Reflecting on ‘Coming Out’ to Celebrate National Coming Out Day

October 11, 2013

Today, October 11, is National Coming Out Day and though widespread acceptance of LGBT people is common, the process of coming out remains both difficult and sacred for many. Bondings 2.0 provides excerpts from several coming out accounts published recently that deal with coming out and Catholicism.

First, there is Jonah Saribay, a gay man from a traditional Filipino Catholic family, who shared his story in Honolulu Civil Beat about the coming out process, and how marriage equality could affect this. The news site reports:

“During Saribay’s sophomore year at Farrington High School in 2010, he was conflicted. He had hidden his sexual orientation for years — and then, for a while, tried to convince himself and his friends that he was bisexual.

‘I was so unhappy that I wasn’t living the life I wanted to live. I was gay, and I wanted to live my life as a gay man.’

Toward the end of that school year, he finally found the courage to tell his parents something that he had long known about himself. And when he did, he was in for a surprise: They were fine with the news and they said they loved him unconditionally.

The greatest challenge, he recalled, was ‘accepting myself. I was trying for years to get out of my own shell.’ “

Set amid a piece on Hawaii’s potential passage marriage equality, Saribay believes legalized marriage for same-gender couples would ease coming out for other LGBT youth by advancing the type of social acceptance he received even in a conservative Catholic family. Passing marriage equality could also curtail all-too-frequent bullying and harassment aimed at youth for their sexual orientation or gender identity. You can read more about how Hawaii’s educational system is working towards these goals already and the state’s push for equal rights on the Civil Beat website.

Second is the story of Derek Schell, who is the first openly gay male player in NCAA Division II basketball and who wrote an account of his coming out for OutSports this week. In the essay, Schell touches upon his Catholic schooling and Christian faith, as well as his renewed passion for the sport. After expressing the pain he underwent as young person growing up in a conservative area of the US, he writes about the decision to come out and how grateful he is to have made it, saying:

“In experiencing opposite ends of the spectrum in homophobia and in unconditional love, I have learned so many things from so many different types of people and haven’t been limited to just one way of thinking. It has been a blessing in disguise…Not only is life too short to dwell on other people’s expectations for you, but it is your decision to choose your attitude and how you react to your surroundings…

“Sometimes the darkest times in life are only doorways to the best moments of your life, the ones you were meant to experience and live to see…My challenge to you, whoever is reading this, is to be honest with yourself and how you’re feeling. God doesn’t make mistakes. Don’t keep saying you’re fine. You can be who you are and still be an athlete. You can do all the things you want to do and live a beautiful life that you’ve imagined for yourself. Find your peace of mind knowing you are giving your best self to the world. Be brave. Be love. But most of all, be you.”

Lastly, Daniel Reynolds, a staff member at The Advocate, writes about how his Catholic identity positively influenced his coming out experience. An altar server from age seven, Reynolds speaks about the belief in miracles he was imbued with when learning the faith and continues:

“As I grew older and taller, and my white robes began to cover less and less of my legs, I began to realize that I was attracted to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John (in the biblical sense, indeed). At the time, it was a horrifying revelation. As I prepared for confirmation, the sacrament that asks a young person to pledge himself or herself to the church, I considered my sexuality to be an insurmountable obstacle in admission to the fold…

“It was around this time that something miraculous occurred.

The miracle was Antioch, a youth group Reynolds attended semi-annually where taboo topics were discussed over weekend retreats, leading him to come out eventually:

“For the first time in my life, I had entered a circle where I was entrusted with the secrets of others. Through Antioch and my church, I received one of the most powerful and most influential lessons of growing up — the cognizance that other people struggle with pain, and the responsibility of a community to help its members overcome it.

“Until Antioch, I had only shared the secret of my sexual orientation to one or two close friends…I began to realize that sharing my story would serve a purpose. In my heart I knew that other people in my group must be going through the same struggle, or they knew or were related to a person in the same situation. With this in mind, I decided that I would come out to my church. I believed that it was what God wanted me to do.”

Reynolds came out to his church and was warmly welcomed by the hundred people in attendance including his priest.  Now, the criticism Reynolds receives is often from the LGBT community who cannot understand his participation in the Catholic Church. While validating these criticisms, Reynolds concludes:

“But the truth is, the Catholic Church is a large part of the reason I am an openly gay man today. It has helped me to become a better person. Perhaps my experience is the exception rather than the rule, but I can’t help but believe that the love and support I received in the room that day — and that I continue to receive from my Catholic friends — outweigh the words of old strangers in Rome. I have yet to find sufficient reason to abandon the faith that has guided my parents, grandparents, ancestors, and myself toward a brighter star…

“For a gay Catholic, the words of the new pope are reason to be hopeful. Perhaps, in my lifetime, the church will recognize the sanctity of same-sex marriage. Perhaps not. In the meantime, I have to reach my own new balance of faith and love. I am gay. I am Catholic. And after all, miracles happen every day.”

