QUOTE TO NOTE: On the Passing of Fred Phelps

March 23, 2014

computer_key_Quotation_MarksFred Phelps, the founder of the virulently anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church, died this past week.   The National Catholic Reporter posted an article on Phelps’ history, which began in Topeka, Kansas, and then gained a national profile.

LGBT religious groups responded to his demise with compassion for the human sorrow that death brings and with calls to end the religiously-based anti-gay rhetoric that Phelps personified.  On the CNN Religion BlogJim Smith, DignityUSA‘s Associate Director, had this to say:

“There is a sadness as deep as the Grand Canyon over the harm that he has unleashed in our country, a sadness that can’t be quantified. But that still doesn’t mean I delight in his death. I’d delight in the end of the Westboro [Baptist Church] mission.”

To Smith’s sentiments, we say, “Amen!”

Fred Phelps

Taking a different perspective was a Kansas Catholic Church official,  who claimed that Phelps’ extremism harmed people who oppose marriage equality and other pro-LGBT issues. Jacksonville.com reported :

“Michael Schuttloffel, executive director of the Kansas Catholic Conference, said Phelps and his congregation still represent ‘an easy device’ for gay-marriage supporters to “short-circuit the conversation” on that and related issues in recent years.

” ‘People were justifiably, appropriately outraged by the things that they did,’ Schuttloffel said of Phelps and his church. ‘As soon as someone, then, is able to tar you as being related to them or thinking the same way as them, right away you’re starting behind the eight ball.’

So sad that Mr. Schuttloffel turned this occasion into a statement about marriage.  So sad that a Catholic official does not recognize the pain and harm that Phleps caused so many.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


LGBT Rainbows Are Appearing Over Ireland

March 14, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

Ben Kelly

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

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

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

Jerry Buttimer

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Panti Bliss

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

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

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

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

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 

 


U.S. Catholics Make Known Their Opinions on Marriage and Family Issues

February 22, 2014

In the past few weeks, we’ve posted about a few international bishops’ conferences reporting about what they have learned from their surveys of their lay people on matters of marriage and family life, in anticipation of the October 2014 Synod in Rome on those topics.  More and more bishops’ conferences are starting to disclose the responses to these surveys, and we will be reporting on them in the coming days.

Noticeably absent has been any report from the U.S. bishops, and this is probably due to the fact that very few of them made the survey available to their laity.   To remedy this omission of the voices of U.S. lay Catholics, a network of Catholic reform organizations sent out the survey to their members, and yesterday they have released a report on the compiled responses.  Released by member groups of the Catholic Organizations for Renewal and entitled Voices of the People: Responses to the Vatican Survey in Preparation for the Extraordinary Synod on the Familythe report provides statistics on the information gathered from over 16,000 respondents.   According to a press release, the report categorized responses under seven major themes:

  1. Pastoral care urgently needed
  2. Pedagogical/evangelism challenges
  3. Separated, divorced and remarried Catholics
  4. Same-sex marriage
  5. Women in the Church
  6. Sexual abuse scandals
  7. Skepticism and hope.

The survey responses were analyzed by an independent reviewer, Dr. Peter J. Fagan, M.Div., PhD., from the Department of Psychology and Behavioral Sciences at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, in Baltimore, Maryland. 53% of the respondents identified as weekly church-goers, higher than the national average of 31% of Catholics who do so.

On the issue of  marriage equality, the report offers the following evaluation of Catholic attitudes:

“There  is  a  law  recognizing  marriage  equality  in  the  states  of  57  percent  of  the   respondents  (Q29)  and  marriage  equality  is  very  important  for  26  percent  of  the   respondents  and  extremely  important  for  47  percent  (Q33*).

