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

 

 


How Did Catholics Fare in Pew Survey on LGBT People and Religion?

June 19, 2013

cross and gender symbolsThe Pew Research Center released a report last week about a survey they conducted of LGBT people in the United States, including their participation and attitudes toward religious institutions.  The major finding, which grabbed the headlines, is that LGBT people find religious institutions unfriendly towards themselves, and many are alienated from these organizations.

A Religion News Service article which appeared on The Washington Post’s “On Faith” blog highlighted the following findings:

“Gay Americans are much less religious than the general U.S. population, and about three in 10 of them say they have felt unwelcome in a house of worship, a new study shows.

“The Pew Research Center’s study, released Thursday (June 13), details how gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans view many of the country’s prominent faiths: in a word, unfriendly.

“The vast majority said Islam (84 percent); the Mormon church (83 percent); the Roman Catholic Church (79 percent); and evangelical churches (73 percent) were unfriendly. Jews and nonevangelical Protestants drew a more mixed reaction, with more than 40 percent considering them either unfriendly or neutral about gays and lesbians.”
Marianne Duddy-Burke

Marianne Duddy-Burke

Those statistics are not very good for Catholics.  It shows that we have a terrible image problem in terms of how LGBT people perceive us.  Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, in a HuffingtonPost blog noted the difficult challenge that this presents our church:

“The Pew Survey should serve as a wake-up call to Catholics — not only those supportive of LGBT equality but all those who in conscience disagree with the bishops on a broad range of issues related to gender and sexuality, from women’s ordination to birth control. We need to grapple with the fact that our bishops are defining Catholicism in a way that is directly opposed to what most Catholics believe and want our church to be. We have a worse brand-identity issue than J.C. Penney!”
The Washington Post story offered the perspective or Ross Murray, director of faith and news initiatives at GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) who suggested a reason for the negative attitudes LGBT people have of religion:
Ross Murray

Ross Murray

“[Ross Murray] thinks the sense of unfriendliness comes in part from the loudest voices of faith speaking through an anti-gay frame. Religious groups that support gays and lesbians, as a GLAAD study found last year, get far less media attention.

“ ‘The leading anti-gay voices always put it in religious terms, which taints how people view religion,’ Murray said.”

The statistics for how unwelcome LGBT people feel by religious institutions are staggering.  The Washington Post article states:

“Almost 50 percent of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender adults say they have no religious affiliation, compared to 20 percent of the general population. One-third of religiously affiliated gay and lesbian adults say there is a conflict between their faith beliefs and their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

And for Catholic LGBT people, a super-majority of them feel unwelcome.  The Deseret News reports:

“Among LGBT Catholics, two-thirds (66 percent) say the Catholic Church is unfriendly toward them. . .”

Clearly, religious people have their work cut out for them if they want to make sure that LGBT people feel welcome in their communities.  Duddy-Burke offered some suggestions:

“There are many options for Catholics troubled by the findings of the recent Pew survey. Most effective would be ensuring that anytime a church leader says something untrue, unkind or unwarranted about LGBT people; fires someone due to sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, or an expression of support for LGBT people; or takes a position on a public matter that upholds institutional discrimination, call him out on it. Let him and others know that he is speaking only for a minority of Catholics.

“If you know LGBT people in your parish or faith community, tell them you’re glad for their presence and gifts. Ask if they find the community supportive, or if they find anything that happens there discomforting. If a priest delivers an anti-gay message, let him know you find it problematic, given Jesus’ model of broad inclusion.”

Is there any good news in this survey?  There might be one small glimmer for Catholics.  The Huffington Post news story about the survey cited some interesting data comparing church affiliation of LGBT people to the church affiliation of the general adult population.    14% of LGBT people identify as Catholics, while 22% of the general population do.  That means that the discrepancy between LGBT Catholics and general population Catholics is only 8%, which is not anywhere near the discrepancy for Protestants generally (27 % of LGBT people identify as Protestants, compared to 49% in the general population.)

