Archdiocesan Reaction Is Insufficient in Philadelphia Hate Crime

September 21, 2014

Surveillance footage of those accused of attacking a gay couple in Philadelphia

Alumni from a Philadelphia Catholic high school were allegedly involved in a hate crime last week, accused of attacking a gay couple on the street that left one victim with a wired jaw and broken eye socket, and the other one badly bruised.

In the aftermath, a school coach has resigned but reactions to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s statements are mixed. Ultimately, the response has been insufficient and this is a missed opportunity.

Fran McGlinn coached basketball at Archbishop Wood High School, in the Philadelphia suburb of Warminster, from which several of the assailants including McGlinn had graduated. Archdiocesan spokesperson Kenneth Gavin confirmed the assistant coach’s resignation on Wednesday, saying he was further banned from employment at archdiocesan schools. The identities of McGlinn and the others became known after social media users viewed surveillance footage which was made public to find the assailants.

In a statement reported by the Bucks County Courier Times, the Archdiocese also said:

“This afternoon, administrators communicated with the entire Archbishop Wood school community to make it emphatically clear that the school does not, under any circumstances, tolerate or condone the violent and hateful behavior displayed by those who took part in this senseless attack.

“Administration also stressed that Catholic schools are centers of learning where students are expected to treat each other in a Christ-like manner at all times and that everyone deserves to be treated with respect and dignity. The actions of those who took part in the attack are reprehensible and entirely unacceptable.”

 Archbishop Charles Chaput also commented on the September 11th assault, saying in a statement:

“A key part of a Catholic education is forming students to respect the dignity of every human person whether we agree with them or not. What students do with that formation when they enter the adult world determines their own maturity and dignity, or their lack of it. Violence against anyone, simply because of who they are, is inexcusable and alien to what it means to be a Christian. A recent beating incident in Center City allegedly involved, in some way, a part-time coach at Archbishop Wood High School. After inquiries by school leadership, the coach was contacted regarding the matter and he resigned. Archbishop Wood’s handling of the matter was appropriate, and I support their efforts to ensure that Catholic convictions guide the behavior of their whole school community, including their staff.”

First, Archbishop Wood administrators are to be commended for quickly dealing with McGlinn’s employment when his involvement in hate crime became apparent. In twenty LGBT-related employment incidents at Catholic institutions this year, this is the first resulting from a church worker’s actual failure to uphold human dignity and the common good.

However, both Chaput and the Archdiocese’s statements fail to recognize openly the specific nature of this attack. Reports claim the assailants asked the couple if they were boyfriends and yelled homophobic remarks while beating the two men. Though Pennsylvania hate crime laws may not be LGBT-inclusive, in this incident it is essential for Catholic officials to acknowledge the homophobia seemingly at the core of the attack.

Yet, neither the word “gay” nor any variation is used in the statements which simply condemn violence. One interesting note is that the archbishop said no one should be attacked “simply for who they are,” a possible shift from the language of same-sex attractions in vogue with American bishops back to language of sexual orientation. This, however, does not directly name what happened as a hate crime specifically targeting a gay couple and is therefore insufficient.

Archbishop Chaput has a record of acting against LGBT people. He is known for expelling a child of a lesbian couple from Catholic school and denying Communion to LGBT advocates. Chaput recently aided efforts by the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference opposing a non-discrimination bill that would make sexual orientation and gender identity protected classes.

Further, this incident is a missed opportunity for Archbishop Chaput and archdiocesan officials to make an unequivocal statement in support of LGBT people who face discrimination and violence. Though Chaput was critical of Pope Francis in the past, this incident could have provided a moment for the archbishop to change his tone and implement a more pastoral approach when dealing with the LGBT community. Catholics United has called on him to do as much when it comes to Philadelphia’s transgender community. Why not use a moment of horrendous tragedy to build a bridge and reach out with love for lesbian and gay Philadelphians as well?

Thankfully, the story is still in the news and there is time for Archbishop Chaput and Archbishop Wood H.S. officials to make a more explicitly LGBT-focused condemnation of this attack. Let us pray they will finally feel the ‘Francis Effect’ now spreading in the US and do the right thing.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Pope Francis’ Trip to Philly Could Change Conversations on Family Life

August 18, 2014

Pope Francis clowns it up as he congratulates a newly married couple in Rome.

Pope Francis is (most likely) coming to Philadelphia in 2015 and many Catholics are already offering their welcome to him, as well as an invitation to advance LGBT acceptance in the church.

