European Bishops Strategize for Positive LGBT Outcome at October’s Synod

May 27, 2015

Cardinal Marx speaking at the 2014 Synod

Three of Europe’s top prelates gathered with colleagues in Rome earlier this week, reflecting on how they could implement more pastoral responses to contemporary family issues at the upcoming Synod of Bishops at the Vatican in October.

About fifty bishops and lay theologians gathered at the Pontifical Gregorian University for the closed day of study and reflection, invited by Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich, Bishop Markus Büchel of St. Gallen, and Archbishop Georges Pontier of Marseilles. The three are the respective episcopal conference presidents of Germany, Switzerland, and France. According to Catholic News Service, the purpose of the gathering was to:

” ‘enrich thinking about the biblical and theological foundations of the themes and clarify the issues at the heart of the current debates on marriage and family’ “

A statement from the Swiss bishops explained how this goal played out during the daylong meeting:

“[R]eflection on a theology of love to which sexuality is understood as a precious gift of God for the expression of love. What is needed is a further development of the theology of love, which is linked to the tradition of the moral-theological distinctions and integrates new insights of anthropology such as sociology.

“The third part of the study day focused on the challenge to accept and theologically understand the biography of the gift of one’s own life: in a socially and highly complex pluralistic society, individuals take a greater responsibility for shaping their own lives. Often they no longer follow traditional patterns. The personal life plans and the judgment of individual conscience play a greater role…

“All presentations and the discussions were able to show the beginnings of a localization of marriage and family in the Church and world. At the same time the study day has made it clear that further discussion on the future of marriage and family is necessary and possible, and is enriched by a further intensive theological reflection.”

Those gathered expect the issues of LGBT and divorced/remarried Catholics to resurface in October, and they find the church’s current approaches insufficient. La Croix quotes one participant as summing up the day’s reflections in a few words:

“The strongest words were mercy, hospitality, forgiveness, support, gradualness, divine pedagogy. The words we objected to: regulations, formalism, strictness.”

Scripture scholar Annie Marie Pelletier spoke highly of the day, telling La Stampa:

“It is a real sign of the times…I was struck by the freedom of speech and the richness it brings. . . .[W]e have shown that the real problems are those fully in the life of the Church in contemporary society, with the idea that we will have a credible word – and faithful to Christ – only if we approach these topics by listening…

“[I]n order to remain faithful to the tradition, we must say things differently. This is true fidelity to tradition and is obviously more expensive than imagining the tradition and repeating the same thing.”

According to a report from Queering the Church which translated an article from the French newspaper Liberationparticipating theologians also included:

“French Jesuit Thomasset Alain [who] believes that the ‘Christian conscience’ has the right to enter into conflict with the Magisterium in ‘responsible dissent’. . .

“The German moral theologian Eberhard Schockenhoff  [who] is campaigning for, among other things, a new approach that [emphasizes that] homosexuals ‘deserve support and a positive response’ from the Church.”

This meeting follows both the German and Swiss bishops’ recent calls for reform, as well as Cardinal Marx’s personal advocacy on behalf of LGBT people. Marx, a close adviser of Pope Francis, has called for the church to see the whole person in discussing sexuality and admitted church teaching develops over time. German bishops recently announced a new policy of not firing LGBT church workers who come out or marry a same-gender partner.

Commenting on German Catholics’ replies to the Vatican’s second synod questionnaire distributed last autumn, the German bishops’ report said many respondents identified a divide between the Vatican’s idealized family and the reality of Catholics’ lives today.  Respondents criticized the absence of questions on homosexuality and contraception. German bishops also noted “very high” expectations that the Synod would overcome this divide, reports The Tablet, with Bishop Heiner Koch of Dresden suggesting Vatican officials would be “well-advised to get down to a really committed, sound and communicative preparation.”

