Columnist and Activist Both Criticize Cardinal George on LGBT Issues

June 23, 2013
Cardinal Francis George

Cardinal Francis George

Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George has been in the news lately not only for his vocal opposition to Illinois’ marriage equality bill, but because he recently denied communion to a gay Catholic activist at a Mass celebrating the Archdiocesan Gay and Lesbian Outreach in his city.

Robert McClory, a columnist for The National Catholic Reporter, took apart an essay about marriage equality written by George in the Chicago archdiocesan newspaper.  McClory exposes some of George’s fear-mongering rhetoric, not only on marriage equality, but also on the issue of religious liberty, which seems to be one of George’s main purposes in writing the column.

For example, McClory is justifiably incredulous at George’s depiction of how secular society is “marginalizing” Catholics. McClory writes:

“George then launches out into the deep about the separation of religious faith from public life. He blames John F. Kennedy for starting a roll down the slippery slope and worries Catholics will be eventually barred from federal judgeships, medical schools, editorial offices at major newspapers, the entertainment world and university faculties.

” ‘If Catholics are to be closeted and marginalized in a secularized society, Catholic parents should prepare their children to be farmers, carpenters and craftsmen, small business people and workers in service industries,’ occupations that ‘do not immediately impact public opinion.’ What?”

McClory hits the nail on the head in his concluding paragraph which points out George’s true blindspot:

“Unfortunately, what Cardinal George cannot consider is the possibility that Catholics at the grass-roots level are coming to understand new and different ways to welcome to the table those previously excluded. Many, including not a few theologians, propose that the essence of marriage is the love and permanent commitment of two persons to one another — period. As that conviction matures in time, I believe the church will have to make accommodations with its implications, just as Christians in the time of Galileo had to reinterpret so much they and their ancestors had taken for granted as irreversibly, dogmatically true: the movement of the earth, the sun, moon and stars. It was for many a painful, revolutionary process. And the one believing Christians face now will be for some no less painful and revolutionary. But it must be done, lest the Catholic church disintegrate into a closed, inconsequential cult.”

McClory doesn’t comment on what I consider George’s greatest errors in his essay.  Speaking of marriage equality advocates, George states:

“Further, the claim that one is not equal under law is powerful in our society; it makes one a victim. And the claim that one is being demeaned and personally wounded is even more powerful evidence of victimization.  “

Yet, isn’t that what so many Catholic bishops are doing when they claim that their religious liberty is being curtailed because of pro-LGBT laws?  Aren’t they claiming “victim” status?  Isn’t George guilty of exactly the thing he accuses his opponents of doing?

The cardinal presided at the 25th anniversary Mass for Chicago’s Archdiocesan Gay and Lesbian Outreach (AGLO), and he was greeted by about 25 protesters from the Gay Liberation Network and the Rainbow Sash Movement (RSM).  The latter group is composed of Catholics who present themselves for communion while wearing a rainbow sash, indicating that they believe in the full equality of LGBT people and that they disagree with the hierarchy’s prohibition of sexual activity between person’s of the same gender.  When the RSM’s director, Joe Murray, went to the cardinal for communion, he was refused.

Joe Murray

Joe Murray

The Windy City Times reported:

“Murray stood up with his back to Cardinal George during parts of the Mass, and then he went up with the estimated 200 others in attendance to receive communion. George refused him, and Murray walked away with his hands open and empty, showing the congregants that he had been denied.

“But in an emotional show of solidarity, Brenna C. Cronin, who had already received her communion as part of the church choir, went back up and took another communion wafer (called a Host) and brought it to Murray herself.

” ‘One of my brothers, a member of my community, who is a full and equal member of the body of Christ, was denied communion. So I got back in line and I brought him communion, as I would for anyone else,’ Cronin told Windy City Times after the Mass. Cronin, who is a lesbian, has been involved with AGLO for two years and is also a cantor.

” ‘I was denied communion by the Cardinal,’ Murray said after. ‘I turned to Christ, I walked back open handed, and showed the community that I was denied communion, and Christ, in his mercy, sent me a priest [Cronin] to give me communion.’ “

The news story indicates that some in the congregation supported Murray’s action, while others were critical of it.  You can read the entire news account here.  It contains additional comments from both George and Murray.

