QUOTE TO NOTE: Pope Francis: Pray for a Synod Miracle

July 6, 2015

computer_key_Quotation_MarksThe National Catholic Reporter noted that during his second speech on his visit to Ecuador, Pope Francis asked the million-plus outdoor Mass congregation to pray for a “miracle” at the synod on the family to be held at the Vatican in October.

Without mentioning specifics, Pope Francis said:

“I ask you to intensify your prayer for this intention so that what still seems to be impure to us, to scandalize us, or frighten us, God … can transform it into a miracle. Families today need this miracle.”

Pope Francis in Ecuador

The pontiff also said that the purpose of the synod was “to mature a true spiritual discernment and find concrete solutions to the many difficult and important challenges families must confront in our times.”

It is hard to say what Pope Francis is referring to, but it is obvious that he has high hopes for the synod’s deliberations and outcomes.

UPDATE: According to a news story on Crux Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesperson, explained the pope’s “miracle” quote to reporters this way:

“The pope hopes this Synod will help people to move from situations of sin to a state of grace; he’s not referring to anything specific.”

While it is comprehensible that the pope may have deliberately chosen not to be specific, I find it hard to believe that the pope was referring to sin and grace in this poetic quote.  “Impure” may be a reference to sin, but not when it is in the context of “what seems to be impure,” implying that we might find out it is, in fact, not impure. Also the references to things which “scandalize” or “frighten” does not fit Lombardi’s explanation.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese Spells Out Falsehoods and Possibilities in Marriage Equality Responses

July 6, 2015

In Bondings 2.0’s continuing effort to try to chronicle all the key Catholic reactions to the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling,  we’ve mostly been compiling snippets of responses into a series of posts [For a complete list of past reaction posts, see the bottom of this post, below my signature.]

Father Thomas Reese, SJ

Father Thomas Reese, SJ

Yet one Catholic commentator’s analytical response stands out over the rest of them for its incisive distinctions and its hopeful suggestions, and so it warrants examination in a post of its own.  Jesuit Father Thomas Reese, a columnist for The National Catholic Reporter is a seasoned church observer and political analyst who has responded to the court ruling by writing a column explaining “How the bishops should respond to the same-sex marriage decision.”

Reese doesn’t usually mince words, but even for him, his opening paragraph was particularly pointed:

“With the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage throughout the United States, the U.S. Catholic bishops need a new strategy going forward. The bishops’ fight against gay marriage has been a waste of time and money. The bishops should get a new set of priorities and a new set of lawyers.”

His enlightening factual account cuts through the rhetoric of some marriage equality opponents who have tried to predict a religious freedom nightmare looming:

“First, let’s make clear what the decision does not do. It does not require religious ministers to perform same-sex marriages, nor does it forbid them from speaking out against gay marriage. These rights are protected by the First Amendment. The court has also made clear that a church has complete freedom in hiring and firing ministers for any reason.”

Reese then analogizes marriage equality law with divorce law, something bishops in the past vociferously opposed, but later, after passage, have come to accept.  He extends this analogy into some specific recommendations:

“Today, Catholic institutions rarely fire people when they get divorced and remarried. Divorced and remarried people are employed by church institutions, and their spouses get spousal benefits. No one is scandalized by this. No one thinks that giving spousal benefits to a remarried couple is a church endorsement of their lifestyle.

“If bishops in the past could eventually accept civil divorce as the law of the land, why can’t the current flock of bishops do the same for gay marriage? Granted all the publicity around the church’s opposition to gay marriage, no one would think they were endorsing it.”

Perhaps most importantly,  Reese exposes the falsehood that religious liberty will be compromised because of marriage equality.  He shows, through a number of examples, how in the past Catholic church leaders, civic leaders, and business people have accommodated themselves, in a morally justified manner, to new laws they may disagree with:

“Let’s be perfectly clear. In Catholic morality, there is nothing to prohibit a Catholic judge or clerk from performing a same-sex marriage. Nor is there any moral obligation for a Catholic businessperson to refuse to provide flowers, food, space and other services to a same-sex wedding. Because of all the controversy over these issues in the media, the bishops need to be clear that these are not moral problems for Catholic government officials or Catholic business people.

