When All the World Should Be Bright and Gay

March 17, 2014

There’s a long history to the controversy between LGBT people wanting to march in St. Patrick’s Day Parades that dates back to the 1990s.  This year, the debate about LGBT participation or exclusion is being waged in the two U.S. cities with the most prominent March 17th parades:  New York and Boston.

NEW YORK

New York City’s new mayor, Bill deBlasio, won’t be marching down Fifth Avenue today in the world’s oldest and largest parade celebrating Irish culture because he disagrees with the parade organizer’s decision to continue to prohibit marchers who want to carry signs expressing LGBT pride.

Religion News Service cites deBlasio’s explanation:

“The new mayor said he will participate in other events to honor New Yorkers of Irish descent on March 17. “But I simply disagree with the organizers of that parade in their exclusion of some individuals in this city,’ he said. “

Mayor Bill deBlasio

Though deBlasio’s decision differs from his immediate predecessor, some LGBT equality organizations are disappointed that the new mayor did not take a stronger stand:

“De Blasio’s predecessor, former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, was a supporter of gay rights but marched in the St. Patrick’s Day parade. De Blasio did not march when he served as the city’s public advocate. But he said he will not stop any city employee from marching in uniform.

“Gay groups in New York City acknowledge that court rulings have established the parade as a private, religious procession that may exclude gay groups. But allowing city workers such as police officers to march in uniform violates the city’s human rights laws, they argued in an open letter to de Blasio.”

BBC.com reported on Irish reaction on both sides of the Atlantic to deBlasio’s decision:

“Cahir O’Doherty in the New York-based Irish Central website counters that it’s important for gay Irish-Americans to be able to carry a banner in the parade ‘because if you are not seen you are not heard. And when you are neither seen nor heard, bad things can happen to you without anyone noticing. Gay people know this, but apparently quite a few others need to be reminded.’

“The parade controversy is making waves across the Atlantic, as well, where Irish government officials are split on whether to participate or join Mr de Blasio’s boycott. Irish Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton, who will be in New York on St Patrick’s Day, has announced she will not march. Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny, on the other hand, has said he will travel to New York to attend.”

New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd supports deBlasio’s decision:

“It has just always seemed strange to me that gays were fighting so hard for so long to bust into such a hoary, boozy, corny tradition. Didn’t they have something more fun and cool to do? . . .

“But certainly, if gays want in, they should get in. And that’s why Mayor Bill de Blasio is right to blow off the parade in protest of the Putinesque restrictions.”

BOSTON

In Boston, a bastion of Irish-American culture and history, that city’s mayor did not march in the annual parade, which was held on Sunday, March 16th.  His decision followed weeks of negotiations and decisions by gay rights groups, the city’s mayor, and others.

The Boston parade is organized by the South Boston War Veterans Council, and this year a group of gay veterans requested to march in the parade carrying a banner from Mass Equality, the state’s LGBT rights organization.  The gay vets were members of LGBT Veterans for Equality.

Mayor Marty Walsh

Parade organizers originally denied the request, but then Boston’s Irish-American mayor, Marty Walsh, stepped into the discussion, saying that he would not march in the March 16th parade unless the gay individuals were allowed to participate. The Boston Globe reported his reason for not marching:

 “As mayor, I feel like I should use my influence. I feel the parade should be inclusive.”

Walsh tried to broker an agreement between the two groups.  At one point, there was hope that an agreement could be reached.  According to Gay Star News, the tentative agreement was that the gay vets could march, as long as they didn’t wear any signs which acknowledged their sexual orientation.

MassEquality Executive Director Kara Coredini

The tentative deal to allow the gay group eventually collapsed because MassEquality said it could not abide by the provision that people not be allowed to identify their sexual orientation.  According to NECN.comMassEquality Executive Director Kara Coredini said:

“LGBT people need to be able to identify themselves as LGBT people. It’s as simple as that. There’s a lot of ways that can be done, and that is a conversation we’re having now with organizers.”

So, after two weeks of negotiation, it was decided that the gay group would not march.  Not all loyal Irish Americans were happy with the decision to exclude the group.  The Boston Globe noted one man’s support for the gay veterans:

“Neil MacInnes-Barker, a former sergeant in the US Air Force, said he signed up for the march two weeks ago, as negotiations were starting. He said that normally he does not participate in the parades, including ones celebrating the gay community, but that he wanted to be present in the St. Patrick’s Day event.

