QUOTE TO NOTE: “Fun to Be Catholic Again”

October 15, 2013

computer_key_Quotation_MarksIn a Washington Post “On Faith” blog post  about how Pope Francis is re-shaping the Catholic Church, Father Thomas Reese, SJ, a senior analyst for The National Catholic Reporter quipped:

“It’s fun to be a religion reporter again. For a while it felt like being on the crime beat. It’s fun to be Catholic again.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson Chastises Archbishop on Communion Issue

April 27, 2013
Bishop Gene Robinson

Bishop Gene Robinson

Bishop Gene Robinson, the Episcopal Church’s first openly gay bishop, has criticized Archbishop Allen Vigneron, the Roman Catholic head of the Archdiocese of Detroit, for the recent comments had made suggesting that Catholics who support marriage equality should not receive communion.  Bondings 2.0 reported earlier on Vigneron’s statement, as well as two responses from Detroit’s retired Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Gumbleton.  You can read Bishop Gumbleton’s responses, which contradict Vigneron, here and here.

In an essay on the Washington Post’s “On Faith” blog, Robinson provides Vigneron with a theology lesson on the Eucharist:

“I believe that using Communion as such a manipulative tool surely profanes the sacrament. Perhaps these Catholic leaders should revisit their church’s theology of the Eucharist. Reception of the body and blood of Christ at Communion is God’s gift to God’s people, not a reward for right behavior. We receive Communion not because we are worthy of it, but because God’s offers us the body and blood of Christ despite our unworthiness.”

Robinson points out that excluding people from communion seems be based on arbitrary judgments:

“While some are seeking to withhold Communion from pro-choice and pro-marriage-equality Catholics, I have heard no call to withhold Communion from priests and bishops who have engaged in horrific sexual abuse against vulnerable children, nor their enablers. Bernard Cardinal Law, whose administration actively facilitated the moving around of known pedophile priests to other unsuspecting parishes, has not been denied Communion, but instead been rewarded with a prestigious church in Rome.”

The Catholic hierarchy is dangerously pursuing a path which separates them further and further from the faith-experience of Catholics:

“American Catholics have a long and honorable history of discerning their own consciences in matters of human life and dignity. For instance, 98 percent of Catholic women have gone against church law and used birth control. Indeed, individual conscience is a core value in Catholic teaching. It seems that Catholic laity are refusing to be treated like morally ignorant children who cannot think for themselves. At a very minimum, Catholic laity (and many of their local clergy) know that these issues should be discussed in an open and faithful way. They also know that people of faith will disagree on some of the ramifications of trying to live out the Gospel.”

Robinson concludes with an important reminder for bishops and laity alike:

“If those who have fallen short of God’s moral desires for humankind are to be denied Communion, then none of us can in good conscience receive the body and blood of Christ. The good news message of Jesus Christ is that despite our failure to be all that God would want us to be, we are all welcome at the Lord’s Table anyway. Until the Roman Catholic hierarchy gets that right, they might prayerfully consider quieting their judgmental rhetoric and contemplating the humility Jesus suggested as a value to be lived by all.”

The Archdiocese of Detroit had no comment on Robinson’s essay.  According to the Detroit Free Press:

“Asked for a response and to describe the reaction that Vigneron experienced in the wake of his comments, an Archdiocese spokesman Wednesday declined giving details.

“ ‘With respect, we’ll not be offering a response to the op-ed or discuss the responses people have given to us,’ said spokesman Joe Kohn. ‘We don’t really keep a scorecard of those types of things anyhow. Any individual who has a specific concern or question, we just try to answer as best we can.’ ”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Catholic Support for Fired Transgender Teacher

January 31, 2013

transgender symbolAbout three weeks ago, Bondings 2.0 reported on the case of Mark Krolikowski, a Catholic high school music teacher who claims he was fired because he is transgender and had been coming to work with longer hair and manicured fingernails.

Equally Blessed, a  coalition of four national Catholic organizations that work for justice and equality  for LGBT people in church and society, has published an essay in support of Krolikowski, and all transgender people, on the Washington Post’s  “On Faith blog.”  The essay is authored by Jim FitzGerald, executive director of Call To Action, an Equally Blessed coalition partner.   The essay is worth a read not just because of its support for Krolikowski, but because it provides some good information on the life experiences of transgender people.  For example, FitzGerald states:

“In an extensive 2011 nationwide survey hosted by Penn State’s Consortium on Higher Education, 78 percent of transgender people said that they had been bullied or harassed as children. Forty one percent said they had attempted suicide. Thirty-five percent had been physically assaulted and 12 percent had been sexually assaulted.

