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


Catholic Priest Tells Minnesotans Why They Can Vote Against Proposed Marriage Equality Ban

June 13, 2012

An out gay Catholic priest addressed a gathering of 200 Catholics in Edina, Minnesota, on Sunday to explain why, as good Catholics, they could vote “no” in that state’s ballot measure to amend their constitution to ban marriage equality for lesbian and gay couples.

Benedictine Father Robert Pierson, OSB, gave a ten-minute talk to the gathering of Catholics co-sponsored by Catholics for Marriage Equality MN, Minnesotans United for All Families,  Call to Action MN, Catholic Coalition for Church Reform and Dignity Twin Cities. The Sensus Fidelium blog carries a full text of Fr. Pierson’s remarks, which you can read here. You can also watch the ten-minute YouTube video of his talk here:

My favorite part of the talk is this excerpt:

“My conscience tells me to vote NO on the amendment because I have yet to hear a convincing reason why we need such an amendment to our state constitution. In fact, I believe that the church does not have the right to force its moral teaching on others outside our fold. When the religious beliefs of any particular religious group become the law of the land, we run the risk of violating everyone’s freedom to believe and their freedom of conscience. Allow me to mention three examples of where I see the church ‘fudging’ the facts.

“We have heard it said that civil marriage for committed, same-sex couples ‘will destroy the sanctity of the Sacrament of Matrimony.’ But the truth is, until now the church has not concerned itself with civil marriage. The church does not recognize the civil marriage of its members. If a Catholic is married in a civil ceremony, they are said to be married “outside of the Church” and the marriage is not recognized as a sacrament due to ‘lack of canonical form.; Civil marriage for committed, same-sex couples is not the Sacrament of Matrimony, and the government cannot tell churches who they may or may not marry.”

In describing Fr. Pierson’s talk, Fr. James Martin, SJ, provides a succinct background bio of the speaker, on America magazine’s “In All Things” blog:

“Father Pierson, who had worked in campus ministry at St. John’s University and is currently the director of the Spiritual Life Program at St. John’s Abbey, speaks of his own homosexuality, his experience in ministering to gay and lesbian students, and then describes why he bas concluded that a Minnesota Catholic may vote “no” on a proposed state amendment that would prevent same-sex marriages.  In 2005, Father Pierson had resigned from his post as director of campus ministry after the Vatican officially barred men with ‘deep-seated homosexual tendencies’ from ordination, and because of broader issues in the church’s teaching.  ‘Because I can no longer honestly represent, explain and defend the church’s teaching on homosexuality, I feel I must resign,’ he said at the time.”

Fr. Martin also provides some context as to why Fr. Pierson’s remarks are so courageous and prophetic:

“Needless to say, his comments on same-sex marriage are in direct opposition to the U.S. Catholic bishops, including Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis, who has vigorously supported the amendment (that is, opposing same-sex marriage) and asked parishioners in his archdiocese to recite a ‘A Prayer for Marriage‘ as part of the Prayers of the Faithful (petitionary prayers) at Masses.  The bishops could not be clearer in their opposition, which rests primarily on the Christian tradition of marriage as between a man and a woman (as well as on the church’s opposition to homosexual activity).  Father Pierson’s appeal is primarily to freedom of conscience, and on that topic he quotes both the Catechism and Pope Benedict XVI. ‘Our Holy Father taught in 1967 that we must obey our own conscience, even if it puts us at odds with the Pope. I doubt that he knew that he was going to be Pope when he said that.’ “

Terence Weldon, who blogs at QueeringTheChurch.comprovided another political context for Fr. Pierson’s remarks. Weldon recounts his own personal experience with a conscience decision on an issue of justice:

“For half a century in South Africa, my education in Catholic schools, and decades of parish life thereafter, firmly imprinted on me that we have not only the right but the obligation to follow conscience before the law, especially if those laws areunjust – as many so clearly were under apartheid. In company with countless other South African Catholics, I took this to heart, and did what I could in my small way to make a contribution to justice, including at times knowingly and deliberately breaking some laws when my conscience dictated I do so.