“Again, Catholic judges have performed weddings for all applicants, including Catholics who are getting married in violation of church teaching. Catholic business people have provided services to any wedding party, including those of divorced Catholics marrying outside the church. Similarly, there is no moral problem for them to do the same for gay couples.”

Yet, Reese doesn’t stop there.  In addition to recommending that bishops give up their resistance to marriage equality  (“It is time for the bishops to admit defeat and move on. Gay marriage is here to stay, and it is not the end of civilization as we know it.”),  he also suggests that they start to be pro-active in other areas of LGBT equality.  For example, Reese observes:

“Currently, there is no federal law forbidding discrimination against gay people in employment or housing, but an increasing number of states are enacting such legislation. Will the bishops fight the passage of these laws out of fear of their impact on Catholic institutions?

The better strategy for the U.S. bishops is to imitate the Mormon church that worked together with gay activists on the enactment of laws against discrimination in employment and housing in Utah. . . . John Wester, now archbishop of Santa Fe, N.M., supported this legislation when he was bishop of Salt Lake City.”

Reese’s pragmatic approach also covers possible religious freedom questions which may emerge.  His principle is that gay and lesbian couples should not be treated any differently by church institutions than any other couple who does not exemplify the Church’s sexuality teaching:

“For example, Catholic colleges and universities that provide housing for married couples are undoubtedly going to be approached for housing by same-sex couples. Unless the schools can get states to carve out an exception for them in anti-discrimination legislation, they could be forced to provide such housing.

“But since they already provide housing to couples married illicitly according to the church, no one should see such housing as an endorsement of someone’s lifestyle. And granted all the sex going on at Catholic colleges and universities, giving housing to a few gay people who have permanently committed themselves to each other in marriage would hardly be considered a great scandal.”

By the same principle of equal treatment, Reese says the church could grant employee spousal benefits in the same way that they do for others couples in what the Church would call “irregular marriages.”

Towards the end of his essay, Reese tackles the complicated question of adoption by lesbian and gay couples, and he critiques the claim made by Pope Francis and other bishops that children need a mother and a father.  This kind of thinking, he notes, is not valid:

First, it casts doubt on the millions of single parents who are heroically raising their children without spousal support.

“Second, it has a narrow vision of the family. The church has traditionally recognized the importance of uncles, aunts and grandparents in the raising of children. There will be other sexes in the extended families of these children.

“Third, often, same-sex couples adopt children whom no one else wants. Would these children be better off in foster homes or orphanages?

“Finally, there is no evidence that children of same-sex couples suffer as a result of their upbringing. The original study that argued that children raised by same-sex couples did not do as well as those raised by heterosexual couples has been proven faulty.”

And after noting the wealth of social scientific research on the healthy development of children raised by lesbian and gay couples, Reese states:

“Just as Pope Francis depended on scientific consensus when dealing with the environment, the church should also consult the best of social science before making sweeping assertions about children and families.”  [The link in this sentence was added by Bondings 2.0, not by Reese.]

Reese concludes with a clarion call for the U.S. bishops to widen their pastoral and teaching scope beyond the area of sexuality:

“It is time for the U.S. bishops to pivot to the public policy priorities articulated by Pope Francis: care for the poor and the environment and the promotion of peace and interreligious harmony. Their fanatical opposition to the legalization of gay marriage has made young people look on the church as a bigoted institution with which they do not want to be associated. As pastors, they should be talking more about God’s compassion and love rather than trying to regulate people’s sexual conduct through laws. “

I have nothing more to add to Reese’s remarks other than to say that I think this is the best Catholic analysis I have read so far on the marriage equality ruling by the Supreme Court.   If you want to read the entire essay by Reese, and I recommend that you do, click here.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Previous blog posts of Catholic commentary on Supreme Court marriage equality ruling:

July 5: Tending to Christ’s Blood: The U.S. Church’s Post-Marriage Equality Agenda

July 4: Life, Liberty, the Pursuit of Happiness, and Catholic Values

July 1: Father Martin’s Viral Facebook Post on ‘So Much Hatred From So Many Catholics’

June 30:  Here’s What Catholic Bishops Should Have Said About Marriage Equality Decision

