Catholic Pastor Explains Why He Marched in Pride Parade

July 14, 2013

Last month,  we reported on Catholic faith communities marching in LGBT Pride marches in Portland, Oregon and the Baltimore-Washington, DC region.  We’ve recently learned of several more demonstrations of Catholic support of Pride events in three more U.S. events.

SEATTLE

Fr. John Whitney, SJ

Fr. John Whitney, SJ

Thanks to blogger Michael Bayly of The Wild Reedwe learned about a Seattle, Washington pastor who announced in his parish newsletter “Why Am I In the Parade?”   Father John D. Whitney, SJ, of St. Joseph’s parish, Seattle,  introduced the explanation of  his participation by referring to Acts 10: 28:

“You know that it is unlawful for a Jewish man to associate with, or visit, a Gentile, but God has shown me that I should not call any person profane or unclean.”

This passage occurs in the story of St. Peter visiting the home of Cornelius, a Roman centurion.  Fr. Whitney explicates the meaning:

“The head of the apostles is called to testify that God’s grace is greater than the members of the Church can hope or imagine, and that their understanding of the Church must continue to develop as the mystery of God’s redemptive love continues to be revealed in all of nature and in every culture. What surprises Peter, what will become a starting point for Paul, and what continues to challenge the Church even today is how vast the mercy of God is, a mercy that denies the notion that anything which is human can be profane; a mercy that encompasses every human heart, every aspect of human nature.”

Fr. Whitney reminded parishioners of the parish’s participation in last year’s Pride parade and what that meant to them:

“Last year, for the first time, members of the St. Joseph community marched in the Pride Parade to indicate our solidarity with and respect for our homosexual sisters and brothers. Like Peter entering the house of Cornelius, it was a moment that would be considered unlawful and scandalous to those who see members of this community as profane or unclean; yet, for me, and I believe for others who chose to be present in this march, it was a moment of grace, when we could witness the power of the Holy Spirit moving in this community, so often alienated from the Church of Christ.”

Fr. Whitney closes the essay with an eloquent expression of why he chose to march this year:

This year, I am going to the Pride Parade again, and I have supported St. Joseph’s presence in it, as well. I have done so not out of opposition to anyone; but, rather, in support of the sisters and brothers of our community who seek to live faithfully in the way that God has made them and the Spirit has called them. I am going to support the mothers and fathers, the sisters and brothers, the friends and companions of our gay and lesbian parishioners, who have pride in their daughters and sons and
who long to have them feel loved and welcomed at the  table of Christ and in the body of the Church. I am going to evangelize, to bear witness, by my presence and, if needed, by my words, that the Catholic Church, founded by Christ, is not a place of hatred and rejection; but a communion of loved sinners called in humility to grow and learn through the grace of the Holy Spirit. I am going to the parade because I want to enter the house of Cornelius, where I have already seen the signs of the Spirit;
because I want those in whose very nature is God’s blessing, to know that Christ longs for them with mercy and with love, asking them not to hide or reject their natural identity, but to see in that identity a way home to God.

Fr. Whitney was one of about a dozen Seattle Archdiocese parishes who last year chose not to collect signatures to put the state’s marriage equality law up for a referendum.

MINNEAPOLIS and ST. PAUL

Catholics CELEBRATING Marriage Equality in the Twin Cities.

Catholics CELEBRATING Marriage Equality in the Twin Cities.

Also on The Wild Reed, Michael Bayly also wrote up an account of the Pride Festival in the Twin Cities of Minnesota, describing Catholic participation at the event.  Though last year Bayly organized “Catholics for Marriage Equality” in the state,  this year, the group edited its name to “Catholics Celebrating Marriage Equality,” reflecting that the state recently adopted a marriage law for gay and lesbian couples and the Supreme Court’s recent decisions.

Similarly, Dick Bernard, who blogs for the Twin Cities Daily Planetreflected on the role of Catholics in the state’s marriage equality debates.  He noted that on the day of the Pride Festival, his parish,  the Basilica of St. Paul, prayed  “for respect for all people [including their] sexuality.”

NEW YORK CITY

Nicholas and David march in NYC Pride parade.

Nicholas and David march in NYC Pride parade.

