US Catholics Praise Pope Francis in Polling and Words

September 25, 2013

Frank Bruni

Polling done by The Huffington Post and YouGov reveals that 81% of American Catholics believe Pope Francis is having a positive impact on the Church, with negative ratings in the single digits.

In answer to another question in the survey

“. . . 46 percent of U.S. Catholics think Francis’ remarks, during [his recent] interview [in America magazine], reflect a ‘good change’ in church direction, while 20 percent say his take on the issues ‘doesn’t go far enough in changing church policy.’

“Just 15 percent of Catholics said the pope strayed ‘too far from traditional church values,’ while 19 percent were unsure how they felt.”

Commentaries on Pope Francis’ interview reflect this warmness as Catholics spoke more personally and practically on how the pope is making waves. Below, Bondings 2.0 provides previews of articles that are worth reading in their entirety by clicking on the provided links.

Frank Bruni, a gay columnist in the New York Times, wrote about the pope’s humility in a piece titled, “The Pope’s Radical Whisper.” Bruni writes:

“But it wasn’t the particulars of Pope Francis’ groundbreaking message in an interview published last week that stopped me in my tracks, gave fresh hope to many embittered Catholics and caused hardened commentators to perk up.

“It was the sweetness in his timbre, the meekness of his posture. It was the revelation that a man can wear the loftiest of miters without having his head swell to fit it, and can hold an office to which the term “infallible” is often attached without forgetting his failings. In the interview, Francis called himself naïve, worried that he’d been rash in the past and made clear that the flock harbored as much wisdom as the shepherds. Instead of commanding people to follow him, he invited them to join him. And did so gently, in what felt like a whisper.

“What a surprising portrait of modesty in a church that had lost touch with it.”

Fr. Thomas Reese, SJ

From the perspective of clergy, Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese spoke with NPR about what Pope Francis’ words could mean for those in ministry. Many priests and religious are supportive of LGBT people, but refrain from publicly speaking out due to fear. Fr. Reese believes the pope could mean less fear and more liberation among clergy to minister as they desire:

“I think it will [shape how priests act]. I’ve, you know, heard from other priests how delighted and affirmed they are by what he is saying. I think this is going to liberate a lot of people, a lot of priests in their preaching to say the kinds of things that the pope has said. I mean, frankly, five years ago I would have been afraid to say the very things that the pope himself is saying today. So, I think this is going to liberate a lot of priests.”

Critiquing the ‘culture wars’ mentality of the American bishops that has led many Catholics to leave their parishes over LGBT equality and other issues, James Salt of Catholics United writes at Fox News about a new trend he is witnessing among progressive Catholics:

James Salt

“But with his message of love and inclusion, Francis is, hopefully, staunching this trend. With his words and actions, he is showing us how a more authentic and humble expression of our faith can inspire a culture.

“I can personally attest this fact. Speaking for myself and for many of my friends, we can say for the first time in many years that we see signs of hope from the leadership of our church…

“So this Sunday, I expect to see more faces of formerly lost sheep in the pews. I know many of my progressive friends are planning to give Sunday services a second look.”

Kate Childs-Graham

Kate Childs-Graham

Kate Childs Graham wondered about those very bishops’ response to Pope Francis in a Quote to Note last week, and now suggests silence on LGBT issues as a good first step for the American hierarchy in The Guardian, writing:

“All I could think was, ‘This guy gets it’. He gets what Catholics have been saying for years. He gets that Catholics don’t want our hierarchy to have limited views that don’t reflect our own. He gets why so many Catholics have been searching for the nearest exit. He gets that things need to change…

“Since Francis’ election, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops hasn’t seemed to reverse course. The bishops are still advocating against the rights of LGBT people with both money and voice…Perhaps the bishops can’t go cold turkey and they need to wean themselves off their ‘obsession’ – Francis’ word – with abortion and gay and transgender people. I’d suggest silence as a good option.”

