Catholic Pastor Explains Why He Marched in Pride Parade

July 14, 2013

Last month,  we reported on Catholic faith communities marching in LGBT Pride marches in Portland, Oregon and the Baltimore-Washington, DC region.  We’ve recently learned of several more demonstrations of Catholic support of Pride events in three more U.S. events.

SEATTLE

Fr. John Whitney, SJ

Fr. John Whitney, SJ

Thanks to blogger Michael Bayly of The Wild Reedwe learned about a Seattle, Washington pastor who announced in his parish newsletter “Why Am I In the Parade?”   Father John D. Whitney, SJ, of St. Joseph’s parish, Seattle,  introduced the explanation of  his participation by referring to Acts 10: 28:

“You know that it is unlawful for a Jewish man to associate with, or visit, a Gentile, but God has shown me that I should not call any person profane or unclean.”

This passage occurs in the story of St. Peter visiting the home of Cornelius, a Roman centurion.  Fr. Whitney explicates the meaning:

“The head of the apostles is called to testify that God’s grace is greater than the members of the Church can hope or imagine, and that their understanding of the Church must continue to develop as the mystery of God’s redemptive love continues to be revealed in all of nature and in every culture. What surprises Peter, what will become a starting point for Paul, and what continues to challenge the Church even today is how vast the mercy of God is, a mercy that denies the notion that anything which is human can be profane; a mercy that encompasses every human heart, every aspect of human nature.”

Fr. Whitney reminded parishioners of the parish’s participation in last year’s Pride parade and what that meant to them:

“Last year, for the first time, members of the St. Joseph community marched in the Pride Parade to indicate our solidarity with and respect for our homosexual sisters and brothers. Like Peter entering the house of Cornelius, it was a moment that would be considered unlawful and scandalous to those who see members of this community as profane or unclean; yet, for me, and I believe for others who chose to be present in this march, it was a moment of grace, when we could witness the power of the Holy Spirit moving in this community, so often alienated from the Church of Christ.”

Fr. Whitney closes the essay with an eloquent expression of why he chose to march this year:

This year, I am going to the Pride Parade again, and I have supported St. Joseph’s presence in it, as well. I have done so not out of opposition to anyone; but, rather, in support of the sisters and brothers of our community who seek to live faithfully in the way that God has made them and the Spirit has called them. I am going to support the mothers and fathers, the sisters and brothers, the friends and companions of our gay and lesbian parishioners, who have pride in their daughters and sons and
who long to have them feel loved and welcomed at the  table of Christ and in the body of the Church. I am going to evangelize, to bear witness, by my presence and, if needed, by my words, that the Catholic Church, founded by Christ, is not a place of hatred and rejection; but a communion of loved sinners called in humility to grow and learn through the grace of the Holy Spirit. I am going to the parade because I want to enter the house of Cornelius, where I have already seen the signs of the Spirit;
because I want those in whose very nature is God’s blessing, to know that Christ longs for them with mercy and with love, asking them not to hide or reject their natural identity, but to see in that identity a way home to God.

Fr. Whitney was one of about a dozen Seattle Archdiocese parishes who last year chose not to collect signatures to put the state’s marriage equality law up for a referendum.

MINNEAPOLIS and ST. PAUL

Catholics CELEBRATING Marriage Equality in the Twin Cities.

Catholics CELEBRATING Marriage Equality in the Twin Cities.

Also on The Wild Reed, Michael Bayly also wrote up an account of the Pride Festival in the Twin Cities of Minnesota, describing Catholic participation at the event.  Though last year Bayly organized “Catholics for Marriage Equality” in the state,  this year, the group edited its name to “Catholics Celebrating Marriage Equality,” reflecting that the state recently adopted a marriage law for gay and lesbian couples and the Supreme Court’s recent decisions.

Similarly, Dick Bernard, who blogs for the Twin Cities Daily Planetreflected on the role of Catholics in the state’s marriage equality debates.  He noted that on the day of the Pride Festival, his parish,  the Basilica of St. Paul, prayed  “for respect for all people [including their] sexuality.”

NEW YORK CITY

Nicholas and David march in NYC Pride parade.