Writing in the Winona Daily News, John Rupkey asks each of us, gay and straight, an important question on this day. Calling to mind both the wounds a homophobic hierarchy inflicts on the LGBT community and the wounds born by closeted gay priests, he address the laity:

“Oct. 11 is National Coming Out Day. I would like to suggest that on that day the non-gay people of God consider coming out in support of gay people. Coming out doesn’t mean shouting from a soap box. The first step in coming out is coming out to yourself.

“When asked if he approved of homosexuality, Pope Francis replied with a question: “Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?”

“On Oct. 11, how will you answer that question?”

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Is Pope Francis the New Beyonce?

September 20, 2013
Pope Francis

Pope Francis

Beyonce

Beyonce

The pope compared to Beyonce′?

Yep, that’s right.  Jezebel.com, a website and blog for women, declared Pope Francis “the coolest Pope ever” and compared him to Beyonce′, the superstar pop singer, who sang at President Obama’s second inauguration ceremony.  Erin Gloria Ryan wrote:

“Twitter is exploding with Papal adoration today. It’s bizarre.

“Francis is basically the Beyoncé of organized religion.”

Pope Francis’ interview in America magazine has triggered a deluge of positive responses from Catholics, Catholic organizations, and LGBT leaders. New Ways Ministry’s response was posted on this blog yesterday.   Here’s a sampling of some responses from others.

Sister Jeannine Gramick

Sister Jeannine Gramick

Sister Jeannine Gramick, New Ways Ministry’s co-founder, appeared yesterday on MSNBC talking about the pope.   You can view her interview here.  In the segment she is asked for her reaction to the pope’s remarks.  In part, she stated:

“Actually I cried when I first began to read it because in the beginning he is asked who are you…He was stunned by the question, but after a moment of reflection, he said, to describe himself, ‘I am a sinner.’ His humility is just overwhelming. He realizes no person is perfect, and yet, as is so clear in his message, God loves each and every one of us. . . .
“He wants to make it clear these [abortion, marriage equality, contraception] are not essential. He’s trying to get us back to the Gospel, to the real essential message of Jesus. The essential message is that Jesus came to proclaim God’s love, God’s love for each and every person, no matter if we agree with them or not.”

Equally Blessed LogoEqually Blessed (coalition of four Catholic organizations–Call To Action, DignityUSA, Fortunate Families, New Ways Ministry which work for justice and equality for LGBT people in church and society):

“The pope’s statements are like rain on a parched land for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholics and their supporters. We yearn for the day when the Catholic hierarchy can simply acknowledge the holiness of our lives and our relationships, as the majority of Catholics in the United States already do, and we pray that this pope will move us closer to that goal. In the meantime, Pope Francis has sent a clear signal that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and organizations like the Knights of Columbus need to end their multimillion dollar campaign to marginalize LGBT people in the church and the wider society and commit themselves to gaining a deeper understanding of the lives, beliefs and ministries of LGBT people, their families and their friends.”

Father James Martin SJ

Father James Martin SJ

Fr. James Martin, SJ (noted spirituality author and associate editor at America magazine), from the blog “In All Things” :

“During his in-flight media conference from World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro this summer, Pope Francis made headlines when he uttered his now-famous words, ‘Who am I to judge?’ when asked a question about gay priests in the church.

“At the time, several commentators opined that the pope’s words were not only uninteresting (since the pope did not change any church teaching on homosexuality), they were also limited, applying only, they said, to gay priests.  But in our interview, Francis speaks at some length about gay persons in general, and even notes that his comments during the in-flight conference referred to gay persons, not simply gay priests: “During the return flight I said that if a homosexual person is of good will and is in search of God, I am no one to judge.’

“The new interview continues his open and pastoral stance towards gays and lesbians.  Notice, too, the gentle tone of the rest of his response to the question posed by the interviewer: ‘Here we enter into the mystery of the human being.  In life, God accompanied persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation.  It is necessary to accompany them with mercy.’  While none of this changes church teaching, the Pope’s words have changed the way that church speaks to and about gay persons.  And that is new.

“There is a reason why many gay Catholics have told me that they feel more welcome in the church these days.  There is a reason why people like Cardinal Oswald Gracias, the archbishop of Mumbai, recently told his priests to be more ‘sensitive‘ when speaking to gays and lesbians.

“Pope Francis leads with mercy.  Mercy has been from hallmark of his papacy from its earliest days.  The America interview shows a gentle pastor who looks upon people as individuals, not categories.

Fr. Martin’s blog post is an excellent read, analyzing a variety of the pope’s statements in the very extensive interview he gave.