Fr. Peter Daly

Fr. Peter Daly, who writes the column, “Parish Diary” in the National Catholic Reporter lauded Pope Francis as a fellow pastor for re-emphasizing the role of mercy, reconciliation, and healing in parishes:

“A good pastor will eventually get around to moral issues, but our first words should be good news, not rules. As Pope Francis puts it, ‘The people of God want pastors, not clergy acting like bureaucrats or government officials.’…

“The Christian life is not so much about rules as it is about relationships. It’s about a relationship with Christ and with each other. If you don’t have a relationship with someone, they won’t care if you quote the rule book to them. If you do have a relationship with someone, you probably won’t need to quote the rules. That’s what St. Paul means by the law of love…

“Pope Francis recognizes the complexity of life. People must be seen in the context of their lives. I tell the catechumens that God sees our lives as a movie, not a snapshot. It’s God’s view of the life that the church should be trying to take.

“I admired John Paul II. I respected Benedict. But I think I could love Francis.”

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


QUOTE TO NOTE: Coming Back to Church

September 21, 2013

computer_key_Quotation_MarksKate Childs Graham, the co-president of Call to Action, spoke with MSNBC about Pope Francis’ recent interview. She echoed many of the commentators in welcoming his remarks, but added a new trend she is witnessing: people of all walks returning to the Church. Childs Graham told the television host:

Kate Childs-Graham

Kate Childs-Graham

“I experienced the interview through the Holy Trinity of the New York Times, Facebook, and Twitter…More inspiring than the Pope’s words as progressive as they were was the people on Facebook and Twitter, Catholics, non-Catholics, people who have felt marginalized by the Church, who have left the Church saying: ‘Yes, this is what we have been saying for years and it is finally being reflected by our leaders.’…

That said, Childs Graham ended by asking the question many Catholics have about the bishops in America:

 “The question is now we’ve got this CEO talking the talk, we’ve the worker bees, people in the pews, who’ve been saying this for years. The question really lies in middle management, the bishops. What are they going to do with this information?…Are they going to find this new balance with me, Pope Francis, and progressive Catholics like us?”

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Equally Blessed’s World Youth Day Pilgrims Make Headlines as Transformers

August 4, 2013

Equally Blessed LogoThe six young Catholic LGBT pilgrims who journeyed to World Youth Day continue to make headlines a week after the enormous event in Brazil is over.  These pilgrims, sponsored by the Equally Blessed coalition (comprised of Call To Action, DignityUSA, Fortunate Families, New Ways Ministry),  visited the gathering of Catholic youth from all over the world, and “evangelized” the people they met about the goodness and equality of LGBT people.  You can read Bondings 2.0‘s previous blog post about them here for more background on their mission.

Recently, they were featured in a BBC television report on World Youth Day, which offered them as an example of how some of the youth at the event were not convinced that “the church was moving fast or far enough.”  You can view the video here.  The brief interview with the Equally Blessed pilgrim Delfin Bautista begins at 1:52.

The pilgrims have also recently posted their own videos on YouTube.   You can view all of them by visiting Equally Blessed’s YouTube channel.  One important moment for the pilgrims was when one of them, Ellen Euclide, asked a question about LGBT issues at a catechesis session led by a bishop.  You can view her question, the audience’s positive response, and the bishop’s answer here:

You can also hear Ellen’s background information and reflection about asking the question in this YouTube video:

The Washington Post’s “On Background” online show featured Ellen, along with The National Catholic Reporter’s John Allen, discussing the pope’s gay positive comments.  Ellen’s comments begin at about 7:25.  You can view that video here:

<iframe width=”480″ height=”360″ src=”http://www.washingtonpost.com/posttv/c/embed/cfcc8ba0-fa0d-11e2-8752-b41d7ed1f685&#8243; frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen>

Just in case that link does not work, you can view the video on the show’s website by clicking here.

Kate Childs-Graham, a “Young Voices” columnist for The National Catholic Reporter, featured the ministry of these pilgrims in her column this week, and she dubbed the group “The Transformative Six.”    She described their work and advocacy while in Brazil:

“So to Rio they went, armed with rainbow bracelets and rosaries, prayer cards and kites. They had hundreds of conversations with other pilgrims from across the world. Many — if not most — supported their message and equality and inclusion, and they engaged those with whom they disagreed in spirited dialogue. Then, they blogged, Facebooked and tweeted about their experience.”

And then Childs-Graham wondered:

“Maybe the pope saw an Equally Blessed kite or received a sticker. Maybe he heard that a brave young woman asked a bishop about LGBT equality and the masses cheered. Maybe he noticed, like these pilgrims, the open arms of the Christ of Corcovado. No matter what it was that helped Pope Francis transform his tone and hopefully will help him transform our church, I’m giving all the credit to the Transformative Six.”