Nicholas and David march in NYC Pride parade.

Regular readers of Bondings 2.0 will be familiar with the case of Nicholas Coppola, the New York parish volunteer dismissed from his ministries because he married his partner, David.

The couple marched this year in New York City’s Pride Parade and their photo was featured on The Huffington Post.   The article accompanying their photo is entitled “10 Signs Displayed in the 2013 NYC Pride March That You Should Read and Remember.”  Number five on that list is “Married Gay Catholics USA.”  Noting the strong support for marriage equality among Catholic lay people, author Murray Lipp remarks:

“It is important for gay Catholics to speak openly about their marriages and for straight Catholics who support equality to continue to speak up both within and outside of the church.”

All three examples–Seattle, the Twin Cities, New York–show the power and importance of witnessing for Catholic support of LGBT equality.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Catholic Communities Featured Prominently in Two Pride Parades

June 22, 2013

PrideAround the globe, June is traditionally celebrated as Pride month in the LGBT community.  It is common for cities, large and small, to host parades, festivals, and other events to acknowledge the contributions of LGBT people and to let folks know about the supportive resources and organizations within the local community.

LGBT-friendly religious groups also take part in Pride celebrations, though having a Catholic presence in these events is a rare occurrence.  Sometimes the presence of a Catholic group sparks controversy, as happened last week in Portland, Oregon, when a St. Andrew Parish marched in the city’s Pride parade, even though their archbishop told them not to do so.

On the east coast of the U.S., another Catholic parish also marched in its city’s Pride parade:  St. Matthew’s in Baltimore, Maryland.  The parish’s LGBT ministry was lauded by the LGBT community for their presence and leadership.  The More Light Presbyterians website had these accolades for their Catholic friends:

When the Gay Pride parade kicked off in Baltimore on June 15, a number of faith communities were present – and Presbyterians were an important part of the event.  Faith Presbyterian – one of the organizers of the effort – and Brown Memorial Park Avenue– were proudly marching behind the banner, FAITH COMMUNITIES OF BALTIMORE with PRIDE – as was First & St. Stephens United Church of Christ.  But the largest number came

St. Matthew's contingent in  Baltimore's Pride Parade

St. Matthew’s contingent in Baltimore’s Pride Parade

from St. Matthews Roman Catholic church – the real instigator of the effort.  Long before we started actively recruiting walkers, St. Matthews had paid all the entry fees (Faith paid for the banner)!  Their goal was to have 100 walkers – I think the final number was 115!  Their enthusiasm was contagious as we planned the event.  Their LEAD ministries – their program to welcome LGBTQ’s – is an important part of the life at St. Matthews – and fits well with Faith’s participation in MORE LIGHT Presbyterians.  Faith and St. Matthews are long-time friends – both are active participants in the events of the Loch Raven (Blvd) Ministerium.  In fact the two churches are planning to do anti-bullying workshops together in the fall.  And we’re already talking about Gay Pride 2014!

Dignity/Washington's contingent in the Capital Pride Parade

Dignity/Washington’s contingent in the Capital Pride Parade

In nearby Washington, DC,  another Catholic community was also celebrated in their city’s Capital Pride Festival.    Dignity/Washington, which marked 40 years of service last year, received the Festival’s “Larry Stansbury Award for Exemplary Contributions to Pride.”   The  Capital Pride Festival’s website details Dignity/Washington’s many contributions to the local community, particularly their contributions to Pride celebrations:

“Dignity/Washington has participated in every LGBT March on Washington. Dignity/Washington was one of the earliest organizations to take part in the local Pride celebrations and has been a Capital Pride participant for over three decades.  Dignity/Washington became a Capital Pride Community Partner in 2007, even before the Capital Pride Alliance came into existence.  In 2008, Dignity/Washington was one of the organizations that supported the decision to award the Capital Pride Alliance the right to produce the celebration.  Dignity/Washington donated free space at the Dignity Center to the Capital Pride Alliance in the first few years after the Alliance came into existence. “

Heather Mizeur

Heather Mizeur

At their Pride liturgy, Dignity/Washington hosted Maryland State Delegate Heather Mizeur, a Catholic lesbian woman who is considering a run to become the state’s governor.    Mizeur was instrumental in getting Maryland’s marriage equality law passed.