What do you think?  Was George right in denying communion?  Was Murray right in presenting himself for communion?  Was the anniversary Mass an appropriate time for LGBT activists to protest George’s positions on LGBT issues?   Please make your thoughts known in the “Comments” section of this post.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related article:

May 1, 2013:  “Tension Emerges as AGLO Marks 25 Years”  Windy City Times


Archdiocesan Celebration Causes Split Among LGBT Catholics

May 6, 2013
Cardinal Francis George

Cardinal Francis George

Catholic LGBT advocates in Chicago are split over an invitation extended to Cardinal Francis George for the Archdiocesan Gay and Lesbian Outreach’s (AGLO) 25th anniversary liturgy scheduled in June. Critics charge that the cardinal’s stance on LGBT issues should not warrant an invitation, while others hope the June liturgy will help to advance dialogue with the hierarchy.

The Windy City Times reports that Rainbow Sash Movement originally released a challenge to AGLO in an internet posting, calling the invitation a “reckless, divisive course of action.” The statement highlighted George’s continuing efforts to stop marriage equality in Illinois, his homophobic comments made in recent years about LGBT people, and AGLO’s stated position that celibacy is expected of members. Rainbow Sash Movement’s executive director, Joe Murray, explained his opposition:

“‘The Rainbow Sash Movement opposes the cardinal’s visit because over the years he has personally opposed every bit of LGBT legislation that seeks to promote the human dignity of this community. He has told lies about our love for one another and has used the pulpit in his cathedral to mount a war against gay marriage and gay adoption; in other words, he has promoted bigotry against us. As if that is not bad enough he has been silent in the face of bigotry directed against us that promotes violence,’ wrote Murray.

“‘The only metaphor that comes to mind is that of inviting Hitler to a remembrance service for holocaust victims,’ Murray added.”

Other groups, including the Gay Liberation Network, join Rainbow Sash Movement’s call to disinvite Cardinal George and promise a protest if the cardinal presides at the liturgy. However, reaction within AGLO’s membership is more mixed. The Windy City Times continues:

“Brenna Cronin, choir member and cantor, is torn. ‘For me as a music minister, I will have to make a decision. My heart says that I want to be there that day and minister for my community,’ she said. ‘At the same time I want to stand on the sidewalk with Joe Murray and hold a candle to show my protest.’

“‘How I reconcile all of my life and all I am with the church,’ she explained, ‘All I know is that I was touched at a very young age and profoundly influenced by the power of the Spirit.’…

“An AGLO member for 10 years, Steve Engles has ‘mixed feelings,’ he said. ‘Any time you have the cardinal of the archdiocese celebrate the Mass at a special function, it’s always important. I have great respect for the man, and his position within the Church, despite the fact we may share different views on practicing the Catholic faith.’…

“Added Engles, ‘My faith is very important to me and AGLO is very important. That’s why I have mixed feelings. I am glad that he is joining us and hoping it does not have a negative impact on the AGLO community, depending on what he has to say.'”

Appreciation for all that AGLO has provided the LGBT community since its inception in 1983 was expressed by many members, but personal concerns about Cardinal George’s record remain. One member was hopeful that the cardinal would spend time with the community after Mass, and plans to use such time challenging George about his opposition to civil marriage equality in Illinois.

Outside LGBT groups also express optimism at AGLO’s invitation, with Dignity/Chicago stating there’s no controversy given AGLO’s connection with the Archdiocese of Chicago and New Ways Ministry’s executive director Francis DeBernardo stating:

“‘While it is true that Cardinal George has said some damaging things about LGBT people, I don’t see that excluding him from presiding at AGLO’s 25th anniversary liturgy will be productive..I see the invitation as an opportunity for AGLO members and friends to dialogue with the cardinal, and I think that we need more opportunities in the church for the hierarchy to dialogue with LGBT Catholics. I don’t see the invitation as a reward for good behavior.’

“In the same breath, DeBernardo voiced disappointment over George’s organizing against same-sex marriage. ‘I think it is a shame that Cardinal George has decided to form an alliance with ministers from other denominations to present a united front against marriage equality…Instead of reaching out to members of other Christian churches, Cardinal George should be spending his time and energy meeting with and dialoguing with members of the Catholic Church who support marriage equality so that he could better understand the deep spiritual and faith-based reasons for their position.'”