“Discrimination against transgender people is pervasive. Like Mark, 47 percent of those who responded to the survey said that they had suffered employment discrimination. Nineteen percent had suffered housing discrimination and a similar number had been denied health care due to their gender identity.”

Some progress is being made to correct old prejudices:

“Until recently the U. S. medical establishment treated transgender people as though they were mentally ill. The fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual includes a category called “gender identity disorder,” but, in a significant breakthrough for transgender people and our society’s understanding of gender identity, the soon-to-be published fifth edition does not.”

Despite this progress in the scientific world, the religious world has a lot of catching up to do:

“As Catholics, we regret that the leaders of our church and other conservative Christian organizations are leading the fight to deny transgender people their full human dignity and equal treatment under the law. In a recent address, Pope Benedict XVI argued against the very concept of gender, saying that one’s sexual identity is determined entirely by one’s biology.”

Given the increasingly-known fact that Catholics are generally very supportive of LGBT issues such as marriage equality, it should not  come as too much of a surprise that Catholics are also supportive of transgender equality, too:

“Whatever their beliefs about human sexuality, members of the pope’s own church in this country reject discrimination against transgender people. A 2011 poll by the Public Religion Research Institute found that 93 percent of U. S. Catholics believed that transgender people deserve the same legal rights and protections as other citizens. The survey also found that approximately three-quarters of Americans-from across the political and religious spectrum-believe that Congress should pass employment nondiscrimination laws to protect transgender people. A similar majority favor Congress’s recent expansion of hate crimes legislation to protect transgender people.”

The case of Mark Krolikowski shows how strongly a wide discussion of gender and sexuality is needed in the Catholic Church.

(Equally Blessed coalition is comprised of Call To Action, DignityUSA, Fortunate Families, New Ways Ministry.)

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Our 500th Post: Time to Pause for Some Levity

January 7, 2013

Bondings 2.0 has reached a milestone today:  this post is our 500th post!!!!!

To celebrate this little landmark, we thought we would provide a break from our usual serious material, and provide some humorous (though relevant) content.

Last week, on January 1st, The Washington Post‘s “Style” section printed it’s annual list of what is “Out” and what is “In,”  an annual inventory of what is hot and what is not in American culture.  Listed among the various fads, TV characters, celebrities, and  the latest political lingo was this one little item of Catholic interest:

Out:  Bishops

In:  Nuns

This note obviously refers to the many stories during 2012, when it was proven time and again that Catholic respect for nuns has been on the increase.  This respect is due in no small part to the fact that many nuns view LGBT issues primarily as justice issues.   In 2012, nuns’ support of LGBT issues contributed to the Leadership Conference of Women Religious’ (LCWR) run-in with the Vatican.  Back in April and May of 2012, when the LCWR story was front-page news, the following cartoon ran in many papers and was circulated widely on Facebook and the internet:

Nuns

We hope these items lightened your day a bit!

–Francis DeBernardo and Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Catholic Woman’s Loss Transforms into Struggle for Equality

November 3, 2012

Charlene Strong

Charlene Strong, a Catholic in Washington State, lost her spouse to torrential flooding in 2006 – and from this tragedy began her personal struggle to legalize marriage equality.

Strong’s trying experiences surrounding the death of her spouse, Kate Fleming, included hospital administrators who called family hundreds of miles away instead of asking her about Kate’s last wishes and a funeral director who denied Strong a role in planning final arrangements.

Since Fleming’s death, Strong has spoken about her ordeal to over 40 colleges and universities nationwide, most recently at Gonzaga University Law School as reported in The Washington Post:

“‘They were willing to take the word of someone on the phone, 300 miles away,’ Strong said. ‘Who knew her allergies? I did. Who knew what her wishes were? I did’…

“That’s when Strong decided that she would do whatever she could to make sure other same-sex couples would have equal rights in Washington state.”

Strong also assisted a successful 2007 initiative for domestic partnership rights and now works diligently to help pass Referendum 74 on November 6, 2012 so other couples do not face unnecessary obstacles in times of crisis as she and Fleming had to.