Regular readers of Bondings 2.0 will be familiar with the case of Nicholas Coppola, the New York parish volunteer dismissed from his ministries because he married his partner, David.

The couple marched this year in New York City’s Pride Parade and their photo was featured on The Huffington Post.   The article accompanying their photo is entitled “10 Signs Displayed in the 2013 NYC Pride March That You Should Read and Remember.”  Number five on that list is “Married Gay Catholics USA.”  Noting the strong support for marriage equality among Catholic lay people, author Murray Lipp remarks:

“It is important for gay Catholics to speak openly about their marriages and for straight Catholics who support equality to continue to speak up both within and outside of the church.”

All three examples–Seattle, the Twin Cities, New York–show the power and importance of witnessing for Catholic support of LGBT equality.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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

June 4, 2013

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

Father Brian Grady

Father Brian Grady

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

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

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

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

Charlie Payseur

Charlie Payseur

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

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

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

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

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

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

boyscoutpetitionArchbishop Sartain,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related articles:

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

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

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

 


Anti-Gay Letter from Catholic Priest Is Inadequate Response for Boy Scouts

May 30, 2013

Fr. Derek Lappe

A Catholic pastor in Bremerton, Washington, has closed the parish’s scouting program in the wake of the Boy Scouts of America’s decision to accept gay youth.  His decision, which he announced in a searing letter to parishioners, contradicts much of the Catholic hierarchy’s response so far.

Fr. Derek Lappe released the charged letter last Sunday to explain his actions and offer a  his views on homosexuality. He accuses the Boy Scouts of conceding to political correctness, strangely refers to the organization as the “New Boy Scouts,” and lists debunked pseudo-science to explain LGBT sexuality including a “Dislike of team sports” or “Lack of hand/eye coordination.”

Relying heavily on writings of the anti-gay Catholic Medical Association, Lappe’s screed continues in an emotional and disparate manner until it ends with this:

“To me it is cruel, and abusive and absolutely contrary to the Gospel to in any way confirm a teenager in the confusion of same-sex attraction, which is what the New Boy Scout policy will do.

And so, we are going to redouble our efforts to create a community that is supportive of happy, healthy, holy marriages. In our marriage preparation we are going to try to get women to stop marrying such loser men who will never be capable of being good dads and husbands, and vice versa…

“We are going to provide youth activities for any and all youth…Our current Fraternus andFidelis programs are well equipped to help cultivate authentically masculine and feminine identities.”

Reporting on Fr. Lappe’s letter, Seattle Post-Intelligencer notes that this letter “is the most hard-line anti-gay statement to come from anywhere in Washington’s three Catholic diocese over the past year,” which included anti-marriage equality campaigning last year before that state’s referendum.

KING 5 reports that a local chapter of Scouts For Equality will help relocate every scout in the Our Lady Star of the Sea parish’s troop to continue with the Boy Scouts, if they choose to do so.

Positive reactions from Catholics is more common than Fr. Lappe’s homophobic one. Dioceses and parishes in Grand Forks, Madison, Rochester and elsewhere are either welcoming the continuation of Catholic scouting or delaying comment until they can consider it further. The National Catholic Committee on Scouting released a statement that it will study the Boy Scouts’ decision, and nothing from the USCCB has been released yet.

The pastor’s letter is retrograde, perpetuating myths about LGBT people and promoting intolerance among youth in those very moments in life where love and affirmation are needed most. Fr. Lappe must apologize in good faith for the harmful act he undertook writing this anti-gay letter, and work now to foster a welcoming community for all his parishioners.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Update on Catholic Financing of Marriage Equality Opposition

November 19, 2012

Church financing to oppose marriage equality is in the news once again as the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) updated its report on Catholic funding to reveal that Catholic institutions provided $2 million this year to try to forestall marriage for lesbian and gay couples in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington State.

An earlier version of this report was released before the election. The full, updated report is available on the HRC website.

In a statement announcing the report update, HRC noted:

“The historic results of last week’s elections only highlight the growing disconnect between the fair-minded Romany Catholic laity and the anti-LGBT Church hierarchy. A 2012 Public Religion Research Institute poll found that nearly 60 percent of Catholics support marriage equality. In fact, polling indicates marriage equality is one of the least important issues Catholics are currently concerned with. That same poll, from Belden Russonello, found that 83 percent of Catholics feel their bishops should not influence their vote.”

