The Worst of 2013 in Catholic LGBT News

December 30, 2013

As the year 2013 winds to a close, it’s time to review the news of the Catholic LGBT world of the past 12 months. In today’s post, we will look at the  stories of the worst happenings of the past year, and in tomorrow’s post, we will look at the best stories.  Bondings 2.0 asked you for your feedback on what the worst and best news stories of the past year were, so the ranking of these stories is based on your responses.  The percentage following each story is the percentage of people who chose this item as one of their top five. Thank you to all who participated.

One comment before we get to the list.  As we prepared the list of 20 “nominees” for the top 10 worst stories, we were struck by the fact that it was difficult to find 20 big stories to fit the bill.  As you will note, many of the “nominees” were reports of one-time statements by bishops.  Though many of these stories reveal that much work remains to be done in terms of educating the hierarchy and other church leaders about LGBT issues, we thought it was remarkable that there were really only a handful of negative stories that maintained any “staying power”  this year.

Conversely, we found it difficult to keep the list of “nominees” for the “Best” list to only 20.  We’ll see the results of that survey tomorrow,  but on the whole, it looks like 2013 has had more good than bad happen for those interested in Catholic LGBT issues!

The Top 10 Worst Stories:

1. On the day that Illinois’ marriage equality bill is signed into law by its Catholic governor, Springfield’s Bishop Thomas Paprocki holds a public prayer service, including the rite of exorcism, against the new legal reality.   15%

2. The trend of firing LGBT teachers and church workers from Catholic institutions grows markedly in 2013. 13%

3. The U.S. Catholic bishops oppose the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, provisions in the immigration reform bill, and portions of the Violence Against Women Act—all because they would provide equality for LGBT people.  11%

4. Pope Benedict XVI opens the year with a New Year’s Day message on peace which says, in part. that allowing same-gender couples to marry is “an offence against the truth of the human person, with serious harm to justice and peace.  9%

5. The Parliament of the heavily Catholic nation of Uganda passes its infamous bill to impose life sentences and other severe penalties on those convicted of homosexual acts.  8%

6. New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan says that asking lesbian and gay people to follow official church teaching on sexual expression is no different than asking dinner guests to wash their dirty hands. 7%

7.  Detroit’s Archbishop Allen Vigneron states that Catholics who support marriage equality should not present themselves for Communion. 5%

8, 9, 10 (TIE).   Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Archdiocese of Military Services writes a letter to chaplains discouraging them from ministering to lesbian and gay couples.  4%

The Pew Research Center released a report that the overwhelming majority of LGBT people find organized religions “unfriendly,” with the Catholic Church coming in third place behind Islam and the Mormons.  4%

San Francisco’s Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, who is also the chair of the U.S. bishops’ Committee for the Defense of Marriage, states “Legislating for the right for people of the same sex to marry is like legalizing male breastfeeding.”  4%

Other Items which garnered votes:

Catholic Campaign for Human Development in Illinois cuts funds from an immigrants’ rights organization because of the group’s tenuous ties to organizations which support marriage equality.   3%

The Dominican Republic’s Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez Rodriguez uses an anti-gay slur to refer to James Brewster, President Obama’s choice to become U.S. Ambassador to that island nation.  3%

Kenya’s Cardinal John Njue criticizes President Barack Obama for speaking out against the criminalization of homosexuality in Africa.  2%

South Africa’s Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier declares “I can’t be accused of homophobia because I don’t know any homosexuals.” 1%

Archbishop Oscar Cruz of the Philippines approves the idea of gay men and lesbian women marrying each other because “The anatomy is there. The possibility of conception is there.”  1%

In Croatia, the Catholic Church hierarchy leads a successful campaign to constitutionally ban marriage equality.  1%

Write-in:

One respondent wrote in what he/she considered to be one of the worst Catholic LGBT stories of 2013:

“U.S. bishops withhold survey, answer it themselves.”

This is in reference to the reluctance on the part of many U.S. bishops to solicit feedback from the laity on marriage and family matters, as requested by the Vatican to help bishops prepare for the upcoming synod on marriage and the family.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 


Sensational Headlines that Gays Pushed the Pope Out of Office Mask the Real Scandal of Vatican Affairs

February 23, 2013
Vatican Museum staircase

Vatican Museum staircase

A news story that sounds like the plot of a Dan Brown novel has been making headlines around the globe as it promotes the idea that Pope Benedict XVI was supposedly forced to resign by a group of gay prelates in the Vatican.

The Guardian newspaper reported:

“A potentially explosive report has linked the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI to the discovery of a network of gay prelates in the Vatican, some of whom – the report said – were being blackmailed by outsiders.

