LGBT Rainbows Are Appearing Over Ireland

March 14, 2014

In the very, very Catholic nation of Ireland, LGBT equality has been growing by leaps and bounds among the populace. Yet, the negative approach that many Catholic institutions and leaders still take to LGBT issues still exerts an out-sized influence over practices and policies.  Over the past month, several news items have emerged from Ireland, and in this post, we will try to provide a survey of the major developments.

Perhaps the biggest news is that a recent survey by RTÉ, Ireland’s public television company, finds that an overwhelming majority of citizens support the country’s proposed measures to institute marriage equality.  The Guardian reported:

“A new opinion poll shows that only just under 20% of voters will oppose introducing same sex marriage into the Irish constitution.

“More than three-quarters of voters say they support marriage equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in a proposed referendum by the Fine Gael-Labour coalition.

“The survey by the Red C opinion poll firm for Irish public broadcaster RTÉ and The Sunday Business Post found that 76% would be in favour of allowing LGBT couples to legally marry in the Irish Republic. Around 5% of voters were undecided and 19% opposed the law reform.”

Ben Kelly

For Irish musician Ben Kelly, who is gay and Catholic, the news of support rang true to his personal experience growing up in Ireland.  In an essay titled, “To Be Young, Gay, and Catholic” on the website IrishCatholic.ie, Kelly explains that acceptance has been growing for years, and that is a natural progression for many Irish citizens:

“I feel a huge shift in opinion has happened over the past few decades in Ireland, and the country now has many evolved Catholics who are happily rejecting the more damaging rules on how we live and love. After the cultural traumas of the abuse scandal, the ghosts of the Magdalene laundries and other scars inflicted by Church teachings which are increasingly at odds with the lifestyles of the general congregation, Catholic Ireland is accepting gay people. It’s hardly surprising that people who have felt so much hurt are happy to accept a little love.

“Former President Mary McAleese was right: being gay is no longer seen as ‘evil’ or ‘intrinsically disordered’. I was relieved when my parents didn’t have a problem with me being gay, and surprised further when my grandparents didn’t either. But, come to think of it, they belong to generations who quietly disregarded the Church’s teachings on divorce, contraception, and sex before marriage – all of which were condemned from the pulpit, but ignored by many outside the church gates. Homosexuality is just another thing that the Church must realise is being accepted and incorporated into the lives of Irish Catholics.”

Jerry Buttimer

Such an outpouring of support probably did not come as a surprise to Jerry Buttimer, a gay member of the Irish parliament,  who said he sees a lot of progress in the Catholic Church on LGBT issues.  Speaking at a debate at Dublin’s Trinity College on the topic “The Catholic Church can be salvaged,” Buttimer was quoted by The Irish Times

 

“He said Christian understanding was exhibited far better in Catholic communities than in the hierarchy, and there was now a need for a third Vatican council dealing with the issues of morality and sexuality, as the current model of morality was from a different society.

“He praised Archbishop Diarmuid Martin for sending a ‘message of conciliation, of tolerance and respect’ to the gay community, in remarks made on RTÉ Radio One last week.

“Pope Francis had indicated a similar message recently when he spoke to the world’s media. ‘You have to have the hope that the man at the top can lead that change,’ he told students. ‘We now need a church that reflects the values we now have of love, of peace and of justice.’ “

Also speaking at the debate in support of a positive future for the church was Redemptorist Father Tony Flannery, who was relieved of priestly ministry because of his support for progressive reform topics, including LGBT equality.

The experience of lesbian and gay teachers in Ireland was also in the news recently, as The Journal, a national publication, published personal stories of lesbian and gay educators about their professional experiences.  (All accounts were written anonymously because of the fear of being fired.) The Journal notes the extensive role that the Catholic Church plays in Irish education and their exemption from an important anti-discrimination policy:

“In Ireland, schools run by the Catholic Church (which is the vast majority) are allowed exempt from certain aspects of equality law because of their religion’s ethos and teachings. They were given an exemption to the European Equality Directive back in 2000 which allows for this ethos to be upheld during recruitment.”

