Bob Newhart Cancels Appearance at Anti-Gay Catholic Organization’s Conference

December 21, 2013

Bob Newhart

Nationally-renowned comedian and actor Bob Newhart has bowed out of headlining at the conference of an anti-gay, conservative Catholic organization’s conference, after a campaign launched by GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) and Faithful America requested that he do so.

Newhart, who is a lifelong Catholic who has been supportive of LGBT people,  posted the following on his Twitter account on December 18th:

“Upcoming Bob Newhart Tour Date Change — Bob will not be performing at the Legatus Summit in Orlando FL on February 6th, 2014″

GLAAD had made its request to Mr. Newhart in a blog post which recounted many of the anti-gay initiatives that Legatus has performed.  Here’s a sample from GLAAD’s post:

“On November 1, 2012, Legatus magazine, the print publication of the conservative Catholic organization of the same name, listed five “non-negotiables” for voters about to head to the polls.  Marriage equality (which the magazine labeled homosexual “marriage,” smear quotes and all) was one of the five listed items, with the staff writer instructing Catholics “to avoid voting for candidates who endorse or promote policies that provide for any of these acts and to vote instead for those who promote policies in keeping with moral law.”  The phrase “intrinsic evil” was used seven times.

“Although this organization’s insistence that civil marriage equality is one of God’s major unacceptables shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, considering Legatus pushes the idea that homosexuality itself is a “disorder” from which one must be “cured.”  I’m not exaggerating when I say that.  In a 2011 Legatus piece, Legate John Haas (whose family has close ties to the National Organization for Marriage, by the way) called for our “curing” in the clearest of language:

There are many reasons why people suffer from SSA [same-sex attraction] disorder. Some “discover” this tendency within them. Others grow into it through pursuits of pleasure or experimentation. Some use it to punish themselves or others. Whether the disorder has some deep, unknown roots over which one has virtually no control, or whether it’s a developed disorder resulting from bad choices, it leaves an individual disposed toward activities and a lifestyle that are dangerous — physically, emotionally and spiritually. 

“Fortunately there is hope for those who suffer from the disorder. The National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality reports that significant numbers of homosexual persons have undergone treatment and had their sexual drives properly ordered. These findings are a beacon of hope to those suffering from SSA, as well as for their family and friends who desire their happiness and good health. Finally, for those who for whatever reason cannot be cured, there is a support group known as Courage to help them live safe, moral, chaste lives. Those who continue to suffer from this disorder can find true help through an orientation toward their Savior and Redeemer, “the Orient from on High,” and the life that He offers them in Himself. “

According to the Legatus website, the group, founded by Domino’s Pizza magnate Tom Monaghan in 1987, is described as:

“an international organization of practicing Catholic laymen and laywomen, comprised of CEOs, Presidents, Managing Partners and Business Owners, with their spouses, from the business community and professional enterprises.”

The organization’s website says that its mission is:

“To study, live and spread the Catholic faith in our business, professional and personal lives.”

In GLAAD’s blog post alerting Bob Newhart and the world to the anti-gay positions that Legatus has taken, blogger Jeremy Hooper noted the following:

“Personally, I’m choosing to believe that he just doesn’t know and that this booking is the result of bad advice.  I’m looking at this post as an opportunity to fill in the missing details so that Mr. Newhart makes a more informed choice rather than presuming to know his intent.  That’s the only way I know to approach it, since I can’t stand to think that this man who I admire is actually supportive of the truly shocking ideas that I showed you at the beginning of this post.  As a kid who stayed up late to watch Nick at Nite reruns of multiple Newhart shows, I have to believe that this is an act of ignorance, not malice.  I have to believe that he simply doesn’t know.

“GLAAD is reaching out to Mr. Newhart’s representatives to let them know how, exactly, an appearance at this event will come across to LGBT people and allied voices.  I am hoping that I am right, and Mr. Newhart doesn’t want to go down that path. He can still express his Catholic faith in a way more consistent with the rest of American Catholics, by loving and supporting his LGBT friends and family. GLAAD is urging him to do the right thing.”