“The pope’s spokesman declined to confirm or deny the report, which was carried by the Italian daily newspaper La Repubblica.

“The paper said the pope had taken the decision on 17 December that he was going to resign – the day he received a dossier compiled by three cardinals delegated to look into the so-called ‘Vatileaks’ affair.

“Last May Pope Benedict’s butler, Paolo Gabriele, was arrested and charged with having stolen and leaked papal correspondence that depicted the Vatican as a seething hotbed of intrigue and infighting.

“According to La Repubblica, the dossier comprising ‘two volumes of almost 300 pages – bound in red’ had been consigned to a safe in the papal apartments and would be delivered to the pope’s successor upon his election.”

While such a story could be true, the sensationalism, coupled with the paucity of facts, and being based on a “secret” document, all inspire serious doubts about its legitimacy.

Veteran church observer David Gibson downplays the possibility of the report’s veracity on his Religion News Service blog:

“I’m one of those who would say this is pretty massively overplayed. For one thing, Benedict’s resignation was most certainly the result of numerous factors, mainly revolving around the internal problems of the Vatican, of which sexual shenanigans were likely one — but hardly the only one, or even the principal one. His advancing age was the element that pushed it all to the brink.”

Reports such as this one, based on little fact, are dangerous because they perpetuate a myth that gay people are to blame for anything wrong or unusual in the church–the way that gay priests were scapegoated for the sexual abuse crisis.  Furthermore, it paints gay people as manipulative, power-hungry, clandestine.

The tragedy is that such myths will continue as long as gay people serving in the church must do so in secrecy.  By maintaining such a repressive atmosphere around LGBT issues, the Vatican has helped to foster a climate of suspicion and fear which paves the way for such speculation.  Could a “gay lobby” exist in the Vatican?  Given the repressive atmosphere, it seems very unlikely that any gay priest or prelate would have the courage to acknowledge his sexual orientation to another priest or prelate.

The sorry scandal of this story, which could be lost in the sensationalism around gay issues, is that power-mongering does indeed exist so blatantly at the Vatican.  Whether by gay men or straight men, this power-mongering seriously harms the church’s mission and credibility in the world.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 


Other Catholic LGBT Groups Respond to Pope Benedict’s Resignation

February 12, 2013

More reactions from Catholic LGBT organizations on Pope Benedict’s announcement of his resignation.  For New Ways Ministry’s statement, click here.

EQUALLY BLESSED

Equally Blessed LogoEqually Blessed is a coalition of four national Catholic organizations which work for justice and equality for LGBT people in church and state.

“We join with Catholics around the world who are grateful that Pope Benedict XVI had the foresight and humility to resign his office for the sake of the church to which he has given his life.

“With the pope’s impending resignation, the church has an opportunity to turn away from his oppressive policies toward lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholics, and their families and friends, and develop a new understanding of the ways in which God is at work in the lives of faithful and loving people regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

“We pray for a pope who is willing to listen to and learn from all of God’s people. We pray for a pope who will realize that in promoting discrimination against LGBT people, the church inflicts pain on marginalized people, alienates the faithful and lends moral credibility to reactionary political movements across the globe. We pray for a pope who will lead the church in looking the sexual abuse scandal squarely in the eye and make a full report on the complicity of the hierarchy in the sexual trauma inflicted on children around the world. We pray for a pope who is willing to make himself vulnerable on behalf of the voiceless, the poor, the marginalized and the oppressed.
“We pray too for Pope Benedict XVI, in gratitude for his devotion to the church, and in the hope that he enjoys a long and peaceful retirement.”
dignity usa logoDIGNITY/USA
DignityUSA is a national organization of gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender Catholics and their supporters.

“Like all Catholics, we appreciate that Pope Benedict put the needs of the Church first in determining he is no longer able to meet the demands of his position. We wish him a peaceful retirement.

“At this time of significant transition, we hope that the Cardinals who will elect the new Pope take time to listen to the people of the Church, and that they hear the voice of the Holy Spirit calling for a Pope who will be a Shepherd to all of God’s people. We hope for a leader who will work to heal the divisions of recent decades, and who values dialogue above conformity.

“As members of the Church who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, as well as family members and allies, we call on the Cardinals and the new Pope to enter into a true dialogue with our community. We call for an end to statements that inflict harm on already marginalized people, depict us as less than fully human, and lend credence to those seeking to justify discrimination. We call on our Church not only to embrace but to champion the dignity and equality of all humans, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

“We call on all members and friends of DignityUSA to enter into a period of prayer and reflection as we prepare for the conclave.”

