Do Bishops or Politicians Know More About Catholics and LGBT Issues?

May 21, 2014

A couple in Malta celebrates new national progress on LGBT equality.

Recent news out of Malta concerning Catholics and sexuality/gender issues seems to contradict information released by the nation’s Catholic bishops about the opinions of Catholics there on marriage and family topics.

This tiny, heavily-Catholic island nation has witnessed some important progressive political developments lately in terms of LGBT issues and Catholicism, yet the bishops report seems to indicate that Catholics are satisfied with traditional church teaching in these arenas.

Last month, we reported that this country approved civil unions for lesbian and gay couples, including the right to adopt, though the Catholic bishops there strongly opposed the measure.   Furthermore, Malta also made history in the area of transgender equality by becoming the first nation in Europe to protect transgender people in a constitution.  Malta Today reported:

“Malta has become the first European state to have gender identity in its constitution following the proposed amendment that was approved yesterday evening in parliament.”

Yet, according to data released recently by the Maltese Catholic bishops, the Catholic community in this country responded in a very traditional way to the survey about marriage and family issues in anticipation of the upcoming world synod on these topics.  According to The National Catholic Reporter here are some of the results:

  • Nearly 50 percent of Maltese accept and live by the church’s teaching on birth control, and nearly 20 percent said they ignored the church’s teaching on birth control.
  • 62.5 percent agreed that marriage is the indissoluble union between a man and a woman that has children as a goal; 3.8 percent disagreed with this statement and 5.8 percent was unsure; 25.4 percent didn’t answer.
  • 43 percent said not allowing divorced and remarried couples to receive the sacraments was a cause of pain, and 14.7 percent said they have felt this pain; 17.2 percent said divorced or remarried couples should be allowed to receive Communion.

The Maltese survey statistics are one of the few sets of data that bishops around the globe have released that show that Catholics in the pews seem to support church teaching.  Almost every other set showed great dissatisfaction by the laity in the areas of teaching about marriage and family.  (For more information about other survey results, click on the “Synod 2014″ link under the “Categories” heading in the column at the right of this page.)

So what can count for this difference between political reality in this nation which is 98% Catholic and the responses given to the survey by Catholics?  Perhaps the bishops did not get a random sample of Catholics responding to their questionnaire.  Perhaps people responded in a “false positive” sort of way because they did not want to appear to be dissenting from church teaching.  Perhaps people are happy for their government to be more progressive about marriage and sexuality, but they do not want their church to be so.

So, while the news report noted that the Maltese bishops were “surprised but reassured by the findings of the survey,” perhaps they need to do some serious soul-searching.  One other possibility for the discrepancy highlights a possible serious pastoral problem.  Perhaps many of the nation’s Catholics are disaffected or alienated from the church, and did not receive the survey.   

This possibility raises an important concern for bishops not only in Malta, but worldwide. As they gather for the synod, they need to take into account not only the opinions of Catholics in the pews, but also those who have left the pews because they found church teachings on marriage and family life not consistent with what their consciences were telling them.

Malta had a powerful glimmer of hope in this regard this past week. Auxiliary Bishop Charles Scicluna, who was the prominent spokesperson for the hierarchy’s opposition to the civil unions bill, took a more reconciliatory step by meeting with members of Drachma, the Catholic LGBT group in Malta.

Pink News reported that Scicluna took part in an event for the International Day Against Homophobia, which was celebrated world-wide on May 17th.   The bishop, who during the civil unions debate had declared such recognition as a “grave moral act” was not the only Maltese Catholic leader who showed up for the event.  Pink News reported:

“Bishop Scicluna along with a number of other priests were joined by dignitaries from Maltese political parties in support of Drachma and their work with LGBT people.”

Such a gesture of reconciliation with the LGBT community is very much in line with what Jesuit Father James Martin called for in a recent article in America magazine.   More gestures of outreach and reconciliation are needed in our church.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 


Why Do LGBT People Feel the Catholic Church Hates Them?

May 18, 2014

Yesterday, May 17th, was the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.  In Italy, at least 11 of the prayer vigils for this day to show opposition to oppression against sexual and gender minorities were hosted by Catholic parishes, including at least one basilica.   In this most Catholic of nations, it seems, some people take seriously the church’s teaching condemning discrimination, prejudice, and violence against LGBT people.

Catholic support for this important church teaching is relatively minor among the Catholic hierarchy here in the United States.  Our leaders here tend to ignore the fact that the church teaches that lesbian and gay people must be accepted with “respect, compassion, and sensitivity.”  While they may often express that sentiment in words, they are less likely to take any action whatsoever to show that they truly accept that teaching.  Instead, they tend to focus only on the church’s sexual teachings.