The report breaks down the funding by state.  It complements a report by Equally Blessed released before the election which details funding to oppose marriage equality by the Knights of Columbus.

Chad Griffin, HRC President commented on the report:

“The American people went to the polls and affirmed one of the core values of the Roman Catholic Church: the belief that all humans are worthy of dignity, respect, and love. The Church and NOM [National Organization for Marriage] can continue pouring money into discriminating against LGBT people, but the writing is on the wall for their anti-equality agenda. The Roman Catholic hierarchy should be focusing on taking actions that actually improve people’s lives, not spending precious resources on spreading malicious lies aimed at tearing down an entire community of people.”

(As an aside, in a HuffingtonPost blog entry, Griffin cited one of ten reasons that marriage equality was so successful this election cycle was because “Faith coalitions were on our side:”

“In 2008, our opponents talked like they had a monopoly on faith. This year, the prominent voices of pro-equality faith leaders like Reverend Delman Coates and organizations like Catholics for Marriage Equality made a huge difference.”)

Meanwhile, in Minnesota, where the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis spent $650,000 in a campaign to support a state constitutional ban against marriage equality, a group of concerned Catholics is calling for greater transparency and accountability.

Minnesota Public Radio reported on a meeting of the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform, where one leader, Martha Turner, asked participants to share their concerns about archdiocesan spending so that the group can start a conversation with the archdiocese:

” ‘We would like to hear your stories,’ Turner said. ‘We want to hear from you, we want to hear your experiences and your concerns about how the money is used that you donate to your parishes and that some of which ends up in the archdiocese.’ “

As Catholics begin to ask for more transparency and accountability, church leaders are going to find that they will have to be honest or that Catholics will vote with their pocketbooks by refusing donations.  What would be interesting to know is how much Catholic money was raised FOR marriage equality efforts.  As the number of Catholics who support marriage equality continues to grow, the total of their individual donations to marriage equality campaigns will is sure to grow.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


‘No One’s Listening to the Pope’ or What Washington Catholics Taught Us This Election

November 8, 2012

With marriage equality successfully enacted in Washington State, a former Catholic in Seattle reflected at Salon.com on the growing chasm between episcopal outreach and lay organizing that emerged during this campaign over marriage equality. His article has the intriguing title “No One’s Listening to the Pope.”

Growing up, Dominic Holden emerged in a local church led by Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen where African-American civil rights history was widely active and the Vatican’s attempted removal of Hunthausen for Seattle’s hosting of a 1,000-plus member DignityUSA liturgy triggered massive lay outcry.

After coming out and with changes in the Seattle church, Holden left Catholicism which contains a hierarchy he identifies with anti-equality efforts, evident in the silencing and spending practices of those like Archbishop John Neinstedt in Minnesota or Archbishop William Lori in Maryland.

However, in Washington State he notices a promising movement amongst lay Catholics:

“But here in Seattle, the archbishop is facing a confrontation.

“When conservative activists in Washington sought to suspend and overturn a marriage equality law for same-sex couples in January, Archbishop Sartain started strong…Sartain was clearly spoiling for a fight.

“And he got one, but not the one he expected. It’s not clear that Sartain knew what he was in for. After all, Sartain has only been appointed about 14 months before — by a pope who, it must be acknowledged, may have a vendetta against Seattle’s gay-friendly congregations that rebuffed him 30 years prior — and what Sartain got was an outright revolt from the pews.”

Holden notes the vigorous efforts of Washington State Catholics leading up to yesterday’s vote with Catholics for Marriage Equality raising $38,000, publicly witnessing at Mass and the pride parade, running newspaper advertisements, and challenging the Yakima Diocese for illegal contributions. Elsewhere, 63 former priests from the area came out publicly in support of the referendum and pastors, including at the Cathedral in Seattle, refused to allow anti-equality campaigners into their churches.

