Why Bishops’ Religious Liberty Arguments on ENDA Fail

November 9, 2013

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would provide federal job protections for LGBT employees, passed a major hurdle this week when the U.S. Senate voted 64-32 to pass it. The bill now passes to the House of Representatives, where a less certain fate awaits it.

As Bondings 2.0 reported earlier this week, the U.S. bishops are opposing the legislation based on a variety of reasons including their concerns that the law will separate gender from biological sex, that it will promote homosexual activity, and that it will infringe on religious liberty.

National Catholic Reporter columnist Jamie Manson reflected this week on the bishops’ opposition to to ENDA, noting that it seems that their major concern is the religious liberty claim.  After summarizing their objections, Manson writes:

“All of this adds up to their ultimate concern: ENDA threatens religious liberty. The bill threatens to punish the church by treating the teachings of the Catholic faith as discrimination. The exemption for religious employers is uncertain, they insist, and they are convinced that even exempted employers will face government retaliation.

“Even with this litany of complaints, the bishops conclude their letter insisting that they are ready to work with ‘all people of good will to end all forms of unjust discrimination, including against those who experience same sex attraction.’

“The bishops declare they want to work to fight LGBT discrimination in the very same document where they use remarkably discriminatory ideas.

“Not only do they want to continue to fight for their right to fire and discriminate against LGBT employees, they call all same-sex relationships extramarital behavior unworthy of protection, and they negate the deep experience of transgender persons. With thoughts like these, one shudders to think what their version of ENDA might read like.”

And, as is true with many issues of LGBT equality, the bishops’ opinions are not in synch with the rest of the U.S. Catholic popoulation, the majority of which support ENDA’s principles.  Manson writes:

“Perhaps saddest of all, the bishops make these claims even in light of a recent poll that 76 percent of Catholics in the U.S. support ENDA, marking yet another episode in which the conscience of the majority of Catholics is at odds with the unabashed monologue of the Catholic hierarchy.”

The religious liberty arguments the bishops make are not even relevant since ENDA already supplies exemptions for employment sites that are primarily religious in nature.  The bishops’ insistence on maintaining this claim seems more like fear-mongering than legitimate objections.   It’s time for them to retire this song.

David DeCrosse, the director of campus ethics programs at Santa Clara University, California, offered the bishops a new way of discussing religious liberty.  In a National Catholic Reporter essay, DeCrosse, writing about religious liberty generally, suggests a new theological approach to the topic:

“The great 20th-century theologian Redemptorist Fr. Bernard Häring proposed a better way for the church to promote religious freedom in a manner consistent with the letter and spirit of the Second Vatican Council. Häring argued that the church should not primarily seek freedom for itself — a seeking that regrettably characterizes the bishops’ religious liberty campaign — but should instead consider itself a sacrament of the liberty and liberation of all. Thus the church must both seek its own freedom and proclaim the freedom of conscience of all, whether or not such freedom has any immediate connection to the church’s doctrine or practice. In Häring’s arguments, we see the balance missing from the religious liberty campaign of the bishops in which concerns for the freedom of the church subsume concerns about freedom of conscience.”

He makes an important point which explains why so many religious people are uncomfortable with the way the bishops have been using religious liberty language.   Many religious people (and non-religious people, too) want church institutions to be able to exercise their faiths freely, but they also want, as a matter of religious principle, for all people’s consciences to be respected.

In the particular case of ENDA, Manson points to how this principle of balancing liberty and conscience can be applied by the bishops:

“Ultimately, the only way to get the hierarchy to call off the religious liberty dogs will be by transforming their understanding of the dignity, value and gifts of LGBT employees.”

Until the bishops start to show that they respect LGBT people as full human beings and citizens, their laments about religious liberty will continue to ring hollow.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Why Weren’t Bishops More Supportive of Pope’s Gay Priests Comment?