In GLAAD’s follow-up blog post, announcing Newhart’s decision to bow out of the event, Ross Murray noted the actor/comedian’s long record of supporting LGBT people in the media:

“Bob Newhart is a lifelong Catholic. He also has a history of working with LGBT people and storylines. In 1976 The Bob Newhart Show featured an episode with an openly gay character. It was remarkably groundbreaking for its time.

“Newhart also was in the film In & Out, in which he played a principal dealing (not so well, but very comically) with the coming out of one of his teachers, played by Kevin Kline. Most recently, Newhart won an Emmy Award for his guest appearances on Big Bang Theory, opposite of openly gay actor, Jim Parsons.”

GLAAD also noted that Faithful America collected approximately 17,000 signatures on a petition asking Newhart not to attend the conference.

Though Newhart has not explained his reason to step down, the likelihood that this campaign has influenced him is very likely.  There seem to be no other reasons why he would do so.    New Ways Ministry congratulates GLAAD and Faithful America on their powerful action, and we agree with GLAAD’s Vice President of Communications Rich Ferraro when he stated:

“Newhart is merely siding with the majority of fair-minded Americans who do not support the anti-LGBT agenda of organizations like Legatus. “These groups constantly struggle to find high-profile people of faith to speak at their events, but at a time when more and more people of faith are accepting of LGBT people, they will continue to be left to choose between increasingly fringe figures.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


On Spirit Day, Catholics Chart New Course for LGBT Youth

October 17, 2013

SpiritDay13_Graphic_FinalToday is Spirit Day. Millions across the nation will wear purple as a sign of their of their love and support for LGBT youth and for their opposition to bullying. We join GLAAD, the main sponsoring organization, in spreading this message of inclusion and well-being.

LGBT teens and young adults suffer greatly from bullying by peers in person and, increasingly, on the internet. Homo- and trans-phobic harassment against youth leads to vastly higher rates of substance abuse, self-harm, and suicide than the general population.

Rejection from their faith community and religious-based discrimination only compound these problems. For Catholics, Spirit Day is also prime moment for reflection on our Church’s progress and where we are now headed in ministering to younger people with diverse sexual orientations and gender identities.

Last October, . Jesuit Fr. James Martin’s piece on Spirit Day was considered a bold statement, when he reminded Catholics of a prevalent negativity around Catholic LGBT issues from some quarters of the church:

“Many gay and lesbian Catholics have told me (in person, in emails, in notes and letters and in Facebook messages) how alienated they have felt from the church lately.  Perhaps as a result of some of the rhetoric that has been used recently, an increasing number of gay and lesbian Catholics, and gay and lesbian youth in particular, feel marginalized from the church in which they were baptized.”

Fear, hurt, and isolation persist for many LGBT Catholics who experienced decades of damaging language and actions.  Pope Francis, though, has prompted a spirit of renewal that blows through our communities which demands that we act against anti-gay discrimination, especially when it targets youth.

One bright initiative is called Anti-Bullying Learning and Teaching Resources (ALTER), sponsored by the Diocese of Wollongong, Australia. Responding to the rapid rise in bullying through cell phones and social media, the diocese’s Catholic Education Office produced a video (which you can view below) and a resource kit for adults in leadership.

Of note is the use of the word “gay” in the video, revealing an openness to the realities of the students it hopes to help. The Office explains:

“Fix You was deliberately designed to include significant contribution from Diocesan primary and secondary students. To maintain the integrity of this concept, when asked to list words commonly used to bully and to hurt, students were adamant the word ‘gay’ be included. In explanation, it was our students’ reality that this word was often used as a weapon and that verbal bullying was an experience known to most students. Consequently, this term has been included in the sequence of words depicting how bullying brands someone and how this can leave lifelong scars.”

The Office provides an improved commentary on homosexuality that focuses on respecting people’s dignity and ending injustice. They recommend that educators use the word “gay” in their classroom discussions.

This Spirit Day, Pope Francis’ handful of olive branches to the LGBT community has changed the tone by his comment “Who am I to judge?“, his America interview, or his handwritten note to gay Catholics in Italy. Leaders in the American hierarchy have been slow to follow his lead, but the Catholic laity  continue to advance into greater inclusion.

