Tweet the Pope to Save LGBT People Around the World!

January 23, 2014

Pope Francis

A world of humanity is mobilizing around the #PopeSpeakOut Twitter campaign to persuade Pope Francis to speak out against the growing tide of anti-LGBT laws around the globe.  The campaign is launching today! Bondings 2.0 encourages all of its readers who use Twitter to participate.

The campaign organizers are New Ways Ministry,The Fellowship Global, and a growing number of co-sponsors. It offers a positive action that people can take to respond to the dangerous new wave of anti-LGBT laws and policies in countries such as Nigeria, Russia, Uganda, India, and Jamaica.

“By sending tweets to the pope, we want to move him to speak out against these laws, many of which have been supported by Catholic leaders and people in these nations,” said Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director of New Ways Ministry.  “We were amazed and gratified when Pope Francis said ‘Who am I to judge.’ Now we need a powerful, faith-based statement from Pope Francis to support the freedom and lives of our LGBT sisters and brothers.”

Pastor Joseph Tolton, Executive Director of The Fellowship Global said, “People of faith and hope from all traditions will tweet the Pope to urge him to make a pronouncement to the world to ‘Do no harm!’ The rising tide of draconian laws to criminalize LGBT people and their supporters allow vigilantes to rape, beat and kill people who are suspected of being LGBT with impunity. This must stop!”

It will be incumbent on all of us, Catholics and non-Catholics alike, to help spread the word about the campaign so that the pontiff hears from people from all over.  We are heartened by the fact that the papal nuncio in Uganda was pre-disposed to reject that nation’s anti-gay bill and that Cardinal Oswald Gracias, the archbishop of Mumbai who is one of the pope’s closest advisors, has spoken out strongly against India’s anti-LGBT action.  These signs indicate that there is a good chance the pope will, with the right encouragement, speak out, too.

The campaign has established a website, NoMoreTriangleNations.com, as a resource and headquarters for the campaign.  “Triangle Nations” is a reference to the pink triangle assigned to gay men in Nazi concentration camps during the Holocaust.

New Ways Ministry is a 37-year old national Catholic ministry of justice and reconciliation for LGBT people and the wider church community and civil society.

The Fellowship Global is a partnership with circles of Christian clergy and LGBTI people in the African Diaspora to express a faith perspective supporing the social, legal, and moral inclusion of all people regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Bondings 2.0 will keep you updated on the campaign, the pope’s response, and on Catholic influence in “triangle nations” as they develop.

Here are some sample tweets that can be used:

First Russia, then Uganda, last week Nigeria, now ask @pontifex to say “No More Triangle Nations!” http://ow.ly/sSuiY #PopeSpeakOut

Ask @pontifex to call on Christians to love LGBTQ individuals, not legislate their extinction. #nomoretrianglenations

.@Pontifex Urge heads of state to respect human dignity. NO MORE TRIANGLE NATIONS! #PopeSpeakOut

In the wake of anti-gay legislative measures made in #Nigeria & #Uganda, we urge @pontifex to speak out against such unchristian prejudice

As Catholics, we are saddened by our fellow Christians who attack the global #LGBT community. We will speak out, join us and share.

.@Pontifex As a voice for the voiceless please publicly condemn anti-gay laws! #PopeSpeakOut

.@Pontifex Please condemn Uganda’s anti-gay bill as you defend human rights for all! #PopeSpeakOut

.@Pontifex Please urge Nigeria to stop arresting gay and trans people! Please save lives! #PopeSpeakOut

.@Pontifex Stop the unjust legal discrimination of gay/lesbian/trans people. Speak out against anti-gay laws around the world #PopeSpeakOut

.@Pontifex Call Christians around the world to love gay people not legislate their extinction #PopeSpeakOut

–Bob Shine , New Ways Ministry


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

December 28, 2013

Archbishop Michael Blume

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

McLauchlin’s letter to the nuncio follows:

“Your Excellency:

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

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

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

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

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

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

email: nuntius@infocom.co.ug

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

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

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


Uganda Passes Anti-Gay Bill; Pope Francis Must Speak Out Against It

December 20, 2013

Uganda’s Parliament has passed a bill calling for tougher punishments for homosexual acts, including life imprisonment for those considered repeat offenders.   It remains for the president of Uganda to sign it into law.