“ ‘If there are people — Irish Americans — who are LGBT in South Boston, then I want to march for them,’ MacInnes-Barker said. ‘If they are afraid of being intimidated . . . then I will stand for them.’ ”

Michael O’Loughlin, writing at Advocate.com observed:

“It wasn’t long ago in this country that the Irish and Roman Catholics were both subject to extreme bigotry.

“That some in these demographic groups are in a position to be bigoted toward others is perhaps an accomplishment in itself, showing that they’ve moved up the ranks. But what a sad cycle and a shameful tradition for this great American city.”

Perhaps most significantly, the Sam Adams beer company, announced that they would be pulling out of the parade.  In a statement, quoted by The Boston Globe the company said:

“We were hopeful that both sides of this issue would be able to come to an agreement that would allow everyone, regardless of orientation, to participate in the parade. But given the current status of the negotiations, we realize this may not be possible.”

Chuck Colbert, a gay, Irish American veteran, wrote in The Boston Globe that he hoped some creative solution could be found to the impasse:

“So let me offer a suggestion: If I — or anyone — were to march in an LGBT-identified contingent, holding a small Irish tricolor and rainbow flag, would that be acceptable to parade organizers? What about green T-shirts with a rainbow flag imprinted on it? What about carrying rainbow-colored balloons or banners?

“With all the creativity among the Irish of Boston and the city’s LGBT community, surely we can move the parade to forward march for all.”

And though they won’t be carrying signs about their sexual identities, gay marchers did, in fact, take part in the parade.  According to The Boston Globe,  Randy Foster, a gay man organized a “diversity float” with his neighbors:

Organizers building the diversity float for Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day parade.

“Foster and his friends and neighbors are not marching Sunday as part of a gay organization. They are marching as South Boston residents who have coalesced around building a park in a corner of the neighborhood known as the Lower End. Many of the people working on the float just happen to be gay. And they have been embraced by the Allied War Veterans Council, the parade’s longtime sponsor.

“’They know us as their neighbors first and as gay second,’ said Foster, an Air Force veteran who served in Desert Storm and who has lived with his husband in South Boston for seven years. Of outside gay groups coming in and hoping to march, he said: ‘How in the world do you ever get compromise if the first statement out of your mouth is, “I’m different than you?” ‘

“Fact: South Boston has a substantial and growing gay population. Fact: A second neighborhood contingent with gay marchers will also be in the parade. Fact: Bill Linehan, City Council president, attacked as unfriendly to gay causes recently by some liberal activists, has been a catalyst behind the scenes to get the neighborhood groups accepted in the parade.”

So, perhaps creativity did make some advancement in the parade, which may help future possibilities for full equality on St. Patrick’s Day.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Cardinal Dolan’s Complaints Are Not Warranted

November 30, 2013
Cardinal Timothy Dolan

Cardinal Timothy Dolan

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

USA Today  reports:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


Remembering a More Positive Catholic Tradition Toward LGBT People

September 19, 2013

A somewhat minor news item spoke volumes to me about the important history of a good relationship that Catholic institutions once had with LGBT organizations.

Charles Cochrane

Charles Cochrane

New York’s Daily News reported that an organization of gay NY police officers are seeking to have a street in the city re-named after their founder, Sgt. Charles H. Cochrane.   The street, Washington Place, between Grove St. and 6th Ave., was selected because it is the location of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, where the first meetings of the Gay Officers Action League (GOAL) were held.

The story explains that the early meetings of this organization, which took place in the early 1970s were not without controversy and even experienced threats of violence:

“Dr. Patrick Suraci, then a NYPD psychologist, said Cochrane got a call at home from someone threatening to ‘come and bomb the f*****s.’

“And no one bombed the church — cops from the 6th Precinct were told to watch the house of worship.”

GOAL has gone on to be one of the most effective LGBT-rights groups in New York City.

What struck me most about this story is that a Catholic church was willing to host these meetings, especially at a time when LGBT people were still so ostracized from most of society’s institutions, and when violence was all too commonplace.  It reminded me that in the 1970s and 1980s, before the pontificates of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, there was a great openness to LGBT people and their concerns on the part of Catholic organizations. During this period, our church witnessed many actions and statements from church leaders, including bishops, about the importance or reaching out to, accepting, and dialoguing with LGBT people.   It was a time of great hope and promise.