Fr. James Martin, SJ

Jesuit Father James Martin, a well-known writer and lecturer, examines this dilemma in a column in America magazine this week.  His essay is well-worth reading in full, and you can do so by clicking here. In this blog post,  I will comment on some excerpts from the essay.

Martin tries to explain to his audience why so many gay and lesbian people feel that the Catholic Church hates them.  He states:

“Let me suggest a reason beyond the fact that many gays and lesbians disagree with church teaching on homosexual acts: only rarely do opponents of same-sex marriage say something positive about gays and lesbians without appending a warning against sin. The language surrounding gay and lesbian Catholics is framed primarily, sometimes exclusively, in terms of sin. For example, ‘We love our gay brothers and sisters—but they must not engage in sexual activity.’ Is any other group of Catholics addressed in this fashion? Imagine someone beginning a parish talk on married life by saying, ‘We love married Catholics—but adultery is a mortal sin.’ With no other group does the church so reflexively link the group’s identity to sin.”

I agree with him, and I would go even a little further:  no other group in the church is discussed primarily in terms of sex as gay and lesbian people are.  I would imagine that in terms of  sheer power of sexual urgency and desire, adolescents and young adults are probably the people most interested in sexual activity out of the entire human population.  Yet, church leaders do not always refer to sexual temptation when they discuss or welcome young people to the church, as they do with gay and lesbian people.  The focus of youth ministry in dioceses and parishes is not on sexual behavior, as some dioceses and parishes would like gay and lesbian outreach to be.  Young people’s concerns are not shunned or ignored because it might seem to give the indication that church leaders are approving of non-marital sexual activity, yet that is routinely done to gay and lesbian people.  Indeed, the highest office of the church offers World Youth Day to let young people know that they are welcome in the Church.  Where is World LGBT Day?

In addition to being thought of primarily as sinners, lesbian and gay people resent that they are thought of primarily as sexual, as if no other aspect of their life mattered, and as if that was the primary factor defining their lives.

Martin offers the gospel story of Jesus’ encounter with Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10) as a model for how church leaders can approach gay and lesbian people.  He analyzes the important features of this story about Jesus welcoming a much reviled tax collector:

“Notice that Jesus shows love for Zacchaeus even before the man has promised to do anything. That is, Jesus loves him first, by offering to dine with him, a powerful sign of welcome in that time. Jesus does not say, ‘Zacchaeus, you’re a sinful person because you’re gouging people with taxes collected for the oppressive occupying power, but even though you’re a public sinner, I love you anyway.’ He simply loves him—first.

“The story of Zacchaeus illustrates an important difference between the ministry of John the Baptist and of Jesus. For John the Baptist, conversion came first, then communion. First you repent of your sins; then you are welcomed into the community. For Jesus, the opposite was more often the case; first, Jesus welcomed the person, and conversion followed. It’s not loving the sinner; it’s simply loving.

“This is the kind of welcome that LGBT people want from the church.  It is the kind of welcome that all people want from the church.  LGBT people want this kind of welcome not because they are a special category of sinners, but, because they are, like most people, average, garden-variety sinners.  Pope Francis illustrated this profound human reality last September during his groundbreaking interview with a Jesuit magazine.  When asked who Jorge Bergoglio is, the pope answered, “I am a sinner. This is the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner.”

Martin concludes with some tips about how the church can show its love for gay and lesbian people more deeply:

“First, it would mean listening to their experiences—all their experiences, what their lives are like as a whole. Second, it would mean valuing their contributions to the church. Where would our church be without gays and lesbians—as music ministers, pastoral ministers, teachers, clergy and religious, hospital chaplains and directors of religious education? Infinitely poorer. Finally, it would mean publicly acknowledging their individual contributions: that is, saying that a particular gay Catholic has made a difference in our parish, our school, our diocese. This would help remind people that they are an important part of the body of Christ.”

While, yes, I agree with Martin here, there is also a sense of regret upon reading the passage because for the past two years we have been witnessing dismissals of LGBT people from church employment, a total devaluing of their gifts and personhood.  Yes, this type of welcome is urgently needed, not just for a positive message, but to correct the terribly negative message that firings have sent.

It’s important, too, that LGBT people’s spiritual gifts are also acknowledged and affirmed. The particular journeys that LGBT people go on to accept, affirm, and announce their identities to others often results in incredible spiritual gifts that are not as readily attained by others.  For instance, their journeys often provide them with a strong sense about telling the truth, a deep reservoir of courage to  stand up to fear and rejection, a profound sense of God’s love, and a new respect for the primacy of their consciences. Amazing gifts that they can offer to the rest of the church!