Switzerland’s bishops similarly summarized the responses from 6,000 Catholics in their nation. The bishops called sacramental marriage a “model minority” (according to an unofficial translation) and say Catholics want the church’s pastoral initiatives to respond to realities, including:

“Partnerships for gays and lesbians should have a place in the church, so this is a further request to the Church. Although equality with the ecclesiastical marriage is rejected by a majority, there is still a high level of support to a blessing of these partnerships.

This past week’s meeting at the Gregorian University is a clear sign the bishops are listening to Catholics who love the church but are extremely dissatisfied with its pastoral approaches to LGBT people and other marginalized communities. Such a meeting could not have occurred under the two previous papacies, but Pope Francis is allowing space for genuine encounter, dialogue, and visioning to happen. While it is still possible that the synod may become a case of crushed expectations. there are still signs of life and renewal all over this global church if only we pay attention — and Cardinal Marx’s strategy meeting is certainly one of those prominent signs.

For Bondings 2.0‘s full coverage of the 2015 Synod on the Family, click here or subscribe to the blog in the upper right hand corner for regular Catholic LGBT updates in the coming months.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


S.F. Parents and Students Say Revised Teaching Handbook Is Still Problematic

May 26, 2015

Archbishop Cordileone’s critics continue protests of the proposed teachers’ handbook.

After months of protest, the Archdiocese of San Francisco has revised the enhanced morality clauses proposed for teachers’ handbook for Catholic high school teachers. These revisions are not quieting tensions in the archdiocese that seem far from resolved.

The new draft, prepared by five archdiocesan high school theology teachers, removes the pastorally damaging language about homosexuality primary to critics’ opposition. A preamble explains that the document is a “short compendium of some important teachings,” reports the National Catholic Reporter, and adds:

“The Gospel cannot be reduced to a list of truths no matter how comprehensive because the Gospel is a person, the anointed one, Jesus of Nazareth, who is Lord.”

In the larger document, the language regarding sexuality emphasizes chastity and the bishops’ understanding of marriage. It addresses homosexuality only in implicit terms, stating:

“The Church makes a distinction between someone’s desires and someone’s actions. Desires/attractions are neutral to the extent they are spontaneous and not willed. Having an attraction to someone isn’t sinful, yet not every human desire should be acted upon.”

Closely mirroring the Catechism, the revised statement also adds that all are to be respected and loved “regardless of sexual attraction.”It does not, however, stop the archdiocese’s attempts to reclassify school employees as ministers which would make them exempt from the protections of non-discrimination laws.  Indeed, Paul Hance who is a union leader as well as history teacher, said lawyers believe the revised statement pushes the ministerial classification in even stronger terms. He added:

“What would happen if the archbishop gets his way? We would have termination without legal recourse…Our rights are not negotiable; our profession is teaching, not ministry.”

Credit: Concerned Parents and Students

Those affiliated with “Concerned Parents and Students: Teach Acceptance,” the group defending Catholic school teachers and opposing Cordileone’s revisions, rejected the new draft. Since the morality clauses were first added in February, more than 80% of Catholic high school faculty and staff signed a petition rejecting the old versions, and it doesn’t seem the new revisions have won over new supporters for Cordileone’s policies.

In the press release which the parent and student group issued, Kathy Curran, a mother, spoke about the harmful language and ideas that she sees remaining in the revised document:

“The language is still harmful to our children and is an attempt to camouflage his original agenda and fundamentally alter the character and culture of Catholic education in our high schools.”

Former teacher Kathleen Purcell, who lost her job at a Catholic school in the neighboring Oakland Diocese when she crossed out the objectionable sections when signing her 2014-2015 contract, said:

“Under the revised handbook language, teachers would not be able to dissent or discuss ideas that conflict with the Archbishop’s understanding of Catholicism without risking their jobs. This fundamentally alters the character of our schools. Teachers whose jobs are under threat if they step outside the line cannot provide a safe environment for students to learn.”

