Catholics Among Christian Leaders Supporting LGBT Rights in Uganda

July 25, 2012

The Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights has released an open letter by American Christian leaders expressing solidarity with LGBT Ugandans as their that nation continues to consider anti-gay legislation. Among the 46 signatories are 28  who are connected with Catholic institutions (see below).

The announcement on the Kennedy Center’s website states:

“Washington — July 24, 2012 Today, a group of 46 American Christian leaders issued an open letter expressing solidarity with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Ugandans in the face of “increased bigotry and hatred.” The letter, coordinated by Faith in Public Life, Human Rights First and the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, comes as a new Political Research Associates report released today accuses, among others, evangelicals such as Pat Robertson, Catholics and Mormons of setting up campaigns and fronts in Africa designed to press for anti-gay laws. . . .

” ‘It’s important for Ugandans to know that not all Evangelical and Catholic leaders think LGBT people should be criminals,’ says Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda and the 2011 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award laureate, ‘This letter from prominent American Christians is a crucial step in our efforts to introduce Ugandans to more positive and loving Christian messages in contrast to the harmful rhetoric from our own pastors that only leads to more violence and hate.’ “

In part, the text of the letter reads:

“Regardless of the diverse theological views of our religious traditions regarding the morality of homosexuality, the criminalization of homosexuality, along with the violence and discrimination against LGBT people that inevitably follows, is incompatible with the teachings of our faith.

“As American Christians we recognize that groups and leaders within our own country have been implicated in efforts to spread prejudice and discrimination in Uganda. We urge our Christian brothers and sisters in Uganda to resist the false arguments, debunked long ago, that LGBT people pose an inherent threat to our children and our societies. LGBT people exist in every country and culture, and we must learn to live in peace together to ensure the freedom of all, especially when we may disagree. We condemn misguided actions that have led to increased bigotry and hatred of LGBT people in Uganda that debases the inherent dignity of all humans created in the image of our Maker. Such treatment degrades the human family, threatens the common good, and defies the teachings of our Lord – wherever it occurs.”

“We condemn misguided actions that have led to increased bigotry and hatred of LGBT people in Uganda that debases the inherent dignity of all humans created in the image of our Maker. Such treatment degrades the human family, threatens the common good, and defies the teachings of our Lord – wherever it occurs.”

To read the full text of this letter and to see the full list of signatories, click here.

The signatories associated with Catholic institutions are:

Ambassador Thomas P. Melady
Former U.S. Ambassador to Uganda and the Vatican

Gerald J. Beyer, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Christian Social Ethics Department of Theology and Religious Studies, Saint Joseph’s University

Nicholas P. Cafardi
Dean Emeritus and Professor of Law, Duquesne University

M. Shawn Copeland
Associate Professor of Systematic Theology, Boston College

Rev. Paul Crowley, S.J.
Santa Clara Jesuit Community Professor, Religious Studies Department, Santa Clara University

Nancy Dallavalle, Ph.D.
Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Religious Studies, Fairfield University

Francis Schüssler Fiorenza
Stillman Professor for Roman Catholic Theological Studies, Harvard Divinity School

Jeannine Hill Fletcher
Associate Professor of Theology, Fordham University

Sister Mary Ann Hinsdale, IHM, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Theology, Boston College

Bradford E. Hinze, Ph.D.
Professor of Theology, Fordham University

Rev. James Hug, S.J.
President, Center of Concern

John Inglis
Chair and Professor, Department of Philosophy, Cross-appointed to Department of Religious Studies, University of Dayton

Reverend Raymond B. Kemp
Senior Fellow, Woodstock Theological Center, Center for Social Justice DC Community Fellow, Georgetown University

Paul Lakeland
Aloysius P. Kelley S.J. Professor of Catholic Studies, Director, Center for Catholic Studies, Fairfield University

Rev. John Langan S.J.
Joseph Cardinal Bernardin Professor of Catholic Social Thought, Georgetown University

Rev. Bryan N. Massingale, S.T.D.
Professor of Theological Ethics, Marquette University

Joseph A. McCartin
Associate Professor of History, Director, Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor, Georgetown University

Alex Mikulich
Loyola University, New Orleans

David J. O’Brien, Ph.D.
University Professor of Faith and Culture, University of Dayton

