Next Week in Jerusalem!

February 14, 2014

The Wailing Wall and the Temple Mount, Jerusalem

To all Bondings 2.0 readers:

From February 14th to 23rd,  this blog’s two main contributors, Francis DeBernardo and Bob Shine, will be in Israel, as part of New Ways Ministry’s LGBT pilgrimage to the Holy Land sites, which includes meeting with contemporary peacemakers and LGBT leaders.  New Ways Ministry’s co-founder. Sister Jeannine Gramick, is the leader of the pilgrimage.

While we are excited about the journey, we did want you to know that we may not be as regular in posting to this blog as we have been.  The differences in time zones, the rigors of travel, and the access to Wi-Fi may all alter our regular schedule of researching, writing, and posting.  Additionally, moderation of comments may also be a bit delayed for the same reasons.  So, don’t be alarmed if things are not as regular as they have been.

We will have our computers with us, and it is our intention to try to keep up with our traditional schedule, but we did want to inform you that such may not be the case.   If we are able to, we will occasionally post about any interesting parts of our journey there.  On some days, we may be in “light mode,” perhaps only posting links to stories, rather than summaries and commentary. We are going to be “playing it by ear,”  trying to figure out what we can do, given our limitations.  We appreciate your indulgence.

Our regular schedule will return after February 24th.

As we visit the holy places where Jesus and other Biblical figures lived, we will keep you all in prayer.

–Francis DeBernardo and Bob Shine, 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


Reflecting on the Life and Ministry of Father Robert Nugent

January 4, 2014

Father Robert Nugent, SDS

News of the death of New Ways Ministry’s co-founder, Father Robert Nugent, SDS, has circled the globe in the last few days, and news reports and reflections on his life and ministry have proliferated.  Different stories focused on different aspects of Fr. Nugent’s life and ministry.

Thomas C. Fox, publisher of the National Catholic Reporter reflected on how Nugent’s pioneering spirit of inclusiveness is now being recognized by the highest level of the Church:

“Nugent will be remembered in Catholic history  for his  early efforts to minister to gays and lesbians at a time when few, in any, other clergy and religious would do so publicly.

“In some ways, gay and lesbian ministries have made great strides since the Nugent first reached out to that marginalized segment of our church. In other ways, those ministerial efforts have made only small gains. Gay and lesbian ministries are still not the norm in Catholic parishes and New Ways Ministry is seldom welcomed into parishes.

“Pope Francis, as if taking the lead from the now deceased Nugent, when asked how he views gay clergy, responded: ‘Whom am I to judge?’

“That was precisely Nugent’s attitude — and he lived as Francis now preaches.”

Father James Martin, SJ, editor-at-large of America  magazine was quoted in The Huffington Post’s  news story of Fr. Nugent’s death, praising him for the integrity with which he navigated difficult situations:

“I always admired Father Nugent’s pioneering work with gay and lesbian Catholics; along with Sister Jeannine Gramick he helped many thousands of people feel more welcome in their church. But I admired just as much his fidelity to his vow of obedience. In a complicated time, Father Nugent navigated a course between justice and fidelity with enormous grace and trust in God. All Catholics–not just gays and lesbians –owe him a debt of gratitude. May he rest in peace.”

In talking about “justice and fidelity,” Fr. Martin is likely referring to Fr. Nugent’s response to the Vatican censure of the ministry that he shared with Sister Jeannine Gramick.  The Catholic News Service story in The Catholic Review recounts that challenging time of his life:

“New Ways Ministry was subject to repeated investigations and inquiries at the diocesan, religious-order and Vatican levels, including one ordered in 1994 by the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1994, then headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, later to become Pope Benedict XVI.
“As a result of the investigation, Father Nugent and Sister Jeannine Gramick, then a member of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, were ordered to stop pastoral ministry to gays, saying they advanced ‘doctrinally unacceptable’ positions ‘regarding the intrinsic evil of homosexual acts and the objective disorder of the homosexual inclination.’
“After a year of speaking and writing about homosexuality, Father Nugent and Sister Gramick were directed to stop talking about the topic and the Vatican investigation itself. Father Nugent complied, but Sister Gramick ultimately decided to defy the ban and left her order to join the Sisters of Loretto.”
In addition, the same news story (which includes a comprehensive biography of the priest) notes an important high point in Fr. Nugent’s ministry:
“The Paulist Center Community in Boston gave its 1995 Isaac Hecker Award for Social Justice, named after the Paulists’ founder, to Sister Gramick and Father Nugent. ‘This is the first time we have received an award as a team from a mainstream, nongay organization,’ Father Nugent said at the award ceremony. “
Previous recipients of the Isaac Hecker Award for Social Justice include Dorothy Day and Cesar Chavez.
The Washington Blade story noted another award that Fr. Nugent received:

“. . . Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of the LGBT Catholic group Dignity USA, said Nugent’s more than 20 years as a leader of New Ways Ministry continues to have an impact on LGBT Catholics and Catholic clergy despite his absence from direct work on LGBT issues in recent years.

