How Can Ordinary Catholics Respond to the Firing of LGBT Church Employees?

April 5, 2014

Responding  to the terrible trend of LGBT church employees being fired from their jobs has been a difficult challenge.  What are ways that Catholic people in the pews can help to stave off these unjust actions?

Marianne Duddy-Burke

Marianne Duddy-Burke

DignityUSA‘s Executive Director Marianne Duddy-Burke offered some alternatives in an op-ed recently in The National Catholic Reporter .   She begins her essay by pointing out a poignant twist:

“About a century ago, Catholic job-seekers were routinely confronted with signs reading, ‘No Catholics need apply.’ Now, it seems administrators in some Catholic schools are prepared to post signs that say, ‘No gay people need apply.’ “

Sparked by the recent developments, particularly those in the diocese of Honolulu and the archdiocese of Cincinnati, where bishops have made orthodoxy pledges which explicitly disparage lesbian and gay relationships a requirement for working in Catholic schools, Duddy-Burke proposed the following actions that ordinary Catholics can take:

  1. “Write or email Archbishop Dennis Schnurr of Cincinnati and Bishop Clarence Silva of Honolulu to demand these ill-conceived contracts not be implemented. Tell them how you believe these documents violate the very soul of our faith.
  2. Send a similar letter to Archbishop George Lucas of Omaha, Neb., chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Catholic Education about why LGBT people should not be banned from teaching in our schools.
  3. Catholics whose children or grandchildren attend Catholic schools can speak with their administrators to insist they not adopt this type of contract. Talk about the values of respect and inclusion that you believe are central to our faith and how important it is that these values are part of your children’s education. Work with other parents to ensure the school’s leadership knows this matters to lots of tuition-payers. Alumni of these institutions also have an important voice. You can reflect on the values that you carry with you as a result of your education and your sense of how these contracts violate them.”

Duddy-Burke notes that the firings teach a terrible lesson to students and families who attend Catholic schools:

Catholic schools and other institutions do embody central values of our faith, and I believe all of us understand the important role they play in our communities. However, having them be models of exclusion, intimidation and oppression radically lessens their effectiveness.

New Ways Ministry strongly supports DignityUSA’s call to action.  Bishops and other church leaders need to hear from the majority of Catholics who support LGBT equality in church and society.  Without hearing from us,  church leaders will not be able to discern the voice of the Spirit active in our church.

New Ways Ministry also encourages Catholics to help prevent future firings by working to establish non-discrimination policies in Catholic institutions.  You can read more about how to start discussions to establish such policies by clicking on our blog post entitled  “How to Establish LGBT Employment Non-Discrimination Policies in Catholic Institutions.”     Even if your parish or school is ultimately unsuccessful in getting such a policy adopted, the discussion of these issues will help to let Catholic leaders know that the laity do not want this terrible firing trend to continue.

Several other voices have recently expressed their opinions about the Cincinnati situation.

Tom Sauter

Cincinnati.com published  an op-ed by Tom Sauter, an attorney and the advocacy chair of the Greater Cincinnati Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network, which notes that the archdiocese of Cincinnati should be more concerned with the safety of their LGBT students than with the lives of their teachers.  He states:

“The language of the pledge creates unsafe spaces for youth who are or are perceived to be gay.

“How could a teacher who has signed the pledge be reasonably expected to intervene in the bullying of an LGBTQ student? . . .

“The archdiocese should focus on providing a safe space for a world class Catholic education rather than policing the personal lives of its teachers.”

ABC-News reported on the new, stricter policies in Cincinnati and Honolulu, noting the opposition of a national Catholic schoolteachers’ union:

“The president of the Philadelphia-based National Association of Catholic School Teachers says some educators in the archdiocese have contacted the union with contract concerns, even though the union doesn’t represent them.

” ‘This contract is way over the top and very oppressive,’ said union president Rita Schwartz.”