“Respondents  were  asked  to  judge  the  attitudes  of  their  diocese,  parish  and  small   faith  communities  toward  both  marriage  equality  and  same-­‐sex  couples  in  a   committed  partnership  (Q30).  As  the  geography  of  the  entity  became  more  local  and   familiar,  i.e.  from  diocese  to  parish  to  faith  community,  the  respondents’  judged  that   the  attitudes  were  less  hostile,  less  condemning  and  less  negative  and  became  more   supportive,  even  highly  supportive.  This  pattern  applied  to  both  marriage  equality   and  same-­‐sex  couples  in  a  committed  relationship.    One  third  of  respondents  viewed  their  dioceses  as  hostile  and  condemning  of  marriage  equality  (37  percent)  and  same-­‐ sex  couples  (35  percent);  their  parishes  as  hostile  and  condemning  of  marriage   equality  (11  percent)  and  same-­‐sex  couples  (13  percent);  and  their  faith  communities   as  hostile  and  condemning  of  marriage  equality  (3  percent)  and  same-­‐sex  couples  (4   percent).

“Asked  about  attitudinal  support  of  marriage  equality  and  same-­‐sex  couples,  the   inverse  pattern  applied:  the  more  local,  the  more  support  for  marriage  equality  and   same-­‐sex  couples  in  a  committed  partnership  (Q30).    Seven  percent  of  dioceses  were   seen  being  at  least  somewhat  supportive  of  both  situations,  as  did  thirty  one  percent   of  parishes  and  two  thirds  of  small  faith  communities.    The  striking  contrast  in  this   inverse  pattern  is  the  discrepancy  between  the  dioceses  perceived  as  hostile  and   condemning  toward  marriage  equality  (37  percent)  and  same-­‐sex  couples  (35   percent)  and  the  perception  of  the  respondents’  small  faith  communities  attitudes  as   being  highly  supportive  of  marriage  equality  (45  percent)  and  same-­‐sex  couples  in  a   committed  partnership  (47  percent). “

The entire report concludes with the following observation from the analyst:

There  can  be  no  conclusion  to  this  Report  because  it  is  offered  as  participation  to   the  dialogue  and  discernment  leading  up  to  the  Extraordinary  Synod  on  the  Family   to  be  held  in  the  Vatican  during  October  2014.    However,  if  we  were  to  try  to   capture  what  the  respondents  have  said  in  one  sentence,  we  turn  to  voice  of  Pope   Francis  when  he  wrote,

“ ‘The  Church  must  be  a  place  of  mercy  freely  given,  where  everyone  can  feel   welcomed,  loved,  forgiven  and  encouraged  to  live  the  good  life  of  the  Gospel.’   (Evangelii  Gaudium,  #114)

“If  there  were  one  near-­‐universal  hope  of  the  over  16,000  respondents  to  this  Survey,   it  would  be  that  this  vision  of  the  church  would  become  a  pastoral  reality.”

Organizational sponsors of the survey project from Catholic Organizations for Renewal include American Catholic Council, Call To Action, CORPUS, DignityUSA, Federation of Christian Ministries/Roman Catholic Faith Community Council, FutureChurch, New Ways Ministry, RAPPORT, Roman Catholic Womenpriests, Southeastern Pennsylvania Women’s Ordination Conference, Voice of the Faithful, and Women’s Ordination Conference.   Other supporting organizations include Catholic Church Reform, Fortunate Families, and Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER).

You can read some of the qualitative responses to the survey either in English or Spanish.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Valentine’s Day Message of Love and Equality from Ohio and Kentucky Catholics

February 14, 2014

On Valentine’s Day, we have two stories about how U.S. Catholics are showing their love for LGBT people by taking their message of equality and justice to the streets this week.  One event has already occurred and one is scheduled for this coming weekend.

Protesting Bishop Paprocki’s talk against marriage equality.

In Cincinnati, Ohio, on Wednesday evening, February 12th,  Catholics gathered outside the Athenaeum, a Catholic seminary in that city, to protest a talk against marriage equality being given there by Springfield, Illinois’ Bishop Thomas Paprocki.  This bishop made headlines last year when he staged a prayer service that included prayers of exorcism in his cathedral on the day that marriage equality was signed into law in Illinois.

The protest, organized by Dignity/Dayton and Dignity/USA, demonstrated Catholic support for  marriage equality.  WCPO-TV reported that while inside the building Bishop Paprocki offered arguments against marriage equality, outside, the demonstrators told a different story:

“The protestors strongly disagree [with the bishop], saying his theory clashes with the Pope’s beliefs. According to protestor Bob Butts, the Pope’s bigger concern is poverty.