“ ‘Dignity USA gave Bob a lifetime achievement award in 2001 to recognize just how important he was as a ground-breaking figure in lesbian and gay ministry throughout the 70s and 80s,’ Duddy-Burke said. ‘I continue to meet people who say Bob’s writings, workshops, and personal ministry were the thing that gave them hope as they were coming out in the 70s and the 80s,’ she said.”

On The Billerico Report blog, John Becker hailed Fr. Nugent as a “Catholic LGBT Rights Hero,” noting that even after he was censured, he continued to do what he could for lesbian and gay people:

“Although Fr. Nugent stopped leading public workshops and retreats about LGBT issues, he continued ministering one-on-one and with small groups. He maintained his pro-equality beliefs until the end of his life.

“The LGBT community has lost one of our heroes, one who stood up and spoke out against the Catholic Church’s institutional homophobia when few others within that church would.

“Well done, good and faithful servant.”

In addition to these public testimonies, New Ways Ministry has been receiving email from all over the nation and the globe attesting to the many ways that Fr. Nugent’s ministry touched people’s lives.   We are so grateful for the many prayers and expressions of support that we have received from so many. Such support is so strengthening for our hearts and souls.

Brother John Gleason, CSC,  sent us an email which contained a poignant story which very accurately captures the essence of Father Nugent.  Brother Gleason wrote:

“For many years, when I was Provincial and later as Vicar General of my community, I supported Sr. Jeannine and Fr. Nugent.  In fact, I was presnote and on it was printed the followent in Rome the day they were ‘silenced’ by the institution and had supper with them that very night!  I was profoundly struck by Fr. Nugent’s calm throughout the entire ordeal.  Later, he sent me a note,  and on it was printed the following word by Fr. Bernard Haring, CSsR, from his book, My Witness for the Church:
” ‘I love the Church because Christ loved it, loved it to the utmost extreme. I love it even when I discover painful attitudes and structures which I do not find in harmony with the Gospel.  I love it as it is because Christ also loved me with all my imperfections, with all my shadows and constantly gives me the first fruits of his Kingdom so that my love may correspond to his eternal plan.  I experience the Church in the celebration of the Eucharist:  Christ and the Church with him remind me of all the limitless evidence of love, grace and mercy. In this the Church helps me to form a grateful memory. lf we open ourselves to this and gratefully remember all the good which has flowed to us in the Church and constantly flows to us, then we can and will all succeed in giving even the suffering from the Church its place in the heart of Jesus.’
“Although these were Fr. Haring’s words, they struck me as utterly true of Fr. Nugent and deeply affected me.  I have them framed for all to see and read and ponder, for it is really our love for Jesus that allows us to continue this, albeit at times painful, journey.
“I am blessed to have known him and grateful there is now such a wonderful intercessor!”

A brief biography of Father Nugent appears on New Ways Ministry’s website.

We will continue to update you with any further reflections on Fr. Nugent’s life, as well as letting you know about details about his funeral, memorial services, and any memorial opportunities.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry.

Related articles

Associated Press: “Catholic priest once condemned by Vatican for his ministry to gays dies”

Edge Miami: “Gay-Friendly Father Robert Nugent Dies on New Year’s Day”

The Holy Irritant: “Fr. Bob Nugent, RIP”

Religion News Service:  “The Rev. Bob Nugent, silenced for his work with gay Catholics, dies at 76″


Father Robert Nugent, New Ways Ministry’s Co-Founder, Passes Into Eternal Life

January 2, 2014

Father Robert Nugent, SDS

With confidence in the promise of the Resurrection, but also with hearts heavy with sorrow, New Ways Ministry reports the passing into eternal life of our co-founder, Father Robert Nugent, SDS.  Fr. Nugent’s three-month battle with cancer ended on Wednesday, January 1, 2014, at 2:10 pm, Central Time, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Present at his side at the time of his death were New Ways Ministry’s co-founder, Sister Jeannine Gramick, SL, and Brother John Hauenstein, SDS, a member of his religious congregation, the Salvatorians.