Peg Hanna

Cincinnati.com also published an op-ed from Peg Hanna, a Catholic mother of nine and grandmother of 16 who finds the archdiocese of Cincinnati’s new policy totally unacceptable:

“Of course, I want our children’s teachers to be people of integrity and good will. But according to this language, a teacher could be fired for attending her lesbian daughter’s wedding, for having intimate relations with a fiancée, being seen buying birth control at a local pharmacy, standing along the route at a gay pride parade, or dealing with infertility through medical means. It wouldn’t matter how good a teacher she or he is, that she or he opted to follow a call to serve people in the church rather than teaching in a public school for higher pay, or how involved in the social justice mandates of our Gospel that teacher is.

“The so-called morality clause has nothing to do with morals at all. It ignores the fact that married Catholic couples use artificial contraception; that a strong majority of Catholics support equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people; and that many young couples are delaying marriage for financial and other reasons. Many of these are still good, conscientious, faith-filled people.

“It is tragic that the Archdiocese of Cincinnati is forcing parents to make a difficult choice. Do they want their children taught by people who are so rigid they have no understanding of the situations most Catholics find themselves in, or who have to lie about their lives to maintain employment? To do so would be a mockery of the faith we hold so dear.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


A Profound Examination of Orthodoxy & Dissent

February 3, 2013

Sometimes, it is helpful to step back from the discussion of Catholic LGBT issues and look at some of the broader issues in the church which affect how LGBT issues are treated.

dissentJerry Ryan provides some profound perspectives on church governance in an article in Commonweal magazine entitled “Orthodoxy & Dissent:  Truth & the Need for Humility.” (This link to the full article may only be available to Commonweal subscribers.)

Though Ryan takes the raging debates in the church about sexuality as his starting point, he is not focused on studying these questions, but instead examines the larger questions of orthodoxy, authority, dissent, and the development of doctrine.  His article provides an insightful analysis of the tensions between the Catholic episcopacy and Catholic lay people when it comes to retaining the status quo and proposing new paradigms.   He states:

“To understand dissent, you first have to understand authority. Authority in the church must be based on truth. Episcopal authority is not the source of truth, as some would have us believe. ‘What is truth?’ The question posed by Pilate was left unanswered by Truth Himself who stood before him, humiliated, in the praetorium. We too humiliate Truth when we abase it to our level and pretend to have power over it. Truth is a divine name and to pretend to possess it, individually or collectively, is to manufacture an idol. We can no more claim to possess truth than we can claim to possess justice. And this holds for the church’s pastors, as well as for their flock. For Christians, truth is Someone who possesses us, Someone who reveals as much of Himself to us as we can bear. It is this self-revealing Truth who founds authority in the church. The role of the magisterium is to maintain the purity of revelation by warning against aberrations without denying or minimizing the elements of truth behind them. The magisterium might be infallible in what it affirms, yet what it affirms is often just one aspect of a complex reality whose components are still not fully understood.”

There is enough material for reflection in that paragraph to last for a week-long retreat! And even longer!

Ryan doesn’t mince words when he makes the case for continued discussion of topics of controversy, and yet he has an obvious deep respect for Catholic tradition:

“The church, individually and collectively, is forever docens et discens, teaching and learning. To deny the possibility of further elucidation of doctrine is blasphemous. It is tantamount to pronouncing the church dead, no longer vivified by the Spirit nor tending toward an ultimate manifestation still to come, when all that has been hidden will be revealed. The reception and assimilation of God’s word by the pilgrim church will forever be partial and variable. It will depend partly on psychological, social, and historical circumstances. Every cultural cycle, every scientific advance, can serve to deepen our understanding of revelation, to illuminate one or another of its aspects. There is, however, an objective deposit of faith, constantly elucidated through the ages, to which the blood of martyrs has borne witness. Any development in the church is made possible only by what has preceded it, yet the intoxication of a novelty often leads to a rejection of what went before.”

