NEWS NOTES: November 28, 2015

November 28, 2015

News Notes

Here are some news items that you might find of interest:

1) Former Boy Scout leader Greg Bourke will not be allowed to return to his Louisville-based troop, barred by Archbishop Joseph Kurtz despite an appeal from Bourke and his supporters. Writing in the National Catholic Reporter, Patrick Whelan, the parent-leader of a Massachusetts Boy Scout troop said that when Catholic bishops respond negatively to the prospect of gay leaders, their reaction hurts youth rather than protecting them, as the bishops claim.

2) Bishop Vitus Huonder, the conservative head of the Chur diocese, Switzerland, has reinstated Fr. Wendelin Buchli as pastor, after he had originally dismissed the priest for blessing the union of a lesbian couple, according to Le News. The parishioners in the town of Burglen had protested the priest’s dismissal.  His reinstatement is conditional on making a promise never to bless a same-gender union again.

3) A Swedish priest who claimed that homosexuality was a “psychological disorder” capable of being “cured,” apologized after receiving intense criticism, according to

4) DignityUSA’s Executive Director Marianne Duddy-Burke penned a Huffington Post essay criticizing the recent U.S. bishops conference meeting, noting that the bishops revealed that they will continue a course that is negative towards the LGBT community, women, and the poor.

5) The prime minister of the small and predominantly Catholic European nation of Luxembourg will be legally marrying his partner, one year after marriage equality became legal there, according to EurActiv Xavier Bettel will marry Gauthier Destenay, a Belgian architect, becoming the first leader of a European Union nation to have a same-gender marriage, a sign, which some say, is indicative of the growing acceptance of the institution in European society.

6) The Catholic Theological Society of America honored theologian Patricia Beattie Jung during its annual conference this summer, according to the National Catholic Reporter. She received the Ann O’Hara Graff Memorial Award for her groundbreaking work on sexuality and heterosexism.  Jung was a plenary session speaker at New Ways Ministry’s Seventh National Symposium, in Baltimore, March 2012.

7) Representatives from 22 international Catholic Church reform organizations have sent Pope Francis an open letter on parish life, calling for more inclusive pastoral practices and diversity of leaders in parish decision-making, according to Windy City Times. In their letter, the group told the pope about the wonderful diversity already present in some parishes:  “There are women and men, married couples, divorced and remarried, homosexual and heterosexual partners, young and old, those in the center and those who have been pushed to the side…By their personal dedication, by the strength of their baptismal calling, they assist in relieving the priests of their increasing responsibilities in order to continue offering vital services to the people.”   New Ways Ministry is a signer of the letter.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

What to Give for a Four-Year Old’s Birthday?

November 28, 2015

Today, Bondings 2.0 reached another milestone:  we are four years old!

Little did I imagine four years ago today when I typed “how to start a blog” into my Google search box that this forum would attract such a wonderfully diverse and energized readership.  The blog is read literally around the globe by Catholics, LGBT people, scholars, journalists, church leaders, parents, educators, activists, and so many others, too!

Each year on Bondings 2.0’s birthday, we ask our readers to consider supporting this otherwise free resource with a contribution.  And this year, you can, of course do that, by clicking here, filling out the online donation form, and writing “blog” in the form’s “Comments” box.  You will receive our deep gratitude.

However, an even better birthday present this year would be if you would help us to promote the blog among your friends and social media followers.

Blog followers receive an initial email asking them how frequently they want to hear about blog updates. Many folks enjoy receiving a daily reminder, while others want to hear from us less frequently. The choice is theirs. Following the blog is the best way to insure that you don’t miss any important news or insights.

If you know someone who would benefit from Bondings 2.0, simply add their names and email addresses in the box below. We’ll send them a one-time message inviting them to subscribe. We will not use their email addresses for any other purpose.

Many of you already help in this regard by forwarding links to some of our posts to your electronic contacts, and we greatly appreciate this kind of support.  It builds up the blog’s greatest resource:  our readers.