June 29: Catholics Continue to React to Supreme Court Marriage Equality Ruling

June 28: Some Catholic Reactions to U.S. Supreme Court Ruling on Marriage Equality

June 27: A Prayerful Catholic Response to the U.S. Supreme Court Decision

June 26: New Ways Ministry and U.S. Catholics Rejoice at Supreme Court Marriage Equality Decision

 


Tending to Christ’s Blood: The U.S. Church’s Post-Marriage Equality Agenda

July 5, 2015

Chapel of the Reliquary, Basilica of the Holy Blood, Bruges, Belgium

I’m traveling in Europe for a few weeks this summer.  A few days ago, I visited the Basilica of the Holy Blood in Bruges, Belgium, where a small vial is said to contain Christ’s blood.  For centuries, pilgrims have traveled here for prayer and veneration. Legend says Joseph of Arimathea preserved the blood in rock crystal while washing Jesus’ body, and it remained liquid until 1325. Whether the legend is true or not, passing by this vial caused me to pray deeply. The following is a reflection based on my prayer at that altar of Christ’s blood.

Since I’ve been abroad as Americans celebrate nationwide marriage equality, I’ve been learning what I can mostly from headlines (and my daily Bondings 2.0 update!). Without negating the importance of the Supreme Court decision, another reality came to mind in prayer — the tremendous amount of LGBT blood–which is Christ’s blood–is still being poured out in our world today.

In 2015, a record number of trans* women are being murdered, the latest being Mercedes Williamson of Alabama. Many LGBT youth still abuse substances, inflict self-harm, and commit suicide because they are unable to find affirming voices and loving families in which to come out and live authentically. Church workers are losing their jobs at unprecedented rates because of LGBT issues. Internationally, more than 75 countries still criminalize homosexuality and eight allow a death sentence. Just last week Turkish Pride marchers were attacked by police, merely the latest incident where wearing a rainbow attracts violence. I could go on.

Relic of the Holy Blood

What is the Catholic response to all of this injustice, particularly now that civil marriage is settled in the U.S.? The truest answer is complex and nuanced, but here’s one attempt: to end the shedding of Christ’s blood, poured out from LGBT communities.

For more than a decade, America’s bishops focused an inordinate amount of time, money, and energy on opposing civil marriage equality. Opposing LGBT justice is, sadly, the hallmark of the bishops’ collective voice. For far too long the U.S. bishops simply echoed negative messages which came from Rome. I have seen several writers and a Catholic publication or two note how hard it is to accept the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision, and how they are struggling to follow the bishops’ articulation of God’s revelation about sexuality, and their message to respect LGBT people at the same time. But now the matter is settled. It is time to move on.

In moving on, there is far more room for Catholics divided over issues of sexuality and gender to find common ground, to reach out and build bridges. Certainly, sacramental marriage and the recognition of same-gender relationships in ecclesial settings still remains important and divisive. If you’re following the Synod proceedings focused on family life, this is eminently clear, and the news is not all bad.

Still, no one should oppose loving youths who, while journeying to find their truest selves, often suffer deep pain and face rejection. No one should support criminalizing homosexuality, even if they consider same-sex acts morally wrong, and certainly the church has a clear voice against the death penalty. No one should think discriminating against a person on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity is consistent with Christ’s inclusive witness. And no one, anywhere, should justify the murder or rape of a trans* person as consistent with God’s will or the church’s teaching. No one.

Opposing these injustices is not only acceptable for Catholics, it is a mandate of the Gospel to do so.  Moreover, opposing these injustices is necessary to rectify our church’s long history of endorsing and fomenting violence against marginalized communities. I am not the first to call for a more inclusive LGBT agenda; many voices have done so for decades. What I am proposing is a shift for American Catholics. Let’s move on from marriage and come together around matters of justice ,wherever we fall on what constitutes marriage.

I am proposing that with a loud, confident voice, the Church, as one Body, condemns anti-LGBT atrocities. We must actively resist them at parish, diocesan, national, and global levels, conscious of the intersectional concerns like race and class playing out in our communities and in our churches.