Others spoke at press conference last Monday, sampled here:

  • Jessica Hyman, a graduating senior: “We will not be fooled into thinking Archbishop Cordileone is changing anything. We can thank our teachers for bestowing us with the knowledge to see past this trickery. The language is softer, but the message is still hurtful and wrong.”
  • Jim Jordan, a high school teacher: “[The pause is] a small victory for us in that there will be no handbook change this year, which means we’ve stemmed the tide for the moment…[Cordileone] is not backing down at all, merely slowing down.”
  • Jim McGarry, organizer with Concern Parents and Students: “Even muted, the Archbishop’s rhetoric of judgment and selectivity about and atomization of the moral life of our students and their families is not simply a storm to be weathered. It is the precipice of a disaster.”

Advocates for church workers rallied outside the San Francisco chancery last week, while dialogue and negotiations between the archdiocese and teachers’ union continued. Teacher Sal Curcio is quoted in Cruxexpressing cautious optimism:

“The good news here is that there have been some changes to this document, so it seems as if the archbishop is willing to listen, to a certain degree…We wish he would listen more, and we wish he would really communicate with us more.”

A cover letter from Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone accompanied the revised statement, and it said, in part:

“Despite these worthy goals [outlined by the archbishop], several unintended consequences have resulted that have created the tensions we have been experiencing. I honestly did not foresee the reaction that ensued, and I apologize for this lack of foresight on my part.”

Cordileone also a year’s deferral before implementing the handbook’s new language, saying to teachers that he would use the year to “help you better understand the ‘what’ and, especially, the ‘why’ of the full range of church teaching.” The teachers are well aware of the bishops’ articulations; they just happen to have a different approach to how that teaching should be applied in their professional lives and schools.

Supporters of Cordileone are organizing too, hosting a website and a rally attended by the archbishop. They claim he is being “demonized” and a “witch hunt” is underway, reported the San Francisco Chronicle.

In April, more than 100 influential San Francisco Catholics signed a full page open letter calling for Cordileone’s resignation, while traditionalist nuns abandoned their Marian High School classrooms because they were upset that students were participating in GLSEN’s Day of Silence, an anti-bullying event.

Controversy is not new for Archbishop Cordileone. A recent article in the National Catholic Reporter documented that his time in San Francisco has been marked by “divisive action” which harms the local church profoundly. The article’s list of the archbishop’s actions are too numerous to name here. You can read Bondings 2.0‘s full coverage of his response to LGBT issues for the past few years here.

To lend your support for San Francisco’s Catholic school teachers, connect with “Concerned Parents and Students: TeachAcceptance” on their websiteFacebook, Twitter, or the online petition. You can also sign up online to volunteer through the Google form here.

For Bondings 2.0‘s full coverage of this story, and other LGBT-related church worker disputes, click the ‘Employment Issues‘ category to the right or here. You can click here to find a full listing of the almost 50 incidents since 2008 where church workers have lost their jobs over LGBT identity, same-sex marriages, or public support for equality.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Will World Meeting of Families Accept Catholic LGBT Organizations?

May 25, 2015

In September of 2015, the Vatican-sponsored World Meeting of Families (WMF) will bring together about 20,000 pilgrims to Philadelphia from all over the world to discuss family issues in the light of faith.  Families with LGBT members, however, are not being provided with the opportunity to be visible officially at the event.

Two national Catholic organizations that support LGBT ministry and outreach are still waiting to hear from the WMF administration if they will be allowed to have a presence, either by exhibit table or advertising space, at the international conference scheduled for the end of September 2015.

The National Catholic Reporter noted that both Fortunate Families (FF), a national network of Catholic parents of LGBT people, and the Catholic Association for Lesbian and Gay Ministry (CALGM), have not received a response from their applications to be allowed to have a table to distribute information about themselves to the pilgrim families.

Deb Word, with husband Steven in the background.

Fortunate Families applied for an exhibit table last August, and was told that they were rejected for “lack of information,”  according to FF Board President Deb Word.  After re-applying in February, she learned at the beginning of this month that the application was again rejected, though no reason was given.   They will now apply to have an advertisement in the program booklet for the event.

