SYNOD: Theologian Argues for Bishops to Bless Same-Gender Marriages

September 30, 2014

Although there is a lot of excitement about the upcoming Vatican synod on marriage and family life, that hope is a little dampened by the fact that only bishops will be participating in the sessions.  While it is true that bishops were encouraged to consult their laity about various topics, including pastoral care of families headed by same-gender couples, not all bishops did so, and those that did sometimes interpreted negative evaluations to church teaching as being caused by poor catechesis and communication.  That is simply not the case.  For many, many Catholics, their criticism of church teaching on divorce, contraception, same-gender relationships, comes from their lived experience of faith, and many years of study and reflection.

Sister Margaret Farley

One Catholic theologian who has influenced many Catholics’ thinking on sexuality is Sister Margaret Farley, RSM, Professor Emerita of Christian Ethics at Yale University Divinity School.  We’ve reported on Sister Farley’s work before, and even have a summary of her framework for sexual ethics outlined on another blog page.

Recently, The Tablet featured an essay by Farley in their series which is looking ahead to the synod.  She used this opportunity to argue that there is no good reason to limit marriage only to heterosexual couples.  She begins her argument with an historical assessment:

“For so long as the Catholic tradition considered sex as justified only when it is intended for the procreation of children and for so long as gender complementarity was seen as the only natural context for sex, there was, of course, no room for any positive valuation of homosexual relationships.

“In the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, these foundations of sexual ethics began to be questioned. New biblical, theological and historical studies of the roots of moral norms, new understandings of sexuality itself and new shifts in economic and social life all contributed to major developments even in Catholic ethics. The dominant historical motifs all underwent significant changes. The idea that the procreation of children is the sole justification of sexual activity is gone (the shift is visible in the documents of Vatican II, in Humanae Vitae and subsequent church teaching). The view of sexuality as fundamentally disordered is also pretty much gone from Catholic thought. Although moral theologians still underline the potential of sex for sinfulness (as in sex abuse, rape, exploitation, adultery and so forth), the preoccupation with its destructive power that used to dominate Catholic discussion of sex has been seriously modified.

“Rigid stereotypes of male/female complementarity have also been softened: gender equality, the mutuality of sexual relationships, an appreciation of shared possibilities and responsibilities now appear in middle-of-the-road Catholic theologies of marriage and family, as well as in official church documents and papal teaching.”

Her analysis of the role of gender in marriage discussions as compared to other discussions is a key to her argument.  She summarizes the traditional view, and then points out an important inconsistency:

“Sex is natural and good in itself in loving heterosexual relations, but sex once again becomes a thing of danger and disorder in gay and lesbian relationships. We are careful not to make sharp distinctions between male and female roles when we talk about the education of girls, career opportunities for women, and shared parenting, but fundamental gender difference suddenly reappears when critics take aim at an acceptance of same-sex relations. “

Farley moves away from a definition of marriage as being primarily a procreative institution, and she notes that theologians are moving toward a definition that stresses relationship:

“Many theologians see the mutual consent of the partners in the form of a covenant or binding contract as the core reality of marriage, and ‘marital’ commitment as a special sort of covenant or commitment. It includes a commitment to love and to accept being loved – with a love that is sexual but not only sexual. It is an exclusive commitment. And it is a commitment to a framework for living and loving, to a permanent blending of loves, a weaving of a fabric of life together, that embraces both moments of powerful intensity and the ‘everydayness’ of life.”

With new understandings of gender in the theological world, we can recognize that gender is not an essential factor in a marriage union.  Farley explains:

“For many, marriage is understood as between two persons, two equal persons. For each person, the gender of the other matters. But for the institution and sacrament of marriage, it need not matter. In a world where it would not matter whether persons were gay or straight, marriage would still be as important as it is today. Indeed, it might finally be as important as it should be.”