September 4, 2013

Pope Francis’ July comments about gay priests–“Who am I to judge?”–continue to spark commentary from Catholic observers.  The amount of “ink” already spend on this topic attests to the importance and power of this seemingly simple statement.

Professor William Dohar

Professor William Dohar

The latest commentary comes from Santa Clara University Religious Studies Professor William Dohar, in a Religion Dispatches essay,  “The Pope’s Gay Priests.”

Dohar notes that many of the U.S. bishops tried to “contain” the pope’s statement, but that the power of the papal message is in the fact that a major shift has taken place between Francis and his predecessor:

“Pope Benedict XVI, as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) and later as pope did see being homosexual—for priests and anyone else—as a problem. To be more precise. . . , the only sins the pope referred to when discussing gay priests were the machinations of the Vatican’s ‘gay lobby’ and not because these priests, bishops and cardinals are gay, but because they’re a lobby.  Lobbies are by nature self-promoting and factious and Francis, whose early work as pope has been to unify and evangelize, has no time for self-seeking lobbyists, gay or otherwise. “

Dohar also notes that bishops’ reactions focused on homosexuality generally, but avoided the topic of gay priests, which was the focus of Pope Francis’ comments:

“Every bishop knows he has gay priests in the ranks—pretending otherwise is surely as much of a moral issue as, say, same-sex marriage. Gay priests work in dioceses and religious orders as pastors, teachers, administrators, right-hand men, chaplains, liturgists and preachers. Many bishops are gay as well. Precise statistics are hard to come by because the vast majority of gay priests are closeted, but in light of the work done by Donald Cozzens (The Changing Face of the Priesthood, 2000) and others, estimates at around half are confident, with even higher numbers among younger clergy.

“The bishops know this and yet few are able to speak with the kind of candor the pope manages on a daily basis.”

Perhaps Dohar’s most challenging claim is that no bishop has yet echoed Francis’ comments:

“No bishop or church leader stood by Francis and in so many words said publicly, ‘You know, the pope’s right.  Who are we to judge?’ ”

“I’m not sure why so few, if any, took this opportunity. It may be that even though they hear the change in tone from Francis, it’s a tenor so different from what has sounded from Rome for decades that it’s still hard to hear, much less imitate. Judgment of gay people—and here again, I’ll even limit this to gay, celibate priests—has been categorical and negative ever since ‘homosexual’ made its way into the Vatican lexicon fifty years ago. “

While I believe that Dohar is generally accurate, there have been some bishops who were praiseworthy of the pope’s new direction.  I mentioned some of them in my blog post last month on bishops’ reactions to the pope.  Here’s a quotation from Grand Rapids, Michigan, Bishop David Walkowiak:

“The church has not said much about homosexuality and when it has it’s reiterated the teachings.That is helpful. It’s true. But the tone is usually one which is not a source of encouragement or a source of support.

”We’re hoping that the pope’s tone sets a hope and an attitude that if you come to the church you will be respected, you will be welcomed, you will receive the support of the sacraments. My hope would be that people with same-sex attraction would feel more encouraged to walk into a Catholic church.”

Dohar’s conclusion is worth re-printing in total here, because it offers such a positive outlook for gay priests and lesbian/gay Catholics:

“Until gay priests—and gay people in general—are encouraged to realize their innate goodness and see the prospects of a love-relationship with God as gay people, they will be burdened with a hard judgment from their church.

“The pope’s implicit refusal to judge the heart of a gay person who’s on a journey with the Divine is an acknowledgment that God may be up to some good in that person’s life, not by way of self-repulsion or a shameful silence but through the core reality of same-sex longing. It becomes very problematic for some theologians to associate gay with good; after all, one cannot be out-of-the-closet proud of an objective disorder.

“What Pope Francis offered in a manner which has been too facilely described as ‘off-the-cuff’—he’s obviously given this topic a lot of thought—is an openness and trust which may encourage more gay priests to step out of the dark. Bishops may well need to brace themselves or welcome with open arms a greater honesty in this matter.