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry’s Executive Director, reflected on the impact of Father Nugent’s life:

“When few priests would do more than whisper about homosexuality, Father Nugent was meeting with lesbian and gay people and encouraging them to claim their rightful place in the Catholic Church.  During a time of intense homophobia in both church and society, he exhibited uncommon courage and foresight in welcoming and affirming the goodness of God’s lesbian and gay children.

“But his ministry was more than a welcome.  He had the wisdom to know that the real moral problem in the church was not the lives of lesbian and gay people, but the ignorance and fear out of which many church leaders and officials operated.  An uncommon prophet, instead of railing against this ignorance and fear, he and Sister Jeannine set out to educate people about the reality and holiness of lesbian and gay lives.  Instead of battling the institution, he attempted to build bridges of education and dialogue, helping to enlighten Catholic leaders who were sometimes reluctant to break free from their traditional ways.  A loyal son of the Church, he attempted to help the institution live up to its most cherished ideals of human dignity, equality, and respect.

“In founding New Ways Ministry with Sister Jeannine, he helped establish an institutional resource for the Catholic Church on lesbian and gay issues.  Their dream was for New Ways Ministry to be a resource and advocacy center to which pastoral leaders, lesbian and gay Catholics, and family members could turn.  For decades the duo crisscrossed the nation providing support and guidance to those Catholics who were willing to open up to their more inclusive model of church.  He bravely withstood the disapproval of many Church leaders, often experiencing the alienation and marginalization of the lesbian and gay people that he served.

“It is impossible to overestimate the impact and value of Father Nugent’s lesbian and gay ministry.  He educated a generation of pastoral leaders who began to put into practice the inclusive ideals that he taught.  A tireless researcher and writer, he produced a number of important works on pastoral care that helped to shape the movement in Catholicism of gay-friendly parishes.  In the mid-1990s, he served as a consultant to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Marriage and Family Life as they produced their landmark pastoral document, Always Our Children. A sensitive counselor, he supported scores of gay priests and brothers as they worked at reconciling their spirituality with their sexuality.

“When New Ways Ministry informed its supporters of Fr. Nugent’s illness, hundreds of cards and notes expressing gratitude and encouragement flooded his hospice room.  At the end, he knew he was loved and cared for by so, so many on his final journey.

“While we at New Ways Ministry are sad that we will no longer experience his sharp mind, his warm heart, and his delightful wit, we are comforted by the fact that his impact will live on in the lives of those he touched and in the Catholic Church’s continued renewal of its welcome and commitment to its lesbian and gay members–a renewal that he played such a large role in effecting.  We now have another saint to whom we can pray for LGBT equality and justice.”

Bondings 2.0 will continue to update its readers with information about funeral arrangements for Fr. Nugent, as well as any further reflection on Father Nugent’s life and ministry.


Papal Nuncio Responds to American’s Concern About Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill

December 28, 2013

Archbishop Michael Blume

After learning the terrible news last week that the Ugandan Parliament passed a bill imposing heavy penalties, including life imprisonment, on anyone convicted of homosexual activity, a New Ways Ministry friend wrote to the papal nuncio (Vatican’s representative) to that nation.

On December 21st, Brother Brian McLauchlin sent an email to Archbishop Michael Blume, asking him to speak with the Ugandan bishops and Pope Francis about this abuse of human rights.  McLauchlin received a positive response from Blume the same  day, assuring him that his office is concerned about the situation, and that he would be working with Uganda’s Catholic bishops on the matter.

Blume’s message discusses the confusion which exists in Uganda about the bill:

“It was only this morning that I found out about the action of the Parliament. In fact the whole business caught many of us, including the bishops’ conference, by surprise as there had been no hints of it in the press nor on the site of the Parliament, which indicates legislation being discussed. The bill had been put on hold last February and seemed forgotten, but … You can view some articles on it from the government press (www.newvision.co.ug) and the opposition (www.monitor.co.ug). That the Prime Minister speaks about further consultation needed is something important to note. The Monitor also points out a problem of the quorum at the session that passed the law — without clearly stating whether it existed or not.”

