Religious Leaders, Including Catholics, Call on Obama to Oppose Religious Exemption in Upcoming Executive Order

July 9, 2014

President Barack Obama’s expected executive order barring federal contractors from employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity has sparked a controversy because some religious leaders have asked him to include a broad religious exemption in the order.

But, yesterday, Obama heard from a different group of religious leaders, this one asking him not to inscribe discrimination into his executive order by including a religious exemption.  Over 100 diverse clergy, academic, and lay leaders wrote to the president asking him to truly protect LGBT people by not providing language that would exempt religious institutions.

At least seven Catholics were among the letter’s signers:  Francis DeBernardo, executive director, New Ways Ministry; Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director, Dignity/USA; Jim FitzGerald, executive director, Call To Action; Sister Jeannine Gramick, executive coordinator, National Coalition of American Nuns; Mary Hunt, Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual; Jon O’Brien, President, Catholics for Choice; Deb Word, President, Fortunate Families.

The letter argues the case against religious exemptions from a variety of perspectives.  First, there are practical considerations:

“Requiring all federal contractors to operate according to the same set of non-discriminatory hiring practices is more than fair; it is a critical safeguard that protects all parties. If contractors were allowed to selectively follow employment or other laws according to their religious beliefs, we would quickly create an untenable morass of legal disputes. Furthermore, if selective exemptions to the executive order were permitted, the people who would suffer most would be the people who always suffer most when discrimination is allowed: the individuals and communities that are already marginalized.”

There is also the religious perspective:

“Increasing the obstacles faced by those at the margins is precisely the opposite of what public service can and should do, and is precisely the opposite of the values we stand for as people of faith.”

The letter also argued from logic:

“An executive order that allows for religious discrimination against LGBT people contradicts the order’s fundamental purpose, as well as the belief shared by more and more Americans every day, which is that LGBT people should not be treated as second-class citizens. An exception would set a terrible precedent by denying true equality for LGBT people, while simultaneously opening a Pandora’s Box inviting other forms of discrimination.”

The letter also argued from the perspective of American cultural values:

“In a nation as diverse as the United States of America, it is critical that the federal government be trusted to follow—and indeed, to role-model—equitable employment practices. We believe that our mutual commitment to the common good is best served by policies that prohibit discrimination based on factors that have no relationship whatsoever to job performance. We are better and stronger as a nation when hiring decisions are made based on professional merit   rather than personal identity.”

You can read the entire text of the letter, with a list of all signers, here.

In addition to the letter, more than 30,000 U.S. Christians have signed a grassroots petition urging President Obama to oppose those who would use their faith to justify anti-gay discrimination. The petition, organized by Faithful America, reads, in part:

“There’s nothing Christian about firing someone just because they’re gay or lesbian. Taxpayer dollars shouldn’t fund discrimination.”

The letter from faith leaders and the Faithful America petition were in part a response by last week’s Hobby Lobby decision, which many feared would become a slippery slope to expand religious exemptions.

As a person of faith, what are your thoughts about religious exemptions?  Offer your ideas in the “Comments” section of this post.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related articles:

National Catholic Reporter: “Obama’s faith-based advisers divided over religious exemption for anti-gay discrimination”

ThinkProgress.com: 100 Faith Leaders To Obama: Religious Liberty Shouldn’t Be Used To Discriminate Against LGBT People

New York Times: “Faith Groups Seek Exclusion From Bias Rule”


Religious and Political Leaders Ask Archbishop to Stay Away from NOM

June 15, 2014

Today, Catholics in the Archdiocese of San Francisco will be visiting several parishes to ask them to sign a petition asking that city’s Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone not to speak at an anti-marriage equality rally in Washington, DC, later this month.

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone

The petition (organized by Faithful America) is a part of a campaign to ask Cordileone to stay away from the National Organization for Marriage’s (NOM) rally on Thursday, June 19th.  The event is being supported by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and Cordileone is the chair of the conference’s Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage.  The rally is co-sponsored by the anti-gay Family Research Council.