When The National Catholic Reporter inquired to the World Meeting of Families administration as to the reason for rejecting FF, Ken Gavin, communication director for the Philadelphia archdiocese, local organizers for the WMF, responded circumspectly:

“Applications for exhibitors are reviewed by staff within the World Meeting of Families Office and WMOF-Philadelphia 2015 reserves the right to approve or deny various applications. … If an organization has a question about the status of their application or the decision rendered, they should be in contact with the entity directly.”

Word had also been in contact with WMF organizers because she was being considered as a possible participant on a panel about the church and gay issues.  She was not accepted, and the panel will have only two members:  a celibate gay Catholic man and his mother.

As for CALGM, they, too, applied for an exhibit table last year, but have still not heard if they have been accepted.  The news article stated:

Arthur Fitzmaurice, resource director for CALGM, told NCR he is confident that meeting organizers will ‘resolve this.’ He submitted his group’s application for exhibit space last year, complete with credit card information, and reapplied using the same form in early 2015.”

One national Catholic organization that has been accepted as an exhibitor at the meeting is Courage, which is a ministry which directs lesbian and gay people to celibacy.  The news article says that their method is based on  “five goals that include chastity, prayer, and fellowship and utilizes a 12-step format based on the Alcoholics Anonymous model.”

The news article also reported on pro-LGBT activities at the WMF that are being sponsored by New Ways Ministry and the Equally Blessed Coalition:

New Ways Ministry also plans to host a workshop on gender identity issues; co-sponsor a reception for LGBT Catholics, families, and allies; [the Equally Blessed Coalition will]. . . sponsor several dozen Catholic ‘pilgrims’ from nontraditional families who will be sent out each day with the ‘message that lesbian/gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex persons are also part of families’ during the week.”

For more information about New Ways Ministry events at WMF, please send inquiry emails to: info@NewWaysMinistry.org.

For more information about the Equally Blessed Coalition’s pilgrims to WMF, please click here.   You can donate financially to support these pilgrims’ work by clicking here.

The World Meeting of Families may not accept organizations such as Fortunate Families, CALGM, New Ways Ministry, and the Equally Blessed Coalition, but that will not prevent them from going forth in every way possible to spread a pro-LGBT message and witness at this international gathering.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


Irish Referendum Results Warrant a “Reality Check” for the Church Says Dublin Archbishop

May 24, 2015
Dublin's rainbow as referendum results are announced

Dublin’s rainbow as referendum results are announced

With 62.07% of the vote, Ireland became the first nation to approve marriage equality by popular referendum yesterday.

Ireland is more than 80% Catholic, meaning the debate over marriage rights was closely tied to the church.

Recent months included many Catholics coming out publicly for the “Yes” campaign, including religious and priests. The Irish hierarchy took a muted tone in comparison to their brother bishops abroad, and many considered this vote a referendum on the Irish church’s power as well.

Below,  Bondings 2.0 provides initial reactions to the referendum’s successful outcome. To view our full coverage of the debate from recent months, click here.  You can read New Ways Ministry’s reaction by clicking here.

As soon as the vote was tallied, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin said the church needs a “reality check” in response to the “social revolution” signified by the referendum results.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin

The archbishop criticized the church for being a “safe space for the like-minded,” rather than a church going out to the margins for which Pope Francis has called. Martin, as reported by the Irish Independentsaid the church needed new language because its teachings were clearly alienating to young people:

“It’s very clear that if this referendum is an affirmation of the views of young people that the church has a huge challenge in front of it to find the language to be able to talk to and get its message across to young people, not just on this issue but in general.

“I think really the church needs to do a reality check right across the board, to look at the areas in which we’re doing well and see have we drifted away completely from young people.”

Martin noted that he appreciates gay people feel marriage equality will be “enriching the way they live.” Though these admissions are obvious for many Catholics, such remarks from an archbishop are rare and a positive sign that members of the hierarchy might be learning more about same-gender relationships.

