QUOTE TO NOTE: Seattle Catholic H.S. Student Reflects on Firing of Gay Educator

January 31, 2014

computer_key_Quotation_MarksToday is ZDay in Seattle and across the nation.   Catholic high school students from Eastside Catholic Prep organized the event as an expression of solidarity with the Mark Zmuda, the former vice principal of the school who was fired in December for marrying his husband.

Believe Out Loud‘s blog carried an essay by Zeena Rivera, a student at Seattle’s Holy Names Academy who has been active in the inter-varsity demonstrations that Catholic high school students have been conducting to support the fired teacher over the last month.  In the essay, Ms. Rivera, who is founder and editor of  Be!Magazinean online publication for LGBTQ youth, reflected on how her Catholic faith has informed her decision to oppose the firing of Zmuda:

“I am Catholic. By May, I’ll have gone to Catholic schools for 13 years and there’s a good chance that I’ll be spending another 4 years in a Catholic school. I go to Mass every Sunday, work at a Catholic food bank during the summer, and am in a leadership position in my school’s campus ministry.

“It would be a lie to say that my moral compass hasn’t been touched by Catholic virtues.

“Furthermore, in my experience as a Catholic school student in Seattle, I know that my religion classes never taught discrimination. I was taught to live a loving life. I have learned that you’re supposed to stand up in solidarity and help create positive action when someone is being treated unfairly. We’re supposed to protect the rights and dignity of workers, not being the ones taking them away.”

You can read her entire essay here.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Catholic Students Protest Firings in Seattle and Philly; What You Can Do to Help

December 20, 2013

Students chanting “change the church” at the protest outside Eastside Catholic H.S.

Students and faculty at Eastside Catholic High School in Sammamish, Washington, protested yesterday morning when they learned that the school’s vice principal was fired because he married his male partner.

The Seattle Times reported that Mark Zmuda, the fired administrator, met with the students during their protest in front of the school on Thursday, December 19th.  According to one student:

“He told us he had gotten fired because he is gay and married. He told us to grow up, get a job and find true love. He was crying and told us what we were doing meant a lot to him.”

Zmuda’s firing brings to twelve the number of LGBT people fired from Catholic institutions in the U.S. fired this year because of sexual orientation, gender expression, or marital status.

According to a report on KIROTV.com, 400 students from Eastside Catholic, which is in the Seattle metropolitan area, walked out of their classrooms for the protest.

Mark Zmuda

The Seattle Times reported that students at another local Catholic high school, Seattle Preparatory School, staged a protest in solidarity with Zmuda at their school.  The protest ended with continued discussion on a school-wide basis:

“ ‘Diversity Director, Heidi Kim, moderated a discussion with our students,’ according to the statement to Seattle Prep parents. ‘Following that, Principal Maureen Reid asked students to return to class, where they were able to take up the discussion with their classmates and instructors.’ ”

The Seattle demonstrations come only one week after students in the Philadelphia area publicly protested the firing of Michael Griffin, a foreign language teacher, from Holy Ghost Preparatory School because he and his male partner obtained a marriage license.  According to an Associated Press  story:

“Administrators at a Roman Catholic high school suffered a sharp and swift backlash this week after firing a well-liked teacher who sought to marry his same-sex partner.

“Educators said they had no choice, but thousands have protested the move through Facebook groups and petitions demanding that Michael Griffin be rehired at Holy Ghost Preparatory School. Some alumni have pledged to withhold financial support.”

Employment GraphicReligion News Service  story on The Washington Post website noted that a new coalition of Catholic gay and lesbian students in Pennsylvania has formed to protest Griffin’s firing:

Gay and lesbian Catholic students in Pennsylvania are joining alumni and others in pushing a Catholic high school near Philadelphia to reinstate a teacher who was fired after he applied for a marriage license with his partner. . . .

“Michael Griffin did not deserve to be treated in a way that does not clearly reflect Christ and His teachings,” says the letter sponsored by the Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition. “He has dedicated his life to the Holy Ghost Community. He is just as much a part of the Holy Ghost family as any other member.”