The stories recount being passed over for promotion, being ignored at staff meetings, having the principal drop in unannounced on lessons and parent meetings, and suffering verbal and sometimes physical abuse, to name a few experiences.  One teacher’s description is particularly disturbing:

“I have witnessed homophobia and what can only be considered gay bashing in both the classroom and the staff room, unfortunately. I was targeted by two separate students on two separate occasions in two different schools and, both times when I complained, the reaction of school managers was more lenient that I had expected or than I wanted.

“On both occasions, the students chose to make the comments in a very public forum – in front of large groups of people. The intention of which was to publicly humiliate me as the teacher.

“What can one say about these types of experiences other than when you consider that I actively choose to keep my private life separate to my public life because I believe my private life has no place in my career, only to be targeted by teenagers who’s intention is public humiliation is pretty depressing?”

You can read all of the accounts of these teachers here.

Panti Bliss

In a story that made headlines around the globe, a drag queen named Panti Bliss, made a speech at Dublin’s famed Abbey Theatre about homophobia, as a response to criticism she had made on public television about critics of LGBT equality.  Bliss (who is also known as Rory O’Neill) made reference to a Catholic notion about homosexuality in her speech. The following excerpt is from The Billerico Project:

“Have any of you ever come home in the evening and turned on the television, and there is a panel of people — nice people, respectable people, smart people… and they’re all sitting around, and they are having a ‘reasoned’ debate on the television: a reasoned debate about you?”

“About what kind of person you are, about whether or not you’re capable of being a good parent, about whether you want to destroy marriage, about whether or not you’re safe around children, about whether or not God herself thinks you’re an abomination, about whether in fact maybe you are intrinsically disordered. And even the nice TV presenter lady… even she thinks it’s perfectly okay that they’re all having this ‘reasoned’ debate about you and about who you are and about what rights you deserve or don’t deserve.”

You can watch the 11-minute video of her speech here.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 

 


Signs of Openness on LGBT and Marriage Issues from Two European Church Leaders

February 11, 2014

Two European prelates have made statements recently which point, once again, toward a more open discussion of LGBT and marriage issues, topics which will be discussed at October’s Synod on Marriage and the Family.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin

In Ireland, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin acknowledged that some people in the church have used doctrine “in a homophobic way.”  The Irish Times reported that the archbishop made these comments in a discussion about the upcoming national referendum in Ireland about the legalization of same-gender marriage:

“Discussions have to be carried out in a ‘mature’ way so that people can freely express their views, while at the same time being respectful and not causing offence, he said. He said that in general he believed it was the person who was offended who defined what being offended is.

” ‘Anyone who grew up in Ireland would have told jokes that were pointed at the gay community; at Travellers [gypsies]; it is part of the culture we grew up in, but we have to grow out of it,’ he said. He said church teaching was that marriage was between a man and a woman, exclusively, but that this approach did not exclude gay people from celebrating their union by a different means.”

The Independent quotes Martin as saying further:

” ‘God never created anybody that he doesn’t love.’…

“Speaking to the Irish Independent, the senior cleric said this meant that ‘anybody who doesn’t show love towards gay and lesbian people is insulting God. They are not just homophobic if they do that – they are actually Godophobic because God loves every one of those people’…

“He added: ‘We all belong to one another and there is no way we can build up a society in which people are excluded or insulted. We have to learn a new way in Ireland to live with our differences and for all of us to live with respect for one another.’ “

According to RTE.ie, a leader of Ireland’s Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN), was disappointed that the archbishop did not address pressing issues facing the LGBT community there, but affirmed his statements about the damage that cultural attitudes can cause:

“GLEN’s Brian Sheehan described it [the archbishop's comment] as ‘a missed opportunity’ to tackle the role of the church and church teachings in creating what it said were ‘some of the difficult realities for lesbian and gay people in Ireland today.’

“However, he welcomed Dr Martin’s acknowledgement of the impact that a culture, which still has homophobia as part of it, has on those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.”

Cardinal Christoph Schonborn (standing) and Austrian bishops meet with Pope Francis at the Vatican.