As Catholics, we at New Ways Ministry support Spirit Day, compelled by our faith to end bullying and sustain LGBT youth as they come to know themselves, their community, and God.  We’ve changed our profile picture on Facebook to purple in honor of Spirit Day, and we invite you to do the same as a sign of support.  If you use Twitter, consider using #SpiritDay in your tweets about support for LGBT youth today.

Why not share the graphic above with your friends on Facebook? You can copy and paste it from this post or you can find it on the New Ways Ministry Facebook page.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


How Did Catholics Fare in Pew Survey on LGBT People and Religion?

June 19, 2013

cross and gender symbolsThe Pew Research Center released a report last week about a survey they conducted of LGBT people in the United States, including their participation and attitudes toward religious institutions.  The major finding, which grabbed the headlines, is that LGBT people find religious institutions unfriendly towards themselves, and many are alienated from these organizations.

A Religion News Service article which appeared on The Washington Post’s “On Faith” blog highlighted the following findings:

“Gay Americans are much less religious than the general U.S. population, and about three in 10 of them say they have felt unwelcome in a house of worship, a new study shows.

“The Pew Research Center’s study, released Thursday (June 13), details how gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans view many of the country’s prominent faiths: in a word, unfriendly.

“The vast majority said Islam (84 percent); the Mormon church (83 percent); the Roman Catholic Church (79 percent); and evangelical churches (73 percent) were unfriendly. Jews and nonevangelical Protestants drew a more mixed reaction, with more than 40 percent considering them either unfriendly or neutral about gays and lesbians.”
Marianne Duddy-Burke

Marianne Duddy-Burke

Those statistics are not very good for Catholics.  It shows that we have a terrible image problem in terms of how LGBT people perceive us.  Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, in a HuffingtonPost blog noted the difficult challenge that this presents our church:

“The Pew Survey should serve as a wake-up call to Catholics — not only those supportive of LGBT equality but all those who in conscience disagree with the bishops on a broad range of issues related to gender and sexuality, from women’s ordination to birth control. We need to grapple with the fact that our bishops are defining Catholicism in a way that is directly opposed to what most Catholics believe and want our church to be. We have a worse brand-identity issue than J.C. Penney!”
The Washington Post story offered the perspective or Ross Murray, director of faith and news initiatives at GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) who suggested a reason for the negative attitudes LGBT people have of religion:
Ross Murray

Ross Murray

“[Ross Murray] thinks the sense of unfriendliness comes in part from the loudest voices of faith speaking through an anti-gay frame. Religious groups that support gays and lesbians, as a GLAAD study found last year, get far less media attention.

“ ‘The leading anti-gay voices always put it in religious terms, which taints how people view religion,’ Murray said.”

The statistics for how unwelcome LGBT people feel by religious institutions are staggering.  The Washington Post article states:

“Almost 50 percent of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender adults say they have no religious affiliation, compared to 20 percent of the general population. One-third of religiously affiliated gay and lesbian adults say there is a conflict between their faith beliefs and their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

And for Catholic LGBT people, a super-majority of them feel unwelcome.  The Deseret News reports:

“Among LGBT Catholics, two-thirds (66 percent) say the Catholic Church is unfriendly toward them. . .”

Clearly, religious people have their work cut out for them if they want to make sure that LGBT people feel welcome in their communities.  Duddy-Burke offered some suggestions:

“There are many options for Catholics troubled by the findings of the recent Pew survey. Most effective would be ensuring that anytime a church leader says something untrue, unkind or unwarranted about LGBT people; fires someone due to sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, or an expression of support for LGBT people; or takes a position on a public matter that upholds institutional discrimination, call him out on it. Let him and others know that he is speaking only for a minority of Catholics.

“If you know LGBT people in your parish or faith community, tell them you’re glad for their presence and gifts. Ask if they find the community supportive, or if they find anything that happens there discomforting. If a priest delivers an anti-gay message, let him know you find it problematic, given Jesus’ model of broad inclusion.”