As Fr. Martin concludes, they are indeed an important part of the Body of Christ.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Catholic Organization Offers Survey When U.S. Bishops Won’t Do So

November 5, 2013

Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good has set up an online surveyto elicit the feedback from lay Catholics across the country, in response to the Vatican’s request for feedback from the laity on a variety of marriage and family topics, including same-sex marriage.   The Vatican made the request for bishops around the world to gather such information in anticipation of a world synod on marriage and family in 2014. yet, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has already expressed reluctance to encourage individual bishops to do so.

Joshua McElwee of The National Catholic Reporter has noted that Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, a Catholic non-profit organization, is filling the gap.   In a blog post, McElwee noted:

“The nonprofit, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, has made a survey based on the Vatican’s questionnaire available online.

“Christopher Hale, a senior fellow with the group, said in an email that his organization sent a link to the survey via email to its some 30,000 members Friday morning. Within two hours, Hale said, the group had seen more than 300 responses.”

He also quoted Hale’s reaction to some of the messages people were sending.  Hale stated:

“Dozens of separated and divorced Catholics noted that they don’t feel welcomed in their Church communities because they don’t have access to the sacraments. Once again, dozens of gay and lesbian Catholics expressed the same sentiment. One noted how she felt like her treatment in her parish was [similar] to the military’s ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy.”

David Gibson of Religion News Service noted in a news article that some U.S. bishops are annoyed with how the Vatican’s request has been handled by the USCCB.  Gibson wrote:

“. . . some American bishops privately expressed frustration that they had not been notified sooner about the Vatican request and that there was as yet no national plan for soliciting input from U.S. Catholics.”

In contrast, the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales have set up an online survey site to gather information, and Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster, president of that bishops’ conference, has sent a message to lay Catholics saying, “Your participation is important.”

The new process reflects the new administration at the Vatican, Gibson observed:

“. . . [Pope] Francis and his top aides have said that they want to overhaul the synod to turn it into a truly consultative meeting that will be shorter in duration — two weeks instead of nearly a month — and encourage debate and input from all Catholics.

“Next October’s meeting will be the first major test for Francis’ pledge to develop a more ‘horizontal’ church.”

Father James Martin SJ

Father James Martin SJ

Jesuit Father James Martin, the noted spiritual author and church commentator, noted the importance of the Vatican’s request for information in a blog post on the America  magazine website:

“First off, this is indeed new. While in the past bishops were encouraged to promote discussion in their dioceses in preparation for a synod, there were never any outright polls conducted, and certainly nothing on a worldwide basis. Second, needless to say, the questions are not going to ask, ‘Should we overturn this church teaching?’ Nonetheless, the Vatican will surely get a better sense of how the teachings are being ‘received,’ to use a theological term, by the faithful. “

The Vatican’s request has amazing significance for Martin, who writes:

“. . . the news makes me smile, because for years when some people would speak about the sensus fidelium (that is, the ‘sense of the faithful’) as an important part of the way that the church lives and grows, a few people would protest, ‘But the church is not a democracy! And we don’t do polls!’
“People often forget the Second Vatican Council’s teaching on this matter in ‘Lumen Gentium': “They [the laity] are, by [reason of] knowledge, competence or outstanding ability which they may enjoy, permitted and sometimes even obliged to express their opinion on those things which concern the good of the Church.’ “
“Finally, it’s a sign, in case we needed to be reminded, that the Holy Spirit is at work in everybody. From the Pope, to the local bishop, to your pastor, to the sister teaching in your school, to the director of religious education at your parish, to the mother of three, to the man who holds out the collection basket on Sundays, to the college student struggling with her faith, to the fellow who cleans the church bathrooms, to the Catholic baptized just last Easter.
“The Holy Spirit is at work in her church and in her people. And she will let her voice be heard, this time through these polls, because she desires to speak.”
Michael O'Loughlin

Michael O’Loughlin

For Michael O’Loughlin, who blogs for Religion News Service, the change that the Vatican’s request indicates goes even beyond data collection.  O’Loughlin writes:

“Vatican officials want to know, from those living and working and worshipping in Catholic parishes, how to offer pastoral care for married gays and lesbians, and how to serve their children. I could not have imagined that the church would recognize gays as human beings even a few months ago, never mind ask for ideas on how to serve them, and their children, better. It’s truly revolutionary.

“And what’s not there in those questions is just as amazing as what is. There’s no mention of sin. Nothing about intrinsically disordered desires. The children aren’t called illegitimate.

“Instead, there’s language that recognizes gay and lesbian Catholics as human beings, as people who long for lives of faith and meaning.”

I couldn’t agree more with O’Loughlin.  Though the USCCB may not yet be “on board” with Pope Francis’ new approach to Catholic issues, it’s obvious that a new wind is blowing in the Vatican.   This request for information from the laity indicates a willingness to listen on the part of church leaders–something that has been absent from the Vatican hierarchy for decades.   As I’ve said before, it’s now up to the laity to offer their opinions, whether a bishops encourages them to do so or not.  The only opportunity for failure here is silence.