Meanwhile, Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna made some surprising statements about the hierarchy’s views on marriage, at the time of the Austrian bishops’ ad limina with Pope Francis. The National Catholic Reporter stated:

“In several interviews shortly before leaving Vienna, Schönborn advocated a more rational, down-to-earth approach toward family relationships. ‘For the most part, the church approaches the [family] issue unhistorically,’ he said. ‘People have always lived together in various ways. And today, we in the church tacitly live with the fact that the majority of our young people, including those with close ties to the Catholic church, quite naturally live together. The simple fact is that the environment has changed.’ . . . .

“Schönborn said he regretted that the Austrian bishops haven’t dared to speak out openly on necessary church reforms in the past. They haven’t had the courage to address the need for greater decentralization and to strengthen local churches’ responsibilities, he said. ‘We were far too hesitant. I beat my own breast here. We certainly lacked the courage to speak out openly.’ “

Schönborn had high praise for the work and message of Pope Francis, and said he sees the promise of change occurring in the church:

“Schönborn said he was convinced that far-reaching church reform was on the way, ‘but it will not be achieved through big words and programs but through people like Pope Francis.’ One could already see that the pope has become a role model, Schönborn said. ‘The atmosphere is changing and his behavior is making itself felt,’ he said. What impressed him most about the pope was his charisma. ‘You can feel his inner devotion to God from which his compassion, his warmth and his infectious sense of humor emanates,’ the cardinal said.”

Though U.S. bishops have not yet embraced the new era of Pope Francis, it seems that some of our European church leaders are, in fact, taking steps toward a new era of less judgement and more discussion and openness of the reality of people’s relational lives.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Former President of Ireland Calls for Change in Church’s Teaching on Homosexuality

January 9, 2014
Former Irish President Mary McAleese

Former president of Ireland, Mary McAleese, had strong words for the Catholic Church while speaking in Scotland, condemning the hierarchy’s mostly negative approach to homosexuality and calling for greater transparency. Her speech occurs as controversy grows in Scotland following a priest’s suspension for offering similar insights.

McAleese’s remarks challenged Cardinal Keith O’Brien, formerly Scotland’s top Catholic official, to be open about his own homosexuality. The prelate, who has used strong language to condemn LGBT people, resigned last March after allegations of sexual misconduct with seminarians became public. Irish Central quotes McAleese as saying:

“I would have thought Cardinal Keith O’Brien, in telling the story of his life – if he was willing to do that – could have been of great assistance to gay people, not just in the Church but elsewhere, who felt over many, many years constrained to pretend to be heterosexual while at the same time acting a different life.”

More broadly, the former Irish president called homosexuality “not so much the elephant in the room but a herd of elephants” for the Church’s leaders who are in denial and continued:

” ‘I don’t like my Church’s attitude to gay people. I don’t like “love the sinner, hate the sin”. If you are the so-called sinner, who likes to be called that? We also know that within the priesthood a very large number of priests are gay.’…

” ‘Things written by Benedict, for example, were completely contradictory to modern science and to modern understanding, and to the understanding of most Catholics nowadays in relation to homosexuality.’ “

She also mentioned a meeting with Ireland’s new Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Charles Brown, where homosexuality was discussed. McAleese mentioned a report to the nuncio attributing many youth suicides  to the Catholic hierarchy’s harmful attitudes and language about being gay. Irish Central reports that the following exchange then occurred:

“She said [the nuncio] asked her ‘What do you want me to do? Do you want us to turn our back on tradition?’ Her answer was: ‘Yes, if it’s wrong.’ “

Such direct articulations by McAleese have won her praise from Fr. Tony Flannery, an Irish priest the Vatican has attempted to silence for his work on church reform, and the Association of Catholic Priests, according to The Journal.

Kudos to McAleese for publicly and forcefully speaking truths that are apparent to so many Catholics.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Fr. Tony Flannery Further Refuses Vatican Silencing with New Book

September 26, 2013

Fr. Tony Flannery

Redemptorist Fr. Tony Flannery, who rejected the Vatican’s attempts to silence him earlier this year for leading church reform efforts in Ireland, is making headlines again. The priest released a  new book in September dealing with his struggles with the Vatiican. Part of those struggles involved his support of LGBT equality in the Church.

At the same time that he has published this account, he is stepping away from leadership in Association of Catholic Priests, which he co-founded.