FAMIGLIE ARCOBALENO (Rainbow Families, an Italian LGBT group)

famiglie arcobaleno logo“I simply think that this Pope is obsessed by homosexuality and he acknowledged that a new Church is needed by our society.

“I’m optimistic, I think that the new Pope could only be a better one. The Vatican has understood that they have made a lot of mistakes, on human rights, on LGBT rights, on condoms, on new families and on modern needs of contemporary people.

“Now we need a Pope able to listen to everyone, a Pope who understands that the churches are running out of people because of a blind policy and that the Church can not be obsessed by homosexuality.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 


Extreme Protests from Both Sides of the Catholic Marriage Equality Debate

January 14, 2013

Two protests occurred in Europe over the weekend regarding Catholic involvement in the question of marriage equality.  One protest was for marriage equality and one was against it. Both were extreme.

article-protest4-0113The pro-marriage equality protest took place in St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City,  when four women went topless to demonstrate against the Catholic hierarchy’s opposition to marriage for lesbian and gay couples and adoption of children by same-gender couples.

The New York Daily News reports

“While the pope was giving his weekly address on Sunday, four women from the Ukrainian Femen group who were in the crowd, pulled off their T-shirts to reveal the slogan ‘In Gay we Trust’ painted over their bodies.”

The same Femen group staged a protest appearing as topless nuns in Paris a few months ago, which erupted in a violent clash between two demonstrating groups.

An Italian court had recently issued a ruling allowing for a mother and her female partner to maintain custody of a son, depsite the father’s protest against such an arrangement:

“The Court of Cassation ruled it was ‘mere prejudice’ to assume that living with a homosexual couple could be detrimental for a child’s development

“While gay rights group Arcigay called it a ‘historic ruling’ for Italy, where it is illegal for gay couples to adopt, Catholic leaders were quick to defend the traditional family unit.”

In the United Kingdom, 1,054 Roman Catholic priests and 13 bishops and abbots signed a public letter protesting the move in that nation toward legalizing marriage equality.  The Daily Telegraph reports:

“More than 1,000 priests have signed a letter voicing alarm that same-sex marriage could threaten religious freedom in a way last seen during ‘centuries of persecution’ of Roman Catholics in England.

“They even liken David Cameron’s moves to redefine marriage to those of Henry VIII, whose efforts to secure a divorce from Katherine of Aragon triggered centuries of bloody upheaval between church and state.”

The news report notes that the signers account for one-quarter of  all the Catholic priests in England and Wales.  Of course, that means that three-quarters of the priests did not sign the statement.

Both cases illustrate a minority of the people who promote or oppose marriage equality, and their extreme actions and rhetoric add nothing to the debate, but simply inflame passions.

See also: Gay Star News:  Italian Catholic Church likens gay parenting to selling children.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Pope Criticizes Marriage Equality and Transgender Identity; Equally Blessed Responds

December 22, 2012
Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI

For the third time in just about a week, the Vatican has offered negative comments about LGBT issues.  Yesterday’s remarks came from Pope Benedict himself, in his annual Christmas speech to the Vatican staff.

An Associated Press account reports:

“The pope took his opposition to gay marriage to new heights Friday, denouncing what he described as people manipulating their God-given gender to suit their sexual choices — and destroying the very ‘essence of the human creature’ in the process. . . .

” ‘People dispute the idea that they have a nature, given to them by their bodily identity, that serves as a defining element of the human being,’ he said. ‘They deny their nature and decide that it is not something previously given to them, but that they make it for themselves.’ “

” ‘The manipulation of nature, which we deplore today where our environment is concerned, now becomes man’s fundamental choice where he himself is concerned,’ he said. . .

” ‘When freedom to be creative becomes the freedom to create oneself, then necessarily the Maker himself is denied and ultimately man too is stripped of his dignity as a creature of God,’ Benedict said.”

Though stated in the context of an argument against marriage equality, these remarks also comment on the issue of transgender identity.

Major excerpts from the address can be read in this synopsis by Vatican Radio.

Equally Blessed LogoEqually Blessed, a coalition of four Catholic organizations (Call To Action, DignityUSA, Fortunate Families, New Ways Ministry) working on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their families responded to the pope’s speech:

“Pope Benedict XVI and the Vatican bureaucracy have released a number of troubling statements in recent days disparaging lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and speaking against their right to be treated fairly in civil society.

“In L’Osservatore Romano, historian Lucetta Scaraffia compared proponents of marriage equality to 20th-century communists who wooed millions with their promise of perfect social and economical equality.