Marianne Duddy-Burke

Marianne Duddy-Burke

Marianne Duddy-Burke, Executive Director, DignityUSA (national organization of LGBT Catholics):

“We find much to be hopeful about, particularly in the Pope’s firm desire that the Church be a ’home for all people,’ and his belief that God looks on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people with love rather than condemnation.

“LGBT Catholics and allies will rejoice in the Pope’s call for Church leaders to focus on being pastors rather than rule enforcers. We hope that the bishops will heed this call and immediately end their anti-LGBT campaigns, the firings of church workers for who they are, the attacks on people who challenge or question official teachings, and the exclusive and judgmental rhetoric that comes too often from our pulpits. The Pope is unambiguous. Leave the bully pulpit, and accompany your people. . . .

“This could be a moment of deep renewal for our Church, and for its LGBT members. We hope, pray, and work to ensure this is so.”

Michael O'Loughlin

Michael O’Loughlin

Michael O’Loughlin (blogger at Religion News Service), from “Faith Fix”:

“As a Catholic, who happens to work in the church, and who writes extensively about the church, and who is also gay, I am fairly desensitized to the veiled bigotry employed by so many Catholic leaders. Sure, the cardinals and bishops who seem obsessed with issues of homosexuality usually begin their statements recalling the Catechism of the Catholic Church that reminds us all people are to be treated with dignity. But in the next breath, their words turn to sin, disorder, unnaturalness, and general judgment and condemnation. Under Pope Benedict XVI, combined with rapid advancements for LGBT people in the West, the church’s attitude and language toward gay people reached a nadir. . . .

“Pope Francis is so revolutionary, so engrossing, because he is living out Gospel values of love, mercy, and compassion. These values are often antithetical to those of the world, so it moves us when people in power embody them.

“People sometimes ask how I can remain in the church when it’s so hostile to gay people. I explain that the church is simply an instrument I use to understand and attempt to live out the Gospel. Pope Francis recognizes this. The Gospel is so much bigger than we often give it credit for, which is why Francis rejects those who would reduce it to a few hot-button social issue. . . .

“And the pope is simply reminding us that we all are in need of God’s forgiveness, and how much better it is for us to accompany one another on this journey with love. And mercy.  If the pope has the humility to ask, ‘Who am I to judge?’, can’t we?”

Jim FitzGerald

Jim FitzGerald

Jim FitzGerald, Executive Director, Call To Action (Catholic justice organization):

“. . . We are heartened by Francis’s openness and candor, willingness to dialogue with all, and his attempts at transparency and consultation. We’ve long held more inclusive, open conversations to be healthy for our Church. . . .

“We were encouraged to hear Pope Francis speak of continued discernment and reform. As this spirit of change begins to reach up towards all levels of our Church, we look forward to working with all those who seek to embody a more accountable, inclusive, and just Church.  While there is more work to do, we remain hopeful transformation is afoot.”

Chad Griffin

Chad Griffin

Chad Griffin, Director, Human Rights Campaign (LGBT political action organization):

“With these latest comments, Pope Francis has pressed the reset button on the Roman Catholic Church’s treatment of LGBT people, rolling back a years-long campaign at the highest levels of the Church to oppose any measure of dignity or equality. Now, it’s time for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to catch up and drop their opposition to even the most basic protections for LGBT people. Otherwise, they risk being left far behind by American Catholics and this remarkable Pope.”

Jon O'Brien

Jon O’Brien

Jon O’Brien, President, Catholics for Choice:

“We welcome what Pope Francis said today when he called for the Catholic church to be ‘home for all’ and not a ‘small chapel’ focused on doctrine and limited views on moral teachings. . . .

“We truly hope that this is just the start; that Pope Francis doesn’t only talk the talk, but also walks the walk. We hope he takes steps to ensure that his more open view of how the church should deal with people trickles down to his brother bishops around the world. . .”

We will keep you posted on further reactions as they become available to us.

–Francis DeBernardo and Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Understanding Transgender Issues Starts with Good Questions

August 27, 2013

Jonathan Merritt

As legal issues and theological debates grow around transgender issues, people of faith are speaking out in greater numbers for full protection and equality. Recent pieces by several authors are fine contributions for Catholics to reflect further on how the Church and its members can better understand and support trans Catholics.

Writing for Religion News Service, Jonathan Merritt asks Christians to complicate their thinking around transgender matters because they are far more complex than how anti-LGBT voices depict them. Stemming from his experiences with a fellow church member who is a trans man, the author speaks to the deficiency Christians (and one can safely add Catholics) have in thinking and speaking about transgender people. He writes:

“I suspect many Christians are like me and haven’t considered all the theological, ethical, and scientific intricacies of this issue. Perhaps we are afraid that what we discover will stretch the bounds of our thinking. My unsettled thoughts about how to reconcile Kris’s gender identification with my Christian faith tempt me to shrink back from my friendship with Kris. And yet, I’m so glad I haven’t. Our conversations challenge my thinking and force me to ask new and difficult questions of myself. Kris and I may not end up agreeing on everything, but we press on in our friendship anyway. And I think we’re both better for it.