The book, titled A Question of Conscience, was reviewed by Professor Dermot Keogh in The Independent who provides insights into both the work and the author. Fr. Flannery was “one of the best known and most valued spiritual leaders…among ordinary Catholics” in Ireland after nearly four decades of ministry, Keogh says, before noting the book does not cover this good service.

Instead, Keogh offers a summary of the priest’s troubles with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and his superiors in the Redemptorists, all leading up to Fr. Flannery’s refusal to silence himself. Keogh concludes by writing:

“The election of Pope Francis this year may help find another way to deal with dissent in the Catholic Church which does not involve the abrogation of the rights of the individual and the use of a system of personnel management that is as archaic as it is unchristian.

“It will be interesting to see if the new regime in the Vatican will allow Fr Flannery to explain his views and to clarify matters face to face.

“While this volume is a very personal account, and other voices need to be heard and recorded, I am glad as an historian that this book has been published.

“I wish the author – and other ‘silenced’ Irish priests – the strength and courage to see things through to a just end.”

The Tablet reports that Fr. Flannery, already suspended from ministry, is also leaving the Association of Catholic Priests’ leadership to reflect on his future in the clergy, which will be decided in the next six months by the priest’s own admission. Meanwhile, other priests in Ireland have begun speaking out in defense of Fr. Flannery.

Fr. Iggy Donovan, an Augustinian priest in Ireland who is now on leave, spoke in his final homily about Fr. Tony Flannery. Irish Central quote the priest as saying:

“ ‘I cannot leave here today without making some reference to a distinguished colleague of mine in the priesthood. I speak of Fr Tony Flannery. If I had not been made aware first hand of the details of this case I could not have given it credence.’

“ ‘Even hardened veterans are shaken by the murkiness of the devious world of ecclesiastical politics. How has it come to this, that a great and good priest like Tony, who has dedicated his life to the preaching of the Gospel, is persecuted with a zeal that is as pathological as the paranoia that feeds it?

” ‘How has it come to this, that intolerant and extreme right wingers, encouraged apparently by certain authorities and career-orientated priests, can meet in solemn conclave to determine who is guilty of what these people label heresy.’…

” ‘How has it come to this that sincere thinking Catholics are walking away from our Church believing that the battle for sane Catholicism is lost.’ “

You can purchase “A Question of Conscience” through Amazon by clicking here. For further information about Fr. Flannery’s initial troubles and support for LGBT Catholics, see the following posts:

January 23, 2013: Irish Priest Receives Support from Near and Far in His Vatican Struggle

January 20, 2013: Irish Priest’s Refusal to Be Silenced Is a Beacon of Hope for Church Renewal

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


‘Marriage Equality is the Work of Satan,’ Says Minnesota Bishop

September 6, 2013

Archbishop John Neinstedt of St. Paul/Minneapolis

Referring to marriage equality as the work of Satan, Archbishop John Neinstedt’s latest diatribe against LGBT equality reveals an incomprehensible blindness to the shifting tone among Catholic leadership in light of Pope Francis’ more welcoming acts. Signs of hope are more abundant internationally with positive comments now emerging from Ireland’s leading prelate, and an archbishop in Poland.

In a lengthy article in Legatus Magazine, Archbishop Neinstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis explains his opposition to marriage equality in a flurry of tangential arguments. His view is one which Minnesota voters rejected last November; and the state’s legislature approved equal marriage rights this spring. Additionally, Nienstedt used the Church’s financial resources heavily in 2012 campaigning against marriage equality. The new legal reality of marriage equality has not stopped him from harsh rhetoric against LGBT equality, as he writes in the magazine:

“Today, many evil forces have set their sights on the dissolution of marriage and the debasing of family life. Sodomy, abortion, contraception, pornography, the redefinition of marriage, and the denial of objective truth are just some of the forces threatening the stability of our civilization.  The source of these machinations is none other than the Father of Lies.  Satan knows all too well the value that the family contributes to the fabric of a good solid society, as well as the future of God’s work on earth.”

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin

A different sort of message on marriage equality came from Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, Ireland.  In a refreshing change of tone, the Irish leader said that church leaders need to be more respectful when they present their opposition to marriage equality. The Irish Examiner quoted Martin:

“The church has taken a very strong line, and I don’t think people would expect the church to not to do that. “But it would be done – and this is important – the church has to learn how to fight its battles in a respectful and in a noble way.”