“Meanwhile, for the gay priest who suffers under the church’s disparagement of his God-given sexuality and is urged to negate an essential part of who he is, the pope’s stated preference not to judge is balm in Gilead.”

In closing, I want to add to what Dohar said about Francis’ remarks not being “off the cuff,” as has been widely stated.  The week after the Pope’s statement, I attended a meeting of U.S. heads of men’s religious communities.  In chatting about the pope’s statement with a Jesuit in attendance at the meeting, he remarked about what should be obvious to all: a man doesn’t get to be pope because he speaks off the cuff.  The pope has to know that all of his words are heavily scrutinized, and so everything that he says, especially on such a known-controversial topic as gay priests, is carefully pondered before expressed.  Because of this dynamic, I believe that Francis was very aware of what he was saying and the import and value it would have.

The fact that over a month later we are still examining these words of the pope’s is further evidence that he knew exactly what he was saying, and that what he said has possibility for great change.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related posts:

Pope Francis Offers Respect for Gay Priests, Signaling a New Papal Direction

Catholic Reactions to Pope Francis’ Comments on Accepting Gay Priests

Catholic–And Cosmopolitan–Responses to the Pope’s Gay Statement

Have We Painted Pope Francis’ Gay Comments Too Optimistically?

Online Petition Thanks Pope Francis for His Gay-Positive Remarks

A Tale of Three Jesuits

U.S. Bishops on Pope Francis’ Gay-Positive Comments–Part 1

U.S. Bishops on Pope Francis’ Gay-Positive Comments–Part 2

Pope Francis’ Predicament with Conservative Catholics

Writer to Conservative Bishops: “Watch. Listen. You Might Learn Something.”

 


A Tale of Three Jesuits

August 7, 2013

It takes a Jesuit to know a Jesuit.  And when you have two Jesuits commenting on a third Jesuit, well, there has to be some thing of import and insight there, for sure.

Father James Martin SJ

Father James Martin SJ

Father Thomas Reese, SJ

Father Thomas Reese, SJ

The two Jesuits commenting are two of U.S. Catholicism’s most astute observers, Father James Martin and Father Thomas Reese.  The third Jesuit upon which they have both recently commented is none other than Pope Francis, who, as everyone knows by now, last week made some very strong gay-positive statements.

Let’s take a look at what these two Jesuits have to say.

In a Washington Post online op-ed, Fr. Martin examined the pope’s message very closely, and, in the course of the examination, answered some of the critics of the pope’s statement.  He made five important points, worth reprinting here:

“First, throughout the exchange on the plane, Pope Francis, speaking in fluent Italian, used the English word ‘gay.’ Previous popes and the majority of church leaders have been more likely to use words like ‘homosexual,’ ‘homosexually oriented’ and even ‘persons suffering from same-sex attraction.’ I cannot remember a pope ever using the term preferred by much of the world’s gay community.

Second, the pope’s response to a question concerning gay priests was not along the lines that some might have expected, especially given a Vatican document issued in 2005 that barred men with ‘deep-seated homosexual tendencies’ from the priesthood. Rather than saying, ‘There can be no gay priests,’ the pope declined to judge them. He also emphasized that it was lobbies — ‘any type of lobby, business lobbies, political lobbies, Masonic lobbies’ — that were cattivo (evil).

“Third, the pope moved rather quickly from a question about a ‘gay lobby’ in the Vatican to a comment about gay people in general. That is, he did not say, ‘If a gay priest is searching for God,’ but ‘If a gay person is searching for God.’ Then his remarkably compassionate comment: ‘Who am I to judge them?’

“Fourth, he did not use words from the Catechism that many gays and lesbian Catholics say frustrate them, like ‘intrinsically disordered.’ Nor, after saying that gays should not be ‘marginalized,’ did he warn against homosexual activity, as might be expected.

“Finally, the pope’s tone was eminently pastoral. When you watch the video of his remarks, you hear the voice of a kind pastor. Several of my gay and lesbian friends say the video moved them to tears.