Blume also noted that the Ugandan bishops had spoken out against an earlier version of this bill in 2009:

The bishops had pronounced on the bill already in 2009. Here’s just the paragraph that is a kind of résumé:

“The recent tabled Anti-Homosexuality Bill does not pass a test of a Christian caring approach to this issue. The targeting of the sinner, not the sin, is the core flaw of the proposed Bill. The introduction of the death penalty and imprisonment for homosexual acts targets people rather than seeking to counsel and to reach out in compassion to those who need conversion, repentance, support, and hope. The Bible says in Luke 6:36-37 ‘Be merciful just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge and you will not be judged. Do not condemn and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven.’     (complete statement at http://www.uecon.org/Publication.html , towards the bottom of the page).”

The papal nuncio also noted that he would be working with the bishops as they comment on the bill:

“It’s the general policy for nuncios to work together with the bishops conferences on questions of national interest. For that reason I was already in contact with the Secretary General this morning. . . . I’m sure there will be a lot of movement between the bishops’ conference and various institutions of the country. The bill will die if the President does not sign it within thirty days. We pray the Holy Spirit to give him wisdom.”

McLauchlin’s letter to the nuncio follows:

“Your Excellency:

“I am writing to you about a grave matter in terms of human rights abuses towards LGBT persons in Uganda. As you are probably aware, Uganda’s Parliament recently passed a bill calling for tougher punishments for homosexual acts, including life
imprisonment for those considered ‘repeat offenders.’ In addition, this bill also criminalizes the public promotion of homosexuality. Once the President of Uganda signs the legislation, it will become law.

“I am gravely concerned that a number of human rights violations will occur if the President signs this bill. Although the
Catholic Hierarchy may not approve of same-sex relationships or a homosexual lifestyle, I believe the Hierarchy would agree
that everyone has the right to be treated with dignity and respect. Imprisoning someone for life would clearly constitute
an abuse of his/her rights.

“The largest single denomination in Uganda is Roman Catholic. I ask that you use your influence as Papal Nuncio to get the bishops to speak out against this bill. When you speak with Pope Francis please inform him of this situation. I do believe he would want to see the dignity and respect of all people honored and kept sacred.

“I sincerely thank you for your attention to this important matter.”

Last week, when Bondings 2.0 reported the Ugandan news, we asked our readers to write to Pope Francis asking him to speak out against this bill.   We repeat that request now, and we also encourage readers to write to the Archbishop Blume.    His address is:

Archbishop Michael Blume
Apostolic Nunciature
P.O. Box 7177
Chwa II Road, Mbuya Hill
Kampala, UGANDA

email: nuntius@infocom.co.ug

It is so important to write  letters to both the pope and the papal nuncio.  Although Archbishop Blume is optimistic about working with the Ugandan bishops on this matter, it is very important that the pope and the nuncio hear from Catholics.  Though the Ugandan bishops spoke out against the bill in 2009, and although the portion quoted above is hopeful, the rest of their statement presents a very negative attitude toward homosexuality. Last year, there was a report that the bishops had reversed their opposition to the bill, though, because they have not spoken about it clearly, it is difficult to know where they stand currently.  It is hopeful that the papal nuncio supports their 2009 opposition to the bill, an indication that he may feel the same way.   Still, because the Ugandan bishops’ current position is unclear, it’s important that the pope and the papal nuncio hear from Catholics that they want church teaching on human dignity and respect to be upheld in this matter.

New Ways Ministry applauds Brian McLauchlin for his swift, passionate, and courageous correspondence.  We are so proud of his witness. We hope that many of you will use his letter as a model or will craft one of your own to send.  Lesbian and gay Ugandans are counting on us at this time to speak courageously and forthrightly.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


Choosing Between Mercy and Judgment

December 8, 2013

For the four Sundays of Advent, Bondings 2.0 will feature reflections on the day’s Scripture readings by two New Ways Ministry staff members:  Matthew Myers, Associate Director, and Sister Jeannine Gramick, Co-Founder.  The liturgical readings for the second Sunday of Advent are Isaiah 11:1-10; Psalm 72: 1-2. 7-8, 12-13, 17; Romans 15: 4-9; Matthew 3: 1-12.  You can read the texts by clicking here.

“Slay the wicked.”  “Crush the oppressor.”  “Coming wrath.”  “Unquenchable fire.”  In today’s readings, Isaiah and John the Baptist use some strong language about God’s impending judgment and wrath.  And I like it. 