Perhaps no one more than the U.S. Catholic bishops, and Archbishop Neinstedt among them, need to learn that lesson. Their shrill rhetoric on marriage has not only been largely ineffective in preventing marriage equality laws, but it is also seen to be pastorally harmful.  What bishops don’t seem to realize is that many of their church members sincerely and conscientiously support marriage equality.  They also know, love, and respect gay and lesbian couples in committed relationships, so the bishops’ message of how marriage equality will ruin society rings hollow at best, and is heard as hateful at worst.

Earlier this week, we reported on the letter opposing marriage equality written by Bishop Larry Silva of Honolulu, Hawaii, and how his comparisons of lesbian and gay committed relationships to polygamy  and incest were not only offensive, but illogical. Attributing marriage equality, and those who support it, to the work of Satan is equally illogical, disrespectful, and far from noble. It is far past time for America’s bishops to follow Pope Francis and other leaders internationally in adopting a more pastoral tone amid changing societies that expand the right to marry for every family.

–Bob Shine and Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


NEWS NOTES: May 9, 2013

May 9, 2013

News NotesHere are some items that may be of interest to you:

1) Ireland’s Constitutional Convention, which proposes changes to the nation’s constitution, voted 79% in favor of enacting marriage equality in the heavily Catholic country, reports The Christian Science Monitor.  The next step is a national referendum, which may take up to two years to be held.

2) In the Central American nation of Belize, Caleb Orozco is challenging the country’s anti-sodomy laws in court this week, while those defending the laws are being supported by Catholic, Anglican, and Evangelical leaders, reports the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper.

3) In Northern Ireland, an extremely unlikely alliance between Catholic and Protestant groups has developed to oppose a marriage equality bill there.  LezGetReal.com notes:

“The Ulster Unionists and the Democratic Unionists sided with the Roman Catholic Church to block a marriage equality bill pushed by Sinn Fein, the SDLP, Alliance and the Green Party.

“The UUP and DUP have been strong opponents of Catholicism for quite some time.”

4) Scotland’s Cardinal Keith O’Brien, who resigned after acknowledging inappropriate sexual conduct with seminarians, has been told by the Vatican not to reside in Scotland, reports Glasgow’s Herald newspaper.  The Vatican’s directive came after Catholics in that country appealed to the Vatican, noting that the Cardinal’s presence would continue to cause church division.

5) Thierry Speitel, the mayor of the French town Sigolsheim, who happens to be both gay and Catholic, was sent a death threat recently, in the form of bullets being sent to him in the mail along with a note containing homophobic comments. TheLocal.fr in Paris reports:

“The threat comes after Speitel gave a recent interview to the local newspaper Derniers Nouvelles d’Alsace in which he talked about the probability he would marry his partner and the prospect of them adopting children.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Equal Marriage Rights Progress Around the World–Especially in Catholic Nations

April 16, 2013

As marriage equality legislation increases in the United States, there is also progress being made in several nations around the world, including notably Catholic ones. Bondings 2.0 provides brief updates on five nations that are moving towards greater LGBT rights, and we encourage readers to use the provided links for more information.

Uruguay

In this predominantly Catholic nation, 71 of 92 deputies in Congress voted for marriage equality sending the legislation to the pro-LGBT president, Jose Mujica, for his signature within weeks. BBC News reports that Uruguay becomes the second Latin American country to pass full marriage equality, after Argentina. In both cases institutional Catholic opposition was strong. Bondings 2.0 reported on the Uruguayan Senate’s passage of a similar bill last week. The legislation also allows for positive changes in same-gender adoption regulations.

Italy

A leading judiciary figure in Italy has called for equality in one of the final European nations without legal recognition for same-gender relationships, and one of the most Catholic. The Sacramento Bee reports on both the Italian judge’s statements and the Vatican’s stance on Italian law:

“President Franco Gallo said the Italian Constitutional Court has ‘ruled out the constitutional illegitimacy’ of laws limiting marriage to heterosexual couples.