“As an openly gay Catholic, I fail to see why the principle of compliance with conscience rather than with unjust laws should not apply equallly when the injustice is perpetrated by Catholic bishops, and not secular authority.”

LaDonna Hoy

The Sensus Fidelium blog post notes describing the Minnesota gathering notes that LaDonna Hoy, a parishioner at St. Bartholomew’s church in Wayzata, MN, offered remarks that complemented Fr. Pierson’s:

“As a Catholic I would also ask: How then can it be right for a particular faith tradition–for us–to support legislation that defines marriage in a way that removes the rights and limits the freedoms of all Minnesotans regardless of their beliefs or lived experience? We are called as Catholics to bring forth a kingdom of love and justice in our midst. What is core to our tradition and its teachings is that the intrinsic dignity of each person must be respected in word, in action, and in law.

“I pray that we become that church. . . . A church that upholds the sacredness of marriage and its commitments for all people and that is open and informed by the insights and wisdom of the lived experience of its people. A church where inclusive love is once again our guiding principle and justice lights our way.”

I have only two words to add to all these speakers and commenters: “Bravo!” and “Amen!”

May their examples be multiplied.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


Support for Sister Margaret Farley Continues to Flood In

June 5, 2012

Sister Margaret Farley, RSM

Yesterday’s news that the Vatican has censured Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics, the groundbreaking theological work of Sister Margaret Farley, RSM, a retired professor at Yale Divinity School, has evoked numerous responses in support of this theologian.

Grant Gallicho

Perhaps the most telling response came in a tweet from Commonweal magazine’s Grant Gallicho, who posted the following message on Twitter yesterday:

“And now the Vatican-condemned book by Sr. Margaret Farley has reached 138 on Amazon’s bestseller list. Up from 147,982 just a few hours ago.”

According to another one of his tweets, the book eventually reached the #21 position.

 

The National Catholic Reporter (NCR) carried an article about the confidential letter (which they received from several anonymous sources) that Sister Patricia McDermott, President of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, sent out to Mercy nuns.  The text of the letter is compassionately supportive of Sister Farley.  NCR reports:

Sister Patricia McDermott, RSM

“Acknowledging that many will be ‘deeply saddened’ by Monday’s announcement of the Vatican’s criticism of Mercy Sr. Margaret Farley, the head of the global Mercy order has asked her sisters for their ‘careful and compassionate accompanying’ of those discouraged by the move.

” ‘I am sure that some of you will be angered and frustrated by this news and I totally understand your feelings and thoughts,’ writes Sr. Patricia McDermott, the president of the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, in a letter addressed to all Mercy sisters and lay associates.

” ‘I have no doubt that many in our Church — including theologians, ethicists, pastoral ministers and concerned laity — will also be distressed with the public statement by [the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.]

” ‘I ask for your careful and compassionate accompanying of Margaret during this time as well as for those who will be saddened and discouraged by this announcement.’ “

Sister Jeannine Gramick, SL

Sister Jeannine Gramick, SL, co-founder of New Ways Ministry and someone personally familiar with Vatican censure, offered this response to the news:

“The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) may have determined that Sister Margaret Farley’s book, Just Love, is a source of confusion to the Catholic faithful, but my 40 years of pastoral experience in working with lesbian and gay Catholics and their families contradicts this judgment. This book and Sister Margaret’s other writings and presentations have brought common sense and balance to a world in which sexuality is treated either too casually or too rigorously. Farley’s work has put sex in the human context of relationship, instead of hedonism or narrow functionalism.

“What a pity that Vatican II did not complete its work of reform of the Roman curia. The CDF could serve the Church as an international body that would draw together the world’s leading theologians to discuss pressing social and ethical issues. How tragic that its power is being wasted and abused.”

Jamie Manson

NCR columnist Jamie Manson, who served as Sister Farley’s research assistant for two years at Yale, has published an essay which gives an excellent and thorough explication of the theologian’s method and positions in Just Love.  For those interested in learning more about Sister Farley’s thought, this piece is an excellent introduction.  Manson concludes with the statements:

“It is tragic that the bishops cannot accept the spirit in which Margaret Farley wrote Just Love. The book addresses moral questions that affect not only all members of the faithful, but the ethical dilemmas that affect members of the hierarchy themselves.