The real sacramentality of marriage, argues Farley, comes not from gender differentiation, procreation, or ritual, but in the ordinary living out of the commitment two people make to one another:

“The marital sacrament is in the event of covenanting, of ‘marrying,’ but is also in the life that continues from there. The grace of committed love – shaped and grounded in faith – is not all at once. The story of commitments is in their beginnings and in their end. But it is the ‘in between’ that counts the most. Like our lives in every respect, love has a past, a present and a future. The meaning of the past is in the present, and the meaning of the present will be revealed more fully only in the future. Time is within us. Hence, the Sacrament of Marriage is in the everyday, in the choices to ratify commitments, the efforts to grow in patience, understanding, forgiveness and the ‘little by little’ of welcoming love.

“All of this is true, or can be true, of same-sex marriages, as of all marriages. These same-sex marriages include imagining and making a world in which unjust discrimination ceases to exist. Their journeys perhaps require the courage to refuse to be outsiders, or to let ignorance and irrational bigotry threaten the hope for a better world. For this, they can hope in sacramental grace, and (because grace is not an automatic track to or guarantee of fuller life) they can work with this grace.”

Farley’s analysis provides a most Catholic evaluation of what is essential in marriage, and reflects the ways in which humankind has grown into a more equal and just view of persons, gender, and relationships.  It would be great if the bishops in synod could hear her analysis so that they could take this very holy and healthy view of relationships into consideration as they deliberate about pastoral care in the areas of marriage, sexuality, and family.

If you are a subscriber to The Tablet,  you can read the entire essay by Sister Margaret Farley by clicking here.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 


Theologian Tina Beattie Banned from Church Property Again Over LGBT Support

September 29, 2014

Tina Beattie

A British theologian supportive of LGBT inclusion had a speaking event cancelled recently after the Vatican ordered she be banned from church property.

Tina Beattie, a Catholic studies professor at the University of Roehampton in London, was to address the Edinburgh Circle of the Newman Association this month before Archbishop Leo Cushley of St. Andrews and Edinburgh archdiocese intervened. The Tablet reports the archbishop’s letter critiqued both Beattie and Joe Fitzpatrick, a previous theologian the Association had hosted, saying, in part:

” ‘Professor Beattie is known to have frequently called into question the Church’s teaching. I would therefore ask you to cancel this event, as it may not proceed or be publicised on any Church property in this archdiocese.’ “

Beattie has been troubled with such bans before, facing discrimination in 2012 in England and at the University of San Diego, which rescinded  a fellowship offer a mere two weeks before the professor was set to arrive.

According to the National Catholic Reporter, Beattie’s troubles with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which has ordered the ban from church property, stem from her signature on a pro-marriage equality ad in The Times of London. She was one of 27 Catholics who wrote “it is perfectly proper for Catholics, using fully informed consciences, to support the legal extension of civil marriage to same-sex couples.” Terence Weldon makes an important point at his blog, Queering the Church, that Beattie’s support comes as a defense of the primacy of conscience:

“What is particularly disturbing here, is that this claim that she has “frequently called into question the Church’s teaching” is entirely unsubstantiated. Professor Beattie herself emphatically denies the charge…That letter however, was not arguing specifically in favour of gay marriage, but simply for the right of Catholics to disagree in conscience on the matter. That primacy of conscience is deeply embedded in Catholic teaching, and should not be seen as controversial.”

The Edinburgh Circle is a chapter of the Newman Association, whose website describes the U.K. organization as “a national organisation whose members meet regularly in local “circles” to discuss and develop their understanding of the Christian faith.”   The association is named for Cardinal John Henry Newman.

In response to this most recent incident, the Newman Association and Beattie both wrote to Archbishop Curley to express their distress. Neither have received a reply, though the Association has been offered meetings with diocesan officials. Beattie wrote in her letter:

” ‘You say that I am “known to have frequently called into question the Church’s teaching”. Known by whom, in what context and with reference to which of my published works?…Never in my published writings or talks have questioned any of the doctrinal mysteries of the Catholic faith. On the contrary, I have consistently argued in defence of even the most frequently challenged doctrines of the Church.’