Central to her efforts for marriage equality, Strong continues to support the Catholic Church and considers her speech at Gonzaga the response to Spokane Bishop Blase Cupich’s call for an honest conversation on equality. As for her faith personally, as reported in SpokaneFavs, a community-based blog:

“Strong was closeted until she was 33 years old and said she felt more connected to her faith when she was finally honest about her sexuality and who she was. She and Fleming attended a Catholic parish in Seattle together and were welcomed by those in the pews.

‘The church kept me from going crazy after my wife died,’ Strong said. ‘They were there to help bury her with tremendous compassion’…

“The Catholic Church’s call to social justice is why Strong loves her faith.

“’When you leave the church you can’t fix the church,’ she said. ‘You can’t be part of the discussion.’”

Charlene Strong’s witness both to the challenges same-sex couples experience and in her persistence in Catholicism should give pause to all sides of the marriage equality debate.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Loyalty Oaths Are Sprouting Up Across the U.S. Catholic Church

July 14, 2012

Loyalty oaths seem to be coming into fashion in Catholic churches, as more and more bishops are using this instrument to require that Catholics working in the church, even on a volunteer basis, pledge total fidelity to the magisterium, including official directives about LGBT people.

The issue was sparked this week by a Washington Post article on Bishop Paul LoVerde, of Arlington, Virginia, who has instituted such an oath for religious education teachers there. Four teachers have already resigned because of the requirement.  The Post report states:

“The Arlington Diocese, which includes nearly a half-million Catholics across northern and eastern Virginia, is one of a small but growing number that are starting to demand fidelity oaths. The oaths reflect a churchwide push in recent years to revive orthodoxy that has sharply divided Catholics.

“Such oaths are not new for priests or nuns but extend now in some places to people like volunteer Sunday school teachers as well as workers at Catholic hospitals and parish offices.

“One in Baker, Ore., reiterates the sinfulness of abortion and says, “I do not recognize the legitimacy of anyone’s claim to a moral right to form their own conscience in this matter.” One in Oakland, Calif., requires leaders of a group doing outreach to gay and lesbian Catholics to say they “affirm and believe” official church teaching on marriage, hell and chastity. [For the Bondings 2.0 report on the Oakland oath, click here.]

“The Arlington ‘profession of faith’ asks teachers to commit to “believe everything” the bishops characterize as divinely revealed, and Arlington’s top doctrine official said it would include things like the bishops’ recent campaign against a White House mandate that most employers offer contraception coverage. Critics consider the mandate a violation of religious freedom.”

The article quotes Rose Zagarri, one of the resigned teachers:

“Zagarri said the oath was a “slap in the face” to Catholics who have remained active and close to the church despite controversies.

“ ‘Although I fully understand the authoritative role of the Catholic hierarchy in defining the teachings of the faith, in my view only a person who is willing to abandon her own reason and judgment, or who is willing to go against the dictates of her own conscience, can agree to sign such a document,’ she wrote to Arlington Bishop Paul Loverde.

“ ‘This is not in the spirit of what people go to a Catholic church for, which is community and a loving, welcoming environment. It’s exclusionary, a suppression of dissent, let’s all line up and be the army of God,’ Zagarri said in an interview for this article.”

A Seattle Post-Intelligencer blog reports that the loyalty oath in the Baker, Oregon, diocese (mentioned above) states that some of the teachings that the oath includes are:

“the sinfulness of contraception, the evil of extra-marital sexual relationships, the unacceptability of homosexual relationships, the wrongness of co-habitation before marriage.”

According to the Post-Intelligencer, the Baker diocese oath goes even further on the issue of abortion, with the statement:

“I do not recognize the legitimacy of anyone’s claim to a moral right to form their own conscience on this matter.”

A wise warning against such loyalty oaths was raised by Rev. Ronald Nuzzi, Rev. Ronald Nuzzi, director of the leadership program for Catholic educators,University of Notre Dame.  The Washington Post article concludes with:

“Nuzzi said he keeps a photo on his desk from the 1940s that shows all the German bishops in their garb, doing the Nazi salute.

“ ‘I keep it there to remind people who say to do everything the church says, that their wisdom has limitations, too.’ ”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Bishop, Governor, and Theologian Highlight Symposium’s Second Day

March 17, 2012

On the second day of  New Ways Ministry’s Seventh National Symposium, From Water to Wine: Lesbian/Gay Catholics and Relationships, in Baltimore, Maryland, Bishop Geoffrey Robinson of Australia summoned the Catholic Church to rethink its teaching on sexuality, for heterosexuals and lesbian/gay people.  (The full text of his talk can be found on his website.)