Catholic Reactions to Pope Francis’ Comments on Accepting Gay Priests

July 30, 2013
Pope Francis

Pope Francis

Pope Francis’ comments on accepting gay priests has rocked the Catholic world, yet even progressive Catholics disagree on the import of his statement.   Was it just a change of tone, not substance?  Was it too little, too late?  Will he follow through with action or was this statement just for show?

Various commentators took different approaches to the statement.  Here’s  a sampling of some of their thoughts.

Here at New Ways Ministry, we welcomed the statement, seeing it as a sign of hopeful things to come:

“Pope Francis’ statement on accepting and respecting gay priests is a clear sign that this pope will be taking a more conciliatory approach to LGBT issues than his immediate predecessors have done.

“Unlike John Paul II and Benedict XVI, who approached LGBT topics through the lens of sexuality and sin, Pope Francis is signaling a new direction which is based on the Catholic principles of human dignity, respect, and social integration.  Benedict had issued an instruction to bishops not to accept gay candidates for the seminary, a policy that was being considered under John Paul’s papacy.  Both previous papacies were noted for their virulent opposition against LGBT issues.

“Some will say that Francis’ statement is not enough, that he still refers to sins of homosexuals, but I think the important thing is the question of emphasis.   Even if he doesn’t drop the sin language, this is still a major step forward, and one that can pave the way for further advancements down the road.  Change in the church is evolutionary, not revolutionary.  Though this statement is not the change which many of us hope for, that is, the full equality of LGBT people in our church, it is a necessary first step toward that change.   Most importantly, it shows that Pope Francis is open to dialogue on this matter, and not simply follow the harmful obstinacy of his predecessors.”

Rev. James Martin, SJ

Rev. James Martin, SJ

Noted author and commentator Jesuit Father James Martin, had total praise for the pope’s comments, noticing an important linguistic development:

“To my mind, Pope Francis’s brief comment on gays reveals great mercy.  That mercy, of course, comes from Jesus Christ.   And we can never have enough of it.  The Pope’s remarks also are in line with the Catechism, which teaches that gays should be treated with ‘respect, compassion and sensitivity.’  But gays were not the only group to be shown mercy in the Pope’s brief in-flight interview.  The Pope also asked for greater compassion for divorced and remarried Catholics, a group that has long felt marginalized in the church, and called for a “deeper theology” on the role of women in the church.  Today Pope Francis has, once again, lived out the Gospel message of compassion for everyone.
“The lesser-noticed change in the Pope’ revolutionary words during his in-flight interview was, at least according to the translation in the Italian-language ‘Vatican Insider,’ the use of the word ‘gay,’ which is traditionally not used by popes, bishops or Vatican officials.  This is a sea change.”
Equally Blessed LogoEqually Blessed, the coalition of Catholic organizations that work for LGBT justice and equality,  also had strong praise for the pope:

“Pope Francis today uttered some of the most encouraging words a pontiff has ever spoken about gay and lesbian people. In doing so, he has set a great example for Catholics everywhere.

“The pope has rejected the harsh language of his predecessor, Benedict XVI, for a compassionate approach and a pastoral tone. Lesbians and gays are no longer a “threat to civilization,” rather they are people of faith and good will.

“Catholic leaders who continue to belittle gays and lesbians can no longer claim that their inflammatory remarks represent the sentiments of the pope.”

Kevin Clarke, a blogger at America magazine, noted the importance of just a few of the words the pope said:

“. . . Francis may have become the first pope in history to offer a ‘who am I to judge’ response to a question about gay and lesbian people. . . “

But Clarke also urged caution, while at the same time noting the importance of the papal shift:

“His words certainly signal a shift in tone from Rome on gay and lesbians; will they also mean a change in current policies regarding, for instance, gay men in the priesthood?

“His citation of current catechism on the treatment of gay and lesbian people was not revolutionary in any sense; what startles may be the spectacle of a pope saying anything out loud on the matter and stressing the importance of church teaching on the human dignity of gay and lesbian people.

“Francis was also asked why he did not spend much time speaking about abortion or gay marriage during his trip (church teaching is already clear, he said) and about the difficulties of divorced and remarried Catholics. ‘I believe this is a time of mercy, a change of epoch,’ the pope said. He said the group of eight cardinals tasked with reform will explore the issue of whether divorcees can receive Communion.”

Michael O'Loughlin

Michael O’Loughlin

Michael O’Loughlin, who blogs at Religion News Service also questioned whether the pope’s statement is significant:

“I’ve joined the chorus of those praising this truly palpable breath of fresh air in the Catholic Church. Pope Francis is welcomed change in style. How will his bishops here in the US react, especially to the comments about not judging gays, finding roles for women, and welcoming back the marginalized? The Pope, it seems, will lead by example. Will his bishops follow? What concrete steps will Catholic leaders take to change the atmosphere of the church?

