Here’s What Catholic Bishops Should Have Said About Marriage Equality Decision

June 30, 2015

Today’s compilation of Catholic responses to the Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality begins with an interesting hypothetical response, written one day before the decision was issued.  Also included in today’s list are further comments from New Ways Ministry’s Francis DeBernardo, three bishops, and others.

Reverend Tom Washburn, OFM

Reverend Tom Washburn, OFM, Executive Secretary of the English Speaking Conference of Franciscan Provincial Ministers, who blogs at AFriarsLife.blogspot.com:

After reviewing Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin’s statement that the Catholic Church needs to do a “reality check” on same-gender marriage, Fr. Washburn proposed, on the day before the Supreme Court ruled on marriage, a possible statement for the U.S. bishops to issue (the boldface emphases are Washburn’s):

“A possible response of the U.S. Bishops: ‘Today, in a truly landmark decision, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision, the result of which makes it legal for people of the same-sex to contract a legal marriage in the United States. To the extent that this decision represents the end of discrimination and oppression of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters as a group of people, we rejoice with them. The Catholic Church has long opposed discrimination under the law in all of its forms and we rejoice whenever such legal discrimination is cast aside in favor of progress toward the recognition of the equality of all people. We rejoice with those who welcome this movement of liberation. We understand that civil law is different than church law or theology, and our tradition as well as current and long-held theological understanding of the sacrament of marriage continues to be that sacramental marriage is a union between a man and a woman. But, we also understand the desire of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters to find long term, lasting, loving and committed relationships. The Church in recent years has struggled in its attempts to reconcile all of these positions in a coherent way that leads all her children to Christ without making some feel as though they are not welcome within our walls and our communities, or that we desire anything less than a full, happy and fulfilled life for them. What we ask of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters today is this: please, keep struggling with us; let’s continue to dialogue together. We need you and hopefully, you need us too. Please continue to be active members of our parishes and communities and help us understand one another better and figure out how we all walk to Jesus together.’ “

(From a blog post on AFriarsLife.blogspot.com)

Archbishop Blase Cupich

Archbishop Blase Cupich, Archdiocese of Chicago:

“. . . [T]he United States Supreme Court has ruled that two persons of the same sex have a constitutional right to marry each other. In doing so, the Court has re-defined civil marriage. The proposed reason for the ruling is the protection of equal rights for all citizens, including those who identify themselves as gay. The rapid social changes signaled by the Court ruling call us to mature and serene reflections as we move forward together. In that process, the Catholic Church will stand ready to offer a wisdom rooted in faith and a wide range of human experience.

“It is important to note that the Catholic Church has an abiding concern for the dignity of gay persons. In fact, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says: ‘They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.’ (n. 2358). This respect must be real, not rhetorical, and ever reflective of the Church’s commitment to accompanying all people. For this reason, the Church must extend support to all families, no matter their circumstances, recognizing that we are all relatives, journeying through life under the careful watch of a loving God.”  (From a statement)

Kaya Oakes

Kaya Oakes, Author, The Nones Are Alright (Orbis Books: October, 2015): 

Noting that church leaders risk alienating the whole generation of younger Catholics if their responses to marriage equality are “defensive and strident,”  Oakes stated:

“Catholics under 50 were brought up in a time when same-sex relationships were more and more accepted and presented to them in media, so they’re acclimated to that as a fairly normal thing. When they hear the opposite message coming from faith leaders, it’s alienating. . . . Even just a change of tone would be a step in the right direction.”  (From a news article on Crux)

 

 

Bishop Michael Jarrell

Bishop Michael Jarrell, Diocese of Lafayette in Louisiana:

“I realize that this ruling will create conscience problems for many Catholics, especially those in public office. In some cases civil disobedience may be a proper response. No priest or deacon of this Diocese may participate in the civil solemnization of celebration of same-sex marriage. All Catholics are urged not to attend same-sex marriage ceremonies. No Catholic facility or property, including but not limited to parishes, missions, chapels, meeting halls, Catholic educational, health or charitable institutions, or facilities belonging to benevolent orders may be used for the solemnization of same sex marriage.” (From a statement)

SLS Professional

Ish Ruiz

Ish Ruiz, a Catholic school teacher in San Francisco, will begin doctoral studies in the fall at the Graduate Theological Union,Berkeley:

“The Church has always taught that the Holy Spirit speaks through the laity as well as the hierarchy. I hope the decision from the Supreme court, combined with polls that show that the majority of Catholics support same-sex marriage, encourages the hierarchy to be more in touch with the people, the sense of the faithful.

“[Ruiz] wondered if Church leaders might ‘challenge themselves’ to listen to those with different opinions about marriage and relationships, asking themselves, ‘Hey maybe we don’t have all the answers, maybe there’s more to this issue than we’ve been teaching so far.’ ” (From an interview and a news article on Crux)

“Pope Francis encouraged bishops to allow themselves “to be surprised by God, the God of surprises.” I pray the Church continues to engage with the sense of the faithful, especially those that are LGBTQ+, through dialogue. That door must always remain open.”