Who knows?

What we do know for sure is that the pilgrims touched the hearts and souls off many of the young people they encountered, and that was plenty transformative!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


LGBT-Affirming Catholics Express Hope About Pope Francis

March 18, 2013

Pope Francis

Pope Francis’ past anti-LGBT history has captured media attention since his election, leading many to conclude this papacy will be more of the same. Bondings 2.0 previously reported troubling statements made while archbishop, especially an ambiguous record on marriage equality. However, some observers express hope that Pope Francis will be a pope under whom LGBT issues can progress within the Catholic Church.

On Huffington Post, Joseph Amodeo writes that Pope Francis may be “the gay community’s greatest hope”:

Joseph Amodeo

“…he is the first pope to be elected from a country that has legalized marriage equality. In this way, Bergoglio has perhaps witnessed firsthand how same-sex marriage has been a public good in Argentina…he may be the first pope who has any real experience in meeting LGBT people while also witnessing the impact of gay marriage — namely, no negative impact at all…

“In short, the pope’s desire to be among those most in need and those who have been forgotten by society should be a source of great hope for all of us. As a marginalized people not only in society, but particularly in the Church, it is my hope that Pope Francis will take this opportunity to extend a loving embrace to his LGBT brothers and sisters around the world.

“I do think that we may start to see a softening of language. This is a much-needed first step toward witnessing, appreciating and encouraging LGBT people of faith to share their gifts openly in service to the Church.”

Pablo Manriquez at Fox News Latino contemplates why this pope opposes same-gender relationships, and he encourages Catholics to initiate the necessary dialogue that could affect change:

Pablo Manriquez

“The Vatican’s current teaching on marriage and sexuality relies on a troubling gender essentialism rooted in the recent insistence that every child needs a father and a mother. This has become the church’s hinge argument against gay marriage. It is theologically unfounded and culturally dangerous.

“Catholicism is better than this. The faith has more to say about love and responsibility than it has to say about sexual difference and gender roles. While Catholics can hardly expect an institution as old and enormous as the Roman Catholic Church to turn on a dime, the Vatican is not immune to change…

“As Catholics, we should invite our new pope to devote more attention to gay marriage as a theological (not political or cultural) question. Ultimately, the question is not whether the church should accommodate the culture, but about how gay relationships fit into the mystery of God’s love for all of humanity.”

Whether or not Pope Francis is the LGBT community’s greatest hope remains to be seen, but Kate Childs Graham at National Catholic Reporter reminds readers that even just starting anew with any papacy is reason for hope:

Kate Childs-Graham

Kate Childs-Graham

“As I scrolled through my Facebook feed and email reactions came flooding in from fellow progressive Catholics, I noticed I wasn’t alone in my (perhaps foolhardy) hope…

“As committed as [progressive Catholics] are to creating change in the church from the ground up, we can’t help but hold out hope this change will be reflected by the leaders of the hierarchy. We can’t help but treat moments like Wednesday’s as fresh starts, as new beginnings.

“Or, as a friend wrote,: ‘This is the beginning of the beginning of a new time for our church. I can’t possibly know what that will look like, but that’s what we’re in. The beginning of the beginning.’…

“But in my heart of hearts, in my faith of faiths, I can’t help but hope that she is right.”

Let us pray that this hope will motivate us all to redouble our efforts to work for equality and justice for LGBT people in church and society.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


QUOTE TO NOTE: Thank You, Catholic Voters

November 7, 2012

National Catholic Reporter columnist Kate Childs Graham posted a piece today thanking Catholic voters for their tremendous positive impact in the four states that voted on marriage equality yesterday, while reminding us amid the euphoric victories that the struggle continues:

“As we celebrate these victories, these conversions, we must prepare for the next step on our journey towards fairness. Not only must we begin to organize and proselytize in those states that have not yet heeded the call of progress, we must bring that call to the pews…

Kate Childs Graham

“I look forward to a day when fairness for my family isn’t seen as a threat to freedom for my religion, when all communities of faith — including our Catholic community — affirm same-sex unions.

“That day can’t happen without some hard conversations and some hard work. So after the dust has settled and the celebrations have finished, let us band together like we did in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington. Let us do as scripture says. Let us “learn to do right, seek justice, encourage the oppressed,” both in our communities and our church.

“Catholic voters, again I say simply: Thanks.”

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


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