“On gay unions, Professor Beattie said that she signed the letter at a time when Cardinal Keith O’Brien, Archbishop Cushley’s predecessor, was one of the ‘most vociferous opponents of same-sex marriage’ and that she believes that Catholics could enter a ‘more reasoned and nuanced public dialogue’ about the matter than the hierarchy allowed.”

Beattie is right in calling for both a respect of conscience and a “reasoned and nuanced public dialogue” over LGBT issues, specifically marriage equality. Her thinking is right in line with Pope Francis, who has respected the teaching on conscience.  He has been a leading figure for dialogue around some of the most contentious global issues.

It is sad that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith still feels it needs to ban and censor and silence Catholics. Authoritarianism is, to use the phrase of the pope, an “antidote to faith” and only helps to cause greater wounds in the church by forcing out good people and creating obstacles to God. Hopefully, this ban is more anomaly than trend when it comes to the CDF’s actions in the era of Francis.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Praying for Synod and for New Ways Ministry’s Presence in Rome and Portugal

September 28, 2014

One week from today, Pope Francis will open the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops to discuss the topic, The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization.  For Catholic LGBT advocates, there has been great anticipation of the event, perhaps mainly because Pope Francis asked the bishops of the world to consult the laity on marriage and family topics, and, even more so, because pastoral care of families headed by same-gender couples was one of the areas for which input was sought.

Today has been set aside as a day of prayer for the Synod, and Pope Francis has composed a Prayer to the Holy Family for the Synod.   You can access this prayer, and other prayer intentions for the Synod, by clicking here.   Of course, we ask that you include in your prayer for the Synod that the concerns of families with LGBT members or those headed by same-gender couples will be heard and responded to pastorally by the bishops.

When the Synod opens on Sunday, October 5th, New Ways Ministry representatives will be in Rome.  Both Sister Jeannine Gramick, Co-Founder, and Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director, will be traveling there to participate in several events surrounding the Synod, and also with the hope that they will be able to provide a pro-LGBT voice in the public discussions of the Synod that the media will offer.  In addition, DeBernardo will travel to Portugal for the first international meeting of Catholic LGBT groups.

Joining them, too, in Rome will be Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, retired auxiliary bishop of Sydney, Australia.  Bishop Robinson spoke at New Ways Ministry’s Seventh National Symposium in 2012, where he called for a total re-vamping of the Church’s system of sexual ethics.

The following are the various events that these three people will participate in:

  • “The Ways of Love: International Conference on pastoral care with homosexual and trans people,” Friday October 3, 2014, at the Waldensian Faculty of Theology, Aula Magna, via Pietro Cossa 40, Rome.  For more information, and to see the line-up of speakers, click here.    (For a previous blog post about this event, click here.)
  • “Lets’s witness our hope,”  a forum for Italian Christian LGBT groups, Saturday and Sunday, October 4-5, 2014, at Centro Pellegrini Santa Teresa Couderc, Via Vincenzo Ambrosio 9, Rome.  For more information about this event, click here.
  • “The Path from the 2014 Synod to the 2015 Synod: The Pastoral Challenges for Welcoming LGBT people,” a lecture by Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, Wednesday, October 8, 2014,  Via Marianna Dionigi, 59, Rome.  This lecture is sponsored by Nuova Proposta, a Christian LGBT organization in Rome.  For more information, click here.
  • “When Identity Becomes a Crime: Criminalization of Homosexuality Globally,” an international conference, Saturday, October 11, 2014, 4:30-6:3o pm, at the Capitoline Museum, Sala Pietro da’ Cortona, piazza del Campidoglio 1, Rome. The speakers will be Frank Mugisha, a Ugandan LGBT activist, Jules Eloundou, a human rights defender from Cameroon, André du Plessis, UN program and advocacy director for ILGA World, and Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry’s executive director. Dr. Michael Brinkschröder, a co-president of the European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups, will moderate.  Bishops participating in the Synod are invited to attend.   The event is sponsored by the City of Rome and Dutch Ministry’s Department of Education, Science & Culture.