This news story sparked my memory to the fact that back in 1973, St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York City became the first Catholic institution to establish a sexual orientation non-discrimination policy in hiring practices.  Given the recent trend of Catholic schools and parishes firing LGBT people, this news is a reminder that Catholics do indeed have a history and tradition of openness on LGBT issues.

This is a tradition that is much in need of revival these days.  Let’s hope and pray that the pontificate of Pope Francis will see a renewed openness by Catholic institutions towards LGBT people and issues.  It is a very important part of our faith, our tradition and our heritage to do so.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Nicholas Coppola on Queer Catholic Faith Webinar

May 16, 2013

 

Nicholas Coppola

Nicholas Coppola

DignityUSA’s popular webinar series, “Queer Catholic Faith,” will feature an interview with Nicholas Coppola, on Tuesday, May 21, 2013,  9:00 p.m., Eastern Time.  Coppola, is the Catholic volunteer who was dismissed from several parish ministries when it was learned that he had legally married his husband in New York State.  Bondings 2.0 has been following Coppola’s story, and you can read the latest post about him here, and links to previous posts are at the end of this post.

The show’s host describes the upcoming program this way:

 “A charismatic spirit, a deep call to serve, a love for his fellow parishioners and for his Church—these attributes only begin to describe Nick Coppola, recently fired from all ministry in his parish because he is married to a man. He’ll bring his abundant energy and faith to a live Queer Catholic Faith interview on Tuesday, May 21 at 9:00 PM Eastern. Tune in for free and from the comfort of home, and find out why this man still attends Mass at his parish every Sunday. Don’t delay. Register now and put it on your calendar. If you’re a straight or LGBTQ Catholic who’s a bit weary and worn of struggles to be counted with full dignity in the Church, this hour will give life.”

You can register for this webinar by clicking here.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

Previous posts on Nicholas Coppola:

May 15, 2013: Long Island Catholics Under Scrutiny for LGBT Support

May 2, 2013: EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Nicholas Coppola In His Own Words

April 26, 2013: In Strange Move, Bishop Returns Petitions to Ousted Gay Catholic

April 14, 2013: Gay Catholic Man Rejected from Parish Ministry Delivers 18,000 Signature Petition to Local Bishop

April 4, 2013: Long Island Gay Catholic Expelled from Parish Ministries for Marrying

 

 

 


Long Island Catholics Under Scrutiny for LGBT Support

May 15, 2013

Nicholas Coppola & husband, David Crespo, outside their Long Island parish (Credit: Long Island Newsday)

LGBT Catholics on Long Island are making their voices heard after Nicholas Coppola was removed from ministry for marrying his husband, David. These Catholics’ opinions are varied and complex, as reported in Long Island Newsday this week:

“Kathy and her partner, devoted Roman Catholics who are gay, feel welcome in their Suffolk County parish.

“But when the time came to baptize their children, they chose to have a private ceremony rather than stand with straight parents in a group baptism at Sunday Mass.

“Acceptance, they have decided, means keeping a low profile. The couple don’t hide their sexual orientation, but they don’t flaunt it either…

“For gay and lesbian Catholics on Long Island, home of the nation’s fifth-largest diocese, participation in a church…is fraught with complexities. Some, like Kathy, feel a general sense of acceptance, but within unspoken boundaries. Others are so alienated they won’t go inside a Catholic church.”

Involvement by LGBT Catholics is particularly strained on Long Island after the ousting of Nicholas Coppola from several volunteer ministries once he had married his husband. However, in contrast to the hierarchy’s harsh LGBT policies  on Long Island and nationwide, American Catholics support LGBT equality. The Newsday piece continues with comments from several LGBT advocates:

“‘There’s been a great shift in the last couple of decades and particularly in the last two to three years,’ said Jeannine Gramick, a nun with the Sisters of Loretto order, who founded the Maryland-based New Ways Ministry to seek acceptance for gays and lesbians in the church. ‘More and more gay Catholics are beginning to realize that non-gay Catholics in the pew are supportive,’ Gramick said.

“She and other advocates said the church hierarchy is not keeping up. Gay and lesbian Catholics are ‘leaving the church in droves,’ Gramick said. ‘It’s heartbreaking.’”

“Mary Kane, 50, head of the Suffolk chapter of Dignity, a national gay Catholic advocacy group, said it is hit or miss for gays and lesbians seeking a friendly parish on Long Island.