A separate part of the campaign was a letter sent to the Cordileone signed by over 80 California politicians and national religious and community leaders, asking him to refrain from participating in the event.  The Los Angeles Times reported on some of the substance of the letter:

“If he attends as scheduled, they [the letter signers] noted, he will be ‘marching and sharing the podium’ with individuals who ‘have repeatedly denigrated lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.’ . . .

“By standing alongside those participants and organizers, ‘you appear to be endorsing their troubling words and deeds, which directly contradict the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ pastoral teaching that “God does not love someone any less simply because he or she is homosexual. God’s love is always and everywhere offered to those who are open to receiving it,” ‘  they wrote.”

Among the Catholic signers of the letter are Francis DeBernardo, executive director, New Ways Ministry; Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director, DignityUSA, Jim FitzGerald, executive director, Call To Action; Sister Jeannine Gramick, co-founder of New Ways Ministry and coordinator for the National Coalition of American Nuns; Jody Huckaby, Executive Director, PFLAG National; Mary E. Hunt, Co-Founder/Director, Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER).

The entire text of the letter can be read here.

At the USCCB’s national meeting this week, Cordileone re-affirmed his commitment to anti-marriage equality work and to participation in the conference.  According to The National Catholic Reporter:

“Pointing to the recent string of state same-sex marriage bans struck down by federal judges, Cordileone said the country was at a ‘critical point.’

” ‘An amendment to the U.S. Constitution is the only remedy in law against judicial activism,’ he said.

“The San Francisco archbishop also announced he would be attend the second annual March for Marriage in Washington, D.C., June 19. The march is organized by the National Organization for Marriage, a group advocating for legal recognition for marriage as only between one man and one woman.”

The letter to Cordileone also appeals to the example of Pope Francis:

“While not all of us agree with official Catholic teaching on marriage and family, we appreciate the many statements from Catholic leaders defending the human dignity of all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, especially the recent words of Pope Francis: ‘If someone is gay, who searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?’

“Pope Francis words echo the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which states that lesbian and gay people ‘must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.’ “

If Archbishop Cordileone does decide to speak at this event, he would do well to distance himself from the negative rhetoric of NOM by speaking up for the Catholic principles of “respect, compassion, and sensitivity” for lesbian and gay people.  While it might be best if he avoided the event, if he speaks forthrightly for the human dignity and equality of lesbian and gay people, he can turn this potentially negative event into a positive one.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related articles

LGBTQ Nation: “Calif. officials, community leaders urge Archbishop not to attend anti-gay rally.”

Sister Maureen Fiedler, National Catholic Reporter blog: “San Francisco archbishop under fire for plan to speak at March for Marriage”

Huffington Post: “San Francisco Archbishop Outrages Community With Plans To Join Anti-Gay Rally”

San Diego Gay and Lesbian News: “Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone petitioned to not march with anti-gay hate groups”


Catholic–And Cosmopolitan–Responses to the Pope’s Gay Statement

July 31, 2013
Pope Francis

Pope Francis

Since starting this blog over 18 months ago, I have never had such a hard time keeping up with Catholic LGBT news and commentary than in the last two days as articles keep popping up about Pope Francis’ statement which was heard around the gay and Catholic world.  Not even the Supreme Court’s marriage decisions in June generated this much electronic “ink.”

Yesterday, we supplied you with the first round of comments from Catholic writers and organizations.  Today we will try to continue that sampling from some of the best that we have seen from Catholics–and one “cosmopolitan” response that you will have to read to the end to discover!

Like yesterday, you will probably notice a range of opinions, though mostly people are positive.  Let us and others know what you think by posting your thoughts in the “Comments” section of this post.