For Ryan, dissent is not a sin or a crime, but can be a sign of the Spirit:

“Dissent can be a sign of vitality; it can draw out the latent riches of revelation. The scribe versed in the affairs of the Kingdom will continually bring forth old things and new. Rather than automatically suppressing it, therefore, the magisterium should treat it with cautious respect, remembering that the Spirit is still at work, and the church still a work in progress. Rigidity and narrowness of vision can lead to the sin against the Spirit—and this sin can be a collective one.”

Though sexual teachings are not his focus in this article, Ryan uses them as an example, revealing a compassionate, intelligent heart:

“Traditional Catholic moral theology generally abstracts from concrete historical and social contexts and considers not particular men and women, but ‘human nature’ faced with hypothetically clear-cut options. Human nature, however, does not exist apart from real human beings, who must act in situations full of ambiguity. Very often we find ourselves in ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ situations, where even the best option may not seem to be a good one. Pastoral common sense usually (but not always!) takes this complexity into consideration, but the official teachings of the church continue to define good and evil in terms of black and white, with little nuance or compassion, thus alienating many from the sacramental sources of grace.”

The previous excerpt reminded me of something which the late Bishop Kenneth Untener of Saginaw, Michigan, said when he addressed New Ways Ministry’s Third National Symposium in 1992.  The quotation is from the printed text of his talk in the book Voices of Hope:  A Collection of Positive Writings on Gay and Lesbian Issues, edited by New Ways Ministry’s co-founders, Sister Jeannine Gramick and Father Robert Nugent:

“We need to take seriously the evaluation that homosexuality is a complex question, yet I do not believe we always do. We have to be careful not to make life too simple.  The Pharisees made that mistake.  They made religion complex, but treated life as though it were simple. . . . .

“Jesus did exactly the opposite.  His religious teachings were very simple. He said that all the commandments of the law came down to two:  love of God and love of neighbor.  When they asked Him enormously complex questions, he would say, “Let me tell you a story. . . “

“On the other hand, Jesus treated life as very complex, as His parables show. . . .

“We need to be careful that we do not say on the one hand that homosexuality is a complex question, and then treat it as though there were simple solutions.”

Ryan concludes his essay with reminders of the communal nature of the church, and the need for humility to reign in our debates:

The safekeeping of the deposit of faith and the upholding of the Christian moral code are confided to the church’s hierarchy. The bishops are not, however, the exclusive owners of the spirit of discernment. Historically, this gift has often been manifest in the little ones of God, in the “sensus fidelium.” It is precisely this charisma that stimulates the church’s growth in wisdom and in grace. There is a necessary tension between the function of the hierarchy and the prophetic instinct of the people of God. That tension could and should be fruitful, but in reality it is often bitter and sterile. It might well be that the prophetic élan in the church is especially at work in the poor and the unrecognized, in the little ones to whom is revealed what is hidden from the wise and mighty. One of the great contributions of liberation theology has been to remind the church of the privileged place of the poor in the Kingdom of God. . . .

“It is not enough for the church’s hierarchy to praise the fidelity of lay Catholics; it must also be willing to learn from them. And that requires bishops to acknowledge humbly that they don’t yet know everything about the will of God—that it is still revealing itself to us, and sometimes surprising us. The bishops, like their flocks, are still pilgrims on the way. Like the rest of us, they should be looking for signs ahead.”

I found so much wisdom in this article.  I encourage you to read the entire piece.  Even if you have to subscribe to Commonweal online to do so, it will be worth it!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Catholic Support for Fired Transgender Teacher

January 31, 2013

transgender symbolAbout three weeks ago, Bondings 2.0 reported on the case of Mark Krolikowski, a Catholic high school music teacher who claims he was fired because he is transgender and had been coming to work with longer hair and manicured fingernails.