” ‘My partner and I have been together for 26 years,’ he said. ‘This stuff is mean, hateful, does a lot of harm, especially to young LGBT youth.’

“Protesting along with Butts was Peggy Hanna.

” ‘I believe those of us who are not in the LGBT community, we need to come out and support them,’ she said. ‘This is the right thing to do. I am wishing the church would open its mind and heart.’ “

You can watch the video of the news report on this protest by clicking here.

In May of 2013, Bishop Paprocki debated New Ways Ministry’s Sister Jeannine Gramick on the topic of marriage equality.

Father Joseph Fowler

On Sunday, February 16th, Catholics for Fairness, a pr0-LGBT group in Louisville, Kentucky, will march to the cathedral in that city to ask Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, the ordinary of the city and also the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, to “acknowledge the inherent dignity of all human beings, including LGBT people,” according to Father Joseph Fowler, an archdiocesan priest who has organized this demonstration for the last three years.

Fr. Fowler explained the purpose of the demonstration in an essay in Louisville’s Courier-Journal newspaper:

“While Pope Francis appears to be moving the church forward on LGBT acceptance, it seems Archbishop Kurtz is resisting. More than three years ago, Archbishop Kurtz made a promise — since unfulfilled — that he would review and consider support for a simple LGBT-inclusive anti-discrimination Fairness law in Kentucky.

“House Bill 171, introduced by Rep. Mary Lou Marzian and co-sponsored by Rep. Jim Wayne and 15 other state legislators, would extend discrimination protections in employment, housing and public accommodations to LGBT people. It’s a law that says everyone deserves a fair shake at earning a living, putting a roof over their heads, and eating at their favorite restaurants without the fear of being turned away just because of who they are.

“And it’s the type of law the vast majority of Catholics support nationwide — 73 percent according to a recent Public Policy Research Institute poll. This same poll showed Catholics to be the most progressive Christian denomination in America on LGBT issues.

“With so much support among Catholics, and Pope Francis’ obvious overtures of LGBT acceptance, it remains an enigma why Archbishop Kurtz continues to avoid the issue.”

The Louisville marchers will meet on Sunday, February 16, 4:00 p.m., at  4 p.m. at the Volunteers of America of Kentucky headquarters, 570 South Fourth St.  They will walk to the Cathedral of the Assumption, 433 South Fifth Street.

Kudos to these Catholics in Cincinnati and Louisville for demonstrating their faith in such powerful ways!  What a wonderful present for St. Valentine’s Day!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 


Praying for All Marriages During National Marriage Week

February 9, 2014

LoveIsLoveToday is “National Marriage Day,” part of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ National Marriage Week which spans from last Friday through next Friday, St. Valentine’s Day.

While the bishops have asked Catholics to participate in support of their anti-marriage equality campaign, other Catholics are affirming the goodness of marriage — and that means all marriages, which deserve equal recognition and dignity.

The Equally Blessed coalition, which consists of  Call to ActionFortunate FamiliesDignityUSA, and New Ways Ministry, has released a statement further explaining these events:

“The National Marriage Week campaign’s limited scope creates an unwelcoming Church for the thousands of US Catholics in same-sex marriages who live their lives as shining examples of love in the face of discrimination. By encouraging local parishes to observe ‘National Marriage Day’ during Sunday mass, the bishops are once again using the liturgy as a weapon to further alienate LGBT Catholics and their supporters.

“This campaign only serves to show how out of touch the bishops are with the values of everyday Catholics. While the bishops continue to abuse their power by pouring money and effort into thinly veiled anti-equality campaigns like National Marriage Week, the majority of US Catholics continue to support equality for LGBT families. Catholics know that all marriages based on love and respect are sacred and we implore the bishops to follow the laity’s lead and cease this attack on LGBT families.”