Given that he is coming for the World Meeting of Families, many are also wondering whether Pope Francis will include all families on the agenda for the meeting

Mark Segal writes to the pope in The Inquirer that he is joyful about the papal visit, hoping that it will “bring people together to learn tolerance and understanding” in keeping with the Pontifical Council for the Family’s stated mission. Segal, who is editor of Philadelphia Gay News, continues:

“While the pope’s visit here would be about promoting the value and values of families – and I believe that is something we all can embrace – it must include all families. That would mean including families in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community who, unfortunately, have not felt comfortable and at times have been aggressively targeted by the church…

“This denial of LGBT families denigrates those family members and makes them feel less than human. Imagine how the children in those families feel when other children belittle them for having two mothers or two fathers. Or how do parents explain to their child that they were fired because they married their spouse?”

Segal believes that dialogue will help bridge the divide within the Catholic community and between the church and LGBT communities, helping to heal wounds and make amends–and ultimately to promote stronger, more fruitful family life.

But this can only happen through Pope Francis’ leadership, who can be the necessary impetus to change the US bishops’ narrative when it comes to LGBT people and their families. John Gehring of Faith in Public Life writes in Time that Pope Francis’ visit is “a unique opportunity to have a conversation about families that moves past the usual culture war flash points.”

Gehring notes that visit will come at a crucial point for religion and politics in the U.S., with upcoming 2016 presidential campaigns assuredly underway with a full docket of Catholic candidates. It will also likely occur with even more states having legalized marriage equality and expanded LGBT non-discrimination rights, and predictable controversies as Catholic leaders grapple with this new reality. Gehring is not hopeful that the U.S. bishops will respond positively. He stated:

“While Catholic bishops once helped inspire social reforms that took root in the New Deal and challenged Reagan-era economic and military policies, these days bishops are more likely to be known for opposing the Violence Against Women Act, the Employee Non-Discrimination Act, health care reform legislation that became the Affordable Care Act and breezily mentioning President Obama’s administration in the same breath as Hitler and Stalin

“Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia, who will be the first to greet Pope Francis when his plane touches down next fall, is regarded as the new intellectual leader of the culture warrior camp. While Pope Francis made headlines for saying it was not his place to judge gays and lesbians, Chaput once defended a pastor for his refusal to enroll two girls, ages 5 and 3, in a Denver Catholic school after it became known their parents were lesbians.”

Indeed, America’s bishops have not ceased opposing marriage equality, even as several anti-LGBT campaigners admit it is a lost cause. There is a troubling rise in the firing of LGBT church workers, as more come out publicly and get married. Theologian Massimo Faggioli is quoted in Gehring’s article saying that the US bishops “are the most difficult team Pope Francis has to work with because sociologically and culturally the are in a different place.” To change the conversation on marriage and family life, Pope Francis will have to challenge the US episcopacy’s status quo. It will not be easy, but his first year has proven that this is not just any other papacy.

To start, perhaps the pope could take Archbishop Chaput and others on a tour around Philly with Kate Childs Graham, who offered her thoughts in the National Catholic Reporter about 10 touristy things the pope could do, including praying at the city’s famous “LOVE” sculpture.  As Childs Graham notes:  “It’s all we need.”

In terms of messages, policies, and gestures, what do you think the pope will do at the meeting in Philadelphia?  What do you think he should do?

Where do you think he should visit not just in Philadelphia, but anywhere in the United States?  Who do you think he should meet with?

What are your hopes for the World Meeting of Families?  What are your fears?

Offer your answers to these questions and other reactions to the opinions expressed above in the “Comments” section of this post.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Gay Teacher Fired from Catholic Prep School for Applying for Marriage License

December 7, 2013

A teacher at a Catholic prep school in Pennsylvania has been fired from his position of twelve years on the same day that he and his partner applied for a marriage license.

Michael Griffin with his partner, Vincent Gianetto

Michael Griffin, who taught French and Spanish at Holy Ghost Preparatory School in Bensalem, a Philadelphia suburb, had been known to faculty and administrators as gay, but that when administrators questioned him about his upcoming marriage, he was fired.  6ABC.com reported on the process of his firing:

“Michael Griffin says he emailed the principal of Holy Ghost Prep earlier in the week saying he may be late Friday, that he was applying for a marriage license. After an in-service day he says he was called into the office of School President Father James McCloskey, along with Principal Jeffrey Danilak.

“Griffin explains, ‘He said, “It’s not really a secret here that you’re gay.” I said, “Correct.” He said, “I assume this is a same sex marriage.” “Yes.” He said if I go through with it, he had no choice but to terminate my position.’ “

NBCPhiladelphia.com reported that McCloskey made a statement on the matter which included the following:

“At a meeting in my office yesterday, teacher Michael Griffin made clear that he obtained a license to marry his same sex partner. Unfortunately, this decision contradicts the terms of his teaching contract at our school, which requires all faculty and staff to follow the teachings of the Church as a condition of their employment. In discussion with Mr. Griffin, he acknowledged that he was aware of this provision, yet he said that he intended to go ahead with the ceremony. Regretfully, we informed Mr. Griffin that we have no choice but to terminate his contract effective immediately.”