Congratulations to both St. Matthew Parish and Dignity/Washington for being recognized for their wonderful and important contributions!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Catholic Parish Marches in Portland Pride Parade Despite Archbishop’s Prohibition

June 16, 2013

Today, as the city of Portland, Oregon, celebrates LGBT Pride Day, a local Catholic parish will be marching in the parade, proclaiming God’s love for all, even though their archbishop has directed them not to do so.

St. Andrew Catholic Church

St. Andrew Catholic Church

St. Andrew’s parish, a gay-friendly parish since the 1990′s, had announced their intention to take part in the parade, marching with their parish banner, a rainbow flag which says “Welcoming the Whole Family. St. Andrew Catholic Church.”  Three other Catholic parishes in Portland had also agreed to march:  St. Francis of Assisi, St. Philip Neri, St. Andre Bessette.  OregonLive.com reported that Portland’s Archbishop Alexander Sample directed them not to march:

“Monsignor Dennis O’Donovan, vicar general of theArchdiocese of Portland, called St. Andrew’s pastor, the Rev. Dave Zegar,  on May 31 on behalf of Sample, parishioners say. O’Donovan relayed the message that individuals could walk in the parade but that the archbishop did not want St. Andrew’s members to walk as a community.

“Sample, who was installed as archbishop April 2, is in San Diego to attend the annual summer meeting of United States bishops, according to Bud Bunce,  spokesman for the archdiocese. He could not be reached for comment.

“Bunce confirmed that O’Donovan had made the phone call. While the archdiocese respects all people, Bunce said, ‘this was not an event that St. Andrew’s parish could be in as a parish.’ “

But, St. Andrew’s parishioners thought otherwise:

“On June 4, [Rev. Dave] Zegar [pastor] met with a group of St. Andrew’s parishioners, who decided to stand by their 17-year commitment to Portland’s gay community. At Mass on Sunday, Zegar shared the group’s decision with the congregation, who responded with a standing ovation, according to Tom Karwaki, who chairs the parish’s pastoral council.”

There was no report about what the three other parishes would be doing.  The pastor of St. Andre Bessette parish said he had not been contacted by the archdiocese.

One parishioner expressed the need to be public in the parade:

“Joy Wallace, a member of St. Andrew’s since 1998,  says it is common for members of the gay community and their advocates to seek out St. Andrew’s because they’ve seen the parish represented in the annual Pride Parade.

” ‘The banner is important because it says we are a community of faith,’ says Jane Braunger, a parish member since the 1980s.  ‘For us not to embrace this statement as a core commitment about openness and acceptance and living the Gospel is cowardly.’ “

In an interview with KGW.com,another parishioner expressed the evangelization function that parade participation accomplishes:

But Jerry Deas, a St. Andrew Parishioner says that’s simply not possible. They need the sign to identify themselves.

“ ‘That’s the one thing that [the banner] does. By people seeing that it’s St. Andrew, they know its St. Andrew and then they can come to St. Andrew. If we were just walking, just walking, they wouldn’t’t know who we were,’ said Deas.

“He also said the outreach works. People from the parade in years past have checked out St. Andrews and some have become full members of the church.

“ ‘So respectfully, we will then follow our conscience to reach out to present the good news as the Gospels call us to do and to welcome all people,’ said Deas.”

The issue will not end with the end of the parade, however.  Parishioners want an opportunity to talk with their archbishop about their decision to march:

“Karwaki said parishioners would like a chance to talk to the archbishop about their ministry and explain their commitment to the Pride Parade. He says Zegar asked for such a dialogue and the parish is drafting a letter to Sample.

” ‘We’re not acting out of disobedience,’ Karwaki said. ‘We’re acting out of obedience to the Gospel and the mission of this parish.’ “

New Ways Ministry congratulates the people of St. Andrew’s parish for witnessing on how important it is for them to welcome the LGBT community to their parish.  We are proud to have listed St. Andrew’s on our gay-friendly parish list  since its inception.  On their website, the parish mission states:

“St. Andrew is a faith community baptized into one body, which honors and celebrates diversity. We welcome and include persons of every color, language, ethnicity, origin, ability, sexual orientation, gender expression, marital status, and life situation.”