“‘There are very welcoming parishes, and there are some parishes where gay and lesbian couples don’t feel welcome or don’t go back,’ she said.

“Many parishes seem to operate on a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell basis,’ Kane said. ‘A lot of it depends on the priest.’”

Other LGBT Catholics described their experiences of alienation from Long Island parishes, which mirrors  the trend nationwide:

“Jamie Manson, of Long Beach, still feels excluded. She attended Holy Trinity High School in Hicksville — a ‘wonderful experience’ — majored in theology at St. John’s University, and received a master’s degree in Catholic theology and ethics at Yale Divinity School.

“Yet as a lesbian she feels so alienated from the Catholic Church she rarely steps inside one, except for weddings and funerals. ‘It’s so empty having nowhere to go — you feel like you are spiritually homeless,’ said Manson, 36.

“Dennis McCarthy, a longtime lay leader at Our Lady of the Snow parish in Blue Point, said the church has fallen behind the times. Until the church accepts gays and lesbians and adopts ‘a different attitude toward the role of women in the church,’ such as allowing them to be deacons and eventually priests, ‘I think they’re generally going to have a problem going forward,’ he said.

“Gays should hold ministerial positions and be allowed ‘participation in any way’ in parish life, McCarthy said.”

The  trend of firing LGBT educators, or even those assumed to be gay, and removing inclusive efforts at the parish level seems to be increasing, even as leading American bishops, like Cardinal Dolan of New York, claim to work at making Catholic churches more welcoming while closing the doors.

What have your experiences been in Catholic parishes where you live?  Share your thoughts in the “Comments” section of this post.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


With Dirty Hands, NY Catholics Stand Witness Against Cardinal’s False Welcome

May 3, 2013
St. Patrick's Cathedral

St. Patrick’s Cathedral

New York-area Catholics who support LGBT-inclusion in the Catholic Church are meeting at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Fifth Avenue, Manhattan, this Sunday, May 5, 2013, to attend the 10:15 Mass with dirty hands.

The silent vigil is in response to New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s blog post from a week ago in which he compared lesbian and gay people coming to church to children showing up to dinner with dirty hands.    He used this analogy to say that it was permissible for church leaders to welcome lesbian and gay people to church, but that the leaders needed to remind them that they needed to clean themselves up.   You can read Bondings 2.0′s commentary on Dolan’s blog post here.

Joseph Amodeo, the organizer of this vigil, offers the following explanation and logistical information:

“This Sunday, we’ll respond to Cardinal Dolan’s article that called upon gay people to wash their hands before entering the church. We’ll be attending 10:15am Mass with charcoaled hands, so as to stand in solidarity with LGBT people. This will not be a protest, it will be a silent and powerful witness to our belief that God welcomes all. We’ll meet in front of Barnes & Noble on 5th Ave and 46 St. We’ll distribute charcoal there and then proceed as a group to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. All people are welcome to join us in this act of solidarity. Please be sure to arrive on time at 9am at Barnes & Noble. If you have questions, email me at joseph.amodeo@gmail.com.”

Amodeo has set up a Facebook event for this vigil which can be viewed here.

New Ways Ministry encourages all in the New York metropolitan area who support LGBT Catholics to show up to this event.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 


In Strange Move, Bishop Returns Petitions to Ousted Gay Catholic

April 26, 2013
Nicholas Coppola holding a copy of the petition.

Nicholas Coppola holding a copy of the petition.

This is the story of one of the strangest moves that I’ve ever heard of coming from a bishop.  A little over a week ago, we reported that Nicholas Coppola, a gay man who had been dismissed from his volunteer ministries at a Catholic parish on Long Island because he married his partner, delivered a petition with over 18,000 signatures to Bishop William Murphy of the Rockville Centre diocese, asking to be re-instated.

This week, we’ve learned that Bishop Murphy has returned the petition and signatures, with a cover letter which simply stated:  “From your faithful Roman Catholic bishop.”  A copy of the letter can be viewed here.

GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) reported this development on their blog  this week.  They quote Coppola’s reaction to this latest development:

Bishop William Murphy

Bishop William Murphy

“I really don’t understand what sort of message Bishop Murphy is trying to send. Is he no longer listening to the voices of the faithful? I have more questions than anything now.”