Christopher Pramuk
Associate Professor of Theology, Xavier University, Cincinnati, OH

Thomas J. Reese, S.J.
Senior Fellow, Woodstock Theological Center, Georgetown University

Stephen F. Schneck, Ph.D.
Director, Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies, The Catholic University of America

Sister Nancy Sylvester,IHM
President, Institute for Communal Contemplation and Dialogue

Terrence W. Tilley
Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J., Professor of Catholic Theology Chair, Theology Department, Fordham University

Edward Vacek, S.J.
Boston College

Todd Whitmore
Associate Professor of Christian Ethics, University of Notre Dame

Tobias Winright, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Theological Ethics, Saint Louis University

Sandra Yocum, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Religious Studies Department, University of Dayton

Almost 42% of Uganda’s population is Catholic, the largest denomination in this predominantly Christian nation.   As Bondings 2.0 has reported before, Catholic opposition to anti-gay legislation is critical to insure that LGBT people there are protected.  You can read about the importance of such support here and here and here and here.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


Pelosi, Theologians, Lay Catholics Agree: Support Marriage Equality

May 16, 2012

The message that American Catholics support marriage equality is one that cannot be emphasized or repeated enough.  Since the Catholic bishops oppose marriage equality so vocally and vociferously, it is important to keep reminding people that the hierarchy’s position is not reflective of the Catholic population.  Some recent news stories highlight this fact.

Representative Nancy Pelosi

The Washington Post’s blog “Under God” recently ran a quote from Nancy Pelosi, the House of Representatives minority leader who is Catholic, that she made at a press conference in response to a question about religion and marriage equality.  Pelosi responded:

“My religion compels me–and I love it for it–to be against discrimination of any kind in our country, and I consider [the ban on gay marriage] a form of discrimination. I think it’s unconstitutional on top of that. So I think that yesterday was a great day for America because the president in a very personal, as well as presidential way, made history, and hopefully this will bring people together on the issue.”

She joins other prominent Catholic politicians–Washington State’s Governor Christine Gregoire, Maryland’s Governor Martin O’Malley, Vice President Joe Biden–who this past year have publicly voiced support for marriage equality.

Politicians are not the only prominent Catholics who are speaking out for marriage rights for lesbian and gay couples.  A DailyBeast.com headline recently asked, “Do Most Catholic Theologians Support Same-Sex Marriage?,” and the article answers a resounding “Yes!”

One of the scholars cited is Paul Lakeland, professor of religion and director of the Center for Catholic Studies at Fairfield University, who, in reference to the bishops’ position on marriage equality, states:

“That’s not really an argument that has a theological justification. . . .It’s an argument that’s based more on fear or repugnance.”

Also quoted is Daniel Maguire, professor of theology at Marquette University:

“Archbishop Dolan and the United States Catholic Conference are misrepresenting ‘Catholic teaching,’ and are trying to present their idiosyncratic minority view as the ‘Catholic position,’ and it is not. . . .The bishops will stand with Dolan and the U.S. Catholic Conference, but on this issue, they are in moral schism since most in the Church have moved on [to] a more humane view on the rights of those whom God has made gay.

“Most Catholic theologians approve of same-sex marriage and Catholics generally do not differ much from the overall population on this issue.”

Frederick Parrella, professor of theology at Santa Clara University, notes that there is “nothing in the Gospels” to support opposition to marriage equality.

A new Gallup poll which shows that about 50% of Americans support marriage equality,  51% of Catholics express the same support, compared to 47% of Catholics who oppose such measures.

In his latest post,  Michael O’Loughlin at America magazine’s “In All Things” blog offers some analysis of why Catholics are so supportive of marriage equality:

“As with the public as a whole, the more visible gay and lesbian people are in families, schools, and the workplace, the more likely Catholics are to support laws that they see as extending civil rights to a group of historically marginalized people. But is there something about Catholicism in particular that would lead to acceptance of same-sex marriage, even as some church leaders rail against it? I think the sacramental nature of our faith, the belief that the world is good and infused with God’s grace, and the understanding of family and community as pivotal to living out the Gospel might compel Catholics to reject the call to take up a fight against same-sex marriage. Perhaps some of the laity have taken to heart the church’s emphasis on social justice, its call to protect the marginalized, and its preached message of inclusivity for all, and are now applying these themes to a specific, modern situation. Some bishops may lament this break between shepherd and flock, but in some ways perhaps it is not so troubling? If Catholics are following what they believe to be well-formed consciences and standing up for those they see as victimized and marginalized, the Gospel message lives.”