Sky News reported that the death penalty, which had been in the original draft of the bill in 2010, was not included in the final version.  The bill also criminalizes the public promotion of homosexuality.

The news article reports that David Bahati, the lawmaker who initiated the bill, used religious language to praise the bill’s passage.  Bahati stated:

“This is victory for Uganda. I am glad the parliament has voted against evil.”

“Because we are a God-fearing nation, we value life in a holistic way.

“It is because of those values that members of parliament passed this bill regardless of what the outside world thinks.”

Frank Mugisha, the leading Ugandan gay activist, who is a Catholic, criticized the Parliament’s action, saying:

“I am officially illegal.”

Frank Mugisha

Because Catholics are the largest denomination in Uganda, making up over 40% of the population, it is imperative that Pope Francis speak out against this terrible human rights development.   Uganda’s Catholic bishops have been ambivalent about the bill, sometimes supporting it, sometimes speaking weakly against it.  So, it will take Pope Francis’ strong moral leadership to make any kind of impact on this very Catholic nation.  We need Pope Francis’ voice to stop the punitive measures against LGBT people in Nigeria, India, and other nations, too.

While it is a busy time of year for all, please consider taking a moment to write to the Pope to ask him to speak out against this bill.  His mailing address is:

His Holiness Pope Francis,  Apostolic Palace, Vatican City 11020

Please keep Uganda’s gay and lesbian people in your prayers during this holy season.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related posts

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

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

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

December 6, 2012: Catholic Coalition Urges Bishops to Speak Out on Uganda’s Controversial Bill


The Complex and Layered Meanings in Pope Francis’ New Document

November 27, 2013

Pope Francis

As more people begin to scrutinize Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), new details emerge which show that in regards to LGBT issues, the new document shows a complex picture.

The New York Times reports that buried in a footnote to the document is a reference to the U.S. bishops’ 2006 document, Ministry to Persons with Homosexual Inclinations:  Guidelines for Pastoral Carewhich promoted the traditional definition of a homosexual orientation as an objective disorder.  The Times reports:

“Nowhere in the document did Francis speak explicitly of homosexuality or same-sex marriage. However, he said the church should not give in to ‘moral relativism,’ and cited with approval a document written by the bishops of the United States on ministering to people with ‘homosexual inclination.’ The pope said the American bishops are right that the church must insist on ‘objective moral norms which are valid for everyone’ — even when the church is perceived by supporters of gay rights as promoting prejudice and interfering with individual freedom.”

This detail is a clearer indication that Pope Francis does not seem inclined to change the teaching on homosexuality.  That notion had been clear since he first started speaking about gay and lesbian issues back in July with his “Who am I to judge?” interview, in which he also did uphold the Catechism’s teaching on homosexuality.  I’ve noted before that it looks like Pope Francis’s road to change in the church won’t be a straight one.

But while in content Pope Francis remains traditional, many people, including myself,  perceive he is opening up a process that will eventually lead to positive developments in church teaching.  For example, Martin Pendergast, a long-time Catholic advocate for LGBT equality in the United Kingdom, offered what he saw as two important selections from the document which point to the possibility of change in the Church, which I had overlooked in yesterday’s post on this topic.