The strangeness of the note baffles the mind.  Is the bishop being vindictive?  Pretentious? Humorous? Sarcastic?  The move is certainly unprofessional, and clearly not pastoral.  The message it sends is an authoritarian one, not one of responding to human needs or concerns.

The Washington Post notes that the diocese confirmed that the letter did indeed come from the bishop:

“Sean Dolan, a spokesperson for Murphy, on Thursday confirmed that the bishop had sent the 300 sheets of paper with the signatures back to Coppola.

“In a statement, Dolan said the petition and the way its delivery was staged for the media ‘was designed to misinform the press and the intended recipient,’ and was ‘only designed to promote the organizations behind this spectacle.’

“ ‘All legitimate correspondence sent to the Office of the Bishop either by email or regular U.S. Mail is responded to,’ Dolan said in a statement. ‘Online petitions of this nature lack legitimacy (and) are not considered correspondence and therefore do not warrant a response.’ “

On-line petitions are a new form of media and expression, but they are now ubiquitous, and certainly a legitimate form of communication.  The diocese disregards such communications at its peril, and will continue to be out of touch with the real world.

GLAAD points out an interesting church law fact about the diocese’ response:

“According to canon law, the bishops must respond to letters that have been delivered. Later the same day that Nicholas delivered the petitions, the diocese issued a media statement reaffirming Nicholas’ ouster. It is unclear if returning the petition is the official response, per canon law.”

U.S. Catholic magazine has opined on the serious pastoral error that Murphy has made:

“Whether or not Coppola should have been removed from ministry, and whether Catholics who enter into a civil union or same-sex marriage with their partner should be allowed to participate in the life of a parish, are questions that will surely get a lot of arguments on both sides. But the fact that many Catholics were upset with the way Coppola was treated isn’t something that should just be ignored–a good bishop should at least engage with his flock and, if not to debate the decisions he’s made, should at the very least be open to explaining his reasoning in a pastoral manner. If nothing else, the bishop should see it as a teachable moment rather than something to turn away from and refuse to acknowledge.”

Coppola has a second petition campaign going in which he asks New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan to have a meal with his family.  On Easter Sunday, Dolan stated on a television talk show that the church needs to do better outreach to gay and lesbian people.  You can sign the petition here.

GLAAD’s Ross Murray, director of news and faith initiatives, stressed the importance of this second petition:

“Nicholas Coppola is a faithful Catholic who loves his church, and he is now being treated like a threat by his own bishop. Now more than ever, it is vital that Cardinal Dolan break bread with Nicholas to hear how he is being treated by the church that he loves so much.”

New Ways Ministry urges you to sign this petition.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Gay Catholic Man Rejected from Parish Ministry Delivers 18,000 Signature Petition to Local Bishop

April 14, 2013

Nicholas Coppola Delivering 18,000 Signatures

After Nicholas Coppola was removed from parish ministry for marrying his husband, many rushed to support the Long Island gay Catholic man through a petition to the Diocese of Rockville Centre.  Over 18,000 people signed the petition which Coppola delivered to Bishop William Murphy’s office personally.

David Gibson reports in Religion News Service that the petition was was organized by Faithful America, which reads, in part:

“‘Bishop Murphy, please let Nicholas Coppola resume volunteering at his parish – and make it clear that faithful gay and lesbian Catholics are welcome to participate fully in parish life in your diocese.’ “

Gibson notes:

“According to gay activist network GLAAD, which has been assisting Coppola, a security guard at the diocese agreed to deliver the petition but said that neither Murphy nor diocesan officials would meet with Coppola and representatives of the activist groups who accompanied him.”

Reflecting on how events around Mr. Coppola have played out, several Catholic commentators  have expressed concern about the direction parishes head when priests exclude LGBT ministers for marrying. Bryan Cones writes at US Catholic about the failures of Catholic leaders to stand by LGBT ministers who give so much:

“Setting aside what I think is a blatant disregard for the rights of baptized people in the church…it is impossible not to be moved by Coppola’s devotion to his parish. After decades of service, he is being literally benched, but he is still showing up Sunday after Sunday, and even speaking kindly for the pastor…Entering a civil contract, even when it’s called ‘marriage,’ simply does not violate church teaching about the immorality of same-gender sex acts–it only violates the public policy position of the U.S. bishops and the Vatican, and there is a big difference between the two. It’s enough of a difference to justify letting Coppola continue his ministry in the parish.