“In an address released earlier this week, the pope labeled same-sex marriage as a threat to world peace.  Yesterday, in a speech to Vatican bureaucrats he denounced what he described as people who manipulate their God-given gender to suit their sexual choices — and destroying the very ‘essence of the human creature’ in the process.

“These harsh statements are particularly dispiriting at this sacred time of year when families that include LGBT children, parents and grandparents gather to celebrate the birth of the Christ child. We could find fault with Ms. Scaraffia’s historical comparison, or the pope’s rigid and outmoded understanding of what it means to be a man or a woman. Instead we remember that Jesus, when asked by messengers from John the Baptist whether He was the Messiah, told them to go back and tell John about what they saw happening all around them:  the sick were being healed, the lame made to walk and good news was being proclaimed to the poor.

“What we see when we look around us are heterosexual parents loving their LGBT children and advocating for their dignity and equality; same-gender couples creating safe and happy homes for their children; and transgender people like those whom the pope criticizes living healthy, mature, and generous lives.

“Increasingly Catholics in the United States and around the world see what we see. Catholics, following their own well-formed consciences, are voting to support equal rights for LGBT people because in their churches and communities they see a far healthier, godly and realistic vision of the human family than the one offered by the pope. We commend it to him for his consideration.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Recent Comments from the Vatican on LGBT issues:

December 21, 2012: Vatican Journalist Compares Marriage Equality to Communism

December 17, 2012: World Day of Peace Message and Meeting with Ugandan Parliamentary Leader Cause Controversies for Pope Benedict


World Day of Peace Message and Meeting with Ugandan Parliamentary Leader Cause Controversies for Pope Benedict

December 17, 2012
LGBT protesters near St. Peter's Square demonstrate against the Pope's World Day of Peace message.

LGBT protesters near St. Peter’s Square demonstrate against the Pope’s World Day of Peace message.

The Vatican became a focal point of LGBT news this past weekend, with Pope Benedict XVI at the center of two controversies.

On Friday, the pope released the text of his January 1, 2013 World Day of Prayer for Peace message.  Though much of the message dealt with other issues, one paragraph of it specifically focused on the question of marriage.  He states:

“There is also a need to acknowledge and promote the natural structure of marriage as the union of a man and a woman in the face of attempts to make it juridically equivalent to radically different types of union; such attempts actually harm and help to destabilize marriage, obscuring its specific nature and its indispensable role in society.
“These principles are not truths of faith, nor are they simply a corollary of the right to religious freedom. They are inscribed in human nature itself, accessible to reason and thus common to all humanity. The Church’s efforts to promote them are not therefore confessional in character, but addressed to all people, whatever their religious affiliation. Efforts of this kind are all the more necessary the more these principles are denied or misunderstood, since this constitutes an offence against the truth of the human person, with serious harm to justice and peace.”
It is not unusual for the pope to use this message to promote heterosexual families, and there is nothing in this statement that differs significantly from things which he has previously stated.
Some Italian LGBT rights spokespeople expressed dismay at the pope’s comments.  According to PinkNews.co.uk:

“Flavio Romani, the head of the Arcigay association, said that the Pope’s message ‘arms the homophobes of all countries with an invitation to take part in a crusade against marriage between people of the same sex.’

“Nichi Vendola, the gay governor of Puglia and the leader of the left-wing SEL party, was equally dismayed.

“ ‘I’d like to ask the Catholic Church why it is trying to run away from dialogue, from listening, from debate,’ he said.”

Additionally, LGBT protesters staged a demonstration near St. Peter’s Square on Sunday.  A separate PinkNews.co.uk story notes:

“About fifteen activists attended the protest, and carried with them coloured paper hearts emblazoned with messages such as “’ove has no barriers,’ ‘gay marriage,’ ‘talk about love,’ ‘marry peace,’ and ‘homophobia=death,’ reported AFP.

“The protesters were not allowed to access the square, which was full of worshippers who turned out to hear Pope Benedict XVI recite the Angelus on the third Sunday of Advent.”

An Associated Press story noted that the protesters issued a statement which said, in part:

“Gay unions don’t harm peace. Weapons do.”

Pope Benedict meets Rebecca Kadaga.

Pope Benedict meets Rebecca Kadaga.

The second, unrelated controversy has to do with the pope appearing in a photograph with Ugandan Parliamentary Speaker Rebecca Kadaga, who has been an outspoken supporter of her nation’s proposed “Kill the Gays” bill, which proposes severe sentences, including the death penalty, for lesbian and gay people.”

Kadaga attended a Mass with the pope while she was in Rome to attend a human rights conference.  Though some news reports claimed that the pope blessed Kadaga, it is unclear if this was a particular, individual blessing for her or if the blessing was the general blessing administered to the thousands at the Mass.