Richard Galliardetz

Richard Galliardetz

One of the common themes of the commentary I read was whether Francis’ change in tone is really significant?  Professor Richard Galliardetz of Boston College, who this year serves as President of the Catholic Theological Society of America,  answered both of those quandaries in a Religion News Service article:

‘This may be a matter of “style” in some sense, but in this case style matters,’ Gaillardetz explained in a statement that echoed the poet Robert Frost. ‘One can appeal to our doctrinal tradition in order to justify moral rigidity and exclusionary attitudes or one can appeal to our doctrinal tradition as a call to be instruments of mercy and compassion. Francis has chosen the latter course and it has made all the difference!’ ”

Mary Hunt

Mary Hunt

Catholic lesbian theologian Mary Hunt was more guarded in her praise of Pope Francis’ comments, noting particularly that the interview in which he made the statement about gay priests also contained a strong denial of the possibility of ordaining women to the Catholic priesthood.  Hunt’s conclusion in a Religion Dispatches essay:

“The proof of whether this off the cuff press conference, following a well-staged week in Brazil, signals real change will unfold in the months ahead. Will there be stirrings of democracy, a Vatican spring complete with líos [translated: "mess," referring to the pope's statement to young people to "go, make a mess" in the world] in every diocese capable of upending a kyriarchal church and letting a mature, diverse community emerge? Will women finally and definitively share power with men in a democratic church? Or, will there simply be a little tweaking of the rules to make sure that a few favored sons who happen to be gay can remain in power?”

One person who is uniquely qualified to comment on the pope’s comment is Fr. Gary Meier, a St. Louis Archdiocese priest, who came out publicly as gay earlier this spring.  In a CNN blog post, Fr. Meier expressed cautious optimism about the news:

Father Gary Meier

Father Gary Meier

“I am optimistic, that our Pope’s comments can lead to greater love and acceptance of the LGBT community. And at the same time, I am cautious – cautious that the change in tone and attitude represented by the Pope’s statement will not lead to a change in theology and doctrine which so desperately needs to change.

“My prayer for the church is that we might take this opportunity to stop causing harm, to stop being judgmental and to become more welcoming; more inviting; more loving towards all people, especially those who are marginalized and ostracized.”

Mary Ellen and Casey Lopata

Mary Ellen and Casey Lopata

Speaking from the perspective of parents of LGBT people, Casey and Mary Ellen Lopata of Fortunate Families welcomed the pope’s statement.  A WHEC.com news story noted:

“Casey Lopata said, ‘This has opened a door. It seems to signal a willingness to dialogue.’

“Casey Lopata says it is reminiscent of something that happened in Rochester 16 years ago.

“ ‘Back in 1997, here in Rochester, Bishop Clark said a mass with gay and lesbian people, family and friends at the time a lot of people weren’t very happy with it and he later wrote an article in the Catholic Courier and title of the article said, ‘Listen, leave the judgment to God’ and that’s exactly what Pope Francis said today.’”

Mary Ellen was quoted in an NBCNews.com story:

“I sense what he is saying is that we are all children of God and we need to treat each other that way regardless of our sexual orientation,” she said. “If that is indeed what he is saying, I think that is a good step forward for reconciling with gay and lesbian people around the world, and also their families.

“Much that’s been said in past years by church leaders has been very hurtful not only to gay and lesbian people but to their families as well.”

Marianne Duddy-Burke

Marianne Duddy-Burke

That same NBCNews.com story also provided the perspective of LGBT Catholics themselves through the voice of Marianne Duddy-Burke, Executive Director of DignityUSA.  Beginning with a quote from Francis’ statement, Duddy-Burke said:

“ ‘If someone loves the Lord and has goodwill’ [Francis' statement] — the reality of that describes an awful lot of LGBT people,’ she said. ‘There are a lot of LGBT people of faith who are working very hard to hold onto their faith and I think it would be important for us to bring our stories to the pope and other church leaders to move this conversation forward.’

“A key step would be bridging the gap between some church leaders who engage in anti-gay rhetoric and their parishioners, many whom support LGBT rights, Duddy-Burke said. Fifty-four percent of Catholics support same-sex marriage, according to a Pew Forum poll released earlier this year.