The author quotes Fr. John Whitney, SJ, pastor of St. Joseph parish in Seattle,

“…who said circulating the petitions in his parish ‘seems to me inappropriately coercive.’
He added in a statement to his congregation: ‘Although the Archbishop has the right and responsibility to speak and educate the community about legislation, I believe that this level of involvement around the issue of civil marriage is ill-considered, and risks placing the Church on the side of injustice and the denial of civil rights.’ He continued to counter Sartain’s efforts just last month by telling parishioners in an email that ‘authority never supplants conscience.’”

All of this, accompanied by a diminished public effort by bishops in Washington State over Referendum 74, leads Holden to one conclusion:

“I’ll speculate: the flock is taming the shepherds.

“It seems that Sartain and his counterparts have a real crisis on their hands…The problem for bishops shapes up like this: Priests and laity alike are declaring their intent to ignore the bishops’ moral authority on the so-called conscience issues of marriage and contraception, which represent the bishops’ primary political agendas. The risk for bishops isn’t that these Catholics will leave the church like I did…The risk is that they will stay in the church and empower other parishioners to stand up to the bishops on these and other issues, from married priests to the ordination of women.

“Catholics are setting an example for elections to come. They’re refusing to let the hierarchy speak for them, and even reining them in, just as they did back when I was a kid. Given that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has proven it can shift national policy, God bless the laity for keeping them in check. They’re the only people who can.”

In light of a victory in Washington State for marriage equality where Catholics played a key role, Holden’s positive conclusion about these events seems correct. Continued lay involvement that helps to correct and contain the bishops, while presenting a different image of Catholicism in the public sphere is not going away. Hopefully, it has just begun.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


LGBT People and Catholics Are Already Election Day Winners

November 6, 2012

Today is Election Day in the United States of America.  If you are even just an occasional reader of this blog, you will know that in three states–Maine, Maryland, Washington State–voters will be asked to decide whether or not marriage equality for lesbian and gay couples will be law.  In a fourth state, Minnesota, voters will be deciding whether to enact a constitutional amendment which would ban marriage equality for lesbian and gay couples.

In all four states, Catholics have played a key role in the campaigns to support marriage equality.  As evidence, just enter any one of the state names, in the “Category” filter in the right hand column of this page, and you will find a wealth of blog posts from the past 12 months about how Catholics have been involved in the struggle for marriage equality.

This week, the National Catholic Reporter has editorialized on the potential outcomes of today’s votes, and has declared three groups of winners of the election already, regardless of the results.   As the following quotation from the editorial will demonstrate, those “winners” include LGBT people:

“We do not yet know the fate of the ballot initiatives in the four states voting on measures related to same-sex marriage. Regardless of the outcomes, one thing is for sure: Our LGBT brothers and sisters are taking their rightful place alongside us as full citizens. It will take more time yet for legislation to fully acknowledge this, but few will dispute that this election season, a tide was turned. We don’t yet know the final result, but this community might have helped re-elect a president.

“This year, LGBT Catholics have also claimed — maybe ‘earned’ is the better word — new respect within the church. To listen to our most public leaders, this may be hard to see, but in the pews across America, it is not. Whether it is citizens signing their names to newspaper ads or brave priests risking censure from their bishops, Catholics are telling our homosexual brothers and sisters that we are glad they stand in the assembly among us. We are family. Like civil laws, it will take time for church structures to formally acknowledge this, but we believe that this year will prove an important step toward achieving equality in the Catholic church.”

(The other two groups the editorial mentions are the “Nuns on the Bus” for their work to raise awareness of economic inequality; and Latinos, for becoming a strong enough voting bloc to warrant the attention of both parties.)

We could not agree more with this editorial.  Regardless of whether or not marriage equality becomes an option in these four states,  LGBT people and the goodness of their relationships have been given a level of visibility that was unthinkable 15 years ago.  And Catholic support for LGBT people and issues has not only been increasing, but more and more leaders in government and media are becoming aware that Catholics are overwhelmingly pro-LGBT.  Because of this, Catholics, too, have already emerged as winners from the election.

While we are hopeful that equality, fairness, and justice will soon be the law of the land, we know that if today’s election results do not move that agenda along, it will only be a short wait before these values become a reality for all in the U.S.

–Francis DeBernardo, 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


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