In the first selection, the pope is calling for decentralization of authority in the church:

“Countless issues involving evangelization today might be discussed here, but I have chosen not to explore these many questions which call for further reflection and study. Nor do I believe that the papal magisterium should be expected to offer a definitive or complete word on every question which affects the Church and the world. It is not advisable for the Pope to take the place of local Bishops in the discernment of every issue which arises in their territory. In this sense, I am conscious of the need to promote a sound ‘decentralization.’ ”  (Introduction, section 16)

In the second selection, the pope acknowledges that not all Church teachings hold the same weight:

“All revealed truths derive from the same divine source and are to be believed with the same faith, yet some of them are more important for giving direct expression to the heart of the Gospel. In this basic core, what shines forth is the beauty of the saving love of God made manifest in Jesus Christ who died and rose from the dead. In this sense, the Second Vatican Council explained, ‘in Catholic doctrine there exists an order or a ‘hierarchy’ of truths, since they vary in their relation to the foundation of the Christian faith’.[38] This holds true as much for the dogmas of faith as for the whole corpus of the Church’s teaching, including her moral teaching.” (chapter 1, section 36)

What gives me hope from this document, despite the fact that it does not challenge the traditional teaching on homosexuality, is that there is an openness and humility that seem to get at the core of the Christian message.  Having a pope who is interested in the opinions of the laity, who stresses dialogue and the possibility of change, who stresses diversity and decentralization, who acknowledges the role of science, who seeks to update old traditions can only mean that the road ahead is filled with possibilities.  (All of the items mentioned in the previous sentence were included in yesterday’s blog post on excerpts from the papal document.)

John Allen, writing in The National Catholic Reportersummarizes what he sees as Pope Francis’ outline for reform, which includes many of the items mentioned above.  Allen writes:

  • He calls for a “conversion of the papacy,” saying he wants to promote “a sound decentralization” and candidly admitting that in recent years “we have made little progress” on that front.
  • He suggests that bishops’ conferences ought to be given “a juridical status … including genuine doctrinal authority.” In effect, that would amount to a reversal of a 1998 Vatican ruling under John Paul II that only individual bishops in concert with the pope, and not episcopal conferences, have such authority.
  • Francis says the Eucharist “is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak,” insisting that “the doors of the sacraments” must not “be closed for simply any reason.” His language could have implications not only for divorced and remarried Catholics, but also calls for refusing the Eucharist to politicians or others who do not uphold church teaching on some matters.
  • He calls for collaborative leadership, saying bishops and pastors must use “the means of participation proposed in the Code of Canon Law and other forms of pastoral dialogue, out of a desire to listen to everyone and not simply to those who would tell him what he would like to hear.”
  • Francis criticizes forces within the church who seem to lust for “veritable witch hunts,” asking rhetorically, “Whom are we going to evangelize if this is the way we act?”
  • He cautions against “ostentatious preoccupation” for liturgy and doctrine as opposed to ensuring that the Gospel has “a real impact” on people and engages “the concrete needs of the present time.”

Pope Francis may not be the radical reformer that many have hoped for.  But for those who trust that the Holy Spirit is moving among the laity of the church and who have longed for the possibility of discussion of diversity of opinions, Pope Francis’ project seems to open up a new possibility of hope.

Clearly, this is not the kind of pope that we had gotten used to over the last four decades. And clearly, this new document is complex and layered.  Bondings 2.0 will continue to provide analysis and commentary of this document, especially as it relates to LGBT issues, as we become aware of them.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 


How Will Pope’s New Document Affect LGBT Issues?

November 26, 2013
Pope Francis

Pope Francis

Pope Francis has issued an Apostolic Exhortation entitled “Evangelii Gaudium” (“The Joy of the Gospel”).  The focus on the document is on renewing the evangelization efforts of the church, which he rightly envisions as the entire People of God.  It is a document which does not shy away from examining how church structures, including the Vatican and the papacy, need to reform in order to make this renewal of evangelization possible.