“ ‘If Francis can be an instrument in healing that divide, we would certainly welcome that and are happy to partner with him,” she said, while noting that only time would tell what impact his remarks would have on daily life.’ “

Sister Marian Durkin

Sister Marian Durkin

The perspective of a pastoral minister who works with lesbian and gay Catholics was offered by Sister Marian Durkin, CSA, in The Cleveland Plain Dealer:

” ‘I appreciate Pope Francis’ compassionate look at homosexuality in the church,’ said Sister Marian Durkin of the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine. ‘There are gay men in the priesthood, there always have been. And they serve God’s people with great integrity and love.’

“Durkin has worked in a local outreach ministry for gay Catholics for 20 years. She holds an annual retreat for homosexual Catholics and their parents at the Jesuit Retreat House in Parma.

“ ‘I’m delighted whenever there’s good press about gays and lesbians,’ she said. ‘Francis is a breath of fresh air.’ ”

Stephen Pope

Stephen Pope

Portland, Maine’s Press Herald offered the perspective of a theologian who notes the pragmatic effect the pope’s statement can have:

“Stephen Pope, professor of theology at Boston College, said Francis’ comments were consistent with his other efforts to address declining church membership by reaching out to a more diverse audience.

“That approach stands in stark contrast to that of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, he said.

” ‘I think Pope Benedict’s philosophy was to say, “Let them go. We’ll have a smaller church but more pure,” ‘ Pope said. “Pope Francis has sort of adopted this strategy of meeting people where they are and looking for commonality.’ “

Chad Pecknold

Chad Pecknold

Chad Pecknold, a theology professor at Catholic University of America, Washington, DC, noted, in a Baltimore Sun article, that the pope’s statement was not really “off the cuff,” and was, in fact, an invitation to dialogue:

” ‘The message of mercy, I think, is one he is sounding out on every single issue that the culture has identified as one it rejects the church’s teachings on,’ Pecknold said. ‘What Francis wants to say is, “Let’s talk.” ‘

“The pope offered his thoughts in a remarkably open news conference in response to questions about rumors of a ‘lobby’ of gay priests seeking to influence the Vatican. He said he disapproved of any such lobby or influence, but distinguished influence-seekers from priests who might happen to be gay.

“Pecknold said it was important to consider that context when reading the pope’s comments, but he also said the pontiff would have been aware that his comments to international journalists about homosexuality would have been viewed in a broader context.

” ‘We’re going to hear this over and over and over again,’ Pecknold said. ‘The way in which Francis wants to initiate a conversation, the way in which he wants to invite a conversation, is through this message of mercy.’ “

James Salt

James Salt

The youth perspective was offered by James Salt of Catholics United, a political organizing group, in an Agence France-Presse article:

“. . . Catholics United, which has been very critical of Church leadership, said Francis’ comments ‘speak to what every young person knows: God loves gay people, and so should the Catholic Church.’

” ‘Pope Francis’ call for the acceptance of gay priests is a direct repudiation of the backward beliefs of many ultra-conservative ideologues in the Church,’ the group’s leader James Salt said in a statement.

” ‘This statement on gay people, while largely symbolic, is a big step in the right way.’ “

CosmopolitanAnd we close out with a decidedly non-Catholic perspective: Michelle Ruiz, a blogger at Cosmpolitan magazine:

“A lot of arguments against gay marriage and even homosexuality in general point to religion: ‘The Bible says God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve,’ anti-gay groups have been known to say. But now the leader of the Catholic church himself, Pope Francis, is coming out in support of gays. Can we get a Hallelujah?

” ‘If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?’ Francis told reporters yesterday while on an overnight flight from Brazil (for his first foreign trip) back to Rome.

“Francis was responding directly to a question about gay Catholic priests, and his answer is groundbreaking because his more conservative predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, was so against gay clergy, he signed an official document in 2005 saying homosexual men should not be allowed to serve the church.

“So if Francis is cool with gay priests, perhaps gay marriage has a prayer in the church? “

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


New Film Explores Life of Pioneering Gay Catholic Theologian John McNeill

June 11, 2012

Taking a Chance on God, a new documentary on the life of pioneering Catholic gay theologian, John McNeill, will have its New York debut on Saturday, June 16th, 7:00 p.m., at the School of Visual Arts Theatre, 333 West 23rd St., Manhattan, NY.