This statistic is cold comfort, however, when we realize how many LGBT Catholics feel alienated from their church and how many LGBT people view Catholicism negatively.  I think the reason we have a smaller discrepancy has to do more with the loyalty that LGBT Catholics feel toward their church, rather than anything positive that the church is doing for them.

GLAAD’s Murray also offered some hope for the future by noting in The Huffington Post:

“I think that relationship is going to mend, but it will happen slowly … I hope that inclusive faith communities are able to get their message out even better, so that there can be better trust between LGBT people and religion.”

At New Ways Ministry, we see the relationship between LGBT people and the Catholic church developing every time we add a new parish to our gay-friendly parish list or a new campus to our gay-friendly Catholic college list.  But the Pew Report reminds us how much work we still have ahead of us.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Survey Shows Catholic Nations Strongly Support LGBT People

June 8, 2013

In the United States, the general population has been growing accustomed to realizing that Catholics are strongly supportive of LGBT justice and equality.  Poll after poll keeps showing that Catholics lead all Christian denominations in their support for issues like marriage equality.

Therefore, it should come as little surprise to find out that, according to a new survey of 39 nations by the Pew Research Center, when one looks at the global picture of LGBT acceptance, one finds that traditionally Catholic countries stand out as far more accepting than other nations.   What’s more, the United States is not the leader in global acceptance of LGBT people.

Washington Post news article highlighted some of the relevant statistics along these lines:

“The broadest acceptance was found in countries where religion is not central to life, such as Canada (80 percent), France (77 percent) and Australia (79 percent). Yet the poll also found high levels of tolerance toward gay people in some heavily Catholic countries, including Spain (86 percent), Italy (74 percent), Argentina (74 percent) and the Philippines (73 percent). In the United States, 60 percent of the public said gay people should be accepted in society.”

The United States, in contrast, had only a 60 percent rate of acceptance.

Gary Gates, a demographer at The Williams Institute, which tracks LGBT issues in surveys, gave one explanation of why strongly religious nations may be more accepting:

“There are cultures where religion is a very, very important factor, as a regular part of daily life. In those countries, it’s harder to distinguish what’s religious and what’s culture. But in other countries, like Italy or Spain, the culture has always had a live-and-let-live dimension to it. Even with a very strong religious presence, you see that kind of attitude coming out.”

Results for factors other than religion tended to mirror the trends seen in the United States.  The Washington Post reported:

“As in the United States, age was a factor. The Pew study said those younger than 30 are more accepting of homosexuals in society than people who are 30 to 49. Both groups are more likely to express tolerance of gays than people 50 or older.

“The Pew poll generally found little difference in attitudes held by men and women in any given country. But in countries where there is a difference, women are more accepting of homosexuality than men are, Pew said.”

BusinessInsider.com reported that other than religion, high national income levels also tended to be a strong predictor of acceptance:

“Roughly, an increase in GDP [gross domestic product] of $620 is good for one percentage point more people agreeing with the statement ‘homosexuality should be accepted by society.’ “

BusinessInsider.com  noted that one of the important exceptions to this rule was the Philippines:

“The biggest outperformer on acceptance is the Philippines, again heavily Catholic, where Pew finds levels of acceptance comparable to western Europe despite per capita GDP of less than $5,000.”

The Washington Post said that the new study’s results were corroborated by a similar earlier study:

“A smaller study, conducted in 2011 by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, found support for homosexual behavior growing in 27 of 31 countries. The highest level of acceptance was in northern Europe, while disapproval remained strong in Russia and several other Eastern European countries that used to be part of the Soviet Union.”

It seems that the news of acceptance across the globe just keeps getting better and better, especially where Catholics are concerned!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Catholic Bishops Should Go At Least As Far As Mormons Have on Gay Scouting Policy

May 24, 2013

boy scouts rainbowCongratulations to the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) for voting to allow openly gay scouts in their troops!  Let’s continue to pray that this experience will pave the way for also allowing openly gay scout leaders to be accepted by the organization.  The same Catholic principles of justice and human dignity apply in both cases.