I would not mind seeing some hardcore divine judgment fall upon people who perpetrate evil in our world.  I am tired of reading in the news about hungry children, homeless families, corrupt politicians, war-torn countries, and corporate greed.  I am angry that the strong and influential exploit the weak and unknown.  How long, O Lord, until the oppressors are crushed and the wicked are slain?

However, contrary to Isaiah, John the Baptist, and my own deeply flawed heart, judgment and wrath are not the way of Jesus or the God he proclaimed.

Through Jesus, we see that “mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13).  God overwhelms all of us with love that exceeds our ability to sin – that is mercy!  It is not asked for or deserved, but freely and lavishly given.  Judgment and wrath bring only sadness and death into our world, not life – and our God is one of abundant life.  Mercy brings true justice and wholeness into our world.   

What does this mean to us?  As Catholic LGBT people and allies, we can create a more inclusive Church by welcoming God’s abundant mercy into our own hearts, and then by sharing that love with others–particularly with those fellow Catholics who may say disparaging things or create discriminatory policies against LGBT people.  It is our own experience of undeserved mercy that compels us to generously extend mercy to others. 

For example, if a bishop or pastor condemns marriage equality, I think denouncing him as a bigot who hates lesbian and gay people is not consistent with what Jesus taught.  Our culture encourages us to attack those who disagree with us, but angry words and vitriol will only magnify and perpetuate the mistrust and rancor in our Church.  Instead, perhaps we should focus on building relationships – invite the bishop or pastor to have coffee or lunch to share our stories.  Send him a Christmas card with a family photo.  If he keeps us at arm’s length, we should keep the doors open by periodically reaching out to him.  Our task is to build bridges rather than throw stones. 

Our loving witness and patient invitation to dialogue will give others the opportunity to experience God’s mercy – and possibly change their hearts about LGBT people.  We pursue justice for LGBT people by changing hearts through showing mercy in personal interactions, not through judgment and wrath.

There is power in mercy.  As we continue our Advent preparations, perhaps we can reflect on how God’s “mercy triumphs over justice” in our own lives – and how we can show mercy to others.

–Matthew Myers, New Ways Ministry


Take a Moment to Open Your Heart

December 3, 2013

Today, we conclude our posts about the 2nd anniversary of Bondings 2.0, and we do so asking for your financial support for this endeavor.   We do so on “Giving Tuesday,” a sort of new “holiday,” set off as a time to allow people to make a contribution to their favorite charities or causes.

As some of you may know, the blog is a project of New Ways Ministry, a national Catholic ministry of justice and reconciliation for LGBT Catholics and the wider church community.  New Ways Ministry relies primarily on individual donations from Catholics across the nation and around the globe.  Bondings 2.0 is just one of our many projects and resources geared toward making the Catholic Church a more welcoming and just place for LGBT people.  Among our many other projects are ones dealing with marriage equality, gay-friendly parishes and schools, lesbian nuns and gay priests, connections between sexuality and spirituality, and outreach to colleges and young adults.

This blog is an integral part of our work because we believe that the Catholic Church can change if people are given information, resources, and tools to make changes in their local communities.  So, we focus here on news stories and opinion pieces which we hope will empower people to take action wherever they are.  New Ways Ministry’s main mission has always been education because we believe that education is the key to any kind of social or institutional change.  With Bondings 2.0, we try to provide information and perspectives that we think will help people formulate their own arguments, opinions, initiatives, and projects.  (Are you curious about how “New Ways Ministry” and “Bondings 2.0” got their names?  Click here for an explanation.)

We are probably more surprised than anyone at how this blog has taken off.  We get new followers every week and new readers every day.  At last count, people from over 160 nations around the globe read our content.  And our material has been picked up by major publications.  For example, Bob Shine’s October 10, 2012 post entitled “Pope Francis’ Letter-Writing Revolution Requires Our Involvement”  was picked up and reprinted by The National Catholic Reporter.    That version of the post was excerpted in one of the U.S.’s leading news magazines, The Week, where it was quoted in a story entitled “The ‘Francis effect’: 5 ways the pope is resuscitating the Catholic Church.”

Bondings 2.0 is a free service, available to all.  Like public radio and television, anyone can share in this resource.   And like public radio and television, we rely on the generosity of our audience to keep the project going.  We have made a commitment to only ask twice a year for funds: once around our annual anniversary (late November) and once in June, about six months later.  We don’t want to bother our readers with requests for funds, but at the same time, we need to make these two appeals to make sure that we have the resources to keep the blog viable.

