On Persevering in Spite of Rejection: A Follow-Up Post

May 12, 2014

About a week ago, Bondings 2.0 reported that Queering The Church blogger Terence Weldon had been dismissed from a volunteer job with CAFOD, the Catholic relief and development agency run by the bishops of England and Wales, because his blog was considered to be “campaigning against church teaching.”  Weldon’s reaction to this rejection, understandably, was to question whether he should continue as a member of the Catholic Church.

After a period of discernment, Weldon has responded with a decision to persevere and remain in the church.  In a blog post this week, he explained:

“The reason for Cafod rejecting me as a schools volunteer, was my public profile as an (allegedly) campaigner against Church teaching – specifically, sexual teaching. But part of my motivation in wanting to become actively involved with Cafod in the first place, had been a sense that it was becoming time to back off the constant obsession with matters of sexuality and sexual ethics, and to become more involved, and outspoken, on the far more important elements of Church teaching with which I, and Cafod, emphatically agree – matters of social justice, the preferential option for the poor, and the like.

“Because these are indeed pf fundamental importance in Catholic teaching, and the sexual issues relatively minor, it did not take me too long to conclude once again, that there really is no place for me to be, other than in the Catholic Church. This is where I belong, and this is where I shall stay.

“But if, as I have found, I have been effectively prevented from broadening my focus away from “campaigning” on the sexual matters – the obvious lesson is that on the contrary, I must continue to do so, with redoubled effort and effectiveness.

“The Church is stuck with me, whether they like it or not. This stone which the builders rejected, will indeed become a cornerstone.”

I am glad that Weldon has made a decision, and glad that he has decided to stay. The decision to stay or go is one that every LGBT Catholic faces from time to time, sometimes when they experience personal rejection or at other times when they hear of a hurtful statement or policy issued by a church leader.  Such moments can be very painful. Different people respond in various way, and I respect all those who examine their consciences prayerfully in these matters, regardless of the what their final decision may be.

I think that one of the reasons that such moments are so painful is because many faithful LGBT Catholics see that their divergence from church teaching is not something opposed to their Catholicism, but something which actually springs from their Catholicism.  For many, the arrival at a place where they can affirm their sexuality and committed relationships comes from a deep spiritual journey filled with much soul-searching and anguish.  They see the affirmation of their ability to love as a gift from God, not as offensive to God.

Weldon reflected in this way in another blog post commenting on the CAFOD rejection:

“It has never been my intention, or my practice, to ‘campaign’ against Church teaching. That would imply I had some hope of achieving change, which I know is way beyond my capacity. Right from my opening posts, I have instead made it clear that my primary purpose is much simpler – to draw gay and lesbian Catholics (and other Christians) back into the life and sacramental practice of the church, without compromising on their personal sexual or gender integrity.

“Necessarily, that requires at times criticizing some elements of Catholic teaching or practice – but always in a wider context. Sexual matters occupy a relatively low level in the overall hierarchy of Church teaching, and while I am critical of some elements of these (not by any means all), it is always within the greater structure of broader principles of teaching – on equality and inclusion, on justice, on respect and dignity, and on freedom of conscience.

“So I find it depressing to be told, as I was recently, that I am not acceptable as a schools volunteer for Cafod, because I am allegedly ‘campaigning’ against Church teaching. In my own mind, all I am doing is attempting to draw LGBT people back into the Church – and doing so by presenting alternative elements of Church teaching, and the Gospels, that are less familiar than the well – known offensive bits.”

LGBT people have many spiritual gifts to offer the church community.  As I reflect on this incident, I realize that one of their greatest gifts is perseverance.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


In Europe, Some Catholic Leaders Strive for LGBT Reconciliation

May 8, 2014

In Europe, some Catholic bishops seem to be trying to heal the hurt that LGBT people have experienced, sometimes hurt caused by church leaders.

Admiral Duncan Public House on April 30, 1999

Admiral Duncan Public House on April 30, 1999

In England, the gay community recently marked the 15th anniversary of the Soho Bombing, when 3 people died, including a pregnant woman, over 80 injured, when a device exploded in the Admiral Duncan Public House (a gay bar).  The event galvanized the LGBT community in that nation.  

The event was marked by a joint statement from the Anglican Bishop of London, the Right  Reverend & Right Honorable Richard Chartres, and the Roman Catholic Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols:

“On this 15th Anniversary of the bombings in Soho, Brixton and Brick Lane, we affirm our condemnation of all such acts of violence and hold in our prayers those whose lives have been taken or shattered and all those who mourn. It is fundamental to our faith that all men and women are made in the image of God and so deserve our respect, care and compassion. In this great World-in-a-City, we stand alongside all those who oppose the hatred that continues to divide communities and diminishes us all. We work and pray for a society in which we have learnt to love our neighbour as ourselves.”