The film’s screening, sponsored by Dignity/New York, in honor of their 40th anniversary, will feature a panel of distinguished speakers that includes: McNeill himself and his lifelong partner, Charles Chiarelli, Mary Hunt,  James Bernauer SJ,  Bishop Gene Robinson, Kate Clinton, Ginny Apuzzo, Andy Humm, Fr. Dan McCarthy, Fr. Bernard Lynch, Ken Gomolka, Rev. Nancy Wilson.  McNeill is one of the founders of Dignity/New York.  Tickets for the screening are available at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/246908

Brendan Fay and John McNeill

The film’s publicity materials describe the documentary as:

“An inspiring portrait of a pioneer gay priest, Taking a Chance on God follows the extraordinary life of 86-year-old John McNeill from his Buffalo boyhood through his experiences as a POW in Nazi Germany, Vietnam peace promoter, leading gay rights advocate, and loving partner of forty-six years to Charles Chiarelli. McNeill – the author of groundbreaking works of gay spirituality, a founder of the LGBT Catholic group Dignity/New York, and a gay community leader during the AIDS crisis of the 1980s – refused to be silenced by the Vatican on LGBT issues, which resulted in his expulsion from the Jesuit priesthood. Chronicling McNeill’s love for the Catholic Church, the LGBT community, his Jesuit brothers, and his partner, Taking a Chance on God is a powerful story of faith, love and perseverance in the face of oppression and rejection.”

Taking a Chance on God was produced by Brendan Fay, who is also the producer of  The Saint of 9/11, a documentary on Fr. Mychal Judge, OFM, the gay NYC fire department chaplain who is died ministering to people in the attack on the World Trade Center.

In an interview with The Miami Herald, Mc Neill describes the film this way:

 “This film is about my partner Charlie and our 46-year love affair. . . . The message is that God loves gay lovers and approves of them. . . . I don’t want any part of the church’s homophobia. . . .I was bringing a message that God brought to me. God’s love is universal and includes both gay and straight people.”

In the same interview, Fay comments on why he made the film:

“John became a hero to me the way Harvey Milk and other pioneers of the gay liberation movement had. . . .John is often a hidden figure. An unknown pioneer. There are not many who are aware of the dramatic impact and significance he had on the movement for change in society and the church in the early ‘70s.”

McNeill is best known for his ground-breaking theological work, The Church and the Homosexual, published in 1976.  In 2008, New Ways Ministry presented him with the Bridge Building Award for his life-long contributions to scholarship and pastoral work with LGBT people. You can read his award acceptance speech, which sums up his mission and ministry, here.

Kingston, N.Y.’s Daily Freeman interviewed McNeill and Chiarelli when then documentary was screened in the Woodstock, N.Y. film festival in September 2011.  In that interview, McNeill sums up his life work this way:

“I wanted to take away the guilt and self-hatred of gay Catholics who believed the church’s position on homosexuality.”

For a full listing of upcoming screenings, visit the documentary’s website, www.takingachanceongod.com.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 

 

 


Round-up of Actions and Commentary on LCWR

May 1, 2012

Over the past week, actions and commentary on the Vatican’s attempt to control the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), the largest association of Catholic nuns in the U.S., have been abundant.  Because of the high volume of material, it has been difficult for Bondings 2.0 to post everything about it, while at the same trying to provide news and commentary on other Catholic LGBT stories.

To familiarize readers with actions and opinions on the LCWR case, we are providing lists of ACTIONS and COMMENTARY that may be of interest to readers.  Bondings 2.0 has a particular interest in the LCWR story because the nuns’ support of LGBT issues was a significant factor in the Vatican’s investigation of them.  Background on this story can be found in previous Bondings 2.0 articles (listed at end of this post) which include links to earlier news and commentary.

To keep up with the coverage of the LCWR case, The National Catholic Reporter (NCR) webpage has set up a special section on their site entitled “Sisters Under Scrutiny” to gather all of the newspaper’s news stories, opinion pieces, and blog posts about the controversy.  It is a very good resource.