 

Cardinal Donald Wuerl

Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.:

Cardinal Wuerl issued a public statement on the Supreme Court ruling, and he also sent a four-page letter to the archdiocese’s priests, giving directions on their pastoral response in light of the new reality of marriage equality.

The National Catholic Reporter quoted from this letter in a news article by Tom Roberts, Editor-At-Large:

” ‘Are people who share our faith but struggle with the church’s understanding about marriage still welcome at church?’ And he answers, ‘Because Jesus came to save all people, all are invited to be a part of god’s family – his church.’

“The welcome, he said, ‘is extended to everyone: married couples with children, unwed mothers and fathers, the single unmarried, couples who struggle with infertility, men and women with same-sex attraction, individuals facing gender issues, those whose marriages have broken down and suffered the trauma of divorce, people with special needs, immigrants, children born and unborn, the young, seniors, and the terminally ill, sinners and saints alike. If the church were to welcome only those without sin, it would be empty.’

“Accepting the person, however, doesn’t mean accepting everything one does. ‘Church teaching and common sense make a distinction between who a person is and what that person does.’   Condemnation of sin doesn’t mean condemnation of the person, writes Wuerl. ‘The church has and always will meet people where they are to bring them closer to Christ. . . .’

“The practical challenge for the church and its agencies, he said, is the need ‘to balance two important values, the provision of appropriate health care benefits for all church personnel including their spouses, and the avoidance of the perception that by doing so we accept a definition of marriage and spouse contrary to faith and revealed truth.’ (From a news article in The National Catholic Reporter)

Francis DeBernardo

Francis DeBernardo

Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director, New Ways Ministry:

In addition to issuing New Ways Ministry’s official statement on June 26, 2015, DeBernardo also penned an essay on Crux and commented to The National Catholic Reporter on the significance of the decision.

In the Crux essay, DeBernardo wrote:

Instead of continuing to fight political and legal battles, creating bigger and stronger walls against American society, the U.S. bishops should follow instead the way of reconciliation with the larger culture, and with their Church’s own alienated members.

DeBernardo offered the following suggestions for the bishops:

  1. Initiate a dialogue with the vast majority of US Catholics who support marriage equality and LGBT issues.
  2. Institute a moratorium on firing employees from Catholic institutions because of marriage equality.
  3. Give up their campaign for religious liberty they have been waging to oppose marriage equality.
  4. Work toward reconciling Catholics who have been on opposite sides of this issue.
  5. Educate themselves about LGBT people and issues in two ways:
  • Open dialogues with LGBT Catholics and their family members to learn about the everyday reality of their lives and their faith.
  • Avail themselves of the wealth of Catholic theological writing which for the past 40 years has been calling on the Church to recognize the goodness and holiness of gay and lesbian relationships. (From an op-ed on Crux.)

In a National Catholic Reporter article , DeBernardo added the following reaction:

“I think that while the law has changed, people’s hearts and minds are not going to change until they see same-sex marriage in practice. That is the significance of this. It paves the way for people in parts of the country where marriage equality doesn’t exist to see the benefits of same-sex marriage and that it’s nothing to fear. . . . 

“There are still a lot of places in the United States where that education and familiarization still has to happen. One of them being the U.S. Catholic bishops. They have shielded themselves from knowledge of the reality of lesbian and gay couples.”  (From a news article in The National Catholic Reporter)

Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Related articles:

The Progressive Catholic Voice: Questions for Archbishop Kurtz re. the U.S. Bishops’ Response to the Supreme Court’s Marriage Equality Ruling

Crux:  “In wake of Supreme Court same-sex marriage ruling, some bishops call for calm”

Los Angeles Times: “Catholics see same-sex marriage ruling in disparate lights”

 

 


Catholics Continue to React to Supreme Court Marriage Equality Ruling

June 29, 2015

Bondings 2.0 is continuing its coverage on the historic U.S. Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality.  We are continuing to provide our readers with more responses from Catholic leaders, organizations, and individuals.   If , in your general reading on this topic, you come across a Catholic response that you like, please send the link to: info@NewWaysMinistry.org.  We will try to include it.   Please limit suggestions to responses from Catholics or that discuss Catholic issues.   Of course, feel free to share your own reactions in the “Comments” section of this post.

For yesterday’s post, which contains more reactions, click here.  For a prayerful response, click here.  For New Ways Ministry’s official response, click here.

The following are some of the responses we’ve been collecting.  For each excerpted response, we provide the link back to the full statement or article.

Lisa Fullam

Lisa Fullam, Associate Professor of Moral Theology, Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley:

After providing an analysis of how Catholic principles underlie Justice Anthony Kennedy’s judicial opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges, Fullam states:

“Perhaps a good first step for Church leaders would be to applaud the Court’s decision in light of its overlap with Catholic values regarding marriage. Of course, the Church may still refuse to marry lesbian and gay couples, just as it refuses to marry anyone with an un-annulled previous marriage. In time, I trust that Church teaching on sacramental marriage will evolve, too, and take note of the powerful spirit of love and commitment vivifying lesbian and gay marriages as well as straight marriages. 