Griffin noted that he is angered by how he was treated:

“The school to me has shown their true colors so I don’t know if I… I certainly don’t want to work there again after I’ve seen how they treated me.”

He also told the press that he believes he was fired because the school enforces a code of conduct for teachers which states in part:

“. . . as employees of a Catholic institution, all teachers are expected to uphold lifestyles compatible with the moral teaching of the Roman Catholic Church.”

Regular readers of Bondings 2.0 will know that this firing is just the latest in a rapidly growing trend of firings from Catholic institutions aimed at LGBT people and others who support marriage equality.   What is amazing about these firings is that while they emphasize the Catholic hierarchy’s position on marriage, they totally ignore the Catholic Church’s teachings on non-discrimination, the dignity of work, and respect for all human beings.  The sexual teachings do not and should not trump the social justice teachings.

New Ways Ministry has called upon Catholics to attempt to institute non-discrimination policies in their church institutions such as parishes, schools, and social service agencies.  You  can learn more about how to work towards establishing such policies by clicking here.  Adopting such policies guarantees that LGBT people and their allies will be protected, and it will insure that Catholic social justice principles are upheld.

You can review all the Bondings 2.0 posts about such firings by clicking on “Employment Issues” in the “Categories” section to the right of this post.

Here are the names of people fired over the last two years, with links to more information about their cases:

Mark Krolikowski

Nicholas Coppola

Carla Hale

Erin Macke

Nick Johns

Tim Nelson

William Hudson

Ken Bencomo

Kristen Ostendorf

Tippi McCullough

Nigel Studdart
“John Doe”
Trish Cameron
Michael Fischer
Steav Bates Congdon
Jodi O’Brien
Fr. Owen O’Sullivan, OFM, Cap (see page 5 in link)
Laine Tadlock
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Catholics Leave Over LGBT Issues, As Bishops Redouble Anti-Equality Work

July 2, 2013

Archbishop Charles Chaput denies Communion to parish activists

A new poll conducted at a Philadelphia-area parish by Villanova University’s Center for the Study of Church Management reveals that LGBT issues are rising in prominence as a reason Catholics leave the Church. Yet, at the same time, members of the hierarchy double-down on their efforts to oppose equality for sexual minorities.

The survey asked 189 non-practicing and former Catholics about their reasons for leaving, producing instructive results for Catholic bishops and clergy struggling to retain parishioners. Scandals around sexual abuse and mishandling of cases was the primary reason, at about seventeen percent of respondents, but this does not reveal current trends. NewsWorks interviewed the poll’s director, Charles Zech of Villanova University, who said:

” ‘People who are going to leave the church over the scandal and the church’s handling of it have already left. So people leaving the church today are leaving for other reasons…A growing reason we found out was the church’s attitude toward homosexuals and gay marriage. A lot of younger people object to the church’s teaching on that.’ “

Catholic support of LGBT rights, especially for equal marriage, is well-documented, but there is little hard data on what the practical implications of this split between Catholics in the pews and their anti-gay leaders. This study suggests not only are the bishops’ policies against marriage equality and LGBT rights harming the directly affected communities, but have wider implications which undermine parish communities. Most leaving do not quit organized religion, but transfer to Protestant communities.

As this new polling is released, the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference is preparing anew to oppose anti-discrimination legislation that would include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes. Pennsylvania is the sole northeast state without LGBT protections written into law on such things as employment and housing, and equality advocates are hoping to change this legislation. NewsWorks reports that representatives of the Conference base their objections in a fear that the Catholic Church would be forced to contradict its beliefs in social services, hospitals, and other institutions.

The Villanova parish study, which will not be made public, names both local issues as well as problems with the Vatican and US bishops as reasons for leaving the Catholic church. Polling director Zech believes local changes, like improved liturgies, could stem the losses. Many troubles are occurring in Philadelphia over parish-based issues, like closures and clustering, that even lead to protests at an immigration Mass recently–and saw Archbishop Charles Chaput deny Communion to three people.

