Columnist and Activist Both Criticize Cardinal George on LGBT Issues

June 23, 2013
Cardinal Francis George

Cardinal Francis George

Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George has been in the news lately not only for his vocal opposition to Illinois’ marriage equality bill, but because he recently denied communion to a gay Catholic activist at a Mass celebrating the Archdiocesan Gay and Lesbian Outreach in his city.

Robert McClory, a columnist for The National Catholic Reporter, took apart an essay about marriage equality written by George in the Chicago archdiocesan newspaper.  McClory exposes some of George’s fear-mongering rhetoric, not only on marriage equality, but also on the issue of religious liberty, which seems to be one of George’s main purposes in writing the column.

For example, McClory is justifiably incredulous at George’s depiction of how secular society is “marginalizing” Catholics. McClory writes:

“George then launches out into the deep about the separation of religious faith from public life. He blames John F. Kennedy for starting a roll down the slippery slope and worries Catholics will be eventually barred from federal judgeships, medical schools, editorial offices at major newspapers, the entertainment world and university faculties.

” ‘If Catholics are to be closeted and marginalized in a secularized society, Catholic parents should prepare their children to be farmers, carpenters and craftsmen, small business people and workers in service industries,’ occupations that ‘do not immediately impact public opinion.’ What?”

McClory hits the nail on the head in his concluding paragraph which points out George’s true blindspot:

“Unfortunately, what Cardinal George cannot consider is the possibility that Catholics at the grass-roots level are coming to understand new and different ways to welcome to the table those previously excluded. Many, including not a few theologians, propose that the essence of marriage is the love and permanent commitment of two persons to one another — period. As that conviction matures in time, I believe the church will have to make accommodations with its implications, just as Christians in the time of Galileo had to reinterpret so much they and their ancestors had taken for granted as irreversibly, dogmatically true: the movement of the earth, the sun, moon and stars. It was for many a painful, revolutionary process. And the one believing Christians face now will be for some no less painful and revolutionary. But it must be done, lest the Catholic church disintegrate into a closed, inconsequential cult.”

McClory doesn’t comment on what I consider George’s greatest errors in his essay.  Speaking of marriage equality advocates, George states:

“Further, the claim that one is not equal under law is powerful in our society; it makes one a victim. And the claim that one is being demeaned and personally wounded is even more powerful evidence of victimization.  “

Yet, isn’t that what so many Catholic bishops are doing when they claim that their religious liberty is being curtailed because of pro-LGBT laws?  Aren’t they claiming “victim” status?  Isn’t George guilty of exactly the thing he accuses his opponents of doing?

The cardinal presided at the 25th anniversary Mass for Chicago’s Archdiocesan Gay and Lesbian Outreach (AGLO), and he was greeted by about 25 protesters from the Gay Liberation Network and the Rainbow Sash Movement (RSM).  The latter group is composed of Catholics who present themselves for communion while wearing a rainbow sash, indicating that they believe in the full equality of LGBT people and that they disagree with the hierarchy’s prohibition of sexual activity between person’s of the same gender.  When the RSM’s director, Joe Murray, went to the cardinal for communion, he was refused.

Joe Murray

Joe Murray

The Windy City Times reported:

“Murray stood up with his back to Cardinal George during parts of the Mass, and then he went up with the estimated 200 others in attendance to receive communion. George refused him, and Murray walked away with his hands open and empty, showing the congregants that he had been denied.

“But in an emotional show of solidarity, Brenna C. Cronin, who had already received her communion as part of the church choir, went back up and took another communion wafer (called a Host) and brought it to Murray herself.

” ‘One of my brothers, a member of my community, who is a full and equal member of the body of Christ, was denied communion. So I got back in line and I brought him communion, as I would for anyone else,’ Cronin told Windy City Times after the Mass. Cronin, who is a lesbian, has been involved with AGLO for two years and is also a cantor.

” ‘I was denied communion by the Cardinal,’ Murray said after. ‘I turned to Christ, I walked back open handed, and showed the community that I was denied communion, and Christ, in his mercy, sent me a priest [Cronin] to give me communion.’ “

The news story indicates that some in the congregation supported Murray’s action, while others were critical of it.  You can read the entire news account here.  It contains additional comments from both George and Murray.