Thanks to one of the United Kingdom’s most prominent Catholic LGBT advocate, Martin Pendergast, for alerting us to this statement.  Queering The Church blogger Terence Weldon commented: “Finally, some Catholic bishops are taking seriously the Church teaching to condemn all forms of violence or malice,in speech or in action against gay or lesbian people.”

Across the Channel, in France, the head of the French bishops’ conference has been trying to heal the pastoral damage done when some Catholic leaders in that nation strongly opposed that nation’s marriage equality law when it was being debated last year.  The Tablet reported:

Archbishop Georges Pontier

Archbishop Georges Pontier

“Marseille Archbishop Georges Pontier, president of the French bishops’ conference, urged his fellow bishops to avoid being ‘manipulated by social movements’ when he opened their spring plenary meeting.

“The meeting in Lourdes just before Holy Week was overshadowed by different views about how to deal with a growing polarisation that emerged with last year’s anti-gay marriage protests, with some bishops actively supporting the protests but many others keeping a discreet distance. Some organisers of that lay-led movement have since become active in conservative and far-right politics.”

According to The Tablet, the most recent example of the influence of the conservative faction is the removal of a speaker from a French Catholic meeting:

“Differences flared again last month when the bishops’ conference’s Family and Society Council withdrew a conference invitation to a feminist philosopher after a traditionalist blog collected about 1,100 signatures on a petition denouncing her as a proponent of gender theory, that is incompatible with Catholic doctrine. That led to an internal debate about whether the council should have caved in to what the Catholic daily La Croix called ‘a minority, promoted to be thought police.’ “

The examples of these British and French prelates should be emulated by Catholic bishops here in the United States.  Harsh rhetoric opposing marriage equality from U.S. prelates such as Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul, Minnesota, and Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois (to name a few), have alienated many Catholics.  Reconciliatory statements and gestures would go a long way to healing the hurt that many Catholics, LGBT people and allies alike, have experienced by so many harmful messages.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Despised and Rejected: Where Is God When the Church Dismisses a Gay Catholic?

May 2, 2014

When we’ve been reporting about LGBT people and supporters being fired from jobs at Catholic institutions over the past two-and-a-half years, most of the cases have involved school teachers, and, to a lesser extent, parish music ministers.  Nicholas Coppola, a volunteer at his parish, was the sole exception where someone not employed by the church was told that his participation was no longer welcome because he had legally married his longtime boyfriend.

Terence Weldon

Terence Weldon

This week, across the Atlantic, another case has emerged where a volunteer has been dismissed because of his support of LGBT equality.  In England, Terence Weldon, who blogs at Queering The Churchone of the oldest and best respected Catholic LGBT blogs, has gone public with the fact that he has recently been let go from a volunteer position with CAFOD (Catholic Agency for Overseas Development), the overseas development and relief agency of the Catholic Church in England and Wales.  You can read the entire story of his experience here.  

The reason given for his dismissal was that he has been “campaigning against Church teaching.”  Weldon, who has been blogging since 2008, sees the situation differently.  He describes his ministry of blogging in this way:

“For years, I have felt strongly that this passage from Luke 4:18, based on a similar one in Isaiah, amounts to Christ’s opening mission statement, at the start of his ministry:

‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed…’

“By extension, I have written previously, this must include bringing good news to the queer, who also are oppressed, often by the Church itself.”

He also describes his reactions to the charge of “campaigning against Church teaching.”

“My initial response was to say that of course I understood his position and that of Cafod, forced on them by the rules of higher authority, and agreed that there remained the possibility of working simply within the local parish, where I am well known and accepted, and even find strong support for my activism.

“However, the more I reflected on this later, after he had left, the more I found myself angry – not at him or at Cafod, but at the Church itself, which is so intolerant of any internal dissent or disagreement.”

Since the incident of his dismissal came near the time of Holy Week, Weldon put this whole situation in the context of two lines from the Good Friday Scriptures:

“He was despised, rejected…”(Isaiah 53:3)

“The stone that the builders rejected has become the corner stone.: (Psalm 118:22)

Understandably, Weldon feels this rejection very powerfully, and it has caused him to question his membership in the church:

“And so, feeling intensely, ‘despised, rejected,” I began to wonder again, as I have done from time to time before, whether my critics on both sides are not perhaps, correct. Do I in fact have a place in the Catholic Church – or should I make a move to another, one which allows for full participation in decision taking and regulation by laity alongside that of clergy, one that takes seriously the concept of a church for all the faithful that was promised for Catholics by Vatican II, but never implemented?”

While we stand with him in solidarity over this terrible injustice accorded him, we also encourage him, if it is not too harmful to him, to persevere.  It is not easy to be despised and rejected, but our hope and promise has to come from the second line of Scripture he quotes:  rejection will lead to becoming the cornerstone.

LGBT people have much to give to the church spiritually.  Their courage to be who they are and their ability to tell the truth are gifts that can benefit the entire Catholic community.  Those are the powerful positive gifts.  But the experience of rejection and being despised can also be a gifted experience and can lead to an important role in the church.