Equally Blessed, has prepared a “Prayer for All Marriages” which LGBT-affirming Catholics are being asked to pray today and throughout the week with their family, parishes, and local communities. You’re encouraged to show your support through stories and photos of how you have prayed and emailing these to coordinator@equally-blessed.org. You can find more resources by clicking here and the prayer is provided below:

Loving God, 
You who created each of us in Your own image 
and who called us together in community, 
 
We give You thanks for the gift of marriage 
and for the many couples 
whose love and commitment to each other reminds us 
of Your never-ending love for humanity. 
 
We thank You for all the different types of marriages in our world: 
young couples beginning a life together, 
 as well as couples celebrating decades of love, 
re-married couples and those who found each other later in life, 
couples whose marriages are recognized by our state and our Church, 
and same-sex couples who are denied that recognition 
but who continue to bravely model love and commitment in the face of discrimination. 
 
We thank You for the many kinds of families 
 that are strengthened by these marriages: 
families of biological children and adopted children, 
blended families and families of choice, 
as well as couples without children who work together 
 to nurture communities of love and justice. 
 
This week, as many are observing National Marriage Week, 
we ask You to pour Your blessings onto every marriage 
regardless of gender or sexual orientation. 
Make each marriage one of love, respect and peace. 
Guide each couple as they strive to be an example of your love in the world 
and surround them with family and friends 
 who honor and celebrate their commitment. 
 
Help us support marriage and family in all of its diversity 
and guide us as we speak out against oppression in our Church. 
Lead us toward the day when all loving unions will be seen as sacred 
and all couples will have the support and recognition of their faith communities. 
 
We pray this in the name of Jesus, who called us to love one another as we love You, 
Amen

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Bishop Paprocki Says Marriage Equality Supporters Should Be Disciplined Like Children

February 5, 2014

Bishop Thomas Paprocki

Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois,does not fear controversy when it comes to gay and lesbian matters. Now, a new video has emerged where he speaks in pastorally harmful and belittling ways about LGBT people that seem shocking in the age of Pope Francis.

Paprocki, who once debated Sr. Jeannine Gramick on the issue of marriage equality, made headlines last November for holding an exorcism on the same day Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, who is Catholic, signed equal marriage rights into law in their state. The video which has recently emerged is the bishop’s attempt to explain why he held the exorcism, and was filmed by Life Site News, a conservative Catholic website, during mid-January activities surrounding the March for Life in Washington, DC.

Claiming the exorcism was appropriate because the Catholic Church was undergoing “persecution” by advocates of LGBT equality, Paprocki stated in the video

“I thought that would be a fitting time for us to have that prayer, really for praying for God and his power to drive out the Devil from his influence that seems to be pervading our culture so much in our world this day. That was kind of the whole context for offering it.”

The interviewer also asked Paprocki how he would respond to those criticizing the exorcism as hateful. Paprocki’s response:

“You really have to understand what love is all about…By being to opposed to the redefinition of marriage and by being opposed to things that are sinful, that’s actually a very loving thing…perhaps it’s the permissiveness of our society that people think that if you don’t get what you want that you’re somehow being hateful, if you don’t give them what they want.

“But sometimes, like any good parent will tell you, that sometimes you have to discipline your child, sometimes you have to say no. And sometimes, you even have to punish.

“And when a parent does those things, they’re not being hateful towards their children, they’re actually being very loving by correcting them and showing them the right way to do things.”

As for those working for marriage equality, he called their efforts a “stridently secular agenda” driven by politicians and the media. Paprocki even went so far as to say “the work of the Devil is behind this” and quoted a disputed comment by Pope Francis during his time as a cardinal in Argentina to justify his anti-gay actions.

Paprocki concluded by making unsubstantiated claims that children raised by same-gender couples experience adverse effects and that the two people of the same sex who marry is “basically a lie.” You can view the entire video at Raw Story by clicking here.

Bishop Paprocki’s remarks seem to be standard fare for him, but this does not mitigate the damage an interview like this does. It is well past time for Paprocki to stop his exaggerated criticism, which only alienates LGBT Catholics and their supporters, and instead do some positive pastoral outreach and reconciliation.