Is there any good news in this survey?  There might be one small glimmer for Catholics.  The Huffington Post news story about the survey cited some interesting data comparing church affiliation of LGBT people to the church affiliation of the general adult population.    14% of LGBT people identify as Catholics, while 22% of the general population do.  That means that the discrepancy between LGBT Catholics and general population Catholics is only 8%, which is not anywhere near the discrepancy for Protestants generally (27 % of LGBT people identify as Protestants, compared to 49% in the general population.)

This statistic is cold comfort, however, when we realize how many LGBT Catholics feel alienated from their church and how many LGBT people view Catholicism negatively.  I think the reason we have a smaller discrepancy has to do more with the loyalty that LGBT Catholics feel toward their church, rather than anything positive that the church is doing for them.

GLAAD’s Murray also offered some hope for the future by noting in The Huffington Post:

“I think that relationship is going to mend, but it will happen slowly … I hope that inclusive faith communities are able to get their message out even better, so that there can be better trust between LGBT people and religion.”

At New Ways Ministry, we see the relationship between LGBT people and the Catholic church developing every time we add a new parish to our gay-friendly parish list or a new campus to our gay-friendly Catholic college list.  But the Pew Report reminds us how much work we still have ahead of us.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Boy Scouts’ Proposed Change Finds Catholics on Both Sides of the Debate

May 18, 2013

As the Boy Scouts of America deliberate about accepting gay members, with a decision looming next week, Catholics involved with scouting are lining up on both sides of the debate.

An article in USA Today reports on the upcoming decision facing BSA:

“The proposal, which would allow gay Scouts but continue to exclude gay adults as leaders, has the unanimous support of Boy Scouts’ top officials, and will be voted on by the group’s 1,400-member national council on May 23…

“Already suffering a long-term membership decline, the Scouts’ proposal is an effort to appeal to younger parents who increasingly support gay rights. But the current two-pronged ban has strong support among existing members and volunteers, many of whom believe accepting gay members will clash with their religious convictions.”

Strong opposition comes from faith-based groups, responsible for over 70% of scouting troops nationally, and among these are Catholics conflicted by the proposal. The National Catholic Council on Scouting released a vague statement affirming the hierarchy’s understanding of gay issues and promising to respond once the proposal is voted on.

At the grassroots level, USA Today reports some Catholic scout leaders are already threatening resignation, and some pastors plan to sever ties with BSA if openly gay scouts are allowed. Yet other Catholic leaders are hoping that gay scouts will be accepted:

“At St. Raymond of Penafort Catholic Church in Springfield, Va., the Rev. John De Celles announced in his church bulletin that the parish troop would end its relationship with the Boy Scouts if membership standards change…

“As many as a quarter of the 273,000 Boy Scouts connected to Catholic-run troops could leave, some leaders estimate. Still, many Catholic parishes welcome the move to allow openly gay scouts into their troops.

“‘If it changes, that’s fine with us. In fact, I’m hoping they do change it,’ said Monsignor Donald Romito of St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Irvine, Calif. ‘We’re welcoming to everybody, and everybody’s welcome to join the Scouts. It wouldn’t impact our relationship with the troop at all.'”

For its part, the BSA leadership is advocating strongly for the national council, which meets May 22-24, to allow gay scouts and has worked to address the concerns of Catholics and other faith-based participants:

“We believe that this policy remains true to the virtues, the core principles of scouting, not of any one religion, but of Scouting,” said BSA executive committee member Nathan Rosenberg, in a webcast urging support for the plan.”

Like one’s faith and one’s sexuality, involvement in scouting is a large influence on a young person’s identity. Catholics involved in scouting must encourage youth to openly embrace every part of who they are during formative years. It is time for Catholic leadership to echo Monsignor Romito’s call to welcome every youth who wishes to participate in BSA troops and end a discriminatory practice that forces scouts to remain closeted.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


In Strange Move, Bishop Returns Petitions to Ousted Gay Catholic

April 26, 2013
Nicholas Coppola holding a copy of the petition.

Nicholas Coppola holding a copy of the petition.

This is the story of one of the strangest moves that I’ve ever heard of coming from a bishop.  A little over a week ago, we reported that Nicholas Coppola, a gay man who had been dismissed from his volunteer ministries at a Catholic parish on Long Island because he married his partner, delivered a petition with over 18,000 signatures to Bishop William Murphy of the Rockville Centre diocese, asking to be re-instated.