So, thank you all for FOUR wonderful years.  We look forward to our continued conversations in the years to come, just as we look forward to the day when the Catholic Church and our greater world are places of full equality for LGBT people.

We are glad and proud to partner with all of you as we continue that journey towards full equality!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Pope Francis and Uganda’s Bishops Should Link Catholic Principles to LGBT Issues

November 27, 2015

Pope Francis’ arrival in Nairobi, Kenya.

New Ways Ministry and its supporters, through our #PopeSpeakOut campaign has called upon Pope Francis to use the occasion of his visit to Africa to make clear that Catholic Church teaching does not support the criminalization of sexual orientation/gender identity and that discrimination and violence against LGBT people is morally wrong and should be opposed vigorously.  The Pope’s voice is needed because African bishops have been mostly silent when it comes to these particular issues.

In two separate gatherings yesterday–an ecumenical meeting in Kenya and at a Mass at the University of Nairobi, the pope made general reference to protecting human dignity and opposing prejudice, though he did not make specific reference to LGBT people. At the first meeting, he said:

“In this light, and in an increasingly interdependent world, we see ever more clearly the need for interreligious understanding, friendship and collaboration in defending the God-given dignity of individuals and peoples, and their right to live in freedom and happiness. By upholding respect for that dignity and those rights, the religions play an essential role in forming consciences, instilling in the young the profound spiritual values of our respective traditions, and training good citizens, capable of infusing civil society with honesty, integrity and a world view which values the human person over power and material gain.”

At the second meeting, he said:

“Let the great values of Africa’s traditions, the wisdom and truth of God’s word, and the generous idealism of your youth guide you in working to shape a society which is ever more just, inclusive and respectful of human dignity. May you always be concerned for the needs of the poor, and reject everything that leads to prejudice and discrimination, for these things, we know, are not of God.”

It is easy to see how these references could be applied to LGBT people.

In a similarly general way, Ugandan Catholics have not been without some guidance from their bishops in moral and political decision-making.  In August 2015, the Uganda Episcopal Conference issued a pastoral letter that unequivocally calls for respect, tolerance and love towards all Ugandans, though it does not mention sexual or gender minorities specifically.

The document, Free and Fair Elections: Our Common Mission to Consolidating Democratic Gains in Uganda was written in anticipation of Uganda’s national elections in 2016.  In it, the bishops concerned themselves with “how citizens and various institutions concerned with [the election] process should conduct themselves during this period.”

Free and Fair Elections focuses on the electoral process itself, noting that “elections guarantee peace, stability and prosperity as they offer avenues for alternative ideas and approaches for the development of society.”

The bishops first identified what they see as the critical issues.  While noting a variety of topics, they confined themselves to speaking about “more contextual and pressing” issues” that “requir[e] urgent action if peace and harmony is to prevail before, during and after the 2016 general elections.” The specific issues the bishops addressed were conflict within political parties, the commercialization of elections, voter apathy, intolerance in politics and the role of Ugandan police and seeming legitimization of para-military groups.

Next, the bishops presented a set of guiding principles for the election process.  These guiding principles are reverence and humility in leaders, active citizenship, unity in diversity, love and respect, and justice and fairness.  It is in this section where a clear message of respect, tolerance and love for all Ugandans can be found.

The bishops first called for servant leaders, that is, men and women with a demonstrated passion for leading the crusade for “the dignity of every human person . . . commitment to the common good as the purpose and guiding criterion for political life.”  Servant leaders exhibit humility, love and respect.

Viewing renewal of the temporal order as part of Christ’s redemptive work, the bishops next called for Catholic Christians to be active citizens and to be led by their conscience.  The bishops state that Christians are “bound by” their conscience “to elect people who demonstrate commitment to our common aspirations, namely, restoring our country to the divine path and a life of respect and dignity.”