The liturgy is scheduled for June 16 at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Chicago’s Boystown neighborhood, where AGLO celebrates Mass weekly at 7:00 pm. The weekend celebration will also include an evening at the Lyric Opera and dinner to celebrate 25 years in ministry. Bondings 2.0 will be update on the AGLO controversy if any developments arise as June approaches. 

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


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


Commencement Ceremonies Show the Hope and Struggle of LGBT Issues at Catholic Schools

May 17, 2012

Three recent commencement at Catholic schools show how LGBT issues have become flashpoints of hope and struggle for Catholic educational institutions.

Cardinal Francis George

At St. Norbert College, Wisconsin, three-quarters of the faculty and students at commencement donned rainbow ribbons as a sign of protest against the school’s selection of Cardinal Francis George of Chicago as the commencement speaker.  George made headlines in December when he compared the LGBT rights movement to the KKK.  Over two weeks later, he apologized for the comments.

According to a WTAQ.com article:

“George did not address the controversy during his talk, and he did not speak with reporters. But the student speaker, Joanna Holzhaeuser of Ashland, told the grads to include people of different sexual orientations, gender, and race – and to avoid apathy in their human interactions.”

At the University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Indiana, controversies at commencement time are not uncommon.  The most recent controversy occurred in 2009 when bishops across the country protested the school’s choice of President Barack Obama as commencement speaker.  This year, the LGBT commencement controversy centers on the school’s selection of Kevin Hasson, founder and president of the Beckett Fund for Religious Liberty, as a recipient of an honorary degree.  A Windy City Times article notes:

“The anti-gay Beckett Fund defended Illinois Catholic Charities over its discriminatory policies in refusing to provide adoption and foster-care services to same-sex couples.”

Dr. Tom Dooley

The article also notes that graduating seniors who are members of the campus’ “4 to 5 Movement,” a pro-gay student mobilization, plan to wear buttons displaying their support of LGBT equality during the ceremonies.   (The Windy City Times article continues with a fascinating analysis of the current state of LGBT issues on Notre Dame’s campus, as well as background on famous gay Notre Dame alumni such as the revered Dr. Tom Dooley and retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Victor Fehrenbach.)

At Sacred Heart Academy, Mount Pleasant, Michigan, gay alumnus Dominic Sheahan-Stahl was disinvited as commencement speaker when it was learned that he planned to marry his partner in New York.  An alternative venue, Central Michigan University, was found for him to deliver his address, following the commencement ceremony. CM-Life.com reports on  preparation for the speech later this week, and quotes Sheahan-Stahl:

“My speech that I was going to give had nothing to do with being gay or homosexuality whatsoever. . . .It was about fear and facing those fears. This one is going to be about fear and not letting anything stand in the way of achieving your dreams.”

Arranging the speech’s alternative venue was family friend, Anne Groves:

“She said it was God’s providence that Warriner Hall was available for Sheahan-Stahl to speak on the same day of the graduation.

Dominic Sheahan-Stahl

“ ‘It’s really special that it’s Sunday because the seniors have so dearly wanted to keep Dominic (as part) of their graduation day,’ Groves said. ‘Doing it this way, they can go to mass, go to hear Dominic at 1 p.m., then go back to their school at 3 p.m. to graduate. So in their own way they can stand their ground.’ ”

(A complete interview with Anne Groves about the support that she and other Sacred Heart parents are providing to Sheahan-Stahl can be found here.  Sheahan-Stahl’s open letter to the local bishops can be read here.)

As far as I’m concerned, Sheahan-Stahl’s example shows exactly why Catholic commencement ceremonies should invite LGBT speakers.  No one can better give the graduates one of life’s most important lessons: to be true to oneself, despite fear and opposition.

The students’ responses of speaking out for equality in all three ceremonies show that they have already learned that important lesson, and that they are already teaching it to the rest of the church.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


When Is A Marriage Not a Marriage?