Since the beginning of 2012, Bondings 2.0 has been reporting and commenting on this disturbing, growing trend of firing LGBT people from Catholic institutions.  (You can read all the stories concerning this topic in by clicking on “Employment Issues” in the “Categories” box in the right hand column of this blog post.)  This past Sunday, New York Times columnist Frank Bruni commented on this trend in an essay entitled “The Catholics Still in Exile.”   Bruni notes that the message of and spirit of Pope Francis’ outreach to lesbian and gay people is muted by the actions of these institutional administrators:

“Pope Francis has indeed been a revelation, his gentle tone and sustained humility more in touch with the heart of Catholicism than the bitter jeremiads of other Catholic leaders were. But it’s important to note that he hasn’t pledged to revisit doctrine, nor are such revisions likely to happen anytime soon. The world turns at a breathless clip; the church, at a glacial one.

“It’s equally important to note that beyond Rome, the very focus on sexual morality that the pope seems to be waving Catholics away from can still be keen and uncompromising. Examples are made where they needn’t be; punishment is meted out when it doesn’t have to be. And it’s this, as much as anything uttered in Vatican City, that continues to drive a wedge between open-minded Catholics and the church’s hierarchy.”

New Ways Ministry’s response to these dismissals has been to encourage Catholics to work towards getting their schools, parishes, and other institutions to adopt non-discrimination policies which will protect LGBT people from being fired.  You can read our whole list of suggestions by clicking here.  If you need help with organizing to adopt such policies, please call or email our office:  (301)-277-5674; info@NewWaysMinistry.org.  The best way to stop these firings is to prevent them by putting into practice Catholic social principles of equality, human dignity, freedom, and the value of work.

Another way you can help is to spread the word about establishing non-discrimination policies by sharing the Facebook meme pictured above on your social media accounts  You can access it by clicking here.  Let’s make this movement go viral!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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


Another Parish Cuts Scouting Program, While Catholics Organize to Protest Bigotry

June 4, 2013

Although the National Catholic Committee on Scouting has recommended that Catholic parishes support the Boy Scouts of America’s (BSA) new inclusive policy of admitting gay scouts, and some bishops have even already announced support for the new measure, some parishes are taking steps to end their relationship with the scouting organization rather than include gay kids.  Last week, we reported on the first known parish to sever ties with the BSA, which was in Bremerton, Washington.  Over the weekend, a pastor in a Chicago-area parish also announced that he would be closing down the parish’s scouting programs rather than admit gay scouts.

Father Brian Grady

Father Brian Grady

The Chicago Tribune reported on Fr. Brian Grady’s decision for St. Elizabeth Ann Seton parish in Crystal Lake, Illinois.  Fr. Grady’s reasoning as reported in the paper seems based on myths and stereotypes and clearly inaccurate knowledge of homosexuality and youth:

” ‘For a young boy to (have to) share a tent or be exposed to other boys who are openly homosexual is not only unjust, but immoral,’ Grady wrote. ‘As a former Boy Scout, I know how uncomfortable it would have been to have to be in close proximity with boys that would perhaps be looking at me as more than just a friend.’

“Grady said he was saddened to be ‘forced to make this decision.’ In an interview, he said: ‘We welcome those individuals … but we also recognize certain actions are not to be encouraged.’ “

His reasoning makes it sound like he is placing his own anxieties about sexuality onto both the gay and straight youth who would be involved in scouting.

Charlie Payseur

Charlie Payseur

The leaders of  the scouting program are of the opposite opinion of the pastor.  According to The Tribune:

‘Troop 550 Scoutmaster Charlie Payseur said he and his assistant leaders were “livid” about the move. Grady has been very hospitable, Payseur said, but had not discussed the issue with them.

” ‘It has never been an issue, nor would I turn a Scout away,’ Payseur said. ‘I treat everyone the same. It’s bothering me that people can’t just accept people for who they are.’ “

The Crystal Lake Patch offers even stronger comments from the scoutmaster:

” ‘I am fuming,’ Charlie Payseur said. ‘We’ve been affiliated with that church for over five years, and to not even tell the people who founded the pack? It would have been common courtesy (for Grady) to tell us himself.’ “

In response to the ban on scouts by the Bremerton, Washington, pastor, Fr. Derek Lappe, on which we reported last week, Catholics United, a political organizing group, has launched a petition campaign for Seattle’s Archbishop Peter Sartain to condemn the bigoted behavior of the pastor.  The petition text reads:

boyscoutpetitionArchbishop Sartain,

As Catholics and people of faith, we know that Jesus instructs us to be a loving and inclusive community. These values are shared by the Boy Scouts.

We ask that you publicly remind the priests of your diocese that Catholic social teaching prohibits discrimination against gay people.

