NEWS NOTES: Some Follow-Ups to Past Stories

Here are some articles,which follow up on previous Bondings 2.0 posts, that you may find of interest:

In May, we presented the news that the Bishops of England and Wales had published a set of guidelines to eliminate bullying of LGBT youth in Catholic schools.  The National Catholic Reporter recently published New Ways Ministry’s Executive Director Francis DeBernardo’s analysis of the document.  In it he compares the British bishops’ remedy for bullying with the near absence of any discussion of bullying by the U.S. bishops.

In June, we reported on the Diocese of Jefferson City’s new guidelines on admitting students from non-traditional families to its Catholic schools. In a news articleThe National Catholic Reporter explores the controversy that these guidelines provoked, having pleased neither conservatives nor progressives in the Church.  New Ways Ministry’s Francis DeBernardo calls the guidelines “a double-edged sword.”

Earlier in August, we reported on a gay married couple in Brazil who received a letter of congratulations and blessing from Pope Francis when they had their three adopted children baptized.  In an essay for The Huffington Post, DignityUSA Executive Director Marianne Duddy-Burke examines this development and writes “The Letter Those Brazilian Dads Should Have Received on the Baptism of Their Children.”

In our “All Are Welcome” series,   Bondings 2.o regularly reports on the ways that Catholic parishes are welcoming LGBT people into their communities.  In a blog post for The National Catholic Reporter, Frank McKown, the former co-chair of Catholic Ministry with Gay and Lesbian Persons for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, describes some insights he has had about the need to welcome all.  His post is entitled, “We must welcome gays, lesbians as they ‘were created to be’ .”

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, August 19, 2017

Global Network of Rainbow Catholics To Hold Second Assembly

The Global Network of Rainbow Catholics (GNRC), a growing international coalition of organizations and individuals who work for LGBTQI justice and equality in church and society, will be hosting their Second Assembly in Munich/Dachau, Germany, in the late fall of this year.

 

 

 

 

The Assembly will gather Catholic advocates, both LGBTQI and allies, under the theme and title “Hear a Just Cause” (Psalm 7:1) on November 30-December 3, 2017,  at the  International Youth Guest House (Jugendherberge Dachau) in Dachau, a suburb of Munich.

A GNRC invitation letter describes the purpose of the meeting:

“After decades of an ‘ice age’ on LGBTQI issues, Pope Francis has opened up the church for new approaches in pastoral work with LGBTQI people, while the moral doctrine seems to remain sealed. This situation creates tensions and controversies: Some parishes, dioceses and regions use this new opportunity for creating more inclusive and welcoming spaces, while others react even more hostilely to societal progress such as equal marriage. In the midst of these contradictions, it is more important than ever for the Catholic Church to “hear a just cause”.

“Since its creation in October 2015, the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics (GNRC) brings together groups and organisations, which provide pastoral care and work for justice for LGBTQI people. The Network strives for inclusion, dignity and equality of this community in the Roman Catholic Church and in the wider civil society. The GNRC held its 1st Assembly in October 2015 in Rome at the conference, ‘Ways of Love,’ with 80 participants from 30 countries. To this date, the GNRC represents 25 allied groups across all continents. . . .

“The assembly has two goals: 1) to consolidate the organisational development of GNRC and 2) to define strategies in key areas such as

  • dialogue with leaders of the Catholic Church.
  • promoting best practices of pastoral work with LGBTQI people and their families
  • campaigning for a Catholic statement against criminalization of LGBT people
  • confronting the anti-gender rhetoric within the Catholic Church.”

As part of the Assembly, participants will visit the Concentration Camp Memorial in Dachau,
Christmas market in Munich, Mass at the “Bürgersaalkirche” in Munich, and a Bavarian dinner gathering.

You can apply to attend the Assembly by clicking here.  For more information about GNRC, click here.

New Ways Ministry was involved with the genesis of GNRC, having been present at the inception meeting in Rome in October, 2014, and the First Assembly in Rome in October, 2015.  New Ways Ministry Co-founder Sister Jeannine Gramick spoke at the conference day of the Assembly in 2015, and Executive Director Francis DeBernardo has served on the GNRC Steering Committee for the past two years.    DignityUSA and the Human Rights Campaign’s Religion and Faith office also sent representatives to the 2015 Assembly.  For a full list of international organizations which have been involved in GNRC, click here.   To see the list of Steering Committee members, click here.