The pope was photographed with Kadaga, which meant he did briefly meet with her.  Too bad he did not use that opportunity to speak out against Uganda’s proposed bill which the Vatican has previously opposed.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Uganda Anti-Gay Legislation Stirs Student Action at Yale and Notre Dame

November 30, 2012

The Ugandan Parliament will reportedly vote on the “Kill the Gays” bill in coming days and this development has stirred two university communities to take action against the infamous legislation.

In Connecticut, the LGBT Coalition at Yale Divinity School commenced a petition drive calling on Christian religious leadership worldwide to speak publicly against the legislation. The group’s statement addresses Pope Benedict XVI and Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York among other religious leaders, and reads, in part:

“We urge you to call on your Ugandan counterparts to resist coopting Christian language in support of such a hateful cause. Claiming defense of religious values can never be an adequate justification for the degradation of human life. As we all know, faith in a loving God is wholly inconsistent with support for such cruel and malicious policies…

“Regardless of your place on the spectrum of theological opinion regarding homosexuality, please reject the unconscionable measures proposed in this bill which are antithetical to any conception of Christian morality.”

Alumni of the University of Notre Dame are similarly asking that institution’s administration to condemn the Ugandan bill with their own petition drive. The sponsors cite the University’s deep relationship with Uganda through study abroad programs and commitment to act justly with partner nations when engaging in educational initiatives.

Others, including several students interviewed by campus newspaper, The Observer, speak to the Catholic identity of the University as a driving impetus. Katie Day, class of 2009 and participant in a research project in Uganda, claims she’s “mystified” by the silence of Catholics and especially the praise of Uganda’s Catholic bishops for the bill. She told The Observer:

“‘As the universal Church, Catholic leaders elsewhere in the world need to let the Ugandan Catholic Church know this bill is completely contradictory to our faith’s core beliefs,’ she said. ‘I cannot think of anything more dehumanizing and degrading than this bill.’

“Day said Notre Dame’s mission statement pledges that the University looks to nurture in its students, ‘a disciplined sensibility to the poverty, injustice and oppression that burden the lives of so many. The aim is to create a sense of human solidarity and concern for the common good that will bear fruit as learning becomes service to justice.’

“‘As the students and alumni of Notre Dame stand up to the injustice of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill, we are fulfilling this part of Notre Dame’s mission,’ Day said.”

If you would like to sign either petition, Bondings 2.0 provides links below, as well as our previous coverage on Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” bill.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Petitions

Petition to Religious Leaders from the Yale Divinity School LGBT Coalition

Petition to Fr. Jenkins at the University of Notre Dame

Previous Posts

November 14, 2012: Catholic Leaders Must Speak Out Against Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” Bill

August 13, 2012:  Former Ambassador to the Vatican Speaks Out Against Ugandan Discrimination

July 25, 2012:  Catholics Among Christian Leaders Supporting LGBT Rights in Uganda

July 25, 2012:  New Report Identifies Catholic Suppport for Africa’s Anti-Gay Movement

June 15, 2012: More Details on Catholic Support for Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill

June 11. 2012: Uganda’s Catholic Bishops Reverse Their Stance to Support Anti-Homosexual Bill

March 29, 2012: Kathleen Kennedy Townsend’s ‘Case for Gay Acceptance in the Catholic Church’

March 4, 2012: When Will the Pope Speak Out, Too?

December 26, 2011: Breaking the Catholic Silence on LGBT Human Rights Violations

December 23, 2011: A Gay Catholic in Uganda Speaks; Cardinal George Should Listen


QUOTE TO NOTE: Lady Gaga Vs. The Pope

September 27, 2012

Lady Gaga

Pope Benedict XVI

Lady Gaga made headlines around the globe this week by criticizing Pope Benedict XVI’s comments against marriage equality initiatives in France.

According to MTV.co.uk:

“Pope Benedict XVIhad told French bishops: ‘Marriage and the family are institutions that must be promoted and defended from every possible misrepresentation of their true nature, since whatever is injurious to them is injurious to society itself.’

“But GaGa was having none of that, and retorted: ‘I think that gay marriage is going to happen. It must. We are not actually equal humanity if we are not allowed to freely love one another.

” ‘What the Pope thinks of being gay does not matter to the world. It matters to the people who like the Pope and follow the Pope. It is not a reflection of all religious people.”

“And The Mirror quoted her as saying: ‘This is not what Christians believe, those who believe in something, that have a religion.

” ‘It is the point of view of one person.’

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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