Whatever Terence Weldon decides, we stand with him.  His testimony and service these many years have been beautiful gifts to the church. We pray that he discerns the way that God is calling him at this painful time.

Do you have any words of wisdom for Terence?  You can post them in the “Comments” section of this post or you can respond on his blog.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


New Survey Indicates British Catholics Support Marriage Equality

September 15, 2013

survey resultsThanks to Terence Weldon, at the blog QueeringTheChurch.com, we’ve been made aware of a new survey in the United Kingdom which shows that British Catholics are strongly in support of marriage equality–similar to U.S. Catholics on this side of the Atlantic.

The new report comes from the British Social Attitudes Survey.  The section regarding attitudes toward homosexuality are covered under the topic “Personal Relationships.  After noting a growing positive trend for marriage equality in the nation as a whole, Weldon turns to the religious analysis of the report.  He states:

“Predictably, religious groups are less tolerant of same – sex sexual relations than those who are not religious, and although disapproval is declining among people of all religions, this decline is slower than for those of no religious belief. What should be of concern to the defenders of the orthodox Catholic position, is that self- identified Catholics are more tolerant than Protestants. The published report does not present full tables for a breakdown by religion, or a full trend comparison, but this written summary makes the core message clear: barely a third of British Catholics agree with the CDF position, that all same – sex genital interactions are morally wrong/

“Not surprisingly, religious belief is closely linked to attitudes to homosexuality. Those who aren’t religious are the least likely to see it as always or mostly wrong, only 16 per cent do so. This compares to disapproval rates of over a third among Anglicans (40 per cent) and Catholics (35 per cent). “

Personal relationships, British Social Attitudes Survey

Why do surveys like this one matter?  Weldon rightly points out that while the church is not a democracy, Catholicism does operate under the principle of honoring the “sense of the faithful”–meaning what the Catholic laity actually believe–in evaluating church teaching.   He observes:

“Nevertheless, [we have] the important principle of ‘sensus fidei’ ['sense of the faithful'] to consider, by which any church doctrine which is not accepted by the church as a whole, which has not been “received” and accepted by the faithful, cannot be held to be valid and binding. In the half century since the publication of Humanae Vitae, it has become abundantly clear that it has been rejected in good conscience, or even simply been ignored, by the overwhelming majority of married Catholic couples, and there is simply no evidence that the prohibition on artificial contraception does in fact have the authority of the sensus fidei behind it. It is now becoming equally clear that the absolute prohibition on same – sex sexual acts, and those on premarital sex, sexual relationships after divorce, and masturbation, are going the same way, When something like two thirds of Catholics, in very substantial parts of the Catholic world, disagree with the total proscription by the CDF – what possible justification can there be for continuing to defend the rigidity of current CDF sexual ideology?”

I think Catholics who work for equality and justice for LGBT people can be heartened by these survey results.  It shows that support from U.S. Catholics for marriage equality is not just an anomaly.  Despite bishops mounting strong campaigns opposing marriage equality in both the U.S. and the U.K., Catholic lay people have taken a different approach to this issue.  Catholics are relying on their deep sense of justice and their deep sense of the importance of love in a relationship.  These two senses are helping them to see that marriage equality is, in fact, a very Catholic concept.

To order or download a copy of New Ways Ministry’s booklet, Marriage Equality: A Positive Catholic Approach, click here.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


Catholic Reactions to Pope Francis’ Comments on Accepting Gay Priests

July 30, 2013
Pope Francis

Pope Francis

Pope Francis’ comments on accepting gay priests has rocked the Catholic world, yet even progressive Catholics disagree on the import of his statement.   Was it just a change of tone, not substance?  Was it too little, too late?  Will he follow through with action or was this statement just for show?

Various commentators took different approaches to the statement.  Here’s  a sampling of some of their thoughts.

Here at New Ways Ministry, we welcomed the statement, seeing it as a sign of hopeful things to come:

“Pope Francis’ statement on accepting and respecting gay priests is a clear sign that this pope will be taking a more conciliatory approach to LGBT issues than his immediate predecessors have done.

“Unlike John Paul II and Benedict XVI, who approached LGBT topics through the lens of sexuality and sin, Pope Francis is signaling a new direction which is based on the Catholic principles of human dignity, respect, and social integration.  Benedict had issued an instruction to bishops not to accept gay candidates for the seminary, a policy that was being considered under John Paul’s papacy.  Both previous papacies were noted for their virulent opposition against LGBT issues.

“Some will say that Francis’ statement is not enough, that he still refers to sins of homosexuals, but I think the important thing is the question of emphasis.   Even if he doesn’t drop the sin language, this is still a major step forward, and one that can pave the way for further advancements down the road.  Change in the church is evolutionary, not revolutionary.  Though this statement is not the change which many of us hope for, that is, the full equality of LGBT people in our church, it is a necessary first step toward that change.   Most importantly, it shows that Pope Francis is open to dialogue on this matter, and not simply follow the harmful obstinacy of his predecessors.”