ACTIONS

The following is a list of actions being promoted to support the Sisters:

NCR has set up a Facebook page,  Support Our Catholic Sisters,  where people can post messages of testimony, hope, and encouragement.

A group of Catholics concerned about the religious sisters have organized an online petition at Change.org.

Share-El Salvador is coordinating a signature-ad in the NCR in suppport of the nuns.  Information can be found by clicking here.

New Ways Ministry has instituted a letter-writing campaign can be found on our previous blog post, “Message to Nuns: ‘Be Not Afraid.”

COMMENTARY

The following is a list of note-worthy commentary on the case:

Mollie Wilson O’Reilly, “Moving Beyond the Church? The CDF and the LCWR,” , dotCommonweal Blog, April 19, 2012.

VIDEO INTERVIEW WITH Scott Appleby, University of Notre Dame Catholic Historian, WSBT.com“Notre Dame historian says Vatican crackdown on nuns ‘inappropriate and humiliating’ “ , April 21, 2012.

Francis X. Clooney, SJ, “Sister Laurie Brink OP and the CDF,” America “In All Things” Blog, April 22, 2012.

Jamie Manson, “LCWR: A radical obedience to the voice of God in our time,”National Catholic Reporter, April 23, 2012.

Michele Somerville, “Gunning for the Nuns,”  HuffingtonPost.com, April 23, 2012.

Benedictine Sisters of Erie, “Benedictine Sisters of Erie Support LCWR,”  http://www.ErieBenedictines.org, April 24, 2012.

David Gibson, “LCWR and the Beguines,”dotCommonweal Blog, April 24, 2012

Mary C. Johnson, “American Nuns Will Not Be Bullied,”HuffingtonPost.com, April 24, 2012.

Tom Roberts, “LCWR earthquake snaps tension present since Vatican II,” National Catholic Reporter, April 24, 2012.

Garry Wills, “Bullying the Nuns,New York Review of Books, April 24, 2012.

Carol Lee Campbell, “Our Sisters in Health Care, Then and Now,”EmpowerHer.com, April 25, 2012.

Mary E. Hunt, “We Are All Nuns,ReligionDispatches.org, April 25, 2012.

James Martin, SJ, “LCWR to ‘Move Slowly’ “America “In All Things” Blog, April 25, 2012.

Ivone Gebara “La inquisición actual y las religiosas norteamericanas”Adital.com.br.   English Translation: “The current inquisition and the North American nuns,”  http://www.iglesiadescalza.blogspot.com, April 26, 2012

James Martin, SJ, “What Sisters Mean to Me,”WashingtonPost.com “OnFaith” Blog, April 26, 3012.

Joshua J. McElwee, “LCWR annual assembly to go forward,National Catholic Reporter, April 26, 2012.

Nicole Sotelo, “Resurrection, the sisters and the power of people,”National Catholic Reporter, April 26, 2012.

Maureen Dowd, “Bishops Play Church Queens as Pawns,”New York Times, April 29, 2012.

Nicholas D. Kristof, “We Are All Nuns,”New York Times, April 29, 2012.

Marian Ronan, “Rome vs. the Nuns,” ReligionDispatches.org, April 29, 2012.

Previous Bondings 2.0 posts on the CDF-LCWR story (with some of the links each post contains):

April 18:  Vatican Action Against U.S. Nuns; New Ways Ministry’s Response
Links: Associated Press article; CDF document.

April 19:  Sister Joan Chittister & Sister Simone Campbell Respond to Vatican Action Against U.S. Nuns“
Links: National Catholic Reporter (NCR) article; Religion News Service article by David Gibson; New York Times article.

April 20:  Can There Really Be “Collaboration” Between the Vatican and LCWR?“
Links:  Cardinal Levada’s letter; NCR article on how LCWR learned of the Vatican’s action; NCR article on canon law relevant to the case.