You can watch a video of the remarks here:

Fr. Martin interprets all these distinctions as leading to what he considers will be the hallmark of Francis’ papacy:  mercy.     Fr. Martin states:

“So for those expecting a wholesale condemnation of gays and lesbians, Pope Francis pointed them to mercy — not changing church doctrine on homosexual activity, but highlighting church teachings on how our brothers and sisters deserve respect, compassion and sensitivity. And in a largely unnoticed comment responding to a question about divorced and remarried Catholics, another group that often feels marginalized, the pope said, ‘I believe this is a time of mercy.’ ”

Fr. Reese, in an interview with Detroit’s Free Press newspaper, made an important point about the “style/substance” dichotomy that many have expounded upon.  Some critics of the pope’s comments have said that the only thing which has changed is style, not substance.  But Fr. Reese thinks otherwise:

“The Rev. Tom Reese, a visiting scholar at Santa Clara University in California and senior analyst at the National Catholic Reporter, agreed that Pope Francis hasn’t changed Catholic doctrine.

“But, Reese added, Francis did ‘provide a different face’ from previous popes. ‘He emphasized compassion, love, respect, the fact that gays should not be demonized.’

“ ‘In the Catholic Church, style is substance,’ and so Francis’ tone in his remarks is a major difference, Reese said.”

These two Jesuits highlight important particulars about the pope’s comments that show that the papal words have a lot more potential for hopeful change in the church than one might think.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 


Jesuit Professor Hopeful About Catholic Future on LGBT Issues

July 1, 2013

Paul Crowley, SJ

Earlier this month, Bondings 2.0 reported on Michael O’Loughlin’s article about “Being Gay at a Catholic University,” which dove into the cultures around LGBT issues present on a variety of campuses.

O’Loughlin has posted a longer version of his interview with Paul Crowley, a Jesuit priest and professor of systematics at Santa Clara University, who once wrote that being gay is “an invitation to a different way of looking at things, and toward a deeper embrace of the very gospel that threatens to subvert our most cherished notions about the God whose name is Love.” Below, Bondings 2.0 offers a few quotes from the interview that seem telling about the future of Catholicism in the US, and you can read the full interview at Religion News Service.

When asked about the students at Santa Clara University, Crowley identifies open minds as a prevailing attribute.  The majority support and are comfortable with the LGBT community on campus.  When he is asked about their response to the official teachings on homosexuality that Crowley presents in class, he responds with a telling example of how young adults view the hierarchy’s teachings:

“When I teach my human sexuality course, I give my students the official church documents, first without commentary, tell them to read them, and then to come back to class to discuss them. They come back and ask, ‘Is this serious? Do they really mean this?’ They just can’t believe it. That’s almost the universal reaction…As a matter of intellectual responsibility, I need to help them develop a critical mind and an informed critique, and not rest content with their a gut reaction that it just shouldn’t be taken seriously. I think it’s important to try to understand these teachings from the inside out, whether you agree with them or not.”

So what would an alternative message more salient to LGBT Catholics and younger Catholics be? Crowley believes messages of love are lacking, but this has not impeded Catholics from living their faith in LGBT-affirming ways:

“What the world really needs to hear, and what we so deeply need to hear, is a message of loving mercy and inclusion, rather than judgment.  The language of ‘objective disorder’ has proved to be very problematic, to say the least. On one level, all that LGBT people in the Catholic Church are asking for is an affirmation of who they are as human beings, people whom God loves. If you say anything like this in church, people come up to you and say, ‘Thank you Father for being so courageous!’ Well, it’s not courageous, it’s just the Gospel!…

“People are living their Catholic lives, in spite of what the church says about how to live their lives. I know several gays Catholic couples. One couple adopted two children.  They attend the local Catholic church with their children, both of whom have been baptized at the parish and attend the parish school.”