After participating in the 2015 Assembly, I wrote the following as part of a reflective blog post on the meeting:

“One thing I learned from participating is how different Catholicism is around the globe and how different the LGBT experience is.  It helped me to see that in the United States, Catholic lay people have many opportunities to participate in the life of the church–even though we are still denied participation in many decision-making processes.  I also realized how privileged the U.S. LGBT community is.  Again, we still have work to do in terms of full equality in employment and other areas, but the level of repression, violence, and state oppression against LGBT people is much greater in many places around the globe.”

The Global Network of Rainbow Catholics holds promise for a strong voice for LGBTQI equality and justice in the Church.  If time and finances are available for you, please consider attending this important meeting.

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, August 18, 2017

What Did a Cardinal Tweet About Book On Reparative Therapy?

A top African cardinal recently tweeted about a book on reparative therapy and another book that claims the LGBT movement is totalitarian. What exactly is his message in doing so, and what could the pastoral implications be?

Screen Shot 2017-08-16 at 12.15.05 PM.pngIn early August, Cardinal Wilfred Napier of Durban, South Africa tweeted about the book, Reparative Therapy of Male Homosexuality: A New Clinical Approach. He linked to quotes from the book in three tweets, and in one of the tweets commented before the quote’s beginning:

“Just started reading this challenging work on a subject of great importance. ‘And most of all I want to express m. . . ‘” [Ed. note:  The tweet ended abruptly.]

The book is authored by Josepn Nicolosi, a founding member and former president of  National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, a reparative therapy advocacy group the . It was published in 2012, and is based on ideas that have long been discredited by mainstream professional communities.

In July, Napier tweeted about another book,  The Global Sexual Revolution: Destruction of Freedom in the Name of Freedom by Gabriele Kuby, which is also highly critical of LGBT people. Its dust jacket description includes the following:

“From the [LGBT] movement’s trailblazers to the post-Obergefell landscape, she documents in meticulous detail how the tentacles of a budding totalitarian regime are slowly gripping the world in an insidious stranglehold. Here on full display are the re-education techniques of the new permanent revolution, which has migrated from politics and economics to sex.”

Several anti-gay figures have also endorsed Kuby’s book, including Austin Ruse of the Center for Family and Human Rights (classified as a hate group) and leaders with the Family Research Council and the Alliance Defending Freedom. Earlier this week, Bondings 2.0 explored how these extreme right wing figures and groups have helped import homophobia to Africa, even advocating for harsher criminalization laws.

Screen Shot 2017-08-16 at 12.28.27 PM.pngFinally, Napier retweeted a derogatory image against transgender persons posted by another user. It is a chart of differing gender identities, around which male and female are circled and labeled as “genders.” The other near three dozen identities are circled and labeled as “mental disorders.”

Why is Napier giving a tacit endorsement to these books and this chart by tweeting about them with little to no commentary?

His promotion of them is even more problematic given the Catholic magisterium’s own ambiguity about reparative therapy and what Vatican officials have termed “gender ideology.” The Catechism says the “psychological genesis” of homosexuality is unknown, though admits there is a “non-negligible” number of people with “deep-seated homosexual tendencies.” The U.S. bishops’ document Always Our Children addresses the issue of  reparative therapy more directly, but is ambiguous about support for it:

“You can help a homosexual person in two general ways. First, encourage him or her to cooperate with God’s grace to live a chaste life. Second, concentrate on the person, not on the homosexual orientation itself. This implies respecting a person’s freedom to choose or refuse therapy directed toward changing a homosexual orientation. Given the present state of medical and psychological knowledge, there is no guarantee that such therapy will succeed. Thus, there may be no obligation to undertake it, though some may find it helpful.”