While in Europe, New Ways Ministry’s Francis DeBernardo will also travel to Portugal to attend a meeting of Catholic LGBT groups from around the globe who are gathering to discuss the inauguration of a world-wide association for those who work for LGBT equality in the Church.  The meeting will be held in the city of Portimão on October 6-8, 2014.

28 organizations from 16 different countries will be attending this first World Congress of Catholic Homosexual Associations.   Organized by Rumos Novos,  a Portugese Catholic gay and lesbian group (whose name, incidentally, translates as “New Ways”), this meeting’s theme will be “Building Bridges.”  According to the meeting’s website:

“This congress invites us to look with serenity and deepness towards our Church and our life, allowing that on ‘both sides of the bridge’ light can brighten the view of all, often distorted  by prejudices, fears and sorrows.”

DeBernardo will be a speaker at the conference, addressing the topic of the gifts that LGBT people bring to the Church.

José Leote, the coordinator of the conference, in an interview with Algarve Daily News, said the meeting’s participants will send a letter to Pope Francis.  They will ask the pope, among other things, that gay and lesbian people will experience “integration at all levels of the Church and the possibility of working in parishes without the stigma of sexual orientation.”

The Portugal News described the two-pronged parts of this meeting:

“The congress will take part in two phases, the first being a public phase and open to anyone interested, and a second part reserved for representatives of the associations in which the basis of the future World Organisation is to be set.”

While New Ways Ministry asks for your prayers for the Synod, especially that LGBT concerns will be heard, we also ask your prayers for Sister Jeannine and Francis DeBernardo, as they journey to these events.  Please pray that God will bless them with wisdom, courage, and fortitude during these important events.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

 

 


IHM School To ‘Rethink’ Policies After Firing Lesbian Teacher

September 27, 2014

Barbara Webb’s supporters stand outside Marian High School during a Sunday rally

In the last month, the number of LGBT-related employment disputes at Catholic institutions topped twenty for the year. Bondings 2.0 has been covering these stories, and today provides follow-up for several of them. You can find further details about each person’s story by clicking their name.

Barbara Webb

Barbara Webb was fired from Marian High School in August for becoming pregnant outside marriage. Supporters have sustained protests online, with nearly 70,000 signatures on a Change.org petition, and by rallying at the school. Now, the leadership of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) Sisters who sponsor the school have responded.

Oakland Press reports that IHM president Sr. Mary Jane Herb released a letter to the Marian community which did not directly address Webb’s firing. However, the letter promised a review of the school’s policies and said a team of consultants would intervene before future employment decisions are made in similar situations. Citing Pope Francis’ emphasis on mercy and inclusion, Sr. Herb also wrote:

“Our Church and Catholic schools are confronted with a complexity of issues that have not been faced in the past….These are challenging times and times in which we feel God’s Spirit is working with us, encouraging us to respond to the signs of the times in new ways.”

In response, organizers under the name “I Stand with Barb Webb” have begun a crowd-funding campaign, which hopes to raise $65,000 so that Marian H.S. can institute diversity trainings for staff and a diversity club for students. While the IHM Sisters’ offering is a start, it does not do justice for Barbara Webb or ensure LGBT firings will stop at Marian High School. Hopefully, through this learning process, school administrators and IHM leadership will come to see what Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston has seen: that these firings “need to be rectified.

In a news article in The Guardian, a legal specialist stated that firings like Webb’s are on shaky legal grounds:

“Dana Nessel, a Detroit attorney specialising in gay and lesbian civil rights issues, says that these cases ‘highlight the fact that there are no LGBT protections’ in these states. She says morality clauses often create legal jeopardy because they are often unclear and are applied indiscriminately.