And how does Crowley think the future of the Church will be, based upon his students. He speaks in hope about a new reality in the world where LGBT equality is a given for younger generations, and in hope that the Catholic Church will adapt to this changed reality:

“So the church is going to have to do some deeper thinking about how to accommodate itself to new realities, which is what we’ve always done, after a few fits and starts. It takes a couple of hundred years, usually, but it will have to move faster than that now…

“For all of us, you never know what lies ahead, and you have to continue to live life, and be hopeful for the future. You want your students to leave your classroom in hope, and not in discouragement or despair. I have so much hope in them for the future. The church and the world need people like this. I think it’s so exciting. I see it in the younger generation, such great hope.”

For more stories from Catholic universities that express this hope about the upcoming generation of Catholic students, visit our ‘Campus Chronicles‘ series on the right.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


CAMPUS CHRONICLES: ‘Being Gay at a Catholic University’

June 21, 2013

collegeIn the past decade, whenever people ask me where I see the most hopeful situations for LGBT people in the Catholic Church, I have consistently answered, “Catholic colleges and universities.”  More than any other sector in the Catholic world, these institutions have established solid practices, programs, and policies which recognize the equality of LGBT students, faculty and staff.  New Ways Ministry has tried to document the growth of this pro-LGBT movement on Catholic campuses by maintaining a list of gay-friendly Catholic schools.  We also try to update our supporters by the posts we run on this blog entitled “Campus Chronicles.”  Throughout the year, we are frequently in touch with personnel from Catholic campuses, offering them advice, resources, and information.

The movement for gay-friendly Catholic colleges and universities received a major boost this week with the publication of an article entitled “Being Gay at a Catholic University” on ReligionandPolitics.org.   Authored by Michael O’Loughlin, himself a graduate of a Catholic college which wrestled with how to welcome LGBT people, the essay is a wonderful snapshot of the diversity of approaches that schools are taking to respond to the new needs.

Michael O'Loughlin

Michael O’Loughlin

The essay is a wonderful read, and I recommend viewing the entire text.  Below I will provide some germane excerpts with commentary.

O’Loughlin’s  essay is more than just a survey of representative Catholic schools.  He delves into some of the more important questions that the presence of gay-friendly schools implies for the future of Catholicism.  In his introduction he lays out several:

 What do the future lay leaders of the Catholic Church, still one of the most politically potent institutions in the U.S., believe about gay rights? How do their schools shape their views? And how will they shape the Catholic Church?”

One of the school’s he visited was DePaul University, Chicago, the largest Catholic university in the nation, and the only one that has an LGBTQ Studies minor, in addition to many other supportive programs.  DePaul, like other gay-friendly schools, sometimes gets criticized for not being truly Catholic.  Religious Studies Professor and Chair James Halstead offered a pertinent answer:

“When I asked what he thought about the critics who questioned DePaul’s Catholic identity because of the minor and various LGBT student groups, Halstead lamented that Catholic universities are subjected to charges of being ‘un-Catholic’ or ‘not Catholic enough’ because of issues of sex and sexuality—a charge, he said, that comes from both the left and right. ‘To measure the Catholic identity of a university by asking if it has a LGBT program or not, Jesus, help us all. Do people really think that’s at the heart of Catholic Christianity? To me, it’s just not.’ Instead, he wishes that Catholic schools were judged on how well students answer the deep questions’ such as where they come from and what it means to be human, all in the search for truth. ‘Truth really is a process of emerging, in goodness and beauty, friendship and love,’ he said. ‘Rational people can figure this stuff out. Reason, enriched by faith, is going to reveal truth.’”