Father Seamus Ahearne of Finglas echoed the archbishop’s sentiments about a new language for the church, telling the International Business Times:

“Religion and the Catholic Church have almost become irrelevant in people’s lives…This pompous, pious, arrogant language we’ve used for so long — it’s wrong. The church has to speak a different kind of language now, reaching into people’s hearts.”

Katherine Zappone and Ann Louise Gilligan

Katherine Zappone and Ann Louise Gilligan, plaintiffs in an unsuccessful 2006 lawsuit seeking marriage equality in Ireland, gave their response to the vote to the Boston Globe. Their Catholic roots are deep, having met at Boston College after Gilligan spent time in religious life. The couple’s proposal was broadcast live on television as results came in and they plan to hold a wedding soon because, as Zappone says, “There’s nothing like an Irish wedding.”

Political analyst Sean Donnelly told the The Washington Post:

“We’re in a new country…When I was reared up, the church was all powerful and the word ‘gay’ wasn’t even in use in those days. How things have moved from my childhood to now.”

Health Minister Leo Varadkar

Health Minister Leo Varadkar, who came out as gay in January while endorsing the referendum, said the vote was a “social revolution.” Crux quoted him further:

“We’re the first country in the world to enshrine marriage equality in our constitution and do so by popular mandate. That makes us a beacon, a light to the rest of the world, of liberty and equality.”

New Ways Ministry director Francis DeBernardo said in a statement that Ireland’s victory on LGBT rights combined with yesterday’s beatification of Archbishop Oscar Romero signified real gains for lay people in the church. The post says, in part:

“What do these two stories have in common?   In both cases, the opinion of Catholic lay people has won the day, even when the church’s hierarchy opposed both developments.  In both cases, the sense of the faithful overcame institutional fears and customs.  In both cases, Catholic ideals were articulated and lived out by the laity.”

DignityUSA director Marianne Duddy-Burke said in a statement:

“It is very significant that the first nation to legalize same-sex marriage by popular referendum is a predominantly Catholic country…[Catholics] voted with their hearts and their consciences, and the result is increased justice.”

The response from those who opposed marriage equality, led by the conservative Iona Institute, is noteworthy. David Quinn, a spokesperson, congratulated “Yes” campaigners and accepted the results, a contrast to the often acidic tone which has characterized marriage debates in the United States and elsewhere.

Finally, Buzzfeed reported that some Twitter users are opining that a rainbow appearing over Dublin yesterday is Jesus’ approval of the referendum’s outcome.

Ireland’s vote means twenty nations have now legalized same-gender marriage and many of them are predominantly or historically Catholic. To see the official Irish results, visit the Referendum 2015 page here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


A Great Day for Irish Lay Catholics! And for Lay Catholics in El Salvador, Too!

May 23, 2015

The following is the statement of Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director, New Ways Ministry, on the occasion of Ireland voting to legalize marriage for lesbian and gay couples:

Today, headlines around the world announced Catholic news from two different parts of the globe, which may seem disparate, but which share an important common theme.

Crowds outside Dublin Castle celebrate Ireland’s marriage equality victory.

In Ireland, one of the most Catholic nations on earth, hundreds of thousands voted overwhelmingly in a general referendum to enact marriage equality for lesbian and gay couples.

In El Salvador, a strongly Catholic nation, hundreds of thousands turned out for beatification ceremonies for Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was martyred 35 years ago while celebrating Mass.

What do these two stories have in common?   In both cases, the opinion of Catholic lay people has won the day, even when the church’s hierarchy opposed both developments.  In both cases, the sense of the faithful overcame institutional fears and customs.  In both cases, Catholic ideals were articulated and lived out by the laity.

In Ireland, the Catholic bishops spoke out consistently against the establishment of marriage equality.  Their statements have been documented here on this blog.  But lay people insisted that allowing lesbian and gay couples to marry was consistent with Catholic principles of equality, fairness, human dignity, and family stability.

In El Salvador, lay people instantly declared Romero as a saint at the time of his death, but his cause for canonization was hindered during the papacies of John Paul II and Benedict XVI because Vatican officials feared any possible endorsement of liberation theology.  But lay people, especially those who were living in poverty, insisted that Romero, who defended their rights and human dignity fearlessly, was indeed worthy of veneration as a martyr.