“ ‘What these places need to do is outline and say ‘here’s what behavior we’re specifically talking about’. These places run into trouble when they don’t define what [morality] means,’ she says. ‘If the definition is ‘violating Catholic precepts’ then you better be consistent about it and it has to remain within the confines of federal and state law.’ “

Nate Alfson

St. Mary’s High School coach Nate Alfson bravely came out as gay in an article for OutSports this summer, telling LGBT youth to “Be you. Be true. Never forget that you matter.” It then surprised many when the Dell Rapids, South Dakota school did not fire Alfson. Sioux Falls diocesan spokesperson Jerry Klein said recently this outcome should not surprise anyone, and that the hierarchy’s teaching on chastity is key to understanding this decision.  However, such a comment could imply that if Alfson dates or enters a civil marriage he would assuredly lose his job coaching.

Jill Callison, a columnist for the Argus Leader quoted Klein and commented on the import of his statement:

” ‘(L)iving a sexually active same-sex lifestyle, one that is not chaste, is not compatible with Church teaching,” the statement says. ‘The same is true for a sexually active, opposite-sex lifestyle outside of marriage. In either of these circumstances, employment or public ministry on behalf of the Church is not appropriate.’ “

“Yet, Alfson is coaching the Cardinals volleyball team for the second year. Can we interpret that as a loosening of church rules? Even a little?

“Don’t go there, Klein essentially cautions, also declining to answer the question ‘what would Pope Francis do?’ What you should do, if you’re of a mind to rant about the Catholic Church, Klein advises, is to take a fresh look. He quoted the late Bishop Fulton Sheen, who said, ‘There are not one hundred people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be.’

” ‘Maybe this is an opportunity, a moment when people can take another look at what the church does teach,’ Klein said.”

Callison added a more cautionary note to Klein’s recommendation:

“Or maybe wait to see if Alfson returns as coach for a third year.”

Ben Brenkert

Ben Brenkert’s story of leaving the Jesuits after ten years over injustices is spreading, after having been initially posted on Bondings 2.0. Brenkert had written an open letter to Pope Francis about the firing of LGBT church workers, specifically Colleen Simon, who was let go as food pantry coordinator at a St. Louis Jesuit parish. Now, his story has appeared in the National Catholic Reporter, The Advocateand the Washington Post.

For Bondings 2.0‘s full coverage of these and other LGBT-related disputes, click the ‘Employment Issues‘ category to the right or click here. You can also find a full listing of the more than 40 incidents made public since 2008 by clicking here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Gay Teen’s Suicide in Colombia Confronts Catholics Worldwide

September 26, 2014

Sergio Urrego

A 16-year old Colombian boy committed suicide recently, a tragic act his parents blame on the faculty and staff at his Catholic high school and an act that raises questions for Catholic education globally.

Sergio Urrego had attended Gimnasio Castillo Campestre, Bogota, for six years, but the troubles started after administrators became aware of a cell phone photo in which Urrego is kissing his boyfriend. In a school meeting, The Advocate reports the principal outed the student as gay and added that Urrego was an “anarchist” and “atheist.”

Months later in August, facing persistent harassment, Urrego jumped to his death from a shopping center after messaging friends and posting the lyrics to Pink Floyd’s “Goodbye Cruel World” on Facebook.

Now, the boy’s family and LGBT advocates are demanding accountability from the school and greater acceptance in a country that is more than 90% Catholic. America magazine reports:

“According to local media,  Urrego’s mother charges that her son had been discriminated against and bullied at the school because he was gay. Directors at the school were cooperating with the police investigation and denied any wrongdoing or maltreatment of Urrego. The school principal, Amanda Castillo said that the ‘intimacy of human beings’ is respected at the school and assured that ‘there was never pressure or discrimination for being gay.’ “

Local prosecutors are investigating to decide whether charges should be filed, and LGBT advocates have promised to protest at the Ministry of Education, as well as having previously held rallies at the school, the site of the suicide, and Urrego’s family’s hometown.