“But in the meantime, please, please, let’s stand with the Court and celebrate the equal human dignity of ALL God’s children.”   (From a Commonweal magazine blog post)

[Read Professor Fullam’s article, “Civil Same-Sex Marriage: A Catholic Affirmation,” published on Bondings 2.0 on April 15, 2014.]

Bishop Robert McElroy

Bishop Robert W. McElroy of San Diego:

After a statement expressing a desire for government to preserve a unique status for heterosexual married couples, Bishop McElroy stated:

“The Catholic community of San Diego and Imperial counties will continue to honor and embody the uniqueness of marriage between one man and one woman as a gift from God- -in our teaching, our sacramental life and our witness to the world. We will do so in a manner which profoundly respects at every moment the loving and familial relationships which enrich the lives of so many gay men and women who are our sons and daughters, our sisters and brothers, and ultimately our fellow pilgrims on this earthly journey of life. And commanded by the Gospel of Jesus Christ we will continue to reach out to families of every kind who are encountering poverty, addictions, violence, emotional stress or the threat of deportation, and to attempt to bring them faith and care, service and solidarity.”  (From a statement)

(As mentioned in yesterday’s Bondings 2.0 blog post, a number of bishops have issued statements on the court’s ruling, many of which were similar in tone and message.  We provided links to blog posts which contain excerpts and links to these if you would like to read them.  We will try to provide excerpts from bishops’ statements which we consider to have some unique aspect or tone to them.)

Christopher Hale

Christopher Hale, Executive Director, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good:

“Friday’s Supreme Court decision to legalize gay marriage across the country presents an interesting moment for Catholics in the U.S. The church opposes gay marriage, and this likely won’t change even under Pope Francis the Troublemaker. But we also must acknowledge that this moment is a great joy for many Catholics—gay and straight. In recent history, many upstanding and faithful Catholics have said that they have heard the voice of Jesus say to them that the love between two persons of the same-sex isn’t sinful, but holy, sanctified, and blessed.

“I myself struggle with this conundrum. There’s nothing more important in my life than being Catholic and a part of the universal Church of Jesus Christ. For me, it’s not just membership in a fraternal organization or civic group, but in a family that gives me my identity, my roots, and my wings. I take my faith’s teaching on every issue—including gay marriage—seriously, but I, too, can’t help but feel joy for my LGBT friends who celebrated Friday’s decision.” (From a Time.com blog post)

Archbishop Wilton Gregory

Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta:

After reiterating official Church teaching that marriage is only between a man and a woman, Archbishop Gregory stated:

“This judgment, however, does not absolve either those who may approve or disapprove of this decision from the obligations of civility toward one another.  Neither is it a license for more venomous language or vile behavior against those whose opinions continue to differ from our own.  It is a decision that confers a civil entitlement to some people who could not claim it before. It does not resolve the moral debate that preceded it and will most certainly continue in its wake. 

“The moral debate must also include the way that we treat one another–especially those with whom we may disagree.  In many respects, the moral question is at least as consequential and weighty as the granting of this civil entitlement.  The decision has offered all of us an opportunity to continue the vitally important dialogue of human encounter, especially between those of diametrically differing opinions regarding its outcome.”  (From a statement)

Jason Welle, SJ

Jason Welle, SJ, Contributor, The Jesuit Post:

After describing the challenging closeted situation that Nana and Dot, his grandmother and her lifelong woman companion endured decades ago, Welle reflects on the significance of the court’s ruling:

“This weekend, I’m thinking about Nana & Dot as the Supreme Court has ruled that marriage is to be considered a civil right for all couples, without exception. This week, thousands of couples in the United States will not have to endure a life of secrecy and legal uncertainty. This ruling means that their unions have the law behind them. Their families will be treated equally by the states, they will not risk losing their children and property because someone else disapproves of their union. As of today, as Justice Kennedy notes in his opinion, ‘This Court’s case and the Nation’s traditions make clear that marriage is a keystone of the Nation’s social order,’ and gay and lesbian civil marriages will be respected, as far as the law is concerned, as part of the foundation that contributes to our civil and social order. . . . 

The trending hashtag on Twitter this weekend is #LoveWins. I hope that this will be true for everyone of goodwill in this nation, regardless of their view of this decision. While the legal case may be settled, it does not bring everyone into agreement. But I sincerely believe that when they’re at their best, the United States of America and the Catholic Church are about the same thing: enabling and inspiring people to greater love, fidelity, and mutual care. Nana and Dot were both American and Catholic and these are the things they taught me to value most. It is my prayer that this ruling, which brings gay and lesbian people more openly into the mainstream of American society than ever before, can be an opportunity for greater understanding and mutual love and concern for each other.” (From a blog post on The Jesuit Post)

Michael Sean Winters

Michael Sean Winters

Michael Sean Winters, Columnist, The National Catholic Reporter:

“Yesterday, the Supreme Court issued a decision. The sky did not fall. Young men and women will still fall in love, get married, and make babies. The Church will still be there to accompany them. The fact of sexual difference is not going away anytime soon. But, as in the referendum on this issue in Ireland, yesterday’s decision is a wake up call for the Church. Are we going to continue to fight same sex marriage in the courts and in our words, to the exclusion of other more pressing issues? Are we going to continue to let the egalitarian, and largely secular, left set the Church’s agenda? Or are we going be about our business of accompanying people, all people, and especially married couples, with a teaching about marriage, and with the grace of the sacrament, and with the loving support of the Christian community, all of which are as beautiful today as they were at 9:59 a.m. yesterday. ” (From a blog post on NCRonline.org)

 

Stay tuned for more excerpts from commentary continuing this week.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Some Catholic Reactions to U.S. Supreme Court Ruling on Marriage Equality

June 28, 2015

The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality has inspired a wealth of reactions from Catholic leaders, organizations, and individuals.   The sheer wealth of responses is phenomenal.  Over the next few days, Bondings 2.0  will try to provide you with the ones we think are most significant.   If you see a response that you like, please send the link to:  info@NewWaysMinistry.org.  We will try to include it.   Please limit suggestions to responses from Catholics or that discuss Catholic issues.  (Otherwise, there are so many more responses we could be sharing!)

 MY OWN PERSONAL REACTION:    New Ways Ministry’s public statement on the ruling was released two days ago.  But, please allow me to add a personal note to our ministry’s official response before I list the of responses of others.

It’s now two days after the ruling, and I am still stunned by this news. It truly doesn’t seem real yet.  I’m sure it is going to take a while to sink in.  Many folks have told me the same has been true for them.

Yet, when I begin to get a glimmer of the enormity of the positive repercussions this ruling, I honestly get more than a little emotional.  For example,  I think of how this decision moves LGBT people from the margins to the mainstream, even if they do not decide to marry.  I think of  all the lesbian and gay young people who will now be growing up with the hope that one day they can marry, and I think of all the fear and self-hatred that will be avoided because of they can hope for that.  I think of how this ruling which legally normalizes same-gender relationships will now encourage businesses and organizations that have not been welcoming (such as the Boy Scouts of America) to be open to lesbian and gay people.  I think of all the lives that will not be lost to suicide, all the hopes that will be allowed to flower, all the contributions that people will be able to  make to society because they are legally recognized–and I end up getting more than teary-eyed at the prospect of such a promising future.

When I think of all the good that will happen in people’s lives and in our society, I can’t help but truly see the hand of God in this ruling.  Our God, who wants us to live fully and love fully, must be rejoicing, too.

The following are some of the responses we’ve been collecting over the past few days.  For each excerpted response, we provide the link back to the full statement or article.

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops: 

“Regardless of what a narrow majority of the Supreme Court may declare at this moment in history, the nature of the human person and marriage remains unchanged and unchangeable. Just as Roe v. Wade did not settle the question of abortion over forty years ago, Obergefell v. Hodges does not settle the question of marriage today. Neither decision is rooted in the truth, and as a result, both will eventually fail. Today the Court is wrong again. It is profoundly immoral and unjust for the government to declare that two people of the same sex can constitute a marriage.”   (From a statement)

Individual U.S. bishops and state Catholic conferences:

Many U.S. bishops and state Catholic conferences issued reaction statements to the Supreme Court decision.  Since many of these statements are similar to one another, and to the one above by Archbishop Kurtz, I will not be excerpting them here.   As I find some that have something unique to say, I will post excerpts in days to come.

If you are interested in what individual bishops have said, I recommend two blog posts I found which have the most exhaustive collections of excerpts from bishops’ statements, with links to original statements:

America:  Across the Nation, U.S. Bishops Deplore Supreme Court Call in Obergefell v. Hodges”

Whispers in the Loggia: ” ‘A Profound Turning Point’ – On Marriage, The Court Rules… and The Church Responds”

Perhaps the most comprehensive list links to bishops’ statements is the one on the USCCB’s webpage on marriage.

Jim FitzGerald

Jim FitzGerald, Executive Director, Call To Action:

“For far too long committed LGBT partners and families have endured discrimination and marginalization. This has come from many places – but none more forceful than from some members within the Catholic hierarchy. This decision, however, reverberates God’s love of everyone and celebrates the dignity and holiness of all loving families.

“The sacredness of all loving couples, together with their welcome and inclusion in all facets of faith communities, is a reality that must now be given pastoral priority. We cannot act as if the Spirit hasn’t moved us to be more loving and just.” (From a statement)

Marianne Duddy-Burke

Marianne Duddy-Burke, Executive Director, DignityUSA:

“As Catholics, we celebrate the increase in justice that this ruling ushers in. We rejoice with all of the couples and families who will be able to access the legal protections that marriage will afford them. Mostly, we are thrilled that the Supreme Court has recognized that the love and commitment of same-sex couples is absolutely equal to that of other couples.

“DignityUSA prays for consideration and solidarity as this ruling is implemented. We understand that there are many in our country, and in our church, who will be disappointed by this ruling, and urge that the sincerity of their beliefs be respected. At the same time, we expect that all people, no matter what their beliefs, abide by what the Supreme Court has affirmed as the law of the land, and treat same-sex couples and their families respectfully and in full accordance with the law.”  (From a statement)

Deb Word

Deb Word, President, Fortunate Families:

“Fortunate Families celebrates with our LGBT children the opportunity to share in the same rights as their straight siblings. The Supreme Court decision brings legal stability to our children’s lives and security to our grandchildren. We applaud this decision and continue our work in the Catholic tradition seeking social justice for all our children, and we look forward to the next hurdle, the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.” (From a statement)

 

 

Reverend Daniel Horan, OFM

Reverend Daniel Horan, OFM, Author and Lecturer:

” ‘The  joys and hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the women and men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ.’