Given these statements, Cardinal Napier could be promoting Nicolosi’s book and feel he is defended by church teaching. Doing so, though, is certainly not within the limits of contemporary discourse on these issues, which has overwhelmingly rejected reparative therapy as pseudoscience and where the diagnosis of gender dysphoria remains highly controversial.

What is more problematic for me is not Napier’s ideas engagement with alternative viewpoints or even an engagement of ambiguous doctrine. The problems arise when reading his tweets through a pastoral lens. The harm reparative therapies have caused pastorally and psychologically is well-documented, which has led to a dozen or so countries and at least eight U.S. states to ban it in some or all forms. Of particular concern is forcing children to engage in such therapy, given the long term harm it can cause them. All of these realities seem to suggest it would be pastorally inappropriate to speak positively about Nicolosi’s writings.

Additionally, Napier is a culture warrior. Though not a signatory, he supported five cardinals’ submission of dubia to Pope Francis about perceived doctrinal issues with Amoris Laetitia. His Twitter feed includes many statements and retweets that place him clearly in the right wing of the church, and he emerged as a strong reactionary voice at the 2014 and 2015 synods on the family. Read with this knowledge as context, his tweets about reparative therapy, the LGBT movement as totalitarian, and gender diversity as mental disorders read all the more threateningly.

I cannot know what is in Cardinal Napier’s heart or on his mind when tweeting quotes from Nicolosi’s book or linking to Kuby’s book, and especially not when retweeting the gender diversity chart. Still I have one invitation I humbly propose for the cardinal.

Cardinal Napier once claimed he could not be homophobic because he did not personally know any lesbian or gay people. He may not know when he has met an LGBT person, though it is almost assured that he has encountered members of these gender and sexual minority communities.

As a pastor, Napier would be wise to stop reading junk science and spend his time going out to meet with and listen to the stories of LGBT people and their families. That would be the real “challenging work on a subject of great importance,” and it would be the Christ-like path, too.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, August 17, 2017

Catholics Central in Debate on Australia’s Upcoming Marriage Equality Vote

Catholic voices remain influential in Australia’s ongoing struggle to pass marriage equality, the latest step of which has been the government’s announcement of a “postal plebiscite.”

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Malcolm Turnbull

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, a Catholic, announced the non-binding vote last week. Elected in 2015, Turnbull is a pro-marriage equality candidate who agreed to adhere to a planned plebiscite drafted under former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who opposes marriage equality. In keeping with this agreement, Turnbull has not allowed a vote on marriage equality in Parliament despite there being overwhelming support for passage.

Turnbull has said the “postal plebiscite,” a voluntary survey mailed to all Australians, will inform him on how to proceed.  The plebiscite’s question is “Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?” If the “yes” votes win, it would mean that Turnbull will hold a Parliamentary vote and allow legislators to vote their consciences on a marriage equality bill.  If the “no” votes win, there would be no parliamentary vote held, and the stalemate now in place would continue. To learn more about the vote, click here and here.

Beyond Turnbull, there are several other Catholic voices in the debate. First, former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who has affiliations with Opus Dei, is advocating a “no” vote. He said LGBT advocates are engaging in “moral bullying,” reported PinkNews, and that voting no would stop political correctness.

He also expressed bewilderment about why same-gender couples wanted marriage rights when in his eyes they are perfectly equal without either marriage or adoption rights. Abbott has links to the Alliance Defending Freedom, a U.S. organization that, among other agendas, promotes the criminalization of lesbian and gay people.

Abbott’s sister, Christine Forster, is a partnered lesbian woman who has for years sharply criticized him for not supporting her legal right to marry.

Less hostile, but still opposed to marriage equality is Bishop Les Tomlinson of Sandhurst. Reiterating the need for all people to be respected, he said in a statement reported on by the Bendingo Advertiser:

“‘As the secular society seeks to answer the question as to whether it redefines marriage, I pray that we treat each other with respect and not resort to emotive or insulting language or behaviour.

“‘By restricting ourselves to emotional arguments, we ignore exploring the deeper effects of changing the definition and restrict ourselves to a superficial level of debate.'”