“The transgender issue is an important one and Christians must grapple with it in all its messiness and complexity. So let’s not pretend that any armchair theologian should be able to figure it out. Kris deserves better. And so do all of our transgender neighbors.”

Sharon Groves, the director of the Human Rights Campaign’s Religion and Faith program, writes in The Washington Post about a positive contribution transgender members bring to communities of faith, namely the opportunity for wider reflection on creation, God, and oneself. She first writes a series of questions:

“[What if] we actually took seriously the question of what it means to be human and, more expansively, what it means to live into our full humanity? What if rather than saying that biology is destiny we actually explored the ways in which we all experience our own gender identities and expressions? What if we learned about the lived experiences of our transgender peers?”

Groves asks Christians to willingly engage in a respectful, open-minded questioning by encountering transgender people, their stories, and broader religious questions as a way forward. Fundamentally, understanding transgender community members will also involved understanding oneself in a deeper way on issues of gender, as she writes:

Sharon Groves

“The core teachings of Christianity are to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself. We cannot love God fully if we don’t do the work of trying to understand who God is for each of us. When we look at the most moving and transformative religious writing – from Augustine to Thomas Merton – there is a sense of openness and curiosity to the experience of God.  We can’t love God if we don’t try to glean how God works in our lives.

“Similarly, we can’t really love our neighbors if we cast off all curiosity about who they are and their experience of life in the world. And finally, if we remain uninterested in ourselves – about how we come to know our gender–then we can’t really love the difference that shows up in our neighbors…

“To live our lives with true compassion and caring, we need to move beyond slogans and ask the deeper questions about gender and the diversity of experiences.   But to do that, one must ask the right question and be open to a multitude of answers.”

In a sign of hope for the Catholic Church, Governor Jerry Brown of California, who is a Catholic, recently signed a groundbreaking law protecting transgender students in that state. The law allows transgender students to use bathrooms and play on the sports teams which match their gender identity most fully. However, comments by an administrator in Nebraska’s Catholic schools opposing a similar law in that state prove that work remains in securing equality for transgender people.  At least one previous story on Bondings 2.0 reveals the pressures trans church employees feel, as well as their fears of discriminatory firings.  Another story shows the support that Catholics can express for transgender people.

A positive first step is for every Catholic to deepen their understanding of transgender issues by questioning their existing beliefs, educating themselves, and encountering trans people in their communities. Share your thoughts and resources on how Catholics can better understand transgender issues in the ‘Comments’ section below.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Students, Alumni, and Commentators Support Fired Catholic H.S. Teacher

August 10, 2013
Student and alums protest outside the school.

Student and alums protest outside the school.

Los Angeles’ Daily News reported:

“Several hundred students, alumnae and supporters of Ken Bencomo rallied in Glendora on Thursday morning, protesting Bencomo’s firing from St. Lucy’s Priory High School after he married his longtime same-sex partner in July.”

According to Los Angeles.CBSLocal.comBrittany Littleton, an alumna who organized the protest said:

“I believe very strongly in equal rights and in justice, but aside from that, Mr. Bencomo is an amazing teacher.”

The San Gabriel Valley Tribune carried a story

about the protest, which included a comment from an alumna’s mother who jointed the demonstration:

 Melissa Magdaleno, an alumna, protest's the teacher's dismissal.

Melissa Magdaleno, an alumna, protest’s the teacher’s dismissal.

“The school has an obligation to make good choices and to stand up and be courageous, and I don’t think they’re being courageous in this decision,” Terry Monday said. “I think they’re hiding behind Catholic doctrine and not demonstrating the values that they try to teach the girls.”

Bondings 2.0 reported on the firing when news broke last week.  You can read the report here.

In addition to the protest, the firing has sparked a bit of commentary all over the country.  In a Washington Post “On Faith” essay, Sharon Groves, Director of the Human Rights Campaign’s Religion and Faith Program, put the firing in the context of Pope Francis’ recent gay-positive comments, and wonders how the school can defend their action in terms of their Catholic faith:

“To be clear, it was an act that contradicted their mission statement’s call to respond compassionately to the needs of the community. Ken’s officials hid behind their “Catholic faith” to justify their position. But there isn’t one way to be Catholic.”

Groves points out the variety of ways that Catholics strongly support LGBT people:

Sharon Groves

Sharon Groves

“Ask the faithful Catholics — who organized as Catholics — in every state where marriage equality had a possibility of passing. Ask my friend Rosa Manriquez, who proudly raised two lesbian daughters and two grandchildren according to the core tenets of Catholic social teaching — to love God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind and love your neighbor as yourself. Ask the countless Catholics living with the pain of exile but holding a deep longing for the church, as the Catholic hierarchy routinely denies their humanity.”