Anti-LGBT attitudes are still prevalent in Colombia, and Latin America generally suffers from elevated levels of violence and discrimination based on sexuality and gender. Though legal rights are slowly progressing, and that nation’s top cardinal has even endorsed civil unions for same-sex couples, much work remains in fighting the homophobia which contributed to Urrego’s suicide.

Since this young man’s tragic death happened within the context of Catholic education, which seeks to form young people in faith to live flourishing lives, the Church has a particular obligation to respond. Catholic schools should be sanctuaries for teenagers struggling to understand and define their identities, giving them both the space and resources necessary to learn about themselves and grow. Catholic schools should further teach inclusion, mercy, and the social teachings around human dignity to promote an understanding of each person’s worth.

I acknowledge that I do not know for sure what happened at Gimnasio Castillo Campestre or what was going on in Sergio Urrego’s head in the months leading up to and the moments right before he took his life. Yet, there seems to be credible evidence that Catholic educators negatively impacted him. This should give all those involved with the church’s educational and youth efforts pause, to consider how well their local community includes LGBT youth and helps them to develop safely. Certainly what happened at this Colombian school is among the worst examples of institutional homophobia, but the many smaller ways prevalent in schools and youth programs worldwide contribute to much suffering as well.

One step you can take to stand up and pursue a safer, more inclusive world for LGBT youth is participating with New Ways Ministry and other Catholics in GLAAD’s #SpiritDay on October 16th, by wearing purple and posting online to make public your support of youth and  tocombat the all-too-pervasive bullying experience LGBT suffer. You can find out how you and your company, school, church, organization can participate by clicking here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


In Minnesota and Montana Dismissals, Hypocrisy Abounds

September 25, 2014

Jamie Moore

The music director at St Victoria parish in Victoria, Minnesota, has resigned after marrying his husband last weekend, and the resignation was ordered by embattled Archbishop John Nienstedt. But as LGBT-related employment disputes top twenty in 2014 alone, are these firings and resignations making it more difficult for LGBT people and allies to remain Catholic in any capacity?

The church’s pastor, Fr. Bob White, wrote to parishioners explaining that upon hearing their music director, Jamie Moore, had entered into a same-gender marriage, the archbishop demanded his resignation and Moore complied. White added that Moore would “be sorely missed…we wish him every happiness.” The pastor said he would address the situation from a “pastoral perspective” during upcoming weekend Masses.

Nienstedt released his own statement, citing a document unusually titled “Justice in Employment” which allows church workers to be fired immediately for public conduct inconsistent with Catholic teaching. The archbishop added that his role was to make “painful and difficult” decisions to uphold Christian values.

However, St. Victoria parishioners do not quite see the archbishop’s actions in keeping with Christ’s message. Some compared this incident to the firing of Kristen Ostendorf, a lesbian teacher, from a Minnesota Cathoilc high school last year. Others like Chub Schmeig criticized the action outright, telling Fox 9 News:

” ‘I believe the church has more serious problems to be concerned with than whether a gay or lesbian person is in the church…It has lots of other issues to handle first.’ “

What might those problems be for Minnesota Catholics? Archbishop Nienstedt, a leading anti-LGBT bishop in the US, is facing increasing calls for his own resignation over his mishandling of clergy abuse that included moving a priest convicted of sexual abuse and offering secret payments to priests who admitted to the sexual abuse of children. As far as LGBT issues are concerned, Nienstedt has called marriage equality the “work of Satan” and spent tremendous resources mailing more than 400,000 DVDs during Minnesota’s debate on that matter. He has also been accused of making sexual advances on priests and seminarians, charges which he denied this summer.