“That lack of loyalty when the rubber hits the road is particularly tragic in the don’t-ask-don’t-tell situations LGBT Catholics find themselves in…’My hands are tied’ is a common cop out; wouldn’t it be better if Coppola’s pastor said it instead to the bishop: ‘My hands are tied. The gospel won’t let me treat a child of God like that.’ Coppola deserves better than that; everyone deserves better than that.”

Writing at the National Catholic Reporter, Pat Perriello observes more sinister intentions in parishes than just failing to support LGBT individuals:

“I believe God’s power is great enough to value goodness in anyone: Catholic, Christian, non-Christian or nonbeliever. God’s power is greater than church structures that sometimes seem designed to constrain that power.

“My other concern about this story is that the sanctions grew out of an elite spy system that appears determined to catch people doing things wrong and force bishops and priests into a position where they feel compelled to act on these events. We have unfortunately been seeing this kind of behavior in our parishes at least since the time of Pope John Paul II. It is divisive, uncharitable, unchristian and inappropriate as a means of resolving disagreements within the Christian community.”

Michael O’Loughlin writes that the Coppola incident illustrates a non-welcoming model of church, but that an alternative way of being church, one which welcomes all, is already being enacted in other areas:

“…there is another side to the Catholic Church that welcomes gay Catholics. I know a Catholic monk who has supported numerous collegee [sic] students through their coming out processes. A thriving parish in New York owes much of its vibrancy to a gay lay minister. There are countless priests and nuns who share the joys and sorrows of gay families in parishes throughout the country. Most of the time, these stories aren’t reported; it’s not exactly news when Christians act Christian. But sometimes they are.

“With support for same-sex marriage growing, especially among the Catholic faithful, the Catholic Church will face many decisions about how to respond to this pastoral challenge. Whether it hunkers down and marginalizes itself or responds with a more Christian approach remains to be seen, but it’s clear that both options are already at work in today’s church.”

Nicholas Coppola is moving forward from this experience with the hope he and his husband can create a more welcoming, sustained place for Catholic LGBT parishioners within the Church. He started a petition anyone can sign at Change.org asking Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York to share a meal with Mr. Coppola’s family.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Long Island Gay Catholic Expelled from Parish Ministries for Marrying

April 4, 2013

Nicholas Coppola, left, with husband, David

Last Sunday, Cardinal Dolan spoke to the need for improved Catholic outreach to the LGBT community. Many Catholics questioned his sincerity, and they asked for dialogue on the hierarchy’s part to reinforce the statements. The experiences of Nicholas Coppola, a gay Catholic man in New York, are a disheartening reminder of how some church leaders continue to treat LGBT Catholics poorly — and an opportunity for Cardinal Dolan and others to change a broken dynamic.

GLAAD’s blog reports that Mr. Coppola was an active leader at St. Antony’s parish on Long Island until January. He participated in liturgical ministries, was a religious education instructor, and aided ministries for homebound parishioners, the grieving, and the St. Vincent de Paul Society. The blog notes:

“He has been completely out to his parish for years, and has had the support of his priest and fellow parishioners. Mr. Coppola and his husband, David were married on October 27, 2012. A number of parishioners attended their wedding.

“Upon returning from his honeymoon in January, Mr. Coppola was called into the office of Fr. Nicholas Lombardi S.J., the pastor of St. Anthony…

“Fr. Lombardi stated that Mr. Coppola must be removed from all parish involvement. The reason stated was that Mr. Coppola made a public statement by getting married, which is against church teaching.”

Fr. Lombardi acted against Mr. Coppola upon receiving a fax from the Diocese of Rockville Centre that included an anonymous letter written to Bishop William Murphy identifying Nicholas Coppola as a married gay man involved in parish activities. The Diocese’s fax acknowledged that the anonymous nature of the letter undermines it, but that if there were a ” ‘married’ ” gay catechist it “would be of concern” to Fr. Lombardi. In GLAAD’s blog post, Mr. Coppola recalls the meeting that ensued:

“‘I was in shock. I had just come home from my honeymoon. I went to mass on Martin Luther King Day, where we heard a great sermon about justice and equality,’ said Mr. Coppola, recalling the meeting. ‘After mass, I was summoned into the pastor’s office and told that I could no longer be active in my own parish.’