And, she points out, this support doesn’t stop at the level of the pews:

“And while the true intent of his Pope Francis’ words this week remains unclear, we were offered a morsel of hope. We were offered the possibility of a world where claims of a singular ‘Catholic faith’ aren’t used as an excuse for judgment, shaming and injustice.

“ ‘Do not judge’ is a mantra for us all to embrace, regardless of our faiths. But especially for my Catholic friends who hold St. Francis and Pope Francis so dear, now is the time for a real commitment to these words. We must all do better.”

In The Los Angeles Times, Michael McGough, a columnist questions the church-state issues that this firing raises.  Should churches be allowed to discriminate in employment, he asks.   He explicates the issue this way:

“This would make a good case study for law students. Does the teacher’s right to be free from discrimination trump the school’s right to safeguard its theological convictions about marriage by dismissing a teacher whose life is at odds with that teaching?

“California has a law against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, which may or may not cover a situation in which an employee is dismissed because he has entered a same-sex marriage. On the other hand, the law doesn’t apply to “a religious association or corporation not organized for private profit.”

“Then there’s the 1st Amendment. Last year the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a Lutheran church could fire a ‘called teacher’– one who had received a commission as a ‘minister of religion’ – without running afoul of anti-discrimination laws. But it’s not clear whether a lay teacher at a Catholic school would be in the same category.”

Ken Bencomo

Ken Bencomo

McGough concludes:

“With the spread of same-sex marriage,  courts are going to be drawing lots of lines in this area. Maybe they will say that a Catholic school can dismiss a teacher who is in a same-sex marriage because teachers are role models,  but it can’t discriminate against a bus driver or a bookkeeper. Or perhaps a Catholic college that serves adult students from a variety of religious backgrounds belongs in a different category from a parish elementary or high school.”

For Eduardo Moises Peñalver, a blogger at  Commonweal magazine, a Catholic lay journal of opinion, the legal question is not as important as the moral question in this case:

“I want to separate the question whether Catholic institutions have the right to do this sort of thing from the question whether they should, on either moral or prudential grounds.  I am not aware of divorced and remarried teachers getting fired.  The axe always seems to fall on those who are somewhat more easily marginalized:  unmarried pregnant teachers, gay teachers, etc. “

For a related post on the problem that Catholic institutions are encouraging by firing their LGBT employees, click here.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


Two Catholic Hospitals Commended for LGBT Equality

July 12, 2013

bible with stethoscopeIt looks like Catholic hospitals may be a new place for hope for equality for LGBT people in the church.  Yesterday, we reported on St. Peter’s Healthcare System in New Jersey partnering with Rutgers University to assist families with LGBT members.  Today, we learned that two Catholic hospitals have been commended for their non-discrimination policies and practices.

U.S. News and World Report offers details about the two hospitals, which are geographically close to one another:

“Two Catholic health systems say they won’t tolerate discrimination against gay patients and their families, according to a report released Thursday.

“MedStar Georgetown University Hospital in Washington D.C. and Bon Secours Health System in Marriottsville, Md., – both Catholic healthcare facilities – were commended in the ‘Healthcare Equality Index 2013,’ which was published by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the largest gay rights group in America.”

HRC evaluates hospitals on four criteria:

  1. patient non-discrimination
  2. visitation policies inclusive of same-sex spouses and partners
  3. non-discrimination in employment
  4. training of staff in LGBT patient-centered care, including five senior hospital administrators in those programs.

HRC’s Health and Aging Director Shane Snowdon commended these hospitals for their service and integrity:

“Religiously affiliated institutions say… ‘I get that this is about health care, and that it’s not about politics or morality or religion.’ Next year, to make a fearless prediction, I think we’re going to see a lot more.”

Bon Secours Health System (BSHSI) released a statement on their website about the designation, which included a statement from David T. Binder, vice president and general counsel for BSHSI and member of the BSHSI Diversity and Inclusion Council:

“The Diversity & Inclusion Council is very proud that Bon Secours Health System has been recognized for the second year in a row as a Leader in LGBT Healthcare Equality.  Our acute care facilities independently met the core criteria for LGBT patient-centered care related to patient non-discrimination, equal visitation policies, employment non-discrimination, and training in LGBT patient-centered care.  We believe that this leadership status underscores our commitment through our Code of Conduct and policies to be a fully inclusive environment for patients and employees.”

Additionally, U.S. News and World Report quoted Peggy Moseley, a spokesperson for BSHSI, which said that hospital’s  “tradition is to honor the inherent dignity of each person, and to demonstrate respect for all.”

Congratulations to these two Catholic hospitals!  May many more soon follow their lead!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


LGBT Advocates React to Election of Pope Francis

March 16, 2013
Bishop Thomas Gumbleton

Bishop Thomas Gumbleton

Seemingly everyone has posted their thoughts about Pope Francis since his election last Wednesday evening, discussing everything from his country of origin, how the conclave played out, and where he may lead the Church. Prominently featured in these discussions is the new pope’s previous views on Catholic LGBT issues, sparking reactions from relevant organizations and commentators. Bondings 2.0 provides a sampling below.