The document does not discuss sexuality, gender, or LGBT issues.  In fact, in chapter two, he outlines many of today’s social ills, and unlike the previous two popes, he does not single out any sexuality issues for discussion here.  His only reference to these topics is a passing one, and noteworthy for NOT naming any hot-button issues such as same-gender marriage:

“The family is experiencing a profound cultural crisis, as are all communities and social bonds. In the case of the family, the weakening of these bonds is particularly serious because the family is the fundamental cell of society, where we learn to live with others despite our differences and to belong to one another; it is also the place where parents pass on the faith to their children. Marriage now tends to be viewed as a form of mere emotional satisfaction that can be constructed in any way or modified at will. But the indispensible contribution of marriage to society transcends the feelings and momentary needs of the couple. As the French bishops have taught, it is not born ‘of loving sentiment, ephemeral by definition, but from the depth of the obligation assumed by the spouses who accept to enter a total communion of life’.[60] ”  (chapter 2, section 66)

As we’ve noted before, Pope Francis may not be ready to make wholesale changes in church doctrine on LGBT issues, but he does seem intent on establishing reforms which can eventually lead to such needed changes. While sexuality is not discussed in this new document, there are many topics in it that can pave the way for the church hierarchy to renew itself in regard to these concerns.   I’ve excerpted a few of them below.  In the coming week, we hope to provide more analysis and commentary on this newly-released document as it becomes available.

1. Reforming the Papacy

“Since I am called to put into practice what I ask of others, I too think about a conversion of the papacy. It is my duty, as the Bishop of Rome, to be open to suggestions which can help make the exercise of my ministry more faithful to the meaning which Jesus Christ wished to give it and to the present needs of evangelization.” (chapter 1, section 32)

2.  Updating long-standing traditions which have become irrelevant

“In her ongoing discernment, the Church can also come to see that certain customs not directly connected to the heart of the Gospel, even some which have deep historical roots, are no longer properly understood and appreciated. Some of these customs may be beautiful, but they no longer serve as means of communicating the Gospel. We should not be afraid to re-examine them. At the same time, the Church has rules or precepts which may have been quite effective in their time, but no longer have the same usefulness for directing and shaping people’s lives. Saint Thomas Aquinas pointed out that the precepts which Christ and the apostles gave to the people of God ‘are very few’.[47] Citing Saint Augustine, he noted that the precepts subsequently enjoined by the Church should be insisted upon with moderation ‘so as not to burden the lives of the faithful’ and make our religion a form of servitude, whereas ‘God’s mercy has willed that we should be free’.[48] This warning, issued many centuries ago, is most timely today. It ought to be one of the criteria to be taken into account in considering a the reform of the Church and her preaching which would enable it to reach everyone.” (chapter 1, section 43)

3.  On welcoming all to church and not withholding communion

“The Church is called to be the house of the Father, with doors always wide open. One concrete sign of such openness is that our church doors should always be open, so that if someone, moved by the Spirit, comes there looking for God, he or she will not find a closed door. There are other doors that should not be closed either. Everyone can share in some way in the life of the Church; everyone can be part of the community, nor should the doors of the sacraments be closed for simply any reason. This is especially true of the sacrament which is itself ‘the door’: baptism. The Eucharist, although it is the fullness of sacramental life, is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.[51] These convictions have pastoral consequences that we are called to consider with prudence and boldness. Frequently, we act as arbiters of grace rather than its facilitators. But the Church is not a tollhouse; it is the house of the Father, where there is a place for everyone, with all their problems.”  (chapter  1, section 47)

4. The importance and role of the laity in the church

“Lay people are, put simply, the vast majority of the People of God. The minority – ordained ministers – are at their service. There has been a growing awareness of the identity and mission of the laity in the Church. We can count on many lay persons, although still not nearly enough, who have a deeply-rooted sense of community and great fidelity to the tasks of charity, catechesis and the celebration of the faith. At the same time, a clear awareness of this responsibility of the laity, grounded in their baptism and confirmation, does not appear in the same way in all places. In some cases, it is because lay persons have not been given the formation needed to take on important responsibilities. In others, it is because in their particular Churches room has not been made for them to speak and to act, due to an excessive clericalism which keeps them away from decision-making. Even if many are now involved in the lay ministries, this involvement is not reflected in a greater penetration of Christian values in the social, political and economic sectors. It often remains tied to tasks within the Church, without a real commitment to applying the Gospel to the transformation of society. The formation of the laity and the evangelization of professional and intellectual life represent a significant pastoral challenge.”  (chapter 2, section 102)

