LGBT Advocates React to Election of Pope Francis

March 16, 2013
Bishop Thomas Gumbleton

Bishop Thomas Gumbleton

Seemingly everyone has posted their thoughts about Pope Francis since his election last Wednesday evening, discussing everything from his country of origin, how the conclave played out, and where he may lead the Church. Prominently featured in these discussions is the new pope’s previous views on Catholic LGBT issues, sparking reactions from relevant organizations and commentators. Bondings 2.0 provides a sampling below.

Outspoken LGBT advocate and New Ways Ministry friend, Bishop Thomas Gumbleton told the Detroit Free Press that Pope Francis seems promising:

“‘It sounds like to me he’ll be open to the dialogue. He seems to have rapport with the people in his diocese…It seems to be the right direction.’

“Gumbleton said Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio brings to mind the papacy of John XXIII, which ushered in the Second Vatican Council, modernizing Catholic services and promoting the use of more laypeople in parish life…

“’St. Francis tried to live the radical gospel view of Jesus — simplicity, poverty — and he didn’t want a hierarchy. All of those signs look very promising,’ he said.”

Professor Tina Beattie

Joshua McElwee at National Catholic Reporter provides insights from leading Catholic theologians across the world on the election, with many perceiving a willingness to listen to and respect the laity’s role in the Church. From Tina Beattie, a professor at the University of Roehampton:

“For me this morning, if this man remains as attentive as he has been to the voice of the poor, if he makes it a listening as well as a teaching Church, a Church of the people rather than of the Curia, then I for one will keep quietly cheering and thanking God.”

Fr. Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator

From Fr. Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator, a Jesuit provincial in East Africa and theologian, believes that this new papacy will be marked by a refocusing on the People of God and not just the pope as those responsible for the well-being and growth of the Church:

“I want to believe that considering the humble and down-to-earth background of Pope Francis I the church is in capable hands — not just the pope’s alone, but the hands of the entire people of God across the globe.

“Francis’s first gesture of asking the people to pray to God for him may signal the beginning of a more authentic and humble recognition of the priesthood of the people of God and the responsibility we all bear for the church of God in the world.”

Many organizations released statements as well in the wake of Pope Francis’ election, which were compiled by Windy City Times. DignityUSA released a statement by Executive Director Marianne Duddy-Burke expressing cautious encouragement given the cardinals’ choice:

Marianne Duddy-Burke

“‘We recognize that sometimes this new job on which he embarks can change the man called to it…We invite him to take the time to learn about our lives [of LGBT individuals, their loved ones, and families], our faith, and our families before he makes any papal pronouncements about us, and we stand ready to enter into dialogue with him at any time.’”

The Human Rights Campaign called for the new pope to join the existing reality of American Catholics’ efforts for LGBT equality:

“’We hope the new Pope understands the time for religious-based bigotry is not only over, but must be denounced. Demonizing LGBT people and their families from this powerful platform not only fails to keep faith…but it does real psychological damage to millions of LGBT people around the world.’”

Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director of New Ways Ministry, was quoted in The Baltimore Sun:

Francis DeBernardo

Francis DeBernardo

“[Francis DeBernardo] said in a statement that he hopes the change in the church’s leadership will bring about a change in approach. Many have left the church over its harsh rhetoric toward gays and lesbians…

“‘Pope Francis has the opportunity to repair much of this hurt and alienation by offering sincere pastoral outreach to LGBT people and their families,’ DeBernardo, who was traveling in El Salvador, said in a prepared statement. ‘A welcoming gesture from the new pope in the first month of his papacy can go a long way to express God’s love for all humanity.’”

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


British Theologian’s Lecture Is Cancelled Because of Marriage Equality Stand

September 13, 2012

A British theologian who was one of 27 Catholic signers of a letter supporting the freedom of Catholics to support marriage equality, which was published in The Times of London in August, has been disinvited to give a lecture at the Diocese of Clifton Cathedral in Bristol, England.

Tina Beattie

Professor Tina Beattie, who teaches theology  at the University of Roehampton, in London, was scheduled to be part of a lecture series on the legacy of Vatican II.  Her talk’s title was “Mary: Mother of God and a model of a pilgrim people – Lumen Gentium.”  (“Lumen Gentium” is Latin for “light of humanity,” and is the tile of Vatican II’s “Dogmatic Constitution on the Church.”) Beattie was scheduled to speak on September 18th.

According to London’s Catholic Herald newspaper, the diocese issued a statement explaining the decision, which, in part, said:

“In the light of the controversy over a recent letter which appeared in the Times, signed by Professor Beattie and 27 others, about proposals to extend marriage to same-sex partnerships, in discussion with Professor Beattie, Clifton Diocese has decided to cancel the lecture.”

In her response to the decision, Beattie was steadfast in her position about the freedom to support marriage equality, while at the same time, understanding of the diocese’s decision to cancel her talk:

“I was delighted and privileged to be asked to contribute to this distinguished series of lectures, and I was deeply saddened when the lecture was cancelled. However, I understand that this was a difficult and painful decision, and I accept the reasons for it.”

In regard to her signing the letter and her role as a theologian, Beattie said:

“As a result of my signing that letter, I understand that representations were made to Bishop Declan Lang of Clifton Diocese by various parties, which resulted in the cancellation of my lecture. While standing by the contents of the letter, I deeply regret any personal embarrassment I may have caused Bishop Declan. He is a wise and pastorally sensitive leader who has earned the respect of many of us in his diocese, and I hope that I shall be able to continue to contribute towards the educational life of the diocese as I have for many years.

“As an academic theologian and a practising Catholic I try to maintain a difficult but important balancing act – deeply rooted in the Catholic tradition – between upholding the revealed doctrinal truths which are part of the timeless and unchanging mystery of our faith, and entering into reasoned and informed debates about issues of morality, society and values which are contingent and capable of being adapted to different cultures and contexts. I do not believe that an informed theological contribution to issues of public interest is detrimental to the interests of the Church. On the contrary, I believe such debate bears witness to the theological vigour and social dynamism of Catholic Christianity, and allows us to draw on a long and rich intellectual tradition to play an active role in society today.”

She also cited the recently deceased Cardinal Martini, who in the last interview before his death, called for greater discussion in the church, particularly on sexual issues:

“However, as Cardinal Martini observed in his final interview before his death, ‘In the Church today I see so much ash covering the embers that I’m often overcome by a sense of impotence’. The Cardinal also warned that ‘the Church must recognise her own errors and must pursue a radical path of change’, which includes ‘Questions about sexuality and about all the themes connected to the human body … We have to ask ourselves if people are still listening to the advice of the Church regarding sexuality. Is the Church still an authoritative point of reference in this field or is it just a caricature in the media?’ “

Beattie is obviously a consummate teacher.  She has been able to turn this sad decision into a teachable moment for the good of the wider church.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Previous Bondings 2.0 posts about Tina Beattie:

August 13, 2012: British Catholic Leaders Support Marriage Equality Legislation

March 11, 2012:  The U.K.’s Marriage Equality Debate Heats Up

January 14, 2012:  Sex, Marriage, and the Church, Part 1


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