Paul Hegerty, a former Catholic priest, pushed back against Australian Catholics opposed to equal marriage rights. He claimed they had “hijacked” his religion, and pointed out that a majority of Christians support marriage equality. Hegerty wrote in the Courier Mail:

“I want religious freedom in this country and for my convictions to be heard in the public debate. Like many others I don’t want people opposed to marriage equality to hijack my spirituality and misrepresent it as some basis for denying other people their rights. People like me don’t want to impose our faith on others, including co-religionists who disagree with us. We get that Christianity seems ridiculous to many. We’ve known since the beginning that we Christians can look stupid. As one of our founders put it, we are fools. But we still want our voice to be heard as citizens of this country.”

Hegerty explained some of the reasons why Australian Catholics endorse LGBT equality, adding:

“And at the end of the day, we act on how we understand the fundamentals that Jesus gave us. . .It’s about how we treat others. Being kind to people is not an optional extra, it’s how we relate to God. As he taught, if we can’t love those we do see, how can we love God we can’t see? A famous parable of his summed it up — it has phrases that have a core place in the hearts of Christians: ‘When I was hungry, you fed me.’ ‘When I was sick, you visited me.’ So we hear Jesus today saying, ‘When I was LGBTQI, you got out of the way and let me get married.'”

There are many reasons why the nation’s citizens are outraged about the postal plebiscite, not the least of which is its $122 million price tag, but most of all because Australians are long past ready to take this step towards greater LGBT equality. For too long, Catholic politicians like Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott have joined church leaders in stymieing the rights of LGBT Australians. It is time for them to join their fellow Catholics in supporting marriage equality not in spite of their faith, but because of it.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, August 16, 2017

GSAs in Ontario Catholic Schools Grow Students’ Faith, Build ‘Glory of God’

Gay-straight alliances are sometimes controversial in Catholic education. Yet five years after some Canadian legislators required schools to offer them if requested, Catholic schools in the province of Ontario are doing well on LGBT inclusion.

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Ontario’s Catholic educators marching at Pride

The Legislative Assembly of Ontario approved Bill 13, or the Accepting Schools Act, in 2012 against some Catholic leaders’ opposition. The Act requires that all schools funded by the government, which includes Canadian Catholic schools, must offer a student group titled “gay-straight alliance” if it is requested by students.

Those requests happened immediately, according to Danielle Desjardins-Koloff, the principal of Safe Schools, Equity, and Inclusion for the Windsor-Essex Catholic School Board. She commented to the National Catholic Reporter:

“‘To be honest, I was very excited, because I do believe that [the alliances] celebrate our human dignity and they recognize that these students have a unique place. . .We had allies where we didn’t know allies existed, where we hadn’t yet defined “ally.”‘”

Though she admitted that working in Catholic education is more difficult than secular settings, in the past five years Desjardins-Koloff has successfully trained every Windsor-Essex Catholic school on LGBT support, and all secondary schools have gay-straight alliances.  Achieving this goal has not meant watering down or sidelining Catholic identity:

“Desjardins-Koloff understands that some members of the community may fear that a gay-straight alliance would ‘devalue the traditional sense of a family,’ but she is quick to point to the convergence of a gay-straight alliance and Catholic ethos. She said she worked to ‘convince the community that these clubs weren’t about sex or sexuality. It was about sexual identity and orientation; it’s about identity and celebrating individuals’ authentic versions of themselves.’

‘Seeing Catholic social justice teaching providing ‘beautiful support,’ Desjardins-Koloff helps students design gay-straight alliance meetings that are ‘centered on Christ-like actions and discipleship.’ She thinks gay-straight alliances are helping to bring students back to a church where they felt they hadn’t belonged before.

“‘The first few times these kids don’t see themselves as part of the Catholic community at all, and they kinda laugh, and they don’t want to join hands and they don’t want to join in, and it’s by choice,’ said Desjardins-Koloff. ‘But by the end of the semester or even some by a month, we are praying together. Our hands are held and we’re in a circle and they feel that energy. They feel every bit a part of that community.'”