When religious leaders like Fr. Lappe promote discrimination, it only hurts the Church.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer quotes James Salt, executive director of Catholics United, as to what they hope the petition will accomplish:

“The Catholic Church has long held that individuals with same-sex attractions should be respected and protected from discrimination. Catholics United calls on Fr. Lappe’s superiors to condemn this kind of bullying from a man who is supposed to be a witness of Christian love and acceptance.”

The Post-Intelligencer quotes from Fr. Lappe’s letter explaining his decision, in which he displays an amazing lack of accurate knowledge on homosexuality:

“The letter sought to refute the generally accepted genetic origin of same-sex attraction. Lappe listed other ‘groups’ including:  ‘Mother was overprotective (boys).’   ‘Mother was needy and demanding (boys).’ ‘Lack of rough and tumble play (boys).’ ‘Dislike of team sports (boys).’ ‘Sexual abuse or rape.’ ‘Extreme shyness.’ ‘Parental loss through death or divorce.’

“As well, said Lappe, the parish’s programs ‘are well equipped to help cultivate authentically masculine and feminine identities.’ “

The statements by Fr. Grady and Fr. Lappe reveal they are not in possession of accurate knowledge about homosexuality.    Let’s hope that other pastors have a better understanding than these two do.  It would be a shame if Catholic parishes ended their relationships with scouting programs, particularly when the National Catholic Committee on Scouting is encouraging Catholic parishes to support the new policy.

The examples of these two parishes illustrate not only why pastors need better education about homosexuality, but also why lay people need to be involved in the decision-making processes of Catholic life.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related articles:

June 3, 2013:  Religious groups who supported gay Scout ban now are okay with changing it. Why?The Washington Post

June 3, 2013:  The Boy Scouts, Gay Youth and Catholic Teaching ,  Huffington Post

June 4, 2013:  The church’s Boy Scout dilemma: Should they stay or should they go? , U.S. Catholic

 


Pope Francis Re-Affirms Vatican Censure of American Nuns

April 15, 2013

LCWRPope Francis has re-affirmed the Vatican’s censure against the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), which had been investigated by the Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith under the papacy of Pope Benedict XVI.

The Australian newspaper reports:

“Pope Francis has backed a doctrinal report drawn up under his predecessor Benedict XVI that accuses the largest group of nuns in the United States of holding “radical feminist” views, the Vatican says.

“The new Pope has ‘reaffirmed the findings of the assessment and the program of reform’ for the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), which represents around 45,000 US nuns and is known for its social work, the Vatican said.

“The statement said the head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Ludwig Mueller, met with representatives of the LCWR in the Vatican on Monday in an attempt to smooth over differences.”

The National Catholic Reporter has a full story which gives the background of the case and more details about this latest development.

As we reported last year, the investigation focused on three topics:  support for women’s ordination, support for LGBT issues, and questioning whether salvation exists outside the church.   As far as LGBT issues goes, support for New Ways Ministry was specifically identified as a problem in the “Notification” document that was issued last April.

LCWR today issued the following statement in response to this news:

“On April 15, 2013 Sister Florence Deacon, OSF, LCWR president; Sister Carol Zinn, SSJ, LCWR president-elect; and Sister Janet Mock, CSJ, LCWR executive director; met with Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF); Archbishop Luis Ladaria, secretary of CDF; and other members of the CDF dicastery. Archbishop J. Peter Sartain was also present.

“The LCWR officers reviewed the activities of this past year since receiving the report of CDF’s doctrinal assessment of LCWR in April 2012.

“In his opening remarks, Archbishop Müller informed the group the he had met with Pope Francis who ‘reaffirmed the findings of the assessment and the program of reform for this Conference of Major Superiors.’ “

“The conversation was open and frank. We pray that these conversations may bear fruit for the good of the Church.”

Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle had been appointed by the Vatican to oversee LCWR’s activities, but because of negotiations during the past year, no such oversight had begun.

New Ways Ministry asks you to join us in prayer for women religious in the United States and for the LCWR which is the national association for the leaders of women’s communities. We pray in gratitude for their service and witness, and we pray that they will be allowed to continue their ministry unimpeded.

A list of Bondings 2.0 blog posts about the history of the LCWR case can be found by clicking here.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Support LCWR with a Christmas Card to the Nuncio and the Bishops!

December 5, 2012

The Nun Justice Project, a coalition of Catholic church reform and social justice organizations including New Ways Ministry, is urging Catholics to send Christmas cards to leading prelates in support of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR).

Launched after a harsh Vatican critique of LCWR in early 2012, the Nun Justice Project asks the nuns’ supporters to write with gratitude for the prophetic ministry of the American sisters and to request a withdrawal of the Vatican-imposed mandate against LCWR.