“‘At the same time, the Court has stated that two people of the same sex still have the fundamental right to obtain legal recognition of their stable union, with attached rights and obligations,’ he said…

“In February, the Vatican’s top official on family matters, Monsignor Vincenzo Paglia, said: ‘gay marriage is one thing, and our position on that is well known, while discrimination is another matter.’

“‘Individual rights must be guaranteed’ through ‘private law,’ including for same-sex couples, Paglia said, referring to ‘patrimonial’ aspects. He stated that it was ‘time for lawmakers to worry’ about the issue.”

France

The French Senate passed legislation allowing same-gender marriages and extending adoption rights to lebian and gay couples. The National Assembly passed similar legislation in February. The debate over marriage equality in France inspired massive demonstrations and heated exchanges in the past year, reported here and here on Bondings 2.0. France is a historically Catholic nation, and it has been Catholic lay movements and French bishops leading opposition to LGBT rights. Bloomberg BusinessWeek provides further details, as France is now just months away from full marriage and adoption rights being passed.

Ireland

Members of a Constitutional Convention voted on April 14 in favor of a national referendum on equal marriage rights, with 78% seeking an amendment with language directly enacting same-gender marriage and another 17% for language that allows the government to do so. The Irish Times reports on the way forward as government officials take up the Convention’s recommendations:

“The Government was committed to holding a discussion on the report of the Constitutional Convention, [Minister for Justice Alan Shatter] said. ‘The issue of a constitutional referendum will thereafter be considered by Cabinet,’ he said. It was for the Cabinet to decide on the holding and the timing of the referendum, he added…

“The members of the Convention also voted yesterday in favour of recommending that the State pass laws ‘incorporating changed arrangements in regard to the parentage, guardianship and the upbringing of children’.

“’I think there would be a great deal of wisdom in that legislation being progressed and published before we go to a constitutional referendum,’ Mr Shatter told RTÉ today. The issue was omitted from the 2010 Act legalising civil partnership for same-sex couples, he said. Mr Shatter is due to publish details of a Family Relationships and Children’s Bill to address such issues in the coming months.”

Ireland is considered one the world’s most Catholic nations, and the bishops there have already threatened to cease issuing marriage licenses if marriage equality becomes legal. The next steps will be for the Irish government to take up the Convention’s recommendations and enact legislation, either for constitutional changes or changes in the law under existing constitutional strictures.

New Zealand

Legislators will expand same-gender rights in New Zealand, where civil unions currently exist, as a full equal marriage bill receives a final vote tomorrow. On Top Magazine reports:

“Big crowds are expected to be on hand to witness Labour MP Louisa Wall’s marriage equality member’s bill receive its third reading in Parliament.

“The measure received overwhelming approval at its committee stages last month. Wednesday’s final vote is considered a formality. Bills are rarely rejected at this stage…

“If the bill is approved, it is expected to take effect in August.”

As always, Bondings 2.0 will update our readers as progress for full LGBT rights proceeds in these nations and others. If you have not done so, use the ‘Follow’ box in the upper right hand corner of this page to receive daily email updates.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Irish Bishops Threaten Action if Marriage Equality is Passed

April 8, 2013

shamrock rainbowAs Ireland begins to contemplate marriage equality for lesbian and gay couples, the Catholic bishops there have warned the government that if such a law were passed, then Catholic priests would no longer perform the civil aspects of marriage, in effect, no longer acting as agents of the state for marriage.

The Independent reports that if that happens, it could greatly affect the marriage landscape in Ireland:

“The bishops’ stance would affect the thousands of weddings that take place in the church every year if a referendum to extend marriage was passed.

“For a wedding to be legally recognised in Ireland, it must be solemnised by one of the 5,600 people who are on the Register of Solemnisers.

“Around 4,300 of these are Catholic priests.”

IrishCentral.com points out that not only may the bishops’ proposed action backfire, but that their influence in Irish politics is waning:

“But in a reaction the bishops might not have anticipated, many observers say that bishops unprecedented threat has the potential to backfire spectacularly, however. After decades of sexual abuse claims being ignored, or hidden, or denied and then reluctantly acknowledged, the bishops’ threat may not have the moral authority they imagine, critics contend.