These efforts and similar ones throughout Ontario are bearing fruit beyond school walls. Catholic students have begun collaborating between schools and helping support the Catholic Student Leadership Team’s annual inclusivity conference, which now addresses LGBT issues. Students and staff in the Windsor-Essex district have also begun partnerships with secular LGBT groups in the community

Even with these many successes, there are still several aspects of LGBT supports in Ontario’s Catholic systems that are being worked out. Arlene Davis, vice principal at St. Anne’s Catholic School, said she has had several conversations with parents about the school’s gay-straight alliance which she advises:

“Our religious background is something that we respect, but at the same time, it is conservative, and we want to respect that and we want to help these kids along so that they can definitely go along and feel like they’re accomplishing things,’ said Davis.

“Having set up a booth for the gay-straight alliance group at St. Anne’s parent-teacher interview nights, Butler noticed that some parents seemed pleased to see it, but others she watched direct their children to avoid the club.”

But even with these obstacles, and several others you can read about here, Ontario educators have remained supportive. Kevin Welbes Godin of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association wrote for Bondings 2.0 about how Catholic teachers have led the way on LGBT inclusion. This support has included marching as a contingent in WorldPride and other Pride celebrations. Davis explained part of her own reasoning for staying involved:

“‘As a parent first, to see kids that just feel so free and so able to just express themselves and enjoy. And not be judged. . .like, this is who I am, and I’m cool with it. . .I think there still is that extra thing, when you’re on a team. It makes you feel a little bit more special, a little bit more heard, a little bit more accepted. . .”

In Davis’ comment, I hear echoes of St. Irenaeus’ words, “The glory of God is the human person fully alive.” Five years on, I am thankful for Bill 13 and the ways it has made the glory of God that much more visible in our world through the flourishing of LGBT students and their educators.

To watch a video about St. Anne’s Catholic School in Windsor-Essex, Ontario, click here.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, August 15, 2017

 

Catholics Contributing to Harsh Rhetoric, Criminalization of LGBT People in Africa

Yesterday, Bondings 2.0 reported about church officials in Cameroon who claimed gay priests murdered a bishop who had been found dead in a river near his home. The officials’ strikingly harsh statements about lesbian and gay people both reflect and fuel wider societal views which stigmatize and criminalize homosexuality.

headerlogoSuch views did not develop in a vacuum, and Western Christians have poured money and many other resources into expanding the hardships of lesbian and gay people in Africa. Documentaries like “God Loves Uganda” have exposed Evangelical efforts to further criminalize homosexuality.  Local African church leaders, including Catholics, have participated heavily in this anti-gay movement, as well.

One Catholic group based in the U.S., the Center for Family and Human Rights (C-FAM), has played a particular role in trying to LGBT equality in Africa and internationally.  C-FAM is listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Austin Ruse, a C-FAM leader, has supported the anti-LGBT work of nations like Russia, Sudan, and Saudi Arabia.  Unfortunately, C-FAM has been given greater prominence after the Trump administration appointed it an official member of the U.S. delegation to the United Nation’s Commission on the Status of Women this year. LGBT human rights advocate Jessica Sterns criticized C-FAM’s appointment, saying the organization had a “violent mentality.

Through on-the-ground organizing and international advocacy, Christian groups have sought to frame homosexuality as a Western import. The language of “ideological colonization” is increasingly popular for Catholic bishops, and even Pope Francis, who suggest LGBT equality is a forcible Western imposition. (For further analysis of this concept, read Dr. Cristina Traina’s commentary here.)

The voices of LGBT-negative church leaders and hate groups like C-FAM are not the only Catholic voices speaking about LGBT equality in Africa. Dr. Frank Mugisha of Sexual Minorities Uganda, who is Catholic, refutes anti-LGBT beliefs. Back in 2011, he wrote in The New York Times:

“Many Africans believe that homosexuality is an import from the West, and ironically they invoke religious beliefs and colonial-era laws that are foreign to our continent to persecute us.

“The way I see it, homophobia — not homosexuality — is the toxic import. Thanks to the absurd ideas peddled by American fundamentalists, we are constantly forced to respond to the myth — debunked long ago by scientists — that homosexuality leads to pedophilia.”