Indeed,  when O’Loughlin visited the Jesuit-run Santa Clara University, California, he discovered that far from diluting Catholic identity, being LGBT-friendly was an enhancement to the faith life of students.  He describes a conversation with Max Silva, a student:

“Silva, a rising junior, came out in high school in Santa Barbara. Raised nominally Catholic, he didn’t dive into his faith until he enrolled at Santa Clara, exploring what it meant to be gay and Catholic. He leads a group called GASPED (Gay and Straight People for the Education of Diversity), which he views as a sort of social justice ministry, offering diversity education to the campus community. Of being out at a Jesuit school, he said, ‘It really does come down to the school’s Jesuit philosophy and its Jesuit ideals. It focuses on Catholic social teaching, especially the social justice aspect, instead of focusing on the sexual ethics and homosexuality aspect.’ The school, he said, approaches these issues from the ‘very Jesuit idea of educating the whole person, discerning your experience of Catholicism in an educated way.’ ”

At St. Anselm College, New Hampshire, creating a welcoming environment for LGBT students provided an opportunity for religious renewal for the campus, as described by Sue Gabert, the director of campus ministry:

Gabert. . .explained that the college had conducted a community-wide survey about diversity and discrimination shortly after students organized back in 2005. The students, faculty, and staff who identified as gay reported the campus environment to be unwelcoming and even abusive. So the school hosted a forum to talk about the issues. ‘There was so much respect and care for people’s stories. It was one of my most graced moments at the college. What we heard most is that people were happy we were talking about these issues. It was something that some people felt was taboo, so the fact that we were talking about the challenges we face as a Catholic institution and welcoming all people in a fair and inclusive way was good,’ she said.

At New Ways Ministry, we have heard similar things from parishes who welcome LGBT people.  The experience turns out to be a re-evangelization of the entire parish community, not just an outreach to LGBT people.

Not all the Catholic schools O’Loughlin visited were gay-friendly.  One notable exception was Catholic University of America, Washington, DC, for which O’Loughlin lists a series of repealed gay-friendly policies over the past three decades, and which this year, once again, rejected a student proposal to establish a gay-straight alliance.   The juxtaposition of Catholic University’s retrograde policies with other campuses’ more progressive experiences offers an important example:

“The contrast of resources available to students at DePaul and CUA is exemplary of a polarized U.S. Catholic Church, especially as it grapples with LGBT issues. By some estimations, nearly a quarter of the funding used to campaign against marriage equality efforts in the 2012 election came from official Catholic sources, including various dioceses, Catholic state conferences and lobbying groups, as well as the Knights of Columbus. . . .

“Just like the generational divide in the general population on issues of LGBT rights, the laity and the bishops appear to be separated by an expanding chasm, one that one that seems poised to widen in years to come.”

In other words, what is happening on campuses mirrors the experience of the entire American church generally.

For those who strive for equality and justice for LGBT people in the Catholic Church, the concluding paragraph of the essay offers amazing hope:

“The future laity of the Catholic Church is still being educated at Catholic colleges and universities. The Catholic laity as a whole is already in favor of same-sex marriage and is accepting of their gay family and friends. It seems this trend will only accelerate further as graduates of Catholic schools mature into adults. Some say that bishops, by leading the fight against same-sex marriage, are widening the gap between themselves and their flock. But on Catholic campuses, gay students are carving out spaces for themselves, and finding allies not only among their peers, but also in professors and priests alike.”

O’Loughlin, who blogs at Religion News Service, added a post on the day his article was published which contains the entire text of his interview with Systematic Theology Professor Paul Crowley, SJ.  It’s definitely worth a read, too.    Both the essay and the extended interview are wonderful contributions to the ever-growing conversation on LGBT issues and the Catholic Church.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Catholic Bishops Are Opposing Immigration Reform That Would Aid Same-Gender Couples

February 7, 2013

immigrationNews earlier this week that President Obama and many Hispanic political organizations were backing an immigration reform proposal that would grant visas to same-gender partners of American citizens offered hope that this long hoped for change would become law.

The U.S. Catholic bishops, along with Evangelical leaders, are dropping a monkey wrench into the works, however, by opposing such a measure.  The Associated Press reports:

“The nation’s Roman Catholic bishops are in a difficult position as the debate over immigration reform gets underway: The immigrant-built American church, known for advocating a broad welcome for migrants and refugees, could end up opposing reform because it would recognize same-sex partners. . . .