What do you think?  Was George right in denying communion?  Was Murray right in presenting himself for communion?  Was the anniversary Mass an appropriate time for LGBT activists to protest George’s positions on LGBT issues?   Please make your thoughts known in the “Comments” section of this post.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related article:

May 1, 2013:  “Tension Emerges as AGLO Marks 25 Years”  Windy City Times


Archdiocesan Celebration Causes Split Among LGBT Catholics

May 6, 2013
Cardinal Francis George

Cardinal Francis George

Catholic LGBT advocates in Chicago are split over an invitation extended to Cardinal Francis George for the Archdiocesan Gay and Lesbian Outreach’s (AGLO) 25th anniversary liturgy scheduled in June. Critics charge that the cardinal’s stance on LGBT issues should not warrant an invitation, while others hope the June liturgy will help to advance dialogue with the hierarchy.

The Windy City Times reports that Rainbow Sash Movement originally released a challenge to AGLO in an internet posting, calling the invitation a “reckless, divisive course of action.” The statement highlighted George’s continuing efforts to stop marriage equality in Illinois, his homophobic comments made in recent years about LGBT people, and AGLO’s stated position that celibacy is expected of members. Rainbow Sash Movement’s executive director, Joe Murray, explained his opposition:

“‘The Rainbow Sash Movement opposes the cardinal’s visit because over the years he has personally opposed every bit of LGBT legislation that seeks to promote the human dignity of this community. He has told lies about our love for one another and has used the pulpit in his cathedral to mount a war against gay marriage and gay adoption; in other words, he has promoted bigotry against us. As if that is not bad enough he has been silent in the face of bigotry directed against us that promotes violence,’ wrote Murray.

“‘The only metaphor that comes to mind is that of inviting Hitler to a remembrance service for holocaust victims,’ Murray added.”

Other groups, including the Gay Liberation Network, join Rainbow Sash Movement’s call to disinvite Cardinal George and promise a protest if the cardinal presides at the liturgy. However, reaction within AGLO’s membership is more mixed. The Windy City Times continues:

“Brenna Cronin, choir member and cantor, is torn. ‘For me as a music minister, I will have to make a decision. My heart says that I want to be there that day and minister for my community,’ she said. ‘At the same time I want to stand on the sidewalk with Joe Murray and hold a candle to show my protest.’

“‘How I reconcile all of my life and all I am with the church,’ she explained, ‘All I know is that I was touched at a very young age and profoundly influenced by the power of the Spirit.’…

“An AGLO member for 10 years, Steve Engles has ‘mixed feelings,’ he said. ‘Any time you have the cardinal of the archdiocese celebrate the Mass at a special function, it’s always important. I have great respect for the man, and his position within the Church, despite the fact we may share different views on practicing the Catholic faith.’…

“Added Engles, ‘My faith is very important to me and AGLO is very important. That’s why I have mixed feelings. I am glad that he is joining us and hoping it does not have a negative impact on the AGLO community, depending on what he has to say.'”

Appreciation for all that AGLO has provided the LGBT community since its inception in 1983 was expressed by many members, but personal concerns about Cardinal George’s record remain. One member was hopeful that the cardinal would spend time with the community after Mass, and plans to use such time challenging George about his opposition to civil marriage equality in Illinois.

Outside LGBT groups also express optimism at AGLO’s invitation, with Dignity/Chicago stating there’s no controversy given AGLO’s connection with the Archdiocese of Chicago and New Ways Ministry’s executive director Francis DeBernardo stating:

“‘While it is true that Cardinal George has said some damaging things about LGBT people, I don’t see that excluding him from presiding at AGLO’s 25th anniversary liturgy will be productive..I see the invitation as an opportunity for AGLO members and friends to dialogue with the cardinal, and I think that we need more opportunities in the church for the hierarchy to dialogue with LGBT Catholics. I don’t see the invitation as a reward for good behavior.’

“In the same breath, DeBernardo voiced disappointment over George’s organizing against same-sex marriage. ‘I think it is a shame that Cardinal George has decided to form an alliance with ministers from other denominations to present a united front against marriage equality…Instead of reaching out to members of other Christian churches, Cardinal George should be spending his time and energy meeting with and dialoguing with members of the Catholic Church who support marriage equality so that he could better understand the deep spiritual and faith-based reasons for their position.'”

The liturgy is scheduled for June 16 at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Chicago’s Boystown neighborhood, where AGLO celebrates Mass weekly at 7:00 pm. The weekend celebration will also include an evening at the Lyric Opera and dinner to celebrate 25 years in ministry. Bondings 2.0 will be update on the AGLO controversy if any developments arise as June approaches. 

