’s issues in the church, we still have a way to go when it comes to LGBT issues.  But she has not given up hope. Quite the contrary.  Having seen how changes occurred in other areas of church teaching, and how strongly Catholic lay people support LGBT rights, Kennedy Townsend is optimistic:

“That history can continue with its position on gays — and the laity has a critical role to play in pushing for these changes. As Cardinal John Henry Newman, the foremost 19th-century Catholic theologian asserted, bishops have at times ‘failed in their confession of the faith.’ There can be instances of  ‘misguidance, delusion, hallucination.’ He said that the body of the faithful has the ‘instinct for truth.’

“Already, I have witnessed that instinct for truth in the argument over contraception. Despite the hierarchy’s position, 98 percent of Catholic women in the United States use contraception. I believe that Human Vitae was the Holy Ghost’s way to teach us that we must use our conscience, and not lazily rely on the hierarchy when it is in error.

“At this time, when the hierarchy does not want to recognize that we are all made in the image and likeness of God, and that the one of the two most critical commandments is to love one another, it is critical to assert that God loves the LGBT community equally. Sometimes the Church moves slowly, sometimes quickly. The point is to make sure the voices of dissent are not quiet and the Holy Spirit can be heard.”

For me, the key points here are that we must use both our consciences and our voices for the Holy Spirit to be heard.  If we really believe that the Church is the entire People of God, then we need to accept confidently that, as Newman pointed out, that the Holy Spirit moves among the laity.

The second Symposium speaker in the news again was Bishop Geoffrey Robinson.  When he left the Symposium, he embarked on a U.S. speaking tour to Philadelphia, New York, New Haven and Fairfield, CT, Boston, Detroit, Chicago, Santa Clara, CA, which New Ways Ministry organized.

The National Catholic Reporter caught up with him again in Chicago, and reported on his talk there. While at the Symposium, Bishop Robinson focused on rethinking Catholic sexual ethics, in his Chicago talk he highlighted the problems in Catholic law and culture that abetted the sexual abuse crisis:

“. . . other aspects of Catholic culture Robinson said contributed to the abuse crisis are mandatory celibacy for priests, a ‘mystique’ some attach to the priests as being ‘above other human beings,’ and a ‘creeping infallibility’ of papal decrees, which is used to protect ‘all teachings … in which a significant amount of papal energy and prestige have been invested.’

“The application of the church’s teaching on infallibility is a ‘major force in preventing a pope from making admissions that there have been serious failures in the handling of abuse,’ Robinson said.

“Mentioned in particular was Pope John Paul II, who Robinson stated ‘it must be said … responded poorly’ to the sex abuse crisis.

” ‘With authority goes responsibility,’ Robinson said. ‘Pope John Paul many times claimed the authority, and he must accept the responsibility. The most basic task of a pope is surely to be the “rock” that holds the church together, and by his silence in the most serious moral crisis facing the church in our times, the pope failed in this basic task.’ “

In his Symposium talk, Bishop Robinson was clear that changes in sexual ethics need to be accompanied by changes in how the church is governed.   Bishop Robinson’s insights are a breath of fresh air in a Catholic atmosphere which has been much too stale.

For summaries and analyses of the Symposium talk, with links to articles about and the text  of his Symposium talk, check out these Bondings 2.0 posts:

March 28:NCR Editorial and Columnist Support Bishop Robinson’s Symposium Call to Re-think Sexuality

March 22: Symposium Provides “Shot in the Arm” for Participants

March 17: Bishop, Governor, and Theologian Highlight Symposium’s Second Day

Additionally, the blog QueeringTheChurch.com has a five-part analysis of Bishop Robinson’s Symposium talk:

March 20: Robinson: Hetero/Homo, Catholic Sexual Teaching Stands (Or Falls) Together

March 21: Bishop Robinson on “The Offence Against God”, “God’s Purpose”

March 22: Bishop Robinson: Catholic Assertions, Not Arguments

March 23: Bishop Robinson: Sexual Acts, or Relationships?

March 26: Bishop Robinson: The Middle Ground

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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