“Mr. Coppola has had two meetings with the Diocese of Rockville Centre, and was informed that the bishop’s ‘hands were tied.’ While the Roman Catholic hierarchy states that it wishes to welcome gay and lesbian people into the church, being in a loving, committed relationship, and seeking protections for that relationship and for one another through civil marriage will exclude one from parish life.”

Mr. Coppola is the latest victim of exclusionary policies from the Catholic hierarchy that deny the gifts LGBT Catholic individuals and their families offer to our parishes and communities. Cardinal Dolan’s and other bishops’ Easter messages about improving LGBT outreach will mean nothing if cases like Mr. Coppola’s continue to occur.

However, Mr. Coppola continues to pray that a new vision of church will emerge:

“I want a church that is open to all and loves each one of us the same.”

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Cardinal Dolan to Lesbian and Gay Catholics: “I love you, too. And God loves you.”

March 31, 2013
Cardinal Timothy Dolan

Cardinal Timothy Dolan

George Stephanopoulos

George Stephanopoulos

Thanks to GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) for making available a transcript of today’s interview between ABC-TV’s George Stephanopoulus and New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan on This Week with George Stephanopoulus in which Dolan speaks positively of gay and lesbian people.  The entire section on gay and lesbian people is available here.  The following is an important excerpt:

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And you know, especially this week – because it’s been at the top of the news – for many gay and lesbian Americans –

CARDINAL DOLAN: Uh-huh.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: – gay and lesbian Catholics, they feel unwelcome –

CARDINAL DOLAN: They do.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: – in the Church. And what do you say as a minister, as a pastor – to a gay couple that comes to you and say, “We love God. We love the Church. But we also love each other, and we –

CARDINAL DOLAN: Uh-huh.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: – want to raise a family in faith.”

CARDINAL DOLAN: Sure.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: What do you say to them?

CARDINAL DOLAN: Well, the first thing I’d say to them is, “I love you, too. And God loves you. And you are made in God’s image and likeness. And – and we – we want your happiness. But – and you’re entitled to friendship.” But we also know that God has told us that the way to happiness, that – especially when it comes to sexual love – that is intended only for a man and woman in marriage, where children can come about naturally.

We gotta be – we gotta do better to see that our defense of marriage is not reduced to an attack on gay people. And I admit, we haven’t been too good at that. We try our darndest to make sure we’re not an anti-anybody. We’re in the defense of what God has taught us about – about marriage. And it’s one man, one woman, forever, to bring about new life. We gotta do better to try to dis – take that away from being anti-anybody. And – and I admit –

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: How do you do that?

CARDINAL DOLAN: We haven’t been too good –

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Yeah, how do you do that?

CARDINAL DOLAN: Well, I don’t know. We’re still – we’re – we’re tryin’. We’re tryin’ our best to do it. We gotta listen to people, like the couple that you just described – that say, “We don’t feel comfortable here.”

Jesus died on the cross for them as much as he did for me. But you got a point. Sometimes we’re not as successful or as effective as we can be in translating that warm embrace into also teaching what God has told us about the way He wants us –

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And that challenge –

CARDINAL DOLAN: – to live.

Congratulations to Mr. Stephanopoulos for asking these tough questions and eliciting such a positive response.  Thank you to Cardinal Dolan for finally speaking positively about gay and lesbian Catholics and admitting that the church can do better in their regard.  Many thanks to GLAAD for making this transcript available.

This is the first time that the cardinal has made such a positive statement about God’s love for lesbian and gay people.  Such a statement is a refreshing change from the usual harsh rhetoric that the church hierarchy uses when discussing LGBT issues.  It is a significant sign of welcome and outreach.  Cardinal Dolan’s statement is nothing short of an Easter miracle.

Cardinal Dolan now has to back up these words with actions.  Later in the interview he said that church leaders “gotta listen to people,” referring to lesbian and gay persons.  If Dolan meant what he said, he should open a dialogue with lesbian and gay people, especially Catholics, to learn more about their pain and struggle , but also about their joy and faith.  New Ways Ministry stands ready to help Dolan identify people with whom he can begin to dialogue.

It is no accident that such a positive message comes with the beginning of the new papacy of Pope Francis.  He has set a new tone of humility and reconciliation in the church which did not exist under Benedict XVI.  We hope and pray that the new pope’s example will continue to inspire other church leaders to seek out those on the margins and welcome them into the fold.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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