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Convention Speeches by Catholics Spark Controversy

September 8, 2012

Prominent Catholics took to the podiums at both the Republican National Convention (RNC) and the Democratic National Convention (DNC) this year, leaving other Catholics tasked with interpreting the speeches. Sr. Simone Campbell, Executive Director of NETWORK, a Catholic social justice lobby, addressed the DNC last Wednesday, while Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York gave benedictions for each party.

Dolan’s prayers are stirring up already-present Catholic controversies because of the differences in remarks aimed at Republicans and at Democrats, the latter receiving 156 additional words.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan

The Huffington Post reports on some of those added words:

“And making what seemed to be a allusion to same-sex marriage, which President Barack Obama and the DNC have endorsed, Dolan said: “Show us anew that happiness is found only in respecting the laws of nature and of nature’s God. Empower us with your grace so that we might resist the temptation to replace the moral law with idols of our own making, or to remake those institutions you have given us for the nurturing of life and community.

“Dolan mentioned morality at the RNC, but not remaking ‘institutions [God] has given us.’ At the RNC, he said, ‘May we know the truth of your creation, respecting the laws of nature and nature’s God, and not seek to replace it with idols of our own making.’”

The Advocate notes changes Dolan made for the Democratic convention, including the above potential reference to marriage equality:

“Dolan used no such language about ‘remaking institutions’ in his prayer to the RNC last week. Republicans approved a platform calling for a federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and the affirmation of DOMA, positions more in line with Catholic Church teaching.”

Mainstream commenters quickly identified this discrepancy in language as condemning the Democratic Party’s adoption of marriage equality and LGBT rights as part of its platform.

In the Catholic community, however, there is debate about how much can be read into Dolan’s remarks. Chuck Colbert reports in the Windy City Times on differing opinions:

“One view is that Dolan offered a subtle theological take on gays as freaks of nature, even idolaters in advocating-same-sex marriage.

“’The reality is that gay people, too, are part of God’s nature, and therefore we are a part of the laws of nature. We need to remind Cardinal Dolan and the Church that God created gay people to be fully who we are; we are not a “mistake,”’explained [Charles] Martel [of Catholics for Marriage Equality] over the telephone and in e-mail correspondence….

“…Francis DeBernardo, executive director of the Maryland-based New Ways Ministry, a pro-gay group for LGBT Catholics, their friends, families, and the Church, viewed the prayer favorable light.

“’Cardinal Dolan does not mention anything about LGBT issues, which I think is a good thing,’ explained DeBernardo. ‘Some people may think that his mention of natural law refers to lesbian and gay people or our society’s move towards marriage equality, but I do not agree. Lesbian and gay people are well within the bounds of nature’s law and the desire to live as a committed couple is a perfectly natural thing to do.’”

However, as Colbert reports, some view Dolan’s remarks as moderate and hopeful:

“’From a LGBT Catholic perspective I see this as indication that in the cultural wars Dolan is recognizing public opinion is overwhelmingly opposed to his far right position on the cultural hot button issues, and this might be an indication that he is trying to move his position to a more moderate one. What can I say I believe in the Holy Spirit,’ [Joe] Murray [of the Rainbow Sash Movement] added.”

As for Dolan’s comments at the DNC, New Ways Ministry’s DeBernardo had this to say:

“Cardinal Dolan seems to be alluding to the institution of marriage in his reference to remaking ‘those institutions you have given us for the nurturing of life and community.’  What he fails to grasp is that marriage equality laws do not re-make the institution of marriage, but simply expand the institution to include all couples who want to commit in love to one another and carefully protect all families within our society.”

Sr. Simone Campbell

Sr. Simone Campbell addressed the Democrats in a heavily pastoral manner drawing from her time with ‘Nuns on the Bus’ earlier this year:

“In June, I joined other Catholic sisters on a 2,700-mile bus journey through nine states to tell Americans about the budget Congressman Paul Ryan wrote and Governor Romney endorsed….

“[A woman in Pennsylvania] wishes they, and the rest of the nation, would listen to one another with kindness and compassion. Listen to one another rather than yell at each other. I told her then, and I tell her now, that she is not alone.

“This is what we nuns on the bus are all about: We care for the 100 percent, and that will secure the blessings of liberty for our nation. So join us as we nuns and all of us drive for faith, family and fairness.”

