Catholic School Honors Lesbian Alumna Soccer Star

August 12, 2014

While the LGBT news this past year from Catholic high schools has mostly been negative, focusing on the dismissals of teachers for being proud of their sexual orientation and their marriages, this summer sports seems to be offering a glimmer of hope in this arena.

Abby Wambach

The latest news is that Our Lady of Mercy School for Young Women, a Brighton, New York high school, has renamed its soccer field after Abby Wambach, a 1998 alumna and two-time Olympic gold medalist, who also happens to be a lesbian.  This news comes only days after a South Dakota Catholic school coach came out publicly as a gay man.

Wambach, who won  the  2012 FIFA World Player of the year, the top award in her sport, was present at the field’s dedication ceremonies this past weekend, and she exhorted current students to strive for excellence, integrity, and honesty.  The Rochester Democrat-Chronicle reported from her speech:

“I want you girls to believe in yourselves. Think about the people around you. Know what motivates you. Find a passion, find something you love and blow every record that I’ve set out of the water. I truly believe that because that’s how we … grow and evolve.”

And Wambach had praise for the Sisters of Mercy who run the school and her former coach there:

” ‘I want to thank Mercy and the Sisters of Mercy for always praying, especially late in some of those Olympic Games. We love you for that,’ Wambach said, opening her speech with a joke. . . .

“I’ve had a lot of coaches in my life, a lot of amazing soccer-mind coaches in my life. There is no better motivator that I’ve ever been coached by than Kathy [Boughton]. . . .

“She told me if you come from this school and you want to wear this jersey, you’ve got to be a good person … I appreciated all the tough love you showed me and all the teaching one needs to have about respect.”

These are strong words of praise coming from such a celebrated athlete.  The Democrat-Chronicle recounted her main achievements:

“A six-time winner of U.S. Soccer’s Female Athlete of the Year award, the former Section V standout was the 2012 FIFA World Player of the year, the highest honor given in her sport. In 2011 she also became the first soccer player to win The Associated Press’ annual Female Athlete of the Year award. The roots to becoming the greatest scorer in soccer history — her 167 international goals are tops among men and women in the record books for any player from any country — were planted at Mercy.”

Wambach came out publicly as a lesbian in 2013 when she married Sarah Huffman, another soccer player, in a Hawaii ceremony.  She had long been a vocal supporter of LGBT equality.

In a separate news story, Wambach again expressed her thanks for her Catholic education:

” ‘I am honored that my alma mater would want to do this for me and my family,’ Wambach said Wednesday via text message. ‘I owe so much of my success to my upbringing and education. Mercy is a massive part of my character.

” ‘The values (her former coach, Kathy Boughton) instilled in me still apply in all parts of my life. I couldn’t be more proud and thankful for this amazing honor.’ “

Jackie Robinson, the first African-American major league baseball player, integrated professional sports over a decade before American society began to wrestle with integration. Sports paved the way for larger change on the issue of race in America.  Perhaps sports will be the area that will help the Catholic community come to terms with its LGBT members and work for their equality.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related sports blog posts:

May 29, 2013: “Robbie Rogers: Soccer Star, Devout Catholic, and Now Openly Gay

May 29, 2013: “First Out Gay Student College Athlete Is at Catholic School

February 12, 2014: “Catholics Tweet Their Support for Mike Sam

March 22, 2014: “University of Notre Dame Athletics Closer to Full LGBT Acceptance

 

 

 

 


Two Gay Students Allowed to Attend Catholic High School Dance as a Couple

March 29, 2013

McQuaid Jesuit High SchoolTwo gay young men at an all-boys Catholic high school in Rochester, New York, will be allowed to attend a formal school dance together as a couple this spring.

RochesterHomePage. net reports that Father Edward Salmon, SJ, the president of McQuaid Jesuit High School, sent a letter to the student body’s parents informing them of his decision to allow the couple to attend the annual Junior Ball:

“I have made the decision that, if our two brothers who have asked to attend the Junior Ball together wish to do so, they will be welcomed.”