And what to make of this situation, where an archbishop under pressure to resign personally forces a gay musician out? Two prominent gay Catholic writers, Frank Bruni and Andrew Sullivan, are tackling this question in the wake of so many LGBT-related employment disputes with church workers. Writing in his column for the New York Times, Bruni recalls the recent Communion denial and dismissal from volunteer services of two longtime gay parishioners in Montana, Tom Wojtowick and Paul Huff, who quietly were married. He continues:

“Such punishment has befallen many employees of Catholic schools or congregations since the legalization of same-sex marriage in many states allowed them civil weddings. Teachers long known to be gay are suddenly exiled for being gay and married, which is apparently too much commitment and accountability for the church to abide. Honesty equals expulsion. ‘I do’ means you’re done…

“The Catholic Church does incalculable good, providing immeasurable comfort — material as well as spiritual — to so many. But it contradicts and undercuts that mission when it fails to recognize what more and more parishioners do: that gay people deserve the same dignity as everyone else, certainly not what happened to the Montana couple. If Francis and his successors don’t get this right, all his other bits of progress and pretty words will be for naught.”

Andrew Sullivan of The Dish writes about how these incidents have shifted his thinking about being gay and Catholic, moving from a minor blemish amid much greater goodness to a “defining wound…[that] may slowly wreck the whole church.” Writing about the Montana couple, Sullivan says:

“It’s kinda hard to portray these two as some kind of subversive force…And the action against the men came not because they are gay but because they decided to celebrate their love and friendship with a civil marriage license. So they’re not really being targeted for sex; they are being targeted for their commitment and responsibility and honesty. And the only reason they have been excluded on those grounds is because they are gay.”

“If the church upholds this kind of decision, it is endorsing cruelty, discrimination and exclusion. Pope Francis’ view is that this is exactly the kind of thing that requires the church to exercise mercy not rigidity. But allowing a married gay couple to sing in the choir as an act of ‘mercy’ would merely further expose the fragility of the church’s thirteenth century views of human sexuality. It would put the lie to the otherness of gay people; to the notion that it is essential or even possible for a tiny minority to live entirely without intimacy or love or commitment. It also reveals that gay men have long been a part of the church – and tolerated, as long as they lied about their lives and gave others plausible deniability with respect to their sexual orientation. It is an endorsement of dishonesty.”

Sullivan goes on to point out that these dismissals and firings are inconsistent with Catholic moral teachings on compassion, mercy, inclusion, and fairness — and that young Catholics view this “as barbaric and inhuman.” He concludes:

“There is only so much inhumanity that a church can be seen to represent before its own members lose faith in it. I recall the feelings of my own niece and nephew who lost a huge amount of respect for the church when they heard a homily denouncing the civil marriage of their own uncle. I notice the outcry among Catholic high school students when a teacher was fired for the very same reason. When a church responds to an act of love and commitment not by celebration but by ostracism, it is not just attacking a couple’s human dignity; it is also attacking itself.”

One final note is that Sullivan captures the hypocrisy in these situations perfectly when he writes: “Yes, the church is now in favor of divorce as a condition for being a Catholic!”  (Divorce is required of the Montana couple to be allowed to return to communion.) Indeed, there is neither logic nor just cause for these dismissals.

As Pope Francis calls for greater mercy and his top US adviser, Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley, says these employment disputes “need to be rectified,” the hypocrisy inherent in denying Communion to LGBT people or forcing church workers out for their sexual orientation, marital status, or personal views only becomes more fully on display. I reiterate the prediction of former San Francisco Catholic Charities director Brian Cahill that these disputes will cause the church to become a ‘shrinking cult.’