Outspoken LGBT advocate and New Ways Ministry friend, Bishop Thomas Gumbleton told the Detroit Free Press that Pope Francis seems promising:

“‘It sounds like to me he’ll be open to the dialogue. He seems to have rapport with the people in his diocese…It seems to be the right direction.’

“Gumbleton said Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio brings to mind the papacy of John XXIII, which ushered in the Second Vatican Council, modernizing Catholic services and promoting the use of more laypeople in parish life…

“’St. Francis tried to live the radical gospel view of Jesus — simplicity, poverty — and he didn’t want a hierarchy. All of those signs look very promising,’ he said.”

Professor Tina Beattie

Joshua McElwee at National Catholic Reporter provides insights from leading Catholic theologians across the world on the election, with many perceiving a willingness to listen to and respect the laity’s role in the Church. From Tina Beattie, a professor at the University of Roehampton:

“For me this morning, if this man remains as attentive as he has been to the voice of the poor, if he makes it a listening as well as a teaching Church, a Church of the people rather than of the Curia, then I for one will keep quietly cheering and thanking God.”

Fr. Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator

From Fr. Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator, a Jesuit provincial in East Africa and theologian, believes that this new papacy will be marked by a refocusing on the People of God and not just the pope as those responsible for the well-being and growth of the Church:

“I want to believe that considering the humble and down-to-earth background of Pope Francis I the church is in capable hands — not just the pope’s alone, but the hands of the entire people of God across the globe.

“Francis’s first gesture of asking the people to pray to God for him may signal the beginning of a more authentic and humble recognition of the priesthood of the people of God and the responsibility we all bear for the church of God in the world.”

Many organizations released statements as well in the wake of Pope Francis’ election, which were compiled by Windy City Times. DignityUSA released a statement by Executive Director Marianne Duddy-Burke expressing cautious encouragement given the cardinals’ choice:

Marianne Duddy-Burke

“‘We recognize that sometimes this new job on which he embarks can change the man called to it…We invite him to take the time to learn about our lives [of LGBT individuals, their loved ones, and families], our faith, and our families before he makes any papal pronouncements about us, and we stand ready to enter into dialogue with him at any time.’”

The Human Rights Campaign called for the new pope to join the existing reality of American Catholics’ efforts for LGBT equality:

“’We hope the new Pope understands the time for religious-based bigotry is not only over, but must be denounced. Demonizing LGBT people and their families from this powerful platform not only fails to keep faith…but it does real psychological damage to millions of LGBT people around the world.’”

Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director of New Ways Ministry, was quoted in The Baltimore Sun:

Francis DeBernardo

Francis DeBernardo

“[Francis DeBernardo] said in a statement that he hopes the change in the church’s leadership will bring about a change in approach. Many have left the church over its harsh rhetoric toward gays and lesbians…

“‘Pope Francis has the opportunity to repair much of this hurt and alienation by offering sincere pastoral outreach to LGBT people and their families,’ DeBernardo, who was traveling in El Salvador, said in a prepared statement. ‘A welcoming gesture from the new pope in the first month of his papacy can go a long way to express God’s love for all humanity.’”

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


NEWS NOTES: December 24, 2012

December 24, 2012

News NotesHere are some news items which may be of interest:

1) Read the inspiring Huffington Post story of Sister of Charity Margaret Farrell who works at Los Angeles’ Covenant House, a shelter and social service agency for homeless teenagers.  Of her work, Sister Margaret says:

“Some say, how can I, as a nun, surround myself with such people — gays, transsexuals, HIV-positive clients?”I usually respond: Read the Bible. Look which people Jesus surrounded himself with.”

2) According to a LGBTQNation.com story, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has called upon the Maryland Catholic Conference (MCC) to publicly denounce Michael Peroutka’s $10,000 donation to the Maryland Marriage Alliance (MMA), the coalition which organized the state campaign to overturn marriage equality.  Peroutka is a member of  the League of the South, a neo-Confederate, secessionist organization labeled an “explicitly racist” hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.The MCC was a founding organizer of the Maryland Marriage Alliance. HRC is also calling on the MMA to return the donation.

3) The Supreme Court of Mexico, a heavily Catholic nation, has issued a decision that paves the way for marriage equality to become legal in the entire nation, according to the AfterMarriage blog.   Marriage equality is already legal in Mexico City, the nation’s capital district.

4) Joseph Amodeo, a Catholic writer who blogs at HuffingtonPost.com, offers “A Catholic Reflection on HIV/AIDS and the Call to Love,” which was originally presented as a talk on December 1, 2012, World AIDS Day,  at St. Augustine Catholic Church, Brooklyn, New York.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Catholic Mom Takes on U.S. Bishops

December 10, 2012

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has launched an on-line advocacy campaign directed to Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, asking church leaders to back away from their expensive campaign against marriage equality.