Given both Dolan’s history and the benediction texts from each convention, how are his remarks to be interpreted? Are the bishops seeking a more pastoral tone like that of the sisters? What do you think of Sr. Campbell’s comments? Please post your comments below.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Drag Queens Prohibited at Most Holy Redeemer Parish

August 9, 2012

 

In what appears to be the new San Francisco archbishop’s first intervention at the city’s gay-friendly Most Holy Redeemer parish, drag queens will no longer be allowed to be part of a neighborhood organization’s fundraising dinner which has been held in the parish hall for several years.

B ay Area Reporter article reveals:

“For the past couple of years the Castro Country Club has held its event in the church’s social hall and had drag queens as entertainment.
 
“As a statement issued by the country club’s board of directors explained, the new no-drag-queen policy at the church is simply unacceptable.
 
” ‘The Castro Country Club had planned to hold our third annual Harvest Feast on October 20, 2012, at Most Holy Redeemer Church, where we have held this and other events in the past,’ the directors said in a statement.
 
“But that changed when the club was notified by the church last week that they would not be able to hold the dinner if any drag queens were part of the program, the board said.”
The Most Holy Redeemer pastor explained the reasons for the decision, noting that a new archbishop, Salvatore Cordileone, is now at the head of the San Francisco Archdiocese:

Fr. Brian Costello

“Most Holy Redeemer’s new pastor, the Reverend Brian Costello, confirmed over telephone on Monday, August 6, that drag queen performers and emcees are no longer permitted to participate in events at the church.

“Costello said that during a telephone conversation with a Castro Country Club representative, when the topic of drag queens came up, he told the person, ‘That is not going to work under the present circumstances.’

” ‘I said work with me. You can still have the dinner. You can have a regular emcee, but not drag queens on church property,’ Costello said.

“It seems the directive is the result of several factors.

” ‘I am the new pastor,’ Costello added. ‘There is a new archbishop. The archdiocese told me straight out, “No drag queens.” ‘ ‘”

Reactions from local and national organizations were critical of the decision to exclude drag performers:

” ‘It’s really ridiculous and discriminatory,’ said Zachary Davenport in a phone interview. ‘I mean it’s like, who’s next?’

“The drag queen ban is personal for Davenport, who, in drag as Laybelline has served as emcee for a variety of sobriety-related nonprofit events held at Most Holy Redeemer.

” ‘What constitutes drag?’ he said. ‘If we want to get funny, let’s talk about the priests. Hello.’ “

Dignity/San Francisco’s spokesperson was similarly angered:

” ‘This is an unfortunate development between Most Holy Redeemer and the Castro County Club,’ said Ernest L. Camisa, treasurer of the Dignity/SF chapter, speaking for the organization by e-mail and over the telephone.

” ‘It looks like the Archdiocese of San Francisco wants to protect its image by not condoning cross-dressers. By doing so they show that they care more for their image than they do for gay people trying to overcome alcohol addiction. Here the church looks like it values its own image more than it does human life. This is not Christian, but callous,’ Camisa said.”

Joe Murray of the Rainbow Sash Movement said:

“I think this is a very difficult and complex time for not only the pastor and the people of Holy Redeemer parish, but also for members of the drag community. All three groups are an example of ordinary people being called to do some extraordinary things for their neighbors. The pastor and parish of Most Holy Redeemer have to be very careful not to throw out the baby with the water in the name of homophobia. Jesus, not homophobia, should guide us in this matter.”

New Ways Ministry’s Executive Director Francis DeBernardo stated:

“Drag is a historically-based, time-honored entertainment tradition that has existed, at least, since classical times.

“Canceling this program without any explanation or substantial reason is simply caving into fear of reprisals from higher authorities. If the [Most Holy Redeemer] community has supported this event for years, there has obviously been a relationship that has developed between the sponsoring organization and the parish, and it would be great if the two groups could work together to find some resolution. Reconciliation is what any and every parish should be about. If the parish does not offer a substantial intervening reason, we can only assume that other forces have had influence.”