Cognizant of “divergent political ideologies and agenda” that exist in the country, the bishops called all Ugandans to “one mission, to make our country a place befitting all its citizens.”  In order to succeed, “we will need to appreciate this diversity and focus more on our common mission than the agenda of our individual parties and candidates.  We will be required, in the spirit of the Scriptures . . . to cultivate a spirit of unity, tolerance and coexistence in order that every Ugandan will have an opportunity to express himself or herself without fear of reprisal.”

For the Ugandan bishops, being patriotic is tantamount to loving “our country and our fellow citizens.”  The bishops offered 1 Cor. 13:4-6, St. Paul’s famous definition of love, as explicit guidance:

“Love is patient and kind; it is not jealous or conceitedness or proud; love is not ill-mannered or selfish or irritable. Love does not keep a record of wrongs. Love is not happy with evil but is happy with the truth”

It is clear that nothing in these principles would exclude support of LGBT people’s human rights and personal safety.  If Ugandan bishops would follow their own advice, they would be speaking out more boldly in support of sexual and gender minorities in their country.

While the focus of the pastoral letter is the electoral process itself, the principles expressed by the bishops can guide individual as well as political conduct.  Ugandan Catholics should be heartened by “Free and Fair Elections,” and its call to respect, tolerate and love their fellow citizens, including LGBT Ugandans.

–Cynthia Nordone, New Ways Ministry





For What Are YOU Thankful This Year?

November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving to all Bondings 2.0 readers!   We hope that you have much to be thankful for this year.

At New Ways Ministry, we are particularly grateful for all our blog readers and commenters who continue to make this social media outlet a wonderful discussion site for Catholic LGBT issues.

Some of New Ways Ministry’s staff members, board members, and volunteers have each offered their top three gratitude items below.

What are you thankful for this year, especially items that may pertain to Catholic LGBT issues?  We invite you to share your items in the “Comments” section of this post.

Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director:

  1.  I am grateful to New Ways Ministry’s supporters and volunteers whose generosity of time, talent, treasure, prayer, and encouragement are the lifeblood of our ability to continue our work.
  2. This past year, I had the privilege of receiving press credentials to cover the synod on the family at the Vatican.  I am grateful to God for this opportunity, to the Vatican officials who allowed me this experience, and to New Ways Ministry supporters whose contributions made it possible for me to travel to Rome.
  3. I’m grateful for having the opportunity to meet so many courageous, compassionate, and loving people because of being involved with LGBT ministry.  The Catholic Church–rightly understood as the People of God–is blessed with so many wonderful souls.

Sister Jeannine Gramick, Co-Founder:

This year I am thankful for a “triple crown” of success for marriage equality:

  1. On May 22, 62% of Irish voters earned Ireland the distinction of being the first country to legalize same-sex marriage by popular vote. [Editor’s note:  If you are interested in joining Sister Jeannine on an 8-day pilgrimage to Ireland in 2016, click here for more information.]
  2. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on June 26 that same-sex couples can marry in all states and that every state must recognize a same-sex marriage performed in another state.
  3. The German Bishops’ Conference decided on May 6th that lay employees who form same-sex civil unions should no longer automatically lose their jobs in Catholic schools, hospitals, or social service agencies.

In my more than 40 years of LGBT ministry, I never imagined I would see these changes. Thanks be to God!

Brother Brian McLaughlin, SVD, Project Volunteer:

This year, I am thankful for:

  1. A community of persistent advocates who tirelessly work for change in church and society.
  2. LGBT Catholics who refuse to live in fear and still proclaim their rightful place at God’s Table.
  3. Laudato Si and the care of ALL of God’s creation.

Matt Myers, Associate Director:

I am thankful for courageous Catholic activists in Africa, like Frank Mugisha, who regularly face extraordinary dangers during their work to secure basic rights for LGBT people in church and society.

Claire Pluecker, Board Member:

I am thankful for the sisters, priests, and bishops  here in the United States that are supportive of our ministry to the the LGBTQ. May they be a shining light to the remaining.