“In fact, some observers see it as an opportunity to price the church’s hands from what is otherwise a civil arrangements.

” ‘With the removal of one of the main reasons that non-church goers still attend church at all, the bishops could be assembling a circular firing squad,’ one observer told the press. ‘This threat could actually do what many actually want it to – make marriage a civil contract with no religious associations at all, if the couple so desire. To some this is the equivalent of losing a five pound note and finding fifty.’ “

Groups supporting marriage equality seem unperturbed by the bishops threat.  According to GayStarNews.com:

“The Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN) said they respected the freedom to practice religion and were not seeking to force religious solemnizers to carry out same-sex marriages, if they do not wish to do so. “

The push for marriage equality in Ireland is supported by Amnesty International, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, the Equality Authority and Irish Congress of Trade Unions, and six other key national groups, according to The Independent.

The bishops’ proposal is a reversal of a common strategy used here in the United States by some Christian churches who support marriage equality.  Many pastors in these  pro-LGBT congregations and denominations have signed pledges not to perform the civil aspects of marriage ceremonies until marriage equality is extended to lesbian and gay couples.  They refuse to act as agents of the state while inequality exists.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 


Irish Priest Receives Support from Near and Far in His Vatican Struggle

January 23, 2013

 

 

Fr. Tony Flannery

Fr. Tony Flannery

Three days ago, we reported the case of Fr. Tony Flannery, a priest in Ireland who said he will refuse to be silenced by the Vatican on a variety of issues in the Church, including homosexuality.  We applauded his spirit of courage and fortitude.

Since then,  Fr. Flannery has held a press conference, published an op-ed in The Irish Times, and has received support from his Redemptorist community and from Irish and Austrian priests.

An Irish Times news story of the press conference reported the scope of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) investiagation of the priest:

“Fr. Flannery told a press conference in Dublin yesterday he had been threatened with excommunication by the CDF for refusing to recant his more liberal views on church teachings concerning women priests, contraception and homosexuality.”

According to the BBC.comat the press conference, Fr. Flannery stated that signing the loyalty pledge that the Vatican has asked for would violate his conscience:

” ‘It would mean that I was saying that I accept the teaching on contraception, which I have been on record for a long time saying that I thought Humanae Vitae (official Catholic teaching on procreation) was a big mistake,’ Fr Flannery told the media.

“He claimed that accepting the pledge would also mean that he ‘fully accepted all the teaching on homosexuality’ including the church’s use of what he called ‘some of the awfully unfortunate phrases – like disordered state and intrinsic evil.’ “

A press release from Fr. Flannery’s press conference contained this reflection from the priest:

“The choice facing him, he stated at a press briefing today, Sunday 20th January, was between deciding between Rome and his conscience.

“ ‘I must also question if the threats are a means, not just of terrifying me into submission, but of sending a message to any other priest expressing views at variance with those of the Roman Curia,’ he added. ‘Submitting to these threats would be a betrayal of my ministry, my fellow priests and the Catholic people who want change.’

“Fr. Flannery said that because he believes he is being subjected to unfair treatment, he has taken legal advice under Canon and Civil law to help him defend his rights as a member of the Church and as an Irish citizen.”

In the op-ed in The Irish TimesFr. Flannery gives a summary of the development of his ministry, the need for discussion in the church, the difficult proceedings with the Vatican, and concludes with a statement of resolve:

“There are people who will say I should leave the Catholic Church and join another Christian church – one more suitable to my stance. Being a Catholic is central to my personal identity. I have tried to preach the gospel. No matter what sanctions the Vatican imposes on me I will continue, in whatever way I can, to try to bring about reform in the church and to make it again a place where all who want to follow Christ will be welcome. He made friends with the outcasts of society, and I will do whatever I can in my own small way to oppose the current Vatican trend of creating a church of condemnation rather than one of compassion.”

A 66-year old member of the Redemptorist community, Fr. Flannery received strong support in a statement from his brothers in faith.  The BBC report noted:

“In a statement, the Irish Redemptorist order said it was ‘deeply saddened by the breakdown in communication’ between its priest and the CDF.

“It described Fr. Flannery as ‘highly regarded and respected by many in Ireland’ and added that there was a ‘very lively spirit of debate and dialogue’ within the order.