“With this now-famous line, the Second Vatican Council opened its ‘Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World’ (1965). This passage immediately came to mind this morning as I heard of theU. S. Supreme Court decision (Obergefell v. Hodges) that upheld the constitutional right to same-sex marriage. My personal response was emotional in the way that the reaction of so many others has been in the wake of this landmark case. My reaction has been solidarity for a population of people who have indeed been ‘afflicted’ and whose experience for so long, millennia perhaps, has been more ‘grief and anxiety’ than ‘joy and hope.’ But today, at least in the United States, things appear to be changing.

“As a Christian, the ‘joys and hopes’ of the LGBT women and men who have cried out for the recognition of their human dignity and value, these are the ‘joys and hopes’ of me today.”  (From an America magazine blog post )

Arthur Fitzmaurice

Arthur Fitzmaurice, Resource Director for the Catholic Association for Lesbian and Gay Ministries: 

“Now that [marriage equality] is the law of the land, it is going to continue to provide space for people in same-sex relationships to tell their stories. In the time ahead there is a chance for us to step away from the charged political debate to a pastoral dialogue on what it means to be LGBT and Catholic.”  (From a National Catholic Reporter news story)

 

More reactions to follow in the coming days!   Post your own reactions–personal, political, or otherwise– to the statements above or to the Supreme Court decision in the “Comments” section of this post.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


A Prayerful Catholic Response to the U.S. Supreme Court Decision

June 27, 2015

As we continue to rejoice over the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic ruling on marriage equality yesterday, let’s take a few moments today in prayer to reflect on the meaning of this development. The following is by a guest blogger.

 

By Michael F. Pettinger

The Supreme Court’s decision regarding same-sex marriage is an occasion for Catholics to pray. I’d like to share with you a prayer I learned as a child in the Junior Legion of Mary.

My soul magnifies the Lord,

and my spirit has rejoiced in God, my Savior.

Not the prayer you expected? But what better song of praise is there than Mary’s Magnificat? (Luke 1: 46-55) And is it not always right and just to magnify the Lord?

For God has looked upon the loneliness of a servant,

and henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.

“Magnificat” by Franz Anton Maulbertsch

I know that the original Magnificat says “lowliness,”not “loneliness.” But isn’t loneliness a form of lowliness? And on that first morning of human creation, didn’t God say, “It is not good for the human to be alone?” So God instituted marital relationships because we were alone. And if in answering that loneliness God made a different gender, it only shows that the one who comes to love us can take surprising forms. When Adam sees the startling figure of Eve, he discovers that he is something startling too – a man. He also discovers that Eve, a woman, as different as she is, is human.

Now that our contemporary culture is beginning to acknowledge the dizzying varieties of gender made in the image of the infinite God, what we need to remember is that we are all human. Many people think this variety will somehow threaten the social order. But that social order exists, in part, to relieve the loneliness of each and every one of those human images of God. As Justice Kennedy wrote of the plaintiffs in the case and their attitudes towards marriage, “Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions.”

We’ve come a little closer to relieving the loneliness we all suffer. We still have a long way to go.

For God Who is Mighty has done great things for me,

and holy is God’s name . . .

You might think God has been resisting this moment of marriage equality all God’s life. I’m pretty sure that’s not true. I aspire to be a historian of Christianity and I have some ideas as to why it’s taken us so long to get here. But one thing is clear: it’s not God who wants me to be alone, and God will no longer let anyone keep me that way.

. . . and God’s mercy is from generation unto generation,

to those who fear God.

Some people say I just want to make God in my image. But I fear God. I fear God enough not to lie about who I am, nor will I let anyone else lie about my extensive queer family. Fearing God also means hearing God. And you haven’t heard God’s voice if you haven’t heard the voices of  queer folk as well. A lot of people suppose that doing God’s will on earth means closing their eyes and ears and hearts to the loneliness of their queer siblings. They shouldn’t be surprised that God has listened to us and found someone else to do God’s will.

For God has shown a mighty arm.

God has scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart.

Some will feel insulted by these words. “Are you calling US proud? Aren’t YOU the people who celebrate pride?” The answer to that question is that there different kinds of pride. At our best, the pride we celebrate is the pride of Jesus Christ who never said to the ones who lied about him and betrayed him, “You’re right. I deserve this. Go ahead, nail me to that cross.”

Neither will we.

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But then there’s a negative kind of pride, too, as when people say that God instituted  marriage for man and woman, and then act as if, God cannot share the gift of marriage with whomever God pleases. God does not need us to direct God’s grace. God acts anywhere, any time, in ways that will astonish us. As the Gospel says: “God can raise up children to Abraham from these very stones.” (Matthew 3:9)

God has cast the mighty down from their thrones,

and God has exalted the lowly.