The Catholic response to Obergefell v. Hodges can be a simple one: celebrate if you’d like (I certainly am and will!), but regardless start walking the path of reconciliation so those God loves most will know the church’s tender love and saving care in new and newer ways. In this way, we can tend to Christ by ending the shedding of His blood in the lives and sufferings of our LGBT siblings.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Life, Liberty, the Pursuit of Happiness, and Catholic Values

July 4, 2015

In the United States of America, today is Independence Day, the day we remember the birth of our nation through the signing of the Declaration of Independence, which said that all people “are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Those words ring loud this year to those in the USA’s LGBT community and for Catholics who support them because of the recent Supreme Court ruling extending marriage equality to lesbian and gay couples as a guaranteed constitutional right.  Liberty and the pursuit of happiness were mentioned as guiding principles in the court’s opinion.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, a Catholic, wrote the majority opinion in this landmark case, and already, at least one theologian has noted how some of the principles he used to support the decision are very Catholic in their content and meaning.

Professor Lisa Fullam wrote a blog post for Commonweal showing the Catholic corollaries for the four main arguments Kennedy uses.  [I mentioned Fullam’s blog post earlier this week, but revisit it today for a more expansive understanding of it. ] After quoting the decision’s emotional concluding paragraph, Fullam describes the four arguments that show that marriage is a fundamental right to be applied equally to all:

  1. The right to personal choice regarding marriage is inherent in the concept of individual autonomy. (Here Kennedy cites Loving v. Virginia, which struck down interracial marriage bans.)
  2. The right to marry “supports a two-person union unlike any other in its importance to the committed individuals,” and same-sex couples have the same right “to enjoy intimate association.”
  3. Marriage “safeguards children and families and thus draws meaning from related rights of childrearing, procreation, and education.” This doesn’t mean that everybody has to procreate in order to marry civlly: “Precedent protects the right of a married couple not to procreate, so the right to marry cannot be conditioned on the capacity or commitment to procreate.”
  4. “[M]arriage is a keystone of the Nation’s social order,” and excluding same-sex couples is “demeaning” to them.

Fullam then provides specific Catholic statements which agree with these principles:

  1. It was Pope Paul VI who labeled marriage an inalienable right way back in 1967: “When the inalienable right of marriage and of procreation is taken away, so is human dignity.” (Populorum progressio, 37)
  2. The special bond between the married is so important in Catholic tradition that we recognize marriage as a sacrament.
  3. The safety and security of children has rightly been an important factor in the magisterium’s argument against marriage equality. However, it is clear from experience, scientific study, and simple common sense that marriage equality does not, in fact, harm children, and that providing children’s families legal protection can only benefit them. The opinion’s note that people are not required to procreate is also echoed in Catholic tradition: marriage does not lose its dignity if a couple cannot procreate, and Catholics are to exercise prudence in deciding when–and even if–they procreate. Pius XII explicitly noted that couples may practice (licit) avoidance of procreation “for a long period or even for the entire period of matrimonial life.” (Allocution to midwives, October 29, 1951) Catholic tradition also allows post-menopausal women and other sterile people to marry, asking only that they not deceive their partners as to their procreative capacity.
  4. The Church recognizes the equal dignity of all human beings, and says specifically of gay and lesbian people that “They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2358)

To Fullam’s argument, I would add the following quotations that I found in Kennedy’s opinion which strike me as having a distinct Catholic “flavor” to them:

“Since the dawn of history, marriage has transformed strangers into relatives, binding families and societies together.”

“Far from seeking to devalue marriage, the petitioners seek it for themselves because of their respect—and need—for its privileges and responsibilities. And their immutable nature dictates that same-sex marriage is their only real path to this profound commitment.”

“The nature of marriage is that, through its enduring
bond, two persons together can find other freedoms, such as expression, intimacy, and spirituality. This is true for all persons, whatever their sexual orientation.”

Happy Independence Day to all!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 


Two Archbishops Have Different Approaches to LGBT People at WMF

July 3, 2015

Answers to the same question by two different archbishops highlight the world of difference that exists in the way some church officials approach LGBT issues.

Archbishop Charles Chaput

A little over a week ago, Philadelphia’s Archbishop Charles Chaput spoke at a Vatican press conference about September’s World Meeting of Families (WMF), which his city is hosting, and he made some remarks about welcoming gay and lesbian people to the event which sounded more like an insult.