“A friend IM’ed this morning, asking if this news was a big step for the church. Yes and no, I said. Yes, it’s certainly huge that a pope has spoken about gays in a nonjudgmental, loving way. The pope’s words may inspire others to alter their own speech and behavior. No, because we wait for change, for signs that this is indeed more than an off the cuff remark. But for now, I’ll stick with yes. Yes, this is hope, and hope is huge.”

Writing in The National Catholic ReporterKen Briggs was decidedly more skeptical about the pope’s comments:

Ken Briggs

Ken Briggs

“If he didn’t mean to suggest a new Catholic teaching on homosexuality, should he have plainly said so? Would that have been in keeping with his image in some quarters as being bluntly honest? Or does he believe that a little dose of mixed signals is justified in order to ease the bitterness that has been swirling around the issue? . . .

“It’s too early in the papacy to know for sure, but worth noting perhaps that the same patina of double speak characterizes the major issues Francis addresses. Is he the “repair the crisis” pope who sees his mission as reviving church spirits before unloading some concrete, contentious re-designs, or a public relations pope whose effort is to recast the profile of Catholicism without following through on vague suggestions that things will substantially change? . . .

“A lot of what the appealing and intriguing pope said could be seen as a plea to keep young people — any Catholics — from crossing the street to the Pentecostal churches known for their warm embrace, empowering of lay people and live-wire worship. While genuine ecumenism is out of fashion and was nowhere to be seen, neither did the pope directly bash the Pentecostal rivals. But the signs of distress over massive defections could be heard in his urgent appeals to wavering Catholics to ‘stay home.’ On that there was no ambiguity.”

Writing personally, William Lindsey, who blogs at Bilgrimage.blogspot.comfelt that the pope’s words did not make up for the years of pain inflicted by church leaders:

“. . . I’m critically aware that for many Catholics, including many LGBT Catholics, the conversation about these matters has now moved light-years beyond the question of whether “homosexuals” . . . . should be included, welcomed, and treated with respect. And so I wonder how we can have a meaningful and honest conversation about these matters, if we pick up this conversation at the point of the pope’s comments and don’t acknowledge what many Catholics have been saying and thinking about these matters for a long time now.
“And there’s also this: for many of us, the actual experience of dealing with fellow Catholics and Catholic leaders who have been intent–quite precisely–for decades now on judging and marginalizing us solely because we’re gay results in a kind of deafness that makes us unable to hear Francis’s liberating, gospel-centered words with much hope or joy at all. Because we’re now so beaten up from our encounter with our church, its leaders, and many of our fellow Catholics, that we’re inured to hopelessness.
“Scars stand between us and our ability to receive a loving embrace from the community that has created those scars across our human lives. Scars cover our ears and make us unable to hear a liberating, hopeful, and joyful message from the community that has created those scars.”

Terence Weldon, at QueeringTheChurch.comnotes that Francis is providing an emphasis that is much needed in church discussions on LGBT issues:

Terence Weldon

Terence Weldon

“Today, he has delivered some thoughts which are more explicitly favourable, insisting that gays should be integrated into society, must not be marginalized or discriminated against, and should be welcomed into the priesthood.  Welcome words indeed. There is in fact absolutely nothing new in this – it’s all absolutely standard, orthodox Catholic doctrine, which contains two parts. There is a compassionate side, directing that we should be treated with respect, compassion and sensitivity, and protected from unjust discrimination, and from violence or malice, in words or in deeds. Then there’s the harsh side, denying absolutely any hope of physical expression of our loves in genital acts. The problem has been that many bishops, and the previous two popes, have ignored or directly flouted the compassionate parts of teaching, focusing exclusively on the harshest bits. Francis is not in any way signalling a shift in actual teaching – but he is introducing some sorely needed balance. That alone is welcome.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Fr. James Martin & Others Are #SayingSomethingPositive

June 5, 2013
Father James Martin SJ

Father James Martin SJ

When it comes to Catholic clergy, many assume an anti-LGBT bias because ‘welcoming’ statements often come with conditions. Resisting this trend, many priests continue building safe spaces in the Church for LGBT people and their loved ones. Jesuit Fr. James Martin is behind the recent “#SayingSomethingPositive” campaign on Twitter seeking to do just that.

Recent examples of the clergy leave many disheartened. Cardinal Timothy Dolan is largely silent on an anti-gay hate crime surge in New York, Fr. Derek Lappe and others have written ignorant statements about the Boy Scouts welcoming gay youth, and Bishop Thomas Paprocki told marriage equality supporters to just leave the church last Friday.