Crowds gather for the beatification Mass for Archbishop Oscar Romero in El Salvador.

In both of these cases, the prayers and work of lay people have won out over hierarchical reluctance.

New Ways Ministry prays with joy for both nations for their courage and determination to bring about justice and Catholic ideals into the public square.

There is still work to be done in both cases. In El Salvador, the advancement towards canonizing Romero as a saint must still be completed. The support of Pope Francis in this case may help to speed up the process.

In Ireland, the Catholic Church there needs to learn to work together once again–hierarchy and laity.  There will be pastoral work needed to help unite Catholics who were opposed during the marriage equality campaign.  U.S. bishops who have been involved in marriage equality debates have yet to do this type of work, and our church is hurting and losing many of the faithful because of omission of this step.

In Ireland, the job may be a bit lighter because the hierarchy’s leader, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin (vice- president of the nation’s bishops conference) has been extremely courteous in their opposition to marriage equality.  While maintaining consistent and strong opposition to marriage equality, he also voiced respect for those who held a different opinion.  He worked hard for his position, but he worked even harder to make sure that those who disagreed with him would not be alienated from the Church.

Congratulations and prayerful thanks to the Catholics of Ireland who have shown what we here in the U.S. have known for a long time:  that Catholic lay people support marriage equality because they are Catholic, not in spite of being Catholic.

Congratulations and prayerful best wishes to the Catholics of El Salvador who have shown that the preferential option for the poor is a pillar of Catholicism and that our church should honor those who live out that principle even in the face of violent opposition.

Yesterday was a day when, to paraphrase Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,  the arc of the moral universe bent a little more toward justice.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 


Swiss and Swedish Incidents Reveal the Need for LGBT Education for Clergy

May 23, 2015

Switzerland and Sweden have recently shared a similar sad experience.  In each country, a local Catholic church leader ended up apologizing and retracting incorrect negative statements made publicly about lesbian and gay people.  The cases highlight how bishops and priests so desperately need to be educated about the basics of LGBT lives.

A Swiss bishop has done a flip-flop regarding a statement he made to a French-language newspaper in which he claimed that a homosexual orientation can be “cured” through psychological or prayer interventions.

Bishop Jean-Marie Lovey

LGBTQNation.com reported on the prelate’s original statements:

“Jean-Marie Lovey, one of Switzerland’s most prominent Catholic Bishops, said on Tuesday that he is persuaded that ‘homosexuality can be cured’ by prayer or ‘psychological healing.’

“Lovey, who is the Bishop of Sion, in southern Switzerland, told the Swiss daily Le Nouvelliste that gay people sometime feel their sexuality to be ‘like an injury or suffering. We must therefore, honor their desire for change.’

“ ‘Regarding the fundamental question – “can a homosexual person change?” – there is a domain which you be sure of: prayer,’ said Lovey.

“ ‘In nature, the human being is gendered, masculine-feminine. And is not fully human unless he lives this complementarity. It is a question of natural morality,’ he said. ‘Homosexuality can be cured.’ ”

A few days later with another newspaper, Le Matin, Lovey corrected his original statements.  SwissInfo.ch reported on this second interview, which had also originally been conducted in French:

In Thursday’s Le Matin interview the bishop said he was very surprised by the heated reactions to his comments, both on social media and by gay and lesbian organisations, which he said were ‘misunderstood’.

“ ‘I don’t consider homosexuality to be an illness. But I do know people whose homosexual tendencies were fleeting, without claiming this is the case for everyone. I used the term “cure” for a person who was homosexual and who talks in these terms about his personal experience,’ said Lovey.”

In the first interview,  the bishop did state that he felt that being did not diminish a person’s human dignity, and so gay people should be respected.