According to the National Catholic Reporter, Chaput answered a question about whether gay families and their issues would be welcome at the gathering by stating:

” ‘We hope that everyone feels welcome to come, and certainly people who have experienced same-sex attraction are certainly welcome like anyone else,’ he said.

“But, the archbishop added, ‘we don’t want to provide a platform at the meeting for people to lobby for positions contrary to the life of our church, so we’re not providing that kind of lobbying opportunity.’ “

Archbishop Vincent Paglia

But at the same meeting, Archbishop Vincent Paglia, the head of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council on the Family, which is the sponsor of the WMF, took a different approach to the same question.   According to the Italian Catholic news website, La Fede QuotidianaPaglia answered:

” ‘We follow to the letter the “Instrumentum Laboris” [working paper] of the Synod.  Anyone can come, without exception. And if someone feels left out, I leave the 99 sheep and will go find the one.

” ‘The close connection; between the meeting in the US and the Synod, said Monsignor Paglia, ‘is apparently not only temporal. The hope is that the meeting in Philadelphia and the October Synod can really build a social and ecclesial season with renewed leadership for the family.For this we want to work. We want the Gospel of mercy to be proclaimed in the great cities of the world, especially to the poorest and most peripheral.’ “

[For the original Italian language version of the La Fede Quotidiana story, click here.

Paglia is approaching the issue as a pastor, while Chaput is viewing it from the perspective of an administrator.  Paglia’s approach stresses an unconditional welcome, while Chaput’s approach indicates that he is expecting people to cause trouble.  Paglia highlights mercy, while Chaput highlights law.

Chaput’s negative comment might be referring to the fact that WMF  administrators recently turned down a request by Fortunate Families, a network of Catholic parents with LGBT children, to have an exhibit booth at the event.  A WMF administrator explained the rejection:

“Fortunate Families advocates for parental acceptance of LGBT children and adolescents in such a way that ‘acceptance’ requires that parents must show full acceptance of both the person and the entirety of every aspect of the person’s gay or transgender lifestyle. . . .”

This explanation shows that the official was not familiar with Fortunate Families or the way that any parent chooses to respond to any unexpected issue that a child raises.

One commentator has pointed out that Chaput’s comment might indeed be the very thing which sets off demonstrations at the WMF. In PhillyMag.com, veteran gay rights activist Mark Segal noted:

“They wouldn’t come to protest the pope. But if [Chaput] decides to keep insulting the gay community, I would not be surprised if they decide to protest him.”

In an interview with PhillyVoice.com, Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, which is a member of the Equally Blessed coalition,  explained that the coalition’s members (Call To Action, DignityUSA, Fortunate Families, New Ways Ministry) are sponsoring 14 families with LGBT members to be pilgrims at the WMF.   She highlighted an essential problem in Chaput’s language of “lobbying”:

“I guess I would question, ‘what do you mean by lobby. If being there to share our stories, to share our faith, is considered lobbying then I guess we are at an impasse.”

Chaput’s approach indicates a defensive position, which imagines a situation’s potential threats.  Perhaps that has been the problem for many years as to why Catholic leaders have not dialogued with LGBT people and their families.

The good news, however, is that Paglia’s approach shows a different attitude that seems to be taking root in more and more church leaders.   Paglia, and others, may not yet accept the moral goodness of lesbian and gay relationships, but their open approach at least allows open the possibility of dialogue.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related post:

Fortunate Families Blog: “On Pilgrimage, What is ‘Normal’ and Variation”

 


Celebrate U.S. & Irish Marriage Equality with a Pilgrimage to the Emerald Isle!

July 2, 2015

As people here in the U.S. continue to bask in the exhilaration of the new reality of marriage equality across the nation, there have been many exciting ways that people have been celebrating this past week.

Here’s an idea for your consideration if you are looking for new ways to celebrate:  go on a Catholic LGBT-friendly pilgrimage to Ireland, the first nation to enact marriage equality by popular vote!