Philadelphia Catholic leadership could withdraw their opposition to simple anti-discrimination legislation that protects the rights of LGBT people to their jobs, homes, and public services. Protecting the dignity of every person, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, is well-rooted in the Catholic tradition and it is why so many Catholics support equality. It is time to focus on creating welcoming communities and building up strong parishes, instead of opposing anti-discrimination laws and denying Communion.   The new polling data show that the bishops’ current course on LGBT issues is a losing proposition.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Catholic Sports Camp Program for Gay Men Is a Curve Ball

May 25, 2012

In what can only be described as patently ridiculous and totally absurd, a Catholic organization whose purported goal is to help lesbian and gay people lead celibate lives, is hosting a sports camp for men this weekend, at the Philadelphia Archdiocese’s seminary.

A Philadelphia Inquirer article entitled, “A camp for sports and avoiding gay sex,” reports:

“This weekend a group of men will gather at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary to how learn to throw a spiral, make a three-point shot and hit a long ball — and to resist homosexual urges.

“Courage, a Catholic group that encourages people with same-sex attraction to remain celibate, is holding its 13th annual sports camp in which “men physically compete on the field while enriching their souls through a daily regimen of prayer, confessions, mass, and the Liturgy of the Hours,” according to the group’s website.”

Gareth Thomas: openly gay Welsh rugby player

Members and supporters of Philadelphia’s Peace Advocacy Network planned to protest the program.  Ed Coffin, the Network’s director said in the Inquirer article,

“They think that in offering people with same sex attraction the chance to learn how to play sports they will learn to be manlier. . . .It’s a ludicrous assertion. There are many, many out gay athletes and many gay men who play sports.”

The Courage organization has often mixed their message of celibacy with outdated notions that link sexual orientation with gender stereotypes.  You can read Bondings 2.0’s critique of the ministry in our January 2012 post, “When Courage Fails.”  Courage chapters have sometimes been known to encourage forms of conversion therapy, an approach which the group’s founder, the late Father John Harvey, OSFS, did not promote.  When I met Fr. Harvey at a conference in 1997, I asked him if Courage promoted conversion therapy, and he answered with an axiom from traditional moral theology, “You cannot require what cannot be accomplished.”

In an article in Philadelphia Gay News, Peace Advocacy Network’s Ed Coffin stated:

“The American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association and many other professional mental-health organizations have said not only that conversion therapy doesn’t work but that it can be psychologically damaging. . . .When you’re trying to convert something that can’t be converted, it’s going to have consequences. They’re working to make people feel shameful about what they call a ‘gay lifestyle’ and it’s something that we know can’t be changed.”

A HuffingtonPost article cites testimony posted on Courage’s website from previous sports camp participants.  One comment, from a man named Robert states:

“One time a teammate gave me a sweaty celebratory hug. He was humbly secure in himself, just as he was, selflessly and joyfully showing affection to others. I also liked when one man, whom I’d felt intimidated by, gave me a pat on my belly, meaning ‘way to go!’ His touch made me feel accepted as one of the guys.”

If it were not for the potential psychological damage that a program such as a “sports camp” based on bizarre pseudo-scientific premises and outdated stereotypes might cause, this news would be truly laughable. The fact that faith has been added to the mix makes this news all the more serious.  What’s next?  Baking lessons for lesbians?

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 


Lesbian Couple’s Romance Brings Out the Love from Catholic Alumni

February 3, 2012

Megan Edwards and Katie McTurk

The love story of a lesbian couple who are alumni of St. Joseph University, Philadelphia, has touched the hearts of almost 2,000 other alums of the Jesuit university in a Facebook Valentine’s Day contest.

The St. Joseph’s University Alumni Association is running a “How I Met My Hawkmate” Facebook contest in which alums who met while at the school’s campus (called “Hawk Hill” ) were invited to post the story of their romance with photos of themselves.  The couple who received the most “likes” would become the winner.

When Megan Edwards and Katie McTurk submitted their story and photos, they were originally denied entry, and the reason was that “the alumni association claimed the decision was made because the Catholic Church doesn’t recognize same-sex relationships,” according to a news story on NBCPhiladelphia.com.

The couple used Facebook to publicize their exclusion, posting a statement “Attention All SJU Alulmni: All Alumni Are Not Considered Equal.”   Almost immediately, the alumni association’s Facebook page started receiving notes of protest from other alums.

Late in the afternoon on February 2nd, the alumni association posted the couple’s story and picture, and within an hour at had over 600 “likes” on the contest’s Facebook page.  At 10:30 a.m. on February 3rd, it had 1,844 “likes,” and that number continues to grow.

McTurk offered a comment on the situation that shows the power of the true Catholic spirit:

” ‘I never thought that many people would support us and really fight for this,’ said MacTurk. ‘I think it attests to the caliber of students that St. Joe’s produces that so many people would really stand up for what they believe is right no matter who the injustice has been committed against.’ “

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


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