The National Catholic Reporter news account of the bishop’s talk cites his call for

” ‘a new study of everything to do with sexuality’ — a kind of study that he predicted ‘would have a profound influence on church teaching concerning all sexual relationships, both heterosexual and homosexual.’

” ‘If [church] teaching on homosexual acts is ever to change, the basic teaching governing all sexual acts must change,’ he said. . . .”

” ‘If the starting point [as in current church teaching] is that every single sexual act must be both unitive and procreative, there is no possibility of approval of homosexual acts,’ Robinson said.

Bishop Geoffrey Robinson

“He proceeded, however, to question that natural law argument, especially as laid out by recent popes, and to suggest that a more nuanced reading of divine commandments in scripture and of Jesus’ teaching would lead to a different set of moral norms — starting with a change in church teaching that every sexual act or thought that falls outside a loving conjugal act open to procreation is a mortal sin because it is a direct offense against God himself in his divine plan for human sexuality.

” ‘For centuries the church has taught that every sexual sin is a mortal sin. The teaching may not be  proclaimed as loudly today as much as before, but it was proclaimed by many popes, it has never been retracted and it has affected countless people,’ Robinson said.

” ‘The teaching fostered a belief in an incredibly angry God,’ he added, ‘for this God would condemn a person to an eternity in hell for a single unrepented moment of deliberate pleasure arising from sexual desire. I simply do not believe in such a God. Indeed, I positively reject such a God.’ “

Robinson’s talk was the last of three highlights of the day.  The first was a talk by Professor Patricia Beattie Jung of St. Paul School of  Theology, Kansas City, Missouri, who highlighted the social and individual benefits of sexual fidelity and marriage for both heterosexual and lesbian/gay couples. (More on her wonderful talk in a separate posting.)

Governor Martin O'Malley

The other highlight was a luncheon visit and talk by Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, a Catholic who recently signed marriage equality into law in his state.

A  WYPR-FM interview with New Ways Ministry Executive Director Francis DeBernardo about the governor’s appearance at the Symposium is available on the web page for the Midday with Dan Rodricks show.  Look under the section for Friday, March 16th.

The Washington Post carried an Associated Press story about his talk which began:

“Maryland’s same-sex marriage debate may end up being decided in the voting booth, but Gov. Martin O’Malley told a conference on Catholicism and homosexuality Friday that he believes voters will come down on the side of human dignity.”

The article goes on to cite selections from  the governor’s talk:

“ ‘I’m not here as a Catholic, I’m here as the governor for all of Maryland,’ O’Malley said. ‘Each one of us in the public arena brings with us our own perspectives, our own traditions, our own faith traditions, our own ethnic backgrounds. What we hope and what we should expect of all our leaders is when they look at the Constitution is to protect rights equally among all people.’

“O’Malley said after his address to the group that it was important for him to articulate what was accomplished with the same-sex marriage legislation, which he framed as a debate on how to protect religious freedoms and equal rights, and said he’ll be taking that message to people of many different faiths.

“ ‘The conversation in the General Assembly is concluded, but the conversations at workplaces and dinner tables and kitchen tables will just be starting. I have a lot of faith in people in our state. I do believe with full consideration people will come to the conclusion that as we have in the past we can protect rights more fully and equally while also protecting religious liberty,’ he said.”

The Edge newspaper’s article noted that O’Malley thanked New Ways Ministry for supporting  the state’s marriage equality law:

“O’Malley, who is Catholic, received standing ovations as he entered the hotel ballroom and took the stage to deliver his speech. He specifically thanked New Ways Ministry for their support of the marriage equality bill.

” ‘Thank you especially for your voice in the debate that we just concluded in the General Assembly of Maryland on the issue of how we will protect freedom of religions and rights equally,’ said O’Malley. . . .

“Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, welcomed the governor’s remarks.

” ‘As Catholics, we are proud of Gov. O’Malley’s ardent support of marriage equality,’ he said. ‘His support is in the best tradition of Catholicism’s legacy of social justice for all.’  “

Photos of the Governor’s visit and talk to the Symposium will be posted when they become available from his press office.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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