As troubling as these events are, they fail to reveal the broader picture about priests who positively minister to the LGBT and ally community within the Church. We also know of Fr. Joe Muth in Baltimore who leads a gay-friendly parish and Bishop Thomas Gumbleton who urges all Catholics to receive Communion. Michael O’Loughlin of Religion News Service reports on the latest trend, led by Fr. Martin on Twitter:

“The Jesuit Jim Martin has asked why Catholic bishops are seemingly unable to make an unqualified statement of God’s love for LGBT people. He wrote:

” ‘I would love to see a Catholic leader make an unabashedly positive statement about gays and lesbian Catholics, without including a critique.’ “

That initial tweet seeking positive statements from the Catholic hierarchy led to a powerful exchange with priest-scholar Fr. Raymond Kemp about the many LGBT Catholics serving God. Fr. Martin followed up with more positive statements about lesbian and gay people in his life and now, O’Loughlin reports, more are joining him. Bondings 2.0 has included a sampling below:

Screen Shot 2013-06-05 at 2.18.09 PM Screen Shot 2013-06-05 at 2.17.47 PM Screen Shot 2013-06-05 at 2.17.37 PM

If you’re on Twitter, make your supportive voice heard with the hashtag #SayingSomethingPositive. Be sure to connect with @JamesMartinSJ, @mikeoloughlin, and @NewWaysMinistry if you do! We just got started:

Screen Shot 2013-06-05 at 2.20.15 PM

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Catholic Bishops Should Go At Least As Far As Mormons Have on Gay Scouting Policy

May 24, 2013

boy scouts rainbowCongratulations to the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) for voting to allow openly gay scouts in their troops!  Let’s continue to pray that this experience will pave the way for also allowing openly gay scout leaders to be accepted by the organization.  The same Catholic principles of justice and human dignity apply in both cases.

So far there has been no official Catholic response to the Boy Scouts’ decision.  Last week, the National Catholic Committee on Scouting (NCCS) said that it was taking a wait and see approach to the decision, and would issue a statement after the vote.  Bishop Robert Guglielmone, the U.S. bishops’  liaison to the NCCS offered a more hopeful statement this week, noting:

“With regard to a possible BSA membership change, we will continue to uphold the truths of the Church’s teaching and strive to maintain our ties with the BSA.”

Noted Catholic author Father James Martin, SJ, posted the following reaction on his Facebook page:

“As a former Cub Scout and Webelo I support the Boy Scouts’ welcoming everyone into the Scouts. As a Catholic I support the recognition of the fundamental human dignity of every person..”

Interestingly, the conservative Mormon church had already expressed support for including gay scouts, even before the vote.  According to The New York Times,

“The Mormon Church has declared its support for the Boy Scouts of America’s proposal to end a longstanding ban on openly gay youths, while continuing to bar gay adult leaders.”

The Times story links to the Mormon Church’s statement in support of gay scouts, which reads in part:

“The current BSA proposal constructively addresses a number of important issues that have been part of the on-going dialogue including consistent standards for all BSA partners, recognition that Scouting exists to serve and benefit youth rather than Scout leaders, a single standard of moral purity for youth in the program, and a renewed emphasis for Scouts to honor their duty to God.

“We are grateful to BSA for their careful consideration of these issues. We appreciate the positive things contained in this current proposal that will help build and strengthen the moral character and leadership skills of youth as we work together in the future.”

According to USA Today:

“About 70% of all Scout troops are run by faith-based organizations, according to the Boy Scouts of America. About 37% are Mormon, 10% Methodist and 8% Catholic.”

Kevin Kloosterman, a Mormon bishop from Illinois, reflected on his church’s support of inclusion:

“I look forward to a day when our LGBT sisters and brothers will be judged not by orientation or gender identity but on the content of their character.  We still have not come to that day yet, but I do see progress.  I hope my faith community and the BSA will continue to make progress towards inclusion and acceptance of our gay neighbors and loved ones, and that scouting will return to its honored tradition of developing leadership and values in all of our youth and the ban against gay leaders will be lifted.”

Wouldn’t it be great if our Catholic bishops followed the same course as the Mormons, not only tolerating the Boy Scouts’ decision, but welcoming it, and look forward to the day when Gospel justice is an active principle for all in society, including gay Boy Scouts’ leaders.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 


Benedict’s Embattled Legacy on LGBT Issues

February 13, 2013
Screen Shot 2013-02-13 at 1.21.20 AM

Gay protesters kiss at a demonstration as popemobile carrying Benedict XVI passes.

Pope Benedict XVI’s legacy will be fiercely debated in the weeks leading up to his resignation on February 28. Already commentators are reflecting on the pervasive legacy that this Pope leaves regarding LGBT relations within the Catholic Church. Needless to say, not many are positive.