A spokesperson for the Archdiocese of San Francisco acknowledged the difficulty of this decision:

“Reached by phone, George Wesolek, department head for communications and public policy for the archdiocese, said he was not in the policy conversation ‘loop.’ Nonetheless, Wesolek acknowledged, the situation is ‘difficult pastorally,’ particularly in ‘very divided and fractious church.’ “

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 


Lesbian Denied Communion Explains How Her Faith Has Been Strengthened

March 4, 2012

Barbara Johnson

Barbara Johnson’s story about how she was denied communion at her mother’s funeral because of her lesbian relationship has struck a nerve with Catholics–and so many other people–across the country and around the globe.  She is emerging not as a victim, however, but as a woman of faith who wants to contribute to the life of the church.

In an interview with CNN, Ms Johnson spoke of the pain of the incident, of how they want the priest removed from ministry so that no other family experiences the same pain, and that the incident has actually strengthened her faith:

“My family are very appreciate of all of the outreach we’ve received. However, we believe the only reason to be talking about this still is because we would not want any other family to go through what was the worst experience on the very worst day of all of our lives…we feel that it is important that Father Marcel is removed from parish life. . . .”

“My immediate response to this whole incident was anger and upset, and my first thought was that I would never return to the church. In the days that followed, through a lot of prayer and an outpouring of support and love from many devout Catholics and the clergy themselves its actually strengthened my faith in the Church itself.”

(You can watch the interview on CNN’s website by clicking here.)

Ms. Johnson’s statements are a testimony to how the power of the church defined as the People of God can work miracles of healing for those abused by leaders.

As evidence of the international interest in this incident, QueeringTheChurch.com, a British Catholic LGBT blog, has already reported twice about it: the first post reports the incident; the second post offers analysis and reflection.

In a Windy City Times article, Chuck Colbert reports on the messages and significance that this incident has for the church. He quotes New Ways Ministry’s Francis DeBernardo:

“What it tells me is there has to be a lot better pastoral training of priests, particularly on gay and lesbian issues.”

Colbert also cites Mary Hunt, co-founder and co-director of the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER), who stated:

“The Eucharist is a sacrament, not a political football. . . .This terrible abuse of one family at a time of great pastoral need is but a snapshot of anti-LGBTQ theology in action. It is outdated, outmoded, and outrageous.”

In an op-ed, on the Washington Post’s “On Faith” blog, DignityUSA’s Marianne Duddy-Burke highlights the growing pastoral crisis that this incident might pre-figure:

“The reality is that this could happen to almost any one of us, given the escalating conflicts between pastoral care and the demand for adherence to a handful of socially conservative aspects of doctrine being played out in Catholic churches across the country. Whether we Catholics use birth control, have remarried after a divorce, believe that women are qualified for official ministry, or support lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender equality, most of us hold several views that contradict official Roman Catholic teaching. Could any of us be the next Barbara Johnson?”

LezGetReal.com has posted the response of Joe Murray of the Rainbow Sash Movement,which concludes:

“The present climate of hostility to everything LGBT in the Catholic Church I fear has only encouraged this priest to take this course of action. I fear the example set by US Catholic Bishops in their open hostility to the Gay and Lesbian Community has led this priest to believe he is just following orders.”

Bondings 2.0 has already reported on this incident twice: 1) calling for Catholics to write to the Archdiocese of Washington; and 2) asking readers if and how they find any hope from this incident.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 


NEWS NOTES: January 26, 2012

January 26, 2012

Here are links to some articles you might find of interest:

1) Let us keep LGBT people in Uganda in our prayers today, the first anniversary of the murder of activist David Kato.  In “Uganda: Murdered Gay Activist David Kato ‘Lives On,’ ” the International Business Times reports that among Ugandan gay activists “a commitment to fight for equal rights in Africa has lost none of its force.”

2) Dignity/Chicago and the Rainbow Sash Movement are two of the sponsors of a Sunday, February 12th, 10:30 a.m. protest outside of the Windy City’s Holy Name Catholic Cathedral.  LezGetReal.com reports the details and reasoning behind the protest in “Holy Name Cathedral Protest Set for 12 February.”

3) PinkNews.co.uk reports that the province of Queensland, Australia, has agreed to a Catholic priest’s 25,000-signature petition to eliminate the “gay panic” defense from the law.  For details on the decision, read “Catholic priest wins ‘gay panic’ defence fight.”  Bondings 2.0 blogged about Fr. Paul Kelly’s signature collecting efforts in our January 2, 2012, post “Catholic Priest Speaks Out for Equality in the Law.”

4) The New York Times carries an Associated Press story, “Gay Marriage Returns to the Political Spotlight,” which is a good round-up of upcoming marriage equality battles in seven states.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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