Pope Francis has shown through word and action that he wants bishops who show mercy and welcome to all, including LGBT people, and asked bishops to stop obsessing over issues like same-gender marriage. Without changing their beliefs on marriage, South Africa’s bishops sought solidarity with the LGBT community instead of division in response to anti-gay laws and a handful of cardinals have reached out for greater LGBT inclusion as well.

Paprocki should follow the steps of Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, who heads up the American bishops’ anti-marriage equality campaign, and at least listen to LGBT people’s lived experiences with compassion. Perhaps he will see the many Catholics who work for marriage equality and LGBT inclusion because of their faith, working not for demonic reasons, but for God and their beloved friends and family who are gay.

At the very least, Paprocki should keep quiet on LGBT issues for awhile. Suggesting that those who support marriage equality are similar to children needing discipline and punishment directly contradicts the Church’s call for respect when engaging LGBT people and issues.  His comments have no place in the Catholic community.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


CAMPUS CHRONICLES: Students Call Loyola Chicago to Welcome All Weddings

December 6, 2013
Christine Irvine and her fiance

Loyola University Chicago students are petitioning their college to allow same-gender marriages in light of Illinois’ new marriage equality law. A recent editorial in the student newspaper raised the issue, following up on a recent controversy when a lesbian student was refused access to campus for her wedding.

Christine Irvine hoped to have her wedding at Loyola, but administrators at the Jesuit-run institution rejected this request on that grounds they only allow marriage ceremonies recognized by the state of Illinois. Irvine began a Change.org petition, which has gained nearly 2,900 signatures.  The petition states, in part:

“Because of our sexual orientation, because we are gay, we are banned from celebrating one of the most meaningful days of our lives on Loyola’s campus…

“Loyola claims to embrace social justice and attempts to be a ‘home for all our students –  embracing all races, sexes, gender identities, religions, ethnic backgrounds, socio-economic classes, sexual orientations, and abilities.’

“We call on Loyola University Chicago to live up to these values and create a home for all, regardless of sexual orientation, by ending the discriminatory policy banning same sex ceremonies on campus.”

USA Today reported that though no official policy is in place, a Loyola spokesperson commented, before marriage equality became law in the state, that there were guidelines, and campus facilities could be rented for social events, if not the wedding ceremony. Now that Illinois recognizes same-gender marriages, the spokesperson also said Loyola would develop a policy for on-campus weddings.

This changing reality caused the editorial board of student newspaper, Loyola Phoenix, to call on the administration to continue current policies, which would now allow same-sex couples. The editors write:

“The PHOENIX Editorial Board would like to use this opportunity to encourage the university to uphold its current policy and permit all ceremonies recognized by the state to occur in its venues, with the exception of Madonna della Strada Chapel…

“While we recognize that Loyola has the right to change its policy in light of the recent change in Illinois law, we believe that the current policy should remain in effect as it is written in order to maintain Loyola’s Jesuit values of inclusion and social justice…

“In choosing to stand by its current policy, Loyola ensures that it will remain an accepting space for all students, staff and community members, such as Irvine, and one that promotes equality and compassion in accordance with our collective virtue of social justice. Loyola can maintain space for its traditional Catholic beliefs, as well as its progressive Jesuit values.”

The outcome of both Irvine’s complaint and any developments in Loyola’s wedding policy are unclear, but students and alumni of the University are encouraged to make their LGBT-affirming voices heard to administrators.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Cardinal Dolan’s Complaints Are Not Warranted

November 30, 2013
Cardinal Timothy Dolan

Cardinal Timothy Dolan

Tomorrow morning, NBC-TV will air a pre-taped interview with New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan, in which the prelate claims that the Catholic Church has been wrongly portrayed as being “anti-gay” because of official support for heterosexual marriage.

USA Today  reports:

“A top Roman Catholic cardinal says he regrets that the church is portrayed as ‘anti-gay’ for supporting traditional marriage between a man and a woman.

“Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York, told NBC News that the church has been ‘out-marketed” on the issue by an array of people, including politicians.