The Project is targeting the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganó, and the three bishops charged with implementing Vatican-mandated reforms to LCWR, Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle, Bishop Leonard Blair of Toledo, and Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, IL. You can add your support through this link.

As reported previously on Bondings 2.0, with links provided below, the Vatican’s critique of the nuns partially emerged out of their support for LGBT persons and organizations. Specifically named by the Vatican was New Ways Ministry, which has benefited greatly in its 35 years from the unequivocal and sustained support of communities of women religious.

The women religious of LCWR were one of those things the staff of New Ways Ministry was most thankful for this year and we stand with the sisters in these challenging times. New Ways Ministry strongly encourages Catholics and LGBT advocates to write to the bishops and express your support for the nuns who have adamantly struggled for equality within the Church and society.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Previous posts relating to LCWR:

August 11, 2012: LCWR Will Continue to Work Towards Dialogue With Vatican Officials

July 22, 2012: LCWR President Offers “Fresh Air” on Vatican Challenge to Nuns

June 21, 2012: Support the Sisters by Re-Directing Peter’s Pence Donations

June 12, 2012: Report on LCWR Meeting With the CDF at the Vatican

June 1, 2012: LCWR Responds to the Vatican with a Vision of Equality, Hope, and Dialogue

May 28, 2012: Support Our Sisters: Pray at a Vigil!

May 11, 2012: Sister Jeannine, Cardinal Ratzinger, New Ways Ministry, and Solidarity with LCWR

May 1, 2012: Round-up of Actions and Commentary on LCWR

April 23, 2012: Message to Nuns: ‘Be Not Afraid’

April 22, 2012: Comments on LCWR Action from National Catholic LGBT Organizations

April 21, 2012: Support for U.S. Nuns Spreads Quickly Among Catholics and Others

April 20, 2012: Can There Really Be “Collaboration” Between the Vatican and LCWR?

April 19, 2012: Sister Joan Chittister & Sister Simone Campbell Respond to Vatican Action Against U.S. Nuns

April 18, 2012: Vatican Action Against U.S. Nuns; New Ways Ministry’s Response


Prayerful Vigils and Reflections Highlight Lead Up to Election Day in Washington State

October 31, 2012

Prayerful vigil participants outside St. James Cathedral, Seattle.

In Washington State, Catholics who support marriage equality have marked the final push towards their Election Day referendum with prayerful vigils and spirited reflections.

120 Catholics gathered outside Seattle’s St. James Cathedral last Sunday to pray, sing, and reflect on their commitment to supporting marriage equality.  Organized by Catholics for Marriage Equality Washington, the vigilers prayed for the passage of their state’s referendum which would legalize marriage equality there.

In a Seattle Post-Intelligencer article, two of the participants offered their reflections:

Robert Gavino, 19, a Seattle University student: “I would just say the God I have come to know is not one to tell people they are not equal.”

Robert Gavino prays at vigil.

John House, a parishoner at Our Lady of Sorrows parish in Snoqualmie:  “Catholics believe Christ’s primary message is one of love, and Catholic social teaching teaches us that God loves everybody.  We are standing up for centuries of Catholic social teaching.”

State Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, a Catholic, gay lawmaker who was chief sponsor of marriage equality in the legislature: “I think any time we show solidarity with those on the margins of our society, it is an expression of our faith,” said Murray.  “We (gays) are certainly on the margins . . . at least in the hierarchy’s structure.”

Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, and an alumnus of Georgetown University, spoke of his Catholic education:  “Nowhere, ever, did it tell me to oppose a right that I might have.  Or to support discrimination against my brothers and sisters.”

On the same day, in Yakima, Washington, the central part of the state,  Catholics  for Marriage Equality Washington also gathered Catholicsfor a candlelight vigil to “to express disagreement with the role the Catholic Diocese of Yakima has taken in opposing Referendum 74 affirming same-sex marriage, ” according to a news story in the Yakima Herald-Republic. 

One of the organizers of the event explained its origin:

“Leo Kucek, who attends Sacred Heart Parish in Prosser, is one of the organizers of the candlelight vigil. He said many Catholics were upset last month when Bishop Joseph Tyson requested that all 41 parishes in the Yakima Diocese conduct a special financial appeal during Mass. Money collected went to Preserve Marriage Washington, a statewide group seeking to defeat Referendum 74. . .