James Servino (center) poses with siblings and his mother, Barbara Servino (second from right).

James Servino (center) poses with siblings and his mother, Barbara Servino (second from right).

James Servino of HRC launched the campaign, which features a letter to Cardinal Dolan written by his mother, Barbara Servino.  He explains the campaign’s origin:

“My mother is amazing. She’s had my back from the second I came out to her – and long before that.

“When she heard that the leaders of our Roman Catholic Church had spent $2 million on anti-gay marriage ballot campaigns in this election, she wrote a letter to the top Catholic bishop in the U.S., sticking up for people like me. I think it’s a message he desperately needs to hear.”

You can join the campaign by adding your signature to Mrs. Servino’s letter, which reads:

To: His Eminence Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York

Your Eminence,

I’ve been going to Catholic mass almost every week since I was a little girl. My aunts and uncles are nuns and priests. My husband was a member of the Knights of Columbus. We raised our kids in our parish community and sent them to Catholic schools. Catholicism is more than just a belief for me — it’s a deep seed of my identity.

And it has always taught me that God made us all, and loves us all the same. The same way I try to love all my kids. That’s why, when my incredible son told me he was gay, it didn’t change my love for him one bit.

He’s always my child.

That’s why I was outraged to learn that the leadership of our Church just spent $2 million on anti-gay marriage ballot campaigns. Think of all the positive things that $2 million could have accomplished. Think of the hungry fed, the sick comforted, the homeless sheltered. Instead you chose to use parishioners’ donations like mine to divide and discriminate.

Catholicism teaches us to love one another — not to attack our sons and daughters for simply wanting to make lifelong commitments and start families. You won’t have to ever marry a same-sex couple, but it makes no sense to deny them the right to be married under the law. And your parishioners aren’t going to stand for it much longer.

I think it’s time we all got on the right side of history. I hope you do, too.

Sincerely,
Barbara Servino

The deadline for the letter is this week, so sign it soon!

Another recent HRC blog post, from Anne Underwood, founder of Catholics for Marriage Equality, makes the case for why Catholics are supporting this cause.  Entitled “Pro-Equality and Roman Catholic Is Not an Oxymoron,” the essay explains why marriage equality is a Catholic issue:

I am pro-equality because I am a Catholic committed to freedom and fairness for all God’s people. The majority of U.S. Catholics — anywhere from 53% – 73%, according to 2012 polls — are like me.

Most people recognize that marriage equality could not have prevailed in ME, MD, MN and WA this fall if a majority of Catholics hadn’t voted for justice over their hierarchy’s preference for dogma. Over $2 million for dogma notwithstanding, Catholic faithful were not persuaded that their consciences were “improperly formed.” . . .

Vatican II confirmed Jesus’ teaching — it is the people of God, not their rulers, who represent the Kindom of God. We Catholics in the pews, the voting booths, at our lesbian and gay family and friends’ weddings – we are the Church. We are speaking proudly and increasingly loudly as Church.”

Though we’ve had our recent four-state success, there are still many more states to go before equality is the law of the land, and Catholics will play a decisive role in many of those struggles.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 

 

 


“Ubi Caritas, Deus Ibi Est”–An Argument for Marriage Equality

November 26, 2012

A commentary on marriage equality from Catholic lay people appeared this weekend in Michigan which contains some arguments worth noting.

In the Detroit Free Press, George Van Antwerp, a resigned priest who has since married heterosexually, makes the case for marriage equality by noting the Latin saying, “Ubi caritas, Deus ibi est,”  which he translates  as “Look for love, and there you will see God.”  (The strict translation is “where there is kindness/love, there is God.”)

Van Antwerp argues that even those who agree with the magisterial teaching that the church should not approve of same-gender marriages should be ashamed at hierarchical involvement in the last election cycle:

” . . . even if one believes that our church’s position should not change, surely you can understand why I would be outraged that our church, during this past election, organized against same-sex marriage.

Who are we to limit God? Can people outside our tradition not come to know God in ways we have not? Seeking to legislate that there should be only heterosexual marriage is a bit like trying to legislate Sunday as the Sabbath and enforcing that all people, regardless of belief, observe it.