This week, we’ve learned that Bishop Murphy has returned the petition and signatures, with a cover letter which simply stated:  “From your faithful Roman Catholic bishop.”  A copy of the letter can be viewed here.

GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) reported this development on their blog  this week.  They quote Coppola’s reaction to this latest development:

Bishop William Murphy

Bishop William Murphy

“I really don’t understand what sort of message Bishop Murphy is trying to send. Is he no longer listening to the voices of the faithful? I have more questions than anything now.”

The strangeness of the note baffles the mind.  Is the bishop being vindictive?  Pretentious? Humorous? Sarcastic?  The move is certainly unprofessional, and clearly not pastoral.  The message it sends is an authoritarian one, not one of responding to human needs or concerns.

The Washington Post notes that the diocese confirmed that the letter did indeed come from the bishop:

“Sean Dolan, a spokesperson for Murphy, on Thursday confirmed that the bishop had sent the 300 sheets of paper with the signatures back to Coppola.

“In a statement, Dolan said the petition and the way its delivery was staged for the media ‘was designed to misinform the press and the intended recipient,’ and was ‘only designed to promote the organizations behind this spectacle.’

“ ‘All legitimate correspondence sent to the Office of the Bishop either by email or regular U.S. Mail is responded to,’ Dolan said in a statement. ‘Online petitions of this nature lack legitimacy (and) are not considered correspondence and therefore do not warrant a response.’ “

On-line petitions are a new form of media and expression, but they are now ubiquitous, and certainly a legitimate form of communication.  The diocese disregards such communications at its peril, and will continue to be out of touch with the real world.

GLAAD points out an interesting church law fact about the diocese’ response:

“According to canon law, the bishops must respond to letters that have been delivered. Later the same day that Nicholas delivered the petitions, the diocese issued a media statement reaffirming Nicholas’ ouster. It is unclear if returning the petition is the official response, per canon law.”

U.S. Catholic magazine has opined on the serious pastoral error that Murphy has made:

“Whether or not Coppola should have been removed from ministry, and whether Catholics who enter into a civil union or same-sex marriage with their partner should be allowed to participate in the life of a parish, are questions that will surely get a lot of arguments on both sides. But the fact that many Catholics were upset with the way Coppola was treated isn’t something that should just be ignored–a good bishop should at least engage with his flock and, if not to debate the decisions he’s made, should at the very least be open to explaining his reasoning in a pastoral manner. If nothing else, the bishop should see it as a teachable moment rather than something to turn away from and refuse to acknowledge.”

Coppola has a second petition campaign going in which he asks New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan to have a meal with his family.  On Easter Sunday, Dolan stated on a television talk show that the church needs to do better outreach to gay and lesbian people.  You can sign the petition here.

GLAAD’s Ross Murray, director of news and faith initiatives, stressed the importance of this second petition:

“Nicholas Coppola is a faithful Catholic who loves his church, and he is now being treated like a threat by his own bishop. Now more than ever, it is vital that Cardinal Dolan break bread with Nicholas to hear how he is being treated by the church that he loves so much.”

New Ways Ministry urges you to sign this petition.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Gay Catholic Man Rejected from Parish Ministry Delivers 18,000 Signature Petition to Local Bishop

April 14, 2013

Nicholas Coppola Delivering 18,000 Signatures

After Nicholas Coppola was removed from parish ministry for marrying his husband, many rushed to support the Long Island gay Catholic man through a petition to the Diocese of Rockville Centre.  Over 18,000 people signed the petition which Coppola delivered to Bishop William Murphy’s office personally.

David Gibson reports in Religion News Service that the petition was was organized by Faithful America, which reads, in part:

“‘Bishop Murphy, please let Nicholas Coppola resume volunteering at his parish – and make it clear that faithful gay and lesbian Catholics are welcome to participate fully in parish life in your diocese.’ “

Gibson notes:

“According to gay activist network GLAAD, which has been assisting Coppola, a security guard at the diocese agreed to deliver the petition but said that neither Murphy nor diocesan officials would meet with Coppola and representatives of the activist groups who accompanied him.”