Rev. James Martin, SJ

Rev. James Martin, SJ

Noted author and commentator Jesuit Father James Martin, had total praise for the pope’s comments, noticing an important linguistic development:

“To my mind, Pope Francis’s brief comment on gays reveals great mercy.  That mercy, of course, comes from Jesus Christ.   And we can never have enough of it.  The Pope’s remarks also are in line with the Catechism, which teaches that gays should be treated with ‘respect, compassion and sensitivity.’  But gays were not the only group to be shown mercy in the Pope’s brief in-flight interview.  The Pope also asked for greater compassion for divorced and remarried Catholics, a group that has long felt marginalized in the church, and called for a “deeper theology” on the role of women in the church.  Today Pope Francis has, once again, lived out the Gospel message of compassion for everyone.
“The lesser-noticed change in the Pope’ revolutionary words during his in-flight interview was, at least according to the translation in the Italian-language ‘Vatican Insider,’ the use of the word ‘gay,’ which is traditionally not used by popes, bishops or Vatican officials.  This is a sea change.”
Equally Blessed LogoEqually Blessed, the coalition of Catholic organizations that work for LGBT justice and equality,  also had strong praise for the pope:

“Pope Francis today uttered some of the most encouraging words a pontiff has ever spoken about gay and lesbian people. In doing so, he has set a great example for Catholics everywhere.

“The pope has rejected the harsh language of his predecessor, Benedict XVI, for a compassionate approach and a pastoral tone. Lesbians and gays are no longer a “threat to civilization,” rather they are people of faith and good will.

“Catholic leaders who continue to belittle gays and lesbians can no longer claim that their inflammatory remarks represent the sentiments of the pope.”

Kevin Clarke, a blogger at America magazine, noted the importance of just a few of the words the pope said:

“. . . Francis may have become the first pope in history to offer a ‘who am I to judge’ response to a question about gay and lesbian people. . . “

But Clarke also urged caution, while at the same time noting the importance of the papal shift:

“His words certainly signal a shift in tone from Rome on gay and lesbians; will they also mean a change in current policies regarding, for instance, gay men in the priesthood?

“His citation of current catechism on the treatment of gay and lesbian people was not revolutionary in any sense; what startles may be the spectacle of a pope saying anything out loud on the matter and stressing the importance of church teaching on the human dignity of gay and lesbian people.

“Francis was also asked why he did not spend much time speaking about abortion or gay marriage during his trip (church teaching is already clear, he said) and about the difficulties of divorced and remarried Catholics. ‘I believe this is a time of mercy, a change of epoch,’ the pope said. He said the group of eight cardinals tasked with reform will explore the issue of whether divorcees can receive Communion.”

Michael O'Loughlin

Michael O’Loughlin

Michael O’Loughlin, who blogs at Religion News Service also questioned whether the pope’s statement is significant:

“I’ve joined the chorus of those praising this truly palpable breath of fresh air in the Catholic Church. Pope Francis is welcomed change in style. How will his bishops here in the US react, especially to the comments about not judging gays, finding roles for women, and welcoming back the marginalized? The Pope, it seems, will lead by example. Will his bishops follow? What concrete steps will Catholic leaders take to change the atmosphere of the church?

“A friend IM’ed this morning, asking if this news was a big step for the church. Yes and no, I said. Yes, it’s certainly huge that a pope has spoken about gays in a nonjudgmental, loving way. The pope’s words may inspire others to alter their own speech and behavior. No, because we wait for change, for signs that this is indeed more than an off the cuff remark. But for now, I’ll stick with yes. Yes, this is hope, and hope is huge.”

Writing in The National Catholic ReporterKen Briggs was decidedly more skeptical about the pope’s comments:

Ken Briggs

Ken Briggs

“If he didn’t mean to suggest a new Catholic teaching on homosexuality, should he have plainly said so? Would that have been in keeping with his image in some quarters as being bluntly honest? Or does he believe that a little dose of mixed signals is justified in order to ease the bitterness that has been swirling around the issue? . . .

“It’s too early in the papacy to know for sure, but worth noting perhaps that the same patina of double speak characterizes the major issues Francis addresses. Is he the “repair the crisis” pope who sees his mission as reviving church spirits before unloading some concrete, contentious re-designs, or a public relations pope whose effort is to recast the profile of Catholicism without following through on vague suggestions that things will substantially change? . . .

“A lot of what the appealing and intriguing pope said could be seen as a plea to keep young people — any Catholics — from crossing the street to the Pentecostal churches known for their warm embrace, empowering of lay people and live-wire worship. While genuine ecumenism is out of fashion and was nowhere to be seen, neither did the pope directly bash the Pentecostal rivals. But the signs of distress over massive defections could be heard in his urgent appeals to wavering Catholics to ‘stay home.’ On that there was no ambiguity.”