So, on this Giving Tuesday, would you consider making a donation to New Ways Ministry to support Bondings 2.o?  We appreciate any amount you would like to give.  As a suggestion, why not think of donating $5o, which is less than $1 a week of free posts you receive all year round. That’s cheaper than the cost of most daily newspapers these days!

You can donate by clicking here, and you will be brought to New Ways Ministry’s website donation page.  When you fill out the donation form online, please type “blog” in the comments section of the form so that we know that is why you are contributing.   You can also mail a check made out to “New Ways Ministry” to our offices at 4012  29th Street, Mount Rainier, MD  20712.  Or call us during business hours at 301-277-5674, and we can take your credit card donation over the phone.  However you decide to contribute, your donation is tax-deductible.

There are two other ways you can help us:  1) Take a few minutes to complete our survey of readers.  This will help us better serve you with the material we present;  2) Tell your friends about this blog.  Have you let others know about this resource?  Word of mouth tends to be our best promoter.  Consider emailing a link to one of your favorite recent blog posts to friends on your email list who are interested in Catholic LGBT issues.

Thanks so much for any way that you can help to support this electronic ministry.  We are deeply grateful for your support, and we will continue to offer prayers of gratitude for all that you do for us and all that you do for the Catholic Church’s LGBT brothers and sisters.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 


Are You Ready to Rejoice?

December 1, 2013

For the four Sundays of Advent, Bondings 2.0 will feature reflections on the day’s Scripture readings by two New Ways Ministry staff members:  Matthew Myers, Associate Director, and Sister Jeannine Gramick, Co-Founder.  The liturgical readings for the first Sunday of Advent are Isaiah 2:1-5; Psalm 122: 1-9; Romans 13: 11-14; Matthew 24: 37-44.  You can read the texts by clicking here.

“I have issues with anyone who treats God as a burden instead of a blessing.  You people don’t celebrate your faith; you mourn it.”

A heavenly-muse-turned-stripper named Serendipity made these observations in Dogma, a 1990s satirical film about two renegade angels banished for eternity to Wisconsin.  Her point was that many Christians understand their relationship with God in terms of rules, judgment, and punishment, which produces a rather grim spiritual life and an outward emotional disposition to match.  Fewer Christians appear to understand their relationship with God as a source of love, acceptance, and freedom, which can cultivate an exterior joy that is difficult to miss. 

Pope Francis echoed the sentiments of this stripping celestial being earlier this year when he lamented sour-faced Christians whose hearts have “grow[n] old and wrinkled” and inhospitable to others.  If we are grim and pessimistic Christians, what does that say about the God we proclaim?  How will others come to experience and trust in God’s love if we are miserable?  Unfortunately, gloominess is a terminal illness for our spiritual life. 

Our cure is in the readings for the first Sunday of Advent, which remind us of God’s ever-increasing nearness.  The psalmist calls us to “go rejoicing to the house of the Lord” to celebrate God’s presence among us – indeed, we will soon celebrate the Incarnation of God-with-us during Christmas.  We must “stay awake” for God “is nearer now than when we first believed.”  How can we be gloomy Christians if we truly believe that God has become one of us and continues to be with us now?

As LGBT Catholics and allies, we have many reasons for gloominess.  Numerous LGBT church workers have been fired from Catholic institutions for their sexual orientation, gender identity, and beliefs about marriage equality.  Our bishops take every opportunity to oppose state and federal legislation that ensures employment non-discrimination and marriage equality for LGBT people.  If the story stopped here, then we would have good reason to be gloomy Christians.

However, our story continues with many reasons to rejoice.  Pope Francis has made several positive remarks about LGBT people.  More and more LGBT Catholics (including priests and nuns!) are leading lives of fullness and integrity by coming out to their families, friends, and faith communities.  More parishes than ever are welcoming LGBT people and their families as active members of the community.  As we build a more inclusive and loving Church, God is able to draw nearer and nearer to us.  Indeed, we are incarnating God for one another!  What an awesome reason for rejoicing! 

Perhaps Dorothy Day is helpful to us:  “The greatest challenge of the day is: how to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution that has to start with each one of us?”  Our work to create a more welcoming Church is difficult, but as LGBT Catholics and allies, our task is to be joyful people.  Others may disagree with us about LGBT issues, but they will see our love and joy — and see God in us.  If we are joyful witnesses, not gloomy and sour, then others will recognize the beauty and love that LGBT people bring to our Church – and we will transform it!