So far there has been no official Catholic response to the Boy Scouts’ decision.  Last week, the National Catholic Committee on Scouting (NCCS) said that it was taking a wait and see approach to the decision, and would issue a statement after the vote.  Bishop Robert Guglielmone, the U.S. bishops’  liaison to the NCCS offered a more hopeful statement this week, noting:

“With regard to a possible BSA membership change, we will continue to uphold the truths of the Church’s teaching and strive to maintain our ties with the BSA.”

Noted Catholic author Father James Martin, SJ, posted the following reaction on his Facebook page:

“As a former Cub Scout and Webelo I support the Boy Scouts’ welcoming everyone into the Scouts. As a Catholic I support the recognition of the fundamental human dignity of every person..”

Interestingly, the conservative Mormon church had already expressed support for including gay scouts, even before the vote.  According to The New York Times,

“The Mormon Church has declared its support for the Boy Scouts of America’s proposal to end a longstanding ban on openly gay youths, while continuing to bar gay adult leaders.”

The Times story links to the Mormon Church’s statement in support of gay scouts, which reads in part:

“The current BSA proposal constructively addresses a number of important issues that have been part of the on-going dialogue including consistent standards for all BSA partners, recognition that Scouting exists to serve and benefit youth rather than Scout leaders, a single standard of moral purity for youth in the program, and a renewed emphasis for Scouts to honor their duty to God.

“We are grateful to BSA for their careful consideration of these issues. We appreciate the positive things contained in this current proposal that will help build and strengthen the moral character and leadership skills of youth as we work together in the future.”

According to USA Today:

“About 70% of all Scout troops are run by faith-based organizations, according to the Boy Scouts of America. About 37% are Mormon, 10% Methodist and 8% Catholic.”

Kevin Kloosterman, a Mormon bishop from Illinois, reflected on his church’s support of inclusion:

“I look forward to a day when our LGBT sisters and brothers will be judged not by orientation or gender identity but on the content of their character.  We still have not come to that day yet, but I do see progress.  I hope my faith community and the BSA will continue to make progress towards inclusion and acceptance of our gay neighbors and loved ones, and that scouting will return to its honored tradition of developing leadership and values in all of our youth and the ban against gay leaders will be lifted.”

Wouldn’t it be great if our Catholic bishops followed the same course as the Mormons, not only tolerating the Boy Scouts’ decision, but welcoming it, and look forward to the day when Gospel justice is an active principle for all in society, including gay Boy Scouts’ leaders.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 


Why the U.S. Catholic Bishops Should Support Gay Boy Scouts

May 23, 2013

boy scouts 1Delegates at a national Boy Scouts of America (BSA) meeting will vote today on whether local troops may allow gay scouts.  The issue is controversial in the Catholic community, which serves as the third largest host of all scout troops nationwide, with some people using their faith to urge inclusion and some using faith to urge exclusion.

Though the National Catholic Committee on Scouting (NCCS) issued a neutral statement on the topic last week, this week a more positive statement was issued.  Bishop Robert Guglielmone, of Charleston, South Carolina, who is the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ liaison to the NCCS, made public a letter about the topic in which he stated:

“With regard to a possible BSA membership change, we will continue to uphold the truths of the Church’s teaching and strive to maintain our ties with the BSA.”

He also stated:

‘The Catholic Church in the United States has enjoyed a long and fruitful relationship with the BSA, and I hope that relationship can continue.”

Richard Galliardetz

Richard Galliardetz

A passionate plea for a gay-inclusive policy came from Catholic theologian Richard Galliardetz, in a National Catholic Reporter commentary this week.   Galliardetz, the father of four scouting sons offered personal experience of the discriminatory exclusionary policy the Scouts currently employ:

“My own family has been deeply involved in scouting for years. I have four sons, three of whom are Eagle Scouts and the fourth soon will be. My son Andrew is not only an Eagle Scout; he served as senior patrol leader of his Catholic troop. He also spent three summers as a leader at a Boy Scout summer camp where he shared responsibility for the daily operation of the camp. Because of his reputation for relating well to the younger scouts, whenever boys became homesick or there was a disciplinary issue, more often than not they were sent to Andrew for counseling and support. Unfortunately, because of current Boy Scout policy, that is a role he can no longer play. During his freshman year of college Andrew publicly acknowledged his same-sex orientation and was therefore no longer allowed to serve as a scout leader.”