New Ways Ministry launched the #PopeSpeakOut campaign for Catholics and others to ask Pope Francis to condemn criminalization laws and call for respect towards LGBT people.  The campaign was particularly active leading up to his 2015 Apostolic Voyage to Kenya, Uganda, and Central African Republic.

While Mugisha and other Catholics are correct about the importation of homophobia to Africa and the need for the church to be a defender of human rights, Christian efforts to encourage the criminalization of homosexuality and further stigmatize lesbian and gay people have sadly been successful.

For instance, African bishops were staunch opponents of more compassionate pastoral care for LGBT people and their families during the Synod on the Family. At the synod’s 2015 meeting, Cardinal Robert Sarah of the African nation of Guinea even compared homosexuality to “Nazi-fascism and communism.” The Cameroonian bishops’ past and recent remarks are another example of this warped belief system. Such dangerous rhetoric puts LGBT people’s lives in a perilous position.

This is why it is so important for Pope Francis and other church leaders to echo the words Frank Mugisha told attendees at New Ways Ministry’s Symposium this past spring:

“I encourage you to think of any way you can support an LGBT person. Take it personally. Stand up. Speak out.”

PSO_GP.jpgNow is the time for Catholics to push back harder against homophobic bishops and groups like C-FAM with powerful words that are followed by concrete actions.

Join #PopeSpeakOut! Add your voice to the growing number of Catholics who are Pope Francis to speak out against the criminalization of LGBT people. To send the pope an email or a tweet, click here.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, August 14, 2017

 

 

Church Officials in Cameroon Say Bishop Murdered by Gay Priests

A church official in Cameroon claimed another bishop who died did not die by suicide as police have argued but was killed by gay priests.

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Bishop Jean Marie Benoit Bala

Monsignor Joseph Akonga Essomba made his accusation while preaching at a memorial Mass for Bishop Jean Marie Benoit Bala, who led the Diocese of Bafia, reported Crux.

Akonga said the “Catholic Church has come under attack,” both by government officials who had Benoit “brutally murdered” and the gay priests who informed on him:

“‘Shame to all those people in black suits and black spectacles [government officials] always sitting in the front rows of the Church. . .Shame to all those priests who have come here, pretending to sympathize. These are the people who killed our bishop, because he said ‘no’ to the homosexuality perpetrated by those priests.'”

Benoit’s body was found in a river, a few miles downstream from his car which was parked on a bridge and had a note inside that said, “I am in the water.” Government officials and foreign experts all concluded through an extensive investigation that included forensic evidence that the bishop drowned, potentially as a suicide.

Cameroon’s bishops have rejected these findings, as have many Catholics. Bishop George Nkuo said:

“‘The same reasons for which Christ was crucified apply to the killing of the bishop. . .He was killed because he stood for the truth. Any pastor, any bishop, any priest who stands for the truth should be ready to face the sword. It’s a beautiful way to die.'”

Bishop Sosthéne Léopold Bayemi of Obala said Benoit’s death proved that the church “will always resist the forces of evil,” while Archbishop Samuel Kleda of Douala, who heads the National Episcopal Conference, said the government should be truthful about who really killed Benoit.

The hierarchy’s rhetoric is highly dangerous and reckless.  Since no one has presented any evidence for the involvement of gay priests in Benoit’s death, the accusation smacks of the lowest kind of scapegoating.  Serious consequences to LGBT people and to priests can result because of such rhetoric.

There is a complete lack of concern for the dignity of such populations when bishops should be especially concerned with marginalized populations. If there are legitimate questions about the government’s investigations, the bishops should present facts, not accusations against an already stigmatized group.

Homosexuality is illegal in Cameroon, and some human rights group say it is the most aggressive nation in the world enforcing a gay criminalization law. Targeting gay priests for committing violence greatly increases the stigmas about and potential violence against LGBT people in general.

The bishops can correct their dangerous rhetoric if they retract their claims about gay involvement in Benoit’s death and make a positive statement about showing “respect, compassion, and sensitivity” for LGBT people. This case is also a powerful reminder of how a strong statement from Pope Francis condemning criminalization laws and violence against LGBT people could be. It is time for both Cameroon’s bishops and Pope Francis to speak out.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, August 13, 2017