Equally Blessed, a  coalition of four national Catholic organizations that work for justice and equality  for LGBT people in church and society, has published an essay in support of Krolikowski, and all transgender people, on the Washington Post’s  “On Faith blog.”  The essay is authored by Jim FitzGerald, executive director of Call To Action, an Equally Blessed coalition partner.   The essay is worth a read not just because of its support for Krolikowski, but because it provides some good information on the life experiences of transgender people.  For example, FitzGerald states:

“In an extensive 2011 nationwide survey hosted by Penn State’s Consortium on Higher Education, 78 percent of transgender people said that they had been bullied or harassed as children. Forty one percent said they had attempted suicide. Thirty-five percent had been physically assaulted and 12 percent had been sexually assaulted.

“Discrimination against transgender people is pervasive. Like Mark, 47 percent of those who responded to the survey said that they had suffered employment discrimination. Nineteen percent had suffered housing discrimination and a similar number had been denied health care due to their gender identity.”

Some progress is being made to correct old prejudices:

“Until recently the U. S. medical establishment treated transgender people as though they were mentally ill. The fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual includes a category called “gender identity disorder,” but, in a significant breakthrough for transgender people and our society’s understanding of gender identity, the soon-to-be published fifth edition does not.”

Despite this progress in the scientific world, the religious world has a lot of catching up to do:

“As Catholics, we regret that the leaders of our church and other conservative Christian organizations are leading the fight to deny transgender people their full human dignity and equal treatment under the law. In a recent address, Pope Benedict XVI argued against the very concept of gender, saying that one’s sexual identity is determined entirely by one’s biology.”

Given the increasingly-known fact that Catholics are generally very supportive of LGBT issues such as marriage equality, it should not  come as too much of a surprise that Catholics are also supportive of transgender equality, too:

“Whatever their beliefs about human sexuality, members of the pope’s own church in this country reject discrimination against transgender people. A 2011 poll by the Public Religion Research Institute found that 93 percent of U. S. Catholics believed that transgender people deserve the same legal rights and protections as other citizens. The survey also found that approximately three-quarters of Americans-from across the political and religious spectrum-believe that Congress should pass employment nondiscrimination laws to protect transgender people. A similar majority favor Congress’s recent expansion of hate crimes legislation to protect transgender people.”

The case of Mark Krolikowski shows how strongly a wide discussion of gender and sexuality is needed in the Catholic Church.

(Equally Blessed coalition is comprised of Call To Action, DignityUSA, Fortunate Families, New Ways Ministry.)

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


New Ways Ministry Is Honored by Brother, Help Thyself

January 28, 2013

Brother, Help Thyself,”  a fund-raising coalition of LGBT groups in the Baltimore-Washington,DC area   distributed their annual grants this past weekend, and New Ways Ministry was the grateful recipient of a generous grant of $8,125.

The money will be used for two upcoming projects and a new piece of office equipment:

1)  a workshop day in the Baltimore-Washington area on transgender issues;

2) a retreat day in the Baltimore-Washington area for people living with HIV/AIDS and people who minister with them;

3) a new photocopy machine to replace our cranky 16-year old one.

Mark Clark (left) presents the Billy Collison Award to New Ways Ministry's Sister Jeannine Gramick and Francis DeBernardo.

Mark Clark (left) presents the Billy Collison Award to New Ways Ministry’s Sister Jeannine Gramick and Francis DeBernardo.

During the ceremony, New Ways Ministry was surprised to learn that we also received “Brother, Help Thyself’s” (BHT) cherished “Billy Collison Award.”  The award, named in memory of a BHT volunteer who served in a variety of leadership positions for the group, as well as being an active volunteer in the DC area.  The award is given “For representing the LGBTQ community so well and with so little, thus truly embodying Bill Collison, a true champion of the underdog.”