Fr. Salmon framed his decision in the context of statements from Pope Francis:

“Our new Holy Father,  Pope Francis, in the homily for his Inaugural Mass, had encouraging and inviting words: ‘Today amid so much darkness we need to see the light of hope and to be men and women who bring hope to others. To protect creation and to protect every man and every woman, to look upon them with tenderness and love, is to open up a horizon of hope, it is to let a ray of light break through heavy clouds.’ Darkness and heavy clouds have gathered here at McQuaid recently because of misinformation, fear, misunderstanding, and even anger. That misinformation, fear,misunderstanding, and even anger came about after two of our brothers asked whether they could attend the Junior Ball together. Into the darkness of misinformation, fear,misunderstanding and anger, together with Pope Francis, I invite and encourage each and every one of us in the McQuaid family to be men and women who bring hope to one another. I invite and encourage each and every one of us in the McQuaid family to be men and women who look upon one another with tenderness and love. I invite and encourage each and every one of us in the McQuaid family to open up a horizon of hope,to let a ray of light break through heavy clouds.’ “

The president cited the U.S. bishops’ letter Always Our Children  and Vatican documents for support for his decision:

“I, together with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, who in their Pastoral Message, Always Our Children, ‘. . . call on all Christians and citizens of good will to confront their own fears about homosexuality and to curb the humor and discrimination that offend homosexual persons. We understand that having a homosexual orientation brings with it enough anxiety, pain and issues related to self-acceptance without society bringing additional prejudicial treatment.’

“I would like to let a ray of light enter into possible misunderstanding of the Church’s teaching. In that same message, Always Our Children, the Bishops are clear –‘Nothing in the Bible or in Catholic teaching can be used to justify prejudicial or discriminatory attitudes and behaviors.’ The Bishops continue: ‘It is also important to recognize that neither a homosexual orientation, nor a heterosexual one, leads inevitably to sexual activity. One’s total personhood is not reducible to sexual orientation or behavior.’ In that same message, the Bishops refer to a 1986 Letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith which emphasizes that ‘Respect for the God-given dignity of all persons means the recognition of human rights and responsibilities. The teachings of the Church make it clear that the fundamental human rights of homosexual persons must be defended and that all of us must strive to eliminate any forms of injustice, oppression, or violence against them.’

“The Bishops continue, ‘It is not sufficient only to avoid unjust discrimination. Homosexual persons ‘must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity’ (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2358). They, as is true of every human being, need to be nourished at many different levels simultaneously. This includes friendship, [brotherhood] which is a way of loving and is essential to healthy human development. It is one of the richest possible human experiences. Friendship can and does thrive outside of sexual involvement.’ “

Concluding the letter, Father Salmon cites Pope Francis again:

“With this decision I am not contradicting the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church with regard to human sexuality; I am not encouraging nor am I condoning homosexual activity just as I do not encourage or condone heterosexual activity at a dance. I am not contradicting the Church’s opposition to the redefinition of marriage. With this decision I invite and encourage us all, as Pope Francis does, to exercise care, protection, goodness which calls for a certain tenderness ‘which is not a virtue of the weak but rather a sign of strength of spirit and a capacity for concern, for compassion, for genuine openness to others, for love. We must not be afraid of goodness, of tenderness.’ “

(You can read the entire text of Fr. Salmon’s letter at the end of the RochesterHomePage.net report or by clicking here.

WHEC.com, the NBC affiliate in Rochester reports that the school’s parents appear to be supportive of Fr. Salmon’s decision:

“. . . News10NBC managed to speak to several parents over the phone who belong to the McQuaid Parents’ Association. One parent said they are thrilled officials made the decision to write this letter. Another said they hope that issues involving homosexuality like this won’t be news one day.”

Father Salmon’s sensible and compassionate approach are a model for other Catholic school principals to use when making such decisions.  What is good about his decision is not only his sense of hospitality and inclusion, but that he de-sexualizes school dances, which is the reality for the overwhelming majority of attendees.  In doing so, he puts gay and lesbian relationships, as well as heterosexual ones, back in the category of human affection, where they properly belong.

If you support the president’s decision, it would be appropriate to send him a supportive letter or email.  His contact information:

Father Edward Salmon, SJ, President, McQuaid Jesuit High School, 1800 South Clinton Avenue, Rochester, New York, 14618

Email: esalmon@mcquaid.org

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Rochester’s Bishop Matthew Clark Submits Resignation Letter

July 18, 2012

Bishop Matthew Clark

Bishop Matthew Clark of Rochester, New York, a longtime supporter of LGBT people in the Catholic Church, turned 75 on July 15th, the required age for submitting a resignation to the Vatican.

Two Rochester news organizations have been observing this milestone with stories reviewing Bishop Clark’s tenure and also looking toward the future for the diocese. A Rochester.YNN.com article recalled Bishop Clark’s welcome of LGBT people in the church, quoting him:

“One of the very enriching parts of my ministry over the years has been many, many opportunities I’ve had to sit down with gay and lesbian people and to hear from them their experience of their lives and the pain it causes them when people speak of them in derogatory ways or with ugly statements or inferences that are damaging.”