God has filled the hungry with good things,

and the rich God has sent empty away.

No one wants to get knocked from their thrones. No one wants to go hungry. But sometimes we don’t even see our throne until we’ve fallen from it.

In the last year, I’ve had someone say to me, “your lifestyle is a harbinger of disease. It’s biologically abnormal. It’s not a sin to be ‘homosexual,’ but you shouldn’t act on it.” This person has known me almost my whole life and has known I am gay for the last thirty years. I thought we were close, that we loved each other. But I never spoke about my life as a gay man, and was never asked about it. And when the time came to speak, my friend only repeated more or less what they had been taught to say. So I told the hard truth about what that teaching had done to me and, more importantly, what it continues to do others. And what was the response? “You have belittled and dehumanized me. When did you become so hate-filled?”

It’s as if this person could not hear the hate in their own words.

But responding in anger didn’t make me a saint. I have written a lot about healing the divide in our Church, yet when the moment came I could think of nothing to say that wasn’t meant to hurt the person exactly as I had been hurt. I told the truth, and I can tell myself that they needed to feel the same pain I experienced? But there’s no satisfaction in an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Thinking about this incident  only filled me with more rage.

After a period of reflection, I began to see it differently.

Now I see it differently. This person kicked me to the ground, and I retaliated by  knocking  down their throne. In our pride, we have both gone hungry for the love we once had. But in this life at least, the ground is as far as you can fall. And since God is casting us all from our thrones and setting us up again on wobbly feet, maybe we will all finally meet where we were always meant to be – on the good earth, waiting for God’s mercy.

God ever mindful of mercy, has aided Israel, a servant, 

and kept the promise to our fathers and mothers,

to Abraham, and to their seed for ever.

There was a time when I gave up on that mercy. For a long time it seemed that God had forgotten me, and if I was going to live, I would have to forget God. Maybe I fell for the myth that the powers of  secular Enlightenment were vanquishing Ignorance and Superstition. This thought is the opposite  of the one that say that godless gays are braying against the People of Faith. Neither one is true.

Because however good we think we are, God is better. And where none of us are truly good, the only triumph worth singing about is the triumph of God over every one of us. We’re finally getting justice despite the sinful stupidity that sets all of us at each other’s throats. The Supreme Court has declared that those whose relationships had been despised or ignored can now claim their place in the eyes of one and all. But if we’re open to receiving that justice, it also means remembering that neither marriage, nor sex with a hundred different people, nor a life of no sex at all, will make us good and happy. Good and happy is the gift of God’s love.

I heard this prayer from the woman who first sang this song – a pregnant girl who had not been received into her husband’s house. Who knew who the father was? Her answer would strike anyone of right mind as ridiculous, crazy, or a bold-faced lie. But she knew the truth and it was good for her. Visiting a church a few weeks ago, I saw her statue and realized that, because of things that I had heard about her – and about me – I had stopped praying to her. I wasn’t sure if she was on my side.

So I asked her.

This song was her reply.

I’m thankful she taught it to me.

*     *     *

Me3Michael Pettinger is a professor of literature and religious studies at Eugene Lang College. He is co-editor of Queer Christianities (New York University Press, 2014) and lives in Brooklyn, NY.” He is a contributor to The Huffington Post.


New Ways Ministry and U.S. Catholics Rejoice at Supreme Court Marriage Equality Decision

June 26, 2015

The following is a statement of Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry’s Executive Director, on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to enable marriage equality to be enacted throughout the nation.

New Ways Ministry rejoices with millions of U.S. Catholics that the U.S. Supreme Court has decided in favor of marriage equality for lesbian and gay couples! On this historic day, we pray in thanksgiving that justice and mercy have prevailed and that the prayers and efforts of so many have combined to move our nation one step closer to fairness and equality for all.

With this Supreme Court victory, Catholics recommit themselves to working to make sure that all LGBT people are treated equally in both church and society.  While we are delighted with this victory, there is still much work to be done to ensure those goals.

Catholics have been at the forefront of working for equal marriage rights for lesbian and gay couples. The overwhelming majority of U.S. Catholics have consistently been in favor of marriage equality, and have put their support into action in legislative, judicial, and electoral campaigns.

Their Catholic faith has inspired them to make sure that their lesbian and gay family members, friends, neighbors, and co-workers receive equal treatment by society. The Supreme Court’s decision embodies the Catholic values of human dignity, respect for differences, and the strengthening of families.

While the U.S. Catholic bishops have consistently opposed marriage equality measures on all fronts, Catholic people in the pews have had a different perspective from their leaders.   The lived faith of Catholic people has taught them that love, commitment, and sacrifice are the essential building blocks of marriage and family. Their daily experiences interacting with lesbian and gay couples and their families has taught them that these relationships are identical to heterosexual marriages in terms of the essential qualities needed to build a future together, establish a family, and contribute to social stability and growth.