“Kucek said, ‘When a church starts acting as an arm of a political campaign, collecting money during a sacred Mass, that’s a slippery slope.’ “

A Catholic for Marriage Equality vigil participant.

In addition to these two events, two opinion pieces have recently been published by Catholics working for marriage equality in that state.

In the first piece, which appeared in The Seattle Lesbian, John Moreland,  a lifelong Catholic, married 46 years with four children and three grandchildren, refutes the notion that same-sex marriage will be promoted in schools:

“Through the Washington State Catholic Conference, the bishops argue that all schools will have to promote same-sex marriage as equal to heterosexual marriage.   This is false.   The bishops apparently are following the kind of memos put out by national right-wing extremist groups whose research shows that their strongest campaign weapon is fear.  These groups target mothers of school-age children, whose legitimate concern is for their kids. They try to manipulate them by claiming that their children will be exposed to some kind of unhealthy sexual curriculum if marriage equality passes.

“The fact is there is NO curriculum in Washington State public schools promoting one kind of family over any other. In all schools, there are children of biological parents and adopted children. There are children of same-sex couples and children of single mothers and fathers.  There are children raised by grandparents and children raised by foster parents.  There are all manner of blended families.  It is discriminatory in public schools NOW to promote one kind of family over another.  All children deserve to be treated equally and with dignity.

“Private schools, including Catholic schools, can teach whatever they want about marriage and families.  With the passage of Referendum 74, nothing will change. The bishops will continue to allow and encourage Catholic schools to teach Church doctrine about families and marriage. I believe that treating and loving our neighbor as ourselves is a good place to start.”

The second essay was penned by Chase Nordengren, a graduate student at the University of Washington in Seattle who has been working on the referendum campaign.  His essay, which appeared in the National Catholic Reporter, is a philosophical/theological reflection on courage vs. fear:

“Central to the life of Christians, writes Paul Tillich, is ‘the courage to be,’ one’s willingness to affirm one’s essential nature regardless of, at times despite, social forces that reject that nature. The radical idea of faith, Tillich argues, rests in the practice of this essential skill, the skill to affirm all the parts of our identities God brought into being.

“Much of Tillich’s work centers on courage’s opposite — anxiety. Anxiety has no object, no focus: “therefore participation, struggle and love with respect to it are impossible.” Anxiety is that which cripples our action.

“Fortunately, Tillich writes, anxiety aspires to a different emotion: fear. Fear seems debilitating but, paradoxically, it exists only in a place where one is self-affirming, when one has something to lose and something to be afraid of. “The self is self only because it has a world, a structured universe, to which it belongs and from which it is separated at the same time.” Courage is acting with knowledge of fear, overcoming fear.

“Veterans of the gay rights movement that I have met have much to be fearful of: hateful speech, violence and denial of some of the qualities of a decent and free life. Their perseverance is a sign, to me at least, that fear has led to courage. The desire to affirm who one is, to be proud, to truly enter into community with an open heart pushes them onward.”

Nordengren then applies the concept of courage to the situation of marriage, particularly same-sex marriage:

Marriage, too, is an act of courage, the faith in something that transcends ordinary experience. Growing in faith, growing in the courage to be, requires being part of a structured universe. It requires a world in which one is both part — as in, part of the community of the committed — and not a part — as in, committed to someone else on a level all that much deeper. Making that courageous choice requires, demands our respect. It also demands our recognition.

“Same-sex marriage is, and will continue to be, an issue that deeply divides the Christian community. I pray earnestly for the days when that divide closes. In the interim, however, the God of our faith asks us to stand with our brothers and sisters as they make the big leaps in their lives or, at the very least, step aside. As our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters continue on the journey of their lives, removing the legal barriers to their next step is not only an act of love, but also an act of affirming faith.”

Along with Nordengren, Moreland, and all of Washington’s Catholics for Marriage Equality, we at New Ways Ministry, also pray for this same kind of courage for ourselves and all Catholics.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Marriage Debate Brings Out Deep Faith and Thought in Catholics

October 17, 2012

An amazing by-product of the marriage equality movement across the country has been the wealth of Catholics willing to speak publicly about how their faith empowers them to speak out for equal marriage standards for lesbian and gay couples.  Both ordinary people in the pew and church and political leaders have come forward to speak about the issue from the depths of their Catholic belief.

The National Catholic Reporter has recently profiled two such Catholics in Washington State. The marriage equality debate can seem harsh at times, and some times it seems like it brings out the worst in people.  In reading the stories of these two people, I think it is evident that God has found it possible to use this situation to bring out deep faith and integral spirituality in people.