“. . . Catholic bishops, with the support of evangelicals and other theological conservatives, have sent a letter to Obama protesting his proposal. In a sign of the sensitivity of the issue, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops would not provide a copy of the statement, saying the signatories agreed not to make the letter public. Sister Mary Ann Walsh, a spokeswoman for the bishops, would say only that recognition of gay couples in the president’s reform proposals ‘jeopardizes passage of the bill.’ “

What is remarkable in this opposition is that the bishops seem willing to forego real immigration reform because of their opposition to supporting lesbian and gay couples in committed relationships.   Similar to many diocese’s decisions to forego all adoption services rather than use gay and lesbian couples as potential parents, the US bishops’ seem intent on following a scorched earth policy on immigration.

The Associated Press report points out what most Catholics already know:  that progressive immigration policy has long been supported by US bishops.  Key to this support has been the idea of keeping families intact.  The news story states:

“Americans church leaders have spent decades lobbying for revisions that would keep families together and fulfill what the church considers the duty of all countries, especially wealthier ones, to do as much as possible to help the poor and persecuted. The church and Catholic groups run a network of aid programs for migrants, refugees and illegal immigrants, taking positions that recognize the country’s right to protect its borders, but that still fall ‘to the left of the Democratic Party,’ [Stephen] Schneck [a political science professor at The Catholic University of America] said. . . .

“In a 2003 joint plea for immigration reform, called ‘Strangers No Longer,’ U.S. and Mexican bishops stated, ‘Regardless of their legal status, migrants, like all persons, possess inherent human dignity that should be respected.’

“The issue is of special historic importance to the American Catholic church, which was built by waves of Irish, Italians, Poles and others. The immigrant presence in the pews is now growing as American-born white Catholics drop out in significant numbers. Researchers estimate that a third of the 66 million U.S. Catholics are Latino.

” ‘This is an issue that has been a huge priority for the church for a really long time,’ said Kristin Heyer, a professor at Santa Clara University in California who studies immigration and Catholic social thought. ‘The wider Catholic community, in addition to the bishops, has mobilized in a major way.’ “

To correct the bishops’ policy direction, lay Catholics now need to mobilize to let the hierarchy know that Catholics believe ALL families should be protected by immigration law.  Contact your bishop and let him know that you believe that respecting human dignity applies to ALL immigrants, not just heterosexual ones.  Contact your federal legislators too, and let them know that your Catholic faith motivates you to support inclusive immigration reform that President Obama has proposed.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


Catholics Among Christian Leaders Supporting LGBT Rights in Uganda

July 25, 2012

The Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights has released an open letter by American Christian leaders expressing solidarity with LGBT Ugandans as their that nation continues to consider anti-gay legislation. Among the 46 signatories are 28  who are connected with Catholic institutions (see below).

The announcement on the Kennedy Center’s website states:

“Washington — July 24, 2012 Today, a group of 46 American Christian leaders issued an open letter expressing solidarity with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Ugandans in the face of “increased bigotry and hatred.” The letter, coordinated by Faith in Public Life, Human Rights First and the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, comes as a new Political Research Associates report released today accuses, among others, evangelicals such as Pat Robertson, Catholics and Mormons of setting up campaigns and fronts in Africa designed to press for anti-gay laws. . . .

” ‘It’s important for Ugandans to know that not all Evangelical and Catholic leaders think LGBT people should be criminals,’ says Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda and the 2011 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award laureate, ‘This letter from prominent American Christians is a crucial step in our efforts to introduce Ugandans to more positive and loving Christian messages in contrast to the harmful rhetoric from our own pastors that only leads to more violence and hate.’ “

In part, the text of the letter reads:

“Regardless of the diverse theological views of our religious traditions regarding the morality of homosexuality, the criminalization of homosexuality, along with the violence and discrimination against LGBT people that inevitably follows, is incompatible with the teachings of our faith.