” ‘We’ve been caricatured as being anti-gay,’ Dolan said in an interview airing Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press. ‘And as much as we’d say, “Wait a minute, we’re pro marriage, we’re pro traditional marriage, we’re not anti anybody,” I don’t know.

” ‘When you have forces like Hollywood, when you have forces like politicians, when you have forces like some opinion-molders that are behind it, it’s a tough battle,’ he said. . . .

” ‘I think I’d be a Pollyanna to say that there doesn’t seem to be kind of a stampede to do this,’ Dolan told David Gregory of Meet the Press. ‘I regret that. I wish that were not the case for the states.’ “

Dolan’s comments are filled with many errors in characterization.  First, “the church” is not against same-gender marriage.  The church hierarchy is defending heterosexual-only.  We know that poll after poll keeps showing that Catholics support marriage equality–and “the church” is rightly defined as ALL the people of God, not just the hierarchy.

Second,  people, especially Catholics, are not being swayed by external forces to support marriage equality.  Catholics are supporting these measures not in spite of their faith, but because of their faith.  Catholic principles of justice, equality, human dignity, protection and support of all families are what are motivating them to support  marriage for lesbian and gay couples.   The more that the hierarchy continues to view this argument as a battle between forces inside and outside the church, the more that these leaders will miss the fact that the Holy Spirit is moving among the laity on this issue.

Third, it is not  because of opposition to marriage equality that people characterize Catholic leadership as anti-gay.  It is because they oppose a whole variety of equality issues–immigration, employment non-discrimination, adoption,  as well as marriage–that people view the hierarchy as anti-gay.  It’s because they deny sacraments to lesbian and gay people and their supporters, because they expel children of lesbian and gay people from Catholic schools, because they fire openly LGBT people from church employment, because they hold exorcisms when marriage equality is enacted, because they compare the gay equality movement to the Ku Klux Klan–and so many other actions and statements–that people perceive the church hierarchy as anti-gay.   And it’s because they miss every opportunity to do or say anything positive that people develop this characterization.

Just look at how people have responded to the few positive things that Pope Francis has said in regard to lesbian and gay people.  While he has not challenged church doctrine, he has found many ways of being affirmative, and people are responding in a wildly positive way.

Cardinal Dolan, and all the U.S. bishops, should stop blaming others and do a thorough examination of their own statements, behaviors, and attitudes in regard to LGBT people and issues.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


Was It Intellectually Possible for Pope Benedict to Support Marriage Equality?

November 26, 2013

The recent marriage equality debate in Illinois produced a lot of important arguments, especially from Catholics who supported the passage of the new law. For instance, as we noted a few weeks back, several Catholic legislators appealed to Pope Francis’ famous “Who am I to judge?” comment to support their endorsement of marriage equality.

Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI

In an op-ed essay in The Chicago Sun-Times, Cristina Traina, a Northwestern University  professor of religious studies and scholar of Catholic ethics builds on the idea of papal thinking as an avenue to support marriage equality.  

Entitled “Unnecessary roughing: Why Catholic bishops should be more accepting of gay marriage,”  Traina argues that Catholics, because of their moral tradition, should not only accept, but actively work for marriage equality.  This imperative, she asserts, comes not only from Pope Francis, but from his more conservative-minded predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI.  She explains:

“Pope Francis certainly has not promoted same-sex marriage — especially in the Church. But he and his predecessor, Benedict XVI, both have made arguments that suggest their willingness to distinguish the low bar of public policy and civil law from the high bar of Christian moral ideals. Most importantly, they and others in the Catholic hierarchy seem to see these laws and policies as means of nudging people toward spiritual and moral renewal.”

Pope Francis

Pope Francis

Traina leads her readers carefully through the confusing realm of what she calls “Vatican-speak” to explain how she arrived at this conclusion.  For example, Pope Francis’ Vatican has already recognized that same-sex marriage is a phenomenon that needs to be approached in a new pastoral way.  Noting that the Vatican is polling Catholics worldwide what their thoughts on same-sex marriage are,  Traina states:

“With the clear assumption that same-sex marriage is a cultural reality, the poll is trying to determine how the Church should minister to gay and lesbian couples and their families.”