In 1997, Bishop Clark presided at a Mass for LGBT people at Rochester’s Sacred Heart Cathedral.  Although there were many protests from traditionalist Catholics that he not host the liturgy, Bishop Clark stood firm.   The cathedral seats 900 people; 1300 responded warmly to his welcome by attending that day.

In that same year,  Bishop Clark spoke at New Ways Ministry’s Fourth National Symposium in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and also presided at the conference liturgy.  I recall that when he proclaimed the Gospel for that day, which included the famous John 3:16 verse–“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life”–he choked up with emotion and had to pause for a few seconds before continuing.  It was a moving experience that was not lost on the assembled crowd who recognized in it Bishop Clark’s commitment to the Gospel.

The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle article on Bishop Clark’s resignation had a lengthy comment on his commitment to LGBT people:

“Thomas Wahl remembers Bishop Clark taking the pulpit in September 1998, before a Mass of gay and lesbian Catholics. [This was the Mass for the National Association of Catholic Diocesan Lesbian and Gay Ministries conference which Bishop Clark hosted that year.]

“Wahl, the one-time head of the local chapter of Dignity U.S.A., a group of gay and lesbian Catholics seeking acceptance from the Catholic Church, was among the more than 600 who pushed past the protesting crowds at the door and watched as Bishop Clark took the altar at St. Mary’s Church.

“ ‘He said “Good afternoon,” and then he just stopped,’ said Wahl. ‘And for 15 or 20 seconds, the tears rolled down his cheeks.’

“It was only the second such Mass that Clark had attended, and it came in the midst of a two-year stretch that saw the Rochester diocese take center stage in a national debate on how the Catholic Church should treat its gay parishioners.

“After the diocese’s first gay Mass, which Clark had convened in March 1997, protestors got the attention of the Vatican, who began keeping a close eye on the region as the diocese made some seemingly conflicting decisions regarding its gay outreach.

“In the summer of 1998, Clark reassigned Rev. James Callan of Corpus Christi Church for three offenses, one of which was blessing gay weddings. Shortly after, he ordered diocesan priests to stop participating in a special weekly Mass for members of Dignity U.S.A.

“But just one week after barring his own priests from the Dignity Masses, Clark turned around and hosted a national conference of Catholics that minister to homosexuals, and gave his second Mass for gays and lesbians, further confounding his critics.

“ ‘I have so much love for this man, because he doesn’t really care who he pisses off,’ said Wahl. ‘He will go as far as he can while still staying within the letter of the law so he can continue to be a shepherd for the Rochester gay Catholic community.’ “

Bishop Clark acknowledges the congregation at his installation Mass in 1979. Then 37, he was the youngest bishop in the U.S.

Indeed, although Bishop Clark did not support New York’s marriage equality law in 2011,  traditionalist Catholics were angered by his lack of zeal in the fight to defeat the bill:

“ ‘He put out a few letters (last year), but it was the same letter they put out years before that just said “This is what the Catholic Church believes,” ‘ said Ben Anderson, [a blogger] . . .  critical of Bishop Clark. ‘That was it. There was no standing up. No going in front of the media and saying “You can’t propose this.” Bishop Clark was just sort of mum on that legislation.’ ”

Bishop Clark’s forthright role in the controversy surrounding Fr. Charles Curran, a Rochester priest who is a theologian that was  fired by the Catholic University of America, was also cited as a high point in the Rochester Ordinary’s tenure:

“Bishop Matthew H. Clark remembers the letter: stern, foreboding, and signed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — the man whom the world knows today as Pope Benedict XVI.

“Delivered to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester in 1986, the Vatican’s letter said that Rev. Charles E. Curran’s beliefs on the subjects of masturbation, homosexuality and premarital sex would promote a questionable ‘pluralism in teaching moral doctrine,’ and that Clark was not to defend the man’s opinions any more.

“But Clark didn’t back down.

“ ‘Your Eminence, I fail to see how such a description does justice to what I wrote,’ Clark responded in a return letter. ‘My intention was to portray moral theology as a living discipline, which ever faces new questions and which historically has developed a great deal.’ ”

In a separate Rochester Democrat and Chronicle article which considers the type of bishop that the diocese will have as Bishop Clark’s successor, one Rochester Catholic expressed hope:

“ ‘I have no idea who’s coming, so I can’t worry,’ said Joan Tannous of Gates, who currently serves on the diocese’s Women’s Commission. ‘But I’m hoping someone like (Clark) with his charisma, his foresight, his insight, will replace him. Someone to carry on his accomplishments. The essentials of Bishop Clark’s tenure need to be continued.’ ”

Amen!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 


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