Galliardetz argues for inclusion based on Catholic principles:

“The official position of the Boy Scouts of America is irreconcilable with the Catholic teaching on the dignity of gay and lesbian persons and its careful distinction between sexual orientation and sexual behavior. Allowing gay youth to join the Boy Scouts and allowing gay and lesbian adults to serve as leaders is not condoning homosexual behavior; it is a matter of recognizing the fundamental dignity of gays and lesbians and their right not to be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation. Catholic teaching insists, as [Cardinal] Dolan reiterated, that homosexual persons are created in the image and likeness of God and are deserving of our love and respect.”

What is needed, he argues, is for Catholic bishops to speak out for an inclusive policy:

‘The Boy Scouts of America are in the midst of a reconsideration of their longstanding opposition to gays as scouts and scout leaders. Consequently, a public statement by Catholic bishops supporting a change in scouting policy would go a long way toward demonstrating that church teaching does not justify discrimination against gays and lesbians.’

Galliardetz is right.  A statement from the Catholic bishops supporting inclusion would be very powerful.  Moreover it would be an example of finally putting some action behind their oft-stated anthem that they care about the dignity of lesbian and gay people, and oppose unjust discrimination in their regard.  Though they often employ that statement, without any real enactment of it, it ends up sounding like an empty line.

Let’s keep the delegates to the Boy Scouts’ meeting in our prayers today, and let’s hope that they act for dignity, respect, and inclusion.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Archbishop and Columnist Speak Out Against Pro-LGBT Immigration Law

May 16, 2013
Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone

Two recent items about immigration reform from prominent Catholics–one an archbishop and one a columnist for The National Catholic Reporter–merit some commentary.

San Francisco’s Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone spoke out in favor of the immigration reform bill, which would allow immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally a path to a green card and citizenship.  However, he also spoke out against an addition to that bill which would allow members of same-sex couples to legally sponsor their foreign partners for entrance into the U.S.

Speaking at a press conference at Mission Dolores this week, Cordileone’s statements seemed somewhat contradictory.  According to KCBS-TV,  he offered his support of the bill by stating:

“One concern for us is to keep families together, so it fits in very highly with our overall priorities.”

Yet, later, in discussing the provision for same-sex partners, he stated:

“We couldn’t support something like that. We’re willing to debate the issue, but it should be debated on its own merits, not as a part of another issue where we’re actually beginning to attain some national unity.”

The contradiction lies in the fact that the provision for same-sex partners indeed fits very well with the archbishop’s concern for keeping families together.  The provision would keep all families together, not just those who have heterosexual partners in them.

Furthermore, Cordileone seems to want to extract the debate about legal recognition of same-gender partners from the social realities that such couples face.  His comment that legal recognition of partners should be “debated on its own merits”  misses the point entirely.  It is precisely for access to social goods such as residency and citizenship that advocates for marriage equality work.  The issues are not separate.  They are intimately intertwined.

MissionLocal.org also covered the press conference, and they quoted a different, but similar statement from Cordileone:

“ ‘It’s an unrelated issue,’ he said of same-sex partnerships. ‘Let’s just focus on immigration reform in this bill.’  If the bill failed because of a controversial same-sex partnership amendment, he added, ‘it would be a tragedy.’ ”

Again, Cordileone misses the point.  This bill should be about comprehensive immigration reform, not just immigration reform for heterosexual people.  And the real tragedy would be that a bill gets passed that doesn’t protect everyone.