Writing personally, William Lindsey, who blogs at Bilgrimage.blogspot.comfelt that the pope’s words did not make up for the years of pain inflicted by church leaders:

“. . . I’m critically aware that for many Catholics, including many LGBT Catholics, the conversation about these matters has now moved light-years beyond the question of whether “homosexuals” . . . . should be included, welcomed, and treated with respect. And so I wonder how we can have a meaningful and honest conversation about these matters, if we pick up this conversation at the point of the pope’s comments and don’t acknowledge what many Catholics have been saying and thinking about these matters for a long time now.
“And there’s also this: for many of us, the actual experience of dealing with fellow Catholics and Catholic leaders who have been intent–quite precisely–for decades now on judging and marginalizing us solely because we’re gay results in a kind of deafness that makes us unable to hear Francis’s liberating, gospel-centered words with much hope or joy at all. Because we’re now so beaten up from our encounter with our church, its leaders, and many of our fellow Catholics, that we’re inured to hopelessness.
“Scars stand between us and our ability to receive a loving embrace from the community that has created those scars across our human lives. Scars cover our ears and make us unable to hear a liberating, hopeful, and joyful message from the community that has created those scars.”

Terence Weldon, at QueeringTheChurch.comnotes that Francis is providing an emphasis that is much needed in church discussions on LGBT issues:

Terence Weldon

Terence Weldon

“Today, he has delivered some thoughts which are more explicitly favourable, insisting that gays should be integrated into society, must not be marginalized or discriminated against, and should be welcomed into the priesthood.  Welcome words indeed. There is in fact absolutely nothing new in this – it’s all absolutely standard, orthodox Catholic doctrine, which contains two parts. There is a compassionate side, directing that we should be treated with respect, compassion and sensitivity, and protected from unjust discrimination, and from violence or malice, in words or in deeds. Then there’s the harsh side, denying absolutely any hope of physical expression of our loves in genital acts. The problem has been that many bishops, and the previous two popes, have ignored or directly flouted the compassionate parts of teaching, focusing exclusively on the harshest bits. Francis is not in any way signalling a shift in actual teaching – but he is introducing some sorely needed balance. That alone is welcome.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Belgian Cardinal and Archbishop Support Civil Unions

June 24, 2013

As we wait here in the United States for our Supreme Court to weigh in on two marriage equality cases this week,  news from across the Atlantic about Catholic support gay and lesbian couples is positive.

Cardinal Godfried Daneels

Cardinal Godfried Daneels

A Belgian archbishop and cardinal have both joined the growing list of senior Catholic Church officials who are now supporting civil unions for same-gender committed couples.  London’s Tablet magazine reported this month:

“Two of the most senior Belgian clerics have voiced support for civil unions, but said the Church would not see such a partnership as a marriage, which they said was only between a man and a woman.

“Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard, Archbishop of Brussels, made his comments through his spokesman in response to an interview by the Belgian newspaper De Tijd with his successor, Cardinal Godfried Danneels.

“In an interview to mark his 80th birthday, the cardinal told the paper it was good that states were making reforms to normalise same-sex relationships, saying it showed ‘more nuanced thinking about the person in their totality rather than being fixated on the moral principle.’ He said the recognition of gay relationships was a legal matter and not one for the Church to comment on, even though they could not constitute real marriage.

Danneels said the Church had evolved in its understanding of homosexuals.

Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard

Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard

What is significant here is not just their support, but, more importantly, Cardinal Daneels’ reasoning behind his support.  The fact that he wants a more nuanced approach to gay and lesbian relationships, and that he sees this as an issue affecting the entire person, not just sexual activity, are major steps forward for the way a Catholic leader has described this matter.

QueeringTheChurch.com’s Terence Weldon, intrepid gay Catholic blogger in the United Kingdom, cites additional information about Cardinal Daneels’ support, gleaned from an Italian news source,Chiesa Expressso.  Their account points out that Daneels’ statement is a significant departure from a 2003 Vatican statement from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) which repudiated any support for marriage or civil unions for lesbian and gay people:

“Ten years have passed since the publication of that document by the Ratzingerian CDF under the pontificate of Karol Wojtyla. But the contents of the ‘considerations’ cited above seem by now to belong to another ecclesial era.

“One faithful mirror of this new course are the declarations released to the press by Cardinal Godfried Danneels, archbishop emeritus of Mechelen-Brussels, on the eve of his eightieth birthday on June 4.

“The Belgian cardinal – who without hypocrisy did not conceal his disappointment at the election of Benedict XVI at the conclave of 2005, and this year was one of the main electors of Pope Francis – stated that the Church ‘has never opposed the fact that there should exist a sort of “marriage” between homosexuals, but one therefore speaks of a “sort of’ marriage, not of true marriage between a man and a woman, therefore another word must be found for the dictionary.” ‘

“And he concluded:

” ‘About the fact that this should be legal, that it should be made legitimate through a law, about this the Church has nothing to say.’