April 21:  Support for U.S. Nuns Spreads Quickly Among Catholics and Others”                                                                                           Links:  Online petition in support of nuns; New York Times editorial supporting nuns; U.S. Catholic magazine analysis of CDF document.

April 22: Comments on LCWR Action from National Catholic LGBT Organizations“
Links:  MSNBC interviews with New Ways Ministry’s Sister Jeannine Gramick and DignityUSA’s Jeff Stone; Washington Post article.

April 23, “Message to Nuns: ‘Be Not Afraid’ ”    Link: NCR article on canon law germane to LCWR.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Transgender Catholic Woman Is Featured in “Queer Catholic Faith” Webinar Series

April 10, 2012

Hilary Howes

Transgender Catholic issues will be the subject of the next installment of  DignityUSA’s webinar series, Queer Catholic Faith, on Tuesday, April 17, 2012, 9:00 pm, Eastern Time.  The featured guest will be Hilary Howes, a Catholic transgender woman living in Maryland.

Hilary’s life journey has been an inspiring one, since she not only transitioned from living as a man to living as a woman, but her previously heterosexual marriage to a woman remained intact through that transition.  Additionally, she is an adult convert to Catholicism, having turned to her wife’s faith after the gender transition process.  The couple are active members of the Greenbelt Catholic Community, an intentional Eucharistic community in Greenbelt, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, DC.

Ms. Howes has already shared her unique life-story in a variety of Catholic venues.  She authored the article, “To Be or Not to Be: A Catholic Transexual Speaks,” in the September 2010 issue of Conscience magazine, which she concluded with this paragraph:

“I understand that my journey, though personal, touches that which is universal about gender for everyone. Perhaps your notions of father, mother, brother, sister, husband and wife get opened a little by meeting someone who has been all of those at different times in her life. Maybe you can take it from someone who has been there that looking at everything as us and them, black and white, male or female is limiting and dangerous. Ultimately, welcoming the mystery of diversity in God’s plan is the healing for our church for which I most hope.”

In September of 2011, she was a featured panelist at the first conference of the “More Than a Monologue” series, held at Fordham University, New York.  A National Catholic Reporter article on the event noted Hilary’s participation, observing that she offered her message of diversity with a strong dose of humor, with lines such as:

“I remain in my Catholic marriage of 33 years, to the most understanding woman in the world — making ours one of the few same-sex marriages affirmed by the Roman Catholic church.”

Most recently, Hilary, along with her wife, Celestine, were focus session leaders at New Ways Ministry’s Seventh National Symposium last month in Baltimore, Maryland.  Their presentation is available on CD; click here for the order form.

The DignityUSA webinar series kicked off last month with a conversation with Jamie Manson, an award-winning columnist for The National Catholic Reporter.  It will continue, Tuesday, May 22, 2012, 9:00 pm, Eastern Time, with Rev. John McNeill, theologian, psychotherapist, and pioneer of LGBT rights in the Catholic church.   The series concludes on Tuesday, June 12, 2012, 9:00 pm, Eastern Time, with Dr. Mary Hunt, theologian and co-founder of WATER (Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual).

To register for any of these webinars, go to: http://www.instantpresenter.com/PIID=EA55DC818346 or visit DignityUSA’s webpage for this event.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


NEWS NOTES: March 6, 2012

March 6, 2012

Here are links to some items you might find of interest:

1) Paul Brandeis Raushenbush, senior religion editor of HuffingtonPost.com, answers a Catholic’s question: “How Can I Be a Lesbian and Stay in My Church.”

2) The recent case of the denial of communion to Barbara Johnson, a lesbian woman at her mother’s funeral is put into the historical context of the “wafer wars,” by theologian Mary Hunt in a ReligionDispatches.org column:  “Communion or Disunion?

3) Candace Chellew-Hodge examines Maryland’s potential referendum on marriage equality with Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry’s Executive Director, in a ReligionDispatches.org article: “Maryland Voters Split on Marriage Equality, So Far.” New Ways Ministry Co-Founder Sister Jeannine Gramick is also quoted in this article.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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