5.  The call for all to be evangelizers

“In all the baptized, from first to last, the sanctifying power of the Spirit is at work, impelling us to evangelization. The people of God is holy thanks to this anointing, which makes it infallible in credendo. This means that it does not err in faith, even though it may not find words to explain that faith. The Spirit guides it in truth and leads it to salvation.[96] As part of his mysterious love for humanity, God furnishes the totality of the faithful with aninstinct of faith – sensus fidei – which helps them to discern what is truly of God. The presence of the Spirit gives Christians a certain connaturality with divine realities, and a wisdom which enables them to grasp those realities intuitively, even when they lack the wherewithal to give them precise expression.

“In virtue of their baptism, all the members of the People of God have become missionary disciples (cf. Mt28:19). All the baptized, whatever their position in the Church or their level of instruction in the faith, are agents of evangelization, and it would be insufficient to envisage a plan of evangelization to be carried out by professionals while the rest of the faithful would simply be passive recipients. The new evangelization calls for personal involvement on the part of each of the baptized. Every Christian is challenged, here and now, to be actively engaged in evangelization; indeed, anyone who has truly experienced God’s saving love does not need much time or lengthy training to go out and proclaim that love.” (chapter 3, sections 119-120)

6.  The importance of dialogue and listening

“In this preaching, which is always respectful and gentle, the first step is personal dialogue, when the other person speaks and shares his or her joys, hopes and concerns for loved ones, or so many other heartfelt needs.” (chapter 3, section 128)

7. Changing the church’s teaching on social issues and the importance of science

“The Church’s teachings concerning contingent situations are subject to new and further developments and can be open to discussion, yet we cannot help but be concrete – without presuming to enter into details – lest the great social principles remain mere generalities which challenge no one. There is a need to draw practical conclusions, so that they ‘will have greater impact on the complexities of current situations’.[148] The Church’s pastors, taking into account the contributions of the different sciences, have the right to offer opinions on all that affects people’s lives, since the task of evangelization implies and demands the integral promotion of each human being.” (chapter 4, section 182)
 
“. . .  neither the Pope nor the Church have a monopoly on the interpretation of social realities or the proposal of solutions to contemporary problems. Here I can repeat the insightful observation of Pope Paul VI: ‘In the face of such widely varying situations, it is difficult for us to utter a unified message and to put forward a solution which has universal validity. This is not our ambition, nor is it our mission. It is up to the Christian communities to analyze with objectivity the situation which is proper to their own country’.[152] ” (chapter 4, section 184)

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


QUOTE TO NOTE: The Catholic Core of Love, Compassion, Justice

November 7, 2013

Representative Linda Chapa LaVia

computer_key_Quotation_MarksThanks to Religion News Service for providing their “Quote of the Day” for November 7, 2013, from Illinois Representative Linda Chapa LaVia, a Catholic, who voted for her state’s marriage equality law which passed this week.  LaVia explained her supportive vote in an interview with The Chicago Tribune:

“As a Catholic follower of Jesus and the pope, Pope Francis, I am clear that our Catholic religious doctrine has at its core love, compassion and justice for all people.”

Pope Francis’ example of a non-judgmental attitude toward LGBT people seems to be taking root among the faithful!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


Malta’s Bishops Quote the Letter, But Not the Spirit, of Pope Francis’ Words

October 18, 2013

maltaPope Francis’ positive words about lesbian and gay people in the last few months have been used by Catholic bishops in Malta recently.  Unfortunately, the bishops quoted the pope to support their opposition to that island nation’s proposed civil unions law for lesbian and gay couples.