Let us resolve this Advent season to be joyful Christians.  If we focus on reasons to rejoice and celebrate our faith, not mourn it, then we will transform ourselves and touch the hearts of others.  

–Matthew Myers, New Ways Ministry

 


Did the Devil Make Illinois Legislators Support Marriage Equality?

November 16, 2013
Bishop Thomas Paprocki

Bishop Thomas Paprocki

What is one to make of the news that Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois, will be holding a prayer service, including prayers of “exorcism in reparation for the sin of same-sex marriage” at the same that the the governor of that state will be signing the newly-minted marriage equality legislation into law next week?

The background of the story is revealed from a press release put out by the Diocese of Springfield:

“Scheduled for approximately the same time that Gov. Pat Quinn signs into Illinois law the redefinition of civil marriage, Bishop Thomas John Paprocki will offer ‘Prayers of Supplication and Exorcism in Reparation for the Sin of Same-Sex Marriage” at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Sixth and Lawrence streets in Springfield, on Wednesday, Nov. 20, from 4 to 5 p.m. Clergy, religious and laity are invited to attend.

On one level, the news is simply ridiculous.  Resurrecting a ritual that is filled with medieval sensibilities and myths and which is totally irrelevant to most Catholics living in the 21st century reveals a mind so out of touch with the faith of his people that one has to wonder what the bishop hopes to accomplish by this act.  Will his prayers overturn the democratically processed law?  Does he expect lightning to strike the pen of Governor Pat Quinn, a Catholic, as he signs the bill?  Is he hoping that these prayers will reverse the growing national consensus, including most Catholics, that marriage equality should be the law of the land?

On another level, however, the news is frightening.  Did Bishop Paprocki not realize the storm that he would create by using such exaggerated language?  Did he not realize the pastoral harm and confusion that such language would cause?  Did he not care that his heightened rhetoric will most likely be used by anti-gay people to inflict real, physical violence towards LGBT people?

If he did not think of these things, then one has to wonder how thoughtfully the bishop makes his decisions.  If he does not think about the effects and reverberations from his decisions, it could mean that he was simply blinded by his desire to make his point about the new marriage law without concern for how people’s lives could be harmed.

Most alarming is the rationale that Bishop Paprocki used to explain his decision.  Lest one think that the use of “exorcism” is simply metaphorical, the bishop makes clear his true intent:

” ‘The context for this prayer service may be understood by recalling the words of Pope Francis when he faced a similar situation as Archbishop of Buenos Aires in 2010,’ Bishop Paprocki said.

“Regarding the proposed redefinition of civil marriage in Argentina, then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio wrote on June 22, 2010: ‘The Argentine people must face, in the next few weeks, a situation whose result may gravely harm the family. It is the bill on matrimony of persons of the same sex. The identity of the family, and its survival, are in jeopardy here: father, mother, and children. The life of so many children who will be discriminated beforehand due to the lack of human maturity that God willed them to have with a father and a mother is in jeopardy. At stake is the total rejection of God’s law engraved in our hearts. … Let us not be naive: it is not a simple political struggle; it is an intention [which is] destructive of the plan of God. It is not a mere legislative project (this is a mere instrument), but rather a “move” of the father of lies who wishes to confuse and deceive the children of God.’

“Bishop Paprocki noted, ‘The pope’s reference to the “father of lies” comes from the Gospel of John (8:44), where Jesus refers to the devil as “a liar and the father of lies.” So Pope Francis is saying that same-sex ‘marriage’ comes from the devil and should be condemned as such.”

One has to wonder where Bishop Paprocki has been since Cardinal Bergoglio became Pope Francis, whose outreach towards LGBT people has been unparalleled in the papacy.  He takes Cardinal Bergoglio literally from this 2010 quotation, made in the heat of a political debate.  Why didn’t he take literally the words of Pope Francis, made in a more reflective moment, when he said that church leaders should not obsess about same-sex marriage?

Sister Jeannine Gramick

Sister Jeannine Gramick

Sister Jeannine Gramick, SL,  New Ways Ministry’s co-founder, who debated Bishop Paprocki on the issue of same-sex marriage earlier this year, stated it eloquently:

“It is disingenuous of Bishop Paprocki to use the words of Pope Francis from 2010 against same-sex marriage. As President of the Bishops’ Conference of Argentina in 2010, he was articulating the words of the Bishops’ Conference. We know from information made public since then, that even in 2010 he personally advocated civil unions. The Pope urges all of us to be open, and Francis sure has.