“The Belgian newspaper ‘Le Soir,’ in reporting the words of Danneels, added that ‘the position of the cardinal is shared by Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard,” his successor as archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels. The newspaper does not provide the evidence for this agreement, which in fact has been denied by Léonard’s spokesman. But there is no doubt that Danneels has effectively said, with the frankness that distinguishes him, what other cardinals and prelates have said in recent months.”

Additional quotations from Cardinal Daneels on the issue of civil unions can be found at the Gay Mystics blog.

Weldon has a very comprehensive list of all of the recent support for civil unions by senior church leaders, which can be found here.

As we have stated before, this recent development shows that Catholic leaders are in fact, if slowly, responding to the growing support that the Catholic laity are exhibiting for supporting committed gay and lesbian relationships.  May this development continue, and may the leaders continue to follow!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 


Author Behind Book on the Life of a Gay Catholic Priest ‘Comes Out’

May 21, 2013

Fr. Gary Meier

Readers of the book Hidden Voices: Reflections of a Gay, Catholic Priest knew the 2011 work’s author only as “Anonymous” until last week. Fr. Gary Meier has come out as the author of the book, which is being re-released to include his name.

Hidden Voices is introduced with an explanation of why the author published it in 2011:

“This book is for all those who are being or have been driven away. And that’s not just the gay population; it’s all of those who have accepted a member of their family, all of those who have allied as friends.”

In U.S. Catholic, Fr. Meier spoke about his decision to now go public as a gay priest:

“‘It has been difficult to remain part of a hierarchy that has been so hostile towards homosexuals in recent years… Our church once stood for and represented the radical nature of God’s love for all people. That is not the true today – especially towards the LGBT community – and therefore I feel compelled to stand in solidarity with those Catholics who have lost their jobs, have been denied the sacraments, have been excommunicated or who have been made to feel “less than” by their church leaders because of who they love.’”

Fr. Meier is a priest in the Archdiocese of St. Louis, which responded ambiguously in a statement after the priest’s gay and literary identity was made public. The statement called on Fr. Meier to become an example for those who “struggle” with “same-sex attraction.” U.S. Catholic notes this limited acceptance might change as the story spreads:

“Regardless of what the archdiocese says, the floodgates are likely to open and Meier will undoubtedly receive some harsh criticism from many in the church. Some will probably call for him to be dismissed from the priesthood or banned from public ministry.”

Terence Weldon at Queering the Church helpfully sets Fr. Meier’s coming out within the broader context of gay Catholic priests today, and he addresses the archdiocese’s urging for him to be a ‘model’:

“In the Catholic Church, there is likewise a high proportion of gay priests…a slowly increasing trickle of priests are coming out, acknowledging their orientation, and publicly identifying as gay – but also insisting on their celibacy…The number of Catholic priests who have come out publicly is still minute – but very many more have at least begun  the process. Many of them will continue, taking it further. In years to come, openly gay priests will not be anywhere near as rare as they are today…

“In the Catholic Church, the orthodox teaching is crystal clear that to be homosexual is entirely natural and not in any way sinful – but this message is often obscured, so that young people do not receive it, experiencing instead only the perception of outright rejection. What better way can there be, to demonstrate emphatically that gay people truly are welcome in the Church than to have one of us at the altar, as celebrant?…

“The more that priests like Fr Meier, and other gay and lesbian Catholics, can come out and demonstrate the value for ourselves in obeying the Catechism, and integrating our sexuality into our personalities, the easier it will be for younger people who grappling with these issues to deal with them.”

For his part, Fr. Meier looks forward hopefully with the release of Hidden Voices ascribed to him, which he admits on his personal website is uncharted territory:

“I am not sure where exactly any of this will lead. It is a huge leap of faith and to be perfectly honest with you, very frightening. I know that while many will celebrate and be grateful for this publication, others will be angry and upset and feel as if I am betraying the church. I have no such intention. I am just a man trying to live a life of integrity and speak the truth that God has given me to speak.”

To hear more from Fr. Meier himself, views this YouTube video from Rising Voices:

New Ways Ministry applauds Fr. Gary Meier for his courage in writing Hidden Voices and coming out now as an openly gay Catholic priest, and we send our prayers as this leap of faith begins to unfold further.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Minnesota Becomes 12th US State with Equal Marriage Laws

May 14, 2013

Marriage Equality Advocates Celebrate in the Minnesota State House

Minnesota becomes the 12th state in the US to adopt marriage equality into law today, just six months after voters defeated a constitutional amendment to define marriage heterosexually. In both campaigns, Catholic advocates and opponents played a central role in shaping the marriage equality conversation.