From this point, she goes even further, by bringing in the sophisticated moral reasoning that Pope Benedict used when discussing condom use:

“The last example brings us to Pope Benedict XVI, who in 2010, according to an explosion of newswires, reversed Catholic teaching, cautiously approving the use of condoms to reduce transmission of HIV/AIDS. What the pope actually said — as the Vatican quickly confirmed — was quite different but no less important.

“He argued that for a person who has been practicing unprotected sex, using condoms out of concern for others ‘can be a first step in the direction of moralization, a first assumption of responsibility, on the way toward recovering an awareness that not everything is allowed and that one cannot do whatever one wants.’

“Though the Church disapproves of condoms, the reasoning goes, using them for the right reasons might lead a person gradually toward greater moral concern and away from a self-indulgent approach to sex.

“The implication is that the Vatican is beginning to view ‘irregular’ behavior like condom use and same-sex marriage as opportunity rather than as threat. Without abandoning its rejection of either, it shows signs of seeing both as indications of people’s aspirations to love, fidelity and concern for others — as nascent yearnings toward a holy life.”

This style of reasoning offers the U.S. bishops an example of how they can acknowledge and support marriage equality:

“Pope Benedict acknowledged the integrity of people who want to use condoms to forestall the spread of an often-fatal disease, though the Catholic Church teaches that sex should be confined to marriage and that monogamy and abstinence are better protection than condoms against HIV/AIDS. American bishops could follow suit by acknowledging the integrity of same-sex couples who want to marry, declare their fidelity, and raise children together, though the Catholic Church teaches that marriage should be confined to heterosexual couples.”

Traina concludes with a hope for the future:

“The implication of the popes’ actions is clear: marriage equality could be an important stepping stone to a holy life and therefore just might be good law.”

Catholic moral reasoning provides an intellectual basis for the Church to support marriage equality.  Traina’s argument shows that even someone like Pope Benedict, who opposed marriage equality on one hand, could also have used his own moral values and processes to support it.  One implication of Traina’s argument is that it shows that opposition to marriage equality is probably motivated by something other than intellectual reasoning.   Discussion of marriage equality–or any sexuality issue, for that matter–always involves more than one’s head, but also the person’s emotions and level of comfortability.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Pope Francis’ Words Swayed Illinois Lawmakers to Support Marriage Equality

November 8, 2013

Pope Francis

This week, Illinois became the 15th state to pass marriage equality legislation, and it’s becoming clear from news reports that this was done in no small way because of Catholics in the state, and Pope Francis, too.

The Chicago Tribune reported that Pope Francis’ famous “Who am I to judge?” comments from July seemed to persuade some Catholic lawmakers to vote in favor of marriage equality.  The news story stated:

“The comments sparked a wave of soul-searching by several Catholic lawmakers who had battled to reconcile their religious beliefs with their sworn duty to represent their constituents who were increasingly supportive of gay rights even as Cardinal Francis George remained opposed.”

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan

As evidence, they offered a quote from Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, a Catholic, who echoed the pope’s famous line as he adapted it to the marriage equality debate:

“For those that just happen to be gay — living in a very harmonious, productive relationship but illegal — who am I to judge that they should be illegal?”

The Chicago Sun-Times  was more expansive in citing Madigan’s remarks:

“House Speaker Michael J. Madigan was one of the final speakers in the debate, giving the bill his blessing, pledging to vote yes and quoting Pope Francis.

“ ‘My thoughts regarding this legislation were formulated before the quote I’m going to offer to all of us,’ Madigan told colleagues, as the packed House chamber fell silent. ‘And the quote that I offer is a quote from Pope Francis of the Roman Catholic church, who is quoted as saying, “If someone is gay, and he searches for the Lord, and he has good will, who am I to judge?”

“ ‘Pope Francis has spoken, and he has articulated the basis of my thinking on this issue,’ said Madigan, who later acknowledged having personally lobbied between five and 10 House Democrats to support Harris’ bill.”