From all quarters of the church, except the hierarchy, Catholics support marriage equality.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


The Ups and Downs of LGBT Issues on Catholic College Campuses

April 1, 2012

Jamie Manson

Jamie Manson’s essay, “As Culture War Rages, What’s the Status of LGBT Rights on Catholic Campuses?” takes an unflinching look at how issues about sexual orientation and gender identity are being treated in various locales. The news might be a bit of a mixed bag.

Manson, an award-winning columnist for The National Catholic Reporter who recently led a focus session on Catholic young adults and LGBT issues at New Ways Ministry’s Seventh National Symposium, points out many of the good things that are happening:  the recent More Than A Monologue conference series, the offering of domestic partner benefits at some campuses, the establishment of LGBT centers on two national campuses, that over 100 schools are listed on New Ways Ministry’s gay-friendly Catholic college list.

She also observes, however, that job security for LGBT faculty and staff can be precarious.  More worrisome is the culture of fear about LGBT topics that still exists on Catholic campuses:

“For all the advances on some Catholic campuses, a culture of fear still looms heavily. Though nearly twenty scholars and program directors were contacted for comment on this article, only three were willing to speak on the record.

“This silence, whether self-imposed or ecclesiastically-ordered, raises important questions about the future of younger theologians and scholars at Catholic universities. What is the impact on academic integrity when new faculty members fear that they might be denied tenure, or get their university in trouble with a bishop, if they publish ideas or speak to the media about controversial topics?”

This fear and silence was in evidence just a few days ago when Anna Maria College, a small Catholic school in Massachusetts, rescinded their invitation to Victoria Kennedy, widow of Senator Edward Kennedy, in part because of her support of marriage equality.   But perhaps as evidence of the mixed bag that Manson describes, it is also true that another Catholic college in Massachusetts, Boston College School of Law, will, in fact, be hearing Ms. Kennedy as their commencement speaker this spring.   You can read the full story of the Anna Maria College decision here.

Still as we’ve said before, Catholic colleges are one of the areas in the church where New Ways Ministry sees the most progress in the area of LGBT issues.  Manson’s article offers three reasons.  The first reason is the fact that the majority of Catholics are supportive of LGBT issues:

For [Professor Paul]Lakeland [of Fairfield University] . . . the divide on LGBT issues, ‘is not between church and academy, but between the institutional voice of the episcopate and the bulk of the Catholic population.’

“According to a 2010 study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, 49% of white Catholics support gay marriage, up 5% from the previous year’s poll. A 2011 study by the Public Religion Research institute found that ‘when same-sex marriage is defined explicitly as a civil marriage,’ support increases to a staggering 71%.”

The second reason focuses on the mission of a university:

“Paul Crowley, SJ, professor of theology at Santa Clara University, a Jesuit school located in the middle of Silicon Valley, sees not so much of a divide between bishops and universities as ‘a difference of approach.’

“ ‘The Catholic university should be a place where there is more room than there is in some other sectors of the Church for free exploration of ideas and questions that people may raise,’ said Crowley. ‘This isn’t to deny a legitimate, normative role for the Church’s teaching in the intellectual life of a Catholic university.’

Campuses are pluralistic places with students and faculty who represent a diversity of religious traditions, races, ethnicities, and sexual expressions. ‘So, in regard to the Church’s teaching on homosexuality, the Catholic university should be a natural place to ask, “what are the lived implications of the Church’s teachings?’” Crowley said. ‘How do you, in a reality-based way, negotiate the Church’s teachings with human lives? ‘ ”

The third reason offers, perhaps, the most promise for a future Catholic church that promotes equality and justice for LGBT people:

“The Pew Forum’s 2010 study of ‘Religion Among Millennials,’ demonstrated that 72% of Catholics between the ages of 18 and 29 believe that homosexuality should be accepted by society.

“One professor who asked to remain anonymous told me, ‘The views of younger people are a sign of hope.’ ”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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