Of course, it was not “the church” which organized against marriage equality, but only the church hierarchy.  The church, properly defined as the entire people of God, actually organized for marriage equality.  An essay in The Washington Post by Sharon Groves, the Human Rights Campaign’s Religion and Faith Director, details how faith communities made the difference in the four states where marriage equality was on the ballot this year, noting particularly the contribution of Catholics:

“In all four states, we also saw an increase in pro-equality Roman Catholic organizing. Following a model established in Maine, a loose federation of Catholics for Marriage Equality emerged in all four states and in bold, yet theologically sound ways gave permission to Catholics to follow their conscience even if it meant going against the bishops. In Minnesota, a priest in favor of marriage equality cited Pope Benedict on the limitations of ecclesiastical authority, ‘Over the pope . . . . stands one’s own conscience, which must be obeyed before all else, even if necessary against the requirement of ecclesiastical authority.’ Using conscience as their touchstone, Washington State mobilized thousand of Catholics and raised money to run a powerful ad in major newspapers across the state showcasing Catholic support. Similar impressive efforts occurred in all three other states.”

Van Antwerp examines his own personal experience to make the case for marriage equality:

“Why am I writing this? Why do I feel so strongly? It is because, as a former priest, I know what it is like to feel that, much to my surprise, God was not asking for my celibacy as the church suggested. And, as an 85-year-old grandfather, I know that one of my grandkids might grow up to be gay or lesbian and that they, like me, might feel that the church’s call to celibacy limits where God is leading them.

“And, whether it is my grandchildren or not, I know that there are sisters and brothers, parents and children within our church and outside of it who are saying that God is right there in the midst of their love for one another. When the issue next comes up on a ballot or over coffee, I hope you’ll speak up for the acceptance of gay marriage within our legal system, even if you don’t believe we should allow it in our churches.”

In making the distinction between civil and sacramental marriage, Van Antwerp shows how the hierarchy’s opposition to marriage for lesbian and gay couples is discriminatory:

“Ultimately, the political issue before us is not a question of whether same-sex marriage is sacramental. Rather it is a question of whether it should be legal.

“With that in mind, I would urge us to take a step back for a moment and remember that as a church, we are not seeking to ban heterosexual marriages that do not fit in our religious schema. No bishop has suggested that you quit receiving Communion if you aren’t working to make sure the marriage chapels in Vegas be outlawed, or fourth or fifth marriages forbidden by the state.”

The testimony of this married man who served his church for many years as a priest is practical and theologically sound.  It shows that our church needs to hear voices from many quarters as it develops its teaching on marriage and LGBT issues.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


Update on Catholic Financing of Marriage Equality Opposition

November 19, 2012

Church financing to oppose marriage equality is in the news once again as the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) updated its report on Catholic funding to reveal that Catholic institutions provided $2 million this year to try to forestall marriage for lesbian and gay couples in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington State.

An earlier version of this report was released before the election. The full, updated report is available on the HRC website.

In a statement announcing the report update, HRC noted:

“The historic results of last week’s elections only highlight the growing disconnect between the fair-minded Romany Catholic laity and the anti-LGBT Church hierarchy. A 2012 Public Religion Research Institute poll found that nearly 60 percent of Catholics support marriage equality. In fact, polling indicates marriage equality is one of the least important issues Catholics are currently concerned with. That same poll, from Belden Russonello, found that 83 percent of Catholics feel their bishops should not influence their vote.”

The report breaks down the funding by state.  It complements a report by Equally Blessed released before the election which details funding to oppose marriage equality by the Knights of Columbus.

Chad Griffin, HRC President commented on the report:

“The American people went to the polls and affirmed one of the core values of the Roman Catholic Church: the belief that all humans are worthy of dignity, respect, and love. The Church and NOM [National Organization for Marriage] can continue pouring money into discriminating against LGBT people, but the writing is on the wall for their anti-equality agenda. The Roman Catholic hierarchy should be focusing on taking actions that actually improve people’s lives, not spending precious resources on spreading malicious lies aimed at tearing down an entire community of people.”

(As an aside, in a HuffingtonPost blog entry, Griffin cited one of ten reasons that marriage equality was so successful this election cycle was because “Faith coalitions were on our side:”

“In 2008, our opponents talked like they had a monopoly on faith. This year, the prominent voices of pro-equality faith leaders like Reverend Delman Coates and organizations like Catholics for Marriage Equality made a huge difference.”)

Meanwhile, in Minnesota, where the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis spent $650,000 in a campaign to support a state constitutional ban against marriage equality, a group of concerned Catholics is calling for greater transparency and accountability.

Minnesota Public Radio reported on a meeting of the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform, where one leader, Martha Turner, asked participants to share their concerns about archdiocesan spending so that the group can start a conversation with the archdiocese:

” ‘We would like to hear your stories,’ Turner said. ‘We want to hear from you, we want to hear your experiences and your concerns about how the money is used that you donate to your parishes and that some of which ends up in the archdiocese.’ “

As Catholics begin to ask for more transparency and accountability, church leaders are going to find that they will have to be honest or that Catholics will vote with their pocketbooks by refusing donations.  What would be interesting to know is how much Catholic money was raised FOR marriage equality efforts.  As the number of Catholics who support marriage equality continues to grow, the total of their individual donations to marriage equality campaigns will is sure to grow.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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