Michael Sean Winters

Michael Sean Winters

Recently, Michael Sean Winters, a columnist for The National Catholic Reporter wrote about the politics of the immigration bill.  Winters supports the idea of including lesbian and gay couples in the bill in principle.  He even goes so far as to say:

“I wish that conservative Republicans and the religious groups backing immigration reform, including the USCCB, did not view the inclusion of same sex couples as a deal-breaker. I think they are wrong on the merits. . . “

But Winters ultimately feels that political reality necessitates excluding same-gender couples  this time around so that the bill can pass with less controversy.  His reasoning:

” . . . the Republicans in Congress, living as they do in gerrymandered districts, are probably right on the politics: Voting for immigration reform will be enough to earn some of them a primary challenge. Voting for immigration reform that includes back door recognition of same-sex marriage guarantees a primary challenger who will likely win. We can wish it were otherwise, but it isn’t. In addition to Hispanic Democrats, Republicans who are supportive of gay rights must also make the case to the gay rights lobby that immigration reform is tough enough already, and that this is not the issue on which to make a stand.”

Winters explains the reason why he doesn’t blame the Republicans, though:

“This is politics and if you don’t want to consider politics, you should not be in the game. Which is why my anger is not directed at the conservative Republicans. My anger is directed at the gay rights lobby. They are not being asked to abandon their cause or sacrifice their dignity. They are being asked for a bit of patience. Anyone can look at polling on the issue of same sex marriage and conclude that the issue will become a non-issue within a matter of years. There will be front door federal recognition of same sex marriage within my lifetime. I do not doubt it. But, when trying to get back door recognition of same sex marriage threatens to derail the best shot we have at immigration reform in years, shame on the gay rights lobby.”

So much wrong in this previous quotation.  For instance, doesn’t it seem like a big sacrifice of dignity to be forced to acquiesce in the wrong idea that one’s family commitment does not matter?  Is it true that they are only being asked for patience?  How long have same-gender couples already waited patiently?  And why does Winters characterize the inclusion of lesbian and gay couples in the bill as “back door recognition of same sex marriage” instead of what it truly is: a quest for justice and equality.

Winters also wants gay and lesbian people to wait on immigration reform because he sees them as a powerful lobby group who will eventually be able to get what they want:

“There was a time when gay rights groups had the moral stature of speaking for a group of people who were marginalized. Surely, today, in Washington, LGBT groups have political clout far beyond their numbers. . . . In Washington today, however, two days after the President of the United States called Jason Collins to compliment him on coming out of the closet, and overstays his press conference to praise Collins, well, the idea that gays lack clout is a bit far-fetched.”

I would love to ask Winters:  If you think that lesbian and gay people are so politically influential, then why are their political “friends” willing to sacrifice them in this immigration debate.  A truly powerful political lobby would never have to worry about such a thing happening.

Both Winters and Cordileone see lesbian and gay people as added baggage to this bill.  Were they to walk in the shoes of a same-sex couple who is separated by national boundaries and ignorant laws, they might think differently.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


El Salvador Hosts First National Conference on LGBT Human Rights

April 29, 2013

On Palm SundayBondings 2.0 promised a full report on the recently held first national conference on LGBT human rights in El Salvador.   New Ways Ministry’s Sister Jeannine Gramick, co-founder, and Francis DeBernardo, executive director, participated as speakers on faith issues.

This week, The National Catholic Reporter printed an essay by DeBernardo, reporting on his impressions of this historic meeting.  He begins by describing the mood at the event:

Nelson Pineda, a volunteer from Aspidh Arcoiris Trans de El Salvador, speaks with conference attendees in front of a memorial to trans women who have been murdered in El Salvador in the past decade. Aspidh Arcoiris is a Salvadoran non-profit organization that works primarily with transgender, transsexual and transvestite individuals in the areas of human rights and HIV prevention. (Courtesy of ALDES El Salvador)

Nelson Pineda, a volunteer from Aspidh Arcoiris Trans de El Salvador, speaks with conference attendees in front of a memorial to trans women who have been murdered in El Salvador in the past decade. Aspidh Arcoiris is a Salvadoran non-profit organization that works primarily with transgender, transsexual and transvestite individuals in the areas of human rights and HIV prevention. (Courtesy of ALDES El Salvador)

“On the day after the first Jesuit and the first Latin American was elected pope, I was fortunate to be on the University of Central America campus, a Jesuit school in El Salvador. The excitement on campus that day was electric and the student body was abuzz with energy.

“But the excitement was not about the new pope. That news seemed like an afterthought compared to the event beginning that day on campus.