“The statement said that although it did not accept the priest’s views on all matters, it understood and supported his efforts to listen to and articulate the views of people he met during the course of his ministry.

” ‘It is of immense regret that some structures or processes of dialogue have not yet been found in the Church which have a greater capacity to engage with challenging voices from among God’s people, while respecting the key responsibility and central role of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith,’ the statement said.”

Priestly support came, too, from the members of the Association of Catholic Priests, an Irish organization that Fr. Flannery helped to found.  The Association’s statement, in part, read:

“The Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) affirms in the strongest possible terms our confidence in and solidarity with Fr Tony Flannery as he strives to clear his name and we wish to protest against unjust treatment he has received from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The ACP supports Fr. Flannery in his efforts to resist the undermining of his integrity as an individual, a priest and a member of the Redemptorist Order.

“The effort to depict him as ‘disloyal’ and ‘dissident’ is unwarranted and unfair, but also extremely ill-advised in the present pastoral context in Ireland.

“The ACP is disturbed by the procedures evident in this case: the unwillingness to deal directly with the accused person; the injunction to secrecy; the presumption of guilt; the lack of due process. They suggest a callousness and even brutality that is in sharp contrast to the compassion of Jesus Christ.”

And he has even received support from Austrian priests who are working towards the same goals as he.  The Irish Times reported:

“Also at yesterday’s press conference was Fr. Helmut Schuller of the Austrian Priests’ Initiative. He was ‘very surprised they [CDF] came down on Tony and on Ireland.’ He criticised the ‘lack of basic rights and respect for personal conscience’ in the church.”

We continue to praise Fr. Flannery and to pray that his example will inspire other priests and other Catholics to follow their consciences as forthrightly as he has.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 

 

 


Irish Priest’s Refusal to Be Silenced Is a Beacon of Hope for Church Renewal

January 20, 2013

 

As I see it, one of the greatest hindrances to progress on LGBT issues in the Catholic Church is not just the intransigence of many hierarchical leaders, but the fact that many “mid-level” leaders do not speak their mind about their support for such issues.  The fear of retaliation, no doubt, is strong, but it has always been a puzzle why so many so often give into this fear.

Father Tony Flannery

Father Tony Flannery

An inspiring story out of Ireland gives a shining example of one priest who has not succumbed to such fear.  The New York Times  reports:

“The Rev. Tony Flannery, 66, who was suspended by the Vatican last year, said he was told by the Vatican that he would be allowed to return to ministry only if he agreed to write, sign and publish a statement agreeing, among other things, that women should never be ordained as priests and that he would adhere to church orthodoxy on matters like contraception and homosexuality.”

Fr. Flannery’s words, I hope, will give courage to many other church leaders:

“ ‘How can I put my name to such a document when it goes against everything I believe in,’ he said in an interview on Wednesday. ‘If I signed this, it would be a betrayal not only of myself but of my fellow priests and lay Catholics who want change. I refuse to be terrified into submission.’ ”

What is inspiring is not only his bravery, but his willingness to expose the fear tactics that are often used at higher levels in our church.

A member of the Redemptorists, Fr. Flannery is also a leader of Ireland’s Association of Catholic Priests, which the New York Times  describes as ” a group formed in 2009 to articulate the views of rank-and-file members of the clergy.”  He commented on what he sees as the scare tactics of the current papacy:

“He believes the church’s treatment of him, which he described as a ‘Spanish Inquisition-style campaign,’ is symptomatic of a definite conservative shift under Pope Benedict XVI.

“ ‘I have been writing thought-provoking articles and books for decades without hindrance,’ he said. ‘This campaign is being orchestrated by a secretive body that refuses to meet me. Surely I should at least be allowed to explain my views to my accusers.’ ”

Fr. Flannery will be holding a press conference later today, and so more news may be forthcoming about this story.  Bondings 2.0 will be on the alert for any new developments and will share them with you.

Along with Fr. Roy Bourgeois, who was recently dismissed from the Maryknoll community for his support of women’s ordination, Fr. Flannery is a beacon of hope for those who work and pray for a renwal of our church’s approach to gender and sexuality.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


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