The U.S. bishops now need to reconcile themselves to the new social reality of marriage equality, as it is poised to spread to all 50 states. They can do so by entering into a dialogue with lesbian and gay Catholics to learn more about the reality of their lives and how their faith inspires their relationships. The bishops should declare a moratorium on firing lesbian and gay church employees who have married legally. These firings have been a scandalous trend with effects that are harmful not only to the people involved, but to the life of the Church.

Today begins a time for Catholic supporters and Catholic opponents of marriage equality to reconcile with one another and work to build up their local faith communities so that together they can work for a world Pope Francis envisions: one of justice and mercy.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 


Global Network of Rainbow Catholics Provides Alternative to Vatican Document

June 26, 2015

A coalition-in-formation of organizations which promote equality in Catholic LGBT issues has responded to this week’s Vatican release of the Instrumentum Laboris, the working document of the October 2015 synod on marriage and family.

The Global Network of Rainbow Catholics (GNRC) issued a press statement, on the same day as the Vatican unveiled the Instrumentum, which provided an alternative Catholic perspective on lesbian and gay family issues, as well as the important topic of criminalizaiton of lesbian and gay people in nations around the globe.

The GNRC statement was critical of the Vatican’s suggested discussion of lesbian and gay issues at the synod, saying:

“Although ‘suitable attention to the pastoral accompaniment of families in which live persons with homosexual tendencies, and families of these same persons’ is recommended, Paragraphs 130-132 of the Working Document hardly reflect the rich discussions which have taken place, internationally and at all levels in the Church, on the welcome, respect, and value which should be afforded to lesbian and gay people in the Catholic community.

“The inclusion of the unfounded statement that international organisations are pressurising poorer countries to introduce same-sex marriage as a condition of receiving financial aid Para. 132) is scandalously dishonest. Far better for the Church to show its commitment to social justice through the condemnation of global criminalisation of LGBT people, including torture and the death penalty.”

The GNRC also proposed several concrete steps that the synod can take to provide more appropriate pastoral care for lesbian and gay people and families.  One step was that the synod should call for:

“a structured discernment process be introduced, to involve homosexual people, including those living in long-term, stable relationships as well as those who are single or celibate, their children and parents, experienced pastoral ministers, and theologians, as well as relevant dicasteries of the Holy See. Such a process, reflecting upon examples of positive pastoral experience and ongoing theological, anthropological and scientific study,  should be conducted at both global and local levels of the Church for a period of three to five years.”

The coalition also suggested that the synod use language which calls for further study and examination of the issues of sexual orientation and gender identity:

 

“The question of homosexuality leads to a serious reflection on how to elaborate realistic paths of affective growth and human and evangelical maturity integrating the sexual dimension: it appears therefore as an important educative challenge at all levels of the Church (Catechism of the Catholic Church, Paragraphs 2357-2358, 2395). It has to be noted that there are cases in which mutual aid constitutes a precious support in the life of same-sex partners. Arising from the experience of positive pastoral ministry, this Synod encourages the whole Church to renew its theological reflections on human sexuality and gender identity, working towards the right integration of ortho-praxis and ortho-doxy.”

The statement also suggested that the synod speak out strongly against the criminalization of lesbian and gay people:

“At a global level, people with variant sexual orientation are unjustly criminalised, tortured, subjected to death penalties, and those offering pastoral and practical care in such circumstances are also often penalised. This Synod of Bishops unequivocally condemns such injustices perpetrated on people and firmly opposes such patterns of criminalisation. It urges governments and civil society to respect the human rights of each person regardless of their sexual orientation.”

They also addressed the specific topic of baptism for children of lesbian and gay couples:

“When people living in same-sex unions request a child’s baptism, the child must be received with the same care, tenderness and concern which is given to other children. Furthermore, the Church responds to the needs of children who live with couples of the same sex, emphasizing that the needs and rights of the little ones must always be given priority.”

Underlying all the GNRC’s concerns was a rationale for such actions based on Catholic documents and principles:

“Some families include homosexual members who, with their parents, families and children, have a right to informed pastoral care (The Code of Canon Law: Canons 208-231). As such, they ought to be received with respect and sensitivity. Every sign of discrimination in their regard should be avoided. The language used by the Church in describing its pastoral ministry in this area of human concern should reflect its principles of the precious dignity of the person and its commitment to social justice so that the gifts and qualities of homosexual people may be welcomed, valued, and respected  (Paragraphs 10 & 16, Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, CDF, 1986).

The Global Network of Rainbow Catholics descibes itself as

“an international network of organizations of/with LGBT Catholics which met for the first time during the Family Synod 2014 in Rome and has since worked together to initiate a global network of LGBTQI Catholics, their parents and families.”

The founding groups include: European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups, Associació Cristiana de Gais i Lesbianes de Catalunya (ACGIL) (Catalonia), Comitato promotore dell’associazione Cammini di Speranza – associazione nazionale cristiani lgbt (Italy), Dette Resources Foundation (Zambia), DignityUSA (USA), Drachma (Drachma LGBTI and Drachma Parents Group) (Malta), Ichthys christian@s lgtbh de Sevilla (Spain), LGBT Catholics Westminster Pastoral Council (UK), New Ways Ministry (USA), Nuova Proposta (Italy), Ökumenische Arbeitsgruppe Homosexuelle und Kirche (Germany), Wiara i Tęcza (Poland).  [Many of these organizational links provided by Queering the Church.]

