Bishops in United Kingdom Attack Marriage Equality on Several Fronts

January 10, 2013

Scottish bishops with Pope Benedict XVI

Comments calling same-sex marriage “morally defective” by retired Scottish Archbishop Mario Conti are the latest in month-long attacks by Catholic prelates responding to British and Scottish government plans to legalize marriage equality.

Writing in The Tablet against the Marriage and Civil Partnership Bill during a period where Scottish officials gather public input, Archbishop Conti said:

“…it is unhelpful, unnecessary and indeed profoundly unwise for political action to do quite the opposite, namely to attempt through the law, by equating homosexual unions with heterosexual marriage, to render moral what is in itself morally defective.”

Previously, the English bishops have spoken forcefully against government plans to legalize marriage equality in England and Wales. Bishop Joseph Devine of Motherwell wrote a harshly-worded letter to British Prime Minister David Cameron in early December questioning Catholics’ ability to trust him and making a comparison that Cameron is equitable to the anti-Christian Roman emperor, Nero.

Other instances since then include:

  • Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham’s warning that not adhering to traditional gender roles as a result of marriage equality laws would have unforeseen consequences for society;
  • Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster declaring, in a letter read during Masses, the government’s move as undemocratic, “shambolic,” and something that would make George Orwell proud;
  • Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury using his Christmas homily to compare the British government’s efforts on marriage equality to Communist and Nazi totalitarian regimes.

Such unwelcomed messages at Christmas time distort the holiday for many, evident in comments by Ben Summerskill, chief executive of Stonewall, to The Guardian:

“’We do think it’s very sad that an archbishop should sully the day of the birth of Jesus by making what seem to be such uncharitable observations about other people. Some of us are mindful of Luke 2:14, which reminds us that Christmas Day is a day of peace and goodwill to all men. Perhaps Archbishop Nichols should have spent a little more time in bible study.’”

The pending legislation for England and Wales is expected to be voted on this coming spring, with Prime Minister David Cameron recently reiterating his support for full marriage equality while promising sufficient religious liberty safeguards.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


CAMPUS CHRONICLES: Italian Priest’s Defrocking Stirs Debate Among Students at Fordham University

November 16, 2012

Don Mario Bonfanti

A Catholic priest in Italy has been removed from ministry for publicly coming out in October, but this case led to more fruitful discussions about spiritual leadership in the Church among some of its younger members here in the United States.

Bondings 2.0 noted in October that Don Mario Bonfanti posted,“I’m a gay priest, I’m a happily gay priest” on Facebook during International Coming Out Day.

Gay Star News reports that the bishop of Ales-Terralba has since removed Bonfanti from the register of priests. The bishop, Giovanni Dettori, identified a letter from the priest expressing discontent with the Church as ‘apostasy.’ Additionally, Bonfanti’s outspoken views on marriage equality, communion for divorced couples, and anti-war activism are well known. The diocesan newspaper revealed that the Church views the loss of this priest as ‘sad.’

Here in the U.S., Fordham University’s student newspaper, The Ram, offered a summary by Patrick Maroun of how some young adult Catholics view the controversy of Mario Bonfanti. Focusing on the Catholic commitment to love unconditionally, the essaycaptures students’ recognition that a priest’s orientation is highly irrelevant and discussion should be focused on the quality of ministry:

“Paul Ross, FCRH ‘15, said, ‘It doesn’t bug me at all. I see nothing wrong with it.’

“David Emami, GSB ‘15, shared a similar sentiment. ‘I’m okay with it,’ he said. ‘Is he a good priest?’…

“‘When you go to talk to [any other] priest, [presumably] he’s attracted to women, so there’s no real difference talking to a priest who is attracted to men, as long as his life is devoted to God,’ Marc Alibrandi, FCRH ’15, said…

“‘There’s no reason that him being gay and him being a priest have to be mutually exclusive,’ [Paul] Ross said.”

Young adults concern with a pastoral worker’s abilities trumps considerations of their identity as a person. Maroun hopes the case of Bonfanti in Italy is an opportunity to educate, to love, and to welcome:

“I want to reinforce the call for love in the Catholic Church…We must welcome members of the LBGT community as who they are, and not only as who we wish for them to be.  Just as in art, the beauty of our society and our world is a product of all of the different and great people in it, and the contrast that they create.”

In instances like the defrocking of Mario Bonfanti for coming out as God created him, an injustice is committed against good pastoral leaders desperately needed in the Church today. The person attacked, the community they serve, and the Church worldwide are all deeply harmed. We can hope, like the students at Fordham University, that from this injustice God draws forth good.  The Catholic Church can become more loving and welcoming, especially to the LGBT Catholics who so effectively serve in it.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

For New Ways Ministry’s listing of gay-friendly Catholic colleges and universities, visit newwaysministry.org/gfc.

For further information on New Ways Ministry’s efforts in Catholic higher education and to get involved, contact youngadults@newwaysministry.org.


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