“Bishop Paprocki should heed the words of Francis in 2013 from his interview with the Jesuit editor of Civilta Cattolica.
‘We cannot insist only on …gay marriage … it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time…The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.’

Jesuit spiritual author Father James Martin offered the following observation about Bishop Paprocki’s prayer service on Twitter yeserday:

JamesMartinOnPaprocki_Twitter

There is yet another way to interpret Paprocki’s strange decision to host this “exorcism.” It is an indication of how desperate some of the Catholic hierarchy have become in their attempts to oppose marriage equality.  Having failed in the political process, the bishop now is trying to encourage fear by evoking a medieval ritual which no longer is taken seriously by most Catholics.  This tactic is similar to Ted Cruz’ attempt to hijack the Affordable Care Act by closing down the government. Everyone loses in a situation like that, but the biggest losers are those who use false methods to stir up fear and confusion.  Such extremist tactics reveal the weakness of their ability to connect with people through more rational and humane means.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related articles:

November 15, 2013:  “Springfield bishop calls for exorcism tied to gay marriage.”

November 15, 2013:  “Gay Marriage Exorcism: Illinois Bishop Plans Prayer Service Opposing ‘Evil’ Marriage Equality Law.”


U.S. Catholic Bishops Invited to New Dialogue on LGBT Issues

November 14, 2013

Equally Blessed LogoThe U.S. Catholic bishops have been invited to open a new and more positive chapter in their relationships with LGBT Catholics and and their supporters.  The invitation came in the form of a letter from the leaders of Equally Blessed, a coalition of four national Catholic organizations (Call To Action, DignityUSA, Fortunate Families, New Ways Ministry) that work for justice and equality for LGBT people.

The letter, addressed to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, who have been meeting in Baltimore this week, invites the church’s leaders to put past events behind them and start a forward-thinking dialogue with LGBT people and supporters. The Equally Blessed leaders wrote:

“Now is the time for us all to adopt a new approach in dealing with issues of human sexuality, especially in dealing with LGBT people, as Pope Francis seems to be calling us to do. It will take time to rebuild trust between members of the Conference and those who have been damaged by its past policies. But, if Jesus came that we all might be one, then healing must begin. So we implore you to sit down with us, to listen to voices from the margins of the Church, and to speak with us candidly about your own concerns. We offer an outstretched hand of invitation.”

The letter writers suggested several areas of common-ground where the bishops can collaborate with them:

“The bishops and LGBT Catholics and their allies have many opportunities to show where our Church is united in its commitment to the dignity of the human person. The bishops have many opportunities to reach out to LGBT persons without violating Church teaching. The USCCB could issue an unambiguous statement declaring that bullying children because of their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity is unacceptable. Parishes and diocesan offices could be encouraged to make concerted efforts to include LGBT people in their outreach ministries and other agendas.  The Church could make an effort to create pastorally sensitive ministries that would deal with the problem of LGBT youth homelessness and suicide. Together, we are sure we can find other ways to send out positive and mercy-filled messages.”

The Equally Blessed leaders stressed that this is an opportune time for such a dialogue:

“At this pivotal moment in the life of our church, we, the leaders of the Equally Blessed coalition, invite you into a deeper relationship with LGBT Catholics, their families and their friends. We seek, first of all, simple conversation with you. Rather than speaking about LGBT people, or, worse yet, against LGBT people, we urge you to sit down and speak with LGBT people. We ask you to convene local and national conversations in which lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholics, their families and their friends can tell you about their faith and their commitment to the Church.  The spirit of respect and openness that these conversations could foster would be balm on the wounds of LGBT Catholics and those who love them.”

Invoking the spirit of the new papacy, the LGBT equality leaders stressed that it’s time for a different way for the bishops to approach the topic of sexuality:

“At a time when Pope Francis is urging the church to move beyond what he calls its “obsession” with sexual issues, we, faithful Catholics committed to equality and justice within the Church we love, pray that you will hear our voices and respond with mercy.”

The letter was signed by the following organizational representatives:  Call To Action: Jim FitzGerald, Executive Director; DignityUSA: Marianne Duddy-Burke, Executive Director; Fortunate Families: Casey Lopata, Co-Founder, Deb Word, President; New Ways Ministry: Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director, Sister Jeannine Gramick, Co-Founder.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

 


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