Fr. John Whitney, SJ

The first article features Fr. John Whitney, SJ, pastor of St. Joseph’s parish in Seattle, who recently sent a bulk email to his parishioners, asking them to ponder carefully a recent statement from Archbishop Peter Sartain asking them to vote against marriage equality:

“Whitney asked parishioners to review the narrative dispassionately and ask themselves ‘if this referendum refers to the same object as does the Church’s understanding — that is, is the civil marriage to which the referendum is addressed, the same as the sacramental marriage described by the column?’ “

In his email, Whitney reminded parishioners that Catholics are

” ‘morally obliged to form our consciences well, through study and through practice’ and that ‘a person acts morally only when following his or her conscience, despite the sometimes opposite calls of public pressure, self-interest, fashion or authority.’” ‘That being said,’ he continued, ‘it may appear from the outside that Catholics are governed more by authority than by conscience. … The role of authority in Catholic conscience formation is, indeed, complex; but, authority never supplants conscience.’

“The ‘call of conscience’ is ‘the Catholic categorical imperative,’ Whitney wrote.”

Whitney cautions that his stance should not be seen as an opposition to the archbishop, but about ways of understanding the church:

“I very much do not want to make this about a clash of the archbishop and me. To me, this is not about persons but about visions of the Church. I truly believe that the movement of the Holy Spirit among the People of God can only work if people receive the tools to responsibly decide issues of public policy and personal morality.”

Senator Ed Murray

State Senator Ed Murray of Seattle, Washington, was the focus of the second article which focuses on this gay, Catholic legislator’s faith experiences.  His early formation came from his mother’s faith:

“Murray’s resilient faith and his willingness to speak out on complex issues can be traced to his mother’s love of dialogue, especially when related to Blessed Pope John XXIII (whom she adored), and her affinity for Catholic writers such as Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton. At church and at school, Murray’s childhood was also infused with Catholic teachings focused on ministry to the poor. Beloved nuns and priests, representative of ‘a larger family in the best sense of that word,’ offered support and care, encouraging Murray and his six siblings ‘to grow in our prayer lives and our commitment to other people,’ he said.”

Murray’s adult spirituality has been nourished by a relationship with a Trappist monastery in nearby Oregon:

“There, Murray explored the contemplative and mystical traditions of prayer, structured his days according to the horarium, and read of John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila and Francis of Assisi, as well as Buddhist writers. He learned to listen in a new way, from within. ‘Through silence, solitude, prayer and meditation, you learn things about yourself — not always easy things about yourself — that help you become a more authentic person,’ Murray said.”

His mystical side is rooted in very earthly practicalities:

“Murray said three aspects of his faith keep him rooted: fellow Catholics who ‘continue to affirm me as a human being and continue to affirm my 21-year relationship with my partner, Michael’; the belief that followers of Christ are called to live with,

and love all people, regardless of other factors; and the fact that his prayer life and spirituality continue to be fed and challenged. Murray acknowledged, ‘My faith has helped me see people who strongly disagree with me as important and wonderful people, even when I can’t stand them and they can’t stand me.’ ”

Both the article about Whitney and the article about Murray are worth reading in their entirety by clicking the links above.  They are rich in insight, spirituality, and wisdom.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related Article:

National Catholic Reporter:  Same-sex marriage put to voters in Washington


From Standing Ovation to Twitter, Catholics Are Speaking Out

April 24, 2012

In two of the biggest Catholic LGBT news stories in the nation over the past few weeks, Catholics have been letting their voices be heard loud and clear, via both traditional and ultra-contemporary methods.

A standing ovation, a traditional method of showing support, was used by Catholics in Seattle to show their approval of their pastor’s decision not to allow their parish to be used as a location to collect signatures in a petition drive to put repeal of Washington State’s new marriage equality law on the ballot this November.  According to a Seattle Post-Intelligencer article:

“The congregation at Seattle’s Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church gave the Rev. Tim Clark a standing ovation Sunday when he announced that the parish would not gather signatures for a referendum to repeal same-sex marriage.

“The parish became the sixth in Seattle to opt out of the petition drive for Referendum 74 that has been endorsed and foisted on parishes by Archbishop J. Peter Sartain.

“ ‘I am happy to report that Our Lady of the Lake parishoners have been overwhelmingly and, thus far, unanimously supportive of the decision I made NOT to gather signatures in support of this Referendum,’ Clark wrote in response to an e-mail.