In presenting the award to New Ways Ministry’s Co-Founder, Sister Jeannine Gramick, and Executive Director Francis DeBernardo, BHT Treasurer Mark Clark said:

“New Ways Ministry does what some might assume cannot be done–build bridges between the official Roman Catholic church hierarchy and the LGBT community, training people to minister to those who want to be fully themselves in their spiritual tradition and in their sexuality.”

Mark Clark accepting the Anthony J. Bacharach Award.

Mark Clark accepting the Anthony J. Bacharach Award.

In accepting the award, DeBernardo said he was “dumbfounded, humbled, and honored,” and that New Ways Ministry pledged to keep the spirit of Billy Collison’s altruism for the underdog alive.

At the close of the day, BHT Treasurer Mark Clark was himself the recipient of the Anthony J. Bacharach Award for distinguished volunteer service to BHT and several other DC-based LGBT organizations, including New Ways Ministry and Dignity.

New Ways Ministry is so grateful to the tireless work of the members of Brother, Help Thyself.  Their unrelenting generosity is helping so many LGBT organizations in the Baltimore-Washington area.  The work they do benefits so many and makes our world a better place.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


Bondings 2.0 and New Ways Ministry In the News

January 13, 2013

newsBondings 2.0  and New Ways Ministry have been in the news three times this past week.

1. Praise from “Across the Pond”

QueeringTheChurch.com, the premier Catholic LGBT blog in the United Kingdom, noted Bondings 2.0’s 500th post milestone with a post of their own commending us for our own blog work.  Editor Terence Weldon offered this evaluation:

“I began following Frank’s blog [Bondings 2.0] soon after [it launched]. Although its focus is heavily on the American church, I still found much of interest and value.”

Coming from Mr. Weldon, one of the pioneers of Catholic LGBT blogging, this praise makes us blush a bit!

He continues by noting the joint effort between New Ways Ministry and London area Catholic LGBT folks in the summer of 2012, when I conducted a “Next Steps” workshop in the UK.  Weldon adds that he continues to discern his next steps with regard to Catholic LGBT ministry:

“I have been contemplating going from a narrow focus on blogging, to a greater emphasis on direct face – to – face work, promoting the Next Steps workshops, and perhaps adopting and adapting some of the other New Ways methods.”

We are very honored that our model of ministry may be replicated somewhat by our friends in the UK.

2.  Bob “Shines” on Another Blog

Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry’s Young Adult and Social Media Coordinator, and a regular contributor to Bondings 2.0, had an essay appear on Catholics United’s young adult blog, OurDailyThread.com.

Shine’s post, entitled “Correcting the Bishops’ Course in 2013,” is a summary of U.S. Catholic bishops’ political involvement in 2012, while it also offers a new course for the coming year:

“The bishops can continue to have their identity be defined by the partisanship, ecclesial legalism, and aberrant traditionalism or they can prepare the way of God anew.”

Among the many topics that Shine covers is the bishops’ campaigns to prevent marriage equality from becoming law in several states.  He notes that the widening gap between the bishops and the Catholic laity and the American electorate on questions of sexual justice hamper the bishops’ ability to speak out on other issues of the day:

“Taken together, the bishops’ deep political investments that failed are deeper losses for their credibility and relevancy in American society. Without swift, major, and lasting course corrections, the bishops will not even be a part of conversations around political matters of great importance. “

Congratulations and thanks to Bob Shine for offering this insightful post on the future of the bishops’  political profile.

3. New Ways Ministry on HuffPostLive

New Ways Ministry’s Co-founder Sister Jeannine Gramick and Executive Director Francis DeBernardo were guests on a segment of HuffPostLive this past week.  The topic of of this online talk show was the ordination of women in the Catholic Church.  Both Sister Gramick and DeBernardo spoke in favor of ordaining women.

You can watch the segment by clicking here.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 

 


Our 500th Post: Time to Pause for Some Levity

January 7, 2013

Bondings 2.0 has reached a milestone today:  this post is our 500th post!!!!!

To celebrate this little landmark, we thought we would provide a break from our usual serious material, and provide some humorous (though relevant) content.