After a successful House vote last week, the Senate voted 37-30 yesterday to pass the bill. Legislators now send the bill to Governor Mark Dayton who is expected to sign it this afternoon. The New York Times reports on the victory, and turnaround, in Minnesota:

“In a way, Monday’s vote was a startling shift in the conversation in this state. For much of 2012, Minnesotans had been debating an amendment to the state Constitution that would have done the opposite — define marriage as between a man and a woman…Minnesotans in November rejected the amendment and sent majorities of Democrats to both chambers of the State Legislature, setting off an intense new push to legalize same-sex marriage.

“‘That whole constitutional amendment backfired on them,’ Amy Britain, 46, said Monday…She said it proved that Minnesotans, like many Americans, had changed their views on marriage.”

At Queering the Church, Terence Weldon notes the importance of Catholic efforts by Minnesotans involved in the struggle:

“This is not new: Catholics have been prominent in marriage victories elsewhere, as have other faith groups…But it is true that for a long time, it appeared that church groups were overwhelmingly opposed, and only fairly recently has faith–based support become reasonably widespread. Minnesota, I suspect, is one example where the religious support has been particularly telling…

“I’m not going to even attempt to offer a run-down of all the people and groups who have contributed, or how. But for some indication of just how much there has been, cross to yesterday’s post at The Wild Reed, ‘Drawing the Circle Wide‘, written in anticipation of today’s success and giving an extensive list of some of those people, with pictures, whose hard work has now paid off. Then cross to today’s post at Sensus Fidelium, ‘It’ll be legal by August 1st‘, where you can read more about the legwork done by Catholics for Marriage Equality MN…”

Leading up to the 2012 elections, marriage equality advocates fought fiercely to defeat an anti-gay amendment being voted on while the Catholic hierarchy spoke and spent heavily to write discrimination into law. Today, once the governor signs marriage equality into law, all Minnesotans will be able to marry while religious liberty protections remain in place.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Vatican Shift on Civil Unions Is Result of a Prophetic Laity

May 1, 2013

Fr. Frederico Lombardi

Recent comments by a Vatican spokesperson are prompting many LGBT Catholic advocates to cautiously believe Rome is endorsing civil unions for same-gender couples, and some posit this shifting position is a result of lay pressure which could have concrete benefits.

According to Queering the Church, Jesuit Fr. Frederico Lombardi, the Vatican’s spokeperson, endorsed civil unions while speaking about the passage of marriage equality in France last week. Translations differ, as the original source for his comments is in Italian, but Terence Weldon provides this:

“[When] we then asked him for his evaluation of the final parliamentary approval by the French National Assembly of the anthropological revolution in the family sphere, Father Lombardi said ‘it is a good thing for a child to know it has a father and a mother’: one has to ‘clearly show that marriage between one/a man and one/a woman is a fundamental institution in the history of mankind. This does not mean that one cannot recognise in some way other forms of union between two persons.’”

The implications of Fr. Lombardi’s comments could be wide-ranging, although Weldon and others urge caution, given how heavily qualified these remarks are. Weldon continues:

“Irrespective though, of this particular incident, it is clear that change is in the air. Fr Lombardi is of course not a bishop, but he is the official spokesman for the pope, and highly respected for the skill with which he conducts his task…His response to the question will be widely interpreted as reflecting the thinking of Pope Francis himself, and will encourage many more bishops who up to now have been supportive but unwilling to speak out publicly, to do so…

“Compared with the secular shift [towards full marriage equality], Catholic bishops’ thinking has been excruciatingly slow – but compared with its usual reluctance to adapt, this shift has been equally remarkable – and once again, is a response to changes in the real world political balance.”

Francis DeBernardo and Jeannine Gramick in Seattle.

Francis DeBernardo and Jeannine Gramick

Writing for the Equally Blessed coalition, Francis DeBernardo and Sr. Jeannine Gramick of New Ways Ministry conclude all this glacial change is a result of lay leadership moving the church forward. In a piece in The Huffington Post,they recall that only a decade ago, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger declared there could be no legal recognition of same-gender couples. DeBernardo and Gramick continue:

“Faced with mounting evidence that the hierarchy is rapidly losing influence..some leading bishops are seeking to soften the hard line that Benedict XVI drew when he was still Cardinal Ratzinger. Their argument…is that marriage, even civil marriage, must be defined as a relationship between one man and one woman, but that legal recognition of same-sex relationships is permissible or even desirable…

“Reform-minded Catholics are often told that the church is not a democracy. In the conventional political sense, that may be true. But the church ministers in democracies. And in country after country, Catholic voters have gone to the polls, ignored the often heavy-handed lobbying of their bishops, and voted in favor of marriage equality, or legislators who support marriage equality. They are changing the teachings of the church by changing the culture in which the church functions…

“The choice before our bishops now is whether to continue a divisive battle that will only diminish their own authority, or to follow where the laity has led.”