“As American Christians we recognize that groups and leaders within our own country have been implicated in efforts to spread prejudice and discrimination in Uganda. We urge our Christian brothers and sisters in Uganda to resist the false arguments, debunked long ago, that LGBT people pose an inherent threat to our children and our societies. LGBT people exist in every country and culture, and we must learn to live in peace together to ensure the freedom of all, especially when we may disagree. We condemn misguided actions that have led to increased bigotry and hatred of LGBT people in Uganda that debases the inherent dignity of all humans created in the image of our Maker. Such treatment degrades the human family, threatens the common good, and defies the teachings of our Lord – wherever it occurs.”

“We condemn misguided actions that have led to increased bigotry and hatred of LGBT people in Uganda that debases the inherent dignity of all humans created in the image of our Maker. Such treatment degrades the human family, threatens the common good, and defies the teachings of our Lord – wherever it occurs.”

To read the full text of this letter and to see the full list of signatories, click here.

The signatories associated with Catholic institutions are:

Ambassador Thomas P. Melady
Former U.S. Ambassador to Uganda and the Vatican

Gerald J. Beyer, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Christian Social Ethics Department of Theology and Religious Studies, Saint Joseph’s University

Nicholas P. Cafardi
Dean Emeritus and Professor of Law, Duquesne University

M. Shawn Copeland
Associate Professor of Systematic Theology, Boston College

Rev. Paul Crowley, S.J.
Santa Clara Jesuit Community Professor, Religious Studies Department, Santa Clara University

Nancy Dallavalle, Ph.D.
Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Religious Studies, Fairfield University

Francis Schüssler Fiorenza
Stillman Professor for Roman Catholic Theological Studies, Harvard Divinity School

Jeannine Hill Fletcher
Associate Professor of Theology, Fordham University

Sister Mary Ann Hinsdale, IHM, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Theology, Boston College

Bradford E. Hinze, Ph.D.
Professor of Theology, Fordham University

Rev. James Hug, S.J.
President, Center of Concern

John Inglis
Chair and Professor, Department of Philosophy, Cross-appointed to Department of Religious Studies, University of Dayton

Reverend Raymond B. Kemp
Senior Fellow, Woodstock Theological Center, Center for Social Justice DC Community Fellow, Georgetown University

Paul Lakeland
Aloysius P. Kelley S.J. Professor of Catholic Studies, Director, Center for Catholic Studies, Fairfield University

Rev. John Langan S.J.
Joseph Cardinal Bernardin Professor of Catholic Social Thought, Georgetown University

Rev. Bryan N. Massingale, S.T.D.
Professor of Theological Ethics, Marquette University

Joseph A. McCartin
Associate Professor of History, Director, Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor, Georgetown University

Alex Mikulich
Loyola University, New Orleans

David J. O’Brien, Ph.D.
University Professor of Faith and Culture, University of Dayton

Christopher Pramuk
Associate Professor of Theology, Xavier University, Cincinnati, OH

Thomas J. Reese, S.J.
Senior Fellow, Woodstock Theological Center, Georgetown University

Stephen F. Schneck, Ph.D.
Director, Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies, The Catholic University of America

Sister Nancy Sylvester,IHM
President, Institute for Communal Contemplation and Dialogue

Terrence W. Tilley
Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J., Professor of Catholic Theology Chair, Theology Department, Fordham University

Edward Vacek, S.J.
Boston College

Todd Whitmore
Associate Professor of Christian Ethics, University of Notre Dame

Tobias Winright, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Theological Ethics, Saint Louis University

Sandra Yocum, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Religious Studies Department, University of Dayton

Almost 42% of Uganda’s population is Catholic, the largest denomination in this predominantly Christian nation.   As Bondings 2.0 has reported before, Catholic opposition to anti-gay legislation is critical to insure that LGBT people there are protected.  You can read about the importance of such support here and here and here and here.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


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