May 6, 2012

Notre Dame magazine, the alumni publication sent to tens of thousands of  graduates from the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, is not identifying as marriages, those legal ceremonies and commitments undergone by same-gender couples where one of the partners is an alumnus of the South Bend school.

Reporter Chuck Colbert uncovered the policy in a Windy City Times article this past week (you can read the entire article by clicking here; it is below the main story about Notre Dame students struggling for a gay-straight alliance.) which states that the magazine

“does not allow use of the word ‘marriage’ in the classnotes section to acknowledge legal same-sex wedlock.

“The new block-out policy came to light in the most recent issue of the magazine ( Spring 2012 ) in a letter to the editor.

” ‘When I was married in the District of Columbia on June 18, 2011, my friend and classmate Lorie Masters was kind enough to write about this joyous occasion in the classnotes section of the winter issue. You, however, saw fit to change the word “marriage” to “united in a ceremony,'” wrote a 1981 law school alumnus, Allyn Amato of Alexandria, Va.”

Amato protested the decision:

“Not only is your editorial policy intellectually and logically flawed, it is also downright insulting both to my husband and to me. We are married and have exactly the same legal status as any heterosexual couple married in the District of Columbia.

“The attitude evidenced by your editorial policy is, in my view, most decidedly hypocritical and anti-Christian. Please answer me this question: Had I married a Jewish or Muslim woman outside the Catholic Church, would you have edited the column in the same manner? I think not.”

Kerry Temple, Notre Dame magazine editor explained the reason for the edit:

“The rationale was that for the vast majority of our readers the word marriage means the sacrament of matrimony. . . .[The controversy] has prompted some discussion here. . . .As more states have allowed same-sex marriages and as society changes, I would think further review is warranted.”

Tom O’Brien, a former co-chair of Notre Dame’s gay and lesbian alumni association, GALA-ND/SMC, who married his partner Oct. 30, 2008, at the Beverly Hills, California, Courthouse offered a comment to Colbert which was written as a letter to family and friends at the time of his wedding:

“Both of us have seen wonderful examples of love, honor, commitment and loyalty in our lives. We believe marriage to be a beautiful expression of that love and commitment; and are thrilled to be able to stand before you and publicly and legally confirm what we have shared together for 14 and-a-half years.

“For both of us, the most powerful moment of the wedding came when we heard the words: ‘By the power invested in me by the State of California…'”

I used to work for a diocesan newspaper.  Occasionally, while researching a story in the newspaper’s files, I would come across photos that had been printed int the 1950’s of a divorced Catholic entertainment celebrities who were re-marrying in  civil ceremonies.  The caption would always read that these individuals were “attempting marriage,” not that they “were married.”  Decades later, the wording seemed silly.

What will Notre Dame alumni in the not-too-distant future think of the magazine’s policy not to identify a legal marriage as a marriage?

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


Notre Dame Fails to Adopt Non-Discrimination Policy for Sexual Orientation; Progress Made on Other LGBT Issues

April 27, 2012

The University of Notre Dame has announced that it will not add sexual orientation to its non-discrimination policy, following at least a semester’s worth of organizing by students and faculty on the Indiana campus to get the administration to adopt the category.

The campus administration released a statement on April 25th outlining a number of ways that the university plans to expand its inclusive welcome to LGBT students.  The actions listed are:

  • Notre Dame continues to be committed to non-discrimination and inclusion, as articulated in the “Spirit of Inclusion” statement and the University’s discriminatory harassment policy. While the wording of the University’s non-discrimination clause will remain in its current form, Notre Dame will strive to enhance awareness of existing practices and protections among students, faculty and staff. The avenues for reporting harassment and discrimination will be clarified, strengthened, and better publicized.
  • The University will seek further opportunities for ongoing dialogue between the Office of the President, the University’s chief diversity officer, the Office of Student Affairs, and student leaders.
  • The University, working through Student Affairs, is committed to supporting and improving the structure and functioning of the University’s Core Council. More information on Core Council is available at http://corecouncil.nd.edu/.
  • The University has acted upon several recommendations made by students to improve support for gay, lesbian and bisexual students and will explore others. These will include making ally training more widely available, offering education to First-Year Orientation commissioners, expanding the Safe Space initiative, and improving hall staff training.
  • Notre Dame will consider ways of making the “Spirit of Inclusion” statement more explicit and effective. The statement is available on line at: http://dulac.nd.edu/spirit-of-inclusion/.