Father Ingvar Fogelqvist

This Swiss incident echoes a similar one which happened in Sweden in April. TheLocal.se reported that a priest in that country made mis-informed comments about the psychology of lesbian and gay people, but then, later, apologized and corrected his remarks.  The news article stated:

“Preaching to the Catholic parish of Ärkeängeln Sankt Mikael in Växjö, priest Ingvar Fogelqvist allegedly told students at a confirmation class that certain gay people could be ‘cured’ of their ‘psychological disorder’ while other forms of homosexuality are incurable.

“The priest added that gay people, as well as those who suffer from impotence or other health problems, should not take on the responsibility of family life. . . .

“When contacted by The Local Fogelqvist was not immediately available for comment, but in a press release. . . he later apologized for his comments and said they had been taken out of context.

“ ‘My wording in the interview is clumsy, and I would therefore like to apologize to anyone who may have felt hurt by what I have said. Some of the quotes have also been taken out of context. It was not my intention in any way to express myself in an offensive way against homosexuals,’ he wrote.

“ ‘What I meant by incurable was that homosexuality can be a permanent sexual orientation and is not to be regarded as an illness that can be cured,’ he added.

While it is good that Bishop Lovey and Father Ingvar Fogelqvist  corrected themselves, I hope that they and other bishops  and priests learn from this incident an important lesson: they need to educate themselves about basic scientific knowledge and theological developments about LGBT people.  As educated people, bishops and priests should not be making such ill-informed comments.  It indicates their lack of knowledge about sexual orientation and the lives of LGBT people.

Lovey, like many bishops who have made negative comments about lesbian and gay relationships, has acknowledged that respect for LGBT people is a main tenet of church teaching.  The most basic form of respect is to not speak about a person or group of persons without the most basic knowledge of their reality.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Ireland Votes on Marriage Today, While Bishops’ Political Influence Wanes

May 22, 2015

Thousands of Irish “Yes” campaigners rally in Dublin just days before today’s referendum.

Irish voters will decide today whether to legalize same-gender marriage in this most Catholic of nations. If they succeed, the vote would be the first national referendum in the world to endorse marriage equality.

Catholic supporters of the “Yes” campaign have been prominent and manifold, with the unsurprising exception of the nation’s Catholic bishops. Many observers are noting that the stature of Ireland’s once powerful church hierarchy is now falling.

Catholics’ outspoken opposition to the hierarchy’s position reveals an Irish church undergoing fundamental shifts, what Daily Beast columnist J.P. O’Malley describes as:

“[T]he complete collapse of the old guard of archaic, socially-repressive Catholic institutions that have dominated Irish society since the Free State was formed in 1922…What this referendum represents is a seismic shift in the zeitgeist: progressive-modern-Ireland is finally breaking free from the shackles of a de-facto Catholic State that was unofficially run from Rome for decades.”

Initially, Ireland’s bishops refrained from the harsh rhetoric and showy displays favored by many American bishops on this topic, but this restraint changed as the referendum approached. Their initial statement about the referendum’s announcement did not even ask voters to oppose marriage equality, merely to think it over. Fintan O’Toole wrote in The New York Times:

“[The bishops’] ability to influence the referendum on same-sex marriage is limited. Many church leaders have avoided taking a hard line. This owes something to Pope Francis’s more conciliatory tone on homosexuality, but even more to an awareness that many of the faithful. . .no longer take church teaching on sexuality as gospel. The archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, went so far as to warn church leaders not to use ‘language which is insensitive and over-judgmental’ — a warning surely rooted in his understanding of the other, more personal force in this debate.”

Due to the Catholic Church’s domineering influence, Ireland did not decriminalize homosexuality until 1993. Now, polling shows marriage equality support consistently above 70%. Young Irish citizens living abroad are returning home to cast their vote. In other signs of change, leading politician Leo Varadkar came out as gay several months ago, and Ireland’s government has repeatedly been clear that church worker discrimination will not be allowed if the referendum is approved.