Jeannine Malta

Sister Jeannine Gramick

New Ways Ministry’s Co-Founder, Sister Jeannine Gramick, has just announced that she will be leading an eight-day pilgrimage to the Emerald Isle in April 2016.  Entitled “Ireland: Land of Rainbows and Wedding Bells,” this journey is a perfect way for Catholics in both countries to celebrate together their two historic marriage equality victories that occurred just about one month apart from each other.

In addition to visiting historic and sacred sights connected to Ireland’s Catholic heritage, the pilgrims will be meeting with members of Gay Catholic Voice Ireland, the national Catholic LGBT ministry, and will participate in a monthly Mass and social in a Catholic parish in Dublin which has been established for LGBT people and their families.

News of the pilgrimage was heralded on Yahoo yesterday, with an article by Jo Piazza, who wrote If Nuns Ruled the World: 10 Sisters on a Missionwhich included a chapter on Sister Jeannine’s ministry with the LGBT community.  Piazza described the trip:

Jeannine, a Sister of Loretto, is a big world traveler. This was just the most recent in nearly two decades of gay and lesbian pilgrimages that she has led around the world. Hers is a highly specialized group tour. It’s targeted to gay and lesbian Catholics and their families and is led by a Catholic sister.

A sister? Yup.

She’s a spitfire of a woman, and I can imagine that she is a ton of fun to travel with.

Piazza interviewed Sister Jeannine about her 20 years of leading Catholic LGBT pilgrimages.  They discussed the February 2015 Italy trip, in which Sister Jeannine’s pilgrimage group were provided with VIP seating at the papal audience in St. Peter’s Square on Ash Wednesday.  Sister Jeannine commented on what that welcome meant to her then and now:

“Of course, there is special significance to this particular pilgrimage we took to Italy. Our 50 pilgrims, that included 7 same-sex couples, were invited to special seats within 25 yards of Pope Francis at the papal audience on Ash Wednesday. Just as LGBT people, their families, and friends were welcomed to the Vatican, the SCOTUS decision on June 26 welcomes lesbian and gay couples into the civil family.”

An image of the rainbow which appeared in the sky over Dublin on the day Ireland voted in marriage equality.

Included in the upcoming pilgrimage to Ireland will be visits to places of Catholic and LGBT importance, as well as those of ancient and contemporary Irish history, including:   Our Lady of Knock Shrine,  Oscar Wilde’s home, sites important to both St. Brigid and St. Patrick, the Book of Kells at Trinity College, the Convent where Catherine McAuley founded the Sisters of Mercy and where she is buried, murals in Belfast commemorating victims of modern religious conflicts, and a museum dedicated to the S.S. Titanic, built in Ireland.

The Ireland pilgrimage will take place on April 11-18, 2016.  The cost, including round-trip airfare from Newark, N.J., is $2,599, which also covers breakfast and supper every day, all admissions, hotel accommodations, and all transfers.   For more information, please visit the New Ways Ministry website to view and download a PDF brochure for the trip, including registration form.   Or contact New Ways Ministry in one of three ways to request a brochure: email: info@NewWaysMinistry.org; phone: 301-277-5674; postal mail:  New Ways Ministry, 4012 29th Street, Mount Rainier, MD 20712.

So if you are looking for special and unique way to celebrate marriage equality here in the U.S., consider joining with Catholic LGBT people, friends, family members, supporters, and pastoral ministers in making a pilgrimage to Ireland where your joy will surely be doubled!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 


Father Martin’s Viral Facebook Post on ‘So Much Hatred From So Many Catholics’

July 1, 2015

Perhaps the biggest Catholic post-Supreme Court decision news is not what Catholic bishops have been saying, but a social media controversy that has focused on Jesuit Father James Martin’s Facebook page.

Father James Martin, SJ

David Gibson, on his blog at Religion News Service, reported on the issue which is causing millions–yes, millions–of people to flock to the Facebook page of the popular Jesuit author and speaker.

The “offending” post which is causing the controversy, was put up by Fr. Martin just before 3:00 pm on June 26th, the day that the U.S. Supreme Court legalized marriage equality nationwide. In the post, Fr. Martin said:

“No issue brings out so much hatred from so many Catholics as homosexuality.”

“Even after over 25 years as a Jesuit, the level of hatred around homosexuality is nearly unbelievable to me, especially when I think of all of the wonderful LGBT friends I have.”