Bob Shine,  Social Media Coordinator:

  1. Trans* Visibility: The T in LGBT is finally approaching parity in the broader movement for equality. Catholics in the pews are leading their leaders when it comes to justice for and inclusion of trans* communities in the church.
  2. St. Mary’s Academy, Portland, Oregon:  After first firing lesbian counselor Lauren Brown, school administrators quickly reversed their decision and implemented an inclusive nondiscrimination policy in a prophetic witness for the church institutions which are still expelling LGBT and Ally church workers.
  3. ‘Francis Bishops’: Those like Archbishop Blase Cupich, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, or Bishop Johann Bonny who prioritize a church of mercy which accompanies people in the realities of their lives. They have been willing to listen closely, smell of the sheep, and, increasingly, imagine publicly new ways of being church.

Vern Smith,  Weekly Volunteer:

  1. I am thankful for the quiet, respectful people who manage Catholic schools and churches across the country who did not fire an lgbt person for coming out or marrying their partner.  May we appreciate those unsung people who we may never know about, because they followed their consciences and quietly ignored social and hierarchical pressures to act unjustly.
  2. I am thankful for Pope Francis’ imperfect means of handling LGBT related issues.  We need his pastoral fallibility. We cannot engage in genuine discussion with one who is “always right,” or presents oneself as infallible.
  3. And I am thankful for my partner of over 21 years whose love is always there regardless of the political winds that blow in the Church. Standing together for so long, even when stormy winds prevail, has become more like dancing in the rain.

For what are YOU thankful, this year?  Share your gratitudes with other readers by posting them in the “Comments” section!  Happy Thanksgiving!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Addressing LGBT Issues Other Than Criminalization on African Papal Vist

November 25, 2015

As Pope Francis arrives for his pastoral visit in three African nations today, the world’s LGBT community has its eyes and ears open to take note of any opposition he may articulate to the terrible trend of laws which criminalize LGBT people.

Pope Francis greets African bishops at the Vatican.

I’ve been reading press reports all week about LGBT issues in the three nations he will visit–Kenya, Uganda, and the Central African Republic–and one item in particular has caused me pause to consider the true gravity of the situation.

In a Voice of America article, two Catholic Ugandan lay leaders were quoted, each noting their support of Pope Francis’ more tolerant, welcoming attitude toward LGBT people.  Yet, at the same time, both leaders said they supported their nation’s 2014 Anti-Homosexuality Law.  While neither of these people are church officials, their statements reveal the influence of cultural standards–a force that is sometimes stronger than orthodoxy:

One of these leaders, Joanne Banura, said she supported Francis’ “Who am I to judge?” sentiment, and emphasized that she believed there is a religious imperative to welcome gay and lesbian people:

“Jesus never condemned anybody so that’s what he’s [the pope] also doing. He’s representing the image of Jesus Christ on Earth. So if homosexuals come up and they tell us ‘we are homosexual’ and want to be accepted, we shall accept them being as they are also created in the image of God.”

But Banura made an important distinction between church acceptance and civil acceptance:

“When they come to the Church, they will not be condemned.When they come to the community in Uganda, they will be condemned by other people, because the law of the country will take over.”

I found this to be a curious distinction, and I wished that the reporter had elicited more thoughts from Banura to explain how she could hold such a seeming contradiction.  I wonder, though, that her reasoning might be similar to the other lay Catholic quoted in the story.

Joseph Ntuwa, the parish secretary of Our Lady of Africa Church in Kampala, Uganda’s capital, stated:

“I believe Pope Francis when his message might be about us not condemning the homosexuals, but us trying to help them because you get some of them who were just trained. Who were recruited when they were still young. And we’re judging them harshly. So I think his message will be more into how to help them and accommodate them in our community.”

Ntuwa’s attitude reveals an incredible lack of knowledge about sexuality and sexual orientation.  No one is “trained” to be a homosexual.  No one is recruited to be one, either.

This lack of knowledge is most likely what fuels much of what Banura referred to as the local customs which do not support homosexuality.