It is only when parishes trust their own discernment and experience and live up to their beliefs that real change will occur in the Catholic church.  May their efforts be fruitfully blessed by our loving God.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related article:

U.S. Catholic:    LGBT Catholics and their church: Still a rocky relationship, but some signs of hope


ALL ARE WELCOME: Memo to Cardinal George on How to Show Respect for LGBT People

August 4, 2012

 

Cardinal Francis George

The ALL ARE WELCOME series is an occasional feature  which examines how Catholic faith communities can become more inclusive of LGBT people and issues.  At the end of this posting, you can find the links to previous posts in this series.

Yesterday, we posted about Chicago Cardinal Francis George’s foray into the Chick-Fil-A controversy.  In his blog post about the Chicago mayor’s comments about the fast-food chain, George made the following statement:

“Surely there must be a way to properly respect people who are gay or lesbian without using civil law to undermine the nature of marriage.”

Indeed there are.  For over three decades, New Ways Ministry has promoted the many ways that church institutions can respect LGBT people.  While supporting marriage equality laws is one such way, there are certainly lots of other things, short of supporting marriage equality, w hich church institutions can do to promote respect for LGBT people.

Here’s an initial list of some suggestions for Cardinal George and other church leaders who are serious about displaying such respect:

1) Institute anti-bullying programs  and gay-straight alliances into all Catholic schools.

2) Speak out in support of LGBT people when a hate crime occurs.

3) Establish formal dialogues with LGBT Catholics and family members of LGBT people.

4) Set up water stations for the local Gay Pride Parade at Catholic institutions along the route.

5) Better yet, march in the local Gay Pride Parade and have a welcoming booth at Gay Pride Festivals.

6) Preach positively about the lives and holiness of LGBT people.

7) Include LGBT issues in ongoing education for priests and diocesan personnel.

8) Develop an anti-discrimination policy for all parishes and diocesan institutions.

9) Set up a grievance procedure/program for LGBT who are discriminated against in Catholic institutions.

10) Visit LGBT institutions and organizations in the area  to learn about the lives and reality of LGBT people.

11) Add explicit welcomes to LGBT people in mission statements of all church institutions

12) Insert a positive segment about homosexuality and gender identity into diocesan-sponsored programs on sexuality and human development for adults and teens.

13) Make sure LGBT people and culture are part of diocesan multi-cultural and diversity programs.

14) Pray publicly for the rights, lives, and well-being of LGBT people.

15) Lobby for legislation that protects the lives and rights of LGBT people.

16) Establish a diocesan office for LGBT ministry that will develop programs and resources for LGBT people, their families, and pastoral ministers.

17) Speak out on human rights abuses against LGBT people around the world.

18) Institute support groups for LGBT priests, religious men and women, and lay pastoral workers.

19) Assist the “coming out” processes of young people by providing them with appropriate and supportive resources and materials.

20) Help all Catholics deal with homophobia and prejudice by establishing educational programs that aim to eradicate these attitudes.

Do you have any further suggestions?  Please add them in the “Comments” section for this post.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Previous posts in the ALL ARE WELCOME series:

Say the Words, December 14, 2011

All in the Family , January 2, 2012

At Notre Dame, Does Buying In Equal Selling Out? , January 25, 2012

A Priest With An Extravagant Sense of Welcome,  February 13, 2012

Going Beyond the Boundaries, April 11, 2012

St. Nicholas Parish Celebrates 10 Years of LGBT Ministry, May 24, 2012

When Homophobes Attack, June 7, 2012

An Open Door Policy for Catholic Schools, July 15, 2012

 


New Ways Ministry to Participate in World Pride Celebration in London

June 8, 2012

World Pride, an international celebration of all things LGBT, will be held in London this year, and New Ways Ministry will be there.