“ ‘The standing ovation experienced during one of the Masses says less about me and much more about the health of this parish.  I only wished the archbishop could have experienced the sustained applause — the “sensus fidelium” — of the people.  He needs to listen to this “voice.” That is my prayer.’ ”

Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church joins five other Seattle-area parishes who have refused the archbishop’s request. The others are St. James Cathedral, St. Joseph Church, St. Mary’s Church, St. Patrick Church, and Christ Our Hope Catholic Church.   Bondings 2.0 reported on some of these other parishes’ refusals in a post earlier this month.

Rev. Clark explained the motivation behind his decision:

“ ‘When I first read the archbishop’s letter[asking parishes to collect signatures]  I was troubled by the content and his intentions,’ Clark wrote.  ‘In conscience, I could not allow signatures to be gathered, to allow the faith to be politicized in this way.

“ ‘What troubles me is the message this whole approach sends which I find discriminatory and insensitive.  To follow through with his wishes would be hurtful, divisive and a countersign to what we are trying to foster in this Catholic community in Wedgwood.

“ ‘I deeply believe, and say this with boldness, that this approach is not in the mind of Christ.’ ”

Rev. James Martin, SJ

In the continuing story about the Vatican’s attempt to suppress the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, Catholics are using a Twitter hashtag–”#WhatSistersMeanToMe“–to express their solidarity with U.S. nuns.  The hashtag was established by Fr. James Martin, SJ, the popular Catholic author on spirituality.  In a HuffingtonPost.com article about the Twitter campaign, Martin explains his reason for establishing the hashtag as a place where people can show their support for the embattled Sisters:

“Catholic sisters are my heroes. In light of the Vatican’s desire to renew and reform their main organizing body, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, I thought it would be a great time to speak a word of support for Catholic sisters, and to acknowledge the hidden ways that these women have generously served God, served the poor and served this country.”

You can read the tweets to this hashtag here.

The Sisters’ support of LGBT people and issues has been one of the reasons that the Vatican is attempting to suppress their leadership conference.  Bondings 2.0 has been reporting on this story for the past six days; you can read the background by following the posts on this blog since April 18th.

Archbishop Peter Sartain

Interestingly, and perhaps not coincidentally, Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle is involved in both these stories.  In the first one, he requested that parishes in the Seattle Archdiocese collect signatures at their churches.  In the second story, he is the person appointed by the Vatican to oversee the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.

These two stories indicate that Catholics are at a point where they are eager to speak their minds, hearts, and consciences on important church issues–and that they will use all the means at their disposal, both traditional ones and modern ones, to let their voices be heard.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Seattle Parishes Refuse to Cooperate in Anti-Marriage Equality Petition Drive

April 15, 2012

Washington State's Governor Christine Gregoire, a Catholic, signs marriage equality into law in February 2012.

A small but significant movement is happening in the Archdiocese of Seattle.   Archbishop Peter Sartrain has asked parishes there to collect signatures on a petition to call a referendum to repeal the state’s new marriage equality law.   So far, three parishes, including the archdiocesan cathedral, have publicly refused to circulate the petition.

According to a news article in The Seattle Times:

“The majority of parishes in Western Washington are expected to make the petitions available — some as soon as this Sunday, following Mass, according to a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Seattle.

“But pastors of at least three prominent Catholic churches in Seattle — St. Mary’s Church, St. Joseph Parish and St. James Cathedral — have notified members that the petitions will not be made available there.”

Very Rev. Michael Ryan, pastor of St. James Cathedral, said in a statement posted on the parish’s website that collecting signatures would be “divisive” in the parish, and he appreciated that the archbishop left the decision to do so up to the discretion of  pastors.  Ryan described his decision in a news article which appeared in The National Catholic Reporter:

“I decided to take a preemptive strike by sending out my email (April 11) thinking that many of my parishioners would either boycott Mass this coming Sunday or that they would arrive in a white heat. The tone of my email was low-key and anything but inflammatory. I have received 115 responses to it — when none were required or even expected! — and fully 110 of them have been strongly supportive of my decision. And I mean strongly supportive!”

According to a Reuters news story,

“Using similar language, the pastoral life coordinator at St. Mary’s Church, Tricia Wittmann-Todd, said collecting signatures would be ‘hurtful and divisive’ to her parish.

” ‘I am particularly concerned about our youth who may be questioning their own sexual identity and need our support at this time in their lives,’ she said in a statement.”