Reflecting on how events around Mr. Coppola have played out, several Catholic commentators  have expressed concern about the direction parishes head when priests exclude LGBT ministers for marrying. Bryan Cones writes at US Catholic about the failures of Catholic leaders to stand by LGBT ministers who give so much:

“Setting aside what I think is a blatant disregard for the rights of baptized people in the church…it is impossible not to be moved by Coppola’s devotion to his parish. After decades of service, he is being literally benched, but he is still showing up Sunday after Sunday, and even speaking kindly for the pastor…Entering a civil contract, even when it’s called ‘marriage,’ simply does not violate church teaching about the immorality of same-gender sex acts–it only violates the public policy position of the U.S. bishops and the Vatican, and there is a big difference between the two. It’s enough of a difference to justify letting Coppola continue his ministry in the parish.

“That lack of loyalty when the rubber hits the road is particularly tragic in the don’t-ask-don’t-tell situations LGBT Catholics find themselves in…’My hands are tied’ is a common cop out; wouldn’t it be better if Coppola’s pastor said it instead to the bishop: ‘My hands are tied. The gospel won’t let me treat a child of God like that.’ Coppola deserves better than that; everyone deserves better than that.”

Writing at the National Catholic Reporter, Pat Perriello observes more sinister intentions in parishes than just failing to support LGBT individuals:

“I believe God’s power is great enough to value goodness in anyone: Catholic, Christian, non-Christian or nonbeliever. God’s power is greater than church structures that sometimes seem designed to constrain that power.

“My other concern about this story is that the sanctions grew out of an elite spy system that appears determined to catch people doing things wrong and force bishops and priests into a position where they feel compelled to act on these events. We have unfortunately been seeing this kind of behavior in our parishes at least since the time of Pope John Paul II. It is divisive, uncharitable, unchristian and inappropriate as a means of resolving disagreements within the Christian community.”

Michael O’Loughlin writes that the Coppola incident illustrates a non-welcoming model of church, but that an alternative way of being church, one which welcomes all, is already being enacted in other areas:

“…there is another side to the Catholic Church that welcomes gay Catholics. I know a Catholic monk who has supported numerous collegee [sic] students through their coming out processes. A thriving parish in New York owes much of its vibrancy to a gay lay minister. There are countless priests and nuns who share the joys and sorrows of gay families in parishes throughout the country. Most of the time, these stories aren’t reported; it’s not exactly news when Christians act Christian. But sometimes they are.

“With support for same-sex marriage growing, especially among the Catholic faithful, the Catholic Church will face many decisions about how to respond to this pastoral challenge. Whether it hunkers down and marginalizes itself or responds with a more Christian approach remains to be seen, but it’s clear that both options are already at work in today’s church.”

Nicholas Coppola is moving forward from this experience with the hope he and his husband can create a more welcoming, sustained place for Catholic LGBT parishioners within the Church. He started a petition anyone can sign at Change.org asking Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York to share a meal with Mr. Coppola’s family.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


How Cardinal Dolan Can Express His Love for LGBT People

April 6, 2013

Responses  to Cardinal Dolan’s Easter Sunday comments keep pouring in.   If nothing else, it shows how his comments struck nerves, both positively and negatively.  It shows how much affirmative words from the hierarchy are needed, and it shows how important it is that the hierarchy go beyond just words to send a positive message to LGBT people.

Jamie Manson

Jamie Manson

The National Catholic Reporter columnist Jamie Manson, says she is

“. . . getting weary of bishops and cardinals who tell me how much they love my gay and lesbian friends and I, while at the same time willfully misunderstanding us, refusing to talk to us and devaluing our relationships.”

Her analysis continues by pointing out several actions that Dolan has taken recently that emphatically do not show love for LGBT people:

  • Co-signing an anti-marriage equality document with some of the most vociferous anti-gay leaders of Evangelical churches.
  • Refusing to respond to a letter and petition written by Joseph Amodeo, a former member of the junior board of Catholic Charities of the New York archdiocese, pleading with Dolan to meet with LGBT homeless youth, many of whom were thrown out of their homes by religious parents. Amodeo later resigned from the board, without public reaction from Dolan.
  • Failing to speak out when his brother bishops and priests turn the Eucharist into a political weapon, denying communion to LGBT people and those who support marriage equality.