On the positive side, the bishops used Pope Francis’ message to encourage civility in what could become a rancorous debate.   Pink News quotes a statement, the bishops:

“First of all, we should keep in mind that through this bill we are discussing persons and their lives. Consequently, in order that this may be a mature discussion, it should reflect a profound respect towards those persons. As Pope Francis recently said referring to persons with a homosexual orientation, ‘in life God accompanies persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation’.”

While the bishops’ call for civility is admirable, especially since they are following the lead from Pope Francis, it is curious that they did not follow the pope’s example of supporting civil unions when he was an archbishop in Argentina.  Instead the Maltese bishops have taken a hard-line stance, opposing their nation’s civil unions bill, not because of any sexual ethics implications, but because it would allow couples in a civil union to adopt children.   Their statement notes:

 “According to the bill, the ‘partners in a civil union’ will be given the right for child adoption. We consider such an issue of a very delicate nature similar to every issue that involves children and the child’s best interest.

“Since there are contrasting views on the issue, it seems to us that it will be wise if the legislator takes the necessary time to make the right decisions on this matter. Children should preferably be brought up by their parents, a man and a woman.

“Moreover, we ask the Members of Parliament to continue taking measures that strengthen the family built upon marriage between a man and a woman. Considering that the family constituted by the unity in the difference between a man and a woman ‘remains the first and principal builder of society’.”

In the second paragraph, the bishops seem to indicate that they recognize that this is a controversial issue, with varying opinions,  Yet, they are firmly against civil unions and they expect legislators to be so, too.   What is even more curious is that they never argue as to why and how it is better that children be raised by a heterosexual couple rather than a homosexual couple.  They state their claim as if it was accepted fact by all, which it clearly isn’t if a civil unions bill is being considered.

Helena Dalli

Helena Dalli

The bill is currently being debated by the nation’s Parliament which is also considering a bill to outlaw homophobic discrimination.  When the civil unions bill was introduced this week, Malta’s Equality Minister Helena Dalli spoke words that sound more like Pope Francis’ message than the bishops’ statement did.  Pink News reported Dalli’s comments:

“We are people before we are straight, gay, black, white or red.

“We have to move towards a society that shuns discrimination and everyone enjoys rights to live a happy life.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


QUOTE TO NOTE: “Fun to Be Catholic Again”

October 15, 2013

computer_key_Quotation_MarksIn a Washington Post “On Faith” blog post  about how Pope Francis is re-shaping the Catholic Church, Father Thomas Reese, SJ, a senior analyst for The National Catholic Reporter quipped:

“It’s fun to be a religion reporter again. For a while it felt like being on the crime beat. It’s fun to be Catholic again.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


Pope Francis’ Letter-Writing Revolution Requires Our Involvement

October 10, 2013

Pope Francis

Pope Francis makes headline after headline for personally reaching out through letters and phone calls to people who have written to him, and speaking pastorally with them. The Italian newspaper La Repubblica now reports that the pope sent a handwritten reply to a group of gay and lesbian Catholics in Italy, and the original letter may have prompted the pope’s recent warm remarks on LGBT people.

Based on a Google translation (and Bondings 2.0 will update with a more reliable translation when that becomes availabe), La Repubblica writes:

“Pen and paper. Among the many revolutions made ​​by Pope Bergoglio, in addition to phone calls home to ordinary people…there is also the ‘post effect,’ the mountain of letters delivered every day at his residence in Santa Marta, and sent directly to him…

“Some people think it may have been one of these ‘messages in a bottle’ that inspired the breakthrough of Bergoglio about gays. A letter sent in June to the Pope by various Italian gay Catholics…where gays and lesbians asked Francis to be recognized as people and not as a ‘category’ and called for openness and dialogue on the part of the Church, recalling that the closure ‘always feeds homophobia.’ “

Further information comes from America Magazine, which only weeks ago carried a groundbreaking interview with Pope Francis where his remarks on homosexuality were positive and welcoming, which reports:

“A leader of the impromptu committee said as gay Catholics they had in the past written to other members of the church leadership in Italy and had always before been rewarded with silence…

“The Kairos group said they also received a letter from the Vatican Secretariat of State, which informed them that Pope Francis ‘really enjoyed’ their letter to him and the way it was written, calling it an act of ‘spontaneous confidence.’