“If members of the CDF had the courage to read book with an open, honest understanding of their own human reality, they might recognize that Farley’s intention was not sow seeds of dissent, but to offer the fruits of love and justice to those seeking a fuller integration of their bodies and spirits.”

Equally Blessed, a coalition of faithful Catholics who support justice and equality for LGBT people (comprised of Call To Action, DignityUSA, Fortunate Families, New Ways Ministry) issued the following statement:

“We are saddened, but not surprised that the Roman Catholic hierarchy has found fault with the valuable work of yet another female theologian.

“The Vatican’s legalistic parsing of Sister Margaret Farley’s work will only enhance her well-deserved reputation as a gifted scholar. Rome’s attempt to steer Catholics away from Just Love will serve instead as a recommendation for all those who seek a sexual ethic rooted in justice and mutuality, rather than in platitudes and abstractions.  The positions Sr. Margaret articulates resonates with many Catholics, who seek to live out the values of our faith in the context of real life.

“We applaud particularly Sister Margaret’s understanding that “same-sex relationships and activities can be justified according to the same sexual ethic as heterosexual relationships.” As always, when differing with the hierarchy she makes it clear that this is purely her personal opinion. Yet the scholarly care with which she reaches it will be persuasive to Catholic readers who do not believe the Vatican’s claim that intellectual inquiry is unnecessary because the truth is what the Vatican says it is.

“We are hopeful that Sister Margaret’s strong body of work will inspire and encourage other Catholic theologians to continue this kind of research.”

Michael Peppard

In a blog post on the dotCommonweal blog, Michael Peppard, a professor of early Christianity, offers a good chronology of the investigation of Sister Farley’s work and also a critique of the Vatican’s comments on it.  His conclusion:

“If even the Pope — whose every word and move is watched globally — is permitted to step out of his office and write as a spiritual seeker and theologian, what about a woman religious with a Ph.D. and forty years’ experience in the classroom? The Pope draws from contemporary philosophical currents (historical criticism derived from an Enlightenment consciousness) and contemporary experience (of anti-Semitism and its horrific effects) in the course of his presentation of Jesus. Just as with the Pope’s books on Jesus, attentive readers of Sr. Farley’s book on ethics know that she clearly states when she is speaking her own opinion about the principles of just relationships. It’s hard to imagine how Catholic readers would be in danger of mistaking her assessments for those of the Catechism. And after over forty years as a professor at a prominent seminary, Sr. Farley knows that she is not giving the faithful questions that they don’t already have.  The faithful know what the Catechism says, and if we don’t, it’s easy to find out.  But the faithful also have close, personal experiences with faithful Christians who, for example: divorced a spouse because the relationship was unjust and causing grave harm; or lived in a relationship of vastly unequal power and wanted to end it but couldn’t; or were raised from childhood to be men or women of stalwart faith and morality by their faithful parents, who happened to be of the same sex. Sr. Farley’s book results from years of study and witness to the questions raised by men and women who tried to live their Christian lives with faithfulness and righteousness.”

James Martin, SJ

On America magazine’s In All Things blog, Fr. James Martin, SJ, writes the following praise of Sister Farley in his most recent post:

“Margaret Farley is an immensely well respected theologian and scholar, and is a revered mentor for many Catholic theologians.  It would be difficult to overstate her influence in the field of sexual ethics, or the esteem in which she is held by her colleagues.  With this stinging critique, the Vatican has again signaled its concern about theologians writing about sexual morality. This Notification will certainly sadden Sister Margaret’s many colleagues, her generations of students, and those many Catholics who have profited by her decades of reflection on the faith.  It will also, inevitably, raise strong emotions among those who already feel buffeted by the Vatican’s Apostolic Visitation of Catholic sisters in the US, and its intervention into the LCWR”

These recent statements supporting Sister Farley join the chorus of theologians who responded yesterday as the news broke.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 894 other followers