For the sake of LGBT Catholics, their allies, and the good of the whole church, let us pray and act so this hypocrisy will end.  Please consider beginning a discussion in your parish to enact employment non-discrimination policies.  You can find out how to do that by clicking here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


New Australian Archbishop Needs to Replace “Logic” With a Dose of Reality

September 24, 2014

The headline in Australia’s Star-Gazette newspaper was intriguing:  “No place for bigotry against gays in Catholic Church, says Sydney’s new archbishop.”  I was ready for some really good news, but my hope was dashed somewhat when I read the story.  I didn’t need to read very far.  The first sentence hurt enough:

“Sydney’s next top Catholic has told the Star Observer he will not stand for homophobia in the church, but he stopped short of distancing himself from comments made two years ago when he said same sex marriage would lead to polygamy.”

Archbishop-elect Anthony Fisher

It might seem that Archbishop-elect Anthony Fisher is a lot better than his predecessor, Cardinal George Pell, who in 2011, according to the newspaper, “compared homosexuality to the ‘flaw’ in a carpet maker’s otherwise perfect carpet.”  It is not so much Farmatta’s opposition to marriage equality which is so surprising or outrageous, but the way that he argues the case is disrespectful to gay and lesbian couples.

In a 2012 essay on same-sex marriage, Fisher raised the specter that marriage equality for lesbian and gay couples will bring about polygamy:

“Now the social engineers have their sights set on removing the ‘man and woman’ part of marriage as well. All that will be left is marriage as an emotional union: it’s enough, as they say, that people love each other. But if marriage is just about feelings and promises, it obviously can’t be limited to a man and a woman: two men or two women might love each other. But on the same logic so might more than two.”

But he didn’t stop there, and he also predicted other travesties:

“If polygamy is irresistible on the ‘all that matters is that they love each other’ line, so is marriage between siblings or between a parents and their (adult) child. Once again this is not just ‘slippery slope’ pessimism: it simply reflects the fact that the advocates of SSM [same-sex marriage] give no account of marriage that would exclude such intimate partnerships from being deemed marriages. Only marriage understood as the kind of comprehensive union I have outlined can resist such ‘morphing.’ “

The simplest answer to this illogical thinking is:  “No one is asking for polygamous or incestuous relationships to be recognized.”   The marriage equality movement arose because there is a natural equality between the love that a gay or lesbian couple share and the love of a heterosexual couple.  The social goods from such love are also the same in both types of couples.  No one is saying the same thing about polygamous or incestuous relationships.  To make the comparison is not a logical argument, but fear-mongering.

But where the archbishop-elect’s line of thinking is most disrespectful by the fact that he sees the advent of marriage equality as a result of the sexual revolution, and not as a question of justice and liberation, as more and more Catholics have begun to see it. Embedded in this line of thinking is that all that matters to gay and lesbian people is to have their sexual relationship recognized.  That is simply not the case.  What they want recognized and protected is their love and commitment to one another, so that their partnership, which might include a family, can develop strongly, can protect their emotional and personal needs, and can contribute to the common good.

The Star-Gazette news article quoted Fisher’s statement on abhorring discrimination:

“Fisher added that he would not tolerate discrimination: ‘The Catholic Church teaches that God is love and that all He has created is good, God loves everyone and there is no place for hatred and bigotry in His Church towards people with same sex attraction.’ ”

Yet, in this very statement he shows, again, disrespect by using the term “same sex attraction” and not “gay and lesbian” which is how the overwhelming majority of such people identify.   If he wants to show that he is concerned about this community, the first thing he should do is to respect their self-identification.  Even Pope Francis uses the word “gay.”

Fisher, like many other members of the hierarchy, needs to learn that if he really wants to welcome LGBT people to the church, he needs to become more knowledgeable about their lives, the nature of their relationships, and about the real forms of injustice and inequality that they experience.  Too often such bishops think that they are being “compassionate,” when in fact, they are being unjust.

Fisher needs to replace his “logic” with a dose of reality.  His first line of business as archbishop should be to open a dialogue with LGBT Catholics to learn about their faith journeys and their gifts.  I don’t think that someone like him is unreformable, but I think he needs to see how his “logical” arguments are, in fact, pastorally and personally harmful.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 

 

 

 


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