Though the second bullet point offers the opportunity for further dialogue, the university, in announcing this plan, has already twice opted for silence.  In an article the student newspaper, The Observer, the second paragraph reads:

“University Spokesman Dennis Brown declined to provide an explanation for why sexual orientation would not be added [to the non-discrimination policy] and would not say who made the final decision.”

In the same article, the fourth and fifth paragraphs read:

“Student and Faculty Senates recently passed resolutions asking for sexual orientation to be included in the non-discrimination clause. The Student Senate resolution also asked that the University publicly address why the phrase is not included.

“When asked when and if the University would provide such a public response, Brown declined to comment.”

Declining to comment and provide explanations do not bode well for future dialogue.

Alex Coccia

From the student point of view, the announcement of new initiatives was some welcome progress.  Sophomore Alex Coccia, co-president of the Progressive Student Alliance (PSA) who has adroitly led the “4 to 5 Movement” to get  campus club status for AllianceND, the unofficial, student-run gay-straight alliance (GSA), commented:

“ ‘With such a statement from the University, it is important that each individual respond according to his or her own vantage point,’ he said. ‘I believe that it is important to acknowledge the initiative of the administration both to release a public statement regarding first steps for inclusive and to recognize expressed student suggestions.’ ”

The university will announce on May 1st whether or not AllianceND will be officially recognized.

Coccia’s leadership was recently interviewed for a Windy City Times article by Chuck Colbert, in which he explained the origin of the name “4 to 5 Movement,” and also the need for students to be public about their positive views on LGBT issues:

Last year, Brian Sims—a former college football team captain who is openly gay—gave them the idea of 4 to 5 when progressive students hosted him as a speaker on campus, Whitfield explained. . . .
In his talk, Sims pointed to overwhelming majority support for gay rights among young people.
” ‘Statistics supported by the Pew Forum from a national youth survey found that among 18-to-30 year-olds with a college education, four out of five support the general package of gay civil rights,’ explained Coccia.
” ‘When they are polled,; however, he continued, ‘only one-third think their peers agree.’
” ‘So an 80-percent majority thinks it’s a 30-percent minority,’ Coccia said.
” ‘That’s the same dynamic at Notre Dame,’ he said, explaining, ‘Those allies who are the majority are either overwhelmed by the voices of opposition or structures in place make it seem as though they are not the majority.’
‘For Coccia and Whitfield, the in-the-minority mentality is simply unacceptable.
” ‘It keeps allies from getting involved. It hinders people from coming out. It hinders people from speaking what they believe,’ he said.
“Worse yet, ‘it breeds a culture of silence,’ said Coccia.”

Mary Rose D'Angelo

Providing a supportive faculty perspective in the Windy City Times article was Mary Rose D’Angelo,  associate professor of New Testament theology. The article quotes her recent letter to the editor of the student newspaper:

” ‘Catholic teaching does not preclude measures like the GSA and the non-discrimination clause; indeed, it would seem to require them.’
” ‘According to its mission statement, the GSA would, if approved, “serve as a peer-to-peer interaction-based student club/gay-straight alliance, where GLBTQ students and allies can work together to create a sense of human solidarity and concern for the common good” as outlined in Notre Dame’s mission statement. . . .
“. . . ‘A GSA would provide social support for GLBTQ students without isolating them, as well as a significant complement to classroom learning, and would be a venue for student-led effort to assure that GLBTQ students are, in the words of the Catechism [of the Catholic Church] “accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity,”  D’Angelo explained.
” ‘Equally important is the Catechism’s stipulation that “Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided,” she added.
” ‘Endorsing the capacity of gay and straight students (and associated faculty) to organize around sexual identity and adding sexual orientation to the non- discrimination are two essential steps toward fulfilling the moral mandate the Catechism articulates,’ D’Angelo’s letter concluded.”
Highlighting the absence of a GSA at the University of Notre Dame is that its traditional sister school, St. Mary’s College, which has an adjoining campus, does indeed have such a group that is officially recognized, Colbert’s article  notes:
“Advocates for change at Notre Dame point to St. Mary’s College,’where policies, practices, and procedures are administered in a manner consistent with our Catholic identity,’ according to the school’s policy on equal employment opportunity.
“The policy also states, ‘With the foregoing understanding, Saint Mary’s College will not engage in discrimination based on gender, race, national origin, religion, age, mental or physical disability, all as provided by law. Based on Catholic values, the College also commits to avoiding discrimination based on sexual or political orientation.’
“Gwen O’Brien, the school’s media relations director, said in e-mail correspondence, ‘The Straight and Gay Alliance (SAGA) is one of the college’s approved organizations. SAGA’s purpose is to provide students opportunities to openly discuss and question how they may best live their lives as sexual beings within the framework of Catholic teaching.’
“SAGA is self-governing, is open to all students, has a constitution and elects officers—the same as any other student organization—with one caveat, said O’Brien: ‘SAGA cannot serve as an advocacy group.’ “
For previous Bondings 2.0 posts on the 4 to 5 Movement at Notre Dame, see:
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Symposium Provides “Shot in the Arm” for Participants