Another Catholic lawmaker who was obviously influenced by Pope Francis is Representative Linda Chapa LaVia (who we quoted yesterday) who explicitly referenced the pope in her explanation of how her faith motivated her to vote for marriage equality:

“As a Catholic follower of Jesus and the pope, Pope Francis, I am clear that our Catholic religious doctrine has at its core love, compassion and justice for all people.”

Representative Linda Chapa LaVia

The Tribune noted that Chapa LaVia had been undecided about her vote, even as late as this past summer.

The Beacon News interviewed Chapa LaVia for an article about how she came to her decision.  The news story stated:

“Over the past two years, Chapa LaVia met with her priest, made visits to area churches and fielded constituent calls. Chapa LaVia faced competing protests at her district office this summer after declaring she was ’50/50′ on the gay marriage issue.”

In addition to her Catholic faith, Chapa La Via also cited her constitutional oath to uphold the law:

“Besides her husband, developer Vernon LaVia, no one knew exactly which way she would vote until she took to the House floor Tuesday. In her speech, Chapa LaVia said she raised her right hand twice on oath to the Constitution of Illinois and to the Constitution of the United States.

“ ‘Both times it was a promise to promote justice for all, not just some people,’ she said.”

LaVia mentioned that”it’s going to be difficult to walk into church,” but she was not the only Catholic who supported the bill:

“Chapa LaVia noted that many other ‘high-ranking Catholics,’ such as Gov. Pat Quinn, House Speaker Mike Madigan and state Rep. Ed Sullivan, one of three GOP House members to vote ‘yes,’ also supported the bill Tuesday. All Latino state House lawmakers and 16 of the 24 Black Caucus members voted in favor of the bill, too, her office said Wednesday.”

Governor Quinn, who signed civil union legislation a few years ago, is ready to sign the marriage equality bill, too.

These high-ranking leaders joined the thousands of ordinary Catholics in the state who supported marriage equality, many of whom were members of the Catholics for Marriage Equality Illinois coalition.  The Illinois Observer reported on a recent state poll which showed that “Illinois voters who identified as Catholic favor gay marriage by a 2-to-1 margin.”

Some Catholic leaders, of course, were vocal opponents of the bill, and were disappointed with the outcome.   RRStar.com reported:

“. . . the Catholic Conference of Illinois issued a statement that said the vote went ‘against the common consensus of the human race’ and undermines the institution of marriage.

” ‘The Catholic Conference of Illinois is deeply disappointed that members of the General Assembly chose to redefine what is outside of its authority — a natural institution like marriage,’ the statement said. ‘We remain concerned about the very real threats to religious liberty that are at stake with the passage of this bill.’ “

Cardinal Francis George

Similarly, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, who spoke out numerous times against the bill had this reaction, reported by the Sun-Times:

“It’s no enormous surprise. There was a lot of effort placed into passage of this legislation. I think it’s bad legislation, but we’ve lived with bad laws before. It’ll make some people happy … but it will also, I think, change the nature of our society over a period of time.”

The cardinal also indicated that gay and lesbian couples who marry legally would not be eligible to receive communion:

“If someone is living in a lifestyle that is publicly against the Gospel as interpreted in the church, whether heterosexual or they’re gay, no, they don’t take communion. But that’s the discipline of the sacrament that applies to everybody, not just to gays.”

Yet, it seems that Catholics in the state are paying more attention to Pope Francis than to the local hierarchy when it comes to LGBT issues.  In fact, the bishops’ opposition seems to be having a somewhat  counter-productive effect for their position.  The poll mentioned above also had results that showed that when Catholics were told that bishops opposed marriage equality, this information actually increased support for the legislation.  The Illinois Observer reported:

“Catholic voters actually offered more support for marriage equality legislation when told that some public figures, including Cardinal George and Catholic bishops, oppose marriage between same-sex couples, according to a new poll by Fako & Associates of Lisle, IL, a national public opinion research firm. . . .

“Catholics supported marriage fairness 61 percent to 32 percent; Catholic support increased to 63 percent, 31 percent opposed, when read the balanced statement that included the bishops’ opposition.”

For more information on Catholics who support marriage equality, visit the Catholics for Marriage Equality website and “like” them on Facebook.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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