Michael O’Loughlin writing at Religion News Service labels Benedict’s views as “wrong and hurtful” with a lineage of destructive policies aimed at limiting LGBT individuals’ acceptance in the Church. O’Loughlin’s view is that Benedict is an elderly man who has lived sequestered in the Vatican for too long, thus preventing him from a realistic understanding of LGBT people. He writes:

“Benedict seemed unable to grasp that gay women and men long for the same things as their heterosexual peers: loving relationships, lives of dignity, and respect from their fellow human beings. He seemed particularly fixated on the bizarre notion that same-sex marriage would somehow herald the downfall of civilization and he said things that no pastor should ever preach, much less the pope…Benedict’s failure to act pastorally and kindly on these issues remains a great failing of his papacy.”

An article by Lila Shapiro at The Huffington Post recalls the persecution of Sr. Jeannine Gramick and New Ways Ministry faced under the Pope. As Cardinal Ratzinger who headed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he oversaw persistent investigations into the public ministry of Sr. Jeannine and New Ways Ministry. Serendipitously, the cardinal and the nun found themselves in conversation on the same airplane at one point, about which Shapiro writes:

“When she boarded the plane, she saw Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who later became pope, sitting with two empty seats beside him. She mustered her courage and sat next to him. ‘When he found out who I was, he just smiled and said “Oh, I’ve known about you for 20 years,”’ she said.”

“…he asked her questions about her work, and then she asked him one. ‘I said, “have you ever met any lesbian or gay people?”’ she recalled. He said that he had — at a ‘demonstration of homosexuals’ in Berlin. ‘So that was his idea of meeting gay people,’ she said.”

Shapiro also interviewed acclaimed Jesuit author, Fr. James Martin,  who also identifies this interpersonal aspect as a key factor in predicting whether Benedict’s legacy of anti-LGBT policies will continue in the next papacy:

“‘There could be a change of tone if you get a cardinal who has had experience with gays and lesbians’…By ‘coincidence or providence,’ Martin said, the cardinals may chose someone with a gay family member, or someone who worked at a diocese that had gay outreach.

“‘So much of it is based on experience, in terms of how you even speak about gays and lesbians,’ Martin said. Pope Benedict, he added, ‘did not come to the papacy with a great deal of experience in that kind of ministry.'”

Many reflections will be produced about this anti-LGBT papacy and prospects for the future, but assuredly Benedict will not be remembered for his pastoral nature towards the gay and lesbian community. Shapiro elucidates just how heavily Benedict focused his anti-gay efforts after assuming the papacy:

“In his years as pope, his opposition to gay rights has not faltered. Benedict, a staunch conservative, has said since his appointment that saving human kind from homosexual behavior was as important as saving the rainforest from destruction. He has called same-sex marriage a “dangerous and insidious” challenge to society. In recent months, he sought alliances to oppose efforts to legalize same-sex marriages around the world.”

However, even suffering greatly under Benedict for decades, New Ways Ministry remains hopeful in this time of transition. Shapiro quotes Francis DeBernardo, the ministry’s executive director, on the potential legacy Benedict will have in resigning:

“’Whenever there’s an opportunity for a change, there’s always the hope that the change will be for the better…We need a pope who’s going to listen to the faith of Catholics, whose faith has told them that they should be supporting LGBT people, that they should be respecting the dignity and the human rights that these people have.’

“DeBernardo said he has seen glimmers of such a change from bishops and cardinals in Europe, who have stopped short of supporting same-sex marriage, but have made positive statements about same-sex relationships and civil unions. And while the Vatican remains one of the most powerful opponents to same-sex marriage and other gay rights causes, recent polls have shown that Catholics in the pews mostly support gay rights, with more than two-thirds of Catholic voters supporting legal recognition of same-sex relationships.”

Readers can view New Ways Ministry’s full statement regarding the resignation here and be assured that as commentaries develop and news breaks, Bondings 2.0 will continue to update on this important period in the Catholic Church.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


‘You Shall Love Your LGBT Neighbor As Yourself’

October 18, 2012

Tomorrow is Spirit Day, sponsored by GLAAD, to take a stand against anti-LGBT violence and  bullying among youth. LGBT supporters worldwide will wear purple and promote #SpiritDay on social media as a show of solidarity. Noted Jesuit priest  and author James Martin wrote a blog post for America magazine earlier this week on why participation by Catholics is important, entitled ‘Why Not Wear Purple on Friday?

Citing statistics from the Trevor Project  and US Department of Justice officials, Fr. Martin highlights thatLGBT youth are at a vastly increased risk for suicide attempts, family rejection, and bullying in schools. He encouraged Catholic participation in Spirit Day:

“This should be a no-brainer for Catholics, who are called by Christ to support those who suffer or struggle in any way, particularly those on the margins.