Awareness of this glaring lack of information makes me realize that, while a message of support for LGBT human rights by Pope Francis is certainly needed, it is also certainly not enough. What is also needed is education.  I see three important ideas that need to be clarified.

The first is the notion that homosexuality is something that is somehow learned or forced upon someone.  Those ideas existed in other countries until research proved them wrong.  That research needs to be shared.

The biggest obstacle I see to Pope Francis or the Vatican sharing such research is that in a sense, they haven’t fully accepted it yet themselves.  We–and by “we,” I mean the entire Church–need a clear statement from church leaders acknowledging that sexual orientation is a naturally occurring variant of human sexuality.

The second idea in need of correction is the idea that one can be compassionate to a person in Church, while at the same time working against their human rights in civil society.  That Banura’s and Ntuwa’s religious message is compassionate while their civil judgment is harsh is a major contradiction.  If church people believe in human dignity, which is the basis of a compassionate response, they need to be educated about how to put that into practice in the civil realm.  Pope Francis’ message of mercy should not be reduced to a message of pity, while, at the same time, working against the human good for a segment of the population.

I sincerely hope that Pope Francis speaks out against laws which criminalize LGBT people, but I also hope that he will initiate educational programs that help people come to a better understanding of sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as understanding a Christian’s responsibility in civic life.

Encourage Pope Francis to speak out for LGBTQI human rights. Join with Catholics across the world who using the #PopeSpeakOut campaign to ask Francis to send a clear message with 

To send a message to Pope Francis and add your voice to the many Catholics openly critical of institutionalized homophobia, visit the campaign’s website by clicking here.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related articles:

Huffington Post: Uganda’s Gay Community Has High Hopes For Pope Francis’s Visit”

AFK Insider: “Pope’s Trip Is Still On. African Gays Want Him To Preach Tolerance” 


Play Starring Transgender Jesus Draws Catholic Protests

November 24, 2015

Jo Clifford as Jesus in the play

Catholics in Northern Ireland protested a play performed this month which portrays Jesus as a transgender woman, but the playwright defended it as an attempt to make audiences “think again” about faith and gender.

The play, titled “The Gospel According to Jesus, Queen of Heaven,” was most recently performed at Outburst Queer Arts Festival in Belfast just weeks after the nation’s legislature failed to advance marriage equality legislation.

Writer and actor Jo Clifford described it as a “very important, very intimate show,” explaining to BBC:

” ‘Obviously being a transgender woman myself it concerns me very greatly that religious people so often use Christianity as a weapon to attack us and justify the prejudices against us. . .

” ‘I wanted to see if we could move away from that and make people think again.’ “

Audience members are quite moved, said Clifford, including Christians. The writer has repeatedly reinterpreted biblical stories to generate new ideas, suggesting the overall message of this play is clear:

” ‘I think it’s very important to get across the message that Jesus of the gospels would not condone or want to promote prejudice and discrimination against anybody and to try to convey a message of compassion and love and understanding of everybody. . .No matter what their belief, no matter what their gender, orientation or sexuality.’

Not all welcome that message as a small Catholic group protested in Belfast, as has at previous performances. Former Glasglow Archbishop Mario Conti once said that it is hard to imagine “a more provocative and offensive abuse of Christian beliefs” than this play.

Clifford, however, said protesters have generally not seen the play and that it seeks neither to offend nor blaspheme because she is a Christian herself. Her point is rather to reflect on Jesus’ ministry through this “work of devotion”:

” ‘I simply want to assert very strongly, as strongly as I can that Jesus of the gospels would not in anyway wish to attack or denigrate people like myself.’ “

Clifford made a similar point in another interview, available on YouTube:

“He was talking to the victims of persecution, to the victims of prejudice and he would speak to them in a very accepting way, as one human being to another.”

In this, Clifford is correct. The Gospels reveal a Jesus who elevated people’s dignity and specifically sought out those who had been marginalized.