Danny Westneat, a columnist in The Seattle Times, cites an even stronger comment from a third pastor:

“At St. Joseph’s in Seattle, the Rev. John Whitney, S.J., said that he couldn’t in good conscience allow signature gathering. In a bit of a broadside in this Sunday’s church bulletin, he writes that Catholic leadership seems deaf to the spirit of its own people, who, he implies, could teach the bishops a thing or two about acceptance of gays and lesbians.

” ‘The leadership of the church sometimes confronts the world as an enemy of the Spirit,’ he wrote. ‘The church needs greater humility and openness.’ “

Westneat also quotes the woman whose opposition to the petition drive got this movement started:

“Barbara Guzzo is the parishioner at St. Mary’s who got this little rebellion going by speaking out against the archbishop’s campaign. She said she’s often asked how she hangs in there with a church that seems afflicted with an ” ‘institutional deafness’ (as Whitney dubbed it in his Sunday bulletin).

” ‘My answer is: because it’s a human institution,’ Guzzo said. ‘I mean it took the Catholic Church 400 years to acknowledge we were wrong on Galileo! But eventually we did do it. We did say, “Oops, we were wrong.”

“She’s not saying that’s coming again anytime soon. But this is how the change often starts. From the inside out.”

While many Catholic dioceses have taken strong measures to opposed marriage equality in legislatures and referendums, none had yet taken the bold step of collecting signatures at parishes to get the question put on the ballot.  The decision to do so remains highly controversial among Catholics in Seattle.  According to the Times news report:

“Calls to the archdiocese have been running about even between those opposed to the archbishop’s stance on the issue and those who favor it, archdiocese spokesman Greg Magnoni said.”

Additionally, the same report provides background on the question of diocesan involvement in marriage questions. Links to Bondings 2.0 blog posts about the following actions can be accessed by clicking on the highlighted text:

“Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, which advocates for gays within the Catholic Church, called Sartain’s position ‘a very aggressive step — and in the wrong direction.’

“In other states, ‘there appears to be a trend of the church supporting civil unions or domestic partnerships, arrangements short of full marriage,’ he said.

“For example, he noted, the Archbishop of Westminster in England in December came out in support of civil unions. And in New Hampshire this year, the Catholic Church endorsed civil unions for same-sex couples as a compromise to a full repeal of that state’s same-sex marriage law, which has been in place since 2009.

“In 2009, the Diocese in Portland, Maine, opposed marriage equality on a referendum, but did not make petitions available in its parishes.

“Same-sex marriage supporters in Maine are trying again this year to legalize gay marriage, and last month church leaders in that state announced they would not actively campaign against the measure, but would instead educate its members on the issues.

” ‘Education is the proper role for the church; collecting signatures is not education,’ DeBernardo said.

“In Maine, he said, some parishes have reported a loss in membership as a result of the church’s position in 2009.

” ‘That’s important for Archbishop Sartain and others to consider,’ DeBernardo said. ‘This could have a devastating effect, regardless of the outcome.’ “

Letters to the editor ofThe Seattle Times express outrage at Archbishop Sartrain’s petition drive.  Joe Martin writes:

“As a practicing Catholic, married and a proud father of two sons, I was horrified to learn that Archbishop J. Peter Sartain has plans to implement what amounts to a church-sponsored gay-bashing campaign.

“Whatever Sartain and Catholic officialdom thinks of gay people, the proposed inauguration of a petition drive to actively promote the rescinding of the gay-marriage act is a most misguided and contemptuous maneuver on the part of the institutional church in this region.”

Larry Clement writes:

“I have felt St. James Cathedral (and other churches, synagogues and mosques) to be a sanctuary, not only for me, but for others as well. A sanctuary where I could be in the presence of God for a while, away from the troubles outside, including all the dirt, accusations and innuendoes of politics. I also believe that the church must be separated from politics.

“If our archbishop is now allowing signatures to be gathered in or around the church and the services therein, for or against any political matter, my sanctuary is gone. It does not matter to me if the cause is gay marriage or discrimination of any kind, it does not belong in the church. I am saddened, and I am experiencing a great loss. I don’t want to go back.”

Ann Horwitt writes:

“The archdiocese has every right to engage in a political fight against gay marriage but it does so at some peril.

“Churches currently hold tax-exempt status as religious institutions. If the archdiocese of Seattle and other religious groups sponsor political actions such as petition drives against certain laws then perhaps it is time to revisit the privilege of tax exemption.”

Let’s pray that other Catholic parishes in Seattle and around the country will follow the example of these courageous communities.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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