This global network will be officially launched in Rome on October 1-4, the opening weekend of the 2015 Synod of Bishops on the Family.  The founding assembly will be entitled “LGBT Voices to the Synod,” and it will include a public conference “Ways of Love – Snapshots of Catholic Encounter with LGBT People and their Families,”presenting examples of positive LGBT pastoral activities from all over the world.   New Ways Ministry’s co-founder, Sister Jeannine Gramick, will be a speaker at this event.

The GNRC’s alternative for the synod was included in news stories around the globe this past week.  You can find links to some of those in the list under my signature.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related articles

ABC News: “Vatican Sets Stage for Family Debate With Working Document”

Advocate.com: “LGBT Catholics Find Little Encouragement in Family Synod Document”

Reuters.com: Outreach to gay couples not on agenda for Vatican meeting

New York Times: Vatican Lays Groundwork for Discussions on Family

Queering the Church: “Family Synod Working Document Disappoints Global Rainbow Catholics”

Daily Mail:Outreach to gay couples not on agenda for Vatican meeting

Christian Today: Synod on the Family will not be dominated by homosexuality, says Pope Francis

Mamba Online: LGBT Catholics disappointed by new church document on family

Quest: Family Synod Working Document Disappoints Global Rainbow Catholics

Famwork: Vatican Ready For Family Debate And Discussing Other Issues

[List of articles courtesy of Martin Pendergast]

 


Another Side to Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George on LGBT Issues

June 25, 2015

About 16 months before he died on April 17, 2015, Chicago’s conservative Cardinal Francis George made some surprisingly positive remarks in a private letter to a gay friend about his friend’s relationship, life, and the possibility of doctrinal change.  The following is the account of that letter, dated December 12, 2013, by its recipient, Maurice Monette, who is now making its contents public. A PDF image of the letter is available here.

 

by Maurice Monette

Cardinal Francis George

I was a long-time friend and confrere of Cardinal George before I left the Oblates of Mary Immaculate and married my husband, Jeff Jackson . I had sent the cardinal a copy of my book, Confessions of a Gay Married Priest: A Spiritual Journey (Amazon, 2013), and his positive written reaction to that memoir which explores my integration of sexuality, spirituality, and relationship has given me hope for the Catholic Church.

“It was very kind of you to think of me and send a copy of your autobiographical memoir,” he began in a full-page letter on Archdiocese letterhead. “It has been a long time since we have had a conversation, but I felt as if I were talking to you through your book. The turn of phrases, the method of presentation and of argument, leaves you very alive in your pages.”

In that letter Cardinal George sent me, he was following up on our last conversation in 1988 at a sidewalk cafe in Rome. He and I knew each other as professors and priests from the same religious congregation. We shared dinner that evening with another priest who put Francis George in his place after he waxed very-informed-Roman about the evil of the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. During the same evening, Francis argued that seminaries should be purged of gay men. That night I decided that there was little space in the church for me.

The rest of Francis’s letter surprised me: “It was good to hear the tone of happiness that underlies the presentation of your life. It was good also to get the sense that you have resolved things without bitterness and are free to continue the journey. All this I deeply appreciate.”

Maurice Monette receives a kiss from Jeff Jackson, his husband.

Francis caught my tone and spirit, a by-product of 26 years of happy marriage to a wonderful man. But my tone belied my sadness and regret that the doctrinaire rigidity of the 1980’s church had never left space for genuine dialogue about the oppression of sexual minorities (my oppression), or that of so many others.

“As you yourself said in your note to me, my perspective on the path taken is different from yours.” That is an understatement! Cardinal George was an outspoken opponent of marriage equality; he called same-sex marriage “something that nature itself tells us is impossible”; and he protested LGBT Pride parades near places of worship, claiming gays abuse the freedom of speech like the Ku-Klux-Klan  (he later apologized).

So, it was even more surprising to me that on the night that he died, I found hope in the next words of his letter: “Nonetheless, with you, I agree that we need to keep listening to each other rather than speaking at cross-purposes. The categories of explanation of human experience are many and, as I’m sure you know, I can’t fit all your actions into the sense of things that I believe we have been given through Divine Revelation, even as I know that there is development in interpretation of events and of doctrine.”

As more courts, legislatures, electorates and religious groups around the world affirm the civil rights of marriage equality and religious freedom can thrive together, the words of the Cardinal offer me hope that leadership in the Catholic Church is also moving in the direction of justice and love.

I pray that Francis George died in peace knowing that his studied perspective is appreciated and his willingness to listen and grow is treasured and needed in today’s Catholic church and in other powerful institutions — and that he died confident in a just and loving God.

*     *     *

Maurice L. Monette’s Confessions of a Gay Married Priest won the 2013 Global Ebook Award for best LGBT non-fiction and a 2014 Nautilus Award as a “Better Book for a Better World”.   When a priest, Monette also published seven books on church leadership. Monette can be reached at GayMarriedPriest.com or on Facebook at Confessions of a Gay Married Priest.


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