“One Kairos leader said Pope Francis had also assured the group of his blessing, something they could not before have imagined happening. The members of Kairos have decided to keep the rest of the message of both letters private.”

When New Ways Ministry led a pilgrimage to Italy in 2011,  the Kairos group met with our American travelers to share stories and perspectives.  Francis DeBernardo, our executive director, is contacting them currently to learn more about this papal letter.  If we receive more information from them about the correspondence, we will update you.

While the contents of the pope’s letter remain private, truly as if between a pastor and the people he serves, there are broader lessons for the LGBT and ally Catholic community in this experience.

First, the wisdom that relational encounters with people are the most effective form of advocacy is relevant even for the pope. If La Repubblica‘s conjecture is correct that the personal letter from Kairos of Florence led to Pope Francis’ “Who am I to judge?” and other comments that have greatly shifted the Church’s tone on LGBT issues, then everyone should be writing letters to Rome. New Ways Ministry wrote a letter to Pope Francis, telling him about the goodness and holiness of Catholic LGBT people and pastoral outreach to them here in the U.S.  Would you consider writing your own thoughts to him?

Second, if reaching out to the pope is effective, perhaps it is time for Catholics to reach out to their local Church leaders, namely priests and bishops. Sharing personal stories to replace philosophical constructs with human faces and relationships might lead to further conversions.

The pen and paper revolution underway with Pope Francis offers each person an opportunity to write their own message in the model of the Kairos of Florence authors. If you do write to Pope Francis or a local church leader, please consider sharing your message in the ‘Comments’ section for this post.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


The Mostly Ambivalent Responses by U.S. Bishops to Pope Francis

October 8, 2013

For more than two weeks, my email inbox has been swamped with messages from folks sending me links to articles and essays responding to Pope Francis’ Jesuit magazine interview, in which he chastised church leaders for being too obsessed with gay issues.    Early on, we tried providing you with some of the best of the responses, and you can read those here, here, here, and here.

But as I sifted through all these emails, one group that has remained pretty silent on the matter have been the U.S. bishops themselves.  Now, I admit that I did not do a major web search for every U.S. bishop to see what he might have said about the interview.  Yet, their remarks did not seem prominent in most of the news stories that I saw on the topic.

What is more surprising is that while almost everyone else in the U.S., Catholic and non-Catholic alike, were pleasantly surprised and astonished by what they detected as a new tone from the papacy, the few bishops who did make public responses tended to downplay any innovation on the part of Pope Francis. Their responses reflect a strong ambivalence about the pope’s new direction.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan 3

Cardinal Timothy Dolan

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York was one of the first bishops to respond.  As president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, he is the spokesperson for the conference, and so many media outlets were interested in what he had to say.

In a New York Times  interview, he called the pope’s words “a breath of fresh air,” yet then went on to stress continuity, not change, in the papal message:

“ ‘One of the lines that nobody seems to be paying attention to was when he said I’m a loyal son of the church,’ he said. ‘He knows that the highest and most sacred responsibility is to pass on the timeless teaching of the church.’ “

What’s odd is that most people saw as more significant Pope Francis’ admission of himself as a sinner, which he described as the most “accurate” description of himself.   Furthermore, while Dolan sees the pope’s job as passing on “timeless teaching,” Pope Francis in the interview emphasized the development of church teaching through history.

And  while most commentators noted the compassionate and merciful tone in the pope’s words, Dolan seemed to see some sort of loophole for church leaders to continue to criticize:

“What he’s saying is that we have to think of a more effective way to do it, because if the church comes off as a scold, it’s counterproductive. If the church comes off as a loving, embracing mother, who periodically has to correct her children, then we will be effective.”