After reviewing similar actions and statements by San Francisco’s Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone and Pope Francis (when he was archbishop in Argentina), Manson provides an eloquent depiction of what true love is, which seems to echo St. Paul’s famous description in 1 Corinithians 13:

“While it may be true that Dolan, Cordileone and even the new pope are seeking a more pastoral approach to gays and lesbians, I really wish that they would stop calling it love.

“Love does not ignore letters pleading for dialogue and reconciliation.

“Love does not turn away spiritually hungry people from God’s Eucharistic table.

“Love does not use spiritually violent rhetoric against a marginalized community’s fight for justice.

“When we love another person, we genuinely desire to know her or him. When we love, we long to listen to the beloved and to learn his or her story. To love in this way, we must be authentically present to the beloved. This kind of love is risky because it demands vulnerability on the parts of both the lover and the beloved.

“If members of the hierarchy took the risk of truly listening to gay and lesbian couples, they might find, as the majority of U.S. Catholics have, that many of these couples equally embody the faithfulness, devotion, sacrifice and fruitfulness that characterize the best heterosexual relationships.

“They might open themselves up to the possibility that God is speaking new truths through the voices and lives of gay and lesbian couples and transgender persons. They might see that not only are same-sex couples entitled to equal rights and protection, they have as much potential to honor the institution of marriage as opposite-sex couples.”

Equally Blessed LogoEqually Blessed‘s Marianne Duddy-Burke and Mary Ellen Lopata, in an on-line New York Times op-ed, offer some suggetions to Cardinal Dolan to how he could back up his words of welcome with real actions. Among the items they suggest for the bishops are:

  • Dropping opposition to immigration reform that would allow partners in same-sex couples to enter the U.S. legally
  • Adopting anti-bullying programs in Catholic schools
  • Changing to more pastoral tone and content when referring to LGBT people
  • Dissociate the U.S. hierarchy from the National Organization for Marriage
  • Abandon opposition to allowing lesbian and gay couples to adopting children.

They conclude their list with:

“Perhaps most important, the bishops should stop hiding from us. There is no reason the bishops, priests and deacons of every diocese in the United States cannot hold regular meetings with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholics and their families to allow them to speak honestly about their experiences within the church. The result might not always be agreement, but at least it could be a spirit of respect and openness.

“We suspect that some of these recommendations will be received more warmly than others. But having them received at all would be progress for which we might one day have Cardinal Dolan to thank.”

(Equally Blessed is a coaltion of four national Catholic organizations which work for justice and equality for LGBT people in church and society.  The four organizations are Call To Action, DignityUSA, Fortunate Families, and New Ways Ministry.)

glaadIn a similar vein, Ross Murray of GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) in an online Washington Post op-ed, suggests three ways for Cardinal Dolan to back up his Easter Sunday message:

“1.Cardinal Dolan needs to stop talking about LGBT people and spend more time listening to them.”

“2.If Cardinal Dolan cannot talk about LGBT people without uttering words of condemnation, he should simply stop talking about LGBT people in general.”

“3.Cardinal Dolan could turn his stated love into tangible action that would help real LGBT people in their day-to-day lives.”

Murray elaborates on each of these three points in his essay, and he concludes with:

“God’s love is felt, not simply stated. When Cardinal Dolan makes such blatant attacks on LGBT people, it makes his ‘I love you and God loves you’ in front of the media ring hollow. Such expressions of love need to be backed up with tangible action. Do something that demonstrates that church leaders view LGBT people as more than a threat or a curse.

“Cardinal Dolan can keep saying that he loves us and God does too, but until he turns away from the camera to actually listen to the stories of our lives, these words will have no meaning.”

Clearly, Cardinal Dolan has his work cut out for him.  The challenge to him is the challenge that all Christians face: to make the Gospel incarnate in the world.  With all of the commentary and suggestions and support offered to him to do something tangible, Cardinal Dolan should have an easier time deciding what to do next.  The ball is in his court.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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