Catholic tradition has long embraced the arts as a means for spiritual nourishment and divine revelation, opening up the human person to themselves, to others, and to God. While I have not viewed Clifford’s play, her interviews suggest she is someone committed to creating art with devotional ends. The protesters would have benefited more by attending a show and seeing what came up in their inner life, instead of casting stones from afar.

For more information on The Gospel According to Jesus, Queen of Heaven, visit the play’s website here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


LGBT Africans Ask Pope Francis to Preach Tolerance

November 23, 2015

LGBT folks are asking Pope Francis to preach tolerance during his upcoming Apostolic Voyage to Uganda, Kenya, and Central African Republic beginning Wednesday.

Frank Mugisha

Frank Mugisha

Frank Mugisha, who directs Sexual Minorities Uganda and is himself Catholic, understands Pope Francis may be constrained but said speaking out could do much good. He told Reuters:

” ‘If [Francis] starts talking about rights, then Ugandans are going to be very defensive. . .But I would think if the Pope was here and talking about love, compassion and equality for everyone, Ugandans will listen.’ “

Simply affirming that LGBT people should be “treated like any other children of God” would signal progress in nations where homosexuality is criminalized and the death penalty for those convicted has even been suggested in recent years.

David Kuria

Kenyan advocate David Kuria, who was raised Catholic, echoed those sentiments:

” ‘I hope the Pope would say, “Love everyone,” especially those who are still coming to church.’ “

Kuria is particularly concerned for Catholic parents of LGBT children who often face pressures in their local churches and communities. These social mores cause faithful parents to “doubt themselves as parents or as Christians,” noting his own mother’s expulsion from her village prayer group after Kuria came out.

Jackson Mukasa

Jackson Mukasa, also known as Princess Rihanna, was jailed in Uganda last year on “suspicion of committing homosexual acts,” though not convicted for lack of evidence, according to Reuters. Mukasa’s message for the pope is clear:

” ‘I would like the Pope to at least make people know that being LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) is not a curse. . .Being a gay in Uganda is a challenge. You expect mob justice, you expect to be killed, you expect to be arrested.’ “

Being openly LGBT in Uganda is dangerous, but equality advocates have made strides, Repeated attempts to pass “Kill the Gays” legislation have been suppressed. The situation in Kenya is better, though still oppressive. While homosexuality is illegal, wider tolerance means the law goes unenforced. Indeed, there are some 500 LGBT refugees from Uganda there.

What is significant is that both nations are highly Catholic, with 40% (Uganda) and 33% (Kenya) of their populations identifying as Roman Catholic. Much of the harshly anti-gay rhetoric comes from evangelical churches. Catholic leaders have been silent, vague, and sometimes supportive of oppressive measures, especially in Uganda. If Pope Francis leads and they follow, they could be critical voices for moderation and even tolerance.

The pope has called for bishops to be close their people, to be shepherds who smell of their sheep and who listen closely. Frank Mugisha, David Kuria, and Jackson Mukasa, on behalf of LGBT communities in their countries, make simple and direct appeals. Will Pope Francis listen?

Their appeals, affirmed by Catholics worldwide through the #PopeSpeakOut campaign, call the pope to the margins of his own church where sexual and gender identities remain marginalized. Will he choose to be close?

Exhorting Italy’s bishops a few weeks ago, Pope Francis asked them to begin “a creative movement” to put into practice the welcoming attitude of his apostolic exhortation,Evangelii Gaudium (Joy of the Gospel).  Clearly condemning anti-LGBTQI laws and violence is a prime opportunity for Pope Francis to be creative in making real the joy of the Gospel — and to save LGBT lives. Will he speak out and preach tolerance?

Pope Francis has an opportunity to condemn LGBTQI criminalization and clarify a sometimes ambivalent Catholic stance regarding violence against sexual and gender minorities. Catholics across the world are asking Francis to send a clear message with the #PopeSpeakOut campaign.

To send a message to Pope Francis and add your voice to the many Catholics openly critical of institutionalized homophobia, visit the campaign’s website by clicking here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


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