Last week, on January 1st, The Washington Post‘s “Style” section printed it’s annual list of what is “Out” and what is “In,”  an annual inventory of what is hot and what is not in American culture.  Listed among the various fads, TV characters, celebrities, and  the latest political lingo was this one little item of Catholic interest:

Out:  Bishops

In:  Nuns

This note obviously refers to the many stories during 2012, when it was proven time and again that Catholic respect for nuns has been on the increase.  This respect is due in no small part to the fact that many nuns view LGBT issues primarily as justice issues.   In 2012, nuns’ support of LGBT issues contributed to the Leadership Conference of Women Religious’ (LCWR) run-in with the Vatican.  Back in April and May of 2012, when the LCWR story was front-page news, the following cartoon ran in many papers and was circulated widely on Facebook and the internet:

Nuns

We hope these items lightened your day a bit!

–Francis DeBernardo and Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Pope’s Peace Day Statement Is Countered by Catholic Parents

January 4, 2013

olive branchAs we reported at the end of last month, Pope Benedict’s statement for the World Day of Prayer for Peace, January 1st, contained a reference that same-gender married couples are a threat to world peace.  But on January 1, 2013,  the pope’s message was countered by a pair of married heterosexual Catholic parents who have a long history of working for LGBT justice and equality.

In his statement the pope said that allowing gay and lesbian people to marry is

“. . . an offence against the truth of the human person, with serious harm to justice and peace.”

Mary Ellen and Casey Lopata

Mary Ellen and Casey Lopata

In a Washington Post “On Faith” essay, Casey and Mary Ellen Lopata,  who are the founders of Fortunate Families, a national network of Catholic parents of LGBT people, countered the pope’s rhetoric by describing the lives of  lesbian and gay friends of theirs:

“We are fortunate enough to be able to contrast the pope’s rhetoric with the reality of Bob’s life, and those of many other gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people whom we know. They don’t seem like threats to world peace or the future of humanity. They are men and women trying to earn a living, love their spouses, raise their children and contribute a little something to their churches and their communities.”
Additionally, they contrast the pope’s point of view with that of the majority of U.S. Catholics:
“The pope is losing the fight against marriage equality because Catholics weigh his abstract definitions of what it means to be human, what it means to be male and what it means to be female, against the evidence of their own experience. They understand instinctively that human beings are too complex to be captured in such arid taxonomies, that categories devised by celibate philosophers no longer make much sense in a world in which traditional gender roles were abandoned long ago. Rather, what they know, what they believe, is the evidence of their own experience. Like John the Evangelist, they testify to what they have seen and heard.”
The Lopatas are optimistic that change will eventually happen in the hierarchy:

“History gives us every reason to believe that the church will one day follow suit, but that journey will be long and tortured. The pope presents his arguments against equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people as immutable truth, just as the church once asserted that it was right when it argued against women’s suffrage, supported slavery, and banned new understandings of astronomy. On each of these issues, the church finally caught up with its people, but only after decades—and in the case of Galileo, centuries—of argument, exclusion and persecution. Catholics know that their leaders will eventually change their views on human sexuality.

“In the meantime, most Catholics hear the pope’s increasingly strident rhetoric, think of our neighbor Bob and others like him, and scratch their heads. Then they go about their business of voting for marriage equality, opposing discrimination, and rejoicing at the unions of their gay and lesbian family and friends. We hope it doesn’t take several more popes and many more World Peace Day missteps before the Catholic hierarchy finally reforms its ways. Thankfully, ordinary, faithful Catholics are not waiting.”

It seems that the Lopatas’ hope is one that is filled with peace for the present and for the future.

[Editor's Note:  Fortunate Families is a member of the Equally Blessed coalition, which works for justice and equality for LGBT people and their families in church and society.  The other three members of the coalition are Call To Action, DignityUSA, and New Ways Ministry.]

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


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