The implication of a softening approach to legal recognition of same-gender couples by the Vatican, and trickling down through the world’s bishops, could have concrete policy implications:

“If the pope adopted the position espoused by Schönborn and others, the Catholic hierarchy would have no reason to oppose including the same-sex partners of U. S. citizens among those who could be granted citizenship under the immigration bill about to come before the U. S. Senate. The hierarchy could support or remain neutral on legislation that extends to gay and lesbian couples legal protections and benefits that they are now denied in most states in this country. It could speak in less vitriolic terms about same-sex couples and their families, as the bishops of England and Wales did recently in acknowledging “that many same-sex couples raise children in loving and caring homes.”

Fr. Lombardi’s comments fit within an atmosphere of Catholic prelates endorsing civil unions, but how widespread and sustained this support will be remains an open question.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


London’s Archbishop Welcomes LGBT Community to a New Pastoral Home

March 7, 2013

soho MassesAt the beginning of January, Bondings 2.0 reported on London’s Soho Masses for the LGBT community being transferred to a new location and operated under a different model of pastoral ministry.  That story made headlines because the Soho Masses were a pastoral accommodation made by Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster, but had also been the subject of some criticism by conservative Catholics, reaching to the Vatican.

This past Sunday, the Soho Masses community moved to their new location at the Jesuit-run Immaculate Conception parish, Farm Street, in the Mayfair section of London.  In the new model of ministry, the LGBT community will not have a separate Mass, but will attend the Sunday evening Mass of the parish with the rest of the worshiping community.  Additionally, the Soho Masses Pastoral Council will work with the parish to expand outreach and ministerial programs to the LGBT community of London.

The new model of ministry got off to a good start, with a noteworthy visit from Archbishop Nichols himself to welcome the community. The Independent newspaper reports:

“In a remarkable gesture of goodwill, the Archbishop of Westminster made a private address to the united congregation after yesterday’s service – the first time a senior figure in the Roman Catholic church has formally engaged with the LGBT community.”

Archbishop Vincent Nichols

Archbishop Vincent Nichols

When the change had been announced, there had been some suggestion that Archbishop Nichols was forced by the Vatican to try to close down the pastoral outreach.  His presence at the first Mass to welcome the community shows that he is firmly committed to making the church a welcoming place for LGBT people.  His gesture shows how pastoral leaders can help to ease any discomfort that a change may entail, and it also stands as an example to the rest of the faith community about the importance of welcoming LGBT people.

The leadership of the Soho Masses Pastoral Council are excited about the new opportunity for community and ministry, while realizing that the transition may be difficult for some.  The Independent carried the comments of one leader:

“Despite a sense of betrayal in the LGBT Catholic community, some churchgoers, including Soho Masses Pastoral Council member Mark Dowd, were hopeful about what an integrated service would mean:

” ‘I’m excited because a lot of Catholics still don’t know any gay men or lesbians… This is a chance to make our face known and become formally part of the community,’ he said yesterday. ‘In a perfect world none of us would describe or define ourselves by our sexual orientation… there wouldn’t be a need for a special designated space. But it’s not a perfect world.’ “

Dowd also commented on the significance of Nichols’ pastoral visit to the first Mass:

“There are those critics of Vincent Nichols who would say that he is not on the progressive side of the argument, but to sit down and actually acknowledge the existence of our community has to be something.”

Here in the U.S., LGBT Catholics have sought such opportunities for many years, with few opportunities to dialogue with a bishop.

Catholic blogger Terence Weldon, at QueeringTheChurch.com, attended the first Mass and described the positive atmosphere of the event, as well as his hopes for the future:

“Tonight (Sunday 3rd March) I went up to London for the first Mass of the integration of the Soho Masses Community into the Farm Street parish of the Church of the Immaculate Conception – and came home more confident than ever that this transition will work out to our advantage. There will be short-term disappointments and teething problems, but these will be dealt with in time. In the longer run, we will benefit from the improved physical space, the greater resources of the Parish and the Mount Street Jesuit Centre for growth in faith and spirituality, and for opportunities to grow as part of a wider community – simultaneously influencing and learning from them.”

Weldon’s post describes the event in full, and he also corrects some of the inaccuracies of a press report of the event.  You can read his entire comments here and here.  If you want more information on this topic, they are an excellent resource.

Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde

One final note about the new parish location.  This is the same parish which rejected Oscar Wilde as a parishioner back in the 1890s after he completed his prison sentence on “gross indecency” and sodomy charges.   Reconciliation can happen on all levels, even the historical one.   In an International Businss Times  article, Dowd commented on the historical significance of the parish:

“Oscar Wilde was turned away; they didn’t want to be associated with him. Now the Jesuits are saying: ‘It’s OK, it’s fine.’ “

We pray the Soho Masses community receive every blessing as they settle into their new pastoral home.  We pray, too, that similar models of ministry here in the U.S. be accorded the pastoral support that Archbishop Nichols has demonstrated.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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