Rita O’Connor, a parishioner of Dublin’s cathedral, succinctly summarized this cultural shift, and the thinking of many Irish Catholics, when she told an Irish Times journalist:

“I’m just going to vote for gay people because I have nothing against them…I can’t understand why anybody is against it…[The bishops’ opposition] is a stupid carry-on.”

There is a deep reality behind these sentiments, documented by Bondings 2.0 in the months leading up to today’s vote (see articles listed at the end of this post). Lay Catholics, like their counterparts in many other nations, have been at the forefront of pro-equality campaigning. Former Irish president Mary McAleese, who has a gay son, gave a moving address earlier this week, challenging anti-LGBT voices who claim marriage equality will harm Irish children. She said, in part:

“We who are parents, brothers and sisters, colleagues and friends of Ireland’s gay citizens, we know how they have suffered because of second class citizenship. This referendum is about them and about them alone. The only children who are certain to be affected by this referendum are Ireland’s gay children. It is their future that is at stake…

“We the majority, we have to make it happen for them and for all the unborn gay children who are relying on us to end the branding, end the isolation, end the inequality, quite literally, once and for all in our Constitution. A yes vote costs the rest of us nothing. A no vote costs our gay children everything.”

What has been unique to Ireland is the strength of public support from the clergy and religious women. Throughout the campaign, clergy and religious women have been more vocal in their endorsement of marriage equality than in almost any other nation that has debated the issue.  One priest came out as gay during a sermon in which he endorsed marriage equality. which his congregation met with applause. Redemptorist Fr. Tony Flannery, the founder of the Association of Catholic Priests in Ireland, predicted that 25% of Irish priests might vote for marriage equality today, according to a report in Buzzfeed.

As one of the world’s most Catholic nations historically, a “Yes” victory in Ireland today can have ramifications in the Catholic world beyond Ireland, too.

Add your prayers to those of Catholics worldwide that Irish voters make the Christian choice and endorse marriage equality today!

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Articles on Ireland’s referendum on Bondings 2.0

2015

May 14: “Nun and Priest Join with Other Irish Catholics Set to Vote ‘Yes’ for Marriage Equality

May 8: “Dublin Archbishop Calls for an “Ethics of Equality” in Marriage Debate

April 19: “Sr. Jeannine Gramick Calls on Irish Population to Vote for Marriage Equality

March 23: “Dublin Archbishop: I’m No Expert on Family; Anti-Gay Groups’ Language is ‘Obnoxious’

March 21: “Catholics Leave Mass Over Bigoted Homily, but Not All Priests Oppose Marriage Equality

March 12: “Archbishops Correct Irish Bishop’s Insensitive Remarks About Lesbian & Gay People

March 10: “Bishop’s Insensible Remarks Reveal the Great Need for LGBT Dialogue

March 3: “Irish Arguments About Marriage Equality Go From the Ridiculous to the Sublime

February 3: “Ireland’s ‘Gay Moment’ as Marriage Referendum and Ban on Employment Discrimination Approach

January 10: “Irish Priest Comes Out During Mass, Endorses Marriage Equality to Applause

2014

December 22: “Ireland’s Gay Catholic Voices Speak Out for Faith and Equality

December 12: “Elphin Bishop, Bert & Ernie, Gay Priests, and Colin Farrell Are All Involved in Ireland’s LGBT Debates

December 9: “Irish Bishops and Laity Have Differing Views on Marriage Equality

September 9: “St. Vincent de Paul Society Gives Grant to LGBT Center Despite Bishop’s Challenge

September 8: “Ireland’s Catholics March Onward for LGBT Equality

March 14: “LGBT Rainbows Are Appearing Over Ireland

February 11: “Signs of Openness on LGBT and Marriage Issues from Two European Church Leaders

January 9: “Former President of Ireland Calls for Change in Church’s Teaching on Homosexuality

2013

November 7: “Marriage Equality Referendum Scheduled In Ireland: Where Will Catholics Stand?

April 16: “Equal Marriage Rights Progress Around the World-Especially in Catholic Nations

April 8: “Irish Bishops Threaten Action if Marriage Equality is Passed


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