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry’s Executive Director (and your humble author/editor of this blog), will be crossing the Atlantic to join with thousands  of LGBT leaders from around the world.  The World Pride 2012 website describes the event:

“The LGBT community from across the globe is expected to descend on the city for two weeks from 23 June – 8 July for a festival of art, culture and campaigning culminating with the Parade through central London on Saturday 7 July.”

DeBernardo will serve on a panel at a conference entitled “Mind the Gap: Faith and LGBT Rights, ” a multi-faith, multi-national event, on Thursday, July 5th, 12 noon-5:00 pm, at Friends Meeting House, 52 St. Martin’s, Lane, London WC2N 4EA. For information, contact: cuttingedgeconsortium1@googlemail.com, or go to http://www.cuttingedgeconsortium.co.uk.

Francis DeBernardo

He will also conduct New Ways Ministry’s very popular “Next Steps: Developing LGBT Ministry” program on Saturday, June 23rd,  St. Anne’s Church, 55 Dean Street, Soho, London W1D 6AF.  For registration details: info@sohomasses.com, or  + 44 208 986 0807.

DeBernardo will carry the New Ways Ministry banner in the Pride Parade on Sunday, July 7th, along with scores of other LGBT faith groups.

“I’m excited at this opportunity to connect with LGBT advocates from all over, particularly those from the faith community,” said DeBernardo, who was the keynote speaker at the conference on religion and homosexuality at the first World Pride celebration in Rome, Italy, in 2000.  “We have so much to learn from one another, and this is a great opportunity to show one another support.”

London has a strong Catholic LGBT community, with diocesan-sposored semi-monthly liturgies, called the Soho Masses.  A national organization, Quest, also helps to facilitate activities and programs there.  Additionally, the Roman Catholic Caucus of the Lesbian & Gay Christian Movement also coordinates activities.  The blog, QueeringTheChurch.com, is an excellent resource on news, opinions and events of concern to Catholic LGBT people in the UK.

DeBernardo will be traveling to London on June 18th to meet informally with London’s LGBT and Catholic church reform leaders before World Pride begins. Stay tuned for photos and posts on this blog beginning after that date!

–Dwayne Fernandes, New Ways Ministry


Cardinal George’s Apology

January 6, 2012

Cardinal Francis George apologized today for the remarks he made comparing the LGBT rights movement to the Ku Klux Klan.    A statement on the front page of the Archdiocese of Chicago website reads:

Statement from Francis Cardinal George, OMI
Archbishop of Chicago
January 6, 2012

During a recent TV interview, speaking about this year’s Gay Pride Parade, I used an analogy that is inflammatory.

I am personally distressed that what I said has been taken to mean that I believe all gays and lesbians are like members of the Klan.  I do not believe that; it is obviously not true.  Many people have friends and family members who are gay or lesbian, as have I.  We love them; they are part of our lives, part of who we are.  I am deeply sorry for the hurt that my remarks have brought to the hearts of gays and lesbians and their families.

I can only say that my remarks were motivated by fear for the Church’s liberty.  This is a larger topic that cannot be explored in this expression of personal sorrow and sympathy for those who were wounded by what I said.

Francis Cardinal George, OMI

The significance of this action is immense.  For the first time that I can remember, a prelate has acknowledged that words and ideas he has used in regard to the LGBT community were harmful, and he has apologized for the hurt they caused.

Significant, too, is the fact that he acknowledges that he has family members who are gay/lesbian, and that he loves them.  It is rare that a prelate speaks personally, let alone personally and positively about LGBT people.

I hope that one lesson he has learned is that the level of the hierarchy’s rhetoric is way too high, and that there is a need for reconciliation, understanding, and healing.   The apology is a good first step, but more steps need to be taken to heal the great chasm that exists between the hierarchy and LGBT people, especially LGBT Catholics.

The cardinal also needs to learn that LGBT people are not out to endanger religious liberty.  If he would enter into dialogue with LGBT Catholics, he would learn that more clearly.  Dialogue leads to better understanding and better relationships.

One thing that he can do, which we have already suggested, is to greet parade-goers in front of Our Lady of Mount Carmel church on the day of the parade, and pass out water to them.

Let’s hope and pray that this ugly incident has truly opened his heart and that it will be the beginning of a new way of thinking  and acting for him.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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