Gathered in the school’s Segundo Montes, SJ, Auditorium (named for one of the six Salvadoran Jesuit martyrs assassinated at the school in 1989), some 350 people took part in El Salvador’s first national conference on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender human rights. The March 14-15 conference, “Felicidad y Diversidad Sexual como Derechos Humanos” (“Happiness and Sexual Diversity as Human Rights”), was sponsored by ALDES El Salvador (Asistencia Legal para la Diversidad Sexual de El Salvador). It brought together lawyers, legal scholars, politicians, faith leaders and LGBT advocates to move forward El Salvador’s burgeoning LGBT human rights movement. By the end of the second day, more than 1,000 people had participated in this meeting in San Salvador, the nation’s capital. My colleague, longtime Catholic LGBT advocate Loretto Sr. Jeannine Gramick, and I were part of the program, presenting the topic of “Faith Communities as Promoters of Human Rights.”

“That first morning, the atrium echoed with voices filled with enthusiasm to begin the two days of meetings. The registration line snaked around the reception area and the aisles in the auditorium were filled with people sitting on the steps. Strangers welcomed one another, eager to meet the people with whom they would be sharing this event. In Spanish and English, people greeted each other, not letting even language become a barrier to the camaraderie.”

The conference organization was a joint effort between U.S. and El Salvador personnel, and it was significant that it was being hosted by a Catholic campus:

“The conference was a joint effort between activists and legal specialists in the United States and El Salvador. Ana Montano, a Salvadoran woman who is an immigration and LGBT rights lawyer in San Francisco, was aided in conference preparation by John Marrin and Danielle Mackey, two organizers from the United States who live in El Salvador. Lawyers and legal scholars from both nations presented at the meeting, discussing ways that professionals in both countries could help one another.

“Though faith was only a small segment of the conference’s program, the participants were keenly aware that the nation’s leading Catholic university was hosting the event. Omar Serrano, the campus’ vice rector for social outreach, welcomed the conference, saying that it was “an honor” to host the program, and acknowledged that church institutions could do more for LGBT rights, including “asking forgiveness” for previous inaction. All attendees were keenly aware of how faith groups have helped to spread homophobia; being welcomed to a Catholic campus was an important positive sign that was not lost on the participants.”

DeBernardo describes the human rights situation for LGBT people  in El Salvador:

At a conference prayer service, Sister Jeannine Gramick lights candles in memory of LGBT people murdered in El Salvador.

At a conference prayer service, Sister Jeannine Gramick lights candles in memory of LGBT people murdered in El Salvador.

“The human rights situation for LGBT people in El Salvador is as bleak as it was in the United States 40 years ago. Violence, murder, ostracism and economic deprivation are all too common for those who choose to be public about their sexuality and gender identity. The ‘machismo’ factor in Latin culture augments the repression sexual minorities experience.

Because people are fearful of coming forward after a violation of their rights, cases do not get prosecuted, and statistics reflect this underreporting. That the atmosphere is still so repressive made the fact that the conference was happening all the more remarkable. And the courage of the presenters to discuss their work and personal stories publicly was all the more inspiring. An American participant told me, ‘People in El Salvador ‘come out’ at the risk of their own lives. In the U.S., we ‘come out’ at the risk of temporary hurt feelings.’ “

“Though the social atmosphere may seem to someone from the United States as if El Salvador were ‘behind the times,’ in some ways it is way ahead of its large and liberal Northern neighbor. For example, transgender issues were front and center at this conference, definitely a main part of the agenda. When I attend conferences in the U.S. on LGBT topics, transgender issues often feel like an afterthought. Similarly, intersex people (those born with genitalia and secondary characteristics of both genders) were also well-represented — something that I have seen only once at meetings in the U.S.”

And the conference ended on a joyful and optimistic note:

“By the end of the conference, Montano, the emcee, joyously announced that during the two days, the first Salvadoran lawyer agreeing to work on LGBT rights cases on a pro bono basis came forward — a necessity given the economic challenges of the populace. Montano was optimistic that this lawyer would be the first of many more. She was also optimistic about the future of the conference. Her words of farewell to participants: ‘Hasta el año próximo’ — ‘Until next year.’ “

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Catholic Leaders Should Oppose Violence, not Marriage Equality, in France

April 20, 2013

Though debates about marriage equality here in the United States can become quite heated at times, in France the discussion of this topic has inspired warnings about violence, threats of violence, and violence itself.

Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois

The latest episode in this regard has been the Archbishop Of Paris’ warning that if marriage equality becomes law,  society may erupt with violent protests.  According to a Reuters news report:

“Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois told a meeting of French bishops the planned marriage reform, which the government has speeded up amid mounting pressure from opponents, was a sign that society had lost its capacity to integrate different views. . . .

” ‘This is the way a violent society develops,’ he told the spring meeting of the French bishops’ conference. ‘Society has lost its capacity of integration and especially its ability to blend differences in a common project.’ “

Unfortunately, the cardinal’s argument contains something of a paradox.  While he complains about marriage equality causing a loss of integration and the blending of differences, he fails to realize that by not providing marriage for gay and lesbian couples, the nation already severely hampers integration and blending of differences.

On the secular side, a leader of the anti-marriage equality movement also warned of violence this week.  LGBTQNation reports that Frigide Barjot, a French comic who is a leader in the movement against marriage equality commented on the French Senate’s passage of the bill and the decision to now move the debate to the National Assembly:

“This is a disgrace. The French people don’t want this law, and what do they do? They speed up its passage. (French President Francois) Hollande wants blood, and he will get it. We live in a dictatorship. The President of the Republic has guillotined us.”

Such rhetoric only incites the already violent motivations of some protesters.  PinkNews.co.uk reports:

“On Wednesday thousands of protesters swarmed in Paris to voice their opposition to the bill, with some attacking cars and public property, and lashing out at police and journalists, reports France24.

“11 people from the protest were detained for questioning, while 24 pro-equal marriage counter-protesters were arrested, according to police.

During the night four men were detained after they attacked a gay bar in Lille, injuring the manager and causing property damage.

Similarly, LGBTQNation.com reports:

“Earlier in the week, gay rights activists pointed to last weekend’s attack on a gay couple in Paris as evidence of their claim that homophobic acts have tripled nationwide over opposition to the marriage equality law.

“Wilfred De Bruijn was beaten unconscious near his home early Sunday in central Paris, sustaining five fractures in his head and face, abrasions and a lost tooth.”

Catholic leaders in France would do better to forthrightly condemn such acts of violence, instead of simply warning that violence may be an outcome.  Warning about violence seems designed to inspire fear about the marriage equality bill, which the French bishops oppose.  But warning about possible future violence is a weak response if there is no condemnation of the violence which is already occurring during this debate.  Catholic leaders should be peacemakers, not fear-mongers.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Equal Marriage Rights Progress Around the World–Especially in Catholic Nations

April 16, 2013

As marriage equality legislation increases in the United States, there is also progress being made in several nations around the world, including notably Catholic ones. Bondings 2.0 provides brief updates on five nations that are moving towards greater LGBT rights, and we encourage readers to use the provided links for more information.

Uruguay

In this predominantly Catholic nation, 71 of 92 deputies in Congress voted for marriage equality sending the legislation to the pro-LGBT president, Jose Mujica, for his signature within weeks. BBC News reports that Uruguay becomes the second Latin American country to pass full marriage equality, after Argentina. In both cases institutional Catholic opposition was strong. Bondings 2.0 reported on the Uruguayan Senate’s passage of a similar bill last week. The legislation also allows for positive changes in same-gender adoption regulations.

Italy

A leading judiciary figure in Italy has called for equality in one of the final European nations without legal recognition for same-gender relationships, and one of the most Catholic. The Sacramento Bee reports on both the Italian judge’s statements and the Vatican’s stance on Italian law:

“President Franco Gallo said the Italian Constitutional Court has ‘ruled out the constitutional illegitimacy’ of laws limiting marriage to heterosexual couples.