March 22, 2012

Our final story about New Ways Ministry’s Seventh National Symposium includes a connection to Chuck Colbert’s Windy City Times article entitled “Catholic conference confronts marriage.”

Bishop Geoffrey Robinson at the Symposium. (Jim Brigl Photo)

This article contains a precise summary of Bishop Robinson’s talk in which he called on the Catholic church to rethink its teaching on sexuality:

” ‘If [ church ] teaching on homosexual acts is ever going to change, the basic teaching governing all sexual acts must change,’ retired Auxiliary Bishop Geoffrey Robinson told the gathering of nearly 400 Catholics at the Seventh National Symposium on Catholicism and Homosexuality.

” ‘For centuries the church has taught that every sexual sin is mortal sin,’ said Robinson, an auxiliary bishop of Sydney, Australia.

” ‘The teaching may not be proclaimed as loudly as 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.

” ‘There is a serious need for a change in the church’s teaching on heterosexual acts,’ he said, adding,  ‘If and when this change occurs, it will inevitable have its effect on teaching on homosexual acts.’

” ‘The teaching fostered a belief in an incredibly angry God,’ explained Robinson, ‘for this God would condemn a person to eternity in hell for a single unrepentant 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 is the author of the 2007 book, Confronting Power in the Catholic Church: Reclaiming the Spirit of Jesus, which addressed the clerical sex-abuse crisis and was controversial among his fellow bishops in Australia who faulted him for a 2008 lecture tour in the United States to speak about the issues his book addressed.

Karen Allen and Mary Jo Hoag singing at the Symposium. (Deborah Winarski Photo)

Colbert’s report also contains the perspective of  “Chicagoans Karen Allen and her partner, Mary Jo Hoag, attended the gathering, this their second one.

” ‘What brings me here is the chance to be rooted in my faith and with the people of God and to be sent forth to create loving communities,’ said Allen, who leads a gay and lesbian family-and-friends ministry at St. Nicholas parish in Evanston.

“Allen said the parish group grew out the idea she and others got 10 years ago at the Louisville, Ky., New Ways symposium.

“In proposing the idea, she explained, ‘We were welcomed to do so by our pastor at the time, who said, “Where have you been?’ ‘

“The ministry is about education and prayer and not so much advocacy, Allen said, but ‘more about how can we as gay and lesbian Catholics live fully integrated, authentic lives in our tradition.’

” ‘Many have walked away [ from the church ] but returned in mid-life,’ she explained, while readily acknowledging, ‘struggling mightily’ with ‘clericalism and the hierarchy.’ “

” ‘The church is our church,’ said Hoag, explaining why she stays. ‘Many of us are cradle Catholics who grew up with the rituals, sacraments, and the teachings and feel comfortable. We are gifts to the church and shouldn’t go away, as we provide those gifts of love and understanding and outreach.’

“New Ways Ministry, Allen added, provides us ‘a shot in the arm’ to keep up our work in ministry.

The National Catholic Reporter posted a second article on the  Symposium, this one focusing on Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley’s remarks there.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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