Dolan also tried to shift the reason why bishops speak so much about abortion and homosexuality to the media.  On Top Magazine reported that Dolan mentioned the following in a television interview, responding to a reporter’s question about whether bishops were obsessed about these topics:

“I wonder if we all spend too much time talking about that. I mean you guys would admit that’s usually the things you ask me about, right? So, I don’t know if it’s just the church that seems obsessed with those issues. It seems to be culture, society,”

Cardinal Francis George

Cardinal Francis George

Like Dolan,  Cardinal Francis George of Chicago also seemed to want to shift the cause for “obsession” to the general society, not to the bishops.  In The Chicago Tribune, he stated:

“If the society is obsessed with those issues, then the church will respond. If the society doesn’t bring them up, the church won’t respond.”

Also like Dolan, George wanted to retain some form of judgmentalism for church leaders.  He stated:

“Everybody is welcome,but not everything we do can be acceptable. Not everything I do, and not everything anybody else does. . . .

“His position was, ‘Don’t judge a person.’ It wasn’t anything about saying, ‘Don’t judge an action as moral or immoral.’ It was taken to say we shouldn’t judge the activity.”

Bishop David O'Connell

Bishop David O’Connell

Bishop David O’Connell tried to downplay any change that might be reflected in the pope’s words.   In a CNN interview, he said:

“I think it is a slight departure .  .  .  .This was an interview. This was not an instant of papal pronouncement or teaching, . . .This pope is accustomed to speak off the cuff, and to speak in a very common way with people, and I think that’s what you saw in this interview.

“He really was just sharing some of his thoughts and reflections.”

Madison, Wisconsin’s Bishop Robert Morlino offered perhaps the most stubborn refusal to recognizing any change in the papacy.  In an email sent to Channel 3000, Morlino stated:

Bishop Robert Morlino

Bishop Robert Morlino

“The Pope is clearly offering his good pastoral counsel about our being, first and foremost, ministers of Jesus’ love and mercy. This is something that every member of Christ’s Church should take to heart and make part of their evangelization efforts. Given the confusion about Pope Francis’ statements that has emerged from the media coverage to date, I think it’s inopportune to offer extensive observations which will probably be subjected to like misinterpretation. I think that, analogous to the “spirit of Vatican II”, a distorted “spirit of Pope Francis” is being concocted which is equally, if not more misleading. For me, it is not prudent to respond further to the Holy Father’s remarks at this time.”

Bishop Thomas Tobin

Bishop Thomas Tobin

Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island, was enthusiastic in his praise for the pope’s comments, though some wondered about the sincerity of his praise since only a short time before the papal interview, he had written in his diocesan newspaper that he was “a little bit disappointed” in the new pope for not mentioning abortion enough.  Tobin told The Providence Journal:

“I enthusiastically welcome the balanced and inclusive approach our Holy Father is bringing to the pastoral ministry of the church. . . .

“Being a Catholic does not mean having to choose between doctrine and charity, between truth and love. It includes both.”

Archbishop William Lori

Archbishop William Lori

Perhaps the most genuine response from a bishop came from Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, Maryland.  Lori, an ardent and vocal opponent of marriage equalitly, who is also the U.S. bishops’ point person on religious liberty, told the Associated Press:

“Every time I make a statement about one of these things, I will certainly take another look at it and ask, ‘Does this really lead people back to the heart of the Gospel?’ “

I consider this response most “genuine” because it alone acknowledges that bishops may not have been considering this question about the gospel before uttering statements in the past.

John Allen, a Vatican analyst for The National Catholic Reporter, recently commented on why it might take a while before Pope Francis’ “imprint” will be seen among the American bishops.  He posits that Pope Francis seems to be taking his time making changes in the Vatican administration, which could influence the type of bishops appointed.  Additionally, since few American bishops are at or near retirement age of 75, it might take a while before Pope Francis has an opportunity to replace them.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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