“This is an especially relevant issue for Catholics who support traditional families…For Catholics overall it is an opportunity to demonstrate their ‘respect, compassion and sensitivity’ for their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, and thus heed the call of the Catechism.  (There’s even a site for Catholics supporting the initiative.)  And when we’re talking about suicide, we’re talking about a ‘life issue.'”

James Martin, SJ

Martin even responds to Catholics objecting to Spirit Day and similar initiatives because of an implied endorsement of organizations that oppose official Catholic teaching. He reminds Catholics that it is important to act against injustices, even if partners do not agree on all aspects, because the alternative of waiting for perfection means halting progress. Martin speaks to the heart of Catholic participation in Spirit Day:

“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.

“So why not do something simple to show compassion for our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, especially those who are bullied or who have even attempted suicide? Purple is a penitential color, the color of remorse, and so it is particularly appropriate as a sign of remorse over any LBGT hate speech.  Why do something small to show your love of neighbor?”

Those of us at New Ways Ministry will be wearing purple tomorrow to publicly witness against the bullying, violence, and hate speech that harm so many LGBT youth and New Ways Ministry hopes you will join in taking a stand because, as Fr. Martin writes:

“You shall love your LGBT neighbor as yourself.”

Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

 


Jesuit Author Supports Spirit Day Activities

October 8, 2012

Father James Martin SJ

Renowned Jesuit author James Martin, SJ, has tweeted his support for Spirit Day, a national event where people will be wearing purple to show their support for LGBT youth who face bullying.

In anticipation of the event on October 19th, Fr. Martin tweeted the following message:

New campaign to end bullying against LGBT youth seeks  Catholic support : catholics4spiritday.wordpress.com

The WordPress address is a specifically Catholic effort to get individuals and organizations to participate in Spirit Day this year.   They are asking people and parishes to endorse the following statement:

We, the undersigned, pledge our support for Spirit Day. We pledge our support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth who have been victims of bullying, so as to let them know that they are truly created in the image of God and they are loved.

“At the center of all Catholic social teaching are the transcendence of God and the dignity of the human person. The human person is the clearest reflection of God’s presence in the world; all of the Church’s work in pursuit of both justice and peace is designed to protect and promote the dignity of every person. For each person not only reflects God, but is the expression of God’s creative work and the meaning of Christ’s redemptive ministry.”

- The Challenge of Peace, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 1983

As a symbol of our support, we pledge to wear purple to Mass on Sunday, October 14 at parishes across the country.

We believe that our Catholic faith provides a solid basis for standing up against bullying and working to ensure that our schools are safe for all students without exception. Catholic social teaching reminds us that bullying is wrong.

You can sign the pledge by clicking here.   Your parish can endorse the effort by clicking here.  A Twitter hashtag has been established for the event: #SpiritDay.

New Ways Ministry has endorsed Spirit Day, as well as the following national and regional Catholic groups:  the Archdiocese of Los Angeles Ministry with Lesbian & Gay Catholics, the Catholic Association for Lesbian and Gay MinistryDignityUSA, Fortunate Families, and  Church of St. Francis Xavier in New York City.

Spirit Day is coordinated by GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation), and has been successful in past years.

In addition to being culture editor at America magazine, Fr. Martin is a frequent contributor for CNN, NPR, Fox News, Time Magazine, and The New York Times. Fr. Martin also has the distinction of being the “Chaplain to the Colbert Nation” on Comedy Central’s Colbert Report.   He is also the author of the popular spirituality books: My life with the Saints The Jesuit Guide to Almost Everything, and Between Heaven and Mirth.

While wearing purple on October 19th is the primary way to participate in Spirit Day,  many churches, synagogues, and other religious organizations will be preaching about the event on the Sunday preceding October 19th.  For other ways to get involved in preparing for Spirit Day, click here.

Let’s hope and pray that thousands of Catholic individuals, parishes, and organizations will take part in this event!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


QUOTE TO NOTE: The Cardinal and Colbert

September 20, 2012

Stephen Colbert and Cardinal Dolan

Cardinal Timothy Dolan and television personality Stephen Colbert engaged in a widely-publicized conversation at Fordham University last week, moderated by Jesuit Fr. James Martin. The New York Times reports on the question and answer period, where one person asked:

“ ‘So many Christian leaders spread hatred, especially of homosexuals. How can you maintain your joy?’ ”
 
“Cardinal Dolan responded with two meandering anecdotes — one about having met this week with Muslim leaders, and another about encountering demonstrators outside St. Patrick’s Cathedral.”
 
“But Mr. Colbert’s response was quick and unequivocal. ‘If someone spreads hate,’ he said, ‘then they’re not your religious leader.’ ”

-Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


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