Earlier in the day, Martin had made three posts about the Supreme Court ruling.  The first was a post announcing the decision.  The second was the response to the decision from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).  The third was the response of New Ways Ministry.   For each of the posts, he added the following prefatory guidelines to his followers who would want to comment on them:

“No ad hominem. No uncharitable remarks. No homophobic remarks. Mo more than one or two posts per person. And Catholics who disagree with the Supreme Court decision must treat gays with ‘respect, compassion and sensitivity,’ as the Catechism asks.”

In both the USCCB post and the New Ways Ministry post, he provided links so that his readers could, if they wanted, easily see both points of view.

Later in the day, probably due to many negative comments he received, Fr. Martin posted the message, quoted above, about how homosexuality brings out an immense amount of hatred.

The statistics for each of these posts tell an interesting story:

  • Announcing court’s decision: 9.603 Likes; 746 Shares; 1,088 Comments
  • USCCB reaction: 1,662 Likes; 215 Shares; 535 Comments
  • New Ways Ministry reaction: 6,635 Likes; 881 Shares; 879 Comments
  • Martin’s 3:00 pm post on negativity: 402,328 Likes; 141,108; Shares; 18,229 Comments

[Facebook statistics are from late in the evening on June 30, 2015]

Gibson reports that the result of all that sharing of the 3:00 pm post, already over 28 million people have viewed it.

The rest of Martin’s 3:00 pm post reads like a sermon:

“The Catholic church must do a much better job of teaching what the Catechism says: that we should treat our LGBT brothers and sisters with ‘respect, sensitivity and compassion.’

“But God wants more. God wants us to love. And not a twisted, crabbed, narrow tolerance, which often comes in the guise of condemnations, instructions and admonitions that try to masquerade as love, but actual love.

“Love means: getting to know LGBT men and women, spending time with them, listening to them, being challenged by them, hoping the best for them, and wanting them to be a part of your lives, every bit as much as straight friends are part of your lives.

“Love first. Everything else later. In fact, everything else is meaningless without love.”

Fr. Martin has taken the venom spewed towards him in stride, it seems.  At about 10:00 pm on the same day, he posted his reaction to the immense negative response he received.  He offered screen shots of three of the attacks on him, and then humorously commented:

“Dear erstwhile ‘friends,’

“If you are currently composing a Facebook message to describe how much you disapprove of me–like these from three separate Catholics–wouldn’t it be better simply to hit the ‘Unfollow’ key? Not that I don’t enjoy such notes, including the frequently amusing misspellings and delightfully creative grammatical mistakes. But it would save us both a lot of time.

“Many thanks!

“Your pal,
James Martin, SJ,
or as one of you styled me,
‘Father’ James Martin, SJ”

Martin, who posts on a wide variety of church, social, and cultural issues, was not daunted by the criticism.  Since this controversy, he has already posted twice more on the Supreme Court decision. Martin is one of the most popular Catholic commentators on Facebook, with over 277,000 followers.

I think there are three lessons in this story.  The first lesson is that this Facebook incident illustrates both how passionate Catholics–on both sides of the issue–are about the Supreme Court’s decision. While the strong majority of U.S. Catholics support marriage equality, there are still many who are equally strongly opposed to it. These groups need to be reconciled to one another.

The second lesson is the need for civil discourse as Catholics continue to discuss this topic.  The Supreme Court decision resolved the legal and political questions of same-gender marriage.  The moral and religious questions will continue.  It will be imperative for both sides of the debate to treat one another respectfully, as a number of U.S. bishops have pointed out in their reaction statements.

The third lesson is that the negative reaction to Father Martin’s post shows how poorly educated Catholics are on the basics of church teaching about accepting gay and lesbian people with “respect, compassion, and sensitivity.”  Connected with this teaching, and equally as poorly taught by bishops and leaders, is honoring the human dignity of gay and lesbian people. Father Martin pointed out the reality of this deficiency in his post.   Much more teaching about how the Catholic social justice tradition applies to gender and sexual minorities is greatly needed.  Now, more than ever.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related post:

Queering The Church: “Catholic Responses to Homosexuality:  Hatred or Simple Disagreement?”

 


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