“‘At the same time, the Court has stated that two people of the same sex still have the fundamental right to obtain legal recognition of their stable union, with attached rights and obligations,’ he said…

“In February, the Vatican’s top official on family matters, Monsignor Vincenzo Paglia, said: ‘gay marriage is one thing, and our position on that is well known, while discrimination is another matter.’

“‘Individual rights must be guaranteed’ through ‘private law,’ including for same-sex couples, Paglia said, referring to ‘patrimonial’ aspects. He stated that it was ‘time for lawmakers to worry’ about the issue.”

France

The French Senate passed legislation allowing same-gender marriages and extending adoption rights to lebian and gay couples. The National Assembly passed similar legislation in February. The debate over marriage equality in France inspired massive demonstrations and heated exchanges in the past year, reported here and here on Bondings 2.0. France is a historically Catholic nation, and it has been Catholic lay movements and French bishops leading opposition to LGBT rights. Bloomberg BusinessWeek provides further details, as France is now just months away from full marriage and adoption rights being passed.

Ireland

Members of a Constitutional Convention voted on April 14 in favor of a national referendum on equal marriage rights, with 78% seeking an amendment with language directly enacting same-gender marriage and another 17% for language that allows the government to do so. The Irish Times reports on the way forward as government officials take up the Convention’s recommendations:

“The Government was committed to holding a discussion on the report of the Constitutional Convention, [Minister for Justice Alan Shatter] said. ‘The issue of a constitutional referendum will thereafter be considered by Cabinet,’ he said. It was for the Cabinet to decide on the holding and the timing of the referendum, he added…

“The members of the Convention also voted yesterday in favour of recommending that the State pass laws ‘incorporating changed arrangements in regard to the parentage, guardianship and the upbringing of children’.

“’I think there would be a great deal of wisdom in that legislation being progressed and published before we go to a constitutional referendum,’ Mr Shatter told RTÉ today. The issue was omitted from the 2010 Act legalising civil partnership for same-sex couples, he said. Mr Shatter is due to publish details of a Family Relationships and Children’s Bill to address such issues in the coming months.”

Ireland is considered one the world’s most Catholic nations, and the bishops there have already threatened to cease issuing marriage licenses if marriage equality becomes legal. The next steps will be for the Irish government to take up the Convention’s recommendations and enact legislation, either for constitutional changes or changes in the law under existing constitutional strictures.

New Zealand

Legislators will expand same-gender rights in New Zealand, where civil unions currently exist, as a full equal marriage bill receives a final vote tomorrow. On Top Magazine reports:

“Big crowds are expected to be on hand to witness Labour MP Louisa Wall’s marriage equality member’s bill receive its third reading in Parliament.

“The measure received overwhelming approval at its committee stages last month. Wednesday’s final vote is considered a formality. Bills are rarely rejected at this stage…

“If the bill is approved, it is expected to take effect in August.”

As always, Bondings 2.0 will update our readers as progress for full LGBT rights proceeds in these nations and others. If you have not done so, use the ‘Follow’ box in the upper right hand corner of this page to receive daily email updates.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


NEWS NOTES: April 15, 2013

April 15, 2013

News NotesHere are some links to articles you may find of interest:

1) A federal court has supported a pregnant lesbian woman’s right to a trial after she was fired from her jobs at two Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati when it became known that she became pregnant by artificial insemination, reports the LGBT Bar Association of  Greater New York.

2) Scranton, Pennsylvania’s Bishop Joseph Bambera has criticized U.S. Senator Bob Casey, a member of his diocese, for reversing his position to support marriage equality and calling for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The York Daily Record reports that Casey “had decided over time that the Defense of Marriage Act – the federal law that defines marriage as one man and one woman – should be repealed, and determined that such a belief could not be separate from the overall question of gay marriage.”

3) Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George joined with African-American church leaders in his city to speak out against the “redefinition of marriage,” reports The Chicago Tribune.

4) Fr. Jose Nicholas Alessio, a priest of the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires, Argentina (Pope Francis’ former diocese) has been expelled from the priesthood for his continued support of marriage equality.  PinkNews.com reports that Fr. Alessio had been suspended in 2010, and had been offered an opportunity to retract his support, but he refused to do so.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


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